LIVING WITH MOSHIACH
Weekly Digest About Moshiach
Parshat Va'eira, 5766
27 Tevet, 5766
Jan. 27, 2006
This week's issue is sponsored in part by:
Holy Sparks -
Your premiere site for Jewish spirituality.
5,766 Years of the Most Amazing Jewish Wisdom
recorded in calligraphy, especially for you!
Explore your potential:
Jewish Books, Art & Wisdom For Our Time.
Dedicated to educating the public regarding the
current situation in Israel, based on Torah
sources, with special emphasis on the opinion
and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
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.
"I BELIEVE WITH COMPLETE FAITH IN THE ARRIVAL OF THE MOSHIACH.
"AND THOUGH HE MAY TARRY, I SHALL WAIT EACH DAY, ANTICIPATING HIS
Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
THIS PUBLICATION IS DEDICATED
TO THE REBBE,
RABBI MENACHEM M. SCHNEERSON
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, the 459-460th
issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
In this week's issue, we focus on:
1) The Rambam, whose yahrtzeit is on Friday, the 20th of
Tevet, Jan. 20.
2) Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, whose yahrtzeit is on Tuesday, 24
Tevet, Jan. 24.
3) On the new Hebrew month of Shevat, that we bless this
On a personal note:
Wednesday, the 25th of Tevet, Jan. 25, is the 68th yahrtzeit
of my grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Halevi Shagalov, who literally
gave his life to spread Yiddishkeit in Russia. Therefore, in his memory,
we also present a famous incident in his life.
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 of blessed
memory, 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
23 Tevet, 5766
Los Angeles, California
This week's Torah portion, Va'eira, opens with G-d's reply to Moses'
question, posed at the end of last week's reading. "Why have You allowed
so much evil to befall this people?" Moses added. "Ever since I came to Pharaoh
to speak in Your name, he has done more evil... You have not delivered Your
"I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob," G-d counters.
What kind of answer is this to Moses' seemingly legitimate complaint? Our
Sages interpret this verse as a mild rebuke. "Your forefathers," G-d says,
"Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were repeatedly tested, yet none of them ever
questioned My motives."
This exchange seems odd in light of the fact that, in general, the Torah
goes out of its way to use only positive terms, even when referring to the
lowliest beast. Every word in the Torah contains countless practical lessons
to enhance our relationships with our fellow man and to apply in our service
of G-d. We must therefore conclude that G-d's response to Moses must be of
practical significance in our daily lives as well.
Moses, the greatest prophet who ever lived, certainly knew of the greatness
of the patriarchs and their unquestioning devotion to G-d. In fact, because
Moses stood on an even higher spiritual level than the patriarchs, his faith
in G-d and trust in Him were likewise also greater. Yet if so, how could
he have complained to G-d, "Why have You allowed so much evil to befall this
Chasidic philosophy explains that Moses was on the spiritual level of
chochma, intellect, whereas the patriarchs were the embodiment of
midot, the emotions. Intellect always strives to understand; the nature
of emotion includes the willingness to accept authority. The patriarchs were,
therefore, unquestioning in their submission to G-d, whereas Moses argued
and questioned in his desire to comprehend.
The practical lesson we may derive from this is twofold: On the one hand,
we must always endeavor to emulate our forefathers, who, even in times of
adversity, had complete faith in G-d and never questioned His actions. Likewise,
in our own era, now is not the time for questions as we stand on the threshold
of the complete and Final Redemption. Yet at the same time, Moses' demand
of G-d is equally valid for us today.
Nowadays, as we find ourselves at the very end of our exile, an exile so
bitter and confusing that the very boundaries between light and dark and
between good and evil appear to be blurred, we must bear these two things
in mind: The Jew must have utmost faith that all of G-d's actions are good,
that the darkness itself is leading us toward Redemption, and, at the same
time, he must beg and implore G-d with all his might to fulfill His promise
to bring Moshiach.
Our cry, "How long, O G-d?" is not in contradiction to our faith; rather,
our G-d-given intellect dictates that we demand, "Why have You done more
evil to this people?" Both intellect and emotions must work in tandem, combining
the faith of our forefathers with the cry of "We Want Moshiach NOW!"
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that
"The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his
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.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR DEAR FRIEND AND COPY EDITOR
Reb Mordechai ben Reb Shaul
Passed away on 22 Tamuz, 5763
"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,
Friday, the 20th of Tevet, Jan. 20).
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).
21 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
A businessman who wants to double his capital first has to invest it in
merchandise, and then, empty-handed, await his profit. In the same way, only
by being dispersed empty-handed among the nations of the world can the Jewish
people ultimately arrive at their great profit -- the exalted revelation
of Divine light which will take place imminently in the true and complete
Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
The prophet Isaiah said concerning the Era of Redemption, "For the world
will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean."
The main difference between now and the Era of Redemption will be our knowledge
and awareness of G-d. This is reflected in the fact that the Hebrew word
for exile, "gola," shares the same letters as the Hebrew word for
redemption, "geula," with one exception: "Geula" possesses
the letter alef -- one. It stands for G-d, "Alufo shel olam --
the L-rd of the world." Chassidic philosophy explains that there is more
than a passive similarity involved. The addition of the alef actually
transforms exile into redemption.
* Adapted from the essay, "From Exile to Redemption," published by
Sichos In English, 788 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
21 Tevet, 5720/1960
To all participants in the Annual Dinner of the United Lubavitcher
This year's Annual Dinner takes place on the auspicious day of the 24th of
Tevet, the yahrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe, author of the
Tanya and Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) and founder of
* * *
A Yahrtzeit is the annual remembrance of the last day of life on this
earth for a Jewish neshama (soul), and of its return to its Creator.
This day marks the summation of the whole span of life, the conclusion of
the soul's mission on earth.
Like all remembrances in Jewish life to which the Torah calls attention,
a yahrtzeit is not just a reminder that is to remain in the realm
It recalls and demands practical deeds in the spirit of the soul's mission
of the person whose yahrtzeit is commemorated, and by means of such
practical deeds in that spirit one becomes part and parcel of the creativity
and eternity of that person.
According to the explanation of my venerated father-in-law and of his father,
of saintly memory, the inner aspect of the soul's mission and of the life
and work of the Alter Rebbe -- as reflected also in his name, Shneur
(shnei-ohr, meaning "two lights"), two lights united together in one
word -- was to fuse together the two Divine lights, the revealed light of
the Torah (Nigleh she'b'Torah) and the hidden inner light of the Torah
(Nistar she'b'Torah), in such a way that the innermost should permeate,
irradiate and shine forth through the outer (revealed) light, resulting in
a whole and complete Torah -- Torah T'mima.
And, as explained in the Zohar, this is also the means whereby, in
the same way, the innermost aspect of the soul is merged with its outer aspect
-- the revealed part of the Jewish soul with its inner nekudas haYahadus
Such is also the inner purpose of the Yeshivos "Tomchei T'mimim"
Lubavitch, namely, that the students should become t'mimim (whole
and complete) in the spirit of Torah T'mima, as defined and expounded
upon by the Alter Rebbe, whose yahrtzeit is commemorated today.
* * *
All those who adequately participate in the Annual Dinner of the United
Yeshivos Tomchei T'mimim on this auspicious day of the 24th
of Tevet, including those who were unable to participate in person
but take an adequate share in the supporting and strengthening of the Lubavitcher
Yeshivos, thereby contribute and become an integral part of the creative
deeds and accomplishments of the one whose yahrtzeit is being
May G-d grant that such participation be in a growing measure, with a steadily
rising vitality and devotion.
And the zechut [merit] of the Baal-ha-Yahrtzeit, the
Alter Rebbe, will surely stand you all in good stead, men and women,
who take an active share in the support and expansion of the Yeshivos
Tomchei T'mimim, which are conducted in his spirit and with his system,
and will bring you Divine blessings in all your needs, both material and
spiritual, which go hand in hand together.
Tuesday, Chof Daled (the 24th day of) Tevet, Jan. 24, is the
yahrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi,
the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch and the founder of Chabad Chasidic
philosophy and the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty.
The Alter Rebbe opened a new path that allowed the teaching of the
previously hidden aspects of the Torah -- P'nimiyus HaTorah -- to
be grasped through the intellect and thus reveal additional G-dliness within
But the Alter Rebbe was not only a master in the area of the more
esoteric aspects of the Torah. Even as a child he was considered a great
scholar of the revealed parts of the Torah -- nigle d'Torah -- as
This quality of the Alter Rebbe is alluded to in his name,
Shneur, which can be broken up into two Hebrew words, "Shnei"
and "ohr" which mean "two lights." The Alter Rebbe illuminated
the world with his greatness in the two lights of the Torah.
In the Alter Rebbe's magnum opus, Tanya, he writes: "The Messianic
Era...is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for
which purpose it was originally created." This means that our spiritual service
will reach its full completion only with the fulfillment and culmination
of the entire creation that will take place when Moshiach is revealed.
The entire purpose, in fact, of the revelation of chasidic philosophy is
to hasten and prepare the world for the Messianic Era.
Thus, when each one of us studies Chasidus, whether the more sublime
aspects or the most esoteric concepts, we prepare ourselves and the world
around us for Moshiach.
* * *
The Alter Rebbe's works incorporated the whole spectrum of Jewish
thought. The philosophical system he created is a synthesis of the mystical
and revealed aspects of Judaism. But the Alter Rebbe was not merely
a cold, analytic scholar, as the following story reveals:
Once, Rabbi Dov Ber, the Alter Rebbe's son, was studying late at night,
his infant son in a cradle nearby. Rabbi Dov Ber was so immersed in his studies
that when the baby fell out of the cradle he did not hear the child cry.
The Alter Rebbe was also studying in another part of the house. But
he heard his grandson's cry and quickly went to pick him up.
"You must always hear the cry of a child," the Alter Rebbe rebuked
This simple admonition is like the rallying cry of all of the Alter
Rebbe's descendants and followers since then. The Alter Rebbe devoted
his life to hearing the cry of every child -- regardless of his chronological
age. Indeed, within each one of us there is a child crying out to his Father
in Heaven, waiting to be picked up and brought close. The Alter Rebbe's
teachings, especially his main work, the Tanya, were written to help
enable one to achieve that very closeness.
Tuesday, 24 Tevet, Jan. 24, is the yahrtzeit of the first Rebbe
of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. We would like to share
with you just a few of the hundreds of references to and explanations about
Moshiach, the exile and redemption, that Rabbi Shneur Zalman made in his
numerous scholarly works.
"In the days of the Holy Temple, the Children of Israel were by their very
nature drawn by a genuine yearning towards the service of G-d; for them the
demands of this world were a matter of necessity, to be dispensed with
off-handedly, and without ardor. In the time of exile the opposite is true:
A man is drawn by nature to his bodily needs and to this-worldly matters,
while his divine service and his love of G-d are earned at the expense of
"The time of exile has been likened to a dream. For so it is written, "When
G-d will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers." A dream
can fuse two opposites. In the present time of exile likewise, a person can
be a paradox. While he is at prayer he is aroused to a love of G-d; when
his prayers are over, this love has vanished: he is preoccupied all day with
his business affairs, and gives priority to his bodily needs."
"Fulfilling mitzvot during the time of exile is like sowing seeds.
A seed planted in the ground sprouts into a harvest that far exceeds its
beginnings. So, too, by fulfilling mitzvot, one "sows" and increases
the lights Above, in the Supernal "Land," and the harvest will "sprout" in
future time. Moreover, the longer a seed remains in the ground, the richer
will be the yield. So, too, the longer this exile is extended, the more intense
will be the revelation in time to come."
"It is well known that the Messianic Era, and especially the time of the
Resurrection of the Dead, is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation
of the world, for which purpose it was originally created.... This culminating
fulfillment of the Messianic Era and of the Resurrection of the Dead, depends
on our actions and service throughout the duration of the exile."
In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia, and the route of the invasion led through
White Russia. The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, leader
of the chassidic movement in White Russia, who had twice been accused of
high treason, turned out to be a most loyal patriot. Although the French
conqueror was hailed in some religious Jewish quarters as the harbinger of
a new era of political and economic freedom, the Alter Rebbe saw in
Napoleon a threat to basic religious principles and spiritual values.
The Alter Rebbe had nothing but contempt for the man whose arrogance
and lust for power knew no bounds, and who represented to the Chabad leader
the antithesis of humility and holiness. The Alter Rebbe urged his
numerous followers to help the Russian war effort against the invaders in
every possible way. With the aid of his followers behind the enemy lines,
some of whom were employed by the French Military Command, the Alter
Rebbe was also able to render valuable intelligence service to the Russian
generals at the front.
When the French armies approached Liadi, the Russian generals advised the
Alter Rebbe to flee. In August (1812) the Alter Rebbe hastily
left Liadi, and fled with his family towards Smolensk. For some five months
the Alter Rebbe and his family suffered the hardships and perils of
the road and of an unusually inclement winter, until they reached a village
in the district of Kursk. Here the Alter Rebbe succumbed to a severe
illness in the final stages of the harrowing journey, and passed away at
the age of 68.
Traditions and records preserved in the family of the Alter Rebbe
provide interesting details in connection with the Alter Rebbe's last
and fateful journey. From an account by Rabbi Nachum, grandson of the
Alter Rebbe, relating his personal experiences, we learn the following
It was on Friday, the 29th of Av, that the Alter Rebbe fled
from Liadi on the advice of the generals commanding the Russian armies in
that area. Sixty wagons were put at his disposal, but they were not enough,
and many had to walk on foot. A number of armed troops were assigned to accompany
and protect the caravan. In view of the rapid advance of the French army,
the generals suggested that the best route for the flight of the Alter
Rebbe would be through the town of Bayev. But the Alter Rebbe decided
to head for Krasna, urging the caravan to make the utmost haste, in order
to cross the river Dnieper at the earliest possible time.
After covering a distance of about two miles, the Alter Rebbe suddenly
requested the accompanying troops to let him go back to Liadi. Arriving at
his deserted house, he ordered his men to search the house carefully to make
sure that nothing whatever, however trivial, had been overlooked. The only
things found were a pair of worn-out slippers, a rolling pin and a sieve,
which had been left in the attic. He ordered these to be taken along, and
to set the house on fire before the enemy arrived. Then he blessed those
of the townspeople who remained in the town, and speedily departed again.
No sooner had he left the town on the road leading to the Dnieper than the
avant-coureur of Napoleon's army reached the town from the opposite
end. Presently, Napoleon himself with his entourage entered the town on their
galloping steeds. Napoleon inquired after the house of the Alter Rebbe,
but when he reached it, he found it ablaze, the fire burning beyond control.
Napoleon wished to have something that belonged to the Alter Rebbe
and offered a rich reward to anyone who could bring him
anything.(1) But nothing was there.
During all his long and arduous journey the Alter Rebbe kept in touch
with the situation of Russian Jewry caught in the gigantic Franco-Russian
war. At that time the invading armies plundered everything they could lay
their hands on. Starvation and ruination were the order of the day, and the
Alter Rebbe's heart went out to his suffering brethren, who were the
most hard-hit victims of the invasion.
The Alter Rebbe had foreseen Napoleon's invasion of Moscow as well
as his defeat there. He also predicted that Napoleon's final defeat would
be at the hands of his own compatriots. At the same time he knew that the
retreating French armies, starving and desperate, would plunder the Jewish
communities that lay in their path. Arriving in Piena, the Alter Rebbe
embarked upon a relief campaign to aid the Jewish victims of the war, including
resettlement plans, fund raising, and relief distribution. For ten days after
his arrival in Piena the Alter Rebbe worked feverishly on his plans
and projects to alleviate the plight of his brethren. Then, he fell ill,
his condition worsening day to day. At the conclusion of Shabbat
Parshat Shemot, after reciting the Maariv (evening prayer)
and Havdalah, he composed a letter full of mystical allusions, and
a few minutes later he returned his soul to his Maker.
1. It seems that Napoleon practiced some sort of sorcery for which such an
object was required. Ed.
This Shabbat we bless the new Hebrew month of Shevat. About
the first day of Shevat, it is related in Deuteronomy, that on this
day, in the 40th year after the Exodus from Egypt, Moses began to explain
the fifth Book of the Torah to the Jewish people. (He concluded on the 7th
day of Adar, the same day he passed away).
The beginning of Deuteronomy relates how Moses rebuked the Jews for their
sins, including the Golden Calf and the sin of the Twelve Spies. However,
Moses did not specify any particular transgressions, but only alluded to
their sins. Moses inspired the Jews to return to the right path through his
constructive criticism. From this we learn a great lesson: Whenever discipline
is necessary, love and kindness are much more effective than humiliation
The name "Shevat" itself relates to the Hebrew word "shevet,"
meaning staff, which is associated with the concept of authority and kingship,
as the Torah states, "The staff will not depart from Judah." The most perfect
expression of this idea will be manifested in the era of the Redemption,
when Moshiach will become the sovereign king. Indeed, on the verse "And a
shevet will arise in Israel," Maimonides explains, "This refers to
The word "shevet" also means "branch" or "shoot." In this context,
there is also a connection to Moshiach. On the verse "A shoot will emerge
from the stem of Jesse" (a famous prophecy about the coming of Moshiach),
the Torah commentator Metzudat David explains that this also refers
to King Moshiach.
As we begin this month so closely associated with Moshiach, let us hope and
pray that all our efforts to learn Torah, observe mitzvot and spread
awareness of the Rebbe's Prophecy of Moshiach's imminent arrival, bring about
the ultimate Redemption without delay.
Tuesday, Beis Shevat, the second day of Shevat (Jan.
31), is the yahrtzeit of Reb Zusya of Anipoli, a disciple of
Reb Dov Ber of Mezritch (the Mezritcher Maggid), and colleague of
Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe.
The fact that illness and utter poverty were Reb Zusya's lot did not in the
least affect his piety, humility, and love of G-d for which he was renowned.
A story is told of Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg, who approached Reb Dov Ber
of Mezritch and asked him how it was possible to follow the injunction of
our Sages to "make a blessing upon hearing bad news just as one would make
a blessing upon hearing good news." Reb Dov Ber told Reb Shmelke to go to
Reb Zusya, and he would answer his question.
Reb Shmelke went to Reb Zusya, upon whom poverty and illness had left their
physical marks. When Reb Shmelke posed his question to him, Reb Zusya was
surprised. He replied, "This question should have been brought to someone
who has actually experienced unfortunate events, G-d forbid. Thank G-d, I
have only had good things happen to me for my whole life."
The answer to Reb Shmelke's question was that someone should rejoice in his
lot to the point that he is not even aware of harsh events. This was the
hallmark of Reb Zusya's life.
Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi held Reb Zusya in such high esteem that before
printing his magnum opus, the Tanya, he sent a copy of it with a special
messenger to Reb Zusya for his approbation.
The following is a true story related by a Russian Jewish woman who was
present at the court case described below:
In 1924, the Russian masses, most of whom had been fervently religious before
the Revolution of 1917, were in the process of being weaned away from their
religion. But, there were many -- even Communist party members -- who remained
faithful to their religions. Many Jews retained outward appearances to show
that they were good Communists, but deep within them burned the eternal Jewish
One such man created a sensation in Gomel. Soon after his wife gave birth
to their first child, a son, he said that he was suing for divorce. The reason:
his wife had the baby circumcised!
The Communists had a chance to display to Gomel's Jewish population how a
young man was prepared to sacrifice family ties for his party. They immediately
planned a public trial. The trial was well publicized and when the day arrived
the galleries were filled to overflow.
The judge, who was himself Jewish, called the husband first. "Tell me, Comrade,
are you a loyal party member?" he asked.
"I am indeed." And the husband described his important post in the governmental
"Until now, have you loved your wife? Have you been on good terms?" asked
The husband answered in the affirmative.
"What then, Comrade, has happened that you wish to divorce her?" the judge
"Comrade Judge, my wife gave birth to a son. I looked forward to bringing
him up as a true Communist. One day, I came home and to my utter consternation
found that he had been circumcised! Was I supposed to stand guard all day,
neglecting my important work for the advancement of communism? I hold her
responsible!" the husband said emotionally.
"Let the wife step forward," the judge ordered. "Comrade, are you guilty
of perpetrating this heinous crime?"
"Comrade Judge," she wept, "it isn't true. He won't listen to me. We live
in a single, rented room in someone else's house. One day I had to go shopping
for food and I left my baby sleeping in his crib. I made sure to lock the
door before I left. It took me longer than I expected. Just imagine how
frightened I was when I found the door of our room wide open! I looked around
and saw that nothing had been touched. But suddenly, I realized that my baby
"There was no one else in the house, no one to ask, no sign of any theft.
I ran out into the street like a madwoman when I suddenly saw my parents
and my husband's parents. Imagine my relief when I noticed my mother carrying
the baby. She tried to calm me; they had just taken the baby for a walk,
she told me.
"I believed them. But when I brought him home and changed his diaper I had
a fit. How could my parents do this to me?" she screamed.
"Terrible," the judge shook his head. "Unbelievable that in the modern Soviet
Republic these religious practices still exist. Let the child's grandparents
All four grandparents stood together. Both grandfathers had gray beards and
wore long black coats. The grandmothers' heads were covered with kerchiefs.
One of the grandmothers, who knew a little more Russian than the others,
spoke for them all.
"Honorable Comrade, I admit that I can't see what's wrong with our grandchild
having a bris like all Jewish boys. But you should know that we didn't
mean to do it. It just happened."
The public galleries reverberated with howls of laughter. The judge called
for silence and asked sarcastically. "How, Babushka, does a circumcision
"We took our little grandson out for some fresh air. We came to streets where
we hardly ever go. Suddenly a young rabbi walked over to us, whom we never
saw before and asked, 'Do you want your grandson to have a bris like
every Jewish boy?' 'Of course,' we answered. So he quickly took out a knife
and before we knew what was happening our grandson had a bris!"
The gales of laughter from the galleries couldn't be contained.
"Babushka, have you finished your ridiculous story?" asked the judge.
"I have told you all," said the grandmother. "But I want you to know that
I am very happy."
"Happy?" roared the judge. "About what?"
"Happy that our dear little grandson had a bris. Just like you, your
honor! Aren't you proud to be a Jew?"
Try as he might, the judge could do nothing to stop the titters and snickers.
Eventually the courtroom was brought to order. The husband was called back
to the witness stand.
"Tell me, Comrade, hero of communism, if not for this most unfortunate affair,
is there any other reason you have for divorcing your wife?"
"No, Comrade Judge, none whatsoever."
"If I tell you that she is not guilty, will you consider returning to her?"
"Of course, Comrade," said the husband.
"Then, here is the decision. Your wife is innocent. It is entirely the fault
of the grandparents who persist in observing these religious practices. They
will be fined 50 rubles. This is the decision of the Soviet Court of Gomel."
As the spectators filed out of court, they couldn't help but admire the ingenious
plan of the young party-member and his wife to have their son circumcised
while still retaining his high-ranking job and party membership.
The bizarre story about the stranger was, of course, to protect the
mohel's identity. But, it was no secret to anyone; everyone knew the
one mohel left in the city, Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Halevi Shagalov,
a young rabbi who had studied for ten years in the famous yeshiva
in Lubavitch, and was one of the chasidim left in Russia by the Previous
Rebbe to continue with Lubavitcher activities at great personal sacrifice.
* * *
In the early hours of the morning, on the 4th of Tishrei, 5698 (September
9, 1937), while still up and learning Chasidus, as was his nightly
custom, Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Halevi Shagalov was arrested for spreading
Yiddishkeit in Russia and shot to death (at the age of forty) in prison
less than five months later, on the 25th of Tevet, 5698 (December
In 1953, his wife Rebbetzin Shagalov, may she live and be well, settled in
Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. With the Al-mighty's blessings, she is
enjoying the blessings of many descendants (including a number of
great-great-grandchildren), all of them Lubavitcher chasidim, and
many of them emissaries of the Rebbe on all five continents!
**. See "A Life of Sacrifice" - The Life and Times of Reb Yitzchok
Elchonon Halevi Shagalov, by my cousin Rabbi Elchonon Lesches (2003: Brooklyn,
Rabbi Lesches can be reached at:
The most important principle in the Torah is the protection of Jewish life.
It's more important than Shabbat, more important than holidays, even
fasting on Yom Kippur.
Right now, in Israel, and everywhere, Jews must stand together in unity and
do whatever possible to protect Jewish life.
The Rebbe teaches that there are ten important
Mitzvot we can do to protect life. See what you can do:
1) Ahavat Yisroel: Behave with love towards another Jew.
2) Learn Torah: Join a Torah class.
3) Make sure that Jewish children get a Torah true education.
4) Affix kosher Mezuzot on all doorways of the house.
5) For men and boys over 13: Put on Tefillin every weekday.
6) Give Charity.
7) Buy Jewish holy books and learn them.
8) Light Shabbat & Yom Tov candles. A Mitzvah
for women and girls.
9) Eat and drink only Kosher Food.
10) Observe the laws of Jewish Family Purity.
In addition, the Rebbe also urged every man, woman and child to Purchase
a Letter in a Sefer Torah. There are several Torah scrolls
being written to unite Jewish people and protect Jewish life.
Letters for children can be purchased for only $1. Send your Hebrew name
and your mother's Hebrew name plus $1 to:
"Children's Sefer Torah,"
P. O. Box 8,
Kfar Chabad, 72915, Israel
or via the Internet, at:
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:
The daily portion of Sefer HaMitzvot is also available electronically
via the Internet.
To subscribe, go to:
* * *
The book Tanya, the basic work of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, is based
on the Torah verse, "It [the full scope of Torah] is very close to you."
The yahrtzeit of the Tanya's author, the Alter Rebbe,
on the 24th of Tevet, should inspire us to establish fixed programs
of study that focus on this fundamental work of Chabad Chasidic philosophy.
As it is divided into 53 chapters, corresponding to the 53 Torah portions,
chasidim of old customarily studied one chapter each week. The Previous
Rebbe divided the Tanya into daily portions and instituted its daily
study, and the Rebbe has repeatedly encouraged this study.
One can study over the phone via pre-taped classes by calling (718) 953-6100,
or via the Internet, at:
on Shabbat or Yom Tov), or attend a class at your local
The daily portion of Tanya is also available electronically via the
To subscribe, go to:
Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat
For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
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. 27, Erev Shabbat Parshat Va'eira:
Light Shabbat Candles,(2) by 4:50 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 28, Shabbat Parshat Va'eira:
Blessing of the New Month, Shevat.(3)
Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:52 p.m.
2. 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.
3. Rosh Chodesh Shevat is on Monday Jan. 30.
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.
Back to "Living With Moshiach" Home Page