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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1339
                           Copyright (c) 2014
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        September 19, 2014 Nitzavim-Vayeilech      24 Elul, 5774

                             Dry Clean Only

Rosh Hashana is almost here. Time to account for our past deeds, rectify
any damage we've done, and figure out how we can improve in the future.
In the Jewish vernacular this is known as "teshuva," literally
"returning"-returning to one's previously unsullied state. Often it is
translated as "repentance."

Starting this Saturday night and continuing until Rosh Hashana, special
"penitential" prayers that we say daily help prepare for The High
Holidays. The days from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur - known as the
"Ten Days of Teshuva" - are set aside for more introspection,
repentance, and self-improvement. Even after Yom Kippur, until the eve
of Simchat Torah, we still have time for teshuva.

Why the need for teshuva altogether? If we hurt someone's feelings or
stole something, most of us know that we have to apologize, try to
rectify the situation, and even resolve not to do it in the future.

But what does that have to do with returning? And what are we trying to
return and to where?

Imagine an article of clothing, the nice, clean shirt you are wearing,
for instance. What if you spilled some coffee on it, or brushed against
a chalkboard, or your favorite pen leaked. The type of damage your shirt
acquired would dictate the method you would use to clean it.

Now imagine that the shirt is your neshama, your soul, the spark of
G-dly energy in you that gives you life.

When we do mitzvot (command-ments), the soul remains in the clean,
pristine state in which we received it. Of course, just regular living
puts a crease here or there. But, basically, it stays neat. However,
when we neglect a mitzva or transgress - whether a commandment between
one person and another or a commandment between a person and G-d - our
soul gets dirty.

The type and location of dirt or grime the soul picks up dictates how we
should proceed. The cleaning process is quite logical. Just as you would
remove the pen from your pocket as soon as you realize it's leaking, the
first step of teshuva is to stop transgressing or to start performing
the neglected mitzva.

Then, we need to examine the stain and the damage to ascertain the
proper method. Certain transgressions cause bigger or tougher stains
than others. And certainly, frequency also comes into consideration -
like shirt collars repeatedly bombarded with perspiration that develop
"ring around the collar."

Teshuva for some spiritual stains might require minimal effort, like
brushing off chalk powder. Other spiritual dirt could be more difficult
to remove, like a coffee stain. You might need to apply some detergent
and water, then vigorously rub it.

Ink is a little trickier, like the repeated transgression or the more
serious misdeeds. To get rid of an ink-like stain on the soul requires
hard work, time, elbow grease. You would probably want to ask a
professional for advice, or at least for some suggestions of what
solutions or chemicals to use. Eventually with time, effort and
persistence, you can totally rid the soul of its stain. You can return
it to its formerly unsullied state. For, after all, it's not a flaw
woven into the cloth, it's something extraneous, something not
intrinsically part of the original garment.

This week we read two Torah portions, Nitzavim and Vayeilech. The
portion of Nitzavim begins, "You are all standing together this day
before G-d... the leaders of your tribes, your elders, your officers,
all the men of Israel, your children and your wives, to pass into G-d's

What is the intent of a covenant? When two people feel a powerful
attraction to each other but realize that with the passage of time the
attraction could wane, they establish a covenant. The covenant maintains
their connection even at times when on a conscious level there might be
reasons for distance and separation.

This portion of the Torah is read every year on the Shabbat before Rosh
Hashana, because on Rosh Hashana, the covenant between G-d and the
Jewish people is renewed. For on Rosh Hashana, we "are all standing...
before G-d." The essential G-dly core which every person possesses rises
to the forefront of his consciousness, and the fundamental bond between
G-d and humankind surfaces. On this basis a covenant is renewed for the
entire year to come, including the inevitable occasions when these
feelings of oneness will not be experienced as powerfully.

The Torah states that this covenant is being established when "you are
all standing together," and proceeds to mention ten different groupings
within the Jewish people. Implied is that the establishment of a bond of
oneness with G-d is also mirrored by bonds of oneness within our people.
For the same spiritual potential that motivates our connection to G-d
evokes an internal unity which bonds our entire people together.

The essence of everyone of us is a soul which is a Divine spark, an
actual part of G-d is within us; that is why we are bound to Him.

We all share this infinite and unbounded spiritual potential equally.
That is why we are bound to each other. And that is why the covenant is
established as we stand together. For as we center on the inner
motivation for our relationship with G-d, we realize that a spiritual
reality is all-encompassing and joins us with each other.

In our prayers we say, "Bless us our Father, all as one." Standing
together as one generates a climate fit for blessing. Standing before
G-d "as one," on Rosh Hashana will lead to a year of blesssings for all
humankind in material and spiritual matters.

      From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos
                                                        in English.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                    Vignettes from the Western Wall
                            by Gutman Locks

Jews are an interesting people, to say the least. We always hear about
the famous Jews because they do the most amazing things. But what about
the "regular," average Jew whom you never hear about?

Late last Shabbat afternoon, I was sitting at the Kotel (Western Wall)
waiting for maariv (evening prayers) when a young man came over and sat
next to me. He was wearing a brand new pair of tzitzit (Torah fringes)
over his shirt. He is from Barcelona, but spoke fluent English, albeit
with a Spanish accent.

He told me that his grandmother is an 86-year old holocaust survivor
from Poland. After she was rescued, she fled Poland and settled in
Spain. She married a non-Jewish man, and for the most part hid the fact
that she is a Jew. They had a daughter, who grew up, and like her
mother, she also married a non-Jewish man, but he was a religious

This young man from Barcelona is their son. He told me that his father
tried to train him to be a religious Catholic. He said that he learned
it, but it did not seem right to him. Then he found out that since his
mother is a Jew, he is a Jew, so he started studying Torah and he
discarded all of his Catholic training.

He is now in law school in Barcelona and came to Israel for the summer
as a volunteer on a Kibbutz. I asked him why he found Torah to be right,
but not Catholicism. He put his hand on his chest and said, "I don't
know, but it's something inside of me."

I told him that he would get a lot more out of going to a yeshiva for a
month than he would by washing dishes in a kibbutz. He agreed and we are
making arrangements for him to study in a beginners' program for the
next month or so.

What did he feel inside his heart?

He left, and an elderly, America Jewish man who has been living in the
Rova (Jewish Quarter) for many years sat down.

He told me that he was on vacation in Holland when the Gaza war broke
out. He said, "It didn't feel right for me to be in Holland with a war
going on here, and even though I'm not in the army I wasn't going to sit
in a hotel when everyone here's in danger."

He canceled his vacation and came back two weeks early. He said, "It
wasn't a problem getting a flight back to Israel because everyone was
canceling their tickets."

What does it mean to be a Jew? Beside the fact that you have a Jewish
mother, there's a feeling inside.

                                *  *  *

He was the warmest, nicest, Israeli guy you could ever meet, even though
he would not put on tefilin. When he first came into the Kotel area I
tried to get him but he laughed at the idea and hurried by.

A few minutes later, as he was leaving, I tried again. Same response;
"No Way!" with a big smile.

He kept walking away, but I didn't give up.

I called after him, "Come it only takes a minute. It won't hurt! It's a
good thing."

I yelled at least a half a dozen things that have sometimes worked in
the past. Nothing got him. He kept walking away. Then, for whatever
reason, even though he was already way past me, he stopped, looked back
and said, "I don't know how."

"That's what I'm here for."

He came back, and I helped him. He read the prayers, and prayed for his
family, and for the soldiers. He didn't rush. When he finished he told
me, "I haven't put them on since my Bar Mitzva."

I asked him how old he was.

He said, "Sixty."

                                *  *  *

He did not want to put on tefilin, but he was so soft that I could pull
him in anyway. He is from Brazil and had never put on tefilin before.
His family moved there from Poland before he was born.

After he read the Shema, I showed him how to pray for his family and for
the Jews in danger from the current war. He stood there praying for a
very long time, and then he waited there even longer just looking at the
Kotel and what was happening. When he finished he turned to me, rubbed
his chest and stomach and warmly said, "It feels so good inside!"

This is how we should all feel when we do a mitzva. If you do not feel
good, if you do not experience a warm sense of joy when you do a
mitzvah, you did not pay attention. G-d gave us His Torah to take away
our burdens, not to increase them.

                                *  *  *

Home born Israelis are called sabras for a good reason. Sabra is a
nickname for the thorny desert plant, the prickly pear. Its thorns are
sharp, and it has a thick skin that covers its sweet, softer interior.
You have to be very careful or it can really stab you.

A few days ago, an older Israeli came up to put on tefillin. He knew how
to put them on by himself. I invited his Israeli friend to also put them
on. His reaction was just like the outside of the prickly pear. I asked
again, and the thorns got sharper. I let it rest for awhile, and then,
stubborn as I am, I tried the third time. Whew! I hate to say it, but I
really understood why they are named after the prickly pear.

Finally, with him watching, I picked up the tefillin head piece, held it
close to my ear as if I was talking on a cell phone, and said, "Hello,
Okay". Then, I held it out toward him, and said; "It's for you." He
cracked up laughing. He couldn't help himself.

He came over and let me help him. He read the "Shema," prayed for the
kidnapped teens, and for his family. From the look on his face he had a
good time. He was not in a rush to take them off, either. Once you get
past the thorns, the fruit is sweet.

                                  Reprinted from

                               WHAT'S NEW
                        Chabad of Mumbai Reopens

Chabad of Mumbai celebrated the opening of the newly renovated Nariman
House Chabad Center, a six story building in the heart of downtown
Mumbai, India. The building was ravaged by terrorists who stormed the
Chabad House in November 2008, murdering six Jews, including emissaries
of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg. Last year,
Rabbi Yisroel and Chaya Kozlovsky arrived in Mumbai as the new
emissaries. "The motto is that we are not fighting the darkness with an
AK-47. Our way to get rid of the darkness is by adding more light," says
Rabbi Kozlovsky. The center will eventually also house a museum, one
floor of which will recreate the apartment that the Holtzberg's lived

                            THE REBBE WRITES

    The following letter was written to Mr. Ernest and Mrs. Erna Weill.
    Erna Weill was a world-renown scultpor.

                       12th of Adar, 5720 [1960]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of February 28, with
further reference to the subject of sculpture in accord with the Torah,
Torath Chayyim. You raise the question whether the traditional
interpretation of the Torah should still be accepted, or should one
rather go back to the source and seek another interpretation.

I believe I touched upon this topic during our conversation, but I will
attempt to clarify it.

Even a cursory glance at the Torah (I mean the Pentateuch) leads one to
the inevitable conclusion that together with it there came down to us
also a broader explanation or interpretation, without which it would
often be meaningless. Take, for example, the commandment of putting on
Tefillin, which is given in the Torah in the words, "And it shall be for
a sign upon thy hand and for frontlets between thine eyes." Obviously,
accompanying this written precept there was an oral explanation as to
how this precept was to be fulfilled in practice, pertaining to the
phylacteries themselves, to the manner of their being put on, etc.
Similarly in regard to all matters of the Written Torah. Moreover,
considering the profound wisdom contained in the Torah, which is
conceded by all, it is surely unthinkable that it would prescribe
precepts the application of which was a mystery.

From this inevitable conclusion, namely, that the precepts given briefly
in the Written Torah were simultaneously expanded orally, there follows
necessarily also the conclusion that those who first received this oral
explanation transmitted it to their children, and the latter to theirs,
and so on, from generation to generation.

Since, further, it is an historical fact that there has never been a
break in Jewish history, and that despite the dispersion and exile (or
because of it), there has always been a continuity in Jewish history,
with many hundreds of thousands of Jews always surviving and carrying on
the Jewish tradition, the authenticity of it must be accepted without a
doubt, for it would contradict all common sense to suppose that anyone
could have radically changed the tradition under such circumstances.

Now, to the point raised in your letter. If it is true, as stated above,
that the Written Law was accompanied by an expanded Oral Law, it
certainly stands to reason with greater force that the Ten Commandments,
which marked the inauguration of the Torah, were adequately explained.
Thus when the Torah states, "Thou shalt not make unto thyself other
gods...any graven image..." the people were certainly told unequivocally
what was meant by these words. All the more so, having just been
liberated from Egypt, where idolatry was so widespread, and where so
many different cults and idols were worshipped, idols and images of all
description, in sculpture, in drawing, relief, etc., representing forms
of humans, animals, plants, insects, etc., as we now know from papyri,
excavations, and so on. In other words, precisely in this field there
would be the most detailed instructions as to what was prohibited and
what was not.

From all that has been said above, it is clear that the traditional
interpretation of the Torah must be accepted as authentic, and if some
detail of it seems incomprehensible, we may inquire after an explanation
of it, but it is no ground for considering the interpretation itself as

I emphasize this point because the subject under discussion is an art
which is connected with the basic prohibition of idolatry, and which, on
the other hand, if utilized in [a] way which accords with the Torah,
could have a strong impact on the emotional world of the sensitive
beholder and inspire him. At the same time, it is a well-known principle
of our Living Torah, that the end does not justify the means. Since the
end of the art of sculpture is to evoke the highest emotions, it can
best be achieved if and when the means and methods correspond in the
maximum degree to the Torah.

My experience in similar situations, though not in the field of
sculpture, has been to convince me that where the individuals in
question have resolved to be guided by the Torah, they found their road
much easier than anticipated and it has brought them more peace and
harmony than they thought possible.

Hoping to hear good news from you, and wishing you a Happy Purim,

With blessing

                              TODAY IS ...
                                28 Elul

"G-d's blessing brings wealth." This is so in general, but especially to
whoever gives of his time to occupy himself with the community's needs
in matters of charity and strengthening Judaism; as the saying goes,
"G-d does not remain in debt". For every good thing a person does, he is
recompensed grandly by G-d, with children, health and livelihood, in

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Saturday night, in preparation for the High Holy Days, we
will begin saying the special set of penitential prayers known as

There is a story about a Chasid who came into a small town during the
days before Rosh Hashana. Over Shabbat he stayed at an inn that was
managed by a simple Jew. Late Saturday night, the innkeeper and his wife
readied themselves to go to the synagogue to say the Selichot prayers.

"Where are you going?" asked the chasid.

Answered the innkeeper, "Our cow gives milk, the vegetables are growing.
Our orchard produces fine fruits. We are going to shul to say selichot."

"Feh," said the chasid emphatically. "Old people get up in the middle of
the night to ask the Alm-ghty for food?"

In truth, we should and are required to ask G-d for food and all of our
other necessities. However, selichot is not the time to be asking G-d
for these things.

Selichot means forgiveness. More than forgiveness, it means making
amends. We recharge our batteries, return to our Source, and make an
accounting of what we did last year. We contemplate on how we can
improve in the coming year and begin to put our thoughts into action.

If we make sure that our Selichot prayers contain all of the above, the
Alm-ghty will certainly give us not only the food and other necessities
that the simple innkeeper prayed for, but a good year in all material
and spiritual areas as well.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
The anger of G-d burned against this land... and G-d rooted them out of
the land in anger... and cast them into another land (Deut. 29:26-27)

The curses and punishments enumerated in this section of the Torah are
merely warnings, not promises that G-d must fulfill. Their purpose is to
arouse the heart of man to choose good over evil so that they will never
come to pass.

                                                  (Peninei HaGeula)

                                *  *  *

G-d will circumcise your heart... in order that you may live (Deut.

When G-d will circumcise your heart, the pleasure and delight that you
will take in Torah and mitzvot [commandments] will be as keenly felt as
the pleasures of the physical body; you will love the Torah as much as
you value your very life.

                                                      (Ohel Yaakov)

                                *  *  *

If any of you are dispersed at the outermost parts of heaven, from there
will the L-rd your G-d gather you (Deut. 30:4)

No matter how far a Jew may be from Torah and Judaism, G-d promises to
gather him back into the fold of the Jewish people when Moshiach comes.
When a Jew is spiritually brought back from "the outermost parts of
heaven," it hastens Moshiach's coming and brings the Redemption closer.

                                            (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil (Deut.

One should not perform good deeds in order to live; one should live in
order to perform good deeds.

                                   (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Two brothers, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech, were very pious and learned
men who were amongst the most prized chasidim of Rabbi Dov Ber, the
Magid of Mezrich, successor of the Baal Shem Tov. With the passing of
time and difficulty of communication, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech lost
contact with a third brother, who was not a chasid.

The two brothers, throughout their many travels, would ask about their
brother and try to ascertain his whereabouts. They were intrigued to
know what type of lifestyle he was living. Was he religious like
themselves, or had he, G-d forbid, abandoned the teachings of the Torah?
And even if he was religious, was he exacting in his practice, concerned
only for the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law?

And so, in each town and village they visited, as they spread the
teaching of their master, the Magid, they asked if anyone knew the
whereabouts of their brother. Try as they might, they could not find out
any information. Yet, they still persisted on their self-imposed

When finally they did hear some information concerning where their
brother lived, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech rejoiced. And yet, there was
a certain amount of hesitation in their rejoicing for, after over a
dozen years of separation, they had no idea what their reunion would

And so, with slight trepidation, the two brothers made their way to a
small village where their brother was an innkeeper. Reb Zusia and Reb
Elimelech entered the inn and observed their brother at work. He was
busy the entire day greeting guests, preparing rooms, and cooking food.
He ran from person to person, task to task, with a cheerful countenance
and dealt with each guest, rich or poor, graciously. With his long
beard, tzitzit, and long black coat, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech were
assured that their brother had indeed remained true to the Torah even in
this isolated village.

But still, a question remained unanswered for Reb Zusia and Reb
Elimelech. These two chasidic masters were known for their humility.
But, of course, humility doesn't preclude the fact that they understood
that there was something special about themselves. They might have
considered themselves undeserving of the remarkable qualities which G-d
gave them, but to outright deny their uniqueness would be like denying a
precious gift. And so, they wondered, was there something exceptional
about their brother, too, and the way he served his Creator?

Evening came at their brother's inn. Most of the guests had already
arrived and the furious activity of the daytime hours had slowed. Reb
Zusia and Reb Elimelech observed as their brother entrusted his wife
with the inn's duties and entered his study. In the study, he prayed the
evening service and then poured over his holy books until it was quite

The brothers were reassured by this sight, but not awed; it was not
uncommon for a Jew to put in a full day's work and then spend his
"leisure" hours in prayer and Torah study. However, their brother's next
activity was indeed unusual. Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech watched as
their brother began to say the Shema before bedtime. In the middle of
the prayers before retiring, their brother took out a worn ledger and
opened it toward the end of the book.

For long moments he sat motionless, pouring over a page of his ledger.
"How much could be written on one page that it takes him so long to read
it?" they wondered. They continued to watch, transfixed. As the minutes
ticked away, they saw their brother begin to shake. Tears rolled down
his cheeks and onto the page of the ledger in front of him. In a quiet,
trembling voice they heard him read from the ledger, "I didn't serve
this guest today with as much honor as is befitting a fellow-Jew...I was
too quick to answer this person when they asked me a question..." On and
on went the list of their brother's "sins" which he had written into the
tear-stained ledger.

Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech watched as their brother continued crying
and reading from the ledger until the words on the page literally
disappeared. Whether it was his tears or a miracle that washed away his
"sins," the brother knew that when his sins were no longer on the page,
his sincere repentance had been accepted.

The brothers thought of their parents, and wondered at what great deeds
they had done to merit raising such a remarkable child.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The meaning of the verse in the Torah portion of Nitzavim, "Gd will
return your captivity" is clear. Gd will gather in the Jews from all
four corners of the world to the Holy Land and there they will be able
to bring the offerings of the first fruit, in Jerusalem with joyous song
and a proud declaration of thanks. This will lead to an extended meaning
of the verse, "This is the blessing with which Moses blessed them," that
every Jew will receive a blessing from Moses who will arise in the
Resurrection of the Dead. When the Jews gather together their thought,
speech, and action and direct it toward Gd, it will evoke a response
from Him: "Gd will return your captivity." May this take place in the
immediate future.

                        (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 26 Elul, 5751-1991)

          END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1339 - Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5774

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