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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
November 8, 2013 - 5 Kislev, 5774

1295: Vayetzei

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


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  1294: Toldos1296: Vayishlach  

The Limitless Treasure  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Today Is ...  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

The Limitless Treasure

The disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch had begged their master many times to show them Elijah the Prophet. Their persistence paid off; when a gathering of poritzim, wealthy Polish landowners, was being held the Maggid acceded to their request.

The Maggid instructed his disciples to stand in a certain location and watch the poritzim ride by. The third poritz they would see, he informed them, would be Elijah the Prophet. "And if you are worthy," the Maggid added, "you will even merit to hear words of Torah from his lips."

The disciples followed the Maggid's instructions. They stood and waited in the exact spot the Maggid had indicated. When the third poritz rode by they hesitantly approached his carriage. True, he looked like an ordinary Polish poritz, but hadn't the Maggid declared that he was none other than Elijah the prophet?

Addressing him in Polish, they deferentially asked if they could speak with his lordship as they had a very important matter to discuss. To their surprise the "poritz" responded by flinging sharp insults and curses at them, after which he rode off to join the other landowners.

The bewildered and heartbroken disciples returned to the Maggid and related what had happened. They told him that they had seen Elijah the Prophet, for they didn't doubt for a moment that the poritz was, in truth, the prophet. But when they asked to speak with him he responded with a barrage of deprecations.

The Maggid's response was unexpected. "You rightly deserved the treatment he gave you! You knew for certain, for I gave you all the signs, that you were standing in the very presence of Elijah the Prophet. You should have addressed him in the holy tongue! You should have said to him 'Bless us!' instead of speaking to him in Polish and timidly asking the 'poritz' for an audience. If you could still relate to him as a poritz after I told you that he is Elijah the Prophet, you deserve the treatment you received!"

The Torah (in Deuteronomy) states, "You are a holy people to G-d your G-d." Every Jew is holy. Every Jew is, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, a trove of unlimited treasures.

But it's not enough to know in our heads that a fellow Jew is holy, that he has a wealth of goodness and G-dliness within him. It's insufficient to believe with absolutely certainty that what the Torah and great Jewish teachers of all generations have said about the worth of every Jew is true.

We have to relate to our brother or sister not according to what appearances tell us. From the beginning our entire interaction has to be in accordance with his or her true, goodly and holy nature.

Then, surely, we will merit to see Elijah the Prophet - the harbinger of the Messianic Era - and ask of him, "Bless us."

Some Additional Thoughts

The sigh of a Jew over the suffering of another Jew breaks all the barriers of the Accusers, and the joy with which one rejoices in another's happiness and blesses him, is as acceptable by G-d as the prayer of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn)

Reb Elimelech of Linznsk related a teaching from the Maggid of Mezeritch: "Do you know what they say in Heaven? Love of a fellow Jew means loving the absolutely wicked like the perfectly saintly."

"G-d foregoes love of G-d in favor of love of the Jewish people." (Rabbi Shneur Zalman)


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vayeitze, begins with the words: "And Jacob went out from Beer Sheba and went towards Haran."

The Torah offers two reasons for the name Beer Sheba: one is because of the oath Abraham made in his covenant with Abimelech; the second is because of the seventh well dug after Isaac's peace-treaty with Abimelech. Both of these explanations indicate a condition of tranquility for Israel. But the name Haran is the reverse, as our sages interpreted it to indicate "the fierce anger - charan af - of the world.

There are those who wonder: G-d has given us the Torah and mitzvot (commandments) with "a full and ample hand." Wherever we turn there is either a positive precept for us to observe or a prohibition against which we must guard ourselves. At the very least, shouldn't G-d have removed all our worries in order to make it easier for us to observe the mitzvot? In fact, we should be altogether freed of worldly concerns so that we might spend more time in the tents of Torah, if this is what G-d truly wants of us.

The Torah shows us Jacob's behavior, through which we can understand how to conduct ourselves. Before Jacob was to marry, that is, to build the House of Israel, he was told to leave Beer Sheba and the study halls of Shem and Eber where he had learned for the past 14 years. He was to come to Haran, a place where G-dliness and holiness were concealed.

In Haran, it was very easy to sin and very difficult to be virtuous. Yet, it was precisely because he was steadfast when exposed to challenges and temptation that Jacob was able to build the House of Israel so that "his offspring were perfect"; not one of his children straying from the Torah path.

This offers a lesson for every one of us. Part of our Divine mission involves being exposed to temptations. To be tempted and prevail raises man to higher levels. It is understood, though, that we are speaking of tests and temptations which G-d places before us: it is a fundamental belief that man has the capacity to remain steadfast in the face of all difficulties and tests imposed upon him by Divine Providence. Man, however, is not to subject himself to temptations as a test.

By overcoming these temptations, it is possible to build a Jewish home which is both radiant and warm.

Adapted from the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

While making his regular weekly rounds at a local hospital, Rabbi Raphael Jaworowski of the Chicago Mitzvah Campaigns recently visited with "RC," a young patient in the ICU ward. Sadly, RC lay motionless and unconscious on the bed, covered with bandages and strapped to various machines. Her parents sat numbly by her side, tearful, afraid and overwrought. Meanwhile, a hospital staff member remained in silent observation, her permanent station in the room bearing unmistakable witness to the patient's ominously tenuous condition.

Following initial introductions, RC's father emotionally related the precariousness of his daughter's condition. As his wife quietly sobbed, he relayed the doctors' depressing warning that RC might never again regain consciousness; indeed, her fragile grip on life might slip away at any time. As RC's father repeated the deeply distressing prognosis his voice broke and his wife's soft weeping rent the air. So palpable was the raw emotion in the room that even the experienced nurse averted her gaze, fidgeting uncomfortably.

As RC's parents gave vent to their emotional strain, Rabbi Jaworowski maintained a calm and empathetic presence. After a few moments he gently suggested that they all join together in prayer. RC's parents nodded gratefully, taking deep breaths.

As he handed out copies of the CMC's special prayer booklets, Rabbi Jaworowski offered RC's father the opportunity to don tefilin. He hesitated however, objecting that he hadn't seen a pair of tefilin since his bar mitzvah. But the intensity of the moment soon eliminated his qualms and melted his protestations. After briefly vacillating he raised his head and resolutely declared that he would perform the mitzva (commandment).

Wrapping the tefilin straps around the arm proudly upheld by RC's father, Rabbi Jaworowski explained the meaning of the ritual and pointed out its origin in the words of the Shema prayer: "And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they will be for a reminder between your eyes." With great feeling, the rabbi and RC's parents then stood together before the unconscious patient and began reciting the prayer, verse by verse.

What followed next could only be described as an open miracle. Upon reaching the verse, "And you will bind them..." the three supplicants and the nurse stood in silent shock and amazement as they watched the patient slowly open her eyes and take in her surroundings. With barely restrained excitement, RC's parents began talking to her, gushing forth in a jumbled stream of hope, encouragement and reassurance. Momentarily catching themselves, they asked if RC was able to understand them; if she could squeeze her hand and wiggle her toes. The tubes protruding from her mouth prevented RC from speaking, but she indicated her comprehension with small head and body movements, eliciting further squeals of delight from her parents and expressions of pleasant astonishment from the nurse.

Upon sufficiently recovering her wits, the nurse went to update the doctor on what had occurred. Meanwhile, RC's parents introduced her to Rabbi Jaworowski. "This rabbi is from the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign," her mother declared in wide-eyed wonder. "His prayer worked like a miracle!" For a moment, RC held her gaze on the tefilin that were still majestically adorning her father's head and arm. When she turned back to the rabbi, her eyes seemed to glow with a warm radiance. With great effort she deliberately and laboriously opened her mouth, and her lips unmistakably repeated the heartfelt refrain - "Thank you...Thank you..."


Elderly, legally blind, confined to a wheelchair, and so physically frail that she can barely perform the most basic tasks by herself, Mrs. FK is not the kind of person you would normally expect to be living on her own. But FK is fiercely independent and maintains an innate suspicion of doctors and hospitals. In fact, so emphatic was FK's aversion to medical tests, medicine and treatment of any kind, that even after she sustained a hairline fracture in a fall, she refused to undergo the corrective procedure that would have enabled her to walk again. Instead, she chose to go to a nursing home, where it was anticipated that she would remain infirm indefinitely.

After several weeks however, FK went against medical advice again, signing herself out of the nursing home and returning home, extremely feeble and debilitated but unwaveringly resolute to uphold her independence. When FK's lonely, isolated and vulnerable predicament came to the attention of the CMC, they reached out and began to develop a relationship with her. As a result, FK began to rely on the CMC for support, reassurance and aid. With tremendous patience, sensitivity and care, the CMC began to make inroads into FK's resistance to medical treatment.

Progress was slow, however. Even when FK's situation at home became so precarious that she asked Rabbi Wolf to call her on a daily basis, "just to confirm that I am still alive," she still insisted on remaining alone in her apartment, with no more than minimal outside help. On several occasions, when her condition took an extreme turn for the worse, FK agreed to go to the hospital, but only on the strict condition that she be accompanied by Rabbi Wolf.

Even then however, she still refused to submit to medical testing ("Why do they want so much to take my blood?") and treatment ("I don't need so much medicine"), often returning home against medical advice only to return again, upon the next episode of deterioration. When FK's health condition recently experienced another steep decline, she again instinctively resisted going to the hospital. But with her very life teetering on the edge, she turned to the one source of help upon which she had come to rely - the CMC. With patience and devotion Rabbi Wolf counseled FK and accompanied her to the hospital in the middle of the night, staying with her for hours until her comfort and care were assured. Subsequently, the rabbi stayed in contact with FK to make sure that she accepted appropriate medical testing and treatment, culminating in her successful discharge to a nursing facility where she now receives continued care.

For more info about the amazing and multifaceted work of Chicago Mitzvah Campaigns visit www.ChicagoMitzvahCampaign.com

What's New

New Mikva

Chabad of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, recently opened a beautiful mikva for the 50 family-strong Jewish community and tourists and visitors that come to this Mexican resort city.

New Emissaries

Chabad at Arizona State University (ASU) welcomed Rabbi Mendy and Sarah Rimler have joined the other emissaries at Chabad at ASU. There are 4,000 Jewish students at ASU.

Rabbi Chaim and Chaya Mushka Scheiman are the first, full-time emissaries at the Hinda Institute (formerly known as the Jewish Prisoner's Assistance Foundation) in Des Plaines Illinois. They will be heading the re-entry and family division of the Hinda Institute and volunteer coordinator.

Rabbi Levi and Sara Cole have been appointed program coordinators and assistant youth directors at the Jewish Youth Network of Ontario in Toronto, Canada.


The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5735 [1984]

Blessing and Greeting:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 20th of Cheshvan, and enclosures, as well as your previous correspondence.

May G-d grant that all the activities about which you report should continue with great Hatzlocho [success], and in an ever-growing measure. And may this Hatzlocho be reflected also in the other Mitzvah campaigns, particularly the Candle Lighting Campaign where Jewish women and girls have a special opportunity, and therefore also a special Zechus [privilege], to accomplish a great deal. May you and all your coworkers carry on these activities with joy and gladness of heart.

Especially as we are now approaching the auspicious days of the 10th and 19th of Kislev, the significance of which you surely know. The Zechus of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, who was liberated from Czarist imprisonment on the 19th of Kislev], and of his son the Mitteler Rebbe [Rabbi Dov Ber, who was released from imprisonment on the 10th of Kislev], for whom the above days brought deliverance, will surely bring deliverance also to all those who follow in their footsteps to spread the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments] with Chasidic dedication and inspiration. May this be so also in your case, and in a growing measure, as symbolized by the Chanukah lights which are kindled in growing numbers from day to day.

With blessing,


Greeting and Blessing:

You write that you find yourself in great emotional difficulties, and that you find no gratification in your work and do not know how to overcome this, etc.

Such emotional upsets are fully discussed in Chassidus, and even secular science has lately given much attention to what is called the subconscious. A person may not consciously be aware of his true spiritual state and what he lacks, having suppressed certain inner drives, so that all he is aware of is a feeling of frustration and unfulfillment.

I refer, of course, to the fact that the Jew always has an inner drive to express his Divine Soul. Those who are in a position of influence, have an inner urge to exercise this influence to the utmost possible degree, to bring their fellow-Jews closer to our Torah, closer to the tradition of their fathers and to the Jewish way of life. The fact that one becomes superficially absorbed in some activity which only resemble that of true Jewish education, or a religious activity which stresses the Jewish heart and rightly so, but neglects to vigorously stress the real essence of Judaism - the daily performance of the Mitzvah, and then religion becomes a three day affair, or a matter of Yahrzeit and Memorial Services, etc., such activities do not provide real justification for the soul, and, hence the inner urge is not fulfilled.

No doubt you have heard the explanation of the Old Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman] when he was asked by a Gentile scholar, what is the meaning of "where art thou?" which G-d asked Adam; surely nothing is hidden from G-d. The Old Rebbe then replied that when Adam committed the sin, he experienced a Divine call demanding "where art thou?" Do you realize what you have done and what you have been supposed to do?

The question "where art thou?" is always asked of every individual, especially the Jew who has been endowed with Divine soul. It calls for introspection and self-searching, in order to find one's self again.

It is clear from the above that it is quite unjustified to think that you have permanently lost contact, etc. G-d does not demand the impossible, and having set forth a program and a goal, He has simultaneously given the full ability and capacity to fulfill them. It is only that He wants everyone to fulfill his purpose in life out of his own free choice, in spite of temptations and difficulties. If you will, therefore, realize that you have it in you to overcome then you will find yourself again and the contact that you are missing at present.

May G-d grant that you succeed.


Today Is ...

Shimon (Simon) was the son of Jacob and Leah. Together with his brother Levi, he avenged his sister Dina's kidnapping and rape by Shechem. When Jacob blessed his 12 sons before his passing, he cursed Shimon's anger but not Shimon himself. Although the territory of the tribe of Shimon was within Judah's territory, Shimon's descendants were scattered among the other tribes so they would not be able to band together quickly in anger as a unit.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The 9th of Kislev (which this year occurs on Tuesday, Nov. 12 2013) is the birthday and yartzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch.

Although he was only 54 years old at the time of his passing, it is considered auspicious when a righteous person passes away on his (Hebrew) birthday, in fulfillment of the verse "The number of your days I will fulfill." As is known, Moses was 120 when he passed away on his birthday, about which our Sages commented: "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, fills up the years of the righteous from day to day." When a righteous person departs this world on the same day he was born, it emphasizes that his service of G-d was "full" and complete on the material as well as the spiritual plane.

The following day, the 10th of Kislev, is also celebrated in Chabad circles, as it marks the date in 1826 when the Mitteler Rebbe was released from prison. Accused of illegally channelling funds to the Holy Land, the Mitteler Rebbe refuted all the charges against him (proving that all monies went directly to the poor) and demonstrated that the documents used to implicate him had been forged. Indeed, the Mitteler Rebbe so impressed the authorities that the informer who had slandered him was told to "stop barking like a dog."

It is said that on the Shabbat afternoon when word came that the Rebbe would be freed, he was in the midst of delivering a Chasidic discourse on the verse "You are One." (The Mitteler Rebbe was permitted to deliver Chasidic discourses to 50 of his Chasidim twice a week even while imprisoned as his doctor had informed the authorities that this was literally what kept him alive.)

May the Mitteler Rebbe's holiday of redemption lead to the ultimate holiday of Redemption of the entire Jewish people, with the immediate revelation of our Righteous Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

Surely G-d is present in this place and I did not know it (Gen. 28:16)

When does man feel the presence of G-d? When "I did not know it"- when the I is ignored and the person works on negating his own ego.

(Panim Yafot)


Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Charan (Gen. 28:10)

Rabbi Pinchas said, in the name of Rabbi Abahu: Whomever a person marries is predestined by G-d. Some people must go out to meet their mate; others have their mate come to them. Isaac's wife, Rebecca, came to him: "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field...and he lifted up his eyes and saw, behold, there were camels coming. And Rebecca lifted up her eyes, and she saw Isaac." Jacob, however, had to travel to Charan to meet his future wives.

(Breishit Rabba)


Whatever You will give me I will give a tenth to You (Gen. 28:22)

Queen Victoria of England asked famed Jewish philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore the extent of his wealth. "It will take me a few days to make an accounting," he replied. Several days later he gave her his answer. "You insult me," the Queen replied. "Everyone knows you are worth much more than that." "Not really," Sir Moses explained. "I consider my wealth only that which I have given to charity. Everything else I have is only temporary and may be confiscated or lost."

(Jewish Legends)


Every one that is not speckled and spotted...shall be counted as stolen by me. And Laban said, Yes, would that it be according to your word (Gen. 30:33-34)

Laban agreed to this plan readily, as he sincerely hoped to find stolen goats among Jacob's animals. Evil people derive an inordinate pleasure in finding fault and imaginary defects in those who are honest.

(Chatam Sofer)


It Once Happened

Once a chasid travelled to Rabbi Dov Ber (known as the Mitteler Rebbe) with a dire problem. He was renting an inn from the local poretz (landowner), and was about to be evicted because he was unable to pay his debts. The poretz was unwilling to wait any longer, and the Jew was in danger not only of losing his livelihood, but his home as well.

The chasid entered the Rebbe's room for a private audience and told him the predicament. He requested that the Rebbe write a letter for him to a wealthy businessman named Moshe M. This man was a personal friend of the poretz and therefore a good potential intermediary.

The Rebbe agreed and wrote the letter for him. The chasid left in good humor, letter in hand, sure that his situation would shortly change. However, when he left the Rebbe and read the letter, he had a shock, for the letter was addressed to the wrong person. Instead of being addressed to the wealthy Moshe M., the letter was addressed to Moshe A. who was as poor as the chasid, himself. Oy, thought the chasid, the Rebbe must have made a mistake, for what could Moshe A. possibly do for me?

The chasid turned around and went right back to the Rebbe's residence and said to the Rebbe's attendant, "I must go back in to speak with the Rebbe. He gave me the letter, but he made a mistake in it, and I need him to change it."

"I'm sorry," replied the gabbai (sexton). "You cannot see the Rebbe again so soon. There are many others waiting to be received."

"But, you don't understand," the chasid protested. "This is a matter of the greatest importance, and it can't wait, even a day. I won't take much of his time. The Rebbe just has to change a few words. You see, he addressed it to the wrong person."

The conversation was overheard by the Rebbe's son, who turned and commented, "A Rebbe doesn't make mistakes."

Seeing he wasn't going to get anywhere with the gabbai, the chasid turned and left, meditating on the words he had just heard, "A Rebbe doesn't make mistakes." He took this to heart and resolved to go the next day to see Moshe A. and give him the Rebbe's letter.

When he arrived at Moshe A.'s humble cottage he told him about his audience with the Rebbe and showed him the letter. Moshe A. was confounded by the request that he intercede. "I would be very glad to help you, but what can I possibly do? I have nothing whatsoever to do with the poretz." But the chasid, who had become convinced that the Rebbe must have had something in mind, was persistent. Finally, Moshe A. agreed, although, one couldn't say that he knew what he was agreeing to do. He arranged to set out the following morning to visit the poretz and try to help his fellow chasid, as it seemed that the Rebbe had requested him to do.

In the middle of the night there was a pounding on the door. Moshe A. roused himself and went to the door. "Who is there?" he asked.

"Open, please, it is I, the count," came the reply. Moshe A. opened the door, and to his astonishment, there stood the poretz, the very man he planned to visit the following day, soaked and shivering with cold.

"Please, come in Your Honor," he said, and within an hour the poretz had changed into dry clothing, eaten and drunk, and was feeling back to himself. He explained that he loved hunting, and that that evening he was deep in the forest when he had been caught in an unexpected storm. This house had been the first one he had encountered when he left the forest, and that is how he came to be the grateful guest of Moshe A.

Now, Moshe A. saw the Divine Providence in the unusual situation, and when they all went to bed for the night, he retired in a state of high anticipation as to how events would play themselves out. The next morning the poretz arose fit as before and readied himself to go home. Turning to his host, he said, "I am very grateful for everything you have done for me, and I would like to repay your kindness. What can I do for you."

Moshe A. answered, "Please, Sir, just having had the honor of helping you is all the payment I need."

The poretz wouldn't take no for an answer, and repeated his request to repay the Jew. When the offer was made a third time, Moshe spoke up: "Sir, I have a brother who rents one of the inns on Your Honor's property. Due to financial hardships of the past few years, he has been unable to pay his rent, and he is due to lose his lease on the inn. Might I ask Your Honor to reconsider his case?"

The poretz was immediately receptive to the request. "My friend, you are such a good fellow, I am sure that your brother is just like you. I will not only renew his lease, but I will also forgive his past rent. And you know, it is very lucky that you are speaking to me about it today. Why, I was planning to give the lease to the relative of a good friend of mine. My friend Moshe M. spoke to me recently about his relative that needed a position, and tomorrow I was planning to take care of the matter."

Later, when the two chasidim met, they discussed the workings of Divine Providence as foreseen by the Mitteler Rebbe. For had the letter been addressed to the "right" rather than the "wrong" Moshe, the situation would have come to a very different and unhappy end for the chasid. They saw that indeed, "A Rebbe doesn't make a mistake."


Moshiach Matters

When Jacob finally left Charan to return to Israel, he was a rich man with many possessions, though he had arrived there with neither silver, gold, nor cattle. Although at first glance it appears that Jacob's living amongst the idolators of Charan was a step backward, it was in this merit that he acquired his great wealth and established his family. So too, is it with this final exile. Although the trials and tribulations have been many, when Moshiach comes and brings the Final Redemption, we will first realize the great advantage and good that came from it.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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