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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

April 17, 2015 - 28 Nisan, 5775

1367: Shmini

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  1366: Passover1368: Sazria-Metzora  

Harnessing Chaos  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Teachings  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Harnessing Chaos

From a talk by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg

In his famous talk of 28 Nissan, 1991, the Rebbe explained that the way to bring Moshiach is by harnessing the great lights of the world of chaos, and channeling them into the perfected vessels of the world of rectification. On a practical level this means that when we invest our energies into bringing the Moshiach, our plan of action must stem from new and creative thinking, from a place outside the framework of conventional wisdom. Our actions, as well, must follow this pattern. The Rebbe urged us to probe the yet "uncharted" areas of our minds, of the Land of Israel and of the world, and to channel the immense energies in those places into compelling, rectified action to bring the Moshiach.

The pinnacle of Moshiach's work is when he will unite all of humanity to serve G-d "with one shoulder." When working toward the final redemption, we must also turn our energies into lovingly bringing all the nations of the world to rectified service of G-d.

The prophets and sages describe Moshiach as a leper. When discussing leprosy, (tzara'at), the Torah says (Leviticus 13:2): "When a person has on his flesh...." The word used for "person" is adam. The Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (known as the "Arizal") explains that adam is the most lofty synonym for "person," and refers to an all-inclusive soul. Even Moses is generally referred to in the Torah as "ish" ("man"), which has a more individual connotation. If Moses himself is considered ish, the Arizal concludes, then the only possible candidate for the higher title "adam" is Moshiach, the quintessential all-inclusive soul. But why is the Moshiach a leper?

Tzara'at ("leprosy") is a disease of the skin in which the affected area of the skin turns pure white. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Moshiach is 358, equal to the value of or "lavan," "white skin." Just as the color white includes all the colors of the spectrum, the Moshiach with his white, leprous skin includes all the skin colors of the world.

There are four basic colors of skin; white, red, yellow and black. These skin colors correspond in turn to the four letters of God's Name, Havayah and to their corresponding powers of the soul.

White Skin: Service of G-d with the Faculty of wisdom. The inner essence of wisdom is self-nullification; negating one's "self" in total nullification to God. When one's mind is not preoccupied with ego, it is clear and open to become a conduit of Divine wisdom. Thus, the special talent of people with white skin is to serve God by nullifying their ego and connecting to the Divine.

Red Skin: Service of G-d with the Faculty of understanding. Understanding is the cognitive force that absorbs wisdom and articulates it into fine detail. Once having attained this mature understanding, the soul swells with delight at its achievement. Thus, the inner essence of understanding is joy. The special talent of people with red skin is to serve G-d with joy; particularly joy that stems from having nurtured the insights of widsom into full and mature understanding.

Yellow Skin: Service of G-d with the attributes of the heart. The inner powers of these attributes are love, awe, beauty, confidence, sincerity and truth. The special talent of people with yellow skin is to serve G-d with the full array of their emotions and actions in a perfected and rectified manner.

Black Skin: Service of G-d with the Faculty of royalty. Corresponding to the world of Action, the inner essence of royalty is humbleness. This quality guarantees that one's actions in life are motivated by the highest standards of justice and righteousness, unconcerned with personal gain or advantage. The special talent of people with black skin is their exceptional sense of holy service of G-d, with no thought of personal benefit.

The purpose of the Moshiach is to unite the Jewish People as one loving family whose every action is inspired by the Torah. The Jewish People will then have the tools with which to unite the entire world to serve G-d as one family, all the peoples of the world - each with their unique talents and qualities.

Living with the Rebbe

"And it came to pass on the eighth day...and Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting, and then went out and blessed the people. And the glory of G-d appeared before all the people," we read in this week's Torah portion, Shemini.

The seven days of consecration had passed; it was already the eighth day, and the Divine Presence had not yet come down to rest upon the Sanctuary.

The Jewish people were getting nervous. Had all their hard work been in vain? G-d's Presence in the Sanctuary would indicate that the sin of the Golden Calf had been forgiven. What was wrong? Maybe they hadn't followed G-d's instructions properly...

As they were to find out, the only thing missing was Aaron's participation. For there is an essential difference between the service of Moshe and the service of Aaron the priest, and both were necessary in order for G-d's Presence to descend.

Moses' Divine service flowed from above to below; his function was to draw G-d's holiness down into this world. This is reflected in the fact that the Torah was given precisely through Moses, who brought it down from heaven and presented it to the Jewish people.

The direction of Aaron's Divine service, on the other hand, flowed "upward," as reflected in his kindling of the Sanctuary's menora.

His function was to elevate and raise the Jewish people towards G-d, by offering the sacrifices and performing the other services in the Sanctuary. Both thrusts - upward and downward - are required in order to effect G-d's plan of establishing a "dwelling place down in this world."

G-d imbues the world with holiness so that we, His creations, may be refined and elevated. Once the Torah was brought down by Moses, the second step was necessary, that of actually performing the service in the Sanctuary and meeting Him half way, as it were. For it is only when both thrusts are present that the dynamic process is complete, and the maximum level of holiness is attained.

The practical lesson to be derived from this is that a Jew must emulate Aaron if he sincerely wants the Divine Presence to permeate his being.

Aaron, we are told, "loved peace and pursued peace, loved [G-d's] creatures and brought them closer to Torah." Dealing in such a manner with our fellow man not only brings benefit to others but to ourselves as well, for, as noted before, it is the "upward" thrust that causes G-d's Presence to descend and rest on the works of our hands.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 7 of the Rebbe

A Slice of Life

Rabbi Inspires
by Rabbi Hershel Hartz

A Chabad emissary wears many hats. He must be able to connect with all the different types of people who come in his path. He jumps into the shoes of every person he meets and sees things from their perspective.

Dealing with Jews means dealing with different types of people. You have to be loving, caring and understanding of all types: the intellectual type, the cool guy, the feminist, the atheist, the student who comes from a broken family, the person who hates Chabad, and the enthusiastic religious Jew.

Rabbi Peretz Chein of Chabad at Brandeis is one of the most inspiring rabbis I know - he is able to maneuver successfully amongst all these different types of Jewish people and give each one the Jewish experience they need.

Satisfying these needs is a challenge, and one that Rabbi Chein succeeds tremendously at. From him, I have learned the importance of working with each person according to the path that is best for him or her. It may be something you would never do yourself or something that you may even sharply disagree with. But it is the greatest fulfillment of ahavat Yisrael, loving another Jew.

I started my Jewish growth at Brandeis (and hopefully continue it every day of my life) and Rabbi Chein has been there anytime I called. He has broad shoulders and the ability to look at things from a whole slew of perspectives. He is a deeply thoughtful person who adds wisdom to the most obvious of situations.

One story really sticks out for me. During my sophomore year at Brandeis, I became very interested in Jewish growth and learning. As with most people who become suddenly excited about Judaism, my desire to change overshadowed a healthy transition.

In the Chabad house, I shared my excitement over my new Jewish learning with Rabbi Chein. I also shared that I wanted to leave the Jewish fraternity that I had joined just six months before.

He immediately asked me: And what about your fraternity? How would this impact them?

I thought the guy was out of his mind. We were talking about my spiritual growth here, not theirs. I thought: Who cares?

In my complete selfishness, I could not think about them and the impact my decision would have on their feelings about Judaism or religion.

At that meeting, Rabbi Chein encouraged me to stay in the fraternity and serve as a good role model of Judaism. I didn't listen. I couldn't imagine staying in a place that seemed to me then the antithesis of Judaism. My zealousness drove me away.

Today, with a healthier pair of eyes, I have completely taken his lesson to heart.

Judaism is, sometimes, not about you. It is about the other.

When we make Judaism solely about ourselves, our own thoughts and our own spiritual pursuits, we are not serving G-d. We are serving ourselves.

Rabbi Chein has always been a phone call away, giving me a new perspective on how to approach every challenge.

When I called, literally crying about a yeshiva I was in, he gave me comfort and stability.

When I called about a new venture I was embarking on, he gave me a good dose of reality.

And he knows I am not rich. Money has never been the issue - he is legitimately interested.

I know for a fact that there are many more like me. All different perspectives, all unique people, all levels of growth and observance. And all of them, when they meet Rabbi Chein, feel like they belong to a larger Jewish family.

That is the most important part of his work: he lets every Jew he meets feel that they are part of something greater than themselves and that they matter.

Reprinted with permission of the author. This article originally appeared in the Forward.

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Mordy and Rochel Nemtzov are founding Chabad of Ojai, California, to serve the Jewish residents in this city surrounded by hills and mountains in Ventura County. Ojai is known as a haven for artists, musicians and health enthusiasts.

Rabbi Mendel and Chaya Friedman are moving to Winter Haven, Florida, to direct the recently opened Jewish Learning Center in that city.

New Centers

A new Chabad Center was recently dedicated in Carmel, Indiana, a suburg just north of Indianapolis. The 13,000-square-foot building, situated on a 4 acre property, features a synagogue, classrooms, a social hall and a kosher kitchen.

The Rohr Chabad House at CU-Boulder, in Boulder, Colorado, recently opened the Schaeffer Family Student Center. A few blocks west of the main CU campus, the new center is four stories and includes two floors of rooms for resident students, a social hall with commercial kosher kitchen, a coffee bar/living room area, a synagogue and a library.

The Rebbe Writes

21st of Menachem Av, 5728 [1968]

I am in receipt of your (undated) letter.

The first observation I must make is that whenever a question is to be discussed, there can be a meaningful discussion only if both sides accept certain premises as a basis for the discussion.

From your letter I see that we both recognize the Written and Oral Torah as undisputable authority.

Now it is clearly explained both in the Written Torah, as well as in the Oral Torah, that insofar as Jews are concerned, Golus [exile] comes not as a result of military circumstances, namely an outnumbered army, nor as a result of economic pressures necessitating submission to a stronger power, etc. Rather it has amply been explained again and again in the Chumash [Five Books of Moses] (including whole Sidras [portions], such as Bechukosai, Ki Sovo, etc.) and in the books of the Prophets, and even more so in the Talmud and Rabbinic literature, that if Jews had always adhered to the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments], they would have never been banished into Exile, regardless of the fact that "You are the smallest among the nations." For, Jews have always been outnumbered and outweighed in terms of military and physical strength, as King David puts it succinctly in one sentence, "These (come) in chariots, and those on horses, but we call upon the Name of G-d."

Conversely, when Jews forsake the Torah and Mitzvos, G-d forbid, no power nor military might, nor political alliances, etc., are of any avail, as the Torah clearly states, "If you will walk contrary unto me, then will I also walk contrary unto you" etc., with the inevitable consequence of Golus.

In the light of the above, the true test of events, to see if they herald the Geulo [Redemption] or not, is to see whether there has been an essential change in the causes which have brought about the Golus in the first place, namely, a new tendency in the direction of stronger adherence to the Torah and Mitzvos.

A further point is this: After the Churban [destruction (of the Holy Temple)], when there could have been no question about the observance of the 17th of Tammuz [when the wall of Jerusalem were breached], Tisha B'Av [the Hebrew date on which the Holy Temple was destroyed], etc., there were still a number of Jews who remained in Eretz Yisroel [Land of Israel], and it was incumbent upon them too to observe all the matters connected with the Golus. As a matter of fact, those who remained in Eretz Yisroel and saw with their own eyes the destruction, would have felt the Churban and Golus even more. Let us remember also that the observance of Tisha B'Av, etc., was in effect even during the time of Gedalia ben Achikom, the Jewish Governor of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel, before he was assassinated by Ishmael (II Kings, 25:25)

As in the case of many other Torah matters, there are sources where they are explained at great length. However, inasmuch as not every person has the ability or patience to study these things at length in their original sources, they come also in a short and concentrated form.

Thus we find also the subject under discussion formulated in succinct terms by the Great Teacher, the Rambam [Maimonides], who was not only the Guide for the Perplexed of his generation, but for the perplexed of all generations. In his Code Yad Hachazakah, he describes in brief but highly meaningful terms the state of the last era of the Golus as it would be, and how the beginning of the Geulo would follow.

I will quote what he states, but in English translation, with interpolations to clarify the text, with some prefatory remarks, namely, that it has been amply explained in the Written and Oral Torah that the Geulo will come through the Melech Hamoshiach [King Moshiach], and as the Rambam also declares, simply as a matter of course, in the section which is the last of his entire Code, so that it is in a sense the very seal of his Code - the section of Hilchos Melochim [the Laws of Kings].

There, at the beginning of chapter 11, he states that the Melech Hamoshiach will bring the Geulo, and at the end of this chapter he describes carefully the order how this will come about. And since this is not a book on philosophy, but a code of laws, the terms used are carefully chosen and strictly to the point, without polemics or homiletics.

Continued in next issue


"Moses received the Torah at Sinai, and passed it on to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders..." (Ethics of the Fathers 1:1)

When Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi compiled all the Mishnaic teachings, he placed the Mishna describing the transmission of Torah from one generation to the other as the opening Mishna of the Ethics. The wise men of the nations of the world also wrote works providing their disciples with moral instruction. However, they formulated their teachings based on their own human understanding. Therefore, Rabbi Yehuda began the Ethics specifically with the words, "Moses received the Torah at Sinai" to inform us that the moral instruction and the qualities of character mentioned here are not a product of human invention. They were given to us by G-d via Moses at Sinai. (Bartenura)

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat afternoon, we begin the cycle of study of Ethics of the Fathers that will customarily continue until Rosh Hashana. The opening lines of Chapter One express a fundamental and axiomatic concept in Judaism:

"Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets passed it on to the Men of the Great Assembly."

Why is it important for us to know this chain of transmission? To teach us that the Torah we have in our possession today is the very same Torah that was revealed to Moses thousands of years ago. And, as links in the ongoing chain of tradition, it is our duty as Jewish parents to transmit the Torah to our children.

The Torah has an infinite number of facets. Some parts are narrative, others are legal codes, while other sections are allegorical. The Five Books of Moses, Talmud, Midrashim, Shulchan Aruch, Chasidut - all are part and parcel of the G-dly body of knowledge we call Torah.

Some parts of the Torah were meant to be written down; others were transmitted orally until the proper time came to put them into writing. (This is one reason why the non-Jewish "Bible" bears little resemblance to the Torah; ignorance of the Oral Tradition has led to many false interpretations and absurdities over the millennia!)

At Sinai, Moses received the entirety of Torah with all its potential for extrapolation, "even that which the scholar would innovate in the future." An halachic decision rendered today is Torah, revealed to man according to a Divinely-inspired "timetable" of revelation. This process will reach its culmination in the Messianic era, when Moshiach will teach the world a new and deeper dimension of Torah, as it states in Isaiah 51:4: "For Torah shall proceed from Me, and I will make My judgment suddenly for a light of the people."

May it happen at once.

Thoughts that Count

He brought close the meal-offering, and he filled his hand of it, and burnt it upon the altar, beside (milvad) the burnt-sacrifice of the morning (Lev. 9:17)

The Hebrew word "milvad" is an acronym for "melaveh le'ani be'shat dochko - he who lends to a poor person in his hour of need." Lending money to the poor is so noble a deed it is considered as if one brought an offering before G-d.

(Da'at Chachamim)

Every earthen vessel... whatever is in it shall be unclean (Lev. 11:33)

An earthen vessel becomes unclean by virtue of its contents, not because of anything its exterior may come into contact with. For pottery itself has no intrinsic value, serving only as a container for whatever it holds. A metallic vessel, how ever, becomes unclean from the outside, as the metal itself is valuable. A human being is likened to an earthen vessel; he too is composed of "dust of the earth." He himself has no intrinsic worth; his value comes from that which is within.

(The Kotzker Rebbe)

You shall not make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be thereby defiled... you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy (Lev. 11:43-44)

Our Sages said: He who defiles himself a little, is defiled a lot from Above; he who defiles himself in this world is defiled in the World to Come. Similarly, one who sanctifies himself a little is assisted and sanctified from Above; he who sanctifies himself in this world will be sanctified in the World to Come.

(Talmud, Yoma)

The root of the Hebrew word "olah" means "height" or "elevation," teaching us that if a person truly desires to lift himself up and draw near to G-d, he must sacrifice "his own voluntary will," as our Sages said, "Nullify your will before His."

(The Magid of Mezeritch)

It Once Happened

There was once a woman named Rachel who had no children. Her husband, Nosan, considered himself to be modern and disdained rabbis and their "antiquated" teachings. Rachel, however, believed differently, and whenever her husband was away on business she would visit the great tzadik Rabbi Meir of Premishlan to beg him to bless her with children.

For poor Rachel each visit was the same. She would wait for her turn and then make her request. Each time Rabbi Meir's reply was the same: "I cannot bless you unless you come together with your husband." And each time Rachel would return home sad, but not hopeless, for she believed that somehow salvation would come to her.

On one visit her faith was rewarded when Rabbi Meir replied, "Return home. When your husband returns from his business trip, tell him, 'Rabbi Meir of Premishlan commands you to come at once.' Of course, he will refuse, but when he does, tell him, 'On the day before yesterday, which was Lag B'Omer, you attended a gathering where you spoke disrespectfully of Rabbi Meir.' When your husband hears this he will certainly come, and then you will be blessed."

Rachel was at home when Nosan returned, and she immediately repeated Rabbi Meir's words. His response was the expected one, but when Rachel countered, telling him about his untoward comments about Rabbi Meir, his face flushed. How could the rabbi know such a thing, he wondered, and he at one resolved to visit Premishlan to find out.

Nosan was not, however, ready to endure the ridicule of his friends. He decided that instead of traveling straight to Premishlan he would make a detour through Lemberg, thus cloaking his true intentions in a bogus business trip. When he finally arrived in Premishlan and was admitted to Rabbi Meir's room, he announced his name and his request. Rabbi Meir responded, "Don't think I don't know that you came here via Lemberg. If you want my blessing, you must return home and then come here directly."

Nosan was completely amazed. How could Rabbi Meir have possibly known that? If he had such wondrous powers, he would do as Rabbi Meir said. To his wife's utter joy, Nosan returned home and announced his plans to spend Shabbat in Premishlan. When the couple arrived in Premishlan, Rabbi Meir was pleased to see them. On Shabbat, Nosan was honored with an aliya to the Torah for the passage which read, "There shall not be a sterile or barren one amongst you." He was so moved, that he was about to offer a large donation. Rabbi Meir interrupted him with the words, "Because he has promised to help a Yisrael [lit. Israelite]." Nosan was confused. What could Rabbi Meir's words mean?

When the prayers ended, Rabbi Meir explained his cryptic words. "One day you will have the opportunity to save a very holy Jew, at great personal risk. If you promise to help him, you will have a son." Without giving the matter a moment's thought, Nosan said, "I promise!" In due time, the tzadik's blessing was fulfilled, and Nosan and his wife were the parents of a baby boy.

A year or more passed and Nosan was on a business trip near the Austrian-Romanian border when he heard that the illustrious Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin was also there. He was fleeing the Russian authorities and had to somehow get across the border. This was obviously what Rabbi Meir had alluded to when he had made the promise.

True to his word, Nosan presented himself to Rabbi Yisrael and disclosed to him a plan to carry him across the border over a small, frozen river. Rabbi Yisrael agreed and they set off at midnight. Nosan knew the crossing well, but he was unaccustomed to heavy physical labor. Despite the bitter cold, sweat poured down Nosan's face. Carrying a grown man was harder than he had thought, and at each step he prayed that the thin ice would hold the weight of the two men and not crack, plunging them to a frozen death. Suddenly Nosan stopped walking. "Is anything wrong?" Reb Yisrael asked.

"Nothing is wrong. I just realized that we have reached the middle of the river. If I am to make my request, this is the time. Rebbe, I have committed many sins. I have scoffed and disregarded the teachings and precepts of the Torah. But before I continue, I want your promise that I will have a place in the World to Come. If you give me your promise, I will continue; if not, I won't go on."

Rabbi Yisrael replied at once, "Of course, I will give you my word. I am happy that at such a time you can have such thoughts!"

With that assurance, Nosan continued his dangerous progress across the icy darkness. It wasn't until many hours later that they arrived safely in the small, Austrian border town. It was Nosan's good fortune to have spread the news that through his efforts, the holy Ruzhiner was finally safe.

Moshiach Matters

On the verse, "I have surely seen the afflication of My people...," (Ex. 3:7) our Sages interpret the phrase ra'o ra'isi, literally, "Seen, I have seen," as indicating that G-d envisioned the Jews accepting the Torah and He also envisioned them sinning with the golden calf. In other words, G-d did not make the exodus conditional on our righteousness. He knew we would eventually sin, and redeemed us nonetheless. The same is true of the final redemption. When the time of the redemption arrives, our sins will not prevent it from occuring. For G-d chose the essense of a Jew, and the essense of a Jew is beyond sin.

(Gevurot Hash-m)

  1366: Passover1368: Sazria-Metzora  
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