LIVING WITH MOSHIACH
Weekly Digest About Moshiach
Parshat Yitro, 5766
19 Shevat, 5766
Feb. 17, 2006
1. A Tribute to the Rebbe
on 56 Years of Leadership
2. Tu B'Shevat
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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
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"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 461-463rd
issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
In this week's issue, we focus on:
1) Yud Shevat, the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat,
Wednesday, Feb. 8, commemorating the 56th yahrtzeit of the Previous
Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn; it is also the 56th anniversary
of the Rebbe's acceptance of leadership.
2) Tu B'Shevat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat,
Monday, Feb. 13.
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
3 Shevat, 5766
Los Angeles, California
This week's Torah portion, Yitro, contains the narrative of one of
the greatest historical occurrences of all time: the giving of the Torah
to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. Yet this is not readily evident by the
name of the portion, which is called by the name of Moses' father-in-law.
Every word, letter, and subtle grammatical nuance in the Torah teaches us
volumes; how much more so, the names of the portions themselves. What then,
is so significant about Yitro that the Torah portion containing the Ten
Commandments is given his name?
Yitro, described in the Torah as "a priest of Midian," was not merely a highly
respected official in his native land. Yitro was the high priest of idolatry,
who had explored every type of idolatrous worship and philosophy in the world.
The Zohar explains that the Torah could not be given to mankind until Yitro
had rejected each and every false god, and had publicly accepted G-d's
sovereignty. Yitro was the symbol of the power ancient man invested in gods
of wood and stone. It was only when Yitro declared "Now I know that the L-rd
is greater than all the gods," that truth prevailed, and the Torah could
The most dramatic contrast occurs when darkness itself is transformed into
light. In Hebrew this is called "the superiority (yitron) of light
over darkness," a light which shines forth from a place it had previously
been unable to reach. It is also interesting to note that Yitro's name is
linguistically related to this as well.
Yitro's acceptance of G-d also reflects the reason why the Torah was given
on Mount Sinai. Prior to that time, the Patriarchs were already following
the Torah's commandments, and Jews had studied Torah while in Egypt. What
was innovated at Mount Sinai was the power to infuse the physical world with
holiness, to combine the spiritual and the material simultaneously. The G-dliness
concealed within the physical world could now be uncovered and revealed,
according to G-d's plan.
When Yitro not only rejected his false idols, but joined the Jewish people
in their faith, it paved the way for future generations to transform darkness
into light and to build a dwelling place for G-d in this world. A Jew's task
is to sanctify his physical surroundings and imbue them with holiness.
Yitro therefore merited that an entire portion of the Torah bears his name,
for he personified the mission of every Jew and the reason for the giving
of the Torah.
To further understand the above concept, i.e., what was innovated at Mount
Sinai, was the power to infuse the physical world with holiness, to combine
the spiritual and the material simultaneously. We present the following talk
of the Rebbe:
The Torah describes the revelation on Mount Sinai in this week's Torah portion,
Yitro. G-d revealed Himself to the entire Jewish nation, giving the
Children of Israel the Torah and its commandments.
However, the concept of Torah and mitzvot existed long before the
Jews arrived at Mount Sinai. Our sages teach us that the Patriarchs and
Matriarchs certainly learned Torah and performed mitzvot. What, then,
was innovated by the Revelation on Sinai?
The Midrash explains this question by means of a parable: A king once
decreed that Romans were not allowed to go down to Syria and Syrians were
not permitted to ascend to Rome. After a while the decree was nullified,
with the king announcing that he himself would initiate the change.
This is similar to how it was before the Giving of the Torah. "The heavens
belong to G-d, and the earth He gave to mankind." There existed a separation
between the heavens and the earth. At the Revelation, this decree was nullified,
and a connection was formed between the heavens and the earth. G-d was the
king who initiated the change, as we read, "and G-d descended on Mount Sinai."
The "heavens" symbolize spirituality and G-dliness. The "earth" symbolizes
the physical and corporeal aspects of our lives. When we say that before
the Torah was given on Mount Sinai there was a division between the heavens
and earth, what is meant is that there was no possibility of connecting the
physical and spiritual realms. There was an unbridgeable gap between the
two. The greatness of the Revelation on Mount Sinai is that this gap was
actually bridged, opening for us the opportunity to unite the physical world
with G-d and G-dliness.
When we take the skin of a cow -- a physical object -- and write on this
parchment a mezuzah or tefillin or a Torah scroll, we transform
it into something holy. A union is formed between the spiritual holiness
of the words of Torah and the physical parchment, to the extent that the
parchment itself becomes holy through its association. Similarly, when a
Jew eats food in honor of Shabbat, he elevates the food from its physical
state and makes it holy. This is the power that was given to us at Mount
Sinai, the power to bring G-dliness and holiness down into this physical
Before the Revelation, corporeality stood in contradiction to spirituality.
A person who wanted to become close to G-d had to distance himself, to some
extent, from the physical side of his nature. Physical actions could not
be imbued with holiness. The Giving of the Torah granted us the ability to
be connected and bound to G-d, while at the same time living a physical life.
We can worship G-d through our eating and drinking, our work, even our everyday
speech if we do these things properly. The physical needs not stand in the
way of the spiritual. We have the power to actually transform corporeality
This is our task here in this world -- to enlighten our surroundings with
the light of Torah, and to make a fitting "dwelling place" for G-d.
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
Adapted from the 3rd chapter of the first Ma'amar
(Chasidic discourse) said by the Rebbe,
The fact that our Sages say that "all those who are seventh are cherished,"
rather than "all those who are cherished are seventh," indicates that the
seventh's primary quality lies in one's being seventh. In other words, one
is cherished not on account of his choice, desire, or spiritual service,
but because he is seventh -- and this is something that he is born into.
Yet the fact remains that "all those who are seventh are cherished." It was
for this reason that it was Moshe who was privileged to have the Torah given
The Previous Rebbe explained (soon after arriving in America) that
even when we refer to the seventh of a series as being the most cherished,
the special quality of the first is apparent. For the whole meaning of "seventh"
is "seventh from the first." The Previous Rebbe then explained the
qualities that the first -- our forefather Avraham -- attained through
his spiritual service, which was performed with total self-sacrificing devotion.
Not content with the above, the Previous Rebbe adds that Avraham did
not actively pursue mesirus nefesh [self-sacrifice].... Avraham's
mesirus nefesh was incidental [to his actual service]. He knew that
the main object of divine service was [that defined by the Sages' interpretation
of the verse], "He proclaimed there the Name of G-d, L-rd of the world."
[For our Sages say,] "do not read vayikra -- 'he proclaimed,' but
vayakrei -- 'he made others proclaim.'" I.e., let another man likewise
proclaim [G-d's Name]. And if in the course of this service mesirus
nefesh was called for, he could supply that, too. Indeed, so estimable
was Avraham's divine service and mesirus nefesh that even Moshe was
privileged to have the Torah given through him because he was the beloved
seventh -- the seventh to the first. [It is to this relationship between
them that the Sages apply the verse:] "G-d told Moshe, 'Do not stand in the
place of the greats [referring to Avraham].'"
It is true that the seventh of a series is very much loved and that this
status comes not as a result of choice nor as a result of one's divine service,
but as a finished product, merely as a result of birth. Nevertheless, there
are no inherent limitations that should cause an individual to say that this
status is beyond him and that it is accessible only to a select few. On the
contrary, this is a situation similar to that which is explained in Tanna
dvei Eliyahu and quoted in Chasidus, that every Jew, even a slave
and handmaiden, can attain the inspiration of the Divine Spirit. [Similarly,]
each and every Jew is obligated to say, "When will my actions equal those
of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov?"
At the same time we should not delude ourselves: We must know that we should
"not stand in the place of the greats," and that the merit of the seventh
of a series consists of his being seventh to the first. I.e., he is capable
of doing the Divine service and fulfilling the mission of the first: "Do
not read 'he proclaimed,' but 'he made others proclaim.'"
This, then, is why the seventh is so cherished: it is he who draws down the
Shechinah (Divine Presence), in fact -- the essence of the
Shechinah; moreover, he draws it down into this lowly world.
It is this that is demanded of each and every one of us of the seventh
generation -- and "all those that are seventh are cherished:" Although the
fact that we are in the seventh generation is not the result of our own choosing
and our own service, and indeed in certain ways perhaps contrary to our will,
nevertheless, "all those who are seventh are cherished." We are now very
near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach; indeed, we are at the conclusion
of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing
down the Shechinah -- moreover, the essence of the Shechinah
-- within specifically our lowly world.
1. On this day the Rebbe officially accepted the mantle of
Chabad-Lubavitch leadership, becoming the 7th Rebbe in the Chabad-Lubavitch
A Midrash explains why Moses was chosen to lead the Jewish people
out of exile. After he had fled Egypt and settled in Midian, he became a
shepherd for his father-in-law. One day, as he was gathering the sheep, he
noticed that a young lamb was missing. He found it at a distance, near a
pool of water, thirstily drinking. "Had I known you were thirsty," Moses
said to the lamb, "I would have brought you here myself." When it slaked
its thirst, Moses picked up the exhausted lamb and carried it back to the
If Moses cares for a small and insignificant lamb in this manner, G-d responded,
he is worthy to care for My people, for he will concern himself with the
least of them.
When Moses passed on the leadership of the Jewish people to Joshua, he asked
G-d that Joshua be filled with the "spirit of the Living
G-d." Our Sages explain this unusual request as follows: Joshua could have
been a leader who stayed in his "palace," issuing general directives, but
not focusing on each individual. Moses prayed that Joshua would be able to
discern the nature of each Jew, and respond accordingly.
Many can lead the multitude, pronounce platitudes from on high and appear
to have a vision, or at least a sense of power. Others can work with individuals
or smaller groups, teach and guide within the four cubits of their world.
But to "talk with kings, and retain the common touch," is rare.
The Rebbe's leadership has been praised and acknowledged from a variety of
angles and by an array of people. His scholarship, his receptivity, his work
on behalf of Jews and non-Jews everywhere, his institutions the world over,
and so much more, have all received attention. But perhaps more then any
other, his dedication to each and every individual regardless of affiliation
or background, has been, if not overlooked, less recognized.
Today, the Rebbe's shluchim (emissaries) continue to carry out the
Rebbe's work, remaining devoted to each and every individual. These men and
women have gone literally all over the world, to bring sustenance, spiritual
and material to their fellow Jews, and indeed, to their fellow human beings.
On the Israeli front lines, they bring the joy of the Jewish holidays; when
the tsunami struck Southeast Asia, the Rebbe's shluchim were in the
forefront of rescue efforts; during and after Katrina, the Rebbe's
representatives, both those in New Orleans and elsewhere, abandoned personal
affairs to help others.
On a more "mundane" level, the Rebbe's shluchim counsel college students,
run Jewish day schools, visit Jewish prisoners -- the list of community and
educational activities is probably endless.
What remains amazing about all this is the deep value and commitment the
shluchim show to the individual, for as followers of the Rebbe they
seek to emulate his ways.
From where do they derive their energy and inspiration to not only find their
way to a community but to have a continual impact?
The answer is, from the Rebbe. For like Moses and Joshua before him, he does
more than "speak to kings." And he does more than teach the law. He perceives
the nature of an individual, and turns the key that opens the door to his
or her potential.
Yud Shevat, the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat (Wednesday,
Feb. 8), commemorates the yahrtzeit -- day of passing -- of the Previous
Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in 1950. The Rebbe's official
acceptance of leadership took place one year later, when he delivered his
first Chasidic discourse, "Basi LeGani."
This discourse was truly ground-breaking, laying the foundation for the Rebbe's
work over the next few decades. In no uncertain terms it described the uniqueness
of our generation and the special role we play in history.
The core revelation the Rebbe introduced is that ours is "the last generation
of exile and the first generation of Redemption." During the past seven
generations of Jewish history, beginning with the inception of Chabad Chasidism,
Divine consciousness has been progressively refined. Ours, the seventh generation
(and the reincarnation of the generation that left Egypt with the Exodus),
is similarly poised on the threshold of the Redemption.
"This is not through our own choice or a result of our service; in fact,
it might often not even be to our liking. Nevertheless...we stand on the
'heel of Moshiach' -- the very edge of the heel -- ready to complete the
task of drawing down the Divine Presence...into the lowest realm possible."
This knowledge implies a responsibility that is incumbent upon each and every
one us. As the Previous Rebbe wrote in a letter, every Jew must ask himself,
"What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the birth-pangs of Moshiach,
and to merit the total Redemption which will come through our Righteous
Moshiach?" Every mitzvah we do, every good deed or increase in Torah
study has the potential to tip the scales, to bring the ongoing historical
process toward the Messianic era to its ultimate conclusion.
As "Basi LeGani" concludes, "Let us all merit to see and be together
with the Rebbe, in a physical body and within our reach, and he will redeem
May it happen immediately, NOW!
by Rabbi Bentzion Grossman
To those who live in Jerusalem, Rabbi Eliezer Chaim Streicher is a familiar
figure. Rabbi Streicher is known for his unwavering trust that G-d will come
to his assistance when he is in need. Many stories are told about the salvation
that came to him in the nick of time.
As a young man, Reb Eliezer Chaim learned in a yeshivah, where he
devoted himself to Torah study day and night. After he was married he began
to search for a job, but could not find a suitable position.
After consulting with several friends, they all told him that it was easier
to make a living in the United States, he decided to move to New York. The
young couple relocated to the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, and Reb Eliezer
Chaim found a job without difficulty.
However, with every passing day, Reb Eliezer Chaim found that he had less
time to devote to his beloved Torah studies and spiritual pursuits.
It became obvious to Reb Eliezer Chaim that he had to make a decision about
where his life was going. He was hesitant to leave his job and return to
full-time Torah study. And yet...
With these thoughts going through his mind, Reb Eliezer Chaim went to pray
in a small shul that he did not usually frequent. He came across a
book that spoke about the importance of trusting in G-d. A person who has
trust, the author wrote, can be assured that G-d will never abandon him wherever
The book made a strong impression on Reb Eliezer Chaim, and he decided that
from that day on he would rely on the beneficence of G-d. With his wife's
approval, he left his job and began to study Torah full-time in a
kollel -- a yeshivah for married men.
His faith and trust in G-d, that the Al-mighty would provide him with his
livelihood from another source, was unshakable.
A few years passed and the Streichers decided to return to Israel where Reb
Eliezer Chaim would continue to devote his life to Torah study. Indeed, G-d
took care of the Streichers. Several friends helped them out and within a
short time of their return to Israel the couple was settled in a furnished
apartment in one of the religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
Years passed. Reb Eliezer Chaim found that he missed the insights and guidance
of the Rosh HaKollel, dean of the kollel, in New York. He decided
that he would travel to New York for a short while to see him. Again, G-d
provided Reb Eliezer Chaim with the necessary airfare in the merit of his
Before leaving, however, Reb Eliezer Chaim consulted with his wife, in accordance
with the Talmud's instruction to obtain one's wife's permission before embarking
on a journey. She agreed, but on one condition: that he buys clothing for
their children when he was in Borough Park. They sat down and figured out
how much it would cost: $600 would cover everything. Of course, Reb Eliezer
Chaim had not a penny in his pocket when he set off, but he agreed to his
wife's condition; G-d would somehow provide.
Weeks passed, during which Reb Eliezer Chaim was happily and dilligently
studying in his former kollel in New York. In a few more days he was
scheduled to return to Israel; the clothing for his children had been completely
On the last day of his visit he suddenly recalled the promise he had made
to his wife. There were only a few hours left before he would have to take
a taxi to the airport. But what could he do? He still had no money; even
if he had, he would have been hard pressed to fit a shopping spree in. Reb
Eliezer Chaim put his trust in G-d and continued to learn.
Then the door to the study hall opened suddenly and Reb Eliezer Chaim looked
up from his book. At that hour the study hall was empty, except for the man
who was rapidly walking toward Reb Eliezer Chaim.
The stranger was smiling; from the way he was dressed it was obvious that
he was a Lubavitcher chasid. The man came over and placed his arm
on Reb Eliezer Chaim's shoulder. Reb Eliezer Chaim greeted him warmly and
asked, "What can I do for you?"
"The Lubavitcher Rebbe gave me this envelope and told me to deliver it to
the person I would find sitting and learning in this study hall." The man
handed Reb Eliezer Chaim the envelope and left.
When Reb Eliezer Chaim opened the envelope a small cry escaped his lips.
Inside was exactly $600.
Needless to say, Reb Eliezer Chaim made it to the airport on time, his suitcases
bulging with the clothing for his children that his wife had indicated.
Years later, Reb Eliezer Chaim was still shocked by what had occurred. "Why
are you so surprised?" I asked him when he told me the story. "Hadn't you
seen with your own eyes time and time again how G-d came to your assistance
whenever it was necessary?"
"Never mind that G-d knew about my problem and came to my aid," Reb Eliezer
Chaim replied. "That I can understand. But how did the Lubavitcher Rebbe
"The future Redemption will apply not only to Israel, but to the whole world
as well. In preparation for this Redemption, therefore, action needs to be
taken so that the world at large will be ready for such a state.
"This is to be achieved through the efforts of the Jewish people to influence
the nations of the world to conduct themselves in the spirit of the verse
that states that G-d 'formed the world in order that it be settled' (Isaiah
45:18) in a civilized manner, through the observance of their seven
The Rebbe, 5743/1983
In light of the about, and in connection with Yud Shevat, this is,
once again, the perfect opportunity to consider the implications of the Rebbe's
campaign to disseminate, among non-Jews, the knowledge and observance of
the Seven Noachide Laws.
The nations of the world were given a Divine code of conduct, the Seven Noachide
Laws, which consist of six prohibitions against: adultery, murder, robbery,
idolatry, blasphemy, cruelty to animals -- and one positive command, to establish
a judicial system.
The Rebbe has encouraged his emissaries around the world to meet with
governmental officials and heads of state to sign proclamations, encouraging
the study and observance of the Seven Noachide laws. Governmental proclamations,
however, are not the Rebbe's only concern.
An important part of the Jew's task is to see to it that all people, not
just Jews, acknowledge G-d as Creator and Ruler of the world and to therefore
conduct themselves according to the Seven Noachide Laws. Each and every Jew
has an important role to play in this task. But how can this be accomplished?
When a Jew conducts himself properly in all areas of his life -- business,
recreation, family, and religious -- he will automatically influence the
people around him. When the nations of the world see Jews acknowledging G-d
as Ruler of the world, through prayer and by following His commandments,
they, too, will come to realize the importance and truth of G-d's omnipotence.
For more information about The Seven Noachide laws, go to:
The central and focal point of this month is the New Year for Trees, which
brings to mind the well-known Biblical analogy, "Man is like a tree," an
analogy that embraces many aspects, general and particular. Since this analogy
is given by the Torah, the Torah of Truth, it is certain to be precise in
all its aspects, each of which is instructive in a general or particular
way, for every one of us, man and woman.
For such is the purpose of every detail of the Torah (meaning, "instruction")
-- to induce everyone to reflect on it and derive practical instruction from
it in everyday life.
Accordingly, I will refer to some general points of the said analogy.
To begin with, the essence of a living tree is, above all, that it grows,
its growth being the sign of its being alive.
The purpose of a tree is to be -- in the words of the Torah -- "a fruit-tree
bearing fruit after its kind, whose seed is within itself," which is, to
produce fruit with seeds from which will grow trees and fruits of the same
Indeed, the perfection of a tree lies in its ability to produce trees and
fruits to all posterity.
To translate the above points in human terms:
A human being must grow and develop continuously, however satisfactory the
level may be at any given time. This is also indicated in the expression
of our Sages -- whose sayings are concise but profoundly meaningful --
"ma'alin b'kodesh," "holiness should be kept on the ascendancy."
Similarly in regard to the point: A human being should produce "fruits" for
the benefit of many others beside himself; the kind of benefit which is coupled
The meaning of "delight" in this context will become clear from the distinction
in regard to the seven species of produce with which the Land of Israel is
praised in the Torah: "A land of wheat and barley, and wine, and fig, and
pomegranate, a land of olive oil and (date) honey." Wheat and barley are
basic goods necessary for human sustenance, while the fruits of trees are
both sustaining and nourishing as well as enjoyable and delightful.
And the third point: One must strive to produce "fruit-bearing fruits," so
that the beneficiary enjoying these fruits should in turn become a "fruit-bearing
tree" like the benefactor.
Needless to say, the "fruits," of which we are speaking here, are those which
our Sages specify, saying, " the fruits of tzaddikim (which includes
every Jew and Jewess, as it is written, 'And Your people are all
tzaddikim') are mitzvot and Good Deeds."
These are some of the basic teachings of the New Year for Trees, which have
an immediate, practical relevance to each and every Jew, man and woman. There
is a further allusion to this in the meaningful Jewish custom to eat on this
day various kinds of fruits which grow on trees.
And when a Jew firmly resolves to proceed from strength to strength in all
matters of Torah and mitzvot, both in regard to himself and in
disseminating them in his environment, he has the assurance of realizing
his fullest potential -- "like a tree planted by streams of water that brings
forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither, and whatever
he does shall prosper."
Until the time will be ripe for the fulfillment of the promise, "the tree
of the field shall yield its fruit," in the plain sense, meaning that even
non-producing fruit trees shall produce fruits.
On Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for Trees, we are reminded of the passage,
"Man is like a tree of the field." When a tree is still a tiny sapling, and
even when it is yet a seed, every small detail of its care has important
ramifications. A small amount of proper care will yield a properly developed
tree, but even the smallest, undesirable action will result in immeasurable
damage to the final result.
So it is with the education of a person. Even those details that appear marginal
and secondary, or appear unworthy of our investing so much effort into them,
eventually are revealed to be of the utmost importance. Every little action
taken toward providing the proper Jewish education for our children will
result in a whole and sound adult. But even a tiny scratch on the young "seed"
can result in great damage done to the grown person.
A(2) tiny seedling's germination and development into a
full-fledged, fruit-producing tree is one of the most inspiring transformations
in all of G-d's creation. First and foremost comes the development of the
tree's root system. Thereafter the trunk and body of the tree as well as
the branches and leaves come into being. Finally there comes the time when
the tree bears its fruit.
The tree's roots are for the most part concealed from the eyes of the beholder.
Nevertheless, the tree derives its main life-force from these roots. While
it is true that the leaves also help the trees by absorbing sunlight, etc.,
the roots are the tree's mainstay; sever the roots and the tree will soon
wither and die.
Furthermore, the roots enable the tree to firmly embed itself in the earth
and remain impervious to strong gusts of wind or other elements that seek
to uproot it.
The trunk and body of the tree, including the leaves, constitute the overwhelming
majority of the actual mass of the tree. This part of the tree is generally
in a constant state of growth -- thicker trunk and boughs, additional leaves,
etc. Furthermore, the age of the tree may be ascertained from its trunk and
body, especially from the tree's annual rings.
Despite the physical predominance of the trunk and body of the tree, the
tree attains a state of completion only when it bears fruit. This is so to
an even greater degree when the kernel contained within the fruit serves
as the forebear and seed for future trees in coming generations.
How does all this apply to man?
Man, too, has roots, possesses a trunk and body, and produces fruit. In many
aspects there is a remarkable degree of similarity between man's development
-- even his spiritual development -- and that of a tree's.
Man's roots are his faith. It is a person's faith that unites and binds him
with G-d, the source and wellspring of his existence. Even after the Jew
grows in Torah knowledge and in the performance of Divine commandments, he
still derives his life-force through his belief in G-d, Judaism, and Torah.
Conversely, a weakening in one's spiritual root system of faith can have
dire consequences even on an otherwise spiritually well-developed individual.
Having achieved the level of "setting down roots" of faith, a person may
be inclined to pat himself on the back and be content to rest on his laurels.
Here the tree comes and tells us that it is composed predominantly of trunk,
branches, and leaves. In spiritual terms this means that a Jew can never
be satisfied with faith alone, for he would then be like a tree that laid
down roots, but never developed a trunk, branches and leaves. Such a "tree"
is in reality no tree at all -- its roots are here, but nothing else. In
addition to the healthy roots a Jew must have the full complement of trunk,
branches, leaves, etc.
A Jew's trunk, branches, and leaves are the study of Torah, the performance
of Divine commandments, and good deeds. They should comprise the overwhelming
majority of his activities and actions. One can tell a Jew's "age" by measuring
his "rings" as well -- how many of his years have been spent in pursuit of
spiritual knowledge and substantive deeds.
Furthermore, just as a tree's body grows constantly, so, too, should there
be constant growth in the Jew's trunk, branches and leaves -- in Torah,
performance of Divine commandments, and doing good deeds.
As laudable as all these things are, man, however, attains his state of
completion and wholeness, when -- like a tree -- he bears fruit, affecting
his friends and neighbors in a manner that they, too, fulfill the purpose
of their creation. By doing so, he bears fruit, generation after generation.
2. Adapted from "From the Wellsprings of Chassidus," published by
Sichos In English, 788 Eastern
Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
"On Tu B'Shevat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat
[Monday, Feb. 13], it is customary to partake generously of fruits, and in
particular, the species of fruit for which the Land of Israel is blessed
-- wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates... similarly,
it is customary to eat carobs on Tu B'Shevat."
The Rebbe, 11 Shevat, 5751/1991
Some have the custom of making fruit-salad from fifteen different fruits.
A Sephardic custom is to stay awake the entire night, studying all the biblical,
talmudic and kabbalistic sources relating to the fruit of Israel and stopping
at intervals to eat different fruits.
Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, is here. But what does
that have to do with us, other than eating some extra fruit, etc.?
Let's take a moment to consider the fruit for which the Land of Israel is
blessed as enumerated by the Torah: Two, wheat and barley, are grains. The
other five, grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates, are fruits.
One difference between grain and fruit is that grain is a staple food, necessary
for the maintenance of our well-being. Fruits are delicacies, eaten for pleasure.
Tu B'Shevat gives us the potential to carry out our service,
not only according to the very minimum necessary to maintain our existence,
but rather in a manner that leads to pleasure -- our own and our Creator's.
There is another area in which grains and fruits differ. When grain is harvested,
though there is an abundant increase in quantity, the grain is of the same
nature as the kernels which were originally planted. In contrast, the seed
of a fruit tree is of an entirely different nature than the fruit that is
Similarly, in regard to our service of G-d, the metaphor of fruit trees alludes
to a service that is not limited to the basic necessities, but rather generates
pleasure. It reveals the potential for growth, not only a quantitative increase,
but also, a leap to a higher level, a new framework of reference altogether.
Since Tu B'Shevat is the "New Year of the Trees," it generates new
life energy for those dimensions of a Jew's service that are compared to
May we all truly avail ourselves of this new life energy to fulfill our potential
in making this world a fitting home for G-d and G-dliness.
"A person was walking in the desert, hungry, tired and thirsty. He came upon
a tree with sweet fruits, pleasant shade and the source of water passing
"The person ate from its fruit, drank from its water and sat in its shade.
And when he was ready to leave he said, 'Tree, tree, with what shall I bless
"'If I say that your fruits should be sweet
-- why, your fruits are already sweet!
" ' -- that your shade should be pleasant, your shade is already pleasant!
" ' -- that water should flow from beneath you, it already does!
"'Therefore I will pray that it be His will that all of the saplings planted
from you will be like you!"'
* * *
Especially around the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for Trees,
we are reminded of the verse, "Man is like a tree in the field." Our Sages
offer various reasons and explanations as to how a person is similar to a
tree. The Bible, commentaries and Talmud are replete with examples of how
the Jewish people are analogous to the seven fruits with which Israel has
been praised. To mention a few:
Just as (olive) oil does not mix with other liquids, so, too, the Children
of Israel stand out from other nations.
The date is all good -- its fruit can be eaten, its branches are used as
lulavs, its leaves are used for the roof of the sukkah,
its fiber for binding, and it stands straight -- so, too, amongst the Jews
there is none who is worthless.
Just as grapes have within them food and drink, so, too, do the Children
of Israel have Torah knowledge and good deeds.
The roots of the fig-tree are delicate, yet they break through the toughest
Even the most "empty" amongst you are as full of mitzvot as a pomegranate
(is of seeds).
We can see from the above sampling how truly rich are the Jewish people.
If this is the case, then, like the desert tree are we lacking anything?
With what can we be blessed?
The greatest blessing is: "May it be His will that all of the saplings planted
from us -- all of our actions and deeds (our spiritual offspring) and our
children -- be sweet and pleasant and nourishing like us."
It's almost Tu B'Shevat, that fruit-eating and tree-planting
time of year. Now, someone out there might be wondering what he would do
if he was in the middle of planting a tree (or at least parting with his
money for a tree certificate!) and Moshiach came.
Interestingly enough, one of our Sages answered that question over 1,500
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai used to say: "If there is a plant in your hand
when they say to you: 'Behold, the Moshiach!' -- go and plant the seedling,
and afterward go out to greet him."
What does this mean to you? Take a moment to think about it and then read
"Behold, Moshiach is coming."
The Rebbe made this statement publicly at numerous gatherings in 5751-52/1991-92.
One might conjecture that, once such a powerful statement was made, all that
was left for us to do was sit around and wait for some kind of high-tech,
multi media, miraculous event to take place which would herald the messianic
Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the Rebbe said that all
of the spiritual service that needed to be completed in exile had been done,
we were not expected to take a short vacation until the Redemption. On the
contrary, the Rebbe told us to prepare ourselves to greet Moshiach by performing
acts of goodness and kindness, doing more mitzvot, studying more Torah,
and performing mitzvot in a more perfect manner.
"Go and plant the seedling," the Rebbe tells us. Continue and increase all
of the good and G-dly things you are presently doing. Learn more. Give more.
Do more. For the more you plant now, the more bountiful will be your harvest
in the messianic era.
In addition, the Rebbe mentioned numerous times that we will lose nothing
in the messianic era. To those people who were concerned that everything
they worked to build up -- businesses, relationships, material possessions
-- would be lost when Moshiach comes, the Rebbe explained that the difference
between our lives in exile and in the Messianic Era is symbolized by the
Hebrew words "gola" -- "exile," and "geula" -- "Redemption."
The only difference between these two words is that "gola" lacks the
Hebrew letter "alef" -- which stands for the "Alufo shel olam"
-- the "Master of the Universe." When Moshiach comes, the presence and
life-giving energy of the Master of the Universe will be totally revealed
in every aspect of our lives.
"Go and plant the seedling," Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai tells us. And surely,
with all the fruits of your labor, from all the seedlings you have planted,
you will be able to greet Moshiach in a dignified and upright manner.
Advertising agencies would like us to believe that you can tell a lot about
people from the -- fill in the blank -- cars they drive, clothes they wear,
liquor they drink, credit cards they use, etc., etc., ad nauseam.
What about food? Can you tell anything about a person, or more specifically,
about a Jew's very essence, from the food he eats?
In honor of Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for Trees, let's take a look
at the seven "fruits" with which the Torah praises the Land of Israel, "a
land of wheat and barley and grapes and figs and pomegranates, a land of
olive oil and (date) honey." We'll see how these fruits -- whether or not
you eat them -- can tell a lot about who you are, or who you can be. For,
these seven fruits are symbolic -- according to the mystical teachings of
Judaism -- of seven aspects of our spiritual growth.
Wheat is described by our Sages as "food for humans." It refers to the part
of ourselves which is uniquely human -- the G-dly soul. Food taken into our
bodies must be assimilated for us to remain healthy. Similarly, the Divine
spark in each of us needs to be assimilated into our beings and into every
aspect of our lives -- even our most mundane activities.
Our Sages refer to barley as "food for animals" and this refers to our more
base desires which, according to Chassidic philosophy, come from the "animal
soul." Thus, those parts of us which would fall into the category of "animal
instincts" need to be elevated and permeated with purpose.
Grapes make wine which, according to the Talmud, makes "G-d and man glad."
Interestingly, the Talmud uses the word "anashim," rather than one
of the other words for "man" in this instance. Chassidic philosophy says
that anashim refers to people who are on the lowest spiritual rung.
Gladness and happiness are indeed a form of spiritual service, one which
can be attained by individuals who are not involved in lofty, spiritual pursuits.
The G-dly service associated with grapes indicates not only that we ourselves
should strive to be joyful at all times, but that our joy should be infectious
and we should influence others to have this positive approach to life and
The Torah relates that fig leaves were used to make the first garments worn
by people -- Adam and Eve. Afterwards, G-d gave people "leather garments."
"Leather" in Hebrew is "ohr" and is spelled with the Hebrew letter
ayin. The Hebrew word for "light" is also "ohr," though it
is spelled with an alef. In the Talmud, Rabbi Meir refers to Adam
and Eve's clothing as garments of "ohr" with an alef, meaning
garments of light. This means that each of us should endeavor to spread the
light of the Torah to those whom we meet.
Jewish teachings explain that even the simplest Jew is as filled with
mitzvot as a pomegranate is filled with seeds. For, G-d created the
world in such a way that it is virtually impossible for a person to go through
life without performing mitzvot at every turn. The fact that each
seed in the pomegranate is a separate entity indicates that each
mitzvah has its own unique importance.
Olives are bitter. This implies that, though a Jew's life must be characterized
by sweetness, and that his primary approach must be one of joy, still, when
evaluating spiritual achievements, he must come to a state of bitterness.
(Warning: bitterness is not depression. Chassidus deals extensively with
the differences between bitterness and depression and the detrimental effects
of depression, but that's another article!)
Dates are referred to in the verse above as "honey." Honey is the Torah's
mystical aspect. The study of the mystical aspects of Torah strengthens the
inner dimensions of the Jewish soul, the essence of our being which controls
Through developing all of these aspects of ourselves and by encouraging others
to do the same, we will merit to go to the Land of Israel where we will enjoy
not only the actual fruits with which the Land of Israel is praised, but
also the fruits of our labor during the long exile.
During one of the Roman Emperor Hadrian's tours through Israel, he happened
upon an old man, digging holes in the soil, about to plant young saplings.
Looking at the gray hairs of the old man, the Emperor exclaimed, "Hey, Graybeard.
Surely you did not work in your youthful days that you have to work in your
"Nay, sir," replied the old man, "I have worked both in my youth, and am
not loath to work in my old age, as long as G-d will grant me strength."
"But surely you do not expect to eat of the fruit of your labor! Where will
you be by the time these saplings bring forth their fruit?"
"If it be G-d's will," answered the old man, "I might yet enjoy the fruits
of these young trees."
"You are very hopeful, old man. How old are you?"
"This is my hundredth birthday today."
"You are a hundred years old, and yet hope to eat the fruit of these trees?
Why work so hard for so slim a chance?"
"Even should G-d not spare me long, I will not have worked in vain. Just
as my grandfathers planted for me, so do I plant for my grandchildren."
"Upon your life, Sage," exclaimed the Emperor, "if you live long enough to
eat this fruit, please let me know."
Years went by, and the young fig trees brought forth their fruit. The old
man remembered his conversation with Hadrian and decided it was time to keep
his appointment with the Emperor. He selected a basketful of choice figs,
and off he went. When the guards finally admitted him, the Emperor did not
"What brings you here, old man?" Hadrian asked impatiently.
"I am the man you saw planting saplings near Tiberias, a few years ago. You
requested me to let you know should I live long enough to enjoy their fruits.
Well, here I am, and here is a basket of figs for the Emperor's pleasure."
Hadrian opened his eyes wide in astonishment. He ordered that a golden chair
be placed before the old man, and begged him to be seated. The Emperor ordered
his servants to empty out the basket full of figs and replace them with gold
coins. Hadrian's ministers were shocked at his respectful treatment of the
old Jew. But when they voiced their displeasure, he reprimanded them, saying,
"If the Creator of the World has so honored this man, granting him so many
years, surely he is deserving that I honor him as well!"
When the old man returned home, with gold and glory, his neighbors came out
to congratulate him.
One couple, however, became very envious. The wife suggested to her husband,
"It seems that the Emperor loves figs! Why don't you take some figs to him,
and fetch home their weight in gold also! And don't be foolish, bringing
only a small basketful! Make sure you take a big sack, and you'll bring home
a veritable treasure!"
The man did as his wife suggested. When he arrived at the Emperor's gates,
he said to the guard, "I heard that the Emperor is very fond of figs and
exchanges them for gold coins. I brought a sack full of juicy figs. Won't
you let me bring it in to the Emperor?"
"Wait here," said the captain of the guards.
"Have that silly man stood up by the gates of the palace," the Emperor commanded
wrathfully. "Place the sack of figs that he brought at the entrance, and
let everyone entering and leaving the palace throw a fig at him!"
The Emperor's orders were carried out to the letter. Towards evening, when
the "ammunition" was exhausted, the man was released and sent home.
Upon seeing his bruised face, his wife exclaimed, "What happened to you?
Where's the gold?"
"I wish you were there to share my wealth," the husband said, and related
to her all that had happened.
Reb Nisim lived in a small town in Israel. He and his large family lived
very simply, receiving all of their sustenance solely from a pomegranate
Every summer the tree was full of large, luscious pomegranates. People came
from all over to purchase the wonderful "Nisim" pomegranates. One summer,
however, there were no pomegranates to be seen on the tree.
Reb Nisim called to his young son Avraham. "Climb quickly up the tree and
see if maybe there are some pomegranates which we have not noticed from below."
"I've found three," called out Avraham joyfully. He carefully handed the
beautiful fruits to his father.
Never before had they seen such glorious fruits. That Shabbat, Reb Nisim
treated his family to two of the pomegranates. The third one, he decided,
would be saved for Tu B'shevat -- the New Year for Trees.
That year was very difficult for Reb Nisim's family, with not even the
pomegranate tree to sustain them. Reb Nisim's wife suggested that he go outside
of Israel to collect money for the family. "I cannot hear of such a thing,"
answered Reb Nisim. "We live in the holy land of Israel and I will not leave
for any reason."
But, after weeks of the children going to bed hungry, Reb Nisim finally agreed.
He promised himself, though, "In all my travels, I will never reveal to anyone
that I am a resident of Israel."
For months, Reb Nisim traveled from city to city, without much luck. Each
place had enough to support its own poor. And, because Reb Nisim refused
to reveal from where he came from, he was not the recipient of much charity.
On the fifteenth of Shevat, Reb Nisim arrived in the city of Koshta,
Turkey. There he found the Jews gathered together in the synagogue, weeping
and reciting Psalms. "The Sultan's son is on his deathbed. He has decreed
that unless his son recovers, all Jews must leave the country by today. We
have sent doctors and cures, but nothing has worked," explained the sexton
to Reb Nisim.
A few minutes later the sexton returned. "Our holy rabbi would like to see
you. He says that you are a visitor from the land of Israel."
Reb Nisim entered the rabbi's study quite perplexed. He had told no one that
he was from the land of Israel. How had the rabbi heard?
"There is a special scent about you," began the rabbi, "from the Holy Land."
"It must be the fragrance of the pomegranate which I have with me," explained
Reb Nisim. "Since today is Tu B'Shevat, I would like to share it with
the holy rabbi."
The rabbi's face lit up. "You have with you a pomegranate from the Holy Land?
What, may I ask, is your name?"
Reb Nisim told the rabbi his name. The rabbi's smile broadened. "In honor
of Tu B'Shevat, I have been studying a discussion of different types
of fruits in my holy books." And here, the rabbi went into a detailed explanation
of what he had read. He finished by saying, "I came to the conclusion that
the acronym for the word "rimonym" ("pomegranates" in Hebrew) is:
Refua Melech O'bno Nisim Y'viya M'hara -- the recovery for the king
and his son, Nisim will bring quickly. We must get your pomegranate to the
The rabbi and Reb Nisim entered the palace sick room. The sultan's son was
close to death. They gave juice from the pomegranate seeds to the unconscious
boy. His color changed back to normal and his eyes fluttered open. A few
more drops brought about an even more dramatic improvement.
The sultan was overjoyed. "I will remember you always," he said, with tears
of happiness streaming down his face.
Reb Nisim returned home with presents of gold and silver from the sultan.
And, their pomegranate tree returned to its previous state of bearing abundant
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:
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, Feb. 17, Erev Shabbat Parshat Yitro:
Light Shabbat Candles,(3) by 5:15 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 18, Shabbat Parshat Yitro:
Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 6:16 p.m.
3. 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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