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When you're in the middle of a discussion and trying to remember something, what do you do? Imagine the situation. The person across from you asks, "What was that song, the one about ...?" or "Remember that person from ... we met at the conference? What was her name?" or "What was the name of that book?"
What did you do? Did you look away? And if you still couldn't remember, what did you do? Close your eyes.
Try it in other circumstances. You're focusing on some article on your computer screen and a thought comes into your head, maybe relevant, maybe tangential. You look away. If you can't capture the thought, you close your eyes.
The reason is obvious: We rely on our eyesight for sensory input, for information about our environment. What we see is what we get - the world around us, data to absorb, analyze, and use for decisions and judgments.
But even when we're not concentrating on what we see, we have to pay attention to to it. Subconsciously, so long as our eyes are focused, our mind is receiving and processing the visual input. And that occupies a good segment of our minds.
So when we want to really concentrate, we have to shut out the distractions - literally. We have to break off our interaction with the world. And we start with the most far-reaching sense: sight.
That's why closing our eyes helps us remember - even things we've seen. We remove ourselves from the limited, external impressions of the moment and enter the almost timeless realm of the mind.
The process, and effect, of closing out the external and superficial - unaided, we can't see below the surface - helps us understand an important aspect of prayer.
Most of us have not memorized the prayer book, and so have to look at the words when we pray. But praying - if we're doing it right - requires concentration, focus, and contemplation.
Of course, it's possible and often probable that when we pray, we gloss over the words we are reading, so that they barely register in our consciousness. Huh, did I just read that, or not? And when we're looking at the words, we certainly can't contemplate very much. It's different when we close our eyes and imagine - or see with our mind's eye. It just is.
Many of us already have memorized a most fundamental prayer. And when we recite the words of this famous prayer, we are required to do so with our eyes closed! Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad - Hear, O Israel, the L-rd (Who) is Our G-d, the L-rd is One. We cover our eyes and close our eyes and focus on the words, pronouncing, understanding, contemplating, connecting.
Practice makes perfect, or at least almost perfect. By practicing and actually reciting the Shema twice daily as we are commanded - "when you lie down and when you rise up," we can learn to concentrate and focus in a way that can positively impact on all areas of our lives.
Among the Torah's positive mitzvot (commandments) is the mitzva to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people. At the end of this week's portion, Ki Teitzei, the Torah states, "Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt; how he met you on the way, when you were weary and exhausted... You must therefore obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. You must not forget."
Why is it so important to remember Amalek? Who were they and why are we commanded to destroy them?
Amalek was not just a nation of evildoers; in the metaphorical sense, Amalek is symbolic of a negative character trait that can manifest itself within each one of us. Every person has his own inner "Amalek"; in order to destroy it, we need to be aware of its presence and ever cognizant of the danger it represents.
Chasidut explains that Amalek was unique in that he truly recognized the greatness of G-d, yet intentionally rebelled against Him. Amalek understood that G-d loves the Jewish people and helps them. Nonetheless, he deliberately set out to fight the Jews and cause them harm.
Amalek thus symbolizes a situation in which a person knows G-d, but rebels against Him anyway. In such a case, the recognition of G-d's greatness has no practical bearing on his behavior. The person is well aware of the Master of the Universe, yet he deliberately acts in a manner which is contrary to His will.
This negative character trait is the "Amalek" that lurks in our midst. It manifests itself when we know, on an intellectual level, that G-d expects us to conduct our lives in a certain way, yet this knowledge is not reflected in our actions. We know that He is watching us, yet we persist in acting like Amalek, whose rebellion was intentional.
Obliterating Amalek means connecting intellectual understanding and actual deed. When we remember Amalek, who knew G-d yet deliberately sought to rebel, it causes us to correct our conduct and not follow his example.
A Jew's intellectual knowledge of Torah and mitzvot must never be separated from his day to day behavior. It isn't enough to know what is expected of us; whatever Torah knowledge we accrue must always lead to deeds, and a life lived in accordance with G-d's wishes.
In the merit of obliterating our inner "Amalek," may we very soon merit the coming of Moshiach, who will destroy the remembrance of Amalek forever and build the Third Holy Temple, speedily in our day.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 21
Gan Izzy Spirit
From a speech at a camp farewell party
Hi! My name is Andrew Stein. I am 9 years old. I have been going to Camp Gan Israel of North Potomac, Maryland, since 2006. I would like to tell you about some of my experiences as a Gan Izzy camper.
Gan Izzy is filled with ruach (spirit) and excitement each day. Every morning when my Mom drops me off, I quickly get out of the car and I run to start my day with the wonderful Gan Izzy counselors.
I give each counselor a "High 5" as I enter camp. The camp day officially begins with songs and cheers during Line Up. After Line Up, we have our morning davening (prayers). I learned how to say Modeh Ani when I wake up in the morning and the Shema when I wake up and before I go to bed. I will continue to say these prayers even after camp is over.
Next we have Share Time. During Share Time, the counselors teach us about the Jewish holidays, doing mitzvot, like eating kosher food and making our homes a Jewish home.
Every Friday, my brother, Adam, and I make Challah for Shabbat. My parents and my Bubby and Zady say that it is our Challah that makes the Shabbat so beautiful and so yummy.
Some of my favorite camp activities are: going to the pool, playing games and going on field trips...especially the grand trip to Six Flags!
The best part about Gan Izzy is that through all these activities I learn so much about being Jewish. I love Camp Gan Izzy. It will always have a special place in my heart!
The Lubavitch network of day and overnight summer camps, known as Camp Gan Israel, or affectionately, "Gan Izzy," was established in 1956 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Today, the largest camp network in the world spans 40 countries. In the former Soviet Union alone there are 40 camps attended by nearly 9,000 children. On this page is a small sampling of some of the Chabad-Lubavitch affiliate summer camps world-wide.
22nd of Elul, 5730 
Blessing and Greeting:
I received regards from you through your husband Dr..., who also told me of your present frame of mind. And while this is quite understandable, it is necessary to bear in mind that the ways of G-d are inscrutable, but always good, since He is the Essence of Goodness, and it is in the nature of the Good to do good - however difficult it may sometimes seem to comprehend. Yet it is not at all surprising that a human being should not be able to understand the ways of G-d; on the contrary, it is quite easy to see why a human being should not be able to understand the ways of G-d, for how can a created being understand the Creator?
We must, therefore, be strong in our trust in G-d and let nothing discourage us or cause any depression, G-d forbid. As a matter of fact, the stronger the Bitochon [trust] in G-d and in His benevolence, the sooner comes the time when this becomes plain even to human eyes. You should therefore be confident that G-d will eventually fulfill your heart's desires for good, as well as that of your husband, to be blessed with additional healthy offspring.
Your husband's activities and contribution to the strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit [Judaism], as well as your share in it, will stand you in good stead to hasten that time.
Inasmuch as we are now in the auspicious month of Elul, I trust you surely know the explanation by the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, of the significance of this month. He explains it by means of an illustration of a king returning to his residence, when all the people of the city turn out to welcome the king in the field. At such a time, everyone may approach the king, even dressed in work clothes, etc., to present a personal petition to the king, while the king accepts each petition graciously and grants the request. Such is also the period of the month of Elul - a time of special Divine grace and mercy.
May G-d grant that this be so also with you and all yours, in the midst of all our people Israel.
Wishing you and yours a Ksivo vaChasimo Tovo [may you be inscribed and sealed for good],
20th of Elul, 5720 
Greeting and Blessing:
I received your letter of Rosh Chodesh Elul, and the previous two, which you wrote in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] and where you mention that about in the middle of Elul you expect to be back in -. I will be glad to receive word from you of your arrival.
You write that you are putting on Chabad Tefillin and ask if you should also pray Nusach [order and text of the prayers] Chabad. Perhaps you know the tradition among Chassidim that the founder of Chabad compiled his Siddur [prayer book] after carefully examining sixty different Siddurim, until he ascertained and perfected the Nusach Chabad. It is surely a good thing for you to use this Nusach. However, it should be accompanied by a firm resolution to follow this Nusach consistently. For, while it is possible to change from Nusach Ashkenaz to Sefard, and from Sefard to Ari, which is the Chabad Nusach, it should not be changed in the other direction. Therefore once you accept the Nusach Chabad, you will have to abide by it, and it is certainly a good thing to do so.
You refer again to the old problem of self-control, etc. As I have repeatedly written to you, one of the best ways to cope with the problem is to completely dismiss from your mind the whole matter. This means that you should not even dwell on it in an effort to combat it for concentration on the problem and how to overcome it is the opposite of dismissing it from your mind completely.
So whenever the thought occurs to you, you should at once turn your attention to any other thing, preferably to a matter of Torah and Mitzvoth. For, as you know, even a little light dispels a lot of darkness, and certainly a lot of light dispels so much more darkness.
May you have good news to report about this, and about all your other affairs.
Wishing you a Ksivo vachasimo tovo,
ALEXANDER is from the Greek, meaning "protector." When "Alexander the Great" was on his way to Persia he passed through Jerusalem. He showed great respect for the High Priest, Shimon, and spared Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, unlike other capitals he had conquered. Alexander became an adopted Jewish name.
ARIELA is the feminine from of the Hebrew word "ariel," meaning "lion of G-d."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week's Torah portion begins with the words, "When you go out to war upon your enemies." The words of the Torah are eternally relevant, applying to us in all times. When the Torah was given, G-d was preparing the Jewish people for an actual physical battle, but the lesson for us in our day is about fighting the battle in the spiritual realm.
We, as Jews, have been charged with a unique responsibility: to make this physical world a dwelling place for G-d, a place where G-dliness and holiness are openly revealed. We carry out this responsibility by fighting a battle, a battle in which we attempt to elevate the material to the spiritual, to overcome the evil inclination that is inherent in every person. In this way we make our world a dwelling place for G-d.
"Going out to war" can also mean to go beyond your normal routine and activities. A person cannot stop and rest. He cannot decide that he has reached as high as he'll ever go, that he is no longer obliged to go out and fight the spiritual battles. This is especially relevant in the month of Elul, when a person might think that since the year is coming to a close, he can sit back and relax until the start of the new year; there is no reason to go beyond his normal routine. From the Torah portion we learn that this is never the case.
May we continue to increase in our efforts to serve G-d, to reach higher, to exceed our boundaries until we have reached our ultimate goal, the arrival of Moshiach.
When you go forth to war against (literally "above") your enemies (Deut. 21:10)
When you go forth into battle with complete trust in the G-d of Israel, secure in the knowledge that G-d stands by your side to assist, you are automatically "above" your enemies as soon as you embark on your mission.
When you go forth to war...
These words refer to the descent of the soul, "a veritable part of G-d Above," into the physical world. Its mission, enclothed within a physical body, is to wage war and conquer the material world by infusing it with holiness, learning Torah and observing its commandments. This conflict will reach its successful conclusion with the coming of Moshiach, when G-dliness will reign triumphant.
That which comes out of your lips shall you keep and perform (Deut. 23:24)
The sentiment of the "Modeh Ani" prayer thanking G-d for restoring the soul to the body and recited immediately upon awakening in the morning, should carry through the rest of the day as well. One should always conduct oneself with this fundamental fact in mind.
And he may write her a bill of divorcement (Deut. 24:1)
Why is the Biblical "bill of divorcement" ("sefer k'ritut") called a "get"? Because the letters of the word "get," gimel and tet, are never found next to each other in any word of the entire Torah - the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, or the Writings!
Remember what Amalek did to you (Deut. 25:17)
Why does the Torah use the singular form of the word "you" instead of the plural? The early chasidim explained: Amalek, or the Evil Inclination, gains a stronghold only in an individual who is stand-offish and reclusive from the rest of the Jewish People. He who considers himself part of the larger whole and stands in unity with his brethren cannot be harmed by Amalek.
Reb Berel and his wife had already eaten their dinner and the kitchen was cleared away. Reb Berel had settled down to study Torah and his wife was relaxing with some needlework when there was a knock at the door. Reb Berel opened the door a crack, but the visitor pushed it so forcefully that Reb Berel was thrown backward. Several young hoodlums quickly followed into the house and ordered the terrified couple to lie on the floor. Although they offered no resistance, the couple was beaten unconscious and then bound with strong ropes.
As this violence occurred inside the placid exterior of the home, a group of yeshiva students arrived at this same house. "It's completely dark. Do you think we really should knock?" one of the students asked the others.
"Reb Moshe specifically told us to make sure to bring Reb Berel to the wedding. He's waiting there until we come," another replied.
"We have to wake them up," a third offered. And so they walked up to door and knocked. Repeated knocking, however, brought no response.
"Maybe we should force the door; maybe something has happened to them and they can't open the door." But forcing was not necessary, for the door easily pushed open.
When the young men entered they saw a dark form on the floor which turned out to be Reb Berel. They untied him and his wife who, by now, had regained consciousness, and explained that they had been sent by Reb Moshe to bring them to his daughter's wedding.
"Thank G-d you came when you did. The robbers would have ransacked the entire house and who knows what else they might have done to my family. This is truly a miracle that resulted from my mitzva (commandment) of dowering a bride (hachnasat kalla)!"
"Please tell us what happened," the students insisted.
Reb Berel, who was just recovering his composure, explained, "One day I was walking down the street, when I ran into Reb Moshe. He looked worried and so I asked him, 'How is everything?'
"He answered me, saying that he had to marry off his daughter very soon, and he didn't have the money. I asked him how much he needed, and he replied, 'Two hundred gold coins,' which was quite a sizable sum. Thank G-d, I have more than enough, and so I just took out my wallet and gave him the money plus some extra. Then I added, 'Just don't forget to invite me to the wedding!'
"I knew the wedding invitations had gone out, and I was surprised that he had forgotten to invite me. Now, I understand the Divine Providence behind that apparent oversight. If you hadn't come along when you had I might have lost a great deal of my fortune and, who knows, we might have even lost our very lives!"
"Do you feel well enough to come to the wedding?" they asked Reb Berel. "For certainly, Reb Moshe is still waiting for you!"
"I wouldn't miss it for anything," Reb Berel exclaimed. "Thanks to the money I gave Reb Moshe, my life, the lives of my family and my fortune were saved."
Most of the wedding guests had already left, but Reb Moshe was there waiting for the "guest of honor," the benefactor he had forgotten to invite. Reb Moshe was about to apologize, when Reb Berel hugged him and began recounting the tale of his rescue.
Then Reb Berel said he had an announcement to make. "For many years I have thought of moving to the Holy Land. Tonight I have decided that I will, in fact, move there as soon as I close up my business here. There, I will build houses for the poor and for Torah scholars in Jerusalem. In this way I hope to repay G-d for all the good He has done for me, and I pray that through this deed, I will bring the arrival of Moshiach a bit closer."
This announcement brought cheers from the remaining guests, "Amen, Amen," they cried joyfully. And so, the section of Batei Orenstein arose in the holy city of Jerusalem to be a blessing to the needy who were furnished with housing due to the generosity of Reb Berel.
The large square, called "Batei Orenstein," stands to there to this day.
According to Maimonides, one of the first things Moshiach will do is "wage the wars of G-d and prevail." Everything that was wrongfully stolen from the Jews during the exile will be returned to our hands. Most significantly this includes the ultimate target of their hatred, the Holy Temple, which was twice destroyed. When Moshiach comes and rebuilds the Temple, it will finally be redeemed from the captivity of the nations where it has been for almost two thousand years.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Parshat Teitzei 5750-1990)