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By what right do we own anything? If we steal something, of course we don't own it. But what if the owner gives up hope of ever recovering it, essentially abandoning it? In that case, you might argue, we now legally own the stolen object. But, do we have a right to it? The thief might possess it, but he doesn't rightfully own it.
We could also fight over something and if we're stronger, or just sneakier, we can win the fight and claim ownership that way. But unless we have some other legitimate claim, brute force is just another form of theft.
We can buy something. That certainly gives us a right to own whatever it is we've bought, be it a lamp, a house or an empty field. But by what right did the seller sell? How did he come to own the lamp, the house or whatever? And if we say he bought it, we can ask again, by what right did the person he bought it from own it?
And the same applies to a gift. If we receive a gift, we certainly have a right to it; we own it - provided that the giver really owned it, that he had a right to it. But how did he get that right? How did he come to possess it?
Again with an inheritance, the underlying ownership is always subject to challenge.
So we have the question, what is the truly legitimate way to claim ownership of anything, whether it's moveable property or real estate?
There is a Master to the world who owns it by right of His Creation. He can rent it out, so to speak, or part of it, to a particular nation or individual - giving them the right to use such-and-such a part of His world in exchange for a particular type of service.
He can give it as a temporary gift - allowing a country or people full use of it, without condition, but only for a set period of time.
Or He can give it as a gift in perpetuity - a gift that becomes an inheritance, such that the land and the people are inextricably linked, each needing the other for its existence.
And such is the claim of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. It is not a claim we make because we bought the land or conquered the land or inherited the land. The Jewish people have a right to the Land of Israel because G-d gave it to us. He promised it to us, as descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and in fulfillment of that promise took us out of Egypt and will bring the future Redemption.
Many people in the world acknowledge this truth, and recognize that our legitimacy stems from the words of Torah which declares that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. Even as we argue against giving land for security reasons, we need to be aware of the righteousness of our underlying claim to the land.
Perhaps the spreading of that awareness is itself the last little push that is needed to bring the long-awaited Redemption, the era when, as Maimonides says "there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance and all the delicacies will be as freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d."
This week's Torah reading, Vaetchanan, contains the Shema, the fundamental prayer in Jewish liturgy. When a person recites the Shema, he is not merely declaring that there is only one G-d. The intent of the Shema is that all existence is one with Him.
Judaism does not believe that the spiritual and the physical can be separated from each other. We do not believe in a G-d who sits in the heavens and allows the world to function however it desires. Instead, the spiritual and the physical are both manifestations of a single unity.
This is what we mean when we say "G-d is one" - that G-d's oneness embraces everything that we see, hear, or become aware of.
These concepts are hinted at by echad, the Hebrew word for one. That word is made up of three letters. The first letter, the alef, stands for the Ein Sof, G-d's infinity. The second, the chet, is equivalent to the number eight, referring to the seven spiritual realms and our material earth. The last letter, the dalet, equivalent to four, alludes to the four directions of this earth. What is inferred is that the alef, G-d's infinite transcendence, permeates the chet, all eight levels of existence, and more particularly, the dalet, the four directions of our world. Wherever we go, there is nothing apart from Him.
On this basis, we can understand why the Shema is the message associated with our people's martyrs. When a martyr gives up his life for his faith, he is making a statement that he refuses to separate the physical from the spiritual. He will not live a life that does not reflect his inner G-dly essence.
If he is forced to sever the connection between the two and live in contradiction to what he believes and knows is right, then he would rather not live. For he cannot conceive of a life that runs contrary to his spiritual core. For him, the oneness of G-d is an actual - not merely a theoretical - reality.
The Shema continues with the command to love G-d. That command raises a question: How can the Torah command us to love? You either feel love or you don't. No one can tell you to feel something that you don't.
That's why the commandment to love G-d follows after the declaration of G-d's oneness. When a person understands the oneness of G-d and appreciates how He is in every element of existence, he will be spurred to feelings of love. For intellect gives birth to emotion and our awareness of G-d prompts us to love Him.
After, the Shema mentions several commandments - to study Torah, wear tefilin, and affix mezuzot on our doorposts. For it is through these deeds - and by extension, the totality of Jewish observance - that the oneness proclaimed in the Shema is made part of our everyday lives.
From Keeping in Touch, adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi E. Touger, published by SIE.
Letters from Gush Katif
by She'era Yuval
Dear Avi and the farmers of Gush Katif,
The most optimistic person in the world is the farmer, who plants a seed in the earth and expects to eat bread from it the next year. And you, the farmers of Gush Katif, are the most optimistic of all - and especially you, our dear Avi, who 30 years ago came to sparkling dunes empty of people. The closest village was a long way off. You were received with bread and salt, and people looked at you as though you had lost your minds - were you going to be farmers in this accursed place? A place where only Bedouin and camels trod? The Jew must be majnoun (insane).
But you came at the urging of the government of Israel, a government whose "greatest" security people anticipated the problems in the Gaza Strip and conceived the "five fingers" plan to split the area by means of Jewish settlements. Because a Jewish settlement is always, always the border.
And you/we took up the challenge, the challenge of the fingers. You transformed an accursed land into an astonishing agricultural empire, with special crops that are exported to every corner of the world.
I remember well how we came to visit you in Gush Katif 22 years ago. We met a young family with two infants, a tiny home and extensive hothouses in the glowing sand. We too wondered how to do it. How do you extract plants and saplings from such a vast nothingness?
But you, with infinite patience, with hard and demanding work, looked for the best crop - the one that would be suitable for our special climate and soil conditions. At the same time you enlarged your family, expanded the house and, along with all of us, turned Gush Katif into a fertile garden.
Today, ill winds are blowing, winds of destruction and evil, winds that threaten to dry up this project, to uproot what lives and grows.
And you, Avi, a man in the prime of life, almost 50, are looking at the terrible calamity: how your life's work, the empire you built, everything that is the foundation for you and your family, for your settlement and for the whole of Gush Katif, is about to be uprooted. You are lamenting about how you will be able to keep getting up in the morning. How you will be able to provide for your family.
Don't they understand that farming is not something you can uproot from one place to another? After all, everything depends on the climate, on the soil and on the single crop. Who will have the strength to start over again?
So you have no choice. Get up tomorrow morning, go back to the hothouses, which you have been cultivating for many years. Go back to your saplings, go back to your land, the Eternal One of Israel will send you a blessing, because the Eternal People is not afraid of a long road.
Lovingly and wishing you only good things,
Believe In Prayer
by Yigal Kirschenzaft
It was a routine Sunday in Neve Dekalim (the largest settlement in Gush Katif, Gaza). My visitor from abroad, Dr. Ze'ev Ravnoy, and I were just getting out of the car. Suddenly there was an enormous explosion. I flew into the air and then I was standing on the sidewalk covered with hot, sticky blood. Ze'ev was sitting on the sidewalk, both of his legs in pools of blood.
I immediately understood that we had been "privileged" to receive a large amount of contaminated shrapnel sent by our enemies. I closed the wound in my head and tried to dial the Regional Council offices on my cell phone. Immediately neighbors came out and also our angelic emergency rescue teams arrived and hurried to evacuate us, under fire, to safety and emergency medical care.
I felt dizzy and my head started spinning as I lost consciousness. When I came to, I turned to our Father in Heaven and simply asked Him, "Please! Leave me in this world. We have so much more to do here." I also recited some Psalms that I was able to remember by heart under the circumstances. In addition to the injury to my head I felt an enormous pain in my lower back, and the stretcher was covered with my blood.
When I asked the medic, he assured me, "It is all right, we closed the wound in your hip."
"No," I replied, "in the middle of my back there is another gaping hole." So the medics turned me over to my side and bandaged the wound in the middle of my back. We were transferred from the ambulance to a helicopter. In the helicopter I said to the officer in command, "Now you have done your part in taking Jews out of Gush Katif."
In the hospital I was x-rayed repeatedly. Among other pieces of shrapnel, two pieces were embedded in my back. One piece was very large and about 2 centimeters from the spinal cord. It was pressing on my lower back so I could not walk or sit. The other piece was in my hip.
On the first day both of my injuries were bandaged. The whole world was praying for our recovery: In Brazil, America, Antwerp, in schools, camps and businesses. Even in line to go to the dentist in Kiryat Arba, Hebron, Psalms were recited for our recovery.
And wonder of wonders! On the second day while changing the bandages only the injury to my hip was bandaged. The injury on my back had disappeared! I rubbed my back and it was as smooth as before the attack. I called to my family and they also were astonished. The doctors came to check me and searched for the shrapnel, assuming that it had moved somewhere else, but it had disappeared. Simply disappeared!
From that moment when the shrapnel disappeared I was again able to move freely: to sit up, get out of bed and walk. Thank G-d!
This, my friends, is the power of prayer! If an ugly piece of metal and an open wound can suddenly disappear, so can evil decrees disappear in the wink of an eye!
Why worry? Is G-d on strike, heaven forbid? Is He in off for summer vacation? Throughout history and up until this day, it has been proven that he who puts his trust in flesh and blood is disappointed. What will be? What will we eat tomorrow? Where will we live? Where will we work? Do not worry. We have a dedicated Father who is caring for all of our needs. We will continue to plant, to build, to educate, to live and develop. And as the Chasidic saying goes, "Think good and it will be good!"
And we will be blessed with a complete Redemption very soon. We will be strengthened with love of Israel, we will depend on our Father in Heaven. And we will continue with the tried and proven solution: "Repentance, prayer and charity remove the bad decree."
Thank you for all of your prayers and help.
Rabbi Kirschenzaft is the Rebbe's emissary to Gush Katif
To see houses, parks, zoos, museums, schools, synagogues, hothouses, beaches and shopping centers visit www.gushkatif.net
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Every Jew, man, woman, or child, in every generation, by virtue of his very existence, expresses the praise of G-d. Not only is every Jew's soul an "actual part of G-d," so to speak, but also, each Jew as he exists in this world, body and soul, is a unique Divine creation and a member of "G-d's nation."
This applies to every Jew without distinction. We are "one nation," sharing a fundamental equality regardless of our different spiritual levels. This applies even to those Jews who - at present - do not observe the will of G-d as expressed in the Torah. For, as our Sages teach, "A Jew even though he sins remains Jewish."
Furthermore, the innate desire of every Jew (even one who is not observant), because he was born of a Jewish mother or converted according to Jewish law, is to serve G-d through Torah and its commandments, the mitzvos. Maimonides writes that every Jew, even one who protests to the contrary, desires to be part of the Jewish people, to fulfill mitzvos, and to separate himself from sin. If he does not do so, it is only because his evil inclination forces him to act otherwise.
Throughout the centuries, this essential desire has been revealed by the many Jews - even those who were not observant - who actually sacrificed their lives to sanctify G-d's name.
The existence of the Jewish people expresses the praise of G-d. The Jewish nation has endured throughout the course of history, while nations more powerful have vanished. This is not a result of any socio-political factors, but is rather an open expression of Divine power.
In particular this applies today, only a generation after the Holocaust that threatened to utterly annihilate our people. The fact that our people (regardless of their spiritual level) continue to exist reveals G-d's presence within our world.
The above concepts should affect the manner in which we approach our fellow Jews. Criticizing or speaking unfavorably about them is no less than making such statements against G-d Himself. Zachariah (2:12) the prophet warns that a person who strikes a Jew is like one who strikes G-d in the eye, so to speak. Since "a king cannot exist without a people," the appreciation of G-d as king of the world is dependent on His people, the Jews, and an attack against them, heaven forbid, is an attack against Him.
When such statements are made, particularly when they are made in public, they have to be corrected. We find that when Isaiah criticized the Jews - even though they were deserving of such criticism - he was punished. The Bible relates this incident in order to "open the way to repentance," so that anyone who makes such statements should appreciate the need to correct his behavior.
Surely the above applies when a person questions the Jewishness of certain of our brothers and sisters whom the Torah itself defines as Jews. The Jewish people are compared to a Torah scroll. A blemish in a single letter of a Torah scroll disqualifies the entire scroll, including even the Ten Commandments. Similarly, disqualifying a single member of our people affects the people as a whole.
The essential nature of any entity always seeks to express itself. Thus, the appreciation of a Jew's essential nature should motivate efforts to have that nature realized - through the fulfillment of the Torah and its commandments.
This will bring the Jewish people not only spiritual benefits, but will also strengthen their position in the world, particularly in the Land of Israel.
Just as the Jews are G-d's chosen people, the Land of Israel is G-d's chosen land. It is a holy land given as an eternal inheritance to the entire Jewish people, those living in the land at present, and those presently living in the diaspora. Hence, no one is entitled to surrender any portion of the Land of Israel to gentiles.
Maintaining possession of this land is the only path to peace. Succumbing to the pressure to surrender any part of it will only invite additional pressure, weakening the security of the Jewish people and exposing them to danger. The government in the Holy Land must follow the path of peace, but also must realize that the path to peace depends on maintaining possession of every portion of the land which G-d has granted us.
May the above hasten the coming of Moshiach who will lead our entire people to the Land of Israel....
Freely translated from an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
16 Av, 5765 - August 21, 2005
Prohibition 285: It is forbidden to testify falsely
This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 20:13) "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" We are forbidden to act as false witnesses and declare that something is true when we know that what we are saying is a lie.
17 Av, 5765 - August 22, 2005
Positive Mitzva 180: Punishing False Witnesses
This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 19:19) "You shall do to him as he had thought to have done to his brother" If witnesses are found to be testifying falsely, they must be punished. We are commanded to impose upon these false witnesses the same verdict that would have been given to the person on trial, had their testimony been true.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is the 15th of Av, a day on which many positive things happened in Jewish history.
It is also the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, known as Shabbat Nachamu for the Haftorah portion we read which begins, "Nachamu, Nachamu Ami - Comfort, I will comfort My People."
Our Sages state that the word "Nachamu" is stated twice, for with the building of the Third Holy Temple, G-d will comfort us doubly for the destruction of the first and second Temples.
Jewish teachings further explain that the repetition of words in the Torah points to the unlimited quality of the matter being discussed.
Thus, the comfort that G-d offers us through his prophet in this week's Haftorah does not point a limited consolation for the destruction of the First and Second Temples; G-d is telling us that with the building of the Third Holy Temple in the Messianic Era, we will be comforted in a totally unlimited manner, when the revelation of G-dliness and Divine Knowledge will likewise be totally unlimited.
The 15th of Av is also the day on which we are encouraged to begin increasing our Torah study, since, on the 15th of Av the nights become longer - nights which can be used for Torah study. The Rebbe, in a talk on this Shabbat, emphasized what form this Torah study should take:
"In general, the study of Chasidut is associated with the Redemption... in particular the function of this study as a catalyst for the Redemption is more powerful when the subject studied concerns that matter itself," i.e., matters concerning Moshiach and the Redemption.
May G-d comfort us not only doubly but in an infinite and unlimited manner with the revelation of Moshiach and the building of the Third Holy Temple, immediately.
You shall not add...nor shall you diminish (Deut. 4:2)
The Torah is called the "prescription for life" - a medicine able to purify those who take it. That is why we are warned not to add nor detract from the Torah's words. A prescription drug is a precise mixture of various substances, and changing the proportions can have toxic effects. So, too, are the commandments of the Torah given in the exact and correct proportions, and to change even a word has a deleterious effect.
(Rabbi Yonoson Eibeshutz)
Your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations (Deut 4:6)
A Jew is expected to keep the commandments in the Torah, not because he understands them rationally with his mind, but because the Creator of the World has commanded him to do so. But "in the eyes of the nations," the Torah is "your wisdom and your understanding": one must know how to answer heretics.
This day we have seen that G-d can speak with man, who may live. But now, why should we die? (Deut. 5:21, 22)
Up until now, we thought that while the soul is still in the physical body, it cannot bear the revelation of the light of holiness. But this day, we have seen that it is possible, "that G-d can speak with man," and that man "can live" with this added dimension of holiness. We see that the physical world can accept this degree of G-dliness. Therefore, "why should we die?"
In the upcoming week falls the 20th of Av, the yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rav Levi Yitzchak was a great sage and scholar, an awesome reservoir of Talmudic and Kabalistic knowledge. But perhaps the most unique dimension of his character was his unflinching commitment to Judaism and the total lack of fear with which he expressed that commitment.
One night in 1935, in the midst of the fiercest Stalinist oppression, a woman knocked on his door. "I've come from a distant city whose name I cannot mention. In approximately one hour, my daughter and her fiance? will also arrive. They both hold high government positions and so their coming here is fraught with danger. They have agreed to be married according to Jewish law, provided you would perform the wedding in your home."
Rav Levi Yitzchak consented and set about gathering together a minyan for the wedding. Within half an hour, he had brought eight other men into his home. But the tenth man was lacking. On the bottom floor of the apartment house where Rav Levi Yitzchak lived a young Jewish man who had been hired by the Communist authorities to spy on the goings on in Rav Levi Yitzchak's home. Rav Levi Yitzchak was well aware of who this person was and how he was employed. Yet when the tenth man was lacking, he sent for him.
"We need a tenth man for a minyan so that a Jewish couple can marry," he told his neighbor.
"And so you sent for me?!" the neighbor responded in utter amazement. And yet he consented to participate in the minyan and did not inform about the ceremony.
Years later, the Rebbe said: "From my father I learned never to be afraid."
From Keeping in Touch, by Rabbi E. Touger
One year, before Passover, the Government required each citizen to complete a questionnaire, as part of a general population census. One of the questions was, "Do you believe in G-d?"
Certain Jews who did believe, nevertheless responded in the negative because they were afraid of losing their jobs. When Rav Levi Yitzchak became aware of this, he stood up and proclaimed before a large audience in the synagogue, that for a Jew to deny his belief in G-d is considered heresy and therefore it is absolutely prohibited for any Jew to give a negative answer to this question, no matter what the consequences.
This ruling of Rabbi Lev Yitzchak was brought to the attention of the authorities by an agent who had been planted in the shul in order to observe the rabbi's manner of conducting himself and to determine the extent of his influence upon the congregation.
At a later date, after Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had been arrested and was being interrogated about this speech, he defended himself. He explained that the Government certainly expected truthful answers to all of its questions, and it being the case that so many Jews were ready to respond falsely to this particular question out of fear of losing their jobs, he had felt it his duty as a loyal citizen to urge them to answer each question honestly!
From the diary of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, wife of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, published in A mother in Israel, Kehot Publications
Ozar Wienikursky told of the traumatic time when he was about to be drafted into the Russian Communist army. He came to Rav Levi Yitzchak to ask for his blessing that he should secure a deferment. The Rav did not simply bless him. He gave Ozar extremely detailed instructions; he specified the exact date and hour at which he should report to the draft office, which route to take on the way there, the chapters of Psalms that he should say beforehand, and exactly how many coins he should give to charity.
He also prescribed that when Ozar stood at the entrance to the building, he should stop and envisage in his mind the holy four-letter name of G-d. The Rav then blessed him and promised that nothing bad would befall him. He concluded by requesting that the young man return afterwards with a detailed report of all that had transpired.
Wienikursky carefully followed all of the Rav's instructions. When he arrived at the draft office, he was sent into a large room with many tables. At each table sat a doctor with a particular specialty who had the responsibility of examining each candidate that passed before him, but only in his area of expertise. Each draftee had to go before all of the doctors to determine the true state of his health and eliminate any possibility of deception.
"I passed along the row of tables and was examined by each doctor," related Ozar. "Each one recorded his opinion in turn. Finally, I reached the desk of the clerk who notified the draftees of the board's decision.
The man looked at me pityingly and exclaimed, "What is going on with you? You poor man! Each doctor found something wrong with you and each one's diagnosis describes you as suffering from a different disease!"
He left safely with a complete exemption from the army.
Translated and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from Eim b'Yisrael, reprinted from www.ascent.co.il
The First Holy Temple was characterized by a higher degree of G-dliness than was in the Second Temple. This is reflected in the fact that five elements of holiness including the Ark were present in the First Temple and were not present in the Second. On the other hand, the Second Temple possessed an advantage over the first. It was larger and endured for a longer time; i.e., in time and space, the qualities which characterize our material world, it surpassed the First Temple. The Third Temple will possess both these advantages, plus a unique dimension reflected in the fusion of these two.
(The Rebbe, 16 Menachem Av, 1991)