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   882: Devarim

883: Vaeschanan

884: Eikev

885: Re'eh

886: Shoftim

887: Ki Seitzei

888: Ki Savo

889: Nitzavim

September 9, 2005 - 5 Elul, 5765

886: Shoftim

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

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  885: Re'eh887: Ki Seitzei  

It's a Miracle - Or is It?  |  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

It's a Miracle - Or is It?

I remember the first time I saw a fax machine. As I watched the document emerge from the machine, I blurted out: "A miracle!" Indeed, there are many of these types of miracles happening today. Some, like the fax machine, are really pretty straightforward, but others represent transitions that can truly be seen as miraculous.

There is a difference of opinion between two of Judaism's great Sages, Moses Maimonides and Raavad (Rav Avraham ben David). Maimonides states: "One should not entertain the notion that in the era of Moshiach any element of the natural order will be nullified, or that there will be any innovation in the work of creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern.... Our Sages taught: 'There will be no difference between the current age and the era of Moshiach except our emancipation from subjugation to the gentile kingdoms.'"

Raavad differs and cites prophecies from Scripture and from the Talmud which appear to indicate that there will be miracles.

In light of some of the changes taking place within our lives at present, we can introduce a possible resolution that preserves both perspectives. One of the prophecies Raavad cites as proof of his position is: "I will remove wild beasts from the land." Our Sages offer the interpretation that the beasts of prey will lose their predatory tendencies, as Isaiah declares: "A wolf will lie down with the lamb."

An obvious miracle. And yet after having mapped the human genome, is it so far-removed to think that we will be able to identify the gene that causes a lion or a wolf to prey, and breed out that tendency from the species? I don't mean to oversimplify the issue, but far greater modifications in nature based on the manipulation of DNA have been proposed - and these by businessman seeking profits, not by scientists exploring theories.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg. In many ways, 21st-century life is beginning to look like science fiction. We have cloned mammals and isolated telomerase which can be used to establish stable, immortalized human cell chains which can undergo multiple rounds of genetic engineering.

Nanotechnology, where the very structure of atoms is manipulated, is already being applied in industry. And today's breakthroughs are nowhere near what we will see in the not too distant future.

Are these miracles? Yes and no. From the vantage point of 100 - perhaps even 25 - years ago, they most definitely are. But according to today's perspective, this is not a "nullification of the natural order." What was once considered miraculous and beyond man's reach is now natural.

This fusion of the miraculous and the natural shows us something of what the era of the Redemption will be. Since G-d's essence will be revealed within our world, there will be a redefinition of material existence. The material form will remain, but it will be suffused with an infinite G-dly dimension that will produce the natural miracles of the type - and indeed, far greater than the type - we mentioned.

by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger from Keeping In Touch, published by Sichos in English.

Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah portion Shoftim we find the verse, "For man is the tree of the field." What, though, is the connection between human beings and trees?

At first glance, there seems to be little in common between the two. Man is the crown of creation, the only being with the capacity of speech, whereas a tree is on the much lower level, even lower than an animal. Why, then, does the Torah equate us with mere trees?

The unique characteristic of a plant is its intimate connection with the ground, its source of life and sustenance. Although both animals and people also receive their sustenance from the earth (and indeed were even created from it), the relationship is less direct. Humans and animals are not bound to the earth by their roots and are free to move about. A plant, on the other hand, must always be connected to the ground; if it is uprooted, it will wither and die.

A tree expresses this concept even more. Bound to the earth, it must suffer the harsh punishment of the elements throughout the four seasons of the year, yet annually bears its fruit (unlike annuals, which live for only one season). A tree has such a strong connection to its source that even the changes in season do it no harm.

It is in this respect that man resembles the tree of the field. He, too, is unable to exist cut off from his source of life. His soul requires a constant and continuous bond with the source of his existence. This intimate connection and relationship with G-d is the trait which man may learn from the trees and adopt and strengthen for himself.

The source of life for the Jew is the Torah, and he draws his strength and vitality from it. Even though most Jews cannot spend their entire day engrossed in Torah study and must venture out into the world to "make a dwelling place for G-d down here below," we derive meaning and inspiration for the rest of the day from the time that was actually spent learning Torah. When a busy businessman dedicates a small amount of time in the morning and evening to learning Torah, the influence is felt throughout the day.

On must always bear in mind that "man is the tree of the field" - he is always bound by his roots to his source of life. Even as one actively pursues a life of commerce, or whatever one's profession may be, he must strive to feel that intimate bond with his Creator. The Torah that is learned during those few moments will permeate one's entire life and create a Torah-true atmosphere.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

by Vita Goldstein

During the Jewish month of Elul, the month before Rosh Hashana, it is customary to have the mezuzot in one's home checked by a scribe to make sure that they are still kosher - fit for use. I didn't grow up knowing about checking mezuzot, not in Elul or at any other time of the year. I didn't grow up knowing to put mezuzot on every door (except bathrooms and small closets). I did not know growing up, what was inside a mezuza.  

But, I did grow up with parents whose doors were always open. And I did grow up with parents who were always giving of their time to others. And I did grow up knowing how invaluable it is to care about members of one's family and that the circle of caring should extend to other people as well.

My husband and I became observant and close with Chabad almost 20 years ago when we were introduced to Rabbi Shlomo and Esther Bluming, in New London, Connecticut. In the process, we and our extended families had to do some adjusting. One of the things we did not need to adjust, though, was my parents' values of an open home and an open heart.  

Throughout the years, I always felt quite comfortable when friends were in my parents' neighborhood to suggest that they call on my parents for a place to stay. My mother, Elsie Fetterman, has plenty of room, and although she is not observant, she always welcomed my friends.

Recently, I recommended to a friend, Ita Baila Bialistok, to stay with my mother while she was attending a seminar in Amherst.

When Ita Baila spoke to me after her visit to my mother's home, she told me how welcome she had felt and how much she had enjoyed her stay. As a side comment, she added, "You know your mother's mezuzot seem too small and some doors don't even have mezuzot." Ita Baila told me that she had hesitantly broached the subject with my mother. My mother had told her, "Oh, that's Vita's department. She knows about those things."

Once I found out that I had been "appointed" to be in charge of such matters, I got right on the case. I called Rabbi Chaim Adelman, the Rebbe's emissary to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Not too long afterwards we met at my mother's house.

Rabbi Adelman gave both my mother and me a "crash course" in mezuzot. He explained in which direction the mezuza should be slanted when affixed, to which side of the door frame it should be attached, the differences in size and quality of the scrolls themselves, which doors were missing mezuzot, the deeper significance of the Shema and other Torah verses hand-written on the parchment and the importance of having kosher mezuzot on all of one's doors. 

It was quite an "education." By the end of the afternoon, after going from doorway to doorway, inside and outside of the house, we calculated that we needed more than 30 mezuzot! Nine mezuzot were for outside doors, alone.

I suggested to my mother that we approach the purchasing and placement of the mezuzot gradually. My father's yartzeit (anniversary of passing) was the first day of the Hebrew month of Av, in the beginning of August this year. I proposed that we put mezuzot on all of the outside doors by that date and it would be done in my father's memory. The yartzeit of my brother is on Elul 7, a little more than one month later. I suggested that we make that the second phase of "Operation Mezuzot" and that we complete the task by Rosh Hashana. The idea was reasonable and we set out to make sure it happened.

A little while after our mezuza adventure began, my mother and I went to visit a friend of hers, Shirley, who was recuperating from surgery at a nearby rehabilitation center. My mother was so excited with her newly acquired education about mezuzot that she just had to tell her friend about it. "Though I received my Ph.D. 35 years ago, I'm still learning new things every day," my mother told her friend enthusiastically.

(Later that same week, Rabbi Adelman went to visit Shirley in the rehab center. Shirley brought the conversation around to mezuzot and she is considering starting a mezuza adventure of her own!)

When I returned home from my visit with my mother, I sent her a note. In it I shared with her my feelings about how special I think it is that she is making sure her home has kosher mezuzot. I wrote that our patriarch Abraham was known to have a tent-home with doors on all four sides of the tent open. This was in order to make it easier to welcome guests. My mother's home has nine doors, and as my friends have experienced, they are always open to guests. 

For her part, my mother feels that it has been a very special experience to be able to fulfill the mitzva of having mezuzot on all of her doors, especially as mezuzot remind her and her guests that they are in a Jewish home.

May we all have open doors like my mother's doors, may we all have mezuzot on those doors, like my mother's doors, and may we all have open minds like my mother's mind.

What's New

The Great Mission

The Great Mission, a new release from Kehot Publications, is part biography, part philosophy, part story, about the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement. All stories and teachings included within The Great Mission are drawn from the talks and written works of the Rebbes of Chabad-Lubavitch, which constitute an unbroken chain from the Baal Shem Tov through modern times. Compiled by Rabbi Eli Friedman and translated by Rabbi Elchonon Lesches, The Great Mission startles the reader as it reveals the sensible approach of the Baal Shem Tov. The Great Mission stays true to its mission and offers a riveting portrait of a truly great man.

The Rebbe Writes

In the Days of Elul, 5737 [1977]

Blessing and Greeting:

I duly received your correspondence, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

Especially as we are now in the month of Elul, the auspiciousness and significance of which is explained by the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], Founder of Chabad, in the well-known parable of "the King in the Field."

Briefly, when a king, before entering his city and palace, is in the field, then the people of the city come out to greet the king, and then everyone who so desires can approach the king, and the king is especially gracious to all and shows them a smiling face.

Similarly the month of Elul is particularly auspicious to approach the King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He; all that is necessary is to desire it.

Wishing you and yours a Kesivo vechasimo toivo [you should be written and sealed for good], for a good and sweet year,

22nd of Elul, 5737 [1977]

Blessing and Greeting:

Your letter of July 29th reached me with considerable delay.

I trust you know that one of the basic teachings of our Torah, called Toras Chaim, because it is the Jew's true guide in life, is to be strong in one's faith in G-d, whose benevolent Providence extends to each and everyone individually. This in itself is a channel to receive G-d's blessings, and reduces to a minimum all anxieties and worries.

At the same time, the Torah teaches also that one must do everything necessary in the natural order of things. Thus, in the matter of health, it is necessary to consult with, and follow, the advice of the doctor who is treating the person.

It is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at length the need to strengthen adherence to the Will of G-d in the daily life and conduct in accordance with the teachings of the Torah. In addition to this being a must for its own sake, this is also the way to receive additional Divine blessings in all needs, including the matter of health and making other important decisions.

If you think that you need further enlightenment, in addition to the above guideline, you surely can speak with some of Chabad-Lubavitch people in your city.

With prayerful wishes to you and all yours for a Kesivo vaChasimo Tovo, for a good and sweet year, and

With blessing,

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5736 [1976]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 17th of Menachem Av etc. I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in the matters about which you write.

As I have mentioned it before to you, strengthening Bitochon [trust] in G-d, in addition to this being a basic tenet of our Torah, also increases and speeds G-d's blessing in all needs. At the same time, the Bitochon minimizes, and indeed dispels, all anxieties and worries.

With regard to matters relating to the community, Chinuch [Jewish education], etc., you should discuss them with Askonim Yirei Shomayim [G-d fearing lay-leaders], who are familiar with the local situation - as I have also advised you this in the past.

Wishing you and yours a Kesiva vaChasimo Tovo,

With blessing,

Rambam this week

5 Elul, 5765 - September 9, 2005

Prohibition 65: We are forbidden to destroy or damage a Jewish place of worship, or holy books, or to erase sacred names.

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut.12:4) "This you shall not do to the L-rd your G-d"

This prohibition informs us that we are forbidden to destroy or damage a synagogue or yeshiva. We are also not allowed to damage a holy book or to erase any one of the sacred names of G-d that appear in writing.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week we entered into the month of Elul, the month of preparation for the holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is a time of making an account of the previous year, and resolving to do better in the coming year.

The Rebbe explains how the service of the month of Elul gives us the opportunity to reveal the greatness of the unity of the Jewish nation in numerous different ways:

While each Jew has to make an account of his own actions, all Jews are working toward the same goal of improving in the coming year.

During Elul, there is an emphasis on prayer. When it comes to prayer, the service of the heart, all Jews are equal. Even something as important as Torah knowledge does not effect the simple, heartfelt outpouring of a sincere heart.

Another area which shows Jewish unity is the increase in charity during Elul. When we give tzedaka we are acknowledging the fact that we are all one, that every Jew has a responsibility to his fellow Jews. Moreover, the commandment to give tzedaka has been placed upon all of us equally.

Just as in the month of Elul we are preparing ourselves to be judged by the Heavenly Court, in this week's Torah portion, Shoftim, we read about the importance of appointing earthly judges. The Torah states that judges must be positioned "at the gates of the city," to ensure that the people will follow the laws of the Torah both in the city and out. This is a lesson for us in our time as well.

The Torah's laws do not merely exist in a synagogue, a home or even just within a Jewish community. They are a part of us no matter where we go. Even if we happen to find ourselves outside of our "city," we are still required to act in accordance with the Torah.

During this month of Elul, as we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana, let us add a prayer, a supplication, for G-d to send us Moshiach now!

Thoughts that Count

Judges and officers you shall appoint upon yourself...and they shall judge the people (Deut. 16:18)

First "you shall appoint upon yourself" - first you must adorn yourself, and then "they shall judge the people" - you will be able to adorn and beautify others and to judge them. In other words, most people are blind to their own faults.

(Klei Yakar)

The Torah enjoins the judge - "you shall appoint upon yourself" - the same criteria and set of rules that you use to judge others you should apply to yourself as well. Demand of yourself the same fear of G-d that you demand from those you are judging.

(Toldot Yaakov Yosef)

What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house (Deut. 20:8)

Moses said this to those who were to wage war. Rabbi Yosi Haglili said: This means one who is afraid because of his sins. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov added another insight: The worst thing is when a person dwells on his transgressions and sinks into a depression. When the Evil Inclination tries to entice a person to sin, it is more interested in the depression following the wrongdoing than the sin itself. The damage done by depression is greater than the damage done by the gravest transgression.

You shall set a king over yourself (Deut. 17:15)

This commandment's purpose is to instill the fear of G-d, the subjugation to Him, and the acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven. The king himself is nullified to G-d; therefore, when the nation subjugates itself to him, they nullify themselves to G-d as well.

(Derech Mitzvotecha)

It Once Happened

Once a great Chasidic leader, Rabbi Mordechi of Nadvorna, was on a long train trip with many of his followers. The train made a stop in the city of Niridihous where they had to change trains for their intended destination.

They had been waiting for several minutes when suddenly a young non-Jewish woman began screaming and wailing, attracting the attention of both passengers and police. It seems that someone had stolen her wallet containing her money and train ticket.

It was usually best for Jews to keep out of the affairs of non-Jews, especially in this situation when the police were looking for a suspect. So it was a bit strange when Rabbi Mordechai turned to one of his younger Chasidim and ordered him to run to the ticket office to buy a ticket for the woman. He told the Chasid to give her some traveling money as well and not to say a word about where it came from.

The Chasid did as he was told and gave it to the bewildered woman who was literally speechless with gratitude.

Fifteen years passed. The Chasid married had children, the holy Rebbe had passed away and the incident was completely forgotten.

The Chasid had since become a successful businessman and even had non-Jewish friends in high places. Early one morning he received a subpoena to appear in court; he was charged with cheating the government.

The charges were transparently false, the witnesses had obviously been paid, but it didn't help. Suddenly he realized that he didn't have any real friends after all and no one was willing to help him. He ran from office to office and got the same empty sympathetic statements and excuses. Finally he hired a lawyer, prayed to G-d for a miracle, and went to court.

The pre-trial hearing took less than an hour. He was found guilty of all charges and was to be incarcerated until the trial. The Chasid was desperate. He posted bail for himself and began searching for a better lawyer, but now no lawyer wanted to take his case.

He had no choice but to travel to Budapest where the judge, who was to preside over his trial lived, and try to see him. Maybe he could convince the judge of his innocence. Hastily he packed a bag, took a large sum of money and caught the next train out.

In Budapest the Chasid was in for another bitter surprise. He found out that the judge was a rabid anti-Semite. There was no chance that he would even look at, no less talk to, and certainly not have mercy on a Jew.

But the Chasid did not lose heart, for "everything G-d does is for the best" he reminded himself. So he went around the city talking to people until he formulated a plan of action. The Chasid found out that the judge's wife loved fine embroidered linens, especially tablecloths. He would buy the most expensive tablecloth he could find and appear at her doorstep as a salesman. Then, if he could get her interested, he would offer it to her as a gift and beg her to try to influence her husband for him.

It was a dangerous plan, even a bit foolish; she could easily report him to the police. But he had no other solution.

The Chasid spent the entire next morning looking for the most exquisite embroidery in Budapest and finally spent a small fortune on a truly elegant masterpiece of a tablecloth with matching napkins. He went quickly to the judge's home trying to keep as calm as possible. He walked up the stairs to the door, closed his eyes, said a prayer and knocked.

The judge's wife herself opened the door. She looked at him strangely. He tried to begin his sales pitch but the words simply didn't come out. He was trembling, frozen with fear. Suddenly, the woman let out a scream and fainted!

The Chasid's first impulse was to run. If he just stood there they would certainly accuse him of something. But then if he ran and they caught him it would certainly be worse!

Meanwhile, the judge heard the commotion and came running. When he got there and saw the Chasid it was hard to tell who was more astounded. He bent down to his wife, who had regained consciousness, and asked her, "Are you all right Greta, what happened?"

She opened one eye, looked around and finally pointed at the Jew. "Yorik, Yorik!" she said, as she rose to her feet. "Do you remember that I told that about fifteen years ago at the train station in Niridihous when I lost my tickets and money an angel came and saved me? Well, this Jew...he has the face just like that angel! It's him!

When the Judge realized that this was the man who saved his wife his countenance changed completely. He invited the bewildered Jew into his home and offered him a reward. When he heard the reason for his visit, he promised him a fair trial. Needless to say the Chasid was acquitted of all charges.

Adapted from a story told by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on

Moshiach Matters

When we reach the month of Elul, we must take stock and ask: Is it possible that eleven months of this year have passed and Moshiach has not come?! The sum total of our stocktaking is "Ad Masei - Until when must we remain in exile."

(The Rebbe, 30 Av 5751 - 1991)

  885: Re'eh887: Ki Seitzei  
Years:   5752 | 5753 | 5754 | 5755 | 5756 | 5757 | 5758 | 5759 | 5760 | 5761 | 5762 | 5763 | 5764 | 5765 | 5766 | 5767 | 5768 | 5769 | 5770 | 5771 | 5772 | 5773 | 5774 | 5775 | 5776 | 5777 | 5778 | 5779 | 5780

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