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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
December 2, 2011 - 6 Kislev, 5772

1198: Vayetzei

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  1197: Toldos1199: Vayishlach  

Thanks  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's In A Name  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Thanks

Take a walk down memory lane. Wasn't it great to be a kid? So few worries, hardly any hassles, almost stress-free living.

But do you remember when, as a child or teen, you did something you weren't supposed to do and you got punished or "grounded"?

"I know you can't appreciate it now, but some day you will thank me for this," your father told you as he took away the keys and said the car was off-limits for a week.

Or maybe it was Mom, who told you that you couldn't have phone privileges for the next two days (before every child had his/her own cell phone).

"But I promised so-and-so that I would call her to study for the big biology test tomorrow," you remonstrated.

"No exceptions!" your mother said, unmoved by your whining. "Some day, when you're a parent, maybe even before then, you'll understand and you might even thank me," your mother added, echoing words that have been used throughout the generations.

"That's ridiculous" you thought. "I'm going to thank you because you were angry with me?" (Of course, you only thought this thought to yourself; but you wouldn't dare say it out loud. We're reminiscing about the "olden days" when children didn't talk back to their parents.)

"I will thank you, G-d, for You were angry with me," the prophet Isaiah foresees we will say in the times of Moshiach. All of the suffering, all of the evil, all of the anguish we have individually and collectively experienced throughout our 2,000 years of exile will be understood at that time. We will be able to appreciate that not only was it for our own good, but that it was actually innately good!

We don't - we can't - have such insight now. And not just because we are like children who will understand it when we become more "mature." For, if we could truly recognize the suffering for its ultimate good, we wouldn't pray, and yearn, and act to bring about the end to the suffering and the long-awaited Redemption. Only in the time of Moshiach will we see the good concealed in the pain itself, like the pain of labor which is transformed into a source of joy upon the birth of a child.

There are, and always have been, those few, unique individuals who have the vision to thank G-d even now for his anger. And example would be the Talmudic Sage Rabbi Akiva. Together with his colleagues near the site of the destroyed Holy Temple, they saw a fox emerging from the now desolate Holy of Holies. While the other great Sages wept, Rabbi Akiva laughed.

"Akiva," they asked in wonder and surprise, "how can you laugh at this mournful sight?"

Rabbi Akiva responded, "Just as the prophecy of Micha that 'Zion shall be plowed like a field" has been realized, the prophecy of Zecharya will also be fulfilled: "Old men and old women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem,'" he explained to them.

Rabbi Akiva's colleagues told him, "Akiva, you have comforted us."

Judaism teaches us to develop the ability to thank G-d for the bad just as we thank Him for the good. For, ultimately, even the pain and suffering is good. Do we understand how or why? No. But we will when Moshiach comes, may it be now.


Living with the Rebbe

As we begin this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we notice that the Torah focuses on Jacob's spiritual service which is done while in an undesirable environment. Jacob is forced to leave the land of Israel and go to Charan, a city whose very name is associated with the arousal of G-d's wrath. He is forced to work for the deceitful Laban, and marries and establishes his family, laying the foundation for the Jewish people of all future generations. Even after leaving Charan, Jacob's path is fraught with difficulty when he must confront his brother Esau.

At first glance, it seems unusual that the Torah would concentrate on these aspects of his life instead of centering on Jacob's activities in the sphere of holiness. But the narrative of Jacob's difficulties is included in the Torah precisely because "the deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign for their descendants." There is much for us to learn and emulate from Jacob's trials and tribulations.

The Torah states: "He (Jacob) encountered the place. He slept there because the sun set, and he took from the stones of the place and put them around his head. And he lay down in that place."

Analogously, the concealment of G-d in this material world causes the Jew to "lie down." When a person lies down, his head and his feet are on the same level. In contrast, when a person stands, and even when he sits, his head--his intellectual faculties, are raised above the rest of the body. When a person lies down, all the parts of the body are on the same level.

As applied to us, the concealment of G-dliness in the physical world, particularly in our generation, which immediately precedes the coming of Moshiach and the Messianic Era, causes the revelation of a person's conscious powers to be hindered to the extent that one's head and feet are on the same level.

Yet there is a positive aspect to lying down as well. When Jacob chose that site to lie down and sleep, it was the first time he had slept in many years. We are taught that during the 14 years he spent learning in the House of Study of Shem and Eber, and likewise, during the 20 years he worked for Laban, Jacob did not sleep at night but instead read from the book of Psalms. Also, that very place where he chose to sleep was none other than the future site where the Holy Temple would be built in generations to come.

Although lying down would usually imply a descent, a lowering of the level of one's higher, spiritual powers, it can also be interpreted in a positive manner, for the revelation of G-d's essence is above all particular qualities and is simultaneously reflected in them. In relation to the greatness of G-d, head and feet are on the same plane.

This level of connection to the infinite can continue even after a person arises and stands on his feet. Although his conscious powers assume control, he will still recognize the fundamental equality which stems from a connection to G-d's essence. Thus, the Jew confirms that not only can the material never obscure the spiritual, and in fact, is a vehicle for its expression, but he can reach a level above all limitations, establishing a unity between the material and the spiritual.

Adapted from Sichot Kodesh, 5752, Parshat Vayeitzei.


A Slice of Life

Why Doesn't Mama Love Me?
by Suri Marozov

It was a busy week, like any other week as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Ulyanovsk, Russia: running the preschool, preparing kosher meals for the public, making time for family... the usual.

My husband would be away for Shabbat on a fundraising trip so for this Shabbat I decided to invite only women for the Shabbat meal.

Natasha who helps us around the house, is not Jewish, but she has two Jewish friends and another non-Jewish friend who always spend lots of time together. I decided to invite all four of them for the Friday night meal.

An hour and a half before Shabbat they arrived at my door. I showed them to my living room, brought them some tea, and joined them in their conversation. The atmosphere was pleasant and the women were very happy to be there for a "night out." Yet, the other non-Jewish woman, Rima, was acting a bit unusual. Every few minutes she looked at me with wide-opened eyes as if inspecting me.

For about 20 minutes, Rima just gazed off and was not part of the conversation. Then she cleared her throat and said in a shaky voice, "You know?" we all turned to her, "my mother was Jewish!"We were all shocked. "Your mother was Jewish? How can that be?"

She took a deep breath and told us her fascinating story:

Rima was born in 1935 in Odessa, Ukraine, and was raised together with her four younger siblings. From a very young age, Rima noticed that her mother treated her differently than the rest of her siblings, by giving her less attention and care. Rima, was always served last which meant that she got the leftovers. When there was an opportunity for education or a trip to the grandparents, Rima was always last choice. Eventually, Rima realized that it was an intentional behavior. Her mother clearly loved all the children and didn't show the same love to Rima. Rima's mother made her take care of her younger siblings; she was responsible to cook food, to clean up, wash the laundry and babysit.

Eventually Rima began asking her father, "Why can Mama be a good mother for everyone and not for me?" Rima asked this question many times, and on different occasions. Her father would answer her, "You're the oldest in the family, you can tolerate more." Yet, Rima believed that such answers were just a cover up for something her parents did not want to reveal to her.

Thirty-five years ago, when Rima was 42-years-old and married with two children, her father was diagnosed with a severe case of tuberculosis. The doctors sent him home to spend the remaining few months of his life with his family. For the next two months he lay in bed surrounded by immediate family and close friends. Everyone knew that he was about to leave forever. He, too, knew exactly what was going on and maturely prepared for his death.

One day, Rima was with her father alone in his room. Rima was asked by her father to lock the door from the inside. "I'm about to die," her father said. "I want you to know who you really are and I want to answer your question that I never answered truthfully."

"In the early 1930s, when I was a young man, I married a beautiful Jewish girl. After about a year that we were happily married, she became pregnant. Her parents both worked in the main theater of Odessa and I worked for the NKVD. Those years weren't easy for Jews. One day, my wife heard that they were rounding up Jews. My wife, late in her pregnancy, ran quickly to the theater to check up on her parents. Unfortunately, when she got there she found out that it was too late; both her parents had been taken away. Out of shock and from the devastating blow, she went into labor and gave birth to a sweet baby girl right there in the theater. That adorable baby girl is YOU!! I was notified by the theater that my wife had given birth and then disappeared. The baby was there, waiting for me to come pick her up.

"I went to fetch you. I felt that I did not have the ability to take care of you so I set you up in a foster home on the condition that when I would marry again, I would come and take you back home with me. And so I did."

Shortly after, Rima's father passed away.

At the next available opportunity, Rima traveled to Odessa, Ukraine, to see for herself the theater she was born in. When she got there, she was amazed to see the exact theater still existing, exactly the way her had father described it to her. Inside, Rima found a bench and sat down. From all of the emotion that had been built up inside, Rima burst into a sobbing cry. She cried bitter tears: for her mother who she never knew; for the void she always felt; and for the truth that she finally found out.

From a distance, a worker in the theater had been watching Rima. When she noticed Rima was unable to calm down she went over to her to ask if she could be of any assistance. Rima's uncontrollable tears kept rolling down her cheeks. Finally she told the worker the reason for her visit. The worker looked at Rima, and said, "It is really you! I was there when your mother found out that her parents were taken away. I was the one who helped your mother through her delivery here in the theater. I was there when your mother fled and I took care of you until your father came to get you." The two women embraced each other, until Rima was able to compose herself and ask the woman for more details.

After hearing this, we all sat in out chairs numb with emotion. I finally broke the silence, "Rima, it's time for all of us to light the Shabbat candles, would you please join us?" At 76, Rima lit Shabbat candles for the first time in her life.

The next week I presented Rima with a gift: candlestick holders, candles, a booklet that explains the significance of lighting Shabbat candles, and our very own Jewish calendar so she has the candle lighting times for Ulyanovsk.

Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter. For more about the work of Rabbi Yossi and Suri Marozov visit www.jewishul.com


What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Nochem and Rivka Tenenboim have arrived in Hewlett, New York, to establish Chabad of Hewlett, a division of the Chabad of the Five Towns. The new Chabad Center will focus on programming for the entire family. Rabbi Levi and Bracha Mimoun have opened the first Chabad on Campus in France in Sceaux, France, a southern Paris suburb. Rabbi Shmulik and Zelda Cohen moved recently to Manchester, England. Rabbi Cohen will be teaching at the Oholei Yosef Yitzchok boys school and Mrs. cohen will work at the L'Chaim Outreach Center. Wishing all of the new emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe much success!


The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation

10th of Kislev, 5714 [1953]
To my brethren, everywhere
G-d bless you all!

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

In connection with the Day of Liberation (19th of Kislev) of the Founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya, whose release from imprisonment for the dissemination of Chabad established freedom of though and practice of the ideology and way of life of Chabad Chassidism in particular, and of General Chassidism as a whole,

I wish to express herewith my inner wish, that every one of us be liberated, with G-d's help and by determined personal effort, from all handicaps which arrest the good and noble in everyone's nature, so that this part of one's nature reign supreme, giving fullest expression of the three-fold love: love of our people Israel, love of our Torah, and love of G-d, which are all one.


Our Sages said that "Each and every soul was in the presence of His Divine Majesty before coming down to this earth," and that "The souls are hewn from under the Seat of Glory."

These sayings emphasize the essential nature of the soul, its holiness and purity, and its being completely divorced from anything material and physical; the soul itself, by its very nature, is not subject to any material desires or temptations, which arise only from the physical body and "animal soul."

Nevertheless, it was the Creator's Will that the soul - which is "truly a 'part' of the Divine Above," should descend into the physical and coarse world and be confined within, and united with, a physical body for scores of years, in a state which is absolutely abhorrent of its very nature. All this, for the purpose of a Divine mission which the soul has to fulfill: to purify and "spiritualize" the physical body and the related physical environment by permeating them with the Light of G-d, so as to make this world an abode for the Shechina [the Divine Presence]. This can be done only through a life of Torah and Mitsvoth [commandments].

When the soul fulfills this mission, all the transient pain and suffering connected with the soul's descent and life on this earth are not only justified, but infinitely outweighed by the great reward and everlasting bliss which the soul enjoys thereafter.


From the above one can easily appreciate the extent of the tragedy of disregarding the soul's mission on earth. For in doing so one condemns the soul to a term of useless suffering not compensated for, nor nullified by that everlasting happiness which G-d had intended for it. Even when there are moments of religious activity in the study of the Torah and the practice of the Mitsvoth, it is sad to contemplate how often such activity is tinted by the lack of real enthusiasm and inner joy, not realizing that these are the activities which justify existence.

Aside from missing the vital point through failure of taking advantage of the opportunity to fulfill G-d's Will, thus forfeiting the everlasting benefits to be derived therefrom, it is contrary to sound reason to choose that side of life which accentuates the enslavement and degradation of the soul, while rejecting the good that is inherent in it, namely, the great ascent that is to come from the soul's descent.

It will now become eminently clear what our Sages meant when they said, "No man commits a sin unless he was stricken with temporary insanity." No profound thinking is required to realize that since " life is compulsory," and since the soul which is a "part" of the Divine Above is compelled to descend into "a frame of dust and ashes," the proper thing to do is to make the most of the soul's sojourn on earth; only a life, in which every aspect is permeated by the Torah and Mitsvoth, makes this possible.

Continued in next issue


What's In A Name

RACHAMIM means "compassion, mercy." The name is most common among Sefardic and Oriental Jews.

RUCHAMA means "comfort, compassion." G-d told the prophet Hosea to call his daughter Lo-Ruchama: "For I will have no more mercy on the House of Israel." (Hosea 1:6)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The ninth of Kislev is the birthday and yartzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber Shneuri, the second Chabad Rebbe, known as "the Mitteler Rebbe." Through his explanations of the teachings of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, he brought Chasidic philosophy more closely into the framework of this world.

Uniting the physical and the spiritual was embodied in the Mitteler Rebbe's person, illustrated by the following two examples.

The Tzemach Tzedek (his son-in-law and successor) said, "If my father-in-law's finger was cut, Chasidut would flow out, not blood." The Mitteler Rebbe's life force was Chasidut.

When the Mitteler Rebbe was arrested on slanderous charges and imprisoned, his doctor told the Russian authorities that they must allow him to teach his Chasidim. He explained: "Just as you give food to prisoners to ensure their existence, so too you must allow him to teach Chasidut, because his life depends on it."

The authorities saw that this was the truth and agreed. They allowed 50 Chasidim to enter his prison room twice a week to listen to him deliver a Chasidic discourse.

Ultimately, the Mitteler Rebbe was released on the 10th of Kislev, one day after his birthday. But, unfortunately, he and his Chasidim were unable to celebrate the first anniversary of his release. For, the Mitteler Rebbe passed away on the 9th of Kislev, his birthday, at the relatively young age of 54.

Judaism teaches that one's birth and passing on the same day demonstrates a unification of one's spiritual qualities in the material world. Thus, it is appropriate that this phenomenon be associated with the Mitteler Rebbe.

An even deeper fusion of the spiritual with the material is seen from the fact that his day of redemption on the 10th of Kislev occurred directly after his birthday.

Concerning the Mitteler Rebbe's day of Redemption, the Rebbe said, "The Mitteler Rebbe's redemption will lead to the ultimate expression of G-dliness in the world which characterize the revelations of Moshiach." May this take place immediately.


Thoughts that Count

And he reached a certain place (Gen. 28:11)

Our Sages relate that as soon as Yaakov decided to return, a miracle occurred and he was immediately transported on his way. We learn from this that whenever a person sincerely decides to do teshuva, to return to G-d with a humble heart, he is immediately assisted from Above. "Open up for Me a breach the size of a needle's eye, and I will open for you an opening the size of a great hall."

(Michtav Me'Eliahu)


He dreamed, and behold there was a ladder set on the earth (Gen. 28:12)

The function of a ladder is to connect top and bottom, to raise up whatever is below and bring down whatever is above. In spiritual terms, the ladder between the upper and lower realms is Torah and prayer, for they enable us to "touch" the very heavens. Prayer raises up and elevates us, whereas Torah study draws down Divine wisdom into the world. And just as one must ascend and descend a physical ladder by climbing its rungs, so too must spiritual progress be orderly and in successive steps.

(Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, "Vayachalom Vehinei Sulam")


Behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:12)

At first glance the order seems reversed. Wouldn't the heavenly angels have to descend the ladder before they could climb back up? However, whenever a Jew does a mitzva (commandment), he acquires for himself a "good" angel that rises up to plead on his behalf; only afterward does it come back down to protect him.

(Mayim Amukim)


It Once Happened

Upon the passing of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidut (known as the Alter Rebbe), his son, Rabbi Dov Ber, the "Mitteler Rebbe" assumed the mantle of leadership. He instituted many innovations which led to the wider dissemination of Chasidic teachings. One of his requirements for newly married men, was that while they still lived in the home of their parents-in-law, they devote three hours daily to study Chasidut. With this system in place, the number of young men who were knowledgeable of Chasidut grew, and their influence also spread as they matured as teachers and mentors.

As time passed, the general Jewish public become more widely exposed to the new teachings, which took hold in many towns and villages throughout the region. There was in the town of Liepli, a Chasid of the Alter Rebbe named Reb Yekutiel. He was a salt dealer and although he was widely admired for his piety, his knowledge of Torah, and particularly of Chasidut, was meager.

Once, one of the Mitteler Rebbe's young Chasidim came to Liepli and remained there for a week, reviewing with the villagers one discourse of the Rebbe each day. The topics discussed in these brilliant discourses dealt with the most elevated and lofty concepts, things normally closed to the human intellect, but illuminated by Chasidic thought. The young teacher was very adept at explaining these subjects, so that his audience was spellbound by his words. Poor Reb Yekutiel was among the throng of listeners, but to his utter dismay, he couldn't understand even one word. He couldn't reconcile himself to the thought that here was a man many years his junior who had so much knowledge in his grasp, while he, an elder Chasid, understood nothing.

Many years later Reb Yekutiel described this incident and the terrible inner turmoil he experienced to friends. "Here was I, a 40-year-old Chasid, having gone to the Alter Rebbe for some 15 years. One day, this young man, a mere babe, comes to the town and gives over the Rebbe's teachings with such burning fervor, while I couldn't understand a word he uttered.

"Every day I went to hear this young man and every day I grew more and dispirited over my lack of understanding. I was missing out on so many profound spiritual insights, I couldn't bear the pain. Finally, I decided to ask the young teacher to sit with me privately and review the material. I stopped working in my business and devoted all my time to studying for three weeks, but even with all this effort, I failed to reach my goal. The teachings remained closed to me.

"When, after three weeks the young man left, I was totally devastated. I wept and fasted for many days, all the while praying and begging G-d to open my eyes to these precious teachings, but all to no avail. Finally, one day, I saddled my horse and rode off to Lubavitch to ask the Rebbe what to do."

It had been almost a year since Reb Yekutiel had been to Lubavitch and many changes had taken place. Now, 60 young scholars sat and learned the Rebbe's words, reviewing them constantly with one another. The Shabbat after Reb Yekutiel arrived, the Mitteler Rebbe said two Chasidic discourses, and although Reb Yekutiel understood a bit of the first, the second was completely unintelligible to him. To the young men surrounding him, however, it was all perfectly clear! He returned to his room and wept bitterly.

When he was granted a private audience with the Rebbe, Reb Yekutiel recounted in great detail his entire trial: how the young teacher came to Liepli and how he struggled to understand his words, but failed in every attempt. The Rebbe replied, "There is nothing that can stand in the way of a person's will. Although a person's will is not his essence, nevertheless it contains the power to sway the soul in the desired direction."

The Rebbe explained that true desire is the key that opens the soul's faculties and powers, particularly the faculties of thought and understanding. "If you truly desire it," the Rebbe concluded, "you have the ability to broaden your understanding."

Those words had a deep impact on Reb Yekutiel. He decided right then that he would remain in Lubavitch as long as necessary to achieve his goal. He sent a message to his family, informing them of his decision, and set to work. For four months he struggled in his studies, often meditating on one thought for many hours, and he would review his topic of study many times. As the months went by, Reb Yekutiel felt a transformation taking place within himself. As he later told his friends, "I felt as if I had been created anew. Thank G-d, I succeeded in scouring the old pot. I had become a new, clean vessel."

Reb Yekutiel returned home with his mission accomplished. Many years later, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, (the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe) said in reference to this story: "One can see from this story the attitude that prevailed amongst the Chasidim of yesteryear. When a Chasid heard in his private meeting with the Rebbe, that his desire, his will, is a crucial tool for his personal transformation...he disregarded any discomforts or difficulties, and never flagged in his efforts until the desired end was achieved."


Moshiach Matters

Metaphorically speaking, G-d and the Jewish people are likened to man and wife. In exile, the Jews suffer from spiritual poverty and affliction. Yet when G-d considers how faithful we remain to Him despite our troubles, His love for us is reawakened and rekindled - a love that will ultimately be consummated with the Final Redemption.

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 22)


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