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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 643
                           Copyright (c) 2000
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        November 10, 2000      Lech-Lecha      12 Cheshvan, 5761

                          Welcome to the World

                            by Rochel Yaffe

The infant draws its first breath and emits a weak cry. The umbilical
cord is cut, severing the newborn from its mother, and a living,
breathing, autonomous child enters the world. Every step of an embryo's
development is shrouded in mystery and beset by paradox. Each stage is
nothing less than miraculous-beginning with the tiny drop that holds
every facet of a human being, continuing through the growth inside the
womb, and culminating in the transformation at birth from an appendage
to its mother into a person with a life of its own.

All of us who have been blessed with children have experienced that
moment of awe and wonder when the pain of labor is forgotten with the
overwhelming recognition that we have just witnessed a miracle...

"Had we not seen it (a child's birth) with our own eyes," writes
Maimonides, "and someone had just told us about it, we would have denied
it." (Moreh Nevuchim, Part II, Chap. 17)

According to the Kabala, there is a parallel between the birth of a
child and another great mystery. The child in the womb resembles the
world in the state of galut (exile). And the moment of birth is like
that of deliverance.

The unborn child lies curled in the darkness of the womb, its head
resting between its knees. It possesses all of its organs, but does not
have the use of its senses. The eyes cannot see; the ears cannot hear;
the breath of life will not enter its lungs until the moment of birth.
Thus the child remains powerless, unable to emerge into the light and
fulfill its potential.

While some associate the warmth of the womb with comfort and security,
the Kabbala views it as a place of confinement. The darkness of the womb
symbolizes the spiritual darkness of our exile when G-d's presence is
concealed in the world and we, His creation, may seem separate from Him.
In fact, the Hebrew term for the world, olam, comes from the same root
as the word helem, or concealment.

Like the unborn child, the world is only half-alive in exile. Mankind
has eyes but does not see the inherent spirituality in this world; we
have ears but pay no heed to the voice of the soul; we have lungs but
not the breath, the spirit of life,  that gives vitality to the heart
and mind. Our physical desires and love of material things obscure the
light of the soul and the intellect. This bleak picture is, of course,

Let us return for a moment to the embryo. True, it is a limited creature
and a long way from achieving its potential as a complete human being.
But there is no other period in a person's life as crucial to future
development as those months in the womb; the slightest variation in
environment can do great harm or untold good.

Galut then, like pregnancy, has a meaningful purpose. At a time when the
world is in spiritual exile-beset by pain and suffering-even a single
good deed shines forth with great brilliance, for light is infinitely
more precious when it comes forth from darkness.

And just when the pain of labor becomes unbearable, the child is born.
All obstacles melt away-and all suffering is transformed into joy.

In the Torah portion of Lech Lecha we read about the "Brit Bein
Habetarim - the Covenant of the Pieces," that G-d made with our
forefather Abraham. It was then that G-d promised to give Abraham the
land of Israel as an inheritance for his descendants forever.

Among the many things G-d told Abraham was that his children would one
day be exiled in Egypt. However, G-d promised that their exile would
end. Not only would they return from their exile but "afterwards they
will go out with great wealth."

The intent of G-d's promise of "great wealth" was not simply as payment
for their suffering. In truth, G-d's statement that "afterwards they
will go out with great wealth" revealed the entire purpose behind their
descent into Egypt.

At first glance this is difficult to understand. Had G-d asked the
Jewish people to relinquish the "great wealth" they were promised in
order to hasten the end of their suffering they would have surely
agreed. Nonetheless, we find that G-d did not offer them this choice, as
the "great wealth" they were to obtain in Egypt was of particular

What was this "great wealth" that required the Jewish people to endure a
bitter exile for hundreds of years, and why was it so important?

The inner purpose of the Jews' descent into Egypt was that through their
service of G-d, the "sparks of holiness" that that country contained
would be refined and elevated. Indeed, the Jews' Divine service was
successful, as it states, "And a mixed multitude (erev rav) also went up
with them," for the numerical equivalent of "rav" is 202 - i.e., all 202
sparks of holiness that Egypt possessed were successfully purified.

This, then, is the "great wealth" that the Jews brought out of Egypt
with them. Indeed, it was for the Jewish people's own benefit; had it
not occurred, Abraham would have had a valid complaint to level against

But what was the benefit that they derived?

Every soul has its own unique role in the mystical process of "elevating
the sparks." By purifying the specific "sparks" he encounters throughout
his life, the Jew brings redemption to his own soul, and to the world at

The lesson to be derived from all this is that the Jew's function is to
involve himself in the material world for the express purpose of
elevating these hidden sparks of holiness. For with these sparks we will
merit to greet Moshiach imminently.

                            Adapted from Volume 3 of Likutei Sichot

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                         EMPOWERED BY LUBAVITCH

Remarks by Newark City Councilman Cory Booker at the National Founders'
Dinner of the Rabbinical College of America, Morristown, New Jersey.

I come to you today truly humbled by my life experience. Right now I am
living with a group of young activitists in a small mobile home on
Victory Avenue and Garside Street in Newark. That corner is one of the
most notorious drug corners. We are going to be moving the mobile home
from street corner to street corner, talking to people about their
potential and power. We truly hope to help some neighborhoods be taken
back, person by person, street by street.

But the reason why I say that I am humbled to stand before you is that I
am truly empowered by the Lubavitch movement, and specifically by a
number of Lubavitcher rabbis I have come to know over the last few
years. They helped me take seeds that were planted by my elders, my
parents and my grandparents, and nurture them in a way that allowed
those seeds to flourish and blossom into the kind of work to which I
have dedicated my life.

The seed my parents planted was that they told me that every child is
born with some of G-d's genius within his or her heart. No child is born
stupid. We were all created in the image of G-d. We must realize that we
all have an obligation to nurture the divinity within ourselves-to
nurture G-d-given genius, and then to unleash it onto the world,
proudly, boldly and if necessary, even brashly.

Many years after I was taught this lesson by my parents I began my adult
educational career. It took me from Stanford to Oxford to Yale and
finally, back here to Newark.

I did not realize that in those travels I would meet so many rabbis who
would become important to me. In fact, if you had told me that I, Cory
Booker, would one day be the co-founder of the Yale Chai Society or be
the co-president of the Oxford L'Chaim Society, I would have laughed
much harder than some of you are giggling right now.

But I still remember the day at Oxford when a student came to me and
said, "Cory, I want you to come to dinner with me." Later, she left me a
note that read "Cory, please meet me at the L'Chaim Society."

I did not know what I would be walking into that evening. When I knocked
on the door and walked in, it was like one of those E.F. Hutton
commercials: everybody stopped eating and looked at me, and I looked at
them. There were about five Lubavitcher rabbis sitting around a table. I
thought to myself, these people must be wondering what this big black
man is doing here. I was wondering that myself.

A young woman, the wife of one of the rabbis, said to me, "Cory, the
person who said she would meet you here called to say that she could not
make it." I answered that I would leave and I turned around to walk out,
about to make probably the biggest mistake in my life. But thankfully
she said, "Would you like to join us?"

I must tell you the truth, never in my life have I searched harder for a
reason why I could not join someone for dinner. But I could not find a
reason, so I sat down at a table full of rabbis, their wives, and a
number of other people for a celebration called Simchat Torah. It turned
out to be one of the most joyous days of the Jewish year, and I could
not help but be enraptured by the words being spoken at the table, the
values that were being articulated, and the joy that was expressed in
that room. By the end of the night, I was wearing a kipa and dancing
with a bunch of men as I had never danced before. That began my
involvement in Jewish life.

I came back to Lubavitch regularly on Shabbat. I became an enthused
participant of this community as I began to study religion and theology
and to learn so much about myself. I began to drag Jewish friends of
mine, who had never so much as lit a Shabbat candle, and ended up
bringing dozens and dozens of Jewish friends to this organization.

When I left England and got to Yale, I had the pleasure of meeting Rabbi
Shmully Hecht. He told me he wanted to start a society at Yale
University, grounded in Jewish values but reaching out to non-Jews as
well as to Jews. He told me what I already knew in my heart. He said,
"Cory, what the Lubavitch movement is about is first and foremost
grounding people in their values, their beliefs, their histories, and
their understanding." He said that what he understood from the Rebbe was
that the Jews are supposed to teach the world about G-dliness and
goodliness, to be a light unto nations. Before he could even finish his
thought, he and I began to embark on starting a small society that began
as five or ten people sitting around a Shabbat table in a little
apartment. Now we have almost half a city block in New Haven and the
Chai Society has become the most popular society at Yale, with people
from all races and religions coming and discovering the power, the
wisdom and the divinity of Jewish teachings.

One of the most powerful lessons I have learned was exhibited by a late
night conversation at the Chai Society. A young Jewish man was sitting
there, who had known nothing of his own faith. Next to him was a young
Mormon, who knew a lot about his faith. There was a Catholic man sitting
there as well. Each person, in turn, thanked the rabbi. The way they
thanked him still touches me to this day. The Mormon said, "Because of
who you are, because of your knowledge, because of the boldness with
which you live Jewish principles, you have strengthened my own religious
feelings." The Catholic man agreed. The Jew turned to the rabbi and
said, "You have made me love myself and my faith." This is what real
power is about, and this is what I believe the Rebbe had in mind. That
you have to, in every single way, reach out and love the world, to be a
light of goodness and love and a light of G-d's light, because this
country of ours needs it, because this world of ours needs it.

Right now, I am on the streets of Newark, battling what I think is one
of the most important battles in the city, in this nation, to try to
make the spirit of G-d alive and well. As one of my rabbi friends told
me - to try to truly bring about, through effort and sweat, or whatever
necesary - the Messianic Era.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                        NEW CENTER IN GUATEMALA

Chabad-Lubavitch of Guatemala was recently established to serve the
2,500 Jews of this Central American country. In the short time since
they arrived in Guatemala City, Rabbi and Mrs. Sholom Pelman have
organized Shabbat and holiday programs which include hosting dozens of
people for festive meals. They also teach ten adult education classes
each week and have established a kosher food co-op.

                           VOLUMES OF L'CHAIM

Limited quantities of bound volumes of the last five years of L'Chaim
are available. They make wonderful gifts and are excellent for resource
material. To purchase copies indicate which volume (8 - 12) is requested
and send $28 per volume to L'Chaim Books, 1408 President Street, Bklyn.,
NY 11213.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                            Free Translation
                Tuesday, Parshas Lech Lecha, 5704 [1943]

In response to the invitation to your wedding: I send my blessing, a
blessing of mazal tov, mazal tov. May you build a house in Israel on the
foundations of the Torah and its mitzvos.

It is possible to explain that the terms chasunah [wedding] and chasan
[groom] are associated with the concept of descent as our Sages say
nachus darga, "go down a step." It is explained in several sources
(including the HaYom Yom, p. 78) that the phrase "as you go on your way"
refers to the soul's descent from above and its journeys in this world
until old age.

These journeys involve two factors: a) proceeding on one's way, and b)
knowing where to proceed.

The actual progress is undertaken by the body. It is, however, the soul
which determines the straight path on which to proceed. This concept can
be understood in terms of the example our Sages (Sanhedrin 91a,b) give
for the body and the soul, that of a blind man and a lame man. The soul
compensates for the impediments of the blind man, the body, and the body
compensates for the impediments of the lame man, the soul. It is through
joining them together that a person gains the ability to proceed. This
union can be described with the analogy of the marriage of a man and a
woman. For this reason, our material world is called a Hilula (Eruvin
54a), a term which means "wedding feast," as reflected in the Zohar
(Chayei Sarah, I:181b). The purpose of this journey is to achieve love
and fear of G-d (which are "wings") for the Torah and its mitzvos.

On the surface, a difficulty can be raised: Based on our Sages'
statements (Bereishis Rabbah), it would appear that "a journey" would
not serve the above purposes, because a journey minimizes three things:

a) one's reputation - this refers to a reduction in one's involvement in
the mitzvos, as Rashi and the Matnos Kehunah comment on the Midrash;

b) one's wealth - this refers to a reduction in one's love and fear of
G-d which are called gold and silver. For even if a person will be a
perfect tzaddik [righteous], he will not attain the level of close
connection to G-d his soul enjoyed before it descended to this material
world as stated in Tanya, ch. 37;

c) one's capacity to reproduce - this refers to a reduction in one's
occupation in Torah study as indicated by our Sages' statement (Bechoros
44b): "You will not have a barren one among the Torah scholars."

For in this material world, there are several impediments to the
observance of the Torah and its mitzvos.

This difficulty is explained by the Midrash, which states that the Holy
One, blessed be He, blesses Abraham (the soul, as stated in the Zohar,
Chayei Sarah, loc. cit.) so that, on the contrary, the journey will lead
to "I will bless you," bringing an increase in financial resources,
reputation, and the conception of offspring.

In general, the concept parallels the idea that "Every day, a person's
natural inclination offers him a powerful challenge, and were G-d not to
help him, he could not overcome it" (Sukkah 52b). The "blessing" granted
for the journey is the assistance mentioned in the above quote. See the
root of this matter as discussed in Kuntres U'Mayon, 13:22 and 14:1.

When this assistance is granted, through the descent of the soul into
the body, a person attains the love of G-d with all his might (money).
Similarly, the mitzvos (reputation) were given only on this material
plane. And with regard to Torah study, our Sages said (Pesachim 50a):
"Happy is he who comes here with the Torah (the conception of offspring)
which he studied in this world in his hand."

Of these three elements which represent the ultimate of progress on the
path of life, the fundamental unity achieved in the sublime realm is
through the Torah and its mitzvos. For love and fear are merely wings
for the Torah and its mitzvos as stated in Tanya, ch. 40.

Within the Torah and its mitzvos themselves, the mitzvos are referred to
as eirusin, consecration, while Torah represents nisuin, the
consummation of the marriage bond (Lik-kutei Torah, Bamidbar). This is
the ultimate purpose of this world, for it was not created for the sake
of chaos, but was formed to be settled.

In addition to the concept of journeying that relates to our physical
world in general, there is also the concept of exile.... Therefore
before any other matter, attention must be paid to the ascent from
exile, which involves teshuvah [repentance]. Just as the descent into
exile is not at all gradual; so, too, the ascent, through teshuvah,
should be a spring forward that knows no gradation. (The parallel in our
Divine service can be comprehended.)

With the blessings of mazal tov, and with the blessing, "Immediately to
teshuvah, immediately to Redemption,"

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson

Chairman of the Executive Committee

From I Will Write It In Their Hearts published by Sichos in English

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
12 Marcheshvan 5761

Positive mitzva 236: penalty for inflicting injury

By this injunction we are commanded concerning the law of a person who
wounds his fellow man. It is contained in the Torah's words (Ex. 21:18)
"If men contend, and one smites the other, etc." [All such laws are
based on the verse (Lev. 24:19) "As he has done, so shall it be done to
him," meaning that a person must pay the monetary equivalent of the harm
he has inflicted, including putting someone to shame.]

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
We are now in the month of Marcheshvan, the name of which has many
interesting interpretations. One meaning of the word "mar" is "bitter,"
because this month, which has no holy days or festivals, lacks the
sweetness that is derived from the holidays. Another translation of the
word "mar" is "a drop [of water]," because Marcheshvan marks the
beginning of the rainy season in Israel. According to linguists,
"Cheshvan" is etymologically related to "chashrat mayim," meaning an
abundance of water.

In Hebrew, however, "mar" also means "sir" or "master." The Midrash
relates that King Solomon finished building the First Holy Temple during
the month of Marcheshvan, but it was not inaugurated for 11 months,
until the following Tishrei. G-d rewarded the month of Marcheshvan by
promising that the Third and Eternal Holy Temple, which will be revealed
with the coming of Moshiach, will descend from heaven and be dedicated
during Marcheshvan. We therefore refer to this period with the
respectful title of "master" or "sir" to honor an event that will
signify our greatest joy.

Chasidut explains that the Hebrew language - the "holy tongue" - is
unlike all other languages, in which the words that are used to describe
things are arbitrary. In Hebrew, the word for an object is that object,
the holy letters being the channel for its life-force and very
existence. Aramaic, a related Semitic language that was the lingua
franca of Jews in ancient times (and in which most of the Talmud is
written), is described as the intermediary or bridge between the holy
tongue and all other languages. In Tractate Sanhedrin of the Talmud, it
is explained that Marcheshvan means "the movement of the lips." During
the month of Tishrei, when a Jew is consumed with praying and intense
study of the Torah, his mouth becomes a conduit for G-dliness. The
impact of these holy vibrations of the lips are still felt in the month
of Marcheshvan, and G-d willing, throughout the year to come.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
And the L-rd said to Abram, go out from your country, and from your
family, and from your father's house (Gen. 12:1)

There are some lands that produce naturally strong and robust people,
but as G-d implied to Abraham, a Jew mustn't rely on his inborn
strength. Nor should he content himself with the positive character
attributes he inherited from his family, or with the fact that his
father was holy and righteous. Rather, every Jew must "go out" and
expend his own efforts, as it states in Psalms (128:2), "For you shall
eat the labor of your hands; happy shall you be, and it shall be well
with you."

                                                       (Daat Moshe)

And the land was not able to bear them that they might live together;
for their possessions were great, and they could not live together (Gen.

It was not poverty but prosperity that drove Lot and Abram apart and
destroyed their peace. In fact, most antagonism and dissention between
people can be directly attributed to wealth - i.e., from being jealous
of someone who has more of it...

                                                      (Ohr HaTorah)

And he believed in G-d, and he counted it to him for righteousness (Gen.

Not only did Abraham believe in G-d, but he was appreciative of G-d's
kindness and generosity in giving him the intelligence to have faith.

                                                   (Avodat Yisrael)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Rabbi Aharon Rokeach of Belz, of blessed memory, would eventually escape
the Nazis and survive the Second World War. But for many years he was
forced into hiding on both sides of the German-Russian border, and his
entire family - children and grandchildren included - was murdered.

In the course of the Belzer Rebbe's travails there were many times when
it seemed as if the Angel of Death had finally caught up with him. Each
time, however, the Belzer Rebbe miraculously escaped his grasp. The
following story of one such incident involves a Jewish agent of the
Gestapo (!) who unfortunately, had descended to the lowest depths of
evil and depravity.

The Belzer Rebbe had just arrived in Vishnitz, a tiny hamlet that had
been largely ignored by the Nazis. The Belzer Rebbe was living under an
assumed name, while his relatives did all they could to conceal his

One day an agent of the Gestapo arrived in Vishnitz on a mission to
determine where the Jews lived, in preparation for their internment by
the Germans. The Belzer Rebbe's relatives were terrified, especially
when they learned that the agent was none other than the infamous Shpitz
- a Jew!

There was no explanation for Shpitz's behavior. Outwardly, he looked
like any other Nazi murderer, strutting through the streets in high
black boots and wielding a whip. There was no question that it was only
a matter of time until he discovered where the Belzer Rebbe was hiding.

Frantically the Belzer Rebbe's relatives tried to devise a plan to avert
the impending disaster. One relative, Reb Mordechai Ehrlich, even went
so far as to suggest a meeting between Shpitz and the Belzer Rebbe, in
the hope that it would arouse a feeling of repentance in the renegade
Jew. But regrettably, the invitation had the opposite effect. "I'm too
busy right now," Shpitz replied with ill-concealed contempt. "But don't
worry, the day will surely come when the two of us will meet face to

Once the secret was out and Shpitz knew for sure that the Belzer Rebbe
was in Vishnitz, the situation turned even more dangerous. At that point
another person became involved, Reb Eliezer Landau, whom the Germans had
appointed in charge of the labor camp in the Buchnia ghetto. Reb Eliezer
decided to go to the Gestapo headquarters in Cracow, to try to determine
how much information the Germans actually had.

Reb Eliezer was allowed to speak with Ubersturmfuhrer Kunda, head of the
Gestapo's Jewish Division. The first thing the German told him was, "Are
you aware that Rabbi Rokeach is hiding in Vishnitz?" As Reb Eliezer's
face paled he added, "Surely you know that he recently crossed over from
the Russian side of the border."

This was even worse news, as the worst thing a person could be accused
of by the Nazis was spying for the Communists. All refugees from
Russian-controlled areas were automatically under suspicion and faced

The next day Shpitz paid a surprise visit to the apartment where the
Belzer Rebbe was living. The terror his appearance caused was palpable.
Everyone knew that Shpitz would eventually turn up, but the fast pace of
events was an ominous sign. The Gestapo officer sauntered from room to
room, like a wild animal in search of prey.

The Belzer Rebbe's relatives tried pleading with him, but this only
angered him more. "I thought that rabbis like yourselves would be smart,
but you are all fools. What did you expect from me? Have you ever heard
it said that Shpitz did a favor for a Jew?"

His actual encounter with the Belzer Rebbe lasted only a few seconds,
during which the Belzer Rebbe gave him an extremely penetrating glance
before averting his eyes. The Gestapo agent left immediately afterward,
still spouting a non-stop stream of invective and threats.

A few days later he returned and made an announcement: "The Belzer Rebbe
cannot stay here any longer." The Belzer Rebbe's relatives were thrown
into panic as he added, "You must find a different apartment for him to
live in, one that is more suitable for a Rebbe." Everyone protested that
the apartment was fine, and begged him to forget about the matter.

From that point on Shpitz became a regular visitor in the Belzer Rebbe's
home. In the street he still swaggered about like a regular Nazi, but as
soon as he entered the Rebbe's presence his appearance changed. His face
became softer and more refined - more Jewish. From time to time he
brought news of the Gestapo's activities and plans.

Then one day the head of the Gestapo's Jewish Division and his deputy
showed up at the Belzer Rebbe's home, having been persuaded by Shpitz to
meet the Rebbe themselves. Deeply impressed by the Belzer Rebbe, they
arranged for him to escape to the Buchnia ghetto. Indeed, this move
saved the Belzer Rebbe's life, as a short time later the Nazis swept
through Vishnitz and massacred its Jewish population.

During his visits with the Belzer Rebbe, Shpitz would often bemoan his
rotten luck. More than once he burst into tears and confided his fear
that the Gestapo was planning on eliminating him.

Not long afterward it was learned that the Gestapo had sent Shpitz on a
contrived mission, during which he was indeed murdered by another agent
under orders to liquidate him.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
It should be noted once again, as I have said many times, that the
Rabbis must publicize the legal decree that "all the appointed times
have passed" (Talmud Sanhedrin 97b). In regard to repentance [as the
Talmud continues, "the coming of Moshiach depends only on repentance],
repentance has already been done and all aspects of Divine service have
already been completed. All that remains now is the true and complete
Redemption in actual reality. (The Rebbe upon greeting Harav HaGaon
Mordechai Eliyahu, 6 Marcheshvan, 5752-1992)

              END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 643 - Lech-Lecha 5761

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