Shlopping for Chanuka | 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
By Rabbi Yisrael Rubin
The approach of Chanuka has many people shlepping and shopping (shlopping for short) around the malls for gifts.
Even if you're sitting at home in a comfortable chair with your feet up and a cup of tea in hand, perusing a catalogue or surfing the net for great gift ideas, it can still be a shlep to shop for Chanuka!
Whether you're driving around looking for a parking space or checking out the bargains in cyberspace, shlopping can take hours upon hours and can be very tiring.
Shlopping is especially draining, confusing and exhausting with all that goes on in the malls at this time of the year during the end of the shlopping days countdown.
Actually, shlopping malls may be the most inappropriate place to find the most appropriate Chanuka gift. The seasonal decorations, the rush and hassle, the here-today- gone-tomorrow trendiness of items ornately displayed in store windows, can detract from the Chanuka spirit.
Chanuka celebrates the triumph of the little cruse of purity over crass materialism. The Maccabees fought and were victorious in a battle of quality over quantity. They dedicated themselves to preserving Jewish identity and to resisting alien influences.
We can shop and shop, but not all that glitters is gold. A true Chanuka gift should have some inner content, not only superficial wrappings, fancy labels and pricey tags. Our family and friends certainly deserve more on Chanuka than just shlopping bags full of gizmos.
But can anyone hear us above all the noise? How can we focus on the true meaning of Chanuka amid all the surrounding sights and sounds, muzak and color?
The following proposed announcement may sound a little shloppy, but let's try to get someone's attention with it.
"Attention Shloppers! We draw your attention to a special in the Chanuka department.
"Remember: It's the thought that counts. Give something with meaning.
"Gone are the days when the only Jewish toy was a wobbly lead dreidle. We've come a long way.
"Experience the explosion of Jewish creativity. Go into your local Judaica store (or visit them online) and choose from a large and attractive selection of Jewish games, toys, art & crafts, books, tapes, videos, software and CD's, with real, authentic Jewish content.
"Our rich and exciting heritage can come alive for Jewish kids of all ages. Give gifts that are educational and entertaining-the best of both worlds."
Shlep a friend along with you on this new Chanuka shlopping adventure.
Rabbi Yisrael Rubin is director of Chabad of the Capital District, Albany, NY.
The first of the Five Books of Moses, Bereishit (Genesis), is also called the "Book of the Just," as it narrates the lives of our ancestors, whom the Talmud refers to as "just." As it is axiomatic in Judaism that "the deeds of the ancestors are a sign for their descendants," it follows that Genesis is the "blueprint" for all Jews in their service of the Creator. In other words, Genesis teaches us how a Jew is supposed to live.
This idea is expressed in the names of the Torah portions themselves. The first portion in Genesis is Bereishit ("in the beginning"), which instills the basic awareness that G-d created the world for the Torah and for the Jewish people. The second portion, Noach, alludes to the ultimate objective in the world's creation: to bring nachat ruach (pleasure; linguistically related to the name Noach) to G-d by fulfilling His desire for a "dwelling place" in the physical realm.
The next portion, Lech Lecha ("go out"), describes the dynamics of how this is accomplished: The soul is forced to leave the higher spiritual realms and become enclothed in a corporeal body, where it is constantly urged to transcend the level it has already attained and climb to the next. Vayeira ("and He appeared") refers to G-d's special revelation to every Jewish soul, which assists us in our Divine mission.
This G-dly revelation penetrates all aspects of the soul, hinted at in the name of the next Torah portion, Chayei Sara ("the life of Sara"). Sara lived 127 years, which is an esoteric allusion to all of the soul's powers. Once G-d gives us these capabilities, we are then able to create Toldot ("generations" or "descendants"), as our Sages stated, "The descendants of the righteous are their good deeds."
After this basic outline has been defined, the Jew's service is further elucidated in the next two portions, Vayeitzei ("and he went out") and especially in this week's Torah reading, Vayishlach ("and he sent"). "And Jacob went out from Beersheba and went to Charan" refers to the Jew's spiritual journey to even the very lowest levels of existence for the purpose of elevating them. But even that is not enough. The Jew must then send out "messengers" to Esau, symbolic of the antithesis of G-dliness and holiness, to purify and refine these realms as well.
The next portion, Vayeisheiv ("and he dwelt"), refers to G-d enabling us to live in peace and tranquility, which leads to Mikeitz ("at the end") - the successful completion of our mission. All Jews will be completely united with G-d (Vayigash -"and he came near"), which will then culminate in eternal life with the resurrection of the dead (Vayechi - "and he lived").
However, the main part of our mission - the refinement of evil and its transformation into good, in preparation for Moshiach's coming - is contained in this week's Torah portion.
Adapted from Vol. 1 of Hitva'aduyot 5750
WHAT YOU ARE NEEDED FOR
by Eliyahu and Malka Touger
Avraham and Tuvia Lerner, two brothers from the Lubavitch community in Montreal, had birthdays a few days apart. They came to New York for yechidut (a private audience) with the Rebbe. Avraham gave the Rebbe the note he had prepared, and listened carefully as the Rebbe gave him a short blessing. Then Tuvia gave the Rebbe his note. This was the yechidut before his Bar Mitzva and Tuvia listened attentively as the Rebbe gave him a blessing.
Tuvia spoke up: "Rebbe, I want to understand the blessing you gave me and know it well enough to repeat at my Bar Mitzva. Could you say it again, and then listen while I repeat it to make sure I'm saying it right? And could you speak a little slower?"
The Rebbe smiled and repeated the blessing, speaking more slowly and using simpler words. After he finished, he told Tuvia: "Now you say it."
Tuvia began, but made several mistakes. The Rebbe told him. "I'll say it again, but pay attention."
The Rebbe then repeated the blessing a third time, speaking even more slowly and using even simpler words. He listened as Tuvia repeated it, correcting him periodically. When Tuvia was finished, the Rebbe asked, "Are you happy now?"
Tuvia answered that he was, and the Rebbe concluded, "I'm happy too."
Thus began a unique relationship that continued for 13 years until Tuvia's passing from cancer. Throughout that time, the Rebbe frequently called Tuvia to yechidut. (Ordinarily, a yeshiva student had yechidut only once a year for his birthday.)
Tuvia was not a gifted student. If anything, his abilities were less than ordinary, but he possessed simple faith, and great trust in G-d. His sincerity was inspiring. The Rebbe took a special interest in his development, offering him encouragement and help.
Once, at a yechidus, Tuvia told the Rebbe that he wanted to advance spiritually but was not being given the opportunity. His teachers and fellow students considered him too simple to make real progress, and so they gave up on him.
The Rebbe reassured him. "Find study partners and a mashpia (spiritual mentor), and tell me who they are. I'll make sure they help you." Indeed, through the years, the Rebbe paid special attention to the teachers and students who worked with Tuvia.
When Tuvia was 16, he wanted to go to Israel to study. Unfortunately, none of the yeshivot would accept him. Tuvia took all the letters of rejection and showed them to the Rebbe. He told him of his desire to study in Israel and his difficulty at being accepted.
The Rebbe read each letter, then told Tuvia: "Go to Israel. You will succeed in your studies there. Israel needs a boy like you."
After receiving these blessings, Tuvia was able to prevail on the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Kfar Chabad to accept him. The Rebbe made frequent inquiries to see how Tuvia was doing and asked for monthly updates. Tuvia studied in Israel for two years and made significant advances.
When Tuvia returned to America, he went to study in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Montreal. The Rebbe asked Tuvia to keep in contact, requesting that he write at least once a week. The Rebbe almost always answered these letters.
Once the Rebbe did not answer a letter, and the following week, Tuvia did not write. Shortly afterwards, he was called to yechidut. "Why didn't you write?" the Rebbe asked him.
"Since you didn't answer my letter, I thought you were no longer interested," Tuvia replied.
"I was busy," the Rebbe responded, "and I didn't have the opportunity that week. You're a yeshiva student; you have more time. Even if I don't have a chance to answer you, you must continue writing."
Once, the Rebbe asked him: "Do you have a special feeling for a mitzva that I can help you with?"
Tuvia told the Rebbe that he had been looking to purchase tefilin prepared according to the views of Rabbeinu Tam that were written and whose compartments were fashioned with meticulous care.
"I'll find tefilin that are written and prepared with the proper care," the Rebbe assured Tuvia.
The Rebbe contacted Rabbi Aronow, a scribe from Toronto, and gave him precise instructions with regard to the tefilin. The specifications set by the Rebbe were so difficult that the professionals chosen by Rabbi Aronow wanted to give up. They did not see how it was possible to make tefilin that met such standards. Over four years, 30 pairs were submitted for the Rebbe's examination, but he rejected them all. "These tefilin are for a unique individual," the Rebbe explained.
When, after four years, an acceptable pair was finally completed, the Rebbe called Tuvia to yechidus. He was extremely happy to give him the tefilin, and Tuvia was happy to receive them.
Shortly afterwards, Tuvia asked the Rebbe if he could help him find Rashi tefilin that met all the specifications of his Rabbeinu Tam tefilin. The Rebbe agreed, but told Tuvia that it would take time.
At one point, the Rebbe told him that he had found a pair of Rashi tefilin. "Are they the very best in the world?" Tuvia asked.
"Are you sure you want to wait for the very best?" the Rebbe asked, and looked sad when Tuvia answered affirmatively.
Shortly afterwards, the reason for the sorrow became evident: the cancer that was to claim Tuvia's life began spreading. He did not live long enough to have "the best tefilin in the world" prepared.
Tuvia passed away in Montreal. Should he be buried there or in the Lubavitch cemetary in New York, near the Previous Rebbe's grave, his family wondered. Between 3 and 4 a.m., Tuvia's brother received a call from the Rebbe's office. The Rebbe had advised that Tuvia be buried in New York.
The next day, the Rebbe went to pray at the Previous Rebbe's graveside; he was only a few yards away from Tuvia's funeral. That night he spoke at an unscheduled gathering. Perhaps this was the Rebbe's way of taking leave of this unique soul.
From To Know and To Care, Vol. 2, published by Sichos in English.
WORLD'S LARGEST MENORA
Be part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka Menora at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City. The menora will be lit on Thursday, Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 22 at 3:38 p.m.; Saturday night, Dec. 23 at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 24 - Thursday Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m. On Sunday there will be live music, free latkas and Chanuka gelt for the children. For more info call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (212) 736-8400. For locations of public menora lighting in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
The Cry of a Child
Erev Shabbos Kodesh
Mevorchim Kislev, 5738 
To All Participants in the Celebration Dinner of the Lubavitch Foundation in Glasgow,
Greeting and Blessing:
I am pleased to be informed of the forthcoming annual dinner on the eve of Yud-Tes (19) Kislev - the anniversary of the liberation of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman],founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
As is well known, the imprisonment and subsequent vindication of the Alter Rebbe were connected with his dedicated activities to spread the teachings of Chasidus and to strengthen Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general - which makes this historic day a particularly auspicious one for all similar activities, especially for Torah-education.
By precept and example, the Alter Rebbe accentuated the mutual love and responsibility of all Jews for one another, with particular emphasis on Torah-education of children beginning at their most tender age.
This is exemplified rather eloquently in the classic episode of the "crying child," which has become a guideline and inspiration for all Lubavitch activities everywhere.
Briefly, it is the story of a child - the child of the Alter Rebbe's son and, later, successor - crying in its cradle, while the father, engrossed in his studies, was oblivious to it. The Alter Rebbe, who occupied the upper apartment, and was equally engrossed in his studies, did hear the child's crying, and he went down and pacified the child. Later he "rebuked" his son, saying that however preoccupied a Jew may be, even with the loftiest of matters, one must always hear the cry of a child and respond immediately to its needs.
This episode, which has been given wide currency by our Rebbes, the leaders of our people, from generation to generation, serves to remind us all of the first obligation of every Jew - to give priority attention to the needs of a child, not only in the immediate vicinity, but also wherever he, or she, may be. And if it is true of the child's physical needs, how much more so its spiritual needs, in terms of Torah-education, so vital for the child's whole future life.
My friends: Numerous Jewish children and youths in all parts of the world are crying out for Torah-education. Their cries of anguish may not always be audible, particularly when they are very young - in age or in knowledge - and do not realize what they are lacking. But then the pity for them is all the greater. For, although they may not consciously express it, their souls cry out more deeply and painfully than can be expressed by weeping and tears.
The Glasgow Jewish community is fortunate in that it has in its midst dedicated young men and friends of the Lubavitch Foundation who hear and heed the cry of Jewish children. This is why they deserve everyone's fullest and most vigorous and enthusiastic support.
Though participation in this vital cause is in itself the greatest reward, our Heavenly Father, who loves His children most dearly, will surely also reward each and everyone of you, and your families, and the Community at large, with all good, materially and spiritually.
With prayerful wishes for Hatzlocho [success], and
With esteem and blessing,
19 Kislev 5761
Positive mitzva 199: appointing judges and officers of the court
By this injunction we are commanded to appoint judges who are to enforce the observance of the Torah's commandments, so that the commandments and prohibitions of the Torah shall not be dependent on the will of the individual. It is contained in the verse (Deut. 16:18): "Judges and officers shall you make in all your gates."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat, Jews the world over will celebrate Yud Tet (the 19th of) Kislev, the Chasidic "New Year." On this date 202 years ago the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidut, was liberated from the infamous Spalerno prison in Russia.
Not merely a personal event, his redemption was an ideological victory for the revelation of the inner aspect of Torah, and a significant milestone in preparing the world for the Messianic era.
Before Yud Tet Kislev, the inner, esoteric part of the Torah - the Torah's "soul," as it were - was in a concealed state. Only its outer aspect - the "body" - was revealed to the majority of the Jewish people.
Human beings are also composed of a physical body and a spiritual soul. Unlike the body, however, the soul cannot be touched or perceived by the senses, nor can the human intellect fully comprehend its essence. The soul's existence can only be determined by deduction - i.e., if the body is alive, there must a soul that is animating it.
With the redemption of Yud Tet Kislev, the Torah's "soul" became revealed and apparent. Anyone can now learn its inner wisdom, and understand it on an intellectual level.
Furthermore, as the Jewish people and the Torah are one entity, the innovation of Yud Tet Kislev affected all Jewish individuals on a personal level as well. The advent of Chabad Chasidut enabled the Jewish soul to illuminate the body to an unprecedented degree, making it easier for every Jew to serve as a dwelling place for G-d's Divine Presence and fulfill his mission in the world.
On such an auspicious day, when the same spiritual energy that was originally present comes down into the world, it is appropriate to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that all our deeds and actions help hasten Moshiach's revelation - the underlying purpose of the dissemination of Chasidut.
May everyone be inscribed and sealed for a good year in the study of Chasidut and in the Chasidic ways of conduct.
Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people...into two camps (Gen. 32:8)
The great Chasidic masters interpreted this verse as follows: Why was Jacob "afraid and distressed"? Because the Children of Israel were "divided." Jacob knew that when the Jewish people stand united, Esau is powerless against them. It is only when Jews are splintered into different camps that there is something to worry about...
My lord knows that the children are tender (Gen. 33:13)
Why did Jacob make a point of mentioning the children in response to Esau's invitation to join him? Because being in Esau's proximity was much more of a threat to his impressionable children than it was to himself. Unpleasant as it might have been for him, maintaining his children's spiritual purity was his number one priority.
(Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach of Belz)
Because he had wrought a vile deed in Israel...that ought not to be done (Gen. 34:7)
There are certain crimes for which the punishment involves inflicting the same offense against the criminal who committed them. For example, if a person steals, he must make monetary restitution; if he commits murder, he is subject to capital punishment. The "vile deed" that was committed against Dina, however, was not in this category, and can never be humanly rectified in this manner.
The poritz (nobleman) and his son were having a heated argument. The son, an only child, had asked his father for permission to go hunting with his friends in the dense forests around the city of Liozhna. The elderly father, concerned for his son's safety, had refused to grant it. The father's opposition to what he considered a dangerous venture seemed immovable.
At the height of the argument, however, the poritz had suddenly stopped speaking. For a few minutes he was silent, lost in thought. "I will let you go on one condition," he finally decided. And indeed, it was a very odd stipulation.
"In the city of Liadi there lives a famous Rabbi. He is the spiritual leader of all the Jews in this area, and every word he utters is considered holy. Go to this Rabbi and ask his blessing. If you promise to do this, I will let you go hunting." The son was very surprised, but gave his word. The next day he left on the expedition.
In those few moments of silence, the poritz's memory had carried him back to the time he had served as an interrogator in the main prison in Petersburg. Although he had interrogated hundreds if not thousands of prisoners in the course of his career, his experience with the Rabbi who had been charged with rebelling against the government was something he could never forget. His regal bearing, majestic long beard and deeply expressive eyes were permanently engraved on the nobleman's heart.
He could remember the Rabbi's answers to the interrogators' questions as if he had heard them just yesterday. The wisdom and truth they contained had been evident in every word, and the poritz had been extremely impressed by the Rabbi's character. In fact, the Rabbi's subsequent release from jail and the dropping of all charges against him were in large part due to the poritz's intervention.
The Rabbi, of course, was the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad Chasidic movement, whose opponents had slandered and libeled him to the authorities. But despite the accusations, the young interrogator had been convinced that the Rabbi was a G-dly man. Now, decades later, the poritz felt that if his only child could see the holy Rabbi for himself, it would somehow set his own mind at ease.
Unfortunately, the poritz's misgivings proved to be well founded. A few weeks into the expedition the hunting party had been halted by a blinding rainstorm. The son, who had wandered off from the rest of his friends, was alone in the middle of the forest. Seeking shelter under a tree, he had no choice but to wait for the storm to pass. But the weather did not improve, and only grew worse. It was several days until the storm abated.
Soaked to the bone, hungry and sick, the poritz's son despaired of ever leaving the forest. It was truly miraculous when he eventually found a path through the foliage and succeeded in dragging himself to an inn on the outskirts of Liozhna.
The next day, burning with fever, he suddenly remembered his promise to his father and resolved to fulfill it. With his last ounce of strength he arose from bed and set out for the city to find the famous Rabbi.
Once in town he soon learned that Rabbi Shneur Zalman had recently passed away. The poritz's son felt a pang of conscience until the Jews informed him that the Rabbi had left a successor, his son Rabbi Dovber (the Mitteler Rebbe), who was also a holy person. But the Mitteler Rebbe was no longer living in Liozhna, and now resided in Lubavitch.
There was no rational explanation for the urgency he felt to see the son of the famous Rabbi his father had praised so highly. Nonetheless, he hired a carriage and set out for Lubavitch, despite his weakness from his recent ordeal.
That night, when the poritz's son arrived in Lubavitch, he was disappointed to learn that the Rebbe was addressing his Chasidim and would not be receiving visitors. But the young nobleman would not be turned back. Undaunted, he insisted on being told the exact location where the Rebbe was speaking.
The study hall was packed to the rafters, so that no one noticed the stranger when he entered. In the front of the room the Mitteler Rebbe was seated at a table saying a Chasidic discourse. The poritz's son was astounded by the scene. Such a large crowd of people, yet everyone was silent and focused on the Rebbe. He found himself rooted to the spot.
About an hour later it occurred to him how odd it was that he was standing, given the state of his health. When he left the study hall he could actually feel his strength returning, which he had no doubt was in the merit of the holy Rabbi. He was also very grateful for having been able to fulfill his promise to his father.
[This story was related many decades later by the poritz's son - by then a nobleman in his own right - to a Chabad Chasid.)]
In these times, with the advent of the Messiah, the principal service of G-d is the service of charity, as our sages said: "Israel will be redeemed only through charity."... There is no way of truly cleaving unto it and to convert the darkness into its light, except through a corresponding category of action, namely the act of charity... And whoever sacrifices his impulse in this respect and opens his hands and heart... "converts the darkness into the light" of G-d... and he will merit to behold "Eye to eye, the L-rd returning to Zion..."
(Tanya of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism)