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Devarim Deutronomy

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1551: Vayigash

1552: Vayechi

Shemos Exodus

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
December 21, 2018 - 13 Tevet, 5779

1552: Vayechi

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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.


  1551: Vayigash1553: Shemos  

It's About Time  |  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

It's About Time

Haven't we all, at one time or another, had the thought that it would be great to add a few hours to the day?

And that's why articles like "Ten Ways to Create More Time in Your Day" and "How to Get Seven More Hours in Your Day" abound.

Yet, even after we've decided to try and "simplify" our lives - whittling away at commitments, time-consuming activities, energy-wasters, relationships that aren't going anywhere - there still need to be more than 24 hours in the day!

With such stressful and packed lives, who would even dream of adding something to his/her "to do" list?

And yet, increasing our commitments is exactly what Judaism demands of us.

"Make set times for Torah" urge Jewish teachings. Just as we set aside time to sleep, eat, relax, exercise, pay bills, work, etc., - though not usually in that order and certainly never enough sleep - we are expected to set aside time for Torah study. Just think of it as exercising your most prominent Jewish organ with a uniquely Jewish work-out.

Lest someone think they can put Torah study off until they reach the "golden years," think again. Our Sages weren't just giving encouragement to people with time on their hands. They understood well the human psyche, so much so that they also enjoined us, "Do not say, 'When I will have free time I will study,' for perhaps you will never have free time.'"

But Torah study can add quality and quantity to our 24 hours, in essence stretching them to their maximum.

Studying Torah, not in a haphazard fashion, but actually setting aside time on a regular basis to expand one's Jewish knowledge can actually help save time.

Chasidic philosophy explains that by studying Torah, especially in a Torah study group, one creates a vessel to contain G-d's blessings for livelihood and blessings in other areas of our material lives and spiritual blessings, as well.

Who hasn't had one of "those" days when anything we try to do takes for ever or doesn't get done at all? And surely we've all had the opposite experience, a "midas touch" type day when everything we do goes smoothly, all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place easily, and at the end of the time there is a sense of accomplishment.

Practically speaking, making set times for Torah study, especially in groups, can bring the blessings of the latter kind of day into your life.

When's the best time to join a Torah study group? "The wise person does it today. The fool puts it off for tomorrow," the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe was quoted as saying. Check out the options today at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. Or start a class of your own. In your house. In your office. At your synagogue. There will never be a better time than now!


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob blessed his children before he passed away. To Judah he said, "Judah, your brothers will praise you." Rashi explains that since Jacob had rebuked Reuben, Shimon and Levi, Judah was worried that he would be rebuked as well. Jacob understood this and said, "Judah, your brothers will praise you." What deeper meaning can be found in these words?

Reuben comes from the word "ra'ah" which means "seen," as Leah said, "G-d has seen my humiliation." Reuben is symbolic of the first paragraph of the Shema prayer, where we connect with G-d on a level of sight, as if we see Him. Sight is a very powerful sense, much greater than hearing. When you see something you know that it is true and nobody can talk you out of it, because you saw it. When we are connected to G-d on the level of sight, we understand Him in a deep way and connect with Him through love. This is why we say in the beginning of the Shema, "You will love G-d your G-d."

Shimon comes from the word "shama - heard." Leah named him Shimon, "because G-d heard that I felt hated." Shimon is symbolic of the second paragraph of the Shema, where we connect with G-d out of awe. It begins, "It will be, if you will hear," and later it continues, "Beware, lest you be mislead." This is the idea of awe or fear that comes from hearing, a step lower than seeing.

Levi comes from the word "yilaveh - attached." As Leah said, "this time my husband will be attached to me." Levi is symbolic of the next paragraph that begins with 15 accolades about G-d and continues, "this thing is upon us forever and ever." "This thing" refers to the Torah, that attaches us to G-d.

These three steps and paragraphs are the preparation for the silent Amida prayer, when we stand before G-d in utter humility.

Judah comes from the word "odeh," meaning to thank, praise or admit. As Leah said, "this time I will thank Hashem." To thank, praise or admit, is to recognize the other, and that takes humility. Judah is symbolic of the Amida prayer itself, when we stand before G-d, and at that moment only He exists.

This state of nothingness before G-d is the natural state of the neshama, G-dly soul, which is the essence of a Jew. It is just that the animal soul, the body, the physical world and the dark exile, covers up who we are, our essence. But at times we can reveal it, and one of these times is when we reach the Amida.

The verse continues, "your hand will be on the neck of your enemies." Meaning, that when our essence shines the world is affected by us, as our sages say, that "When our voice is the voice of Yaakov, in the houses of prayer and the houses of Torah study, then the hands of Esau have no power over us." To the contrary, instead of working against us, they help us serve G-d.

May our acts of kindness, Torah and prayer reveal our essence, and effect the world, to the point that our light shines so bright, that Moshiach will come and lead us to our Holy Land. May it happen soon, the time has come.

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the Rebbe's teachings, 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

A Veteran Torah for Veteran Soldiers
by Mussi Sharfstein

What was once an unused, invalid Torah scroll, dedicated to army veterans, is now fully-restored and being used at a Chabad center serving Jewish uniformed officers. Rather than sitting in disuse, an inspired rabbi from Flatbush found the perfect new home for this Torah just down the road.

When Baltimore's 100-year-old Winands Road Synagogue merged with the city's largest Modern-Orthodox synagogue earlier this year, longtime member Michael Steininger wondered what would happen to the congregation's five Torahs-two of which were no longer fit for use. "The synagogue we merged with has fifteen to twenty Torahs," Michael explains, "and I didn't want the ones we had to just lie there."

Steininger and his wife Stephanie purchased one of the scrolls, but when they tried finding a scribe to restore it, the costs were prohibitive. Then they discovered Rabbi Bentzion Chanowitz and his Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach, a project of Merkos Suite 302, which loans Torah scrolls to synagogues that don't have their own.

A resident of Flatbush, Rabbi Bentzion Chanowitz, opened the Torah Gemach in 2001 after inheriting a Torah from his father. "Here in Flatbush, there's a synagogue on every corner and each one has multiple Torahs-some of which are hardly used because of the sheer amount in each shul." Many families commission the writing of a Torah scroll in honor or memory of a loved one. While a commendable gesture, it can result in an excess of Torahs.

In direct contrast, many Chabad centers around the world do not even have one Torah scroll of their own. Requiring about a year of skilled labor, writing a Torah can cost upwards of $50,000, depending on the style and quality. Many small communities can't afford such an expense in their tight budgets.

Enter the Torah Gemach. This organization welcomes donations of new Torahs or restores older ones and matches them with centers in need until they can commission their own permanent one. Currently, the Torah Gemach arranged 210 loans with a bank of 156 scrolls and counting. In fact, the newest donation to the program was a Torah dedicated to the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre, and its cover features each of their names. "I realized I can do something to support the special work of the shluchim from the comfort of my community," says Chanowitz.

Steininger turned to the Gemach and Rabbi Chanowitz to help him find a cost-efficient way to restore the Torah. In return, Steininger donated it to the program.

"I wanted this Torah to be dedicated in loving memory of my parents, brother and father-in-law," Steininger says. His brother, Martin, was an army veteran and a Maryland army reservist before passing away, stateside, at the age of thirty-eight. His father-in-law, Albert Hirsch, fought in Italy in WWII. Steininger's father, Joseph, was a Holocaust survivor and his mother, Harriet, was from the Baltimore area. Steininger recalls attending services at the Winands Road Synagogue with his parents for thirty years.

In light of the strong military background in the Torah's dedication, Chanowitz looked for an appropriate recipient.

Right before the High Holidays, Rabbi Chanowitz received a call from Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum, a law enforcement chaplain, who directs the Jewish Uniformed Service Association (JUSA) with his wife, Chani. An affiliate of Chabad of Maryland, JUSA serves current and retired Jewish officers including those in the military, police, and fire departments. Tenenbaum was looking to conduct High Holiday services for the first time and was in need of a Torah on loan.

"I've got the perfect Torah for you!" Chanowitz exclaimed.

This past High Holidays, the Steiningers' Torah took center stage after years of disuse.

"It's beautiful that the Torah has found such an appropriate home-and in the same city no less!" Steininger reflected. While he doesn't consider himself Chabad, he joined a service at JUSA to see his donation in action and was honored with an aliyah from this Torah.

Though JUSA doesn't yet hold services every week, the last time the Torah was used was this past Shabbat, November 10, Veterans Day weekend. "A Torah dedicated to veterans, read for veterans, on Veterans Day weekend was so meaningful," Tenenbaum says. He hosted Friday night and Shabbat morning services complete with a kiddush dinner and lunch for current and former military and law enforcement officers.

Tenenbaum is grateful to Steininger for his donation and Chanowitz for his effort in facilitating it. "It's such a meaningful gift to our organization."

For more information and to support the Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach and JUSA, visit www.BYTG.org and www.JewishUSAMD.org.

Reprinted from Lubavitch International. Read more at lubavitch.com


What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Yossi and Goldie Abenson are opening the first Chabad center in S. Louis, Missouri's, Central West End neighborhood. S. Louis's Central West End is a growing area, home to the nationally acclaimed Barnes Jewish Hospital and thousands of Jewish young professionals, young families and graduate students, studying in universities throughout the city. Alongside their work in the CWE, the Abensons will be establishing the S Louis-wide chapter of Chabad Young Professionals, as well as assuming the leadership of JGrads, Chabad of WashU's graduate student program

Rabbi Shneur and Leah Brook have moved to Shelton, Connecticut to establish Chabad of Shelton-Monroe. The new Chabad Center will be offering Jewish services and education from birth on as well as Shabbat and holiday celebrations. A beautiful public Menorah Lighting was amongst their first events.


The Rebbe Writes

25th of Teves, 5730 [1971]

Greeting and Blessing:

Your check for tzedoko [charity] was particularly welcome in accordance with what has become your good custom during these auspicious times of the year. Indeed, coming soon after Chanukah , when it is a good Jewish custom to give "Chanukah gelt," your contribution will provide much needed "oil" to spread the light of Torah and mitzvos [commandments], in keeping with the spirit and practice of the first historic Chanukah and the miracle of the oil. As our Sages tell us- and they always chose their words very carefully - the enemy had "defiled all the oils." This means that the enemy had not simply taken away or destroyed the pure and sanctified olive oil which was used for the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash, but left the oil, except that they defiled it. Thus, the menorah could have actually been lit with his oil and there would have been no need for the miracle.

The lesson of this miracle is as follows: at first glance it also seems advisable to kindle a light, even if it is not a pure light, for isn't any light better than none at all? However, our spiritual leaders insisted on using only pure and undefiled olive oil for the menorah, thereby teaching us the importance of the root and source of things. For if the oil comes from an unclean source, the light cannot truly serve its purpose.

The best illustration of the truth of the above, as has been mentioned on previous occasions, is what happened in Germany in our own times. Here was a people who had produced outstanding philosophical systems and moral and ethical concepts, much more than any other nation in modern times. However, because these ideologies were based on the principle of might and right and on the authority of human reason alone, which however brilliant, is not infallible, all the moral and ethical values did not prevent the German form sinking to the nadir of moral depravity. On the contrary, they used their logic an philosophy to justify the most inhuman and vile actions, making virtue out of vice, all in the name of racial superiority and domination.

And so the eternal message of Chanukah emphasizes again that not only the ends, but also the means must be pure and holy. This is why all work to strengthen and spread Yiddishkeit [Judaism]- especially in the area of education - must be in full keeping with the Torah itself. There is also the other aspect of the Chanukah message, namely that the activities to spread the light of the Torah and mitzvos, as symbolized by the Chanukah lights, has to be done in a steadily growing measure, just as the Chanukah lights are kindled in growing numbers from day to day.

I send you my prayerful wishes that you should likewise continue your participation in these great and sacred efforts, in a growing measure, consistently intensifying this light in your personal life and in your environment at large.

With blessing,


5724 [1964]

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter, in which you write about an undesirable habit.

The way to overcome this habit is to completely divert the mind from it. This means that one should not attempt to wrestle with the problem in his mind to convince himself that it is a bad thing, or a sin, and the like, but to dismiss it entirely from the mind. But, in order to be able to disengage the mind from one thing, it is necessary to engage it immediately in something else, which has no relation whatever to the other thoughts. The best thing, of course, is to engage the mind in a matter of Torah, because the Torah is called "Light" and even a little light dispels a lot of darkness. However, if it is impossible to engage the mind in Torah, at the moment when that thought occurs, it should be engaged in anything, as long as it is completely unrelated.

In accordance with the above, it is also clear that every addition in the degree of devotion and diligence in the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvot, in addition to being a must for its own sake, will also help to overcome the problem.

If your tefillin have not been checked within the last twelve months, it would be a good idea to have them checked now, and every weekday morning, before putting them on, to put aside a small coin for tzedaka [charity], 'bli-neder'[without promising]. I also suggest that you should be careful to observe the shiur in Tehillim [reciitng Psalms] every day, as it is divided according to the days of the month.

With blessing,

With thanks to Nissan Mindel Publications


All Together

NATAN means "gift." Natan (II Samuel 5:15) was the prophet who stated that the dynasty of Kind David would be perpetually established. The Askenazic pronunciation is Nosson or Nussin.

NINA is from the Hebrew meaning "grand-daughter" or "great-grand-daughter." It can also be a nickname for "Penina" which means "pearl."


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, taught that "a Jew has to live with the times" - the "Jewish times" being the eternal Torah in its weekly Torah portion readings.

This week's Torah portion begins with the words: "And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years." According to our Sages, these were Jacob's best years.

It is related that when the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Chabad Rebbe, learned this Torah portion as a boy, he asked his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman: "How could our father Jacob have lived his best years in a place like Egypt?" (Egypt was known for its crass materialism and depravity - utterly foreign to the spirit of our Patriarch.)

Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied: "In the preceding portion we are told that Jacob had sent his son Judah ahead of him to Goshen (in Egypt) to establish a Torah center for the twelve tribes and their children and grandchildren. Thus, wherever the Torah and mitzvot are studied and observed, a Jew can live his best years, even in Egypt."

Today we stand at a point in history where, because of the Rebbe's declaration that "The time of the Redemption has come" and "Moshiach is on his way," we prepare each day for the Messianic Era. And yet, we must live with the times. We must continue to learn from our Patriarch Jacob, and continue to establish centers of Torah study for young and old. In addition, the Rebbe has enjoined us to learn about the Redemption and Moshiach, so that even those places of study established long ago should "live with the times" and enhance their learning with the study of these subjects.

As the Rebbe expressed, "This is the way to hasten the Geula." May it happen immediately.


Thoughts that Count

And let them grow into a multitude (v'yidgu) in the midst of the earth (Gen. 48:16)

This blessing alludes to the fact that the existence of the Jewish people is not dependent on the forces of nature, but is a supernatural phenomenon. The word "v'yidgu" is derived from the Hebrew word for fish ("dag"), the intent being that there should be as many Jews as there are millions of fish. Fish, however, cannot live "in the midst of the earth"; Jacob's blessing therefore intimates that his children will survive even under conditions that would annihilate another nation.

(Chatam Sofer)


The scepter shall not depart from Judah... until Shilo comes (Gen. 49:10)

"Shilo" is the numerical equivalent of "Moses" (345); "until Shilo comes" is the equivalent of "Moshiach" (358).

(Zohar and Baal HaTurim)


He washes his garments in wine (Gen. 49:11)

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism explained that whenever a Jew does a mitzva (commandment), a "garment" for his soul is formed. Wine is symbolic of joy, as it states in Psalms (104:15), "And wine that gladdens man's heart." "Washing our garments in wine" thus means that we should always strive to observe the commandments out of a sense of joy.

(Torah Ohr)


And when he saw that the resting place was good...he bent his shoulder to bear (Gen. 49:15)

Issachar recognized that although leisure is a good and pleasant thing, it can also be dangerous. In times of peace and tranquility the Evil Inclination intensifies its efforts to lead a person astray, which can lead to disaster. Issachar therefore "bent his shoulder to bear" the yoke of Torah, for Torah study is the antidote to this pitfall.

(Likutei Diburim)


It Once Happened

Great was the plight of the Jews who lived under the rule of the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple. The Roman government constantly persecuted the poor, defenseless, defeated people. Despite all of this, however, the Romans did not succeed in breaking the strong spirit of the Jewish nation.

At that time, the greatest Jewish leaders of that period were Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Joshua, and Rabban Gamliel. They went to Rome to plead for an easing of the cruel decrees against the innocent Jews. In the meantime, however, a decree had gone out to the effect that, within thirty days, no Jews were to be found in the whole Roman Empire. This meant nothing less than the end, G-d forbid, of the entire Jewish nation, for Rome then ruled over almost the entire known world! The Jews were doomed, for where could they hope to escape to in so short a time?

Like all their fellow Romans of that time, the Roman senators were idol-worshipers. There happened to be amongst them one notable exception, a man who believed in the one G-d. This particular senator was known to greatly admire the Jews, and counted many Jews amongst his closest friends and associates.

When word reached him of this terrible new decree against the Jews, he lost no time in hurrying to Rabban Gamliel to inform him about it. Rabban Gamliel and his colleagues were thrown into a state of despair! Rome ruled the world, and it was impossible for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to suddenly find refuge in some far-off land!

"Don't worry," the senator comforted them. "Yours' is a great G-d and surely Your G-d will surely not forsake you. You still have thirty days before the decree can be put into effect, and G-d can bring about your salvation in a mere blink of an eye!"

The days and the weeks passed unremarkably, and there were but five days left before the decree against the Jews would become law. The senator and his wife worried constantly about the fate of their friends, but could not devise a plan of action to save them. One day they were sitting at home talking about the dreadful situation of the Jews, when the senator sadly remarked to his wife, "I feel so ashamed to be part of a people that can do such wicked things to the innocent and defenseless Jews."

His wife was silent for a while, then, in a serious tone she spoke slowly and deliberately, "Are you sure there is nothing that can be done to save our friends?"

"There is only way that they can be saved at this late stage. If a senator were to suddenly die, the decree would be annulled. For, as you know, according to Roman law, when a senator dies all laws passed within the past thirty days become null and void."

Five days later, on the thirtieth day, the senator and his wife were again sitting in their home discussing the decree against the Jews and what could possibly be done to help them.

"Today is the thirtieth and last day," the senator said to his wife in a tone of despair. "This is terrible! I wish I knew what to do to help them!"

"If you really mean what you are saying," said his wife, "there is something you can do. I know what I would do in your place to show the world that there is still at least one man left in Rome who possesses a conscience and a feeling of decency and respect for his fellow human beings." After she had uttered those momentous words, she cast a sad and poignant glance at the beautiful ring on her husband's finger.

The senator understood immediately what his wife meant. The center of this very special ring had a tiny hidden compartment. Inside this compartment was a fatal poison. Without further thought, the senator bid a sad farewell to his lifelong partner, put the ring to his lips and within seconds, death froze a smile of satisfaction on his noble face. Because of the supreme self-sacrifice of this noble friend, the decree against the Jews was immediately nullified.

When the Tannaim heard of the death of the Roman senator, they hurried to comfort his widow. They praised the nobility and greatness of her distinguished husband, who gave up his life in order to save the Jewish people. He had willingly made the ultimate sacrifice and no words could convey their gratitude.

"We would have been proud, indeed, to have counted your husband as one of our own," they concluded.

"You may now know that you have, in truth, every right to be proud of him, for he was in his beliefs, in every respect, one of you," the widow answered.

Based on the Midrash Devarim Rabbah 2:24, adapted from Talks and Tales


Moshiach Matters

In this week's portion we read, "Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise" (Gen. 49:8) The blessing Judah received from Jacob contains every letter of the Hebrew alphabet except for one: the letter "zayin," which means literally a weapon. This is an allusion to the eventual restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Messianic era, which will come about through a descendant of Judah (in the person of Moshiach). The absence of the letter zayin indicates that Moshiach's victory will be accomplished without the help of the sword, as it states, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the L-rd of hosts."

(Rabbeinu Bachya)


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