"Chof Beis Shevat"
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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
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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 Chof Beis Shevat. On Chof Beis (the 22nd day of) Shevat, Mon., February 8, we commemorate the 11th yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, wife of the Rebbe.
The Jewish year that has recently 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
15 Shevat, 5759
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah portion, Yitro, contains the narrative of one of the greatest historical occurrences of all time: the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. Yet this is not readily evident by the name of the portion, which is called by the name of Moses' father-in-law.
Every word, letter, and subtle grammatical nuance in the Torah teaches us volumes; how much more so, the names of the portions themselves. What then, is so significant about Yitro that the Torah portion containing the Ten Commandments is given his name?
Yitro, described in the Torah as "a priest of Midian," was not merely a highly respected official in his native land. Yitro was the high priest of idolatry, who had explored every type of idolatrous worship and philosophy in the world. The Zohar explains that the Torah could not be given to mankind until Yitro had rejected each and every false god, and had publicly accepted G-d's sovereignty. Yitro was the symbol of the power ancient man invested in gods of wood and stone. It was only when Yitro declared "Now I know that the L-rd is greater than all the gods," that truth prevailed, and the Torah could be given.
The most dramatic contrast occurs when darkness itself is transformed into light. In Hebrew this is called "the superiority (yitron) of light over darkness," a light which shines forth from a place it had previously been unable to reach. It is also interesting to note that Yitro's name is linguistically related to this as well.
Yitro's acceptance of G-d also reflects the reason why the Torah was given on Mount Sinai. Prior to that time, the Patriarchs were already following the Torah's commandments, and Jews had studied Torah while in Egypt. What was innovated at Mount Sinai was the power to infuse the physical world with holiness, to combine the spiritual and the material simultaneously. The G-dliness concealed within the physical world could now be uncovered and revealed, according to G-d's plan.
When Yitro not only rejected his false idols, but joined the Jewish people in their faith, it paved the way for future generations to transform darkness into light and to build a dwelling place for G-d in this world. A Jew's task is to sanctify his physical surroundings and imbue them with holiness.
Yitro therefore merited that an entire portion of the Torah bears his name, for he personified the mission of every Jew and the reason for the giving of the Torah.
To further understand the above concept, i.e., what was innovated at Mount Sinai, was the power to infuse the physical world with holiness, to combine the spiritual and the material simultaneously. We present the following talk of the Rebbe:
The Torah describes the revelation on Mount Sinai in this week's Torah portion, Yitro. G-d revealed Himself to the entire Jewish nation, giving the Children of Israel the Torah and its commandments.
However, the concept of Torah and mitzvot existed long before the Jews arrived at Mount Sinai. Our sages teach us that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs certainly learned Torah and performed mitzvot. What, then, was innovated by the Revelation on Sinai?
The Midrash explains this question by means of a parable: A king once decreed that Romans were not allowed to go down to Syria and Syrians were not permitted to ascend to Rome. After a while the decree was nullified, with the king announcing that he himself would initiate the change.
This is similar to how it was before the Giving of the Torah. "The heavens belong to G-d, and the earth He gave to mankind." There existed a separation between the heavens and the earth. At the Revelation, this decree was nullified, and a connection was formed between the heavens and the earth. G-d was the king who initiated the change, as we read, "and G-d descended on Mount Sinai."
The "heavens" symbolize spirituality and G-dliness. The "earth" symbolizes the physical and corporeal aspects of our lives. When we say that before the Torah was given on Mount Sinai there was a division between the heavens and earth, what is meant is that there was no possibility of connecting the physical and spiritual realms. There was an unbridgeable gap between the two. The greatness of the Revelation on Mount Sinai is that this gap was actually bridged, opening for us the opportunity to unite the physical world with G-d and G-dliness.
When we take the skin of a cow--a physical object--and write on this parchment a mezuzah or tefillin or a Torah scroll, we transform it into something holy. A union is formed between the spiritual holiness of the words of Torah and the physical parchment, to the extent that the parchment itself becomes holy through its association. Similarly, when a Jew eats food in honor of Shabbat, he elevates the food from its physical state and makes it holy. This is the power that was given to us at Mount Sinai, the power to bring G-dliness and holiness down into this physical world.
Before the Revelation, corporeality stood in contradiction to spirituality. A person who wanted to become close to G-d had to distance himself, to some extent, from the physical side of his nature. Physical actions could not be imbued with holiness. The Giving of the Torah granted us the ability to be connected and bound to G-d, while at the same time living a physical life. We can worship G-d through our eating and drinking, our work, even our everyday speech if we do these things properly. The physical needs not stand in the way of the spiritual. We have the power to actually transform corporeality into holiness.
This is our task here in this world--to enlighten our surroundings with the light of Torah, and to make a fitting "dwelling place" for G-d.
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.
The righteous women who left Egypt were so confident that G-d would perform miracles for the Jewish people that they took tambourines with them into the desert. So, too, with the final Redemption. The righteous women must, and certainly do trust so completely in the immediate Redemption, that they will begin immediately-in these last moments of exile-to play music and dance for the coming of the complete Redemption. (The Rebbe)
The number twenty-two, written in Hebrew letters, is chof-beis. These are the same letters making up the word bach that is found in the verse, "Through you (bach), Israel will be blessed." This verse indicates that "through you," blessing will be drawn down to each and every Jew, generating positive activities, which, in turn, will lead to further activities of blessing in a pattern that will continue endlessly.
Ultimately, these activities will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy "And G-d will wipe tears away from every face." "Tears" in Hebrew is numerically equivalent to 119. G-d's positive activity of wiping away tears represents an increase, causing the sum to reach 120, the complete sum of human life. Therefore, when Moses reached 120 years old, he stated, "Today, my days and my years are completed."
The above relates to every Jew, for every Jew possesses a spark of Moses within him. This spark of Moses generates positive activity, which, as explained above, initiates a pattern that continues to generate further positive activity forever.
The Hebrew word for "forever," olam, also means "world." Olam is related to the Hebrew word helem, meaning concealment. Our world is characterized by hiddenness, the concealment of G-dliness. This concealment allows for a soul--an actual part of G-d--to be concealed, that is, to depart from this world after its "days and years are completed"--after they have been endowed with fullness and completion through good deeds. In this context as well, the pattern mentioned above applies, as each good deed leads to more good deeds, in a never-ending sequence.
The above also shares a connection to the Torah reading of this Shabbat [Parshat Yitro], which describes the Giving of the Torah. Our Sages relate that after each of the Ten Commandments, "the souls of the Jews departed," a phenomenon parallel to death, and G-d revived them with the dew that He will use to resurrect the dead in the era of the Redemption.
Similarly, in the present context, four years ago today,(1) an "actual part of G-d," a Jewish soul, ascended from this world. Each year, on the day of the yahrtzeit, that soul ascends to a higher level, indeed, a level immeasurably higher than the peaks the soul had reached previously. This is reflected in the recitation of Kaddish(2) on that day. Its recitation again on the day of the yahrtzeit, after not being recited on a daily basis, indicates a new ascent.
May the soul reach the ultimate level of ascent, the level to be reached at the time of the Resurrection. And may this take place in the immediate future. For ours is the last generation of the exile and the first generation of the Redemption.
Together with all the Jews of the present generation who will proceed to the Holy Land amidst health and joy, they will be joined by "those who lie in the dust," the souls of the previous generations, who "will arise and sing."
In particular, this applies to a soul who has merited that many Jewish girls be named after her, and educated in the spirit in which she lived, which, in turn, came as a result of the education she was given by her father, the Previous Rebbe.
This will be hastened by the distribution of money to be given--with each person making an addition from his own funds--to tzedakah. This will speed the coming of the Redemption when "the Holy One, blessed be He, will make a dance for the righteous," a dance that will be joined by each member of the Jewish people, man, woman, and child. And they will point to G-d and say, "Behold this is the G-d in whom we put our trust."
And this will take place in the immediate future. "With our youth and our elders... with our sons and our daughters," we will proceed to the Holy Land "on the clouds of heaven." And "those that lie in the dust will arise and sing," with the righteous ones mentioned previously, at our head.
1. This was said on the fourth yahrtzeit of the Rebbetzin. This year marks the Rebbetzin's 11th yahrtzeit. Ed.
2. The Kaddish is recited each day for eleven months only in the year after the person's death. Ed.
When the famous Rabbi Akiva returned from the great yeshiva in Jerusalem to his humble home after 24 years of intense and unceasing Torah study, he brought with him his 24,000 students. When his wife Rachel approached him through the crowd, Rabbi Akiva announced "All that I have, and all that you have, we owe to her." These words of Rabbi Akiva are recorded in the Talmud (Ketubot 63a).
In another Talmudic Tractate (Yevamot 62b) it says that Rabbi Akiva's disciples saved the Torah at that time.
In a beautiful letter from the Rebbe to the Lubavitch Women's Organization for one of their annual conventions, the Rebbe explains that these two Talmudic teachings are interconnected. "This means that the entire edifice of the Oral Torah, the very basis of the existence of our Jewish people and its way of life, is ultimately to be credited to a Jewish woman," the Rebbe writes there.
On the 22nd of Shevat (Monday, February 8), we commemorate the 11th yahrtzeit of a most unique, righteous Jewish woman, the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson.
Upon the passing of her father, the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbetzin strongly encouraged the Rebbe to assume the mantle of leadership. This entailed tremendous self-sacrifice and unimaginable devotion on the part of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka.
Although we cannot fully understand just how much of a sacrifice it was on the part of the Rebbetzin, she certainly understood. For, during a U.S. court case concerning the ownership of the library of the Previous Rebbe, it was the Rebbetzin's decisive statement that "the library belongs to the Chassidim because my father belonged to the Chassidim"(3) which helped the Lubavitch movement win the case so that the stolen books were returned to "770."
Thus, when the Rebbetzin encouraged the Rebbe to accept the entreaties of the hundreds of thousands of Chassidim world-wide who were requesting that he become Rebbe, she knew that from that time forth the Rebbe would belong to the Chassidim and to world Jewry at large.
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Rebbetzin.
3. See Living With Moshiach, Vol. 153.
Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka led a life which was remarkable in many ways, not the least in its utter selflessness and extreme privacy.
She was born on 25 Adar II, 1901, the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok. Her remarkable abilities and keen intellect brought her father to entrust her with great responsibilities. In fact, she was actively involved in many of his activities to keep Judaism alive during the explosive years following the Russian Revolution and establishment of the Soviet state.
In 1927, when her father, the Previous Rebbe was arrested, it was Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka who made sure that all possibly incriminating documents were destroyed. Indeed, during his imprisonment, she was in the forefront of those seeking to commute the death sentence to one of exile, and then, finally to release.
A unique relationship existed between Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka and her father, and he wrote many deep, philosophical letters to her, in which he expounded his concepts of Chassidic thought and Divine service. Those who were privileged to know the Rebbetzin described her as a refined, erudite woman of very extensive knowledge and great intelligence and wit.
On the 14th of Kislev, 1929, Warsaw was at the peak of its glory, the "Jerusalem of Poland." On that day, Rebbes of numerous Chasidic dynasties, world-renowned rabbis and heads of yeshivas, illustrious Jews of many walks of life gathered to celebrate the wedding of the daughter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the son of the brilliant scholar and kabbalist, Harav Levi Yitzchok Schneerson. The marriage of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka to Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson opened a new chapter in her life. Twenty-five years later, the Rebbe described the union as a marriage which bound him to the Chassidim.
The early days of their marriage were ones of onerous hardship and great personal danger. First settling in Berlin, they were forced to flee to Paris after the Nazis came to power. They fled Paris in 1940 and through the strenuous efforts of the Previous Rebbe they succeeded in boarding the last ship to leave Europe. From the day they arrived in the United States, for the next 47 years, the Rebbetzin's life was dedicated to only one thing--the well-being of her husband and the success of his mission in life.
It was Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka who urged her husband to assume the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch after the passing of her illustrious father in 1950. From that moment on, the Rebbetzin embarked on perhaps the most difficult mission of her life, for she spent the next four decades supporting every action and move the Rebbe took on behalf of the Jewish people.
Although she was entirely absent from the public eye, she took an avid interest in the work of the many thousands of emissaries, keeping abreast of their activities. The Rebbetzin took deep personal satisfaction in their accomplishments, and commiserated in their hardships.
For the Rebbetzin, her husband's will became her own. She was his greatest Chassid. And yet, she had the wifely wisdom to look out for his health. Knowing that the Rebbe usually refused to see a doctor, she would make her own medical treatment contingent on his agreeing to a check-up. In order to assure her well-being, he would, of course, comply.
In her last years, when the Rebbetzin was ill, she suffered in silence, and to her last day, no complaint escaped her lips. Even to her husband she did not reveal all her suffering, in order to spare him distress. On the unanimous advice of several doctors the Rebbetzin was hospitalized. Soon after she arrived at the hospital she suddenly requested a glass of water. Shortly after midnight of Wednesday, the 22nd day of Shevat 1988, the pure neshama of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka left this world. The Rebbetzin's forebearers, Rebbetzin Rivka and Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah, her great-grandmother and grandmother, had asked for a glass of water minutes before their passing. It is recorded in many holy books that tzaddikim often ask for water before their passing. One explanation that is given is that their souls thereby leave this world after reciting the proper blessing before drinking water, "...and everything is created through His word" and the blessing afterward "...He who creates many souls." This same blessing will be said at the time of the resurrection of the dead in the Messianic Era.
In the merit of the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, may we follow the Rebbe's injunction to take her life's accomplishments to heart, and with our many deeds of goodness and kindness, may we see the coming of Moshiach now.
Though precious little is known of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the few statements of hers that are public,(4) convey her brilliance, wit and personal insight:
A young bride-to-be from a distinguished chasidic family could not be convinced by her grandfather to uphold a little-practiced custom, that was not the vogue, at her wedding. The grandfather asked the Rebbetzin to speak with the bride. When the young woman protested that none of her friends had acted in accordance with the custom and that she would be looked upon as being different, the Rebbetzin responded, "It's very modern to be different."
"It's very modern to be different." From safety pins in the ears to "earrings" in other parts of the anatomy, from astraining to personalized trainers, we strive, and to some extent succeed, to be modern, i.e., different.
But how many of us have the courage to be "modern" when it comes to Judaism?
The next time a book about a new spiritual path tops the best seller list, be modern and buy a book about the Jewish spirit.
The next time a friend asks you to sign up for a lecture series at the local university, be modern and sign up for a lecture series at the local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
The next time suggestions for restaurants are offered for that high-powered lunch, be modern and suggest a kosher restaurant (most major cities nowadays have at least one kosher restaurant).
And think of the Rebbetzin, who was so utterly modern that she cared not a bit about what "modern" conventions say. She remained the Rebbe's most ardent and devoted follower, so much so, that the Rebbetzin once stated, "His [the Rebbe's] will is my will."
"G-d alone knows the full extent of her greatness," the Rebbe said during the shiva for the Rebbetzin.
As the Rebbe stated in his first public discourse, all sevenths are precious ... we are the seventh generation ... the last generation of exile and the first generation of the Redemption.
In the Redemption, when the G-dly essence of everything will be revealed, we will surely appreciate the Rebbetzin's true greatness.
4. See above, footnote #3.
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 yahrtzeit should, as is Jewish custom, be connected with deeds undertaken in memory of the departed. The Hebrew expression for this intent, l'ilui nishmat, means "for the ascent of the soul." Our deeds help elevate the soul of the departed. Then, the higher levels that the soul reaches are drawn down and influence this world.... Also, it is proper that gifts be given to charity in multiples of 470, the numerical equivalent of the Rebbetzin's name."
The Rebbe, 22 Shevat, 5750/1990
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, Feb. 5, Erev Shabbat Parshat Yitro:
Light Shabbat Candles,(5) by 4:59 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6, Shabbat Parshat Yitro:
5. 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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