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"In every generation each person must see himself as if he personally went out of Egypt." These words are from the Passover Hagadah which Jews the world-over will soon be reading at the Seder.
To truly experience the Exodus, we must take a moment and consider Moses, the first leader of the Jewish nation, with whom we go from Exile to Redemption.
Moses is the role-model for all future Jewish leaders and his conduct during the Exile, Exodus and Redemption is mirrored by subsequent Jewish leaders, the "Moses" in each generation.
Moses is a true shepherd of our people, concerned and preoccupied with the Jewish nation as a whole and every individual in particular. A selfless leader, he brings everyone close to him.
Yet, despite this selflessness, individuals and factions rise up against him. Instead of thanking and praising their beloved shepherd--whose life is totally dedicated to each one of them--they can only complain. Beginning with, "It was better for us to be slaves in Egypt." And, "it would have been better for us to remain in Exile." Until the ultimate chutzpa, criticizing the paradigm of humility: "Why have you raised yourself above the people?"
Anyone can imagine that your average leader would give up. But not Moses. Year after year, day after day, he doesn't rest. He doesn't stop demanding, begging, insisting, that G-d bring only good to the Jewish people. Until he is answered, until he hears from G-d, "I have forgiven them according to your words."
From his birth, Moses casts his lot with the Jewish people. Like other gifted people before and after him, Moses could have closed himself off, concerning himself only with his own spiritual heights. But this is not what a true leader does.
And yet, when the glorious moment comes that Moses is called upon to inform the Jewish people of the impending Redemption, he needs to be persuaded. Not because he, G-d forbid, wants to delay the Redemption. Not, G-d forbid, to shirk his responsibility as G-d's emissary. His concern is not for himself but for the Jewish people. Thus Moses protests, "They will not believe me and will not listen to me." He is concerned that his announcement of the Redemption will come when the Jews are short-tempered and overworked, when they aren't ready to accept it.
It is for this reason that our leader insists on signs from G-d to show the people. And G-d performs wonders and miracles through him. Only then does he call out for all to hear, "The time of your Redemption has arrived."
After Moses shows the people the signs, and after he announces to the people that G-d has remembered us, and the Jewish nation stands ready, still he doesn't stop. Though our leader has already proclaimed to the Jewish people the announcement of the Redemption, he doesn't hesitate to cry out and rebuke G-d. "Why now? Why after I've already announced to the Jewish people that the Redemption has arrived and they are roused and believe--why are there more troubles and suffering?"
This is the way of a true leader.
This is the way of the Moses in every generation.
Adapted from an article by Dov Halpern in the Kfar Chabad Magazine.
The central theme of Passover is freedom--the liberation of the Children of Israel from the Egyptian oppressors. The celebration of this freedom is of such importance in Judaism, that we are required to relive the Exodus from Egypt every single day: "In every generation a person should consider himself as if he himself went out of Egypt."
But, exactly what type of freedom were the Jews granted when they left Egypt? Did we not remove the yoke of Pharaoh only to replace it with an even greater yoke? "When you take the people out from Egypt they shall serve G-d," Moses is told. G-d took the entire Jewish People out of slavery in Egypt, only on condition that they become subservient to Him! Observing the Torah and its 613 commandments is certainly a heavy yoke. Is it not a contradiction to claim that the Jews were freed from bondage, if they afterward found themselves in a new sort of servitude?
The concept of freedom is relative, dependent on many factors. That which constitutes freedom for a plant is quite different from the freedom demanded by an animal or a human being. A tree requires good soil, abundant rain, air and sunshine to thrive. But those same conditions would present the very opposite of a free existence for an animal, which is not rooted to the ground and must enjoy freedom of movement, in addition to sufficient food and water.
Moving up the ladder of creation we see that the same freedom that suffices for an animal does not constitute freedom for a human being. If we were to fulfill all a person's physical needs, yet not allow his intellect to be satisfied, this would be a terrible deprivation. Freedom for man includes the recognition that he possesses a need to fulfill his intellectual yearnings, to develop his full potential as a human being.
And yet, even intellectual fulfillment is not true freedom for a Jew. His Jewish soul must also be taken into consideration, that "veritable piece of G-d" which is the birthright of every member of the Jewish nation. Even when this soul is clothed in a physical body it maintains its intimate connection with its G-dly source. A Jew can only find true freedom and fulfillment when his soul is afforded the opportunity to strengthen that bond with G-d, through the Torah and its commandments.
That is why our Sages said, "A truly liberated person is one who engages in the study of Torah." Torah for the Jew is as essential to his existence as water is to a fish. Contrary to being a yoke, Torah is our very life. Just as a fish can live only in water, the Torah is the Jew's only appropriate medium.
Freedom, therefore, is that which will enable every single organism in the world to live up to its full potential. For a Jew, whose soul is his true essence, genuine freedom is that which will allow him to draw closer and closer to G-d--learning Torah and performing mitzvot.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
AND YOU SHALL TELL IT TO YOUR CHILDREN
As told to Yosef Shmuel Meirowitz
(Mr. Meirowitz is a Tzanzer chasid. The following story was told to him by someone living in B'nei Brak, Israel, who insisted on remaining anonymous.)
I was born in Paris 45 years ago, an only child, born to my parents when they were already on in years. When I was still young we moved to Jerusalem. At a tender age I realized that there was some kind of secret concerning my birth, though my parents never spoke about it.
It was not until I was 24 years old, a short while before I was married, that my father approached me and told me this story:
During the war, my parents fled Poland for Russia. They moved from place to place until they arrived in Tashkent. There were many refugees in Tashkent, among them numerous Chabad chasidim. My father always spoke with great admiration for the Chabadniks he met in Tashkent: about their selflessness; their willingness to help others; how they prayed at length and with great care. But most importantly, about their selflessness in making sure that the children received a Jewish education.
When the war ended, my father was already 50 and my mother was about 40. They had been married for over 20 years and didn't have any children. They left Russia for Paris where they found many fellow refugees, among them a large group of Chabadniks, some of whom they knew from Tashkent.
One day, soon after their arrival in Paris, my father heard from one of his Chabad friends that an important visitor had come to the city--Rabbi Schneerson [the present Rebbe, shlita], the son-in-law of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He had come from New York to Paris to see his mother upon her arrival from Russia.
My father met with Rabbi Schneerson from time to time in the synagogue and discussed Torah matters with him. My father derived much pleasure from these talks.
When they first met, it was close to Passover. During their conversation, Rabbi Schneerson asked my father about his family. My father began to sob and said that he had no children. Rabbi Schneerson took my father's hand warmly and said, "With G-d's help, next year on Passover you will be able to fulfill the mitzva of 'And you shall tell it [the story of Passover] to your children.'"
I was born 10 months later. On the night of the seder, I was two months old. With tremendous emotion my father fulfilled the mitzva of "and you shall tell it to your children."
I remember that the seder night was always a very special and emotional time in my house. My father used to carefully answer any question I had and explain everything with great patience and detail. It was only after my father revealed the facts surrounding my birth that I understood why the seder was always so special.
A few years ago, my daughter married a yeshiva student from Lakewood, New Jersey. On Passover, two years ago, she was due to give birth. My wife, children, and I traveled to New Jersey to help and be with her for Passover.
On the first Shabbat there, I told my son-in-law that I wanted to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I asked if he knew when the Rebbe sees people and he told me that on Sunday the Rebbe "gives out dollars." Anyone could come at that time.
I arranged a ride into Brooklyn for that Sunday. When I got to Crown Heights, to the place Chabadniks call "770," I was shocked to see the length of the line. There were thousands of people. My son and I stood for about 5 hours. During those five hours, I managed to tell him--for the first time--the wondrous story surrounding my birth. He was very moved. Now he understood why I was so insistent on going to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
It was around 5:00. We arrived at the place near where the Rebbe gives out dollars and I could see the Rebbe's face. The dignity of the Rebbe's face had a tremendous impact on me. The Rebbe's energy, despite the fact that he had been standing for over five hours giving dollars to thousands of people, astounded me.
People passed by quickly. I hadn't prepared anything to say. I only wanted to see the Rebbe one time. It would be my way of thanking the Rebbe.
My turn came quickly. My son went before me. The Rebbe gave him a dollar and told him, "Blessing and success." Then he asked my son in Yiddish, "Did you prepare to ask the Four questions?"
My son answered positively and the Rebbe gave him another dollar, saying with a smile, "This is for the Four Questions."
Then the Rebbe gave me a dollar and told me, "Blessing and success." The Rebbe gave me another dollar and said, "This is for the explanation of the Four Questions." Suddenly, the Rebbe's look intensified and, with a very broad smile, he said, "And this is for the 'And you shall tell it to your children.'"
I don't remember what happened next. I only know that a moment later I found myself outside, overcome with emotion. I was told that I had stood there in front of the Rebbe motionless until someone had led me out.
(Translated from the Kfar Chabad Magazine)
MOSHIACH: THE TAPES
Rabbi Heschel Greenberg, a well-known lecturer on Jewish Law, philosophy and comtemporary Jewish themes, has produced a series of tapes on the subject of Moshiach. The series is an attempt to make the belief and understanding of Moshiach more accessible to the contemporary Jew, and to introduce the novice as well as the more advanced listener to the relevance of Moshiach to our own day and age. The two sets of tapes are available through Sichos in English, 788 Eastern Pkwy., Bklyn, NY at $20 per set of four tapes plus $2 s&h or $40 for both sets, including s&h.
100 CHILDREN AIRLIFTED
This past month, 100 children from the Chernobyl area were brought to Israel. This most recent airlift, the sixth airlift of Children of Chernobyl, brought the number of such youngsters to 618. They are being treated in a specially equipped center in Kfar Chabad. For info about Children of Chernobyl call (414) 242-2411 or write P.O.B. 218, Mequon, WI 53092.
YOSSI AND LAIBEL
In the children's book Labels for Laibel youngsters were treated to a delightful lesson in rhyme about the importance of sharing. Laibel and his younger brother Yossi are back in Hot on the Trail, beating a trail of good deeds to help others in need. One of the newest releases from HaChai Publishers.
The holiday of Passover, commemorating the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt, has often been referred to as the birthday of the Jewish nation. The prophet Ezekiel expressed this analogy quite graphically: "And as for your birth, on the day you were born..." Rashi explains that because the Exodus was seen as the birth of the Jewish people the prophet speaks metaphorically of the Exodus in the terms of a newborn baby.
For a human being birth is a joyous time. It is a time of fulfillment for the parents who were blessed with a son or daughter, for the Jewish people who gained another member, and for the child himself/herself who came into existence. Therefore, when a person reaches maturity, each year on his/her birthday, it is appropriate to express gratitude to G-d, the Giver of Life.
Just as the birthday of a people is celebrated each year with rites and a ritual, so, too, the birthday of an individual Jew should be appropriately observed. An individual's birthday can be utilized to strengthen and increase all aspects of Judaism, starting with Jewish studies, prayer and charity. These good practices should be observed on the birthday and good resolutions for the future should be accepted.
Most importantly, gather your family and friends for a festive gathering (to celebrate the mitzva) on your birthday and the joyous party will encourage others to accept good resolutions. The happiness that is generated will imbue your future observance with enthusiasm and zeal.
What is the celebration all about?
Ostensibly, birthdays are quite secular affairs, every person has one once a year, a day in which his "fortune rises." In fact, in Torah the only birthday singled out for any mention was Pharaoh's birthday!
Nevertheless, a Jew has the ability to utilize his birthday; instead of letting it pass as just another day he can make it a holiday with emphasis on more Torah and mitzvot. One's birthday is a time for reflection, when one should remember and think about those aspects of his life needing improvement.
Children should be taught the spiritual importance of a birthday and they should celebrate with their friends in a way that they will increase Torah, mitzvot, and good resolutions. Small children will be even more impressed by this suggestion and will be more enthusiastic in carrying it out.
On one's birthday he can rejoice in the knowledge that on this day his soul descended to the corporeal existence in order to serve the Creator through Torah and mitzvot. This commemoration crystalizes in the fact that at the celebration itself there will be more Torah and mitzvot and more good resolutions for the future. This joyous celebration may be observed by young and old--for as soon as the child is able to understand and appreciate the importance of good acts his or her birthday party will become the focal point for the commemoration of the past and solemnization of the future.
Such a celebration is also connected to the fact that on his 13th birthday a boy enters the age of maturity and is responsible for observing the 613 mitzvot. The same is true of a girl on her 12th birthday. The assumption is that this young boy or girl will certainly grow up to fulfill the dictates of the Torah. Consequently, there is reason to rejoice at the time he or she accepts the yoke of mitzvot.
For this reason men and women above bar/bat mitzva age should see in their birthdays additional significance: 1) It is the anniversary of their physical birth; 2) It is the anniversary of maturity, or spiritual birth.
With this is mind, whether you are 13, 30, or 83 you have a reason to celebrate your birthday. And at each age you can find satisfaction and growth in becoming one year older.
This is not a new custom, rather an extension of the responsibility everyone has to encourage others to increase Torah and mitzvot among friends, in a happy and friendly way.
If for some reason this was not so common until now, it is needed now, and as we have seen, it is based on the practices of the great Jewish leaders.
Since the Exile is seen as the time of incubation and the salvation as the time of birth, may our good actions on birthdays speedily bring the ultimate birth of the Jewish people, the true Redemption.
By Sichos in English, adapted from an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
What are some Jewish customs to celebrate on a birthday?
It is appropriate to celebrate with family and friends, giving praise and thanks to G-d, and to express one's joy, if possible in the fulfillment of a mitzva, by reciting the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" over a new fruit. Also, to undertake a good resolution in the area of Jewish observance, give charity and increase one's Jewish knowledge.
leader celebrates an important milestone in his life, it is significant for every Jew.
Our Torah teaches that the deeds of each of us affect all other Jews in the world because all Jewish souls are interlinked, together comprising one great "super-soul." Just as the head plays the key vital role in the entire body, so do our greatest spiritual leaders, the "head" of the generation, have a profound, vital relationship with every other Jew.
Therefore, when our generation's great leader, the Rebbe, shlita, reaches the age of 90, it is a sigg for us, too, to rise to a more advanced spiritual level.
Every letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value, and the letter that indicates 90 is "tzadik" (as it is called in the Zohar and Kabala). Tzadik means "righteous"--referring to one who is distinguished in moral conduct. Usually the term is reserved for those of outstanding saintliness. Nevertheless, the word can be relative, even referring on occasion to every Jew, for all can potentially reach the level of tzadik.
This is the message of the Rebbe's 90th birthday. As the great tzadik reaches the age of "tzadik," we too try to rise to the level of tzadik, at least relatively. We donate more tzedaka--charity (from the same root as tzadik), study more Torah, and try to improve our conduct according to our Torah's highest ideals.
Let us all wish the Rebbe excellent health, long life, and unlimited success in his endeavors on behalf of the entire Jewish people and of each individual Jew. Above all we pray that the Alm-ghty fulfill the Rebbe's greatest desire, to which he has dedicated his entire life, to bring the Mosiach now, initiating the long-awaited Messianic era of universal peace and prosperity.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
The customs of the seder night are ancient and profound. For example, there is a mnemonic device which has been taught for a thousand years to help remember the fifteen parts of the seder. It begins: "Kadesh, urchatz...etc.," and means "Recite the kiddush, wash the hands...," etc. It has been the custom over the many generations for teachers to instill these words in the minds of their tiniest students, who then recite them on the seder night, explaining each of them in the Yiddish vernacular.
The first word, "kaddesh" is explained, 'When Father comes home from shul on the evening of Pesach he must say the kiddush right away so that the little children don't fall asleep without saying the Four Questions, beginning 'Mah Nishtana.'"
It so happened one year in the home of the Shpoler Zeide that his small son began the recitation with the word "kaddesh" and proceeded with the Yiddish explanation, saying, "When Tatty comes home from shul on Pesach night, he must recite the kiddush immediately." His explanation, however, went no further, and his father asked, "Why don't you continue?"
"My teacher didn't tell me anything else to say," replied the child.
The Shpoler Zeide then proceeded to tell his son the rest of the explanation, which continued: "...so that the little children won't fall asleep and will ask the Four Questions beginning with 'Why is this night different from all other nights?'"
On the second night of Pesach the boy's teacher was among the guests at the Shpoler Zeide's table, and the tzadik asked him, "Why didn't you teach the children the rest of the explanation of the word 'kaddesh?'"
"Oh," he replied, "I didn't think it was so important for a little child to know. Anyway, that's not the most important part of the explanation."
The Shpoler Zeide was upset by this reply, and said, "How do you dare to take it upon yourself to alter the venerable customs of our illustrious ancestors? You simply don't understand the depth and profundity of this teaching. Listen, and I will explain the inner meaning of those words:
"The words 'recite kiddush and wash the hands,' these are the introduction to the whole seder. In the Zohar it is written that Rabbi Chiya opened up his discourse with the words from the Song of Songs 'I am asleep but my heart is awake,' meaning 'I am asleep during the Exile.' During the long Exile the Jews are as if asleep, lacking the heights of spiritual sensitivity.
"The true meaning of the children's words, then, 'When Father comes home from shul on Pesach night', is 'When our Father in Heaven returns to His Abode on High and He sees that all the Jews--no matter how exhausted from their preparations for the holiday--all go to pray and give thanks to Him,' then: 'He must recite kiddush right away,' which is to say, G-d must renew His vows of betrothal to His deserted bride, the Jewish People, as it says in the prophet Hosea: 'And I will betroth you to me forever.'
"And what is the reason He must do this with haste? That is explained, 'So that the little children won't fall asleep.' The prophets often refer to the Jewish people as the small, precious children of G-d. The Alm-ghty must act immediately to redeem His people, lest the deep sleep of the Exile totally overwhelm them (G-d forbid), and they cannot be awakened, so that the Redemption would be impossible.
"The end of the phrase, 'So that they will ask the question 'Mah nishtana...' Why is this night different from all other nights?' is explained as follows: We ask 'Why is this terrible, dark Exile longer than all the other exiles we have previously endured?'"
As he uttered these words the Shpoler Zeide couldn't contain his emotions and he burst into bitter tears. "Our Father in Heaven, redeem us quickly from the exile while we're only in a kind of half sleep and our hearts still remain awake! Don't wait until we fall into a sleep so deep that we cannot be awakened!"
Everyone who witnessed this scene was shaken to his core with the desire for repentance, many weeping from the depths of their souls.
The Rebbe then abruptly interrupted this sad mood saying, "Kinderlach, children, let's have some liveliness and give our Father a little "nachas." Let's show Him that His little children can dance and be joyful even in this deep darkness!" And with that, the tzadik began to whirl and turn in a dance of spiritual rapture.
The custom of filling a fifth cup of wine for Elijah the Prophet at the seder table is relatively recent. Although always practiced by some, it has become more widespread only in the last few generations. One explanation for this is that this practice is intimately connected to our faith in the coming of Moshiach, for Elijah the Prophet will be the one to herald the redemption and the Messianic era. As the time for our redemption grows near, it is reflected in our religious practices.
Bread of affliction
The matza we eat on Passover must be made solely of special flour and water. Matza made of flour and fruit juice is called "rich matza," and is not acceptable for the celebration of the seder. Matza, the "bread of affliction," symbolizes our acceptance of the yoke of Heaven and our willingness to perform mitzvot solely for G-d's sake, even if we derive no pleasure from their performance.
We thereby emulate our ancestors' unquestioning obedience to G-d's command when they left Egypt with only their matza to sustain them, in perfect faith that G-d would provide for them in the desert. We must always approach the performance of a mitzva with the same acceptance of our Heavenly yoke, even before we seek any intellectual rationale.
The Festival of Matzot--The Festival of Passover
On the holiday of Passover, the Jewish People laud G-d, and G-d lauds the Jewish People. The Torah refers to Passover as "the Festival of Matzot." G-d gives the Children of Israel credit, so to speak, for their having left Egypt in great haste, with only the dough on their backs, faithful that G-d would supply them with food in the desert. We, on the other hand, call the holiday "the Festival of Pesach," thanking G-d for His having "pasach"--passed over the houses of the Jews when the Egyptians were smitten.
(R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.)
Wherever the Chofetz Chaim (R. Yisroel Meir HaKohen) traveled he brought a new, long black coat, packed in a suitcase. Once, one of his close acquaintances asked: "Why don't you ever wear your new coat?" The Chofetz Chaim replied: "I truly believe that Moshiach will come any day now, and I want to be sure that as soon as he comes I will be able to greet him with this new garment."
(From Highlights of Moshiach by Rabbi Abraham Stone)