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Your average personal computer today, laptop or desktop, has about 512 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM) up to one GB (gigabyte). You can always increase your computer's memory by inserting little circuit boards that add additional megabytes of memory to your RAM. If a PDA, pocket PC or iPOD is your toy of choice, you can still have hundreds of megabytes of storage in the devise itself and heretofore unimagined additional amounts of memory via little chips no larger than a postage stamp.
But, can you imagine a RAM that stores, say, close to two thousand years of data?
The collective Jewish memory has this unusual and state-of-the-art ability. We are presently at the end of the "Three Weeks" between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av. During these three weeks many calamities befell the Jewish people, the most devastating of which was the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples on the Ninth of Av.
On the seventeenth of Tammuz, the Romans breached the walls of the city of Jerusalem. For the next three weeks the city was besieged until finally, on the ninth of Av, the Holy Temple was actually burned by the Roman General Titus.
Jewish holidays are not just happenings in history that stay put in the past. Mitzvot (commandments) associated with a particular holiday often help us experience the event as did our ancestors. They help us encode the festivals in our minds. It's like using the right computer language to access and later store important data in our memory.
This concept of reliving an experience is applicable, too, to the "Three Weeks." During the period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples, we become mourners. No weddings or other joyous celebrations take place; we refrain from cutting our hair, wearing new clothes, even eating a new fruit upon which the blessing of shehechyanu (...Who has sustained us...) would be said. The mourning process is interrupted only for Shabbat, a day on which joy must prevail.
On the first of the month of Av, our mourning intensifies. On the Ninth of Av, we truly act as mourners, sitting on low stools, wearing non-leather shoes, etc. In computer terms, you might call these actions "memory enhancers."
But, being that Jewish teachings urge us to continually look toward the future rather than staying stuck in the past and becoming obsolete, it comes as no surprise that the Lubavitcher Rebbe encourages us to experience the Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av in a manner unlike that of previous generations. The Rebbe has explained that as we are so close to the Redemption and the revelation of Moshiach, our sadness over the tragedies which took place should be permeated with optimistic anticipation of the Messianic Era.
The truth is, however, that there is something much more vital than adding to, enhancing or accessing the memory, and that is remaining connected to the source. Because if any memory, computer or human, becomes disconnected before it has a chance to be stored properly, that memory doesn't have a chance.
The Torah reading of this week marks the opening of the fifth book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, or Devarim in Hebrew. This book is also called Mishneh Torah, meaning "Repetition of the Torah." Moses began reviewing the Torah with the Jewish people on the first day of the Hebrew month Sh'vat in the fortieth year after the Exodus..
The timing of the Repetition of the Torah was especially significant in that it served to prepare the people for their entry into the Promised Land. During their years of wandering in the desert all their needs, food, water, clothing, and shelter were miraculously provided. The delicious white Manna fell daily; the Well of Miriam provided a constant supply of water, while the Clouds of Glory sheltered them from harsh winds, flattened the their path, killed any poisonous snakes, serpents, and scorpions, and kept the clothes of the Israelites fresh, clean, and pressed.
Now the Jews were on the verge of leaving this place where for years they had had no material cares, and to settle in a land and a way of life which would include mundane preoccupations such as working the land. They now needed an additional measure of spiritual re-invigoration and inspiration, so that they would not become materialistic and debased in the material world that lay ahead. The whole purpose of their coming into the Land was to instill holiness in their surroundings, to elevate and make more spiritual the material aspects of daily life - thereby transforming the material into the spiritual through Torah, worship of G-d, performance of His Divine precepts, giving charity and doing acts of loving kindness.
This same Divine purpose - to elevate the environment and transform the material into the spiritual - is behind every individual Jew's engagement in his mundane activities. As the Alter Rebbe expressed it: "The material things of Jews are spiritual; G-d gives us material things, that we may transform them into spiritual." G-d grants the Jew parnasa - livelihood - and he, in turn, utilizes the money for a mitzva in general, and for the support of Torah-study in particular, since the study of the Torah is equivalent to all the other mitzvot combined. In this way we truly convert the material (money and worldly possessions) into the spiritual.
Transformation of the material to the spiritual can be achieved in other ways also, such as through elevating and refining one's business or professional environment to set an example of honesty and good conduct. Some people think that the main purpose of a Torah education is to train Rabbis, Shochtim and other functionaries. This is not so; the essential and main purpose of religious training is to prepare Jewish laymen who, before going out into the world of business, or profession are imbued and permeated with Torah-values and with "Yirat Shamayim," fear of G-d. Such laymen, elevate their entire environment by inspiring every Jew with whom they come in contact, with love of G-d, love of Torah, and love of one's fellow - in actual daily practice.
In all matters of sanctity one must go from strength to strength, constantly increasing holiness; one must strive to produce more and more spirituality out of material things. In this way the blessing of "Prosperity through charity" becomes realized, with G-d giving material blessings in a growing measure, enabling us to create more, and still more, spiritually, at a reciprocal pace from strength to strength.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The following is a sampling of letters received by Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer of the Prisons Department of the Lubavitch Youth Organization and printed in the Prisons Department publication "Reaching Out.".
I just received your much-welcomed letter and would like to thank you very much. You are a blessing to all of us in prisons. I was touched by your hasty reply and caring response to the problem I had written to you about.
Chaplain Carney came to the "hole" and spoke to me and said that he would reinstate me on my religious diet. I cannot thank you enough for placing a call and making this happen. As I said, you are a blessing to all of us. If it were not for you, I would still have not been on the religious diet for a long time.
James - USP Allenwood, White Deer, PA
Thank you very much of the three volumes of The Mystical Tradition. I have already superficially read all three and am now studying them in greater detail. I find them extremely through provoking and stimulating. It is as if the exoteric as well as the esoteric aspects of the Torah are being opened up to me in a very real way.
I am really enjoying the second volume called The Mystical Dimension and the concepts of Tshuva. Is it possible for a sinner like myself to aspire to real Tshuva [repentance]? I am finding that I am increasingly becoming aware of the daily presence of G-d in my daily walk. My prayer life has reached a new dynamism and I find that I am talking to G-d and a daily basis. My heart has been truly touched by Hash-m and I never want to live any other way, even if I have to stay in prison for the rest of my life (or till Moshiach arrives).
I have a hunger that feels as if it will never be satisfied. There is a flame burning within me that I cannot understand, but accept with all my heart and soul. Thank you for leading me back to Him. Without your help and support I do not know what would have become of me. You and your organization are instruments that are giving my soul water in a desert. I now never want to stop growing spiritually.
Dovid, New Zealand.
It is sad but true that Jewish youth nowadays are becoming more and more disconnected with their Jewish identity. I, for example, did not grow up in a "traditional" Jewish home, nor was I ever Bar Mitzvah. In fact, it wasn't until my early teens that I began to really learn that I began to really learn and explore my being Jewish.
For some time, I didn't understand how, at the age of 20, being sentenced to 14 years in prison for a non-violent offense could ever be a good thing. How, though, through Torah and Mitzvoth I have a connection with G-d like never before. I yearn for the richness of Jewish life. I am more complete.
Fortunately through the grace of G-d it is never too late for a person to reconnect with their Jewishness. I encourage others, as you do, to spirit the renewal of education filled with Torah in order to preserve the continuity of the Jewish people.
Brandon - Federal Satellite Low, Jesup, GA
I can't begin to thank you enough for what you did for me, both spiritually and physically while I was n the hole for forty-seven days. Just hearing from you so soon after I had written to you kept me going knowing that you had taken my cause. Thank you as well for calling my family and keeping them up to date about what was happening.
The institution is currently in compliance with all of our kosher dietary needs and I only hope that it will remain this way.
I can truly say that you are now my Rabbi and I will forever be in your debt for helping me get back to my family after ten years of confinement without a blemish on my record. I truly look forward to meeting you in person when I return to New York, to be able to shake your hand and personally say thank you.
Dan - Federal Prison Camp, Talladega, AL
I am writing to thank you for always being there for me and being my lamplighter. I have moved into my last year on incarceration after along 12 years behind bars. I have continually worked on myself, my attitude and my faults, with your help and guidance and that of Rabbi Goldstein our Jewish chaplain. You have shown me, taught me and loved me as a fellow Jew to becoming understanding and a capable person.
A person can have all the counselors that help him and still not realize his problems or how to heal until he can see deeply enough inside, so that he can seek actual help for his problems. TDCJ doesn't provide any help, but I didn't let that stop me. I knew I was at fault and that I needed help. I knew that I didn't want to waste the years in doing nothing for myself.
So I have returned to my inner roots of being a Jew. I know that you will help me in outside, as you have helped me in the inside. I know that each step will be hard at first, but I know that G-d is with me and will not allow me to fail.
Moshe - Estelle Unit, Huntsville Tx
Thank you for your most welcome letter... Sometimes I truly think that G-d has guided me to meet you. Everyone after all knows, that it matters' not what out plans, when He decides something must be, then so it is.
I recall you telling me back when I was languishing in Shasta County Jail that He must have a reason for me to be there, and so it is. I will not presume to know the reason, or to even bother to question it, it simply is... Isn't it weird the way so many people simply take everything for granted (and yes, I also used to take everything for granted).
The entire Reaching Out is like a monthly recharge. Truly we are blessed to have the Rebbe in our lives and to have you too.
Moshe - Mule Creek State Prison, Ione, CAn
Rabbi Menachem and Racheli Hartmann will be moving to Vietnam where they will establish Chabad of Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in time for the High Holidays. Rabbi Yehuda and Esther Horowitz will be arriving soon in Plano, Texas, where they will be enhancing youth and adult education programming at the existing Chabad-Lubavitch Center as well as reaching out to the Jewish community in Frisco. Rabbi Avi and Dena Rabin have opened Chabad of West Hills, California. The new Chabad-Lubavitch Center is the 19th center in the San Fernando Valley. Rabbi Avrohom and Mashi Rapoport are establishing a new Chabad Center in Cape May County, southern New Jersey.
5th of Menachem Av, 5735 
To All Participants in the Beis Chana Scholarship Dinner and Dedication of Boschwitz Hall at Lubavitch House Minneapolis, Minn.,
In these days deprived of joy in commemoration of the Destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple], it is particularly gratifying to receive the good news of your constructive efforts and accomplishments for Torah Judaism in general and Torah education of our youths in particular.
The sacred activities of Torah and Tefila (prayer) give the Lubavitch House the status of Beis Knesses [synagogue] and Beis Medrash [study hall], hence of a Mikdosh Me'at ["Small Sanctuary" - replica of the Holy Temple], and according to the Zohar (III, 126a) of a Mikdosh [sanctuary].
This is most significant in these days, for it is through such activities as you are gathered to celebrate that the cause of the Destruction is gradually eliminated, and with it the effect, or, in the words of the familiar prayer, "Umipnei chataeinu galinu me'artzeinu - because of our sins we have been exiled from our land," etc. Thus every effort to strengthen Torah and mitzvos hastens the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu [our righteous Moshiach] and the Geula shleima [complete Redemption].
The most desirable wish and blessing that can be offered on such an occasion is that the present beautiful facilities should soon prove inadequate for the expanded Torah activities of Lubavitch in Minnesota and bring about even greater and more extensive facilities of this kind.
May we all soon see the fulfillment of the prophecy that these days of sadness shall be transformed into days of rejoicing, gladness and festivity - espe-cially as your celebration is taking place on the auspicious day of the 15th of Av.
With blessing for hatzlochoh [success] and good tidings,
Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5724 
N'shei uB'nos Chabad,
As we are now commemorating the sad events which led to the Destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh and the beginning of the present Exile, it should be remembered that the purpose of this commemoration is not just to inflict a sad period upon ourselves, but rather that we should be reminded and inspired to do all we can to lessen, and eventually remove altogether, the cause which brought about the sad events which we are now commemorating.
For, as we declare in our prayers, "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land." It was the neglect of the Torah and mitzvos, in the daily life and practice, which resulted in the Destruction and Exile. Therefore efforts to strengthen and spread the observance of the Torah and mitzvos in the daily life will hasten the complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach and, as promised, these sad days will be transformed into days of joy...
15th of Menachem Av, 5730 
To Campers and Counselors Camp Emunah Greenfield Park, NY
I was pleased to receive a report about your life and activities in the camp through Rabbi J.J. Hecht. He also turned in your tzedokoh [charity] collection of Tisha b'Av.
As I mentioned on the Shabbat before Tisha b'Av, which no doubt was conveyed also to you, tzedokoh is particularly important in connection with the day of Tisha b'Av to hasten the Geula in accordance with the prophecy, "Zion will be redeemed through justice, and all that return to her - through tzedokoh." Especially significant is the tzedokoh before Mincha [the afternoon prayer], when the prayer "Nacheim" is said.
May G-d grant that in the zechus [merit] of your tzedokoh in connection with the above, and the tzedokoh of all Jews, together with the zechus of the Torah, which is indicated in the beginning of the verse mentioned above (in the word mishpot - "justice"), that is to say, the daily life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos - should speedily bring the Nechomoh [comfort]. Then you, with all other Jewish children as well as adults, will come out to meet our righteous Moshiach, and the days of sadness will be turned into days of gladness, as promised by our holy prophets in the holy Torah.
Why are eggs eaten at the last meal before the fast of Tisha B'Av?
For the three weeks preceding the ninth of Av, the day on which the First and Second Holy Temples were destroyed, we mourn. Eggs are traditionally eaten by mourners at the first meal upon returning from the funeral. Eggs, round in shape, symbolize life, which goes in cycles; one generation dies, and another generation is born.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, occurs this year on Wednesday night, August 2 - Thursday night, August 3. On this day, we commemorate the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples in Jerusalem. On Tisha B'Av we read a special scroll from the Torah known as "Eicha" - the Book of Lamentations.
We find in this book two contradictory passages: "She [the Jewish people] cries in the night," and "Get up and sing in the night." It is obvious how the first passage fits into the Scroll of Lamentations. But how does the second passage relate to the melancholy, mournful tone of the book?
The answer to this question lies in understanding the eternity of our people. Although we are still in "golus" - exile, we have the strength, the capability and capacity to pull ourselves out from the depths and sing longingly of the "geula" - the final redemption.
Soon, the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem will have passed. We have been singing a lengthy song of sadness. Let us, immediately thereafter, begin a song of longing for Moshiach. And let us sing, together, "We Want Moshiach Now" the way the author of "Eicha," Jeremiah the prophet, would have it sung.
Then certainly, the prophet's own words will be fulfilled, when he will "Wake up the avot [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob], Aaron and Moses," and all together fervently sing of our redemption.
It was in the 40th year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month... (Deut. 1:3)
Moses did not rebuke the Jews until he, himself was near death, according to Rashi. When a person is about to pass away, and is on the border between this world and the next, his words of instruction and reproof have a special influence. At this point, no personal prejudices or ulterior motives can be ascribed to him.
Moses began to explain the law (Deut. 1:5)
Moses explained the law in all seventy languages. Why did he have to go to all this trouble? Because G-d knew that one day the Jews would be scattered about the face of the earth and would be mingled among the other nations. By explaining the Torah in all languages, G-d insured that in each land and among each people there would be a spark of Torah.
Listen to your brothers and judge righteously (Deut. 1:16)
Here the Torah gives important instruction to judges. The verse states "Listen" in the present tense, to indicate that the judges must hear even the most long-winded arguments from either side with patience. The implication of, "to your brothers," is that the judge must relate equally to both parties, not to give a better hearing to one than to the other.
Jerusalem. It was hours before daybreak in the year 1660 and Rabbi Klonimus Hechasid was making his way in the dark to the Kotel, the Western Wall, to pray to the King of the Universe. It was his unvarying custom to pray every morning at that early hour, when the world was completely still and he could meditate on the greatness of G-d and His wondrous creation.
The day seemed like every other day. But as he walked in the darkness, he became aware of some almost undiscernible movement in the surrounding blackness. It was with terror that he saw a street filled with Arabs brandishing knives and swords. They were crying out, "Death to the Jewish murderers!"
Rabbi Klonimus approached them, and their leader told him that an Arab youth had been discovered murdered near the Jewish quarter, and they were going to punish every Jew they could find. He somehow found the right words and convinced them to wait before commencing their bloodthirsty plan.
"Please, allow me to go the Kotel to pray. When I am finished, I will tell you the identity of the killer of the boy."
Rabbi Klonimus took a quill, a small bottle of ink and a piece of paper. He then proceeded to the Kotel followed by the Arab mob bearing the body of the dead youth in tow. Draping himself in tallit and tefillin, he prayed for a short while and then wrote something on the paper. Then he took the paper and placed it on the forehead of the dead Arab.
To the astonishment of all present, the dead youth opened his eyes, stood up and scanned the crowd. Then he pointed to one of the Arabs in the mob and announced, "That is the one! He is the one who murdered me!"
A loud murmur went up from the mob as the accused man was dragged forward. Trembling with terror, the man admitted his guilt before his resurrected victim. As soon as he had confessed the youth sank to the ground, as dead as before.
The parents of the dead boy ran to Rabbi Klonimus, begging him to bring their child to life again, but he just shook his head. "I am not G-d, that I should be able to either grant or take away life. The miracle that just took place was granted in the merit of the holy Kotel so that you could see that 'the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.' He is waiting just behind the Wall to rescue His children."
The crowd dispersed, bearing the murdered youth to his grave.
After the destruction of the First Holy Temple, many of the Jewish people lived in exile in Babylonia, where they built great Torah academies and established flourishing Jewish communities. Rabbi Zeira was amongst those who lived in exile, learning Torah from the greatest scholars. Though he had a satisfying life, he wanted one thing more - to live in the land of Israel and to study Torah from the great Sages there.
Even though Rabbi Zeira longed to live in the Holy Land, he was torn in making his decision, since his teacher, Rabbi Yehuda ben Yechezkel was opposed to returning to Israel. It was his belief that the Jews were obligated to remain in exile in Babylonia, since they did not yet merit to return. Not only did Rabbi Zeira not want to oppose his teacher, he had doubts as to whether his own personal merits were sufficient to allow him to live in the Holy Land.
One morning Rabbi Zeira woke up feeling assured that he could live in the Holy Land; he had had a dream in which he received Divine assurance of his worthiness. But he still had to solve the problem of his teacher's opposition. He was afraid that if he went to bid good-bye to Rabbi Yehuda, the Sage would forbid him to leave, so he avoided meeting him. Then, one day, he happened to hear Rabbi Yehuda speaking and he caught a few wise words which made him feel ready to depart for the Land of Israel.
Journeying by foot, Rabbi Zeira came to a river with no bridge. Usually crossed by ferryboat, the boat was nowhere in sight. Rabbi Zeira spied a foot-bridge consisting of a narrow plank secured by ropes. Now, Rabbi Zeira was not a young man, and t his shaky bridge was used only by nimble workers who had no time to wait for the ferry. Rabbi Zeira felt a great urgency to proceed on his way and he grabbed onto the rope and mounted the slippery bridge. He slipped and slid his way across the plank, occasionally falling into the cold river until he finally reached the other side.
When he mounted the other bank, Rabbi Zeira was greeted by a smirking gentile who said, "You are a rash and thoughtless race! Right from the beginning you acted without consideration. You said, 'We will do and we will understand.' That's not the normal way of approaching a situation. First you find out about something, and only then you make a commitment to it. Why didn't you have the patience to wait for the ferry? No, you had to cross like a young boy, in spite of the danger."
Rabbi Zeira explained to the man, "I'm on my way to Israel. To live in Israel was the greatest wish of Moses and Aaron, but they were not permitted to realize their dream. I am no longer a young man and I don't know if I will live long enough to r each the Land of Israel. Every minute that I will live in Israel is precious to me, and I cannot lose even one minute. How could I lose time waiting for the ferry?"
Rabbi Zeira reached Israel where he settled in Tiberius and learned in the famous yeshiva of Rabbi Yochanan.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin) states: "Three things come unexpectedly: Moshiach, a 'find' (metzia), and a scorpion," i.e., the Redemption will be as much of a surprise as finding a "metzia" or being stung by a scorpion. This is despite the fact that we are to constantly pray for and hope for the Redemption. The Maharsha explains why in this statement Moshiach is mentioned together with a metzia and a scorpion. "If he merits, Moshiach's coming will be like the unexpected appearance of a metzia, he will rejoice and it will be good for him. But if he doesn't merit, Moshiach's coming will be like the unexpectedness or the bite of a scorpion..."