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L'Chaim
January 22, 2010 - 7 Shevat, 5770

1105: Bo

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


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  1104: Vaera1106: Beshalach  

Don't Miss the Sale  |  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

Don't Miss the Sale

Moshe Shlomo, a follower of Rabbi Dovber, the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, became very ill. His father-in-law Reb Yisroel Meir would frequently write letters to the Rebbe asking that he plead for Divine mercy on Moshe Shlomo's behalf, but it didn't help at all.

On Lag B'Omer, when the Rebbe was sitting together with his brothers Reb Chaim Avrohom and Reb Moshe, and with his sons-in-law and many chasidim at the Lag B'Omer meal, Reb Yisroel Meir approached the Rebbe with a note on behalf of his son-in-law, Moshe Shlomo, saying that this is the second month that his son-in-law had been so sick that he couldn't speak.

The Rebbe gazed for a long time at the note, and said: "For the sickness of tuberculosis it is good to have a change of climate. Let him come here and hear Chasidic teachings, and he will be able to speak, and have what to speak about."

Why weren't Reb Yisroel Meir's requests effective before? We do not know. But we do know that the Rebbe regarded Lag B'Omer as a very great day, one on which he would perform miracles. The fact that it was not until this special day that Reb Yisroel Meir's plea was effective teaches us a lesson.

From time to time we mark special days in the general Jewish calendar or in the Chasidic calendar, and when each day comes along, we are told that it has a unique significance. However, in order to connect with the special quality of this day, conscious effort is required, because the external world looks the same. "How is today different from yesterday?" one may ask. Yet one who expends the necessary effort learns that today is indeed very different from yesterday.

Passover, Sukkot, Chanuka, Purim, Lag B'Omer, Tu B'Shevat, and so on, in the general Jewish calendar are days that most of us are familiar with and each have their own unique quality, character, and spiritual energy. In the Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidic calendar, Yud-Tet (19) Kislev, Yud-Alef (11) Nissan, Gimmel (3) Tammuz, and so on, are probably much less familiar to, or even unheard of in, the general Jewish community. And yet, all these days can be summed up with one word: opportunities.

On each of these days a special spiritual light shines that only shines once a year, and when we do something to connect with this light - by learning about the meaning of the day, meditating on it, discussing it with others, reflecting upon it, and trying our best to connect with it, then it can raise us up to a certain otherwise unattainable spiritual level.

This coming Monday, Yud (10) Shevat, is one such occasion. It is the day when the Lubavitcher Rebbe became Rebbe. So it is a day of connecting to the Rebbe through studying his teachings and through being involved in activities that he encouraged.

Perhaps this is comparable to a sale. All year round, the customer is expected to pay full price, and no bargains are accepted. When the store holds a sale, however, one can purchase the same product on discount for a fraction of the price. But once the sale is over, it is too late to grab those bargains - one has no choice but to wait until the next sale.

Likewise, when a special day arrives, G-d in His kindness is granting us a special, limited time offer. If we are wise, we will make the most of it.

Adapted with permission from an article by Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver on a-farbrengen.blogspot.com


Living with the Rebbe

The ninth plague to befall Egypt was the plague of darkness, as described in this week's Torah portion, Bo: "They did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light in their dwellings."

The Midrash explains that the plague of darkness entailed two separate miracles: a supernatural darkness that enshrouded the Egyptians and "glued" them in place for three days, and a miraculous light that enabled the Jewish people to see.

By the light of this illumination, the Jews were able to enter the homes of the Egyptians and locate the treasures that were hidden there. Later, when the time came for the Jews to leave Egypt and G-d commanded them to borrow "vessels of silver and vessels of gold," the Egyptians were unable to refuse their requests, as the Jews knew exactly where everything was hidden.

This second miracle came about in order to fulfill G-d's promise to Abraham years before, when He told him that his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt: "And afterwards they will go out with great wealth." In the merit of this light, the Jews were able to "empty" Egypt of its treasures, in fulfillment of G-d's command, "And you shall plunder the Egyptians."

Chasidic philosophy explains that the material wealth the Jews took with them from Egypt was an expression of the spiritual wealth they derived - the tremendous number of "holy sparks" that had fallen to the morally depraved country. By going through the Egyptian exile, the Jewish people were able to redeem these sparks and restore them to their Divine source.

The fact that G-d performed a special miracle to facilitate the process demonstrates that He actively helps us in our service of "redeeming the sparks." G-d gives every Jew a "special light" that enables him to penetrate the "depths of Egypt" and withdraw the spiritual "wealth" that needs redemption.

Even now, in our present exile, the Jewish people are occupied with redeeming "sparks of holiness." Whenever a Jew utilizes a physical object for its Divine purpose, he elevates the sparks it contains and restores them to their original source.

Moreover, G-d continues to perform miracles that help us in our Divine mission. For even though we are still in a time when "darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people," with the help of this special light, every Jew can prepare himself, with joy and gladness of heart, for the time when "the L-rd shall shine upon you": the full and complete Redemption with Moshiach.

Adapted from Volume 31 of Likutei Sichot


A Slice of Life

This is for the Children to be Born
by Avrohom Nosson

This story began 28 years ago, when Rabbi Dovid and Chaya Phoebe Marciano were married. In 1989, after eight years of childlessness, they received a blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that they would have children. But it was not until this past fall, nearly 20 years after the Rebbe blessed them that they would have children, that the blessing was fulfilled.

"In 1984," begins Rabbi Marciano, "I asked the Rebbe for a blessing to have children, as several years had passed since we got married and we still hadn't merited to become parents. The Rebbe blessed us with 'Bracha v'hatzlacha (blessing and success)' or 'B'suros tovos (good news),' but there was no mention of the subject of children. This scene repeated itself each time we travelled to New York. Every time I asked the Rebbe for a blessing, he gave me (or us) words of encouragement and blessing, but never a specific blessing for children. Weeks and years passed. We waited and waited, but nothing happened.

"We visited prominent doctors and underwent a variety of fertility treatments, filled with promise and hope, but in the end, we were filled with nothing but sadness.

"After the High Holidays in 1989, I decided to travel to the Rebbe and state clearly that I wanted a blessing for children. The many stories about the Rebbe's blessings for children that came to fruition despite medical diagnoses to the contrary were known to us. We wanted a clear blessing as well.

"My trip was taking place not long after I had suffered a very serious injury during my work with the defense industry. My body was so severely weakened that it led to the eventual amputation of both of my hands. Nevertheless, I was determined to make the trip.

"At nine o'clock on Friday morning, I stood at the entrance to '770.' However, I was very surprised and perplexed to see World Lubavitch Headquarters almost totally empty. When I inquired about this unusual phenomenon, I was told that the Rebbe was praying at home.

"I walked to the Rebbe's house on President Street, but I was just in time to see the doors of the already crowded house closing. I refused to give up and knocked sharply on the door until it opened. Noticing my handicap, the organizers apparently had pity on me and let me come in. Filled with awe, I stood near the steps that the Rebbe would descend from his room on the upper floor. When the Rebbe came down the steps, he gave me a gesture of encouragement and a soothing look of compassion.

"I was privileged to pray with the Rebbe and I felt that the Rebbe knew about my situation and was there with me.

"Sunday came, the day that we planned to ask the Rebbe for a blessing. I knew that I couldn't stand in line for so many hours due to my injury, and I asked one of the Rebbe's secretaries, Rabbi Binyomin Klein, if he could do something to help me. He understood the situation and he promised to help me be amongst the first people in line. He asked me to knock on the window of the secretaries' office immediately after prayers, and he would make certain to get us in first.

"My wife and I stood first in line for dollars, and when our turn came, I told the Rebbe that we needed a blessing for children. The Rebbe gave us a dollar and blessed us with 'Bracha v'hatzlacha.' I don't know where I got up the nerve, but I said to the Rebbe that I want a blessing for children because we still have not been privileged to have any. The Rebbe looked at us with clear and penetrating eyes, gave us another dollar and said: 'This is for the children to be born!' I left the Rebbe with a feeling of joy like never before. I knew that if the Rebbe gave such a clear blessing, it would surely actualize.

"I returned home, filled with faith that we would merit to have children. I neither thought nor imagined in my wildest dreams that so many more years would pass until the blessing would be fulfilled, yet I knew in my heart that when the Rebbe makes a promise, it will be realized. I read numerous stories about Jews who only decades later were able to see the proof of the Rebbe's great vision and insight. I firmly believed that a similar story would happen to me, and I made sure to increase in acts of kindness and outreach activities in order that I should be a proper vessel to receive the blessing.

"Ten months ago, I approached Rabbi Shmuel Fromer from the Krayot neighborhood, with whom I had a deep personal connection. Twenty-five years ago, he held Torah classes in my home over a period of three years, and many Jews studied Torah and Chasidic teachings in the merit of these classes. I proceeded to pour out my heart to him. In all honesty, I had already begun to get a bit skeptical. It had been 20 years since receiving the Rebbe's blessing in 1989, 28 years since we got married, and we had already been to so many doctors. Who knew? Maybe when the Rebbe gave us his blessing, he was referring to something in the more spiritual realm? Rabbi Fromer encouraged me not to give up hope. 'Dovid, if the Rebbe gave a blessing, it's going to happen,' he assured me.

"When the first announcement of the long-awaited miracle came, all the inner sadness and pain that had filled us for all those long years was transformed into tremendous joy. And after our son was born on 3 Cheshvan, and I saw the happiness of all the Chasidim around us, I understood how great this miracle really was. While I still haven't fully digested the magnitude of the miracle, it's clear that what the Rebbe says, goes. There's no other way to explain it.

"My conclusion is that one should always pray and hope, and if the Rebbe makes a promise, the blessing will surely be fulfilled. There is no doubt that this trial was most difficult to bear, but the great joy we are feeling now surpasses it."

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine


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The Rebbe Writes

12th of Shevat, 5734 [1984]
Mr. Mordechai Shoel Landow

Greeting and Blessing:

I just received your letter of January 30th, which arrived in close proximity to Yud Shevat [the tenth of Shevat], the Yahrzeit [anniversary of the passing] of my father-in-law of saintly memory.

Everything is, of course, by Divine Providence. However, sometimes this is not on the surface, and requires deep introspection, but at other times it may be right on the surface and ever conspicuous. Such is the case in regard to your letter and its timely arrival around Yud Shevat.

The immediate connection is, of course, the subject matter of your letter, which is chinuch [Jewish education], and which, as you know, was the object of my father-in-law's greatest interest, to which he had dedicated all his life, to the point of actual mesiras nefesh [utter self-sacrifice].

And, as my father-in-law often pointed out, the matter of chinuch, education, does not refer merely to children, but also to those who are "children" in regard to knowledge and experience of Torah and mitzvoth [commandments]. In other words, chinuch must be directed to Jews of all ages, to bring them closer to their Father in Heaven. I emphasize the word closer, because basically every Jew is really close to G-d, by virtue of his Divine soul which is part of G-dliness Above, and as the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism] underscored it "Mamosh" ["actually"].

And even if by reason of external circumstances, the soul may be in a state of sleep, or suspended animation, it is written, "Though I am asleep, my heart is awake." There is no need for me to elaborate this to you, since this is some thing which you have personally experienced in your own life long ago and in helping awaken others, and have shown that you could do this with real mesiras nefesh.

I might add, however, that in evaluating the mesiras nefesh of my father-in-law of saintly memory, we can appreciate it better if we realize, that it meant for a person like him to tear himself away from his own profound studies of Torah and spiritual matters, in order to give of his time, energy and attention so that one more Jew should be able to learn aleph beis ["abc's"], in the plain sense, as well as aleph beis of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] which many an adult Jew had to begin.

I dare say that this kind of mesiras nefesh was perhaps even harder than placing his physical life in jeopardy for the sake of Yiddishkeit. For, surely, in the case of the Baal HaHilulo [the one whose yahrzeit is being commemorated], his soul-life and constant striving for spiritual perfection was uppermost. Herein too we can find something which is of practical instruction to each, and everyone of us. For, as has been mentioned on previous occasions, although none of us can compare to his stature and spiritual qualities and powers, we have the advantage that he has already trodden the path for us, and made it so much easier to follow in his footsteps.

With blessing,


A Call to Action

LEARN the Rebbe's teachings:

The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that a true connection to the Rebbe comes through studying the Rebbe's teachings. Dozens of the Rebbe's works are available in English at Jewish bookstores. Toward A Meaningful Life by Rabbi Simon Jacobson and Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman are excellent adaptations of the Rebbe's core teachings. Take a class at your local Chabad House, visit www .chabad.org, and, of course, continue to read L'Chaim and share it with friends.

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

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Monday is Yud Shevat, the anniversary of the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1950 and one year later, the official acceptance of leadership by the Rebbe.

In a renowned letter, the Baal Shem Tov describes an elevation of his soul to the chamber of Moshiach at which time he asked Moshiach when he would come. "When your teachings will become widely known in the world, and your wellsprings will be disseminated outward," Moshiach answered.

Thus, from its very beginning, bringing Moshiach has been an integral goal of the Chasidic movement.

From his earliest childhood, Moshiach and the Redemption were uppermost in the Rebbe's mind, as he once wrote: "From the day I went to cheder and even before that, there began to form in my mind a picture of the future Redemption, the Redemption of the Jewish people from their final exile..." Even before the age of three the Rebbe's young mind was already occupied with the Redemption. And this has been the Rebbe's focus ever since.

Preparing the world for Moshiach is integral to the entire Chasidic movement, particularly to Chabad-Lubavitch. Once the Rebbe accepted the enormous responsibility of the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, he stated in no uncertain terms the ultimate purpose of his leadership:

In the Rebbe's first public discourse, he explained: "This is what is demanded of each and every one of us of the seventh generation... Although the fact that we are in the seventh generation is not the result of our own choosing and our own service, and indeed in certain ways perhaps contrary to our will, nevertheless 'All those who are seventh are cherished.' We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down G-d's presence, the essence of G-d's presence, in this world."


Thoughts that Count

There was light in their dwellings of all the Children of Israel (Ex. 10:23)

This unique light not only illuminated their own homes, but accompanied the Jews wherever they went - even when visiting their neighboring Egyptians. Exile is a time of spiritual darkness that intensifies the closer we get to Moshiach's revelation. Nonetheless, just as our ancestors enjoyed "light in their dwellings" even before their redemption from exile, so too does every Jew possess an aura of holiness now, just prior to the Final Redemption, which accompanies him wherever he goes.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 5751)


With our young and with our old we will go... we are to hold a feast unto G-d (Ex. 10:9)

For in truth, what kind of a holiday would it be without our children? Any holy celebration that does not include the younger generation is no celebration at all...

(Shem MiShmuel)


It Once Happened

In 1995, an elegantly dressed, elderly woman, entered the office of Rabbi Yakov Biederman, the Rebbe's emissary to Austria. She introduced herself as Marguerite Kozenn-Chajes, a retired opera singer and the first emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Vienna! "I know you think you are the Rebbe's first one here," she quipped, "but in fact I am!"

Mrs. Kozenn-Chajes began her story. Her ancestors had been the holy Vishnitzer Rebbes. As a young woman she left her home in Czernowitz and travelled to Vienna where she eventually became a successful opera singer.

Mrs. Kozenn-Chajes performed during the 1930s in the Salzburger Festspiele. When German troops marched into Austria and the annexation of Austria was complete, all Jewish artists were banned from performing. Somehow, Mrs. Kozenn-Chajes was overlooked and actually performed in the Festspiele of 1939. When WWII broke out, friends smuggled her out to Italy and she made it on the last boat to the U.S. She and her husband, a descendant of the famous Maharatz Chajes, settled in Detroit, Michigan.

Years passed. Mrs. Kozenn-Chajes was offered the opportunity to have a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. "I walked into the Rebbe's room," she related to Rabbi Biederman, "I cannot explain why, but for the first time since the Holocaust, I felt that I could cry. Like so many others who had lost everyone, I had never cried. We knew that if we would start crying, we might never stop. I began sobbing like a baby.

"I shared everything with the Rebbe: Innocent childhood; leaving home; becoming a star in Vienna; performing in front of Hitler; escaping to the U.S.; learning of the murder of my relatives and friends. I also mentioned my strong desire to visit Vienna. The Rebbe asked that before my trip, I meet with him again.

"A few months later on my way to Vienna, I went to the Rebbe. He asked me to visit two people in Vienna and to give them his regards. The first was Viennese Chief Rabbi Akiva Eisenberg and the second was a Jewish professor, Dr. Frankl, at the University of Vienna. The Rebbe asked me to tell Dr. Frankl in his name that he should not give up. He must remain strong and continue his work with vigor and passion. If he continues to remain strong, he will prevail. The Rebbe spoke in this manner for quite a while.

"Once in Vienna, finding Rabbi Eisenberg was simple, but meeting the professor proved far more difficult. When I arrived at the university they informed me that he had not shown up for two weeks and refused to give me more details. I decided to travel to the professor's home.

"A woman opened the door. I asked if the professor was at home. Moments later, a middle aged man came to the door. He looked extremely tense and I felt very awkward. 'I have regards from Rabbi Schneerson in Brooklyn , New York ,' I told him.

" 'Who is this?' he asked impatiently.

" 'Rabbi Schneerson asked me to tell you in his name that you must not give up. You must remain strong and continue your work with unflinching determination and you will prevail. Do not fall into despair. If you march on with confidence, he promised that you will achieve great success.'

"The professor looked at me as if he had seen a ghost; his eyes opened wide in disbelief. He broke down, sobbing like a baby. I did not understand what was going on. I just saw him weeping uncontrollably.

" 'I cannot believe this!' Dr. Frankl said repeatedly as he motioned for me to enter. He calmed down a bit and said, "This rabbi from Brooklyn knew exactly when to send you here. It is a miracle! You have saved me!'

" 'I survived the German death camps,' Dr. Frankl exclaimed, 'and I retained my spirit there. Still I could not survive the merciless derision and taunting of my colleagues undermining my every attempt at progress.' Freud's ideas reigned supreme and Dr. Frankl's were dismissed as unscientific notions of conscience, faith and obligation. It was unpopular for students to attend his courses. 'I was drained and depressed. I fell into a melancholy and decided to quit. I began drafting my resignation papers.

" 'And suddenly, in walks a woman and gives me regards from a Rabbi Schneerson in New York! Somebody in Brooklyn, no less a Chasidic Rebbe, knows about me! He knows my predicament! This is a miracle!'

"Indeed," concluded Mrs. Kozenn-Chajes, "the Rebbe's words came true. Dr. Frankl continued his work and shortly thereafter, he was given a chair at the University. His book Man's Search for Meaning was translated into English and he became one of the most celebrated psychiatrists of the generation. This all happened some 40 years ago. So you see Rabbi Biederman," Mrs. Kozenn-Chajes said with a smile, "I was an emissary of the Rebbe to Vienna many years before you arrived here."

Rabbi Biederman was intrigued. He began investigating and discovered that Victor Frankl was still alive. In fact he had been sending an annual donation to the Chabad House in Vienna! Rabbi Biederman recalls, "I phoned him, introduced myself and asked him if he remembered the regards Marguerite Kozenn-Chajes gave him from Rabbi Schneerson in Brooklyn some 40 years earlier."

" 'I do not remember the woman's name but course I remember that day! I will never forget it. My gratitude to Rabbi Schneerson is eternal,' He answered emotionally. 'That is why when, a number of years ago, Chabad-Lubavitch established itself here in Vienna, I became a supporter.'

In 2003, Rabbi Dr. Shimon Cowen, a Lubavitcher Chasid from Australia, who is also an expert on Frankl, went to Vienna to visit his son-in-law and widow, a Catholic, born Eleonore Katharina Schwindt. They spoke at length and in response to Rabbi Cowen's question about Frankl's personal observance, she took out a pair of tefilin and tzitzit and showed it to him. "My late husband would put these on each and every day," she said to him. "He would also say Psalms in bed at night."

With thanks to Rabbis Yosef Y. Jacobson, Tuvia Bolton, Dovid Sholom Pape


Moshiach Matters

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once wrote to one of his Chasidim: "When will you finally begin to do your part in disseminating the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov outward? Moshiach is waiting for the activities of each and every one of us in order that what Moshiach answered the Baal Shem Tov be fulfilled, that then he would come to redeem us from the exile, which is an exile both for the body and for the soul."

(Igrot Kodesh, Vol. 3)


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