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January 8, 2016 - 27 Tevet, 5776

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  1403: Shemos1405: Bo  

True Leadership  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

True Leadership

As the Presidential Primaries are kicking off in the United States, it's a chance to reflect on how beneficial it can be for a community, nation, or the world, to have true leaders.

A great Sage, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, once asked Elijah the Prophet if he could accompany him on some of his G-dly missions. Elijah agreed on the condition that Rabbi Yehoshua not ask the reason for any of his actions. Rabbi Yehoshua agreed and off they went.

Many unusual occurrences took place over the course of their days together, but the final and most curious, was the following: Elijah and Rabbi Yehoshua, dressed as two wanderers, arrived at a wealthy village late one evening. Though any of the village's inhabitants could have comfortably and easily housed and fed the wanderers, no offers were forthcoming. No one even offered them a glass of water!

They spent the evening in the synagogue, sleeping on the hard benches there. When they awoke in the morning, before they began their day's journey, Elijah intoned, "May the people of this village all be leaders."

Toward evening, Elijah and Rabbi Yehoshua arrived at another village. Unlike the first village, as soon as the townsfolk saw new faces they gathered around and joyfully vied for the mitzva (commandment) of housing and feeding the two wanderers. The guests were accorded much honor and were graciously offered places to sleep, refresh themselves, eat, etc.

In the morning, with much appreciation and thanks, the two wanderers parted from the villagers. But before leaving, Elijah stopped and intoned, "May this village only have one leader."

This last statement by Elijah was too much for Rabbi Yehoshua and, though he had agreed he would not ask the prophet any questions, he could hold back no longer.

"Why did you bless the village that scorned us by praying that all the people be leaders, and curse the village that helped us by praying that they have only one leader?"

Elijah replied, "You do not understand the ways of heaven. I did not bless the first village; it was the second village I blessed."

He then explained, "If a town has many leaders, there will be no peace. There will be strife, conflicts, politics. However, if a village has one leader, a leader who cares about every individual and worries about the welfare of all those under his protection, then that village is truly blessed.

If the leader is a true leader, then he will be humble and wise, G-d-fearing and compassionate. He will know that he is an extension of G-d - the Ultimate Leader - in this world, and his every action will be ruled by this knowledge. Such a village will know peace, harmony, prosperity, good fortune, and spiritual growth."

Today, more than ever before, we see that the whole world is really a "global village." May we very soon hear from Elijah himself, the prophet who will herald the Redemption, of the revelation of the one true leader that this global village so desperately needs and essentially wants, Moshiach.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah reading opens with the verse: "And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as the A-lmighty Sha-dai, but My name Y-H-V-H I did not make known to them." Why are there different names for G-d? And what is the significance in using one name over the other?

The Midrash asks these questions and, in resolution, quotes G-d as saying: "I am called according to My deeds," i.e., each of the different names of G-d is associated with a particular quality or attribute. Kabbalah expands further on this concept, deriving different insights from the letters of the names and their vocalizations. The name Sha-dai contains the Hebrew world dai which means "enough." Indeed, in explanation of the significance of that name, our Sages quote G-d as saying: "It was I who told the world 'enough.'" In other words, Sha-dai refers to the aspect of Gdliness that establishes the limitations of the world's existence, concentrating G-d's infinite light in a measured manner that will enable the creation of a world in which Gdliness is hidden.

G-d's name Y-H-V-H, by contrast, represents the revelation of Gdliness in all its infinity. For that reason, the name Y-H-V-H is not pronounced. Its light is too powerful and all-encompassing to be expressed in speech.

On this basis, we can understand the interchange between Moses and G-d. At the conclusion of last week's Torah reading, Moses had complained that after he had communicated G-d's demand that Pharaoh release the Jews, the Egyptians' oppression had become more intense.

G-d answered by saying that the world was about to experience a fundamental change in the nature of Divine revelation. Until this time, even spiritual giants like the Patriarchs and Matriarchs received only a limited revelation of Gdliness, for Gdliness was within the context of the name Sha-dai, i.e., according to the limitations that prevailed in the world.

In the future, Jews and the world at large would receive a revelation of the name Y-H-V-H, revealing G-d's infinity. In order to receive that revelation, they and the world had to be purified and the means of purification G-d ordained was the hardship and oppression in Egypt. From that time on, things changed radically. First, there were overt and apparent miracles. The plagues showed how the natural order could be bent and broken at will.

Beyond that, the Jews left Egypt. The Hebrew term for Egypt, Mitzrayim, relates to the word meitzarim, meaning "boundaries" or "limitations." The exodus represented a departure from the boundaries and limitations or ordinary material existence.

But the ultimate revelation of G-d's name Y-H-V-H came at the time of the Giving of the Torah. From that point onward, every time a Jew performs a mitzva (commandment), he or she establishes an essential bond with G-d, relating to a higher rung of Gdliness than the Patriarchs could access.

From Keeping in Touch, Vol. 4, adapted by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos in English


A Slice of Life

Return to Roots
by Nosson Avrohom

"All my life I searched for meaning and depth," says Rabbi Noam Wolpin, the Rebbe's emissary to kibbutzim in the upper Galilee of Israel. Noam was born and raised on the secular Kibbutz Maayan Baruch in northern Israel.

Despite his search for a meaningful life, Noam never delved into Judaism, being certain that it would not have the answers. In addition to being very athletic and involved in sports, Noam would spend hours in the kibbutz library, reading books on psychology and Eastern religions.

When Noam reached draft age, he was attached to an intelligence unit. His search for meaning intensified during his army service and immediately following it he threw himself into the study of law. He began his studies at Tel Hai College, but soon after he decided to take a break and travel abroad.

Noam travelled to India to study Buddhism. His quick grasp of concepts and his dynamic personality led him from being a student to becoming a guru in his own right. A large group of disciples clung to him.

Every now and then he would wander through India, visiting various towns and villages. His followers pursued him. Among them were many young Israelis as well as non-Jews from Europe and local Indians who called him "Enlightened One."

For nearly ten years this was Noam's life. Until a number of occurrences happened one after the other that he could not ignore. "I felt for the first time in my life that there is a Creator. I understood that in this world there are hidden forces that we do not understand, but they run everything in this world, plant life, animal and human life, and even the inanimate. This reality that I sensed contradicted the atheistic education I received on the kibbutz."

"A war began within me. On the one hand, everyone said I was enlightened and influencing their lives; on the other hand, I felt I was living a life far from what my soul sought. I was surrounded by admirers but inside I felt lacking, I felt this was not it, there was something greater."

"One time, one of my followers went for a visit home to Israel. When he returned, he brought with him a CD of songs in Hebrew with some words from Psalms. In the meditations that we did, we began including these songs instead of Indian mantras. Everyone felt that their connection to the spiritual side of things was far more powerful than when they chanted the Indian mantras."

A short while later Noam met the woman who would become his wife. Although she came from an non-religious home, she had decided before leaving Israel that throughout her travels she would light Shabbat candles every week.

"It is not something I can explain, but the candles moved me. I looked at them flickering and felt they infused me with peace. I felt that this was an elevated G-dly light. In the midst of a billion non-Jews, stood a Jewish woman who clung to her ancestors' traditions and was proud of her Judaism. The feeling this gave me was greater than all of the best meditative experiences I had in my life."

Noam left India with his wife, to the surprise of his followers, and returned to Israel.

"One day, I visited an old acquaintance and he said to me, 'Noam, someone left a bunch of books with me. I haven't looked at them. If you want, you can have them.' There were prayer books and other Torah books. I decided to take them. I put them in my study at home.

"Every morning I would get up at sunrise and meditate for hours. One morning, I felt compelled to take out a prayer book from the study."

From then on, daily, Noam would take the prayer book and read. Each morning he would read at whatever random page he opened to. The words of the prayer book moved him. He felt, for the first time in his life, that he was in contact with something true. He felt the powerful feeling of longing he had felt all his life begin to calm. But, he was far from satisfied.

"One night, we were sitting and discussing our lives and what is the most correct way to live. When I got up the next day, I told my wife that I was going to fast for three days. 'What happened?' she asked in a fright, thinking I had lost my mind. I told her that I had a dream in which I saw a Jew with a noble face who said to me that in order to be cleansed of the negative energy in which I had been immersed, I needed to fast for three days."

When Noam eventually became involved with Chabad, he was astounded to discover that the person he had seen in his dream was the Rebbe.

Slowly the Wolpins took upon themselves the observance of various mitzvot (commandments) such as keeping kosher, praying regularly and Sabbath observance.

When they moved further north, to Rosh Pina, they became close with the Chabad emissaries there. "For the first time, I was exposed to people with a genuine sense of giving. It was the 'final straw' for me. I felt that this was precisely what my soul sought all along. It was a fantastic feeling of real inner joy like a lost son who seeks the father he never knew and finally finds him. The Chabad Chassidim in Rosh Pina were role models for me of authentic, humble Jews, people of self-sacrifice suffused with Jewish pride. The Wolpins became an integral part of the community.

Over the next few years, the Wolpins moved around. Though successful in the field of Jewish education, they still felt they had not find their niche.

When the opportunity to become emissaries of the Rebbe at Tel Hai College, the university where Noam had started his law degree, opened up, they decided to take it. For Noam, the "return to roots" was complete when they settled on the very same kibbutz where he had grown up.

"Many of the students have traveled a lot in the Far East, so we 'speak their language.' We know how to interact with them." Noam has also renewed contact with Israelis who were with him in India, but this time he is sharing with them the eternal teachings of Torah and Chasidut.

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine


What's New

New Torah Scroll

Chabad of Hanoi, Vietnam made history as they welcomed a new Torah Scroll. The Torah is one of seven newly written Torah scrolls donated by Chilean businessman and philanthropist, Leonardo Farkas, to Chabad Houses around the world.

New Emissaries

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef and Chaya Raskin recently moved to Huntington Village, Long Island, to open a new Chabad Center on the north shore of Long Island. They will be focusing on Shabbat and holiday programs, Friendship Circle, weekly classes and individualized study sessions and hospital visitation.

Newly Renovated

The synagogue in Vladivostok, Russia, was built in 1916 and confiscated by communist authorities in 1932 who turned it into a candy factory. Returned to the Jewish community a decade ago, it has recently reopened after a total refurbishment. The synagogue is under the FJC.


The Rebbe Writes

28th of Teves 5721 [1961]

I received your recent letter and the previous one. Needless to say, I was somewhat taken aback by the tone of your letter. It is a good illustration of how it is possible for a person to read and to learn and to receive instruction from books and teachers, and yet when it comes to actual experience all this instruction goes by the wayside.

I refer to the things which you have surely learned in the books of mussar [ethics] and especially Chassidus about the tactics of the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination) to instill a spirit of depression, discouragement and despondency in order to prevent the Jewish person from fulfilling his Divine mission. This is the most effective approach. If the Yetzer Hora would attempt to dissuade a person directly from fulfilling his mission, he would not be easily misled. However, instead, the Yetzer tries to discourage the person in all sorts of ways, using "pious" arguments which unfortunately often prove effective at least in some degree.

This is exactly what has happened in your case and I am surprised that you do not realize it. The proof is that from the information I have received I can see that you have accomplished a great deal more than you imagine...

Let me also add another important and essential consideration. You surely know of the saying of the Baal Shem Tov that a soul comes down to live on this earth for a period of 70 to 80 years for the sole purpose to do another Jew a single favor, materially or spiritually. In other words, it is worthwhile for a Jewish soul to make that tremendous journey and descent from heaven to earth in order to do something once for a fellow Jew. In your case the journey was only from the U.S.A. to..., and can in no way be compared to the journey of the soul from heaven to earth; and however pessimistic you may feel, even the Yetzer Hora would have to agree that you have done not only a single favor but numerous good deeds, and even only your work with the children of the Gan [kindergarten] would have justified it.

Considering further that every beginning is difficult especially where there is a change of place and environment, language, etc., and yet the beginning has proved so successful, so one is surely justified in expecting that as time goes on and the initial difficulties are minimized and overcome, there will be a more than corresponding improvement in the good accomplishments.

As for your mentioning the fact that no one seems interested in your work, etc., surely you will admit that G-d, whose knowledge and providence extends to everyone individually, knows and is interested in what you are doing, especially as you are working in the field of education of Jewish children, boys and girls, which is so much emphasized in the Torah. After all, to teach children to make a beracha [blessing] and to say the prayers, etc., this is living Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. (I need hardly add too that I am interested in your work). If it seems to you that it has been left to you to "carry the ball" yourself, it is surely only because there is confidence in you and that since you have been sent to . . . you undoubtedly have the ability, qualifications, and initiative to do your job without outside prompting, etc.

Since one is only human, it is not unusual to relapse occasionally into a mood of discouragement. But as has been explained in the [book of] Tanya and in other sources, such a relapse should only serve as a challenge to bring forth additional inner reserves and energy to overcome the tactics of the Yetzer Hora and to do ever better than before.

I trust that since you wrote your letter, your mood and outlook have considerably improved and that this letter will find you in a completely different frame of mind. Nevertheless, I am sending you this letter since one is only human and subject to changes of mind as mentioned above.

Finally I want to say that the above should not be understood to mean that if you do find yourself in such a frame of mind you should try to conceal it and not write about it, for our Sages say that "when someone has an anxiety he should relate it to others" for getting something off one's chest is a relief in itself. One should also bear in mind, as the Old Rebbe has stated most emphatically in the laws of learning and teaching Torah, that a person who is engaged in teaching children should especially take care of his health since it directly affects the success of his work. I trust therefore that you are looking after yourself in matters of diet and rest, etc., and that you will always be in a state of cheerfulness and gladness.


All Together

The source of the commandment of Hakhel is that the essence of the Jewish people is the Torah and it is incumbent upon each and every Jew to gather together - men, women and children - to hear it read. The talk of all the nation would then be: "Why have we assembled for this large gathering?" And the answer would be: "To hear the words of the Torah - our essence, glory and pride!" This would lead them to praise the Torah and speak of its glorious worth, and implant within their hearts a desire and motivation to study and know G-d.

(Sefer Hachinuch 612)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Shabbat is the birthday of Rebbetzin Chana, the illustrious mother of the Rebbe.

Two stories recounted by the Rebbe at gatherings in honor of his mother's yahrzeit illustrate a fundamental concept.

The first anecdote took place when the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, was in exile. Rebbetzin Chana ingeniously managed to produce different color inks from wild plants for Rabbi Levi Yitzchak to use in writing his Torah innovations, as he was not even afforded ink with which to write.

The second incident took place after Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's passing. Rebbetzin Chana miraculously succeeded in smuggling Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's writings out of Communist Russia.

The Rebbe explained that these two incidents teach us that when, by Divine Providence, a mission is given to an individual - even if that mission seems utterly futile or impossible - one's efforts will ultimately be crowned with success.

Though one must work within the confines of nature, one must not be constricted by nature, for it is the infinite and supranatural G-d who has presented one with this mission.

As our Divinely appointed mission in these last moments of exile is to hasten the Redemption's arrival and prepare ourselves for the long-awaited Messianic Era, we can look to Rebbetzin Chana, for inspiration.


Thoughts that Count

Behold, the Children of Israel have not hearkened to me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me? (Ex. 6:12)

Why was Moses comparing the Children of Israel to Pharaoh? The Jews had a legitimate reason for not listening to Moses--they were too preoccupied with their own suffering. But why would Moses think that Pharaoh would refuse to heed his words? Rather, Moses was afraid that Pharaoh would listen to G-d's warning--thereby making the Children of Israel look bad by comparison. He therefore refused to appear before Pharaoh to carry the message.

(Rabbi Yonatan Eibeschutz)


You shall speak (tedaber) all that I command you (Ex.7:2)

The word "tedaber" is related to "tadber" -- "and you shall rule over." The defeat of Pharaoh, the epitome of arrogance and pride, could only be brought about by an individual such as Moses, the epitome of humility and nullification before G-d.

(Torat Chaim)


And I will harden the heart of Pharaoh (Ex. 7:3)

If Pharaoh deserved to be punished, why didn't G-d merely punish him without taking away his free will? Rather, Pharaoh's punishment was meted out by G-d measure for measure. Pharaoh rebelled against G-d, saying, "Who is G-d that I should obey His voice?" Anyone who insolently refuses to recognize G-d, and thinks he can do as he pleases, deserves that G-d show him he is not his own boss.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs (Ex. 7:12)

From Aaron's staff we learn about the resurrection of the dead that will take place in Messianic times: If a lifeless staff, a dry piece of wood, can be transformed into a living entity, how much more so can a human being, consisting of a physical body and soul, be restored to life!

(Zohar)


It Once Happened

When the stranger entered the little shul, the regulars were curious -- who was he and why had he come to their town. But he was in a great hurry and so, he was relieved to see a quorum of men already assembled, ready to begin the morning prayers. There was no rabbi there, and not wanting to wait, the stranger ascended the bima. The "regulars" were surprised and offended that this unknown man presumed to lead the prayers. After all, who was this fellow, who didn't even have the courtesy to wait a few minutes for the rabbi or the president of the congregation?

The stranger had already begun the morning service when the president arrived. Seeing a stranger at the bima, he rushed up to him and said, "What a chutzpa! Who do you think you are to begin the prayers before the rabbi or I have arrived!" And he continued berating the man in this fashion.

The stranger, however, just kept silent. But his refusal to respond infuriated the president even more and he blurted out, "Don't you see who's speaking to you?"

Finally the stranger replied in a quiet voice, "You also do not see to whom you are speaking."

No sooner had those words been uttered than everything went dark before the president's eyes. He rushed to a doctor, then to a specialist - to several specialists - but no one could find a cause for his sudden blindness. He tried every treatment that was suggested to him, but nothing proved a cure.

Then, it dawned upon him: when had his blindness begun? After he had angry words with the stranger in the shul. Undoubtedly he had offended a hidden tzadik with his words, and this was the consequence of his anger.

In despair, he decided to travel to the Baal Shem Tov. He had heard about this great tzadik; maybe he could help.

"Rebbe, I have heard that you can perform miracles. I have been blind since I angered a certain hidden tzadik. My problem is that I don't know who he is or where I can find him."

The Baal Shem Tov replied, "The man is my disciple, Reb Yaakov Koppel, and you sinned against him with your angry speech. Go to him and beg his forgiveness. If he forgives you, your blindness will be cured."

The man indeed traveled to Reb Yaakov, who accepted his apology. His sight returned as quickly as it had vanished.


The morning prayers had just ended. The Baal Shem Tov, who was an esteemed visitor in the town, was about to wash his hands before partaking of a meal, when a distraught woman approached him. She had waited throughout the whole service and could contain herself no longer.

"Rebbe! My husband has been missing for a very long time. I have done everything I can think of to try to find him, but I have no idea where he went. What will happen to me? Please, Rebbe, help me find him," the woman wept.

The Baal Shem Tov stood there, his washing cup poised to pour water on his hands in preparation for the blessing on bread, but instead of continuing, he stopped and responded to the woman.

"You will find your husband in the city of M."

Infused with new hope, the woman departed. But the rabbi of the city, who had heard a great deal about the Baal Shem Tov, had been watching the exchange. Now he had what seemed to him to be a serious question of Jewish law.

"I beg your pardon," began the rabbi, "I was watching your exchange with the woman, and it seems to me that you were saying words of prophecy to her. If that was true, I think you were required to have washed your hands before speaking."

The Baal Shem Tov responded to the rabbi with a question: "If you saw chickens suddenly fluttering about your table set with expensive glassware, what would your reaction be? I think you would automatically reach out to chase them away."

The rabbi acquiesced, but he clearly was not following the Baal Shem Tov's logic.

"I did what came naturally to me," the Baal Shem Tov continued. "I saw standing before me a woman who was in utter despair almost to the breaking point. I knew where her husband was. Do you imagine that I should have continued washing my hands while she stood suffering before my eyes?"


Moshiach Matters

After the resurrection all will rise...the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Moses and Aaron, all the righteous ones and the prophets, tens of thousands beyond number. Is it possible that Moshiach will teach them the same Torah that is revealed to us today?... Will all who knew the whole Torah be required to learn new laws from Moshiach? We must therefore say that Moshiach will instruct them in the "good of discernment and knowledge of the secrets of the esoteric teachings of Torah," that the "eyes will not have seen." Moses and the Patriarchs not having been privileged to that knowledge, for only to Moshiach will it be revealed as it is written of him, "and be very high."

(Likkutei Torah, Tzav 17aff.)


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