Let Them Eat Cake! | 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
by Tzippy Robinson
It's Passover tonight and we want to talk about cake? Discussing the merits of matza would make sense. Trading gefilte fish recipes would seem appropriate. But cake?
The statement, "Let them eat cake," allegedly expressed by Marie Antoinette, sums up the glaring class division in France that led to the French Revolution. So far removed was she from the plight of most of her fellow countrymen that she couldn't begin to comprehend their condition. To us, her response to the situation seems absurd and ignorant. "The people have no bread? Let them eat cake!" However, it was indicative of a far greater problem.
The upper class of France held themselves so far above the rest of the population, that they couldn't even begin to relate to their problems, let alone solve them. The main problem of the French royal family was arrogance, an arrogance so severe that it took an all-out revolution, a war in the streets, to bring about change.
And getting rid of arrogance is the connection between the French Revolution and Passover.
On Passover we are forbidden to eat leavened foods, chametz. In fact, we cannot have any chametz in our possession, nor can we benefit from it in any way during the days of Passover. Therefore, in the days and weeks before Passover we devote time to ridding our homes of even the slightest crumbs of chametz.
Chasidic philosophy compares the character trait of arrogance to chametz, and the trait of modesty to matza, because chametz must rise up and become inflated (as in ego), while matza is by its very nature flat, unobtrusive.
There is a story of a disciple of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe. This student was granted a private audience with the Alter Rebbe, and when he entered the Rebbe's study he asked him, "What do I lack?" The Rebbe answered him, "You lack nothing in the area of scholarship and fear of G-d. However, you must get rid of the chametz in your character, your inflated ego. The cure for this is matza, which symbolizes humility and the setting aside of one's own self for the sake of serving G-d."
Implementing the advice given by the Alter Rebbe to his student, we can look at abstaining from chametz as something we do not just do to our diets, but to ourselves. As we get rid of the chametz from our homes and menus, we are instructed to do the same with our own characters, to look for areas in which our arrogance may be cluttering things up. And to replace it with matza, humility.
We hope and pray that eradicating the chametz from our lives and replacing it with matza will finally lead us into the days of Moshiach, when the whole world will be "Kosher for Passover" (so to speak), free of all crumbs of "chametz," freed from the burdens of our own egos, when we will at last be able to serve G-d without impediment.
In the Passover Haggadah, we say: "Even if we are all wise, all men of understanding, and all know the Torah, it is a mitzva (commandment) for us to tell of the exodus from Egypt." This quote indicates that the point of the Seder is not merely an intellectual experience. For after all, if we are wise and know the Torah, then we also know the story of the Exodus.
Instead, the intent is that the Seder enables us to relive the Exodus, to realize - as we say later in the Haggadah - that "not only our ancestors [were] redeemed from Egypt, but [G-d] redeemed us as well." Every Seder is an opportunity for each one of us to leave Egypt.
What does it mean for us to leave Egypt, when many of us have never seen that part of the world?
Mitzrayim - the Hebrew name for Egypt - shares a connection with the term meitzarim, meaning "boundaries" or "limitations." Leaving Egypt means going beyond those forces that hold us back and prevent us from expressing who we really are. The idea of leaving Egypt reminds us that, in a certain way, we are all slaves.
Each one of us has a soul which is "an actual part of G-d." This is the core of our being, our real "I." But we find ourselves in Egypt, for there are forces, both external and internal, that prevent us from being in touch with this spiritual potential and giving it expression.
The Seder night is a time when these forces do not have the power to hold us back. For Passover is "The Season of Our Freedom." From the time of the Exodus - and indeed, from the beginning of time - this night was chosen as a night on which the potential is granted to express our G-dly core. Every year, at this time, within the spiritual hierarchy of the world, there is "an exodus from Egypt." All restrictions fall away and transcendent G-dliness is revealed.
This spiritual awakening filters down within our souls, prompting us to tap our spiritual core, express our unbounded G-dly potential, and leave Egypt, i.e., to break through any and all restraints.
This experience should not remain an isolated spiritual peak. Instead, Passover should initiate a process of endless growth, empowering us to continuously break through ever subtle levels of limitations and express our spiritual potential at all times.
This concept is reflected in the Lubavitch custom not to recite the passage "Chasal Siddur Pesach" ("The Passover Seder is concluded") which others say at the end of the Seder. The intent of the omission is to emphasize that our Passover experience should be ongoing. Throughout the year, we should look to the Seder as the beginning of a pattern of new growth and spiritual expression.
From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
Passover in China...Taiwan...Korea
What happens when three pairs of rabbinical students studying at the Rabbinical College of Australia and New Zealand head to Asia to help local Chabad emissaries for Passover? Read below and you will find out.
by Ephraim Block and Eli Einbinder
By Chinese standards, Shenzhen is a modern city with a vibrant economy, and is extremely popular with foreign business people and visitors. It was to Shenzhen that we headed, to help the local Chabad Shliach (emissary), Rabbi Sholom Ber Chazan, conduct programs for Pesach.
We arrived in Shenzhen shortly before Pesach, and quickly got involved in the last minute Pesach preparations.
At the first Seder, an American conversing with Ephraim got to talking about how obsessed he was with playing tennis. Before long, he was challenging Ephraim to a game. The game took place after Yom-Tov, with Ephraim soundly defeating his opponent. The American was so impressed that a yeshiva student was as skilled on the court as he is with his Jewish studies that he donated 1,000 Renminbi (the local Chinese currency) to Chabad.
Also at the first Seder, Eli spent some quality time with two people visiting from Toronto. They were so inspired that they cancelled their trip to Beijing the following day, in order to stay in Shenzhen for the second Seder.
On the day after Pesach, we visited a local park which is a popular hangout for the local Israeli families. We spoke with a number of them, and we put Tefillin on one of the men. On our way back to the Chabad House, we made a last-minute detour via the pier. Sitting in one of the coffee-shops was a family of South African tourists whom we had met at the Chabad House during Pesach. We sat down and had a lively discussion,
Eventually, we had to return to the Chabad House to ready ourselves for the return flight to Melbourne. As we were about to leave to the airport, in walked Jonas, a young teenager of French origin with whom we had become close friends. Jonas had come to say his goodbyes. He wanted our farewell to be special, so we had him wrapped in Tefillin in no time. It was the perfect way to conclude our inspiring stay on the Asian continent.
This year in China, next year in Jerusalem
by Mordechai Gutnick and Zalman Plotke
We flew to Taiwan on 11 Nissan, which marks the anniversary of the Rebbe's birthday. Over the next several days, we helped Rabbi Shlomi Tabib with Pesach shopping, cooking and preparations.
For Rabbi Tabib's first Pesach in Taipei, he arranged for the annual community Seder to be fully Kosher for Pesach for the first time ever. To that end, we spent two full days at the Sheraton kitchens, making sure it was Kosher for Pesach, and supervising the chefs.
Aside from the community event, Rabbi Tabib arranged another Seder at his home for those interested in a more traditional Seder. On the first night, Rabbi Tabib attended the community event and infused it with warmth and a real Jewish feeling. At the same time, we conducted the Seder at Rabbi Tabib's house for a crowd of Israeli and American businessmen and students. By the end of the evening, even the most nonchalant attendees were enthusiastically singing all the Seder songs.
Since there was no community event the second night, Rabbi Tabib led the Seder at his home. It was amazing to watch the diverse crowd of Americans and Israelis - ranging from company CEOs to college students - merge into one cohesive and joyous group.
The rest of Pesach was focussed on reaching out to local Jews. Just walking the streets was itself an experience. With our hats and beards, we did not exactly blend into the crowd of pedestrians. This was a good thing, because we became like walking magnets, attracting many Jews who were so excited to see "Chabadnikim" where they would least expect it. This made our job all the more easier.
This year in Taiwan; next year in Jerusalem!
by Dovid Goldenberg and Sholom Meyer
Rabbi Osher Litzman, in Seoul, needed lots of help with his Pesach activities so we travelled to South Korea.
We arrived at the Chabad House at 3:00 in the morning, where Rabbi Litzman was anxiously awaiting us. We awoke early the next morning to an interesting surprise. Although Pesach was only three days away, the preparations at the Chabad House had not yet begun. The reason for this became apparent soon enough. From early morning to late evening, there was a steady stream of people flowing through the Chabad House doors. Many of the visitors sought Rabbi Litzman's guidance, and some came to sell their chametz and the like. The Chabad House is also the only place in South Korea where imported Kosher food can be obtained, and the week before Pesach was naturally a very busy time.
Under those conditions, it was impossible for Rabbi Litzman to prepare for Pesach single-handedly. For the next three days, we cleaned for Passover and cooked. When the Chabad House filled with visitors, we made everyone feel welcome, and put Tefillin on many of the guests.
When Seder night arrived, Rabbi Litzman quickly realized that the crowd was mostly English-speaking. (Most of the Seder participants were English-Language teachers from Canada temporarily based in South Korea.) Not much of an English speaker himself, Rabbi Litzman asked us to lead the Seder, and he offered to help from the sidelines.
There were about 70 participants at the first Seder, and almost 60 at the second. As the Seder progressed, we sang and danced, and there was an unmistakable vibe and a strong feeling of unity.
During the intermediate days of Pesach, we travelled all the way to the border of North Korea, to connect with even the most far-flung Jew. Wherever we went, we received a lot of perplexed stares from people. Our conspicuousness worked to our advantage. We were quickly and easily noticed by any Jew who happened to be in the vicinity. Nearly seven million tourists pour into Korea every single year, and many of them are Jews. We also met Jewish soldiers in the U.S. military.
This year, we celebrated Pesach in the shadows of nuclear North-Korea; next year in Jerusalem!
Reprinted with permission from rabbinicalcollege.edu.au
Three In One
At the Jewish Russian Community Center of Montreal, Canada, two adult Jewish men were entered into the covenant of Abraham by undergoing brit mila. Afterwards, the two men put on tefilin for the first time in their lives, thus effectively celebrating their Bar Mitzvas. With one of them being a first-born, a third ceremony was held: a Pidyon Haben for redeeming a firstborn son, customarily done when the baby is 30 days old.
Mazel tov Yitzchak and Shaul.
This issue of L'Chaim is for 14 Nissan/April 3 and 21 Nissan/April 10. The next issue, 1367 will be for 28 Nissan/April 17.
The date of this letter was unavailable
The festival of Pesach [Passover] calls for early and elaborate preparations to make the Jewish home fitting for the great festival. It is not physical preparedness alone that is required of us, but also spiritual preparedness - for in the life of the Jew the physical and spiritual are closely linked together, especially in the celebration of our Sabbath and festivals.
On Pesach we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery and, together with it, the liberation from, and negation of the ancient Egyptian system and way of life, the "abominations of Egypt." Thus we celebrate our physical liberation together with our spiritual freedom.
Indeed, there cannot be one without the other: There can be no real freedom without accepting the precepts of our Torah guiding our daily life; pure and holy life eventually leads to real freedom.
It is said, "In every generation each Jew should see himself as though he personally had been liberated from Egypt." This is to say, that the lesson of Pesach has always a timely message for the individual Jew.
The story of Pesach is the story of the special Divine Providence which alone determines the fate of our people.
What is happening in the outside world need not affect us; we might be singled out for suffering, G-d forbid, amid general prosperity, and likewise for safety amid a general plague or catastrophe.
The story of our enslavement and liberation of which Pesach tells us gives ample illustration of this. For the fate of our people is determined by its adherence to G-d and His Prophets.
This lesson is emphasized by the three principal symbols of the Seder, concerning which our Sages said that unless the Jew explains their significance he has not observed the Seder fittingly: Pesach, Matzah and Morror [bitter herbs].
Using these symbols in their chronological order and in accordance with their Haggadah explanation we may say: the Jew can avoid Morror (bitterness of life) only through Pesach (G-d's special care "passing over" and saving the Jewish homes even in the midst of the greatest plague), and Matzah - then the very catastrophe and the enemies of the Jews will work for the benefit of the Jews, driving them in great haste out of "Mitzrayim," [Egypt]the place of perversion and darkness, and placing them under the beam of light and holiness.
One other important thing we must remember: the celebration of the festival of freedom must be connected with the commandment "You shall relate it to your son."
The story of Pesach is the story of the special Divine Providence which alone determines the fate of our people.
The formation and existence of the Jewish home, as of the Jewish people as a whole, is dependent upon the upbringing of the young generation, both boys and girls: the wise and the wicked (temporarily), the simple and the one who knows not what to ask.
Just as we cannot shirk our responsibility towards our child by the excuse that "my child is a wise one; he will find his own way in life; therefore no education is necessary for him," so we must not despair by thinking "the child is a wicked one; no education will help him."
For, all Jewish children, boys and girls, are "G-d's children," and it is our sacred duty to see to it that they all live up to their above-mentioned title; and this we can achieve only through a proper Jewish education, in full adherence to G-d's Torah. Then we all will merit the realization of our ardent hopes: "In the next year may we be free; in the next year may we be in Jerusalem!"
The Hagada states: "Whoever expands on the narrative of the exodus from Egypt, this person (harei zeh) is to be praised." The Hebrew word "zeh" - "this" indicates a state of holiness, as in the phrase, "This (zeh) is our G-d." Whoever expands on the narrative of the exodus, his zeh, his element of holiness, is enriched.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
While the two Seders on the first two evenings of Passover are the most widely celebrated festive meals in Judaism, there is another festive meal also on Passover that is also traditional albeit lesser known.
It was the custom of the Baal Shem Tov to partake of three meals on the last day of Passover. The third meal, which took place late in the afternoon, was known as the "Festive Meal of Moshiach," or Moshiach's Seuda, for - he explained - on this day the radiance of Moshiach is openly revealed.
Moshiach's Seuda was instituted on the eighth day of Passover, as the number eight is connected to the Redemption (being one more than seven -- symbolic of the natural order) and the Haftorah read on the eighth day of Passover contains many of the Messianic prophecies.
One might ask, what is the point of eating an actual, physical meal that relates to the subject of Moshiach?
This festive meal causes the image and the feeling of the future Redemption to penetrate not only all the faculties of a person's soul, including his capacity for action, but his physical body as well - by means of the physical food that becomes part of his very flesh and blood. Partaking of this festive meal is intended to draw down the radiance of Moshiach into every aspect of one's daily life throughout the year.
This simply means - as an anticipatory echo of how the world will appear after the Redemption - that holiness should permeate all of a person's activities, including his physical activities, to the point that he is prepared to sacrifice the innermost core of his soul. This is the yechida within his soul, the element of Moshiach in his soul.
The Rebbe once explained, "The four cups of wine on the Seder night are the cups of Moses our teacher; the four cups of wine at Seudas Moshiach on the last day of Passover are the cups of our righteous Moshiach."
One Rosh HaShanah the holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said: "Sweet Father, compassionate Father! Just in case the angels that proceed from the shofar that Levi Yitzchak the son of Sarah Sasha has just blown are weak angels, let their place be taken by the holy, healthy angels that were created by the toil of Your people in preparation for Passover, as they cleaned their kitchen utensils in order to fulfill their mitzvah as perfectly as possible: kratzen (scouring), shobben (scraping), rieben (rubbing), and kasheren (making kosher)! [for the initials of these four Yiddish words are also kashrak like the sounds of the shofar].
The custom of filling a fifth cup of wine for Elijah the Prophet at the seder table is relatively recent. Although always practiced by some, it has become more widespread only in the last few generations. One explanation for this is that this practice is intimately connected to our faith in the coming of Moshiach, for Elijah the Prophet will be the one to herald the redemption and the Messianic era. As the time for our redemption grows near, it is reflected in our religious practices.
Bread of affliction
The matza we eat on Passover must be made solely of special flour and water. Matza made of flour and fruit juice is called "rich matza," and is not acceptable for the celebration of the seder. Matza, the "bread of affliction," symbolizes our willingness to perform mitzvot (commandments) solely for G-d's sake, even if we derive no pleasure from their performance. We thereby emulate our ancestors' unquestioning obedience to G-d's command when they left Egypt with only matza to sustain them, in perfect faith that G-d would provide for them in the desert. We must always approach the performance of a mitzva with the same acceptance of our Heavenly yoke, even before we seek any intellectual rationale.
It was the day before Passover and the Baal Shem Tov was in a happy mood as he and his disciples gathered for the ceremony of preparing the specially watched water for the matzot baked right before the onset of the holiday. But soon after the water was prepared, everyone noticed a drastic change in the mood of the Baal Shem Tov, from happiness to deep melancholy.
As usual, the Baal Shem Tov himself led the evening prayers, but his devotions were accompanied by heart-rending sobs. His Chasidim were shocked, since he usually prayed with tremendous joy, especially Passover eve.
Later that night, the Baal Shem Tov summoned ten of his disciples. "I want you to gather outside my room, and together, recite the Tikun Chatzot (midnight prayers). Just remember what I am about to tell you. If you see that I faint, do not touch me or do anything at all to revive me. The only action you must take is to recite Psalms until I come back to myself."
The Chasidim followed his orders, assembling outside the Baal Shem Tov's room and saying the midnight prayer. After a short while, the scribe, Reb Tzvi, ran from the Baal Shem Tov's room in a panic, exclaiming, "The Rebbe is lying on the floor in a faint!"
The Chasidim began reciting Psalms as they had been told, and continued all through the night, sobbing and imploring G-d to bring their master back to this world in good health.
Finally, after dawn, the Baal Shem Tov awakened, but he was weak and unable to walk. He asked his disciples to carry him to the mikva, to immerse in its purifying waters.
When the Baal Shem Tov regained his strength, he returned to the study hall to lead the morning prayers. Before beginning, to the surprise of everyone, he instructed those present to concentrate on the holy intentions that accompany the Rosh Hashana prayers.
Throughout the entire service, the Baal Shem Tov wept. Even later in the day, when the time arrived to bake the special matzot, usually a time of great joy, the Baal Shem Tov's face still showed great concern and seriousness. After the afternoon service, the disciples recited the Passover eve prayers, and the Baal Shem Tov sobbed still more.
Finally, night fell and the Baal Shem Tov sat down together with his disciples at the Seder table. But instead of illuminating the evening with his brilliant exposition of the Hagada, he simply read through the text, making no comments at all. When the first part of the Hagada had been recited, the Baal Shem Tov's mood changed; his gloom lifted, and he suddenly began to laugh. Finally the Baal Shem Tov turned to his disciples and said, "Now, I will explain to you what happened."
"The day before Passover eve, the day of drawing the special water, I saw that a decree was made in Heaven against 400 Jewish families. These families were destined to be taken away, G-d forbid, from this world! I ascended to the supernal worlds and did everything in my power to have this decree annulled, but all of my efforts were to no avail. After all of my spiritual exertion, all that remained for me was simply to put my faith in G-d that all would be well.
"When I awoke the next morning, I saw that the decree was not revoked. In fact, it was even stronger than before. That is why such a sadness overcame me. Then I saw something else: A middle-aged couple sat around a Seder table in a far-away city. This couple had no children, and were sitting alone at their table, reciting the Hagada. When they reached the part describing Pharaoh's terrible decree to throw all the infant Jewish boys into the Nile, the woman began arguing against the Alm-ghty, 'No! This cannot be! If I were the mother of children,' she cried, 'would I do such a thing? Would I throw my children into the water? As bad as a child may be, is that how parents behave?' And the good woman did not stop. She continued berating the Creator, saying, 'How long will You keep us in exile? You say you are our Father! You take us out of exile and bring the Redemption!'
"Her husband tried to calm her down. 'Have faith! Surely you know that everything G-d does is for the good and there is no evil in His actions!' But the woman was unmoved by all his arguments. 'A father must have mercy on his children no matter what,' she insisted.
"And then," the Baal Shem Tov continued, "there was a great commotion in Heaven. One group of angels said, 'What chutzpa! How can this woman make demands on G-d?' Then another group of angels began disagreeing, claiming, 'Here is a simple Jewish woman, one who, without being a mother herself, feels so passionately for G-d's children! She is right!'
I was very fearful," said the Baal Shem Tov, "for I did not know which group would win the argument! And then what happened? The couple drank the four cups of wine, and finished the Seder. Then the woman said to her husband, 'True, it is a bitter exile, but now it is a Yom Tov, a holy day for G-d and the Jews. We should celebrate it with joy.' And the man and his wife danced merrily around the table, their hearts filled with joy for their Creator in the happiness of the holiday.
"All the celestial beings watched them in wonder. They saw the great joy with which this couple could celebrate the holy Yom Tov, even in bitter exile, and how they fulfilled G-d's will, despite the deep darkness of the exile. When the angels witnessed the unbridled joy of the couple, those who were accusers became advocates and the decree was overturned. And that is when I laughed, for I rejoiced in the power of joy which saved the lives of four hundred holy Jewish souls."
G-d did not force those Jews who did not want to leave Egypt to do so. In contrast, in the future Redemption, even those Jews who do not consciously want to be redeemed will be taken out of exile. This is because when G-d gave us the Torah, He connected our essence with His essense, makign it impossible for us to really oppose our connectioin with Him. Of course, we can go through the motions of opposing our connectioin to G-d, but this is only superficial. Sooner or later, our deep, inner essence will surfact, and this will make us all indeed worth of being redeemed.
(Daily Wisdom/Likutei Sichot vol. 2)