Holidays   Shabbat   Chabad-houses   Chassidism   Subscribe   Calendar   Links B"H
The Weekly Publication for Every Jewish Person
Archives Current Issues Home Current Issue
                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 731
                           Copyright (c) 2002
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
                  Electronic version provided free at:
                    To receive the L'CHAIM by e-mail
                  write to:
                              Subscribe W1
   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        August 9, 2002          Shoftim             1 Elul, 5762

                    Nobody Can Take it Away From You

You'll get what's coming to you.

Sometimes these words or a similar sentiment are said with a wagging
finger and a stern look. At others times the statement is an assurance
that whatever (good) is meant for you, you'll get, i.e., no one can take
away from you that which is destined for you.

One of our great Sages, Ben Azzai, declared in the Talmud, "You will be
called by your name, you will be seated in your place, you will be given
what is yours. No man touches what is meant for his fellow. No kingdom
touches its neighbor by so much as a hairsbreadth." (Yoma 38 a-b)

That which is destined for you is yours. This applies to finding one's
soulmate, to receiving promotions and bonuses, to making the honor roll.

So what, you might ask, is the point of trying? Why put effort, hard
work and time into something if it's "coming to you" anyway?

Ben Azzai's statement is not meant to encourage us to sit back, relax,
and wait for it all to happen. For, in order to actually receive all
that is ours requires work. Sometimes that work is physical. Sometimes
it's intellectual. At all times it is spiritual: prayer, self-growth,
mitzvot (commandments). All of these undertakings help one deepen and
broaden the "vessel" into which G-d can "pour" the Divinely pre-ordained

But to begin with, one must make a "vessel" for one's Divine blessings.
One must make a container within oneself that is prepared to hold the
G-dly goodness that is one's due. Doing mitzvot provides the material
and the know-how to fashion the vessel. The vessel is created out of
mitzvot that are performed in order to fulfill G-d's will, not our will
but G-d's will. By nullifying one's will, one creates an empty vessel.
And an empty vessel has more space into which blessings can be channeled
than a full or partially filled vessel.

The concept of creating a vessel for G-d's blessing, by adding mitzvot
to one's mitzva repertoire or by more scrupulously performing a mitzva,
is a recurrent suggestion in the Rebbe's teachings. More than just "You
do one for me and I'll do one for You," doing mitzvot creates a "mitzva
tank," and "Torah treasure chest" that can be filled with unlimited good
and blessings from Infinite, Unlimited G-d.

This week's Torah portion, Shoftim, speaks about the cities of refuge a
person would flee to if he accidentally killed someone. There, the
unintentional killer would dwell, protected from the wrath of the
victim's relatives, until the High Priest who served in the Holy Temple
passed away.

But not only unintentional killers sought refuge in these cities; even
someone who committed murder intentionally was expected to flee there as
well. The court would then convene and issue its ruling on the death.
The cities of refuge offered protection, if only temporarily in some
cases, to anyone who had caused a loss of life.

After the destruction of the Holy Temple and the dispersion of the
Jewish people, the cities of refuge ceased to exist in the physical
sense. Yet the Torah is eternal, and its lessons apply in every
generation. In our times, therefore, the concept of "cities of refuge"
finds expression in the spiritual dimension.

Our Sages taught that "the words of Torah absorb." In other words, the
Torah itself is the refuge in which all may seek asylum. In the
spiritual sense, "killing" symbolizes the act of committing a sin,
causing a spiritual death to the G-dly soul, for the Torah's 613 mitzvot
are the "ropes" that bind the soul to G-d. Transgressing the Torah's
commandments damages those ties and threatens to cut the soul off from
its G-dly source.

We learn from this week's Torah portion that it is never too late to
repent, no matter how grave a transgression has been committed. Even the
person who deliberately sinned can do teshuva (repentance) and seek
protection in the refuge of Torah.

In one sense, nowadays we have a distinct advantage over our ancestors
who lived during the times of the Holy Temple. In those days, repentance
alone was not enough to atone for a sin. The unintentional killer had to
remain exiled in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest,
and the intentional murderer (as defined by the Torah) received capital
punishment. Yet after the destruction of the Temple, teshuva alone can
atone for even the gravest sin.

Years ago, when Jewish courts had ultimate authority, a judge could only
rule on what he himself had seen. G-d, however, can look into the heart
of man and judge whether or not his repentance is sincere.

In the same way, the month of Elul, during which we take account of our
actions of the previous year, is a "city of refuge" in time, offering us
the same opportunity to clear the slate and merit a good and sweet year
to come.

                Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                         Everybody Is Hungarian
                            By Nechama Gara

I come from Hungary, a small country in Central Europe. There is an old
Hungarian saying, "Everybody is Hungarian." It is true! If you dig deep
into your family's past I am sure you will find a Hungarian grandmother,
or great-grandfather or you have at least one friend who has some
connection with my country. So now that you understand that we are
really "family," I am sure that you will be interested in hearing what
this young Jewish Hungarian woman has to say and how I got to New York
all the way from Hungary.

I grew up in a completely non-religious way. We never kept anything, not
even the main holidays. I was about 15 years old when I fully realized
that I was Jewish. Until then, I had some kind of sense of being
"different." I knew, for example, that at the end of World War II my
mother and her father were blacklisted and almost taken away. Although I
had heard the story many times, I did not really understand what that
meant. Judaism was something we never talked about. Even today my mother
would not admit that she is Jewish.

For years and years I had nothing to do with Judaism and all my
knowledge was gained through watching films. About four years ago I felt
a desire to learn a little bit about Judaism. But two more years passed
before I actually turned that desire into concrete action and started
reading books about Judaism. The "breakthrough" came last June when I
found out that there is a Chabad House in Budapest (the capital of

The Chabad House offers many different classes on a variety of topics. I
went there one Tuesday night and started attending "Kabbala"  classes.
One month later, in the middle of July, I went to the Chabad House for
Shabbat. For the first time in my life I went to a Shabbat service and I
ate my first Shabbat meal at the home of my teacher, Rabbi Shlomo

From the moment I decided to go, right up through the time I got to the
Chabad House for Shabbat I was very anxious. I had this fear inside me
as if I was doing something wrong by going to the synagogue and I was
worried about what people would say if they knew where I was going. I
was so excited that my heart started beating way too fast, and I had to
take some medicine to calm down. Thank G-d, that was the only negative
incident! The service was beautiful and the meal was delicious. I heard
kiddush recited over the wine for the first time, I washed my hands in
the prescribed manner before eating bread for the first time. And I even
remembered not to turn off the light in the bathroom after using it
since it was Shabbat and one is not allowed to turn on or off lights on
this special day.

Slowly but surely I started keeping mitzvot (commandments). Then last
December, Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, the director of Chabad in Hungary,
asked me if I wanted to go to New York to study Torah. I asked my boss
to let me take an unpaid leave of absence for two months from my job.
Although I have a master's degree in English Literature, I had been
working as an office manager. I thought that two months would be just
the right amount of time for a Torah study vacation. But my boss
refused. Now I had to decide whether I should stay put and keep my
well-paid job, or quit and leave everything behind.

While in the midst of trying to come to a decision, I was reading a book
called Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a collection
of the Rebbe's wisdom. I found something in that book that helped me

"There's no place for worry. You try to decide a course of action. If
you do not have the experience to decide, ask the advice of someone who
does - a parent, a teacher, an expert - someone reliable, but also
someone who is conscientious of your spiritual path.

"Once you have decided what should be done, you follow that course and
you trust in G-d that since you are doing what you believe to be the
right thing, He will insure that everything will go well."

I wanted to study Torah in depth and I knew that I would have to leave
my job and Hungary in order to be able to do that. I had made my
decision and I started making my preparations. Sometimes you have to
work hard to be able to do what you want to do and that might make you
question whether you are doing the right thing or not. But sometimes
things happen so easily that you know you made the right decision. And
that is exactly what happened to me.

For example, everyone said I would have to wait at least half an hour
when phoning the American embassy, but they took care of me right away.
People said I might have to wait 2 or 3 weeks for an appointment, but in
the end I got an appointment for a week later. They also said it was
difficult to get a visa, (which is true, almost 80% of the people are
refused) but I got mine after a short interview. Around the same time I
received my first credit card, so I was able to pay for my plane ticket.
Everything went so smoothly that I knew I was meant to come to the
United States.

During the first few weeks of my stay, I felt like I was in a movie. All
the things I saw in films - the traffic lights, N.Y.P.D. cars, yellow
cabs, etc. - were all real! Everything was different from what was
familiar to me from Hungary - the people, the shops, the food. Even the
cash machine worked differently. It took me almost 20 minutes to use it
the first time.

I got used to New York and I fell in love with studying Torah at Machon
Chana Women's Yeshiva. There are great classes, even greater teachers
and a lot of young women who have the same desire to learn as I have.

Originally I was planning on staying in the United States for two months
but I have been here for six months now and I haven't booked my return
trip yet.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                           New Chabad Centers


Rabbi Aaron Isaac and Chani Benjaminson will soon be arriving in
Parioli, Italy, a neighborhood in Rome, to launch a whole range of
Jewish educational programs. A local minyan, adult education, youth
programs, and the gamut of Chabad-Lubavitch trademark programs such as
the Rosh Hashana shofar factory for children are all in the works for
this 300 family strong Jewish community.

                         University of Virginia

Rabbi Shlomo and Chana Mayer arrived recently in Charlottesville,
Virginia, as emissaries of the Rebbe. Home to the University of Virginia
and some 500 Jewish families. Dubbed the only public ivy-league
university, UVA has a Jewish student population of 1,500.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                       14th of Elul, 5727  [1967]

Greeting and Blessing:

I duly received your correspondence, and may G-d grant that you should
have good news to report in regard to the contents of your letters.

No doubt you remember the Alter Rebbe's [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of
Chasidism] explanation of the significance of the month of Elul, in
terms of the following analogy: There are times when a king leaves his
palace and goes out to meet his subjects in the field, when everyone,
regardless of his state and station, can approach the king, and the king
receives everyone graciously and fulfills their petitions. The days of
Elul are such a period when the King of Kings is, as it were, "in the
field." This is, therefore, the proper time to strengthen the adherence
to the commandments of the King, and to receive a greater measure of the
King's blessings.

Wishing you and yours a Kesivo vaChasimo Tovo [may you be written and
sealed for good],

With blessing,

P.S. With regard to the question of Moshiach which you raise in your
letter - I refer you to the Rambam, Hilchos Melochim, Chaps. 11-12
[Maimonides, Laws of Kings].

Enclosed is a copy of the general Rosh Hashono message, which you will
surely put to good advantage.

                                *  *  *

                        9th of Elul, 5718 [1958]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of August 14th, containing the good news that you
are pleased with the outcome of the court case so far, and, what is even
more important, with the progress tat you and your wife have been making
towards complete recovery.

You do not mention anything about your business and your public work,
which I take it as an indication that all is well in those departments.

Now that we have entered the month of Elul, when we say twice daily in
our prayers Psalm 27, "G-d is my light and my salvation," etc., I truth
that you will become increasingly aware that this is so in your case.

Wishing you and yours a Kesivo Vachasimo Toivo,

With blessing,

                                *  *  *

                       20th of Elul, 5720 [1960]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your two letter of August 22nd and 26th.

With regard to the question of the Rabbi who has left, and you ask my
opinion about the candidacy of Rabbi [...], generally speaking, it seems
that he is a suitable candidate. As for particulars, it depends what his
duties would be, but surely everything could be arranged with the help
of Anash.

With regard to the question of the merger between the two Shuls
[synagogues], I do not think that this is a good idea. For one thing,
there is the question of Nusach [prayer rite], and for another, this is
the time when the number of Shuls should be increased rather than
decreased. Furthermore, you write that the other congregation is
"small-minded," etc., which seems to indicate that there would be room
for friction, etc.

On the question of arranging an affair in behalf of the activities of
Lubavitch, I do not see why people want to postpone it until Purim
inasmuch as time is of the essence and the activities demand support and
expansion all the time. Therefore, it seems to me that the sooner the
affair is arranged, the better it would be. Even if it has to be
connected with a festival day, surely Chanukah comes earlier, and, being
for eight days, it offers an opportunity to select the most suitable day
of the week for this purpose.

In this connection I might again recall to your mind the story of the
fundraiser, who, on receiving a check to cover a pledge, rebuked the
donor. When the surprised donor asked him why he deserved the rebuke,
the fundraiser answered, "had you brought it earlier, I could have had
another pledge from you since then."

As for your daughter's training to become a Hebrew teacher, you do not
write how well this fits in with her studies at present. But the very
fact that you ask my opinion on the advisability of her training for a
Hebrew teach at this time, suggests that it can be arranged so that her
present studies would not be affected, and if so, it would be advisable.

To conclude on a word of thanks, I recently had the opportunity to view
the film of the Lag B'Omer parade in London which you were kind enough t
send me. It gave me much pleasure, and thank you very much.

Hoping to hear good news from you, and wishing you again a Kesivo
vachasimo, toivo, including, of course, a greater improvement in your
business affairs,

With blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
3 Elul, 5762

Positive mitzva 109: Immersing in a mikva (ritual bath)

By this injunction we are commanded to immerse ourselves in the waters
of a mikva, to be cleansed of any spiritual impurity with which we may
have been affected. It is contained in the words (Lev. 15:16) "Then he
shall bathe all his flesh in water." [A mikva must contain 40 sa'ah of
water (approximately 60 gallons), and cover the entire body. No water
stored in a vessel or receptacle may be used; it must be taken directly
from a river or spring, or from rain water which is led into the bath.
No amount of washing the body can take the place of ritual immersion
where such is required.]

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
"There is a time and season for everything," King Solomon taught in the
book of Ecclesiastes. According to Jewish tradition, there are various
times throughout the day, week, month and year that are most appropriate
for reflection and personal accounting: Each evening before retiring is
the time to consider ones actions throughout the day. Every Thursday
night one should reflect on the week that has passed. On the eve of
every new (Jewish) month, one reviews the month and in the last month of
the Jewish year one evaluates the entire year.

We have just entered that final month, Elul.

Elul is the time when we look over our deeds of the previous year and
make a reckoning and appraisal of our personal growth and development.

There are many customs associated with the month of Elul. During Elul it
is customary to have one's mezuzot and tefilin checked by an expert
scribe (sofer). One is also enjoined to be more careful in the area of
the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut).

From the very beginning of the month we greet friends and sign letters
with the wish that we should be "written and sealed for good" and that
we should have a "good and sweet year."

In addition, we add Psalm 27 to our daily prayers as well as increasing
our recitation of Psalms in general.

With all of this, it is good to keep in mind the analogy of Rabbi Shneur
Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, that during the month of Elul "the
King is in the field." This means that although at any time of year G-d
is surely approachable by each and each one of us, He is even closer to
us in the month of Elul.

As we are merely at the beginning of the month, let's not waste a
moment. Let's get to work so that we will all truly have a good and
sweet year, with the ultimate good of Moshiach NOW!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
You shall be perfect with the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 18:13)

Just as it is important to safeguard one's physical health, a Jew must
take steps to ensure that his soul is whole and that all his spiritual
"limbs" are healthy. For just as there are 613 components in the human
body - 248 limbs and 365 sinews - so too are there 613 parts of the
Jewish soul whose state of perfection is dependent on observing the 613
commandments of the Torah.

                                                   (Likrat Shabbat)

                                *  *  *

You shall appoint a king over yourself (Deut. 17:15)

The inner intent of this commandment is to instill in the Jewish people
a sense of nullification before G-d and acceptance of the yoke of
heaven. For a Jewish king is completely nullified before G-d; submitting
to his sovereignty contains an element of nullification before G-d as

                                               (Derech Mitzvotecha)

                                *  *  *

And this is the case of the slayer...whoever unwittingly kills his
neighbor...he shall flee to one of those cities, and live (Deut. 19:4,5)

The Torah designates six cities of refuge to which a person who has
inadvertently killed someone can flee and atone for his deed. When
Moshiach comes and the borders of Israel are expanded to include the
territory of the Kini, Kenizi and Kadmoni, three more cities of refuge
will be established. But why will additional cities be necessary in the
Messianic Era? If peace will reign supreme, and violence between men
will disappear from the face of the earth, what purpose will these
cities of refuge serve? Although no new acts of violence will occur, the
cities of refuge will allow those Jews who accidentally killed someone
throughout the centuries of exile to seek atonement and be worthy of the
Messianic Era.

                                (The Rebbe, Rosh Chodesh Elul 5746)

                                *  *  *

For these nations...hearken to soothsayers and to diviners. But as for
you, the L-rd your G-d has not permitted you to do so (Deut. 18: 14)

Heavenly bodies have no power over the Jew; whatever is foretold by
stargazers will be nullified, for "Israel is not under the influence of
the stars."


                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
For the Melave Malka meal (Saturday night meal to escort the Shabbat
queen), Rabbi Hillel of Paritch would always eat chicken that had been
freshly slaughtered, salted and prepared that night.

One Shabbat, he was a guest in the home of the chief rabbi, Rav Yosef
Tumarkin, in Krementzug. There were two shochtim (ritual slaughterers)
in town, one from Lithuanian and one from Poland. Rabbi Hillel would
only eat the chickens slaughtered by the Polish chasid.

Immediatley after Shabbat, the Rebbetzin arranged for a chicken to be
prepared. Unfortunately, the Polish shochet had already left for the
slaughterhouse, which was located out of town.

The Rebbetzin was in a dilemma. She knew that Rabbi Hillel was known to
eat only meat slaughtered by the Polish shochet. On the other hand, she
did not want to return home empty-handed. "My husband," she
rationalized, "is the local Rav. If he relies on the other shochet, on
this one occasion, it will have to do for Rabbi Hillel as well."
Quickly, she ordered the chicken form the Lithuanian shochet and soon
the table was set for the Melave Malka meal.

When the chicken was served, Rabbi Hillel sniffed it slightly and set
his portion aside, without touching it. The Rav realized that something
must be amiss with the chicken and quickly turned to his wife. "Was
there a halachic question about the chicken's kashrus?" he inquired.

"Not at all," she assured him. Taking her husband aside, she explained
what had happened. "Evidently, Rabbi Hillel has his way of knowing that
this chicken was not slaughtered by his usual shochet."

The Rav then turned to his guest, telling him what had happened and
asking him to explain his reluctance to use meat slaughtered by the
Lithuanian shochet. "If, in fact, he is not reliable, why then, I should
not be eating chickens slaughtered by him either."

"He is a skilled shochet," replied Rabbi Hillel. "However, I once
overheard him speaking disrespectfully about a Torah scholar. Therefore,
I do not eat from the meat he has slaughtered."

The Rav knew the offended scholar. "How can the shochet atone for his
folly? The man whom he shamed has since passed away."

"He should gather ten people to accompany him to the cemetery and beg
forgiveness at his grave. After this, there will be no further questions
about his slaughtering and I too will rely on him."

      From From My Father's Shabbos Table by Rabbi Yehudah Chitrick

                                *  *  *

Looking out the window, Reb Zusya of Hanipoli once saw a wedding
procession passing by his house. He immediately went out, and danced in
the street with great joy before the bride and groom. When he came back
inside his home, his family told him that they believed it was not
dignified for him to dance out there in the street for just someone's

"Let me tell you a story," said Reb Zusya. "When I was young, I was a
student of Reb Yechiel Michel, the Magid of Zlotchov. One time he
scolded me very harshly. He later came over to clear up any hard
feelings, and said: 'Reb Zusya, forgive me for my harsh words.'

" 'Rebbe,' I answered, 'I forgive you.'

"Before I went to sleep he came again, and said: 'Reb Zusya, forgive

" 'Rebbe, I forgive you,' I reassured him.

"That night, when I lay down to sleep, but was still awake, my rebbe's
father, Reb Yitzchak of Drohovitch, came to me from the World Above, and
said: 'I left only one son after me in the World Below, one precious
son. Do you want to destroy him because he insulted you?'

" 'Reb Yitzchak!' I protested. 'I have already forgiven your son with
all my heart and soul! What else must I do?'

" 'This is not yet a perfect forgiveness,' he said. 'If you come along
with me, I will show you how to forgive.'

"I followed him, until we came to the local mikva. There he told me to
immerse myself in it three times, and to say each time that I forgave
his son. Coming out of the mikva, I saw a light so bright radiating from
Reb Yitzchak's face that I could not look at him. When I asked him where
it came from, he told me that all his life he had been careful to
observe the three things to which the Talmudic sage Rabbi Nechunya ben
HaKanah attributed his long life: 'I never gained honor at the expense
of the degradation of my fellow; I never went to sleep without forgiving
everyone for the day's vexations; and I have been generous with my

Reb Yitzchok added that, through joy, these three things that he had
attained could also be achieved. "Therefore," concluded Reb Zusya to his
family, "when I saw the wedding procession passing by our house, I
hurried out in order to participate in the joy of the mitzva."

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Concerning how those who will rise at the time of the Resurrection of
the Dead will fit on the earth, the Midrash teaches: "When G-d told
Moses to convene the Jewish people at the entrance to the Tent of
Meeting, Moses complained, 'Alm-ghty G-d: How can I possibly stand
600,000 men and 600,000 youths at the entrance to the Tent which is a
plot of land that is only big enough to yield two seah of grain?' And
G-d replied: '...So, too, in time to come, will I do the same in Zion:
All the world's population from Adam until the Resurrection will come
and complain about the shortage of space, and I will broaden it for
them.' "

               (To Live and Live Again by Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubov)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 731 - Shoftim 5762

  • Daily Lessons
  • Weekly Texts & Audio
  • Candle-Lighting times

    613 Commandments
  • 248 Positive
  • 365 Negative

  • BlackBerry
  • iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Java Phones
  • Palm Pilot
  • Palm Pre
  • Pocket PC
  • P800/P900
  • Moshiach
  • Resurrection
  • For children - part 1
  • For children - part 2

  • Jewish Women
  • Holiday guides
  • About Holidays
  • The Hebrew Alphabet
  • Hebrew/English Calendar
  • Glossary

  • by SIE
  • About
  • Chabad
  • The Baal Shem Tov
  • The Alter Rebbe
  • The Rebbe Maharash
  • The Previous Rebbe
  • The Rebbe
  • Mitzvah Campaign

    Children's Corner
  • Rabbi Riddle
  • Rebbetzin Riddle
  • Tzivos Hashem

  • © Copyright 1988-2009
    All Rights Reserved
    L'Chaim Weekly