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Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

November 8, 2019 - 10 Cheshvan, 5780

1596: Lech-Lecha

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

  1595: Noach1597: Vayera  

Veterans Day  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Veterans Day

The notation on the American calendar that it's Veterans Day might encourage one to stop and think for a moment arenownout War Veterans who spent long days and nights defending your country or defending the interests of your country.

But, aside from these momentary contemplations, what can we learn from this annual event?

The Torah discusses two kinds of wars in which the Jewish nation - having conquered and entered the Holy Land - might be involved.

One kind of war is ordered by G-d, such as to eradicate the nation of Amalek or to drive the Canaanite nations from the Holy Land.

A second type of war is an optional war, one to increase the boundaries of the Land of Israel, for instance, to glorify G-d's name.

Jewish teachings relate that every Torah concept is eternal and applicable in the personal life of each individual.

War on a personal level is a conflict between two opposing natures. Sometimes, when one entity desires to dominate another, it can do so peacefully, gradually influencing the other until ultimately its power can be harnessed and used for the goals of the first.

When two powers are diametrically opposed, however, and one tries to exert influence over the other, there is conflict.

In an ultimate sense, the concept of war reflects the efforts to transform the world into a dwelling place for G-d.

Certain elements of existence can, in a gradual and peaceful way, be refined and directed to holiness.

There are elements in this world, however, such as self-centeredness, that stand in direct opposition to G-dliness.

In their present form, these negative attributes can't be refined, but rather, as our Sages said, "only through destruction, can they be purified."

This is the Torah's concept of war, a struggle to transform even the basest elements of existence into a dwelling for G-d.

For this reason, the Torah commanded the Jews to go to war to conquer the Land of Israel, to turn a land which was famed for its depravity into a land, "where the eyes of G-d are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year."

In microcosm, this concept of war is relevant within our own lives as well.

A person must challenge himself. Gradual progress is good, but it's not enough.

We have to overcome our natures and show there are no limits to our commitment to Judaism.

When a person's spiritual service is confined within the scope of his nature and habits, he is serving himself as much as he is serving G-d.

It is only when he goes beyond his self, when his self-image and even his fundamental personality are no longer of consequence to him and he rises above them entirely, that he truly serves G-d.

Going beyond oneself reveals the limitless Divine potential of each Jew.

In this context, war is part of the process that is necessary for the complete refinement of the world.

Thus, the process of Messianic revelation involves a stage when Moshiach "will fight the wars of G-d and be victorious."

Nevertheless, in an ultimate sense, war is only a temporary phenomenon. After Moshiach has established his rule, "there will be no war, envy or competition... and the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d."

Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe

Living with the Rebbe

The Haftora for the portion of Lech Lecha extols the virtues of the children of Abraham. It encourages the Jewish people to stay strong during the exile, and not to fear for G-d is with us and can be relied upon. The Jewish people will be strengthened and redeemed, while the nations will face Divine judgment for not recognizing G-d and for all the suffering they caused us.

The connection of the Haftora to our portion is the references to Abraham. With G-d's help, Abraham journeyed away from idolatry, taught the world about G-d, and was victorious in war over powerful kings, all mentioned in Lech Lecha.

Lech Lecha tells about the founding of the Jewish people and the beginning of our mission in this world. Thus, it makes sense that the Haftora encourages us and extols the virtues that make us the chosen ones for G-d's plan. It also makes sense that it tells us about the final redemption, because that is the goal and reward of our mission.

The Haftora opens with a reassurance that our efforts to follow the Torah are never ignored by G-d. Rather, G-d's wisdom is beyond ours and therefore, we don't understand why He puts us in situations that seem undesirable.

In the end, He is the One who "gives the faint strength." Though the enemies of the Jewish people seem energetic and powerful, they will grow "tired and weary..., and stumble. But those who hope in G-d will renew (lit. exchange) their strength, grow wings like an eagle, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not tire."

Why does the verse use the word "exchange" to mean renew? Because when we use up all our strength to serve G-d and become weary, then our limited strength will be exchanged for G-d's unlimited strength. We will then be able to take our service to a whole new level, deepening our connection with G-d.

The Haftora relates how G-d will judge the nations of the world. He will first reprove them, and let them bring arguments in their defense. But of course they have no defense for their wrong doing.

G-d will tell them that He sent Abraham, who taught them about Him. They saw that G-d did miracles for Abraham. Yet they ignored the clear signs, and they supported each other in perpetuating lies, continuing to serve idols. As it says, "Each one will help his friend and to his brother he will say, 'be strong'." All this, just to hold on to idol worship. The Midrash relates that this verse can be understood in a positive light. It can refer to Abraham and Shem, who supported each other after the war spoken about in our portion.

There is a lesson here for us as well. We should always help and support each other, and even when we can't help, we should give words of encouragement.

Let's use our strength and words positively. Doing this will change the world for good and hasten the last words of the Haftora, "will rejoice in G-d and glory in the Holy One of Israel." May it be now.

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

A Slice of Life

I Don't Recognize You
by Rabbi Akiva Wagner

It was around Chanuka in 1951. Mrs. Esther Langsam was a young mother with a few young children. At that time, she hadn't been feeling well for some time. She visited a few physicians who hadn't come up with any conclusive diagnosis.

Finally she visited a big specialist in Manhattan who did a very thorough check up, and broke the sad news that she was suffering with cancer r"l. In those years there was little to nothing that could be done for this illness, and the doctor was frank with her. "Go home, Mrs. Langsam, try to make yourself as comfortable as can be, and try to enjoy the remaining weeks or months with your family in the best way possible, because, unfortunately, you have very little time left".

As a chasid, she knew there was only one person to turn to. Needless to say, she did not go home, but took the subway from Manhattan directly to 770. There she went into head of the Rebbe's secretariat - and told him that she needs to speak to the Rebbe immediately about a very urgent matter. Rabbi Chodakov told her he would take down her information, and would try to set her up an appointment in a few months.

This, however, would not do, and she was very insistent that it couldn't wait a few months (according to her doctor, she should not expect to be around in a few months...). She told him unequivocally that she must speak to the Rebbe today, now.

But Rabbi Chodakov was just as insistent. Firstly, he informed her, there are many people in line before her, and there is no way she could get a turn before all of them. Secondly, even if she could somehow get ahead of the line, the Rebbe never meets with people during the day. And thirdly, on Chanuka the Rebbe never meets people even at night. So her request was simply an impossibility. "What you should do", he told her, "is write down your question in a letter, and I'll bring it to the Rebbe immediately, and tell him that you're awaiting the answer".

She was, however, not ready to relent. She felt that this was something that she needed to meet with the Rebbe about and not address through a letter, and she tried to find ways to convince Rabbi Chodakov of this. "I am from Zhlobin", she informed him, "and there was no (Jewish) schooling for girls at all. I can't write any Hebrew, all I know how to write is Russian."

Rabbi Chodakov tried to reassure her: "You can write the letter in any language in which you're comfortable; - the Rebbe understands Russian as well." But she was just as adamant: "That is unthinkable, to a Rebbe one doesn't write in Russian, although he understands it, a letter to a Rebbe must be written in loshon kodesh (the holy language, ie Hebrew)."

Rabbi Leibl Groner, at the time still a young yeshiva student, was sitting in the office, and Rabbi Chodakov pointed to him. "Go to him," he said, "and tell him what you want written, and he will write it for you to the Rebbe in Hebrew."

Rabbi Groner, who had followed the entire exchange, motioned her to approach him. But he had a different idea. "Write in Russian," he told her, "Rabbi Chodakov won't know what you wrote. You can write to the Rebbe in Russian that you want to meet with him, and about the urgency, and the Rebbe will get your message."

This idea appealed to her, and she did as he suggested. Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Chodakov came to her with the message from the Rebbe: The Rebbe would come out soon for mincha, he said, and when he returns to his room, she should wait by the door, and she can speak to him then.

She followed these directives, and waited for the Rebbe. Understandably, she was not in a very positive frame of mind. According to the definitive conclusion of her specialist she had very little time remaining on this world. What would be with her family?!

When she met the Rebbe, she cried bitterly as she told her sad story.

The Rebbe looked at her intently and said "I don't recognize you at all from Samakand."

Now, the Rebbe - to our knowledge - had not been in Samarkand. But the Rebbe was - seemingly - referring to her activities there, which he was aware of. While she was in Samarkand, she was involved in providing (Polish) passports for many chasidim who needed them, at great personal sacrifice. (In fact, the government, subsequently, spent years seeking her).

The Rebbe was - seemingly - telling her: 'In Samarkand you defied the powerful regime, you paid no attention to the world and its natural laws, and here in America, you're allowing yourself to be so affected by what the doctor said." For this reason, the Rebbe said, he didn't recognize her as being the same woman from Samarkand.

"Listen to my advice," the Rebbe continued. "Go home, make your children latkes, give them Chanuka gelt, and forget completely about this whole matter!"

Of course, she went home and did exactly as the Rebbe instructed. Of course, the illness disappeared without a trace. She passed away over 40 years later, in 1997, and only then, two weeks before her passing, did the illness finally reappear!

Rabbi Akiva Wagner is the Dean of Yeshivas Lubavitch in Toronto, Canada. This story is from his weekly email to his alumni

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Sholom and Chaya Block have arrived in Texas as the fiftieth Chabad couple serving as emissaries of the Rebbe in the lone-star state. Chabad Lubavitch of Texas directors, Rabbi Shimon and Chiena Lazaroff were the first to arrive in 1972. The Blocks are establishing Chabad of Allen and McKinney in Collin County (Dallas-Fort Worth area).

New Center

Chabad of Charlotte, North Carolina celebrated the grand opening of their new multi-million dollar campus this past month. The Epstein Family Chabad Jewish Center boasts a sanctuary, social hall, gourmet kosher kitchen, Friendship Circle Zone, youth center, teen lounge , Judaic library, classrooms and conference room. Rabbi Yossi and Mariashi Groner arrived in North Carolina's largest city 40 years ago. Today, in addition to the new campus, the Groners oversee 20 Chabad centers across both Carolinas.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 5732 [1971]

To the Participants in the Testimonial Banquet honoring Rabbi Dr. Moshe Yitzchok Hecht

Greeting and Blessing:

I am very pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Testimonial Banquet in honor of Rabbi Hecht's twenty-five years of dedicated service to the greater New Haven community.

The occasion is a fitting testimony to the personal achievements of the recipient of this honor. It also shows that he is fortunate in having Baalei-batim [supporters] who appreciate his services to the community. Furthermore, and this is the most essential aspect, the occasion reflects recognition of the vital importance of Jewish education, the field in which Rabbi Hecht has particularly distinguished himself and made his greatest contribution.

All this gives me the confident expectation that the event will serve as a further stimulus to the cause of Chinuch [Jewish education], where there is of course still much more to be done. For, as long as there is a Jewish boy or girl who does not yet receive a Torah-true education, the obligation of the community cannot be considered fully done.

On the other hand, we live in a situation which is especially conducive to Chinuch. Parents are more keenly aware of the compelling need of Chinuch in the present days of confusion and misguided values. As for Jewish children and youth, they are always receptive to the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments]. This has again confirmed the truth of the Torah and of the Lubavitch approach, namely, that the Torah and Mitzvos are part of the Jewish essence, and that it is only necessary to help a Jew bring this essence to the fore and rediscover himself. And having been brought into the experience of Torah and Mitzvos, they are happy and grateful, and proceed to go from strength to strength on their own accord, and help others, in the manner of a chain reaction.

It is customary to make a reference to the Torah portion of the week, in which any event takes place. It is, therefore, significant that the weekly portion Lech-lecho begins with G-d's call to Abraham to leave his land and birthplace, etc., in order to begin a new life in the Promised Land.

Parents are more keenly aware of the compelling need of Jewish education in the present days of confusion and misguided values.

Symbolically speaking, this is also the call and challenge to every Jew, at all times and in all places. It is the eternal call to the Jew not to allow himself to be swept by the outside environment, nor to be swayed by inborn temptations, or acquired habits, or common daily routine. A Jew must rise above all this and follow the Divine call to go "To the land which I (G-d) will show you" - the Jewish way of life, which G-d prescribed for Abraham, the first Jew and for our Jewish people as a whole at Mt. Sinai. Moreover, G-d promises that this way of life, far from being impossible, as some mistakenly think, is within reach of every Jew and it is the source of blessing for himself and the society in which he lives, as G-d further promised, "And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you."

I send my prayerful wishes that the enthusiasm and dedication of all participants in this Banquet will inspire also others to a concerted and ever-growing effort on behalf of Torah-true education, both for the young as well as for the old who are still young in Jewish knowledge and experience. May G-d bless you with Hatzlocho [success] and true Nachas [pleasure] from your children, and fulfill your hearts' desires for good materially and spiritually.

All Together

BILHA comes from the word meaning "confusion." Bilha (Gen. 30:3-8) was the maid- servant of Rachel, wife of Jacob. Jacob married her at Rachel's urging and she gave birth to two of the 12 Tribes, Dan and Naftali.

BOAZ means "strength." Boaz (Ruth 2:1) was the second husband of Ruth. They were the grandparents of Yishai, father of King David. According to the Talmud, Boaz was the judge Ivtzan.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is 11 Cheshvan, the anniversary of the passing of Rachel Imeinu - the Matriarch Rachel. She was not buried in the cave of Machpelah with our other Matriarchs and Patriarchs, but was buried en route from her father Laban's house. Jacob chose this spot because he knew in the future that his descendants, the Children of Israel, would pass on their way into Babylonian Exile. Her grave in Bethlehem has always been a holy site, where Jews pray for their individual or communal needs.

When the Jews in fact went into exile, Rachel wept before G-d on behalf of her children who were crying by her grave. G-d replied to her, "Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your labor...and the children shall return to their boundary."

This is related to this week's Torah portion, in which G-d promises Abraham that the land he travelled through, the Land of Israel, will belong to his children, the Jewish people.

Throughout the generations we have had to struggle to claim the land that has always been ours, as we see in the Torah a Divine "transfer of ownership" of Israel to our ancestor, which is to be handed down to each and every one of his descendants. G-d comforts Rachel by telling her that we will be returned to the land that is rightfully ours.

We carry G-d's promise to Rachel with us today and pray that very soon, our mother Rachel will rejoice as we, her children, are "returned to our borders." At that time, when we will be living in the Holy Land in security and peace, we will be governed by Moshiach and will be experiencing the wonders and glory of the Third Holy Temple, may this be speedily in our times.

Thoughts that Count

The L-rd said to Abram, "Go out of your the land that I will show you-areka" (Gen. 12:1)

The command to "go out" of one's natural inclinations and become spiritually elevated is directed toward every person individually. No one is required to do more than he is able; at the same time, each person is expected to achieve all that he is capable of. G-d doesn't require Reb Zushe to be a Baal Shem Tov. He does, however, expect him to be a Reb Zushe.

(Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli)

On a spiritual level, the "land that I will show you" refers to the revelation of G-dliness that comes as a reward for Divine service. This service of "going out" consists of connecting the soul as it is invested in the physical body with its spiritual source above, which can actually "see" G-dliness. When the lower soul and its higher source are connected, the soul within the body benefits from this vision.

(Ohr Hatorah)

For their wealth was great, so that they could not dwell together (Gen. 13:6)

Not poverty but wealth, and the jealousy it engenders, is the cause of most of the dissension and conflict in the world.

(Likrat Shabbat)

Fear not Abram, for I am your shield (Gen. 15:1)

Our ancestor Abraham was the epitome of unlimited loving-kindness; in his eyes everyone was good and had merit. Unfortunately, however, looking at the world in such an undiscriminating fashion precludes the entire purpose of creation, i.e., the eradication and nullification of evil. For this reason G-d promised Abraham that He would put a "shield" on his loving-kindness, to make sure it would be applied with the proper discretion.

(Torah Ohr)

It Once Happened

One time, the Tzemach Tzedek's court was completely burned and they had to build a new building. When the cornerstone for the new house was laid, they set up a table and chair for the Rebbe and many Chasidim gathered for the occasion.

"What do you want to hear?" asked the Rebbe. "A Chasidic discourse or a story?"

The Chasidim thought a bit and then said, "We hear a Discourse often but rarely hear stories, so we choose a story." They knew the power of a Chasidic tale; all the more so, a story told by the Rebbe himself. The Rebbe began:

There was a Jew who was known by the name of Yaakov Ish Tam (Jacob, the sincere man). From his name, you can understand that this man was a G-d fearing person. He was a Chasid of Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin.

Yaakov would lease inns and fields from the governor. What did he do with all these inns and fields? He rented them out. Each inn was rented to someone else.

At the end of each year, the renters had to go to Yaakov's house and pay the rent. Yaakov himself would then pay the rent to the governor which was a lesser amount. The difference between what he got and what he gave the governor was his profit and this is how he made a living.

The year was over and one of Yaakov's tenants, whom we will call Yosef, was unable to pay the rent. It was a hard year and not enough people visited the inn. Yosef did not go to pay Yaakov.

What did Yaakov do? He sent him a letter. "If you don't pay what you owe, I will be forced to take the inn from you."

Yosef read the letter in tears and was very frightened. If he didn't have an inn, how would he support his family? Yosef was also a Chasid of Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin. He went to his Rebbe and told him what happened. "Please Rebbe," said Yosef tearfully, "speak to Yaakov and have him wait patiently another year. With G-d's help, next year G-d will provide and I will pay for two years."

The Rebbe nodded. He conveyed this request to Yaakov to wait another year. Yaakov, as a loyal Chasid, listened to the Rebbe.

A year went by and unfortunately, Yosef's situation had not improved. He did not even have money for one year, certainly not for two. Yaakov, who had waited patiently for two years, said to poor Yosef, "Please look for another place."

Yosef was terrified. What would become of his family? Must they starve? He went back to the Ruzhiner Rebbe and asked for his help. "Please ask Yaakov to wait another year," he pleaded.

Once again, the Rebbe asked Yaakov to be compassionate and wait another year. Yaakov, as a loyal Chasid, obeyed the Rebbe once again.

A third year went by and the situation remained the same. There was no money to pay for three years' rent. Yosef already knew what to do, go to the Rebbe. This time too, he asked for another year's grace and the following year he would pay for four years' rent.

Yaakov Ish Tam felt he couldn't go on like this. He did not withstand the test and sent Yosef away from the inn. Yosef begged for Yaakov to wait another year but Yaakov, who had waited patiently for three years, refused to wait any longer.

Not long afterward, Yaakov passed away. His soul went up to the heavenly court. The judges reviewed his life. "Yaakov is G-d-fearing and was particular about mitzva (commandment) observance and refrained from sinning," they said.

"However, there is one big problem. R' Yaakov did not listen to the Admor of Ruzhin. The Ruzhiner told him not to send poor Yosef away from the inn and R' Yaakov did not listen. Yosef remained without livelihood and therefore, R' Yaakov deserves to be punished."

Suddenly, someone appeared who spoke in R' Yaakov's defense. "Why are you sentencing him to Gehinnom? He listened to the Rebbe twice! For two entire years, he agreed to wait for payment. It was only the third time that he felt he could not wait any longer."

He said to the heavenly judges, "You are already up here for a long time and have forgotten what the world is like and how valuable money is to people. Without money you cannot buy food, it's hard to live. You don't understand what a difficult test it was for R' Yaakov. You need to bring this case before someone who is still in Olam Hazeh for him to decide what should be done."

At this point, the Tzemach Tzedek paused and said to his Chasidim, "I think R' Yaakov Ish Tam is innocent. What do you think?"

The Chasidim immediately realized that the Tzemach Tzedek was chosen to judge this case and to help R' Yaakov and they answered, "Innocent, innocent!"

From Beis Moshiach Magazine

Moshiach Matters

"Also that nation whom they serve will I judge, and afterward they will go out with great substance" (Gen. 15:14) Just as those Jews living during previous exiles in Egypt and Babylonia who put their faith in the nations and their kings for their salvation were proven wrong, so too will those who, in our present exile, think that we must rely on the nations of the world for our continued existence and redemption. When Moshiach comes and G-d judges all the nations, the Jews will see that their faith in them was misplaced. At that time we will also "go out with great substance," the greatest riches of them all - the ultimate Redemption.

(The Rebbe)

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