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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

April 19, 2002 - 7 Iyyar, 5762

715: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim

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24/7/365  |  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


by Rabbi Israel Rubin

More and more service providers and merchandisers take pride in advertising that they are 24/7/365. This impressive array of numbers demonstrating reliability and availability consistency and continuity also reflects our society's round the clock addiction to technology an endless vicious cycle that keeps us going round and round without any respite stop or pause as our hours days weeks and years turn into one long run-on-sentence so that when it actually comes down to it this amazing combination of numbers may all add up to one big zero.

Obviously, we need a break! We can't go on and on like this much longer, so let's slow down a bit.

Wherever we are, we live at the edge of the rushed and busy Information Highway with its constant flow of heavy traffic, of 3W's and dot.coms whizzing by at all hours of the day and night.

Modern man is so wired up with all kinds of gizmos and contraptions, constantly walking and talking into thin air. Wirelessly tethered to a constant barrage of data streaming in from the office, business worldwide news and whatever makes him virtual prisoners (no wonder they're called "cell phones").

Obviously, we need Shabbat (the Sabbath)! Once a week, that 25-hour rest period from Friday evening sunset to Saturday nightfall is an oasis in time. Shabbat tunes out the cacophony of chimes, incoming and outgoing pingles and jingles in the voice mail system labrinyths, dial tones, busy signals and the static of computers, modems and faxes. Instead, Shabbat tunes us in to the sweetest heavenly melodies.

Technological advances have certainly alleviated many of the menial chores and burdens of our ancestors who labored and toiled back in the shtetls or in the sweatshops. But ironically, we suffer today more from anxiety and hyperten-sion than did our predecessors. Shabbat prevents technology's cutting edge from ripping us to shreds, from enslaving and dominating our spiritual freedom.

People rush to the ends of the earth to find exotic vacation getaways, while Shabbat gets us away from it all without the hassles of travel agents, airline tickets, and now security clearance. Instead of seeking elusive peace elsewhere, Shabbat comes to us right in the comfort of our own home, at a fraction of the cost!

We already have our personal days, sick days, and vacation days. Shabbat, however, is not just a break from the daily grind and routine; it offers much more than leisure time to hang around and do nothing. The etymological root of "vacation," from the Latin vactus, means emptiness, a blank. Indeed, empty vacations can become so tiring that one needs a vacation from vacation!

Rather than being a day off, Shabbat is actually a day up! The soul of the week, Shabbat infuses spirituality into every part of our being, also illuminating the materialism of the rest of the week. Without Shabbat, we are a body without a soul. Shabbat is our date with G-d, so let's not concentrate on the good food - let's concentrate on our date!

Shabbat gives us quality time with ourselves, our families and our friends. Shabbat is an uplifting and inspirational day of Light, when we can see our soul and purpose. The liberating Shabbat experience returns us to the next week more inspired, newly refreshed, and above all, feeling free!

Shabbat not only transforms our here and now, it also goes above and beyond. The flickering little Shabbat candlelights reflect the greater vision and promise of Moshiach, for Shabbat is a foretaste and preview of the world to come, which will be "the full and everlasting Shabbat."

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Rubin is director of Chabad of the Capital District, Albany, NY. Reprinted from the Jewish Holiday Consumer

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portions, Acharei and Kedoshim, the first of which begins: "And G-d spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they approached before G-d, and they died."

Chasidut explains the reason Aaron's sons Nadav and Avihu died: The sons of Aaron did not commit a sin in the usual sense. In fact, they were extremely holy and righteous people, whose only desire was to draw closer to G-d. Their "sin," as it were, was that they allowed themselves to reach such a heightened state of devotion and yearning that their physical bodies became superfluous. In their desire to merge with G-d, their souls simply left their bodies and they expired.

Why was this considered a sin, given that a Jew is supposed to constantly strive to serve G-d by rising above the physical world? The answer is that alongside the spiritual quest for enlightenment and improvement, every Jew is obligated to make a "dwelling place for G-d in the lower worlds." That is to say, to serve G-d to the best of his ability within the context of his mundane, day-to-day life. In Judaism, the objective is to function as a soul within a physical body, rather than on a purely spiritual plane. This was the sin of Nadav and Avihu, who wished to serve G-d only with their souls.

Every story in the Torah contains a practical lesson for every single Jew. Even the story of Nadav and Avihu, which at first glance seems to apply only to Jews on the very highest spiritual level, i.e., those whose souls are "in danger" of departing their bodies out of longing for G-d, is relevant to all Jews, regardless of spiritual level.

The reason is that every Jew experiences certain times when his Jewish soul becomes aroused and elevated, and attains a higher and purer level. This is especially true during "auspicious times" such as Shabbat and Yom Tov, or Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when every Jew "wakes up" and seeks to draw closer to G-d.

It is therefore most important that during these special times, when a Jew feels particularly close to G-d, he remembers that the ultimate purpose is to serve Him on the physical plane. Whenever a Jew feels spiritually aroused, he should immediately translate these feelings into actual deed, by resolving to strengthen his observance of Torah and mizvot. For the true goal of spiritual arousal is to positively influence our actions.

Adapted from Volume 3 of Likutei Sichot

A Slice of Life

Stepping High
by Miriam Karp

A patient walked into the office of a family practitioner in Madison, New Jersey, looking for relief from anxiety attacks. After a careful review of the physical and emotional symptoms, Dr. Weiss issued an unusual prescription, one that couldn't be filled at the local pharmacy. He sent the patient to a rabbi to study Chasidic philosophy. This became a life-altering experience not only for the patient, but also for the rabbi, Benyamin Bresinger of West Orange, New Jersey.

"We started studying together and became close," Rabbi Ben, as the young rabbi likes to be called, remembers. "Eventually my new friend confided that he is a recovering alcoholic. He was amazed at the similarity between many Chasidic concepts and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. We looked at the Big Book together, which is the primary text of AA and I attended some 12 Step meetings with my friend.

"I was intrigued by the parallels to Chasidic philosophy, by the power of the program and the integrity of the people," Rabbi Ben relates. The Tanya describes such concepts as Divine providence, self-honesty, and an intimate relationship with our Creator, which are the fundamentals of the 12 Steps.

"These people have a dynamic spiritual life that they draw on daily. In fact, I heard a doctor say that he was sorry for his fellow psychiatric colleagues. They would never be forced to develop the intense spirituality that comes from going through this disease. The recovery community lives what the Tanya describes," Rabbi Ben enthuses.

Wanting to further explore the connection between Judaism and the 12 Steps, Bresinger consulted with colleagues. He called Rabbi Avraham Twerski M.D., founder and medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in western Pennsylvania, a Chasidic rabbi, prolific author and board member of JACS - Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent and Significant Others.

Dr. Twerski learned the danger and suffering of denial, which hits Jews especially hard. He is a dynamic pioneer in helping the Jewish community acknowledge and work with such long denied mental health issues as addiction and spouse abuse.

Rabbi Ben also consulted Rabbi Moshe Miller, a scholar and teacher steeped in Chasidic philosophy.

These mentors helped the rabbi understand the 12 Steps on a deeper level, what they corresponded to in Chasidic methodology and service of G-d. Rabbi Ben started gradually integrating the 12 Steps with Jewish, Kabalistic concepts and insights.

Why mess with a good thing, one might ask. The 12 Step program is non-denominational, and many Jews have used it successfully. Rabbi Ben found that his work, which developed into a full seminar program called "Kabbalah and Healing Using the 12 Steps," does fill an important niche.

"Through the 12 Step program, one develops an intense relationship with G-d. But, AA or other programs, are not meant to replace religion. The third step is 'Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d, as we understood Him.'

"People are encouraged to go back to their own religion and infuse it with their newfound personal spirituality. But this doesn't always happen. Many feel, What do I need religion for? I have all I need in the 12 Steps. Others remember a big fancy synagogue from their childhood and feel no attraction to it.

In presenting his seminar around the country, Rabbi Ben has been able to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between the recovery community and the Jewish community. He recalls one instance where the stereotypes that surround recovery were erased. "I realize that many mistakenly think that people in recovery are 'losers' or somehow weaker. A prominent businessman came to my seminar. The local rabbi was surprised. He knew this man as a powerful community figure, not as a recovered alcoholic. He now realized that many successful people may be in recovery.

"I was once walking into a recovery meeting, and I saw a familiar looking car parked at the entrance. It belonged to a member of my shul who I had been very close with for several years. He was sitting pensively at the wheel, checking out each person who entered. When he caught my eye in the mirror, he zoomed out of there. The next morning I went to the morning services at the Chabad House and sat down next to him. He looked me in the eye. He knew that I knew, though I didn't say a word. He broke down and told me his story. I brought him to meetings every day that week and got him firmly planted on the road to recovery. He's now been sober over a year. "

Families of addicts also suffer and need healing. "After a presentation at a Chabad House, a woman approached me. 'My father was an active alcoholic till I was 14,' she began. 'He then became sober, and died when I was 17, so most of my time with him was scarred. For 35 years I had so much anger at the way he raised me. Because of this seminar, I now understand that he suffered from a disease and can begin to forgive and let go.'

"I'm very excited about this work, which is an added dimension to teaching and running programs at the Lubavitch Center of Essex County. As of this past July, I am a pastoral counselor for Jews in recovery for the MetroWest Jewish Health and Healing Center. We are opening up 12 Step meetings in area synagogues. I also am available to hold 3-week seminars on my program throughout the Metropolitan New York area, and half-day seminars or retreats anywhere.

"This work has touched many people besides those with addictions. A man came to a seminar in New Jersey. He had lost his wife and was in deep pain. He got a lot out of the seminar. It helped him get on with his life, and go out of himself and his sorrow. These steps are really a design for living; everyone can benefit from them. As Rabbi Twersky likes to say, 'We are all "ics" - maybe not an alcoholic or any specific "ic," but all in need of healing and growth, wherever we're at. That's the human condition.' "

Reprinted from The Jewish Holiday Consumer

What's New

Shulchan Aruch

The first volume of the Rabbi Shneur Zalman's "Code of Jewish Law" (sections 1-24) was published recently in a new Hebrew-English edition. Rabbis Eliyahu Touger and Uri Kaploun devoted two years to the book's translation. The work contrasts Rabbi Shneur Zalman's words with current Lubavitch practice, his later notes, and the opinions of other codifiers of Jewish law. Helpful cross-references, annotations, and footnotes render this work a must for in-depth study. Published by Kehot Publications.

The Rebbe Writes

2nd of Tammuz, 5715 [1955]

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

After the prolonged interval, I was pleased to receive your letter, though I have been receiving your regards through Rabbi S-.

I was especially pleased to learn from your letter that even when business was not all that could be desired for a while, you have maintained your Tzedoko [charity] at somewhat more than "Maaser," [10%, i.e., the commandment to tithe of earnings for charity] which showed that your faith in G-d did not weaken, and G-d does not remain in debt and rewards generously, so that before long one can see that one's faith was justified.

Since you have again been elected to a prominent communal position, I trust that you are using all your influence both in a wider circle, as well as among your relatives and friends, to strengthen their faith and confidence in G-d and feel certain that all G-d does is for the good.

You mention in your letter that an opportunity has presented itself to you for a good transaction with the Ministry of Supply, but you find yourself hard pressed for cash.

Based on the saying of our Sages (Bobo Basro, 15b) that money from a G-d-fearing man brings Hatzlocho [success], I am enclosing a check for $18.00 from one of the funds established by my father-in-law of saintly memory and still under his care, to be applied in your business for Hatzlocho.

I was very gratified to read in your letter that the new Mikvah [ritualarium] is making good progress, for Taharas haMishpocho [the laws of Family Purity] is the foundation of our people and a condition of the Redemption, as it is written "And I will sprinkle on you pure water" (Ezekiel 36:5), and explained also in the Brayso, end of Sotah. From which one can appreciate the great Zechus [merit] of those who are active in this cause...

Wishing you success in your business and to use the money on healthy and happy things.

With blessing,

16th of Shevat, 5716 [5716]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of January 17... I was gratified to read that last year was thank G-d, a good year for you and was a considerable improvement on the previous year. I hope you will be strong in your faith that the Alm-ghty will help you also in the future, and that business will continue to improve steadily. May G-d help that you live up to the saying of the old Rabbi, Baal HaTanya [author of the Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, fonder of Chabad Chasidism], that G-d gives the Jew material things and the Jew converts the material into spiritual.

With reference to the amount of tzedokah, I have already written to your before that one should try to give (a little) more than Maaser.

May G-d give you much Yiddish nachas [Jewish pride] from all the members of your family.

With reference to the question of age in the matter of the shidduch [match, i.e. prospective spouse] of your brother, you probably know the adage that a person's age is not judged by the birth certificate, but one is as old as one feels. Similarly, in this case, if the person in question is generally more youthful than her age, the difference should not be a handicap. Needless to say, it depends on whether your brother is attracted to her. However, mutual attraction must often be cultivated.

With blessing,

12th of Sivan, 5717 [1957]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of May 30th, and I was pleased to read in it that you so quickly saw the fulfillment of G-d's promise, "Test me now herewith, saith our G-d... if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing more than enough." (Malachi 3:10). Thus, your pledge of 500 to Kfar Chabad, has been returned to you many fold. It is a pity that you did not pledge more, so that the benefit would have been so much greater. I trust, however, that this will be a lesson for the future, to remember how trust in G-d is well rewarded.

With reference to what you write about your worries that after a period of five years there will not be any business, you probably are aware that there are many merchants who know of the saying of the Sages, "He who increases his worldly possessions, increases worry," nevertheless, they are trying to increase their worldly goods, taking a chance at increasing thereby their "headaches." I assume that you are no exception. I mention this so that you will not take too much to heart the "headaches" of business, since they are the effect of "increasing wealth." As long as you will keep the channels and vessels open to receive G-d's blessings, these channels and vessels being all matters connected with the Torah and Mitzvoth, G-d will surely send you His blessings...

With blessing in all the above,

Rambam this week

7 Iyar 5762

Prohibition 213: gathering single fallen grapes during the harvest

By this prohibition we are forbidden to gather single fallen grapes during the vintage; they must be left for the poor. It is derived from the Torah's words (Lev. 19:10): "Neither shall you gather the fallen fruit of the vineyard."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

At a gathering in 5750 (1990) the Rebbe spoke about the need to maintain possession of every inch of the Land of Israel, saying:

"Just as the Jews are G-d's chosen people, Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] is G-d's chosen land, a holy land given to the Jewish people, those living on the land at present, and those who are presently living in the Diaspora. No one is entitled to give up any portion of Eretz Yisrael to gentiles. Maintaining possession of these lands is the only path to peace. Succumbing to the pressure to surrender them will only invite additional pressure, weakening the security of the Jewish people and exposing them to danger. Heaven forbid that the government in Eretz Yisrael should consider surrendering any portion of Eretz Yisrael which G-d has granted us."

On 10 Shevat, 5752 (January 15, 1992) Israel's President Moshe Katzav (at that time Transporta-tion Minister) met with the Rebbe at Sunday dollars. The Rebbe blessed Mr. Katzav and then said:

"I recently heard a strange and frightening rumor regarding talks and impending decisions by the Israeli government concerning surrendering parts of the Land of Israel. They are currently discussing a five year plan [Madrid talks] which they describe as 'autonomy.' However, the semantics are meaningless because the plain truth is that these talks fall under the explicitly stated Torah prohibition of not granting favors to the nations, which includes the prohibition of ceding any part of Eretz Yisrael. These talks will eventually lead to the actual surrender of parts of the Land of Israel. It then follows that even holding such talks constitutes a rejection of G-d and His Torah, of Eretz Yisrael and the holiness of the Land.

"Discussions of autonomy plans are just a prelude to surrendering parts of Eretz Yisrael - and not just small territories... You understand Arabic, so go and ask the Arabs what their intention is in discussing a five year autonomy plan. They will tell you that their intention is that they will actually be given parts of Eretz Yisrael for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state..."

May we immediately see a cessation of murder and bloodshed in the Holy Land and peace through-out the world with the revelation of Moshiach, now!

Thoughts that Count

And Aaron shall offer his bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house (Lev. 16:6)

According to law, the kohen gadol (high priest) had to be married. Without a wife a man is considered incomplete, as it states in the holy Zohar: "A man without a woman is half a body." This degree of perfection is especially necessary in order to perform the service on Yom Kippur.

(Tzohar Lateiva)

The nations of the world believe that holiness is incompatible with marriage; for this reason their clergy refrain from marrying and are celibate. By contrast, in Judaism, the high priest, who embodied the highest levels of sanctity and merited to enter the holiest place on earth, was required to be married. If not, his service was invalid.

(Taam Vadaat)

And brings it not to the door of the Tent of Meeting, to offer an offering to the L-rd...blood shall be imputed to that man; he has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people (Lev. 17:4)

The main objective of the sacrificial offerings was to accustom the individual to mesirat nefesh, the concept of self-sacrifice. This self-sacrifice, however, must be directed in the proper way. Sacrificing oneself in the wrong place, i.e., for things that are outside the framework of Torah, is considered as bloodshed, pointless and without any benefit.

(Eglei Tal)

Like the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled do not do; and do not perform the practice of the land of Canaan... and do not follow their statutes (Lev. 18:3)

The Torah is not referring to specific prohibited practices, as these are explicitly forbidden in the coming verses. Rather, the warning refers to the way a Jew should conduct himself within the realm of the permissible. Even when eating and drinking, a Jew should take care not to imitate the ways of the nations; in all of his actions, it should be obvious that he is a Jew.

(Sefat Emet)

It Once Happened

Rabbi Y. was a leading Torah personality of those who opposed the fledgling Chasidic movement. He longed to visit the Baal Shem Tov (Besht) and convince him to reject his own teachings. One day, he finally drummed up his courage and went to the Besht.

The Besht greeted his guest warmly and asked him to sit down and voice all his arguments against Chasidism. The rabbi asked four questions concerning the Besht's supposedly innovative practices and from where or whom he drew these teachings.

"Let me begin with some facts about my childhood," said the Besht. "My father, may he rest in peace, was an utterly righteous man. Though orphaned from him when I was but a child, I recall his last words to me. As he lay on his deathbed, he summoned me and whispered in my ear, 'Remember always, my son, that G-d is with you. Never forget this thought.'

"In the course of time I acquired knowledge of the revealed and the mystic aspects of Torah. But, more importantly, I concentrated my efforts to bear in mind what my father had told me. The Talmud teaches us that in the way a person desires to go, so is he led. Thus, I found myself constantly being aided in my projects and merited to hear and see most wondrous things.

"I was soon able to perceive G-dliness with every step I took. I felt that every word that was spoken, every occurrence that took place, was Divinely directed as part of an overall plan and brought to bear upon each individual.

"There is no doubt that the belief in G-d's omnipresence is the very fundamental of the entire Torah. Whoever claims that there is no purpose, design or value to life, rather, the world is a product of happenstance, is an utter fool.

"Let me bring an example of G-d's absolute guidance of worldly events to the minutest detail. A bedbug bit a man in the middle of the night, causing him to awaken. He jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen. In his haste, he bumped against the water barrel, spilling water on a bed of burning coals that would have otherwise ignited a roaring fire in the house. When he returned to his room, he found that an overhead beam, which had lain precariously, had fallen on his bed. Were this man an unbeliever, he might attribute these events to happenstance. One who acknowledges G-d's omniscience sees Divine Presence in these events.

"I am aware of the mockery of many rabbis and scholars. It does not faze me in the least. My followers and I try to remind them that polemics are only worthwhile if they concern Torah and piety, morals and character traits."

As he finished these words a gentile, with a band of metal hoops, tapped on the window, asking: "Do you have any pails, barrels or vessels that need repair?"

"Go in peace," the Baal Shem Tov waved the tinker away with a smile. "In my house everything is in order."

"Give a good look," he persisted, "maybe you will find things to repair."

The Baal Shem Tov turned to his guest and said, "Is this man not a messenger from heaven?! Can you not see the sanctity in his words? If one searches well, anyone - even one who considers himself perfect - will find cracks or splits in his heart and soul, in his mind and traits, that need improvement.

"I believe wholeheartedly that there is no idle coincidence in this world. I find constant support to this notion from Above. I am grateful to heaven for having sent this tinker to me to tell me things which are directly relevant to this matter."

Rabbi Y. rose and began pacing the floor, thinking about what to reply. "Most of your thoughts make sense. I must differ, however, with your insistence that idle chatter is also Torah, that this gentile is G-d's messenger and his words prophecy. This strikes me as apostasy. I cannot tolerate such irrationality."

The Baal Shem Tov replied, "The matter does not rest with your ability to accept it but with your desire to do so. I insist that the words of a gentile in the market emanate from heaven and border on prophecy and revelation. You can subscribe to this idea but you do not want to."

The rabbi left the Besht's home. Suddenly he came across a gentile whose wagon had overturned. The man was trying to get people to help him.

"Hey!" he called to the rabbi, "Give me a hand with this load."

"I am weak," the rabbi replied. "I can't."

"You can," the gentile replied, "but you don't want to. If you wanted to you would be able."

The gentile's answer stunned the rabbi. He did not know what to do. Should he make a superhuman effort to help this man or should he return to the Besht? He decided to act. When the wagon had been set aright he returned to the Besht. His conscience kept on hammering: Should he believe or not?

As soon as he stood in the doorway of the Besht's room, the latter asked, "Is it already clear to you that you can, but you don't want to?'

When he heard these words, the rabbi decided to remain with the Baal Shem Tov.

Moshiach Matters

The anticipation of the Redemption does not mean that we abandon all the activities which we carry out in the exile. On the contrary, by definition, the word implies that during the exile certain activities were carried out under subjugation to other forces, and in the Era of the Redemption, we will be freed from this subjugation.

(The Rebbe, 13 Iyar 5751-1991)

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