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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

December 8, 2000 - 11 Kislev, 5761

647: Vayetzei

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  646: Toldos648: Vayishlach  

Breakfast Bites  |  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

Breakfast Bites

You might think that it's only your mom, breakfast cereal manufacturers and nutritionists who encourage you to start the day off right with a meal in the morning.

Actually, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, the abridged Code of Jewish Law (published in 1864) - a compilation of practical applications of mitzvot today - encourages us to do just that.

"It is advisable that a person should accustom himself to have breakfast in the morning," states chapter 32, entitled "Rules Concerning Physical Well-being." Further on it explains that a person should try to live where the air is pure and clear and where the temperature is even; neither too hot or too cold. It adds, "Therefore, precautions should be taken not to overheat the house in the winter...because excessive heat occasions many illnesses, G-d forbid."

One chapter earlier there is a discussion on how to fulfill the verse in Proverbs, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him [G-d]." Everything we do, even those things that we do in order to live, must be done in order to sustain life. When eating foods "that are not forbidden...we should eat only the things that are helpful to, and good for, the health of the body...One should always sleep and rest for the purpose of gaining good health...When engaged in business, the intention should not be merely to accumulate wealth, but to support the family, to give charity, and to raise children to study the Torah."

There's a lot of nourishment for the soul in these words!

A decade ago, when you purchased a box of Cheerios, you were informed "This cereal, together with juice, eggs, bread with a spread, gives you one third the minimum daily requirement..." Of course, such a suggested menu for breakfast would never appear on a cereal box today. With concerns about saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium levels and dioxins, the very same "#1 ready-to-eat" cereal emphasizes that it's made from "whole grains" and has an eye-catching banner that reads, "In a low-fat diet, whole grain food like Cheerios may reduce the risk of heart disease." The familiar yellow box even advertises an offer to get free parenting advice on its website.

It's hard to keep up with the newest studies or on top of the latest recommendations from health experts. Whether the discussion centers around food, air purity or quality of life issues, advice varies depending on who did the study and who is doing the advising. But you'll never go wrong if you follow the counsel of the Code of Jewish Law, which is based on the Torah that was given to each and every Jew at Mount Sinai over three millennia ago.

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Vayeitzei begins: "And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Charan."

Beersheba is symbolic of a state of peacefulness and tranquility. The name itself commemorates the covenant of peace that was made between the Philistine King Avimelech and Abraham, and the seven wells that were dug after the covenant was made.

Jacob left this state of tranquility, left the study hall of Shem and Ever in which he had studied Torah and served G-d for 14 years, "and went toward Charan," the lowliest and most despicable location on earth. The name Charan comes from the Hebrew word meaning anger or wrath, as Charan was an alien and degenerate place.

In the metaphorical sense, at some point in his life, every Jew must leave Beersheba and go to Charan. Just as Jacob left Beersheba to find a wife in Charan, so too must every Jew leave the rarefied world of the yeshiva to establish a Jewish home, and involve himself in the world.

The most appropriate way to prepare for this is by being in Beersheba, i.e., complete devotion to Torah study. But life itself must be lived in "Charan" - in the material realm of the physical world. A Jew's mission is to serve G-d in even the most mundane or difficult circumstances.

This, then, is the lesson to be derived for every Jew: It is precisely through the trials and tribulations one encounters throughout life that a warm Jewish home is built. For it is these trials that temper the Jew and prove his mettle, making the foundations of his home strong and stable.

Let's examine Jacob's behavior during his journey:

Setting out in a foreign land to find a suitable match, one would think that Jacob would have tried to learn the local language, or dressed himself in expensive clothes to make a favorable impression. And yet, the first thing he did was pray, as Rashi comments on the words "and he reached a certain place."

Jacob understood that his success would not depend on taking simple physical action. A Jew must know that the very first thing he must do when going out into the world is pray to G-d. He must never think that just because he already prayed and learned Torah in the past, he must now emulate the "ways of the world" if he is to succeed.

On the contrary, when setting out from "Beersheba" to "Charan," a Jew must pray even harder! For the tests he will be subjected to in "Charan" are far more difficult than any he encountered before. He must therefore pray even more diligently, and ask G-d's help to withstand these new trials.

Adapted from Volume 1 of Likutei Sichot

A Slice of Life

Rabbi Polter and Joseph Goldberg

By Rabbi Dovid Shraga Polter

In my rounds as the Jewish Community Chaplain in Metropolitan Detroit, I serve the spiritual needs of Jewish residents in Jewish as well as non-Jewish nursing homes, assisted living centers and retirement communities.

I had been visiting 90-year-old Joseph Goldberg at a nursing home in rural and remote Trenton, Michigan. He was the only Jew there, and was truly happy to have a Rabbi visit him at monthly intervals.

Joseph had never married and had no surviving family. A non-Jewish guardian admini-stered his affairs.

Soon after I first met Joseph (about one and a half years ago), he was hospitalized. At that time I discovered that a nun whom he had known for some years had prepaid for his cremation upon his passing. I discussed the idea of a Jewish funeral and burial with him and he agreed to allow me to make the proper arrangements, in the event of his passing.

Last year in the fall, Joseph asked me if I could arrange to take him to his parents' gravesite "once more" before he died. He hadn't been there for many years and missed them dearly. There was one problem: he could not remember where in the cemetary they were buried.

With the assistance of the funeral director who had handled their burial, I searched through old files and located the plot. I then began to make inquiries about a volunteer who would be able to pick him up and return him to his facility, as he was confined to a wheelchair and needed special assistance.

Several attempts were made to schedule a date but something always seemed to come up. The final date was scheduled for December 14th (corresponding to the fifth, "Hei" of the Hebrew month of Tevet). The weather was awful, and I was sure the home where Joseph lived would insist on postponing the trip. But Joseph's determination ruled. I met Joseph at the cemetery together with the volunteer and the nurse's aid who came along for medical purposes.

Prior to taking Joseph out of the vehicle, the volunteer handed Joseph a small red leather yarmulka to wear while at the cemetery. Together, we took Joseph out in his wheelchair into a cold rainy day and brought him up to his parents' gravesite. We recited Psalms and I comforted Joseph as he shed tears. I then recited the traditional memorial prayer "Kail Malai Rachamim." Afterwards, I read to Joseph what was written on his father's tombstone. The stone read as follows:

Hymen Goldberg
Died Dec. 25th 1949

The Hebrew on the tombstone read:

Chaim Ben Reb Monish Halevi
Niftar Hei Tevet Tov Shin Yud

It took me a moment to realize that that day marked the fiftieth anniversary of his father's passing. I was overtaken by this Divine Providence and how G-d's hand brought Joseph to his father's grave on precisely his fiftieth yartzeit. I appointed someone to recite Kaddish at the afternoon prayer, and I returned to the nursing facility to help Joseph observe the yartzeit in the traditional manner by studying Mishnayot, giving charity and donning tefilin.

To my surprise, the next time I saw Joseph he was wearing the red yarmulka he had been handed upon entering the cemetery. I found out that he had not removed it from his head since that time. He would roll around amongst all the non-Jewish residents and even attend non-Jewish services, wearing his red yarmulke.

I had the honor of putting on tefilin with him when I visited him subsequently and we always enjoyed each other's company.

In early summer I received a call from the Jewish funeral home informing me of Joseph's passing. As I recounted the story of Joseph's experience to the funeral home assistant (who was the only other Jew present at the burial), he told me that when they picked up his body they found Joseph wearing his red yarmulka and that the yarmulka is buried with him.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to accommodate Joseph as I did. I have also witnessed first hand the teaching of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, which I learned many years ago: A Jew neither wants to nor can he be torn away from G-dliness.

May we all merit to witness in our own lives the hand of G-d in a revealed fashion, and may we soon experience the ultimate revelation of the infinite light of G-d, through the coming of Moshiach NOW.

If you know anyone in a nursing facility in the Detroit Metropolitan area, you can inform me and I will try to arrange for them to be visited. I can be reached at: Jewish Home and Aging Services/Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program, 6710 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield, Mi. 48322 (248) 661-2999 Ext. 301
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter

What's New


An unforgettable Shabbat with Fulbright Scholar and NASA Researcher Dr. Velvl Greene will take place over the weekend of December 22. The Shabbaton, sponsored by Chabad of the Upper East Side (Manhattan), will be held at the Metropolitan Republican Club. For more information or reservations call (212) 717-4613.


Two new audio cassettes help make Shabbat part of your life. Shabbat Syna-gogue Songs & Prayers includes 27 of the most popular tunes and prayers from Friday night and Shabbat day services. Shabbat Home Kiddush & Prayers includes everything to help you prepare to conduct the Shabbat meals including Kiddush, Shalom Aleichem, the Grace after Meals (Birkat HaMazon), Havdala and more. Produced by the Jewish Learning Group and sung by Chaim Fogelman, you can hear a demo or place an order at or call 888-565-3276. Each tape is $12.95 ($4 s&h in North America, $10 elsewhere). Send orders to: JLG, 723 Montgomery St., Bklyn, NY 11213. Discount for bulk orders.

The Rebbe Writes

Three letters to the same individual dated Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5736 [1975]

Your letter... reached me with considerable delay...

In view of its content, I naturally take this first opportunity of replying to it.

Not knowing whether you are more interested in the practical implication, or/and in the scientific aspect, I am writing two separate replies, enclosed herewith, which you can read in the order you prefer.

With esteem and blessing,

P.S. It is surely unnecessary to add - though I am adding it for the record - that I take it for granted that you will keep your commitments with regard to the practical aspects of the letter.[1]



  1. (Back to text) After asserting that the Rebbe would never support the Torah view that the sun revolves around the earth, and certainly not publicly, the writer promised to undertake certain Mitzvos if the Rebbe confirmed that this is his belief.

In reply to your question relating to the matter of the motion of the sun and the earth, whether the sun revolves around the earth or the earth around the sun.

It is my firm belief that the sun revolves around the earth, as I have also declared publicly on various occasions and in discussion with professors specializing in this field of science.

In view of the above, I have no objection, of course, if you wish to make this view known to whomever you choose, since, as mentioned, I have declared it orally and in writing to correspondents who had inquired into this subject, on more than one occasion.

With esteem and blessing,

P.S. On several of the above-mentioned occasions, when I spoke on the subject publicly, I gave a clear and detailed explanation why this view is in no conflict at all with contemporary science. I emphasized, however, that I was speaking of modern and contemporary science, as it differs from Ptolemnic and medieval science when conflicting views were held on this subject. Modern science, on the other hand, having rejected both systems, has reached conclusions which present no problem to one holding to the belief that the sun revolves around the earth, as I have explained at some length elsewhere.

This is in reply to your inquiry on the question of the rotation of the sun and the earth in relation to each other, namely, whether the sun revolves around the earth, or the earth around the sun, and which view is to be accepted, etc.

I presume you have in mind the scientific view, i.e. what science has to say on this question, and I will address myself to this aspect.

It is well known that this was a controversial issue in ancient and medieval science. However, since about half a century ago, with the introduction of the theory of relativity, the latter has been universally accepted as the basis of modern science. To be sure, in the beginning there were scientists working under the Soviet regime who opposed the relativity theory - for various reasons which need not be reviewed here, but even this opposition fell by the wayside later, so that now scientists generally accept the theory of relativity as the latest and most plausible scientific system.

One of the conclusions of the theory of relativity is that when there are two systems, or planets, in motion relative to each other, such as the sun and earth in our case - either view, namely, the sun rotating around the earth, or the earth rotating around the sun, has equal validity. Thus, if there are phenomena that cannot be adequately explained on the basis of one of these views, such difficulties have their counterpart also if the opposite view is accepted.

Secondly, the scientific conclusion that both views have equal validity is the result not of any inadequacy of available scientific data, of technological development (measuring instruments, etc.), in which case it could be expected that further scientific and technological advan-cement might clear up the matter eventually and decide in favor of one or the other view. On the contrary, the conclusion of contemporary science is that regardless of any future scientific advancement, the question as to which is our planetary center, the sun or the earth, must forever remain unresolved, since both views will always have the same scientific validity, as stated.

Thirdly, it follows that anyone declaring that a person who chooses to accept one of these systems in preference to the other is a fool, while one who accepts the other is a wise man - such a judgment shows that the person making it is ignorant of the conclusions of modern science, or that he was not advanced beyond the science of Ptolemy and Copernicus. Obviously, a person not versed in the developments of science in the course of the past half century or so is not qualified to make any judgment pertaining to science.

A further point may be added, though perhaps not directly pertinent to our discussion. It is that every person, including modern scientists, actually has three options to choose from in this matter: (a) that A revolves around B, (b) that B revolves around A, (c) that A and B revolve around each other. But such a choice cannot be dictated by science; it would be one's personal choice and belief.

What has been said above is - to repeat - the deduction of the theory of relativity, as it is expounded in various scientific texts, and it can be checked with any scientist who is thoroughly familiar with the said theory. Of course, on the elementary and high-school level, science in general, and the so-called Solar system in particular, is taught from relatively simple textbooks, and the change in the scientific attitude towards the subject under discussion is not emphasized. But, as stated, it would be quite simple to verify it with any scientist who knows this particular field.

With esteem and blessing,

Rambam this week

11 Kislev 5761

Positive mitzva 246: the law of litigants

By this injunction we are commanded concerning the law of plaintiff and defendant. It embraces all cases arising between people where admissions and denials are involved, and is derived from the Torah's words (Ex. 22:8): "For every kind of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for garment, or for any kind of lost thing, which another challenges to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Monday, the 14th of Kislev, will mark 72 years since the Rebbe was married to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the daughter of the Previous Rebbe. Thousands of people from all over Europe attended the wedding in Warsaw, Poland.

The entire world, however, is now anticipating a "wedding" of another sort - the "marriage" between the Jewish people and G-d, which will take place with the coming of Moshiach. Metaphorically speaking, the "engagement" took place when the Jews were redeemed from Egypt and received the Torah at Mount Sinai. When the Jews were exiled and G-d's manifest presence in the world departed, the "bride" was abandoned, as it were; ever since, she has pined away for her beloved. In the Messianic era, the "wedding" between the Holy One, Blessed Be He and His bride will be held, and the Jewish people will no longer be alone.

There is a verse in this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, which reads "And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, Surely the L-rd has looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me." During the exile, the Jewish people are in a reduced spiritual state. Without the Holy Temple, G-d's love for His bride is not openly manifest.

Yet when G-d sees that the Jewish people remain strong in their faith, and continue to observe Torah and mitzvot even in their "affliction," it arouses His overwhelming and tremendous love for us. In the Messianic era, this love between husband and wife will reach its ultimate expression, and G-d's union with the Jewish people will be permanent and everlasting.

May we very soon merit to wish each other "Mazel Tov," at the most definitive wedding celebration in history.

Thoughts that Count

And behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven (Gen. 28:12)

If a person thinks that he has already perfected himself and "reached heaven," it is a sure sign that in fact, he has a long way to go. For it is only when an individual considers himself lowly and "on the earth" that he is able to ascend to greater spiritual heights.

(Toldot Yaakov Yosef)

And, behold, the L-rd was standing over him ("Vehinei Hashem nitzav alav") (Gen. 28:13)

Rearranging the first letters of the above Hebrew verse results in the word "anav," meaning one who is humble. For it is precisely through humility, self-abnegation and acceptance of the yoke of Heaven that a person attains a sense of G-d's closeness.

(Ohr HaTorah)

The land on which you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed (Gen. 28:13)

As Rashi comments, "The Holy One, blessed be He, folded up the entire land of Israel beneath him." Unlike his forefathers, Jacob did not have to travel the length and breadth of Israel in order to refine the sparks of holiness contained in each location. Rather, when G-d "folded up the land beneath him," he was able to refine all of them at once, in one place.

(The Baal Shem Tov)

And Jacob answered and said to Laban, "What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued after me?" (Gen. 31:36)

Jacob was disturbed by Laban's insistence on maintaining their relationship, as he interpreted it as a reflection of his own behavior. He worried that he might have committed a sin, for had he been completely innocent of wrongdoing, a person like Laban would be uninterested in being his friend.

(Der Torah Kval)

It Once Happened

Reb Pinchas Reizes was a Chasid of the Mitteler Rebbe (Rabbi Dovber, whose birthday and passing are on 9 Kislev). When Reb Pinchas passed away his only heir was a nephew, who unfortunately was a complete scoundrel.

Among the items that came into the nephew's possession was a letter written by the Mitteler Rebbe to his uncle, asking him to serve on a special committee to disburse funds for charity. The sum cited in the letter was 4,000 rubles.

The nephew saw this as a golden opportunity to blackmail the Rebbe. If the Rebbe did not give him money, he threatened, he would go to the authorities and tell them that the Rebbe was collecting funds for clandestine and illegal purposes. But the Rebbe was immune to his intimidations. "Not one penny will you get from me," he told him. "Do whatever you want, for I have done nothing wrong and am not afraid of your slander."

Incensed by the Rebbe's response, the nephew carried out his threat. With the help of some unsavory associates he forged the original letter to make it appear as if the Rebbe had 104,000 rubles instead of 4,000 - a veritable fortune in those days. The Rebbe was accused of various criminal activities, such as trying to bribe the Turkish Sultan, and it was also alleged that the Rebbe's study hall had been built to the exact specifications of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

On Saturday night of the Torah portion of Noach 5587 [1826] investigators showed up at the Rebbe's house. They conducted a thorough search of the premises. Careful note was taken of all written materials, and anything else they considered suspicious. At the same time, a separate group of investigators measured the Rebbe's study hall; no one could figure out what they were trying to find.

By that time a large crowd had gathered in front of the Rebbe's house, and everyone could hear the tearful pleading of the Rebbe's family with the police. The only one who seemed to be taking everything in stride was the Rebbe. As if nothing unusual were going on, he withdrew to his room to write a Chasidic discourse. A while later he announced that he would receive people for private audiences, which he did.

The following morning the Rebbe was ordered to accompany the police to their headquarters in Vitebsk. Word of the Rebbe's arrest quickly spread, and in every town and village along the way hundreds of Jews came out to greet him. Thanks to the efforts of several influential Jews, it was agreed that the long journey would be made in stages, with numerous stops to allow the Rebbe to rest.

When the carriage arrived in Dobromisl, the Rebbe asked to be allowed to pray the afternoon service in the local synagogue. Afterwards, to everyone's surprise, he delivered a Chasidic discourse on the verse from Song of Songs, "Many waters cannot quench love." The allusion to his present situation was clear.

The Rebbe was subsequently imprisoned in the city of Liozhna and placed under tight security. Sometime later it was learned that the formal charge against him was rebellion against the government.

The Rebbe was jailed for one month and ten days, but even from the beginning he was granted certain privileges. Three people were permitted to stay with him, and three times a day, 20 Jews were allowed inside to pray. The Rebbe was also permitted to deliver a Chasidic discourse twice a week in front of 50 people after the Rebbe's doctor testified that it was crucial to the Rebbe's health.

In the meantime, efforts to secure the Rebbe's release were being made behind the scenes. Several high-ranking government officials who had heard about the Rebbe and held him in great esteem tried to exert their influence. The Rebbe was interrogated numerous times, during which he proved that not only were his connections to the Turkish Sultan completely fabricated, but his designs on the Kaiser's throne were equally fictitious.

At the end of several weeks the results of the investigation were turned over to the Minister of the Interior. The Minister was very impressed by the Rebbe's responses to all the questions, and decided that a direct confrontation between the Rebbe and his accuser was in order.

On the designated day the Rebbe dressed in his white Shabbat finery. When he walked into the Minister's office, the official was so disconcerted by his angelic appearance that he ordered his servants to bring the Rebbe a chair.

The informer began to heap his invectives upon the Rebbe, but one by one, the Rebbe dismissed the accusations entirely. At one point in the proceedings the accuser addressed the Rebbe as "Rebbe," prompting the Rebbe to turn to the Minister and remark, "Did you see that? First he calls me a charlatan and a revolutionary, and in the next breath he calls me Rebbe!"

From that point on the accuser's allegations became increasingly illogical. The Minister was so irritated by his behavior that he ordered him to "stop barking," and he was led away in humiliation. The Rebbe was escorted back to his room with great deference, and informed that he would soon be released.

The Mitteler Rebbe was liberated on the 10th of Kislev, having been informed of the government's decision while reciting the verse from Psalms: "He has saved my soul in peace."

Moshiach Matters

"The teachings of Chasidut," someone might argue, "are indeed likened to gems and pearls - but I'm not one to chase after pearls; I'm satisfied if my clothes aren't torn."

There is an answer to this argument: "We have to get ready for the coming of Moshiach, when we will be privileged to enter the marriage canopy together with the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He. So we will need pearls, too."

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. XX, p. 178)

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