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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

November 27, 2009 - 10 Kislev, 5770

1097: Vayetzei

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

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  1096: Toldos1098: Vayishlach  

Do Not Remove  |  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

Do Not Remove

Surely you've seen the "Do Not Remove" tag on furniture - couches, mattresses, pillows, etc. Sometimes the phrase "Under Penalty of Law" is in the same big letters. In smaller letters, something you probably never paid attention to, is a list of components - what's inside the pillow, what the couch is made of, how fire retardant the material is.

What would happen if you did rip off the tag? Would the mattress police come and arrest you? Would some government agency revoke your couch potato license? No, not at all. If you rip "Do not Remove" tag off a piece of furniture, you will not be punished.

Well, if nothing's going to happen, if there's no penalty, why are those tags there, anyway?

A little history: In the early part of the twentieth century, many unscrupulous manufacturers would stuff bedding and other furniture with all kinds of stuff - straw, horse hair, old rags - and worse. It wasn't just a quality control issue; it was a real public health hazard. Bedding and other furniture stuffing harbored lots of communicable diseases - including smallpox.

So the government devised a simple system to protect consumers: require manufacturers to put a list of components on their mattresses, pillows - anything that had stuffing in it. The consumers could read the "warning label" and know what was inside that pillow.

The "Do Not Remove" tag provided - still provides - important information to the consumer. The "ingredients" might be normally harmless, except to someone with certain allergies. And the tag still keeps the manufacturer honest.

The "Do Not Remove" tag is there to warn the manufacturer, not the user, that attempts to deceive or hide information from consumers will have serious legal consequences.

The Jewish people have their own irremovable tag - our Jewish soul deep inside. G-d Himself places the "Do Not Remove" tag inside each of us, certifying that the Jewish essence of our souls can never be defiled, despite the soul being "stuffed" into a physical body.

We often face unscrupulous "manufacturers." The yetzer hara - our negative drive from within - or the forces of culture from outside, want us full of inferior, harmful, selfish stuff. They seek to dismiss the importance of mitzvot (commandments) and the celebration of Jewish holidays, misreading the lessons of Jewish history, discouraging Jewish pride - failing to acknowledge that the centuries of self-sacrifice come from our very essence.

But we need only look at our "Do Not Remove" tag to remind ourselves that the Highest Authority has guaranteed the immutable sanctity of our souls. When we rely on the Highest Authority, following His manufacturer's guidelines, we can also be sure that we can transform the physical world around us - we can make a world filled with goodness and kindness, of the highest quality.

As for the last half of the phrase - "Under Penalty of Law" - we are assured that ultimately, in the days of Moshiach, the enemies of Israel shall perish, and the promise made to Abraham - those who bless you will be blessed - will be fulfilled.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei relates how a single and solitary Jew left his home and set out for a foreign land, arriving there with nothing, save for his faith in G-d. "For with [only] my staff I passed over this Jordan," Jacob declared. Nonetheless, Jacob's steps were sure and confident, as he had full faith in G-d.

Once in Charan, Jacob quickly saw that there was no one upon whom he could rely, not even his relatives. His uncle, Laban, repeatedly tricked and deceived him, yet never once did Jacob lose his faith.

Through outstanding service and dedication to G-d Jacob merited to obtain great wealth. But Jacob's main achievement in Charan was that, despite their growing up in a hostile environment, every single one of his children was a pious and religious Jew.

Abraham had one son who followed in his righteous ways, Isaac, but he also had another son who did not, Ishmael. Isaac had one son who was righteous, Jacob, but he was also the father of Esau. Both Abraham and Isaac raised their children in Israel and not in exile, yet they still had descendants who abandoned the righteous path.

Jacob, by contrast, raised his family in exile. Required to serve G-d in the most difficult of circumstances, he made sure that his twelve sons would not be affected by the negative influence of Charan. On the contrary, he strove to instill in them the Torah he had received from his forefathers and studied with his ancestors Shem and Ever, thus proving that it was possible to live a Torah-true life even on the other side of the Jordan.

In Charan, Jacob merited both spiritual and material success ("And the man increased exceedingly") by virtue of his faith in G-d. But the spiritual "great wealth" he acquired was the successful rearing of his children, who were all upright and devout individuals.

The lesson this contains for us at present is clear: The only one upon whom we can ever depend is G-d, to Whom we connect ourselves through the medium of Torah and mitzvot (commandments).

By educating our children in the ways of Torah, the eternal Torah we have inherited from our fathers and grandfathers, we will merit to go out of exile "with our youth and with our elders, with our sons and with our daughters." And when Moshiach comes we will be fully prepared to meet the Redemption.

May it be G-d's will that this happens very soon, and that we greet Moshiach speedily in our days.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 1

A Slice of Life

Mezuza Check
by Rabbi Aaron Shaffier

In 1998 I was a Rabbinical student living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. I had just completed my apprenticeship which allowed me to inspect mezuzas. It was between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and the neighborhood was full with guest from all over the world who had come to spend the High Holy Days in the synagogue of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

I got a phone call at about 11 p.m. from a man named Shlomo whom I didn't know at the time. He told me that there was a wealthy family in the neighborhood who had gone to spend the holidays with their relatives in Israel. He knew that there were going to be a lot of guest visiting Crown Heights from all over the world so he called the Hachnasat Orchim society that arranges places for guests to stay for the holidays and offered to make his home available to guests while he was away.

There were now several young women who were staying in his home. Three of these girls who were sharing a room had each injured a foot or leg since coming to stay in the house. The third injury had just happened and they decided that they need to have the mezuzas in the home checked right away.

I agreed to do the job and within 15 minutes Shlomo was at my dorm with the mezuzas. These were not the regular size mezuzas that you see on most people's homes. This man was both very wealthy and very religious and he had made sure to purchase the best mezuzas available. They were very large and were written in a very beautiful script.

Shlomo had put a piece of tape with a number on each Mezuzah so that he would know where to put back each mezuza. Also he was interested to see if there was any connection between the mezuzas and the problem.

I got to work opening and checking each mezuza, looking for anything that might make the mezuza not kosher. The mezuzas were perfect. I was amazed to find that the only problem in any of the mezuzas was a hairline crack in the Hebrew letter "chof" of the word "u'velectecha" which means "when you go."

At about 2 a.m., when I had finished checking all of the mezuzas, I called Shlomo and told him the results. He ran back to the apartment to see which door the damaged mezuza had been on. It turned out that indeed it had been on the door of the room that the three girls had been staying in!

I must point out that having a non-Kosher mezuza doesn't cause bad things to happen. It is just that without kosher mezuzas on our door, we are lacking the special Divine protection that G-d offers to those who fulfill the mitzvah of mezuza properly.

Reprinted with permission from

by Michael Wilensky

The laws governing what makes a mezuza kosher are numerous and complex, and it often happens that the passage of time can cause the lettering of a kosher mezuza scroll to become blemished and thus invalid. Jewish law prescribes the intervals at which mezuzas should be checked to ensure their continued kosher status.

However, in addition to these regular examinations there is a highly commendable and often strikingly successful tradition for individuals to have their mezuzas checked when adverse circumstances occur as the stories below illustrate.

One day Rabbi Aron Wolf of the Chicago Mitzvah Campaigns, received a phone call from a Chicagoan gentleman wishing to have his mezuzas checked. During the conversation he revealed that he was prompted to take this action as a result of various ailments and difficulties that had beset members of his extended family. His mother in-law, in particular, had been struck by a serious illness, and although she lived far away in Florida he nevertheless felt that checking his own mezuzas at such a time was an appropriate course of action for him to take.

Sure enough, the gentleman's hunch proved to be right. All of his mezuzas were indeed kosher, with the exception of one. The sole invalid mezuza was the very mezuza that had been affixed to the door of the guest room, the very room in which his mother in-law stayed whenever she came to visit her family in Chicago!

Rabbi Wolf recently received a phone call originating from a highly unusual location - China! The young man described how his grandfather, Dr. BK, had been taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital near Chicago. The patient was suffering with debilitating symptoms of an infection that had spread throughout his body, but the hospital staff had been unable to locate the exact source of the infection in order to treat it effectively. Meanwhile, Dr. BK's constitution was being severely worn down as even breathing became increasingly difficult.

At a loss for what he could do to help his grandfather all the way from China, Dr BK's grandson suddenly had a brainwave. After some quick searching he found the number for the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign, picked up the phone and asked Rabbi Wolf to check the mezuzas at his grandparents' home.

Rabbi Wolf hurried over at the first opportunity and found that indeed, the home's current mezuzas were invalid. He thereupon immediately affixed new, kosher mezuzas to the house. Soon thereafter Dr BK's hospital doctors pinpointed the source of his infection and began a suitable course of treatment. A short while later his recovery began to pick up speed and move steadily towards full recuperation.

Reprinted with permission from

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Moishy and Devorah Mendelson recently moved to Frankfurt, Germany, where they are directing the youth programs children's educational programming at the new Ingnaz Blodinger Jewish Center in Frankfurt.

Rabbi Yisroel and Yocheved Newman have established a new center in Nebraska. Chabad of Lincoln, Nebraska, will serve the Jewish community of Lincoln as well as Jewish students on college campuses in the area.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak and Leah Fradenshetsky recently opened a new Chabad House in Ganei Yochanan, Israel.

The Rebbe Writes

An official translation of a letter of the Rebbe

2nd day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5715 (1955)
To the Conference of Religious Physicians,

I was pleased to be informed of your conference, designed to create an organized body of Jewish religious physicians. Unification of religious forces was always desirable, especially in our generation, a generation confused and perplexed by the shattering events of recent years, as a result of which many thinking people have become completely disillu-sioned in the false ideas and ideologies which they had held in the past, and are now earnestly searching for the truth.

An organized body of religious physicians could make its influence felt in these circles through a declaration of their authoritative opinion on several issues, which have been the subject of confused and misleading controversy.

Such a declaration should, first of all, do away with the misconception about any conflict between science and religion. True science, the object of which is the truth and nothing but the truth, can lead to no conclusions which are contrary to our Torah, "the Law of Truth." On the contrary, the more deeply one delves into science, the stronger must grow the recognition of the truth of the fundamental principles, as well as the ramifications, of our Jewish religion.

As physicians, in particular, you are in a position to refute decisively the materialistic philosophy, as is demonstrated by the fact that so much of physical health depends on spiritual health. If in modern days emphasis was placed on "mens sana in corpore sano" [a healthy mind in a healthy body] in our days it is a matter of general conviction that even a small defect spiritually causes a grie-vous defect physically; and the healthier the spirit and the greater its preponderance over the physical body - the greater its ability to correct or overcome physical shortcoming; so much so, that in many cases even physical treatments, prescriptions and drugs are considerably more effective if they are accompanied by the patient's strong will and determination to cooperate.

This principle of "mind over matter," i.e., of quality over quantity, is further emphasized by the fact, which is continually gaining recognition, that the vital functions of the organism do not depend on quantity, inasmuch as the glands, and the hormones, vitamins, etc., which they produce, are quite minute quantitatively.

Parenthetically: It is written in our holy Scriptures, "From my flesh I visualize G-d." Recognizing the preponderance of the soul in the physical body (the microcosm), there remains but a small step to the recognition of G-d, the "soul" of the Universe (the macrocosm). And in the words of our Sages: "As the soul fills the body, vivifies it, sees, but is not seen - so the Holy One, blessed is He, fills the world, vivifies it, sees, but is not seen."

So much for speaking in general terms. Specifically, many are the questions directly relating to the practice of the physician, some of them of practical and immediate importance, on which your voice should be heard. To mention but a few:

To declare the paramount importance of the observance of the laws of Taharas HaMishpocha - Jewish marriage; the observance of kashrus - the dietary laws; circumcision.

Elimination of treatment likely to cause sterility, and substituting for it other forms of treatment; particularly, in connection with surgery on the prostate...

Postmortem: For purposes of study of anatomy, etc., it is surely possible to use artificial forms and models; for purposes of ascertaining the case of death - in many cases it is not essential; where it may be of immediate necessity to save a life (as in the case of an accusation of poisoning, etc.), mutilation of the body should be reduced to the essential minimum, and the parts should be buried afterwards.

And so on.

Needless to say, what has been mentioned above about pointing out the health benefits that are derived from the observance of the religious precepts, should not be understood as an attempt to explain the precepts by their utilitarian value. For, the Divine precepts must be observed because they are the command and will of our Creator.

However, for the benefit of those who, by reason of spiritual "sickness," cannot be induced to observe the precepts except by making them aware of their utilitarian value, we must do everything possible to urge them to observe the mitzvos in daily life, even if we have to rationalize about the Divine commands, and emphasize their physical benefits....

A Call to Action

Be "Charitable" on Shabbat

Charity should be given each and every day. But how is this accomplished on Shabbat, when it is forbidden to handle money? Instead of money, we can give food and drink to guests or we can make sure to speak well of another person, say an encouraging word to someone, pay someone a compliment.

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

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The 9th of Kislev (which this year occurred this past Thursday) is the birthday and yartzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch. Although he was only 54 years old at the time of his passing, it is considered auspicious when a righteous person passes away on his (Hebrew) birthday, in fulfillment of the verse "The number of your days I will fulfill." As is known, Moses was 120 when he passed away on his birthday, about which our Sages commented: "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, fills up the years of the righteous from day to day." When a righteous person departs this world on the same day he was born, it emphasizes that his service of G-d was "full" and complete on the material as well as the spiritual plane.

The following day, the 10th of Kislev, is also celebrated in Chabad circles, as it marks the date in 1826 when the Mitteler Rebbe was released from prison. Accused of illegally channeling funds to the Holy Land, the Mitteler Rebbe refuted all the charges against him (proving that all monies went directly to the poor) and demonstrated that the documents used to implicate him had been forged. Indeed, the Mitteler Rebbe so impressed the authorities that the informer who had slandered him was told to "stop barking like a dog."

It is said that on the Shabbat afternoon when word came that the Rebbe would be freed, he was in the midst of delivering a Chasidic discourse on the verse "You are One." (The Mitteler Rebbe was permitted to deliver Chasidic discourses to 50 of his Chasidim twice a week even while imprisoned as his doctor had informed the authorities that this was literally what kept him alive.)

May the Mitteler Rebbe's holiday of redemption lead to the ultimate holiday of Redemption of the entire Jewish people, with the immediate revelation of our Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

And Jacob went on his way (Gen. 32:2)

Every Jew, no matter who, is entrusted with the special mission of going from "strength to strength" in G-d's path. We learn this from the above passage. The name "Jacob" comes from the word meaning "ankle," symbolizing that this mission applies equally to all Jews, as one ankle is indistinguishable from another. The word "went" teaches us that a Jew must always be on the move, growing and ascending higher and higher in his service of G-d. "On his way" indicates the way of G-d's Torah and its laws, for which purpose an individual's soul is brought down into this world.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Charan (Gen. 28:10)

Rabbi Pinchas said, in the name of Rabbi Abahu: According to the Torah, whomever a person marries is predestined by G-d. Some people must go out to meet their mate; others have their mate come to them. Isaac's wife, Rebecca, came to him: "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field...and he lifted up his eyes and saw, behold, there were camels coming. And Rebecca lifted up her eyes, and she saw Isaac." Jacob, however, had to travel to Charan to meet his future wives.

(Breishit Rabba)

And he reached (vayifga) a certain place (Gen. 28:11)

The Hebrew word "vayifga," "and he reached," implies prayer. It was especially necessary for Jacob to pray for guidance as he set out for Charan, for he knew that the challenges he would find there would be far more trying than those he had experienced in the rarefied atmosphere of the yeshiva. He therefore prayed for the strength to withstand the difficult trials he would encounter.

(Likutei Sichot)

The day is yet long (Gen. 29:7)

Such is the way of the world: When a person is in his prime, he sees no need to hurry, as he still has plenty of time to devote to refining his character - "the day is yet long." When that long-delayed time comes, however, he finds that the day is almost over.

(Maharish of Mezritch)

It Once Happened

The poritz (nobleman) and his son were having a heated argument. The son, an only child, had asked his father for permission to go hunting with his friends in the dense forests around the city of Liozhna. The elderly father, concerned for his son's safety, had refused to grant it. The father's opposition to what he considered a dangerous venture seemed immovable.

At the height of the argument, however, the poritz had suddenly stopped speaking. For a few minutes he was silent, lost in thought. "I will let you go on one condition," he finally decided. And indeed, it was a very odd stipulation.

"In the city of Liadi there lives a famous Rabbi. He is the spiritual leader of all the Jews in this area, and every word he utters is considered holy. Go to this Rabbi and ask his blessing. If you promise to do this, I will let you go hunting." The son was very surprised, but gave his word. The next day he left on the expedition.

In those few moments of silence, the poritz's memory had carried him back to the time he had served as an interrogator in the main prison in Petersburg. Although he had interrogated hundreds if not thousands of prisoners in the course of his career, his experience with the Rabbi who had been charged with rebelling against the government was something he could never forget. His regal bearing, majestic long beard and deeply expressive eyes were permanently engraved on the nobleman's heart.

He could remember the Rabbi's answers to the interrogators' questions as if he had heard them just yesterday. The wisdom and truth they contained had been evident in every word, and the poritz had been extremely impressed by the Rabbi's character. In fact, the Rabbi's subsequent release from jail and the dropping of all charges against him were in large part due to the poritz's intervention.

The Rabbi, of course, was the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad Chasidic movement, whose opponents had slandered and libeled him to the authorities. But despite the accusations, the young interrogator had been convinced that the Rabbi was a G-dly man. Now, decades later, the poritz felt that if his only child could see the holy Rabbi for himself, it would somehow set his own mind at ease.

Unfortunately, the poritz's misgivings proved to be well founded. A few weeks into the expedition the hunting party had been halted by a blinding rainstorm. The son, who had wandered off from the rest of his friends, was alone in the middle of the forest. Seeking shelter under a tree, he had no choice but to wait for the storm to pass. But the weather did not improve, and only grew worse. It was several days until the storm abated.

Soaked to the bone, hungry and sick, the poritz's son despaired of ever leaving the forest. It was truly miraculous when he eventually found a path through the foliage and succeeded in dragging himself to an inn on the outskirts of Liozhna.

The next day, burning with fever, he suddenly remembered his promise to his father and resolved to fulfill it. With his last ounce of strength he arose from bed and set out for the city to find the famous Rabbi.

Once in town he soon learned that Rabbi Shneur Zalman had recently passed away. The poritz's son felt a pang of conscience until the Jews informed him that the Rabbi had left a successor, his son Rabbi Dovber (the Mitteler Rebbe), who was also a holy person. But the Mitteler Rebbe was no longer living in Liozhna, and now resided in Lubavitch.

There was no rational explanation for the urgency he felt to see the son of the famous rabbi his father had praised so highly. Nonetheless, he hired a carriage and set out for Lubavitch, despite the weakness from his illness.

That night, when the poritz's son arrived in Lubavitch, he was disappointed to learn that the Rebbe was addressing his Chasidim and would not be receiving visitors. But the young nobleman would not be turned back. Undaunted, he insisted on being told the exact location where the Rebbe was speaking.

The study hall was packed to the rafters, so that no one noticed the stranger when he entered. In the front of the room the Mitteler Rebbe was seated at a table saying a Chasidic discourse. The poritz's son was astounded by the scene. Such a large crowd of people, yet everyone was silent and focused on the Rebbe. He found himself rooted to the spot.

About an hour later it occurred to him how odd it was that he was standing, given the state of his health. When he left the study hall he could actually feel his strength returning, which he had no doubt was in the merit of the holy Rabbi. He was also very grateful for having been able to fulfill his promise to his father.

This story was related many decades later by the poritz's son - by then a nobleman in his own right - to a Chabad Chasid.

Moshiach Matters

In the Talmud (Pesachim 119b) our Sages described the Redemption as a feast. To echo this analogy, the table has already been set, everything has been served, and we are sitting at the table together with Moshiach. All we need to do is open our eyes.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Vayeitzei, 5752-1991)

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