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Parshat Shemot, 5760

Tevet 22, 5760
Dec. 31, 1999

Shabbat Y2K


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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12


Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
The Daily Sicha (in Real Audio) - Listen to selected excerpts of the Rebbe's Sichos
[talks] which are relevant to the particular day.


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 Rambam, whose yahrtzeit is on Wednesday, the 20th of Tevet, Dec. 29.

Also, we focus once again on Y2K, from a Torah perspective.


The Jewish year that has recently begun is the year 5760 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Tav-Shin-Samech. 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 acrostic of its Hebrew letters. This year has been designated by the Rebbe's followers as "Hoyo T'hei Shnas Segulah," meaning "It will surely be an auspicious year."


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

18 Tevet, 5760
Brooklyn, New York

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Shemot

One of Pharaoh's harshest decrees against the Jews in Egypt was his order to throw every newborn male child into the Nile, as related in this week's Torah portion, Shemot. The Passover Haggadah, read each year during the seder, adds the following insight: " 'And our burden'--this recalls the drowning of the male children, as it is said, 'Every son that is born you shall cast into the river, but every daughter you shall keep alive.' "

Our Sages explain that the word burden is equated with the raising and educating of children, implying the preeminent responsibility resting on the shoulders of Jewish parents. Our Sages understood that great effort must be expended in order to rear Jewish children properly. Both parents and teachers must share involvement in this holy task, investing much time and energy to ensure a younger generation that will develop properly and continue the Jewish way of life.

And yet, together with the recognition that raising Jewish children is hard work, the Torah promises that the rewards we reap will be well worth the effort. In fact, the more self-sacrifice a parent has on behalf of his children's Jewish education, the more he is assured that his children will be strong in their Judaism and untouched by Pharaoh's evil decree, whether thousands of years ago or today. It was precisely those Jewish children born under the threat of extinction in Egypt who were the first to recognize G-d at the splitting of the Red Sea, declaring, "This is my G-d and I will extol him."

Why should raising Jewish children require so much effort? Because our children are the foundation upon which the entire Jewish nation rests. "From the mouths of babes and sucklings You have founded strength." This secret has long been known to our enemies, who, from time immemorial, have sought to eradicate Jewish schools. It was for this very reason that in communist Russia the authorities tried especially hard to suppress Torah learning in schools attended by the youngest of Jewish children. "They have plenty of time to learn Torah when they grow up," the communists claimed, knowing full well that the Jewish child's formative years spent in a Torah-true atmosphere posed the greatest threat to the atheistic regime.

In the Talmud, a man by the name of Yehoshua ben Gamla is remembered for all time because of his educational innovation--the institution of publicly funded Torah classes for children, commencing at the age of five or six, in all cities and lands where Jews dwelled. Thousands of years later his name is still revered because of this accomplishment.

Jewish parents must therefore do all in their power--physically, spiritually and monetarily--to ensure that their children are enrolled in schools where they will be instilled with our timeless Jewish values. For the education of our children is indeed our "burden"; at times, personal sacrifice may be required.

In the merit of this, we will raise a generation of Jews who will again be the first to recognize G-d, in the complete and Final Redemption with the coming of Moshiach, 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.


"From Moses to Moses there arose none like Moses." The first Moses to which this quote refers was the great prophet and Jewish leader, Moses. The second was Moses Maimonides, otherwise known as the Rambam, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon. Born on the day before Passover, 1135, in Cordova, Spain, the Rambam passed away on the 20th of Tevet, 1204 (this year, Wednesday, Dec. 29).

Maimonides was known in the Jewish world as a great talmudist and scholar. He served as chief rabbi of Egypt, the land to which he moved in his early thirties. He authored numerous books and treatises, including The Guide for the Perplexed, a commentary on the Mishnah, and the Sefer HaMitzvot (Book of Mitzvot).

15 years ago, the Rebbe urged all Jews to study every day a section of the Rambam's magnum opus, Mishneh Torah (a code of Jewish law), or at least the briefer Sefer HaMitzvot. Today, the Mishneh Torah, or the briefer Sefer HaMitzvot, is studied daily by hundreds of thousands of Jews--men, women and children--around the world.

The Rambam's fame and influence transcended the Jewish world. He was also internationally acclaimed as a philosopher and physician. In fact, he served as royal physician to the court of Saladin. He authored over fifteen works on the theory and practice of medicine, including one on asthma and another about poisons.

When the Rambam passed away, he was mourned by Jews and Moslems alike in Egypt, and Jews throughout the entire world. He was buried in the holy city of Tiberias in the northern part of Israel. By studying his works we can be united with his spirit.

* * *

A few years ago, the Rebbe discussed the following concepts:

"The name Rambam is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, "I will multiply My wonders in the land of Egypt," an allusion to the wonders associated with Redemption. Similarly, the Rambam's spiritual service involved giving Jews in Egypt--in the night of exile--a foretaste of the Redemption.

"Firstly, he lived in Egypt and it was there that he composed his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah (a code of Jewish law). As he explained in his 'Introduction,' the Mishneh Torah was composed because of the difficulties of exile, as the Jews were unable to derive halachic rulings from the Talmud and needed an auxiliary source. Nevertheless, the text that the Rambam composed gave the Jews a foretaste of the Redemption--reflected in the fact that it includes laws that will only be relevant in the Era of the Redemption when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt and in the conclusion of the text that focuses directly on the Era of the Redemption.

"Since, on the yahrtzeit of a tzaddik, 'the totality of his deeds, teachings, and service is revealed and... "brings about salvation in the depths of the earth,'" it follows that the Rambam's yahrtzeit grants us further potential to anticipate the Redemption.

"The above is particularly relevant in the present age when the Jewish people have completed the service required of them in exile. Everything is ready for the Redemption. All that is lacking is for G-d to open the eyes of the Jews and allow them to realize that they are sitting at the feast of the Redemption."

The Rebbe concluded: "There is no need for any further delay, and without any interruption we shall soon proceed from the present era to the era of the Redemption. The very next moment can be the last moment of the exile and the first moment of that era. As a catalyst for this, we must reflect an attitude of Redemption in our lives, showing how even within the exile, we can experience Redemption."


The Rambam is probably best remembered for his encyclopedic codification of all 613 commandments of the Torah in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah.

In the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam enumerates and details all of the 613 laws of the Torah. He places the laws relating to the Jewish king, and Moshiach, at the very end of his work. In the introduction to these laws he states that the Jews were commanded to fulfill three mitzvot upon conquering and entering the land of Israel: To appoint a king; to kill the descendants of Amalek; and to build G-d's Chosen House, the Beis HaMikdosh, in Jerusalem.

It would seem that these mitzvot should have been mentioned much earlier in his work if they were, in fact, so important! However, the Rambam chose to organize the Mishneh Torah in this fashion to emphasize that the true and complete performance of all the mitzvot of the Torah will be attained only when a king rules over Israel. The Rambam then defines Moshiach as a king, who will not only redeem the Jews from exile, but also restore the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot to their complete state.

For many, this would seem a rather novel approach. Yet, the Talmud states that "the world was created solely for Moshiach." This being the case, we certainly must do everything in our power to prepare ourselves for Moshiach's imminent arrival.

What is within the power and reach of each individual, great and small? Good deeds, charity, studying concepts and laws associated with Moshiach and the Final Redemption, fostering peace between family, friends and co-workers, and actively waiting for and anticipating his arrival each and every day.


The following story is told about how it was "decided" where the Rambam's final resting place should be:

People from all over gathered in Egypt to attend the funeral of the great Rambam. When the procession was over, a discussion erupted as to where to bury him. The Rambam had only requested to be buried in the Holy Land. No mention was made as to which city should be his final resting place.

Representatives of different cities in the Holy Land came forward, each one arguing that the Rambam should be buried in their city. Because no solution to the problem at hand was in sight, everyone agreed to begin taking the coffin toward Israel, hoping that along the way they might come upon a solution for this problem. The coffin was perched atop a sturdy camel and, with hundreds joining the caravan, made its way toward the Holy Land.

One of the most difficult and dangerous parts of desert travel was the constant fear of being overtaken by one of the many bands of highway robbers who attacked travelers.

As it began to get dark, the pace of the caravan quickened. Everyone hoped that they would find a relatively safe place to camp for the evening. Their fears were well founded though, for within a short while, the sound of hoof beats were heard, coming closer and closer. "We're being attacked," cried out the leader of the caravan. Many of the people panicked and scattered in different directions. A few remained with the coffin to guard it. But, they, too, were frightened away as the gang of vicious bandits came charging toward them.

The bandits approached the camel with the coffin. They assumed that the box contained a huge treasure since so many people were guarding it. As much as they tried, though, the box could not be taken off the camel.

"Grab the camel's reins," shouted the leader of the bandits. "We'll take it with us." Their efforts met with no success, and they could not get the huge animal to budge.

"Open the box," commanded the leader.

One of the gangsters swaggered over to the box and began to pry off the lid. "There's a body in this box," he shrieked, as he ran away. The other bandits, too, became frightened at the thought of a dead body in a box in the middle of the dark desert and quickly made their exit.

Upon seeing that the bandits had left, the people from the caravan made their way back toward the camel. But, to their surprise, the camel began moving determinedly, as if it had a specific destination in mind.

The caravan leader cautioned the other people not to go near the camel. "It seems almost as if something is guiding the camel. Let us see what direction it takes." Soon it was obvious that the camel was heading straight for the border of Israel.

The caravan followed from a distance. By now, everyone was certain that the problem of where to bury the Rambam was solved.

After reaching the borders of Israel, the camel continued to travel steadily. It came to the city of Tiberias in the northern part of the country. It continued on through the narrow streets of the city until it suddenly stopped and knelt down on the ground.

The people understood that this was the place where they should bury the Rambam. Carefully, they removed the coffin from the camel's back and placed it on the ground, then immediately began digging the grave. All who witnessed this strange event were amazed to see the wonderful miracle.

The people of the city of Tiberias built a beautiful structure over the spot where the Rambam was buried. And every year, on the anniversary of his passing, thousands of people from all parts of the world come to visit his holy grave.


by Tzvi Freeman*

I design software. Like the rest of us, I don't really know what's going to happen on January 1, 2000. I don't know who's telling the truth about the Y2K Bug and who's just covering themselves. One thing is certain, however. January 1, 2000 is Shabbat.

Shabbat is a state of mind. And on that Shabbat, we'll need to sit down and talk about entering a new state of mind. Personally, I don't believe we can continue with a mindset that consciously coded the entire technological framework of civilization to simultaneously sabotage itself; the very mindset that also brought us an unsustainable relationship with our environment and a sterilized human culture.

We are at the end of an era. The Era of Progress. The era to begin goes beyond that. Beyond Progress.

For most of history, we've had two primary modes to follow: stand still or progress. You either took your canoe 'round and 'round the lake, not really going anywhere, or you pressed forward along one of Time's promising rivers.

Lately, Progress has been travelling some awesome whitewater rivers. So rapid, we lost contact with where we came from. So all-consuming, we stopped thinking about what's around the next bend. No past. No future. Just now. Now. Now.

Take us techno-gurus, for example. We saw our job as rendering everybody else's work obsolete, and we accepted the fact that in a few years' time, whatever we had done would be obsolete as well. Go back to 1970-something, when we were writing all that code your tax dollars are now paying us to fix. If you had tried try to tell us that the future would inherit the mess we were making, we'd have given you a condescending smile. Or maybe we'd have just called you stupid. "There's just no way our code will be around by the year 2000," we'd say. As late as 1990, some of us were still chanting that mantra.

With that mindset, where the past undergoes a perpetual burial in the backwash of a runaway future, there is no legacy, no permanence, no responsibility for the future. It is a mindset that says, "We have buried the past and the future shall bury us."

So the Y2K problem is not "a bug." That's a cop-out. It's just a matter of bad design. We designed our code to become obsolete. Not much unlike the way we designed our entire society.

Good design transcends the boundaries of time. Good design--even in its most maverick form--always resonates with what came before. And becomes legacy itself. The Macintosh Desktop. The VW Beetle. Corn Flakes. Beethoven's 9th. Enviro-friendly manufacturing. And of course, Shabbat. Shabbat is the paradigm of good design. A model of a world Beyond Progress.

On Shabbat, my PowerBook G3 has a rest. So does my ADSL portal to the Net. On Shabbat, I walk through a door into a place where the rivers of time converge. Adam and Eve are still in the Garden, and we are there with them. Abraham and Sarah sit at our table. So do our ancestors from Poland, from Baghdad, from Babylonia, from the Temple of ancient Jerusalem. Moses teaches us Torah and when we sing, David sings with us. And when the sweet, rich kiddush wine passes our lips, we drink in the sweetness of all that river. All of it, all at once.

On Shabbat, the present is reconciled with the past. So too, lifestyle is reconciled with the ecology that nurtures it. I do not build, I do not tear down. I do not plant or reap or sort or order or pull any of my passel of techno-magic tricks. I am relegated to the role of observer. I must say to Nature, "I am not your ultimate master. I am a part of you as well. Let us both bow down before the wonder of the Infinite that brings us every moment into being from the void."

It's considered uncool these days to keep traditions just because your grandparents did. But traditions are neat. Ritual is good. It's just another sign of the obsolescence-by-design mindset that got us into this Y2K mess and company. Now we're going to grow up and get past that. Beyond bad design. In the flawed mindset of progress and "planned obsolescence" we are all isolated, autonomous cells, without origin, without destiny, sealed cars on an endless highway. In the Shabbat mindset, we are rivers, streams and tributaries, fed and nurtured by what came before us upstream, gushing forth to the one ocean where all our waters will mingle once again.

Precious treasures traveled this river with us. There is deep wisdom in the past from whence we came. It's okay to do something just because your great-grandparents did it. That's beautiful. We don't need to make up new wisdom just because we've progressed to WebTV and video conferencing. We can go beyond time. We can have all their wisdom and all ours, too. And we can hand that legacy down to our children. We can have it all. We can go Beyond Progress. It may be the only way for civilization as we know it to survive.

January 1, 2000. The world might be going berserk. Or it might be okay. Whatever happens, I'll be observing Shabbat. My grandparents observed it in the Old World. I observe it in a New World. My grandchildren will observe it in a world I cannot yet imagine. And it was/is/will be just as relevant to all of us. As a matter of fact, Shabbat has already passed its own Y5K plus a couple of hundred years, in virtually every geo-socio-political circumstance of global history. Now that's good design. That's beyond progress.


*) Tzvi Freeman is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth / 365 Meditations of the Rebbe.


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.

Study the Rambam's works daily:

"In honor of Rambam's yahrtzeit we should reinforce our study of the Rambam's works according to the three-pronged plan of study: three chapters or one chapter a day in the Mishneh Torah, or the parallel portions of Sefer HaMitzvot. Not only should one study these works himself, he should also influence others to do so."

(The Rebbe, 21 Tevet, 5752)


One can study one chapter a day in the Mishneh Torah and/or the daily lesson in Sefer HaMitzvot, via telephone # (718) 953-6100, except on Shabbat or yom tov.

The daily portion of Sefer HaMitzvot is also available electronically via the Internet by sending your subscription request to: listserv@chabad.org Subscribe "D-3."


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.chabad.org/shabbos

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, Dec. 31, Erev Shabbat Parshat Shemot:

  • Light Shabbat Candles,(1) by 4:20 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 1, Shabbat Parshat Shemot:

  • Blessing of the New Month, Shevat.(2)
  • Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:26 p.m.


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.

2. Rosh Chodesh Shevat is on Shabbat Parshat Va'eira, Jan. 8.

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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