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Whether you have hundreds of dollars to spare or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you should consider opening a bank. You might even already be a financial institution! No, this is not a "get rich quick" scheme. It's just a little lesson in understanding whose money it is anyway.
A philosopher once approached the great leader Rabbi Gamliel and asked if the commandment of charity is not contrary to human nature. "Isn't it natural to be afraid that by giving charity one will become poorer?" queried the philosopher. "On the contrary," replied the erudite rabbi. And, in age-old Jewish fashion, he answered with a question of his own. "If someone asked you for a loan, would you give it to him?" "Well, that all depends on whether I knew the person who needed the loan or who would be the guarantor," he answered honestly.
"And if," continued Rabbi Gamliel, "the loan was guaranteed by the head of the government, would you agree?"
"Most certainly," he replied.
"By giving charity, we are merely extending a loan guaranteed by G-d. In Proverbs it says, 'One who gives generously to the poor is extending a loan to G-d Who will pay back everything.' G-d repays the money in this world, and puts the reward on deposit for the World to Come. If G-d has guaranteed the money, who can possibly be more trustworthy then He? So, why should anyone think he will become poorer by giving charity?"
Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rambam), in his laws concerning giving "gifts to the poor," states unequivocally, "No one ever became poor from giving charity." And that's the law! In fact, we ought to thank G-d for putting His trust in us! He could have given someone else a nice income/inheritance/lucrative business deal. But He trusted us with the money, fully expecting us to "loan" it out appropriately.
In reality, all of our money belongs to the One Above Who runs the Big Bank in the Sky. He gives it to us so that we can help others.
A Sage was once asked why G-d made some people rich and other people poor and then commanded us to give charity. Wouldn't it have been easier to give everyone his needs, thereby bypassing the "middle-man?"
The Sage explained that the giver actually receives more than the recipient. He is being given the opportunity to help another, which is much more valuable than money.
Charity is not just a loan, though. It is also an investment. This idea is illustrated by an interaction between Rabbi Akiva and his colleague Rabbi Tarfon. Though wealthy Rabbi Tarfon gave much charity, Rabbi Akiva felt it was not in accordance with his means. "Would you like me to invest money for you?" offered Rabbi Akiva.
Rabbi Tarfon was delighted with the offer and gave Rabbi Akiva 4,000 gold coins to invest. Rabbi Akiva distributed the money amongst the poor of a certain town.
Later, when Rabbi Tarfon asked how his real estate was doing, Rabbi Akiva brought him to the small town that had been rejuvenated thanks to the 4,000 gold coins. Rather than being upset, Rabbi Tarfon was delighted. "You are my master and teacher, you are wiser than I," he said to Rabbi Akiva.
The truth is that distributing charity is investing in real estate. You're helping to buy yourself a "home" in the World to Come.
The Fifteenth of Av (Tu B'Av) is a special holiday, about which our Sages declared, "There were no days as festive in Israel as the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur." The significance of Yom Kippur is obvious, but what was so exceptional about Tu B'Av?
In the times of the Holy Temple, an ample supply of wood was required for the altar. The season for felling trees began in Nisan and ended on Tu B'Av, the warmest time of year when the trees dried out and there was little chance of worm infestation. By Tu B'Av, the weather became cooler; worms might possibly thrive, thereby invalidating the wood for use in the Temple. Tu B'Av thus marked the day on which the great mitzva of preparing the wood for the Temple was completed.
But what was so joyous about the fact that the trees were no longer cut? And what is the significance of cutting trees, anyway? After all, the trees were only cut in preparation for the mitzva of bringing sacrifices; it was not a mitzva itself.
To explain: Both Tu B'Av and Tisha B'Av are associated with the Temple. However, on Tisha B'Av we mourn the destruction of the Temple; on Tu B'Av we rejoice in a mitzva that relates to the Temple's continued existence.
At present, the Temple does not exist in the physical sense and we cannot offer sacrifices. Nonetheless, in the past, it was the cutting of the trees that enabled our ancestors to fulfill this mitzva; indeed, it epitomized the Temple's very purpose: to serve as a "House" for G-d in which sacrifices could be brought. This activity reached its culmination on Tu B'Av, which was why the Jews' rejoicing was so profound.
As is known, the Second Holy Temple was destroyed on account of the sin of baseless hatred. Tu B'Av, however, was characterized by a sense of unity. The wood that was cut for the altar caused a great benefit for all Jews - the atonement of their sins, as effected by the sacrifices. Without wood, there could be no sacrifices; thus the cutting of the trees was considered to be a very great mitzva.
Tu B'Av was also known as "The Day of the Breaking of the Axes." On that day, all the axes used to fell the trees for the Temple were destroyed. Why were the axes not saved?
An axe is a tool made of iron. According to Jewish law, it is forbidden for iron to touch the stones of the Temple's altar, as in addition to its positive uses, iron can also be forged into weapons of destruction. Accordingly, once the axes had fulfilled their function, they were destroyed to preclude being used for unholy purposes.
Tu B'Av can thus counteract the negative elements of Tisha B'Av, especially the sin of baseless hatred. We must act toward our fellow Jew with "baseless love." The reason for the destruction of the Temple will thus be nullified, and we will merit the building of the Third Holy Temple, now!
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 24
by Rabbi Mordechai Weiss
My wife Ellie had just returned from her annual trek to the Lubavitch Women's Mid-Winter Convention, held this year in Orlando, Florida. She told me about the different shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe) from throughout Florida whom she met there. Ellie's description of the vibrancy today of the nearly 50 Chabad-Lubavitch Centers in Florida reminded me of the summer of 1977.
Back in 1977, while studying at the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Miami Beach, Shloimy Engel, a fellow student, and I spent an entire month covering 2,770 miles in a 33-foot mobile home, known as a "Mitzva Tank." We travelled throughout Florida visiting small communities that did not yet have shluchim. Known as "Merkos Shlichus," this program initiated by the Rebbe continues to this day, with yeshiva students going for the summer months to locations as diverse as China, Japan, the Bahamas, Greece, Alaska and throughout the U.S.
Shloimy and I began our adventure with a full gas tank and the CB handle of "Holy Roller." Our first destination was Florida's southernmost city, Key West. We set up camp in a parking lot belonging to one of the Jewish institutions there.
In two days we met a number of Key West's approximately 55 Jewish families. We put up mezuzot, spoke with women and girls about lighting Shabbat candles, and helped boys and men put on tefilin. We also sponsored an evening for a number of families inside our Mitzva Tank.
Next we traveled up the West Coast to Cape Coral. We camped out in the parking lot of the local JCC. We had an evening program for teenagers which included a presentation and a question/answer session. When they asked us whether we traveled with our wives and kids in the Mitzva Mobile, Shloimy and I smiled and asked them how old they thought we were. They answered, "Thirty or 35." We laughed, realizing that they weren't used to seeing 18-year-olds with beards.
From Cape Coral we traveled to Sarasota. We visited the 23 children at the local Jewish day camp where we sang songs, told stories, spoke about being proud of one's Jewish name and recited Torah verses with them.
Next on our itinerary was Orlando in Central Florida. Our stay there was for only one day. We started our day by putting tefilin on someone who had not worn tefilin in 10 years. We spent the rest of the day making 70 "cold calls" and were also interviewed by the local Jewish paper.
From there we went to the Sumter Correctional Institute, a maximum security prison. There was only one Jewish inmate, a 23 year old man sentenced to life imprisonment. For the first time ever he put on tefilin with us. When we answered his question about our age, he recalled that at 18 he was incarcerated for the first time! Twenty years ago, there were not even 100 Jewish inmates throughout Florida. Unfortunately over the years, that number has ballooned nation-wide, as have the services offered by Shluchim to inmates.
On our way up through central Florida, we spent a very hot and humid Shabbat in a Jewish overnight camp. After the Friday night service we addressed the 150 campers and staff about Chabad Chasidism and the Rebbe's campaigns to encourage Shabbat candle lighting, love of a fellow Jew and other mitzvot. For 11/2 hours we answered questions and sang songs with the campers.
We had discussions with campers and staff throughout Shabbat. After we made Havdala (the ceremony marking the end of Shabbat) for the camp, we gave out candlesticks for the girls to use the following Shabbat eve. On Sunday, to conclude a successful weekend, we helped the boys put on tefilin.
From there we headed North. In Panama City, further West, we found a Jew by locating the name "Cohen" in the local phone book. We surprised him with a visit from our Mitzva Mobile. He was excited when we offered to put up a mezuza on his door post in this city with only 5 Jews. In Pensacola, even further West, we visited Eglin Air Force Base, which had 65 Jews on base.
At one of our fuel stops in the Florida Panhandle, the service station attendant asked me for permission to tour the inside of the Mitzva Mobile. When he spotted Shloimy in the back with his tefilin on, he asked me my name. Then he asked me if I was a "Hebrew." When I responded in the affirmative, he slowly exited the Mitzva Mobile backwards, bowing to us and repeating the words, "G-d bless you."
From there it was on to Jacksonville, 365 miles away. We arrived on Friday and camped out in the parking lot of the shul. On Shabbat the rabbi spoke about the Rebbe and the work of his Chasidim from the pulpit; in the afternoon we shared a talk of the Rebbe with the congregants. While in Jacksonville we put our energies into putting up mezuzot. We also had a children's rally for the 65 children of the local JCC day camp, gave out candle lighting kits to the girls and were interviewed by the local newspaper.
We headed South, visiting S. Augustine, Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach. In Ormond Beach we had to camp out in a campground, which allowed us to fulfill the Rebbe's directive to speak with non-Jews about the Seven Noachide Laws.
Next we traveled down to Satellite Beach. Once more, we camped out in a parking lot. For Shabbat we were able to organize a minyan.
Our final stops were Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale which, Jewish lifewise, were considered the "boondocks" back then.
Only the Rebbe, with his great vision and leadership, could have seen so long ago how these communities, most of them spiritual wastelands, had the potential to grow into the communities they are today.
What strikes me most now about our adventures back then is how the seeds planted by the Rebbe have blossomed into the many successful Chabad institutions in Florida today.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
The Beis Chaya Mushka Seminary in the Snowdon neighborhood of Montreal, which will begin its tenth year this fall, recently broke ground for a new building. The building will house classrooms, a lecture hall, a fully-equipped computer room, a library , kitchen, synagogue and offices.
NEW TORAH SCROLL
In honor of its building campaign, Tzivos Hashem - the largest international Jewish children's organization in the world - is writing a Torah scroll whose completion will coincide with the completion of the building. One can "purchase" letters in the Torah scroll for oneself, family and friends and departed loved ones.
For more info contact Tzivos Hashem at (718) 467-6630.
18 Sivan, 5715 
...You write that although you believe in G-d and His closeness, you are endeavoring to find your own way of serving Him. This is a long and round-about way. It is analogous to the person searching for the secrets of the functions of the physical body, e.g. how food is converted into blood, tissue, energy, and sustains life; it would surely not be the right approach to stop eating and drinking, pending his arrival at the conclusions of his study. Even a reduction in the necessary calorie intake would weaken his powers of reasoning and research and handicap him in his ever attaining his objective.
Similarly, in an effort to find a way of serving G-d, one must not postpone such service until one has completed one's search, and, moreover, the absence of the religious practice itself handicaps the powers of the intellect to grasp the truth.
Furthermore, since the human intellect is by its very nature limited, while the subject it desires to grapple with is related to the Unlimited, it is only with the aid of the Infinite G-d that one can hope to be lifted across the unbridgeable chasm separating the created and the Creator, and such Divine aid can come only through Divine service.
Finally, there is obviously no contradiction here to the principle of the freedom of personal choice. The real issue here is the proper approach and method to be undertaken now, until one has arrived at the stage where one's intellect becomes sufficiently clear to confirm the established truth. The key to the solution is "Na'aseh v'nishma" [the response of the Children of Israel at the Giving of the Torah "(first) we will do and (then) we will understand"] where "Na'aseh," practical religion in daily life, is the prerequisite condition for "Nishma," study and understanding.
- Menachem Av, 5724  Atlantic County Mikvah Society
I was pleased and happy to be informed by your esteemed and energetic President, Mr. I. B. Summers, and your dynamic Secretary, Rabbi Moshe Shuvalsky, about the forthcoming Groundbreaking Ceremony which is to take place on the first day of next week, Rosh Chodesh Elul.
It is gratifying indeed that the efforts of your society, under Rabbinic leadership headed by the Moro D'asro [Rabbinic leader] Rabbi Moshe Shapiro, has reached this milestone. With all of you I hope and pray that the construction of the Mikvah will proceed with all speed so that it will soon be possible to joyously celebrate the completion of the Mikvah with blessing and gratitude to the Almighty.
We all know well the importance of Zerizus [alacrity] in the fulfillment of all Mitzvos as has been especially emphasized by the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], the Baal HaTanya and Shulchan Aruch, in his [work] Iggeres HaKodesh, ch. 21. From which it is obvious how very important it is to follow through with the utmost Zerizus such a great and comprehensive Mitzvah as a Mikvah, which is one of the foundations of the House of Israel and one of the main pillars of every Jewish community.
The auspiciousness of the occasion is further enhanced by the auspiciousness of the day-the first day of Elul, the month of special Divine mercy and grace. With it begins the month of preparation for a Kesivo vechasimo tovah [being written and sealed for good], as is customary to wish one another from Rosh Chodesh Elul.
I send my congratulations and prayerful wishes to all the Rabbinic leaders, to the Committee and members of the Mikvah Society, and to each and every one who has contributed and will contribute towards the speedy realization of this most worthy accomplishment. May the Zechus [merit] of this great Mitzvah stand everyone in good stead to be blessed with Hatzlocho [success] in this and in all their good works.
With the blessing of Kesivo vechasimo tovah,
Rambam for 17 Menachem Av 5758
Positive mitzva 127: The first tithe
By this injunction we are commanded to set aside the tithe (10%) from the produce of the land. It is contained in the words (Num. 18:24): "For the tithe of the Children of Israel, which they set apart as a gift to the L-rd." This tithe belongs to the Levites, and is only obligatory in the Land of Israel.
Rambam for 21 Menachem Av, 5758
Positive mitzva 128: The second tithe
By this injunction we are commanded to set aside the second tithe. It is derived from the words (Deut. 14:22): "You shall surely tithe all the increase of your seed, that which is brought in the field year by year." This tithe is brought to Jerusalem and eaten by its owner.
In Judaism, each and every Jew is important, and all of his actions are significant in the absolute sense. What a Jew does matters - a point that is underscored this Friday, the Fifteenth of Av (Tu B'Av).
It states in the Talmud (Taanit) that, beginning from the Fifteenth of Av, a Jew should increase the time he devotes to nighttime Torah study. To reward us for our additional learning, G-d extends our lives and grants us additional years. Our Sages explained that Tu B'Av is the date on which we can see the nights begin to be longer and the days shorter. Generally speaking, the daylight hours are reserved for work, whereas at night, people have more free time to spend as they please. The shorter the day, the more hours are left over at night - and nighttime is especially conducive to learning Torah.
Of course, the length of the days and nights on earth is variable, changing according to the movement of the sun. On the Fifteenth of Av, the sun begins to experience a change in orbit.
Now, the world might think that there's a perfectly "natural" explanation for this, but the Talmud provides us with the true reason for this planetary phenomenon: to enable the Jew to spend more time learning Torah! For the sake of the Jew, G-d actually alters the course of the sun in the sky - a cosmological change of fantastic proportions!
Just think about how important it must be to G-d that we study His Torah, to the point that He literally moves heaven and earth on our behalf!
In fact, the entire universe is orchestrated by G-d for our sake, that we learn His Torah with eagerness and enthusiasm, and express it in actual deed. So if G-d can move the stars and planets for our sake, certainly we can "move" ourselves to learn a little more Torah each evening!
Therefore keep and do them, for this is your wisdom and understanding (Deut. 4:6)
It is a wide-held misconception that in order to have fear of G-d, undue Torah study isn't necessary, and that any fool on the street can attain it. Not so! In order to observe the Torah properly, a great deal of wisdom and understanding is essential.
(Rabbi Moshe Chefetz)
In the heavens above, and on the earth below (Deut. 4:39)
"In the heavens above" - in matters of the spirit - a person should always look to those who are on a higher, more advanced level, and strive to emulate them. As for material concerns ("on the earth below"), one should always look to those who have less, and be grateful and happy with what he already possesses.
I stand between G-d and between you (Deut. 5:5)
While this verse in Torah is a direct quote from Moses, the early Chasidim used to interpret it allegorically as follows: It is the "I" - man's ego and sense of self - that erects the barrier that separates him from G-d...
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deut. 6:7)
Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch offered a Chasidic explanation:
As Rashi notes, "veshinantam" - "and you shall teach them diligently," comes from the word "chad," meaning sharp, indicating that a person's Torah study should be intense, strong and penetrating.
"Levanecha," "to your children," is related to the word "libun," "elucidation," meaning that one's words and explanations should be unambiguous.
"And you shall speak of them": In the same way that speech reveals that which is hidden inside, so too should the revelations of Torah be applied to the daily life.
"Sitting in your house" refers to the time when the soul is contained in the physical body;
"when you lie down, and when you rise up" refers to the period after the resurrection of the dead.
Reb Leibush had arrived in Belz to visit with his mother and his illustrious brother, Reb Shalom, the Belzer Rebbe. His mother had baked cake in honor of her son's visit and they sat down to enjoy some tea and cake and catch up on family news . They conversed happily while in the background the air resounded with the sound of hammer blows and shouts; the town of Belz was building a new shul.
Reb Leibush soon excused himself, for his excitement could no longer be contained. He rushed to the site of the new building to check on the progress, but he was shocked to see his brother, the Rebbe, standing with a hammer in his hand, just like any other member of the construction crew.
"Shalom, what are you doing? You of all people know the portion of Talmud, which says that a leader of a Jewish community is forbidden to perform menial labor in the presence of three or more people. You are the Rebbe of Belz, why are you standing here like a common laborer?"
Reb Shalom listened and nodded his head. Only when his brother had finished speaking did he respond. "Leibush, I'm going to tell you a story which will answer your question. Many years ago I studied Torah in the town of Skohl. There I had two study partners. We had been taught that if we were to study with the utmost diligence and dedication, never sleeping for one thousand nights in a row, we would merit a revelation of the prophet Elijah. We were very excited at this prospect, and we resolved to follow this plan of study together, a thousand consecutive nights without sleep.
"We were so enthusiastic that night followed night, and we hardly noticed the dawn breaking. After a while, though, we became tired and this regime became more and more difficult. Finally, one of my partners couldn't stand the strain, and dropped out. I continued learning every night with my remaining study partner, until on the eight-hundredth night, he also gave up the quest. I continued alone, more determined then ever to succeed.
"So, night after night I sat alone by candlelight in the dark shul, fighting sleep which was my constant enemy, ever threatening to overcome my resolve. Just as I thought I would succumb to exhaustion, I somehow found the strength to continue, for my desire to see the prophet burned in my soul.
"On the thousandth night a fierce storm blew into the town. It seemed that the demons of Hell had escaped and were determined to destroy all my hard won efforts. I, who was normally unfazed by the weather, no matter how violent, was shaken by the unearthly howls and piercing bolts of lightening that flashed across the sky. Still, I sat with my open book, determined that nothing would deter me from my goal.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash of glass. The wind had blown out one of the windows of the study hall, and its breath had extinguished my candles. This was too much for me. I had sat for a thousand night, relentlessly pursing my goal though my strength was all but exhausted, and now this. The rain and wind pelted my face through the shattered window, and my spirits plummeted to the depths. Had I not been so terrified of the raging storm I would have simply walked out of the study hall.
"But then I regained my senses. After all, wasn't this my last night, after which I could expect a visit from the prophet Elijah himself! I couldn't let a mere storm, no matter how fierce, deprive me of my reward. I felt my way to the holy ark and slid open the carved doors. Then I wept and wept, begging G-d to help me through this trial. I don't know how long I stood there weeping and praying, but when I finished pouring out my yearning and frustration to the One Above, I realized that the storm had ended.
"I turned to look out of the shattered window to see the moon peeking through the remaining clouds. Then something else caught my attention. There, in the darkness, I saw the figure of an old man slowly approaching the study hall, and I knew it was Elijah.
"We sat and studied together throughout that unforgettable night. The last part of Torah that he taught me concerned the laws of building a synagogue. This teaching is so precious to me, that if I could, I would erect the entire building single-handedly from beginning to end. Alas, this little bit is all I am able to do, but even so, it is so dear to me that my entire being is filled with indescribable joy with each brick that I place."
Reb Leibush smiled. His brother had given him quite an explanation.
Our Sages have told us that the time before the coming of Moshiach will be a time of paradox. On the one hand, we will be able to perceive a glimmer of the future light, on the other hand, this era will be weighted down by a darkness so palpable that it will prevent the light from being properly perceived.
(Overview to A Partner in the Dynamic of Creation by Malka Touger)