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L'Chaim
April 2, 2004 - 11 Nisan, 5764

814: Tzav

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Passover and Birthdays  |  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

Passover and Birthdays

The Exodus from Egypt was the birth of the Jewish People as a nation - the birthday of Israel. It was the first step in preparing us to receive the Torah. The word "Torah" means "instruction" - the Torah educates us how to live.

So, Passover is connected with education. One of the central mitzvot (commandments) is telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt as well as other teachings connected with Passover, found in the Hagada. In fact, the word "hagada" comes from the word "to tell." We recite the Hagada because G-d commands us "to tell your children" about the Exodus. In other words, we educate our children by telling them, reliving the story of the Exodus.

There's still another point of connection. All the holidays involve many customs and laws, but perhaps none has as many details as Passover. So we must educate ourselves - and teach our children - the practical requirements and long-standing traditions associated with observance of the holiday. But we must do so in a way that has a lasting effect. We don't want it to be like studying for a one-time test: memorize the material, take the test, and forget everything the minute it's over. Rather, the education, the knowledge of the laws and customs, should have a continuing influence throughout the year, penetrate and affect the character - ours and our children's. The "lessons of Passover" - the matza, the maror, the charoset, etc. - should benefit us even in the summer or fall.

And yes, there's still another connection between Passover and education. Celebrating Passover changes the educational venue from school to home. At the Seder, the formal classroom learning may be on hiatus, but the Seder table becomes the "hands-on" laboratory. Real "homework" takes place with the entire family participating.

Of course, a good teacher has his or her lesson plans in order. And so, too, we should arrange the lessons for Pesach. Just as adults need to learn, relearn and review for Passover, each year learning something new, something deeper, so too should we have a "lesson plan" for our students and children to learn some new insights.

As a consequence, this will strengthen the relationship and influence of teachers and parents on their students and children. That, in turn, will help accomplish the purpose of Passover - freedom to learn Torah.

The Rebbe's birthday is the 11th of Nissan (Friday, April 2 this year), just a few days before Passover. The Rebbe has always emphasized the need to educate the Jewish child - including the adult who is a "child" in his or her knowledge of Judaism as well as the "child" within each of us. Indeed, the Rebbe started a campaign to assure that every Jewish child receive a Jewish education. This campaign inspired tens of thousands and revolutionized the field.

But there's another connection as well. When a child starts his education, it's a time of great excitement, a new phase in life. Passover, the birthday of the Jewish People, was, and is, a time of great excitement, when the Jewish People began a new phase of life. And a birthday is also a time of great excitement, a new phase of life.

So, what would be an appropriate birthday gift to ourselves in honor of Passover, the birthday of the Jewish People, and to the Rebbe, in honor of his birthday?

Teach Torah to a child. If we teach Torah, or help others teach Torah, or let ourselves be taught Torah, why, that would be a wonderful present for us all.

Learning and teaching Torah will enable the entire world to receive the greatest present of all, the commencement of the Messianic Era, when the entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the oceans.


Living with the Rebbe

The central theme of Passover is freedom - the liberation of the Children of Israel from the Egyptian oppressors. The celebration of this freedom is of such importance in Judaism, that we are required to relive the Exodus from Egypt every single day: "In every generation a person should consider himself as if he himself went out of Egypt."

But, exactly what type of freedom were the Jews granted when they left Egypt? Did we not remove the yoke of Pharaoh only to replace it with an even greater yoke? "When you take the people out from Egypt they shall serve G-d," Moses is told. G-d took the entire Jewish People out of slavery in Egypt, only on condition that they become subservient to Him! Observing the Torah and its 613 commandments is certainly a heavy yoke. Is it not a contradiction to claim that the Jews were freed from bondage, if they afterward found themselves in a new sort of servitude?

The concept of freedom is relative, dependent on many factors. That which constitutes freedom for a plant is quite different from the freedom demanded by an animal or a human being. A tree requires good soil, abundant rain, air and sunshine to thrive. But those same conditions would present the very opposite of a free existence for an animal, which is not rooted to the ground and must enjoy freedom of movement, in addition to sufficient food and water.

Moving up the ladder of creation we see that the same freedom that suffices for an animal does not constitute freedom for a human being. If we were to fulfill all a person's physical needs, yet not allow his intellect to be satisfied, this would be a terrible deprivation. Freedom for man includes the recognition that he possesses a need to fulfill his intellectual yearnings, to develop his full potential as a human being.

And yet, even intellectual fulfillment is not true freedom for a Jew. His Jewish soul must also be taken into consideration, that "veritable piece of G-d" which is the birthright of every member of the Jewish nation. Even when this soul is clothed in a physical body it maintains its intimate connection with its G-dly source. A Jew can only find true freedom and fulfillment when his soul is afforded the opportunity to strengthen that bond with G-d, through the Torah and its commandments.

That is why our Sages said, "A truly liberated person is one who engages in the study of Torah." Torah for the Jew is as essential to his existence as water is to a fish. Contrary to being a yoke, Torah is our very life. Just as a fish can live only in water, the Torah is the Jew's only appropriate medium.

Freedom, therefore, is that which will enable every single organism in the world to live up to its full potential. For a Jew, whose soul is his true essence, genuine freedom is that which will allow him to draw closer and closer to G-d - learning Torah and performing mitzvot (commandments).

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

A Secret Seder in New York
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

In 1941, New York State and several other jurisdictions established "Release Time for Religious Education" whereby public school students could be released from school, with their parents' permission, for one hour of religious studies per week. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe at that time, seized the opportunity to enable Jewish public school children to receive Jewish instruction on a weekly basis. A cadre of Lubavitch Rabbinical student volunteers became the corps of Jewish Release Time teachers in the New York metro area. The National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education became the supervisors of the Jewish Release Time program. After the Previous Rebbe's passing, his son-in-law and successor, the Rebbe, encouraged NCFJE to expand its activities and this program has continued to run uninterruptedly until this day.

A friend of mine, who tragically passed away nearly two decades ago, Rabbi Azriel Wasserman, was one of the many Lubavitcher Rabbinical students who volunteered his time and energy to teach Jewish public school children during that one precious hour each week.

Rabbi Wasserman was a very gifted and devoted teacher. He loved teaching and his once-a-week pupils loved him.

One year, a few days before Passover, Rabbi Wasserman met with his class and made a "practice" Seder with them. The children really enjoyed it and so did he. The next time he met with his class was a few days later, in the "intermediate days" of the Passover holiday. It was the day after the Seders and Rabbi Wasserman noticed that two of his students, two little girls, kept falling asleep during the hour-long class.

Rabbi Wasserman was concerned and asked the girls several times if they were all right. Each time, as the girls nodded back into alertness, they replied that they felt just fine. As the class neared its completion, the two sisters whispered to Rabbi Wasserman that they wanted to speak with him privately after the class.

"Please don't tell anyone what we are telling you now," the older sister begged after all the other children left. "We have to tell you something, but do you promise that you won't tell?"

While she was speaking, her younger sister was watching. Rabbi Wasserman looked from girl to girl and saw the pleading look in their eyes.

He stared at them for a few seconds, then nodded and said, "I promise."

The girls looked at each other one more time and the older one began the story:

"Well...you remember that last week you made us a practice Passover Seder, right? My sister asked you why are we doing all this and eating all these different things.

"You told us that G-d wants us to make a Seder on Passover. And you said the Seder also reminds us that G-d is very, very good because He took us out of Egypt... Right?"

Rabbi Wasserman nodded his head in agreement.

"Well, that day we went home and told our Mom what you said, and that we want to make a Seder the night of Passover just like you showed us. Our Mom sort of liked the idea. But our Dad didn't. You see, our Dad isn't Jewish. We asked him and he got really upset and said 'no.'

"Then my sister asked him why we couldn't do it and he got really angry and said that if we even talk about it again he would really give us a spanking.

"Then my father went over to my mother and started really yelling because he thought that she had told us to ask. They started arguing and we got scared.

"But afterwards my sister and I talked alone, and we decided that if G-d wants us to make a Passover Seder we were going to do it. So we figured out a plan. We took money from our piggy bank and on the way back from school we went to the store. We bought two bottles of grape juice one day, and the next day we bought a box of matza, and the next day we took some lettuce from the refrigerator. And we hid everything in the basement.

"Then on the first night of Passover, instead of going to sleep, we just pretended to be asleep. After Mom and Dad were really asleep and it was already like one in the morning, we got out of bed and we went downstairs into the basement.

"We were really scared because the stairs are creaky, and we were afraid that Dad would wake up. And in the basement it's really dark and scary! But we made it down stairs and we took out the matza and the grape juice and everything.

"And then... we made a secret Passover Seder!

"We did everything just like you said, we ate the matza and drank the grape juice, everything. And then we snuck back upstairs and went to sleep.

"And nobody knew.

"Then, you know what we did the next night? We did the same thing over again! But the next night we weren't so scared, and we even laughed once because my sister made funny faces." They looked at each other and smiled a little.

"That is why we're so tired today," she continued. "But you won't tell anyone, will you? If Daddy finds out he'll be really angry with us!" They looked at each other and then back at their teacher.

Rabbi Wasserman promised once again that he wouldn't say anything to anyone. They said good-bye and after they left he closed the door, sat down in the teacher's chair and started to cry.

When Rabbi Wasserman recounted this story to me, he told me, "I don't know if would have had the courage to do the same thing that they did. I was really inspired by those two little girls."

May we all have the courage this Passover to break out of our own personal Egypts to experience true liberation and freedom.


What's New

Passover Needs

Wherever the Rebbe's emissaries are found, they do what needs to be done to assure that Jews can celebrate their Jewishness. In S. Petersburg, Russia, for instance, Rabbi M.M. Pewzner has certified as kosher the local matza bakery which will produce more than 100 tons of matza this year for the local community. Whether you want to purchase hand-baked "shmura matza" for your own Passover Seder, or would like to join a Chabad-Lubavitch communal Seder, or you need advice on how to make your home "kosher for Passover," your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center is the place to call. For more info call your local Center.

Don't Blame the Postal Service

The next issue of L'Chaim will be for April 16/Nissan 25


The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5724 [1964]
Hillel School
Rochester, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

Thank you very much for your letter and enclosure about the project of distributing Shmura Matza. It gave me great pleasure reading about it, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in letting me know about it.

No doubt you also were active in the Purim Campaign, and are generally going from strength to strength in all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, where there is always room for advancement, since they are infinite, being derived from the Infinite. The Zechus Horabim [merit of the multitude] will surely stand you in good stead not to rest content with the achievements in the past, but to strive for ever greater accomplishments, in accordance with the principle of our Sages that all matters of holiness should be on the ascendancy.

At this time, I extend to you and yours, as well as to all at the Hillel school, my prayerful wishes for a Kosher and inspiring Pesach [Passover]. May the "Season of Our Liberation" bring an increased measure of liberation from all matters that distract from serving G-d with complete joy and gladness of heart.

With blessing,


11th of Nissan, 5735 [1975]

Blessing and Greeting:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence. May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in the matters about which you wrote.

Inasmuch as we are about to celebrate Pesach, I trust you know the story of our Sages to the effect that it was in the Zechus [merit] of the righteous Jewish women of that generation that our ancestors were liberated from Egypt. Needless to say, all the narratives in the Torah are eternal messages, since the Torah, Toras Chaim (our Guide in life), is eternal. Moreover, the inspiration and the messages of Pesach have to be implemented in the actual everyday life, since the essential thing is the deed.

The message and inspiration of Pesach are particularly important in view of the fact that they have a direct bearing on the present Golus [exile] and the liberation from it, in accordance with the prophecy, "As in the days of your liberation from Egypt, I will show you wonders."

You surely also know that whenever G-d gives a Jew any task or obligation, it is certain that He provides also the necessary ability to carry it out.

In light of all that has been said above, may G-d grant that you should go from strength to strength, which will also bring you a growing measure of G-d's blessings in all needs, including the blessing that the Festival of Our Liberation should bring you a growing measure of freedom from all distractions that hinder a Jew from serving G-d wholeheartedly and with joy.

Wishing you and yours a Kosher and happy Pesach,

With blessing,


Rambam this week

16 Nisan, 5764 - April 7, 2004

Positive Mitzva 29: The perpetual fire on the altar

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 6:6) "Fire shall be kept burning continuously upon the altar..." Among the many miracles that occured in the Holy Temple was a heavenly fire that came down on the altar and burned the sacrifices. This showed G-d's acceptance of the service. Even though a Divine fire appeared, the priests are commanded to light a fire. G-d does not want us to rely on miracles.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

It is a Jewish custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Many also have the custom to recite daily the Rebbe's chapter. The 11th of Nissan (Friday, April 2, this year) marks the Rebbe's 102nd birthday, and so, we begin reciting chapter 103.

The Psalm beings, "By David: Bless the L-rd my soul, and all my being - His Holy Name." The next verse begins with the same phrase, "Bless the L-rd my soul" and the final verse of this Psalm ends, "Bless the L-rd my soul." The commentator Alshich explains that this triple reference to "Bless the L-rd my soul" teaches us that we must triply thank G-d for our soul, our vivifying spirit and our body, the three aspects that comprise us.

The third verse begins, "Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases." The preface to this Psalm in Tehillim Ohel Yosef Yitzchak reads: "David would recite this Psalm when he was ill. Thus, anyone praying for a sick person should recite this Psalm; and it should certainly be recited with much feeling, by the one who is ill himself.... Examine thoroughly this Psalm and you will find it to be a soothing consolation for your soul." The Talmud (Nedarim 41a) teaches that the healing of physical illnesses of the body comes through G-d and takes place after we do teshuva (return to G-d, repent) and G-d has forgiven our iniquities. The Talmud (Megilla 17b) also teaches that G-d provides atonement and forgiveness for spiritual diseases.

The fourth verse of this Psalm reads, "Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with kindness and compassion." The vehicle for personal redemption is teshuva, which can save a person. In particular, this verse speaks of a person who did teshuva because diseases of his body made him aware of illness in soul. Thus, the disease that originally appeared to be destructive was later recognized to be a crown of blessing.

"Who satisfies your mouth with goodness, that your youth renew itself like the eagle," reads verse five. The Talmud (Yoma 86a) teaches that if we do teshuva out of love of G-d, our sins are turned into merits; we become like a new person. The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) teaches that the eagle symbolizes the renewal of the world in the Messianic Era.

In this month of Redemption, on this auspicious day, may we merit the ultimate Redemption of the entire world, NOW!


Thoughts that Count

Fire shall be kept burning continuously upon the altar; it shall not go out (Lev. 6:6)

A person who studies Torah with a friend awakens an eternal G-dly fire. "It shall not go out" - this merit will stay with him forever.

(Hayom Yom)


If a person guards the spark of attachment to G-d that he has, and watches over it carefully all day, even when he is not engaged in Torah study or prayer, then it shall not go out. However, if this spark is allowed to dim, it might be necessary to rekindle the fire. In addition, one who studies Torah with his friend and awakens the "perpetual (G-dly) fire" within him - "it shall not go out" - this merit shall endure forever.

(The Baal Shem Tov)


Command Aaron and his sons, saying, "This is the law of the burnt offering..." (Lev. 6:2)

The great commentator Rashi noted that the word "command" also implies "encourage." The Torah gives encouragement when there is a monetary loss involved. People in general need strengthening and encouragement during lean times. When it is hard to make a living people are apt to fall into a depression, and their faith in G-d can be weakened.

(Kiflayim L'toshia)


Another connection between "command" and "encourage": Whenever one is commanded to do something, one needs more urging and spurring on to actually do it. For as soon as G-d gives us a command, the adversary - the evil inclination - tries its best to prevent us from fulfilling it. That is why the rabbis said, "One who is commanded to do something, and does it, is greater than one who is not commanded and does the same thing." It is more difficult to follow a command because the evil inclination tries to get in the way.

(Rebbe Hershel of Cracow)


It Once Happened

Elozor Plotke works as a project manager for a California company that builds, launches and operates communication satellites. His job is to procure sophisticated and reliable electro-optical sensors which "lock" on to and track the Earth as the satellite circles the planet in geo-synchronous orbit. A small company in Connecticut builds the sensors.

Ron Carmichael is a California expert who helps companies reduce costs and lower risks so that they can meet critical budget and deadline goals. The company in Connecticut needs those services, and so Elozor and Ron often worked together with that company on various projects.

A few weeks before Passover in 1996, Elozor arranged to meet Ron at the Connecticut firm. Elozor's plan was to fly to New York, go to the Rebbe's Ohel, and then drive to Connecticut. The plane trip was uneventful, until Elozor looked up to see Ron. The latter had a big smile on his face and was striding down the aisle towards him. In that split second, Elozor thought: "Oh no! What about my plans to visit the Ohel?!"

Ron greeted Elozor warmly: "You know I really don't like to drive, and even if I did, I always get lost. And by driving together, we can save the company some money." Ron had learned of Elozor's travel arrangements from his secretary and had purposely made reservations to be on the same flight.

Elozor was disappointed; he did not see how he could explain the importance of a visit to the Ohel to Ron, who is not Jewish. Besides, Ron was probably hungry and would not have the patience to wait for dinner. Rather than broach the matter, Elozor kept his disappointment to himself.

On the same flight was a dapper gentleman who kept looking at Elozor and smiling. It seemed a little strange, but Elozor smiled back. After they left the plane, the gentleman came over and introduced himself as Amos from Tsfat, Israel. He asked Elozor if he knew of a way to get to the Rebbe's Ohel.

At this point, Elozor decided to stop hesitating. He asked Ron if he minded making a slight detour to stop off at the grave site of his spiritual mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. To his great satisfaction, Ron said: "Sure, Elozor. Anything you want to do is fine with me."

Elozor felt very positive about the Divine Providence at work, as he, Ron, and Amos rented a car and drove to the Ohel.

On the way, Ron kept asking questions. Who was the Rebbe, he wanted to know, and what would they be doing at the Ohel? Amos answered all of Ron's inquiries. Amos had served as deputy mayor of Tsfat a few years before, and because of the large Lubavitch community in that city, had developed a long-standing relationship with the Rebbe, often visiting on Sundays to receive dollars, advice and blessings.

While they were traveling, he spoke of miracles that had come to pass thanks to the Rebbe. He also explained the procedure at the Ohel - how they would write notes asking for blessings and requesting that the Rebbe intercede with the Almighty on their behalf. Ron was interested; he wanted to write his own note!

So at the Ohel, Elozor, Amos and Ron each wrote and read their notes to the Rebbe, and said some Psalms. Afterwards, Elozor and Ron said farewell to Amos, drove to Manhattan for a kosher dinner, and then proceeded to their destination in Connecticut.

Several weeks after Passover, Ron and Elozor needed to return to the vendor in Connecticut to present a company-wide seminar and workshop. Ron knew Elozor's travel plans, but was not on his flight this time. Since Elozor's plane was scheduled to arrive in New York very late in the evening, he did not think of going to the Ohel on the way to Connecticut. Instead, he had decided to take care of his business first, and go to the Ohel on the way back.

After his flight landed, Elozor called the rental agency to send over a courtesy van. When he identified himself, the receptionist replied: "Oh, Mr. Plotke, it is so good that you are here. There are three gentlemen waiting for you in the lobby."

Elozor thought to himself: "It must be Ron."

Sure enough, Ron and two of his associates were in the car rental office waiting for Elozor to arrive. Ron quickly strode over and declared: "Elozor, you must take me to the Ohel to see the Rebbe again!"

"Why, Ron? What has happened?" replied the startled Mr. Plotke.

Ron grinned. "In the note that I wrote the last time, I asked him for help with my job, health and livelihood. You see, for the past few months, my managers have been threatening to lay me off because they no longer need me full time. The uncertainty had been very stressful, and I was having stomach problems. In addition, living in Los Angeles is so expensive that I can no longer afford it.

"I explained all this to the Rebbe and asked for his help. A few days after I got back to L.A., I received a call from a hiring manager at Hughes Training in Texas. He was looking for a person with my extensive experience. Not only did he offer to pay my moving expenses, but he gave me a bonus for accepting the offer, and a 20% raise in base salary! Since the cost of living in Texas is about 20% less than in Southern California, this meant the equivalent of a 40% raise!

"I already feel so much better that I want to go back to the Rebbe to thank him and ask for more!"

From To Know and To Care, Vol. 2, published by Sichos In English


Moshiach Matters

"From the day that I went to cheder, and even prior to that, the vision of the future Redemption began to unravel in my mind, the Redemption of the Jewish people from their final exile, a Redemption of great magnitude and beauty, through which the purpose of the suffering, the terrible decrees, persecution and opression of the exile will be understood... and with a full heart and cognizance, we will then exclaim: 'I offer thanks to You, G-d, that You were angry with me.'"

(From a letter of the Rebbe, 11 Nissan 5716-1956)


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