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We've all seen or been part of a scenario repeated dozens of times. At a family gathering, a synagogue event, a Jewish lecture, a simcha, someone says, "I'm leaving," and moves to get his coat. Twenty minutes later he's still there. Either in to an all-new conversation, still hugging the Bubbies and Zeidies, or noticing an old friend/relative he didn't have a chance to chat with yet. This phenomenon transcends gender, age, and country of origin. But it does seem to be particularly prevalent among Jews.
It's called a Jewish good-bye and it seems to go on forever. Because Jews never really say "good-bye." We say "shalom -- peace to you." Or we say in Hebrew "Go in peace." One whose background is more Yiddish might say, "fort gezunterheit -- travel in health." But we never say "good-bye."
In fact, even were you to scour the modern Hebrew language, you wouldn't find a word for "good-bye." All you'd come up with is "l'hitraot," which means "see ya later." (Some Israelis do say, "bye- bye." But pronounced with that decidedly Hebrew accent you know that it's been borrowed from English.)
At a Jewish gathering, private or public, we take a long time to go because, after all, who wants to leave the warm embrace of family -- and all Jews truly are one family. All Jews share in each others simchas and each others sorrows.
Is there any basis, though, in Jewish tradition, for this seeming inability to just say "good-bye"?
The Talmud enjoins us, "Whatever your host tells you, do, except leave." One of the commentaries explains that a guest must immediately comply with everything the host tells him to do except when the host tells him it is time to leave. The guest should show the host his reluctance to take leave of his company!
In addition, Jewish teachings encourage us that when we part from a friend, we should share a d'var halacha, meaning a "word of Jewish law." But d'var halacha can also be interpreted as a "word for the way."
So, it's not hard to understand why Jews don't say good-bye. Firstly, we don't really want to leave. Secondly, even when we do realize that we absolutely must leave, we should show our reluctance to leave. And lastly, when we already have our coat on, we should share a thought for the journey (however short) with our friend.
Ultimately, though, one might speculate that not saying "good-bye" has a more eternal and confident message. For, deep within every Jew is the fundamental belief in better times, the best times, the times of Moshiach. In that era -- the Era of the Redemption -- we will see the fulfillment of one of the principles of Jewish belief, the revival of the dead. And at that time, we will all be reunited with our loved ones. And when we rejoice in being together again with them, we will fully understand why we never really said, "good-bye."
"It came to pass on the day that Moses had finished setting up the Sanctuary..." As we read in this week's Torah portion, Naso, after the Jewish people had finished constructing all of the Sanctuary's different components, they brought them to Moses so that he could erect it. For the massive wooden planks were just too heavy; even working together, the Jews were unable to build the Sanctuary by themselves.
Recognizing the dilemma, Moses asked G-d how human beings could be expected to perform such a difficult task. G-d told him to put his hand on the enormous boards; they rose by themselves, and the Sanctuary was erected in a miraculous manner. But why was it necessary for G-d to perform a miracle?
According to historians it was the Jewish slaves who built the pyramids in Egypt. Indeed, the Torah tells us, "And they built treasure cities for Pharaoh, Pitom and Raamses." Each individual stone of the pyramids weighed several tons, yet, as depicted in ancient hieroglyphics and paintings, the slaves nonetheless managed to drag these tremendous weights and build the colossal edifices that continue to exist till this very day.
The wooden planks of the Sanctuary weighed far less than these stones. Why then did the Jewish people find it impossible to lift them? Why was it necessary for the Sanctuary to be erected by means of a miracle?
The answer lies in the fact that the pyramids were built by slave labor, by "avodat perach" (back-breaking, rigorous work). The only reason the Jewish slaves were able to move the stones was because Pharaoh compelled them to.
The Jewish people had no choice; they obeyed Pharaoh's commands out of fear. This fear motivated them to tie themselves together with rope (as seen in the paintings) and perform the seemingly superhuman feat.
Building the Sanctuary involved a different type of work entirely. The Sanctuary was to be erected willingly, with joy in being able to execute G-d's command. But the wooden planks proved to be too heavy for the Jews to lift.
G-d didn't want the Sanctuary to be built out of a sense of compulsion. Its erection was a happy event, not a sorrowful one. He therefore made a miracle to express this concept, and the Sanctuary was erected with a feeling of true freedom and liberation.
So it is in the erection of our own individual "Sanctuaries" --- the performance of G-d's mitzvot. Observing G-d's mitzvot should never be considered "back-breaking labor"; rather, we carry out G-d's command willingly, joyfully, and with the full assistance of the Holy One, blessed be He.
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe, 5745
Keynote address by Esther Wachsman
at the Chabad Women's International Winter Convention,
I am here, an ordinary woman, wife, mother and teacher from Israel, for the sole reason that I am Nachshon's mother. Our personal tragedy has become the tragedy of the Jewish people. Our son Nachshon has become everybody's child, and I have become a symbol of the mothers of Israel -- a mother called upon to make the greatest sacrifice and to cope with a tragedy that no mother should ever have to cope with.
We are all limited. What was my personal limit? Was it when I learned that my husband was in kidney failure and would have to undergo dialysis? At that time, we had five children ages one to ten. Was it four years later when, at the height of my husband's illness, I gave birth to twin boys and one of the babies had Down's syndrome? Was it when our son, (may G-d avenge his blood) was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists?
I have given much thought and study to the eternal questions of the suffering of the innocent and of unanswered prayers. And I would like to share some of my thoughts.
Most of us assume that we are entitled to have good things happen to us. We, who are good, who fulfill our part of the bargain, expect G-d to fulfill His part, and grant our wishes as a reward. This is based on a prior assumption that everything that happens to us is a reward or punishment. But I have learned that a basis of Judaism is that there is no guarantee at any point that G-d's wishes and those of man will coincide.
We are in this world to confront challenges; to choose, when tested, to remain firm in our belief and trust and faith in G-d, in every situation.
In a G-d-created world, nothing is random or meaningless. The world is not a conglomeration of coincidence and chance. There is meaning and purpose in existence and each of us is here for a reason.
Nachshon was the third of our seven sons and the third to serve in the Golani brigade of the IDF. He joined an elite commando branch of Golani after his yeshiva studies. He was the smallest of the boys in his unit and they used to call him their baby. He was the one who always boosted their spirits with his ready smile and eternal optimism.
Nachshon spent four months in Lebanon. But Nachshon didn't lose his life in battle. He was brutally murdered exactly 50 years after his ancestors, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, met their deaths in Nazi Germany for the same reason -- because they were Jews. This time it was a proud Jew in his own country, wearing his country's uniform, kidnapped in the heart of Israel.
When Nachshon did not come home on Sunday night from a one day army course, we were very concerned. When it grew late and Nachshon had not called or returned, we feared the worst and notified the authorities.
On Monday there were search parties looking for him. By Monday, for me, my son was dead. And so, when on Tuesday we were notified of the video tape showing his capture by Hamas terrorists, contrary to the national feelings of horror and despair, I felt joy and optimism. He was alive . There was no place for grief and sorrow. We mobilized around the clock to do everything in our power to save Nachshon.
The unity and solidarity among our people at that time was almost unprecedented. All Jews -- religious and secular, young and old, rich and poor, Sefardi and Ashkenazi -- prayed with us. Every school child in Israel said Psalms daily. Seventy thousand people came to a special prayer at the Wall, to pray for Nachshon's life. Chasidim swayed and cried side by side with boys in torn jeans, pony tails and earrings. And at the same time, Jews around the world held prayer vigils for his safety.
We were one people, one Jewish soul praying for one Jewish child, who had become everyone's child, brother and friend... indeed, Israeli radio began each morning's broadcast with: "Good Morning Israel. We are all the Wachsman Family."
On Friday before lighting the Sabbath candles, hours before the terrorists' ultimatum, I appealed to all Jewish women in the world to light a candle for my son before Shabbat and I have received thousands of letters from women who had never lit candles before. I sat at the Shabbat table that Friday night with my eyes glued to the door, certain that Nachshon would walk in at any moment. For surely all those prayers, all those prayers of the whole Jewish people, would shake the heavens. Instead, General Yoram Yair walked through the door and we knew the message he was bringing.
Many people questioned why G-d had not answered everyone's fervent prayers. My husband asked my son's rabbi. At the eulogy at Nachshon's funeral attended by close to 100,000 people of all walks of life, the rabbi said, "G-d did hear our prayers, and did answer. His answer this time was 'No.'
Just as a parent must sometimes say 'No' to his child, no matter how much he begs for a 'Yes.' The child cannot understand why and we, G-d's children, do not understand why, but we accept His will and are grateful for when He said 'Yes.' "
And G-d said "Yes" to me many times, giving me health, a beautiful family, the privilege to live in Jerusalem, livelihood and many moments of joy.
No mere mortal can understand G-d's way and His running of the universe. Moses asked to see His face and was told "no one can see My face and live." That is, no mere mortal can understand My ways and how I run the universe.
Throughout Jewish history, sorrow and joy, grief and rejoicing, mourning and comfort, life and death, destruction and rebuilding, are intertwined. We know that darkness and light are mixed together and sometimes we do not know which is which.
Man's purpose is to endure, to cope, to rebuild, to believe in G-d's master plan for the universe and to trust that every aspect of life has meaning and takes the course G-d has determined.
Just a few months after our family's darkest period, we danced at two of our sons' weddings, and the Bar Mitzva of a third. As we accepted G-d's will in our tragedy, so we accepted His will in bringing us joy, and did not allow one to cancel out the other. We lived the expression: one must bless the Almighty in sorrow as we bless Him in our joy.
We were able to do this because of our faith.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi - The Alter Rebbe - taught that the people of Israel, devout believers and children of a long tradition of faith, receive and absorb this faith from their earliest years. It is not given to analysis or reason and is rooted in the depths of the soul. This is the education we gave our children.
If Nachshon's mission on earth was to bring about that unique unity among our people, then he accomplished more in his 19 years than most of us do in 90. And I ask you who prayed with me, and hoped with me, and cried with me, to continue to be my partners in our common responsibility to demonstrate the love of our people, our land and our Torah. Allow the unity brought about by my son's tragic fate to become his legacy to carry us forward in strength as a people. And we must teach our children that before we can make peace with our enemies, we must make peace with our brothers.
I conclude with the words of the prophet Zecharia: "Death shall be vanquished forever, and G-d shall wipe the tears from our faces." And so we await the final redemption, the coming of Moshiach, and the Resurrection of the Dead, when we will be reunited with our loved ones. May it be speedily in our days.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
Torah Study Practically Speaking
As mentioned last week in this column, in 1990 the Rebbe called for an increase in Torah study via every individual man, woman or child establishing a Torah study session, preferably with ten others, or even with three, or even just privately.
For three successive weeks the Rebbe reiterated, "This is a matter of immediate necessity." Even if one doesn't feel capable of teaching a group, one can organize a class and invite a speaker/teacher, or provide copies or books, articles, Torah insights that can be read and discussed at such a class.
10th of Sivan, 5712 
I trust that the Festival of Shavuot, the Season of Our Receiving the Torah, gave you welcome opportunities to reflect upon the profoundness of the Torah and what its dissemination means to Jews in particular and to humanity at large.
I trust also that there were moments of particular inspiration in recalling the various thoughts which you and I had been privileged to hear from my father-in-law of sainted memory.
It has been my custom to convey to you a thought apropos of the festival, and I am taking the liberty of doing so again.
There is a statement in the Midrash to the effect that "If anyone tells you there is science among certain non-Jews, you may believe it; but if one tells you that there is Torah among them, do not believe it."
This terse statement contains an indication of the radical difference between general science and the Jewish religion which, to be sure, is also a profound science, though "partly" in the realm of the unfathomable.
The cardinal difference is this: Science in general has two weak points. First, it is based on certain postulates which science cannot substantiate or prove satisfactorily, and which, consequently, may be accepted, rejected, or substituted by contrary postulates.
In other words, the entire structure of science rests at bottom on unscientific principles, or, better, on premises which cannot be scientifically substantiated.
Second, science in substance is a theory declaring that if there is Cause A, there must follow Effect B, and if Effect B is to be prevented, Cause A must first be eliminated (that is assuming the postulates in question to be true).
In other words, science can never tell us, "Do this," or "Do not do that." It can only maintain that if we desire to attain B, we must first accomplish A, and if B is undesirable then A should be avoided.
That science in subject to the above mentioned two limitations is understandable, science being the product of the human intellect; for since man's abilities are limited, he cannot devise anything Absolute.
This explains weakness One. As for weakness number Two, inasmuch as all men enjoy equal rights, science cannot a priori dictate any course of human conduct. The most it can do in this respect is to predict, on the basis of the experience and knowledge at its command, that a certain chain of reactions or effects is likely to follow from a given cause. Here men of science enjoy a certain advantage over the less experienced or initiated.
The said two weaknesses of science make the cardinal superiority of the Torah plainly evident.
The very word "Torah" -- meaning teaching, instruction -- indicates it. For the ultimate purpose of the Torah is not to increase man's knowledge per se, but to instruct him to conduct his life to the fullest advantage of himself and the community at large. As a matter of course it provides all the knowledge necessary for the attainment of this ultimate purpose.
Inasmuch as the Torah is not the product of man but Divinely revealed at Sinai, a fact which is substantiated by undeniable multiple evidence which must be fully accepted even on scientific grounds, i.e. being given by G-d the Absolute, its foundations are likewise absolute truths, not mere supposition.
Furthermore, since G-d is the Creator of the universe and of mankind, He is not limited to the process of cause and effect, but stipulates a positive and absolute system of human conduct, of definite do's and definite don'ts.
That is why the Torah is called Torah Emet, the Law of Truth, for its teachings are absolute and its foundations are not postulates but absolute truths, hence its consequence must also be absolute truths.
It is also called Torat Chaim, the Law of Life, to show that it is not just a science whose application is arbitrary, but a system of obligatory daily living.
This is why the dissemination of the Torah is so vital. For in the final analysis the important thing is not the amount of knowledge man acquires for its own sake. To insure that man acts consistently in the best interests of himself and society, or else grope in darkness, confused by conflicting ideas and theories around him and perplexed also by conflicting emotions and instincts within him, inherent in all human beings -- this is the question, and the Torah is the answer.
May we all, you and myself included among the rest of our people, be receptive to the Divine influences emanating from the Torah and mitzvot, in the true spirit of Shavuot, the festival of our Receiving the Torah from G-d at Sinai.
Traditionally, from the beginning of Passover until Shavuot (or in some communities until three days before Shavuot) weddings are not held. This time of semi-mourning, known as "sefira" culminates with Shavuot, the day of the wedding between G-d and the Jewish people. Thus, it is common that the week after Shavuot is an unusually busy time for weddings.
In the Chabad calendar, the week following Shavuot was filled with numerous weddings of great import:
On 8 Sivan, 5632 (1872) the wedding of Rebbetzin Devorah Leah, the eldest daughter of the Rebbe Maharash, fourth Chabad Rebbe and Rabbi Moshe Leib Ginsberg took place. Rebbetzin Devorah Leah was well-known for her clear thinking and sharpness as well as her excellent memory even in her later years.
The tenth of Sivan, 5692 (1932) was the date of the wedding between Rebbetzin Sheina, the daughter of the Previous Rebbe, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Horenstein (grandson of the above-mentioned Rebbe Maharash). The wedding took place in Poland though the Previous Rebbe was living in Latvia at the time.
On 11 Sivan, 5681 (1921) the wedding of Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary (known as "the Rashag") to the daughter of the Previous Rebbe, took place in Rostov. The Rashag was appointed by the Previous Rebbe to be in charge of the Central Lubavitcher Yeshivos, a task which he fulfilled with utter devotion and self-sacrifice. After the passing of the Previous Rebbe, the Rashag became a loyal chasid of the Rebbe.
The thirteenth of Sivan, 5660 (1900) is the wedding day of the Rebbe's parents, the Gaon Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson and Rebbeztin Chana. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was the great-grandson of the Tzemach Tzedek, third Chabad Rebbe.
The wedding of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the youngest son of the Rebbe Maharash, to Sara Kornitzer took place on the 14th of Sivan, 5642 (1882).
May each and every individual Jew, and the entire Jewish people as a whole know only simchas -- joyous occasions, and may we all meet at the ultimate simcha -- the coming of Moshiach and the Redemption.
Antigonos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon HaTzadik. He used to say: ...And let reverence for Heaven (literally, the fear of Heaven) be upon you (Ethics of the Fathers, Ch. 1:3)
After Antigonos emphasizes that one should not serve G-d with a view to receiving reward, but out of complete love for Him, he declares that a person must also be careful regarding his reverence for G-d. One who serves with love is eager to fulfill a positive commandment, and one who serves with reverence is careful regarding negative ones. Thus, by being careful in both aspects, a person's service is complete.
Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving other people, and drawing them to Torah (Ch. 1:12)
Moses drew G-dliness down to the Jewish people from Above by means of the Torah which was given through him. Thus he is referred to as "the chaperone of the King" --- analogous to the escort who accompanies the groom to his bride. Aaron, by contrast, brought the Jewish people closer to G-d from below to Above, and is thus referred to as "the bride's chaperone," analogous to the escort who accompanies a bride, leading her up to the groom who awaits her.
(Sefer Ha'Arachim Chabad, Vol. 2)
[Hillel] used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? (Ch. 1:14)
In many areas of Jewish life the individual and the community are completely integrated and harmonized, with equal emphasis on both.
Hence, "If I am not for myself" expresses the importance of the individual. At the same time, each person is part of the whole Jewish community, and if he is not, i.e., "if I am only for myself," isolated from the community, what is the individual truly worth?
(Likutei Sichot Vol. 18)
For a year and a half the Chasidim had been pleading with the Tzemach Tzedek to become Rebbe after the passing of his uncle, Rabbi Dov Ber, but to no avail. He refuted every argument they presented. The greatest Chasidim gathered in Lubavitch to press their plea that the Tzemach Tzedek finally acquiesce. No matter what they said, he adamantly refused to be swayed.
On the eve of Shavuot, Reb Pesach, a venerable Chasid of the Alter Rebbe, met with two other of the most notable Chasidim, Reb Aisik Homiler and Reb Hillel Paritcher to devise some strategy. Reb Pesach said to them, "G-d has given me an idea which the Tzemach Tzedek will not be able to refute." They made an appointment to meet with the Tzemach Tzedek and were all present in his room when Reb Pesach asked permission to speak.
Reb Pesach began as follow, "This week's Torah portion discusses the mystery of conception. Now, according to Kabala, if the father's contribution is greater then the child will be female, if the mother's contribution is greater the child will be male. According to this teaching, your grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, is most closely connected to your mother, his daughter. It is she who is his true inheritor. And it follows that you, who have the strongest connection to your mother, through her, are most closely connected to your grandfather."
When the Tzemach Tzedek heard their logic, he fell into a deep meditation. He meditated for some time and then declared, "I accept. Soon I will come out and deliver a Chasidic discourse."
The city of Lubavitch erupted in great joy, and as word spread, Chasidim flocked in droves to the study hall. An enormous crowd had gather by the time the Tzemach Tzedek, garbed in the long white coat which had belonged to his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, entered the room.
A hush fell on the crowd as the Tzemach Tzedek began the discourse with the words, "Upon three things the world stands...".
Reb Aisik Homiler suddenly recalled 38 years ago standing in the room listening to the Alter Rebbe deliver the same discourse, word for word. The Tzemach Tzedek had been a mere child of three at the time. Reb Aisik thought to himself, "What a stunt that he can remember this discourse, word for word!"
Suddenly the Tzemach Tzedek stopped in the middle of his discourse and looked at Reb Aisik. "Feh, why are you suspecting me of a trick? What can I do if my grandfather [the Alter Rebbe] is here, and he is telling me to say this discourse!?" Nobody present (except Reb Aisik) understood the meaning of these words.
Not long after, Reb Aisik Homiler became very ill with a raging fever. Reb Hillel Paritcher and Reb Pesach came to visit him.
Reb Aisik recalled to them the day, 38 years ago, when the Alter Rebbe delivered the discourse. It was very abstruse and the Chasidim didn't understand it. They begged the Alter Rebbe to repeat it another time, but he replied that he had no time now, and would repeat it at some other time.
Little Menachem Mendel, later to be known as the "Tzemach Tzedek," was always in the room of his grandfather and always mimicked his grandfather's actions. He even had a pair of "tefilin" which he had made from a cut potato, and when his grandfather donned his tefilin, the small boy would don his own "tefilin," tying them with straps of string. The Chasidim noted the patience and attention the Alter Rebbe gave his little grandson, even to the extent of pausing in his own prayer to help the child extricate his "tefilin straps" from the legs of the table where they would often become tangled.
When the much awaited time came to repeat the discourse, the Chasidim filed into the Alter Rebbe's room. Little three-year old Menachem Mendel, who also wanted to listen to his grandfather, pushed himself between the legs of Reb Aisik in his attempt to find a good listening post. Reb Aisik was afraid the child would distract him from his concentration, and he gently pushed the boy away. The Alter Rebbe, noticing this, paused in his recitation, rebuking Reb Aisik with the words, "Leave him alone. He hears, and you will see that he hears."
Now, 38 years later, Reb Aisik was realizing the truth of that prediction, for the Tzemach Tzedek had repeated, word for word, the Chasidic discourse he had heard 38 years before.
"I have become ill because I suspected the Rebbe of performing some trick," Reb Aisik told his friends, and he asked them to go and beg the Tzemach Tzedek for forgiveness. The following day, the Tzemach Tzedek stopped to exchanged friendly words with Reb Aisik. Reb Aisik recovered at once and was able to continue celebrating the Yom Tov with great joy.
While the darkness of earlier periods demanded less effort, the darkness of our days -- the generation which can hear the footsteps of Moshiach -- is growing deeper and denser. For the sublime and evasive sparks that still await retrieval can be redeemed only by the redoubled exertions that redoubled darkness elicits. Indeed, the all- pervasive darkness is a reassurance that the last traces of these sparks are now being rescued from the clutches of the forces of impurity. The end of our generation's task is already within sight.
(From Exile to Redemption)