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581: Shoftim

582: Ki Teitzei

583: Ki Tavo

584: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

L'Chaim
August 20, 1999 - 8 Elul, 5759

582: Ki Teitzei

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


  581: Shoftim583: Ki Tavo  

Radio Signals  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Radio Signals

You're driving on vacation and you turn on the radio to catch the (choose one) traffic report, weather forecast, or sports scores. You touch every button that has a station locked in but all you hear is static or at the most the reception is very weak.

Of course! You're out of range of your favorite stations so you touch the "seek" and "scan" buttons and manage to find a local station that has the information you need.

***

Jewish teachings speak often about the importance of the individual reaching out to G-d, communicating with G-d through prayer and enhancing the relationship with G-d through the study of Torah and performance of mitzvot.

But isn't a relationship a two-way street? Shouldn't we expect G-d to reach out to us, as well?

G-d calls out to us through our soul, the Divine spark within each of us. Our Sages explain that, even though we don't always hear it, "Every day a heavenly voice comes forth calling: 'Return to Me, My errant children.'"

This is similar to the scenario of the radio station described above. However, for the person to be aware of the signals and to hear the Divine call, the signals must also be received by the body, by the conscious mind. The soul, being part of G-d, always remains loyal to G-d and is always receptive to these signals, but the physical body, with its physical desires, may "interfere" with the reception and that where difficulties can arise.The receiver switch must be on, the person prepared and willing to "hear" the call from above.

What then is the use of these "signals" if only the soul is sensitive to them and they do not get through to the body?

The importance of the subconscious state of mind is well-known today (it has been recognized in our Torah and commentaries for thousands of years). Even in the worst cases of distortion and non-reception of G-d's call, the signals are there (for the soul is always receptive) but often remain buried in the subconscious. From the subconscious state of mind, impulses, thoughts and stimuli beg to be admitted into the conscious state. This is why an individual may suddenly experience an inner desire to find out more about Judaism, to reconnect with his roots, study more Torah or perform a mitzva.

Since G-d is constantly calling to us, does this reduce the importance of our seeking Him?

No! The Torah commands us, "And you shall seek G-d" (Deut 4:29). For unless we reciprocate and make an effort, the signals remain weak and. The way for us to respond to and strengthen the Divine signals is by studying Torah and doing mitzvot, and making them part of our daily lives.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, closes with the following verses: "Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt. When they encountered you on the way, and you were tired and exhausted, they cut off those lagging behind... Therefore, you must obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. You must not forget."

The command to wipe out Amalek is read not only when the Torah portion of Ki Teitzei is read. It is recited every day, at the end of the morning prayers, as one of the "Six Remembrances."

Who was Amalek and why are Jews - described by the Torah as "compassionate" - commanded to destroy the people of Amalek?

The destruction of Amalek is symbolic of the nullification of a specific negative trait which can manifest itself within each one of us.

When a person is inspired and wants to go out of "Egypt," from boundaries and limitations of a corporeal nature, "Amalek" comes along and tries to prevent him from doing so.

How does Amalek accomplish this? The phrase "When they encountered you" in Hebrew is "karcha." "Kar" means "cold." The foremost Torah commentator, Rashi, explains that Amalek attempted to stop the Jewish people by making them cold.

Holiness thrives on warmth and excitement. Amalek cools down a person's inclination to G-dliness, and numbs him from being excited about anything holy, by planting seeds of doubt. In fact, the numerical value (gematria) of the Hebrew letters in the word "Amalek" is the same as "safek" - doubt.

The antidote to Amalek is "remember." A person must always have Torah thoughts engraved in his mind and memory, so that he may meditate on them at any time and in any place. Through this a person can nullify the evil of Amalek.

But how was Amalek able to hurt the Jews? Weren't they protected in the desert from enemy attacks by the Divine clouds that accompanied them throughout their sojourn there? Amalek attacked those who were "tired and exhausted." Rashi explains that the Cloud cast out some of the Jews due to their sins. They had "no strength" to overcome their desire to sin.

Amalek attacked only those Jews who had transgressed and whom the Cloud had thrown out of the camp. Yet, it was to save these very Jews from Amalek that the entire Jewish people left the protection of the Cloud to go to war.

When the need arises, we too, must go out of the comfort and safety of our own "clouds" in order to help another Jew, no matter who he is, where he is, or what he has done in the past.

Adapted from the works of the Rebbe


A Slice of Life

Tefilin Light up

Kansas City

by Steve Hyatt

One of the wonderful aspects of my work is the opportunity to travel around this great country during the course of fulfilling the responsibilities of my job. Whenever possible, I try to direct my travel through or near Wilmington, Delaware so I can spend time at Chabad of Delaware, study Torah with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Vogel, daven (pray) with my friends and eat some of the best kugel this side of Jerusalem.

Sometimes it takes some creative planning by my travel agent, but one way or another I usually find my way to Delaware for the holidays as well. Maybe I have been spoiled, but when I need a spiritual recharge, the only place to go is Chabad of Delaware.

Recently I faced a daunting challenge. I had to take care of some important business and still find a way to get to Delaware in time for the last two days of Pesach. The only way to do so was to schedule a flight through Kansas City, Missouri, a place I had never been to before.

The trip from Oregon to the Kansas City airport was uneventful, which is just the way I like it. My Southwest Airlines flight arrived promptly at 10:30 a.m. If everything went as planned I'd arrive in Baltimore at 4:30 p.m., take the 5:00 p.m. Metroliner to Wilmington and slide into my chair at Chabad by 6:30 p.m.

My plane pulled into the gate and I had to leave the terminal and walk to the other side of the airport. When I entered the new terminal I had to stand in line at the security entrance and pass through the metal detectors like everyone else. Since this was a busy time of day, the line was quite long and the wait to pass through the detector was somewhat tedious. As I stood in the line my mind began to drift off with thoughts of the Rebbetzin's kugel. Just as my mouth began to water I found myself at the front of the line. I put my travel bag on the conveyor belt and stepped through the detector.

When I went to the end of the conveyor belt a nice, middle-aged woman from the "Heartland" asked me if she could look through my bag. I smiled and told her, "No problem." She opened all of the zippers, felt the contents of my bag and got ready to give it back to me, when she suddenly got a concerned look on her face. I leaned in and asked if something was wrong and she politely but sternly said, "Please step back from the bag sir!"

I began to wonder what I had put in my bag that could have generated this unsettling response. As I stood there looking somewhat bewildered, the line of people behind me began to increase. Not only couldn't I get my bag, but security wouldn't let anyone else get their bags either. It was a busy airport, so the crowd got bigger by the moment. Much to my chagrin, everyone was trying to get a peek at the "perpetrator" as well!

I asked again, "Excuse me but is something wrong?" Looking a little more agitated and sounding a little less polite, the inspector said, "Sir, I am not going to tell you again, please step away from the bag!" She then called her supervisor over and he looked in the bag. He looked at me, then he looked at the bag and then he looked at me again and said, "Sir would you please open the boxes?"

"Open the boxes? What boxes?" I asked somewhat perplexed. "These boxes sir," he said without a bit of humor in his voice. As I looked down at his hands I began to smile. He was gingerly holding my tefilin looking as if he thought they'd blow up at any moment!

This whole event had taken about three minutes and by now the crowd was extremely large. Everyone was trying to get a good look at the "gun-toting terrorist" they had obviously corralled at the security station.

Doing my best not to laugh out loud, I slowly unwrapped the tefilin that goes on my head and showed the supervisor, the original security agent and the disappointed throng around me, what was in the "box." I explained that they are called "tefilin" and Jewish men put them on during the morning prayers. A relieved security team thanked me for the information and told me I could proceed to my gate.

During the remainder of my journey to Wilmington I had an opportunity to ponder the whole experience. One thing became very clear: I now know that there are at least a couple of security agents in Kansas City who know more about two little boxes called tefilin than they ever probably wanted to know. That thought alone was fun to think about. What I really wonder is whether or not there were any Jewish men in the crowd around me, who during the course of a mundane travel day, received a reminder from G-d about the mitzva of tefilin.

It made me think that you never know who might be watching when you eat a kosher meal on an airplane, buy a box of Shabbat candles in a supermarket or unwrap a pair of tefilin for security. What seems like a minor act for you may be a life altering experience for someone observing your actions. I am not sure if this experience changed anyone's life. But one thing is for sure; it made an otherwise mundane trip to my "Delaware family" one I will always remember.


What's New

SHOFAR FACTORIES

The over 3,000 Chabad-Lubavitch Centers around the world are gearing up for the approaching High Holidays. Many Centers will be sponsoring the widely acclaimed, hands-on "Shofar Factory" where children will be able to make their own shofar from a ram's horn. To find out if there will be a Shofar Factory in your area or for information about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services in your city, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

HIGH-TECH TALMUD TORAH

A limited number of openings are still available in Chabad's highly successful "High-Tech Talmud Torah" located at Community Synagogue in New York City's East Village. This state-of-the-art afternoon Hebrew school has been featured in a number of New York City's Jewish newspapers for its innovative and spunky approach to teaching Jewish kids about Torah and instilling pride in being Jewish. For info call 212-473-3665.


The Rebbe Writes

Free translation

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5736 [1976]

To the Jewish Mothers and Daughters everywhere,

G-d bless you -

Blessing and Greeting:

In view of the recent events - the hijacking and saving of the hostages held in Uganda; and the subsequent attempt of the terrorists to perpetrate a vicious reprisal, G-d forbid, in Kushta (Istanbul), it should be understood that these events are an indication that Jews must, at the earliest possible, strengthen all aspects of their security and defenses - first and foremost in their spiritual lives, which is the channel to receive G-d's blessings also in the physical aspect, namely, to know the right ways and means that have to be undertaken in the natural order of things, and to fully succeed in these efforts, in accordance with the Divine promise, "G-d, your G-d, will bless you in all that you do" - to be protected and secured from enemies, and to be spared any undesirable happenings, G-d forbid.

The above events remind each and all of our Jewish brethren in general, and Jewish mothers and daughters in particular - since every married Jewish woman is called Akeres Habayis, "Foundation of the Home," and those not yet married are to be Akeres Habayis, for which they must prepare themselves from tender age - the following:

The present situation calls for the protection of every Jewish home. True protection is that which only G-d provides, as it is written, "G-d guards the city." To ensure this Divine guardianship, the home has to be conducted in all aspects according to G-d's will.

Then the home is also an abode for the Shechinah (G-d's Presence), in accordance with His promise, "I will dwell among them."

In addition to this, G-d has given our people a special gift wherewith to protect the home, namely, the Mitzvah of Mezuzah. Our Sages declare explicitly that "the home is protected by it (the Mezuzah)."

Moreover, this protection embraces the members of the household also when they go out of the house, as it is written, "G-d will guard your going and your coming from now and forever." It is further explained in our holy sources that the Divine Name (Shin-Dalet-Yud) written on the back of the sacred Mezuzah parchment spells out the words, "Shomer Dalsos Yisroel - Guardian of Jewish Doors."

Let it also be remembered that inasmuch as all Jews constitute one body, and are bound up with one another, every Mezuzah is a Divine protection not only for the individual home, with everybody and everything in it, but each additional kosher Mezuzah that is affixed on a doorpost of any Jewish home, anywhere, adds to the protection of all our people everywhere.

And considering - as mentioned above - that every Jewish wife is an Akeres Habayis, and every Jewish girl a future Akeres Habayis, they have a special Zechus (merit) and responsibility in the matter of Mezuzah, to see to it that not only a kosher Mezuzah be affixed on every doorpost in their home that is required to have a Mezuzah, but that the same be done by their Jewish neighbors and friends, and in all Jewish homes.

I hope and pray that you will do this with inspiration and joy, which, in addition to increasing the Hatzlocho [success] in this effort, will also inspire many others to do likewise, and the Zechus Horabim [merit of the many] will further stand you in good stead.

The present time is particularly auspicious for this endeavor, as for endeavors in all matters of goodness and holiness, since we are in the beginning of the month of Elul - the month of spiritual stocktaking, to complete the deficiencies of the outgoing year and to prepare for the New Year, that it be a good and blessed year for each and all of us and for our Jewish people as a whole.

With esteem and blessing of Kesivo veChasimo Tovah [being written and sealed for good],


Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman, yblc't

9 Elul 5759

Prohibition 132: Eating a sacrifice that has been rendered unfit

By this prohibition we are forbidden to eat pigul, "an abhorred thing," which is a sacrifice that has been rendered unfit through improper intentions as to its disposal at the time it was slaughtered or offered. It is derived from the words (Ex. 29:33): "He shall not eat thereof, because they are holy."


A Word from the Director

The High Holidays are almost upon us - Rosh Hashana, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. However, in the original Hebrew, these days are called Yamim Noraim, Days of Awe. Indeed, who isn't filled with awe and reverence just thinking about their significance?

Among Chasidim, a distinction was always made between a professional chazan (cantor), and a baal tefila, "someone who knows how to pray." When choosing a person to lead the prayer service, Chasidim don't look for a melodious voice, a set of powerful lungs or technical expertise in chanting. Yes, a baal tefila should be pleasant to listen to, but the main criterion is his ability to stir the heart.

Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Chabad Rebbe, once declared, "A baal tefila stands on a threshold. He can bring merit to a congregation or lead them astray." On another occasion he said, "Most of the time a baal tefila brings merit, whereas a cantor usually leads them astray."

The Previous Rebbe defined a baal tefila as "one who knows before Whom he stands...his intellect grasps the splendor and glory that should suffuse a person standing before the Creator, and his heart feels what his mind perceives."

A Chasid once asked Rabbi Sholom Ber, the fifth Chabad Rebbe (known as the Rebbe Rashab) for his consent to become a chazan. The Rebbe agreed on three conditions: 1) that he always immerse in a mikva before praying; 2) that he cover his head with his talit; and 3) that he not repeat a word for musical effect, as many cantors do.

One Yom Kippur there was a fire in Lubavitch, and the smoke drifted down to the synagogue. Almost everyone ran outside except for the Rebbe Rashab and Reb Isser, who was leading the prayers at the lectern. He was so absorbed in praying that he was completely unaware that everyone had long since fled.

Now that was a real baal tefila!


Thoughts that Count

You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep driven away and hide yourself from them; surely you shall bring them back to your brother (Deut. 22:1)

G-d has implanted within us a wonderful character trait: a willingness and urge to be kind to another Jew that is even stronger than the desire to be kind to ourselves. We can always find reasons why we deserve our own suffering, G-d forbid, but when it comes to another's distress, it is absolutely impossible. (Hayom Yom)

You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and hide yourself from them; you shall surely lift them up again (Deut. 22:4)

It is forbidden to make believe one cannot recognize his fellow Jew's material needs, symbolized by the "donkey" and the "ox." For when you help another, you too will surely be "lifted up" and elevated spiritually. (Tiferet Shlomo)

When you build a new house, you shall make a railing (ma'ake) for your roof (Deut. 8)

Rearranging the letters of the Hebrew word ma'ake, defined by Rashi as "a fence around the roof," yields an acronym for "hirhurei aveira kashim mei'aveira" - "thinking about a sin is even worse than doing it." A person's head is his "roof," the loftiest limb of his body. We must guard it with a "railing," lest we use it for the wrong purpose. (Toldot Adam)


It Once Happened

On a number of occasions, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the Previous Rebbe (known also as the Rebbe Rayatz) told about his three-month stay in Vienna in 5663 (1903) with his father and predecessor, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, known as the Rebbe Rashab, who required medical treatment.

The Rebbe Rashab's habit during that period was to take a brief rest on the couch after lunch. He didn't lie down exactly, but would sort of recline, with one leg up on the couch. Once, he remained for a considerable time in this position, much longer than usual.

The Rebbe Rayatz was afraid to wake up his father. But he was even more afraid to leave him be. He began to walk back and forth loudly, near the sofa, hoping his father would awaken. When that didn't work, he started moving the table around, making even more noise, but that didn't help either.

It wasn't until after nine straight hours that the Rebbe Rashab finally stirred. "What day is today?" he asked his son. "Which parsha [Torah reading] is it?"

The Rebbe Rayatz said that it was Wednesday and told him which parsha it was. The Rebbe Rashab then prayed the evening service at great length.

The next morning, the Rebbe Rashab asked his son if they had some money. Although they were quite low in funds, he said "yes" so as to not disappoint his father. Shortly thereafter, he pawned his silver cane, and gave the money to his father. The Rebbe Rashab announced that he would be going out and left.

Some time later, there was a knock on the door. A delivery boy asked if he was "Schneersohn." Upon confirmation, he handed him the box he was carrying. Over the next few hours, several more packages arrived, each from a different store. When the Rebbe Rayatz looked over the names of the firms on the boxes, he realized that they were all of stores specializing in women's and girls' apparel.

That evening, when the Rebbe Rashab returned, he told his son to prepare to travel, but he didn't tell him their destination.

The next day, the Rebbe Rayatz arranged a cab to the train station. Once there, the Rebbe Rashab told him to purchase tickets to Pressburg. When they arrived, they checked into a small inn.

In the morning, the Rebbe Rashab said, "We must pay a shiva call to the family of a pious Torah scholar who are in mourning." The Rebbe Rayatz started to look for a cab to take them into the city, but his father told him they would walk. He picked up the suitcase and they headed downtown.

On the street they encountered a yeshiva student who was in a big hurry. The Rebbe Rashab stopped him and asked for directions to the Bick home. The young man responded impatiently, "I don't have time. I'm in a rush to get back to the yeshiva. Just go straight and ask further on."

"Indeed," said the Rebbe Rashab. "Is that how you fulfill the mitzva of hospitality? Can't you tell that we are strangers here?"

The young man calmed down and apologized. He explained to them carefully how to go, and then added that the family was sitting shiva. Upon further questioning, it turned out that the head of the family had passed away during the hours of the Rebbe Rashab's unusual long rest on the sofa.

The Rebbe Rashab thanked the student and continued with his son down the street. When they reached the house they entered and saw a women with her three daughters, sitting shiva. After offering words of comfort to the widow and her daughters, the Rebbe Rashab suggested to his son that they go out for a while. They came upon a large yeshiva. The Rebbe Rashab engaged a few of the students in discussions about what they were learning. Among these was the young man who had given them directions. The Rebbe Rashab entered into a deep discussion with one of the students, and afterwards praised him highly.

Upon returning to the house, the Rebbe Rashab spoke again to the bereaved. When they asked him who he was, he told them that he was a distant relative.

Subsequently, the Rebbe Rashab guided the conversation to the subject of the girls' future. The mother bemoaned her difficult situation, especially now that her husband had died. She couldn't afford to buy clothes for her daughters, nor was she being approached with appropriate matches for them.

The Rebbe Rashab recommended the yeshiva student whose analytical abilities he had praised as a match for her eldest daughter, and for her second daughter he suggested the young man they had first met in the street. "Don't worry about trousseaus," he added. "I have everything they need."

Eventually, both these matches were successful. Before each engagement became official, the young bride-to-be received a parcel of clothing from the purchases of the Rebbe Rashab, and everything fit perfectly! The first wedding took place while the Rebbe was still in Vienna, the second a few months later.

About ten years later, the Rebbe Rayatz happened to be in the Pressburg area. He decided to look up the Bick daughters to see how things had worked out. He found the street but could not locate the house. There was now a large brick home where previously the cottage had stood.

A young woman came out and greeted him. She said she recognized him as having been present with his father at her sisters' engagements. She told him that she too was now married and happily so, thank G-d, but that both her sisters were much more fortunate. Her older brother-in law was the chief rabbi of a prominent city and the other was a rosh yeshiva. "I wish your father had arranged my match too!"

Compiled and retold by Yrachmiel Tilles as it appeared in Ascent magazine.


Moshiach Matters

A person is not supposed to spend a lot of time trying to understand all of the details concerning the coming of Moshiach. He should better put his energy into bringing Moshiach. In other words, all the speculation - will it be like this, will it be like that, who will do what - is all not really important because whenever he comes, however he comes, we want him as soon as possible... and then we'll find out all the details. (Through the Eyes of a Woman by Nechama Greisman)


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