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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

November 28, 2003 - 3 Kislev, 5764

796: Toldos

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  795: Chayei Sara797: Vayetzei  

The Game of Chess  |  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

The Game of Chess

by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Chess is a battle waged by an army of soldiers. At the center stands the King, around whom the game revolves. The King is indispensable, and the first and overriding priority of all the soldiers is to protect the King, expand his dominion over the chessboard, and overcome his adversaries. With rare exceptions, the King himself does not enter the fray of battle. The King can move in any direction, one step at a time befitting his limited involvement in the actual battle.

At the King's side stands the versatile Queen who can move in all directions. Flanking the King and Queen are three levels of "officers," each with its own mode of movement and conquest. Their power and reach is less than that of the Queen, but they, too, can move in several directions and advance more than one step at a time.

In the forefront stand the "foot-soldiers" or "pawns." Inferior to the officers, the foot soldiers advance forward only one step at a time.

But the lowly foot soldier possesses a unique power and quality that is far greater than his superiors. An officer can never change his rank: he remains the same throughout the game. But when a foot soldier succeeds in advancing, step by step, to the end of the board, he is elevated to the level of Queen. He cannot, however, become a King, for truly, there is only one King.

Life is a battle and a game, a competition that pits us against the challenges that arouse and reveal our potential. Chess is a metaphor for the various components of this battle, its methods of combat, and its aims.

The King in chess represents the "King of kings" - G-d. The Queen represents malchut d'atzilut - the common source of all souls, which is in a state of "marriage" and unity with G-d. The three levels of officers correspond to the three classes of angels in three (of the four) spiritual worlds, Beria, Yetzira and spiritual Asiya. The lowly "foot soldier" is the finite human being in a confined world.

Challenging this army is a pseudo-army, a virtual battalion equipped with everything from pawns to a "king." For "this opposite the other, G-d created." Every positive creation has its negative counterpart; every spiritual force has its malevolent counter-force; every ray of divine light has its obscuring shadow.

G-d's sovereignty is contrasted by the deification of the material and the temporal. The mission of G-d's army is to overcome its opponent, to reveal the fallacy of its pseudo-truths, to dethrone its god.

The front-line soldiers in this battle are the "foot-soldiers," souls invested in bodies. With their limited powers, they advance painstakingly across the battlefield, defending the King's place in the world, the G-dliness within their own souls (the "queen"), and the spiritual supply lines (the "officers") to the battlefield.

The officers - with their greater power and range - provide the spiritual fortitude to help vanquish the foe. The King remains, for the most part, aloof from the battle, for this is a challenge. He desires that we succeed on our own; but in times of extreme crisis, He is not above lending a decisive, though limited, aid to the battle, even if it means exposing Himself to the line of fire, so to speak.

The "foot soldier" bears the brunt of the battle. Fighting with limited resources, his advance is slow and impeded by the narrow horizons of his world. But when his steady determination advances him to his goal, he reveals the Queen within himself and wins the battle.

Adapted from a public talk by the Rebbe when Shmuel Reshevsky, a world-class chess master, was in attendance. Reprinted with permission of

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Toldot begins by relating that "Abraham fathered Isaac." The commentator, Rashi, notes: "The cynics of that generation were saying that 'Avimelech fathered Isaac.' What did G-d do? He caused Isaac's countenance to be like Abraham's. Everybody then testified that 'Abraham fathered Isaac.'

Was it so strange that Isaac should look like Abraham? It is the most natural thing in the world for a child to look like the parent. In fact, there would have to be a special reason for them not to look alike. Why, then, do our sages indicate that making Isaac look like Abraham was special?

Abraham and Isaac, father and son, were different in many critical areas. Abraham was totally dedicated to G-d out of love for Him, while Isaac was wholly devoted to G-d out of fear and awe of Him.

Since intellect is the cause and root of emotion, it follows that the reason Abraham and Isaac differed so radically in their emotional approach was because they differed intellectually as well.

Abraham and Isaac differed, too, in their manner of spiritual service. Abraham's service of G-d involved hospitality and making G-d known to the populace - revealing G-dliness from above downwards. Isaac's spiritual service was symbolized by his digging of wells, involving as it did removing the obstruction that concealed the wellsprings and revealing the well-water that flowed from below upwards.

A son will truly resemble his father when both father and son share similar personalities, are alike intellectually, emotionally, etc. Abraham and Isaac, however, possessed completely different personalities. Therefore, Abraham and Isaac should not have looked alike, they should have had totally different appearances - Abraham a kind countenance, Isaac a stern one.

Herein lies the "difficulty:" What could be done to these opposites - Abraham and Isaac - to ward off the scoffs of the cynics who said that Avimelech fathered Isaac?

In order for their words to have no credibility, G-d did something out of the ordinary. He changed the order of things and saw to it that Isaac looked like Abraham, so that all would testify that Abraham fathered Isaac.

Bearing in mind that Abraham is symbolic of kindness and Isaac of severity, we learn an important lesson from the fact that G-d made Isaac look like Abraham.

Whenever a Jew is faced with a decision regarding spiritual service, whether to serve with the attribute of kindness and benevolence or with the attribute of severity, he should choose to act kindly and benevolently.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

Appreciating Who I Am
by Aharon Yosef Skoglund

It is hard to believe that it has only been several years since I started seriously studying Torah in general and Chasidic philosophy in particular.

As a teenager I studied and searched through a variety of Eastern, New Age, and salad bowl "spirituality." At 16 years old I visited Israel as part of a Reform Jewish Youth Tour. While I was there, I went on a hike in the desert guided by a man named Yisroel Hevroni, a religious Jew from the Bat Ayin settlement. Without any of the typical distractions of life, Reb Hevroni helped introduce me to know G-d, the G-d of Israel. From that point on I began to appreciate myself for who I truly am, a Jew. Still, it was years before I was introduced to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the teachings of Chasidut.

I first came in touch with Chabad as a student at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. I can still remember the warmth of the first Friday night dinner I attended at the campus Chabad House. Although I stuck out like a sore thumb, with street clothes, dreadlocks, and my Hip-Hop, Hippie demeanor, I felt at home with the wonderful family of Rabbi Chaim and Yocheved Adelman and the energy of Shabbat. For the first time in almost two years I broke my strictly vegan diet, thinking to myself, "I'll eat the challah, just because it's Shabbat." Little did I know, Shabbat had just got a hold of me. Later during Sukot, Rabbi Adelman literally got a hold of me in the streets of Amherst, where he taught me to shake the lulav and etrog. He also brought me closer with his unique handshake that he called a "five levels of the soul" handshake. That was something I had to find out more about.

After a year of difficult soul searching while becoming more involved with Judaism, I had the opportunity to attend the Ivy League Torah Study Program for six weeks during the summer in upstate New York. I delved into the program with a real passion to learn about Torah and Judaism. By the end of the summer I was finally convinced that Torah is Truth. From that summer on, I yearned to go back to yeshiva. However, I decided to stick it out and finish my last two years of college first. During that time I lived at the Chabad House and had the merit to be involved in many of the outreach programs inspired by the Rebbe. The daily self-sacrifice I saw on the part of the Rebbe's emissaries taught me more about myself and the truth of Torah than anything else.

A few years after my summer yeshiva experience, I spent a Shabbat in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Though I knew it would still be some time before I would be able to study full-time in yeshiva, I was keeping my eyes open for the right place. On Sunday morning, I prayed in "770," the main Lubavitch synagogue. Somewhere deep into my prayers I noticed the presence of an older man with a long white beard praying next to me. Although something drew me towards him, I looked back into my prayerbook and tried to concentrate on the prayers. Several minutes later as I went to put my prayerbook down on the bench in front of me, I noticed a brochure for a Yeshiva I had never heard of. I looked at the man next to me and he looked at me. He smiled for a moment. Then he left. After I finished praying, I took a moment to glance at the brochure. Immediately I recognized the picture of the man I had just met. It was Rabbi Avrohom Lipskier, the Director of Yeshiva Tiferes Menachem in Seagate, New York.

Although I recognized the Divine Providence in meeting Rabbi Lipskier, it was my visit to the Yeshiva that winter that convinced me to attend. I was especially impressed with the honesty and passion of the teachers. And once I actually began studying in the yeshiva I was not disappointed.

Just as important, perhaps even more important, is what I've learned by being involved with the greater Jewish community outside of our yeshiva community. These activities have helped me come closer to the real essence of Chasidic philsophy, which is, namely, to have true concern for a fellow Jew, even if it requires a sacrifice on my part. Even more so is the sense of joy and goodness of heart in doing a kindness for someone else. Community outreach when done in connection with the Rebbe's directives can have a powerful effect not only on those being reached, but also on those doing the reaching.

Last December, I traveled with three other fellow yeshiva students to a Chabad House at a Long Island college. Armed with some lively Chabad songs, insightful teachings, warmth and enthusiasm, we helped the Rabbi create an experience that had an extra special effect on all of us. Stepping out of the yeshiva helped me realize how much of an impact my studies have had on me. I recognized that we all truly have so much in common. By this I don't mean our ancestral roots or the land of Israel, although these are important. What I mean is the G-dly soul that we each have. The spark of goodness that is inside each of us and wants to unite with every other spark and to G-d. By learning who I am, on the inside, and understanding the nature of my inherent G-dliness, I can truly relate to my fellow Jews in an amazing way.

Aharon, and his wife Chana, live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. They plan on moving to Eretz HaChaim Farm, a kosher organic farming community in the making in Massachusetts.For more info about Yeshiva Tiferes Menachem visit

What's New

New Center in Colorado

Rabbi Avremi and Hindy Mintz recently moved to Douglas County, Colorado where they have established a new Chabad House servicing the South Metro Denver area.

New Facility in Florida

Chabad of Wellington dedicated a new Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. The facility includes a synagogue, multi-purpose room, kitchen, offices and classrooms. Directed by Rabbi Mendy and Miriam Muskal for the past six years, Chabad programming has kept pace with this fast growing community.

New Facility in Ohio

Chabad of Greater Dayton moved into their new 10,000 sq. ft. center in the Oakwood area of Dayton, Ohio, this fall. Rabbi Nachum and Devorah Mangel have been directing Chabad there for over a decade.

The Rebbe Writes

2nd day of Rosh-Chodesh Tammuz, 5715 [1955]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to be informed of your Conference, designed to create an organized body of Jewish religious physicians. Unification of religious forces was always desirable, especially in our generation, a generation confused and perplexed by the shattering events of recent years, as a result of which many thinking people have become completely disillusioned in the false ideas and ideologies which they had held in the past, and are now earnestly searching for the truth.

An organized body of religious physicians could make its influence felt in these circles through a declaration of its authoritative opinion on several issues, which have been the subject of confused and misleading controversy.

Such a declaration should, first of all, do away with the misconception about any conflict between science and religion. True science, the object of which is the truth and nothing but the truth, can lead to no conclusions which are contrary to our Torah, "the Law of Truth." On the contrary, the more deeply one delves into science, the stronger must grow the recognition of the truth of the fundamental principles, as well as the ramifications, of our Jewish religion.

As physicians, in particular, you are in a position to refute decisively the materialistic philosophy, as is demonstrated by the fact that so much of physical health depends on spiritual health. If in olden days emphasis was placed on "mens sana in cor-pore sana," in our days it is a matter of general conviction that even a small defect spiritually causes a grievous defect physically; and the healthier the spirit and the greater its preponderance over the physical body - the greater its ability to correct or overcome physical shortcomings; so much so, that in many cases even physical treatments, prescriptions and drugs are considerably more effective if they are accompanied by the patient's strong will and determination to cooperate.

The principle of "mind over matter," i.e. of quality over quantity, is further emphasized by the fact, which is continually gaining recognition, that the vital functions of the organism do not depend on quantity, inasmuch as the glands, and hormones, vitamins, etc. which they produce, are quite minute quantitatively.

Parenthetically: It is written in our holy Scriptures, "From my flesh I visualize G-d." Recognizing the preponderance of the soul in the physical body (the microcosm), there remains but a small step to the recognition of G-d, the "soul" of the Universe (the macrocosm). And in the words of our sages: "As the soul fills the body, vivifies it, sees, but is not seen - so the Holy One, blessed is He, fills the world, vivifies it, sees, but is not seen."

So much, speaking in general terms. Specifically, many are the questions directly relating to the practice of the physician, some of them of practical and immediate importance, on which your voice should be heard. To mention but a few:

To declare the paramount importance of the observance of the laws of Taharas HaMishpocho [the Laws of Jewish Marriage]; the observance of the dietary laws; and circumcision.

With regard to the genital organs: Elimination of treatment likely to cause sterility, and substituting for it other forms of treatment; particularly, in connection with surgery on the prostate.

Prescription and drugs: many of them could be made in compliance with the laws of kashrus, and only through indifference or carelessness it is not done so.

Post-mortem: for purpose of study of anatomy, etc., surely it is possible to use artificial forms and models. For purposes of ascertaining the cause of death - in many cases it is not essential; where it may be of immediate necessity to save a life (as in the case of an accusation of poisoning, etc.) - mutilation of the body should be reduced to the essential minimum, and the parts should be buried afterwards.

And so on.

Needless to say, what has been mentioned above about pointing out the health benefits that are derived from the observance of the religious precepts, should not be understood as an attempt to explain the precepts by their utilitarian value. For it is a dogma of our faith that the Divine precepts must be observed because they are the command and will of our Creator, and "the reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself," for "this is the whole purpose of man" - to commune and unite with his Maker, through the fulfillment of His commands.

However, for the benefit of those who, by reason of spiritual "sickness," cannot be induced to observe the precepts except by making them aware of their utilitarian value, we must do everything possible to urge them to observe the mitzvos in daily life, even if we have to rationalize about the Divine commands, and emphasize their physical benefits.

I conclude with extending to you my prayerful wishes that your Conference reflect the Scriptural words, "They conferred with one another they who fear G-d," and may your good aspirations materialize successfully and lead to practical accomplishments; and, as the Scriptural passage just quoted concludes, "and it was recorded in a memorial book, for remembrance before G-d," so may your accomplishments have lasting benefits for the many - your great privilege.

Respectfully, and with Blessings for success,

Rambam this week

3 Kislev, 5764 - November 28, 2003

Positive Mitzva 19: Grace after Meals

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 8:10) "When you have eaten and are satisfied then you must bless G-d." The Torah commands us to thank G-d after every meal.

Positive Mitzva 215: Circumcision

This mitzva is based on the verse (Gen. 17:10) "Every male child among you shall be circumcised." Circumcision is called a brit, a covenant, connecting our people to G-d. through our performance of this positive mitzva, we establish this bond with G-d.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

On the holiday of Shemini Atzeret in 1977, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suffered a serious heart attack. For the next five weeks, the Rebbe remained at Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway, where he received top medical care for his condition. On the first day of the Jewish month of Kislev, the Rebbe returned to his home on President Street in Brooklyn for the first time since his heart attack.

Kislev 1 is celebrated amongst the Rebbe's Chasidim as a day when the Rebbe returned to full health and it is thus, an opportune time to share a few thoughts of the Rebbe on this topic.

The day after the Rebbe's heart attack, the Rebbe insisted on teaching at a public gathering (farbrengen) as he had done on that particular day for the previous 38 years.

The doctor warned the Rebbe not to exert himself thus, saying, "You must take care of your health. If not, there is a 25% chance of a relapse." The doctor then asked if the Rebbe understood what he had said.

The Rebbe smiled and nodded his head, "You said that even if I don't take care of my health - which, I assure you, I will - there is a 75% chance that there won't be a relapse."

A positive outlook can do wonders! So can increasing in mitzvot observance when we are in need of Divine assistance. The Rebbe advised a person who was not well: "As you may know, in order to receive G-d's blessings it is necessary to prepare receptacles. It would have been impossible for us to know the receptacles, but for G-d's mercy and infinite kindness, having given us the Torah and having revealed to us that Torah and mitzvos are the proper receptacles for us to receive His blessings... The important thing is to do better then at present in the religious observances, which will surely bring an improvement in your condition."

May we all merit in this month of Kislev to return to full health, with the coming of Moshiach and the end to all illness, NOW!

Thoughts that Count

Jacob went out from Beer-Sheva, and travelled toward Charan (Gen. 28:10)

The Torah is always succinct in its choice of words. The above verse could have said, simply, "Jacob travelled toward Charan." However, the inclusion of the first part of the verse teaches us that the departure of a righteous person from any place makes an impression on it. For, during the time that a righteous person is in a city, he constitutes its glory, its splendor, its own. When he departs, all those things go with him.


A ladder was standing on the ground and the top of it reached to heaven (Gen. 28:12).

Prayer is the ladder that connects our souls with G-d. Although it stands "on the ground," beginning with no more than acknowledgment of G-d's greatness, its top (the Amida, or silent prayer) reaches this level through the prior attainment of understanding inherent in the Shema itself.

(Hayom Yom from the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)

The Hebrew word for "ladder" (sulam) has the same numerical value as "money" (mamon). This teaches us that money is like a ladder - it can be used to ascend and come closer to the heavens, or with it one can descend to the depths. Everything depends on how we use it and for what purpose.

(The Baal Shem Tov)

These are the generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Abraham fathered Isaac. (Gen. 25:19)

The Midrash says that Isaac crowned Abraham and Abraham crowned Isaac. There are many people who are proud of, and brag about, their ancestry. But their behavior is such that their parents and grandparents are not proud of them. This verse hints that both sides must exist: "Isaac the son of Abraham" - the child is proud of his parents; and "Abraham fathered Isaac" - the parents can be proud of the child.

(Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Jacob was a simple man, dwelling in tents. (25:27)

The commentator Rashi explains, "One who is not sharp-minded in deceiving is called simple." The Rebbe of Lublin expounds on this comment: "One who doesn't know how to deceive is, indeed, simple. But, one who knows how to deceive, but refuses to use deception, is called a simple person. He has mastered his simplicity and rules over it. This was true of Jacob who, in his dealings with Laban, chose not to deceive him.

It Once Happened

A chasid of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was a dealer in oxen. One time, when this chasid had many cattle to sell, the price dropped very low. Anticipating heavy losses, the dealer went to visit his Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, to ask his advice and blessing in this matter.

Is there any special mitzva (commandments) that you engage in from time to time?" asked the Rebbe.

"Yes," answered the chasid, "I am a mohel, I perform circumcisions."

"What do you do," asked the Rebbe, "if, G-d forbid, the infant does not stop bleeding after you have performed the brit?"

The chasid explained the methods and medications he used to remedy such a situation.

"I am giving you an herb," said the Rebbe. "If, G-d forbid, you run into such a situation again, apply this herb and, with G-d's help, it will heal right away."

The chasid listened intently as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explained the procedure, then asked, "And what should I do about the cattle business?"

"I already told you," answered Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, "that you must apply this herb to any child you circumcise who bleeds profusely. With G-d's help the incision will heal immediately."

The cattle dealer said good-bye to his Rebbe and returned home.

On his way home, the chasid stopped at an inn for the night. In the course of a friendly conversation with the Jewish innkeeper, he found out that the innkeeper's son was not yet circumcised. He asked the innkeeper why this important mitzva had not yet been fulfilled.

"I had two other sons before I had this one. Each one died soon after his circumcision because the bleeding could not be stopped," explained the innkeeper.

The cattle dealer thought back to the words and advice of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak on the previous day. He asked the innkeeper, "What would you give if a solution were to be found to the problem?"

"If I could have my son circumcised without any possible danger," he answered, "I would pay four hundred silver rubles to the mohel."

"I will circumcise your son," said the chasid. "And I will give you four hundred silver rubles of my own, to be forfeited in case of misfortune, G-d forbid."

The innkeeper consulted with his wife and they excitedly agreed, as long as the mohel remained at the inn for four weeks, until they were sure that the child was out of danger. The infant, in fact, bled heavily, but the mohel applied the herb which he had been given by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, and the bleeding stopped immediately.

A few days later, the cattle dealer heard that the price of oxen had risen. He wanted to hurry home to sell his livestock. The innkeeper, however, reminded him of his agreement to stay in the village for four weeks and insisted that he keep his word. Several days later he heard that the price of cattle was going even higher, but still the innkeeper would not permit him to leave. Only after the full four weeks had passed did the innkeeper allow the dealer to go back to his business.

When the dealer arrived home, he was able to sell his oxen for a price that exceeded his wildest dreams.

The chasid went to thank his Rebbe and gave a very generous donation to the Rebbe's favorite charitable fund. "Rebbe, the fee of four hundred rubles belongs to you, plus a portion of the profit I made on the sale of my livestock, which rightly belongs to you."

Moshiach Matters

Each of the three wells that Isaac dug symbolizes one of the Holy Temples. The first well, "Aisek -argument," stands for the first Holy Temple that the non-Jewish nations attacked and destroyed. The second well, "Sitna -hatred," stands for the second Temple. During that time the nations had a great hatred toward the Jews, and finally destroyed the Temple. The third well, "Rechovot -broad," stands for the third Holy Temple. For, when Moshiach comes G-d will broaden the borders of the Land of Israel.

(From Discover Moshiach, based on Ramban and Pirkei D'Rebbe Eliezer)

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