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Time. The concept of time, what constitutes a short amount of time, our perception of a long time, how quick is quick, has been redefined thanks to constant advances in technology.
And yet, with all of our new time saving devices, it seems that there still isn't time for everything that we want to fit into our action-packed, stress-filled, goal-oriented lives.
Despite the fact that there isn't time for everything, for everything there is a Time. In fact, in the words of King Solomon (in the Book of Ecclesiastes):
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace."
These 22 expressions of time encompass every aspect of our lives.
Judaism has a unique concept of time. Rather than viewing time as a linear progression, a sequence of successive moments, Jewish teachings speak of cycles of time. As each new week begins, the cycle of creation begins anew.
Similarly, there is a yearly cycle which includes the entire series of changes and developments which transpire over the course of a year. Thus, the Hebrew word for year, "shana," alludes to this concept for it also means "repetition."
Chasidic thought teaches that every single moment can be appreciated as including the entire continuum of time. Each instance encompasses the entire past and future. To explain this concept: G-d created the world from absolute nothingness. Unlike a craftsmen who fashions an article from raw material, or a thinker who develops an idea from it potential, G-d brought existence into being from total and absolute naught. Thus, the first moment of existence that He created included within it every moment that would follow.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches that creation is a continuous phenomenon. The world has no independent existence and every moment, G-d brings into being the totality of existence anew. Therefore, every moment includes all previous and all subsequent moments of existence just as the first moment of creation includes all time.
Yes, there is a time for everything, and everything has its time. But, to be able to find time for everything, that is truly special. Perhaps, if we look once more to the words of King Solomon, as he completes his treatise on time in Ecclesiastes, we will find some advice: "The end of the matter, when all is said and done: Fear G-d, and keep His commandments; for that is the whole duty of man."
This issue is especially dedicated to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, whose 24th yartzeit we observe on Wednesday, 22 Shevat (February 15 this year). The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of her name matches the letters of the Hebrew word "eit" - time.
As narrated in this week's Torah portion, Yitro, something most unusual occurred when G-d descended on Mount Sinai to give the Torah to the Jewish people. "And all the people saw the thunders," the Torah states. "They saw what is heard, and heard what is seen," elaborates Rabbi Akiva.
What an amazing phenomenon (the technical term for which is known as "synesthesia")! But why was such a great miracle necessary to accompany the giving of the Torah? What possible benefit could be gained from seeing what is heard and hearing what is seen?
To understand what occurred, let us examine the concepts of hearing and seeing and the different ways in which they impart information to us. A person acquires knowledge through having witnessed something with his own two eyes or through hearing the information secondhand from someone else. Yet there is a fundamental difference between the two.
Our sense of sight verifies external reality in the clearest and most convincing manner. An individual who has actually seen something needs no further proof - he is as convinced as he can be. Hearing something, however, is a much less definite and absolute way to acquire knowledge, leaving room for later doubts as to what was really heard. (Incidentally, this is the reason behind the principle that "a witness cannot serve as judge": a judge must be able to treat the defendant fairly, without harboring preconceived notions; once he has already witnessed the defendant committing a certain act he can no longer do this.)
At the same time, our sense of sight is far more limited than our sense of hearing. A person can only perceive physical objects through seeing, whereas hearing enables us to understand a more abstract and spiritual reality.
In our world, reality appears to be only that which can be seen with the physical eye, with spiritual matters being relegated to the more abstruse realm of hearing. What occurred at Mount Sinai was a reversal of this order - spiritual reality was more easily perceived and understood, and physical existence became more indistinct.
This phenomenon was not a special miracle wrought by G-d in honor of the occasion, but was merely the natural outcome of His revealing Himself at Mount Sinai. The reality of G-d's existence took center stage at that moment in history; it was the physical world which seemed less sure of its existence.
This entire incident lasted only a short while. Immediately after the Revelation our perception of reality returned to its former state. The world was not yet ready for such G-dliness to be revealed on an ongoing basis.
But when Moshiach comes and the world reaches a state of perfection, this is precisely what will occur. "And the glory of G-d will be revealed, and all flesh will see" - the underlying G-dliness hidden within physical reality will be revealed and apparent to all, until even our physical flesh will be able to perceive this. At that time, we will no longer require abstract proofs of G-d's existence; our belief in Him will stem naturally from actually seeing the G-dliness around us.
From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vol. 6
Shemi Rokeach is a Belzer Chasid who is related to the Schneerson family through his maternal grandmother. His family had a special relationship with Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, whose 24th yartzeit we are commemorating with this issue of L'Chaim. The following stories were told during an interview by Avraham Rainitz with Rabbi Rokeach.
When I was 13, my little sister was born. The birth was very difficult and my mother nearly died. She had to go for checkups once a month to a top doctor in New York. After her checkup, the doctor told my mother: "I discovered something very problematic that requires an operation. Since it is a very dangerous operation, I recommend that you wait until after Passover so you can celebrate the holiday with your family."
As soon as she got home, my mother called the Rebbetzin to ask for the Rebbe's blessing. The Rebbe was home and the Rebbetzin conveyed my mother's message to him. The Rebbe told the Rebbetzin to tell my mother to have the operation immediately and not to wait until after Passover.
My mother told the Rebbetzin that the doctor said the operation was very risky and he was afraid she wouldn't make it, which is why he recommended postponing it for after Passover. The Rebbetzin conveyed this to the Rebbe and she said, "My husband says not to wait."
My mother asked, "What should I tell the doctor when he asks me why I'm rushing to do it?" The Rebbetzin told her to tell the doctor that the Rebbe said she should not delay.
My mother did as the Rebbe said and asked the doctor to operate immediately. To the doctor's astonishment, she explained that the Rebbe told her not to wait. The doctor was furious that the Rebbe mixed in to medical matters and said, "One asks a Rebbe about religious matters but when it comes to medical matters, you ask a doctor! Why did you ask the Rebbe?"
My mother explained that the Rebbe is our uncle and we greatly respect him. She asked the doctor to forgo his medical honor and do as the Rebbe said. The doctor was not pleased, but since my mother was his private patient he couldn't refuse and he said he would do another test before he would operate. When the doctor returned with the results of the test, he looked white as a ghost. "Who is this Rebbe who told you not to wait? I must meet him. He saved your life!" The doctor could not explain how it had happened but the second test showed that she needed an immediate operation. "If we would have waited until Passover, you may no longer have been alive," he said with a shudder. The operation was successful, thank G-d.
In the 80s I traveled with my family to Israel for my brother's Bar Mitzva. Before we went, we visited the Rebbetzin. During our visit she said to me, "Shemi, you know that my husband has many shluchim (emissaries) but I want to make you my shliach. When you go to Israel, do me a favor. Go to Kfar Chabad and take pictures of what is going on there, the houses, the institutions, the streets, and when you come back bring me the pictures. I want to see what is happening there."
Of course I was happy to fulfill this mission and during our visit I asked my cousin, Rabbi Nachum Schneerson (who heads Yeshivas Tchebin now) to send me to Kfar Chabad with his driver. On our way to Kfar Chabad the driver pointed at a picture of the Rebbe that was hanging in his car and he asked me whether I knew who it was. I said, "Of course, it's our uncle, the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
The driver was so excited to hear that we were related to the Rebbe that he nearly got us into an accident! "The Rebbe saved my life!" he exclaimed and he stopped the car on the side of the road in order to tell the story and to calm down. "I was born in Russia," he said with a heavy Russian accent. "When I grew up I joined a group of Zionists who tried to get out of Russia. I was arrested by the KGB and I was sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in Siberia. In Siberia, they had us chop down trees and drag them to the camp.
"The day after I arrived, one of the prisoners, a huge Russian gentile, came over to me and said: 'From now on, you will also do my work!' He thought I was a timid Jew who would obey his commands, but I refused. He began beating me and I gave him back as good as I got, even better. We kept at it until blood ran and we were taken to the hospital. In Siberia there was no lack of manpower and the doctors didn't exert themselves to save us. Then a doctor came over to me and asked, 'Are you Jewish? Do you believe in Torah and G-d?' I thought the doctor was a KGB agent who wanted to entrap me and I refused to answer him. The doctor began treating me devotedly and he saved my life. Every time he came to see me, he asked whether I believed in G-d and kept mitzvot (commandments) and I denied any connection to religion.
"When I finally recovered, the commander of the camp told me that I was going to be transferred from forest work to office work in the hospital. I met the doctor nearly every day and he continued to inquire about my beliefs. After a year in the hospital, they suddenly told me that they had received an order to release me and I was free to return home. I joyfully walked to the train station. As I stood there at the station waiting for the train, I saw the doctor coming in his car. He hurried over to me and asked, 'Nu, are you going to Israel now?'
"If I wasn't sure until then that he was a KGB agent, at that point I was convinced that he was trying to incriminate me. I denied it, of course, and declared that I was a loyal communist and I wouldn't want to leave Mother Russia. The doctor persisted and said, 'I know you are a Jew and you want to go to Jerusalem.'
I continued to deny it and I said I was going to Moscow, where I planned on living. At a certain point he took me over to a corner and said, 'Listen well. You are a Jew and that is why I helped you until now. You should know that I put a lot of effort into healing you and I used my connections so they would change your hard labor to office work in the hospital. It is thanks to me that you are free today and not in another eleven years. You surely want to know who I am and why I was so eager to help you.'
"The doctor took a picture of a rabbi with a white beard out of his pocket. 'This man sent me and some other people like me to various places throughout Russia. When we see a Jew in distress, we are there to help him. I want the best for you, which is why I say, do not remain in Russia. Do all you can to get out of here and when you get to Israel, find out who this man in the picture is and you should know that he saved your life!'
"I went to my home in Moscow and submitted another request to emigrate. A year later I received a visa and I went to Israel. Of course, as soon as I got there I asked to see pictures of various rabbis and I immediately identified the man in the picture. It is the Lubavitcher Rebbe! "Now you know why I was so excited when you said that you are related to the Rebbe, the man who saved my life."
Throughout my years in yeshiva in Philadelphia, I called the Rebbetzin each Friday to wish her a "good Shabbos" and to find out how she was doing. The conversation was like any conversation between grandmother and grandchild. The Rebbetzin asked how I was, about my studies, my friends, what I wore, just like any grandmother who is concerned about her grandson.
Before a test the Rebbetzin would bless me with success and when I told her about a special sale of clothing she said, "Shemi, buy good quality clothes." The Rebbetzin wanted us to call her "Mrs. Schneerson," and if, during the conversation, I would mistakenly say, "Good Shabbos Rebbetzin," she would correct me immediately and say, "Shemi, my name is 'Mrs. Schneerson.' " She was very particular about this.
The Rebbetzin's passing was one of the darkest days of my life. I felt as though my dear grandmother had died. Memories of the Rebbetzin are still with me. My relationship with the Rebbetzin was an eternal bond that has not waned with the passing years. Naturally, I went to be menachem avel ("comfort the mourner") at the Rebbe's house with my family.
My grandmother asked one of the secretaries to ask the Rebbe, "Now, after the passing of the Rebbetzin, who will my grandson call every Friday?" I don't remember which secretary passed the question on to the Rebbe. The Rebbe said I should call him! From then on, I called the Rebbe's house every Friday, and since the Rebbe did not speak on the phone, I would speak with Reb Sholom Gansburg, and he would convey my message to the Rebbe.
The next week, before I had begun talking to him, he would tell me what the Rebbe had said in reaction to what I had said the week before. The conversations were like those I had with the Rebbetzin, that of a grandson telling his grandfather how his week went. When I went to Jerusalem to study in Yeshivas Tchebin, which is run by my uncle, Rabbi Boruch Shimon Schneerson, I continued to call every Friday. I once said that it rained very strongly in Jerusalem and the following week, Rabbi Gansburg told me in the Rebbe's name that these were gishmei bracha (rains of blessing).
This phone connection continued until I got married. After I married I lived in Jerusalem. A short time after I moved into my new apartment, my mother went for "dollars." (Every Sunday the Rebbe received thousands of people who came to ask his advice or blessing. The Rebbe gave each person a dollar, or its equivalent, to be given to the charity of their choice.) To her surprise, the Rebbe said to her, "Tell Shem to check his mezuzas.
My mother explained, "It's a new apartment and new mezuzas!" The Rebbe said, "Nevertheless, tell him to check." My mother called me and told me what the Rebbe had said. I immediately went to a scribe in Shikun Chabad in Jerusalem and after a brief look at the mezuza that was on the front door, he found that the words "hishamru lachem" (guard yourselves) were attached (thus, invalidating it)!
A short while later, in the summer of 1990, when my wife was expecting our first child, a certain complication arose. I called my mother and asked her to ask the Rebbe for a blessing. In the meantime, my in-laws, who live in London, sent us a ticket to London so my wife could be treated by the best doctors in London. When we arrived in London, I got a phone call from my mother, who had been to the Rebbe and had told him about the complication in the pregnancy. The Rebbe said I should check my "Rabbeinu Tam" tefilin.
Once again, my mother was surprised since our custom is to start putting on this special, additional set of tefilin only after we marry, so my tefilin were relatively new. But the Rebbe repeated, "He should check his Rabbeinu Tam tefilin."
It was late at night but I found a Lubavitcher scribe. When he heard that this was an instruction from the Rebbe, he agreed to check the tefilin immediately. He found flaw in the portion of "sanctify for Me every firstborn." The connection was clear, for my wife was pregnant with our first child. The tefilin were corrected that same night and the next day, my wife's problem was gone!
Since my connection to the Rebbe and Rebbetzin was a familial one, after Gimmel Tamuz my connection with Lubavitch ceased. However, the Rebbe apparently wanted the relationship to continue and the following incredible event took place. When my son, Menachem Zev was turning three, my parents had to be in Florida at the time we would be celebrating his first hair cut. The possibility of cutting his hair early was discussed, so my parents could participate in the family celebration.
When I visited my in-laws, I saw a volume of the Rebbe's letters (Igrot Kodesh) there. I had heard that the Rebbe answers people through the Igrot Kodesh and I decided to try writing to the Rebbe. Perhaps I would get an answer. I asked whether to move up the date of my son's haircut and I put the note randomly into the volume. When I opened it and read the letter, I exclaimed, "Oy, gevald!"
My mother-in-law asked me what happened. I showed her the amazing answer I had opened to. It was a letter that the Rebbe wrote to someone who asked him about moving up the date of their three-year-old's haircut and the Rebbe wrote, based on a letter of the Previous Rebbe, that we do not make it earlier, and this is what I should practice too. On the same page the Rebbe wrote to someone who had been frequently in touch, who lately had been out of touch. The Rebbe asked him to renew the relationship!
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
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2nd of Shevat, 5740 
Your letter of Jan. 14th, with the enclosure, reached me with some delay. In it you write about the forthcoming opening of your new business on the 14th of September. May G-d grant that it should be with Hatzlocho [success].
Although you do not mention it, I am certain that the business will be conducted in strict observance of Shabbos [the Sabbath] and Yom Tov [holidays]. For, if this is a "must" in the conduct of the home, it is no less imperative that the parnosso [livelihood] should be a Kosher one, in accordance with G-d's Will, which also insures that the income will be spent on good and healthy and happy things both materially and spiritually.
There is also a timely significance in the date of the opening, which is in the week of Shabbos Shiro (Beshalach) followed by Parshas [the Torah portion of] Yisro, the Shabbos of Mattan Torah [when we read about the Giving of the Torah]. In the first, the role of the Jewish woman is emphasized by the song of Miriam, which is followed up by the song of Devorah in the Haftorah, while in the second, we find the commandment "Remember the Shabbos day to keep it holy" as one of the Ten Commandments.
Receipt is enclosed for your Tzedoko [charity], and may it additionally stand you and yours in good stead, particularly that you and your husband should have true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pleasure] from your children, in good health and ample sustenance.
Hoping to hear good news from you in all above,
P.S. It would be well that you should keep in your business place a Tzedoko Pushka [charity box], into which you as well as your customers could put in a coin, which will further widen the channels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs.
12th of Shevat 5734 
This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence of January 30th with the enclosures.
In the meantime, you have surely heard what was discussed at the farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] of Yud [the tenth of] Shevat with particular emphasis on the need to strengthen family unity, and that one of the first steps in this direction is to encourage the practice of having the Friday night meal by all the family together. In this area, as well as in regard to the other subjects discussed at the farbrengen, Jewish mothers and daughters can accomplish a great deal, both individually as well as, and especially, through concerted action, such as the forthcoming Convention of the Neshei u'Bnos Chabad [Lubavitch Women and Girls Organization] in London and the preliminary conferences, as well as those which will follow, with a view to implementing the decisions and projects of the Convention.
I shall be eagerly looking forward to the fruitful results, and may G-d grant that all this will be with the utmost Hatzlocho.
P. S. Although the Convention is scheduled to begin on Tuesday night, it is well known that the three days preceding Shabbos are called "Erev [the eve of] Shabbos," and that Shabbos is the source of blessing for all the days of the week, both preceding it and following it. This is one of the reasons why we begin the Song of the Day, i.e. the special Psalm said on each day of the week, by the declaration, "This day is the first day in (the week of) Shabbos", which has both meanings:
- it is the first day of the week, and
- it is directly related to Shabbos (see also Ramban on Exodus 20:8, whose explanation along the said lines pertains also to the Halachah [Jewish law]).
Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva, was the daughter of the wealthy Kalba ben Savua. Her father disowned her when she married Akiva, then an unlearned shepherd. Rachel saw potential greatness in Akiva and encouraged him to leave home and devote himself to Torah. Her self-sacrifice for her husband's Torah learning is legendary. When Akiva returned home after 24 years he attributed his achievements as well as those of his 24,000 students to Rachel, as recorded in the Talmud.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Wednesday is 22 Shevat (corresponding to February 15 this year). It is the twenty-fourth yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of blessed memory, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and daughter of the Previous Rebbe.
Born in the Russian village of Babinovitch (a small shtetl near Lubavitch) in 1901, she played an integral role in both her father's and husband's affairs throughout her life. And yet, she deliberately chose to function out of the limelight. Extremely modest, royal in bearing and above all kindly, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was the embodiment of Jewish womanhood and an exceptional role model for Jewish women and girls.
One year, on the anniversary of her passing, the Rebbe spoke about the special mission all Jewish woman have been entrusted with. The function of every Jew - man, woman and child - is to "make a dwelling place for G-d" on earth. But the goal of the Jewish woman is to take this one step further, and adorn G-d's abode on the physical plane so that it is "lovely" and appointed with "fine furnishings."
In particular, the Jewish woman fulfills her role of "spiritual decorator" through the three special mitzvot G-d has given her to implement in her private home: maintaining the kashrut of her kitchen, keeping the laws of Family Purity, and lighting candles on Shabbat on Yom Tov, together with her daughters. (The Rebbe specified that young girls should light first, so that their mothers can assist them if necessary.)
The Rebbe also called on women to renew their commitment to the Jewish education of their children, from the earliest age on. When a Jewish mother sings a lullaby to her baby about how the Torah is "the best, the sweetest, and the most beautiful" thing in the world, it instills a deep love and appreciation for Torah that lasts a lifetime.
The main point during these last few moments of exile, the Rebbe emphasized, is to recognize the great merit and power Jewish women and girls have to bring about the Final Redemption, may it happen at once.
Yitro...offered a burnt-offering and sacrifices to G-d, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law (Ex. 18:12)
Why was Yitro the one to host the festive meal? Why didn't Aaron and the elders prepare the meal and invite Yitro, their guest, to partake? Yitro had sought Moses out in the middle of the desert because of his desire to become a Jew. As is customary, after his brit, Yitro made a festive meal to celebrate. Aaron and the elders came to participate in the happy event.
You shall not take the Name of the L-rd your G-d in vain (Ex. 20:7)
Do not assume the Name of the L-rd your G-d in a false manner. It is wrong to try to appear more righteous or G-d-fearing than others simply because one possesses the truth...
Honor your father and your mother (Ex. 20:12)
Our Sages said: There are three partners in the creation of a person - the father, the mother, and the Holy One, Blessed be He. When a person honors his parents, G-d considers the act as if He is being honored. The reverse holds true when a person causes his parents heartache.
"Say to the House of Jacob and tell the Children of Israel." (Ex. 19:3) Our Sages explain that the "House of Jacob" refers to the women and the "Children of Israel" to the men. When G-d gave the Torah, He told Moses to first approach the women and only after the men. As the Exodus from Egypt occurred by virtue of that generation's righteous women, when G-d gave the Torah the women were given preference. The final Redemption will also be by virtue of the righteous women, as the Midrash says: "All generations are redeemed by virtue of their generation's righteous women." Thus the women will be first to receive the teachings of Moshiach.
(Sichot Kodesh, Yitro, 5749)