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Two souls met each other at the half-way point between heaven and earth. One was descending into this world to be enclothed in a body. The other was ascending, having completed its mission here.
"What's it like down there?" asked the first soul warily.
"Well, for three kopecks you can buy the strings for tzitzit (the fringes on a four-cornered garment)," replied the ascending soul.
"Wow, imagine that!" exclaimed the first soul, awed at the relatively inexpensive price of performing mitzvot (commandments). The soul began plummeting even more quickly, without fear or hesitation.
"Don't be so eager," the second soul called out after it. "Just wait until you see how hard you have to work to get that money!"
Thank G-d, it's not nearly as tough as it used to be to make a living. Most of us live lifestyles that would have been considered opulent in the days when tzitzit cost three kopecks. What our great-grandparents considered luxuries are today's bare necessities.
Most of us needn't be worka-holics to have money to spend on mitzvot. Loose change can be dropped into a tzedaka box. A dollar can buy a box of a dozen Shabbat candles. For $10 you can purchase a nice bottle of kosher wine over which to recite the "kiddush" on Shabbat. Thirty dollars will get you a kosher mezuza parchment. Unlike our great-grandparents, most of us can hardly claim that doing mitzvot will take food out of our mouths. These amounts of money are not an issue.
What our great-grandparents lacked in money, they made up for in unwavering commitment, enthusiasm and faith. They also inscribed in their minds and on their hearts the words contained in the first ruling of the Code of Jewish Law: Do not be embarrassed by scoffers. They weren't concerned with what the neighbors would say. For all these reasons and more, even when they really didn't have the three kopecks, they somehow found the money rather than neglect the opportunity to perform a mitzva.
If those two souls were to encounter each other in our times, the soul returning from its sojourn on earth would not comment on how hard it is to earn money to do mitzvot. Perhaps the conversation would go something like this:
"What's it like down there?" asks the first soul warily.
"Well, for only $20 you can buy a really nice bottle of kosher wine to use for kiddush on Shabbat," replies the ascending soul.
"Wow, imagine that!" exclaims the first soul, awed at the relatively inexpensive price of acquiring mitzvot. The soul begins plummeting even more quickly, without fear or hesitation.
"Don't be so eager," the second soul calls after it. "Just wait until you see how hard it is to convince your body that it's important to make kiddush on Shabbat let alone break your teeth on the Hebrew!"
Do a mitzva. Your soul will surely appreciate it, and so will you! You'll both be glad you did.
This week's Torah reading, Noach, opens with the words, "These are the generations of Noach [Noah]; Noach was a righteous man." Surprisingly, instead of enumerating Noach's children, Shem, Cham and Yefet, the Torah informs us that he was a tzadik, a righteous individual.
Rashi explains that the literal "generations" of Noach were his descendents, as the Torah actually tells us a few verses later. But "as soon as the Torah mentions him we are told of his praise." Whenever a tzadik's name is mentioned it is appropriate to say "blessed be the memory of the righteous."
Rashi offers us another explanation as well: The phrase "Noach was a righteous man" teaches us that the true "descendents" of the righteous are their good deeds. Thus the principal legacy of Noach was not his children, but the good deeds he performed throughout his life.
In truth, Rashi's explanation contains a practical directive for every Jew to apply in his daily life. The phrase "the generations of Noach" serves to instruct Jewish children in the proper way to behave, and provides Jewish parents with a worthy example and paradigm to emulate when educating their children.
From Rashi's first explanation we learn that whenever we speak about a righteous person we should elucidate his fine qualities, describing his exemplary conduct in the service of G-d. In this way, all who hear about the righteous person will be inspired to emulate his or her behavior. Noach, we are told, was "tamim - perfect" in his generation. His behavior was considered perfect precisely because it was consistent throughout the day, not just during prayer or while studying. Indeed, it was obvious that Noach was a tzadik even when he was engaged in more mundane matters, such as eating.
From Rashi's second explanation we learn that children must act in a manner in which they, their parents' "generations," are transformed into "good deeds"; they become synonymous with the good deeds they perform. At the same time, the parents' role is to teach their children to distinguish themselves by their actions; in truth, the only true nachas parents receive from their children consists of the good deeds they perform.
Accordingly, children must always strive to live up to their parents' expectations, and the entire family should enedeavor to conduct itself according to the dictates of our holy Torah.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 10
A Surprising Dish
The Ben-Ari family of Safed, Israel, is renowned for its outstanding hospitality. Every Shabbat they host dozens of guests at their table, giving them an indelible taste of Judaism.
Last year, two weeks before Rosh Hashana, a large group of female IDF officers were spending the weekend in Safed and were invited to the Ben-Aris for a Shabbat meal. In the course of the meal, as was his custom, Rabbi Ben-Ari went around the table and asked each guest to share a thought. Some of the guests chose to use the opportunity to ask questions on Judaism, while others shared inspiring experiences and memories. One officer, though, stood up and made a surprising announcement:
"Because of this Shabbat, I am going to become a Torah-observant Jew."
This was not a common reaction to a first-time Shabbat experience, and her colleagues, no less than the Ben-Aris themselves, looked at her in surprise. Everyone at the table fell silent, awaiting her explanation.
"I am a vegan," she continued. "Not only do I refrain from meat and fish, I also have celiac disease, so I cannot eat any foods with gluten. Whenever I am invited out to a meal, I inform the hosts at the outset that I have these restrictions. In the army base the cook already knows to prepare special dishes for me. The truth is, my favorite food is quinoa. Whenever my friends ask me what I can eat, I tell them, 'Make quinoa. Not only is it tasty, it's easy to prepare as well.'
"As I was walking towards your home, I realized that I had not made any arrangements in advance, and surely there would be no quinoa prepared for me. I was sure I'd leave the house hungry. In general, I was under the impression that religious families like to eat a lot of bread and meat.
"As I walked into the house, I turned to one of my friends and said jokingly, 'If there is quinoa in this house, that's a sign from Above that I must become religious!'
"Yet, as soon as I walked in, what did I see on the table? A big platter of quinoa! I was shocked. My friend and I looked at each other. At that moment, I felt as if I had received a message directly from G-d."
Rabbi Ben-Ari listened to her story and his own mouth dropped open in shock. He then proceeded to tell his side of the story, how the quinoa had landed on their table.
"My wife and I are married 30 years, and never have we had quinoa on our Shabbat table, or any other time for that matter. We had simply never tasted this dish or known how to prepare it.
"During the week, I travel from kibbutz to kibbutz in the negev. I visit families and teach them about Judaism. This past week, as I was making my rounds, I spent the night in the home of my friend, Rabbi Moshe Blau, an emissary of the Rebbe in the region.
"One night, I was hungry, and since I am like a member of their family, I opened the refrigerator looking for something to eat. I saw a large bowl with some kind of grain and colorful mixed vegetables. I filled a plate and found it very tasty. The next morning, Rabbi Blau explained to me that this dish is called 'quinoa,' and it is very healthy with many natural proteins. Since it was so delicious and healthy as well, I decided to ask my wife to prepare it this week for Shabbat.
"When I returned home to Safed, I mentioned to my wife about this special dish, but she had never heard of quinoa and did not know how to make it. She tried to convince me to forget about it, but I was insistent. This tasty and healthful dish must be on our Shabbat table.
"I called Rabbi Blau, who told me that the quinoa had actually been made by a neighbor of theirs. He put me in touch with her, and she very graciously introduced my wife to the secrets of quinoa preparation.
"I sent my young son, Yosef Yitzchak, to the store to buy the grain, and for the first time ever, my wife made quinoa for Shabbat."
Turning to the army officer, Rabbi Ben-Ari concluded, "See, G-d was thinking about you from the beginning of the week. He knew you'd be our guest, and that you love quinoa and it is essential for your health. He arranged matters just for you, that you would have the food you need for Shabbat.
The story left a deep impression on all the Shabbat guests. Rabbi Ben-Ari pointed out that we might think that amazing stories happen only in the Bible, but we only need to open our eyes to see G-d's intervention all around us.
In case you're wondering, the army officer did not become religious on the spot. However, from that week on she resolved to light candles every Friday in honor of Shabbat!
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Chabad in Novosibirsk, Russia, has just opened a 37,000 square-feet Jewish Community Center. It will be the largest Novosibirsk of what is said to be the largest Jewish community center in Siberia. The completed center will contain a synagogue, classrooms, a kosher restaurant, Judaic store, computer corner and entertainment area as well as a gym.
Chabad of the East Valley, in Chandler, Arizona, recently opened a 15,900-square-foot facility. The building, which had been put on hold for a number of years due to the recession, houses a synagogue - with a sanctuary that seats 450 and can also be used as a social hall, five classrooms, the Chandler Jewish Preschool, the Chabad Hebrew School, offices, a kosher kitchen and the Yoseph Yitzchak Lipskier Library.
The Chabad Lubavitch Centre of Buckhurst Hill in London, England, has just moved to much larger premises. New offices, a synagogue, meeting rooms and teen "garage" will allow them to greatly expand their services and programs.
24th of Marcheshvan 5720 
Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:
After the very long interval, I was pleased to receive your letter with the good news about G-d's benevolence to you. I believe I already had occasion to refer to the saying of our Sages (B.B. 12b) to the effect that when one receives G-d's favors, more are to follow. It is well to remember the teaching of our Rabbis and Nesiim [leaders], "Think well and all will be well," as explained at length also in the Zohar I, 184b) introduced by the words "To chazi" ("Come and see"), note there.
Now to refer to the question of the need to learn Chassidus which you raise in your letter. You do not mention what Shiurim [lessons] you have in Chassidus, though I have suggested to you the following course: Kuntres Umaayan; Iggeres haTeshuvo (part III of Tanya); Shaar haYichud vehaEmuno (part II of Tanya); followed by Derech Mitzvosecho of the Tzemach Tzedek.
You quote me as having written to you that there are many who have learned and know a great deal of Gemoro, yet lack in knowledge of the practical dinim [judgments]. To which you remark that you know people who know a great deal of Chassidus, and likewise lack in knowledge of dinim. But as I recall, I did not make that statement merely as an argument in favor of learning Chassidus. I merely pointed out the need of learning the practical dinim apart from all other studies. For unfortunately it is a fact that in most Yeshivoth the need of learning dinim is not given sufficient attention. Therefore, your attempt to challenge my statement is quite irrelevant, if you will accept my apologies.
As for the general necessity of learning Chassidus, this is amply explained in Kuntres Etz haChayim, by the father of my father-in-law, of saintly memory, and elsewhere. Above all, it is based on the Halocho [Jewish law] itself, which sees the proof of a theory in its applicability and in its actual results in practice (maaseh Rav). Let me give you an illustration, which I trust you will not take amiss, especially as you can verify it through other sources. I do not have to tell you under what terrible conditions the Jews lived in Soviet Russia under the Communist regime, and how it affected the Jewish religious life, especially of the younger generation, who had no opportunity to anchor themselves firmly, or at all, in Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. When the Iron Curtain temporarily lifted after the war and many Jews managed to get out of Soviet Russia, it became clear that, of the various classes and types of Russian Jews, only those who had learned in Chabad Yeshivoth and were brought up in Chassidic homes and in the Chassidic way of life were able to survive those terrible trials and difficulties and remain faithful and practicing Jews, not only themselves, but also their sons and daughters with them. This should convince even the most skeptical as to the power and efficacy of Chassidus as a living force and practical means of the preservation of Yiddishkeit even under the utmost difficulties.
But since you question the need of learning Chassidus according to the authority of the Shulchan Aruch, I will answer you, as briefly as possible, on the basis of your own criteria.
As you know, there are various kinds of Mitzvoth [commandments]. There are, for example, compulsory Mitzvoth, and there are Mitzvoth which become incumbent under certain conditions only, the performance of which become compulsory only when the specific conditions prevail, and one is not obligated to create those conditions (e.g. building a fence around one's roof).
Among the so-called compulsory Mitzvoth, there are, again, such Mitzvoth which depend on the time element, and they may be occasioned once a year, or once a week, or daily, as the case may be.
There are however six Mitzvoth which are not merely incumbent in one way or another, as the other Mitzvoth, but their incumbency (Chiyuv) is a constant one, and they are obligatory on all Jews without exception, or, to quote: "Their incumbency is constant, of which man is not free for a moment, all his life." They are mentioned in Sefer haChinuch, in the introduction (letter): (1) To believe in G-d (according to the Rambam [Maimonides] "to know"); (2) Not to believe in any other thing; (3) To affirm His Unity; (4) To love Him (5) To fear Him; and (6) Not to go astray after the temptation of the heart and the vision of the eyes.
The first five of the above obviously demand intellectual preparation. Even the sixth can be properly fulfilled only after the acquisition of certain doctrines and knowledge.
It is clear that to obtain the essential knowledge (without which these six constant Mitzvoth could not be fulfilled properly), by an effort to glean it from different sources, would require an enormous amount of time and effort, and even then one could not be sure whether or not the sources were rightly understood, and the right beliefs and opinions were formulated.
In the other hand, Chassidus has done just that. It has gleaned and collected from various sources the necessary knowledge, and it presents it in a pure and concise form to all those who wish to avail themselves of it.
cont. in next issue
Shem was one of three sons of Naoh and Naama born to them before the Great Flood. Shem and his brother Yafet were blessed by Noah after they took care of him in a modest and dignified manner. Shem became a prophet and lived 600 years, serving G-d as a priest. In the time of Abraham, a ninth generation direct-descendant from Shem, Shem was known as Malkitzedek, the "Just King." He lived to see his eleventh generation descendant-Jacob. Together with his great-grandson Eber, he taught and spread faith in G-d and in His commands in a school which was known as the Academy of Shem and Eber.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week's Torah portion is Noach. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to consider the implications of the Rebbe's campaign to disseminate, among non-Jews, the knowledge and observance of the Seven Noachide Laws.
The nations of the world were given a Divine code of conduct, the Seven Noachide Laws, which consist of six prohibitions against murder, robbery, idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, cruelty to animals - and one positive command, to establish a judicial system.
The Rebbe has encouraged his emissaries around the world to meet with government officials and heads of state to sign proclamations encouraging the study and observance of the Seven Noachide laws.
The Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides) states that an important part of the Jew's task is to see to it that all people, not just Jews, acknowledge G-d as Creator and Ruler of the world and to therefore conduct themselves according to the Seven Noachide Laws. Each and every Jew has an important role to play in this task. But how can this be accomplished?
When a Jew conducts himself properly in all areas of his life - business, recreation, family, and religious - he will automatically influence the people around him. When the nations of the world see Jews acknowledging G-d as Ruler of the world, through prayer and by following His commandments, they, too, will come to realize the importance and truth of G-d's omnipotence.
These are the generations of Noach: Noach was a just, perfect man in his generation (Gen. 6:9)
Rashi comments: This verse teaches us that the most important legacy of a righteous person is his good deeds. A righteous person is not defined by his lineage or by his noble ancestry, but by his own actions and behavior.
A window shall you make for the ark (Gen. 6:16)
The Hebrew word for "ark" is "tayva," which also has the meaning of "word." A Jew's job is to make a "window," as it were, for the words he utters in prayer or in the study of Torah, and to let them illuminate, as the sun shines at midday.
(Baal Shem Tov)
And Noach went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives into the ark (Gen. 7:7)
A person should not content himself with his own entrance into the "ark" - the holy letters of prayer and Torah, but should always seek to bring others with him as well, not only members of his family but every fellow Jew. Just as G-d helped Noach by closing the door of the ark after all were safely inside, so, too, is every Jew assisted by G-d when he comes to the aid of his fellow man.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
And only Noach was left (7:23)
Despite the fact that Noach was a righteous person, he was still required to tend to all the animals in the ark and take care of their needs. This was a physically demanding and sometimes dangerous job. Similarly, no matter how high a spiritual level one reaches, he is still obligated to take care of those around him who may need his guidance.
The people of Vitebsk were a miserly lot. Not that they would leave a hungry man to starve. Not at all. If a pauper was hungry, the Jews of Vitebsk supplied him with food. However, when it came to giving money, that was an entirely different story. They rarely gave unless it was forced out of them.
It once happened that a Chasid came from Vitebsk to consult with the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch). His only son, the apple of his eye, had just been ordered to appear in a few days at the conscription office. He would be evaluated to see if he was fit to join the Russian army.
The Chasid was at his wits' end. It was a particularly harsh year, and the government was going after everyone. Men who would normally have been exempted were being drafted. Though in the past, the Chasid could have relied on the fact that his son was an only child, this fact would no longer exempt him.
The Chasid stood in the Tzemach Tzedek's room and asked for the Rebbe's blessing. The Rebbe eyed him carefully: "I cannot help you."
Unexpected as the answer was, the Chasid did not lose faith. He stayed in the Rebbe's room, pleading and begging for his blessing, but to no avail. The Tzemach Tzedek repeated simply: "I cannot help you."
The Chasid was friendly with the Rebbe's son, Reb Shmuel, who was later to succeed his father. Out of desperation, the Chasid set out for Reb Shmuel's home and related to him all that had transpired. Could Reb Shmuel intervene on his behalf? Reb Shmuel said he would try his best. When the time was right, Reb Shmuel entered his father's room to plead the Chasid's case. But the Tzemach Tzedek repeated once more: "I cannot help him."
The Chasid returned to Vitebsk discouraged and broken-hearted. Two days before his son's appointment, he sent a special messenger again to Reb Shmuel with a heartfelt plea to try once more. Reb Shmuel went to his father. There were another two days left: could the Rebbe bless the Chasid?
The Tzemach Tzedek turned to his son and said, "What do you want from me? I cannot help him. Bring me a Midrash Tanchuma." Reb Shmuel did so, and the Rebbe opened it to the portion Mishpatim, to the verse that starts, "When you will lend money to my people," and read to him the following:
"The Holy One, Blessed be He, says: 'The pauper's soul was famished with starvation and you gave him support and revived him. I promise you that I shall reimburse you with a soul for a soul.'
" 'The day will come,'" the Tzemach Tzedek continued reading, "when your son or daughter will succumb to sickness or approach death's door, and I will remember the deed that you performed. I shall repay a soul for a soul."
The Tzemach Tzedek closed the book and the subject was closed.
A few days passed and the news was heard in Lubavitch that this particular Chasid's son had been spared. He had been at the conscription office and had managed to return home a free man.
When the Tzemach Tzedek heard the news he was elated. Reb Shmuel, too, rejoiced in the Chasid's good fortune, yet he could not help but wonder what had transpired. What was it that had saved the boy?
Shortly after, Reb Shmuel needed to consult with a doctor who lived in Vitebsk. Reb Shmuel used the opportunity to meet with this Chasid. "Tell me," Reb Shmuel asked, "What was it you did on the day your son went to the office which saved him from conscription?"
"I honestly don't know," he replied. "Well then, go ask your wife."
The Chasid did so. His wife told them that she did not remember anything in particular which could have contributed to what had happened. Reb Shmuel was insistent. He prodded her and she thought back to that day. And then she remembered.
A hungry pauper had come to their door early that fateful day and asked them to give him some food. They brushed him off angrily: "Today we are at the cemetery praying at the gravesites of our ancestors asking for mercy, and you come to bother us? We have no time for you now!"
The pauper was adamant. He ignored their shouts and began complaining of the powerful hunger he felt. "I have not eaten in a long time!" he said. "How is it that you can refuse a starving Jew? I am so hungry!"
There was a meal that had been prepared for the family to eat that day. Due, however, to the emotional strain and anguish that everyone felt, it was untouched. The Chasid's wife took the food and served it to the poor man. He, in turn, enjoyed a hearty meal.
Reb Shmuel heard all she had to say and the meaning of the Midrash Tanchuma became crystal clear. How far-reaching was his father's vision! "It is enough," he said to them, and he took his leave.
Many years later, when the Previous Rebbe related this story during a gathering on Passover he noted: "We can see from this story the power behind even one deed. Each and every good deed brings with it much good fortune. This story is a testimony as to the effects that all of our physical actions have."
Even while it is still the time of exile - a state of flooding, prior to the redemption - when a Jew speculates that perhaps the end of the flood has come, and we must leave the ark and head out into the world, verily a "new world," a redemption that is not followed by another exile, a Jew must do all he can to clarify the matter and to speed up the redemption. A Jew mustn't sit and wait until G-d commands him to leave exile and enter into the redemption. Although leaving the exile and entering the redemption can only be according to G-d's directive, nevertheless, when G-d sees Jews yearning for the redemption to come immediately this itself quickens the commandment to "leave the ark," to leave the exile for the true and complete redemption.
(The Rebbe, 10 Tammuz, 5745, from Beis Moshiach Magazine)