The Life of Elul | 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
Events or ideas that seem to be disconnected points often contain, if we look at them in the right way, lessons in our Divine service and spiritual growth. For instance:
The Hebrew word for "life" is "Chai." In Hebrew, each letter has a numerical value. The two letters that make up "Chai" are Chet Yud, which has the numerical value of 8 and Yud h, which has the numerical value of 10. This is one of the reasons why we often give tzedaka (charity) in increments of 18 - to make a connection between charity and life; this is based on statement in the Talmud that "charity saves from death."
That's point one.
The month in the Jewish calendar preceding Rosh Hashana is Elul. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is the Day of Judgment. Now, just as we would not approach an important court case without preparation, we don't want to approach Rosh Hashana without preparation.
But how should we prepare for such an important "court case" when G-d Himself presides as the Judge? What kind of "evidence" or "witnesses" can we bring?
We can get our answer from another description of Rosh Hashana: it is the first of the "Ten Days of Teshuva" (Repentence). In fact, in one of the most moving prayers of the High Holidays we declare that "teshuva (repentence), tefila (prayer) and tzedeka (charity) avert the severe decree."
So we prepare our Rosh Hashana "court case" the way we would prepare for anything. And we make sure that we bring solid evidence and witnesses: serious repentence, heartfelt prayer, additional charity.
That's point two.
The 18th of Elul - the Chai or Life of Elul - is significant for three reasons: It is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism; it is the day on which, at the age of 36, the Baal Shem Tov began publicizing his teachings; it is the birthday of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidism.
What is the point of Chasidic Teachings? One of the Baal Shem Tov's most famous teachings is: Serve G-d with joy.
Now we can combine the points and understand the lesson in our Divine service and spiritual growth.
Infuse everything you do with life and enthusiasm - even the teshuva over mistakes and missteps of the past. As we make an accounting of the past year, we must of course be objective and critical. That might lead to some regrets and hopefully some good resolutions. And at the same time, we must maintain our enthusiasm and our joy, knowing - trusting - that G-d will not only accept our teshuva, but give us the strength we need to keep our resolve.
How do we do that? How do we live a life infused with enthusiasm and joy? By studying Chasidic teachings, which gives us insights into the inner teachings of Torah and the inner workings of our souls. And it all starts on the 18th of Elul - Chai Elul - the Life of Elul.
This week's Torah portion, Tavo, contains the commandment of bikurim, first fruits.
"And it shall be, when you come into the land...and you shall take of all the fruit of the earth...and put it in a basket...and you shall go to the priest...and the priest shall take the basket from your hand, and set it down before the altar of the L-rd your G-d."
The mitzva (commandment) of first fruits applies only to the "seven kinds by which the land of Israel is praised" - grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, wheat and barley.
Whoever cultivated these special fruits on his portion of land was obligated to bring the very first of his harvest to G-d's representative on earth - the priest who served in the Holy Temple - thereby thanking G-d for His bounty and joyfully acknowledging the Creator of all things.
A mitzva may be performed in one of two ways: with a minimum of involvement and effort, merely in order to fulfill the requirement, or out of a sense of love and joy, demonstrated by one's desire to observe the mitzva in the most beautiful way possible, utilizing the very best of whatever one possesses.
This principle is best expressed in the mitzva of bikurim, for which the farmer must go against his natural inclination to retain for himself the very best of the fruits of his labor, and hand them over to the priest in Jerusalem.
As we stand now on the very threshold of the Messianic Era, when we will once again be obligated to perform this mitzva, it is fitting that we prepare ourselves for its renewed observance, at least in the spiritual sense.
By thinking of ourselves as the "first fruit" of G-d: every action we take, every thought we have and every word that comes out of our mouths must be not only "for the sake of Heaven," but must be our absolute best, the most choice and select we are capable of producing.
Furthermore, this principle should be applied not only to the realm of religious observance, but to the myriad details of our everyday, mundane lives, elevating even our business transactions to the level of "first fruits," as our Sages said, "All of your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven."
Until Moshiach comes, when we will be able to perform the mitzva of first fruits in the physical sense, every Jew must picture himself at all times as if he is standing in the Holy Temple, about to hand over his basket of offerings to the priest.
May our efforts to refine ourselves in this manner bring the Final Redemption speedily in our day, and with it, the opportunity to observe the mitzva of bikurim in the literal sense as well.
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe on Shabbat Parshat Tavo, 5751
by Rishe Deitsch
It had never happened to us before, but this time, as we were walking onto the airplane that would take us home to New York from S. Pedro, Honduras (where my husband does business), the stewardess tapped me on the shoulder. "I'm sorry, but you both have to come off the airplane."
"Why?" I asked, not wanting to miss the flight.
"We have to inspect your luggage. There are suspicious items in it."
"Go ahead, I give you permission. Inspect. I'll just take my seat on the plane meanwhile," I said.
But that wouldn't do. My husband and I had to deplane and go into a security room. On the table were the boxes of papers we had checked in a few minutes earlier. These were the unbound Tanyas we had printed in S. Pedro, following the Lubavitcher Rebbe's directive to print Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, everywhere.
Security personnel stood around speaking to us in Spanish. We kept saying, "No hablo espanol. Official papers. Jewish. Papers. Official. Only papers. Jewish. No hablo espanol."
Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1978, the Rebbe initiated a campaign to print the Tanya all over the world.
At first the Rebbe spoke about getting it done in every country. Several years later, the Rebbe requested to print the Tanya "wherever there are Jews." Within six months, the number of Tanyas printed all over the world grew from 200 to 1,000. the Rebbe assigned supervision of the entire project to Vaad L'Hafotzat Sichot. Today, Rabbi Sholom Jacobson of the Vaad is still involved with (and enthusiastic about) printing Tanyas.
So, who would go and print in a Tanya in a place like Iceland or Nigeria? Not too many Jews there, not too much reason to go.
But there were shluchim (emissaries) who lived in some of the places; there were emissaries who were sent specifically to print the Tanya and to study Tanya with people; and there were businessmen (like my husband) who had to go to these places anyway, who printed the Tanya while there.
My brother-in-law Zalman Deitsch (obm) is an example of someone in the third category. He had to go to Abba, Nigeria, on business. So, in 1979, he printed the Tanya in Nigeria. It is #127. He also hired a truck with a printing press on it, to travel around Connecticut and print Tanyas in different cities in the state.
Other businessmen printed Tanyas in far-flung places such as Hong Kong, Korea, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Avrohom Yitzchok Glick printed Tanyas in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and neighboring countries. In Prague, the authorities did not want to allow him to print the Tanya. To discourage him, they said, "You'd have to print a minimum of 20,000." They were sure he would walk away when he heard this but he just said, "Fine!" The Rebbe's Chasidim and shluchim are not so easily discouraged.
Rabbi Laibel Zajac of S. Paulo, Brazil, enabled thousands of Tanya printings all over Brazil, and in many other countries including the former Soviet Union, where he traveled in 1992, and in hundreds of places in Israel.
In 1979, on his way to Australia, Rabbi Yitzchok Groner made a stopover in India and printed a Tanya in Bombay (now Mumbai).
Fishel Katz is a Florida-based gem dealer. The Rebbe told him to print the Tanya wherever possible so he did so in various cities in Africa and China. Shmuel Malamud, a New York businessman, printed Tanyas in Jamaica and on some Caribbean Islands. His son-in-law Eli Popack followed suit and printed Tanyas in the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
As a yeshiva student, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg (may G-d avenge his blood) printed Tanyas in Cambodia, Vietnam, and other inhospitable locations. His cousin, Rabbi Dovid Holtzberg, printed Tanyas in Kabul, Afghanistan, with the help of the U.S. military; in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Almaty, Kazakhstan; and several other cities in the former Soviet Union.
In 1983, the U.S. went into Grenada to liberate its university students from Communist invaders. U.S. Chaplain Yaakov Goldstein was deployed to Grenada. The Rebbe instructed him to print a Tanya there. This was kept secret until the completion of the mission. The U.S. military was very helpful in that project, too, and after it was over, the Rebbe wrote a letter of thanks to the general who had commanded the mission in Grenada and approved the printing on military presses.
Every time a Tanya was printed in a new place, the Rebbe was very meticulous that it should have a number assigned to it with an updated list printed in the back of the Tanya. The numbers go consecutively from #1 which was printed in 1796 in Slavita, Ukraine, to today, when the number is over 5,500 and still growing.
The Rebbe said that when the name of the city appears on the title page of the Tanya, the city develops a connection to the author of the Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, and all the Chabad Rebbes, and the people who live in the city develop an affinity for the Tanya.
Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
Ed.'s note: At the time that Tanyas were printed in the locations mentioned in the article, there were no permanent shluchim in those locations. However, today most have shluchim including Prague, Czech Republic; Mumbai and 9 other cities in India; Hong Kong and 9 other centers in China; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Pnohm Pehn, Cambodia; Seoul, Korea; Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; Laos, Kinshasa, Congo; and the Caribbean, with centers on 5 islands).
New Chabad Center
A new Chabad Center opened recently in Paris to service the many tourists that come to visit the city and particularly the Camps Elysees. Chabad of Champs Elysées is located at 122 Avenue Champs Elysées and is easily accessible by public transportation. The Center has a full Shabbat program including prayers, classes and Shabbat meals as well as classes and other services for tourists during the week.
27 Elul, 5707 
Greetings and blessings,
...I will conclude with subjects of contemporary relevance which I wrote to another person: At the farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] of Chai Elul [the anniversary of the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov - founder of general Chasidism and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi - founder of Chabad Chasidim], my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, related that the early chassidim would say: "Chai Elul injects vitality into the Divine service of 'I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine.'" (The first Hebrew letters of the words of that verse combine to form the name Elul.)
It is possible to explain that a living person and a person who is not alive both possess all 248 limbs. The difference is that a living person also possesses a soul that enables the body to grow from childhood to maturity and enables him to move from place to place.
Our Rabbis (Tanya, ch. 38) explain that the intent of the mitzvos [commandments] - to cling to G-d - resembles the soul for the body of the mitzvos. This comes through generating or uncovering one's love and fear of G-d. This comes through the study of pnimiyus haTorah [the inner teachings of the Torah] in general, and in particular through the study of Chasidus, as explained in several sources.
Through the intent of clinging to G-d, one comes to the greatest growth and movement possible. Indeed, this alone represents true movement, as is well known with regard to the concept of "one who progresses" and "those who stand." [Highlighting the difference between the souls of the Jewish people ("one who proceeds") and the angels ("these who stand")] This progress comes about when a limited created being clings to the Creator who is unlimited, as it is written: "And you who cling to G-d, your L-rd, are living...."
This is the interpretation of the adage that Chai Elul, the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, the day when his teachings were revealed, and the birthday of the Alter Rebbe, injects vitality into the Divine service of "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine," i.e., enabling the created beings to cling to the Creator.
On a deeper level, it is possible to explain as follows: Even a limb that is not alive has flesh, sinews, and bones. All of these serve as analogies within our Divine service. The bones refer to the Divine service of the mind, the flesh, to that of the heart and the sinews, to the connection between the two, as explained in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Pinchas, the second discourse entitled Tzav... Korbani Lachmi. Nevertheless, as they exist in their own right, they do not represent true vitality. That is achieved only through the preface of kabbalas ol, the acceptance of G-d's yoke. In particular, this refers to the kabbalas ol of Rosh Hashana. See the discourse published for Rosh Hashana this year with regard to the concepts of individual life-energy, general life-energy, vitality that exists to grant life to others, and essential vitality.
With wishes for a kesiva vachasima tova [may you be inscribed and sealed for good],
Reprinted from I Will Write It In Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos In English.
LEVI means "joined to" or "accompanied." Levi was the son of Yaakov and Leah (Genesis 29:34). His descendants were the Kohanim (priests) and Levites who served in the Sanctuary.
LEAH means "to be weary." She was the daughter of Laban (Genesis 29:17) and the first of Jacob's four wives. She bore six of the twelve tribes. The Hebrew pronunciation is "lay-uh."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
An individual's birthday has a very special meaning for that person. The birthday of a tzadik (righteous individual) has deep significance for everyone who attempts to live according to the tzadik's teachings. A tzadik's birthday is, in some ways like the spiritual birthday of his followers.
The birthdays of two great tzadikim are this Shabbat, the 18h of Elul (corresponding this year to August 28).
On 18 ("Chai") Elul, the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman, disciple of the the Baal Shem Tov's successor and founder of Chabad Chasidism, were born.
These great men dedicated their lives to teach the value of every single Jew. Ahavat Yisrael - unconditional love of each Jew - was at the forefront of their philosophy.
Today, nearly two centuries later, we benefit from the guidance and teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Shneur Zalman. The date of their birth, then, is not only their birthday - it is also our birthday.
On one's birthday it is fitting to take time out to reflect on one's achievements of the past year and one's goals for the future. It is fitting that on the birthday of these tzadikim, we reflect on how well we have followed and benefited from them and their teachings. This will help us make our resolutions for the New Year.
May we, in their merit, be blessed with a Chativa Vachatima Tova, a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Because you would not serve the L-rd your G-d with joy and with gladness of heart... therefore, you will serve your enemies (Deut. 29:47)
We see from this that joy is such an important part of the Jew's service of G-d that the harshest punishment of "you will serve your enemies" is not meted out for a deficiency in the service itself, but for worshipping G-d without joy and vitality. When the Jew is happy, G-d is happy, as it were, and even the harshest decrees are annulled - analogous to an earthly king granting amnesty to his prisoners when he is in a cheerful mood.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
The "Reproof Section" (Deut. 28: 15-68)
In truth, all the curses that are mentioned in this section are directed against the enemies of the Jewish people, as it states, "And G-d will place these curses upon your enemies and upon those who hate you." This prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled in the Messianic era, when G-d will cause "the spirit of impurity to depart from the earth."
You will be mad from the sight of your eyes which you will see (Deut. 28:34)
Coveting everything one sees is indeed a terrible curse, for it is the root cause of all the other punishments that are mentioned in this Torah portion, eventually leading to "you will be only oppressed and crushed always."
Baruch was a follower of the Baal Shem Tov. Baruch's wife, Rivka, was a Torah scholar, quite unusual for women of those days. When Baruch and Rivka had been married for a year and were still not blessed with a child, they went to see the Baal Shem Tov, to ask for his blessing.
The Baal Shem Tov's birthday was the 18th of Elul. At the repast on that auspicious day, the Baal Shem Tov blessed Baruch and Rivka and promised them that, exactly a year later, they would become the parents of a boy.
Baruch and Rivka spent the entire period of the High Holy Days with the Baal Shem Tov in Miedzibosz. Before departing for home they saw the Baal Shem Tov again. When the Baal Shem Tov repeated his blessing, Rivka fervently promised that she would consecrate her son to the dissemination of Torah and the Chasidic doctrine and way of life as taught by the Baal Shem Tov.
Rivka decided to intensify her Torah studies, and asked her learned sister-in-law Devorah Leah for guidance as to prayer and study during her anticipated pregnancy.
Six months later, Baruch went to Miedzibosz again, to inform the Baal Shem Tov that his wife was pregnant. The Baal Shem Tov wished him "Mazel Tov" and gave him certain instructions to convey to his wife. Baruch left for home in a blissful frame of mind.
On the 18th day of Elul (that year a Wednesday, the fourth day of the week), which was his birthday, the Baal Shem Tov displayed an extraordinary elation. He personally led the prayers, which he chanted in joyous melodies. It was clear that the Baal Shem Tov was observing that day as an especially festive day. During the repast which followed the prayers, the Baal Shem Tov told his disciples:
Today, a new soul descended to earth, a soul which will illuminate the world with the revealed and esoteric teachings of the Torah, and will successfully disseminate the Chasidic way with selfless dedication, preparing the way for the arrival of Moshiach.
On the 25th day of Elul (when the circumcision of Baruch and Rivka's son took place in Liozna), the Baal Shem Tov arranged a feast. Three days later, on the Shabbat he again gave a discourse and he was in a manifestly elated frame of mind. All of this represented a mystery to his disciples and followers.
What the Baal Shem Tov's disciples witnessed in those days was nothing else but their master celebrating the birth of Shneur Zalman, his circumcision, and the critical third day after the circumcision. Moreover, the various discourses which the Baal Shem Tov delivered on those occasions were connected with the new-born's destiny.
For Yom Kippur that year, Baruch came to Miedzibosz to be with the Baal Shem Tov. He had been forewarned not to tell anybody about the birth of his son, nor the name which had been given to him. Again, before leaving for home, he received from the Baal Shem Tov a set of instructions as to the discipline which was to surround the child, and the careful watch which was to be kept over him at all times.
The following year Baruch came, as usual, to the Baal Shem Tov for the High Holidays. The Baal Shem Tov inquired about the little boy in great detail, and repeated his admonition to take special care of the child.
After Sukot, when Baruch was ready to leave for home, the Baal Shem Tov again cautioned him to shelter the boy, and not to repeat any of his clever acts or sayings, as some parents are fond of boasting about their children.
Another year passed by. Once again Baruch made his annual pilgrimage to Miedzibosz. Baruch reported to the Baal Shem Tov that, upon returning home form Miedzibosz after Sukot, his wife told him that there was a noticeable change in the boy on his second birthday. His speech and vocabulary had considerably improved.
During the year, the parents discovered that the boy had an extraordinary memory, and whatever he heard once, he never forgot. The Baal Shem Tov gave Baruch further instructions concerning the boy. Upon Baruch's request for permission to bring the boy to the Baal Shem Tov on his third birthday for the traditional "hair-cutting" ceremony, the Baal Shem Tov told him that the boy should be brought by his mother and aunt Devorah Leah, and they should come to him on the 18th of Elul, after the morning prayers.
Arriving home, Baruch found that the boy had made further strides in his absence from home. Little Shneur Zalman could now recite many Psalms by heart, and his memory and mental grasp were astonishing.
According to plan, Rivka and her sister-in-law, Devorah Leah, brought the boy, on his third birthday, to the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov cut off a few locks of hair, leaving peyot (side curls) according to custom, and he blessed him. He then sent the visitors home, with his blessing for a safe journey and for the new year.
All the way home, little Shneur Zalman kept on asking his mother who the old Jew was who had cut his hair. "That was Zaida," was her reply. Little did he then know that some day he would come to regard the Baal Shem Tov as his spiritual "grandfather" in a very real sense, namely, as the Rebbe or his Rebbe, the Maggid of Miezricz, to whom he owed his spiritual fulfillment.
From Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Kehot Publication Society
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, was asked why he always spoke of lofty spiritual matters to which a person seemingly had no connection. He replied, "Regarding the days of Moshiach, Ezekiel prophecized, 'I will take away the heart of stone our of your flesh' - specifically a heart of stone, and not a mind of stone, for in exile it is very difficult to change a heart of stone. Changing the heart is dependent on Moshiach. However, it is possible to change the mind through our efforts even today. Therefore, we talk about lofty matters to remove (at least) the mind of stone."
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Passover, 5723-1963)