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Devarim Deutronomy

September 20, 2002 - 14 Tishrei, 5763

737: Succos

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  736: Ha'Azinu738: Bereshis  

The Joy of Joy  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

The Joy of Joy

"Joy breaks through barriers." We've all been in situations that prove this Chasidic aphorism. Burdened with bills, depressed with deadlines, or simply anxious about alternatives, we receive a phone call or get an unexpected email. Cousin Morty's engaged. Aunt Sharon just had a baby. Jacob from work will have a full recovery, thank G-d. Dejection is transformed to elation. The world looks different. The world feels different. The world is different.

But what happened? Our bills still haven't been paid. The deadline has gotten closer. The predicament remains insoluble. Yet, who cares? Or, rather, we'll manage. True, we can rejoice with someone close to us, celebrate the good that happened to someone we love. But why, when we turn around and look at our own situation again, do we still feel joy? Why, for some time at least, do we approach our quandaries with a new resolve?

We don't even need outside news. A memory-stirring song, a bird somersaulting, a child discovering - joyful actions resonate, incite a response - even against our will. If we let it, the delight of another echoes within us.

The key is, when we let it. The despondent does not soar. Music does not penetrate a petrified soul. Be disheartened, and laughter irritates; be depressed, and childish glee angers. All can be melancholy, if one's heart is closed.

"Joy breaks through barriers." When we confront obstacles, hindrances, difficulties with joy, they fall away. When we attack problems, troubles and dilemmas with joy, they shatter. But why? What is joy that it can change us from within, though all else remains the same? And how do we "bottle" it, store it, have it available when we need it?

A parable from the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, explains how joy makes the onerous pleasant: "If the lowliest of a king's servants, assigned to clean the filth from the royal courtyard, loves his king, then as he works he sings with joy, because he delights in making the king happy." The action doesn't make us joyful or miserable. Our perception does.

What matters is not what we see, but how we feel about what we see. Let an act make us significant and we act with resolve. A task may be difficult or distasteful, but if it's important, we're determined to do it. Give me something small, but give it meaning and the trivial fills me with joy and gladness of heart.

So doing for others may be part of what gives us joy. And yes, rejoicing reverberates, amplifying and intensifying as it echoes back and forth between rejoicer and rejoicee. But first our "joy stick" has to be working. It has to be hooked up, turned on and ready to guide us in the right direction.

What's the switch? Which "wires" do we have to connect? Let's look at the above parable again. Three factors combined to fill the servant with joy. The work - though dirty, even disgusting - mattered; it was not only worthwhile, it was vital. The servant loved the king, even if he did not get much direct attention; it might not have seemed like the king noticed, but the servant's relationship went deeper than superficial recognition. The king valued the result. Seeing a clean courtyard makes the king happy. The work is important to the king and the worker has significance, because to maintain the kingdom, even a menial task is valuable, indeed critical.

Joy not only indicates vitality, it reveals the inner essence. But joy doesn't exist in a vacuum. To be joyful, we have to do something. The servant was joyful because he was the king's servant, and because he was doing work for the king.

This explains, a little bit, the idea of Simchat Torah - the joy of the Torah. The Torah is G-d's Wisdom and our work. Through it - even through its most "trivial" details - we serve the King. Knowing that in the Torah He has given us many tasks, how can we not sing? Knowing that fulfilling them will make this world into a Royal Courtyard, a dwelling for the Divine Presence, of course we must rejoice.

Living with the Rebbe

The festival of Sukkot, which follows Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, marks the beginning of the true days of rejoicing of the month of Tishrei, coming as it does after the solemnity of the High Holidays. Although Sukkot has many similarities and characteristics in common with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it is actually the culmination and fulfillment of the first two holidays. The difference between the two lies in the fact that the holiness that was in a more concealed and hidden state on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is revealed for all to see on "the day of our rejoicing (Sukkot)."

One of the fundamental themes of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is that of the unity of the Jewish People. But it is on Sukkot that this motif finds its highest expression.

The Jew's worship on the High Holidays lies in his uncovering of the pintele Yid within him, that Jewish spark that can never be extinguished, that he shares in common with every other Jew. All of us stand as equals before G-d in prayer on Rosh Hashana, accepting His sovereignty and crowning Him King over us all; on Yom Kippur we are equally aroused to do teshuva (repent) and return to G-d. When a Jew does teshuva, he is merely uncovering and revealing his innate belief in G-d and love of Him.

The unity of the Jewish People during the High Holidays is a unity based on the common denominator inherent in every Jew. It does not take into consideration the many differences of temperament, intelligence, or any other marks which distinguish one person from another.

On Sukkot, however, we reach an even higher level of unity than before, developing the theme of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur even further.

One of the most important mitzvot of Sukkot is the taking of the Four Kinds. These four species symbolize the four different types of people which exist within the Jewish nation. The etrog symbolizes one who possesses Torah learning and also does good deeds; the lulav stands for one who possesses only Torah learning. The hadas (myrtle) symbolizes one who performs commandments and does good deeds, but does not have Torah learning, and the arava (willow) symbolizes the Jew who possesses neither Torah nor learning.

On Sukkot we take these four disparate species and bring them together to perform a mitzva. Our unity does not lie in our ignoring the external differences which divide us; rather, we go out of our way to include all types of Jews, even those in the category of arava, who would seem to have no positive contribution to make. Despite all our differences we are all bound together.

This is the highest degree of unity we can achieve. It is far easier to concentrate only on that which we have in common than to acknowledge that we differ as individuals and still remain together.

On Sukkot we confirm the unity which was achieved during the High Holidays. This realization sustains us throughout the year and gives us the strength to live in harmony and solidarity with one another.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Sukka Hopping
by Yehudis Cohen

I look for choice branches with bright red berries on them. Gently I pluck the branches off the pine trees and bring them inside. They will be "schach," the branches covering the top of the sukka. I am excited. I am nine-years-old and this is the first year that I am participating in the "Sukka Contest." Should I use a shoe box, a green plastic basket from the strawberries or the large woven tomato basket that my father specially got me at the farmers' market? How will I fasten the branches on top of my miniature sukka?

I fashion challahs out of clay. I use birthday candles for Shabbat/holiday candles. I buy a tiny wine bottle in the doll-house section of a local toy store. I hope my sukka will stay in one piece as I take it to the synagogue.

Now I am 18-years-old. I am sitting in the sukka of a married friend in the religious neighborhood of Kiryat Tzanz, a suburb of Jerusalem. We smile as children peep their heads into my friend's sukka. We note their confusion and disappointment. The children are sukka-hopping, checking out the decorations of the sukkas throughout the neighborhood. But my friend is a Chabad chasid and her sukka is not decorated.

The Rebbe explains in a letter why Chabad chasidim do not decorate their sukkas: "The attitude of Chabad chasidim in this connection, as taught by generations of Chabad leaders and teachers, is that the sukka is to imbue us with certain essential lessons, which are explained in Chasidic literature and Talmudic literature in general. It is expected of Chabad chasidim that they should be impressed by the essential character of the sukka without recourse to "artificial" make-up; that the frail covering of the sukka and its bare walls, not adorned by external ornaments, rugs or hangings, should more forcibly and directly impress upon the Jew the lessons it is meant to convey."

I am now 23-years-old. I am married with two children. My husband directs the Chabad programs in S. Francisco, California. The Sukkot holiday is about to begin. Our "helpers" did not show up. The huge sukka in our backyard large enough to accomodate all of our guests is not complete, but it is a kosher sukka all the same. Although a proper sukka should have four walls, the Hebrew letters of the word "sukka" teach us through their shapes other acceptable formations of the sukka walls. The samech x indicates the four complete walls of the sukka. Kaf f shows us walls on three sides. The hei v depicts 21/2 walls, the minimum required for a sukka to be kosher. We have two walls and a half. The other 11/2 will have to wait for another year.

I wear my winter coat to eat with our guests in the sukka. It is the first time I have had to wear a winter coat since we arrived in S. Francisco ten months ago. Everyone enjoys the food. I enjoy sitting in the sukka.

A few years pass. I am at my parents' house in Cleveland (I still say "I'm going home" when I go to my parents' house). We are spending Sukkot with them. My father and my husband build a sukka in the backyard big enough for a 6-foot table and chairs on all sides. Then my husband makes an "eruv" so that we can carry food from the house into the sukka on Shabbat. It is a cozy sukka.

I am in my late twenties. My husband directs Chabad at New York University. It takes my husband, my sons and a group of "Frat" guys a whole day to put up the sukka. It can seat about 50 people.

It is time to say the kiddush over the wine on the first night of Sukkot. It is starting to rain. Grudgingly the students agree to go inside the sukka while my husband recites kiddush. However, they have already decided that they will eat the holiday meal indoors.

After kiddush I repeat a story I heard from one of my teachers, a child survivor of the Holocaust. He described how they had secretly built a sukka in Auschwitz, behind one of the barracks. It was the smallest size it could be yet still be "kosher" according to Jewish law. It was camouflaged as best as possible. Each morning of the Sukkot festival, long before they had to report to line-up, a different line-up formed. Quietly, patiently, with a morsel of food or a bit of a drink in hand, they waited to place their head and shoulders inside the sukka so that they could recite a blessing there.

The students look sheepish. They go inside to wash their hands for bread and then come back outside to eat in the sukka. The rain stops. They wipe off their chairs. They sit down and eat. Everyone enjoys the food, especially the rice crispy treats for dessert. I enjoy sitting in the sukka.

Another few years pass. The Rebbe's emissaries from Cleveland spend the first days of the festival in New York. But now they are traveling back to Cleveland by car. In addition to not decorating a sukka, it is also a Chabad custom to not eat or drink anything outside of the sukka during the festival, not even water. It will be difficult to drive for eight or ten hours without even a drink. The rabbi and my oldest son design a sukka out of wood that folds up and fits neatly in the trunk of the car. Bamboos, sawed in half, serve as s'chach. We take pictures of the rabbi and then of my son sitting in the fold-up sukka. We send the pictures to my parents.

It is the fall of 2000. My nine-year-old daughter tells me that they are having a "Sukka Contest" in school. I am excited. I tell her about my nine-year-old sukka. Do we have any shoeboxes? Are there any green plastic strawberry baskets around? Maybe Zaidy can send you a woven tomato basket?

No, mommy, I want to do something creative.

Pennies, we will make a sukka from pennies.

What do pennies have to do with a sukka? She asks.

We will put a sign on top of the penny-sukka. It will say, " 'Charity brings close the Redemption.' When Moshiach comes, the entire Jewish people will sit together in a special giant sukka."

What's New


The Lubavitch Youth Organization provides public sukkot in three key locations in New York City for those who work in or visit Manhattan: The International Sukka at the U.N. - First Ave. and 43rd St.; the Garment Center Sukka in Greeley Square across from Macy's; The Wall Street Area Sukka in Battery Park - at State St. and Battery Pl. These sukkot will be open during the intermediary days of the holiday from 10:30 a.m. until sunset. For more information call (718) 778-6000. To find out about public sukkot in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


This issue of L'Chaim is for 14 Tishrei/Sept. 20 and 21 Tishrei/Sept. 27. The next issue (#738) is for 28 Tishrei /Oct. 4, the Torah portion of Bereshit.

The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation and Adaptation

6th day of Tishrei, 5738

To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere
G-d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

...Since it is already after Rosh Hashanah, and a new year has been reached in life, and everyone, however satisfactory be one's level of knowledge and the level of one's conduct, should surely make use of these days to increase one's knowledge and thereby raise the standard of one's conduct (in thought, speech, and deed), as it is written, "many years teach (more) wisdom,"

A new year serves as a reminder of a new and higher level of perfection in the everyday life that has to be started forthwith.

The year 5738 [1] has, in addition, a special lesson in that it is a Leap-Year, and a special Leap-Year at that, as will be explained later.

The purpose of a (Jewish) Leap-Year is, as is well known, to adjust and replenish the passing months and years which we, Jews, are required to calculate on the basis of the moon, so that they do not fall short of the years calculated according to the sun, inasmuch as the solar year is by a number of days longer than the lunar year. This adjustment (by way of periodically adding a month - a second Adar - in a Leap-Year) is necessarily in view of the fact that the four seasons of the year - spring, summer, autumn, and winter - are determined by the sun, and the Torah requires that our Festivals should occur in their due season - Succos, the "Festival of Ingathering," in the autumn, the season when the produce of the field is gathered in; Pesach - in the month of Spring. The intercalation of an extra month from time to time reduces the difference between the lunar years and solar years, so that the festivals occur in their proper season.

A full adjustment of the two methods of calculation takes place at the conclusion of every 19-year cycle, when the lunar and solar years attain complete parity.

And here it is where the year 5738 has it special significance, for it marks the completion of the current 19-year cycle, when the process of adjustment and replenishment reaches the fullest measure.

The Leap-Year teaches a special lesson, which will become clear after the following introductory remark:

The sun and the moon were both created "to give light on the earth." However, there is a difference in the manner of their illuminating the earth. The sun radiates and gives off its own light, whereas the moon has no light of its own, but receives light from the sun which it reflects and sends down to earth.

In other words, the sun and the moon constitute and symbolize the roles of mashpi'a (giver) and mekabel (recipient), respectively: the sun acts and influences; the moon is acted upon and is influenced and only thereafter it also becomes a mashpi'a.

The lesson of it is that a Jew has to be a mashpi'a, and he has to be a mekabel. He is required to diffuse light (G-dliess) to illuminate himself and his surroundings. But in order to be a mashpi'a, he must first be a mekabel - a recipient of the light of the Torah and mitzvos (commandments) to illuminate his intellect and emotions and all his activities.

There are times when one has to be primarily a mekabel, or - even exclusively a mekabel (as, for example, a disciple when receiving Torah instruction from his teacher); similarly in regard to his task as a mashpi'a (as for example, in giving Tzedoko - charity). In both aspects he is expected to attain perfection, so that in the final sum-total his conduct both as recipient and giver will be perfectly balanced (according to the capacities and opportunities that are given him especially from On High), in each of the two roles individually, and in both jointly, only then is his service complete and perfect.

This requires profound introspection and honest self-appraisal, in order to utilize all one's capacities, both known and hidden, and in the fullest and most complete measure, in all areas of human endeavor, in thought, speech and deed....

With esteem and blessing for a Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo - that you be sealed and utterly sealed for good,



  1. (Back to text) This year, 5753, is also a Leap-Year, though not the completion of the 19-year cycle as was the year when the above letter was written.

Rambam this week

17 Tishrei, 5763 - September 23, 2002

Positive Mitzva 245: Conducting Business

This commandment is based on the verse (Lev. 25:14) "And if you sell something to your neighbor, or buy something from your neighbor."

This mitzva establishes guidelines for our business dealings and governs the way we buy, sell, and transfer ownership of property. These guidelines include writing business contracts, paying for goods with money, or exchanging one item for another.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Amongst the many beautiful customs of the holiday of Simchat Torah, there are two that I would like to emphasize at this time.

The first is that of every Jewish man being called up to the Torah (an "aliya"). (Through him, his entire family is given an aliya.) Although this involves much time and one might think that it would be improper to delay the prayers of the entire congregation for this reason, this practice is followed. Why? Because it is the genuine desire of each member of the community that every person present receive an aliya.

In other words, every Jew is connected, every Jew wants to share in another Jew's simcha - rejoicing, no Jew really minds being "put out" a little for the good and well-being of his fellow Jew. And all of this can be seen through the custom of each Jew receiving an aliya on Simchat Torah.

Another custom of the holiday is that of dancing with the Torah. A beautiful vignette is told about the Baal Shem Tov during the dancing on Simchat Torah one year. In a state of ecstacy, the Baal Shem Tov called out, "Israel, you holy people. What is the cause of your great joy? It is our holy Torah! Do the other nations ever rejoice while holding their sacred books? And what kind of parties do they throw in the time of their rejoicing? And we, the Jewish people, where do you find us in the season of our rejoicing? Inside the synagogues. And why are we dancing and singing? In honor of the holy Torah. When are we united, as one person with one heart? On Simchat Torah! Therefore, I say to you, Israel, my holy people! This day is a triple joy - the joy of the Torah, the joy of the Jewish people, and the joy of the Holy One Blessed Be He."

United as one, with a triple joy, may we dance and sing and march to the Redemption with Moshiach now!

Thoughts that Count

In sukkot shall you dwell seven days (Lev. 34:34)

The sukka surrounds the entire person and one is enjoined to conduct all worldly affairs within it for seven days. The fact that all of a person's being is encompassed, including his very shoes, teaches us that not only through prayer and study do we worship G-d. The suka teaches that it is also through the physical world that we approach G-d and draw holiness into our surroundings, as it states, "In all your ways shall you know Him." The mitzva of sukka strengthens our realization of this and gives us the power to carry out our G-dly mission throughout the year.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

A Beautiful Etrog

Each Sukkot morning, after performing the commandment of blessing the "Four Kinds," the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, would allow all who wished to use his lulav and etrog. Many chasidim availed themselves of the opportunity, regarding it as a great privilege to perform the mitzva with the Rebbe's set. One day, after the Rebbe's etrog was returned to him bruised from being handled by hundreds of hands, someone asked him: "Why do you allow so many people to use your etrog? Look at what has happened! It has lost its 'hiddur' (beauty)!" Replied the Previous Rebbe, "This is the most beautiful etrog in the world! What greater hiddur can there be for an etrog than the fact that hundreds of Jews have performed a mitzva with it?"

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

One of the miracles that occurred when the Jews made their required pilgrimage to the Holy Temple on the three major holidays - Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot - was that although when they stood shoulder to shoulder inside the Temple it was so overcrowded one could barely move, when they prostrated themselves before G-d there was plenty of room. The revelation of G-dliness was not only apparent when they bowed down, however. The Jews' standing together in complete unity and harmony was unparalleled anywhere else, yet when it came time for each individual to prostrate himself and serve G-d in his own unique way, there was plenty of room for each person's individuality.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

A Torah Which is Always New

We begin the Torah anew on Simchat Torah to show that the Torah is beloved to us like a new object and not like an old command which a person does not submit to. It is like a new one toward which everyone runs.

(Sifrei VaEtchanan)

It Once Happened

Ayal was the 11-year-old son of an Israeli diplomat who worked at the Israeli Consulate in New York. At a party celebrating the release of the Jewish hostages in Entebbe (July 1976) he had begun having severe headaches.

The doctor said it was a virus and recommended bed rest. After a few weeks the headaches disappeared. But then one day, Ayal woke up with a stabbing pain on the right side of his head. The doctor sent Ayal for tests.

For the next few weeks the tension and sadness in the air was palpable. Although his father smiled and his mother patted him on the head, he noticed their red and swollen eyes. Something was wrong. Ayal demanded to know what they were hiding from him. After much hesitation, Ayal's father leveled with his son, telling him the doctors had discovered a tumor. He did not tell Ayal that the doctors had given his son three months to live.

The eve of Yom Kippur, 1976. Jews had come from all over the metropolitan area to spend the holidays with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. They stood for hours waiting to receive honey cake from the Rebbe along with a blessing for a good and sweet year.

A friend who worked at the Israeli Consulate had suggested to Ayal's father that they get a blessing from the Rebbe. The Rebbe's miracles were well known, and what better way to spend the holy day of Yom Kippur than with the Rebbe. A Lubavitcher chasid who regularly visited the Consulate made arrangements for a place for them to stay, and now they awaited the Rebbe's blessing.

The Rebbe usually smiled at children, but that Yom Kippur eve he did not smile at Ayal. The Rebbe wished father and son a good and sweet year with a very somber look on his face.

They ate the pre-fast meal with the host family and then went to Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, to participate in the holy day's prayers. The next day, as well, Ayal and his father were in the synagoguge most of the day.

The afternoon of Yom Kippur wore on. Ayal's father sent him to their host's home to break his fast and rest until Ne'ila, the final prayer of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur was nearly over. The congregation waited expectantly for the final prayers of the holy day to be recited. All eyes were on the Rebbe. The Rebbe suddenly raised his tallis and gazed at the crowd with a penetrating look on his face before turning to his secretary. The secretary then announced that all the children in the syngagogue should go up to the Rebbe's platform. Paths were made for the children or they were passed overhead hand-to-hand.

The Rebbe watched and waited. "Why did I send Ayal home?" Ayal's father berated himself. "He could have been standing next to the Rebbe! He left a long time ago. Why hasn't he come back yet?"

Hundreds of children were on the platform. The chazan (cantor) waited for a sign from the Rebbe to conclude the prayers. But the Rebbe was waiting. Suddenly another child arrived. It was Ayal. He was lifted over the crowd to the Rebbe's platform. Immediately the Rebbe led the singing of Avinu Malkeinu - Our Father, Our King. Those who stood near the Rebbe heard the Rebbe crying.

The prayers were over. The Rebbe smiled at the children, all of the children.

Ayal and his family bid goodbye to their hosts and returned to their home. Later that night Ayal announced to his parents, "My headache is gone. I want you to take me for tests tomorrow."

They had an appointment for more tests scheduled in four days time. But Ayal insisted that he was perfectly fine and that he wanted to be tested immediately to prove it. His parents were able to move the appointment up.

A few days later during supper, Ayal's father burst into the house and while crying and laughing managed to say, "You were right!"

Ayal and his father went to thank the Rebbe personally on Simchat Torah. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., Mr. Chayim Herzog, took a group of people who worked at the Consulate to the Rebbe, Ayal and his father among them. They were given a place near the Rebbe, who gave them special attention. When the Rebbe turned to Ayal's father, the latter presented his son to him.

"Thank you Rebbe. I am well," said Ayal shyly. Ayal's father emotionally added, "The Rebbe saved his life!" The Rebbe smiled and waved away the comments saying, "Give thanks to G-d, and always remember that He did this miracle for you."

Adapted from Beis Moshiach Magazine

Moshiach Matters

What is the relationship of joy with the ultimate redemption? What is the meaning of "Everlasting joy upon their heads"? (Isaiah 35:10) The answer: when joy pierces the walls of the exile the true and complete redemption at the hands of our righteous Moshiach will be effected.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, eve of Simchat Torah, 5746-1985)

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