Lesson from a Story | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | What's In A Name | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Told by the Lubavitcher Rebbe at a public gathering on 11 Nissan, 1983.
A true story. A story of a Jew who unknowingly started a chain of events whose ripple effects he could never have imagined. A Jew blessed by G-d with great wealth, who takes an occasional vacation on his yacht. He employs a captain, a non-Jew, to sail the yacht.
The time for prayer arrives. Jews face towards the holy city of Jerusalem during prayer, towards the east. He does not know where east is on the ocean. He asks the captain.
Prayer time again. Again the same problem, where is east? Again he asks the captain. And so with the third time he prays, and the fourth.
The first time he asks, the captain pays no special attention. When the employer keeps on asking the same question, the captain becomes curious. His employer is not the navigator. Why is he always interested in knowing where east is? He asks him.
The Jew is not ashamed. "I am a Jew," he answers. "I want to pray to G-d. Prayers pass through the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. So I must face that direction, which in this part of the world is east. Each time I pray I need to know where is east."
The captain is impressed. This is a successful man, wealthy enough to own a yacht and hire a captain. Yet he considers it proper to interrupt his affairs to pray to G-d - and to bother to face the correct direction. "I will also begin to think of G-d and pray to Him," exclaims the captain.
Later, the captain told the yacht owner that ever since he decided to pray to the Creator, he has also told his family and friends about praying to G-d. "If all the people in the world would think about their Creator," concluded the captain, "the world would not be the jungle it is!"
A Jew can influence non-Jews to acknowledge the Creator and ruler of the world, and to therefore conduct themselves according to the Seven Noachide Laws. Moreover, as seen from the story, such influence is effective just by a Jew being proud and firm in his religion. The yacht owner did not intend to influence the captain. But because he conducted himself properly, his influence was automa-tically felt. He could not know of the ripple effect he would cause merely by asking where was east. And because of him, a non-Jew began to think about G-d, conduct himself more righteously - and in turn, lead others in the same path. All because of one Jew's actions.
On a deeper level: The world is like a ship sailing in stormy seas, steered by the governments of the world. But appearances are misleading. It is not they, with their plans and strategies, who determine its course and destination. The course of the world is determined by the spiritual, not the physical. The governments who conduct the world's affairs are the captain who steers the ship. They steer the ship; the Jew, through his perfor-mance of mitzvot, charts the course.
And this is what the story of the yacht teaches. It seems the non-Jewish captain is the master, for he controls the rudder that steers the ship. Yet it is the Jewish owner who is truly master, and it is the owner who directs the yacht's destination.
The owner of the yacht is wealthy, and "there is no wealthy person except in [Torah] knowledge." Through Torah, the Jew can influence the world, can chart the course. Just as the yacht owner, through acting according to the Torah's teachings, influenced the captain, so too Jews, through standing firm in performing mitzvot, can influence the nations to acknowledge the Creator and Master of the world.
The name of a Torah portion is indicative of its contents and theme. The name of the first of this week's two readings, Tazria (literally "when [she] shall conceive") is therefore surprising at first glance, as the entire portion deals with the affliction of leprosy rather than conception and birth. In fact, the Biblical plague of leprosy was the most severe form of spiritual uncleanliness, leading our Sages to declare, "The leper is considered as if dead."
Tazria, however, is an allusion to the positive, inner purpose of all the afflictions and punishments that are prescribed in the Torah, as will be explained:
G-d is the epitome of goodness and loving-kindness. He doesn't punish anyone for the sake of being punitive. His sole intention is to refine and purify the person, to remove the "shell" that was created by his sins, and to elevate him to a higher level. All of the Torah's punishments, even the most stringent, are for the ultimate good of the recipient.
This is also the inner intention of the Biblical plague of leprosy (tzara'at), as distinguished from the modern day illness known as Hansen's Disease. As Maimonides explains, the physical manifestations of tzara'at were miraculous in nature, and were visited on an individual for the sin of lashon hara (gossip). "The first symptoms would appear on a person's house; if he repented, the house would be purified. If he persisted in his wickedness until the house was destroyed, the leather garments in his house would begin to change... If he persisted in his wickedness until they had to be burned, the clothing he wore would be afflicted." It was only if a person did not return to G-d after all these warnings that any symptoms of tzara'at would appear on his body.
Once this happened, the afflicted person had to temporarily leave the rest of society and dwell in isolation. The purpose of this period of separation and reflection was to transform the former sinner into a new entity, one that was purified and refined.
The name of the Torah portion, Tazria, thus reveals the true objective of all the Biblical plagues: the "birth" of a new being, a purer and holier Jew.
This is also the inner meaning of the Jewish people's exile. During the exile, we "sow" mitzvot and good deeds that they may "grow" and flourish when Moshiach comes. The reward we will receive in the Messianic era will not be dissociated from our present service; on the contrary, it will be the natural outgrowth of all the "seeds" we are planting now.
May we merit to see this immediately.
Adapted from Volume 22 of Likutei Sichot
The young bearded man in the dark suit hardly resembled the regular customers of the large clothing store in a New York inner city neighborhood. But Tony, the non-Jewish security guard, was not surprised to see this "regular." Every week, he would come to visit Tony's boss, the owner of the store.
"We talk about our religion," the boss had told Tony when he asked about the visitor. "He also tells me all kinds of miracle stories about this holy Rabbi of his who lives in Brooklyn and helps sick people. He has a lot of admirers, this Rabbi. I heard that even the President sends him a card on his birthday. Impressive, eh?"
But Tony wasn't thinking about the president. He thought about his own four-year-old little son, Michael, who was suffering from a develop-mental disorder. He did not talk, walk, or feed himself, and the doctors had been unable to help.
"It's a far out idea," Tony thought hesitantly. "But maybe...." Still, he could never bring himself to approach the bearded man.
One hot summer afternoon, Tony was standing listlessly at his post when the young man walked through the door. Maybe the intense heat gave Tony a sense of urgency. "It's now or never! I've got to ask the man to get his Rabbi to bless my son."
After waiting nervously for the man to end his meeting with the boss, Tony called out, "Hey sir, got a minute?"
The young man turned to the guard. "What can I do for you?" he answered politely.
With a what-do-I-have-to-lose shrug, Tony blurted out his request. He could see the man listening attentively and thinking as he spoke, and then he offered to help. "But there's one small condition," the young man said. Tony instinctively reached for his wallet.
"No, no," the young man said, waving his hand. "That's not what I meant." Tony was surprised. Now it was his turn to listen. The man told him about the Rebbe's campaign to begin each day with a moment of silence, meditating upon the Creator of the World and His expectations of man. He explained the Seven Universal Laws commanded to Noah and his descendants which all non-Jews are obligated to observe.
"I'll write the letter about Michael to the Rebbe," the young man concluded, "but I'd like to tell him that you're trying to earn the blessing. Do the things that we spoke about for a week, and then we'll see."
"It's a deal," responded Tony enthusiastically. "I'll do my thing and you do yours. I'll think about G-d every morning and try to act right. I swear my wife will be in on this too. Next week, we write this letter to the Rabbi and you give it to him, O.K.?"
The next time they met, Tony vowed that he had kept his part of the deal. "It ain't bad, thinking about G-d and all that every morning..."
The letter was written, but Tony's boss left for vacation, and it was several months before the two saw each other again. When they met again, Tony greeted the young man with a flashing smile. "Unbelievable! The kid suddenly started living! He's walkin' and talkin' and he's gonna go to school this September! Listen, would you help me write a thank-you card to the Rabbi?"
Tony promised to tell all his friends about the miracle. He tried to convince them to start their day with a moment of silence and to keep those seven laws.
A colorful combination of adept professionalism, personal charm and downright chutzpa blended in the "770" photographer, Reb Levi Yitzchak Frieden.
Reb Levi Itche, as he was affectionately called, had visited "770" from his home in Israel during each of the High Holidays since 1975. His camera's lens captured many touching incidents, such as the Rebbe's blessing of yeshiva students moments before Yom Kippur began. With one eye on his watch, as he dared not desecrate the holiest day of the year, and the other eye focusing his camera, Levi Itche took shot after shot of this memorable moment.
He was so involved in his work that the Rebbe once told Frieden to tell the yeshiva students studying at "770" that if their enthusiasm would match Frieden's passion for photography, things would look much better.
Frieden was eager to share the scenes of "770" with other Jews in Israel. In 1976, he held an exhibit called "770" at Tel Aviv's journalist center, Beit Sokolov. The exhibit, which later moved to Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University, afforded the large crowd of viewers a mix of spiritual experience and professional expertise.
On the whole, the exhibit was highly applauded. However, one journalist commented in the guest book: 'With all due respect to the superb photography, the subject you have chosen is extremely clerical and takes us back to the primitive darkness of the Middle Ages.'
"Upon my next visit to the States," Frieden continued. "I presented the Rebbe with the guest book. Leafing through it quickly, the Rebbe noticed that negative remark. "'Please compliment the journalist on his strength of character. It takes fortitude to differ from all of the other responses,' the Rebbe said, 'But tell him that not everything in the Middle Ages was dark. Furthermore, ask him to review his own newspaper. Today's news is not all that bright either.'
"The Rebbe then handed me a dollar, asking me to deliver it to that journalist."
From To Know and To Care by Rabbi Eli and Malka Touger, published by Sichos in English
New Centers in FSU
The inauguration of a new Jewish Community Center in Russia's southernmost Jewish community took place this past month. The new center is in Derbent, Russia. A new Jewish Community Center, built on the site of a synagogue which burned down five years ago, opened in Malakhovka, a suburb of Moscow, in Russia.
Rabbi Shmuli and Tzivia Brown will be opening a new Chabad on Campus in time for the upcoming school year. The new Chabad Lubavitch House will be serving Jewish students at universities in Liverpool, England.
Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5731 
To All Participants in the "Evening with Lubavitch" in Philadelphia, Pa.
G-d bless you -
Greeting and Blessing:
I am please to extend greetings and prayerful wishes to all participants in the Evening with Lubavitch, and particularly to the honored guests.
Inasmuch as the event is taking place in the days of Sefira ("Counting of the Omer"), it is well to reflect on the significance of this Mitzvo [commandment].
At first glance, the counting of days seems to be of no consequence, since the flow of time is beyond man's control. Yet, it is obviously very significant in that it lends emphasis to the period connecting the two most important events in Jewish history:
Pesach - the liberation from Egyptian bondage, marking the birth of the Jewish people; and Shevuos - the Receiving of the Torah at Sinai, where the Jewish people became a truly free and mature nation.
Like all things with Torah, the Counting of the Omer has many aspects.
To one them I will address myself here.
Generally, the counting of things by the unit, rather than by approximation of the total, indicates the importance of the thing. The fact that each day, day after day for forty-nine days, a Brocho [blessing] is said before the counting, further emphasizes the importance of this thing - in this case the value of time. The Brocho we make expresses not only our gratitude to G-d forgiving us the Mitzvo of Sefira, but also our gratitude for each day which He gives us. We must learn to appreciate the precious gift of each day by making the proper use of it. The tasks we have to accomplish today cannot be postponed for tomorrow, since a day gone by is irretrievable.
Secondly, while it is true that the flow of time is beyond our control, since we can neither slow it or quicken it, expand it nor shrink it; yet, in a way we can directly affect time by the content with which we fill each day of our life. When a person makes a far-reaching discovery, or reaches an important resolution, he can in effect put "ages" into minutes. On the other hand, time allowed to go by without proper content, has no reality at all, however long it may last.
Correspondingly, the Torah tells us that man has been given unlimited powers not only in regard to shaping his own destiny, but also the destiny of the world in which he lives. Just as in the case of time, the real length of it is not measured in terms of quantity but in terms of quality, so also in regard to a man's efforts. Every good effort can further be expanded by the vitality and enthusiasm which he puts into it.
Indeed, the period of seven weeks connecting the above mentioned two greatest historic events in Jewish life, illustrates the Torah concept of time and effort as indicated above. In the course of only seven weeks, a people which has been enslaved for 210 years to most depraved taskmasters, were transformed into a "Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation," who witnessed the Divine Revelation at Sinai and received the Torah and Mitzvoth from G-d Himself.
"Lubavitch" teaches and exemplifies the principle of the predominance of form over matter, of the soul over the body. It is not the quantity - in terms of physical capacity and length of time - that is the essential factor, but it is the quality of the effort and the infinite capacity of the soul that determine the results.
I trust that the spirit of Lubavitch will stimulate each and all of the participants to ever greater accomplishments in all areas of Jewish life, both personal and communal.
With blessing for Hatzlocho [success],
NOACH (Noah) means rest, or quiet. Noach was the father of all mankind. He was also the first to build a ship, plant a vineyard, and use a plowshare.
NAOMI means beautiful, pleasant. In the book of Ruth (Chap. 1:2) she was the mother-in-law of Ruth, a convert to Judaism. To Naomi, Ruth said the famous words, "Wherever you go I will go."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Rebbe spoke often of how important the Land of Israel is to the Jewish people and about the importance of maintaining possession of every inch of the land, saying:
"Just as the Jews are G-d's chosen people, Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] is G-d's chosen land, a holy land given to the Jewish people, those living on the land at present, and those who are presently living in the Diaspora. No one is entitled to give up any portion of Eretz Yisrael to gentiles. Maintaining possession of these lands is the only path to peace. Succumbing to the pressure to surrender them will only invite additional pressure, weakening the security of the Jewish people and exposing them to danger. Heaven forbid that the government in Eretz Yisrael should consider surrendering any por-tion of Eretz Yisrael which G-d has granted us."
The Rebbe's approach to Eretz Yisrael could almost be described as that of "L'chatchila Ariber." L'chatchila Ariber means, "to begin with, go over."
This concept was innovated by the Rebbe Maharash (Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Chabad Rebbe), whose birthday is celebrated this Friday, 2 Iyar.
The approach of L'chatchila Ariber teaches that if we come upon an obstacle to a task we are involved in, or an obstacle to a mitzva or project or good deed which comes our way (or we pursue), we should overcome the obstacle in the most direct manner.
The Rebbe Maharash explained that while some people propose that when confronted with an obstacle the best route is to go around, or under it - and the Rebbe Maharash says: "And I say one has to go l'chatchila ariber [from the start, go over it]."
May our pursuit of Torah and mitzvot be in a manner of "l'chatchila ariber." Surely this fortitude and persistence will have its desired effect, true peace in the Land of Israel, and throughout the entire world, with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!
And I will place the plague of leprosy upon a house in the land of your possession (Lev. 14:34)
One commentary states that to a certain extent a plague on a house after the Jews entered Israel was a good thing because the Amorites, who had lived in Israel previously, had hidden gold in the walls of their houses. When the Jews had to break down their walls because of the plague, they found the gold. This is a lesson for all of us. Every Jew has treasures hidden deep within. When he sins, he is neglecting the treasures that G-d has instilled within. When a Jew is given a plague, it reminds him to repent, which brings him closer to G-d. In that way, the hidden treasures are revealed.
When a woman conceives and gives birth (Lev. 12:2)
The potential contained within a seed is virtually limitless. When properly nurtured, a seed will develop into a mature tree, which, in turn, will yield more seeds with the potential for growth and regeneration. Our service of G-d must be performed in a similar manner. A good deed must not be self-limiting; a Jew must always strive to ensure that his actions have far-reaching effects, bearing fruit in the next generation as well.
(Likrat Shabbat, #22)
And the priest shall take one of the sheep and offer it as a guilt offering (Lev. 14:12)
A guilt offering was generally brought for transgressions of sacrilege. The leper, who had committed the sin of slander and haughtiness, was guilty of such sacrilege against G-d. "He who commits a sin in private drives away the Divine Presence." A person who whispers his gossip, glancing right and left to see if anyone else can hear, has forgotten that there is an ear above that hears every word that is uttered. Likewise, a haughty person also causes the Divine Presence to depart, as it states, "Both he and I cannot dwell in the same place."
On the subject of afflictions, the Talmud states, "A person sees all defects, except for his own," meaning that we are sometimes blind to our own faults. The Baal Shem Tov explained that when a person notices a spiritual defect in another, it is a sure sign that he suffers from the same problem himself, at least to a small degree. The Hebrew verse can also be read, "All defects that a person sees in his fellow, are his own defects."
The Rebbe Maharash (Rabbi Shmuel, the fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch) carefully scrutinized the chasid who had just entered his room for a private audience. "Tell me," he asked, "have you allotted time to learn Torah with others?"
The chasid shifted uneasily. A talented silversmith and skillful watchmaker, he had traveled for many days from his town, Vladimir, to be with the Rebbe, and this private audience was definitely the culmination of his visit.
No, he explained, he had not scheduled any learning sessions with others, but he was not to blame. He had just taken up residence in Vladimir and the Jewish population there was comprised of boors, through no fault of their own. They were descendants of the Cantonists - the Jewish children who had been brutally kidnapped from their grief-stricken parents to serve forcibly in the Czar's army, eventually forgetting the sacred laws and rituals of their youth.
There were only two villagers capable of officiating as cantor; the chasid was the only one in the entire community learned enough to read from the Torah, and it was his sacred duty to prepare the weekly Torah portion. This, besides his daily private study schedule and business, argued the chasid, left him with no additional time to teach others.
"I do not understand you," said the Rebbe Maharash disapprovingly. "For what reason did you leave your previous residence in Polotsk - which is famed for its religious adherence - and exchange it for Vladimir, a wilderness barren of Torah study and observance of mitzvot (commandments)?"
The chasid agreed wholeheartedly. Polotsk had been an exemplary place to live, inhabited by exceptionally pious people who filled its synagogues from dawn till dusk, and whose yeshivot boasted advanced levels of religious education of no small repute. But what could he do? His business had deteriorated steadily and he barely eked out a meager existence in Polotsk. Besides, he had expressly asked for and received the Rebbe's consent and blessing to move to Vladimir. The blessing had materialized to the fullest extent with his business succeeding beyond his wildest dreams.
"You are mistaken," said the Rebbe Maharash, "thinking that you were sent to Vladimir for business purposes. Whoever believes in G-d and Divine Providence can, and must, understand that G-d does not uproot a G-d-fearing family from a place of Torah to an irreligious environment for material reasons. This notion stems from your misconception of your purpose. In truth, your purpose is not to work with silver and watches but to spread G-d's Torah and its commandments wherever possible. Your move to Vladimir was Divinely orchestrated to enable you to teach and inspire the masses, whether the knowledgeable soldier or the illiterate Cantonist children."
The Rebbe Maharash continued, "Have you forgotten the teaching of the saintly Baal Shem Tov that a soul descends to this physical world for 70 or 80 years to do another Jew a favor, a physical favor and especially a spiritual one? He who assumes that his steps are predestined according to his material needs is lacking in his faith. Cannot the same Divine blessing rest in Polotsk as in Vladimir? My blessing for your material success was intended to accompany your own efforts in disseminating Judaism; without it, my blessing will come to nothing."
"Let the reader beware," wrote the Previous Rebbe, who recorded this story in a letter to one of his followers, " do not read this story as if it were just another anecdote, entering one ear just to exit the other. Rather, let the words of the Rebbe Maharash permeate his very essence, and let every person ask himself - what am I doing to fulfill the Divine mission that has been entrusted to my care in the place which has been Divinely ordained for me?!"
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine.
Many people await the coming of Moshiach and the "better days" it will bring. In truth, however, these are the best days there are. What Moshiach will do is reveal the hidden goodness of our present-day existence.
(Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch - Sefer HaSichot 5704, p.93)