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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 892
                           Copyright (c) 2005
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        October 28, 2005        Bereshis        25 Tishrei, 5766

                    Déjà Vu or Been There, Done That

We've all had that familiar sensation, of reliving an experience or
event from the past. It's a weird feeling, like being caught in a time
warp or on a chronological rollercoaster. A "déjà vu all over again"
moment disorients us, much as waking up in an unfamiliar setting. When
we find ourselves displaced, we lose our sense of direction and sense of
balance. And it takes us a moment to regain the familiar. But once we
have regained our emotional equilibrium, there's a certain joy, an
exhilaration that follows the déjà vu.

A recently coined cliché attempts to forestall the psychological
displacement by anticipating it, trivializing it, and dismissing it.
"Been there, done that" dismisses the value of repetition, as if all
experiences must be new - not completely disconnected from any previous
experience, for then we would have no bearing, no context for our

"Been there, done that" distances us from the familiar, and in so doing,
trivializes it, declaring it to be over-familiar. "Been there, done
that" says that only the new experience is worth experiencing. Yet
dismissing the importance of reliving, of going back where we've been,
guarantees the new experience we seek will itself soon be a cliché.

When we think of our lives in terms of déjà vu and been there, it seems
we struggle to both avoid and create a pattern, a structure, a series of
habits. If we duplicate a moment in our lives, we lose for that moment
who we are because whatever was between the deja vu and now, doesn't yet
exist - and yet those "non-existent" experiences are who we've become.
(In a sense, déjà vu gives us a chance to change the past.)

But if we reject the repetition, if we refuse to allow an experience to
become a habit, we destabilize ourselves. We end up exhausting ourselves
into the very boredom we're so desperate to avoid.

Nowhere do we find the paradox of déjà vu more powerfully than in
prayer. On the one hand, prayer may be reduced, in essence, to a pursuit
of the déjà vu. If we think about our most powerful experiences while
praying, don't we want to repeat them each time we pray? Surely all of
us have had what is called an epiphany, an encounter with the Divine, a
revelation of the spiritual. And surely that encounter transfixed us
then and transforms us still. And don't we pursue that same sensation,
that same revelation, each time we pray? Don't we want to be transfixed
again, experience a spiritual déjà vu?

And yet, prayer must be a rote activity, a recitation of the familiar so
that we may share, include others, and thus build a community. The
prayer service provides a form - but not a formula - for the infinite, a
way of habituating ourselves to the transcendent, and communicating
across levels of understanding and maturity. Still, forms may become
formulaic and healthy routines dull habits. And when prayer becomes an
exercise in the commonplace, when it evokes in us a resistant "been
there, done that," it becomes a shell of itself, a hollow mockery of the
transformative déjà vu.

So when it comes time to pray, we should ask ourselves, do we want a
déjà vu or a been there, done that. For how we answer that question, how
we approach the prayers, will determine which it will be.

This week's Torah portion, Bereishit (Genesis), is the first portion of
the entire Torah. It recounts the story of Creation and tells, among
other things, about the creation of the first people.

We read that Adam was commanded by G-d not to eat from the Tree of
Knowledge. But Adam was not able to overcome his temptation and he ate
the fruit.

According to the Midrash, the command not to eat the fruit was given
after three-quarters of Friday had passed and was to be in effect only
until Shabbat began. Adam and Eve were not to eat the fruit for only
three hours!

When we consider that Adam was created by G-d, Himself, and heard the
command from G-d, it seems amazing that he couldn't control himself for
a mere three hours.

We learn from this episode the strength and guile of the yetzer hara -
that aspect of our psyche which encourages us to go against G-d's will.
The yetzer hara may camouflage its aim by trying to convince us that a
commandment is too difficult or unimportant. Nevertheless, its real
intention is to persuade us to go against G-d's will. Therefore, the
more important a certain command is for a particular person, the harder
the yetzer hara will try to dissuade the individual from performing the
command. Even if the commandment is a very easy one, the yetzer hara
will make it seem extremely difficult.

Thus, we can understand how Adam was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit.
The yetzer hara employed its most compelling arguments to convince Adam
to sin.

The yetzer hara's arguments are highly evident today. Many contend that
if the "burden" of the Torah, the details and laws, would be lightened,
all Jews would adhere to them. But this is not true. For, even if there
was but one commandment - and that for only three hours - the yetzer
hara would make it seem impossibly difficult and repressive.

We cannot overcome the yetzer hara by compromising the Torah. We must,
rather, realize that we have all been imbued with the strength to
overcome the yetzer hara's arguments and guile. If we draw on our
G-d-given inner strength, ultimately we will be victorious.

                   Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                        A Jew is a Jew is a Jew

    From a speech by David Sandelovsky at the annual dinner of Chabad of
    Greater Somerset County (New Jersey).

I would guess that most people in this room tonight have their own
personal reason for being here. Maybe Chabad was there to help you in a
time of need, maybe you were looking for answers to previously
unanswered questions, perhaps you view Chabad as a safety net that
simply must continue to flourish.

In my case, I had no idea what Chabad was about until my wife, Andi, and
I were searching for a rabbi to guide our second son to his bar-mitzva
close to four years ago. Andi suggested we contact Chabad. We live in
Basking Ridge not a mile from Chabad but the only thing we were aware of
was the large dreidel that sat out on the corner of the property at
Chanuka each year.

With more than a little trepidation, we made an appointment to meet with
Rabbi Mendy Herson. Within seconds of meeting him, I gave my wife a
knowing glance...there was no way this was going to work!

Funny thing though, as we sat down and started discussing our issues and
philosophy, it became very clear that we were all on the same page. Once
Mendy said, "a Jew is a Jew is a Jew," we knew we were way too hasty in
our initial prognosis. Being totally non-judgmental and overwhelmingly
accommodating, Rabbis Herson and Lazaroff only wanted to teach our son
what becoming a bar-mitzva was about. They made it clear that memorizing
the Haftorah or reading the Torah without mistakes was secondary to
understanding what it meant to be a responsible Jewish adult. We were

Very soon thereafter, we started telling our family and friends that we
would be celebrating the bar-mitzva at Chabad.

"Chabad?" they asked. Our parents were shocked, our friends thought we
had joined a cult, and the rest of the family thought we had lost it!
What were we thinking?

"Be careful," we were told! "They are going to try to change you," we
were warned. It wasn't until everyone had met the rabbis that people
understood there was no ulterior motive or secret mission going on.
Chabad was simply there to help a Jewish family be Jewish.

After that, our relationship with Chabad slowly grew. We attended a few
events, enrolled our daughter in the Hebrew School, and came for the
High Holy days.

But it wasn't until I was having a conversation with a good friend of
mine at work about Judaism that I realized how little I knew about the
religion I had grown up with. This friend had chosen to convert to
Judaism from Greek Orthodoxy and she knew so much more than I did - and
I hated it. It was then that I sought out Mendy and asked him if he
could put a class together for a friend and me to learn a bit more about
Judaism. We met on Sunday mornings during Hebrew school; the more we
learned, the more fun we had. The group grew, we shared great
discussions and arguments, some of us started reading books on Judaism,
and we learned. From there, we started having Monday night classes, we
started an English study service on the first Shabbat of the month, and
I even started attending the teen class at Hebrew school to help with
the discussions.

Given the history I've just shared, you may understand that I think of
this as "my" Chabad. But I am more than willing to share. As a matter of
fact, I hope you all view Chabad in a personal way. You should view it
as yours or - at the very least - as ours. The one thing I ask that you
don't do, is view Chabad as someone else's. Chabad is nothing if we
don't feel a sense of personal ownership in it. If we leave the future
of our Chabad to someone else, we may not like what we are left with.

Unlike most other people, the Jews have always looked after their own.
Unlike most congregations, our Chabad doesn't charge dues. It operates
in great part from the generosity of those people here tonight. For
safety, well-being, education, a sense of community, and so much more,
we Jews have always reached into our pockets to do the right thing. On
behalf of everyone at Chabad of Greater Somerset County let me say
"thank you."

                               WHAT'S NEW
                           Let's Go Shopping!

The newest release from HaChai Publishing, Let's Go Shopping, is a
rhyming picture book showing toddlers that shopping time can be mitzva
time, too! Join a young brother and sister as they go from the butcher
shop to the fish store, from the supermarket to the bakery, doing many
mitzvot along the way! Written and illustrated by Rikki Benenfeld.

                         The Last Pair of Shoes

During the war, hunger and starvation were part of everyday life. In
this heartwarming story, Shalva, a young boy whose father was taken into
the army, works hard to feed his own family and comes up with an
ingenious idea to help an even poorer family in need. Young children
learn a valuable lesson that one is never too poor, or too young, to
help others in need. Masterfully written by Sashi Fridman and
beautifully illustrated by Seva, The Last Pair of Shoes is Merkos
L'inyonei Chinuch Publications' newest release.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
            A freely adapted letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

We are reminded of the custom in some communities to proclaim at the
outgoing moments of Simchas Torah (the culmination and final key-note of
all the festivals of Tishrei): "And Yaakov went on his way," meaning,
his prescribed way and G-dly service, his way of life, throughout the

There is a message contained in the phrase And Yaakov went on his way -
and bearing in mind that each letter and word of the Torah is a world
full of meaning and instruction -

There is need to elaborate on the concepts contained in the said three
Hebrew words, to wit:

And Yaakov: It is well known that the two names of our Patriarch, Yaakov
and Yisrael, are quite different,

1. In time - the name Yaakov was given at birth, whereas "Yisrael" was
bestowed later, after he had achieved "You have striven with Angels and
with men, and have prevailed."

2. In meaning - the name Yaakov is associated with ekev, "heel," which
is the lowest and last part of the body, wherein there is hardly any
distinction between one person and another. The name Yisrael, on the
other hand, has to do with leadership and mastery, and, rearranged,
spell "li rosh," "I am the head," the head being the highest part of the
body, wherein the essential differences (physical and spiritual) between
individuals are located, viz, facial features, voice, looks, and

Now, the significance of Yaakov, in the said message of "And Yaakov went
on his way," is in that it refers to the Divine mission given to every
Jew, without exception, from birth, while still in the state of
"Yaakov," and at the beginning of his Divine service. From this starting
point, the said mission is to be fulfilled in a manner containing the
following elements:

Went on - implying true locomotion, i.e. leaving completely behind one
place (and spiritual state) to go to another, more desirable place.

Parenthetically, this is the reason why angels are called "omdim -
stationary," for although "they fulfill the Will of their Maker with awe
and fear, and praise G-d in song and melody" - which is their form of
advancement to higher states, there is no complete departure and change
involved in their nature, hence this cannot be termed perfect "going."

Only man is called "mehalech," a "walker," for his task is to go from
strength to strength, even if his previous station, spiritually, is
satisfactory. Yet, to remain in the same state will not do at all. His
progression must involve a change, to the extent where his new spiritual
state is incomparably higher than his previous one, however good it was,
and he must thus continue on the road that leads to G-dliness, the En
Sof, the Infinite as indicated further -

His way - the King's Way, the way of the Supreme King of the universe.
The preeminence of a perfect way, as has been pointed out, is that it
links the remotest corner with the Royal Palace in the Capital City; it
is a two-way road, leading from the Palace to the remote corner and from
the remote corner to the Palace.

Likewise, the Divine mission of every Jew, whose soul descended from the
pinnacle of her heavenly abode to the nadir of the material world, for
the purpose of linking the two through his Divine service in both
directions: "From below - upwards" (generally through prayer, "Unto You,
O G-d, I lift up my soul"), and "from above - downwards" (generally
through the study of Torah and the fulfillment of mitzvos, G-d's wisdom
and will, respectively, as reflected, particularly, in the mitzva of
tzedaka, giving alms to a poor and needy person, who craves for
everything, having nothing of his own).

This is also how the service of every Jew, man and woman, should be. One
must not be satisfied with one's influence at home, in the community, or
country, but one must open the way, the King's way, as above, that leads
even to the remotest corner of the earth, in order to bring there, too,
the word of the King of Kings, and illuminate that corner with the light
of Torah and mitzvos, and to uplift all that is in that corner to the
state of "Unto You, O G-d, I lift my soul."

May G-d grant that each and everyone of us will carry out the mission
included in the said instruction of "And Yaakov went on his way," with
all that it connotes, and carry it out with joy for "joy breaks through

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
29 Tishrei, 5766 - November 1, 2005

Positive Mitzva 153: The New Moon - Calculating the Months and Years

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 12:2) "This month shall be to you
the beginning of months" Determining the new month is crucial to the
Jewish calendar. The Torah commands the Rabbinical Court to calculate
the months and declare the necessary leap years. The manner in which it
was done applies only to the time of the Great Sanhedrin in Israel.
Today, we follow the Jewish calendar which was established by Rabbi
Hillel HaNasi. He calculated the precise arrivals of the new moon and
the years which would be considered leap years. We rely on this calendar
until the arrival of Mashiach, when we will return to the original
method of the eye-witness reports.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Bereishit," the Shabbat on which we
read the first portion of the first book of the Torah - Bereishit.

The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, used to say that
"the position which we adopt on Shabbat Bereishit determines the nature
of our conduct in the entire year to come."

Shabbat Bereishit represents the transition from the holidays of the
month of Tishrei to our regular, day-to-day life of the coming months.

Shabbat, in general, is known to elevate the spiritual service of the
previous week. As Shabbat Bereishit follows the holidays of Sukkot and
Simchat Torah - holidays that collect and internalize all the influences
of the holiday-filled month of Tishrei - Shabbat Bereishit perfects and
elevates the holidays of Tishrei.

In addition, Shabbat Bereishit is the Shabbat on which the month of
Marcheshvan is blessed. One of the reasons that the prefix "mar" is
added to the name of the month Cheshvan is that "mar" means bitter.
Cheshvan has no holidays and is therefore a "bitter" month, especially
in comparison to holiday-packed Tishrei.

Because Shabbat Bereishit has both of these aspects - the culmination of
the previous month and the blessing of the upcoming month - it can
potentially influence the entire year.

Thus, the position we adopt on Shabbat Bereishit has the potential to
influence the entire year; it can bring the spiritual inspiration of
Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah into our regular,
day-to-day living.

May we all have a very "successful" Shabbat Bereishit.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
In the beginning (bereishit) G-d created the heaven and the earth (Gen.

Our Sages tell us that the entire world was created solely for the sake
of the two things that are called "reishit" ("first") - Israel (the
Jewish people) and the Torah. Speaking about the Messianic Era, the
Prophet Isaiah said, "The nation and the kingdom that does not serve you
will be destroyed." When Moshiach comes the nations of the world will
lend aid and support to the Jewish people, recognizing that their very
existence depends on their service; those who refuse to accept their
subservient position will disappear from the face of the earth.

                                         (Likutei Sichot Vol. XXIV)

                                *  *  *

G-d blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply"  (Gen.

The birth of a Jewish child brings joy not only to his parents and
extended family but to the entire Jewish people, for it signifies a step
closer to the coming of Moshiach. The Talmud states that Moshiach will
not arrive until "all the souls in guf" (the storehouse in which they
await their descent into the physical world) have been born. The birth
of a Jewish baby therefore hastens the Redemption and brings closer the
blessings of the Messianic Era.

                                             (Sichat 25 Iyar, 5743)

                                *  *  *

G-d rested from all the work which He had created to be done. (Gen. 2:3)

Rashi explains that the words "to be done" teach that the world was
created incomplete, as it were, requiring the active participation of
mankind to attain perfection. But how can we, insignificant as we are,
complete the act of creation? The Torah's own words, "created to be
done" assures us that this perfection is within our grasp, and is part
of G-d's plan. Each of us has the strengths and talents to improve the
world and elevate it into something holy and Divine.

                                            (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
The Maggid of Mezritch (the successor of the Baal Shem Tov) was an
unusually gifted Talmudic scholar. But on Shabbat he would only teach
spiritual ideas of Chasidism. One Shabbat, however, he unexpectedly gave
a long and complicated Talmudic dissertation unifying several apparently
contradicting legal passages. This was a great wonder to his pupils who
nonetheless dutifully memorized every word.

The day after that unusual Shabbat, the Maggid told one of his pupils,
Rabbi Zusia of Annipoli, to set off on a journey, though the Maggid did
not give Reb Zusia a destination. Dutifully, Reb Zusia set off, certain
that his feet would take him on the right path. A week later, Reb Zusia
stopped for the night at a small inn near the city of Hamburg.

"There is one bed available but you can't have it," said the proprietor
to Reb Zusia when he inquired about a bed. "The room is being occupied
by the great Talmudic genius Rabbi Refoel and I can't put you together
with him."

This Rabbi Refoel, a devoted follower of the Vilna Gaon (the undisputed
leader of Lithuanian Jewry and one of the biggest opponents of
Chasidism), was on his way to Hamburg to vie for the position of Chief
Rabbi of that city. Each candidate had to present a Talmudic
dissertation before the elder scholars of the city and then answer all
their questions satisfactorily; the scholar who found favor in their
eyes would be chosen as the next Chief Rabbi.

Rabbi Refoel was a sure thing. His genius and erudition were almost
unmatched as were his credentials, especially his closeness to the Vilna
Gaon. Now he was sitting in this inn repeating the dissertation one last
time. It was very long and complex and he wanted to make sure things
would go smoothly.

Meanwhile, in the lobby, Reb Zusia was trying desperately to convince
the owner to just let him have a peek at the great Rabbi Refoel; he felt
that this guest had something to do with his mission. Finally the owner

Rabbi Refoel was so deeply involved in his dissertation that he didn't
notice Reb Zusia. Reb Zusia, for his part, was startled to hear that the
Rabbi was delving into the same exact subject that the Maggid had
unexplainably spoken about on Shabbat!

Suddenly Rabbi Refoel stopped. He remembered a commentary in the Talmud
that completely destroyed his entire presentation! Not only would his
dissertation not succeed, it was wrong... he was wrong!!

Now Reb Zusia made his presence known and offered his help. Reb Zusia
looked like an itinerant beggar and Rabbi Refoel's first instinct was to
throw him out. But,  he was desperate, so he agreed to listen.

"But only on one condition," said Reb Zusia. "The answer I'm giving you
now I heard from my master, the Maggid of Mezritch. I want you to
promise that after you are chosen tomorrow, you will go to visit him."

Rabbi Refoel shuddered. The Maggid? The head of the Chasidim! He
hesitated; perhaps the charges against Chasidism were baseless. Rabbi
Refoel asked Reb Zusia to proceed. Reb Zusia repeated what he heard from
the Maggid solving all Rabbi Refoel's problems.

The next day Rabbi Refoel appeared in Hamburg, made a perfect impression
and was chosen as Chief Rabbi. But he was afraid to keep his promise. He
traveled to Vilna to ask the Gaon what to do. "If you gave your word you
must keep it." he answered. "You must go to the Maggid. But, you must
come back immediately and report everything you hear and see. And you
must swear before ten men that you won't tell anyone there who you are."

Early the next morning Rabbi Refoel dressed like a wanderer and set out.
When he arrived at the Maggid's court he was very impressed with what he
saw. The prayers and Torah study of the Chasidim had fervor and depth
that he had never experienced. And he had never seen anything like the
Maggid in his life; here was a G-dly man.

Later that morning a woman brought in a chicken with a question as to
its kosher status. The Maggid called his pupils over to debate the law.
The question was a difficult one but the Maggid's pupils concluded that
the bird was permissible according to all opinions.

The Maggid then explained the question according to the Kabalistic views
and also concluded that according to Kabala the bird was also kosher.
Then he added, "But standing right there in the corner is Rabbi Refoel,
the Chief Rabbi of Hamburg. Let us hear what he has to say."

Rabbi Refoel felt something in his soul open when the Maggid called his
name. He looked up in awe and then ran out of the room. But when he
returned to the Gaon his newfound respect was not shared. The Gaon
gathered ten elders, listened to the rabbi's report and concluded that
it was all done through sorcery and evil.

"But how do you know that your refusal to speak to the Maggid or
consider my report is not from evil?" Rabbi Refoel asked. But he
received no reply.

Rabbi Refoel did not travel to the Maggid again out of respect for the
Gaon. But from that day on, he was no longer an opponent to Chasidism
and he eventually became a clandestine Chasid.

By Rabbi Tuiva Bolton, reprinted with permission from

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Greater emphasis has to be placed on recognizing the uniqueness of the
Jewish people and on emphasizing their connection to the Land of Israel.
Similarly, emphasis must be placed on Torah study, in particular, the
study of Chitat (Chumash, Tehillim, and Tanya). This will lead to the
coming of the Redemption. And then we will proceed together with the
entire Jewish people to the Land of Israel, to Jerusalem, and to the
Holy Temple.

            (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Bereishit, 5752 - 1991)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 892 - Bereshis 5766

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