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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 907
                           Copyright (c) 2006
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        February 10, 2006      Beshalach         12 Shevat, 5766

                              Jewish Roots

Tu B'Shevat (the fifteenth of the Jewish month of Shevat) is just around
the corner. As kids, many of us saved our pennies and bought trees to be
planted in Israel in honor of Tu B'Shevat. We knew that it was the "New
Year for Trees," whatever that meant, but that was about it.

Or perhaps you celebrated Tu B'Shevat, by eating one or more of the
special fruits, according to the Torah, for which the Land of Israel is
renown: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

But why should people celebrate the New Year for Trees? Because,
according to the Torah itself, a person is similar to a tree. "For man
is like a tree in the field," we read in Deuteronomy. This likeness is
particularly noticeable in a spiritual sense.

A tree has roots, a trunk and branches, and fruit or seeds.

The roots are the means of obtaining the nourishing substances from the
earth necessary to the tree's life. It also provides a firm entrenchment
for the plant against the wind. It is by far the most important
life-giving agent of the plant, though the leaves also contribute toward
the nourishment of the tree.

The trunk and branches provide the main body of the tree, and clearly
mark the growth and development of the tree.

But the tree reaches perfection only upon producing a nut, or seed, or
seed-bearing fruit, for in it lies the potential for the procreation of
its kind, generation after generation.

How are these three components similar to a person's spiritual life?

The roots are his faith that link a Jew with his origin, and that
constantly obtain for him his spiritual nourishment.

The trunk and branches are the Torah and mitzvot (command-ments). These
must grow and expand even as the age of a tree increases from year to

And what of the fruit? The fruit more than anything else justifies the
existence of the tree. The fruits are the good deeds of the person,
those mitzvot that benefit others as well as self, and that have within
them the seeds that produce similar good deeds.

The roots of the Jew and his very link with the origin of this life lie
in his true faith in G-d and in all the fundamental principles of
Judaism. Unless the roots are firm, and firmly embedded in the soil, the
tree - despite its trunk and branches and leaves - will not withstand
the strong wind.

The development and advancement - and, in fact, the entire stature - of
the Jew can be seen through his good deeds, in the practice of the Torah
and the performance of mitzvot. Finally, his perfection comes through
the fruit, by benefitting others, and helping to perpetuate our great

                        Based on a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Torah portion, Beshalach is highlighted by the dramatic account of
the splitting of the Red Sea. At this momentous moment in Jewish
history, two songs receive mention - the Song of Moses with the men, and
the song of Miriam with the women.

The Haftora is the special weekly reading from the Prophets and
Writings, and was selected to reflect a main theme of the weekly
Torah-reading. There are two portions which would have been suitable for
this week's Haftora reading, following the reading of Moses' song and
Miriam's song. One is the Song of David, a man, and the other is the
Song of Devora (Deborah the Judge and Prophetess), a woman. It is the
Song of Devora (recorded in the book of Judges) that was chosen to be
read as the Haftora.

The choice of this Haftora underlines the fact that there are certain
areas in Jewish life in which the Jewish woman has a particularly
crucial role and responsibility. One such area is to lead and ensure
that the home is a Jewish home, in the very fullest sense, a home
permeated with the light and warmth of Judaism.

When we examine the historical background of the songs of Moses, Miriam
and Devora, an interesting and important distinction comes to light. The
Torah portion we read this week, in which Moses' and Miriam's songs
appear, is describing a period in which the Jews were in the desert on
their way to conquer the land of Israel, to gain a home for themselves.
In such a time, the men led; it is the Song of Moses that receives the
most prominent and detailed mention.

The Haftora however, describes events taking place when the Jews were
already in Israel. It was necessary to defend our homeland - and
maintain the "Jewish home." It is Devora's song that is most significant
here. And it is Devora, a Prophetess and Judge, who leads the Jewish
army into battle to fight for the Jewish home. Barak, the general of her
army, is secondary and insignificant to her!

And so it is in all generations. In maintaining, supporting and
defending the basic fundamentals of the Jewish home, the woman  - "The
foundation of the home" - leads the way.

      From "A Thought for the Week" Detroit. Adapted from the works
               of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi Y. M. Kagan o.b.m.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                     Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
                     Helping People Without a Home
                           by Boruch Jacobson

You sit on the subway, a young woman enters. She might be 30 years old
but she sounds like she is 90. She says: "Good evening ladies and
gentlemen, my name is Debra... I have no home, I am hungry, trying to
get something to eat. Please help me!..."

Some passengers drop quarters and dollars into her worn-out cup. She
smiles and thanks them and quickly disappears into the next train car.

You might ask, why do I bother to write about this episode? Hundreds of
beggars roam the streets of New York in a struggle to survive. Some of
them collect cans and bottles, others look for food in garbage cans so
as not to starve. Unfortunately it is as common to see peddlers and
hungry people, as it is to see taxi drivers and mail-deliverers.

What should I do about my naivete? As many times as I see street ridden
people, I still can't believe that within our luxurious society there
are hundreds and thousands of miserable people living in the gutters and
in the cold.

My curiosity about these shadowy people began when I was a young child.
I recall driving through the Bowery with my dad and watching old men
approach our car, offering to wash the windshield. My father would
always roll down the window and give them a nickel or a dime.

"Who are these people?" I asked. (Those who knew my father, Reb Gershon
Jacobson, the editor and publisher of the Algemeiner Journal, will
appreciate his answer.)

"They're bums," my father answered.

"So why are you giving them money?" I asked.

"Because this is how they make a living!" he answered.

When I was a rabbinical student, one freezing Saturday night I was
returning from New York to my studies at the Rabbinical College of
America in Morristown, New Jersey. My friends and I stopped for pizza
and then drove down Canal Street to the Holland Tunnel. As we stopped
for a red light, I noticed a beggar standing at the corner holding out
his hat.

There was one hot slice of pizza left in the box. I rolled down the
window, said good evening to the man and handed him the box with the
slice of kosher pizza. We all watched to see what he would do. He walked
over to the other paupers who were sleeping in cardboard boxes. He woke
them up and mumbled "hot pizza." There were four of them, three men and
a woman. They divided the slice of pizza among themselves equally. The
light changed and we drove off feeling sorry yet amazed.

I recall another story. When I was studying in Los Angeles, I went with
my friend Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Brafman to do laundry. In the laundromat
there were always derelicts and bag-ladies. On this particular night, a
man about 35 years of age, was going through the garbage. I noticed that
he found an empty container of milk and tried squeezing a drop of milk
into his mouth. I approached the man and said: "Excuse me sir, but would
you mind if I asked you a question?" He said: "Go ahead." I asked him:
"When was the last time you had a real cup of milk?" he shrugged his
shoulders, grinned and responded: "When I was five years old."

I gave him some money and told him to go next door and buy a container
of milk and a piece of cake. He returned a few moments later and asked
if he could take a container of chocolate milk.

"Absolutely," I said.

This act of charity cost me a dollar and change.

When I returned to the laundromat, my friend said to me: "You know,
Boruch, I just found a dollar." I said: "Wow, Chaim, you are a rich man!
But that dollar really belongs to me; I just spent a buck helping a poor
man, so heaven returned it to me."

Some people are scared to give charity because their funds might be
depleted. Nonsense, I say. The more you give the more you get.

Others argue that we must be cautious when distributing charity, to make
sure the funds are allocated properly. But sometimes it is a life or
death situation. One of the reasons we don't make a blessing on the
mitzva (commandment) of giving charity, like on all other mitzvot, is
because if we pause even for a minute, the beggar might be gone.

Most importantly, charity is accomplished not only by distributing
money, but in many other ways - by giving advice, educating a fellow
human being, visiting the sick, having guests for a meal, returning lost
property. Sometimes even a simple smile can be a great act of giving.

There is a story about Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (1834-1882) and his
wife, Rebbetzin Rivkah. Rabbi Shmuel would travel often, sometimes his
wife would travel with him, and on several occasions his wife stayed
home. Before departing, Rabbi Shmuel would give Rebbetzin Rivkah money
for all the necessary living expenses, including large sums for
distributing to charity. Being that Rebbetzin Rivkah was very generous,
the charity allowance would run out quickly, and she would pawn off her
personal belongings to earn extra charity funds for the poor.

On his return, Rabbi Shmuel would immediately ask his wife where she
sold her belongings and gladly redeem every last item.

We might not all be able to emulate this type of generosity. But surely
we can afford a dollar a day, or a loaf of bread, or at least a smile
and a word of encouragement, to our friends, our neighbors or a stranger
in the dark.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested something beautiful and powerful: Every
kitchen should have a charity box, to remind us before each meal that
there are needy people who don't enjoy three meals a day, or even a
kitchen. We ought to help them any way we can.

Rabbi Boruch Jacobson is the Program director of Chabad of Hunter
College. He can be contacted at Chabad of the Upper East Side (212)
717-4613 x 12 or by email Visit to find out about current events on campus. This
article first appeared in the Alegemeiner Journal.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                             New Emissaries

Six couples have joined the ever-growing family of emissaries of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Mendel and Henya Matusof are moving to Madison,
Wisconsin to start a Center at the University of Wisconsin. Rabbi Shmuly
and Raizy Metzger are moving to Manhattan to start a Center serving
Sutton Place, Beekman and Clinton. Rabbi Mendel and Chana Silberstein
are moving to Westchester County, New York to start a Center serving
Larchmont and Mamaroneck. Rabbi Yossi and Estee Butman are also moving
to Westchester County to start a Center serving Armonk, Chappaqua and
Pleasantville. Rabbi Yisroel and Rochel Freeman have moved to Sudbury,
Massachusetts to start a Center serving Sudbury, Marlborough and Hudson.
Rabbi Zalman and Chana Teldon are moving to Long Island, NY to enhance
programming throughout Long Island.

                            THE REBBE WRITES

    Translated from a letter of the Rebbe to the participants in the 2nd
    European Convention of Lubavitch Women's and Girls' groups
                       15th of Teves 5739 (1979)

Blessing and Greeting:

...The theme of the Convention ["Roots"] is meaningful in many ways,
reflecting the vital functions of roots in the world of plants by way of
instructive analogy for our Jewish roots, which - as our Sages declare -
are our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the founders of our people. To
mention some of the most basic functions of roots:

The roots are, of course, the source of vitality of the plant, from the
moment of its birth when the seed takes root, and thereafter, bringing
it to fruition and constantly nourishing it throughout its life with the
vital elements of water and minerals, etc., from the soil.

While the roots must work also for their own existence, growth,
development and strength, their main function is to nourish the plant
and ensure its full development, as well as its regenerative powers
through the production of fruits and the fruits of fruits. At the same
time the roots provide a firm base and anchorage for the plant, so as
not to be swept away by strong winds and other elements.

It is in the sense of these basic functions of physical roots that we
understand our spiritual roots.

The "primary roots" of our Jewish people are, as mentioned above, our
Patriarchs, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, as our Sages declare: "Only
three are called Ovos (Fathers)." On the maternal side, our primary
roots are our Mothers, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah. Each of these
founders and builders of the House of Israel contributed a distinctive
quality, which, blended together, produced the unique character of our
Jewish people.

Most typical - and original (in the sense of parentage) - is Avrohom
Ovinu, of whom it is written, "One was Avrohom," for he was one and only
in his generation who recognized the oneness of G-d and, with complete
self-sacrifice, proclaimed the Unity of G-d (pure monotheism) to a world
steeped in polytheism and idolatry.

His progeny, the Jewish people, is still unique in carrying on his work
- a small minority in a world which has many gods. He is from whom we
inherited, and derive strength from, the quality of Mesiras Nefesh
[self-sacrifice], as well as the supreme obligation to pass on our
heritage to our children; for it was his greatest merit in his devotion
and total dedication to G-d that "he bequeathed to his children and
household after him to keep the way of G-d."

By referring to our Ovos as "roots", our Sages indicate a further
essential aspect of roots that goes beyond the role of parents. To be
sure, parents give birth to children and transmit to them some of their
own physical, mental and spiritual qualities. But children are not
directly dependent on their parents for survival; they can move away
from their parents and from their parental home, and continue to thrive
also after their parents are gone. But this is not so in the case of a
plant and its roots. The roots are absolutely indispensable to the
plant's existence and their vitalizing influence must flow continuously
to keep the plant alive and thriving. In the same way our Fathers and
Mothers must always vitalize and animate our own lives.

Every Jew should realize that he or she is an integral part of the great
"root system" that began with our Patriarchs and Matriarchs and
continued to thrive through the ages, nourishing and sustaining our
people, whom G-d calls "a branch of My planting, the work of My hands,
to take pride in them."

Yet, sad to say, there are some Jews who, for one reason or another, are
not aware of their roots, and some whose roots have become so atrophied
as to be in danger of becoming completely withered, G-d forbid. It is
therefore up to the healthy plants and roots to work all the harder to
revive and strengthen the others, and help them rediscover their
identity and place within the root system of our unique people....

With prayerful wishes to each and all of you to go from strength to
strength in all above, and With blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
16 Shevat, 5766 - February 14, 2006

Positive Mitzva 29: The perpetual fire on the Altar

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 6:6) "There shall always be fire
burning on the altar" Among the miracles that took place in the Holy
Temple was that a heavenly fire came down on the altar and burned the
sacrifices. This showed G-d's acceptance of the service. Even though a
divine fire appeared, the priests are commanded to light a man-made
fire, as G-d does not want us to rely on miracles. Rather, we must do
our part and perform the natural actions. The "Ner Tamid" (which means
"everlasting light") of today's synagogues, is a reminder of the fire on
the altar.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Shira" because in this week's Torah
portion, B'Shalach, we read of the special song of praise that the
Jewish people sang after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.

The Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Yehuda Lowe (known to many as the creator
of the legendary Golem of Prague) had a special custom for Shabbat
Shira. He asked all of the teachers and parents to bring their children
to the synagogue courtyard to retell the story of the Splitting of the
Red Sea.

The teachers would relate how the birds sang and danced with Moses and
the Jews during the "Song of the Sea," and how the little children
plucked fruits from the trees that grew in the sea-bed and gave them to
the birds.

After this, the Maharal instructed the children to give groats to the
birds in the courtyard in remembrance of the fruits that the children
gave the birds at the sea. At the end of the gathering, the Maharal
blessed the children, and wished the parents success in meriting to
raise their children "to Torah, to Marriage and to good deeds."

To this very day, it is customary to put outside groats ("kasha") for
the birds on the eve of Shabbat so that the birds will be able to enjoy
them on Shabbat.

May this Shabbat be a true Shabbat of song, when we will sing the most
beautiful song of all, that of the long-awaited Redemption with the
revelation of Moshiach, NOW!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Then Moses and the Children of Israel sang (yashir) this song... (Ex.

Although this verse is most commonly translated as above, the literal
translation of the word yashir is "will sing." According to the Midrash,
"From here - the use of the future tense yashir - there is an allusion
in the Torah to the resurrection of the dead at the time of the


                                *  *  *

Rabbi Eliezer says, "Anyone who recites the song of Moses now before the
redemption, will merit to recite it in the future, in the Messianic

                                                    (Torah Shleima)

                                *  *  *

Our Sages tell us that the Jewish people will sing a total of ten songs
of praise to G-d. Nine songs have already been sung throughout Jewish
history; the tenth song will be sung when Moshiach comes. For each of
the first nine songs, the Torah uses the feminine form of the word
"song" which is "shira." The song of redemption is referred to in the
masculine, "shir." Why the difference? All previous redemptions were
followed by exile once again they were not permanent. This is like a
woman who gives birth. After experiencing the pain of birth, she finally
is rewarded with a child. With her next pregnancy, she once again labors
and is again "rewarded" with a child. So too with each redemption; the
Jewish people suffer and then are redeemed. The final redemption,
however, will be permanent, never to be followed by another exile. At
that time we will sing the tenth song (shir), the song of redemption.

                    (Discover Moshiach: Mechilta, Shmot Raba 23:11)

                                *  *  *

And the Children of Israel ate the manna for forty years (Ex. 16:36)

When Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk was a boy studying about the manna that the
Jews ate, he asked his teacher: "If each and every person received his
sustenance in abundance through the manna, how did the Jews perform the
mitzva (commandment) of charity?" Before his teacher could give a reply,
the young student offered his own answer: "It would seem that they
fulfilled the mitzva of charity with words of wisdom and knowledge; one
who had greater Torah knowledge "gave charity" by teaching someone who
had less knowledge.

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
In a village near Liozna lived a widow with her son and two daughters.
The children helped their mother manage the family inn. By and by, the
eldest daughter married a young man, Velvel, who was very learned in
Torah, but also very conceited.

One of the frequent callers at the inn was the parish priest. He spent
many hours in religious debate with Velvel. The young scholar always
won, which only served to feed his haughtiness. Even when the priest
brought along two of his colleagues to verbally spar with him, Velvel
held his own.

After one of their debates, the priest mentioned that the bishop of
Vitebsk wanted to meet the young scholar. Velvel was persuaded to go to

The honor accorded Velvel in the Vitebsk was beyond his wildest dreams.
He met with the bishop and out-argued him point by point. One of the
senior clerics convinced Velvel to remain for a few days in Vitebsk and
help other members of the clergy sharpen their debating skills. Velvel
never dreamed that he could be shown so much honor. The innumerable
compliments fed his ego even further.

Velvel returned to the inn, with no one the wiser of how he had spent
the past few days. Some weeks later, a group of prominent Torah scholars
stopped at the inn. They became involved in a learned discussion and the
over-confident Velvel gave his opinions, though never once asked. An
elderly scholar smiled at Velvel and said, "A young man should learn to
listen to what his elders have to say, and to regard Torah scholars with

Velvel took great offense at these words. He thought, "Who are these men
who are not showing me due honor? I have even bettered the bishop in
religious debate!"

Several weeks later, Velvel disappeared. His family received a letter
from him saying that he was living in Vitebsk where honors were being
heaped upon him by the bishop of the city. The bishop had assured him
that he would become a great dignitary if he would join them.

The family was thrown into turmoil. They set out immediately to Rabbi
Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism) in Liozna. They burst into
the synagogue and cried out, "Rebbe, help us! Velvel wants to

The Rebbe simply said, "I cannot help you. But I will tell you a story
that took place while I was in Mezritch.

"In the winter of 1769, a young man was overcome with the desire to be
baptized. He went to the local priest who began arranging everything.
The young man's father ran to my Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch and
cried: 'Rebbe, rescue my son from baptism!'

"The Maggid listened to the story that the broken-hearted father told
and then, after a few minutes, began to expound on the verse, 'If a
person should sin and commit a trespass against G-d'" And then, Reb
Shneur Zalman repeated the discourse as he had heard it from the Maggid.

Then, Rabbi Shneur Zalman continued to recount the incident: "When the
Maggid was finished, he told ten of his Chasidim to stay awake all
night, reciting Psalms until dawn. I was one of the ten. At noon, the
young man wandered into our synagogue. No one asked him what had
happened. He stayed with us for a few days, spoke privately with the
Rebbe, then went home." Reb Shneur Zalman completed the story and went
back into his study.

The Rebbe's Chasidim immediately chose a quorum of ten men and spent the
whole night awake, saying Psalms. The widow and her daughter returned
home and soon after that a young man appeared in the synagogue. He sat
down with the others, and with tears, recited Psalms. The Chasidim knew
who the young man was, but no one breathed a word.

The young man spent the entire week in Liozna, and the following week,
after speaking privately with the Rebbe, he returned home. A few weeks
later, he and his family moved to another town. He remained close with
Rabbi Shneur Zalman and became one of his worthy Chasidim.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Through developing a spiritual service that relates to the special
qualities of the seven fruits by which the land of Israel was blessed,
and by spreading these concepts with others so they can do the same, we
will merit to proceed to the Land of Israel, to Jerusalem, and to the
Holy Temple. May this take place in the immediate future.

   (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, the evening following Tu B'Shevat, 1992)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 907 - Beshalach 5766

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