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L'Chaim
January 15, 2016 - 5 Shevat, 5776

1405: Bo

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  1404: Vaera1406: Beshalach  

A Jungle or a Garden?  |  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

A Jungle or a Garden?

by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

The two words 'jungle' and 'garden' create very different images in our minds. A jungle has a feeling of chaos and disarray. It is place where dangerous animals roam; an unsafe environment. A garden on the other hand is an array of beautiful flowers blossoming and delicious fruit trees. The more beautiful the garden the greater the feeling of calmness and serenity.

Sometimes our world reminds us of a jungle. Newspaper headlines are filled with stories of violence, immorality and political unrest. Riots, protests, economic instability seem to be the dominating forces in many parts of the globe. Like the jungle, there is an uneasy feeling of unrest and an uncertain future.

But strangely, in the book Song of Songs, King Solomon tells us that G-d calls this planet "my garden." How can such a chaotic world be G-d's garden?

In one of his public addresses, the Rebbe shared the following idea. The jungle is a potential garden. It just takes work and time. If the gardener invests effort to clear the ground, dig up the earth, soften the soil and plant the appropriate seeds, then over time he will witness a transformation and a beautiful garden of flowers and trees will emerge.

Our world may sometimes look like a jungle. But G-d chose it to be His garden and we are His gardeners. With effort and determination to engage in positive activity, goodness and moral behavior we are able to transform the chaos into serenity and the uncertainty into stability. The unrest and negativity around us is only superficial and transient. Every time we extend ourselves to engage in positive activity and every mitzva (commandment) that we do plants a seed which will eventually sprout into a strong tall tree of permanence and beauty.

Perhaps a good start is to distance ourselves from the media's negative pessimistic view and learn to adopt G-d's positive attitude. When you wake up in the morning, don't see the apparent jungle around you but learn to notice the beautiful garden you are about to create.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie is the founder and director of Bina, a Sydney-based organization that provides Jewish inspiration and education for all ages and backgrounds. Read more at bina.com.au

In the Rebbe's first public address after accepting the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, he expounded on a teaching of his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe. The discourse was based on the verse from Song of Songs (5:1), "I have come to My garden, My sister, O bride." Each year, on the anniversary of his father-in-law's passing, the Rebbe delved into a different aspect of the teaching.

A recurring theme of these discourses is that G-d views our world as His garden. Of all the countless spiritual emanations and realms, there is only one place which He refers to as "My garden." It is precisely within our physical world that G-d wishes to reside, and manifest His very essence.

G-d envisioned a world containing spiritual darkness, in which possessors of free choice, capable of embracing the darkness or rejecting it, would repress the darkness and transform it into light. Through the difficult work of banishing and transforming the darkness, the beautiful garden is revealed. And G-d exclaims, "I have come to My garden."


Living with the Rebbe

The name of this week's Torah reading Bo means "come." More particularly, the term is also interpreted as meaning "enter." Moses was commanded to come and approach Pharaoh. As the Zohar, the fundamental text of Jewish mysticism states, he was told to enter room after room, penetrating to the very core of Pharaoh's palace.

The Zohar continues, explaining that Moses shrank at this command. He was daunted by the charge to confront evil at its very core. To reassure him, G-d told him, "Come." "Come," i.e., "come with Me," and not "go," "go alone." G-d promised that He would accompany Moses and face Pharaoh with him.

This command thus requires personal initiative, and simultaneously, promises that such initiative will be rewarded by G-d's assistance. Moses was required to act on his own, but not independently. G-d would support his efforts.

This dynamic is replayed in microcosm in the myriad spiritual struggles that we all continually face. We must confront Pharaoh - brave the challenges to Jewish involvement that the outside environment appears to present. And this includes not only viewing those challenges from afar, but penetrating to their core and looking at them from up close.

One would be foolish not to be somewhat daunted by the task. Indeed, if it is not daunting, it is not a challenge.

And yet, one's hesitation should only be temporary. We have the power to persevere in our mission.

When we do, we find out that we are not alone. G-d is with us, supporting our efforts. Simply put, we see ourselves speaking and acting with greater power than we could ever muster on our own.

And this transforms the world around us, including the challenging forces. Just as Pharaoh became the power who urged the Jews out of Egypt, so too, every element of our existence can become a positive and contributory, influence, aiding our Jewish involvement.

From Keeping in Touch, vol. 1, by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos In English.


A Slice of Life

Chabad and Coke
by Rabbi Yossi Lew

It was August of 1994, a mere few weeks after the Rebbe's physical presence was withdrawn from us. We pray that we merit to see the Rebbe again with our physical eyes. The news outlets ran many stories about the Rebbe and the Chabad movement. One day, the phone rang at the Chabad office in Atlanta, where I had been working at the time as one of the team of the Rebbe's emissaries there. On the line was an executive at the international headquarters of Coca-Cola, based in Atlanta. He was requesting an appointment "with Chabad Lubavitch."

A few days later, two very well dressed men appeared. Both were carrying attaché cases, and seemed very serious. They explained that Coke carefully monitors and follows the media, and they had been reading the numerous news sources and articles about the Rebbe and the movement he built. They noted that, in their efforts to learn about the Rebbe, they had discovered how successful the Chabad movement was, thanks to this man, the Rebbe.

In order for me to understand where they were coming from and what they wanted from me, they proceeded to describe how Coca-Cola works. When they wish to introduce a new product - say a new flavor - it takes up to two years to complete this assignment. Based on all kinds of data, a team chooses the new flavor. A tasting committee takes over, to decide how this flavor should actually taste. It then goes to the advertising department, to adopt a label and the image of this new product. It finally goes to the marketing department, to select where, precisely, the test runs of the new flavor would be initiated. In total, explained the gentlemen, it takes approximately two full years to test, evaluate, refine and implement the change in the global marketplace of Coca-Cola.

In contrast, they said, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated brand-new campaigns, these campaigns were enthusiastically deployed throughout the world within twenty-four hours of the Rebbe's introduction. In a matter of days, the world was filled with stickers, signs, brochures, and all types of people, young and old, promoting, encouraging, and pushing this new campaign to the masses across the globe.

"What is the secret," said the fellows to me, "of the success of the Chabad movement? We would like to learn from you."

I could not think of a "secret." I decided that, by simply describing the Rebbe to them, the process could be understood. I recounted to them how the Rebbe would hold "Farbrengens," gatherings of his followers and admirers on select Shabbos afternoons, as well as on the religious festivals, Chassidic festivals, and other significant days around the year. During these events, which could have lasted anywhere from a couple of hours to six or seven hours, the Rebbe would speak in intervals of anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, developing themes and ideas in classic Torah subjects, encompassing all of its areas. These gatherings were interspersed with beautiful Chassidic melodies and songs. Those present would also have an opportunity, during the intervals, to offer wishes of "L'chaim," receiving personal good wishes and blessing from the Rebbe.

Somewhere during these uplifting gatherings, the Rebbe would develop the theme of the new campaign he wished to launch.

When these gatherings would be held on the weekdays, the entire proceedings were broadcast live to Chabad centers throughout the world. On the Sabbath and Jewish festivals, when electronic recording devices may not be used, a team of scholars blessed with strong memories would transcribe and publish his words immediately after the Shabbos and festivals. These would then be sent out promptly to all Chabad centers.

Within hours, meetings would be held all around the globe. Creative ideas would be brought forth, and the campaigns would be launched worldwide.

The gentlemen in my office seemed perplexed. "What about the CEOs," they asked. "Did the Rebbe not meet with his people to make global decisions?"

I responded that the Rebbe was the leader. The Rebbe had a very large team: His emissaries around the world and all his followers. There were no board meetings with them. Instead, the Rebbe suggested a campaign based on what was needed at the time. Besides, the Rebbe's office, which anyone can visit to this day, hardly has any space for even another table. It is a simple room, whose walls are decorated with Jewish books frequently used by the Rebbe. Other than a desk, a few chairs, a filling cabinet, and some other bits and pieces, that was it.

The executives of Coke were having a tough time wrapping their minds around this. They then asked me one further question: "Where did the Rebbe get his ideas?"

"The Rebbe was a man of G-d," I said. "He was extremely humble and a man of truth, whose very presence and conviction consistently inspired and empowered everyone with whom he came in contact, to be more connected with the Above. As emissaries of an extraordinarily holy man, the Rebbe's devoted followers realized, and continue to realize to this day, the privilege to be able to forward the message of this saintly man and his spiritual energies to the world."

Upon hearing this, the men folded their attaché cases, thanked me, and left.

It is highly doubtful that Coke learned any secrets from me on that day. But I learned an incredible lesson from them. Coca-Cola is, arguably, the world's most successful company. It could be argued that it may be history's greatest success story. Coke is a flavor of its own. It is a household name throughout the world. Its earnings are always on the top of the list. It is unparalleled.

And yet, in its quest to become even more successful, Coca-Cola turned to Chabad for ideas and creativeness!

Some tend to compare Chabad to Coke. The famous line is: Wherever there is Coke there is Chabad. The Rebbe's message, however, enjoys even greater success, for this message is in the spiritual realm, and is, therefore, universal and timeless. The Rebbe's insightful wisdom and "campaigns" have, therefore, been met with even greater success than any new flavor of Coke.

Rabbi Yossi and Shternie Lew established Chabad of Peachtree City, Georgia, on Atlanta's Southside in 2011. The Lews have been emissaries of the Rebbe in Atlanta since 1993.

What's New

New Facilities

The Chabad Israeli Center of Atlanta, Georgia, recently purchased a property at 4276 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road that will become its new home. The new facility will include a santuary, social hall, preschool, library, student lounge, kosher kitchen and cafe, and a mikva. In addition to providing programming to Israelis from toddlers through adults, the center will have an interactive wing focusing on Israel for the general public. Visitors will find information on Israeli history, art and culture.

Chabad of Cambodia inaugurated a new eight-story Jewish Centerthat will be a home for all the needs of the Jewish community. The center houses a sanctuary, social hall, industrial kitchen, restaurant, kosher shop, preschool, Mikva, residence for the emissaries, offices and storage space.


The Rebbe Writes

The freely translated letter below was written as an introduction to a booklet published in honor of 2 Nissan, 5711-1951 (anniversary of passing of the fifth Rebbe of Chabad)

There is a well-known statement of the Rebbe (Rashab, Rabbi Shalom Dovber), the anniversary of whose passing falls soon, that the role of his students is to become "lamps to diffuse light."

The words of tzaddikim (the righteous) are precise in all their details. This is especially so regarding statements by the Nesiim (leaders) of the Jewish people concerning their disciples and concerning those who are connected to them. Hence, the term "lamps to diffuse light" is a guide, in several vital respects, to those who are connected with the speaker. Let us therefore consider a few of the characteristics of a luminous lamp:

The lamp itself is the source of the light - a luminary, albeit in miniature.

Moreover, a lamp is comprised of oil and a wick. Metaphorically, the oil represents the Torah and its mitzvos (commandments). The wick represents man - that is, the body, or, more correctly, the level of his soul called nefesh, which is "the body's partner." From a more inward perspective, this metaphor refers to the Divine soul that is vested in the animal soul.

Another characteristic of a lamp: when the wick is lit and becomes one with the oil, the light of the lamp is diffused in many modes of light. In general, there are two modes of light: "black light" and "white light," which represent respectively two phases in man's Divine service - elevating his soul and, reciprocally, drawing down spiritual light.

Finally, the light of a lamp is uniquely effective when one is searching among hidden cracks and crannies, probing the heart's innermost recesses.

The metaphorical messages of the above characteristics are clear and self-evident - but what matters most is their practical application. When one applies them to his life according to the directives of the Rebbe whose yahrzeit (anniversary of passing) is being commemorated, one's inner lamp lights up the particular portion of the world's materiality that he is obligated to refine and elevate, and in particular, it lights up his own animal soul and Divine soul. This illumination is the ultimate purpose for which the soul descended to this world, and the ultimate purpose of the era of Moshiach and the Resurrection of the Dead depend on it.

May this come speedily, in our own days, Amen.


8th of Shevat, 5725 [1965]

Greeting and Blessing:

I duly received your letter of December 30th, in which I read with interest about your new position. This is undoubtedly a true promotion, both professionally as well as in the opening up of new horizons in your work for the spiritual benefit of the many, and when the two are coupled it is indeed a true and complete promotion.

May G-d grant that this be the forerunner of further advancement in the same direction; which is indeed a natural aspiration, as our Sages declared, "He who possesses 100, desires to possess 200, and he who possesses 200, desires 400." This indicates that the ambition grows with success, and having advanced, one is not satisfied with the previous increment. The same, at least, should be true in the spiritual sense.

We are now in particularly auspicious days, as we are about to observe the Yahrzeit-Hilulo of my father-in-law of saintly memory, on the 10th of Shevat. Inasmuch as Tzaddikim, the faithful shepherds that they are, continue to take care of those whom they had taken care of in their lifetime on this earth, it is certain that my father-in-law of saintly memory is a faithful intercessor in behalf of the institutions which are carried on in this spirit, and those who are actively engaged in their support and expansion.

With blessing,


All Together

The commandment of Hakhel emphasizes the Torah-education of our children. It follows that also those who are grown in years but still "children" in Judaism - those who, for one reason or another, did not get the proper Jewish education - should also assemble to hear and learn what Torah is, what a mitzva (commandment) is, with such impact, "as if they heard it from G-d Himself."

(From a letter of the Rebbe, 18 Elul, 1980)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Wednesday is 10 Shevat (January 20 this year). Yud (10) Shevat is the anniversary of the passing of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in 1950, and the ascension to leadership of the Rebbe.

Rabbi Simon Jacobson, author of Toward A Meaningful Life, based on the teachings of the Rebbe, related the following in connection with the Rebbe's leadership:

I once received a letter from an elderly woman living in Pennsylvania containing the following story: She lived in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in the 1940s. Her grandfather pointed out to her the Rebbe saying, "This is a great rabbi, the son-in-law of the Rebbe. You should go over to him and get his blessing." On a later occasion she indeed mustered the courage to approach the dignified looking rabbi. Upon being approached, the Rebbe asked her, "What are you studying?" She responded, "Asimov." The Rebbe then turned to her and explained "Asimov, when writing science for children, uses an example called "Foundation," where in the future all planets will be civilized through being connected to a source on earth. I have a similar vision," the Rebbe continued, "where one day, there will be Jewish outposts all over the globe, all connected to one source."

This was only a few years after World War II - after the Holocaust - and this was the Rebbe's vision. In retrospect, we can see this is exactly what happened. In 1960, in the entire world there were maybe five emissaries of the Rebbe. In 1970, there were about 100. And today, there are close to 5,000 emissaries, all of them sharing one mission.

It's clear that the Rebbe had thought this through before accepting the mantle of leadership. In the Rebbe's first public talk upon accepting leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, the Rebbe set forth his plan. He did this in the Chasidic discourse Basi L'Gani. Therein he clearly outlined that our generation will bring Moshiach: "This that we find ourselves in the seventh generation is not just some abstract slogan, but something that should propel us to bring Moshiach down here."

May we witness imminently the culmination of Rebbe's vision with the commencement of the Redemption and the revelation of Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

For I have hardened his heart. (Ex. 10:1)

Pharaoh's evil decrees and the trials and tribulations of the Jews during the Egyptian exile did not come about because Pharaoh had so decided of his own accord. Rather, G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart, eventually causing all of His wonders and miracles to be revealed. The lesson we can learn from this is that everything comes from G-d; when a Jew encounters something that prevents him from properly serving G-d, this is meant only as a test, whose purpose is to awaken the powers hidden within the person's soul. When the person overcomes this test, and perseveres in his holy mission in life, he is then rescued from all difficulties.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


With our young and with our old we will go...we are to hold a feast unto G-d (Ex. 10:9)

For in truth, what kind of a holiday would it be without our children? Any holy celebration that does not include the younger generation is no celebration at all...

(Shem MiShmuel)


And the L-rd struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt (Ex. 12:29)

Comments Rashi: "Whenever the Torah states 'and the L-rd,' it refers to G-d and His heavenly court." When it comes to meting out punishment, G-d gives the decision over to the heavenly angels, who do not know the thoughts of man. (A Jew is not punished for negative thoughts, as it states, "A bad thought is not considered part of deed.") By contrast, when it comes to reward, G-d does not consult with His heavenly court, as "a good thought is considered part of deed," and only G-d knows our thoughts and intentions.

(Nezer HaKodesh)


It Once Happened

by Dudu Fisher

It was the winter night of 5 Shevat 5692/1932. A Jewish woman by the name of Fraida Gisha was in her ninth month of pregnancy in Riga, Latvia. A serious problem arose and the doctors recommended ending the pregnancy to save the woman's life.

The woman said to the doctors: "Wait, don't do anything." And to her sister standing next to her she said, "Leah, go and pray for me in shul."

Leah walked to the shul in the middle of the night. She entered and approached the holy ark. There she poured out her heart to G-d. She prayed and cried. Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around and saw an older woman.

"Why are you crying?" asked the woman. Leah told her about her sister in the hospital.

"Come with me," said the woman. She took her to the home of the (previous) Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. Leah wrote a note, said her sister was ill and the doctors were concerned and even wanted to end the pregnancy.

The Rebbe's faithful secretary, Rabbi Yechezkel Feigin, gave the note to the Rebbe. Five minutes later he came out of the Rebbe's room and gave Leah a letter with a response for her sister: "G-d should help you so that all will be well and so that you give birth to a healthy, live child."

With trembling hands, Leah took this letter and returned to the hospital. As she walked in, all the doctors came running to her and exclaimed: We have no idea what happened here but an hour after you left, your sister went into a normal labor and a girl was born.' That was my mother. This baby girl was my mother.

We have the original note in a safe but everyone in the family, including me, of course, have a photocopy of the letter with them. When I travel the world, the letter is always in my pocket. Anybody in the family who gives birth takes the letter with her to the hospital.

For many years I was a cantor, just like my grandfather wanted me to be. One day, I was traveling in London and I saw the musical Les Miserables. As I sat there, I thought, I can do that.

When the musical arrived in Israel, I went to audition and was given the lead role of Jean Valjean. During the performance, the British producer Cameron Mackintosh came over to me and said: "Dudu, after you finish performing here in Israel, I want you to perform on Broadway."

I was thrilled. I couldn't believe it. I, Dudu Fisher of Petach Tikva, Israel, would appear on Broadway?

But I told him I didn't think that will be possible. He asked me why not and I explained that I am a religious Jew and I do not work on Friday night and Saturday.

A few months later I got a phone call from him, telling me triumphantly that he had managed to arrange that all the performances would take place only on weekdays.

Two months passed and there was another call from Mackintosh. This time, he had bad news. "Dudu," he said, "there's a problem. All the professional organizations are against me and are unwilling to change the dates to weekdays only. I am fighting them all and as of now, I am not winning."

I was so very disappointed. My mother suggested that I go to the Rebbe.

At first I said to her: "People go to the Rebbe with serious problems of health, livelihood, and children. I should go to talk to the Rebbe about Broadway?"

But my mother urged me and I went. I thought I would need to explain my entire situation to the Rebbe but to my surprise, he immediately understood the issue. He looked straight at me and said: "Hold strong with Yiddishkeit (Torah and its commandments) and everything will be fine."

The Rebbe's look was so powerful. I looked at the Rebbe's eyes and felt calm. I felt certain that everything really would be fine. I resolved to stand strong on my principles and not perform on Shabbat.

Two months later I got a phone call from Mackintosh who told me that he had won the fight on my behalf, and I could perform on Broadway without compromising on Sabbath observance.

It was a miracle; until I got this job without Shabbat and Jewish holiday performances, there was no such thing. And afterward, until today, there has been nothing like it. I auditioned for many other shows and always, the moment it came to Shabbat observance, it fell through.

It's not an easy test. But those words of the Rebbe, "Hold strong with Yiddishkeit," continue to strengthen me all the time.

From Beis Moshiach Magazine


Moshiach Matters

Before the ultimate Redemption, our material environment will be refined and therefore "you will not leave in haste, nor will you take flight." Since "I will cause the spirit of impurity to depart from the earth," the Jews will approach the Redemption with eagerness, but they will not be pressured by the constraints of this world. Instead, from a state of prosperity experienced within the context of this world, they will proceed to the ultimate well-being and eternal life of the Era of the Redemption.

(The Rebbe, 6 Shevat, 5772-1992)


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