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by Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov
Sixty-eight years ago this week, in January 1951, the Lubavitcher Rebbe officially took over the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. It was at a "farbrengen" marking the one year anniversary of the passing of his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe, after a year of resisting to officially take the position.
In his remarks at the event, the Rebbe implied why he was initially reluctant; he did not want people to rely on him for their productivity or for their spirituality. He explained that he expected every single member of the community to be active and play a role in rebuilding the Jewish world that had been so decimated in the recent Holocaust. The Rebbe also wanted each person to be responsible for his and her own spiritual growth rather than depend entirely on him (as was the norm in other Chassidic circles to that point).
He used a common Yiddish idiom, "Leigt zich nisht arain kein feigelach in buzem," literally meaning, "Do not place birds in your bosom."
Some research into the background of this phrase led me to an interesting anecdote in the history of aviation. For many years, before the invention of an airplane by the Wright Brothers, people attempted various methods to be able to fly. One such method was to put a bird - a natural aviator - in your shirt, and then to walk off a cliff, expecting to fly. The obvious absurdity of this experiment was clearly lost on these people, for if we are going to fly, it would require actual avionics, not just keeping a bird in our pocket.
With this reminder, the Rebbe set the standard for Chabad into the future. As part of his mission statement, he declared that while it's important to have a spiritual leader for guidance, if you want to see progress, you need to go out and achieve it yourself. Don't put birds in your pocket and expect to fly. Don't expect the Rebbe to do everything for you; that's not how it works.
The Rebbe's ability to empower others is legendary. Thousands of The Rebbe's emissaries and tens of thousands of followers and admirers around the world have been energized and inspired to affect and influence the world around us; to enhance Jewish life wherever it may be; to reach out to fellow Jews and all people, offering spiritual and material assistance.
And we accomplish this by creating our own wings and taking off.
Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov and his wife Chanie are emissaries of the Rebbe in Munster, Indiana and run Chabad of Northwest Indiana.
In the Torah portion of Bo, G-d tells Moses what He will do while the Jewish people take part in the first Seder, on the night before the Exodus from Egypt. "I will pass through Egypt on that night, and I will strike down every firstborn... I will see the blood (on your houses) and I will pass over you..."
Earlier, when Moses warned Pharaoh about the last plague - the death of the first born, he says, "So says G-d, 'around midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt. And every firstborn will die.'"
In this week's verses, G-d tells Moses that He will be acting in a dynamic manner. In the previous verses, the same actions are related but in a passive or "by the way" manner.
Was G-d actively involved in the events of the night of the first Passover or was it a passive involvement? How do we reconcile these verses? What lesson can we take from here regarding our relationship with our fellow Jews?
On the night of Passover there were two things happening simultaneously, one event G-d invested Himself into totally, and the other was done in passing.
The main act that G-d was personally involved with was redeeming the Jewish people from Egypt. As He said, "I will go out in the midst of Egypt," and "I will see the blood and I will pass over you."
G-d went out in the midst of the lowest and most impure of all places, Egypt, to protect and save each and every Jew. The foremost Torah commentator, Rashi, explains that even if a Jew was in an Egyptian home, G-d saved him as well.
We see from here, the great love G-d has for every one of us, even a Jew who is in the midst of impurity. On the night before the Exodus, while everyone was with their families celebrating the first Seder, he was hanging out with an Egyptian! Nevertheless, G-d went into that lowly Egyptian home and protected that Jew as well.
The lesson for us is that we should try to help every Jew physically or spiritually. One might ask, "Am I obligated to go out of my comfort zone to help with another Jew?"
Yes! We should emulate G-d, and go out of our way to help another Jew physically or spiritually. This is true for a Jew who is not involved in Jewish life, perhaps doesn't care to be involved or even counted amongst the Jewish people!
Every soul is invaluable, and when you reveal the spark of a Jew, you begin to understand why G-d loves every Jew. Even the one who is in the Egyptian's home during the Seder has a beautiful, shining G-dly soul and is a precious Jew. And if you show him love, you will uncover the beauty within, and his soul will shine brightly.
This will surely lead to the coming of Moshiach, when every Jew will be redeemed. May it happen now!
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.
Deeply Involved in All Details
with Sarah Esther Feigelstock obm
This story was taken from Here's My Story and is presented with permission from JEM's My Encounter with the Rebbe oral history project, which is dedicated to recording first-person testimonies documenting the life and guidance of the Rebbe.
I was born in a small town - McKeesport, Pennsylvania - in the 1930s, where I was the only Jew in my class at school, the only Jew on the block, even though our family was very religious.
My mother and father were both quite active in the Jewish community. My father taught an early morning Talmud class at the nearby synagogue, and afterwards he would go off to work, selling dry goods door to door. He did this because in those years - the 1930s and 1940s - that was the only way of making a living and not having to work on Shabbos.
I would sum up my home life as very vital and very beautiful religiously, but I would have to say that, as a family, we felt very isolated. And I remember my mother crying when she lit Shabbos candles and praying that all her children remain Jewish. I didn't understand why my mother cried about that, but she was clearly aware that our environment was a breeding ground for assimilation.
In 1941, when I was ten years old, my parents brought home for Shabbos two emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe - that is, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak. From that point onward, our lives changed quite dramatically, as my parents became involved in Jewish outreach.
My father started visiting the Previous Rebbe in New York quite often and he took me along to experience a Chabad farbrengen. I remember that a lot of people were crowded in the room and I couldn't see a thing. But then Shmuel Isaac Popack - and I will be indebted to him for the rest of my life - saw little me trying to stand on my tippy-toes, and he swung me up so I could catch a glimpse of the Rebbe. At that moment, the Rebbe saw me, and he gave me the broadest, most beautiful smile. And I knew then that the Rebbe cared. After that I went to many more farbrengens - whenever my parents had a chance to take me.
Our family developed a close relationship with the Previous Rebbe - he wrote to us every few months, and he advised my parents how to do outreach in our community and how to conduct ourselves religiously.
As a peddler of dry goods, my father used to collect the money on Friday, which for most people was payday. Because of this, he would come home quite late, very close to the start of Shabbos, which upset my mother. She confided this in the Previous Rebbe, and the next time my father had an audience, the Rebbe told him that he had to have a cut off time, and whenever he reached that time, no matter what, he had to head for home.
It so happened that a tremendous tornado hit Pittsburgh one Friday. My father would have kept on with his collections were it not for the directive of the Rebbe. But as it was, he came home. There was terrible rain and wind, and I remember standing by the window and praying that he would come home in one piece. And he did. Later we heard that the place where he had been was completely wiped out. But he was saved - it was a miracle, precipitated by his listening to the Rebbe.
If there is one thing that I can't forgive myself for is not taking advantage more of what the Previous Rebbe was offering us - not understanding his greatness. Only later did I study his teachings, such as Likkutei Dibburim, and when I did, I realized that this was my door to chasidic thought.
From the time my husband and I married, we've had a daily class, every single day, the whole year, in Likkutei Dibburim and I would say that our house is founded on that. The Previous Rebbe won me over as a chasid and it's not for nothing that for the last twenty years I've been teaching Likkutei Dibburim in the teacher's seminary where I instruct, chasidic thought.
The Previous Rebbe passed away in January 1950, a few months after our marriage, which he was instrumental in arranging. The news affected me very badly. I just couldn't deal with it. I couldn't imagine how the world could go on.
Afterwards, I remember attending a farbrengen presided over by the future Rebbe and him laying down his head on his arm and crying and crying. I'm overcome with emotion just remembering it - when the Rebbe would mention the Previous Rebbe's name, he would just break down. I can never forget the Rebbe's sobbing until he regained his composure and went on.
After the Rebbe assumed leadership, my husband and I came to New York for an audience, and of necessity we brought along our son, who was about five months old. Unfortunately, the baby was fussy and not allowing us to converse with the Rebbe.
What did the Rebbe do? He focused on the baby. He presented him with a pencil, and as my son was playing with the pencil, we were able to talk. And I just couldn't get over that.
Over the years, the Rebbe was very deeply involved in all the details of our everyday lives - he wanted to know how my husband's yeshiva was doing, how we were managing with household expenses, how my health was holding up. He wanted to know what problems we were having. One time, he asked me why I looked so pale. He asked in such an unobtrusive way that all my worries would come tumbling out. Every year I would go back for his blessing because it was what kept me going.
One time, I came for an audience with my requests written on a piece of paper. On this particular occasion I was there without my husband and I was more nervous than usual. I knew that the procedure was to hand in my written request to the Rebbe, then wait for him to read it and talk to me. But in my nervousness I forgot to give him the piece of paper which I was clutching in my hand.
The Rebbe spoke with me as if everything was as it should be. He addressed every single thing that I had written down and gave me his blessings. It was only when I went out that I found that paper still clutched in my hand. I couldn't believe. How had he known? It was as if he had read my mind and responded to my every request. I was stunned.
Today, with the Rebbe no longer with us physically, I take comfort in reading and re-reading his letters - the Igros - which he wrote to so many people all over the world, offering advice and sending blessings. I also visit his resting place quite often. And in this way, I feel that the Rebbe is here with me, watching over me like a father.
Mrs. Sarah Esther Feigelstock was an emissary of the Rebbe in Montreal. She passed away in 2016.
JLI Courses Materials in Braille
A partnership between the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) and the Jewish Braille Institute (JBI) translates standard JLI textbooks into Braille. In many of the courses, relevant portions of the text are read by the students and many worksheets are filled out individually, vision-impaired participants were previously not fully included. Typically the JBI only translates popular books that can be reused and reprinted widely, such as the prayer book and the Chumash. However, Rabbi Mendel Bluming of Chabad of Potomac, Maryland persisted. The Jewish Braille Institute agreed to work with the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and began printing the textbooks in Braille.
Expanding Chabad of Burlington
Chabad of Vermont, in Burlington, is explanding. The existing structure will be fully dedicated as the educational wing and the new building, being built just behind the old one, will have a sanctuary of 2,000 sq. ft. that will also function as a social hall, a cafe/lounge, library, a mini-Israel indoor playground and an outdoor event deck.
10 Tamuz, 5726 
I am in receipt of your letter, and I was subsequently also informed of the telephone conversation which you had with our office.
Needless to say, I am gratified to note that you are taking such a profound interest in the affairs of the congregation and in the functions of the rabbi and of spiritual leadership in general. No doubt this interest finds expression to the utmost in helping strengthen the congregation, in particular, in elevating the synagogue, so that it be imbued with the proper spirit causing it to reflect its essential function, that is, that it be a place where everyone can feel its holiness. That it be a synagogue where everyone would be conscious of the dictum: "Know before Whom you are standing." Such a synagogue is truly a source of inspiration and Divine blessings, both spiritually and materially.
You mention some matters which, in your opinion, would enhance the leadership of the rabbi. In the light of your description of the situation, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize that the ultimate aim of spiritual leadership is to influence the daily conduct of the members, to bring it more fully in accord with the Torah and mitzvot. Now, in a situation where the rabbi is a relatively young man, and he has among his congregants older members, he will often be more successful if he does not impose his leadership too heavily, but rather develop it gradually and steadily, in order to create a situation where the members will themselves come to the decision as to how to conduct themselves, both in matters of the congregation, as well as in the privacy of their homes. Obviously, with the cooperation of the members, both men and women, the results of the right policy will be realized all the sooner. The rabbi himself is, of course, the best judge as to the most effective approach to take in developing his leadership and extending his influence.
You are, of course, quite right that a synagogue should be open whenever possible. As a matter of fact, as my father-in-law of saintly memory expressed himself, a synagogue should be open not only all day, but both day and night. For in a Jewish congregation, there should be members who study the Torah also at night, and when the Torah is studied in the synagogue where the prayers are recited, a special significance is added to this study. On the other hand, in view of what has been said above, the rabbi has to consider the prevailing circumstances and factors, and he must decide how the interests of the members would be served best, whether by sitting alone in the synagogue, or by spending that time in some other way. He must also consider what impression his lonesome vigil in the synagogue might have on the congregants, if his presence may be needed somewhere else, and in some other activity.
Finally, let me also say that there is no perfection in the world, and that every human being who takes over a new position in a new place, under new circumstances, requires a certain period of time to adjust himself and lay the foundations for a fruitful and growing activity. This applies also to rabbis. And judging by your letter, it is very possible that the rabbi is using his discretion to good advantage to ensure successful spiritual leadership.
I am confident that your interest in the affairs of the synagogue and congregation, and your participation in their growth and development, will be a source of Divine blessings to you and yours, and may G-d grant you success.
12th of Nissan, 5739 
...With reference to your writing "I do not 'hold' by a Rebbe now. My allegiance is to the Yiddishkeit [Judaism] with which I grew up," etc. - of course, what is expected of you, as of every Jew, is that the daily life and conduct should be in accordance with the Torah, Toras Chaim [the Torah of life], and this is the very essence of Yiddishkeit. However, inasmuch as the Torah is described as "longer than the earth and wider than the sea," it is normal that no individual, however proficient he is in Torah and Mitzvos, and however educated he is, isolates himself from others, from whom he can learn a better and deeper understanding of Torah, at any rate, in those areas where he has not yet attained the highest level. This is the function of a Rebbe, a teacher and instructor who have in their sphere of learning devoted more time and attained a higher level of knowledge, etc....
YARDENIA means "garden of the L-rd." This is not to be confused with Yardena, the feminine of Yarden meaning "to flow down, descend" and the name of a river in Israel (the Jordan River).
YAAKOV is from the word "ekev" meaning "heel." Yaacov was the son of Yitzchak and Rivka. Yaacov is the only one of the three patriarchs whose children all followed in his ways.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On Wednesday, the Tenth (Yud) of Shevat, we will commemorate the passing of the Previous Rebbe in 1950. On the anniversary of that day in 1951, the present Rebbe officially accepted the position of leadership and delivered his first Chasidic discourse, "Basi Legani."
This discourse was truly ground-breaking, laying the foundation of the Rebbe's work over the next few decades. In no uncertain terms it described the uniqueness of our generation and the special role we play in history.
The core revelation the Rebbe introduced is that ours is "the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption." During the past seven generations of Jewish history, beginning with the inception of Chabad Chasidism, Divine consciousness has been progressively refined. Ours, the seventh generation (and the reincarnation of the generation that left Egypt with the Exodus), is similarly poised on the threshold of the Redemption.
"This is not through our own choice or a result of our service; in fact, it might often not even be to our liking. Nevertheless...we stand on the 'heel of Moshiach' - the very edge of the heel - ready to complete the task of drawing down the Divine Presence...into the lowest realm possible."
This knowledge implies a responsibility that is incumbent upon each and every one us. As the Previous Rebbe wrote in a letter, every Jew must ask himself, "What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the birth-pangs of Moshiach, and to merit the total Redemption which will come through our Righteous Moshiach?" Every mitzva we do, every good deed or increase in Torah study has the potential to tip the scales, to bring the ongoing historical process toward the Messianic era to its ultimate conclusion.
As "Basi Legani" concludes, "Let us all merit to see and be together with the Rebbe, in a physical body and within our reach, and he will redeem us."
May it happen immediately,
And Moses said, With our young and with our old we will go... we are to hold a feast unto G-d (Ex. 10:9)
In truth, what kind of a holiday would it be without our children? A holy celebration that does not include the younger generation is no celebration at all.
There was light in their dwellings of all the Children of Israel (Ex. 10:23)
This unique light not only illuminated their own homes, but accompanied the Jews wherever they went - even when visiting their neighboring Egyptians. Exile is a time of spiritual darkness that intensifies the closer we get to Moshiach's revelation. Nonetheless, just as our ancestors enjoyed "light in their dwellings" even before their redemption from exile, so too does every Jew possess an aura of holiness now, just prior to the Final Redemption, which accompanies him wherever he goes.
(The Rebbe, 1991)
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.
Feiga Mazer of Arizona looked forward to seeing her only daughter Masha as a bride. She could not think of any better way to accomplish this than to enlist the Rebbe's assistance. She wrote a letter requesting a blessing that G-d should fulfill her heart's desire and send dear Masha her life-partner speedily. She inserted her letter in a volume of the Letter of the Rebbe, sincerely hoping to receive a positive response from the Rebbe.
When she opened the book to where she had randomly placed her letter, the letter was addressed to someone by the name of Tzvi Hirsh. The letter itself was not related in any way to marriage. But it was very soon after when she was approached with the suggestion of an exceptional young man by the name of Tzvi Hirsh. It was unmistakable to Feiga that this was the Rebbe's positive response.
Masha and Tzvi Hirsh met and in due time the two became engaged. The date was set for the wedding to take place on the first day of Chanuka.
When Tzvi Hirsh's sister who has a very close relationship with him became aware of the date, she could not help being somewhat disturbed as she was expecting to give birth right around that date. And with the wedding taking place in Arizona, she would not be able to travel from her home in New York.
Tzvi Hirsh was in a dilemma whether to push off the wedding several weeks to accommodate his sister, and decided to ask the Rebbe's advice.
When he opened a book of the Rebbe's letters he stood there staring in total amazement at the answer from the Rebbe. The letter was dated in Kislev and addressed to a person by the name of "Tzvi Hirsh."
The Rebbe began the letter with a beautiful blessing of Mazel Tov on the occasion of his marriage with wishes for an everlasting edifice on the foundations of Torah and mitzvot (commandments) and their life be blessed with happiness in all things." In the letter, the Rebbe then proceeded to give instructions to "Tzvi Hirsh" and his bride for the day of the wedding.
The wedding took place, as originally planned, on the first day of Chanuka. To make his joy complete, Tzvi Hirsh's sister gave birth a bit early and was therefore able to share in his big day.
(As told by Tzvi Hirsh's grandmother, Yehudis Engel)
It was Saturday night, January 2, 2016. David Weisshaar of Atlanta, Georgia, and his fiancee Leah Ganz of Woodmere, New York were at the Rebbe's Ohel. "We got engaged on December 13 and people were encouraging me to go to the Rebbe and ask for his blessing," David said.
David was sure he had the Rebbe's blessing. Still, since his finance's family lived just 15 minutes from the Ohel, it was decided that when he would next visit Leah, they would go to the Ohel.
"We went out that night after Shabbat, and it was close to midnight or even later that we arrived at the Ohel. Before walking into the Chabad House that is adjacent to the Ohel, I told Leah, 'Everything is Divine Providence and I want to see first what the Rebbe says on the video.' "
The video was from a gathering on Yud Shevat, 1972, the anniversary of the passing of the Previous Rebbe and the acceptance of leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch by the Rebbe.
"I sat down and starting watching the video. It was during the intermission between the Rebbe's Torah talks. I looked at the screen, and in the English subtitles the Rebbe was asking, 'Where is the Jew from Georgia?' In Yiddish, the Rebbe said 'Gruzia' (a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia) but in English it is referred to as Georgia.
"In the video, everyone started looking around for the 'Jew from Georgia.' I thought this was more than a little coincidental! I continued to look at the screen and I see the English subtitle read, 'Where is David from Georgia?'
"Now I stood up and exclaimed to no one in particular but anyone who was listening, 'I'm here from Georgia. And we're here for a blessing for our engagement. And the Rebbe is looking for David from Georgia and my name is David!'
"On the screen in front of me, I see a clean-shaven gentleman (at the time I was also clean-shaven) in a gray hat with a feather in it approach the Rebbe."
The Rebbe instructed David from Georgia to sing a song.
"I listened as this David from Georgia began to sing. And what song did he sing? 'Kol sasson v'kol simcha, kol chatan v'kol kallah... - A voice of laughter and a voice of joy, a voice of a groom and a voice of a bride.' These are the words of one of the blessings for the bride and groom under the chupa!
"It seemed clear to me, that even before going into the Ohel itself, we received the blessing for our engagement and marriage that we were looking for," shares David.
Two years later, David and Leah Weisshaar are the proud parents of little Baila Nechama, may they raise her together in good health to Torah study, marriage, good deeds and to greet Moshiach NOW!
This is the innovation of our generation as compared with all the generations that came before: As the Redemption did not actually occur, the concept of 'Come to Pharaoh' was not fulfilled in its entirety as a soul within a healthy body. But this is not the case in our generation, the last generation of Exile and the first generation of the Redemption. This is because Moshiach is coming immediately, 'Send by the hand of him You will send,' and he will teach Torah to the entire nation...and as souls within bodies, without any cessation or interruption, we will attain the pinnacle of 'Come unto Pharaoh' with the true and complete Redemption.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Bo, 1992)