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   780: Devarim

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L'Chaim
August 1, 2003 - 3 Av, 5763

780: Devarim

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


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  779: Matos-Masei781: Vaeschanan  

Seeing the Building in Front of Us  |  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

Seeing the Building in Front of Us

When is a building finished being built? That seems like a simple question, maybe even a foolish one. A building is finished when it's built - when the last brick, stone, girder or whatever is put in place. But still, how do they know where to put that brick - or any other brick, for that matter? It's a process: The architect tells the contractor who tells the construction crew. So as far as the architect is concerned, the building was already built long before the ground-breaking.

In fact, from the architect's point-of-view, the building not only began when the previous structure was destroyed, but in a sense was completed. In the architect's mind, the building already existed, complete, finished, ready to use.

But it had not yet come into being. There was no physical evidence that the building existed. Ironically, though, once the construction crew began to tear down whatever had been on the spot of his building, the architect already had all the evidence he needed. Since the building existed in his mind and the process for making it real had already begun - with the removal of what had been - then it was as if the building already stood and it was just a matter of time.

The Talmud relates that Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva once went to Jerusalem. Reaching the Temple Mount, they saw a fox run out of the Holy of Holies. Three of them started to cry and Rabbi Akiva laughed. They questioned each other's actions. The three rabbis replied, "Should we not cry when foxes walk in the place about which it is written that the stranger who approaches will die." Akiva said, "Thus I laugh, for the prophecy of Zecharyah depends on the prophecy of Uriah (see Isaiah 8:2). Now that I see the prophecy of Uriah - that Zion will be a plowed field - has been fulfilled, I know the prophecy of Zecharyah - that old men and old women will again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem - will also be fulfilled." His three colleagues responded, "Akiva you have comforted us, Akiva you have comforted us."

But why? The Third Temple did not yet exist, the Jewish people were still in exile and the fast of Tisha B'Av was still in force.

To answer, we have to understand the inner purpose and concept of a fast. A fast day is described as "a desirable day for G-d." The spiritual content of such a day is inherently good. In fact, it contains such great goodness that all that stood on it before must be removed, so that the innate goodness can be revealed.

Rabbi Akiva saw not the surface situation but the inner reality. He saw like an architect - or perceived the plan of The Architect. Knowing that external appearances change, shift and thus have no lasting substance, Rabbi Akiva showed his colleagues how to look at a day like Tisha B'Av.

Of course one must fast and observe all the laws connected with the temporarily negative nature of the day. But primarily one must see - and thus work for - the inner purpose, the positive reality of the day. The vision of the inner truth leads through the fast - and the teshuva and mitzvos it engenders - to the realization of the prophecy that Moshiach is coming imminently and that Tisha B'Av will be a day of gladness and rejoicing - speedily in our days.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah reading is the first portion in the book of Deuteronomy, or Devarim in Hebrew. The Book of Devarim is also called "Mishneh Torah," meaning "Repetition of the Torah." Moses began reviewing the Torah with the Jewish people before his passing.

The timing of the Repetition of the Torah was especially significant for the Jewish people in that it served to prepare them for their entry into the Holy Land. During their years of wandering in the desert all their needs, food, water, clothing, and shelter were miraculously provided.

Now the Jews were on the verge of leaving this place where for years they had had no material cares, and were about to settle in a land and a way of life which necessitated tilling, sowing , reaping, and all the other mundane preoccupations of life. It was now that they were exposed to the Repetition of the Torah, for they needed an additional and special measure of spiritual re-invigoration and inspiration, so that they would not become materialistic and debased in the material world that lay ahead. On the contrary, the whole purpose of their coming into the Land was to instill holiness, to elevate and make more spiritual the material aspects of daily life - thereby transforming the material into the spiritual through Torah, worship of G-d, performance of His Divine precepts, giving charity and doing acts of loving kindness.

The Divine purpose of our entry into the Holy Land - to elevate the environment and transform the material into the spiritual - is the very same purpose that every individual Jew has in his mundane activities. As Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, expressed it: "The material things of Jews are spiritual; G-d gives us material things, that we may transform them into spiritual." G-d grants the Jew parnasa - livelihood - and he, in turn, utilizes the money for mitzva-purposes in general and for the support of Torah-study in particular, since the study of the Torah is equivalent to all the other mitzvot combined. In this way we truly convert the material (money and worldly possessions) into the spiritual.

Transformation of the material to the spiritual can be achieved in other ways also, such as through elevating and refining one's business or professional environment by setting a personal example of Torah-guided honesty and good conduct. Some people think that the main purpose of a Torah education is to train Rabbis, Shochtim and other functionaries. This is not so; the essential and main purpose of religious training is to prepare Jewish laymen who, before going out into the world of business, trade or profession are imbued and permeated with Torah-values and with "Yiras Shomayim", fear of G-d. Such laymen, living within this society of ours, elevate their entire environment by inspiring every Jew with whom they come in contact, with love of G-d, love of Torah, and love of one's fellow - in actual daily practice.

In all matters of sanctity one must go from strength to strength, constantly increasing holiness; one must strive to produce more and more spirituality out of material things. In this way the blessing of "Prosperity through charity" becomes realized, with G-d giving material blessings in a growing measure, enabling us to create more, and still more, spiritually, at a reciprocal pace from strength to strength.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

Chabad in Action

Chabad in Action. That's one of the mottos of the Chabad Youth Organization in Israel. "With the whole heart, to everyone," is their by-word. Their Chabad Children of Chernobyl program, which has airlifted over 2,000 children on 64 flights from the contaminated Chernobyl area was established in 1990. More recently, the Chabad Terror Victims Project is reaching out to our brethren in Israel who are suffering, on a daily basis, from the effects of terrorism. The following two articles give us a glimpse of both of these important humanitarian projects' vast work.

Gala Wedding Celebration For Chabad Children Of Chernobyl Graduates

Congratulations to CCOC "graduates" Aryeh Slutsky and Tanya Kotashinsky, on their marriage in Nes Ziona, Israel. Aryeh arrived in Israel on Flight #4 and Tanya on Flight #7.

Neither bride nor the groom has any family in Israel except for the staff of Chabad's Children of Chernobyl, who arranged and paid for the entire wedding. Though other CCOC graduates have married, this is the first time that two of them have married each other. When Aryeh stood to speak he said: " I don't have a father, but Rabbi Har Tzvi (Director of Operations) is a father to me..."

Aryeh recently completed his military service and Tanya received her B.A. in Special Education. Since his arrival in Israel, Aryeh's home has been the CCOC dormitory, the place where he would spend his weekends and holidays while in the army. Though Tanya lived in university housing, she returned "home" frequently to visit her teachers and friends on the CCOC campus.

Attending the wedding were dozens of CCOC graduates - friends of the bride and groom. Their bonds of warmth and friendship were evident in their spirited dancing.

David Tessel, Chairman of CCOC's Executive Committee in New York, flew to Israel to attend the wedding. Describing his experience he writes:

"...The wedding ceremony was elegant, brisk and beautiful... I couldn't believe it. I had visited the CCOC campuses in the past... but now I saw a new product: young people, living their lives, in the careers of their choosing, flushed with the excitement of attending the marriage of their friends."

As a partner in saving the lives of these two children and all of the 2,234 children that have been saved by CCOC, you should take much pleasure and satisfaction in their wedding. Please join us in wishing them all the success and fulfillment they deserve as they go forward to build a happy, healthy home and family of their own.

Bar Mitzva at the Western Wall for Brother of Slain Soldier

Nir Rachamim of Kiryat Malachi celebrated his bar mitzva at the Western Wall. It was an event of mixed emotions: the joy of Nir's bar mitzva, the grief at his missing brother, Gidi (may G-d avenge his blood), who was killed by terrorists in Hebron.

Chabad's Terror Victims Project arranged the ceremony following intervention by Rabbi Lipa Kurtzviel, the Rebbe's emissary in Kiryat Malachi.

Nir's brother Gidi Rachamim was murdered in the bloody battle with terrorists along the Worshipper's Way in Hebron on Friday night November 15, 2002. Gidi served as a sniper in the Border Patrol. When the battle first began in an alleyway, many soldiers were murdered. Gidi arrived as part of reinforcements sent to extricate his comrades from the enclosed alleyway. Gidi entered the alleyway three times. When he realized that the headlights of the Border Patrol jeep were illuminating the area to the terrorists' advantage, he ran to smash the lights. At that moment he was gunned down.

As the date of the bar mitzva approached, the loss of Gidi had sapped the family's ability to make the arrangements.

"Who has the strength to plan and celebrate a bar mitzva in the shadow of this tragedy?" asked the mother, once active in the community, now withdrawn and dressed in black. "There is no longer any happiness in this home."

In reply, Rabbi Lipa Kurtzviel, who has known the family for years, impressed upon the mother the need for her younger son's bar mitzva and the simcha and upliftment it would bring to the entire family.

"But I cannot do it alone," she said. "Only if you help us."

The Rachamim family is one of the oldest families in Kiryat Malachi and lived for many years in the Chabad neighborhood. The mother, Tzillah, works as a housemother in the Chabad Vocational School and the father is a carpenter

Tzillah relates that "Gidi had a very strong connection with Chabad all his childhood. When we moved to another neighborhood, he always loved to go back to his old neighborhood and hang out with his friends from Chabad".

Neighbors and family members participated in the Bar Mitzva ceremony, as well as representatives from Chabad's Terror Victims Project and the school principal of the bar mitzva boy who was also Gidi's principal.

After the bar mitzva Nir and Gidi's mother said, "I now see what Chabad is doing for me when I am in the hour of pain and anguish, how much Chabad cares for me and attempts to help and support me. You have not spared any effort to bring us a little joy in our time of grief".

Nir's bar mitzva was arranged as part of Chabad's Terror Victims Project.


What's New

New Campus in Paris

Sinai Educational Institutes in Paris, France dedicated their third campus, Ki Tov. The 6,500 sq. meter campus is the third Sinai campus that educates a total of 3,500 Jewish children in greater Paris. The opening was attended by Mrs. Chirac, wife of French President Jacques Chirac, who addressed the assembled. Her words contained a message of support to the development of the Jewish community, and total freedom of activities to all Jews. The audience was also addressed by Rabbi D. Mashash, chief Rabbi of Paris and included the participation of Jewish community officials and government officials. The campus includes a preschool, kindergarten, boys- and girls- elementary school, a vocational school, computer training, and a yeshiva for advanced rabbinic studies, and a large synagogue and social hall.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letter of the Rebbe

9 Menachem Av

...To conclude with matters concerning the present day [of mourning the destruction of the Holy Temples]: Our Sages (Bava Metzia 85b; Talmud Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7) state with regard to the destruction of the First Holy Temple: Although the Jewish people had committed sins, had they considered the Torah important, the "light of the Torah" would have spurred them to return to the good, and the Holy Temple would not have been destroyed. And they state (Yoma 9b) that the Second Holy Temple was destroyed because of unwarranted hatred.

In the present era, ikvesa diMeshicha, the time when Moshiach's approaching footsteps can be heard, we can certainly apply our Sages' statement (Sanhedrin 97b): All the appointed times for Moshiach's coming have passed, and the matter is dependent solely on teshuva (return) and good deeds. It is incumbent upon each and every person to invest effort in love of one's fellow Jew in the place where he lives and in cherishing the Torah and its mitzvos (commandments) with more intensity and power.

Both of these purposes are fulfilled simultaneously when one works toward strengthening the Torah and Yiddishkeit (Judaism) among the broadest spectrums of our people. For there is no greater expression of love than taking the effort, both spiritual and physical, to save one's friend - and this term refers to every Jew, for "all Israel are friends" - from descending to perdition because of sins and transgressions.

And there is no greater expression of the appreciation for the Torah than explaining to everyone that it is the will and wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He, that it is eternal, applying in every time and place, and that He implanted the life of - this - world in our midst through the Torah and its mitzvos.

May G-d hurry and speedily redeem us through our righteous Moshiach.

With the blessing "Immediately to teshuva, immediately to Redemption,"


Thursday, 11 Menachem Av, 5703

Greetings and blessings,

We are surprised that we have not heard from you recently. We would be happy if you would write telling us about the events affecting your personal life and the progressive spread of Yiddishkeit in your city, as we spoke when you visited here.

We have sent out your membership card for the Society for the Study of Mishnayos by Heart. Certainly, you have received it by now.

We are surprised that you have not ordered the compendiums HaYom Yom and Chanoch LaNaar that have recently been published and have been received with great pleasure in Chassidic circles. We assume that the reason you have not ordered them is that you were not informed about their publication. Therefore we are sending five copies of both compendiums for you and for your friends. If you feel that this is too large a quantity, you may send the extra copies back on our account.

In this month which is characterized by destruction - may it speedily in our days be transformed into happiness and joy - we must all remember the reason for the destruction of the land (in the time of the First Holy Temple): because the people despised the Torah (Bava Metzia 85b) and in the time of the Second Holy Temple, because of unwarranted hatred (Yoma 9b).

This recollection should evoke a firm desire to do everything possible in expressing unrestrained love, without any ulterior motive. (See HaYom Yom, entry 15 Kislev, which quotes the statements of Rabbi Shneur Zalman - the author of the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch - concerning this issue. In particular, this applies with regard to activities which strengthen the adoration of the Torah, showing that it is G-d's wisdom, and inspiring people to the fear of heaven.

With the blessing "Immediately to teshuva, immediately to Redemption,"

From I Will Write it In Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos In English


Rambam this week

4 Av, 5763 - August 2, 2003

Prohibition 269: It is forbidden to ignore a lost item

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 22:3) "You may not hide yourself." We are not allowed to ignore a lost article that we find.

Positive Mitzva 204: Returning a Lost Article

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:4) "You shall surely bring it back to him"

The Torah commands us to try to find the owner of a lost article and return it to him.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is very special. We read from the Torah the portion of Devarim, and we read the Haftorah describing the prophet Isaiah's vision of the the Third Holy Temple. Because of the content of the Haftorah, this Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Chazon," the Shabbat of the Vision.

There is a saying of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev that on Shabbat Chazon every Jew envisions the Third Holy Temple. Although our physical eyes might not behold it, our souls, our spirit, the metaphysical in us, sees the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and longs for it.

The portion of Devarim is also connected to our longing for the Holy Temple and the Holy Land. It reviews the forty years of wandering in the desert which were drawing to a close. Moses assembles the children of Israel to speak his last words of guidance to them before his passing. All thoughts of that vast multitude of people are centered on one thing... entering the Holy Land.

In the land of Israel, every grain of sand is vital, not even one centimeter is expendable. The entire land is referred to as "the land of Israel" regardless of who occupied which part at what time. It never became the Land of Babylonia, or Syria, or Greece, or Rome; despite the fact that these empires ruled the land albeit temporarily. Its identity as the Land of Israel is eternal, inalienable, immutable.

Other nations call it the "Holy Land" only because the Torah declares it to be so. Though we have been far from our soil for many centuries, still we refer to it as our land.

Exile is not only physical or geographical - "outside the Land." Exile may take place even in the Land of Israel. It takes place when the Jewish inhabitants do not see that this is a special Land - a "Land that the eyes of G-d are on from the beginning of the year to the end of the year" (Deuteronomy 11:12). When one regards this land simply as a country somewhere south of Lebanon, west of Jordan, and northeast of Egypt - this is indeed exile.

May Tisha B'Av this year be turned into a true day of rejoicing with the commencement of the Redemption, a return of all of the Jewish people to the Holy Land and the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple.


Thoughts that Count

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

When Moses spoke to the Jews he allowed himself several words of rebuke with regard to their conduct during the travels in the desert. However, only when speaking to the Jews did he rebuke them. When Moses spoke to G-d on behalf of the people, he was a pure advocate. This is a true lesson for every Jewish leader.

(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)


Hear the causes between your brethren and judge honestly between each person (Deut. 1:16)

"Hear" - he who hears and feels the great love of the Creator for each Jew, and how precious each Jew is above - he will behave in a manner of "between your brethren" - getting along well with people and appreciating each Jew. Another explanation: If you truly want to hear and feel this love of fellow Jews, you should relate to people in a manner of "between your brethren" - you must be sociable and civil with your fellow Jews.

(Baal Shem Tov)


Moses began to explain the law (Deut. 1:5)

Moses explained the law in all seventy languages. Why did he have to go to all this trouble? Because G-d knew that one day the Jews would be scattered about the face of the earth and would be mingled among the other nations. By explaining the Torah in all languages, G-d insured that in every land and among each people there would be a spark of Torah.

(Chidushei HaRim)


You have tarried long enough on this mountain - turn and take your journey (Deut. 1:6)

G-d told the Jews that they had spent long enough at Mount Sinai, it was time to move on. A person is not permitted to enclose himself in the Tent of Torah and be satisfied with working only on himself. He must go out to places far from established Jewish centers and bring the light of Torah there, also.

(Likutei Sichot)


It Once Happened

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses all stood before G-d when they were told about the destruction of the First Holy Temple.

"Why have I been singled out from among all the people, that I have come to this shame and humiliation? Why have You exiled my children, and why have You delivered them into the hands of evil robbers, who killed them with all manner of horrible deaths? You have laid waste to the place where I brought my sons as a sacrifice."

G-d replied: "They sinned, transgressing the entire Torah and the message of the entire alef-bet."

Abraham then said: "Master of the World, who shall bear testimony against the Jews, that they have transgressed?"

"Let the Torah come and testify," said G-d.

The Torah came and wanted to bear witness. Avraham said to her: "My beloved daughter, are you not ashamed before my children? Remember the day that you were given; how G-d carried you to all of the nations, and none wanted to accept you, until my children came to Mt. Sinai and heard you. And today you want to offer testimony against them, during their troubles?"

The Torah was too ashamed to bear witness.

G-d said, "Let the 22 letters of the alef-bet come forward."

The letters came forward, wishing to testify. The alef was first. But Avraham told her, "Remember the day when G-d gave the Torah and began with an alef - Anochi - I. None of the others nations wished to accept you except the Jews. And now you want to witness against them?"

The alef slinked back in shame. But the bet came forward. Avraham said to her, "My daughter, remember the Torah which begins with bet - b'reishit - In the beginning. No one but the Jews would accept her and you wish to bring testimony against them?"

When the other letters saw this, they all remained silent and none would come forward.

Then Abraham said to G-d, "In my hundredth year You gave me a son. When he was 37 years old You commanded me to bring him as a sacrifice and I bound him! Won't You remember this and have pity on my children?"

Then Isaac spoke to G-d, "When my father brought me, upon your command, as an offering, I willingly let myself be bound. I stretched out my neck to be slaughtered. Will you not have pity on my children for my sake?"

Jacob, too, spoke to G-d, saying, "For twenty years I worked for Laban so that I could leave him with my children and my wives. And when I left Laban I was met by my brother Esau who wished to kill my entire family. I risked my very life for them and bore much suffering because of them. Will You not have pity on them?"

Finally, Moses approached G-d. "Was I not a faithful shepherd over Israel for forty years, leading them in the desert? And when the time came for them to enter the Holy Land, You commanded that I die in the desert and not lead them there. Yet, I did not complain. You expect me to watch them go into exile?"

Then Moses called to Jeremiah the prophet, who stood together with him and the Patriarchs. "Come with me. I will take them out of exile."

When, by the rivers of Babylon, the people saw Moses together with Jeremiah, they rejoiced. "Look, Moses has risen from the grave to redeem us from our captors!"

But just then, a heavenly voice rang out, "It is a decree from Me and can be no other way."

Moses wept as he spoke to the people and said, "My beloved children, I cannot take you out for it has been decreed by the Master and only He can redeem you."

Then Rachel, our mother, came before G-d and said, "Your servant, Jacob, loved me dearly and worked for my father for seven years on my behalf. But my father wanted to trick him and give my older sister, Leah, to him instead. I heard of this and told Jacob. And I gave him a sign to that he would know which sister they were giving him.

"But I took pity on my sister and did not wish her to be humiliated. So I taught her the signs and even spoke for her so that Jacob would not recognize her voice. And I was not jealous.

"Master of the World! I am but flesh and blood and I was not jealous of my sister. You are merciful, G-d. Why are you 'jealous' that Israel served idols? And because of this, you have exiled my children and the enemy has killed all that they wanted."

Immediately G-d took pity on her and said, "Rachel, for your sake I will return your children to the land of Israel."

About this it says, "A voice is heard on high, lamentations and bitter weeping, Rachel weeps and it is said: 'Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears for there is reward for your labor... and there is hope for your end, and the sons shall return to their boundary. (Jeremiah)


Moshiach Matters

The Prophet Zecharia prophecizes concerning Tish B'Av, the day on which we mourn the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples: "The fast day of the fifth month (Tisha B'Av) will yet become for the household of Israel a day of rejoicing and of happiness."

(Zecharia 8:19)


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