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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

   630: Devarim

631: Vaetchanan

632: Eikev

633: Re'eh

634: Shoftim

635: Ki Teitzei

636: Ki Tavo

637: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

August 4, 2000 - 3 Av, 5760

630: Devarim

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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.

  629: Matot-Masei631: Vaetchanan  

Coherent Light  |  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

Coherent Light

There is an interesting phenomenon that effects us almost every single day, though most of us don't even realize it, and it's called "Coherent Light."

We benefit from the "coherent light" of lasers when we make use of supermarket check-out scanners, CD-ROMS, surgery, light shows and more.

Basically, it works like this: Light particles, known as photons, generally move in orbits. By using laser technology, individual photons can be directed into a specific orbit. These individual photons influence other nearby photons to assume similar orbits. They, in turn, influence other photons which influence others photons, until eventually, huge numbers of photons are traveling in a similar, highly organized fashion.

In layman's terms, there is a snowball effect.

This example from the sub-atomic world illustrates well the concept taught by our Sages in this week's Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): "Rabbi Tarfun said, 'It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.' "

Far from being a call to leave work undone or incomplete, Rabbi Tarfun is giving us good advice to help us get out of a slump or reorient our thought processes.

Don't become overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done before the goal is achieved. Focus, rather, on beginning the job. Just worry about getting one "photon" in the right orbit. Influenced by the first photon of activitiy, the rest will fall in line.

Sometimes the hardest part of the job is simply beginning it. Don't procrastinate, Rabbi Tarfun urges us.

Instead of getting bogged down with how much needs to be changed, do one small thing to change the world (or yourself) and eventually, like all those teeny, tiny, photons, the whole world will fall in line.

The Talmud tells us that a person is never required to do more than he is able. G-d gives each person a mission which that person (and only that person) can fulfill. Together with the mission might come challenges, but they are challenges that that person is able to overcome.

Therefore, even if a person feels intimidated sometimes by the task at hand, he must know that, "He is not free to desist from it"--he must persevere. Even when he does not feel particularly motivated, or he does not derive pleasure and enjoyment from the work, he should persist. Full-hearted dedication will lead to personal fulfillment.

And, through such efforts, a person will reap tremendous benefits. For the culmination of conducting our lives in the manner described is also discussed by Rabbi Tarfun: "Know that the giving of the reward to the righteous (and the Jewish people are all righteous, according to the opening statement of Pirkei Avot) will be in the World to Come--in the Days of Moshiach."

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Devarim (the first portion in the book of the Torah known as Deuteronomy) is always read on Shabbat Chazon (literally "The Sabbath of Vision"), the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av - the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. As nothing in Judaism is coincidental, the Torah portion of Devarim and Shabbat Chazon must be interconnected.

The Book of Deuteronomy is unique in that, unlike the first four Books of the Torah, it was transmitted by Moses to the generation of Jews that was about to enter the Land of Israel.

The generation of Jews that wandered through the desert is known as "the generation of knowledge." Because they occupied such a high spiritual level, commensurate with Moses', they merited to lead a completely spiritual existence. The generation that entered Israel, by contrast, began a whole new chapter in Jewish history. Because they had to involve themselves in more mundane affairs, their spiritual level is considered to be lower than that of the generation that preceded them.

Nonetheless, it was precisely the generation that entered Israel that was able to successfully fulfill G-d's Divine plan. G-d wants us to serve Him within the context of the material world, establishing a "dwelling place" for G-liness in the "lower realms."

Accordingly, although the Jews who entered Israel were spiritually inferior in comparison with their parents, they possessed a certain advantage over their elders: The Jews who entered Israel merited to attain a level of "peace and security" that was denied the previous generation.

Shabbat Devarim is thus a resolution of two opposites. On the one hand, the Jews' entry into the Land of Israel was a very great descent, for it signified the need for daily contact with worldly matters. On the other hand, it was precisely by means of this descent that they were able to attain the highest ascent of all: the fulfillment of G-d's plan.

Likewise, Shabbat Chazon is a study in contradiction. Shabbat Chazon occurs in the middle of the Nine Days, a period in which we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple. Yet, at the same time, as the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev explained, on Shabbat Chazon every Jew is shown a vision of the Third Holy Temple, an edifice that will be infinitely superior to the two Holy Temples that preceded it.

Thus Shabbat Chazon expresses the same theme of descent for the purpose of ascent as Devarim: It is precisely through the descent which caused the Temple's destruction in the first place that we will achieve the highest ascent of all: the establishment of the Third Holy Temple by Moshiach, may it happen at once.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 2

A Slice of Life


The following two essays were published in the Beth Rivkah High School (Crown Heights, New York) journal "Links in the Golden Chain" in the chapter entitled "Our Heritage, Our Families."


By Henny Elishevitz

A solider in the Red Army. A chasid, shochet, mohel and a "lamplighter" in the darkest of countries. A Jew with utter self-sacrifice to ensure that the light of Torah and mitzvot will illuminate generations to come. A "soldier" of the Rebbe at the Western Wall for twenty years. My grandfather, Reb Yaakov Elishevitz of blessed memory, was all of this and so much more.

Born in Yeketarineslav, Rabbi Elishevitz learned in the underground yeshivot in Russia, constantly aware of the watchful eyes of the KGB. There were times when his group was caught and interrogated for many days. Miraculously, they were released unharmed.

In the summer of 1942, when Germany invaded Russia, my Zaidy was immediately drafted and sent to the front lines of the Red Army. When the war ended and my Zaidy learned that his entire family had perished and so many Jews had lost their lives, he dedicated himself to spreading Judaism throughout Russia. Realizing the great need, he became a shochet and a mohel. This involved great self-sacrifice as he placed himself in danger many times. He often traveled great distances to do a bris in a remote village.

Yet he was not content with his accomplishments. His goal was to train a generation of mohalim and shochtim to reach out to the whole country long after he was gone. He went on to teach and train tens of people to continue to spread the holy work at a time when this meant risking his life. However fear of imprisonment and worse did not deter my Zaidy from his mission. Only when he felt confident that his students were well-trained and capable of taking over did he decide to leave Russian in order to provide a proper Jewish education for his five sons.

Soon after he arrived in Israel, the Rebbe initiated the tefilin campaign. Like a loyal soldier, he immediately took up his post at the Western Wall. From early morning until late afternoon, in the blustery cold winter days to the scorching hot summer afternoons, he was there greeting tourists and visitors from around the world, gently persuading hundreds of thousands of Jews to put on tefilin. Even children stood in rapt attention as he inspired them with stories of how he learned Torah underground in the Soviet Union.

For close to twenty years, day after day, an old "soldier" stood tirelessly carrying out the mission of the "commander." At the age of eighty, he returned his soul to his Maker, after a lifetime dedicated to avodas Hashem.

I feel privileged to be a grandchild to such a holy person and recognize my responsibility to emulate his ways.


By Hindy Brikman

My grandmother was born in a small Lubavitch town in Russia called Klimavitch. Her father was a considerably wealthy businessman, the owner of a big hardware store.

As the oldest of the family, she helped her mother most of the time, but she also took care of her seven brothers. Times were not always good, and in 1917 things took a turn for the worse. The Bolsheviks were taking over and showing continuous disdain toward the Jews.

At this time my great-grandfather started to get worried, because life was getting dangerous and it was time for my grandmother, a pretty, young girl, to get married. A short time later, my grandmother became engaged to my grandfather. He was a poor, orphaned boy from a distant city. His father was killed when he was a young child. A group of ruthless horse riders had come and tied his father to a tree, making the young children pull the ropes tighter. That is when my grandfather had gone off to yeshiva.

My grandparents were married in utmost secrecy. The windows were covered up and only ten men attended. The whole wedding feast consisted of a small sponge cake, as the Communists forbade Jewish weddings.

A few years later, the Communists took away all my great-grandfather's possessions and put him in a prison because he was an owner of a private business. For a whole my great-grandmother was able to visit him and bring him food. Suspecting her of having hid some possessions, they arrested her too, but she was let out after two weeks.

When World War II broke out, many of the Jewish men in their town tried to make a defect on their body to avoid being drafted in the Russian Army. But my grandfather could not escape it. He was drafted into the army and didn't see my grandmother for five years. For all that time she did not even know exactly where her husband was.

Meanwhile, she and her three young children were evacuated to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Every day she tried to find work, soemtimes donating blood, just for their daily piece of bread to share between them. The hunger was so great that they were often forced to eat poison ivy.

Once while my grandmother had sneaked into Russia to find work, she heard that my grandfather lay wounded in a nearby hospital. She quickly ran there and was reunited with him after a long separation of five years.

Finally, in the fall, the whole family escaped in the back of a truck, together with the rest of the town. Unfortunately, my great-grandmother and some of her sons were not amongst them, and the Germans later killed them. They had come into the town on Shabbos, and whoever hadn't had a chance to escape were ordered to dig a mass grave in the center of town, and were buried alive.

From Russia, the family escaped, travelling through many countries, until they reached America where my grandparents became the Rebbe's emissaries in Albany, New York.

What's New


What we Believe is a series of essays on fundamental principles of faith based on Chabad Chasidic teachings. The essays in this latest release from Sichos in English probe to the core of some of the essential issues of Jewish faith. The essays are original expositions by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger rooted in the teachings of the Rebbes of Chabad-Lubavitch.

The Rebbe Writes

5th of Menachem Av, 5735 [1975]

To All Participants in the

Bais Chana Scholarship Dinner and

Dedication of Boschwitz Hall at Lubavitch House

Minneapolis, Minn.

Greeting and Blessing:

In these days deprived of joy in commemoration of the Destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh [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 Tefiloh (Prayer) give the Lubavitch House the status of a Bais Knesses [synagogue] and Bais Medrash [House of Study], hence of a Mikdosh Me'at ("Small Sanctuary" - a replica of the Bais Hamikdosh), and according to the Zohar (III, 126a) of a Mikdosh.

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, umipnai chatoeinu golinu me'artzeinu - "because of our sins we have been exiled from our land," etc. Thus every effort to strengthen Torah and Mitzvos hastens the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu [our righteous redeemer] and the Geuloh shleimo [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 Hatzlocho [success] and good tidings,

15th of Menachem Av, 5730 [1970]

The Campers and Counselors

Camp Emunah

Greenfield Park, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to receive a report about your life and activities in the camp through Rabbi J. J. Hecht. He also turned in your Tzedoko [charity] collection of Tisha b'Av [the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av].

As I mentioned on the Shabbos before Tisha b'Av, which no doubt was conveyed also to you, Tzedoko is particularly important in connection with the day of Tisha b'Av to hasten the Geulo [Redemption] in accordance with the prophecy, "Zion will be redeemed through justice, and all that return to her - through Tzedoko." Especially significant is the Tzedoko before Mincha [the afternoon prayer], when the prayer "Nacheim" is said.

May G-d grant that in the Zechus [merit] of your Tzedoko in connection with the above, and the Tzedoko of all Jews, together with the Zechus 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 Mitzvos - should speedily bring the Nechama [consolation]. 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,

Rambam this week

5 Av 5760

Prohibition 125: eating the Passover offering boiled or raw

By this prohibition we are forbidden to eat the Passover offering boiled or raw (half-baked); it must be roasted. It is contained in the Torah's words (Ex. 12:9): "Eat it not raw, nor boil with water, but roast it with fire."

A Word from the Director

It states in the Book of Zechariah that when Moshiach comes, the four fast days on the Jewish calendar - the 17th of Tamuz, the 9th of Av, the 3rd of Tishrei and the 10th of Tevet - will be abolished and celebrated as joyous festivals. As Maimonides explains, "Not only will all these fasts be abrogated in the Messianic era, but they will be observed as holy days and days of rejoicing."

It is obvious that when Moshiach comes there will be no need to commemorate the Temple's destruction and thus no reason to perpetuate these fasts. But why will they be celebrated as "holy days and days of rejoicing"?

The answer is that the four fasts are not just commemorations of tragic dates in Jewish history, but contain a hidden good of such magnitude that we will only be able to discern it when Moshiach comes. In fact, the fasts represent four stages in the progression toward Moshiach. We would never be able to attain the revelation of Moshiach were it not for the destruction and the exile. The entire exile may therefore be termed a "descent for the purpose of ascent."

During the exile, we mourn on these days because we cannot perceive the good concealed within. To our eyes, the world appears to continue its descent into greater and more intense darkness. But when Moshiach comes, the ascent that was hidden within the descent will be fully revealed, and the four fast days will indeed be celebrated as "holy days and days of rejoicing."

The Rebbe, whose vision can perceive the true state of the world, has told us that the Redemption is imminent. "Not only is the Redemption about to commence, it is literally standing on our threshold, waiting for each and every Jew to open the door and pull it inside the room." No trip to the optician is necessary for us to see it too; for as the Rebbe has declared, "The 'spiritual eyes' of the Jewish people can already perceive the Redemption; it is now necessary to open the fleshly eyes as well."

May the fast of Tisha B'Av be immediately relegated to history, and may we merit to celebrate it this year as a day of unprecedented rejoicing with Moshiach himself.

Thoughts that Count

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel (Deut. 1:1)

The Torah portion of Devarim begins with Moses chastising the Jewish people for their misconduct during the years of wandering through the wilderness. Despite Moses' overwhelming love for his brethren, he did not hesitate to use harsh words if he considered it necessary. However, this was only when addressing the Jews directly; whenever Moses spoke to G-d, he was the Jewish people's greatest advocate. This contains a lesson for every Jew, and particularly for Jewish leaders. (Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev)

You have dwelt long enough at this mountain (Deut. 1:6)

Even though Mount Sinai was the place where the Torah was given, the Jews were not allowed to stay there but were commanded to move on. This teaches that a Jew must never content himself with his own Divine service, but must endeavor to have a positive influence on others, even those who are far from "Sinai." (Likutei Sichot)

May the L-rd G-d of your fathers make you a thousand times as many more than you are (Deut. 1:11)

The famous Chozeh of Lublin was once sitting with his Chasidim when he began to berate himself very harshly for his "misdeeds." Immediately, the Chasidim were seized with panic: If the Chozeh was such a transgressor, what could be said for them? Seeing their fear, the Chozeh reassured them and gave them a blessing: "May G-d help that your grandchildren turn out no worse than me." Similarly, when Moses rebuked the Jewish people and saw how their hearts were broken, he immediately offered them encouragement: May G-d increase the number of Jews just like yourselves in the generations to come. (MiMa'ayanot HaNetzach)

It Once Happened

In general, the study hall of Rabbi Boruch was a joyous place. During the Nine Days before Tisha B'Av, however, the atmosphere was rather somber, as if a dark cloud hovered above.

The tzadik himself had disappeared; no one knew where he was. Rumor had it that Rabbi Boruch had disguised himself as a beggar and was wandering from town to town, the better to experience the exile of the Divine Presence.

In the village square stood a wagon driver next to his horses. To all outward appearances he looked like any other wagon driver, but it was really Rabbi Boruch in a new disguise. It didn't take long until a Polish nobleman asked to engage his services.

The tzadik made a quick calculation: If everything went well, he would make it back to town on the day before Tisha B'Av. He agreed to take the nobleman to his destination, and the two set off.

Now, the horses that Rabbi Boruch had procured were not exactly in their prime; the poor specimens could barely pull the wagon and stopped every few feet to rest. The most tranquil of passengers would have found it irritating; how much more so did the Polish nobleman, who was in a hurry to reach his destination. The tzadik was subjected to a steady stream of curses and insults. But he remained silent, feeling acutely the pain and affront to the Divine Presence in exile.

The journey would take several days, and each evening the two travelers sought refuge in an inn. The nobleman obtained the finest accommodations, while Rabbi Boruch slept in the barn with his horses. The tzadik made sure to don his tefilin and pray several hours before the nobleman woke up. Only afterwards would he rouse him to resume their travels.

One morning, however, when Rabbi Boruch knocked on the nobleman's door he received no answer. The nobleman, he soon realized, was in a drunken stupor, having spent the night before carousing with some local peasants. With great difficulty the tzadik managed to haul him over to the wagon and dump him in. Throughout it all, the nobleman remained unconscious.

The next stage of the journey took them through a dense forest. The horses plodded along at their usual sluggish pace, keeping time with the nobleman's loud snores. Rabbi Boruch was lost in thought.

Suddenly, a terrible pain ripped through the tzadik's head. When he woke up he found himself tied to a tree, with the Polish nobleman in similar circumstances. The horses and wagon were gone, but Rabbi Boruch noticed that his prayer book, talit and tefilin had been tossed aside. Immediately he thanked G-d for having saved his life.

Moving his arms and legs the tzadik was able to gradually loosen his bonds. The first thing he did was to pick up his prayer book, talit and tefilin and kiss them. Next he turned his attention to the Polish nobleman, who was still unconscious but appeared to be breathing.

Rabbi Boruch found a stream and splashed some water on the man's face. Nonetheless, it took a few hours until his eyelids fluttered. "What happened?" the nobleman stammered. "Why am I lying on the ground?"

The tzadik told him what had happened, but as soon as he heard the word "robbers" he began to scream. "My money! My money!" Rabbi Boruch tried to calm him down and told him that he should be grateful for being alive, but the nobleman remained extremely agitated and kept looking at the tzadik with barely concealed suspicion.

With no other choice the two set out on foot. After wandering for several days they came upon an encampment of hunters, some of whom were the nobleman's friends. Out of earshot of the wagon driver, the nobleman told them that he suspected his companion of having stolen his money. His suspicion was based on the simple fact that the driver was the only person who had known of its existence.

One hunter suggested that they shoot him immediately, but the oldest member of the party demurred. "Let's tie him to a tree," he proposed. "If he's guilty, he will die. If not, then G-d help him." The tzadik was immediately seized and bound.

Night fell, and Rabbi Boruch's tears flowed freely as he prayed the evening service. From the depths of his heart he implored G-d to save him, his voice echoing back in the eerie silence.

The sound of approaching footsteps suddenly cut off his words. It was the old hunter who had returned, the very one who had objected to killing him. "I wanted to see how you were," he said. "I never thought you were guilty in the first place. The real robbers have just been apprehended and have admitted to everything. It seems that when our foolish friend got drunk the other night, he boasted to everyone about all the money he was carrying."

It was the night of Tisha B'Av when Rabbi Boruch arrived back at the study hall, where his disciples were waiting for him expectantly. And everyone noticed that the tzadik's reading of the Book of Lamentations was especially emotional that year.

Moshiach Matters

The world was created in such a way that a new entity can only arise by destroying what existed previously. The chick only emerges from the egg after the shell has broken, and the stalk of wheat only germinates after the seed kernel has decomposed. In the same way, the "light of Moshiach" that will illuminate in the Messianic era was concealed within the destruction of the Holy Temple; the only way Moshiach could be revealed was for the previous Holy Temple to cease to exist. (Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz)

  629: Matot-Masei631: Vaetchanan  
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