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   1080: Devarim

1081: Vaeschanan

1082: Eikev

1083: Re'eh

1084: Shoftim

1085: Ki Seitzei

1086: Ki Savo

1087: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

July 31, 2009 - 10 Av, 5769

1081: Vaeschanan

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

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  1080: Devarim1082: Eikev  

Cars and Kabala  |  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

Cars and Kabala

by Rabbi Dovid Shraga Polter

We're all aware of the automobile crisis and the great concern for any of these giant companies going into bankruptcy.

But don't worry! The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, taught that from everything we see and hear we can learn a lesson. So, with cars featuring so prominently in the news, we can surely learn a refreshing lesson from them.

A universal technique to keep children occupied during a long trip is to have them spot license plates from various states and read bumper stickers. Thanks to the automakers, I recently discovered another entertaining and educational tool while traveling - even if just going to the local grocery store: Spotting car names!

It is becoming common to give cars meaningful names, ones that evoke spiritual ideas and feelings.

The following are just a few of the many names borrowed by the automakers from the sacred teachings of Jewish mysticism: Infiniti; Millennia; Focus; Quest; Venture

You may ask, "How does it make sense to label cars - machinery designed from steel -with names that are anything but mundane? "Infinity," for example, has often been used in the esoteric teachings of the Torah to describe the One and only G-d.

If you asked automakers why they are using such esoteric names, they would probably tell you: Anything to make a sale! If you asked a Chasid the same question, he would reply: It's time to recognize G-d's essence in everything, even in a mundane object such as an automobile.

Job said: "From my flesh I see G-d." Thousands of years later, the saintly Baal Shem Tov taught: "From everything and anything, I see G-d." We must be creative to find in all G-d's creations the light of G-d and His vivifying source.

Now, imagine you're taking a beginner's Kabala class at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. You are first introduced to G-d by learning the term "Infinity." Infinity, you're told, depicts the unlimited nature of G-d.

Then, you discover that the world's existence will be for six "millennia," which is subdivided into three sets of 2,000 years each.

Further, you come to realize that in order to grow and live Jewishly, you need to "focus" on Jewish education. You finally have a "quest" to immerse yourself in the wisdom of Torah and you "venture" to succeed.

So, next time you slide behind the steering wheel - whether it be in your Infinity, Millennia, Focus, Quest or Venture, make sure to use it as a vehicle and reminder to boost your Jewish involvement. Better yet, have a L'Chaim in your glove compartment to peruse during a traffic jam, a Torah class on CD to listen to as you drive along, and maybe even a tzedaka (charity) box in your car for extra protection and to drop a few coins into.

Rabbi Dovid Polter is the author of Listening to Life's Messages and Chassidic Soul Remedies. He serves as community chaplain for Jewish Senior Living of West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Va'etchanan, speaks about the mitzva (commandment) of learning Torah, and contains the verse, "And You shall teach them to your children, and speak of them..."

In general, the mitzva of learning Torah consists of two separate commandments: The obligation each person has to learn Torah, and the obligation to teach Torah to others, especially one's children.

Although a person might naturally think that the mitzva of learning Torah oneself takes precedence over that of teaching others, we find that the opposite is true. Both Maimonides' writings and the Code of Jewish Law begin the section on the laws covering the learning of Torah with the duty each parent has to teach his children. Why is this the case? And furthermore, how can a person teach others before he himself is well-versed enough in the subject matter?

We learn from the emphasis on teaching children the proper approach we must have when we begin to learn Torah. To understand this, let us examine the difference between Torah learning and the performance of mitzvot.

When a Jew does a mitzva he effects a change in the physical world, elevating and making holy the physical objects he uses in the mitzva's performance. The practical performance of the mitzva is therefore more important than the intentions of the person doing the deed, for the action itself serves to bring spiritual illumination into the world.

Torah learning, on the other hand, serves to refine and elevate the individual. When a Jew studies Torah his intellect becomes united with the G-dly wisdom contained in the Torah and causes him to be a G-dly person whose thoughts are those of holiness. The essence of learning Torah is therefore the humility and self-nullification one must feel before even approaching it to learn. In order to learn Torah properly one must have the sincere desire to understand G-d's wisdom without ulterior motives.

Before a Jew learns Torah he must subjugate his own ego and ask, what does the Torah itself want from me? Without this prerequisite, say our Sages, Torah learning can even be detrimental and becomes a "poisonous drug."

Emphasizing the duty to teach our children before we ourselves learn the Torah stresses that our goal is not merely the acquisition of knowledge, for the mind of a young child cannot possibly grasp the greatness of what he is learning. Our goal is to emulate the child's purity and innocence with regard to how he learns the Divinely written words. We must approach the Torah in the same way, and not try to "fit" what we learn into our view of the world. All of us, no matter how old we are, are like children to our Father in Heaven.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Whatzis with the Tzitzis
From a speech by Zalman Velvel at the annual dinner of Chabad of Southwest Florida
Tonight I am going to discuss a question that haunted me, day and night, for almost two weeks. It's a question I took home about six months ago, after my first speech promoting my first book, "King of Shabbos." When it came time to deliver that speech, I stood in front of an audience of Jewish people, my people, our people, a people known for our stubbornness and skepticism, traits that have been amplified by thousands of years of pain and persecution. I explained how returning to our traditions made me feel proud to be Jewish and more fulfilled as a human being, and by implication, their returning to our Jewish traditions would do the same for them.

When I was finished, the strongest reaction in clearly the most interested member of the audience was, "So where are your tzitzis?"

And that is tonight's question. "So where are your tzitzis, Zalman Velvel?" A bold question, isn't it? My inquisitor could see that I had a beard. I also had a yarmulke. But he knew that Jewish men were also obligated to put on a four cornered garment with fringes on each corner, called tzitzis. Yes, the name is funny, but the question remained, where oh where were my tzitzis? Not on me, that was for sure. How could he tell?

Tzitzis and its fringes are worn as a daily reminder to follow the 613 commandments. You see, most Jews who wear this garment put it inside their shirt with the four fringes hanging out. But inside or outside, I didn't believe tzitzis were designed to be worn where I live, in South Florida, because we have eight months of summer, with 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity. It's too hot for anything but a t-shirt. That is what I told myself.

But too hot or not, it is still a commandment, and I knew it. And I knew that commandments are givens, commandments are laws. Commandments are not invitations to debate with the Almighty.

Yes, it's too hot in South Florida. True, but the tzitzis question had me walking around, muttering to myself, day and night for two weeks. What was I muttering about? I was wondering: "Who am I to stand up and say anything, to anyone, about anything Jewish, and me without tzitzis?"

So two weeks after the book speech, I'm standing inside my closet, looking at this lonely pair of tzitzis laying on one of my shelves. I bought it five years ago in Israel, during a religious frenzy, and vowed to wear it when I returned to the States. But when I hit the blazing Florida heat, the vow was forgotten... until that tzitzis question. I took the tzitzis off the shelf, unfolded it, took off my t-shirt, put on the tzitzis, and then placed my t-shirt over it. I looked down and there were four groups of fringes sticking out. I thought, "Hey, that's not so bad." Then I went outside.

Within seconds, rivers of sweat poured out of me. I charged back into the air-conditioned house shvitzing like Abraham fleeing from Sodom and Gemorah. Just as I was about to tear off my tzitzis, I heard this voice shout, "Hypocrite, hypocrite." No, it wasn't my wife. My wife is kinder than that. This was a voice from inside my soul and it repeated the word over and over until my response was: "Okay, okay, already! I'll keep it on."

Well, the fringes did become a daily reminder because they got caught in everything. Dozens of times each day, they got tangled on a chair, or wrapped up and knotted in my belt, or tied up around my cell phone, or in my car keys. So it's true, during the hundreds of times I stopped to untangle my tzitzis, I was reminded of the 613.

So where're your tzitzis, Zalman Velvel? Here, I'm wearing them. I replaced the first pair with special tzitzis made for the Israel Defense Forces, given to me by my brother. They are composed of an ultra-light mesh material, so there is less sweating.

Do they serve their purpose? Do they make me more observant? Well, yes and no. How's that for an answer? Yes, they remind me of our 613 commandments, but no, even with the reminders, I still break some of them. And then I start to feel guilty - another Jewish trait developed over thousands of years - but I don't think that was what G-d had in mind when he created the commandment. Okay, let's ask the true litmus test question - does my life feel better with or without tzitzis?

Well, and this is the surprising part, I actually like wearing tzitzis now, even with the heat and untangling, the shvitzing, even with the guilt. Why?

Because sometimes,I don't know if I can say this, sometimes I get this ... this feeling ... that G-d is watching us, you and me, and He's smiling, because at least we're trying to be better. I mean, isn't that why we're here tonight, isn't that why we come to Chabad? Aren't we trying to be better?

I would like you to think about that question on your way home: Are we trying to be better? If you take it with you.

But before you go, please congratulate yourselves for coming tonight. You've been a warm and generous audience for Chabad, and you deserve a hand. Come on, give yourselves a hand. And let me leave you, also, with a short and memorable blessing: May the L-rd bless you and watch over you - and let me add - with or without tzitzis.

Reprinted with permission from Zalman Velvel is the author of "King of Shabbos," a compilation of original short stories.

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Zevi and Miriam Tenenbaum recently moved to Irvine, California, where they have established a new Chabad House serving the Jewish students and faculty at the University of California at Irvine.

Rabbi Zalman and Rochel Chein have arrived in Binghamton, New York, where they will direct the Chabad House on the West Side as well as give classes to students who attend Binghamton University.

Rabbi Netanel and Estee BenMesh have moved to Moshav Makmoret located in Emek Chefer, Israel to work with the 350 families that live on the Moshav.

The Rebbe Writes

21st of Menachem Av, 5728 [1968]

Continued from the previous issue

This is what he [Maimonides] states (Par. 4):

And when a king of the House of David will arise, dedicated to the study of the Torah and observance of the Mitzvos (commandments) like his father David, according to the Torah Shebiksav [Written Torah] and Shebeal-Peh [Oral Torah], and he will compel all the Jewish people to walk in it and strengthen its fences, and he will fight the wars of G-d, he is assumed to be the Moshiach. (Note that this is not yet a certain sign of the Geulo [Redemption], for all this can still take place in a state of Golus [exile]. However) If he did so and has succeeded (in the above matters, namely having won all battles and impelled all the Jewish people to study the Torah and to mend its fences, we are still not sure and require a further sign, namely), and built the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] in its place (clearly in the holy city of Jerusalem, indicating that there would be a large Jewish population in that city, yet we are still not certain of the end of the Golus, so a further factor must be fulfilled, namely), and he gathers in the dispersed ones of Israel - then he is certainly the Moshiach.

Surely no further commentaries are necessary.

I will only add a further significant point, namely that this ruling and Din [legislation] of the Rambam [Maimonides[ is not contested by any Posek [Rabbinic authority]. Even the author of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], who has written a commentary on the Rambam, including this very chapter, the well known Kesef Mishneh has nothing to question here, accepting it fully, nor are there any other Poskim to differ.

To be sure there are various homilies and references and allusions to the period of the Geulo in the Aggadah and Midrash, etc., but these are homilies, and do not affect the practical Halachah [Jewish law]. Even in the Halachah we find at first certain differences of opinion on different matters, in the Mishna and Gemoroh, but once the final decision and Psak Din [legal ruling] is arrived at, it is valid for all without question.

It is clear from the above Psak Din of the Rambam that before there can be a Kibbutz Golyos [ingathering of exiles] and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh in its place, there has to be a full and complete return to the Torah and Mitzvos while Jews are still in the Golus, and it is this that is the prelude and preparation for the Geulo.

I am aware of the fact that there are many individuals who wish to rely on this or that saying of our Sages, in the [Talmud] Tractate Sanhedrin or in the [Talmud] Yerushalmi and the like, in order to base upon it their view, but I have always marveled at the inconsistency of these individuals in regard to their entire approach. For surely the Rambam knew just as well those sayings of the Sages in the Sanhedrin or Yerushalmi, etc., and understood them at least as well as the individuals quoting them. The inconsistency is in the fact that these very individuals consider every word and expression of the Rambam's elsewhere as most meticulous, and study it with awesome reverence. Yet when it comes to this simple and straightforward Psak Din of the Rambam, they simply ignored it altogether.

The reason I have written at some length in reply to your letter (though this length is overly brief in comparison with the subject matter), is that it is simply painful to contemplate how misplaced the concern is of some well-meaning individuals.

Instead of each and every Jew, young and old, man and woman, dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to reduce and eventually do away with the causes which brought about the Golus, namely "Mipnei chatoenu - because of our sins we have been exiled from our land," and what these "sins" are is clearly spelled out in the Shulchan Aruch - there are many Jews, undoubtedly with good intentions, who use all their energy and influence to find all sorts of means and ways of human invention to bring about the end of the Golus.

This is doubly painful for, firstly, it is simply a deception of Jews to believe that there can be any other way of Geulo than that which G-d had specified, and secondly, while engaged in other ways and means in futile effort to end the Golus, they cannot engage fully in the true battle against the Golus in terms of the Psak Din of the Rambam.

May G-d grant that each and all of us in the midst of all Israel, should be inspired with true Heavenly inspiration to walk in the way of the Torah and to mend its fences, for it is this that will prepare the way for Moshiach to implement all the conditions necessary to bring about the truly full and complete Geulo.

A Call to Action

Caring for Other's Belongings

"One must show concern for other Jews, and even for their property.... I.e., not only silver and gold and objects of value, but even objects of minimal worth which another Jew owns, must be cared for. Since such an object belongs to another Jew, one should guard it in a way which befits the fulfillment of one of G-d's mitzvot (commandments). (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 13 Menachem Av, 5751 - 1991)

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

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat, the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, is called Shabbat Nachamu. It is thus called after this week's Haftora, which begins with the words, "Nachamu, nachamu ami, - Take comfort, take comfort, My people."

Shabbat is the continuation and completion of the past week. Thus, even though during this week we commemorated the saddest event in Jewish history by fasting and mourning the loss of the Beit Hamikdash - our Holy Temple - the whole purpose of this week is to renew our hope and to be comforted that G-d's promise will be fulfilled and our Holy Temple will be rebuilt. Our sadness of Tisha B'Av should be replaced by the comfort of Shabbat Nachamu.

Our sadness is further alleviated by the upcoming date of Tu B'Av, the fifteenth day of Av. This is considered a joyous day for numerous reasons.

One reason concerns the generation of Jews that was forced to wander in the desert for forty years before entering the Land of Israel, due to their acceptance of the spies' false report about the Holy Land. Every year, on Tisha B'Av, members of this generation would die. On the fifteenth of Av, in the fortieth year of their wandering, this decree was lifted.

Also, during the era of the Roman Empire, the Romans attacked the Jews who resided in the city of Beitar and killed multitudes of men, women, and children. On Tu B'Av, the Romans finally allowed those Jews remaining in Beitar to give the murdered Jews a proper burial.

In the time of the Holy Temple, Tu B'Av was celebrated as a full festival. In our times, it is celebrated by making gatherings and increasing in Torah study, especially at night, as from this point on, the nights become longer.

Let us ask G-d to send Moshiach, so that the next Tisha B'Av will be a day of rejoicing in our Holy Temple, in an era when the lessons that can be derived from everything in the world will be openly revealed and acted upon.

Thoughts that Count

And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deut. 6:7)

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch offered a Chasidic explanation: "When you sit in your house" refers to the time when the soul is contained in the physical body; "when you lie down, and when you rise up" refers to the period after the resurrection of the dead.

(Sefer HaToldot)

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor shall you diminish from it (Deut. 4:2)

The Torah is a life-giving elixir, a Divine "prescription" for purity and holiness. It is therefore forbidden to add or detract from the Torah's commandments in the same way one mustn't tamper with the proportions of a medicinal compound. Too much or too little of any one element can be extremely detrimental, and the "doctor's" instructions must be followed exactly.

(Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz)

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor shall you diminish from it (Deut. 4:2)

The Torah is a life-giving elixir, a Divine "prescription" for purity and holiness. It is therefore forbidden to add or detract from the Torah's commandments in the same way one mustn't tamper with the proportions of a medicinal compound. Too much or too little of any one element can be extremely detrimental, and the "doctor's" instructions must be followed exactly.

(Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz)

It Once Happened

"Who is this young man studying with such concentration?" wondered Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel. "He seems to be unusually dedicated to his studies."

Yehoshua Heshel was a son of the renowned Rabbi Baruch Frankel Teomim.

He had come to Tarnogrod on business. Having completed his business affairs, he went to the synagogue to spend his spare time studying. Seeing the young man sparked an idea in his mind. "I must find out who he is," he resolved. "Perhaps he will make a good husband for my sister!"

Yehoshua Heshel struck up a conversation with the young student.

"What are you learning?" the rabbi inquired of him. The young man told him. Soon the two of them were in a deep Talmudic discussion.

"This young man has a wonderful mind and a deep comprehension of the Torah," concluded Yehoshua Heshel, growing more and more amazed. "And what is your name, young man?" Yehoshua Heshel asked.

"My name is Chaim Halberstam," he replied. "I am the son of Reb Aryeh Leibush, Rabbi of Premishlan."

Yehoshua Heshel noticed that Chaim was lame in one foot. "Well, no matter," he said. "He is still an exceptional young man."

He felt he had to let his father know about him immediately, and wrote his father a letter about Chaim. The letter left out one important fact, though; the young man's limp.

It was Divine providence that when the letter arrived, Reb Aryeh Leibush, Chaim's father, was just then sitting and talking with Rabbi Baruch Frankel Teomin, Yehoshua Heshel's father. He had come to transact some business and had stopped to pay his respects to the great sage.

"Well, well," chuckled Rabbi Baruch Frankel. "Look what we have here! A letter from my son suggesting that your son meet my daughter."

His visitor was astonished by the coincidence. "Really? May I see the letter?" he requested.

"Would you agree to the shiduch?" Rav Baruch Frankel asked.

"It is obviously a shiduch made in heaven!" was the enthusiastic response.

And so the match between the Halberstam and the Frankel Teomim families was struck. Soon word got out. What a simcha! But in the yeshiva of Rabbi Teomim, his students greeted the news skeptically.

"How does our rabbi make a match for his daughter with a stranger? We must see him first to make sure he's fit to marry our rabbi's daughter."

Two students were chosen to go secretly to Tarnogrod to sneak a look at the young Chaim. They returned with appalling news. The groom was lame.

Somehow the news reached Rochel Feigel. She was horrified. She came running to her father. "Father, Father, how could you do this to me?" she cried, tears of shame and anger running down her face.

"What is it, my daughter?" asked her father, alarmed.

"How could you make me a shiduch with a cripple?" she sobbed.

"Two of your students saw the groom. He's lame! He walks with a limp!"

"How could it be?" He was incredulous. "I want you to know one thing. I will not force you to marry him. If after meeting him, you don't like him, we will call off the shiduch!"

Yehoshua Heshel appeared before his father. He could see his father was livid with anger and he guessed why. "I trusted you and you deceived me!" Rabbi Baruch Frankel accused his son. "Why didn't you tell me the young man is handicapped?"

"I was afraid you wouldn't consider him. Please, father, see him for yourself. Once you meet and talk to him you'll forget about his limp right away." His father agreed and Chaim was sent for.

Chaim agreed to come for he sensed that something was amiss. Upon his arrival, he asked questions, and the people admitted that the bride was unhappy. "Let me speak to her privately," Chaim requested. Chaim and Rochel Feigel met for the first time.

He was not a bad-looking young man, Rochel Feigel confessed to herself, but he definitely had a limp. "Please, would you mind looking in the mirror?" Chaim asked her.

She thought, "What a strange request!" but she walked over to the mirror. What she saw in it made her gasp in fright. There in the mirror was her exact likeness, except for one thing...she was lame in one foot.

"You were supposed to be born lame," Chaim explained to her gently, "but knowing that I would be your partner in life, I asked heaven that I should be the lame one, instead of you."

After a moment Chaim added, "Now, do you still refuse to marry me?"

His words touched Rochel Feigel's heart. After he had revealed this fact, how could she object to the shiduch anymore? In fact, she thought, she rather liked the young man. She walked out of the room with a smile on her lips.

Everyone respected and liked the new young groom, but none more than the Rabbi of Leipnik. "My son-in-law's foot might be crooked, but his brain is very straight," he declared.

In later years, Reb Chaim Halberstam became none other than the holy Sanzer Rebbe, of blessed memory, to whom thousands turned for spiritual guidance.

Excerpted from Why The Baal Shem Tov Laughed, by Sterna Citron, published by Jason Aronson.

Moshiach Matters

" 'Comfort, comfort My people,' says the L-rd. 'Speak to her heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been conciliated, for she has received for the Hand of G-d double for all her sins.' "

(From the Haftara of Shabbat Nachamu, Isaiah 40:1-2)

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