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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

October 19, 2007 - 7 Cheshvan, 5768

991: Lech-Lecha

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

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The Whole Hologram  |  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

The Whole Hologram

An interesting invention of the last 50 years is the hologram. The word "hologram" comes from the Greek meaning "write the whole." Holograms are a form of photo-graphy that, using lasers, records an image in three dimensions. There are many uses for hologrpahic images - not counting those made "simply" for entertainment or as an art form; these uses include security (such as the identifiers on credit cards), data verification (such as the bar code readers used in stores), medical, biological or chemical imaging (to study photographed or recorded material in three dimensions), artifact preservation and presentation (holograms of priceless art, exact three dimensional duplicates, can be circulated for the public while the originals remain safe).

And the holographic technique can also be used to optically store, retrieve and process information, such as medical records - or even music and video cd's! (Yes, those dvd's are laser-driven hologram.)

Now, there are many parallels, lessons and metaphors that can be drawn from holograms. Light, three dimensional viewing, lasers, replications - all the physical phenomenon associated with holograms reflect, metaphorically, elements or aspects of the spiritual realm.

But we can focus on one aspect of holograms, one surprising trait that makes them scientifically useful and that also exemplifies a key concept in Jewish mystical thought, as explained in Chasidism:

If you cut a hologram in half, each half contains the entire image. For instance, if you cut a hologram of an apple in half, what you have is not two pictures each showing half an apple, but two pictures of the apple, half-size, but complete, whole and identical. And if you cut out a small piece, even a small piece, that piece still contains the whole picture.

In other words, a piece of a hologram reflects, contains and duplicates the entire hologram - it is a rewriting of the whole thing. There are no fragments or parts. A hologram is an indivisible unity that can be manifested in different sizes, but always remains whole and one.

In Chasidic terms, seizing a part seizes the whole.

We can use the image of the hologram to illustrate many ideas in Jewish mystical thought, as expounded by Chasidism. For instance, in explaining the process of Creation, Jewish mysticism refers to the concept of the Four Worlds and the Primordial Man. Briefly, this means that, in a spiritual sense, the universe has the "form" of a human being - a head or intellectual aspect, etc. And to get to this physical world, that form is replicated in a series of smaller, but structurally identical, spiritual worlds.

Every created entity is like a piece of that spiritual hologram.

We could of course expand the connections, go deeply and broadly into the parallels between how science explains the workings of the physical world and Chasidism explains the workings of the spiritual worlds.

That's just one reason for us to learn more Chasidic philosophy - to understand the inner unity within Creation - a unity we'll perceive with our own eyes with the coming of Moshiach.

Living with the Rebbe

After his monumental victory over the four kings in this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, G-d promises our forefather Abraham: "Fear not, Abram...your reward shall be exceedingly great." Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains that Abraham was worried that the victory was the entire reward for his righteousness. "Do not worry," G-d assured him, "Your reward will be exceedingly great."

G-d's promise of further reward seems odd. For we are told that Abraham served the Creator out of love, for its own sake, untinged by ulterior motives, even the promise of spiritual gain. Maimonides explained this type of service as: "(One who) engages in Torah and mitzvot...not for the sake of the good it brings, but...because it is truth." This type of service, Maimonides continues, was best characterized by Abraham, "who only served G-d with love."

Why, then, was Abraham so concerned with his reward that G-d had to personally reassure him? Similarly, in our Torah portion, G-d urges Abraham to leave the country of his birth, promising that "I will make your name great." Surely Abraham was uninterested in personal glory!

Abraham considered himself "dust and ashes"--merely a tool to be utilized by G-d for whatever purpose He saw fit. Abraham's only goal in life was to sanctify G-d's name, to bring as many people as he could to recognize the Creator of the world. The mention of Abraham's name caused G-d's name to be sanctified; personal recognition and renown were of no consequence to Abraham himself. G-d's promise served to reassure Abraham that his efforts to that end would be met with success.

Abraham's concern with reward may also be understood in the same light. Abraham was interested in material compensation only insofar as it served to show others that the worship of G-d is something to be desired, bringing benefit to those who serve Him. Tangible reward for righteousness would offer inducement to those with whom Abraham came into contact and endeavored to influence.

For this reason, Abraham worried that a lack of tangible reward might be misconstrued as weakness, G-d forbid, on the part of the Creator. If people saw a righteous man such as Abraham lacking, how could they be convinced that his path was just?

This also explains why a Jew is encouraged to keep the Torah's commandments even if his motivation is purely personal, falling short of the ideal of "for its own sake": Although the body may be interested solely in physical reward, the Jewish soul rejoices when material blessing causes G-d's name to be publicly sanctified, just as in the case of our Patriarch Abraham.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

Remembering... on My Bat Mitzva
by Meira Rachel Bedein

I chose for my Bat Mitzva speech to talk about the names my parents gave me, Meira- Rachel, and the connection between them.

I was born on a Friday night, the 10th of Cheshvan. My parents chose to give me two names that hold special meaning for this date.

A week before I was born, a soldier by the name of Nachshon Waxman was kidnapped by terrorists. Everyone in Israel was filled with concern over the kidnapping and there was a rare and wondrous feeling of unity among all the Jews in Israel. Everyone prayed for Nachshon's safe and speedy return home.

As Shabbat approached, Esther, Nachshon's mother, requested that everyone light an extra Shabbat candle for Nachshon's safe return.

My mother's labor pangs had already begun as she lit the Shabbat candles. She added an extra one for Nachshon, and said a prayer for his safe return home.

Later that night, my parents decided it was time to go to the hospital. On the way, the ambulance driver informed my parents of the tragic news of Nachshon's death through a failed rescue attempt that also took the life of Nir Poraz, an officer, who was the first to storm the house where Nachshon was being held captive.

In those days, people travelled through Beit Lechem (Bethlehem) to get to Jerusalem. The skies were overcast and as the ambulance passed Rachel's Tomb, a soft rain began to fall. "Rachel is crying for her children," said my father sadly.

In the small hours of the night, I emerged into the world. My father says that the moment I was born, he held me and I smiled. That smile, he says, lit up the great darkness he felt that came from the tragic deaths of Nachshon and Nir. He wanted to name me Meira, meaning "to give forth light." Together my parents added the name Rachel, for Rachel Emeinu (our Matriarch), the proximity to her yartzeit (her passing on 11 Cheshvan) and to her burial place in Bethlehem, and the connection between her selfless kindness and Nir Poraz who gave up his life in attempt to saving Nachshon's.

Rachel Emeinu is a wondrous figure in the Torah. All through the generations Jews have visited her burial place where they have poured out their hearts in prayer. There is something in Rachel's character, in her life of suffering, that says to us, "You can tell me all your troubles. I will understand." In her lifetime as in her death, Rachel knowingly relinquished her love, her comfort and her personal happiness, for her family whom she loved above all. Rachel, who was barren for many years and yearned for children, died while giving birth to her second child, Binyamin.

The questions that arise are why, out of our Four Mothers, is it Rachel's gravesite in Beit Lechem where people flock in order to pray for mercy? And why was Rachel buried alone, unlike the Jewish nation's other ancestors who were buried in the Maarat HaMachpela in Hebron?

The answer to these questions can be found in the Midrash (Breishit Raba, 82:10). Jacob saw, through the divine spirit, that in the future the Children of Israel would pass Beit Lechem on their way into exile. He hoped that Rachel would feel their great pain and pray to G-d for mercy. For that reason he decided to bury Rachel in Beit Lechem as opposed to Hebron.

Indeed, one thousand years later, the Jews placed an idol in the Holy Temple and G-d thought to destroy the Temple for eternity and send the Children of Israel into exile permanently.

The souls of our forefathers tried to dissuade G-d. Only when Rachel's soul intervened was the decree altered, as the Prophet Jeremiah records, "The L-rd says, 'A voice is heard in Ramah, a sound of crying in bitter grief. It is the sound of Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because her children are gone.' "

And what was it that Rachel said? "G-d of the Universe, I waited seven long years to marry my loved one Jacob. When the day finally arrived, my father plotted to replace me with my sister Leah. I realized that she would go through terrible humiliation if the scheme would be made public during the wedding party, so I had mercy on her and I gave her the secret code that Jacob and I had made up in case my father's scheme was realized. I put aside my private feelings so as to spare my sister the shame in front of all those people and tried my best not to be jealous of her. In retrospect, I brought my rival into my home! So if I was able to endure, Almighty G-d, surely you need not be so severe with your children because they brought an idol, Your 'rival,' so to speak, into Your home."

G-d's mercy was immediately aroused and He said: " 'Restrain your voice from weeping, your eyes from shedding tears for there is reward for your labor,' declares G-d. 'They shall return from the enemy's land and there is hope for the future,' declares G-d 'The children shall return to their land.' " (Jeremiah 31:16-17)

On my Bat Mitzva day, I pray that through the virtue of Rachel Emeinu along with the dear soldiers, Nachshon Waxman and Nir Poraz, the terrible decrees against the Jewish people will be revoked.

May it be G-d's will that we merit the return of all of the Jewish people to all the borders of the Land of Israel, and that we may be worthy of living here in peace and complete security and be able to sing out in a great voice: "The children shall return to their land."

Reprinted with permission from

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Michoel and Esty Feinstein recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they are working with the Russian and Bukharian Jewish communities in that city. Rabbi Tzvi and Sheva Tauby are moving to the "Upper East Side" of New York city. Part of their efforts will be to reach out to Holocaust survivors.

New Center

A new 6,000 sq. ft Chabad Center at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, opened recently. Even before Hurricane Katrina, plans had been underway to expand the existing Chabad Center, which has been serving the Jewish students and faculty at the university for nearly 30 years. Of course, the new Rohr Chabad Student Center meets all post-Katrina construction requirements.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letter

Cheshvan 22, 5738 (1978)

... Perhaps you are already aware of what I spoke about on Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Lech Lecha (Saturday night after Shabbat when we read the Torah portion of Lech Lecha) regarding the absolute need to populate the entire territories, all at once. At the very least, Israel should settle those areas upon which there is dispute. In my opinion it is clear that the only way that the enemies of Israel will finally give up their evil designs will be when they see that Israel means this seriously. As I have stated many times, even those who are afraid of the nations' objections, have seen in the past - and continue to see - the complaints remain just as strong no matter if Israel settles one place, or the entire border.

To my great consternation, it would seem that Israel is not even considering this minimal plan which I have mentioned. They have decided to behave in the same fashion as they always have in the past, whenever there has been a victory - and each victory has transcended the bounds of nature.

This is true regarding the period after the Yom Kippur War, the Six Day War, the Sinai Campaign, etc. Each time, they decided to do "half a job" - or more properly, they consented to accept only half of what was being given to them as a gift from Above - namely, victory - and they did not act decisively, with the greatest forcefulness - to finish the issue once and for all. Clearly, this itself only invites pressure. As if this was not enough, they sent a delegation of representatives to inform the nations that they would not take full advantage of the victory, but rather, would give up an important part of that which they had already attained. Everyone sees the outcome: not only did they not achieve peace, but they brought about the opposite - terrorism, harassment, and eventually war, may G-d save us. As I mentioned, they have repeated this strategy more than three times.

I am not aware whether your orientation is what they call "hawkish" or "dovish." But regarding this, after everyone has seen the results of such behavior after all the past wars; the today's pressure and threats seem to be the outcome. In my opinion, there is no difference between a hawk or a dove. The issue is only whether a decision will be made to continue in the same way they have until now, for whatever various strange reasons. Then they will continue to delude themselves and their followers with empty hopes - that even though nothing has changed, but still, maybe this time the outcome will be the opposite. The only alternative is to at least try a different method - the one which most appeals to sound judgment, and the one which all past experience proves is worthwhile trying.

If this is also your opinion, then surely you - who live in the Holy Land and are aware of the situation up close - will make the loudest commotion, since many, many circles follow you and will perhaps listen to you. Even though it would have been preferable to build these settlements immediately, along with the first one which was established, nevertheless, it is better to do it now, late, than to continue taking two steps back, and then one step forward. I deliberately changed the order, because unfortunately the politicians are even afraid of the method of taking one step forward, and then two steps back.

May it be G-d's Will that there should finally be the fulfillment of the verse "and the earth will be filled with knowledge of G-d, as the water covers the ocean bed," and the immediate result will be the evaporation of all the fear of "what will the nations say," or concern whether they will favor this or that policy - until the Jewish fear of "the sound of a driven leaf," (lest the leaf was moved by wind from the nostrils of a non-Jew) is dispelled. G-d will help His nation to walk upright, with the proper forcefulness.

Reprinted with permission from


What is a ketuba?

The ketuba - marriage contract, contains the mutual obligations between husband and wife prerequisite to marriage. It is written in Hebrew-Aramaic. After it is read at the wedding ceremony under the chupa it is given to the bride and she must keep it amongst her possessions.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

In this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, we read of G-d's promise to Abraham that he would inherit the lands of the ten nations - the seven Canaanite nations as well as three other lands, the lands of the Keini, Kenizi and Kadmoni.

Abraham and his descendants took possession of all seven Canaanite lands. However, they never took possession of the lands of the other three nations. The triumph over these nations and the possession of their lands will take place when Moshiach comes in the Era of Redemption.

Chasidic philosophy explains that a person's powers and abilities are divided into ten categories, seven of them being in the realm of emotion and three being in the realm of intellect. In spiritual terms, the ten lands described above refer to the refinement of our 10 personal powers. The seven emotive powers are the seven Canaanite nations and the three intellectual powers are the lands of the Keini, Kenizi and Kadmoni.

In the pre-Messianic Era, we have "possession" of our seven emotive powers. And, though we obviously use our intellectual powers, it is not to our fullest ability, for we have not conquered, nor do we totally possess them. This will take place only in the Messianic Era. It is then that our intellects will find their true expression and fulfillment. The Messianic Era is described by the Prophet Isaiah as a time when "the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."

Thus, when Moshiach comes our intellectual potential will reach its fulfillment. May that happen NOW!

Thoughts that Count

Go out of your land, out of your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you (Gen. 12:1)

By obeying G-d's command to go to the land of Israel, Abraham acquired it for himself and for his progeny forever. Even now, more than 3,300 years later, G-d's words convey an important message for us to apply in our daily lives, urging us to hasten the Messianic Era in which all Jews of all generations since the beginning of time will dwell in peace and prosperity in the greater land of Israel.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Lech Lecha, 5752)

I will not take from a thread even to a shoelace (Gen. 14:23)

Rabba explained: In the merit of Abraham's refusal to accept these two things from the king of Sodom, the Jewish people merited an additional two mitzvot: the thread of blue (the commandment of tzitzit - ritual fringes), and the straps of tefilin.

(Talmud, Sotah)

But My covenant I will establish with Isaac (Gen. 17:21)

When G-d told Abraham that a son would be born to him through whom the Jewish nation would be established, Abraham replied, "O that Ishmael might live before You!" G-d, however, informed Abraham that Isaac, and not Ishmael, would be the one with whom His covenant would be forged. Why? Ishmael is symbolic of nature; Isaac is symbolic of the Jew's supernatural connection to G-d. Ishmael was conceived and born according to natural law; Isaac's conception and birth were miraculous. Ishmael was circumcised at 13; Isaac at eight days, before any intellectual understanding of the mitzva could come into play. Every Jew, like his forefather Isaac, is similarly connected to G-d by a bond that transcends time, place and natural limitations.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

It Once Happened

In the Tunisia of old, it was customary for the "Bey," the supreme ruler of the country, to personally appoint all nominees to public positions. This included all posts within the Jewish community.

One time the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia passed away, and the vacancy needed to be filled. The Chief Rabbi held an extremely crucial position, as many important powers were invested in him. As the official head of the Jewish community, he represented all of Tunisia's Jews in the secular courts, and his word carried much weight.

At the time of the Chief Rabbi's passing, Rabbi Nehorai Germon was serving as his assistant. In most cases it was only a matter of form for the assistant to be promoted. This time, however, there were forces within the Jewish community who opposed Rabbi Nehorai's promotion.

On the one hand, Rabbi Nehorai was easy to get along with, modest and unassuming. Yet when it came to upholding the Torah's laws and Jewish customs, he was absolutely rigid and fearlessly unbending. To some people, this was untenable. What they sought was a Chief Rabbi who wouldn't be a stickler for detail, someone who would know when to look away...

And so, a delegation of protesters went to the Bey. "He's much too fanatical," they told him. "Under no circumstances should Rabbi Nehorai become the next Chief Rabbi." The Bey was very receptive to their message. Soon rumors were flying that Rabbi Nehorai was no longer in the running.

It was precisely then that Rabbi Nehorai's inner strength and fortitude was revealed. As our Sages put it, "Wherever there is humility, there is also greatness." Overcoming his natural aversion to self-promotion, the rabbi realized that he could not in good conscience simply withdraw from the fray. The dignity and reputation of the Chief Rabbinate demanded more of him.

Rabbi Nehorai went to the royal palace. He asked the palace guards to be admitted but was informed that he would have to wait his turn. Stubbornly, Rabbi Nehorai refused to budge, demanding an immediate audience with the Bey. A commotion ensued, the angry sounds of which reached the ears of the Bey himself.

The Bey sent an aide outside to see what was going on. Quickly sizing up the situation, he returned to the Bey and explained that the assistant to the former Chief Rabbi was insisting on speaking to him. The Bey was surprised by the Jew's agressive behavior, but instructed that he be brought in.

"Why was it so urgent to meet with me that you defied all social conventions?" the Bey asked Rabbi Nehorai, an artificial smile on his face.

Rabbi Nehorai was not intimidated. "If all the conventions were being adhered to," he replied seriously, "I would not have had to come here."

"What do you mean?" the Bey asked, his curiosity aroused.

"When affairs of state are attended to fairly, the assistant to the Chief Rabbi is automatically promoted to the office upon his death..."

The Bey stopped smiling. "From all the information I have received about you," he said, "it appears that you are too inflexible for the job, wedded to what you perceive as inviolate principles. It is said that you are unwilling to compromise for the sake of peace. In my opinion, a successful Chief Rabbi must know when to keep his eyes open and when to shut them..."

Rabbi Nehorai did not react, seemingly ignoring the Bey's words. "What a beautiful garden you have," he said suddenly, looking out the window at the magnificently manicured palace grounds. "I've never seen one more beautiful."

"It is unparalleled in all of Tunisia," the Bey responded, unable to resist the compliment.

"If I may be so bold," the rabbi said, "it seems to me that if a lush garden like this will grow only here, of all places in the entire kingdom, surely it is a sign that G-d smiles favorably on your kingship."

The Bey almost laughed. "If everyone in the kingdom employed as many skilled horticulturists as I do, their land would also yield the same results. My gardeners are extremely vigilant, busy from dawn till dusk, planting, digging, trimming and plucking out stray weeds. But tell me, what does all this have to do with the subject we were discussing?"

"Well, I was wondering," Rabbi Nehorai replied. "Why do you insist on employing such skilled horticulturists? Why don't you hire a gardener who sometimes keep his eyes open, and other times keeps them closed..."

"Are you telling me that the Jewish community is the same as a garden?" the Bey smiled.

"In certain respects, yes," the rabbi explained. "Our holy Torah contains 248 positive commandments, lovely seedlings in G-d's garden that must be nurtured and cared for. Then there are the Torah's 365 prohibitions. Like weeds, they must be carefully plucked out and uprooted. The Chief Rabbi is entrusted with caring for this garden, and must carry out his responsibilities faithfully."

The Bey was convinced, and a few days later Rabbi Nehorai was officially appointed Chief Rabbi of Tunisia.

Moshiach Matters

After making a covenant (known as "Brit Bein HaBetarim - Covenant between the pieces") with G-d, "the sun came down, and Abraham fell into a deep sleep." According to the Midrash, the sun represents Moshiach and Abraham represents the Jewish people. The meaning of the verse, then, is that the Jewish people will be in a deep spiritual slumber before Moshiach comes and Moshiach will awaken us all from this sleep.

(Torah Shleima)

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