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January 4, 2019 - 27 Tevet, 5779

1554: Vaera

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  1553: Shemos1555: Bo  

Fresh Air, Fresh Food, Fresh Water  |  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

Fresh Air, Fresh Food, Fresh Water

Imagine taking more than a few breaths in a room filled with air made stale from a party the previous evening. Or consider the taste of a corned beef on rye (hold the pickle, it has too much sodium) that's been in the fridge for a whole week. And who would even dream of taking a sip of water that had been sitting out for a whole month!

Though you might not become ill from breathing stale air for a few minutes or eating one questionable corned-beef-on-rye, you could become very sick from constantly breathing old air and eating old food.

Fresh air, fresh food, fresh water.

These commodities are necessary to live not only healthy lives, but to life in general.

Jewish teachings are collectively assigned the name "Torah" and Torah is often referred to as Torat Chaim - the Living Torah. Judaism is a living religion. For us to feel the vibrancy of Judaism, we must live it on a daily basis.

This means that in order to maintain our Jewish health, yesterday's "air" and last week's "food" are not enough.

The memories of a family Passover seder of years gone by are great for reminiscences, but what have I done freshly Jewish TODAY?

Chewing over, for weeks, a thought heard at a Jewish lecture attended last month is great, but what have I done TODAY that will be like a breath of fresh air for my soul?

Remembering on Friday night the Sabbath candles Bubby lit and the fresh challa Zaidy blessed is beautiful and will bring tears to many an eye, but lighting Sabbath candles this Friday before Shabbat and saying the blessing over the challa this Friday evening will be a refreshing and restful way to end a stress-filled and tiresome week.

Our Sages teach that "Every day the Torah should be as new." This does not mean that we should bend and bow every time a new translation of the Bible comes out, or fawn over a new "retelling" of the story of the Creation. It also does not mean that we can change, reshape, or alter those parts of Torah and Jewish tradition we feel are not conducive to life, today.

For, by calling Judaism a living religion we do not mean to say that it can grow and change without restrictions.

The Living G-d gives us a living Torah which is true and relevant for all times and all places.

Living Judaism means that Judaism is alive and that we are truly alive when we live it on a daily basis.

Throughout the day, breathe deeply the fresh, life-supporting air of mitzvot. Savor the fresh taste of daily Torah study.

Experience Living Judaism.

Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah portion of Va'eira we read about the first seven plagues inflicted on Egypt. The purpose of the plagues was not only to punish the Egyptians, but to deflate their egos and eradicate their false notions about G-dliness. The plagues also served as the blows that freed from the constraints and limitations of Egypt.

Every story in the Torah teaches us how to become better in our G-dly service. Let's see what we can learn from the first two plagues, blood and frogs.

In Egypt they worshiped the Nile River. So to break their pride in the Nile, the first plague hit the waters of the Nile, turning the water into blood. Water is by nature wet and cold. This was the way of the Egyptians to be cold or apathetic to G-dliness and holiness. The Nile was turned into blood, which is warm and full of life.

The opposite of holiness is coldness, apathy, because holiness is warm and full of life. When we are cold and apathetic to G-dliness and holiness, it opens the door to everything that is unholy, and we are stuck in an Egypt. How do we break out of apathy towards holiness?

Through understanding the second plague.

Egypt had a great fervor and passion for everything unholy. Meaning that there is also an unholy warmth, when someone has a passion for impermissible physical pleasures.

To cool off their passion, G-d sent the second plague, frogs. The frogs went everywhere, even in the ovens, and our Sages learn from them the idea of self-sacrifice.

What is the meaning of the frogs going into the ovens? Ovens, which are hot, symbolize the heat and passion for the physical. Frogs are from the water, cold and wet, but at the same time, they did G-d's will, to the extent that they went totally against their nature. The cold water creatures went into the fiery ovens and cooled them off. In other words, there is also a holy coldness, when one fosters a coldness towards the physical and the unholy.

The frogs came to deflate Pharaoh's ego. They went into the ovens cooling off the passion and the false importance of the unholy that existed in Egypt.

Holy fire breaks you free from unholy coldness, and holy coldness breaks you free from passion for the unholy.

To break free from a spiritual Egypt, one must first take a lesson from the blood and bring life and warmth into holy matters, because the beginning of all kinds of evil comes from coldness.

It is a mistake to think that just positive action is enough. If you don't bring warmth and passion into holiness, ultimately you will end up in the unholy.

Just as we need to bring a warmth and life into holiness - blood, so too we should foster coldness towards the unholy - frogs.

May we all be filled with warmth and holiness, breaking free from our personal Egypts and ultimately breaking free from this final exile with the coming of Moshiach. May he come now!

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

A Slice of Life

Jewish Network Connections

Torah study creates connections. And Torah partners can create an international chain of connections that benefit participants in a unique way.

To illustrate:

Zack Gilbert Burke, age 23. Lives in Silver Spring, MD, works as a sales rep at General Mills. JNet member since 2015

I grew up going to synagogue fairly regularly with my family, keeping kosher-style at home, visiting Bubby for Friday night dinner, and attending a Jewish day school through 8th grade. When I arrived on my college campus at the University of Minnesota, I met Rabbi Yitzi Steiner and his family. I became more interested in Torah, started studying, and began participating in various programs offered through Chabad on Campus. I met Rabbi Yehuda Dukes one Passover, and he told me about the organization he directs, JNet. I immediately started studying with Shneur Tarlow, and the rest is history.

Shneur and I have been studying Mishna from the beginning, and so far we have learned all of Seder Moed. No matter where, what, and how, we make it a point to study each week, even for a short time. In my final year of college I planned to go to Mayanot Yeshiva in Jerusalem. To prepare for this experience, I asked for another study partner. And that is how I started studying Talmud with Yisroel Ohana. Today, I consider these guys two of my closest friends. We danced together at my wedding, and they currently help me with my studies in Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm's online Rabbinic Ordination program.

A few months ago, I was approached by the head of recruitment for JNet partners who asked if I would be open to learning with a boy in Hawaii who is about to become bar mitzva. I was ecstatic. Kalae and I have been learning for a few months now, through Facetime on Sundays. We start with him putting on tefillin, then we learn a little Hebrew, talk about the Torah portion, relevant holidays, and address any other questions he has. The work that JNet does is incredibly impactful and important. I feel fortunate to be a part of this organization, and cannot wait to see how it will continue to grow and thrive!

Rabbi Shneur Tarlow, age 28, from Morristown, New Jersey. Post Rabbinic Student. JNet member since 2013

About five years, ago I was presented with the opportunity to join JNet and was set up with my first study partner. I have been studying with my current partner, Zack, for close to three years. Studying for 30 minutes a week, we have covered almost ten tractates of Mishnayot!

I think it was really good for Zack to have someone to learn with while he was doing so much on his own to get more involved. Aside from the learning, I think our conversations helped him understand a "Torah-perspective" of the world, and really helped him prepare for the experience of studying full-time in Yeshiva.

It has been amazing to witness Zack's passion and commitment to his Torah learning. We even continued our weekly learning when Zack spent six months studying in Jerusalem. His enthusiasm inspires me to enliven my own Torah study and Jewish observance as well. I believe that there is no better way to connect to another Jew than through Torah study, and I will always cherish the great friend I've made!

Kalae Abrams, Age: 13, Location: Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii, JNet Member Since: 2017

I was preparing for my bar mitzva, and my mom's JNet partner, Malka, said "I have someone who can help!" We thought the learning was a one time thing, but then I started learning with Zack every Sunday. He is one of the nicest, funniest guys I have ever met. Sometimes it's hard to schedule because of the six hour time difference between us, but we try to study for at least 15 minutes every week. We put on tefillin, and then we do Jewish studies. Sometimes we just read the Torah and Zack answers my questions. He really helps me understand more about my religion: Judaism. When you are Jewish and you know the reasons for things you do, it gives Judaism so much more meaning, and that is what Zack helps me with.

Malka Phillips, age 32, from Worcester, MA. Development Director JNet. Member since 2013.

Mushkie Aber connected me with my study partner Meryl over four years ago. In the time since, we've learned countless Chasidic discourses and Sichot of the Rebbe, exploring the Torah portion, Jewish holidays and most often, the Chasidic approach to every aspect of life. Whether we're discussing birth, death, or anything in between, I treasure the weekly opportunity to dig deeper into life and delve into the beautiful Chasidic teachings that imbue every aspect of our lives with meaning and sanctity.

Every time I hang up the phone after a learning session, it's with a warm glow of Torah learning that puts an extra zest into the rest of my day. Meryl thanks me for studying together, but I should be the one thanking her! Meryl lives in Hawaii, so to make our time zones and schedules work, Meryl often gets up at 6:00 am. Her commitment and dedication are an inspiration, and I'm thrilled to share it with the rest of the JNet community.

The Jewish Learning Network was established in 2005 to fill the need for a more personal, fulfilling and convenient way for Jews to connect to their heritage. JNet provides study partners on any topic of Jewish interest. For more info visit or call 347-770-JNet (5638) JNet is a project of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch Suite 302

What's New

10 New Features

Not ready to rest on their laurels, insists on continuously upping the ante at the world's most visited Jewish website. This year there are 10 new technological innovations, among them: 1) Give Your Day a Spiritual Boost with our Jewish Quotes app 2) Smart Siddur App 3) a new kosher cooking site 4) radio for Torah study in the car 5) classic Jewish and Chassidic tunes on radio 6) Chabad Nearby app to find any of the 3,500 Chabad centers near you. 7) New audio recordings of the psalms in Hebrew and English 8) What's in a name? Find out the meaning of your Hebrew name with our Jewish boys and girls name lists 9) Shabbat Candle-lighting app 10) And finally, thanks to our apps for Google Assistant and Amazon Echo, you can listen to a Torah class, find out important Jewish dates and even give tzedakah - all with the power of your voice!

The Rebbe Writes

26th of Teves, 5725 [1965]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter with the enclosure, in which you write about your problem of acute anxiety, and ask my advice.

The best and most effective thing to do, in a situation such as yours, is to study thoroughly those sections and chapters in our sacred books where the matter of Divine Providence and Bitochon [trust] are discussed, such as Chovos Halvovos, Shaar Habitochon, and similar. It is well to keep in mind those chapters and verses in the Tehillim [Psalms] which speak of these subjects, as well as the Midrashim and interpretations of our Sages on them. These things should be studied with such depth that they should become a part of one's thinking. In this way there will be no room left for any kind of anxiety or worry, and as King David said in the Tehillim, "G-d is with me, I shall not fear. What can man do unto me!"

As you well know the matter of Hashgocho Protis [Divine Providence] is the basis of true monotheism, a concept which to us means not only that G-d is one, but also is the Master, continually supervising every detail of His handiwork. The corollary of this is that there cannot be a single point in the whole order of the world which is separated from the Supreme Being, or in any way not subject to His control. At the same time it is obvious that the Supreme Being is also the Essence of Perfection and Goodness. And although many things in the world seem imperfect, and require completion or perfection, there can be no doubt that there is a perfect order in the world, and even the lowest in the scale of Creation, namely the inanimate things, display wonderful perfection and symmetry, as can be seen from the atoms and molecules of inorganic matter. Hence, the conclusion must be that even those things which require completion, are also part of the perfect order, and necessary for the fulfillment of the good, as all this is explained at length in the teachings of Chassidus. It is explained there that in order for a man to attain perfection, it is necessary that he should also have the feeling that he is not only on the receiving end, but also a contributor, and according to the expression of our Sages of blessed memory, "A partner in the Creation." This is why many things have been left in the world for him to improve and perfect.

I also want to make the further observation, and this is also essential, that there is really no basis for anxiety at any time, and as you yourself mentioned in your letter, that you find no reason for it. Even in such cases where you think you know the reason for your anxiety, the reason is undoubtedly imaginary, or at any rate, not the real cause. For the real cause is that one's daily life is not in complete harmony with the true essence of a Jew. In such a case it is impossible not to have an awkward feeling that things do not seem to fit somehow, and it is this disharmony which is at the bottom of the anxiety, and it is in proportion to the discrepancy between his way of life and his true natural self.

Everybody recognizes that anxiety has to do with the psyche. But in the case of a Jew, the so-called psyche is really the Neshama [soul]. Some Jews have a particularly sensitive soul, in which case the above mentioned disharmony would create a greater anxiety. In such a case even subtle and "minor" infractions of Dikdukei Mitzvoth [fine points of commandments] would create anxiety. But even in the case of an ordinary soul for the average Jew, there must inevitably be created some anxiety if there is a failure to observe the fundamental Mitzvoth. It is very possible that the above may have a bearing on your situation. If this is so, then all that is necessary is to rectify matters, and bring the daily life and conduct into complete harmony with the essence of the soul, through strict adherence to the Torah and Mitzvoth. Then the symptoms will disappear of themselves.

It is necessary to mention also that in your case, where your position gives you a great deal of influence on your environment, your influence is an integral part of your harmonious life, and it is therefore essential that your influence, too, should be in harmony with the Torah and Mitzvoth in the fullest measure.

I suggest that you should also have the Mezuzoth of your home checked, as also your Tefillin, and before putting on your Tefillin every weekday morning, to put aside a small coin for Tzedoko [charity].

All Together

RINA is from the Hebrew meaning "jubilation." It is in the last of the seven blessings from the marriage ceremony: Blessed are You...who created joy and happiness, bride and groom, gladness and jubilation, cheer and delight, love, friendship, harmony and fellowship." Although Rina was a male descendant of Judah, the name is primarily used for females. RO'I means "my shepherd." It is sometimes pronounced, "Roy."

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 Schneerson, was in exile. (He had been exiled by the Russian Bolshevik government to the remote, desolate village of Tzili for his "revolutionary" activities of teaching Judaism.) 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 supra natural 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

And I appeared (va'eira) unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob...I have also heard the groaning of the Children of Israel (Exodus 6:3-5)

The word "va'eira" is in both the past and present tense, indicating that the revelation of G-dliness that existed in the times of our forefathers continues to exist today as well. Every Jew possesses the quality of Abraham (love of G-d), the quality of Isaac (awe of G-d), and the quality of Jacob (mercy); the revelation of these inner traits is akin to G-d's revelation to the Patriarchs.

(Ohr HaTorah)

Moses was concerned that after 210 years of slavery in Egypt the Jewish people would have grown too accustomed to the exile to fully absorb the message that their redemption was imminent. G-d's answer about our Patriarchs thus reassured him that his worries were unwarranted; the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can never accustom themselves to exile, for to them it is an unnatural state. Every day that passes is as bitter as the very first. The same is true for us today. Despite the fact that this present exile has lasted more than 1900 years, the Jewish people is more than ready to accept the message that the Final Redemption is indeed imminent.

(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Shemot, 5751)

You shall speak (tedaber) all that I command you (Exodus 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)

It Once Happened

Long ago in the small village of Sassov there lived a Jewish wood-chopper, a man of deep and pure faith. No one knew his name, and so, he was known simply as "the villager."

All week he made his way into the forest and chopped wood which he sold in the town. During the week, he and his family lived frugally, eating just enough to sustain themselves. But for the Holy Shabbat, he joyfully bought challahs, candles, and other delicacies. Not only did the family enjoy the Shabbat treats, but despite their poverty, they always invited others to join them. At times they even went without food themselves so that their guests had enough to eat.

One Friday morning the villager stood with his bundles in the village square waiting for customers to buy his wood when a woman came and bought the whole lot for six silver coins. He was about to begin his customary Shabbat purchases when the tzadik Reb Moshe Leib of Sassov approached him with a request. There was woman in the town who had recently been widowed. She was so overcome with grief that she lay in bed all day weeping, and so was completely unable to take care of her two young children. Her health was failing and the poor orphans were going hungry. Could he help? Now the villager was a good-hearted man. He immediately took two silver coins and handed them over to the tzadik. "Thank you so much, but could you perhaps give a bit more?" The wood-cutter reached into his pocket and handed over another two coins. Again, the tzadik, thanked him and asked for maybe a bit more for the family. "I'm sorry Rebbe, but I can't give any more. I have only two coins left. As it is I won't have enough money to buy wine and challa, but I must leave enough to buy candles to brighten our Shabbat."

Reb Moshe Leib was moved by the man's kindness, generostiy and his love for the mitzva of Shabbat candles. He turned to the man and asked, "Do you have any valuable object in your house?"

"No, Rebbe, I have nothing except an old cow."

"When you return home," said the Rebbe, "sell the cow, and with the money you make, buy the first thing that comes your way. I give you my blessing that G-d will grant you success."

The wood-cutter ran home happily, brimming with anticipation. But when he told his wife of the plan to sell the cow, she absolutely refused. "How can we sell the cow? Its milk is our main source of food. How do you imagine we'll live?" And with that the discussion ended.

When Shabbat was over the couple went to the barn to feed their cow. No sooner had they entered the barn when a carriage with two men pulled up. "Do you have a cow for sale?" they asked. The astonished Jew saw the words of the tzadik materializing before his eyes. His wife blurted out: "We'll sell only for a hundred rubles!" The men agreed to pay the absurd price. Now, it was clear that the blessing was having its effect.

The next morning the wood-cutter went to town with the hundred rubles intending to carry out the Rebbe's instructions. He noticed a group of landowners gathered for the auction of a choice estate. The Jew's simple faith was so great that he pushed himself into the crowd intent upon buying the estate regardless of the fact that he couldn't afford it.

The wealthy landowners looked at the poor Jew. What a nerve he had to try to bid against them! They would punish him for his chutzpa and at the same time help themselves. They agreed not to bid on the property at all. When the Jew's offer would be accepted, he would lose everything because there was no way that he could afford the complete payment. Their plan succeeded. The wood-cutter bought the estate, giving the one hundred rubles as a deposit, and returned home feeling very satisfied.

That night as the Jewish family slept, there was a loud knock at the door. They were shocked to see the village priest standing in the doorway. "I understand that you bought an estate today, and I would like to be your partner," the priest said. Having heard about the low price, he figured he could take advantage of the simple wood-cutter.

"I agree to the partnership if you will pay the total outstanding amount," answered the Jew. The priest eagerly accepted, handed him the money, and agreed to formalize the deal in a few days. When the day came to complete payment on the estate, the furious landowners couldn't believe their eyes as the Jew paid up the entire balance.

The earnest Jew set out to visit his newly acquired estate. Travelling down the road he saw a group of people crowded around an accident. "What happened?" he inquired.

"The priest was just killed in an accident when his horses overturned the wagon," was the reply.

The Jew approached the accident site. It was his "partner" in the estate! Now, the property belonged to him alone. The blessing of Reb Moshe Leib had been fulfilled, and in gratitude the villager distributed large amounts of charity to the poor throughout his long and prosperous life.

Moshiach Matters

In this week's Torah portion we read G-d's promise to the Jewish people: "And I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (Ex.6:6) It is far easier to physically take the Jews out of galut (exile) than it is to remove the inner exile from within every Jew.

(Rabbi Yaakov Shimshon of Shpitovka)

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