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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 Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, whose yahrtzeit is on Thursday, 24 Tevet, Jan. 22.
On a personal note:
Friday, the 25th of Tevet, Jan. 23, is the 60th 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.
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
17 Tevet, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
One of the main reasons that the Exodus from Egypt occupies such a central role in Judaism (we mention it daily in our prayers) is that this original exodus symbolizes the daily spiritual exodus that must take place in the life of a Jew. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, comes from the root word meitzar, meaning limitations and obstacles. It is up to every individual to liberate himself from his own internal limitations and boundaries, thus freeing his G-dly soul to express itself and seek spiritual fulfillment.
This week's Torah portion, Va'eira, tells of the very beginning of the events that led up to the Jews' triumphant liberation from bondage. By studying the circumstances of the Egyptian exodus, we see how we can apply these lessons to our own personal and spiritual journey as well.
The first plague to afflict the Egyptians was blood; every drop of water in the land was affected. Therefore, the first step toward spiritual liberation must also somehow be connected with transforming water into blood.
Water symbolizes tranquility, coldness, and lack of emotional excitement. Blood, on the other hand, is a symbol of warmth, enthusiasm and fervor. The Torah asks every Jew: Do you truly want to leave "Egypt," to overcome your self-imposed limitations? The first thing you must do is turn your water into blood. Transform your apathy and inertia into enthusiasm and love of Torah and mitzvot. Infuse your life with a warmth and fervor directed toward G-d and holiness.
A person may claim, "Is it not enough that I simply perform the mitzvot, learn Torah, and avoid that which is forbidden? Am I not a good Jew even if I don't feel any enthusiasm for what I do?"
Chasidic philosophy explains that coldness and apathy are the source of all evil. When one is cool toward something, it means that he is totally uninterested in it. We see that when something truly close to the heart is mentioned, our pulse quickens and we warm to the subject. Coldness signals the mechanical performance of the commandments and leads to eventual spiritual deterioration.
The first action to be taken toward spiritual liberation is to replace our lukewarm dedication to Judaism with warmth and enthusiasm. We should be at least as equally enthused about Judaism as we are about other facets of our lives.
One of the practical ways this expresses itself is when we perform a mitzvah in a particularly nice way. The desire to enhance our observance leads to our observing the precepts of Judaism out of love. This, then, is the first step towards going out of our own personal Egypt and ending our collective exile.
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.
Thursday, Chof Daled (the 24th day of) Tevet, Jan. 22, 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.
Thursday, 24 Tevet, Jan. 22, is the yahrtzeit of the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. We would like to share with you just a few of the hundreds of references to and explanations about Moshiach, the exile and redemption, that Rabbi Shneur Zalman made in his numerous scholarly works.
"In the days of the Holy Temple, the Children of Israel were by their very nature drawn by a genuine yearning towards the service of G-d; for them the demands of this world were a matter of necessity, to be dispensed with off-handedly, and without ardor. In the time of exile the opposite is true: A man is drawn by nature to his bodily needs and to this-worldly matters, while his divine service and his love of G-d are earned at the expense of considerable toil."
"The time of exile has been likened to a dream. For so it is written, "When G-d will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers." A dream can fuse two opposites. In the present time of exile likewise, a person can be a paradox. While he is at prayer he is aroused to a love of G-d; when his prayers are over, this love has vanished: he is preoccupied all day with his business affairs, and gives priority to his bodily needs."
"Fulfilling mitzvot during the time of exile is like sowing seeds. A seed planted in the ground sprouts into a harvest that far exceeds its beginnings. So, too, by fulfilling mitzvot, one "sows" and increases the lights Above, in the Supernal "Land," and the harvest will "sprout" in future time. Moreover, the longer a seed remains in the ground, the richer will be the yield. So, too, the longer this exile is extended, the more intense will be the revelation in time to come."
"It is well known that the Messianic Era, and especially the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for which purpose it was originally created.... This culminating fulfillment of the Messianic Era and of the Resurrection of the Dead, depends on our actions and service throughout the duration of the exile."
In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia, and the route of the invasion led through White Russia. The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, leader of the chassidic movement in White Russia, who had twice been accused of high treason, turned out to be a most loyal patriot. Although the French conqueror was hailed in some religious Jewish quarters as the harbinger of a new era of political and economic freedom, the Alter Rebbe saw in Napoleon a threat to basic religious principles and spiritual values.
The Alter Rebbe had nothing but contempt for the man whose arrogance and lust for power knew no bounds, and who represented to the Chabad leader the antithesis of humility and holiness. The Alter Rebbe urged his numerous followers to help the Russian war effort against the invaders in every possible way. With the aid of his followers behind the enemy lines, some of whom were employed by the French Military Command, the Alter Rebbe was also able to render valuable intelligence service to the Russian generals at the front.
When the French armies approached Liadi, the Russian generals advised the Alter Rebbe to flee. In August (1812) the Alter Rebbe hastily left Liadi, leaving everything behind, and fled with his family towards Smolensk. For some five months the Alter Rebbe and his family suffered the hardships and perils of the road and of an unusually inclement winter, until they reached a village in the district of Kursk. Here the Alter Rebbe succumbed to a severe illness in the final stages of the harrowing journey, and passed away at the age of 68.
Traditions and records preserved in the family of the Alter Rebbe provide interesting details in connection with the Alter Rebbe's last and fateful journey. From an account by Rabbi Nachum, grandson of the Alter Rebbe, relating his personal experiences, we learn the following details:
It was on Friday, the 29th of Av, that the Alter Rebbe fled from Liadi on the advice of the generals commanding the Russian armies in that area. Sixty wagons were put at his disposal, but they were not enough, and many had to walk on foot. A number of armed troops were assigned to accompany and protect the caravan. In view of the rapid advance of the French army, the generals suggested that the best route for the flight of the Alter Rebbe would be through the town of Bayev. But the Alter Rebbe decided to head for Krasna, urging the caravan to make the utmost haste, in order to cross the river Dnieper at the earliest possible time.
After covering a distance of about two miles, the Alter Rebbe suddenly requested the accompanying troops to let him go back to Liadi. Arriving at his deserted house, he ordered his men to search the house carefully to make sure that nothing whatever, however trivial, had been overlooked. The only things found were a pair of worn-out slippers, a rolling pin and a sieve, which had been left in the attic. He ordered these to be taken along, and to set the house on fire before the enemy arrived. Then he blessed those of the townspeople who remained in the town, and speedily departed again.
No sooner had he left the town on the road leading to the Dnieper than the avant-coureur of Napoleon's army reached the town from the opposite end. Presently, Napoleon himself with his entourage entered the town on their galloping steeds. Napoleon inquired after the house of the Alter Rebbe, but when he reached it, he found it ablaze, the fire burning beyond control. Napoleon wished to have something that belonged to the Alter Rebbe and offered a rich reward to anyone who could bring him anything.(1) But nothing was there.
During all his long and arduous journey the Alter Rebbe kept in touch with the situation of Russian Jewry caught in the gigantic Franco-Russian war. At that time the invading armies plundered everything they could lay their hands on. Starvation and ruination were the order of the day, and the Alter Rebbe's heart went out to his suffering brethren, who were the most hard-hit victims of the invasion.
The Alter Rebbe had foreseen Napoleon's invasion of Moscow as well as his defeat there. He also predicted that Napoleon's final defeat would be at the hands of his own compatriots. At the same time he knew that the retreating French armies, starving and desperate, would plunder the Jewish communities that lay in their path. Arriving in Piena, the Alter Rebbe embarked upon a relief campaign to aid the Jewish victims of the war, including resettlement plans, fund raising, and relief distribution. For ten days after his arrival in Piena the Alter Rebbe worked feverishly on his plans and projects to alleviate the plight of his brethren. Then, he fell ill, his condition worsening day to day. At the conclusion of Shabbat Parshat Shemot, after reciting the Maariv (evening prayer) and Havdalah, he composed a letter full of mystical allusions, and a few minutes later he returned his soul to his Maker.
1. It seems that Napoleon practiced some sort of sorcery for which such an object was required. Ed.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
Friday, Jan. 23, Erev Shabbat Parshat Va'eira:
Saturday, Jan. 24, Shabbat Parshat Va'eira:
2. 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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