Issue No. 37

Parshat Vayishlach
Kislev 16, 5749 * November 25, 1988

Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

Published weekly by:
Lubavitch Youth Organization
1408 President Street.
Brooklyn, New York, 11213 USA

Rabbi Shmuel Butman - Director.
Mrs. Yehudis Cohen - Editor.


The Table of Contents contains links to the text. Click on an entry in the Table of Contents and you will move to the information selected.


Happy New Year!

Wait a minute. It's a little late for Rosh Hashana.

Actually, on the 19th of Kislev (this year, November 28) we do celebrate a "New Year," of sorts, the little-known Rosh Hashana of Chasidut. On that day, some 190 years ago, the first Chabad Rebbe, who had been imprisoned on trumped-up charges, was released. To this day, *chasidim* greet each other with a "Happy New Year" and other appropriate salutations, on the 19th of Kislev.

But what, in fact, was so important about the first Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman--and his release, that we make such a big hubbub about it?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman was imprisoned because he was teaching and making available to all Jews Chasidut--the inner mysteries of the Torah.

Today, what with modern technology, "sharing" and honesty in relationships, movies about ghosts and extraterrestrial beings, there don't seem to be many mysteries left to unravel. But, when it comes to Torah, and in particular a Torah or Jewish education, one big mystery still remains. It's the mystery of how Jewish children in free countries continue to grow up with little or no Jewish education.

It would seem that, in the spirit of Rabbi Schneur Zalman's life work, this "New Year" is the perfect time to be making resolutions about Jewish education. So, break out the bubbly, put on a hat, toot a few horns, and let's figure out how we can help that Jewish kid down the block learn something about being Jewish.

The Weekly Torah Portion

In this week's Torah portion, *Vayishlach*, Jacob triumphs in his struggle with an angel. After his victory, he is told, "And your name shall no longer be Jacob: instead Israel shall be your name."

The name Jacob implies that he acquired his father's blessings through cunning; he used subtlety to take the blessings which had been intended for his brother Esau.

"Israel," on the other hand, denotes the receiving of blessings through "noble conduct and in an open manner."

The deeds of the ancestors are a sign to their children. According to Chasidic philosophy, the names "Jacob" and "Israel" denote two stages in the service of G-d, both necessary at different times in the religious life of every Jew. "Israel" denotes a higher achievement, but it does not supplant or remove the necessity for the service signified by "Jacob."

The implication we can derive from Jacob's shrewd act is that we have to use cunning in our approach when dealing with our physical nature. A cunning person does not reveal his intentions. Instead, he seems to be following the path of his opponent. But, at the crucial point, he does that which he had planned all along.

The Jew, in his involvement with the material world, appears to be preoccupied with it. He eats, drinks, transacts business. But he does so for the sake of heaven. His objectives are not material ones. He wears the "clothes of Esau" in order to beguile others, but his implicit purpose is to uncover and elevate the "holy sparks," inherent in the physical world.

But the way of "Israel" is that in worldly conduct, he has no need to conceal his intention of serving G-d. He experiences no tensions between the spiritual and the material. The world has no hold on him; it does not hide from him its intrinsic G-dliness. This distinction can be seen in the difference between a *Shabbat* meal and a weekday one. When eating a weekday meal we try to integrate the physical act with its spiritual motivation--that of eating for the sake of having the strength to serve heaven. But eating a *Shabbat* meal in itself fulfills the commandment to rejoice in the Sabbath. Here, the holiness in the physical is manifest.

Just as our week is comprised of both the weekdays and *Shabbat*, two different ways in which we integrate the physical and spiritual, so too must our G-dly service incorporate the two types of service that the names "Jacob" and "Israel" represent.



A black carriage, one usually reserved for dangerous rebels, pulled up in front of Rabbi Schneur Zalman's house. He was ordered into the carriage, and it pulled away under a heavy armed guard. It headed for St. Petersburg.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov--founder of the Chasidic movement. Upon the passing of the Maggid, Rabbi Schneur Zalman accepted the difficult responsibility of spreading the Chasidic teachings in Lithuania and Russia. At that time these countries were filled with great Torah scholars, many of whom, unfortunately, opposed the fledgling Chasidic movement.

It was some of these people, opposers of the Chasidic movement and Rabbi Schneur Zalman in particular, who brought a report to the czar that Rabbi Schneur Zalman was supporting a hostile foreign power. Actually, the Rebbe was involved with collecting funds for Chasidic families in Israel, at that time under Turkish rule. Russia had, in fact, been at war with Turkey only a few years previously. In 1978 a formal denunciation was submitted before the authorities in St. Petersburg, accusing Rabbi Schneur Zalman and other leading *chasidim* of activities inimical to the Czar and the country. Czar Paul lost no time in ordering the governor of the White Russian province to arrest Rabbi Schneur Zalman and send him under heavy guard to St. Petersburg. At the same time, 22 of Rabbi Schneur Zalman's followers in Wilno were also arrested.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman was brought to St. Petersburg and incarcerated in the Peter-Paul fortress, a maximum security prison reserved for the most serious offenders charged with rebellion or subversive activity against the czar.

Czar Paul, sensitive to anything that smacked of rebellion, was personally intrigued by the Jewish rebel accused of high treason. He was even more intrigued by the account of the chief investigator who reported to him on the progress of the investigation. According to this account, the prisoner was a man of exceptional wisdom and saintliness, a man of the spirit, who was not likely to be involved in a conspiracy against the emperor. The czar was very curious to meet this extraordinary person. He decided to visit him incognito in his cell.

Disguised as one of the investigators, the czar entered the prisoner's cell, whereupon Rabbi Schneur Zalman rose to his feet and, with respect, accorded to royalty, greeted the visitor with a benediction.

Asked to explain his conduct, the Rebbe declared, "Our Sages state that kingship on earth is a replica of the Kingship in Heaven. When your Imperial Majesty entered, I felt a sense of awe and trembling such as I have not experienced with any of the officials that have visited here. I knew you were the czar in person."

Later, when freed, Rabbi Schneur Zalman explained to his closest *chasidim* about his experiences. He felt his answers to the questions had been well received, and that he had convinced his interrogators of the truth of his words.

On the nineteenth day of Kislev, 53 days after his initial arrest, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was notified of his imminent release. In a letter to his colleague, the famed Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, he wrote, "As I was reading in the Book of Psalms the verse, 'He has redeemed my soul in peace,' before I began the next verse. I was liberated 'in peace.'"



Lubavitch Youth Organization will once again be lighting public menoras this Chanuka. Three of the most prominent of these are the Liberty Menora, located at Battery Park, right across from the Statue of Liberty, a menora on Flatbush Avenue by the Long Island University Campus and the most famous of them all, the world's largest menora on Fifth Avenue and 59th in Manhattan. The world's largest menora will be lit on Saturday evening, December 3 at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, December 4 through Thursday, December 8 at 5 30 p.m.; Friday, December 9 at 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, December 1 at 8:00 p.m. We hope to see you there!


An impressive catalogue of Jewish educational publications in Spanish has just been released by Chabad (Jabad in Spanish) of Argentina. The catalogue also includes 14 videos available in VHS as well as the titles of eight additional books currently being prepared for publication.


Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois is already gearing up for the summer with its Lubavitch Chabad Adult Institute for Men planned for July 16 through August 6. The three-week yeshiva-style program for beginner and intermediate levels will take place at Northwestern University and boasts an impressive staff of professors and lecturers. Heading the faculty will be Rabbi S. Z. Gafni of Kfar Chabad, Israel. For more information, contact Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein at (312) 869-8060.



Most of the book of Genesis is concerned with relating the beginnings of the Jewish people. This week's Torah portion, however, contains a specific commandment that is applicable to our times.

The portion relates how Jacob wrestled with the archangel of Esau, who, at the end of the struggle, injured Jacob's thigh. Following this event, all Jews are forbidden from eating the *gid hanashe* or displaced sinew, actually the sciatic nerve which is found in the thigh and leg of the animal and which corresponds to the place of Jacob's injury.

In addition to the fact that it was given before the revelation on Mount Sinai, this commandment has another unusual but illuminating aspect.

In determining *kashrut* of a particular food or utensil, the Torah is generally concerned with taste. Though the final determination of whether a particular food can be eaten is to be made by a rabbi one of the foremost considerations will be whether or not the taste of the forbidden food remains in the questionable one and if that taste improves or is detrimental to the dish being examined.

Similarly, a part of the animal that has absolutely no taste, such as a horn, would technically not be forbidden by the Torah. *Gid Hanashe* is an exception to the rule, for the Talmud explains that this sinew has no taste. What lesson can be derived from this exception where a tasteless object is forbidden?


A Chasidic rebbe once chanced upon a young Jewish man who was dining in a clearly non-kosher outdoor cafe. Much to the young man's surprise, the rebbe wished him a hearty appetite. The man replied, "How can you say such a thing? Don't you know this food is not kosher?"

The rebbe answered, "Of course I know it's not kosher. However, I wanted to be sure that your commission of this transgression is out of lust and desire rather than out of spite, with no personal benefit being derived, a rebellion against G-d. True, the former is far from commendable. The latter, however is far more serious, affecting the very essence of belief."

This is part of the significance of, *gid hanashe*, the misplaced sinew. It is a transgression that has no taste. A person has no natural desire to consume this part of the animal; nevertheless, the Torah forbids it in order to underscore the seriousness of a transgression which is done out of spite.


There is an interesting illustration, however, which portrays a positive side to the spiteful transgressor, at least in potential.

The story is told of two Jews who went to study Torah in a park, and happened to leave some of the subject matter on a nearby bench. Along came two men who opposed Torah study. One became agitated upon seeing the study material, and angrily tore it into pieces, while the second looked on placidly.

The first pair observed from afar, whereupon one commented to the other, "See the one who's angry? He will certainly end up studying Torah!"

The one who remained cold and unmoved would not be as likely to change. He wasn't interested in what others believe, and probably not too interested in his own beliefs.

The other man became upset because he cared about the truth, and he perceived those writings as being against the truth. For this same reason he was destined to become a Torah scholar, since he wanted the truth, he would keep pursuing it until he eventually attained it.

A similar attitude can be detected today among those who transgress out of spite. The fact that the person goes out of his way to do the prohibition demonstrates an intensity of emotion, albeit negative to matters spiritual. Where a lack of education or a negative experience has perhaps led him to reject the Torah, a person may indeed go to ridiculous lengths to make his point.

However, as long as he cares--even if only to rebel--he has more chance to change than the cool, detached individual. For where there is warmth and movement, there is life and there is hope.


URI means "my light" or "my flame." Uri was a leader of the tribe of Judah, father of Betzalel.

ORLI means "a light to me." Other feminine names signifying light are ORYA ("light of G-d) and ORA ("light").


This coming Monday, the nineteenth of Kislev (November 28) Lubavitcher *chasidim* the world over will celebrate and commemorate the liberation from prison of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidism.

But truly, this day, called the "New Year of Chasidut" is a time for all Jews to celebrate. The following story about Rabbi Schneur Zalman will more clearly illustrate why this is so:

Rabbi Schneur Zalman had a son, Rabbi Dov Ber, who was known for his remarkable ability to concentrate. Usually, when he was praying or studying, he did not notice anything around him.

One day, Rabbi Dov Ber was studying while his infant son slept in a nearby cradle. The baby woke up, fell out of the cradle and began to cry. Rabbi Dov Ber heard nothing. Rabbi Schneur Zalman, on an upper floor studying, heard the cry of the child, though. He interrupted his studies, came downstairs, picked up the child and soothed it. All the while, his son noticed nothing.

Later on, Rabbi Schneur Zalman reprimanded his son, saying, "No matter how important a matter a person is busy with, he must always hear the cry of a child."

"Hearing the cry," of a child in tears or in Jewish knowledge is a task to which we must all dedicate ourselves. It is something which Chabad-Lubavitch has always been committed to. It is a message that we aspire to instill in others--always hearing the cry of a Jew in need, no matter where or what he is.

In this year, the "Year of the Boy and Girl," may we all redouble our efforts to hear the cry of every Jewish child, wherever or whoever he may be.

Rabbi Shmuel Butman


One winter, Reb Shalom Ber, the fifth Chabad Rebbe, spent several months in Vienna for medical treatment. With him was his son, Reb Yosef Yitzchak (later to become the sixth Rebbe).

Every once in a while, Reb Shalom Ber and his son would go out for a walk and visit one of the small shuls (known as *shtib'lach*) in the area. There, they would sit quietly, listening to the gems of wisdom or bones from these Polish *chasidim*.

On one such evening, they went to a little *shtible* and found a group of old *chasidim* trading bones about Reb Meir of Premishlan. One old *chasid* related that the *mikva* for ritual immersion was located on the top of a steep hill on the outskirts of Premishlan. When the road up the hill was slippery from rain or snow, people had to take the long way around; to walk directly up the hill was dangerous.

One winter day, when snow and cold temperatures had made the icy paths extremely dangerous, Reb Meir walked straight uphill to the *mikva* as was his usual custom.

The local inhabitants were not surprised in the least. They had witnessed this "mini miracle" many times. However, there were two guests staying nearby, sons of rich men under the influence of the "Enlightenment" movement. These young men, of course, did not believe in miracles or supernatural acts. So, when they saw Reb Meir walking up the steep hill with sure steps, they were certain that it was, in fact, perfectly safe. They convinced themselves, and wished to convince others, that the path was not in the least bit dangerous.

After Reb Meir had entered the building which housed the *mikva*, the two young men started their climb. Without going more than a few steps, both young men fell on the slippery path and needed medical attention for their bruises.

One of the young men was the son of one of Reb Meir's closest *chasidim*. After he was all healed, he mustered up his courage and approached Reb Meir.

"Why is it, Rebbe," he asked with utmost respect, "that no one can negotiate that slippery path, yet the Rebbe walks with such sure steps?"

Answered Reb Meir, "If a man is tied on 'high, he doesn't fall down below. Meir is tied on "high" and for this reason he can walk up even a slippery hill."


Sometime later, on one of his daily "constitutional" walks ordered by his doctors, Reb Shalom Ber and his son were walking through the municipal gardens.

While they walked side by side, the Rebbe became deeply engrossed in his thoughts. Without realizing it, he drew the attention of many passers-by. He continued walking thus for a long time and his son became more and more uncomfortable. Every minute seemed to take an hour. Finally, he could contain himself no longer, and he sighed.

Reb Shalom Ber paused in his walk, distressed to think that something had caused his son to become morose or depressed. He said, "Why do you sigh? If a man is tied up on high, he doesn't fall down below!"


"I lived--*garti*--with Laban" (Genesis 22:5).

The letters of *garti* correspond numerically to 613. Jacob was explaining that though he lived with the wicked Laban, he observed all 613 of the commandments of the Torah. (Rashi)


"I am not worthy or all the mercy...which You have done" (32:11).

The Hebrew for "I am not worthy" can also be translated, "I have become small." Jacob our ancestor said: The great mercy which G-d has done for me has caused me to become more small and humble.

The mercy which G-d shows toward a person brings him closer to G-d, and the closer one is to G-d, the more humble he becomes. (Tanya)


"Thus Rachel died, and was buried on the road to Efrat, which is Bethlehem" (35:19).

Why didn't Jacob bury Rachel in the Cave of Machpela where Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sara, and Isaac and Rebecca were buried?

Instead he buried her at the crossroads of Bethlehem in accordance with a Divine Command. When Rachel's sons would, in the future, be exiled by Nebuchadnezzer to Babylonia, they would pass Rachel's tomb. She would entreat G-d for mercy for her children, and G-d would listen to her prayer. (P'sikta Ravti)

Back to "L'Chaim" Archives Online