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Summer! A time for vacations, relaxation, exploration - and sports. Baseball, America's Pastime, of course. But there's also swimming. Nothing beats the heat like a good swim. It's great exercise, too.
Sometimes we just want to sit in the pool. Sometimes we play games - marco polo, some kind of ball game, whatever. Sometimes we swim laps. Swimming pool activities are endless, fun, and almost make us glad it's ninety degrees or more.
Of course, all this water activity only works for you if you know how to swim. It's a big mitzva (commandment), teaching someone to swim - according to one opinion in the Talmud, it's as much an obligation as teaching a child how to earn a living.
One of the main activities in almost all general summer camps is not only swimming, but swimming lessons - teaching the children how to swim. And if a child knows how to swim, they learn how to swim better.
Part of those lessons includes learning how to dive. The diving lessons start at the edge of the pool and progress to the low board. Almost everyone learns how to dive off the diving board - the low board.
But the high dive - ah! that's something different. Even very experienced swimmers - swimmers who can win racers - aren't always comfortable climbing the high dive. Even if one's an expert off the low dive - it's a long way down. Just looking gives you an elevator stomach.
Jumping off the high dive is bad enough, but at least you're going feet first. Diving? And doing somersaults in the air? Only for the very brave, or very foolhardy.
Of course, there are those adventurous, talented, athletic types that go from the wading pool to the high dive without missing a beat.
Becoming involved in Judaism is like learning to swim. We take a Torah class - get our feet wet. Commit to a mitzva - maybe lighting Shabbat candles every week, putting on tefilin once a week, giving extra tzedeka (charity) - we learn to put our head under water. And so on.
Sometimes we master a particular "stroke" really fast. Sometimes we're very comfortable with our "skill set" - our level of observance, how many mitzvot we do, how carefully we keep them, how much Torah we learn, how intensely we study. We might look with envy or admiration at someone who's doing backflips off the high dive of Jewish life.
But, we say to ourselves, it's not for me. Too high. Too scary. Too different.
The truth is, we can, and sometimes do, look at each stage of our growth as Jews as trying to do a swan off the high dive - or, more technically, a backward flip one and a half somersault twist straight knife into the water.
The "Judaism is a high dive" attitude can intimidate us at any level - moving forward can seem beyond our reach. But it isn't. Because the high dive is just a longer short dive. That is, a dive off a low board is just as scary the first time. It's practice - and a good teacher - that makes the difference.
That's how the good divers do it: practice, of course, which makes them comfortable - the more we do a mitzvah, the more comfortable and easy it is to do it again.
We have to realize it's not necessary to master the "high dive" the first time we try to swim. It takes time and practice, teacher and training, to swim at all. And mastering any skill (learning Torah and doing mitzvot is also as skill) is not only a challenge, but fun.
But we also have to realize that in fact each mitzva we do, each bit of Torah we learn, is itself a jump off the high dive - a very successful and graceful dive.
This Shabbat, known as "Shabbat Nachamu," is the first of the seven "Sabbaths of Consolation." A special Haftora beginning "Console, console yourselves, My people" is read.
Our Sages explain the twofold use of the word "console": "[The Jewish people] committed a twofold sin...received a twofold punishment... and are likewise comforted twofold." Elsewhere our Sages comment, "Because its mitzvot (commandments) are doubled, so too are its consolations doubled."
Why this emphasis on the number two? How can a sin be twofold, anyway? Moreover, what is meant by the statement that the Torah's commandments are "doubled"?
The terms "twofold" and "double," refer to two different dimensions. Everything in a Jew's life - the Torah and its commandants, the destruction of the Holy Temple and our consolation - reflects this duality, for everything in the world is composed of both a physical and a spiritual component.
A Jew is a mixture of a corporeal body and spiritual soul, which together form a complete being. A Jew is considered whole when both aspects of his nature, body and soul, are working in tandem to serve G-d.
Mitzvot, too, are composed of these two dimensions.
Every mitzva contains a spiritual component - the intentions behind it - and a physical component - the way the mitzva is performed.
This is what our Sages referred to when stating that the Torah's mitzvot are "doubled"; similarly, the "twofold sin" committed by the Jewish people refers to the physical and spiritual aspects of their transgression.
Accordingly, the punishment which followed - the destruction of the Holy Temple - was both spiritual and physical. Had the destruction been limited to the physical stones of the Temple, the G-dly light and revelation it brought into the world would have continued as before. However, the Jewish people "received a twofold punishment," and were chastised with a concealment of G-dliness as well.
The Holy Temple itself reflected this duality. The Temple was a physical structure, possessing certain limited dimensions. Yet, the G-dly light with which it was illuminated was infinite in nature. Its destruction was therefore a double blow as it affected both of these aspects.
When the Holy Temple is rebuilt in the Messianic era our consolation will be doubled because it will encompass both dimensions: not only will the physical structure of the Temple be restored, but its G-dly revelation will also return.
This double measure of completion will be brought about by King Moshiach, who possesses a perfect "composite soul" containing all the souls of the Jewish people, and is therefore able to bring perfection to all creation.
Adapted from Sefer HaSichot of the Rebbe, 5750, Vol. 2
Lots of Happy Campers
The Lubavitch network of day and overnight summer camps 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. "Friendship Circle" camps, for special needs children, are often run in tandem with the local Chabad-Lubavitch camp or are sometimes a special division in the camp. We present you with a small sampling of some of the Chabad-Lubavitch affiliate summer camps world-wide.
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15th of Menachem Av, 5725 
To All Participants in the Dedication Exercises at Camp Gan Israel Linden, Michigan
This is to convey my prayerful wishes to all of you, and particularly to the families of the distinguished friends of the camp who will be honored on this occasion. The memorial to the late Zeev Hordes, as well as the other distinguished Jews whose memory will be honored, will surely provide visible symbols for their families and friends, to inspire and stimulate them to ever greater accomplishments.
I have chosen the 15th of Av as the date of this letter because of its special significance and also because of its proximity to the day of these dedication exercises.
Our sages tell us that the 15th day of Av was a very joyous festival in the olden days, especially for the younger generation, with particular emphasis on the religious ideals and values of our Jewish way of life.
Coming so soon after Tisha B'Av, the radical transition from a mood of sadness to that of joy is doubly significant. Firstly, it signifies that any sad interlude in Jewish life is only transitory, and is based on the principle of "descent for the purpose of ascent." In other words, any and all sad events in our history which are commemorated on the few sad days on our calendar, are backwards steps which are necessary for a greater forward leap.
Secondly, that the very transition from sadness to gladness intensifies the joy, and adds real quality to it, which could not be appreciated otherwise.
The message of these days is best applied in the efforts on behalf of our Jewish youth. All too often we hear about the "lost generation," or our "lost youth." It is therefore most gratifying to see your efforts to provide true guidance, direction and inspiration to the younger generation in your community and your environs. Your efforts have, with G-d's help, been fruitful in the past; I hope and pray they will continue in a growing measure of success in the future.
15th of Menachem Av, 5735 
I was pleased to receive the report about your activities, and may G-d grant that they should continue and expand with much hatzlocho [success].
In the present days, having concluded the Three Weeks, which are connected with sad events of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple], and having entered the period of the Seven Weeks of Consolation, which bring us the good tidings of the forthcoming Geulah [Redemption] and restoration of the Beis HaMikdosh - every action which is connected with the strengthening of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and with the special Mitzvah [commandment] campaigns - notably those most pertinent to Jewish women: candle-lighting, kashrus, and taharas hamishpocho [family purity] - in particular, is especially significant.
For as mentioned in the well-known prayer "Umipnei Chataeinu," the only cause of the sad events of the past, the destruction and exile, was the neglect of Torah and Mitzvos. Therefore, through rectifying and removing the cause, the effect will also be removed. This is why every activity to spread Yiddishkeit is so vital, especially the efforts to provide the right influence and proper chinuch [education] for Jewish daughters, since this is the way to raise generation after generation of fully committed Torah-true Jewish families, in an endless chain reaction.
I send my prayerful wishes to each and all participants in these endeavors, which are at the same time a wide channel to receive G-d's blessings also in all personal needs.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above.
YERACHMIEL means "G-d will have mercy." Yerachmiel was a son of King Yehoiakim, King of Judah.
YISKA is from an expression in Hebrew denoting "dignity." Yiska was another name for Sara (Genesis 11:29). She was named Yiska because she "looked into the future" - sakhta - with Divine prophesy and all "looked at" - sokhin - her beauty. Jessica is the Anglicized version of Yiska.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Shabbat is Shabbat Nachamu, Sabbath of rejoicing. We are hopeful that G-d will console us for the destruction of the Holy Temple and Jerusalem. The Haftora portion for this week and the next six weeks reflects this theme of consolation.
This Shabbat is known by the special name of "Shabbat Nachamu" because we read the Haftora portion which begins, "Nachamu, nachamu ami - Console, console My people."
Our Sages have taught that it is significant that there are seven Haftora portions of consolation. The first consolers are the tzadikim trying to comfort Jerusalem upon her loss. But she will not be comforted. The second, is the patriarch Abraham. Again, the city will not be consoled. Next is Isaac, then Jacob and then Moses. Each time the city will not be consoled. The sixth Haftora is Jerusalem's plea for consolation and finally, G-d Himself, consoles the Holy City.
According to the Midrash, the reason why the word "console" is repeated twice is that G-d is comforting us for the destruction of the first Holy Temple and also for the second Holy Temple. G-d's consolation and our comfort lies in the fact that G-d has promised us that there will be a third Holy Temple, greater than the first two. This will take place through Moshiach in the Messianic Era as the Rambam writes: "In the future time, the King Moshiach will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will rebuild the Beit HaMikdash and gather in the dispersed remnant of Israel."
This year may we merit to have the true consolation which G-d has promised us all these years with the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.
And I entreated G-d at that time, saying...let me go over, I pray You, that I may see the good land (Deut. 3:23-25)
The Midrash relates that Moses beseeched G-d with 515 prayers (the numerical equivalent of the word "va'etchanan" - "and I entreated") to be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Even after G-d explicitly told him, "Do not continue to speak to Me any more of this matter," Moses persisted. We learn from this that we must never give up begging and imploring G-d to allow us back into the land of Israel, with the coming of Moshiach, for we have been promised that we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe Shabbat Parshat Devarim, 5751)
I beg you, let me go over, and see the good land (Deut. 3:25)
At first glance, Moses' request that he "see the good land" seems superfluous; if G-d allowed him to cross over the Jordan, wouldn't he automatically "see" the land? Rather, Moses was praying to avoid the same transgression as the Twelve Spies, and see only the "good" in the Land of Israel.
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)
At that time, saying (Deut. 3:23)
Moses beseeched G-d that in later generations - "at that time" - when the Jews will find themselves in the depths of exile, unable to even muster up the proper intentions before praying and only capable of uttering the words, their prayers should be acceptable before G-d.
(The Amshinover Rebbe)
Keep therefore and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations (Deut. 4:6)
Some people mistakenly think that wisdom and understanding are unnecessary requirements for fearing G-d, and that any fool can do so easily. In truth, however, a great deal of wisdom and intelligence is necessary to be able to keep the Torah properly.
(Rabbi Moshe Chafetz)
Take good care of your souls (Deut. 4:15)
One must not abuse or neglect the physical body, for "a small defect in the body creates a large defect in the soul."
(The Mezeritcher Magid)
Rabbi Akiva and his wife, Rachel, had a kind and beloved daughter, a rare jewel. As she grew up, her family concerned themselves with finding a suitable match for her, a young man who would appreciate her special qualities. When such a person was found, the family began making wedding preparations. The family was understandably excited. But Rabbi Akiva was a bit worried. Years before, an astrologer had told him that a terrible disaster would occur on his daughter's wedding day. She would be bitten by a poisonous snake and die.
Rabbi Akiva placed his trust in G-d, knowing well that the stars and astrology do not control the lives of Jews. With great devotion, Rabbi Akiva prayed that no harm would befall his cherished child.
The wedding day arrived. Guests came from far and near to celebrate the wedding of the daughter of the esteemed and revered Rabbi Akiva. Everything proceeded seemingly uneventfully.
During the wedding meal, while everyone was enjoying the delicious repast, a poor man walked into the hall. "Can anyone give me something to eat?" he called out in a soft voice, too weakened by hunger to speak loudly. No one heard the poor man. No one except for the bride, herself. She got up from her place of honor. Though she had fasted the entire day, she quietly, humbly, gave the beggar her own portion of the wedding feast. No one noticed this simple act of kindness which the bride showed to the poor man.
Later that evening, as some of the guests had begun to leave, the bride went to her room to rest. She had been wearing a gold pin in her hair to keep her veil in place. She removed the pin from her hair and looked around in the dim light for a place to put it. Finding no suitable, secure place, she stuck it in the wall near her bed.
When the bride awakened in the morning and went to take her pin, an incredible sight met her eyes. A dead snake had been impaled by the pin!
Not much time passed before Rabbi Akiva heard about the snake. He immediately remembered the words of the astrologer. Certainly this was the snake about which he had foretold.
Rabbi Akiva asked his daughter, "Tell me, did you perform any good deeds yesterday at your wedding?"
The bride considered the events of the previous day. "I saw a poor, hungry man at the wedding who was asking for food. No one heard him but I. So, I took my own portion of food from the wedding feast and gave it to him."
Rabbi Akiva then told her of the astrologer's forecast and concluded by saying, "In the merit of your charitable act - the food which you gave to the poor man, your own life was saved."
Our Sages teach, "Tzedaka saves from death." In addition, it is customary for bride and groom, and their relatives (and anyone who cares about them) to give charity on the wedding day, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains: In light of the saying of our Sages, "Great is tzedaka, for it hastens the Redemption," there is a special quality to the tzedaka given by groom and bride - "king and queen" - to hasten and bring about the imminent true and complete Redemption...
The Rebbe also explained: Parents, grandparents, siblings, and all relatives and friends who desire the welfare of the groom and bride and who want to participate in the joy of the groom and bride, should increase the amount they give to charity on the day of the wedding. This applies as well to the teachers and the "matchmaker" of the groom and bride. Their gift should be in honor of and accompanied by prayerful wishes for the eternal well-being of the groom and bride, that the mitzva (commandment) and merit of tzedaka stand them in good stead and that their joy be unbounded and everlasting.
Each month, the fullness of the moon reflects a state of completion in the fundamental service connected with that month. In regard to the present month, its very name Menachem Av, points to a connection with Moshiach, who will be named Menachem, "the comforter." Similarly, our Sages describe Tisha B'Av as the day on which Moshiach was born, i.e., the day on which his spiritual source is endowed with additional power. Thus the Fifteenth of Av is a time when the potential for redemption reaches a state of completeness.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 16 Av, 5751-1991)