Silence! | 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
"Tisha B'Av came early this year to Boro Park," began one of the myriad articles written after the news became public of Leiby Kletzky's unfathomable death.
Tisha B'Av came early this year not just to Boro Park. And not just in Brooklyn. And not just in New York or to "ultra-orthodox Jews" or Jews in general. Tisha B'Av came early to millions of people around the world. To anyone who has a young child, to anyone who ever was a child.
On Tisha B'Av (coinciding with the 9th of August this year), Jews mourn and fast over the destruction of the Holy Temples. According to Jewish mystical teachings, the Holy Temples in Jerusalem were a microcosm of creation.
On the "early" Tisha B'Av this year, the world mourned over the destruction of an innocent child.
Every person who exists in the world is the culmination of creation. Each person is an entire world. The Talmud states that "Man was created alone, to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul... the Torah charges him as though he had destroyed a complete world; and whosoever preserves a singles soul...the Torah credits him with saving the entire world."
On Yom Kippur we read the story of the ten martyrs who were killed during the Roman era. These ten martyrs were the greatest Sages of their generation, amongst the greatest Sages of all time.
When the ministering angels saw the suffering of these ten tzadikim (righteous individuals) they cried out, "This is the Torah and this is its reward?"
A Heavenly voice stated: "Shtok! Silence! If I hear another sound, I will revert the world to chaos."
The angels were asking G-d for an explanation or perhaps simply making an impassioned protest. And G-d's response was to silence them without even offering a "you wouldn't understand"? What is more, He threatened to destroy the world if they would not keep quiet?
Rabbi Shlomo Kluger suggests that G-d's response, "I will revert the world to chaos," is an answer, not a threat. And he explains with a parable.
A king hired the most skilled tailor in his kingdom to make him a regal coat. He supplied the tailor with elegant material and gold thread to create the masterpiece.
In time, the tailor returned with a magnificent coat that thrilled the king.
Other tailors, jealous of the artisan, accused him of having stolen gold thread. The king summoned the tailor who claimed he had used every bit of thread in the breath-taking garment. When the king asked the tailor to prove his innocence, he explained, "This I can only do by taking the coat apart and reverting it to its original state."
This is the idea behind G-d's answer to the angels. G-d is telling them that the only way to understand such incomprehensible occurrences is to undo all of creation and show them the world from the beginning until the end.
Or, G-d could bring the long-awaited Redemption, when we will all be reunited with our loved ones, Leiby among them. May it commence before Tisha B'Av, in fact, immediately!
"See, I have set the land before you," Moses relates in this week's Torah portion, Devarim. "Come and possess the land G-d swore unto your fathers."
Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator whose explanation on the text expresses its most literal meaning, explains that the Jewish people did not have to wage war in order to take possession of the land of Israel; had they not sent the spies, they would not have needed any weapons.
"There is no one to contest the matter," Rashi comments. Since G-d Himself promised the land to the Jews, no one in the whole world could have prevented this from happening.
Historically, however, we see that instead of a miraculous entry into the land, the Jewish people did indeed engage in battle with their enemies. Their lack of faith and insistence that Moses send spies to bring back a report, spoiled their opportunity to enter the land unopposed, and made it necessary for them to follow a natural procedure instead of a miraculous one. In other words, it was their own negative attitude and conduct which forced them to wage wars in order to assert their Divine right to the land.
This contains a moral for our own times and present condition:
The Torah tells us that the Final Redemption with Moshiach will be very much like our first redemption from Egypt, but will be accompanied by even more wonders and miracles. It follows that if the entry and settlement of the land of Israel was supposed to be accomplished in a supernatural manner the first time ("There is no one to contest the matter, and you need not wage war"), how much more so will it be miraculous in our own times, with the Messianic Redemption!
Again, just as before, the entire matter depends on us. We must show absolute faith in G-d and His promise that the entire land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. We must not be afraid to inform the nations of the world - unequivocally - that the land of Israel is our eternal legacy.
As Rashi explains on the very first verse of the Torah, "The whole earth belongs to G-d; He created it and gave it to whom He saw fit. [The land of Israel] was given to [the nations] by His will, and by His will He took it from them and gave it to us!"
When we will demonstrate this true and absolute faith in G-d, we will immediately merit that "no one will contest this, and there will be no more wars nor the need for any weapons."
Is Your Heart Yours?
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler
The highly successful Belev Echad ("With One Heart") program offers wounded Israeli soldiers a brief reprieve from treatment with a trip to New York. I was privileged to meet Belev Echad's incredible ten and I have been touched and inspired more than I have been in months.
Kfir Levi was wounded by an RPG missile aimed directly at his face. He has endured 192 surgeries. One night at dinner I found a seat beside him. To look at Kfir's shattered yet reconstructed face requires strength. During the course of our conversation last night when Kfir noticed me studying his features, he looked me in the eye and said, "You see this face, Rabbi? Nothing is mine. The ears, the eyes, the nose, every part of it has been reshaped and restructured with plastic surgery." He pointed at his heart and declared, "But there's one part of me that belongs to me alone. This heart is mine."
That was one of the most powerful statements I have ever heard. I felt a chill run down my spine. The words rang in my head, "This heart is mine." Those terrorists may have taken away Kfir's face, but one part of him remained immune to their threat, a single place so sheltered that no amount of RPG's could target it. His heart, his soul is untouchable, totally invincible.
As Jews living our daily lives, very often we contaminate our bodies. We may say something we regret. Sometimes we may look where we are not supposed to. We may listen to things that are hurtful. Our hands may sin. But as King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, "I am asleep but my heart is awake." At the end of the day, even though every part of us may sin, our heart remains ours. Our soul can never ever become contaminated. The essence of every Jew is pure and holy.
On Shabbat, Avichai Mumbaram shared his army experience with us. While on a mission in Gaza with his unit, Avichai and his friend Oren somehow got separated from the group. When Avichai instructed Oren to don his bullet-proof vest, Oren got annoyed. It was not a minute after Avichai had convinced Oren, that a mortar bomb hit them and tore their vests off them. While Oren escaped unscathed, Avichai's entire body had been pierced by shrapnel. Oren realized that Avichai's persistence had literally saved his life.
As Oren lay crouched over his friend, a terrorist approached them and opened fire on Avichai, hitting him in the hand, leaving it paralyzed. After shooting Avichai once, the terrorist aimed at his heart. Avichai described how he saw his life flash before him as he faced his final moments. Just then, Oren managed to shoot the terrorist twice in the head, killing him instantly.
As we listened entranced to Avichai's story, what moved us most was that Avichai had saved Oren's life, and Oren repaid his debt a mere ten minutes later.
So often we go through life pondering the favors we do for others. The truth is that most times, with rare exception, the favor is actually for ourselves. Does that mean that when I help out a friend suffering through a financial crisis, I am helping myself? Yes! Although the results are not always as dramatic as Avichai's and Oren's, they are great indeed. Most times, we don't see consequences until years later or never at all. But the spiritual benefits that we reap in these situations are practically unmatched.
Aharon Nazaroff's mother prayed for ten long years to have a child. Finally, her prayers were answered and she was given her only child, Aharon. Naturally, his mother did not want him to serve in the IDF but Aharon's insistence to fight for his country won out.
Although his base was located close to home, the ride entailed passage through several hostile Arab villages. One day, Aharon was sitting on a bus. At the bus stop there was a terrorist dressed as a religious Jew in a long jacket. A policeman became suspicious of the heavy clothing on such a hot day. The terrorist, realizing he was about to be exposed, detonated his explosives, killing himself and the officer. The bus emerged unscathed.
On four separate military missions, Aharon escaped unharmed as the lone survivor of his unit. The sixth attack, unfortunately, did not leave Aharon so lucky.
A terrorist boarded the bus that Aharon was on and immediately detonated his bomb. Everyone on board, save Aharon and his friend, was killed. Those who were not hit by the shrapnel were shot, as the explosion caused the ammunition of the many soldiers' on board to explode, sending a spray of bullets everywhere. The friend, shielded by Aharon's body, escaped unscathed, but Aharon's entire body was burned like charcoal. He spent the next two months unconscious in a hospital bed.
When Aharon related his story, not a single eye remained dry. He described his utter melancholy as he lay helpless in bed, refusing to believe what happened to him. He lay in bed in severe agony. Nothing could raise his spirits - not even the daily visit of the Chabad rabbi.
On Aharon's birthday, my Chabad colleague Rabbi Menachem Kutner gathered Aharon's friends and family at the hospital. The rabbi arrived alone in Aharon's room and had to drag him out of bed. It was when Aharon saw the surprise planned for him that he made a firm resolution to persevere, come what may.
He explained that soldiers know that recovery has nothing to do with wounds. It's all in the mind - if you believe you'll make it, you will. If your mind is convinced you'll lose, you don't stand a chance. At that surprise birthday party Aharon made a resolution that come what may he will persevere. Until today because his fingers were amputated, Aharon suffers from phantom pain 24 hours a day. His body remains burnt and throbs constantly. Despite the immense pain, despite his suffering, he is convinced that he will go to college, get a job and lead a normal and fulfilling life. In the last seven years Aharon has come a long way. His constant smile is a testimony to his positive and upbeat outlook on life.
Rabbi Uriel Vigler and his wife Shevy co-direct Chabad Israel Center on the upper east side of New York City. Read more of Rabbi Vigler's posts at chabadic.com
Rabbi Aharon Chaim and Pessi Notik moved recently to Gainesville, Florida. They will serve as Program Directors at the Tabacinic Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center at the University of Florida in Gainsville. Rabbi Chaim and Dina Gourarie are establishing a new center, Chabad of the Villas, which will serve the Vila Olimpia and Vila Nova Conceição communities in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Vila Olimpia is known as the Silicon Valley of Latin America. Rabbi Mendy and Lifshy Ajzenszmidt are establishing a new center in Hong Kong, Chabad of Lantau in Discovery Bay. Chabad of Lantau is the third Chabad House in Hong Kong.
Translation of a letter from the Rebbe to Ariel Sharon, 13 Tishrei, 5728 
I was deeply distressed to hear of your great loss - the tragic death of your young son, may he rest in peace.
It is not given to us to know the ways of the Creator. During the war, during the time of danger, it was His will that all be saved. Indeed you, sir, were one of those who achieved victory for our people of Israel against our enemies, when the many were delivered into the hands of the few. Yet, at home, and during a time of peace, this terrible tragedy happened.
But how can a mortal understand the ways of the Creator? There is no comparing our minds and His. We do not wonder that a small child does not understand the ways and conduct of an old and wise man, though the difference between them is only relative. This is not an attempt to minimize the extent of your pain and grief, and I, too, share in your sorrow, though I am so far from you.
Even in such a great tragedy as this, solace can be found in the words of our traditional expression of consolation to mourners - an expression which has become hallowed by the law and tradition of many generations of our people. "May the Almighty comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."
We may ask, why mention those who mourn for "Zion and Jerusalem" when comforting an individual on his personal loss? A deeper analysis will, however, reveal that the mourner will find comfort precisely in this comparison of his loss with the Destruction and exile of Zion, for several reasons.
First, the mourning over the Destruction of Zion and Jerusalem is shared by Jews the world over. It is true that those who live in Jerusalem and actually see the Western Wall and our Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] in ruins feel the anguish more deeply, but even those who live far away feel sorrow.
Similarly, the grief-stricken individual or family will find solace in the thought that "all the children of Israel are as one complete whole," that their sorrow is shared by all our people.
Second, we have perfect confidence that G-d will rebuild the ruins of Zion and Jerusalem; He will gather the dispersed remnants of Israel from the ends of the earth through our righteous Moshiach, and bring them in gladness to witness the joy of Zion and Jerusalem. We are equally confident that G-d will fulfill His promise that "... the dwellers of dust (the dead) shall awake and give praise." Great indeed will be the happiness and rejoicing then, when all will meet together after the Revival of the Dead.
Third, the Babylonians and the Romans were able to destroy only the Beis Hamikdosh of wood and stone, of gold and silver, but they could not harm the inner "Beis Hamikdosh" in the heart of every Jew, for it is eternal. In the very same way, the hand of death can touch only the body, but the soul is eternal; it has simply ascended to the World of Truth. Every good deed we do in accordance with the will of G-d, the Giver of life, adds to the merit of the departed soul, as well as to its spiritual welfare.
May it be G-d's Will that you and your family know no more pain and distress. May you find true comfort and solace in your communal endeavors, defending the Holy Land, the land "... over which G-d your L-rd watches from the beginning of the year until the end of the year," as well as in those endeavors of your private life-observing the Mitzvah [commandment] of Tefillin, one Mitzvah bringing another, and yet another, in its train.
ARIEL means "lion of G-d." Ariel was a leader who served under Ezra (Ezra 8:16). It is also a symbolic name for King David's city, Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:1).
AZUVA means "abandoned." Azuva was the wife of Caleb (I Chronicles 2:18) According to the Talmud, Azuva was another name for Miriam because she was "abandoned" when she had leprosy. A later Azuva was the mother of King Jehoshafat (I Kings 22:42).
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In the Book of Zecharia it states that when Moshiach comes, four fast days on the Jewish calendar -17 Tammuz, 9 Av, 3 Tishrei and 10 Tevet - will be abolished and celebrated as joyous festivals. As Maimonides explains, "Not only will all these fasts be abrogated in the Messianic era, but they will be observed as holy days and days of rejoicing."
It is obvious that when Moshiach comes there will be no need to commemorate the Temple's destruction and thus no reason to perpetuate these fasts. But why will they be celebrated as "holy days and days of rejoicing"?
The answer is that the four fasts are not just commemorations of tragic dates in Jewish history, but contain a hidden good of such magnitude that we will only be able to discern it when Moshiach comes. In fact, the fasts represent four stages in the progression toward Moshiach. We would never be able to attain the revelation of Moshiach were it not for the destruction and the exile. The entire exile may therefore be termed a "descent for the purpose of ascent."
During the exile, we mourn on these days because we cannot perceive the good concealed within. To our eyes, the world appears to continue its descent into greater and more intense darkness. But when Moshiach comes, the ascent that was hidden within the descent will be fully revealed, and the four fast days will indeed be celebrated as "holy days and days of rejoicing."
The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated that the Redemption is imminent. "Not only is the Redemption about to commence, it is literally standing on our threshold, waiting for each and every Jew to open the door and pull it inside the room." The Rebbe explained, "The 'spiritual eyes' of the Jewish people can already perceive the Redemption; it is now necessary to open the fleshly eyes as well."
May the fast of Tisha B'Av be immediately relegated to history, and may we merit to celebrate it this year as a day of unprecedented rejoicing with Moshiach himself.
These are the words which Moses spoke to all of Israel (Deut. 1:1)
The Book of Deuteronomy begins with Moses chastising the Children of Israel for their transgressions in the wilderness. When harsh words were necessary, Moses didn't refrain from using them. However, this was only when addressing "all of Israel"; when speaking with G-d, Moses consistently defended the Jewish people and acted as their advocate. This contains a lesson for all Jews, and in particular, Jewish leaders.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)
You have tarried long enough on this mountain (Deut. 1:6)
The fact that the Jews were not allowed to "tarry" at Mount Sinai - the place where the Torah was given - teaches us that a Jew must never be concerned only with himself. Rather, he must try to extend his positive influence to others, even those who might be far from "Sinai."
May the L-rd G-d of your fathers make you a thousand times as many as you are (Deut. 1:11)
The Seer of Lublin was once sitting at his table when he started to berate himself as if he were the worst sinner who had ever lived. His disciples were horrified. "If that is how he describes himself, what about us?" they worried. Seeing their distress, the Seer interrupted his speech and said, "May G-d help that your grandchildren turn out no worse than I am." Similarly, when Moses saw how broken-hearted the Jews had become from his scolding, he paused in the middle to offer them encouragement and blessing: Even though I have reprimanded you, may there be many such Jews like yourselves in future generations!
During the time that the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem there lived a poor farmer in the far northern Galilee. His house stood on a small rocky plot sparsely dotted with olive trees. Every day he went out to his little field and worked the ground, but despite his efforts, nothing seemed to grow in the poor soil.
One evening, after a hard and disappointing day's work he turned to his wife and said, "I have no luck here. I will travel to the south and work on a large farm. If G-d grants me success I will return and buy a larger field, an orchard, and even a flock of sheep. While I am gone our sons will tend our fields here."
The man walked to the south where he got a job on the estate of a rich man. His new employer was very pleased with his work, for he was competent and loyal. The farmer worked hard and found his employer to be a fair man. He stayed on for several years, all the time dreaming of the day he would come home and establish his own large farm.
It was nearing Rosh Hashana. After three years of hard labor in the fields, the man prepared for his triumphant return home. He approached his employer: "I have worked well for you these years and now I wish to go home. Please give me my wages so that I may return to my family."
But to his surprise, the rich man replied, "I'm sorry, but I have no money now and I can't pay you."
The laborer thought to himself, "How could it be possible that such a wealthy man not be able to pay me?" But he held his tongue and replied only, "Then, pay me in produce and I will be able to sell it."
But his employer answered, "I haven't any produce, either."
"Then give me a field and I will sell it." But this suggestion received the same reply, "I do not have any fields to give you."
"Then I will take my pay in cattle."
"I'm sorry, but I have no cattle to give," answered the rich man.
"Then I will accept payment in blankets and pillows. Such items are very useful in the Galilee where it is cold."
But the rich man replied, "I have no bed linens either."
Finally the laborer ceased his requests and started off for home empty-handed, his heart heavy with disappointment. And yet, he couldn't feel anger against his employer, for through the years of his employment he had been well treated. He knew that his employer wasn't a swindler or an evil man. If he hadn't been able to pay him, there must be some reason. And with that generous thought, he made the long journey home.
He returned home in time to spend Rosh Hashana with his family. Fall and winter passed and soon it was spring. The poor farmer resumed working in his small field. One day he looked up to see a caravan approaching. There were three donkeys all heavily laden with goods. As they neared, the man recognized his former employer as the driver who was leading the procession. He ran to greet him. The wealthy landlord dismounted from the donkey. "Everything that I have brought is for you." The first donkey carried fresh fruits and raisins; the second, oil and wine; while the third carried cakes and sweets for the family.
The landlord then took out of his cloak a bag of gold coins which he gave to his former employee, who was speechless with wonder.
"The food and drink which I give you are a gift, but the gold is what I owe you for your years of honest labor. Please, tell me the truth, what did you think when you asked for your wages and I said I couldn't pay you?"
The farmer replied, "I must admit that I couldn't understand it. Then I thought that maybe you had invested all your money in some merchandise and had no available cash."
"Then what did you think when you requested that I pay you in produce and I again said that I couldn't do that?"
"I thought that perhaps you had not yet tithed your fields."
"And what about when you asked for a field?"
"I thought that perhaps you had rented out your fields to a tenant farmer and that they were not yet available for your use."
"And what about when I refused to give you cattle?"
"I assumed that you had lent them out to someone."
"And when you finally asked for blankets and pillows?"
"I could only think that you had vowed to consecrate all your possessions to the Holy Temple and had nothing left to give me."
"All that you have said is true! I was so angered by my son's obstinance that I vowed to give all my possessions to the Holy Temple instead of to him. But then I regretted my vow and asked the rabbis to annul it. As soon as this was done I came here to bring you your wages. The other things I bring as a token of my thanks. I bless you that G-d always judge you as favorably as you have judged me."
A Jewish vision of redemption ultimately emanates from the source whence destruction receives its energy. Shabbat Chazon ("Vision") precedes Tisha B'Av so that the vision of a glorious future can combat and neutralize the destructive forces concentrated on this fateful day. A true visionary has the ability to see a good future through even a troubled present. This idea is embodied in the Sage's statement that Moshiach is born on Tisha B'Av. He is conceived in the collective super-consciousness of the Jewish People and his birth is the manifestation of the deep belief in the ultimate redemption of the world. This universal vision, imprinted within the very day of destruction, forms the essential core of the soul of Moshiach.
(Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg at inner.org)