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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

November 7, 2014 - 14 Cheshvan, 5775

1345: Vayera

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

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  1344: Lech-Lecha1346: Chayei Sara  

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

From a New Perspective

You buy a brand new car. Each time before you go for a drive, you carefully make a 360 degree circuit around the car to ascertain that there are no scratches or dents. When you arrive at your destination, you leave your new car in a lone spot, far from the other cars parked like sardines. In this way, no careless motorist will unthinkingly swing his door open into your car.

The baby starts to crawl. Suddenly, a speck on the carpet is no longer innocuous; it might be picked up by the baby and happily popped into her mouth. Loose change becomes a potential enemy when it rolls out of your pocket. You get down on your hands and knees, or perhaps even lower, to peer around from a kids-eye-view, scanning the terrain for anything that the horizontally mobile baby might go for.

Isn't it interesting how the slightest change in circumstances can alter your whole perspective on how you see your surroundings?

This insight answers a frequently asked question about the coming of Moshiach, whose arrival - according to Jewish teachings - we await every day. How is it possible that the world will remain unchanged with all its natural laws and characteristics, and yet, at the same time, we will have a heightened sensitivity to spirituality and be able to perceive the G-dliness in all of creation?

Our examples above can help us understand the answer to this question. The world will remain the same world. It is our perspective that will change. Our new consciousness of and sensitivity to the good and G-dly within ourselves and all of creation will allow us to be aware of and appreciate things we did not even notice before.

Another example: You are on vacation and are touring ancient historical sites. You are impressed by the thought that you are seeing something which has been around for hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years. You ask your tour guide questions. Back in your hotel room you read a history book you picked up. The book has a detailed account written by an eyewitness to an event that actually occurred in the place that you just visited earlier in the day. You visit the site a second time. But this time, your new perspective literally opens your eyes to an appreciation you could not have imagined before.

And so it will be with the Redemption. Our new-found appreciation of G-dliness and G-d's world will open our eyes and enable us to have a completely different perspective on the world and its real meaning.

The Rebbe told us that we don't have to wait. By learning more Torah in general, and more about Moshiach and the Redemption in particular, we can open our eyes now and enjoy the inherent unity and G-dliness in ourselves, our communities and in the world in anticipation of Moshiach's arrival.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vayeira, hints at a spiritual yet mundane aspect of Abraham and Sara's relationship.

Our Sages of the Talmud teach: "How does a woman help a man?...If a man brings wheat, does he chew the wheat? If he brings flax, does he wear the flax? It follows, then, that she brings light to his eyes and puts him on his feet!"

A person's mission in life is to elevate and refine the material aspects of the world, imbuing them with spiritual content. But man brings only wheat and flax, he is concerned with raw materials, with generalities. He is somewhat removed from the down-to-earth realities, the details. It is woman who transforms the wheat into food and the flax into clothing, who tangibly implements our lifetime mission.

Abraham and Sara. Man and woman. When Abraham found out that his wife, Sara, was to bear a child, he prayed. From the lofty, detached viewpoint of his great saintliness he asked, "Would that Ishmael might live before You!" He hoped that Ishmael would continue to live in fear of and worship G-d. Abraham saw in Ishmael, future father of the Arab nations, the potential for living a G-d-fearing life.

But Sara saw reality. She saw Ishmael's devastating influence in the home, particularly over her son Isaac. She demanded that Abraham remove the harmful influence of Ishmael from the home.

Abraham could not find peace with the idea of sending his oldest son away. Although G-d had already informed Abraham that He would fulfill His covenant specifically and exclusively through Isaac, from Abraham's perspective it seemed that Ishmael should stay in the house. Only in his own home could Abraham hope to influence Ishmael in a positive manner.

But G-d declared to Abraham, "In all that Sara says to you, listen to her voice, for in Isaac shall descendants be called to you." The commentator Rashi explains that this statement indicates that Sara's power of prophecy was superior to Abraham's. It was Sara, the down-to-earth woman, the foundation of the home, who recognized the harmful influence.

From "A Thought for the Week," Detroit. Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

All is Well
by Dr. David Nesenoff

I only remember his first name, Michel. We all sat at Rabbi Yossi Schildkraut's Shabbat table in S. Paolo, Brazil. There were families, friends and visiting businessmen. Michel, a father of four, had moved to Israel from Brazil; he was now back in Brazil just for a couple of weeks for some meetings.

After the fish, meat, rice, beans, and saying "l'chaim," we sang. Nigunim, melodies without words, songs with words, and then the old favorite "Jerusalem of Gold" crept into the medley. We smiled when Michel continued on after the first stanza; after all, who knows all the stanzas to that song? Michel sang all three, and the rest of us only joined in for the refrain, "Yerushalayim shel zahav."

Then Michel quietly noted to all that the golden song about Jerusalem had been written right before the 1967 war and that following the battle an additional verse was added. He began to softly sing that final stanza in Hebrew, the words that captured an eternal moment of time when Jerusalem was once again home, "We have returned to the market, the cistern and the square; the shofar calls on the Temple Mount in the Old City."

And Michel began to cry. The Shabbat table was still. His voice cracked and he paused. Soon, I was tearing as well. The reality of our people's history, legacy, frailty and future emerged right there among the challah crumbs and the tablecloth stained from my spilled wine.

I was on a 10-day speaking tour in Brazil with audiences in S. Paulo, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro, delivering the message of the Rebbe, "We are b'nai Yisrael; we are the children of Israel." Yes, children are eternal and that is why we have an eternal relationship with the land that G-d gave us. I have had the merit to offer my humorous presentation, laden with the Rebbe's words, in Australia, Ireland, England, Canada and throughout the entire United States. But there in Brazil, at that Shabbat table, the children of Israel did what children do. They cried.

The Portuguese greeting "tudo bem" ("all is well") was uttered by all the shluchim during my journey to South America. These emissaries indeed fulfill their personal commitment to the Rebbe's vision of reaching every Jew in the world. And the Jewish souls they have found, collected and gathered are warm and searching and eager and questioning and learning and trying and struggling, but tudo bem, all is well.

I must admit that although my Chabad global speaking tours have made me a seasoned traveler, I was a bit nervous prior to this trip to Brazil. When I arrived at the Miami airport departure gate as I waited for the boarding announcement, I noticed a white-bearded chasid sitting there.

"Are you Chabad?" I asked.

In a secretive manner he replied, "I try to be."

He kept his cards close to his chest, not revealing very much about himself while he interrogated me. He then borrowed my phone to make some local calls; he had me watch his luggage while he left to pray; and upon his return presented his business card. The One Above quells our fears and protects us on our travels. My new flying companion was none other than Rabbi Shabsi Alpern, Brazil's head emissary.

When I arrived in S. Paulo, Rabbi Dovid Goldberg shared with me some of the woes of the largest South American country that he now calls home. There is crime, corruption, and a high cost of living, but tudo bem, all is well.

The Jews filled the synagogue that evening and they laughed and they cried and they laughed as I spoke. I am often told in various countries and in regions of the U.S., "The Jews are different here; their humor is different." But it is proven time and time again that the very first Jew who was born to Abraham and Sarah was not named "Sadness." His name, Yitzchak, meaning "laughter," still runs through our veins. Like children we cry; but like our very first of kin, we also all giggle and laugh the same.

There was a brit while I was in S. Paolo. Rabbi Schildkraut mentioned that the parents of the baby and their siblings all met at his synagogue and they all married Jews as well; and there have been many brisim. I asked the "what ifs." What if the shul wasn't here? What if Chabad wasn't here? What if the Rebbe didn't send emissaries to Brazil?

Rabbi Schildkraut, who is so loved for his personal genuine warmth, simply shrugged and answered me with his beautiful silent wide smile, that can only be translated as "tudo bem." His wonderful sons whom I met, Shmuli and Berel, obviously learned well from their parents who have successfully raised a family and a community while mastering a foreign tongue in a far off environment.

To hear Rebbetzin Schildkraut tell a story in fluent Portuguese, one need not comprehend a word to thoroughly understand her enthusiasm and zest for teaching Judaism.

Rabbi Yossi Schildkraut opined, "We shluchim (emissaries) stepped foot into these unchartered places not knowing what to expect, but I believe the Rebbe knew very well from the start what we would accomplish." Reb Yossi grinned under his full, wise, beard, "We shluchim said to the Rebbe that we have no experience; we don't know the language; we have no business skills; we are shy and not trained for this." And Reb Yossi said that the Rebbe answered, "Perfect, you are the right ones for the job, go."

My missioin also continues as I travel and speak at Chabad centers and Jewish communities and institutions. Students lined up so respectfully to chat with me after my presentation at the Renascenca Jewish School in S. Paulo. One young man decided that he would now put on tefillin everyday; another student told me that he would "upgrade" his Shabbat observance. Three teenage girls told me how they were inspired and wanted to "do more Jewish." My speeches encourage the "doing" of Jewish and not just the "feeling" of Jewish.

And so at Rabbi Schildkraut's Shabbat table, I wiped away the embarrassing tears from my eyes hoping no one would notice that I was also crying along with Michel.

Perhaps Michel cried for missing his wife in Israel; perhaps he cried for missing his little ones back at home. Or perhaps he cried because we are indeed just children. We are forever the children of Israel who cry and yearn to return to the Temple in Jerusalem.

And I am learning first hand that we will also return to our Temple Mount, our Judaism, our Torah and our mitzvot by way of Brazil ...and by way of all the foreign lands and sacred homes of all the Rebbe's emissaries. Yes, thank G-d, all is well, tudo bem.

What's New

New Facilities

This past month, Chabad of Slovakia, in Bratislava, celebrated the dedication of their new center. Formerly a hotel, the five-story building will be renovated and will be used as a Jewish community center, synaoguge, pre-school, classrooms, offices and more.

Chabad of South Orlando, Florida, recently held a ground-breaking for their new 11,000 square foot cetner. The Chabad Center of Jewish Life will include a synagogue, pre-school and elementary classrooms, and social hall for events and religious holidays.

New Emissaries

Rabbi Avrohom and Ayelet Rimler moved recently to Plattsburgh, New York, to establish a Chabad Center at SUNY Plattsburgh. The center will cater to Jewish students, local residents and visitors to the area.

The Rebbe Writes

Continued from previous issue, from a letter dated

12 MarCheshvan, 5722 [1961]

This brings me to the third area mentioned earlier, namely, the conduct of your home and especially the education of your children, whom you surely want to see growing up to be conscientious Jews and to retain a certain standard of Jewish practice. It is possible to ensure this only if the children receive their education while they are still young, in such an atmosphere, and on such a level, that even when they come under the pressures of life, mentioned earlier in my letter, they will retain at least that minimum standard.

I need hardly point out to you that Jewish education is not confined to the acquisition of a certain level of knowledge and information about Jewish life. Its essence is rather, that the child be brought up within a Jewish lifestyle and in an atmosphere which is permeated with Judaism. This is something that a private teacher cannot replace by simply teaching a set number of hours a week. Besides, when the Hebrew lesson comes after the child has spent most of the day in public school, where he is given tests and homework, the Hebrew lesson cannot have the same importance in the mind of the child as does the public school (not to mention other factors such as the effect of classroom, discipline, community with other children, etc.). All of these factors serve to relegate the Hebrew lesson to a third or fourth place in importance, so that it often comes to be regarded altogether as an unnecessary burden.

To reiterate, the purpose of this letter is not to admonish, but only to point out to you those areas where you can attain a higher level of accomplishment and efficiency. As I also mentioned at the end of my previous letter to you, it is not a question of doing something to qualify as a true Jewish daughter, but, on the contrary, inasmuch as you are a Jewish daughter, and a member of the Jewish people whom G-d has chosen and singled out, not for pleasures, but rather for holiness and for bringing light and holiness into the world, that you owe it to yourself, as well as to your people, to make the fullest use of the capacities which Divine Providence has generously bestowed upon you and your husband, along the lines indicated above.

2nd of Marcheshvan, 5725 [1964]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased to receive your letter of the 26th of Tishrei, containing a report of the activities with the girls' groups, as well as N'shei Chabad, and the Camp, all of which I read with much interest.

May G-d grant that the attainments of the past should stimulate an increased activity and even greater results in the future, exceeding by far the plans and expectations.

As we are now reading in the Torah about Avrohom Ovinu [Abraham our father], it is well to remember the lesson which, our Sages say, we have to learn from Abraham, namely that his actions always exceeded his words, and he always did a great deal more than he promised. It befits us, who are called the children of Abraham, to follow in his footsteps.

May G-d grant you and all your co-workers the utmost success.

With blessing,

Today Is ...

14 Cheshvan

"From G-d are man's steps established." (Psalms 37:23)Every one of Israel has a spiritual mission in life - which is to occupy himself with the work of construction, to make a "dwelling-place" for G-d. Every one, regardless of his station or location, must, through an exhaustive search, seek out a spiritual livelihood with all the intensity of his strength, just as he seeks a material livelihood.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The twentieth of Cheshvan (this year November 13) is the birthday of Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber (1860 - 1920) known as the Rebbe Rashab.

There is a beautiful story concerning the Rebbe Rashab illustrating the high esteem in which he held every Jew.

One of the Rebbe Rashab's followers, Reb Monye Monissohn, was a wealthy gem dealer. Once, when they were sitting together, the Rebbe spoke very highly about some simple, unlearned Jews.

"Why do you make such a fuss about them?" Reb Monye asked the Rebbe.

"Each one of them has many special and noble qualities," explained the Rebbe.

"I can't see any of these qualities," said Reb Monye.

The Rebbe remained quiet. A while later, he asked Reb Monye if he had brought his package of diamonds with him. Indeed, Reb Monye had brought the diamonds but asked the Rebbe if he could display them later, when they could be seen to their best advantage.

Later, Reb Monye took the Rebbe into a different room and arranged the diamonds for him to see. Reb Monye pointed to one gem in particular, extolling its beautiful color and quality.

"I can't see anything special in it," the Rebbe said.

"That is because you have to be a "maven" to know how to look at diamonds!" explained Reb Monye.

"Every Jew, too, is something beautiful and extra-ordinary," the Rebbe said. "But you have to be a maven to know how to look at him."

Thoughts that Count

And he sat at the opening of the tent in the heat of the day (Gen. 18:1)

This is the mark of the true tzadik (righteous individual), who always sees himself "at the opening," i.e., the very beginning, along the path of righteousness. Considering himself still "outside" and far from spiritual perfection, he worries that his deeds haven't accomplished much...

(Toldot Yaakov Yosef)

And they said, So do as you have said (Gen. 18:5)

The way of the righteous is to say little, yet do much. The angels knew that Abraham was rightesous, and that he would go out of his way - above and beyond what he had already offered - to make them feel at ease. They therefore asked him to "do as he had said" with regard to their comfort, and no more.

(Torat Moshe)

For I know him...that he will do justice and judgment (Gen. 18:19)

What is the connection between justice and judgment? Whenever G-d gives a person an abundance of blessings, he must ask himself: Do I really deserve so much goodness? Why me and not someone else? This "self-judgment" will then prompt him to give tzedaka (charity) in a generous and unstinting manner.

(Sefer HaMaamarim)

And he said...possibly ten will be found there (Gen. 18:32)

Why did Abraham say "possibly"? If there were ten righteous people in the city, isn't it logical to assume that he was acquainted with them? Rather, Abraham was concerned that there might be "hidden tzadikim" living in Sodom, who were afraid to reveal themselves as such in their wicked society.

(Shoshanat Avraham)

It Once Happened

In his voluminous writings, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, has documented the profound bond he had with his father, Rabbi Sholom Ber, known as the Rebbe Rashab. The following excerpts afford us a glimpse into the unusual childhood years which formed his towering personality.

From the year 5647 (1887) [when the author was seven years old] until 5649 (1889) I did not see my parents, because throughout this time they visited various health resorts abroad. Only occasionally did they return home for a few days. My lifestyle during those two years made me forget my earlier memories of my father.

The warm closeness which my father showed me from the summer of 5649 onwards erased all traces of the suffering which I had undergone as a result of my wanderings and difficulties in the preceding two years, and once again I recollected everything that I had seen and heard in the years before that period.

On the Sabbath my father would pray at considerable length. He would go there when the congregational prayers began at about 9:30 a.m. The congregation finished at about 11:30 a.m. and he would complete his private devotions at about three or sometimes four.

Usually, even those individuals who prayed at length had completed their prayers half an hour or at most an hour after the congregation had finished.

At this age I recalled that when I had been a very little boy, still taught by Reb Yekusiel, I used to run to shul to hear my father at his prayers. At that time, though, my heart was sad: Why didn't my father daven fast like the whole congregation-like my uncles, for example? Once, in answer to my question, my uncle, Reb Zalman Aharon explained to me that my father wasn't able to read all those letters so fast. This made me really sad.

Once, when I was little, I came to shul and found no one there but my father. He was facing the wall and entreating G-d for compassion. I was utterly unable to grasp why he entreated more than all other worshipers and why he was more in need of compassion than other people.

Suddenly, my father wept intensely. My heart fell within me: no one was there in the House of G-d but my father, and he was weeping. I listened carefully and heard that he said "Shema Yisrael" and wept, and said "Hashem Elokeinu" and wept. Then, still weeping, he said from the fullness of his heart and in an awesome voice, "Hashem Echad."

This time I could contain myself no longer. I went and asked my mother tearfully: "Why does father daven longer than everyone else? My uncle Reb Zalman Aharon says that father can't pronounce the letters quickly, but why can't he read quickly and properly? Besides, today I saw and heard him crying. Mother, come along with me and I'll show you that Father is crying!"

"But what can I do?" replied my mother. "Can I send him to a teacher? Go and ask your grandmother. Perhaps she will be able to do something about it."

Hastening to follow my mother's advice, I went to put my innocent question to my grandmother.

"Your father is a great chasid and a tzadik," she said. "Before any single word leaves his mouth he first thinks of its exact meaning."

As I now recall, her answer set my mind at rest. From that time on I related differently to my father, for I now knew that he was different from all other people. At every single step I began to see just who my father was. Other people talked, and talked excitedly; my father was silent most of the time, and when he spoke he spoke softly.

In the course of one month in the summer of 5649 I became a different boy. My father showed me such closeness that I felt all the warmth of a father, all the love of a compassionate father. I went to sleep with the thought that now I, too, had a father and a mother to whom to say goodnight, and in the course of the following two years I completely forgot the bitter conditions under which I had previously lived.

In the course of those next two years I attained understanding. I was now able to appreciate the great difference between my father and his brothers, that is, between his aspirations and theirs. For over a year now I had been listening to his discourses of Chasidic philosophy, standing behind my father as he delivered them. My father was expounding Chasidut and I was there to hear it.

In the course of those two years the Sabbaths were holy and the festivals were devoted to prayer and joy. Every Sabbath I would listen to the Reading of the Torah while following attentively in a Chumash, and in the course of the day I would study the commentary of Rashi as well. Rosh Hashana of the year 5650 (1889) [when the author was nine years old] was the first Rosh Hashana on which I did everything like an adult. And from that day on I was a grown-up.

Moshiach Matters

When the three angels, in the guise of travelers, visited Abraham, our ancestor treated them with great kindness. For each act that Abraham did, we - his children - will be rewarded by G-d in the Messianic Era, among them: For the water to drink - "On that day, living waters will come out of Jerusalem." (Zechariah 14:8); For the water to wash - "G-d will have washed away the sins of the daughters of Zion." (Isaiah 4:4); For providing shade - "The protective cloud will provide shade in the day to protect you." (Isaiah 4:6); For the bread - "Loaves of bread will grow from the land." (Psalms 72:16); For standing ready - "The king (Moshiach) will pass before them and G-d will stand at their head." (Mica 2:13)

(From Discover Moshiach, based on Beraishit Rabba 48:10)

  1344: Lech-Lecha1346: Chayei Sara  
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