Holidays   Shabbat   Chabad-houses   Chassidism   Subscribe   Calendar   Links B"H
The Weekly Publication for Every Jewish Person
Archives Current Issues Home Current Issue
                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1149
                           Copyright (c) 2010
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
                  Electronic version provided free at:
                  Palm-Pilot version provided free at:
                    To receive the L'CHAIM by e-mail
                  write to:
                              Subscribe W1
   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        December 10, 2010       Vayigash           3 Tevet, 5771


Everybody wants to be a superhero. And why not? In a way it's a
wonderful fantasy. To have the power to save lives, to help people in
distress, to stop villains and evil-doers, simply and effectively.

And how much fun it would be to be different, to have a super-power.
Everyone has his or her favorite super-power. Super-strength.
Super-speed. Super-senses: X-ray vision or super-hearing.
Super-magnetism. Flight - soaring like a bird, but without wings.

Not every superhero has a super-power, an enhancement of a natural trait
(strong becomes super-strong) or some ability people don't normally
possess (the ability to become invisible, to alter the mass of an object
- making it heavier or lighter, to transform one's appearance like a
chameleon). Some superheros have a device - a mystical ring, a rod of
power, that sort of thing.

Other superheros are "just" super-skilled. A martial arts expert to the
nth degree. A brilliant detective who's also a superb athlete.

Yes, it would be nice to be a superhero, to have a special power and
help save the world.

But in one sense we already are superheros. All of us. We have a special
power. More than one, actually. And when we use that super-power, we are
literally  helping hundreds and thousands and millions of people We're
also saving the world.

Our super-powers are the mitzvot (commandments) we do. Every time we do
a mitzva, we help save worlds. Literally. To paraphrase Maimonides, the
world hangs in the balance, and the next good deed can tip the scales to
the meritorious, bringing redemption not only to the individual, but to
the whole world.

Indeed, the effect of a mitzva reverberates through all the worlds and
all the planes of existence, elevating them - and all of the creation
within each world - to a higher awareness of G-dliness. It's a spiritual

Each mitzva has the power - the super-power - to affect a different
aspect of existence - the existence of the individual and the existence
of worlds.

Nor is the impact of a mitzva limited to the specific spiritual source,
or even to the individual exercising his or her spiritual super power.
Assistants and aides - sidekicks - get rescued along with you, the
spiritual superhero. That is, anyone - Jew or non-Jew - who helps you do
a mitzva, however indirect that help, is carried along. The grocer who
sells you the kosher food; the delivery guy who brings the food to the
grocer; the warehouse manager who assigns the shift to the delivery guy.

But if each of us emphasizes a particular mitzva - super-power - one
that we do with extra effort - super-strength, we also all share one
super-power, regardless. That's the power to transform selves into
someone completely new. Through teshuva, repentance, we all have that
transformative ability.

So the next time you feel inspired by a superhero or dream about having
a super-power and saving the world - remember you already are a
superhero, you already have a super-power, and you do in fact save not
just one world, but many worlds - every time you do a mitzva.

In this week's Torah portion, Vayigash, Joseph's brothers return to
Jacob and bring him the wonderful news that his son is still alive.
"Joseph is yet alive, and is ruler over all the land of Egypt." Jacob,
however, could not believe it was true until "he saw the wagons which
Joseph had sent to carry him." Only then was he convinced, "and the
spirit of Jacob their father was revived."

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains that the wagons,
"agalot" in Hebrew, were a special sign from Joseph to Jacob. The last
time Joseph and his father learned Torah together, 22 years before, they
had studied the portion of the "egla arufa" - the calf that is killed to
atone for a murder whose perpetrator is unknown.

When Jacob saw the "agalot" (a word similar to "egla") he understood the
allusion, and was thus convinced that Joseph was indeed alive.

Nonetheless, this explanation is problematical. Surely Jacob did not
suspect his sons of telling a falsehood; why then did he not immediately
believe them when they stated that "Joseph is yet alive"?

Did Jacob truly think that they had been fooled by an Egyptian stranger,
who had somehow tricked them into believing that he was their long-lost

The answer is simple. To a tzadik, a truly righteous person such as
Jacob, "life" is not a matter of the physical body but of the soul. When
the brothers told him that Joseph was not only alive but "the ruler over
all the land of Egypt," he could not believe that his son had been able
to maintain his spirituality and continue to live as a Jew in such
abject circumstances. After all, Joseph was completely alone for so many
years, in the most corrupt and abominable civilization in the ancient
world. Not only was he surrounded by the lowest class of people, the
brothers had stated that Joseph was their leader! How then could he
"live" - truly "live," the spiritual life of a Jew?

When, however, Jacob was given the sign of the "agalot" and understood
that Joseph had not forgotten his Torah learning, he realized that his
son was on the same high spiritual plane as before his descent to Egypt.

Joseph had managed to remain a tzadik, despite his degraded
surroundings. Only then was Jacob convinced that his son still "lived,"
and "the spirit of Jacob their father was revived."

                                Adapted from the works of the Rebbe

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                               An Example
                            by Yehudis Cohen

I look around the room. I would call the meeting a preview of the
"ingathering of the exiles" except that we are sitting in Brooklyn, New
York and not Jerusalem, Israel. So I will call it a mini-UN, except this
gathering is not anti-zionist or anti-Israel. Perhaps I should just say
what it really is: A group of Machon Chana students who have come to
hear Dr. Yaakov Hanoka, a Lubavitcher chasid, speak about the
relationship of Torah and science.

Machon Chana is a yeshiva for young women, most of whom were not brought
up in Torah-observant homes, who have decided to devote themselves to
serious Torah study. The women in the room hail from France, Venezuela,
Rumania, Brazil, Germany, Israel, Guatemala, Uzbekistan, Moldova,
Russia, England, Canada and the United States.

Dr. Hanoka has a PhD in solid state physics and has worked on solar
cells for the past 35 years. He has 70 publications and 56 patents in
this field. He is a founder and vice president of Evergreen Solar. Dr.
Hanoka is co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Massachusetts-based
start-up 7Solar Technologies.

Dr. Hanoka begins by telling the women what it was like to become a
Torah observant Jew in the days before there were yeshivas for "late
beginners." He describes being involved in organizing special Shabbaton
weekends for college students together with Rabbi Shmuel Lew, who is now
an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in London, England. "We used to
have 17 students come to the Shabbatons in those days," says Dr. Hanoka.
"You can imagine how pleased I was when the Chabad House Campus
Shabbaton this year drew 750 students from across the country!"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe took a personal interest in Dr. Hanoka when he
first arrived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and began studying at the
Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva in 770 Eastern Parkway. "When I had a
private audience with the Rebbe soon after I came to Crown Heights, the
Rebbe advised me, 'For the first three - six months that you are here,
don't trouble yourself the question "What am I doing here." ' Dr. Hanoka
says that it was excellent advice because had he allowed himself such
musings, it would not have given him the opportunity to experience and
absorb Chasidic life and teachings as he did.

A few months into his yeshiva studies, Dr. Hanoka made plans to go to
Penn State University to see his friends there. Before leaving, he had a
private audience with the Rebbe. The Rebbe told him that since he was
going to be on campus before the holiday of Purim, he should speak with
his friends about the upcoming holiday and the special mitzvot
(commandments) associated with the day. Dr. Hanoka told the Rebbe that
he was not comfortable with being put in the position of being an
"example" to his friends. The Rebbe responded, "Every Jew has to be an
example, whether he likes it or not. So don't feel bad about being an
example, because you are one whether you like it or not."

When Dr. Hanoka completed the basic part of his yeshiva studies, he told
the Rebbe that he wanted to continue with advanced studies, receive
Rabbinic ordination, and become a full-time rabbi. The Rebbe responded
by telling Dr. Hanoka, "You will do much more for Judaism by having
three letters after your name than by becoming a rabbi." And with that,
Dr. Hanoka returned to college, eventually receiving his doctorate in

Dr. Hanoka and his family settled in Boston, Massachusetts. During his
visits to Crown Heights, Dr. Hanoka would sometimes have private
audiences with the Rebbe. "As a chasid of the Rebbe, I expected the
Rebbe would ask me about my concentration during prayer or if my Torah
study was up to par. But the Rebbe would inevitably ask me, 'What is
going on with your papers? Have you written anything new lately?' "

Dr. Hanoka segued into a fascinating lecture on a description of the
Biblical flood, accounts found in older civilizations, history of the
idea, and recent scientific findings - including proofs from the 2004
Tsunami in the Indian Ocean - that wove everything into a single
coherent narrative.

At the end of the lecture, Dr. Hanoka opened the floor to questions, and
they flowed easily: How can a person who believes that G-d created the
world in six days engage in scientific research that requires one to
seek the truth without pre-conceived notions? What do you say about some
Orthodox Jewish scientists' view that the six days mentioned in the
Torah are not six 24-hour days but rather six periods of time? What is
the Torah-view on when and where dinosaurs existed? What about the
(formerly) much-touted Torah codes?

The good doctor answered all of the questions with patience and aplomb,
much to the satisfaction of the young women who were at the lecture.

The gathering concluded with a short game of "Jewish geography" when one
of the students responded to Dr. Hanoka's comment that his family
originally comes from Greece. Her grandmother is also from Greece.
"Thessaloniki (Salonika), to be exact." Yes, the same city as the

    Interested in learning more? Machon Chana (,
    718-735-0030) and Hadar HaTorah Men's Yeshiva (,
    718-735-0250) are each holding a 10-day "Yeshivacation" experience
    from  December 23, 2010 - January 2, 2011.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                              Book Sales!

This Sunday, the fifth of "Hei" Tevet, is when we celebrate the day in
1987 when the Lubavitcher Chasidim regained legal possession of the
great library of the Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbes. In the words of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe, "'Didan natzach - We were victorious' in the sight of
all nations [in Federal Court], pertaining to the books and manuscripts
of our Rebbes, our leaders in the Lubavitch library..." The Rebbe
instituted this date as a day to expand our communal and personal Torah
libraries. Many Chabad-Lubavitch owned Judaica stores as well as and have books sales in honor of Hei
Tevet. Celebrate Hei Tevet by buying Jewish books!

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                       23rd of Adar, 5723 [1963]

I received your letter some time ago, but this is the first opportunity
to reply to it.

You write about your background and how you have found your way to the
Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Lod [Israel]. I am gratified to note that you
have adjusted yourself so well.

Your Chassidic ancestry certainly stands you in good stead, for
spiritual qualities are hereditary, especially deep-rooted ones which
the Chassidic teachings and way of life cultivate.

With regard to your question at the conclusion of your letter it is
hardly necessary to seek guidance from across the sea when you are at
the Lubavitcher Yeshiva and the Mashpi'im [mentors] and Rosh Hayeshiva
[head of the yeshiva] are able and willing to help the students.
However, since you have asked them of me I will reply briefly:

 1. Re: Pronunciation, whether Sephardic or Ashkenazic, you should
    daven [pray] in the way you are used to, and not complicate matters
    by a change.

 2. Re: Zohar, your question is most surprising, for as it is well
    known that the Zohar is an integral part of the Torah-Shebe'al-peh
    [the Oral Law], it is not a case of emphasis by the Alter Rebbe
    [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the first Rebbe of Chabad], for it was just as
    sacred also to the Gaon of Vilna, though in certain respects his
    shitah [path] differed from that of the Alter Rebbe.

 3. You question the propriety of religious people who give
    expression to their joy and enthusiasm by dancing, etc., in front of
    the Aron Hakodesh [the Holy Ark], and you wonder if a Chillul Hashem
    [desecration of G-d's name] is involved.

    But of course, no chillul is involved there, because:

     1. This is the expression of true joy with the Torah and
        mitzvoth [commandments]; on the contrary it would be a chillul
        not to participate. Moreover, it is not something which is
        limited to Chassidim, but a basic principle of halachah [Torah
        law] incumbent upon all Jews, based on the Torah and the famous
        narrative in Tanach [Torah, Prophets, Writings]. See also
        Rambam, end of Hilchoth Lulov, where the subject is treated
        (more) at length.

     2. Even when the observer does not feel the same degree of joy,
        but being in the company of Jews expressing their joy with the
        Torah, if he should not participate, it would be almost like a
        counter-demonstration, not only in relation to the cause of
        simcha [joy]. See Igeres Hakodesh 24 by the Alter Rebbe, end of
        p. 274, and note it well there.

 4. In reference to Tanya, where it is stated that the second soul of
    the Jew is truly a part of G-dliness, and you ask why is the Jew
    singled out, since all humanity descended from Adam?

    The answer is that the distinction came with the Avoth [Patriarchs]
    and especially the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, when the souls were
    assigned their particular place and standing, though all souls were
    included in the soul of Adam.

    In fact, our Sages declare that even among Jews, the various souls
    are related to particular aspects of the souls of Adam HaRishon (the
    first man).

 5. You ask for an explanation of a statement in one of the general
    messages, a statement to the effect that we are living in the era of
    "Ikvisa DiMishicho" [the footsteps of Moshiach].

    This is based on many statements of my father-in-law (ztz"l). See
    also the signs of this era as indicated by Chazal [the Sages] (see
    end of Sota). It is not difficult to see these signs in our present

I trust you are applying yourself with devotion and diligence to your
learning of both nigleh [revealed Torah] and Chassidus, with the view to
practice maalim b'Kodesh [ascending in holiness].

May your learning be the kind that prompts action: the fulfillment of
the mitzvoth in daily life.

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME
NATAN means "gift." Natan (II Samuel 5:15) was the prophet who stated
that the dynasty of Kind David would be perpetually established. The
Askenazic pronunciation is Noson or Nusin.

NINA is from the Hebrew meaning "grand-daughter" or

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Tenth of Tevet, which occurs next Friday, December 17, is a fast
day. It commemorates the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by King
Nebuchadnezar of Babylon, which ultimately resulted in the destruction
of the First Holy Temple in 422 b.c.e.

The strength - both of the obligation to fast and its positive
influences - of the Tenth of Tevet stems from the fact that it
commemorates the first of the tragedies associated with the destruction
of the Beit HaMikdash.

Thus this date begins the process of destruction. It is well known that
the beginning of any process contains more power than the subsequent
stages and for this reason, there is added power to the Tenth of Tevet.
The positive influences of the Tenth of Tevet are connected to the fact
that a fast day is a "day of will" when our prayers and teshuva are more
willingly accepted by G-d.

As we are taught that "the beginning is wedged in the end," and the
ultimate "end" purpose of the destruction of the Holy Temples will be
the rebuilding of the Third and Eternal Holy Temple, the Tenth of Tevet
is an auspicious day to hasten the coming of the Redemption.

Of course, our most fervent prayer is that the Tenth of Tevet not be a
day of mourning but be turned into a day of celebration and joy with the
coming of Moshiach. Thus, by our immediate decision to increase our acts
of goodness and kindness, our performance of mitzvot, study of Torah,
and specifically the giving of charity, which brings the Redemption
closer, we are showing G-d that our actions are in consonance with our
heartfelt prayers. May the realization of those prayers happen in the
immediate future.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
And his brothers could not answer him, for they were terrified at his
presence (literally "his face") (Gen. 45:3)

When Joseph revealed himself to them, he no longer hid the light of his
face from them. At that moment they truly recognized him, and were
dumfounded by the light in his face.

                                             (Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen)

                                *  *  *

And behold, your own eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that
it is my mouth that speaks to you (Gen. 45:12)

This was the first time that Joseph was speaking to his brothers in
their native language. Prior to this time the brothers had spoken to him
in Hebrew, but Joseph had answered in the Egyptian tongue. The only time
a person can recognize another through his voice is when he has
previously heard him speak the same language. When a person speaks a
different language, his accent is different and it is difficult to
identify him. Because Joseph was now speaking Hebrew his brothers would
be able to recognize him.

                                                        (Our Sages)

                                *  *  *

For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad is not with me (Gen.

Every Jew must ask himself: How can I go up to my Father in heaven "and
the lad is not with me" - without bringing the days of my youth? A
person must be especially vigilant that he not squander away his younger

                                              (Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

                                *  *  *

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my wanderings are
one hundred and thirty years; the days of the years of my life were few
and bad" (Gen. 47:9)

How could Jacob have said this when the average life span after the
generation of the flood was one hundred and twenty years? Jacob was the
third of the Patriarchs and thus most intimately bound up with the third
and eternal Holy Temple, to be built by Moshiach. All his life Jacob
yearned for the everlasting peace and tranquility of the Messianic era.
For as long, then, as the Redemption did not come, Jacob regarded the
years of his life as qualitatively few and meager, because they did not
contain that which is most important of all.

                         (The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Mikeitz, 5752)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidism, expected
all members of his household to be sparing when it came to the way they
spent money. "Since my household is supported by the public, and our
Sages teach that the Torah looks askance at wasting Jewish money, it is
only proper that we live frugally," he would explain.

One time, when one of his grandchildren came to him wearing an expensive
belt, Rabbi Shneur Zalman questioned him, "Are you such a rich man that
you should be wearing such an expensive belt?"

The grandson was silent so Rabbi Shneur Zalman continued interrogating
him concerning money matters. "Tell me, how much money did you receive
as a dowry?

"Two thousand rubles," answered the grandson.

"What are your plans for the money?" questioned Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

"I am planning on giving it to a successful merchant. In this way I will
be able to earn something on it."

"Perhaps," countered Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "he will neither return you
your capital nor any interest?"

"That is impossible," argued the grandson. "This  merchant is very
wealthy and reliable."

"What difference does it make if he is wealthy now?" argued Rabbi Shneur
Zalman. "The wheel of fortune turns. He could become poor."

"What do you suggest I do with my money?" asked the grandson.

"My advice to you is to put the entire sum into this box," said Rabbi
Shneur Zalman, pointing to a charity box.

The grandson was certain that the Rebbe was joking, though he didn't
think his grandfather was one to joke about such things.

"I really mean what I said. I suggest that you give the entire sum to
charity. In this way, the 'capital' and the 'interest' will remain
intact. I am afraid that if you invest with some wealthy merchant, you
might lose both."

The grandson heard what the Rebbe said and nevertheless, decided to
invest his money with a merchant who was not only trustworthy and
wealthy, but a scholar, too. Several months later, however, a fire
destroyed everything the merchant owned and he was reduced to poverty.

Later, when the Rebbe asked his grandson how his investment had fared,
the young man related the catastrophe which had befallen the merchant.

"Why didn't you listen to my advice and put the money in this charity
box?" admonished the Rebbe. "Had you done that, then the capital and the
interest would have remained intact. Why do my chasidim not trust the
advice of their Rebbe? Let me tell you a story about the simple faith of
the people of Volhynia."

"Once, in the midst of the bitter cold of winter, I was on my way home
from visiting my Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch. I was nearly frostbitten
by the time we reached a Jewish inn.

" 'How long have you been living here?' I asked the elderly innkeeper.

" 'For nearly fifty years,' he answered me.

" 'And are there other Jews nearby? Do you have a minyan to pray with,
people with whom to celebrate the holidays?'

" 'Only on the High Holidays do I go to a nearby village to pray
together with a congregation.'

" 'Why don't you live in that village so that you can be together with
other Jews?' I asked.

" 'How would I make a living?' he questioned me.

" 'If G-d can find a livelihood for a hundred families, don't you think
He can do the same for one more?" I asked him.

"I also mentioned to him that I am a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch.

"He left the room immediately. Not more than one half hour later, I saw
a few wagons parked in front of the inn, loaded with all kinds of
household items and furniture. I saw the innkeeper near the wagons and
asked him, `What is going on here?'

" 'I am moving to the other town, as you told me,' he answered simply.

"You see what strong faith that old man had in my Rebbe?" Rabbi Shneur
Zalman challenged his grandson. "I only had to mention that I was a
disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch and he dropped everything
immediately, including his home and livelihood for fifty years. He was
not even a chasid. And you heard from me twice that you should place the
money in the charity box and yet you did not listen.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Our Sages explain that, in contrast to the other living beings which
were created in pairs, man was created alone. Why? So that every
individual should say, "The world was created for me," and thus
appreciate that his conduct can affect the totality of existence. Thus
the coming of the Redemption depends on every single individual. Simply
put, were people to open their eyes, as said above, the door would open
and Moshiach would enter.

                        (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 7 Tevet, 5752-1991)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1149 - Vayigash 5771

  • Daily Lessons
  • Weekly Texts & Audio
  • Candle-Lighting times

    613 Commandments
  • 248 Positive
  • 365 Negative

  • BlackBerry
  • iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Java Phones
  • Palm Pilot
  • Palm Pre
  • Pocket PC
  • P800/P900
  • Moshiach
  • Resurrection
  • For children - part 1
  • For children - part 2

  • Jewish Women
  • Holiday guides
  • About Holidays
  • The Hebrew Alphabet
  • Hebrew/English Calendar
  • Glossary

  • by SIE
  • About
  • Chabad
  • The Baal Shem Tov
  • The Alter Rebbe
  • The Rebbe Maharash
  • The Previous Rebbe
  • The Rebbe
  • Mitzvah Campaign

    Children's Corner
  • Rabbi Riddle
  • Rebbetzin Riddle
  • Tzivos Hashem

  • © Copyright 1988-2009
    All Rights Reserved
    L'Chaim Weekly