Moses and the Exodus | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | Customs | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
This coming week, millions of Jews throughout the world will be sitting with family and guests around brightly lit, festive tables, eating matza and bitter herbs, drinking four cups of wine and reminding each other about the miracles G-d did for the Jews.
They will be celebrating the holiday of Passover for the 3,319th time in history.
Every year since the exodus from Egypt, millions of Jews have never missed a year of Passover Seder.
One of the most basic commandments of the Passover Seder is to tell the story of going out of Egypt. In addition to this being an integral part of the Seder night, remembering that G-d took us out of Egypt is obligatory not only on Passover, but on every day of the year. It is a foundation of all Judaism, being the first of the Ten Commandments.
The Sages compiled the Hagada in order to facilitate this vital commandment. Throughout the text of the Hagada, G-d is mentioned continuously for the incredible miracles that He did for the Jews. In fact, G-d did everything; he was the "star" of the Exodus.
Strangely, however, the main protagonist of the Exodus, Moses, is mentioned only once in the entire Hagada!
Had it not been for Moses, the Jewish people would have never left Egypt at all. And even after they left, were it not for Moses, they would have returned to Egypt.
While it was G-d, Who had wrought all of the miracles of the plagues, the splitting of the sea, the manna and more, it was Moses who kept the Jewish people inspired. In fact, when the Jews thought that Moses had left them at Mount Sinai, they worshiped the Golden Calf, despite G-d's Omniscience and omnipresence.
So why isn't Moses given more credit in the Hagada? Because it Moses' job to do only one thing; to interpret the miracles that G-d wrought in a way that brought the Jews to serve G-d on their own.
It was not Moses' job to do everything, but only one thing: to connect the Jews to G-d.
That is why, when Moses' name is mentioned in the Hagada it is in the verse, "They believed in G-d and in Moses His servant."
In other words, the Torah equates the belief in Moses with the belief in G-d, because there cannot be one without the other.
The Zohar (1:253a) equates Moses with Moshiach, because Moshiach - the final redeemer of the Jewish people, will complete the task begun by Moses - the first redeemer of the Jewish people.
In fact, Moshiach will bring the entire world to serve the Creator (through His Torah) with all their talents, skills and abilities.
At that time will be fulfilled, "And they (the entire world) will believe in G-d and Moses His servant."
And, the world will be filled with peace, prosperity and brotherhood.
"On the Shabbat before Passover, the rabbi shall teach and explain the laws of Passover," states the Code of Jewish Law. This refers to the traditional sermon given on this Saturday, Shabbat Hagadol - the Great Sabbath, a link with olden days when "people from all the surrounding villages would gather together to learn the laws of the upcoming holiday."
Must the Rabbi include anything specific in his sermon? The Code answers: "The most important thing is that he expound upon and show them the ways of G-d, and teach them the deeds that they must do."
Obviously, the "deeds that they must do" refers to the cleaning, nullification of leaven, baking of matza, preparations for the Seder, and other practical matters pertaining to Passover. But what is meant by "the ways of G-d"?
A "way" is only a means of reaching a particular goal. The path we choose to get there is not an end in itself, but only a necessary means by which we may arrive at our destination. Therefore, the "ways of G-d" are not the Torah and mitzvot (commandments) themselves, for these are the ultimate goal. "The ways of G-d" must, accordingly, refer to anything which will lead us to a more observant and religious life.
Love and awe of G-d are the two main paths that lead us to a fuller life of Jewish observance. These two emotions infuse our service of G-d with the proper joy and delight. The Torah and mitzvot themselves are our objective, but it is the love and reverence we feel for G-d that ensures that our actions will be performed in the most perfect manner possible.
"A mitzva performed without the proper intention is like a body without a soul," say our Sages. Of course, the most important thing, in any event, is that the mitzva gets done, however lofty our intentions or ulterior our motives may be, because a mitzva connects an individual to G-d and brings holiness down into the physical world.
But G-d wants Jews to rejoice in His Torah and do His mitzvot with zeal and enthusiasm, not with an eye to fulfilling only the barest minimum prescribed by law. That is why our emotions play such an important part in our observance, and why we are obligated to reflect on the greatness and glory of G-d, to lead us to the proper awe and respect.
This Shabbat, when the rabbi delivers his sermon, he will deliver more than a dry recitation of the minutiae of practical Torah law. Rather, he will endeavor to infuse the congregation with the positive feelings that are the "ways of G-d," which bring us to the perfection in our service that we seek. For it is only with a happy heart and with true joy in being a part of the Chosen People that we may celebrate the coming festival of Passover to the fullest.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
My First Chasidic Seder
by Dr. Jonathan Kirell
This was the first time I ever sat in a Chasidic Seder. Although I was born in Crown Heights, the Chasidic center of the universe, I had no formal Jewish education except for a year of tutoring prior to my Bar-Mitzvah. Whenever we celebrated Passover, we always strove to do it as fast as possible, forever searching for the most express way to perform the service. Whenever we complained about how long the service was, even when we were in express mode, we were told about the "Orthodox" service and how lucky we were not to be at one of those. They "do every part" of the service, we were warned, all in Hebrew, not starting the Festive Meal until 11:00 pm and finally finishing up around 2:00am. Over the years, I began to think attending an "Orthodox" Seder was a punishment of Biblical proportion.
After moving to Long Island my wife Donna and I spent years trying to find the right "place" for us and our children. We went to a reformed synagogue, where we saw a Rabbi who didn't wear a yarmulke and a woman Cantor playing the guitar on Shabbat. Even with my limited knowledge of Judaism, I knew this wasn't right. Next we tried a conservative approach; as the time was drawing near for our children's Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs we decided to settle in there and continue their education. Although we were there for several years we never felt like we belonged. The rabbi appeared aloof and unconcerned and the congregation was extremely cliquish. If you were not part of right group, you were ignored or worse, shunned. There was no reason to continue going to synagogue after the kids were Bat and Bar-Mitzvah'd as we were never made to feel welcome in our conservative temple. It was towards the end of our stay there that I was introduced to Rabbi Vaisfiche.
Rabbi Asher Vaisfiche is the director of Chabad of Huntington. I met him when a friend needed me to help make a minion for his father's yahrzeit. The rabbi had arranged everything, asking members of his congregation to help make the minion. I was afraid I wouldn't be welcomed as I really couldn't read Hebrew and never even attended an evening service before. To my surprise, not only was I made to feel welcome but I was made to feel that being "Judaism challenged" was not bad at all. I later learned the Chabad philosophy which says there is no distinction between reformed, conservative and orthodox Jews. There are only two kinds of Jews, those Jews who are learning about Yiddishkeit and those Jews who are not. No matter what, we are all Jews. It was because of this inclusionary philosophy of Chabad that made me feel welcome, important and part of the greater Jewish nation. When Rabbi Vaisfiche asked me and my wife to join him and his family at the Passover Seder, even remembering my childhood fears of an everlasting and incomprehensible service, I happily accepted.
When I arrived at his house on the first night of Passover, there were many other people there too. Other than the rabbi's family, they were all new to me. People from looking for a Seder to attend went to the Chabad of Huntington website and requested seating at the Seder. We all sat down together as strangers, men, women and children. This Seder was by far the most amazing event I have ever attended and not what I expected at all. We all took turns reading from the Hagada. Some, who could, read in Hebrew, others like me read in English. Everything was explained either in Biblical terms or with amazing Chasidic insights. Rabbi Vaisfiche even took us back some 3000 years ago to tell us in fine detail, what celebrating Passover was like at the time of the first Holy Temple. His description made you feel as if you, yourself were waiting in line in the courtyard of the Temple to give the Kohanim your Pesach sacrifice.
The whole event lasted about 4 hours. This included all the wonderfully detailed explanations, children slowly but excitedly reading their portions of the Hagada, the singing of joyous songs, the mandatory drinking of four full cups of wine (I wish I knew about that part a long time ago), the eating of all that Shmurah (hand made) matza and of course, the delicious festive meal.
Then the fantastic evening was over, ending all too soon it seemed. And although we all sat down as strangers, we arose from the Seder table as friends. Having together, performed all the mitzvot (commandments), read all the blessings and recounted our departure from Egypt as our family of Jews have done every Passover for thousands of years.
P.S. I went to my sister-in law's house for the second night of Passover. They were expecting to do one of our "express" Seders. Not this night. This night was not only different from all other nights; it was for us, different from all other Passover Seders. As soon we began, I started repeating the wonderful commentaries, stories and insights that were told to me by Rabbi Vaisfiche. All present were riveted to the explanations and enjoyed them so much that for the first time in family history, we went through the entire Hagada. When we finished, one of the participants came over to me and half jokingly asked "You going Orthodox on us?" to which I replied "Just...learning."
Everything You Always Wanted...
Jews can celebrate their Jewishness, and Passover, wherever they find themselves thanks to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries world-wide. Whether you want to purchase hand-baked "shmura matza" for your own Passover Seder, or would like to join a Chabad-Lubavitch communal Seder, or you need advice on how to make your home "kosher for Passover," your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center is the place to call. To find your local center visit www.LchaimWeekly.org. Visit Passover.net to find your closest Seder, as well as fun for the kids, loads of resources, articles, multimedia info and even recipes!
The next issue of L'Chaim will be for Nissan 25/April 13.
Freely translated and excerpted
11th day of Nissan, 5744 
Greeting and Blessing:
...One of the details which differentiates the Festival of Pesach from our other festivals is the fact that the Torah emphasizes the exact moment of time when the Geulah (deliverance) from Egyptian bondage came, namely, bachatzi halaila, "in the very middle of the night"; and similarly pinpoints the exact moment of Yetzias-Mitzraim (the Exodus from Egypt), namely, b'etzem HaYom hazeh, "in the very middle of the day."
It was exactly at midnight that the moment of the Geulah struck: Pharoah freed the Jews immediately, bringing the Galus (exile) to an end.
And it was exactly at midday that the Jewish people went out of Egypt "with an uplifted arm," as free men and women and proud to be Jews.
"Night" and "Day" are opposite phenomena, symbolizing the opposing concepts of "darkness" and "light" in the spiritual sense; Especially "midnight" and "midday," connoting, respectively, the bleakest darkness of the night and the brightest light of the day. All this is also connected with the symbolic concepts of the "moon" and of the "sun," discussed in a prior letter.
...The fundamental distinction between the sun and the moon, as stated in the Torah: the sun being the "Great Luminary to rule by day," while the moon is the "Small Luminary to rule by night." This indicates two different and contrary ways in their "illuminating the earth": The lunar light, however brightly the moon shines, even at its maximum fullness, does not transform night into day... On the other hand, however weak is the light of the sun on the earth, such as at the beginning of the day or at day's end, when the sun's rays are at their weakest, it still makes "day."...
Avodas-HaShem (serving G-d) encompasses the totality of a Jew's everyday life in all, literally all, detailed aspects, as defined by the principle "Know G-d in all your ways," meaning, to acknowledge and serve G-d in every way and in all activities. These comprise two categories: Mitzvah (commandment) - the domain of religious duties, and R'Shus - the so-called "secular" domain.
The "Mitzvah" domain embraces all those ways and actions which a Jew is obligated to carry out, because G-d has commanded to do them; these are all matters of Torah and Mitzvos. When a Jew learns Torah and does Mitzvos, he irradiates himself as well as his surroundings and the world at large with the Divine light of Ner Mitzvah vTorah Or ("a Mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light"). Whether he does it with a full measure of inspiration or, sometimes, with less enthusiasm, it is always the Mitzvah lamp and the Torah light - the "Great Luminary" (the sun) in G-d's service.
The second category, that of R'shus, is the domain of ordinary matters, such as eating, drinking and the like, which in and of themselves are not a Mitzvah (except on Shabbos and Yom Tov, or in the case of saving a life, etc.).
And although the so-called secular aspects of everyday life should, and must, be ruled by the Torah, Torah Or, they are not comparable to Torah and Mitzvos. They receive their minor light of a "Small Luminary" from the Torah, the "Great Luminary," similar to the way the moon is illuminated, and illuminates, by reflecting the light of the sun.
In one realm of R'shus in particular, because of its close association with powerful natural tendencies, special vigilance is called for in order to insure that it be l'Shem-Shomayim, "for the sake of Heaven." If even in the realm of Mitzvos there is the possibility of "performance by rote," where routine practice could not only pose a hindrance to growth, but even to the proper observance of the Mitzvos themselves - how much more so in the "secular" matters, where habit can cause, G-d forbid, a downright debasement, even to the extent of the opposite of the sake of heaven, e.g. gluttony, drunkenness, and the like. Hence, a special vigilance and a special effort is required to infuse in this area of everyday life an ever greater measure of l'Shem-Shamayim, a growing measure of light, reaching out for the "moon at its fullest"; though even then it still is only for the sake of Heaven - to be utilized later in the performance of Torah and Mitzvos. In the meantime it is still "night," the realm of R'shus.
This is one of the lessons from the emphasis on the deliverance taking place at midnight, alluding, as mentioned, to R'shus - matters, which, in relation to Torah and Mitzvos, are like "night" to "day," namely, that even in the most materialistic aspects of secular matters one can, and must, completely free one's self from "Galus Mitzrayim" (subservience to materialism and its limitations).
Similarly also in matters which are alluded to "midday," namely, matters of Ner Mitzvah vTorah Or, when one has reached the height of one's strength and brightness - there is a need of "Yetzias Mitzrayim," of breaking through and elevating oneself above all limitations and standards, including those of the realm of holiness - to break out of one's complacency with one's self and with one's standards, and of the feeling of having completely satisfied one's desire. On the contrary, regardless of how high are one's achievements, one must strive for still higher standards So we declare in our daily prayers, both in the day and at night: To love G-d with all one's might, totally surrendering one's desire to G-d.
With esteem and with blessing for a Kosher and Joyous Pesach
What is the point of selling the chametz before Passover?
A Jew is forbidden to own any leavened food (chametz) during Passover and is continuously transgressing this commandment if he has any leaven in his possession during the holiday. Rather than throwing out or otherwise disposing of all one's leaven, which could cause tremendous financial loss for food store owners, etc., we are permitted to sell the chametz to a non-Jew. The sale, done through a competent rabbi, is binding. After Passover, the chametz is re-purchased from the non-Jew.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
It is a custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Many also have the custom to recite daily the Rebbe's chapter. The 11th of Nissan, this Friday, March 30, marks the Rebbe's 105th birthday, and so we begin reciting chapter 106.
This chapter continues the theme of chapter 105, praising G-d for many more miracles not mentioned previously. Both of these chapters also speak of redemption. However, the previous chapter spoke of the redemption from Egypt while chapter 106 speaks of the future Redemption.
The chapter begins, "Praise the L-rd, offer praise to the L-rd for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting." It continues, "Who can express the mighty acts of the L-rd, who can proclaim all His praises."
According to the famed Maharal of Prague, from these two verses we learn the very important trait of "Hakarot HaTov," showing gratitude. The first verse encourages us to praise G-d and the second verse explains that we must praise G-d even if we are lacking in our ability to express G-d's praises qualitatively or quantitatively.
The Rebbe explains that when a Jew is helped by G-d to perform his service in exile despite its difficulties, he has a special obligation to give thanks to G-d .
In verse 44, it says, "But He regarded their affliction, when He heard their Rina - exaltation." The Divrei Yisrael wonders, "This is strange; when someone is in distress, one would expect him to cry. However, it can be explained: G-d saw, that when the Jewish People were in the very midst of distress, He still heard their exultation and singing to Him, so He saved them. From here we learn that whenever a Jew is, G-d forbid, in a difficult situation, if he sings about his salvation which is to come, G-d will help him.
The exodus from Egypt (as well as the miracles performed in the exodus from Egypt and the times of exile that followed), mentioned throughout chapter 106, is the preparation and strength for the future redemption. Thus, the chapter concludes with verses that speak powerfully of the future redemption and ends with the word "amen, halelukah" affirming that the future redemption will be eternal.
And the priest shall put on his linen garment (Lev. 6:3)
Rashi comments, "His garment (mado) should befit his stature (midato). The service of the high priest who performs his duties while wearing the garment of an ordinary priest is invalid."A person must always behave in a manner befitting his stature. The higher up one is on the ladder, the more is required of him.
And he shall take off his garments and put on other garments (Lev. 6:4)
"The clothes worn to 'cook the pot' are not also worn to 'pour the wine,'" comments Rashi. It was forbidden for a priest to perform his other duties wearing the same clothes he had worn to remove the ashes from the altar; he was first required to change into cleaner and more elaborate garments. From this we learn that we change out of our weekday clothes and don our finest and most beautiful garments in honor of the holy day.
(Gemara Shabbat, and Maharsha)
He shall carry the ashes outside the camp, to a clean place (Lev. 6:4)
Even though the ashes that remained after the sacrifices were burnt were only a waste product of Israel, they too were worthy of being kept in a pure, clean place.
And every meal offering that is mixed with oil, or dry...to one as much as the other (Lev. 7:10)
The meal offering mixed with oil was voluntary, but the dry one was brought by a person who had committed a transgression. The Torah says, "to one as much as the other." One must treat both individuals with the same respect, love and spirit of brotherhood, regardless of the reason why the offering was brought.
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)
The Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS is at the forefront of the renaissance of Jewish life currently taking place in the former Soviet Union. Over 1,000 emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe staff the 454 JCCs located in 454 cities throughout fifteen countries in the former Soviet Union.
Yuri was a lone Jewish soldier on an isolated army base in the Republic of Bashkiria, Russia. One night, he was sitting in the recreation room with his buddies, relaxing and watching television, after a long day of training maneuvers.
The show stopped for a commercial. Yuri recognized the tune of "Dayeinu." To his surprise, he saw a public service announcement about Pascha - Passover. Rabbi Dan Krichevsky, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissary and the FJC representative in Ufa, produced a commercial to inform Jews of the upcoming Passover holiday and to let them know that matza was available for anyone who needed it.
Yuri memorized the telephone number that flashed across the screen and called the Jewish Community Center in Ufa, Bashkiria's capital. Yuri told the rabbi that he wondering if he could have a box of matza shipped to him. The rabbi agreed, of course. And though it entailed arranging that the matza be sent with a special army courier, Rabbi Krichevsky made sure that it was done.
Yuri was delighted. But his joy turned to apprehension as he wondered what would be the reaction of his fellow soldiers, all of whom were Russian Orthodox or Muslim, when they saw him eat the matza. In particular, Yuri worried about his commander, a tough, stern, career officer, who had given Yuri a hard time from the moment he had stepped foot on the base.
Passover arrived. Though he usually dined together with his pals in the mess-hall, tonight he sat apart. The commander approached Yuri with a questioning look. Yuri was sure he was "going to get it" - for eating separately or for eating matza, or for both. But what he got from the commander was something that even Yuri couldn't have expected.
"Why are you eating this?" the commander began. And then, more quietly, almost in a whisper, the commander continued, "My grandmother used to eat this... I really shouldn't tell you, but I am also Jewish."
Yuri was astonished at the commander's revelation. He offered to share his precious matza but the commander politely declined and left. The rest of the night passed uneventfully. The commander never again mentioned anything to Yuri about being Jewish. But he also never again gave Yuri a hard time.
Yuri has completed his tour of duty in the army. He has returned home to Vladikavkaz, the capital of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania in Russia. He was so touched by Rabbi Krichevksy's attentiveness in sending him the box of matza that Yuri is helping organize the Passover Seder in Vladikavkas! And Yuri is sending a box of matza to his former commander, a lone Jew on an isolated army base in the Republic of Bashkiria, Russia.
A teenage girl showed up in the office of Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky, the Rebbe's emissary and Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk. Her great-grandmother was requesting that he visit her in the village of Pridnipropsk, nearly two-hours away. "Is your grandmother Jewish?" the rabbi asked. "No." "Is anyone in your family Jewish?" continued the rabbi. "No," answered the teen once again.
Rabbi Kaminetzky looked at his overcrowded calendar and said that he would visit in two weeks. A week later the girl returned to Rabbi Kaminetzky. "Grandma is too frail to travel. She needs to speak with you right away." Rabbi Kaminetzky accompanied the girl back to her tiny village.
As soon as Irina saw the rabbi, she began to cry. When she calmed down, she started to speak in broken Yiddish. "I grew up in a religious Jewish home. During a pogrom in my hometown of Yekatrinislav (now called Dnepropetrovsk) in 1911, I saw my parents killed before my eyes."
Irina switched to Russian and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren listened as she recounted how gentile neighbors had taken her in and cared for her. They had made only one condition: that she never tell anyone that she was Jewish as they feared it might endanger her life.
Irina told the rabbi that she had always hoped that the day would come when she would be able to reveal her secret. But, at the very least, she wanted to receive a Jewish burial. Rabbi Kaminetzky spent a number of hours with Irina. Before leaving he explained to her descendants that they, too, are Jewish. The rabbi told the family that he or some of his colleagues would be in touch with them, to introduce them to their Jewish roots.
The next day, the great-granddaughter returned to the rabbi's office. "Grandma died soon after you left. We need you to give her a Jewish burial."
It was after the funeral that one of Irina's daughters told Rabbi Kaminetzky, "Now I understand why my mother fasted for an entire day each autumn and did not eat bread for a whole week each spring."
Today, all of Irina's children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren know what it means to live as a Jew, thanks to the Rebbe's emissaries in the former Soviet Union.
In the Hagada we read the words, " 'All the days of your life' including the Era of Moshiach." Le'havi translated as "including" literally means "to bring." Thus, this Talmudic passage, quoted in the Hagada, can be interpreted as a directive: All the days of your life should be permeated by a single intention: to bring about the coming of the Era of Moshiach.
(The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)