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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
December 23, 2005 - 22 Kislev, 5766

900: Vayeshev

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  899: Vayishlach901: Miketz  

Butterflies and Candles  |  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

Butterflies and Candles

"A butterfly flapping its wings in Japan creates a hurricane in New York." A small change at the beginning leads to large consequences at the end. Within the apparently random there is order. That's the science of Chaos.

A butterfly flapping its wings disturbs the air ever so slightly. But that slight disturbance disturbs some more of the atmosphere - and we end up with an atmospheric snowball, with the wind doubling on itself, and then doubling on itself again, until - the tiniest of breezes becomes a raging hurricane.

It doesn't seem very orderly, but if we look inside the weather system, we see patterns repeating themselves, only on different scales. And this repetition across scale, occurs elsewhere.

Take a pattern, duplicate it, and add it to itself. From that idea a tree grows, its branches spreading in apparent chaos but underlying order.

This idea of replication across scale also expresses a central idea of Chanuka. It's not just that the light increases - one candle becomes two. It's the public nature of Chanuka, the mitzva (command-ment) to publicize the miracle.

Let's back up a step. One of the Chanuka slogans, if you will, is that "a little light pushes away great darkness." But how can that be? We know a candle (or even a flashlight) will illuminate our immediate area, but if we're in a pitch black room, the light of the candle doesn't "push away" much of the darkness.

But if a friend lights his candle from ours, and a friend of his lights a candle from that of our friend, then, soon enough, the room is filled with light. Simply by repeating the pattern of lighting a candle.

And that's part of the idea of publicizing the miracle, by putting the menora in a doorway or window where it can be seen from the street, or having a large, public menora lighting ceremony. To duplicate, in an ever increasing scale, the miracle of lighting a candle, physically and spiritually, so that the light within illuminates the darkness without.

Why when a butterfly flaps its wings does a hurricane result? We can't even feel a breeze from a butterfly's wings.

But the atmosphere is very sensitive. Even the slightest change affects it, and affects it deeply. Scientists call this a "sensitive dependence on initial conditions." That means even a minute disturbance creates an echo, or snowball, multiplying itself.

Our souls have an atmosphere, and it too is very sensitive. It too depends on the initial condition. Enveloped in the darkness of the physical world and the darkness of our spiritual struggles, the soul responds to the tiniest light. A candle in the darkness.

And the soul, once illuminated, perforce illuminates another soul.

And so the miracle spreads, light adding to light, announcing the miracle, pushing away the darkness until G-dliness - the Divine Light - pushes away all darkness and illuminates the world.

This Chanuka, publicize the miracle, participate in a public menora lighting.

Our atmosphere is very sensitive, and a slight beginning, a beginning as slight as lighting a candle for the world to see, transforms the world.


Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion Vayeishev chronicles Joseph's trials and tribulations from the time he left his father's house and was sold into slavery until his eventual appointment to the position of second in command of the entire Egypt. But Joseph was more than just an individual, and his life showed the path that the Jewish nation would take. Indeed, Joseph's life closely parallels the life of every Jew, and by studying his story we can better understand our own mission in life.

Joseph began his life by enjoying the comfort of his father's household. The most beloved of Jacob's children, Joseph enjoyed a special relationship with his father. Not only did Jacob make him the famous coat of many colors, but he learned Torah with him day and night, while the other brothers were busy shepherding the flocks. For Joseph, this period was his happiest, both spiritually and physically.

This situation is analogous to the condition of the Jewish soul before coming into the body. A "veritable part of G-d," it exists on the highest plane, enjoying the proximity of only holiness and G-dly light. Even when the soul has descended into this world and is in the fetus, it still enjoys the luxury of learning the entire Torah before the baby is born.

But suddenly, Joseph's idyllic existence was interrupted - "Joseph was brought down to Egypt." Sold as a slave, his situation continued to deteriorate until he found himself a prisoner in Pharaoh's jail. Spiritually as well, Joseph could not have been in a worse situation. Plucked from the refuge of the tent of learning Torah, Joseph was dropped directly into the most corrupt and depraved civilization of his era.

This symbolizes the soul's dramatic descent into this world. No longer can it bask in G-d's glory - the soul finds itself trapped in a physical body, subject to its whims and fancies. It must endure the temptations to which the body is drawn, and overcome all sorts of trials. The soul longs to return to its source above.

Yet we learn that Joseph triumphed and attained an even higher position than he had enjoyed while in his father's house. Joseph was victorious spiritually as well, as the Torah calls him, "Joseph the Righteous," for despite his elevation to high office Joseph retained his purity and goodness. Joseph turned his descent to Egypt into triumph and ascent, emerging the master and ruler.

This then is the purpose of the soul's journey down into this world and its imprisonment within the body: Our task is to subjugate the Evil Inclination and conduct our lives according to the dictates of Torah. Overcoming the obstacles which try to prevent us from doing mitzvot enables us to attain greater spirituality than would have been possible had the soul remained above.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

Three Firsts for Sumy:

In the city of Sumy, trends in Ukrainian politics had divided the government to such an extent that when Rabbi Yechiel Shlomo Levitansky mentioned that he wanted to put up a Menora in the city square last year, municipal leaders were not certain whom they should turn to.

Coming from S. Monica, California, where his father lights twelve giant menoras throughout the city every year, Rabbi Levitansky could not imagine Chanuka without a public Menora lighting.

With Chanuka quickly approaching, Rabbi Levitansky brought the issue to a Jewish official from the Governor's office who has been very helpful to the community and, for the first time in the official's life, put on tefilin with him right there at the local "White house." Afterwards, they spoke about how they could possibly find a way to erect the 12-foot-high Menora in the square, which Rabbi Levitansky had already constructed, certain that a mini-Chanuka miracle would take place and a solution could be found.

The problems were many. Apart from the threat of anti-Semitism and the Menora's security, the city had never once had a public Menora and permits would have to be obtained by the City Council, which is neither politically aligned with the Mayor nor the Governor.

Seeing how much this meant to the Rabbi, the official in the Governor's office said that as a Jew he felt for the situation and was therefore willing to "cross political lines." He immediately called a City Council member from the opposing political party, who is also Jewish, and told him: "The local rabbi wants a Menora in the city square and although we may disagree on everything else, this is an issue that we must help with."

Needless to say, the council member came to meet with Rabbi Levitansky and also put tefilin on for the first time. That day, the City Council voted to put up the first public Menora in "Park Druzhba" (Friendship Park), located right in the city's center. The City Administration also arranged for round-the-clock security for the site.

While elderly Jews in the community were slow to believe that there would actually be a public Menora and Menora lighting in the park, the younger generation were not even familiar with the structure and wondered what it was. Nevertheless, despite below zero temperatures, hundreds of Jews gathered together on the last night of Chanuka to celebrate their own community's Chanuka miracle.

At the massive candle-lighting ceremony, Jewish community Chairman Alexander Goron spoke about the incredible changes that the city has seen with the coming of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Yechiel Shlomo and Rochi Levitansky just three months earlier. "Now we can proudly say that here in Sumy, Ukraine, there is freedom of religion and we don't have to be scared or embarrassed to act as Jews," explained the Jewish leader.

Rabbi Levitansky spoke about the significance of the final day of Chanuka and then lit the Menora, as the crowd applauded in excitement. Everyone sang traditional Chanuka songs as passers-by looked on.

The owner of the security company, who is also Jewish, was so impressed with this display of Jewish pride that he helped the community to resolve yet another potential problem. He happily offered to store the Menora, which weighs over a ton, by keeping it on display in front of his business all year round!

Earlier that week, on the third evening of Chanuka, members and guests of the Jewish community in Sumy enjoyed a candle-lighting ceremony and a spectacular concert with the renowned Jewish choir "Pirchei Ukraina," visiting from the Dnepropetrovsk.

A hall packed with 450 people enthusiastically joined in song during the choir's performance, which lasted for over two hours. "I have never seen such a show in the over 30 years that I have been working here," said Valentina Nikolayevna, the Assistant Director of the Children's Theatre where the concert was held.

Rabbi Levitansky lit the candles and spoke to the participants about the third night of Chanuka. All of the children attending the festive event approached the stage, where they received Chanuka gelt and a dreidel, presented to them by a Jewish official in the Sumy Regional Administration. The children recited verses of Torah and gave charity.

For many people who attended the Chanuka concert, it was the first time they ever tasted "sufganiyot" - jelly doughnuts traditionally eaten on Chanuka. The sufganiyot also involved a "mini-miracle": the local bakery allowed Rabbi Levitansky to kosher the facilities, ensuring that everyone would have had a happy and kosher Chanuka.

To read more about the myriad activities of Chabad-Lubavitch throughout the entire former Soviet Union, visit the Federation of Jewish Communities of CIS website: www.fjc.ru

What's New

World's Largest Menora:

Be part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka Menora at Fifth Ave. and 59th St. in New York City. The menora will be lit on: Sunday, Dec. 25 at 5:30 p.m.; Monday - Thursday, Dec. 26- 29 at 5:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 30 at 3:40 p.m.; Saturday night, Dec. 31 at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 1 at 5:30 p.m. On both Sundays there will be live music, free not latkes and Chanuka gelt. For more info call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (212) 736-8400. For public menora lightings in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


The Rebbe Writes

Chanukah, 5724 [1963]
To the Participants in the
20th Annual Testimonial Dinner of the
Beth Rivkah Schools for Girls

Greeting and Blessing:

This year's Annual Dinner, coming just a few days after Chanukah, will surely find all the participants amply imbued with the spirit of the Festival of Lights. The Beth Rivkah Dinner offers an excellent opportunity to translate this inspiration into action.

The message of the Chanukah Lights contains three basic points which are applicable - in an immediate and practical way - to the crucial problems of our day:

  1. The Chanukah Lights (symbolizing the light of the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments]) have to be kindled after dark. This indicates that one should not be discouraged by the prevailing "darkness" outside, for even a little light of Torah and Mitzvoth can dispel a lot of darkness.

  2. The Chanukah Lights are required to be kindled in such a way that their light should be seen outside. This indicates that it is not enough to illuminate one's own home with the light and warmth of Torah-true Yiddishkeit [Judaism], but that it is necessary to spread it also - outside, in the neighborhood and in the community at large.

  3. The Chanukah Lights are kindled in a growing number each night of Chanukah, teaching us to make a steadily growing effort to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvoth, and that these efforts contain in themselves the assurance of ever-growing success.

Our Sages of the Talmud declare that the Mitzvah of the Chanukah Lights must be shared by the women no less than by the men, because women also contributed to the miraculous deliverance "in those days at this season." The Jewish women are particularly credited with the self-sacrificing determination to safeguard the sanctity of the Jewish home and the chastity of Jewish womanhood.

Nowadays, more than ever before, Jewish girls must be educated and trained to carry on their historic role in the preservation of the Jewish way of life and the preservation of our people. It is precisely for this purpose that the Beth Rivkah Schools for Girls were founded by my saintly father-in-law twenty years ago. I hope and pray that everyone will realize the personal responsibility and privilege to support the Beth Rivkah Schools in a growing measure, all the more so as such support is also a channel to receive G-d's blessings with increasing abundance, in all one's needs, materially and spiritually.

With the blessing of utmost success,


In the Days of Chanukah, 5721 [1960]

...Thank you very much for letting me know about your daughter's activities. I also hope that the health of your wife has improved considerably.

As we are at present in the auspicious days of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, which we observe, among other things, by lighting the Chanukah lights in growing numbers, may G-d send you and yours a growing measure of light and happiness and success in all matters connected with Ner Mitzvah v'Torah Or [a mitzva is a candle and Torah is light], which, as a matter of course, will bring you success and true happiness in all your affairs, both personal and communal.

Hoping to hear good news from you and wishing you a happy Chanukah.

With blessing,


15th of Teveth, 5721 [1961]

Blessing and Greeting:

I received your letter of the 8th day of Chanukah, in which you write about your birthday which is on the 13th of Teveth. I send you my prayerful wishes that your birthday usher in a year of success in all your affairs, both personal and general, and in an ever growing measure of light and true happiness, as symbolized by the lights of Chanukah.

May you, together with your husband, derive much Nachas, true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pleasure], from your children, as well as from those who benefit from your good work and influence in matters of Yiddishkeit.

With all good wishes for long life, good health and happiness, materially and spiritually, and with blessing,


Rambam this week

23 Kislev, 5766 - December 24, 2005

Positive Mitzva 95: The Nullification of Vows

(The exact source for this commandment is considered a matter of question by our Rabbinic Sages.) Sometimes, a person just cannot keep his promise or finds himself unable to fulfill his obligation. The Torah commands us to examine the situation. By dealing properly with the incident and judging the circumstances, it may be possible to absolve the vow.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The very first issue of L'Chaim rolled off the press in time to mark the end of the shloshim (thirty days after the passing) of our beloved Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka of righteous memory. L'Chaim was established upon the Rebbe's request that institutions be founded in the Rebbetzin's name. L'Chaim is an acronym "Lzecher Chaya Mushka."

Since then, L'Chaim has grown from a modest weekly newsletter read by a few thousand New Yorker's to a unique international Jewish educational publication that has filled a much needed void. But, more importantly, L'Chaim is a unifying factor amongst Jews, for it is read and appreciated by Jews from all walks of life, at all levels of Jewish education and commitment, throughout the United States and around the world.

L'Chaim's subscribers hail from nearly every state in the United States. Our international subscribers hail from France, Italy, South Africa, Holland, Israel, England, Peru, Brazil, Hungary, and Australia. Enjoying the electronic version of L'Chaim via the internet are readers in countries as diverse as: Jordon, China, Bosnia, Congo, Poland, Russia, Japan, Czech, Sweden, Germany, Scotland... the list goes on.

It gives me great pleasure to thank the able staff of L'Chaim for their devotion, dedication and hard work. In nine hundred issues they've never missed a deadline! Additional thank you's go to the staff of lchaimweekly.org who work diligently at maintaining L'Chaim's presence in Cyberspace.

Recognition goes, as well, to the Lubavitcher students in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, London, Manchester, Israel and other international cities, who spend their "free time" on Friday afternoons visiting people in their work places, encouraging them to put on tefilin or light Shabbat candles, and leaving them with the much enjoyed and appreciated L'Chaim.

It is my most fervent wish, and surely that of the entire L'Chaim staff and readership, that even before we reach the eighteen year anniversary of L'Chaim, all Jews will be reunited with each other and Moshiach in the final Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

Go now and see if it is well with your brothers (Gen. 37:14)

When Jacob sent Joseph to look for his brothers, he enjoined him to see only that which was "well" - the goodness and positive qualities they had. In such a way would the brothers maintain their unity.

(Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)


Reuven returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit (Gen. 37:29)

Reuven's absence allowed the other brothers to sell Joseph; had Reuven been present, he would not have permitted them to do it. And where was he? Rashi says Reuven was preoccupied with fasting and perfecting himself. Because he was concerned only with himself, Joseph was sold and the whole series of events was set in motion that would lead to our forefathers' exile in Egypt. An important lesson is learned: One must not be concerned solely with his own perfection to the exclusion of others. We must always have our fellow Jew in mind and truly love him, lest he be ignored in his time of need.

(Likutei Sichot)


And Joseph was brought down to Egypt (Gen. 39:1)

"He reigned over them," the Midrash relates, explaining that the word "brought down" is linguistically related to the word "reign." As proof of this, the Midrash cites a verse about Moshiach, "He shall reign from sea to sea." What is the connection between Joseph's descent into the cesspool of ancient Egypt, and the sovereignty of Moshiach? The Jewish history of exile actually began when Joseph was brought down to Egypt, and, as the prototype of all other exiles to follow, its true purpose was the elevation and ascent of the Jewish people which would follow its suffering. The objective of our present exile is likewise the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption.

(Sichot Kodesh)


He asked the officers of Pharaoh... "Why do you look so sad today?" (Gen. 40:7)

While in prison, Joseph was given the task of managing the daily affairs of the prison. Wasn't inquiring after sad and depressed prisoners beyond the call of duty? And wasn't it natural that these former high-ranking members of the royal staff would be saddened to find themselves reduced to such a sorry state? Joseph believed that every person should always be joyous, because he was created by G-d - the essence of goodness. When Joseph saw his unhappy fellow prisoners he wanted to help them. This one small action brought about his own release from prison, his appointment as second in command over all of Egypt, and saved the entire world during the years of famine that followed.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)


It Once Happened

by Yerachmiel Tilles

All of his Chasidim strove to be present when Rabbi David of Tolna kindled his Chanuka lights. It was a powerful event. The Rebbe would be intensely focused and in an exalted state and his Menora in itself was something quite impressive. It was made of pure gold, and magnificently crafted with intricate designs. The Chasidim who merited to be in the house would be inspired, and the nights of Chanuka would be filled with joyous festive songs and melodies.

"Do you bend over towards her or does she raise herself up to your height?"

One year, on the first night of Chanuka, just before the time to light the flame, the Rebbe was standing before the menorah, involved in his last-moment inner preparations. The crowd of chasidim pressed around him. Unexpectedly, the Rebbe turned to a certain chasid and said, "I know that your wife is quite short. When you need to speak to her, what do you do? Do you bend over towards her or does she raise herself up to your height?"

Immediately upon uttering this remarkable question, the Rebbe began his recital of the Chanuka blessings and lit his golden menora.

The astonished man to whom the Rebbe had directed his question, as well as all the other Chasidim of Tolna, were totally bewildered by the Rebbe's mysterious words. No one could even begin to suggest what the Rebbe could possibly have meant.

Standing among the Chasidim at the time was Rabbi Mordechai Dov of Hornsteipel, a grandson of one of the Rebbe's sisters, who was already known as a tzadik. He had come to visit with his relatives for a while. Seeing how perplexed the Chasidim were by their Rebbe's words, he cleared his throat and addressed them.

" The Divine Presence never descends lower than ten..."

"Shall I explain to you what my holy great-uncle said? It is taught in Kabbala that 'The Divine Presence never descends lower than ten tefachim (handbreadths) from the ground.' The one exception is the Chanuka light. According to its law, ideally it should be lit at a height of less than ten tefachim (about eighty centimeters/two feet, but higher than three tefachim) above the ground. Then the Divine Presence will descend to 'lower than ten.'

"The holy Ari of Safed stated that this secret of the descent of the Divine Presence is the mystical root of the Talmudic statement, 'If your wife is short, bend over and whisper to her.' It is this secret that the Rebbe, my great-uncle, wished to hint at and invoke with his words to that tall Chasid."

The next evening, when it was time to kindle the second light, the Rebbe of Tolna turned to a different Chasid, and again said something baffling that no one could penetrate. Then, as he turned back to the menora, he addressed his great-nephew and remarked, "This time you will not be able to decipher it for them."

And so it was.

Translated and freely adapted from Sipurei Chasidim-Festivals for www.AscentOfSafed.com. Yerachmiel Tilles is a founder of Ascent in Tzfas and director of www.KabbalaOnline.org

Moshiach Matters

Our Sages tell us that at the time of creation G-d saw that the light he created was too good for the wicked people of this world to enjoy and hid it for the righteous people that will live at the time of the coming of Moshiach and in the World to Come. The number of hours the light shone before it was hidden was exactly 36. Over the eight days of Chanuka we light exactly thirty six candles that correspond to these 36 hours of light. The holiday of Chanuka brings with it the pure rays of the light of creation that will reappear with the coming of Moshiach.

(Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha by Efraim Levine)


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