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by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
Yud-Alef Nissan, occurring this year on Tuesday, March 31, is the Rebbe's birthday. Our Sages explain that the word Rebbe is an acronym for the Hebrew words "Rosh B'nei Yisrael," "head of the Jewish people." The head is the nerve center for the entire body, allowing all its diverse organs and limbs to function together as a single organism. Similarly, a Rebbe is a comprehensive soul whose life is lived in consciousness of others and whose efforts are devoted to intensifying the connection between them. As such, the Rebbe's birthday is a day which impacts us all.
In connection with a birthday, the Rebbe writes that on that day, a person should spend time in solitude, thinking over the purpose of his life, correcting those matters that need to be amended, and making resolutions with regard to his conduct in the future. As such, since the Rebbe is a comprehensive soul, as the Rebbe's birthday approaches, we should all take time for such thoughts.
Whenever the Rebbe wrote public letters, he would address them "To all the sons and daughters of Israel, wherever they may be." For the Rebbe did not see himself as addressing merely his own followers, but as reaching to the Jewish people as a whole.
To cite a parallel from the Torah: After Pharaoh's unsettling dreams of the seven cows and the seven ears of grain, he turned to his advisers for an interpretation. They told him, for example, "You will father seven daughters, but then they will die." Pharaoh rejected their explanations, but he readily accepted Yosef's explanation. What was the difference?
The interpretations of his advisers were personal, relating to Pharaoh as an individual; Yosef's interpretation touched upon the whole nation. Even Pharaoh understood that if Gd sends a message to the leader of a people, it will not address a private matter, but will be of consequence to all the members of his nation. With concern for every member of our people as an individual and the entire nation as a collective, he has endowed us with a vision that lifts us beyond our narrow, personal identities and inspires depth, purpose and joy.
In one of his letters, the Rebbe writes that from childhood on, he had a vision of the era of Moshiach, how the Jewish people would be redeemed from exile and build a perfect society. From his assumption of the leadership of the Lubavitch movement in 1950 onward, he made that vision, not only his individual goal, but the goal of the movement, and indeed, of the Jewish people as a whole, stating: "We are in the midst of the period when the approaching footsteps of Moshiach can be heard. Indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period. Our task is to complete the process of drawing down the Divine Presence... so that it should rest within our world."
On the Rebbe's birthday, this goal becomes more cogent and powerful. The Redemption can be seen as an emerging reality that we can anticipate in our own lives and share with others.
From Keeping in Touch, published by Sichos in English
In this week's Torah portion, Tzav, we read about the eight-day consecration of the Sanctuary. All the instructions for building the Sanctuary had been followed. The utensils were ready for use, the fire on the altars were lit, and the Jews began to bring the various types of sacrifices. Yet, "the Divine Presence did not rest on the work of their hands." For the first seven days, the Sanctuary was erected. But each day it was taken down again. Only on the eighth day of the consecration, when the last trace of spiritual impurity caused by the sin of the Golden Calf was removed, did the Heavenly fire descend and the G-dly Presence rest on the Sanctuary.
We see here two components to the perpetual fire that burned on the altar. The priests were commanded to bring ordinary fire. The act of bringing the fire served as a preparation for the G-dly flame which came from Above. Only after human initiative had been taken could the G-dly fire descend. And only at that point did the Sanctuary attain permanence.
Why could the G-dly fire be drawn down only after the human component of the worship was perfected? What special nature of the G-dly fire brought permanence to the Sanctuary?
People are finite. No matter how high their aspirations, they can reach only a finite level of spirituality. Being finite, people cannot reach a level of permanence in their worship without the assistance of G-d, Who is unlimited. Permanence cannot be attained solely through human effort. The G-dly intervention added a permanence that could not be achieved by human endeavor. The Sanctuary no longer needed to be disassembled.
The fire teaches us that we must first complete our own tasks and achieve as much as our capabilities allow. Only then will G-d provide the spiritual boost to reach beyond our capacity.
The completion of the first seven days of the consecration also symbolized the limitations of the physical world. A week constitutes a full cycle symbolizing the spiritual limitations inherent in the corporeal world. The eighth day of the consecration symbolizes the infinite attribute of G-d which cannot be contained in the natural order of seven. This is the level of "perpetual fire'" which burned on the altar, showing that finite beings could transcend even time itself, through the perfection of their worship of G-d.
The verse concerning the perpetual fire reads: "A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar - it shall not go out." This means that our enthusiasm and warmth towards Judaism must remain kindled and never be allowed to diminish. It is not enough to rely on our spiritual achievements of the day before, or even a minute ago. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that the innate spark of love of G-d in every Jewish soul never grows cold.
Every single Jew is a sanctuary to G-d, as it states, "And they shall build me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst" - in the midst of each and every Jew. If we always keep the spark of love for G-d and Judaism glowing, we can ensure that the Divine Presence finds a dwelling place in this world below.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Cleaning Up My Act
by Lieba Rudolph
I remember hearing the word when I was a child, and the thought terrified me. I imagined a cerebral cortex being scrubbed down on a washboard. That's what I thought of when I heard the word, "brainwashed." But I remember thinking it probably wasn't so bad once they put the clean brain back in your skull.
No, I was told clearly, "brainwashing" is a bad thing done by bad people. There is nothing worse than being told what to think and what not to think.
So you can imagine what I thought every time I went into the homes of my new "friends," the Lubavitchers. There wasn't one house that didn't have a large, prominently displayed picture of the Rebbe.
I know about people like you, I thought to myself. You've been brainwashed.
Then there were other people we met who only confirmed our suspicion. They would say to us, "We really like Lubavitch. We just have a problem with... the Rebbe."
I knew what they meant. I had never seen a leader so totally revered by his followers. Americans didn't put up pictures of the President and I had never seen a rabbi picture anywhere in a Jewish home.
There was only one problem: I really liked the Rebbe's followers and they seemed to genuinely like me, and I knew it wasn't because they wanted to brainwash me.
I liked their pride in being Jewish, the way they helped people, the fact that they talked about G-d and the meaning of life. I understood that this all came from the Rebbe and his teachings, but it still seemed strange that their Jewish observance was so connected to a human being.
It didn't take me long to see that the Rebbe was someone people turned to when they wanted or needed something. What could be wrong with having a little help with that? Besides, the Rebbe didn't demand loyalty or any commitments in return; what did I have to lose, especially if I could get some help in the blessings department?
I took full advantage of the Rebbe's ability to look out for me when my husband Zev and I actually had a yechidut, a private audience, with the Rebbe in 1989. I was expecting a child (who soon became my daughter Leah), so naturally I wanted to ask the Rebbe for a blessing for a healthy baby. But my wish list kept getting bigger as I realized I should cover all my bases, grandchildren and great grandchildren included.
You have to ask for what you want, right?
It's hard to remember when the thought occurred to me, that if I really wanted to be covered forever and ever, I needed to ask the Rebbe to bring Moshiach, the Messiah. But that's exactly what I did.
I said to the Rebbe, "If you would bring Moshiach, all of our prayers would be answered." The Rebbe answered that he was ready, but that he needed the cooperation of all the Jews around him.
I then asked the Rebbe for a blessing to work harder to bring him as soon as possible. The Rebbe then answered, "Yes, and as soon as possible because Moshiach is ready to come tomorrow...or maybe the day after tomorrow."
Now, 25 years later, I am starting to understand that I got my personal charge from the Rebbe on that day.
We saw the Rebbe many times before he passed away. Together with thousands of others, our family would line up for hours outside the Rebbe's office so each of us could receive a blessing from the Rebbe, along with a dollar that we would then exchange for another dollar to give to charity. Little by little, I realized that the Rebbe was more than a holy intervenor who could help me access blessings that were a little beyond or more difficult for me to reach on my own. He was also a spiritual guide whose teachings could help me clean out not just my brain but my soul.
I only have one real recollection of hearing the Rebbe actually speak from his headquarters in 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. The women were standing on benches, pressed together side to side, with only our heads facing front. It was so crowded that your feet didn't have to touch the floor for you to be held up. I couldn't see the Rebbe, he spoke in Yiddish so I couldn't understand the Rebbe, but none of that mattered. I knew that it was good for me to be there.
I remember asking the woman next to me what the Rebbe was saying. She answered, "When you give something to someone else, it should be better than what you keep for yourself."
So this was how the Rebbe was trying to brainwash me. If I want to get clean, "good enough" is not good enough when it comes to doing for others.
You can imagine how often I hear those words reverberate in my ears, how many times over the years I have deliberated over my two bags of mandel bread, pushing my hand to give away the bigger one because I know this is what the Rebbe wants me to do.
And that's just for starters. I don't always do what the Rebbe wants, I know that, but I'm committed to trying.
And I know one other thing: I haven't been sorry yet.
From Mrs. Rudolph's blog ponderingjew.org
Nearly 800 Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva students are travellinged to destinations around the world where they will conduct public Passover Seders under the auspices of "Merkos Shlichus." They are in cities with small Jewish communities or tourist spots that do not have permanent emissaries. In addition, most of the thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide are hosting public Seders. To find out about the Seder location closest to you call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or visit chabad.org.
Make sure your celebration of the Passover Seders has an authentic feel with the traditiona, round, hand-baked Shmura Matza. Available at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
25th of Cheshvan, 5735 
Greeting and Blessing:
As I inquire periodically from our mutual friends about you and your family, I was pleased to receive word about your recent birthday.
No doubt you know that Chasidim observe special customs in connection with a birthday. These also reflect the significance of a birthday in Jewish life.
In general, these customs comprise three items: 1) an Aliyah (being called up to the Torah) on the preceding Shabbos; if at all possible, 2) additional Torah study on the birthday itself, 3) an extra donation for Tzedokoh [charity] on the birthday - if a weekday, or before or after, if it occurs on Shabbos.
Needless to say, Jewish customs are meaningful in many ways. It would take us too far afield to mention more than one aspect in regard to each of the above three customs.
The Aliyah to the Torah, on the preceding Shabbos, which is by way of preparation for the birthday, emphasizes that with each birthday the Jew rises to a higher spiritual level. This is indicated also by the word Aliyah ("going up"). And, although the term also refers to the physical ascent of actually going up to the Bimah [the elevated platform where the Torah is read] which is on a higher level than the floor of the Shul [synagogue], its real meaning is the spiritual aspect. Indeed, it is precisely because of the spiritual ascent (achieved through the reading and study of the Torah) that the Bimah is elevated.
The particular relevance of the birthday is this: a person, of course, grows physically and mentally from day to day and from year to year, so that in some respects the person is not exactly the same today as the day before. Certainly in the spiritual sphere the birthday is meant to bring about an essential (not merely superficial) change, since on that day his Mazel [fortune] is renewed.
By that is meant, as the Gemoroh expresses it "mazelayu chozi", the "root" of the soul, which remains attached to its Source On High, while only an extension of the soul, as it were, descends into the body and vitalizes it. For, obviously, the soul which is eternal and part of "real G-dliness" could not be "wholly confined" within the body, any more than G-d Himself could be con fined within the world He created. And just as G-d is both in the world and beyond it (immanent and transcendent) so it is in regard to the soul and body.
Therefore, when the birthday comes, the Jew is expected to ascend to a higher level in an essential way, namely by strengthening the very root of the soul, when, as a matter of course, the change is felt also in the "lower" aspect of the soul that vitalizes the physical body. Such a change can be achieved only through Torah, which is "our very life and the length of our days."
The second observance - an increase in the actual Torah study - follows the first, but in a more tangible way, namely the study of the Torah with understanding and comprehension, so that it permeates the mind and is reflected in actual living experience in the daily life.
The third item - the giving of Tzedokoh - signifies the giving of oneself, both of body and soul. Since a person consists of both body and soul, his growth and advancement has to encompass both the spiritual and the physical. If the Aliyah and Torah study primarily reflect the spiritual, the giving of Tzedokoh reflects the physical and material, namely the sweat and toil of earning money, which is then converted into some thing spiritual and sacred, since it is dedicated to a sacred cause, as indicated by the term "Tzedokoh."
Being kept informed by our mutual friends about your consistent advancement both spiritually and materially (in matters of Tzedokoh), there remains for me only to express the hope that since your recent birthday, you have been doing this with even greater inspiration and joy, and that the advancement is evident in both quality and quantity.
Every soul has its particular avoda, in the areas of intellect and emotions, in accordance with that soul's nature and character. It is written: "From my foes have You given me wisdom";* from the evil tendencies one detects in his natural traits, he can become wise and know how to handle the correction of these traits, and how to subordinate his powers, in the service of G-d.
(A more literal rendering of Psalm 119:98 is "You have made me more wise than my foes.")
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
It is a Jewish custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Chasidim and followers of the Rebbe also recite daily the Rebbe's chapter. The 11th of Nissan (this year Tuesday, March 31) marks the Rebbe's 113th birthday, and so, we begin reciting chapter 114.
Chapter 114 of Psalms is the second chapter of Hallel, the special verses of praise to G-d recited on all Jewish holidays.
The Midrash (Shocher Tov) explains that the Children of Israel merited to be redeemed from Egyptian slavery and exile because they did not change their names, they did not change their language, and they restrained themselves from immorality. This is alluded to in the first two verses. "When 'Israel' went out," indicates that the Jewish people retained their Jewish names; "from a people of 'alien tongue'," indicates that the Egyptian language was alien to them, i.e., they used the Holy Tongue amongst themselves; "Judah became his 'holy nation'," - they did not defile themselves by copying the sexual immorality of Egypt. (Chatam Sofer)
Ancient tradition teaches that the entire theme of this chapter relates to the second verse, "Judah became His holy nation..." - i.e., Judah became the royal house of the Jewish nation because they were the first tribe - represented by Nachshon ben Aminadov - to selflessly jump into the Red Sea.
In the fourth verse we read: "The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs." Chasidic teachings explain that when a person is in a calculated mode, his spiritual growth is also measured - step-by-step. However, at a time of immense joy and celebration, one can reach much higher levels, "skipping" by leaps and bounds. We thus dance, we skip like rams, leaving the cerebral behind and thereby reaching levels beyond our calculations. (Sefer HaMaamarim 5715)
The eighth and final verse is, "Who turns the rock into a pond of water, the flint into a flowing fountain." The revelation at Mount Sinai gave the world with a glimpse of what it will be like in the Redemption. In fact, it is not nature that will change, as Maimonides states that the world will go according to its nature. Rather, our eyes will be opened, for "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as water covers the sea (Isaiah 11:9). At that time, G-d will turn the rock into a pond of water [i.e. a reservoir of knowledge], the flint into a flowing fountain."
May that long-awaited Redemption commence NOW!
And the priest shall put on his linen garment (Lev. 6:3)
Rashi comments, "His garment (mado) should befit his stature (midato). The service of the high priest who performs his duties while wearing the garment of an ordinary priest is invalid."A person must always behave in a manner befitting his stature. The higher up one is on the ladder, the more is required of him.
He shall carry the ashes outside the camp, to a clean place (Lev. 6:4)
Even though the ashes that remained after the sacrifices were burnt were only a waste product of Israel, they too were worthy of being kept in a pure, clean place.
And every meal offering that is mixed with oil, or dry...to one as much as the other (Lev. 7:10)
The meal offering mixed with oil was voluntary, but the dry one was brought by a person who had committed a transgression. The Torah says, "to one as much as the other." One must treat both individuals with the same respect, love and spirit of brotherhood, regardless of the reason why the offering was brought.
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)
by Rabbi Zushe Silberstein
I heard the following story from a cousin of mine, Aharon Dovid, a few years ago. My cousin is a chasid, but not a Lubavitcher chasid. He is a successful businessman and helped out the various institutions run by his rebbe by raising money for the institutions during his various business trips.
One time, my cousin was in Los Angeles on business. Walking down the street, he saw someone who looked familiar to him, though he couldn't remember from where. Then he remembered that they had been study-partners in yeshiva when they were much younger. They exchanged some small talk, and then the long-lost friend announced, "I am now a chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
My cousin asked him, "How, why did this happen?"
"Listen to my story and then you will understand. After my wife and I married, we continued to live in the community in Brooklyn where we had both grown up. After about a half a year, I was offered a job in Los Angeles and we decided to move here even though we didn't know anyone.
"One day, my wife really wasn't feeling well. It seemed serious enough to go to the emergency room and that's what we did. After a few hours of examinations, tests, and waiting, the grim-faced doctor came out and spoke to me privately. 'From the tests that we did, your wife's condition seems complicated. According to what we see, your wife's disease is quite advanced. I recommend that you don't tell her anything; don't scare her. Go home. Get some sleep. Come back tomorrow and in the meantime we'll make sure that your wife is comfortable.'
"I didn't know what to do, to whom to turn. I went home and prayed and said Psalms from the depths of my heart. Suddenly I remembered, I am a chasid! I began to cry out, 'Rebbe, help me! Save my wife! Help me!'
"A few minutes passed and the phone rang! Right then, in the middle of the night! I thought perhaps it was someone from the hospital telling me there was good news. But when I picked up the phone it was a man who was speaking in Yiddish. He said, 'I am Hadakov. I am calling you because the Rebbe told me to call you to say that in the morning you should take your wife out of the hospital and go to Dr. -. The Rebbe gave his blessing that everything will be fine.' Then this Hadakov person said, 'Did you heard what I said?' I must have answered 'yes' because the next thing I knew there was a dial tone at the other end.
"I sat there wondering, 'Did I really get that phone call? Where do I know Hadakov from? Maybe I'm dreaming and hearing voices? Maybe it was a fantasy? I know what I heard but who is Hadakov?'
"I did not know who Hadakov was but I had a feeling that he was somehow connected to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I remembered that there is a Lubavitcher chasid, an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, here in Los Angeles named Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Raichik. I had never met him personally but he was renown as someone who was always helping out other people. Rumor had it that he would stay up the entire night saying the bed-time Shema.
"I looked up the number in the phone book. It was 3:30 a.m. but I called anyway. Rabbi Raichik answered the phone. I told him what had happened to my wife and the phone call from Rabbi Hadakov. Rabbi Raichik told me that Rabbi Hadakov was the Lubavitcher Rebbe's personal secretary. 'So do as he told you to do!' Rabbi Raichik said simply. I explained that I had been so surprised by the phone call that I was not actually sure what Rabbi Hadakov had told me to do. Rabbi Raichik gave me the phone number of the Rebbe's office. Even thought it was now 6:30 a.m. in New York, he urged me to call the Rebbe's office to clarify what I was supposed to do. I immediately called and the phone was answered by Rabbi Hadakov.
"I asked Rabbi Hadakov to repeat what he had told me: 'The Rebbe told me to call you and to say that in the morning, take your wife out of the hospital and go to Dr. - and the Rebbe gave his blessing that all would be well.' I then asked him, 'Why did you call me?' Rabbi Hadakov said, 'Because the Rebbe asked me to do so.' Bewildered, I asked, 'But I did not call the Rebbe so why did the Rebbe say to call me?' Rabbi Hadakov said, 'I can't answer that. That's between you and the Rebbe. I did what the Rebbe told me to do.'
"The next morning I went to the hospital and told the doctor I was taking my wife out. I had to sign all kinds of documents that said I take responsibility for her. I found the address of the doctor the Rebbe had referred me to. I called the office and the secretary said the next appointment would be in a year! I tried explaining that the matter was urgent but it did not help. I decided to take my wife straight to the doctor. We went to the doctor's office with no appointment. When I saw the doctor I told him desperately that he had to see my wife. The doctor was taken aback by my nerve but said that it was not possible without an appointment. I told him that the secretary had said the next available appointment is in a year. The doctor insisted that he could not see us. I told him, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe referred me to you."
"Upon hearing this, he said, 'I don't know who the Lubavitcher Rebbe is but your story is so unusual it interests me. Come into my office, I want to hear more.' My wife and I came into his office and we told him everything. In the end he agreed to treat my wife.'
My cousin Aharon Dovid had been standing on the street in Los Angeles talking to his old friend for quite a while. His friend concluded, "You are probably wondering what happened... Thank G-d, my wife recovered! We have been blessed with five children, and all is well!
But my cousin still did not understand. He asked his old friend, "But why did you become a chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe?" His friend said, "In the middle of the night, when I cried out, 'Rebbe, help me!' the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the one who answered me!"
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine. Rabbi Silberstein is director of Chabad Chabanel, in Montreal, Canada.
After Moses the First redeemer was revealed, the slavery of the Jews in Egypt drastically increased. Similarly, after Moshiach is revealed, anti-Semitism and our servitude to the nations will drastically increase. Just as Moses was revealed, then disappeared, and then revealed again before leading the Jews from Egypt, similarly, Moshiach will be revealed, concealed, and then revealed again before leading us to the final Redemption. The extraordinary length of our exile is to greatly increase the magnitude of the Redemption and our reward in the end. The punishment of those who afflict us will be similarly increased. Troubles are a sign of the Redemption.