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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

October 12, 2012 - 26 Tishrei, 5773

1241: Bereshis

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  1240: Ha'Azinu1242: Noach  

Some Things Never Change  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Who's Who  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Some Things Never Change

All of us, laymen, leaders and politicians alike, would do well to read and internalize the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe regarding the Land of Israel, stated exactly 21 years ago this Shabbat, though just as pertinent today:

Although the Jews are living under the dominion of the non-Jews and in such circumstances, the Torah teaches "The law of the land is your land," "Do not rebel against the nations," and "Do not challenge the nations," this does not mean that the Jews must fear the nations.

The principle "The law of the land is your law," applies in regard to certain material matters, e.g., business law, taxes, and the like, but not in regard to the Torah and its commandments. In regard to the latter, we have the clear assurance of the Previous Rebbe that "our souls were not sent into exile." Furthermore, even in regard to material matters, the dominion the non-Jews have over us is limited in nature and exists only because this is the order which G-d decreed as punishment for our sins.

For this reason, the Jews are obligated to be grateful to the non-Jews for the kindness they receive from them as implied by the verse, "Seek the welfare of the city.... for its welfare will bring you peace."

When we receive from them kindness and support for our ability to study Torah and perform mitzvot (commandments), it is G-d's kindness which He has chosen to grant the Jews through the non-Jews.

An example of this is the Russian Government's granting permission and assistance for thousands of Jews to emigrate to the Holy Land and other countries. This reflects a trend towards the appreciation of the Jewish people that has continued to grow in the world at large.

Throughout the centuries, the Jews have been recognized as "the chosen people." In the world at large, and in particular, in the United States, the Jews are allowed to carry out their service of G-d without persecution, indeed, amidst rest and prosperity.

Based on the above, we can understand how inappropriate are the statements which certain Rabbis have recently made that the Jews must comply with the demands of the non-Jewish nations in regard to the Land of Israel. These statements continue, stating that, heaven forbid, such compliance is necessary because the existence of the Jews in Israel is dependent on the kindness of the non-Jewish nations.

The lack of faith shown by these statements is horrifying. They imply that: The future of the Jewish people is in doubt. This is impossible, for the Jews are an eternal people as the verse states, "I, G-d, have not changed, nor have you, O Children of Israel, been destroyed."

Despite the fact that these concepts are obvious, a Jew made such statements before many other Jews who came to hear him teach Torah. Even more surprising is that these statements were made in the month of Tishrei, a month in which there is an emphasis on G-d's choice of the Jewish people.

The principle, "Do not challenge the nations" is not relevant in this context, for this principle can never override an explicit teaching of Torah law. In this instance, we are clearly bound by the decision of the Code of Jewish Law (Orach Chayim 329) that if non-Jews threaten to attack a Jewish settlement we must take up arms and defend ourselves against them. And if that settlement is located on the border, we must take up arms against them even if they are demanding "straw and hay," for by acquiescing to them, we "open the entire land to them."

Since such statements were made, it is obvious that greater emphasis has to be placed on recognizing the uniqueness of the Jewish people and on emphasizing their connection to the Land of Israel. And this will lead to the ultimate wonder, the coming of the Redemption. And then we will proceed together with the entire Jewish people to Israel, to Jerusalem, and to the Holy Temple.

Living with the Rebbe

"In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth." With these momentous words the Torah begins the very first chapter of Bereishis, establishing G-d's Kingship over all of creation.

The Torah, however, is not history book. The Torah is the guide by which we live our lives, applying its teachings to every aspect of our existence.

The ancient Sage, Rabbi Yitzchak, raises a pertinent question. "Why does the Torah open with the story of Creation?" he asks, as quoted by Rashi in his commentary. "Why didn't G-d begin with the words, 'This month is to you,' - the first commandment containing practical implications?

"The might of His deeds He told to His nation; to bequeath to them the heritage of the nations," Rabbi Yitzchak himself answers.

"If the nations of the world will one day accuse the Jewish people of being thieves, having 'stolen' the land of Israel from the seven nations who formerly inhabited it, they will counter, 'The entire earth belongs to G-d! He is the One Who created it and bequeathed it to whom He saw fit. It was His will to give the land to the nations; it was His will to take it from them and give it to us."

According to this explanation, the entire order of the Torah's portions was changed solely to refute the world's complaint that the Jewish people misappropriated their land. But is their accusation really so important that G-d would change even one letter in His holy Torah for its sake? Would not a refutation in the Oral Tradition have been sufficient to counter whatever complaint Gentiles would one day lodge against the nation of Israel?

In truth, the Torah's choice of language holds significance not only for the nations of the world but for Jews themselves.

"In the beginning" contains an important lesson for every Jew to apply in his daily life. In general, the life of a Jew may be divided into two realms: the religious and the secular. The Jew willingly observes his various religious obligations because the Torah requires him to.

When, however, he is asked to also sanctify those mundane aspects of daily existence that seemingly fall outside the domain of religious observance, he balks, rejecting this demand as an invasion of privacy.

The secular realm of a person's life, pertaining to the physical and material domain, metaphorically belong to the "seven nations." Yet it is precisely this realm that the Jew is called upon to conquer, elevating his every action by performing it solely for the sake of heaven.

"You are thieves!" the world cries out against the Jew. "How dare you conquer the domain of the seven nations and blur the distinction between religious observance and the mundane?!"

To which the Jew replies, "All of creation belongs to G-d." Every realm of existence is part of Divine plan and can be made holy.

Indeed, such is the mission of every Jew -- to transform wherever he may be into a spiritual Land of Israel.

Judaism demands that we sanctify even the lowest aspects of the material world, thereby imbuing all of creation with holiness and demonstrating the unity of the One Creator.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. XX

A Slice of Life

Shabbat in the Gulag
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

Ed.'s note: The following story epitomizes the saying "More than the Jews kept Shabbat, Shabbat kept the Jew."
I heard the following story directly from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Gurevitz of Migdal HaEmek, Israel

Rabbi Gurevitz lived in Russia during Stalin's regime. He was arrested for being an anti-revolutionary and a suspected capitalist. His real crime, though, was that he was a religious Jew. He was sentenced, after a 10 minute trial, to seven years in Siberia for "correction by forced labor."

Most people did not last long in these forced labor camps. But from the moment Rabbi Gurevitz learned that he was being sent to Siberia, he made up his mind to be positive and happy.

When asked if he had any skills, Rabbi Gurevitz remembered what he had been told by friends: if you don't say you are skilled they'll put you to hard labor and you won't survive. So he said he was a tailor.

Now the fact is that Rabbi Gurevtiz was not a tailor but his mother had had a sewing machine and he had watched her work a few times. Rabbi Gurevitz thought he would be able to figure out how to sew. He was taken to a huge factory where they made sacks for the soldiers. He was ordered to sit down at one of the machines, then he was given several large, neatly stacked piles of leather cut to various sizes. He was shown the finished product, directed about how to make it, and then left to work.

There was only one problem: it was Shabbat. And Jews are forbidden to sew on Shabbat. Rabbi Gurevitz sat in the chair and stared at the sewing machine. Why, he was even forbidden to touch it on the Sabbath according to Jewish law. What could he do? He prayed for inspiration. If he didn't work it could mean... the worst! But breaking the Shabbat was out of the question! Suddenly it dawned on him that sitting and doing nothing while everyone else was furiously busy was also out of the question. He stood up and excused himself to the bathroom, where he holed himself up for a half an hour.

Upon exiting the bathroom, Rabbi Gurevitz noticed a room filled with beds. It was the room where everyone took a rest in the afternoon. He walked straight into the room, got into a bed, pulled the blanket over him and did not move for the rest of the day.

It was actually the middle of the summer and quite warm, certainly too warm to be comfortably hiding under a winter-weight blanket. But Rabbi Gurevitz was happy that he was able to not desecrate Shabbat. At the end of the work-day, as if nothing had happened, Rabbi Gurevitz emerged from the room and left like all of the other workers.

Since he was new, his supervisors had not noticed that he was gone the entire day. However, they did notice that next to his name on the daily production list was a big zero.

The next day when Rabbi Gurevitz reported to work, he was met by two huge soldiers who informed him that he was to appear before a board of judges for sentencing. He stood trembling before the judges. Then, to his surprise, one of the judges began speaking to him in Yiddish! "What are you doing such stupid things for? You could get 10 more years for not working! Why don't you work for mother Russia?"

"It was Shabbat, your honor! I couldn't work on Shabbat!" was his answer.

"But it was permissible! To save your life it's permissible! I know the law. You could get killed for refusing to work!"

"You are probably right, your honor, but I will not work on Shabbat. I am a Jew and Jews don't work on Shabbat."

The judge stared at him for a minute with no expression on his faces. Then he turned to the other judge and began whispering.

Although Rabbi Gurevitz was expecting the worst, he prayed for a miracle.

"Okay Gurevitz," said the Jewish judge in Russian. "We have the storehouse where all the leather is kept. The leather is very valuable and we have not yet found a way to stop the leather from disappearing. It would seem that the guards themselves are stealing the leather."

"Well, we see that you are a man of principle Comrade Gurevitz! If you are willing to risk your life for your principles, we do not think that you will steal the leather. Do you understand?"

Rabbi Gurevitz nodded in agreement. "I never stole anything in my life." He said.

The judges were incredulous "Never? Never stole?! Ha, that is what everyone here in this prison says! That is what all the previous guards said also! Ha haaa! But you are different, we SAW what you did. Now what do you say? With this new job you can keep your Shabbat too. Just make sure you keep the leather safe!"

Sure enough, for his remaining years in Siberia, Rabbi Gurevitz did not have any problem with keeping Shabbat. In addition, he was able to study Torah and fulfill many, many mitzvot (commandments) , but was also able to learn and observe the Torah and even help others to do so as well from his position as guard of the leather bank.

Reprinted from

What's New

New Torahs

New Torah scrolls were written and welcomed into Chabad-Lubavitch Centers around the world. In East Lansing, Michigan, a Torah Scroll was brought to Chabad of Lansing/Michigan State University. The Torah was written to honor those who survived or perished in the Holocaust. Nikolayev, Ukraine, was another city where a new Torah scroll was paraded into the local Jewish Community Center. The Bais Menachem Youth Development Program in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, welcomed a new Torah scroll. Omaha, Nebraska, welcomed an historic first - a Torah that was started and completed in Omaha, and will be housed at Chabad-Lubavitch of Nebraska.

The Rebbe Writes

6th of Marcheshvan, 5727 [1966]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of October 12th, in which you also refer to a previous letter you wrote.

As you can well imagine, there is a great deal of correspondence that reaches me during the period of the month of Tishrei and prior to it, so that a delay is unavoidable, not only because of the volume of correspondence, but also of the various matters of the month of Tishrei and the intervening festivals, as well as the many visitors that come to spend this month with us here.

With regard to the question of hatzlacha [success] in study and the gaining of knowledge, surely you know of the promise of our Sages, "Try hard and you will succeed." Thus, success is largely something which depends on the student himself.

However, inasmuch as everything requires Divine help, including also that the "try hard" as well as the "and you will succeed" should be satisfactory, the way to obtain this is through devotion and diligence in the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvos [commandments] with hiddur [special beauty]. This is mainly a matter of will and determination, for nothing stands in the way of the will.

Having just concluded the month of Tishrei, culminating with the joyous festival of Simchat Torah, you have surely heard the explanation of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi] that the joy of Simchas Torah is a double one: The Jews rejoicing with the Torah, and the Torah rejoicing with the Jews, based on the verses, "Israel rejoices with their Maker" and "G-d rejoices with His works."

And since all the festivals of the month of Tishrei conclude with Simchas Torah, it means that this mutual rejoicing can be achieved only through the fulfillment of the Torah and mitzvos, as it is stated in the Zohar, "Israel, the Torah and the Holy One blessed be He, are all one" - the Torah placed in the center as the connecting link between Israel and G-d. We have but one Torah, comprising both Nigle [the "revealed" parts of the Torah] and Chassidus [the "inner" aspects of the Torah], which must be studied with a view to fulfillment of the mitzvot with hiddur, as emphasized by our Sages that the essential thing of the Torah study is the deed. This brings G-d's blessings for hatzlacha not only spiritually, but also materially,

Hoping to hear good news from you,

4 Kislev, 5741 [1980]

...P.S. The following comes in English, in response to your English letter, and particularly as it comes in reference to your remark that, "nearly everyone who was in New York during Succos returned with a Cold."

I was, of course, taken aback by this development. While 770, especially in the crush of Zman Simchoseinu [the Season of our Rejoicing], could cause some discomfort, I had not expected that it could be the cause of a widespread Cold (with a capital C). I am used to receiving reports about returning from 770 filled with warmth and bursting with enthusiasm and energy which - if it had any physical effects - no doubt raised the body temperature (and as it is to be called even in English, "mit hitz") several degrees. But to return from here with a "Cold"?! Granted that England's climate is on the cold side all year round, and that Englishmen are basically conservative, reserved and cool-headed, not given to a display of exuberance and over-reacting, I had thought that things had changed a bit in England in recent years.

Of course, your statement implied no fault, certainly not intentionally. However, the association of a Cold with 770 seems quite incongruous, especially as Lubavitch here, as well as in Manchester, Great Britain and elsewhere, has, with G-d's help, succeeded in breaking the ice-age.

Be it as it may, there are certainly no kepeida klal but rather in the spirit of some pidyonos [requests] that I have seen, expressing the prayerful wish that "it should have an impact on me and on others." I pray that what has been said above should have an impact on myself, that my conduct should leave no room for any possibility of a Cold in others.

Who's Who

Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, known as the Ramban and Nachmonides (1195 - 1270) was a pre-eminent Torah scholars. He was a physician, philosopher, kabbalist, and commentator, authoring commentaries on the Torah, Talmud and Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. He lived most of his life in Gerona, Spain. When he was 72, an apostate Jew induced King James I of Aragon to summon him to a public debate in Barcelona. Although the Ramban won the debate he was banished from Spain. He moved to Israel in his final years and helped re-establish a Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is "Shabbat Bereishit," when we read the very first portion of the Torah. As explained by the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the way we conduct ourselves on Shabbat Bereishit has an influence on our conduct of the entire year to come.

This week is also the Shabbat on which we bless the coming month of Marcheshvan. The name is derived from the Hebrew word meaning "drop," as it is in Marcheshvan that the rainy season begins in the Holy Land.

Winter is the season for rain; summer, for dew to fall. But what is the difference between rain and dew?

Rain is dependent on man's Divine service. In the merit of our prayers, G-d causes the rain to fall. If, G-d forbid, our behavior is lacking, He withholds His life-giving waters. Dew, by contrast, occurs independent of our actions. G-d causes the dew to regularly replenish the earth, without any effort on our part.

The physical phenomena of rain and dew expresses the essential difference between summer and winter. In the summer, when dew falls, the world receives G-d's blessings from Above without our exertion. Winter, when rain falls, is a time when it is more difficult to obtain His blessings, as we must labor to be worthy of receiving them.

This Shabbat, when we bless the month of Marcheshvan, we imbue the "month of rain" with the power which will sustain it. It is the last Shabbat of Tishrei, the "chodesh hashevi'i" (the "seventh month" when counting from Nisan), that is "musba" ("satiated," from the same root word as "sheva," meaning "seven") with all that is good. For only a month that is so full of mitzvot as Tishrei can impart the necessary strengths to the difficult month that will follow. Indeed, it is from Tishrei that we draw the ability to perform our G-dly service throughout the entire winter.

So rain or shine, it's always time to do a mitzva.

Thoughts that Count

And G-d saw the light that it was good, and He divided (1:4)

Rashi explains that when G-d saw that the light was good, he decided that it was not fitting for both darkness and light to reign together. He therefore appointed each its proper time, light during the day and darkness at night. How can light and darkness possibly get mixed up with each other? Does not even a small amount of light immediately dispel any darkness? The original combining of darkness and light was only in the times allotted for each. Before G-d distinguished between the two, the light and darkness followed each other in rapid succession and in no particular order. G-d subsequently gave each of them its own realm.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1)

The first verse in the entire Torah consists of seven Hebrew words:"Bereishit bara Elokim eit hashamayim ve'eit ha'aretz" (In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.) These are symbolic of the seven days of the week, the seven years of the Sabbatical cycle, the seven Sabbatical years in a Jubilee, the seven celestial firmaments, the seven lands, and the seven planets in the sky.

(Baal HaTurim)

And the L-rd, G-d called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" (Gen. 3:9)

From this we learn that one should never burst into another person's home unannounced. Indeed, we derive proper manners from G-d Himself, Who "stood" at the entrance to the Garden of Eden and initiated a conversation with Adam before entering.

(Derech Eretz)

It Once Happened

The shammes (caretaker) of the Baal Shem Tov's shul (synagogue) had completed most of his work there and as usual, went to sweep up the Rebbe's private room. When he entered he was surprised to see the Baal Shem Tov stretched out in his bed taking a nap. The shammes moved around the room soundlessly, tidying up, when he came upon the shoes of the Baal Shem Tov.

He stopped for a moment, as if considering his next move, and then he said to himself, "Should I move his shoes, or should I just sweep around them?" After a brief moment of thought he decided to leave them alone and clean as best he could without touching them.

Shortly after the shammes finished his work the Baal Shem Tov asked him, "Did you move my shoes?"

"No, Rabbi, I didn't," was his reply.

The Baal Shem Tov nodded and a bright smile appeared on his face. "I promise you that you will have long and healthy years," he blessed the shammes.

Many years passed and one day a chasid happened to visit the home of the shammes. In the main room there were two elderly men. He noticed that one man was warming himself by the stove while a younger man was busy cleaning up the house. Suddenly the younger of the two began to scream at the old man, "Why do lie there all day and do nothing! Get up and make yourself useful! Do you think I should do all the work around here?"

The chasid was deeply shocked and offended to see a younger man abuse someone so much older than himself. He couldn't restrain his anger and he raised his voice saying: "How do you dare to insult the old man like that? Haven't you learned to respect your elders?"

The man broke into a hearty laugh. "Elders? Do you think he is my elder?? Why, he's my son! Many years ago when I was the shammes of the Baal Shem Tov he gave me a blessing that I would have a long, healthy life, and here I am as you see me today, as strong as a boy and younger-looking than my own son!"

Reb Zalman was perplexed. Both he and his colleague, Reb Menashe, were accomplished students of the Gaon of Vilna. Nevertheless, there was a marked difference in the way people responded to the guidance they offered.

"Why is it," he asked Reb Menashe, "that people who consult me do not seem to be satisfied with my advice, while your advice is always regarded highly?"

"I think I may be able to resolve your difficulty," replied Reb Menashe. "When a person comes to you with a problem, you delve into your wealth of knowledge of Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, comparing the question to an example from the text. Often, the comparison is not totally appropriate because times have changed and the circumstances in which we live differ from those of the previous years. Since the matter has not been made totally relevant to him, the person may walk away unsatisfied.

"When a person approaches me, I encourage the person to describe his own feelings in detail and voice his personal thoughts and observations on the issue. When I have become aware of his perspective on the matter, I am able to give him advice which relates to him. Since the person has taken an active role in solving the problem, he is more satisfied with the suggestions offered."

Once, Rebbe Zeev Wolf from Zitomer was present when the Shpoler Zeide was dancing. Noticing that the tzadik's belt had fallen on the ground, he picked it up and tied it around the tzadik's waist.

"This is like tying a band around a Torah scroll," declared Rebbe Zeev Wolf.

Once when Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad-Lubavitch was planning to pass through the city of Shpola, the Zeide announced that all the people should come out with their brooms and sweep the streets. He, too, took a broom and swept. "The master of Torah is going to pass by," he explained.

Once, while Reb Michal the Elder, one of the mashpi'im [spiritual tutors] in the yeshiva in Lubavitch, was about to recite the Shema during his morning prayers, he noticed that one of the students had torn shoes. He interrupted his prayers and pointed out the torn shoes to the person who was charged with taking care of the students' material needs.

Later, Reb Michal was asked: "Couldn't the torn shoes have waited until after you completed your prayers?"

"The Shema proclaims the oneness of G-d," replied Reb Michal. "A student wearing torn shoes can, G-d forbid, catch cold and be held back from study and prayer. Being conscious of this is an expression of the oneness of G-d."

Reprinted from From My Father's Shabos Table by Rabbi Y. Chitrick.

Moshiach Matters

In Genesis 1:2 we read: "And the spirit of G-d hovered above the waters." Midrash Rabba explains that this refers to the soul of Moshiach. In fact, the Hebrew words in the verse "and the spirit of G-d hovered - V'ruach Elokim m'rachefet" have the same numerical value as the words, "This is the soul of Moshiach - Zeh haya rucho shel Melech HaMoshiach."

(Discover Moshiach)

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