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January 11, 2013 - 29 Tevet, 5773

1254: Vaera

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Anticipation Vs. Anxiety  |  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

Anticipation Vs. Anxiety

Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance. Marketing expert Seth Godin explains the problem of working with anxiety: when we're anxious, we expect failure and try to cover ourselves, so to speak. We try to insure against disaster and prepare pre-emptive excuses. It's not a good way to work or get much done.

Anticipation, on the other hand, is also experiencing in advance. But anticipation implies excitement, joy, surprise of the good kind. As Godin notes, what we anticipate we build towards and work harder for.

People say anxiety feeds on itself, but in truth it feeds on our self-appraisal, our self-worth, and the value of our goals.

But without anxiety we become complacent. We see only a smooth surface and fail to 'anticipate' the de-tails and adjustments we'll encounter.

So we have a choice how we approach the events in our lives: Are we anxious? Do we tense up, withdraw, prepare for the worst? Do we see failure as disaster?

If we see ourselves as always growing, then, although we're still anxious, our anxiety leads us to see failure as opportunity, as one step closer, a necessary step toward success.

Anxiety in that mind-set leads to anticipation and we can ask: Do we anticipate success? Do we commit ourselves to the work, the enterprise, wholeheartedly? Do we search for the challenges inherent in the task? Do we ignore our egos and devote all our resources to getting the job done?

When we're too anxious, we look for the small details and miss them. But when we transform the initial anxiety into anticipation, we keep our minds focused and plans flexible; we can see the small details.

Anxiety can lead us astray, to diversions and excuses and the path of least resistance. Anticipation leads us ahead, to confrontation with our inner doubt and negativity, to struggle with our yetzer hara, our evil inclination. When we anticipate an outcome, we also devote ourselves to overcoming the greatest resistance.

But, as we said, there's a place for anxiety. There's a time to be concerned. But we should be anxious not about a future event, but about our present selves. When it comes to mitzvot (commandments), we should be anxious. We should say, "When will I reach my potential? When will I be worthy, when I will justify G-d's faith in me? When will I begin to elevate myself and transform the portion of the world entrusted to me?"

Anxiety is Hillel's "If not now, when?" Anxiety is the push to begin - now.

But once we've taken that initial step, once anxiety has pushed us to start - or really the face-off with anxiety, the defiance of anxiety that anxiety itself generates - we have to shift to anticipation.

We have to relish the process. And we have to proceed with a certainty we can and will accomplish the goal.

This duality infuses all aspects of our lives. Not just our approach to "work" - how we earn a living (or if we're in school, how we approach our studies). It also influences our spiritual work - how (or if) we invest ourselves in a mitzva, commit to Torah study, transform the world through charity and acts of goodness and kindness.

And most of all, we must be anxious about what we have done so far to bring Moshiach, and we should anticipate - with all the enthusiasm and energy we can - the safe, peaceful, harmonious, satisfying era of the imminent Redemptionn

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Va'eira, we read about the plagues G-d brought upon the Egyptians. On the simplest level, the plagues were intended to punish the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews and refusing to set them free. But the Torah tells us there was an even deeper purpose behind them: "And the Egyptians shall know that I am the L-rd."

The Egyptian people did not believe in G-d; the plagues were meant to educate them about the Creator and His power. As Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel explained, Pharaoh denied three things: the existence of G-d, the concept of Divine Providence (that G-d oversees and is intimately involved in everything that goes on in the world), and G-d's ability to perform miracles that transcend the laws of nature.

When G-d brought the plagues upon the Egyptians, all three of these erroneous beliefs were publicly disproved: The first three plagues demonstrated that G-d exists; the second three plagues established His Divine Providence; and the next three plagues taught Pharaoh that G-d can indeed act in a supernatural manner.

Significantly, however, the Torah mentions an additional reason for G-d's having brought the plagues: to teach the Jewish people about His greatness: "That you may tell in the ears of your child, and of your grandchildren, what things I have done in Egypt...that you may know that I am the L-rd." In other words, in addition to the effect they were supposed to have on the Egyptians, the plagues were meant as a lesson for the Jews, that they should "know that I am the L-rd." As Rashi notes, "The Holy One, blessed be He, brings punishment upon the nations in order that Israel should hearken and fear."

But why wasn't punishing the Egyptians and refuting their religious misconceptions enough of a reason? Why was it necessary for the Jews to be brought to a greater awareness of G-d?

The answer has to do with the reason G-d created the world in the first place. Our Sages teach that G-d created the world "for Israel and for the Torah." Accordingly, everything that happens in the world - every event and every little detail - has a direct connection to the Jewish people and the Torah, and is intended for their benefit.

For this reason, there had to be more "justification" than simply punishing the Egyptians and refuting their beliefs; the plagues would somehow have to be advantageous to the Jews. In fact, it was only when they caused the Jews to have a greater awareness of G-d that the Egyptian plagues completely fulfilled their objective.

Adapted from Vol. 36 of Likutei Sichot

A Slice of Life

by George (Yosef Mordechai) Gati

It was a beautiful morning in May 1985 when I decided to take my tzedaka (charity) box to Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. I did not know much about Chabad, and had to ask for directions.

Driving along Eastern Parkway, I encountered thousands of Lubavitcher chasidim. I finally managed to park my car on a side street.

As I started to walk, I asked a chasid, "Where is 770?"

"Four blocks ahead."

I navigated my way through the crowd until I saw the building, and approached the three steps leading up to the front door of 770.

To my amazement, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was coming out of the building and facing me, looking directly into my eyes. I froze right there on the steps.

"What do I do now?" I wondered.

The Rebbe was walking toward me. I went backwards down the three steps. My left hand touched the gray Cadillac parked there, and I dropped my tzedakah box on the sidewalk. A young Lubavitcher chassid opened the front door of the car.

The Rebbe looked at me again and got into the car. I closed the car door, picked up my tzedakah box from the sidewalk, proceeded up the three steps again and ascended to the office on the second floor.

I could not believe what had just happened to me: meeting the Lubavitcher Rebbe face-to-face!

It must have been Divine Providence that I had come to 770 to drop off my tzedakah box.

Several years later, I told a fellow Lubavitcher chassid my story and he said, "You did not close the car door for the Rebbe. The Rebbe opened the door for you so that you could continue doing mitzvot (commandments) and learning Torah until the arrival of Moshiach!

It had been four years since I left the optical industry. I used to buy and sell optical frames and service the retail stores in the New York area. I had several boxes of unsold frames left. I tried to sell them, but was unsuccessful.

I had thought of donating these eyeglass frames to the needy in Russia. Men, women and children would appreciate receiving them. One Wednesday, I happened to be in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, when I met someone I knew on Eastern Parkway. We chatted for a little while. As I was leaving, I noticed a car pull up behind my car. A rabbi got out and I immediately recognized him. It was the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar. He was my answer!

I approached the rabbi and told him I had brand new eyeglass frames I wanted to donate. I gave him my telephone number. Three hours later, someone called me and gave me the address where I could drop off the boxes. On Friday morning, I delivered the eyeglass frames. Soon, they were on their way to Russia.

The company I was working for decided to move to a larger space in a building across the street. Several weeks before the move, I started looking for a minyan for Mincha (the daily afternoon service) in the new building. Days went by without any luck.

Finally, I met someone in the building who told me, "You can use the conference room but you have to put together the minyan every day."

It took me several days, but on my brithday we started the daily Mincha prayer with a minyan. What a great feeling.

Just before Chanuka, after Mincha, I got in the elevator to return to my office. One of the other men in the elevator said to me, Can you help out this rabbi from Israel? He is raising money for his yeshiva in the holy city of Jerusalem. I had $6 in my right pocket and a $20 bill in my left pocket. I gave the rabbi the $20 bill. He thanked me very much and I returned to my office.

Two weeks later, I had a few errands to run near my house before going to work. I parked my car near a store, and as I got out on the street, I saw two $20 bills. I picked them up, continued my errands and then went to work.

Then I thought about it. I could not believe this was happening to me. G-d repaid me double the amount of tzedaka I gave to the rabbi!

Twice a year my apparel company has an exhibition at The Sands Expo Convention Center, drawing buyers from around the world. During the week of the exhibit, we pray the morning service at 6:30 a.m. in the Venetian Hotel.

Last year, at the conclusion of the prayers, my friend Eli realized that we did not have a Torah scroll to read at the morning services. (The Torah is read publicly each Shabbat, Monday and Thursday, as well as at the beginning of each new Jewish month and every Jewish holiday.) He asked me to call the Chabad Lubavitch Center and ask the rabbi if we could borrow a Torah. The rabbi readily agreed, and said we could pick it up that night.

Eli, Moishe and I went to pick up the Torah that evening. We warmly thanked the rabbi and told him we would return it.

Eli then carried the Torah to the car wrapped in a tallit (prayer shawl). As I gently placed the Torah in the back seat, Eli and Moishe asked me to keep the Torah in my room because my hotel was next door to the Venetian Hotel.

After bringing the Torah to my room, I wondered, "What do I do now?" I placed the Torah ever so carefully on the table next to the window and wrapped it in the tallis.

Early the following morning, I walked with the Torah through the hotel's casino to the room where we would be praying. As I was passing through the sparse crowd, a fellow sitting at a gaming table got up and kissed the Torah. May we all continue to learn Torah and perform mitzvot until the arrival of Moshiach.

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Uriel and Chana Tawil recently moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador, to serve as the Rebbe's emissaries in that small but vibrant Jewish community. Cuban-born Rabbi Michael and Chana Tacher will be moving to Havana, Cuba, to serve as the first permanent emissaries to the Communist Island.

New Mikvas

Mexico already has two mikvas that were contructed by the local Chabad Centers and now a third mikva is currently under construction. The newest one is in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Ground has also been broken recently for a new mikva in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The Rebbe Writes

11th of Shevat, 5727 [1967]

Chaplain - Office of the Chaplain Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter. I was very gratified to note your desire to promote among the Jewish servicemen under your care the idea and practices of Judaism according to the Torah-true interpretation. Actually no other true interpretation is possible.

Needless to say that in your case, as the spiritual monitor and guide of the Jewish young men in the camp, every degree of fortified conviction and personal advancement in this area is multiplied many times as it is reflected in those who look up to you for guidance and influence.

I had occasion to emphasize also the fact that, however responsive Jews are to a good influence and to the truth, especially when it is given to them sincerely and truthfully, Jewish servicemen are even more responsive because of the stability of the atmosphere in which they live, where they are by circumstances, sheltered from contacts and temptations so prevalent in civilian life.

Moreover, the very military training they receive impresses upon them the importance of compliance and a response to the call of duty. This should provide immediate food for thought and logical inferences, namely, if an order of a human commanding officer must be obeyed and carried out without question, how much more readily and willingly should a commandment of G-d be fulfilled.

Indeed the Jews are called the "hosts of G-d," having been enlisted in the service of G-d ever since we were freed from human bondage and received the Torah and Mitzvoth (commandments) at Mt. Sinai, as we read in this week's Torah portion.

It is noteworthy that the expression, the "hosts of G-d," is mentioned for the first and only time in connection with the departure from Egypt, on the way to receive the Torah.

A person in military service can readily understand that when he receives an order from a superior officer, he cannot delay its execution until such time as he will be able to weigh it in his mind and see if he too approves of it, especially if such an order comes directly from the Commander-in-Chief, for such a delay can endanger the whole army.

Certainly, the attitude towards a command of G-d could not be in any lesser degree, and no Jew can be so reckless as to wait until he has sufficient time and inclination to study the Divine commandments. It is for this reason that the Torah was received with the unanimous declaration by all our people - Na'aseh v'Nishmah [we will do and then we will understand].

And as in the illustration, here too, a Jew cannot say this is my own personal affair, and mind your own business, because all Jews form one body and are mutually responsible for one another, so that the actions of one Jew have a very important bearing upon the well-being of another...

4 Shevat, 5713 (1953)

I have received your letter of January 15th, in which you describe your health problem, particularly with regard to the kidneys.

As far as I know there are in Boston great medical experts as well as research centers in this field. No doubt you have consulted them, though you do not mention the names of the specialists you consulted.

It is probably not necessary for me to call attention to the fact that there are various methods to break up a stone in the kidney, either mechanically or through medicines, but you do not mention what treatment has been applied in your case.

As you may know, in order to receive G-d's blessings it is necessary to prepare 'receptacles.'

It would have been impossible for us to know the receptacles, but out of G-d's mercy and infinite kindness He gave us the Torah and revealed to us that Torah and Mitzvoth are the proper receptacles for us to receive His blessings.

Not knowing you personally, it is difficult for me to indicate to you how you can prepare for yourself such additional receptacles for G-d's blessings. But the important thing is to do better than at present in religious observances, which will surely bring an improvement in your condition.

One of the most important things in this connection is to see that the children receive a true Jewish education.

I would suggest that you meet with two of my acquaintances and discuss your children's problem with them, and they will be able to give you suitable advice...

Who's Who

Rava lived from 270-350 c.e. He was one of the most often quoted scholars in the Talmud. He was from amongst the fourth generation of scholars in Babylonia. Although his name was Abba ben Joseph bar Chama he is always referred to in the Talmud as Rava. When Rava began teaching he would always preface his discourses with a humorous remark, whereupon the students became cheerful and thereby more receptive and better able to understand the discourse.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Shevat, the first day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It was on the first day of this month that Moses began his final repetition of the Torah and alluded to the sins of the Jewish people throughout their 40-year sojourn in the desert. Moses completed this repetition over a month later, on the seventh of Adar, the day of his passing.

As "Moses was the first redeemer and Moses will be the last redeemer," it should not come as a surprise that this month of Shevat has many connections to Moshiach and the Redemption.

The name Shevat relates to the Hebrew word "shevet" which means "staff." Shevet is associated with the concept of authority and kingship, as it is written, "The shevet will not depart from [the royal family of] Judah." The most perfect expression of the concept of royalty will be in the Era of the Redemption, when Moshiach will reign. For this reason, on the verse "And a shevet will arise in Israel," Maimonides comments, "This refers to the King Moshiach."

The word shevet also means "branch" or "shoot." In this context there is also a connection to Moshiach. On the verse "A shoot will emerge from the stem of Jesse" which begins a renowned prophecy concerning Moshiach's coming, the Metzudat David commentary states, "a shevet will emerge... the King Moshiach."

The connection between the month of Shevat and the Divine revelations that the world will experience in the Messianic Era is also apparent from the fact that it is the eleventh month. All existence is structured in a pattern of ten, and eleven alludes to a revelation that transcends this structure.

In this month, which is so completely associated with Moshiach, may we finally merit the long-awaited Redemption, NOW!

Thoughts that Count

I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as G-d Alm-ghty, but by My name Y-H-V-H I did not make Myself known to them (Ex. 6:2)

This verse comes in answer to Moses' question: Why have You dealt ill with these people? G-d answered him, "The whole purpose of the Jews' exile in Egypt is to prepare them for the giving of the Torah that will follow their liberation. The extra spiritual light that will illuminate the world when I reveal Myself in the attribute of Y-H-V-H, a light which even the Patriarchs did not merit to see, is the reason that the Jewish people must suffer through the afflictions of exile."

(Torah Ohr)

I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (Ex. 6:6)

The Jewish people possess an extra measure of patience, a special capacity for enduring the trials and tribulations of exile. And yet, when the exact time for redemption comes, they find it impossible to continue. This in itself is a sign that the redemption is imminent.

(Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop)

These are Aaron and Moses...These are Moses and Aaron (Ex. 6:26, 27)

Aaron, the first kohen (priest), embodied the proper worship of G-d, and by extension, symbolizes prayer in general. The job of the kohanim was to offer the sacrifices in the Holy Temple; today, when we have no Temple, prayer takes the place of these sacrifices. Moses, on the other hand, epitomized and symbolized Torah study. The concurrence of the two names and their repetition in the reverse teaches that there are times in our daily lives when one aspect takes precedence over the other. Sometimes we stress prayer, as a preparation for mitzvot (commandments) and Torah study, and sometimes we study first in order to pray more effectively.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

It Once Happened

The city of Nikolsberg, Moravia, was famous for its long chain of great rabbis reaching back almost a thousand years. The last in this line was the great Rebbe Shmuel Shmelka, a pupil of the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Rabbi Shmelka was a great Talmudic and legal genius, his advice was impeccable and his brotherly love was seemingly without limit. But despite his flawless character and selfless nature he was once the center of a controversy that only a miracle was able to quell.

A wealthy Jew in Nikolsberg, whom we will call Groisman, was sued by a poor man. After hearing the arguments from both sides, Reb Shmelka decided in favor of the poor man.

Groisman was livid. He would get his revenge! But he was clever about it. He began quietly complaining and, because he was rich, people listened. At first it was only his family and friends but slowly the circle widened. Within a few months the city became a cauldron of discontent.

Gradually Groisman's claims became public: Rabbi Shmelke is one of the Chasidim. He studies the mystical teachings of the Torah! Maybe tomorrow he'll make up a new religion!

One day, everyone in the city was called to a meeting in the Great Synagogue. The entire city packed into the huge prayer hall. Accusations were made. A heated debate ensued. Eventually, it was decided to take a vote. The vote was in favor of ousting the rabbi. Groisman had succeeded.

Suddenly the voice of the elderly shamash (sexton) rang out."I must talk!" He waited until there was silence. "Two things I said I would never tell... but now I must." It was about ten years ago, soon after Rabbi Shmuel Shmelka became our rabbi. I was knocking on windows before sunrise to wake everyone for morning services. When I got to the rabbi's house I saw a light in his window. I looked in. He was studying Talmud with an ancient-looking Jew. I thought he might be one of the 36 hidden tzadikim (righteous people). When I saw him there again the next morning, I decided I'd ask.

"Later that day I spoke to the rabbi. 'What? You saw him?' he asked. Finally he answered, 'Well if you saw him I'll tell you. That was Elijah the prophet. But please don't talk about it.'

"A few days ago I saw him again, but this time it was really frightening. It was late at night and the rabbi was standing at the door escorting some people from his house. When they got to the door I saw them. One was the same Elijah the Prophet but the other.... he was a king with royal garments, a crown, even a royal scepter! I was petrified with fear and awe.

"The rabbi escorted his guests a few steps then he returned to his house to continue his Torah study. I still don't know how I became so bold but I knocked on the rabbi's door, told him what I had just seen, and asked him for an explanation.

"The rabbi looked at me for a while, told me to sit down and explained. He said that a few weeks earlier in a certain town in Poland a tragedy occurred. There, there lived a simple Jewish artisan who was obsessed with hatred for idols and idolatry. The third of the Ten Commandments 'You shall not make a graven image...' burned in his heart; he spoke of it constantly.

"One night he ran into town and began smashing every statue he saw, including the ones in front of the church. He was caught by a crowd and beaten to death for his crime. It was with greatest difficulty that the Jewish community was able to convince the non-Jews that he acted alone.

The elders of the community refused to provide for his widow from the widow's fund. They argued that because he knew very well that he would be killed for his actions he was responsible for throwing away his life and his widow should be paid from the communal charity like all the other paupers rather than the more honorable and higher sum from the widow's fund.

"The widow went to the town's rabbis and they brought the case to our rabbi. Rebbe Shmelke was pouring through the holy books for a solution when the two people I mentioned visited him.

"The king was none other than Menasha, the idolatrous son of King Hezikaya! Since his death, over 2,000 years ago, he had been reincarnated time and time again to atone for his sins, among which was putting an idol in the Holy Temple! But his soul found no rest until it became incarnated in this Jewish artisan. His unexplainable hatred of idols was caused by Menasha's tormented soul seeking repentance.

"That is why he came to Rav Shmelka; to explain to him that the artisan was neither crazy nor suicidal, rather he was sacrificing his life to destroy idolatry and sanctify G-d's name; the only thing that would purify Menasha's soul. Reb Shmelka didn't tell me what he would decide but he did ask me to keep the matter quiet but I couldn't.

Now, my friends and brothers." The Shamash concluded. "I felt I had to tell you this so you should know what a holy Rabbi we have. I beg you not to be angry with him and I hope he won't be angry with me for telling." Then turning to Mr. Groisman he said, "Surely if he decided against you it was for the benefit of everyone involved including you...or at least your soul."

The group dispersed and the impeachment was canceled.

Retold by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on

Moshiach Matters

In Isaiah 46 we read: "To your old age I am with you; to your hoary years I will sustain you; I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you." This verse assures us that no matter how long the exile will be G-d will always "carry" us. We are His responsibility. Our exile and dispersion among the nations of the world is also G-d's doing. He will, therefore, surely deliver us from our enemies and from this exile. These three terms, "I am with you," "I will sustain you," and "I will deliver you," refer to our three exiles. Isaiah prophesies that once our current exile is over we will never again be exiled.

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