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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   641: Bereshis

642: Noach

643: Lech-Lecha

644: Vayera

645: Chayei Sara

646: Toldos

647: Vayetzei

648: Vayishlach

649: Vayeshev

650: Miketz

651: Vayigash

652: Vayechi

Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
November 24, 2000 - 26 Cheshvan, 5761

645: Chayei Sara

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  644: Vayera646: Toldos  

A Limitless Treasure  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

A Limitless Treasure

The disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch had begged their master many times to show them Elijah the Prophet. Their persistence paid off; when a gathering of poritzim, wealthy Polish landowners, was being held the Maggid acceded to their request.

The Maggid instructed his disciples to stand in a certain location and watch the poritzim ride by. The third poritz they would see, he informed them, would be Elijah the Prophet. "And if you are worthy," the Maggid added, "you will even merit to hear words of Torah from his lips."

The disciples followed the Maggid's instructions. They stood and waited in the exact spot the Maggid had indicated. When the third poritz rode by they hesitantly approached his carriage. True, he looked like an ordinary Polish poritz, but hadn't the Maggid declared that he was none other than Elijah the prophet?

Addressing him in Polish, they deferentially asked if they could speak with his lordship as they had a very important matter to discuss. To their surprise the "poritz" responded by flinging sharp insults and curses at them, after which he rode off to join the other landowners.

The bewildered and heartbroken disciples returned to the Maggid and related what had happened. They told him that they had seen Elijah the Prophet, for they didn't doubt for a moment that the poritz was, in truth, the prophet. But when they asked to speak with him he responded with a barrage of deprecations.

The Maggid's response was unexpected. "You rightly deserved the treatment he gave you! You knew for certain, for I gave you all the signs, that you were standing in the very presence of Elijah the Prophet. You should have addressed him in the holy tongue! You should have said to him 'Bless us!' instead of speaking to him in Polish and timidly asking the 'poritz' for an audience. If you could still relate to him as a poritz after I told you that he is Elijah the Prophet, you deserve the treatment you received!"

The Torah (in Deuteronomy) states, "You are a holy people to G-d your G-d." Every Jew is holy. Every Jew is, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, a trove of unlimited treasures.

But it's not enough to know in our heads that a fellow Jew is holy, that he has a wealth of goodness and G-dliness within him. It's insufficient to believe with absolutely certainty that what the Torah and great Jewish teachers of all generations have said about the worth of every Jew is true.

We have to relate to our brother or sister not according to what appearances tell us. From the beginning our entire interaction has to be in accordance with his or her true, goodly and holy nature.

Then, surely, we will merit to see Elijah the Prophet - the harbinger of the Messianic Era - and ask of him, "Bless us."

Some Additional Thoughts

  • The sigh of a Jew over the suffering of another Jew breaks all the barriers of the Accusers, and the joy with which one rejoices in another's happiness and blesses him, is as acceptable by G-d as the prayer of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

  • Reb Elimelech of Linznsk related a teaching from the Maggid of Mezeritch: "Do you know what they say in Heaven? Love of a fellow Jew means loving the absolutely wicked like the perfectly saintly."

  • "G-d foregoes love of G-d in favor of love of the Jewish people," Rabbi Shneur Zalman declared.


Living with the Rebbe

The name of this week's Torah reading is Chayei Sara, literally the "life of Sara." As explained by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, the Hebrew name of a particular object or creation is what gives it its vitality and sustains it. Thus we must conclude that the entire Torah portion is somehow connected with the "life of Sara."

This, however, appears difficult to understand at first glance. Only the first verse of the Torah portion relates to Sara's life, whereas the rest of it speaks of seemingly unrelated matters: the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, and the passing of Abraham. Why then is the entire portion known as Chayei Sara?

The answer is that in truth, all of the events related in Chayei Sara - the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, as well as the passing of Abraham - express the sum and substance of our Matriarch Sara's life.

Concerning the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, the Torah tells us, "And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sara his mother, and took Rebecca, and she became his wife." When did Isaac agree to marry Rebecca? Only after he brought her into his mother's tent, and the miracles that used to occur during Sara's lifetime resumed.

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains that there were three specific miracles: 1) the Shabbat candles Sara kindled burned from one Friday afternoon till the next; 2) the dough she kneaded was specially blessed, and; 3) a cloud of holiness hovered over her tent. After Sara's death these miracles ceased; in the merit of Rebecca, they returned.

This occurred three years after Sara passed away, yet we see in these miracles a continuation of her life.

A similar connection exists to the passing of our forefather Abraham. The Torah states, "His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him." Isaac is mentioned before Ishmael, for by the time Abraham died, Ishmael had already repented. By giving his younger brother precedence, Ishmael demonstrated that the birthright rightly belonged to him.

This development was in the sole merit of Sara, who when she saw that Ishmael was "mocking," i.e., not behaving properly, demanded that Abraham "cast him out...for he will not be heir." Sara's intent was for Ishmael to return to G-d in repentance, which indeed subsequently occurred. Many years later, after Sara was no longer alive, Ishmael allowed his younger brother to lead the way, again an expression of the continuation of Sara's life.

The entire Torah portion is therefore known as Chayei Sara, as all of the events it relates are connected to Sara's life.

Adapted from the Rebbe's talk on Shabbat Chayei Sara, 5736


A Slice of Life

BY THE LIGHT OF A CANDLE
Rabbi Moshe Weber

By Yrachmeil Tilles

Two Americans were visiting Israel. It was January 1988. They were trying to sort out their lives, and just beginning to learn about Torah Judaism.

The gentleman was 49 years old. He had arrived in Jerusalem in November and had begun taking classes at a beginners' yeshiva for English-speakers. The woman, in her late twenties, had just arrived. Her intent was to meet up with the man, see some of Israel with him and discuss her decision about Judaism.

One afternoon, a tour guide took them to see Meah Shearim, a centuries old ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. The weather was cold and wet. The guide showed them the basics and then announced that he had "a brilliant idea, something off the beaten track." As he led them through slippery alleys, he explained that he was taking them to visit a tzadik.

Rabbi Moshe Weber and Ido Erhlich, close disciple and constant companion to Rabbi Weber, were about to leave for the shul where Rabbi Weber taught a daily Talmud class. Unexpectedly, there was a knock at the door. Ido motioned in the tour guide and the American couple and Rabbi Weber greeted them in what the American man recognized as Yiddish.

Although she could not understand a word, the look of kindness on the elderly man's face and the intensity of his eyes made the young woman's heart open.

Rabbi Weber held the man's right hand affectionately and then motioned for the two of them to sit down. He started to speak to them excitedly about Israel, Torah and mitzvot. Though they didn't know Yiddish, they understood well the obvious warmth and caring that was expressed in the tone of his voice and his kind eyes. Ido acted as translator.

There, in the tiny, dim, eight by eight foot room, the couple's lives were transformed before the light of a single candle on the small gray formica table.

After a few minutes, the man revealed that the woman accompanying him was not Jewish and that it was his intention to marry her. Rabbi Weber was non-plussed.

Although she had grown up Protestant, she had found Judaism at the end of her college career. Her apartment was lined with books, including translations of biblical texts and a tome on Jewish Law. In truth, she knew more about Judaism than her companion.

Rabbi Weber conversed with the man in a heartfelt manner, stressing the beauty and fulfillment of a life based on mitzva observance. He said that he was ready to commit himself to putting on tefilin every weekday and to keep Shabbat.

The man explained that it was his companion's intention to convert, and had been so even before she had met him, and for a long time. Rabbi Weber answered that if it was indeed her desire to join the Jewish people and accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvot, she would have to do so under the auspices of an Orthodox rabbi in the city where she lived in the United States.

They promised that that was exactly what would happen. The man parted from Rabbi Weber with a warm hug, and a promise that he would do precisely as Rabbi Weber had instructed him.

The next day the couple was amazed that Rabbi Weber had taken the time to speak with two such unknowns. A whole shul packed with his students was kept waiting on their account. They felt humbled, confused, and elated all at once.

She had made the commitment to an Orthodox conversion long before, but he had not been sure of his own parallel commitment to a Torah life: Shabbat, mikva, kashrut, the whole 613. Now it was clear: they were to lead an observant life together, even with 22 years between their chronological ages.

Just before they left Israel, the couple visited Rabbi Weber once again. Rabbi Weber had asked the man to please make sure the woman did her learning with Chabad, and to be sure to invite him to the wedding.

A half-year went by. The phone rang in the Weber home. It was the American gentleman. He said that the woman had undergone a strictly kosher conversion, and that he had increased his personal level of observance as he had promised Rabbi Weber. They were planning to marry soon, and they both deeply wished that Rabbi Weber would accept their invitation to attend their wedding in Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Weber explained that such a lengthy trip would be impossible for him, as his wife was seriously ill and bedridden, and he had to be available to care for her. "But Reb Moshe," the man exclaimed, "you must come. We both desperately want you to be there."

That summer, Mrs. Weber was admitted to a special rehabilitation home for which she had been on a waiting list for many months. Rabbi Weber would be able to go and Ido would accompany him.

The wedding was scheduled two weeks before Rosh Hashana. Not only were Ido and Rabbi Weber able to come to the wedding, but they spent all of the holidays from Rosh Hashana through Simchat Torah with the Lubavitcher Rebbe - the first time in 30 years Rabbi Weber had left the Holy Land!

The joy of that unique wedding was extraordinary. Rabbi Weber danced with the groom for a long time. Everyone present was enthralled and delighted by the special guest from Jerusalem. More than a decade later, people still speak about it.

Today, twelve years after they first went to visit Rabbi Weber, the couple lives in San Diego, California with their three sons, all of whom study in yeshiva.

Reuven and Sara Chana Morrow visited Rabbi Weber again with their infant son during Sukkot of the year following the wedding. He served as a guiding vision in their lives until his passing. They keep his memory alive as they teach their children the lessons they learned at that little table, lessons of kindness to others, effervescent joy, and considerate behavior.

Rabbi Moshe Weber was a central and beloved figure in Jerusalem. Nearly every day he went to the Western Wall to pray and to help visitors put on tefilin. Less publicly, he distributed enormous sums of charity to the city's poor. The Rebbe said of him that he is one of the holiest and kindest people in the world. Reprinted from Ascent Weekly: www.ascent.org.il


What's New

THE RIGHT RELATIONSHIP

"Relationships: Guidelines from Jewish Tradition and Psychology" will be the topic explored at a Shabbaton the weekend of Dec. 8 featuring psychotherapist Dr. Yisroel Susskind. The Shabbaton will be held at Chabad of Port Washington on Long Island (NY). For more info call Chabad at (516) 767-TORAH.

CHABAD U.

The Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey recently established Chabad U, which offers "learning for the highly unorthodox." This means that their classes "encourage people to be open to new ideas and explore creative ways of developing the spiritual self." For more info call (973) 625-1525 or e-mail chabadnwnj@nac.net. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch to find out about similar courses in your area.


The Rebbe Writes

15th of Iyar, 5728 [1968]

To All Participants in the Dedication of the New Edifice of B'nei Ruven Nusach Hoari
Chicago, Illinois

Greeting and Blessing:

I am pleased to be informed of the forthcoming Dedication of your new synagogue building.

True to its traditions for the better part of a century, your synagogue will surely continue to serve not only as a House of Prayer, but also as a House of Learning, inspiring both devotional prayer and Torah study, the kind of prayer and study that strengthen adherence to the Torah-true Jewish way of life in the daily life.

Our Sages of blessed memory said kol hakove'a mokom l'tfiloso, Elokei Avrohom b'ezro, "Whoever establishes a place for his prayers, the G-d of Avraham comes to his aid" ([Talmud]Berochos 6b). Although the deeper meaning of this "establishment" refers also to the spiritual dimension of prayer, the plain and Halachic [Jewish legal] meaning of the words is the actual establishment of a proper synagogue, conducive to sincere devotion in the regular daily prayers.

Moreover, where the Beth Haknesseth is also a Beth Hamidrash, that is to to say when the House of Prayer is also a House of regular Torah and Halacha study, it has the added dimension of what our Sages describe as Sheorim Hametzuyomin B'Halacha, "Gates distinguished in prayer" (Berochos 8a), and further comes under another saying of our Sages to wit: kol hakove'a mokom l'toroso oivov noflim tachtov - "Whoever establishes a place for his Torah study his enemies fall before him" (Berochos 7b. RIF version) - something so urgently needed at this time when our people are surrounded by so many enemies.

May G-d grant that your congregation continue to flourish and serve as a citadel of Torah and Yiras Shomayim [fear of Heaven] in the fullest sense of the words of our Sages quoted above. And may G-d fulfill the prayers and petitions of His people, Israel, as well as those of each and every one individually, culminating in the fulfill ment of our most fervent prayer for the coming of Moshiach, bringing the end of our Golus [exile], when "our people shall be troubled no more."

To your distinguished Rabbi, esteemed Honorary Officers, congregants and friends, I extend sincere felicitations and prayerful wishes to go from strength to strength in advancing the dissemination and practice of Torah and Mitzvos in the daily life, within your midst as well as in the community at large.

With esteem and blessing for Hatzlocho [success],


22nd of Adar I, 5725 [1965]

Greeting and Blessing:

After not hearing from you a long time, I was pleased to receive your letter of Feb-ruary 16th, in which you write about your various activities, as well as future prospects.

May G-d grant that each and every one of us, in the midst of all our people, should utilize all capacities and opportunities for the spreading of Torah-true Yiddishkeit [Judaism] to the fullest extent of one's influence. The emphasis must always be on Torah-true Yiddishkeit, in accordance with Toras Emes [Torah of Truth], for truth denies any compromise. Even if a compromise is "partly true," it is not the whole truth, and therefore it is not true at all, for truth must be whole and perfect. Where this kind of effort is made with the appropriate determination and perseverance, success is assured.

With regard to the question whether it is proper to maintain a certain position in a certain organization, this, like other questions in Halachah [Jewish law], should be addressed to a Rav Moreh Horo'ah [Rabbinic authority], and then act according to his instructions.

Generally speaking, it is well known that it is necessary to make a distinction between individuals and movements. For, as an individual Jew, even if he sins, he is a Jew, and it is necessary to do everything be'ahavah [in a loving manner] to help him back on the right path (see Tanya, Chapter 32, "Lev"). On the other hand, movements and ideologies which are against the Torah must be opposed and exposed. As to which movements and ideologies are opposed to the Torah, this is easy to determine in the light of the psak [legal ruling] of the Rambam [Moses Maimonides] to the effect that to deny even one letter of the Torah is tantamount to denying the whole Torah min hashamayim [is from Heaven] (Hil[chos] Teshuvah 3:9).

With blessing,


Rambam this week

26 Marcheshvan 5761

Prohibition 268: a hired laborer consuming food excessively

By this prohibition a hired laborer is forbidden to take more of the growing crops among which he is working than he needs for his meal. It is contained in the Torah's words (Deut. 23:25): "When you come into your neighbor's vineyard, then you may eat your fill of grapes at your own pleasure; but you shall not put any in your vessel."


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

In many of the Torah portions read during the month of Kislev (which begins on Tuesday), dreams play a significant role. From Jacob's dreams about the ladder ascending to heaven and the speckled sheep, we move on to Laban's dream in which G-d warned him not to harm Jacob. Next, Joseph dreams that the sun, moon and stars bow down to him, and that all the sheaves in the field bow down to his sheaf. As a result of these dreams, Joseph is sold into slavery and brought to Egypt. Years later, he is released from jail when he successfully interprets the dreams of Pharaoh's servants. When Pharaoh dreams about the seven lean cows, Joseph predicts the seven years of famine that will plague Egypt.

All of the dreams mentioned in the Torah are connected with prophecy, but a person needn't be a prophet in order to dream. What, then, does Judaism say on the subject of dreams?

Sleep is one of the most wonderful phenomena of nature. A person climbs into bed completely exhausted, and wakes up a few hours later invigorated and refreshed. When a person sleeps, his natural body functions slow down. As explained by Chasidut, his soul ascends to its G-dly source, where it derives new strengths for the coming day. The mind, too, is at rest during sleep, but its faculty of imagination continues to function. A person "sees" and "hears" visions and events that are often quite fantastic upon awakening.

According to our Sages, most dreams are a reflection of whatever we were thinking about during the daytime. In the Talmud, Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachmani states, in the name of Rabbi Yonatan, "A person is only shown the thoughts in his heart." Similarly, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the Zohar, used to say that there is no dream without extraneous and irrelevant elements.

In light of the above, the best advice to ensure pleasant dreams is to recite the "Shema" prayer before going to bed. A kosher mezuza on the doorpost also "protects" us from unsettling nightmares. Secure in the knowledge that "the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps," we can then put our heads down on the pillow with true serenity.


Thoughts that Count

And Sara was a hundred and twenty seven years old; these were the years of the life of Sara (Gen. 23:1)

As Rashi comments, "All of her years were equal in goodness." Our Matriarch Sara endured much suffering during her lifetime: Childless for many years, she was abducted by Avimelech, wandered about from place to place without a permanent home, and at the end of her life, her only child was about to be offered up as a sacrifice. Nonetheless, she accepted all these trials and tribulations with love, declaring "This is also for the good."

(Korban He'Ani)

And Efron lived among the Hittites (Gen. 23:10)

According to Rashi, "That very day [the Hittites] appointed theirfellow countryman Efron ruler over them, because of the importance of Abraham." Unfortunately, this is a common and recurring theme in Jewish history: Each time an "Efron" is elected to a powerful political post in the Jews' merit, he forgets his debt to "Abraham" as soon as he assumes his position...

(Ma'ora Shel Torah)

And the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold (Gen. 24:22)

The gifts that Eliezer gave to Rebecca were fraught with meaning: the "half shekel" alluded to the half shekel the Jews would be required to contribute to the Sanctuary, while the "two bracelets" alluded to the Tablets of the Law. The half shekel is symbolic of tzedaka (charity), which is considered so great that it contains within it all the other commandments; the Tablets are symbolic of the entire Torah. The gifts were thus an allusion to the foundation of the Jewish home: the performance of mitzvot, and the study of Torah.

(Likutei Sichot)

And he fell in the presence of all his brothers...and these are the generations of Isaac (Gen. 25:18-19)

This is an allusion to the End of Days, when Ishmael will "fall" and will no longer exert dominance over the Jewish people. Moshiach, a descendant of Isaac, will then arise to establish G-d's sovereignty in the world.

(Baal HaTurim)


It Once Happened

It was a typical autumn day in 1906 when Rabbi Yedidya Horodner walked into the "Tiferet Yisrael" synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem with a big smile on his face. With a grand flourish he placed a bottle of whiskey and some cake on the table, and invited everyone to make a "lechaim."

The congregants wondered what the cause for celebration might be. A rumor had been circulating that the day before, Rabbi Horodner had gone to all the local yeshivot and distributed candy to the children. Something good had obviously occurred, and they waited expectantly to hear what it was.

Indeed, after everyone had made a blessing on the cake and lifted a few glasses, the Rabbi filled them in:

The whole story revolved around the Rabbi's nephew, a 15-year-old boy named Shmuel Rosen who was originally from Riga. His father, Rabbi Ozer Rosen, had sent the lad to his uncle when he was only eight years old, in the belief that there was no better place in the world to develop the boy's intellectual talents than the holy city.

Rabbi Horodner raised little Shmuel as if he was his own son, and the boy flourished. He was a delightful child, and exceptionally devoted to his studies.

A few weeks ago, however, disaster had struck. After experiencing deteriorating vision for several months, Shmuel was now completely blind. The total darkness had set in as he was sitting and poring over a volume of the Talmud.

The boy's spirit was completely broken. For days and nights he wept over his fate, most bitterly over his inability to study Torah by himself. Suffering from a profound sadness, he withdrew and rarely ventured from his room.

His uncle felt helpless, until it occurred to him that a change of place might do the boy good. He contacted his friend, Reb Shimon Hoizman of Hebron, who agreed to let the boy stay in his house. Shmuel felt a little better in Hebron, but remained very depressed.

At that time the Jewish community of Hebron was headed by two Torah giants: the Sefardic Rabbi Chizkiyahu Medini (author of Sdei Chemed), and the Chasidic Rabbi Shimon Menashe Chaikin, the chief Ashkenazic authority in the city. Every evening at midnight, the two Rabbis would go to the Cave of Machpeila, the resting place of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs, to recite Tikun Chatzot (a special prayer lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple).

Reb Shimon Hoizman was very affected by the boy's suffering. But what could he do to help? Then one evening, he came up with a plan...

About a half hour before midnight Reb Shimon went into Shmuel's room. "Wake up, son," he whispered to him softly. "Get dressed and follow me." The two went off into the night, in the direction of Rabbi Chaikin's courtyard.

A few minutes later the two Rabbis could be seen approaching, on their way to the Cave of Machpeila. As soon as they reached the spot where Reb Shimon and Shmuel were standing, Reb Shimon disappeared and left Shmuel by himself. The two Rabbis quickly realized that Shmuel was blind. With gentleness they asked him how he had become sightless.

When the young man got up to the part about how he had become totally blind while studying, Rabbi Medini asked if he remembered the last words he had been able to see. "Of course I remember!" Shmuel responded. "They were in Tractate Chulin, on the first side of page 36: 'On whom can we count? Come, let us rely on the words of Rabbi Shimon [Bar Yochai]' "

The two Rabbis became very excited. "If that is the case," they said almost simultaneously, "then you can certainly rely on the holy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to help you. Go to his grave in Meron, ask for his blessing, and G-d will surely heal you."

The next morning Shmuel returned to Jerusalem, and the very same day he and his uncle set off for Meron. It was a difficult journey, but after several days they arrived safely. Even before they approached the holy gravesite they were filled with a feeling of confidence. For days they remained at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, praying steadily to G-d for a miraculous recovery.

The miracle occurred exactly one week later. Rabbi Horodner was reading aloud from the Gemara when all of sudden Shmuel let out a yelp. "Uncle! I can see your shadow!"

Over the course of the next few days Shmuel's vision improved steadily, until 13 days later it was restored completely. Still camped out at the holy gravesite, uncle and nephew broke out into a spontaneous dance, as they sang the verses that are traditionally sung on the anniversary of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's passing:

"His teachings are our protection; they are the light of our eyes. He is our advocate for good, Rabban Shimon Bar Yochai..."


Moshiach Matters

When Moshaich comes everyone will manifestly see how the life-force that animates the organs of the body stems from Divinity. It will then be seen that every individual organ lives from the Divine life-force that is drawn into it by the fulfillment of the particular mitzva which relates to that organ. For, as is well known, the 248 positive commandments correspond to the 248 bodily organs. (From a discourse of the Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch)


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