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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it's "that" time of year: gloves, scarves, hats and warm coats are typical outdoor attire The children eagerly awaken each morning to see if enough snow has fallen overnight to warrant cancellation of school, or at the very least, a good snowball fight. You discuss with your neighbor whether to buy icemelt or good old rock salt.
When's the last time you played in the snow-made a snowball, a snowman, or an igloo?
They say no two snowflakes are exactly the same. But when you get right down to it, regardless of what they look like, they're all made of the same stuff.
It's similar to the Jewish people. No two Jews are exactly alike. We all have our own talents, strengths, interests and opinions. But deep down, we all have a lot in common. We share a common history, religion, and ancestry. And we each have a "pintele yid," a little spark of the Divine within every single one of us that unites us with each other and with G-d.
You can't make an igloo, or a snowman, or even a snowball with just one snowflake. But when you join together a lot of snowflakes, you can make just about anything your imagination can come up with.
When Jews get together, for a family "simcha" or just an impromptu gathering, an enormous amount of potential to make good things happen is there, too. As Chasidic teachings urge us, "When two Jews get together, there should be a benefit for a third Jew."
Get together with friends or family that you didn't have a chance to connect with on Chanuka. Or, celebrate a birthday of a family member with a lively gathering and have someone share some Torah insights that he or she finds relevant. Better yet, get together "just because."
And all the while, think of how different, yet similar, each one of us is, and how much good we can do with our limitless potential.
The haftara for the portion of Vayigash states: "And David My servant will be king over them...and My servant David will be Nasi [prince] to them forever." As King David is alternately referred to as "king" and as "Nasi," it is important that we understand the difference between these two terms.
Moshiach, too, is referred to as "David." It states in the Book of Ezekiel, "And they will serve the L-rd their G-d and David their king, whom I will raise up to them." This is a reference to King Moshiach, who is a descendent of King David.
In his Laws of Kings, Maimonides enumerates the various functions of Moshiach: Moshiach will compel the Jewish people to follow Torah and mitzvot, wage the "battles of the L-rd," rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, gather the Jewish exiles, and bring the whole world to worship the One true G-d. These functions, however, are not specific to Moshiach, but are the role of any Jewish king: to elevate the status of Judaism, and establish righteousness and justice.
At the same time, Moshiach's "job description" is also that of teacher. Not only Jews but gentiles will be guided by his advice and counsel, till "the entire world will be filled with G-d's wisdom, as the waters cover the sea." For this reason, Moshiach is also called "Nasi," the leader of the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish court and legislature), whose function was to teach Torah.
As reflected in the verse in this week's haftara, King Moshiach will combine both of these aspects.
Significantly, the Torah refers to Moshiach as being "king over them." A king is on a superior spiritual level, and is therefore somewhat removed from the rest of the people. A Nasi, by contrast, exerts an influence on the people precisely by being close to them. By teaching them Torah, he enables them to understand its wisdom. True, the Nasi is spiritually exalted (the word itself is derived from the Hebrew meaning elevated), but his basic relationship with the people is one of closeness and proximity. For this reason, the Torah refers to Moshiach as being "Nasi to them forever," rather than "over them."
When Moshiach is revealed, it will not be necessary for him to exert that much effort as "king" (i.e., wage battle against evil), as the world will already be sufficiently prepared. His main function will be as Nasi, teaching and guiding the world and disseminating Torah. It states accordingly, "My servant David will be Nasi to them forever," as Moshiach's eternal reign will be characterized primarily by this quality.
Adapted from Vol. 35 of Likutei Sichot
FLAMES OF FAITH
By Dovi Scheiner
This past summer, two of my friends, Yanky and Mendy, were traveling on "Merkos Shlichus" through remote regions of Australia. Merkos Shlichus is when Lubavitcher rabbinical students visit Jews in small communities to bring them information about Judaism, Jewish books and other religious articles.
Yanky and Mendy lived in (and out of) their mobile home "Mitzva Tank" as they trekked through Australia. Through various means they found out the phone numbers and addresses of Jews who were scattered throughout the country, far-removed from any kind of organized Jewish community or Jewish life.
Yanky has been sharing experiences with me about his two-month stint in Australia and had recently he told me the following story:
On one of their stops at a house on top of a hill, Yanky and Mendy met a very pleasant woman and her elderly mother. The woman had moved there so that her mother, whose health was failing, would be able to breathe the fresh mountain air that was especially clear in that region. The daughter, who is an artist, showed the two young visitors around her home.
You can imagine their surprise when they saw a large, original painting of the Rebbe hanging prominently on one of the walls.
When the young men asked how she, living out in the middle of nowhere, had such a beautiful painting of the Rebbe, the woman smiled and said, "That man saved our lives!"
The woman then told the students that many years before she had heard that in every generation there is a Jew who, like Moses, cares for every other Jew in the world, no matter where he or she may be physically or spiritually. She was very moved and decided that she wanted to paint a portrait of the Rebbe. She acquired photographs and the result was the stunning painting that they had just seen.
The woman continued by telling them that at one point, due to circumstances that could not be avoided, she had had to spend three months time away from home. The solution she came up with was to hire a young, foreign student to look after her mother in exchange for free room and board in their spacious and comfortable home.
Upon completing her business, the woman returned to find her home in top-notch condition and her mother in good spirits. She thanked the young man for fulfilling his duties so responsibly and he prepared to move out in the next couple of days.
A few nights later, when she was speaking with the student, she happened to mention that she was Jewish. The student flew into a rage. He started to jump up and down and shout very loudly that his grandfather was an anti-Semite, as well as his father, and that he, too, was a great hater of Jews. He was furious to think that he, a Jew-hater of the highest caliber, had been tricked into living in a Jewish home and caring for a Jewish woman.
The daughter was horrified and frightened by this outburst. She trembled at the thought of this man spending even one more night in her home and she knew that she should throw him out. But he would be leaving in a day or two anyway, and she decided not to tell him to leave immediately.
That night the Jew-hater, filled with guilt and revulsion over his kind deed, awoke in the middle of the night. He spread gasoline throughout the house and struck a match. Then he walked outside and turned around to gleefully wait and watch. Like his predecessors before him, he would savor the sight of innocent Jews being burned alive.
The elderly mother woke up coughing. Her weak lungs were very sensitive to the smoke quickly spreading throughout the house. Her cries awakened her daughter, who quickly left the house together with her mother. Their home suffered extensive damage from the fire, but thank G-d, the two women emerged unharmed. The arsonist was arrested and deported.
When the smoke settled, the daughter walked through her once beautiful home. Thick black soot covered the walls and all of the furniture. As she walked into the room where she was now standing with Yanky and Mendy, she saw a startling sight. In the middle of the depressing scene, the Rebbe, from a portrait she herself had painted, smiled at her. Not a speck of ash or smudge of soot had settled on the Rebbe's holy face. The woman returned the Rebbe's smile, grateful that he had interceded on their behalf and for guarding her life and her mother's.
My Jewish Days of the Week
My Jewish Days of the Week is a fun-filled journey toward the best day of it all. All week long the characters prepare for the experience of ushering in and observing Shabbat. The catchy rhymes and old-world illustrations portray everyday life as a joyous adventure for toddlers. Naturally, Shabbat itself is given top billing.
Is It Shabbos Yet?
Malkie just can't wait for Shabbat. But there is so much to be done! This beautifully illustrated, full-color book helps children relate to Shabbat preparations with simple descriptions of all the household tasks that enliven the end of the week. A re-release of a best-selling picture book with all new illustrations, Is It Shabbos Yet? is back with a brand new look! The sequence action of the plot is endlessly fascinating to toddlers who revel in learning what comes next...and who are figuring out the comforting, predictable patterns in their own lives. This is a book that can be read to a child as young as 18 months, and many parents claim it is the best first book for both boys and girls.
Both books are from HaChai Publishing.
17th of Teves, 5734 (1974)
Greeting and Blessing:
It was good to see you at the recent Farbrengen [gathering], and now I have received your welcome letter of the 3rd of Teves.
To begin with your good wishes at the conclusion of your letter, the acknowledgment has already been made in the Torah, when G-d assured Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you," and G-d's blessings are, of course, much more generous than those of a human being can be. These Divine blessings will surely include a special blessing for your wife to complete her pregnancy and give birth to a healthy offspring in a happy and auspicious hour, and that together with your wife you should bring up all your children to a life of Torah, Chuppah [marriage] and Good Deeds, in good health and ample sustenance.
Needless to say, I was indeed gratified to read about your readiness to "volunteer," as you express it. The reason for the quotation marks is not, G-d forbid, to minimize in any way your dedicated resolve to do your utmost, but rather to emphasize that insofar as a Jew is concerned, while he is given the opportunity to be a "volunteer" out of his free volition, and as it is written [in translation] "Before you I have placed life. . . the blessing. . . Therefore, choose life, so that you and your descendants will live" (Devarim [Deut.] 30:19) - the Torah tells us at the same time that every Jew is indeed conscripted into Tzivos Hashem [G-d's Army]. Clearly, one who has the qualification to influence others is not to consider himself an ordinary draftee, but rather a Commanding Officer in G-d's Army, and one who has even greater qualifications to lead and inspire such "Officers," should consider himself a General. It is, therefore, in this elite corps that you have been "drafted," and the fact that you are at the same time a "volunteer," makes it certain that you will discharge your duties and privileges with the highest degree of dedication, which also ensures the utmost Zechus [merit] for you and all yours.
May G-d grant that you should always have good news to report about yourself and your family, as well as about your good works.
Free Translation of a letter written by the Rebbe in the lifetime of the Previous Rebbe
The fourth candle of Chanuka, 5703 (1942)
Greetings and blessings,
...The Gemara states (Shvuos 39a): "All Jews are areivim for one another." The Rebbe shlita offers three interpretations of the word areivim:
- sweet, i.e., every Jew must consider another Jew sweet;
- intertwined, i.e., every Jew is intertwined with another Jew; and
- mutually responsible; every Jew is responsible for all other Jews.
Through our one Torah, the Jews become one nation, connected with G-d, who is "our L-rd, " and who "is One."
It is our hope that you will not content yourself with looking after your own personal welfare, but will instead become one of those who bring merit to people at large, and will participate with all your resources in the broad range of activities promoted by Machne Israel.
As the Rebbe shlita has frequently alerted us, we are in the last phase of the exile, and Torah and teshuva [repentance] are the only means to alleviate the birth pangs of Moshiach.
The love which one Jew must feel toward another Jew spurs the heart to great feelings of mercy for those who do not do teshuva in the present time.
From the newspaper clipping which accompanies this letter, you will be able to find the aspect of our activities in which it will be easiest for you to begin work.
Before beginning any task, it may appear difficult. As one proceeds with the work, however, one sees that with G-d's help, it is possible to achieve results.
Awaiting your speedy reply, I conclude with the blessing, "Immediately to teshuva, immediately to Redemption,"
Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee
11 Tevet 5761
Prohibition 166: a kohen (priest) coming in contact with any dead, except those prescribed in Scripture
By this prohibition a common kohen (as distinguished from a High Priest) is forbidden to defile himself for any dead person other than the relatives specified in Scripture. It is contained in the Torah's words (Lev. 21:1): There shall be none defiled for the dead among his people."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Today, Friday, is the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet, the strictest of the "minor fasts" on the Jewish calendar. If the Tenth of Tevet were to fall on a Shabbat the fast would not be postponed until Sunday, as are other minor fasts. Likewise, when it occurs on a Friday, the fast is extended until it gets dark, even if a person has already prayed the Shabbat evening service.
Why does the Tenth of Tevet have the power to void the mitzva of eating on Shabbat? Because it commemorates the initial event that ultimately led to the destruction of the Holy Temple and the Jewish people's exile. All other historical calamities are nothing but a continuation of this bitter day.
When Moshiach comes we will understand the immeasurable good that was hidden within the suffering of the exile, and will even thank G-d for it, as it states, "On that day, it will be said: I thank you O G-d, for having poured out Your wrath," but this is something that will only occur at a future time, in the Days to Come. G-d conceals the positive advantages of the exile because He wants us to cry out and pray to Him to end it. Nevertheless, there is one positive aspect we can perceive even now:
In the days of the Holy Temple, when the Jewish people were like "sons who supped at their Father's table," G-dliness was open and revealed. Without barriers or obstacles to the relationship, the essential connection that exists between the Jew and G-d was not that prominent. After the Jews went into exile they were aroused and motivated to strengthen their bond with G-d, thus revealing that nothing in the world can damage the Jew's fundamental connection to the Infinite.
Ultimately, however, as the Rebbe has declared, "The concept of exile is completely foreign to the Jewish people, as the true place of the Jew is 'at his Father's table' - 'before the L-rd your G-d' in the Holy Temple."
May we all be immediately restored to our proper place with Moshiach's arrival.
But now do not be sad...that you sold me here (Gen. 45:5)
According to the Midrash, the word "now" refers to the act of teshuva, sincerely repenting of one's misdeeds and returning to G-d. Thus, in effect Joseph was saying to his brothers, "If you are truly intent on doing teshuva and regret having sold me, 'do not be sad' - do not allow yourselves to wallow in sadness. For true teshuva can only be attained through joy..."
The emotion of sadness is essentially selfish, as it is derived from an individual's feeling that something, either spiritual or material, is lacking that rightfully belongs to him. Such an outlook concentrates solely on the self, rather than on others.
(Rabbi Chanoch Henoch of Alexander)
Hurry back to my father and say to him...G-d has made me lord (samani) over all of Egypt (Gen. 45:9)
The intention was not that Jacob would be pleased to learn that Joseph now occupied a high political position. Rather, samani can also be translated "I put" - that through me, Joseph, G-d's name has been publicized and made great throughout the land of Egypt. Indeed, such a message would surely bring immense joy to Jacob.
(Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin)
Here is seed for you, that you sow the land (Gen. 47:23)
In every generation there is one "Joseph," a single tzadik (righteous person) who empowers and encourages all the members of the Jewish people in their service of G-d. Nonetheless, a person mustn't rely on the strengths he receives passively, for a Jew must also "sow the land" under his own effort.
Reb Yekutiel the salt merchant was a true Chasid, one who served G-d with his whole heart and soul. Unfortunately, Reb Yekutiel had not been blessed with a superior intellect. His knowledge of Torah in general and Chasidut in particular was extremely limited, despite having attained the age of 40.
For 15 years Reb Yekutiel had been a follower of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. At least once each year he had traveled from Lepli in White Russia to the Rebbe in Liadi, and absorbed as much as he could of the Rebbe's teachings.
Years passed, and the Alter Rebbe's son, Rabbi Dovber, was now Rebbe. The center of Chabad Chasidim had moved to the town of Lubavitch, and the study of Chasidut was rapidly gaining momentum.
Reb Yekutiel, however, had only heard of these things secondhand. He had yet to actually visit the new Rebbe, who was also known as the Mitteler Rebbe.
One day a young man arrived in Lepli who had just come from Lubavitch, and he repeated the Chasidic discourses he had heard there to the local Chasidim. The young man was an unusually gifted speaker, and his words made a great impression on his audience. Even the deepest philosophical concepts were explained in simple language and came alive. Everyone in Lepli was soon discussing what they had learned and begging for more.
Reb Yekutiel did not miss one opportunity to hear the young man speak. He listened to every word of each discourse, and recognized that very lofty concepts were involved. But try as he might, he could not understand them.
It was so confounding! Reb Yekutiel was no youngster, and had already heard numerous Chasidic discourses directly from the Alter Rebbe. His inability to comprehend what everyone else seemed to grasp just fine was a source of much anguish and grief.
From day to day his depression increased. The more he listened to the young man's lectures without understanding them, the greater his pain and frustration grew. After every Chasidic discourse he would lock himself in his room and weep, and castigate himself for being dull-witted. "You're nothing but a block of wood," he cried. "An ignoramus and a simpleton."
But the desire to understand Chasidut burned in Reb Yekutiel's heart. He might not be a scholar, but he was certainly stubborn. He asked the young man to become his personal tutor, and he agreed and moved into his house.
For three consecutive weeks the young man sat and explained the Chasidic discourses to Reb Yekutiel. The older Chasid made a superhuman effort to understand - but alas, it was simply beyond his ability.
There was no alternative but to allow the young man to move on. Reb Yekutiel was completely broken. For days and nights he wept and recited Psalms, fasting and imploring G-d to open up his impenetrable mind.
Eventually he concluded that he had to go to Lubavitch. And indeed, a whole new world awaited him there. He had never seen so many people sitting and studying Chasidut.
That Friday night the Rebbe delivered a Chasidic discourse, and much to his amazement, Reb Yekutiel was able to understand and even repeat parts of it from memory. But on Shabbat afternoon the Rebbe delivered an explanatory discourse that was deeper than the first, and this one proved too difficult for him to follow.
Reb Yekutiel stayed up the whole night crying and saying Psalms, and resolved that he would fast the next day. The day after that he had his first private audience with the Mitteler Rebbe, in which he poured out his heart.
"There is nothing that stands in the face of determination," the Rebbe told him. "If a person really wants to do something, his natural abilities will expand and become broader."
When Reb Yekutiel heard these words he knew that he would one day achieve his goal. He sent word to his family that he was staying in Lubavitch.
For the next four months Reb Yekutiel pushed himself almost beyond endurance. He trained himself to concentrate on a single thought for hours, and repeated whatever he learned dozens of times. The younger Chasidim sometimes helped him study, but most of his time was spent secluded in the synagogue's basement or attic.
At the end of the four months Reb Yekutiel was completely transformed. His mind could grasp even the deepest and most esoteric ideas and concepts. He returned to his family and resumed his business.
In the course of time Reb Yekutiel became one of the greatest authorities on Chasidic philosophy. In fact, the Mitteler Rebbe's work, Imrei Bina, was written especially for him.
Reb Yekutiel lived to the age of 100, having been blessed by the Alter Rebbe, the first Chabad Rebbe, with longevity. In his later years he was a Chasid of the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel, third Chabad Rebbe) and the Rebbe Maharash (Rabbi Shmuel, fourth Chabad Rebbe). Indeed, the Tzemach Tzedek said of him, "Reb Yekutiel is a living example of our Sages' words: If someone says he has expended effort and found what he was looking for, you can believe him!"
Whenever Jews gather together, they begin by wishing each other "Shalom," "peace," i.e., that each individual Jew, every Jewish family, and the entire Jewish people enjoy increased peace. Increasing peace is also a means of preparing the world for the Era of the Redemption, when in the imminent future the entire Jewish people will leave exile and proceed to our Holy Land.
(The Rebbe, 26 Kislev, 5752 - 1991)