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   480: Devarim

481: Vaeschanan

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L'Chaim
August 8, 1997 - 5 Menachem Av 5757

480: Devarim

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.



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

Your average personal computer today, laptop or desktop, has about sixteen megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM). Of course, you can always increase your computer's memory by inserting SIMMs, little circuit boards that add additional megabytes of memory to your RAM. But, can you imagine a RAM that stores, say, close to two thousand years of data?

The collective Jewish memory has this unusual and state-of-the-art ability. We coming to the end of the "Three Weeks" between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av. During these three weeks many calamities befell the Jewish people, the most devastating of which was the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples on the Ninth of Av.

On the seventeenth of Tammuz, the Romans breached the walls of the city of Jerusalem. For the next three weeks the city was besieged until finally, on the ninth of Av, the Holy Temple was actually burned by the Roman General Titus.

Jewish holidays are not just happenings in history that stay put in the past. Mitzvot associated with a particular holiday often help us experience the event as did our ancestors. They help us encode the festivals in our minds. It's like using the right computer language to access and later store important data in our memory.

This concept of reliving an experience is applicable, too, to the "Three Weeks."

During the period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples, we become mourners. No weddings or other joyous celebrations take place; we refrain from cutting our hair, wearing new clothes, even eating a new fruit upon which the blessing of shehechyanu (...Who has sustained us...) would be said. The mourning process is interrupted only for Shabbat, a day on which joy must prevail.

On the first of the month of Av, our mourning intensifies. On the Ninth of Av, we truly act as mourners, sitting on low stools, wearing non-leather shoes, etc. In computer terms, you might call these actions "memory enhancers."

But, being that Jewish teachings urge us to continually look toward the future rather than staying stuck in the past and becoming obsolete, it comes as no surprise that the Rebbe encourages us to experience the Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av in a manner unlike that of previous generations. The Rebbe has explained that as we are so close to the Redemption and the revelation of Moshiach, our sadness over the tragedies which took place should be permeated with optimistic anticipation of the Messianic Era.

The truth is, however, that there is something much more vital than adding to, enhancing or accessing the memory, and that is remaining connected to the source. Because if any memory, computer or human, becomes disconnected before it has a chance to be stored properly, that memory doesn't have a chance.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah reading, Devarim, is the first portion in the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). The entire book was related to the Jewish people in their 40th year in the desert. By that time, the majority of the Jews who had left Egypt were no longer alive; only those who would enter the land of Israel were alive. Thus the Book of Devarim was intended as a preparation to help them make this transition.

Devarim begins by noting the location of the Jews' final encampment before entering Israel. "These are the words which Moses spoke...on this side of the Jordan." At the end of Bamidbar (Numbers), however, this same place is referred to as "the plains of Moab, by the Jordan opposite Jericho."

"The plains of Moab" and "this side of the Jordan" are both names that describe the same physical location. And yet, each name has a different connotation:

"The plains of Moab" identifies the location by its connection to the land of Moab. "This side of the Jordan," by contrast, associates it with the land of Israel, identifying it as lying on the eastern shore of the Jordan river, with the rest of the land of Israel lying toward the west.

What are we to learn from the Torah's usage of two names for the same place?

The Book of Devarim is essentially different from the Book of Bamidbar. Bamidbar relates the various encounters and experiences of the Jewish people during their 40 years in the desert. Devarim, however, relates Moses' exhortations to the generation that was about to enter Israel, as preparation for the new lives they would be leading there.

At the end of Bamidbar, the site of the Jews' encampment is referred to as "the plains of Moab," as it expressed their connection to a land whose status was non-Jewish territory.

In Devarim, however, it is referred to as "this side of the Jordan," for at that time, the Jewish people were focused on their imminent entry into the land of Israel.

We find ourselves now in the last minutes of exile, poised on the brink of the Final Redemption. Thus our present era is analogous to the one we read about this week.

"The plains of Moab" is symbolic of the exile and its completion; "this side of the Jordan" is symbolic of our preparation for Moshiach's imminent arrival. Indeed, "this side of the Jordan" is a most appropriate name with which to characterize our present transitional period, for it corresponds to the Jews' heightened state of anticipation in the 40th year of their going out of Egypt.

Moshiach's coming is imminent. We must prepare to greet him. May it happen now.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 2


A Slice of Life

Mrs. Teibel Lipsker
by Channie Hecht

From Righteous Women in the Seventh Generation, a project of the Beth Rivkah 11th grade.

That I was showing up at my great-grandmother's doorstep didn't surprise her. What really caught her off-guard was my interest in her past.

"Far vus hakstu ah chainik?" she asked me. ("What are bothering me for?")

After I used a little reverse-psychology and some coercion, my great- grandmother, Mrs. Teibel Lipsker, began to tell me about her life in Russia.

She was born in Vasnesenk, Russia, near Odessa. Her father was a chazan, a mohel, a shochet and a rav. When she was very young, she and her family moved to Georgia on the Black Sea. Her father had gone every year to Georgia for the High Holidays to be the chazan, and the shul liked him so much that they made the necessary arrangements for the family to move there.

In Georgia they lived across the street from a police station. The police remained oblivious to their open observance of Judaism and respected their holidays.

My great-grandmother was one of nine children. Living in the USSR under Stalin's regime, and being the oldest of the children, meant that her life was filled with much mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice.

Every child had to go to school, six days a week. If they did not attend school, the parents were arrested. Baruch, my great- grandmother's father, wouldn't compromise his Judaism for anything. Therefore, he didn't send his children to school on Shabbat. The director of the school knew why they were absent each Saturday. But, being a Jew himself, he ignored it.

Seeing that my great-grandmother and her siblings had an extra day off of school each week, one of the neighbors decided not to go to school on Shabbat, as well.

When the administration realized that this boy never came to school on Saturday, they called in his parents. When asked what was the reason for these regular absences, the neighbors replied, "Well, the shochet's daughter doesn't go to school on Shabbat!"

The administration looked into the matter and discovered that the director knew about the absences in my grandmother's family and yet did nothing about it. The director was immediately fired and the school sent my great-grandmother's parents a letter summoning them to a meeting at the school. Being the oldest daughter, my great- grandmother went to the meeting instead of her parents. The administrator was not impressed! Why weren't the parents coming on their own?

A few days later, my great-grandfather received a summons to appear at the police station. My great-grandmother and her sister went along with him. The appointment was at night. Night almost always meant jail.

Finally, after hours of waiting, the police called in her father. Finally, after many hours of interrogation, their father appeared with a police officer on either side of him.

"They are arresting me, but go home and I will see you later," he told them. The girls created such a tumult of crying and bawling that people gathered at the window of the police station.

"Three days later," my great-grandmother told me, "my father was released. From then on, people called us 'Shabbatziveh,' the ones who kept Shabbat. They also giggled behind our backs, pointing and laughing, saying, 'Look, those are the girls who caused the tumult by the police station.'"

My great-great-grandfather felt very bad that the director of the school had lost his job because of him. When he went to apologize, the director told him not to worry; he had gotten a new and better job in a university. It was Divine Providence.

Her father always made sure that his children knew they were Jewish, and that they practiced and applied it to their lives in every aspect. My great-grandmother followed in her father's footsteps. She married Yaakov, my great-grandfather, and together they ran a knitting factory. The factory was, of course, closed on Shabbat. Some of the non-Jewish workers complained to the government that by the factory being closed they were losing income.

The government officials arrested my great-grandfather, but he simply told them, "I don't work on Shabbat. I never did, and I never will." That being said, they miraculously let him go.

When World War II was over, my great-grandmother and her family acquired papers stating that they were Polish immigrants. They traveled to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, France, and finally to America. While in France, my great-grandparents met the Rebbe for the first time. The Rebbe was in France to be reunited with his mother. My great-grandmother prepared food for the Rebbe, and my great- grandfather brought it to the Rebbe and attended to him.

When my great-grandparents finally arrived on these shores, they lived on a farm in New Jersey. Their sons and daughters stayed in New York for school and came home for Shabbat, as the Rebbe had advised them to do.

Throughout our conversation, my great-grandmother peppered her reminiscences with the words: "Moshiach now, that will solve all our problems." With her wish for Moshiach, together with ours, we should merit the complete Redemption.


A Call To Action

During these "Three Weeks" before Tisha B'av we should increase in the "three pillars upon which the world stands." "Torah study should be increased. Siyyumim should be organized (conclusion of a Tractate of Talmud) during the nine days and also on the eve of Tisha B'av (before noon) and the day of Tisha B'Av in the permitted manner. Clearly, this also includes an increase in matters of happiness. Increase monetary charity, as well as spiritual charity -- and see that it is permeated by the inner essence of charity -- 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' Ahavat Yisrael and Jewish unity. In the area of prayer your actions should be intensified, especially the supplications for redemption."

(The Rebbe, 28 Tammuz, 5747)


The Rebbe Writes

5th of Menachem Av, 5735 [1975]

To All Participants in the Beis Chana Scholarship Dinner and Dedication of Boschwitz Hall at Lubavitch House Minneapolis, Minn.,

In these days deprived of joy in commemoration of the Destruction of the Beit Hamikdash [Holy Temple], it is particularly gratifying to receive the good news of your constructive efforts and accomplishments for Torah Judaism in general and Torah education of our youths in particular.

The sacred activities of Torah and Tefila (prayer) give the Lubavitch House the status of Beit Knesset [synagogue] and Beit Medrash [study hall], hence of a Mikdash Me'at ["Small Sanctuary" -- replica of the Beit Hamikdash], and according to the Zohar (III, 126a) of a Mikdash [sanctuary].

This is most significant in these days, for it is through such activities as you are gathered to celebrate that the cause of the Destruction is gradually eliminated, and with it the effect, or, in the words of the familiar prayer, "Umipnei chataeinu galinu me'artzeinu -- because of our sins we have been exiled from our land," etc. Thus every effort to strengthen Torah and mitzvot hastens the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu [Our righteous Moshiach] and the Geula shleima [complete Redemption].

The most desirable wish and blessing that can be offered on such an occasion is that the present beautiful facilities should soon prove inadequate for the expanded Torah activities of Lubavitch in Minnesota and bring about even greater and more extensive facilities of this kind.

May we all soon see the fulfillment of the prophecy that these days of sadness shall be transformed into days of rejoicing, gladness and festivity -- especially as your celebration is taking place on the auspicious day of the 15th of Av.

With blessing for hatzlacha [success] and good tidings,


Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5724 [1964]

N'shei uB'nos Chabad

As we are now commemorating the sad events which led to the Destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the beginning of the present Exile, it should be remembered that the purpose of this commemoration is not just to inflict a sad period upon ourselves, but rather that we should be reminded and inspired to do all we can to lessen, and eventually remove altogether, the cause which brought about the sad events which we are now commemorating.

For, as we declare in our prayers, "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land." It was the neglect of the Torah and mitzvot, in the daily life and practice, which resulted in the Destruction and Exile. Therefore efforts to strengthen and spread the observance of the Torah and mitzvot in the daily life will hasten the complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach and, as promised, these sad days will be transformed into days of joy...


15th of Menachem Av, 5730 [1970]

To Campers and Counselors Camp Emunah Greenfield Park, NY

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 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 mishpot -- "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.

With Blessing


What's New

MYSTICISM AT THE SEAPORT

A Journey into Jewish Mysticism is a weekly event during the summer months at Manhattan's South Street Seaport. The free lecture series includes light refreshments and a lot of food for thought each Wednesday evening through August 27 from 7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. at Pier 17. Sponsored by Beer Miriam, Chasidut by the Sea is currently in its ninth summer. For more information call (718) 467-5519. Rain or shine

MANHATTAN TANYA

An on-going campaign of the Rebbe has been to have the Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, printed and studied wherever Jews are found. The Rebbe's emissaries in lower Manhattan recently printed the Tanya at a local, upscale kosher restaurant, The Kosher Tea Room. The printing was followed by a brief, introductory study of a concept in Tanya, Chasidic songs and stories.


A Word from the Director

On Tuesday (Aug 12) will be the fast of the Ninth of Av, known as Tisha B'Av. While this sad day is most noted for being the day of the destruction of both of our Holy Temples, we see that throughout our history, both before the era of the Holy Temples and after, the ninth day of Av has been a day of sadness and loss.

During the time that the Jews traveled in the desert from Egypt to Israel, they sent spies to survey the land of Israel before entering. When the spies brought back an untrue, negative report, the Jews complained to Moses about being brought to Israel. For this, the Jews were punished by having to remain in the desert for 40 years. This punishment was meted out on the Ninth of Av.

In 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Ninth of Av was the deadline by which all Jews who had refused to be baptized had to leave Spain. Those Jews who did leave often suffered great difficulties until finding a new home, and many didn't survive the journey. Of those who did remain and allowed themselves to baptized, many continued to retain their Jewish identity, and became known as Marranos. Many of them were discovered and burnt at the stake in mass Autos-deFe.

And even in this century, World War I broke out on the ninth of Av, causing a great upheaval among the European Jewish communities. It brought about the Communist Revolution, which systematically set out to destroy Judaism in Russia. The economic conditions in Germany following their defeat in World War I led to the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust.

Our Sages teach us that in the future, when Moshiach comes, Tisha B'Av will be transformed from a day of fasting and mourning to a day of great joy. In this darkest time, the spark of redemption is born. May this happen soon.


Thoughts that Count

Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa used to say: Anyone whose deeds are more than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure; anyone whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, his wisdom will not endure (Ethics 3:12)

The Jewish view of wisdom is essentially different from that of the ancient Greeks. According to Aristotle, the function of man, his highest virtue and his ultimate purpose are the attainment of the contemplative life, the exercise of reason. But for the Jew, wisdom and knowledge are only the means to an end. "Great is study because it leads to action," states the Talmud. No one in the throes of hunger has ever benefitted from another's high thoughts alone. Jewish thought requires "fruit "-- tangible accomplishment in the real world, practical achievements in reforming the heart of man.

(Ethics From Sinai)

Rabbi Akiva used to say: Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of G-d; but it is by a special love that he was informed that he was created in the image of G-d (Ethics 3:14)

G-d created man in His image, charging him, by virtue of his intellect, with dominance over the rest of creation. This is reflected in the fact that human beings walk erect with head held high, whereas all other creatures, whose source is earthly, walk on all fours looking down.

(Midrash Shmuel)

Everything is for the preponderance of (good) deeds (Ethics 3:15)

The number of times that a person performs a positive act is significant, therefore it is preferable to give charity in the form of many different gifts rather than in one lump sum of the same amount. By giving repeatedly, a person ingrains the trait of generosity in his character.

(The Rebbe)

Where there is no flour, there is no Torah; where there is no Torah, there is no flour (Ethics 3:17)

Flour (bread) is food for the body; Torah is sustenance for the soul; both are necessary to sustain the Jew properly. Each type of nourishment complements the other, for when one is lacking, the other suffers as well.

(Maharal of Prague)


It Once Happened

The emperor Napoleon once passed by a synagogue and heard the people within weeping bitterly. Upon inquiring what was the reason for this sadness, he was told that today was Tisha B'Av and the Jews were mourning the destruction of their Holy Temple. Napoleon replied, "A people that mourns so faithfully over their loss will surely see their Temple rebuilt."

The destruction of both Temples took place on the ninth of Av. After the exiles returned from the first Babylonian exile the returnees rebuilt the Temple. When it had stood 300 years, cracks were discovered in the building and Herod undertook the mammoth task of rebuilding it.

Herod, an Edomite - a non-Jew - who had been a slave to the Hasmonian royals, was an implacable foe of the Torah Sages who opposed him. He had risen to the position of king only after having ruthlessly decimated the Hasmonian dynasty, including his own wife, Mariamne. Why did a man so steeped in evil and violence decide to rebuild and beautify the Holy Temple?

The particular target of Herod's bloody excesses were the great Torah Sages. Herod persecuted them to the point that there remained alive only one, Bava ben Buta, and he had been blinded by order of the king. One day, Herod disguised himself and appeared before the great Sage. Wanting to provoke the rabbi to curse him, he began: "Herod is nothing but a wicked slave!"

Bava ben Buta only replied, "What am I to do about it?"

As the disguised stranger escalated his anti-Herod rhetoric, the Sage rejoined with many passages from the Torah which forbid slandering a king. He refused to allow himself to be drawn into the conversation against the tyrant. When he could stand it no more, Herod blurted out, "I am Herod! But had I known that the Torah Sages were so cautious in their speech and actions, I never would have killed them. What can I do to atone for my sins?"

Bava ben Buta replied, "When you killed the Torah Sages you extinguished the light of the world. Now, restore the light by rebuilding the Holy Temple, for it, too, illumines the world."

Herod feared the reaction of the Roman emperor, by whose grace he reigned. Bava ben Buta suggested that a messenger be sent to Rome with a request to begin construction. By the time the messenger would return, the construction could be completed. Herod agreed and work began.

The building Herod constructed was described by our Sages thus: "Whoever has not seen the building of Herod, never saw a beautiful structure in his life." The Second Temple stood for a total of 420 years before the destruction -- 90 of which were after Herod's beautification and enlargement.

The Temple, after Herod's completion, was built of gigantic stones, some of which were faced with blue-green marble, which resembled the waves of the sea. Almost all of the doors were faced with gold, and inside thousands of candles flickered. Near the doorway stood a large golden grapevine, and pilgrims who wished to present a gift to the Temple could purchase a leaf, a grape or a whole bunch of golden grapes which they would hang on this lovely golden vine. These donations were used to finance the running of the Temple.

Jews, who came to Jerusalem three times each year, were treated to a marvelous scene, which they no doubt reflected upon throughout the rest of the year. The Levites (Leviim) stood on the fifteen steps leading from one courtyard to the next and sang King David's psalms -- the fifteen "Songs of the Steps" to the haunting music of harps, violins, cymbals, flutes and other instruments with which we are unfamiliar.

The siege and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans was long and bloody. Millions were slaughtered or perished from lack of food and water. The Jewish defenders of the holy city, divided in their opposition to the conquerors, displayed both great heroism and tremendous folly in their vain attempt to defeat the Roman legions and their allies. But, it was G-d's decree that the Jews be exiled from the land. When the Temple stood in ruins and flames licked the walls, the "flower of the priesthood," the young kohanim threw the keys to the Temple gates towards the heavens, acknowledging, "We have not been trusty guardians of your Temple, and so we are relinquishing the keys to You." A heavenly "hand" was seen reaching out to receive the keys.

And so, the ninth of Av once again casts its shadow over our calendar. We mourn for the destruction of the Holy Temples. But while we fast and remember the destruction, we also anticipate the building of the Third Holy Temple, for our tradition teaches that our redeemer, Moshiach, is born on the very day of the destruction. From within the rumble and ashes of the Holy Temple we receive the assurance that we will be redeemed.

The Rebbe has told us that very soon we will joyfully witness the Third Holy Temple rebuilt, and we will once again be privileged to witness its incomparable holiness and beauty.


Moshiach Matters

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev would point out that the name Shabbat Chazon stems from the word "machaze," meaning "vision," for "on that day everyone is shown the future Beit Hamikdash." On Shabbat Chazon the transcendent root of the soul sees the future Holy Temple; moreover, this perception leaves an imprint on the individual, even on his body and on his animal soul.

(Likutei Sichot, vol. 29)


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