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L'Chaim
February 17, 2017 - 21 Shevat, 5777

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  1459: Beshalach1461: Mishpatim  

Light Keeps Growing  |  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

Light Keeps Growing

by Rabbi David YB Kaufmann

A Shabbat candle illuminates the room. Nowadays, electricity brightens the house, turning night into day at any time. But we've all been in a darkened room and lit a candle. The effect is, each time, eye-opening. Everything changes because of the candle's light. And have you noticed that, even nowadays, with the incandescent, fluorescent or led lights burning or glowing, the Shabbat candles still attract us? They still inspire us and create an atmosphere. In a brightly lit room, the Shabbat candles still illuminate.

Maybe that's because the light of the Shabbat candle is more than a physical light. When a woman or a girl lights the Shabbat candle and makes a blessing, thus ushering Shabbat into the home, she is illuminating the house - and through it the neighborhood and, in a change reaction of illumination, the whole world - with "the candle is a mitzva and Torah, light." That is, the Shabbat candle illuminates not just with an external, physical light, but also with an internal, spiritual light. For lighting Shabbat candles is a mitzva and doing so bring holiness into the home, and by extension - since light continues to spread forth - into the whole world.

In other words, when a Jewish woman or girl lights a Shabbat candle, it fills the room, and all within it, with holiness. Part of the uniqueness of the mitzva lies in this. For other mitzvot remain separate one from another. Each mitzva does its thing, so to speak, but doesn't spread holiness by its very nature. The mere presence of the Shabbat candle - merely being in the presence of the Shabos candle - fulfills a mitzva and fills one with holiness.

Simply put, lighting candles initiates Shabbat. And Shabbat, as the Torah tells us, is a special sign of the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people.

The gematria (the numerical value of the Hebrew letters) of "candle" alludes to the effect of the private on the public. The Hebrew word for candle is "ner," which has the numerical value of 250. "Ner" is equal to the 248 positive commandments permeated by and enacted with love and fear.

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose passing we commemorate with this issue (and whose life we honor with the L'Chaim publication), illuminated her surroundings. Though very much a private individual, she had a universal influence. Through her, holiness spread forth and penetrated the world. Because of her, the Jewish people received the teachings of the Rebbe.

What a tribute it would be to the Rebbetzin for all of us to increase in areas connected to Shabbat candles: to increase the love and fear of G-d, to influence others light Shabbat candles, to be more receptive to the holiness ushered in through candle lighting.

For light - like Torah, like mitzvot, like love for a fellow Jew - is one thing that never diminishes by giving itself to another.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Yitro, we read. "And Moses went up to G-d, and G-d called to him from the mountain saying, 'So shall you say to the House of Jacob and you shall tell to the Children of Israel.'"

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator explains that the "House of Jacob" refers to the women and the "Children of Israel" refers to the men. He also explains that when you teach Torah to women it should be in a gentle way, emphasizing the positive and the rewards for keeping the Torah and its commandments. However, to the men, speak harshly, tell them the punishments for not observing the Torah and mitzvot (commandments).

Why the difference between women and men when it comes to teaching the Torah? Why does G-d tell Moses to first talk to the women and only after the men? What general lessons, about how to talk to women, can we learn from here?

Jewish women have a special place in Jewish life. Most of the nurturing and upbringing of the next generation are in their hands. The Jewish woman is also the backbone of the Jewish home, if she wants her home to be more kosher, it will be, if she wants it to be more observant, it will be. The future and Jewishness of her family are under her influence.

It stands to reason that G-d would want the women on board first, because so much rests on them. Therefore, women need to be knowledgeable in Torah and mitzvot, so they can create a Jewish atmosphere in their homes and their environs.

According to Jewish tradition, women are naturally spiritual and close to G-d. This is the reason why they don't need harsh words to be convinced to do what they sense is right. Harsh words would only have the opposite effect, they only cause women to close up and become unreceptive.

This is also a lesson for men. The success of your home depends on your relationship with your wife and that is dependent on your tone of voice.

A successful Jewish home, effects the family, the community, the Jewish people and ultimately, the whole world. This is the power of a Jewish home, this is the power of the Jewish woman.

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.


A Slice of Life

Three Generations of Light
by Yehudis Cohen

On September 11, 1974, the Rebbe introduced a campaign to inspire Jewish women and girls the world over to light candles for Shabbat. This special campaign was another weapon in the "war" the Rebbe was waging to eradicate darkness forever and bring the Redemption.

The Rebbe called this campaign "Neshek" - an acronym for Neirot Shabbat Kodesh - holy Shabbat candles. "Neshek" is also the Hebrew word for "weapon." "The light of candles lit by Jewish women and girls is our ammunition with which we battle against the dark forces of impurity," the Rebbe explained.

The Rebbe chose Mrs. Esther Sternberg to head the international candle lighting campaign, known from then on as Mivtza Neshek. "In the early years of the campaign," recalls Mrs. Sternberg, "Lubavitcher women and girls didn't leave home without Neshek. Like a soldier in the army who always has his gun at his side, Lubavitcher women and girls - soldiers in the Rebbe's army - were always 'armed' with candle sticks and candle lighting brochures."

Less than two years after the campaign commenced, in the journal of the 21st Annual Convention of the Lubavitch Women's Organization, a report on the outreach activities included: the distribution of over 550,000 candle sticks and 1,600,000 brochures; visits to 450 schools in New York city alone; 5,000 Jewish organizations contacted by mail; as well as radio and TV ads and billboards in Madison Square Garden.

Mrs. Sternberg has devotedly directed the campaign for over four decades. In addition to the continued growth of the outreach publicity ideas already mentioned, there were subway posters and newspaper ads, including the time for candle lighting on the front page of the New York Times for many years. Two essay contests, one in 1977 and one in 1979, encouraged girls to write about why candle lighting is important to them. The contests themselves publicized and promoted candle lighting. The winning essays became the books, "A Candle of My Own."

More recently, the internet and social media are being used to broaden the efforts to educate and inspire every Jewish woman and girl to light Shabbat candles. To this end, FridayLight.org was created in 2006.


What inspired Nechama Laber to put candle lighting at the forefront of her efforts to help Jewish girls and woman grow in their Jewish observance?

"Shabbat candles symbolize our whole mission as Jews and especially as Jewish women and girls. When you light Shabbat candles, you're not just lighting a candle, you're lighting up your soul and enabling your creative, unique light to shine in the world. When the Rebbe encouraged young girls to light Shabbat candles, already at age three or even before, the Rebbe was emphasizing that you're never too young to shine, to be a leader, to light up the world.

"Once a girl or woman finds her own inner candle, she makes Judaism her own. Then she can light up others and be a lamplighter. The Rebbe called women 'Ambassadors of Light.' Each person has a unique light that no one else has; we show gratitude to G-d for giving us our unique light by shining that light into our own corner of the world."

Nechama and her husband Rabbi Avraham Laber run Chabad-Lubavitch of Southern Rensselaer County. Nechama started a Bat Mitvza Club branch in Troy, New York, in 2001. Four years later, she established the Jewish Girls Retreat, a summer camp experience dedicating to providing a safe and loving environment where Jewish girls of all backgrounds can explore Judaism through the arts and nature.

The campers and staff at each year's JGR wanted more. They wanted the feeling of family, camp, and support for their creativity and Judaism all year long. And thanks to the internet and technology the desire became a reality through Jewish Girls Unite. In March 2015, Jewish Girls Unite was launched in honor of Meirah Schwartz's Bat Mitzvah. Over the next two years, Jewish Girls Unite, together with Mivtza Neshek, launched a candle lighting Essay Contest with the intent of producing a third book. The book would be called One More Light. They also created a website 1MoreLight.com.

Nechama explained the significance of the name. The essay contests in the 70s became the two books "A Candle of My Own," a title chosen by the Rebbe. "A candle of my own is personal, it's about making Judaism personal. It's not enough that the mother lights candles and that the grandmother lights. Each young Jewish girl needs to have her own independent, personal connection to Judaism.

"We decided to call this project 'One More Light,'" explains Nechama, "because once you've made Judaism personal - it's your mitzva, your light - then we can take it to the next level of touching one more person. The one person you inspire will light up another person, and that person another person, until every person and the whole world is lit up with light.

"Fire is a physical thing that has infinite possibility - one candle can light hundreds. Our souls are candles. Like candles, we can give to others without being diminished or extinguished. Sharing our light and our love transcends age, location, abilities."


Chava Dunn studies at Machon L'Yahadus, a yeshiva for young women in Crown Heights. Each Friday after school, she goes to different parts of Brooklyn or Manhattan to give out Shabbat candles to Jewish women and girls.

Born to American parents who immigrated to Israel, Chava was in the Israeli army after finishing high school. "Growing up, I had always dreamed of being a combat soldier. In actuality though, during my service, I was a 'support' soldier.

"I met Chabad when I was in Tzfat (Safed) searching for myself and my place in Judaism. Chabad girls used to come up to me on the street on Friday and give me Shabbat candles to light. Without being handed those candles week after week, I don't know if I'd be here today. I had become so disconnected that if I hadn't been handed the candles I wouldn't have lit them.

"As I became closer to Chabad, and especially after I started studying Chasidic philosophy, I began giving out candles on Fridays. The feeling I had when I walked in Tzfat with candles in my hands was that I was a soldier in combat! As a soldier in the IDF I had walked around with my gun at my side. But there on the streets of Israel, giving Jewish girls and women candles, I felt that I had an actual weapon with me. I felt like I was in the front lines - of a spiritual battle. And in this spiritual battle I have a very real and valuable weapon - Neshek - Shabbat candles.

"That's what motivates me every Friday, even when I don't feel like going. How can I stay home when any person's one good deed can be the one that will flip everything and bring the Redemption? No one knows whose good deed it's going to be. So I feel a huge responsibility. And I also feel that it's not me, Chava, going out - a lone soldier. I am a shaliach, an emissary of the Rebbe.

"Giving out candles in America is different than in Israel. When I go into Manhattan, I have no idea who is Jewish. I have to go out of myself and approach someone and find out if she is Jewish before I offer her Shabbat candles. And if she says that she is Jewish but don't want the candles, I know it is because in these final moments before Moshiach, the darkness doesn't want to give way to light, because it knows that soon it will be eradicated completely.

"The real war is to stand on Fulton Street, not in uniform or shooting a gun. It is a battle between me and something I can't see or touch. But I ask myself, 'How can I not do this?' Through these candles another Jewish girl or woman will do a mitzva. The world will be a brighter place. And maybe these candles will be the first step in her Jewish journey."


Toby Soffer, director of MyShabbosLight.com, tells about her project. "A businessman (who chooses to remain anonymous), was inspired by the Rebbe's words regarding the Redemption and decided to make some 'spiritual' investments with his business profits. The Rebbe would often quote our Sages that because of the righteous women the Jewish people left Egypt, and because of the righteous women in our generation, the Redemption will come.

"This man felt that lighting Shabbat candles can have the biggest impact on the world. The project started in Israel ten years ago and has now spread to the United States. Any Jewish woman or girl is eligible to receive a beautiful set of Shabbat candlesticks when they commit to lighting Shabbat candles each week."

Ready to shine your light? Eager to illuminate your corner of the world? Inspired to touch one person who will touch one person...go for it!


What's New

Published by
Lubavitch Youth Organization
1408 President St, Brooklyn, NY, 11213
phone 718 778 6000

Chairman Rabbi Dovid Raskin
Director Rabbi Shmuel Butman
Program Director Rabbi Kasriel Kastel
Secretary Rabbi Moshe P. Goldman
Administrator Rabbi Shlomo Friedman
Editor Yehudis Cohen
Associate Editor Dovid Y. B. Kaufmann
Chairman Editorial Comm. Rabbi Nissen Mangel
Rebbe photo S. Roumani

L'Chaim contains words from sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
All contents 2017 by L.Y.O. ISSN 1050 0480
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The Rebbe Writes

Erev Purim, 5737 [1977]

Blessing and Greeting;

I received your letter of Feb. 22, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good, and you should have good news to report in all the matters about which you wrote, especially that you and your husband are bringing up your children to a life of Torah, Chuppah [marriage] and Good Deeds and having true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pride] from each and all of them in good health and pleasant circumstances.

The Zechus [merit] of your observance of our sacred traditions - which I was gratified to note in your letter - will surely stand you and yours in good stead in all above, including your continued advancement in all matters of Torah and Mitzvos [commandments]. For, although this is a "must" for its own sake, in compliance with G-d's Will, this is also the "channel and vessel" to receive additional Divine blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.

The above is a particularly timely message now that we are about to celebrate Purim, the highlight of which is the reading of [the] Megilah [Scroll of Esther] evening and morning. It is noteworthy and significant that although - as the Megilah tells us - both Mordechai and Esther were instrumental in bringing about the Miracle of Purim and saving our people, the Megilah is not named after both of them jointly, nor after Esther and Mordechai in this order, but solely after Esther - "Megilas Esther." Here is a pointedly emphatic message for every Jewish woman about her unique role in Jewish life. To be sure, no one can compare to the stature of Queen Esther, but it does emphasize the extraordinary potential of every loyal Jewish daughter to shape the future of her family, with far-reaching consequences for the environment and even for the entire Jewish people.

If this seems farfetched and mystical, the following episode will illustrate what even a comparatively small effort can accomplish.

You may have heard that many of our senior Lubavitch students volunteer their summer vacation to travel to distant places in order to reach out to fellow-Jews in need of encouragement to strengthen their identity with, and commitment to, our people and the Torah way. In the course of this program it so happened that one of the students visited a small, Jewishly isolated town where he found only a few Jewish families, and, as he later reported, he was disappointed to have accomplished nothing there. But several months later, our Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch which sponsors this program received a letter from one of the families in that town. The writer, a woman, related that one summer day she happened to stand by her front window when she saw a bearded young man, wearing a dark hat, his Tzitzis showing, approaching her door. She confessed that when she admitted the young man and learned of the purpose of his visit, she was not responsive, for she and her family were not prepared at that moment to change their life style, yet for a long time after that encounter, the appearance of the young man haunted her. He reminded her of her grandfather and had refreshed her memories of the beautiful Jewish life she had seen in her grandparents' home, though the material circumstances were incomparably more modest than she had come to know in her married life. Finally - the letter went on - she decided to make the change. She made her home kosher, and the family began to observe Shabbos and Yom Tov, and she is raising the children in Torah way. Since then her home was filled with such contentment and serenity that she decided to write to the M. L. Ch. and express her profound gratitude.

Now, if all that was the result of a brief encounter with that young man, though unbeknown to him of his lasting impact, how much more can be achieved by an American Jewish family, whose influence is not limited to a few minutes conversation, but serves as a shining example of the kind of daily life and conduct that should be the privilege and blessing of every Jewish family.

Needless to say, if in maintaining the proper Jewish standards there may be some difficulties to overcome (many of which may even be more imaginary than real), surely such difficulties should be of no significance in comparison to the infinite benefits. Moreover, the effort required is a personal one, while the benefit is also for the many.

With prayerful wishes for a joyous and inspiring Purim and with blessing,


All Together

The name of our publication has special meaning.

It stands for the name of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (obm), wife of the Rebbe.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is the anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and daughter of the Previous Rebbe. Extremely modest, queenly in bearing, sensitive, compassionate and intelligent, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was the embodiment of Jewish womanhood.

After the Rebbetzin's passing in 1988, the Rebbe began to speak about "a new era" having commenced. Although the Rebbe had always stressed our generation's unique role in preparing the world for Moshiach, at that point the Rebbe declared that the only thing left in our Divine service is to actually greet Moshiach himself.

As the Rebbe further explained, this "new period" we are now in is especially significant for Jewish women and girls, whose task is not only to establish a "dwelling place for G-d in the lower realms" (as is every Jewish person's), but to ensure that it is a "beautiful" dwelling. When a "beautiful dwelling" is established, G-d "puts Himself" into the dwelling in an entirely different manner, not just "dwelling there" but uniting with it, as it were. G-d's dwelling place in the lower worlds becomes not only nullified to the "Owner," but one with Him.

This is reflected in the special mitzvot of Jewish women and girls, with their emphasis on light (Shabbat and Yom Tov candles), purity and holiness (kashrut and the laws of family purity), and warmth (providing children with a Torah-true Jewish education, the main objective of which is to instill enthusiasm for Judaism). In other words, Jewish women and girls are the ultimate "interior decorators" in establishing a "beautiful dwelling."

In these last few moments of exile, it is therefore crucial that all Jewish women and girls be aware of their tremendous role in hastening the Final Redemption, which will come "as reward for the righteous women of the generation."


Thoughts that Count

And you shall be My own treasure (segula) (Ex. 19:8)

Just as the Hebrew vowel "segol" is made up of three dots, so too, does G-d's treasure (segula) - the Jewish people - consist of three constituent parts: priests, Levites, and Israelites. The Torah, too, from where Jews draw their strength, is also three-part: The Five Books of Moses, Prophets, and Writings.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


Moses spoke (yedaber), and G-d answered him (Ex. 19:19)

The word "yedaber" is actually in the future tense, implying "Moses will speak." It is also etymologically related to the word "yadber," meaning "he will lead and guide" - a reference to the "reflection of Moses that exists in every generation ."

(Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim)


I am the L-rd your G-d (Ex. 20:2)

This first of the Ten Commandments was given in the singular ("Elokecha" not "Elokeichem"), as each individual's conception and understanding of G-d is different, depending on his capacity for spirituality, knowledge of Torah, and individual service. Accordingly, each person who was present at Mount Sinai understood the commandment differently.

(Siftei Kohen)


Six days you shall labor and do all your work (Ex. 20:9)

In truth, is it possible to complete all one's work in only six days? Rather, the intent is that a person must desist from labor on Shabbat, and consider it as if all his work was already done.

(Mechilta)


Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8)

Rashi explains "remember" and "keep" the Sabbath were said simultaneously. There was once a chasid of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, who was a particularly simple and unlearned man. Despite that fact that he didn't know the meaning of many words in the prayer book, he spent hour after hour engrossed in daily prayer. He soon became the object of scorn. What could he possibly be thinking about, untutored as he was in even the simple translation of the Hebrew words? his fellow congregants sneered. One day someone got up the courage to ask him. "Whenever I pray, I constantly keep in mind something I once heard from the Rebbe on the saying 'remember and keep were said in one utterance.' With every word I utter, I try to remember and keep that oneness."

(Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn)


It Once Happened

Reb Alexander Sender was a Chasid of the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidim), whose business dealings sometimes required that he travel to other countries outside of Russia. When the Alter Rebbe once asked Reb Alexander Sender why he didn't engage in business in a particular town in Galicia (Poland), he took it to mean that he should go there, which he immediately did.

As this was the first time he had ever visited the region, Reb Alexander inquired as to where he could stay and take his meals. He was told that there was one particular place frequented by Jewish travelers where the food was prepared to the highest standards of kashrut, an inn run by the daughter of the late rabbi of the town, who had been known for his piety and scholarship. After the rabbi passed away, his young daughter, a girl of fine intellect and character like her father, married a local, fine young man who was a Torah scholar. Their home was kosher to the highest and most strict specifications and they excelled in the mitzva (commandment) of hospitality. Reb Alexander Sender decided to stay there.

When he sent a messenger to arrange for his accommodations, however, he learned that the young woman's husband was out of town and that she could therefore not allow him to stay. It was only after it was made clear that Reb Alexander Sender was accompanied by ten other people that she agreed to put him up.

That Friday night, Reb Alexander and his business associates, all of whom were also outstanding Chasidim of the Alter Rebbe, sat down to their festive Shabbat meal. The house fairly reverberated with their joyous singing of Chasidic melodies and zemirot (special songs for Shabbat). Suddenly, Reb Alexander heard the sound of weeping. Following the sound he found the young woman in the next room, unable to contain her tears. When he asked her why she was crying she told him that she had not experienced such a moving Shabbat table since her saintly father passed away. Hearing her guests' singing brought back such pleasant memories of her father, whom she still missed very much, she explained.

As they were talking she revealed something very close to heart: As a Jewish mother, she was terribly concerned about the fate of her 7-year-old son, for in Galicia, at that time, it was against the law to send children to cheder for religious instruction. She then inquired if the government was just as restrictive in Russia, where Reb Alexander Sender came from. "Not at all," he replied. "The Russian authorities do not interfere in such matters. It is permissible to provide the best Jewish education for one's children."

The woman implored Reb Alexander to take the boy back with him to Russia so he could learn Torah. "But what about your husband?" Reb Alexander asked. "Would he agree to send the child so far from home?" The woman assured Reb Alexander that the most important thing in the world to the two parents was that their son learn Torah in a yeshiva and grow up to be an educated Jew.

Reb Alexander Sender then understood why the Alter Rebbe had suggested he do business in that particular town. He wrote on his passport that the boy was his son, and so, 7-year-old Elchanan accompanied the group of businessmen back to Russia. Elchanan learned in yeshiva, distinguished himself in his studies and went on to establish a fine family of G-d-fearing Jews.


The Previous Rebbe, father of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson whose yartzeit occurs this Shabbat, once spoke about the self-sacrifice parents must have to provide the proper Jewish education for their children. He said:

"We must continue to establish schools and yeshivot, for who knows which children will be affected and influenced? Rabbi Yekutiel, the father of Rabbeinu Gershom, brought his son to Tulitila in Morocco, which then became a center of Torah learning. In the same manner, the father of Peretz Chein, Reb Elchanan, fled his native Galicia to attend cheder in Russia. This came about because of his mother's self-sacrifice on his behalf, when she sent him away in order to learn Torah. Because of her actions he became the progenitor of this Torah-true family."


Moshiach Matters

Our Sages say, "In the merit of the righteous women of that generation the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt." Concerning the future Redemption it will be in the merit of the righteous women of that generation, as our Sages say, "The generations are only redeemed as a reward for the righteous women of the generation." It is explained in the writings of the Arizal that the generation of the Redemption will be a reincarnation of the generation that left Egypt. Accordingly, the righteous women of our generation, in whose merit we are redeemed, are the very same righteous women in whose merit we left Egypt.

(The Rebbe. 6 Shvat, 13 Shvat, 1992)


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