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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   1241: Bereshis

1242: Noach

1243: Lech-Lecha

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Devarim Deutronomy

October 26, 2012 - 10 Cheshvan, 5773

1243: Lech-Lecha

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  1242: Noach1244: Vayera  

Leaf-Peeping  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Who's Who  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters


Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, even parts of New York are deluged at this time of year with "Leaf Peepers" - people who travel specifically to view the awesome color changes in the all foliage.

Red, yellow, orange, burgundy, purple, a whole spectrum of color arrays itself in front of our eyes.

While it's easy to get caught up in contemplating the beauty of nature, it might even be more interesting to consider the Divine destiny of a leaf.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, told the following story to illustrate the extensive role Divine Providence plays in our lives:

A person walks down a path and notices a leaf fall from the branch of a tree. "Leaf, leaf" he whispers, "why did you fall at this moment?"

The leaf replies, "The branch shook and I fell. Go ask the branch."

The person asks the branch and is answered, "A wind came and made me shake... go ask the wind."

The wind gives a similar answer: "I don't know why, but the Source of the wind made me shake the branch, go ask it."

When the person asks the Source of the Wind, it says, "I am not the master. I just follow orders. Go ask G-d and surely He can tell you why."

Finally the person addresses the question to G-d. "Why did the leaf fall?" he asks simply.

"Lift up the leaf and you will understand why."

The person raises the leaf and sees an ant carrying a large piece of food. He questions the ant, who explains, "I was tired and hot. This leaf came down, shaded me, and allowed me to rest before continuing my journey."

G-d's kindness and care is exercised for the benefit of each of His creations. Even the smallest ant is included in His master-plan.

Another leaf story illustrates this point:

Once, when Rabbi Shalom Ber of Lubavitch was strolling with his son, Yosef Yitzchok (later to succeed him as Rebbe) they passed through fields of grain. "Every movement of each stalk is actualized by Divine Providence for the sake of a purpose known to heaven," exclaimed Reb Shalom Ber. Yosef Yitzchok became engrossed in contemplating this concept of Divine Providence. Deep in thought, he picked up a leaf and tore it into little pieces as he walked.

"How can you treat an object created by G-d so casually?" his father rebuked him. "Just now we were speaking of Divine Providence. The leaf you tore was created by G-d for a particular purpose. In what way is the leaf less significant than you? Just as the human being has his own task to fulfill, so has this representative of the vegetable kingdom its function to perform--and both have a Divinely directed purpose."

So, the next time we're looking at leaves, we might want to consider these stories and how concerned G-d is with every aspect of all creation, including each one of us!

Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah portion of Lech Lecha we read about the "The Covenant of the Pieces - Brit Bein Habetarim," that G-d made with our forefather Abraham. It was then that G-d promised to give Abraham the land of Israel as an inheritance for his descendants forever.

Among the many things G-d told Abraham was that his children would one day be exiled in Egypt. However, G-d promised that their exile would end. Not only would they return from their exile but "afterwards they will go out with great wealth."

The intent of G-d's promise of "great wealth" was not simply as payment for their suffering. In truth, G-d's statement that "afterwards they will go out with great wealth" revealed the entire purpose behind their descent into Egypt.

At first glance this is difficult to understand. Had G-d asked the Jewish people to relinquish the "great wealth" they were promised in order to hasten the end of their suffering they would have surely agreed. Nonetheless, we find that G-d did not offer them this choice, as the "great wealth" they were to obtain in Egypt was of particular significance.

What was this "great wealth" that required the Jewish people to endure a bitter exile for hundreds of years, and why was it so important?

The inner purpose of the Jews' descent into Egypt was that through their service of G-d, the "sparks of holiness" that that country contained would be refined and elevated. Indeed, the Jews' Divine service was successful, as it states, "And a mixed multitude (erev rav) also went up with them," for the numerical equivalent of "rav" is 202 - i.e., all 202 sparks of holiness that Egypt possessed were successfully purified.

This, then, is the "great wealth" that the Jews brought out of Egypt with them. Indeed, it was for the Jewish people's own benefit; had it not occurred, Abraham would have had a valid complaint to level against G-d.

But what was the benefit that they derived?

Every soul has its own unique role in the mystical process of "elevating the sparks." By purifying the specific "sparks" he encounters throughout his life, the Jew brings redemption to his own soul, and to the world at large.

The lesson to be derived from all this is that the Jew's function is to involve himself in the material world for the express purpose of elevating these hidden sparks of holiness. For with these sparks we will merit to greet Moshiach imminently.

Adapted from Volume 3 of Likutei Sichot

A Slice of Life

Torah Finds a Home in New Canaan
by Tyler Woods

Reprinted with permission from New Canaan News.

Sunday afternoon marked a joyous celebration when members of New Canaan's Jewish community marked the dedication of the town's first Torah.

Families filled in the final letters of the enormous scroll, were led in prayer by local and regional rabbis, and sang and danced the Horah in celebration as the Torah was transported to its ark at the New Canaan Nature Center.

For the past two years, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Mendelow and his wife, Michal Mendelow, have fostered the creation of a Jewish community in New Canaan, with the rabbi leading High Holiday services at the Nature Center and at an office on Main Street.

On Sunday, each family filled in a letter of the Torah. Torahs are the five books of Moses, and must be written by hand by a scribe, which can take up to a year and tens of thousands of dollars to complete. The scribe outlined the last few lines of the Torah so that community members could fill in the remaining letters to complete the Torah, which is one long scroll.

On hand at the ceremony was Rabbi Yisrael Deren, Chabad rabbi from Stamford.

"Torah? I thought we were here because the Giants won!" Deren joked, before explaining the importance of the Torah for the community.

"The Torah here is exactly the same as Jewish people have held with them for the last 3,300 years," he said. "Today is a celebration because the Torah is the single representation of the Jewish community. Among Jews there are so many languages, peoples, and the Torah is the one common denominator. Nothing else begins to approach the centrality of the Torah."

Deren led the group of 60 or so assembled at the Nature Center in prayers in both Hebrew and English. The mixed results of success in recitation may have spoken to the mix of people in attendance, some in formal Hasidic wear, with beards and black suits, and others in more contemporary outfits of oxford shirts and khakis.

Following the prayers, the group carried the Torah to its ark, a special closet where Torah scrolls are kept. The parade to the ark involved several members of the community taking turns holding the Torah, as well as much singing and dancing. When the Torah reached the ark, Horah dances broke out, one for men, and one for women.

The Torah was paid for with funding from Aron Breslow, a former New Canaan resident. In 1979 Breslow wrote "Religion U.S.A.," a book about religious life in small towns, which was centered on New Canaan, and contained essays from many religious leaders in New Canaan. The proceeds from the sale of the book went into an account and had sat there for more than 30 years. When Breslow learned the Chabad movement started a community in New Canaan, he offered to use the money in the account to purchase a Torah, according to Mendelow.

The Torah is "to be written in memory of the parents of Mr. Breslow, Mr. Meyer (Mike) Breslow and Mrs. Pearle Kantsiper Breslow," according to the Chabad webpage, and was named the Breslow/Kantsiper Family New Canaan Community Torah.

Rabbi Mendelow said he moved to New Canaan from Stamford more than two years ago because he realized there was a need for a Jewish community. He said that more than 100 people have participated with the community in different ways so far. Mendelow said that Jewish community has been only well-received in New Canaan.

"We've only been warmly welcomed in the community by its residents, Jewish and non-Jewish," he said in an interview.

One of those is New Canaan resident Bernard Simpkin, who attended the dedication. He belongs to a Reform congregation in Stamford and said that he was happy that Mendelow had started doing services here. Simpkin said that New Canaan, though not known for its Jewish population, has not been an unfriendly place in the least.

"I don't know if they wave flags saying `Welcome, Jews,' but it's been welcoming enough," he said.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement is a branch of Orthodox Hasidic Judaism that has expanded greatly in the past 50 years in America. There are Chabad houses on many university campuses and there are 11 Chabad organizations in China.

What's New

New Torahs

In addition to the Torah scroll that was welcomed in New Canaan, Connecticut (above), this past month Torah scrolls were welcomed in many other locations including:

Central Chabad House in Be'er Sheva, Israel, donated by Michael Mirishvili in memory of his father

Ben David family in Hungary, Beit Chabad Keren Ohr-Israeli Center in budapest, Hungary

The Rebbe Writes

7th of Cheshvan, 5737 [1976]

To All Participants in the Celebration Dinner of the Lubavitch Foundation in Glasgow, Scotland

...As has often been emphasized, the education of young children is very much like the cultivation of a tender seedling, where even a slight change at an early stage can have a decisive effect when the seedling matures into a fruit-bearing tree. How much more so when the change is a basic one and a durable one. In the case of young children, the proper care, or lack of it, especially in the present day and age, is, of course, of vital consequence which cannot be over-emphasized.

We are witness to two phenomena which are apparently contradictory, yet both contribute to the favorable climate for the advancement of Torah education.

On the one hand we have seen an appalling alienation of recent years of many of our Jewish youth from their spiritual heritage, and even from any affinity to their Jewish people, which in some extreme cases, has led them to self-hate, and to joining forces with the enemies of our people.

On the other hand, there is a genuine search and a soulful desire among many other of our youth for the truth and for a sense of belonging. In this determination, they are ready to face challenges and hardships, to the extent of sacrificing careers and the pursuit of material goods.

Given the right direction and help, these young people readily dedicate themselves to Torah with a total commitment which is nourished by their realization of having found at last true inner peace an self-fulfillment.

In light of the above, every effort in behalf of Torah education is assured of success, especially when it is made with a sense of dedication and, to use the well-known expression of our Sages, with "words coming from the heart" which are certain to penetrate the heart and be effective.

Indeed, this has been our invariable experience, which has been most gratifying and rewarding in all countries and cities where Lubavitch has been engaged in all phases of Jewish education, and not least in your city of Glasgow.

With the consistent and devoted cooperation of all friends of Torah education; with personal identity with this cause in the realization that, as our Sages defend it, our Jewish people are one body, one organism; and stimulated by past achievements - your efforts will be rewarded beyond expectation. This will also be a source of Divine blessings - in every respect, materially and spiritually - for each and all of you, your families and the community at large.

Wishing you much hatzlacha [success],

Lag B'Omer, 5721 [1961]

I received your letter of the 8th of Iyar, and I was pleased to read in it your efforts to strengthen Judaism among the youth.

You write that you have been invited to lecture to a youth group, and ask for some suggestions in this connection.

You surely know my general principle, that the accent should be placed on action, in accordance with the teaching of our Sages, "The essential thing is the deed."

This applies to every activity, including lectures, which must bring some practical benefit to the participants in their daily lives in the actual fulfillment of the mitzvoth [commandments].

Thus, while the actual background of the audience is not known, the emphasis should be placed on the need for religious practice and experience in everyday life, and not to limit it to special occasions or special days, such as the High Holy days, Shabbos and Yom Tov [holidays]. For the greater part of life has to do with the everyday, and it is the purpose of Jewish life to bring sanctity even to the weekdays; in the everyday contact with the secular environment....

May G-d grant you success in your activities to strengthen and disseminate true Judaism to the utmost of your ability and this will surely be the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessings also in your personal needs.

Who's Who

Metushelach (Methuselah) was the longest-lived human being of all time. He died at the age of 969. He died on 11 Cheshvan in the year 1656. His father was Chanoch and his grandson was Noah. He died one week before the Flood.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, describes G-d's promise of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. It also describes Abraham's travels through the land whereby he acquired it for his descendants forever. Abraham's traversing of the land was not a necessary prerequisite for his taking possession of it as G-d's promise itself sufficed to transfer ownership of the Holy Land to Abraham.

It has been mentioned numerous times that the Rebbe's statements regarding the Holy Land, and his staunch position not to give back even one inch of land to the Arabs, has nothing to do with Biblical promises nor Messianic visions.

Rather, the Rebbe has made these statements and taken this position because of "Pikuach Nefesh" - the imminent danger to life - of Jews in the Holy Land.

Unfortunately, the Rebbe's stand has been shown to be absolutely true. And yet, of course, there are spiritual as well as mundane lessons to be learned from this week's Torah portion. There are spiritual implications, the Rebbe explains, of G-d's promise to the Jewish people via Abraham:

"There is a particular relevance to G-d's promise in the present age, the era immediately preceding Moshiach's coming. For G-d promised Abraham the lands of the ten nations, including not only the land of the seven Canaanite nations conquered by the Jews after the exodus from Egypt, but also the lands of the Keini, the Kenizi, and the Kadmoni people. G-d promised - and thus gave - the Jewish people all these ten lands at the same time. Nevertheless, in the present era, we were granted only the lands of seven nations and the fulfillment of this promise in its full sense will not be until the Era of the Redemption...

"In the Era of the Redemption, by contrast, not only all the Jews of that generation but also all the Jews of all previous generations who will arise in the Resurrection, will live there."

With the situation as it is now in Israel, the only solution is that G-d fulfill His promise and give possession of the entire Holy Land to the Jewish people under the leadership of Moshiach. May we merit this now!

Thoughts that Count

Go out of your land, out of your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you (Gen. 12:1)

By obeying G-d's command to go to the land of Israel, Abraham acquired it for himself and for his progeny forever. Even now, more than 3,300 years later, G-d's words convey an important message for us to apply in our daily lives, urging us to hasten the Messianic Era in which all Jews of all generations since the beginning of time will dwell in peace and prosperity in the greater land of Israel.

(The Rebbe, Lech Lecha, 5752)

I will bless those who bless you and those who curse you, I will curse. (Gen. 12:3)

Why doesn't the Torah write both in the same order, i.e., "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you?" The Talmud (Kiddushin 40a) says that G-d gives credit to one who plans to perform a mitzva (commandment), even if circumstances prevent him. However, for a transgression, one is punished for plans only when they are carried out. When a person blesses or curses, he first thinks about it and then expresses verbally what he has in mind. Therefore, G-d is saying to Avraham, "I will bless those who bless you as soon as they plan to bless you, even if they have not yet blessed you. However, those who curse you will be cursed only after they actually curse you, but not merely for thinking."

And I will make your children as the dust of the earth. (Gen. 13:16)

A Rabbi who intensely fought the missionaries in his town was visited by the bishop and asked, "Rabbi, why do you oppose us so strongly?" The Rabbi replied, "When you convert someone to your religion, you sprinkle him with your 'ritual water.' Jews are compared to the dust of the earth. When one mixes water with earth, mud results. I cannot sit idly and see someone trying to make mud of my people."

And He said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count shall your children be." (Gen. 15:5)

The Jewish people are likened to stars, in that from the earth they seem very small, but in the heavens they are actually immense. On earth, the nations of the world may consider the Jews to be of little significance, but in heaven, they are of primary importance.

(Divrei Shaul)

It Once Happened

The following story was recorded by the Chasid, Reb Dov Zev who witnessed the events with his own eyes.

More than a hundred years ago there lived a Chasid by the name of Reb Chaim Yehoshua. He had lived to the ripe age of 87, but although he was not ill, he had a feeling that his days were drawing to a close. He summoned the elders of the town to his bedside and in addition, a visiting emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Dov Zev.

"I have an important request to make of you," he said, "but before I do, I want to tell you about something that happened to me many years ago. Many years ago, I spent Chanuka at the court of the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Lubavitcher Rebbe). During the course of the holiday, he spoke about the self-sacrifice of the Maccabees in sanctifying the Name of G-d. The words of the Rebbe made an enormous impression on me.

"After the holiday ended I returned to our farm. Our father, who was a Chasid of the first and second Rebbes of Chabad-Lubavitch had instilled in his children a particular devotion to the mitzva (commandment) of hospitality, so when two frozen strangers appeared on our doorstep one cold snowy night, we, of course, invited them in and served them a warm, hearty meal.

"I had retired to my own room when I heard the faintest whining sound. I thought it was a cat and I listened carefully, straining my ears to make out its source. As I followed the sound, it became obvious that it was not a cat, but a child who was crying. I approached the spot from where the cry came and to my utter shock, there in the wagon of the two strangers lay two small children, one sleeping and the other crying, both tied hand and foot. I knew at once that they were victims of kidnappers, or "chappers," as they were known at the time. For then was the height of the terror of child-kidnapping for the Czar's army. The unfortunates were stolen from the bosom of their families, never to be seen again, to serve in the army for twenty years and more.

"I took the two into my home and fed them and put them into a warm bed. My brother confronted the kidnappers and in a frenzy of anger threatened to give them a beating they would never forget. They, for their part, feigned innocence. No, they were the wronged ones, they claimed. They concocted a story about the children being mentally ill and being taken to a famous doctor, but when they saw that we wouldn't buy their ridiculous story, they disappeared as fast as their horses could gallop.

"When my brother next visited the Rebbe, he blessed us all and told us to hide the children for a full year before returning them to their families, and this we did. The event inspired in me a great desire to continue in this mitzva of redeeming captives, and for a large part of every year I traveled to different parts of the region, seeking out these children, who were called Cantonists, and saving them.

"I continued this work for seven years, until I fell into a trap and almost lost my life. I traveled to the Rebbe and he gave me a blessing for long life and promised me that when it came my time to leave this world, I would be 'with him in his abode.' And this leads me to tell you why I have summoned all of you here today. I feel sure that my life is about to end, and I am asking you to gather a minyan at my grave side and say these words, 'Reb Menachem Mendel, son-in-law of Reb Dov Ber and grandson of Reb Shneur Zalman! Your servant Chaim Yehoshua ben Esther is dead. Before his passing, he appointed us to inform you of this and to remind you that you promised him, that because of his mitzva of ransoming captives, he would be with you, in your abode.' "

The Chasidim agreed to carry out his wish, and the following day, Reb Chaim Yehoshua recited "Shema Yisrael," and returned his soul to its Maker. That same day, a minyan surrounded his grave and said the words he had requested of them, reminding the Rebbe of his promise of long ago.

Moshiach Matters

Belief sometimes remains aloof, instead of becoming integrated within one's consciousness. This is strikingly illustrated in the observation of our Sages that "a burglar at the mouth of his tunnel calls out to G-d to be successful!" [If he truly believes in G-d, then he should not transgress His command to not steal!] Accordingly, in addition to believing in Moshiach, every Jew is obliged to simply await his imminent coming, in a manner that is internalized within his conscious thinking.

(Sefer HaSichos 5749 [1989], Vol. I, p. 351)

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