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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1156
                           Copyright (c) 2011
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        January 28, 2011       Mishpatim         23 Shevat, 5771


Pity the poor envelope. As we do more and more of our correspondence
electronically, email is making obsolete regular mail - otherwise known,
at first derisively but now somewhat affectionately, as "snail mail."

Before email, we sent letters using envelopes. The pre-gummed envelopes
we're used to didn't appear until almost 1900.

Have you ever looked at an envelope, how it's put together? It's really
a folded diamond, creased and folded. Open one up and you'll see. The
flap - the part we moisten and seal - overlaps the rest, which is
pre-sealed. You can see how it's put together by noticing the angle
lines of the seal.

We never really think about envelopes until we need one - or can't find
the right size. But the introduction of the envelope, and the
standardization of the postage stamp, probably had a bigger impact on
correspondence, business and general communication than we realize.

What's the purpose of an envelope? Well, it envelops - it covers,
conceals and protects - the contents within. The envelope itself doesn't
seem that important - it's the letter inside that has value. But the
envelope, thin as it is, forms an important barrier - it keeps out
prying eyes, keeping our thoughts and feelings private and reserved for
the recipient.

An envelope also is a first barrier against damage. If a letter gets
wet, stepped on, dropped in the dirt - often the letter itself survives,
at least enough to convey its message - while the envelope around it is
of course ruined.

Spiritually we have our envelopes - those "thin barriers" between us and
the vicissitudes of the world. An "envelope" might be a moment of
hesitation before yielding to temptation - before indulging in some
gossip, or embarrassing or derogatory remark. An envelope might be the
moment of quiet meditation right when lighting candles Friday before
Shabbat - a chance to mark the separation we're about to make between
holy and weekday.

We have other envelopes - spiritual items that envelop us. A tallit
(prayer shawl) is an envelope. The Clouds of Glory that protected the
Jews in the wilderness - that was an envelope. In fact, the Divine
Presence - the Shechina - can be seen as G-dliness enveloping us.

Like the envelope around our letter, we rarely pay attention to these
barely detectable spiritual cocoons that protect our spiritual privacy
and keep out the dirt and intrusions of the world that threaten to soil
those moments of - well, the kind of revelation and joy that comes from
receiving a long expected, or unexpected, letter from a friend or

So the next time you put on a tallit, cover your eyes before lighting
Shabbat candles, hesitate and turn away from some negative word or image
- remember your own envelopes, and how something so fragile can be such
a safeguard.

Last week we read about the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. This
week, in the portion of Mishpatim, we begin learning the specific
commandments the Torah contains.

There are three categories of mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah:
Chukim (statutes) are commandments that are above our understanding.
Eidot (testimonies) are mitzvot that we would not have arrived at
without the Torah. However, once G-d commanded us to obey them, we are
able to understand their rationale. Mishpatim (judgments) are simple
commandments that are compelled by human logic, laws that society would
keep even if the Torah had not commanded their observance.

Most of the Torah portion of Mishpatim deals with these seemingly
self-evident laws. Which leads to the following question:

After the extraordinary spectacle at Mount Sinai, why does the Torah
stress the rational category of mitzvot, as opposed to the others?
Furthermore, why was a supernatural revelation necessary for rules and
regulations we would have figured out on our own?

The answer is that the Torah is teaching us how to relate to the whole
concept of rational mitzvot. The natural inclination is to base these
mitzvot on our intellectual understanding. It hardly seems even
necessary to believe in G-d to arrive at the conclusion that it is wrong
to harm others, or that we must compensate someone we have injured.
These principles are patently obvious.

However, by enumerating the "logical" judgments first, the Torah
emphasizes that even these mitzvot must be observed out of faith in G-d.
We obey the Torah's rational laws not because they are logical, but
because G-d has commanded us to obey them. Indeed, the only basis and
source of all mitzvot, regardless of whether or not we understand them,
is our Divinely-given Torah.

This is important for several reasons:

A truly ethical life cannot be based on the human intellect, as it is
simply too flexible and open to manipulation by the will. If a person
really wants to do something, not only will he develop a philosophy by
which such action is justified, but he will even turn it into a
"mitzva"! The human mind can also devise logical "proofs" for
contradictory theorems. It is thus too unreliable a foundation for a
moral existence.

Moreover, just as G-d is Infinite and without end, so too is His holy
Torah. Even the simplest and most logical mitzvot are endlessly deep. If
a Jew observes a mitzva only because he understands it, he misses out on
all its inner significance.

By basing our observance on faith, we ensure that our moral system will
be stable and unwavering. We also connect ourselves to G-d through even
the most "logical" of mitzvot.

                    Adapted from Volumes 16 and 3 of Likutei Sichot

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                           A Spiritual Ripple
                             by Steve Hyatt

When I was a young boy I could sit for hours on the shores of Morgan's
Pond in my hometown of Waterford, Connecticut. Every once in awhile I'd
pick up a pebble and toss it into the pond and watch as the ripples
cascaded across the surface.

It has been many years since I threw those pebbles into Morgan's Pond.
But recently an event occurred that reminded me of the pond and the
ripples that caused such fascination.

One Tuesday I arrived at work to find an official looking letter on my
desk; a Federal agency had decided to audit one of my Human Resources
programs. Despite the fact that I run a tight ship I was horrified that
the "Feds" were coming into my shop. Although I had never dealt with
this branch of government before, I immediately felt guilty. I had
absolutely no reason to feel that way, but these were the "Feds"!

Unfortunately for me, the visit would not be for another 30 days; that's
a very long time when you are dealing with the unknown. As the days
passed I became more and more despondent. The people I worked with, the
people I lived with, and the people I davened (prayed) with, all began
to notice my unexplained plunge into despair.

I became depressed. I had never, ever been to such a dark place. About a
week before the "visit" my Chabad rabbi Mendel Cunin sat me down and
demanded to know what was wrong. I was so distraught that I could hardly
get the words out to explain the situation. And in truth, I must have
sounded like a raving lunatic because unless you were in my shoes, my
concerns just didn't make sense. Rabbi Cunin gave me many words of
encouragement but I didn't want to hear them.

The Shabbat before the "visit" I was davening in shul hardly listening
to the rabbi and barely reading the words in my prayerbook. Negative
thoughts about what would happen on Monday and the possible loss of my
job bombarded me. I slid into a deeper, darker depression.

When the davening was over, I robotically took my regular seat at the
Kiddush. The herring was passed around, the cups were filled and my
buddies all engaged in a discussion about the week's Torah portion.
After a few minutes of spirited discussion, Rabbi Cunin pulled out a
copy of the N'shei Chabad Newsletter and asked me to read out load a
story he'd marked. I had no desire whatsoever to participate in this
ridiculous exercise. I attempted to pass the magazine to my friend
sitting next to me. But the rabbi, in a very authoritative voice,
insisted that I read it.

Quietly, I began to read the three page article. It was a story written
by gentleman living in Australia who was becoming more observant. He was
sharing his personal spiritual journey.

I completed the first page and again tried to pass the magazine to my
friend. The rabbi insisted I continue to read. Not wanting to make a
scene I continued. I finished the second page and thought to myself,
"What am I doing here. These people just don't understand what I'm going
through and the rabbi has me reading this rah-rah story. Does he really
think this is going to cheer me up?"

About half way down the third page I read something that made me feel
like my entire body had suddenly been hit with an electric shock. It was
as if my heart had stopped and the doctor used a defibrillator to
restart it. I finished the sentence and started to cry. I tried to
continue but I couldn't utter a word. I passed the magazine to my
friend, Marc, and this time the rabbi didn't say a word. Marc finished
reading the article as I sobbed silently. When he was done, everyone was
silent as they waited for me to say something. Overcome with emotion all
I could do was mumble a "thank you" to the rabbi for sharing the story
with me.

As the moments ticked by I started to feel better. At the conclusion of
the Kiddush I walked outside with my buddies and started my walk home.
About 100 yards up the mountain I started to cry; no matter how much I
tried I could not stop. By the time I arrived at my front door and
kissed the mezuza I was all cried out. As I walked through the door I
felt "different." I was no longer in that deep, dark place. I was no
longer afraid.

On Monday morning I got up and davened with renewed vigor. I wasn't
over-confident but I wasn't afraid either. When I walked through the
front door of my office building the gentleman conducting the audit was
waiting for me in the lobby. We sat down in my office. He explained what
he wanted to see and the process began. Four days later he met with my
boss and me and shared that he had found only one small violation and
with a small adjustment we could rectify the situation and all would be

I assured him the correction would be made and walked him to the door.
Over the next few days we corrected the problem, sent the official
notification to the auditor and put the issue behind us. The next
Shabbat I was ready to "party" with my boys! I shared the results of the
audit, everyone applauded and we noshed on a little herring and said

As I walked home, my mind drifted back to the pebbles I used to throw
into Morgan's Pond and the resulting ripples. I couldn't help but wonder
at what I'd read the week before that guided me out of the darkness and
back to the light. The author of the article wrote that his spiritual
journey started after he read a story in L'Chaim about a fellow Jew,
living in Wilmington, Delaware. The story, "Grandpa Charlie Would Be
Proud," was written by me 10 years earlier, after I'd said Kiddush for
my first time ever at Rabbi Chuni Vogel's Shabbat table.

The mystical pebble G-d helped me toss into the spiritual waters after
that first Kiddush generated a holy spark that rippled through the
universe for 10 years before finding its way back to the "shores" of
Rabbi Mendel Cunin's Shabbat table, in Reno Nevada, on the exact day
Shlomo Yakov ben Moshe Pinchus needed it most. Coincidence...I think

    If you've missed Mr. Hyatt's other articles in L'Chaim you can find
    them all at

                               WHAT'S NEW
                             New Emissaries

Rabbi Levi and Dena Sanowicz  will be arriving soon in Wayne, New
Jersey, where they will direct the Friendship Circle of Passaic County
as well as youth programs at the Chabad Center of Passaic County. Rabbi
Zalman and Chanie Simon recently arrived in  Slingerlands, New York, to
establish a new Chabad House serving the needs of the local Jewish
community. Rabbi Yosef and Estie Orenstein will be moving soon to
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, to be program directors for Valley Chabad,
focusing on youth and teens. Rabbi Eli and Leah Wilansky will be
arriving soon in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to be program directors
focusing on youth and teens for Chabad at the Beaches.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                       2 Menachem Av, 5734 (1974)

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of July 1st.

The reply in detail to the contents of your letter you will no doubt
have received from your father, with whom I discussed it at some length.
Nevertheless, I want to put down in writing some of the points and
briefly at any rate.

First of all, I am grateful to note your concern, indeed profound
concern, for your parents. This does not surprise me, of course, knowing
your father and your upbringing. But it is nevertheless gratifying to
see it expressed in a letter.

As for the subject matter of your letter, it is surely unnecessary to
point out to you that when one thinks about the well-being of any
person, including above all, his inner harmony and peace, one must
obviously think not in terms of the immediate days and weeks, but also
how it will be in the long run. This should be the consideration in
regard to all affairs, but especially so when it is a question of where
to settle down.

This is a very serious question even when one is at the crossroads, and
much more so when one has already been settled in a place and
contemplates changing it.

Now, with regard to your father, and knowing him, I have no doubt that
he could feel in his element only in a place where he can fully utilize
the knowledge which he has acquired and the qualities which G-d has
bestowed upon him, that is, to utilize them in the fullest measure for
the benefit of the many.

By comparison with this, personal amenities - and I mean this also in a
spiritual sense - are not the decisive factor, and perhaps no factor at

All the above would be true even if it was a matter of conjecture. But
in this case, after he has been so successful in his accomplishments in
the past, there is no room for any doubt whatever as to the importance
of this overriding consideration.

On the basis of what has been said above, supported by what you and all
the other members of the family have seen of your father's hatzlocho
[success] not only in your city, but South Africa as a whole, you will
surely realize without any shadow of a doubt that your father will feel
in his element and be truly happy if he contin-ues his present situation
in your country.

Moreover, it is surely unnecessary to bring special proof that the trend
of assimilation, even assimilation in its coarsest form, namely
intermarriage, is still very strong in all of South Africa, and that the
work and fight to turn back this trend will still be required for a long

Fortunately, experience has shown that where there is a suitable and
determined person with courage and determination to guide the young
generation, the response is gratifying, and often highly gratifying.
This has also been the experience of your father, who has succeeded,
with G-d's help, to literally save many Jewish men and women from
complete assimilation and to lead them in the way of G-d within the
Jewish fold.

To return to you, I of course inquired from your father about your
activities, as well as about those of the other children, in the
spreading of Yiddishkeit [Judaism].

May G-d grant strength in accordance with the saying of our Sage, "He
who has 100, desires 200, and having achieved 200, desires 400." If
ambition grows with achievement, even in material things, how much more
should this be the case in matters of the spirit, which are the
essential aspect of Jewish life.

I trust that you have read about the Five Mitzvah Campaigns which I have
been urging recently, also pointing out that Jewish daughters and women
have their part in these activities, and a very important part. I am
confident that you and your friends are taking an active part in them.

With blessing,

P.S. Inasmuch as I understand that your letter was written with your
father's knowledge, I am sending him a copy of my reply.

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME
ELIYAHU means "the L-rd is my G-d." Eliyahu (Elijah) was one of the
earliest prophets (I Kings 17:1). He is said to be present at every brit
mila (circumcision) and many stories are told of how he came to the aid
of Jews in desperate need. Eliyahu will announce the arrival of Moshiach
and at that time will answer all questions that have puzzled scholars
throughout the ages.

EIDEL is Yiddish, meaning, "delicate, gentle." The Baal Shem Tov's
daughter, Eidel, was honored by Chasidim as if she had been a rebbe
herself. Her father regarded her as being on an equal standing with his
other disciples.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat we bless the new month. As this year is a leap year, there
are two months of Adar, the first being Adar I and the second Adar II.
Adar is associated with an increase in joy. The Talmud explains that
during the month of Adar, Jewish "mazal" (colloquially translated as
fortune) is very potent. The mazal (or source of influence) of a Jew
refers to the higher levels of his soul, which are connected to the
essence of G-d at all times. In Adar, we have the opportu-nity to draw
down an abundance of holy energy through good deeds that are imbued with

Interestingly, our Sages taught that "Israel has no mazal" ("ein mazal
l'Yisrael"), meaning that Jews are above being influenced by the stars
and planets, which are known as "mazalot."

By changing the vowels under the Hebrew letters slightly, "ein mazal
l'Yisrael" can be read "Ayin - the Infinite - is the mazal of Israel."
The Jewish people receive their influence from G-d from a transcendent
level, the transmission of which is particularly powerful in the month
of Adar.

The name Adar has several meanings, one of which is cloak or mantel.
This is a reference to G-d's compassion for the His people, the Jews.
The purpose of a garment is to provide us with warmth. In Adar (and Adar
II in a leap year), when the holiday of Purim occurs, we experience the
warmth and comfort of G-d. A garment also conceals the body of the
person who wears is. Similarly, the miracle of Purim was "dressed" in a
series of natural events.

The word Adar is a combination of the Hebrew letter "alef" and the word
"dar," meaning "G-d dwells." (Just as alef is the initial letter in the
alphabet, so too is G-d the "first.") G-d created the earth in order to
have a dwelling place in the physical world. Through the study of Torah
and the performance of mitzvot, we create an abode for Almighty G-d.

May the positive influence of Adar be expressed in the advent of the
true and complete Redemption with Moshiach in the immediate future.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
And these are the laws (Ex. 21:1)

The Torah portion of Mishpatim, dealing with the laws governing man's
relations with his fellow man, immediately follows Yitro, which contains
the laws concerning man's duties to G-d. We learn from this that even
those mitzvot concerning civil  matters were given at Sinai and are
Divine.  Only G-d, who fully understands human nature with all its
weaknesses, can prescribe true and everlasting laws for the individual
and for society.

                                *  *  *

You shall not follow after a multitude to do evil (Ex. 23:2)

It is only in obscure matters, in which one path or another must be
chosen, that we defer to the opinion of the majority. An issue which is
clear-cut and obvious must never be decided according to popular
opinion. For this reason, Jews have never allowed themselves to be
swayed by the rest of the world in matters of belief and faith.

                                                     (Chatam Sofer)

                                *  *  *

And you shall serve the L-rd your G-d, and He will bless your bread and
your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst (Ex. 23:25)

Serving G-d refers to prayer and reciting the Shema; the blessing of
"your bread and your water" refers to breakfast, which, according to the
Talmud, is the most beneficial meal to the body. The same is true in our
spiritual lives. The Torah we learn in the morning, immediately after
our prayers, affords us the best spiritual sustenance of the day, even
better than the Torah we may learn later. For at that time, the
spiritual awakening experienced during prayer is carried over into the
learning itself.

                                                (Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

The appearance of the glory of G-d was like a devouring fire (Ex. 24:17)

The litmus test to determine if our service is indeed acceptable before
G-d is whether or not we feel a fiery enthusiasm and zeal in our
worship. The excitement and ardor we experience is proof that G-d
approves of the path we are embarked upon. Conversely, a cold and
indifferent attitude in our service signals that we still have far to

                                                    (Kedushat Levi)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
When Reb Aryeh Leib, who was known as the Shpoler Zeide, had been rebbe
for three years, there was terrible famine in the area. The tzadik
(righteous person), whose love for the poor, the needy, the widowed was
unbounded, felt compelled to provide for the thousands affected by the
disaster. He could neither eat nor sleep, and his heartache was so great
that for weeks he couldn't bring himself to eat anything more than bread
and tea.

As the famine spread to the furthest provinces of Russia, rebbes from
the starving communities wrote to Shpola, begging Reb Aryeh Leib to
raise a storm in the Heavens, and beg that the deadly decree be

Who, if not he, a tzadik, known to work wonders, could accomplish this?

The Shpoler Zeide, on his part, wrote to ten of the greatest tzadikim of
the day - Reb Zusya of Hanipoli, Reb Yaakov Shimshon of Shipitovka, Reb
Ze'ev of Zhitomir, and others - requesting that they come to Shpola

They soon arrived and were seated at the long table of the Shpoler
Zeide, and heard his awesome words: "My masters, I am taking the
Alm-ghty to a din Torah, a lawsuit, and you are to serve as the judges.
It is true that, according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must
take his case to the place where the defendant is, but since in this
unique case, 'there is no place devoid of His presence,' and since, more
particularly, 'wherever ten are assembled the Divine Presence rests,' we
will hold the court case here."

The holy congregation agreed, and joined in prayer, their fervent
supplications battering the Gates of Heaven.

The Shpoler Zeide then instructed his aide to announce: "By the order of
those gathered here, I hereby proclaim that Reb Aryeh Leib, the son of
Rachel, summons the Alm-ghty to a court-case which will be duly
conducted here in three days."

The holy rebbes spent the next three days together, in fasting and
prayer, and no one was permitted to interrupt their devotions. On the
fourth day, after they had concluded the morning prayers and they were
still wrapped in their prayer shawls and adorned by their tefilin, the
Shpoler Zeide solemnly signalled his aide to announce that the court
case was about to begin.

"In the name of all the women and children of the Jews of Russia," the
tzadik declared, "I hereby state my claim against the Defendant. Why
does the Creator of the Universe not provide them with food, thereby
preventing their death (G-d forbid) of hunger? Doesn't the Torah itself
say, 'For unto Me are the Children of Israel bondsmen; they are My
bondsmen'? Do we not have His promise, recorded by the Prophet Ezekiel,
that even if His children should someday desire to go in the ways of the
nations of the world, that this will never happen? One can draw the
conclusion that the Children of Israel are the Alm-ghty's servants for
all eternity.

"In that case, they should, at least, be in the category of Jewish
bondsmen. Jewish law teaches that a master is required to provide for
the wife and children of his bondsman. Can the Al-mighty violate his own
Torah so blatantly?

"Now I'm well aware that some clever prosecuting angel will argue in
defense of the Creator, saying that these servants are remiss in their
service; that they don't serve their Master as well as they should. But
to this bogus argument I have two replies: Firstly, where is it written
that if a bondsman is lazy and doesn't work properly, his wife and
children are to deprived of their sustenance? Secondly, if these
servants are lacks in their performance, their Master can fault no one,
but Himself. For who else gave each servant an evil inclination whose
whole job and purpose it is to drive them to abandon their loyalty and
to destroy their desire to serve? Why, I can swear that if this evil
inclination, which the Master Himself created, would cease to exist,
they would become the most perfect servants possible!"

Ten judge-tzadikim consulted their tomes of Torah to search the law for
the correct verdict. After the passage of some time they stood to
deliver the unanimous ruling:

"This court finds in favor of Reb Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel. The
Alm-ghty is accordingly required, by whatever means at His disposal (and
the whole world is His) to provide for the women and children of His
People. And may the Heavenly Court above agree and support the verdict
of this court in the World Below."  The court pronounced its verdict
three times.

Then the Shpoler Zeide asked to have vodka and refreshments served. The
tzadikim said "l'chaim" and ate together in a joyous mood before
departing for home. Five days after the momentous verdict had been
reached, the government announced a shipment of thousands of tons of
grain. Immediately, the grain prices fell and before long, there were
ample fresh supplies. For the entire following year, bread was bountiful
for all.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
In this week's Torah portion we read: "For six years he shall serve and
in the seventh year he shall be set free" (Exodus 21:2). The six years
hint to the six kingdoms where the Jews will be in exile: Egypt,
Assyria, Babylonia, Media/Persia, Greece and Rome - our current exile.
At the end of the exile of Rome we will be set free by Moshiach who will
redeem us from this exile.

                                                     (Iturei Torah)

              END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1156 - Mishpatim 5771

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