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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 806
                           Copyright (c) 2004
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        February 6, 2004       Beshalach         14 Shevat, 5764

                          You Are What You...

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, beverages they drink, credit cards they use, etc., etc.

What about food? Can you tell anything about a person from the food he

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, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive
oil and honey."

The Jewish people are intimately connected to the Land of Israel, a
connection that expresses itself in the fruits that grow there, as well.
Thus, these fruits - whether or not we eat them - can tell a lot about
who we are, or who we 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 Jewish teachings 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

Our Sages refer to barley as "food for animals" and this refers to our
more base desires which, according to Chasidic 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

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. Chasidic 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

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 G-d.

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's 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 (commandments) 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 mitzva 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. Chasidut
deals extensively with the differences between bitterness and depression
and the detrimental effects of depression.)

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 our lives.

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.

This week's Torah portion, Beshalach, tells about the special type of
food, manna, with which G-d provided the Jews during their sojourn in
the Sinai desert. It was referred to a "bread from Heaven." The manna
had several amazing characteristics, among them were that the manna
could taste like anything a person wanted, and that each person received
exactly the proper amount that his family needed.

The manna, however, was not merely a solution to the Jews' nourishment
in the desert. G-d commanded that a special jar of manna be kept for
future generations. Later, when Jeremiah chastised the Jews for not
learning enough Torah, they would answer him back saying, "How can we
just leave our jobs and learn Torah? How will we support ourselves?"
Jeremiah would then take out the jar of manna and say, "This is what
supported your forefathers; G-d has many emissaries to provide
sustenance for those who fear Him."

At first glance, Jeremiah's answer to the question of how the Jews would
provide for themselves is not clear. What is the connection between the
manna that fell in the Sinai desert, and the situation of the Jews in
his time? Manna had ceased to fall from the heavens and people were
forced to work the earth to bring forth grain for bread.

The manna, however, symbolized not only G-d's kindness in the Sinai
desert - but also that He sustains us even now.

When we plough the ground in an effort to grow food, it would seem to be
a totally natural process. We do not discern anything miraculous or
supernatural. Indeed, if we were to thank anyone at all for our food our
gratitude would be directed toward the farmers who worked the land to
bring forth its bounty. Likewise, the employee who receives a salary
thinks that he is sustained and provided for by his employer alone.

If we examine the concept of sustenance further, we will see that the
earth which grows wheat, and the employer who pays a salary, are only
the channels through which G-d blesses us. The true blessings and good
come from Him, but He uses natural means to transfer our sustenance.

Even a simpleton understands that it is not the pipes that give us water
but the underground spring or well itself. We must, of course, work for
a living - in order to fashion a "pipe" - but we need not make the
"career" the center of our life. Fashioning a pipe cannot interfere with
performing mitzvot, for by doing so, we would cut ourselves off from the
"well" - from G-d's blessings.

However, our blessings do arrive in a natural way, concealing the true
process. Therefore, a Jew must have faith in G-d in order to achieve
this understanding. This is the importance of the manna, for it
symbolizes in a concrete way the fact that our sustenance comes directly
from G-d. None of man's machinations and schemes can change this; each
person will receive exactly, no more and no less, the portion allotted
to him.

Understanding the significance of the manna will strengthen our belief
in G-d and our faith that He will take care of us both physically and

                   Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                            by Leah Sherman

This year I celebrated the 18th anniversary of my arrival to the United
States, from the United Kingdom. What unites that time with the present
is the steps I have taken towards spiritual growth. The journey has been
full of twists and turns, turbulent at times, as it has guided me to
this pinnacle, from which I begin again. The three-year-long dream of
keeping kosher at home became real when I moved into a new home in East
Boca, earlier in the year, answering a long-awaited prayer that I be
with- in walking distance of the synagogue.

Growing up, the laws of Shabbat appeared restrictive, limiting even, and
the spiritual essence of Shabbat was never revealed to me. As a child,
my questions were predictably answered with just two short statements:
"Because it's written," or, "Because it's our tradition." After a while,
I just stopped asking. Yes, it was "nice" to light Friday night candles,
and I'm sure that some part of me felt connected to the ritual, but now
that I know the difference this seemingly simple gesture can make, I am
infused with excitement and anticipation as the lighting time approaches
on Friday night. It's more powerful than me, beyond me, and it gives me
a sense of purpose, the feeling that what I do really does matter after
all-that my purpose for being here is far removed from my self, and
altogether to do with G-d's purpose for being here.

As the sun sets over the treetops, I light my Shabbat candles, and
breathe in deeply to welcome the Shabbat. For me, it's a time to stop
and think of my family and friends in England, to send healing energy to
people who aren't well, to transmit peace and kindness across the
universe. It's a time to disconnect from worldly matters, to absorb
myself in prayer, the passages and inner wisdom of the Torah, and my
relationship with G-d. Removing myself from the physicality of the
workweek, everything slows down. Walking to the synagogue early on
Saturday morning, I see G-dliness in the trees and the flowers, and
marvel at their changing, as each week the trees shed their old branches
and leaves and bear new ones, and the tropical flowers blossom with
remarkable color and shape. I hear His voice in the chirping of the
birds, see Him moving with the flow of the current, and recognize Him in
the faces of people as we pass each other on the road. It's the time in
which stress dissolves, the turbulence ceases to exist and I know peace.
It recharges me, conveys to me what's real, what's most important, and
it elevates my week, each and every week. I thrive on it, I am alive in

There is something else that happens, too. Arriving at the synagogue, I
connect with other people; we're there for the same reason. I enjoy the
familiarity, the family, of community. I come to know people out of the
box, to bond with them on a deep level as Rabbi New unites us as one,
during prayer, with the chanting of uplifting melodies, and throughout
the three meals of Shabbat. Everyone is cared for, thought of, missed
when they're absent. It sometimes feels as though we're in a spaceship,
going on a trip together, into the mystery. As the mystery deepens, my
heart unfolds to the wonder, the unknown, and I learn not to fear but to
trust, and to love. The rituals ignite the heavens in a joyful dance and
as each week passes God's love exists in the smallest aspects of my
life, not just in the grand moments when it's clear who's making the
move. I feel Him with me, all the time.

The need for material sustenance not with- standing, my prayers no
longer revolve around what I can get but what I can give. I strive to
replace thoughts of my self with thoughts of a G-dly nature, asking how
to improve, how to move to the next level, instead of the immersion in
the self, in the void. How do I deepen my connection to the Creator? How
can I better position myself to serve His purpose? "What is His will,"
is a rich and rewarding prayer. Let Him take care of the rest. Yes, I
have resistance. Sometimes Jewish law asks me to exert myself, and my
faith, beyond anything I've ever known. As I morph through each stage of
my unfolding, I learn to acquiesce more easily the experience of
surrender so extraordinarily beautiful that gratitude becomes the focal
point of my awakening. I thank G-d, and love Him, for the opportunities
that these apparent challenges present. From the moment I awaken in the
morning and say the Modeh Ani prayer, to the time that I lay down at
night, with the Shema I am reminded of who I am. And who I am is, quite
simply, beyond me.

Of course I have a long way to go; I've only just begun to scratch the
surface. And for me that's part of the beauty - I will never know
enough, I can always know more, and can grow towards G-d every week,
every day, each moment of my life. There is always something to learn,
beyond even the greatest thirst for knowledge and wisdom; it can never
be satiated. There is Shabbat and the Holy Days to look forward to, and
plan for, people to think of, mitzvot to perform.

18 years I've lived here; the numerical value of Chai, the Hebrew verb
to live. At last I am embracing the life I dreamed of when I first moved
here. L'chaim, to life.

         This article was originally printed in InsideOut Magazine.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                            Letters of Light

As a carpenter employs tools to build a home, so G-d utilized the
twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the alef-beit, to form heaven
and earth. These letters are the metaphorical wood, stone and nails,
cornerposts and crossbeams of our earthly and spiritual existence. In
Letters of Light Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin explores the essence of these
holy letters, illustrating how they continue to be a source of creation,
reflection, prayer and inspiration in our everyday lives. Published by
Sichos In English.

                       Gutnick Chumash in Spanish

The Gutnick Chumash, which has garnered much acclaim in the English
speaking world, is now available in Spanish. A collaboration between Kol
Menachem, the publishers of the Gutnick Chumash, and Kehot of South
America, recently released the book of Exodus. The editors of a new
translation of the Torah into Polish have been so impressed with the
original English translation in the first two books of the Gutnick
Chumash that they have asked the publishers for a pre-release copy of
Chumash Vayikra (Leviticus), currently being prepared for publication
later this year.

                            THE REBBE WRITES

                          18th of Adar 2, 5725

Blessing and Greeting:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 21st of Adar 1, as
also your previous correspondence.

May G-d grant that all the matters about which you write, including your
activities in progress, as well as those to be undertaken in the future,
should all be crowned with Hatzlocho, and in a greater measure than
expected or anticipated at first glance.

In the literature of Chassidus, such activities are classified and
explained under two categories: "seeding" and "planting." The difference
is this: In the case of seeding, as, for example, sowing wheat, the
fruits take less time to appear than in the case of planting a tree. The
reason is that in the case of the former, the results, though many times
the original effort, are considerably smaller than in the case of
planting. Similarly, in the efforts and activities of a human being,
there are such that come under one category and/or the other. If,
therefore, it sometimes takes longer for the efforts to come to
fruition, this is no reason for discouragement; on the contrary, the
reason may well be that it is a case of "planting," where the ultimate
results will be infinitely greater.

In light of the above, and also in answer to your previous letter, it is
surprising to me that you should have any doubt about your ability, or
the success of your efforts, etc. It would appear as if you have doubts
as to whether the one who gave you the assignment had made a wise
choice. Surely you do not entertain such a thought, though in any case I
would not consider it in any personal way, as far as I am concerned.
However, if you are certain that the one who gave you the assignment has
not made a mistake, then you should continue your work with certainty
and confidence, and with G-d's help you will succeed....

With blessing,

                                *  *  *

                         Greeting and Blessing:

I have been receiving gratifying reports from our mutual friend, Rabbi
-, about your personal involvement in the activities to spread
Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in your city and region. I was particularly
impressed with his recent report that you have been instrumental in
procuring a new mortgage for the Chabad House, which will go a long way
to consolidate and expand its vital activities.

To a person who has been consistently active in this field, there is
surely no need to emphasize at length the urgent and imperative need of
the hour to strengthen every aspect of Torah Yiddishkeit, particularly
in the Chinuch [education] of our young and growing generation. Here
time is of the very essence. I have often emphasized that the Torah
education of children is like the case of a young seedling, where a
little extra care at an early stage results in manifold benefit when it
becomes a full-grown fruit-bearing tree. It is even more important when
the seedling requires protection against the elements.

There is no need to elaborate on the strong and dangerous environmental
influences to which Jewish children are exposed in this day and age. No
endeavor can therefore  be too great for this cause. Indeed, as a
successful businessman you know that embarking upon an ambitious and
large-scale undertaking in the first place, generates a great deal more
enthusiasm and energy to carry it through successfully.

As we are now approaching the Chag Hageulo [anniversary of liberation]
of my father-in-law of saintly memory [on 12 Tammuz, early summer], the
anniversary brings us a timely message that when it comes to Chinuch and
Yiddishkeit in general there must be no concession to obstacles. By his
unshakable determination, in defiance of a ruthless regime, he not only
overcame all obstacles, but even succeeded to expand his activities,
albeit, necessarily, underground. To be sure, none of us can compare to
his stature, but after he has paved the way, and, especially, since by
the grace of G-d we live in a country where there are no obstacles even
remotely comparable to those he faced, but, on the contrary, there is
freedom to work for Yiddishkeit - the lesson is obvious.

May G-d grant that the achievements in the past should stimulate you and
all your co-workers to even greater endeavors, with complete assurance
of G-d's blessing for Hatzlocho in these and in all personal affairs.

With esteem and blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
16 Shevat, 5764 - February 8, 2004

Prohibition 62: We are prohibited from taking vain oaths

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 20:7) "You shall not take the
name of the L-rd, your G-d in vain." This prohibition teaches us not to
make a "vain promise." A vain promise can be:

    1. To swear that something is not what it really is.

    2. To swear that something exists, when such a thing is impossible.

    3. To swear about something which is plainly obvious.

    4. To swear that you will not keep one of the mitzvot in the Torah.

All these promises are part of prohibition 62. Neither they, nor
anything like them, should be made - even if they are made in a joking

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is special in two ways. It is known as "Shabbat Shira"
commemorating the shira, or song that the Jewish people sang at the
Splitting of the Red Sea. The song is recorded in this week's Torah
portion, and includes details of how Moshe led the men in song and
Miriam led the women in song and dance.

In addition, the holiday of Tu B'shevat also occurs this Shabbat. Tu
B'shevat is the New Year for Trees. A New Year for Trees, in and of
itself, might not seem like a very important holiday to celebrate or
even acknowledge. And yet it is celebrated in various ways with
different customs all over the world.

It would be appropriate to mention a few thoughts about the significance
of trees in Judaism. We are told, for instance, that if one is planting
a tree and is informed that Moshiach has arrived, he must first finish
planting the tree before he goes on to anything else.

Whenever the Jews were involved in a war, they were enjoined never to
cut down a fruit-bearing tree, so precious are they considered.

In addition, there are various laws and customs concerning eating fruit
from new trees and cross-breeding different types of fruit-bearing

Man is likened to a tree in the field. If a seed or seedling is planted
in rich, well-dug soil, given proper care, sun, and water, it will grow
strong, deep roots and produce beautiful, healthy fruit.

An infant or young child, placed in an environment rich in Judaism,
given a well-thought-out education, proper care and other necessities
will grow strong deep roots in his own heritage and produce
accomplishment and achievements that are beautiful and healthy.

May we all merit to raise our own children, to help others raise their
children, or to raise the "child within" to be beautiful, healthy, and

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
The L-rd will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. (Ex. 14:14)

According to the Midrash, the statement, "and you shall hold your peace"
refers to the fact that, even after G-d assured them of victory, the
Children of Israel continued praying for success against the Egyptian
army when they were threatened at the Red Sea. G-d reprimanded them by
saying  "you shall hold your peace" - that this is not the time to pray.
There are times when a Jew is required to "close his prayer book" and go
out of the synagogue. This is because outside, there are thousands of
Jews at the shores of the sea threatening to drown them. At this point,
it is more important for the person to be involved with saving the
people who are threatened by the rising water.

                                            (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

On the sixth day, they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it
shall be twice as much as they gather daily. (Ex. 16:5)

On every weekday during their sojourn in the desert, the Children of
Israel were commanded to collect just one portion of the manna. But on
the sixth day, they were told to collect two portions: one for Friday
and one for Shabbat. It is for this reason that we say the blessing
"hamotzi" over two loaves of bread on Shabbat.

                                *  *  *

And the waters were unto them a wall. (Ex. 14:29)

This teaches us that when we do the will of G-d and have faith in Him,
to the point of being willing to throw ourselves into the sea in order
to keep the Torah, not only is the water nullified and ceases to be a
threat to us, but it actually becomes a protective wall.

                                                   (Likutei Sichot)

                                *  *  *

See, G-d has given you Shabbat. (Ex. 16:29)

The joy and happiness that one feels on Shabbat is in direct proportion
to the effort expended in preparation during the previous six days. For,
indeed, it states in the Talmud, "He who takes pains on Friday will eat
on Shabbat." This is what is meant by "G-d has given you Shabbat" - G-d
has given you the ability to determine the amount of holiness and
pleasure you will feel on Shabbat.

                                                    (Likutei Torah)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
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 grey hairs of the old man, the Emperor exclaimed, "Hey,
Greybeard. Surely you did not work in your youthful days that you have
to work in your old age!"

"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 recognize him.

"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 basketful 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 sackful of juicy
figs. Won't you let me bring them in to the Emperor?"

"Wait here," said the Captain of the guards.

"Have that silly man stand by the gates of the palace," the Emperor
commanded, angrily. "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.

                                               From Talks and Tales

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
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."

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 806 - Beshalach 5764

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