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Devarim Deutronomy

July 5, 2002 - 25 Tamuz, 5762

726: Matos-Masei

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  725: Pinchas727: Devarim  

Holy Land  |  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

Holy Land

by Rabbi Ruvi New

Sounds like an oxymoron, yet when it comes to Israel they're synonymous. Think about it. Can land really be holy? Isn't holiness in to be found in the spiritual realm of prayer meditation and enlightenment? The ancient Israelites traveling through the desert pondered the same question.

The spies they dispatched to survey the land confirmed their suspicion. You can't be Holy and live on the land, build a country, create a viable economy and protect its citizens. No, to be Holy we've got to stay in the desert removed from physical, societal and worldly concerns. G-d said, "You've got it all wrong. Don't confine me to the desert. Don't relegate me to spirituality. I created the material world-find Me there. And in that world, I chose a place where you won't even have to try very hard. I've made the very land itself Holy. You only need to respect My presence in it and it will protect yours."

Of the millions of visitors to the Grand Canyon, I doubt anyone was ever moved by its beauty to drop to their knees and kiss one of its rocks. What is it about Israel that moves people to kiss the tarmac of its airport and caress the stones of the Western Wall? It's Holiness. It's the Holy Land and we feel inextricably connected to it.

Israel is the Jewish people's ultimate trial. Can we accept that respect for the "Holy" is the only way to treat the "Land"? Or do we pretend that it's just a land like any other and that its fate lies in the hands of man?

The Jewish connection to the land is conferred by G-d, not by the nations of the world. At the moment of truth, David Ben Gurion knew and declared publicly that the story of Israel doesn't begin in 1948, but with G-d's promise to Abraham. By putting our faith in G-d and following His prescription for its safety and security, we will have just that - safety and security. Our futile pandering to world opinion and attempts at appeasement has led us down the path of self-destruction.

You may accept the theology as sound, but what is one to do with the 3 million "facts on the ground"? The refugee problem-another distortion of truth. We have a choice: accept the lie or debunk the myth. The Arab world has fostered and deliberately perpetuated the "refugee issue," to be a thorn in the eyes of the world, and have voided themselves from a problem that is clearly theirs. Who made the Arab refugees Israel's responsibility? If the Jews had 22 countries of their own, would there be a Jewish refugee problem?

The world's double standard has its roots in Israel's own vacillation. Terrorism is but the symptom of today's conflict. The roots lie in the policies that legitimized the nationalist aspirations of a non-existent nation, and gave them the hope of something to fight for, in the only vile way they know. Sadly, despite seeing this dismal process literally blowing up in the faces of thousands of innocents, we are still focused on the symptom instead of the roots.

In the end, it is we who must be bold enough to expose the fundamental lie of Palestinian nationalism and confront the truth that the land of Israel is G-d's eternal gift to the Jewish people; the truth that the recipe for true peace can only come through following G-d's recipe for peace and by refusing to acquiesce to the great lie of the "Palestinian entity."

Let us direct the current surge of Jewish pride toward strengthening our relationship to G-d, each other and to our Land. Let us all resolve to add a mitzva (commandment) for the sake of peace. And may G-d Alm-ghty, in His infinite wisdom, kindness and grace, give the wisdom, the strength, the conviction to us all and to the leaders of the free world to stand strong and resolute in a world of falsehood.

Rabbi Ruvi New, Chabad of Boca Raton, Florida.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portion, Matot and Masei. The Torah portion of Masei begins, "These are the journeys...," enumerating the forty-two journeys of the Children of Israel, from leaving the Land of Egypt until reaching the Jordan near Jericho (Yarden Yericho). The Torah's wording, however, raises an obvious question. It took only one journey "from the Land of Egypt." Why then the plural form of "these are the journeys"?

The term Mitzrayim (Egypt) derives from the word meytzarim (restrictions; restraints). Mitzrayim, therefore, refers not only to a particular land but also to a condition of both physical and spiritual confinement.

The term "Yericho" derives from the word rei'ach (smell). It alludes to Moshiach of whom it is said, "veharicho (He will make him to be censed) with the fear of G-d..." (Isaiah 11:3). Thus Moshiach is called "moir'ach veda'in-he is able to judge a person by merely 'smelling' him" (Sanhedrin 93b).

The 42 journeys, therefore, relate to 42 states of leaving Mitzrayim (personal or national restrictions and confinements), before we reach the true and ultimate freedom of Yericho, the Messianic redemption.

The exodus from the physical Egypt was indeed a liberation, but only relative to the previous slavery. In terms of our ultimate goal it was not yet the true and full freedom. Every one of the 42 journeys represented and additional progression, a liberating ascent relative to the preceding state. In terms of the final and highest level to be achieved, however, it remained a form of Mitzrayim.

The term "journeys" (in plural form) thus teaches us that we must forever press on, progress and ascend, regardless of past achievements. We are, and remain in, Mitzrayim, of one form or another, until we reach Yarden Yericho-the freedom of Moshiach-speedily in our very own days.

From Living With Moshiach by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, adapted from talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Shabbos, Kugel and Lesson in High Finance
by Steve Hyatt

Shabbos at Chabad of Northern Nevada, located smack dab in the middle of "The Biggest Little City in the World," Reno, Nevada, is always a festive and joyous occasion. From the roasted chicken to the mouth-watering potato kugel, Rebbetzin Sarah Cunin treats our taste buds to many of the great Shabbos delicacies.

I remember one particular Shabbos a few months ago. Friday night we were feted with the Rebbetzin's delicious fare. The next day Rabbi Mendel Cunin led our growing congregation through a spirited morning Shabbos service after which our lively congregation gathered together to share and enjoy a wonderful Kiddush together.

Between sumptuous bites of chocolate bobka and overflowing spoonfuls of the steaming chulent (stew kept hot throughout the entire Shabbos), we discussed the true joys of Shabbos and the laws pertaining to the prohibition of work on this special day. Most of us were confused about the definition of work, and what could and could not be done on Shabbos.

We learned that work is defined as the tasks associated with the building of the Sanctuary in ancient times. After some intense discussion we all felt we had a better understanding of this basic and so important concept. Enjoying ourselves immensely, we kept firing questions at the Rabbi and with the agility of a skilled short stop he fielded them all with grace and patience.

Sometime that afternoon someone asked the Rabbi if it was permissible to own a business that stays open on Shabbos, even if the Jewish owner did not work, but rather observed Shabbos. The Rabbi made it clear that a Jew should disassociate himself from such business ventures and furthermore, shouldn't derive any financial gain from money earned on Shabbos. I didn't really pay much attention to this part of the discussion because I don't own a business and I don't do anything to earn money on Shabbos.

We ended the afternoon with a wonderful discussion about the concept of random coincidence. In the end we all agreed that there is no such thing as coincidence in life and that G-d's hand can be seen in many different ways if one simply opens his eyes and his heart.

Later that day I walked into my home and heard someone leaving a message on my answering machine. It was my realtor calling from Oregon. She was informing me that after five months of trying to sell my home, five months in which we hadn't received one single offer, we finally had a legitimate offer on the house. She went on to say that the person was leaving the country for a vacation and it was imperative we close the deal immediately.

I stood in the doorway paralyzed with fear. We had moved from Oregon to Reno in January. Each day for months I had prayed that "today" would be the day someone would want to buy our home. As each month came and went, I grew less and less hopeful we would be able to sell at a fair price. The more time went by, the more concerned I became.

Now I was literally standing in the threshold of my new home and the realtor was saying we had to move immediately or we could lose the one and only deal on the table. A voice in my head started screaming at me: "Pick up the phone! Don't blow the deal, pick up the phone right now!"

As I stepped through the door the realtor hung up. I must have stood and looked at that phone for an hour. Part of me was aching to call her back, but the other part of me kept reminding me that it was Shabbos and I should wait until tomorrow. As I fought this monumental internal battle, Rabbi Cunin's words came back to me. "Ultimately, nothing positive is ever derived from money earned on Shabbos. Somehow, it is eventually lost or goes to pay for a negative liability. No matter how you look at it, a financial transaction conducted on Shabbos NEVER pays off in the long run."

Finally, I took a deep breath and slowly walked into the other room. I told myself that despite the panic in my heart, it was more important to embrace one's values and faith, than to toss them aside when they appeared to be somewhat inconvenient.

I spent the rest of the day reading and relaxing. After Shabbos ended, I calmly picked up the telephone and called my realtor in Oregon. She informed me that after calling me she had discovered that we really couldn't conduct business that day as the buyer's realtor was out of town until Monday. She told me that she was sorry she had left such an urgent message but she had thought we only had a day to consummate the deal.

Feigning nonchalance I told her it was not a problem and asked what we needed to do to complete the deal. We discussed the offer, prepared a counter offer and agreed to talk the next day. Within the next thirty-six hours of my conversation with my realtor, the buyer and I agreed on a price and the deal was consummated.

As I slowly put the phone back in its cradle, I marveled at the series of events that had just transpired. Over the years, since finding Chabad, I have discovered that the quest to become more observant and more spiritual is a gradual journey that builds one step at a time. Sometimes the journey is easy and other times the lessons are difficult. But one thing is certain; the journey is always filled with wonder and excitement.

In the last six years I can recount numerous conversations about the joys and pleasures of Shabbos. But it wasn't until this particular Shabbos, in this particular Chabad House, that I found myself involved in this unique Shabbos discussion. A discussion that ultimately prevented me from compromising my values and doing something I'd regret later. And if that wasn't enough, it wasn't until I was faced with, and made the right decision, that I finally sold my home in Oregon.

Coincidence? I think not.

What's New

The Living Letters

This 20x30 full color Hebrew alphabet poster is great for kids rooms or classrooms. Art by award winning Disney artist Pesach Gerber. From Kehot Publications.

PC Audio CDs

In tribute to Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen, founder of Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace, Sichos In English has made CDs with the current day's lessons of Tanya (the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy), Rambam (Mishne Torah or Book of Mitzvot), as well as Chasidic stories, lectures about Moshiach, and basic priniples of Chasidus. To order call (718) 778-5436 or log onto

The Rebbe Writes

14th of Tammuz, 5728 [1968]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 5th of July, which reached me with some delay.

You are quite right that I was surprised at the tenor of your letter. For although such a mood would be quite understandable in regard to another person, it does not harmonize with a believing Jew. As we have talked about it many times, there is every reason to hope with certainty that all the difficulties and setbacks in the Parnossoh [livelihood] situation will be overcome.

You should be quite strong in your Bitachon [faith] in G-d that the time will come - and may G-d grant that it should be very soon - when both of you will realize that the difficulties and trials of the past were Divine blessings in disguise and will be able to say, "I thank Thee O G-d for having been 'angry' with me" (Isa. 12:1), for you will see how much G-d's kindnesses have recompensed you for the past, in regard to Parnosso, good name, etc., and above all, in the area of true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pride] from your children.

26th of Tammuz, 5718 [1968]

I was pleased to receive the news of your forthcoming Bar Mitzvah. I send you my prayerful wishes that this great day in your life, which makes you a full-fledged and fully responsible Jew, will bring you inspiration and an increased determination to observe all the Mitzvos [commandments] and to continue to study the Torah with increased diligence and devotion.

Since you are a student of a Lubavitcher Yeshivah, I am sure you realize that to become Bar Mitzvah does not mean a graduation or completion, G-d forbid, even of preparations and training. On the contrary, it is the beginning of a full life as a fully qualified Jew, and all your studies and training up to the Bar Mitzvah were only a preparation for it.

Obviously, when one undergoes a period of training and preparation for a certain thing, it would be rather foolish and illogical to let all that preparation go down the drain when the time comes and one has become fully qualified. I am therefore certain that you will make full use of your preparation before your Bar Mitzvah and will continue your studies of the Torah and the observance of the Mitzvos in the fullest degree.

I am sure you know that the portion of the week which will be read on your Bar Mitzvah Shabbos contains the important portion of Shema - "Hear O Israel, G-d, our G-d, G-d is One." This portion of Shema, which is also contained in the Tefillin, is the declaration of the whole Jewish people and the basis of our faith throughout the generations and accompanies the Jew everywhere, as is stated: "When thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up." For the Torah and Mitzvos are eternal for all times and all places.

I am sure that if you will fulfill the above you will be happy in every way and your parents will have real nachas from you.

Moreover, I trust that your parents will encourage you to their utmost to continue along this way, which is the way of real happiness, not only spiritually but also physically and materially.

With blessing,

15th of Tammuz, 5718 [1968]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to see you at the Farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] of the 12th-13th of Tammuz, which is dedicated to the sacred work of my father-in-law of saintly memory, who disregarded every danger to his life in his work to strengthen and spread Torah and Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. As you no doubt know, he had to contend with overwhelming odds and evil forces that tried to stop him, but nevertheless he came out victorious, for he had the strength of the Torah on his side. This is also the purpose of the Farbrengen, when we all meet together to strengthen each other in our attachment to the Torah, and to the spirit of self-sacrifice in the cause of true Yiddishkeit, that we may not be afraid of any difficulties and obstacles. In reality, most of such obstacles are only in the imagination, and when there is a strong will, all difficulties disappear.

I hope that your parents encourage you in your studies and in your conduct in accor-dance with the Torah and your teachings at the Yeshiva, and the Alm-ghty will surely reward them with much Nachas from you.

With prayerful wishes, and

With blessing,

Rambam this week

2 Av, 5762

Positive mitzva 101: The "leper"

By this injunction (contained in Lev: 12:2-5) we are commanded concerning the uncleanliness of a person with tzara'at, an illness that is similar to but not synonymous with modern-day leprosy. This commandment includes all the regulations on tzara'at: which cases are clean and which are unclean, which need segregation and which do not, which require shaving as well as segregation, and all other details pertaining to the nature of the uncleanliness.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

A Chasid once asked the Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, whether he should settle in the land of Israel. There he would devote his life to Torah study and mitzva observance.

The Tzemach Tzedek replied, "Make the place where you are into the Holy Land."

What does that response mean? To answer, we must first understand what is Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land. The Holy Land is a place where G-dliness, holiness and Judaism are openly revealed. In an ultimate sense, this will be realized in the Messianic era when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt and the observance of all the commandments associated with holiness of the land will be restored.

This is the essence of the Messianic Era. The relationship between man and G-d will no longer be based on faith alone, but will also be nourished by a firsthand awareness of G-d's Presence here on earth. The physical setting of the world will not change in the era of Redemption. What will be different is our knowledge and awareness of G-d.

The directive "Make this place the Holy Land" means that every individual should and can draw G-dliness into his life and into his environment.

Each of us should know that one's "place," that is, each dimension of our environment and each moment of time we experience can be transformed into the Holy Land, into a place where G-dliness is openly revealed.

Thoughts that Count

He must not break his word; he must do all that he expressed verbally (Num. 30:3)

When a person is faithful to his every utterance and lives up to his word, he merits that G-d will "do all that he expressed verbally," as the saying goes: "The righteous man decrees, and the Holy One fulfills it."

(Kedushat Levi)

These are the journeys of the Children of Israel (Num. 33:1)

Moses documented all the journeys of the Children of Israel through the desert; this record then became part and parcel of the Torah. Similarly, all the wanderings and misfortunes of the Jewish people during the present exile are being recorded; when Moshiach comes, they will constitute a book from which all will learn.

(Rabbi David of Lelov)

Aaron the Priest went up onto Mount Hor at the command of G-d and died there... in the fifth month on the first of the month. (Num. 33:38)

Our Sages said that "the death of the righteous is equal to the burning of G-d's house [the Holy Temple]." The fifth month is the month of Av, the month in which the Holy Temple was burned and destroyed. Another connection between Aaron's death and the burning of the Temple is as follows: The Second Temple, in particular, was destroyed because of causeless hatred. The remedy for causeless hatred is unwarranted love, which was exemplified by Aaron. Aaron "loved peace, pursued peace, loved all creatures and brought them closer to the Torah."

(Likutei Sichot)

To execute the vengeance of G-d on Midian (Num. 31:3)

The name "Midian" comes from the root "madon," meaning quarrel and strife. Midian symbolizes contention and unwarranted hatred. The war against Midian is truly "the vengeance of G-d." For, there is nothing so opposed to G-d as dissention and hatred.

(Sefer HaMaamarim)

It Once Happened

The saintly Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (founder of Chasidism, known also by the acronym Besht) was sitting in his room. A light knock on the door interrupted his thoughts as his attendant announced a visitor.

The visitor was a prosperous looking middle-aged Jewish man. "I have heard of the fame of the saintly Rabbi. I wished to see the Rabbi's holy face and receive his blessing, though I am not in need of anything, thank G-d," said the visitor.

The Besht studied the man's face. Then he said, "It is written, 'G-d directs the steps of man.' This means that no Jew goes anywhere without being directed by Divine Providence. Though you may not know it, you have not come here of your own free will."

"The gentleman looked puzzled, but waited for the Baal Shem Tov to continue. To his great surprise the Besht began to tell a story:

"Once, there lived two boys who were best of friends. They went to yeshiva together from the time they were small children. The years flew by, and soon the boys were married businessmen. Each one went to live in a different town.

"At first, both did very well and became quite wealthy. Later, however, one of them had one bad business deal after another, until he lost his entire fortune.

"The poor man remembered his more fortunate friend and decided to seek his help. Arriving at his friend's house he was warmly welcomed. They chatted, remembering old times. Eventually the host asked his visitor the reason for the surprise visit. The visitor poured out his heart, saying that he came to seek help.

"The host told him that he had nothing to worry about. He called his bookkeeeper and ordered him to draw up a balance of his affairs. To the amazement of the clerk and the visitor, he ordered half of his fortune transferred to his impoverished friend. 'My friend,' he said, 'we always shared everything we had. I am now going to share everything I have with you again!'

"The poor man returned home rich again. He set up his business and shortly doubled his fortune. But what happened to his friend? His fortune took a turn for the worse. Soon, he was very poor.

"It was now his turn to seek the aid of his friend, whom he had helped in his hour of need. He made his way to his friend's house. He was made to wait quite a while, and finally, out came the servant with word that his master did not remember the name of the visitor, and in any case was too busy to see anyone.

"The poor man could hardly believe his ears. 'Confidentially,' the servant added, 'ever since my master regained his riches, he has become a hard man with no sympathy for anyone!'

"There was nothing for the poor man to do but return home. He could not get over the humiliation and disappointment he had suffered and he soon died.

"On the very same day, the rich man in the other town had an accident and died too. The two souls ascended to heaven and appeared for judgment. The soul of the poor man who had treated his friend so generously was told of his great reward and the Gates of Paradise were thrown open for him. But the other soul was condemned to suffer atonement, until the soul became pure and clean again.

"The first soul said sadly, 'How can I enjoy the happiness of Paradise knowing that my friend is not with me, and is being punished on my account?' The soul was given permission to pronounce judgement in this case. Without hesitation, the soul said that both of them should again be sent into bodies, to live their lives anew, so that the other soul could make amends where it had failed. Selflessly, this soul accepted a life of poverty again, in order to help the other soul.

"Some time afterwards," continued the Baal Shem Tov, "two baby boys were born in two different towns, one rich and one poor. When the poor boy grew up, he went from door to door begging alms. One day he arrived in the town where the rich man lived, and knocked at his door. The rich man opened the door, and upon seeing a beggar, exclaimed, 'You are a stranger in this town if you do not know that I do not give alms to any beggar, not even local ones!'

"The beggar had not eaten for three days. He collapsed and died.

"Now what do you think of this rich man?" the saintly Baal Shem Tov concluded, his keen eyes piercing through the visitor.

The Baal Shem Tov's visitor grew pale and frightened. His eyes filled with tears, but he could not utter a word, for he remembered the beggar who had knocked at his door a few days before he made his way to the Baal Shem Tov. The pale and haggard face of the dead beggar which had made no impression on him then, now began to torment him, and he wept bitterly.

"Is there any hope for me? Is there anything I can do to save my soul?" the visitor pleaded.

The Baal Shem Tov replied, "Yes, there is something you can do. You must try to find the surviviors of the poor man and ask their forgiveness. You must provide them with all their needs for the rest of their lives and distribute the rest of your fortune to the poor and needy. Then, pray to G-d with all your heart, for He is near to all who call unto Him in truth."

Moshiach Matters

All the prophets enjoined the principle of teshuva (returning to G-d; repentance), and Israel will be redeemed specifically by virtue of teshuva. The Torah already assured that Israel will ultimately repent, in the final period of the exile, and then they will be redeemed immediately..."

(Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuva 7:5)

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