Kislev 9, 5749 * November 18, 1988
THE WEEKLY PUBLICATION FOR EVERY JEWISH PERSON
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
Published weekly by:
Lubavitch Youth Organization
1408 President Street.
Brooklyn, New York, 11213 USA
Rabbi Shmuel Butman - Director.
Mrs. Yehudis Cohen - Editor.
The Table of Contents contains links to the text. Click on an entry in the Table of Contents and you will move to the information selected.
Brrr, it's getting cold outside. Time to rearrange your closets, pull out your sweaters and make sure there are no buttons missing on your winter coat. Just thinking about the cold makes you want to find a nice, warm fireplace to park yourself in front of for the whole winter.
Cold and warm are not just terms that define the seasons or the weather. They are often words used to describe emotions and personalities, too. And, they have frequently been used to express the Jewish people's relationship with G-d, Judaism, and the Torah.
When the Jews were in the desert about to receive the Torah, they were likened to a fiery flame. One nation, the nation of Amalek, waged war against the Jews in the desert. Although it was an actual physical battle, it had great spiritual repercussions. For, of Amalek it is said, "he made you cool"--he cooled Israel from their fervor and enthusiasm for receiving the Torah.
Moses and Joshua led the nation in battle against Amalek. For a fledgling nation, this hardly seems the optimal way to try and overcome their differences. Wouldn't a peace treaty or some concessions have been better?
But Amalek hoped to do much more than physical damage to the Jews. He wanted to cool them off from Judaism, to lessen the warmth they felt toward the Torah. Therefore, any and all measures had to be employed to assure victory over Amalek.
If we feel ourselves getting cold, and not because of winter weather, we too, should utilize whatever methods are available to triumph over those feelings. When we feel someone or something making us cold or distant toward Judaism, we can't make concessions or peace treaties. Because once something like Amalek gets an inch, he's going to want a foot and then a mile. Cold might be all right for the Eskimos, but most of us prefer the Bahamas.
This week's portion, *Vayeitzei*, tells how Jacob left the peace and security of Beer Sheva, where he had lived a life of Torah-study and prayer, and set out on the journey to his deceitful uncle Laban in Charan. On the way to Haran, Jacob lay down to rest and arranged some rocks around his head to protect himself from wild beasts.
A question begs to be asked. If Jacob was afraid of being harmed by wild animals, why didn't he surround his entire body with stones? Yet, if on the other hand, he trusted in G-d to protect him, why did he even bother to circle his head?
The significance of Jacob's encircling his head may be found in a chasidic interpretation of the verse in Psalms, which states, "If you will eat of the labor of your hands, happy will you be, and it will be well with you. The emphasis in this verse is on the labor of your hands." Working for a living, whatever form the work may take, can be in one of two forms:
It can be the "labor of one's hands," when one works faithfully with his hands (or any other part of his body necessarily involved in the work), yet does not submerge one's entire personality in his occupation. His mind remains free, and even during business hours his thoughts often center around those matters that are close to his inner self.
Yet, the second way, "the labor of one's head," is when one's mind is totally preoccupied with business affairs. This person has no time for family, for friends, or even for himself; his whole being is completely absorbed in his business.
Jacob knew that he was leaving the spiritual environment of Beer Sheva, leaving a life of Torah-study and prayer, a life of holiness, and heading for a diametrically opposite way of life. He was destined to be Laban's shepherd, constantly occupied with his task day and night. As Jacob himself later said, "By day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from my eyes." Jacob therefore endeavored to protect his head--that is, not to lose himself entirely in his occupaion, but to kep his mind free to dwell on higher things, on the Torah-study and prayer that were so dear to him.
Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch enjoined his followers to occupy their minds with Torah thoughts whenever they walked in the street. One businessman asked the Rebbe in amazement how such a difficult thing was humanly possible. Replied the Rebbe, "If it is possible to think business thoughts during prayer...then it is possible to have thoughts of Torah and prayer in the street!"
From "A Thought for the Week,"--Detroit.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
ON THE IVORY COAST
Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Close your eyes and picture where it is on a map of the world. No luck? Don't worry, many other people would have a hard time, too.
But for two young Lubavitcher rabbinical students, who spent a week visiting the Jewish community there recently, the small country on the western coast of the African continent will remain vividly in their memories.
Rabbis Sholom Ber Harlig and Shlomo Bentolila visited each of the 100 Jewish families in the capital city of Abidjan. Their journey was supervised by Merkos L'inyonei Chinuch, the educational branch of the worldwide Chabad/Lubavitch Movement. Every year, "Merkos" sends hundreds of pairs of young men to the ends of the world to strengthen and educate Jews in these far-off places.
The community in Abidjan is primarily made up of Jews from Morocco, Tunis and Sudan. The rest of the Jews in Abidjan are Israelis whose companies in Israel have contracts to build highways and hotels in the Ivory Coast. Israel and the Ivory Coast maintain close diplomatic relations and have embassies in each other's countries. Most of the Israelis live together in the same apartment building. There is a communal room on the first floor which is used for various celebrations and parties.
It is in this communal room that the highlight of the special week-long visit took place. The young rabbis arranged a large gathering to celebrate the completion of the study of Moses Maimonides' *Mishna Torah*. One hundred and tenty-five people attended; it was the first time the Jewish community" had been united in this way. Rabbi Bentolila spoke in his native French to the assembled crowd and Rabbi Harlig addressed them in Hebrew. This was how most of their private meetings were conducted. Also, in attendance at the celebrations was Blonvia Kouakou Joseph, head of the presidential security forces.
The young men had met with Mr. Joseph earlier in the week with the help of one of the influential men in the Jewish community. After hearing about what Rabbis Harlig and Bentolila were doing in his country and, impressed by their sincerity, Joseph agreed to have a proclamation signed about the "Seven Noachide Laws." He also sent back a letter with them to the Lubavitcher Rebbe asking for a blessing for himself and the country.
In the Ivory Coast there is no rabbi, no *mohel* to perform circumcision, no *shochet* to slaughter kosher meat. There is not even an afternoon Hebrew school or Sunday school. When necessary, a rabbi or mohel is brought in from France or Israel. By the end of the week, though, a few families had agreed to try and make arrangements to keep kosher. It was understandably a huge undertaking. They discussed possible ways of obtaining kosher meat, such as having it sent from Israel. In addition, mezuzot were put up in nearly every home and most of the men put on *tefilin*. An extra pair of *tefilin* was even bought by someone just to "have on hand" in case someone wanted to use it.
The presence of the young rabbis was not just felt by the Jewish community. Oftentimes when the young men walked down the street, they were stopped by people asking them about their black hats, beards or Judaism in general. In fact, even before they arrived in Abidjan, they were answering curious questions. "What are those white strings hanging by your side," asked the person sitting next to Rabbi Harlig in the plane on the way over. They talked the entire trip.
Since the visit by Rabbis Harlig and Bentolila, other young men have traveled and will be traveling to the Ivory Coast under the auspices of Lubavitch. Their success, G-d willing, will match that of the first *chasidim* ever there.
CHABAD HOUSE RENOVATION
The Chabad House in Berkeley, California, right on Fraternity Row Piedmont Avenue, is undergoing renovations and "revitalization." They recently published their own Jewish Calendar, drawn and handwritten by local artist Avraham (Anthony) Dubovsky. The Chabad House, on the UC Berkeley campus, was one of the first Chabad Houses in the country.
TRIP TO ISRAEL $5
Chabad of Palm Springs advertised an unbelievable special--a round-trip ticket to Israel for only $5 per person. No, it wasn't a raffle. It was a special trip to the Holy Land, via video and a supper consisting or Israel's famous foods. The highly successful event took place on Saturday evening, October 22.
NEW HOME FOR CHABAD HOUSE
Chabad of Binghamton, serving the Jewish students at SUNY-Binghamton, is moving into its own facilities. The new Jewish Student Center will be a five minute walk from the Chabad of Binghamton, which was founded in 1985. Extensive construction and renovations at the new site will allow the new center to boast a chapel, library and lounge area, dining hall, office space, and classrooms.
Hot off the press from the Lubavitch Youth Organization is a catalogue featuring their fall and winter courses throughout the New York metropolitan area. Course levels range from beginners to the highly advanced. There is a wide variety of topics offered. For your catalogue contact Lubavitch Youth Organizaton at (718) 953-1000.
To find out when to celebrate your Jewish birthday, or the correct date to observe a *yahrtzeit*, anniversary, etc., call the Birthday Hotline at (718) 953-5000. A project of the Lubavitch Youth Organization.
The commandment of *Ahavat Yisrael*, love of one's fellow Jew, was considered by he sage Hillel, to be the essence of the entire Torah. "The rest," he told the prospective convert standing on one foot in the famous story,"is commentary." One facet of this vitally important mitzva is contained in the Biblical *verse v'ahavta l'rei'echa kamoccha*, "love your neighbor as yourself."
Even a cursory reading of the above verse makes it clear that the mitzva of *Ahavat Yisrael* is quite demanding. It requires that this love of another individual be *kamocha*, identical to the way one loves oneself.
It must be possible for us to attain such a degree of love; it would be unreasonable even for a person to build a machine, for example, and then demand from it more than it is capable. How much more ridiculous would it be for G-d, Who created us and certainly knows our capabilities, to insist that we do something being our capabilities. Yet how is it possible to feel for others just as we feel for ourselves?
The Torah explains that the Jewish people are not merely a conglomeration of separate individuals, but rather a body, a cohesive unit consisting of many parts. Should one individual mistreat the other, it is like one hand hitting the other. They are both parts of the same body, and regardless of what one does against the other, the deep connection between them remains.
The analogy goes deeper. All of the limbs are connected among themselves in various ways: the circulatory system, the nervous system, etc. What happens to one part of the body comes to affect other parts as well.
For this reason, an injection can be given in the arm in order to heal an infection in the foot. The same veins and arteries which are in the arm are also in the foot, and the medication is able to reach from one end to the other.
When one looks at an arm, then, one is not looking at one limb in isolation. This arm contains within it an element of the foot, the head, and so on.
Jewish souls have this same inclusive quality. Each individual is not an independent entity, separated from his fellow Jews. Any one soul is actually a complex conglomerate of all the other souls. Just as one limb contains within it all other limbs, so too every Jewish soul contains all other Jewish souls within it.
I THINK I SEE MYSELF
It is for this reason that even a righteous person, a *tzadik*, also recites the confessional prayer, including the statement "we have transgressed...we have done violence," etc. --even though he hasn't done any of these things.
The *tzadik* hasn't done these things personally, but he knows that his soul contains within it all the Jewish souls, including those of people who have done such acts.
Therefore, when looking at another Jew, you are not merely looking at an individual who is something of a relative--your distant cousin through the same grandfather, our patriarch Jacob. You are seeing a piece of yourself; the fragment of your soul which is intertwined within his.
We can therefore understand how it is possible to love another and feel for him as you do for yourself--he is yourself, because your soul is included within his. You can love him and act towards him kamocha, like yourself, because what you do for him is also done for the piece of your soul which is within him.
SHAUL means "borrowed" or "asked." Shaul, from the tribe of Benjamin, was the first king of Israel (I Samuel 9:2). He was described as "young and handsome...from his shoulders and upwards he was taller than any of the people."
SHEINA means "beautiful" in Yiddish. YAFFA is the Hebrew equivalent. The pet form of Sheina is Sheindel.
When our forefather, Yaacov left his home in Beer Sheva to travel to Haran, he was leaving his life of Torah study and going out into the cold, crude, hard world of thieves, crooks, idol worshippers and immoral people. He was going to a foreign land, his uncle's home, in order to find a wife.
The first thing Yaacov did was that he stopped to pray. And, in fact, he prayed at the exact place that would be the future Holy Temple. This is actually the first time we read in the Torah that Yaacov prayed. Didn't he pray before that? If so, why is this Yaacov's first recorded prayer?
Before Yaacov left, he was in yeshiva, comfortable and "safe" from outside influences. He prayed to G-d to have the strength to face the long, hard journey ahead, and continue to live his life in the holy manner which he was used to.
And in fact, when he left the wicked Laban's home, he was able to make the statement that he had been able to keep the mitzvos of the Torah, even while living in that difficult environment. We, too, should try to emulate Yaacov. When we leave our home every morning and go off into the cold, crude world, we should start our day with prayer. Surely, then, G-d will give us the strength to face the long, hard journey ahead .
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
Many years ago, during the time of the Baal Shem Tov (or Besht, for short), there lived an innkeeper in a small town who had not paid the rent on the inn for two years. The squire of Polotsk, owner of the inn, told the innkeeper, "If you do not pay the total debt by the end of the third ear, you and your sons will be imprisoned."
The innkeeper's wife suggested one day to "go to the Besht; he is known to be a holy man who works miracles." But the innkeeper would not heed this advice.
His wife gave him no peace. Every day she restated her position about going to see the Besht until, finally, her husband could stand it no longer. Reluctantly he agreed to travel to the holy man.
Upon his arrival at the Besht's court, the innkeeper described his desperate situation. The Besht's advice to the man was simple. "On Sunday, go to the market and buy the first piece of merchandise offered to you. Then return to me and I will tell you what to do with it."
The innkeeper, though still with little faith in the Besht, did as he was told, purchasing a sheepskin for one piece of gold. Immediately after completing his transaction, he regretted what he had done. He returned home disheartened and complained to his wife that, because of her nagging, he had wasted a precious gold coin for a mere sheepskin.
His wife berated him, "How long are you going to refuse to have faith in the Besht? Do as he said, and return to him at once with the sheepskin. And G-d should be with you."
The innkeeper returned to the Besht who told him, "You have done well, my son, in purchasing this sheepskin. In a few days the squire will be having a birthday party. All of the important officers and princes from the area will be there, presenting the squire with birthday gifts. You, too, will attend and give the squire this sheepskin."
The innkeeper could hardly contain himself. Certainly the Besht realized how ridiculous and dangerous his idea was. He rushed home and yelled at his wife. "You have caused the downfall of our family. The Baal Shem Tov told me to give this skin to the squire the same time that all of the princes and important people will be giving him jewels and gifts of untold worth."
His wife said at once, "It is not for us to understand how this skin will help, it is just for you to carry out the words of the Besht. You should strengthen your heart with faith in G-d."
The squire's birthday came, and the innkeeper's wife rushed him off to the birthday celebrations. At the entrance to the palace, the servant asked the innkeeper, "Jew, what are you doing here? Maybe you have a present for the squire?"
The innkeeper followed along shamefaced as the servant presented the gift to the squire.
"This impudent Jew meant to insult me," the squire thought. "But surely he wouldn't want to do that, because I can have him thrown into prison or even killed! Why did he give it to me?" The squire began examining the skin more closely.
As the squire inspected the skin, he noticed that there was a definite pattern and design in the fur itself. He saw the shapes of letters, which made up words, all telling the facts of the squire's date of birth, his name, father's name, etc.
"Why, this is a most magnificent and unusual skin," the squire exclaimed to everyone at the party. They immediately asked the innkeeper where he had gotten it.
The innkeeper told them the whole story, exactly as it happened, from beginning to end. The squire congratulated the innkeeper. "It is certain to be blessed that the holy man sent you here."
The guests all decided that the best thing to do with the skin would be to make a hat which the squire would wear every year on his birthday. The squire sent the innkeeper home with presents of gold and silver. And every year, on his birthday, the squire sent valuable gifts to the innkeeper.
"The voice is the voice of Jacob but the arms are the arms of Esau" (Genesis 27:22).
Rashi explains that Esau spoke in a very coarse manner, while Jacob's speech was pleasant. Thus, when Jacob was pretending to be Esau, Isaac noticed that the voice was Jacobs.
One wonders, if Jacob went to the trouble of wearing Esau's clothes to fed and smell like him, why didn't he also imitate Esau's speech so as to sound like him?
The way we speak reflects our innermost selves. To change one's manner of speech requires an essential change, and that Jacob was not able to do. (From the writings of the Musar movement.)
"And they called his name Esau--Eisav" (25:25).
They called him Eisav because at birth he was hairy and maturely formed. The Hebrew word for "formed" is from the same root as Eisav. (Rashi)
"And Esau said to Jacob: "Let me swallow now some of this very red stuff" (25:30).
Jacob cooked a stew of red lentils to provide the first, traditional meal for his mourning father, Isaac. On that very day, Abraham had died so that he wouldn't witness the wickedness of his grandson, Esau. Why lentils? They resemble a wheel whose every part touches the ground. Mourning is like a wheel, sooner or later it touches everyone. (Rashi)
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