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Candle Lighting for Jewish Women and Girls
During these weeks of the Torah readings which celebrate the lives of our Matriarchs - Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah - we share a letter of the Rebbe in which he explains the significance of Shabbos and Yom Tov candle lighting by Jewish women and girls and the interesting connection of charity/tzedakah with this vital mitzvah.
Miss ________ 5735
Rochester, New York
Blessing and Greeting:
This is in reply to your letter in which you inquire about the significance of the dollar bill you received in connection with the Candle-lighting Campaign.
Actually, it has many facets to it, but I must limit myself here to one or two of them. But first, a few words leading up to the subject.
As you know, Jews are commanded to remember and do all the mitzvot of our Torah. But there are certain mitzvot that the Torah specifically emphasizes with the command: "Remember!" This, to mention a familiar example, is one of the Ten Commandments: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."1 So also the commandment to remember Yetziat Mitzraim every day of the year; and various other commandments. The most central of all such remembrances, however, is the commandment to remember the day of our receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, which we celebrate on Shavuot: "Remember the day when you stood before G-d, your G-d, at Horev (Sinai), lest you forget the things which your eyes saw."2
The Torah's reason for commanding us to remember those very important events is self-evident, for a Jew lives in a world which hustles and bustles with all sorts of material things that distract his attention from what is truly important and eternal. We are of course speaking even of "kosher" things, such as eating and drinking, doing business, etc., all of which must be done in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch. Yet, inasmuch as a person is inevitably and routinely involved with such things for the greater part of the day, day after day, he may become so much absorbed in them as to forget the very important and essential things which the Torah particularly wants us to remember.
It is also a matter of common experience that when people want to make sure they will not forget certain matters, they do all sorts of things to help themselves remember.
In light of the above, the Torah has given us certain mitzvot which, in addition to all their other meanings, are notable "reminders." Again, to mention a familiar example, the mezuzah, (among other things), reminds the Jew upon leaving and returning home that G-d, Who is our very life and strength, is One, etc., as we read in the portion of Shema which the mezuzah contains. Similarly, upon rising in the morning, we recite a prayer in which we declare that our soul, which G-d returns to us every morning, is pure, etc. And so there are many mitzvot, which constantly help us to remember our real purpose in life-to serve G-d "in all our ways." There are mitzvot which serve as reminders to all Jews, since all Jews are equal in regard to the observance of those mitzvot. But there are also mitzvot that apply to certain groups only, such as Kohanim. In each case, there are specific reminders for those concerned.
This brings us to the subject matter of your letter.
One of the most important and most beautiful mitzvot is the lighting of the candles before Shabbat and Yom Tov, and this mitzvah was given as a special privilege to Jewish women, mothers and daughters, to fulfil not only for themselves, but also for the whole family and household. Obviously, everyone in the home enjoys the advantages of the light of the candles, illuminating the home as well as the table at which the members of the family sit down for the Shabbat and Yom Tov meal.
However, the importance of this mitzvah goes deeper than the mere illumination of the home in the plain sense, for it also makes it a bright home spiritually, in accordance with the text of the blessing recited before the lighting of the candles: "Who sanctified us with His commandments." Hence, it is highly desirable that such an important mitzvah should have a special "reminder," further to emphasize the deeper significance of this mitzvah. There are various things ableto serve as reminders of the mitzvah. Most suitable would be one that is not too cumbersome, yet at the same time expresses the significance of the great mitzvah of candle lighting. Thus, the most suitable way is to connect the mitzvah with money, since money is the medium with which one fulfills the mitzvah of tzedakah, which is an especially great mitzvah, since the giver could obviously use the money for his own needs, yet gives it selflessly to a needy person, and thereby saves a life, as our Sages have emphasized.3
The special relevance of tzedakah to the lighting of candles before Shabbat and Yom Tov lies in the fact that, as our Sages explain, the lighting of candles is an act of rectification for the wrongdoing committed by the first woman, and mother of all Mankind, Chava (Eve), who with the sin of eating the forbidden fruit caused "the candle of G-d, which is the soul of man"4-of Adam-to be extinguished.5 By lighting the candles, the Jewish mother and daughter rectify this act of extinguishing the "candle." It is particularly relevant, therefore, to associate candle lighting with tzedakah, for tzedakah too, as mentioned above, is a life-saving act.
This, then, in a nutshell, is one signification of the dime or dollar bill which accompanied the Candle-lighting Campaign, and which is intended for tzedakah, or which, if anyone wants to keep that particular dime or dollar bill as a memento, may be substituted for by an equal amount of tzedakah. All this is intended to call attention to and emphasize the importance of the lighting of the candles,both for the person lighting them and for the whole Jewish home.
May G-d grant that you fulfill this great mitzvah with joy and inspiration. And inasmuch as the great principle of our Torah is v'ahavtah l'reachah kamochah6, you will surely use your good influence with friends and neighbors to ensure that they, too, observe this great mitzvah in similar fashion.
P.S. In connection with the above, I want to emphasize a very important point, namely, that however important that dime or dollar bill is, it is still muktzah and, like any other money, is not to be handled on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
How to interpret the Creation account of the Torah.
The new cycle of Torah reading and learning for the year - begins at the beginning, with the Creation of the world.
In this letter, the Rebbe comments on a novel analysis and rendering of the Genesis Recording in the Torah, presented by the writer, a Torah observant Jew.
The Rebbe's points include the literal interpretation of the Torah as it concerns creation, Torah's view of science, consequences of the relativity theory, and the dating of the age of the Universe according to the theory of evolution..
By the Grace of G-d
14th Elul, 5739
Greeting and Blessing:
This is in reply to your letter in which you write about, what you call, a novel analysis and rendering of the Genesis Recording in the Torah.
I trust you know that every so-called "orthodox" Jew (the reason for the quotation marks is that according to our Sages all Jews are "believers the sons of believers," in other words, "orthodox," even though this essential nature of a Jew is in some individuals eclipsed in actual practice) believe in the literal interpretation of the Torah, including the Creation account with which the Torah begins. You might say that Jews are the original 'fundamentalists," to use a familiar term in this country.
The immediate consequences to this literal interpretation are: (1) that the Universe was created ex nihilo; (2) that immediately on the first day of Creation both the heaven and the earth came into being, as distinct from the so-called "big bang" theory which you mention, or other cosmogonist theories); (3) that the six days of creation refer to actual days, not "periods," as clearly evidenced by the "seventh day" in the same context, which the Creator blessed and sanctified as the day of Shabbos, and which He commanded us, Jews, to observe every seventh day of the week. And while we also have a Sabbatical Year, Shmitta, which is the seventh year of a seven-year cycle (incidentally, the hew year, 5740 is such a year), the seventh day of each week - Shabbos - which Jews have observed for countless generations to this day is living testimony that "in six days G-d made heaven and earth."
I am, of course, aware that even in certain orthodox circles there have been well-meaning apologists who attempted to reinterpret the Creation account of the Torah in one way or another in order to "reconcile" it with changing theories as to the origin of the Universe. But since I am speaking of the authentic time-honored traditional view, the way it has always been understood and taught to Jewish children, the chedarim and yeshivos, as it is still understood and taught today, the above-mentioned three basic points of Creation are absolutely fundamental; and there are other corollaries, which cannot be entered into here.
In addition to plain text of the Torah she'bi'Ksav(Written Torah) there are numerous teachings in the Torah she'be'Al-Peh (Talmud, etc.) reiterating and expounding the Creation account, which is the very foundation of our religion and belief. The Rambam (Maimonides), the Great Codifier of Jewish Law, clearly rules that our belief in the Divine origin of both the Written and Oral Law is indivisible and if one is denied, G-d forbid, in whole or in part, so is ipso facto the other.
As for your statement that scientific data were not available generations ago, etc., let me say that with all due respect to science, it has not in any way (except in a most speculative way) challenged the authenticity of the Torah account of Creation. Be it noted that the Torah itself gives science a strong validity (in the so called exact and empirical sciences), as for example when a physician rules that a person must not fast on Yom Kippur, in which case the doctor's opinion assumes the validity of a Torah rule overriding the fast.
Unfortunately, most contemporary scientists seem to conceal one of the inescapable consequences of the relativity theory, according to which neither the principle of Ptolemy that the earth is the center of the Universe, nor that of Copernicus that the sun is the center of the "solar system," is relevant any more since modern science cannot, a priori, rule on this question definitively. From the viewpoint of modern science, either of them could be right, and if one of them is rejected on any ground, the same objection would apply to the other, as anyone who is familiar with the theory of relativity knows.
A further point that has bearing on the subject matter of your letter has to do with the various theories of dating the age of the Universe according to the theory of evolution. The various hypotheses that attempt to set the date, are not only speculative, but are full of contradictions, depending on the criteria used for dating, whether geologic, astronomic, and atomic and the like. They are also mutually contradictory by virtue of the fact that the maximum age according to one theory is smaller than the minimum age according to another. Besides and this too is an essential point, according to the principle of probability which is now universally accepted in modern science, the evolution from simple to the complex, not to mention from the inorganic to organic, would require such a fantastic number of years that would far exceed the various maximum evolution theories.
This is not the place to present a bibliography where all the above can be verified, but a practical bibliography may be found in the book by Avigdor Miller.
I am very sorry that what has been said above is quite categorically at variance with your interpretation, in which you evidently invested great deal of time and thought. But surely you wished to hear my candid opinion and not some equivocal palliative remarks, especially as there is no room for palliatives in matters that are basic to our religion and beliefs.
Wishing you a Kesivo vachasimo tovo for a good and sweet year,
The Rebbe's letter give us positive and encouraging guidelines on teshuvah/repentence, the main component of the month of Tishrei.
By the Grace of G-d
Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5741 Brooklyn, N.Y.
Chicago, Ill. 60659
Greeting and Blessing:
I am in receipt of your letter in which you write about your anxiety as a result of an incident last summer, involving a verbal outburst, which, you think, may require a special teshuva etc.
I trust you know that one of the basic principles of our Torah, Toras Emes, is that G-d does not require of a person anything that is beyond the person's capacity. And, needless to say, G-d knows the capacities and weaknesses of the creatures He created, including the fact that a human being is subject to moods, which sometimes bring him to say or even do things which are contrary to his real character and will.
For this reason, G-d has provided teshuva, "repentance", which is the ability to rectify anything that needs to be rectified, even to the extent of erasing the past. Teshuva, basically, calls for a sincere regret of the past failing and equally sincere determination not to repeat it. And when this is done, the person again becomes beloved to G-d, and even more than before, as is the case of a truant child who begs his father 's forgiveness and father embraces him more affectionately than before.
Moreover, as you surely know, G-d has set aside special times in the year for teshuva, such as the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur, so that a person should not become overly preoccupied with guilt feelings, remorse and sadness which are counterproductive and can only hinder is normal activities, especially the most important activity of serving G-d with joy.
It is clear from your letter that you have had more than your share of regret and remorse over the past. Thus you may rest assured that not only are you a Jew in good standing with Hashem, but even closer and dearer than before and there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for any anxiety on that score. So you can completely dismiss the incident from your mind and turn your full attention to continued advancement in Yisddishkeit, Torah and mitzvot, wholeheartedly and with joy.