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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1014
                           Copyright (c) 2008
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        March 28, 2008           Shmini         21 Adar II, 5768

                              Power Outage

So it's eleven-thirty at night, you're having a cup of tea before bed,
reading an article or maybe the latest issue of L'Chaim. Your spouse is
doing the same; your teenager's listening to his iPod, and the little
ones are in bed.

Crack. Pop. The lights go out. It's totally dark. A power outage.

Soon everyone's got a candle and is huddled in the living room. You call
the energy company - your cell phone still has a charge - and find out
they know about the outage and your power will be restored in a maximum
of four hours.

You go outside. It's dark, for about a three block radius. The sky is
clear - no clouds. What could have caused it?

You shrug, go back inside, and get the family settled. Two hours later,
the power comes back on.

We've all had a similar experience, when the electricity goes out.
Usually it's restored pretty quickly - unless some major wind, rain or
snow storm knocked down power lines. Then the power outage could last a
week. Or more.

When the power goes out, we realize a few things: how much we depend on
the energy and light from electricity (no internet otherwise!), how
sensitive we are to our comforts, how fragile the networks we depend on,
and how much we need each other's support. (In the darkness of a power
outage, everyone shares candles, flashlights, food and resources.)

There are times when we also experience a spiritual power outage, so to
speak. We run out of energy and wander in darkness: we run out of energy
for mitzvot (commandments), for Jewish studies classes, for prioritizing
Judaism. And we wander in the darkness of doubts, questions,
distractions and confusions.

Our Judaism goes dark.

How do we get the "electricity" back on? What are our spiritual "repair
trucks," or "back-up generators"?

The answer is to study more, particularly Chasidic philosophy. Online,
from a book, or best of all, with someone else - maybe ask your Chabad
rabbi or rebbetzin to start a class.

But why Chasidic philosophy? Why does learning Chasidut turn our
spiritual electricity back on? After all, there are many parts of Torah
- the written text, including the Prophets and Writings, the Talmud,
philosophers and legal codifiers. So what about Chasidut re-energizes
us, gives us the strength to learn the other areas of Torah, to
re-establish our networks, to feel secure in our comfort zone?

Chasidut, particularly Chabad Chasidut, teaches us about G-d, creation,
the purpose of life, in such a way that we internalize it. There's a
difference between understanding something, and getting it, seeing it,
being charged by it.

Put a different way, Chasidut "powers us up" because it lets us see, see
what's there - see the underlying spirituality within the world, within
ourselves. It also gives us a sense of the essential unity of all Jews,
of the soul-level on which we operate, usually so unconsciously.

Our lights, appliances and computers are vessels that can receive, and
use, the electricity. But it has to be delivered. Our Torah and mitzvos
are the vessels that manifest the spiritual reality within each of us.
But the energy to get it done, to make the connection - that's delivered
through Chasidut.

The osprey, a large type of hawk, is one of the non-kosher birds listed
in this week's Torah portion, Shemini. The osprey, which lives on a diet
of fish, is an expert fisherman, swooping down into the depths of the
sea to catch its prey.

The Talmud relates that Rabbi Yochanan considered the osprey an
outstanding example of Divine Providence. Whenever he saw an osprey
feeding he would recite the verse, "Your judgements are the greatest
depths." G-d oversees and supervises His world even in the very depths
of the sea. Rabbi Yochanan saw that the osprey is only an instrument for
G-d's judgement, eating precisely those fish which G-d has decreed
should be eaten.

Rabbi Yochanan's statement is similar in content to the Baal Shem Tov's
teaching, that everything that happens in the world is due to Divine
Providence. G-d not only directs the steps of man, but oversees the
animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, guiding every tiny detail of His

The Baal Shem Tov taught that every single phenomenon that occurs is
determined by G-d, even the path of a falling leaf and the course it
takes as the wind blows it about.

The example set by the osprey is also, therefore, not accidental, for it
teaches us a lesson about how G-d oversees His creation. Although it
often seems to us that the world operates only according to natural law,
and it is sometimes difficult to detect the hand of G-d "behind the
scenes," Chasidic philosophy offers us an unusual insight.

The Hebrew word for "nature" - "teva" - comes from the same root as the
word meaning "drowned," or "sunken." Just as sunken treasure, hidden
beneath the depths of the sea, continues to exist despite being
invisible to the naked eye, so too, does nature obscure the true reality
within. The laws of nature conceal the Divine Providence that directs
every physical phenomenon, making it appear as if events just happen by

The osprey teaches us that if we want to uncover the truth which the
laws of nature conceal, all we need do is dive beneath the surface to
uncover the Divine Providence which is in control.

When we look beyond the obvious and contemplate these things, we come to
the realization that there is no such thing as an accident. This fact
will be made eminently clear after the coming of Moshiach, when the
G-dliness hidden within the physical realm will be revealed and open for
all to see.

                   Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                            A Family Triumph
                            by Ghuby Szanto

In Hungary, where I was born, being Jewish was considered to be
"shameful." The actual word "zsido" - meaning Jew - had become a swear
word. I found out that I had Jewish ancestors accidentally at age six. I
was also warned not to mention it ever to anyone because it is shameful.

Prior to World War II the majority of Jews in Hungary were assimilated
and followed the so called neologue (local conservative) movement. They
used to call themselves the Moses-faith Hungarians and questioned
whether they should keep in contact with

Jews from other countries. Misleading publications were printed, such as
a booklet "Miriam." The book was subtitled "Jewish Prayerbook" though it
contained not one traditional Jewish prayer, not one letter in Hebrew,
but rather was a compilation of nice texts and poems in Hungarian.

My great-great grandmother kept no semblance of Jewish traditions. It
was only when the Nazi dominance became apparent that she started

Shabbat candles towards the end of her life. Her daughter, my
great-grandmother, fell in love with a gentile and married him. Her two
Jewish children were raised as Christians. Her daughter became a nun and
devoted her entire life to heal and teach those in need. Her son, my
grandfather, grew up to be a deeply religious Protestant. He turned his
sharp mind into learning a variety of secular subjects as well as music
and became a highly knowledgeable, humble and wonderful man who was
loved by everyone.

As a young adult, I began searching for my identity. I found myself
drawn toward Judaism. The more I studied, the more I used to find myself
hovering in space longing for identity, until a little over a year ago
when I finally legalized my Jewish status through an Orthodox
conversion. The special experience of immersing in a ritual bath, a
mikva, to complete the conversion process was breath-taking.

My sister, who was standing next to the mikva said that her breath
stopped unexpectedly when my last strand of hair disappeared under the
water and the conversion was declared kosher. After coming out of the
mikva water I felt as if my entire body was energized. This strong
sensation filled my entire being from top to toe and it took long hours
for me to get used to the sensation of the new soul.

I visited my father in the summer and he was very excited about hosting
me for Shabbat. We went shopping together and he enjoyed assisting in
the food preparation as well. Although my father was not obligated to
observe Shabbat, he respected my observance by switching off the t.v.
before I lit the candles. As we were setting the table in the
undisturbed environment, we entered into an uplifted mood. The warmest
conversation we had all week was at the Friday night table with a glass
of kosher wine. Between the entree and main course I related a few
thoughts on the weekly Torah portion. The cholent for the next day
simmered throughout the night and when it was time for Shabbat lunch the
scent and flavor was unforgettable. These times at the Shabbat meals
were the most precious I spent with my father during our entire visit.

My conversion made me evaluate the goals in my life. I decided to take a
leave of absence from my promising information technology career and
moved continents with a couple of suitcases to study at the Machon Chana
Women's Institute in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I am currently studying,
constantly learning new things, and hoping to be introduced to my "other
half" very soon.

My studies at Machon Chana are unlike anything I have ever before
encountered. Dedicated teachers present carefully selected material that
makes the study an inspiring experience. Jewish law, Jewish history,
Torah, Hebrew skills, and Chasidic philosophy - a wonderful source for
character refinement and spiritual nourishment - comprise the colorful
studies in a day at Machon Chana.

My great great-grandmother was a victim of the Holocaust and her
daughter and her children were victims of the intellectual Holocaust. I
have returned to my ancestors' Jewish roots. Hitler has not won. Neither
will assimilation. We survived! G-d willing, I will be adding new names
to our Jewish family tree.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                        The Kol Menachem Hagadah

The Kol Menachem Haggadah adds layer upon layer of fresh insight to the
age-old celebration of our journey from slavery to freedom. A richly
textured commentary which creatively blends traditional, mystical and
life-enhancing insights. Each step of the Seder explained in simple
language. Insights culled from over 100 classic sources, including Toras

                              Inward Bound

Subtitled "A Guide to Understanding Kabala," Inward Bound answers such
basic questions as "What is kabala all about?" and "How can I use kabala
to help change my life for the better?" Author Rabbi Nissan Dubov has
divided his book into three section. The first section examines the very
origins of this esoteric knowledge and guides us towards an
understanding of how kabala is intrinsically linked to the future
destiny of the Jewish people. The second section of the book provides
the reader with an in-depth explanation of fundamental Kabalistic
concepts. The third section illustrates how we can apply the principles
of kabala to our daily lives, including the practice of Jewish
meditation and refining our character. Devora Publishing.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                     Freely adapted and translated

I received your letter of the 24th of Teves in which you describe your
situation - that you saw the doctor's report and that this had a very
strong negative effect on you.

You describe what you imagine to be your future, for which reason you
recite Tehillim (Psalms) and beseech G-d to be kind and merciful to you,
and you ask for my opinion on the matter.

Your recitation of Tehillim and beseeching G-d is surely a good thing,
as G-d is the Master of the entire universe and oversees all individuals
and each and every detail of their lives.

However, I disagree with that which you write: that you thought about
the doctor's report and you envision a dismal future, for the matter of
your future is not in your hands at all, but in G-d's hands, and it was
not for the purpose of gloomily pondering your future that you were

Rabbi ... writes me that you are a Jew who observes Torah and mitzvos
(commandments). Surely, then, you believe that G-d is the Master of the
universe, governing the world.

We observe that even a human boss, if he is at all competent, will
separate the various components of his business so that one part will
not impinge on the other and each part will serve the purpose it is
meant to serve.

This is only true regarding a human being who is inherently limited in
all his affairs and is consequently subject to intermittent erring.
Regarding G-d's mastery of affairs, however, everything that G-d brought
into existence is meant to fulfill its specific purpose, mission and

When someone's impulse leads him to do something other than his mission,
then this contains two faults: a) since it does not comprise the
individual's mission, then nothing but damage is being done; b) this
takes the person away from fulfilling the mission for which he was
indeed chosen.

All the above applies to your situation as well: For any number of
reasons, which are surely a result of individual Divine providence, your
profession is not medicine. You have, however, been raised a Jew who
observes Torah and mitzvos.

We know two matters from the above: a) that your Divine mission in this
world does not consist of practicing medicine; and b) that observing
Torah and mitzvos is your goal and mission for which reason you were
created. This goal and mission includes the mitzvah of "Love your fellow
as yourself" and "You shall surely admonish your fellow."

Moreover, in commenting upon the verse, "When you see someone naked, you
should clothe him," it is stated in the book of Tanna D'vei Eliyahu,
that this also includes the obligation that "When you see someone naked
of Torah and mitzvos, see that you clothe him with Torah and mitzvos."
This then is your goal and mission in life, the purpose for which you
were created.

From all the above it is understand-able that, firstly, it directs you
away from fulfilling your mission for which you were selected. Moreover,
by interfering in matters of your healing, you can only do - G-d forbid
- harm, but surely not any good.

The harm that may be brought about by your interference resides in the
fact that your distress stemming from what you surmised about your
medical condition can result in imagining things that will not come to
pass. By pondering and occupying yourself with what this doctor says and
what that professor may come up with, etc., you weaken your mazal and
your trust in G-d.
                        continued in next issue

      From Healthy in Mind, Body and Soul, translated by Rabbi S.B.
                           Wineberg, published by Sichos in English

                 Why do we say blessings before eating?

When we recite a blessing we are expressing our gratitude to G-d for our
sustenance. Saying a blessing transforms a commonplace activity into a
holy act. Chasidic teachings explain that all food contains a G-dly
spark of holiness. When we make a blessing before eating, we elevate the
physical substance of the food into holiness and reunite the holy spark
with its source.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
When it comes to doing mitzvot, our natural inclination is to try to
comprehend as much as we can about a particular precept. However, some
mitzvot are accessible to the human mind, while others are not. Some of
the Torah's commandments are completely beyond our understanding. These
mitzvot are called chukim, the primary example of which is the mitzva of
the red heifer, about which we read this week in the special Torah
reading known as "parshat para." Even King Solomon, the wisest of all
men, declared that this mitzva was beyond his ability to grasp.

Chasidic philosophy, rather than being "troubled" by these mitzvot,
derives a very important lesson from them. We must strive, Chasidut
teaches, to perform even the most seemingly rational mitzvot with the
same sense of nullification before G-d and "acceptance of the yoke of
heaven" as the ones that transcend the human intellect. We don't refrain
from stealing or honor our parents because it makes sense to us; the
only reason we do these mitzvot is because G-d has commanded us to
observe them.

In truth, the entire Torah is "super-rational." G-d did us a favor and
made it easier for us to perform certain mitzvot by "enclothing" them in
logic, but a Jew's religious observance and indeed, his intrinsic
connection to G-d relate to a much higher level. The bottom line is that
we keep the Torah's commandments only to fulfill G-d's will.

The human mind is a wondrous creation. G-d wants us to use our minds to
the best of our ability, as the mitzva to study Torah clearly
demonstrates. But at the same time the mind is flexible, and the process
of reasoning can sometimes lead to false conclusions.

Chasidut also explains that because logic itself is a creation, it is
therefore limited. Only G-d is unlimited and eternal.

The mitzva of the red heifer thus raises our awareness of the
fundamental "super-rational" basis of all of Judaism.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
He brought close the meal-offering, and he filled his hand of it, and
burnt it upon the altar, beside (milvad) the burnt-sacrifice of the
morning (Lev. 9:17)

The Hebrew word "milvad" is an acronym for "melaveh le'ani be'shat
dochko - he who lends to a poor person in his hour of need." Lending
money to the poor is so noble a deed it is considered as if one brought
an offering before G-d.

                                                  (Da'at Chachamim)

                                *  *  *

Every earthen vessel... whatever is in it shall be unclean (Lev. 11:33)

An earthen vessel becomes unclean by virtue of its contents, not because
of anything its exterior may come into contact with. For pottery itself
has no intrinsic value, serving only as a container for whatever it
holds. A metallic vessel, how ever, becomes unclean from the outside, as
the metal itself is valuable. A human being is likened to an earthen
vessel; he too is composed of "dust of the earth." He himself has no
intrinsic worth; his value comes from that which is within.

                                                (The Kotzker Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

You shall not make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be
thereby defiled... you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you
shall be holy (Lev. 11:43-44)

Our Sages said: He who defiles himself a little, is defiled a lot from
Above; he who defiles himself in this world is defiled in the World to
Come. Similarly, one who sanctifies himself a little is assisted and
sanctified from Above; he who sanctifies himself in this world will be
sanctified in the World to Come.

                                                     (Talmud, Yoma)

                                *  *  *

The root of the Hebrew word "olah" means "height" or "elevation,"
teaching us that if a person truly desires to lift himself up and draw
near to G-d, he must sacrifice "his own voluntary will," as our Sages
said, "Nullify your will before His."

                                           (The Magid of Mezeritch)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Once during his travels, Rabbi Aaron of Karlin arrived at the town of
Zarowitz close to the Shabbat. He saw a small cottage situated on the
edge of the town and he knocked on the door hoping to find some
hospitality there. A small woman opened the door and listened to his
request to remain there for the Shabbat. "You are welcome to stay," she
replied simply, and she ushered him into the house.

As soon as he set his foot inside the door, Rabbi Aaron felt himself
enveloped by an overwhelming sense of holiness, and he knew that there
must be something unique about the occupants of this house. Reb Aaron
prepared himself for the Shabbat and was about to go out the door to the
synagogue when he met Reb Yitzchak, the owner of the house, just
returning from his workday. The man was dressed in simple peasant garb,
and there was nothing to distinguish him from any other worker. He
greeted his guest warmly, but his features disguised any emotion.

Rabbi Aaron was accustomed to celebrate the Shabbat with enthusiastic
singing and prayers, and he followed his usual rituals. His host,
however, rushed quickly through the prayers, hurriedly said kiddush over
the wine and then sat down to eat his simple meal. But even in this
plain food, Rabbi Aaron could detect an undeniable holiness, although he
couldn't figure out what it stemmed from. He studied the man and woman,
but there was nothing special about anything they said or did that would
set them apart from any of ten thousand other poor Jews.

When the Shabbat ended Rabbi Aaron thanked his host and hostess and
continued on his journey, the mystery unsolved.

The following week, a woman turned up in the Study Hall of the nearby
city of Premishlan and spoke to the members of the local burial society
requesting that they come with her. "Please come with me to Zarowitz
now, for my husband, Reb Yitzchak, is dying and he has asked that you be
with him in his last moments."

The men immediately followed her to her home, but when they entered the
house, her husband wasn't even there. "What is this, some kind of joke?
Have you brought us all this way for nothing?"

"No, of course not, gentlemen," she replied. "My husband is on his way
and will be here shortly." And sure enough, her husband walked through
the door, holding a bunch of straw. This, he spread on the floor and
then simply lay down upon it. Then he began speaking to the burial
society officials: "My friends, it is now time for me to leave this
world. I have lived as a nistor (a hidden tzadik - righteous person) all
my life, but the time has come for me to reveal myself. The moment that
I die, go with all speed to Premishlan and bring back as many scribes as
you can gather. Have them bring pens and paper, for here they will copy
over my secret writings. This must be done while I am still lying here
on the ground, before I am buried. Watch me, and when you see a change
in my face, all writing must cease at once."

Reb Yitzchak finished speaking, closed his eyes, and for a moment his
face burned like a fire. Then, his lips which had been moving in silent
prayer became still, and he was gone.

Scores of scribes were hurriedly brought to the cottage where the tzadik
lay. Each one was given a leaf of paper to copy and they raced against
time to complete their holy task. The officials' eyes were fixed on the
face of the tzadik, looking for any change. Suddenly, the face lost all
of its color and the box which contained his writings mysteriously
closed by itself. The scratching of pens stopped abruptly, and
preparations were quickly begun to ready Reb Yitzchak for burial.

When Rabbi Aaron heard of the death of the tzadik and the circumstances
which surrounded it, his heart was filled with bitter regret. What
wondrous Torah secrets he might have learned from the deceased! He went
to pay his respects to the widow and perhaps to glean some bit of
knowledge about the tzadik's life from her.

"Well, there's nothing I can really tell you," she said. "I'm sorry, but
my husband wouldn't permit it." Rabbi Aaron was bitterly disappointed.
He wished her comfort, among all the mourners of Zion, and turned to
leave. But just as he reached the door, the widow called out to him,
"Wait, there's one small thing I can show you. Do you see those
candlesticks there on the shelf? Well, from the day I married until the
day my husband died, those candlesticks burned constantly all by

Rabbi Aaron left the cottage deep in reflection. The wondrous
accomplishments of the hidden tzadik would remain one of G-d's many
secrets, perhaps to be divulged only by Moshiach, himself.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Queen Cleopatra said to R. Meir: "I know that the dead will live again,
for it is written, 'And they shall blossom out of the city like grass
from the earth'; but when they arise, will they arise naked or clothed?"
He replied, "You may deduce the answer by observing a wheat grain. If a
grain of wheat, which is buried naked, sprouts forth in many robes, how
much more so the righteous, who are buried in their garments."

                                             (Talmud Sanhedrin 90b)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1014 - Shmini 5768

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