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The Rebbe Writes | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count | It Once Happened
You've been away at camp for the whole summer, or at an out-of-town college for years. Or maybe you're even married with children of your own. Yet, you still reminisce about the home in which you grew up. You remember many of the antics you and your siblings or friends did there. You can point out the exact spot where you laid to rest your pet goldfish, turtle, or bird. Even if your family doesn't own the place anymore, you go back "just for old times' sake," or at least think of going back for a visit.
"Home is where the heart is," so the adage goes. "My heart is in the East," wrote Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, famous Jewish poet, scholar, and philosopher of the twelfth century. Go to the "Western Wall" in Jerusalem and you'll see where the Jewish heart really is. Known simply as "The Wall," koisel, or kotel, Jews from the entire spectrum of life visit it when they come to Israel.
Even if Israel is at the bottom of someone's list of vacation sites, after Europe, Spain, Scandinavia, the Islands, Russia and the Far East, when a person gets to Israel, he'll eventually get to the Wall. And more likely than not, he's standing there with tears in his eyes, maybe even tucking a little note into the cracks and crevices of the ancient stones.
He will be standing there together with Jews who pray three times daily for Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Sanctuary. He will be standing with newly arrived Russian immigrants, Israeli soldiers, chasidim, kibbutzniks and visitors from around the world. He might not even know that this wall is the last remnant of the Second Holy Temple, or for that matter, that there was a First Holy Temple, both of which were burnt to the ground on the Ninth of the Hebrew month of Av. But he will be there. Because his heart and his soul know that it is his home.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe said, "Though our bodies were sent into exile, our souls never were." The fire of the Jewish soul is eternal. It burns brighter and stronger than any physical fire which destroyed our Holy Temples. The soul is like a torch that leads the Jew, through the seemingly unending darkness, over the highest mountains and into the lowest valleys, through mazes of twisting roads and streets, until it finds its way home.
This week's Torah portion begins the fifth book of the Torah, Devarim (Deuteronomy). The Book of Devarim is also called Mishne Torah, meaning "Repetition of the Torah"; Moses began to repeat the Torah to the Jewish people on the first day of the Hebrew month Shevat.
The timing of the Repetition of the Torah was especially significant for the Jewish people in that it served to prepare them for their entry into the Promised Land. During their years of wandering in the desert, all their needs -- food, water, clothing and shelter -- were miraculously provided for them by G-d.
Now the Jews were on the verge of leaving this place where for years they had had no material cares. They were about to settle in a land and a way of life which necessitated tilling, sowing, reaping and all the other mundane preoccupations of life. It was now that they were exposed to the Repetition of the Torah, for they needed an additional and special measure of spiritual re-invigoration and inspiration, so that they would not become materialistic and debased in the material world that lay ahead.
Even more so, the whole purpose of their coming into the Land was to instill holiness, to elevate and make more spiritual the material aspects of daily life -- thereby transforming the material into the spiritual. This would be accomplished through the study of the Torah, worship of G-d, performance of His Divine precepts, giving charity and doing acts of loving kindness.
The Divine purpose of our entry into the Holy Land -- to elevate the environment and transform the material into the spiritual -- is the very same purpose that every individual Jew has in his performance of day-to-day activities.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidut, explained: "The material things of Jews are spiritual; G-d gives us material things, that we may transform them into spiritual." G-d grants the Jew his livelihood and he, in turn, utilizes the money for mitzvot in general and for the support of Torah-study in particular. In this way, one truly converts the material (money and worldly possessions) into the spiritual.
Transformation of the material to the spiritual can be achieved by other means, also. One can elevate and refine one's professional environment by setting a personal example of Torah-guided honesty and good conduct.
In all matters of sanctity, one must go from strength to strength, constantly increasing in holiness. In this way, the blessing of "prosperity through charity" becomes realized, with G-d giving material blessings in a growing measure, enabling us to create more, and still more, spirituality, at a reciprocal pace.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Reprinted with permission from Late Reflections, published by C.I.S.
by Moshe Holzcler
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in April, 1944. We Jewish forced laborers were quartered in an abandoned horse stable on the Hungarian plains.
The idea that we belonged to the royal army of Miklos Horty, the Regent, was very firmly entrenched in our minds. In spite of the disturbing news we were hearing about the Jewish population of Hungary, we still thought that, as members of the army, even the Germans wouldn't touch us.
An unexpected turn of events disturbed our tranquility. The word was passed that the doctor of the squadron would talk to us. Although a Jew and a forced laborer like ourselves, Dr. Aurel Stein was generally unpopular, because he aligned himself with our superiors.
The door of the stable opened and Dr. Stein walked in. Instead of wearing the usual yellow armband he now wore a white armband with a small red cross on it, showing him to be a medical person. He looked pale and very serious.
"There are rumors that our parents and families will be forcibly deported to unknown destinations. Who knows what fate awaits them there.
"Even here in the army, no one knows what additional degradations await us. His honor the Prince Primate of Hungary is prepared to offer us a helping hand," he continued gravely. "The protecting umbrella of Christianity."
"The holy Church guarantees safety to anyone willing to enter its ranks and be baptized. Those who accept the loving embrace of the Church will receive a white armband and will be transferred to an entirely different squadron, together with me. Please think it over and don't be hasty in rejecting the offer."
Following his departure a frozen silence filled the stable. One of the most outspoken member of our group, was the first to respond. "He's a rat!"
"Our parents would never want this from us," another shouted.
Not even one person accepted the "helping and loving hand" of the Church. Two months later, our company was sent to the Ukrainian front and out of two hundred, only eight survived.
Thirty-five years later, on a visit to Brooklyn, I saw a notice at a Young Israel synagogue about a lecture on the topic: "Judaism is Superior." The speaker would be Dr. Aurel Stein.
Where had I heard that name before? Why did that name arouse such negative feelings? As I searched my memory Dr. Aurel Stein, the traitor, came to mind.
That Thursday night, I appeared in the auditorium of the Young Israel. Exactly on time in walked an elderly man. After thirty-five years it was the same Dr. Stein though much older. But this time with a yarmulke on his head instead of the army cap and the white armband.
To my astonishment, he was highly educated in Judaism, full of genuine Jewish enthusiasm and sincere reflections of the highest caliber.
When the lecture was over, I waited until everyone had already left the auditorium. On my request, an organizer told Dr. Stein that a gentleman from the audience seemed to know him. I saw the puzzled smile, mixed with a little fear in the eyes of the lecturer, as he stretched his hand towards me.
I decided that under no circumstances would I shame him. "I think I know you, Doctor, from Hungary," I said to him in a friendly voice. "I can't recall exactly from where but I would be delighted to make a personal appointment with you."
The doctor seemed relieved. "Certainly, why not?" he said, and gave me his calling card.
It took a few days until I called him. I told him where I knew him from and that I was very interested to know what had transpired since I had last seen him.
"Not only will I let you see me; I definitely want you to see me," he responded.
It was a quiet afternoon in the late summer when I faced Dr. Stein. He began his story:
"When I left your squadron I was transferred to a squadron of fellow- converts stationed near Esztergom. I had very mixed feelings," he began. "Where was the heavenly protection for us, the so-called Chosen People? With my own eyes I had seen our families herded together like cattle and forcibly thrown out of Hungary to be killed.
"Then, a few months later, I was informed that your squadron was taken to the Ukrainian front because of your refusal to save yourselves by converting and perished in a cross-fire between the Germans and the Russians. Out of total disappointment and despair, I went to the other extreme. Maybe we were an inferior people doomed to suffer persecution and destruction throughout human history.
"I had my fill of being the oppressed Jew. I diligently observed the gentiles' ways of thinking and tried to assimilate myself to the greatest possible extent. But my interest did not let me stop halfway. I decided, a few years later, to take a trip to Italy, to see Rome and to visit the Vatican and learn more.
"As we toured the interior, our attention was called to a gigantic statue of an angel. It was the creation of Michelangelo. I noticed that it held something in its marble hands, stretched out and pointing towards the raised papal throne. It was a big, flat marble tablet and something was written on it in shining gold letters. Using binoculars I was startled to discover Hebrew lettering. I started to read it slowly, using my long-forgotten knowledge of Hebrew, 'Anochi Hashem Elokecha. I am G-d, your L-rd.' The first of the Ten Commandments!
"So this is their religion? Based entirely on the Jewish revelation of Divinity. Why should they be considered superior to Jews? And why should they hate Jews if they cannot deny them, even in front of their papal throne?
"My entire frame of mind was shaking. I arranged for a visit to the Chief Rabbi of Rome. To my utter surprise, he informed me that the Vatican Museum had on display some of the utensils of the destroyed Holy Temple. I easily gained entry into the museum with my gentile passport, and there I discovered some utensils of the ancient altar, as well as the golden cherubs of the holy ark. When I saw the golden forehead plate of the high priest, engraved with the words Kodesh LaShem (holy for G -d), my heart constricted. I had to discover for myself that I was still Jew in my heart, no matter what happened.
"Two years later, on a trip to Jerusalem, I visited the remnants of the Holy Wall of the Holy Temple. As I approached the Wall, my throat constricted and my eyes fogged. I threw myself onto the stones, my fingers clutching the crevices of the age-old rocks. Then, hysterical sobs gushed out of me and rocked my entire body. I did not know what was going on inside me; I just felt that my soul was being born anew. I asked forgiveness and promised to do everything I could to be accepted back again.
"That same day I returned to Judaism never to part again."
When he came to the end of his story, his eyes were filled with tears, and so were mine. I had no more doubts as to how he came to sermonize about the superiority of Judaism.
Make Festive Gatherings
During the nine days from the beginning of the month of Av through the fast of Tisha B'Av, it is customary to hold siyyumim, i.e., festive gatherings marking the conclusion of the study of Talmudic tractates. The day on which a tractate is concluded is transformed into a "festive day for the Sages." Indeed, meat and wine are permitted at such gatherings though in general during the "Nine Days" they are prohibited. These gatherings should be held with the recognition that we are approaching another siyyum, the conclusion of the exile.
(The Rebbe, 24 Tammuz, 5751-1991)
DAYS OF SADNESS TO GLADNESS
15th of Menachem Av, 5735 
Blessing and Greeting:
I was pleased to receive the report about your activities, and may G-d grant that they should continue and expand with much hatzlacha [success].
In the present days, having concluded the Three Weeks, which are connected with the sad events of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash [Holy Temple], and having entered the period of the Seven Weeks of Consolation, which bring us the good tidings of the forthcoming Geula [Redemption] and restoration of the Beit HaMikdash -- every action which is connected with the strengthening of Yiddishkeit in general, and with the special Mitzva Campaigns -- notably those most pertinent to Jewish women: candle-lighting, kashrut and Taharat HaMishpacha [Family Purity] -- in particular, is especially significant.
For, as mentioned in the well known prayer Umipnei chatoeinu ["Because of our sins"], the only cause of the sad events in the past, the Destruction and Exile, was the neglect of Torah and mitzvot. Therefore, through rectifying and removing the cause, the effect will also be removed.
This is why every activity to spread Yiddishkeit is so vital, especially the efforts to provide the right influence and proper chinuch [Jewish education] for Jewish daughters, since this is the way to raise generation after generation of fully committed Torah-true Jewish families, in an endless chain reaction.
I send my prayerful wishes to each and all participants in these endeavors, which are at the same time a wide channel to receive G-d's blessings also in all personal needs.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above,
15th of Menachem Av, 5730 
The Campers and Counselors Camp Emunah Greenfield Park, N.Y.
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to receive a report about your life and activities in the camp through Rabbi J.J. Hecht. He also turned in your tzedaka [charity] collection of Tisha B'Av.
As I mentioned on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av, which no doubt was conveyed also to you, tzedaka is particularly important in connection with the day of Tisha B'Av to hasten the Geula [Redemption] in accordance with the prophecy, "Zion will be redeemed through justice, and all that return to her -- through tzedaka." Especially significant is the tzedaka before Mincha [the afternoon prayer], when the prayer "Nacheim" is said.
May G-d grant that in the zechut [merit] of your tzedaka in connection with the above, and the tzedaka of all Jews, together with the zechut of the Torah, which is indicated in the beginning of the verse mentioned above (in the word Mishpat -- "justice"), that is to say, the daily life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvot -- should speedily bring the Nechama [comfort]. Then you, with all other Jewish children as well as adults, will come out to meet our righteous Moshiach, and the days of sadness will be turned into days of gladness, as promised by our holy Prophets in the holy Torah.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Chazon. "Chazon" in Hebrew means vision.
When you say to a human being that he or she is a person of vision, it is a great compliment. Vision means that a person has the capability of seeing not only what today holds, but what the future will bring. A person of vision can never be down, he will never be broken, because he sees not only the present but the future, as well.
There is a saying of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev: Why is this Shabbat called Shabbat Chazon? Because every Jew has a vision of the Third Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) on this Shabbat. Every Jew can see it. But, of course, in order to do so, one needs sensitive eyes. Nevertheless, the Beit Hamikdash is shown to us, and although our physical eyes might not behold it, our souls, our spirit, the metaphysical in us, see it and long for it.
This is similar to the Rebbe's encouragement to us to "open our eyes" and see that we are literally on the threshold of the Redemption. The Rebbe taught that everything is ready, even the table is set for the glorious "meal" that will take place at that time. All that we need to do is to "open our eyes" and see the true reality of what is around us.
Let us elevate ourselves from our mundane routine and envision the greatness and glory of our people as it will be revealed speedily in our days.
Akavya ben Mehalel said: Reflect upon three things and you will not come near sin...(Ethics 3:1)
Three things cause a person to sin: arrogance and disdain for others; indulgence in pleasures and worldly acquisitions; imagining that there is no ultimate judgment and accounting. Hence, when a person reflects upon the three things written in our Mishna, he will uproot the causes of sin from his soul.
Reflection in this sense is indicative of the deepest levels of meditation. When a person takes the mission for which his soul descended to this world seriously, he will reflect upon the ultimate elevation of his soul -- which comes about through his being in this world -- and he knows that eventually he is destined to give an accounting.
By reflecting thus, he will certainly not come near sin -- he will not transgress inadvertently, and he will fulfill his mission in life fully.
(Ma'amarim of the Previous Rebbe, 5705)
Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Kohen Gadol, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, men would swallow one another alive... (Ethics 3:2)
Our Sages state that the authority on earth is like the authority in Heaven, since the former derives from the latter. Therefore, when a person "prays for the welfare of the government" below, he comes to the awareness, not only of fear of authority in this world, but also awe of the King of kings. And by virtue of this fear and his subservience to G-d, his feelings of superiority and disdain for others -- due to which "men would swallow one another alive" -- is suppressed and subdued.
(Likutei Sichot vol. 17)
Rabbi Elazar of Bartosa said: Give to Him of that which is His, for you and whatever is yours are His... (Ethics 3:7)
A person should not be miserly in charitable matters and in spending money for the honor of G-d. A person should realize the truth -- that what he gives is really G-d's, and therefore, he must give generously and joyfully. The Midrash also states, "Does anyone precede Me, so that I have to pay you back? You never had to place a mezuza on the door post until I gave you a house, nor a railing around your roof before I gave you the roof, nor tzitzit on the four corners of your garment until I gave you the garment!"
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses all came before G-d when they were told about the destruction of the First Holy Temple. Abraham spoke first: "Why have I been singled out from among all the people, that I have come to this shame and humiliation? Why have You exiled my children and delivered them into the hands of evil people? You have laid waste to the place where I brought my son as a sacrifice."
G-d replied: "They sinned, transgressing the entire Torah, and the message of the entire alef-bet."
Abraham then said: "Who testified against the Jews, that they have transgressed?"
"Let the Torah come and testify," said G-d.
The Torah came forward, but Abraham said to her: "My beloved daughter, are you not ashamed before my children? Remember the day that you were given; how G-d carried you to all of the nations, and none wanted to accept you, until my children came to Mt. Sinai and heard you. And today you want to offer testimony against them, during their troubles?"
The Torah was too ashamed to testify.
G-d said, "Let the alef-bet come forward."
The letters came forward, wishing to testify. The alef was first. But Abraham told her, "Remember the day when G-d gave the Torah and began with the letter alef -- Anochi -- I. None of the other nations wished to accept you except the Jews. And now you want to witness against them?"
The alef slinked back in shame. But the bet came forward. Abraham said to her, "My daughter, remember the Torah which begins with the letter bet -- Bereishit -- In the beginning. No one but the Jews would accept her and you wish to bring testimony against them?"
When the other letters saw this, they all remained silent.
Then Abraham said to G-d, "In my hundredth year, You gave me a son. When he was 37, You commanded me to bring him as a sacrifice and I bound him! Won't You remember this and have pity?"
Then Isaac spoke to G-d, "When my father brought me as an offering upon Your command, I willingly let myself be bound. I stretched out my neck to be slaughtered. Will You have pity on my children for my sake?"
Jacob, too, spoke to G-d, saying "For twenty years I worked for Laban so together with my children and my wives I could leave him. And when I left Laban, I was met by my brother Esau who wished to kill my entire family. I risked my very life for them and bore much suffering because of them. Will You not have pity on them?"
Finally, Moses approached G-d. "Was I not a faithful shepherd over Israel for forty years, leading them in the desert? And when the time came for them to enter the Holy Land, You commanded that I die in the desert and not lead them there. Yet, I did not complain. Do You expect me to quietly watch them go into exile?"
Moses called to Jeremiah the prophet, who stood together with him and the Patriarchs. "Come with me. I will take Israel out of exile."
When, by the rivers of Babylon, the people saw Moses they rejoiced. "Look, Moses has risen from the grave to redeem us from our captors!"
Just then, a heavenly voice declared: "It is decreed. It can be no other way."
Moses wept as he spoke to the people and said, "My beloved children, I cannot take you out for it has been decreed by the Master and only He can redeem you."
Then Rachel, our mother, came before G-d. "Your servant, Jacob, loved me dearly and worked for my father for seven years on my behalf. But my father wanted to trick him and give him my sister Leah, instead. I heard of this and told Jacob. I gave him a sign so he would know who they were giving him.
"But I took pity on my sister. I did not wish her to be humiliated. I taught her the signs and even spoke for her so that Jacob wouldn't recognize her voice; I was not jealous.
"Master of the World! I am but flesh and blood and I was not jealous of my sister. You, G-d, are merciful, full of kindness and compassion. Why are You jealous that Israel served idols? And because of this, You exiled my children and the enemy has killed whom they wanted."
Immediately G-d took pity on her and said, "Rachel, for your sake I will return your children to the land of Israel."
Based on the Midrash
Our Sages related (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 2:4) that Moshiach was born on Tisha B'Av. This is not merely a description of past history. On the contrary, the intent is that every year, Tisha B'Av generates a new impetus for the coming of the Redemption.
(The Rebbe, Tisha B'Av, 5751-1991)