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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1092
                           Copyright (c) 2009
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        October 23, 2009         Noach          5 Cheshvan, 5770

                             The Cat's Meow

Moses Maimonides is perhaps the greatest of all Jewish philosophers. His
works include the Mishneh Torah, the only comprehensive code of Jewish
law encompassing all areas including agricultural and sacrificial; the
Guide to the Perplexed, still a definitive work of Jewish theology; a
commentary on the Mishnah, important letters to Jewish communities, and
works on medicine still relevant.

Maimonides - or Rambam, as he is also known (an acronym for Rabbi Moses
Ben Maimon) was forced at a  young age from his home on the Iberian
Peninsula by the invading Christians. Eventually he settled in Cairo,
where he became the personal physician of the Sultan Saladin. This
story, handed down through the ages, occurred perhaps toward the
beginning of Maimonides' time as royal physician.

During a dinner discussion, Rambam argued that only human beings can
change their character. The process of self-transformation is something
only people can experience. And when a person changed his or her
character, Rambam said, their actions change. Hence, humans can refine
themselves, animals cannot.

One of the sultan's advisors, seeing an opportunity to humiliate the
sultan's Jewish physician, proposed a wager, claiming he could transform
a cat into a waiter - that he could teach it to behave contrary to its
nature. If Rambam's argument was that a change of behavior indicated a
change of nature, then, the advisor said, he could prove that animals
are just as capable as humans.

Now the advisor was also a remarkable animal trainer, and he did indeed
succeed in training the cat to walk on its hind legs, to hold a little
tray in its paws, to wear a costume of sorts, etc.

On the designated day, Rambam arrived with only a little box. The sultan
and his court seated themselves. With great fanfare the advisor opened
the door and in walked the cat - costumed, on two legs, with a tray of
delicacies in his paws.

The sultan looked at the Rambam, who, still smiling, opened his box. Out
ran a mouse. The cat immediately dropped the tray, went down on all
fours and began chasing the mouse all over the great dining hall.

There are, of course, many lessons we can take from such a story. But
one lesson may not be so obvious: since human beings have the potential
to transform themselves, to transcend their animal natures, they also
have an obligation to do so. If a cat, by dint of rigorous training, can
pose - falsely, and even for a moment - as a "waiter," then a human
being, by dint of hard work and commitment, can change ones nature
thoroughly and permanently.

In fact, providing the tools to change one's nature or character, is the
main idea of Chabad Chasidut (Chasidic philosophy), according to its
founder, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi:

Once, the "Tzemach Tzedek," asked his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman,
"What is the main idea of Chasidut?" He did not ask what Chasidut was
because he already knew that Chasidut is a G-dly study and understanding
that contains the inner teachings of Torah. He wanted to know what was
the principal idea of Chasidut.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman answered that the essential idea of Chasidut is to
change the nature of one's attributes - meaning not just to change one's
nature from bad to good, but even if one has a good nature, to change
it, for nothing should be done simply because it's one's nature.

This week's Torah portion, Noach, contains the narrative of Noach and
the Great Flood which covered the earth in his generation.

After many months "at sea" in his ark, Noach opened the window to check
on the sodden and water-logged world, to see if it had finally dried.

"In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month," Noach
found that the earth was indeed "perfectly dry."

It was then that G-d spoke to Noach and issued the command: "Go forth
from the ark, you, and your wife, and your sons, and your sons' wives
with you."

Why did Noach need a special command from G-d to induce him to leave the
cramped quarters he had endured for so long? Why didn't Noach exit the
ark joyously of his own accord as soon as he saw that the land was dry?

Noach's reluctance to leave may be understood in light of the great
miracle which occurred inside the ark itself.

All the animals within it, the ferocious and the tame, miraculously
co-existed peacefully with each other, contrary to their natural
inclinations and instincts.

Just imagine the hundreds of different species sharing their relatively
small living space (the entire ark was only three hundred cubits long
and fifty cubits wide) for an entire year - yet no animal caused harm to
another the whole time!

Chasidic philosophy explains that the atmosphere in Noach's ark was akin
to what will happen when Moshiach comes, when "the wolf will lay down
with the lamb" and peace will reign on earth.

Noach, his family and all the animals in the ark enjoyed a peace which
will return to the world only with the Final Redemption and the
Messianic Era, speedily in our day.

Understandably, therefore, Noach was hesitant to leave the peaceful
environment of the ark for the natural order that had existed before the

The earth may have finally dried, but Noach preferred the Messianic
existence within the confines of the ark to returning to the vast
expanse of dry land which beckoned.

He therefore needed G-d's encouragement to disembark, to begin the next
chapter in mankind's history and to fulfill the purpose of creation -
the establishment of a dwelling place for G-d down below in the physical

"Go forth from the ark" is likewise G-d's counsel to every Jew.

The Jew is enjoined to go out of his "four cubits," no matter how
rarefied and holy, to fill the earth with G-dliness and holiness
according to Divine plan, through the learning of Torah and the
observance of mitzvot (commandments).

                       Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                            A Woman of Hope
                             by Cathy Cole

I was born in March of 1953 in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where my
father was stationed as a Marine during the Korean War. My family
returned to New York six weeks after I was born. My parents settled in
Long Island, and I had a typical suburban childhood in a middle class

My father owned a luggage and gift shop in Manhattan, while my mother
was a homemaker. All through my childhood, I attended public school in
Hicksville. Hebrew school was reserved for my brother, who needed
preparation for his bar mitzva. I was told that Torah study was not
needed for a girl. But then my father came upon hard times in business,
and the temple threatened to suspend Hebrew School for my brother unless
dues were paid. My father removed my brother from the school and hired a
tutor for him to complete his lessons. No one in my family spoke of
Hebrew School or attending services again.

From the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted a career in science.
By the time I was a sophomore in college, I decided to adapt my science
background to medicine. During this time, I lost three of my
grandparents in four years. My parents decided to make a new start in
California, and took my younger siblings with them while I finished my
studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey. I had plans to attend
medical school after graduation, but my plans did not work out as I had
hoped. I followed my family to California to think about my future.

In 1976, I went to nursing school at Pierce College in the San Fernando
Valley to begin my career in health care. I also completed a Master's
degree in Public Health Education at California State University in
Northridge. The combination of health care and public service shaped my
creative thinking of what I could accomplish. I enrolled in a full time
nurse practitioner program, studying together with medical residents and
fellows for one additional year. The chance to move to advance practice
and have more of a say in patient care was very appealing to me. The
training was the best combination of medicine and nursing philosophy,
teaching me how to give the patient quality care while also taking the
time to be a perceptive listener.

In 1977, I met my husband Larry quite by accident. He was a patient
assigned to me while I was working on an orthopedic floor of a small
community hospital. We began dating after his back surgery and release
from the hospital.

In 1978, I began my nursing career as a labor and delivery nurse. Now I
spend my time in cancer care. It seems that I have been through the
entire continuum of life through my work. I have spent over 30 years as
a nurse practitioner in gynecology and women's health, mostly in the
field of breast cancer care. I have worked with women as young as 14 to
as old as 85, coping with all sorts of challenging symptoms. I lobbied
for changes in the law to allow women access to low cost mammography,
even when they have no insurance coverage. I travel within California as
well as around the country to teach health care providers the proper
techniques in examination, diagnosis, referral and treatment of breast
abnormalities. I have also been fortunate enough to work for major
hospitals, on mobile mammography units, and in comprehensive cancer care
centers. Every day is a new challenge, one in which complete dedication
and a non-judgmental style is of paramount importance.

I began my work at the City of Hope in Duarte, California, in 2003. I
now manage the clinic operations as well as handle my own patient
population of women who, thank G-d, are past treatment and interested in
health promotion and avoiding recurrence.

There comes a time in our lives when we yearn to find meaning to life
and to the circumstances that surround us. So much that was happening in
my life was overwhelming, and finding meaning to my life and the greater
universe around me became very important. Judaism had been at the
periphery of my life since childhood, but suddenly it seemed to be the
central constant that I needed to embrace.

I had been sent a flyer about a course offered by Chabad of Agoura,
"Toward a Meaningful Life," based on the book by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
about the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I attended the six-week
course and learned much about myself and how to deal with life's

Then in 2001, another flyer came to my home inviting me to an open
house, where we would be introduced to the new Rabbi and Rebbetzin who
had just moved to Thousand Oaks, California, where I live. When I met
Rabbi Chaim and Rebbetzin Shula Bryski, it was so comfortable, so
inspiring, and so profound to me. I thought of my grandparents and how
much their faith had meant to them. Suddenly, I desired the comfort of
Judaism again. Rabbi Chaim and Shula have helped me find that comfort
and strength.

Rabbi Chaim has often stated that Shabbos is like "Club Med for Jews," a
real chance to slow down and put aside the week's worries for 25 hours.
Yes! I enjoy and look forward to my vacation every week. Friends and
family have had to make adjustments. They have learned not to call me on
Friday night or Saturday, and I have had to adjust myself not to shop,
go to the bank or do errands on Shabbos. While my family still struggles
with my commitment to Chabad and all that I have learned, I know my path
is correct. The fact that I am a constant reminder to them of our roots
and our heritage is a worthy calling.

My life now is filled with the patience and understanding that only
having a relationship with Hashem (G-d) can bring. My husband and I,
after 30 years of marriage (may G-d grant us many more), live
comfortably in Thousand Oaks. I have come to understand that my life
circumstances were destined by Hashem.

        Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter

                               WHAT'S NEW
                             New Emissaries

Rabbi Aharon Dovid and Chava Rivka Backman recently moved to Tampa,
Florida, where they are establishing the USF Chabad Jewish Student
Center at the University of South Florida.

Rabbi Moshe and Rivky Gancz have arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, where they
will be the directors of Adult Education and Outreach for Chabad in

Rabbi Avremi and Nissa Bracha Yarmush have just moved to Bellingham,
Washington, where they are assuming the position of directors of the
Chabad Jewish Center serving Whatcom County and Western Washington

These young couples are joining the army of over 4,000 emissaries of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe world-wide.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                    4th Day of Chanukah, 5715 (1955)

...You can well appreciate the inner pain and anxiety that have been
caused by the reported changes introduced in the character of the
yeshivah in recent years, changes which are inimical to the character of
the yeshivah and harmful to its students.

I shall mention but several of the more grievous ones:

 1. The purpose of chinuch (Jewish education) is to bring up the
    Jewish child, boy or girl, to a life of the utmost possible degree
    of perfection, religiously as well as morally and ethically.

    Co-education is not conducive to the attainment of this end; on the
    contrary, it is a sure step in the opposite direction.

    The state of morality of present-day youth is too painful a subject
    to dwell upon. Even non-Jewish educators have largely come to
    realize the harmful effects of coeducation.

    Statistics, by no means complete, since for obvious reasons they are
    not fully reported or even recorded, reveal the state of moral
    depravity to which coeducation leads.

    It has therefore been one of the cardinal and basic principles of
    our educational institutions not to permit coeducation at all costs,
    and it grieves me very much to hear that the yeshivah has not abided
    by this principle.

    It has thus taken upon itself the responsibility for a breach in the
    fortress of chastity and morality of young children, a terrible
    mistake which, if not quickly rectified, is likely to bring
    irreparable harm, G-d forbid.

    Needless to say, the financial argument that it is more expensive to
    run separate classes for boys and girls is not an argument at all,
    as the matter vitally concerns the future of many children; even if
    the future of a single child were involved, money would be no
    consideration, as our Sages say, "He who saves one life is deemed to
    have saved a whole world."

 2. It is also self-evident that one of the main purposes of the
    yeshivah is to prepare the Jewish child for life in an environment
    in which Jews form a minority.

    Jews have always been "the smallest among the nations," but our
    strength does not lie in numbers. It is the Jewish way to be a
    "kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Living according to our holy
    Torah, adhering to and practicing the high standards of our mitzvoth
    (commandments) in our everyday life, has made us "different," but
    herein lies our strength, and this is what has preserved us through
    the ages.

    This Jewish consciousness and rightful pride in our destiny has to
    be implanted in our children from their earliest formative years,
    and the vital importance of it cannot be over-emphasized.

    The fact that we live in a democratic country, with a full measure
    of freedom, makes such Jewish consciousness even more imperative,
    for being a small percentage of the total population, the forces of
    assimilation assert themselves more strongly than elsewhere.

    It is the duty of the yeshivah to remove from the child any vestige
    of inferiority complex about his Jewishness in a predominantly
    non-Jewish environment he may have, until he grows up to understand
    that democracy and freedom are not a cauldron of assimilation, but
    rather the contrary: they offer the possibility for everyone to take
    his place, enjoy his rights and live according to his faith one
    hundred percent, and the opportunity to the Jew to fulfill his
    life's destiny.

    (Incidentally, this is also a better way to win the respect of one's
    gentile neighbors, rather than by attempts to emulate them and
    invade their privacy, their religious customs, etc.)

 3. With the above truth in mind, it has been a basic principle in
    all institutions founded by my father-in-law, of saintly memory, and
    in others to which his influence extended, to set up a system
    whereby the sacred Jewish subjects are taught in the morning and the
    secular subjects in the afternoon.

    Apart from the fact that the child's mind is more receptive and
    retentive in the morning, there is the basic principle of impressing
    upon the child the order of importance of these two departments,
    namely, that the Torah and Jewish way of life come first and
    foremost. Only in this way can he be brought up to properly
    appreciate his great Jewish heritage, and with pride and fortitude
    face any challenge he may encounter as a Jew.

    It is therefore very painful to learn that the yeshivah has
    disregarded this vital principle, and that in certain classes, at
    any rate, the order has been reversed...

    There are other points which call for correction, but the above
    three should suffice to induce some self-searching and reflection on
    the vital issues at stake.

    Again, I repeat: I am aware of the usual arguments purporting to
    "justify" the above defects, and even call them advantages. The
    actual harm, however, is not minimized thereby.

    The best of educators cannot always fully estimate the lasting
    imprint of what appears as small and unimportant in the child's

    The child, in his tender years, has well been likened to a seed, or
    young plant, upon which the slightest scratch may grow to unforeseen
    proportions and crippling effects.

    By the same token, every effort to correct even the smallest defect
    in the child's education is inestimable in value...

                            A CALL TO ACTION
                       Maintain Your Jewish Name

Our Sages stated that one of the reasons the Jews merited the redemption
from Egypt was that "they did not change their names." They continued
using Hebrew names throughout the entire exile. Find out what your
Jewish name is (a Jewish name can be Hebrew or Yiddish) and your
mother's and father's Jewish names. If you were never given a Jewish
name, chose one yourself after consulting your rabbi. Consider slowly
switching to using your Jewish name.

    In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other
    kedoshim of Mumbai

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The name of this week's portion, Noach, is identified with rest and
satisfaction. The Shabbat on which we read the portion of Noach infuses
the upcoming week, and indeed, the entire year, with a sense of rest and

In a talk on this Shabbat a number of years ago, the Rebbe stated that
it is an appropriate time to make a "just accounting" of one's conduct
in the new year. The Rebbe described the manner in which this accounting
should take place:

There are two approaches to the just account of one's conduct. One
involves focusing one's attention on the particular weaknesses and
failings evident in one's behavior. The other places the emphasis on
involvement in positive activity, thrusting oneself into the service of
Torah and mitzvot (commandments) with renewed energy. In this way, all
negative factors will be nullified for "a little light banishes much

Ultimately there should be a fusion of both services, that a person's
focus of attention to his past conduct be included in a process of
growth and development that is intended to lift one to a higher and more
elevated rung.

When one approaches this just account in this fashion, one's feelings
are not centered on bitterness or sorrow-although one is aware of
problems that must be corrected. One is involved in a process of
striving to ascend upward and this is the focus of one's emotions.

Furthermore, one appreciates that the reason for one's descent is to
ultimately return to G-d and to demonstrate that regardless of the
situation a Jew finds himself in, he still shares an essential
connection with G-d. For these reasons, the just account mentioned above
will be accompanied by feelings of happiness and pleasure.

The Rebbe concluded this discussion by saying that "We are living in an
era when all the service necessary to bring the Redemption has been
completed. Ultimately, then, the just account we make must lead to the
conclusion that Moshiach must come immediately."

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Noach was a perfect, righteous man in his generations (Gen. 6:9)

The Torah uses the plural "generations" because Noach's lifetime
actually spanned two of them: the generation of the Flood, and the
generation that replenished the earth afterward. Compared to the immoral
people who lived before the Flood, Noach was righteous in deed. Compared
to those who built the Tower of Babel and who were intellectually
dishonest, he was perfect and without blemish.

                            (Beit Yosef, quoted by Magid Meisharim)

                                *  *  *

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14)

If the purpose of the ark was "to keep seed alive upon the face of all
the earth"-to make sure that each animal species continued to
propagate-why did G-d instruct Noach to make it "for himself"? Because
man's place in the universe is unique and crucial to all of creation. If
he conducts himself according to G-d's will, he raises up and elevates
the entire world; if not, he drags down the entire planet with him.

                                            (Sefer HaMaamarim 5699)

                                *  *  *

And only Noach was left (Gen. 7:23)

In previous verses Noach is referred to as "perfect" or "righteous," yet
after the Flood he is simply "Noach," the name he was given at birth.
For it was only in relation to the wicked people around him that he was
deserving of such complimentary titles and descriptions.

                                                      (Ketav Sofer)

                                *  *  *

And Noach...planted a vineyard...and drank of the wine and became
drunken (Gen. 9:20-21)

Why does the Torah relate such an unsavory story about Noach? Because
despite his relative greatness, Noach's character and true nature was
coarse. For this reason, the people of Noach's generation didn't
consider him any better than they were. By contrast, the conduct of
Abraham both privately and publicly was that of a holy man, prompting
everyone who saw him to declare, "You are a prince of G-d in our midst."

                                                    (Tal Shechakim)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
There were once two chasidim who were followers of Rebbe Moshe Tzvi of
Sevran. One, Reb Meir who had recently lost his wife, was a poor Torah
scholar. The other chasid, Reb Tzvi Verbka, was a wealthy innkeeper.
Divine Providence decreed that their lives become entwined as follows:

After the untimely death of his wife, the young Reb Meir went to live
and study at the court of his Rebbe. He set out on foot to Sevran. On
Lag B'Omer he stopped at an inn belonging to Reb Tzvi. There, he joined
the other Jews in their festive celebration. Although Reb Tzvi was away
on business, he had prepared a large meal complete with ample

When the guests had all eaten and drunk they decided to have some fun.
One of the locals suggested: "I've got an idea! You're a widower and the
innkeeper's daughter is a widow - why don't the two of you get married?"

Reb Meir was an earnest young man, and after thinking it over he agreed.
The laughing crowd proceeded to the daughter's house where they
presented their idea to her. Seeing that they were all happily drunk,
she saw no harm in humoring them. When Reb Meir proposed the match to
her she agreed in a spirit of fun. The crowd drew up a marriage contract
and brought out four broomsticks and a tablecloth to serve as a chupa.
The bride and groom performed their respective roles perfectly, even
breaking the glass at the end of the ceremony to shouts of "Mazal tov!"

The bride and groom were carried on the shoulders of the drunken
celebrants, and the merry-making continued into the night until everyone
was tired. They all went off to their rooms, leaving Meir abandoned. The
next morning he resumed his trip and soon arrived in Sevran.

Meanwhile Reb Tzvi returned home. Seeing the littered remains of the
night's feast and the make-shift chupa he asked what had gone on. When
he was told about the make-believe wedding between his daughter and the
poor traveler, he began to wail: "What have you done? This was a
perfectly legal marriage and you have married my daughter to some
wandering beggar!"

There was nothing to do, but to go his Rebbe without delay and obtain a
divorce for his daughter. Reb Meir had already arrived in Sevran and had
explained the story to Rebbe Moshe Tzvi.

When the Rebbe suggested that he give her a divorce he flatly refused;
he was very satisfied with the arrangement. The Rebbe summoned a
rabbinical court that decided that the father of the bride must pay the
groom damages of 1,800 rubles, after which he would grant the divorce.
Both sides agreed, but a delay of a few days was requested in order to
gather the money.

The Rebbe moved quickly. Borrowing 300 rubles he set about to transform
the appearance of the young groom. With a haircut, a new suit and a
beautiful fur hat, Reb Meir was a sight to behold. He impressed everyone
with his good looks and intelligent mien.

When Reb Tzvi arrived, money in hand, the Rebbe took him aside and
whispered, "I have found the perfect match for your daughter." He
introduced Reb Tzvi to the renovated Reb Meir, whom he didn't even
recognize. Reb Tzvi was duly impressed and agreed to the match. When the
Rebbe revealed the truth Reb Tzvi's face fell.

But the Rebbe spoke further: "I heard in heaven that this match has been
decreed. You, however, were supposed to have lost your entire fortune,
and so been forced to take this match. When I prayed on your behalf I
succeeded in averting that part of the sentence."

When the Rebbe saw that Reb Tzvi was still unmoved he continued: "Let me
tell you a story. There was a wealthy man with a daughter of
marriageable age. The Baal Shem Tov told him of a match for his daughter
and asked that the girl's brothers meet the prospective groom. When they
arrived, they noticed a bagel-seller in the street. Secretly, the Baal
Shem Tov called to the peddler and gave orders that he be groomed and
properly attired.

"The Baal Shem Tov then called the now elegant-looking bagel-seller to
appear and he invited the visiting brothers to test the young man on any
aspect of Talmud they wished. They asked the most difficult questions
and to their surprise, he answered brilliantly. They rushed home to tell
their father about the excellent match the Baal Shem Tov had proposed.
The couple was introduced, the arrangements made, and a beautiful
wedding was celebrated.

"Soon after the wedding the bride and her family were shocked to find
that the groom, who had seemed so scholarly the week before, showed no
evidence of his previous brilliance. The brothers went to the Baal Shem
Tov for an explanation and he told them: 'I saw in a vision that this
bagel-seller was your sister's destined mate. It had been decreed that
your father die, leaving her an orphan forced to go begging. In that way
she was to have met her husband. But I pleaded for your father's life,
promising to arrange for the couple to meet in some different way.' "

Reb Tzvi's face had softened; he was now convinced that this match was
right. The couple lived many happy and prosperous years together,
frequent visitors to the court of the Rebbe of Sevran.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The foundation of all foundations is the belief in the coming of
Moshiach, for then will be (the state of) "G-d will be King over all the
land and all will recognize His Kingship. Although he may tarry,
nonetheless we are obligated to wait and anticipate and ask 'When will
You rule in Zion?'"

                    (Chofetz Chaim on the Torah Parshat Noach 8:22)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1092 - Noach 5770

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