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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 once again highlight Chanukah in a special feature presentation.
The Jewish year that has recently 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
22 Kislev, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah portion, Vayigash, contains the verse, "And [Jacob] sent Judah...before him to Goshen--l'horot--to make preparations." According to the foremost commentaries, Judah was sent to establish a yeshivah. (L'horot is from the same root as hora'a, which means "instruction.")
When G-d told Jacob to go to Egypt, Jacob first ensured the presence of yeshivot. G-d promised Jacob He would be with him in the Egyptian exile. Yet, only once the yeshivot were established did Jacob bring his family with him to Egypt, for Jewish education is the foundation and mainstay of Judaism.
In all times and places where Jews lived, even in the terribly harsh exile of Egypt, there were centers where Torah was studied, for Torah study is the life of the Jewish people.
The Egyptian exile was the most severe of all exiles, including the present one, for several reasons. However, regardless of all the difficulties, Jews were never without yeshivot.
The Torah is not a history text-book. Every subject and episode, every letter of the Torah, offers direction for all times and places.
Some people claim that this is not the time to be sending children to Jewish day schools; today, afternoon Hebrew schools or Sunday schools are sufficient.
The Egyptian exile and this week's Torah portion thus instruct us: Conditions in Egypt were far more difficult than those at present, but were disregarded and Torah was studied. They disregarded not only the severe physical conditions of the exile, they also dismissed the fact that, because the Torah had not yet been given collectively to all the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, they were not capable of reaching the tremendous heights to which we can aspire today.
All of the above applies, too, to the question of support for Jewish education. There are those who claim that financial conditions are worse than ever. When conditions improve, they will support Jewish education and maybe even have the self-sacrifice to send their own children to a yeshivah.
We must all remember, in Egypt the exile was far worse. There, our ancestors did not have even stubble for bricks and had to wander through a foreign land to search for it while Pharaoh's taskmasters stood over them, lashing out with their whips. They had no straw, but they had a proper Jewish education!
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.
As Chanukah draws to a close, we can once again reflect with joy on the historic issuing (in 5756/1996) of the first Chanukah stamp by the United States Postal Service.(*) No longer do Jews have to feel second class or bulk rate during the winter holiday season when all of America is festooned with the thinly disguised "secular" trappings of the holiday of the majority religion.
The revolution began with the public Chanukah menorahs championed by the Rebbe several decades ago, instilling pride in tens of thousands of Jewish people as they finally encountered some recognition of their faith and traditions strolling along Union Square in S. Francisco, Central Park in New York or on Main Street, USA. The modern-day custom spread to exotic locations like the Kremlin and the Eiffel Tower, with the same message proclaimed all over: After centuries of persecution in country after country, generation after generation, finally a Jew need not hide his identity, and even more so, he can proudly publicize his faith, practice his religion freely and even shout it out on the steps of City Hall.
This message of religious freedom and the right to hold one's head high is the true meaning of the public menorahs. Of course, some opposed the Rebbe's innovation, whether because they were not secure in their own Jewishness, at least in public, or because to join rather than fight would have meant an admission of defeat in their own fruitless campaign to purge American public life of the observance of the non-Jewish winter holiday. Once the courts had found a way to cast trees and wreathes as "secular," their battle was truly lost, and nitpicking over which displays were secular and which religious, led only to a few legal victories but to no real benefit in the psyche of the young Jewish child who walked down the street in December, feeling overwhelmed and ignored.
Then, in a masterful stroke of cynicism, the opponents of public menorahs became the guardians of religion, arguing that Lubavitch was secularizing Chanukah. They were caught in the legal fiction of denying the religious origins of Dec. 25, which Christian America had used to preserve the public displays of their holiday in the face of court challenges. What they failed to understand is that a menorah can at once be a religious symbol and conveyor of a secular message of history, culture, tradition and, above all, freedom.
The Rebbe's solution is first-class all the way. It is both visionary and practical. Let us use the holiday that celebrates our religious freedom from Syrian-Greek oppressors to exert our own freedom to celebrate as Jews in benevolent America and restore Jewish pride to its proper place. How warm a Jewish commuter feels coming to a toll booth and seeing it adorned with a menorah shouting out its message of welcome. Not only welcome to live freely, but welcome to practice one's faith freely in private and in public.
So, as we tuck away a few stamps with the Chanukah gift-wrap to be used next year (when the stamps will surely be obsolete, as all Jews will be reunited in the Holy Land with Moshiach and we will be posting our Chanukah greetings from there) let's adopt the motto of the U.S. Postal Service of years gone by: Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night...will deter us from practicing our Jewishness openly and proudly.
*. For more information about the Chanukah stamp by the United States Postal Service, go to:
Sat., Shabbat Parshat Vayigash, the 5th of Tevet (Jan. 3), is a day of celebration and rejoicing known as Didan Natzach--"Victory is Ours."
It is the day, 11 years ago (in 5747/1987), when Federal Court Judge Charles Sifton rendered his legal decision on the ownership of the enormous and valuable library of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. For three weeks during the previous winter, the judge had listened to testimony concerning whether the Previous Rebbe's library was a personal possession, subject to the laws of inheritances, or if it was the possession of Chabad.
Judge Sifton was tremendously influenced by the statement of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, of blessed memory, daughter of the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe's wife, that "My father belonged to the chassidim just as the books belong to the chassidim."
There was great rejoicing on the day of the verdict, lasting for seven days. Each evening the Rebbe spoke publicly and expounded on the spiritual ramifications of the victory.
In one of these talks, the Rebbe said: "At the time of his imprisonment and redemption, the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi) found a Divine lesson in everything that had occurred. One of his conclusions was the need to increase with renewed vigor and strength the dissemination of chassidic philosophy. The eternal Divine connection [of the Alter Rebbe's imprisonment and subsequent release] to this event is obvious. Thus, especially because the charge was brought against Agudas Chasidei Chabad as a living and vital organization, we must strengthen even more the dissemination of the teachings of our Rebbes, learning them privately and in groups amidst great joy and enthusiasm, joy that breaks all boundaries...."
May we witness the ultimate breaching of limitations with the end of the exile and the ultimate joy of being united as one in the true and complete Redemption.
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.
Buy Jewish Books!
Sat., Shabbat Parshat Vayigash, the 5th of Tevet (Jan. 3), is the anniversary of the return of stolen books of the Previous Rebbe to the Library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad as per the ruling of the U.S. Court. As part of the Previous Rebbe's library still remains in Russia, the Rebbe has urged that we purchase Jewish books to spiritually energize the process of the redemption of those books as well.
"Our efforts to show regard for Jewish holy texts will have an effect on the future of the Previous Rebbe's library. By purchasing comparable texts, such as the ethical and philosophical literature of Chabad Chasidus... we can hasten the return of that library to its rightful owners. Even little children should be given books as gifts, in the hope that what is not yet fully appreciated today will be studied before long."
(The eve of the 5th of Tevet, 5752)
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, Jan. 2, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayigash:
Saturday, Jan. 3, Shabbat Parshat Vayigash:
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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