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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

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July 24, 2015 - 8 Av, 5775

1381: Devarim

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  1380: Matos-Masei1382: Vaeschanan  

The Holy Temple Revisited  |  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

The Holy Temple Revisited

This Shabbat is the ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Due to the fact that it is Shabbat, the fast and the mourning practices are pushed off until the close of Shabbat.

The Holy Temple was symbolic of the quintessential person.

The main sanctuary had two rooms.

The inner room was the Holy of Holies which housed the Holy Ark. The Ark contained the tablets with the Ten Commandments. From this room emanated Divine Wisdom, corresponding to the human mind. (In synagogues throughout the world today, the ark - symbolic of the Holy Temple's ark - contains the Torah scrolls.)

The outer room represented a person's face. In the upper left of the outer room was the menora, and to the upper right was the golden table with twelve challahs.

The menora and the table on which the challahs sat correspond to a person's two eyes, which are to be used for two purposes. One is for intellectual pursuits symbolized by the light of the menora. Just as the menora's fuel was pure oil, so too should man strive for purity in his Jewish education.

The second purpose of one's eyes is for survival: to see and avoid pitfalls, to search out food in order to live - symbolized by the challahs.

The challahs were not prepared every day, but baked on the Sabbath Eve, left on the golden table for one week, and replaced the following week.

The previous challahs - which miraculously remained fresh - were divided among the priests on Shabbat, and although each priest received only a small portion, it was enough to satisfy his desire for food. This teaches us that one should not pursue food for his own pleasure and indulge in hedonistic practices. One should eat for a higher and holy motive, sustaining himself so that he may serve his fellow man and his Creator.

In the center of the room was the golden altar upon which the incense was offered.

This corresponds to the nose in the center of the face. The incense was compounded from herbs and spices that had great mystical significance. It represented the spreading of peace and pleasantness among people. The offering of the incense was an atonement for gossip and tale-bearing. We learn from this that one should strive to make the world a better and more pleasant abode for G-d's Presence and His creations.

The opening of the sanctuary, representing the mouth, was located at the bottom of the outer room. Here the priests stood when they uttered the priestly benediction every morning: "May the L-rd bless you and keep you. May the L-rd cause His countenance to shine upon you and be gracious to you..." Like G-d, a person has the power to create with his words. He can negotiate peace or declare war. The lesson of the door of the Sanctuary is to use our words to create and bestow blessings upon our fellow man.

Outside the Sanctuary, in the center of the courtyard, stood the altar upon which sacrifices were offered and consumed.

This represents the stomach and internal organs of man.

Some sacrifices were offered as an atonement for a sin that was committed. Others were offered as a joyous thanksgiving offering.

As a general rule, the more grievous the sin, the less was eaten. The more joyous the occasion, the more was eaten and shared. The lesson for man is that the more he merits by performing the mitzvot, the more he will have to enjoy and share.

Adapted from The Holy Temple Revisited, by Rabbi Leibel Reznick, published by Jason Aronson, Inc.

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Devarim (the first portion in the book of the Torah known as Devraim, Deuteronomy) is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av, known as Shabbat Chazon (literally "The Sabbath of Vision"). As nothing in Judaism is coincidental, the Torah portion of Devarim and Shabbat Chazon must be interconnected.

The Book of Deuteronomy is unique in that, unlike the first four Books of the Torah, it was transmitted by Moses to the generation of Jews that was about to enter the Land of Israel.

The generation of Jews that wandered through the desert is known as "the generation of knowledge." Because they occupied such a high spiritual level, commensurate with Moses', they merited to lead a completely spiritual existence. The generation that entered Israel, by contrast, began a new chapter in Jewish history. Because they had to involve themselves in more mundane affairs, their spiritual level is considered to be lower than that of the preceeding generation.

Nonetheless, it was precisely the generation that entered Israel that was able to successfully fulfill G-d's plan. G-d wants us to serve Him within the context of the material world, establishing a "dwelling place" for Him in the "lower realms."

Accordingly, although the Jews who entered Israel were spiritually inferior in comparison with their parents, they possessed a certain advantage over their elders: The Jews who entered Israel merited to attain a level of "peace and security" that was denied the previous generation.

Shabbat Devarim is thus a resolution of two opposites. On the one hand, the Jews' entry into the Land of Israel was a very great descent, for it signified the need for daily contact with worldly matters. On the other hand, it was precisely by means of this descent that they were able to attain the highest ascent of all: the fulfillment of G-d's plan.

Likewise, Shabbat Chazon is a study in contradiction. Shabbat Chazon occurs in the middle of the Nine Days, a period in which we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple. Yet, at the same time, as the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explained, on Shabbat Chazon every Jew is shown a vision of the Third Holy Temple, an edifice that will be infinitely superior to the two Holy Temples that preceded it.

Thus Shabbat Chazon expresses the same theme of descent for the purpose of ascent as Devarim: It is precisely through the descent which caused the Temple's destruction in the first place that we will achieve the highest ascent of all: the establishment of the Third Holy Temple by Moshiach, may it happen at once.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 2

A Slice of Life

In early 2013, I was searching for something to do on the Internet, when I found something that would change my life profoundly. I don't remember how or why, but somehow I began to search on Youtube for Jewish topics - me, who had only been to shul on Yom Kippur one time in my life.

It must have been some lucky algorithm that put in front of my eyes a thumbnail photo of the ebullient face of Mirel Levitin in the glow of her own Shabbat candle. I clicked the link. I saw a video of a Chassidic family carefully and lovingly preparing for Shabbat. The star was Mirel, with her big sister Rivka narrating each move in the simple but powerful words of Ellen Emerman's classic book for children, Is It Shabbos Yet? (Published by Hachai Publishing) They went shopping. They baked the challah. They made the Shabbat meal. They set the table. They gave tzedaka (charity).

And finally, they lit the Shabbat candles.

Until they lit the candles, every time Mirel asked her mother if it was Shabbat yet, her mother would tell her, "Not yet." But once the candles were lit and Mirel and Rivka had said the blessing, the expression on Mirel's face turned from one of anticipation to one of overflowing joy as her mother said, "Yes, Mirel. Now it is Shabbat." As the Levitin women stood praying in front of the Shabbat candles, as they wished each other and their family "Good Shabbos," I could see even across the country and over the Internet how everything was shining and glowing in a different, special, and especially beautiful way - not least, the faces of Mirel, Rivka, and Hindel. The first time I saw it, I was moved to tears.

I quickly became obsessed with this video, and watched it countless times over the next few months. When I last checked, the video had 285,300 views. I would guess that a good 285,000 of them were mine. One day, I was eating an afternoon snack while watching the video when I realized that at this point I probably knew every word of it... including the words of the blessing on candles. I decided I would try to say it with Mirel, Rivka, and Hindel. But before I did, it crossed my mind that it would maybe be better to try it with real candles. As I got out some candles I had bought once at Bath and Body Works, I realized that it was, in fact, Friday afternoon. I decided I would light the candles for Shabbat. I like to think that I got them lit before sunset that very first Shabbat, but it was in G-d's hands.

As soon as the candles were lit, something extraordinary happened, something which has happened many times since, on the many Fridays during my first year of observance when I told myself, "I'm too overwhelmed. I need the extra day. Just this once, I'm going to skip Shabbat." When I lit the candles and gathered the light of the flame to my eyes to say the blessing, something moved in my soul. I saw that the candles were lit, and that now I carried a tremendous responsibility to say the blessing, to remember and sanctify the Sabbath, and that once I said that blessing, I had brought in something new - something which I didn't wish to leave behind.

That very first Friday, in the middle of candle-lighting, I decided I would keep Friday evening according to the traditional laws of Shabbat. I knew enough to know that that meant no electricity, no computer, no writing, no driving, and no money. I remember I slept with the lights on with a pillow over my eyes. I spent my time enjoying a novelty that I had probably not experienced for 15 years: wondering what to do with myself. It felt different, but strangely enjoyable enough that the next morning, I decided not to stop. I remember bringing some books outside and sitting on a towel in the grass, reading and looking at the sky and thinking, "This is so weird. This is so different from anything I've done before. I have no idea if I'll ever do this again, but it doesn't matter for today, because today is Shabbat."

Since then, thanks to the Levitins, and especially Mirel and Rivka, I have kept every Shabbat. What at the beginning was a weekly struggle between forces of good and evil (that was often resolved only at the very last minute in the light of my candles) has become a weekly pleasure that I anticipate every day with a smile.

I read more now than I have ever read. My best insights about the biggest problems I face always come to me in the quiet of Shabbat. Nothing has been lost. But so much has been gained. I feel, now, that my life is tremendously full and meaningful because every week, I give it meaning. I rediscover G-d, and all the quiet pleasures that surface only when we deliberately create space for them. To be among friends. To walk outdoors. To read. To pray and contemplate the universe. To count my blessings. To be intensely grateful for the fact that I am here on earth for a precious moment in time.

Thank you, Mirel and Rivka. Thank you, Levitins, Webbs, and Geisinskys. Thank you to all. And Good Shabbos!

Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.

What's New

Tanya Printed

Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, was recently printed in Valencia, Spain. After the printing, there was a class using the freshly printed Tanyas. The next project for Chabad of Valencia is a little more complicated: the construction of a kosher mikva in the city!

1000 Cities

This summer, Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinical students are visiting 1000 cities and towns throughout the world as part of "Merkos Shlichus." They are going to locations that do not have permanent "Shluchim" (emissaries) of the Rebbe and helping them in any way they can.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5743 [1983]

Dr. - M.D.,

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 19th of Tammuz, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing to me in detail about our esteemed mutual friend. No doubt you have already heard from your patient, who has kept in touch with me.

I am most gratified to note the personal attention and concern you have shown towards your patient. There is certainly no need to emphasize to you how important it is for the patient - also therapeutically - to know that his doctor is taking a special interest in him. This is all the more important in a case of a sensitive person, and especially as our mutual friend is truly an outstanding person who lives by the Torah, and particularly, by the Great Principle of the Torah V'Ohavto L'Re'acho Komocho [the commandment to love one's fellow Jew as one loves oneself].

The above, incidentally, is particularly timely in connection with the present days of the Three Weeks, which remind all Jews to make a special effort to counteract, and eventually eliminate, the cause which gave rise to the sad events which these days commemorate, and hasten the day when these sad days will be transformed into days of gladness and rejoicing.

Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] with this patient and all your patients, and in all your affairs.

With blessing,

26th of Tammuz, 5721 [1961]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to receive your letter on the 18th of Tammuz, as well as the regards through the visitors from England. I trust that the visitors will also bring back with them regards from here, and share their inspiration and experience with their friends back home.

As requested, I will remember all those mentioned in your letter, in prayer, when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory, and may G-d grant that you will have good news to report.

I trust it is unnecessary to emphasize to you, and that you will also convey it to the others, that the daily life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos (commandments) is the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessing in all one's needs.

As we are now in the midst of the Three Weeks, and our Sages said that Jerusalem was destroyed only because the education of young children was disrupted in it ([Tractate] Shabbos 119b), this is the time to increase all activities designed to make amends for, and offset the failings of the past, namely, activities for kosher Jewish education.

Hoping to hear good news from you, With blessing,

26 of Tammuz, 5743 [1983]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your correspondence.

In general, I have already expressed my opinion on the matters about which you wrote, and will again remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

Now that we are in the period of the Three Weeks, commemorating the sad events which led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] and the dispersement of our people, we are reminded that every one of us has to do all in one's power to minimize and eventually eliminate the cause that brought about the Destruction and Exile. The only cause of it is clearly spelled out in our Mussaf [additional] Prayer: "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land." If alienation from the Jewish way of life, the way of the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments] has been the cause of the Golus [exile], every one of us must work all the harder to bring Jews closer to the Torah and Mitzvos. Thus, every effort in this direction brings all the nearer the appearance of Moshiach Tzidkeinu [our righteous Redeemer], who will usher in the true and complete Geulah [Redemption]. May it come speedily in our days.

With blessing,


Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa used to say: "Anyone whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure; but anyone whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure... "

(Ethics 3:10)

Through study a person learns how to do a mitzva (commandment). Nevertheless, the final deed is the main thing, for the deed causes an additional measure of spiritual light to infuse the level of wisdom. In this way, a person's wisdom will not merely survive, but also endure.

(Sefer HaMa'amarim 5654)

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Although it is unusual for Tisha B'Av to coincide with Shabbat, it does periodically occur in this manner. In 5751 (1991) when Tisha B'Av also fell out on Shabbat, the Rebbe spoke about the significance of this schedule.

Tisha B'Av, normally a day of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple, was therefore a day of happiness and rejoicing, as we do not mourn on Shabbat.

There is another reason to rejoice on Tisha B'Av. And this, too, the Rebbe spoke about at great length on that Tisha B'Av and the days immediately following.

Tisha B'Av is known by our Sages as the birthday of Moshiach.

In simple terms this means that at the moment of the destruction of the Holy Temple, the potential for the Final Redemption, through Moshiach, was born.

The Rebbe clarified the exact meaning of this: "Our Sages explain that this cannot refer to Moshiach's actual birth, because Moshiach will not be an infant when he redeems our people. But rather, it refers to a strengthening of his influence. For our Sages refer to a birthday as a day when mazalo govair, "the spiritual source of one's soul shines powerfully."

On the day when Moshiach's spiritual source is powerfully revealed, there is a unique potential for the Redemption to come... Each year, for the past two thousand years, on Tisha B'Av, Moshiach receives new power and new strength, and from year to year, this influence grows more powerfully."

Thus, Tisha B'Av is a unique time, when the potential for the Redemption is at its peak. Through this insight into Tisha B'Av we are introduced to a basic concept in Chasidic philosophy which teaches that the greatest ascent comes after the greatest descent.

Let us use the time properly and bring about the greatest ascent, the revelation of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, NOW.

Thoughts that Count

The Book of Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy begins with Moses chastising the Children of Israel for their behavior. Would it not have been more fitting if only blessings came from Moses, and any necessary rebuke come from the wicked Bilaam? Why then, was this not the case? G-d knew that if Bilaam had rebuked the Jews, they would have responded, "Well, what can you expect from an enemy." And if Moses only blessed the Jews, the nations of the world would have said, "Big deal. He is one of them, so he gives them blessings." Therefore G-d decreed that the reverse take place, that it be Moses who chastises the Jews and Bilaam who blesses them, so that their words would be properly considered.

(Devarim Rabba)

These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel (Deut. 1:1)

First and foremost we must note that Moses spoke "unto all Israel." Moses demanded that the Jews be united and stand together before he even spoke to them. Unity is the foundation upon which all else is built.

(Sifri Darush)

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.

It Once Happened

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses all came before G-d when they were told about the destruction of the First Holy Temple. Abraham spoke first: "Why have I been singled out from among all the people, that I have come to this shame and humiliation? Why have You exiled my children and delivered them into the hands of evil people? You have laid waste to the place where I brought my son as a sacrifice."

G-d replied: "They sinned, transgressing the entire Torah, and the message of the entire alef-bet."

Abraham then said: "Who testified against the Jews, that they have transgressed?"

"Let the Torah come and testify," said G-d.

The Torah came forward, but Abraham said to her: "My beloved daughter, are you not ashamed before my children? Remember the day that you were given; how G-d carried you to all of the nations, and none wanted to accept you, until my children came to Mt. Sinai and heard you. And today you want to offer testimony against them, during their troubles?"

The Torah was too ashamed to testify.

G-d said, "Let the alef-bet come forward."

The letters came forward, wishing to testify. The alef was first. But Abraham told her, "Remember the day when G-d gave the Torah and began with the letter alef - Anochi - I. None of the other nations wished to accept you except the Jews. And now you want to witness against them?"

The alef slinked back in shame. But the bet came forward. Abraham said to her, "My daughter, remember the Torah which begins with the letter bet -- Bereishit -- In the beginning. No one but the Jews would accept her and you wish to bring testimony against them?"

When the other letters saw this, they all remained silent.

Then Abraham said to G-d, "In my hundredth year, You gave me a son. When he was 37, You commanded me to bring him as a sacrifice and I bound him! Won't You remember this and have pity?"

Then Isaac spoke to G-d, "When my father brought me as an offering upon Your command, I willingly let myself be bound. I stretched out my neck to be slaughtered. Will You have pity on my children for my sake?"

Jacob, too, spoke to G-d, saying "For twenty years I worked for Laban so together with my children and my wives I could leave him. And when I left Laban, I was met by my brother Esau who wished to kill my entire family. I risked my very life for them and bore much suffering because of them. Will You not have pity on them?"

Finally, Moses approached G-d. "Was I not a faithful shepherd over Israel for forty years, leading them in the desert? And when the time came for them to enter the Holy Land, You commanded that I die in the desert and not lead them there. Yet, I did not complain. Do You expect me to quietly watch them go into exile?"

Moses called to Jeremiah the prophet, who stood together with him and the Patriarchs. "Come with me. I will take Israel out of exile."

When, by the rivers of Babylon, the people saw Moses they rejoiced. "Look, Moses has risen from the grave to redeem us from our captors!"

Just then, a heavenly voice declared: "It is decreed. It can be no other way."

Moses wept as he spoke to the people and said, "My beloved children, I cannot take you out for it has been decreed by the Master and only He can redeem you."

Then Rachel, our mother, came before G-d. "Your servant, Jacob, loved me dearly and worked for my father for seven years on my behalf. But my father wanted to trick him and give him my sister Leah, instead. I heard of this and told Jacob. I gave him a sign so he would know who they were giving him.

"But I took pity on my sister. I did not wish her to be humiliated. I taught her the signs and even spoke for her so that Jacob wouldn't recognize her voice; I was not jealous.

"Master of the World! I am but flesh and blood and I was not jealous of my sister. You, G-d, are merciful, full of kindness and compassion. Why are You jealous that Israel served idols? And because of this, You exiled my children and the enemy has killed whom they wanted."

Immediately G-d took pity on her and said, "Rachel, for your sake I will return your children to the land of Israel."

Based on the Midrash

Moshiach Matters

Our Sages note that at the time of the splitting of the Sea, the Torah does not say "az shar Moshe" - "then Moses sang," in the past tense, but rather, "az yashir Moshe," - "then Moses will sing," in the future tense. This, they explain, is a reference to the resurrection of the dead. This explanation concurs with the plain meaning of the verse, which refers to the splitting of the sea. At that time, we experienced revelation from far beyond the realm of time, Included in that experience was a revelation of the Future Era. Included within the song of the sea was preview of the future song of the final redemption.

(The Rebbe, Yalkut Moshiach UGeula al HaTorah)

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