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Devarim Deutronomy

November 23, 2012 - 9 Kislev, 5773

1247: Vayetzei

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  1246: Toldos1248: Vayishlach  

Magnetism  |  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


Is your refrigerator covered with notes being held on by magnets of various shapes and sizes? Perhaps your fridge is the home of shiny, plastic ABCs with little magnets wedged into the grooves? Or do you have an eclectic collection of colorful magnetic advertisements from your local stores?

Magnets are utilized by the medical profession for MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and for magnetic therapy.

Magnets enable maglev (magnetic levitation) trains to travel as fast as 275-300 mph/435-475 kph along specially designed guide-ways.

And, of course, kids of all ages find magnets fun, especially the latest rage - buckyballs!

Magnetism, by definition, is the force of attraction or repulsion between various substances. Any object that exhibits magnetic properties is called a magnet.

A very wise person currently involved in Jewish communal work said, "Judaism is like a magnetic force in our lives - we can either be pulled to it or repelled from it. And like magnets, all that's needed to turn from being repelled to being pulled, is to be turned around."

Today, some Jews are pulled to Judaism while others are no attracted to it. These two opposite sentiments exist across the board: At times, even the most committed Jew may feel a resistance and an estranged Jew will have yearnings toward Judaism.

In magnetism there are two poles where the magnetic forces are the strongest (a north-seeking pole and a south-seeking pole).

What does an object need to turn? It must have space. It must be free, at least temporarily, from limits and obstacles in order to move. And there must be a force that powers its movement.

A person must also go beyond his boundaries and remove restraints, giving himself space and even a momentary void, to allow himself to be pulled to Judaism. But he needn't wait for a force outside of himself to motivate him to move. For within every Jew there is a soul, an actual part of G-d (as Chasidism describes it) which has the power to propel the person.

This means that we don't need to wait for someone or something to help attract us to Judaism. It is within every Jew's power, if we only make space, to turn ourselves around and become interested and drawn to living more Jewishly.

One considerable difference exists, however, between conventional magnetism and Jewish magnetism. In Judaism, there is only one pole. Jewish teachings explain that the Jewish people, the Torah and G-d are totally one. By definition of our very existence, all Jews are connected to G-d, the Torah and each other.

Thus, in terms of absolutes, there is no polarity amongst the Jewish people, we are intrinsically and eternally one. And even though when we look with our corporeal eyes at the state of the Jewish nation it would seem like nothing could be further from the truth, this doesn't change the fact of the essential unity of the Jewish people.

In the Messianic Era, when the entire world will be attracted to the powerful magnets of G-dliness, truth, morality, this essential unity of the Jewish people, and our connection to G-d, the Torah and each other will be easily discernable.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about Jacob's departure from the Land of Israel for Charan and his subsequent dealings with Laban.

The first thing the Torah tells us is that "he reached a certain place," i.e., Jacob prayed. We then learn that Jacob worked for Laban for 20 years, married, and fathered the Twelve Tribes. Then, on his way back to Israel, Jacob was met by "angels of G-d."

The Torah is not a book of stories. The word Torah is derived from hora'a, Hebrew for teaching, as the events that the Torah relates are a guide for us to apply in our daily lives.

Just as Jacob left the sanctity of the Land of Israel and his Torah studies to go to Charan at G-d's command, so too is every Jew enjoined to go out into the world and involve himself with "Laban the Aramaean."

A Jew must never isolate himself within the "four cubits of Torah study," but must leave "the Land of Israel" - his preoccupation with G-dliness and holiness - to travel to even the lowest places on earth in order to draw his fellow Jews closer to G-d and to mitzvot (commandments). And, like Jacob, the Jew must always conduct himself like a tzadik (righteous person), even in "Charan," the most trying and difficult of circumstances.

The first thing Jacob did upon leaving the Holy Land was "vayifga bamakom - and he reached a certain place." Jacob actively sought out Hamakom (referring to G-d), and was indeed rewarded with a revelation of G-dliness that came to him in a dream.

Years later, however, when Jacob left Charan to return to Israel, there was no need for him to seek G-d out, for "he was met there by angels of G-d." After 20 years of G-dly service in Charan Jacob did not have to initiate the search; the angels and G-d Himself came to him! Indeed, Jacob merited an even higher revelation of G-dliness, one that occurred while he was awake and not while dreaming.

When a Jew goes out toward "Charan," spreading Judaism and drawing his fellow Jews nearer to G-d, his departure from the rarefied world of G-dliness and holiness is not a descent, but in actuality, constitutes a very great ascent. In Charan, Jacob merited both physical and spiritual success, as it states, "And the man increased exceedingly."

When a Jew is "in the Land of Israel" - involved in his own spiritual perfection to the exclusion of others, no matter how great his achievements he can never attain the level that is reached through the service in "Charan." For it is only when he goes out into the world to draw his fellow Jews closer to G-d that he merits a much higher degree of both material and spiritual success.

Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 3

A Slice of Life

The Big Freeze
by Dovid Shmuel ben Michoel

I am a managing attorney at a small boutique law firm of nine lawyers. While the firm has a good group of clients, close to 90% of my income is from one large Fortune 100 corporate client. As the relationship with this client grew, and as they started giving the firm more work, we moved from a traditional hourly fee to an alternative fee. This arrangement provided the client with steep discounted rates, but also encouraged the client to give us more and more work. With the increase in work, my income also increased.

When I started working with this client, my family and I were living in a very small three-bedroom apartment. As my income grew, we decided to move to a larger house in a Jewish neighborhood outside the city. In order to check out the neighborhood, we began by renting the main floor of a large ranch house.

There was a single young man already renting the basement of this house, which was as large as the main floor. When we moved in, I was very careful about the mitzva (commandment) of mezuza. In the part of the house that we were renting, I made sure to affix mezuzas on all doorways that required mezuzas. I did not touch the mezuzas that were in the basement nor the side entrance of the house. We all used the side entrance, but technically, it was really an entrance into the basement residence.

After some time, my family agreed that we liked the neighborhood and the synagogues close by, so we purchased the house. While our legal relationship to the house changed, nothing else did. The single guy continued to live downstairs, and we lived upstairs.

A few months after we bought the house, the tenant moved out and left many belongings in the basement, saying that he would come back for them. Since we never used the basement anyway, we allowed him to do so.

About nine months later, in early Autumn, there was a heavy snowstorm. Since the leaves were still on the trees, the weight of the snow pulled down thousands of branches onto the area's power lines. We lost electricity for about six days. During these days it was also freezing cold. While the temperature in the main floor of the house dropped into the thirties and forties, the basement remained a "toasty" 63 degrees.

We decided to move into the basement to sleep, and also to keep warm there during the day, until the power came back on. In order to do this, I moved the previous tenant's belongings into an alcove. We carried down some of our bedding, arranged a table and chairs, and soon made the space our own. Thankfully, the power came back on just before Shabbat, so we quickly moved our stuff back upstairs and put the ordeal out of our minds. The kids continued to use the basement as a playroom from time to time.

Shortly after these events, my main client called me into a meeting. As a response to recessionary pressures in 2011, they were cutting their legal budget. They especially wanted to cut their cost with respect to local legal services - 50% of those being my services. They proposed to bring me in-house. Generally, a move in-house is a good thing, and I was happy that they wanted me. However, I was stunned that the salary they were offering me was about half of what I was making.

I have always been careful about the mitzva of calculating and giving 10% of my earnings to charity. I had just had my tefilin checked during the month of Elul. What did G-d want from me in this situation?

I called several rabbis with whom I am close. I also began to discuss the situation with my contacts in the client's office, quietly lobbying for a higher salary. In the meantime, one of my rabbis suggested that I check my mezuzas.

"But how could that be the problem?" I thought. "I have always been careful with my mezuzas. When we moved into our house, we put up only the best!" It was then that I realized I had never checked the mezuzas in the basement.

I took down all of the mezuzas from the basement and arranged for them to be checked by a certified scribe. Several were completely not kosher, the rest were questionable, and some of them had not been affixed correctly.

"Oy!" I cried, "How could I have been so foolish?" As soon as I could arrange it, a scribe wrote several new mezuzas and corrected the ones that could be corrected. I affixed the new ones in the basement and then had the ones on the main floor checked, as well as reviewing their proper positioning on the doorposts.

Up until this time, my negotiations for a higher salary had been failing - the client had been unwilling to raise his offer. I had considered turning him down and turning my efforts toward getting other clients. A short time later, however, I heard in a roundabout way that the company had instituted a hiring freeze. Unexpectedly, the arrangement with my law firm would stay the same, at least until they had another round of budget cuts. I was able to stay at the income that had enabled us to purchase the house.

In retrospect, it's not surprising that they wanted to cut my income by 50%, when the special blessing that mezuzas bring was missing from half my house. What's really amazing, though, is that the absence of proper mezuzas in the basement didn't have any effect on the blessing in the home when we bought the house, or even when the tenant moved out. It only was felt when we began using the basement in a manner that effectuates "taking possession" according to Jewish law.

Halachic Note: It is a tenant's, and not the owner's, obligation to affix his or her mezuzas and to regularly check them. Also, if one moves out, and he knows that another Jewish tenant is moving in, he may not remove his mezuzas.

From an upcoming book edited by Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin, Guardian of Israel: Miracle Stories of Tefillin and Mezuzah

What's New

First Mivka Dedicated in Vietnam

An historic first for Vietnam was the recent dedication of the country's first mikva in Ho Chi Minh City. The mikva is in the Chabad House, a three-story, 3,800 square foot building on a busy street in the most populous section of the city. The Chabad House also contains a kosher restaurant, classrooms, synagogue, library and offices. Chabad opened in Vietnam in 2006.

The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation

Tuesday, Parshas Lech Lecha, 5704 [1943]

In response to the invitation to your wedding: I send my blessing, a blessing of mazal tov, mazal tov. May you build a house in Israel on the foundations of the Torah and its mitzvos (commandments).

It is possible to explain that the terms chasunah (wedding) and chasan (groom) are associated with the concept of descent as our Sages say nachus darga, "go down a step." It is explained in several sources (including the HaYom Yom, p. 78) that the phrase "as you go on your way" refers to the soul's descent from above and its journeys in this world until old age.

These journeys involve two factors: a) proceeding on one's way, and b) knowing where to proceed.

The actual progress is undertaken by the body. It is, however, the soul which determines the straight path on which to proceed. This concept can be understood in terms of the example our Sages (Sanhedrin 91a,b) give for the body and the soul, that of a blind man and a lame man. The soul compensates for the impediments of the blind man, the body, and the body compensates for the impediments of the lame man, the soul. It is through joining them together that a person gains the ability to proceed. This union can be described with the analogy of the marriage of a man and a woman. For this reason, our material world is called a Hilula (Eruvin 54a), a term which means "wedding feast," as reflected in the Zohar (Chayei Sarah, I:181b). The purpose of this journey is to achieve love and fear of G-d (which are "wings") for the Torah and its mitzvos.

On the surface, a difficulty can be raised: Based on our Sages' statements (Bereishis Rabbah), it would appear that "a journey" would not serve the above purposes, because a journey minimizes three things:

one's reputation - this refers to a reduction in one's involvement in the mitzvos, as Rashi and the Matnos Kehunah comment on the Midrash;

one's wealth - this refers to a reduction in one's love and fear of G-d which are called gold and silver. For even if a person will be a perfect tzaddik (righteous), he will not attain the level of close connection to G-d his soul enjoyed before it descended to this material world as stated in Tanya, ch. 37;

one's capacity to reproduce - this refers to a reduction in one's occupation in Torah study as indicated by our Sages' statement (Bechoros 44b): "You will not have a barren one among the Torah scholars."

For in this material world, there are several impediments to the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos.

This difficulty is explained by the Midrash, which states that the Holy One, blessed be He, blesses Abraham (the soul, as stated in the Zohar, Chayei Sarah, loc. cit.) so that, on the contrary, the journey will lead to "I will bless you," bringing an increase in financial resources, reputation, and the conception of offspring.

In general, the concept parallels the idea that "Every day, a person's natural inclination offers him a powerful challenge, and were G-d not to help him, he could not overcome it" (Sukkah 52b). The "blessing" granted for the journey is the assistance mentioned in the above quote. See the root of this matter as discussed in Kuntres U'Mayon, 13:22 and 14:1.

When this assistance is granted, through the descent of the soul into the body, a person attains the love of G-d with all his might (money). Similarly, the mitzvos (reputation) were given only on this material plane. And with regard to Torah study, our Sages said (Pesachim 50a): "Happy is he who comes here with the Torah (the conception of offspring) which he studied in this world in his hand."

Of these three elements which represent the ultimate of progress on the path of life, the fundamental unity achieved in the sublime realm is through the Torah and its mitzvos. For love and fear are merely wings for the Torah and its mitzvos as stated in Tanya, ch. 40.

Within the Torah and its mitzvos themselves, the mitzvos are referred to as eirusin, consecration, while Torah represents nisuin, the consummation of the marriage bond (Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar). This is the ultimate purpose of this world, for it was not created for the sake of chaos, but was formed to be settled.

In addition to the concept of journeying that relates to our physical world in general, there is also the concept of exile.... Therefore before any other matter, attention must be paid to the ascent from exile, which involves teshuvah [repentance]. Just as the descent into exile is not at all gradual; so, too, the ascent, through teshuvah, should be a spring forward that knows no gradation. (The parallel in our Divine service can be comprehended.)

With the blessings of mazal tov, and with the blessing, "Immediately to teshuvah, immediately to Redemption,"

From I Will Write It In Their Hearts published by Sichos in English

Who's Who

Rabbi Dov Ber Schneuri (1773-1827) was the son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, and Rebbetzin Sterna. Rabbi Dov Ber, the oldest of three sons, succeeded his father. He was born in Liozna but moved to Lubavitch, in White Russia. Lubavitch remained the center of Chabad for over 100 years and Chabad Chasidim became known as Lubavitchers. He considered it his sacred task to help all Jews in worldly and spiritual matters. He urged Jews to learn trades and to establish agricultural settlements. He was a brilliant thinker and prolific writer.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The 14th of the month of Kislev (this year Wednesday, November 28) is the wedding anniversary of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. Their wedding took place in Warsaw, Poland. However, the Rebbe's parents, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson were not in attendance, as the Russian government did not permit them to travel to Poland for their eldest son's wedding. They, however, prepared a celebration and wedding feast in their town of Dnepropetrovsk, which was attended by many in the Jewish community.

Before the chupa, the Previous Rebbe delivered an intricate Chasidic discourse. He began the discourse by explaining why he had woven teachings of all the previous Rebbes into his discourse. He said: "It is well-known that at the time of a wedding celebration, the souls of ancestors of the couple from three generations back come from the World of Truth to attend the simcha. There are times, however, when ancestors from generations even further back come. As a way of inviting the souls of the righteous ancestors of our holy Rebbes, so that they should come to the chupa to bless the young couple, we will say a Chasidic discourse which contains a Torah thought from the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the first Chabad Rebbe]; from the Mitteler Rebbe [Rabbi Dov Ber]; from my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek; from my grandfather - the great-grandfather of the bride - the Rebbe Maharash; from the great-great-grandfather of the groom; from the great-grandfather of the bride; and my father [the Rebbe Rashab]..."

The Rebbe proceeded to deliver the Chasidic discourse entitled, "Come my Beloved to greet the bride."

May we very soon merit the ultimate wedding of G-d and the Jewish people, with the revelation of Moshiach. At that time, we will hear the Torah thoughts of our ancestors and great Sages of previous generations not through others, but they themselves will teach us!

Thoughts that Count

And he dreamed, and there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven (Gen. 28:12)

Jacob's ladder is symbolic of prayer, the purpose of which is to connect the upper and lower realms (the higher celestial spheres with the lower material plane). Moreover, prayer is a two-way street, elevating a person's corporeal nature while at the same time drawing spirituality down to earth.

(Likutei Diburim)

It is said that, metaphorically, the angels "polish up" our prayers, removing dust and washing off any dirt that sullies them. What does this mean? "Removing dust" means that they inject vitality and life into words that were uttered by rote; "washing the dirt off" means cleansing them from extraneous thoughts.

(Sefer HaMaamarim 5708)

And Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, Surely the L-rd is present in this place (Gen. 28:16)

Pharaoh, too, had a dream, about which the Torah states, "And Pharaoh awoke. And he slept and dreamed a second time." This expresses the essential difference between Jacob and Pharaoh: The first thing Jacob did when he woke up was direct his attention to G-dly service, studying Torah and praying. Pharaoh, by contrast, just turned over and went back to sleep...

(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)

And of all that You will give me I will surely give a tenth (Gen. 28:22)

The Hebrew for "I will surely give a tenth" is "aser a'asrenu," which repeats the word for tenth and means literally "a tenth I will tithe." This repetition contains an allusion: Giving a tenth of one's income to charity is certainly fulfilling the mitzva (commandment), but giving a fifth - two tenths - is even better.

(Rabbi Moshe Alshich)

It Once Happened

The journey of Rabbi Dov Ber, the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch (known as the Mitteler Rebbe), to Haditch was unusually somber. On his way to pray at the grave of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Rebbe was not merely meditative, but reclusive. He not only refrained from delivering the accustomed Chasidic discourses for which his disciples thirsted, but he showed no desire to converse at all with those who formed his entourage. When he wished to commit some of his Torah thoughts to paper he was unable to do so, and he indicated to his close followers that he felt the approach of some impending harsh judgement from Above.

He even intimated that he felt his own end approaching. He related to his chasidim that at the time of the arrest and imprisonment of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, two alternatives had been offered from Above: suffering or death. Rabbi Shneur Zalman had chosen suffering. "It seems that he left the other for me," concluded the somber Rabbi Dov Ber.

When the entourage arrived at Haditch the Rebbe prayed at great length at his father's grave. He also delivered a number of Chasidic discourses in the study hall which had been erected at the site. One day, after having prayed for many hours, the Rebbe appeared to his followers, his face beaming with happiness. "My father has given me his promise that they will release me from my position as Rebbe," he told them.

The Chasidim had long been aware of the Rebbe's desire to journey to the Land of Israel, and they understood his words to mean that he had finally decided to make the journey. "Rebbe," they cried out, "how can you leave us like that, like sheep without a shepherd?" But the Rebbe just turned to them and said, "Don't worry, you will have my son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, and he will be a faithful leader for you."

When the visit ended, the party began the homeward journey, passing through the town of Niezhin. But upon his arrival, the Rebbe fell ill and was unable to continue travelling. The most experienced physicians that could be found were called in, but none could cure the Rebbe.

They ordered complete bed-rest, and even proscribed the Rebbe from delivering his customary talks to his chasidim. This advice was the most bitter for the Rebbe. For the very essence of a Rebbe is to give of himself to his Chasidim. The relationship between Rebbe and chasid is a symbiotic one in which both benefit physically as well as spiritually.

His condition deteriorated steadily, until he finally lapsed into unconsciousness, evincing no apparent life force. The doctors were at a loss, when one of them said to another, "Do you want to see something very strange? If we permit the Rebbe to deliver a discourse to his followers, you will see him regain his vitality."

The scene which followed was truly amazing, as the Rebbe, fully vibrant, sat in his bed and spoke to the Chasidim who crowded the house to hear his words. In the course of the talk, the Rebbe said, "Now I will tell you secrets of the Torah which have never been revealed." But just as he was about to continue, a chasid leaning forward on a bench behind the Rebbe fell. The tumult interrupted the Rebbe's thoughts and he remarked, "It seems that Heaven doesn't wish these things to be revealed."

The Rebbe's condition worsened on the night of the ninth of Kislev to the point that he could not be revived. People flocked to the house to be near the Rebbe. Suddenly the Rebbe sat up in bed, smiling and said, "I heard a voice saying, 'What need has a soul like this for this world?'"

The Rebbe requested that he be dressed in white garments. And then, for the first time since he had been so ill, he delivered a discourse in which he praised the Jewish people for doing mitzvot (commandments) with such devotion. He bade his family and Chasidim to be joyful, for joy breaks through all boundaries and bitterness. Then he continued revealing deep Chasidic philosophy. All those present were overjoyed to see that their Rebbe appeared to have recovered his strength.

The Rebbe then turned to one of his disciples and told him, "While I am speaking, watch out that I don't fall asleep. If I do, just touch me with your hand and I will wake up."

He continued delivering his discourse in a greatly heightened mental state, asking several times whether it was yet dawn. He expounded upon the words, "For with You is the source of life," and when he had finished saying the word "life" his soul left his body.

Moshiach Matters

Mystical teachings compare the relationship between G-d and Israel to that of a husband and wife. In the time of exile, the "wife" suffers from spiritual poverty and deprivation. The love between the Jewish people and G-d is not fully expressed in the open. But, when G-d sees that Jews continue to keep the commandments in spite of affliction, His love for them is fully restored, a love that will ultimately be manifested through the full and speedy Redemption.

(Likutei Sichot Vol. XXII)

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