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Devarim Deutronomy

   1088: Rosh Hashana

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Devarim Deutronomy

September 25, 2009 - 7 Tishrei, 5770

1089: Ha'Azinu

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

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  1088: Rosh Hashana1090: Succos  

The Most Important Peace  |  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

The Most Important Peace

Yom Kippur. The holiest day of the year. The day on which the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies.

The holiest man, in the holiest place, on the holiest day of the year - the spiritual climax of time, space, and soul.

What kind of preparation was necessary for the awesome entry of the High Priest, into the Holy of Holies, on the holiest day of the year?

The Torah itself mentions but one: "And he shall atone for himself and for his home." Upon this verse the Talmud comments, "his home" refers to "his wife" - only a High Priest who was married could enter the Holy of Holies.

The lesson is clear: the precondition for ultimate holiness is a Jewish home; and the most essential ingredient of that home is the wife.

The traditional roles of husband and wife in Judaism has often been called the neck-head syndrome. The wife is the neck and the husband is the head.

And the head goes where the neck turns it!

When Sara sees that Ishmael is having a negative influence on Isaac, she tells Abraham that he must send Ishmael away.

Abraham, for his part, is very upset. But then G-d steps in and takes Sara's side: "Everything that Sara says to you, listen to her voice!"

And Abraham obeys.

Abraham may be the head, but Sara is the neck!

The Torah emphasizes the importance of shalom bayit, peace in the home, and compares G-d's love of Israel to a husband's love of his wife.

The love of husband and wife is no small thing. It is the love of husband and wife which causes G-d's unique love for the Jewish people to become manifest.

And from the husband and wife, the love extends outwards to the entire family.

On Yom Kippur, the High Priest atoned "for himself and for his home."

In our fast-paced, hectic, day-to-day lives, how can we assure that the "peace in the home" extends to and is felt by every family member?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once campaigned that Jewish families should eat the Friday night Shabbat meal together. Through this weekly get-together, primacy can be given to the most important unit in Judaism - the family. Of course, this requires restricting ones outside activities on Friday night.

But people can surely understand that in order to create positive space, there must be restriction, barriers.

It's quite simple really. In order to promote the free flow of traffic, you must restrict cars to one side of the road.

In order to boil water, you must make a separation between the water and the fire. If you don't, one of two things will happen: either the water will evaporate or the fire will be extinguished.

If you want to bring families together you have to remove all the external stimuli. And this is what a Shabbat meal with one's family is about. Shabbat is not primarily about "don'ts." It is about transforming the home into a veritable Garden of Eden. And you create the positive space of Shabbat by fencing off the external stimuli.

May we blessed with a good, sweet and peaceful year, with strong shalom bayit that influences and extends throughout the world.

Based on a Yom Kippur sermon by Rabbi Bentzion Milecki of the South Head Synagogue - Sydney, Australia.

Living with the Rebbe

One feature of our Yom Kippur prayers is the recitation of the service performed by the High Priest in the Holy Temple on the Day of Atonement. The Holy Temple was razed nearly two thousand years ago and we no longer have a High Priest. However, the Temple was destroyed only in the physical sense, affecting the stones and precious metals from which it was built. The spiritual Holy Temple which exists in the soul of every Jew, remains untouched and can never be destroyed. The Yom Kippur service of the High Priest, therefore, is valid today, too.

The High Priest's service was divided into two parts: One was performed while wearing special garments made of gold, and the second was performed in simple, white linen. The gold clothing was worn for those parts of the service executed in the Temple and in the Temple court, while the white was reserved for the service performed within the Holy of Holies.

Maimonides explains that one of the reasons the priests were commanded to wear special garments "for honor and for beauty" is that a person must always utilize the finest and best of whatever he possesses in serving G-d. It is therefore only fitting that the High Priest's Yom Kippur garments were made of gold, a substance universally prized for its value and beauty.

Translating this concept to our inner, spiritual Temple, a Jew must always strive to serve G-d with all of his talents and to the best of his ability. A rich person, for instance, cannot claim that he has fulfilled his religious obligations by learning Torah--G-d has granted him wealth in order to share with others.

But if such is the case, why did the High Priest remove his golden finery before entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the year?

The Holy of Holies was the place in which the Ark and the tablets of the Ten Commandments were kept, and the site in which the Divine Presence was revealed and manifest. It was therefore appropriate for the High Priest to wear only white and pristine garments in the presence of such holiness.

In other words, although it is indeed necessary to utilize whatever riches and blessings a person is granted in order to serve G-d properly, one must realize that external trappings cannot affect the holy inner sanctum of the Jew. When a Jew really wants to plumb the depths of his soul and enter the "Holy of Holies," where the Tablets inscribed with the intrinsic bond between the Jew and G-d are kept, he must first sanctify and refine himself, approaching G-d with humility and clothed in pure white garments.

This self-sanctification is required of every Jew; in the Holy of Holies of the soul, all Jews are equal. On Yom Kippur, garments of gold are unnecessary. G-d asks only that we stand before Him with a pure heart and with a clear conscience, so that we may be sealed in the Book of Life for a good and sweet year.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

Ripping Off the Kittel
by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

The account below was related to me personally by Reb Leibel Zisman, a living witness to these unforgettable events. Leibel's birthday is on Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur Eve 1945/5706, Foehrenwald DP Camp, Germany.

The sun was about to set on Yom Kippur eve, the holiest day of the year.

But for us it felt like Tisha B'av. Just a few months earlier we were living, if you can call that living, it was actually dying, in the unspeakable horror that was called the Gunskirchen Lager (concentration camp) in Northern Austria. It is impossible to describe the hundreds of dead bodies strewn about everywhere you turned throughout the camp. The hunger, the stench, the death, the insanity was everywhere. The Nazis, may their names and memories be forever erased, dehumanized us, turning us into ravenous sub-humans, desperate for a drop of water. Days would go by between a morsel of bread and a paltry sip.

I was 14-years-old when we were finally liberated on May 5, 1945. Orphaned, widowed, homeless - completely alone with no place to go - we wandered in what now appears a complete fog. But it all comes back to me as I tell the story.

We - some 5,000 of us survivors - ended up in the Foehrenwald DP Camp in Germany, where we spent Yom Kippur, together with the Klausenburger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, who tragically lost his wife and 11 children to the German beasts.

As night was falling that Yom Kippur eve all 5,000 of us gathered in a makeshift shul for Kol Nidrei. As is the custom in many communities, the Klausenburger Rebbe stood up on the bima (the central platform) to share a few pre-Kol Nidrei words to awaken our hearts and prepare us for the awesome day ahead of us.

I will never forget what the Klausenberger Rebbe said that Yom Kippur eve over six decades ago. The moment was overwhelming.

With tears in his eyes he began by thanking G-d for saving our lives from the Nazi hell. He then pointed to his kittel - the white linen robe that we traditionally wear on Yom Kippur - and began to speak, slowly, deliberately, tearfully:

"One of the reasons we wear this kittel is because it is the traditional burial garment, in which we wrap a body before laying it to rest in the ground, as we do when we bury our parents and those that came before us. Wearing a kittel on Yom Kippur thus reminds us of our final day of judgment when we will be laid to rest. It therefore humbles and breaks our hearts, stirring us to do complete teshuva (return). The white, linen kittel is a symbol of purity that we achieve through our introspection and efforts to repair all our wrongs.

"Since the kittel reminds us of the burial shrouds of those who passed on before us," continued the Klausenberger, "why are we wearing a kittel today? Our parents and loved ones were just slaughtered without tachrichim (burial shrouds). They were buried, with or without clothes, in mass graves, or in no graves at all..."

Suddenly, the Klausenberger Rebbe began tearing off his own kittel, literally. "No kittel!" he cried out in an anguished voice. "Let us be like our parents. Let us remove our kittels, so that they can recognize us. They won't recognize us in kittels, because they are not wrapped in kittels..."

I have no words to capture the emotions pouring out of the grand Rebbe that first Yom Kippur after the horror.

Everyone gathered in the shul began to weep uncontrollably - men, women, old, young, every person in the large hall. All our anguish, all our unbearable losses, all the humiliation and dehumanization came spilling out of our guts.

It was an unforgettable sight: 5,000 people sobbing. Not sobbing; bawling. The floor was wet with the tears gushing from all our eyes.

What a stirring awakening we experienced that Yom Kippur eve, it was unbelievable.

The Rebbe's words rang in our ears, in every fiber of our broken beings - every one of us had just lost our closest relatives: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts. We were indelibly scarred. The words rang out: "What do we need tachrichim for?! Your father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, zeide, bobbe - they are all lying mangled in mass graves. Or in no graves at all - burned to ashes... What tachrichim? What clothes? What kittel?!...

Picture the scene: The holiest night of the year. The awesome moment just before Kol Nidrei. All the Torah scrolls lifted out of the ark. 5,000 broken Jews, left shattered, orphaned without families. The saintly Klausenberger Rav standing on the bima, ripping off his kittel - "We don't need it..."

What more can be said? Yet, as another Rebbe once expressed himself: "It difficult to speak, but it's more difficult to remain silent."

Today, we are blessed to enter Yom Kippur without the misery that haunted Yom Kippur in 1945, immediately after the liberation from the camps. Yom Kippur today comes amidst many blessings and comforts. We live in freedom and have achieved many levels of success. It's almost impossible to imagine that in just six decades the Jewish people have gone through such a renaissance: With the growth of Israel, advancements in Jewish education and overall prosperity. Jewish life today is nothing less than a modern miracle.

In stark contrast to 1945, we now enjoy a sumptuous meal before the holiday together with our intact families. We dress up, don our well-pressed kittels and enter our synagogues in calm and peace.

But we must never forget, we must never get caught in the trap of complacency.

Yom Kippur is upon us. And heaven and earth are our witness that we are linked today to all generations past - both a gift and a responsibility.

As the sun sets this coming Sunday evening and we put on our kittels, we have much to cry and sing about - for ourselves, our families, generations past, future generations, from the beginning of time into eternity itself.

Reprinted with permission (c) 2009 The Meaningful Life Center. All rights reserved.

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The Rebbe Writes

In the Ten Days of Teshuva, 5736 [1975]

...Inasmuch as we are now in the propitious days of Aseres Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Return), it is well to remember that this is the time of the year which our Sages identify with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found, call on Him when He is near." This "nearness" is described as the "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark." May G-d grant that this be reflected in the daily life throughout the whole year, in all aspects, both spiritual as well as material.

Indeed, since all expressions used by our Sages, as all words of Torah, are exact, the said expression, "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark," is particularly meaningful. For, the proximity of the Source of Light increase the spark's flame and power, and so in the spiritual realm, where the nearness of G-d, the Source of Light and Source of Blessing, sets the Jew's heart and mind aglow with love of G-d and awe of G-d, stimulating him (and her) to observe and the channels and vessels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.

With the blessing of Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo [be fully sealed for good] and good things in all above,

From an audience of the Lubavitcher Rebbe with a group of Jewish students:
The Ten Days of Teshuva [Repentance] which begin with the two days of Rosh Hashana and continue through their culmination, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, are the ten days of the inauguration of the new year.

Between these three solemn days of the year we are given a period of seven days, containing every day of the week; one Sunday, one Monday, and so forth. This complete week, neither more nor less, is given to us to enable us to atone and repent for any wrong deeds accounted for during the previous year, and to better our way of life in the new year. That we have been given a complete week in which to accomplish this is significant: Spending Sunday of this week as we should, and making the most of the time, serves as a repentance and atonement especially for all the wrong done on all the Sundays of the previous year; the same may be done on the Monday of this week for all the Mondays of the past year, and so on.

However, repentance implies two essential conditions: regret for the past and resolution for the future. Therefore, this seven-day period is also a means of planned preparation for the forthcoming year. On the Sunday of this week we should think in particular of bettering the Sundays of the upcoming new year. This will give us the strength and ability to carry out and fulfill our obligations on the Sundays to come. Likewise, with regard to all the other days of this as regards the forthcoming year.

By considering only ourselves, however, we would deal with just a part of our obligations. As I have emphasized many times in the past, one should not and must not be content with leading a proper Jewish life personally, in one's own home and family. One must recognize and fulfill one's obligation to the environment by influencing others in it to adhere to the Torah and to its precepts. This duty is particularly required of youth, on whom G-d has bestowed an extra measure of natural energy, enabling them to become leaders, particularly among their own youth groups, and to inspire others in the ways of our Torah and Torah-true way of life.

I hope and pray that everyone of you will become a leader and source of positive influence in your environment, leading Jews, and Jewish youth in particular, to a true Jewish life, a life of happiness, a life in which its spiritual and material aspects are properly balanced. Such perfect harmony of the spiritual and material can only be found in the Torah and mitzvoth [commandments], and in the light of the Torah you will lead your colleagues and friends to true happiness.

A Call to Action


Spend time during these "Ten Days of Repentance" in sincere introspection with the knowledge that "nothing stands in the way of repentance." Our Sages taught that our transgressions are turned into merits if we repent properly. The Rebbe adds that by beginning to fulfill a commandment that one had previously neglected and encouraging others to do so, one can actually retroactively rectify any spiritual damage caused by one's neglect.

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

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We are currently in the days known as the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashana up to and including Yom Kippur.

In the midst of these awesome days we observed the yahrzeit (on 6 Tishrei-Sept. 24 this year) of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

In a talk following his mother's yahrzeit, the Rebbe noted that all women named Chana share a connection to the first Chana.

The Biblical Chana was a prophetess and the mother of one of our greatest prophets, Shmuel.

A scene from her life, and her prayer - the intertwined request for a child and the Messianic Era - are the Haftorah reading on the first day of Rosh Hashana.

Two stories recounted by the Rebbe at gatherings in honor of his mother's yahrzeit illustrate a fundamental concept.

The first anecdote took place when the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, was in exile. Rebbetzin Chana ingeniously managed to produce different color inks from wild plants for Rabbi Levi Yitzchak to use in writing his Torah innovations, as he was not even afforded ink with which to write.

The second incident took place after Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's passing. Rebbetzin Chana miraculously succeeded in smuggling Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's writings out of Communist Russia.

The Rebbe explained that these two incidents teach us that when, by Divine Providence, a mission is given to an individual - even if that mission seems utterly futile or impossible - one's efforts will ultimately be crowned with success.

Though one must work within the confines of nature, one must not be constricted by nature, for it is the infinite and supranatural G-d who has presented one with this mission.

As our Divinely appointed mission in these last moments of exile is to hasten the Redemption's arrival and prepare ourselves for the long-awaited Messianic Era, we can look to the prophetess Chana and her namesake, the Rebbetzin Chana, for inspiration.

Thoughts that Count

Listen heavens, and I will speak; hear earth, the words of my mouth. (Deut. 32:1)

"Listen" is an expression of teaching, whereas "hear" connotes that one learns "by the way." The difference in language can be understand as follows: Moses wanted all the Jewish people, great and small, to listen to his words of exhortation to follow the Torah. Therefore, he started by addressing himself to the leaders of the people (hinted to by the word "heaven"). Once they listened, it would follow that the "earth," the simpler Israelites, would see that the leaders were conducting themselves in the proper manner, and they would behave, by the way, properly.

(Ohr HaChaim)

And the L-rd saw it and spurned them, because His sons and daughters were provoked. (32:19)

G-d's anger is kindled when "His sons and daughters are provoked" -- when the children of Israel provoke and anger one another, when there is strife, contention and separation. When the Jewish people are annoyed with each other, G-d is annoyed with them.

(Rabbi Moses Pollak)

Jacob is the lot of His inheritance (Deut. 32:9)

The Hebrew word for "lot"- "chevel"- also means "rope." Jacob was the third of the Patriarchs. Like a rope that is strong because it is made of three threads, Jacob had three merits: the merit of his father's father, his own father and himself. Through these combined strengths Jacob and his sons were able to become G-d's inheritance.


...He, and Hosheia the son of Nun (32:44).

Why was Joshua (Yehoshua) referred to here by his original name, Hosheia? To inform us that although he was being given a position of greatness as the successor of Moses, he did not become egotistical or overbearing. He remained the same as always.


It Once Happened

The story of Yona is read on Yom Kippur as the Haftorah

The streets of Jerusalem were full of Jews who had come to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot. The Prophet Yona was among the happy celebrants until the prophecy came to him, saying: "Arise! Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against her, for their wickedness has ascended before Me."

For Yona, this was an unwelcome mission, for if the sinful people of that great, gentile metropolis were to heed his call and return to G-d, how would that reflect upon his recalcitrant brethren - those who had resisted the pleas of so many prophets? Wouldn't G-d's anger burn against them all the more? And the Ninevites, the bitter enemies of the Israelites, would be forgiven! No, Yona decided, he would not follow the bidding of his Master. He would flee. Never would he, even unwittingly, cause punishment to his beloved brethren. He would escape to the sea, and perhaps there, holy prophecy would depart from him and he would be free of the onerous command.

When he arrived in the city of Jaffa Yona blended into the general fray and hastened to find a ship bound for Tarshish. He approached the local seamen, but they told him all ships had set sail and there were none to be hired. Yona was almost frantic as his eyes scanned the horizon. Out as far as he could see there seemed to be a dark speck on the sea - could it be a ship? In what seemed to be an incredibly short span of time, it drew close enough to identify. Sure enough, it was a ship heading straight to port.

Even before it had time to anchor, Yona boarded and approached the captain. "Take me to Tarshish at once. Don't worry about passengers - I will pay the entire fare. Just make haste." The captain accepted the fare and set sail, but no sooner had they reached the open sea than a violent storm engulfed the ship. The frightened sailors tried to steady the ship, and desperately tried to return to port, but they were trapped in the swirling waves. Standing on the deck, they could see other ships passing by on peaceful waters. But for them, the sea churned with ever-increasing fury.

They decided to cast lots, and each time the lot fell on Yona. "Who are you and where are you from? What people do you belong to?" they asked.

"I am a Jew, and I fear G-d, Creator of the earth and the seas," he replied.

"What have you done to bring about this storm, and how can we stop it?"

Yona was resigned to his fate. He looked at them and replied, "Cast me into the sea, and the storm will abate."

But the sailors were unwilling to commit what would surely be murder. They tried to bring the ship to port, but to no avail. Finally, they agreed to test his word and lowered him partially into the raging waters. Immediately the storm ceased. When they pulled him out, it raged again. It was clear to them that they would perish unless they heeded his words, and begging forgiveness, they cast him into the sea.

Yona suddenly felt himself being swallowed by a huge fish. For three days and nights Yona lived inside the belly of the fish and prayed to G-d in total repentance. When he had returned to G-d completely, G-d caused the fish to swim near the shore and spit Yona out onto the beach.

He entered the huge city of Nineveh and proclaimed G-d's word: "In 40 days Nineveh will be overturned!" The people of the city believed him, and even the king sat in sackcloth and ashes and repented. They all repented both in word and deed. When G-d saw their sincerity and how they had turned from all their evil, He relented and pardoned the city.

Yona was sick at heart, for what he had so greatly feared had indeed transpired, and he prayed to G-d, saying, "Wasn't this why I fled to Tarshish, for I knew You would always pardon a sinner who returns to you, even these evil people! Now, death is more preferable to me than life!"

And G-d answered him, "Are you so deeply grieved that this huge and populous city has been spared?"

Yona left the city and built a booth in the eastern outskirts, intending to wait out the forty-day period to see if the Ninevites would indeed remain true to their resolve. The heat beat down relentlessly piercing his makeshift shelter, and the prophet slept fitfully through the sweltering night.

Overnight G-d had caused a leafy kikayon tree to sprout and shed a blessed coolness overhead. Yona was full of joy on account of the kikayon tree. The very next morning G-d sent a worm to attack the kikayon, and it withered and died. The sun beat down and an east wind blew, and Yona wanted to die. G-d said to him, "Are you so grieved on account of the kikayon?"

"Yes," replied Yonah, "I wish that I would die."

And G-d said to him: "You took pity on a plant which you neither planted nor labored over. It appeared overnight and vanished overnight. And I - should I not take pity on Nineveh, a great city in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people as well as animals?"

And Yonah was still.

Moshiach Matters

Fasting on Yom Kippur is an expression of pure faith in G-d. Yom Kippur is compared to Shabbat, and Shabbat is compared to the Era of Moshiach. In the Era of Moshiach, G-d will obliterate hunger, starvation, need and blight from mankind. On Yom Kippur, a day of Moshiach in microcosm, we divorce ourselves from our needs for physical maintenance and rely on G-d, as we will when Moshiach comes.

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