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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

November 14, 2003 - 19 Cheshvan, 5764

794: Vayera

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  793: Lech-Lecha795: Chayei Sara  

Gps  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters


by Rabbi Dovi Scheiner

And the voice called to me from heaven. "Dovi," it said, in a mechanical tone, "just where do you think you're going? Get back on the Hutchinson River Parkway right away!"

Actually, the voice did not originate from heaven. Nor did it address me by my first name. But the part about the "strangely mechanical tone" is perfectly true.

For a drive from my Brooklyn office to a meeting in Rye Brook, New York, I put my vehicle's GPS navigation system to work.

The meeting went well, and it was only on my return drive that I looked up and noticed an exit that would take me to a popular kosher bakery located on Central Avenue in Long Island. Desperate to populate my desolate stomach, I hooked a quick right at the exit.

That's when it happened. The vehicle's navigation device, which had been supporting my progression along the logical route to my stated destination, took note of my deviation and went berserk! The miniature computer screen, previously displaying a digital map, now started flashing the term "recalculating." Then the orders started coming fast and furious. First there was, "At the corner, turn left!" When I ignored this, there came, "In a half mile, turn right!" Finally, with an air of urgency, it instructed, "If possible, please make a U turn!"

My thoughts turned back to my days in yeshiva. There was that enigmatic verse in Ethics of the Fathers (6:2). It spoke of a Heavenly Voice issuing forth from Mount Choreb (Sinai), imploring errant souls to return to G-d. "Of what use is a Heavenly Voice," asks the Baal Shem Tov, "if it is never heard on earth?" The Baal Shem Tov explains that while the voice is not physically audible, man's spirit senses it, and many a lost soul has returned at the beck of this powerful call.

Though I trusted the authenticity of this Torah teaching, it was hard for me to conceptualize the whole scenario. I mean, does G-d truly monitor every move we make, to the point of registering even the smallest mistake? Is our disobedience to the Divine command taken so seriously as to warrant the raising of a heavenly fuss? And finally, could such otherworldly rumblings realistically register down here on earth?

Somehow, a right turn in the wrong direction brought me the answer to my questions. Somewhere between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the bakery, it became apparent that a remote satellite was attuned to my precise station. One wrong move on my part was enough to elicit an outer space outcry, with this skyway sleuth adjuring me to return to the path of truth!

A new technology reinforced an ancient reality. If a man-made satellite can simultaneously direct tens of thousands of vehicles, why can't G-d direct the many men He made?

Indeed, He does! Sometimes we feel a bolt of inspiration out of the blue, with no prior warning or preparation. It's the Heavenly Voice ringing out and making the connection. At times, we may even take the hint on a conscious level. Like receiving a call from a friend inviting us to attend a Jewish gathering, or opening a Jewish weekly and encountering a little bit of kosher spirit.

Rabbi Scheiner is editor of Kosher Spirit Magazine, published by OK Kosher Certification, where this article first appeared. Reprinted with permission.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vayeira, introduces us to the second of our forefathers, Isaac. It also relates that Isaac was occupied with digging wells.

Abraham and Isaac achieved greatness by paving two distinct paths to spirituality. Abraham traveled from place to place, both within the borders of Israel and in other lands, and caused G-d's name to be known everywhere he went. Through his boundless hospitality, as well as through other means, he caused countless wayfarers to thank G-d for His bounty and goodness. Abraham's basic nature was kindness - giving and favorably influencing his fellow man.

Isaac, on the other hand, had a totally different approach. He never left the Holy Land and his basic nature was the personification of gevura (strength). Isaac's way of bringing holiness into the world involved elevating the lowly and bringing it closer to G-dliness; Abraham's method was to bring G-dliness down into the lower realms.

This path to spirituality is even apparent in Isaac's preoccupation with digging wells. A well is made when one digs and uncovers the water that was always there, albeit in an unrevealed state. Isaac did not bring the water to the well from an outside source; he merely removed the soil and rocks so that the water could flow forth on its own.

Whereas his father Abraham was primarily occupied with bringing holiness down into this world, Isaac spent his life uncovering the inherent holiness that already existed in the world. Isaac taught others that through their own efforts they could uncover the good and arrive at Divine truth.

From Abraham we learn how to elevate the physical world through studying Torah and performing mitzvot, causing the Divine light to descend and illuminate our surroundings. We also learn from him the obligation to spread the knowledge and appreciation of G-d through our own example and influence on others.

But this in itself is not enough. We must also learn from Isaac how to "dig wells" - how to uncover and reveal that spark of goodness and spirituality which exists within ourselves and every Jew. It is not sufficient to merely teach others about G-dliness; we must also know how to dig under the surface and reveal the "pintele Yid" - the inherent faith in G-d and spark of holiness - which is our birthright.

Even if a Jew seems to be nothing but "dust, clay and stones," that is, his Jewish spark seems to be dormant and hidden underground, we can learn from Isaac not be discouraged - this appearance is merely a camouflage. Under the lifeless surface lies a rich source of running water, of goodness, faith and love of G-d. All we have to do is remove the superficial layer of "clay" to reveal the pure Jewish soul within.

And what can we answer a Jew who cries, "But I've tried! I've dug and I've dug, and I can't seem to uncover my Jewish spark!" We must direct him to the example of Isaac, who persevered in his digging and was not discouraged, even when his wells were deliberately stopped up by his enemies, time and time again. For we are promised success if we, too, persevere and are relentless in our quest for G-dliness.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Jews for Judaism
David's Story

My name is David. I was born a Jew. When I was growing up, I had a very limited Jewish education.

It was in my mid-20's when I began to feel the need for some sort of spirituality. I began to search for G-d, and I was answered by a Fundamentalist Christian - my landlord's son, whom we'll call Jeff.

He, Jeff, told me about Jesus. He told me that he was my savior and that he died for me. He told me that I needed to repent my sins and accept him to be "saved."

As a Jewishly un-educated individual who was searching for the truth, I began to fall for the false belief in Jesus. My ignorance of the Jewish Bible (Tanach) was the reason I came to these beliefs.

Jeff was the first person who took time to expose me to the Bible, and help me view the verses of the Bible. It was after discussing with him, that I became a born-again Christian.

After this, my entire life perspective was affected. I looked down at all non-Christians. I condemned all non-Christians to hell. I felt like the greatest prophet that ever lived. I felt so righteous and alive. I thought G-d was on my side. I told my family about the "good news" and relayed to them that if they didn't accept J., they would not see G-d in heaven.

It pained my Jewish family to see me falling to Christianity. My mother and father were extremely shocked and dismayed. How could their only son become a Christian?

But, I would not give in that easily. I refused to acknowledge their pains. I was a soldier of G-d and I needed to show J. that I loved him more than I loved my family, just as the Bible verses that Jeff showed me had stated.

I preached the gospel to them, but to no avail. They stayed strong and refused to accept J.

I started crying. I thought to myself, "They've got to accept J., it's the only way to heaven. I don't want them to go to hell. What could I possibly do to help them see the light?"

My Fundamentalists friends told me to study "The Word." They told me that I could use it to help bring many lost souls to Christianity. So, as instructed, I began some study.

I returned home to face my parents once again. They told me that a rabbi from Jews for Judaism was going to sit down with me, study with me, and discuss the Bible with me.

I told myself that I knew "The Word" and that no rabbi could change me. I was looking forward to meet the rabbi, with the intention of missionaizing to him.

Rabbi BenTzion Kravitz of Jews for Judaism came to my home. For four or five hours, he pointed out passages from the Christian Bible that contradicted various passages from the Jewish Bible. He brought to light the passages that Jeff and my fellow Fundamentalists had shown me.

My plans to convert the dear Rabbi had been eliminated. But, it did not matter anymore. I felt so free. It felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulder. My parents greeted me with a hug, and I thought to myself, "Welcome Home, David."

Dina's Story

When I was young, my parents did not allow me to accompany my friends to church. I thought, "What's the harm?" I was curious. I wanted to see what they do in church.

When I was sixteen, I went to church with a friend. I felt something powerful inside that I had never felt before. I was curious why I hadn't felt this way when I went to Temple? I was as confused as a young Jewish girl can be.

"Born-Again" Christians told me all my problems would go away if I accepted J. The most enticing part about all of this was that they told me that J. would cure me of my Cerebral Palsy and I would walk. They kept saying, "G-d wants you to walk. G-d wants you to walk." I also wanted this and I was tired of being different. I hardly had any friends. I liked the attention the Christians gave me and they were willing to accept me as I was.

For more than a year, I lead a Christian life behind my family's back. Finally, I couldn't keep it a secret any more. Having always been a real close family, it tore me up to know that my new beliefs were pulling us apart.

When I entered college, most of the fellow students in the dorm and my best friend were "Born-Again" Christians. They included me in everything they did, as long as I accepted their religion. I was assigned a counselor who ordered me to call her every time I felt an urge to contact my parents. She would coach me on what to say to them. She claimed that she wanted to help me bring my parents to Christianity so they wouldn't go to hell.

Looking back at the way they controlled me, it was like being in a cult. With the help of my Conservative Rabbi and my parents, I got the courage to meet Rabbi BenTzion Kravitz of Jews for Judaism. It wasn't easy because my counselor had warned me about this "evil man." When she learned that I had agreed to talk to Rabbi Kravitz, she told me to tape record the conversation. I refused and went ahead with the meeting.

Rabbi Kravitz spent many hours with me. My entire family was invited to his home for Shabbat. Today, I have returned to Judaism. I learned that I didn't have to leave my religion to find meaning, spirituality and friends. It was here all the time.

What's New

New Center at Dartmouth

A new Chabad Center opened at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire in time for the new academic year. Rabbi Moshe and Chanie Gray have already started a number of programs. The couple will introduce a host of Chabad programs on campus over the course of the next few semesters.

Groundbreaking in Utah

The groundbreaking for a $3 million "Center for Living Judaism" in Salt Lake City, Utah, took place last month. Under the directorship of Rabbi Benny and Sharona Zippel, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries to Utah, the center will include a sanctuary, kosher catering facilities, offices, Hebrew School classrooms, a preschool, lounge, library, camp grounds, and a ritual bath.

The Rebbe Writes

November 20, 1970

Concerning your letter dealing with my words regarding Jerusalem, which were challenged, saying that there is no basis for what I said ... I only wish it were true. But to my sorrow, the present situation clearly refutes the contention, that there is no basis for my words. What aggravates this impression is that they (the Israeli government) are numbing public opinion - with the usual slogans. I warned about this also, and they know that the only thing which is holding them (the Israeli leaders) back now is lack of convincing propaganda, which will satisfy the Jewish masses. Now with regard to the politicians, they have already toyed with many different phraseologies, among them one which I mentioned (they want to turn The City of the Great King into "The City of Three Kings").

There is presently "no King over the Jewish people, and each man does according to what is right in his eyes," since we are, after all, living in a democratic society. [They will then decide the issue of Jerusalem] as "three partners," in order of quantity, of course, which is the deciding factor in a democracy; first come the Christians, then the Muslims, and only then ...

(Yesterday, the most important newspaper here, The New York Times, printed the latest approach, which was taken from the words of the Foreign Minister in the name of the Government: "It is the desire of the Israeli Government to retain "political control" over Jerusalem, and not to compromise on places upon which Israel's security depend, like the Golan Heights and certain other points on the West Bank of the Jordan." This is sufficient evidence for whoever understands.)

May it be G-d's Will that in approaching the month of redemption, the month of Kislev, we should be saved - even before the coming of Moshiach - from the modern-day Hellenists. Through the spreading of the wellsprings of Chassidus, which is the central theme of the holiday of redemption Yud-Tes Kislev, each individual will light flames using pure oil, which has not been tampered with by the hand of a stranger, or even lit by one, illuminating both the house and the outside world simultaneously, in an increasing and illuminating manner.

Respectfully, with blessings for true health and good news in all mentioned here and with blessings of Mazal Tov on the birth of your grandchild, may he live and be well,

5740 (1979), Sabbatical Year, Shabbos LaHashem
To the Honored Participants in the Sixth Great Assembly -Headed by the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the World Agudath Israel in Jerusalem, the Holy City, in Our Holy Land which will speedily be rebuilt by our Righteous Moshiach

Greetings and Blessings!

It was with great pleasure and gratitude that I received your invitation, along with the attached agenda of the Central Committee of the Great Assembly,

May it be G-d's Will that you take advantage of the Great Assembly with all its possibilities for spreading Judaism, Torah, and mitzvos everywhere - to the most forsaken places,

And most especially the main thing, being action - through clear decisions based on Torah which even effect affairs of daily life.

Among them, obviously, should be decisions having to do with current events - publicizing as much as necessary the resolution of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Elul, 5697 [1937], which states:

"The Holy Land which G-d established according to its borders in the Holy Torah was given to the immortal Nation of Israel, and any concession regarding the Holy Land - which was given to us by G-d according to its borders - has no intrinsic value."

Particularly since the situation regarding this has fundamentally worsened, and any concession of territory only endangers lives, As the clear ruling of the Code of Jewish Law Orach Chaim, ch. 329 regarding the Laws of Shabbos states, Heaven forbid, lest "The land becomes easy to conquer." G-d, Who watches over His nation Yisroel, will protect each and every individual, whether in the Land of Israel or outside of it, And speedily in our days will He put an end to the darkness; the increasingly dense darkness of the generation of the footsteps of Messiah, Who will redeem us from our bitter exile, when He will fight the battles of the L-rd and succeed, and will build the Holy Temple in its place and ingather the dispersed of Israel and the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d.

With deep respect and with blessings for much success in all these matters;

Awaiting Good News

Rambam this week

20 Cheshvan, 5764 - November 15, 2003

Positive Mitzva 10: Reciting the "Shema"

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 6:7) "And you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you travel on the road, and when you lie down and when you rise up"

When our Sages arranged the content of the prayerbook, they included the Shema in the morning and evening prayers.

Positive Mitzva 5: Worshiping G-d -"Prayer"

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:25) "And you shall serve the L-rd, your G-d"

G-d demands that we serve Him through prayer.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The twentieth of Cheshvan, this year corresponding to Monday, October 21, is the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Shalom Dovber.

The Rebbe Rashab, born 129 years ago, was the fifth leader of Chabad/Lubavitch.

The Rebbe Rashab was universally known for his steadfast defense of Torah true Judaism in Czarist Russia and for his establishment of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva, Tomchei Tmimim, in the town of Lubavitch in 1897. The Rebbe Rashab also worked diligently to implement the virtue of ahavat Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew) among all Jews. On the holiday of Simchat Torah, in 1898, the Rebbe Rashab recited a Chasidic discourse entitled Heichaltzu, literally meaning "arm yourselves." The discourse delves primarily into the spiritual roots of baseless hatred. However, the essence of the discourse was to foster love and unity among all Jews.

The Rebbe Rashab states in the discourse: "One must assume that the other person is good in every respect. One should not view others in terms of one's own [experience], for one must judge every man positively and firmly believe he is surely better than oneself. Hence, one ought to be deeply distressed by the suffering of one's fellow..."

In the merit of the Rebbe Rashab (of blessed memory), let us all do our utmost to abolish senseless hatred and foster true, unblemished love for our fellow Jews, which is certainly the precursor to the final redemption, the coming of Moshiach Tzidkainu, speedily in our days, NOW.

Thoughts that Count

"I will go down and see." (Gen. 18:21)

The great commentator Rashi explains that G-d descended to see the "end" of the deeds of the Sodomites. Although the people of Sodom did indeed sin, G-d looked, so to speak, to their last deeds; would they regret them and repent, or would they remain entrenched in their evil ways.

(Sefer HaMaamarim)

"Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac" (Gen. 22:2)

G-d said to Abraham, "Take your son [to be sacrificed]."

Abraham said, "I have two sons, Isaac and Ishmael."

G-d said, "Your only son."

Said Abraham, "Each one is an only son to his mother."

G-d said, "Whom you love."

"I love both of them," replied Abraham.

"Take Isaac," G-d commanded.

(Sanhedrin; Rashi)

And Abram rose up early in the morning (Gen. 22:3)

The fact that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son on the altar does not in itself adequately illustrate how dedicated he was to G-d. For did G-d, Himself, not speak to Abraham, saying, "Take your son, your only son"? Throughout the generations, there has been no scarcity of Jews willing to give up their lives to sanctify the Name of G-d even when G-d did not speak directly to them. Rather, there is another merit and issue at stake in the fact that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and that is the speed with which he hurried to fulfill the command. In fact, all of Abraham's deeds were done with a similar liveliness and alacrity, demonstrating his great joy and desire to fulfill G-d's will and bring pleasure to the Creator. This quickness to performing a mitzva, a trait of our forefather Abraham, stands as a merit for all of us until today.


It Once Happened

Reb Meir Raphaels, a leader of the Jewish community of Vilna, started out as an antagonist of the Chasidic movement. Eventually, though, he became one of the most enthusiastic disciples of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe. His transformation was caused in part by the following story:

A poor man was on his way to Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Thursday evening he arrived in Vilna, entered one of the synagogues, took out a Talmud and was soon immersed in it. He contented himself to spend the Sabbath in the synagogue.

Shabbat approached. The shul attendant noticed that the visitor was a scholarly person. He approached the visitor, "In our city there are many people who fulfill the commandment of hospitality with all their heart. You would be allowing someone to fulfill this great mitzva by agreeing to grace someone's Shabbat table." With much persistence, the attendant managed to convince the traveler to partake of someone's hospitality.

The Friday night meal was richly spiced with Torah discussions. The host, a wealthy and learned man, seemed more than pleased at the good fortune of having such a knowledgeable guest. At the end of the meal, however, the host sighed deeply. The guest wondered at this but said nothing.

At lunch the following day, a lively discussion ensued on Torah related topics. Again the host seem delighted, yet at the end of the meal sighed once more. This scene repeated itself at the third meal, too. When it happened once again at the Melave Malka meal following Shabbat, the guest could contain himself no longer. He asked the host what was troubling him. The host sadly related that trumped-up charges had been brought against himself and his business partner and they had been sentenced to three years hard labor in Siberia. In the regional court the verdict was confirmed and the case was soon to be reopened, for the last time, in S. Petersburg.

The guest immediately advised him, "Set out at once for Liozna and ask my Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman what to do. He will certainly be able to help you."

The host discussed it with his partner. They were concerned that the reaction of their neighbors would be less than positive if people heard they were getting involved with the "Chasidim." They decided to take the matter to Reb Meir Raphaels, a mutual friend, and do whatever he advised.

They were surprised to hear Reb Meir tell them, "I agree that you should go to Rabbi Shneur Zalman."

The partners quickly journeyed to Liozna and told Rabbi Shneur Zalman their problems. The Rebbe said to them, "You are both learned men. Tell me, what is the meaning of the statement in the Talmud 'The worldly kingdom resembles the heavenly kingdom.' " The partners stood silently.

"I will explain it to you," offered the Rebbe. "G-d's name is not pronounced the way it is written. the Alm-ghty is not called by His 'personal name,' as it were. The same is true of earthly monarchs. They are not addressed by their personal names but rather as 'czar'."

The partners travelled back to Vilna sorely disappointed. Not once did the Rebbe mention the matter which had brought them to him. They could clearly understand why there was such opposition to this new Chasidic movement.

When they arrived in Vilna, they told Reb Meir what had transpired. He, too, lost what little faith he had in Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

The date for the trial in S. Petersburg arrived and the situation still looked grim. As a last chance they decided to try meeting the Minister of Justice in person and beg his mercy. They traveled to S. Petersburg and found out that he always took a walk in the municipal gardens at a fixed time. They bribed the guard of the gardens and were let in before the minister's daily constitutional.

That day, it just so happened that the Minister of Justice was ill. The Minister of Education, however, was taking a walk in the gardens at that exact hour. The partners fell at his feet, described their situation and begged him for help.

"I am sorry, you have the wrong man," said the Minister, when they completed their petition. "I am the Minister of Education," he explained.

The two partners started to leave the park, but the minister called after them. "A few days ago, the czar posed a question to me from your holy Talmud. I have been unsuccessful in finding a satisfactory answer. If you can give me an acceptable answer, I will tell it to the czar in your names. Maybe that will help you. Now, here is the question. In the Talmud it is written, 'The worldly kingdom resembles the heavenly kingdom.' The czar was unable to fathom this and I could not help clarify it for him. Perhaps you have an answer?"

The two partners were speechless for a moment. Then they clearly gave the interpretation which they had heard months before from Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

The Minister of Education was pleased with this explanation. At his next meeting with the czar, he related the interpretation and whence came the answer. Upon the request of the education minister, the czar bid the senate to drop the charges against the partners.

When the partners returned to Vilna, the first place they stopped was at the home of Reb Meir Raphaels. They told him everything that had happened. Reb Meir lost no time in setting out for Liozna. He joined the disciples of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and before long became a prominent chasid.

Moshiach Matters

In the present, the Torah is garbed in narratives - the story of Laban, the story of Bilam, and the like. In the time to come, however, the mysteries hidden in these narratives will be disclosed: it will become apparent how these stories in fact speak of G-d, of the building of supernal worlds. This is why the Midrash teaches that G-d says that at that time the Torah will go forth from Me: the way in which the entire Torah speaks of G-d will then be revealed.

(Keser Shem Tov, sec. 84 and 242)

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