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Parshat Vayechi, 5762
Year of Hakhel

Tevet 13, 5762 * Dec. 28, 2001

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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 the Rambam, whose yahrtzeit is next Friday, the 20th of Tevet, Jan. 4.


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

8 Tevet, 5762
Year of Hakhel
Brooklyn, New York

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Vayechi

In this week's Torah portion of Vayechi, Jacob tells Joseph: "Your two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, who were born to you in the land of Egypt...are mine; as Reuven and Shimon, they shall be mine." As will be explained, the names Ephraim and Menashe are symbolic of two different approaches to our Divine service.

Menashe comes from the word meaning "to forget." Joseph gave his son that name because "G-d...has made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house." Menashe symbolizes Jews who, because of the spiritual and physical difficulties of the exile, are in danger of forgetting their roots and Jewish tradition.

However, the name itself helps them not to forget! "Menashe" reminds us of the very real danger that exists, and causes us to be more careful in a negative environment. This path, of preventing spiritual damage from outside influences, is known as "avoiding evil."

Ephraim was so-called because "G-d has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." Whereas Menashe still remembered his "father's house" and struggled to remain connected, Ephraim's mentality was completely "exile" in nature. However, this was also G-d's will, as the purpose of the exile is to illuminate the darkness of the world with the light of Torah and mitzvot. Thus despite Ephraim's being "in the land of my affliction" he was extremely "fruitful," actively disseminating the holiness of the Torah wherever he went. This path of Divine service, transforming the darkness itself into light, is known as "doing good."

The service of Ephraim is superior to the service of Menashe. For while Menashe concentrated on protecting himself from harm, Ephraim actually turned the world into holiness. Of course, in order to succeed in such a mission, Ephraim needed an extra measure of help from Above. That is why Jacob placed his right hand (symbolic of strength and dominance) on Ephraim's head when he gave them his blessing.

Jacob declared that both of his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, would be considered as "his." Both would attain exalted spiritual levels and succeed in their Divine service in exile, in the same way that the Twelve Tribes succeeded with their advantage of being in close proximity to our forefathers. Moreover, the service of Ephraim and Menashe would be even greater in one respect, for it would stand out in stark contrast to their Egyptian surroundings, "like the advantage of light that comes from the midst of darkness."

Every Jew can relate to the respective paths of Ephraim and Menashe, which is why we bless our children, "G-d make you as Ephraim and as Menashe."


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.


A story is told of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, who was to become the third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. As a young child he was studying the Torah portion of Vayechi, this week's Torah portion, and had just learned that "Jacob lived in the land of Egypt 17 years." The teacher explained that from this verse we learn that the 17 years Jacob spent in Egypt were the best years of his life. The Tzemach Tzedek asked his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the Alter Rebbe, the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, how it was possible that Jacob could have lived his best years in such a place as Egypt?

The Alter Rebbe replied: "We have been taught in the previous Torah portion (Vayigash) that Jacob had sent his son Judah ahead of him to establish a yeshivah in the land of Egypt, in the city of Goshen. Therefore, since learning Torah brings a Jew closer to G-d, it is possible for a Jew to truly live even in a place like Egypt and that those years can even be considered 'good' years."

This story has an eternal message for every one of us:

"Egypt" is the prototype of all the exiles our people have experienced during our long history. The Hebrew word for Egypt is "Mitzrayim," which is connected with "meitzarim" -- constraints. Egypt thus indicates all situations in which a Jew finds himself constrained and limited in the development of his true Jewish spirit. If it were not for the Torah, the Jewish spirit would languish and lose vigor and vitality in the darkness of exile, whether external or internal. It is the Torah and mitzvot that illuminate Jewish life and provide the strength and vitality to overcome all constraints and hindrances, enabling every Jew -- man, woman and child -- to live a bright and meaningful life even in the midst of outside darkness.

May we merit very soon to live the ultimate bright and meaningful lives with the coming of Moshiach.




"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, next Friday, Jan. 4.).

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).

17 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.


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 the daily 3 or 1 chapters in the Mishneh Torah and/or the daily lesson in Sefer HaMitzvot, via the Internet, except on Shabbat or yom tov, at: http://www.lchaimweekly.org

The daily portion of Sefer HaMitzvot is also available electronically via the Internet. To subscribe, go to http://www.lchaimweekly.org/general/subscribe.html


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, Dec. 28, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayechi:

  • Light Shabbat candles,(1) by 4:17 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 29, Shabbat Parshat Vayechi:

  • Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:23 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.

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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