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Devarim • Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 30, 2000 - 27 Sivan, 5760

625: Sh'lach

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


  624: Beha'alotcha626: Korach  

Mission (Not Yet) Accomplished  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  The Rebbe Writes
Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count  |  It Once Happened
Moshiach Matters

Mission (Not Yet) Accomplished

Many people express wonder at the fact that the Rebbe's leadership is spoken of in the present tense, that the Rebbe's leadership is uninterrupted despite our inability to perceive him physically.

Jewish teachings state that G-d showed Adam, the first person, all future generations together with their great leaders. These leaders are the tzadikim (righteous individuals) whose souls G-d, in His wisdom and kindness, sent into this world to guide the generations, caring for them both spiritually and materially and showing the Jewish people the correct path to follow. Chasidic philosophy explains that these great leaders are the mind and the heart of the body of the Jewish people.

Each generation has its own unique mission and role in the overall fulfillment of G-d's purpose in the entire creation: to create a "home" for G-d in this physical world through the revelation of Moshiach and the Redemption. In the Tanya of Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidut) it is explained that earlier generations are like the head, their major preoccupation being Torah study; later generations, known as the "heels of Moshiach," are more closely associated with raw action. Within generations we also see these subdivisions with the tzadikim, and especially the leader of the generation, comprising the head and providing direction to the people as to how to fulfill their unique role.

The Alm-ghty sends each generation the leader appropriate to the task of the times. Jewish teachings apply to this the verse, "The sun sets; the sun rises," meaning that even before the leadership of one tzadik has drawn to a close, the unique and novel character of a new leader and a new mission are apparent. This new leader comes to guide his generation in a unique direction in the fulfillment of G-d's purpose for creation commensurate with their own nature and purpose.

Let us apply these principles to our own generation. In the first official Chasidic teaching articulated by the Rebbe when he accepted the mantle of leadership, the Rebbe declared unequivocally that the unique purpose of our generation, the seventh from Rabbi Shneur Zalman, is to fulfill the original intent of G-d's creation. This is to be achieved by drawing down G-d's presence into this mundane physical world with the complete revelation of Moshiach and the commencement of the Redemption.

The Rebbe has told us numerous times in his most recent public talks that we have finished the Divine service of exile and that our purpose now is to prepare for the Redemption. "The time of your Redemption has arrived," the Rebbe declared with prophetic vision. This is a totally different message which has never before been enunciated in the history of the Jewish people. Uniquely, it is not dependent on any action we must take. He explained that we should involve ourselves in more good deeds, more Torah study, the enhanced fulfillment of mitzvot, as a preparation and foretaste of the Redemption. However, until the Redemption actually begins, with the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the ingathering of all of the Jews from the diaspora, the ultimate fulfillment of our purpose has not been achieved and we remain in the seventh generation with the Rebbe at our head.

Why the Alm-ghty willed that the leadership of the Rebbe at the conclusion of the service of this generation should be in its current form will most likely remain a mystery until the complete revelation of Moshiach. But what we know clearly is what the Rebbe himself has told us in no uncertain terms, that the role of our generation is to actually bring about the Redemption and to prepare ourselves and the entire world for it. Until this has been achieved, we remain in the same generation.

The Rebbe and his leadership are very much of the present and will continue until G-d has mercy on us and our mission is crowned with success.


Living with the Rebbe

In general, the Jewish people's entry into the Land of Israel is symbolic of the Jew's raison d'ˆtre and indeed, his very function in the world. The Jewish soul descends to the physical plane for the purpose of imbuing it with holiness, transforming the material world into an appropriate vessel for G-dliness. Similarly, the objective of the Jews' entry into the Land was to transform it from "the land of Canaan" into "the Land of Israel," a place where holiness and G-dliness would be openly perceptible.

As this week's Torah portion of Shelach relates, before the Jews entered the Land, G-d commanded Moses to "Send men, that they may spy the Land of Canaan." Whenever a Jew is about to perform a mitzva, the first step must be to carefully consider the task at hand and find the best way to achieve the objective. The Spies were sent to determine the most effective military strategy to conquer Canaan, within the confines of the natural order.

A Jew might think that once G-d has commanded him to perform a mitzva, he can ignore reality and close his eyes to his surroundings. However, the story of the Twelve Spies teaches that faith in G-d is not enough. A Jew is required to "use his head," to utilize his G-d-given intellect and abilities to determine the very best way to fulfill His wishes. For G-d has created a physical world, with the intention that mitzvot be performed within the natural order.

At the same time, one mustn't go too far in the opposite direction. The Spies' mistake was that they interpreted their fact-finding mission as permission to decide whether the Jews should enter the Land of Israel at all. This, in essence, was their sin: Moses sent them to determine how to achieve their goal, yet they assumed the right to determine if the Jews should do it in the first place. This led them to their conclusion that "We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than us."

This was contrary to G-d's will, and demonstrated a serious lack of faith. For whenever G-d sends an individual on a mission, He simultaneously gives him the power to succeed. G-d demands of a person only "according to his abilities." If it is illogical for a human being to require another to perform an act beyond his capabilities, how much more so does this apply to G-d, the Essence of goodness and kindness.

With this firm foundation in mind, the Torah goes on to caution that "One mustn't rely on miracles." A Jew is obligated to work within the natural order, not above it. Nonetheless, we are assured of Divine assistance whenever we encounter obstacles, so that we too may declare: "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it."

Adapted from Volume 13 of Likutei Sichot


A Slice of Life

The Rebbe's Advice

by Tzvi Jacobs

"Don't you know someone your sister can meet?" I had five sisters, but I knew Dad was talking about my oldest sister. Susan was living near my parents' home in Charleston, and had attended all of the Jewish singles events in South Carolina, but had come up empty-handed.

"You must know somebody."

I sighed. "It's hard to find a single guy up North to travel to South Carolina to meet someone. And when I tell them she has two children, they're even less interested. But, I brought that guy with me this Passover."

"Why, he didn't even have a steady job." Dad always worried too much about money, and I rebelled against it. Even though I was 29, I jumped straight from graduate school to yeshiva, where all the basic necessitities came to us like manna from heaven.

Dad, however, earned his degree in the College of Hard Knocks. He always quoted the saying "Hard work never hurt anybody."

"That rabbi in Charlotte must know some single men," Dad said.

"Rabbi Groner said he'd keep his eyes open."

The previous winter I had arranged for Susan to spend the weekend at the Chabad House of Rabbi Yossi and Mariasha Groner in Charlotte, North Carolina. Susan was inspired by traditional Judaism as well as the experience of spending the entire Sabbath at the Chabad House. Well, she found some true peace that Sabbath, but no husband to share it with.

"Maybe you can write to the Rebbe. I just heard a story about an older couple who asked the Rebbe for a blessing for their only daughter to find her bashert (intended match) and the Rebbe..."

"I pray to G-d! I don't pray to no Rebbe!" Dad blurted out, his lips quivering.

During the past year, my first year in yeshiva, I had told him many stories about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to which he always respectfully listened. I had no idea that he was bothered by these stories. Dad himself religiously attended the Orthodox synagogue in Charleston, the one which both of my grandfathers founded together in 1887. However, the Chasidic tradition of a Rebbe was totally foreign to him.

I glanced at Dad, who was now seated on the couch, his face buried in a newspaper. I slipped out of the living room and sat down in the kitchen.

Mom had evidently heard my exchange with Dad, because she filled me in. "Last year, a rabbi from New York gave a lecture at the JCC. Afterwards, Dad approached him and told him that you had recently dropped out of graduate school and escaped into a 'Loobavitch' yeshiva. Your Dad asked him, 'What is this Loobavitch?'"

"So what did the rabbi answer?"

"He said that the rabbi was critical of Lubavitch, claiming that the Chasidim view the Rebbe as an intermediary between them and G-d."

"What! That's what that rabbi said?" I jumped. "Throughout Jewish history, whenever someone's prayers weren't answered, they would always turn to a tzadik, a holy person, and ask for a blessing. Why, people even come up to me, seeing me in a black hat and beard, and say, 'Rabbi, please pray for my son,' or 'Please bless my lottery ticket.' But I don't think anyone would ever say that they're praying to me!"

I was livid. And I knew I shouldn't be. I myself must have been uncomfortable with the idea of Chasidim's adoration of the Rebbe when I first came to yeshiva a year and a half before. But during my time there, I saw how the Rebbe is like a Moses in our generation, how he is bringing heaven down to earth, and connecting us to heaven, to a deep and true belief in G-d.

For a long time, I sat silently. Mom finally broke the silence. "Well, I hope your Rebbe is praying that they accept your thesis," she said with a nervous laugh.

The following morning I drove back to Morristown, New Jersey, to learn for maybe another year in yeshiva. During that two-day drive, I had no tape player and plenty of time to think. Every generation has a Moses-like leader. For sure, having a Moses-figure was a Jewish concept. There was Abraham, then Isaac, followed by Jacob, and Joseph in Egypt. After Moses, Joshua led the people. And then the kings. Even more recently, there were leaders like Rashi and Maimonides who stood out in their respective generations.

When I arrived at yeshiva, I had a letter waiting for me. Dad wanted to know when I was going to use my degree. "You don't want to be a traveling salesman like me." Dad ended the letter: "Please find a nice Jewish man for Susan. Love, Dad."

I was inspired by what I was learning in yeshiva, especially the Chasidic teachings and, of course, the "Rebbe stories," so I continued to write Dad weekly letters, as if nothing was ever said.

One of my teachers in yeshiva was Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic, who with his wife served also as a shadchan, or matchmaker. I told him about Susan. "Ask her to come to New York and we'll introduce her to someone."

Susan had a vacation during the last week of December. She followed Rabbi Lebovic's advice and made reservations to fly to New York.

One day when I called home, I was shocked when my father read me the opening paragraph of a letter: "Dear Rebbe, My son Tzvi said I should write to you and ask you to pray that my eldest daughter Raizel Shoshana bas Rivkah marry a nice Jewish man..." Dad said he was enclosing a donation of $18. About a month later, Dad was suffering from heartburn. He took some antacid, but the pains in his chest intensified. Mom drove Dad to the emergency room. He had had a heart attack, but thank G-d, he received treatment in time. While in the hospital that week, Dad received a letter from the Rebbe, dated the 3rd of Teves, 5744 (see first letter in "The Rebbe Writes" column).

Mom mailed me a copy of the Rebbe's letter and I studied it. Dad had not asked the Rebbe that bothersome question of "Is the Rebbe an intermediary?"-and yet the Rebbe had answered the question in his letter. He reassured Dad, who knew with an enviable simple faith, that "all blessings come from G-d." Now, G-d, who desires to shower his creatures with goodness and kindness, gives generous blessings... but they are not always received. The Rebbe then explained how blessings are received from G-d. Blessings come through "channels." These channels are created by living our daily life in "in accordance with His Will" and "Every additional effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, though a must for their own sake, widens these channels... An extra effort in Yiddishkeit on the part of one member of the family, especially parents, benefits each and all members of the family." In this sense, everyone is an "intermediary," a channel to direct blessings from G-d to others to whom one is close.

Susan flew to New York. I arranged for her to spend Shabbat with friends in Crown Heights. "I got a blessing from the Rebbe to meet my husband-to-be," she told them. Susan had pure trust in the Rebbe's blessing.

Three matchmakers had been contacted, and each lined up a date for her. Susan didn't like the first two men, but things clicked with the third. Avi was finishing a master's degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The two kept in touch. In the spring, Susan and Avi became engaged and were married in the summer.

My father followed the Rebbe's advice and increased in his observance of Torah and mitzvot, and blessings began to flow. Dad's spirits picked up, his health improved, and after Susan married, in the following three years, three more of his children married. Channels of blessings were now growing wider. Even I became more or less a mensch and accepted a real job in the pharmaceutical industry. "Keep writing your stories, Tzvi. Just don't quit your day job," he told me.

It became obvious to many that Dad had received a special blessing, and G-d was shining a warm, loving smile on him.

Excerpted from From the Heavens to the Heart by Tzvi Jacobs


The Rebbe Writes

ALL BLESSINGS COME FROM G-D

3rd of Teves, 5744 [1983]

I received your letter of Nov. 9th with some delay. As requested, I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in regard to yourself and the other members of your family.

There is surely no need to explain to you at length that all blessings come from G-d, and the channel to receive them is through the everyday life and conduct in accordance with His Will. Therefore, every additional effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, though a must for their own sake, widens these channels.

It is also well to bear in mind that all members of a Jewish family constitute one entity, one body, where a benefit to one part is a benefit to all. Hence, an extra effort in Yiddishkeit on the part of one member of the family, especially parents, benefits each and all members of the family.

Receipt is enclosed for your Tzedoko [charity], and may it bring you and yours additional Divine blessings.

15th of Sivan, 5726 [1966]

Mr. - , President

Adath Israel Synagogue

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming installation of Rabbi . . . as your spiritual leader on the fourth day of the week of [the Torah portion of] Shlach. I am doubly gratified by this occasion. Firstly, because the installation of a worthy Rabbi is in itself a matter of far-reaching public importance. Secondly, because the choice of a spiritual leader personified by Rabbi . . . demonstrates the wisdom and discernment of your lay leadership and general membership. This gives the assurance that each and every one of your officers, members and worshippers will give your Rabbi the utmost respect and cooperation. It bodes well for the advancement and growth of your Congregation so as to reflect, truly and fully, the traditional title of a Jewish congregation - Kehilla Kadisha - a "holy community."

Moreover, the particular name of your Congregation - Adath Israel [the Congregation of Israel]- attests to its highest aspiration, in the spirit of our Patriarch Jacob, who was given the additional name and title "Israel" after he had "wrestled with angels and men, and prevailed" (Gen. 32:2). The experience of our Father Jacob reflects Jewish experience throughout the ages, on the individual as well as communal levels. We must expect to meet challenges by adversaries, whether in the guise of angels (including the Yetzer Hora [the "evil" inclination]) or humans, who attempt to place obstacles in Jacob's "going his way" (Gen. 32:2). But far from being discouraged or sidetracked by such obstacles, it is necessary to meet the test with resolute determination, and then we are assured of victory.

This is also indicated in the Sidra [Torah portion] of the week (Shlach), which concludes with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, the symbol of all 613 Mitzvoth of the Torah, which, in turn, concludes with this verse: "I am G-d, your G-d, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be G-d unto you; I am G-d, your G-d. " When the Jew remembers G-d's Mitzvoth and fulfills them in the daily life, he realizes that G-d Who delivered us from the bondage of Egypt, delivers us also from all forms of bondage, external and internal, so that we can serve G-d in true freedom, with joy and gladness of heart. May it be so with your Congregation, and may G-d bless each and every one of your congregants, with your Rabbi at your head, with true happiness and prosperity, materially and spiritually.

With blessing,


Rambam this week

27 Sivan 5760

Positive mitzva 141: canceling claims in the Sabbatical year

By this injunction we are commanded to cancel all our monetary claims in the Sabbatical year. It is contained in the words "Whatsoever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release" (Deut. 15:3) and "This is the manner of the release: Every creditor shall release that which he has lent unto his neighbor" (Deut. 15:2). This mitzva only applies when the laws of the Sabbatical year are in force.


A Word from the Director

At this time, it is appropriate to reflect on the nature of one's connection to the Rebbe.

In the book "HaYom Yom," compiled by the Rebbe at the behest of the Previous Rebbe, it says, "You ask how can you be bound to me when I do not know you personally. The true bond is created by studying Torah. When you study my discourses, read the informal talks and associate with those dear to me.in this is the bond."

The Rebbe's most recent talks, from 1991 and 1992, consistently communicated the news that the time of the Redemption has arrived and that every individual can and must play an active role in hastening the Redemption. One of the ways this can be done, the Rebbe explained, is by permeating our lives with the awareness of the imminent Redemption.

By attending classes at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center, by listening to Torah classes over the phone, by studying and reading the Rebbe's published talks and essays (available in many languages), you will connect to the Rebbe and everything he personifies.

As we approach the sixth anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz, the pain has not lessened. But there is no room for despair. For, as each moment passes, we are one moment closer to seeing in a revealed manner that, to quote the Rebbe, "Moshiach is coming," and that "he has already come." We are one moment closer to recognizing that "the world is ready for Moshiach" and that "the time of the Redemption has arrived." We are one moment closer to being reunited with the Rebbe, and "he will redeem us."


Thoughts that Count

Then it shall be, when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall set aside a portion for a gift unto the L-rd (Num. 15:19)

There are two reasons given for the commandment of separating challah: As bread is the staple of mankind, G-d wanted to provide the Jews with a mitzva they could do all the time. Also, He wanted the priests who serve Him to receive a gift that was ready to eat. (Sefer HaChinuch)

Of the first of your dough ("arisoteichem") you shall set aside a cake for a gift (Num. 15:20)

In Hebrew the word "arisa," or kneading trough, also means cradle or crib. As soon as a Jew wakes up and gets out of bed, the "first part" of his day should be dedicated as a "gift" to G-d: reciting Psalms, learning Torah, praying with a minyan, etc. (Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim)

By observing the laws of challa, a person demonstrates that the dough he obtains through the seemingly natural order of the world ultimately comes from G-d, and that the forces of nature are only "an ax in the hand of He Who wields it." The belief that nature has independent authority and control is idolatrous; hence, one who refutes this belief is considered to have nullified idol worship. (Likutei Sichot)


It Once Happened

By Rishe Deitsch

Avraham* was a child with a question. He tormented his parents with it and he thought about it night and day. What does it mean to be a Jew? All Avraham's parents could think of was to send him to Sunday school. There he learned the Hebrew alphabet and to say the "Shema." Every night as Avraham said the "Shema," he would ask G-d to get him into a Jewish Day School.

The summer after Avraham's Bar Mitzva, his family went to a bungalow colony in upstate New York. There Avraham struck up a friendship with an Orthodox boy who showed him how to put on tefilin and invited him to join the daily services. The boy answered, to the best of his teenage ability, Avraham's questions about Judaism. When Avraham told his new friend that he really wanted to learn more and even go to a Jewish school, the boy suggested he get in touch with the Lubavitchers. "They help Jews who want to learn more," he said.

A few days later, Avraham was walking out of a shopping mall. He noticed a mobile home with a sign that read "Chabad-Lubavitch." The Lubavitchers! Avraham went into the "Mitzva Tank" and asked, "Can you help me?"

They could. With his parents' approval, the Lubavitchers enrolled Avraham in the nearby Gan Yisroel overnight camp for the rest of the summer. For the first time, Avraham started getting answers to his questions.

When camp ended, it was a new Avraham who came home to his parents. No longer was he unsure of what he wanted. He needed to go to yeshiva in Crown Heights and his Lubavitcher friends would help arrange everything if only his parents would give the okay.

His parents saw that after the summer in camp, their son was glowing with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose, and truly happy for the first time in his life. To his vast relief, Avraham's parents gave him permission.

Avraham stayed with a Lubavitcher family in Crown Heights who treated him like their own son, and he set up a schedule to visit his parents regularly.

One time, Avraham was traveling back to Crown Heights after visiting his parents. A young couple, Klausenberger Chasidim, befriended him. After an hour in earnest conversation, Rabbi and Mrs. K. invited Avraham to spend Shabbat with them. Avraham happily accepted. Avraham became very close with the K. Family and spent every other Shabbat at their home.

Over the next few years, as Avraham grew into a young man, the K. family grew more involved in his life, helping him with his material and spiritual needs.

When it came time for Avraham to get married, he became enagaged to Sarah, a brilliant, kind and pretty girl from a Lubavitcher family known for its refinement and devotion to the Rebbe. The bride, eldest in her family, was born to her parents after several years of marriage. Only after her parents received a blessing from the Rebbe had she been born, followed by her three siblings.

On the day of the wedding, Rabbi K. accompanied Avraham, along with his future father-in-law, to speak to the Rebbe. Rabbi K. expressed to the Rebbe his love for the groom and his hopes for him, and the Rebbe assured Rabbi K. that Avraham and Sarah had his blessings. The Rebbe also honored Rabbi K. for all that he had given and would continue to give to Avraham.

Together, Avraham and Sarah built a home filled with the warmth of Torah and Chasidut. Four sets of "parents" derived pleasure: Avraham's parents, Sarah's parents, the Klausenberger couple and the Lubavitcher couple with whom he stayed during his first years in Crown Heights.

Everything was so beautiful! But there was one thing missing. Twelve years after the wedding, there were still no children. Rabbi K. became desperate to do something to help them. And so, unbeknownst to Avraham and Sarah, Rabbi K. called together nine Klausenberger Chasidim and asked them to accompany him to the Ohel, to demand of the Rebbe to help this young couple.

The scene at the Ohel was emotional. The entire minyan of men prayed out loud together, begging the Rebbe to intercede before G-d for the sake of Avraham and Sarah. Rabbi K. reminded the Rebbe of their conversation before the wedding, when the Rebbe had assured Rabbi K. that the young couple had his blessings.

"I have done everything I could to help them. They have done everything they could. You said, on their wedding day, that we would all have nachas. And yet, they have no children." began Rabbi K. in Yiddish. As the minyan murmured Psalms, Rabbi K.'s voice broke as he begged, "Rebbe, do your part!"

About a year later, a son was born to Avraham and Sarah.

By this time, Sarah's parents were no longer alive. Sarah was weak and drained so they moved into the home of Rabbi and Mrs. K. straight from the hospital. The night before the baby's bris, known as the "Vach Nacht," took place at the K.'s home. In keeping with Klasuenberg tradition, a complete meal was served on this occasion. Rabbi K. had never told Avraham and Sarah about his trip to the Ohel. Only at the Vach Nacht did the story come out, as men who had been part of that minyan came over and spent time talking.

Rabbi K. is fond of pointing out that just as the Rebbe helped us before, he helps us now. The Rebbe's blessings brought Sarah into the world. The Rebbe's directive to combat assimilation with "Mitzva Tanks" put tanks in parking lots of shopping malls. And it was the Rebbe who interceded with G-d and blessed Avraham and Sarah with a child.

As Sarah said when asked what can be learned from their story, "We should never give up hope that our prayers will be answered in the right time. Especially the prayer for Moshiach Now."

*Rabbi K. asked that neither his name nor the real names of Avraham and Sarah be publicized.

Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter


Moshiach Matters

The Resurrection of the Dead will occur after the Redemption, the very last event of the Messianic era, thus in a way distinct from it. Even so, there are various stages in the process of resurrection itself, with some individuals rising before all others. Moses and Aaron, for example, will be present already in the very early period, when the Holy Temple will be re-established, in order to guide the order and procedures of the Temple-service. A number of other righteous individuals, too, will be revived at various stages prior to the general resurrection of the dead. (Mashiach, by J. Immanuel Schochet)


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