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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

March 28, 2014 - 26 Adar II, 5774

1315: Sazria

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

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  1314: Shmini1316: Metzora  

The Quest for the Divine  |  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

The Quest for the Divine

Human beings seem to have an innate need to seek out their creator. Polls have shown that as many as 96% of Americans profess a belief in G-d. Even among scientists, who tend to have a more skeptical and rational mind-set, over two-thirds report that they believe in G-d.

From where does the urge for faith come? Some have attempted to explain it in purely naturalistic terms. Faith in G-d gives believers a survival advantage, as it gives us a purpose in life and a comfort in times of stress. Human intelligence is also adapted to perceive and seek patterns. The belief that G-d created the universe is appealing, as it satisfies the human need to compose organization and unity from disparate elements.

However, the very fact that the universe has any pattern at all points in the direction of a creator. Our drive to discover patterns in creation, and being comforted or satisfied when finding them, is only possible because such patterns exist. If the universe were truly random, there would be nothing for us to find and discover. It is only logical for us to take the next step and seek out the originator of all patters, the One who conceived of the world and directs and controls it.

Chasidic teachings explain that the quest for G-d comes from deep within the soul - the neshama. All of us have a part of G-d within, which sustains and vivifies the body. Every physical thing likewise has a spark of G-d that brings it into existence and sustains it. The quest for G-d is the calling-out of a part that is very essential and fundamental to our identity and existence, and is deeply embedded into our consciousness itself.

It was once believed that as mankind and science progressed, we would gradually "outgrow" our need for G-d, as science discovers the answers to our questions about the world. We are now living in a time of unprecedented scientific discovery and advanced technology - yet the quest for G-d continues unabated. The more we know about the natural world, the more we yearn for that which is beyond it.

Ironically, scientific advance has not hampered spiritual growth but rather accelerated it. Modern technology relieves us of a great many of the grueling, physical tasks our ancestors had to perform. This leaves us a lot of time for reflection, and drives us to seek greater meaning and purpose. Slowly we are approaching the Era of Moshiach, when we will merit the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah (40:5): "And the glory of the L-rd shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the L-rd spoke."

by Chaya Shuchat -

Living with the Rebbe

In the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Tazria, we find a short verse containing instructions for every Jewish parent of a newborn baby boy: "And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." This is the mitzva (commandment) of brit mila, the covenant of circumcision.

In actual practice, Jews were circumcising their male children for many years before this commandment was given. Our forefather Abraham was commanded by G-d to circumcise himself "and your progeny afterward, throughout the generations." Nonetheless, we observe this mitzva today based on the commandment in this week's Torah reading, and not because Abraham was circumcised.

The difference between the two commandments is as follows: Abraham was prophetically instructed by G-d to perform brit mila on himself as an individual. It was a singular command, addressed to one person. By contrast, the commandment in this week's Torah portion is one of the 613 mitzvot given by G-d to all Jews at Mount Sinai, in the presence of the entire Jewish people.

Brit mila is one of the most fundamental of the Torah's mitzvot. Our Sages note that it involves no less than 13 covenants between man and G-d. There are many reasons given for this mitzva, among which are the following:

The main portion of a Jew's G-dly soul is introduced into the body upon the performance of brit mila. [A Jewish girl is regarded as one who is born circumcised (Avoda Zara 27a), and thus her holy soul enters immediately upon birth.] Before the brit, the connection between the G-dly soul and the physical body is incomplete. The brit mila effects the fusing and unification between these two elements. That is why, according to many codifiers of Jewish law, a Jewish male is considered worthy of the World to Come from that point on.

As its name implies, brit mila is a physical manifestation of the eternal covenant between G-d and the Jewish people. Brit mila is also unique in being a "perpetual" commandment. Brit mila is a commandment a Jew is considered to be observing at all times.

Brit mila has an additional advantage in actually being in a person's flesh. All of the other commandments relate primarily to the soul, even though our physical limbs are used to perform them. Because the mitzva of brit mila involves an observable change to the body, it is a visible sign of the intrinsic connection between man and G-d. Precisely because it doesn't depend on the individual's intellectual comprehension, the Torah commands us to observe it at the earliest possible opportunity, i.e., at the age of eight days.

Based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

Menora, Mezuza and Shofar
by Rabbi Meir Kaplan

One Monday, I got a phone call from Dave from Barriere, British Columbia. "Hi Rabbi, would you be able to tell me how to turn buffalo horns into shofars?"

To understand why Dave would like to make shofars out of buffalo horns around Purim, I must first let you know how I got to know Dave, which is one of the most inspiring tales I have been a part of since we made Victoria our home.

Weeks after we arrived in Victoria, I was contacted by Rabbi Lipa Dubrawsky from Vancouver who told me that a visitor from Baltimore had met a Jew on the ferry to Victoria. This person inquired about a mezuza, and he had his phone numbers in case I would like to be of help.

None of the numbers he gave me seemed to work. A few days later, I learned that the 250 area code could be long distance, requiring a 1 before the number. I called Dave and found out that he lives in the interior of BC in a town called Barriere, and he had been in Victoria for a visit. "Let me then mail you the mezuza," I said, to which he replied, "Please don't. I would like to meet you in person to get the mezuza."

"When will you be coming?" I asked. "I don't go very often, it may be next summer, but you'll hear from me as soon as I'm there."

A few days later Dave was on the phone: "My wife's uncle died suddenly in Victoria. See you tomorrow."

When Dave came to my house it was clear that he had something to say. He asked me and my wife Chani to sit down to hear his story.

"I was born in Austria to a Jewish family. At the age of three, I was adopted by a Christian family from BC. They told me that my ancestors were Jewish, but I didn't pay too much attention to it and I went on with my life. When I decided to research my family to find relatives, I was told that the Jewish people in my town had most probably all perished in the Holocaust. When I heard that, I made up my mind to leave the history behind and go forward with my life.

"I began a career in real estate and became the realtor of Barriere. I established a family and had a peaceful life, until that one spring day. It was right after I sold a house, and went to see my clients and to my surprise, I saw a menorah on their shelf. I had no idea what it was, but I was confident that it was a Jewish item. When I inquired about it, they said they weren't Jewish and the conversation ended.

"After leaving the house, I felt I had to go back and find out how this family got to own this beautiful menorah. After some convincing, they were ready to share their story. 'My grandmother,' the lady said, 'hid a Jewish family in her home during World War II. When the Nazis took the family away, they left their belongings with her. She told us to carry this menora with us and maybe one day we would find someone to give it to.'"

Tears were falling down Dave's face as he continued the story. "I said, 'I may be the one. I lost my entire family in the Holocaust. Would you give me the menora?' When they heard my story, they immediately agreed. They felt that the menora had finally reached its destination.

"Since I got this menora, I've become a different person; my Jewishness has been awakened and I've been looking to learn more about who I am.

"A month later I found a silver item in an antique shop that seemed to be Jewish. I purchased it and later heard from my learned friend that this item is called a 'mezuza cover' and it's missing the parchment. When I was on the ferry to Victoria in the summer, I saw a man who appeared to be an observant Jew, so I asked him if he knew where I can obtain that parchment."

Chani and I were in awe from the story. It was a very emotional moment when I handed Dave his mezuza.

Days before Chanuka of that year, I received a letter from Dave asking if I can send him the blessing for the lighting of the menora along with a kippa, so he can light the menora, which lit his soul, and celebrate the Festival of Lights in his home...

Today, Dave is the treasurer of the Thoumpson Valley Jewish organization and is looking to do programs for the community. "You know," Dave tells me, "We have Jews of all kinds. I thought a hands-on program is something that everyone would be willing to participate in. I got horns of a buffalo and was hoping we could convert them into shofars. I know it's not the perfect timing, but I still think it will be wonderful to get the Jews here to do something together. We are all one big family, aren't we...?!"

Rabbi Meir Kaplan and his wife Chani, are the directors of Chabad Vancouver Island in Canada. This article is from Rabbi Kaplan's weekly blog. Read more at

What's New

Studies in Rashi: Vayikra

Kehot publications recently released the third volume of Studies in Rashi. The essays in this volume cover the third book of the Torah, Vayikra (Leviticus). They are translated from the Rebbe's innovative study of Rashi's classic biblical commentary that spanned 25 years. Translated by Rabbi Y. Eliezer Danzinger.

On Your Way

The new Jewish children's card game "On Your Way" contains 40 Jewish teachings on ten topics. Played like "Old Maid," the game familiarizes children with important Jewish ideas and concepts. The sayings were selected by and the game was conceived by Rabbi Moshe Abelsky, of blessed memory. The game combines Reb Moshe's love of these sayings with his love for the young Jewish children, whom he used to drive to school over a period of 25 years as a bus driver.

The Rebbe Writes

Erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5729 [1969]

It gave me great pleasure to read your letter of the 22nd of Adar, reporting on your visit in England, and enclosing also a copy of your article.

I may also note with particular pleasure that your report arrived together with/after reports from other quarters, both from London and Manchester, which speak of the extraordinary impression your appearances there have made, as well as those of Mrs. . . , and the shining example which both of you presented wherever you went, and during your various addresses and lectures. These reports are still coming in.

I trust that the good fruits of the seeds which you planted, and the fruits of fruits, some of which you have already seen, will further stimulate your work and contribution in this direction. It is, of course, quite natural for a person to gain encouragement in direct proportion to the success of his efforts and there is no end to the good, so that when a person has done his maximum one day, G-d provides additional capacities for even greater effort and accomplishment the next day.

It was good to see you at the Purim Farbrengen [Chasidic gathering], and no doubt your wife was present too, though I did not see you later, possibly because of the large gathering. May G-d grant that all matters should be in accordance with the words of the Megillah [Scroll (of Esther)]: "For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness and honor." May this be fulfilled also in the case of each and every one of us, in the midst of our people Israel, in accordance with the traditional text which we add to this quotation from the Megillah - "So may it be for us," at the termination of Shabbos and Yom Tov [festivals], when going back to the ordinary days of the week, and it is necessary to make Chol [mundane] into Kodesh [holy].

Should you remember additional details in regard to your visit in England, I trust you will not withhold the good and share them with me, and thanks in advance.

Needless to say, I appreciate very much your giving my personal regards to Chief Rabbi Yisroel Jacobovits and Prof. C. Domb.

Wishing you and yours a happy month of Nissan, and a Kosher and happy Pesach [Passover], and hoping to hear good news from you.

P.S. Needless to say, all prayerful wishes expressed above include "also" your wife and children. I trust you found the children well and happy, especially during the happy season of Purim, in which the children have a particularly important role, as is well known that the Gezera [decree] was nullified when Mordecai gathered Jewish children and taught and inspired them to the point of Mesiras Nefesh [self-sacrifice] for the Torah and Mitzvoth.

5th of Nissan, 5725 [1965]
Students of Class 7

I was very pleased to receive your letter of March 29th, and to read in it about the progress you are making in your study of the Torah and similar subjects. I was especially gratified to note that you are advancing in the fulfillment of the Mitzvoth [commandments] in the daily life for this is, after all, the main purpose of the study of the Torah.

At this time, between the festivals of Purim and Pesach, you will surely remember the important part of the Jewish children in the two mentioned festivals especially. For, as our Sages declared, the miracle of Purim took place at the very time when Jewish children were gathered around Mordechai and were inspired by him to the utmost dedication and devotion to the Torah and Mitzvoth. As for Pesach, you surely know the importance of the "Four Sons" who are mentioned in the Haggadah, for whose benefit the Seder is mainly arranged. One of the important lessons here is that all Jewish children, whatever their background, should be gathered at the Seder table and taught the importance of Pesach and of the Jewish way of life in general. Those, like yourselves, who are fortunate to receive a Torah-true education so as to merit the title "Wise Son", have a special duty and privilege to serve as a living example to less fortunate Jewish boys, to bring them closer to their Father in Heaven and to the Jewish way of life, the way of the Torah and Mitzvoth.

The collection for Tzedoko [charity] for Mo'os Chittim ["wheat money," i.e., money for Passover needs], which was raised in your class, is very welcome and a receipt is enclosed herewith. May it stand each and every one of you in good stead, to receive G-d's blessings in all your needs, and especially to bless you with success in your advancement in Torah and Mitzvoth.

Wishing you all, as well as your teacher and parents, a happy and inspiring festival of Pesach, the Season of Our Liberation,

Today Is ...

26 Adar II

All that is sacred to the nation of the G-d of Avraham and is fundamental to the house of Israel - in establishing and rearing an upright generation, kosher food, the sublime pure holiness of Shabbat, was entrusted by awesome and revered G-d - for preservation and development - to the woman of Israel. The woman who fulfills her obligation and destiny in the life of the family, in conducting the home, and in seeing that the education [of her children, and in a broader sense, of all members of the household] be according to Torah, this woman is the subject of the verse (Proverbs 14:1), "The wisdom of women constructed her home."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbos is one of the four special Shabbosim preceding the YomTov of Pesach. It is called Shabbos Parshas HaChodesh. We read a special Torah portion from the book of Exodus that states: This month shall be the head month for you. It shall be the first month of the year.

Shabbos Parshas HaChodesh always falls either on the Sabbath when we bless the month of Nisan or on the first day of Nisan itself.

The month of Nisan is special in that it is a month of miracles - not the everyday miracles of human existence, or miracles clothed in nature such as those that took place on Purim. But, rather, Nisan contains revealed miracles that are higher than nature itself.

With the command that the month of Nisan, a month of revealed miracles, be designated as the first and "head" of the months, the Torah emphasizes that in all the months of the year, whether we see open miracles, miracles in the cloak of natural events, unusual success or a seemingly unchangeable cycle of nature, we must realize that G-d is the Creator of the Universe, the sole Master of the world, who directs and cares about even the smallest detail of the world and each individual person.

If each and everyone of us would sit down for only a brief few moments and pay close attention to what has happened to us personally, we will detect minor and major miracles that happen in our personal lives. We are many times "just too busy" to stop for a moment and take stock of what has happened. But we shouldn't pass it off as another "natural" happening. It is a miracle of G-d, whether it has occurred in the month of miracles, or an average day.

Thoughts that Count

If a man shall have on the skin of his flesh the plague of leprosy: then he will be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons the priests (Lev. 13:2)

The Mishna (Negaim) states: "A person can see all afflictions except for his own...or those of his relatives." It's very easy to find fault in others; much more difficult to recognize one's own deficiencies.

(Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

When discussing the phenomenon of leprosy and the various appearances such a plague could assume, the Torah uses the word "adam" (man), a term reserved for expressing man's finest attributes and characteristics. Why doesn't the Torah use any of the three other Hebrew words for man - ish, gever, or enosh? The plague of leprosy appeared only "on the skin of his flesh" - on the most external part of a person. Years ago, when G-d afflicted someone with leprosy as a punishment for his deeds, it affected only his most external self, for the inner person was spiritually healthy and not deserving of punishment. Nowadays we have no such phenomenon, as the Biblical leprosy differed from the modern-day disease bearing the same name. In our time, it's not just the external part of ourselves we must work on and purify.

(Sefer Maamarim)

Only a priest (kohein) was allowed to determine whether or not a plague was leprous, a severe affliction necessitating that the sufferer to be sent outside the camp for seven days. Only a kohen, whose job is to bless the Jewish people with the priestly blessing, could fully appreciate the magnitude of being sent outside the warm and loving Jewish camp. He could therefore, be relied upon to try all possible means to pronounce the individual clean.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

And on the eighth day shall he be circumcised (Lev. 12:3)

At a brit it is customary to bless the newborn, "Just as he has entered the Covenant ("brit"), so too may he enter the fold of Torah and good deeds." Just as circumcision is a mitzva from which a person can never part, so too may the child spend his life connected to Torah and mitzvot.

(Our Sages)

It Once Happened

Rabbi Moshe Leib Isserles (the Rema) and Rabbi Chaim, the brother of the Maharal of Prague were dear friends all their lives. When Rabbi Isserles assumed the office of Chief Rabbi of the Rabbinical Court of Cracow, Rabbi Chaim accompanied him and served as an adjunct in his rabbinical duties.

After the tragic death of Rabbi Chaim's wife and the year of mourning, it would have been customary to begin the search for a suitable match. When Rabbi Chaim made no attempt to remarry, it was assumed that he was waiting for Rabbi Moshe's intervention, but Rabbi Chaim had his own plan. He contacted a matchmaker and stated his requirements: He wanted a G-d-fearing and modest woman, with the means to support a Torah scholar and a private place where he could study undisturbed. He also required that neither his wife nor her family would reveal Rabbi Chaim's true identity.

Not long after, the matchmaker came up with the perfect match. The good woman was the daughter of a baker, and both she and her father agreed to all of Rabbi Chaim's conditions. A special room was filled with many holy books, and the couple was betrothed in utter secrecy.

A few weeks later, Rabbi Chaim came to his friend and said, "I want you to know that I have decided to travel to my home town to visit my elder brother."

Rabbi Moshe was shocked and deeply saddened by the news. He tried to dissuade Rabbi Chaim, but he refused to discuss his decision. When Rabbi Moshe saw that his words had no effect, he said, "If there is nothing I can do to change your mind, I will at least send you off with great honor."

Rabbi Chaim kept his own counsel and quietly implemented his plan. Rabbi Moshe prepared a great celebration to mark his friend's departure. When it drew to a close, Rabbi Moshe tearfully accompanied his friend several miles on the way before they parted.

Now came the next phase of his plan. Rabbi Chaim assumed a disguise so effective, he was virtually unrecognizable. He returned to his father-in-law's house in Cracow by a circuitous route, and there a simple wedding was performed. Although the townsfolk thought it odd that the baker made no wedding feast, they soon forgot it in the crush of everyday concerns. Rabbi Chaim and his wife lived harmoniously, and from that day forth, he remained in his home studying Torah and never venturing out.

A few years later a terrible plague broke out in Cracow. The townsfolk went to Rabbi Moshe to ask if this could be a punishment for some unknown sin. After some investigation, his attendants brought the rabbi a shocking report. The baker's daughter was suspected of living with a man without having had a proper marriage. Rabbi Moshe ordered the man brought to him at once.

Although when Rabbi Chaim arrived at the rabbinical court, he tried to keep his face averted, his friend recognized him at once. Rabbi Moshe led Rabbi Chaim into his private chambers and fell weeping with joy into his arms. But when he looked up, his friend was laughing.

Rabbi Moshe stared at Rabbi Chaim and said: "I will ask you just three things: Where were you before you came to the baker's house? What is the truth about the sin they are speaking of? Why did you laugh?"

"Let me reply. When I served the community's needs, I suffered, for I had no time to study the Torah as intensively as I wished. Now I can follow the dictates of my heart. As for sin, there is none. I have been happily married for two years. My only problem was the gnawing thought that perhaps I was sinfully proud of my accomplishments. I prayed to G-d for a humble heart, but I had not anticipated the correction would come through such humiliation! I laughed because I saw you weep, and then I knew that my punishment was fulfilled."

Rabbi Moshe called his servants: "This man is no sinner, he may leave in peace."

That night Rabbi Moshe couldn't stop thinking about the day's events. Rabbi Chaim had removed himself from all worldly matters and spent his days and nights sitting in a barren room studying Torah. He had to go see this for himself. Late the following night, he stood outside Rabbi Chaim's room. Listening closely, he could hear his friend's voice, but there was another voice as well. Finally, he knocked on the door and announced himself.

"Enter," he was told. There was Rabbi Chaim, sitting alone at a table. "Who else was here with you?" Rabbi Moshe inquired, but he received no reply.

"I order you to reply!"

"If you command me as the rabbi, I must obey. The other voice you heard was that of the Prophet Elijah, who comes here to teach me."

When he heard this, Rabbi Moshe became faint. "Ask him what sin I have committed that I don't merit to learn from him."

"Tell Rabbi Moshe Isserles," the prophet replied, "that he has committed no sin. But the spiritual and the grandiose cannot mix. Rabbi Moshe occupies himself with his holy rabbinical service to the community and he must conduct himself in a manner befitting the honor of his position. I can come only to those whose good deeds are hidden from the public eye."

Moshiach Matters

At the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, in which body will the souls that have had several incarnations arise? In general, the concept can be explained as follows: The soul (here the intent is to refer to three levels, nefesh, ruach, and neshama, or merely one of them, but not merely the level of neshama) reincarnates (in the predominant majority of instances) to perfect what it failed to perfect in its first descent to the body. Since the entire Jewish people are filled with mitzvos [commandments] like a pomegranate is filled with seeds, in every descent and incarnation, certain levels of the soul are perfected. At the time of the resurrection, every body will arise together with the level of the soul that it perfected.

(From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 7 Shvat, 1946)

  1314: Shmini1316: Metzora  
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