"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The formal classification of Chabad literature

The Rebbe established a publishing house called “Otzar Hachassidim”—“The Treasure of the Chassidim” to release the writings of the Rebbeim.

The Rebbe designated the collective title for the works of the Rebbeim of Chabad as “Shalsheles Ha’or”—“The Chain of Light.” Thus, the Rebbe writes in his preface to the Rebbe Rashab’s Chanoch Lenaar:

The “Otzar Hachassidim” publishing house is moving toward releasing a compilation known as “Shalsheles Ha’or.” This is a compilation of booklets, each one dedicated to one of the Nesi’im and Rebbeim of Chabad chassidim. The first ring in this chain is the light of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, and each link is linked to the next, until the [Previous] Rebbe, my father-in-law, shlita.
Each “link” in the chain—i.e., the works of each Rebbe—is referred to as a “heichal,” literally a “chamber” (pl. “heichalos”). There are altogether nine heichalos, one for each of the Rebbeim.

heichal in turn contains many “she’arim,” literally “gates” (sing. shaar). Each shaar is devoted to a different type of teaching, e.g., one for Chassidic discourses, another for letters, and yet another for halachic works, and so on. It should be noted that not all of the she’arim for the various heichalos were arranged in the same fashion.

heichal and shaar is written on the shaar blat (title page) of the book. (This was introduced by the Rebbe, and thus not found in previous printings; for example, see the shaar blat of Pokeach Ivrim here.) For example, see here; this is the shaar blat of a volume of the Previous Rebbe’s holy letters. At the top you will see emblazoned “Library — Otzar Hachassidim — Lubavitch.” This can be found on the top of the shaar blat of all works produced by Otzar Hachassidim.

Then below it, in the top center, it is written “
Kovetz Shalsheles Ha’or”—“The compilation of the chain of light,” which can be found on the top of the shaar blat of all works from the Rebbeim (unlike, for example, Reb Hillel Paritcher’s Pelach Harimon—see here). Then below it on the right it says “the eighth heichal,” for the Previous Rebbe was the eighth Rebbe when counting from the Baal Shem Tov, and on the left it is written “second shaar” to denote the section devoted to the Previous Rebbe’s letters.

Based on an article in Oholei Lubavitch, Nissan/Iyar 5755.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Standard and individualized medicines

The Previous Rebbe explains:
In general, there are two types of medicines:
  • A standard medicine that is already prepared, that the doctor can prescribe for a more wide-ranging or common disease. For example, there is a standard medicine prescribed for a person with a very high temperature or a very low temperature.

  • A medicine prescribed for a specific illness only after the doctor has carefully examined the patient and determined his specific illness. This medicine must be prepared according to specific requirements, which takes time.
The same holds true of spiritual cures:
  • There are spiritual sicknesses of a more typical nature, such as an intense desire for material indulgence, or a coldness and apathy to the holiness of Torah and Mitzvos. These conditions have certain standard cures, as described in the holy books of Mussar and Chassidus, and they can even be prescribed by a non-expert.

  • Other spiritual sicknesses need to be correctly diagnosed by an expert spiritual guide, who will then prescribe the appropriate medicine. For those who suffer from these sicknesses, standard medicines will be ineffective.
Adapted from Igros Kodesh Admur HaRayatz, Vol. 4, pp. 28-29.
For some types of sicknesses, there is no need to visit the doctor. The symptoms are known, and the treatment is known—e.g., the common cold. However, an ailment that has unusual symptoms demands that one consult with a specialist, for otherwise not only will one not recover, but his state will steadily worsen.

Likewise, not every type of spiritual sickness requires that one consult with a spiritual mentor for guidance; although such consultation may well be advisable (but see note below), it is not necessarily crucial. If one is suffering from a clear-cut “textbook case” spiritual sickness, one can treat it oneself through using clearly defined spiritual prescriptions written in holy books.

For example, if forbidden thoughts enter one’s mind, one should not attempt to explain to oneself why such thoughts are detrimental; rather, one should simply distract oneself by focusing on other things, and especially thoughts of Torah (see

However, if one sees that one’s spiritual condition is in some way unusual, or one realizes that the “textbook advice” isn’t working, this indicates that one’
s spiritual malady is more complex, and one must obtain an individualized prescription by consulting with an expert in spiritual healing—or, in Chassidic parlance, a mashpia.

However, it should be emphasized that a doctor and a
mashpia are different in that in general, a doctor will diagnose the illness and prescribes the medicine, but will not give the patient a pep-talk about the importance of taking it. In contrast, a mashpia may well need to goad the one who has approached him for advice to actually implement that advice—see here.

Also, it is important to mention that, just as is the case with physical health, one may well be suffering from a spiritual sickness of which one is unaware, and which one needs intensive study of
Chassidus under the guidance of a mashpia to discern, as explained here.

In summary, one should consult with a mashpia on a regular basis in order to receive inspiration, but if one’s spiritual illness is more “standard,” and one is sufficiently motivated to rectify the situation, although it is definitely worthy and advisable to consult with one’s mashpia, and one should do so in due course, one need not do so urgently. However, as soon as one realizes that the situation is more complex, such consultation is vital and cannot be delayed.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Marking a Yom Hillula

Today is the ninth of Kislev, the Yom Hillula of the Mitteler Rebbe. Why is it so important to mark a Yom Hillula of one of the Rebbeim? The Rebbe once said of this day:

In a letter, my father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, explains the tremendous importance of utilizing the Yom Hillula of a tzaddik by studying Torah and taking part in a farbrengen. In this letter he describes the Yom Hillula of 9 Kislev, 5657 ... at which the Rebbe Rashab said: “Observing the tzaddik’s Yom Hillula by studying his teachings and by holding a farbrengen is the pidyon nefesh that we give him.”

It is easy to imagine that if there were an opportunity now to go to the Mitteler Rebbe and give him a
pidyon nefesh, everyone would surely rush to do so.

Based on the above, we now indeed have the opportunity to hand a
pidyon nefesh to the Mitteler Rebbe through the farbrengen that we are holding now, and by studying his teachings after the farbrengen, when everyone returns home. One should study a teaching from one of the works of the Mitteler Rebbe, whose Yom Hillula we are marking.

Toras Menachem 5711, Vol. 1, pp. 105-106.

The Rebbe is teaching us the tremendous importance and power of the tzaddik’s Yom Hillula, and that we tap into this by studying some of the teachings of that tzaddik and attending a farbrengen in his honor.

Moreover, this brings that
tzaddik to davven on one’s behalf, just as a pidyon nefesh is a request for the tzaddik to davven on one’s behalf.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Self-sacrifice for Torah and Chassidus II

There are two types of self-sacrifice: Sacrificing the body and sacrificing the neshamah

In reality, sacrificing the latter is (or should be) much more difficult than sacrificing the former. Earlier we discussed this concept. 

A striking example of one who took not only a physical risk, but a spiritual one, was Pinchas:

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 9:7) states that Pinchas’ act of slaying Zimri was “against the will of the sages” to the point that they wanted to excommunicate him. The only reason they didnt was that he became possessed with the Holy Spirit, and declared that “He and his descendants after him will have a covenant of eternal priesthood” (Bamidbar 25:13).

This illustrates all the more the degree of Pinchas’ zeal. For until he became possessed of the Holy Spirit, he knew that what he had done was “against the will of the sages,” i.e., in the opinion of the sages of Torah, his behavior was baseless. His zeal was thus not only an act of self-sacrifice in terms of the body, but also in terms of the soul, because his act flouted the wishes of the sages to the extent that they attempted to excommunicate him.

In this vein, there are many stories of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezeritch whose self-sacrifice was so great that they gave up their share in the World to Come for the welfare of a fellow Jew.

Likewise, there is a famous story of the Alter Rebbe: Once a manuscript of his Chassidus was burned, and he had written on it that one who would read it would be “excommunicated in this world and in the next.” And yet, after it had been burned, the Alter Rebbe sought to know if anyone had studied it. The Mitteler Rebbe asked: “Did you not write that one who would read it would be ‘excommunicated in this world and in the next’?” to which the Alter Rebbe responded: “Where is the self-sacrifice for Chassidus?!”

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Vol. 18, pp. 319-320.
There are another two stories that express the principle of the importance of self-sacrifice for Chassidus, the first is a story of the Tzemach Tzedek and the Alter Rebbe:
When the Tzemach Tzedek was a child of nine, the Alter Rebbe would deliver a ma’amar on Friday nights in his private room. Despite repeated heartfelt pleas, the Tzemach Tzedek was not given permission to attend, and this pained him greatly. Yet he yearned so intensely to hear the ma’amar that he devised a solution.

In the adjoining room there was a large oven, and the outer wall of the oven was partly in the room in which the Alter Rebbe would sit and deliver the 
ma’amar on Friday nights. The Tzemach Tzedek would hide in the oven and hear the ma’amar of the Alter Rebbe, and this recurred for several weeks.

Once it was very cold, so the non-Jew was summoned to ignite the oven. He started putting in the wood, but despite the oven’s largeness, the wood wasn’t going in the oven so well. So he laid the wood closer to the opening of the oven, and ignited it. Shortly afterward the house became filled with smoke, so he began pushing the burning logs further in. But when he saw that this wasn’t working, he was forced to extinguish the logs and take them out in order to see why the wood wasn’t going into the oven until the wall. When he saw that a boy was in the oven, he cried out loudly. This was also heard in the room of the Alter Rebbe, and in the living area—everyone was shocked at the sound of the cry.

Since the house was only lit with a small candle, and the smoke of the wood that the non-Jew had extinguished was suffocating, it wasn’t possible to discern immediately the identity of the young boy in the oven. But they later saw that it was the 
Tzemach Tzedek, and discovered his ploy of hiding inside the oven. The Rebbetzin Rivka o.b.m. told the Previous Rebbe that she herself heard from the Rebbetzin Shaina o.b.m., who witnessed the response of her mother-in-law, the Rebbetzin Shterna o.b.m.:

When the boy was taken out of the oven, his appearance was frightful. My mother-in-law, the Rebbetzin Shterna, cried to my father-in-law, the Alter Rebbe: “See what could have been! What a misfortune! Other people you allow in, but when your own son pleaded, you did not allow it.” My father-in-law said: “Be quiet. 
Moshe Rabeinu came to Mount Sinai through a fire—seeing the flame in the bush—and merited to be the one to give the Torah. One can only take Torah with self-sacrifice. He will be healthy, and he will live a long life.”  

Sefer HaMa’amarim 5708, p. 233-234.
The second is a story of Reb Avrohom Parizh:
It is told that in the year 5658 (1897-1898), the Rebbe Rashab wrote a commentary upon the discourse entitled Posach Eliyahu printed in the Alter Rebbe’s Torah Ohr; however, he did not allow it to be released to his followers.

When Reb Avrohom Parizh, still a student in the Lubavitcher Yeshivah, 
Tomchei Temimim, learned of this manuscript, he was consumed with a desire to study it. He found the suitable opportunity to sneak in and take it, and recruited Reb Chaim Lieberman, a fellow student, to write a copy of the manuscript. Once this task was completed, he returned it to its place.

Reb Avrohom did not keep it to himself; he shared the copy with other students. They all guarded the secret carefully, and ensured that it wouldn’t become known to the Rebbe Rashab or his son, the Previous Rebbe, who was then the main administrator of the Yeshivah.

However, the Previous Rebbe once asked a student what he had been studying in
Chassidus, and the student responded that he had been studying Rebbe Rashab’s Hagahos L’dibbur Ha’maschil Posach Eliyahu 5658. After investigation, the culprits were discovered.

Although at the time they were penalized, the Rebbe related (
Sichos KodeshBamidbar 5729) that the Rebbe Rashab later commented of the incident, “May blessing come upon him, and if only others would also steal.”

Echad Haya Avraham, pp. 22-23.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Self-sacrifice for Torah and Chassidus I

What is the lesson from the fact that Yaakov tricked Yitzchok? The Rebbe explains:
The Rebbetzin Rivka was one of the ones who would copy the manuscripts of the Rebbe Maharash.

The Rebbe Maharash was very organized, and his exact schedule was known, including the times in which he would go for a stroll. Some [
chassidim] would sneak in during his stroll, after leaving a guard to inform them of his return, and would copy his manuscripts of Chassidus. In this way they copied numerous manuscripts. One of the copyists was the Rebbetzin Rivka.

The Previous Rebbe would hold the Rebbetzin Rivka’s transcripts of the manuscripts of the Rebbe Maharash in one folder along with the transcriptions of the Rebbe Rashab.

The Previous Rebbe, my father-in-law, related that this is also the way he behaved with his father, the Rebbe Rashab. ...

This seems difficult to understand. The Rebbe Maharash probably estimated, and perhaps even knew for certain, that they were copying his manuscripts while he would travel, for he knew the Rebbe Rashab and how much he yearned for manuscripts of
Chassidus. So if he didn’t want them to copy his manuscripts, he could have secured them in a way that it would be impossible to copy them. And if he did wanted them to copy his manuscripts, he could have given permission.

The same question can be asked concerning the manuscripts that the Previous Rebbe copied from the Rebbe Rashab. Why did it need to happen in such a way, without permission?

Rivka convinced Yaakov to go to Yitzchak and pretend to be Esav in order to receive the firstborn blessings. Chassidus asks: why was it necessary for the blessings to Yaakov to come through deception?

The reason for this is that in this way Yaakov rectified the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent used deception to bring Adam and Chava to sin, and this caused certain sublime sparks of holiness to fall into the forces of
Kelipah. Thus, the way to reclaim these sparks was through deception, as it is written, “With the crooked be cunning” (Tehillim 18:27).

This was the reason that when Rivka told Yaakov to go and receive the blessings from Yitzchak, she consoled him by saying that if any curse might come upon him through acting deceptively, it will be transferred to her. What kind of consolation was this?! Every son, and surely Yaakov, is concerned for his mother, loves her dearly and would not have allowed her to become cursed either! Moreover, we see that upon hearing this, Yaakov indeed stopped protesting and obeyed Rivka. Why did this argument convince him?

The Kabbalistic texts explain that Yaakov was spiritually similar to Adam, and this is why he was assigned with the task of rectifying Adam’s sin. Since Adam’s sin was the result of deception, the way for Yaakov to rectify it and ensure that Esav not receive the blessings was to use deception to claim the blessings, as it is written: “Your brother came with deception and took your blessing” (Bereshis 27:35).

Since this involved refining a level that transcends intellect (or is lower than intellect, as is the case with the sin of the Tree of Knowledge), one must receive it in a manner commensurate with the nature of this level. Thus, one cannot access this level in the normal manner, through intellect, but through displaying a willingness to sacrifice oneself, and risk one’s life. This is what Rivka meant when she said that “your curse will befall me, my son” (ibid. 27:13)—she declared that she was willing to risk her life as well, for this was the only way to accomplish their goal. This argument succeeded at persuading Yaakov to endanger himself in the same way.

The same is true of Torah in general, for Yitzchok’s blessings to Yaakov were related to Torah (Bereishis Rabba 66:3). It is all the more true of the inner dimension of Torah, as was the case concerning the copying of manuscripts of Chassidus. There is a higher level that one reaches through holy deception, without the knowledge of the giver, and through an approach of self-sacrifice on the part of the recipient (to endanger himself by doing something that might make the Rebbe upset with him [“kepeida”]).

Adapted from Toras Menachem 5711, Vol. 1, pp. 221-222-223.
See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1, pp. 55-56.
We may pledge allegiance to the very lofty, holy cause of Torah and Chassidus. But since this involves eliciting a level so sublime that is completely beyond us, in order to truly attain it, we need to make a sacrifice, take a risk, do something different, uncomfortable, difficult, even painful.

We need to ask ourselves: Our Rebbeim, and the chassidim of earlier generations, had such tremendous devotion and self-sacrifice for this sublime cause. How much are we giving up for it, each person on his or her own level?

here for further explanation.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How Can Evil Come from G-d?

How Can Evil Come from G-d?

Rabbi Y. Oliver

There is an age-old question: How can evil emanate from an All-Good Creator?

The key to answering this question is understanding the concept of divine speech. What does the verse mean when it says, “G-d said, ‘let there be ... ’” during the six days of creation? Of course, G-d has no mouth, lips, or vocal chords with which to speak, as it is one of the 13 Principles of the Torah (as famously formulated by Maimonides), that G-d possesses no form. If so, in what sense can it be said that divine creation resembles the process of human speech?

Furthermore, if an analogy is employed from the physical realm, why is it specifically written that G-d spoke, and not that He thought, or another metaphor?

This can be understood from the Kabbalah, which develops this analogy: In speech one communicates his inner thoughts to another person. He accomplishes this via the combination of different words, which in turn consist of the combination of different letters, all carefully arranged.

Similarly, G-d sought to create an entity that would feel itself to be separate from Him (although in reality “There is nothing else” but G-d—
Devarim 4:35). Thus, creation is compared to speech, and this is the meaning of G-d’s statements, “Let there be ... ” in the account of the Creation. There were altogether ten such utterances, with which the entire universe was created. Moreover, the Baal Shem Tov teaches that these utterances are constantly recreating everything in existence.

But if these utterances created everything, why are only certain creatures listed, and the vast majority omitted? Why are rocks, for instance, not mentioned?

The answer, as explained in the Tanya, is that these utterances were only intended to create vast cosmic forces. For instance, the utterance “Let there be a firmament” created the general division between the firmament and the earth, but not the details of those entities. Similarly, “Let the earth put forth plants” imbued within the earth the general potential to produce plant life; it did not create individual plants. And so on.

Thus, the divine energy in these utterances was far too intense for individual creations, such as rocks, to contain. The only way to create these creatures was for G-d to diminish the intensity of the utterances to the point that the individual creations could handle the energy received.

Here we return to the analogy of speech. If one wishes to communicate in a hidden way, one will encode one’s words. Although this is a meaningful form of communication, one’s intention is hidden. Only the code can uncover the encoder’s intention.

Similarly, G-d diminished the tremendous spiritual energy of the Ten Utterances by “encoding” them in various ways. In fact, the Hebrew name of each particular object is the life-force of that object, after having been “encoded.”

Specifically, there are three ways that the intensity of this life-force in the Ten Utterances can be reduced, each one “encoding” successively more than the previous one:

1. Rearranging the letters of the word into a different word.

2. The
Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation), an ancient kabbalistic text, explains that there are 231 “gates” through which each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet is substituted for all the other letters. How does this work? Each of the 22 letters can be substituted for another 21 letters, equalling a total of 462 possible permutations. However, this figure is halved to 231 because the same two letters can be substituted forwards and backwards. For instance, the aleph, the first letter, can be substituted for a beis, the second letter, and vice versa. Together, the forwards and backwards substitutions are called a “gate,” another way in which G-d substitutes the Hebrew letters.

3. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet corresponds to a number. Thus, a word or phrase has a certain numerical value, and can be substituted for another with the same value.

But why is the analogy of speech used, and not thought? Doesn’t thought also contain letters and words, like speech? The difference is that thought is an internal phenomenon, on its own not accessible to others. In contrast, G-d’s creation of the world involved connecting with forces that regard themselves as external to Him. That’s why this process is compared to speech, which involves going out of oneself and communicating to others.

This answers our original question. Evil is the result of diminution after diminution of the divine life-force—encoding after encoding. On a deeper level, evil too exists by virtue of the divine sustaining energy within it, as in all creatures. But from the perspective of man, this energy is so hidden that not only does he not see it, but he sees the opposite: a force that disobeys and rejects G-d.

Evil exists in order to tempt us. Thus, by overcoming the temptation to evil we reveal the purpose behind it. We thus also reveal the inner truth that the source of life of the evil force is the divine energy constantly recreating it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Moshe Holtzberg's message

The news of the capture of Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg’s child, Moshe, and then his miraculous rescue, was particularly poignant for my family, for we too have a Moishe’le (an affectionate way of saying Moshe), and in fact, he is only around seven months older. He too has brownish hair and looks, well, cute. It was all so real.

As a survivor of terror, Moshe Holtzberg is unfortunately not unique. However, his case is unusual in that his dramatic liberation was widely publicized by all the major media outlets, making him perhaps the most famous child victim of terror in history. Likewise, his heartrending cries for his mother at the commemoration service for his parents in the
Shul in Mumbai were captured on video and publicized on prime-time news. ­­­­This made him the poster child for child victims of terror worldwide, and a prominent reminder of the reality of their plight.

What does this mean for those of us who live so comfortably in the western world, where terrorism is generally something we read about in the news, and not an immediate concern?

Of course, those in a position to provide any assistance to such orphans should do so.

Beyond that, let us derive from this the importance of cultivating the quality of gratitude to G–d in our personal lives, and for our most precious possession—our children. Never should we take them for granted.

G–d has entrusted us with them, and we ought to fulfill our duty to Him and them faithfully. Let us value them, and make them feel valued.

Not only should we realize how blessed we are to have children, we should also realize how blessed our children are to have parents. For even more than parents need children, children need parents. Let us strive to be the best parents that we can.

First and foremost, this involves setting a sterling example of the noble values and refined lifestyle that we preach to them.

On a more direct level this involves spending more time with our children, making them feel loved and special, and guiding them gently but firmly on the proper path of fear of Hashem. This is the true victory over the terrorists and their ilk.

Moreover, as King Dovid, the sweet singer of the Jewish people, declared: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have found strength to destroy the enemy and avenger” (
Tehillim 8:2). It is through raising Jewish children as the Torah teaches that the Jewish people prevail over their enemies.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Mumbai Chabad House massacre: A Jewish response

It has been a year since our brethren were slain in Mumbai. So how should we, as Jews, respond to the Mumbai attacks, considering the fact that they deliberately targeted Jews? A natural response is one of fear. Fear that perhaps it could happen again. And who knows where ... ? G–d forbid.

However, although fear may seem logical, it must be quashed at all costs, for this is exactly what the terrorists want. Their goal is to strike fear and terror into our hearts, so we think that they have power over us. Then they will have won.

However, the key to overcoming this fear is to recognize that the terrorists’ arrogant show of power is a sham, and they are powerless. Hashem runs the world, and every minute aspect of it. This massacre happened because He willed it so, for reasons that we do not understand. These monstrous brutes do not control the world; only Hashem controls it, and therefore it is wrong to fear any man.

So we must mourn, and yet we must not allow ourselves to become weakened and discouraged. Rather, we should turn mourning into resolute action. But what sort of action? For that, we turn to the Torah, for, as the Rebbe taught us countless times, the Torah is a
Toras chaim, a “Torah of life” that provides us with guidance in our daily lives. We must seek a Jewish response. It would also be fitting to seek this response in the Torah portion of Toldos, which was read when the attack occurred.

In that Torah portion we find it written, “The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Eisav” (
Bereishis 27:22). The Midrash Rabba (Eicha 2; cf. Zohar 1:171a) interprets this to mean that when Yaakov, i.e., the Jewish people, use their voices to study Torah in the study hall and pray in the synagogues, the hands of Eisav, our enemies, have no power. However, when Yaakov does not use his voice to study Torah, the hands of Eisav are empowered to attack us. Along these lines, the Gemoro says, “Get up early and leave late against them to the study hall, and they will perish of their own” (Gittin 7a).

Of course, those who are able to influence governments and law enforcement agencies to crack down on terrorism should surely do so, because Hashem also requires us to make a vessel for safety according to the natural order. When the lives of our fellow Jews are taken or in danger, those in a position to do so must ensure that everything possible is done to thwart the enemy’s designs. However, the primary Jewish response to the Nazis, PLO, Hamas, and the Mumbai murderers, may all their names be blotted out, is the same: To increase in Torah study oneself, and in disseminating Torah knowledge and its observance to others.

This would be the appropriate response to any such tragedy. However, it is an especially relevant response in this case, considering the holy mission to which the Holtzbergs had selflessly devoted their lives: Spreading Torah and
Mitzvos, and the wellsprings of Chassidus. This is surely their legacy to us.

May our increase in learning and disseminating Torah bring merit to their souls, and bring
Moshiach now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Holtzbergs: Kiddush Hashem in life and in death

We are nearing the first yahrtzeit of Rabbi Gavriel and Rebbetzin Rivkah Holtzberg, who were cruelly slain by vile terrorists almost a year ago.

By devoting their lives to spreading Yiddishkeit and Chassidus, the Holtzbergs made a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of G–d’s Name.

In their death too, they made a kiddush Hashem, for whenever Jews are murdered simply because they are Jews, they are said to have died al kiddush Hashem, for the sanctification of G–d’s Name. And clearly, the terrorists’ intent was to attack Jews. The Chabad House was the most prominent Jewish target in the city of Mumbai, for although there are other shules, they are rarely visited. The main Jewish center in the city, with a rabbi and thriving activities, was the Chabad House. Even the terrorists knew this, so in their craven, obscene desire for barbaric bloodshed, the Chabad House was the place that they targeted.

But the Holtzbergs sanctified G–d’s Name in their death in another very significant sense. On account of them the entire world came to know what is a Chabad House. It is a place where Shluchim, emissaries of the Rebbe, devote their lives to helping Jews materially and spiritually, even in the most poor conditions, and the most far-flung and unholy places. I think it can be said with certainty that the work of the Shluchim had never received anywhere near this degree of publicity. Over the course of the Mumbai attack virtually every single media outlet in the world discussed, whether briefly or at greater length, who the Holtzbergs were and the noble life that they had lived. Of the outreach rabbi and his wife who devoted their lives to help others in such a remote location. Of the work of the Shluchim worldwide. This is surely a tremendous privilege for them, and brings tremendous elevation to their souls.

May their blood be avenged.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Proudly Promoting Exclusively Jewish Ownership of the Tomb of the Patriarchs

Proudly Promoting Exclusively Jewish
Ownership of the Tomb of the Patriarchs

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

This week’s Parsha discusses Avraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah, a.k.a. the Tomb of the Patriarchs. How does one respond to Arabs who claim rights over it? The Rebbe explains:
When the descendants of Yishmael approach us with the claim that the Cave of Machpelah belongs to them, for they trace their lineage to Avraham[1], this week’s Torah portion[2] provides us with a clear response:

1) It is well known that the vast majority of the Arabs now living in the countries neighboring the Land of Israel do not descend from Yishmael.[3]

2) Moreover, Yishmael himself has no connection to the Cave of Machpelah, for Avraham bought it in order to bury Sarah.[4] Yishmael was not Avraham’s heir, and certainly not Sarah’s heir. Thus, it belongs only to Sarah’s son Yitzchok, and to Yitzchok’s descendants, who are traced only through Yaakov.[5]

The conclusion of this week’s Torah portion teaches us another point:

When a time comes that [the descendants of] Yishmael becomes wild, and approaches us with wild claims and demands, the Jewish people should not become afraid, G–d forbid, or discouraged. We must merely remind Yishmael of the truth: His existence is defined by his being “born of Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, for Avraham.”[6] However, if he begins to hold himself as an independent entity, and not as the son of Sarah’s maidservant, he will “fall amongst all his brothers.”[7]

Non-Jews also believe in the Written Law. Thus, when the Jew is sufficiently confident of the above, and explains it to the 
non-Jew using appropriate language, but in a clear, open manner (and there is certainly no need to become dejected, G–d forbid, before the non-Jews, and certainly not before those who consider themselves descendants of Yishmael), they will stop applying pressure upon the Jewish people.

They too will sense (especially by “their mazal seeing”[8]) that for their own welfare, the Cave of Machpelah, and the entire land of Israel with all its borders, should be openly, even during the era of exile, completely in the possession of the Jewish people.

Likutei Sichos, Vol. 15, pp. 153-154.

[1] Avraham is buried in this cave.
[2] This Torah portion is known as Chayei Sarah. See Bereshis 23-25:18.
[3] See Ibn Ezra on
Bereshis 27:40.
Bereshis ch. 23.
[5] See
Likutei Sichos, ibid., p. 149.
Nedarim 31a explains the extra “in” in Bereshis 21:12, “For in Yitzchak your seed will be called” as meaning that not all of Yitzchak’s seed is to be considered Avraham’s—only Yitzchok’s son Yaakov, and not Esav.
Bereshis 25:12.
[8] ibid. 25:18.
[9] I.e., the spiritual source of their souls senses the spiritual reality without the person being consciously aware; this then affects the level of the non-Jews’ soul vested in a body. See
Megillah 3a.
The Rebbe states clearly: The Jewish people should declare and publicize unapologetically that according to the “Bible,” even if the Arabs are descended from Yishmael, they have no claim to the Cave of Machpelah, and thus the Jewish people must be allowed to hold exclusive control over it. When we say this confidently but respectfully, non-Jews will surely accept it.

Practically speaking, most of the Cave of Machpelah is currently under the control of the Arab “Wakf,” the Islamic trust. By far the largest section of the Cave of Machpelah, known as Isaac’s Hall, is maintained as a mosque for the entire year except for ten days (click on the red dots here to see what’s what), with Jews forbidden from entry, while an area over three times smaller, known as the Hall of Yaakov and Leah, is maintained as a shul for the entire year, with Muslims forbidden from entry, except for 10 days, in which Muslims are allowed in and Jews are not.

Why, you may ask, when the Cave of Machpelah is under Jewish military control, have the Jews ceded control of the vast majority of their second most holy site to the Muslims? My understanding of the reason for this situation is that when the holy city of Chevron was liberated after the Six-Day War (after it being forbidden for Jews to enter there for over seven hundred years), the Jewish people, and in particular the politicians responsible for the Holy Land, did not enthusiastically declare the entire 
Cave of Machpelah a Jewish synagogue. In fact, they barely allowed any entry, and it was only through great wrangling against those politicians that Jews have even the degree of access that they do today.

Jews must campaign to have the entire area transformed into a

(Although this would have meant transforming it from a mosque, this would have been no different from the way it became a mosque in the first place—when the Muslims conquered it from from the Christians, who had turned it into a church, which happened twice.)