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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

July 18, 2008 - 15 Tamuz, 5768

1029: Pinchas

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  1028: Balak1030: Matos  

Building Boom  |  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

Building Boom

You've been working on the plans for your dream house for years. The architect's renderings are complete, the decisions are made, much of the supplies and materials are ordered. The original house is torn down, not even a reminder of what was. Anyway, that's the past. Now, you're focused on the future. Each day, you look at the artist's rendering of what will be. And as the commencement of the building comes closer, you intensify your involvement and preoccupation with your dream-dwelling.

Okay, so most of us aren't in the financial situation where the above scenario is reality. But don't feel left out! Because each of us can play an active part in making the "dream house" of the Jewish people, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a reality!

This Sunday, we enter the period of time in the Jewish calendar known as the "Three Weeks." These three weeks commemorate the beginning of the breach of the walls around Jerusalem that culminated in the destruction of the Holy Temple on Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.

But rather than focus on the destruction, the original house that was torn down, our emphasis should be on actively building the Third Holy Temple, through acts of goodness and kindness, through performing mitzvot (commandments) and by studying the laws regarding the construction of the Third Holy Temple.

When G-d revealed the structural details of the Third Holy Temple to the prophet Ezekial, He told him, "Tell the people of Israel of the House... and measure its design."

Ezekial replied: "Master of the Universe! Why are You telling me to tell Israel of the form of the House?... They are now in exile in the land of our enemies. Is there anything they can do? Leave them alone until they return from exile. Then I will go and inform them."

G-d answered: "Should the construction of My House be ignored because My children are in exile?... The study of the Torah's description of the Holy Temple is deemed equal to its actual construction. Go, tell them to study the form of the Holy Temple. And, as a reward for their study..., I will consider it as if they had actually built the Holy Temple!"

One of the 613 commandments of the Torah is to build a House of G-d; every Jewish man and woman is obligated to fulfill this mitzva. By studying the laws of the Holy Temple a person fulfills this, for G-d describes this study as "the building of My House."

Just like the person who reviews the plans for his house more often and more eagerly as the anticipated ground-breaking (or completion of the project) comes closer, so too, should we study about the Holy Temple now due to its greater relevance at present. For in the very near future, we will actually participate in building the very structure we are studying.

The studying itself will serve as a catalyst to hasten the fulfillment of the prayer, "Rebuild Your House as in former times and establish Your Sanctuary on its site; let us behold its construction, and cause us to rejoice in its completion." May this take place in the immediate future.

For a virtual tour of the Holy Temple visit

Living with the Rebbe

In the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, G-d rewards Pinchas for having "zealously taken up My cause among the Israelites and turned My anger away from them." The reward was the priesthood: Pinchas and his descendants would be kohanim (priests). "I have given him My covenant of peace...a covenant of eternal priesthood to him and his posterity after him."

Our Sages tell us that "Pinchas is Elijah." Like Pinchas, Elijah the Prophet was a zealot, chastising the Jewish people when necessary. Similarly, as reward for "zealously taking up My cause for G-d, the L-rd of Hosts," G-d granted Elijah a "covenant of peace" - that he would personally attend every brit mila ceremony.

On a deeper level, the term "covenant of peace" alludes to the relationship ("treaty") between body and soul. This connection was particularly apparent in Elijah, as his soul never departed from his physical body. As the Torah relates, instead of passing away, Elijah ascended heavenward "in a tempest" - both the soul and physical body.

How was Elijah able to do that? The answer lies in the concept of refinement. Elijah's physical body had been completely purified to the point that it no longer obscured the underlying spirituality of the soul, and itself constituted a vessel for holiness. Accordingly, there was no need for Elijah to die and be buried. The body itself could ascend and absorb all the spiritual revelations of the higher spheres.

In this respect, Elijah was even superior to Moses. Moses' physical body was certainly holy; in fact, "the house filled with light" the moment he was born, illustrating how his physical being was not an impediment to the light of the soul.

Nonetheless, Moses passed away and was interred, as this light never completely permeated his body to the extent that it was fundamentally transformed. While he was alive, Moses' body allowed the light of the soul to shine through, but it remained essentially physical.

This helps to explain why Elijah the Prophet will be the one to herald the Final Redemption, as the whole meaning of Redemption is the definitive refinement of the physical world and its transformation into a vessel for holiness. Indeed, in the Messianic era, "The glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh shall see [G-dliness]." "Flesh" - the material plane - will be able to perceive "that the mouth of G-d has spoken."

The power to effect this transformation was granted to Pinchas; had we been worthy, the Final Redemption would have occurred immediately upon the Jews' entrance into the Land of Israel. Due to various negative factors this was not the case, and we are still waiting. But thank G-d, Elijah's announcement of Moshiach's arrival is imminent, along with the era of complete Redemption it signifies.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot Vol. II

A Slice of Life

You Can Do It Steve
by Steve Hyatt

Long ago, I promised my friend, mentor and director of Chabad Jewish Enrichment Center in Delaware, Rabbi Chuni Vogel, that when the synagogue in the new Center was complete, I would chant my Bar Mitzva Haftorah in the synagogue. And so it was this past month, on the 41st anniversary of my Bar Mitzva, that I fulfilled my commitment.

My personal journey of Jewish discovery began in 1996 when I accepted an invitation from the Vogels to join them for Shabbat dinner. I left Delaware in 1998 but I never lost touch with Rabbi Vogel. I moved to Oregon and then on to Nevada. As the years passed I pushed myself to become more adept at reading Hebrew, I learned many of the nuances of Judaism that had previously mystified me, and I became a more committed member of the Jewish communities in which we lived.

As the next ten years unfolded I regularly practiced my Haftorah, gaining more and more confidence along the way. But no matter how much I practiced, the tune just never stuck. Sometimes, on one of my walks through the majestic Sierra Mountains, the melody flowed as I chanted the words while listening to Rabbi Vogel's melodic voice on my IPOD. Yet every time I turned off the IPOD, the tune evaded me.

About three months before I was to chant my Haftorah in Delaware, I had a dream. I was standing at a Shabbat table holding my Great Grandfather Charles Cooper's kiddush cup. The dream was so moving that I decided to find out if anyone still had Great Grandpa's kiddush cup. One of my relatives informed me that while she did not have his kiddush cup, she did have several of his prayer books. After much persuasion, she agreed to send them to me. Among the collection was a worn, coverless, book. It was Great Grandpa's Tanach (Bible)! As I tenderly turned the pages, I suddenly discovered my Haftorah!

At that moment I knew that I would chant my Haftorah from this book. But first it had to be restored. I sent it to a bookbinder I deemed worthy of this important task. After weeks and then months of waiting, I finally got the book back.

Opening the box, I carefully peeled away the layers of wrapping until I uncovered the most beautiful book I'd ever seen. Great Grandpa's ancient Bible was covered in deep chocolate brown leather with the words, "Charles Cooper's Tanach" in gold lettering. I carefully turned to the beginning of my Haftorah.

Weeks passed. The day finally came and I arrived in Wilmington. As I walked through the front doors of the magnificent new Chabad House, Rabbi Vogel greeted me with a joyous bear hug. After spending a few minutes touring the facility he brought me into the sanctuary so he could listen to me as I practiced my Haftorah. About midway through the practice session I noticed what appeared to be a large number of rabbis making their way into the shul. All the while I kept thinking, "Please, let them be stopping for directions." But no, they were here for a wedding on Sunday and each and every one of them would be joining us in shul on Shabbat. The same Shabbat I'd be chanting my Haftorah!

Finally it was time to prepare for the arrival of Shabbat. As I slowly closed Great Grandpa's book, I figured I was as ready as I'd ever be.

That evening I sat with the rabbis eating delectable delights and trying my best to keep my calm. "You can do this Steve," I kept telling myself. When Shabbat dinner was over and I finally laid my head on the pillow, I said a quiet prayer and drifted off to sleep. I awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and enthusiastic.

Walking to shul, I felt relaxed. During the course of the morning service I wrestled with alternating bouts of confidence and anxiety. It was tough enough to chant my Haftorah in front of my friends, but in front of all these rabbis? Oy Vey!

Finally I heard Rabbi Vogel call out my Hebrew name. As I stood on the bima (lecturn) watching two members of the congregation place the cover on the Torah, Rabbi Vogel whispered in my ear, "Shlomo Yakov this is your moment. Great Grandpa Charlie is with us, I am with you and everyone here loves you. Have confidence, this is a moment you will remember forever!"

With his motivational words resonating in my head I chanted the first blessing. My voice was a little shaky but the tune wasn't bad. As I opened Great Grandpa Charlie's Tanach to the appropriate page I felt a surge of additional confidence. As the words and tune poured from my mouth I heard Rabbi Vogel humming the tune. Realizing that I had my friend and mentor on one side, the spirit of my beloved Great Grandpa on the other side and the glory of G-d all around me, I pressed on.

How did I do? Well, you'd have to ask those in attendance, but let me say this; I've never had more fun or felt more alive than I did during those 14 minutes on the bima.

When I finally stepped down, with Great Grandpa's Tanach firmly in hand, I appreciated that these Chabad Rabbis and Rebbetzins commit their entire lives to their fellow Jews, Jews just like me who need help navigating their respective spiritual journeys through life. Their selfless love and support of their fellow Jews enable us to accomplish things we never thought possible. As I sat down in my chair, a smile appeared on my face that simply refused to go away. Rabbi Vogel had helped me overcome my insecurities, push me to new heights and reconnect to the spiritual flame of my departed Great Grandpa.

I made my way to the afternoon kiddush and I knew that somewhere in heaven the soul of Charles Cooper was smiling down on me as he proudly told Leah, his beloved wife of 70 plus years, "That's our boy down there, that is our great-grandson. But oy vey, he must have gotten his singing voice from your side of the family!"

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Levi and Devorah Leah Marrus will be arriving soon in Columbia to bolster the outreach activities of Chabad of South Carolina. Rabbi Marrus will focus on adult education and Mrs. Marrus will be working with children. Rabbi Mendy and Brocha Lent are moving to Nottingham, England, to open a Chabad Student Center at the University of Nottingham.

Women's Retreat

Bais Chana Women's Institute will be going home as they hold their summer retreat in the stately mansion where this internationally renown program all began. The dates are July 29-August 17 and the retreat takes place in Twin Cities, Minnesota for Jewish women of all ages and backgrounds. Call (800) 473-4801 or visit for more info

The Rebbe Writes

Continued from the previous issue, from a letter dated 5 Tammuz, 5743 (1983)

It may be asked, if it is a "release" for the soul, why has the Torah prescribed periods of mourning, etc.

But there is really no contradiction.

The Torah recognizes the natural feeling of grief that is felt by the loss of a near and dear one, whose passing leaves a void in the family, and the physical presence and contact of the beloved one will be sorely missed.

So, the Torah has prescribed the proper periods of mourning to give vent to these feelings and to make it easier to regain the proper equilibrium and adjustment.

However, to allow oneself to be carried away by these feelings beyond the limits set by the Torah - in addition to it being a disservice to oneself and those around, as well as to the neshama [soul], as mentioned above, would mean that one is more concerned with one's own feelings than with the feelings of the dear neshama that has risen to new spiritual heights of eternal happiness.

Thus, paradoxically, the overextended feeling of grief, which is due to the great love for the departed one, actually causes pain to the loved one, since the neshama continues to take an interest in the dear ones left behind, sees what is going on (even better than before), rejoices with them in their joys, etc.

One thing the departed soul can no longer do, and that is, the actual fulfillment of the mitzvoth (commandments), which can be carried out only jointly by the soul and body together in this material world. But this, too, can at least partly be overcome when those left behind do a little more mitzvoth and good deeds - in honor and for the benefit of the dear neshama.

More could be said on the subject, but I trust the above will suffice to help you discover within you the strength that G-d has given you, not only to overcome this crisis, but also to go from strength to strength in your everyday life and activities in full accord with the Torah.

In your case there is an added G-d-given capacity, having been blessed with lovely children, long may they live, with a strong feeling of motherly responsibility to raise each and every one of them to a life of Torah, chupa [marriage] and good deeds, with even greater attention and care than before, and in this, as in all good things, there is always room for improvement.

Now to conclude with a blessing, may G-d grant you much Yiddishe nachas [Jewish pleasure] from each and every one of your children, raising them to Torah, chupa and good deeds in good health and peace of mind, and in comfortable circumstances.

P.S. I do not know if you were aware of it when writing your letter on the 3rd of Tammuz. But it is significant that you wrote the letter on the anniversary of the beginning of the geula [redeeming] of my father-in-law of saintly memory - an auspicious time for geula from all distractions and anxieties, to serve Hashem [G-d] wholeheartedly and with joy.


What is the reason for the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz?

Five national disasters occurred on 17 Tammuz (corresponding to Sunday, July 29 this year). First, Moses descended from Sinai and smashed the Tablets when he found the Jews worshipping idols. Second, During the siege of Jerusalem the daily sacrifice was interrupted. Third, the breach of the wall of Jerusalem during the Roman siege. Fourth, the public burning of a Torah scroll and fifth, the erection of an idol in the Temple courtyard.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Sunday, we enter the time period in the Jewish calendar known as the "Three Weeks." It is a time of semi-mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple and our exile from the Holy Land.

A chasid of the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad Rebbe) wanted desperately to move to the Holy Land. The Tzemach Tzedek told the chasid that his particular mission was in the place where he was then living, and he should "make this place the Holy Land."

The Rebbe explained that this directive applies in all times and in all places, even here and now. What it means is that we should work to make our surroundings a place where Judaism and G-dliness are openly revealed.

That a person finds him or herself in a certain place at a certain time is not a mere accident but has a purpose. There is a mission and intent for every moment and every place and that purpose is to transform this world into G-d's dwelling place.

To quote the Rebbe, "Effort has to be invested into each place, and every situation, reflecting within it the ultimate intention, that it become part of G-d's dwelling, as will be revealed in the Holy Land in the Era of the Redemption."

Each person has as his inheritance his own "portion" of the world. Thus, everyone possesses an individual responsibility to make his portion of the world the Holy Land. Each person lives in a particular place and has a specific and individual mission there. Similarly, each day and more particularly each moment, is associated with a specific Divine mission. And therefore, to prepare the world at large for the Redemption, each person must "Make this place - his individual portion of the world - the Holy Land."

One might ask how turning his own place into "the Holy Land" will affect the rest of the world? By a Jew fulfilling his mission and infusing G-dliness into his portion of the world, this will have an effect on the world as a whole, for each portion of the world includes within itself the entire world at large.

The Rebbe concluded by saying, "By fulfilling the intent associated with his individual portion of the world, he can bring the entire world to a state of fulfillment."

Thoughts that Count

My offering, My bread for My sacrifices (Num. 28:2)

The "offering" that G-d values over all others is "My bread for My sacrifices" - giving bread and tzedaka (charity) to the needy, as it states, "Give the hungry man of your bread."

(Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz)

A continual burnt-offering (Num. 28:3)

The "tamid" (perpetual) offering, symbolic of all the sacrifices, was totally consumed on the holy altar, affording neither the person who brought it nor the priests who served in the Holy Temple any benefit from its flesh. We learn from this that a person who sincerely desires to draw near to G-d must serve Him without regard for any benefit it may bring him.

(Sichat Hashavua)

And on the beginnings of your months (Num. 28:11)

Eleven sacrifices were offered in the Holy Temple on Rosh Chodesh, (the new moon): two cows, seven sheep, one ram and one goat, thus balancing the solar calendar with the Jewish lunar system (the solar year is 11 days longer than the lunar).

(Rabbenu Bachaye)

And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast; seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten (Num. 28:17)

The festivals of Passover and Sukkot, which fall during a time of year in which [agricultural] work is not done, last for seven and eight days respectively. Shavuot, however, which occurs during the land's peak season of labor, is only one day (two days outside of Israel). From this we learn how careful the Torah is with people's money!


It Once Happened

During the time that the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem there lived a poor farmer in the far northern Galilee. His house stood on a small rocky plot sparsely dotted with olive trees. Every day he went out to his little field and worked the ground, but despite his efforts, nothing seemed to grow in the poor soil.

One evening, after a hard and disappointing day's work he turned to his wife and said, "I have no luck here. I will travel to the south and work on a large farm. If G-d grants me success I will return and buy a larger field, an orchard, and even a flock of sheep. While I am gone our sons will tend our fields here."

The man walked to the south where he got a job on the estate of a rich man. His new employer was very pleased with his work, for he was competent and loyal. The farmer worked hard and found his employer to be a fair man. He stayed on for several years, all the time dreaming of the day he would come home and establish his own large farm.

It was nearing Rosh Hashana. After three years of hard labor in the fields, the man prepared for his triumphant return home. He approached his employer: "I have worked well for you these years and now I wish to go home. Please give me my wages so that I may return to my family."

But to his surprise, the rich man replied, "I'm sorry, but I have no money now and I can't pay you."

The laborer thought to himself, "How could it be possible that such a wealthy man not be able to pay me?" But he held his tongue and replied only, "Then, pay me in produce and I will be able to sell it."

But his employer answered, "I haven't any produce, either."

"Then give me a field and I will sell it." But this suggestion received the same reply, "I do not have any fields to give you."

"Then I will take my pay in cattle."

"I'm sorry, but I have no cattle to give," answered the rich man.

"Then I will accept payment in blankets and pillows. Such items are very useful in the Galilee where it is cold."

But the rich man replied, "I have no bed linens either."

Finally the laborer ceased his requests and started off for home empty-handed, his heart heavy with disappointment. And yet, he couldn't feel anger against his employer, for through the years of his employment he had been well treated. He knew that his employer wasn't a swindler or an evil man. If he hadn't been able to pay him, there must be some reason. And with that generous thought, he made the long journey home.

He returned home in time to spend Rosh Hashana with his family. Fall and winter passed and soon it was spring. The poor farmer resumed working in his small field. One day he looked up to see a caravan approaching. There were three donkeys all heavily laden with goods. As they neared, the man recognized his former employer as the driver who was leading the procession. He ran to greet him. The wealthy landlord dismounted from the donkey. "Everything that I have brought is for you." The first donkey carried fresh fruits and raisins; the second, oil and wine; while the third carried cakes and sweets for the family.

The landlord then took out of his cloak a bag of gold coins which he gave to his former employee, who was speechless with wonder.

"The food and drink which I give you are a gift, but the gold is what I owe you for your years of honest labor. Please, tell me the truth, what did you think when you asked for your wages and I said I couldn't pay you?"

The farmer replied, "I must admit that I couldn't understand it. Then I thought that maybe you had invested all your money in some merchandise and had no available cash."

"Then what did you think when you requested that I pay you in produce and I again said that I couldn't do that?"

"I thought that perhaps you had not yet tithed your fields."

"And what about when you asked for a field?"

"I thought that perhaps you had rented out your fields to a tenant farmer and that they were not yet available for your use."

"And what about when I refused to give you cattle?"

"I assumed that you had lent them out to someone."

"And when you finally asked for blankets and pillows?"

"I could only think that you had vowed to consecrate all your possessions to the Holy Temple and had nothing left to give me."

"All that you have said is true! I was so angered by my son's obstinance that I vowed to give all my possessions to the Holy Temple instead of to him. But then I regretted my vow and asked the rabbis to annul it. As soon as this was done I came here to bring you your wages. The other things I bring as a token of my thanks. I bless you that G-d always judge you as favorably as you have judged me."

Moshiach Matters

According to the Midrash (Eicha), the gates of the Holy Temple are concealed in their place underground. This is because the gates gave honor to the holy Ark. For, when King Solomon made the ark, he made it 10 cubits long, and the entrance gates of the Temple Sanctuary were 10 cubits wide. Thus, it wasn't possible for the ark to fit through the gates. At that time, King Solomon called out, "Raise your heads, gates, and let the King of glory enter," alluding to the Holy Ark and the Tablets. The gates uplifted themselves and permitted the Ark to enter. For this reason, the enemy did not destroy the gates but they sunk into the ground.

  1028: Balak1030: Matos  
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