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Devarim Deutronomy

   882: Devarim

883: Vaeschanan

884: Eikev

885: Re'eh

886: Shoftim

887: Ki Seitzei

888: Ki Savo

889: Nitzavim

August 12, 2005 - 7 Av, 5765

882: Devarim

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

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  881: Masei883: Vaeschanan  

Coming Home  |  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

Coming Home

The business trip is over - finally. Successful? Oh, yes. In fact, the most successful business trip you've ever taken. But grueling. It was cross-country and even took you overseas. There were delays, lousy accommoda-tions, scheduling conflicts, missed appointments, and a few good deals gone sour at the last moment.

It was all worth it, though. You made invaluable contacts - lifetime commitments. Some excellent sales. Even on the rare occasion when you didn't close the deal, you succeeded in changing the other guy's mind a little. The most hostile contact had in the end to acknowledge the truth of your presentation, whether or not he accepted your offer. And changing that mind set from negative to positive, might bring more in the future. So really, every minute of the trip paid off somehow.

But you've been gone from home a long time. Way too long. It seems you've lost track of time. Sometimes it's hard to remember what the house looks like. And the family - oh, sure, you talk to them on the phone, keep in touch by long distance, but of course it's not the same. You want to be with them. Only now do you realize how much you miss them.

And then, it happens. Your flight is delayed. Bad weather. An engine malfunction. You're stuck, so close, so very close, but with no way to get out of the airport, no way to get home. You're tired, frustrated, angry and not a little worried. Will they cancel your flight? Will you ever get home?

When at last the announcement comes to board the plane, your relief and joy know no bounds.

We the Jewish people have been on a "business trip" for over two thousand years. It's taken us across countries and over all the seas. We've been "selling" G-dliness, changing how the world views itself and how it acts, even though sometimes that change seems imperceptible. But the goodness in the world, a goodness that stems from the holiness in the Torah, has been growing. And it's grown because wherever we've gone we've established holiness, revealing the truth of Torah and inculcating the value of mitzvos.

Of course there have been obstacles, delays, hostilities, hardships, etc. But when we look back on our accomplishments, on the sparks of holiness we've gathered, on the transformation of the world into a dwelling place for G-d, we must feel that ultimately, it was all worth it.

Yet now, now when it's time to go home there are delays, disappointments and diversions. It's been so long since we've been home, home living in peace and security. It's been so long since we've been home in Israel, an Israel unthreatened, whole, without internal strife. It's been so long since we've been home in a Jerusalem, united, with the Holy Temple standing, and all the people visibly experiencing the Divine Presence. We're so close to Moshiach, to the final Redemption, that any postponement, hindrance or impediment makes us tired, frustrated, angry and not a little worried.

We don't want to wait any more. We want to go home.

Living with the Rebbe

The Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim), which we begin reading this Shabbat, presents a fundamental question. It begins: "These are the words which Moses spoke," i.e., it collects Moses' farewell addresses to the Jewish people, statements which he made on his own initiative. On the other hand, one of the fundamental principles of Jewish faith is that every word in the Torah, including Deuteronomy is "the word of G-d," endowed to us by Divine revelation.

One of the resolutions offered points to the utter identification of Moses with G-d. For this reason, in these addresses Moses occasionally uses the pronoun "I" when speaking of G-d. For example, in the second portion of the Shema, it says: "I will grant your rains in their season." The "I" refers to G-d, but was spoken by Moses. As our Sages commented: "The Divine presence spoke from Moses' throat."

This motif is not only limited to Moses. Our Sages comment: "Every new Torah insight developed by an experienced scholar was given to Moses on Mount Sinai." Although the person labored to bring out these new ideas, they are not his own, but G-d's. Every person has the ability to transcend the human realm and reveal Divine truth.

What is the key to discovering such insights? Identifying one's "I" with G-d and not with one's own self. When a person is preoccupied with self-concern - what I want, and what I think is right - that is what he will think and speak about. When, by contrast, he is able to step beyond his individual concerns, he is able to appreciate - and share with others - G-d's wisdom.

The Torah portion of Devarim is always read before the fast of Tisha B'Av, the day on which we commemorate the destruction of both Holy Temples. More importantly, it is a day when we focus on building from those ruins, seeing that exile is not in itself an end, but rather a phase in the progress of mankind to its ultimate goal - the Future Redemption.

Our Sages describe exile with the analogy of sowing seeds. Before a seed can grow into a flowering plant, its exterior husk must utterly decompose. Similarly, for the G-dly core of the Jewish people to flourish, all the external dimensions of their personality must be stripped away.

In the analogue, the descent that characterizes the exile wears away at our connection with G-d. Without gentleness or mercy, exile tears apart the husky shells of our personalities. Layer after layer of who we think we are, and what we've been trained to be, what we would like to be, is peeled away.

Ultimately, what is left? The very essence of the soul, the point within our being that is an actual part of G-d. And when that essence is tapped, true growth begins. When this pattern spreads, the Jewish people blossom. In doing so, they spread the awareness of G-dliness throughout the world, precipitating the dawning of the era of the Redemption.

From Keeping In Touch by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos in English

A Slice of Life

A Summer Experience that Lasts a Lifetime

Summer vacation is still in full-swing for billions of children living in the Southern Hemisphere. And for tens of thousands of Jewish children who are attending the Gan Israel Chabad-Lubavitch network of day and overnight camps throughout the world, it is a summer of fun, excitement and growth.

In the Former Soviet Union, the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS sponsored camps attended by 11,100 children. Lugansk, Moscow, Samara, Omsk, Vladivostok by the Sea of Japan, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Kharkov, Tbilisi, the Azov Sea, Perm, Kursk and Donetsk were just a few of the Jewish communities or cities that hosted camps. In Dnepropetrovsk there was even a "family camp" where the entire family could live and learn together.

Sunny California had a total of 40 day camps that were attended by nearly 10,000 children.

In Israel, in addition to the 100 day camps throughout the country under the auspices of Chabad-Lubavitch, there are nearly 1,000 day programs organized for children to attend in their free time. In Gush Katif, for instance, yeshiva students spent their vacation time organizing programs and activities for children who live in the area.

And even "down under" in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, "winter camps" were organized by Chabad-Lubavitch Centers in those cities. Jewish children in Montevideo, Uruguay, also enjoyed an action-packed Gan Israel winter camp.

What's New


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The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letter
13 Tishrei, 5728 [1968]

I was deeply distressed to hear of your great loss - the tragic death of your young son, may he rest in peace.

It is not given to us to know the ways of the Creator. During the war, during the time of danger, it was His will that all be saved. Indeed you, sir, were one of those who achieved victory for our people of Israel against our enemies, when the many were delivered into the hands of the few. Yet, at home, and during a time of peace, this terrible tragedy happened. But how can a mortal understand the ways of the Creator? There is no comparing our minds and His. We do not wonder that a small child does not understand the ways and conduct of an old and wise man, though the difference between them is only relative. This is no attempt to minimize the extent of your pain and grief, and I, too, share in your sorrow, though I am so far from you.

Even in such a great tragedy as this, solace can be found in the words of our traditional expression of consolation to mourners - an expression which has become hallowed by the law and tradition of many generations of our people. "May the Almighty comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." We may ask, why mention those who mourn for "Zion and Jerusalem" when comforting an individual on his personal loss? A deeper analysis will, however, reveal that the mourner will find comfort precisely in this comparison of his loss with the Destruction and exile of Zion, for several reasons.

First, the mourning over the Destruction of Zion and Jerusalem is shared by Jews the world over. It is true that those who live in Jerusalem and actually see the Western Wall and our Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] in ruins feel the anguish more deeply, but even those who live far away feel sorrow.

Similarly, the grief-stricken individual or family will find solace in the thought that "all the children of Israel are as one complete whole," that their sorrow is shared by all our people.

Second, we have perfect confidence that G-d will rebuild the ruins of Zion and Jerusalem; He will gather the dispersed remnants of Israel from the ends of the earth through our righteous Moshiach, and bring them in gladness to witness the joy of Zion and Jerusalem. We are equally confident that G-d will fulfill His promise that ". . .the dwellers of dust (the dead) shall awake and give praise." Great indeed will be the happiness and rejoicing then, when all will meet together after the Revival of the Dead.

Third, the Babylonians and the Romans were able to destroy only the Beis Hamikdosh of wood and stone, of gold and silver, but they could not harm the inner "Beis Hamikdosh" in the heart of every Jew, for it is eternal. In the very same way, the hand of death can touch only the body, but the soul is eternal; it has simply ascended to the World of Truth. Every good deed we do in accordance with the will of G-d, the Giver of life, adds to the merit of the departed soul, as well as to its spiritual welfare.

May it be G-d's Will that you and your family know no more pain and distress. May you find true comfort and solace in your communal endeavors, defending the Holy Land, the land "... over which G-d your L-rd watches from the beginning of the year until the end of the year," as well as in those endeavors of your private life - observing the Mitzvah of Tefillin, one Mitzvah bringing another, and yet another, in its train.

Rambam this week

7 Av, 5765 - August 12, 2005

Prohibition 275: It is forbidden to be impressed by important people while sitting in judgment over them

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 19:15) "Nor honor an important person" A judge must rule according to the law. This prohibition cautions him not to show extra respect and consideration for a person just because he may be important or rich.

Prohibition 273: It is forbidden to distort justice

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 19:15) "You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment" A judge is appointed to seek the truth and bring about justice.

The Torah cautions him to be extremely careful and not to judge unfairly.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

When is the "season" of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple in Jerusalem)? Eating matza has a season, blessing the esrog has a season, hearing the megila, lighting the menora. All of these mitzvot have a "season." When is the season of the Beit HaMikdash?

The answer is that there is no specific season - every day is the season. Yet, if we have to pick one day of the year that would be the closest to the "season" of the Beit HaMikdash it would be Tisha B'Av.

Tisha B'Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, is when we pay our fullest attention to the Holy Temple. That's when we are free from any other occupations; we dedicate our time solely to remembering the Beit HaMikdash.

And as we sit on the floor with the kinot - elegies - in our hands it is perhaps the proper moment to reflect, not only about the destruction of the Temple, but about the rebuilding of the Temple, as well.

The rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash is up to every person. Suppose for a moment that every mitzva is a brick in the Beit HaMikdash and that by doing another mitzva we are adding another brick. How much would that entice us to do more! And perhaps, indeed, this is more than a parable, it is a reality.

Over the years, we have laid millions of bricks. We are now, the Rebbe tells us, laying the very, very last few bricks needed to build the most beautiful edifice in the heavenly skies. Let us seize the moment before Moshiach comes, and make sure that we are in on the building of the Beit HaMikdash. When it is built, we will be able to point our finger at this great Edifice with pride and deserved joy, and say, "I had a hand in building it."

Thoughts that Count

These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel (Deut. 1:1)

First and foremost we must note that Moses spoke "unto all Israel." Moses demanded that the Jews be united and stand together before he even spoke to them. Unity is the foundation upon which all else is built.

(Sifri Darush)

Deuteronomy begins with Moses chastising the Children of Israel for their behavior. Would it not have been more fitting if only blessings came from Moses, and any necessary rebuke come from the wicked Bilaam? Why then, was this not the case? G-d knew that if Bilaam had rebuked the Jews, they would have responded, "Well, what can you expect from an enemy." And if Moses only blessed the Jews, the nations of the world would have said, "Big deal. He is one of them, so he gives them blessings." Therefore G-d decreed that the reverse take place, that it be Moses who chastises the Jews and Bilaam who blesses them, so that their words would be properly considered.

(Devarim Rabba)

And the case which is too hard for you shall you bring to me and I will hear it (Deut. 1:17)

The Baal Shem Tov elaborated: "This is why the Torah says 'the case which is too hard for you.' If you are confused as to whether something is a mitzva or, G-d forbid, a sin, or even if you don't know how to properly perform a commandment and it is indeed hard for you to reach a decision, know that the difficulty stems from you. The fact that there is an element of pleasure involved is making it hard for you to properly judge. The antidote to this is 'you shall bring it to me.' If you will pay no consideration to the personal pleasure to be derived and all your thoughts will be for the sake of Heaven, you will be properly guided."

It Once Happened

When his many wars were finally successfully concluded, King David devoted himself to the building of the Holy Temple of G-d in Jerusalem. Unequalled in holiness, wondrous in its construction, it was supremely unique in that the Presence of G-d was revealed there for all to see.

Although the task of its final construction was given to his son Solomon, King David, who laid the foundations in every sense, is credited with its building. It is written that Hashem did not allow David to build the Temple because he had shed so much blood on the battlefield, while the Temple was dedicated to peace. But another, perhaps more telling explanation, is also stated, namely, that had David built the Holy Temple, it would have been imbued with such holiness that it would have lasted into eternity. Would this not be a wonderful thing? it was asked. And Hashem replied: "It is known to Me that Israel will sin in the future, but I will vent my anger on the stones and spare the people from destruction."

King David's preparations stemmed from his inspired commitment, as he stated in his Psalms: "I will not take shelter in my house, nor mount my bed, nor give sleep to my eyes... until I find a place for the L-rd...." Together with the prophet Samuel, the King was able to discover the plans of the Temple which had been passed down from Sinai. It was to be built in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, on high ground, on the exact spot which is called the Foundation of the World. King David went to the owner of the land, a man named Aravnah, and purchased from him a threshing area located on Mount Moriah. There, King David built an altar and offered sacrifices to the L-rd.

Then, the King set about collecting the vast supplies needed for building. There were stockpiles of the famous cedars of Lebanon, more brass than could be measured, treasures of gold and silver, all materials consecrated by David for the holy purpose of building the Sanctuary.

After the death of King David, he was succeeded by his son Solomon, under whose rule the kingdom was firmly established. Peace and economic independence marked his rule. And Solomon, the wisest of all men, gained fame throughout the known world. When, in the fourth year of his reign, he began construction of the Holy Temple, he was able to assemble the finest artisans and craftsman of his time. When King Solomon sent to Pharaoh wishing to hire Egyptian craftsmen, it is related that Pharaoh gathered his astrologers to discern which of his workers were destined to die in that year; those, he chose for Solomon's project. When they arrived, the King, through divine inspiration, saw that they wouldn't live out the year. He dressed them in shrouds and sent them back to Egypt with the message to Pharaoh: "It seems you don't have enough shrouds in which to bury your people, so I have sent them to you."

Many miracles occurred in conjunction with the Temple's construction. Because it was prohibited to use metal implements to cut the stones, our Sages have related that there was a creature called a shamir, a kind of worm which existed for the sole purpose of cutting them. Also, during the construction, the stones rose into place spontaneously; none of the workers died or became ill; no tool was broken. The work of building was pursued unceasingly for seven years; tens of thousands of workers were employed in this gigantic effort, and when it reached completion, the joy of the people was indescribable.

The Temple was consecrated in the month of Tishrei (chosen because it was the birthday of the Patriarch Abraham). Huge crowds gathered from every corner of the kingdom and beyond to join in the magnificent celebration. The third day of the consecration ceremonies fell on the Day of Atonement, but in that special year fasting was suspended. The highlight of the proceedings was the transfer of the Holy Ark of the Covenant into the Inner Sanctuary, a witness to the continuity of the worship of Hashem by the Jewish nation. Our Sages tell us that when Solomon tried to bring the Ark into the Sanctuary, the gates stuck closed, whereupon he recited 24 different prayers; it was only when he invoked the name of his father, saying, "...remember Your servant David's loving kindness..." that the doors opened at once.

The King led the week-long celebration with his prayers and burnt offerings. Many pilgrims made the long journey to Jerusalem to participate in the glorious event, coming from as far as Syria and even Egypt. At the conclusion of the celebration, the people made their way home after having been blessed by the King. They had reached a joyous spiritual height which surpassed in holiness and purity even that of the Day of Atonement.

Moshiach Matters

Our current "reality" is a dream, while the world of Moshiach is the true reality. In a single moment, we can all wake up from the dream of exile and open our eyes to the true reality of our existence - the perfect world of Moshiach. Everyone can immediately awaken himself from his dream, so that today, before we even say the afternoon prayers, in fact this very moment, we all open our eyes and see Moshiach, in the flesh, with us, here.

(The Rebbe, parshat Pinchas, 1984)

  881: Masei883: Vaeschanan  
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