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It Once Happened
When NASA began to consider the possibilities of extended space travel, they decided to experiment with the effects of weightlessness on plants.
Seedlings were sent in one of the first satellites. When the satellite returned, the biologists were amazed; roots were growing out of every side, a stem had started to grow, only to have its growth aborted, leaves had sprouted at random. Researchers came to an obvious conclusion: plants without up and down clearly defined don't grow correctly.
Topsy-turvy has become the rule and not the exception in our society. Today, in all areas - politics, science, econo-mics, and health - things look uncertain.
In previous generations, sweeping change took time. In recent decades, advances in science, travel, and communications increased the rate of change. Moreover, it is not only the rate of change that is unique, it is the nature of the changes occurring.
Most of us grew up with a Newtonian concept of the universe - that readily discernible causes produce predictable effects. Einstein's "Theory of Relativity" hinted at the existence of a higher degree of interrelation.
People began thinking of non-linear systems whose organization is not predictable in terms of the information within our grasp at any given moment.
This type of thinking has spawned a new theoretical approach referred to as the mathematics of chaos. Generally, we conceive of chaos as confusion or disorder. This new approach understands that what may be chaos to us is, nonetheless, the reflection of a hidden order motivated by a deeper and more abstract reality. Complex behavior appears random, yet conforms to a pattern.
In previous generations, our lives followed more clearly mapped-out routines, and so we had less difficulty charting our future. But now, these maps are continually being redrawn.
In this environment, how does a person prevent himself from becoming disoriented as our weightless plants? By having a sense of direction and purpose.
When the leader of a desert caravan needed direction he would look into the night sky and find the North Star. As civilization advanced, the compass was invented. A person with an inner sense of purpose has a needle constantly pointing him true-north.
What is meant by inner purpose? A person once complained of depression. Nothing in particular was wrong; both at home and at work, he was moderately successful. But he was haunted by feelings of futility. A friend told the Rebbe of the problem and the Rebbe advised: "Share this insight of our Sages with your friend: 'I was created solely to serve my Maker.' "
It made a difference. The person's attitude changed. After he saw the direction, he knew where to put his feet.
Our Sages describe every person as an entire world, and the world as a person in macrocosm. Conceiving of ourselves as a world - multifaceted and multidimensional - enables us to develop harmony between and within the different aspects of our beings. Conversely, viewing the world as a macrocosm of man also provides us with constructive insights.
Just as an inner sense of spiritual purpose is the key to an individual's success and happiness, so, too, the world at large will thrive from gaining awareness of its spiritual purpose.
What is the purpose of the world? Our Sages state: "The world was created solely for Moshiach" - for the Era Redemption. The first step in facilitating this sense of direction in the world is a revolution in our own thinking.
To speak in metaphoric terms: Ships have long been guided by rudders. As ships got larger, rudders did, too. But moving the larger rudders was difficult, so a small rudder (trim-tab) was attached to the larger rudder. The trim-tab moves the large rudder, which in turn changes the course of the entire ship. Today, each of us can be a trim-tab. The direction in which we point our lives can affect the direction of the vessel of humanity.
Learning about the ideals that G-d envisions for our world, and integrating these principles in our lives can serve as a trim-tab for each person, channeling the direction of global change.
From As a New Day Breaks by Rabbi E. Touger - Sichos in English.
As we read in this week's Torah portion, Shemot, when G-d told Moses of his mission to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt, Moses replied, "Behold, I will come to the Children of Israel and say, "The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you.' And they will say to me, 'What is His Name?' What shall I tell them?"
Why did Moses think that they would ask him this? Surely the Jews were familiar with the "G-d of Abraham"; certainly their forefathers had told them. And why wouldn't Moses know what to answer?
Our Sages explain that G-d has many Names. G-d is referred to according to His actions. Each of G-d's Names symbolizes a different way in which He interacts with creation. "Elokim" connotes G-d's attribute of justice; the Name "Havaya" connotes His attribute of mercy.
Thus the question "What is His Name?" really asks "How will the redemption from Egypt come about?" Will it be through G-d's attribute of justice or through His attribute of mercy?
But what difference would it make how the redemption happened? Isn't the main thing that their suffering would be coming to an end? Besides, isn't it self-evident that the redemption would be derived from G-d's attribute of mercy?
In truth, the question "What is His Name" is a very difficult one to answer. The Jewish people wanted to know how it was possible for G-d to have allowed them to suffer so terribly in Egypt. They wanted to know with which "Name" G-d had chosen to act, i.e., how it was possible for the redemption to come only after such a lengthy period of exile.
"What shall I tell them?" Moses asked. Even Moses was perplexed and did not know how to answer.
Replied G-d: "I Will Be What I Will Be...say to the people of Israel, 'I Will Be has sent me to you.' ...This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance unto all generations."
What was G-d's answer to the question "What is His Name?" "I Will Be What I Will Be." Rashi explains that this means "I will be with them throughout their travail." G-d was telling Moses that He would accompany the Jews into exile and suffer together with them, as it were. The Jews would not be abandoned in Egypt, G-d forbid, nor would He ignore their pain. Not only would G-d be with them in Egypt, but He would share in their anguish and distress.
G-d said, "This is My Name forever - le'olam." In this verse, le'olam is spelled without the letter vav, alluding to the word helem - concealment. In exile, G-d's attribute of mercy is hidden. Surely G-d accompanies the Jewish people into exile, but His attribute of mercy is in a state of concealment, only to be revealed when the time for redemption has arrived.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 26
Tanya in Lebanon?!
In honor of the 200th yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism and author of Tanya, we present this story about printing the Tanya in Lebanon. From a talk by Rabbi Aaron Eliezer Ceitlin
In 1978, the Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated a campaign to print an edition of Tanya in every country in the world. When the Lebanon War broke out, the Rebbe directed Rabbi Leibel Kaplan (o.b.m.), the head emissary of Tzfat, Israel, to print the Tanya in Lebanon. It was to be printed in at least three Lebanese cities that once had thriving Jewish populations that were currently occupied by the IDF.
It was relatively easy for us to procure the printing equipment needed and Rabbi Kaplan worked on obtaining permit to enter Lebanon. We began receiving nightly calls from the Rebbe's secretariat, requesting updates. We had received numerous assurances that we would get a permit, but the fact remained that we didn't.
Rabbi Kaplan suggested that we drive to the border without a permit and try to get into Lebanon. We set out on a Thursday and when we got to the border they wouldn't let us enter.
Each of us started focusing on a different mission; putting tefilin on with the soldiers and signing them up for their own letter in a Torah scroll begin written for Jewish unity. I was given the task of trying to get the permit. However, after six hours of efforts, we still did not have it.
We set out to the headquarters of the IDF Northern Command. We presented our case before one of the officers. He told us that he knew all about the Rebbe. He advised us to return the next day when the Chief Military Rabbi of the IDF would be visiting the base. Perhaps he could help.
That night, I was unable to fall asleep. It bothered me terribly that we had spent many days trying to fulfill the Rebbe's directive, and we had still not succeeded.
I immediately got dressed. I rushed over to the house of one of my colleagues. He eventually opened the door. "Hurry, get dressed! We're returning to the headquarters of the Northern Command to meet the commanding general and demand a permit!" He responded, "It's past midnight. Go get some sleep!"
"I am going to the army base whether you join me or not. If you wish to have a share in our success, then come with me. If not, I will go myself," I told him.
I drove quickly to the army base. When I got there I screeched to an abrupt stop and jumped out of the car. I yelled to the guard, "Where is the general?" The guard must have thought this was a real emergency, and he immediately opened the gate for me. A miracle.
I headed to the general's building. I entered and told the secretary that I needed to speak to the general immediately. I pleaded with her, "Please tell him that someone from Chabad is here to see him urgently on an extremely important matter." However, my words fell on deaf ears.
Out of sheer desperation, I told the secretary, "Just remember that I came to tell the general something extremely important and urgent - something relevant to the outcome of the war. And, it was you who did not allow me entry." When the secretary heard this, she agreed to relay my message to the general.
The secretary returned and told me to wait; the general would see me shortly. When I came face to face with the general, I could see that he was not in a very good mood, to say the least.
At that point, the secretary asked whether she could remain at the meeting. I jokingly replied that my message was classified as a military secret. When the general heard this, he burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. He laughed and laughed, and it took him a moment or two to compose himself. When he did, he seemed a lot calmer and friendlier.
I turned to the general and said, "I would like to present a matter which I feel affects the whole outcome of the war. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, the leader of the generation, has requested that the Tanya be printed in Lebanon. Why? Don't ask me; I am not the Rebbe. However, I can say that Tanya is the seminal work of Chabad, and that the Rebbe has arranged for it to be printed all over the world. If he wants it done in Lebanon, it is obviously of upmost importance."
When I finished my 15 minute speech, the general asked, "Nu, so what do you want from me?" I explained that we needed a permit to get into Lebanon. He said, "No problem, you have my permission to enter Lebanon." He picked up the phone and instructed the officer at the other end to write out a permit for us to enter Lebanon. Over the phone, I could hear the officer respond, "To where in Lebanon? Based on the Rebbe's directives, we had decided to print in the cities of Tzor, Tzidon (Sidon) and Beirut. To my great relief and amazement, the general said, "You know what? Allow them to travel until Tzor."
I thanked the general and asked for his and his mother's names to send to the Rebbe. He said that I should just tell the Rebbe that the IDF Commander of the North provided the permit.
I headed to a nearby building to obtain the permit. A young officer opened the door. The officer said we could only enter after 4:00 a.m. This suited me quite well; it left me with just enough time to round up my colleagues for the hour-long drive to the border. The officer then asked if we had weapons. Of course, we were without weapons "Not to worry. I will have an army escort prepared for you; four soldiers on an armored jeep." Then he handed the permit to me.
I quickly drove back to Tzfat to round up all the members of our group. When I woke them with the news, they thought I was out of my mind. But there was no denying that I had the permit in my hand, and we quickly set out to the border.
Our group entered Lebanon, and our success-ful mission served as the catalyst for many more missions into the war-zone of Lebanon.
Reprinted from rabbinicalcollege.edu.au, the website of the Rabbinical College of Australia and New Zealand
New Torah Scrolls Dedicated
The Chabad House in Taipei, Taiwan, welcomed their second Torah scroll in just six months. The Kazaiof family of Israel sponsored this latest scroll. Chabad of Cebu City, Philippines, completed their first Torah scroll. The Torah, written in memory of Shayna Borevitz, was completed in New York and will be brought to the Philippines after a month at Lubavitch World Headquarters. Chabad of Bonita Springs, Florida, welcomed a new Torah scroll, written in memory of Rochel Pinson. Chabad of Dumbo, Brooklyn, New York, welcomed their first Torah scroll. The Kamhin families of Mexico and Hong Kong dedicated the Torah.
24th of Teves, 5721 
Yahrtzeit of the Old Rebbe
Author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch
Greetings and Blessings:
On this day, the Yahrzeit [anniversary of the passing] of the saintly Old Rebbe (the founder of Chabad) [Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi], I recall a story related by my father-in-law of saintly memory, an episode in the life of the Old Rebbe which has a timely message for all of us.
When the "Tzemach Tzedek" [the third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel] was a little boy learning Chumash [the Five Books of Moses - Torah], and he reached the first verse of the [Torah portion] sedra Vayechi - "And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years" - his teacher explained to him (in accordance with the commentary of the Baal HaTurim) that the Torah indicated thereby that these were Jacob's best years of his life. Returning home, the boy asked his grandfather, the Old Rebbe: "How is it possible that the best years of our father Jacob, the chosen among the Patriarchs, should have been experienced in exile in Egypt?"
The Old Rebbe replied: "The Torah tells us that before going to Egypt, Jacob had sent his son Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to lead the way to Goshen. Here the Torah indicated - as explained in the Medrash, and quoted by Rashi - that Jacob had sent Judah to establish a place of learning, a Yeshivah where Jacob's children would study the Torah. By studying the Torah one becomes closer to G-d and he lives truly and fully, even in a place like Egypt."
The message for each and every one of us is: When Jews are about to settle in a new place, at any country at any time, the first and foremost step is to establish there a place for learning Torah, where the Torah would be studied and observed not only by the older generation (Jacob, the father) but also and especially by the children. When Jews realize that the very foundation of Jewish life, and of a Jewish Settlement, is the Torah, and acting on this conviction they maintain and cultivate a flourishing Torah center, then they ensure that the new era would be the best years of their lives, irrespective what the external conditions may be.
Furthermore, by becoming closer to G-d, the Master of the Universe, one creates the channel through which G-d's blessing flows in a growing measure not only to those occupied with the study of Torah, the teachers and students, but to all those who support and expand the Torah institutions and thus actively participate in the spreading of the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments] in a growing measure.
24 Teves, 5729 
One of the basic principles of the Chabad philosophy and way of life, is that the head and the heart (the intellect and emotions) should govern and inspire the daily life of the individual in complete mutual harmony, and in a way that the mind should rule the heart. Where this inner harmony between the intellect and emotions prevails, then all the varied activities of the person, in all details of the daily life, both the mundane and the sacred, the material and the spiritual, are carried out properly, without conflicts, without contradictions, and without vacillations.
There can be no doubt that the fearful confusion and insecurity besetting the young generation of today, in this country and elsewhere, frequently erupting in defiance and open revolt against the very elementary laws of human society, is the result of the inner split and disharmony between reason and emotions, often giving way to unrestrained misconduct. It is also a sad fact that these symptoms have affected some segments of our Jewish youth.
In these critical times there is especially a vital need to strengthen among our Jewish youth their spiritual equilibrium, and the only way to attain this is through Torah and Mitzvos [commandments], with unity and harmony between the intellect and emotions, and the mastery of the mind over the heart.
For us Jews, the said inner unity is more than the secret and foundation of a satisfactory personal life. This subject is treated in depth and breadth in the teachings of Chabad.
The said unity is the key to unity in the world at large, and is intimately correlated with the concept of G-d's Unity (monotheism), the realization of which in actual life is the special task of every Jew and the Jewish people as a whole. This is alluded to in the words, "A people One on earth," which the Alter Rebbe explains (Iggeres Hakodesh, 9): "The Jewish people which is one brings into reality the Oneness of G-d, to achieve oneness (in life) on earth."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, known as the Alter Rebbe, was the founder and first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. He was born in 1745 to Rabbi Baruch and his wife Rivka. He became one of the greatest students of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch and was asked by him to compile a code of law, which became known as the Rav's Shulchan Aruch. In 1770, after the Maggid's passing, he was recognized as the leader of the chasidim of Lithuania and the surrounding areas. In 1797 he published the seminal work of Chabad Chasidut, Tanya, after having spent 20 years perfecting the text. He was imprisoned by the czarist government on false charges twice. A staunch opponent of Napoleon, he and his household were fleeing the French troops when he passed away on 24 Tevet, 1813.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
For a person to make a statement that we must "live with the times," seems rather ordinary. At first glance one would think the person is saying that we have to stay up-to-date with the news using the latest technology or social media. However, if that statement is coming from a Chasidic Rebbe, it becomes rather extraordinary.
Such were the words of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, known as the Alter Rebbe. He enjoined us to "live with the times."
The Alter Rebbe's intent was that one should live with the Torah portion that was being studied and read that particular week. For Torah, which comes from the word "hora'ah," or teaching, is pertinent and valid in all times and at all stages in one's life.
This coming Sunday is the 24th of Tevet (coinciding with January 6). The 24th of Tevet is the 200th yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe.
Once, the Alter Rebbe's grandson, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, explained to his own son that the Alter Rebbe's intent for Chasidut is that it should vitalize everything. "Chasidut itself is vitality," he explained to his son. "Chasidut is to bring life and illumination into everything, to shed light even on the undesirable - to enable one to become aware of one's own failings, exactly as they are, in order to correct them."
On this 200th yartzeit anniversary of the Alter Rebbe, may we all be imbued with the ability to correct our undesirable traits and to bring light and illumination into everything until the revelation of the ultimate light of Moshiach NOW!
My son, my firstborn is Israel (Ex. 4:22)
A firstborn son receives a double portion of his father's inheritance, as he is the one responsible for "making" him a father in the first place. Similarly, the Jewish people is G-d's "firstborn," having "made" Him the Father of all mankind by being the first to recognize G-dliness and Divine Providence in the world.
And these are the names of the Children of Israel (Ex. 1:1)
One of the merits the Jewish people had to be redeemed from Egypt was that they did not change their Jewish names: Jews named Reuven and Shimon went down to Egypt, and Jews named Reuven and Shimon went up from there. They did not call Yehuda "Royfa"; Reuven "Loyliani"; Yosef "Loystus" or Binyamin "Alexandri."
Send, I beseech You, by the hand of him whom You will send (Ex. 4:13)
There are some commandments in the Torah that cannot be done intentionally, such as the mitzva of the forgotten sheaf (which must be left for the poor). Being a leader is in this category, for "Whoever pursues honor, honor flees from him." Only a person who does not wish to lead is worthy of doing so. Thus it was not until Moses declined being the leader of the Jews that he merited the position.
(Prayer Book with Chasidic Interpretation)
And Pharaoh said...I do not know G-d [the Tetragrammaton], nor will I let Israel go (Ex. 5:2)
The Tetragrammaton, or four-letter, ineffable Name of G-d, refers to the level of G-dliness that transcends nature, whereas "Elokim" refers to G-dliness as it is enclothed in nature. (The numerical equivalent of the word "Elokim" is the same as "hateva" - nature.) When Pharaoh said he did not know G-d, he meant that G-d's transcendental aspect has no connection to the physical world. In truth, however, G-d's ineffable Name illuminates equally in all worlds, which Pharaoh only came to realize after a series of miracles: "And the Egyptians shall know that I am G-d."
The events of this story took place in Poland before the establishment of the great universities there. In those times, various aristocrats supported private schools of science called academies.
In the province of Lithuania there were three such academies, each supported by different princes. One, located near Vilna, was owned by Prince Radziwill, another, near Vitebsk, was owned by Prince Sheksinski, and the third, located on the shores of the Dnieper, between Dobrovna and Liadi, was owned by Prince Decrit. In those days, the Polish people were not very accomplished in the sciences, and the actual instructors at these academies were brought in from France.
On the property of Prince Sheksinski there was a big palace, and in its courtyard was a sundial. For two years the sundial had not functioned properly, and would not tell the correct time between the hours of two and five in the afternoon. The prince had already consulted many leading experts, scientists, and professors about this problem, but no one could figure it out. When the prince learned that there was a very wise Jew who was well known for his problem-solving, he sent for the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidut) to come to his property and help him discover the cause of the sundial's malfunction.
At first, the Alter Rebbe refused to go, heeding the advice of our Sages not to get involved in political matters, but after he was reassured that no precious time devoted to Torah learning would be wasted, he agreed, and traveled to the palace.
Although the Alter Rebbe spoke Polish well, he preferred to speak Yiddish, and so, his father-in-law served as translator. After examining the sundial several times during the problematic hours, he said, "It is brought down in the Talmud that the sun is directly overhead in the middle of the day, and that nothing can intercede between the sun and the earth during this time except for clouds. However, after noon, when the sun starts to go down, it is possible for various objects to interfere with the sun's rays. It is my opinion that there is a mountain to the south of us, at a distance of 12 to 15 parasangs.
It seems as if the trees growing on its peak have grown too tall and are obstructing the sun's rays between the hours of 2 and 5, preventing them from reaching the sundial. When the sun sinks a little further, the trees are no longer in the way, and the sundial works properly after this time."
The prince was amazed at the Alter Rebbe's reasoning, and sent a special emissary to find the area described to see if indeed it was so.
Upon hearing this, the head of the prince's academy, a leading engineer by the name of Professor Marseilles, ridiculed the opinion of the Alter Rebbe. He laughingly said, "The Jews imagine that all wisdom is contained in their Talmud. Zelig the doctor learns his medicine from it, Boruch the gardener learns how to prepare the soil for planting, and Zanvil the merchant learns how to cheat the landowners from this Talmud... Now, this character imagines that the sun's rays only reach the earth according to the Talmud!"
The Alter Rebbe replied to his criticism, saying: "Empirical evidence is the axe which fells those who are arrogant in their belief in science."
"Is that also a saying found in your Talmud?" asked the professor.
"No," answered the Alter Rebbe, "it is attributed to the great Galinus, who also had to suffer with those who were arrogant."
Word leaked out about the Alter Rebbe's diagnosis of the problem, and before the prince could find the exact spot, a group of troublemakers found the trees which were obstructing the light and chopped them down without telling anyone. In this way they hoped to discredit the Alter Rebbe.
A few days later, when the grounds-keeper on the prince's estate reported that the sundial was in perfect working order, the prince was very surprised, but it was simply thought that the clock had spontaneously fixed itself.
Eventually, the Alter Rebbe's father-in-law heard the rumor that the trees had been chopped down in secret, and he found those responsible and brought them before the prince, demanding that they tell him what they had done. Admitting their guilt, the truth of the Alter Rebbe's wisdom was confirmed, and his fame soon spread among the ranks of the scientific community in Poland.