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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, the 90th issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
In this week's issue, our feature presentation focuses on Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, whose yahrtzeit is on Friday, 24 Tevet, Jan. 3.
On a personal note:
Shabbat, the 25th of Tevet, Jan. 4, is the 58th yahrtzeit of my grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Halevi Shagalov, who literally gave his life to spread Yiddishkeit in Russia. Therefore, in his memory, we also present a famous incident in his life.
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
15 Tevet, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
For the Jew, true vitality is derived not from his physical existence but from his spiritual life. Thus, when the Torah relates in this week's Torah portion, Shemot, that the Egyptians "embittered their lives with hard labor" we understand that this refers to the Jews' spiritual existence and not merely their physical condition.
How did strenuous physical labor affect the Jews' spirituality? "Harsh labor" is any exertion that has no aim or that brings no tangible advantage. Such labor has no boundaries; it is never finished and never attains its objective.
When a Jew conducts his business affairs according to the Torah's dictates, his efforts are measured and invested only in labors that are beneficial. He knows that a certain amount of time must be devoted to praying and learning Torah; not all of his energies go into the pursuit of a livelihood. "You shall eat the labor of your hands"--only his hands, not his head, are involved in his work. The Jew does only as much as is required; his heart and mind are reserved for higher pursuits. The lion's share of his energy is devoted to the service of G-d. When a Jew approaches his business affairs in this manner, G-d sends him his livelihood in abundance and blesses him with all that he needs.
However, when a person's attitude toward working is not in accordance with the Torah, all of his thoughts become caught up in his livelihood. All he can think of night and day is how to succeed and obtain greater profits. The person can never relax; he cannot sleep in peace. Business becomes his sole preoccupa-tion; he is always "at work." This is the meaning of "harsh labor": an effort that has no end and no clearly defined measure. In truth, he can never succeed with such an approach, for only G-d can grant us our livelihood.
G-d created the world in such a way that there is a time and a place for everything. There is a limit to what we are expected to do, and all of our efforts are rewarded commensurately. The Egyptians, however, enslaved the Jewish people "with harsh labor."
Only the G-dly soul is able to toil "without measure and without benefit." The soul is limitless. Because it is connected to G-d, its powers are likewise infinite. The service of the soul is above all constraints. It does not serve G-d in order to receive reward, but purely for the sake of heaven.
When the Egyptians forced the Jews to engage in "hard labor," they took these higher qualities of the soul and perverted them by applying them to the physical realm. The Jews' labor in Egypt was thus "without measure and without end." For this reason the Jewish people's lives were embittered--their true lives, that is, their spiritual existence.
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.
Friday, Chof Daled (the 24th day of) Tevet, Jan. 3, is the yahrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch and the founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy and the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty.
The Alter Rebbe opened a new path that allowed the teaching of the previously hidden aspects of the Torah--P'nimiyus HaTorah--to be grasped through the intellect and thus reveal additional G-dliness within the world.
But the Alter Rebbe was not only a master in the area of the more esoteric aspects of the Torah. Even as a child he was considered a great scholar of the revealed parts of the Torah--nigle d'Torah--as well.
This quality of the Alter Rebbe is alluded to in his name, Shneur, which can be broken up into two Hebrew words, "Shnei" and "ohr" which mean "two lights." The Alter Rebbe illuminated the world with his greatness in the two lights of the Torah.
In the Alter Rebbe's magnum opus, Tanya, he writes: "The Messianic Era...is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for which purpose it was originally created." This means that our spiritual service will reach its full completion only with the fulfillment and culmination of the entire creation that will take place when Moshiach is revealed.
The entire purpose, in fact, of the revelation of chasidic philosophy is to hasten and prepare the world for the Messianic Era.
Thus, when each one of us studies Chasidus, whether the more sublime aspects or the most esoteric concepts, we prepare ourselves and the world around us for Moshiach.
* * *
The Alter Rebbe's works incorporated the whole spectrum of Jewish thought. The philosophical system he created is a synthesis of the mystical and revealed aspects of Judaism. But the Alter Rebbe was not merely a cold, analytic scholar, as the following story reveals:
Once, Rabbi Dov Ber, the Alter Rebbe's son, was studying late at night, his infant son in a cradle nearby. Rabbi Dov Ber was so immersed in his studies that when the baby fell out of the cradle he did not hear the child cry. The Alter Rebbe was also studying in another part of the house. But he heard his grandson's cry and quickly went to pick him up.
"You must always hear the cry of a child," the Alter Rebbe rebuked his son.
This simple admonition is like the rallying cry of all of the Alter Rebbe's descendants and followers since then. The Alter Rebbe devoted his life to hearing the cry of every child--regardless of his chronological age. Indeed, within each one of us there is a child crying out to his Father in Heaven, waiting to be picked up and brought close. The Alter Rebbe's teachings, especially his main work, the Tanya, were written to help enable one to achieve that very closeness.
21 Tevet, 5720/1960
To all participants in the Annual Dinner of the
United Lubavitcher Yeshivos "Tomchei-T'mimim":
This year's Annual Dinner takes place on the auspicious day of the 24th of Tevet, the yahrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) and founder of Chabad Chasidus.
* * *
A Yahrtzeit is the annual remembrance of the last day of life on this earth for a Jewish neshama (soul), and of its return to its Creator. This day marks the summation of the whole span of life, the conclusion of the soul's mission on earth.
Like all remembrances in Jewish life to which the Torah calls attention, a yahrtzeit is not just a reminder that is to remain in the realm of memory.
It recalls and demands practical deeds in the spirit of the soul's mission of the person whose yahrtzeit is commemorated, and by means of such practical deeds in that spirit one becomes part and parcel of the creativity and eternity of that person.
According to the explanation of my venerated father-in-law and of his father, of saintly memory, the inner aspect of the soul's mission and of the life and work of the Alter Rebbe--as reflected also in his name, Shneur (shnei-ohr, meaning "two lights"), two lights united together in one word--was to fuse together the two Divine lights, the revealed light of the Torah (Nigleh she'b'Torah) and the hidden inner light of the Torah (Nistar she'b'Torah), in such a way that the innermost should permeate, irradiate and shine forth through the outer (revealed) light, resulting in a whole and complete Torah--Torah T'mima.
And, as explained in the Zohar, this is also the means whereby, in the same way, the innermost aspect of the soul is merged with its outer aspect--the revealed part of the Jewish soul with its inner nekudas haYahadus (Divine spark).
Such is also the inner purpose of the Yeshivos "Tomchei T'mimim" Lubavitch, namely, that the students should become t'mimim (whole and complete) in the spirit of Torah T'mima, as defined and expounded upon by the Alter Rebbe, whose yahrtzeit is commemorated today.
* * *
All those who adequately participate in the Annual Dinner of the United Yeshivos Tomchei T'mimim on this auspicious day of the 24th of Tevet, including those who were unable to participate in person but take an adequate share in the supporting and strengthening of the Lubavitcher Yeshivos, thereby contribute and become an integral part of the creative deeds and accomplishments of the one whose yahrtzeit is being commemorated.
May G-d grant that such participation be in a growing measure, with a steadily rising vitality and devotion.
And the zechut [merit] of the Baal-ha-Yahrtzeit, the Alter Rebbe, will surely stand you all in good stead, men and women, who take an active share in the support and expansion of the Yeshivos Tomchei T'mimim, which are conducted in his spirit and with his system, and will bring you Divine blessings in all your needs, both material and spiritual, which go hand in hand together.
The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." Hence, we present suggestions from the Rebbe's talks of what we can do to complete the Rebbe's work of bringing the Redemption.
The book Tanya, the basic work of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, is based on the Torah verse, "It [the full scope of Torah] is very close to you."
The yahrtzeit of the Tanya's author, the Alter Rebbe, on the 24th of Tevet, should inspire us to establish fixed programs of study that focus on this fundamental work of Chabad Chasidic philosophy. As it is divided into 54 chapters, corresponding to the 54 Torah portions, chasidim of old customarily studied one chapter each week. The Previous Rebbe divided the Tanya into daily portions and instituted its daily study, and the Rebbe has repeatedly encouraged this study.
One can study over the phone via pre-taped classes by calling (718) 953-6100 (except on Shabbat or yom tov), or attend a class at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
The daily portion of Tanya is also available electronically via the Internet by sending your subscription request to: email@example.com Subscribe "D-1."
The following is a true story related by a Russian Jewish woman who was present at the court case described below:
In 1924, the Russian masses, most of whom had been fervently religious before the Revolution of 1917, were in the process of being weaned away from their religion. But, there were many--even Communist party members--who remained faithful to their religions. Many Jews retained outward appearances to show that they were good Communists, but deep within them burned the eternal Jewish spark.
One such man created a sensation in Gomel. Soon after his wife gave birth to their first child, a son, he said that he was suing for divorce. The reason: his wife had the baby circumcised!
The Communists had a chance to display to Gomel's Jewish population how a young man was prepared to sacrifice family ties for his party. They immediately planned a public trial. The trial was well publicized and when the day arrived the galleries were filled to overflow.
The judge, who was himself Jewish, called the husband first. "Tell me, Comrade, are you a loyal party member?" he asked.
"I am indeed." And the husband described his important post in the governmental hierarchy.
"Until now, have you loved your wife? Have you been on good terms?" asked the judge.
The husband answered in the affirmative.
"What then, Comrade, has happened that you wish to divorce her?" the judge asked.
"Comrade Judge, my wife gave birth to a son. I looked forward to bringing him up as a true Communist. One day, I came home and to my utter consternation found that he had been circumcised! Was I supposed to stand guard all day, neglecting my important work for the advancement of communism? I hold her responsible!" the husband said emotionally.
"Let the wife step forward," the judge ordered. "Comrade, are you guilty of perpetrating this heinous crime?"
"Comrade Judge," she wept, "it isn't true. He won't listen to me. We live in a single, rented room in someone else's house. One day I had to go shopping for food and I left my baby sleeping in his crib. I made sure to lock the door before I left. It took me longer than I expected. Just imagine how frightened I was when I found the door of our room wide open! I looked around and saw that nothing had been touched. But suddenly, I realized that my baby was gone!
"There was no one else in the house, no one to ask, no sign of any theft. I ran out into the street like a madwoman when I suddenly saw my parents and my husband's parents. Imagine my relief when I noticed my mother carrying the baby. She tried to calm me; they had just taken the baby for a walk, she told me.
"I believed them. But when I brought him home and changed his diaper I had a fit. How could my parents do this to me?" she screamed.
"Terrible," the judge shook his head. "Unbelievable that in the modern Soviet Republic these religious practices still exist. Let the child's grandparents come forward."
All four grandparents stood together. Both grandfathers had gray beards and wore long black coats. The grandmothers' heads were covered with kerchiefs. One of the grandmothers, who knew a little more Russian than the others, spoke for them all.
"Honorable Comrade, I admit that I can't see what's wrong with our grandchild having a bris like all Jewish boys. But you should know that we didn't mean to do it. It just happened."
The public galleries reverberated with howls of laughter. The judge called for silence and asked sarcastically. "How, Babushka, does a circumcision just happen?"
"We took our little grandson out for some fresh air. We came to streets where we hardly ever go. Suddenly a young rabbi walked over to us, whom we never saw before and asked, 'Do you want your grandson to have a bris like every Jewish boy?' 'Of course,' we answered. So he quickly took out a knife and before we knew what was happening our grandson had a bris!"
The gales of laughter from the galleries couldn't be contained.
"Babushka, have you finished your ridiculous story?" asked the judge.
"I have told you all," said the grandmother. "But I want you to know that I am very happy."
"Happy?" roared the judge. "About what?"
"Happy that our dear little grandson had a bris. Just like you, your honor! Aren't you proud to be a Jew?"
Try as he might, the judge could do nothing to stop the titters and snickers. Eventually the courtroom was brought to order. The husband was called back to the witness stand.
"Tell me, Comrade, hero of communism, if not for this most unfortunate affair, is there any other reason you have for divorcing your wife?"
"No, Comrade Judge, none whatsoever."
"If I tell you that she is not guilty, will you consider returning to her?"
"Of course, Comrade," said the husband.
"Then, here is the decision. Your wife is innocent. It is entirely the fault of the grandparents who persist in observing these religious practices. They will be fined 50 rubles. This is the decision of the Soviet Court of Gomel."
As the spectators filed out of court, they couldn't help but admire the ingenious plan of the young party-member and his wife to have their son circumcised while still retaining his high-ranking job and party membership.
The bizarre story about the stranger was, of course, to protect the mohel's identity. But, it was no secret to anyone; everyone knew the one mohel left in the city, Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Halevi Shagalov, a young rabbi who had studied for ten years in the famous yeshiva in Lubavitch, and was one of the chasidim left in Russia by the Previous Rebbe to continue with Lubavitcher activities at great personal sacrifice.
In the early hours of the morning, on the 4th of Tishrei, 5698 (September 9, 1937), while still up and learning Chasidus, as was his nightly custom, Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Halevi Shagalov was arrested for spreading Yiddishkeit in Russia and shot to death (at the age of forty) in prison less than five months later, on the 25th of Tevet, 5698 (December 29, 1937).
In 1953, his wife Rebbetzin Shagalov, may she live and be well, settled in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. With the Al-mighty's blessings, she is enjoying the blessings of many descendants (including a number of great-great-grandchildren), all of them Lubavitcher chasidim, and many of them emissaries of the Rebbe on all five continents!
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, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
Friday, Jan. 3, Erev Shabbat Parshat Shemot:
Light Shabbat Candles,* by 4:22 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 4, Shabbat Parshat Shemot:
Blessing of the New Month, Shevat.**
Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:28 p.m.
*. 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.
**. Rosh Chodesh Shevat is on Thursday, January, 9.
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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