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   930: Devarim

931: Vaeschanan

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933: Re'eh

934: Shoftim

935: Ki Seitzei

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L'Chaim
August 4, 2006 - 10 Av, 5766

931: Vaeschanan

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


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  930: Devarim932: Eikev  

Helping Israel  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Customs  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Helping Israel

G-d willing, by the time you read this the latest crisis in Israel will have passed - and will be not only the latest, but the last. Still, at such a time, when our prayers, hearts and thoughts are with our fellow Jews, we anxiously search for ways we can help.

Some obvious ways come to mind, like: talk to friends and acquaintances, educating them about Israel's positions and the reasons for the current actions. (Of course, this requires us to educate ourselves. Visit www.SichosInEnglish.org and read "Eyes Upon the Land" [www.sichosinenglish.org/books/eyes-upon-the-land/] and "When Silence is a Sin" [www.sichosinenglish.org/books/when-silence-is-a-sin/] to educate yourself about the issues at hand.)

In 1967, before the Six Day War, when the whole world knew the Middle East would erupt in violence, the Lubavitcher Rebbe predicted Israel would achieve a stunning, miraculous victory. He also urged every Jewish male over thirteen to put on tefilin, explaining that that mitzva has a unique spiritual capacity to provide protection, particularly for soldiers. Thousands and thousands of Jewish men and boys put on tefilin, some for the first time in their lives. Today, it seems most appropriate to re-invigorate the Rebbe's tefilin campaign. If you haven't yet put on tefilin, call your local Chabad House. If you put it on just once-in-a-while, resolve to have a regular schedule, even once a week. It only takes about five minutes. If you already put on tefilin regularly, get a friend or relative to put on tefilin. The practical mitzva provides spiritual protection.

In 1974, shortly after the Yom Kippur War, the Rebbe launched several other mitzva campaigns, among them Shabbat candle-lighting, in which he urged Jewish women and girls over age 3 to light candles every Friday before sundown. Lighting candles brings the peace of Shabbat into the home; spiritually that peace extends to all the Jewish people. The Hebrew abbreviation for "Candles of the Holy Shabbat" - neshek - means "weapon" in Hebrew. By lighting Shabbat candles, women and girls provide spiritual ammunition for the Jewish people, particularly Israel and more particularly her soldiers.

Another mitzva has a direct protective function spiritually: mezuza. On the outside of the parchment is the Hebrew letter "Shin." Shin is the first letter in one of the names of G-d that is an acronym for "Guardian of the Doors of Israel." If you have not had your mezuzot checked, now is a good time. Having a case is not enough. A kosher parchment must be inside it. When we check our mezuzot and make sure we have a kosher scroll on our doors, affixed in the correct place, how does that help the Jews of Israel? The answer lies at the heart of the Jewish people. For in truth on a spiritual level, the Jewish people are one entity. Jewish Unity has a physical component - supporting our fellow Jews despite differences in custom, etc. But it also has a spiritual component - every Jewish soul is united with every other. The mitzvot we do express this essential, spiritual unity of the Jewish people. By strengthening one, we strengthen all.

So even though by the time this is printed, G-d willing, the crisis has passed, the need for mitzvot, for Jewish unity, remains eternal. To help the Jews of Israel - and ourselves, resolve to increase the performance of one of these mitzvot: tefilin, lighting Shabbat candles, or mezuza.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vaetchanan, contains the verse, "And you shall know this day, and take it to heart, that the L-rd is the G-d in the heavens above, and upon the earth below; there is none else." This recognition of G-d's unity may be divided into three distinct areas: "heaven," "earth," and "there is none else" (which, according to the Midrash, refers to G-d's oneness "even within the very depths of the earth."

Why does the Torah go to such great lengths to emphasize the oneness of G-d? Would anyone seriously entertain the notion that there is another G-d hiding in the murky depths of the sea or in the earth's core? Why is it necessary for the Torah to explicitly command us to "take it to heart?"

Chasidic philosophy explains that this verse not only negates the possibility of another deity's existence, G-d forbid, but rather emphasizes the fact that there is no existence at all besides G-d. G-dliness is the only reality; everything else is an illusion covering up the true essence within. Were we able to clearly perceive that there is no independent reality except for G-d, we would easily recognize that it is only G-d's constant re-creation of the world, every minute and every second, that sustains both physical and spiritual reality. In truth, "there is nothing else."

Because one may mistakenly think that only spiritual matters are G-dly, the Torah specifically mentions "the earth below." The physical world, with its multitude of creations, is also a vessel for G-dliness, and must be properly utilized in the service of G-d.

This division is also symbolic of man himself: "Heaven" refers to man's G-dly soul; "earth" refers to his corporeal body, the vessel in which the G-dly soul illuminates; and "the very depths of the earth" refers to man's actions.

By stressing this verse, the Torah emphasizes that this awareness of G-d must be brought into all facets of our lives - spiritual, physical and practical. By recognizing G-d's unity and reflecting it in our every action, we ready the entire world for the complete revelation of G-dliness that will take place with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, speedily in our days.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

by Rabbi Rafael Kahan (o.b.m.)

I was born in the year 1889, in Nevel. The 1930s were difficult years; years of perpetual dangers, terror, and privation. In 1939 I was to be put to the greatest test which I had ever faced in my life. What I knew was unavoidable, finally caught up with me.

Late one night, a few days after Purim, agents of the Secret Police came and arrested me. In the prison of the Secret Police began my interrogation, which lasted for six months. I was accused of a variety of "crimes," particularly of engaging in activities harmful to the people and the country. For, any activity to strengthen religious adherence and observance was regarded as "counter-revolutionary," and subject to the most severe punishments. I was also accused of being a spy for a foreign country!

I denied everything. But in view of the charges that were brought against me, I knew that there was little hope for me to escape alive from their clutches. My only hope and prayer was that my body, at least, would be surrendered to my family to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Days and weeks and months rolled by. Sitting in a damp cell for so long, on a diet of bread and water, my health quickly began to fail. A point was reached where I could no longer get up from my straw mat. Only my mind seemed to remain uneffected.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur came and went. The Ten Days of Repentance were days of real repentance for me. I resolved that if G-d would spare me, I would make amends for all the things in which I had been remiss.

Immediately after Yom Kippur, I began to feel that I was getting my strength back. Unbelievable as it seemed to me, I felt stronger every day. My body responded well, except my legs remained semi-paralyzed. I lay in bed with half drawn-up legs. Eventually I was transferred to the prison infirmary.

During Chanuka, I found out I had been sentenced to be deported for five years of hard labor to take effect when I would recover my health. Meanwhile I was kept in the prison infirmary for nearly four more months. Needless to say, I thanked G-d for every day that I was alive.

A few days after Purim, I "celebrated" the anniversary of my imprisonment. It was exactly a year since I was arrested, a long year. On this very day I was transferred to the city-hospital; here I was to be treated for my legs, so that my sentence could be carried out as soon as I was able to use my legs.

It is difficult to describe what a relief the change was for me. My wife and children who had despaired of ever seeing me again, were now able to visit me. They brought me hot kosher food every day; I had not had one hot meal in a whole year. They also brought me a Mishna and a book of Psalms, which I had missed so much.

Months passed thus. One day in the summer, the prison doctor arrived. He was, obviously, sent by the Secret Police to examine me and determine my condition. He examined my stiff, half-bent legs, and left without saying a word to me. A terrible thought suddenly entered my mind: perhaps they would send me back to prison, to serve my five years deportation sentence there! The thought was horrifying. I decided to seek comfort in Psalms. When I opened it, the top line caught my eye: "And His prisoners He does not despise" (Ps. 69:34).

It seemed like a heaven-sent message, and it filled me with courage and hope; my anxiety disappeared.

A few days later I began to feel that my knees were easing. When my legs did not respond to any treatments, the doctors gave up hope and left me alone. I had also made peace with the idea that I might be crippled for life. But now, suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, the stiffness in my knees began to give way! Slowly and by stages I was able to stretch my legs more and more, until I discovered, to my delight, that I could straighten out my legs and bend them again. My legs were cured!

Soon, however, I began to contemplate the situation with mixed feelings. If my legs were cured, I would be deported to carry out my severe sentence. Should I inform the authorities that my legs were in good shape, so that I would be deported without delay and arrive at my destination before Rosh Hashana? Or should I keep quiet, and let G-d guide my destiny? I decided to keep quiet, at least until the more auspicious time that begins with the Sabbath after Tisha B'Av known as "Shabbat Nachamu."

The night after Tisha B'Av I had a wonderful dream. I was in a room together with Rabbi Sholom Ber, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe. His radiant face and his penetrating eyes were turned towards me. Nearby was his son and successor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe [the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn]. I was reciting aloud the Morning Blessings, while the Rebbe answered "Amen" after each blessing. When I reached the last one ("Who removes sleep from my eyes") the Rebbe motioned to me to recite it quietly. Just then, I awoke.

I had a feeling that my liberation was near. All day I waited for a sign of my freedom, but nothing special happened. The only unexpected thing was a visit from a hospital doctor. The doctor examined my legs, which I kept bent and stiff as before, and went his way without a word. Later I learned that was not only the "sign" I was waiting for, but the actual reprieve. For the doctor had marked my record "incurable." An official medical report was then sent to the Secret Police that my condition was beyond hope, and that I would never use my legs again!

I had no intention of proving the doctors wrong. A few days later I was taken out of bed in a litter and carried into an ambulance, which sped me back to prison. I was not worried, however. I realized that I was being taken there in order to be discharged! And this is what happened.

To this day, when my friends who know what happened to me see me walking in the street, they still give me a knowing look, as if to say, "there is a walking miracle." What a wonderful feeling it is to have a pair of healthy legs! A Chasid needs a pair of legs to follow in the Rebbe's footsteps!


What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Mendy and Leah Rosenfeld will be arriving soon in East Lake Worth, Florida, where they will be starting Chabad of Green Acres and Atlantis. Rabbi Eli and Devora Leah Levi recently moved to Colegiales, a suburb of Buenos Aires in Argentina, to establish a new Chabad House there. The Levis will begin by focusing on youth programs, adult education and outreach to university students. Rabbi Zelik and Bassie Moscowitz are moving to Illinois where they will be heading Friendship Circle of Illinois. Rabbi and Mrs. Dovid Labkowski are arriving soon in Oakland, California, where they be establishing a new Chabad-Lubavitch Center to serve the needs of the Jewish community there. Rabbi Elchonon and Chanie Tenenbaum have recently been appointed to serve in Napa Valley, Northern California


The Rebbe Writes

15th of Menachem Av, 5730 [1970]

The Campers and Counselors Camp Emunah Greenfield Park, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

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 tzedoko [charity] collection of Tisha B'Av.

As I mentioned on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av, which no doubt was conveyed also to you, tzedoko is particularly important in connection with the day of Tisha B'Av to hasten the Geulo [Redemption] in accordance with the prophecy, "Zion will be redeemed through justice, and all that return to her - through tzedoko." Especially significant is the tzedoko before Mincha [the afternoon prayer], when the prayer "Nacheim" is said.

May G-d grant that in the zechus [merit] of your tzedoko in connection with the above, and the tzedoko of all Jews, together with the zechus of the Torah, which is indicated in the beginning of the verse mentioned above (in the word Mishpat - "justice"), that is to say, the daily life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos [commandments] - should speedily bring the Nechomo [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,


15th of Menachem Av, 5735 [1975]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased to receive the report about your activities, and may G-d grant that they should continue and expand with much hatzlocho [success].

In the present days, having concluded the Three Weeks, which are connected with the sad events of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh [Holy Temple], and having entered the period of the Seven Weeks of Consolation, which bring us the good tidings of the forthcoming Geulo and restoration of the Beis HaMikdosh [Holy Temple] - every action which is connected with the strengthening of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and with the special Mitzvah Campaigns - notably those most pertinent to Jewish women: candle-lighting, kashrus [keeping a kosher diet] and Taharas HaMishpocho [Family Purity] - in particular, is especially significant.

For, as mentioned in the well-known prayer Umipnei chatoeinu ["Because of our sins"], the only cause of the sad events in the past, the Destruction and Exile, was the neglect of Torah and mitzvos. Therefore, through rectifying and removing the cause, the effect will also be removed.

This is why every activity to spread Yiddishkeit is so vital, especially the efforts to provide the right influence and proper chinuch [Jewish education] for Jewish daughters, since this is the way to raise generation after generation of fully committed Torah-true Jewish families, in an endless chain reaction.

I send my prayerful wishes to each and all participants in these endeavors, which are at the same time a wide channel to receive G-d's blessings also in all personal needs.

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above,


Customs

Why do we cover our eyes when we say the Shema?

We cover our eyes with our right hand when reciting the Shema to help us avoid any distraction whatsoever when repeating this verse, which is a declaration of the oneness of G-d. Specifically the right hand is used because the right side is symbolic of the attribute of Divine Mercy.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We recently observed the day of Tisha B'Av, a day on which our most fervent prayers were that G-d "comfort Zion and rebuild Jerusalem." This will be accomplished with the revelation of Moshiach.

The Rambam (Maimonides) wrote in his magnum opus, the Mishna Torah, that waiting for Moshiach to come is an actual commandment. One who is not actually waiting for Moshiach's arrival denies the existence of G-d! This waiting, then, obviously is an intrinsic part of Judaism.

It is not our obligation or duty to speculate as to who Moshiach is. That is G-d's business. He, and only He, is the one to decide. It is, however, our duty to want and pray for him every day.

An anecdote about the Chafetz Chaim illustrates the above points:

Whenever the Chafetz Chaim would retire for the evening, or even a short rest, he would make a request of his attendant. "Please stay alert while I'm asleep. Be sure to wake me up quickly as soon as Moshiach comes."

If a person is waiting for the delivery of precious gems, or the arrival of an important visitor, he would be waiting impatiently, totally preoccupied with anticipation, looking out the window every moment. Our waiting for Moshiach should be fulfilled in the same manner.

Let us await his coming every moment. It will be faster than we think.


Thoughts that Count

And I besought the L-rd...let me go over, I pray...(Deut. 3:23-25)

In his reproach to the Jewish nation before his passing, Moses recounted his attempt to sway the Divine decree that he not enter the Land of Israel. Moses' intensive praying taught future generations to persist in prayer. A person should never say, "What purpose is there in my praying further?" Even though G-d had clearly told Moses that he would not bring the Jewish nation into the land, and even though Joshua had already been appointed his successor to complete this task, still, Moses prayed. This demonstrates to us that a person must never say, "My illness is fatal, my last will is made, and my possessions are distributed. Why shall I continue to pray?"

(Yalkut Shmoni - the Midrash Says)


To do, so that you may live (Deut. 4:1)

That is, to heed the Torah in practice. From this verse we learn that the study of the Torah itself is not the most important thing: rather, to do good deeds. Indeed, this is the very life of man.

(Tzena U'rena)


And you shall teach them to your children..."(Deut. 6:7)

It is the duty of Jewish educators to remove from the child any vestige of inferiority complex about his Jewishness in a predominantly non-Jewish environment, until he understands that democracy and freedom are not cauldrons of assimilation, but rather the contrary; they offer everyone the privilege to have his place, to enjoy his rights, and to live according to his faith without compromise, the opportunity for the Jew to fulfill his life's destiny.

(Sichot Kodesh)


And you shall teach them to your children..." (Deut. 6:7)

It is an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the Torah-education of children, and to do everything in his power - and beyond his power - to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided.

(Hayom Yom)


And you shall teach them to your children..."

Some claim that if you tell today's youth the verse from Proverbs: "He who refrains from using his rod hates his son; and who loves his son disciplines him morning by morning," they will run away. This is not true. They will only say that they want to hear this proverb from the mouth of one who conducts himself as King Solomon wished, in all aspects of his life, not only when it comes to disciplining children. They yearn for consistency, sincerity. To suggest that the solution of the problem is to "burn the rod," to eliminate authority and to abolish Jewish education, is an absolute distortion.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


It Once Happened

Wolfe the Cobbler and his wife wandered from town to town supporting themselves by cobbling, a job Wolfe carried on with great keenness, for it meant for him much more than a means of earning a modest living, it was a shield behind which to hide his righteousness and learning.

Wolfe's wandering went on for some time until he reached a village in Wohlyn, not far from Lukatsh, where he settled and made his permanent home, "permanent" until he had to leave.

In this village Wolfe had at first found the contentment he had been looking for. He was able to lead a quiet, unassuming life without it occurring to anyone that he was a great man, a scholar and mystic. Wolfe had won a good name for himself among Jews and non-Jews alike on account of his honesty and conscientiousness in his work. He was liked for his quiet manner, and for never gossiping about people. In truth, Wolfe spoke very little altogether, and was considered a silent fellow. People ascribed this to his simplicity as well as to his goodness.

Now something occurred which compelled Wolfe and his wife again to pack and depart. In this village there lived a priest who was trying to convert the Jews. At first the priest began with soft words and a friendly manner. Every time there was a public holiday he called together all the inhabitants, Jews as well as non-Jews, and addressed the assembly from a platform in the market place.

It did not take very long, however, before the Jews saw that the priest's fine words were but a preparation. It soon became clear that all this talk of "friendship" led to his open request that the Jews submit to conversion. Soon, the priest began openly to rant against the Jewish faith.

Learned Jews knew how to answer such arguments. Jewish leaders throughout the ages have had to deal with so-called proofs submitted by missionaries, and frustrated them completely. In this village in Wohlyn, however, there seemed to be no Jew capable of replying convincingly to the priest.

Once, just before a Christian festival in the summer, the priest assembled all Jews and non-Jews in the market place again and addressed them from the platform in his usual manner. But this time the priest spoke more sharply against the Jewish religion and demanded that the Jews should embrace Christianity. He made fun of their customs and of their faith.

"Can anyone reply to my arguments?" asked the priest, looking around, confident that there was no Jew present who could reply. But suddenly someone stepped forward from among the gathered Jews, saying in a clear voice that he was ready to answer the priest. Everybody in the crowd turned round to see who this man could possibly be. And, to their great astonishment, it was Wolfe the Cobbler.

"What is the idea of his coming forward?" the people asked each other, in wonder. The priest was intrigued.

"Good Wolfe," he called out, "do you wish to say something? Come up here onto the platform and let us all hear what you have to say!" The priest was obviously certain that this Wolfe could help pin the Jews down.

With assured steps Wolfe walked onto the platform and began to speak. To the amazement of all present, they heard language which they had never believed could come from him. He spoke in a fluent clear Polish, unusual for a Jew in those days. The biggest surprise he gave the listeners, however, was what he said. He started refuting the priest's arguments one after another, and brought counter-arguments which made the priest appear ridiculous. The cobbler quoted passage after passage from the Bible in Hebrew, quickly and fluently translating them into Polish. Surprisingly, everyone understood him clearly and easily, and could see that he was right.

Thus was Wolfe discovered to be a mystic. His own actions had brought this about, but the urgent need of upholding the sanctity of G-d's name, had left him no alternative. After that, however, he did not feel like remaining in Wohlyn. He had fulfilled his mission in this place; he could leave now.

Adapted from the Memoirs of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe


Moshiach Matters

The prophet Zecharia states regarding the Land of Israel in the time of the Redemption, "The whole land will become like a plain, from Geva to Rimon south of Jerusalem, and it will rise and settle in its place." How can this be? The area south of Jerusalem is level, while Geva and Rimon are hilly. Rather, the prophet means that just as Geva and Rimon, which are hilly, will be flattened, so too the whole earth will become as level as the area south of Jerusalem [in the era of the Redemption].

(Midrash Yalkut Shimoni 2:585)


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