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L'Chaim
January 28, 2005 - 18 Shevat, 5765

855: Yisro

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


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  854: Beshalach856: Mishpatim  

The Spice of Life  |  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

The Spice of Life

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe) passed away 17 years ago on the 22nd of Shevat (corresponding this year to Feb. 1). L'Chaim was established during the 30-day mourning period after her passing, to honor her memory and continue the work to which she devoted her life - spreading the teachings of Chasidism and encouraging others to learn and grow Jewishly.

Our Sages tell us that a person's name alludes to the essence of the soul. In the case of the Rebbetzin, her name also alludes to a spiritual responsibility incumbent upon us.

Many people, of course, are familiar with the meaning of her first name, Chaya. It comes from the same root as the word for "life" - chayim. The name Mushka, though, is Yiddish and means a delightful aroma that gives pleasure. Together, the two names can be read to indicate "the spice of life" - instilling and infusing the physical and ordinary with the sweet smell of spiritual delight.

Chasidic teachings tell us that our souls come into a body to fulfill a purpose - a two-fold purpose. One, we are to serve G-d with joy, and two, that service should elevate the mundane, transforming the world into a dwelling for the Divine. The Rebbetzin, in the way she lived and the example she set, and even in her name, taught us how to fulfill our life's purpose.

The Rebbetzin was an extremely learned woman as well as a righteous woman. And she encouraged others to study, both the revealed aspects of Torah - the laws, customs, traditions, etc. - and the mystical aspects as explained by Chasidism.

She gained her knowledge at a time when educational opportunities for women were severely limited, unlike today when there are many Jewish schools for girls, some of which even bear the Rebbetzin's name.

But the Rebbetzin not only understood the importance of Jewish education, she exemplified it. And this leads us to an essential consideration.

On the yatrzeit of a tzadik - the anniversary of the passing of a righteous individual - it is customary to increase, even if only a little, one's Jewish involvement. One can add to the regular amount of charity given, one can observe a mitzva a little better or a little more regularly, etc.

As the Rebbetzin understood and exemplified Jewish education, it seems appropriate in honor of the Rebbetzin's yartzeit, to find ways to increase, even if just a little, Jewish education in general, and that of girls in particular.

Now, more than ever, every Jewish girl and woman, regardless of background, level of observance, outlook - even regardless of attitude! - deserves the most intense Jewish education she can receive. Whether we are supporters (giving money or time), educators, students ourselves, or in a position to influence a prospective student, we should all try to make an extra effort in this area. We will surely be rewarded for our efforts by adding the "spice of life" to our own lives and those of our loved ones. L'Chaim!


Living with the Rebbe

How can a limited mortal relate to an unlimited G-d? If He is G-d, He is, by definition, infinite and unbounded, and thus above our comprehension. How then can we establish a connection to Him?

Our Sages focused on this question in the Midrash, stating that before the giving of the Torah, the spiritual status of the world could be described by the verse "The heavens are the heavens of G-d, but the earth He gave to man." The heavens, the spiritual realms, were self-contained; they had no influence on the material realm. And mankind, living as we do in the earthly realm, had no way of tapping into the spiritual.

At the Giving of the Torah, which we read about in this week's portion Yitro, this changed. G-d allowed for communication between these two realms. Thus it is written: "And G-d descended on Mt. Sinai." G-d made Himself manifest and accessible to mankind. And it is also written: "And Moses ascended unto G-d," i.e., we were given the opportunity to elevate ourselves and our surrounding environment and endow it with spiritual content.

At Sinai, G-d gave us the Torah to immortalize this experience. Sinai thus became not a one-time event, but rather the establishment of a channel that continues to enable man and G-d to relate to each other.

The Torah contains teachings that brings G-d within reach of our understanding, for He has invested Himself in the Torah and its laws. When a person studies a law from the Talmud, what he is in effect doing is understanding G-d's essence. That infinite dimension which no mortal can grasp has been concentrated within the Torah's teachings.

To hint at the ongoing dimension of G-d's revelation at Sinai, our Sages stated: "G-d's voice did not have an echo." Instead of rebounding, G-d's voice permeated the material substance of the world. From that moment onward, "The Torah is not in the heavens," but part of the environment in which we live.

This revelation is complemented by the mitzvot (commandments) which gives us guidelines with which we can conduct our lives in a G-dly manner and relate our actions to Him. This in fact is the source of the word mitzva which relates to the Aramaic word "tzavta" meaning "connection." The Torah gives us an opportunity to relate to G-d through our minds. Through the mitzvos, not only our feelings and our thoughts, but also our deeds can be brought into connection with Him.

In this manner, the revelation at Sinai becomes not only a story of history, but an event which has immediate relevance to our lives today. For this reason, in the blessings we recite each day before Torah study, we refer to G-d as "the Giver of the Torah," using a present tense form. And the present leads to the future, when we will witness the culmination of the process begun at Sinai with the coming of Moshiach.

From Keeping In Touch by Rabbi E. Touger, adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

The Strength of the Foundation
by Rabbi Shmuel Lew

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson was the mainstay of her home. As her husband, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, said numerous times, the physical foundation of the home is not visible, yet on the foundation rests the entire building. The outward appearance of the foundation is not important. What is important is its strength.

In truth, we knew very little about the Rebbetzin. She kept very much to herself. When she went to "770" (Lubavitch World Heaquarters on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn) in order to visit her mother or her sister, she went in only when she saw that nobody was around. Everything about her was expressed through modesty. Yet the Rebbetzin is truly the foundation of Chabad-Lubavitch.

After the passing of her father, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Chasidim begged her husband to take over the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch. However, he refused. The Rebbetzin prevailed upon the Rebbe to accept. She said, "I cannot allow 30 years of my father's self-sacrifice to go to waste." This is what convinced the Rebbe. She knew very well what this would mean to her private life, but she gave her husband and her personal life to the Jewish people.

My father-in-law, Reb Zalman Jaffe, (o.b.m.) was from Manchester, England. He and his wife, my mother-in-law, were privileged to have a unique and close relationship with the Rebbe.

Once, when Reb Zalman was in New York for the festival of Shavuot, he was invited to partake of a holiday meal with the Rebbe in the apartment of the Previous Rebbe. Before returning to Manchester, Reb Zalman and his wife had a private audience with the Rebbe. At that time, the Rebbe asked my mother-in-law, "Mrs. Jaffe, did you give your husband permission to have the meal with me and not with you?"

She said that she had. Then the Rebbe asked, "You didn't mind?"

Mrs. Jaffe answered, "When I saw that the Rebbetzin forwent a meal with the Rebbe, I also agreed - and happily, too."

The Rebbe said, "The Rebbetzin has been agreeing for 40 years now!"

Before our wedding, my father-in-law asked the Rebbe whether we could invite the Rebbetzin to the wedding. The Rebbe told Reb Zalman that he was welcome to invite her and that she would be happy that she was invited. She would participate spiritually but the Rebbetzin does not attend public events.

The day came when I was invited to visit the Rebbetzin with my fiance, future in-laws, and other family members. I remember how my heart pounded. My awe increased as we went up the steps of the house. We knocked on the door and the Rebbetzin herself opened it. I thought I would faint.

We entered and sat near the table, which had been set luxuriously. There were tiny, gold forks and each glass had a glass straw. The Rebbetzin asked me to serve the drinks, and I took the bottle and began to pour. You can well imagine how nervous I was. I didn't want to break the glasses but I forgot that each glass had a glass straw. I suddenly put my hand down and banged a glass straw, which tipped over the glass and the drink that was in it. I blushed and wondered where I might find a hole that I could hide myself in. The Rebbetzin immediately said that it was a sign of blessing. She knew exactly what to say to make light of my nervous clumsiness.

The Rebbetzin often visited a library in Manhattan. Once, when she presented her card, the librarian saw the name on it and asked, "Are you related to the famous rebbe in Brooklyn?"

The Rebbetzin said she was.

"How are you related?"

"He is my husband," said the Rebbetzin.

The librarian began to complain to her about the Rebbe. She said that she had no children and "with great effort, I went to the Rebbe two years ago and asked him for a blessing for a child. The Rebbe blessed me and said I needed to commit to some mitzva, since a blessing is like rain and it needs a vessel to hold it. I told the Rebbe I would light candles Friday night. Two years have gone by and I still haven't had a child!"

The Rebbetzin calmed her down and said, "I don't have children either."

The librarian burst into tears and said, "I'm sorry, but I'm a Holocaust survivor and I was in concentration camps, and I am the sole survivor of my family. That's why it's so important to me to have children, so that the family will live on."

The Rebbetzin asked, "What exactly did my husband say to you?"

The librarian answered, "He said I should light Shabbos candles."

"Are you doing so?"

"Yes!"

"How do you do it?" inquired the Rebbetzin.

"Every Friday I light candles when my husband comes home from work, around seven or eight o'clock."

The Rebbetzin explained that Shabbos candles must be lit before sunset. "Commit to lighting the Shabbos candles properly," she suggested.

The librarian agreed to do so and ten months later she had a son. She stayed in touch with the Rebbetzin and even visited her.

There is a young couple who are part of the corps of nearly 3,000 emissaries (shluchim) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The couple had the privilege of receiving a blessing from the Rebbetzin before their marriage.

During their visit, the Rebbetzin asked the groom, "Are you the grandson of the chasid, Rabbi- ?"

When the young man answered affirmatively, the Rebbetzin said, "Very good, because now I'm sure that your children will speak Yiddish."

Though many years passed after they were married and they did not have children, the couple did not dispair. "We were not worried because the Rebbetzin had said that we would speak Yiddish to our children, and in order to do so we had to have children. We were also sure that we would have more than one child, because the Rebbetzin had said 'children.' We didn't lose hope for a moment, since we had the Rebbetzin's blessing," says the emissary.

A number of years ago, after 14 years of marriage, the couple had twins, a boy and a girl. They are named Menachem Mendel and Chaya Mushka.


What's New

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The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letters of the Rebbe
18 Kislev, 5706 [1945]

Greetings and blessings,

You are the only person in your city with whom we are acquainted who realizes his responsibility for Jewish education in your city in general and in particular, for the existence of educational institutions that are under the presidency of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita. For this reason, we are turning to you with regard to the following matter.

You are certainly aware that last year, we agreed to open a girls' school with the name Beis Rivkah or Beis Sarah in Dorchester under the administration of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch. In making our decision, we relied on the assumption that our friends there would endeavor to gather the financial resources necessary for the expenses of the school, enabling the school to maintain itself independently. We agreed to give the school a certain portion of its budget as a loan for a short time so that it could pay its teachers' salaries on time.

Now enough time has passed for the financial situation of the school to be established, and yet to our chagrin, we are being informed only about expenses and not about income. Nor do we see the necessary concern that the matter be righted.

The expenses of the school are not that great. When the tuition paid by the students is considered, it appears that it should not be difficult to raise the necessary sum through establishing a ladies' auxiliary for the school or through raising income from other sources....

You certainly realize that the responsibility for the education of girls is very great, as reflected by the verse: "The wise among women builds her house"; see also Shmos Rabbah, ch. 28, which states that the perpetuation of the giving of the Torah is dependent on women. In addition, the existence of all the institutions of proper Torah education and their success in educating students is largely dependent on the existence of girls' schools.

We request that despite your many involvements, you immediately gather the financial resources necessary to establish the fiscal situation of the girls school. Since there are no others to stand at the head of this institution, this holy task has certainly been delegated to you. And thus you have also been given the powers to fulfill this mission.

We await your prompt response...


7 Adar I, 5708 [1948]

Greetings and blessings,

You have certainly been informed about the girls' schools that have been founded by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita. One of them is located in the city of Prague. Now that R. Shalom Mendel Kalmanson, who invested effort in the improvement of that school, has left, we are asking you to give appropriate attention to this lofty matter and to devote your time and energy to supervising the school in a proper manner. The intent is that it should be conducted as befits the will of its founder, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, that it grow and expand both in size, i.e., in the number of its students, and also in quality, that the knowledge of the students and their development be based on the fear of G-d and chassidic character traits. You will certainly maintain correspondence with us with regard to all of the above.

The great value of the education of Jewish girls has already been explained in several places. The clearest explanation is, however, from life itself which shows the fundamental importance of this matter. In particular, this is true in the present age, one of destruction, where there is a need to build in new places and under entirely new and foreign conditions. [Under such circumstances,] maintaining a desirable structure and the tradition of our ancestors requires much effort from all the members of the household. The commands and directives from the head of the household alone are not sufficient.

Our Sages (Shmos Rabbah 28:2) state that at the Giving of the Torah, Moshe was required to speak to the women first and then to the men. In this manner, the Torah can be maintained.

The lesson to the coming generations is obvious.

Awaiting your letter with good tidings and with wishes for everlasting good in all matters,


Rambam this week

18 Shevat, 5765 - January 28, 2005

Prohibition 42: You shall not wear "Sha'atnez"

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 22:11) "You shall not wear a garment of Sha'atnez, of wool and linen, together" Although there are some mitzvot for which we have been given a reason, there are other mitzvos for which we have no explanation. We must keep them, nonetheless, because is is G-d's command. Sha'atnez is one such mitzva. We are not allowed to wear a garment that has wool and linen woven together in it. There are Sha'atnez laboratories that check garments for this forbidden mixture. Often, the threads can be removed and then the garment may be worn. In this way we are able to fulfill this special supra-rational mitzva.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

A story is told of an individual who once asked a very wise person, "How do I achieve greatness?" He was told that greatness is achieved by climbing a certain mountain-the highest mountain in the whole world.

And so, the seeker carefully planned his trip, forgetting not one single detail. For months he climbed and climbed, overcoming all obstacles and barriers in his path. At last, the seeker reached the peak of the mountain. And there, to his surprise, he found a small child walking around happily.

How did you get here?" asked the weary climber incredulously.

"I was born here," the child answered simply.

The Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, to which this issue and this entire publication is dedicated was "born there." She was born into greatness; she came from a long line of spiritual and intellectual giants. But, the Rebbetzin's greatness was not simply an image of the unique ancestry from which she came. The Rebbetzin herself was a giant. Yet, she never took credit for herself or her unique position. With utmost modesty and humility, she would simply acknowlege "I was born here."

This year marks the 17th yartzeit of the Rebbetzin. The numerical value of the Hebrew word "tov - good" is 17. Just as the Rebbetzin was a "good" advocate for the Jewish people during her entire life, certainly she is supporting us and assisting us in the World of Truth, working tirelessly and selflessly to bring Moshiach Now. Let us lend a hand to her endeavors this year by increasing our "good" deeds, our "good" words and our "good" thoughts and we will surely merit immediately to have the complete Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

Israel encamped opposite the Mountain (Ex. 19:2)

Rashi explains that the word "encamped" in Hebrew is written in the singular form because the Jewish people were like one person with one heart - they were totally united. Only through the power of unity are the children of Israel capable of standing "opposite the mountain" - opposite the mountain of hatred that surrounds them.

(Rabbi Moshe of Kovrin)


The Giving of the Torah

Why was the Torah given on a mountain, specifically? A mountain and a plain are both made of earth; a mountain is just higher. The intention of giving the Torah was so that the Children of Israel would elevate and spiritually purify the physicality of the world. This is hinted to by the mountain, which is dust of the earth but is high, symbolizing the elevation of matter and its purification.

(Sefer Hama'amarim)


At Sinai three "ones" interlocked. The essence of the Giving of the Torah is to realize in the material world the unity of the One G-d, through the "one nation on earth" (the Jewish people) fulfilling the 613 mitzvot of the one Torah.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


You shall not make of Me gods of silver, gods of gold... (Ex. 20:20)

Don't make silver and gold your gods, that they should rule over you. Don't worship your money.

(Rabbi Yaakov Aharon of Zalvazin)


Why are you sitting alone, and all the people stand around you? (Ex. 18:14)

Why did Yitro ask Moses why he was sitting? The law is that a judge sits while the plaintiffs stand. Further, how could Yitro dare rebuke a man of Moses' stature? The important word here is, "all alone." Yitro was not rebuking Moses, but rather encouraging him to appoint more judges to help him.

(Chizkuni from Tz'ena Ur'ena)


It Once Happened

Rebbetzin Freida, the daughter of the Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, was an erudite and pious woman. She was especially dear to her father and he would frequently deliver Chasidic discourses just for her. Chasidim attribute a certain unsigned letter that contained the deepest, most profound thoughts to Rebbetzin Freida. So great was her knowledge and so close was she to her father that when her brother, Reb Dov Ber (later to become the successor of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman), had a question he would often ask her for an explanation or to approach their father for the answer. On numerous occasions, the Rebbetzin would ask her father questions and receive these answers while her brother hid under the bed in the room to hear the explanations, as well.

On one such occasion, Reb Dov Ber asked Rebbetzin Freida to inquire of their father as to the spiritual significance of the special garments that the Kohanim (priests) wore while they served in the Holy Temple. Rebbetzin Freida acquiesced to her brother's request. As Reb Dov Ber was accustomed to do, he hid under the bed in the room where Rabbi Shneur Zalman was explaining to his daughter the deepest and most esoteric ramifications of each garment. For some reason, Rabbi Shneur Zalman did not describe or even mention the belt that the Kohanim wore.

Reb Dov Ber, hiding under the bed, managed to attract his sister's attention by waving his own belt slightly, thereby hinting that she should ask her father the significance of the belt. When Rebbetzin Freida asked her father to expound on the belt, Rabbi Shneur Zalman called out, "This question is surely from my son who is hiding here and he must leave the room immediately." Reb Dov Ber came out of his hiding place and left the room.

What took place here? Obviously Reb Dov Ber knew that he was not able to fool his father, nor did he intend to do so. Why, then, did he have to receive these particular Chasidic teachings in this unusual manner? The answer lies in the concept that certain teachings are intended for souls from the "feminine world" and therefore had to be delivered to or through a woman, while other teachings are intended for souls from the "masculine world" and must be delivered to or through a man. If a man has an unquenchable desire to study Torah that is intended for a soul from the feminine world, or a woman has an unquenchable desire to study Torah from the masculine world, through persistence, the person creates within his or her soul the capability of connecting with this type of Torah.

Rebbetzin Freida was not a healthy woman physically, and after her father passed away she became even weaker. When she felt that her strength was ebbing and her final day on this earth was approaching, she called a few Chasidim together and asked that after her passing they bring her to Haditch and bury her to the right of her father.

The Chasidim did not know what to do as Jewish custom dictates that men and women are not buried next to each other.

A few days later Rebbetzin Freida called the Chasidim once again. They found her lying on her bed fully dressed. She asked that they encircle her bed. She then began to say the prayer, "My G-d, the soul which You have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me." When she came to the words "And you will eventually take it from me..." she raised her hands into the air and cried out, "Father, wait! I am coming!" And she passed on.

The Chasidim understood that the request of a person who passed away in this manner must be upheld. But still, they were uncomfortable.

On their way to the cemetery, they reached a fork in the road, one way leading to Krementzug and the other way to Haditch. They decided to let go of the horses' reins and bury her where they would lead. The horses went to Haditch.

Rebbetzin Freida was buried, as she had requested, immediately next to her father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman.


Moshiach Matters

The Messianic Redemption, too, will come about in the merit of the righteous women of Israel, as stated in the Midrash: "All generations are redeemed by virtue of the pious women of their generation"

(Yalkut Shimoni, Ruth: 606)


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