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Devarim Deutronomy

   1129: Devarim

1130: Vaeschanan

1131: Eikev

1132: Re'eh

1133: Shoftim

1134: Ki Seitzei

1135: Ki Savo

1136: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

August 6, 2010 - 26 Av, 5770

1132: Re'eh

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  1131: Eikev1133: Shoftim  

Moving Day  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's In A Name  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Moving Day

When the movers arrive, with the packed boxes and wrapped furniture, it's a day of anxiety and bustle. Is anything damaged? Is anything missing?

As we unpack and arrange our belongings, we can't help but take pride in our possessions. Indeed, we make our home our own by what we have, what we've accumulated. We "move in" by setting things up.

When we have our possessions with us, arranged to our liking, reflecting our personality, that's when we feel we have fully "moved in" to our house, made it our home.

This concept of "moving into our home," of taking possession of our possessions, recalls a well-known story about the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov.

A wealthy merchant during his travels had occasion to pass through Mezritch and, having heard of the Maggid, decided to visit him. Going into the street where the Maggid lived, the man was a bit confused. His confusion grew as he approached the Maggid's house: it was not even a well-to-do dwelling, much less the mansion he had expected. Once inside, the man could not hide his shock.

The Maggid, seeing how perplexed the man was, asked what was troubling him.

"With all due respect," the wealthy merchant began, "I don't understand. A man of your reputation! I expected a more magnificent dwelling. But I can understand that in a small village such as Mezritch, a house suited to your station might be too glaring. But here, inside your home, surely there should be some lavish furnishings or other possessions worthy of a great Torah scholar, a leader of the generation."

"Tell me," the Maggid replied. "You are a man of wealth and stature. In your room, in the inn where you are staying, what have you there?"

"Just some items necessary for travel. A change of clothes, my account books. That sort of thing."

"What of your furniture, or other possessions worthy of your position?"

The merchant laughed. "It would indeed be foolish to carry my paintings, my antiques, my chandeliers throughout my journeys. No, in that room, there is barely a table to write on. It is only a temporary dwelling, so what of it? But in my home, ah, there I have such possessions, such works of art, such fine furnishings, that reflect my accomplishments and the wealth I have accumulated."

"Why, it is the same with me," said the Maggid with a smile. "This world is a temporary dwelling, and all my possessions here are few and only what I need for the journey. But in the world to come, ah, there, I assure you, I have accumulated many treasures. There I have all my possessions, the Torah I have learned and taught, and the mitzvot (commandments) I have observed and have encouraged others to observe."

If we remember the words of the Maggid, then, in a sense, every day is Moving Day! For we can always move into our spiritual home, set up our real furniture and display our real possessions - our Torah and mitzvot.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Re'ei, the Children of Israel are commanded to maintain their own code of behavior and not to learn from the nations that inhabited Israel before its conquest. "Take heed to yourself that you not be snared by following them." A Jew must never ask, "How do these gentiles worship their gods, that I may do the same?" For G-d has commanded us: "You must not do this before the L-rd your G-d... But hearken to the voice of the L-rd your G-d, to keep all His commandments... to do that which is right in the eyes of the L-rd your G-d."

Moses warned the Jews against imitating the gentiles' conduct. They have their own culture and customs, he explained. Some worship idols, some spend their lives trying to satisfy earthly lusts and desires, while others are motivated by the pursuit of power. But it is forbidden for a Jew to learn from their behavior.

From a numerical standpoint, of course, the Jewish people is the most insignificant of all the nations. Nonetheless, its conduct is entirely unique. Some Jews might mistakenly think that the key to earning the respect and admiration of the gentile nations is to copy their behavior. And yet the opposite is true. It is only when Jews proudly maintain their Jewish traditions and unwavering faith in G-d that they merit not only the respect of their gentile neighbors, but their support and assistance as well.

G-d placed the Jewish people among the nations so that others may see and learn from their simple and uncompromising faith. Jews must always remember that "You have chosen us from among the nations" and conduct themselves according to His will, as revealed in the Torah.

When Jews conduct themselves in such a manner, so as to serve as living examples to the gentiles, they demonstrate that it is indeed possible to adhere to the Seven Noahide Laws that apply to all mankind.

The Jewish people has lived according to the Torah's laws for over 3,000 years. Yet despite its antiquity, the Torah is equally relevant to our present day and age, imparting all who follow in its ways with renewed strength and vitality.

When Jews keep G-d's laws and refuse to mimic the surrounding nations, they merit a multitude of G-d's blessings: long life and good years, tranquility and peace, physical health and true pleasure.

Additionally, when Jews do what is right, the gentile nations not only hold them in high esteem, but lend their assistance as well.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Hitva'aduyot 5745, Vol. 5

A Slice of Life

Bernie and Leslee Feiwus with their children Coming Home
by Yehudis Cohen

"I don't know how they got our name and address, but I received a postcard one day in the mail," says Leslee Feiwus, as she relates how she and her husband Bernie became part of the Chabad of Plano (Texas) family. "The postcard was about a JLI (Jewish Learning Institute) class on Kabbalah. I had always wanted to learn Kabbalah so I went with a friend to the class."

Why with a friend and not Bernie? "In those days, I wouldn't have gone," Bernie chuckles.

Leslee continues. "I had an overwhelming feeling when I walked through the doors (of Chabad of Plano), a rush of emotions. When I walked in, I felt like I had come home. We had belonged to another synagogue in Plano for 20 years but I knew when I walked in there that I had found the spiritual home that I had looked for all of my life.

"I loved the JLI class. I loved the people I met there. I loved the fact that the rabbi came over to me at that first class and introduced himself.

When I kept going back Bernie's family started teasing me."

Bernie had been raised Modern Orthodox in Brooklyn, but Leslee had been raised Reform.

"They thought it was funny that I was going to Chabad. 'When are you going to start wearing a sheitel (wig) and a long skirt?' Well, it still hasn't happened," Leslie smiles.

So how did Bernie, who explains "I was brought up modern Orthodox but I wouldn't or couldn't be that religious so as soon as I had the chance I stopped going to synagogue," start coming to Chabad?

"It took me an entire year to get Bernie to join me at Chabad," laughs Leslee. "He finally came to a Purim party. Rabbi (Menachem Block, cofounder and director of Chabad of Plano with his wife Rivkie) kept nudging me to bring Bernie."

"When Leslee first told me she was going to Chabad, I said 'What's going on here?' I didn't get it. Now that I'm involved I ask myself, 'Where was I for all these years?' I grew up in East New York (near Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn). Leslee dragged me to the Purim dinner and Rabbi Block came over to me as soon as we walked in and introduced himself."

The rabbi's introduction was Bernie's first clue that his experience at Chabad would be different than any he had ever had before. "I was used to going to a synagogue where if you didn't say anything to anyone, no one approached you. Rabbi Block and I were talking the whole night. I sat next to him at the dinner. Three hours later, we were dancing out the doors into the parking lot. That's how I got involved."

Leslee and Bernie started going to Shabbat services once in a while. "I love going on Friday nights," says Bernie.

"I don't, 'cause none of the women come on Friday nights. I like the Saturday services," Leslee chuckles.

Bernie continues, "On the first day of Rosh Hashana, just a half a year after I'd first walked into Chabad, the rabbi came over to me and told me, 'I'd like to give you kohein aliya (to be called up for the Torah reading as a kohen). I was so taken aback."

"In other shuls you have to pay for the honor," interjects Leslee.

"I was brand new there, I wasn't that religious. I said 'no.' But that act of acceptance was the impetus for us to decide that we would come more often. I was learning at my own pace, and being accepted for who I am, and being encouraged to do more rather than being told that I have to do everything. It's been 7-8 years now that we've been involved with Chabad and every year I find myself feeling more connected Jewishly, doing more religiously and truly enjoying it! All of the rabbis and rebbetzins at Chabad of Plano - the Blocks, the Horowitzs - are so spectacular that now I want to do things."

"No matter where you go," explains Leslee, "you find a home away from home in a Chabad House. It's a family, not just a synagogue."

"We have our own little shtetel here in Plano," interjects Bernie. "I love it!"

Have any of the Feiwus children caught their parents' "I love Chabad" bug? Leslee leans over, almost conspiratorially: "For a whole year after Bernie started coming to Chabad, Rivkie (Block) and Sarah (Alevsky, who has since moved with her husband Chaim Boruch to Manhattan's Upper West Side to direct the Chabad teen activities there) were working on getting our daughter Dana involved. They would call her up and ask her 'teen' questions for the teen programs they were running. They knew she is a talented artist so they asked Dana if she would paint portraits at a kids' program at Chabad one Sunday. The kids loved her and asked her if she was going to come back to Chabad. Purim rolled around and they asked Dana to play Vashti in the Purim skit. The kids loved her and asked her if she was coming back to Chabad. Dana was a junior counselor and then a counselor at Plano's Camp Gan Izzy for three summers. She fell in love with all of the Chabad girls who were counselors each summer.

Today, Dana has Chabad friends all over the world. She even went - we all went - to one of the counselor's weddings in Crown Heights!"

"Now, I put on tefilin most mornings. I've done it in airports. I've done it at work. If anybody had told me ten years ago I'd be walking around wearing a kipa and putting on tefilin in public places, I wouldn't have believed them! And," concludes Bernie, "This summer we're looking forward to going to our third JLI Retreat (" Kind of where it all began for the Feiwus family.

What's New

Mikva Dedicated

The mikva in Marrakesh, Morocco, has been renovated and refurbished under the auspices of Chabad of Marrakesh. Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Chanie Arad plan on using the dedication of the mikva as a springboard to reach out to the community about the laws of Family Purity.

Chapels Open in Russian Jails

Thanks to an agreement between the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and the Federal Penitentiary Service, two chapels have already been opened in Russian penitentiaries in the Arkhangelsk region, and that there is also a prayer room in a penitentiary located near Saratov.The FJC Russia also plans to open at least another ten prayer rooms in correctional facilities.

The Rebbe Writes

14th of Sivan, 5724 [1964]

Blessing and Greeting:

I am in receipt of your letter of May 21st, in which you write about your background and some highlights of your life.

In reply, I will address myself at once to the essential point in your letter, namely your attitude towards religious observance, as you describe in your letter, and especially to the particular Mitzvah [commandment] which is most essential for a happy married life, namely Taharas Hamishpocho [the Laws of Family Purity]. You write that you do not understand the importance of this Mitzvah, etc. This is not surprising, as is clear from the analogy of a small child being unable to understand a professor who is advanced in knowledge. Bear in mind that the condition between the small child and the advanced professor is only a difference in degree and not in kind, inasmuch as the child may, in due course, not only attain the same level of the professor, but even surpass him.

It is quite otherwise in the difference between a created being, be he the wisest person on earth, and the Creator Himself. How can we, humans, expect to understand the infinite wisdom of the Creator? It is only because of G-d's great kindness that He has revealed certain reasons with regard to certain Mitzvoth, that we can get some sort of a glimpse or insight into them. It is quite clear that G-d has given us the various commandments for our own sake and not in order to benefit Him. It is therefore clear what the sensible attitude towards the Mitzvoth should be. If this is so with regard to any Mitzvah, how much more so with regard to the said Mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpocho, which has a direct bearing not only on the mutual happiness of the husband and wife, but also on the well-being and happiness of their offspring, their children and children's children.

It is equally clear that parents are always anxious to do everything possible for their children, even if there is only a very small chance that their efforts would materialize, and even if these efforts entail considerable difficulties. How much more so in this case where the benefit to be derived is very great and lasting, while the sacrifice is negligible by comparison. Even where the difficulties are not entirely imaginary, it is certain that they become less and less with actual observance of the Mitzvah, so that they eventually disappear altogether.

Needless to say I am aware of the "argument" that there are many non-observant married couples, yet seemingly happy, etc. The answer is simple. First of all, it is well known that G-d is very merciful and patient, and waits for the erring sinner to return to Him in sincere repentance. Secondly, appearances are deceptive, and one can never know what the true facts are about somebody else's life, especially as certain things relating to children and other personal matters are, for obvious reasons, kept in strict confidence.

As a matter of fact, in regard to the observance of Taharas Hamishpocho, even the plain statistics of reports and tables by specialists, doctors and sociologists etc., who cannot be considered partial towards the religious Jew, clearly show the benefits which accrued to those Jewish circles which observed Taharas Hamishpocho. These statistics have also been published in various publications, but it is not my intention to dwell on this at length in this letter.

My intention in writing all the above is, of course, not to admonish or preach, but in the hope that upon receipt of my letter you will consider the matter more deeply, and will at once begin to observe the Mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpocho, within the framework of the general Jewish way of life which our Creator has clearly given to us in His Torah, which is called Toras Chaim, the Law of Life.

Even if it seems to you that you have some difficulties to overcome, you may be certain that you will overcome them and that the difficulties are only in the initial stages.

I understand that in your community there are young couples who are observant and you could discuss this matter with them, and find out all the laws and regulations of Taharas Hamishpocho. If, however, you find it inconvenient to seek the knowledge from friends, there are booklets which have been published, which contain the desired information, also a list of places where a Mikvah is available.

Next I will refer to the various undesirable events which occurred in your family, which left you confused, as you write. In view of what has been said above, it is not entirely unexpected. For, inasmuch as the essence of a Jew is to live in accordance with G-d's command, it is clear that if one disturbs the normal flow of this kind of life by disobeying G-d's command, it is not surprising that one should feel confused, lacking the true faith in G-d, which is the only terra firma for a Jew. Moreover, inasmuch as the Mitzvoth are also the channels through which to receive G-d's blessings, it is not surprising that a lack of observance prevents the fulfillment of G-d's blessings.

I repeat, it is not my intention to admonish with regard to the past, but if you want to follow my advice, I urge you to begin from now on to live the Jewish way of life with a firm resolution and determination, and this will surely bring you the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good....

With blessing,

What's In A Name

DAN means "judge." Dan was one of Jacob's sons from his wife Bilha - the fifth of twelve (Genesis 30:6). Dan is not a diminutive form of Daniel.

DINA is from the Hebrew meaning "judgment." Dina was the daughter of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 30:21). When she was captured by Shechem, her brothers Shimon and Levi destroyed the entire city to get her back.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim, when we bless the upcoming month of Elul. The month of Elul is a month of preparation, when we take stock of ourselves in anticipation of the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashana.

In Elul, one contemplates the past year, utterly regretting whatever has been undesirable, and resolving to be vigilant in the meticulous observance of the commandments, to be conscientious in one's Torah study and in one's prayers, and to habituate oneself to positive character traits.

The name of the month, "Elul," is an acronym for the Hebrew words which mean, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine."

"I am my Beloved's" refers to serving G-d through one's own initiative. When a Jew serves G-d through his own initiative, the bond between G-d and the Jew is internalized. "My Beloved is mine" refers to Divine revelation which inspires this bond. Elul represents a month of complete connection, through revelation from Above and service from below.

This concept is also connected to this week's Torah portion, Re'ei, which begins with the words, "See I am giving before you today." All of the aspects of our service to G-d should be seen and openly revealed. When someone sees something, it makes a greater impression than if it is just heard. Torah and mitzvot should be openly revealed, and not just something we hear about.

In a deeper sense, we should use our sight to see not just the physicality of the world, but also the essence of G-d and His handiwork in our surroundings. Additionally, when one recognizes his own G-dliness and the G-dliness.

Additionally, when one recognizes his own G-dliness and the G-dliness of other Jews, this will lead him to truly be able to fulfill the mitzva of loving one's fellow Jew.

Thoughts that Count

When you go over the Jordan and dwell in the land...He will give you rest from all your enemies ...and you will dwell in safety (Deut. 12:10)

If G-d gives the Jews "rest from all their enemies," isn't it obvious they will "dwell in safety"? The seeming repetition, however, contains valuable advice: G-d counsels, If you truly wish to "rest from all your enemies," you must "dwell in safety" within your own camp - in peace and brotherhood, without inner squabbling and political strife. Declared our Sages: "Were Israel united into one group, no nation or tongue could rule over them."

(G'lilei Zahav)

Lest your eye be evil against your needy brother...and he cry out to G-d against you, and it be a sin in you (Deut. 15:9)

Not helping another person in his time of need is bad enough, but looking down on him and blaming him for his own predicament is even worse. For if "he cries out to G-d against you," your own behavior will be carefully scrutinized, and your own sins and failings come to light...

(Rabbi Shmelke of Nicholsburg)

And you shall bind up the money in your hand (Deut. 14:25)

The Torah commands the Jew to "bind up" his money and rule over it, and not the other way around. In other words, his monetary affairs must never exert such an influence over him that they become his master.

(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)

It Once Happened

Shortly after the Spanish Inquisition, a Spanish Jew named Joseph Jospa arrived in Krakow. He was a great scholar and a tzadik (righteous person), and was greatly respected by the Jews of Krakow, who called him the Spanish Tzadik. Being 50 years of age and unmarried, he lived by himself.

Thirty years went by in this manner until a tragic event changed this. A young businessman from Krakow was killed during a business trip to Prague, leaving a widow with no children. The businessman's brother performed a chalitza ceremony in the Rabbinical Court of Krakow. It was the custom of Krakow in those days for the chalitza ceremony to be a community event, after which the rabbi of the Rabbinical Court would bless the woman that she should soon marry and have children. Then the shamash would announce that if any man present wished to marry the woman, he should present himself to the Court.

No one responded on that particular occasion, but about five months later, Joseph Jospa, the Spanish Tzadik, came to the Court and announced that he wished to marry the widow, if she would agree. He explained that he had not intended to get married, but now, for certain reasons which he did not wish to reveal, he wished to marry despite his advanced years.

The Court then sent for the widow. Immediately upon arriving in the Court, even before she had a chance to ask why she was summoned, she burst into tears.

"Why are you crying?" they asked her.

"I have a terrible secret weighing me down, but I can't make up my mind whether to tell you about it," she replied.

She said she had been having a recurrent dream in which her father, who passed away many years before, appeared to her and asked her to do something. She could not decide whether to listen to him. She was worried and asked the Court for advice.

The rabbis of the Court told her that it would be best if she would tell them what the dream was. She said that in her first dream, her father appeared to her dressed in his Shabbos clothes, put his hands over her head, blessed her and said, "And now I wish you mazel tov, for it has been decreed that you marry the Spanish Tzadik, Joseph Jospa."

She had awoken from this dream trembling violently, but put it out of her mind. She had the dream again, but again did not take it seriously. Then her father appeared to her looking very serious and told her to that there was no way out of it, as it had been decided in the Heavenly Court. She must speak to someone to arrange the marriage. If she listened to him, he continued, she would be blessed with a son. But if she refused she would come to a bitter end.

Three more times she had the dream, and she finally decided to go to the Court about it. She had just made the decision to go, when the shamash arrived, informing her that the Court had sent for her.

When she finished her story, the rabbis of the Court looked at each other in amazement and told the woman that Joseph Jospa had come to them and told them that he wanted to marry her. She now had no doubt that it was G-d's will that she marry the tzadik, and the marriage was arranged. The wedding was a great celebration for the whole community. Everyone in Krakow felt that this was no ordinary wedding, but that it held an inner significance beyond their comprehension.

In the second year of their marriage, they were blessed with a son, whom Joseph Jospa named Elijah, after Elijah the Prophet. When Elijah was two, Joseph Jospa taught him Torah until he was of bar mitzva age, and he studied diligently.

About two weeks before Elijah's bar mitzva, Joseph Jospa told his wife that he felt that he was about to pass away. He told her that after their son's bar mitzva, Elijah would tell her that he wants to go out into the world. She should not discourage him from doing this, because he had been sent down to this world to fulfill a special mission. He told her that when her first husband had been killed, Joseph Jospa had received a Divine command to marry the widow, for a son of very high stature would be born to them who would have a special mission to fulfill for the Jewish people, to help them and uplift them. Elijah the Prophet had been studying with their son Elijah to prepare him for this mission. He was to be the first in a long chain of tzadikim leading up to the coming of Moshiach.

After concluding these instructions, Joseph Jospa passed away. A few weeks after Elijah's bar mitzva, he told his mother that he wanted to go out into the world. Having been prepared for this, she did not object. She gave him her blessing and he left. Forty years later, in the year 5350 (1590) he appeared in the city of Wurms, Germany and became known as a miracle worker and a healer. He also established a yeshiva there where he taught Kabbala, particularly the Zohar, in addition to the Talmud. He was the famous Rabbi Elijah Baal Shem.

Rabbi Elijah Baal Shem was indeed the first in the long chain leading up to the revelation of Moshiach. Rabbi Elijah Elijah was the first of four Baal Shem's. He was succeeded by his disciple, Rabbi Yoel Baal Shem, then by Rabbi Adam Baal Shem, who was succeeded by his disciple, Rabbi Yisrael, the famous Baal Shem Tov.

Moshiach Matters

Exile does not really separate us from G-d. On the contrary, the Divine Presences is also in exile. Our "Father" is in exile together with us. Furthermore, the very fact that we are in exile is a revelation of G-d's will. In addition, the reason we are in exile is to raise ourselves to an even higher level than before. It is a descent for the purpose of ascent. Thus, exile is not an end in itself, but merely a means to lift the Jews to a higher rung than before.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 20 Av, 1985)

  1131: Eikev1133: Shoftim  
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