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February 3, 2006 - 5 Shevat, 5766

906: Bo

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

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  905: Vaera907: Beshalach  

What Makes a Leader?  |  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

What Makes a Leader?

A Midrash explains why Moses was chosen to lead the Jewish people out of exile. After he had fled Egypt and settled in Midian, he became a shepherd for his father-in-law. One day, as he was gathering the sheep, he noticed that a young lamb was missing. He found it at a distance, near a pool of water, thirstily drinking. "Had I known you were thirsty," Moses said to the lamb, "I would have brought you here myself." When it slaked its thirst, Moses picked up the exhausted lamb and carried it back to the flock.

If Moses cares for a small and insignificant lamb in this manner, G-d responded, he is worthy to care for My people, for he will concern himself with the least of them.

When Moses passed on the leadership of the Jewish people to Joshua, he asked G-d that Joshua be filled with the "spirit of the Living G-d." Our Sages explain this unusual request as follows: Joshua could have been a leader who stayed in his "palace," issuing general directives, but not focusing on each individual. Moses prayed that Joshua would be able to discern the nature of each Jew, and respond accordingly.

Many can lead the multitude, pronounce platitudes from on high and appear to have a vision, or at least a sense of power. Others can work with individuals or smaller groups, teach and guide within the four cubits of their world.

But to "talk with kings, and retain the common touch," is rare.

The Rebbe's leadership has been praised and acknowledged from a variety of angles and by an array of people. His scholarship, his receptivity, his work on behalf of Jews everywhere, his institutions the world over, and so much more, have all received attention. But perhaps more then any other, his dedication to each and every individual regardless of affiliation or background, has been been, if not overlooked, less recognized.

Today, the Rebbe's shluchim (emissaries) continue to carry out the Rebbe's work, remaining devoted to each and every individual. These men and women have gone literally all over the world, to bring sustenance, spiritual and material to their fellow Jews, and indeed, their fellow human being. On the Israeli front lines, they bring the joy of the Jewish holidays; when the tsunami struck southeast Asia, the Rebbe's shluchim were in the forefront of rescue efforts; during and after Katrina, the Rebbe's representatives, both those in New Orleans and elsewhere, abandoned personal affairs to help others.

On a more "mundane" level, the Rebbe's shluchim counsel college students, run Jewish day schools, visit Jewish prisoners - the list of community and educational activities is probably endless.

What remains amazing about all this is the deep value and commitment the shluchim show to the individual, for as followers of the Rebbe they seek to emulate his ways.

From where do they derive their energy and inspiration to not only find their way to a community but to have a continual impact?

The answer is, from the Rebbe. For like Moses and Joshua before him, he does more than "speak to kings." And he does more than teach the law. He perceives the nature of an individual, and turns the key that opens the door to his or her potential.

Living with the Rebbe

The name of this week's Torah reading Bo means "come." In between the seventh and eight of the ten plagues, Moses was commanded by G-d, "Come to Pharaoh." More particularly, the term "bo" is also interpreted as meaning "enter" or "penetrate." As the Zohar, the fundamental text of Jewish mysticism states, Moses was told to enter room after room, penetrating to the very core of Pharaoh's palace.

The Zohar continues, explaining that Moses shrank at the command to approach Pharaoh. He was daunted by the charge to confront evil at its very core. To reassure him, G-d told him, "come." "Come," i.e., "come with Me," and not "go," "go alone." G-d promised that He would accompany Moses and face Pharaoh with him.

This command thus requires personal initiative, and simultaneously, promises that such initiative will be rewarded by G-d's assistance. Moses was required to act on his own, but not independently. G-d would support his efforts.

This dynamic is replayed in microcosm in the myriad spiritual struggles that we all continually face. We must confront Pharaoh - brave the challenges to Jewish involvement that the outside environment appears to present. And this includes not only viewing those challenges from afar, but penetrating to their core and looking at them from up close.

One would be foolish not to be somewhat daunted by this task. Indeed, if it is not daunting, it is not a challenge.

And yet, one's hesitation should only be temporary. We have the power to persevere in our mission.

When we do, we find out that we are not alone. G-d is with us, supporting our efforts. Simply put, we see ourselves speaking and acting with greater power than we could ever muster on our own.

Behaving in this manner transforms the world around us, including the challenging forces. Just as Pharaoh became the power who urged the Jews out of Egypt, so too, every element of our existence can become a positive and contributory influence, aiding our Jewish involvement.

From Keeping in Touch, adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos In English.

A Slice of Life

The dedication and self-sacrifice of the Rebbe's shluchim (emissaries) around the world is well known. Rarely is much attention given, though, to the children of the shluchim. Anyone who has been in a Chabad-Lubavitch Center where children shluchim are present will agree that the children add a unique appeal to the programs and a whole new dimension to words like inclusion, acceptance, family. In honor of Yud Shevat we present you with excerpts of essays written by the children of shluchim, shluchim in their own right, originally published on
Menachem Mendel Vogel - Rochester, NY

My name is Menachem Mendel Vogel. I am nine years old and I live in Rochester, N.Y. My Chabad House is pretty big. It has three floors. On the upper floor there is a Recreation Room and offices. The middle floor has a library, a lounge, a kitchen, and a shul (synagogue). It looks really nice. My father is the rabbi with another rabbi. My father learns with people. We have a Sunday morning Tefilin Club with bagels and lox. The café night is my best program. It is every other Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night). There is pizza, french fries, falafel, soda, and I help by being a waiter.

I like to play sports. I also love reading. I am proud to be a shliach (emissary) because I am chazan (cantor) in shul on Shabbos .  

Yossi Feller - West St. Paul, Minnesota

Hi, my name is Yossi Feller. I am nine years old and I live in West St. Paul, Minnesota. Here in Minnesota the winter is pretty cold. Sometimes it could get down to 45 degrees below zero! My Tatty (father) and Mommy run a Chabad House in Minnesota. Last year we started to remodel our Chabad House. Every Friday I clean up the sefarim (books) of the shul.

I also help my father go shopping on Friday to buy things for Shabbos. I am proud that I am a shliach of the Rebbe.

Levi Kazilsky - Johannesburg, South Africa

My brothers, sisters, and I are on shlichus in South Africa. Here two languages spoken, English and Afrikaans. Our Chabad House is quite big. There is a shul, library, rooms for people to stay in and an office.

My parents organize children's gatherings for different Jewish holidays. They also teach Torah classes for a lot of people.

My school's name is Torah Academy. I am in 3rd grade. We learn a lot of things. My hobby is playing football. I am proud to be a shliach of the Rebbe here in South Africa because I get to meet all different kinds of people and teach them more about Yiddishkeit (Judaism). Its lots of fun seeing people and meeting people knowing that they are our brothers and sisters. We are all part of one big family and we are all united in some kind of a way.

Chaim Swued - Barranquilla, Columbia

My name is Chaim Swued and I am eight years old. I live in Barranquilla, Colombia. I'm a shliach of the rebbe. Our family lives on the second floor of the Chabad House. My father teaches religion to the Jewish kids in my school. He is also a shochet (ritual slaughterer) and he shechts (slaughters) chickens and cows so that the Jewish community here can have kosher meat. On Shabbos, when he reads from the Torah in the shul, he lets me and my brother Yossi take turns holding the pointer to show him the place. When we have vacation in the winter, we travel to New York to go to yeshiva, and I wait for this time all year.

Miriam Broche Grunblatt - Buenos Aires, Argentina

My name is Miriam Broche Grunblatt. I am nine years old, and live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Spanish is the country's language. My father is a the director of Kehot Publications in Spanish. He translates and prepares sefarim for printing. Thanks to his work, people in many countries around the world that need Jewish books in Spanish can now daven (pray) and understand what they say and study Torah, especially Chasidus. Together with my mother, he also prepared beautiful books for children to learn while they color and play.

"Kehot" has a huge book store here, including Judaica and games for children. All the furniture is on wheels, and every second Tuesday they are moved aside and the store becomes a big hall where my mother makes breakfasts so women can hear more about Yiddishkeit. I help too: to set the tables and clean them, giving out brochures, helping with cooking, and whatever is needed.

I like to play a game called "tutti frutti." I love to sing. I am proud to be able to teach people more about Judaism.

I hope to get to know all of you in Beis HaMikdosh (Holy Temple), when Moshiach comes very soon!

Levi Yitschok Heintz - Utrecht, Netherlands

My name is Levi Yitschok Heintz and I live in Utrecht, which is in Holland. In Holland we speak Dutch. Our house is the Chabad House. My parents make parties for the holidays. My father gives classes. I like to help people who cannot daven (pray) so well. I'm the oldest at home and I help watch my little brothers and with the cooking. I also enjoy playing football and handball.

This summer I went with my big brother Shneour Zalman to Gan Yisroel summer camp in Holland. Every day we first had line up and then we davened with a minyan (quorom) which is very special for me because in Utrecht we only have a minyan on Shabbos morning.

I am looking forward to come to New York with my father for the Shluchim Convention.

Menucha Rochel Sneiderman - Newark, Delaware

My name is Menucha Rochel Sneiderman. I live in Newark, Delaware, USA. The weather here is cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

My parents have a Chabad House. It is not very big, but it is cool. My father has a creative eye, so everything is painted in bright, light, colors. The dining room is smallish, it can only fit 40 - 50 people, though we try to squeeze in more.

My parents do a lot of fun programs. The one I like the best is the program they do for college students in the suka. The way I help with programs is to behave!

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The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letters of the Rebbe written in the year after the passing of the Previous Rebbe

3 Tamuz, 5710 (1950)

...Many are seeking an explanation of the characteristic greatness of the Chabad leaders in general, and the leader of our generation, my father-in-law, of blessed memory, in particular, in terms of the following designations: A man of great self-sacrifice, a great Torah scholar, a man of integrity, a tzadik, a possessor of Divine inspiration, able to perform miracles etc. etc.

These praises are even more significant as they are defined by the teachings of Chasidus.

Yet in all this, the main point is absent.

Furthermore (and this is essentially the main point), the Rebbe's special greatness is by virtue of his unique relationship with us, his congregation of Chasidim, and with those who are connected to him. And this is because he is the Nasi - the leader of Chabad.

For in general, the Nasi is called "the head of the community of Israel": in relation to them, he is their head and brain; it is through him that they derive their vitality. By cleaving to the Nasi, they connect and unite themselves with their source Above.

...Each and every one of us should know, that is, he should study and fix in his mind, that the Rebbe is the Nasi and the head, it is from him and through him that everything both physical and spiritual flows, and it is through connecting one self with him ([the Rebbe] has already indicated in his letters how to do this) that one connects and unites oneself with one's source, and the source of sources, ever higher and higher.

17 Elul, 5710 (1950)

...Every Jewish man and woman should know that each good deed he or she does hastens the end of the exile and darkness, and brings the true and Final Redemption through our righteous Moshiach that much closer. This is the only way to achieve redemption of the Jewish people, as Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) told the nation of Israel over three thousand years ago (as related in the Torah of G-d, Parshas Nitzavim, chapter 30) at length.

Concerning your request that I mention you at the grave of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, I will certainly do so. As regards your having written that you do not understand this matter: Surely one does not need to first study the effect eating, drinking and sleeping have on the physical body and the soul before doing so. Rather, one goes right ahead and acts even though the full repercussions are not totally understood. The same holds true for the matter at hand.

As for what you wrote concerning the appearance of conversing with the dead, G-d forbid, and directing one's thoughts to an entity other than G-d, Heaven forbid: You can certainly understand on your own that this is not the case, as Caleb, the son of Yefuneh, as well as many Tannaim, Amoraim and tzadikim (righteous people) throughout the generations have conducted themselves thus.

In short, in answer to your question, when people came to the Rebbe for a blessing they did so not because of the superiority of his physical body, but because of the superiority of his soul.

Death only pertains to the physical body, for the soul is eternal, especially the soul of a tzadik, to whom Gehinom ["purgatory"] and punishment have no relevance. The passing of a tzadik is merely a departure, an ascent to a higher plane, and cannot therefore be termed "death," as is explained in the Zohar (volume 3, page 71).

Rambam this week

9 Shevat, 5766 - February 7, 2006

Positive Mitzva 62: Offering salt with a sacrifice

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 2:13) "With all your offerings you shall offer salt" The Torah commands us to offer salt with all sacrifices. Salt, being a preserver, hints that by presenting our offerings to G-d we are "preserving" our closeness to Him. Salt also symbolizes G-d's covenant with the Jewish people. Salt does not spoil and it retains taste for a very long time. So, too, G-d's bond with the Jewish people will never be broken.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

On Wednesday, the Tenth (Yud) of Shevat (Feb. 8 this year), we will commemorate the passing of the Previous Rebbe in 1950. The Rebbe's official acceptance of leadership took place one year later, when he delivered his first Chasidic discourse, "Basi Legani."

This discourse was truly ground-breaking, laying the foundation for the Rebbe's work over the next few decades. In no uncertain terms it described the uniqueness of our generation and the special role we play in history.

The core revelation the Rebbe introduced is that ours is "the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption." During the past seven generations of Jewish history, beginning with the inception of Chabad Chasidism, Divine consciousness has been progressively refined. Ours, the seventh generation (and the reincarnation of the generation that left Egypt with the Exodus), is similarly poised on the threshold of the Redemption.

"This is not through our own choice or a result of our service; in fact, it might often not even be to our liking. Nevertheless...we stand on the 'heel of Moshiach' - the very edge of the heel - ready to complete the task of drawing down the Divine Presence...into the lowest realm possible."

This knowledge implies a responsibility that is incumbent upon each and every one us. As the Previous Rebbe wrote in a letter, every Jew must ask himself, "What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the birth-pangs of Moshiach, and to merit the total Redemption which will come through our Righteous Moshiach?" Every mitzva we do, every good deed or increase in Torah study has the potential to tip the scales, to bring the ongoing historical process toward the Messianic era to its ultimate conclusion.

As "Basi Legani" concludes, "Let us all merit to see and be together with the Rebbe, in a physical body and within our reach, and he will redeem us."

May it happen immediately,

Thoughts that Count

They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place (Ex. 10:23)

The worst kind of darkness that can exist is when a person does not see his brother or extend his hand to help the needy. When one ignores his responsibilities and makes believe that the problems of others don't exist, the end result is that he himself will suffer and not be able to rise.

(Chidushei HaRim)

Let every man ask of his fellow, and every woman of her fellow...and G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians (Ex. 11:2, 3)

When Jewish people help each other in times of need, it causes them to be held in higher esteem even by their enemies; their actions arouse G-d to bestow His goodness in profusion.

(Toldot Adam)

And you shall eat it in haste (Ex. 12:11)

Why did the Children of Israel rush when they finally left Egypt? Didn't their extreme haste give the mistaken impression that they had to escape quickly? Pharaoh actually wanted them to leave at that point. They could have taken more time to pack and depart at a leisurely pace. However, leaving Egypt was not a mere geographical move for the Jews. It was a step away from the world of spiritual degradation they had become accustomed to in Egypt. When a person desires to sever his connection to evil, it must be done all at once and not gradually. A person must grab the first opportunity that presents itself to escape from a negative influence. However, when Moshiach comes and reveals himself we will not be so hard pressed to leave the Exile immediately. G-d has promised to remove all impurity from the world, so there will be no reason to run away from evil.


It Once Happened

Once, a Lubavitcher chasid, Rabbi Michoel Vishetzky, went to visit a Rabbi Rabinowitz in the rabbi's synagogue in the Bronx, New York. Rabbi Vishetzky was surprised when he noticed that Rabbi Rabinowitz sat at a corner of the table rather than the head of the table. "No one sits in that place," the elderly rabbi told Reb Michoel. When the rabbi noticed Reb Michoel's surprise, he began to tell him the following story.

"When I came to America, I was privileged to meet with the Previous Rebbe. I told him everything that had happened to me in Europe and asked him what I should do with my life. The Previous Rebbe said, 'Since you are a Torah scholar, you should look for a position as a community rabbi.'

"Soon after that, I was recommended for a position in this shul (synagogue), here in the Bronx. I asked the Previous Rebbe if I should take the job. The Previous Rebbe said, 'A shul is a shul, and so it's very suitable. But I don't like the shammas (sexton).'

"Why did the Rebbe mention the shammas? I wondered. The Previous Rebbe saw that I was confused and repeated, 'A shul is a shul, but I don't like the shammas.'

"Time passed. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until I found out that the shammas was not pleased with me. After the passing of the shul's previous rabbi the shammas had assumed many responsibilities and had become the unofficial rabbi. He felt that I had pushed him aside and he began to cause trouble for me. Eventually the situation became unbearable.

"When it became too much for me, I went to see the Rebbe, who had assumed the leadership after the passing of the Previous Rebbe on the tenth of Shevat, 1950. Before I even had a chance to open my mouth, the Rebbe said, 'My father-in-law said that a shul is a shul and he did not like the shammas. Continue to serve as rabbi in the Bronx. As for the antics of this shammas, he will soon need to worry about how long he will keep his job.'

"I was amazed by the Rebbe's words. When I had spoken with the Previous Rebbe, no one else had been in the room, and I had never discussed the matter with the present Rebbe.

"A few nights later I couldn't sleep. At daybreak I decided to go to shul a little earlier than usual. On my way, I was surprised to meet the president and manager also walking toward the shul. The manager pointed to a light in the windows of the shul. It looked suspicious. We quietly opened the door and walked in. The shammas was holding the tzedaka boxes and emptying the money into his pockets. Needless to say, we fired him.

"The next few years passed peacefully. Then something even more incredible happened. The shul shared an adjoining wall with a butcher's shop. Business went very well for the butcher, and the shop soon became too small. He found a much larger shop, and sold the old shop to the shul as the congregation needed more space. After some friendly negotiations, a deal was struck. The whole transaction was conducted without a written contract.

"A few years later the butcher began to look for a storeroom. When he couldn't find one, he remembered that there was no official contract with the shul. Without any scruples, the butcher went to the shul management and asked them to give him his shop back. He hired a lawyer and was positive that the court would decide in his favor as there had been no written contract of sale.

"After a short court case, the shul board received a court order telling them to vacate the premises by a certain date. If they disobeyed, the police would be called in. The date was drawing near. I went to the Rebbe for a blessing.

"When I described the situation, the Rebbe said, 'My father-in-law told you clearly that a shul is a shul. Everything will turn out the way it should.'

"The night before the critical date, I had a dream which I will never forget. In the dream I went to the shul and I saw the Previous Rebbe sitting in the chair at the head of the table - the very same chair which I never let anyone sit in. Standing next to him was the Rebbe. He said, 'Don't worry. G-d will let everything turn out for the best.' He then looked toward the Previous Rebbe. 'The Rebbe told you that a shul is a shul. What do you have to worry about?'

"I stood there in astonishment. The Previous Rebbe was right there, even though he had passed away ten years ago. I was still marveling at this extraordinary sight when I woke up. I ran to shul as fast as I could. A crowd had gathered outside the shul and people were arguing with the policemen who had blocked the entrance. They had started to remove the furniture. Then something very dramatic happened.

"On a nearby street, in the butcher's large shop, a light fixture fell suddenly from the ceiling. The butcher was knocked unconscious. When he regained consciousness, his first words were, 'Please, stop emptying the shul.' When the police arrived, the butcher admitted that he had made false accusations against the shul. He had, indeed, received payment for the old shop.

"Now you understand why I don't let anyone sit in that chair. The image of the Previous Rebbe sitting there will be in front of my eyes forever," Rabbi Rabinowitz said as he finished telling his story.

Reprinted from The Rebbes, vol. 2, Mayanot Publishing.

Moshiach Matters

A doctor who was the head of the Iraqi Jewish community explained to the Lubavitcher Rebbe that he had visited Jewish communities world-wide. He had seen many different activities of the Rebbe's emissaries both open and secret, and he had seen how Jews had responded eagerly, expressing their Jewish identity and increasing their Torah observance. "In light of all this," he asked, "why hasn't Moshiach come yet?" The Rebbe answered, "I have the same question. I also don't know why Moshiach has not yet come. That is why I tell my chasidim not to sleep, and to do more and more so that he will come one moment earlier."

(Keeping in Touch)

  905: Vaera907: Beshalach  
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