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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   791: Bereshis

792: Noach

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Devarim Deutronomy

October 31, 2003 - 5 Cheshvan, 5764

792: Noach

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  791: Bereshis793: Lech-Lecha  

Ask, Seek, Tell  |  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

Ask, Seek, Tell

Any good salesman knows the secret to success lies in a simple formula: ask, seek, tell. "Ask" comes last chronologically, but of course it's the point of the whole sales process. In order to make a sale, you have to ask the customer or client to buy. Occasionally a sale takes place without the salesman taking any initiative. But in non-retail sales - insurance, cars, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, etc., - the seller, agent, customer representative - however designated - earns his salary, and all the more so his commission, by asking. However he formulates the question, in order to turn the potential customer into an actual client, he must ask.

Even in retail, where the customer walks in presumably intent on buying something, the salesperson asks - or ought to ask - "Can I help you?" or "What are you interested in?" or "What would you like to see?" Other questions can be asked, zeroing in on price, color, style, etc. All of these questions have one objective - to focus the customer on buying, on saying "yes" to a purchase.

In any sales encounter, there are two types of questions: the "needs" questions, and the "buy" question. The "needs" questions establish the parameters of the sale: what does the person want or need, what can he or she afford, how much are they willing to spend? Sometimes a person wants more than he can afford (he wants a million dollar house or a hundred thousand dollar house, but doesn't have the income to meet the monthly payments); sometimes he needs more than he's willing to spend (he's got an estate worth several million dollars but doesn't want to buy the life insurance necessary to protect it).

The good salesman aligns the elements - the client's wants, needs, resources, and willingness - as closely as possible.

Then he asks the "buy" question. The customer may still say no, but at least the seller has done his job.

As with everything in life, we can apply this lesson to our lives as Jews. In some sense, we're all salespeople - sell-ing Jewish observances, knowledge and customs to ourselves and to others. And in order to "make a sale" we have to ask.

When it comes to Jewish learning and living, we have to sell to ourselves. And like any "purchase," the sales pitch has to show us that the equation - time and money expended for value received - has a positive result. So we can ask ourselves the "needs" questions: What do we want? What do we need? A relationship with G-d, peace of mind, continuity between the generations, a sense of purpose, a lifestyle that emphasizes and brings close the family? What can we afford? Half an hour a day for prayer? An hour a week for a Torah study class? One day a week - Shabbat - for, well, for all of what Shabbat means? How much are we willing to spend? How much does it cost to to put a coin in the charity box regularly, to purchase a Jewish book, to keep kosher, to buy a mezuza?

And, really, we have to sell to others - our family and friends. Just as we need to buy more Jewish learning and living, so we have the opportunity to "sell" Judaism to those in our sphere of influence and those we encounter. (As the famous Jewish teaching enjoins us, "If all you know is the Hebrew letter 'alef' you are required to teach it to someone who doesn't even know 'alef'.) But only after we have asked the "needs" questions, after we realize what the "customers" - our fellow Jews - need Jewishly, what they can afford, at this moment, to incorporate into their lives, only then can we offer them what Jewish lullabies refer to as "the best merchandise."

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Noach, tells the story of the great flood visited upon mankind because of their improper behavior toward one another. After the floodwaters receded and Noah and his family were able to leave the ark, Noah planted a grapevine which he had brought with him. He made wine from the grapes and quickly became intoxicated. Noah fell into a drunken sleep, laying naked in his tent. One of Noah's sons, Cham, saw his father lying naked and told his two brothers about what he had seen. Shem and Yafet immediately went in to cover their father.

Shem and Yafet were so careful not to look at their father's nakedness when they went to cover him that "they went backwards, and their faces were turned backwards, and they did not see their father's nakedness."

The story is slightly puzzling. It is clear from the fact that Shem and Yafet walked backwards that they did not see their father. Why, then, does the Torah add the apparently redundant words: "...and they did not see the nakedness of their father"?

There is a saying of the Baal Shem Tov that if a person sees something wrong with someone else, it is a sign that he himself has a similar fault. He sees himself, as it were, in a mirror - if the face he sees is not clean, it is his own face which is dirty.

Can we not see a genuine wrong in someone else without being at fault ourselves?

Divine Providence is present in every event. If we see bad in someone, it is to show us our own failings which need correction. Man is blind to his own shortcomings. He needs to see them exemplified in someone else, to force him to reflect on himself and see their counterparts in his own life.

The task of the Jew, however, is not only self-perfection; it is also the improvement of others: "You shall surely rebuke your friend, even a hundred times." Surely, then, when he sees his friend's failings, Providence intends him to help to correct them, not only to introspect on his own weaknesses.

When one sees a Jew doing something wrong, one's first concern must be to seek the duty required of him - namely, to try and reproach him, with tact and delicacy, in the hope that he will correct his ways.

But when one finds oneself seeing this wrong not as something that he himself must correct, but just as a failing in his fellow this is evidence that the fault is a "mirror."

Therefore, after saying that Shem and Yafet turned their faces away from Noach, the Torah adds, "and they did not see their father's nakedness." It is here emphasizing that not only did they physically not see him, they were not even aware of his fault as such-they were concerned only with what must be done (which was to cover him with a mantle).

Adapted by Sichos in English From the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Following the Family Path
by Mary Bergin

Levi Matusof spent a part of this past summer in the Bourgogne region of France, known for its farms and vineyards.

One of the unforgettable days was when he and a friend were in Nevers, a town of about 10,000, where they were told about an elderly Jewish man who lived alone.

"He will not want to see you," the young men were warned. They called and went to his apartment anyway.

"He probably didn't realize that we would be Orthodox Jews," Matusof muses. "While we were talking, he broke into tears and began to speak Yiddish," the native language of East European Jews and their descendants in other countries.

The 80-year-old man, who had suffered long from the atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust, also had isolated himself from the Jewish community.

"You brought out in him these dormant feelings that needed to be expressed," observes Levi's father, Rabbi Yona Matusof, of the Chabad House in Madison, Wisconsin.

For almost 23 years, the rabbi has counseled, consoled, taught and guided Jews who live in Madison or are passing through the city. His son is learning to do the same kind of work.

Levi, 20, has two years of study left before he receives his rabbinical diploma. Older brother Mendel has about six months before earning his. Both then will begin specialized studies.

"It is their choice," says their father, "although I hope and pray that all of my sons choose to be rabbis, because there is a need for it and there is room for them to do this work."

There are six sons in the family, the youngest of whom is 3 years old. There also are six daughters, who the rabbi says could make a profession out of their faith, too, although not as rabbis.

The family matriarch, Faygie Matusof, is an example of how that can happen. She teaches religion classes, lectures on Jewish topics, gives individuals counsel and advice, and prepares kosher meals.

She routinely helps keep Chabad House open to Jewish college students and others. "We usually have 20 to 30 for dinner every Saturday," Rabbi Matusof says. "Some stay overnight."

It is similar to the way son Levi often lived for four weeks this summer, in the homes of rabbis as he and another student visited Jews, most of whom were not Orthodox. It was a part of the Jewish Summer Peace Corps program that is more than 50 years old; this year it involved about 200 students in 100 places around the world, Hong Kong to Idaho.

"We sat with 7-year-olds and told them Jewish stories," Levi explains. "We visited 92-year-olds and said prayers with them."

He has other stories, like the Auschwitz survivor who had stayed away from synagogues because of her anger about the war camp experience.

"I will keep in contact with the people I met," Levi says. "I feel close to them, and I think they feel close to me."

The religion to which Matusof family members have devoted their lives has a disciplined lifestyle that follows the codes of Jewish law. It is conservative in dress, attitude and lifestyle.

"I don't feel that I'm much different than anybody around me," Levi says. "It's just that I've had a different education."

Members of the opposite sex, outside of marriage, do not touch; that includes handshakes. It is about keeping kosher and keeping the Sabbath, "but nobody is perfect and everybody is doing their best," says Rabbi Matusof.

Do the rules appear to blur, as he ages? "No," he says. "The lines are becoming more and more absolute."

He says his work is to uplift and recharge people, as well as remind them of the tenets of their faith. "We serve in different ways to different people," the rabbi says. "Not just in crisis, but in happy times, too," such as weddings and births. People contribute monetarily to this ministry "when they feel they have been helped."

Chabad House provides a particularly significant presence to college students who are away from home, he says, estimating that 7 percent to 10 percent of the University of Wisconsin student population is Jewish.

"Throughout our education, we are taught to share our knowledge with others," the rabbi says. "If it adds one act of goodness or kindness, then one by one the world will be better and safer. That is the only way it will work."

He considers himself a "people rabbi" instead of a "pulpit rabbi." There are other specialties, too, and his sons have not yet decided which to pursue.

Some rabbis specialize in religious education. Others work in the medical field, applying Jewish law to ethical issues. Still others become scribes, learning how to write on parchment the letters for a sacred Torah scroll.

Levi is not sure which path he will follow, but he says the decision to be a rabbi was easy. "The studies are hard, but they are enjoyable," he says.

He is learning the reasons for Jewish prayers, how to abide by the Jewish holidays, rabbinical laws and Talmudic interpretation. Then comes Jewish philosophy, learning "the depth of Judaism, the deeper reasoning of why we keep our rituals, the depth of prayer, the purpose of creation and mankind."

Brother Yisroel, at age 13, is not yet as clear about what to expect. Why does he want to be a rabbi? "Because that's what all of my brothers are going to be," he responds. "It seems like the right thing to do."

Reprinted with permission from the Wisconsin State Journal,

What's New

Four New Chabad Centers On Campus

New Chabad Centers are opening on the following campuses throughout the United States: University of California at S. Cruz, California under Rabbi Shlomo and Devorah Leah Chein; Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona under Rabbi Shmuel and Chana Tiechtel; University of Illinois in Chicago, Illinois under Rabbi Dovid and Goldie Teichtel; Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland under Rabbi Velvel and Chani Gopin. These new Chabad Centers will become a "home away from home" for thousands of Jewish college students. Shabbat dinners, holiday programs, classes and hands-on Jewish events will enable Jewish students to stay connected or reconnect during their years of higher education.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated from letters of the Rebbe written during the lifetime of the Previous Rebbe

12 Teves, 5703 [1943]

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter from the seventh day of Chanuka:

...Despondency is certainly unnecessary. On several occasions, I heard from my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe shlita, that just as a person must not err with regard to his own shortcomings, so too, he must know his own positive qualities.

Experience shows that often minimizing one's own self-worth is one of the tricks of the evil inclination to weaken [one's resolve] or cause a disturbance [and prevent one] from carrying out a positive activity, as each person certainly knows.

With the blessing "Immediately to teshuvah [repentance] , immediately to Redemption,"

9 Cheshvan, 5707 [1947]

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter of 28 Elul, 5706, I was happy to hear that you safely arrived in our Holy Land. I was delighted to hear that you found a community of chassidic brethren where you could satisfy your thirst to study the Torah and know the path of G-d.

Certainly, you will attempt to influence others and draw them close to the Torah and its mitzvos and strengthen their observance.

There is a well-known statement of our Sages (Bereishis Rabbah 5:8): "Why was it named Eretz (land)? Because it desired ["ratza," which shares the same letters in the Hebrew root] to perform the will of its Maker." And the name Yisrael was given to Yaakov because: "You struggled with angels and men and prevailed."

Thus dwelling in Eretz Yisrael implies that one desires to perform the will of his Maker despite the fact that one will have to fight against other men and the powers of nature. [The word elohim, translated as "angels," in the verse from Genesis cited above shares the numerical equivalent of the word hateva, "nature." This allows for the interpretation the Rebbe provides.] (For the celestial constellations and the angels are agents to direct him. Hence the word hateva, "nature," is numerically equivalent to the word Elokim, "angels," as stated in Shelah, tractate Pesachim, discourse 3). This positive influence stems from the fact that] "the air of the Land of Israel makes one wise" and assists one in preventing the spirit of folly from entering. (As our Sages say: "A person will not violate a transgression unless a spirit of folly enters him.")

We would be happy to hear about the good fortune that you find and about your activities to strengthen Torah and Yiddishkeit.

With wishes for all good,

third day of Chanukah, 5705 [1945]

Greetings and blessings,

Your letter awakened within me memories of the time we spent in Vichy and Nice, each one of us in conditions in which he was not accustomed.

When a person is uprooted from the setting to which he has become acclimated, in the time before he becomes accustomed to his new situation and responsibilities, he reveals patterns of behavior that reflect his inner nature without the ornaments and embellishments that society demands.

Very frequently, these patterns of behavior reveal the hidden good within this person, a good that perhaps he himself was not aware of because it was covered with a layer of conventional manners. He will be fortunate if he does not allow these patterns of behavior to become hidden again when he reaches a tranquil situation.

Such spiritual concepts apply - and to a much greater extent (qualitatively and quantitatively) - when a person is found in a situation which requires mesirus nefesh. For hidden and essential powers are revealed in such a situation and it is possible to change one's life from one extreme to the other.

Thus [we can appreciate] a "measure for measure" relationship. For mesirus nefesh [self-sacrifice] - conduct opposite a person's nature - he is granted a miracle - something above the nature of the world at large.

Reprinted from I Will Write It In Their Hearts, published by Sichos In English

Rambam this week

5 Cheshvan, 5764 - October 31, 2003

Positive Mitzva 3: Loving G-d

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 6:5) "And you shall love the L-rd, your G-d"

Positive Mitzva 4: Fearing G-d

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 6:13) "You shall fear the L-rd, your G-d"

Positive Mitzva 9: Sanctifying G-d's Name

This mitzva, known as "Kiddush Hashem" is based on the verse, (Lev. 22:32) "But I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel" Even if someone tries to force us to deny G-d and His Torah, on pain of death, we must remain loyal. Throughout the generations, Jews have chosen death rather than deny their bond to HaShem

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week's Torah portion is Noach. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to consider the implications of the Rebbe's campaign to disseminate, among non-Jews, the knowledge and observance of the Seven Noachide Laws.

The nations of the world were given a Divine code of conduct, the Seven Noachide Laws, which consist of six prohibitions against murder, robbery, idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, cruelty to animals - and one positive command, to establish a judicial system.

The Rebbe has encouraged his emissaries around the world to meet with government officials and heads of state to sign proclamations encouraging the study and observance of the Seven Noachide laws.

The Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides) states that an important part of the Jew's task is to see to it that all people, not just Jews, acknowledge G-d as Creator and Ruler of the world and to therefore conduct themselves according to the Seven Noachide Laws. Each and every Jew has an important role to play in this task. But how can this be accomplished?

When a Jew conducts himself properly in all areas of his life - business, recreation, family, and religious - he will automatically influence the people around him. When the nations of the world see Jews acknowledging G-d as Ruler of the world, through prayer and by following His commandments, they, too, will come to realize the importance and truth of G-d's omnipotence.

Thoughts that Count

Noah was a just, perfect man in his generation. Noah walked with G-d. (Gen. 6:9)

There are those Jews who behave very Jewishly in their homes, but when they go out into the world among other people they are embarrassed about their Judaism. There are also those who, in the privacy of their own homes, are not so observant. But when outside or among others, they put on a G-d-fearing facade. A pure, wholesome Jew is one who is "a just, perfect man in his generation" - one who acts the same way among people as well as "with G-d" when in the privacy of his own home.

(Yalkut HaDrush)

The earth was corrupt before G-d, and the earth was filled with violence. (Gen. 6:11)

People are mistaken to think that without belief in G-d they will still perform the mitzvot that are between one person and another (i.e. charity, hospitality, not stealing, etc.). For, when the world becomes "corrupt before G-d" - when people throw off the yoke of belief and sin toward G-d - the outcome will be "and the earth was filled with violence."

(Or HaTorah)

And G-d said to Noah, "Come with all your household into the ark " (Gen. 7:1)

The Hebrew word for "ark" is "teiva," which can also mean "word." The Baal Shem Tov interprets this phrase as an exhortation to "enter" the words of Torah and prayer. When one brings his children into the protective "ark" of the words of Torah, and sets limitations for their behavior according to the standards of Torah conduct, then those youngsters are saved from the stormy flood waters of the negative influences of the environment.

Of clean beasts and of beasts that are not clean that came to Noah and into the ark, two by two (Gen. 7:8)

The word "unclean" would have been more succinct than "that are not clean." However, the Torah goes out of its way, using eight extra letters, to avoid an unpleasant word; the Torah is always as concise as possible. The message of this elaborate phrase, then, is that one's speech should be at all times free of improper expressions.


And the whole earth was of one language. (Gen. 11:1)

The generation that was alive at the time of the Flood was utterly steeped in thievery and dishonesty, and therefore was thoroughly destroyed. But the generation of the Tower of Babel had at least the merit of loving their fellow man and getting along with each other, as it says, "and the whole earth was of one language." Therefore, they were not all destroyed.

(Breishit Rabba)

It Once Happened

This story happened during the last years of the life of the great rabbi and scholar, Rashi, when the Crusaders had begun an effort to liberate the Holy Land from the Turks.

A powerful captain, Duke of Lorraine, was about to set out with a large army on his way to Jerusalem. Having heard a great deal of the wisdom of Rashi, he decided to see him and ask his advice. When the Duke came to Worms, where Rashi lived, he sent for the great Jewish scholar. But his messengers came back saying that Rashi refused to come. The Duke became very angry and decided to call upon Rashi himself.

Bursting into Rashi's house, the Duke could see many books on a table, but no one was present. He called, "Solomon, Solomon, where are you?"

Rashi replied, "Here I am. What is your wish, your lordship?"

"But I cannot see you! Where are you?" the Duke called again.

"I am right here, my lord. What is it you wish?" came back the reply.

The Duke rubbed his eyes, but still could not see anyone. Then he said, "I swear to you, O Rabbi Solomon, that I shall not do you any harm. Let me see you."

The next moment the Duke beheld a very saintly looking man bent over his books.

The Duke humbly addressed him. "I have heard of your scholarship and of your wisdom. Jews and non-Jews alike say you are a prophet. I have come to ask your advice. I have gathered a large army of infantry and cavalry and am on my way to recapture Jerusalem. Shall I be successful? Tell me truthfully, and I promise you that if your words come true I shall not harm you."

"My lord, I have no encouraging reply for you, but since you press me to answer, I will do so. You will be there for three days. On the fourth day, however, you will be driven out and will have to flee. Most of your army will be diseased or killed, and many will die on their way home. You, my lord, will come back to this city with but three men and three horses."

The Duke paled on hearing the sad prophecy. Then he said, "I will keep my word, and if your prophecy comes true, no harm shall befall you. But if I shall return with four men, I will give your flesh to the dogs and will kill all the Jews in my country!"

Soon the Duke learned that Rashi's prophecy was slowly becoming true. At least that part which concerned his military campaign in the Holy Land certainly was fulfilled. The Duke started on his way back with a small army, but one after another his exhausted soldiers died or deserted him. When he approached the city of Worms, he had four riders with him. Remembering that Rashi had foretold that he would come back with three men only, he determined to put Rashi to death as he had warned him. But as the Duke was about to enter the gates of the city, a beam with iron spikes suddenly fell from the city gates on the head of one of the horses, killing it. The rider had to remain outside the city and the Duke entered Worms with three men only, just as Rashi had foretold!

Now the Duke became very frightened and saw that Rashi was indeed a very saintly man. He decided to visit him and pay him his respects.

Approaching Rashi's house he saw a great multitude of bearded people surrounding the house many of them in tears. He learned that Rashi had died and was about to be buried. The Duke and his entourage waited for the funeral and paid their last respects to the great and famous Rashi.

Adapted from Talks and Tales

Moshiach Matters

G-dliness manifested itself in Noah's ark, enabling all of the animals to live together peacefully. According to Isaiah (11:6-9) there will be a similar atmosphere in the Messianic Era: "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the young goat together with the calf, the young lion and the ox; and a little child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together...The nursing child will play on the hole of the snake, the weaned child will stretch his hand over the den of the viper.... for the earth will be full of the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea."

(Torat Shmuel)

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