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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
January 30, 2004 - 7 Shevat, 5764

805: Bo

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  804: Vaera806: Beshalach  

What Makes a True Leader?  |  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

What Makes a True Leader?

With so many people purporting to be leaders these days, how do we recognize a true leader? To answer that question, we must step back and ask: What is it that a leader is really trying to accomplish?

A true leader wants nothing more than to make people stand on their own, as leaders in their own right. Instead of trying to blind us with his or her brilliance, a true leader reflects our own light back to us, so that we may see ourselves anew.

Moses was the quintessential leader. He kept watch as thousands of sheep grazed, yet noticed when one sheep was missing and went off to look for it.

When G-d saw this, He had proof that Moses was a man of reason, empathy and selfless devotion, a man truly worthy to lead His people.

In our secular society, we tend to think of a leader as a person who is well-connected, who is powerful or charismatic or wealthy. We judge our leaders by what they have. But a true leader should be judged by what he has not - ego, arrogance, and self-interest. A true leader sees his work as selfless service toward a higher purpose. As the sages say, "Leadership is not power and dominance; it is servitude." This does not mean that a leader is weak; he derives great strength from his dedication to a purpose that is greater than himself.

Each generation has its Moses, a leader who inspires absolute trust, who is totally dedicated to fulfilling his unique role. He understands and appreciates each person's role in perfecting this world, and guides him or her accordingly; he rises above any individual perspective to take a global view, seeing how each person and issue fits into the entire scheme of the contemporary world.

A true leader shakes people from their reverie and tells them, "No, you don't need to live a life of desperation and confusion. Yes, you do have the ability to find meaning in your life, and the unique skills to fulfill that meaning. You are an important link in a chain of generations past; you have a legacy worth preserving and a future worth fighting for.

A true leader shows us that our world is indeed heading somewhere and that we control its movement. That we need not be at the mercy of personal prejudices or the prevailing political wind. That none of us are subservient to history or nature - that we are history and nature. That we can rid the world of war and hate and ignorance, and obliterate the borders separating race from race, rich from poor.

A true leader does not want followers; he wants to teach others how to be leaders. He does not want control; he wants the truth. He does not impose his leadership on others, nor does he take away anyone's autonomy. He inspires by love, not coercion. He is so passionate about your welfare that when you consult him for guidance, it is like coming face to face with yourself for the first time.

A true leader is a living example of his teachings. When we see that a leader's personal life embodies his philosophy, we too are inspired to learn that philosophy.

It is useless for a leader to be a visionary in the abstract; he must be a successful communicator whose vision can be translated into specific, applicable principles - not knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but knowledge that can actually help improve the world.

So a leader must be many things - selfless, devoted, visionary, courageous, and above all, humble. When G-d chose Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt, Moses replied, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?" (Ex. 3:12). Indeed, "Moses was humbler than any man on the face of the Earth" (Num. 12:3).

We must recognize the characteristics of a leader - not only so we can weed out the demagogues, but so we can freely embrace a true leader when he does emerge. When people sincerely believe in a leader, they rise above their petty self-concerns. They become eager to accept his direction and input, and are inspired to accomplish far more than they could have on their own.

By recognizing the characteristics of a true leader, we set a standard for our leaders and, more important, for ourselves. Setting your sights on the summit, even when you have yet to arrive there, is the surest way of completing the journey.

Excerpted from Toward a Meaningful Life - The Wisdom of the Rebbe, by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, meaningfullife.com


Living with the Rebbe

At the close of this week's Torah portion, Bo, the Torah relates how the oppression and suffering of the Israelites in Egypt reached its height. So intense was the suffering of the Hebrews that Moses felt constrained to exclaim to G-d: "Why have You dealt badly toward this people... and You have not delivered Your people." Even Moses, who was utterly devoted and faithful to G-d, could find no explanation for the extreme misery and darkness of the Exile. Soon, however a most remarkable turn of events took place. Immediately after this darkest hour of the Egyptian exile, the process of the redemption was set in motion by G-d. When all hope seemed to have been lost, precisely then did the first rays of hope begin to shine for the Jews.

It is a well-known fact that the darkest part of the night is just before dawn. Our Sages compare exile to night. So too, when the night of the Egyptian exile seemed blackest, when the suffering of the Jews reached such a degree that even Moses complained "Why have You dealt badly...," it was then that the rays of deliverance began to shine.

The Talmud states that while the other nations of the earth calculate the yearly cycle according to the rotation of the sun, the Jewish People base their calendar on the rotation of the moon. For the Jews are likened to the moon, whose light wanes and diminishes, and finally seems to disappear. But it is precisely at that point that the new moon is born, and begins to grow steadily. Jewish history throughout the ages reflects the 'lunar cycle.' In the Egyptian exile, after reaching the lowest depths of oppression, when the long night of exile seemed at its very darkest, it was then that the deliverance and renewal of hope began. Such was the case in each subsequent exile.

There is much inspiration and encouragement to be derived from the above. There are times in one's life when it seems that the "wheel of fortune" has reached the lowest point of its cycle for him. It appears to him that his situation is beyond hope. Yet he should not lose faith and fall into despair, but should bear in mind that the darkest hour of exile - of our people as a whole, as well as, the 'exile' of each individual - comes just before the start of the redemption.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

A Wedding and a Holy Book
by Fay Kranz Greene

The city was hot and sweltering on that summer eve in 1989. The Chabad rabbi looked incongruously out of place in Manhattan's East Village, with his long beard and black coat.

Nevertheless, the Chabad rabbi was determined. He had made a promise to a grieving father in Southern California, a man who was a leader in their Jewish community, that he would find his runaway teenage daughter. "Sarah is in New York City, that's all we know, can you find her for me?" the man had begged the rabbi during a recent visit.

Mission impossible? Not for the rabbi. With a lot of effort and a little bit of mazel, he finally found someone who recognized Sarah's picture and he was able to track her to an urban commune.

He invited her to come to his home for a Shabbat meal. She not only came but returned many times and began finding her way back to Judaism. After a while, she met a young man from Israel, who was also rediscovering Judaism.

"We want you to marry us," Sarah told the rabbi.

The father of the bride was delighted beyond belief, but the father of the groom less so. He was a holocaust survivor from a rabbinical family, but his experiences during the war had so alienated him from his faith that he had raised his children in a humanistic ethicism, completely devoid of spirituality or mention of G-d.

The father made his son promise that he would not be asked to recite any blessings or prayers either at the ceremony or during the reception. Only on this condition would he attend the wedding.

On the morning of the wedding, the rabbi wrote a note to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to inform him about the marriage and to ask for a blessing for the bride and groom.

The Rebbe, upon receiving the note, put it together with hundreds of others that he would read aloud that day at the "Ohel," the resting place of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.

On this day, upon reading the note from the rabbi, the Rebbe wrote a few words on a paper and directed that it be given immediately to the rabbi.

The Rebbe had written that today's date, the date that the young couple chose for their wedding, was the 14th of Kislev, the same day on which the Rebbe and Rebbetzin were married decades earlier. The note explained that the groom's grandfather was a Rabbi in Warsaw and had attended the Rebbe's wedding. As a wedding present the rabbi had given them a book that he had written. The Rebbe directed the Chabad rabbi to go to the Rebbe's office, find the book, and take it to the chupa that evening."

Of course, the rabbi did exactly as the Rebbe had instructed. Just before the ceremony, the bride asked the rabbi to say a few words. The rabbi decided to tell the story about the book he was carrying.

He related how the Rebbe had asked that the book be at the chupa and explained that through the presence of the book the groom's grandfather, the former rabbi from Warsaw, would be spiritually represented at the wedding of his grandson, a grandson from whom he now has so much nachas.

Upon hearing these words, the father of the groom abruptly stood up and quickly left the room. The rabbi found him, a few minutes later, weeping quietly in a phone booth in the lobby of the hotel.

"Rabbi," he sobbed "when I was a child, my father took me to Cheder, where I loved studying, but I forgot everything. I wanted to forget. I made myself forget. Now I see that my father never gave up on me, even from Heaven. Won't you take me by the hand and teach me again?"

Thus ends the story of a Jewish soul who thought he had forgotten, until the Rebbe reminded him. But the story has ripples that turned into waves and washed over Jack Castro in Boca Raton, Florida.

Jack Castro's story begins in the small, picturesque city of Solanika, Greece. Salonika was home to more than 60,000 proud Sephardic Jews, among them Moshe Prado, before the nazis decimated their numbers to a pitiful one thousand.

It had been Moshe Prado's custom that as each of his children were married, he gave them a set of High Holiday prayerbooks, hand-carved in ivory. Moshe Prado did not survive the war, nor did his children except one daughter and one son, Jack's father.

Jack Castro ended up with one of the High Holiday prayerbooks. "My aunt gave me that book years ago," says Jack. "I sadly never met my grandfather, but I had one of his books in my possession for many many years without really thinking about its value."

Jack was born in Paris, grew up in Argentina and emigrated to the United States in 1965. He and his wife Graciela have two children and two grandchildren. About fifteen years ago, they moved to Boca Raton where Jack is the president of a software company.

A few years ago, Jack had a surprise call from an old childhood friend in Argentina, a friend with whom he had kept in close contact all these years.

"He told me that his daughter Julie and her boyfriend were coming to Miami and could I show them around," said Jack. Of course he readily agreed and promised to pick them up at the airport.

The day their plane was due however, Jack had an important meeting and he asked his son Spencer to pick them up instead. As it turned out, Julie's boyfriend had to return to Argentina, so when Spencer got to the airport, Julie was alone.

Yes, you guessed it, the meeting was "bashert."

"Spencer picked Julie up at the airport in Miami," said Jack "and by the time they reached our home in Boca they had really connected."

Two months later, the young couple had a civil marriage. They planned to have a Jewish wedding in Argentina. But the economic crisis was already threatening and Julie's parents soon moved to Florida. Now that the whole family was together, the plans for a Jewish chupa began in earnest.

"Although we are a traditional family" said Jack, "we did not belong to any synagogue and didn't know where to find a small one that would please the children. A friend suggested that we look into Chabad of East Boca that had recently opened."

Jack and his family set up a meeting and he recalls that "just like with the children, it was love at first sight. We all liked Rabbi Ruvi and Ahuva New and their family and we set a date for the wedding. We even began attending Shabbat services."

At one Shabbat dinner at the New home, Rabbi New told the Castros the aforementioned story about the book at the wedding.

"I have a book that belonged to my grandfather, too." Jack told the rabbi about the prayerbook and decided to bring it to the wedding of his son.

And what a wedding it was. "We were expecting a simple ceremony, but Rabbi New had other plans. He brought a CD of Jewish wedding music and turned it into a real simcha."

Jack Castro and his family are now regular participants at Shabbat services. "My son loves to go to the synagogue now," he says proudly "we are all rediscovering our Judaism."

The Rebbe's wedding long ago in Warsaw, a prayerbook in Salonika, a note from the Rebbe and two grandfathers look on proudly from above as their descendants add another link in the chain of Jewish tradition. Mazel Tov.

This article first appeared in InsideOut Magazine


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The Rebbe Writes

These letters, freely translated into English, were written by the Rebbe during the lifetime of the Previous Rebbe.
22 Teves, 5708 [1948]

Greetings and blessings,

I heard that you returned from your visit to Europe. I hope that it was fruitful in all areas. I am happy to send you a copy of Sefer HaZichronos (Memoirs) from my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita. If you desire to receive more copies, let us know and we will send them to you.

To add several words with regard to the significance of the Memoirs: In the Torah, every detail contains great importance. Indeed, even the sequence of the Torah teaches us much.

The word "Torah" relates to the word "horoah," meaning "instruction." Implied is that the Torah is not a book of stories, but rather a text which teaches. The order of the Torah is that Bereishis (Genesis) comes first, and then Shmos (Exodus), Vayikra (Leviticus), and the others. The reason for this is not merely that this was the chronological order in which these events took place. That would be sufficient for a history book, but not for a book which is intended to chart a path for our lives.

In addition, and perhaps this is most fundamental, the reason is that this reflects the pattern of instruction through which an individual, a community, and an entire nation structure their lives.

Such a pattern of instruction does not begin with positive commandments and negative commandments. Instead, it relates and presents real-life examples of indivi-duals and entire generations, ancestors, relatives, and just ordinary people who lived in the desired pattern of life. They "cleared the path," providing a clear example of how we should lead such a life, how we can overcome different challenges that arise, and that this alone is the correct path in life.

Only afterwards come the directives - arise and do, abide and refrain from acting - as an almost self-understood conclusion from the previous examples of life experience.

The importance of the Memoirs is of a similar vein. The primary intent was not meant to be - however important that goal is - telling the life history of so-and-so and so-and-so, in order that we know the history or the personalities of the previous generations.

Instead, the primary intent is to show a living example of how a Jew - a rabbi, a student, a merchant, a craftsman, or a beggar, each one in his own field a prominent Jew - carried out his life.

This will point out the proper direction for our times and make it easier to overcome the difficulties that are connected with proceeding in that path.

To conclude by again expressing a heartfelt yasher koach for your great efforts in this important endeavor.

With appreciation and greetings,


26 Shvat, 5708 [1948]

Greetings and blessings,

...With regard to the conclusion of your letter (which came as a response to my words that one must extend himself and filter through to a colleague): "What can one do if he is enclosed in his room? How can he be taken out of his locust skin?" In that context, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, wrote in one of his letters (quoting his father): "When a lantern is kindled, all those who seek light gravitate to it."

To focus on his wording: He employed the term chafeitzim (translated as "seek"). Chafeitz, in contrast to rotzeh, refers to inner will and desire... The inner desire of every Jew is perfectly bound with G-d and His Torah, the Torah of light. As is well known, proof of this concept can be seen from the law governing a bill of divorce given under compulsion, as Maimonides writes in the conclusion of ch. 2 of Hilchos Gerushin.

With regard to your statement that perhaps the oil does not shine within himself because it is rancid: Rancid oil also permeates and it also sheds light. It is only that its light is not that bright. Obviously, it takes one out of darkness and can also be considered as kindling a light, as obvious from the Talmud and the halachic author-ities and as can be seen in actual fact.

In general, of what value is it for you to write such statements if it does not bring about an advance in Torah, Divine service, or deeds of kindness? And if it prevents such service, it is forbidden.

Every person is an emissary sent to his place by Divine providence. He need only begin acting to fulfill his mission and he will certainly be successful. Moreover, it will lead to both spiritual and material well-being.

With wishes for success and for everlasting good in all matters,


Rambam this week

9 Shevat, 5764 - February 1, 2004

Prohibition 187: It is forbidden to eat meat and milk together

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 34:26) "You shall not boil a kid in the milk of its mother"

This prohibition forbids us to eat meat and dairy food together.

Prohibition 186: It is forbidden to cook meat and milk together

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:19) "You shall not boil a kid in milk of its mother" This prohibition forbids us to cook meat and dairy foods together.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Monday, Yud Shevat (February 2 this year) is the anniversary of the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn, and the ascension to leadership of his son-in-law, the Rebbe.

On the day of his official acceptance of leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, the Rebbe, in a straightforward manner, set the rules as to how his leadership would proceed.

The Rebbe placed upon every person the responsibility for the task of bringing Moshiach. He made it clear that people should not expect to sit back and let the Rebbe do all the work in bringing about the realization of the dreams and aspirations of the Jewish people for all times, the revelation of Moshiach and the Redemption.

"Action is the essential thing" has been the Rebbe's motto from the beginning. The Rebbe dealt with the effect of the Previous Rebbe's passing in his unique way: "A certain chasid wrote me that since the histalkus [passing] he is very brokenhearted, and sometimes, when he is alone, he breaks into tears.

"The question remains, however: What did he accomplish by his weeping? Is this the Rebbe's intention -- that he wants him to cry?! It is almost certain that his tears accomplish nothing... In the meantime, however, the work of fulfilling the mission given by the Rebbe is not being done!...

"By his lack of action the above-mentioned individual is (G-d forbid) delaying the Redemption; delaying the Holy One, blessed be He; delaying the Rebbe -- and because of this the Jewish people are being detained in exile one moment longer!"

The Rebbe conveyed to us as well, in the above-mentioned talk, that nothing had changed regarding the instructions and orders of the Previous Rebbe: "The mission with which the Rebbe has entrusted us must be carried out without taking anything else into consideration.... One should conduct himself like a truly humble person, who is strong in his convictions and allows nothing to distract him."

May we immediately see the fulfillment of our generation's mission: the complete Redemption with the Rebbe leading us.


Thoughts that Count

For I have hardened his heart. (Ex. 10:1)

Pharaoh's evil decrees and the trials and tribulations of the Jews during the Egyptian exile did not come about because Pharaoh had so decided of his own accord. Rather, G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart, eventually causing all of His wonders and miracles to be revealed. The lesson we can learn from this is that everything comes from G-d; when a Jew encounters something that prevents him from properly serving G-d, this is meant only as a test, whose purpose is to awaken the powers hidden within the person's soul. When the person overcomes this test, and perseveres in his holy mission in life, he is then rescued from all difficulties.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Tell in the ears of your son and your son's son... that you may know that I am the L-rd. (Ex. 10:2)

In order to implant faith in the heart of one's children, there first needs to be "that you may know that I am the L-rd" - you yourselves must believe in and know G-d.

(Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach)

For I will go through the land of Egypt that night (Ex. 12:12)

The redemption from Egypt didn't come through an angel or a G-dly messenger. G-d Himself had to take the Children of Israel out of Egypt. They had become so steeped in the decadence and impurities of Egypt that only G-d, in all of His glory and might, could take them out of there.

(Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch)

Remember this day as the time you went out of Egypt. (Ex. 13:3)

There are those who ask why we consider the Exodus from Egypt to be of such central importance since after the Exodus the Jews were again enslaved under various nations and suffered at the hands of many dictators. The uniqueness of this first Exodus was that it fundamentally changed the character of the Jewish People to their very core. After being freed from slavery in Egypt, we became free people within our souls, even if later we were to again be under the yoke of the gentiles. The Exodus from Egypt terminated the possibility of a Jew being a real slave, because his essence is that of a free person.

(The Maharal of Prague)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Leibel Groner, a member of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's secretariat, related about the Rebbe:

I heard the following from a chasid who is not a Lubavitcher about an incident that happened to his brother. One morning, when the brother came into the kitchen, he saw a dollar bill on the floor. He picked it up and noticed that on it was written, in English, that the dollar had been received from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The man asked his wife if she knew anything about the dollar and she explained that she had received it as part of her change in a local store and it must have fallen out of her wallet. This chasid had never received a dollar from the Rebbe (during the Rebbe's distribution of dollars on Sundays for over a decade). Still and all he felt that if a dollar from the Rebbe had come into his possession, he should save it and not spend it. He placed the dollar in his pocket and left to pray the morning service in his synagogue.

After services, a visitor from Israel announced that he was collecting for a worthy cause in Israel. Everyone gave the rabbi a donation. He then made an impassioned plea that if everyone present would each donate just one more dollar, it would be of great help. The chasid went to take money out of his pocket but the only other dollar he could find was the dollar from the Rebbe. Should he give it to the man for charity? Until now he had never possessed a dollar from the Rebbe and he wanted to keep it. On the other hand, when the Rebbe gave out dollars, he gave them with the intent that they should be given to charity, or "redeemed" by giving one's own personal money instead. The chasid decided that he should give the dollar from the Rebbe to the man.

When the Israeli took the dollar, he asked the chasid to explain to him what was written in English on the dollar bill. The chasid read and translated that it was a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the man went pale. After he regained his composure, he told the chasid: "Every time I used to come to America to raise money for my organization in Israel, I would always go the "770" on Sunday and ask the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing that my efforts would be successful. The Rebbe would respond with a blessing as well as with a dollar designated as 'shaliach mitzva gelt' (money to be given to charity upon reaching my destination, in keeping with the dictum that one who is going to do a mitzva will arrive safely). When I arrived in New York this trip, I went to the Ohel (the Rebbe's resting place) and asked for a blessing. In addition, I told the Rebbe that I had complete faith that on this visit, as well, the Rebbe would make sure that I received shaliach mitzvah gelt before I returned to Israel. And here it is!"

The chasid immediately told everyone in the shul what had just happened and they were all amazed and awed by the chain of events: the chasid's wife received a dollar from the Rebbe as change in a store, intended to use it but it fell out of her wallet; her husband came into the kitchen before her and discovered the dollar and decided to keep it; he took it with him to shul on exactly the day that this Israeli was collecting charity in his shul; on this particular day, the only other dollar the chasid had with him was this dollar from the Rebbe, that had surely been intended for the Israeli all along.

Rabbi Groner relates that he heard the following story from his nephew who heard it from the father of the boy involved.

A yeshiva student from the United States is studying in Israel this year. His father had to go to Israel on business for a week. The father made up to meet his son each evening for dinner. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they met for dinner at the designated restaurant at 7 p.m. As evening approached on Thursday, the father realized that he would not be able to get to the restaurant in time. He found out that there was a hotel with reliable kosher supervision near where he was and phoned his son to meet him there.

Soon after they arrived at the hotel restaurant, they saw a groom being escorted to his chupa. The son was shocked when he looked and saw who who the groom was. "Abba, do you know that it is -'s wedding!" the son said, and then he ran into the hall.

A little while later the son came back out and told his father what had happened. The groom had been the son's best friend from the ages of 3-18. When they were 18 years old, the groom moved with his family to Israel and the two best friends lost all contact.

A week before the wedding, the groom was in the United States and visited the Ohel. Among other things, the groom told the Rebbe that having his friend at his wedding would truly make his simcha complete. He also had a "feeling" that his friend was studying in a yeshiva in Israel though he had no idea where or how to contact him, or even if that feeling was true. He asked that the Rebbe find a way to bring his friend to the wedding! When the son went over to wish the groom "mazel tov" and to dance with him, the groom told the son all of this which he now related to his father.


Moshiach Matters

In Egypt, the Egyptians did not prevent the Jews from sacrificing the Passover lamb. Indeed, the Egyptians actually lent the Jews their own silver and gold vessels to enhance the Jews' G-dly service. So it shall be for us. Through our own self-sacrifice, those who were previously opposed to us will become our protectors and supporters, and together we will merit the final redemption, may it come speedily in our days.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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