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L'Chaim
January 8, 2010 - 22 Tevet, 5770

1103: Shemos

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


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  1102: Vayechi1104: Vaera  

Honor, Esteem & Respect  |  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

Honor, Esteem & Respect

Though published over a decade ago, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is still garnering pop-culture references in all forms of media. Well, long before John Gray's book ever hit the bestsellers list, Judaism always opined that men and women are different!

In the Talmud, our Sages say it clearly and succinctly: "Women are a people unto themselves."

Since men and women are different and Judaism acknowledges these differences, the Torah has much to say about the relationship between husband and wife.

The Talmud advises husbands, "Love your wife as much as yourself and honor her more than yourself."

Maimonides suggests to wives, "Honor your husband more than is necessary."

Honor, esteem, and respect - these are fundamental aspects of a Jewish marriage.

But what about love? Isn't love an integral component of a Torah marriage?

Let's look at the Jewish concept of love.

The word for love in Hebrew is "ahava" which comes from the word "hav," meaning "give."

The world says, "What can I get out of this marriage? What can I gain? What's in it for me?"

The Torah says, "What can I put into this relationship? What can I give?" The Torah teaches us that the way to foster love is not by taking but rather by giving, and being a willing and active recipient.

Just for a minute, think about that cute little baby - your own child, the neighbor's, your niece or nephew, or grandchild.

A natural reaction when around an infant is to pick it up, and cuddle it. Before you know it, you'll find yourself saying "I love you" to the baby. What has the baby given to you? Nothing. But you are giving to the baby - hugs, cuddles, kisses, coos - and this giving evokes in you a love for the baby.

Society teaches that each of us is the center of the world.

The Torah, however, teaches that G-d is the center of the world.

If we make room in our lives, and especially in our marriages, not only for our partner, but also for G-d, we have a tested formula for a stable marriage.

This is beautifully expressed by our Sages in their discussion of husband and wife.

"Man" in Hebrew is "ish"; woman is "isha."

Both words have two letters in common, "alef" and "shin," which spell "fire."

The two disparate letters are "yud" and "hei."

When yud and hei are combined they spell one of G-d's names. When husband and wife live without G-d in their midst, all that is left is "aish" - an all-consuming fire.

The Torah calls the wedding ceremony "kidushin," meaning "sanctification."

And the word for marriage comes from the Hebrew "to lift up."

If husband and wife devote themselves to lifting each other up throughout the ups and downs of marriage by following the guidelines of the Torah, they will be truly sanctified and their marriage will be holy.


Living with the Rebbe

This week we begin the Book of Exodus with the Torah reading of Shemot. Our portion opens with a list of the names of the Children of Israel who went down to Egypt, describes the slavery that began after the death of Jacob and his sons, and narrates the birth of Moses, the Redeemer of the Children of Israel.

As every Jew is obligated to remember and "relive" the exodus from Egypt every day in the spiritual sense, it follows that each stage in the Jewish people's historical descent to and liberation from Egypt contains deep significance and meaning that is pertinent to our daily lives.

The primary threat of the entire Egyptian experience was expressed in Pharaoh's decree: "Every son that is born you shall cast into the river."

The mighty Nile River, upon which all of Egypt was dependent for its sustenance, is symbolic of the laws of nature. Venerated as a god by the Egyptians, the Nile's waters periodically rose to fertilize their otherwise parched land.

The objective of the Egyptians was for the Jews to reject a G-d Who transcends nature and join them in their devotion to natural phenomenon.

While still in their own land, such a possibility was inconceivable to the Jewish people.

In Israel, the direct relationship between man and G-d was open and apparent: Whenever rain was needed, the Jewish people had only to pray to G-d, and He sent His blessing. It was not hard to perceive that all good emanates from G-d alone. It was only after emigrating to Egypt, a land fertilized by the natural, periodic rising of the Nile, that the possibility for error could even arise.

The subjugation of the Jews could not begin while Joseph and his sons still lived, for that generation had personally witnessed Divine Providence and understood that the forces of nature are only G-d's tools. Slavery, in both the physical and spiritual sense, could only take root in a new generation that had not merited to live in the land of Israel.

It was then that the true descent into Egypt began and Pharaoh was able to issue his evil decree -- the aim of which was the immersion of the Jewish people into the idolatrous worship of natural law.

Moses, G-d's "faithful servant," was the one who gave the Children of Israel the strength to break the bonds of servitude and abandon the lure of Egyptian idolatry.

Moses instilled in his brethren a pure and holy faith in G-d, at a time when it was difficult for them to even imagine that such holiness could exist. In the merit of their belief the Jewish people overcame the decree of Pharaoh and were redeemed from Egypt.

This process is experienced by every Jew in his daily life as well. By beginning the day with prayer and Torah learning, a Jew is able to perceive his direct relationship with G-d, and maintain this perception throughout the rest of the day.

The attribute of Moses that exists within every Jew reminds him that everything - including those things that appear to be perfectly natural phenomena - comes solely and directly from the One Above.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. XVI


A Slice of Life

A Subway Conversation
by Malka Touger

On a stormy winter day in 2001, Rabbi Shalom Lew, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissary in Glendale, Arizona, with his wife and two small children, had just finished an inspiring visit to the Rebbe. They were now standing before the ticket booth trying to buy tokens for the subway.

The plan was to take the subway to Hartford, Connecticut, to visit Mrs. Lew's family and then fly to Glendale. But they overlooked one thing: small change.

It just so happened that all they had were two hundred dollar bills and the subway clerk at the token booth would not accept bills larger than $20. They were stuck. Mrs. Lew was feverishly looking through her purse, the children were getting restless and the solution was not in sight. He'd have to miss the train, run up the stairs into the storm and look for change.

Suddenly they heard a woman's voice from behind them. "Can I help? What, you don't have change? Here I have change... it's only a few dollars."

It was a friendly, well-dressed young woman smiling pleasantly with a few dollar bills in her outstretched hand. In no time they were through the turnstile and on the subway, the woman right ahead of them looking for seats.

After the subway began to move Rabbi Lew went over to the woman, and thanked her profusely. "No problem," she said, "I know how it is to travel with small children. I'm glad to help."

They spoke a bit and somehow it entered Rabbi Lew's mind to ask her if she was Jewish and, when the answer was positive, if she lit Shabbat candles.

"No, I don't" she replied. "What good is it if I just do one commandment when I don't do any others? I don't observe the Shabbat, I'd be lying to myself if I lit Shabbat candles."

Suddenly Rabbi Lew remembered a conversation his grandfather, Reb Zalman Jaffe of Manchester, England, told him that he had had years earlier with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Rebbe made a speech that revolutionized Judaism. Until that speech, Torah Judaism had been on the defensive; trying to ward off non-religious influences. But the Rebbe changed all that.

He declared in a farbrengen (Chasidic gathering) that Judaism holds the solution to all the world's problems. If every Jew does a commandment, even one, it will fill the world with meaning and blessings unequaled in the history of man: Moshiach will arrive.

The Rebbe told his Chasidim to begin with Tefilin for men and Shabbat candles for women. They had to go into the streets if necessary and change the world.

Shortly thereafter Reb Zalman Jaffe reported to the Rebbe that he had approached a neighbor of his (an unheard of thing in England) with the suggestion that she light candles and she answered, "What good will just one commandment do when I am completely non-observant?" (Exactly like the woman was answering Rabbi Lew in the subway!)

Mr. Jaffe replied that each commandment has a special quality, a "charm" and blessing of its own, not connected to the others. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, smiled and nodded in complete agreement with his approach.

So Rabbi Lew, inspired by this memory, said the exact same words. But, although the woman seemed pleased with the conversation, she did not seem at all convinced. When her stop came she bade the rabbi and his wife a polite farewell and exited the subway

Three years later Rabbi Lew got an email:

"Dear Rabbi Lew.

"I got your email address from Chabad.org. My name is Melissa. You probably don't remember me. I met you and your family almost four years ago in the subway in Crown Heights. I gave you change for the hundred dollar bill so you could get on the train and you tried to convince me to light Shabbat Candles.

"Well, believe it or not, it took some time but I lit them. Just one commandment, like you said, with no connection to anything else.

"But it didn't stop there. I got married to a wonderful Jewish man by the name of Marty and we decided to start doing more.

"Believe it or not, today we keep most of the laws of Shabbat, eat kosher food and hope to have a completely Jewish house. I just wanted to thank you for caring. Since then I've thought a lot about what you said: 'Just light candles,' and I just want you to know that because of those words I am the person I am today, believe it or not! If possible please keep in contact. Melissa."

A few days later Rabbi Shalom Lew called his father, Rabbi Shmuel Lew in London and told him the story; especially how the memory of his grandfather's conversation with the Rebbe put the right words in his mouth on the subway.

"Amazing!" His father exclaimed. "You'll never guess where I'm just coming from! I was just at the engagement party of a young lady who told me that she is an observant Jew today thanks to a conversation your grandfather Zalman, had with her grandmother years ago about lighting candles.

"That was the conversation you remembered on the subway!"

From Excuse Me, Are You Jewish? Emet Publishing


What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Laibel and Chanie Berkowitz will be moving soon to Huntsville, Alabama, where they will be starting a new Chabad House serving the Jewish community of Northern Alabama.

Rabbi Levi and Leah Lipskar recently moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where they will be working with the young professionals in the community through the Shul at Hyde Park. Mrs. Lipskar will also be involved in launching a branch of the Friendship Circle in Johannesburg.

Rabbi Shimi and Rochel Susskind recently arrived in Vernon Hills, Illinois, where they are establishing a new Chabad Center to serve the Jewish community there.


The Rebbe Writes

Aleph d'Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5710
June 15, 1950

This is in reply to your question regarding the significance of the custom during the marriage cere-mony that the bride makes seven circuits around the groom under the Chuppah [wedding canopy].

The answer to this question, it seems to me, has to cover the following sub-questions: 1) The significance of the circuit, 2) its repetition seven times, 3) the bride circling around the groom and not vice versa, 4) the bride then joining the groom, standing by his side within the circle.

I trust that the following may give you a satisfactory answer.

It is stated in the Zohar (Part III, 7:2) that marriage, which is a union of two distinct persons, is in reality a union of two halves of the same soul. Each one, when born, possesses but half [1] of that soul which becomes one and complete only in wedlock, through Chuppah and Kiddushin [sanctification].

This is why marriage is one of the greatest soul-stirring experiences of the bride and groom, for their respective souls have found at last the other half. Something of this joy is experienced, by way of illustration, at the re-union of two close relatives or beloved friends who had been separated for decades.

To a certain extent, therefore, the marriage marks the beginning of a complete and full life, while the pre-marital life of either the bride of groom may be considered in the nature of a preparatory period.

The union of the two parts of the same soul is not a union of two identical halves which make one whole. But they complement each other, each of them enriching the other with powers and qualities which hitherto were not possessed by him or her. For the "masculine" and "feminine" parts of the souls have basic differences, reflecting, broadly speaking, the character differences of the sexes. One such difference is what our Sage called "the nature of the male to conquer," i.e., the propensity of the male to conquer new provinces (in business, profession, science, etc.) outside his home. This quality is generally not found in the female. On the other hand, the woman is called in our sacred literature the "Foundation of the House," for within the house her personality and innermost qualities are best expressed and asserted (Psalms 45:14).

It has been mentioned earlier that marriage, in a sense, marks the beginning of a full life. The wedding ceremony reflects this by an allusion to the beginning of all life. The Blessings of Betrothal (Birchoth Hanesuin) also begin with a reference to the creation of the first man, the first woman, and their wedding.

Ever since the Creation of the world, human life has been based on the seven-day cycle. G-d created the world in six days and hallowed the seventh as a day of rest. Man was then commanded to work for six days of the week, but to dedicate the seventh as a Sabbath unto G-d. When a Jew is about to set up a home and begin a full life, it is fitting that this basic principle of a happy life should be symbolized during the wedding ceremony.

Hence the "Seven Days of Feasting," and the "Seven Blessings" (Sheva Berachoth). This brings us also to the seven circuits of the bride around the groom.

Bearing the above in mind, as well as the earlier introductory remarks concerning the basic character differences between the male and female, the ceremony of the seven circuits which the bride makes around the groom suggest the following explanation:

The groom, who takes the initiative [2] in bringing the union to fruition, is initially the center of the new Jewish home. He is the first to take his place under the Chuppah. When the bride is led to the Chuppah, she proceeds to make a circle around the groom. This symbolizes the delineation (in space) of their own world within the outer world, with her husband-to-be as its center. She continues to make circuits one after the other seven times, symbolizing that she, the "Foundation of the House," founds an edifice that would be complete on the first day of each and every week to come as on the second, third, etc., to the end of all times and seasons, a lasting and "eternal edifice" (with the infinity of the "cycle"). Her own contribution to this sacred union is also implied in the fact that she makes the circuits around the groom.

Having completed the seven circuits, she stand besides her husband-to-be in the center of the circle, for after the preparations for the building of their home, both of them, the husband and the wife, form its center. From here on, throughout the entire ceremony both the bride and groom form the center of the holy ceremony, like king and queen surrounded by a suite of honor. Their lives become united into One full and happy life, based on the One Torah given by the One G-d.

With all good wishes and kindest personal regards,

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) This does not mean, of course, that it is half a soul in every respect, but in the sense that in some respects, viz. the setting up of a home, an individual is but a "half," and his soul is likewise a "half."

  2. (Back to text) This is expressed, e.g. by the saying of our Sages that "it is the custom of the man to seek a wife." During the marriage ceremony this is symbolized by the fact that the groom declares "Harei at, etc," (Be thou betrothed unto me, etc.) while the bride remains silent.


A Call to Action

Make a Bride and Groom Happy

It is a mitzva (commandment) to rejoice with a bride and groom and make them happy. Many stories tell how our Sages used to go to weddings and juggle, dance, or do other things to bring joy and gladness to the new couple at their wedding. Today, people even prepare "shtick" - hats, masks, etc. to enliven the festivities. Help enliven the next wedding you attend and you'll be doing a big mitzva! As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained, "A wedding is to be suffused with joy, and joy breaks through all boundaries and limitations, attaining the ultimate degree of expansiveness."

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

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Sunday, 24 Tevet, is the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, known by generations of Chasidim as "the Alter Rebbe" (the "Elder Rebbe") was a rationalist and a mystic, a Kabbalist and a Talmudist, a person utterly not of this world and at the very same time very much a man of the world. All of these qualities and more were harmoniously blended together in the Alter Rebbe.

At the age of five, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was accepted into the "Chevra Kadisha," or Holy Society of his community. When he was only nine years old he was considered accomplished in geometry and astronomy. He was so proficient in the complicated laws of the Jewish calendar that he was able to compose a 15-year calendar when he was only ten years old. At the age of 12, he lectured publicly on Maimonides' intricate Laws of the Sanctification of the New Moon and the pre-eminent Torah-scholars of that time were utterly overwhelmed.

And yet, together with all of this great scho-larship, erudition and wisdom was the ability to relate to every Jew, young or old, unlettered or scholarly, pious or in need of spiritual guidance.

The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, his magnum opus, that the ultimate purpose of the creation of the world is the Era of Moshiach. "It is known that the Messianic era, especially the period after the resurrection of the dead, is indeed the ultimate purpose and the fulfillment of this world. It is for this purpose that this world was originally created." (Ch. 36) But lest we think that we can just sit back and expect it to happen on its own, the Alter Rebbe delineates our responsibility to make it happen. "Now this ultimate perfection of the Messianic era and the time of the resurrection of the dead... is dependent on our actions and divine service throughout the period of exile." (ch. 37)

May the Alter Rebbe's life and teachings inspire us to rise to the occasion and cause the world to realize its purpose with Moshiach NOW!


Thoughts that Count

These are the names of the Children of Israel...seventy souls (Ex. 1:1-5)

In these verses G-d lists the individual names of the Jews who went down to Egypt, then sums up by telling us how many there were in all. When objects (or in this case, people) are counted, it is a reflection of their common qualities. We count objects when we want to know their number, regardless of their differences. On the other hand, when we assign an object a name, it is generally a reflection of its individuality, that which sets it apart from all others. These two qualities - being part of a greater whole, and possessing individual worth - are present in every Jew. Each of us possesses a spark of Jewishness common to all Jews, yet our Jewish names reflect our individual, distinguishing character traits and attributes.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


All the soul that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy soul (Ex. 1:5)

The Children of Israel are referred to in the collective singular, "soul," whereas Esau's descendants are described in the plural, "souls." The sphere of holiness is characterized by awe of G-d, self-nullification and unity. (Think of two royal ministers, who, despite their disagreements, become totally nullified and united in the presence of the king.) The opposite of holiness, however, is characterized by disunity.

(Siddur, with notes from Chasidut)


An angel of G-d appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of the thorn bush... but the thorn bush was not consumed (Ex. 3:2)

A person is likened to a tree of the field: the Torah Sage is a fruit-bearing tree and the simple Jew is like a tree that does not give fruit. Nonetheless, the "flame of fire" burns precisely in the "thorn bush" - in the simple Jew. A Jew who prays and recites Psalms with simple faith in G-d possesses a fire of holiness derived from purity of heart, even if he does not understand the words. Furthermore, the "thorn bush is not consumed"; the burning flame of the simple Jew can never be extinguished, as he is perpetually thirsty for Torah.

(The Baal Shem Tov)


It Once Happened

Chasidim thronged the roads to Zhlobin, Ukraine, making their way to the wedding of the daughter of Rabbi Dovber (the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch) and the grandson of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. This wedding became known as "the Great Wedding in Zhlobin." Anticipation ran high, and as the wedding day approached, the preparations intensified.

The bride and her family arrived in Zhlobin a few days before the wedding, led by her grandfather, the founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, and his son, Rabbi Dovber, later to become the Mitteler Rebbe. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and the groom's family arrived in Zhlobin on the eve of the wedding.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman told his son to go and greet Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. Rabbi Dovber blanched and said, "Father, you know that he is upset with me because I teach Chasidut at length and in public! I am afraid to go to him alone."

"Please go, my son, and don't be afraid," said Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

Rabbi Dovber put on his coat, took his walking stick and went to see Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. He fearfully entered the room and his fears were founded. As soon as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak saw him, his face crinkled in surprise and displeasure. He got right to the point without greeting him, and without hiding his annoyance.

"Are you allowed to reveal this great and wondrous wisdom? It is forbidden to speak about these secrets to people who never saw the face of our teacher, the holy Baal Shem Tov!" He pointed at Rabbi Dovber and said, "And he reveals them openly, before the masses!"

Rabbi Dovber rushed out of the room and returned to his father in great dismay. "Father, the tzadik's displeasure stands, and I am afraid."

Rabbi Shneur Zalman understood that it was important to resolve this issue before the wedding festivities began, and he went along with his son to to straighten things out. The two tzadikim met and warmly greeted one another, then sat down to talk.

"Why are you so upset with my son, Berel?" asked Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak thought for a moment and then replied, "You know that this is not my prohibition, but an instruction from our Rebbe (the Maggid of Mezritch), not to teach Chasidut in public unless he saw the face of the Baal Shem Tov. How could your son say such deep thoughts?!"

Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied, "My son, Berel, only says what he heard from me, and I saw our master, the Baal Shem Tov."

"In a vision or literally?" Rabbi Levi Yitzchak pressed.

"When awake, of course!"

"If so, then let us hear what he has to say."

Rabbi Dovber trembled. He was being asking to do the most difficult thing of all: to say Chasidut in front of the two tzadikim. Having no choice, Rabbi Dovber began saying deep Chasidic discourses, and the two tzadikim sat and listened closely to everything he uttered.

Rabbi Dovber was completely immersed in what he was saying, and was removed from his surroundings as he climbed the lofty and pure spiritual heights. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak perceived the secret of secrets of Torah in what Rabbi Dovber was saying, words that shone forth from their very source, and saw with his divine inspiration that their source was at the very highest level.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's spirit exploded with holiness until he couldn't restrain himself anymore, and he got up and wrapped Rabbi Dovber's face with a talit, saying, "Oy, G-d forbid that the fiery angels should be envious of you. Beware of an evil eye."

He then turned to Rabbi Shneur Zalman and said, "Even the great Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, the Rashbi, didn't reach such a high and lofty source. How did your son?"

Rabbi Shneur Zalman thought deeply and it was apparent that his holy spirit was in another world, but after a while he responded: "When this son of mine was born, I planned on naming him Hamnuna, after Rav Hamnuna Sava, whose soul-source was in the most exalted hidden worlds. This name was appropriate for the level of my son's soul, but our Rebbe, the Maggid appeared to me in a dream and told me to name him Dovber (the Maggid's name). So you should know that my son reached such concealed and lofty secrets, because the source of his soul is with Rav Hamnuna Sava."

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak insisted that Rabbi Dovber have the honor of exiting the room first. "You have taught me," he said humbly. Rabbi Dovber deferred to his father and to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. Each tzadik gave the other the honor, and there was no solution. So the Chasidim broke the walls of the doorway and the three tzadikim left together.

As told by Menachem Zeigelbaum, adapted from Beis Moshiach Magazine


Moshiach Matters

The rejoicing of a groom and bride is one of the greatest expressions of Jewish happiness. This rejoicing heralds and precipitates the ultimate rejoicing as expressed in Jeremiah's prophecy: "There will be heard ... in the cities of Judah and the outskirts of Jerusalem ... the sound of happiness and the sound of rejoicing ... the sound of a bride and the sound of a groom." Therefore, everyone, and particularly the members of the family, should participate in this celebration as a preparation for the "eternal rejoicing" which will characterize the Era of the Redemption.

(Hitvaaduyot of the Rebbe, 5744, Vol. 3)


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