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Are you forward? What we mean to say is, are you an individual who looks ahead with eager anticipation, learning from the past and then leaving it behind? Or are you "backwards," i.e., living in the past, getting stuck, never moving on?
Judaism teaches us to be "forward-minded," to look toward, work toward, anticipate and eagerly await the unique epoch in world history.
The seventeenth day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (Sunday, July 24 this year) marks the fall of the city of Jerusalem to the Romans, and the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av (Tisha BeAv), commemorates the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples in Jerusalem.
The three weeks between these two fast days are a period of introspection, longing and action. We take stock of the faults that led to the destruction of the Temple, work on eradicating them from our private persona, and look forward to the ultimate rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the era of peace, health, perfection and divine knowledge that will define the world in the Era of the Redemption.
Why was the Holy Temple destroyed? One of the reasons given by our Sages was unwarranted hatred. The Jewish people, even during the siege of Jerusalem, remained fractionalized and divided. And on the individual level, there was a lack of concern, love, and respect for each other.
By showing unrestrained love toward our fellow, we learn from the past and move on. By reaching out to another person - any other person - and showing him care, consideration, and concern. Do a favor for someone else, not because there is a reason to do so, but because you care for him.
Don't spend time thinking of reasons why and whether you should help another person. Use that same time to think about how you can help him.
Do good. Don't wait for others to start. Be an initiator, the others will respond. It's impossible that they won't. Some will react sooner; for others, the process will take more time. Ultimately, the heart opens to the heart. There is no human being who can see another person continue to shower good upon him and others without being moved.
What is the motivating principle for this motif? The fact that at the core of every person there lies a soul which is a G-dly spark, and that every element of existence is being maintained by G-d each moment. Knowing this inspires a person to reach out.
And by conducting ourselves in a manner that attests to and reflects these truths, we nudge them closer to revelation. Every entity seeks to express its inner nature. Reaching out with love and kindness inspires and encourages the good and generosity that lie at the core of all others to come to the surface.
Such deeds affect the macrocosm as well as the microcosm, bringing closer the Era of the Redemption, when these concepts will be concrete realities, not merely abstract truths.
Adapted from Keeping In Touch, by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos in English.
The Torah portion Pinchas begins with G-d's statement to Moses: "Pinchas was the one who zealously took up My cause among the Israelites and turned My anger away from them so that I did not destroy them in My demand for exclusive worship. Therefore, tell him that I have given him My covenant of peace ... It is because he zealously took up G-d's cause and made atonement for the Israelites."
Although Moses himself had turned away G-d's wrath from the Jewish people not once, but on numerous occasions, as related in the Torah, we do not find that he was granted the "covenant of peace."
Moses and Pinchas assuaged G-d's anger in divergent ways. Moses accomplished this by praying to G-d. His prayers were heeded, and G-d nullified many decrees against the Jews. Pinchas, however, accomplished this through his actions - by displaying zealous anger among the Jewish people, thereby bringing them to repentance.
There is yet another difference between the two in their manner of intercession on behalf of the children of Israel. After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses said to G-d: "...and if not [if You will not forgive the Jewish people], then erase me from the book You wrote [the Torah]."
Moses' self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people was spiritual in nature. Pinchas, on the other hand, placed his physical life in jeopardy, arousing the ire of the tribe of Shimon, who sought to kill him when he acted zealously to stave off G-d's anger from the Jews. This was physical self-sacrifice.
These actions of Moses and Pinchas were a manifestation of their personal manner of Divine service. Moses' was on a level of service of the soul, while Pinchas' was more on a level of the body.
When spiritual illumination results from physical service, such as Pinchas - elevating and purifying the material world itself, and leading the Jews to repentance - then the effect is a lasting one and the atonement is permanent.
This is why the blessing of the "covenant of peace" was granted specifically to Pinchas. Because Pinchas succeeded in obtaining everlasting atonement for the Jewish people, he was rewarded - measure for measure - with the covenant of peace.
From "From the Wellsprings of Chassidus" by Rabbi S.B. Wineberg. Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Fulfilling a Promise
Dr. Ned Gaylin of Chevy Chase, Maryland walked into the JCC of Rockville, Maryland together with his young grandson, Mike. There was an Israel Renaissance Fair scheduled for that day and they had decided to come see what Israeli products they could purchase and to show support for their native country. After browsing the booths for a while, a scene at the other end of the hall caught Mike's eye.
"Look, Grandpa," he said, "The Kotel!"
There was a booth set up with a life-sized imitation of the Kotel (the Western Wall in Jerusalem) as the backdrop. Several Rabbis were donning tefilin on men and teenage boys. Guests were snapping pictures in front of the "Kotel" as a souvenir. As they headed over to the booth, Rabbi Shlomo Beitch, a Chabad Rabbi in Rockville, asked Dr. Gaylin if he would like to don a pair of tefilin. Having not done so since his Bar Mitzva, Ned declined. Mike, however, was very excited about the "Western Wall" and they lingered around the booth for several minutes taking photographs.
As they walked away from the booth, Ned could not get the scene out of his head. He stood from afar watching the action, he recalled an incident that had taken place twenty-eight years before.
It was the month of Tishrei, 1977, and I was in the Jerusalem market. There was a stand there selling etrogim for the holiday of Sukkot. On impulse, though I was not religious, I decided to buy one for the holiday, yet I did not know how to choose one. What was everyone looking for so carefully? I asked the fellow standing next to me if he could help me out.
"There's a rabbi over there choosing one," he responded. "Ask him."
I took his advice and asked the rabbi if he could please help me choose an etrog. The rabbi struck up a conversation with me and said that he would gladly show me a beautiful esrog if I agreed to put on tefilin every morning, except Shabbat and the holidays, for the rest of my life. I laughed and said "No thanks!" The rabbi finally got me to agree that I would put on tefilin at least once in my lifetime. He then gave me the esrog he had chosen for himself. I went home and never kept my end of the deal - I never put on a pair of tefilin.
Ned watched Rabbi Beitch and Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum, a Chabad Rabbi in Gaithersburg, Maryland, assist others in donning their tefilin. The Kotel reminded him of all the terrorism and anxiety his brothers in Israel were living through. Now, at the age of 70 , Dr. Gaylin decided it was time to do his part. It was time to fulfill the promise he had made twenty-eight years earlier. Ned walked over to Rabbi Tenenbaum and said with a tear in his eye, "Rabbi, could you please help me put on tefilin."
New Day School in Khabarovsk, Russia
The JCC in Mytischi
Work has begun on a new facility that will house a Jewish day school, kindergarten and sports complex for the Khabarovsk Jewish Community. The Ohr Avner Foundation will be overseeing the construction. In addition, the Jewish Community Center of Mytischi, a suburb of Moscow in Russia, has acquired a new home. The 250-square-meter building will be large enough to house a Jewish kindergarten. The kindergarten will cater to children in Mytischi as well as the neighboring towns of Korolyov and Pushkin. For more updates about the work of Chabad-Lubavitch in the Former Soviet Union visit www.fjc.ru
Jewish School Open in Berlin
This coming fall, the first traditional Jewish day school will open in Berlin since the Holocaust. Located in a villa that was used during the war by the Nazis, Talmud Torah Ohr Avner already has a pre-enrollment of 35 children. "It is the very best answer to the Nazis, and part of the Rebbe's vision that we must bring light into the essence of darkness," said Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtal, the Rebbe's emissary, together with his wife, to Berlin.
Free unedited translation of a letter of the Rebbe to (then) President of Israel, Zalman Shazar
Day After the Holidays of Redemption
12-13 Tammuz, 5729 (1969)
Greetings and Blessings!
I was quite surprised (and also very pained) when I read your letter. Besides the main content, which consists of charges against me: "Why does he (referring to me) insist on bickering about whether it is called the "Land of Israel" or the "State of Israel" or the "Holy Land," and the Pact between Halves etc. and dragging G-d into the issue...?"
Clearly, all those who expended efforts, and who stood and stand at the head of, and represent the State, all stress and proclaim that it is a state which was founded in 1948 in the lands which the British abandoned, or from which the Haganah expelled the Arabs (or that they encountered no opposition upon taking over). Twenty-two nations of the world (including the communists in the Security Council - who were among the leaders), decided among themselves to approve the establishment of the state in territory which falls partly in the Land of Israel, and partly outside of The Land of Israel.
My answer to all this is simple: It is all inconsequential. None of this is new; except that in 1948 an important part of the Land of Israel was liberated (by the way, they conquered a certain part from outside of the Land of Israel, which was annexed onto the main part - the Land of Israel).
They reject my words by saying that I am simply fabricating an issue. My proof is that every year they declare the anniversary (not of the liberation, or of the foundation of the government, but rather) of "The State of Israel." This is definately not just a matter of semantics, but is indicative of the essential approach: An entity which was established in 1948 by the grace of the nations of the world, has absolutely no effect, and is irrelevant, in countering the claim of the Arabs, the Vatican, the UN etc., or the Canaanites (exposed or hidden) among the Jews: "You are thieves, for you conquered the lands etc.."
I shall not delude myself into believing that with just claims, Israel can overcome the UN, Vatican, etc. Nor shall I delude myself that the most important element is morale among the youth (including in the Israeli Defence Forces), the students in America (and certainly in other lands, etc.) - all the while subscribing to the approach which refers to "The State of Israel which was founded with the approval of the UN in 1948."
This approach, which has become the foundation and main world view of those who decide on all aspects of public policy and relationships with the nations, has destroyed and continues to destroy, has damaged and continues to damage, the most vital interests of - even the State of Israel (as is well known with regard to the United States and the UN, and is certainly so in all the other countries). This has literally caused deaths. And what has forced me to step out of my usual bounds and speak out about these things, is that others should have warned about them. Enough said, if you understand my intention.
It pains me to note that I have written all the above, and have not even touched "the tip of the iceberg." I do not have to go into details, but I am not saying anything regarding what happened yesterday (literally), and before Shabbos, etc. which is new to you. Why should I cause you further pain?
At the outset, I did not intend to write such a long letter, but since it is already written, I do not wish to cut it short. Please forgive me.
According to the order of your letter: You wrote, "Let me be a Chabadnik." You were a Chabadnik before I was even born. May you stay that way for many long and good years.
continued in next issue
16 Tamuz, 5765 - July 23, 2005
Positive Mitzva 199: Returning Security for Loans
This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 24:13) "You shall surely return the pledge to him" A person who borrows money may be asked to provide security for the loan. When he repays the loan, the lender will return the security. However, the borrower may need the article he gave even before he repays the loan.
We are commanded to return security to a borrower whenever he needs it.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming week will begin the three-week period of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This period commences with the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz, this year Sunday, July 24.
On the Seventeenth of Tamuz, the Romans (70 c.e.) breached the wall surrounding Jerusalem. This in turn enabled them to enter the city, and ultimately destroy the Temple on the Ninth of Av.
Our Sages say that the Holy Temple was destroyed because of reasonless and unwarranted hatred amongst Jews. In previous generations, a focus during these three weeks was to increase in ahavat Yisrael - love of a fellow Jew - as an antidote to the destruction. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe has stated unequivocally that even this terrible sin, on a national level, has been rectified. What remains for us to do is, especially at this time, is to increase in ahavat Yisrael as a foretaste of the manner in which we will live when Moshiach comes and the Temple is rebuilt. This behavior, says the Rebbe, will prepare us for and hasten the Redemption.
Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz said: "When every Jew will give his hand one to another, the hands will join into one great hand that will be able to reach all the way to G-d's holy 'throne.'"
We must all strive to put aside our differences and join hands, one to another. Then surely we will be able to approach G-d's holy throne and petition Him to take us out of exile and bring us to the Holy Land with Moshiach, NOW.
Let the Omnipotent G-d of all living souls appoint a man over the community (Num. 27:16)
Most people believe that with the decline of the generations - since the Torah scholarship and mitzva observance of the generations declines with each generation - we can make do with lesser leaders. The opposite is true, however. Since each generation is more limited, a greater leader is needed. This situation can be likened to a person who is sick. The more ill he is, the greater the doctor must be who attends him.
...appoint a man over the community who will go out before them (Num. 27:16-17)
Appoint a man whose soul "will go out" in love of every Jew. The most important trait of a Jewish leader is that he should have self-sacrifice for every Jew.
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)
It is a continual burnt offering that was offered at Mt. Sinai (Num. 28:6)
A continual burnt-offering hints to the "hidden love" which every Jew has. This love is continuous, it never ceases.
Attack the Midianites...for they attack you (Num. 25:17,18)
The Children of Israel were not commanded to go to war against the Midianites because of events that occurred in the past; they were not seeking revenge for past aggression. Rather, the Midianites are still our enemies who seek our destruction - "for they attack you." And as the Torah teaches: "If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first."
Years ago, the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel was entirely dependent on the generosity of its brethren in the Diaspora. To that end, special emissaries would travel throughout Europe collecting donations, visiting local Jews and soliciting funds.
One time an emissary arrived in a certain city and was given a warm welcome. All of the townspeople came to the synagogue to hear him deliver his appeal. At the end of the speech, a prominent member of the local community volunteered to accompany him on his rounds from house to house.
The two men walked through the Jewish section knocking on doors and asking for donations. Not one family refused to contribute. The contributions varied according to financial circumstance, but everyone was happy to give at least something. Then the emissary noticed that they had skipped a mansion, and asked his companion why. "It would be a waste of effort," he was told. "The man who lives there is miser. He has never given even a penny to charity."
"But we have to try," the emissary insisted. "Who knows? Maybe our words will penetrate his heart."
They knocked on the door, which was opened by the wealthy miser himself. "Good day!" the emissary said cheerfully. "May we speak with you for a minute?"
"You may certainly speak, but if you've come for a donation of money you're wasting your time," the miser said dryly.
But the emissary would not give up. "You're obviously a wealthy man. Don't you want to help support the poor and hungry Jews of the Holy Land? Everyone else in town is contributing generously."
"My money belongs to me," the miser declared sharply. "I worked very hard for it, and saved every penny. I refuse to give the fruit of my labors to someone who didn't expend the effort."
The emissary looked at him with pity in his eyes. "You're right, it's your money and your decision," he conceded. But before he left he added under his breath, "It looks as if you're going to be the third."
The miser closed the door with the emissary's words echoing in his ears. What did he mean? A whole day he couldn't get the comment out of his head, and that night he tossed and turned in bed. "It looks as if you're going to be the third." The third what? He had to find out.
The next day the miser searched the city until he found the emissary from Israel. "I must know," he pleaded with him. "What did you mean when you said that I would be the third?"
The emissary smiled. "Yesterday I honored your principle of not giving away any of your hard-earned money. So how can you expect me to share my wisdom with you for nothing? I also worked very hard to acquire it."
The miser acknowledged that he was right, and agreed to pay for the answer. The emissary insisted on a sum three times what he usually asked of the rich, and the transaction was made.
"Now I will tell you a story," the emissary began. "Many years ago there lived a very wealthy man who was as stingy as he was rich. He was even miserly when it came to himself. He even refused to marry, lest a wife and children drain his finances.
"The man worked very hard his whole life and eventually amassed a fortune. Before he passed away, he instructed the Burial Society to bury him with all his money. Even after death he refused to part from his riches.
"His final wishes were carried out, and not one cent remained above ground. When the grave was filled, the angel in charge of the deceased came to accompany him to the Heavenly Court.
"'Did you study Torah?' the man was asked. 'No,' was his reply, 'I was a businessman.'
"'Then certainly you supported those who did with your charity. Tell us,' the judges urged him, 'which good deeds did you perform with all your money?'
"'Look, there's nothing to talk about,' the man answered. 'I brought all my money with me. Do whatever you want with it.'
"'You don't understand,' they explained. 'Here money has no value. The currency is mitzvot-commandments.' The man's fate hung in the balance.
"After much discussion the judges realized that there was only one precedent in history, when the wealthy, rebellious Korach had been swallowed up by the earth with all his riches. In the end it was decided that the miser, who had also been buried with all his money, should be sent to keep him company. The lonely Korach would no doubt be delighted.
"But it's very hard to spend such a long time with even two people," the emissary continued. "I'm sure that Korach and his friend are very bored by now, and would welcome a third conversationalist into their group. When I met you I thought to myself, 'Who knows? Maybe their boredom will soon be alleviated. But now that you've given me your donation, I think that Korach and his friend will have to wait a while longer."
From that day on the former miser was always the first to contribute to every charitable cause that came his way.
Many years before the destruction of the First Temple, Josiah, the last of Jerusalem's righteous kings, hid the ark in a mazelike system of chambers and vaults that King Solomon had constructed under the Temple building. The ark is still buried there, beneath the site of the Holy of Holies. When Moshiach comes, it will surface.