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   1279: Devarim

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L'Chaim
July 12, 2013 - 5 Av, 5773

1279: Devarim

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  1278: Matos-Masei1280: Vaeschanan  

Seeing the Building  |  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

Seeing the Building

When is a building finished being built? That seems like a simple question, maybe even a foolish one. A building is finished when it's built - when the last brick, stone, girder or whatever is put in place. But still, how do they know where to put that brick - or any other brick, for that matter? It's a process: The architect tells the contractor who tells the construction crew. So as far as the architect is concerned, the building was already built long before the ground-breaking.

In fact, from the architect's point-of-view, the building not only began when the previous structure was destroyed, but in a sense was completed. In the architect's mind, the building already existed, complete, finished, ready to use.

But it had not yet come into being. There was no physical evidence that the building existed. Ironically, though, once the construction crew began to tear down whatever had been on the spot of his building, the architect already had all the evidence he needed. Since the building existed in his mind and the process for making it real had already begun - with the removal of what had been - then it was as if the building already stood and it was just a matter of time.

The Talmud relates that Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva once went to Jerusalem. Reaching the Temple Mount, they saw a fox run out of the Holy of Holies. Three of them started to cry and Rabbi Akiva laughed. They questioned each other's actions. The three rabbis replied, "Should we not cry when foxes walk in the place about which it is written that the stranger who approaches will die." Akiva said, "Thus I laugh, for the prophecy of Zecharyah depends on the prophecy of Uriah (see Isaiah 8:2). Now that I see the prophecy of Uriah - that Zion will be a plowed field - has been fulfilled, I know the prophecy of Zecharyah - that old men and old women will again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem - will also be fulfilled." His three colleagues responded, "Akiva you have comforted us, Akiva you have comforted us."

But why? The Third Temple did not yet exist, the Jewish people were still in exile and the fast of Tisha B'Av was still in force.

To answer, we have to understand the inner purpose and concept of a fast. A fast day is described as "a desirable day for G-d." The spiritual content of such a day is inherently good. In fact, it contains such great goodness that all that stood on it before must be removed, so that the innate goodness can be revealed.

Rabbi Akiva saw not the surface situation but the inner reality. He saw like an architect - or perceived the plan of The Architect. Knowing that external appearances change, shift and thus have no lasting substance, Rabbi Akiva showed his colleagues how to look at a day like Tisha B'Av.

Of course one must fast and observe all the laws connected with the temporarily negative nature of the day. But primarily one must see - and thus work for - the inner purpose, the positive reality of the day. The vision of the inner truth leads through the fast to the realization of the prophecy that Moshiach is coming imminently and that Tisha B'Av will be a day of gladness and rejoicing - speedily in our days.


Living with the Rebbe

The Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim), which we begin reading this Shabbat, presents a fundamental question. It begins: "These are the words that Moses spoke," i.e., it collects Moses' farewell addresses to the Jewish people, statements which he made on his own initiative. On the other hand, one of the fundamental principles of Jewish faith is that every word in the Torah, including Deuteronomy is "the word of G-d," endowed to us by Divine revelation.

One of the resolutions offered points to the utter identification of Moses with G-d. For this reason, in these addresses Moses occasionally uses the pronoun "I" when speaking of G-d. For example, in the second portion of the Shema, it says: "I will grant your rains in their season." The "I" refers to G-d, but was spoken by Moses. As our Sages commented: "The Divine presence spoke from Moses' throat."

This motif is not only limited to Moses. Our Sages comment: "Every new Torah insight developed by an experienced scholar was given to Moses on Mount Sinai." Although the person labored to bring out these new ideas, they are not his own, but G-d's. Every person has the ability to transcend the human realm and reveal Divine truth.

What is the key to discovering such insights? Identifying one's "I" with G-d and not with one's own self. When a person is preoccupied with self-concern - what I want, and what I think is right - that is what he will think and speak about. When, by contrast, he is able to step beyond his individual concerns, he is able to appreciate - and share with others - G-d's wisdom.

The Torah portion of Devarim is always read before the fast of Tisha B'Av, the day on which we commemorate the destruction of both Holy Temples. More importantly, it is a day when we focus on building from those ruins, seeing that exile is not in itself an end, but rather a phase in the progress of mankind to its ultimate goal - the Future Redemption.

Our Sages describe exile with the analogy of sowing seeds. Before a seed can grow into a flowering plant, its exterior husk must utterly decompose. Similarly, for the G-dly core of the Jewish people to flourish, all the external dimensions of their personality must be stripped away.

In the analogue, the descent that characterizes the exile wears away at our connection with G-d. Without gentleness or mercy, exile tears apart the husky shells of our personalities. Layer after layer of who we think we are, and what we've been trained to be, what we would like to be, is peeled away.

Ultimately, what is left? The very essence of the soul, the point within our being that is an actual part of G-d. And when that essence is tapped, true growth begins. When this pattern spreads, the Jewish people blossom. In doing so, they spread the awareness of G-dliness throughout the world, precipitating the dawning of the era of the Redemption.

From Keeping In Touch by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos in English


A Slice of Life

Grandma Rachel, What is Taharah?
by Shirley Coles

The time was two years after my father died; the place, Grandma Rachel's kitchen. I was now about 12 years old. My mother was still at work on that September afternoon. After a lifetime of being a housewife, she had had to learn to work outside of home. She would return a little after five, tired, and likely wanting to be silent. I could not ask her the question I had in mind for so long.

Recently, Grandma Rachel's older sister passed away. During the family planning for Aunt Rose's funeral, my antennae picked up bits and pieces of conversation, one of which was the word "tahara.[1]" No sooner had I heard it, I remembered having heard it before, when the family was mourning my father. A very, very young child will ask questions without hesitation; a ten year old may sense when it is appropriate or not. I did not ask then....but now at twelve, I wanted to know.

From four to five in the afternoons, after milk and cookies, on those days when I didn't go out to play or have lots of homework to do, we would sit across from each other at the long family kitchen table. We would play gin rummy, or talk. She was my friend; she was the only adult in the crowded household who would listen and understand and answer my questions and, if I wanted something to be a secret, she never told anyone.

"Grandma, what is tahara? I asked. "I heard you and Momma and Aunt Molly talking about it when Aunt Rose died, and I also heard it long ago." She moved her body deeper into her chair, took a long look at me, heaved a sigh and I knew she was about to tell me something important. "Tsureleh, I'm so sorry all of us forget sometimes to explain things. This is good, very good that you ask me this." This is what she told me.

"Jewish people believe that each of us is made up of body and soul. We can see body, but we cannot see soul. But the soul is really who we are. When someone dies, the two parts are separated and, after the burial of the body, the soul goes to Heaven with G-d forever." I struggled to understand and learn, and I kept very quiet. "So, because the body is the home of the precious soul, we treat it with great respect. Now comes tahara, the holy washing and preparation for the burial. It is very beautiful."

"To be one of the people who do this is a great honor. They do G-d's work, guarding, washing and dressing the body, and offering prayers for the soul. The body is never left alone until burial. The neshama (soul) is at peace."

Now I must tell you that Grandma Rachel's English was halting; it was mixed with Yiddish. Since I understood both, her teaching was clear and tender; it's etched in my memory as I have told it. When she leaned back and heaved yet another sigh, I asked the question that had been dormant but troubling for so long. "Grandma, is that what happened with my father? Did holy people keep his body and soul company and guarded like you said? Did they wash and dress him and say prayers for him? Did his neshama go to G-d and Heaven at peace so he would not be afraid?"

Grandma Rachel held out her arms to me. "Come over here, Tsureleh. Come." I moved around the table and she cradled me in her soft lap while I shed tears that had been held back for far too long. Now I could be at peace as well.

Mrs. Coles, of blessed memory, passed away last fall. Reprinted with permission of her daughter.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) One of the most important elements of a proper Jewish burial is the Tahara, preparing the body by the Chevra Kaddisha for its final rest, until the Resurrection of the Dead in the era of Moshiach. There is no mystery to the Tahara. It is a simple, yet dignified ritual that allows the person to meet his Maker with the utmost respect and dignity.

    A proper Tahara includes cleansing, ritually washing, and dressing the deceased's body. Those who perform this Chesed Shel Emet (true act of kindness) recite special prayers, beseeching G-d to lift the soul into the Heavens and eternal rest.

    It is a pity that the observance of this simple, meaningful, and vital mitzva is neither strictly observed, nor readily offered by some Jewish funeral homes unless asked for (and sometimes insisted upon) by the family.

    If people only knew the merit and solace it brings to the soul of the deceased, no one would deny their loved one a kosher Tahara.

    (From The Jewish Mourners Companion by Rabbi Zalman Goldstein, Jewish Learning Group, www.jewishlearninggroup.com)


What's New

New Facility

Chabad in Florida recently acquired a magnificent 20-acre picturesque facility in the very heart of South Florida, near the Florida Everglades. It will be home to Florida's Camp Gan Israel overnight camp, The Tzirei Hashluchim winter camp for boys and girls, The Friendship Circle of North Broward & South Palm Beach, student Shabbatons from colleges and universities throughout the state of Florida, Shabbatons for Florida's 15 chapters of CTEEN, Chabad's teen program, Florida's more than 110 Chabad Centers will host Jewish retreats, educational seminars and leadership training events for their communities.

Let's Meet Community Helpers

Join a brother and sister as they meet police officers, firefighters and other community helpers. Hakoras Hatov means seeing the good these workers do in our neighborhood! The Toddler Experience Series, with its rhymes, gentle illustrations, and laminated pages, helps toddlers prepare for some of the most basic everyday events in their lives. A new release from Hachai Publishing, written and illustrated by Rikki Benenfeld.


The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation

15th of Tammuz, 5733 [1973]
To Each and All of the Campers,
Boys and Girls, of pre-Bar (Bas)-Mitzvah Age,
In All Summer Camps, Everywhere -
G-d Bless You All

Greeting and Blessing:

I hope and pray that you are making the fullest use of the present summer days to gain new strength and strengthen your health - both the health of the body and the health of the soul, which are closely linked together. And since the health of the soul is bound up with the Torah, which is "our very life and the length of our days," and with its Mitzvoth [commandments], "by which the Jew lives," you are surely doing your utmost in regard to Torah study and the observance of the Mitzvoth; in which case you may be certain of the fulfillment of the promise - "Try hard, and you will succeed."

I wish to emphasize, particularly, one point in connection with the forth-coming "Three Weeks" [between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av, when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temples] -

And you are, no doubt, familiar with the events and significance of these days.

The point is this: I want you to consider carefully the special Zechus (privilege) which Jewish children have, a Zechus which affects our entire Jewish people, to which King David refers in the following words: "Out of the mouth of babes and infants You have ordained strength (oz)... to still the enemy and avenger" - including also the enemy that has caused the "Three Weeks" and still seeks vengeance to this day. In other words, the way to vanquish and silence the enemy is through the study of the Torah, called "strength" (oz), by the mouths of young children. Indeed, so great is their power that our Sages of blessed memory declare: "The whole world exists only by virtue of the (Torah) breath of little Jewish school children, whose breath is pure and free of sin," referring to children who have not yet reached the age of responsibility for wrongdoing, that is, boys and girls of pre-Bar (Bas) - Mitzvah age.

In this connection it is necessary to bear in mind the words of our Prophet Isaiah (in the first chapter) "Zion will be redeemed through Justice (Mishpot) and her returnees through righteousness (Tzedoko)." "Mishpot," here according to one interpretation, refers to the Torah. This means that through the study of the Torah and the observance of its Mitzvoth, especially the Mitzvah of Tzedoko, the Redemption (Geulo) is brought closer.

And Tzedoko - in the light of what has been said in the beginning of this letter - includes both Tzedoko for the body and Tzedoko for the soul: Tzedoko for the body is, simply, giving Tzedoko to a poor man, or putting money in a Tzedoko box; Tzedoko for the soul is to help one's classmates and friends spiritually - that is, to encourage them in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, through showing them a living example of how a Jewish boy and girl should conduct themselves, and also by talking to them about these things.

Since it is my strong wish, and also great pleasure, to be your partner in this Tzedoko activity, I have sent out instructions to give each and everyone of you a token amount of money in the currency of your country, which is to be my participation in the said Tzedoko campaign.

May G-d bless each and everyone of you and grant you Hatzlocho [success] in all above, especially in your Torah learning and practice of Tzedoko, in a steadily growing measure, so that also when you return home from summer camp and throughout the next school-year (may it be a good one for all of us) you will - with renewed vigor and in good health, in body as well as in soul - go from strength to strength in your study of the Torah with diligence and devotion, and that your studies should be translated into deeds - in the practice of the Mitzvoth with Hiddur [beauty]; and all this should be carried out with joy and gladness of heart.

And may we all very soon, together with all our Jewish brethren, merit the fulfillment of the prophecy that these days of the Three Weeks will be transformed from sadness into gladness and joy,

With the true and complete Geulo through our righteous Moshiach,

"Who shall reign from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth...

"And all the earth will be filled with G-d's Glory."

With blessing for Hatzlocho and good tidings in all above,


Who's Who

King Solomon [Shlomo] was the son of King David and Bat Sheva. He was anointed king at the end of David's life with the full acceptance of the people, who called out, "Yechi HaMelech - Long Live the King." He ascended the throne at the age of 12 and reigned for 40 years. His reign was marked by peace and prosperity. In the fourth year of his reign, he constructed the Holy Temple with the materials that had been gathered by his father. Solomon was known for his wisdom and piety, and kings and queens of other realms were drawn to his wisdom and to see the magnificence of his court. Solomon composed the books of Proverbs, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastics.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat, the Sabbath before Tisha B'Av, is called Shabbat Chazon. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev used to note that the name comes from the word machaze, meaning "vision," for "on that day everyone is shown the future Holy Temple."

The purpose of this vision is to inspire and encourage a Jew: having caught a glimpse of the Third Holy Temple in its heavenly perfection, all that is left for him to do is to bring it down to this world.

Although not everyone actually sees the Third Holy Temple, everyone is intrinsically affected by it. This is similar to the following episode from the Book of Daniel: "And I Daniel alone saw the vision; the men who were with me did not see the vis ion, but a great trembling fell upon them..."

Our Sages ask why a dread fell upon the men with Daniel if they had not actually witnessed the vision.

They answer: "Though they did not see it, their heavenly soul saw it."

In the same way, on Shabbat Chazon, the soul sees the future Sanctuary; moreover, this perception leaves an impression on the individual, even on his body.

Tuesday, Tisha B'Av, is a fast day. On that day we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples and other devastating events that took place on that date.

The Rebbe spoke about the comment of our Sages that Tisha B'Av is the birthday of Moshiach. The Rebbe explained that this is true because the moment the destruction began, the potential for the Redemption also began. And, since Moshiach was "born" on Tisha B'Av, his mazal is stronger and shines brighter on that day.

May we celebrate in actuality the birthday of Moshiach this Tisha B'Av with the revelation of Moshiach and the Complete and Final Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

And the cause that is too hard for you (literally "from you"), bring to me and I will hear it (Deut. 1:17)

"Know," Nachmanides once told his son, "that whenever a person derives pleasure from something, he will go to great lengths to find it permissible, even if it is clearly forbidden. My advice, if you are ever faced with such a decision, is to remove the element of enjoyment from the equation. Only then should you examine both alternatives, and G-d will surely illuminate your path." Added the Baal Shem Tov: "If you ever have trouble deciding whether something is a mitzva (commandment) or not, know that the difficulty emanates 'from you.' Remove the element of personal pleasure, ask your question purely for the sake of heaven, and G-d will give you the wisdom to know what to do."

(Keter Shem Tov)


These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel (Deut. 1:1)

Comments Rashi: "Since these are words of reproof...he mentions them [only] in allusion out of respect for Israel." However, we find that the very same sins Moses only hints at here are explicitly detailed later on in the Torah. This apparent conflict is resolved by the Midrash: As soon as the Jews heard Moses' words of rebuke they sincerely repented; when a person repents out of love, "his deliberate sins are transformed into mitzvot." Thus after the Jews repented Moses was free to enumerate their sins, as by doing so he was adding to their merits.

(Imrei Elimelech)


Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to expound this law (Deut. 1:5)

According to our Sages, Moses explained the Torah in all 70 languages spoken by mankind. Why was this necessary? Every gentile nation has its own particular power that opposes the Torah. By translating the Torah into every language, Moses enabled the Jews to preserve the Torah regardless of where they would go in their future exile.

(Chidushei HaRim)


It Once Happened

In the year 361 of the Common Era, 293 years after the destruction of the Second Holy Temple, a new leader of the Roman Empire ascended the throne. Julian would be Caesar for only two years, but his short reign would be distinguished by an unusually friendly relationship with the Jewish people. In fact, Julian was responsible for initiating an abortive attempt to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. We are aware of these events thanks to a Greek historian who recorded them for posterity some 80 years after they occurred.

Julian was a nephew of Constantine the Great, who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. He also moved its capital from Rome to Byzantium (Turkey), and changed its name to Constantinople.

When Constantine died, his three sons fought over who would take his place. Almost all the members of the royal family were murdered, with the exception of Julian. After traveling to Athens and studying philosophy, he became disaffected with Christianity and reverted to the ancient idolatry of the Romans.

Julian went on to become a celebrated military leader, enjoying many victories over the warring Germanic tribes. When the then-reigning Emperor decided to exile him to the Far East, his troops rebelled and established him as the new Caesar. One year later, he declared full religious freedom for all citizens of the Empire. In truth, he was far more benevolent toward his Jewish subjects than to his Christian ones. In an official letter addressed to the "Jewish communities" of the realm, he wrote that he was henceforth exempting the Jews from the special tax that had been levied against them, and declared himself a long-time defender of the Jewish people.

In the same letter he blamed his uncle, the late Emperor Constantine, and his uncle's cohorts, whom he termed "barbarians," for the state-sponsored and institutionalized discrimination against the Jews. At the end of the letter he reassured everyone that he had personally had them killed, and advised the Jews to forget about them and relegate their nefarious deeds to history. Julian also promised that after the war with the Persians ended he would rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem, "which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited; indeed, I will help you inhabit it."

In general, however, the Jews were unimpressed by Julian's professions of fellowship. They knew that they were not sincere, and were actually motivated by selfish political ambitions. Nor did they consider him a new "Cyrus," who had been sent by Divine Providence to bring their exile to an end and rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

In fact, the Greek historian who chronicled this episode wrote that Julian's "friendship" with the Jews was largely the result of his hatred for the Christians. Moreover, he hoped that they would ultimately follow his example and assimilate into the dominant Roman culture.

At one point, Julian summoned the Jewish elders and asked them why they were not keeping the Torah's laws with regard to the sacrifices. The elders explained that after the Holy Temple was destroyed bringing sacrifices was forbidden, as doing so depends on having a standing Temple with priests to serve in it.

To demonstrate his serious intentions, Julian then ordered that the Jews be given a considerable stipend from the royal treasury, so they could begin to take the first steps toward reconstruction. According to the historian, the Jews actually started recruiting artisans and laborers. Their first task, however, was to clear the Temple area from the filth and debris that had accumulated over the centuries. Women, too, joined in the work, while others contributed their jewelry. After the ground was cleared they were ready to lay the foundation stone, but an extremely powerful earthquake intervened. Huge boulders flew in all directions, and the earth split in many places. A number of Jewish workers were injured, houses came tumbling down, and many residents of the city lost their lives in the disaster.

When the dust settled, the laborers returned to their tasks. Some assumed they were still obligated to carry out the Emperor's orders, while other truly wished to continue. In any event, they refused to recognize the Divine Providence that was obviously against rebuilding the Temple at that time.

And then, as if to further indicate G-d's displeasure, a huge fire broke out at the construction site and many more workers were killed. At that point everyone agreed that the time had not yet arrived to build the Temple, and the project was halted.

Although there is no way to verify all the details in the Greek historian's account, it is undisputed that the Emperor Julian fell in battle against the Persians in 363, effectively putting an end to his plans.

The Rebbe stated that the time for the Final Redemption has arrived! May we merit to see the third and eternal Holy Temple rebuilt immediately.


Moshiach Matters

Although the future Holy Temple is built and stands ready, nevertheless, the Biblical command, "Make Me a sanctuary," still applies and the Jewish people must actually do something in its construction. How? When we create mini-Sanctuaries, synagogues and houses of study, houses devoted to Torah, prayer and charity, including also the sanctuary which every Jew, young and old, can make in his/her heart, home, room, action etc. These mini-Sanctuaries serve as a preparation and harbinger of the future Temple.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Chazon, 5747-1987)


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