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What's so important about a name, particularly the one a person was given by his parents?
If we take a look at nicknames, furnished by friends or family, we recognize affectionate aliases, descriptive designations, or epitaphs of esteem. But "ye olde" standard name?
According to Jewish teachings, the Jewish name given to a child by his/her parents (a boy at his brit mila, a girl during the Torah reading service) constitutes the soul and life force of the person. Thus, calling someone by his Jewish name stimulates his soul. Calling someone by his full name arouses the entire soul, whereas calling one by a descriptive name motivates individual powers of the soul ("Smarty" arouses her intelligence,"Sweety" arouses his kindness, etc.).
Many of our Sages make reference to the fact that a person's name indicates something about the person and can teach us about him.
If this is true for each of us, how much more so is it true for someone like Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (the wife of the Rebbe), whose yartzeit is commemorated this week on the 22nd of Shevat (January 28 this year). In fact, the Rebbetzin's name teaches us not only about her holy life, but about our lives as well.
On the Rebbetzin's first yartzeit, the Rebbe spoke about her name, as well as the significance to us of the date of her passing:
"Chaya" means "life." The Rebbetzin's life was filled with mitzvot and acts of goodness and kindness. But her deeds did not remain in the realm of the spirit and were not for a select few. Her deeds affected even the lowest points of this world as indicated by her second name, "Mushka" - a name in a foreign language. This indicates that the Rebbetzin brought holiness into the world, even into the lowliest parts of this world.
The numerical equivalent of the Rebbetzin's name is 470, which is also the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word 'ait' - time. Time is limited, except when it becomes permeated with spirituality and G-dliness through the study of Torah, prayers, and acts of kindness and charity.
The 22nd of Shevat is the day of the Rebbetzin's passing. The number 22 alludes to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Jewish teachings state that G-d created the world using these letters. These 22 letters, in their myriad combinations, contain the essence of all bounty and good. The intent is to reveal in all matters of the universe the letters of the Torah which are inherent in the created world.
From the Rebbetzin's name and from the date of her passing we can take one combined lesson for ourselves and our lives. We should fill our days with acts of goodness, kindness, and charity that are not merely surface or peripheral but that permeate and penetrate even the lowest parts of this world.
With each individual working toward this end, we will soon see that G-dliness truly permeates this world with the revelation of Moshiach and the commencement of the long-awaited Redemption.
In the Torah portion of Yitro we read the Ten Commandments which begins, "And G-d spoke (Vayedaber) all these words, to say (laimor)." What does "to say" add in this verse?
The Maggid of Mezritch teaches that it means that we have to put the Ten Commandments ("Dibrot" in Hebrew, from the same root as "vayedaber") into the "Ten Sayings" with which G-d created the world.
In other words, don't mistakenly think that the Torah and the world are separate domains. Don't say, "when I am doing Jewish things, like lighting Shabbat candles, putting on tefilin, affixing a mezuza, etc., I will do as the Torah dictates, but when I am doing worldly things, eating, business, etc., I will act as the world dictates." G-d wants us to bring Torah into our worldly affairs; even when we talk, it should be apparent that Torah is our guide in life.
This is clear from the Ten Commandments themselves. From all of the 613 commandments that G-d gave us, He chose to give these ten personally, to every Jewish person. One would think that He would have chosen the most spiritually sublime ideas to tell us, and while He did say, "I Am the Lord your G-d," and "You shall not have any god before Me," which are holy and sublime ideas, it also has, "You shall not murder," and "you shall not steal..." which are the most basic physical no nos. Even if G-d wouldn't tell us these, we would understand that they are wrong.
The fact that G-d juxtaposes the oneness of G-d together with not murdering and not stealing, shows that He wants us to fuse the physical and the holy.
Murder and theft are wrong, and each of us understands that. But we shouldn't only refrain because they make sense, or because it is against our nature. We should keep the Ten Commandments because "I am the L-rd your G-d" is hidden in these laws, meaning, that they are G-d's will. This should be the primary reason for keeping them. And the same is true for all the Torah laws that make sense, we should keep them because they are G-d's will. This is drawing what is holy into the mundane.
On the other hand, those who need commandments to tell them that murdering and stealing are wrong, that G-d should have to say it with thunder and lightning (otherwise they wouldn't get it), they too should contemplate on the greatness and oneness of G-d. This is raising the mundane to a level of holiness.
How do we bring the above and below, the holy and the mundane together? Through commandments. Because the Ten Commandments and all of the 613 commandments came from the essence of G-d. Since G-d's essence is above creation, it can fuse opposites, above and below, holy and mundane together.
G-d did this because our primary mission is to make this physical world into a dwelling place for Him. By infusing the physical world with holiness, we make it ready for Him to dwell in.
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.
by Yehudis Cohen
"It was 1994. My husband (Rabbi Mendel Gorovitz) and I were eager and ready to become emissaries of the Rebbe wherever our talents could be best used," begins Mrs. Jani Gorovitz.
"A few exciting positions had been offered to us. In addition, Rabbi Tzvi Grunblatt, head emissary of the Rebbe in Argentina, had approached us about coming to Buenos Aires to establish a seminary for young women who did not have a solid Jewish educational background. For me, coming from Buenos Aires, this was not as attractive as the other more exotic suggestions.
"We wrote a letter to the Rebbe asking for his advice and blessings, and the Rebbe told us to accept the offer in Buenos Aires."
Today, Majon Or Jaia (pronounced Machon Or Chaya), named for Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, is a multi-faceted educational institution. "The Machon" as it is referred to, serves the diverse needs of the young women who attend its classes, participate in its programs or live in the Or Jaia dormitory.
Hearing Mrs. Gorovitz speak about the humble beginnings of the school, the transitions it has gone through, the way it keeps on top of the various trends and changing demographics of the Jewish community, is really remarkable.
"Originally, Majon Or Jaia started out with only evening classes. The classes took place at the main Chabad House in Buenos Aires on Aguero. Soon the students were asking us for classes during the day as well. We organized classes for the mornings and those were held in the girls' high school. The students really enjoyed those classes," shares Mrs. Gorovitz.
The reputation of Majon Or Jaia grew. A rabbi from Paraguay contacted the Machon to find out if young women from his country could attend the seminary and if yes, what would their accommodations be. "With the help of Rabbi Grunblatt," recalls Mrs. Gorovitz, "we rented apartments for the students from Paraguay."
Soon, Majon Or Jaia needed a place of its own. A place that, as Mrs. Gorovitz explains, would have a more feminine ambiance. "In 2004, the Machon moved onto one floor of the building that Chabad was renting for teen programs. That was the first time that we had our own 'little corner.' "
Having their own space to structure, arrange and even decorate as they saw fit, gave them a taste of what could be. Now Mrs. Gorovitz began dreaming of having a building exclusively dedicated to Majon Or Jaia students, classes, events and even housing.
"In 2005 we moved into our current location," says Mrs. Gorovitz. "The first floor has a beautifully appointed hall where our students' weddings take place. We also rent it out for 'simchas' like Bar Mitzvas, engagement parties, etc.
"The second floor has a library, four classrooms, offices, lounge, student kitchen. The third floor has ten bedrooms where up to 27 young women can live. There are two airy, spacious patios with lots of sunlight."
One of the goals of Mrs. Gorovitz in designing the building and its space was so that "Just by looking at the building from the outside or when coming inside, someone should be able to see that the Jewish woman is very important in Judaism, that she holds a very exalted place!"
Ever ready to gracefully change and meet the divergent and evolving needs of young Jewish woman who might attend Majon Or Jaia, the requirement for living in the Machon apartments transitioned about five years ago. "Whereas previously in order for a girl to live in our dorm, she needed to attend all morning and evening classes, today things are different. We still do have some students who attend all classes and programs. But we have changed our requirements. To live in the dorm, residents are only required to attend a minimum of five classes per week.
"In this way," continues Mrs. Gorovitz, "young Jewish woman who are studying in university, especially those coming from other part of Argentina, can live in a warm, Jewish environment, have Jewish friends, eat kosher, and learn more about their heritage. Even if they do not observe Shabbat or keep strictly kosher after they leave the Machon, they get in touch with their roots. They have a positive feeling towards Judaism and carry these feelings and hopefully even more than just feelings, into their own homes."
"The Machon is geared for three distinct groups. We have classes and programming for young women who have become Torah observant, are fully committed and involved, and who have a broad base of Jewish knowledge. A second group are young women who come to our activities, although not on a regular basis. They are more attracted to special events and unusual topics of study. We also have a large data-base of young women who are on our mailing list though sometimes we're not even sure how they got there! For this group we try to hold seminars and workshops that will pique their curiosity and they will eventually start coming at least to special events."
Monthly Shabbat meals, a summer program (in January of course!), educational trips to other South American countries, classes for young married alumnae, round out Majon Or Jaia's busy schedule.
"Before we opened our dormitory, when we were deciding what our style of interaction would be with our students (especially those who study full-time and choose to live in our dorm), I spoke to a number of different educators around the world who headed women's seminaries. One approach in particular really resonated with me and that is our attitude to this day. When a young woman makes the often difficult decision to study Torah full-time, to immerse herself fully in a Jewish environment, we at the Machon should do our utmost to minimize any other stresses and distractions and treat her like a princess!" says Mrs. Gorovitz emphatically.
Surely, women who are being educated at an institution that bears the name of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka deserve no less!
The Chabad House of Galloway, New Jersey, recently welcomed a Torah scroll. Located near Stockton University, the Chabad House has also attracted local Jews who live primarily in the 55+ communities. The Torah was donated by Mark and Carol Cohen.
Chabad in Hunterdon County, New Jersey recently broke ground for a new 17,000 square feet Jewish center. The Yakov and Hava Talyas Chabad Jewish Center on ten acres of land is expected to be completed by the spring of 2020.
The new Chabad Jewish Center of Alto de Pinheiro, Brazil, has opened its doors! The five-storey, 10,000 square foot structure has been under construction since 2014 when a shopping complex that was in development was purchased for the Center.
13th of Iyar, 5737 [May 1, 1977]
Blessing and Greeting:
Your letter (post-dated April 18) reached me with some delay.
First, many thanks for your good wishes in connection with my birthday. I can best reciprocate in the words of our Sages, "One who blesses others is himself, or herself, blessed by G-d, the Source of all blessings." Accordingly, may G-d bestow His generous blessings on you in all needs.
Now with regard to your question about the woman's role from the viewpoint of our religion, or, as you refer to it, 'orthodox' Judaism,
I must first point out that the division of Judaism into 'orthodox, conservative, reform,' etc. is a purely artificial one, for all Jews have one and the same Torah, given by the One and Same G-d, though there are more observant Jews and less observant Jews. To tag on a 'label' does not, of course, change the reality.
As for the attitude of Judaism to the woman, it has also been frequently pointed out that those who think that the Torah places the woman in an inferior role to that of the man labor under a misconception, for it has no basis in truth. Man and woman are like the head and the heart in the physical body: both are equally vital, though each has entirely different functions, and only the normal functioning of both together ensure a healthy body. The same is true of the role of the man and woman in Jewish life, and, indeed, in any healthy human society.
It follows that the heart need not feel inferior to the brain, although in certain aspects it depends on the brain, just as the brain need not feel inferior to the heart because in certain respects it depends on the latter. Similarly in Jewish life there are duties and functions which G-d has allotted to the woman and those allotted to the man.
Where a person, for some reason, is unable to perform a certain Mitzva [commandment] or some of his or her functions, there is a ruling in the Torah, Toras Emes [Torah of Truth] (so called because all its teachings are true), "the Merciful One excuses a person who is incapable of performing his, or her, duty." Indeed, G-d who knows what is in the heart of everyone, and knowing that were the person able, he or she would have performed it, considers the thought in place of the deed.
...those who think that the Torah places the woman in an inferior role to that of the man labor under a misconception...
Incidentally, it is noteworthy that of the various Divine names, it is the name οξηψ[rachaman]('Merciful One') that is used in the above ruling. This pointedly emphasizes that all G-d's precepts derive from His attribute of mercy and loving-kindness, which, like all Divine attributes, is infinite. It follows that where a person is precluded from performing a Mitzva by circumstances beyond his or her control is completely excused and exonerated.
Needless to say, one need not apologize for asking questions. On the contrary, since Jews are described in the Torah as a 'wise and understanding people,' it is desirable that questions which come within the realm of human understanding should be also be understood and not left to faith alone, wherever this is possible. There is only one prerequisite, which goes back to the time when the Torah and Miztvos were given at Sinai, namely that the Torah must be accepted on the basis of Naaseh ('we will do') first, and then v'nishma ('we will understand') - meaning, that the performance of Mitzvos must not be made conditional on the understanding of their deeper significance, etc., nor must the vitality and enthusiasm of the performance be any the less.
continued in next issue
ELIEZER means "My G-d has helped." Abraham's servant and disciple was Eliezer (Genesis 15:2). It is also the name of one of Moses' sons. A prophet named Eliezer is also recorded as having rebuked the King Yehoshapat.
ELIZA means "joy" or "joyous one." A variant spelling in English is Aliza.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
When the famous Rabbi Akiva returned from the great yeshiva in Jerusalem to his humble home after 24 years of intense and unceasing Torah study, he brought with him his 22,000 students. When his wife Rachel approached him through the crowd, Rabbi Akiva announced "All that I have, and all that you have, we owe to her." These words of Rabbi Akiva are recorded in the Talmud (Ketubot 63a).
In another Talmudic Tractate (Yevamot 62b) it says that Rabbi Akiva's disciples saved the Torah at that time.
In a beautiful letter from the Rebbe to the Lubavitch Women's Organization for one of their annual conventions, the Rebbe explains that these two Talmudic teachings are interconnected. "This means that the entire edifice of the Oral Torah, the very basis of the existence of our Jewish people and its way of life, is ultimately to be credited to a Jewish woman," the Rebbe writes there.
This coming Monday, 22 Shevat, we commemorate the 31st yahrzeit of a most unique, righteous Jewish woman, the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson.
Upon the passing of her father, the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbetzin strongly encouraged the Rebbe to assume the mantle of leadership. This entailed tremendous self-sacrifice and unimaginable devotion on the part of the Rebbetzin. Although we cannot fully understand just how much of a sacrifice it was, she certainly understood. For, during a U.S. court case concerning the ownership of the library of the Previous Rebbe, it was the Rebbetzin's decisive statement that "the library belongs to the Chasidim because my father belonged to the Chasidim" which helped the Lubavitch movement win the case so that the stolen books were returned to "770."
Thus, when the Rebbetzin encouraged the Rebbe to accept the entreaties of the tens of thousands of Chasidim world-wide who were requesting that he become Rebbe, she knew that from that time forth the Rebbe would belong to the Chasidim and to world Jewry at large. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Rebbetzin.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8)
Explains Rashi, the great Torah commentator: Take heed to remember the Sabbath at all times, so that if you find something special, set it aside for Shabbat. Likewise, we refer to the days of the week in the context of Shabbat ("first day to Shabbat, second day to Shabbat," etc.). Thus we are constantly conscious of the upcoming Shabbat and prepare for it every day. The same applies to the Messianic Era, the "day that is entirely Shabbat and rest for life everlasting." Throughout the present "weekday" of exile we must constantly remember and remain conscious of the "Shabbat day" that is coming, preparing ourselves and everything around us for the arrival of Moshiach.
(The Rebbe, 11 Sivan, 5744)
Thus you shall say to the House of Jacob and tell the Children of Israel (Exodus 19:3)
Our Sages state that the "House of Jacob" refers to the Jewish women, and the "Children of Israel" to the men; when G-d gave the Torah, He told Moses to first approach the women and only after the men. Because the exodus from Egypt occurred by virtue of the righteous women of that generation, when it came to the giving of the Torah, the women were given preference. The Messianic Redemption will also be through the righteous Jewish women, as the Midrash states: "All generations are redeemed by virtue of the righteous women of their generation." Thus the women will again be first to receive the wondrous teachings taught by Moshiach.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Yitro, 5749)
You shall be unto me a treasure (segula) above all nations (Ex. 19:5)
A "segula," by definition, is something that has an intrinsic value but no logical, rational reason for it. G-d's love for the Jewish people falls into the category of "segula," as it has no rational basis; the only reason it exists is because it so arose in the Divine Will to select the Jews as His chosen people.
Rachel, the grandmother of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidut, was a remarkable Torah scholar in an age when that was highly unusual. She was the daughter of Baruch Batlan who was a follower of the Baal Shem of Zamotsch, and was given an excellent and wide-ranging Torah education, in keeping with the unusual custom of Chasidim to educate their daughters.
Practically from the time she could speak, she learned Torah, progressing from the simplest blessings taught to all Jewish children, to more advanced studies, even mastering the intricacies of the Talmud. She became particularly expert in the study of the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law.
Whether out of modesty, for fear that people would regard a learned girl as odd, or to avoid an "evil eye," Rachel's father kept her scholarship a secret. When Rachel became engaged to Rabbi Shneur Zalman (who did not approve of women engaging in serious study), her scope of knowledge was not mentioned. Thus, she merely smiled when her husband said to her he assumed that her mother had taught her all the laws that a Jewish woman was required to know.
Rachel's knowledge of Jewish law was so extensive that she knew the differences in the customs which prevailed amongst the various Jewish communities. Thus, what was regarded as a strict law in one town, was treated more lightly in another.
Soon after her marriage it happened that Rachel's whole family was walking home one Shabbat from shul. The men, Baruch Batlan, his son Benjamin and his son-in-law, were in front. The women followed behind, Rachel among them. They all wore gloves as there was an "eruv" in Posen [a marked area where carrying is permitted on Shabbat]. Benjamin was also carrying books which he had borrowed from the synagogue, so that he could study at home.
As they were walking, the synagogue caretaker ran up to them, calling out that the eruv had fallen. They all stopped in bewilderment, not knowing what to do with their gloves and with the books that Rachel's brother had under his arm [since without the eruv, carrying was no longer permitted]. Should they drop everything, or just remain where they were?
Baruch Batlan now called out to his daughter: "Rachel, you are an expert in Jewish Law. Tell us what are we to do?" Turning to the men, he remarked: "We are so busy studying Talmud and other such subjects, that when we are faced with a practical question of law, we do not know it. So, We must turn to Rachel."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman opened his eyes in wonderment! Was this a joke?
Rachel blushed. She feared that now her husband might be upset with her. She would not have given away her secret, but her father had "put her on the spot," and she had to answer him.
"There is no need to take off our gloves," she ventured quietly, "for this is a case of 'accidental,' and there can be no likelihood of anyone taking off his gloves and carrying them, for, as we are in company, it would immediately be noticed and the person reminded. As for the books, these should be transferred from hand to hand until we reach the yard of a non-Jew, where they can be handed from the zone of "public property" to that of "private property."
As Rachel had foreseen, her husband was adversely affected by this incident and took every opportunity to make sharp comments. Once he remarked: "The Talmud says that 'The wife of a scholar is regarded as if she too were a scholar,' but in my case, it would seem that I must be satisfied to reach the equal of my wife's status." Rachel was very grieved at his attitude.
Her father was aware of the situation and he once countered: "The Jerusalem Talmud says that 'The wife of a criminal is also considered so.' I have given my daughter to you. It now remains to be seen what you make of her. She can either become the wife of a 'scholar' or the wife of a 'criminal.' It is entirely up to you!"
Rabbi Shneur Zalman understood the implication of his father-in-law's words, and from that time, changed his harsh and critical attitude. On the contrary, he began to be proud of his wife, appreciating at last her scholarship and wonderful qualities.
Adapted from the Memoirs of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.
In this week's Torah portion we read: "I will go down with you to Egypt; and I will also surely bring you up again (Gen. 46:4) The Jewish people can rest assured they will eventually go out of exile, as the time must ultimately come for G-d to be revealed in the world. The only way this revelation can happen is for the Jewish people to be redeemed and their true advantage revealed in the world.