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L'Chaim
February 14, 2020 - 19 Shevat, 5780

1610: Yisro

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


  1609: Beshalach1611: Mishpatim  

Beautiful Is...  |  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

Beautiful Is...

How do you define "beautiful"?

In Chabad Chasidic teachings, beautiful is defined as the invisible connection between two separate entities.

Whether you think of colors, or musical notes, you will find the same point: each one on its own is nice and unique. But when colors blend; when musical notes harmonize; they rise above nice - they become beautiful.

And while you can point to either one of the colors or the notes, you cannot put your finger on the energy that synthesizes them: it is invisible.

This is the secret of beauty. You know it's there, you can see the effect - but you cannot see IT.

Now that we have defined beauty, let me tell you about a beautiful person.

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was a beautiful person.

Now, interestingly enough, when Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka passed away in the winter of 1988, many Chasidim had never even seen her. She was the "queen" of Chabad for almost 40 years and outside a modest circle of her aides and friends, almost no one knew her. There are a few photos. There were a few reported sightings of her out on her errands. Those who were lucky to know her described her kindness, intelligence and her utter selflessness. She wasn't an introvert or a recluse G-d forbid. She was very, very private. The Rebbetzin avoided the spotlight with the same joy that some people enjoy it. And because of that, she was basically unknown.

But then, when she passed away, she was discovered. Her husband the Rebbe was completely shattered. The pain and grief were blatant. The Rebbe spoke of the Rebbetzin in reverent terms and urged everyone to upgrade their lives and their values in her sacred memory. Overnight, the mythical Rebbetzin became an urgent presence in everyone's life. And in the days of her Shiva, the community realized what they had been missing: The Rebbe, one of the most famous and renowned Jewish leaders of all time, had been motivated and energized by an invisible leader - the Rebbetzin.

It was a moment of revelation.

And this is the way of the truly beautiful. Her presence was most felt in her absence. Her effect was as incredibly visible as she herself was incredibly invisible.

This was the Rebbetzin. Powerful, influential, instrumental, invisible. Or in a word - beautiful.


Like the sun and the moon. The sun is shiny and bright. But the moon is beautiful. The sun lights up the day. The moon doesn't light up the night - it's what makes the night beautiful.

When you look at a person you see their light. What you don't see - that's their beauty.

And while light is crucial - we can't imagine a world without the sun - beauty is what makes it all worth it.

Light may be the what. But beauty is the why.

Rabbi Friedman, together with his wife Shaini, directs Chabad of Calabasas, CA.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Yitro, we read about the giving of the Ten Commandments to the entire Jewish people at Mount Sinai. The first commandment is "I am the L-rd your G-d - Anochi Havaya Elokecha."

"Anochi Havaya Elokecha" are three different ways that G-d relates to the world.

Havaya surrounds the world, it is the creative force that makes the world exist. However, that light is too great for the physical world to handle. Elokecha, is the same as Elokim, it acts like a shield that protects the world by translating the light of Havaya, filling every part of existence with the exact amount of the light it needs, and thereby, it allows nature to exist. Havaya is the G-dly force of existence, Elokim allows for nature.

Anochi, is "I am," the essence of G-d, higher than both Havaya and Elokim. According to the Zohar, the word "Anochi" itself, encapsulates the whole Torah.

But according to the Midrash, "Anochi" is an Egyptian word! Why is the essence of G-d, in the Ten Commandments, represented by an Egyptian word, derived from the most licentious and degenerate society of that time?

The Midrash says that the main thing that happened with the giving of the Torah, is that "What is above could now go below, and what is below could now go above." And that is the mission of the Jewish people, to infuse the physical with G-dliness through using the physical for Torah and mitzvot, and even more than that, to imbue our daily mundane activities with a G-dly intent.

How far does this have to go? How important is this to our mission?

G-d tells us in the first word of the Ten Commandments, and the first word He ever said to us - "Anochi." G-d wants us to bring His deepest essence into the lowest of places, into even what represents the extreme of lowliness, the Egyptian language.

It is not enough to keep the letter of the Torah law, we have to "Acknowledge Him in all our ways." We cannot seal ourselves in a cocoon of Torah, we have to go into the world and bring G-d's ways into the most mundane activities.

The same thing holds true with relationships. It is not enough to follow the letter of the law, it is not enough to do just what is expected. You have to have a heart, and be a mentch. You have to love your family, your relatives, your neighbors in every way.

If we "Acknowledge Him in all our ways," if we bring G-d into everything we do, even in the most mundane, we will surely merit to see the rebuilding of Jerusalem, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

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


A Slice of Life

Excuse Me, Are You Jewish?
by Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman

"Excuse me sir, are you Jewish?"

"No thank you, I already ate lunch."


"Excuse me ma'am, are you Jewish?"

"Not today, I'm late to work."


"Excuse me sir, would you like to put on Tefillin?"

"What is that?"

"Phylacteries"

"Oh" (confused look) "What are Phylacteries?"


It began on the streets of downtown Los Angeles in the fashion district, where the vast majority of people on our "route" were Persian clothing designers. With their accented English they were happy to see us, we were the "Yeshiva boys."

Later it continued on the streets of France, Champs Elysees in Paris to be exact. Berel L, who was a French Yeshiva student, did the talking and I did the wrapping. This was my second extended exposure to going out and helping another Jew do a mitzva (commandment).

It continued in New York, though in the Big Apple, the whole program had graduated. Here things were seriously organized. The streets of Manhattan, an organized grid, not like the sloppy city planning of my current location of Boston, oh no, New York had a "system."

Each street and each avenue had its own set of Yeshiva students who were in charge of blocks - or even buildings (as NYC is so densely Jewishly populated ) under their "care." In New York, we had flyers to give out along with Tefillin laying and Shabbat Candle packets for the women.

The activity I'm describing was and is one of the signatures of the Rebbe. Among Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim, it's called "Mivtzoyim."

The word "Mivtzoyim" refers to the 10 Mitzva Campaigns that the Rebbe introduced at various times throughout the '60s and '70s, such as the Tefillin Campaign, inaugurated before the Six Day War in Israel in 1967. Other mitzvot like Mezuza, Shabbat Candles, Kosher, having a house filled with Jewish books are among the Mitzva Campaigns.

The colloquial term, Mivtzoyim had a whole other meaning! It wasn't just a reference to the many campaigns of the Rebbe but it was (and is) something that Chabad-Lubavitcher Chasidim and Yeshiva students do, and specifically on Fridays.

On our Friday "routes" we focused primarily on three of the Mitzva Campaigns: Putting on Tefilin with the men, giving a Shabbat candle packet to the women, and encourage both men and women to put a coin (at least) in the tzedaka (charity) box. Eventually, "Thought for the Week" - a photocopied pamphlet was added for our "customers" to read. It had a short essay of Torah wisdom on the weekly portion and other Jewish factoids that made for interesting reading material.

In 1988, a four-page, color publication, the L'Chaim Weekly was inaugurated by the Lubavitch Youth Organization headquartered in New York. It quickly became a staple of Mivtzoyim. L'Chaim is an acronym word, that spelled (in Hebrew) "For the Memory of [Rebbetzin] Chaya Mushka" (the Rebbe's wife.

A third and less discussed component of Mivtzoyim was the impact it had on the young people themselves, especially the Yeshiva students who went out to "do Mivtzoyim." In this case, me. While an extrovert on the surface, I was actually a pretty shy young man. Within my own circle of friends I was loud and opinionated, but tell me to go over to a random stranger and ask for any basic information? I was not comfortable to do that.

Ask me to go over to a complete random stranger on the street and ask them a) if they are Jewish. and if I got a positive reply, ask them if b) they'd like to put on the Tefillin?!! That really was out of my comfort zone. And if and when they did answer in the affirmative to both, their question in return would often be, "Where do you want to put them on? Right here in the street?" To which I'd reply, "Yes! Right here on the street," "in the subway station," "on the train" or wherever we were at that particular moment. (Nervous chuckle from both of us)

It was super awkward to say the least but it really did thicken the social skin. Now I don't think twice asking that question. Or many other uncomfortable questions for that matter. The school of hard knocks, or strange or downright obnoxious responses, actually did me a great service in my personal and social development for life.

Those thousands of micro-experiences helped fashion many a young, shy, awkward child into a confident adult who has the courage to ask tough questions, stand up for his or her convictions, better handle challenging people and comments, and in general have thicker skin to handle the many (far larger) disappointments of life.

I don't think that this was the primary goal of the Mivtzoyim campaign, but I do think this is and was one of the many many excellent unintended consequences of many of the Rebbe's world changing ideas and innovations.

I was recently contacted by the editor of L'Chaim seeking permission to reprint an article she had found on my website.

Of course I said yes, and was humbled to have this journey of personal fulfillment come full circle. I was no longer just going on Mivtzoyim, now everyone going on Mivtzoyim would take a piece of me with them, at least for this one week.

Which got me thinking, since this really isn't about me, but the fulfillment of the Rebbe's vision of changing the world, one person at a time, one mitzva at a time, that you too, dear reader, can also be on the team of lamplighters.

You will not only brighten the world and bring us closer to the day when G-dliness will shine for on the earth, like the water covers the seabed, but you will advance your personal self development. Stepping out of your comfort zone to ask someone to put on Tefillin, or even read a little pamphlet to Torah wisdom, will help you evolve into your own higher self.

So I ask, Excusez-moi monsieur, voulez-vous mettre le Tefillin? Excuse me sir, would you like to put on the Tefillin?

Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman and his wife Raizel run the Chabad of Peabody Jewish Center. Rabbi Schusterman is a proud father of 7 who enjoys many hobbies, including exercise, skiiing and writing. He is a certified mohel and loves to write on a wide variety of topics. Read more of his writings at RabbiSchusterman.com

What's New

New Mikva

Mikva Chaya Mushka recently opened in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The new state-of-the-art Mikva is the only Mikva on this Mexican Island in the Caribbean.

New Emissaries

Rabbi Chaim and Chaya Markovits are moving to Georgia to open Chabad of Rural Georgia. The couple will be providing for the Jewish needs of the Jewish population in Georgia that are distant from established Jewish communities.

Shabbat 1000 for 1200

On the last Shabbat of January, over 1200 students at the University of Southern California joined together. While seating at tables closed mid-week, there were still plenty of seats and food for all participants who were accommodated in four giant tents.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated

Erev-Shabbos - Yisro, 5722 [1962]

The Ten Commandments unite within them laws of two apparently quite different orders: The first Commandments express and reveal the deepest truths about G-d's Unity (true monotheism); the others, on the other hand, contain such elementary injunctions as "Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou shalt not steal," which seem self-evident even to the average human intellect.

However, the truth is that even "self-evident" moral precepts, if left to human judgement alone, without the binding force of Divine Authority and Sanction, can out of self-love be distorted so as to turn vice into "virtue."

Indeed, interpreting the moral precepts of "Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou shalt not steal," from the viewpoint of selfish gain, many a nation in the world, as well as any individual, have "legalized" their abhorrent ends, not to mention that they have "justified" the means to those ends - as has been amply demonstrated, to our sorrow, particularly in recent years.

If by rejecting the Commandments of "I am G-d" and "Thou shalt have no other gods," or even by dissociating them from "Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou shalt not steal," the safeguard against bloodshed and theft, even their most brutal forms, were removed from humanity's conscience, it is certainly hopeless to expect safeguards against "Thou shalt not murder," and "Thou shalt not steal," in more "subtle" ways, such as the "bloodshed" of character assassination, or the "theft of the mind" (gnevas da'as) and the like.

The Ten Commandments emphasize, and experience has fully and repeatedly borne it out, that even the simplest precepts of morality and ethics must rest on the foundation of "I am G-d" and "Thou shalt have no other gods" - and only then can their compliance be assured.

This is one of the basic purposes of Torah-true education; to inculcate in our children the true way of life (Derech Chayyim) in accordance with the Law of Life (Toras Chayyim) - a way of life in every-day living, on the solid foundations of the Torah and Mitzvos (commandments). For the Torah and Mitzvos alone provide the true content of Jewish life, and are at the same time the fountains of life for every Jew and for all Jews.


Erev-Shabbos Parshas Yisro, 5738 [1978]

Blessing and Greeting:

...We are reminded of the familiar Sicha [public talk] of my father-in-law of saintly memory [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe] addressed to Jewish women (Riga, 5694), centering on the role of Jewish women in connection with Mattan-Torah [the giving of the Torah] and, subsequently, the Mishkon [the tabernacle in the desert]. On both occasions, as the Torah indicates, the women took first place, before the men.

The lesson of it, as explained in detail in the Sicha, is that women have a leading part in the preservation of the Torah and Mitzvos by reason of their impact on the family life, the conduct of the Jewish home, and especially the upbringing of the children, thereby also ensuring that G-d will always dwell in the midst of our people.

The Torah is eternal, and so are its teachings. The readiness of our Jewish women to accept the Torah, and their eager response in behalf of the Mishkon, gladly parting with their most treasured personal possessions, established the historic role of Jewish women in Jewish life for all times. Moreover, Kabbolas haTorah [receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai] was not a one-time happening in the distant past, but is an everyday experience. Likewise the building of the Mishkon - in terms of the inner Mishkon and Mikdosh [sanctuary] that is in the heart of every Jew is something that requires constant rededication on the part of each and every Jew, man and woman.

G-d has bestowed extraordinary gifts and privileges on Jewish women, and together with it - far-reaching obligations, of which you are all surely aware. There is no need for me to re-emphasize them here, except that our Sages prompt us to "encourage the energetic."...

With blessing for Hatzlocho [success]


All Together

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka (Moussia) was born on 25 Adar, 1901. She was the second of three daughters of the Previous Rebbe and his wife Rebbetzin Nechama Dina. When she was 27, she married her distant cousin Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who became Rebbe after her father's passing. An erudite and wise woman, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka as the one who - fully knowing the great personal sacrifice this would entail - finally prevailed upon the Rebbe to accept the position.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Monday is 22 Shevat (coinciding with Feb 17 this year), the 32nd yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of blessed memory, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and daughter of the Previous Rebbe.

Born in the Russian village of Babinovitch in 1901, she played an integral role in both her father's and husband's affairs throughout her life. And yet, she deliberately chose to function out of the limelight. Extremely modest, royal in bearing and above all kindly, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was the embodiment of Jewish womanhood and an exceptional role model for Jewish women and girls.

A few years after her passing, in a public address on the anniversary of her passing, the Rebbe spoke about the special mission all Jewish woman have been entrusted with. The function of every Jew - man, woman and child - is to "make a dwelling place for G-d" on earth. But the goal of the Jewish woman is to take this one step further, and adorn G-d's abode on the physical plane so that it is "lovely" and appointed with "fine furnishings."

In particular, the Jewish woman fulfills her role of "spiritual decorator" through the three special mitzvot G-d has given her to implement in her home: maintaining the kashrut of her kitchen, keeping the laws of Jewish marriage, and lighting candles on Shabbat on Yom Tov, together with her daughters.

The Rebbe also called on women to renew their commitment to the Jewish education of their children, from the earliest age on. When a Jewish mother sings a lullaby to her baby about how the Torah is "the best, the sweetest, and the most beautiful" thing in the world, it instills a deep love and appreciation for Torah that lasts a lifetime.

The main point during these last few moments of exile, the Rebbe stressed, is to recognize the great merit and power Jewish women and girls have to bring about the Final Redemption, may it happen at once.


Thoughts that Count

Israel encamped opposite the Mountain (Ex. 19:2)

Rashi explains that the word "encamped" in Hebrew is written in the singular form because the Jewish people were like one person with one heart - they were totally united. Only through the power of unity are the children of Israel capable of standing "opposite the mountain" - opposite the mountain of hatred that surrounds them.

(Rabbi Moshe of Kovrin)


And Mount Sinai was altogether smoke (ashan) (Ex. 19:18)

The three letters of the word ashan, ayin-shin-nun, stand for olam (world - the dimension of place); shana (year - the dimension of time); and nefesh (soul - the energy that animates the physical plane). The revelation at Sinai signified that from that point on we were given the ability to refine and elevate these two dimensions (through Torah and mitzvot - commandments), and infuse them with a G-dly light and vitality.

(Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism)


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

This first of the Ten Commandments was given in the singular ("your G-d"), as each individual's conception and understanding of G-d is different, depending on his capacity for spirituality, knowledge of Torah, and individual service. Accordingly, each person who was present at Mount Sinai understood the commandment differently.

(Siftei Kohen)


Honor your father and your mother (Ex. 20:12)

Our Sages said: There are three partners in the creation of a person - the father, the mother, and the Holy One, Blessed be He. When a person honors his parents, G-d considers the act as if He is being honored. The reverse holds true when a person causes his parents heartache.

(Talmud, Kiddushin)


You shall not make of Me gods of silver, gods of gold... (Ex. 20:20)

Don't make silver and gold your gods, that they should rule over you. Don't worship your money.

(Rabbi Yaakov Aharon of Zalvazin)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Yehuda Lowe of Prague, known as the Maharal, was born in 1512 and was the descendant of famous scholars. He could trace his lineage back to King David. Recognized as a genius from early childhood, he was engaged at the age of 10 to an equally remarkable woman named Pearl. A scholar in her own right, she was a loyal partner of her husband and epitomized the Jewish ideal of a "woman of valor."

It was customary in those times for matches to be arranged while the couple was still very young, the marriage itself taking place sometimes only years later.

And so, the Maharal, at the age of ten, was engaged to Pearl, the daughter of the wealthy and influential Shmuel Reich. She was only six at the time. According to the marriage agreement, the Maharal continued his studies, illuminating one of the outstanding yeshivot of his day. After the agreed upon years of study expired, he requested permission to continue, since his fiancee was still only fourteen.

Pearl was a girl of exceptional intellectual capacity. At the age of six she was sufficiently mature enough to appreciate the great genius of the Maharal, and she, desirous of being a worthy partner, embarked on an intensive program of study. She learned secretly all the years of their engagement, until, when he returned, the Maharal was delighted and amazed to discover the extent of her accomplishment. He returned with her permission, to his yeshiva studies, but before leaving, he prepared a syllabus for her to follow in his absence.

During the period of the Maharal's absence, financial disaster struck Shmuel Reich, leaving him impoverished. The Maharal received a letter from his future father-in-law explaining the situation and releasing him from his promise to marry Pearl. In his immediate reply, the Maharal, while expressing his sympathy, reiterated his intention to marry Pearl regardless of financial considerations, unless, she was unwilling to wait for him.

More time passed, until the year 1543 arrived, bringing with it a war in Bohemia. The Maharal returned home to his fiancee who was now supporting herself and her parents by running a food store. Pearl, who had been studying Torah during the twenty-two years of their separation, had become an extraordinarily accomplished scholar. She was now twenty-eight years old, and the Maharal thirty-two. Finally, they began their married life. To enable her husband to pursue his studies, Pearl continued to work in her store, learning Torah after her work was done.

The Bohemian war continued unabated until it reached Prague. One day, an armed soldier entered Pearl's store and demanded that she furnish him with a large amount of food which he loaded into his carriage. However, when she asked for payment, he refused, saying he had no money.

Pearl, whose very livelihood was at stake, explained to him that this store was the only source of support for her family, and he was moved by her words.

He gave her a beautiful embroidered garment as a pledge, promising to return in a few days to redeem it. If unable to come, he said, the garment would be hers to keep.

Days passed and the soldier failed to appear. Knowing that in dire times people sometimes hid jewels in their garments, Pearl opened the lining of the soldier's coat and discovered a large number of precious stones. The couple waited longer for the soldier's return, but when he failed to come, the garment and gems were theirs.

No longer in a precarious financial state, Pearl was now freed from the burden of supporting her family. Pearl used to say that she had since the age of eight studied Torah each day for no less than five hours. Now, she could continue, unhampered, studying with her illustrious husband topics ranging from Talmud to ethics and metaphysics.

It was Pearl who dealt with the Maharal's voluminous Jewish legal correspondence, reading the letters and sending his replies to the many communities which turned to her husband for his decisions. It was also she who arranged and edited her husband's huge opus of Torah literature. It is said that in at least eight places she discovered errors in the Maharal's writings.

Pearl was the mother of a son and three daughters. Her husband applied to her the quotation: "Many daughters have done well, but you surpass them all."


Moshiach Matters

The writings of the Arizal explain that the generation of the future Redemption is the reincarnation of the generation that went out of Egypt. Accordingly, the righteous women of our generation, in whose merit we will be redeemed, are the same righteous women in whose merit we left Egypt.

(The Rebbe, Parshas Beshalach 5752-1992)


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