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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.
In this week's issue, we focus on the auspicious dates of Yud Daled and Yud Tes Kislev, the 14th and the 19th days of Kislev.
The Jewish year that has just begun is the year 5758 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Taf-Shin-Nun-Ches. Over a decade ago, in the year 5742, the Rebbe stated that the Hebrew letters for that year were an acronym for "This should be the year of the coming of Moshiach."
Since that time, the Rebbe has publicized a phrase describing the year according to the acronym of its Hebrew letters. This year has been designated by the Rebbe's followers as "Hoyo Tihei Shnas Niflaos Cheiruseinu" meaning "It surely will be a year of wondrous miracles liberating us (from the material and spiritual problems of our exile)."
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
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah portion is Vayishlach. The 19th of the month of Kislev, which occurs this coming week [on Thursday, Dec. 18], is the date on which Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, and the founder of Chabad Chasidus, was liberated from prison. Known among Chasidim as the Festival of Liberation, it always falls out in close proximity to the week when Vayishlach is read. As nothing happens by chance, we must conclude that the Festival of Liberation is alluded to in Vayishlach.
The main idea of the 19th of Kislev is spreading the wellsprings of Chasidus outward. These wellsprings, the innermost part of Torah, must not remain at their source, but must flow outward and inundate even the lowest parts of the earth. Furthermore, not only must the waters of Chasidus be carried everywhere, but the wellsprings themselves must be conveyed to every single Jew, no matter where he is.
The 19th of Kislev teaches us the necessity of bringing the life-giving waters of Torah, and particularly the inner part of Torah as expounded in Chasidus, to every Jew.
The name of this week's portion, Vayishlach, means "And he sent." A shliach, an emissary (from the same root as vayishlach), is a person who is dispatched in the sender's stead; moreover, "a person's emissary is just like him." In other words, when an emissary is sent to a certain place to carry out his mission, it is the same as if the sender himself has made the journey.
This concept of "spreading the wellsprings outward" is expressed in the word "vayishlach," the name of our Torah portion. The wellsprings must not stay at their source, but must be sent ever outward to reach as many people as possible.
The concept of Vayishlach exists in every age and in every generation. G-d "sends" the soul down from the celestial spheres to be enclothed within a corporeal body, to enable the person to serve G-d within the context of the physical world. This shlichus (mission) began with Adam and Chava (Eve), and is continued by their descendants.
The phenomenon of sending emissaries has existed throughout the generations. We find that many Torah giants sent shluchim to carry out various holy missions.
The concept of shlichus was further emphasized by the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidus and his spiritual "descendants," especially Rabbi Shneur Zalman and his successors; they, in turn, entrusted every Jew with the holy mission of "spreading the wellsprings outward."
In fact, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, declared that shlichus is the unique mitzvah of our generation. Every Jew must be a shliach to spread the wellsprings of Torah and Judaism wherever he or she goes. This is the unique role of our generation.
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.
Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach, the 14th of Kislev (Dec. 13), is the 69th wedding anniversary of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. Therefore we share excerpts from the diary of a yeshivah student of that time about this event:
"The good news that the marriage of the Previous Rebbe's daughter, Chaya Mushka, to the Rebbe would take place in Warsaw brought great joy to all. . . .
"The hall was silent as the Previous Rebbe began a discourse before the wedding ceremony: 'It is well known that at the time of a wedding, the souls of the ancestors of the couple from three generations back come to bless the couple. There are times, though, that ancestors from even earlier generations come. As an invitation to our holy Rebbes and ancestors, I will say a discourse that contains within it teachings from each of them.'. . .
"Following this introduction, the Previous Rebbe began a chasidic discourse. . . . Then they went to the chupah, which was in the yeshivah's courtyard. Over 5,000 people were in the courtyard.
"The wedding feast was in one of the largest halls in Warsaw and the Previous Rebbe walked among the tables and said 'l'chaim' to everyone. He delivered a talk to the yeshivah students and then afterwards danced with the administrators and teachers of the yeshivah. The Previous Rebbe then delivered another chasidic discourse that lasted until after midnight. Only then did all of the guests begin their meal.
"Far away, in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, the Rebbe's parents, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, were celebrating with the people of their city. They had been forbidden by the government to attend the wedding of their eldest son. The entire night the festivities continued in their home."
Once, on his anniversary, the Rebbe said, "This is the time that I became connected to you--the chasidim." May everyone soon experience the complete connection to the Rebbe with the commencement of the messianic era.
Next Thursday, Dec. 18, is Yud Tes Kislev, the Nineteenth of Kislev. This date marks a special day in the Chabad-Lubavitch calendar in particular, and the Jewish calendar in general. It is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, disciple and successor to the Baal Shem Tov.
The 19th of Kislev is also the day on which Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, and disciple of the Maggid, was released from his incarceration in czarist Russia. He was imprisoned on false charges of spreading anti-government sentiments.
On the simplest level, the event leading up to the Nineteenth of Kislev was the arrest of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. His arrest was instigated by those who opposed the chasidic movement and fabricated lies against Rabbi Shneur Zalman. His arrest threatened his life and the survival of Chasidism.
The spiritual reality of the Nineteenth of Kislev, however, was a charge, in the Heavenly court, against Rabbi Shneur Zalman, for expounding Chasidism and disclosing the mysteries of Torah.
Traditionally, the secrets of the Torah were studied only by a select few whose piety matched their scholarship. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the chasidic movement, began disseminating the hidden aspects of Torah to even the simplest, unlettered Jews. His successor, the Maggid of Mezritch, continued in this vein. Both of these great leaders were faced with strong opposition to their "innovation."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, a disciple of the Maggid, revealed the mysteries to an even greater extent than his predecessors, in order to reach every Jew. In Heaven, this brought about a tremendous accusation, which was reflected in the physical arrest and trial of Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
The liberation of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, then, indicates the spiritual approval of all the Rebbe's actions, on the physical and spiritual level.
We celebrate the Nineteenth of Kislev because it was the physical liberation of the Rebbe; his life was no longer endangered. But, more importantly, it is a day of celebration, for it shows Divine approval of Chasidism.
* * *
Why celebrate an event that took place nearly 200 years ago to an individual in far-away Russia?
According to Jewish teachings, the same spiritual forces functioning at the time of the original event--whether a birth, wedding, yahrtzeit, or victorious incident--reassert themselves at the time of the anniversary. Therefore, it is an opportune time to benefit from those powers.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was one of the chief proponents of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. His vindication, therefore, was the vindication of the entire fledgling movement. Through his release from prison, the teachings of chasidic philosophy--the inner and mystical aspect of Torah--could be freely taught.
The spiritual forces operative on the original Nineteenth of Kislev, and the Nineteenth of Kislev in each subsequent year, are intimately tied up with the dissemination and study of Chasidus.
May we all use this special time, and the unique spiritual forces it brings with it, for the advancement of the study of chasidic teachings, especially as elucidated by Rabbi Shneur Zalman and his successors.
* * *
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 19th of Kislev, the date on which the Tanya's author, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was released from his incarceration in czarist Russia, 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, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn 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."
Happy New Year!
Wait a minute. It's a little late for Rosh HaShanah.
Actually, on the 19th of Kislev (this year, next Thurs., Dec. 18), we do celebrate a "New Year," of sorts, the little-known Rosh HaShanah of Chasidus. On that day, 199 years ago, the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, who had been imprisoned on trumped-up charges, was released. To this day, chasidim greet each other with a "Happy New Year" and other appropriate salutations, on the 19th of Kislev.
But what, in fact, was so important about the first Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman--and his release--that we make such a big hubbub about it?
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was imprisoned because he was teaching and making available to all Jews Chasidus--the inner mysteries of the Torah.
Today, what with modern technology, "sharing" and honesty in relationships, movies about ghosts and extraterrestrial beings, there don't seem to be many mysteries left to unravel. But, when it comes to Torah, and in particular to Jewish education, one big mystery still remains. It's the mystery of how Jewish children in free countries continue to grow up with little or no Jewish education.
It would seem that, in the spirit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's life work, this "New Year" is the perfect time to be making resolutions about Jewish education. So, break out the bubbly, put on a hat, toot a few horns, and let's figure out how we can help that Jewish kid down the block learn something about being Jewish.
The Baal Shem Tov writes in a letter to his brother-in-law that on Rosh HaShanah of the year 5507/1746, his soul ascended to the heavenly realms where he was granted the privilege of entering the palace of the soul of Moshiach. He asked Moshiach, "Master, when are you coming?" Moshiach responded, "When your wellsprings [teachings] will be disseminated outward."
To this end, the Rebbe has always stressed the importance of studying chasidic philosophy and teaching it to others to hasten Moshiach's coming and to prepare ourselves for the messianic era.
What follows are excerpts of letters from the Rebbe about the importance of disseminating Chasidus.
The destiny of the teachings and the message of the Baal Shem Tov--that they should be disseminated to the furthest reaches of the world--must be fulfilled. Accordingly, no corner of the globe inhabited by Jews should remain untouched by this message.
And since we are now in the era in which we hear the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, who "is standing behind our wall," waiting only for the finishing touches to our refinement of this physical world, it is thus imperative that Chasidus be studied in Australia, too. This applies not only to the Russian-born chasidim who were sent there as emissaries; it should likewise permeate the local Jewish population. And since this is something that must happen, all the necessary resources will no doubt be forthcoming.
* * *
I was pleased to read of your decision to engage in the diffusion of the light of Chasidus, and so on. It is a pity, though, that you are deferring this for some time, when "behold, [Moshiach] is standing behind our wall," and is being delayed only because the wellsprings are not yet sufficiently widespread. Can anyone measure [the Jewish people's] anguish with every additional moment of exile, or [their] bliss in every additional moment of the Era of the Redemption?
* * *
It is my obligation (and my privilege) to make you aware of the great necessity of studying the inner dimensions of the Torah, which in these latter generations have been revealed within the teachings of Chasidus. And if this study is a necessity for every Jew, how much more is this true of a person who is in a position to influence others, and who is thus (in the words of the Mishnah) "himself meritorious and causes many others to attain merit." Moreover, from this affirmative statement one can infer [that the reverse is true when one does not take steps to be meritorious].
Especially in this period of the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, when "behold, he is standing behind our wall" and everyone should be prepared every day for his coming, every single individual must do his duty. For, as the King Moshiach himself stated, he will come "when the wellsprings will be widespread." Heaven forfend that the exile be prolonged, even for the shortest time, by reason of any inactivity in this task of dissemination, or even by incomplete activity. For this is an exile both of G-d and of the House of Israel, since "when they were exiled to Edom the Divine Presence accompanied them."
* * *
From the perspective of this world, today's world needs a more intense light and a greater diffusion of light, because of its lower standards (as the Sages write, "If the early generation were like angels, we are like mortals; if they were like mortals, we are like donkeys"), and because of the seriously depleted numbers of our Jewish brethren (as a result of the events of recent years).
From the heavenly perspective, year by year, in every era, a new and lofty spiritual light that has never yet radiated is drawn down to this world each year from a higher realm. This obliges us to provide additional "vessels" for this light. In this era in particular, we are coming ever closer to the time of which we have been promised, "In its time I will expedite it." This verse refers to the time of the coming and revelation of Moshiach. The "vessel" for this revelation is the light of Chasidus; the condition for this revelation is the dissemination of the wellsprings of Chasidus. It follows that this light must radiate even to places that until now were "outside" and that everywhere, vessels to contain the light of Moshiach should be expanded.
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.
"Gatherings should be held in every Jewish community, in honor of 19 Kislev--the "New Year of Chasidus" and anniversary of the liberation of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe.
"Participate in as many gatherings as you can. They needn't be huge assemblies; begin with yourself (i.e., a gathering of one's own strengths and powers for good).
"At these gatherings an emphasis should be placed on inspiring each other to increase in Torah, prayer and deeds of kindness."
(The Rebbe, 16 Kislev, 5752/1991)
For a Yud Tes Kislev gathering in your area, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
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, Dec. 12, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach:
Saturday, Dec. 13, Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach:
1. 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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