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Based on the Hebrew and Yiddish languages, it would appear that life and good health is almost a Jewish preoccupation.
For a start, what is the most familiar Jewish toast? L'Chaim! (Literally, "To life!")
If someone wants to say, "No worries; keep it and enjoy," how does he say that in Yiddish? He says, Zol zain tzu gizunt! ("Let it just add to your health!")
With what words does one farewell a friend? Zai mir gizunt! ("Do me a favor and stay healthy!").
And if a Yiddish-speaker wants to reassure an anxious friend that the best thing to do about a passing crisis is to view it in perspective and ignore it, he simply says, Abi gizunt! ("As long as you have your health!")
A Jew, then, is constantly concerned about a life of good health - and rightly so, from both a physical and a spiritual standpoint.
Chasidic teachings indicate that the spiritual and physical health of a Jew are inexorably intertwined.
The Rebbe's approach to healing is holistic. The Rebbe would take into consideration the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of an ailment or of the ailing individual and would advise accordingly.
At the same time, the Rebbe drew a clear line between the physical and spiritual aspects of healing. The physical aspect of healing was invariably dealt with in an entirely medical manner, while the spiritual aspect - such as checking mezuzot and tefillin - was not intended to serve as a substitute for what was to be done within the confines of nature.
An example: In two public talks the Rebbe stated emphatically that in a choice between two doctors, one of whom is an acknowledged expert but is not necessarily G-d-fearing, while the other is less expert but more G-d-fearing, Jewish law directs the patient to the more competent physician. Healing a patient, the Rebbe explained, is an issue of pikuach nefesh, a matter of life and death. And what counts here is the doctor's expertise, not his religiosity.
The Rebbe also stated at a public gathering: "The general response to the questions many people [ask me] regarding medical matters: Follow the advice of an expert doctor; better yet, the advice of two expert doctors. Should they disagree, a third doctor should be consulted and the majority opinion should be followed."
A few days later, the Rebbe added the following: "On questions of health and healing, there is the commandment and instruction of the Torah, 'Scrupulously guard your health,' which is accomplished by following the instructions of the doctor; better yet, a doctor who is also the patient's friend, for then he is truly interested in his welfare, and so on.
Ultimately, however, we hope and pray that the healing will come from G-d Himself and not from a mortal doctor.
From the forward to the three volume set Healthy in Body, Mind and Soul, compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, published by Sichos in English.
This week's Torah portion, Toldot, describes the life and times of our ancestor Isaac. The Talmud states that in the Messianic Era, Isaac will be referred to as "our father," implying that it is Isaac from among all our forefathers who has a special connection to the Messianic Era. As we now stand at the threshold of the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption of the Jewish people, it is important to understand what exactly Isaac's path and service mean for us.
Isaac was the only one of our Patriarchs who lived his entire life within the boundaries of the land of Israel. Abraham was born outside of Israel and also left Israel to go to Egypt when a famine threatened. Jacob, too, went to Charan, where he worked for Laban for many years. However, when there was another famine in the Land during Isaac's lifetime, G-d commanded him to stay where he was and not to seek food elsewhere. "Do not go down to Egypt, but dwell in this land...and I will bless you." This is because after having shown his willingness to be sacrificed on the altar by his father Abraham, Isaac was considered a "perfect offering," too holy to dwell anywhere but in the Holy Land.
Isaac, therefore, symbolizes the Jewish people as they were meant to be, and as they will exist in the Messianic Era, their rightful place being in their land and not in exile in the four corners of the earth. During our present exile, we are like "children who have been banished from their father's table." We must therefore continue to demand that G-d send the redeemer now, so that we will be able to emulate Isaac and live a full life of Torah and mitzvot in our own land, as we were meant to.
Isaac's approach to the service of G-d is also especially applicable to us today. Even though Isaac continued in his father Abraham's path of spreading the belief in G-d throughout the world, he did so in a different manner from his father: Abraham wandered from place to place, including Egypt, spreading G-dliness wherever he went. Isaac, on the other hand, always remained in the same place, in Israel, yet others flocked to him because they were attracted by his holiness. In this way Isaac was able to influence others.
For the most part, the Jewish people have followed Abraham's example during their long exile, wandering from country to country and causing G-d's name to be called on wherever they went. After Moshiach comes, however, we will follow in Isaac's footsteps, as G-d's holiness and light will emanate from the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And at that time, as happened in the days of Isaac, all the nations of the world will likewise flock to Jerusalem, as it states, "And all nations shall flow unto it...for the Torah shall go forth out of Zion."
We must, in the meantime, combine aspects of both these approaches, refining our own personal spirituality, yet at the same time, not neglecting to spread holiness throughout the world at large.
A Change of Heart
by Sholom Kramer
Rabbis Shmuel and Sholom Gurevitz are emissaries of the Rebbe in Lyon, France. At a dinner in support of the schools and humanitarian organizations they established in Lyon, Mr. Alain Saban told the following personal story:
We are a happy family, we had whatever we wanted. But then one day my wife fell ill. I traveled to the Rebbe, and during Sunday "dollars" I asked for a blessing for my wife. The Rebbe gave me a dollar and then another dollar, saying, "For the school you will establish."
How did the Rebbe know about the school I was establishing? The Friday before, my friend Rabbi Sholom Gurevitz told the Rebbe's secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, that I was building a giant hotel that would also serve as a school for hotel management. The Rebbe gave me a blessing for the new hotel and then the Rebbe said, "When you open the hotel, make sure to place mezuzos on every doorway."
It was a long time before the hotel was completed. But at the opening ceremony, Rabbis Shmuel and Sholom Gurevitz put mezuzos on every doorpost.
Years went by. The hotel was deep in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. The losses were in the millions, much of which had not belonged to me, but were funds that had been borrowed from various banks and businessmen.
Government authorities suspected that the business had gone bankrupt after fraud had been committed. They appointed a special auditor to ascertain whether the business had legitimately failed due to human error and bad luck or because of embezzlement of funds. I knew I hadn't stolen or even taken an extra penny, but I was extremely nervous, for who knew whether the auditor or the court would be convinced of my integrity.
As time passed, my fears proved justified. I was called to various meetings at the auditor's office, and was asked to answer questions hinting at the direction the auditor was leading - which was bad for me. The auditor produced a report saying that based on his findings, I had embezzled money. I had to prove that I hadn't embezzled any money. My family united with me and did what they could to help. They all prayed for my health and for a successful conclusion to the matter.
Things got even worse. My house was confiscated and sold. My parents quickly bought it back so that I wouldn't enter a bottomless depression, as the doctors warned would happen.
The day of the auditor's decision had arrived. His final decision was almost certain. That day, I sat in my office and waited for him to come in order to hear his decision.
When he entered the office I saw him stand and gaze upon the mezuza in the doorway. He looked at it for a while and then entered. My office contained many pictures of myself and various senior officials in the French government, including the president of France. There were also certificates of appreciation and professional certificates attesting to my fine reputation in the hotel business. In the center, among all the pictures and certificates, was a huge picture of me receiving a dollar from the Rebbe.
The auditor looked at this picture for some time, and only then sat down in the chair facing me, and began detailing his summation. I sat and trembled, knowing that it was almost a certainty that I would soon be officially informed that I had lost my enormous investment.
But as soon as the auditor began speaking, instead of criticizing my handling of the business, he began speaking in my defense. He said that a number of odd circumstances and mistakes made by an inexperienced hotel owner had caused problems which led to a further chain of mishaps. Furthermore, in a tedious presentation he explained his findings and concluded that there was still a chance to save the business. He would request the government to lend me a huge sum of money to start the ball rolling again.
I was flabbergasted, as were my family and friends. I could only thank G-d for the unexpected miracle He had done for me. I had only one question: What made the auditor change his mind? I just had to know, so I asked him: "Tell me please, since everybody expected a bad report from you regarding my role in the business, what made you change your mind?"
The auditor looked at me and replied: "This morning, before coming here to give you my decision, I walked to the different floors of the hotel and noticed something interesting. I saw a mezuza on every door.
"I am Jewish. Before the war, my wife and I lived in Austria, and by the skin of our teeth we managed to flee the anti-Semitism and the tragedy to follow. We somehow made it through the war and then arrived in France. We decided to change our way of life so that nobody would know we were Jewish. We hid our being Jewish as much as we could.
"When I saw the mezuzos, I knew what they were. I remembered them though I thought a mezuza is to be put on the front door and maybe in another important room or two, and that's it. Here I was seeing a mezuza on every single door on hundreds of rooms in this hotel, knowing full well that this wasn't your personal home! I figured that a person so particular about mezuzos couldn't possibly be a fraud and a thief.
"Then I came to the main office. I noticed that every doorway in the office has a mezuza. I also saw a picture of a rabbi, and could see that he is a holy man. I knew only one thing - I had to return to my Jewish roots."
From that point on, the path for the auditor and his wife was short. I merited two miracles. First, the Rebbe saw the future, foreseeing what would happen and advising me to put a mezuza on every door of my hotel. Second, the Rebbe saved a Jewish couple from assimilation and brought them back to Judaism.
"Another miracle happened, in that since then I have established a chain of hotels all over Europe, all because of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of course!"
From Beis Moshiach Magazine
A Time to Heal
A Time to Heal is comprised of the Rebbe's response to loss and tragedy. Current today as when originally provided, the Rebbe's counsel to the bereaved provides support and solace to individuals and communities experiencing loss and tragedy, guiding them toward the hope for a brighter future. Compiled by Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, published by Ezra Press.
Back to Basics
Back to Basic is an aid for those wishing to study the original version of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Likkutei Sichot. It has been created with the intention of enhancing the learning experience for students on all levels, assisting also with the new concepts introduced throughout. In addition, Back to Basics highlights the personal and practical relevance of each weekly essay, messages and lessons that are timeless and have the power to completely transform our lives for the better. Published by Back2Basics - b2bsichos.com.
My father-in-law, the Rebbe, of blessed memory, related the statement of his father, the Rebbe Rashab Nishmaso Eden: "See how precious is the body of a Jew - for its sake has G-d poured forth so much Torah and mitzvos (commandments)."
When G-d gives each and every one of us something as precious as the body, we are to make every effort and truly exert ourselves to insure that the body be healthy. In so doing, we make it possible to fulfill G-d's will of performing Torah and mitzvos, which is specifically performed with the body.
This is as Maimonides states in Hilchos Deos, beginning of ch. 4, that "maintaining a healthy and whole body is an integral part of one's Divine service." And then there is the letter of the Maggid of Mezritch (printed in HaTamim) to his son, the holy "Malach," in which he states: "A small hole in the body causes a large hole in the soul."
My intent is not to lecture - rather, it is my hope that the above will hopefully have a positive effect on you, and through you it will also have an effect upon your husband.
Although the Zohar does state that the "strength of the soul leads to the weakening of the body," this is to be understood in the context of the spiritual power and potency of the holy soul weakening the corporeal demands of the body - not, Heaven forbid, weakening the health of the body.
Indeed, we readily observe that when a person is healthy he can accomplish so much more in all areas than when he is unhealthy, particularly with regard to matters relating to love of G-d, love of Torah and love of a fellow Jew. ...
(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 341)
I received your letter and prayer request and will read it at an auspicious time at the tziyun, the sacred resting place, of my father-in-law, the Rebbe.
I believe I have already written to you that you need to be more careful in guarding your physical health. Thus you are to be strict in following the doctor's orders and not take them lightly, for guarding one's health is also part of our holy Torah and is a mitzvah similar to all other mitzvos.
Moreover, there is the well-known saying of the Alter Rebbe (quoted in HaYom Yom, entry for erev Rosh HaShanah): "We have absolutely no conception of how precious a Jew's body is to G-d" - and that which is stated many times in Chassidus needs no further proof of its veracity.
When some people say that they are "mehadrin," [i.e., they observe mitzvos in the most scrupulous and beautiful manner,] and that is why they are not careful in guarding their health - in truth, such conduct is the very opposite of scrupulous observance.
Conduct yourself in the above manner of taking care of your health, and G-d will grant you material as well as spiritual good health.
(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VII, p. 349)
In reply to your question as to whether it is proper to fervently pray for success in material matters, etc., as well as good health.
Your question, understandably, is astonishing, as we are commanded in our Torah, the Torah of Life, to "Scrupulously guard your health," and Maimonides rules in Hilchos Deos, the conclusion of ch. 3 and the beginning of ch. 4, that a person must see to it that he be healthy and robust.
There is also a ruling that, in general, a person must guard his health and all aspects of his being; and to quote Rabbi Shneur Zalman in his Code of Jewish Law, Hilchos Nizkei Guf v'Nefesh v'Dineihem, para. 4: "A person has no rights at all over his body ... to torment it with any sort of pain...." See there as well in the Laws of Guarding One's Health. I need not elaborate further on something that is already well known.
Moreover, according to many Rishonim, when a person feels that he is lacking something; e.g., health, etc., it is a positive commandment of the Torah to pray to G-d for that which he needs
(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIX, p. 122)
From Healthy in Body, Mind and Soul, compiled by Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg, published by Sichos in English
The first Hakhel gathering occurred 22 years after the Israelites entered the land of Israel (in the 13th century BCE). In the presence of all the Jews gathered in the city of Shiloh, then home to the Tabernacle, Joshua read the prescribed Hakhel reading. The Torah says that Hakhel gathering follows the Shemitah year, and the Shemitah cycle did not begin until after the Jews completely conquered and divided the land - a process that lasted 14 years.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In Chasidic circles, and particularly Chabad Chasidic circles, the month of Kislev that we have now entered is known as the "Month of Redemption" for it contains many events of good news and Redemptive qualities.
The first day of Kislev (this year, this Friday November 13), marks the anniversary of the Rebbe's first public appearance after suffering a heart attack in 1977.
The second of Kislev is the anniversary of the actual return of the holy books to their rightful owner - the library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad - following their illegal removal from the library. After a prolonged civil court-case, which decided to whom the library of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe belonged, the verdict was rendered on the day when the Torah reading stated, "I shall return in peace to my father's house."
The ninth of Kislev is the birthday and anniversary of passing of the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber, known as the Mitteler Rebbe. On the 10th of Kislev, one year before his passing, the Mitteler Rebbe was released from prison where he had been interred on false charges.
On the 19th of Kislev, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, was released from his Czarist imprisonment. During his interrogation, he impressed the investigators, including the Czar himself, with his wisdom, scholarship and piety. Thus, the entire Chasidic movement was exonerated and its teachings could be spread freely. Ever since, the 19th of Kislev has been celebrated as the "New Year of Chasidut."
Of course, last but not least, the holiday of Chanuka, begins on the 25th of Kislev (this year beginning Sunday evening, December 6). It, too, is a holiday of redemption. On Chanuka we thank G-d for the miracles and for redeeming them from the oppressive rule of the Greeks.
May this month truly be a month of redemption for the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach, NOW.
And the youths grew up, and Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents. (Gen. 25:27)
"Expert at deceiving his father into believing him to be pious and a scrupulous observer of the commandments," comments Rashi, the great Torah Sage. Esav's hypocrisy is symbolic of our present Exile, in which the forces of evil are not as readily identifiable as they were during previous exiles. It is for this reason that our Exile is termed "Galut Edom" ("the Exile of Edom"), for the nation of Edom is descended from Esav. When Moshiach comes, the "Deliverers will go up to Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esav, and kingship will be the L-rd's."
(The Rebbe, Toldot, 5750)
Of all the superior character traits possessed by our ancestor Yaakov, the Torah chooses "an honest man" as the highest praise, to teach us that nothing is more worthy of our respect and admiration than a life lived with honesty and righteous ness.
And Jacob cooked a pottage of lentils (Gen. 25:29)
That which Jacob was eager to sell, Esau was eager to buy, and vice versa. Jacob wished to divest himself of the desire for worldly pleasures, symbolized by the pottage of lentils. (In the same way that a lentil is round, so too are all lusts and desires "round" in that they revolve like a wheel.) This was something that Esau wished to acquire. At the same time, Esau sought to free himself from the birthright, symbolic of a higher level of attachment to G-d (the firstborn is considered "holy unto the L-rd"), which Jacob desired.
Many years ago, after the rabbi of Tchentzikov had been married for eighteen years without having been blessed with children, he travelled to the Kozhnitzer Maggid to obtain the tzadik's (holy person's) blessing.
When the Kozhnitzer Maggid listened to the man's request he uttered a sigh from deep within his being. "The gates of heaven are closed to your petition!" he cried.
"No, no! Please, you must help me!" the man wept desperately.
"I cannot help you," said the Kozhnitzer. "But I will send you to someone else who will be able to help. You must go to a certain person who is called 'Shvartze Volf - Black Wolf,' and he will be the one to help."
"Yes, I know him," the rabbi said, "He lives in my village, and a more coarse, miserable person you could never find."
At first the Kozhnitzer Maggid did not respond. The rabbi realized that if the Kozhnitzer Maggid was sending him to Shvartze Volf, he must have a good reason. The Kozhnitzer Maggid then quietly revealed, "Shvartze Volf is head of the 36 hidden saints whose merits sustain the world."
The rabbi sought out Shvartze Volf in the forest hut which was his home. Though cognizant of Shvartze Volf's true identity, the rabbi was still frightened to approach him. He devised a ruse by which to gain admittance to his hut. He would go into the forest just before Shabbat and when he found Shvartze Volf's house, would pretend that he had lost his way. He would beg to spend the holy Shabbat there, and under the circumstances, Black Wolf could hardly refuse a fellow Jew that favor.
Friday afternoon he set out and as planned reached Shvartze Volf's hut. He knocked on the door and the man's wife answered. Her horrible appearance marked her as a true equal to her husband, for never had a more hideous and unpleasant woman been seen. Nevertheless, the rabbi begged her to allow him to stay over Shabbat.
"Very well," she finally relented. "But if my husband finds you here, he'll tear you apart with his bare hands. You can't stay in here, but go into the stable if you want," she croaked.
Soon Shvartze Volf arrived home and entered the stable, his eyes blazing with hatred. "How dare you come here! If you set foot outside of this stable, I'll rip you apart with my bare hands!"
The frightened Jew shivered in his boots as he beheld the terrible visage of Shvartze Volf.
Suddenly the thought came to the rabbi that a tzadik is so pure that he acts as a mirror, reflecting the image of the person who is looking upon him.
Thus, what he saw in the appearance of Shvartze Volf was nothing more or less than a picture of his own spiritual impurity. With that, he searched into his soul, and prayed from the deepest part of his being. He poured out his soul and in those few moments returned wholeheartedly to his Maker. He felt himself suffused with a warm, peaceful feeling.
Suddenly he was shaken from his reverie by the unexpected sensation of a soft hand being laid on his shoulder. He looked up, not quite sure what he would see, a shiver of fear passing through him. There stood Shvartze Volf, but instead of his accustomed fierce exterior, he had a refined and peaceful visage.
The visitor was ushered into the hut, which no longer appeared rough and tumble-down, but warm and inviting. Shvartze Volf's wife entered with her children, and their appearance, too, was beautiful and serene.
Shvartze Volf turned to his guest and said in a quiet voice, "I know why you have come here. I know, I know. You and your wife will rejoice in the birth of a boy. But you must name him Schvartze Volf."
The rabbi wondered to himself, "How can I name my son after him? It is not our custom to name after the living," but he remained silent.
The following morning Shvartze Volf passed away.
After Shabbat, the rabbi of Tchentzikov returned home. In time, he revealed to his congregation the hidden identity of the hated Shvartze Volf.
True to his word, a baby boy was born and he was given the strange name "Shvartze Volf."
In the year 1945 Jews who had survived the horrors of the Holocaust began streaming into the Land of Israel. When the Belzer Rebbe held his first Melave Malka (Saturday night meal taking leave of the Sabbath Queen) in the Holy Land many Chasidim came and introduced themselves to the Rebbe.
This story was one of those related at that first Melave Malka of the Belzer Rebbe. And at that memorable occasion one man stood before the assembled and said, "My name is Shvartze Volf ben Chana, and I am a descendant of that child who is spoken about in the story."
"He moved on from there and dug another well, and they did not fight over it. He called it 'rechovot' (lit. 'spacious') saying, 'Now G-d has made room for us' (Gen. 26:22) The three wells Isaac dug are symbolic of the three Holy Temples. These are the wells of "living waters" which give us our spiritual life. The first well Isaac dug proved to be a source of strife, just as the first Temple was destroyed in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. The second Holy Temple, like Isaac's second well, was also eventually destroyed, by Titus and his armies. But the third well remained, just as the Third Holy Temple which we eagerly await, will be eternal.