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Parshat Bo, 5763

Shevat 7, 5763
Jan. 10, 2003

A Tribute to the Rebbe
on 53 Years of Leadership

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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 Yud Shevat, the 10th day of Shevat (next Monday, Jan. 13), commemorating the 53rd yahrtzeit of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn; it is also the 53rd anniversary of the Rebbe's acceptance of leadership.


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

28 Tevet, 5763
Brooklyn, New York

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Bo

The ninth plague to befall Egypt was the plague of darkness, as described in this week's Torah portion, Parshat Bo: "They did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light in their dwellings."

The Midrash explains that the plague of darkness entailed two separate miracles: a supernatural darkness that enshrouded the Egyptians and "glued" them in place for three days, and a miraculous light that enabled the Jewish people to see.

By the light of this illumination, the Jews were able to enter the homes of the Egyptians and locate the treasures that were hidden there. Later, when the time came for the Jews to leave Egypt and G-d commanded them to borrow "vessels of silver and vessels of gold," the Egyptians were unable to refuse their requests, as the Jews knew exactly where everything was hidden.

This second miracle came about in order to fulfill G-d's promise to Abraham years before, when He told him that his descendents would be enslaved in Egypt: "And afterwards they will go out with great wealth." In the merit of this light, the Jews were able to "empty" Egypt of its treasures, in fulfillment of G-d's command, "And you shall plunder the Egyptians."

Chasidic philosophy explains that the material wealth the Jews took with them from Egypt was an expression of the spiritual wealth they derived -- the tremendous number of "holy sparks" that had fallen to the morally depraved country. By going through the Egyptian exile, the Jewish people were able to redeem these sparks and restore them to their Divine source.

The fact that G-d performed a special miracle to facilitate the process demonstrates that He actively helps us in our service of "redeeming the sparks." G-d gives every Jew a "special light" that enables him or her to penetrate the "depths of Egypt" and withdraw the spiritual "wealth" that needs redemption.

Even now, in our present exile, the Jewish people are occupied with redeeming "sparks of holiness." Whenever a Jew utilizes a physical object for its Divine purpose, he elevates the sparks it contains and restores them to their original source.

Moreover, G-d continues to perform miracles that help us in our Divine mission. For even though we are still in a time when "darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people," with the help of this special light, every Jew can prepare himself, with joy and gladness of heart, for the time when "the L-rd shall shine upon you": the full and complete Redemption with Moshiach.


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.

Letter of the Rebbe(1)

By the Grace of G-d
Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5711[1951]
Brooklyn, NY

To Anash, to the students of Tomchei Temimim, and to those who have a bond or a relationship with my revered father-in-law, the saintly Rebbe, of blessed memory:

G-d bless you all.

Greetings and blessings:

In reply to the many questions that have been asked about a detailed schedule for the Tenth of Shevat, the yahrtzeit of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, I would hereby suggest the following:

1. On the Shabbos before the yahrtzeit [each chasid] should attempt to be called for an aliyah to the Torah.

2. If there are not enough aliyos the Torah should be read [a number of times] in different rooms. However, no additions should be made to the number of aliyos [at each reading].

3. The congregation should see to it that the Maftir should be the most respected congregant, as determined by the majority; alternatively, the choice should be determined by lot.

4. The congregation should choose someone to lead the prayers on the day of the yahrtzeit. It is proper to divide [the honor, choosing] one person to lead Maariv, a second to lead Shacharis, and a third -- Minchah. In this way a greater number of Anash will have the privilege.

5. A [yahrtzeit] candle should be lit that will burn throughout the 24 hours. If possible, the candle should be of beeswax.

6. Five candles should burn during the prayer services.

7. After each prayer service (and in the morning, [this means] after the reading of Tehillim), the sheliach tzibbur should study (or at least conclude the study of) ch. 24 of Mishnayos Keilim and ch. 7 of Mishnayos Mikvaos. He should then recite the mishnah beginning "Rabbi Chananyah ben Akashya...," followed silently by a few lines of Tanya, and Kaddish deRabbanan.

8. After Maariv, part of the maamar (Basi LeGani) that was released for the day of the demise should be recited from memory. If there is no one to do this from memory, it should be studied from the text. This should also be done after Shacharis, and the maamar should be concluded after Minchah.

9. Before Shacharis, a chapter of Tanya should be studied. This should also be done after Minchah.

10. In the morning, before prayer, charity should be given to those institutions that are related to our Nasi, my revered father-in-law, of sainted memory. Donations should be made on behalf of oneself and on behalf of each member of one's family. The same should be done after Minchah.

11. After Shacharis and the recitation of the maamar, each individual should read a pidyon nefesh. (It goes without saying that a gartl is worn during the reading.) Those who had the privilege of entering [the saintly Rebbe's study] for yechidus, or at least of seeing his face, should -- while reading the pidyon nefesh -- picture themselves as standing before him. The pidyon nefesh should then be placed between the pages of a maamar or kuntreis, etc., of his teachings, and sent, if possible on the same day, to be read at his graveside.

12. In the course of the day one should study chapters of Mishnayos that begin with the letters of his name.

13. In the course of the day one should participate in a farbrengen.

14. In the course of the day one should set aside a time during which to tell one's family about the saintly Rebbe, and about the spiritual tasks at which he toiled throughout all the days of his life.

15. In the course of the day, people (to whom this task is appropriate) should visit synagogues and houses of study in their cities and cite a statement or an adage drawn from the teachings of the saintly Rebbe. They should explain how he loved every Jew. [Furthermore,] they should make known and explain the practice that he instituted of reciting Tehillim every day, studying the daily portion of Chumash with the commentary of Rashi, and, where appropriate, studying the Tanya as he divided it into daily readings throughout the year. If possible this should all be done in the course of a farbrengen.

16. In the course of the day, people (who are fit for the task) should visit centers of observant youth -- and, in a neighborly spirit, should make every endeavor to also visit centers for the young people who are not yet observant -- in order to explain to them the warm love that the saintly Rebbe constantly had for them. It should be explained to these people what he expected of them; they should be told of the hope and the trust that he placed in them -- that they would ultimately fulfill their task of strengthening the observance of Judaism and disseminating the study of Torah with all the energy, warmth and vitality that characterize youth.

* * *

If prevailing conditions allow, all of the above should of course be continued during the days following the yahrtzeit, and particularly on the following Shabbos.

* * *

May G-d hasten the coming of our Redeemer, and then "those who repose in the dust will awaken and sing joyful praises." And our Nasi among them will give us wondrous tidings, and lead us along the path that leads up to the House of G-d.

[Signed:] Menachem Mendel Schneerson


1. Reprinted from "Sefer Haminhagim" -- The Book of Chabad-Lubavitch Customs, published by Kehot Publication Society, 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213.


Adapted from the 3rd chapter of the first Ma'amar
(Chasidic discourse) said by the Rebbe,
on Yud
(2) Shevat, 5711/1951.

The fact that our Sages say that "all those who are seventh are cherished," rather than "all those who are cherished are seventh," indicates that the seventh's primary quality lies in one's being seventh. In other words, one is cherished not on account of his choice, desire, or spiritual service, but because he is seventh -- and this is something that he is born into. Yet the fact remains that "all those who are seventh are cherished." It was for this reason that it was Moshe who was privileged to have the Torah given through him.

The Previous Rebbe explained (soon after arriving in America) that even when we refer to the seventh of a series as being the most cherished, the special quality of the first is apparent. For the whole meaning of "seventh" is "seventh from the first." The Previous Rebbe then explained the qualities that the first -- our forefather Avraham -- attained through his spiritual service, which was performed with total self-sacrificing devotion.

Not content with the above, the Previous Rebbe adds that Avraham did not actively pursue mesirus nefesh [self-sacrifice].... Avraham's mesirus nefesh was incidental [to his actual service]. He knew that the main object of divine service was [that defined by the Sages' interpretation of the verse], "He proclaimed there the Name of G-d, L-rd of the world." [For our Sages say,] "do not read vayikra -- 'he proclaimed,' but vayakrei -- 'he made others proclaim.'" I.e., let another man likewise proclaim [G-d's Name]. And if in the course of this service mesirus nefesh was called for, he could supply that, too. Indeed, so estimable was Avraham's divine service and mesirus nefesh that even Moshe was privileged to have the Torah given through him because he was the beloved seventh -- the seventh to the first. [It is to this relationship between them that the Sages apply the verse:] "G-d told Moshe, 'Do not stand in the place of the greats [referring to Avraham].'"

It is true that the seventh of a series is very much loved and that this status comes not as a result of choice nor as a result of one's divine service, but as a finished product, merely as a result of birth. Nevertheless, there are no inherent limitations that should cause an individual to say that this status is beyond him and that it is accessible only to a select few. On the contrary, this is a situation similar to that which is explained in Tanna dvei Eliyahu and quoted in Chasidus, that every Jew, even a slave and handmaiden, can attain the inspiration of the Divine Spirit. [Similarly,] each and every Jew is obligated to say, "When will my actions equal those of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov?"

At the same time we should not delude ourselves: We must know that we should "not stand in the place of the greats," and that the merit of the seventh of a series consists of his being seventh to the first. I.e., he is capable of doing the Divine service and fulfilling the mission of the first: "Do not read 'he proclaimed,' but 'he made others proclaim.'"

This, then, is why the seventh is so cherished: it is he who draws down the Shechinah (Divine Presence), in fact -- the essence of the Shechinah; moreover, he draws it down into this lowly world.

It is this that is demanded of each and every one of us of the seventh generation -- and "all those that are seventh are cherished:" Although the fact that we are in the seventh generation is not the result of our own choosing and our own service, and indeed in certain ways perhaps contrary to our will, nevertheless, "all those who are seventh are cherished." We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach; indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down the Shechinah -- moreover, the essence of the Shechinah -- within specifically our lowly world.


2. On this day the Rebbe officially accepted the mantle of Chabad-Lubavitch leadership, becoming the 7th Rebbe in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty.


The Rebbe's life and work have touched millions. The Rebbe's loving concern for every single Jew, and belief in the ability of the world to become better, have inspired people on every continent. The tenth of the Hebrew month of Shevat ("Yud Shevat"), this year next Monday, January 13th, is a fitting time to reflect on the Rebbe's impact on our lives.

The Rebbe's emphasis has always been on action. By studying the Rebbe's teachings, by responding positively to his calls to action, and by trusting his clear statements that the world is about to reach its perfection with the coming of Moshiach, we maintain the Rebbe's vision and we strengthen our own ties to the giant of our generation.

Now, more than ever before, the Rebbe's words call out to us:

That the time is now. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning of heightened awareness of G-d: the time of Moshiach. The world is now ready for this revolutionary change. History is a process. The universe -- and the human condition -- have been constantly evolving to greater perfection. We have now reached a point where an unprecedented unity abounds on all levels: technological, economic and political.

The time of Redemption is now. We can herald it. The onus is upon us. Let us all respond to the Rebbe's call, and we will all have the ultimate different tomorrow.

The following are practical suggestions:

* Study the Rebbe's writings, especially those about Moshiach and the Redemption.

Nowhere can we find the Rebbe more clearly than in his written works, published in over 200 volumes in many languages. Attend a class in your nearby Chabad House, or invite the Rabbi or Rebbetzin to teach a group in your home. The Rebbe emphasized that studying about Moshiach and Redemption not only helps prepare us for the Messianic Era but actually hastens it. If you can't get a group together, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center for suitable materials or log onto the numerous excellent Chabad-Lubavitch-sponsored websites that contain the Rebbe's teachings.

* Begin observing a new mitzvah or do a mitzvah that you've always done, but in an enhanced manner.

* Reach out to others with acts of goodness and kindness.

When the Rebbe was asked by C.N.N. for his message to the world about Moshiach, the Rebbe responded, "Moshiach is ready to come, now. It is our part to do additional acts of goodness and kindness."

Know that the Rebbe's prophecy of the imminent Redemption will be fulfilled.

The focus of the Rebbe's life work has been to see fulfilled the promise of the Biblical prophets of a perfect world without war, hunger or jealousy. The Rebbe told us to prepare for the coming of Moshiach. Now, more than ever, we should live by these words.


"I came into my garden..." With these words, a quotation from the Song of Songs, the Rebbe began the interpretation of a Chasidic discourse of the Previous Rebbe that marked the Rebbe's official acceptance of the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch.

This took place fifty-two years ago, on the Tenth of the Hebrew month of Shevat (this year, next Monday, Jan. 1). We are now entering the fifty-third year of the Rebbe's leadership. Fifty-three, in Hebrew letters, is gan, or garden.

When one speaks of "the garden," especially in a Jewish context, the garden that automatically comes to mind is, of course, the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden was the idyllic place where all was perfect. And, in fact, before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, all was perfect! There was no hunger, there was no strife, there was no illness. Food was plentiful, life was blissful. Even animal-life existed on a unique plane, with the wolf and the lamb living together peacefully, the bear and the eagle living in harmony.

Our Sages teach that the perfect state the world will achieve in the Messianic Era is a hearkening back to the Garden of Eden. Though to us it is only "natural" that people should be sick, hungry and illiterate, that there should be strife amongst neighbors and war between nations, the true order and nature of the world is the Garden of Eden.

The Rebbe's leadership throughout the past fifty-two years has been to empower the individual to recreate the Garden and to enter it, together with all of humankind.

As we enter this Garden year of the Rebbe's leadership, may each and everyone of us allow ourselves to actualize our potential through increasing our performance of good deeds, of mitzvot, and of Torah study, thereby coming into the Garden together with all of our loved ones, may it happen NOW!


"The Rebbe is with us." A phrase commonly heard among Lubavitcher Chasidim and supporters, a confusing phrase, a misunderstood phrase.

We may find the Rebbe in his writings -- his talks, letters and discourses. We may find the Rebbe in the Mitzvah Campaigns and the Chabad Houses, continual demonstrations of his leadership. We may find the Rebbe in the tributes to his ideas, embraced and implemented by thousands and thousands and thousands, many not realizing their source. We may find the Rebbe in the awareness of Redemption and the awakening to Moshiach -- for who with opened eyes does not recognize that we are at a critical moment in history?

But how does one understand the phrase, the concept? Does it express no more than a feeling, perhaps a wistful reminiscence? Does it suggest inspiration? Are the words "the Rebbe is with us" no more than a maneuver to motivate, a symbol of survival? Is it merely a slogan to explain -- or justify -- the growth of Chabad?


But not if we agree there's such a thing as a soul. Not if we agree that every Jew has a Jewish soul. And not if we admit that this Jewish soul is "truly a part of G-d above" (See Tanya, ch. 2 -- and Psalms 73:26). It makes sense -- the soul is a part of G-d so of course it "lives on."

But the soul is also a part of the person. Indeed, in some unique individuals, it is the person.

So what do we make of this phrase, "the Rebbe is with us?" Surely the phrase implies a physical presence; but we don't perceive a physical presence. Even if the Rebbe is somehow "here" spiritually, our lives are physical lives.

One approach: we can invest the phrase with meaning by analogy -- analogy with a departed loved one. Surely the presence -- the soul -- remains with us as more than a memory. Memories fade. But the soul of a loved one continues to communicate with us. True, our interactions once had a physical nature. But the nature of interactions change: it means one thing to stay "in touch" with a baby, quite another to stay "in touch" with a grown child a continent away. But in both cases we remain "in touch" not with the hand, eye or ear, but with the soul. And so, we "stay in touch" with a departed relative.

But a loved one remains a living presence only for the relatives.

Not so with a tzadik. The righteous continue to influence this world after their passing. The Zohar, the basic text of Jewish mysticism, tells us that "When the tzadik departs he is to be found in all worlds more than in his life-time." Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, explains, "He is to be found more even in this world of action..." because "... the life of the tzadik is not a physical life but a spiritual life, consisting of faith, awe and love..." (Tanya, Igeret HaKodesh 27).

OK, so we can say that a tzadik, even after he departs this world physically, is still with us, is still found in this world and is still influencing it. The tzadik remains alive.

"David Melech Yisrael Chai V'Kayam -- David, king of Israel, lives forever."

Still, we don't usually "stay in touch" with a tzadik, not directly.

Then there's Moses. There's a spark of Moses not only in every leader of the Jewish people, but in every Jew. That spark of Moses is real and alive. It gives us the potential to "fear G-d." (The Torah states, "Now Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d require of you, but to fear the L-rd your G-d" (Deut. 10:12). To which the Talmud asks, "Is fear, then, such a small thing?" And the Talmud answers, "Yes, in the case of Moses it is a small thing." And because we have a spark of Moses within us, for us too it is a small thing.)

So a relative can still be with us -- a living presence we sometimes sense, but a living presence only for the loved ones. A tzadik can still be with us -- involved with this world, influencing it from "above," but with an influence often -- usually -- difficult to detect. And Moses can still be with us -- a spark of his soul in our soul.

But when we say "the Rebbe is with us" we mean something different, something more. If we can still talk to a relative, if a tzadik can still be a conduit for G-dliness and blessings (faith, awe and love), if we still remain spiritually attached to Moses, then how much more so...

...then explanations aside -- then reasons, objections, justifications, feelings -- complications and "rationality" aside... in the simple sense, in the plain sense, in the obvious sense -- the Rebbe is with us.


"The future Redemption will apply not only to Israel, but to the whole world as well. In preparation for this Redemption, therefore, action needs to be taken so that the world at large will be ready for such a state.

"This is to be achieved through the efforts of the Jewish people to influence the nations of the world to conduct themselves in the spirit of the verse that states that G-d 'formed the world in order that it be settled' (Isaiah 45:18) in a civilized manner, through the observance of their seven mitzvot."

The Rebbe, 5743/1983


In light of the about, and in connection with Yud Shevat, this is, once again, the perfect opportunity to consider the implications of the Rebbe's campaign to disseminate, among non-Jews, the knowledge and observance of the Seven Noachide Laws.

The nations of the world were given a Divine code of conduct, the Seven Noachide Laws, which consist of six prohibitions against: adultery, murder, robbery, idolatry, blasphemy, cruelty to animals -- and one positive command, to establish a judicial system.

The Rebbe has encouraged his emissaries around the world to meet with governmental officials and heads of state to sign proclamations, encouraging the study and observance of the Seven Noachide laws. Governmental proclamations, however, are not the Rebbe's only concern.

An important part of the Jew's task is to see to it that all people, not just Jews, acknowledge G-d as Creator and Ruler of the world and to therefore conduct themselves according to the Seven Noachide Laws. Each and every Jew has an important role to play in this task. But how can this be accomplished?

When a Jew conducts himself properly in all areas of his life -- business, recreation, family, and religious -- he will automatically influence the people around him. When the nations of the world see Jews acknowledging G-d as Ruler of the world, through prayer and by following His commandments, they, too, will come to realize the importance and truth of G-d's omnipotence.


For more information about The Seven Noachide laws, go to: http://www.7for70.com


The following story was related by Rabbi Zalman Notik, the mashpia -- spiritual advisor of Yeshivat Torat Emet in Jerusalem:(3)

A group of yeshivah students were on their regular Friday afternoon schedule of helping Jewish boys and men put on tefillin. The students met a group of recent immigrants from the Soviet Union.

The students were teaching the men how to put on tefillin when all of a sudden an old Russian-born Jew approached them excitedly: "You're from Lubavitch?" he asked them. "Do I have a story to tell you!

"When I was a youth back in Russia," he began, "I used to attend the secret Torah gatherings (farbrengens -- chasidic gatherings) of the Lubavitchers. I also used to pray with them and went to their classes.

"At one farbrengen I will always remember, the main discussion was the desire to be reunited with the Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok (the Previous Rebbe). We sang 'G-d should give us good health and life, and we will be reunited with our Rebbe.' Our intense yearning to be with the Rebbe was almost palpable, and was growing from minute to minute.

"In the middle of the farbrengen, a few of the Chasidim suddenly stood up and decided to 'take action.' Grabbing some chairs, they turned them upside-down and arranged them in a row to make a 'train.' Just picture it -- grown men behaving like kindergarten children, sitting on overturned chairs and making believe they were going to the Rebbe!

"Most of the others, myself included, stood around watching. We laughed at them and told them they were crazy. What ridiculous, childish nonsense!

"But, do you know," concluded the man in amazement, "within a short time, all of the Chasidim who rode the 'train' received permission to leave Russia, and actually did go to the Rebbe. Whereas the rest of us, the 'normal' ones, were left behind. As you can see, most of us did not have the strength to keep up our observance of Torah and mitzvot (commandments), and are only now beginning to catch up..."


3. Adapted from Beis Moshiach Magazine.


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.

Regarding Yud Shevat:

Among the 16 directives suggested by the Rebbe(4) in connection with Yud Shevat.

In the morning and afternoon give charity to an institution related to the Previous Rebbe; participate in a chasidic gathering; learn about and tell others about the Previous Rebbe; visit centers for young people and tell them about the love the Previous Rebbe had for them and the hope he had that they would use their energy, warmth and vitality to strengthen Judaism.


For a Yud Shevat gathering in your area, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


4. The full text of the Rebbe's Letter is printed above. Ed.


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.candlelightingtimes.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, Jan. 10, Erev Shabbat Parshat Bo:

  • Light Shabbat Candles,(5) by 4:29 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 11, Shabbat Parshat Bo:

  • Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:34 p.m.


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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