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What a lovely necklace!
Thank you. My children gave it to me. Aren't they wonderful?
That's a great set of golf clubs you've got there!
Yeah, I would never have gotten it for myself but my wife gave it to me for my birthday. Nice of her, wasn't it?
Hey, can we use your car? I can't believe your parents gave it to you for graduating college.
Sure you can use it. You're right, my parents really are generous.
The comment of a friend or acquaintance can trigger renewed appreciation for something that one might have long-since taken for granted or never appreciated to begin with. Whereas the purpose of the compliment is not to bring forth this appreciation, it is certainly a by-product of the compliment.
The Baal Shem Tov, whose every action was bursting with import, meaning and significant teaching, used to ask the simple Jews whom he purposefully sought out, "How are you today, dear brother?" "How are your little ones, my good woman?" "How have your egg sales gone this week?"
To each of these questions, the usual response was, Boruch Hashem - "Thank G-d, I am feeling well." "Through G-d's goodness, the children are healthy." "With G-d's help, the eggs are selling like hotcakes." In this manner, the Baal Shem Tov encouraged people to have praises for G-d, and gratitude and thankfulness to the Almighty, continually on their lips.
Once, the Baal Shem Tov heard that there was a Torah scholar who was so intent on his studies that he would not even take a moment to respond to the greeting of a fellow Jew.
The Baal Shem Tov decided to remedy the situation. "How are you doing?" the Baal Shem Tov asked the scholar. But no response was forthcoming.
"Are your studies going well today?" the Baal Shem Tov persisted. Still no acknowledgment of his presence.
"How is the family?" the Baal Shem Tov asked, leaning closer to the scholar's ear.
Question after question the Baal Shem Tov rattled off, but no words were heard from the scholar's lips save those that were being read from the page in front of him.
"Why are you depriving G-d of His livelihood?" the Baal Shem Tov reproached the scholar.
With this accusation the scholar lifted his head.
The Baal Shem Tov continued, "Doesn't the Psalmist state concerning G-d, 'And You, Holy One, are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.' The Almighty is, so to speak, dependant upon the praises of the Jewish people. But you are denying G-d His very sustenance by refusing to praise Him and thank Him for all He has done for you!"
So, the next time you're asked a question, try one of the following responses:
Wow, you're in great shape. How do you do it? Diet, exercise and G-d's kindness.
How's business? It has its ups and downs. G-d willing, it'll pick up soon.
It's wonderful that your grandchildren remember to send you birthday cards.
Yes, I'm a lucky person. G-d has been good to me.
The Torah portion of Ki Tavo begins by saying: "When you come to the land that G-d your L-rd is giving you as a heritage, occupying and settling it, you shall take of the first fruits...and go to the site that G-d will choose as the place for the indwelling of His name." Rashi comments: "This teaches us that [the Jewish people] were not obligated to bring the first fruits until they conquered and divided the land."
Offering the first fruits served for the Jewish people as a gesture of thanks to G-d for leading them into the Land of Israel and allowing them to enjoy its bounty. It thus indicated that they were not ingrates.
The above is also related to Chai Elul, (the eighteenth day of Elul), which occurred this past week. For it is the birthday of two great luminaries--the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic Movement, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch segment within that movement. Among the fundamental principles they taught are the obligation to love one's fellow Jew and the concept of the intrinsic unity of the Jewish people which are alluded to at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, the week in which Chai Elul occurs.
How are love and unity among Jews best achieved? When two or more people unite, then no matter how strong their bond may be it is not absolute unity, since they are intrinsically disparate entities; their union is but an extension to their essential being. We thus understand that the unity of the Jewish people, which is an absolutely true and essential unity stems from the fact that all Jews, by virtue of the common Source of their souls, are truly one.
Nevertheless, the true unity of the Jewish people finds expression specifically when Jews, existing as distinct and separate individuals, are even then, truly united as one. Indeed, if the unity of the Jewish people were not to find expression among Jews who exist as distinct individuals, this would prove that their`unity does not stem from the essence of their being, for an individual's essence must be found in all his particular and detailed aspects.
This, then, was the deeper reason as to why the Jewish people were not obligated to bring their offerings of the first fruits until they had conquered and divided the land--for it served as an indication of the true and absolute love and unity that existed among them, to the extent that no individual could be truly joyful so long as tHere existed one fellow Jew who did not yet have a portion in Israel.
And as to ourselves, by truly loving our fellow Jews, we can once again merit to "come to the land" of Israel - through our Righteous Moshiach, speedily in our days.
From The Chasidic Dimension, adapted by Rabbi S. B. Wineberg from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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.
Freely translated from a letter of the Rebbe
27 Elul, 5707 
Greetings and blessings,
...I will conclude with subjects of contemporary relevance which I wrote to another person: At the farbrengen of Chai Elul [the anniversary of the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov - founder of general Chasidism and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi - founder of Chabad Chasidim], my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, related that the early chassidim would say: "Chai Elul injects vitality into the Divine service of 'I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine.'" (The first letters of the words of that verse combine to form the name Elul.)
It is possible to explain that a living person and a person who is not alive both possess all 248 limbs. The difference is that a living person also possesses a soul that enables the body to grow from childhood to maturity and enables him to move from place to place.
Our Rabbis (Tanya, ch. 38) explain that the intent of the mitzvos [commandments] - to cling to G-d - resembles the soul for the body of the mitzvos. This comes through generating or uncovering one's love and fear of G-d. This comes through the study of pnimiyus haTorah [the inner teachings of the Torah] in general, and in particular through the study of Chasidus, as explained in several sources.
Through the intent of clinging to G-d, one comes to the greatest growth and movement possible. Indeed, this alone represents true movement, as is well known with regard to the concept of "one who progresses" and "those who stand." This progress comes about when a limited created being clings to the Creator who is unlimited, as it is written: "And you who cling to G-d, your L-rd, are living...."
This is the interpretation of the adage that Chai Elul, the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, the day when his teachings were revealed, and the birthday of the Alter Rebbe, injects vitality into the Divine service of "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine," i.e., enabling the created beings to cling to the Creator.
On a deeper level, it is possible to explain as follows: Even a limb that is not alive has flesh, sinews, and bones. All of these serve as analogies within our Divine service. The bones refer to the Divine service of the mind, the flesh, to that of the heart and the sinews, to the connection between the two, as explained in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Pinchas, the second discourse entitled Tzav... Korbani Lachmi. Nevertheless, as they exist in their own right, they do not represent true vitality. That is achieved only through the preface of kabbalas ol, the acceptance of G-d's yoke. In particular, this refers to the kabalas ol of Rosh Hashana. See the discourse published for Rosh Hashana this year with regard to the concepts of individual life-energy, general life-energy, vitality that exists to grant life to others, and essential vitality.
Even a limb that is not alive has flesh, sinews, and bones. All of these serve as analogies within our Divine service.
With wishes for a kesiva vachasima tova [may you be inscribed and sealed for good],
- (Back to text) As explained in Torah Or, Bereishis, p. 30a, et al., the verse (Zechariah 3:7): "I will make you one who proceeds among these who stand" highlights the difference between the souls of the Jewish people ("one who proceeds") and the angels ("these who stand"). For when the Jews descend to this material world and observe the Torah and its mitzvos, they are endowed with an infinite quality. This represents true progress.
Reprinted from I Will Write It In Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos In English.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is Chai (the 18th of) Elul, the birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov (founder of the Chasidic movement) in 5458-1698 and the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism in 5505-1745. In the same way that the Chasidic movement revitalized Jewish life and introduced a new path in the service of G-d, so too does Chai Elul ("chai" - from the Hebrew word meaning "life") introduce an element of liveliness and vitality into our Divine service in the month of Elul, the main theme of which is repentance.
A basic fundamental of Chasidut is the joyful service of G-d. As surprising as it may seem, Chasidic philosophy teaches that even the mitzva of teshuva (repentance) should be approached with happiness rather than trepidation. If all of the Torah's mitzvot should be fulfilled with joy, how much more so the mitzva of teshuva, which is so great it has the power to perfect all other commandments!
At first glance, the pairing of teshuva with joy appears unrealistic. Repentance is serious business: conducting an honest assessment of one's past behavior, feeling remorse for one's misdeeds, and begging G-d for forgiveness for transgressing His will. How are we to do this out of a sense of joy?
The answer is that joy, as defined by Chasidut, is not the opposite of seriousness. Joy does not mean frivolity, a life without responsibilities or mindless revelry. Rather, joy itself is serious business, a deep feeling created when a Jew contemplates the enormous merit he has to have been born Jewish, to be able to study G-d's Torah and to fulfill His commandments. When a Jew appreciates that he is never alone and that G-d is always with him, his joy becomes the impetus to draw even closer to the Infinite.
With Rosh Hashana approaching, what could make us happier than the knowledge that doing teshuva during Elul is easier than at any other time of year? For the gates of repentance are always open, and G-d always gives us the opportunity to return to Him.
And it shall come to pass, when you come into the land which the L-rd your G-d is giving you (Deut. 26:1)
The Jews' entrance into the land of Israel is symbolic of the soul's descent into the body and its being forced to live in the physical world. The Midrash teaches that the words "and it shall come to pass" are always used to denote something of great joy. Though the G-dly soul is saddened when it temporarily leaves its place under G-d's throne to dwell in a Jewish body for a certain number of years, it is a joyous occurrence, since the descent is to elevate the corporeal world through doing mitzvot (commandments).
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
And it shall be, when you come into the land...and you shall take of all the fruit of the earth...and put it in a basket... and you shall go to the priest (Deut. 26:1-3)
Fourteen years elapsed after the Jewish people entered the land of Israel until they were able to fulfill the second half of the verse - the bringing of their first fruits to Jerusalem. Seven years were spent in conquering the entire land from its inhabitants; seven more years were spent dividing the land among the 12 tribes. Our generation, which will very soon enter the promised land with the coming of Moshiach, will not need to wait any period of time before we are able to bring our first fruits to the Holy Temple. Not only will there be no need to conquer and distribute the land, but the fruits themselves will grow with such rapidity that their harvesting will take place simultaneously with their planting.
(Sichot Kodesh, 5751)
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field (Deut. 28:3)
A city has certain advantages over rural life, among them the pleasure of others' company and the availability of places of Torah and learning. Rural life also has its advantages, such as a more relaxed life style, fresher air, and warmer relationships between neighbors. G-d's blessing is that we should be equally blessed in both locales.
The eighteenth of Elul is the birthday of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy and Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement in general. The following story describes how Rabbi Shneur Zalman became involved in the fledgling Chasidic movement.
At the age of twenty, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, decided to leave home for a period of time in search of a teacher and guide. Two centers of learning beckoned his attention. One was Vilna, the Lithuanian capital, the center of the Talmudic scholarship, with the famed "Vilna Gaon," Rabbi Eliyahu at its head. The other was Mezritch, the seat of Rabbi Dov Ber, the "Maggid of Mezritch, heir to Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the leader of the still young Chasidic movement. For Rabbi Shneur Zalman, Mezritch was both geographically and intellectually the more distant place, but he had heard about the great scholarship of Rabbi Dov Ber, and the new way of Divine service which he was teaching. Rabbi Shneur Zalman had to make a momentous choice. He thought, "I have already been exposed to Talmudic discipline; I have yet to learn the discipline of prayer," and he decided in favor of Mezritch. The decision was, of course, the turning point of his life.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman's decision to go to Mezritch aroused his father-in-law's vehement opposition, to the extent of depriving his daughter and son-in-law of any further financial support. But Rabbi Shneur Zalman's wife stood by him, and agreed to his going there on condition that if he decided to stay, he would not extent his stay beyond 18 months.
His first impressions were not encouraging. Rabbi Shneur Zalman closely observed the Maggid and his senior disciples. He discovered that they devoted considerable time to the daily prayers, and in preparation before the prayers, inevitably reducing the time left for Torah study. To the intellectual that he was, this emphasis on prayer seemed extravagant. He decided that Mezritch was not for him. The Maggid made no attempt to detain him.
As Rabbi Shneur Zalman left Mezritch, he remembered that he had forgotten one of his belongings in the synagogue of the Maggid. Returning there, he found the Maggid engaged in the examination of a question of Jewish law. The brilliant analysis by the Maggid of all aspects of the question, which displayed his extraordinary erudition in the realm of Halacha, made a profound impression on Rabbi Shneur Zalman, and he decided to stay a while longer in Mezritch. Thereupon, the Maggid told Rabbi Shneur Zalman that his saintly master, the Baal Shem Tov, had revealed to him that one day the son of Rabbi Baruch would come to him, would leave him, and then return again. Then he - the Maggid - was to tell him about the great destiny that was linked to Rabbi Shneur Zalman's soul. The Baal Shem Tov further predicted that Rabbi Shneur Zalman's path in life would be hazardous, but that he, the Baal Shem Tov, would intercede in his behalf, and in behalf of his followers, so that "his end would be exceedingly great."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was deeply moved by what he heard, and he decided to cast in his lot with the new Chasidic movement.
But what mostly impressed Rabbi Shneur Zalman was Rabbi Dov Ber's demonstration of the perfect equilibrium and harmonious synthesis of the mystic and rationalist which was the object of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's quest. To quote Rabbi Shneur Zalman: "Two things I saw: The sublime ecstasy of the Holy Society on the one hand, and the remarkable composure of our master Rabbi Dov Ber on the other, which enthralled me completely. That is when I became a Chasid.' Once the young "Litvak" (native of Lithuania) became attached to Rabbi Dov Ber, the latter began to give him special attention, though he was the youngest and newest of the disciples. Rabbi Dov Ber arranged that his son, Abraham, (who because of the saintliness of his character had earned the appellation Malach ["Angel"]), initiate the new disciple into the esoteric doctrines of the Kabbala and Chasidut, as had been taught by the Besht and himself, in return for instruction in Talmudic study. Rabbi Shneur Zalman's time was now equally divided between the study of the Talmud and Chasidut, which he studied with his customary diligence. He also closely observed the master, Rabbi Dov Ber, and his distinguished disciples, in an effort to emulate their day-to-day behavior and refinement of character. Here was a group of scholarly mystics who exemplified Chasidut at its best. This is what Rabbi Shneur Zalman had been looking for.
When Rabbi Shneur Zalman returned home after 18 months had elapsed, he was asked by his erstwhile colleagues in Vitebsk whether he had found it worth while to go so far away while Vilna was so much nearer. Rabbi Shneur Zalman answered, "In Vilna you are taught how to master the Torah, in Mezritch you are taught how to let the Torah master you."
Excerpted from The Philosophy of Chabad: Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Kehot Publication Society.
Ki Tavo begins, "When you will enter the land" refers to the Era of Moshiach, when every Jew will enter the Holy Land that G-d has promised to the Jewish people. At that time, the Jews will surely conduct themselves in a way that will emphasize the holiness of the land and its connection to the Jewish people. From the Land of Israel, the Redemption will spread throughout the world and to all nations. There will be peace among nations as the prophet declared, "Nation will not lift up sword against nation." There will be no more war and G-dliness will be drawn down to every creation in the world. This Era will be hastened by the Jews' efforts to prepare themselves to greet Moshiach, studying about his coming and anticipating his coming at every moment.
(The Rebbe, 17 Elul, 5751-1991)