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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   689: Bereshis

690: Noach

691: Lech-Lecha

692: Vayera

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
October 26, 2001 - 9 Cheshvan, 5762

691: Lech-Lecha

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  690: Noach692: Vayera  

Providence for Leaf Peepers  |  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

Providence for Leaf Peepers

Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, even parts of New York State are deluged at this time of year with "Leaf Peepers"-people who travel specifically to view the awesome color changes in the fall foliage. Red, yellow, orange, burgundy and purple, a whole spectrum of color unfolds in front of our eyes.

While it's easy to get caught up in contemplating the beauty of nature, it might be even more interesting to consider the Divine destiny of a leaf.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, told the following story illustrating the extensive role Divine Providence plays in our lives:

A person walks down a path and notices a leaf fall from the branch of a tree. "Leaf, leaf," he whispers, "why did you fall at this very moment?"

The leaf replies, "The branch shook and I fell. Go ask the branch."

The person asks the branch and is answered, "A wind came and made me shake... go ask the wind."

The wind gives a similar answer: "I don't know why, but the source of the Wind made me shake the branch, go ask it."

When the person asks the source of the wind, it says, "I am not the master. I just follow orders. Go ask G-d and surely He can tell you why."

Finally the person addresses the question to G-d. "Why did the leaf fall?" he asks simply.

"Lift up the leaf and you will understand why."

The person raises the leaf and sees an ant carrying a large piece of food. He questions the ant, who explains, "I was tired and hot. This leaf came down, shaded me, and allowed me to rest before continuing my journey."

G-d's kindness and care is exercised for the benefit of His entire creation. Even the smallest ant is included in His master plan.

Another leaf story for the avid peeper:

Once, when Rabbi Shalom Ber of Lubavitch was strolling with his son, Yosef Yitzchak (later to succeed him as Rebbe), they passed through fields of grain. "Every movement of each stalk is actualized by Divine Providence for the sake of a purpose known to heaven," exclaimed Reb Shalom Ber. Yosef Yitzchok became engrossed in contemplating this concept of Divine Providence. Deep in thought, he picked up a leaf and tore it into little pieces as he walked.

"How can you treat an object created by G-d so casually?" his father rebuked him. "Just now we were speaking of Divine Providence. The leaf you tore was created by G-d for a particular purpose. In what way is the leaf less significant than you? Just as the human being has his own task to fulfill, so has this representative of the vegetable kingdom its function to perform-and both have a Divinely-directed purpose."

So the next time you're looking at leaves, consider these stories and how concerned G-d is with every aspect of all creation.


Living with the Rebbe

In the Midrash, our Sages tell us that Abraham "recognized his Creator" at the age of three, after which he began to disseminate the belief in One G-d. As a result of his faith, Abraham was even thrown into the "fiery furnace." Yet the Written Torah completely ignores these incidents. Rather, we are introduced to Abraham in this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha when Abraham receives the command from G-d at the age of 75: "Go out (Lech lecha) from your country, and from your family, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you."

As in everything else in the Torah, the omission of Abraham's early life is deliberate. Indeed, we learn from this that it wasn't until he received this Divine command that the Jewish people embarked on its unique existence.

Until that point Abraham was like any other human being, distinguished only by the fact that his superior intellect had led him to recognize the Creator. Nonetheless, the essential nature of his connection with G-d was still finite, as it was limited to the capacity of the human mind. Even Abraham's willingness for self-sacrifice was based on intellectual (and therefore limited) calculations on its necessity.

The Jew's connection with G-d, however, is not based on a rational acceptance of His existence. Rather, it is a connection that is deeply embedded in his essential being. The bond between the Jew and G-d is analogous to that of parent and child, i.e., simply because the child is part of the parent.

A human being does not have the ability to forge a connection of such magnitude. Only G-d, Who chose the Jewish people, can create a phenomenon of this nature.

When G-d commanded Abraham to "go out" of his country and birthplace, He was telling him to abandon his prior existence and acquire a brand-new, higher essence. With this command, Abraham was transformed into a Jew - a person connected to G-d simply by virtue of his essential make-up.

This radically alters the way we should look at and interrelate with our fellow Jews, as the change that was initiated with Abraham affected every single Jew throughout the generations. Every Jewish person, regardless of external factors, is connected to G-d with a super-rational bond that transcends even personal awareness of it.

In practical terms this means that it is not necessary for a Jew to wait until he learns enough to acquire an intellectual understanding of Torah and mitzvot. Rather, because he is already connected to G-d by virtue of his Jewish soul, he can immediately begin to observe G-d's commandments, which will in turn lead him to the proper understanding.

Adapted from Volume 25 of Likutei Sichot


A Slice of Life

Hotel Open
by Joseph Rice

When I was a young boy, I would spend many Sabbaths at the home of my grandparents on Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland. Every Saturday, I would walk with my grandfather, Isadore Rice, to services two blocks around the corner on Quantico Avenue, where there was a Chabad Lubavitch Center. I had little idea as to what was occurring during services but I loved being there and looked forward to it every time. I remember Grandpop Rice poking me in the sides and saying, "READ! READ!"

After services, the entire congregation would gather outside and greet each other. I remember how proud Grandpop was to introduce me to many of his friends, saying over and over again, "This is my grandson, Joseph." I was certain this made up for my inability to "READ! READ!"

Now, I do not know why it took me nearly 50 years to pray again at a Chabad Lubavitch synagogue, but this is so.

A few years ago, I saw three people walk past me, obviously on their way to Saturday morning services. I wondered where they could be going. The next day I drove in the direction they had walked to search for their destination. Looking carefully, I noticed a large menora in front of Chabad Lubavitch of Upper Montgomery County.

The following Friday night I attended the service that Moishe Hoar was leading in place of the Rabbi, Shalom Raichik, who was out of town and I was made to feel as welcome as if I had been there before many times.

Over the next few years I began attending the services at Chabad regularly. And during that time I have been involved in many interesting situations that have allowed me to make others feel welcome as I was made to feel welcome. This is the story of one of those circumstances.

During the summer of 2000, I was on a temporary assignment for a hotel management company. I was to be the General Manager of a transition property. The location was Fayetteville, North Carolina, a long 350-mile drive from home in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Since my background includes over 30 years in the lodging/hospitality industry, I was often asked to assist former employers and friends with new hotel purchases and acquisitions as well as franchise conversions.

One of the things I learned about Fayetteville, N.C. is that it is located approximately half way between Crown Heights and Florida, directly off of Interstate 95.

One time I was in attendance at a meeting between the owners of the hotel and the representatives of the management company that was operating it. It was after 7 p.m. and I decided to take a break, since little had been resolved and the meeting began to take on an air of hostility between both sides. Exiting the meeting room I noticed an unattended bellhop luggage cart in the hallway. I decided to deliver the cart to the lobby area and began to head in that direction.

When I arrived in the lobby I saw Rabbi Pinny Andrusier from Chabad of South West Broward, Florida. Barbara, the desk clerk, explained that Rabbi Pinny writes for various Jewish publications and would perhaps be interested in writing about his experience at our hotel. I instructed Barbara to offer Rabbi Pinny a 50% discount as I approached to greet and meet him. After a few moments of conversation, I discovered that Rabbi Pinny knew and had even been a roommate of my Chabad Rabbi from back home, Rabbi Shalom Raichik. This qualifed Rabbi Pinny for another 50% discount bringing his room charge to zero, or as we say in the business, comp.

I asked him how it was that he came to be in the lobby of this particular hotel and at that exact time. Since we were still in the process of converting from one franchise to another we were calling ourselves "Hotel Open." (We couldn't legally use the franchise we had dropped and we were not yet ready for the new one.) Rabbi Pinny said he went across the street to another hotel he usually stays in on his way from Crown Heights to Florida but they informed him that not all of their amenities were working and the desk clerk suggested he try the "Hotel Open"! After our little talk, and at Rabbi Pinny's suggestion and direction, we went to the balcony of my suite and said the afternoon prayers before sunset.

I returned to the Fayetteville "Hotel Open" a few weeks after Rabbi Pinny left. When I arrived at my office the desk person called to say Rabbi Schneur Kaplan of Chabad of Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was in the lobby to see me. Who could this be? I wondered. I went offer Rabbi Kaplan accommodations, but he informed me that he arrived last night while I was away. Rabbi Pinny had recommended the "Hotel Open." The same desk person who worked the evening Rabbi Pinny visited had already made arrangements to "comp" the same suite for Rabbi Kaplan and his family. Rabbi Kaplan was on his way back from Crown Heights to Florida, and of course we davened (prayed) together prior to his departure.

I decided to rename the suite the Chabad Suite. A number of staff members asked what the name meant and appeared curious. Sometime later I received a call from Rabbi Pinny and was then treated to the priviledge of hosting Rabbi Sholom Korf (Chabad of Delray Beach, Florida) and his family in the Chabad Suite while they were on their journey north from Florida to Crown Heights. And again we davened on the balcony of my suite prior to Rabbi Korf's departure.

I have been long gone from the "Hotel Open" and the place called Fayetteville, North Carolina. But I will never forget the experiences, the conversations, the davening and the joy of hosting three Rabbis and their families in a hotel with no name in a place so far from everywhere I had ever been familiar with and so far from Crown Heights and Florida! I choose to believe my Grandpop Isadore is looking down from above and saying to his friends, "That's my Grandson, Joseph."


What's New

General Assembly Year

This Jewish year is a unique one, the General Assemply or "Hakhel" year. In the times of the Holy Temple, the entire Jewish nation would gather every seven years during the festival of Sukkot to hear special portions of the Torah read. The purpose of this gathering was to foster Jewish unity, and to strengthen the Jewish people's dedication to Torah and mitzvot. Although the Holy Temple has not yet been rebuilt, the goals of Hakhel-Jewish unity and dedication to Torah and mitzvot-apply today as in those days. Especially during this year it is of central importance for Jews to gather together and to encourage one another in Torah study and mitzvot observance. If you would like to participate in a "Hakhel" gathering or would like information on how to organize one, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or send your name, address, phone number and email address to: Hakhel/LYO, 770 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213


The Rebbe Writes

3rd day of Weekly Sidra Lech Lecho, 5728 [1967]

To All Participants in the Annual Dinner
of the Yeshiva "Achei Tmimim" in Newark, NJ
G-d bless you all

Greeting and Blessing:

I send greetings to all participants in the Annual Dinner, together with prayerful wishes for utmost success.

In accordance with the well-known saying of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, that "a Jew should live in the spirit of the time" - meaning the current weekly Sidra [Torah portion], it is to be hoped that the Dinner taking place this week will be anima-ted and inspired by the content and spirit of this week's Sidra - the Sidra which begins with the history of our Father Abraham, the first Jew and father of our people.

One of the first experiences of our Father Abraham was to learn that "thy children shall be strangers in a land not theirs." However, together with this came the everlasting covenant between G-d and Abraham assuring the survival of our people at all times and under all circumstance. This eternal quality of our people was coupled with the condition that our children would be brought up in the way of G-d and would maintain this bond with G-d from birth on; a bond which is not only impressed in the soul but also sealed in the flesh, dedicating body and soul to G-d.

Our Sages say that "the experience of the fathers is a guide for the children."

What happened to our Patriarchs reflected events that would repeat themselves in the history of our people, both of the individual and of the nation as a whole. The eternity of our Jewish people is bound up with the upbringing of our children, and the upbringing of each child is vitally connected not only with the child's own future, but also with the future of our people as a whole.

Herein lies the significance of Torah-true education in general, and of the Yeshiva "Achei Tmimim" in particular. It clearly emphasizes the responsibility - and privilege - of parents and of communal workers and laymen to strengthen and expand the sacred educational institution of the Yeshiva "Achei Tmimim".

May the Alm-ghty bless each and every one or you individually and collectively, with Hatzlocho [success] in the fullest measure.

With esteem and with blessing for Hatzlocho and good tidings,


5th of Iyar, 5721 [1961]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letters of the 1st [of] Iyar, 14th of Nissan, and the previous ones. No doubt you have, in the meantime, received my letter. I hope you will continue to have good news to report.

Needless to say, every additional measure of trust in G-d, and every additional effort in all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth with joy and gladness of heart, will increase your personal contentment and also the success of your activities in behalf of others. This will also help you to understand the inconsistency of your writing that everybody seems to be against you, which cannot be true, in view of the fact that our Sages taught "All that G-d does is for the good." And when we speak of "good" we do not mean only the good in the hereafter, but in the here and now. As I have written before, with every obligation and duty, comes the ability to fulfill them, for "G-d does not deal despotically with His creatures," and does not impose on anyone anything which cannot be fulfilled.

I hope you have read the Pesach message carefully and have found it useful in clarifying your mind and approach.

Hoping to hear good news from you,

With blessing,

P.S. You do not mention anything about the dental situation, from which I gather that all is well.

With regard to the question of "a holy soul" I refer you to the beginning of Chapter 2 of the Tanya, where it is explained that the soul of every Jew is a part of G-dliness, mamash; and see also Chapter 4 of Iggeres haTeshuva there.

On the question of Moshiach, the Rambam has clearly described everything pertaining to the Moshiach (Hilchos Teshuva 9:2. Melochim 11:4), his qualifications, ancestry etc. and that solves your problem.

You have been remembered, and will be remembered again at a propitious time, in prayer at the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory, with regard to all your needs materially and spiritually, including a greater measure of your trust in G-d and growing success in your activities to strengthen Yiddishkeit, with joy and gladness of heart.


Rambam this week

11 Marcheshvan 5762

Positive mitzva 201: an employee to be allowed to eat of the produce among which he works

By this injunction we are commanded that a laborer must be allowed to eat in the course of his work of the produce among which he is working, provided it is still attached to the soil. It is derived from the Torah's words (Deut. 23:25-26): "When you come into your neighbor's vineyard, then you may eat your fill of grapes...when you come into your neighbor's standing corn, then you may pluck the ears with your hand."


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We are now in the month of Marcheshvan, the eighth month on the Jewish calendar. After the incredibly intense spiritual experience of the High Holy Days - Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah - we are commanded to imbue the "regular" days of the year with the same spiritual energy, in order to elevate them to a higher level. By sanctifying even the most mundane aspects of our daily lives, we bring Moshiach's arrival closer and closer.

Indeed, Marcheshvan is the time when we begin to fulfill our Divine mission of "And Jacob went on his way." Jacob is symbolic of every Jew. In Marcheshvan, we must all strive to utilize the spiritual strength we acquired during the previous month of Tishrei. As the weather changes and the temperature drops outside, the lack of physical warmth should remind us of the need to "turn up the thermostat" in the spiritual sense. Emulating our forefather Jacob, who left his father's house and traveled on his own, we should all strive for spiritual growth regardless of the warmth or hospitality of our surroundings.

Every month of the year corresponds to a different one of the Twelve Tribes, Marcheshvan corresponding to the tribe of Menashe. Menashe was the firstborn son of Joseph, who gave him that name as a reminder to remember his Jewish identity. ("For G-d, said he, has made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house.") After the powerful holiday period of Tishrei, a Jew might find himself in a spiritual vacuum. Especially during Marcheshvan, we must always be aware of our roots and try to avoid negative influences.

When the letters of the name Menashe are rearranged, they spell the word "neshama," soul. For when a Jew is in touch with his neshama, he will never forget his Father in Heaven.


Thoughts that Count

Go out from your country, and from your family, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you (Gen. 12:1)

According to Rashi, the command implied "for your own benefit and to your own advantage." Yet despite the fact that Abraham knew this, he obeyed G-d simply because he had been so commanded, rather than out of any personal advantage it would bring him.

(Der Torah Kval)


A person must overcome his natural inclinations in order to draw closer to G-d. This is alluded to in "Go out of your country ("eretz," related to the word "ratzon" or will; "your family" ("molad'tcha," an allusion to the intellect which "gives birth" to the emotions); and "your father's house" (the word "av," "father," related to "taava," lust and appetite). Only then can one arrive at "the land that I will show you."

(Sifrei Chasidut)


I will bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you (Gen. 12:3)

Why are those who bless Abraham referred to in the plural, and those who curse him in the singular? Because when people will see that those who bless the Jews are themselves blessed, and those who curse them are themselves cursed, there will naturally be a surfeit of well-wishers and very few cursers...

(Meshech Chochma)


And Abram took Sarai his wife...and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the souls that they had made in Haran (Gen. 12:5)

If all of the nations joined together for the purpose of creating a mosquito, they could never succeed in inducing it with a soul. How, then, can the Torah refer to the souls that Abraham and Sarah "made" in Haran? Rather, the verse refers to the people they "brought under the wings of the Divine Presence. Abraham proselytized the men, and Sarah proselytized the women." Accordingly, they are credited as if they had "made" them."

(The Midrash)


It Once Happened

During the times of the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism) a law was passed to forcibly relocate Jews from rural villages to larger towns. This particularly harsh decree left many Jews destitute, without a source of livelihood, and a great deal of money was needed to alleviate their plight. Not only were many poor families without basic necessities, but officials had to be bribed to leave the Jews in peace. To this end, the Alter Rebbe began traveling extensively throughout the region asking for donations.

One such mission took the Alter Rebbe to the district of Vohlin, not far from the city of Toltshin, where Reb Boruch, the Baal Shem Tov's grandson, resided. The Alter Rebbe decided to pay Reb Boruch a visit, and Reb Boruch was delighted by the honor.

"What brings you here?" Reb Boruch asked.

"Well," the Alter Rebbe replied, "I am raising funds to bribe government officials to leave the Jews alone. The pitiful plight of my brethren is too much to bear."

Reb Boruch was surprised. "But surely you could have averted the decree on the spiritual level!" he countered. "Why are you actually going around collecting money?"

The Alter Rebbe elucidated: "I am only following a precedent. When our Patriarch Jacob was in danger, no doubt he could have alleviated the harsh decree in a spiritual way, without having to placate his brother Esau with gifts. Yet we see that he declared, 'I am sending a present to my lord Esau...that he be appeased.'"

Reb Boruch remained unconvinced. The Alter Rebbe was a great tzadik; why did he have to lower himself to act within the natural order? "But why didn't you just teach them the meaning of 'Echad' ('One') according to my grandfather's teachings? The decree would then have been automatically nullified!"

"It was your grandfather's 'Echad' that caused this decree in the first place,' the Alter Rebbe replied. He then revealed the following:

After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, there was not one country willing to take them in. The reason for this (as with everything else that happens in the physical world) originated in the higher spheres. In heaven, the ministering angels representing the various nations were arguing among themselves. "We don't want the Jews to live in our land!" each angel cried. "The first thing they'll do is build synagogues and houses of study. They'll learn Torah and they'll pray. We don't want them to declare 'Hashem Echad - G-d is One!' "

The angels were afraid that this declaration of G-d's unity would nullify their very existence, much as darkness is dispelled in the presence of light. This spiritual reality was reflected down below, and the leaders of each nation refused to accept the Jews. There was only one angel who was not afraid, the ministering angel of Poland. In fact, he saw this as a golden opportunity to increase his own impure powers.

"They don't scare me," he declared. "I will take them in and it will be to my advantage. It is true that they'll build yeshivas and study Torah, and they will declare 'G-d is One.' But they will not have the proper intentions, and I will grow stronger."

And so it came to pass. The king of Poland agreed to accept a bribe-a pile of money as high as a mounted Cossack holding a spear upright.

Indeed, the Jews arrived in Poland in droves. They built synagogues and houses of study, established businesses, learned Torah and recited the "Shema" ("Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One"). And, as the ministering angel had predicted, they did not have the proper intentions. The angel was delighted that his plan was working. His own powers were increasing from day to day. Unfortunately for him, however, the Baal Shem Tov came along and taught the Jews a dimension of "Echad" that was entirely different.

"That's not fair!" the angel of Poland cried. "The deal is off-the bargain is null and void! I only agreed to accept them under the terms of the old 'Echad,' not the new one!"

Down on earth, the Jews would have to find another home. The noose was tightened around the throat of European Jewry, and many Jews were expelled from their villages.

"Now do you understand?" the Alter Rebbe concluded. "The new law is a direct result of your grandfather's 'Echad,' and that is why money is once again needed to avert the harsh decree..."


Moshiach Matters

When the Israelites enter the synagogues and houses of study, they say to the Holy One, blessed be He, "Redeem us!" He responds to them: "Are there G-d-fearing people among you?" They reply: "In the past... there were... Nowadays, however, as we go from generation to generation it grows darker for us..." The Holy One, blessed be He, then says to them: "Trust in My Name and I shall stand by you... for I shall save whoever trusts in My Name."

(Midrash Tehilim 31:1)


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