High Holiday Mood Swings | 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
An interesting thing happens at the end of Yom Kippur. As soon as we finish the last prayer and the shofar is blown, our mood changes. It's like a weight has been lifted off of our shoulders or the barometric pressure has suddenly gone back to normal.
Throughout the days of introspection and preparation and account-taking before Rosh Hashana, we'd tallied up the mitzvot (commandments) and good deeds, the mistakes and the missed opportunities. And the closer we got to Rosh Hashana, the more we realized that we just might be a little overdrawn on the account.
So, in the ten days from (and including) Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur we focussed more on straightening out our affairs.
No wonder we approach Yom Kippur with some trepidation.
Still, after Rosh Hashana we change the way we greet each other. We no longer say, l'shana tova t'kataivu - may you be inscribed for a good year - but l'shana tova t'chataimu - may you be sealed for a good year. It's as if, after Rosh Hashana, we've become more certain, more assured that our fellow Jew has already passed the first stage, so to speak.
Of course, there's no question you, my good friend, have been inscribed for a good year. It's just a matter of completing the formalities. The book isn't sealed until Yom Kippur, so naturally we have to wait. But you certainly have nothing to worry about. You've been written into the book, you'll certainly do teshuva during these days, increase in charitable acts, etc. And so G-d will seal your name in the book of life come Yom Kippur.
Still, we approach Yom Kippur with trembling and awe, as well we should. It's all right for a neighbor, a friend, an acquaintance to be so sure about our fate, but they don't know us from the inside. If they really knew, oy vey!
And yet, the moment Yom Kippur is over, even as we're breaking the fast, we begin preparing for the Sukot festival, the next holiday, the next minute. Without a moment's backward thought, without the shadow of a doubt, as the clich้ goes, we rush forward into the mitzvot and activities of the new year.
Whence such assurance? From where such a transformation? Five minutes ago we were trying to get the most out of the last moments of Yom Kippur and now we forgot about those intense, subliminal, awe-inspiring feelings?
Well, yes, because on Yom Kippur we realize just how much we trust G-d. Of course the Jewish people are "believers, children of believers." We have faith in G-d at all times and in all places. But on Yom Kippur, and particularly during the last prayer - Neila - on Yom Kippur, we reach a state of total assurance and total trust. We do more than firmly believe that G-d is kind. We trust, that G-d is Kind.
That complete and absolute trust gives us the confidence and courage to immediately live up to expectations, to in turn justify G-d's trust in and love for us.
This week's Torah portion, Ha'azinu, opens with Moses' words: "Listen, heaven, and I will speak; hear, earth, the words of my mouth." With these words Moses called upon heaven and earth to bear witness concerning his admonitions and exhortations to the Jewish people regarding their performance of Torah and mitzvot (the commandments).
The commentary Sifrei offers an explanation for Moses' selection of heaven and earth as witnesses. "Listen heaven" - because Torah was given from heaven; "hear earth" - because upon it the Jewish people stood when they accepted the Torah and said "All that G-d spoke we shall obey and hear."
Torah and mitzvot were given to us by G-d, Who is infinitely higher than heaven and earth. In seeking to exhort Israel to a greater degree of performance of Torah and mitzvot, it is logical to assume that this could be best accomplished by stressing the fact that Torah and mitzvot were given by G-d, rather than by focusing upon the point that Torah and mitzvot are connected to heaven and earth. Why, then, the emphasis on heaven and earth?
A Jew is expected to serve G-d on two levels: on one hand he is expected to serve G-d with pure and simple faith and with acceptance of the Heavenly Yoke - elements that derive from the soul's essence. On the other hand his service must permeate his internal powers of intellect and emotions so that they too understand and feel G-dliness.
In practical terms this means that a Jew is to connect his soul's essence with his inner powers, so that not only does he serve G-d in thought, speech, and action out of a sense of simple faith, but he also comprehends G-dliness in his mind and loves and fears Him in his heart.
Moreover, a Jew is expected not only to serve G-d in the general and ongoing manner of regular Torah and mitzvot, he is also to serve Him through repentance - teshuva. This level of service, a level of service that emanates from the soul's essence and seeks the innermost aspect of G-dliness, must permeate the person's powers of intellect and emotion as well.
This is why when Moses desired to rouse the Jews to the service of Torah and mitzvot, whose performance was to be not only with pure faith but with the inner powers of intellect and emotion as well, he mentioned that Torah and mitzvot were given through heaven and earth.
Thus, he aroused within the Jewish nation their inner "heaven and earth," and the lesser powers of emotion, speech and action that are likened to and on the level of earth.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
A Special Yom Kippur Prayer
by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
In the first year after Perestroika became a reality, one of my friends was leading the Kol Nidrei services in the main synagogue of Kiev on Yom Kippur night.
Announcements of the services had been posted all over the city and Jews responded eagerly. Old men who remembered accompanying their parents to shul as children, young families who wanted a taste of their heritage after more than a half-century of Soviet persecution, and youth in their teens who barely knew they were Jewish, flocked to the synagogue.
The cantor chanted Kol Nidrei. The moving melody stirred the hearts of all those who had come. But as the service proceeded, my friend sensed feelings of disappointment beginning to surface. After all, most of the people had never been in a synagogue in their lives; none of them knew how to pray together with the cantor. Despite the best intentions, Hebrew-Russian prayerbooks, and explanations in Russian, he could sense that the people were becoming bored, and within their hearts a question was beginning to take form: Were these the prayers that they had yearned for so many years to be allowed to say?
In the middle of the services, after the silent prayer said while standing, known as the Amida or Shemona Esrei, my friend ascended to the lectern and began to tell a classic Chasidic story: One Yom Kippur, the Baal Shem Tov (founder of Chasidism) was praying together with his students in a small Polish village. Through his spiritual vision, the Baal Shem Tov had detected that harsh heavenly judgments had been decreed against the Jewish people, and he and his students were trying with all the sincerity they could muster to cry out to G-d and implore Him to rescind these decrees and grant the Jews a year of blessing.
This deep feeling took hold of all the inhabitants of the village and everyone opened his heart in deepfelt prayer.
Among the inhabitants of the village was a simple shepherd boy. He did not know how to read; indeed, he could barely read the letters of the alef-beit, the Hebrew alphabet. As the intensity of feeling in the synagogue began to mount, he decided that he also wanted to pray. But he did not know how. He could not read the words of the prayer book or mimic the prayers of the other congregants. He opened the prayer book to the first page and began to recite the letters: alef, beit, veit - reading the entire alphabet. He then called out to G-d: "This is all I can do. G-d, You know how the prayers should be pronounced. Please, arrange the letters in the proper way."
This simple, genuine prayer resounded powerfully within the Heavenly court. G-d rescinded all the harsh decrees and granted the Jews blessing and good fortune.
My friend paused for a moment to let the story impact his listeners. Suddenly a voice called out, "alef." And thousands of voices thundered back "alef." The voice continued: "beit," and the thousands responded "beit." They continued to pronounce every letter in the Hebrew alphabet. And then they began to file out of the synagogue.
They had recited their prayers.
Reprinted from Keeping In Touch, published by Sichos In English.
The Money in the Honey
When a wealthy widow, Rochel, living in King Saul's Israel, hides her fortune of gold coins in some honey jars and then finds all the coins stolen, who will save her from ruin? Even King Saul, who hears her sad tale, sends her away unable to recover her fortune and sole means of support. In a surprise twist to the story, a young, wise shepherd named David - who would one day be king himself - comes to the rescue. Adapted and illustrated by Aidel Backman, published by Kehot Publications.
Mind Over Matter
Mind Over Matter is an authoritative reference of the Rebbe's talks, discourses and letters on science, technology and medicine. It covers such diverse topics as proof of the Creator, origin of the species, aviation, fate vs. freedom, geometry, medicine and more. Edited and translated into English by Dr. Arnie Gotfryd based on a book in Hebrew compiled by Rabbi Y. Ginsburg and Prof. Herman Branover, published by Shamir Books.
This letter was written at the beginning of the year 5750 - bwwa,. The acronym for the year was "T'hei Shnas Nissim - it should be a year of miracles." Thus, this freely translated letter discusses the place for miracles and going beyond one's nature in serving G-d.
6th of Tishrei, 5750 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d Bless You All!
Greeting and blessing:
It is customary to "open with a blessing," in this instance, a blessing for a chasima (sealing) and g'mar chasima (final sealing) for a good and sweet year.
It is after Rosh Hashana and we have already entered the new year. At all times, even when a person's knowledge and actual conduct are satisfactory, he should constantly strive to invest his time in further study, and thus to improve his conduct (his thought, speech, and action). Surely this applies at the threshold of a new year, which reminds us that it is necessary to strive toward a new and more elevated level of perfection in our daily life.
...Both miracles and nature are expressions of G-dliness. Nature too emanates from G-d. He created and fixed the laws of nature and uses them as a means to control the world. What distinguishes miracles from nature is that miracles are out of the ordinary, a higher order of existence than G-d usually reveals. The Hebrew word for miracle, "nes," also means "uplifted," raised above and exalted. Thus, a miracle is an occurrence which introduces a higher frame of reference into creation, elevating the world beyond its natural limitations.
These two approaches, the natural and the miraculous, must be reflected in the behavior of every Jew. We must exhibit both a natural pattern of behavior and a miraculous pattern of behavior.
Even a Jew's natural pattern of behavior involves absolute adherence to the directives of the Torah. However, inasmuch as it is his ordinary conduct, it is limited by the bounds of his human potential.
G-d, however, grants a Jew an additional potential to serve Him through a miraculous pattern of behavior, allowing him to transcend his natural limits. This does not mean that a person merely improves himself slightly or even greatly, in the spirit of the directive that "in holy matters, one should always ascend higher," by increasing his commitment to sessions of Torah study, undertaking a new hiddur in the performance of a mitzvah, or the like. Rather, it means that he changes entirely, adopting a totally new and more elevated pattern of behavior.
"All Jews are presumed to act in an upstanding manner." Thus, we can assume that each Jew utilized the month of Elul, the month of stock-taking, to correct all his deeds of the previous year and to elevate them to the level of completion and perfection.
We can also assume that he was granted a full measure of pardon, forgiveness, and atone-ment, and was inscribed - and that inscription was sealed - for a good year in all matters....
It is now demanded of each Jew - man, woman, and child - that he work with himself and elevate himself to a plane so new and so high that his conduct in this year will be miraculous when compared to his conduct in the previous year.
This miraculous pattern of behavior - serving G-d (through Torah, prayer, and mitzvos) in an unlimited manner - must pervade every aspect of our conduct, including the mitzvos between man and G-d, the mitzvos between man and his fellowman, beginning with the mitzvah to "love your neighbor as yourself," and also the mitzvos that are connected with non-Jews and with the world at large.
G-d relates to the Jewish people "measure for measure." Accordingly, it is understood that a miraculous pattern of behavior on the part of a Jew arouses a miraculous pattern of Divine behavior and draws down unlimited Divine blessings upon himself, both as an individual and as a part of the Jewish people as a whole, and upon the world at large.
May each individual's acceptance of firm and powerful resolutions regarding all the above be considered by G-d as if these resolutions have already been carried out. In particular, this is true, since we have already experienced several days of the new year and one can assume that the above has already begun to be carried out. And may the meaning of the acronym resulting from the name of this year be fulfilled quite literally, so that "this will be a year of miracles."
May it also include the most vital miracle, the miracle of the true and complete redemption led by our righteous Moshiach, when there will be even greater miracles than those which occurred during the exodus from Egypt. Thus our Sages interpret the verse, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt will I show you wonders" - the miracles of the Messianic age will be "wonders" when compared to the "days of your exodus from Egypt."
May G-d fulfill the heartfelt prayer of each Jew and of the Jewish people as a whole - and bring the true and complete redemption in the immediate future.
11 Tishrei, 5764 - October 7, 2003
Prohibition 317: It is forbidden to curse another Jew
This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 19:14) "You shall not curse (even) the deaf"
We are forbidden to curse any Jew. Though this prohibition mentions the deaf, it applies to all people. We may think that expressing anger or frustration against a deaf person and uttering a curse is not so bad because the deaf person will not be able to hear us anyway. However, the Torah cautions us never to curse anyone, neither a deaf person, nor even people who can hear.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Thursday, on the sixth of Tishrei (October 2 this year), was the yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, mother of the Rebbe.
There is a famous story told about Rebbetzin Chana's selfless dedication for the dissemination of Torah. Rebbetzin Chana followed her husband, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, when sent into internal exile by the Stalinist government. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was deterred from recording the unique expositions on the mystical, kabalistic parts of the Torah because of the lack of such simple provisions as paper and ink. Instead of paper, he wrote in the margins of books. But ink? He could hardly reuse old ink.
Rebbetzin Chana used to go out into the woods and gather wild plants. From these she managed to make her own ink so that her illustrious husband could continue writing.
After Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's passing, Rebbetzin Chana was finally allowed to leave Russia. With total devotion and complete disregard for her own personal safety, Rebbetzin Chana smuggled out her husband's manuscripts. These manuscripts were later edited and published by her son, the Rebbe.
As the Rebbe himself explained at a gathering commemorating his mother's yartzeit, a great lesson can be learned from her courage and self-sacrifice. And surely this is an important lesson that we can meditate upon as the awesome day of Yom Kippur approaches.
When faced with an obstacle, one must not be concerned or overwhelmed by the fact that it seems insurmountable. One cannot become weighted down by the difficulties. Rather, we must work to overcome the obstacle without pre-conceived notions or calculations of the impossibility of the situation. We must do our part-what must be done. Ultimately, because we are doing what G-d expects of us, we will be successful.
Of the Rock that bore you were you unmindful; and you forgot the G-d Who bore you (Deut. 32:10)
When G-d created man He gave him the gift of being "unmindful" - the ability to forget and allow time to heal the wounds which would befall him in this world. But, G-d claims, what did you do with this gift? You misused it, and forgot about Me!
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)
...He, and Hoshea the son of Nun" (Deut. 32:44)
Why was Joshua referred to here by his original name, Hoshea? To inform us that although he was being given a position of greatness as the successor of Moses, he did not become egotistical or overbearing. He remained the same as always.
The King who forgives and pardons our transgressions (from the Yom Kippur prayers)
How can we be so certain when saying this blessing that G-d pardons and forgives our transgressions? The Rozhiner Rebbe explained: "When I was a little child, we once had apples in our house. I desperately wanted an apple but my father didn't want to give me one. What did I do? I made the blessing over the apple in a loud voice and motioned to my father to quickly give me an apple so I wouldn't have uttered a blessing in vain. He didn't have a choice but to give me the apple. It is the same with us. When we call G-d 'the King who forgives and pardons...' G-d doesn't have a "choice" as it were, and he must forgive us. Otherwise we would be saying G-d's name in vain.
(He) forgives our sins, year after year (from the Yom Kippur prayers)
A person, if wronged, will forgive after the guilty party apologizes. But he will find it more difficult to forgive a second time if the same thing occurs again. How much more if it happens a third or a fourth time. G-d's attribute of mercy, however, has no limit or boundary, as it states, "For his mercy endures forever." Whether the apology comes the first time or the thousandth time, it is all the same.
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman, Igeret Hateshuva)
Shortly after World War II, Josef Stalin had reached the ultimate degree of dictatorship. He was adored and feared by the entire Russian populace. His rule and judgment were so absolute that even the millions of his own people that died in his Siberian "correction" camps were expected to be grateful to him for "re-educating" them.
Rabbi Mendel Futerfas was a Lubavitcher chasid and the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that everyone must have utter self-sacrifice to insure that each Jew, even in Stalin's U.S.S.R., gets a genuine Jewish education.
Reb Mendel was arrested, charged with teaching Torah, and put in jail to await trial one year after Rosh Hashana. It was pretty clear that he would spend the rest of his life in Siberia, which in most cases wasn't much time.
In his damp prison cell together with hundreds of criminals, Reb Mendel suddenly realized that several days had passed and in a few hours it would be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
He prepared a little synagogue for himself - his bed. He would sit on his bed and say as many of the prayers of Yom Kipper as he remembered. And G-d would help. But it wasn't so easy; most of the prayers of Yom Kippur are different and there are a lot of them.
But one prayer stood out in his mind. It was arranged alphabetically with each line beginning "Everyone believes" (Kol Maaminim). In the stillness of the night, while everyone else was asleep, Reb Mendel sat swaying gently back and forth on his bed and praying to the Creator.
Then suddenly the thought entered his mind, "Hey, what am I saying here! Everyone believes? Everyone believes? Why, the devils who turned me in were anti-Semitic bloodthirsty Yevsektsia (the Jewish division of the Communist party) who lived only to wipe out any mention of G-d and His people. Reb Mendel put this new question aside with all his others and finished his prayers.
Several nights later, Reb Mendel had a soul-shaking experience in the large cell where he and about two hundred other prisoners were imprisoned.
While everyone else was sleeping, Reb Mendel was reciting the Shema prayer before going to sleep. Suddenly, he looked up and noticed that a murderer was staring at him. It was Ivan, a huge mountain of a man with a scarred ugly face. Everyone knew him and was afraid of him. And now it seemed that he had set his sights on poor Reb Mendel.
Maybe because he hated Jews, perhaps another reason, but Ivan jumped silently from his bed, crouching like a huge cat and quietly approached the Rabbi.
When he reached Reb Mendel he bent down, put his face into his ear and whispered deliberately and slowly, "You're Jewish, right?"
Reb Mendel never hid his Judaism; better to die a Jew than to live a lie. He looked Ivan in the eye and answered firmly, "Yes."
The murderer pointed to himself and whispered, "So am I." Reb Mendel was shocked. "And I'll tell you something else," Ivan continued, "I even fasted this Yom Kippur. Me, Ivan the murderer who hates G-d, fasted on Yom Kippur."
He paused for what seemed an eternity and then continued. "A few days ago I heard one of the Jewish prisoners say 'Tomorrow is Yom Kippur' and suddenly I decided I was going to fast. I don't know why, but I did it.
"The next day I told the guards I was sick and they put me in the 'hospital' (which was no more than an empty room with a wooden bed in it) and locked the door and I just sat there.
"I couldn't figure out why I was sitting there but after a while I felt really uneasy. Then it occurred to me that I feel uneasy because Jews pray on Yom Kippur. I remembered that my grandfather took me to services and he used to pray and cry to G-d with all the other Jews, and now look at me! I'm a murderer, a thief, all I've done is hurt people all my life and I can't even...
"Then suddenly I remembered a prayer that my grandmother used to say with me every morning when she woke me up. I remembered her soft, sad eyes and I began to cry. I cried on Yom Kippur just like my grandfather did! Just like all the Jews! And when I stopped crying I said the prayer: "Modeh Ani L'fanecha Melech Chai v'Kayam, Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati B'Chemla Raba Emunatecha" (I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.)
"I don't even know what it means. But I sat in that room the entire day and I said that prayer over and over again." Ivan paused for another minute in deep thought, then snapped out of it. Then he whispered menacingly, "Don't you tell anyone what I just told you, understand?! ... Nothing. I said nothing."
Ivan turned and walked away.
Reb Mendel sat in silence. Suddenly, he thought, "That is the answer to my question I had on Yom Kippur! Why, if that murderer believes..... it's a sign that EVERYONE believes."
The shofar blast of Yom Kippur mirrors the "great Shofar," which signifies the ingathering of the exiles during the Redemption. Both the shofar blast of Yom Kippur and the "Great shofar" issue one simple, long note, in contrast to the other times (i.e. Rosh Hashana) when the shofar is blown at different lengths and intervals.
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism)