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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
How do you maintain spiritual focus in a material world teeming with every imaginable distraction?
Is there a way to perpetuate a moment of inspiration, not allowing it to dissipate under the weight of life's burdens? How do we keep our values aligned when we have bills to pay, promises to keep, a workload that never seems to go away?
What should we do when doubts creep in, when uncertainty and other debilitating forces weaken our resolve? How do we overcome adversity and all those detractors who cynically dismiss our noble and virtuous efforts?
Why do some people seem to have the strength and courage to prevail over challenges, and others do not? Where does their certainty and power come from? And can we all access it?
The answer to these and other similar questions is found in what may seem to some, a surprising place: a Chasidic discourse penned by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe over 60 years ago, and then dissected and elucidated annually by the Rebbe on the anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's passing, 10 Shevat.
Its concluding theme? How to maintain unwavering spiritual fortitude, and determination and commitment, in face of the challenges that we face living in self-indulgent material universe.
It discusses the harsh challenges our pure and innocent souls face in a selfish and corrupt world. The soul, it explains, originates in a very pristine and sublime state - seamlessly bound to its Divine source. In that state no duality exists; the soul's identity and agenda is one with the Divine plan. But then this pure soul descends into the physical body and material plane, which is dominated by different and conflicting self-interests.
Your integrated soul is an alien in this fragmented world. Yet, this drastic descent is precisely the purpose of all existence: So that the soul can repair the schism, overcoming the temptations and seductions of the physical body and refining the material universe.
This process demands enormous effort and exertion. The soul must fight a grueling battle to conquer the relentless pull of materialism.
Then, just as we become spiritually inspired, the "animal soul" distracts us with baseless doubts and fears. The only way to triumph in this battle is to muster the deepest resources of the soul - the enormous, unwavering power of Netzach (literally "victory") - which emerges only in the face of adversity. The energy of Netzach comes from a deep-rooted belief in who you are and what you need to accomplish.
We access this power precisely when we are under attack. When we fight to live virtuous lives, standing up firmly for justice and morality, and combating selfishness, we evoke the deepest Divine, spiritual resources. The challenges of life, thus, become catalysts that ignite our deepest strengths.
Complacency is the root of weak resolve. By contrast, when we fear betraying our own highest aspirations, this danger stimulates new energies and will-power, drawing out the unshakeable core of the soul.
There is no greater gift than the gift of determination: The absolute certainty that you are precious and indispensable; that you are on a mission championing a cause; that the place and time in which you find yourself is exactly where you belong; and that you have the power to make your unique mark on the universe.
So the secret to access inner strength and resolve is by looking at our own doubts and procrastination as an "enemy."
Define the enemy and then gather all your inner strengths to go into battle. When the challenge seems particularly formidable, instead of retreating, obstin-ately commit to fulfill your mission.
When you make that netzach commitment, your inner soul, fed by the indomitable Divine, will carry you.
Rabbi Jacobson is the author of the best-selling Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe, and founder and director of the Meaningful Life Center: www.meaningfullife.com
In this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, we find the verse "And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him." When the Jews left Egypt in the Exodus, they fulfilled the oath they had made to Joseph and brought his casket to the Land of Israel for reburial. "G-d will surely remember you," Joseph had made them promise, "and you shall carry up my bones from here."
At first glance, the Torah's repeated use of the word "bones" (atzmot in Hebrew) in connection to a tzadik (righteous person) seems somewhat odd and even unnecessarily strident. Why doesn't the Torah refer more respectfully to Joseph's "remains" or his "coffin"? The answer, as will be explained, is that the Hebrew expression "atzmot" has special significance.
The word "atzmot" is an allusion to "atzmiyut," meaning "essence." In the same way that a person's bones constitute the strength of his physical body, the phrase "the bones of Joseph" refers to Joseph's unique and powerful character. When the Torah tells us that Moses carried the "bones" of Joseph, it means that he took the essence of Joseph with him into the desert.
This "essence of Joseph" is alluded to in his name, as his mother Rachel declared when he was born: "And she called his name Joseph, saying, G-d will add to me another son (ben acher)." The function of Joseph is to "add" Jewish children, and not just any children, but even those who have fallen to the level of "acher," meaning "other." This essence of Joseph can restore even the most estranged Jew into a child of the Holy One, blessed be He.
When the Children of Israel left Egypt they became a nation, acquiring the status of G-d's "children." The bond between a parent and child is indestructible; no matter how far the child may roam, he will always remain his father's child. When Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt, he utilized this special ability of Joseph to transform even an "other" into G-d's rightful "child."
We see this illustrated at the end of this week's portion, when the Torah describes how Amalek attacked the Jews at a place called Refidim. Amalek deliberately targeted those who were "weak" in faith and deed, and were "straggling behind" the rest of the Jewish camp. Nonetheless, Moses sent Joshua to fight Amalek, and even the weakest Jews were saved.
Indeed, we are promised that when Moshiach comes, not even one Jew will be left behind in exile. All Jews are G-d's "children," and together we will enter the Messianic era.
Adapted from Volume 26 of Likutei Sichot
The Letter that Changed My Life
by Nosson Avrohom
Rabbi Avraham Feiner, a prominent Belzer chasid, director of Beis Malka Educational Institutions for Women, and a councilman for the city of Jerusalem, is one of the more outstanding public figures of Orthodox Jewry in Jerusalem.
While he is fully occupied with work from morning until night, nevertheless, every person who asks for his help, receives a reply. "If my phone identifies the number, I get back to the caller as soon as I have time," he explains when I expressed my surprise that he got back to me within a few minutes of my own call.
"I grew up in Afula, situated in northern Israel. My parents were the only members of their entire extended families who survived the Holocaust. They chose to establish their residence in Afula, and as their only son, I decided to remain there after my wedding.
"The story I want to tell took place 36 years ago, several years after I got married. It began when our eldest son, our second children complained he was not feeling well. When his pains continued to intensify, we brought him to the HaEmek Hospital, located near Afula.
"The doctors examined and then re-examined him, and their diagnosis was far from positive. We never imagined that the situation could be so serious. The head of the department called us to his office to present us with the one and only available option: a complicated operation. The doctor added that even if the operation was successful, the child would sustain permanent damage. We were thunderstruck. The doctor explained to us that to delay the operation would literally constitute a danger to our child's life.
"The doctor scheduled the operation for the following week. In the meantime, as worries engulfed us, we continued our daily routine.
"I continued to attend the daily Talmud class held in Afula's central synagogue. Among the participants were several Chabad chasidim who had settled in the city at the direction of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. They included the Segal brothers, the Rosenbergs, and the Kaminkers, and they saw all too well my crestfallen state.
"They asked me to explain the reason for my mood. I decided to open up and tell them what was happening with our son and his serious medical condition.
"'What's the problem?' they said. 'Write a letter to the Rebbe, with all of the details. The Rebbe has performed many a miracle with his holy blessings.'
"I listened to their words said with tremendous faith. Without wasting any time, I composed a letter about our son's medical condition. I added the doctors' recommendation and their opinion on the future damage that our son will suffer even if the operation goes well, and I asked that the Rebbe answer our plea with a blessing. The Lubavitchers told me not to become dejected if I didn't receive an immediate reply, encouraging me that the very fact that I sent the letter will guarantee the blessing.
"Thus, it came as quite a surprise when just three days after sending the letter, I received a reply. I couldn't imagine that an answer would come so quickly. The answer opened with, 'I will mention him in an auspicious hour at the Tzion of my holy and revered father-in-law, the Rebbe,' and then the Rebbe added in his own handwriting: 'Good news.' After the Rebbe's signature were another two typewritten lines:
" 'Postscript: He surely keeps the study schedule of Chumash, Tehillim, and Tanya [the custom established by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe to study daily "Chitat," a section of the weekly Torah portion, Psalms and the basic book of Chabad philosophy, Tanya] and prays according to our custom.' Every day since receiving the Rebbe's answer, I have studied Chitat and prayed according to Chabad custom.
"Two days after receiving the Rebbe's answer, we arrived at the hospital for the operation. Before the doctors brought our son into the operating room, they did another comprehensive series of tests. I was waiting at the entrance to the operating room, and I noticed a sudden commotion as they called in more doctors to review the results. At first, I didn't understand what all the excitement was about. Had the situation become worse? It turned out that just the opposite was true.
"The head doctor called us again into his office, where all the doctors were standing, and he said that he had never seen anything like this before. He held the results of the new tests together with those from the first time we had come. He informed us that everything had disappeared as if it had never been there... Not even a sign of a problem remained.
"When I heard the doctor's emotional words, said by someone who usually spoke with the utmost composure, I started to laugh from the release of tension. I took the opportunity, with all the doctors present, to tell them, 'I want to tell you the real reason for this development.'
"I told them about the letter we had sent to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and the reply that followed shortly thereafter.
"The senior physician gripped my hand and said that based on his experience, ailments like this just don't disappear into thin air!
"If I would have heard such a tale from someone else - that would be another matter entirely, but this was a miracle story that I experienced for myself. All of my friends have heard this story and are closely familiar with the facts involved.
"I'd just like to add," Rabbi Feiner concludes, "that this son grew up, got married, and is the father of six children. One of the medical diagnoses was that he would be unable to have children, but there's a Great Healer who runs the world. With the help of G-d Alm-ghty, his daughter will be getting married next month.
Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry, reprinted with permission from Beis Moshiach Magazine
One Shabbat - One World - This Shabbat
Our prophets have stated that Shabbat is a taste of the World to Come: "In that time there will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or rivalry. For the good will be plentiful, and all delicacies available as dust. The entire occupation of the world will be only to know G-d," declares Isaiah. Shabbat is our weekly taste of this future world. On this Shaabbat, January 14-15, 2011 , tens of thousands of Jews from all across the globe will join together to eat, drink, and celebrate a Shabbat dedicated to the future Redemption. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center to see if they are participating hosts, or host one yourself! Everyone is invited!
The following is chapter 3 of the first Chasidic discourse said by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the first yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of the Previous Rebbe in 1951.
This discourse expounds on the discourse prepared by the Previous Rebbe to be given out on 10 Shevat, the yartzeit of his grandmother, and ultimately the day of his own passing:
The fact that our Sages say that "all those who are seventh are cherished," rather than "all those who are cherished are seventh," indicates that the seventh's primary quality lies in his being seventh.
In other words, he is cherished not on account of his choice, desire, or spiritual service, but because he is seventh - and this is something that he is born into. Yet the fact remains that "all those who are seventh are cherished." It was for this reason that it was Moshe who was privi-leged to have the Torah given through him.
The Rebbe, of blessed memory, explained (soon after arriving in America) that even when we refer to the seventh of a series as being the most cherished, the special quality of the first is apparent.
For the whole meaning of "seventh" is "seventh from the first."
The Rebbe then explained the qualities that the first - our forefather Abraham - attained through his spiritual service, which was performed with total self-sacrificing devotion.
Not content with the above, the Rebbe adds that Abraham did not actively pursue mesirus nefesh [self-sacrifice].... Abraham's mesirus nefesh was incidental [to his actual service]. He knew that the main object of divine service was-that defined by the Sages' interpretation of the verse], "He proclaimed there the Name of G-d, L-rd of the world."
[For our Sages say,] "do not read vayikra - 'he proclaimed,' but vayakrei - 'he made others proclaim.'" I.e., let another likewise proclaim [G-d's Name]. And if in the course of this service mesirus nefesh was called for, he could supply that, too.
Indeed, so estimable was Abraham's divine service and mesirus nefesh that even Moshe was privileged to have the Torah given through him because he was the beloved seventh - the seventh to the first. [It is to this relationship between them that the Sages apply the verse:
"G-d told Moshe (referring to Abraham), 'Do not stand in the place of the greats.' "
It is true that the seventh of a series is very much loved and that this status comes not as a result of choice nor as a result of one's divine service, but as a finished product, merely as a result of birth.
Nevertheless, there are no inherent limitations that should cause an individual to say that this status is beyond him and that it is accessible only to a select few.
On the contrary, this is a situation similar to that which is explained in Tanna dvei Eliyahu and quoted in Chasidut, that every Jew, even a slave and handmaiden can attain the inspiration of the Divine Spirit.
[Similarly,] each and every Jew is obligated to say, "when will my actions equal those of my forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?"
At the same time we should not delude ourselves: We must know that we should "not stand in the place of the greats," and that the merit of the seventh of a series consists of his being seventh to the first.
I.e., he is capable of doing the divine service and fulfilling the mission of the first: "Do not read 'he proclaimed,' but 'he made others proclaim.'"
This, then, is why the seventh is so cherished: it is he who draws down the Divine Presence, in fact - the essence of the Divine Presence; moreover, he draws it down into this lowly world.
It is this that is demanded of each and every one of us of the seventh generation - and "all those that are seventh are cherished": 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 the Divine Presence - moreover, the essence of the Divine Presence - within specifically our lowly world.
ELIEZER means "My G-d has helped." Abraham's servant and disciple was Eliezer (Genesis 15:2). It is also the name of one of Moses' sons.
ELIZA means "joy" or "joyous one." A variant spelling in English is Aliza.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Shabbat is the 10th of Shevat, the anniversary of the passing, in 1950, of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and the beginning of the leadership of the Rebbe.
Our Sages teach that the Sabbath blesses the entire week. On Thursday of the upcoming week we celebrate the festival of Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of the Trees. It is certainly not coincidental that the Tenth of Shevat, the anniversary of the passing of the leader of the previous generation, and the ascension to leadership of the Rebbe, blesses the week in which Tu B'Shevat occurs.
What is the connection? The Torah teaches us that "man is like a tree in the field." This refers to trees in general, which allows one to compare a person to a fruit-bearing tree, a tree that offers shade, etc. A tzadik, however, is likened t o specific trees, most notably a date-palm and a "cedar of Lebanon," as described in King David's Psalms.
The date-palm is one of the seven species of the Land of Israel (whose fruit is traditionally eaten on Tu B'Shevat). The Midrash teaches that the date-palm grows straight just as the tzadik remains upright and honest. The wood of the palm tree is free of knots just as the tzadik is free of flaws. Every part of the palm tree is useful: its fruits, its leaves and fronds, and its wood. Similarly, each tzadik fulfills his unique purpose and mission completely.
Like a cedar tree, whose wood is specially suitable to make furnishings, the tzadik makes of himself a "vessel" for G-dliness. Also, if a cedar is felled, its roots and stump remain alive and a new cedar sprouts in its place. Similarly, a tzadik's righteousness is indestructible; if a tzadik is harmed, he will only grow stronger.
May we soon merit the fulfillment of the Rebbe's special purpose and mission - which continues even today because of the Rebbe's everlasting righteousness - the revelation of G-dliness throughout the world which will commence with the complete revelation of Moshiach, may it take place NOW!
And the people believed in G-d, and in Moses, His servant (Ex. 14:31)
A person who believes in the leader of the generation has faith in 'He Who Uttered and the world was brought into being.' Every single Jew, regardless of his spiritual attainments, must cleave to the Moses who exists in every generation, for through him he cleaves to G-d Himself.
And they believed in G-d and in Moses His servant...Then sang Moses (Ex. 14:31, 15:1)
It was precisely because the Jews believed in G-d and that Moses was His servant that Moses was able to sing the "Song on Crossing the Red Sea." For having faith in the tzadik (righteous person) actually empowers the tzadik.
(Degel Machane Efraim)
And Moses said to Yehoshua [Joshua], choose for us men...and Moses and Aaron and Chur went up to the top of the hill (Ex. 17:9)
Why was it necessary to assemble an entire team consisting of Moses, Yehoshua, Aaron and Chur to lead the Jewish army against Amalek? At that time, the Jews were fighting amongst themselves and also rebelling against G-d. Indeed, the very name of the location where the attack occurred - Refidim - is related to the Hebrew word "pirud," meaning disunity. The first letters of the names Aaron, Chur, Yehoshua and Moses form the word "achim" - brothers. Moses' call to the Jewish people was that if they would act as brothers and live in harmony, united in the study of Torah and observance of its commandments, Amalek would never be able to penetrate the Jewish camp.
by Rabbi Tzvi Hartman
A few years after my wife Rivka Tova and I married, we still did not have any children. We began undergoing tests by well-known fertility experts. After a number of years, at the end of our visit with one of the top fertility doctors, he told us candidly, "The way it looks is that you simply cannot have children." We left his office, distressed and in pain, and worst of all, not knowing what to do next. In the wake of the doctor's diagnosis, our health- care plan ruled that they would no longer pay for treatments.
Months passed. I decided that the time had come to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and to ask for his blessing. We decided to travel before Yom Kippur and to spend the rest of the festive month of Tishrei with the Rebbe. We took with us all of our medical records.
My wife and I merited to have a private audience with the Rebbe. We handed our medical records, detailing every treatment we had undergone, to the Rebbe. The Rebbe scanned each page at tremendous speed. From the Rebbe's questions and comments, we understood that the Rebbe had absorbed all the details. The Rebbe said that the conclusion of the doctor that we would never have children was incorrect.
"There is no need for miracles, you will have sons and daughters through natural means," the Rebbe announced. He instructed us to approach Dr. Seligson. "He will tell you what you need to do."
I had never heard of Dr. Seligson. I assumed that he was a big expert at some clinic. It surprised me when I was directed to a Chasidic Jew in talit and tefilin, praying in 770. Dr. Seligson was, in fact, a practicing physician. However, the Rebbe would send him people who needed a miraculous cure and the Rebbe would provide him with "healing tools" in the form of wine from the Rebbe's kiddush cup and matzos from the Rebbe's Passover seder. I approached Dr. Seligson, and before I finished introducing myself, he pulled out a piece of paper with the name of a fertility doctor in Manhattan.
We arranged an appointment with the doctor. When we reached his office, we told him that we were sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He smiled, took out the New York Times, and showed us a photograph of a recent public gathering of the Rebbe. I looked at the picture and showed him where I was.
And that was basically the end of the appointment! As we spoke no English and he spoke no Hebrew, there was no common language. (We had asked the Rebbe if we should take along a translator and he had said it was not necessary.) So after a few minutes we said goodbye and left. I have no idea what the Rebbe accomplished with the appointment but we understood that this was part of some higher plan.
When we returned to 770, we wrote a letter to the Rebbe saying that we had visited that doctor and asking what to do further. A few hours later, we got a response that when we return home to Israel, we should visit a certain professor in Tel Aviv and say that the Rebbe sent us to him.
As soon as we arrived in Israel, we went to visit that professor. Of course, we told him that we were sent by the Rebbe. He went through our medical file, carried out a series of tests, and then suggested a certain treatment.
Before beginning the treatment, we wrote to the Rebbe and the answer was clear that this treatment was unnecessary. We conveyed the Rebbe's answer to the doctor, who got upset with us. "You come to consult with me and in practice you listen to the Rebbe?" He remained adamant and we wrote the Rebbe again. This time, the answer was to approach a different doctor.
We sought out another expert, a top doctor in Asaf HaRofeh Hospital. After an extensive examination, he suggested a drug treatment. Once again, we wrote to the Rebbe. We got an answer to check with yet another doctor.
After some searching, we found Professor Polishok of Hadassah Ein Kerem, who ruled that the only possible solution was surgery. Again, we wrote to the Rebbe. The Rebbe's reply was three words: "Heed [the advice of] Professor Polishok." This clearly meant to undergo the operation.
The night before the surgery, we came to the hospital. The surgeon entered our room and said he would like to do some tests. After some time, he returned beaming. "I usually do not do tests before surgery. This is the first time ever that I decided to do such tests. I am happy to inform you that you are discharged; there is no need for surgery. You have good news..."
We stood in shocked silence, euphoric. After 10 years of marriage the doctor was informing us that my wife was expecting without any form of treatment. The Rebbe's blessing that there was no need for miracles and that we would have children through natural means was now being fulfilled.
We returned home and to our great surprise, found a letter from the Rebbe in the mailbox. The letter was a response to a question that I had asked on an unrelated topic a long time before, to which I had not received an answer. After answering the question, the Rebbe added in his own handwriting at the bottom of the note, "with blessing for good news." The Rebbe had delayed the answer so that it would arrive at exactly the right time.
Nine months later, the brit (circumcision) of our son took place. Despite the former medical impossibility, we had sons and daughters as the Rebbe said, in a completely natural fashion without any outside intervention.
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Then sang Moses - "Az yashir Moshe" (Exodus 15:1) The Hebrew word "yashir" is composed of the letter "yud" (the numerical equivalent of which is ten) and the word "shir" (the root word meaning "sing"). This alludes to the ten songs sung by the Jewish people in praise of G-d: the song at the Sea of Reeds; the song at the well; the song "Give ear, O ye heavens"; the song of Joshua; the song of Deborah; the song of Chana; the song of King David; the song of King Solomon; the song of Hezekiah; and the song that will be sung in the Messianic era.