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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 943
                           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.
        November 3, 2006       Lech-Lecha      12 Cheshvan, 5767

                             The Set Table

It's a task we've all performed, setting the table. Sometimes it's just
a chore, but sometimes setting the table gets us excited. When we're
having a special meal with special guests, then setting the table is
part of the experience, makes the event even more meaningful. And, oh! -
the details we pay attention to!

The table itself, will be covered with a white linen tablecloth, of
course, with an intricate design sure to attract the guests' attention -
and even that of family members invited for the occasion.

We'll probably put some candles on the table.

We'll put out the best china plates. At each place a large dinner plate,
and on top of it a smaller salad plate. Above them and to the right, the
crystal drinking glass and a crystal wine goblet.

The cloth napkins come next, to the left of the plates, and on top of
them a salad fork and a dinner fork. The knife and spoon, of similar
design, go on the right.

Finally we put the bread, the salads, water, wine (a Merlot, perhaps),
the appetizers. After all, putting out the first course is part of
setting the table. And the smell of the soup and the roast coming from
the kitchen indicates the table is indeed set and all we need are the

Now, can you imagine what a negative impression we would make on the
important guests - dignitaries, celebrities, whoever it might be - if
the table was not set, the food not prepared? On the other hand, imagine
how we would feel if, after all that preparation, after setting the
table just so, the guests did not show up?

The code of Jewish Law is called the Shulchan Aruch - literally, the Set
Table. And with good reason. It lays out, in a very ordered fashion, the
laws governing the life of the Jewish people. It's worth knowing how the
"table" of Jewish law is "set up," what is its structure.

Its four sections are:

 *) Orach Chayim - covering the spiritual duties of daily life:
    prayers and blessings, laws of Shabbat and holidays, etc.;

 *) Yoreh De'ah - covering non-cyclical aspects of life, such as
    kashrut, charity, honoring one's parents, mezuza, visiting the sick,

 *) Choshen Mishpat - covering business transactions, such as loans,
    sales, partnerships, qualifications for judges, etc.;

 *) Even HaEzer - covering relationships between man and woman, such
    as marriage, divorce, engagement, etc.

The table has been carefully set. All the details - the "tablecloth,"
the "place settings" and "silverware," the "glasses and goblets," and
the "meal" - knowledge of Jewish law, of what the Torah requires of us -
is ready to be served.

But the "set table" - the Shulchan Aruch - is waiting for the very
special guests - you. For to this banquet, every Jew is invited. Indeed,
the "meal" will seem incomplete, all the preparations, all the effort in
"setting the table" will not be perfect if you, if each and every Jew,
does not come, sit down, and partake, even, at least, of the

And it's a standing invitation, an open door, and a table that is always
set, prepared and waiting. Just contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch
Center, admire the eloquence - and enjoy the meal!

In the opening lines of this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, G-d
commands Abraham to "go out" from his land, from his place of birth, to
a land which He will show him. What can we to learn from this very first
commandment to Abraham, that we can apply to our own lives as well?

The first and most fundamental requirement of every Jew is to "go out" -
to be in a constant state of ascent, developing and elevating both our
inner potential and our surroundings.

But the very next thing that happened to Abraham after heeding this
command and going to Israel appears to be the exact opposite of
development and elevation: "And there arose a famine in the land, and
Avram went down into Egypt." Thus, Abraham had to leave Canaan and
journey to Egypt, during which time Sarah was forcefully taken to
Pharaoh's palace. Although G-d protected her from harm while there, she
nevertheless underwent the hardship of the whole incident.

How does this obvious descent fit into the aforementioned theme of
ascent and elevation, and our task of climbing ever higher?

On a superficial level, Abraham's and Sarah's hardship was a step down,
but on a deeper level it was merely a part of their eventual elevation
and triumphant return. The purpose of the descent was to achieve an even
higher ascent than was possible before. When they returned to Canaan
they were "very heavy with cattle, with silver, and with gold."

Just as Abraham's descent was part of the greater plan of ascent, so it
was with the generation of his descendants to follow. The Jewish people
have found themselves thrust into exile after exile, only to return to
their Land and achieve even higher spiritual heights than before. Galut
(exile), although appearing to us to be a negative phenomenon, actually
carries the potential for the highest good. And now that we are in the
last days of the final exile, we approach an era of unprecedented
spirituality and goodness, for although the First and Second Temples
were eventually destroyed, the Third Temple is to stand forever, and our
coming Redemption will have no exile to follow.

We therefore draw encouragement from our ancestor Abraham's descent into
Egypt and eventual return to Israel: We must remember that the darkness
which seems to prevail in the world is only external, and is part of
G-d's greater plan for the ultimate prevailing of good over evil and the
coming of Moshiach.

                   Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                       Voting with All Your Heart
                          by Gloria Goldreich

Each year, as the leaves begin to turn, the airwaves begin to buzz with
news of upcoming election campaigns. Again and again we are reminded of
the great privilege of democracy: We are urged to go to the polls and
fulfill our obligation as citizens of the United States.

Inevitably, when I listen to all these messages, I think of my father,
for whom voting was more than a privilege and an obligation - for him it
was a sacred act. It is then that I recall my father's adventure on
Election Day 1944, when war still raged in the world and Franklin Delano
Roosevelt was running for his 4th term as president.

In his early twenties, spurred by his family's vulnerability in an era
of Polish autocracy that imposed strictures on the educational and
economic opportunities of Jews, limited their civil rights and indeed
threatened their very lives, my father left his home in Partsevah,
Poland, to seek a new destiny in America.

Profoundly religious, a talmudic scholar by training, he scrupulously
observed Shabbat and the mitzvot (commandments) even in the most arduous
of circumstances - in alien cities, amid people whose languages he could
not understand and whose ways were foreign and, in all probability,
frightening to him.

When he finally reached the United States he was overwhelmed with joy.
This new land was a haven to be cherished, the concept of a government
of the people, by the people and for the people an ideal to be revered.
His framed citizenship papers occupied a place of honor in the small
room where he studied Talmud each Shabbat. An American flag was
displayed on holidays and he listened to President Roosevelt's fireside
chats with the same absorption he accorded to a learned discourse on the

A self-made man who had established a respected fur business on East
Broadway in New York, my father worked long hours. There was only one
exception to this schedule. Each year, on the first Tuesday in November,
he arrived home in the early afternoon. Voting was a ritual, requiring
careful preparation, not unlike his preparations for the celebration of

He changed to the clothing my mother had laid out for him - clean
undergarments, a snow-white shirt worn with his gold cufflinks, the good
suit he usually wore to synagogue on the holidays and his best tie.

We lived in a two-family house on a tree-lined street. My maternal
grandparents occupied the ground-level apartment. On the morning of
Election Day, my grandfather took special pains with my father's dress
shoes, shining them to a high gloss. He also carefully brushed my
father's best hat and his own black Homburg.

Like my father, my mother and her parents also dressed with care for the
expedition to the polls, a two-block walk to P.S. 209.

I ran ahead to them, to open the side door of the school, full of my own

A police officer, his shield glittering with authority, stood next to
the flag and watched as voters filed in to register. He was a
pleasant-looking man, and he nodded respectfully to my English teacher,
thin Mrs. Cunningham. She noticed me and smiled.

"This is the little girl who wrote the poem about the flag, Pat," she
told the police officer, pointing at my poem on the wall. He smiled at
me and I think it was then that he noticed my father and my grandfather,
who were preparing to sign the registration ledger.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you'll have to remove your hats."

My father looked at him in bewilderment.

"Why should I remove my hat?" he asked.

"It's a sign of respect to the flag."

My father's face became flushed. His eyes grew dangerously bright behind
his thick glasses. He was a reticent man, but when he spoke his voice
was firm, with conviction.

"I wear my hat because I am a Jew. I cover my head to show respect to
G-d," he said in his heavily accented English.

My grandmother trembled. Uniforms frightened her. She looked pleadingly
at my grandfather but he ignored her.

My mother, whose English was flawless, turned to the officer. "My
husband is a religious man. He traveled for more than a year from Europe
to reach this country and never once did he break the laws of our

"Hey," said the officer, "I'm not asking him to eat pork. I'm just
asking him to take his hat off. He's an American."

My father nodded. He smiled as he sometimes did when he played chess
with an opponent who had just made a crucial but unwise move.

"It is because I am an American that I do not have to take off my hat,"
he explained. "This is a free country. The flag tells us that we are
free," he continued. "In a free country a Jew can wear his hat. That
shows respect to the flag of freedom. And now I sign the book. And now I

The officer stared at him, as though considering the validity of his
response, and then, ruefully, he smiled. So did Mrs. Cunningham.

My mother, my grandmother and my grandfather stepped forward and they
too signed the registry, their faces bright with pride. One by one they
disappeared into the voting booths. I heard the click of the levers. I
watched as my father exited and held his hand out to the police officer,
who shook it vigorously.

Each year, as I wait in line for my turn to vote, I think of my father
and the policeman called Pat and Mrs. Cunningham. It is then that I
regret that I did not dress with more care for this solemn and important
occasion. But never do I miss an election. My father's legacy remains

                   Reprinted with permission from Hadassah Magazine

                               WHAT'S NEW
                       Twenty-Somethings & Teens

Join 20-something women living or working in the tri-state area for a
full day of Jewish learning, from 9:30 am to 10 pm, on Thanksgiving Day,
November 23, 2006, with Rabbi Manis Friedman at Chabad of Park Slope in
Brooklyn. You're busy, you're working, and you haven't been to a really
good class in way too long. Not only will this be mind-expanding, but we
guarantee this is going to be the most relevant learning you've ever
done. And that's an understatement. For Teens, there's a special
Shabbaton for girls, ages 15-18, from all over the country. Rabbi
Friedman and a team of spirited counselors will guide you through
learning, hiking, comedy improv, cooking, pilates, crafts, shopping and
more. For more info or reservations call 800-473-4801 (718-604-0088
outside US and Canada) or email

                            THE REBBE WRITES
     Excerpt of a letter of the Rebbe dated 22 Teves, 5709 (1949),
                 freely translated by Rabbi Eli Touger.

Greetings and blessings,

...Question: Can it be said that man's free choice is merely a figment
of his imagination, but in truth his deeds are predetermined?

Reply: Heaven forbid to say that, for:

Free Choice is a great fundamental principle and the pillar of the Torah
and its commandments.... Without it, what place would there be for the
entire Torah? Under which judgment would He exact retribution from the
wicked or reward the righteous? "Will the Judge of the entire earth not
execute justice?" (Rambam, Mishneh Torah)

On a deeper level, according to the explanations of Chassidus, the true
concept of free choice is that when everything is taken into account, a
positive and a negative choice are equal for him. For example, when a
person is starving and is presented with two choices: a burning fire and
a table filled with delicacies for a king, he has the possibility of
either satisfying his hunger or throwing himself in the fire. This,
however, is not the true concept of free choice that earns a person
reward. To cite a second example: An animal can cast itself into a river
and drown or go to pasture in a lush field. In all matters such as
these, there is no true concept of free choice and hence, no relevance
to the issue of reward and punishment, because the person or the animal
is compelled by its nature.

The same concepts apply with regard to the entire creation. None of the
animals or plants have the potential to change their mission at all (see
Tanya, chs. 24, 39). The only exception to this rule is man, for he has
been given the license and the potential to contradict his Creator's
will, as explained in Tanya, ch. 29. The inner reason why man has been
granted this potential is that man's source is from such a high level
that no one can hinder him from doing what he wants, as explained in
Likkutei Torah....

Question: It seems as if the concepts of G-d's omniscience and man's
free choice contradict each other, as questioned by Rambam, loc. cit.,
and other sources.

Reply: To preface: There are contradictory concepts that cannot co-exist
unless one of them is nullified entirely or both of them would not apply
in the same context simultaneously. For example, regarding the concept
under discussion, the concepts of free choice and Divine decree are
contradictory. Therefore one of them (Divine decree) is entirely
nullified or at least does not apply in the same context as free choice
applies. For example, as explained above, the concept of Divine decree
can apply to the nation as a whole and that of free choice to particular

There are, however, other concepts that even though they themselves do
not contradict each other, it is possible to use one as support for the
idea that the other is not true. In such an instance, it is possible to
say one of these three options: either, as above, that

    a) one of them will be negated entirely, or

    b) they will not apply in the same context simultaneously, or

    c) although both are true and apply simultaneously in the same
       context, they are not contradictory because the proof suggested
       is not correct.

To apply this to the concept at hand: G-d's omniscience does not
contradict the concept of free choice. To explain: I possess clear
knowledge that if, tomorrow, I throw a stone in the air, it will
ultimately fall to the ground. This knowledge itself is not a
contradiction to the theoretical debate whether the stone has a choice
whether to fall to the earth or remain in the air. For even according to
the supposition that the stone has free choice, the stone may choose to
fall to the earth, but my knowledge is only a logical support for the
thesis that the stone does not have free choice. The support works in
the following manner: Since my knowledge is clear, without a doubt, if
you would say that the stone has free choice, how is it possible for me
to know which choice the stone will make? But it is possible to say that
although it is not understood how it is possible for me to have
foreknowledge of the choice the stone will make, the fact that I have
such knowledge is not clear support for the idea that the stone does not
have free choice.

Or to cite a second example: Reuven, who sees the future, can relate
what will happen to Shimon who is found at the other end of the world
(and thus Reuven can have no effect on him whatsoever) and what Shimon
will do in the future. Reuven's statements do not affect Shimon's
choice. Instead, Reuven knows that Shimon will use his free choice in
this-and-this manner; i.e., Shimon's free choice changes Reuven's
knowledge and not the opposite. The choice is the reason; and the
knowledge, the result. His knowledge that precedes Shimon's choice is
just like the knowledge of an ordinary person that comes after the
choice. Obviously, the latter does not represent a contradiction to free
choice. For in that instance, the choice was free because it was not
influenced by the knowledge. On the contrary, the knowledge is dependent
on the result of the choice.

This, as it were, reflects the manner in which G-d knows. As our Sages
say: "The Holy One, blessed be He, knows what will come to pass." If you
ask, since our choice is free, how is it possible for G-d to know
beforehand what one will choose? To this, Rambam answers that G-d's
knowledge is not like our knowledge and we have no way of knowing how
G-d knows...
               Reprinted from I Will Write it In Their Hearts Vol 4

                   For the complete letter with all refernces visit

   Why is the Hebrew letter "shin" on the front of the mezuza cover?

"Shin" is the first letter of one of G d's names, "Shad-dai" - Alm-ghty.
It is also an acronym for "Shomer Delatot Yisrael - Guardian of the
Doors of Israel." Thus, it is appropriate to be on the mezuza cover. In
addition to being on the mezuza cover, the word Shad-dai is also written
on the back of the mezuza parchment itself.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, we read G d's blessing to
Abraham: "I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; if a
person will be able to count all the grains of dust in the world, then
your offspring also will be countable."

The Baal Shem Tov gave another reason why Jews are compared to the "dust
of the earth." For, just as there are treasures hidden deep within the
earth, there are beautiful "treasures" hidden within every single Jew.

Along these lines, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked by a group of
visiting academics, "What is the purpose of a rebbe?"

The Rebbe answered, "Concerning the Jewish people, it says, 'And you
will be for Me a land of desire.' A Jew is like land, earth. Within the
earth one finds many treasures. But one needs to know how to look for
them and how to take them out from the depths of the earth. One who
doesn't know how to search will look in the earth and find only dirt and
mud, or rocks and stones.

"The same is true with a person. One psychologist digs in a person's
soul and finds dirt and mud. Another finds rocks and stones. The purpose
of a rebbe is to find the treasure,  the G dly soul that rests within
every Jew."

May each one of us find, recognize, and reveal, the G-dly soul within
ourselves and others thereby enhancing the unity of the Jewish people
and hastening the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
And Malkitzedek, King of Shalem, brought out bread and wine, and he was
a priest of G d, most high (Gen. 14:18)

Rabbi Mordechai of Lachowitz would say, "Malkitzedek 'brought out'
introduced and led a new path in the worship of G d. Even when a person
'eats bread' and 'drinks wine,' he has the ability and potential to be a
'priest to G d, most high'  one who serves G d."

                                *  *  *

At eight days old shall every male child be circumcised (Gen. 17:12)

A Jewish male enters into the covenant of Abraham at the tender age of
eight days, before he can possibly understand the significance of the
act, because brit mila (circumcision) involves the essence of the soul,
which exists on a level far above human understanding and comprehension.
The mitzva binds the soul to G-d, Who is also beyond our understanding
and comprehension.

                                                  (Sifrei Chasidut)

                                *  *  *

And the souls that they made in Charan (Gen. 12:5)

A person who takes pity on a poor man and sustains him is credited with
having "created" that person, as we learn from Abraham our forefather:
"The souls that they made" refers to the multitude of guests to whom
Abraham offered his hospitality and brought into his tent.


                                *  *  *

And told it to Abram the Hebrew ("Ivri") (Gen. 14:13)

The word "Ivri" comes from the root word meaning, "side," for Abraham
stood alone on one side, while all the world opposed him.

                                                   (Breishit Rabba)

                                *  *  *

Look now toward the heaven and count the shall your seed be
(Gen. 15:5)

Just as the stars in the sky appear from afar to be tiny specks of
light, yet, in actuality, each one is an entire world, so, too, are the
Jews: In this world Jews may be the object of scorn and derision, yet,
in truth, the Jewish people are great and mighty, the foundation of the
world's very creation.

                                                    (Baal Shem Tov)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
About two hundred years ago lived a very righteous man named Rabbi
Naftali of Ropshitz. In addition to having mastered all of the works of
the great Sages of previous generations, including the mystical
teachings, he loved to help others. His custom was that every morning he
would return home from prayer, put down his prayer shawl and Tefilin,
and immediately leave his house again. He would go from door to door
collecting charity for those in need and then return home once again.
Only after distributing the money he had collected to the poor people
who gathered each day at his house would he sit and have something to
eat. It wasn't easy work; the rich didn't easily part with their money
and the less rich didn't have much to part with, but he was happy that
he could serve G-d through this all-important commandment.

One day after he finished his rounds, distributed the money, and was
just about to wash his hands to eat bread, he heard someone knock. He
turned around and saw that there was another poor man who had pushed the
door open a crack and was peeking through. The rabbi went to the door,
opened it and said, "I'm sorry, you'll have to return tomorrow. I've
handed out all the money I have." But the sad look on the poor man's
face made him put down his towel and set out to collect money again.

However this time he really had problems. At each door he got an angry
stare and sometimes even a few angry comments. The rabbi collected only
a fraction of what he usually got but he happily returned home, gave the
grateful man the money, bade him good day, and again went to wash his
hands for the morning meal (though it was already nearly lunchtime).

But, just as he was about to pour the water on his hands, he heard the
unmistakable sound of someone standing behind him loudly clearing his

He turned around and there was yet another man who had let himself in.
"I know, Rabbi, I know. I came late, right? Well, I know you are busy; I
don't want to bother you, G-d forbid. I'll come back tomorrow. I only
want someone to tell my problems to. I won't take long. I promise."

The rabbi nodded. "My wife is not in good shape, the doctors say that
soon her life will be in danger. My daughter is getting older and I have
no money for a wedding. And finally my entire house fell in yesterday,"
At this point the man began weeping and Rabbi Naftali again put down the
towel, told the man to sit, put on his coat and went out collecting

But this time it was completely different. When the owner answered the
first door (for the third time that day), instead of cursing Rabbi
Naftali, he greeted him with a smile and open arms. "I'm so sorry that I
gave you that bitter look before," he apologized. "Now I see that you
must be a real tzadik (righteous person) if you are willing to visit me
again after what I said to you. You must think only of the poor and not
of yourself at all! And instead of giving the usual ruble I'm giving you
ten rubles!"

So it was at the next house and all the homes thereafter. But this time,
when Rabbi Naftali arrived home, he wasn't so happy. He gave the man who
was waiting the money and said, with a bit of a frown, "Listen my
friend, the money is yours. I assure you I'm not going to take it back.
But tell me the truth. Your wife isn't sick and that story about your
daughter and your house falling in, it's not true, is it?"

The man hemmed and hawed and finally answered sheepishly, "Well, Rabbi,
I wasn't exactly lying. Maybe I exaggerated a little, but I didn't
really lie. You see, my wife is pregnant and it says in the holy books
that when a woman goes to give birth her life is in danger. You can
break Shabbat to get help."

"And what about your daughter's wedding?" asked the rabbi.

"Well, it's true that now she is only five-years-old, but I always say
'Why wait until the last minute,' right Rabbi? About my house, the
rocking chair that a neighbor gave my wife broke, which made me feel
just terrible!"

Then the visitor thought for a second and asked, "Tell me Rabbi, how did
you know? How did you know I wasn't telling the truth, and if you knew
then why did you go collecting for me?!"

Rabbi Naftali answered simply: "Every time I collect money to distribute
for charity, it is never an easy task as there is always an obstacle to
holiness. But this time, when I collected for you specifically,
everything was easy, in fact, too easy. I thought to myself, 'Something
is wrong here. Somehow I must not be doing a mitzva.' So I figured the
simple solution is that you must not really need the money as
desperately as you said."

by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton, reprinted with permission from

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Concerning Moshiach, Isaiah prophecizes, "With equity shall he rebuke
the meek of the earth."(Isaiah 11:4) A personal obligation rests upon
every individual Jew to arouse his fellow to the practice of good deeds.
When instead a person adopts an attitude of humility and argues, "Who am
I to arouse my fellow? What kind of a spokesman am I?" - he deserves to
be sternly rebuked. These "meek of the earth" will be rebuked by
Moshiach, though here too he will find extenuating circumstances.

                                  (Likutei Diburim Vol. II, p. 289)

              END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 943 - Lech-Lecha 5767

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