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"Willing to go that extra mile" is a phrase we've often heard. Use it to describe a friend and he's for sure a great guy. Describe an employee thus and she is most assuredly devoted and loyal.
Talmudic teachings use the idea of going the extra mile when refer-ring to a person who "serves G-d."
In the "olden days" it was standard practice for a person to review his Torah studies 100 times. (Try telling that to the kids when they complain about studying for tests!) If a person reviewed his studies 101 times, he was deemed "one who serves G-d." The first through one hundredth time he reviewed, he was just a regular guy. And even if day in and day out he would review his studies up to 100 times, he was just "average." It was only once he pushed himself to go beyond what was customary, habitual, expected, that he was awarded the appellation "one who serves G-d."
The Talmud explains this with an analogy of donkey drivers. In Talmudic times the drivers used to charge one coin (a "zuz") for traveling ten miles. If they were asked to travel 11 miles, they charged an additional zuz for that one extra mile. One zuz for ten miles and two zuz for 11 miles would seem to be a disproportionate increase. However, that "extra mile" exceeded the donkey drivers' customary practice and was, in essence, equivalent to all of the preceding miles.
That which requires effort, the "one extra" that calls for an inner struggle, is what it's all about.
This coming Sunday is the 11th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. It is the 100th year since the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It marks the transition from 100 to 101, from routine to extraordinary, from habitual to remarkable. It is an appeal to go that extra mile. And it emphasizes the necessity for each one of us to heed the Rebbe's announcement that the time of the Redemption has arrived. We are standing on the threshold of the Messianic Era. We are poised to cross over into a world that is utterly good and totally G-dly. A world in which evil acts will not simply not be tolerated, but where they will simply not exist. Because evil will no longer exist.
One hundred and one means struggling now to live the way we will live in the Messianic Era naturally: at peace with ourselves, in harmony with our families, as one with all members of our communities.
As we prepare to celebrate Passover, the festival of liberation, may we succeed in our struggle to be liberated from our own personal Egypts.
Egypt in Hebrew is "Mitzrayim," which is related to the word "meitzarim," meaning constraints. These are the limitations that we place upon ourselves, the self-imposed enslavement that we suffer.
This season, may we reach a place of exodus from Egypt and freedom from enslavement to Pharoah. May we all become "one who serves G-d" with the revelation of Moshiach, now.
In commanding Moses to transmit the Torah's 613 mitzvot to the Jewish people, we find that G-d used three different expressions: "say" ("emor"), "speak" ("daber"), and "command" ("tzav"). This week's Torah portion is called Tzav, as it opens with the words "Command Aaron and his sons." Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains the word "tzav" as implying "urging on, for the immediate moment and for future generations."
Of the three expressions - "say," "speak" and "command" - the last ("tzav") is most closely associated with the basic concept of mitzvot (literally "commandments"), as both are derived from the verb meaning "to command." Moreover, as will be explained, it is with regard to these particular mitzvot that "urging" and encouragement are most necessary.
According to Chasidic philosophy, the word "mitzva" is related to "tzavta," meaning joining or uniting. The mitzva forges an eternal connection between G-d, the Commander, and the Jew, who is commanded to fulfill the Creator's will.
Connecting to G-d is only possible through mitzvot; a created being is simply not capable of creating a connection with the Infinite on his own. In fact, the only relative "value" man has comes from the fact that G-d has chosen and commanded him to fulfill His mitzvot. In other words, in giving us the commandments, G-d has provided us with the only means of true "access."
This connection is most strongly emphasized in the mitzvot conveyed through the expression of "tzav," as when a person obeys them it is obvious that he is fulfilling a command or obligation. By contrast, the commandments transmitted through "say" or "speak" do not stress the aspect of compulsion as strongly. Moreover, the G-dly commandment itself ("tzav") creates the connection ("tzavta"), as if the person has already fulfilled it!
Of course, a Jew always has free will whether or not he will comply with a command. Nonetheless, because the mitzvot transmitted through "tzav" penetrate all the way to the innermost levels of the soul (as opposed to the mitzvot conveyed through "say" and "speak," which affect only the outermost aspects of the soul), if, for whatever reason a Jew doesn't comply (G-d forbid), it contradicts the connection he already has with the Commander.
The "tzav" commandments thus require more "urging" and encouragement. For once the essence of the soul is uncovered, the Jew will discover how in reality, his very being is fundamentally connected to G-d, and his own inner desire is only to fulfill G-d's will.
Adapted from Volume 7 of Likutei Sichot
An Unusual Guest At Our Model Seder
One Woman's Odyssey
Toward Freedom (From Egypt).
by Rabbi Zushe Greenberg
Preparations were well under way for our first Passover in Solon, Ohio. We decided to offer a model seder for members of the community as one of our educational programs.
About a week before our model seder, I was approached by a woman while standing in a local supermarket.
"Excuse me, sir," the woman asked, "are you a rabbi?"
When she learned that her guess was right, the woman, named Connie, told me she was studying the Book of Exodus at her church in Hudson. She was very interested in seeing how the Jews (she used the term "Chosen People") celebrate and commemorate the Exodus.
I told her she would be welcome to attend a model seder at the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon a few days before Passover. She said she would try to come.
That Saturday night, when the model seder was about to begin, Connie walked in together with Pam, a friend from her Bible class.
The evening began with a Havdala service, marking the end of the Sabbath, and I was surprised to see that Pam seemed vaguely familiar with the service.
During the seder, Pam made educated comments about various traditions. She knew why matza was eaten, the significance of the bitter herbs, and even seemed to recognize the sweet taste of charoset.
I wondered about such a traditional Christian woman being so informed about Judaism. When we took a break for the "Shulchan Aruch Meal" where we served Passover refreshments, she asked me, "What is your background, Rabbi?"
I explained to her that I grew up in Israel but my parents had immigrated from Russia when I was an infant.
"Oh, my parents are also from the Soviet Union," the 40-year-old woman said. "From Russia?" I wondered aloud. "Yes," she replied. "And actually, they were Jewish too!"
Seeing my surprised look, Pam explained that she had grown up in Los Angeles, with Jewish parents but a very limited Jewish education or participation. She recalled attending services periodically for Shabbat and holidays.
As a teenager, her strong urge for spirituality was not satisfied by her local rabbi. Through friends, she got involved in a nearby church, and before long she decided to convert to Christianity.
"This is the first Jewish event that I attended for the last 20 years," she said.
Now it was my turn to surprise her. "According to Jewish law, you are still Jewish," I told her. "Once a Jew, always a Jew. All the conversions in the world cannot take away one's Jewish soul."
Much of the rest of the evening was spent discussing Jewish philosophy with Pam and other participants. As the hour grew later, we decided to proceed with the seder. Upon reaching the last part of the seder and the afikoman, Pam was moved to tears.
Before Pam left I asked her if she would like to be put on our mailing list, and she said yes.
Six months passed. It was Yom Kippur eve. The room was full of solemn worshippers as the first prayer of the holiest day of the year, Kol Nidre, was about to begin.
I noticed a woman whom I vaguely recognized walk through the door. It was Pam.
After the services, Pam apologized for not telling us that she was coming. She had been tossing the idea of attending services back and forth for weeks. At the last minute, she couldn't keep herself away. "Of all the prayers and Jewish ceremonies," she said, "the Kol Nidre tune has haunted me all these years." She had just wanted to hear it sung once again.
That evening, Pam also asked my wife Miriam if she would teach her how to read Hebrew. They set up a weekly lesson.
Not long after, Pam's husband, who was not Jewish, was transferred and the whole family moved away. We kept in contact with her off and on.
Three years passed. The third time Pam came into our lives was via a telephone call. She was living in New York and wondered if we could hook her up with the local Chabad rabbi. It seemed that her daughter was showing an interest in learning Hebrew.
Looking for a happy ending? Well, since then we have not heard from Pam again. But meeting her those times made a famous Chasidic expression come alive for me. The Lubavitcher Rebbe often emphasized, "One must never underestimate a Jewish soul."
Each and every Jew possesses a Divine soul, which is "part" of G-d above. The soul is constantly searching and striving to get closer to G-d, and to its Jewish roots.
This is actually what Passover is all about. Passover is the festival of liberation. Our Sages teach us "In every generation, and every day, a Jew must see himself as if he had that day been liberated from Egypt."
Freedom was not a one time thing. It needs constant guarding because every environment carries its own equivalent of "Egypt" - a power that undermines the freedom of a Jew.
Perhaps the most potent threat comes from the individual himself. Every day he must personally "go out from Egypt," he must escape the limits, contraints and obstructions that his physical existence places in the way of his spiritual fulfillment.
I hope that this year, Pam will leave her "personal Egypt" and once and for all rejoin the Jewish nation as we celebrate Passover, the Festival of Liberation.
Rabbi Zushe Greenberg is the spiritual leader of Chabad Center of Solon, Ohio
Don't Blame The Post Office
This issue of L'Chaim is for the entire holiday of Passover. The next issue will be for Nisan 23/April 5, the Torah portion of Shemini.
Katmandu, Shanghai and Tokyo, as well as 300 sites in the Former Soviet Union, are just some of the locations where Chabad-Lubavitch will be sponsoring communal seders. More likely than not there is a local seder that you can attend this Passover. Let your fingers do the walking or log onto www.chabad.org for more information and to make reservations. You can also call your local center to purchase hand-baked "Shmura" matza for your private seder.
11 Nissan, 5728 
. . . One of the main highlights of the Festival of Pesach is indicated in the name which the Anshei Kenesseth Hagedolah (the Men of the Great Assembly) ordained for this festival - "the Season of Our Freedom."
For the Torah, which is called "Toras Chaim" (the Law of Life) - being our guide in life - demands of each Jew to remember, i.e. to experience, the freedom which came with the liberation from Egypt, every day of his life. To quote our Sages: In every generation, and every day, a Jew must see himself as though he had that day been liberated from Egypt.
This injunction and demand has been made upon every generation of Jews, during the time when the royal house of David had been reigning for generations, as also in the darkest times of exile and extermination, may the Merciful One spare us.
Likewise is it made upon every Jew and every day. Even though he experienced the "release from bondage" yesterday, he is to relive it today, and again tomorrow.
For the meaning of "liberation from Egypt" is the attainment of freedom from obstacles and limitations which the Jew encounters in his way to self-fulfillment, hindering him from reaching his destiny and from accomplishing what he must.
That is why the freedom which he experienced yesterday does not hold good for his position and state of today, and his attainment today will prove inadequate tomorrow.
To get a clearer and better understanding of what has been said above, let us consider an analogy from Nature:
On the level of plant life, we would consider a plant completely "free" from all "anxiety" and hindrance, when it has been fully provided with all the things needed for its growth: soil, water, air, etc. Although it cannot move from its place, being "condemned" to remain rooted to its spot all its life - nevertheless it enjoys the fullest freedom of plant life. So long as it remains a plant, it is truly free.
An animal, however, even when it is fully provided with its needs in the way of food, water, etc., yet is forcibly confined to one place, such confinement would spell the utmost deprivation for it, and a most dreadful imprisonment, inasmuch as it would be denied that which is the essential aspect of its being.
In the case of a human being, inasmuch as man's distinction is that of the intellect, if he be given also freedom of movement, yet he be excluded from intellectual activity - he would be a prisoner held in the kind of captivity which deprives him of his essential entity.
Likewise in the realm of the intellect itself. He who is capable of the highest intellectual advancement, yet is constrained to a life of child-like mentality - surely this is a most painful restraint upon his true self.
And if such a restriction be self-imposed - where a person dissipates his years, intellect and capacities in pursuit of his physical needs and the gratification of the lower appetites to the exclusion of all else - surely such a self-imposed enchainment is, in many respects, even more dreadful and more tragic in its consequences.
As for Jews, of whom each and every one possesses a Divine soul, a veritable "part" of G-d above, which even while it is shrouded in the "animal" soul and confined in a clay frame is yet inseparably bound to the Ein Sof (The Infinite) - its impelling quest for true freedom and release from bondage is ceaseless and infinite. It cannot rest in one place. With each day, as the soul progressively rises higher by means of the Torah and Mitzvos which bring it closer to the Ein Sof, it experiences a deep and innermost feeling that whatever state it had attained the day before, has today assumed confines from which it must break loose in order to rise higher still.
May G-d grant that the coming Season of Our Freedom bring to every Jew and Jewess freedom from all hindrances, physical, material and spiritual, so that with gladness and fullness of heart everyone will rise higher and higher - to the ultimate Season of Our Freedom, the true and complete Redemption through our Righteous Moshiach, speedily in our days.
With prayerful wishes for a Kosher and Happy Pesach,
9 Nisan 5762
Prohibition 173: eating any unclean fish
By this prohibition we are forbidden to eat an unclean fish. It is contained in the Torah's words (Lev. 11:11): "They shall be a detestable thing unto you; you shall not eat of their flesh."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On Sunday, 11 Nisan (March 24 this year), we will celebrate the Rebbe's 100th birthday. It is customary to recite daily the chapter in Psalms corresponding to one's years. Chasidic tradition encourages the daily recitation of the Rebbe's Psalm as well. Thus, Jews world-wide will begin reciting Psalm 101 in honor of the Rebbe.
In this Psalm, King David recounts numerous ethical principles and ways in which he conducted himself.
The first verse begins, "I will sing of kindness and judgment; to You L-rd, I will sing praises." According to the commentary Metzudat David, King David praised G-d equally for His kindness as well as for His (strict) judgment. Throughout the Psalm, King David reiterates his hatred of evil and his sincere love of strict justice. Thus, for him Divine kindness and justice are one and the same. Therefore he can sing at all times.
The second verse reads: "I will contemplate the way of integrity: When will [the opportunity] come to me - to walk in the integrity of my heart [even] within my home?" Here King David is telling us that even when not in the public eye he sincerely sought to walk in G-d's ways. From this we are taught that we should behave in private just as we do in public. (Radak)
In verse 5, King David expresses his aversion to arrogance. "He who is haughty of eye and proud of heart, him I cannot bear." From this verse the Sages learned that when G-d sees an arrogant person He says, "He and I cannot exist together in the same world" (Sota 5a).
"My eyes are cast on the faithful of the land..." begins verse 6. The Talmud states: "What is the fitting path in which one should conduct himself? This is to live with faith and justice, to deal honestly with one's fellow man." This is the meaning of "My eyes are cast on the faithful."
In addition to haughtiness, dishonesty is also a trait to be abhorred. In verse 7, King David states: "He shall not dwell within my house - one that works deceit; he who tells lies shall have no place before my eyes." The Talmud teaches that all people are destined to stand in G-d's presence in the World to Come, except for four groups of people who will not enjoy this privilege. One of these groups consists of those who tell lies.
Surely we will merit very soon the revelation of Moshiach, at which time the essential righteousness of all Jews will be revealed and we will bask in the glory of G-d's light eternally.
And here, thechild asks (from the Hagada)
Said Rabbi Aaron of Karlin, in the name of his father, Rabbi Asher of Stolin: "Here," on the night of the seder, every Jewish child may request of his Father in Heaven anything he wishes, and he will receive extra strength and vitality for all of his needs.
Four cups of wine
The four cups of wine at the Passover seder are symbolic of the four kingdoms that have oppressed the Jewish people throughout history: Babylon, Medes, Greece and Edom (Rome). They also allude to the "four cups of retribution" G-d will give the nations, and the "four cups of consolation" the Jews will be given to drink.
(The Jerusalem Talmud)
The wicked son says: What is this service to you? ...You may tell him: If he had been there [in Egypt], he would not have been redeemed (The Hagada)
What purpose does it serve to tell the wicked son that had he lived in those days he would not have been worthy of Redemption? The answer: Although it is true that the wicked son would not have been redeemed from Egypt, he will be redeemed with Moshiach in the Final Redemption! Unlike all other historical redemptions, every single Jew will go out of our present exile. This is the implicit message of the Hagada on the seder night.
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth (the "HaMotzi" blessing)
Why do we thank G-d for "bringing forth bread from the earth" when in reality it yields wheat, which must then be baked into bread? According to the Talmud, when Moshiach comes the earth will produce ready-made bread. Our Sages instituted the blessing with these particular words in anticipation of the Messianic era.
The following stories took place in the last few months and were told recently Rabbi Rabbi Leib Groner, the personal secretary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
A woman who is often a guest at our house was moving from one apartment to another. She wanted to ask the Rebbe for a bracha (blessing) that it would be a change for the good, in keeping with our Sages' teaching that when one moves his "mazel" changes for the good.
She would ask the Rebbe by writing a letter and placing it randomly in one of the many volumes of the Rebbe's correspondence (known as Igrot Kodesh). As she does not know Hebrew or Yiddish (the languages in which most of the Rebbe's letters were written) she came to us to help her translate the letter.
The woman took a volume off of the shelf and placed her note inside. My wife commented that the book she held contained letters from the Rebbe's father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe. "He's also a Rebbe," the woman said, and she asked my wife to translate.
"I was very pleased to hear that you found a nicer apartment to move into..." the Previous Rebbe's letter read.
The woman was delighted, but said, "I would like a bracha from our Rebbe also." She opened a volume of the Rebbe's letters and asked my wife to translate. "I am surprised that you are writing to me about a subject that my father-in-law wrote to you about already..." the letter began.
When I was in Israel recently, a young man told me a similar story. He had written a letter to the Rebbe and had unintentionally placed it in a volume of the Previous Rebbe's letters. The letter he had opened to spoke exactly to the point of his question. But still, he wanted an answer from the Rebbe. He inserted his letter into a volume of the Rebbe's letters and opened it. "I am surprised that you are writing to me about something that you and my father-in-law have already discussed..."
A family in the United States was residing in a city where the cost of living was much less expensive but where the Jewish schools were mediocre at best and the general environment was not a Torah environment. To move to a better neighborhood where their children would receive higher-quality schooling, the least expensive apartment would run them more than double what they were currently paying. The additional expense would certainly put them into debt.
In a quandry as to what to do, the husband wrote a letter to the Rebbe and placed it in the Igrot Kodesh. The letter that he opened to read, "Concerning what you write that the atmosphere in your present area is not the way it should be and that in order to move to the better place you would have to go into debt: being that it says in Ethics of the Fathers [Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma was offered a position and a high salary to move to a place that was not renown for its Torah lifestyle and he quoted King David who said,] 'the Torah of your mouth is better than thousands of gold and silver' and as Maimonides stated 'It is better for one to live in a desert than to live in a place devoid of Torah,' therefore you should move to the better section even though you'll incur debt."
A young man from California has become involved with his local Chabad House and is becoming more observant. His wife, however, is reluctant to make changes in her lifestyle right now. When he came to New York, he went to the Rebbe's Ohel and asked the Rebbe for guidance and a blessing that his wife should become more observant.
When he entered the Chabad House adjacent to the Ohel, there was a video playing with a scene from "Sunday Dollars" when the Rebbe would distribute dollars to give to charity. The young man on the screen was telling the Rebbe that he had become observant but that his wife wasn't interested. The Rebbe told him, "Don't come down hard on her. Go soft and easy. Try to convince her that she should begin to light Shabbos candles and this will bring her around."
A gentleman from the United States has lived with his family in Israel for the past 15 or so years. In the last few years his salary was steadily shrinking. His wife suggested that they temporarily move to the U.S. to see if he could make a better living there.
After being in the States for nearly a year with little success in finding a good position, his wife recommended that they return to Israel as they own a home there and the children know the language. The gentleman wrote a letter to the Rebbe and placed it in the Igrot Kodesh. The letter he opened to read:
"Concerning what you write that you came to the United States to look for parnasa (livelihood) and while you have been here you haven't found anything and you are contemplating going back to where you came from,
"Seeing that you are already here you should remain and surely G-d will provide you with a liberal livelihood."
In addition to commemorating the redemption from Egypt, Pass-over also grants the potential for all future redemptions, including the ultimate Redemption, when "as in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders." In particular, the eighth day of Passover shares a connection with Moshiach. This is expressed in the following: a) The number eight is associated with the Era of Redemption; b) the haftorah read on the eighth day of Passover contains many prophecies related to Moshiach; c) The Baal Shem Tov instituted the custom of eating the "feast of Moshaich," on the eighth day of Passover.
(The Rebbe, Passover 5751-1991)