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   979: Devarim

980: Vaeschanan

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July 27, 2007 - 12 Av, 5767

980: Vaeschanan

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

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  979: Devarim981: Eikev  

Paralysis by Analysis  |  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

Paralysis by Analysis

Salespeople and those in business have an expression: paralysis by analysis. They use it so often that it's not even a cliché; it's just trite. But it expresses a fundamental concept, a critical axiom of business and sales: get out and do.

The expression "paralysis by analysis" means simply this: one can become so involved in the analytical process that nothing gets done. For instance, a salesperson can sit and compile a list of contacts, then analyze that list: identifying contacts, deciding on an approach, preparing for objections, figuring when's the best time to call, weighing which product to push, etc. Someone in business can go through a similar process when faced with an investment or some critical decision.

And while all that analysis is going on, the day slips by and the prospects - the prospective customers - aren't called, and the decision is delayed.

Even after a call, an appointment or a sale, one can become so involved in reliving that moment, can analyze the success in an infinite number of ways, so that one freezes. There's no growth, no building on the success, no moving forward.

Of course, the opposite is also true. a person can be so busy making phone calls, finding customers, making sales, meeting and greeting and networking, that there's no time for any analysis. Such a person won't know if he or she is an efficient time manager, if he or she is in the right market, if the customers are staying loyal, if the sales techniques are as effective as they could be, if the production to time input ratio is at least average, etc.

There's no trite cliché for that, but maybe we can come up with one. How about "losing with the shmoozing"?

The point is: this tension between analysis and action reflects a tension our Sages have long noted, the tension between Torah and mitzvot (commandments). On the one hand, Torah study is imperative. Judaism extols the life of the scholar, the man who devotes his life to the depths of Torah. A rabbi is supposed to be, first and foremost, an expert in Jewish law and learning. In the Mishna (Avot 6), there is described the 48 ways to acquire the crown of Torah; they are exacting, demanding, and require dedication and self-sacrifice. The emphasis on learning, on Torah study, has kept the Jewish people intact through the centuries.

On the other hand, we are taught "action is the main thing." Practical mitzvot - whether putting on tefilin, keeping kosher, conducting business ethically, according to Jewish law, or giving charity (the all encompassing mitzva), we must put our Judaism into practice. Our focus has to be on the "mitzva moment," the opportunity to help another, to fulfill the positive and negative commandments, to reveal the spiritual within the physical by what we do.

The tension can be expressed thus: Study without action, without an "and therefore..." goes nowhere, affects nothing. Action without understanding can lose its momentum - why am I doing this mitzva, anyway? - diminish its effectiveness.

Indeed, the Talmud records a debate among the Sages on this very topic. They concluded that study is more important because it leads to action.

So we need both. If we only study, but don't translate that study into peformance of mitzvot, that's 'paralysis by analysis.' If we do mitzvot without learning the details of their observance, as well as their deeper, mystical meaning (through Chassidut), we risk losing enthusiasm, interest; we may do them incorrectly, and so ineffectively.

Ultimately, then, there's no contraction: Torah study is the most important, and fulfilling the mitzvot is most important. For we cannot truly have one without the other.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vaetchanan, we learn of one of the Torah's positive commandments, which is to recite "Kriyat Shema," the central proclamation of our faith, twice each day.

The Torah specifies when we must say it: "when you lie down," i. e., at night, and "when you rise," i.e., during the day.

"Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One. And you shall love...and you shall speak of them...when you lie down and when you rise...and upon your gates."

With the declaration of "Shema Yisrael," the Jew testifies that G-d is One, and that nothing else exists except for Him.

The word echad, one, is composed of three letters: alef, chet and dalet.

The numerical equivalent of alef is one. G-d is alone and unique in the universe.

The numerical equivalent of chet is eight. Only G-d is King over all seven firmaments and the earth below.

The numerical equivalent of dalet is four. This expresses the concept that G-d is the sole Sovereign over all four directions: east, west, north and south.

By saying the "Shema," the Jew negates the independent existence of the world. He declares that all of creation - the celestial spheres, the earth below and the four winds - are completely nullified before Him. G-d is the One Who sustains and rules over them; without Him, they would not exist. G-d is One; there is nothing else but Him.

A Jew is obligated to recite the "Shema" by night and by day, two opposites that allude to the variety of situations and circumstances a Jew will encounter throughout his life.

Nighttime, in the allegorical sense, is a time of spiritual darkness, when G-d's light is hidden and concealed. At such times it is hard for the Jew to perceive G-dliness; his spiritual condition is as dark as night.

Daytime, by contrast, is a time when the sun illuminates. Symbolically, this alludes to the illumination of the Jew's soul, when G-dliness is readily perceived and apparent.

Yet regardless of one's spiritual condition, no matter if it is day or night, the Jew must always remember (and remind others) that the entire world is only G-dliness! G-d is the only King of the universe. G-d is One.

Indeed, man's function is to reveal G-d's oneness within creation, and the obligation to nullify the world in His presence is independent of our personal situation and circumstances.

"Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One... when you lie down and when you rise."

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 4

A Slice of Life

A Green Card for Yoav
by Rabbi Aron Leib Raskin

This coming Monday, the 15th of the Jewish month of Av (corresponding with July 30), is the yartzeit of my grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Yehudah ("JJ") Hecht. In his honor, I'd like to share the following story:

It was 1989. Yoav Eitan arrived in New York City from Israel having heard that the streets of New York were paved with gold. As a disabled soldier - he had been maimed in battle - he felt that he would have a brighter future in the United States.

Like the immigrants of the early 1900s, Yoav soon found out that there was no gold lining the streets of New York city. And, try as he might, he was finding it impossible to get a job. Each time he responded to a "Help Wanted" sign in a store window, he was immediately asked, "Green card?" And every time, Yoav shook his head "No."

The small sum of money that Yoav had brought with him to America soon ran out and he was forced to sleep on benches in Central Park. Each day when he went to yet another few stores to ask for a job, he now asked for food or money when he got the inevitable question, "Green card?"

One night when he was falling asleep on a park bench, a priest who was known to make the rounds throughout Central Park tapped Yoav on the shoulder. "Do you drink?" he asked Yoav. Yoav said "no." "Do you do drugs?" the priest continued. Again, Yoav's answer was "No."

"In that case," the priest offered, "come with me. You can eat in our soup kitchen and sleep in our shelter."

That night was the first time Yoav went to sleep with a full stomach, freshly showered, and on a bed in many, many weeks. In the morning, the priest greeted Yoav warmly. Yoav began telling the priest his story, how he had come from Israel to America to try his luck in the land of opportunity but had not been lucky at all. "I'm not afraid to work hard, but I don't have a green card," he told the priest.

"I am going to call some Jewish organizations to see if any of them can help you," the priest told Yoav. "In the meantime, take this $20, go out and see what you can find."

Each morning, upon awakening, Yoav would ask the priest if he had found a Jewish organization that could help him, and each day the priest told him that none could be of any help. "Tell him to go back to Israel," many of them even responded.

The priest would then give Yoav another $20 and encourage him to go look for a job.

One morning the priest told Yoav, "There is only one Jewish organization left in the phone book for me to call. I will call the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education right now. But if they tell me, like every other Jewish organization, that they cannot help you, I would like to give you an offer. If you will convert to Christianity, then I promise you that within 6 months you will have a green card and a job."

The priest called up the NCFJE office in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and was put through to Rabbi "JJ" Hecht, founder and executive director of the NCFJE. "I have one of your boys here in our church," the priest told Rabbi Hecht. "He's an Israeli with no money and no job. Every other Jewish organization has told me they can't help him. What about you?"

"Tell him to wait for me outside of the church. I'll be there in 15 minutes."

As Rabbi Hecht ran out of his office, he shouted to his secretary to cancel all of his appointments for the rest of the day. He dashed into his car and drove to the address of the church in Manhattan in record time. He stopped his car with a screech (on the sidewalk!) in front of the steps of the church. He ran up the steps of the church, where Yoav was waiting with the priest.

"I need a green card," Yoav told the rabbi, defiantly.

"You need a neshama (soul)," Rabbi Hecht told him boldly.

"They're promising me a green card in 6 months if I convert," Yoav countered.

"I'll get you one in 3 months," said Rabbi Hecht.

Yoav thanked the priest for all of his help, gathered his little bundle of belongings, and got into Rabbi Hecht's car (still parked on the sidewalk!). When they arrived in the NCFJE office, Rabbi Hecht told Yoav, "Anything you need, any time you need, you come to me." Rabbi Hecht then introduced Yoav to some of his sons, saying, "These are my sons and now you are like another one of my 12 children."

Over the next few days, Rabbi Hecht found Yoav an apartment and a job. Once every week or so, Yoav would inquire about the green card. "I'm working on it," Rabbi Hecht would tell him.

One day Yoav arrived at the office looking for Rabbi Hecht. The secretary told Yoav gently that Rabbi Hecht had passed away the week before. After Yoav got over the initial shock, he asked, "How am I going to get my green card now?" The secretary just shrugged.

The story could end here, and probably no one would be the wiser about another one of the thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people whose lives my grandfather personally touched, changed, saved. But I met Yoav when he became engaged to Alba, who had been working in our Kiddie Korner Preschool in Brooklyn Heights. Alba asked me to officiate at the wedding and, of course, I agreed.

Yoav and I began to talk. He spoke in loving and respectful terms about Rabbi JJ Hecht and how Rabbi Hecht had literally saved him, body and soul. When I told Yoav that I was Rabbi Hecht's grandson, he became extremely excited. He was doubly happy that I would officiate at their wedding. And when I heard that he still didn't have a green card, I told Yoav that I would take care of it. Thank

G-d, I was able to help Yoav find a job, become his sponsor, and make good on my grandfather's promise to him.

Rabbi Aron Leib Raskin is the spiritual leader of Congregaton Bnai Abraham in Brooklyn and director of Chabad of Brooklyn Heights.

What's New

"Merkos Shluchim" - Summer Emissaries of the Rebbe

This summer is the 60th anniversary of "Merkos Shluchim" sent out by the educational branch of Chabad-Lubavitch. The emissaries will be meeting with Jews in far-flung locations throughout the world. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge as well as religious materials such as mezuzot, prayer books, and books of torah thoughts, etc., that are not generally available in such remote locations. "Merkos Shluchim" are rabbinical students who spend their summer vacation visiting small Jewish communities that do not have permanent emissaries. This year 330 students have been dispatched to small cities throughout the American continent, as well as towns and cities throughout Europe, Asia and the former Soviet Union.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated

22 Tammuz, 5706 [1946]

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your invitation to the Pidyon HaBen (Redemption of the firstborn) of your son Shalom DovBer: May it be in a good and auspicious hour and may you together with your wife raise him and lead him to Torah study, marriage, and good deeds amidst prosperity in both a material and spiritual sense.

The concept of redeeming the firstborn began because of G-d's redemption of the firstborn of the Jewish people when He slew all the firstborn Egyptians in the land of Egypt.

Our Sages (Talmud Shabbos 133b) teach that we must walk in the paths of our Creator: "Just as He is compassionate and merciful, so, too, you must be compassionate and merciful." To apply that concept to the issue at hand, this is the task demanded of each and every one, anyone who has the potential, to save Jewish boys and girls from assimilation among the nations. For they are all firstborn, as it says: "My son, My firstborn, Israel." Instead, we should connect them to the G-d of life through the Torah of life. And in that manner, they will be assured the fulfillment of the Torah's blessing: "Today you are all alive."

You have merited that my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, has committed a portion of this holy work to you. Certainly, you will endeavor to do everything dependent on you to be an appropriate medium and bring out the potential into actual expression.

May it be His will that speedily in our days we all merit to see the Redemption wrought by our Father in Heaven who will redeem His firstborn - "My son, My firstborn Israel" - from this final exile. And may my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, lead us to greet Moshiach in the very near future. Amen, so may it be His will.

The concept of the redemption of the firstborn does not apply with regard to priests and Levites, and our Sages say (Sanhedrin 39a): "G-d is a priest." See Likkutei Shoshanim by R. Shimson of Ostrapolia who discusses when the analogy of High Priest is applied with regard to G-d and when, instead, the analogy of an ordinary priest is applied.

This, however, does not represent a contradiction to the above. For the rationale of why the concept of redeeming a firstborn with five sela'im does not apply with regard to a priest or a Levite is that this sum is not sufficient to redeem them. Instead, through G-d's redemption of the Jewish people in Egypt, their bodies became sanctified, as stated in Bamidbar, ch. 8.

2 Sivan, 5710 [1950]

Greetings and blessings,

...Directing our attention to the news at large about the flooding of the river in the city of Winnipeg, it is of pressing importance that the yeshivah students should concern themselves with the situation of the local Jews there in general and the members of the chassidic brotherhood in particular, extending all possible assistance to them. This is particularly true with regard to young boys and girls who require extra supervision when they find themselves taking refuge in undesirable surroundings.

Since you visited Winnipeg a while ago on a mission from my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, hk"m, and you are familiar with the members of the chassidic brotherhood there, I request that you write to them and show an interest in them.

Please inform me about everything that takes place concerning this and if you see that there is something for their benefit appropriate for us to do from here, please offer suggestions.

With blessings for receiving the Torah with joy and inner feeling,

From I Will Write It In Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos In English


Why do we give charity before praying on weekdays?

Charity should be given before praying to dispel whatever may hamper the acceptability of one's prayers. Thus we find that before praying one of our great Sages would give a pauper a coin, in the spirit of the verse, "With tzedek - righteousness - (like tzedaka - charity) shall I behold Your countenance." For accusatory voices On High adjudge whether a worshipper is indeed worthy of entering the heavenly palace in prayer. Also, by giving a poor man charity before prayer and thereby giving him life, one's "prayers come alive."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

"There were no greater festivals in Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur," the Mishna tells us. The 15th of Av corresponds this year to Monday, July 30. What is so special about the 15th of Av that it is singled out together with Yom Kippur from all the other festivals?

A number of special events throughout Jewish history took place on the 15th of Av. They were: 1) The tribe of Benjamin was permitted once again to marry the remainder of the Jewish people; 2) The Generation of the Desert ceased to die; they had previously been condemned to perish in the desert because of the sin of the spies; 3) Hoshea Ben Elah removed the blockades that the rebel Jerobeam had set up to prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem for the festivals; 4) The cutting of the wood for the Holy Altar was completed; 5) Permission was granted by the Romans to bury the slain of Betar.

These five events in themselves do not seem adequate enough reason to make the 15th of Av a festival greater than any other. There is another, all-encompassing reason.

The five festive events on the fifteenth of Av, are the counterpart to the five tragic events of Tisha B'Av - the day when the two Holy Temples were destroyed, signaling the start of the long exile we are still enduring - tragedies which were the result of the Jews' sins. Tisha B'Av is the nadir of Jewish physical and spiritual life. The 15th of Av transforms the negativity of Tisha B'Av to the greatest good - "there were no greater festivals in Israel than the fifteenth of Av." The ultimate goal of the tragedies of the month of Av is that they should be transformed into a greater good - the supreme festival of the 15th of Av.

But these tragedies are not without purpose. It is specifically after the awesome decline of Tisha B'Av that we can reach the loftiest heights, heights that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The common theme behind all the reasons for the 15th of Av is Ahavat Yisrael, the practice of which eradicates the cause of the exile, and therefore automatically the exile itself.

Thoughts that Count

Ben Zoma said... "Who is rich? He who is happy wit his lot, as it is said: (Psalm 128:2) 'When you eat of the labor of your hands, happy are you, and it shall be well with you' " (Ethics 4:1)

A person's wealth is not measured by the amount of money he has stashed away in boxes and treasure chests. For no person is wealthy other than in knowledge (See Talmud Nedarim 41a). One who is happy with his lot is a truly wealthy person.

(Maharal of Prague)

Rabbi Meir Said,... "If you neglect the Torah, many causes for neglecting it - b'teilim - will present themselves to you." (Ethics 4:12)

The word "b'teilim" can equally mean worthless matters, of no value. This, then, is what our text would signify: If you are invited to join a study group on some aspect of our faith, perhaps your answer is, "I would love to, but I don't have the time, I am too busy, and really, I have not even a moment to myself." In short, you decide to neglect the Torah. If you do that, says Rabbi Meir, "many other valueless, worthless things can be held up against you." For what were you doing last night and the night before? If you are indeed so busy, how can you account for that theater performance, or the hours upon hours before the television set? For that, apparently, you had the time. For that, it would seem, you were not busy.

(Rabbi I. Bunim in Ethics from Sinai)

For the reward of a mitzva is a mitzva, and the reward of a transgression is a transgression (Ethics 4:2)

Reward and punishment are not extraneous treatments given to those with a surplus of merits or sins; they are natural consequences of what we do. Do one mitzva (commandment), and from Heaven you will be aided to do more; commit a transgression, and opportunities to transgress further will be placed before you.


The reward one receives for obeying G-d's word is qualitatively different from the payment a laborer is rewarded for his exertions. A worker who plows and sows receives his salary from the owner of the field, yet the actual money was not created by him; it is not the direct result of his labors. This is not so, however, in the case of mitzvot. According to Chasidic philosophy, the mitzva itself creates the reward.

(The Rebbe)

It Once Happened

When the tailor died at a ripe old age, his passing didn't attract any special attention. Yet his funeral was most unusual for an ordinary tailor, for the Chief Rabbi of Lemberg himself led the funeral procession all the way to the cemetery. And of course, as the Chief Rabbi led the procession all the Jews of the town joined in giving the final honors to the deceased. The result was a funeral the likes of which is normally reserved for great rabbis or tzadikim.

The Jews of Lemberg had no doubt that the tailor had been a person of extraordinary merit, and they waited anxiously to hear what a wonderful eulogy the Chief Rabbi would give at the funeral.They were not disappointed when the rabbi told them the following tale:

Many years before, the rabbi had spent Shabbat at a village inn. The innkeeper related a story about a Jewish jester who lived in the mansion of the local poretz, the landowner of all the surrounding area. This jester had once been a simple, but G-d-fearing Jew, who by profession was a tailor. On a number of occasions he had done work for the poretz, and as he was an entertaining man with a beautiful singing voice, and very funny, the poretz and his family became very fond of his company. They finally asked him to join their household in the capacity of a jester, which was common in those days. He accepted, and slowly began to neglect his Jewish observance, until he no longer conducted himself as a Jew at all. The innkeeper felt very sorry for this Jew, and both he and the rabbi prayed the he return to the fold.

That Friday afternoon, just before Shabbat a man came galloping up to the inn and requested to spend the Shabbat there. To their surprise the horseman was none other than the Jewish jester, who explained that he had come in order to gather material for his jokes and spoofs.

The innkeeper was afraid to refuse, and so agreed to have the jester as a guest. At the Shabbat table the rabbi spoke about the Torah portion and described how both Terach, Abraham's idol-worshipping father, and Ishmael, Abraham's unruly son, repented and were forgiven by G-d.

"Words that come from the heart penetrate the heart," is the saying, and the words of the rabbi affected the Jewish jester, who became more and more thoughtful as Shabbat progressed. By Saturday night the jester so deeply regretted his life, that he approached the rabbi, and asked how he could do penance. The rabbi told him to leave his position with the poretz and withdraw for a time into a life of prayer, meditation and fasting. He should maintain this regime until such time when he would receive a sign from heaven that his repentance was accepted.

The jester accepted this advice wholeheartedly. He went to Lemberg where he entered a large synagogue and made an arrangement with the caretaker. According to their deal he would be locked in a small room where he would spend the entire day in prayer. At night before locking up, the caretaker would release him so that he might eat a little and stretch out for the night on a bench. Only on Friday night in honor of the Shabbat would he leave the synagogue to spend the day more comfortably.

This routine continued for many weeks until one Friday night the caretaker forgot to release him. The heartbroken tailor was now sure that G-d had forsaken him, and he wept bitterly. Hungry and tired, he fell into a deep sleep and dreamt. In the dream an old man appeared to him, and told him, "I am Elijah the Prophet, and I came to tell you that your teshuva (repentance) has been accepted. Fast no longer. Every night I will come and teach you Torah, Torah such as only the righteous merit to learn."

The tailor opened a small shop and made a modest living. Late one night the Chief Rabbi passed his home and saw a bright light coming from the window. But when he entered, he saw only the tailor working by the light of a small candle. This happened two more times, and each time the rabbi found only a small candle illuminating the tailor's room.

The third time the rabbi pressed the tailor for an explanation, and was told all that had transpired since they had met at the village inn. The tailor also related that the prophet had told him that no inhabitant of the village would die as long as he lived.

The following day the rabbi instructed the local burial society to inform him every time there was a death in the city. True to the prophesy, each time there was a death, the deceased was not a resident, but someone who happened to be passing through. The rabbi concluded his strange tale, telling the townspeople that the power of teshuva is unlimited, and no matter what, G-d is always waiting for His children to return.

Adapted from the Storyteller.

Moshiach Matters

The marriage of every couple ... is connected to the ultimate marriage between G-d and the Jewish people that will be consummated in the Era of Redemption.

(Sefer HaSichot 5751, Vol . II, p. 807)

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