Shalom and Bracha!
This Shabbat we read
the portion of Acharei which begins with the discussion of the offerings
on the day of Yom Kippur. One of the offerings was the goat that was
cast away in the wilderness, symbolizing the nullification of our sins.
As it was sent away, a parallel goat was offered in the holy of holies.
Another offering was the incense, which was offered in the holy of
holies only on the day of Yom Kippur. In Teshuvah, returning to Hashem,
there are two levels. The first is rejection of sin (including
acceptance to observe whatever was lacking). The second is using the
negative past as a catalyst to serve Hashem beyond the norm. This has
numerous forms: the negative past awakens a deep yearning and the
service of Hashem is much more intense. The negative background allows
someone to understand others better and thereby reach out successfully
to more people. The negative background provides insights how to serve
Hashem better and guide and forewarn others. In all of these forms,
there is a transforming from the negative to the positive.
These two levels of
Teshuvah are represented by the goats and the incense. Throwing away of
sins is the first level, a total rejection of actions against the Torah
and acceptance to follow the Torah’s guidance. The incense represents
the higher Teshuvah. Kaballah gives a beautiful insight into the eleven
spices in the incense. Ten is generally the number of sanctity, whereas
eleven is often a number of impurity. Further, one of the ingredients of
the incense was not Kosher. This is because the incense, and
particularly the incense of Yom Kippur, represents the power of
transforming evil to good.
This relates to Shabbat
Hagadol. The Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat Hagadol, the great
Shabbat. This is because of the great miracle that occurred on this
Shabbat. The Jewish people were commanded to take the Pesach lamb on the
tenth of Nissan, four days before slaughtering it. That day was Shabbat.
The lamb was the idol of the Egyptians. Readiness to slaughter the lamb
was a tremendous act of self-sacrifice. When Moshe initially spoke to
Pharaoh, he told him that the Jews must perform their offering outside
of Egypt because the Egyptians would surely stone the Jews for
slaughtering sheep. Holding a lamb for four days, in preparation for
slaughter, was an even greater act of courage. Nevertheless, imbued with
faith in Hashem and the coming redemption, The Jews followed Moshe’s
Upon seeing the Jew’s
taking sheep into their homes, the Egyptians asked them what they are
doing. They responded that in four days they would slaughter the lambs,
and then Hashem would kill all of the firstborn Egyptians. Upon hearing
this, the firstborn Egyptians rebelled, demanding the release of the
Jews. Many Egyptians were killed quelling the rebellion.
The reason that this
is called a “great” miracle is that although many times our enemies have
been given over into our hands, or defeated by Hashem, here the
Egyptians were smitten by there own, by their firstborn. The firstborn
represent the epitome, the cream of the crop. By the Jews selflessly
fulfilling the will of Hashem, the epitome of evil became a tool to
smite evil and pave the path to redemption. Further, the merit of their
self sacrifice made them worthy of the redemption. May Hashem grant us
the miracle of redemption immediately.
Friday, April 15th,
marks the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Hundred and ninth birthday. Those who say
the Rebbe’s chapter of Tehillim daily begin to say chapter 110. As we
mark this day it is an appropriate time to reflect upon the Rebbe’s
effect on worldwide Jewry and to think how we can follow in his path,
both by ourselves fulfilling additional Mitzvot and by encouraging
fellow Jews wherever they may be to embrace their heritage. Just as we
begin the Seder by inviting the hungry to partake, every Mitzvah we do
should be accompanied by a desire to share with the spiritually hungry.
A prominent Rabbi once suggested that we leave a seat vacant at the
Seder in memory of the victims of the holocaust. The Rebbe responded
that the victims would be better remembered by seeking a Jew who was not
attending a Seder and bringing him to the Seder. The true victory over
those who would annihilate us r”l is using them a catalyst to intensify
our heritage and fortify our people.
On a person’s
birthday, his Mazal is strong. On a leader’s birthday, the Mazal of the
entire Jewish people is strengthened. If anyone would like a prayer said
by the Rebbe’s resting place, please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org and include your Hebrew name and your
mothers Hebrew name. May Hashem immediately grant the goal that the
Rebbe strived for endlessly, the coming of Moshiach.
Thousands of families
are depending on Chabad to provide them for the basic needs for the
holiday. Please donated generously to the Passover emergency fund and as
you enjoy your Seder you will know needy families are enjoy their Seder
thanks to you.
Dedicated to Benyamin
Rafael Koren and Chana Kamely on the occasion of their wedding. May
Hashem fill their home with sanctity, joy, love and blessings.
All times listed are NY
For worldwide times on
the web please visit my website and adjust the location and date
If anyone still needs to
sell their Chametz, follow the instructions on the above website.
The search for Chametz
is Sunday night, April 17th after 8:10 p.m.
The fast if the
firstborn is Monday April 18th.
Chametz may be eaten
until 10:40 a.m. Monday.
Chametz must be burnt or
sold before 11:47 a.m. Before 11:47 one must declare “All Chametz
(leavening or leavened products) in my possession are hereby null, void,
and without owner like the dust of the earth.”
Pesach extends from the
night of April 18th through April 26th at 8:30
p.m. April 19th, 20th, 25th, and 26th
Tefillin are not worn
the entire week according to the Chabad custom.
Candle lighting is
on Monday April
18th Please endeavor to include as many Jews as possible in
the Pesach Seder both nights.
The Kabbalah teaches
that the Matzah of the first Seder is the bread of faith and the second
Seder is the bread of healing.
Tuesday during Musaf we
stop praying for rain and begin to pray for dew throughout the summer.
Candle lighting Tuesday
night is after
an existing flame.
Counting the Omer begins
Tuesday night. Every night until Shavuot we count the days after
nightfall. The blessing is Baruch Atta Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam
Asher Kid’shanu B’mizvotav V’tzivanu Al Sefirat Ha’omer. On Tuesday
night we say today is one day of the Omer. May the All Merciful return
to us the Temple service in its place speedily in our days. Amen. Selah.
On Wednesday night we say the blessing and count today is two days of
the Omer etc. Next Tuesday we count today is seven days, which are one
week of the Omer etc. Next Thursday we count today is eight days, which
are one week and one day of the Omer etc. If the Omer wasn’t counted at
night, we count during the day without a blessing. Thereafter, we
continue to count with a blessing. If we miss an entire day, we continue
to count without a blessing.
For a lengthy discussion
of counting the Omer, please visit my website
There is a link to
subscribe for daily reminders via email.
The Seder has a lesson
for each of us in our lives. Mitzrayim (Egypt) represents limitations
and boundaries. In our lives, it represents our inhibitions and
obstacles that prevent us from reaching our goals. Pesach is the time
Hashem gave us to rise above our obstacles. The way to do so is Matzah.
Matzah is the bread of humility. It has the same grain and nutritional
components of bread, but it doesn’t rise. What is the true meaning of
humility? Faith. Humility is not ignoring our accomplishments or
abilities. It is recognizing that these are gifts of G-d and we must
question if we have used His gifts to the utmost. Moshe was called the
humblest of all men. Didn’t he know that he was the ultimate prophet and
redeemer? Of course he did. He saw these as G-d’s gifts. Had they been
bestowed on someone else, they would have done a better job. Matzah is
the bread of faith. Humility is recognition that everything comes from
Hashem. That is the key to overcoming impediments. We aren’t working
with our powers we are working with his. Matzah is the bread of faith.
When we are imbued with ego, we are plagued with grief for everything we
think we deserve. Humility teaches us gratitude which is the foundation
In merit of faith may
this Pesach be the celebration of the final redemption with the coming
of Moshiach who will heal all of the wounds of Galut (exile).
Chag Kasher V’sameach
Shabbat Chol Hamoed
Candle lighting Friday
April 22 is
This Shabbat we read
about the giving of the second tablets. After begging Hashem’s
forgiveness for the Jewish people for having made the golden calf, Moshe
asked that Hashem show him His glory. (Moshe’s goal was not a selfish
one. He knew that by rising to a higher spiritual plane, he would be
able to share his spiritual wealth with the Jewish people.) The Rambam
explains that although Hashem has no physical form, Moshe wanted to
reach the pinnacle of human awareness of Hashem. Hashem acceded to his
request. From this we see a powerful lesson. By begging for forgiveness
for other Jews, although they were involved in lust, idolatry and
violence, Moshe was elevated to a new spiritual plane.
This is reminiscent of
a story of the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, The Tzemach Tzedek. The Tzemach
Tzedek studied a great deal under his grandfather, the first Chabad
Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Even after his grandfather’s
passing, he would appear to him and answer his questions in Torah. One
time, his grandfather had not appeared for a long time, causing the
Tzemach Tzedek great anguish. The Tzemach Tzedek was on the way to
synagogue and a poor man asked for a loan, because it was a market day.
The Tzemach Tzedek told him to meet him after prayers. After entering
synagogue and going through spiritual preparation for prayer, the
Tzemach Tzedek donned his Tallit. He then thought that he was wrong for
delaying the loan. In the interim, as the Tzemach Tzedek was praying,
the man could be making a living. He took off his Tallit, went and got
the money, and sought out the man in the marketplace. (One can only
imagine the distraction of such a Tzaddik searching the marketplace
before prayers.) When he returned to synagogue, and again donned his
Tallit, his grandfather appeared to him and explained all of the
questions the Tzemach Tzedek had saved since their last meeting. He then
explained to him the tremendous spiritual heights one can reach by doing
a fellow Jew a physical favor and certainly a spiritual favor.
The Haftara describes
the prophecy of Yechezkiel when Hashem brought him to a valley of dry
bones and told him to bring them back to life. Upon doing so, Hashem
told him that the dry bones represent the Jewish people.
Many parts of our life
can be represented by dry bones. Often, when we pray, or do another
Mitzvah, it is without life. We say the words and go through the
motions, but they are without life. We help poor people or study the
Torah, but it is without life. Hashem is telling us to arise and feel
the beauty of every Mitzvah we do.
This also applies to
our relationships with our friends and family. The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi
Yosef Yitzchak Shneerson, once said that a Shalom Aleichem used to be a
heartfelt greeting. Now, in the greeting there is a hint of when are you
leaving already? We need to put life into our dry bones. A kiss good
morning to our children, a hello, must be full of life.
Through our breathing
new life into our dry bones, may Hashem speedily grant the coming of
Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead.
Sunday night Sefirah is
6 days of the Omer
NY City Candle lighting
Sunday April 24th at
Candle lighting Monday
April 25th after
from an existing flame
Yizkor is Tuesday April
In NY City, Pesach ends
Shalom and Bracha!
Monday and Tuesday we
celebrate the last two days of Pesach. On the Seventh day of Pesach we
celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea. As the Jewish people fled Egypt,
Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he pursued them. As the Jews reached
the Red Sea, they found themselves completely surrounded. The sea was on
one side, and the approaching army was on the other. The people were
thrown into a panic, and were divided as to what to do. Some felt it was
better to commit suicide by jumping into the sea rather than capitulate.
Some felt it was better to return to servitude. Others felt it was
better to try their hands at war, and still others felt they should
dedicate themselves to prayer.
Moshe answered the
Jewish people “Fear not. Stand strong and you shall see the salvation of
Hashem that He will perform today. You will never again see Egypt as you
have seen them today. Hashem will battle for you. Be still.” Thereafter,
Hashem told Moshe “Speak to the Jewish people and they should go
forward.” Nachshon Ben Aminadav, the leader of the tribe of Yehudah,
bravely entered the waters and proceeded forward until they split.
The four approaches
mentioned above represent different reactions to problems in following
Hashem’s direction in life. Suicide represents the inability to fulfill
one’s mission. Although more idealistic than returning to Egypt, it
rejects the principle purpose of our existence, to make the world a
divine place. Returning to Egypt represents a lack of faith in the
ability to fulfill Hashem’s direction. Battle represents attempting to
deal with the world with only our own finite powers. By only praying, we
ignore Hashem’s directive to accomplish things ourselves.
We left Egypt with the
goal to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. However great the obstacles
were, Hashem told us not to lose focus on our mission. All of the above
approaches did nothing to advance us towards receiving the Torah, and as
such were wrong. Only by pressing forward with Hashem’s mission with
full faith in success can we progress.
Often, we find it
difficult to follow the Torah while living within society. Challenges
lead us to feel we must either escape the world or forgo certain Mitzvot.
The splitting of the sea teaches us that we must face and overcome
challenges by focusing only on the mission of Hashem and we will then
Nachshon was the head of
the tribe of Yehudah, from whom Moshiach stems. On the eighth day of
Pesach, we celebrate the coming redemption. May our resolve to follow
the Torah in an unwavering manner hasten his coming and may we conclude
this Pesach in Yerushalayim.
The Baal Shem Tov
instituted a custom to conclude the holiday with a meal celebrating the
coming of Moshiach. Matzah is eaten and four cups of wine are consumed.
The Rebbe added that each cup should be consumed with the intent to
hasten Moshiach’s coming. May the continuation of this meal be the great
feast Hashem has prepared for the coming of Moshiach!
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