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L'Chaim
December 21, 2007 - 12 Tevet, 5768

1000: Vayechi

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  999: Vayigash1001: Shemos  

1000  |  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

1000

"If I've told you once, I've told you a dozen times... a hundred times... a thousand times!"

Some things just never change! And right here in this thousandth issue of L'Chaim, there are things that we've told you literally one thousand times. But we'd like to emphasize them again today, as we celebrate the publishing of our one thousandth issue:

L'Chaim is "the weekly publication for every Jewish person." Regardless of one's level of religious observance, knowledge or affiliation - regardless of age or stage or wage; L'Chaim is published with you in mind. A story here, an insight into the Torah portion there, a thought about Moshiach yonder, we try to make L'Chaim a peaceful island for people, an upbeat, positive retreat where they can go for a few minutes each week to unwind, feel good about Judaism, grow a little, feel their souls being nourished.

But isn't it overly-confident to think that one publication can be for "every Jew"? After all, two Jews three opinions...

However, at our very essence, we are all connected, we are all one. For every Jew, no matter where, no matter who, has a divine soul, a G-dly spark that binds him or her with every other Jew.

L'Chaim is "dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson." Precious little is known about Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, and that's the way she wanted it! She purposefully stayed out of the limelight, though respect, honor, and privileges could have easily been hers as the wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the daughter of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. A most erudite woman, the Rebbetzin was once speaking to a young girl. The girl was complaining that one of her family's traditions was so different from that of most of her friends. "But it's so modern to be different!" the Rebbetzin pointed out.

At times, living Jewishly requires that we do things differently than friends, colleagues, or neighbors. In those moments, remembering the Rebbetzin's statement - "It's so modern to be different!" - can be the nod of encouragement that we need to ensure that we do what is required of us.

"Please do not deface or discard." Did you ever notice these words in the little box in the left-hand bottom corner of page two? Well, even though they are intended regarding the L'Chaim publication in general, we will take the liberty to address them to our Jewish souls, our Jewish pride, our Jewish dignity. We must go to great lengths to ensure that our great Jewish heritage, the traditions, wisdom and teachings handed down from generation to generation, familial and national, are not defaced or discarded. And we can only guarantee that these traditions and teachings will be upheld through study and action.

So, L'Chaim, to 1001 with Moshiach!


Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah portion of Vayechi, Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons who were born in Egypt, Menashe and Efraim. These names were chosen by Joseph because they alluded to his circumstances in Egypt at the time when they were born.

Joseph named his firstborn Menashe, "For G-d has made me forget (nashani) all my troubles, and even my father's house." Far from home, Joseph was in danger of assimilating. Yet he remained connected to his people and to G-d. In choosing the name Menashe, Joseph indicated that he had, in fact, not forgotten his father.

Joseph named his second son Efraim, "For G-d has caused me to become fruitful (hifrani) in the land of my affliction." Not only have I not been influenced by the Egyptians, Joseph was saying, but precisely here, "in the land of my affliction," I established a family, became wealthy and made spiritual progress.

Menashe is symbolic of the bond Joseph shared with his father and the deep yearning he continued to feel for him.

Efraim is symbolic of Joseph's success in Egypt, a land that was vile and depraved.

Our situation in exile is similar to that of Joseph in Egypt. In exile, we are far from our Father's house - the Holy Temple - and G-dliness is concealed. What can we do to overcome our predicament? How are we to conduct ourselves during our sojourn in "Egypt"?

The answer is to learn from Joseph, and emulate him.

On the one hand we are obligated to remember our "Father's house," to yearn for the Holy Temple and G-d's closeness. A Jew must never resign himself to the exile. Rather, we must always look forward to the Redemption, continue to observe Torah and mitzvot (commandments), just as Joseph refused to acclimate himself to Egypt and named his son Menashe.

On the other hand we must always remember that it is precisely in exile, where poverty of the spirit prevails, that we must remain strong. Just as Joseph remained righteous and flourished in the land of his "affliction," so too must we spread Judaism and foster the belief in G-d precisely in a world that does not recognize His greatness.

When Jacob blessed Joseph's sons he placed his right hand on Efraim's (and not Menashe's) head, saying, "His younger brother shall be greater than he." For even though Menashe was the firstborn, and the beginning of our service must be the longing for our Father's house, the main objective of our service in exile is expressed in the name Efraim: an increase in Torah and good deeds, thereby causing G-d's Name to be known in the world. By emphasizing this aspect we will merit G-d's light to shine, even within the exile.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 15


A Slice of Life

With Faith and a Sense of Humor
by Miriam Karp

Gershon Wachtel knows prayer and music, up close and personally. Through deep prayer and music, Gershon has found the strength to live and even flourish after the tragic drowning of his four-year-old son, some 13 years ago.

A classical pianist, Gershon has woven the fascinating story of the many twists and turns of his life and journey into a one-man show, "Overcoming Life's Difficulties with Faith and a Sense of Humor." Combining masterful and sensitive musical interludes with an absorbing narrative, both poignant and filled with humor, Gershon shares his event-filled life, starting from his childhood in a non-observant family of the 50s in the small Jewish community of Niagara Falls, New York.

When Gershon, then Gary, was ten, his mother enrolled him in piano lessons, and he took off, flying into the world of music. "No matter what was swirling around me, I could go to this magical world and just be there... I would send myself off to faraway places and go to places that no one's ever been to before. And I still go to those places."

Gershon poured out his soul through his music, but knew little about Judaism. He describes the many small miracles and funny anecdotes that shaped his growth. At 21, he suddenly "wanted to be more Jewish. Something fell into my Jewish soul." About to leave for a tour of study at the Mozarteum University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Salzburg, he overheard some Hebrew while grabbing a bite at a Burger King. "Hebrew! I should be going to Israel!" He nixed the Austria plans and headed for a kibbutz. The bit of Hebrew he picked up, the glimpse into tefilin and a new Jewish world, whet his appetite for more.

Gershon "had all these amazing Jewish feelings, and I didn't know what to do with them. I would go and buy wine and challa and eat them on Friday night not knowing there was any prayer involved." He happened to meet Rabbi Nosson Gurary of the Buffalo Chabad House, and offered the rabbi a challenge: "If you know the Torah, you know everything, because everything is found in the Torah. I want you to teach me Torah."

Thus began a warm mentoring friendship that has stretched over 35 years.

Gershon met his wife Chaya in Buffalo, and they soon moved to Toronto to have the resources of a larger Jewish community. They were busily engaged with building their family of 12 children, celebrating holidays and dealing with all the bumps and bruises of family life. Till one summer's day in 1994, when visiting a child at summer camp, four-year old Pinchas wandered away and drowned.

"Rivers of tears were cried." Gershon vowed he would never play again. He reached the point where he knew with absolute certainty he would not survive the pain. "I told my wife, 'I can't live.' And I really meant it. But, guess what? I am alive!"

In his performances, Gershon makes it clear to his audience that he's not looking for sympathy. He shares the personal tragedy to bring home his message of hope and acceptance, and the power of the heart to heal.

While Gershon defined himself as a pianist, his daily life revolved around his occupation as a kosher manager, later as the owner of an insurance agency, and his rich family and religious life. Five years ago, something changed. "I came to a standstill. I realized I needed more than carpool, shul, kids, dinner, and homework week-by-week, year-by-year. After several days of intensive introspection, I decided to go back to piano lessons and get a Masters in piano.

"I found a very special Russian teacher who brought me to a whole new level. I told myself, 'Don't be smart, drop what you think you know and follow whatever she does.' She taught me different techniques. Most important, she helped to emotionally understand what music really is. I used to play with bravado and passion. Now I have a new sensitivity, which is not the same thing.

"My son Pinchy had a smile that would light up the world. For years after his death I was occupied with a question, 'Where does love go? Where do all those smiles go after one leaves this world?" I asked many people but never got a satisfactory answer. On Pinchy's 13th birthday, what would have been his Bar Mitzva, we made a Torah dedication ceremony and turned a difficult day into a simcha and celebration. At the celebratory meal I asked this question to the audience. A unique friend, a Hell's Angel biker with a very spiritual soul got up.

" 'Up there in heaven,' he said, 'there's a pool of smiles, love, kindness. Sometimes there's a person who's especially good at one of these things. They have the key to access that pool and draw them down into this world. When they're gone, the smiles and love don't evaporate or disappear; they return to the pool, from which someone else can access them!' I just knew in my gut, he was right; this was the answer.

"I've come to see that music is the same way. Music is all around us, it's universal and touches each person in a very deep place. What does a musician do? He has that key, and can focus or be a channel for that flow, it comes into the world through him, and comes out through the other side of his soul.

"Music is a huge palette; everything is there. I'm really privileged to be able to connect to G-d in this way. I often play for an hour before I pray. When I play I can really feel my soul and I know I am connecting. When something is really bothering me and I need help, I play, and I pray.

Gershon feels his calling in life is to share his message of hope and inspiration through the gift of his unique access to that heavenly pool of soul music.

This article first appeared in Mishpacha magazine. Visit Gershon Wachtel's website at www.gershonpiano.com

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Shai and Chani Vaknin are the new youth directors for Chabad of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Rabbi Osher and Mussy Litzman will be arriving soon in Seoul, South Korea, to open the first Chabad House in that country. Rabbi and Mrs. Yehoshua Kaminetzky are opening a new Chabad-Lubavitch Center to serve the Balkan States of Serbia and Montenegroto. Eight new emissary couples are dispersing throughout Israel: the Habers in central Beersheva; the Cohens in Aderet; the Deitschs in Beersheva; the Flass' in Ashkelon; the Lugassis as Torat Chabad for Bnei Yeshivot; the Wolpos in Givatayim; the Francis' in the Dead Sea Coast; the Feldmans in Ness Tziona.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated and adapted
Motzoei Shabbos Kodesh, of the week of Vayeitzei,
9 Kislev - birthday and yahrzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe [Rabbi Dov Ber, second Chabad Rebbe]
Saturday night of the week of Vayishlach, 10 Kislev
- Day of Redemption of the Mitteler Rebbe, 5752 [1991]

To the Editorial Staff of "Kfar Chabad" [Magazine] In Our Holy Land, May it Be Rebuilt and Reestablished May G-d Be With You

Peace and Blessing!

I was pleased to be informed that "Kfar Chabad" magazine will be printing its five hundredth issue on the 10th of Kislev, G-d willing. This represents almost twelve years of uninterrupted publication, and testifies to the magazine's far-reaching influence among its readers.

I hereby send my heartfelt wishes and blessings to the editors, writers and readers of this important publication, may they live and be well, that G-d grant them continued success. May they go from strength to strength, and may both the magazine and its content be widely disseminated, that is, Judaism (the Torah and its commandments), and in particular, the wellsprings of Chasidus.

The significance of the number five hundred, as explained by our Sages and as elucidated by the inner light of Chasidus, is well known.[1] And from five hundred may you merit to increase and double to one thousand etc....

All of the above has a special emphasis now, during a leap year, referred to in the Torah as "a complete year" because its months are full (i.e., both Marcheshvan and Kislev have thirty days).

From this we learn (and indeed, it imbues us with strength) that each and every individual must do all in his power whenever it comes to Judaism, Torah and mitzvos (commandments).

So too is it with regard to this magazine, whose entire objective is the dissemination of Judaism, Torah and mitzvos, and the wellsprings of Chasidus in particular...

May the blessing and prayer of Moses our Teacher on behalf of all Jews (end of Chapter 90 of Psalms) be fulfilled in you, together with all of Israel: "May the pleasantness of my L-rd, our G-d, be upon us - establish the work of our hands." May it be G-d's will that the Divine Presence rest upon your handiwork, "and establish the work of our hands."

And may this also refer to the building of the Third Holy Temple, speedily in our day, with the true and complete Redemption by our Righteous Moshiach.

Respectfully and with blessings for success,


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Mevarchim Chodesh Nisan, Parshas HaChodesh, 5747 [1987]
To the Editors of "Di Yiddishe Heim" May G-d be with them, Blessing and greeting:

In answer to the notification that the upcoming issue of "Di Yiddishe Heim" will mark the 100th issue, I extend greetings and blessings to the members of the editorial staff, co-workers, and readers (may they all live many long, good years) of this worthy periodical.

Since one hundred is a significant number, because it is followed by a new computation and a higher level, as is hinted in the Talmud, and in the explanation in the holy book Tanya, about the difference between a person who has studied his chapter (lesson) one hundred times and the one who studied in one hundred and one times.

May the Almighty grant that the future issues of "Di Yiddishe Heim" may grow ever more in quality and in quantity, and be ever more widely distributed and bring the light of Torah, the "pnimius" [inwardness] of Torah (Chasidus) into ever incr easing numbers of Jewish homes...

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) In the footnotes to this letter, the Rebbe quotes from Torah commentaries who describe a connection between the number five hundred and one of G-d's names, as well as numerous references to the size of one heaven and the distance between the heavens as being "as far as a person can travel in five hundred years."


Customs

What is Gematria?

Torah can generally be interpreted on four levels: literal (pshat), allegorical (remez), homiletic (drush), and secret or esoteric (sod). Gematria, which involves assigning a numerical value to each Hebrew letter, is in the category of remez. When Hebrew words or phrases have the same numerical value, this alludes to the inner connection between the two. For instance, one of G-d's names, "Elokim," has the same numerical value as "hateva," meaing nature. When the name "Elokim" is used in scripture to represent G-d's presence within nature.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The very first issue of L'Chaim was published nearly 20 years ago, in time for the shloshim (thirty days after the passing) of our beloved Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka of righteous memory.

L'Chaim was established upon the Rebbe's request that institutions be founded bearing the Rebbetzin's name. Thus, L'Chaim is an acronym for "L'zecher Chaya Mushka - to the memory of (Rebbetzin) Chaya Mushka."

Today, tens of thousands of Jews in the New York Metro area read L'Chaim each week. "Across the border" in Montreal, Canada, over 10,000 Jews received L'Chaim at their doorstep. And in Toronto, LChaim is also printed and distributed. Across the Atlantic Ocean, in London and Manchester, England, the students of the Lubavitcher Yeshivot in those cities "translate" L'Chaim into "the Queen's English" for thousands of Jews in Great Britain. South Africa and Australia also print L'Chaim for their local communities. Many of our articles are translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, French and Russian for our fellow Jews to enjoy in other languages.

L'Chaim is also available by subscription and our readers hail from nearly every state in the United States and every continent in the world. Enjoying the Chabad in Cyberspace version of L'Chaim via the internet are readers in countries as diverse as: Jordan, China, Bosnia, Congo, Poland, Russia, Japan, Czech, Sweden, Germany, Scotland... the list goes on.

As the publisher of this important publication it gives me great pleasure to thank the entire L'Chaim staff, including our writers, editors and office staff, for their devotion, dedication and hard work. In one thousand issues they've never missed a deadline!

Recognition goes, as well, to the Lubavitcher students the world-over who spend their "free time" on Friday afternoons visiting people in their work places, encouraging them to put on tefilin or light Shabbat candles, and leaving them with the much enjoyed and appreciated L'Chaim.

It is my most fervent wish, and surely that of the L'Chaim staff and readers, that even before we reach the 20 year anniversary of L'Chaim, we will all be reunited with Moshiach in the final Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

Gather yourselves together that I may tell you what will befall you in the end of days (Gen. 49:1)

As Rashi explains, Jacob wished to tell his children when Moshiach would arrive, but "the Divine Presence departed" and he was thus unable to do so. But why was it necessary to take away the Divine Presence? Why didn't G-d just tell him that he was forbidden to reveal this information? What happened, however, was that Jacob foresaw all the suffering his children would be forced to endure throughout the exile, and became saddened. As "the Divine Presence only rests on a joyful person," it departed as a natural consequence of his mood.

(Rabbi Chanoch Tzvi of Bendin)


The scepter shall not depart from Judah... until Shilo comes (Gen. 49:10)

"Shilo" is the numerical equivalent of "Moses" (345); "until Shilo comes" is the equivalent of "Moshiach" (358).

(Zohar and Baal HaTurim)


And let them grow into a multitude (v'yidgu) in the midst of the earth (Gen. 48:16)

This blessing alludes to the fact that the existence of the Jewish people is not dependent on the forces of nature, but is a supernatural phenomenon. The word "v'yidgu" is derived from the Hebrew word for fish ("dag"), the intent being that there should be as many Jews as there are millions of fish. Fish, however, cannot live "in the midst of the earth"; Jacob's blessing therefore intimates that his children will survive even under conditions that would annihilate another nation.

(Chatam Sofer)


It Once Happened

A prominent Jewish merchant, Reb Yaakov from Vilna, known to be an accomplished Torah scholar, once passed through Mezritch. Having heard of the greatness of the Mezritcher Maggid, Rabbi Dov Ber, Reb Yaakov decided to visit him, although he was not an adherent of the Chasidic movement. Reb Yaakov was eager to engage the Maggid in a learned discussion, and he was not disappointed. But, as Reb Yaakov had no interest in Chasidic philosophy, the subject was not broached.

As Reb Yaakov was about to leave, the Maggid suddenly said: "Remember Yaakov, what our Sages of blessed memory said, that G-d sends His cure to a patient through a particular doctor and a particular medicine. Sometimes the One Above sends His cure not through the medication which the doctor prescribes, but through the doctor himself. As you know, a doctor receives his healing powers by authority of the Divine Torah, as it is written, 'And he shall surely cure him.' Therefore, the doctor has a healing angel at his side, and a very great doctor is accompanied by the chief healing angel, Rafael, himself."

As he traveled back to Vilna, Reb Yaakov thought about this strange parting remark, which seemed to come out of the blue. Reb Yaakov was, thank G-d, in very good health. He had never needed a doctor before, and he hoped he would not have to consult one in the future. He hadn't asked the Maggid for medical advice, so why had the Maggid mentioned doctors? Unable to solve this puzzle, he soon dismissed the entire episode from his mind.

Several weeks later Reb Yaakov returned home and soon fell into his normal routine. After a few days, he awoke feeling quite ill. His condition worsened rapidly and although all the best doctors were called in, each offering a different medication, nothing helped.

Word of his condition spread quickly. His friends and acquaintances were devastated, for Reb Yaakov was a kind and charitable man. Then a ray of hope appeared. The Jews of Vilna heard that the king would be arriving in town, and his personal physician, who was a wayward Jew, would be accompanying him. If only they could persuade the king's doctor to pay a call on their beloved friend, maybe this great doctor could save his life.

The community leaders dispatched a delegation to the king and petitioned him to allow his royal physician to visit Reb Yaakov. The king received them graciously and agreed to their request. The hopes of his family and friends soared when the famous doctor entered the sickroom, but were soon dashed. When the doctor looked at Reb Yaakov he said disdainfully, "Am I G-d that you have brought me here to revive a dead man?"

To everyone's horror, the doctor turned to leave. The distraught family begged him to prescribe some medication. "Nothing can help this man," he replied brusquely, casting a parting glance at the dying patient. But something caught his eye and he turned to look again. A slight bit of color could be seen on the patient's pale face. The doctor quickly took his notepad and scribbled a prescription. "Run to the pharmacy and bring this medication at once!"

Hope sprang again into the hearts of the man's family and friends. The royal physician remained at the man's bedside, his eyes fixed on the sick man. He was amazed to see further signs of improvement. He pulled out his pad and prescribed another medication. But no sooner had he written it out than the patient's eyes began to flicker. The doctor had never seen such a thing in all his experience. Suddenly, the erstwhile dying man sat up in bed and addressed the physician, "I beg you, dear doctor, don't go yet. Stay a while longer, and I'll feel much better. The Angel Rafael must be at your side."

The physician was completely overwhelmed. He stared at the patient in utter disbelief, and although he didn't believe in angels, he could almost believe the patient's words. As if reading the doctor's thoughts, Reb Yaakov began to relate his visit to the Maggid of Mezritch and especially the Maggid's puzzling remark at the end of the visit.

"I can see now, that his remark was completely prophetic and true," Reb Yaakov remarked.

The king's doctor, who had listened intently to the whole episode, sat engrossed in thought. It occurred to him that, great healer though he was, he needed a lot of healing himself - healing of a spiritual nature.

"I would like to meet this saintly man," he finally said. "When you are fully recovered, I would like you to take me to meet him."

Not very long after, the two of them, Reb Yaakov and the king's physician, traveled to Mezritch - Reb Yaakov to become a Chasid and the physician to return to his faith.

Adapted from Talks and Tales


Moshiach Matters

Regarding the burnt offering, it says that it had to stay on the fire "the entire night until the morning." The commentator Ohr Hachaim explains, "Until when will Israel be in exile?... 'The entire night' is a reference to the time of exile.... 'Until morning' refers to the time when He will reveal His glory to us and then dawn will come.... This will be after 500 years of the sixth millennium have passed, the shining of the light of the sixth day, Moshiach will come. G-d's day is 1000 years long. The first five hundred years represent the night and the next five hundred years, the day."


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