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 # 1196
                           Copyright (c) 2011
                 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.
        November 18, 2011     Chayei Sara      21 Cheshvan, 5772

                       Hurricanes and Earthquakes

Natural disasters, by their nature, raise the question of Divine
Providence. How can G-d let this happen? How can so many innocent lives
be lost?

When we see a person or a group of people committing great evil, it
appears we can understand how it happens: human beings have free choice,
and that person chose to do something evil. The punishment, well, G-d
will see to that.

But hurricanes, earthquakes - the flooding of homes, the dispersal of
people, the cost psychologically, financially, to say nothing of
physical hardship, pain, suffering and death - where is the Divine
Justice in that?

Some so-called "modern" thinkers have posited that either G-d is not
All-Knowing, or He is not All-Powerful, or He is not All-Just (and by
definition of "just," All-Merciful). In other words, Divine Omniscience,
Divine Omnipotence and Divine Justice cannot all be true and operative.
Two of the three, maybe, but not all three.

I say "modern" because this is an old question in theodicy, the study of
Divine Justice. It's one, if not the, central subject of the book of
Job. And it's no coincidence that G-d answers Job out of the whirlwind.
Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed analyzes at length the
concepts in the book of Job.

So the question really does not disprove the assertion that G-d is
simultaneously Omniscient, Omnipotent and Just. (Indeed, is that not the
definition of G-d?) All the question does is raise itself: confronted
with the unknowable or the unanswerable, how do we respond? How should
we respond?

In other words, one can reject the very basis for belief in G-d. Many
so-called "rationalists" or "modernists" do. Or one can accept the
limitations of the human mind and human intellect.

When we put on a philosopher's hat or a theologian's coat, we can enter
the world of paradoxes and debates. But we must always bear in mind the
statement of sage Rabbi Yannai that "we are unable to understand either
the well-being of the wicked or the tribulations of the righteous." When
it comes to the true, inner, spiritual reality, what you see outwardly
is not necessarily what you get.

Nevertheless, the question remains - if we can't understand the WHY of a
natural disaster, how are we to respond? For that, there is an answer.
When confronted with tragedy, with the suffering of another, our task is
not to understand the Divine reasons or judge the moral and spiritual
value of the sufferer. Our Divinely ordained task is to increase in acts
of goodness and kindness. Our focus must be on deeds that civilize,
correct, heal, restore and improve.

If a hundreds-year old bridge is washed away, if a library is flooded,
if a family is dispersed, if an individual needs medical care, if a
child needs counseling - our task is to do, to get it done, to make
goodness and kindness happen, not because we're such wonderful people,
though we may be, but because that's our job. And that includes fixing
what can be fixed - preventive measures - and in both cases figuring out
the cost afterwards.

Asking Why and How Much both divert us from the essential question: What
is the next act of goodness and kindness that I can perform, the act
that will transform the world?

    To read more visit

The name of this week's Torah reading is Chayei Sara, literally the
"life of Sara." As explained by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad
Chasidism, the Hebrew name of a particular object or creation is what
gives it its vitality and sustains it. Thus we must conclude that the
entire Torah portion is somehow connected with the "life of Sara."

This, however, appears difficult to understand at first glance. Only the
first verse of the Torah portion relates to Sara's life, whereas the
rest of it speaks of seemingly unrelated matters: the marriage of Isaac
and Rebecca, and the passing of Abraham. Why then is the entire portion
known as Chayei Sara?

The answer is that in truth, all of the events related in Chayei Sara -
the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, as well as the passing of Abraham -
express the sum and substance of our Matriarch Sara's life.

Concerning the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, the Torah tells us, "And
Isaac brought her into the tent of Sara his mother, and took Rebecca,
and she became his wife." When did Isaac agree to marry Rebecca? Only
after he brought her into his mother's tent, and the miracles that used
to occur during Sara's lifetime resumed.

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains that there were three
specific miracles: 1) Sara's Shabbat candles burned from one Friday
afternoon till the next; 2) the dough she kneaded was specially blessed,
and; 3) a cloud of holiness hovered over her tent. After Sara's death
these miracles ceased; in the merit of Rebecca, they returned.

This occurred three years after Sara passed away, yet we see in these
miracles a continuation of her life.

A similar connection exists to the passing of our forefather Abraham.
The Torah states, "His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him." Isaac is
mentioned before Ishmael, for by the time Abraham died, Ishmael had
already repented. By giving his younger brother precedence, Ishmael
demonstrated that the birthright rightly belonged to him.

This development was in the merit of Sara, who when she saw that Ishmael
was not behaving properly, demanded that Abraham "cast him out...for he
will not be heir." Sara's intent was for Ishmael to return to G-d in
repentance, which subsequently occurred. Many years later, when Sara was
no longer alive, Ishmael allowed his younger brother to lead the way,
again an expression of the continuation of Sara's life. The entire Torah
portion is therefore known as Chayei Sara, as all of the events it
relates are connected to Sara's life.

         Adapted from the Rebbe's talk on Shabbat Chayei Sara, 5736

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                         The Power of the Kotel
                         by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

Six years ago, when my wife and I hosted our first High holiday services
in Manhattan, I didn't know a single person in the Upper East Side. We
held the services at the Jewish National Fund on 69th Street. We were
nine people in shul, six of whom were close family members - my
brother-in-law, Pinny Lew, his son, three friends and myself. I stepped
onto the street and prayed that Rosh Hashana not for health nor wealth,
but for a minyan.

I remember standing there noticing countless Italians filing past me
heading to the Italian embassy right across the street. Amid the chaos,
an elderly couple, clad in athletic gear, jogged by me. I stopped them,
and upon confirming they were Jewish, invited them to join the services.
At first they were reluctant due to their attire, but after coaxing them
they agreed and ended up having a great time. It was at the kiddush meal
after services that day that I realized just how important it is to make
it a good one, for we hit it off right away and remained good friends
since. Two years down the road, the husband was diagnosed with a
terminal illness. Three months before his passing I helped him put on
tefilin for the first time in his life. Right there and then we
celebrated his "Bar Mitzva."

A short while later, I became acquainted with the couple's son with whom
I also became very good friends. For years I tried to get him to don
tefilin, but he always politely declined. Once he had I nearly had him -
we had set up an appointment, but he cancelled at the last minute. Two
weeks ago he emailed me to say he was visiting Israel for the first time
in his life. I immediately told him he has to tour Jerusalem and
especially the Kotel (Western Wall). I hooked him up with a friend of
mine who was happy to show him around.

Anyone who has been to the Western Wall can testify to the magic aura
that surrounds it. I was privileged to pray there just last Shabbat
morning, and although I have prayed there countless times, the power of
it never fails to captivate me. People from all over the globe are
united by a pile of bricks, and yet the energy is electrifying. Indeed
when my friend touched the precious stones for the first time, he became
very emotional and broke down crying.

My Chabad colleague, Rabbi Weiss, who is stationed at the Kotel went
over to this man and gently asked him if he'd like to don tefilin. He
agreed immediately. In fact he emailed me right then to inform me of the
good news, and the next day he told me he had returned to the Kotel to
put on tefilin again. I thought, "Wow! I try for years to get him to put
on tefilin and a total stranger gets him to do it within minutes!"
Surely the Kotel stirred something in his soul, connected him to G-d in
a most profound manner!

Just in case you're wondering what brought rabbi Vigler to Israel that
Shabbat when he prayed at the Kotel, here's his explanation:

The Torah places strict demands on keeping one's word, and not
fulfilling a vow is considered a serious misdeed.

About three years ago, there was a young woman by the name of Tali who
was very involved in our community. She used to celebrate Shabbat with
us each week and she became a beloved member of our congregation. She
was the one who set up the kiddush and the person who my wife Shevy and
I always knew we could turn to whenever we needed anything. In fact she
was so close with our family that when my son Mendel was born on Shabbat
morning and we needed somebody to watch my daughter Rosie, Tali was the
person we called.

Like many Israelis in the area, Tali was trying to find her spouse.
After two years of searching and dating, New York just didn't seem to be
the right place for her. It simply wasn't going anywhere. She kept on
dating but felt that while there were many guys  "on the market," they
too had many options available to them and for that reason were not able
to commit to a firm relationship. The truth is that I agreed with her
that this is a problem in Manhattan. Since there is such a wide variety
of options for men and women some people have a hard time settling on
one person. In the back of their minds they are thinking that perhaps
there is something better out there.

During one of our many conversations I assured her that every person has
a soul-mate in the world and that her spouse is out there somewhere. The
Talmud states that 40 days before a child is born it is announced whom
it will marry. In fact I even promised her that when she did find her
husband I would personally perform her wedding!

Well when I gave her my word I didn't realize that she would get married
at the busiest time of the year for me. Her wedding was scheduled for
Friday at 1:00 p.m. in Israel, the week before Rosh Hashana. For the
entire week before the High Holidays we are extremely busy. In addition,
on the Saturday night after her wedding we would be holding a special
service to recite the Selichot prayers! Of course, as the rabbi, I have
to be in our shul the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana!

However, like we read in the Yom Kippur liturgy, a word is a word and so
I boarded a plane to Israel to fulfill my promise to Tali. My flight
arrived right before the wedding and I took the first flight out of
Israel on Saturday night. I was in Israel for just over 24 hours... but
a promise is a promise!

    Rabbi Uriel Vigler and his wife Shevy co-direct Chabad Israel Center
    on the upper east side of New York City. Read more of Rabbi Vigler's
    posts at

                               WHAT'S NEW
                             New Facilities

The Chabad educational institutions in Budapest, Hungary, which include
an early childhood center, the Beis Menachem School, the Open University
for Judaic Studies,  Sunday school and afternoon Hebrew school, recently
obtained and renovated a four-story building totalling 5,000 sq. meters.
A 600 sq. ft space nestled in a cluster of offices off Gulf-to-Bay
Boulevard has become the new home of the Chabad Center of Clearwater,
Florida. The center will serve Jews from Clearwater, Largo and Belleair.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral, Florida, recently purchased a
beautiful 8,500 sq. ft. building to house their activities and services.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                        12 Cheshvan, 5711 [1950]

...With regard to your question concerning the shidduch [marriage
prospect] for your sister-in-law with a bachelor of about 35 years, I
would suggest that inquiries be made to find out why he did not marry
before, and if the reasons are such that do not affect a Jewish home, it
would be advisable for the two people to get better acquainted and
ascertain what mutual attractions they have.

I was very pleased to read in your letter that your son desires to study
for semichah [rabbinic ordination] and that the Rosh Yeshivah [dean of
the yeshiva] regards him as fitting for it. I was also glad to hear that
he devotes time to strengthening Yiddishkeit [Judaism] among the youth.
I am sure you will encourage him to continue along this course and will
help him achieve his ambition.

As to the question of a shidduch for your son, about which you write
that you are afraid to do anything in this matter, not knowing if it
would be suitable, the Torah teaches us not to rely on miracles where
things can and ought to be approached in natural ways and means.
However, while doing so it is necessary to bear in mind that these
so-called "natural" ways and means are also miracles ordained by G-d,
especially in the case of marriage, as it is said in Proverbs: An
intelligent wife is a gift from G-d. At any rate, an attempt should be
made in the usual way, and G-d will certainly lead it in such a way as
to ensure a suitable and fitting wife for your son.

As to your apology for troubling me and your question whether you can do
anything in return, this matter cannot be termed "trouble." You may have
heard the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov as to how the three loves -
love of G-d, love of Israel, and love of the Torah - are one, and a
means to "Thou shalt love G-d thy G-d" is "Thou shalt love thy friend as
thyself." There is no question of trouble here at all. May G-d grant
that every one of us, including you, do all you and every one of us can
to help others.

However, since you have offered to do something in return, and
everything is connected with Divine Providence, I am enclosing herewith
a copy of the Talk of Shabbos Bereishis. I call your attention to pars.
21 and 22, where you will find some suggestions as to what you could do
to strengthen Torah and Yiddishkeit. As to what this would mean to me -
I refer you to the Rambam (Maimonides' Hilchoth Teshuvah, ch. 3;4) where
he states that "Everyone should regard the world on the basis that the
good and bad deeds are equally balanced. Thus, through a bad deed one
tips the scale of the bad side, G-d forbid, and through a good deed one
tips the scale on the good side." Therefore, if you follow the
suggestions in the above-mentioned paragraphs, you will increase the
merits of the entire world, thus benefiting me also.

It would interest me to know what "fixed times" you have for the study
of the Torah in general, and no doubt for the study of Chassidus also.

As already mentioned, you need not hesitate in writing to me at any
time, but you must be patient if my reply is delayed because of pressure
of work.

I hope to hear good news from you.

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME
CHAGAI means "my festival." Chagai was one of the last of the prophets
(Chagai 1:1). Chagai was one of five people who hid the vessels and
treasures of the first Holy Temple before it was destroyed. A later
Chagai was a fourth-century Palestinian scholar. (Kidushin 3:2)

CHEDVA means "delight." The last of the seven blessings at the Wedding
ceremony reads "Blessed are You...who created joy and happiness, bride
and groom, gladness, jubilation, cheer and delight (chedva), love,
friendship, harmony and fellowship..."

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sara, we learn that our ancestress,
Rivka (Rebecca), started kindling Shabbat lights from the age of three.
In addition, she was endeared to her new husband, Yitzchak (Isaac), when
he saw that, like his mother Sara, the light from her Shabbat lights
lasted an entire week.

Every daughter of our people is called "A daughter of Sara, Rivka,
Rachel and Leah." Every Jewish girl, even a three-year-old, inherits
this wondrous power of illuminating the house through her candle
lighting, for the entire week, till the next Erev Shabbat.

True, the lights which Sara and Rivka kindled, lasted (by a miracle)
physically and shed a physical light for the whole week; but the inner
effect of today's children lighting the Shabbat candles is the same.
Although we cannot see it with our flesh-and-blood eyes, the Shabbat
candles lit by the Jewish daughters in our age fill the home with light
all week long.

In the merit of the Shabbat candles of the Jewish daughters, may we see,
speedily in our days, the light of our righteous Moshiach, NOW!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Let it be that the girl to whom I say, "Lower your water jar"... and she
will say, "Drink, and I will also give your camels to drink" (Gen.

Eliezer was looking for a wife for Isaac who would embody all the good
qualities in the world. Yet the "test" he devised would only determine
if she was generous and good-hearted. This is in keeping with the
statement of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai (Avot 2:13) that a good heart
contains within it all other positive character traits.

                                                    (Peninei Torah)

                                *  *  *

Our Sages describe the challenge of making a good match between husband
and wife as being "as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea." The
act of dividing water is easy; what's difficult is making each wave
stand up on its own. Similarly, finding a partner to marry is the easy
part; what's difficult is creating a stable marriage that will endure...

                                               (B'Maagalei HaChaim)

                                *  *  *

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, "The matter proceeds from the
L-rd" (Gen. 24:50)

There are three proofs in the Torah that G-d chooses a man's wife. From
the Five Books of Moses, concerning the match between Isaac and Rebecca:
"Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, 'The matter proceeds from the
L-rd.'" From Prophets (Judges 14:4), concerning the marriage of Samson:
"But his father and mother knew not that it was from the L-rd." And from
Writings (Proverbs 19:14): "House and riches are inherited from fathers,
but a prudent wife is from the L-rd."

                                                   (Moed Katan 18b)

                                *  *  *

Eliezer brought out silver and gold items and clothing and gave it to
Rebecca (Gen. 24:53)

Jewelry can be worn by anyone but clothing must fit to size. How did
Eliezer know what clothes would be appropriate for Rebecca? Eliezer knew
that no home observed the laws of modesty as stringently as Abraham's.
Thus, he carried with him a set of clothes as a sample of the type of
clothing a member of Abraham's home would be expected to wear, thus
giving both Rebecca and her family a lesson in the laws of tzniut

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Yaakov was a clever young man, who lived in a small village in White
Russia. He studied Torah assiduously, and indeed, amassed a huge body of
knowledge. In the same village lived several Lubavitcher Chasidim, who
had long been trying to convince the talented lad to come with them to
the Rebbe.

But Yaakov, who was not raised in a Chasidic home, was not interested.
"I don't need a Rebbe," he would answer them. "If I come across a
problem in the Talmud, I just keep studying till I solve it myself."

Nonetheless, one time his curiosity got the better of him, and he
accompanied the Chasidim to the Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber (known as the
Rebbe Rashab). They arrived in Lubavitch on Friday. That Shabbat, Yaakov
found himself in an unprecedented state of spiritual elevation.

After Shabbat, as they prepared to leave, Yaakov wrote a short note to
give to the Rebbe, as was customary. He trembled as he waited his turn
for a private audience. When Yaakov entered the Rebbe's room he found
the Rebbe sitting and studying a book. The Rebbe did not lift his eyes
to look at him. Yaakov walked to the desk and placed his note on it. The
Rebbe gave no sign that Yaakov was even in the room.

Suddenly the Rebbe stood up and paced back and forth. As if talking to
himself, he began to speak in Russian: "On! Nyet on!" ("It's him! It's
not him!") On! Nyet on!..." The Rebbe paused for a long while then
pronounced: "Nyet on!" He then sat down and resumed his study.

Yaakov left the Rebbe's chamber confused and puzzled. Not only had the
Rebbe ignored him, but his strange words kept reverberating in his head.
Yaakov did not know what to make of it.

One day Yaakov was reading the newspaper when he noticed a contest
sponsored by the University of Petersburg. Whoever solved the
mathematical problem printed in the paper would win 300 rubles. Yaakov
saw the contest as a personal challenge. He studied the problem and sent
off his answer by mail. A short time later a letter arrived from the
University informing him that he had won. Enclosed with the letter was a
personal invitation from the head of the mathematics department, and a
train ticket.

Yaakov traveled to Petersburg. The professors were initially surprised
by Yaakov's traditional Jewish attire, but quickly discovered his rare
genius. After awarding him the monetary prize, they offered him a full
scholarship to the University, which Yaakov accepted.

In the beginning Yaakov maintained his Jewish way of life. But the more
he progressed academically and socially at the University, the further
away from Judaism he wandered. The external trappings were the first to
go; eventually Yaakov completely abandoned Judaism.

A few years later Yaakov was appointed as a full professor. Of course,
beforehand, Yaakov had to renounce his Judaism and convert to
Christianity. But he didn't blink an eye as he furthered his academic

As time passed, however, Yaakov's conscience began to bother him.
Although he deeply regretted his actions, he was unable to rectify the
situation. In those days, a gentile who converted to Judaism or a Jew
who accepted Christianity but later rescinded were subject to the death

By that time Yaakov had become an accomplished hunter; the sport served
to divert his attention from his frequent pangs of conscience. One day
while out in the field, Yaakov's horse began to gallop uncontrollably.
The reins were useless, and it was clear that barring a miracle, these
were the last seconds of Yaakov's life. At that moment Yaakov resolved
to repent and return to G-d. Incredibly, the horse stopped galloping and
came to a halt.

That night Yaakov packed a small bundle and left his house, leaving
everything behind him for good. He wandered from city to city and from
town to town, terrified of being discovered. His return to Judaism had
endangered his very life, but his resolve to live as a Jew was

One day, while Yaakov was dining at an inn in a remote village, the
police burst in and began to check the patrons' identity papers. Yaakov,
who was not carrying any identification, was taken into custody.

At the police station, the officer kept scrutinizing the photograph in
his hand, then glancing up at Yaakov. From the corner of his eye Yaakov
saw that it was a picture of himself as he used to look at the
University: clean-shaven, nattily attired, and with a carefully styled
lock of hair on his forehead.

The investigator was clearly hesitant. Unable to decide he began to
mutter under his breath. "On!" ("It is him!") A second later he changed
his mind. "Nyet on!" ("It's not him!") "On!" "Nyet on!" Back and forth
he went, studying the photograph and Yaakov in turn. "Nyet on!" he
ultimately concluded, and ordered that Yaakov be freed.

Yaakov left the police station flabbergasted; he knew where he had last
heard those very words. Immediately he set off for Lubavitch, and
remained there for the rest of his life.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
If a Jew has no merits except that he hopes in Redemption, he is fit to
be redeemed.

                                        (Yalkut Tehillim, Remez 36)

             END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1196 - Chayei Sara 5772

  • 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