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Condensed from an article by Rabbi Eliezer Wolf
Monday evening (Aug.4 through Tuesday evening Aug.5) is Tisha B'Av (9th day of the month of Av), the anniversary of many tragedies that befell the Jewish people throughout our history. Most significantly, our two holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this date.
Tisha B'Av typically is a day of weeping. But why do we cry? What will we cry about? What should we cry about?
The Talmud explains, "After the destruction of the Temple, many of the 'Gates to Heaven' were closed, but the Gates of Tears forever remain open." Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asked rhetorically, if the Gates always remain open, why are there gates at all? He answered that the gates block passage to false and unwarranted tears.
So what should we cry for? When we reflect on our lives, what saddens us? For some it might be financial woes. For others, a medical issue in the family, or the loss of a loved one. For others still, it might be challenges like child-rearing, infertility, sour relationships, addictions, suffering from abuse, the list goes on.
These circumstances all evoke sadness and tears, and there is certainly nothing wrong with weeping over them. But is this why we cry on Tisha B'Av?
If someone didn't have any hardship, would there still be reason to cry? Imagine you have a perfect life, should you still cry on Tisha B'Av?
The answer is, that we cry because after all that we have, something is still missing - not just "something," but the very essence of "everything." Ever since the Temple was destroyed, G-d's presence is no longer sensed in our lives and in our world. The truth of reality is hidden from us. The very forces that created and animate our world are obscured. And that hurts terribly, because we live in a constant state of spiritual darkness.
G-d created our world with purpose and design. If one would be able to view the world through the lens of its Creator, one would see a world beautifully orchestrated, a world which continually advances towards the direction of refinement and destiny.
The Temple stood as a home for G-d to dwell in our world. From within the Temple's inner sanctuary, the Divine presence manifested throughout the world. The truth of reality was apparent to all who wished to see.
But in the exile, we live behind the curtain, and we aren't privy to this cosmic performance. We may hear sounds and movement, but we can't discern any true context.
And this is the source of all pain and suffering. Nothing can be worse than living life without understanding the ways of G-d.
The Maggid of Mezritch explained the state of exile as a game of hide-and-seek; a father hides so his child will seek and find him. The father plays this game to arouse a greater love; the more a child yearns for his parent, the stronger his love grows. Similarly, G-d hid Himself in the exile so that we would search for Him, and strengthen our connection and love for Him.
But in a heart-wrenching talk (in 1979), the Lubavitcher Rebbe asked: What if the father is hidden too well and for too long, and the child stops searching? That is the greatest exile, a doubled-darkness.
"More than 19 centuries since the destruction, after the 'game' has gone on for far too long," the Rebbe sobbed, "perhaps the question is no longer on the child but rather on G-d. How could a loving father remain hidden for so long? A father can't expect from his child more than his capability. After so long, it becomes the father's responsibility to 'give up playing' and to reveal himself once again to his child! For how long will this painful exile continue? Ad mosai?"
There is so much pain in the world. Soldiers die in battle; parents tragically mourn children; people suffer terrible illness; marriages are challenged; children suffer abuse; there is an epidemic of depression; terror is rampant; divisiveness plagues families and communities; and the list goes on. For this we cry, because we are pained.
But as a people, we cry for another reason as well. Because our Father in Heaven is hidden. Because we live with confusion, doubt and disbelief. Because we can't understand what is going on. We feel forlorn.Ultimately, this calamity is the source for all our suffering. When G-d is hidden, the world seems chaotic.
This Tisha B'Av let us all pray together. "Dear G-d, we can't bear any more. You ask too much from us. It's been too long. End this exile now. Protect our brethren in Israel. Bring the world to its intended destiny. We need to see You more than ever. Quickly, rebuild the third and final Temple, reveal your holy presence, and restore Israel to her former glory, Amen."
Rabbi Wolf is the rabbi of Beit David Highland Lakes Shul in Aventura Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com
This week we read Devarim, the first portion in the Book of Deuteronomy. The Book of Deuteronomy is unique; unlike the first four books of the Torah, the Talmud relates that Moses transmitted Deuteronomy to the Jewish people "by himself," that is, "in the spirit of prophecy."
There are many levels of prophecy, the highest of which was embodied by Moses. Accordingly, every word that Moses uttered "by himself" was said "in the spirit of prophecy,"; "the Divine Presence issued forth from Moses' throat." Moses was totally and completely united with G-dliness.
The same principle applies to the innovations in Torah that have come down to us through the ages via our Sages. The revelation that occurred at Sinai included "everything that a scholar would later innovate; all was given to Moses at Sinai." The words of the Talmudic Sages do not represent their own thoughts; they are an integral part of the same Torah that was revealed to Moses and have the same validity. The only difference is the method of transmission, i.e., these conclusions were arrived at through our Sages' Torah study and their extrapolation of its principles.
Deuteronomy is also known as Mishne Torah, "the repetition of Torah." Yet it does not merely repeat the earlier stated laws; without Deuteronomy we would not understand how to implement many commandments enumerated in the earlier Books.
The process of revelation is ongoing and continual. In every generation our Torah scholars issue new directives that are just as binding upon us as earlier ones. Failure to heed our Sages' words impairs the totality of Torah, going beyond the narrow concerns of a given directive. Indeed, the new directives help us observe the Torah properly; without them we cannot keep the Torah's commandments as they must be kept.
Deuteronomy was disclosed to the generation of Jews that was about to enter the land of Israel. No longer would they be leading a purely spiritual existence; once in Israel, they would be actively involved in material affairs, thereby establishing a "dwelling place for G-d in the lower realms."
In truth, the generation of Jews that lived in the desert could have received the Torah directly from G-d. But the generation that would be entering Israel and adopting a more worldly life style needed to have the Torah transmitted through Moses. Moses was the "intermediary" who connected the Jewish people with G-dliness. In fact, it was precisely because of their connection with the materiality that Deuteronomy had to come through Moses.
This principle has applied throughout our history. We must never forget that regardless of the method of transmission or how recent the innovation, the directives of our Torah Sages are all part of the totality of Torah that was revealed to Moses. Furthermore, it is by observing the directives of the Moses of our own generation that we will merit the fulfillment of destiny with the coming of Moshiach, may it be speedily.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 4
As a Conservative rabbi for 20 years I had attended my share of hospital visits and, in more severe situations, stood with the family alongside their loved one as he or she left this world. That is why when my father lay in his hospital bed with hours remaining to his life I wanted my moment with him; and indeed, I knew the importance of that moment.
It was Saturday night and the doctors said he would most likely pass sometime the next day. The conflict was in front of me; I was to officiate at a funeral that Sunday morning but I wanted to stay with my father. Every rabbi knows that often he has to tend to his flock prior to even his own family, but there is only one time when the soul leaves the body and I had been there for others; it just felt correct and fair that I should be there for my own beautiful father.
But the family who had already sustained their loss was counting on me and it seemed like the logistical choice to preside at the funeral and then rush back to the hospital, hopefully in time. As I drove to the graveside funeral that Sunday morning I kept wondering if my father was perhaps leaving this world at that very second and I was not there. The clock was ticking. I arrived at the Queens, New York cemetery and found the open grave, situated alongside the very edge of the grounds next to the fence on Francis Lewis Boulevard. Trying not to let the mourners realize that I was on borrowed time, I respectfully recited prayers; but my heart and head were miles away. I didn't want to rush, but I had to be efficient while being compassionate, as they deserved their sacred time as well.
Perhaps I didn't notice it right away because of all that was whirling through my mind, but just a few feet away was a tremendously large mass of human beings in a line. All types, looks, styles and ages stood there waiting; they were entering and exiting a small structure right there in the cemetery.
Although I was not involved with Chabad, I realized that this place was the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I knew that there had been this master rabbi of Chabad who was very special and who with great wisdom and compassion advised everyone from the homeless to heads of state. And now he obviously continued to draw hundreds of souls waiting for a moment of his time.
I thought about all this while juggling the funeral Psalms and sentences, as well as the sustained thought in my mind about wanting to be with my father. The eulogies and interment finally concluded and although I am usually the last one to leave, I knew what I had to do; but something stopped me from fleeing.
I was drawn to the sight of the Rebbe's grave. When I was a teenager growing up on Long Island, I remember our Conservative synagogue's youth group had a field trip for a Shabbat in Brooklyn. At the time I really didn't know much about where we went, other than we were observing the day of rest in traditional homes and eating Sabbath foods. I remember seeing a noisy tumultuous room of black beards and hats come to a complete silent stand still as a white bearded man walked through an aisle that was instantaneously created by two walls of attentive, respectful men.
I also recall the memorable fun and interesting songs we sang that Shabbat afternoon, "Ufaratzta," "Ain't Gonna Work on Saturday," and "Little Bird." But why am I thinking about beards and "Ufaratzta"? I need to run to the car, jump in and race to the hospital.
I truthfully don't remember how it happened, but I found myself in that structure known as the Ohel where the Rebbe rests alongside his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe. People encircled the graves with their pleas and supplications; perhaps they were petitioning for health issues or business deals or brides to find grooms. My prayers for health had concluded the night before with the knowledge of the inevitable; I just wanted to be with my father when he passed from this world.
Even though the clock was still ticking, the sentiment of the very first of the seven Lubavitcher Rebbes is so true. Sometimes the long road gets you to your destination faster than the short trail, which will delay your journey. I took the time to place my tearful request.
Upon my arrival to the hospital my family was gathered around the bed and they all grabbed a well-deserved break from the difficult emotional moments they were experiencing; I found myself alone in the room with my father. Never have I witnessed such a dignified, noble, sacred exit of one's G-dly soul from this material world. The date was Tisha B'Av, the ninth of Av. Who could have thought that the most tragic day on the Jewish calendar could feel a little more pain?
My father had shown me how to walk and dance on this earth and I had the great merit and honor to learn from him how to step from this world as well.
I saw the Rebbe from afar when I was a teenager, and then I experienced his compassionate blessings and warmth up close in the Ohel that very memorable Sunday of Tisha B'Av. As a Chabad Jew today, I have continued to form a deep relationship with this Rebbe through literally the hundreds and hundreds of his beautiful Shluchim, emissaries, that I have visited on my speaking tours throughout the world.
My father, may he rest in peace, I am sure is proud to know that his grandson Adam and his granddaughter Shira are now Lubavitcher Chasidim; and that they both lead lives of true Yiddishkeit, as they pursue the Rebbe's directives to follow Torah and mitzvos, to conduct acts of kindness and to endeavor to transform darkness into light.
Dr. David Nesenoff is a world-renowned inspirational speaker and writer on Jewish topics including Chabad, anti-Semitism, Israel, Shabbat, women in Judaism, and relationships. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Yosef and Bina Goldwasser will soon be arriving in Mobile, Alabama to establish a new Chabad Center there. Mobile is the largest municipality on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Rabbi Akiva and Hannah Hall are moving to Miloxi, Mississippi, to establish Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Mississippi. Rabbi Akiva is originally from MIssissippi. Now that Mississippi will have permanent emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, South Dakota is the only state in the U.S.A. that does not yet have a permanent Chabad presence.
Rabbi Levi and Adina Tiechtel will be arriving soon in West Lafayette, Indiana, where they will establish a new Chabad on Campus center at Purdue University. Purdue has the fourth largest international student population of any university in the United States.
Rabbi Pinchas and Mushky will be arriving soon in Palm Harbor, Florida, where they be program directors at Chabad of Pinellas County serving Jewish communities on Florida's Gulf coast.
5 Kislev 5729 
Blessing and Greeting:
I duly received your letter postmarked November 20th, as well as your previous letter.
In reply to your correspondence, and pursuant to our conversation during your visit here, I want to reiterate that every person, in order to be able to express himself fully and be successful in his work, must have a certain measure of independence. This is particularly true in the case of a person whose main activity is intellectual and spiritual, especially in the field of research, where independence of thought and decision is a basic condition of the scientific approach. And inasmuch as a human being is a single entity, it is inevitable that inhibition in one area is bound to have an effect on other areas of one's activity.
The above does not imply that a wife should completely withhold her opinions or suggestions which she considers it her duty to express to her husband. On the contrary, no person should withhold any idea that can be beneficial to any Jew, not to mention when it concerns the best interests of husband and wife, both of whom are like one entity. Nevertheless, you ought to leave your husband a considerable measure of independence in making final decisions. And knowing you and him, I am certain that the proper decisions will be made.
I am gratified to note from your writing that your husband has resumed his research in earnest, and may G-d grant that it be with much hatzlocha [success].
As for the question of taking time out as a consultant, etc., it is my opinion, as I mentioned in our conversation, that if this will not interfere with his research work, it would be all right. For, as I have emphasized, his essential work lies in the field of research, and it should have primary attention, all the more so since there has been a considerable interruption.
With regard to the question of stocks, my opinion is that they should not be sold if there would be a loss, G-d forbid. Otherwise stocks should be sold on the advice of an experienced broker at such time the broker thinks is right for the particular stock.
Generally speaking, I have no right to withhold my general opinion that it is not a good idea to invest in stocks the major part of one's savings. In addition to the consideration that such an investment would be of questionable financial prudence, there is also the factor of the nervous strain that the stock market fluctuations cause to the investor. Also because such a situation is completely independent of the investor's intelligence and judgment, or at any rate, largely so. Finally, the present day and age is full of unpredictable developments, and the market is highly sensitive to national and international events. In view of all this, those who ask my advice with regard to the stock market, my usual advice is to rather forgo a percentage of dividends, and invest in more secure and suitable investments.
I emphasize "those who ask my advice." However, since you have not asked my advice, I will not say that you should necessarily act accordingly. May G-d grant that whatever you decide should be with hatzlocha to enjoy your parnosah [livelihood], and to use your earnings on good, wholesome, and happy things, especially in the advancement in matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and the Torah-true education of the children in particular, and that you and your husband should bring them up to a life of Torah, chuppah [marriage], and good deeds, in good health and ample sustenance.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report, including also good news about having been successful in finding a suitable apartment in a desirable neighborhood, as you mention in your letter.
P.S. While the letter was addressed to you, since it is in reply to your letter, it goes without saying that you may show it to your husband, and convey to him my best regards at the same time.
5 Menachem Av
"Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." On this verse from Psalms the Baal Shem Tov commented: Every permissible physical object possesses good and evil. The material element is evil, and the G-dly life-force that gives life to the physical is good. The person utilizing the physical object must "turn from evil" - not desire the physical pleasure which is in its materiality, and "do good," i.e. he should desire to be nourished and supported by the G-dly vitality in that object. "Seek peace and pursue it": Whoever fulfills "turn from evil and do good" must seek and pursue means for making peace between the physical and the G-dly life-force that vitalizes it.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is Shabbat Chazon. "Chazon" in Hebrew means vision. It is called thus because of the Haftara reading on this Shabbat before Tisha B'Av known as "Chazon Yishayahu" - the Vision of Isaiah
When you say to a human being that he or she is a person of vision, it is a great compliment. Vision means that a person has the capability of seeing not only what today holds, but what the future will bring. A person of vision can never be down, he will never be broken, because he sees not only the present but the future, as well.
There is a saying of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev: Why is this Shabbat called Shabbat Chazon? Because every Jew has a vision of the Third Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) on this Shabbat. Every Jew can see it. But, of course, in order to do so, one needs sensitive eyes. Nevertheless, the Beit Hamikdash is shown to us, and although our physical eyes might not behold it, our souls, our spirit, the metaphysical in us, see it and long for it.
This is similar to the Rebbe's encouragement to us to "open our eyes" and see that we are literally on the threshold of the Redemption. The Rebbe taught that everything is ready, even the table is set for the glorious "meal" that will take place at that time. All that we need to do is to "open our eyes" and see the true reality of what is around us.
Let us elevate ourselves from our mundane routine and envision the greatness and glory of our people as it will be revealed speedily in our days.
It was in the 40th year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month... (Deut. 1:3)
Moses did not rebuke the Jews until he, himself was near death, according to Rashi. When a person is about to pass away, and is on the border between this world and the next, his words of instruction and reproof have a special influence. At this point, no personal prejudices or ulterior motives can be ascribed to him.
G-d should add on to you accordingly one thousandfold (Deut. 1:11)
Why did Moses bless the Jews after rebuking them? It is told that the "Seer" of Lublin once berated himself in very harsh terms as if he were the most renegade sinner. Hearing this, his disciples were seized with fear: "If our teacher is worthy of such, what is our lot?" The Seer felt their uneasiness and remarked, "May your grandchildren be no worse than me." So too with Moses. Having rebuked the Jews, he continued with words of encouragement, "Even though I rebuked you, I still ask that it be G-d's will that there be many like you in generations to come.
And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren (Deut. 1:16)
It is only during the present era, "at that time," that it is necessary to listen to both sides of a dispute to reach a just decision. When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, judgment will be rendered through the sense of smell, as it states, "He will smell the fear of G-d, and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes and decide after the hearing of his ears."
Some 100 years before the expulsion of Jews from the countries under Spanish rule, Spanish Jewry was divided into two major segments: those who remained loyal to Judaism despite all the persecutions to which they were subject, and some 250,000 "New-Christians" who had embraced the dominant faith at least publicly.
But even these lived a life of isolation and fear. They were cut off from those of their Jewish brethren who had remained Jews. They were likewise afraid to maintain contact with each other lest they be suspected of harboring an attachment to their Jewish past.
Neither were they absorbed among the "Old Christians," who continued to hate them and to spy on them day and night, in order to hand them over to the church for judgment over the sin of relapsing from their new faith.
Those Jews were called "marranos" by the Old Christians. The word "marranos" means pigs. That is to say, that they were regarded as growing fat from the labor of others, and as people from whom others could derive no benefit other than through their death, when their flesh could be eaten.
The Jews who had remained Jews publicly, were faced only with the threat of expulsion, whereas the Marranos were faced by the penalty of being burned alive publicly for the sin of disloyalty to Christianity.
The marranos were constantly spied upon. At times the accusations against them were truthful. At other times, their enemies fabricated lying accusations against them in order to acquire their wealth and possessions.
Eighteen years before the expulsion, Torquemada, the most brutal among the Catholic priests, set up the Inquisition; a special tribunal to impose penalties upon those discovered to have been disloyal to the Church.
Ostensibly, the activities of the Inquisition were related to all Christians. In reality, it was the "heresy" of the Marranos which was the major concern of the Inquisition.
Upwards of 30,000 of the marranos were condemned to death by the Inquisition and they were burned alive. Other tens of thousands were condemned to physical torture more horrible than death. Most of these sanctified the Name of G-d in death.
The repeated confessions of the tortured that they had remained loyal to the Torah and Judaism, infuriated the inquisitors and their agents, and caused them to persecute the Marranos ever more relentlessly.
The repeated confessions also provided the inquisitors with further arguments in their efforts to prevail upon King Ferdinand to issue an expulsion edict against all the remaining Jews. For "as long as Jews would continue to live in Spain, they would continue to influence their brothers, the 'New Christians' to adhere to the faith of their fathers."
Writes Don Yitzchak Abarbanel in his commentary to Jeremiah: "When the King of Spain decreed expulsion against all the Jews in his kingdom, the date of expulsion was set at the end of three months from the day when the decree was proclaimed. It turned out that the day set for the departure of the Jews from Spain was the ninth of Av ['Tisha B'Av']. But the king did not know the character of the day when he issued his edict. It was as if he had been led from Above to fix this time."
The exiles went forth on the road in groups. Groups of various sizes preceded the great departure on the ninth of Av, and left during the three week period between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av. And although these days are days of mourning and weeping over the destruction of the Sanctuary and the land of Israel, and music is forbidden during these days, nevertheless the Sages of the generation issued permission to the exiles to march to the music of orchestras.
The musicians were to march at the head of the exiles and were to play on instruments in order to strengthen the spirit of the people, and to infuse in them hope and trust in G-d.
They uttered thanksgiving and thanks to their Creator over having withstood the test and not having submitted to conversion, and over their having achieved the merit of sanctifying G-d's Name by their departure from Spain.
It also was the aim of the Rabbis in permitting the playing of instruments at the time, to teach the people that we never weep over departure from exile; that we weep only over our departure from Jerusalem.
Reprinted from The Book of Our Heritage by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, published by Feldheim Publishers
When one considers the truthfulness and majesty of what was once there upon the Temple Mount, how can one look at the pathetic, crumbling segment of a haphazardly reconstructed retaining wall that remains and feel inspired? Then I came to appreciate that it is not the Wall that makes the sanctity of the place. It is the energy of the people who come here, the precious souls of all colors who merge together in the fading twilight and become one, embracing the oneness and each other, if even for a brief momentary taste of what could be, of what must be.
(Izzy Greenberg, Exodus Magazine)