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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
This weeks issue focuses on Chof Menachem-Av, the 20th of Menachem-Av, this Saturday, Shabbat Parshat Eikev (August 23)--when we commemorate the 53rd yahrtzeit of the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson.
It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind
5 Menachem-Av, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
About the mitzvah of mezuzah, which is found in this week's Torah portion, Eikev, the Talmud relates that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi once sent a mezuzah as a gift to Artaban, king of Persia, explaining that the small scroll would protect him from harm.
At first glance, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi's gesture seems odd. The commandment to affix a mezuzah upon one's door posts was given only to the Jewish nation. A non-Jewish king, therefore, would not be fulfilling a religious precept by possessing a mezuzah. As such, he would also be ineligible for any reward resulting from the performance of a mitzvah. Why then did Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi promise the gentile king that the mezuzah would guard and protect him?
A similar question may also be asked about the common practice, dating back to the time of the Mishnah, of inserting a mezuzah scroll into one's walking stick, also done for the sake of the protection it afforded. A walking stick is certainly not included in the commandment of mezuzah. If there is no commandment, there is certainly no reward. How, then, did the mezuzah afford protection?
A distinction must be made between the reward a person receives for performing a mitzvah and the intrinsic attribute of the mitzvah itself. When a person obeys G-d's command by fulfilling a mitzvah, the reward he earns is a separate and distinct entity, additional to the essential nature of the mitzvah. For example, the Torah states that the reward for the mitzvah of mezuzah is long life: "That your days be increased and the days of your children."
Yet besides the reward promised by the Torah, each mitzvah has its own special attributes and characteristics that have nothing to do with reward, but are integral parts of the mitzvah itself. The mezuzah's attribute is protection. Our Sages explained that when a kosher mezuzah is affixed to the door post, G-d Himself watches over the occupants of the house, even when they are not at home. A mezuzah is written solely for the purpose of protection, and, by its nature, it protects.
With this in mind, it becomes clear that even when no fulfillment of a religious precept is involved, a mezuzah still possesses this attribute of protection, at least to some degree. It was for this reason that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi sent the mezuzah as a gift to the Persian king and that Jews took mezuzot with them wherever they went inside their walking sticks.
In a similar vein, speaking about and studying the laws of mezuzah afford similar protection. The Talmud relates that in the house of one Jewish king a special sign was made on those door posts that were exempt from having a mezuzah.
From this we learn the crucial importance of having kosher mezuzot. The Jewish people, likened to "one sheep among seventy wolves," are always in need of special defense. Every additional mezuzah affixed to a Jewish home extends G-d's Divine protection to the entire Jewish nation, for all Jews are ultimately responsible for one another.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"
The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.
Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.
This Saturday, Shabbat Parshat Eikev, the 20th of Menachem-Av (August 23), we commemorate the 53rd yahrtzeit of the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson, known affectionately as Reb Leivik.(1)
A Torah prodigy from his early youth, he was granted rabbinic ordination by some of the greatest rabbis of his time. A great scholar, teacher, and community leader, much has been written about his books, commentaries and letters, which he wrote under most unusual circumstances. Very little, however, has been written about his great personality, partly because few who knew him survived the Russian conditions and the war. Partly, too, because his is an enigmatic personality whose essence it is difficult to grasp, for there was a certain simplicity about him that belied his inner grandeur.
He was an outstanding scholar in Kabbalah, an area that is "closed" even to most accomplished scholars. His knowledge of Kabbalah was quite unusual in that it was not just a theoretical or esoteric scholarship, but had practical application. Not that Reb Leivik used it to perform miracles, although some earlier great kabbalists had demonstrated that that was possible. He used it to better understand various halachic and talmudic passages and coincidences that are usually not included in ordinary scholarly discussions. Reb Leivik was concerned with these minute "abandoned" phenomena in Torah. He knew the reasons and the explanations so well and so clearly that the reader of his works cannot help marveling as he learns the Torah secrets that are revealed on every page of our sanctified texts.
Reb Leivik was also able to explain various events that transpired in his life according to Kabbalah. When he was imprisoned in 1939, for teaching Judaism in Stalinist Russia, he was moved from prison to prison and from city to city. This is only one of the many rare aspects of this great tzaddik. A man who, suffering great thirst and hunger because of water and food scarcities, took the small ration of water and used it to wash and sanctify his hands, a man who, after standing in a breadline with other prisoners during a famine, came home and cried that he wasted so much time waiting for a tiny piece of chametz, instead of preparing for the impending festival of Passover--this was Reb Leivik.
Throughout his entire stay in prison, in fact, Reb Leivik's greatest anxiety was not food, clothing, or shelter but--paper and ink. His greatest need was to write, to reveal more and more secrets of Torah so that others might share and draw inspiration from the depths and beauty of the words of our sages. That urge to give of what was dearest to himself--his kabbalistic Torah insights--he expressed in the long talks that he delivered at every occasion. But in prison and in exile he was in isolation; this exacerbated his suffering and made his need to write down his thoughts even stronger.
When he was blessed with his Rebbetzin's arrival to share his exile--a long and excruciating episode recorded in detail in her diary--he was extremely happy with the holy books she was able to bring with her. Even before, though, he had quoted from them in his writings, citing exact chapter, page, etc. His joy at getting his beloved books was doubled, now, for besides being able to study them, he would use their margins to write his insights, which poured forth in tremendous volume. But he lacked ink, which was unavailable in the area. Thanks to his Rebbetzin's genius and devotion, some ink was manufactured from local herbs and plants.
Reb Leivik's unpretentiousness is also found in his writings, where he almost never uses the style common to most scholars. Reb Leivik made his comments directly, without any remarks or apologies, without elaborating on the difficulty inherent in the quoted passage. But what he said in his commentaries and in his letters is so profound and so brilliant that one can feel justifiably proud just understanding it. One must be a substantial scholar to merely comprehend even his simpler remarks, let alone to question or analyze them.
While Reb Leivik accepted the Divine will that allotted him suffering Soviet incarceration, he was not depressed or paralyzed spiritually. On the contrary, he flourished spiritually under the most adverse conditions. Reb Leivik concentrated on accomplishing the utmost in Torah learning and interpretation.
Chasidic philosophy teaches that from the nature of the reward for a mitzvah we may glimpse the meaning of its essence. This is perhaps true of people; from their reward we may perceive their greatness. Reb Leivik's reward is his son, the present Rebbe.
* * *
This Shabbat, when we commemorate the 53rd yahrtzeit of the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson--we read in the weekly Torah portion of Eikev, how the Torah describes the uniqueness of the tribe of Levi.
Maimonides explains that this uniqueness is not reserved only for those whose lineage is from that tribe, but includes, "each and every person...whose openness of his heart dictates to rise above the material concerns of this world and make 'G-d his portion and his inheritance,'" i.e., to dedicate himself to the study of the Torah and the performance of the mitzvot.
At a gathering, the Rebbe described how his father's life exemplified the desire to make G-d his portion and his inheritance:
"Although the Russian government at that time pressured rabbis to issue proclamations declaring their support of the government and their willingness to accept its authority, my father conducted himself as a rav did in previous generations [and did not succumb to the pressure].
"Furthermore, he did this with mesirut nefesh--self-sacrifice. In particular, this is reflected in his journey to the Russian capital to receive permission to bake matzos in a kosher manner. This journey was successful and they agreed to accept his rulings regarding the kashrut of these matzos. Although this caused financial loss to the government--and that was considered a very serious matter at that time--my father refused to authorize the use of any flour that was not supervised by his supervisors, supervisors who would not bend despite the pressure they were subjected to. The matzos that were baked under his supervision were then distributed throughout Russia.
"Although he knew of the possibility of severe punishment, he continued his efforts to spread Yiddishkeit, and, furthermore, did so while in exile itself. Moreover, he was recognized for his wisdom by non-Jews, and when they asked him for advice, he also endeavored to influence them to fulfill their seven(2) mitzvot, and to the extent possible at that time, he achieved this.... My father's desire was to spread Judaism in his own community and throughout the entire Jewish people and to do so with mesirut nefesh."
May we truly learn from Reb Levi Yitzchok's mesirut nefesh and incorporate it into our daily lives until the complete revelation of Moshiach.
1. He was the great-grandson of the third Rebbe, and was born on Nissan 18, 5638/1878. He served as Chief Rabbi of the city of Dnepropetrovsk (Yekatrinislav) in the difficult years of communistic anti-Jewish persecution. He was arrested in 1939, and then exiled to Asiatic Russia where he endured terrible suffering for his staunch, uncompromising stand on all matters of Jewish religious observance. He passed away Menachem-Av 20, 5704/1944, while still in exile.
2. The seven universal laws commanded to Noah and his descendants. These include the prohibitions against, adultery, murder, theft, eating the limb of a living animal, and saying G-d's name in vain; and the obligation to establish a system of justice, and belief in one G-d.
The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." We therefore present from the Rebbe's talks suggestions what we can do to complete his work of bringing the Redemption.
Facilitate an increase in Jewish education for children
A few years ago, near the end of the month of Av, the Rebbe explained:
"We are nearing the close of the month of Av, a month associated with the destruction of the Holy Temple. Removing the cause of the Holy Temple's destruction--'Jerusalem was destroyed solely because the Torah study of the children was nullified'--will cause the effect, the destruction and the exile, also to cease, and bring about the revelation of the Third Holy Temple. One should assure an increase in the area of the education of Jewish children."
You can start by enrolling your child in a Jewish day school or afternoon school program or giving a donation to an institution dedicated to Jewish education.
Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat Candles
For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
For a free candle lighting kit:
contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
Friday, August 22, Erev Shabbat Parshat Eikev:
Saturday, August 23, Shabbat Parshat Eikev:
3. The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.
Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind
Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing
"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.
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