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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

Shemos Exodus

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Devarim Deutronomy

   1080: Devarim

1081: Vaeschanan

1082: Eikev

1083: Re'eh

1084: Shoftim

1085: Ki Seitzei

1086: Ki Savo

1087: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

July 24, 2009 - 3 Av, 5769

1080: Devarim

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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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  1079: Matos-Masei1081: Vaeschanan  

Hungry on Tisha B'Av  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  A Call to Action  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Hungry on Tisha B'Av

Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of Av, is the day when both Holy Temples were destroyed, and a day of calamity in Jewish history.

On Tisha B'Av we fast because we are in mourning, overcome by grief, grief not just for the Holy Temples and all they meant to the Jewish people, but grief for all the subsequent suffering the Jewish people have undergone.

We know that life is a cycle, and there have been, are, and will be periods of descent, of darkness, of error or even, G-d forbid, deliberate transgression. Each descent occurs so that we may ascend to a greater level, as it says, "it's always darkest before the dawn," and reconciliation brings a greater closeness.

Jewish teachings promise that the mourning of Tisha B'Av will eventually be transformed into rejoicing. Fasting will become feasting.

And so, yes, we fast on Tisha B'Av and follow the laws and customs of our people associated with the day, and we allow it to absorb and represent all the tragedies and horrors we've experienced - and even recently, for who can forget what happened in Mumbai less than a year ago?

And yes, Tisha B'Av is an appropriate time to remember how precarious the situation is for Israel, how we must tremble in our own land, how we allow the world to impose a holy site double standard, and all the other issues - does it not seem a time to despair, remembering that the First Temple was destroyed because the people were lawless and wantonly immoral, and the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred not philosophical differences, but personal, unwarranted enmity - and are we any better today?

So sometimes it seems hard to see beyond the laws and observances of Tisha B'Av. Sometimes it seems we must just go through the day, and leave the coming of Moshiach, the Redemption, the transformation of Tisha B'Av into a celebration, leave that to the righteous and the pious. We just want Tisha B'Av to end.

Of course we get thirsty, or hungry, on Yom Kippur, but it's not the same. We want to get to the end of Yom Kippur feeling, if only for a moment, that we actually did, for that moment, transcend our animal selves, did achieve a reconciliation with G-d. And when we break our Yom Kippur fast, there's as much joy as there is relief.

But Tisha B'Av is different. We just want it to end. By the close of the day, we've had enough - enough fasting, enough mourning, enough darkness, enough thirst.

Maybe, just maybe, it's that hunger that will initiate the change. After all, when little children are hungry, they cry. They complain. They don't care if we're in the middle of negotiating a contract or taking care of our needs. They need, they want, they need and want now - and they've had enough waiting.

So maybe we should be a little selfish this Tisha B'Av. Maybe we should say to G-d, we're your children, and we're hungry and we're thirsty and we've had enough.

We want Moshiach now!

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Devarim (the first portion in the book of the Torah known as Deuteronomy) is always read on Shabbat Chazon (literally "The Sabbath of Vision"), the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av - the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. As nothing in Judaism is coincidental, the Torah portion of Devarim and Shabbat Chazon must be interconnected.

The Book of Deuteronomy is unique in that, unlike the first four Books of the Torah, it was transmitted by Moses to the generation of Jews that was about to enter the Land of Israel.

The generation of Jews that wandered through the desert is known as "the generation of knowledge." Because they occupied such a high spiritual level, commensurate with Moses', they merited to lead a completely spiritual existence. The generation that entered Israel, by contrast, began a whole new chapter in Jewish history. Because they had to involve themselves in more mundane affairs, their spiritual level is considered to be lower than that of the generation that preceded them.

Nonetheless, it was precisely the generation that entered Israel that was able to successfully fulfill G-d's plan. G-d wants us to serve Him within the context of the material world, establishing a "dwelling place" for Him in the "lower realms."

Accordingly, although the Jews who entered Israel were spiritually inferior in comparison with their parents, they possessed a certain advantage over their elders: The Jews who entered Israel merited to attain a level of "peace and security" that was denied the previous generation.

Shabbat Devarim is thus a resolution of two opposites. On the one hand, the Jews' entry into the Land of Israel was a very great descent, for it signified the need for daily contact with worldly matters. On the other hand, it was precisely by means of this descent that they were able to attain the highest ascent of all: the fulfillment of G-d's plan.

Likewise, Shabbat Chazon is a study in contradiction. Shabbat Chazon occurs in the middle of the Nine Days, a period in which we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple. Yet, at the same time, as the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explained, on Shabbat Chazon every Jew is shown a vision of the Third Holy Temple, an edifice that will be infinitely superior to the two Holy Temples that preceded it.

Thus Shabbat Chazon expresses the same theme of descent for the purpose of ascent as Devarim: It is precisely through the descent which caused the Temple's destruction in the first place that we will achieve the highest ascent of all: the establishment of the Third Holy Temple by Moshiach, may it happen at once.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 2

A Slice of Life

When the great Sage Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai saw that the destruction of the Holy Temple and Jerusalem were imminent, and that the Jewish people would be exiled, he requested of the Roman general Vespasion: "Give me [the yeshiva at] Yavne and its Sages..."(Talmud, Gittin)

Rabbi Yochanan's requests were related to the Torah and its scholars, the lifeblood of the Jewish people. Long after the Roman Empire has ceased to exist, the Jewish people continue on, because we have the Torah and our Sages to guide us.

With this emphasis on Torah, we present a sampling of photos of new Torah Scrolls dedicated in the past few weeks at Chabad-Lubavitch Centers or with the help of the Rebbe's emissaries around the world. When participating in the writing of a new Torah, one fulfills the last of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah.

What's New


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The Rebbe Writes

21st of Menachem Av, 5728 [1968]

I am in receipt of your (undated) letter.

The first observation I must make is that whenever a question is to be discussed, there can be a meaningful discussion only if both sides accept certain premises as a basis for the discussion.

From your letter I see that we both recognize the Written and Oral Torah as undisputable authority.

Now it is clearly explained both in the Written Torah, as well as in the Oral Torah, that insofar as Jews are concerned, Golus [exile] comes not as a result of military circumstances, namely an outnumbered army, nor as a result of economic pressures necessitating submission to a stronger power, etc. Rather it has amply been explained again and again in the Chumash [the Five Books of Moses] (including whole Sidras [portions], such as Bechukosai, Ki Sovo, etc.) and in the books of the Prophets, and even more so in the Talmud and Rabbinic literature, that if Jews had always adhered to the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments], they would have never been banished into Exile, regardless of the fact that "You are the smallest among the nations." For, Jews have always been outnumbered and outweighed in terms of military and physical strength, as King David puts it succinctly in one sentence, "These (come) in chariots, and those on horses, but we call upon the Name of G-d."

Conversely, when Jews forsake the Torah and Mitzvos, G-d forbid, no power nor military might, nor political alliances, etc., are of any avail, as the Torah clearly states, "If you will walk contrary unto me, then will I also walk contrary unto you" etc., with the inevitable consequence of Golus.

In the light of the above, the true test of events, to see if they herald the Geulo [Redemption] or not, is to see whether there has been an essential change in the causes which have brought about the Golus in the first place, namely, a new tendency in the direction of stronger adherence to the Torah and Mitzvos.

A further point is this: After the Churban [destruction (of the Holy Temple)], when there could have been no question about the observance of the 17th of Tammuz [when the wall of Jerusalem were breached], Tisha B'Av [the Hebrew date on which the Holy Temple was destroyed], etc., there were still a number of Jews who remained in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel], and it was incumbent upon them too to observe all the matters connected with the Golus. As a matter of fact, those who remained in Eretz Yisroel and saw with their own eyes the destruction, would have felt the Churban and Golus even more. Let us remember also that the observance of Tisha B'Av, etc., was in effect even during the time of Gedalia ben Achikom, the Jewish Governor of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel, before he was assassinated by Ishmael (II Kings, 25:25)

As in the case of many other Torah matters, there are sources where they are explained at great length. However, inasmuch as not every person has the ability or patience to study these things at length in their original sources, they come also in a short and concentrated form.

Thus we find also the subject under discussion formulated in succinct terms by the Great Teacher, the Rambam [Maimonides], who was not only the Guide for the Perplexed of his generation, but for the perplexed of all generations. In his Code Yad Hachazakah, he describes in brief but highly meaningful terms the state of the last era of the Golus as it would be, and how the beginning of the Geulo would follow.

I will quote what he states, but in English translation, with interpolations to clarify the text, with some prefatory remarks, namely, that it has been amply explained in the Written and Oral Torah that the Geulo will come through the Melech Hamoshiach [King Moshiach], and as the Rambam also declares, simply as a matter of course, in the section which is the last of his entire Code, so that it is in a sense the very seal of his Code - the sec-tion of Hilchos Melochim [Laws of Kings].

There, at the beginning of chapter 11, he states that the Melech Hamoshiach will bring the Geulo, and at the end of this chapter he describes carefully the order how this will come about. And since this is not a book on philosophy, but a code of laws, the terms used are carefully chosen and strictly to the point, without polemics or homiletics.

Continued in next issue

A Call to Action

Summer Camp

The Lubavitcher Rebbe always emphasized the impact that a summer in a Jewish day camp can have on a child, specifically a camp where time is set aside for Torah study. There is still an entire month left to the summer! Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center now to find out about enrolling your child. If you do not have camp-age children, help provide a scholarship for a child who would not otherwise be able to attend camp.

In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

When the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed [on Tisha B'Av, which begins this Wednesday night], the exile that resulted was more than just the dispersion of the Jewish people around the world. What occurred was not only the loss of a nation's homeland, but an event of such enormous and far-reaching spiritual significance that we are still, almost 2000 years later, suffering its effect.

It is axiomatic in Judaism that whatever happens on the physical plane is only a reflection of the underlying spiritual reality. The spiritual significance of Tisha B'Av, therefore, is the concealment of G-dliness in the physical world. During the exile, G-d is "hidden" from the eyes of His subjects. The true deficiency of exile is that G-d's presence and active intervention in our lives is not openly perceived. When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, we will once again be able to discern that "G-d is in our midst." On the physical plane, the entire Jewish people will return to the Land of Israel, and be able to keep the special mitzvot that can only be observed there.

The purpose of the Redemption is not to alter creation by changing the ways of the world, but simply to uncover the G-dliness that is concealed within it. The only transformation Moshiach will bring about is the open perception of G-d that will characterize our daily lives in Messianic times. All of the other wonders that will be commonplace in the era of Redemption are but the natural outgrowth and consequence of this fact.

Our Sages point out that Tisha B'Av falls on the same day of the week as the first day of Passover. When Moshiach reveals himself, this somber day will be transformed into a jubilant holiday. Just as Passover is a time of redemption, we will experience the ultimate emancipation on Tisha B'Av.

May it happen immediately.

Thoughts that Count

These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel (Deut. 1:1)

First and foremost we must note that Moses spoke "unto all Israel." Moses demanded that the Jews be united and stand together before he even spoke to them. Unity is the foundation upon which all else is built.

(Sifri Darush)

And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren (Deuteronomy 1:16)

It is only during the present era, "at that time," that it is necessary to listen to both sides of a dispute to reach a just decision. When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, judgment will be rendered through the sense of smell, as it states, "He will smell the fear of G-d, and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes and decide after the hearing of his ears."

(Kedushat Levi)

Tisha B'Av

Why is Megillat Eicha (Lamentations) - the scroll which is read on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple - not written on a separate piece of parchment just like Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) - the scroll which is read on Purim? When Moshiach comes, Tisha B'Av will be transformed from a day of sorrow into a day of rejoicing. As every single day we await Moshiach's arrival, making Lamentations more "permanent" by committing it to parchment is not really necessary and would imply that we had already despaired, G-d forbid. Purim, however, will also be celebrated in the Era of Redemption, and thus the parchment scrolls will also be used then.

(The Levush)

It Once Happened

Jerusalem. It was hours before daybreak in the year 1660 and Rabbi Klonimus Hechasid was making his way in the dark to the Kotel, the Western Wall, to pray to the King of the Universe. It was his unvarying custom to pray every morning at that early hour, when the world was completely still and he could meditate on the greatness of G-d and His wondrous creation.

The day seemed like any other day. But as he walked in the darkness, he became aware of some almost undiscernible movement in the surrounding blackness. It was with terror that he saw a street filled with Arabs brandishing knives and swords. They were crying out, "Death to the Jewish murderers!"

Rabbi Klonimus approached their leader who told him that an Arab youth had been discovered murdered near the Jewish quarter, and they were going to punish every Jew they could find. The rabbi somehow found the right words and convinced them to wait before commencing their bloodthirsty plan. "Allow me to go the Kotel to pray. When I am finished, I will tell you the identity of the killer of the boy."

Rabbi Klonimus took a quill, a small bottle of ink and a piece of paper. He then proceeded to the Kotel followed by the Arab mob bearing the body of the dead youth in tow. Draping himself in tallit and tefillin, he prayed for a short while and then wrote something on the paper. Then he took the paper and placed it on the forehead of the dead Arab.

To the astonishment of all present, the dead youth opened his eyes, stood up and scanned the crowd. Then he pointed to one of the Arabs in the mob and announced, "That is the one! He is the one who murdered me!"

A loud murmur went up from the mob as the accused man was dragged forward. Trembling with terror, the man admitted his guilt before his resurrected victim. As soon as he had confessed the youth sank to the ground, as dead as before.

The parents of the dead boy ran to Rabbi Klonimus, begging him to bring their child to life again, but he just shook his head. "I am not G-d, that I am able to either grant or take away life. The miracle that just took place was granted in the merit of the holy Kotel so that you could see that 'the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.' He is waiting just behind the Wall to rescue His children."

The crowd dispersed, bearing the murdered youth to his grave.

After the destruction of the First Holy Temple, many of the Jewish people lived in exile in Babylonia, where they built great Torah academies and established flourishing Jewish communities. Rabbi Zeira was amongst those who lived in exile, learning Torah from the greatest scholars. Though he had a satisfying life, he wanted one thing more - to live in the land of Israel and to study Torah from the great Sages there.

Though Rabbi Zeira longed to live in the Holy Land, he was torn in his decision, since his teacher, Rabbi Yehuda ben Yechezkel was opposed to returning to Israel. It was his belief that the Jews were obligated to remain in exile in Babylonia, since they did not yet merit to return. Not only did Rabbi Zeira not want to oppose his teacher, he had doubts as to whether his own personal merits were sufficient to allow him to live in the Holy Land.

One morning Rabbi Zeira woke up feeling assured that he could live in the Holy Land; he had had a dream in which he received Divine assurance of his worthiness. But he still had to solve the problem of his teacher's opposition. He was afraid that if he went to bid good-bye to Rabbi Yehuda, the Sage would forbid him to leave, so he avoided meeting him. Then, one day, he happened to hear Rabbi Yehuda speaking and he caught a few wise words which made him feel ready to depart for the Land of Israel.

Journeying by foot, Rabbi Zeira came to a river with no bridge. Usually crossed by ferryboat, the boat was nowhere in sight. Rabbi Zeira spied a foot-bridge consisting of a narrow plank secured by ropes. Now, Rabbi Zeira was not a young man, and t his shaky bridge was used only by nimble workers who had no time to wait for the ferry. Rabbi Zeira felt a great urgency to proceed on his way and he grabbed onto the rope and mounted the slippery bridge. He slipped and slid his way across the plank, occasionally falling into the cold river until he finally reached the other side.

Upon reaching the other bank, Rabbi Zeira was greeted by a smirking gentile who said, "You are a rash and thoughtless race! Right from the beginning you acted without consideration. When given the Torah on Mount Sinai, your people said, 'We will do and we will understand.' That's not the normal way of approaching a situation. First you find out about something, and only then do you make a commitment. Why didn't you have the patience to wait for the ferry? You had to cross like a child, in spite of the danger."

Rabbi Zeira explained to the man, "I'm on my way to Israel. To live in Israel was the greatest wish of Moses and Aaron, but they were not permitted to realize their dream. I am no longer a young man and I don't know if I will live long enough to r each the Land of Israel. Every minute that I will live in Israel is precious to me, and I cannot lose even one minute. How could I lose time waiting for the ferry?"

Rabbi Zeira reached Israel where he settled in Tiberius and learned in the famous yeshiva of Rabbi Yochanan.

Moshiach Matters

The passage "Nacheim - take comfort" is recited in the afternoon service of Tisha B'Av because Moshiach "is born" on Tisha B'Av afternoon. This means that the time of Mincha (the afternoon service) is the time when "mazalo, his spiritual source, shines powerfully." Each year for the past two thousand years, on Tisha B'Av afternoon, Moshiach receives new power and new strength, and from year to year, this influence grows more powerfully.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 10 Av, 5751-1991)

  1079: Matos-Masei1081: Vaeschanan  
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