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Did you ever do a double-take when you were in a store and you noticed a mannequin that looked alive? Or maybe you were in a wax museum and sat down next to a person only to find out that it was a wax figure.
In either case, what gives the mannequin or the wax figure away is the lack of even a small, slight, almost imperceptible movement. It could be the blink of an eye or the ever-so-faint rise and fall of the chest. Or maybe a nose twitch. But it is always some kind of movement all the same.
Movement is a dead giveaway for the existence of life. Which is one of the reasons why, according to Jewish teachings, people are called "movers" whereas angels are called "stationery."
A person moves, stretches, bends, reaches, climbs, falls.
A person moves both physically and hopefully - and more importantly - spiritually.
The noun "mover" when applied to people as compared to angels is specifically referring to spiritual matters. And it is in spiritual matters as well that a person stretches, bends, reaches, climbs and sometimes falls, but gets up again to climb once more.
Just as physical movement is a sure sign of life, spiritual movement is a true indication of the vitality of the soul.
How do you move your soul? Simply by making an even small, slight, almost imperceptible move.
By learning Torah concepts that stretch you. By reaching out to another person with love and compassion. By bending your will to G-d's will. By climbing, one step at a time, through the mitzvot (commandments). By falling once in a while, but then by getting up again.
Torah study (and Torah as used here is not confined to the Five Books of Moses but encompasses all areas of Jewish teachings) is limitless. It is full of joy and life and movement and excitement and mind-expanding concepts.
Mitzvot, as well, give us a chance to move. With mitzvot we cleave to G-d, we connect to another Jew, we help shoulder a friend's burden, we laugh and sing and dance.
A Midrash relates that when the dove was created she complained to G-d, "It is not fair. I am so small and I have no way of outrunning my many pursuers who would like to capture me."
So G-d added wings to the delicate body of the dove.
But once more the dove objected. "These wings are so heavy. Now I certainly have no way of escaping my predators." G-d taught the dove that the wings are not a burden but can be used to fly.
Torah and mitzvot are not a burden, something we have to shlepp along like lifeless weight. They can help us reach higher and higher. They can help us grow. They help us move in the most graceful, exhilarating way possible.
"At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he who is worthy of death be put to death, but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death," we read in this week's Torah portion, Shoftim.
But what happens if someone confesses to a capital crime? Is the Jewish court allowed to carry out a death sentence, according to the rule that "the admission of the plaintiff is worth 100 witnesses"?
Maimonides explains that this legal ruling applies only in monetary cases; when it comes to capital crimes, two witnesses are necessary to determine guilt.
Our Sages explain the difference thus:
A person's soul is not his property; it does not belong to him at all, but is only entrusted to him by G-d for safekeeping. For this reason it is not only forbidden to kill (oneself or others) but it is forbidden to cause harm or injury to the body, as well. An admission of guilt is therefore meaningless because it involves something which is not subject to ownership.
Wealth, on the other hand, is actually "owned" by the individual (as much as anything created by G-d, the Master of the world, can said to be "owned" by a human being). The testimony of the person involved may therefore be accepted as the determining factor.
This distinction is also reflected in the various blessings established by our Sages, appropriately called "benedictions of enjoyment."
We recite a blessing before eating or drinking, but not before enjoying our money. That is because the soul, which derives its pleasure and sustenance from the divine sparks in the food or drink we ingest, is not our own; we must therefore recite a blessing before we partake of G-d's goodness. However, we do not need to obtain G-d's permission before we spend our money. (Of course, G-d wants us to utilize our wealth for doing mitzvot (commandments), giving charity, etc.)
In truth, every single Jew is a "witness," for his observance of Torah and mitzvot attests to the existence of the Creator. The function of a witness, in both the limited and broader sense, is to uncover something which is hidden. G-d has placed the Jewish people in a physical world ("olam," from the word meaning hidden or concealed) to testify to His absolute sovereignty, and show through their actions how "everything came into being with His word."
When this will take place, the above type of testimony will not be necessary, for we will have entered the Messianic era and G-dliness will be self-evident: "The glory of G-d will be revealed, and all flesh will see that the mouth of G-d has spoken." May it happen immediately.
Adapted from talks of the Rebbe
What I Gained at Chabad
by SUNY Binghamton Seniors
Chabad, in its openness and full acceptance of all (Jew and non-Jew), supported and fostered my own personal growth. Because of the supportive and community aspect of Chabad, I feel more connected to my Jewish roots, after a hiatus from my Jewish education since becoming Bat Mitzva. I have a strong appreciation and value for Shabbat, and the sense of community, hospitality, friendship, and rest that celebrating Shabbat brings. Tara S.
Before attending Binghamton, I was never really a part of a Jewish community. Chabad at Binghamton introduced me to a Jewish community and showed me how invaluable that aspect of life is to me. My appreciation of a community began the first week I attended Binghamton, when I went to the Chabad BBQ and was greeted by a smiling -faced student president at the time. Feeling honored and welcomed by such an important student led me to attend my first Kabbalat Shabbat service in a long time. That one service developed into weekly attendance of Shabbat services - that I now insist on making a part of my life once I graduate. Jasmine P.
When I got to Binghamton I knew I wanted to be involved in the Jewish community. I came from a high school that didn't have many Jews and I couldn't wait to make the Jewish community my home. Chabad welcomed me with open arms and each week I met with a small group of freshman girls and Hadasa for "Tea and Talk." Those weekly meeting made me feel included and still stand as strong college memories. My four years at Binghamton have been marked by countless Jewish events and weekly Shabbat services and dinners. My experience at Binghamton would not have been the same without our extraordinary Jewish community. Johanna S.
Being at Binghamton has helped me learn the way I wish to practice Judaism now, and in my future, and how I want to raise a Jewish family. Chabad has helped me learn about my Jewish traditions and laws in a way I never had access to growing up going to public school. I was always observant and close to my Jewish background but Binghamton gave me a chance to be Jewish in the way that I chose. Aimee S.
I grew up in a Jewish bubble in Woodmere, NY. Attending Binghamton University was my first experience outside of this bubble and for the first time I was given the freedom to choose between either remaining observant or taking in the "real college experience" through drifting away from my religious values. This challenge made me realize that my Jewish values are what brought meaning to my everyday life. I learned to love Shabbat because it gave me time every week to put away my work and technologies and focus on the truly meaningful aspects of my life, namely, my relationships with friends and family. I made the effort to learn Chasidut at least once a week with Rivkah Slonim which broadened my understanding of man's relationship with G-d and how this understanding could be incorporated into everyday relationships. Talya K.
Chabad has been an amazing experience for me. Show up to any event or Friday night dinner and it is immediately evident how much hard work and care goes into all of it. Talk to any one of the Rabbis or Rebbetzins and it is clear how much they love doing it. I didn't plan on getting involved in Chabad when I first got to school, but thankfully I did. Seeing their continuous hard work and devotion to the betterment and success of this Jewish community has really taught me and at this point instilled in me that great Jewish communities don't just happen and that we all need to strive for and work toward a great Jewish community no matter where we are. Max K.
Chabad provided me with the opportunity to be part of a community in which I feel comfortable and welcomed and gave me the foundation to continue my Jewish learning and religious observance on campus. Oren R.
Throughout my college experience at Binghamton I have spent nearly every Friday evening welcoming in Shabbat at Chabad. It was at Chabad where I made nearly all of my friends. Without this wonderful place I would not have had the opportunity to build the enduring friendships that I am so fortunate to have while simultaneously embracing my Jewish identity. I had a great Jewish experience that largely defined my experience at Binghamton. This I owe to my parents, who encouraged me to attend Binghamton because of its Jewish community, and to Chabad for providing the endless opportunities and Jewish experiences. Jessica W.
My overall Jewish identity and my pride in being Jewish has grown tremendously over the course of my time at Binghamton University, largely due to the wonderful efforts of Chabad. From memorable Shabbat meals, to fun trips, to thoughtful advice, they are always there for any student, at any time. Ben H.
From the moment I first stepped foot on campus as a Freshman, Jewish life at BU was there to support me. One of the highlights of my first year here was going to Tea and Talk with Hadasa each week. It was so nice to have a group of Jewish girls that I could count on to talk to, sharing stories and experiences. I am so thankful for Tea and Talk still today because I met people who have been some of my best friends throughout my four years at Binghamton sitting there each week chatting over tea and cake. Deborah D.
I came to Binghamton friendless and naive, unaware of what the supposed best four year of my life had in store for me. Thank G-d for Chabad. I have met my closest friends and some of the most important people in my life at Chabad. Literally as I sit on my couch thinking of my friends, 99% have been made through Chabad. Chabad has provided for me a home away from home, a place where I can celebrate and partake in the Jewish holidays and customs and sustain my Yiddishkeit (Judaism). Danny H.
From HaKesher, a publication of Chabad of Binghamton, Vestal, New York
99th Rescue Flight
The 99th rescue flight of Chabad's Children of Chernobyl recently arrived in Israel. The 28 children on the flight are now safe in their new home and receiving the specialiazed medical care that children who are living in the Chernobyl region and are exposed to the ongoing devastating effects of the radiation there require. Thanks to this latest flight, a 13 year old girl (who arrived on flight 94) was reunited with her two younger sisters. Also, a boy who after arriving had to undergo several heart surgeries and was recently orphaned of his mother was reunited with an uncle.
The Rohr Chabad Jewish Enrichment Center near Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has a new home. The new facility features a large multipurpose room for Shabbat dinners, classes and meetings, separate meat and dairy kitchens, offices and a study room for F & M students. The second floor is being remodeled as an apartment with four bedrooms, three baths and a kitchenette for visiting scholars, F & M parents and alumni and guests.
8 Elul, 5717 
...It is generally recognized that nothing in this world gets lost, even in the physical world - how much more so in the world of the spirit and soul! Thus the belief in the immortality of the soul is not just a belief, it is a conviction. It is therefore self-evident that the greatest thing you can do for your father's immortal soul is to carry on his good work expertly, as this kind of work cannot be placed on anybody else's shoulders, and, moreover, inasmuch as your family has been doing pioneer work in ----, to make that continent also a fitting place for the Divine presence. I trust also that all the members of your family will make a concerted effort to continue this work, disregarding any difficulty or financial problem, and not hesitate to increase the budget of our institutions, even where a deficit is implied. For a deficit can always be rectified in due course, whereas an opportunity in education that is lost is hard to retrieve.
21 Elul, 5717 
I received your letter in which you write that you are completing the sixth year at the yeshiva, and that neither your parents nor your teachers at the yeshiva object to your leaving. You ask my opinion in connection with the various jobs which you were offered.
Notwithstanding the above, it is my opinion that you should continue to study at the yeshiva for at least another year, with complete devotion and dedication, without thinking about a job or career at this time, and without any distraction. The "Giver of the Torah," Who is also "He Who feeds and sustains the whole world," will later help you settle down economically in a satisfactory way.
You should remember that at this time, in adolescence, it is still possible to study the Torah with devotion and peace of mind. After breaking away from this study and entering the world of business or work, it is difficult to recapture the same spirit and the same opportunities for learning. That is why I urge you to miss this opportunity and to devote yourself to the study of Torah for at least another year, as mentioned above. I trust that your parents will also agree to this.
8 Tishrei, 5715 
I have received your letter in which you write that during your learning the discourse of the Shabbos on which we bless the new month of Elul, several points were not clear to you, and you request an explanation.
Generally speaking it is difficult to elaborate in a letter on this kind of question, but perhaps the following brief remarks will be helpful to you:
- You ask, what is meant by the statement that, even physically, the Jew should by his very nature flee from even unintentional sins, just as an animal instinctively avoids danger. Your question concerns the term "guf" [body], since the body without the soul cannot commit any act; how can the two be considered separately in this connection?
The explanation should be clear from the illustration used, namely the animal, i.e. a living animal. In other words, the term "body" was not meant to exclude the "animal soul," but the "Divine soul" and even the "rational soul."
- The above explains your other difficulty regarding reward and punishment, namely, if the Jew instinctively, so to speak, avoids sin and does good, why reward him for it?
In general, within the Jew there is, first of all, the "Divine soul" pulling to good, and the "animal soul," which has free choice to follow the lead of the Divine soul or to oppose it. It is this free will to do good despite the animal soul and Evil Inclination pulling in the opposite direction which merits the reward. There is no contradiction here because in an act committed inadvertently, the rational soul does not participate, and therefore, in truth, the body and animal soul ought to avoid it because it is harmful.
- Your question (based on Rashi in Bava Kama) presents no difficulty, for it is a matter of common knowledge that an animal under normal conditions flees from danger. However, in the case of the young kid (in distinction from a grown animal), it is not experienced enough to recognize a danger that is not quite clear and immediate...
Bat Sheva, who lived around the year 2900, was one of the wives of King David. According to the Talmud, she was destined to be King David's wife from the six days of Creation. But because the time was not right, she married Uriah, a captain in David's army, first. David saw, by prophetic inspiration, that his heir and successsor -Solomon - would be born to him through Bat Sheva. When Uriah was felled in batle, David took Bat Sheva as his wife. When King David promised Bat Sheva that her son, from all his other wives' sons, would carry on the dynasty, she declared, "Long live my Master, David, forever."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion, Shoftim, we read, "You shall appoint judges and officers at all your gates." The Jews followed this commandment and, upon entering the Holy Land, appointed judges and officers. When Moshiach comes, we will return to this justice system, as the prophet Isaiah, prophet of the Redemption, prophesied, "And I will return your judges as in former times, and your advisers as at the beginning."
On a practical level, the injunction of "You shall appoint judges at all your gates," must be applied on several different levels. First, the "gates" can be interpreted as referring to the seven gates of a person: the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and mouth. They should act according to the dictates of the Torah. On this level, the "judges" refer to the intellectual capacity of the soul and the "advisers," the emotional attributes. Thus, every element of the life of a Jew has to be permeated and led by the G-dly power of his soul.
This concept does not have to apply to oneself alone, however. It should be extended and every man and woman should serve as a "judge" and an "adviser" in his family, ensuring that it runs according to the teachings and advice of the Torah.
To extend this concept even further, the whole world should follow the directives of the "judge" and the "adviser" of the generation, the "prophet I will set up for them, like you (Moses)," the leader of the generation.
And certainly, by allowing our G-dly soul to advise us, and by advising our families to follow the dictates of the Torah, and lastly, by following the advice of the Moses of our generation, we will merit the realization of the promise of Isaiah, that of a return to the glory and Divine favor of previous times, with the coming of Moshiach, NOW.
Judges and officers you shall appoint upon yourself...and they shall judge the people (Deut. 16:18)
First "you shall appoint upon yourself" - first you must adorn yourself, and then "they shall judge the people" - you will be able to adorn and beautify others and to judge them. In other words, most people are blind to their own faults.
The Torah enjoins the judge - "you shall appoint upon yourself" - the same criteria and set of rules that you use to judge others you should apply to yourself as well. Demand of yourself the same fear of G-d that you demand from those you are judging.
(Toldot Yaakov Yosef)
You shall be perfect with the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 18:13)
Some people behave in a G-d-fearing manner only when there are others around to observe them. When alone, however, it's another story. This verse teaches that we must strive to be "perfect" even when our only audience is "the L-rd our G-d." For what difference does it make if humans see us, when G-d continuously sees all our actions?
It is not all that difficult to appear to be perfect and whole to other people. That is why "with the L-rd your G-d" is specified - your uprightness and honesty should be genuine and not just for show.
(Rebbe Simcha Bunim)
What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house (Deut. 20:8)
The words in this verse were said by Moses to those who were to wage war. Rabbi Yosi Haglili said: This means one who is afraid because of his sins. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov added another insight: The worst thing is when a person dwells on his transgressions and sinks into a depression. When the Evil Inclination tries to entice a person to sin, it is more interested in the depression following the wrongdoing than the sin itself. The damage done by depression is greater than the damage done by the gravest transgression.
You shall set a king over yourself (Deut. 17:15)
This commandment's purpose is to instill the fear of G-d, the subjugation to Him, and the acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven. The king himself is nullified to G-d; therefore, when the nation subjugates itself to him, they nullify themselves to G-d as well.
When Rabbi Yisroel, the Rizhiner Rebbe, lay close to death, he called his sons and entreated them to follow the true path. He told them that the most important thing was to always keep the Creator uppermost in one's mind to do His Will. The sons listened in absolute silence, and knew that their father was imparting to them the ultimate truths of life.
Rabbi Yisroel continued, saying, "Usually fathers leave their children some kind of legacy, but what can l leave to you? I don't have anything of importance, so I am leaving you parts of myself - to each one something else. But each one of you will not be limited by what I leave to you; you will just have to work harder to achieve what your brothers have received." With that introduction, he proceeded. "To you my firstborn Reb Sholom Yosef, I leave my appearance; to you my son Avraham Yaakov, I leave my brain; to you my son David Moshe my wisdom; and to you my youngest son Mordecha'le, I leave my knowledge of G-d. I leave you all with the teaching that what a man achieves by dint of his own efforts has far more worth than anything that another gives him. When you strive through your own exertion to gain an understanding of the Creator, then you can finally say, "This is my G-d."
A short time later the Rizhiner Rebbe passed into the Next World. His sons decided to spend the entire year of mourning in the town where their father had spent his last days.
The brothers were in harmony about most issues. They divided their father's estate between them without dispute, but when it came to the question of their father's tefilin, they could not agree. Each claimed the tefilin for himself.
The tefilin were unique, and their father had prized them far above any other possession. They had belonged to his great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, and had been meticulously written by one of the Baal Shem Tov' disciples. Then they passed from father to son, from Rabbi Avraham the "Angel," to his son Rabbi Shalom of Provitch, and down to Rabbi Yisroel of Rizhin. These tefilin were as perfect as the day on which they had been written, and although the Rizhiner Rebbe checked them regularly several times a year, they never needed repair.
Many wondrous stories were told about those tefilin. Once Reb Yisroel had been imprisoned by the Russian authorities. Fearing that some harm might come to his precious tefilin in prison, Reb Yisroel left them in the care of a trusted friend. The moment he was released, he hurried to this friend's house to reclaim his tefilin. He opened them up to check them, and to his horror, the parchments were covered with a thick, green mildew. Panic-stricken, he sent for a scribe who would have perhaps have some way to save them. Imagine his shock when the scribe arrived and examined the tefilin only to find that they were perfect the mildew had vanished. Reb Yisroel took this miraculous event as a sign that he should never again allow himself to be parted from his precious tefilin.
The brothers finally came to a solution. They would each write on a piece of paper what they were prepared to relinquish from their legacy in order to possess the tefilin. Whoever gave the most would receive the tefilin. Each wrote a note and sealed his paper in an envelope. But at the last moment, they decided to draw lots instead. Reb David Moshe's name was drawn, but he was not in the least surprised. He told his brothers, "In truth, these tefilin have been mine for many years. A few months before my Bar Mitzva, Father called me into his room and taught me all the laws of tefilin. When he had finished, he pinched my cheek and said, 'My son, l have hidden for you a pair of tefilin which are more precious than all the treasures on earth. I myself guard them, and I am keeping than for you.'
"Before my Bar Mitzva, Father called me to his room again, and there, a scribe prepared a pair of tefilin for me. I wondered to myself, 'How could these be the precious tefilin which my father had promised me?'
"For many years I wondered, until now, when I understand what Father meant. Finally, the precious, unique tefillin that our father promised me are mine."
Rabbi Avraham of Trisk would calculate likely dates for the coming of Moshiach, based on verses from the Torah. Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Orenshtein, the Chief Rabbi of Brisk, once questioned him about this. Rabbi Avraham explained, "The Talmud states that if one's father transgresses the Torah, he may not tell him, 'Father, you have disobeyed the Torah.' Rather, he should pose a question: 'Father, doesn't the Torah say so and so...?' This is what I am telling G-d: 'Father, doesn't the Torah say in this verse that Moshiach will be coming in this and this year...?' "
(Klilit Yofi/LMa'an Yishme'u)