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Planning boards. Meetings. Zoning. Politicians. Investors. Starting a city from scratch nowadays rarely if ever happens. But if it did, could you imagine a city that would be designed with a single function?
Well, the Torah tells us that among the cities assigned to the tribe of Levi, six should be designated as cities of refuge (with an additional three to be established in the Messianic Era).
Someone who commits manslaughter should flee to these specially designated cities. There he will be safe and if, after a proper investigation, it is determined that the death was accidental, he is to remain there until the death of the High Priest.
In fact, even an intentional murderer can flee to a city of refuge and find sanctuary there until such time as an investigation determines that he deliberately killed, with malice and forethought. Further, the roads must be broad, well-paved, and smooth to allow for swift passage. And signposts are to be set up on these roads, pointing the way to the cities of refuge.
The "city of refuge" for the Jewish people, spiritually speaking, is the Torah. The way to Torah, for one who wishes to go there, is a smooth path. (Especially now, with so many essential works translated into English and other languages or available on the internet.)
Still, one may end up getting lost along the way. G-d Himself says, "See, I have set before you life and good, and death and evil" (Deut. 30:15). Then He puts up the signpost, so to speak, and says,"choose life."
Especially in today's day and age, the possibility of getting diverted taking the wrong route, of not finding the way to Jewish living, looms in front of us. However, if we want G-d to provide the signposts, to call out, "refuge, refuge" for us, we must do the same for others.
What does that mean? We ourselves must become living signposts. We have to go to the "crossroads," where other Jews are found and tell them, "Here, this is the way to Judaism."Every one of us has the responsibility to help another Jew involve him or herself in the Jewish community, in Jewish life, in Jewish learning.
We have to show others and share our knowledge.But what about our own journey? We can well ask, "If I'm standing all day giving direction, providing mapquest for the soul, when will I have time to study for myself?" The answer is, since we all need help from Above to find our way, we must fulfill this obligation. Even if we have to stand at the crossroads all day long, this is our task.
Or, as the Baal Shem Tov was oft quoted as saying, "A soul may come into this world and live for seventy or eighty years, for the sole purpose of doing but one favor, materially or especially spiritually, for another."And in this way, through helping another Jew, G-d will show each of us the pathway, the easy highway, to a meaningful, Jewishly inspired life.
"...And He fed you the Manna which you did not know, neither did your fathers know, etc..." These words are found in this week's Torah portion, Eikev.
What a difference there was between the "bread from heaven" - the manna that fell from above for the Jews during their forty years in the desert - and ordinary bread "from the earth." To produce bread great effort and hard labor is required - ploughing, sowing, reaping, grinding, kneading, baking, etc. And the finished product, in common with all other physical foods, cannot be totally absorbed and utilized by the human body; part of it is rejected by the body as waste. But manna, the "bread from heaven," did not require any labor for preparation and contained no waste whatsoever.
Who was able to eat this noble, almost spiritual food? All Israel - the righteous, the average and even the wicked. Moreover, the manna did not become debased and lose its special qualities when digested by an evil person; even within their bodies it had no waste. On the contrary, it had a refining, elevating effect on them.
Torah is called "bread," and within Torah wisdom we may also discern two kinds of "bread." The revealed parts of Torah - the Oral Law, the Bible, Mishna, Talmud, etc - is called "bread from the earth" because of the toil and labor associated with the question-answer, challenge-refutation method of study. The inner aspect of Torah - Kabbala, chasidic philosophy, the mystical teaching, etc.- is called "bread from heaven."
Who may partake of this noble food? Who may study this refined and esoteric wisdom of Torah? There are some who claim that these teachings, as embodied in Chasidism, are only for the select few, that special preparation is required in order to participate in such studies. But such a claim is similar to the claim of years ago when the validity of Chasidism itself was questioned. Today, however, as we approach the dawn of the coming of Moshiach, the claims against Chasidic teachings have disappeared. Instead, there are claims that the esoteric wisdom of Chasidism is too refined for the masses, etc. But the inner aspect of Torah, the "bread from heaven," is for all and may be ingested, like the manna, by every Jew no matter what level he or she finds himself. Like the manna, it has a refining effect and brings us all closer to returning to our Source.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
A Summer Experience that Lasts a Lifetime
In 1956, the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched Gan Israel, an international network of summer camps, where children of all ages and walks of life learn to love their heritage while enjoying the best experience that camping offers.
Sports, arts, crafts, and entertaining activities was no longer a novelty reserved for children of families with means. Chabad-Lubavitch founded its summer camps with the mission statement to provide every Jewish child with an opportunity to become a proud Jew, a future leader his or her Jewish community.
Gan Israel has grown into the world's largest network of Jewish summer camps, with over 150,000 children attending camps in North America, Europe, Australia, the former Soviet Union, Israel, South America, and even Hong Kong.
For Jewish children who attend the Gan Israel Chabad-Lubavitch network of day and overnight camps throughout the world, it is a summer of fun, excitement and growth.
In the Former Soviet Union, the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS sponsors camps attended by over 10,000 children. Lugansk, Moscow, Samara, Omsk, Vladivostok by the Sea of Japan, Nizhny Novgorod, Kharkov, Tbilisi, the Azov Sea, Perm, Kursk and Donetsk were just a few of the Jewish communities or cities that hosted camps.
Sunny California had a total of 40 day camps that were attended by nearly 10,000 children.
In Israel, in addition to the 100 day camps throughout the country under the auspices of Chabad-Lubavitch, there are nearly 1,000 day programs organized for children to attend in their free time. Communities like Kfar Chabad have opened their homes and hearts to thousands of residents of northern Israel cities like Safed who have fled the north of Israel due to the continual bombing of their homes by Hizbullah.
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3rd of Cheshvan, 5721 
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge your letter of October 17th.
With regard to the film you requested, your request was turned over to the office. But, inasmuch as the film needs editing and splicing, it may take a little time before it will be available to you.
I was pleased to read in your letter about the good news in regard to Mr. - May you always have good news to report.
Referring to the newspaper clipping, my intention was to call attention to the fact that it was "not necessary" to publicize that mixed dancing outside the synagogue affairs could be condoned or approved by the Beth Din [Rabbinical court]. It is true that progress has to be made step by step, but while one is still in the first step, it is not necessary to say that the second step is in order. At any rate, may G-d grant that every aspect of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in your community will advance step by step in accordance with the Torah, Toras Chaim [the Living Torah].
I am looking forward to receiving good news from you about an im provement in your personal affairs. No doubt you have, in the meantime, received my personal regards through Rabbi and Mrs. -.
As you probably know, it is our custom, on the authority of my father-in-law of saintly memory, that in cases of pregnancy the news be kept confidential and not publicized outside the immediate persons concerned, until the pregnancy enters the fifth month. This should especially be observed by your friends and no doubt you will convey this to them.
5th of Elul, 5722 
Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:
I am in receipt of your letter of 24th of Av, with the enclosures. I was especially pleased to note the progress of your daughter -, and may G-d grant you and your wife true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pride] from her and from all your children, continuously and at all times.
Needless to say, I was painfully surprised to read about the criticism leveled against you for your participation in the Lubavitch work. Surely one would have expected the opposite attitude on the part of Jewish circles who value Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], who should help and not hinder, seeing that a group of dedicated Jews are doing such good work to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit. What better proof is needed than that of the matter of hasogas gvul, which is one of the severest injunctions, so much so that it is included among the "accursed" sins (in Parshas Ki Sovoi). Yet while any manner of encroachment in the material aspects of life is severely condemned, it not only has no place in the area of spreading Yiddishkeit, but, on the contrary, it is encouraged.
It is a well known psak [ruling] in the Gemoro, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch, that the principle of hasogas gvul [encroaching on another's territory] is of no consideration [in spreading Judaism]; rather the opposite, for here the principle of kinas sofrim [jealousy among scholars] takes precedence and competition is encouraged. So much so, that according to our standard version of the Gemoro Bobo Basro 21b, it was none other than Ezra Hasofer who ordained and practiced it.
It is indeed hard to understand how people, who should know better, can place stumbling blocks in the path of young men who have given up an easier and better life (from the point of view of material and economical security) in the USA, in order to work for the strengthening of Yiddishkeit in a community which is not their own, knowing full well the difficulties facing them. Such young men should have been received with gratitude and encouragement.
However, we are taught al todin es chavercho [do not judge your friend], and certainly the time of Elul is no time for judging others. So let bygones be bygones, and from now on may better judgment prevail, in accordance with the words of the prophet Malachi (3:16), "Then they that feared G-d spoke with one another, and G-d hearkened and heard," etc.
With the blessing of kesiva vechasimo tovo [being written and sealed for good],
When do we answer "Amen?"
The word amen, pronounced ah-mayn, is said after hearing someone recite a blessing. It is from the word meaning "truth." It is also an acronym for "G-d is the true King." According to our sages, answering amen to a blessing is even greater than saying the blessing itself.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Monday (August 14) is the 20th of the Hebrew month of Av. This date is the yartzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the saintly father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
In a letter that Reb Levi Yitzchak wrote to his son, he emphasized the concept of faith in every little "dot and crown" of our G-d-given Torah, whereby each detail complements and perfects the others:
"Do not imagine that the process of argument and debate as engaged in by the Sages of the Mishna and Talmud and those who followed... falls into the category of regular human intellectual pursuit. No, it is not that at all... Rather, each of the Sages perceived the Torah's wisdom as it exists Above, according to the source of his soul and his individual portion in Torah, whether in Jewish law or Aggadita.
"There is absolutely no doubt that everything in both the Oral and Written Torah, and in all the holy books written by the sages and tzadikim (righteous people), who studied Torah for its own sake... everything was said by G-d Himself, in that particular and exact wording."
Reb Levi Yitzchak's spoken words were not ephemeral sounds, his written words were not mere ink on paper. The understanding that every dot and crown of Torah are true and holy were his blood and bones. He lived with the realization of the importance of every aspect of Torah and had utter self-sacrifice for the compliance to Torah's every detail and nuance.
May we learn from his teachings and example and may his memory be a blessing for us.
And it shall come to pass - eikev - because you will listen to these ordinances, and keep, and do them (Deut. 7:12)
When Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch was a small boy, his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, tested him. He asked his grandson to explain the passage in Genesis 22, "because - eikev - Abraham obeyed my voice." The young Menachem Mendel replied, "Our Father Abraham obeyed the command of G-d with all his limbs, even his heel - eikev." The grandfather enjoyed the boy's response, and added, "Indeed it is so also in the verse, 'and it shall come to pass, because you will listen.' The heel must also hear and obey the commandments."
Do not say to yourself, "It was my own strength and personal power that brought me all this prosperity." You must remember that it is G-d your L-rd who gives you the power to become prosperous. (Deut. 8:17-18)
The Talmud states: "The difficulty with which a person sustains himself is like the Splitting of the Red Sea." Just as the Splitting of the Sea was an unforeseen miracle, so does a person's sustenance come to him from G-d in a hidden manner.
(The Seer of Lublin)
Mordechai Gur Arye grew up in the Russian city of Yekatrinaslav. He was a frequent visitor in the home of the city's chief rabbi, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson.
Mordechai was one of the top students in the city's government high school. His peers and teachers soon realized that he was an observant Jew and began to harass him. In every conversation, his teachers made sure to mention the baselessness of religion. But Mordechai remained firm, unafraid to display his observance openly.
Mordechai was not alone in his difficulties, for with him was his mentor, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak who supported and encouraged him.
Although Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was the official rabbi of the community, he was not permitted to hold any discussion of Torah with his congregants. And he was also absolutely forbidden to influence the younger generation to follow in their ancestors' ways.
But this did not deter Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. He used every opportunity he had to speak to the public about strengthening and preserving Judaism, even though he knew there were informers present who would repeat everything h said to government officials.
When Mordechai completed high school he decided to attend university, but was met with surprise; he was not accepted. He could not understand why the administration would not accept him even though he had excellent grades. He tried to speak with the head of the university, and was told: "Go ask Schneerson to help you, we can't help you in this matter."
Finally, Mordechai was accepted, but he was sent to a farm where the students worked and studied. Mordechai kept in touch with Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, in order to find out how to properly conduct himself in accordance with Jewish law in the various situations that arose.
The students at the farm were occasionally sent to the city to purchase supplies for the farm. All the students used the opportunity in the city to sell the produce of the farm and make money for themselves. But Mordechai had better use for his visits. He would inquire about the Jews of the city, and check to see what religious articles they were lacking. Every time he went into the city he took along his briefcase filled with mezuzot, tzitzit and prayer books. He distributed these to the Jewish residents in accordance with the instructions of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. Of course, Mordechai did all of this secretly.
Each day Mordechai would don his tefilin and pray. While everyone else was asleep, Mordechai snuck out to the fields. There, between the tall corn stalks, he'd pray quickly, covering his tefilin with his hat.
Mordechai kept the secret of his observance so well that the authorities decided to transfer him to another agricultural settlement where they felt the intelligent youth would enlighten the ignorant villagers.
Everything went smoothly until one Chanuka evening, a Jewish inspector arrived at the settlement, and was shocked to find Chanuka candles burning. The very next day Mordechai was dismissed from his position and sent home.
Mordechai continued studying Torah and observing mitzvot. According to the law he was supposed to re-enter the university to continue his studies under surveillance, which he did.
During those days, Mordechai would sneak to the home of Reb Levi Yitzchak to pray or hear some words of Torah. One summer day, Mordechai went to a swim in the sea, and never returned...
The heads of the university wanted to make the funeral on the government's account. They sent a messenger to Mordechai's sister, a sworn communist who held an important position in a government factory. She excused herself by saying that her parents were traditional and she could not intervene. She then hurried to Reb Levi Yitzchak and told him: "Mordechai's will is your will, whatever you say we will do."
The funeral was arranged in accordance with Jewish law. News of the tragedy spread, and people flocked from all corners of the city to accompany Mordechai to his resting place. The university also sent students and several teachers to the funeral, but they stood by the side.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak began his speech at the funeral: "Mordechai, in his short life, showed us the path we should take. He did not care what his friends said or what the government thought. He paid no attention to those who sought to harm him. Throughout everything, Mordechai stood firm in his faith and observance."
The crowd was greatly agitated by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's words. They were surprised to hear of Mordechai's self sacrifice in distributing religious articles, and how he prayed secretly between the corn stalks. The rabbi roused the people, urging them to follow in Mordechai's path and not to forget their Father in Heaven.
When Rabbi Levi Yitzchak stopped speaking, no one budged. The people were shocked that the Rabbi dared to speak the way he did, heedless of the authorities and their threats. "After such a speech, he'll no doubt be exiled for many years," they said to one another.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was not imprisoned at that time. Only three years later, in 1939, was he arrested, tortured, and then exiled. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak passed away on the 20th day of the Hebrew month of Av. But they never managed to break the spirit of the great man who was the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
From Journeys with the Rebbes, published by Ufaratzta Publishing.
At that time [of the Redemption] the whole world will quake and the people will wonder, "Is a new Flood coming on the world?" G-d will assure them, "No, this isn't a flood. Rather, I have come to make a banquet for my children and to rule over the entire world."
(Tanna d'Vei Eliyahu Rabba, end of Ch. 2)