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Devarim Deutronomy

   679: Devarim

680: Vaeschanan

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L'Chaim
July 27, 2001 - 7 Av, 5761

679: Devarim

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  678: Matos-Masei680: Vaeschanan  

Needless Love  |  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

Needless Love

The eve of Tisha B'av (this year Sunday, July 29), the day on which we commemorate the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples, is the perfect time to discuss love.

We are told that the reason for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was because of "sinat chinan," literally "free hatred" of one Jew toward another. The antidote to this unwarranted hatred, explain our Sages, is "ahavat chinam-free love[1]."

Ahavat chinam is so important that even if it doesn't come "freely," even if one has to work at it, we are required to extend ourselves and toil away until we are successful.

Rabbi Gamliel (the son of Rabbi Judah the Prince) taught, "It is good to combine the study of Torah with an occupation, for the effort required by them both keeps sin out of mind; while all Torah study that is not combined with work will ultimately cease and will lead to sin."

The obvious meaning of the term "work" is actual labor. However, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev quoted the Baal Shem Tov as explaining that in this context, "work" refers to ahavat Yisrael ("love of a fellow Jew") - our efforts to establish bonds of love with other Jews. According to this interpretation, in order for Torah study to be perpetuated, it must be coupled with love toward our brethren.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, who was known as the consummate "lover of Israel," explained that it was this teaching that brought about a fundamental change in his life, motivating him to dedicate himself to the welfare of his fellow Jews.

Ahavat Yisrael is referred to here as "work" to teach us that we must work at extending ourselves in this area to include even those whom we have no inclination to love. And we must use every means possible to reach out to them.

It's easy to act lovingly toward our fellow Jew. It can be as simple as (but certainly not limited to) greeting a person properly. Said the Sage Shammai, "Receive every person with a cheerful countenance." "Every person" means just that, everyone, even someone we might not otherwise want to greet pleasantly!

Stated slightly differently, Rabbi Yishmael, a high priest, taught, "Receive every person cheerfully." Despite his high office and standing, he was prepared to show respect and warmth to "every person."

Finally, Rabbi Matya (son of Charash) said, "Be the first to extend greetings to anyone you meet." Again, the common thread of being pleasant to "anyone" or "everyone" runs through Rabbi Matya's teaching.

But it's not enough for us to just "study" about loving our fellow Jew. Let's stop talking and start rebuilding the Holy Temple now, by reaching out to someone else with true love and respect uppermost in our minds.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) When speaking of the love that each Jew is expected to have toward every other Jew, an accurate way to translate "ahavat chinam" is "free love." To define it as unwarranted, superfluous or needless love is inaccurate, for every Jew deserves to be loved by his fellow due to the mere fact that he/she is a Jew, part of the Jewish nation, inseparable from G-d and the Jewish people.


Living with the Rebbe

This week we begin the Book of Deuteronomy, with the Torah portion of Devarim. As the Torah relates, Moses complained that the leadership of the Jewish people was too great a task for one person. "How can I myself alone bear your weight, and your burden, and your strife?" he asked. The Jewish people are simply too numerous and diverse for one individual to be able to guide them all.

In answer, G-d instructed Moses to "Choose wise and understanding men...captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, etc." This would relieve the burden and help Moses lead the Children of Israel.

From this we learn a practical lesson:

Every Jew has been entrusted with a special mission by Moses: to conduct his life according to the dictates of the Torah, and to exert a positive influence on the people around him so that they, too, may comport themselves in the same manner.

An individual may find this daunting, and ask how it is possible for a single person to wield so much power. "How can I alone fulfill such an important mission?" he might wonder.

Furthermore, every Jew has been enjoined with the task of bringing G-d happiness, by transforming the world into a suitable "dwelling place" for the Divine Presence, as it states, "Let Israel rejoice...and be happy in the joy of the L-rd Who is pleased and glad to dwell in the lower spheres."

A person may question how he can be expected to derive the strength for such an awesome assignment.

The Torah's answer is that G-d grants every Jew the ability to successfully fulfill his function in life, including having a positive influence on others.

Every Jew receives the Torah from Moses as a personal inheritance, as it states, "The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob." Therefore, when a Jew holds the Torah dear, he receives all the necessary powers to conduct his life accordingly, in the same way that G-d helped Moses fulfill his mission (through the "captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, etc.") to lead the entire Jewish people.


The Midrash relates that had the Jews been worthy, the above Torah verse, "How can I myself alone," would have sufficed. Unfortunately, such was not the case, and we must therefore read the verse in Lamentations on Tisha B'Av, "How lonely sits the city that was full of people."

From this it is clear that when a Jew conducts his life according to Torah and emulates Moses' example, he nullifies the entire concept of exile and the destruction of the Holy Temple. This will lead to a time when the recitation of Lamentations will no longer be necessary, as the Final Redemption with Moshiach will already be a reality.

Adapted from the Rebbe's talk on 3 Menachem Av, 5741


A Slice of Life

A SPECIAL PAIR OF TEFILIN

Rabbi Aharon Eliezer Ceitlin In the late 1980s, Rabbi Aharon Eliezer Ceitlin of Israel visited Russia. One day, in the synagogue in Moscow, he met a young shochet (ritual slaughterer) who was very intrigued when he heard Rabbi Ceitlin's name. "Are you related to the Ceitlin who was arrested in Berditchev 50 years ago?"

"Yes, indeed," Rabbi Ceitlin replied. "That was my father, of blessed memory."

The young man, Moshe Tamarin, then proceeded to tell him the following story:

"A few weeks ago I got a call from an old man, Reb Refoel Brook, asking me to send a shochet to his city before the holidays. He told me that there were 15 Jewish families in Saratov who kept kosher. I was surprised that there were so many observant Jews in such a remote location.

"I decided to go there myself. The trip took 17 hours by train. When I had finished shechting the chickens, the old man took me home and showed me a pair of tefilin he had. They were very old and quite faded. He asked me if I could bring it to Moscow to check and see if they were kosher.

"'Why do you use such old tefilin?' I asked him. 'You can get much nicer ones nowadays.'

" 'Don't worry,' he said. 'I have other tefilin that I use every day. But these tefilin are very special. I call them "mesiras nefesh-self-sacrifice-tefilin..." ' He then told me an amazing tale:

"Many years ago he had been one of six Jewish boys from all over Russia who were learning in a secret branch of Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim in Berditchev. The conditions of the 'yeshiva,' located in the women's section of a synagogue, were almost unbearable. When night fell, the boys would look for a cellar or an abandoned railroad car in which to sleep. They were ill fed and ill clad, but willing to undergo anything in order to learn Torah.

"One night they decided to stay in the synagogue. It was the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi [founder of Chabad Chasidism and author of the Tanya], and they wanted to celebrate properly. After covering all the windows so no light would escape, they spread a white tablecloth over the table and sat down.

"With rapt attention they listened as their teacher told stories and explained deep concepts in Chasidic philosophy. The melodies they sang transported them to a world that transcended fear.

"Suddenly, however, there was a loud knock on the door. 'Open up!' a rough voice called to them in Russian. Within seconds everything on the table had disappeared, the light was extinguished, and the boys hid in places throughout the synagogue.

"When the agents of the secret police burst inside they quickly found the boys and arrested them. The excuse they had prepared in advance was that they were all orphans who had banded together. And so, a few days later they were sent to a state orphanage on the outskirts of the city. They were warned that if they continued in their Torah study and mitzva observance they would suffer. Despite beatings they would not eat the non-kosher food.

"In the meantime, the local Chasidim were doing everything they could to get them out. Children in the orphanage were allowed an hour-long stroll from time to time; the six boys used this opportunity to pray at the grave of the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. One week, a man passed by and tossed a paper in their direction. The note informed the boys that a pair of tefilin had been hidden for them near a certain tree in the forest. Prayer books and other texts were also smuggled to them later.

"From that time forth, the boys would go on walks, in pairs. They would pray at the grave of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. They would also make their way over to the tree and, with great self-sacrifice, they would put on tefilin.

"A month later they found a note telling them to prepare to escape on a certain date. According to plan, they escaped into the forest, where someone was waiting with train tickets to Kiev. In Kiev, the boys bid good-bye to each other and dispersed to different branches of Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim.

" 'I was one of the boys,' Reb Refoel concluded, 'and these are the tefilin we put on in the forest...' "

Moshe Tamarin had remembered that one of the names Reb Refoel had mentioned was Yehoshua Heshel Ceitlin.

Now it was Rabbi Ceitlin's turn to get excited. His father had told him the story of the tefilin many times. His father had remembered the names of the other five boys but only knew the whereabouts of four of them. It had pained his father very much that he did not know what had happened to Reb Refoel. The mystery of the sixth boy's whereabouts was now solved - thanks to a special pair of tefilin.

Rabbi Ceitlin's was saddened that he would not be able to share the exciting news with his father, for his father had passed away two years previously. But somehow, he would get in touch with Reb Refoel.

After much effort, Rabbi Ceitlin was able to reach Reb Refoel on the telephone. The tremendous emotions conveyed by Reb Refoel to Rabbi Ceitlin in the course of that phone call were overwhelming. Rabbi Ceitlin urged Reb Refoel to allow him to arrange for the Brook family to leave Russia. He would live out his final years in a Torah environment and be reunited with his "old friends."

"Who will take care of the 15 Jewish families here if I leave?" Reb Refoel asked Rabbi Ceitlin. Reb Refoel refused to leave but agreed to a visit, despite the fact that he feared his weak heart would be unable to take the excitement.

When Rabbi Ceitlin contacted his father's friends and told them that he had found Reb Refoel they were very excited and eagerly awaited his visit. Unfortunately, as Reb Refoel himself had suspected, the emotional strain was too great and he passed away days before the reunion was to take place.

Translated from Sichat HaShavua


What's New

Big Like Me!

Big Like Me! is a "new baby story." Benny has always been a little brother who needed a helping hand. But when Mommy comes home with a new baby girl, he turns into a big brother! Will Benny find anything he and his newborn sister can do together? Written by Ruth Finkelstein illustrated by Esther Touson, published by HaChai Publishing.


The Rebbe Writes

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.

As I mentioned on the Shabbos before Tisha b'Av, which no doubt was conveyed also to you, 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,


15th of Menachem Av, 5725 [1965]

To All Participants in the Dedication
Exercises at Camp Gan Israel
Linden, Michigan

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to convey my prayerful wishes to all of you, and particularly to the families of the distinguished friends of the Camp who will be honored on this occasion. The memorial to the late Zeev Hordes, as well as the other distinguished Jews whose memory will be honored, will surely provide visible symbols for their families and friends, to inspire and stimulate them to ever greater accomplishments.

I have chosen the 15th of Av as the date of this letter because of its special significance and also because of its proximity to the day of these dedication exercises.

Our Sages tell us that the 15th day of Av was a very joyous festival in olden days, especially for the younger generation, with particular emphasis on the religious ideals and values of our Jewish way of life.

Coming so soon after Tisha b'Av, the radical transition from a mood of sadness to that of joy is doubly significant. Firstly, it signifies that any sad interlude in Jewish life is only transitory, and is based on the principle of "descent for the purpose of ascent." In other words, any and all sad events in our history which are commemorated on the few sad days on our calendar, are backward steps which are necessary for a greater forward leap.

Secondly, that the very transition from sadness to gladness intensifies the joy, and adds real quality to it, which could not be appreciated otherwise.

The message of these days is best applied in the efforts in behalf of our Jewish youth. All too often we hear about the "lost generation," or our "lost youth." It is therefore most gratifying to see your efforts to provide true guidance, direction and inspiration to the younger generation in your community and environs. Your efforts have, with G-d's help, been fruitful in the past; I hope and pray they will continue in a growing measure, and consequently will enjoy a growing measure of success in the future.


Rambam this week

12 Av 5761

Positive mitzva 113: the ashes of the red heifer

By this injunction we are commanded to prepare the red heifer, so that its ashes will be available for what has to be done in order to remove uncleanliness contracted because of a dead body. It is contained in the Torah's words (Num. 19:9): "It shall be kept for the congregation of the Children of Israel [for a water of sprinkling].


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

When the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed [on Tisha B'Av, which begins this Saturday night after Shabbat], the exile that resulted was more than just the dispersion of the Jewish people around the world. What occurred was not only the loss of a nation's homeland, but an event of such enormous and far-reaching spiritual significance that we are still, almost 2000 years later, suffering its effect.

It is axiomatic in Judaism that whatever happens on the physical plane is only a reflection of the underlying spiritual reality. The spiritual significance of Tisha B'Av, therefore, is the concealment of G-dliness in the physical world. During the exile, G-d is "hidden" from the eyes of His subjects. The true deficiency of exile is that G-d's presence and active intervention in our lives is not openly perceived. When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, we will once again be able to discern that "G-d is in our midst." On the physical plane, the entire Jewish people will return to the Land of Israel, and be able to keep the special mitzvot that can only be observed there.

The purpose of the Redemption is not to alter creation by changing the ways of the world, but simply to uncover the G-dliness that is concealed within it. The only transformation Moshiach will bring about is the open perception of G-d that will characterize our daily lives in Messianic times. All of the other wonders that will be commonplace in the era of Redemption are but the natural outgrowth and consequence of this fact.

Our Sages point out that Tisha B'Av falls on the same day of the week as the first day of Passover. When Moshiach reveals himself, this somber day will be transformed into a jubilant holiday. Just as Passover is a time of redemption, we will experience the ultimate emancipation on Tisha B'Av.

May it happen immediately.


Thoughts that Count

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

Comments Rashi: "Since these are words of reproof...he mentions them [only] in allusion out of respect for Israel." However, we find that the very same sins Moses only hints at here are explicitly detailed later on in the Torah. This apparent conflict is resolved by the Midrash: As soon as the Jews heard Moses' words of rebuke they sincerely repented; when a person repents out of love, "his deliberate sins are transformed into mitzvot." Thus after the Jews repented Moses was free to enumerate their sins, as by doing so he was adding to their merits.

(Imrei Elimelech)


Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to expound this law (Deut. 1:5)

According to our Sages, Moses explained the Torah in all 70 languages spoken by mankind. Why was this necessary? Every gentile nation has its own particular power that opposes the Torah. By translating the Torah into every language, Moses enabled the Jews to preserve the Torah regardless of where they would go in their future exile.

(Chidushei HaRim)


May He make you so many more than you are, a thousand times (Deut. 1:11)

The ultimate fulfillment of this blessing will take place in the Messianic era, as prophesized by Isaiah: "The smallest one shall become a thousand, and the youngest one a strong nation." At that time, the Jewish people, now numerically insignificant, will multiply and become a thousand times as great.

(Binyan Ariel)


It Once Happened

In the year 361 of the Common Era, 293 years after the destruction of the Second Holy Temple, a new leader of the Roman Empire ascended the throne. Julian would be Caesar for only two years, but his short reign would be distinguished by an unusually friendly relationship with the Jewish people. In fact, Julian was responsible for initiating an abortive attempt to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. We are aware of these events thanks to a Greek historian who recorded them for posterity some 80 years after they occurred.

Julian was a nephew of Constantine the Great, who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. He also moved its capital from Rome to Byzantium (Turkey), and changed its name to Constantinople.

When Constantine died, his three sons fought over who would take his place. Almost all the members of the royal family were murdered, with the exception of Julian. After traveling to Athens and studying philosophy, he became disaffected with Christianity and reverted to the ancient idolatry of the Romans.

Julian went on to become a celebrated military leader, enjoying many victories over the warring Germanic tribes. When the then-reigning Emperor decided to exile him to the Far East, his troops rebelled and established him as the new Caesar. One year later, he declared full religious freedom for all citizens of the Empire. In truth, he was far more benevolent toward his Jewish subjects than to his Christian ones. In an official letter addressed to the "Jewish communities" of the realm, he wrote that he was henceforth exempting the Jews from the special tax that had been levied against them, and declared himself a long-time defender of the Jewish people.

In the same letter he blamed his uncle, the late Emperor Constantine, and his uncle's cohorts, whom he termed "barbarians," for the state-sponsored and institutionalized discrimination against the Jews. At the end of the letter he reassured everyone that he had personally had them killed, and advised the Jews to forget about them and relegate their nefarious deeds to history. Julian also promised that after the war with the Persians ended he would rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem, "which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited; indeed, I will help you inhabit it."

In general, however, the Jews were unimpressed by Julian's professions of fellowship. They knew that they were not sincere, and were actually motivated by selfish political ambitions. Nor did they consider him a new "Cyrus," who had been sent by Divine Providence to bring their exile to an end and rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

In fact, the Greek historian who chronicled this episode wrote that Julian's "friendship" with the Jews was largely the result of his hatred for the Christians. Moreover, he hoped that they would ultimately follow his example and assimilate into the dominant Roman culture.

At one point, Julian summoned the Jewish elders and asked them why they were not keeping the Torah's laws with regard to the sacrifices. The elders explained that after the Holy Temple was destroyed bringing sacrifices was forbidden, as doing so depends on having a standing Temple with priests to serve in it.

To demonstrate his serious intentions, Julian then ordered that the Jews be given a considerable stipend from the royal treasury, so they could begin to take the first steps toward reconstruction. According to the historian, the Jews actually started recruiting artisans and laborers. Their first task, however, was to clear the Temple area from the filth and debris that had accumulated over the centuries. Women, too, joined in the work, while others contributed their jewelry. After the ground was cleared they were ready to lay the foundation stone, but an extremely powerful earthquake intervened. Huge boulders flew in all directions, and the earth split in many places. A number of Jewish workers were injured, houses came tumbling down, and many residents of the city lost their lives in the disaster.

When the dust settled, the laborers returned to their tasks. Some assumed they were still obligated to carry out the Emperor's orders, while other truly wished to continue. In any event, they refused to recognize the Divine Providence that was obviously against rebuilding the Temple at that time.

And then, as if to further indicate G-d's displeasure, a huge fire broke out at the construction site and many more workers were killed. At that point everyone agreed that the time had not yet arrived to build the Temple, and the project was halted.

Although there is no way to verify all the details in the Greek historian's account, it is undisputed that the Emperor Julian fell in battle against the Persians in 363, effectively putting an end to his plans.

The Rebbe has prophesized that the time for the Final Redemption has arrived. May we merit to see the Temple rebuilt immediately and at once.


Moshiach Matters

Our Sages explain that on Tisha B'Av, Moshiach is born. This cannot refer to his actual birth, because Moshiach will not be an infant when he redeems our people, but rather to a strengthening of his influence. For our Sages refer to a birthday as a day when mazalo govair, "the spiritual source of one's soul shines powerfully." On the day when Moshaich's spiritual source is powerfully revealed, there is a unique potential for the redemption to come.

(The Rebbe, Tisha B'Av, 5751)


  678: Matos-Masei680: Vaeschanan  
   
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