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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

October 15, 2004 - 30 Tishrei, 5765

840: Noach

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

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  839: Succos841: Lech-Lecha  

After the Flood  |  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

After the Flood

By the time you read this, we have hopefully moved far enough away from the hurricanes in the United States - Charley, Frances, Ivan and their "lesser" cousins - that those of us who lived through them, fled them or had them pay a visit are dried out and straightening up and we all can reflect on the vagaries.

Of course the vagaries - the unpredictable, eccentric changes - in nature aren't really vagaries. While much of nature remains unpredictable, even eccentric to us, to G-d every wind current and every drop of rain derives from, and is part of, the master plan of Creation. Every bolt of lightning and every surge of the tide unfolds an inner spiritual truth, like a seed revealing itself to actually be a tree. This constant unfolding occurs every moment, the visible end of continuous creation. For as the prayer book says, "You renew each moment the works of creation."

That hurricanes - and tornadoes, volcanoes and shifting patterns - a key word - of nature are not random but manifestations and effects of G-d's plan we can see by analogies. The new science of Chaos tells us that, out of chaos - order. One of its pioneers coined the expression, "a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan causes a hurricane in New York." Meaning, of course, that every action has consequences, multiplied and multiplying on themselves, unseen and unforeseen - yet nevertheless interconnected, patterned.

And we have gotten better at predicting the storms, seeing the inner pattern. The National Weather Service tracked Charley, France and Ivan, and company, hours, days, sometimes weeks in advance - giving many people time to prepare, to evacuate, to avoid the worst. We are now, too, virtually speaking, seeing the inner structure of creation.

Surely this is an analogy for the days of Moshiach, when we will see the pattern of G-dliness in the world. On our way there, when we have not yet perfected our spiritual Doppler effect, we cannot yet - like with the weather service - fully explain why the human patterns, the cross-currents and surge tides of relationships and nations - proceed as they do. The weather service can explain what's happening, of course - the high pressure system pushes away the low pressure system, the cold waters lessen the wind speed, whatever. But it can't tell us why.

And we can do the same. We can say what's happening - an increase in goodness and kindness, an awakening of interest in Torah study and mitzvot observance, a return to observance, an emphasis on love of a fellow Jew - these are the stages - the positive warning signs - of Moshiach. And in a sense we have a better sense of why than the weather forecasters - for the coming of Moshiach was forecast - prophesied - long ago, the culmination of our mitzvot, the purpose of creation and of our exile.

We can see other parallel patterns. How many people had to flee their homes before the storms? How many times have the Jewish people had to flee, moving from exile to exile? How many of us, those of us within the path of the warnings and watches, had to stay, for whatever reason, relying on G-d's protection, realizing, starkly, how fragile is our world, our existence, how security only resides in trusting G-d?

Looking at the satellite photos and the computer generated models, do we not get a glimpse of the global picture we will see and the spiritually generated revelations of G-dliness we will experience with the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption?

From weather predictions come the saying, we're in the calm before the storm. From Moshiach predictions come the saying, we're in the storm before the calm.

May the storms pass speedily and the calm come swiftly.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Noach, we find the verse, "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life...all the fountains of the great deep were split and the windows of Heaven were opened." The Zohar, the basic book of Jewish mysticism, explains that this refers to the beginning of the sixth century of the sixth millennium of Creation (the year 5500, approximately 250 years ago). At that time, the Divine fountains of knowledge would open up, both above in the celestial spheres and below in the physical realm, and the world would thus be prepared to enter the seventh millennium, the Messianic Age.

The Zohar describes the two types of knowledge that would be revealed during this time frame. The first is the opening of the "gates of knowledge above," referring to Torah and G-dly wisdom, and the second is the "fountains of wisdom below," referring to science and our understanding of nature and the physical world.

Indeed, we find that the world began to undergo great changes during that time, just as the Zohar prophesied. The amount of knowledge and understanding began to reach levels unprecedented in history. In the Torah world, this was the time when Chasidic philosophy began to be revealed, and in the secular world, scientific discoveries and developments began a frenetic pace which continues to the present day.

This period of revelation of knowledge, both G-dly and secular, came about as a preparation for the seventh millennium and the days of Moshiach. It is easy to understand how increased revelation of Torah serves as preparation, for the Messianic Era is a time when "knowledge of G-d will cover the earth like the water of the sea." But what has this to do with scientific advances and the Industrial Revolution?

A fundamental innovation of Moshiach will be that our perception of reality will change. Chasidic philosophy explains that after Moshiach reveals himself, "all flesh will see" - our physical flesh will be cognizant of the G-dliness that permeates and sustains the entire world.

Advances in scientific knowledge and understanding of the natural world are a preparation for this time. Medical, astronomic and nuclear discoveries have been revealed to man so that he can use this knowledge to serve G-d. As with everything else, we are given the free will with which to utilize these discoveries, as increased knowledge carries with it increased responsibility. When a Jew employs modern technology to serve G-d, perform mitzvot and further goodness in the world, he is utilizing these revelations properly.

We have been granted the increased understanding of the dynamics of the physical world so that we can elevate these elements as well. Furthermore, the greater our understanding of science, the greater our appreciation and understanding of the ultimate unity of G-d and Creation.

We see in the progress of history the positive development of knowledge and how it leads to an understanding of G-d. In antiquity man believed in the divinity of each of the natural forces, and believed that physical matter was composed of many different elements. Modern science, however, is proving the existence of fundamental, atomic structure, proving yet another example of G-d's ultimate unity.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

All Righteous Share in the World to Come
by Shoshana Zakar

A letter to an unmet friend written January, 2001

A friend asked me to write to you. Though you don't know me, I hope you will read on...

My friend told me that you had decided to convert to Christianity.

I was a fundamentalist Christian at one point in my life. Mostly Baptist and Assemblies of G-d.

I can understand the feelings of such moments, I hope, better than those who have never "been there".

One of the loneliest, darkest, and difficult places we can be is when our souls feel apart from G-d. There were times - just before I became a Christian - that I wanted to die from the hurt of what felt like being alone, with no one whom I could really trust enough to understand. I was looking desperately for a water to quench the burning. I knew about Judaism. Not much, but up to then I thought it was true. Still, it was my friend Tom, a Christian, who seemed to be the one who could offer me an answer. In a few days, I had accepted the Nazarene as my saviour and became a Christian. And to be very honest, I felt like a great burden had been lifted from me. I felt like at last I knew what truth and love was. Tom introduced me to a lot of Christians, and they all seemed very warm and caring. I truly felt that I had finally found the answer.

I would not be at all surprised if you have had something of the same experience. The feelings are very real. And your desire to quench a deep thirst just as real.

But what I found out, in time, is that feeling is not enough. It is very possible to fall in love with that which is false, and in so doing to miss the deeper love that we can share with our True Love. Thinking we are in love with G-d, we follow our feelings - and whatever feeds them - only to realize that somehow we've turned our backs on G-d. It happened to me and it was not easy for me to see what I had done. It was so wrong - but it felt so right.

Yet, even though I had turned my back on G-d - when I understood, and turned, I found that He had been following close behind all along - just waiting for me to return.

I guess IF I'd been letting my head guide me instead of my heart, I might not have become a Christian.


But I didn't see the truth because - well, because I wanted an easy answer to the pain. I wanted to feel happy. I wanted it "now". I saw Christianity as a religion of love, of universal brotherhood, of peace. And I bought into the ideas Christians planted in my mind that Judaism was legalistic, parochial, narrow-minded and harsh, whose G-d was strict and severe.

Strange, in retrospect...

Judaism, after all, teaches that all righteous people share in the world to come, that suffering in the afterlife is limited to what it takes to purify us to fully receive the good that G-d showers upon us, and that G-d forgives over and over and over again - all we need to do is ask with a sincere heart. Judaism teaches that the essence of the soul is so pure that it is a part of G-d Himself, and that our task is to reveal the G-dliness in Creation. G-d, Who gave us commandments, not to make us suffer, but rather to show us how to re-weave the beautiful and intricate spiritual tapestry that envelopes the universe. To be His partners in making it all happen. Maybe because when you really love someone, you let them share in what you do.

And Christianity? There are good, kind Christians. Christians with a share in the world to come. That I do not argue. But Christianity itself? Only Christians go to Heaven. The rest go to Hell. Even children. Even those who suffered the horrors of the Holocaust. Even my mother and father and brother. And not just a Hell of purification - an eternal damning Hell with no hope of return with Satan as master of eternity. And Satan - I didn't see it then, but rather than knowing G-d as the only true and infinitely powerful being, somehow Christianity puts him in a power struggle with G-d. A significant one. But how can there be ANY real power except G-d? Peace? I guess they wanted me to think of Christianity like a lasting manger scene. I did at first. But I guess eventually even I couldn't excuse the Crusades and Pogroms as acts by people who "weren't real Christians". No....they were Christians - so legalistic and harsh that they would kill rather than to permit another to believe in G-d in a different way.

When we want to believe something very badly - as badly as I did - we tend to deceive even ourselves. I could have seen all that - but I didn't want to look. And even when I did want to question, I felt like there was no one who would - or could - really understand.

And IF some of this strikes a cord in your heart, then I beg you - please - give yourself a bit of space to consider what is really so, to separate feeling from truth, to know which direction is the one that truly leads toward G-d. I hope that at least in this you will not doubt, that G-d will not hurt or condemn one who seeks Him with all her heart and soul. He will, I promise, give you the time you need to learn how to embrace him.

I don't know if any of this is what you are feeling. I am only speaking from the heart to a sister whom I have not had the honor to meet. I just want to offer to be a friend. Someone who - though I may see things differently because of where I have been - is willing to listen and talk with you. If you want to.

May your way be blessed and your path be true.

Shoshana Zakar is co-author of Judaism OnLine: Confronting Spirituality on the Internet with Dovid Kaufmann

What's New

Three New Emissary Couples

Three young couples are joining the Lubavitcher Rebbe's corps of nearly 3,000 families serving Jewish communities world-wide through Chabad-Lubavitch Centers. Rabbi Moishe and Devorah Brennan recently joined the Chabad-Lubavitch team in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania where they are working on programming and adult education for Chabad of the Main Line. Rabbi Peretz and Michal Shapiro recently moved to Dallas, Texas, where they will head Adult Education activities for Chabad of Dallas. Rabbi Meir and Frumie Kessler will soon be arriving in East Delray Beach, Florida, where they will establish a new Chabad House serving all the Jewish residents of the community.

The Rebbe Writes

23rd of Mar Cheshvan, 5722 [1961]

Greeting and Blessing:

After the very long interval, I received your letter of October 24th. I was disappointed that you have written so little about the activities during the month of Tishrei, although it is my firm hope that you have taken full advantage of it.

With regard to the business difficulties, surely you know that the difficulties in the past have worked themselves out satisfactorily, and better than expected.

So you may be sure that this will be so again, by the grace and kindness of the Almighty.

Incidentally, referring to your calculations and the loss of 4000 to 5000 for the year, you, yourself, of course, provide the answer that it was due to the payment of 7000 in interest.

I take this opportunity to thank you for sending me the Diary, which has revealed to me a new trait in your character, namely, a sense of humor.

Thank you, especially, for the good news towards the end of your letter, about the improvement in the health of Mr. M- B-. May G-d grant that you will always have good news to report, not only about yourself, but also about your friends and acquaintances.

With blessing,

11th of Cheshvan, 5737 [1976]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence.

I trust that by the time this letter reaches you, you will have been discharged from your job as a patient requiring care and attention, and instead of this, I can now offer you ten other jobs, as enumerated in the enclosed general message - needless to say, with the approval of your physician - friend.

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above.

The three last "jobs" in the letter are, of course, more pertinent to Mrs. Jaffe, but also in these you can have a share, by encouraging her and others through her.

Wishing you and Mrs. Jaffe good health to carry out the above tasks in a way that inspires the whole community to do likewise, based on the Mitzvo of V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho ["loving your fellow Jew as yourself"], and to enjoy true Yiddish Chasidish Nachas [pleasure] from all your children and grandchildren.

With blessing,

4th of Cheshvan, 5740 [1979]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to confirm receipt of your correspondence, and no doubt you have been able to rest up from your travels and share your good impressions and benefits from your visit here with Anash [Lubavitcher Chasidim] in Manchester.

Especially as our meeting and parting were in connection with, and in the spirit of, Simchas Torah, which sets the tone for the entire year, in keeping with the imperative of "serve G-d with joy." May each and every day of the New Year be filled with true joy in every respect materially and spiritually, and that you and Mrs. Jaffe should enjoy true Yiddish Chasidish Nachas from each of your children and grandchildren, in good health and happy circumstances.

With blessing,

7th of MarCheshvan, 5719 [1958]

Greeting and Blessing:

I duly received your cable and letter of October 12th. Needless to say I was very happy to receive the good news of your being completely exonerated at the trial, and of... forthcoming marriage.

It has been often stressed that when a person takes the trouble to keep his eyes and mind open, he can see G-d's individual Divine Providence at every step, and often with unusual emphasis, and as you have yourself noticed in your case in the matter of the trial, as you write in your letter.

May G-d grant that you will continue to see G-d's Divine Providence, but in a benevolent way only, in obvious and tangible good, without anxiety or worry, and that the good always turn to better.

Inasmuch as you have begun the New Year with happy tidings, may G-d grant that you will continue to have good things to report throughout the year in every way, both in your private, as well as in your public affairs.

With prayerful wishes, and with blessing,

Rambam this week

4 Cheshvan, 5765 - October 19, 2004

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" G-d commanded us to recite the "Shema" twice every day, in the morning and the evening. 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 instructs us to serve Him through Prayer. We express our dedication and loyalty by offering our praise and making our requests through prayer.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The month of Tishrei which we just last week concluded is referred to in Jewish sources as a "comprehensive month." Its days include the entire spectrum of Jewish observance and emotion. It contains holy and awe inspiring days, days of introspection and penitence, fast days and regular week days, and joyous and exuberant days such as those of Simchat Torah.

Throughout the entire month of Tishrei, Jews stock up on spiritual experiences and mitzvot from the holiday seasons. Hearing the shofar, giving tzedaka, blessing the candles, inviting guests, praying, shaking the lulav, eating in the sukka, fasting, etc., etc. Little by little, throughout the year, we unpack our stored "goods," drawing strength and inspiration from the vast treasures we acquired during the month of Tishrei.

Yet, we cannot rest on our laurels. The stock we have stored up during Tishrei is not limitless. It constantly has to be replenished with mitzvot that we are currently performing. Thus, our "shelves" will be kept filled.

One particularly important mitzva to keep in abundant supply is that of Ahavat Yisrael - love of one's fellow Jew - a mitzva which is, in fact, a comprehensive mitzva. We are told that the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael is the "basis of the entire Torah" and is a "great principle of the Torah." It encompasses and includes every single Jew, for Jews are like one body. Thus, we are required to love every Jew - even one whom we have never seen. This mitzva affects every Jew on an individual and collective level. And since it is such an important mitzva, we should never rely on what we might have in stock, but should replenish it every single day.

Thoughts that Count

And the earth was corrupt before G-d, and the earth was filled with violence (Gen 6:11)

It is a mistake to think that man can exist without faith and fear of G-d, while fulfilling the commandments between man and his fellow man. When the point of "and the earth was corrupt before G-d" is reached, when the yoke of Heaven is thrown off and the people begin to sin against G-d, the immediate result is "and the earth was filled with violence."

(Or HaTorah)

And the whole earth was of one language (Gen. 11:1)

The generation that was alive at the time of the Flood was thoroughly steeped in robbery and dishonesty, and therefore was thoroughly destroyed. But the generation of the Tower of Babel had at least the merit of loving their fellow man and getting along with each other, as it says, "and the whole earth was of one language." Therefore, they were not all destroyed.

(Bereishit Rabba)

These are the generations of Noach: Noach was a just, perfect man in his generation (Gen. 6:9)

Rashi comments: This verse teaches us that the most important legacy of a righteous person is his good deeds. A righteous person is not defined by his lineage or by his noble ancestry, but by his own actions and behavior.

(Divrei Yisrael)

Noah's perfection was that he followed G-d's will completely and with all of his being throughout the day, not just when he learned and prayed, but with mundane matters as well.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

It Once Happened

Napoleon personally commanded his mighty army in order to realize his dream of capturing India and other lands in the Far East. He captured Egypt and from there marched into the Land of Israel.

About the same time, in the year 1798, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman, arrived in Israel. His hope was to quench his thirst for Torah from the great saintly Sages living in the ancient city of Safed.

Once, after concluding his prayers with great concentration and devotion, he lay down on the grass to rest and fell asleep.

Suddenly, in his dream, he beheld an old man who told him to go to Tiberias where he had an important mission to carry out on the banks of Lake Kinneret.

Reb Nachman wasted not a moment. He gathered his things and hurried off toward Tiberias. There, he rented a room in the house of a fisherman. Napoleon, in the meantime, had made his headquarters on the east bank of Lake Kinneret. He was receiving reports that there was much unrest in France, and that his opponents were seeking an opportunity to dethrone him. In this unsettling atmosphere, it was not easy for Napoleon to maintain the strict military discipline upon which the success of his armies depended.

One day, a thieving band of soldiers set out on a rampage, raiding the homes of the poor fishermen near Lake Kinneret. Three soldiers dashed into the home where Reb Nachman lived and demanded from the old Jewish fisherman all his money.

"I am too old to go fishing anymore and my only son supports me," explained the elderly man. "I have no money."

The disappointed soldiers began beating the old Jew mercilessly. Reb Nachman heard the commotion from his attic room and hurried to the rescue.

"Leave the old man alone!" Reb Nachman called out in a commanding tone.

The soldiers let go of their victim. But seeing the intruder was a thin, pale, young Jew, they turned their attention on him.

"So, you would like to have a taste of this beating?" one of the soldiers called out contemptuously. He took off his belt and approached Reb Nachman.

Rabbi Nachman shot a piercing glance at the soldier who remained standing with his arm paralyzed in the air. The two other soldiers tried to help their friend, but they, too, were quickly made helpless by the sharp look of Reb Nachman.

Reb Nachman ordered them to put the old man on his bed and ask his forgiveness. "Now, get out of here at once and don't let your foot enter any Jewish home if you value your lives," he warned the soldiers.

Terrified and in deadly silence, the soldiers ran out. Arriving at their barracks, they told their friends about the terrible experience with the holy young Jew who had magical powers.

The story spread throughout the entire French Army camp until it reached Napoleon. Napoleon had the soldiers brought to him. He questioned them and then decided to meet this unusual Rabbi, who might be able to foretell what the future had in store for him.

"That is the man," Reb Nachman heard a familiar-looking soldier say.

As Napoleon approached Reb Nachman, the rabbi rose and greeted him with great respect, saying, "Good evening, your Majesty. Blessed are you in your coming."

Amazed, Napoleon asked, "How do you know who I am?"

"Our Torah enlightens the eyes of those who follow its teachings," Reb Nachman replied.

As they talked, Napoleon realized that he was conversing with a distinguished spiritual personality, who also had a deep understanding of worldly problems and events.

"Do you think I should continue my military expedition through the countries of the Middle East to reach India, or should we return to France?" he asked Reb Nachman.

Reb Nachman pondered the matter for a while then said, "The Creator has blessed you with exceptional qualities which you should use for the benefit of mankind. The way to achieve this is not through wars and bloodshed. Do not allow your military victories to mislead you. They will not bring peace to the world, and without peace you have nothing. Return home and help to create in your own country an exemplary order of justice and righteousness."

Napoleon shook his head and said, "Such a mission is not for me. I would rather live a short life full of triumph and power than a long life without them."

"Everyone has freedom of choice in the way he wishes to live," said Rabbi Nachman respectfully.

Napoleon invited Reb Nachman to accompany him as his adviser, despite the fact that he hadn't followed Reb Nachman's advice.

But Reb Nachman demurred the honor, saying, "My only wish is to serve the Alm-ghty with all my heart and with all my soul."

Moshiach Matters

Before the coming of Moshiach, a very special rainbow will appear. This rainbow will be so bright that all rainbows that have appeared on earth will seem very dim and weak in comparison. The bright strong colors of this rainbow are a sign that the Redemption is about to come. It is this rainbow, the Zohar tells us, that G-d was speaking about when He said to Noah (Gen. 9:16), "I will look at it to recall the eternal promise."

(Zohar 1:72b as quoted in Discover Moshiach)

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