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   480: Devarim

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486: Tavo

487: Nitzavim Vayeileich

September 19, 1997 - 17 Elul 5757

486: Tavo

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  484: Shoftim487: Nitzavim Vayeileich  

Thank G-d  |  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

Thank G-d

What a lovely necklace!

Thank you. My children gave it to me. Aren't they wonderful?

That's a great set of tools you've got there!

Yeah, I would never have gotten it for myself but my wife gave it to me for my birthday. Nice of her, wasn't it?

Hey, can I use your Pentium for this paper I'm working on? I can't believe your parents gave it to you for graduating high school. Sure you can use it. You're right, my parents really are generous.

The comment of a friend or acquaintance can trigger renewed appreciation for something that one might have long-since taken for granted or never appreciated to begin with. Whereas the purpose of the compliment is not to bring forth this appreciation, it is certainly a by-product of the compliment.

The Baal Shem Tov, whose every action was bursting with import, meaning and significant teaching, used to ask the simple Jews whom he purposefully sought out, "How are you today, dear brother?" "How are your little ones, my good woman?" "How have your egg sales gone this week?"

To each of these questions, the usual response was, Boruch Hashem - "Thank G-d, I am feeling well." "Through G-d's goodness, the children are healthy." "With G-d's help, the eggs are selling like hotcakes." In this manner, the Baal Shem Tov encouraged people to have praises for G-d, and gratitude and thankfulness to the Almighty, continually on their lips.

Once, the Baal Shem Tov heard that there was a Torah scholar who was so intent on his studies that he would not even take a moment to respond to the greeting of a fellow Jew.

The Baal Shem Tov decided to remedy the situation. "How are you doing?" the Baal Shem Tov asked the scholar. But no response was forthcoming.

"Are your studies going well today?" the Baal Shem Tov persisted. Still no acknowledgment of his presence.

"How is the family?" the Baal Shem Tov asked as he leaned closer to the scholar's ear.

Question after question the Baal Shem Tov rattled off, but no words were heard from the scholar's lips save those that were being read from the page in front of him.

"Why are you depriving G-d of His livelihood?" the Baal Shem Tov reproached the scholar.

With this accusation the scholar lifted his head.

The Baal Shem Tov continued, "Doesn't the Psalmist state concerning G-d, 'And You, Holy One, are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.' The Almighty is, so to speak, dependant upon the praises of the Jewish people. But you are denying G-d His very sustenance by refusing to praise Him and thank Him for all He has done for you!"

So, the next time you're asked a question, try one of the following responses:

Wow, you're in great shape. How do you do it? Diet, exercise and G-d's kindness.

How's business? It has its ups and downs. G-d willing, it'll pick up soon.

It's wonderful that your grandchildren remember to send you birthday cards.

Yes, I'm a lucky person. G-d has been good to me.

Living with the Rebbe

As Maimonides enumerates the Torah's 613 commandments, general commandments such as "You shall be holy" or "You shall keep My laws" are not, as a rule, considered mitzvot in their own right. Rather, these are classified as broad directives encompassing all of Judaism.

It is therefore surprising, at first glance, that the commandment which appears in this week's Torah portion, Ki Tavo, "You shall walk in His ways," is classified as a positive mitzva, requiring the Jew "to emulate the Holy One, Blessed Be He." "Just as G-d is gracious, so shall you be gracious. Just as G-d is merciful, so shall you be merciful. Just as G-d is pious, so shall you be pious," Maimonides writes. Indeed, the commandment implies that a Jew is required to emulate G-d to the best of his/her ability, at all times and in all circumstances.

But why is this commandment different from all other general statements in the Torah, to the point that it is characterized as a separate mitzva? What does the verse "You shall walk in His ways" entail that other similar commandments do not?

To explain:

Maimonides classifies "You shall walk in His ways" as a distinct commandment because it contains a unique innovation not found in any other general directive in the Torah. This innovation is alluded to in the specific use of the word "walk," which implies an ongoing and perpetual sense of motion.

One of the differences between the soul of a Jew and an angel is that angels are stationary beings, fixed in their spiritual positions, whereas the Jewish soul constantly ascends from one spiritual level to the next. The Jew is constantly in motion, reaching higher and higher spiritual heights by virtue of his actions.

It sometimes happens that a Jew may observe mitzvot, yet he remains on the same spiritual rung as before. His performance of the mitzva did not cause him to progress or ascend any further. The commandment "You shall walk in His ways" comes to teach us that a Jew must never be stagnant, that his performance of mitzvot must always lead to an improvement of his overall spiritual condition.

How are we to accomplish this? By observing the Torah's commandments solely because they are "His ways" -- because of our desire to emulate G-d. For when we do, our spiritual ascent to higher and even higher levels of G-dliness is assured.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 4

A Slice of Life

Divine Providence
by Esther Tauby

"Last call for flight 840 non-stop service to Los Angeles, with continuing service to Buenos Aires." I find my seat and sink into the plush grey leather. I look around. I'm in business class! There must be some mistake. I double check my stub. I'm in the right seat. Should I say something? I didn't pay to be here. On the other hand, it isn't my fault that I was assigned a wrong seat.

I stuff my bag under the seat in front of me, and decide to wait and see what happens.

"Mrs. Tauby?" a voice booms out. "I'm the head flight attendant, and there seems to have been an error. Please find a seat in the economy cabin."

I stand up, trying hard to retain my dignity. I take myself and my belongings into the next cabin.

The entire cabin looks full. Janet, a flight attendant, asks me where my seat is. I explain that I was mistakenly assigned a seat in business class and was asked to relocate to coach. She asks me to wait. Everyone is seated by now. I try not to stand out like a sore thumb.

I look around and notice a woman leaning over the top of her seat. She is motioning to a younger, blonder version of herself, who I assume is her daughter, in the row behind her. I notice that the daughter has three whole seats to herself!

Janet returns and informs me that there are no seats available except for the ones next to the young woman. She asks me to follow her and as I do, I can't help feeling sorry for myself. Moments ago I was being treated like royalty! With this sulky teenager, I'm guaranteed a headache!

Janet walks ahead and stops at the teenage daughter's row. Books, a walk man, a knapsack and blankets are flung across all three seats, the entire middle section of the row, and she's spread out on top of them. Her tan suede hiking boots hang over the armrest into the aisle. She doesn't move when Janet asks her to sit up and choose one seat.

Janet shakes her gently and explains to her that there are no other seats, and that I will have to sit with her until L.A. The girl swears in Spanish. Janet politely asks her to move her belongings. She complies, throwing her belongings on the floor. As Janet leaves to go to her seat for take-off I wonder how I will survive the next five hours?

Over the roar of the engines, my seat mate yells her warning to me, in broken English, not to talk to her as she is going to sleep. I don't intend to talk to her, or wake her, even though her boot is wedged into my thigh. I shift my body as far as I can away from her, trying to get comfortable while her boots jab me in my side.

As we take off, I reach down to get my prayer book to say the prayer for travelers. I feel the weight of her stare on me, but ignore it. When I'm done, I lay back and try to relax, ignoring the throbbing in my thigh. The next thing I know, Janet is standing next to me in the aisle.

She says, grinning, "The flight crew has met, and we want you to go back to your seat in business class. We want you to be comfortable." She says it so loudly that the Spanish lioness sits bolt upright, and quickly assesses the situation.

I follow Janet past the curtain before they consider changing their minds.

"Sorry for screaming, but I wanted her to hear where you were moving to," Janet whispers.

"We want you to enjoy the rest of the flight!" she assures me.

"Thanks," I reply, trying to figure out what I did to deserve this privilege. I sink into seat 7c and sigh. My thigh begins to thaw out. I close my eyes.

When I awake, there is a basket on my armrest filled with fruits. As I reach out to take a shiny red apple, a card falls out. It reads, "Thank you for being such a lady, and sorry for the misunderstanding. The captain and crew of flight 840." Munching happily, I do not notice the tanned, blonde woman standing in the aisle.

"May I sit down for a moment?" she asks, motioning to the vacant seat next to me.

"Sure," I say. "I want to explain about my daughter," she begins. Now I know who she is. Her sad eyes plead with me. "Please, go ahead," I prompt.

"My husband passed away recently, and my daughter took it very hard. I thought if I took her to do some traveling, it would help us get close again and grieve together. She hasn't been the same since he died. I don't know what to do with her, she's angry all the time. I apologize for her behavior."

What could I say? As I gather my thoughts, she continues.

"Carina said that she saw you praying from a Hebrew prayer book." She shows me a gold chain with a Magen David charm. "I'm Jewish too," she announces proudly. "We have never been religious, but we keep all the Jewish festivals."

She sighs and continues, "Carina told me what happened, and that even though she was very rude to you, you didn't fight back. She was amazed at your calmness."

We speak more and I tell her that unfortunately, I know firsthand how hard it is to lose people we love and that everyone grieves differently. Clearly, her daughter needs to talk to a professional. I recommend that she gets her some help and gives her time, as grieving is a gradual process that happens over many years. I give her the phone number of her nearest Chabad family, which is that of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Buenos Aires. She promises to contact them.

We spend the last hour of the flight talking and by the time we land in L.A., Rosa has become a friend. As I hug her, she promises to begin to light Shabbat candles again, something she had stopped dong a number of years before. She will invite her daughter, who has never lit candles before, to join her. I assure her it can only help their relationship.

As I exit the plane in Los Angeles and await my flight to Vancouver, I think about the amazing Divine Providence of it all. Now I understand why the events unfolded the way they did.

Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter

A Call To Action

Saying "Thank you"

"The letters comprising the Hebrew word 'Elul' stand for 'Ani L'Dodi v'Dodi Li -- I belong to G-d and G-d belongs to me.' The first thing that every Jew must know is that his/her 'Ani' the whole self, is devoted to G-d, as expressed in the Modeh Ani prayer said immediately upon awakening.

Chai [the 18th of] Elul teaches us something else. 'Chai' means 'alive.' From the moment a Jew wakes up s/he feels the new life G-d gave him/her. The Jew thanks G-d for making him a living creation. Even more, he thanks G-d that he is able to understand all of this and pronounce with his mouth the prayer 'Modeh Ani L'fonecha...I give thanks before You...' "

(The Rebbe, 17 Elul, 5751)

The Rebbe Writes

18th of Elul, 5710 [1950]

Dear Brethren, G-d bless you all:

On the threshold of the New Year, everyone of us, man and woman, pauses to draw up a balance sheet of one's record in the past year. We resolve to better ourselves and pray for a happy year, materially and spiritually.

Our Sages say that giving tzedaka (charity) to the needy opens the way for our prayers to bring us good health, prosperity and happiness.

Man possesses a body and a soul. And just as there is material poverty, so there is spiritual poverty, where the deficiency is in the spiritual things: knowledge of the Torah, the observance of the mitzvot and the practice of good deeds.

Said our Sages: "How are we to understand the words of the prophet, 'When thou seest a poor man, clothe him'? Surely also in this sense: When you see a man lacking in the knowledge of the Torah, take him into your house, teach him the Shema, encourage him to fulfill the mitzvot, teach him Torah, etc..."

When we are about to appear before the Supreme Judge on Rosh Hashana, we must take stock, each one according to his own yardstick -- the possibilities and opportunities one has -- as to how well we have practiced both material and spiritual deeds of charity and kindness.

Even as the poorest among the poor has opportunities to practice acts of kindness among his fellows, so has the spiritually poor man opportunities to benefit others through exercising good influence on his friends and neighbors in the observance of the Torah and mitzvot.

And naturally, the materially wealthy and spiritually rich, among the latter the spiritual leaders, yeshiva students, etc.., must be lavish in their acts of tzedaka, in money and time, in behalf of their brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than they, to help them, heal them, and strengthen them, body and soul.

May our Merciful Father in heaven inscribe every one of us all unto a good and happy year, materially and spiritually, and bring us the true Redemption through our Righteous Messiah, speedily in our time, Amen.

Wishing you, and thanking you for your wishes of a K'tiva VaChatima Tova [that you be written and sealed for good],

19th of Elul, 5745 [1985]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt now of your letter of the first of Iyar, in which you write about your desire to learn Torah, though you are not Jewish.

I trust you know that the Torah itself has instructions as to the approach in such a situation. This is that the Torah -- and in a broader sense it not only includes the Written Torah, but also the Oral Torah (Talmud, etc.) -- contains parts which are in order to be studied by gentiles, namely, those that deal with the so-called Seven Noahide Laws, in all their ramifications and details, which are incumbent upon all human beings, both Jew and gentile. On the other hand, there are parts of the Torah which are of no relevance to gentiles, and for various reasons, gentiles should not be encouraged to take time out to study them, time that they can use to better and practical advantage by studying, practicing and promoting the said Seven Noahide Laws.

In light of the above, I suggest that you personally discuss the matter with a competent Orthodox rabbi, who orally could explain the above more fully, and at the same time provide you with guidance as to how to go about your study of Torah.

I would like to add a further point, which I trust you know, that from the Torah viewpoint, there is no need whatever for a gentile to convert to Judaism, in order to achieve fulfillment in accordance with the design of the Creator. On the contrary, Jews are required to discourage a would-be convert from the idea of conversion, which could also be further explained to you by the rabbi you will consult with.

I take this opportunity -- inasmuch as Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is a day of Divine Judgement pertaining to all peoples and nations -- to extend to you prayerful wishes for success in the new year.

With blessing,

What's New


The innovative, hands-on Shofar Factory developed by the Tzivos Hashem Children's Organization is a wonderful pre-Rosh Hashana educational activity for children of all ages. Chabad Centers throughout the world sponsor the program which enables children to make their own shofars from real rams horns.

On Sunday afternoon, September 28, the Jewish Continuity Center of the Greenwich Village Synagogue will be co-sponsoring a shofar factory together with Tzivos Hashem, Community Synagogue, Chabad at NYU and Chabad of Washington Square, under the "arch" in Washington Square Park in Manhattan. Everyone is welcome. For further information call 212-255-4042. For your nearest shofar factory call your local Chabad Lubavitch Center.

A Word from the Director

This Shabbat is the 18th of Elul, which is a festive day on the Chasidic calendar, for it is the birthday of the founder of Chasidut in general, Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov and the founder of Chabad Chasidut in particular, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the Alter Rebbe).

The birthday of a Tzadik, a righteous person, has a strong connection and a profound effect on the month in which the birthday occurs. The number 18 is written out with the Hebrew letters which spell the word "chai," meaning "alive."

Chasidut adds life and vitality to the observance of Torah and mitzvot. Thus, the month of Elul in which the birthdays of these two great Tzadikim takes place gains extra vitality and strength. And the special theme of that particular month also gains vitality.

The special service of Elul, the additional prayers, charity, and Torah study are all enfused with an extra measure of vitality. By studying the teachings and the ways of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe we can approach our service to G-d with greater enthusiasm.

The month of Elul is a time of reflection. We know where we came from, what our past contained. The question now is, where are we going? How is the approaching year going to be different from the year that is coming to a close?

One way we can assure that the year will be different is by taking the "chai," the life and liveliness of Elul with us throughout the year. By adding spirit, joy, enthusiasm and "chai-ut" to our mitzvot and Jewish studies, we will surely hasten the time of a return to life and eternal life that we all await, for ourselves and our loved ones, in the Messianic Era.

Thoughts that Count

Whenever a person's deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure (Ethics, 3:10)

This Mishna can also be applied to the area of education. A school should endeavor to impart wisdom and at the same time train its students to do good deeds. In fact, the primary focus should be on good deeds, for through them the knowledge will thrive.

(Biurim L'Pirkei Avot)

Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is granted (Ethics, 3:15)

Every person has the potential to fulfill his personal destiny, but the choice to fulfill that destiny is his alone. No one can stand in his way, nor is there anyone compelling him.

(Likutei Sichot)

Let the honor of your student be as dear to you as your own (Ethics, 4:12)

A student is obligated to honor his teacher and sit before him in awe, therefore it is out of place for a teacher to conspicuously honor his student. The teacher must, however, take care to protect his student's dignity.

(The Rebbe)

He who studies Torah as a child, to what can he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper (Ethics, 4:20)

The advantage of writing on fresh paper is that the writing lasts, The concepts that a person learns in his childhood will be retained.

(R. Ovadiah of Bartenura)

It Once Happened

It was a chilly, windy day when the Baal Shem Tov stepped into his carriage, and as was his custom, allowed the horses to run as they would, invariably bringing their master to some small village or hamlet where the Tzadik would bring his fiery enthusiasm for G-d to his fellow Jews.

In what seemed like no time, the horses stopped in a tiny hamlet, buried in the midst of a dense forest and surrounded by tilled fields. The Jews of this place were a hard-working lot, ignorant of Torah, able to steal just a few minutes a day to devote to their prayers, most of which they didn't understand. The Baal Shem Tov was filled with love and compassion for these Jews, and so he made these journeys to bring them a spiritual light to their eyes and turn their thoughts to G-d.

There was only one villager who was a cut above, and he was a wealthy landowner, who, it turned out, was celebrating his son's Bar Mitzva just that very day. When the father of the boy heard that the famous Tzadik had arrived, he quickly harnessed his wagon and came to escort him to the grand celebration.

The Baal Shem Tov was seated at the head of the table and welcomed with great honor. But his attention riveted to the wrinkled faces and worn hands of the Jewish peasants who had also come to join the party. The Baal Shem Tov began to speak and the wondrous tales and parables of the Medrash he told held his audience spellbound. Then he began singing in his melodious voice, the lovely Carpathian tunes sung by the local shepherd boys as they pastured their flocks on the mountainsides. The change which could be detected in the sad and exhausted faces of the laborers, the tears which trickled down their wrinkled cheeks, were touching to behold.

The wealthy landowner perceived the scene very differently. Why was the guest of honor devoting himself entirely to these unlettered peasants and paying no attention to me, he thought. He decided he would avenge himself on the Baal Shem Tov, and with this in mind announced, "My dear friends, I want you to know that the highlight of this celebration will be a speech which my son, the Bar Mitzva boy, will deliver in the presence of our most esteemed guest, the rabbi of a nearby town, who will be here with his party. Only before such a prominent rav is it fitting to deliver his discourse."

The Baal Shem Tov was not oblivious to the insult, but he did not acknowledge it. Rather, he engaged the Bar Mitzva boy in conversation about various spiritual matters.

As he spoke, his spiritual gaze wandered afield to a faraway place beyond the green fields and forests of the village.

Suddenly the Baal Shem Tov broke out into a burst of joyous laughter which seemed to engulf his entire being and spread to every man and woman in the room. Soon, not only the Baal Shem Tov was laughing, but the whole room was filled with joy and laughter -- the people, the objects and even farm animals outside joined in his unbounded joy.

In the midst of all this laughter, the sound of carriage wheels grinding to a halt could be heard from the courtyard. It was the wealthy master of the feast who had just arrived with the rabbi of the nearby town, the much awaited guest of honor.

As they approached, they were astonished to hear peals of laughter which emitted from the hall. "What has happened here?" the wealthy landowner asked.

When silence was restored, the Baal Shem Tov began his explanation:

"Far away from here, in a lonely hamlet, there lives a widow and her only son. Today, he too is becoming a Bar Mitzva, and although he knows nothing about Torah and has never lived among Jews, he has a pair of tefilin left to him by his father.

"He put on the tefilin and his mother explained to him the tradition of going to the synagogue to be called up to the Torah. But, alas the poor lad had no way to fulfill this custom. He walked out to the barn and gathered all his beloved animals, which he cared for so devotedly and he formed them into a 'minyan.' Then he announced in a loud voice, 'Today I am a Bar Mitzva!' The animals responded to his words with a cacophony of 'moos,' 'neighs,' and 'clucks.' When the heavenly hosts beheld this strange but touching Bar Mitzva celebration, they laughed so heartily that their laughter echoed through the universe until it reached the Holy Throne of G-d where it provoked great Divine Joy.

"And so, concluded the Baal Shem Tov, it is now a propitious time to hear the discourse of the Bar Mitzva boy, for now, the Gates of Heaven are open."

Moshiach Matters

Moshiach signifies the separation of the good from the evil. This is why he will come "only in a generation which is altogether meritorious or altogether sinful"; i.e., at a time in which there will be no mixture of good and evil. So long as Moshiach has not come, there is a mixture of good and evil in all the worlds: there is no good without evil and no evil without good.

(Short Maamarim of the Alter Rebbe, p. 403)

  484: Shoftim487: Nitzavim Vayeileich  
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