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Arriving in New York in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin came to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Begin explained, "I came here because I am en route to Washington to meet President Jimmy Carter for the first time. So it is most natural for me to want to seek the blessings of this great sage of the Jewish people. Rabbi Schneerson is one of the paramount Jewish personalities of our time. His status is unique among our people. So yes, certainly, his blessings will strengthen me as I embark on a mission of acute importance for our future."
Five days later, Begin sent his personal advisor, Yehuda Avner, to brief the Rebbe on the White House talks.
Near the end of the three-hour audience, the conversation turned more personal, and the Rebbe shared the following (as related by Mr. Avner):
"I will tell you what I try to do. Imagine you are looking in a cupboard and I tell you to open it. You open the cupboard and you see inside a candle.
"But I tell you, 'That is not a candle. That is a lump of wax with a wick in it.'
"When do the wax and the wick become a candle? When you bring a flame to the wick. Then the wax and the wick turn into a candle. That is to say, they fulfill the purpose for which they were created.
"This is what I try to do. That each man and woman will fulfill the purpose for which they were created.
"When you bring the flame to the wick, the wick is the soul, then it brings to life the body which is the wax. And the body and the soul fulfill the purpose for which they were created."
Mr. Avner asked, "Rebbe, have you lit my candle?"
"No," answered the Rebbe. "I have given you the match. Only you can light your own candle."
For more on Mr. Avner and the Rebbe visit chabad.org
Someone once approached the Rebbe to ask for his help in promoting the suggestion to remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust by leaving an empty chair at the Passover Seder. (In the 70s a similar suggestion was made to leave an empty chair to remember Jews in the Soviet Union.)
The Rebbe disagreed with this suggestion. One of the reasons was that the suggestion puts the focus on the negative. The Rebbe agreed that there should be an extra chair at the Seder. But why, he asked, should it be empty? Let it be filled by a person who, had he not received this invitation, would not have attended a Seder at all!
The Rebbe was not just offering a different suggestion. He was showing an entirely different approach to the issue. Instead of having our thinking about the loss of six million Jews result in an empty chair, he wanted that the emotion aroused be directed to a positive purpose.
Take a Jew who is alive today who doesn't even seek to take part in a Pesach Seder - and make him feel part of the Jewish people. This counteracts Hitler's efforts and demonstrates that nothing - neither Pharaoh, nor Hitler, nor for that matter the openness of American society - can break the connection that a Jew shares with his spiritual heritage.
The person replied disappointedly that what the Rebbe was suggesting would be very difficult - too difficult. Not everyone could go out and pull in a Jew from the street.
The Rebbe responded by saying that first, although his suggestion was harder, it would add to the joy of the holiday. And second, it's not as difficult as it seems! G-d gives special powers and the bigger the obstacles the greater are the powers that G-d bestows upon us.
Adapted from The Chassidic Approach to Joy by Rabbi S. Majeski
Passover is not only the first of the three major Jewish festivals, but the foundation of all of them. The Exodus from Egypt prepared the Jewish people for receiving the Torah on Shavuot. Sukkot, too, is connected to Passover, in that it commemorates the booths (sukkot) that the Children of Israel inhabited in the wilderness.
The main theme of Passover is that it is "the season of our freedom," the time when the Jewish people went out of slavery and became an independent nation. The Torah describes what happened as follows: "G-d has ventured to go and take or Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and by wonders... according to all that the L-rd your G-d did for you in Egypt before your eyes." The keys words are "a nation from the midst of another nation," which express the true uniqueness of the event.
What does it mean that the Jews were "a nation in the midst of another nation"? On the one hand it implies that the Children of Israel were already a "people," in the sense that they spoke their own language, lived in their own land (Goshen), and were careful to wear distinctive Jewish dress. At the same time, they were subservient and dependent upon the Egyptians.
Our Sages likened this situation to a fetus in its mother's womb. The fetus is a separate entity from the mother, with its own head, hands, legs and other limbs. Yet it is not a truly independent being, as it is forced to go wherever the mother goes, derives its sustenance from whatever she eats, etc. In truth, the fetus is completely dependent on the mother.
This accurately describes the Jews' circumstances in Egypt: While recognizable as a separate entity, they were completely dependent on the Egyptians - so much so that it appeared as if they were also tainted by Egyptian idolatry.
The "umbilical cord" was severed when the Jews were commanded to slaughter and eat the Pascal lamb, an animal that the Egyptians worshiped. The courage and self-sacrifice it took to do this was the first step in the Jewish people's liberation from Egypt and its mentality.
This contains an eternal lesson: A person may think that he is free and independent because he has his own thoughts and desires. Upon reflection, however, he may discover that he is connected by an invisible "umbilical cord" to his surroundings and that in reality, he is a slave to whatever non-Jewish mores and conventions happen to be in vogue. Worse still is that he thinks that this is the true meaning of "freedom."
The holiday of Passover endows us with the strength to attain true freedom. The first step is to "slaughter" any "idols" that might be worshiped even subconsciously, and rid oneself of dependency on "what the world thinks." For the Jewish people are servants of G-d and no one else!
Adapted from the Rebbe's Hagada, 5751 edition
A Passover in Chiang Mei
by Levi Stein
It isn't often a person from West Bloomfield shares Passover Seder in Thailand with someone from Sydney, Australia, but that's exactly what I did this past year.
Rebecca Saidman Engel of Sydney, Australia, had gotten married a few days before Passover and looked up the nearest Chabad House during her travels in the city of Chiang Mei, Thailand.
"It was really quite incredible and weird to be in Thailand and to be in a location where a Seder was taking place. I have never before had a Seder with 350 people," Rebecca said.
The relaxed yet festive Seder made a positive impression on the newlywed couple, who said they wouldn't hesitate to visit the nearest Chabad House if they ever again found themselves away from home for a Jewish holiday. "The non-judgmental atmosphere, which made everyone feel so welcome, is a huge part of what made this holiday so special for us," Rebecca said.
Meeting the Saidman-Engels was one of many reasons that made all the time and effort it took to get to Thailand worth it. Giving up spending the holiday with my own family was difficult, but hearing positive feedback about spending Passover with Chabad made it a bit easier.
This year, the Chabad emissaries in Chiang Mei, Rabbi Moshe and Elisheva Haddad, hosted 350 guests for the first Seder and more than 60 for the second Seder. I was offered the opportunity to come and help.
Getting there was an adventure in itself, with stopovers in Germany and Singapore, and then finally arriving in Bangkok and starting the last leg of our journey, a short flight north to the mountain resort town of Chiang Mei. I left from New York at 4 p.m. on Sunday, we arrived at our destination at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Though I arrived only a day before the festival, there was still plenty of work left to do. One of the major tasks was preparing lettuce for Seder. Jewish dietary laws forbid eating bugs, and Jewish tradition dictates using lettuce, which can be infested with little white bugs. Lettuce is one of the symbolic foods for the Passover Seder, so we had to individually check more than 2,000 leaves of lettuce to make sure they were bug-free.
Finally, after a long day of feverish preparations and a Seder that lasted until 11:30 p.m., we thought we were ready to go to sleep. Then another 20 people showed up who had needed a Seder, so we did it all over again. Sleep didn't come until the early hours of the morning.
There were other adventures and unusual circumstances - some unique to Jewish tradition, some unique to Thailand, and many due to the intersection of cultures.
This past year, Passover and the Thai New Year overlapped, which meant that Jews coming to and from the Chabad House had to navigate their way through Mardi Gras-style festivities in the streets. Many of us were doused as revelers happily sprayed each other with water guns during the celebration.
One afternoon, while we were in Chiang Mei, the King of Thailand's son decided to take a stroll in the area around the Chabad House. All cars, trucks and tuk tuks - a type of bicycle - were towed away to clear the streets. This happened during afternoon prayer service. When Chabad guests went outside, they had to search for their bikes. No one understood what had happened. Then it became clear that officials had simply moved everything to the side to clear the area for the prince and his entourage.
Unfortunately, not everything happening in Thailand during those days was so festive or orderly. As I left during the intermediate days of Passover, rioting in the capital city, Bangkok, intensified. Many governments issued warnings to their citizens traveling in southeast Asia. The Chabad Houses, meanwhile, were urging visitors to call home and let their families know that they were safe and sound. It is one of the many services Chabad in Thailand has grown accustomed to providing for Jewish travelers.
Approximately 2,200 people attended Passover celebrations coordinated by Chabad-Lubavitch of Thailand last year at the central Chabad House in Bangkok or centers serving the resort destinations of Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Phuket. A total of 500 Rabbinical students are sent each year to conduct Passover seders in remote locations worldwide that are not (yet) served by full-time emissaries. Last year, Chabad-Lubavitch organized 4,340 Seders for Passover, with 500 of them in the former Soviet Union and nearly 500 in Israel.
Hagadas to Have
The Kol Menachem Hagada adds layer upon layer of fresh insight to the age-old celebration of our journey from slavery to freedom. It includes a richly textured commentary which creatively blends traditional, mystical and life-enhancing insights. Each step of the Seder explained in simple language. www.kolmenachem.com
Known simply as the Rebbe's Hagada, this Hagada is unique for both its comprehensiveness and extraordinarily concise and succinct style. Featuring a commentary culled from the full array of our classical sources as well as Kabala and Chasidic works, it complements these with original insights and analytic comments by the Rebbe himself. The Rebbe's Hagada is a critically acclaimed classic, and continues to enlighten and inspire countless students with greater understanding and appreciation of Pesach. kehotonline.com
The Hagada for Passover illustrated by renown Chasidic artist Zalman Kleinman contains 50 illustrations inspired by Judaism`s rich oral tradition and Midrashic stories associated with the Exodus from Egypt as well as the text of the Hagada itself. Full size and mini edition perfect for little hands. kehotonline.com
At Our Rebbe's Seder Table is culled from a variety of texts. The commentary provides a new anthology of teachings and stories intended to add depth and vitality to the Seder experience. The book contains enough substance and selection to interest an experienced reader, and yet communicates these truths in a manner that will attract a novice. www.sichosinenglish.com
Free Translation of a Letter from the Rebbe
11 Nissan, 5731 
...The relation of Passover to the month of Spring has a deep significance:
Passover, the Season of Our Liberation, brought about a complete change from abject slavery to complete freedom, from utter darkness to brilliant light. This is also the kind of change which takes place in nature in the spring, when the earth awakens from its winter slumber and is released from the chains and restraints of the cold winter, to sprout and bloom until the stalks of grain begin to fill up.
Or, taking a detail: When from a seed after it had rotted away, there sprouts a new, living and growing crop. In both cases - Passover and spring - the change is not a gradual transition from one level to the next, but an extraordinary change, bearing no relation to the previous stage - a change that creates a new being.
It has often been emphasized that every detail in Torah (meaning "instruction") conveys instruction and teaching; certainly a matter connected with a festival, and a comprehensive festival such as Passover, in particular.
One general instruction that may be derived from Passover, specifically from the connection of Yetzias Mitzrayim [the Exodus from Egypt] with the month of Spring, which is applicable to each and every Jew in his daily life, is the following: Human life, in general, is divided into two spheres: the personal life of the individual and his accomplishments and contribution to the world. In both of these there is the spiritual life and the physical life.
The task of the Jew is to "liberate" everything in the said spheres "from bondage to freedom," that is to say, to take all things out of their limitations and "elevate" them to spirituality, until every detail of daily life is made into an instrument of service to G-d.
Even such things which apparently he cannot change - as, for example, the fact that G-d had created man in a way that he must depend on food and drink, etc. for survival -- he nevertheless has the power to transform the physical necessity into a new and incomparably higher thing: he eats for the purpose of being able to do good, to learn Torah and fulfill mitzvoth [commandments], thus transforming the food into energy to serve G-d. Moreover, in the very act of eating he serves G-d, for it gives him an opportunity to make a blessing before eating, and after, and so forth.
We find something akin to the above in regard to the month of Spring: At first glance, there is nothing man can do about it. After all, the laws of nature were established by G-d ever since He created heaven and earth and subsequently ordained that "so long as the earth exists... the seasons of cold and heat, and summer and winter, shall not cease." Nevertheless, a Jew observes and watches for the month of Spring in order to "make a Passover to G-d your G-d."
In other words, in the phenomenon of spring he perceives and discerns G-d's immutable laws when nature releases its greatest powers -- that "G-d your G-d, brought you out of Egypt," in a most supernatural way.
In all spheres of one's daily life a person encounters conditions or situations that are "mitzrayim" - in the sense of restraints and hindrances - which tend to inhibit and restrain the Jew from developing in the fullest measure his true Jewish nature as a Torah-Jew.
The hindrances and limitations are both internal - inborn traits and acquired habits; as well as external - the influences of the environment. A Jew must free himself of these chains and direct his efforts towards serving G-d.
If, on reflection, a person finds that spiritually he is still on a very low level, so that he can hardly be expected to make a complete change from slavery to freedom and from darkness to a great light - there is also in such a case a clear message from the festival of Passover.
For, as has been noted, Yetzias Mitzrayim was a change from one extreme to the other: beginning with abject bondage to the most depraved idol worshippers, the Jews were not only liberated from both physical slavery (hard labor) and spiritual slavery (idolatry), but soon afterward - on the seventh day of Passover - they were able to declare, "This is my G-d," as if pointing a finger; subsequently, they reached Mount Sinai, heard G-d Himself proclaim "I am G-d your G-d," and received the whole Torah, the Written as well as the Oral Torah -- an extraordinary transformation from one extreme to the other.
May G-d help every Jew, man and woman, in the midst of all our people Israel, to make full use of the powers which the Creator has given each of them to overcome all difficulties and hindrances -- to achieve a personal exodus from everything that is "mitzrayim," in order to attain true freedom, by attaching oneself to G-d through His Torah and His mitzvoth...
Including the mitzvah of remembering Yetzias Mitzrayim by day and by night, and from individual redemption to the collective redemption of the Jewish people as a whole, to merit the fulfillment of the prophecy, "As in the days of your liberation from Egypt, I will show you wonders," at the coming of our righteous Moshiach, speedily indeed.
MIRIAM was the greatest prophetess of the Jewish people. In her merit, a well miraculously followed the Jewish people in the desert. She was the sister of Aaron and Moses. Miriam's name hints at the condition of the Jews' lives, made bitter-mar-by the slavery.
MOSHE (Moses), the greatest of all prophets, led the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage to freedom. He was named Moshe, meaning "drawn out (of the water)" by Pharaoh's daughter Batya, who saved him from the Nile.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
It is a Jewish custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Chasidim and followers of the Rebbe also recite daily the Rebbe's chapter.
The 11th of Nissan (this year Friday, March 26) marks the Rebbe's 108th birthday, and so, we begin reciting chapter 109.
Psalm 109 was composed by David when he was running from his enemies. David curses with a bitter heart particularly those who acted as if they were his supporters while secretly slandering him.
David wrote this Psalm not only to describe his own personal suffering but also as a description of the Jewish people's suffering during the time of exile.
The first verse begins: "For the choirmaster, by David a Psalm. G-d of my praise, keep not silent." Some chapters of Psalms begin "Mizmor L'David - a Psalm of David," while others begin "L'David Mizmor - by David a Psalm." The Talmud explains that when David's name is mentioned before the word "mizmor," this signifies that David was divinely inspired first and then composed the Psalm. That this Psalm was composed by David as he was running from his enemies, yet even at that time he was divinely inspired, teaches us much about David's lofty spiritual heights.
This Psalm ends with David professing his unswerving faith in G-d, even in the darkest of times, "I will thank the L-rd exceedingly with my mouth, and among the multitude, I will praise Him." David promises that when G-d will save him, he will make sure to publicize that it is G-d who saved him. He will not take credit or allow others to believe that his salvation came through his own might or cunning.
And David is utterly certain that G-d will save him, for "He stands at the right of the needy, to deliver him from the judges of his soul." May we all, in these last moments of exile, have the same complete confidence in G-d's salvation that David had!
Command Aaron and his sons, saying, "This is the law of the burnt offering..." (Lev. 6:2)
The great commentator Rashi noted that the word "command" also implies "encourage." The Torah gives encouragement when there is a monetary loss involved. People in general need strengthening and encouragement during lean times. When it is hard to make a living people are apt to fall into a depression, and their faith in G-d can be weakened.
Another connection between "command" and "encourage": Whenever one is commanded to do something, one needs more urging and spurring on to actually do it. For as soon as G-d gives us a command, the adversary - the evil inclination - tries its best to prevent us from fulfilling it. That is why the rabbis said, "One who is commanded to do something, and does it, is greater than one who is not commanded and does the same thing." It is more difficult to follow a command because the evil inclination tries to get in the way.
(Rebbe Hershel of Cracow)
A perpetual fire shall be burning on the altar, it shall not go out (Lev. 6:6)
A Jew must be careful to preserve the spark of his attachment to G-d throughout the day, thus ensuring that the love he feels for the Creator can be easily rekindled at any time. If, however, the spark is allowed to cool off, the "fire" must be re-lit whenever he wishes to pray or study Torah.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Gershon Ber Jacobson was a well-known journalist, according to some he was the journalist's journalist. He wrote for several major newspapers around the world, was fluent in many languages including French, English, Yiddish, Russian, Georgian and Hebrew, had a fluent, often stirring style, an eye for often uncomfortable detail, and an unquenchable drive for often life-threatening scoops.
But in addition to all this, or perhaps we should say foremost, he was a totally observant Jew and a devoted Chasid (follower) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
And it saved his life at least once.
The scene was immediately after the Six-Day War. Israel had decimated the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and the other Arab nations surrounding them. An idea popped into the mind of Gershon Ber, who at the time was the chief correspondent in New York for the Israeli newspaper "Yediot Achronot" the biggest daily in Israel, to get a really hot story.
He decided that the scoop of scoops would be to get into Egypt and get an interview with none other than the Prime Minister himself, Gamal Abdel Nasser!
Gershon Ber began getting the necessary papers, when he got a phone call from another important personage from the "other side" of the coin - Isser Harel, the head of the Mosad (the Israeli "secret service.")
"Jacobson are you insane?" he screamed, "Listen, we have information that if you go through with this you'll never come back. They'll arrest you as a spy and you'll never get out! And we won't be in a position to help you! Do you understand? Don't go! And if you do we will take no responsibility!"
Gershon Ber thanked Harel, hung up the phone and called the headquarters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He described the entire scenario and asked the Rebbe what to do. It wasn't long before he got a reply.
The Rebbe said he definitely should go but he should do the following things: 1) Take several pairs of new Tefilin; 2) Take a new sh'chita knife for the kosher slaughtering of birds; 3) Check into the best room in the most expensive hotel; 4) Before leaving the United States write short letters to all his friends and important acquaintances telling them he is in Egypt and mail them as soon as he arrives in Egypt; 5) As soon as he enters the hotel call all the foreign ambassadors living in Egypt; 6) At the first opportunity visit the Jewish community there.
Gershon Ber did exactly what the Rebbe told him and a week or two later, landed in Cairo. He told the driver to take him to the finest hotel and on the way he stopped at the post office and mailed the letters he had written.
Then he checked into his room and immediately set about calling all the foreign representatives in Egypt as the Rebbe had instructed.
And the response was fantastic! In fact, one of the ambassadors was so impressed (he claimed that in the 15 years he was in Egypt no one had ever called him) he insisted on coming to see him and when he arrived insisted on being Jacobson's personal driver!
"Very well!" he answered. "Then let's go visit the Jewish community here." With the ambassador as his driver, they pulled up at the home of the head of the Jewish community. Jacobson brought greetings from the Rebbe and began asking journalistic questions; how was life in Egypt? Was there anti-Semitism? Was anything affected by the Six Day War? etc.
The community leader answered that although there was not overt anti-Semitism it was nevertheless very difficult for them to get around and impossible for them to contact the outside world. For instance, what they really needed were a few pairs of Tefilin because several had become unfit for use, and a sh'chita knife for slaughtering chickens because the one they had somehow broke and was irreparable. But they couldn't get out of Egypt to get these things replaced.
You can imagine the the Jewish community leader's joy and amazement when Gershon Ber produced exactly these items and told him that the Lubavitcher Rebbe had told him to bring them.
Gershon Ber Jacobson got the interview with Prime Minister Nasser. When he arrived safely back in New York, he got another call from Isser Harel. "Listen Jacobson. We know for SURE that they were planning to arrest you for spying. But when you got there and made such a storm with those letters and phone calls, they didn't want to arouse adverse public opinion. Tell me, where did you get the idea to do those letters and phone calls?"
The Baal Shem Tov said that every Jew contains within him a spark of the soul of Moshiach. Furthermore, this spark is more than just a latent aspect; every Jew is able to bring that spark out into the open, bringing about the actual manifestation of Moshiach by means of Torah and mitzvot (commandments), which effect a purification and refinement of the physical world. This will be achieved in macrocosm with the coming of Moshiach, who will reveal the world's goodness and holiness.