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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1203
                           Copyright (c) 2012
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        January 6, 2012         Vayechi           11 Tevet, 5772

                        Fresh Air, Food, Water!

Fresh air, fresh food, fresh water.

Imagine taking more than a few breaths in a room filled with air made
stale from a party the previous evening. Or consider the taste of a
corned beef on rye (hold the pickle, it has too much sodium) that's been
in the fridge for a whole week. And who would even dream of taking a sip
of water that had been sitting out for a whole month!

Though you might not become ill from breathing stale air for a few
minutes or eating one questionable corned-beef-on-rye, you could become
very sick from constantly breathing old air and eating old food.

Fresh air, fresh food, fresh water.

These commodities are necessary to live not only healthy lives, but to
life in general.

Jewish teachings are collectively assigned the name "Torah" and Torah is
often referred to as Torat Chaim - the Living Torah. Judaism is a living
religion. For us to feel the vibrancy of Judaism, we must live it on a
daily basis.

This means that in order to maintain our Jewish health, yesterday's
"air" and last week's "food" are not enough.

The memories of a family Passover seder of years gone by are great for
reminiscences, but what have I done freshly Jewish TODAY?

Chewing over, for weeks, a thought heard at a Jewish lecture attended
last month is great, but what have I done today that will be like a
breath of fresh air for my soul?

Remembering on Friday night the Sabbath candles Bubby lit and the fresh
challa Zaidy blessed is beautiful and will bring tears to many an eye,
but lighting Sabbath candles this Friday before Shabbat and saying the
blessing over the challa this Friday evening will be a refreshing and
restful way to end a stress-filled and tiresome week.

Our Sages teach that "Every day the Torah should be as new." This does
not mean that we should bend and bow every time a new translation of the
Bible comes out, or fawn over a new "retelling" of the story of the
Creation. It also does not mean that we can change, reshape, or alter
those parts of Torah and Jewish tradition we feel are not conducive to
life, today.

For, by calling Judaism a living religion we do not mean to say that it
can grow and change without restrictions.

The Living G-d gives us a living Torah which is true and relevant for
all times and all places.

Living Judaism means that Judaism is alive and that we are truly alive
when we live it on a daily basis.

Throughout the day, breath deeply the fresh, life-supporting air of
mitzvot. Savor the fresh taste of daily Torah study. Experience Living

In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob castigates his sons before
his passing and takes away both priesthood and kingship from his
firstborn, Reuven. The kingship is then given to Judah, as reward for
two good deeds: his suggestion that Joseph be sold, thus preventing the
brothers from killing him; his public confession about his sin with
Tamar, thus saving her.

This explanation, however, is insufficient, for at first glance it would
appear that Reuven displayed the very same strength of character as his
brother Judah, if not more.

Whereas Judah suggested that Joseph be sold for monetary gain, Reuven
suggested that Joseph be thrown into a pit in order to return later and
free Joseph. Furthermore, even when it came to admitting their
transgressions, Reuven was on a higher level than Judah, as Judah only
confessed in order to save the life of Tamar. Reuven, on the other hand,
who is not even considered to have committed a true sin, was so penitent
that for over a decade he was still fasting in sackcloth and ashes.

To understand, we need to recognize the difference between priesthood
and kingship - which Jacob took away from Reuven, and the birthright of
the firstborn - which Reuven retained.

Kingship and priesthood are primarily expressed in service to others. A
king administers the affairs of state; a priest bestows blessings and
teaches Torah. Being a firstborn, however, involves only the individual
and has no bearing on one's relationship with others.

Thus, although Reuven tried to save his brother and immersed himself in
a long period of penitence, the focus of his service was on achieving
his own spiritual perfection rather than on helping other people.

In truth, it was because of his suggestion that Joseph was thrown into
the pit full of snakes and scorpions. Even Reuven's penance was turned
inward, for had he not been preoccupied with "sackcloth and ashes,"
perhaps he could have prevented Joseph from being sold and thereby
precluded the entire Egyptian exile!

Judah, by contrast, actually saved others through his actions, even
though his own spiritual service may have been on a lower level. He
saved Joseph from the pit and saved Tamar from death. It was this
demonstration of self-sacrifice that proved to Jacob that Judah was the
one who was worthy of kingship, for the essence of kingship is service
to others.

From this we learn that a Jew must never concentrate on his own
spiritual state to the detriment of his fellow Jew; love of one's fellow
Jew must always be of prime importance. In this way, even if his own
service is somewhat lacking, the merit of his love for his fellow Jew
will connect him to the entire Torah and hasten the Final Redemption.

                  Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 15

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                           A Walk in the Park
                             by Lieba Rosen

One cold and rainy winter Shabbat morning found our son Yisroel
fearlessly striding along the leafy roads toward Hampstead (in Northwest
London), where he read the Torah each week in the local synagogue. He
hardly noticed the perfectly manicured privet hedges nor the beautiful
trees and flowers in the front gardens as he walked steadfastly towards
his destination. His thoughts were focused on the matter at hand:
arriving in shul on time to fulfill his responsibility as the baal koreh
- Torah reader. As he hurried on his way, Yisroel was overtaken by a red
London bus.

Back in the '80s, when this incident took place, London buses still had
both a driver and a conductor aboard. While the driver drove the bus,
the conductor, wearing a heavy metal ticket machine strapped to his
body, supervised the passengers boarding and dismounting the bus. Once
they were seated, the conductor would come to their seats collecting
their fares in cash and issuing paper tickets from his ticket machine.

On that particular Shabbat, a bus drove past my son as, dressed in his
Sabbath best, he purposefully made his way along the winding roads. The
driver turned towards the conductor and venomously remarked, "Look at
that Jewish kid, walking in his old-fashioned black clothing with that
silly hat on his head. I hate the Jews; why do they have to be
different? They think they own the world."

Jack, the conductor, a 19-year-old Cockney lad, covered with tattoos and
into the world of '80s punk, angrily retorted, "What has that kid or any
Jew ever done to you? Why do you hate him?"

The unexpected irritation in Jack's voice surprised the driver. What's
got into him, he wondered, Jack is usually so even-tempered. He shrugged
his shoulder and carried driving.

But the unprovoked anti-Semitic outburst had unsettled the conductor.
Jack had never told his workmates that he was Jewish. Jack's father,
Avrohom, a friend of ours, was a Holocaust survivor. Before the war he
had lived in Europe. With the onset of World War II, the Nazis had
invaded his hometown and his life was changed forever. By a series of
miracles, Avrohom survived and escaped to England, the only member of
his family still alive after the war.

Avrohom eventually met and married a Jewish girl and had two children,
Jack and Donna. Avrohom, now called Arthur, was kind and gentle, but he
no longer celebrated the religion of his youth. After his parents
divorced, Jack left home, abandoning the few Jewish practices his father
had maintained.

Now living alone, Avrohom was befriended by a work-colleague, a
Lubavitcher chasid, who often invited him to his home. Slowly Avrohom
began to again observe the commandments he had taken pride in as a
youth. Eventually Avrohom remarried and become fully observant. He was
content and fulfilled with his new life, but was troubled that he had
not raised or educated his children to observe Jewish traditions.

After that Shabbat, Jack called his father and told him what had
happened. He was extremely upset at the anti-Semitism displayed by the
bus driver, and was surprised at his own strong reaction. Avrohom was
amazed by Jack's story, and was naturally curious to know the identity
of the boy who had so incensed the driver, and consequently had had such
an effect on Jack. Assuming that it was likely to be a Lubavitcher boy,
he went to the Lubavitcher synagogue and after making some inquiries,
identified our Yisroel as the protagonist.

Avrohom animatedly told my son, who had been totally oblivious, the
drama that had played out on the bus.

Fast forward a year or so. Jack planned a vacation to the United States,
and would be spending some time in New York. Avrohom begged his son to
visit the Rebbe in 770. Jack had no desire to do any such thing, but
when Avrohom persisted, he reluctantly agreed. When he went past the
Rebbe, the Rebbe suggested to Jack that he should study in a yeshiva.
The very notion seemed preposterous to Jack; he had no affiliation with
anything Jewish and the idea of learning in a yeshiva, whatever that
was, was completely alien to him.

However, the Jewish spark which had been aroused on the bus that Shabbat
began to stir within him. Very slowly, he became more involved in
Judaism. Some 10 years after that fateful Shabbat morning, about nine
years after his first visit to the Rebbe, he enrolled in a yeshiva.

More than a quarter century had passed since those events. The
synagogues my son attended in the East End have an aging, dwindling
membership, and most have long since closed. The Hampstead shul, being
in fashionable Northwest London, is fortunately flourishing.

Each Shabbat, sees Yisroel yet again striding along leafy lanes to read
the holy words of the Torah. Nowadays he has his own son or two in tow,
as he makes the long weekly walk in a far-flung corner of the United
States to his own Chabad House, where he continues to be a devoted
emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and lamplighter of Jewish souls.

                        Reprinted from The N'Shei Chabad Newsletter

                               WHAT'S NEW
                        Thank You for Everything

You be the illustrator ... Imagine a children's book with bright
colorful artwork, personalized and enhanced by your child's own
drawings!  Thank You for Everything, the very first "I-Can-Draw Keepsake
Book," leaves room for each child's creativity to shine. Within a
colorful frame, children have a chance to draw their own family, their
own favorite foods, the house they live in, and so much more.  It's a
great way to increase the quality of gratitude, and a special activity
for parents and children to share. Thank You for Everything will become
every child's most treasured book.This newest release from HaChai is
written by Pia Shlomo and illustrated by Patti Argoff.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                          27 Elul 5717 [1957]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased to receive your letter of September 17th, and was
particularly gratified with its contents, that you are well and happy,
and gradually taking over your routine activities.

There is a well-known saying to the effect that making a good start sets
off a good chain of reaction for continued success. This is especially
true in marriage, which begins a new life. Therefore it is important to
start it off well, to ensure continued happiness and contentment. May
G-d help that this be so in your case.

Most important of all is to start the new life in a way that corresponds
with the teachings of our Torah, the Law of Life, and then the going is
much easier than one anticipated.

This brings me to the next point. You write that you do not want to use
the expression of "promise to do," but would rather use the expression
"to try to do," as you are afraid to commit yourself, lest you would
find it difficult to live up to your promise. Experience has shown that
when a person makes a promise to do something, this very promise gives
him the strength to carry it out without hesitation, and with greater

Whereas, when one does not commit himself, promising only "to try," or
"to do one's best," then, when the matter comes up, and there is
temptation not to do it, he is more likely to fail, saying to himself
that, after all, he did not promise to do it, but only "to try," and
therefore he is not breaking his word, and his conscience doesn't bother
him. That is why I think that you should be determined to observe the
laws, etc., and, knowing that you have made a promise to do so, will
give you not only greater strength, but also peace of mind, as it would
eliminate all doubts and hesitations.

Needless to say, if the things in question were impossible to carry out,
there would be no room for making a promise. However, in this case,
where it concerns the practical observance of the Divine Commandments,
given by G-d, the Creator, Who knows also the abilities of the human
beings, it is certain that He would not have commanded to do anything
which is beyond one's power to do, for G-d is the Essence of Goodness,
and does not impose a greater obligation that one is capable to fulfill.
Moreover, the laws that He commanded are not for His sake, inasmuch as
G-d is not deficient of anything, but they are for the good of the

You will recall what I said to you when you were here that, in regard to
the practical precepts, the less one debates with himself, but, rather,
fulfills them with simple faith in G-d, the easier and the more natural
life is, and the more harmony and happiness it brings. For one of the
essential aspects of the Torah is to serve G-d with joy. Such service is
carried out, not only through the act of fulfillment of a certain
precept, such as putting on tefillin, or the lighting of candles, etc.,
but every action, word, and thought, which are dedicated to G-d with a
spirit of joy of being able to serve the Creator, brings additional
light in one's world, and in the world at large.

On the threshold of the New Year, may it bring blessings to us all, I
send you and yours my prayerful wishes for a good and pleasant year,
materially and spiritually, with the traditional, and all-embracing
blessing of kesivo vechasimo toivo [that you be inscribed and sealed for

Although you do not mention it, I trust that you duly received my two
previous letters. As for your question with regard to using certain
expressions, you may, of course, use the expression that best describes
your thoughts and feelings, and also in any language you find most

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME
TIRTZA means pleasing. Tirtza was one of the five daughters of
Tzelafchad who inherited a portion in the Land of Israel upon her
father's death. (Numbers 26:33) Concerning the daughters of Tzelafchad,
the Talmud says they were wise, inquisitive, and righteous.

TZURIEL means "G-d is my rock." Tzuriel was a leader of the Merari
family from the tribe of Levi. (Numbers 3:35)

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week's Torah portion begins, "And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt
17 years." Commenting on this verse, the Talmud states: "Jacob, our
ancestor, did not die."

The Talmud explains that the concept that Jacob did not die is derived
from commentaries on the verse in Jeremiah, " 'Do not fear, My servant
Jacob,' says G-d, 'Do not become dismayed, O Israel. I will save you
from afar and your descendants from the land of their captivity.' "

The Talmud concludes, "An equation is established between Jacob and his

To this discussion in the Talmud, Rashi adds, "Jacob lives forever."

A comprehensive discussion on Jacob's eternal life would take many
pages. So we will only focus on the interdependency of Jacob's eternal
life with that of his descendants - each and every Jew.

The Talmud brings as its proof that Jacob is still alive the verse from
Jeremiah and explains that "it only appears that he died: he is alive."

Therefore, Jacob's vitality, even today, is connected to his descendants
- the Jewish people - and their "lives."

What is life? Life for a Jew is Torah and mitzvot. And Jacob's vitality
is connected to every Jew's study of Torah and observance of mitzvot.

But what if a Jew does not study so much Torah, or does not observe so
many mitzvot? Concerning this question, the Rebbe explains that "an
emphasis on the failure of other Jews to conduct themselves according to
the Torah and its mitzvot represents a superficial appreciation of their
being. Furthermore, saying that there is a lack of life in any of
Jacob's descendants detracts from the life of Jacob himself, for his
'life' is dependent on theirs, as it were."

Therefore, to enhance Jacob's eternal life we should continue to upgrade
our performance of mitzvot and study of Torah. But, at the same time, we
should not judge other people's level of observance for this itself
detracts from Jacob's life.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Jacob lived (Vayechi) in the land of Egypt seventeen years (Gen. 47:28)

The best years of Jacob's life were equal to the numerical equivalent of
the word "vayechi," which is 34. These were the 17 years from Joseph's
birth until he was sold, and the 17 years Jacob spent in Egypt.

                                                     (Baal HaTurim)

                                *  *  *

Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which will befall
you in the last days (Gen. 49:1)

As Rashi explains, "He desired to reveal the end [of Israel's exile],
but the Divine Presence (Shechina) withdrew from him." Yet if the Divine
Presence was no longer upon Jacob, how was he able to utter other
prophecies about Israel's future? The answer is that the "Shechina" -
Jacob's ability to cause G-dliness to be manifested in the physical
world, from the Hebrew "shochein," (meaning to dwell) - was removed from
him, but not his prophetic ability. Jacob knew when the "last days"
would occur, but was unable to communicate this knowledge to others.

                                                        (The Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

He washes his garments in wine (Gen. 49:11)

The Alter Rebbe explained that whenever a Jew does a mitzva, a "garment"
for his soul is formed. Wine is symbolic of joy, as it states in Psalms
(104:15), "And wine that gladdens man's heart." "Washing our garments in
wine" thus means that we should always strive to observe the
commandments out of a sense of joy.

                                                        (Torah Ohr)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Once, there was a wealthy man whose daughter had reached marriageable
age. As befitting his station, he sought a groom who was a great
scholar, and he travelled to one of the famed Torah academies to find
such a young man.

The head of the academy recommended a worthy young scholar named Rabbi
Yaakov, and upon meeting him, the prospective father-in-law was very
pleased. The young scholar, however, made three conditions before
agreeing to the proposal: he must have a room where he could study
undisturbed; his wife must allow him unlimited time for his studies; and
he would have permission to leave his wife for a year to take care of
some important business.

The wealthy man agreed to the requests, but he returned home to obtain
his daughter's agreement. After her father described the young man's
excellent qualities, the girl agreed, and the couple was married. The
groom studied Torah day and night, and his new wife was impressed with
his character and his behavior. Indeed, the match was right in her eyes,
and she was content.

After the first year of marriage had passed happily, Rabbi Yaakov
reminded his wife and father-in-law of the promise they had made to
allow him to travel on business for a year's time. They accompanied him
to the outskirts of town, and he continued on his way to Rome and to his
mysterious mission.

In Rome, the ruler had an intelligent son whom he had betrothed to a
foreign princess. The princess was also bright, and she stipulated that
she would only marry a man who was well-versed in all the knowledge of
the world. She proposed that he undertake a course of study before their
marriage, and she would do the same.

She began to study under the tutelage of a priest who was vicious
anti-Semite. The priest instilled in the girl such a hatred of Jews,
that she asked her future father-in-law to force all the Jews to
convert, or else to expel them from his realm. He considered her
request, and in addition, decided to invite the Pope to deliver a sermon
against the Jews at the royal wedding.

On the very day that the royal wedding was announced, Rabbi Yaakov
arrived in Rome. News of the arrival of a Torah scholar of great repute
spread through the city, and even reached the ears of certain notables
close to the Pope, who mentioned it at the Papal court. The Pope became
curious to meet this young scholar, and summoned him. The Pope was very
impressed with the depth and breadth of Rabbi Yaakov's knowledge. Soon,
word of this wise Jew reached even the royal court, and he was summoned
to the king.

Rabbi Yaakov received favor from everyone who saw and heard him, and of
all the scholars in the kingdom, he was selected to instruct the
betrothed prince. This was, of course, the mission for which he had come
to Rome.

Elijah the Prophet at times reveals himself to certain select Jews, and
now, he appeared to Rabbi Yaakov, saying, "The Pope is a secret Jew, a
descendant of Marranos." Elijah told him where and when he could find
the Pope deep in prayer, wearing his talit and tefilin.

When Rabbi Yaakov appeared at the door of that room, the Pope was filled
with fear. Immediately, Rabbi Yaakov calmed his fears. "Elijah the
Prophet has sent me to you on a matter of great importance to the Jews
of Rome. You will be commanded to deliver a sermon attacking the Jews at
the royal wedding. You must not speak until I come to you again."

The day of the wedding finally arrived, and guests from every realm
filled the great halls of the palace. As word spread that the Pope
himself would soon deliver a sermon, excitement began to build. The
Pope, however, did not appear, as he was awaiting Rabbi Yaakov.

Suddenly the renowned Jewish scholar appeared before the guests - in the
company of the Pope - carrying a closed bag. He summoned the prince, and
in front of the entire assemblage, he announced that he would like to
show them a wonder. He bid the prince put his hand into the sack and
withdraw from it whatever he would find within. The prince put in his
hand and withdrew a beautiful, gem-encrusted crown. The crowd cheered.

Then, he asked that the princess come and do the same. She was happy to
oblige, but when she withdrew her hand, she was grasping a frightful
snake, which at once entwined itself around her neck. She uttered the
most horrible cries, but everyone was rooted to their place in terror.

Rabbi Yaakov began to speak, "The prince has received what he deserves,
and the princess has received her just reward as well. Princess, if you
order the annulment of the evil decrees you have instigated, you will be
saved, if not, you will perish."

Needless to say, the princess acquiesced to his demand. Rabbi Yaakov
then departed; not a soul dared approach him. The King arose from his
throne, still enthralled by what he had just witnessed. Before all his
subjects and before the prince and princess, he vowed never to harm the
Jews of his realm. Rabbi Yaakov, his mission completed, returned to his
home and his happy wife.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Exile means being in the dark: inhabiting a world in which a corporeal
husk obscures its rich spiritual content; a world that is deaf to the
chimes of the cosmic clock of history and blind to its own steady
advance toward harmonious perfection. Only under such conditions are our
positive deeds vested with the eternality that categorizes the
messianic; were we privy to the "end of days," our deeds would be of a
provisional nature, buttressed by our clear vision of history's
progression toward perfection.

             (Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat
                 Vayechi, 5741 by Yanki Tauber,

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1203 - Vayechi 5772

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