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Parshat Yitro, 5763

Shevat 21, 5763
Jan. 24, 2003

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, the 328th issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.


In this week's issue, we focus on Chof Beis, the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, Shabbat Parshat Yitro (Saturday, Jan. 25), commemorating the 15th yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, wife of the Rebbe.


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

17 Shevat, 5763
Brooklyn, New York

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Yitro

We read in this week's Torah portion, Yitro, that when the Jewish people received the Torah from G-d, Moses taught it first to the women and then to the men. The Torah states, "So you shall say to the House of Jacob [the women] and tell the Children of Israel [the men]."

Why did the women precede the men in the giving of the Torah?

Our Sages tell us that Moses taught the general principles of the Torah to the Jewish women, after which he learned the minutiae of its laws with the Jewish men. The general principles came first, after which the details and particulars of the Torah's many laws followed.

In fact, this is the prevailing order when it comes to Torah: first come the generalities, then the particulars.

To give an example:

The Jewish people heard the first two of the Ten Commandments directly from G-d -- "I am the L-rd your G-d" and "You shall have no other gods" -- after which they heard the rest of the Ten Commandments, which were given over by Moses.

Another example: G-d gave the Jews the Ten Commandments -- the general principles of the Torah -- then He gave them the remainder of the Torah's 613 mitzvot.

Similarly, Moses first taught the general principles of the Torah to the women, after which he went into the details of the laws with the men.

But why were the Torah's principles taught specifically to the Jewish women?

Faith in G-d and fear of G-d are the "general principles" of the Torah, as it states, "And G-d commanded us to keep all these statutes [in order] to fear G-d." In other words, the totality of Torah and mitzvot is merely a corollary of faith in G-d and awe of Him.

Believing in G-d and fearing Him are the foundations of the entire Torah. Women are particularly distinguished in these two qualities; their faith is much more apparent and expressed more openly than it is by men. Jewish women observe mitzvot with simple faith and with a pure and perfect fear of heaven.

Indeed, it is for this reason that the Jewish women merited to receive the general principles and foundations of Torah ahead of the men.

* * *

It was in the merit of the righteous women of that generation that the Jewish people were taken out of Egypt and received the Torah. So too is it in our times: In the merit of our righteous women we will go out of our present exile, and be worthy of learning Torah directly from 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.


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)

Adapted from a Talk of the Rebbe
(on the 22nd of Shevat, 5752/1992,
forth yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka)

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 15th yahrtzeit. Ed.

2. The Kaddish is recited each day for eleven months only in the year after the person's death. Ed.


Chof Beis, the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, Shabbat Parshat Yitro (Saturday, Jan. 25) is the 15th yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of blessed memory, wife of the Rebbe and daughter of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn.

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was born in the Russian village of Babinovitch (a small shtetl near Lubavitch) on 25 Adar II, 5661/1901; she played an integral role in both her father's and husband's affairs throughout her life. And yet, she deliberately chose to function out of the limelight. Extremely modest, royal in bearing, and, above all, kindly, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was the embodiment of Jewish womanhood and an exceptional role model for Jewish women and girls.

On the anniversary of her passing several years ago, the Rebbe spoke about the special mission all Jewish woman have been entrusted with. The function of every Jew -- man, woman and child -- is to "make a dwelling place for G-d" on earth. But the goal of the Jewish woman is to take this one step further, and adorn G-d's abode on the physical plane so that it is "lovely" and appointed with "fine furnishings."

In particular, the Jewish woman fulfills her role of "spiritual decorator" through the three special mitzvot G-d has given her to implement in her private home: maintaining the kashrut(3) of her kitchen, keeping the laws of Family Purity(4), and lighting candles for Shabbat and Yom Tov,(5) together with her daughters. (The Rebbe specified that young girls should light first, so that their mothers can assist them if necessary.)

The Rebbe also called on women to renew their commitment to the Jewish education of their children, from the earliest age on. When a Jewish mother sings a lullaby to her baby about how the Torah is "the best, the sweetest, and the most beautiful" thing in the world, it instills a deep love and appreciation for Torah that lasts a lifetime.

The main point during these last few moments of exile, the Rebbe stressed, is to recognize the great merit and power Jewish women and girls have to bring about the Final Redemption.

May it happen at once!


3. See Living With Moshiach, Vol. 244.

4. See Living With Moshiach, Vol. 245.

5. See Living With Moshiach, Vol. 316.


A Brief Biography

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, 5661/1901, 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 5687/1927, 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 Chasidic 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, 5689/1929, 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, Rabbi 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 Chasidim.

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 5700/1940 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 5710/1950. 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 Chasid. 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 5748/1988, 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.


"And the living should take to heart." This verse, oft repeated by the Rebbe during the year after the passing of his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, means that we should learn from the life of a person who has passed on attitudes and modes of behavior we can incorporate into our own lives.

As we observe the 15th yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka there are, among many others, three significant lessons we can "take to heart" from three of her exchanges.

Don't Cause Pain to Others

In her last years, the Rebbetzin had considerable difficulties with her eyes. Once she was asked: "Jews from all over the world ask the Rebbe for a blessing. Why do you hold yourself back from asking for a blessing?" In answer, she said, "It is important for me not to cause the Rebbe pain."

It is improper for us, in order to relieve our own pain, to even inadvertently cause another person pain.

Really Feel for the Other Person

The Friday night before her passing was a bitterly cold night. During a conversation with her visitor, the Rebbetzin mentioned, "When I think that you have to go out [to go home], I become cold."

We should care so much about other people that we feel for them and even anticipate their discomfort. We can accomplish this by putting our own considerations aside, as did the Rebbetzin on this evening when she was already very ill, and focusing solely on the other person.

The Importance of Humility

One year, in honor of her birthday, the Lubavitch Women's Organization sent the Rebbetzin a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Together with the bouquet was an envelope that contained a list of names of people who were in need of a blessing. The intention was that the list be given to the Rebbe.

The person who accepted the bouquet gave it to the Rebbetzin and submitted the envelope to the Rebbe. The Rebbe looked at the envelope, upon which the Rebbetzin's name had been written, and asked why it was not given to the Rebbetzin. The person explained that it contained a list of names of people who were in need of a blessing. The Rebbe responded, "Nu, she can also bless them!"

But when the Rebbetzin communicated an answer from the Rebbe, she would always convey it verbatim, saying, "This was the exact answer." She refused to ever add an explanation but only repeated the Rebbe's words precisely.

No matter our own greatness or importance, our own abilities or position of power, humility is an essential character trait.

In the merit of the Rebbetzin, may we immediately be privileged to see the conclusion of the Midrashic prophecy when Moshiach will stand on the roof of the Holy Temple and proclaim, "Humble ones, the time of your redemption has arrived."


Though precious little is known of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the few statements of hers that are public,(6) 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, which 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 assertiveness training 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.


6. See Living With Moshiach, Vol. 322.


"What am I doing here?" you ask yourself as you stop in the middle of the room, trying to figure out why you came there in the first place.

Or perhaps you're waiting in the long line at the mega-supermarket. "What am I doing here?" you mutter to no one in particular, as you weigh the few cents you'll save against the time you're wasting.

Maybe your question is bigger, triggered by a mid-life crisis, a blow out with your boss, or on a more positive note, achievement of a financial goal. "What am I doing here? Where do I go from here?"

The soul, the spark of G-dliness within every person, could ask itself a similar question. "What am I doing here? Why did I leave my holy, heavenly environment and descend into a physical body in a very physical world?"

Jewish mystical teachings would answer the soul, "You descended from your lofty place into this world for the purpose of an ascent." Regardless of how lofty the soul was before, its sojourn in the physical body serves as a springboard to attain ever higher heights, an aliya in Hebrew.

While the soul -- in its pre-birth state -- is exalted, it is also spiritually immobile, fixed in its status. The soul yearns to enter the physical world, though there it will be challenged with moral dilemmas and temptations. For it is precisely these confrontations that provide an opportunity for spiritual growth.

When the soul in this world overcomes the challenges and performs mitzvot, it goes through a transformation and becomes elevated. At the end of this physical journey, the soul will return to heaven at a higher and more elevated level than before its incarnation.

The day of birth is a great opportunity for the yearning soul. However, the day of passing after a lifetime of genuine fulfillment is even greater. For on this day we celebrate the actual, not the potential; we rejoice in what the soul has accomplished during its sojourn in this world.

On Shabbat Parshat Yitro (Saturday, Jan. 25) the 15th anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, is surely a fitting time to ask oneself the question, "What am I doing here?" Then listen to your soul, it will give you some important answers.


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.

Positive Deeds:

"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.
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. 24, Erev Shabbat Parshat Yitro:

  • Light Shabbat Candles,(7) by 4:44 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 25, Shabbat Parshat Yitro:

  • Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:49 p.m.


7. 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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