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The Collective Soul
by Rabbi Shloma Majeski
When the Jewish people arrived at the sea following the Exodus from Egypt, the sea split into 12 different paths, so that each tribe could go through its own specific lane, corresponding to one of the 12 different paths or approaches in their spiritual missions. And each tribe traveled through the desert led by its own spiritual leader and tzadik, who was the head of that tribe, and could guide them in the spiritual path that was unique to them.
Nevertheless, there was one person who was the leader of the entire generation, of all the Jewish people, and that was Moses.
Moses, one individual, was equivalent to the entire Jewish nation, explains Rashi. Moses was unique in that his soul did not just contain those souls that resonated with his particular path. Rather, it contained every soul of the entire Jewish nation at that time, within it.
Just as in Moses' times, the same is true in every generation. At all times, there are many tzadikim, who are spiritual leaders and guides to all the souls who are connected to him. In addition, there is a tzadik who is the Nasi, the leader and collective soul, whose soul includes within it all the souls of his entire generation.
Jewish mysticism explains: "The soul of Moses included the souls of all 600,000 Jews of his generation; the same applies to the collective souls of future generations, all of whom are an extension of Moses."
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, the collective soul of our generation, established thousands of Chabad Houses, Centers and schools in almost every country in the world. The Rebbe instituted additional outreach efforts by sending yeshiva students each summer to places in the world even more remote, to touch the lives of Jews in even these most distant places. And the many volumes of the Rebbe's letters that have been published reveal a glimpse of an enormous volume of personal communication that the rebbe conducted with Jews from every corner of the globe on every subject imaginable.
As the collective soul, the Rebbe's efforts concern every Jew in every corner of the world. But the connection of a collective soul with every Jew is more. A collective soul feels the pain (and joy) of each individual in a real and tangible way. A young woman once told the Rebbe that she questioned his saying that he felt the pain of a particular tragedy she had undergone. He replied that one day, when she would get married and have a child, her child would begin teething. In the same way that she would feel the pain of her child teething, the Rebbe felt the pain of her particular struggle.
Although a tzadik radiates spiritual light to the world, one can't truly absorb or benefit from this light unless he or she is receptive to it. Sunlight is brilliant, but if the curtains are closed, the house won't be illuminated by its light. Similarly, one must be connected and open to be affected by the Rebbe's light. Actively connecting to the Rebbe opens the curtains to allow that to happen.
How is the connection made? By studying the Rebbe's teachings, requesting his blessings, relating stories about the Rebbe, and fulfilling his directives.
Of all the Rebbe's directives, the one closest to his heart and soul is that everyone should do his or her part to hasten Moshiach's coming by learning about Moshiach, strengthening their belief in Moshiach, adding in Torah study and observing more mitzvot (commandments), increasing acts of goodness and kindness, and publicizing this message to others.
The Rebbe has told us that the coming of Moshiach - the ultimate collective soul of the Jews of all times - is imminent and that any single act can "tip the scale" to bring Moshiach, ushering in a time when evil will be completely eradicated, and there will be no wars, hate, or poverty.
Adapted from A Tzaddik and His Students, sichosinenglish.com
This week's Torah portion of Beshalach describes the miracle of the splitting of the Red (Reed) Sea. With the Egyptians in hot pursuit, the Jewish people found their way blocked by a body of water. The Sea then parted, "and the waters were a wall to them on their right and on their left."
In what merit did G-d perform such a miracle? Our Sages teach that it was in the merit of the Jewish children, who "recognized [G-d] first" - even before Moses, Joshua and all the elders. These children, who had been born into slavery yet had nonetheless been given a proper Jewish education - were the first to declare, "This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him."
Born in exile, the generation of children who went out of Egypt keenly perceived their status as "the smallest of all the nations." They knew that the Egyptian lifestyle was in stark contradiction to the Jewish way of life. And yet, they clung to their Judaism and were proud of it. Empowered by the Jewish education they received from their mothers, they did not hesitate to leave the "fleshpots of Egypt" for the "great and terrible desert," even though they did not have enough provisions. Rather, they had absolute trust and faith in G-d, and in their merit the Red Sea split.
With such children, there is no need to be alarmed. The Jewish people were surrounded on all sides, yet in the children's merit they marched into the Sea and the waters parted.
The miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea was extraordinary for another reason: Not only was the obstacle that stood in their way removed, but the waters themselves became a protective wall that shielded them from harm. This is the highest level of overcoming difficulties and hurdles, and it too came about in the children's merit. When Jewish children are given the kind of education that enables them to "recognize G-d first," the impediments themselves are transformed into a protective wall.
When a Jewish child knows that the only reality in the world is holiness, and that nothing can stop him from fulfilling G-d's will, he merits that all ostensible obstacles will not only vanish but actually help him in his Divine service.
Thousands of years later, the Jewish people are still in need of miracles. As "one sheep among seventy wolves," our entire existence is an ongoing supernatural miracle, like the splitting of the Red Sea.
In order to deserve this merit, we need to make sure that all Jewish children can benefit from a Torah-true Jewish education. We will then have the pleasure and nachas of seeing them "recognize G-d first" - even before their parents and grandparents.
Adapted from Volume 2 of Likutei Sichot
A Double Miracle
by Yehudis Cohen
When Tzvi and Sheila Goodman found out that they were expecting an addition to their family of three boys, they were delighted. They wrote a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to inform him of the good news and ask him for his blessing. They placed the letter randomly into a volume of the Rebbe's published letters (Igrot Kodesh). The letter they opened to was written to someone who the Rebbe had instructed to be involved in printing a new Jewish book. The Rebbe explained that through the printing of this book new channels of spiritual and material blessings would open up that were never before in this world.
As everything seemed to be in order with the pregnancy, the Goodmans did not make any connection between this instruction of the Rebbe and their situation.
In the fourth month of her pregnancy, Sheila learned that she was pregnant with twins. The couple was thrilled. However, their excitement soon turned to fear when a sonogram showed that the twins were in trouble. "They told us our babies shared one placenta, which in itself was hardly functioning," recalls Tzvi. "While one baby was growing, the other was starving to death."
The twins were suffering from a rare condition called Twin-to-Twin Transfusion, which occurs in less than one percent of all twin pregnancies. The doctor suggested that the Goodmans abort the pregnancy - something that is commonly done in such cases in order to avoid further complications. The Goodmans decided to seek a second opinion. "We contacted a famous doctor at the North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island. Dr. Boris Petrikovsky, was Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine there."
The doctor informed the Goodmans that the original diagnosis had been correct and continued to explain how serious the situation was. Although North Shore has one of the largest prenatal centers in the metropolitan area, Dr. Petrikovsky had seen less than 20 such cases in the recent past.
He told them that in most situations, and without medical intervention, both twins do not survive. In some cases, one does survive, but there are usually many medical complications.
Dr. Petrikovsky, an Orthodox Jew, suggested that perhaps they should discuss it with their rabbi before deciding. He was surprised when the Goodmans said they would ask the Rebbe for advice in this matter. Recalls Tzvi, "I tried to explain to the doctor that after Gimmel Tammuz the Rebbe has ways to answer us. I told him about writing to the Rebbe and placing the letter randomly into a volume of the Rebbe's letters."
The doctor informed the Goodmans of a relatively new amniocentesis procedure that would redistribute the blood and vital fluids in the damaged placenta so that it could reach both babies. He added that this was the only possibility of solving the situation although he did not believe that it would alleviate all of the problems. He emphasized that the blood and vital fluids would most likely redistribute 30/70 not 50/50, which would still leave one twin at a grave disadvantage.
When the Goodmans got home, they wrote a letter to the Rebbe. The letter they opened to was dated May 28 - the same day the couple had first met Dr. Petrikovsky:
"It was a pleasure to receive his letter in which he writes that his health has much improved... It is unnecessary to mention once more that since they have clearly seen how G-d has watched over them until now, they should surely not worry that things are not going too well in his business, for this is only temporary; and perhaps the point of it is, that he should pledge a pre-determined large sum of money to charity in my name... and he will surely notify me of the details as soon as possible.
"He is surely following the advice of the doctors. For our holy Torah has declared that G-d gives permission (which in effect also means ability,) for the doctor to heal.
"Attached, he will also find a letter written to the gathering of N'shei U'bnos Chabad, which he should pass on and explain to his wife and daughter in a way that it will have its desired affect. Doing this will add in the blessings to effect his speedy and complete recovery, and for success in all of the above."
It was obvious to them from the Rebbe's letter that they should follow Dr. Petrikovsky's advice and go ahead with the amniocentesis procedure.
Tzvi re-read the letter and noted the Rebbe's advice in the first paragraph that the person should give a large sum of money to charity and this would help his precarious financial situation. He recalled his first letter from the Rebbe at the beginning of the pregnancy. It was clear to Tzvi that the "large sum of money" should go to printing a book as that would open "channels of spiritual and material blessings." That very day Tzvi went to the offices of Vaad L'Hafotzot Sichot to give a large donation for the printing of the English translation of "Besurot HaGeula" ("The Announcement of Redemption," excerpts of talks of the Rebbe from 1991 and 1992 speaking about the imminence of the Redemption).
On their way to their appointment with the doctor the next morning, Tzvi and Sheila stopped at the Ohel (the Rebbe's resting place). They entered the Chabad House near the Ohel where there is always a video playing of the Rebbe. Imagine how overwhelmed they were when they looked up at the video screen and saw Sheila Goodman, pregnant with her second son, passing by the Rebbe and being told by the Rebbe "an easy labor, a healthy child..." Now the Goodmans knew with certainty that they had the Rebbe's blessings.
The Goodmans informed the doctor of all that had transpired and that they were certain everything would be okay. The Tzvi told the doctor, "You have the privilege of making sure that everything will be okay!"
The plan was to go each Friday for the amniocentesis procedure for however much long the pregnancy lasted. On the fourth Friday, the doctor ordered a sonogram before the procedure. After looking at the results of the sonogram, Dr. Petrikovsky said that they were not going to continue with the procedure. Medical staff in attendance wondered how it was possible that it seemed the procedure was not helping and yet the babies were both gaining weight and growing. When asked to explain how this was possible, the doctor replied, "It seems that they got a blessing from the Rebbe and the babies are getting their nourishment directly from Above."
When it came time for Sheila to give birth, in her eight month, a team of nearly 30 doctors were in attendance, ready for all possibly eventualities. Dr. Petrikovsky called Tzvi over and told him, "I believe in the Rebbe's blessings and I am sure the babies are going to be fine. But they might need to stay in the hospital for the first six months or so..."
After the birth of the first twin girl, there were a few tense moments when the baby was being examined and then the doctor exclaimed in amazement, "This is a healthy child!" A few minutes later, the second girl was born. Again a few moments after examining the 6.3 pound baby, the doctor called out, "This is also a healthy baby, even bigger than the first one!"
Dr. Petrikovsky came over to Tzvi and told him, "I want you to tell the whole world about this miracle. I'm holding the placenta and it doesn't work! They had direct nourishment from Above. (Later, the hospital related the story of the twins in a press release entitled, "Two Miracles are Better than One.")
A few days later, Chana and Chaya Goodman joined their brothers, Yossi, Moshe, and Mendel, at home to a chorus of "Mazel Tov" from family and friends.
A transcript of questions to and answers of the Rebbe in 1952, with thanks to www.NissanMindelPublications.com
Q: What is the meaning of a 'Brocha' [blessing] which the Rebbe Blesses?
A: The giving and receiving of a Brocha can be traced back to the times of our forefathers Abraham, Issac and Jacob, whom G-d ad blessed with the power of blessing and who blessed their children on solemn occasions. Since that time it has always been a custom. In the words of my father-in-law the meaning of a Brocha is like rain (Gishmei Brocha). Rain can accomplish its function and be useful only when preceded by the plowing and tilling of the soil, planting the seeds and preparing the soil for growing. However, should rain fall on unplowed and untilled soil, not only won't it accomplish its function but furthermore it may cause damage. The same applies to a Brocha, the body (actions and desires of the body) must be tilled and plowed (properly executing them according to the Torah). Only then will the Brocha be useful and help the blessed elevate himself to a higher standard.
Q: What is the difference between a Rebbe and a Rabbi?
A: A Rabbi is the one who teaches his pupils when they approach him and will answer shaalos [questions] when brought before him. A Rebbe does not wait for anyone to approach him, he reaches forth among the people and tries to awaken them and inspire them, and tries to find ways and methods to bring them closer to their religion.
Q: What is a Rebbe?
A: A Rebbe is one whose soul embraces so to speak the souls of his Chasidim. In other words, his Chasidim have a particular soul relationship with their Rebbe, receiving through him Divine blessings, material and spiritual. When a Chasid comes to the Rebbe with a problem he tries to find in the Rebbe the part of his soul which is included in the Rebbe's soul and connect it with his soul and thus be connected with the Rebbe's soul. It is through this connection that the Chasid receives his material and spiritual life and needs. For example, let us take the electric bulb which produces light. The bulb itself is incapable of producing light, however there are electrical power plants stationed in some distant part of the city which generate the necessary power to produce the light. There must be a channel through which the power can pass and reach each individual bulb. The bulb itself must contain some device which enables it to receive the power. That is the wire which is connected to the power plant and is also connected to the bulb. When this connection is opened by turning on the switch the bulb receives the power and will function. The same applies to a Rebbe and Chasidim. The Rebbe is the power plant which produces the needed strength and power to fulfill the commandments and obligations and also to convey the necessary material needs. The channel through which the Chasid can receive the strength and material necessities is his soul which is connected to the soul of the Rebbe. The sole duty of a Rebbe is to convey the above mentioned spiritual and material necessities to his Chasidim. Although the Rebbe is also required to fulfill his bodily functions (eating, sleeping, etc.) however that is not his purpose or true function. The necessity to fulfill them is solely because his soul is bound with an earthly body which cannot exist without these necessities. An example for this would be when one approaches a Rabbi complaining of a headache and the Rabbi offers him an aspirin as a remedy. It is useless to say that this is the function of a Rabbi. The same is with the Rebbe in his bodily functions.
Q: Is the function of a Rebbe like that of a psychologist? Can the Rebbe take the place of a psychiatrist?
A: If necessary the Rebbe would use psychology to help solve the problem of a Chasid, but that is only a small part of his work. And even then there is a difference between a Rebbe and a Psychiatrist. When a psychiatrist speaks to his patient he regards him as an object of study. Though he is interested in curing his patient and in helping him to adjust to life, his approach is to derive not only a healthy patient but an accumulation of information about the human being for his further study. A Rebbe gives himself over completely to the person. When he is seeking a solution, the Rebbe does not study him but is more emotionally involved with the person who comes to see him.
Q: Does a Rebbe use his supreme powers always?
A: As the means, the Rebbe tries to apply the most simple method and only after medical help does not prove successful will the Rebbe use his supreme power.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is Yud Shevat, the anniversary of the passing in 1950 of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and acceptance of the leadership one year later in 1951 by the Rebbe. In addition, this upcoming week has within it (on Thursday) the New Year for Trees, Tu B'Shevat.
In a letter to the Lubavitch Women's Convention in the 1960s, the Rebbe discussed the meaning of these two events occurring in one week. The Rebbe explained that there is an:
...affinity between these two notable days, and how their instructive messages are related.
The Torah likens a human being to a tree, and the Tzaddik [a righteous person] to a flourishing date palm. In a remarkable statement in the Talmud our Sages declare, moreover, that a Tzaddik lives on forever, "for just as his seed is alive, so is he alive." It is noteworthy that the word "seed" is used here, rather than "descendants" or "children," or "disciples," though all these are included in the word "seed." In choosing the word "seed" in this connection, our Sages conveyed to us the specific images and ideas which this word brings to our minds:
The wonderful process of growth, which transforms a tiny seed into a multiple reproduction of the same, be it an earful of grains or, in the case of a fruit seed, a fruit-bearing tree; the care which the growth process requires, and how a little extra care at an early stage is multiplied in the final product; the fact that the more advanced and more highly developed the fruit, the longer it takes to grow and ripen, so that grain, for example, takes but a few months to reproduce itself, while it takes a fruit-bearing tree many years to mature, etc.
All these principles apply in a very practical way in the performance of our daily service to G-d, which, of course, embraces our whole daily life, since it is our duty to serve G-d in all our ways.
May all whose lives have been touched by the Previous Rebbe and by the Rebbe be true seeds of these righteous date palms and apply practically to our daily lives their teachings, especially the observance of mtizvot, which will hasten the revelation of Moshiach, may it be NOW!
And G-d led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although it was near (Ex. 13:17)
The path taken by the Jews throughout history, whether in the direction of the Land of Israel or toward the Final Redemption, was never smooth. Whenever our ultimate goal appeared at hand, the next second it seems to move further away. Yet when we have nearly despaired of reaching our destination, suddenly we see that it is indeed within reach.
The Children of Israel went up armed out of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him (Ex. 13:18,19)
With what were the Jewish people armed? With the bones of Joseph, in whose merit the Jews were protected from harm. "Tzadikim (the righteous) are even greater after their deaths than during their lives."
And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him (Ex. 13:19)
While the Children of Israel were busy collecting the spoils of Egypt in preparation for the exodus, Moses was busy with a mitzva (commandment). Moses knew that gold and silver are only temporary acquisitions, but each mitzva a person does accompanies him to the hereafter.
Every year on Shabbat Beshalach, the Maharal of Prague would instruct the teachers to gather their students (and their parents) in the courtyard of the synagogue to tell them the story of how the birds sang and danced during the splitting of the Sea. As related in the Midrash, the Jewish children plucked fruit from the branches of the trees that sprang up on either side and fed them to the birds. After the story was told, groats were distributed to the children to scatter about for the birds in commemoration of this event. The Maharal would then bless the children and their parents that they raise them to a life of Torah and good deeds and lead them to the marriage canopy.
(Sefer HaSichot 5702 of the Previous Rebbe)
Bat Yam, Israel, has a charismatic Sefardic rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Nissim Logasi, renown as "the young people's rabbi." Hundreds of young adults, many of whom identify as secular Jews, participate each Friday evening in his "Oneg Shabbat" Torah lecture at the Beit E-l Synagogue.
"For 16 years Rabbi Logasi has been giving his famous Friday night class," begins Rabbi Tovi Vahava, a Chabad Chasid, lives in Bat Yam. "Everyone in town knows Rabbi Logasi. He is a greatly admired personality, with tremendous Torah knowledge and a pleasant disposition.
"Over the years, Rabbi Logasi and I have become closer, and I frequently heard about his appreciation for the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In his youth the rabbi had been close to the Baba Sali (ztz"l). He spent many years in his presence, where he learned about the special connection between the Baba Sali and the Rebbe. While his sermons included many stories from the Baba Sali and other members of the Abuchatzera family, he also spoke admiringly about the Rebbe.
"I would periodically come to participate in his Friday night sermons, and whenever I arrived, he would invite me to say a few words. I was always surprised by the tremendous honor and respect that Rabbi Logasi had for the Rebbe and Lubavitch.
"On the Shabbat before Lag B'Omer (April 26, 2013), we had our entire extended family with us. Naturally, when the whole family is together, the Shabbat meal takes longer. When I saw that it was already past 10:00 p.m., I decided that I would skip the weekly Friday night class.
"I sat on the couch and dozed off. Suddenly, I felt a tug on my clothes. At first, I simply ignored it. But then I again felt someone pulling on my clothing. I saw the Rebbe standing before me with a serious look on his face. 'Go to Rabbi Logasi's Oneg Shabbat,' the Rebbe told me, 'for those who honor Me, I shall honor.' The Rebbe said these words and then disappeared.
"I jumped from the couch, confused and excited. It took me a few minutes to collect my thoughts. I looked over at the family, most of whom were still sitting at the Shabbat table; they were all busy talking. I quickly informed my surprised family that I was going out to Rabbi Logasi's class - on the Rebbe's instructions. I assured them that I would explain everything upon my return.
"After a few minutes' walk, I arrived at the synagogue. I was surprised to see hundreds of young people outside, chatting in groups. It was already 10:30 and the class starts at 10:00.
" 'What happened?' I asked a young man. It turned out that Rabbi Logasi hadn't come for some reason, and they were all standing around and waiting for him. After another few minutes, a different young man asked if I would take over for Rabbi Logasi and speak about the weekly Torah portion until he arrived. I agreed to do so. He called everyone inside and I went up to give the class, despite the fact that I hadn't prepared to speak.
"I shared a talk of the Rebbe and the words just flowed, as if G-d was placing the right words in my mouth. After this, I told them about the Rebbe's instructions to make a parade on Lag B'Omer in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. They begin to ask questions about the Rebbe. I patiently responded to each question.
"As soon as Shabbat was over, I contacted Rabbi Logasi. I told him what had happened and he was stunned. 'You gave a class?' he asked in amazement. He told me that he had gone out of town for Shabbat and had arranged for a different rabbi to give the lecture in his place. However, it was clear that he had not shown up.
"I told Rabbi Logasi that I hadn't come on my own; the Rebbe had sent me. I also told him how the Rebbe had told me in reference to him - 'for those who honor Me, I shall honor.'
"He was surprised by this chain of events. He called the rabbi who was supposed to replace him that night. The rabbi apologized, telling him that Friday night he had suddenly become overcome with severe abdominal pains. He had no alternative except to remain at home. Since it was Shabbat, he obviously couldn't call anyone as a replacement. 'I am sorry that hundreds of young people weren't able to learn Torah that night!' he told Rabbi Logasi. However, Rabbi Logasi quickly reassured him that the Lubavitcher Rebbe had taken care of everything. He then proceeded to retell the whole story of what had happened that night.
"Rabbi Logasi contacted his rabbi, the kabbalist Rabbi Refael Abuchatzera from Ashdod, and told him about this amazing miracle. His rabbi's reply: 'True. That what's happened.' He explained that there had been a great tumult in Heaven over the potential waste of time of such magnitude, and it was decided to send the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself, who cares for every Jew in the world, to make certain that the class would go on.
"Rabbi Abuchatzera then told Rabbi Logasi an additional point, that regarding the words 'for those who honor Me, I shall honor' - that anyone who gives honor to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe honors him and makes certain that no evil will befall him.
"The following week, the participants in the weekly Torah lecture were privileged to hear the story in full from Rabbi Logasi himself, as he heaped praise and appreciation upon the leader of the generation who never abandons his flock and cares for every single Jew."
Adapted from an article in Beis Moshiach Magazine by Nosson Avrohom
This is what is demanded of each and every one of us in this seventh generation - and "all those that are seventh are cherished": Although the fact that we are in the seventh generation is not the result of our own choosing and our own service, and indeed in certain ways perhaps contrary to our will, nevertheless "all those who are seventh are cherished." We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down the Divine Presence - moreover, the essence of the Divine Presence - within specifically our lowly world.
(From the first Chasidic Discourse of the Rebbe, upon accepting the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch)