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881: Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

August 5, 2005 - 29 Tamuz, 5765

881: Masei

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

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  880: Matos882: Devarim  

How to Trust  |  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

How to Trust

Trusting is difficult. Whether the one to be trusted is another person or the Divine.

Each of us has at some time misplaced our trust. You know that sinking feeling you get when when, for example, you walk out of the store, get to your car and realize your keys are missing. Isn't that the same feeling, magnified, when we realize we've misplaced our trust?

Of course, there's a difference between trusting a person and trusting G-d. After all, "do not place your trust in nobles, nor in mortal man..." (Psalms 146: 3). Still, we may, and, in some sense, even should, trust each other. When it says, "It is better to rely on G-d than to trust in man" (Psalms 118:8), that implies that, according to the natural order of things, trusting someone else is fine and in fact makes perfect sense. But still, it's better to rely on G-d.

That leads us to a definition of trust - bitachon, in Hebrew - and an apparent contradiction. Following the definition of Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakuda in his Duties of the Heart, we may say trust is a sense of security that comes from a complete reliance, from being sure that the other person will, as best he can, act for our benefit.

In other words, trust seems to mean total reliance, having confidence in someone else to act for us.

But since people aren't perfect, we can't ever completely, totally, unconditionally rely on another person. Fatigue, illness, some natural event or human error beyond one's control can prevent the fulfillment of a pledge. In a sense, to completely trust someone isn't fair to the person trusted, simply because he can't control all the contingencies of his own life.

So we can only have complete trust in G-d. And we should have such a complete trust - an absolute reliance that He will do what's best for us.

But here's the apparent contradiction: The Torah says, "The L-rd your G-d will bless you in all that you do." If we're relying on G-d - trusting Him to do for us - why are we bothering to do anything at all? Doesn't that show a lack of trust?

Human action seems contradictory to trust (in G-d).

But it's not.

When we act, we act in and through nature, the physical world. Yet nature itself is but a tool, "an ax in the hand of the woodsman." Nature has no significance in and of itself; it's only an instrument. So when the seasons come and go, they do so as an expression of G-d's Will. And when we sow and plant and reap, or build, invent and manufacture, we also do so - or should do so - as an expression of G-d's Will.

So this, in short, is how to trust: recognizing, knowing, feeling that all existence is an instrument, an "ax," created to express G-d's Will.

The practical implication? Such an attitude, such an approach must affect how one acts. If nature and the "way of the world" are but tools for expressing G-d's Will, and G-d's Will manifests itself in Torah and mitzvot (commandments), then the world - business, politics, whatever - cannot truly be an obstacle to a Jew or hinder observance of a mitzva.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion is Masei. Masei beings: "These are the journeys of the children of Israel by which they went out of the land of Egypt." Why is the plural of journey used here. For, although it took 42 journeys for the Israelites to reach the Holy Land, 41 of those stages were not going "out of the land of Egypt." Leaving Egypt took only one journey - from the Egyptian city of Ramses to the place called Sukot, outside of Egypt's borders.

The Hebrew word for Egypt, "Mitzrayim," is derived from the word "meitzar" which means limitations. The exodus from Egypt was not only a physical liberation from the outside forces of enslavement, imprisonment and "limitations," but also a spiritual liberation of the Jews from the idolatrous depravity of Egyptian culture as well as from their own "limitations" - their bad habits and inclinations. This inner liberation took many progressive stages, many "journeys," and each journey was an exodus from the "Egypt" - the limitation - of the previous stage. For today's accomplishments in self-liberation from evil are tomorrow's "Egypt." Yesterday the person freed himself, to a certain degree, from his former unwholesome traits, he left Egypt. But today he cannot be satisfied with yesterday's standards of accomplishment. Not only is yesterday's liberation from evil insufficient, imperfect - it is, for today, a limit, an Egypt from which an exodus must be experienced.

The daily service of man through prayer reflects a similar pattern of successive stages or journeys "out of Egypt."

First, one prepares to pray. One contemplates, "I am a person with a G-dly soul entrapped within a physical body. I am about to pray to the Alm-ghty, Who is infinite and utterly without limitations." This sobering thought is uppermost in his mind when he prepares to pray. The very act of setting himself to pray has driven his material concerns out of his mind -- he has already left Egypt.

But his sense of self, his "ego" though now refined, is still ever-present in his awareness. However, as he starts to say the actual words of prayer, he begins to leave even this limitation, this "Egypt." Finally, the climax of prayer, the Amida (Shemona Esrei) is reached and all Egypts are left behind. The worshipper loses all sense of "self"; he stands "as a servant before his master." He has reached a level of complete self-abnegation. The final exodus has been accomplished. One has arrived in the "Holy Land."

Adapted by Rabbi Y.M. Kagen (obm) from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe for A Thought for the Week.

A Slice of Life

From a speech by Dan Gavurin at the Chabad of Northwest New Jersey dinner
I had been searching for spirituality all my adult life.

My family went to shul on the High Holy Days which I always dreaded. We had an essentially short and symbolic Passover once a year and my brother and I were Bar Mitzvah at 13. And that's about it. Yet, I always had a strong Jewish identity and sense of pride. In fact, I met my wife at a Jewish Singles Dance. But, deep down, while I recognized our rich heritage, I felt that Judaism didn't have much to offer me spiritually.

Throughout my adult life, I searched to better understand myself and my connection to the world. I explored many other philosophies. I traveled and studied various types of spiritual methods. I tried paths from Zen to New Age.

My search went on for about 25 years, until one day, sensing a need to check out Judaism again, I surfed the internet looking for Jewish sites. That's when I found with so much information, and eventually it led me to where I saw an advertisement for a Kabala class in my own back yard! The class was taught by Rabbi Baruch Cohen of the Chabad Center, here in Rockaway, New Jersey.

I e-mailed Rabbi Cohen, who was very nice and surprisingly accepting and accommodating to all my questions. We began corresponding, we met, and I began to see I could learn so much at the Chabad Center. I found Chabad to be the missing link in my spiritual search, the piece of the puzzle bringing me full circle back to Judaism.

Soon I found myself going to services almost daily, and learning from Rabbis Herson and Baumgarten. We enrolled our two daughters in Hebrew school and became a part of the Chabad family.

After I became involved with the Chabad Center, I thought back to something that took place almost 11 years ago. Soon after we moved into our home in White Mountain Lake, there was a knock on the door. Rabbi Herson from the local Chabad Center came to welcome us to the neighborhood. I couldn't imagine how he knew we were Jewish. Or maybe it didn't matter. The Chabad reaches out to the community with open arms, regardless of religious affiliation. This is a quality I always valued.

Every Passover, we received a box of special matzot and other goodies on our doorstep - for 10 years, from Chabad, asking nothing in return. Later I was to find out that it was Rabbi Herson who made sure we received these items himself. I never realized how important every person is in the eyes of Chabad. This was one of the most compelling attributes that drew me to Chabad.

Many times over the years, I had been tempted to explore the Chabad Center, but had feared that I would not be accepted; that I was not religious enough for them; that it didn't have the spirituality of the other philosophies I'd tried. Well, I now know that I was wrong. Every-one is accepted and valued for who they are.

My contact made me realize that I was wrong about Chabad. And, that I was wrong about the profound spirituality right here in my own religious heritage. I think many secular Jews, as well as those brought up practicing, are unaware of the great depth of spirituality available right here and the tremendous amount of information for study in all areas of interest through both the internet sites and directly from Rabbis Herson and Baumgarten and others. I have found their mentoring to be crucial in my continued spiritual search and development.

After all the other paths I had explored, I found the most satisfaction and camaraderie in my own Judaism. I read articles on-line, studied weekly Torah portion and commentary, corresponded with authors, Rabbis and printed up many great spiritual texts, all available on-line. I used to print out Chasidic discourses, Torah commentaries, etc., reduce them and carry them in my pocket to read. This eventually led to actual contact with this center.

So, I started coming to services, a little, at first. Everyone was friendly, welcoming and non-judgmental. While keeping Kabala, Tanya and the Rebbe's ideas in mind from my studies, I found connections between the spiritual and material. I started putting on tefilin, finding new spiritual meaning in the prayerbook and services. I started praying daily, studying the inner aspects of Torah and mitzvot, all previously unknown to me, and lighting Shabbat candles and making Shabbat dinners for my family.

At first, my family thought I was going off the deep end, but now, they not only accept my new found interest, but actually participate in various Chabad center functions and other religious activities. In fact, this year my three children and I spent the day delivering Purim baskets to local residents. We had a great time and felt that we were giving something back to the community.

Even my secular Jewish friend and my 78-year-old father have been inspired to re-connect to Judaism through their own local Chabad organizations, through the Internet, as a result of my recent satisfaction and experience, which shows the far reaching effects on my family and beyond.

So, after all my years of searching, I found that Chabad was the missing link between me and my Jewish heritage. I have found new meaning and peace in my own religion and in myself. I now see that great personal growth possibilities in my own heritage.

What's New

New Chabad Centers

A new Chabad Center has been opened in the tourist resort of Opatia in Croatia. Opatia is visited by many Jews from around the world as well as thousands of Israelis. The Chabad Center was established by Rabbi and Mrs. Pini Zaklos, the Rebbe's emissary to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

Rabbi and Mrs. Shneur Turkov have also opened a new Chabad Center catering primarily to tourists, in the holy city of Tiberias, Israel. Hundreds of thousands of tourist visit the city throughout the year.

Brussels, Belgium, is soon to be the new home of Rabbi Yisroel and Menucha Zilbershtrom who will be working primarily in the area of Jewish education for this city, considered by many to be the "captial" of Europe.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5743 [1983]
Dr. - M.D.,

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 19th of Tammuz, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing to me in detail about our esteemed mutual friend. No doubt you have already heard from your patient, who has kept in touch with me.

I am most gratified to note the personal attention and concern you have shown towards your patient. There is certainly no need to emphasize to you how important it is for the patient - also therapeutically - to know that his doctor is taking a special interest in him. This is all the more important in a case of a sensitive person, and especially as our mutual friend is truly an outstanding person who lives by the Torah, and particularly, by the Great Principle of the Torah V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho [the commandment to love one's fellow Jew as one loves oneself].

The above, incidentally, is particularly timely in connection with the present days of the Three Weeks [the weeks of mourning the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem culminating on the Ninth of Av], which remind all Jews to make a special effort to counteract, and eventually eliminate, the cause which gave rise to the sad events which these days commemorate, and hasten the day when these sad days will be transformed into days of gladness and rejoicing.

Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] with this patient and all your patients, and in all your affairs.

With blessing,

26th of Tammuz, 5721 [1961]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to receive your letter on the 18th of Tammuz, as well as the regards through the visitors from England. I trust that the visitors will also bring back with them regards from here, and share their inspiration and experience with their friends back home.

As requested, I will remember all those mentioned in your letter, in prayer, when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory, and may G-d grant that you will have good news to report.

I trust it is unnecessary to emphasize to you, and that you will also convey it to the others, that the daily life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos is the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessing in all one's needs.

As we are now in the midst of the Three Weeks, and our Sages said that Jerusalem was destroyed only because the education of young children was disrupted in it ( [Tractate] Shabbos 119b), this is the time to increase all activities designed to make amends for, and offset the failings of the past, namely, activities for kosher Jewish education.

Hoping to hear good news from you,

With blessing,

Rambam this week

2 Av, 5765 - August 7, 2005

Prohibition 284: It is forbidden to appoint an unqualified judge

This prohibition is based on the verse (Deut. 1:17) "Do not respect persons in judgment" It instructs us to appoint judges that are knowledgeable and learned in Torah law and careful to keep the mitzvot. These must be their main qualification. Those in charge of choosing the judges are cautioned not to appoint judges only because of other talents or skills they have.

Positive Mitzva 175: Abiding by a Majority Decision

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:2) "To follow the majority" Differences of opinion about Torah law often arise among Torah scholars. Therefore, the Torah set down a basic guideline - the majority rules. Whenever there is a dispute between the Rabbis sitting on a court, it must be resolved by following the opinion of the majority.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Shabbat (August 6 this year), is the first day of the Jewish month of Av. With the beginning of Av, the three week mourning period over the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem intensifies.

The first of Av was also the day on which Aaron, the High Priest and brother of Moses, passed away.

Concerning his passing, the Torah tells us that "All of the house of Israel wept for Aaron for thirty days." But only the men wept for Moses and not the women. Why was this? Because Aaron had made peace between a man and his wife, and between a person and his friend, so all of the Jewish people mourned him.

We have much to learn from Aaron and his passing. But, most importantly, we must learn to emulate the wonderful example he showed us, that of doing everything in our power to bring peace and harmony amongst our fellow Jews. When this happens, we will no longer mourn the passing of Aaron, nor the destruction of the Holy Temples, for we will all be united, together as one, in the Third and Everlasting Holy Temple, may it be rebuilt NOW.

Thoughts that Count

These are the journeys of the Israelites (Num. 33:1)

Each of the 42 travels of the Jewish people can be found, in each and every detail, in a person's life starting with the day he is born until the day he dies.

(The Baal Shem Tov)

Aaron the Priest went up onto Mount Hor at the command of G-d and died the fifth month on the first of the month. (Num. 33:38)

Our Sages said that "the death of the righteous is equal to the burning of G-d's house [the Holy Temple]." The "fifth month" is the month of Av, the month during which the Holy Temple was burned and destroyed. An even more essential connection between Aaron's death and the burning of the Temple is as follows: The Second Temple, in particular, was destroyed because of unmotivated hatred. The remedy for unmotivated hatred is unmotivated love, which was exemplified by Aaron. Aaron "loved peace, pursued peace, loved all creatures and brought them closer to the Torah."

(Likutei Sichot)

For I the L-rd dwell in the midst of the Children of Israel (Num. 35:43)

Our Sages elucidated: When the Jews were exiled to Edom (Rome, the West), G-d's presence went with them. This also occurs on the personal level within the soul of every Jew. When a person commits a sin and causes his soul to go into its individual, private exile, G-d still accompanies him. The G-dly spark present in every Jewish soul is also dragged down with the sin.


It Once Happened

Rabbi Gershon, the brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov (known also as the Besht), had finalized his plans to travel to the Holy Land. A disciple of the Besht, he conferred with him before his departure and was told: "When you arrive in the Holy Land make sure to attend the yeshiva of the holy Ohr Hachaim in Jerusalem. He has two separate yeshivas there - one in which they study the revealed Torah, and another, known to only a very few people, where he teaches the esoteric secrets of the Kabala. Do everything you can to be admitted to the second yeshiva short of divulging your identity, unless you have no choice."

Rabbi Gershon's journey was successful and he arrived in Jerusalem and proceeded directly to the Ohr Hachaim's yeshiva. Anxious to see how they learned there, he attempted to join the students as they reviewed their study. But each time he approached them, he was told that it was permissible to attend the yeshiva only with the explicit permission of the Ohr Hachaim himself. When the tzadik would enter the study hall to deliver his daily lesson, all strangers would be asked to leave.

Rabbi Gershon decided to approach the Ohr Hachaim personally and request his permission to learn. "Who are you?" inquired the Ohr Hachaim.

"I am a Jew who has come from Poland and I desire very much to study in your yeshiva," answered Reb Gershon.

The Ohr Hachaim gave him a penetrating, critical look and asked, "Are you fluent in the study of the Five Books of Moses and the Talmud?"

"Yes, I am," replied Reb Gershon.

"Then I give you my permission to remain here, and I will instruct my staff to accommodate you," the tzadik said.

Rabbi Gershon was pleased with the outcome and settled down for the week to learn in the yeshiva of revealed Torah. All the while he was inquiring as to how to gain admittance to the yeshiva of Kabala. He discreetly asked various students about the secret yeshiva, but none of them had the slightest idea what he was talking about. Those few who were the privileged students, refused to answer his repeated questions. So, Rabbi Gershon was forced to approach the Ohr Hachaim again and ask for permission to attend the yeshiva of esoteric study.

The Ohr Hachaim was surprised by the request. "How do you know about the other yeshiva?" he asked, as he stared into Reb Gershon's eyes, plumbing the depths of his soul.

Reb Gershon, wanting to avoid a detailed response, just looked down and said, "I was told by my brother-in-law." He hoped that his answer would pass without further comment.

"What is his name?"

"Oh, his name is Yisrael," was the matter-of-fact reply.

"I don't know him, but you may come to my lecture tonight," was the reply.

For the next three nights Reb Gershon learned Torah with the select group of students, but on the fourth night when he presented himself to the doorkeeper, he was refused admittance. He was astonished and turned to the doorkeeper crying, "Why have I been refused admittance, when I have the permission of the head of the yeshiva to attend?"

"I'm sorry, but I am following the instructions of the holy rabbi. He said that you are unworthy of learning the secrets of the Torah , since you have not attended to the needs of the Sages."

Reb Gershon turned away, puzzled, but resolved to do whatever was necessary to rescind the decree of the Ohr Hachaim. He noticed that the tzadik donned a special pair of shoes and head covering before entering the bathroom. The next time he saw the tzadik put on the special hat, he ran quickly and brought him the shoes. Rabbi Chaim noted Reb Gershon's actions, but said nothing.

From that time forth, Rabbi Gershon was allowed to resume his midnight studies. He remained happily drinking in the learning at Rabbi Chaim's yeshiva for the next few months. One day, he told the tzadik that his own brother-in-law was a holy man.

"What is his name?" inquired Rabbi Chaim.

"His name is Reb Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov," Reb Gershon said.

"Oh," cried the Ohr Hachaim, "Of course I know him well. I see him very often in the supernal worlds. He is a tzadik of unsurpassed greatness."

"Now I understand what happened to me in the Heavenly Court," continued Rabbi Chaim. I had been sentenced to have some terrible calamity occur to me because of using a respected student of the Baal Shem Tov to perform a menial task for me. It was only through the intercession of the Besht that I was saved. If you had told me your true identity at once, I would have been saved the entire incident."

After this conversation, the Ohr Hachaim no longer permitted Reb Gershon to study in his yeshiva for, as he said, "You do not need me to teach you, if you have the Baal Shem Tov as a rebbe."

Moshiach Matters

G-d told the prophet Ezekiel that through studying the laws of the structure of the Holy Temple it is considered as if we have been involved in its actual construction. As we are so close to the Redemption, the subject must be approached as a present reality; at any moment the Third Holy Temple which is already built in the heavens will descend and be revealed on earth.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 17 Tamuz, 5751/1991)

  880: Matos882: Devarim  
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