Stock-taking | 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
Anyone who has his own business, or who is familiar with the workings of a business (large or small), knows that at least once each year, time must be set aside for stock-taking .
For a Jew, the time for taking stock in the business of being Jewish is Elul, the month in which we are about to find ourselves in. (This year, the first day of the Month of Elul will be on Sunday, August 27, 1995.)
These thirty days before the awesome and inspiring days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, are traditionally spent in contemplating the past year.
To take stock successfully, you need to know the value of the merchandise, so you can know when to count every single item and when it's not crucial to be so accurate.
And what of a Jew's stock-taking? To know our true value there are a few descriptions and stock numbers (#) that we must first be aware of:
"A person was created in G-d's image." #9:6 Genesis.
"The whole world was created for me and I was created only to serve my Maker." #82a Kedushin.
"Even one who transgresses is as full of good deeds as a pomegranate with seed" #19a Eruvin.
"Be not wicked in your own sight." #2:19 Avot
Each one of us is valuable and valued, and our existence in this world is purposeful. Thus, the questions for Elul's stock-taking are not "How well did this item sell?" or "How much do I have left of that product?" Rather, our queries should be questions such as, "Did I use my talents -- my gifts from G-d -- to bring goodness into the world, to foster peace, to build an atmosphere where G-dliness can be revealed?" And "Have I grown as a Jew this year?"
It is sometimes even helpful to enlist the aid of a close friend or mentor in this stock-taking endeavor. Just as one might hire outside help to take stock in a regular business, as it would be too overwhelming otherwise, similarly it might be beneficial to retain help in the spiritual stock-taking that we do during the month of Elul, especially since our "self-love" tends to cover a multitude of faults.
One thing we do have to be wary of when we are taking stock is not to take stock of other people's standings. "Don't judge your friend until you have stood in his place" our Sages advise us. And who can ever truly say that he has stood in his friend's place? Do you live in your friend's house, have his job, his spouse, his children, his bank account, his health, his intellect, his personality?
As we come to the end of the spiritual business year, we needn't close shop to take stock. Quite the opposite, actually, as we will want to fill in any holes or gaps in our spiritual merchandise with additional mitzvot.
This Shabbat is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, a particularly auspicious month that possesses a unique dimension. For during this month, G-d is especially close to us and we are granted an extraordinary capacity for teshuva -- "return."
As every Torah portion has particular relevance for the time of year in which it is read, let us examine the connection between the month of Elul and the Torah portion which we read this Shabbat.
Our portion begins with the words, "See! This day I give to you a blessing and a curse." Every word in this verse contains an allusion to the special nature of the service of the month of Elul, and the Divine assistance we are given to fulfill it.
"See!": The first thing a Jew must do is to open his eyes. Our sense of sight affords a much more definitive verification of facts than does our sense of hearing; when a person sees something with his own eyes he cannot be dissuaded. A Jew's G-dly service must be performed with this same level of absolute confidence and conviction.
But how are we, mere human beings living in a physical world, supposed to attain this level? G-d provides the answer in the next word of the verse:
|"I" ("Anochi")||The word "Anochi" relates to the Essence of G-d, an aspect of G-dliness that is higher than Names. The reason we are able to achieve these lofty spiritual heights is because the power to do so is derived from this highest of Sources.|
|The Torah continues:|
|"Give"||G-d gives us this Divine assistance according to the principle of "He who gives, gives generously"; His gifts are bestowed willingly and in great abundance.|
|"To you" ("Lifneichem")||This word is related to the Hebrew word "penimiyut," meaning "inside" and "within." The special boost we receive from G-d during Elul is not superficial, but involves the sum and substance of the Jew and enables him to connect with G-d on the deepest level.|
|"This day"||Lest anyone think that this Divine assistance is granted only once, the Torah tells us that G-d's help is ongoing, enabling us to serve G-d with renewed strength every day of the month.|
|And how are we to properly utilize this added dimension in our service?|
|"A blessing and a curse"||This refers to the observance of the Torah's positive commandments and the avoidance of its prohibitions.|
Directing our added capacity for teshuva in these two directions will result in a good and sweet new year and a favorable inscription in the Book of Life.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 2
by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
This past month, the Chabad community mourned the passing of Reb Mendel Futterfas, one of the men who nurtured a generation of Chasidim in the cellars of communist Russia. He was punished for this with eight years in Siberian hard-labor camps and emerged to tell his story at countless gatherings around the world.
When Reb Mendel was imprisoned, he was subjected to all the horrors of interrogation by the Russian authorities. They knew that he was aware of the whereabout of the entire Chasidic underground, and they hoped to pry this information from him . Resolutely, Reb Mendel remained silent. But his silence brought even more severe tortures.
During a temporary respite, he decided to send a letter to the Rebbe asking for a blessing. He pictured the Rebbe in his mind, concentrated intently on his gaze and asked him for the strength to be able to endure his travail.
Almost 20 years later, after the direct intercession of British Prime Minister Charles Wilson allowed to him to leave Russia, Reb Mendel was looking through his family's correspondence with the Previous Rebbe and noticed a telegram acknowledging the receipt of a letter from him, and promising him blessings for safety.
It was dated 1947, shortly after Reb Mendel's imprisonment.
Reb Mendel's life took many turns. He lived in several places in Russia, helped build the Lubavitch community in England after he was finally allowed to emigrate, and served as the source of spiritual guidance of the Lubavitch Yeshiva in Kfar Chabad. In all these places, he not only kept his own eyes on the goal, but inspired scored of others to do so.
After eight years in hard labor camps, Reb Mendel was freed. He was not, however, allowed to emigrate and join his family. He decided to settle in the town of Chernovitch until such permission would be granted. On his way there, he stopped in Moscow. There he met Moshe Katzenelbogen, one of the Chasidim with whom he had worked before.
"Moshe, I have just been released from prison," Reb Mendel told him. Those words were unnecessary. Reb Mendel was still wearing the uniform of the hard labor camp. "I am penniless. Can you get a loan for me?"
Reb Moshe agreed, and within a short while, he was able to bring Reb Mendel a sizeable amount of money. He was, however, puzzled. This wasn't Reb Mendel's way; he had never asked anything for himself. When he brought Reb Mendel the money, Reb Mendel answered his unasked question. "Thank you very much," Reb Mendel said. "Now I have the means to open a cheder when I get to Chernovitch. There it would have been hard for me to obtain loans at the beginning."
The cheder was founded within a week of Reb Mendel's arrival in Chernovitch.
But that was not all. Reb Mendel found out that there were several flaws in the local mikva. With determination, he set out to build a new mikva. Needless to say, this was against the wishes of the Russian authorities, nor was there a budget available, but this did not shake Reb Mendel's determination.
Reb Mendel sent the daughter of Reb Michel Vishetsky to Riga to collect funds of the mikva from the Chasidim there. The Chasidim eagerly gave what they could. In addition they included a sum for Reb Mendel's personal needs.
When the money arrived in Chernovitch, Reb Mendel sent back a telegram, staring that he did not need anything for himself. If the Chasidim were happy that the additional sum would also go for the mikva, it would. Otherwise, he would send it back to them.
At a gathering, the Rebbe once spoke about the mikva Reb Mendel built, saying: "There is a Jew living in Russia whose family has already reached the free world. He does not have an ordinary means of earning a livelihood...
"What should he do? The obvious answer is to sit alone, study the Torah, observe its mitzvot, take care of himself...
"But what is his approach? He sees that there is no mikva -- or that the mikva needs to be fixed. And takes it upon himself to build a new mikva.
"There are dangers involved. But he is not concerned with them... Nor is he thinking about his portion in the world to come... He has one thought in mind: to bring the world one step closer to Moshiach."
Excerpted from the Chabad Magazine.
This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Elul.
Our spiritual workout for the month of Elul involves stocktaking and personal evaluation.
Part of this stocktaking, in which we review our conduct in the previous year -- includes the realization that we should appreciate Torah and mitzvot, "not as an obligation which we must fulfill, but as an expression of a loving relationship with G-d."
VITAMINS AND MEDICINES
23 Tammuz, 5712 (1952)
I was pleased to receive a letter about you from your friend __ , in which he informs me of your learning at the Yeshiva and also at school. I hope you will give more time to your studies at the Yeshiva, especially during the summer vacation from school, and that you will apply yourself with growing diligence and devotion to your studies at the yeshiva.
It is surely unnecessary to emphasize that the purpose of studying at the yeshiva is not merely to gain knowledge, but principally to gain proper guidance on how to conduct one's daily life. At the same time, inasmuch as the study of the Torah is one of the greatest mitzvot (Talmud Torah kneged Kulam -- [the study of Torah is equal to all (other mitzvot)] it will surely bring you blessing and success in your needs: to make up for lost time in the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvot; to continue your Torah studies successfully, and that your heart's desire to see your father, brother and sisters come closer to Yiddishkeit be fulfilled.
It would be a good idea to write occasionally of yourself and to explain to them [your family] the proper approach to these matters.
In the beginning it is necessary to start observing the mitzvot, and eventually most certainly, a better appreciation of the significance and truth of the mitzvot will come also. To approach this matter from the opposite direction, that is, to understand first and then to do them is wrong on two scores. First, the loss involved is not to be retrieved. Second, the very observance of the mitzvot, which creates immediate bonds with G-d develops additional powers all the sooner to understand and appreciate them.
Take, for instance, a person who is run down or ill, for whom vitamins and medicine have been prescribed by a specialist. Would it not be foolish to say that he would not take them until he knew how the vitamins and medicines can restore him to good health? In the meantime, he would remain weak and ill, probably get even worse. It is senseless, because knowledge as to how the vitamins do their work is not necessary in order to benefit from them. Moreover, while taking them, he will get a clearer head and better understanding to learn how the prescription helps him.
Should you want some additional explanation, you can surely get them from the deans of your Yeshiva particularly the mashpia in Chasidut, Rabbi I. Dubov, whom I know personally, and your friend -- . I trust you say some chapters of Tehillim [Psalms] every day.
Wishing you success in your Torah studies with Yirat Shamayim [Awe of Heaven], and hoping to hear good news from you in any language you find most convenient,
Tzivos Hashem Handbook for Children
An 80-page learning guide for children in summer camps, The Tzivos Hashem Handbook has its foundations over a decade ago when the Rebbe created Tzivos Hashem -- an organization for every Jewish child under the age of bar-bat mitzva to encourage them to study Torah and do mitzvot.
Each year, creative counselors in summer camps throughout the world would put together their own booklets with basic Jewish facts, information about Jewish holidays, blessings and more. Now, Tzivos Hashem headquarters in New York has published the Tzivos Hashem Handbook in English and Russian. The first printing was sold out before the camp season had even started. Many who have seen the learning guide describe it as a very basic guide to Judaism. For single copies send $2.00, (plus $1.50 s&h) to Tzivos Hashem Bookstore, 332 Kingston Ave., Bklyn, NY 11213
SHABBOS ON THE RANCH
Thirty-five people pulled away from Queen's Pier in Hong Kong and began their choppy cruise across the harbor to the Sea Ranch Resort on Lantau Island. For 36 hours the resort was transformed into a Shabbos Island, as people experienced the special Shabbos spirit. Guest speaker Rabbi Shmuel Lew came from London to teach Torah and help participants discover Shabbat.
LUNCH AND LEARN
Every Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. you can have lunch and learn about Judaism in Midtown Manhattan. The Lunch and Learn Program in Midtown was founded by two innovative yeshiva students who visit business- people every Friday in an office building at 450 7th Avenue. For more info contact Ted Spiegel at (212) 629-4448.
This Shabbat is the beginning of the month of Elul. In addition to being the name of a Jewish month, the word "Elul" is an acronym for five verses from the Torah which are connected to the five different types of service, each identified with our new month. The Rebbe enumerated these five verses at a gathering a few years ago on this Shabbat:
|Prayer||"I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mind." For it is through prayer, the "duty of the heart" that our relationship with G-d is enhanced and intensified.|
|Torah study||"It chanced to happen and I set aside for you a place." This verse describe the Cities of Refuge to which a person who killed unintentionally can flee. But it also refers to Torah study for "the words of Torah provide refuge."|
|Deeds of Kindness||"A person [gives presents] to his friend and gifts to the poor." In this verse the concept of deeds of kindness is clearly expressed.|
|Teshuva||"And G-d your L-rd will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants." For the service of teshuva -- returning to G-d wholeheartedly, is primarily the service of changing one's inner self, the feelings of one's heart.|
|Redemption||"And they said, `We will sing to G-d' " This phrase is taken from the Song of Redemption sung at the Red Sea.|
The first three services are identified with the three pillars of man's service. These services must be permeated by the service of teshuva and by the service of redemption and thus, they will be endowed with a boundless quality that surpasses the limits of a person and the world at large.
See! This day I place before you a blessing (Deut. 11:26)
The blessing in this verse does not refer to anything specific; rather, it is a comprehensive statement which includes all the blessings G-d confers on every Jew. First and foremost, therefore, it refers to the ultimate blessing of all -- the complete Redemption through Moshiach.
By using the emphatic "See!" the Torah stresses that the Messianic Redemption is not something theoretical or academic, but rather something that will be evident with our eyes of flesh -- and this very day!
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Re'eh, 5751)
That you remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life (Deut. 16:3)
"To include the days of Moshiach," our Sages commented, meaning that even in the Messianic era we will still remember the Exodus and express gratitude for it. Literally, however, their words can be translated "To bring the days of Moshiach," teaching that every single day of our lives must be imbued with the singular objective of bringing about the Messianic era.
(Sichot Kodesh, Chayei Sarah, 5752)
Three times a year shall all your males appear before the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 16:16)
In the times of the First and Second Holy Temples, these pilgrimages to Jerusalem were made on the holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. However, after Moshiach comes, they will be made every Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh. Furthermore, when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat, two pilgrimages will be made on the same day -- one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Observe the month of spring, and keep the Passover to the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 16:1)
The Egyptians believed in the supremacy of natural law and worshipped man's ability to influence the world through science. G-d therefore took the Jewish people out of Egypt in the springtime, when the workings of nature are most evident, to demonstrate that nature is only a tool in His hands and has no intrinsic power of its own.
(From a letter of the Rebbe, 11 Nissan, 5725)
From all over Europe, thousands of Jews used to come to visit Reb Yisroel, the holy Rabbi of Ruzhin. For little Pesach, the orphan who had been taken in by the Rebbe's family, it was an amazing sight which he never became accustomed to -- so many people with so many kinds of troubles -- each with his own hopes for a better future.
"The Rebbe is a holy man," he was told. "All these people come to him for a blessing. When he gives it, he can see what will happen to them many years from now."
One day the Rebbe called Pesach aside and told him, "A time will come when you will have to go away. You will study medicine and become a doctor. Then you shall go to the Holy Land. There is your place. And there you will save many lives." Pesach burst into tears. "Must I leave, Rebbe?" he cried.
"Don't be upset," the Rebbe said. "My thoughts will always be with you."
And so it was that Pesach grew up and became a doctor -- taking the family name of his beloved Rebbe, Friedman -- and settling in Israel in the town of Tzefat in the Galilee.
One day a regal carriage stopped in front of his house, and an important looking man stepped out. "I am looking for Dr. Friedman," he announced.
When Dr. Friedman came to the door he was told, "The Princess of Prussia is visiting Tzefat and she is extremely ill. One minute she is burning with fever, the next moment she is shivering with cold. You must come at once. Her father, the Kaiser, is anxious that you come at once."
Dr. Friedman hurried to the princess's bedside. He examined her and diagnosed malaria. "Take this medicine for three days. If we are fortunate, the disease has been caught in time for a cure."
Three days later the princess's fever broke and it could be seen that she was on her way to recovery. After three weeks Dr. Friedman was summoned again. "The Princess will be resuming her trip, however she still feels weak and has begged that you come with her."
Dr. Friedman explained, "Your Highness, it is difficult for me to fulfill your request. As a Jew I must pray three times a day with ten men, and I may eat only kosher food. The trip to Jerusalem is a long one."
The Kaiser replied, "Spare no expense. Bring along ten men and whatever food you require. Only come."
Dr. Friedman joined the traveling party for the long, arduous journey. When he finally returned home, his wife asked, "Did they reward you for saving the life of the princess?"
"Not really, but they said the Kaiser would be in my debt. True, it was very difficult, but for me it is enough that I saved her life."
Many months passed and no more was heard from the princess or her father. The land of Israel was beset by problems and the interesting episode of the princess was forgotten as everyone was consumed with a different worry -- the safety of their children. The government of Turkey, which then ruled the Holy Land, was demanding that young Jewish men serve in its army. Not only was it impossible to observe the Torah in the army, it was also highly dangerous. The only alternative was prison. Then, out of the blue, came a telegram for Dr. Friedman from the Kaiser of Prussia.
The brief cable stated that by the grace of His Royal Highness, the King of Prussia, Dr. Pesach Friedman had been appointed Consular Agent in Tzefat for the government of Prussia, with full authority to issue passports, visas, and any other such papers to citizens of Prussia.
Dr. Friedman was silent for a long while, as he read and reread the telegram. Then, he remembered the words of his Rebbe, as if they had just been spoken, "There you will save many lives."
Hastily, he called a meeting of the communal leaders.
"Gentlemen," he announced, holding up the telegram, "here is the answer to our troubles. By this document I have been given the right to issue passports to citizens of Prussia. Do you realize what this means? No longer will the Turks have power over us. If any young men are threatened, let them come to me. I'll issue them a Prussian passport that will save them! With these papers they'll become citizens of Prussia, and won't have to serve in the Turkish army!"
And so, the words of Reb Yisroel of Ruzhin came true over and over again!
Adapted with permission from The Story Hour, Ed. Dr. D.S. Pape
Rabbi Chiya bar Yosef said: "A time will come when the righteous will break through the soil and rise up in Jerusalem for it is written, 'And they shall blossom out of the city like grass from the earth' -- and `city' can allude only to Jerusalem, as in the phrase, `For I shall defend this city.'