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L'Chaim
January 6, 2006 - 6 Tevet, 5766

902: Vayigash

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  901: Miketz903: Vayechi  

Moving Out, Moving On  |  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

Moving Out, Moving On

If you've ever had to move, you know that it's a mix of emotions. Whether you're just moving across town (you finally bought a house) or across the country (you've got a new job), you're relocating to be near the grandchildren, the hassles, irritants and details remain the same.

The internet has simplified things somewhat. You can change your address online, set up phone service, etc. Even so, you better have a checklist of utilities and services to be turned on and turned off. And you still have to worry about checking accounts - when to close and where to open.

And that's the easy part. The worst part is the packing. If you hire movers, you have to watch them every step of the way. And you still have to pack some things yourself. Oy, the packing! Throw it away or take it with you? Do you have enough boxes? How could we run out of packing tape?

Finally, it's time to say goodbye. You're leaving behind a lot of memories and, glad as you may be to leave, there's a tinge of regret.

Now, though, it's time to move on. It's a challenge and it's scary, ok, exciting in a way, but still, it has to be scary because you don't know what and were you will be. And the unknown is always a bit scary.

But you know this much and of this much you're sure: you can't move on until you move out.

This process - packing up, letting go, moving out, moving on - describes how we grow as Jews. As we learn more Torah, begin to observe more mitzvot (commandments), we find ourselves "moving out" of our former lifestyle. We have to decide what we will "pack up" and take with us - what material objects, what attachments, what ideas, what emotions - and what we need to leave behind, what we should let go because it will be a burden or it's just not necessary any more.

And then we have to actually make the move - move out from where we were and move on to where we will be.

As we move toward Redemption, we must follow the same procedure. Bringing Moshiach requires us to "move out and move on." Of course, much of what we've accumulated in our "pre-Moshiach" state we not only want to take with us, we should take with us. Friendships, Torah study, mitzvot we're observing, acts of goodness and kindness, even the material objects that help us civilize the world, make it a dwelling place for G-dliness - these we take with us.

But before we move - move out of a "pre-Moshiach" mode and move on to a "Moshiach lifestyle" - we have to get rid of the junk we've accumulated - the emotional baggage (petty jealousies, for example), the outmoded ideas (yes, we really can live without checking our email on Shabbat).

Yes, moving on to a Moshiach mind-set can be a challenge, and a bit scary because we haven't been there before and it's not exactly clear where "there" will be. Still, when it's time to leave a place, we get a restless feeling, a sense that we've gone as far as we can go.

Sometimes, of course, we ignore our intuition until events force us to recognize that indeed, it's time to move out. Time to move out of exile and move on to Redemption.


Living with the Rebbe

The Jewish nation has endured four exiles: The first in Egypt, the second in Babylonia, the third in Assyria. The fourth and final exile is the one we have been in for the last two thousand years, the "exile of Edom." (Edom stands for Rome, and symbolizes the countries of the Western world.)

The Torah portion of Vayigash delineates the beginning of the Jewish people's journey into exile. G-d appeared to Jacob and promised, "I will descend with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again." Bolstered by this promise, Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt and began the Jewish people's 210-year sojourn there.

In many respects the exile in Egypt was the harshest of all the exiles; it occurred before the giving of the Torah, which afforded future generations the strength to withstand the suffering. Also, as with other painful experiences, the first time it occurs the wound is always the deepest and the hardest to overcome.

In addition, the Jews' exile in Egypt differed from future ones in that all Jews were involved. Later exiles found Jews scattered all over the world, assuring that whenever Jews were discriminated against in one country there were other lands in which they enjoyed relative freedom, and could come to the aid of their brethren.

Furthermore, Egypt itself was a land that posed particular difficulties. Not only was it spiritually corrupt, but our Sages describe it as a fortified country from which not even one slave could escape.

This first and most difficult exile served one positive purpose - to act as preparation for the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Egypt was the crucible in which the Jewish nation was purified and made worthy of the Torah.

We learn this from the Hebrew name for Egypt, "Mitzrayim," which comes from the word meaning "limitation" and "constriction."

When water's flow is artificially blocked by placing an obstruction in its path, the water flows even more forcefully because of the temporary impasse. When one's thumb is held over the tap to partially obstruct the flow, the water shoots out that much more forcefully from the faucet.

Such is the Divine purpose of our exile, to uncover within every Jew the hidden strengths and stores of faith that are in the Jewish soul. The difficulties and pressures of the exile cause these inner qualities and self-sacrifice to be revealed.

The experience of exile can be used for our maximum benefit - to strengthen our commitment to Torah and mitzvot. Just as the Jews eventually left Egypt victorious and with "great wealth," and were worthy of receiving the Torah, may we be worthy to usher in the Messianic era, now.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

Rediscovering Judaism
by Tim Collie

Like many Jewish Russians his age, 28-year-old Alexander Kaller often teaches his parents and elders about their heritage - a religion and culture forbidden for much of their lives.

A rabbi at one of the few Russian-language synagogues in South Florida, in a Sunny Isles strip mall, Kaller came of age as the Soviet Union collapsed and government repression of Jews disintegrated.

He's old enough to remember student files and an internal passport labeling him as Jewish but young enough to have had a religious education that his parents and grandparents never could have enjoyed under the Soviet system.

"We almost lost Judaism in Russia; another generation of communism and most Jews would have lost all knowledge of Jewishness," said Kaller, a rabbi in the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement who moved to South Florida three years ago. "But in Russia today, in Moscow, you have a renaissance with synagogues that are busy and blossoming and booming."

Once considered hostile to Jewish culture, Russia now is experiencing a remarkable resurgence in Judaism, and has become the driving force behind the growth of Jewish communities across Eastern and Western Europe.

Kaller straddles two worlds, traveling frequently these days to a Russia in the midst of a Jewish renaissance while ministering to many émigrés in Florida who are rediscovering their Jewish roots.

Sitting in his office in Sunny Isles, Kaller explained that he was not circumcised until he was 14. And his experience was not uncommon. A bris - the traditional circumcision ceremony conducted on a boy's eighth day of life - could land a father in jail in the former Soviet Union.

"We just recently did circumcisions on one guy who was 20, another who was 30 and a third who was 59," said Kaller. "In Russia, I directed a Jewish boys' camp and we circumcised over 50 kids."

"Only a decade ago most people wouldn't even admit they were Jewish; it was too dangerous, it could cost you a job or an apartment," explained Rabbi Berl Lazar. "But today people have no problem telling people they are Jewish, showing up and getting involved in Jewish community centers and synagogues.

"The result is that the roles are reversed: It is the young who are leading the way for the mothers and fathers," Lazar said. Lazar is one of the most influential Jewish leader in Russia today.

He's also a rabbi in the 200-year-old Chabad Lubavitch movement, a branch of Judaism that is driving the reconstruction of many Jewish communities throughout Eastern and Western Europe. Chabad has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into rebuilding synagogues and community centers, recovering lost Torahs and staffing communities with rabbis.

"Chabad was always in Russia, they were the hardcore who were always practicing underground, and that gives them the credibility," said Kaller. "They're the reason I turned to Judaism. It was Chabad programs that sparked my interest, gave me the guidance I needed."

Although his parents never lost their Jewish identity - it was, after all, stamped in their passports - they were not religious and knew very little about Jewish culture. When their son began attending a Jewish religious program in Moscow, they began learning more.

"I started to become religious around 14 or 15 and it was very hard for my parents to understand," Kaller recalled. "It was kind of strange and odd to them. They were always very nervous, because it wasn't the best career field to go into. Now it's more me influencing them to become a little bit more observant and be more active in terms of their Judaism."

Kaller's father, Yacov, said the family had good reasons to keep their faith private. As a young man applying to technical schools, Yacov Kaller was rejected over and over again because he was Jewish. He finally applied to a film school and became a successful producer in the Soviet film industry.

"It's very hard to understand those times now," said Yacov Kaller, 58, in an interview at his apartment in Moscow. "But I remember one time going to a local synagogue, just because I was curious. It was during Rosh Hashana. It was around 1967, the time of the Six-Day War."

"What happened in Israel got me thinking about being Jewish, so I decided to go to the synagogue," Yacov Kaller said. "I went there at night. The very next morning the dean of the university called me in and told me he knew what I had done. I had been watched and spotted going there. He said, 'Do you really need to be doing this?' He made it very clear to me that if I wanted to stay in school and have a career it wasn't a good idea to stay there."

That sounds like ancient history to Alexander Kaller's younger sister, Anya, who, like many younger Jewish Russians, once dreamed of immigrating to Israel or South Florida. Now she wants to stay in Russia. She's a psychology student at the Higher School of Economics, works part-time for the Jewish Agency in Moscow and doesn't see being Jewish as an obstacle. In fact, she said, it may be an advantage.

"People in my university always tell me it's cool to be Jewish - they're very curious about it," said Anya Kaller, 18. "I've had friends who immigrated to Israel and now they want to come back. They miss this place so much.

"Five years ago, I wanted to ... leave for Israel or the States but not anymore," she added. "I don't want to live anywhere else. I love this country, I love being Jewish here. I don't want to be Jewish anywhere else."

Excerpted and reprinted from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel


What's New

Two New Chabad Centers

Pudong, China

Rabbi Avrohom and Nechamie Greenberg will be arriving soon in the Far East. They will be opening a Chabad House in Pudong, Shanghai in China. Pudong has recently become the city of choice for Jewish businessmen to move to when their business ventures require relocating to China. The new emissaries will be involved with these families as well as the local Jewish community

Washington Heights, NYC

Rabbi Yakov and Elisheva Kirschenbaum recently moved to the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City where they have establishing a new Chabad House in the community.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letter to (then) member of Knesset of the Techiya Party, Geulah Cohen

19 Sivan, 5729 (1969)

Blessings and Greetings!

... I wonder a bit about your surprise that in certain circles, myself among them, the title "State of Israel" was never accepted. The reason is quite easy to understand: The land of Canaan was given as an inheritance to the Nation of Israel beginning with the covenant between G-d and Abraham. The name "Land of Israel" was then established, in place of the name "Land of Canaan." So has it been fixed for thousands of years. This is firmly grounded in the Torah, and is rooted in the vocabulary of the entire nation, from young to old. Such matters are not subject to the vote of the majority, the outcome of which is liable to change from time to time (this change being, naturally, capricious). After all the various incidents and changes which have occurred recently - for better, or, painfully, for the opposite - it is also impossible to be confident about the present change. Actually, such conjecture whether or not to accept the new title is quite unnecessary since in my opinion, as I mentioned, the matter is not given to determination by referendum. Just as the name of the "Nation of Israel" is not subject to vote in order to determine whether the Jewish People shall be referred to as they are in the Torah - The "Nation of Israel," or the "Nation of Canaan," etc. - so it is regarding the "Land of Israel."

Assume one were to raise an additional point: suppose a new title for the land were necessary. Such an addition weakens the claim and ownership of the Nation of Israel over the Land of Israel, including even the confined area which was liberated in 1948, because:

  1. a new name gives the entire entity the appearance of being something novel, which was only born in 1948. Thus, inevitably, Jewish claim and ownership over the land also began only then. There is at least a shade of connotation of novelty - the diametric opposite of the Torah's stance as represented by Rashi in the opening of his explanation of the Torah.

    Here I stress that the custom of our nation from time immemorial has been that a five-year-old begins studying the Five Books of Moses.

    This means that Rashi's words are directed to the Children of Israel beginning at age five:

    "If the nations of the world should say to the Jews 'You are thieves, for you have conquered the land of the seven nations,' the Children of Israel should answer them: 'The whole world belongs to the Holy One; at will He gave it to them, and at will He took it from them and gave it to us.'"

    You are most certainly aware that many, many nations have made this claim, even in our times. I have not found a single answer to this claim besides the most ancient traditional one found in the words of our sages.

  2. Some say that this term, "State of Israel" is another manifestation of the general approach and plan to become "like the nations of the world." This theory has already claimed many lives, both physical and spiritual - and to our anguish continues to wreak destruction among the sons and daughters of Israel.

    I am especially surprised that you should be the one to raise such an argument. Until now, I had been positive that you were counted among those who say that the Land of Israel belongs to the Nation of Israel, and that its borders are specifically delineated in the Torah. In Parshas Masei it is written: "All these shall be your boundaries on all sides." Yet "because of our sins we were exiled from our land and driven far from our soil" - but even during the exile it is still our land and our soil. This title, "State of Israel," allows room to label parts of the Land of Israel as no more than "territories" which were "conquered" by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Six Day War. Furthermore, the entire concept of conquest implies seizing the land by force from its owners through one's own superior military prowess.

    I do not wish to speak at length about this painful subject, mainly because the general cause for it is the approach of wanting to be like all the nations. Certainly my comments are not necessary, for you surely read about it in the newspapers and books which are available in the Land of Canaan (- according to the writers of those articles and books; it is just that some of them say this openly, and others only hint that this is their intention).

... May it be G-d's Will that you send along positive news concerning all the above, as we discussed during your visit here.

With Respect and Blessing,

From "When Silence is a Sin" published by Sichos In English


Rambam this week

11 Tevet, 5766 - January 11, 2006

Positive Mitzvah 127: The First Tithe

This mitzva is based on the verse (Num. 18:24) "But the tithes of the Children of Israel which they offer as a gift" We are commanded to give a tenth of all the land's produce to the Levites. The Levites were not given an inheritance of land as were the other tribes. Instead, this share of our crop is considered their inheritance. Since there are other types of "tithes," (which means: a tenth of the amount), this one is called: "The First Tithe."


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

When was the beginning of the destruction of the first Holy Temple? The destruction began place when the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem on the 10th of Tevet, January 10 this year. This day is traditionally designated as a fast day.

But this year, G-d willing, maybe we'll "break with tradition"; maybe we won't fast! Maybe we won't shed bitter tears and mourn for the Holy Temple's destruction! How could this possibly be?

When Moshiach comes - may he arrive before the 10th of Tevet - we will no longer fast on the three days designated to commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Rather, these days will become days of rejoicing, gladness and festivity.

How can we turn this dream into a reality? The Lubavitcher Rebbe repeatedly emphasized that each and every individual can hasten Moshiach's arrival. How can this be accomplished? By increasing our acts of kindness, goodness and tzedaka; by actively awaiting his arrival at any moment; by preparing ourselves to greet him; by learning more about Moshiach and the Ultimate Redemption.

A viable suggestion toward this end would be that each time we do an additional act of kindness, or goodness, give tzedaka or do mitzvot, we do so with the intent of hastening the Final Redemption. By doing this ourselves and encouraging those around us to do so the same, we will bring Moshiach that much closer.


Thoughts that Count

And you shall tell my father of all my honor in Egypt (Gen. 45:13)

"Tell my father not to worry," Joseph requested of his brothers. "All the honor and respect heaped upon me by the Egyptians has not had a negative effect. It has not made me lose the humility necessary to worship G-d properly."

(Gedolei HaChasidut)


And he saw all the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him (Gen. 45:27)

Rashi comments that with these wagons Joseph alluded to the very last subject in Torah he had learned with his father Jacob before being sold into slavery, that of the egla arufa (beheaded heifer). When Jacob saw the wagons (agalot - the same root word as egla), he realized that his son was sending the message that he had not forgotten all that he had learned with his father so many years ago. We see from this that seemingly insignificant actions of the righteous are fraught with meaning and serve as lessons and examples for those who take heed.

(Maayana Shel Torah)


My lord asked his servants, "Do you have a father or a brother?" (Gen. 44:19)

Judah tried, with this statement, to disprove Joseph's contention that the "stolen" cup magically told him everything. "If your cup is really magic and you already know all about us, why did you ask so many questions about our family?" claimed Judah.

(Sefer Darush)


Here is seed for you; and you shall sow the land (Gen. 47:23)

The righteous Joseph, the spiritual leader of every generation, gives each of us the encouragement and strength we need to worship G-d. But we must not rely solely on that which we receive from the tzadik; we must also sow the seeds we are given.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


It Once Happened

A Jew who lived in Vitebsk, White Russia, had always enjoyed good health, but one day he suddenly fell ill. He did not know what was wrong with him and despite the various remedies he took, he became worse from day to day. He saw a doctor, who prescribed a medicine, but that did not help him either. Finally, he decided to see the greatest doctor in town, who was known as the Professor, reputedly the greatest medical specialist in the whole region.

The Professor gave the patient a very thorough examination, asked him many questions, and then told him he was sorry he could not help him. "Only G-d can help you," he said gravely.

Understandably the poor Jew was greatly alarmed.

Then he remembered hearing that in the nearby small town, Liozna, there was a saintly Rebbe who had helped many people. So he set off for Liozna to visit this great man, the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

Arriving at the Rebbe's house he found many other Jews waiting. He was admitted to see the Rebbe among the first ones on the list.

When he came into the presence of the Rebbe, he could not hold back his tears, and poured out his heart describing his desperate condition, begging the Rebbe to help him for the sake of his wife and children.

The Rebbe replied, "A doctor's job is to heal, and not to make his patient feel worse. Actually your condition is not at all serious; it is just a kind of fever and will pass."

Astonished, the Jew asked, "But Rebbe, if it is a fever shouldn't I be shivering?"

"So you well shiver," answered the Rebbe, reassuringly.

The Jew could hardly believe what he had heard and was, of course, overjoyed.

No sooner had he left the Rebbe than he felt cold, and began to shiver slightly. And, as he continued on his way home, the shivering increased. As soon as he got home, he went straight to bed.

He stayed in bed for a few days, and then suddenly the shivering stopped. He felt so much better that he was soon able to get out of bed, feeling like a new man!

Some time later, as the Jew was walking down the street, he came face to face with the professor, who recognized him at once. "Aren't you the patient who came to see me some time ago, critically ill?" the Professor asked him.

"Yes, sir," answered the man.

"I am certainly delighted to see you looking so well," the professor continued. "Tell me, my friend, what happened to bring about such an unexpected recover, and what medicine did you take?"

The Jew told him that after the professor had given him up, he went to see the famed Rebbe in Liozna, who told him that his illness was nothing but a kind of fever.

"That I also knew," said the doctor. "But a fever can be extremely dangerous unless it develops into hot and cold shivering. For that is the way the body can rid itself of the sickness. The trouble with you was that you showed no signs of shivering. I knew of no medicine that that could bring about such shivering. That is why I told you I could not help you."

"As a matter of fact, when the Rebbe told me I had a fever, I asked him, 'If I have a fever, would I not be shivering?' to which he replied, 'So you will shiver.' And sure enough no sooner did I leave the Rebbe's presence than I began to shiver. I got into bed and shivered hot and cold for several days. Then, with G-d's help I recovered completely from my illness."

"'With G-d's help' you said. Wasn't that what I also told you, 'I cannot help you, only G-d can help you!"' the professor exclaimed happily.

All smiles, the professor and his erstwhile patient shook hands, wishing each other good health.

Added the professor, "Some day I hope to see your Rebbe, but not in a professional capacity. No doubt he can do more for me than I for him."

Reprinted from Talks and Tales, Kehot Publications


Moshiach Matters

"Even though a number of verses foretell that there will be great wars, including the wars of Gog and Magog, at the time of the coming of Moshiach, through his prayers, Rebbe Elimelech secured an assurance from Heaven that at that time there will be no wars; rather, the miller will be standing with his measuring vessel in hand, selling his flour, and the clothier will be standing with his measuring tape, selling his fabrics - and all of a sudden Eliyahu will arrive and announce: 'Behold, Moshiach has come!'"

(Sefer Shomer Emunim)


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