Parshat Vayeira, 5759

Cheshvan 17, 5759
November 6, 1998

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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12


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Thank G-d that, with the current issue, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach, has begun its fifth year of publication.


At this time, we take the opportunity to thank our supporters, who have helped us publish this weekly publication.

May G-d bless them, with health, happiness and success in all of their endeavors.


On Shabbat Parshat Eikev, 5751 (August 3, 1991), the Rebbe spoke about the printing of Chassidus in braille, for the blind.

The full text of the Rebbe's sichah (talk) was reprinted as an "Introduction" to Vol. 1 of the Moshiach - Holiday Series (Chanukah 5753/1992), and in "Living With Moshiach" Vol. 137.


The Jewish year that has just begun is the year 5759 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Tav-Shin-Nun-Tes. 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 T'hei Shnas Niflaos Tovoh" meaning "It surely will be a good year of wondrous miracles."


Our sincere appreciation to L'Chaim weekly publication, published by the Lubavitch Youth Organization, for allowing us to use their material.

Also, many thanks to our copy editor, Reb Mordechai Staiman, for his tireless efforts.


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 Cheshvan, 5759
Brooklyn, New York

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Vayeira

This week's Torah portion, Vayeira, contains the account of the "binding of Isaac," Abraham's tenth and most difficult test. Commanded by G-d to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, Abraham responded with alacrity and devotion, but at the last minute was prevented from carrying out his task by a heavenly angel. "And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram...and he offered it up for a burnt-offering instead of his son."

Abraham intoned the following prayer at every stage of the service as he offered the animal: "May it be Your will that this action be considered as having been performed on my son." Abraham was not content to merely offer the ram instead of Isaac; he prayed for his actions to be considered by G-d as if he had actually sacrificed his son.

It was then that the angel called out to him again: "'By Myself have I sworn,' says G-d, 'because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will greatly bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven.'" Abraham's offering was so favorable to G-d that He swore in confirmation of the blessings He would bestow on Abraham and his children.

What was so special about the offering of the ram, and why did the angel call out only after it was sacrificed? And, why was it so important to Abraham for G-d to consider it as if Isaac had been offered, as originally commanded?

The explanation for this lies in the difference between a person's willingness to do something and the actual performance of the deed. A person willing to sacrifice his life for the sanctification of G-d's name is not on the same level as one who actually does so.

When Abraham was commanded by G-d to sacrifice his son he was willing to obey without any hesitation whatsoever. When it came to actually performing the deed, however, Abraham was prevented from doing so. Abraham could therefore be credited with only the willingness to carry out G-d's will, but not with the actual deed. It was for this reason that Abraham prayed so insistently for G-d to consider it as if Isaac himself had been sacrificed.

Because of Abraham's extraordinary devotion in this regard, he merited G-d's sworn affirmation of the blessings He would bestow. A blessing can be averted by a person's transgressions, but a sworn oath uttered by G-d can never be abrogated. This oath, in the merit of the "binding of Isaac," has stood the Jewish people in good stead throughout the generations, and will attain complete fruition when "your descendants shall inherit the gates of their enemies," with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, speedily in our day.


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.

Adapted from a Letter of the Rebbe

It is a Jewish custom to relate the events of the week to the weekly portion of the Torah, and thereby to derive true instruction from the Torah of Truth.

This week's Torah portion tells us of the birth and upbringing of the first Jewish boy, born of Jewish parents, namely Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, the first ancestors of our Jewish people.

The circumstances surrounding Isaac's birth were supernatural and miraculous. His bris (circumcision) took place when he was eight days old, and his upbringing was fraught with difficulties and trials.

Quite different was the case of Abraham's son Ishmael, whose birth was quite normal, and who was circumcised when he was thirteen years old, that is, at a mature age.

Yet it was Isaac whom G-d chose to be Abraham's true heir, from whom the Jewish people would descend.

Thus, the Torah teaches us that when new generations are to be born who are to ensure Jewish continuity and future, the approach must not be based on natural considerations and human calculations, for Jewish existence is not dependent upon natural forces, but upon G-d's direct intervention and providence.

Similarly, the education and upbringing of Jewish children is not to be determined by the same considerations and criteria as in the non-Jewish world.

Jewish parents do not wait until the child becomes mature enough to determine his behavior and find his own way to Judaism. He is given the strongest and fullest possible measure of Jewish training from infancy.

Only in this way is it possible to ensure the "everlasting covenant" with G-d, to come through all difficulties and trials with strength, and endowed with G-d's blessings, materially and spiritually.

* * *

. . . This significant event, taking place on the day after the reading of the weekly Torah portion of Vayeira, is indeed related to the concluding highlights of the portion, namely, the birth and upbringing of the first Jewish child, Isaac, born of the first Jewish parents, Abraham and Sarah.

The Torah tells us that Abraham made a "great feast" (when Isaac was two years old), at which the leading dignitaries of the era were present (Rashi, quoting the Midrash).

Some of those who attended thought the celebration unrealistic, seeing no future for a single Jewish child, surrounded by a hostile world.

Yet G-d promised that this child would be the father of a great and holy nation; a nation which, though overwhelmingly outnumbered, would not only outlive its enemies, but would be a leader and a guiding light to the rest of mankind.

A hint to the fulfillment of the Divine promise is to be found in the passage immediately following the above narrative, in which the Torah tells us of Sarah's heartfelt concern for Isaac's upbringing and proper environment even at that early age.

Thus, the Torah sets the pattern for Jewish education.

It teaches us that regardless of the odds, the future of the Jewish child, as of the Jewish people as a whole, is assured by Divine promise, provided the parents fulfill their responsibilities, even to the point of self-sacrifice, if necessary. Not the least, it teaches us that in matters of Torah and holiness, even "a small beginning flourishes exceedingly in the end."


About the coming of Moshiach, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch), said that it will be written up in the newspapers.

That is just an expression. The actual meaning is that every single Jew will be ready for the coming of Moshiach exactly as if it were written in the newspaper that Moshiach is already on the way!

("Torat Sholom" of the Rebbe Rashab)


Next Monday, the 20th of Cheshvan (Nov. 9), we will be commemorating the birthday of Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber (1860-1920), the fifth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, known as the Rebbe Rashab.

Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber was the founder, in 1897, of the first Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah, which was the forerunner of the international Lubavitch Yeshivah system which exists today and has educated tens of thousands of Jewish children and young adults around the world.

After the deposition of the czar in the early 1900s, the Rebbe Rashab was an honorary member of the council which was formed to help establish the new government's policy toward the Jews. In 1918, he traveled to Petersburg to participate in a council meeting. At one of the stops on the journey, he sent his attendant to buy a newspaper. Returning with the newspaper, the attendant read to the Rebbe Rashab: "The Communists have taken over, and the council has been abolished."

The Rebbe Rashab responded, "We must now establish yeshivot in every city. I do not see their [the Communists'] end, but ultimately, their end, too, will come..."

In the Soviet Union, as the Communist arm stretched forth with ever-increasing strength, the Lubavitcher yeshivot went underground. Today, there are thousands of people all over the world who were educated in those underground yeshivot. In the last ten years, since Glasnost, yeshivot have been established in nearly two dozen cities in the CIS.

Dozens of Tomchei Temimim Yeshivot continue to educate young Jews in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Israel, Italy, South Africa, Venezuela, and throughout the United States.

The Rebbe Rashab called the students in these yeshivot Chayalei Beis David--Soldiers of the House of [King] David. He explained that they would help fight the spiritual battles necessary to bring about the reinstatement of King David's heir--Moshiach.

Just as we now see how visionary were the Rebbe Rashab's words concerning the ultimate demise of communism, may we imminently see the culmination of the spiritual battles of Chayalei Beis David with the revelation of Moshiach.

* * *

A beautiful story is told about an important lesson that Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber taught his son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, who was later to become his successor.

Once, when Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok set out on a journey, the Rebbe Rashab asked him to try to do a certain favor for one of the chasidim, a businessman, who was in need of help.

When Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok returned he told his father: "I did everything you told me to do, and the favor to that man I did meticulously."

"You err," said the Rebbe Rashab. "You did a favor to yourself, not to him. G-d did a favor to him, by arranging for an emissary, such as yourself, through whom the will of Divine Providence could be realized."

The Rebbe Rashab was teaching us a lesson that permeates the whole of Judaism. When we do a mitzvah, especially one that ostensibly allows us to help another person, we are G-d's emissaries. And, more than helping the other person we are, in essence, helping ourselves.

Tzedakah (charity) is a prime example. When we give tzedakah it should be with the knowledge and understanding that G-d has bestowed upon us a privilege--the privilege to administer His money in a righteous manner. Certainly, this is the reason why our Sages teach, "More than charity does for the poor person, it does for the rich person."

This attitude can and should permeate all "favors" we do for others. In addition to being the correct attitude, it stops us from feeling self-righteous!


It's that time of year again. The candidates have finished shaking hands, kissing babies, even debating. The main focus now is getting out the vote. (In some states, such as New York, a "motor voter" option was even instituted to make it easier to register: Just sign up when you renew your driver's license!) So, with the election just days away, the importance of every single vote is being emphasized.

This accent on the importance of each individual's vote brings to mind a similar idea with regard to our actions as Jews.

Moses Maimonides, the 12th century philosopher, doctor, Jewish legalist par excellance, explains that every person must consider himself and the whole world as if it were perfectly balanced between good and evil. Through one good deed, one word or one thought, a person can swing himself and the whole world to the side of merit and bring redemption to himself and the whole world.

That's a pretty powerful concept. After all, one wonders, does my mitzvah really matter? So I put a penny or two in a tzedakah--charity --box every day. At the end of the year there will be maybe seven or ten dollars. That isn't going to clothe many orphans.

But those pennies do matter! Those two pennies that you put in the tzedakah box today just might tip the balance of the scale.

But one shouldn't err in thinking that we have to perform an actual physical act to tip the scale. By refraining from making a not-so-nice comment about a co-worker, we tip the scale. And even by stopping ourselves from dwelling on an inappropriate thought, we affect the world in a real, positive sense.

Each and every action we do causes a reaction. Long before the Law of Conservation of Matter was proposed, Judaism taught that nothing is ever lost. Every bit of energy we expend, whether thinking, speaking or doing, stays in this world.

Yes, each mitzvah we do does matter. A kind word, a smile, a penny in a pushkah, another Shabbat candle, etc., any of these actions might be the one that tips the scale and brings Redemption not only for the doer, but for the entire world.

Every mitzvah is a vote for a better world, the best world, the world of good and Moshiach.


Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat Candles

For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
or: http://www.havienu.org/www/vestibule/hebcal.html

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).

Times shown are for Metro NY - NJ

Friday, November 6, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayeira:

Saturday, November 7, Shabbat Parshat Vayeira:


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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