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These days you can't read an article, listen to a radio report, or watch a news broadcast without wondering what's the spin.
Who was responsible for turning a point of interest in a particular direction, and how was it done are also questions that come to mind.
Lastly, we ask if someone was specially hired - a spin doctor - to turn an event or news item toward a particular path.
Spinning isn't new; in fact, it's as old as the Torah itself.
We spin and turn the Torah scroll each time we read it, rolling the parchment from one stick to the other. This action serves as a reminder that a Torah spin is constant and eternal.
The Torah Sage, Ben Bag Bag said, "Turn it and turn it [the Torah], for everything is within it. Look deeply inside it; grow old and gray with it, and do not stir from it, for there is nothing more edifying than it for you."
In this week's "Ethics of the Fathers," Ben Bag Bag, enjoins us to turn and turn the Torah, to sift through it as one would sift through sand in which precious gems are buried. And then, to use the wisdom gained to understand events big or small through a Torah spin.
Without exaggeration, everything is in the Torah.
Stories abound of Torah scholars who were proficient in every area of the arts and sciences, solely through their expertise in Torah.
Rabbi Irving Bunim writes in his commentary on this verse, "Invariably, our great sages and scholars, nurtured on Torah alone, did not find their understanding faulty or their knowledge incomplete because they did not attend a university.
"In the time of the Sages, a philosopher in Rome fortuitously discovered, by empirical means, the gestation period of the serpent.
"On a visit of some Sages to Rome, he asked them tauntingly how long this period was. Rabban Gamliel, the head of the delegation, could make no reply, and his face grew ashen with shame.
"When Rabbi Joshua (who was absent at the conversation) met him, he yet looked ill, and Rabbi Joshua immediately asked the reason.
"Once told, Rabbi Joshua showed Rabban Gamliel how the answer could be inferred from the Almighty's words to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
"That very evening, Rabban Gamliel went and gave Rabbi Joshua's answer to the philosopher, who thereupon began beating his head against the wall. 'All that I struggled for seven years to discover,' he cried, 'this man comes and casually dangles before me at the end of a reed!' " (Ethics From Sinai)
Like a diamond, the Torah has many facets.
A cursory glance at a diamond reveals nothing more than a piece of glass. But when we turn and turn a diamond, we begin to appreciate its full beauty.
Secular wisdom, esoteric teachings, medical advice, good eating habits, stress management, meditation techniques, social etiquette, obligations toward G-d, the secrets of the universe.
These and more are contained within the Torah.
Turn and turn the Torah. Look deeply into it. Even if you have studied Torah for many years, continue to study and grow old and gray with it. For everything is within it.
The Torah portion of Re'ei is always read on the Shabbat preceding the month of Elul, or on the first day of Elul. Elul, the month before Rosh Hashana, is dedicated to repentance and seeking forgiveness for our sins. This portion illustrates the great power that teshuva, or returning to G-d, can have.
In general, the Torah is very stringent when it comes to laws concerning idolatry. Indeed, idol worship is one of the three transgressions, along with incest and murder, for which we are required to give up our very lives rather than commit. And in certain circumstances, the Torah decrees capital punishment for those who worship idols. Re'ei discusses the possibility of an entire town that has been lead astray and is engaging in this transgression, and refuses to repent of its evil. In such a case, the entire village is destroyed.
Maimonides explained that if the inhabitants do teshuva and return to the One True G-d, then the town is not destroyed.
There is something very unique about this law. In every other instance of wrong-doing where a Jewish court is empowered to mete out punishment, the sinner's repentance has no bearing on and in no way prevents the sentence from being carried out. But in the case of the "town which was led astray," if the people do teshuva the town is allowed to remain in existence.
The explanation for this lies in the unique category created by the "town which was led astray." When an entire populace is misled to serve false gods, the town attains the status of an idolatrous community. No longer are the inhabitants viewed as individuals who are sinning, but rather the entire community, as a community, is considered as deserving the harsh punishment entailed in the Torah. But if all the people sincerely repent, they revert to their former status as individuals, and their town therefore avoids having to be destroyed.
This underscores the immense power of repentance, which can nullify even the harshest of decrees. We also learn from this chapter, if albeit in a negative fashion, the power inherent in unity. When we stand united and dedicate ourselves to good and positive causes, we can attain great heights. Conversely, when a group of people join together and unite to do evil, it causes the greatest damage and destruction.
The Jewish People draw their solidarity from the fact that all Jews the world over comprise one entity. We are likened to one soul which is divided and then put into the several million physical bodies which we inhabit. True repentance therefore reveals a Jew's inherent unity with his fellow Jews and with G-d Himself.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
With One Heart
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler
This week I had dinner with Daniel and Tal Fish. The Fish brothers are alumni of our annual Belev Echad program that brings severely wounded IDF soldiers to New York for ten days of excitement.
Daniel was severely wounded by Hamas terrorists in Operation Protective Edge last summer. He was in a UN clinic near Khan Younis when a huge explosion collapsed the building, killing three soldiers and wounding 26. Later, a tunnel filled with explosives was discovered directly under the building.
Shortly after Daniel was rescued from the rubble, he lost consciousness, and a respiratory path was opened in his throat to help him breathe. The rescue was incredibly quick but very complicated, because Hamas terrorists continued firing mortars at them, causing yet more injuries and putting the rescuers' lives in danger as well.
Daniel, and his brother Tal who has taken care of him since his injury, were back in New York, so we had dinner together. I had recently had albums of our trip printed, and after dinner I gave 15 copies to Daniel and Tal to bring back to Israel for the rest of the group.
We said our goodbyes, and they hopped in a taxi and headed to their hotel. Their driver's name was Mohammed Islam, a religious Muslim from Bangladesh. Seeing Daniel's wheel chair, the driver asked him about his injury, and when Daniel shared that he was injured in the war, he was visibly shaken.
Back in their hotel room, Daniel and Tal suddenly realized they'd left the box of albums in the back of the taxi! Hands full with the wheelchair, they'd simply forgotten.
Daniel panicked. This wonderful gift that would allow him and the rest of the soldiers to relive their trip over and over was gone. He called me and apologized profusely.
Based on my own experience losing cell phones in taxis, and knowing that Daniel had paid cash and not taken a receipt, I knew the likelihood of tracking down the albums was close to zero.
But, by Divine providence, the albums were sponsored by a woman in Texas who had flown in to participate in the Belev Echad trip in May. Her phone number was on the back of each album, so that the soldiers could thank her.
I called her and explained the situation, in case by some miracle the taxi driver called her. And, indeed, that's exactly what happened. Mohammed Islam, the taxi driver, called the woman in Texas, who gave him my address. He made a special trip all the way from his home in Queens to deliver the albums personally. Thank you, Mohammed!
We chatted for a few minutes, and he told me that he feels strongly that Jews and Muslims should not be at war with one another.
Israel and the West are currently fighting radical Islamic terrorism. We are used to seeing Jews and Muslims fighting against each other. Almost weekly there is another terror attack against us in Israel. What a breath of fresh air to meet this lovely gentleman, Mohammed Islam. May the world be blessed with many more righteous people, and may we all get along just fine!
What follows is a letter I penned to participants in this year's Belev Echad program:
Dear Amit, Nir, Daniel, Dvir, Amit, Ohad, Amir, Shai, Elnathan and Meir,
You have been back in Israel for several weeks now, but we continue to feel the impact of your visit. You thanked us for the trip, but you have made a tremendous difference to our community, and for that I thank you.
Let me tell you a story:
John* is a 53-year-old Jew who grew up in New York with very little Jewish upbringing. No day school, Hebrew school or Bar Mitzva. Despite growing up in one of the most vibrantly Jewish cities in the world, John grew up with virtually no Jewish experiences or education.
When he heard that we were bringing a group of severely wounded IDF soldiers to New York through our Belev Echad program, John decided to attend one of the events. He wanted to hear your stories of bravery and heroism. When he found out how young you all were when you joined the army to protect us and our land, he was in awe.
Although John had never before attended any of our programs or stepped foot in our synagogue, when he heard about you guys, he came right in. You caused a Jew to step foot in our doors - somebody who would never otherwise have attended. If not for you, John and I would likely never have met. So, thank you!
After chatting with John for a while, I realized he had never had a Bar Mitzva. When I offered him one, he said, "I'm 53 years old! How can I have one now?
But, as we know, it's never too late.
We met at Starbucks this week and started learning Torah. John thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and we made plans to learn together regularly. Then we stood up, in the middle of Starbucks, and John put on tefillin and recited the Shema. I explained to John that by doing so, he is helping the IDF soldiers, because it says in our Torah that, "...when the nations of the world see that the name of the L-rd is upon you they will fear you." So, he is, essentially helping the IDF from thousands of miles away.
Starbucks was quite crowded, and when I explained to the curious onlookers that we were celebrating John's bar mitzvah, they cheered proudly and respectfully.
So thank you Amit, Nir, Daniel, Dvir, Amit, Ohad, Amir, Shai, Elnathan and Meir for providing us with the opportunity to host you, and thank you for inspiring us and our community. Thank you for leading John to his bar mitzvah, and thank you for all the other mitzvot you inspired us to perform.
Rabbi Uriel and Shevy Vigler run Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side. For more info visit chabadic.com
Three new couples will be serving the growing Jewish population in New York's Long Island region.
Rabbi Yisroel and Suri Halon and are leading the new Chabad of East Meadow located within the Town of Hempstead in Nassau County.
Rabbi Aizik and Musia Baumgarten have already moved to East Hampton to join Rabbi Baumgarten's parents at Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons.
Rabbi Zevy and Shani Geisinsky are moving to Great Neck to work with the team of emissaries led by Rabbi Geisinsky's parents.
Sparks of Tanya
Sparks of Tanya introduces the novice to the world of the Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy. Tanya is about realizing one's potential and improving one's immediate environment - and ultimately that of the world. Each chapter of the Tanya is presented in simplified form enabling greater access. The recently released Volume II covers the second and third sections of Tanya. By Robert Kremnizer, published by Kehot Publication Society.
Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5735 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
The month of Elul, bringing the current year to a close, is - as is well known - the Month of Divine Mercy and Grace. It is also the time for every Jew to make a soul-searching self-evaluation (cheshbon hanefesh) in regard to the outgoing year - of all the achievements and failures and missed opportunities; it is the month of Teshuva (Repentance) - regret for the past and good resolutions for the future, by way of preparation for the coming year, with a view to making certain that the new year will be a better one in every respect.
The auspicious nature of the month of Elul is explained by the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, by means of the parable of the 'King in the Field':
When a king is about to return to his royal city, the inhabitants of the city go out to meet the king and to welcome him in the field. Then everyone who so wishes may come out to greet the king, and the king receives everyone graciously and shows a friendly face to everyone... Later on, when the king proceeds to the city, they follow... So in the month of Elul. G-d makes His countenance to shine on you, which refers to the emanation of the Thirteen Attributes, that it be in a manner of face to face.
Thus, the month of Elul is a time of (great responsibility as well as of) great opportunity, since this is the time of the year when G-d causes His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to shine forth, making it possible for every Jew - regardless of how the situation was in the past - to attach oneself to G-d with heart and soul, in a way that induces action, expressed in a substantial increase (in quantity and quality) in the study of the Torah and in the fulfillment of its mitzvoth [commandments].
May G-d grant that each and all of us should take the fullest advantage of this auspicious period in all that has been said above,
Elul is a time of great opportunity, since this is the time of the year when G-d causes His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to shine forth, making it possible for every Jew to attach oneself to G-d with heart and soul...
And reflect with a soulful reflection, to the extent of it permeating and guiding the daily conduct, on the words of David, the Sweet Singer of the Songs of our People Israel, in the Psalm that we begin to recite on Rosh Chodesh Elul, twice daily [chapter 27 of Psalms]:
'G-d is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?... my oppressors and enemies have stumbled and fallen; if an army besiege me, my heart shall not fear... now my head is raised... teach me, O G-d, Your way... hope unto G-d, be strong and let your heart be fortified and hope unto G-d...'
And G-d our King since the days of old will work salvation in the midst of the earth, including that in the radiance of the countenance of the King the Source of Life everyone will be blessed with a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually,
With esteem and blessing for being 'written and sealed for good, for a good and sweet year.'
Yehuda ben Taima said: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven.... May it be Your will that the Holy Temple be rebuild speedily in our days, and grant us our portion in Your Torah. (Ethics 5:20)
Not only does the rabbi deliver a nice sermon regarding alacrity, he follows his words with immediate action - praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple! G-d's will is that, "they shall make Me a holy place, and I will dwell among them." He therefore prayed that the will of his Father in Heaven would be fulfilled speedily in his (our) days! (Biurim l'Pirkei Avot)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The month of Elul begins this Shabbat. Elul is a time of introspection and soul-searching. As the old year draws to a close, we take stock of our behavior and make amends for any wrongs we may have committed. In preparation for the New Year, we conduct an honest assessment of our conduct, that we may be aroused to repentance and improvement of our Divine service.
During Elul, a Jew can almost sense the difference in the air. Everyone feels an inexplicable urge to draw closer to G-d, to increase in Torah and mitzvot.
The G-dly soul that every Jew possesses automatically pulls him in the direction of holiness. However, there are two basic ways to motivate a person: the "carrot" and the "stick." Fear of punishment may yield the desired results, but it usually causes more damage than benefit.
Historically, it was against this backdrop that the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples first arose. In those days, itinerant preachers would "put the fear of G-d" into simple Jews by vividly describing the punishments that would befall them if they did not walk the straight and narrow.
The Chasidic approach, however, is the exact opposite. The Baal Shem Tov emphasized the innate worth of every Jew, the value of serving G-d with purity of heart, the immense power of prayer and the beauty of the Jewish soul.
In Elul, G-d's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are manifested with particular intensity. It should thus be a time of only emphasizing the positive and increasing our love for our fellow Jew. In the merit of our good deeds (especially the mitzva of charity), each and every one of us will be found deserving, and G-d will inscribe us together with all the righteous.
And G-d will allow you rest from all your enemies around and you will dwell in security (Deut. 12:10)
The usual precision in the wording of the Torah gives way here to an apparent redundancy. Obviously rest from our enemies will result in security. However this verse may in fact be giving us instruction on how to achieve "rest from our enemies." If "you shall dwell in security" between one Jew and the next, without infighting and fragmentation, we will have no reason to fear from our enemies around us.
And you will say, "I wish to eat flesh," because your soul longs to eat flesh (Deut. 12:20)
The desire to eat meat originates in a person's soul. A Jew's G-dly soul "longs" to purify and elevate the spiritual sparks of holiness that are present in physical objects. The Torah states, "Not by (physical) bread alone shall a man live, but by each utterance of G-d (the G-dly spark which is hidden in it), shall a man live." Eating flesh, or eating bread, is just one way in which the concealed sparks in the physical world are purified by a Jew. The Baal Shem Tov explained that when a person gets a sudden desire to eat or drink a particular food or beverage, the reason is that his soul desires to elevate the spark within that food, as it states in Psalms, "Hungry and thirsty, their soul shall be enveloped in them."
You shall not shut your hand from your needy brother (Deut. 15:7)
The first letters of this verse in Hebrew spell out the word "Tehillim" - Psalms. Reciting Psalms on behalf of a poor person is not enough; one must open his hand and give him material sustenance as well.
(Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin)
Many years ago there lived in the city of Luchitz, Poland, a saintly man by the name of a Reb Aron and his wife. Together they managed an inn that they rented from the local duke.
It happened that for quite some time Reb Aron was not able pay the rent. And so the duke, becoming more and more impatient, threatened that if the money was not paid immediately, Reb Aron and his wife would both be thrown in jail.
Despite all their efforts, the sad couple were not able to meet the payments and they were taken to prison. The duke gave express orders to all the guards not to give Reb Aron and his wife any food or even water to drink.
Reb Aron's wife was pregnant at the time with their first child. Reb Aron cried out to G-d for help from the depth of his heart. His prayer was answered in the form of a servant who had pity on them. Daily, without anyone seeing or knowing, he would pass by the prison window and throw in a package of food.
Six months passed. Then, one day, Reb Aron's wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whom they named Shlomo Efrayim. Once, when the kind servant passed by the window, he heard the cry of the baby. "Is this your child?" he called out.
Reb Aron's wife picked up her son toward the window so the servant could see him. The servant had never beheld such a beautiful child. He determined to help the little family in a more substantial way as soon as he could.
A few days later, the duke made mention of Reb Aron and his wife, saying, "Surely they must be long dead by now."
The servant, hearing these words and remembering his promise, spoke up. "Not only are Reb Aron and his wife not dead, they have a beautiful baby boy."
The duke was astounded. "I have heard that the G-d of the Jews has performed such miracles before," said the servant. The duke immediately went with his wife to see this miracle.
"Are you alive?" the duke called out.
"Yes, thank G-d, we are alive and well," Reb Aron answered.
"And what is this I heard of a son that you have?" the duke questioned further.
Reb Aron picked up his son and showed him to the duke.
"Listen," said the duke. "My wife and I have no children. I could do with you whatever I want. But I have a proposition for you. Give me your son to raise as my own, and I will permit you to leave this dungeon, live as free people, and give you your inn as a gift. If you do not agree, I can kill you and take this child anyway."
Reb Aron and his wife realized there was no choice but to give the duke and duchess their son. They were freed from jail and lived another dozen years in relative comfort, but never again saw their son.
Shlomo Efrayim grew up in the duke's mansion as the son of the duke and duchess, not knowing that he was Jewish. He was a remarkable student and caught on quickly to everything he was taught.
One night, a few weeks before his thirteenth birthday, he had a strange dream. An old man came to him and said "You are my son, a Jewish boy. In a few weeks you will be duty-bound to fulfill G-d's commandments. Until this time, I did not appear to you, but now I have come to tell you that you must escape from here very quickly and go to a place where there are many Jews."
The boy woke up from his dream, sobbing. He had the same dream for three nights. The duke and duchess saw the change in their son and asked him what was wrong. He did not tell them, though. The night before his thirteenth birthday his father came to him again and told him, "My son, tonight is the night of your Bar Mitzva and I cannot permit you to remain here any longer."
Suddenly he felt as if he were being carried away, but he didn't know to where. When he opened his eyes, he found himself before the gates of a synagogue.
His father said to him, "You are now in the city of Prague. When a man will come to open the synagogue, he will ask you who you are. Do not answer. Tell him you want to see the Rabbi of Prague, the great Maharal. Then tell the Maharal all that has transpired."
Shlomo Efrayim did as he was instructed. The Maharal immediately made a place for Shlomo Efrayim in his home and arranged for a teacher who would teach him Torah. Because of the brilliance of his mind, Shlomo Efrayim was able in a very short while to learn with the great scholars of the Maharal's Yeshiva.
The Maharal had great pleasure from Shlomo Efrayim. Amongst all of his students, he did not have any who could compare with the boy's remarkable mind and deep understanding of Torah.
"See! This day I place before you a blessing" (Deut. 11:26) The blessing in this verse does not refer to anything specific; rather, it is a comprehensive statement which includes all the blessings G-d confers on every Jew. First and foremost, therefore, it refers to the ultimate blessing of all the complete Redemption through Moshiach. By using the emphatic "See!" the Torah stresses that the Messianic Redemption is not something theoretical or academic, but rather something that will be evident with our eyes of flesh - and this very day!
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Re'eh, 5751)