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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1096
                           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.
        November 20, 2009        Toldos           3 Kislev, 5770

                             Climate Change

A new Ice Age. Global Warming. Things are getting hotter; things are
getting colder. The ice caps are melting but the temperature's dropping.
Who's responsible for the greenhouse gasses - volcanoes, cars, cows - or
hot-aired politicians?

It's easy to mock the concept of climate change. Not all scientists
agree that it's occurring, and among those who do, many differ about the
rate or proportions of cause.

So how do we make sense of "climate change"? Where's the iceberg hiding?

Let's start with the concept of global warming: The sun pours energy
onto the earth. Some of that energy gets blocked out, some gets through
the atmosphere, giving the world light - and heat. The earth radiates
that heat back into space only - the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere
trap the heat, like a blanket, keeping the earth just warm enough to
sustain life - not too hot, not too cold.

It's a delicately balanced cycle: the amount of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere must match the amount of heat radiated by the planet. There
has to be enough carbon dioxide (and methane, etc.) to trap enough heat
to keep the planet livably warm, but not so much that things start

A small climate change - such as the introduction of massive amounts of
carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, begun during the industrial
revolution - can trigger an avalanche.

Climatologists agree we're on the verge of triggering an avalanche. Like
an avalanche, most of the change occurs unseen; the mass of snow stands
delicately balanced until - a slight change - a step, a shout - upsets
the balance and...

Our spiritual lives are also subject to "climate change." Like
atmospheric climate change, our spiritual "climate change" often occurs
subtly, slowly, unnoticed, through minor variations that at first glance
don't seem to have much of a cumulative effect.

Of course we could talk about "climate change" for the worse, and that
spiritual inferno would parallel what scientists predict may happen
without changes in worldwide energy and environmental purpose. Thus, a
mitzva (commandment) missed here, a Torah study session skipped there -
one thing leads to another.

But, creation is also in a spiritual balance. For every negative,
there's a positive, at least spiritually. So we can create a "global
warming" in a spiritually positive way. Let's talk about that.

One mitzva leads to another, the Mishna teaches. And so, we can change
the "climate" by a small act - lighting Shabbat candles, putting tefilin
on, attending a Torah class, visiting the sick, giving charity, etc.
These mitzvot "trap" the warmth, the liveliness and vitality of Judaism.

Each act individually may not seem like much. But cumulatively, they
prevent goodness and kindness and mitzvot and awareness of G-dliness
from "leaking away" into the vast empty vacuum. They "heat up" the
metaphorical world - for the Talmud tells us that each human being is
like a complete world.

In short, through mitzvot, Torah study and acts of goodness and
kindness, we can create a spiritual climate change, a positive climate
change that increases the temperature of Judaism. And when Moshiach
comes, we'll have a global warming of G-dliness.

This week's Torah portion, Toldot, begins with the words, "These are the
generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac."

According to the Talmud, one of the reasons for the repetitiveness of
this verse is to emphasize the fact that, according to natural law,
Abraham was unable to father children at that age.

When Sara conceived and gave birth to a son the nations of the world
scoffed, intimating that Abraham was not the biological father.

G-d therefore fashioned Isaac's facial features to look exactly like his
father's, thereby proving his paternity and dispelling any

"The nations of the world" had no difficulty accepting Abraham's ability
to father children in the spiritual sense - spreading the belief in One
G-d and fostering good deeds among mankind.

What they found impossible to believe, however, was that Abraham - by
virtue of his faith in a G-d Who transcended natural law - could
overcome his physical limitations and father a child in the literal
sense as well.

The miraculous birth of Isaac demonstrated to the entire world that the
physical body of the Jew - not only his soul - exists beyond the
confines of nature and is created and directly sustained by G-d.

It is in this light that we can understand the words of Rabbi Yosef
Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe, which he uttered before being
exiled to the far Eastern provinces of the Soviet Union, where he was
sentenced by the Communist regime for the "crime" of spreading Judaism.

Addressing the assemblage of Chasidim who had come to see him off, the
Rebbe declared, "...And let all the nations of the world be apprised
that it is only our physical bodies that are in exile and subject to the
yoke of the nations. Our souls are not in exile and can never be
subjugated! No one can exert any influence over us when it comes to
matters of Torah, mitzvot (commandments) and Jewish practice!"

But what good does it do us to know that our souls are not in exile, if
our physical bodies - the only medium through which we can observe
mitzvot and spread the wellsprings of Judaism - suffer the hardships of
the exile?

The answer to this question comes from Abraham, the very first Jew.
Abraham proved that whenever a Jew uncovers the supernatural dimensions
of his soul, its G-dly light will illuminate his physical being as well.

In this way the physical body is elevated above the laws of nature, to a
plane on which no power on earth can exert any influence.

                 Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. III

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                            Jews for Hashem
                           by Jeff Neckonoff

I was raised in Canarsie, Brooklyn, in an area  so Jewish that for the
first few years of elementary school, I thought that non-Jews were a
minority in the U.S. Though we were brought up secular, being culturally
Jewish was an important part of our close knit family. Religious or
spiritual mandates were viewed as ancient rules and traditions - nice to
know about, but basically impractical and irrelevant.

In fifth grade, I began attending Hebrew school. I learned Jewish
history and to read Hebrew but did not learn much about G-d. I had my
Bar Mitzva and ended my Jewish education.

In junior high, my social circle suddenly opened, and I had plenty of
friends from various backgrounds. I had a vague notion that Christians
believed in some guy who said that he was G-d. It seemed even less
relevant to my life than Judaism was. It was also at this point that my
hobby of collecting 12" disco records became somewhat lucrative. I
bought some professional DJ equipment, and began to actually get hired
to spin at events. I continued doing this through high school and

I went to Baruch College. There, I took a course on comparative
religion. The professor was a devout Zen Buddhist; the material he
taught was slightly subjective. The class, however, instilled in me a
curiosity about G-d. I enjoyed reading what was required, but I put G-d
on the back burner for almost a decade more.

During my second-to-last semester I met Maria, my future wife. We
started dating steadily but we hardly discussed G-d or religion.

After graduation, I acquired the much-coveted position of DJ at a
nightclub called Jamz. I was having a great time mixing disco and
freestyle dance music for 1,200 people a night, drinking and getting
home at 4:30 am. G-d was the last thing on my mind.

In July of 1993 Maria and I were married by an ultra-liberal rabbi and
priest. I agreed we would raise our future children Catholic. I was
basically agnostic, and truly believed that if G-d existed, He was not
concerned with my life.

My curiosity about G-d was rekindled in February 1994, and took me quite
by surprise. My wife and I had just come home from seeing the very
moving Schindler's List. As I was flicking through the cable channels I
came across a show about the Holocaust. I had never seen the program
before, nor heard of the host. I sent away for two books he offered,
expecting them to be from a traditional Jewish viewpoint.

When I received the books I was enraged to find that they were Christian
books, posing as something Jewish. I planned on sending them back the
next day, but instead, I actually began reading them. My curiosity
became a deeply felt need to know more about this weird Christianity
mixed with Jewish stuff. I began reading all kinds of materials from
many sources, including the Christian Bible, Hebrew-Christian authors,
andcounter-missionary literature.

I clearly remember the first Shabbat morning, in 1995, when I attended
the messianic church that became my congregation. There were about 90
people there, with all the men wearing yalmulkes and tallaisim. There
was an ark with a Torah scroll and traditional Hebrew prayers that I
remembered from my Bar Mitzva preparatory days. There was also joyful
singing and some people dancing with tambourines. When the Torah was
paraded around, there was a feeling of joy and fellowship that I had
never experienced before. So many people came to greet and welcome me. I
started attending regularly and continued for the next five years.

The pastor, Donald Resnick (a pseudonym) was extremely charismatic,
intelligent and a nice guy. He was different than the other messianic
congregational leaders I'd met. He wore tzitzit and a yarmulke at all
times. He came across as being sincere and honest. He was so convinced
about the Christian messiah, so embracing of my questions and
friendship, that I was wide open to be spiritually manipulated by his
training as a Christian missionary. After meeting with him weekly for
two months, I was hooked! Plus, what better way to combine my Jewish
heritage with my wife's Christian faith system. We never identified
ourselves as Christians, but as completed "Messianic Jews."

I needed to know more and more about "Messianic Judaism" so we attended
the  Union of Messianic Jewish Congregation's conference in Washington
DC. I also went to two separate UMJC intensive "yeshiva" weekend classes
in Connecticut, with the goal of eventually becoming a messianic "rabbi"

Life remained status quo until something really bother me. I noticed
that out of the 100+ in attendance on Shabbat at our messianic
congregation, six or seven were actually Jewish. Why weren't more Jews
streaming in, especially the Orthodox who should have been seeing things
as clearly as I did? It suddenly dawned on me that all I was learning
about Judaism was from the messianic and Christian worlds. Shouldn't I
learn about Judaism from Jews?

The catalyst for my spiritual back flip was a book by a convert to
Judaism. I read "The L-rd Will Gather Me In" by David Klinghoffer.
Reading his book pushed me to buy tefillin, which I had never even put
on before.

Major doubts started nagging me even more, and I felt like I was
betraying G-d, my soul, my heritage, my people and my family. An
acquaintance lent me Rabbi Tovia Singer's cassette series called "Let's
Get Biblical." I saw with extreme clarity that the Nazarene was not the
messiah or G-d.

I sought out teachers and found Rabbis Yossi Korngold and Binny Freedman
of Isralight, Rabbi Mark Wildes of the Manhattan Jewish Experience and
Gateways. I discovered that Torah Judaism had all I was seeking those
six years.

I needed to find a local synagogue as I was trying to drive less and
less on Shabbat. I went "shul-hopping" for two years. When I attended a
lecture with Rabbi Laibl Wolf of Australia I was introduced to the
teachings of Chabad-Lubavitch. The numerous Chabad Houses I visited were
warm, vibrant, and friendly, with those in attendance wanting to
actually be there. The rabbis were welcoming, non-judgmental and
down-to-earth. We went to many classes and Shabbat services with Rabbi
Saacks in Dix Hills, Rabbi Paltiel in Port Washington, Rabbi Perl in
Mineola and Rabbi Lipszyc in Woodbury.

It was in November 2003 that we found Rabbi Zalman and Chanie Wolowik of
Chabad Five Towns. We started attending Chabad regularly. Maria took a
huge step by deciding to officially study for conversion under the
auspices of the most strict halachic authorities. For three solid years,
she studied one-on-one, learning how to live like a Torah Jew. In July,
2008, Maria (now Meira) and our children underwent an Orthodox
conversion. In August, 2008, Meira and I were married according to
Jewish law.

    To read Mr. Neckonoff's entire story, from where this was condensed,
    visit his website He can be reached at

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                            THE REBBE WRITES
                         10 Tammuz, 5726 [1966]

I am in receipt of your letter, and I was subsequently also informed of
the telephone conversation which you had with our office.

Needless to say, I am gratified to note that you are taking such a
profound interest in the affairs of the congregation and in the
functions of the rabbi and of spiritual leadership in general. No doubt
this interest finds expression to the utmost in helping strengthen the
congregation, in particular, in elevating the synagogue, so that it be
imbued with the proper spirit causing it to reflect its essential
function, that is, that it be a place where everyone can feel its
holiness. That it be a synagogue where everyone would be conscious of
the dictum: "Know before Whom you are standing." Such a synagogue is
truly a source of inspiration and Divine blessings, both spiritually and

You mention some matters which, in your opinion, would enhance the
leadership of the rabbi. In the light of your description of the
situation, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize that the ultimate aim
of spiritual leadership is to influence the daily conduct of the
members, to bring it more fully in accord with the Torah and mitzvoth
[commandments]. Now, in a situation where the rabbi is a relatively
young man, and he has among his congregants older members, he will often
be more successful if he does not impose his leadership too heavily, but
rather develop it gradually and steadily, in order to create a situation
where the members will themselves come to the decision as to how to
conduct themselves, both in matters of the congregation, as well as in
the privacy of their homes. Obviously, with the cooperation of the
members, both men and women, the results of the right policy will be
realized all the sooner.

The rabbi himself is, of course, the best judge as to the most effective
approach to take in developing his leadership and extending his

You are, of course, quite right that a synagogue should be open whenever
possible. As a matter of fact, as my father-in-law of saintly memory
expressed himself, a synagogue should be open not only all day, but both
day and night. For in a Jewish congregation, there should be members who
study the Torah also at night, and when the Torah is studied in the
synagogue where the prayers are recited, a special significance is added
to this study. On the other hand, in view of what has been said above,
the rabbi has to consider the prevailing circumstances and factors, and
he must decide how the interests of the members would be served best,
whether by sitting alone in the synagogue, or by spending that time in
some other way. He must also consider what impression his lonesome vigil
in the synagogue might have on the congregants, if his presence may be
needed somewhere else, and in some other activity.

Finally, let me also say that there is no perfection in the world, and
that every human being who takes over a new position in a new place,
under new circumstances, requires a certain period of time to adjust
himself and lay the foundations for a fruitful and growing activity.
This applies also to rabbis. And judging by your letter, it is very
possible that the rabbi is using his discretion to good advantage to
ensure successful spiritual leadership.

I am confident that your interest in the affairs of the synagogue and
congregation, and your participation in their growth and development,
will be a source of Divine blessings to you and yours, and may G-d grant
you success.

                            A CALL TO ACTION
                       House Full of Jewish Books

In 1972 the Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the campaign that every Jewish
home be a bayit malei sefarim - a home full of Torah books. Buy Jewish
books for children, friends and relatives for birthdays, anniversaries,
etc. (Chanuka is coming up!) Treat yourself to a browse at your local
Jewish bookstore or on-line and pick up a few for yourself.

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

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion we are told about the wells which Isaac
dug. Though the first couple of these wells fell into enemy hands, Isaac
was undeterred. He continued digging until he found water in an
uncontested area.

When one digs wells, he removes the dirt and rocks until water is found,
filling the well with fresh, living waters. The physical digging of
wells which Isaac performed paralleled his spiritual conduct; in a
spiritual sense Isaac also dug wells. He removed the "dirt and stones"
of the physical world to reveal the latent waters of spirituality that
were hidden within.

The actions of our patriarchs and matriarchs are a lesson for us in our
lives today. We have been entrusted with the job of finding the
spirituality and holiness in our day-to-day lives, our mundane actions,
our interaction with others. By delving deeply, beyond that which meets
the eye, uncovering the superficiality of our physical world, we, too,
become diggers of wells, we become like our ancestor Isaac. But, like
Isaac, we must be undeterred by those who might stand in our way or try
to dissuade us from realizing our goal. Then, ultimately, we will
uncover for ourselves and others, true, refreshing living waters, the
life-giving waters of Judaism which are free and plentiful for every Jew
to enjoy.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
That my soul may bless you (Gen. 27:4)

Why did Isaac want to bless Esau instead of Jacob? Jacob was "a pure
man, a dweller in tents (of Torah)" and even without a blessing he would
stay away from evil. Esau, however, was very likely to fall into bad
ways, and needed the assistance of his father's blessing.

                                                      (Ohr HaTorah)

                                *  *  *

And you shall stay with him a short time ... until your brother's fury
turns away ... until your brother's anger turns away (Gen. 27:44, 45)

Rebecca advised her son Jacob what to do: "Run away to my brother Laban
and wait until your brother gets over his anger. How will you know when
that time has arrived and he is no longer angry at you? When you
yourself stop holding a grudge against him." Rebecca understood the
reciprocity of human emotions: Love is reciprocated with love, and
hatred elicits a like response in others.

                                                   (Baal Hahaflaah)

                                *  *  *

And one people shall be stronger than the other (Gen. 25:23)

Rashi comments: When one rises, the other falls. Jacob and Esau
symbolize the struggle between the G-dly soul and the animal soul,
between a person's good and evil inclinations. When a Jew's G-dly soul
is dominant and exerts itself, there is no need to combat the animal
soul - it "falls" by itself. Light does not have to fight darkness to
illuminate - as soon as it appears, the darkness vanishes. So too, does
the light of holiness dispel all evil.

                                                 (Sefer Hamaamarim)

                                *  *  *

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you (Gen. 26:3)

The Torah uses the word "sojourn" instead of "dwell" to teach us that
one must always consider oneself a temporary resident of this world.
"The Shechina (G-dly presence) does not move away from one who considers
himself a stranger in this world," we are taught. The second part of
G-d's promise, "I will be with you," will be fulfilled when Jacob thinks
of himself in this manner.

                                                (Vayechakem Shlomo)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
A fierce looking man ran out of the house, his eyes burning with
murderous rage at the coach full of Jews. In his hand he carried a
revolver. At his heels a massive black dog yelped and snapped at the

One of the passengers approached the angry householder, who drew his gun
and began to shoot at the coach. The gun clicked - but no bullets
emerged. Again and again he pulled the trigger, but nothing happened.

Just then, a calm, holy face appeared at the window of the carriage.
With a fascinated stare, the angry one lowered the gun and pulled the
trigger. A bullet spewed forth and struck the black dog, killing it

One of the passengers approached the householder. "Sir, we are chasidim
traveling with the holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev," he
stammered. "It is time for our evening prayers and we would like to ask
your kind permission to pray in your house."

"The Holy Rabbi of Berditchev? Why yes, of course, you have my
permission," said the man, as if in a dream. With that, he turned and
strode into his house without a backward glance at his beloved dog.

The servants and friends were puzzled. They expected to enjoy the
massacre of the Jews - these Jews who seemed not to know or care that no
Jew dared step onto this property since the owner's murderous reputation
had become known. The disciples of Reb Levi Yitzchak were perplexed,
too. Why had their Rebbe asked them to accompany him to this unknown
place, leaving Berditchev very early, traveling quickly and stopping
only once along the way to say Psalms? The homeowner himself was also
confused. "I know the gun was in perfect order, and yet it would not
shoot when I pointed at the carriage. It must be the power of that holy
Rabbi," he muttered to his friends.

News of the arrival of Reb Levi Yitzchak and the estate owner's seeming
change of heart reached the Jews living nearby. They began gathering at
the estate to see Reb Levi Yitzchak and pray with him. Many non-Jews
also joined the gathering since Reb Levi Yitzchak's holiness was known
by the entire countryside.

Reb Levi Yitzchak led the evening prayers himself. Before saying the
opening words, "And He is merciful, He forgives sin, and will not
destroy. He turns back His anger many times and does not arouse his
wrath," the Rebbe began to sing a moving melody. It was sad and poignant
and had a haunting effect on all who listened. It turned everyone's
thoughts to their own private world, contemplating past regrets and the
evil and folly of a person's actions. Each heart was full of despair and
bitter regret. The disciples understood the melody to depict the
suffering of the pure and holy soul, forced to leave the beautiful
heavens, and come to this evil, false world.

But just as the notes seemed to fade into the very abyss of doom, the
Rebbe raised his voice in a triumphant call of hope and salvation. The
words, "Oh G-d, save. The King will answer us on the day we call," were
sung in a joyful tune, stirring everyone to confidence and hope. But,
before the Rebbe had sung the last of the sad notes, the host cried out
hysterically and fell to the ground in a faint.

Everyone was mystified by the events. The chasidim now understood that
the purpose of the journey had to do with their host. But what were the
redeeming qualities of this Jew-hater that he merited the special
attention of Reb Levi Yitzchak?

A few hours later, the chasidim saw the host emerge, his eyes red and
his face tear-stained. In broken Yiddish, the host stammered, "I am a
Jew. I, too, am a Jew." In wonder, they listened to his story:

"I was born in Germany to Jewish parents. As a young man I joined the
Kaiser's army. The higher I rose in rank, the looser my ties to Judaism
became. By the time I was a personal guard of the Kaiser, I had totally
disassociated myself from Judaism. Finally, I became a Jew-hater and
relished every opportunity I had to persecute Jews.

"Now, with you and your Rebbe here, I remember that I am a Jew. I want
to be a Jew again. Please, I beg of you, ask your holy Rebbe to teach me
how to behave like a Jew again!"

The next morning, prayers were lead with a festive atmosphere. The host
joined the Jewish villagers. He borrowed a talit and tefilin and asked
to be shown how to use them. After prayers, he was closeted with the
Rebbe for several hours, their conversation remaining a secret. The
Rebbe warned his chasidim never to breathe a word about this journey.

A short time later, the former Kaiser's guard sold his estate and
disappeared. Around the same time, a stranger came to live and study in
Berditchev. He became a close disciple of Reb Levi Yitzchak and the
father of one of the finest Jewish families.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Isaac intended to reveal to Esau the day Moshiach would come, in the
hope that it would cause him to leave his evil ways. At that very moment
G-d hid it from Isaac and said, "In the future I will conceal this
information from Jacob's sons, and I should let it be known to this
wicked man, Esau?"

                                                 (Sefer HaParshiot)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1096 - Toldos 5770

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