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Devarim Deutronomy

   1287: Rosh Hashana / Ha'Azinu

1288: Yom-Kipur

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September 4, 2013 - 29 Elul, 5773

1287: Rosh Hashana / Ha'Azinu

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


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 1288: Yom-Kipur  

What Do I Ask from You?  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Today Is ...  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

What Do I Ask from You?

"May you and yours be blessed with health and happiness throughout the coming year."

"May the blessings of health, peace and contentment be yours."

"May you be inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet year."

In this High Holiday season, wishes to friends and family for the upcoming year abound. And our wishes usually contain what we hope we will have in our own lives; health, happiness, prosperity. We are, in essence, blessing our friends and hoping that G-d will hear our blessings and fulfill them.

That's what we want from G-d. But what does G-d want from us?

The Jewish people were commanded to offer to G-d two lambs each day, one in the morning and one in the evening. The whole world and everything in it belongs to G-d, so why does He need our lambs? Is He maybe "hungry" that He needs two lambs every day?

G-d commanded us to bring sacrifices because He wants us to remember Him every single day - and not just when we need Him. The Midrash (Tana D'Bei Eliyahu) records G-d's clarification of His position in this area. "I am not lacking anything," He tells the Jewish people. "My children, what do I ask from you? Only that you should love one another and respect one another."

We ask G-d for health. All He asks is that we love each other.

We ask G-d for good jobs. All He asks is that we respect each other.

We ask G-d for emotional strength to get through hard times. All He asks is that we honor each other.

We ask G-d for children whom we can be proud of. All He asks is that we be kind to each other.

Day after day, year after year, we present our lists of requests of what we want from G-d and what we want G-d to give to our loved ones.

Like a child let loose in Toys 'R Us, we want this and that, and can't we get one of these and two of those?

And like the ever-patient parent, G-d says to us, "You are all My children. I would be happy to fulfill all of your requests. All I really need to see is that you treat each other with love and respect. That you are sensitive to each other's needs and that you care for one another. Would it be so terrible if you agree to disagree?"

Is this not what our parents wanted from us? Isn't it what all parents want from their children? "Don't give me the cards, the presents, the box of chocolates. Just be nice to each other. Just behave yourselves," our memory tapes replay. "Don't fight. Look, you made him cry! You don't have to like her, but you do have to be nice to her because she's your sister, she always was and she always will be!"

"My children, what do I ask from you? Only that you love one another and respect one another."

Sisters and brothers, may we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, a year of health and happiness and the ultimate happiness of the arrival of Moshiach, NOW.


Living with the Rebbe

The Haftara of the first day of Rosh Hashana relates the story of Chana, who was childless and came to the Sanctuary to pray. In the merit of her prayers she was blessed with a son - the prophet Samuel. Eli the High Priest, seeing Chana so immersed in prayer and oblivious to her surroundings, suspected her of being intoxicated - not from wine, but from the very act of praying.

"I am not drunk," Chana explained. "I am pouring out my soul before the L-rd." Through prayer, Chana's soul was uniting with G-d.

On Rosh Hashana we ask G-d to fulfill our needs. Our requests are spiritual and material: We ask Him to bless us with healthy children, long lives, and an abundant livelihood.

Rosh Hashana is the day of G-d's coronation as King, as we say, "Reign over the whole world in Your glory." How do we accept G-d's sovereignty? By nullifying ourselves in His Presence. When we are completely nullified before the King, we are unaware of our personal desires, aware only of being in G-d's Presence.

This presents us with a seeming contradiction. If Rosh Hashana is characterized by an absence of self-perception, how can we simultaneously pray for the fulfillment of our personal requests?

When a Jew prays to G-d on Rosh Hashana, his prayer is an extension of the process of coronation. While superficially he may be asking G-d for material blessings, his true intention - whether consciously or subconsciously - is the desire to spread awareness of G-d's kingship in the world. By praying for material blessing, the Jew is merely asking for Divine assistance in fulfilling his G-dly mission on earth.

It was this concept that was unclear to Eli the priest. His contention was that when a Jew prays there is no room for personal requests; the awareness of being in G-d's Presence should be so intense that it precludes anything else. When Eli saw Chana praying for a child, he mistakenly concluded that she had forgotten G-d's Presence.

Not so, was Chana's reply. Her longing for a child was not a personal desire, but a wish to fulfill a greater mission in life. This is evident in the vow she made, that if G-d would bless her, the child would be given over for a life of total service of G-d. Chana wasn't asking G-d to fulfill her personal request; she was praying for G-d to fulfill His own needs!

So too is it with us on Rosh Hashana. Although our petitions are personal in focus, the true essence of our prayer is to unite with G-d.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 19


A Slice of Life

The Healing Cry
by Tzvi Jacobs

Dr. Howard Saul poked his head in the hospital room. "May I come in and blow the shofar?" Dr. Saul whispered to the nurse, just in case the patient was sleeping. Dr. Saul had an infectious smile, pardon the pun, and the nurses at Cherry Hill Kennedy Hospital were already familiar with his yearly practice of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashana for the Jewish patients.

"There's no point in blowing the shofar for Mr. Greenberg," the nurse said. "He slipped into a coma six weeks ago, when he came out of surgery. He doesn't respond to anything."

The nurse sighed. "Yesterday the family put him on DNR (do not resuscitate). He doesn't have much longer. Down the hall is Mrs. Cohen. She told me yesterday how upset she was that she couldn't be in synagogue to hear the shofar. She'll be so happy to see you."

Dr. Saul's face lit up. "Thank you, I'll be there in five minutes. Even if Mr. Greenberg doesn't hear anything, his soul will hear."

Nothing could stop Dr. Saul, also known as Chaim Meir, from walking to Cherry Hill Hospital every Rosh Hashana to blow the shofar for the patients. Not rain, nor heat waves, and certainly not the 3-mile walk. Of course, on Rosh Hashana, he didn't take the elevator - he ran up the stairs to each floor.

Dr. Saul might have been unique in the Cherry Hill Hospital, but he was one of thousands who had the custom of blowing the shofar for those who could not be in a synagogue on Rosh Hashana. When most shuls, synagogues, and temples were overflowing on Rosh Hashana, the synagogue of the Rebbe, "770," would be half empty most of the morning. Hundreds of students, and even married men with their children, would spread in a coordinated fashion throughout Brooklyn and even to Manhattan and Queens. They would blow the shofar in hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes and apartments of those who requested. The Rebbe inculcated in his followers the importance of making sure that others hear the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashana. The hearing of the shofar is as precious as life.

Dr. Saul himself had heard the "sound of the shofar" ten years earlier, at a Chabad House in downtown Philadelphia, where he heard the parable of the Baal Shem Tov. The prince had left his palace and strayed to distant lands, where he eventually forgot everything about his culture and customs, even his native language. One day, after many years, he had a powerful urge to return home to be with his father, the king. But the officers at the palace gate denied entrance to this beggar in tattered clothes. The prince didn't even remember the language to explain to them who he really was. Just then the prince saw himself through the eyes of the officers and realized how low he had fallen. He burst out with a deep, inner cry. All he wanted was to be again with his father, the king.

"That's me," Dr. Saul thought when he heard that parable. "I have achieved my goal - I am a doctor. I should be happy, but I feel so empty inside. I'll never get into the palace."

The parable took a sharp turn. "That's the voice of my long lost son," the king said. The king himself ran the palace stairs and brought his son into the palace, into his inner chamber, where he belonged.

When Dr. Saul blew the shofar for the patients in the hospital, the voice of the lost prince came through the shofar. Many patients, already broken-hearted by their lack of health and the angel of mortality that hovered over the end of their beds. The cry of the shofar drew out from the depths the cries of the patients. For almost all of them the tears were tears of joy.

"For 2,000 years we have traveled through some rough times and yet we have always carried the Torah scrolls with us and still remain Jews. We deserve to be treated like royalty and be granted a good, sweet and healthy new year!" Dr. Saul would exclaim with a voice that healed.

After the holidays, Dr. Saul would return to his other job, and deliver babies and perform other procedures. One day, while about to leave the hospital, two women called out, "Rabbi, rabbi, will you please help us." With his full-grown beard and the tzitzit strings dangling over his belt, it was not the first time he had been called a rabbi.

"They want to discharge our father and he insist on going back to his apartment," one of the daughters said.

"But he can't, he needs to be in a nursing home, until he fully recovers," a daughter said. "Thank G-d, he's alive. It's nothing short of a miracle, everyone says."

Dr. Saul explained that he's an obstetrician and cannot see patients of other doctors, "But I'll go as a friend of the family. Afterall, all Jews are one family."

Dr. Saul followed the daughters to their father's room. "Good morning," Dr. Saul said with a warm smile, "you don't know me-"

"Oh, yes," the old man interrupted, "I know who you are."

Dr. Saul looked surprise. He works in a different department in a different wing of the hospital.

"I know you. You're the one who blew the shofar for me."

Dr. Saul looked up and saw the name of the patient: "Arnold Greenberg."

The call of the shofar....

A new paperback edition of Tzvi Jacobs's From the Heavens to the Heart is available at kehotonline.com. An ebook edition may also be found at Amazon books.

What's New

Benny's Mitzvah Notes

Every day, Benny's mother writes him a mitzva (good deed/commandment) note, and his father draws a picture on it. Benny takes the notes to school. At the end of the year, the teacher puts each child's mitzva notes into an album to take home. When he is too old to take the notes to school, his mother still writes them, and his father still draws the pictures. When it's time for him to write a mitzva note for someone else, what will it say, and who gets to keep it?A heartwarming story of life and love! Beautifully written and illustrated by Marc Lumer, published by Hachai Publishing.

Shofar Sho Good

The main mitzva of the holiday of Rosh Hashana is to hear the shofar sounded. Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide, in addition to regular Rosh Hashana services, will be holding special shofar sounding ceremonies during the day on Thursday and Friday. For more info about these or any other holiday programs call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated and adapted

18th of Elul, 5750 [1990]

...Apropos of preparedness for the new year, it is well to reflect on the dual contents of every year: there is the general significance to each and all incoming years; and there is the special significance connected with certain specific features of a particular year, whereby the year differs from other years.

One such noteworthy feature of the incoming new year is that the two days of Rosh Hashana occur on Thursday and Friday, erev Shabbos (the Sabbath eve), leading directly into the holy Shabbos, thus emphasizing and affirming the mutual character of Rosh Hashana and Shabbos.

The Rosh Hashana days - the awe-inspiring days - fill every Jewish heart with a holy trepidation that permeates one's whole being. The elevated perception of holiness is experienced not merely during many hours highlighted by preparation for and performance of the day's specific mitzva (commandment), namely, the sounding of the shofar; or the special prayers and supplications of Rosh Hashana, and the like; but it is a continuous experience throughout the entire duration of the two-day period of Rosh Hashana that permeates a Jew with the holy Rosh Hashana spirit.

And this inspiration finds expression in the conduct of every Jew - man, woman, and child - in addition to the general tendency to be more circumspect in behavior, what with spending hours in shul, abstaining from "unnecessary talk," utilizing every available minute in saying Psalms, and the like - to the extent that even the meals of Rosh Hashana, which have been referred to in terms of "eat sumptuous foods and drink sweet beverages," are affected by the Rosh Hashana spirit of holiness (as stated in the conclusion of the verse), "for this day is holy unto Hashem."

Similar to it is the holiness of Shabbos: "You shall keep the Sabbath because it is holy." The G-dly holiness of Shabbos pervades every Jew, through and through, so that one feels different and inspired throughout the twenty four hours of Shabbos in all one's activities.

There is a well-known principle in our holy Torah: "What is repeated three times acquires the force of chazaka [permanence]." The term is derived from the word chozek, strength, and carries an assured presumption that having occurred three times, it will take hold and continue the same way.

If the principle applies to non-obligatory matters, it is certainly true in regard to matters of holiness that already have the quality of everlasting Torah endurance, where each action has a lasting and perpetual impact.

How much more so in the case of Rosh Hashana which is designated, literally, the head (rosh) of the year, not just the "beginning" of the year. This means that in addition to being the beginning of the year it is (also, and essentially) the " head of the year."

Just as the head directs all the organs of the body, and it is only in this way that each organ carries out its purpose in the fullest measure, also as an organ per se - so Rosh Hashana directs and animates each and every day of the year in all particulars of the daily life.

Hence it is understandable that since there is a chazaka in the state of holiness mentioned above, it exercises a very strong influence on the entire year, so that all one's activities, in each and all days of the year, are carried out under the strong influence of the sublime holiness of the first three days of the year.

May the Almighty grant that every one of us, in the midst of the Jewish People, should firmly resolve and act in accordance with the perceptions outlined above, and in a manner indicated at the beginning of this week's Torah portion starting: "You are standing firmly this day before Hashem, your G-d..." in your firm commitment.

Indeed, this resolve in all its aspects will bring about an ever growing measure of Hashem's blessings in general, and the Rosh Hashana blessing in particular: To be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually.

And more especially - the blessing "for which we hope every day and all day" - the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach Tzidkeinu, of whom G-d says, "I have found my servant David," very soon in our own days.


Today Is ...

Chana (Hannah), one of the seven prophetesses of the Jewish people, was married to Elkana, a Levite from Ramataim-Tzofim. The story of the barren Chana's prayers for a child is read from the book of Samuel I as the Haftorah on Rosh Hashana. Many of the laws of prayer are derived from Chana's conduct as she prayed in the Sanctuary in Shiloh. Her prayers were answered and she gave birth to Shmuel (Samuel) who was the first in the Era of Prophets. She composed a song of praise to G-d after Shmuel's birth.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

In honor of this new year, 5774, we would like to wish the entire Jewish People our sincerest blessings for a k'siva vachasima tova, l'shana tova u'msuka - to be inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet year, with blessings from every letter of the Hebrew Alef-Beis. May this year be:

A year of "Arise and have mercy on Zion,"... uplifted in matters of Moshiach and the Redemption... faith in G-d and Moses His servant... traveling with the Heavenly clouds... Revealed Wonders; Wonders in Everything... the building of the Holy Temple... trust; Great wonders... the true and complete Redemption; Dignified Wonders... victory... the seventh generation is the generation of Redemption...King David lives and is eternal; "Those who rest in the dust will arise and sing and he will lead them"... Moshiach is coming and he has already come... the revelation of Moshiach; "He will redeem us"... "And they believed in G-d and in Moses His servant"; "This one will comfort us"; the wonders of true freedom... a new song; an abundance of good (Rambam); the king shall live; inscribed and sealed for a good year... the harp of Moshiach; learning Moshiach's teachings; the coming of Menachem who will comfort us... the King Moshiach; wonders... revealed miracles... a double portion; treasures... the completion and end of exile... the revelation of the Infinite Divine Light; "Humble ones, the time of your Redemption has arrived," wealth, materially and spiritually; "Jerusalem will dwell in open space," paratzta - 770; Your servant David will go forth; the ingathering of the exiles... acceptance of his sovereignty by the people; Rebbe - Rosh B'nei Yisrael; peace... a new song... Moshiach's shofar... unity of the Torah, unity of the Jewish people, unity of the land of Israel; Resurrection of the Dead... "A new Torah will come from Me"


Thoughts that Count

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; O earth, the words of my mouth (Deut. 32:1)

Our Sages stated: "The words of every individual who has fear of heaven will be obeyed." Moses, who possessed tremendous fear of heaven, first called upon the celestial spheres to listen to him. The lower, human realm would then obey automatically.

(Rabbi Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora)


How did Moses, the most humble man to ever walk the face of the earth, dare to demand the attention of the heavens? Because the more insignificant a person considers himself, the more he can ask that the heavens pay him mind.

(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)


He set the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the Children of Israel (Deut. 32:8)

G-d established the borders of all the countries of the world so that the Jewish people, by living in those lands and observing Torah and mitzvot (commandments), could elevate the sparks of holiness they contain. The purpose of the Jews' exile among the nations is to illuminate the world through "the candle of mitzva, and the Torah, light."

(Sichot Kodesh)


He said, "I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be" (Deut. 32:20)

G-d assures us: "Even though I will hide My face and subject the Jewish people to the laws of nature, it will only be a temporary situation. For even in their exile I am mindful of their 'end,' and will always protect their eternity."

(Shem MiShmuel)


It Once Happened

Reb Yissachar Dov of Radoshitz took longer than usual on Rosh Hashana to join the congregants for the blowing of the shofar. When he finally came out of his room, he told his Chasidim the following:

"Let me tell you a story about my Rebbe, the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin.

"One Rosh Hashana the Chozeh remained an extra long time in his study. He felt unable to leave and join his Chasidim for the blowing of the shofar; he was heartbroken at the thought that he had to his credit no single merit which would give him the strength to go ahead this special mitzva. Finally he remembered that he had, in fact, one merit in his favor: in the course of the previous year he had not spoken one angry word.

"On one occasion, it almost happened that he lost his temper. His attendant had forgotten to prepare water next to his bed so that he would be able to wash his hands in the prescribed manner in the morning. He had decided to reprimand the attendant for his negligence - until the Chozeh recalled the warning of the Sages, "He who is angry, it is as if he worshipped idols."

The Chozeh thought to himself, "For the sake of the mitzva of washing my hands in the morning I am going to allow myself, G-d forbid, to become an idolator?" He had therefore said nothing.

"When the Chozeh reminded himself that he had this one merit to his credit, he went ahead with the blowing of the shofar."

Upon completing the telling of this story, Reb Yissachar Dov proceeded to lead his own congregation in reading Psalm 47 which speaks of the majesty of the Creator and which serves as the introduction to the blasts of the shofar.

Reb Zvi of Portziva used to lead the Musaf prayer on Rosh Hashana in the synagogue of Reb Yosele of Torchin, the Chozeh of Lublin's son.

He was once asked by Reb Yitzchak Meir of Ger: "Perhaps you could repeat for me a teaching which you heard from Reb Yosele?"

"I do not recall any words of Torah," said Reb Zvi, "but I do remember a story. One Rosh Hashana, just before the blowing of the shofar, Reb Yosele entered the shul and told his Chasidim, some of whom were undoubtedly thinking at that moment of their own requests to the Almighty for the coming year, "I am not going to rebuke you, nor am I going to teach you Torah. I am only going tell you a story.

"In a certain city a learned and wealthy wine-merchant lived who was honored one day by a visit from the local rabbi. The host went out of his way to show the rabbi great respect. The merchant quickly sent his servant down to the cellar, where he was to fill a bottle of wine from the middle barrel of the third row - for this was the best wine he owned. All the while, he engaged in a scholarly conversation with his distinguished guest.

"When the merchant had waited quite a while for his servant to return, he excused himself and quickly descended to the cellar to find out what had happened. He was shocked at what he saw there. Some of the barrels were uncovered; others were being drained as their taps had been left open; broken bottle were lying in the puddles of wine on the floor; and the servant was nowhere to be seen.

The merchant returned upstairs from, very upset at the serious damage which his servant had caused him. He began to look for the servant, calling him by name. The servant finally answered, from a comfortable place over the fireplace, where he was sprawled at his leisure. The servant called out to his master, 'Listen here! I want you to increase my salary by so and so much. It isn't nearly high enough...'"

Reb Yitzchak Meir of Ger thanked Reb Zvi warmly. "Now that is what I call a fine parable!" he exclaimed.

It was the custom of Reb Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch on the first night of Rosh Hashana to deliver a discourse on the philosophy of Chasidism, followed by fiery words of inspiration to his Chasidim.

One year, when he had completed his discourse on the eve of Rosh Hashana, he turned to his Chasidim and said, "Today we have to make ourselves ready to greet Him Whom we address in our prayers as "our Father, our King." A father likes to see a pure heart; a king likes a clean garment."

The Reb Menachem Mendel went on to explain that the Divine mission appropriate to the New Year season was for every person to purify his heart, and cleanse his "garments," for this word in Chasidic usage signifies the soul's three means of self-expression - thought, word and deed.

"Every man is accompanied by two angels," he continued. "When, after the evening prayers of Rosh Hashana, the angels hear each person sincerely wishing his neighbor, 'May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year,' they soar aloft and appear as defense attorneys in the heavenly Court. There, they plead that the well-wishers be granted a good and a sweet year."

Reb Menachem Mendel concluded his own words with the blessing, "May you all be inscribed and sealed for a good year."


Moshiach Matters

The sounding of the shofar is Rosh Hashana's "mitzva (commandment) of the day" through which the service of coronating G-d as King is carried out. This year, the shofar is sounded for two successive days and is then immediately followed and elevated by the spiritual influence of Shabbat. The simple sound of the shofar's blasts arouses the pleasure and desire to rule as King within G-d's essence which, in turn, draws down Divine influence and life-energy to the world at large. Thus this year, through the shofar blasts of Rosh Hashana G-d's essence is aroused and Shabbat brings about the revelation of this dimension throughout the world, reflecting the "era which is all Shabbat and rest forever," the era of the Redemption.

(The Rebbe, 3 Tishrei 5751-1990)


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