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   379: Devarim

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August 4, 1995 - 8 Menachem Av 5755

379: Devarim

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  378: Matos-Maasei380: Va'eschanan  

Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  A Call To Action  |  The Rebbe Writes
What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count  |  It Once Happened
Moshiach Matters

Before you continue reading, try this little exercise. Go outside to a populated area. Look at something above eye-level. For added effectiveness, point.

Did you notice how many people stopped to look up? Craning their necks, squinting, and scrunching up their noses, they were trying to figure out what you were looking at. It's uncanny how curious people are, how eager people are to not miss a thing.

One of the jobs of a leader -- whether a parent, teacher or guide -- is to look up, to look ahead, and point those in their charge in the right direction. That's why the greatest leaders have always been those who could look ahead, and induce others to do the same.

Looking up or ahead connotes a sense of vision and foresight. It is the ability to see that which is not easily discernible and the skill to inspire others who are so busy with their noses to the grind that they can't look up.

The Rebbe has been looking up and pointing in a direction for decades. Especially in the past four years, after the Rebbe declared that "the time for the Redemption has arrived" -- the end of our people's two thousand year wait is in sight -- the direction the Rebbe has been pointing in has become more pronounced, more accentuated.

The Rebbe's unique vision allows him to look a little above our eye- level. But with his constant pointing we can see what he sees. In fact, the Rebbe has stated numerous times that we need only "open our eyes" to see that everything is ready for the Redemption.

By his pointing in that direction, to what he sees but is not necessarily within our line of vision, the Rebbe is encouraging us and compelling us to look in that direction as well. Natural human curiosity dictates that we will look in that direction if it is pointed out to us, and often enough.

So the Rebbe has given us the tools to imitate that exercise.

Especially now that we don't see the Rebbe looking up and pointing, these tools are all the more valuable:

Learn about Moshiach and Redemption Do more mitzvot Pursue acts of goodness and kindness. Give charity Live in a more loving, peaceful, harmonious manner

The Rebbe has looked up and pointed out that the world, the entire world, is ready for the Redemption. He has pointed out that the tremendous advancements, by leaps and bounds, of technology are a sign of Moshiach's imminent revelation. He ha s pointed to disarmament as a foretaste of the Biblical prophecy of "beating swords into plowshares."

When we use the tools and encouraging others to do the same, we become lofty lookers and up pointers. We become more attuned to the unfolding of the Messianic Era, right before our very eyes.

Living with the Rebbe

"See, I have set the land before you," Moses relates in this week's Torah portion, Devarim. "Come and possess the land G-d swore unto your fathers."

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator whose explanation on the text expresses its most literal meaning, explains that the Jewish people did not have to wage war in order to take possession of the land of Israel; had they not sent the spies, they would not have needed any weapons.

"There is no one to contest the matter," Rashi comments. Since G-d Himself promised the land to the Jews, no one in the whole world could have prevented this from happening.

Historically, however, we see that instead of a miraculous entry into the land, the Jewish people did indeed engage in battle with their enemies. Their lack of faith and insistence that Moses send spies to bring back a report, spoiled their opportunity to enter the land unopposed, and made it necessary for them to follow a natural procedure instead of a miraculous one. In other words, it was their own negative attitude and conduct which forced them to wage wars in order to assert their Divine right to the land.

This contains a moral for our own times and present condition:

The Torah tells us that the Final Redemption with Moshiach will be very much like our first redemption from Egypt, but will be accompanied by even more wonders and miracles. It follows that if the entry and settlement of the land of Israel was supposed to be accomplished in a supernatural manner the first time ("There is no one to contest the matter, and you need not wage war"), how much more so will it be miraculous in our own times, with the Messianic Redemption!

Again, just as before, the entire matter depends on us. We must show absolute faith in G-d and His promise that the entire land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. We must not be afraid to inform the nations of the world -- unequivocally -- that the land of Israel is our eternal legacy.

As Rashi explains on the very first verse of the Torah, "The whole earth belongs to G-d; He created it and gave it to whom He saw fit. [The land of Israel] was given to [the nations] by His will, and by His will He took it from them and gave it to us!"

When we will demonstrate this true and absolute faith in G-d, we will immediately merit that "no one will contest this, and there will be no more wars nor the need for any weapons."

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Devarim, 5747

A Slice of Life

By Esther Altmann

On the Ninth of Av the First World War broke out. On its heels came WWII and the destruction of 6,000,00 of our brothers and sisters in Europe. Rabbi Nissan Mangel remembers the Allied liberation of Europe from the Nazis when he was an 11 year old boy:

The camp at Gunzkirshen was located in the midst of a dense forest. The starving Jews were forced to hack their way through. They then set up poles and stretched sheets of canvas across them to form a crude shelter, which left them exposed to the elements. Packed closely together, 1,800 people to a barrack, they had only enough space to sit, knees to chest, on the cold ground.

With the war drawing to an end, the German troops feared that their inhuman crimes would be discovered by the conquering Allies.

In a last frantic effort to destroy incriminating evidence, they attempted to exterminate the surviving Jews, living proof of their bestiality, by completely withholding food. How did anyone survive this starvation? Those who could still walk would forage in the forest for any crawling creatures they could eat. They had long ago lost their natural aversion to these creatures. After a few days, many hundreds more had died; the survivors sat on top of the growing pile of corpses, numb to the horror which surrounded them.

Days before the liberation, the Nazis permitted the Red Cross to bring food to the Jews. Long tables were set up and for one short hour a day, food was distributed to the fortunate few. The fights and hysteria of the starved people cannot be imagined as they fought and struggled to find a place in the line. Somehow, young Nissan Mangel was one of the lucky few.

When he saw the amount of food, he knew that his bruised and swollen hands would never be able to carry it. He dearly wanted to bring some back to the friend who had saved his life so many times, and so he devised a plan: He would tuck his shirt into his pants, and make a pouch in which he could stash the containers.

He had just finished packing in the food when a tall man approached him. "You're just a young boy, and there are people here who would steal your food. I'll walk you back to the barrack."

Rabbi Mangel recalled how happy he was to have the help. They hadn't walked far when the man turned and pounced on him, grabbing the containers of food. When others saw, they joined in the frenzied attack. The starving people pulled and ripped at his shirt, pummeling and pushing his face into the pool of black mud on the ground.

"I would have forgiven them the food, but in their struggle they pushed my face into a puddle of mud which I was forced to breathe in as I struggled for air. I thought to myself, 'I survived the gas chambers, but this suffocation is my gas chamber.' I returned battered and empty-handed to my friend, exhausted and close to death.

"A few more days passed, and I had no strength at all. I knew that without food, I was as good as dead. I begged my friend to bring me something to eat -- a worm or a bug. When he returned a little later holding two sugar beets I couldn't believe my eyes. `Where did you get them?' I gasped.

"He told me the kitchen was open and the German troops were fleeing into the forest, flinging their rifles and uniforms in a desperate attempt to escape the Allies. 'Come, we must escape. I'll help you,' he said.

"In the middle of the night we ran into the forest. As dawn was about to break, we saw thousands of Jews, walking skeletons, streaming towards the city. Suddenly, from a distance, we saw a tank approaching. We were terrified and turned to run back when we realized that they were Americans. We ran toward them and surrounded their tank, asking for food. The GI's offered us chewing gum, but we had never seen gum before. We tried to chew the strange, sticky stuff but no amount of chewing made it edible.

"Despite the excruciating suffering, faith was apparent in all the camps. I can honestly say, that I never heard a Jew ask, 'Where is G-d?' 'Why has He forgotten us?' On the contrary, I saw many miracles and many instances of the most extreme self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvot:

"The meager soup ration was skimmed for the dot of fat which could later be used to make a candle for Chanuka.

"The observance of Sukkot was the most amazing. A tiny sukka, three feet high and one foot wide, was erected. Despite the threat of frightful tortures, Jews rose at 4 am to stick their heads into the sukka for a moment and fulfill the mitzva of reciting a blessing inside.

"When Passover came, 'the time of our liberation,' one could well have wondered what there was to celebrate, but the entire barracks joined together to make a 'seder.' There was no matza, no wine, no food and no Hagada, so what could they do? Each person who could, recited by heart a part of the Hagada, and together they reconstructed the seder from memory.

"It wasn't long before the spirited singing attracted the attention of the SS, for what was there to sing about in hell? The angry guard stormed into the barrack. At once, all lay down on their wooden planks. But as soon as he left, they resumed their singing. A second time, the guard entered the barracks and threatened: 'If you dare make a sound again, I will shoot all of you!' But the prisoners were undeterred, so driven were they to celebrate Passover. When the guard returned a third time and saw the determination of the Jews, he walked out. I can tell you that the entire barracks participated in the seder. Not everyone was a practicing Jew, but not one person said, 'Stop. Don't make noise.' No, all stood together on that Passover night."

Such, is the power of faith in G-d.

A Call To Action

Increase Rejoicing this Shabbat

The fact that Tisha B'Av falls on Shabbat, and thus instead of fasting we are obligated to take pleasure in the food and beverages served, alludes to the redemption.

For this reason, when a fast day falls on Shabbat, and is therefore pushed off until Sunday, there must be an additional stress on happiness.

(The Rebbe, 9 Av, 5751)

The Rebbe Writes


1 Adar, 5739 (1969)

I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming tour of "Chasidic Soul Concerts" in various cities, in the period between Purim and Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

I trust that in light of the well-known adage, "Negina (melody) is the quill of the heart," and bearing in mind that "the essential thing is the deed," which our Sages so often emphasized, these concerts will make the most of the said two teachings in harmonious combination -- to touch the hearts and souls of the audiences and participants and inspire them to strengthen their commitment to Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvot, in everyday life.

Indeed, the classical Chasidic nigunim [melodies] of our Rebbes have the quality of arousing the so-called "Pintele Yid" in the heart of every Jew, the true essence of a Jew, of which our Holy Scriptures speak in terms of "I sleep, but my heart is awake" (Song of Songs 5:3), meaning, as our Sages explain, that though a Jew may be "asleep" in Exile, his heart is always awake to Torah and mitzvot.

But with all the importance of a Jewish heart and Jewish feelings ("G-d desires the heart") -- the real value of an emotional experience is in seeing it translated into action in terms of actual Jewish living.

8 Tishrei, 5715 (1955)

I received your letter in which you write that during your learning the Sicha [adaptation of a talk given by the Rebbe] of Shabbat Mevorchim Elul, several points were not clear to you, and you request an explanation.

Generally speaking, it is difficult to elaborate in a letter on this kind of question, but perhaps the following brief remarks will be helpful to you:

  1. You ask, what is meant by the statement in the sicha that even physically the Jew should by his very nature flee from sin and avoid it even "b'shoigeig" [inadvertantly] just as an animal instinctively avoids danger. Your question concerns the term "guf" [body], since the body without the soul cannot commit any act, and how can the two be considered separately in this connection.

    The explanation should be clear from the illustrations used, namely of animals, i.e., a living animal.

    In other words, the term "body" was not meant to exclude the "animal soul," but the "Divine soul" and even the "rational soul" (Nefesh hasichlit).

  2. the above explains your other difficulty regarding reward and punishment, namely, if the Jew instinctively, so to speak, avoids sin and does good, why reward him for it?

    In general, within a Jew there is first of all the "Divine soul" pulling to the good, then there is the "animal soul" in the strict sense, and both are influenced by the "rational soul" with the free choice of action to then follow the lead of the Divine soul or to oppose it.

    It is this free will to do good (uvocharta bachayim), despite the animal soul and yetzer hora pulling in the opposite direction, which merits the reward. There is no contradiction here with a) because in an act committed inadvertently (b'shoigeig) the rational soul does not participate, and therefore, in truth, the body and animal soul ought to avoid it because it is harmful.

  3. Your question, based on Rashi in Baba Kama (22), presents no difficulty, for it is a matter of common knowledge that an animal under normal conditions flees from danger. In the case of the kid, however, as Rashi points out (in distinction from a grown animal), it is not experienced to recognize danger which is not quite clear and immediate.

May G-d help you to learn Nigla [the revealed parts of Torah] and Chasidut with success, and, especially, to translate them into action, in daily life.

What's New


Perfect for the nine days before Tisha B'Av (when meat is not eaten except on Shabbat) or anytime you want to prepare the "healthy" alternative, It's All Fish is the only kosher, all-fish cookbook.

Paula Smith and Dorothy Seaman offer numerous tips for fish preparation and the recipes are easy to follow. Available at your local bookstore, Judaica shop or from the publisher: Stonehill Publ., PO Box 563, 47 Highridge Rd., West Simsbury, CT 06092.


Jewish Mysticism comes alive at a special series of summer lectures Wednesday evenings from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm at South Street Seaport in Manhattan.

The "Chassidus by the Sea" lecture, sponsored by Be'er Miriam, takes place at the end of Pier 17 overlooking the water. The lecture and Q&A session is led by Rabbi Eli Cohen of Chabad at NYU. For more info call (718) 467-5519.

A Word from the Director

Four years ago, the Jewish holidays and notable days occurred on the same days of the week as this year. Thus, in 5751 (1991) Tisha B'Av also fell out on Shabbat. Tisha B'Av, normally a day of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple, was therefore a day of happiness and rejoicing, as we do not mourn on Shabbat.

There is another reason to rejoice on Tisha B'Av. And this, too, the Rebbe spoke about at great length on Tisha B'Av four years ago and the days immediately following it.

Tisha B'Av is known by our Sages as the birthday of Moshiach.

In simple terms this means that at the moment of the destruction of the Holy Temple, the potential for the Final Redemption, through Moshiach, was born.

The Rebbe clarified the exact meaning of this: "Our Sages explain that this cannot refer to Moshiach's actual birth, because Moshiach will not be an infant when he redeems our people. But rather, it refers to a strengthening of his influence. For our Sages refer to a birthday as a day when mazalo govair, "the spiritual source of one's soul shines powerfully."

On the day when Moshiach's spiritual source is powerfully revealed, there is a unique potential for the Redemption to come... Each year, for the past two thousand years, on Tisha B'Av, Moshiach receives new power and new strength, and from year to year, this influence grows more powerfully."

Thus, Tisha B'Av is a unique time, when the potential for the Redemption is at its peak. Through this insight into Tisha B'Av we are introduced to a basic concept in Chasidic philosophy which teaches that the greatest ascent comes after the greatest descent.

Let us use the time properly and bring about the greatest ascent, the revelation of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, NOW.

Thoughts that Count

The Book of Deuteronomy

What is the difference between the Book of Deuteronomy and the other four Books of the Torah?

In transmitting the first four Books, Moses acted strictly as G-d's emissary, repeating the message word for word without involving his own intellect in the process.

Deuteronomy, however, was transmitted precisely through the intellect and understanding of the leader of the generation, in response to the exact needs of the people and its particular spiritual level.

Accordingly, Deuteronomy -- given to the Jewish people just prior to their entry into the land of Israel, and the new lifestyle it would entail -- contains many explanations of concepts that were only alluded to in the first four Books.

(The Rebbe)

You have dwelt long enough on this mountain; turn, and take your journey (Deuteronomy 1:6)

Even though "this mountain" -- Mount Sinai -- was the place on which the Torah was given, the Jewish people were not allowed to linger and were commanded to continue on.

This teaches that a person must not be content with his own service of G-d and shut himself up within the "four cubits" of Torah, but must travel great distances, if need be, in order to bring the light of Torah to another Jew.

(Likrat Shabbat)

And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren (Deuteronomy 1:16)

It is only during the present era, "at that time," that it is necessary to listen to both sides of a dispute to reach a just decision. When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, judgment will be rendered through the sense of smell, as it states, "He will smell the fear if Hashem, and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes and decide after the hearing of his ears."

(Kedushat Levi)

Tisha B'Av

Why is Megillat Eicha (Lamentations) - the scroll which is read on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple - not written on a separate piece of parchment just like Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) -- the scroll which is read on Purim?

When Moshiach comes, Tisha B'Av will be transformed from a day of sorrow into a day of rejoicing. As every single day we await Moshiach's arrival, making Lamentations more "permanent" by committing it to parchment is not really necessary and would imply that we had already despaired, G-d forbid. Purim, however, will also be celebrated in the Era of Redemption, and thus the parchment scrolls will also be used then.

(The Levush)

It Once Happened

Some 100 years before the expulsion of Jews from the countries under Spanish rule, Spanish Jewry was divided into two major segments: those who remained loyal to Judaism despite all the persecutions to which they were subject, and some 250,000 "New-Christians" who had embraced the dominant faith at least publicly.

But even these lived a life of isolation and fear. They were cut off from those of their Jewish brethren who had remained Jews. They were likewise afraid to maintain contact with each other lest they be suspected of harboring an attachment to their Jewish past.

Neither were they absorbed among the "Old Christians," who continued to hate them and to spy on them day and night, in order to hand them over to the church for judgment over the sin of relapsing from their new faith.

Those Jews were called "marranos" by the Old Christians. The word "marranos" means pigs. That is to say, that they were regarded as growing fat from the labor of others, and as people from whom others could derive no benefit other than through their death, when their flesh could be eaten.

The Jews who had remained Jews publicly, were faced only with the threat of expulsion, whereas the Marranos were faced by the penalty of being burned alive publicly for the sin of disloyalty to Christianity.

The marranos were constantly spied upon. At times the accusations against them were truthful. At other times, their enemies fabricated lying accusations against them in order to acquire their wealth and possessions.

Eighteen years before the expulsion, Torquemada, the most brutal among the Catholic priests, set up the Inquisition; a special tribunal to impose penalties upon those discovered to have been disloyal to the Church.

Ostensibly, the activities of the Inquisition were related to all Christians. In reality, it was the "heresy" of the Marranos which was the major concern of the Inquisition.

Upwards of 30,000 of the marranos were condemned to death by the Inquisition and they were burned alive. Other tens of thousands were condemned to physical torture more horrible than death. Most of these sanctified the Name of G-d in death.

The repeated confessions of the tortured that they had remained loyal to the Torah and Judaism, infuriated the inquisitors and their agents, and caused them to persecute the Marranos ever more relentlessly.

The repeated confessions also provided the inquisitors with further arguments in their efforts to prevail upon King Ferdinand to issue an expulsion edict against all the remaining Jews. For "as long as Jews would continue to live in Spain, they would continue to influence their brothers, the 'New Christians' to adhere to the faith of their fathers."

Writes Don Yitzchak Abarbanel in his commentary to Jeremiah: "When the King of Spain decreed expulsion against all the Jews in his kingdom, the date of expulsion was set at the end of three months from the day when the decree was proclaimed. It turned out that the day set for the departure of the Jews from Spain was the ninth of Av ['Tisha B'Av']. But the king did not know the character of the day when he issued his edict. It was as if he had been led from Above to fix this time."

The exiles went forth on the road in groups. Groups of various sizes preceded the great departure on the ninth of Av, and left during the three week period between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av. And although these days are days of mourning and weeping over the destruction of the Sanctuary and the land of Israel, and music is forbidden during these days, nevertheless the Sages of the generation issued permission to the exiles to march to the music of orchestras.

The musicians were to march at the head of the exiles and were to play on instruments in order to strengthen the spirit of the people, and to infuse in them hope and trust in G-d.

They uttered thanksgiving and thanks to their Creator over having withstood the test and not having submitted to conversion, and over their having achieved the merit of sanctifying G-d's Name by their departure from Spain.

It also was the aim of the Rabbis in permitting the playing of instruments at the time, to teach the people that we never weep over departure from exile; that we weep only over our departure from Jerusalem.

Reprinted from: The Book of Our Heritage by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, published by Feldheim Publishers

Moshiach Matters

"How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people!... Turn us to You, O L-rd, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old."


  378: Matos-Maasei380: Va'eschanan  
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