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Devarim Deutronomy

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1095: Chayei Sara

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Devarim Deutronomy

November 13, 2009 - 26 Cheshvan, 5770

1095: Chayei Sara

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  1094: Vayera1096: Toldos  

Retirement Funds  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  A Call to Action  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Retirement Funds

What with the economy not yet fully recovered, many people are thinking about money matters more and more. One of the biggest areas of concern are retirement funds.

Of course, the economy's recovering, so that's good news; money put aside for retirement still earns interest, so that's good news. Investors and individuals are looking for innovative ways to create and protect retirement funds, so that should help. Some people are delaying retirement, or foregoing retirement altogether, working into their seventies and eighties.

When it comes to the "retirement fund," we're finding that we can get one and build one by many different paths.

What's the purpose of a "retirement fund" anyway?

Simply put, it's a fund - money accumulated over a period of time - that generates money - funds, income - we can use when we retire, when we're no longer working. Or working as much. We create and grow the retirement fund by putting money in it during our working years - regular contributions, usually monthly, almost always a fixed amount. This money is invested, earns interest, and hopefully grows enough to provide us with an income when we can't provide one for ourselves, or don't want to work quite so hard.

It's an investment of the present for the future, a postponing of present pleasure for future security. A retirement fund is also a testimony to a lifetime of hard work, a financial verification of our successes.

Judaism too has a "retirement fund" - a way of investing for the future. Instead of money, the Jewish people invest mitzvot (commandments). Every mitzva yields a great return on the investment - and when you "deposit a mitzva," its value always goes up. Mitzvot never depreciate, they only increase, generating more mitzvot in this world, and more spiritual reward in the World-to-Come.

In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) we are told that "one mitzva leads to another."

Still, as with any "investment," some have better "yields" than others. In our case, some of our "mitzva" investments begin "paying dividends" even in this world, while we collect full value of the "principle" in the World-to-Come.

There's a mishna in the Talmudic tractate of Shabbat that lists these "special investment, high yield" mitzvot. The Sages incorporated this mishna into the daily prayer service, placing it at the very beginning of the morning blessings.

It goes as follows: "These are the precepts, the fruits of which a person enjoys in this world, while the principle reward remains in the World to Come: honoring one's father and mother, performing deeds of kindness, early attendance at the House of Study morning and evening, hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, dowering the bride, escorting the dead, concentration in prayer, bringing peace between one person and another, and between husband and wife. And the study of Torah is equivalent to them all."

Why not check on your "retirement fund," see how your "spiritual portfolio" is doing by reciting this mishnah in the morning? And it's probably a good time to make a deposit - no automatic deductions - in your retirement fund, and increase the value of your "investment," by doing one of the mitzvot listed - or any mitzva, for that matter.

Living with the Rebbe

As we read in this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, after Sarah passed away and Abraham wanted to bury her in the Cave of Machpelah, the sons of Chet offered to give him the land for free. "A mighty prince you are among us," they said, "in the choice of our tombs bury your dead." However, Abraham refused their offer, and insisted on paying "the full price."

As Rashi comments, "the full price" means "its full value." Abraham was adamant about paying the full value of the field in order to completely dissociate it from its former owner, Efron. Had Abraham received it as a gift, Efron would have still retained a certain claim on the land, even though it now officially belonged to Abraham. By paying "the full price" for the Cave of Machpelah, Abraham severed any connection it might have had to its previous owner.

King David did the same thing many years later after he conquered Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been already captured and was under his control, yet David did not wish to receive it as a gift from Aravna. Like Abraham, David insisted on paying "the full price" for the site, in order to possess it in the absolute sense.

The spiritual service of every Jew is to refine and elevate his surroundings, through learning Torah and observing mitzvot, to the point that he becomes the true "owner" of his particular corner of the world. Just as Abraham paid "the full price" for the field he bought from Efron, so too is it necessary for every Jew to pay "the full price" - to expend real effort and exertion - in his service of G-d.

A Jew must never say to himself, "I have been blessed with a good head and many talents. Why should I have to work hard if everything comes to me easily? Even my Evil Inclination isn't so powerful that it has to be fought all that vigilantly."

In the same way that Abraham and David refused to accept what was easy, rejected "gifts" and insisted on paying "the full price," so too must we invest real effort on the spiritual "labor" of Torah and mitzvot. For it only through hard work and a little "elbow grease" that we will truly succeed in refining our surroundings and by extension, the entire world.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot vol. 10 of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

A Wedding and a Funeral

The following is a letter written by Batya Rotter last year to her friends when she heard about the terrorist attack in Mumbai and the murder of Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg. This coming week marks the yartzeit of these holy Jews, as well as the yartzeits of the other "kedoshim" ("holy ones" who were murdered only because they are Jews: Yocheved Orpaz, Norma Shvartzblat Rabinovich, Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum, Rabbi Bentzion Kruman)

I couldn't sleep tonight, in pain from the events of this past week. I wanted to write to remember Rabbi Gabi and Rivki Holzberg z"l [zichronom livracha - may their memories be a blessing], who were murdered in Mumbai; they were two of the finest people I know.

Tonight I dreamed I went to the Beit Chabad [Chabad House] in Mumbai. Passing the vendors on the street, and the sounds of the flour mill across the alleyway, I walked into the main floor and smelled the aromas of freshly made chumous and matbucha. The Chabad House in Mumbai was a Jewish oasis where there was always air-conditioning, a smile, and a freshly cooked meal. It was a beautiful Chabad House, and it was run by the most beautiful people. I start to think of Rivki - and then, I start to cry.

I see Rivki's face, and even her thick glasses can't hide the glowing happiness in her eyes. From the bump on her stomach you can see that she is expecting, and after losing one child to illness and another to severe congenital defects, you see her stomach and want to smile too. She is the embodiment of hope and faith. When you sit on the couch in the main room, she brings you some chocolate cake and wants to know how you are doing. And while you vent about your trials from the week, she has somehow managed to take you away from the streets of Mumbai to another place entirely.

I remember at first being surprised to learn that Rivki was only three years older than me. She had a clarity of purpose and a purity of faith that you do not find often. While there are times when I think of her as a friend, there are also times when that title seems too commonplace. She is more than a friend-she is a role model, a vision of fortitude and courage, and a soul too precious for this world.

I honestly don't know how Gabi and Rivki built the Chabad House from nothing, and how they brought the taste of a Jewish traditional home to the crazy streets of Mumbai, putting their own personal pain aside to build a home for others. They managed to make a wedding for a traveling couple who suddenly learned they were expecting a child, and court visits for Israelis stuck in jail for drug trafficking.

Every week, there was a beautiful Shabbat meal for anyone and everyone to join, and every night at 8 p.m., there was a free kosher dinner for anyone traveling and in need of soul food. I remember the excitement Rivki exhibited when she showed me the board on the wall that mapped the plans and financial progress of their new Chabad House. They had been operating out of two floors in the building, but had a dream to furnish and use the other five floors as a guest house, Jewish library, and child-care center. You see, Gabi and Rivki had dreams - not to live in a quiet house near their families, but to build where Jews could be Jewish in India.

I found out that Mumbai was burning on Thursday morning - Thanksgiving morning - the same morning that I woke up in Israel to go with my sister to the Kotel, the Western Wall, on her wedding day. I read the headlines, and then I read about the Chabad House. My sister, the bride, not knowing that any of this had taken place, had a glowing happiness in her eyes, while I was feeling something akin to an out-of- body experience. We made it to the Kotel, where I went off to the side to call Antony, my boss from India, who confirmed that the situation did not look good. The home where I was a frequent visitor, where I got my kosher chickens [that Gabi ritually slaughtered] to make chicken soup, and where I would eat chocolate cake and talk with Rivki, was being held by terrorists.

I thought about Gabi, and I thought about Rivki - and that is when I lost it.

How does one deal with a wedding and a terrorist attack on the same day - both so close to home? I'm looking back at the last couple of days, and I still don't believe that any of this is not a dream. While my sister and her husband began a journey of love and commitment, the couple who knew a love and a commitment to a calling beyond themselves were under attack.

And while Yael Rotter and Jon Mosery stood under the Chuppah [wedding canopy] overlooking the hills of Jerusalem, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg looked at carnage as he covered his beloved Rivka in a tallit, a prayer shawl, before joining her in, what I must force myself to believe is, a better place.

I only hope that just as in the heart of their wedding joy, Yael and John broke a glass to remember destruction and suffering, that somehow, amidst the pain of shattered dreams, Gabi and Rivki found a way to feel some joy that their healthy Moishe survived.

To read more about Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg and their lives of devotion and dedication to the Jewish people visit

What's New

A Chanukah Story for Night Number Three

When your birthday falls on Chanukah like Matisyohu Dov Ber Chaim Tzvi's, something special can happen! Join in the fun as he tries to celebrate with the biggest birthday latke ever made! This re-release of a Chanuka classic will delight children of all ages. Written by Dina Rosenfeld, illustrated by Vasilisa and Vitaliy Romanenko, published by HaChai Publishing.

Let's Go to The Farm

Join a young brother and sister as they pet and feed the farm animals, pick fruits and vegetables, and discover the wonders of G-d on a visit to a farm! Written and illustrated by Rikki Benenfeld, published by HaChai Publishing.

The Rebbe Writes

22nd of Cheshvan, 5735 (1974)

This is to confirm receipt of your letter of October 10th with enclosures, which reached me with some delay. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending me the enclosure.

One of the reasons why my acknowledgment was delayed was the fact that there was reason to believe that Prof. Branover would be visiting the U.S., although I do not know how definite this is, when there would be an opportunity to discuss the various matters of your letter personally with him.

I was particularly gratified to read in your letter that a beginning has been made in regard to the suggestion which we discussed, namely to obtain interest-free loans from persons, in order to pay off the debts and eliminate the high interest rate.

May G-d grant that you should soon be able to complete the list of such persons, especially as some of the participants in this project have made it conditional upon the complete list of participants.

I trust that you have been active in the Five Mitzvah [commandment] Campaigns which I have stressed, and more recently also in the matter of encouraging young girls from the age of Chinuch [Jewish education], to light the candles Erev [the eve of] Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov. And while you are destined for, and are capable of, great things and accomplishments, and to participate in the above mentioned Mitzvah Campaigns may seem to you that these things should be done by others, we have one of the basic teachings of the Torah to the effect that one should not attempt to weigh the importance of big mitzvos and small mitzvos, but do them all as they come along.

It should be noted that the above statement speaks of "big" and "small" mitzvos but the conclusion is that all mitzvos should be carried out with the same eagerness and joy and vitality.

One of the explanations which explains the seeming anomaly in the above statement is that when a person does a good thing, no matter how big or small, he "pleases G-d" thereby and becomes attached to G-d through the fulfillment of His commandments. In this way G-d's unity permeates all these good actions of the person. Hence, bigness or smallness is of no consequence, since he fulfills G-d's commandments for the sole reason that G-d commanded him to do them.

At this time, before Shabbos Mevorchim Kislev [the Sabbath on which the month of Kislev is blessed], the mitzvah of the Shabbos lights is particularly pertinent inasmuch as we shall soon be observing the festival of Chanukah with the lighting of the Chanukah candles.

We are told that the Shabbos candles have a priority over the Chanukah candles (in a case where one cannot afford both), which goes to show how important the Shabbos candles are.

You do not mention about your own daughters lighting the candles, but I am certain they do. I only want to express the hope that they are a shining example to their friends in this and in every other respect.

Wishing you hatzlocha [success] in all the matters about which you write, and especially that you and your wife should have true Torah Nachas [pleasure] from each and all of your children.

A Call to Action

Sing While You Pray

The prayers that we are most familiar with are the ones the congregation sings together in the synagogue or the ones we learned with a melody as children. When you take time out each day to communicate with G-d, accompany your prayers with song, which is certainly in keeping with Jewish tradition. (The Rebbe, 1992)

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

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

On this weekend each year since 1984, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries convene at World Lubavitch Headquarters. While the first International Shluchim Convention was attended by 65 emissaries, today over 3,000 emissaries attend the Convention, and the number continues to grow each year as more and more young couples join the Lubavitcher Rebbe's army.

The convention in 1990 was opened by the Rebbe at a gathering on Shabbat attended by the emissaries and thousands of other Chasidim.

At that gathering the Rebbe explained the characteristics of an emissary and his mission:

"First and foremost, each shliach [emissary] should feel strengthened and reinforced by this meeting. He should realize that no matter how far away he has been sent, the one who appointed him is with him. Indeed, 'a person's shliach is considered as he, himself.' This relates to the four categories of shlichus found in Jewish law:

  1. The deeds of the shliach are considered as having been performed by the one who appointed him; the shliach, and his powers, however, are considered as separated entities.

  2. The shliach's power to act is considered as given over to the one who appointed him; his other powers, his thoughts and his feelings, are his own.

  3. All of the shliach's powers, his thoughts, his feelings, his will, and his pleasure, are given over to the one who appointed him.

  4. 'A person's shliach is considered as he, himself.'"

The Rebbe then went on to explain the mission of each shliach, near or far, which is to spread Judaism and the teachings of Chasidism outward. The Rebbe continued:

"These activities will lead to the realization in deed and action of the concept that the Hebrew word 'shliach' together with the number ten (signifying the ten powers of the soul), is numerically equivalent to 'Moshiach.'

"Each Jew has a spark of Moshiach within his soul which can be revealed through the service described above. The revelation of the spark of Moshiach on an individual level will lead to the revelation of Moshiach for the entire world and the coming of the ultimate Redemption. May it be in the immediate future."

Thoughts that Count

Hear us, my lord (Gen. 23:6)

As a token of their respect, the sons of Chet addressed Abraham as "my lord." Abraham, however, refused to reciprocate, even in his business dealings. Abraham, the first Jew, reserved the term solely for G-d, despite social convention.

(Rabbi Yosef Horowitz, the Alter of Navhardok)

And the servant ran to meet her (Gen. 24:17)

According to the commentator Rashi, it was only when Eliezer saw the well water miraculously rising toward Rebecca that he decided she would make the perfect wife for Isaac. Yet only the water Rebecca drew for her own use rose up by itself; the water she drew for Eliezer and his camels had to be brought up by hand. We learn from this that although G-d may perform miracles to assist a righteous person, when it comes to doing mitzvot (commandments), it is preferable to perform them oneself in a natural manner and not to rely on miracles.

(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)

And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, but to the sons of the concubines... he gave gifts (Gen. 25:5-6)

Isaac is symbolic of holiness and the spiritual realm; the "sons of the concubines" stand for the physical and corporeal world. The Torah teaches that we must give "all" of ourselves - the lion's share of our time, energy and talents - to spiritual matters. Worldly matters, however, can be placated with "gifts."

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Then Abraham expired, and died in a good old age (Gen. 25:8)

On the day that Abraham passed away, the greatest of the nations cried, "Woe to the world that has lost its leader; woe to the ship that has lost its captain."

(Talmud, Baba Batra)

It Once Happened

Reb Chaim Ber, the Tzemach Tzedek's shamash (attendant), was suffering from a serious disease of the lungs. This malady, the doctors all agreed, was one that was beyond their powers to cure. "The only thing I can tell you is that you'd better get to Petersburg as soon as possible," stated the local doctor in the town of Lubavitch. "Maybe they can do something to help; I, unfortunately, cannot. But time is of the essence. If you do not leave at once, you'll be signing your own death sentence.

As the Torah's commandment to "carefully guard your soul" was foremost in Reb Chaim Ber's mind, he packed his talit (prayer shawl) and tefilin and some meager belongings and caught the first train that would take him to the capital.

Reb Chaim Ber arrived at the address the doctor in Lubavitch had given him. After a wait of several tension-filled hours, the chasid was called inside. His heart was pounding as he introduced himself to the doctor. The examination commenced and Reb Chaim Ber waited anxiously for the prognosis.

Much to the chasid's horror, the doctor merely nodded his head in confirmation of the first doctor's diagnosis. Reb Chaim Ber's lungs were too far gone. "I'm very sorry," the doctor stated. "But the most you can hope to live is another three months."

Reb Chaim Ber, however, was not discouraged. Doesn't it state that a doctor is given permission to heal, but not to pronounce judgment that recovery is impossible? For two weeks he visited doctor after doctor, but each one painted the same gloomy picture. Realizing that salvation was not to be found within the natural order, Reb Chaim Ber returned to Lubavitch. He would go to the Rebbe and ask him for his holy blessing.

As soon as Reb Chaim Ber entered the Rebbe's room, the chasid burst into bitter tears. He was comforted by the Rebbe's shining countenance, and he found himself capable of relating his entire story. With bated breath, he waited for the Rebbe's response. When the Tzemach Tzedek finally spoke, Reb Chaim Ber was sure that he was dreaming. "As the Beit Yosef is of the more lenient opinion when it comes to lungs [to ascertain whether or not an animal is kosher], and he is the determining authority in the Holy Land, it is advisable that you leave here to go live in the Holy Land."

Reb Chaim Ber was filled at once with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, the Rebbe was promising him that if he moved to the Holy Land he would live. But on the other, how could he live so far away from his Rebbe? He had been the Rebbe's faithful shamash for years. How could he suddenly cut himself off and go to the other end of the earth, never to behold the Rebbe's holy face again?

And then a very daring idea occurred to the chasid. "Rebbe," Reb Chaim Ber cried out. "I accept what you have told me. I will move to the Holy Land to live out the rest of my life. But Jewish law clearly states that a master who frees his servant must give him a gift. I've been your servant for so many years. By moving to the Holy Land, I will no longer be able to serve you. I only ask that you grant me this one request and give me a 'gift' before I depart."

"And what do you ask for?" the Tzemach Tzedek said gently.

"Rebbe, 'Our desire is to behold our king.' I would like the Rebbe to promise me that even in the Holy Land I will be able to see the Rebbe."

Silence filled the room. The Rebbe's face grew serious and Reb Chaim Ber was suddenly fearful that he had overstepped his bounds. Several minutes passed until the Rebbe again smiled and said, "So it shall be according to your words. I hereby fulfill the request you have made of me."

It was with a joyful heart that Reb Chaim Ber left the Rebbe's presence. He hurried home to tell his wife of the Rebbe's blessing and to prepare the family for their impending move. One thing, however: Reb Chaim did not reveal to a soul the special "gift" that the Rebbe had bequeathed to him.

Years passed and Reb Chaim Ber lived to enjoy nachat (pleasure) from his children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. One day Reb Chaim informed his descendants that he wanted them to gather at his house. When his entire family was assembled, Reb Chaim began:

"My dear children, I have gathered you together to deliver my last will and testament, so that you will know what to do after my death. I know with certainty that today is my last day on earth..."

Reb Chaim Ber was interrupted by one of his sons, "Tatte (Father)! What are you talking about. You are perfectly healthy and hale. Why must you speak about such things now?"

As if anticipating his son's question, Reb Chaim Ber began to relate the entire story of his illness and the blessing that the Tzemach Tzedek had given him so long ago. This time, however, he disclosed the secret of the "gift."

"Last night," Reb Chaim Ber concluded, "I saw the Tzemach Tzedek..."

That very day, the Rebbe's faithful shamash returned his holy soul to his Maker.

Reprinted from the weekly magazine Beis Moshiach

Moshiach Matters

When a person dedicates all of his ten soul powers to fulfill his part of the mission to make this world a dwelling for G-d, he reveals the spark of Moshiach within his soul. Through revealing the aspect of Moshiach which relates to him, each individual hastens the actual coming of Moshiach as alluded to in the Maimonides' statement that with one mitzva (commandment), each Jew has the potential to tip the balance of the entire world and bring complete salvation.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Chayei Sara, 1989)

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