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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 664
                           Copyright (c) 2001
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        April 6, 2001             Tzav            13 Nisan, 5761

              To Ask Or Not To Ask - That Is The Question

                         By Rabbi Israel Rubin

Why the big fuss over the "Four Questions" on Passover night? Is it just
a cute Seder opener? Is it meant only for the children's sake, to keep
the kids awake and make them feel important? Or is it rather to make
parents proud and give Bubby and Zaidy nachas when their little ones
recite the "Mah Nishtana"?

In the Jewish tradition of answering one question with another, permit
me to add yet another question to the aforementioned four. Why doesn't
the Hagada bother to answer all of its questions? The Hagada explains
the reasons for eating matza, bitter herbs and reclining at the Seder.
But what's the reason for dipping twice during the Seder?

That's a good question and the answer is...just so you should ask! In
all seriousness, the reason the rabbis instituted the custom of dipping
a vegetable before the meal is specifically to make us wonder! It's
there to pique and arouse the child's curiosity so that he/she should
start asking questions.

The "Mah Nishtana" not only raises questions about the Seder-it also
answers a basic question: "Is Judaism a blind dogma?"

The Four Questions teach us that asking questions isn't only a Passover
ritual, but a healthy aspect of year round Jewish living. Not only does
Judaism permit us to ask, it even encourages us. The best way to learn
is by asking for, as our Sages tell us, "The shy cannot learn." Judaism
doesn't feel threatened by questions, because it has the answers.

Even while faithfully following G-d's mitzvot, the Torah wants us to
learn and understand. Not that we pretend to know better than G-d, for
the limited human mind can't fully grasp Divine infinity. Yet, Judaism
doesn't want us to be stifled and act out of ignorance, but to grow and
learn. Like the sign says in the store: "If you don't see what you're
looking for, please ask!"

The Talmud thrives on questions and answers, back and forth. Questions
make us dig beneath the surface to discover the deeper meanings hidden
within. Those who study the Torah are not fazed, do not give up or quit,
if they don't understand at first. They constantly probe and question,
mining the rich layers of golden brilliance on various levels to reach
the essence of Torah.

Questions are so essential to Talmudic study that the sages valued and
appreciated good questions even more than the answers. Over the ages,
Rabbinic commentaries and Responsa blossomed as students continued their
never-ending quest for deeper Torah knowledge.

Any questions?

            Rabbi Israel Rubin is director of Chabad of the Capital
                                              District-Albany, N.Y.

Passover is not only the first of the three major Jewish festivals, but
the foundation and root of all of them. The Exodus from Egypt prepared
the Jewish people for receiving the Torah on Shavuot. Sukkot, too, is
connected to Passover, in that it commemorates the booths (sukkot) that
the Children of Israel inhabited in the wilderness.

The main significance of Passover is that it is "the season of our
freedom," the time when the Jewish people went out of slavery and became
an independent nation. The Torah describes what happened as follows:
"G-d has ventured to go and take or Himself a nation from the midst of
another nation, by trials, by signs and by wonders... according to all
that the L-rd your G-d did for you in Egypt before your eyes." The keys
words are "a nation from the midst of another nation," which express the
true uniqueness of the event.

What does it mean that the Jews were "a nation in the midst of another
nation"? On the one hand it implies that the Children of Israel were
already a "people," in the sense that they spoke their own language,
lived in their own land (Goshen), and were careful to wear distinctive
Jewish dress. At the same time, they were subservient and dependent upon
the Egyptians.

Our Sages likened this situation to a fetus in its mother's womb. The
fetus is a separate entity from the mother, with its own head, hands,
legs and other limbs. Yet it is not a truly independent being, as it is
forced to go wherever the mother goes, derives its sustenance from
whatever she eats, etc. In truth, the fetus is completely dependent on
the mother.

This accurately describes the Jews' circumstances in Egypt: While
recognizable as a separate people, they were completely dependent on the
Egyptians - so much so that it appeared as if they, too, were tainted by
the Egyptians' idolatry.

The "umbilical cord" was severed when the Jews were commanded to
slaughter and eat the Pascal lamb, an animal that the Egyptians
worshipped. The courage and self-sacrifice it took to do this was the
first step in the Jewish people's liberation from Egypt and its

This contains an eternal lesson: A person may think that he is free and
independent because he has his own thoughts and desires. Upon
reflection, however, he may discover that he is connected by an
invisible "umbilical cord" to his surroundings and that in reality, he
is a slave to whatever non-Jewish mores and conventions happen to be in
vogue. Worse still is that he thinks that this is the true meaning of

The holiday of Passover endows us with the strength to attain true
freedom. The first step is to "slaughter" any "idols" that might be
worshipped even subconsciously, and rid oneself of dependency on "what
the world thinks." For the Jewish people are servants of G-d and no one

                      Adapted from the Rebbe's Hagada, 5751 edition

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                         Elijah's Three Visits

                          by Dr. Yaakov Brawer

A year after the Lubavitcher Rebbe jump-started our Jewish involvement
we experienced a visit by Elijah the Prophet on Passover.

Inspired by our re-discovered Judaism, we filled Elijah's cup, and my
six year old went to open the front door, an old-fashioned, ponderous
wooden structure secured with a heavy iron latch.

But before my son could take a step, the door suddenly unlatched and
swung wide open. No one, at least no one visible, was there, and my
terrified son ran back.

I went to the door. It was a calm night without a breeze. Needless to
say, I was most impressed. A devout Catholic neighbor told us the next
morning, that during the night she heard our front door open and that
she was overcome by an awesome feeling.

The following Passover, we fully expected that Elijah would visit us
once again. We conducted the Seder, Elijah's cup was filled, and I sent
my (now) seven year old to open the front door.

Our home was now on the second floor, and the front door was downstairs.
I heard the door open, followed by screams of terror as my son scrambled
back up the steps. Perhaps, I wondered, Elijah had actually made an
appearance! After all, it made sense. Elijah had come last year, when I
was not yet worthy to behold his presence. Now, after a full year of
Jewish growth, perhaps I had reached perfection to see Elijah!

I went down to greet the prophet, but what I saw looked very different.
At the entrance was not Elijah's angelic figure, but two big grotesque
and menacing dogs on the front porch. No wonder my kids were scared;
they cross the street if they see a miniature poodle. I shut the door
and climbed the stairs dejectedly. How was I to explain to my family
that after a year of studying Torah, I deserved to be visited on
Passover night by stray dogs? But these weren't ordinary dogs.

The next day in shul, a friend asked if I could take a guest for the
dinner. A friend of his had a son who was away studying law at school,
where he became interested in Judaism. He had come home to visit, and
this friend thought it would be helpful if I spoke with him.

As we walked home, my guest exclaimed: "I don't believe it! This can't
be real." My guest told me that his pet dogs ran out last night.
Searching for hours, he found them on someone's porch.

That someone was me! Providence apparently guided those monster "pets"
to my house.

The strange experience impressed me. Elijah didn't come in person, but
at least he showed his presence in a wondrous way. My guest and I became
friends, and in time, he found his place in Judaism, married a fine
girl, and now has a beautiful family.

Elijah's less dramatic visit the following year has repeated itself each
year ever since. Elijah's cup is filled, and now my grandchildren open
the door. The prayer is recited and that's it.

It would be improper to refer to it as a "no show." In truth, this third
visit is the most meaningful.

Last year, my son (the six - seven year old in the previous accounts)
related a chasidic story that was a real revelation.

The Kotsker Rebbe, known for his sharp witted teachings, once told his
followers that Elijah would reveal himself at his Seder. The Rebbe's
room was electric with anticipation, as everyone's face was drawn to the

Alas, the door opened, but no one was there.

The followers were crushed. Didn't the Rebbe say they would see Elijah?

The Kotsker Rebbe, his face radiating with holy joy, felt their
disappointment. "Fools!" he thundered, "do you think that Elijah comes
in through the door? Elijah comes in through the heart."

Miracles provide inspiration that direct our attention to spiritual

The ultimate miracle, however, is not the abrogation of nature, but the
transformation of nature into the Divine. Every small, inner step to
spirituality is a step toward Redemption. Our Torah and mitzvot help
open the door of our heart to Elijah and all he represents.

This Pesach, when Elijah's cup is filled and the front door is opened,
let's peek into our heart, and we will see the prophet smiling back at

                               WHAT'S NEW
                         Mini-Passover Calendar

All times are for NY Metro Area. Consult your Chabad-Lubavitch Center
for local times (or have a look at our special passover guide - with
times for around the globe - at:

    *) Latest time for eating chametz 10:44 a.m. on Saturday, 14
    Nisan/April 7.

    *) Last vestiges of chametz must be destroyed (can be flushed) by
    11:44 a.m.

    *) 14 Nisan/April 7 - 1st night of Passover light AFTER 8:08 p.m.
    from a pre-existing flame

    *) 15 Nisan/April 8 - 2nd night of Passover light AFTER 8:10 p.m.
    from a pre-existing flame.

    *) 20Nisan/April 13 light candles for Shabbat and seventh day of
    Passover at 7:13 p.m.

    *) 21 Nisan/April 14 light candles for last day of Passover at 8:16

    *) Passover ends on Sunday, Nisan 22/April 15 at 8:18 p.m.

                           Guide to the Omer

A Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
(author of Toward a Meaningful Life) takes the reader on a forty-nine
step journey through the human personality, refining areas of the
emotions as the journey progresses. For each day of the seven-week
Sefira ("counting") period between Passover and Shavuot the book
contains exercises for positive change and spiritual growth. Published
by the Meaningful Life Center, (718) 774-6448

                        The Mail is Slow But...

This issue of L'Chaim is for the Passover holiday, specifically the
dates of Nisan 13/April 6 and Nisan 20/April 13. The next issue (#665)
is for Nisan 27/April 20.


The stories in "It Happened Once" issue #663 were reprinted from To Know
and To Care by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos In English.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                      11th of Nissan, 5713 [1953]
                       To my Brethren Everywhere

G-d Bless You All

Sholom u'Brocho:

The days of the Festival of Our Freedom are approaching, when we shall
again recall to our memory that great event at the dawn of our history,
when our people was liberated from Egyptian bondage in order to receive
the Torah as free men.

Memory and imagination are the ability to associate oneself with an
event in the past, and in so doing to relive or experience those
feelings and mental states which were experienced at the time of the
event. For only physically is the human being bound and fettered by time
and space; mentally there are no spatial or temporal barriers, and the
greater the supremacy of the spiritual forces over the physical, the
closer one can associate oneself with a past event and more fully
experience its message and inspiration.

Of the efficacy of remembrance our Sages stated, in commenting on the
verse: "And these days shall be remembered and done" (Esther 9:28), that
no sooner are those days remembered than their cause is done On High. In
other words, the same Divine influences and benevolences that brought
about those miraculous events of old, are stirred again by the process
of recollection and remembrance.

This is one of the reasons why we have been enjoined to remember the
liberation from Egypt in every generation, every day; it is, moreover,
made incumbent upon the Jew to visualize himself as though he personally
had been liberated on that day from Egypt, ransomed and freed
completely. For every day the Jew must practice Yetzias Mitzrayim [the
Exodus from Egypt] ("Mitzrayim" in the sense of "Metzorim"
[limitations]) through escape from the material and physical
distractions, obstacles and limitations imposed upon his spiritual self
by the "physical body and animalistic tendencies."

The counterpart of the Liberation from Egypt thus is the release of the
Divine Soul from its corporeal imprisonment, and it must be experienced
every day, constantly, in order to enjoy true freedom - freedom from
enslavement, freedom from pain - in both the material as well as the
spiritual sense.

When the Jew achieves such inner freedom - an accomplishment possible
only with the help of G-d, who freed our people from Mitzrayim, and
through a life conditioned by the Torah and Mitzvos, he is in this way
freed from both spiritual anguish - the tremendous inner conflict
referred to, as well as from enslavement and pain of a material nature.
Then, and only then, can he enjoy true freedom, a feeling of complete
harmony and peace of mind, which is the prelude to freedom and peace on
a wider scale.

With the blessing of a kosher and happy Passover, and may we soon enjoy
true freedom that will come to us with our Complete and True Redem-ption
through our Righteous Messiah,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
20 Nisan 5761

Prohibition 54: excluding descendents of Esau

By this prohibition we are forbidden to exclude the descendents of Esau
from our community after they have converted to Judaism, that is, to
refuse to intermarry with them (beyond the second generation). It is
contained in the Torah's words (Deut. 23:8): "You shall not abhor an
Edomite, for he is your brother."

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Saturday night, Jews around the world will sit down to celebrate
the first Passover seder. According to tradition, an unseen guest will
also grace the table, together with our relatives and friends: Elijah
the Prophet.

During his lifetime, Elijah refined his physical body to such an extent
that it accompanied him "in a tempest up to heaven" when he passed away.
Since then, Elijah visits every Jewish home during the Passover seder
and also attends every brit mila (circumcision) ceremony that is
performed. Although we cannot see his physical body, his spiritual
presence takes part in our celebrations at these special times.

Elijah the Prophet will also be the one to herald the Redemption, as the
Torah states, "For behold, I will send Elijah the Prophet to you, before
the coming of the great and awesome day of the L-rd." At that time he
will again appear in his physical body, which, even now, exists on the
spiritual plane known as "Yetzira."

As Jews, we anxiously await Moshiach's coming every day. We look forward
to his arrival every minute of every day, for Moshiach may arrive at any

But what about Elijah the Prophet? How can we realistically expect
Moshiach to come today if Elijah did not come yesterday to announce his
imminent arrival?

One of the answers to this question is that Elijah the Prophet is
supposed to precede Moshiach only if the Redemption comes about "in its
time" - in accordance with natural law. If, however, the Redemption
comes about in a manner of "I will hasten it" - in a miraculous way,
transcending the laws of nature, it is quite possible that Moshiach can
actually arrive first.

So regardless of who will make the first appearance, let us all ponder
the Rebbe's words as we celebrate this festival of freedom: "According
to all indications, our era is close to the 'End of Days'... It is
absolutely certain, with no doubt whatsoever, that the time for
Redemption has arrived. The only thing remaining for us to do is to
actually greet our Righteous Moshiach, so that he may fulfill his
mission and redeem the entire Jewish people from exile."

A kosher and happy Passover!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Passover: the "spring festival"

The Exodus from Egypt occurred on the 15th of the month of Nisan, as the
Torah states (Ex. 13:4): "This day you came out in the month of spring."
In the springtime, when all the trees and flowers are blossoming in
abundance, nature is at its most beautiful. The Egyptian religion was
essentially a nature-worshipping cult. G-d took the Jewish people out of
Egypt in that particular season to demonstrate that the "forces of
nature" have no independent existence, and are entirely subject to G-d's

                                                        (The Rebbe)

The "festival of matzot"; the "festival of Pesach"

On Passover the Jewish people praise G-d, and G-d praises the Jewish
people. In the Torah the holiday is referred to as the "festival of
matzot," in commemoration of the Jews' willingness to go off into the
desert without waiting for their dough to rise. We, however, refer to it
as "Pesach," literally "He passed over," in remembrance of His having
passed over our homes during the slaying of the firstborn.

                                (Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)

The seder

The Hebrew word "seder" means order or arrangement, alluding to the fact
that everything that has ever happened to the Jewish people, from the
Exodus until today, has unfolded according to Divine plan. Nothing
occurs by accident, even if we don't always understand why an event must
take place.

                                                      (The Maharal)

The Seventh Day of Passover: the splitting of the Red Sea

During the festive meal of the Seventh Day of Passover 5603 (1843), the
Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad Rebbe), who had recently returned from
a mission to Petersburg to try to convince the Russian government to
annul its anti-Jewish decrees, declared: "The Seventh Day of Passover is
the Rosh Hashana of self-sacrifice. When Moses conveyed G-d's command -
'Speak to the Children of Israel that they should go forward' - Nachshon
ben Aminadav immediately jumped into the sea. This was a continuation of
the self-sacrifice shown by our forefather Abraham. On the Seventh Day
of Passover, each and every Jew can and must resolve to have
self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvot and the service of the Creator
throughout the year."

                                              (Sefer HaSichot 5703)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
It was the night of Passover. The candles were lit, the house shone, and
the holiday table was set. Everyone in the family was dressed in his
finest clothes. The children couldn't wait for the seder to begin, but
their father seemed a bit sad.

And what, in fact, was bothering him? That he had only found two guests
to invite, instead of the usual dozen. The seder just wouldn't be the

The father was a wealthy Jew who gave a tremendous amount of tzedaka
(charity). His business employed a great many people, and he was always
trying to find work for more. His home was open to the poor and needy,
and every Shabbat and holiday it was filled with guests.

This year, however, the weather had been terrible, and the roads were
virtually empty. For this reason, there had been precious few strangers
to invite.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Hoping it might be a guest the
man ran to open it. "I've lost my way in the snow," the stranger
apologized. "I beg you, as a fellow Jew: Please allow me to participate
in your Passover seder."

"You are extremely welcome!" the wealthy Jew replied joyfully. "We'd be
delighted to have you join us at the seder table." The stranger's shabby
clothing was completely drenched. The poor fellow's teeth were

The father quickly ordered one of his sons to bring a change of
clothing, but the stranger insisted it wasn't necessary. "What for?" he
asked. "The clothes I'm wearing are good enough. Besides, I'm sure
they'll be dry by the time we finish praying the evening service."

"Whatever you wish," the man said. Everyone wondered why the stranger
was so reluctant to part with his dirty clothes.

The stranger put his knapsack on the floor and went off to the synagogue
with his host. When they came home, the children noticed that their
father was treating this guest with unusual deference. The stranger was
seated at the head of the table, and he kept smiling at him as if they
were old friends.

"'Magid,' " the father announced, and everyone began to recite the
Hagada. Everyone, that is, except for the stranger, who didn't open his
mouth. In fact, had anyone been watching closely, he would have seen
that the man wasn't even turning the pages. Occasionally it even seemed
as if he was sleeping...

When it was time for the meal the stranger suddenly perked up. His table
manners were atrocious. He stuffed too much food into his mouth, grabbed
things with his hands, and repeatedly asked for additional helpings. But
the host continued to treat him respectfully and gave him whatever he
asked for.

"What a glutton!" everyone else at the table thought. No one could
understand why he was being treated so deferentially.

After the third cup of wine was poured and they were about to recite the
grace after meals, the father asked for everyone's attention.
"Children," he said, "tonight it is a mitzva to tell the story of the
Exodus. It is also an appropriate time to recount the miracles that one
has experienced personally..."

He then proceeded to recount an event that had happened years before,
when he had set out on a business trip with two other Jews. After
several hours a snowstorm had suddenly materialized, their wagon and two
horses had been stranded in the middle of nowhere. By then it was
completely dark.

"We were running out of hope," the man recalled, "when suddenly we saw a
light in the distance. We were overjoyed when we discovered it came from
a house, but our joy did not last long. We had stumbled upon a thieves'
den. They were as pleased to see us as a hungry animal about to devour
its prey.

"My money and gold watch and chain were immediately taken. Then the
robbers decided that I must be killed. I pleaded for my life, but to no

"At that moment a man walked in and asked what all the commotion was
about. When he saw me tied up on the floor he said, 'Leave him alone! If
he dies, many others will die with him - all the workers he employs and
all the poor people he supports. I used to work for him, and I can tell
you firsthand that he is a good man. Just let him be. Do it for my

"The next morning we were allowed to leave. The man who saved my life
accompanied us back to the main road. And if you want to know his
identity, he is sitting right here by my side..."

The children looked at the chair next to their father - but it was
empty! Without anyone noticing the stranger had left the table and
disappeared. They conducted a thorough search but he was gone. And for
some reason, he had been in such a hurry that he had forgotten to take
his knapsack.

After the holiday they opened it up, and found a gold watch and chain
and some money.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The freedom of Passover resembles the freedom that will be experienced
in the Era of the Redemption. All redemptions share a common factor. In
particular, the redemption from Egypt which is commemorated on Passover
was the first redemption and thus, includes within it the source for all
subsequent redemptions, including the ultimate redemption.

                                    (The Rebbe, Passover 5751-1991)

                 END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 664 - Tzav 5761

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