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Devarim Deutronomy

   1389: Vayeilech

1390: Ha'Azinu

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Devarim Deutronomy

September 18, 2015 - 5 Tishrei, 5776

1389: Vayeilech

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 1390: Ha'Azinu  

A Cry from the Heart  |  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

A Cry from the Heart

by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

A friend I grew up with is married with two children; a four-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, there have been some bumps in his relationship with his wife as of late.

For Rosh Hashana he brought his son a fantastic remote control car, which the little boy was absolutely thrilled with. His reaction - running around in circles yelping with delight!- made my friend happier than he has been in many, many months. But when he asked his daughter what she would like, her answer was heartbreaking. She looked her father in the eye and said, "Daddy, the greatest gift you could give me would be for you and mommy to stop fighting."

I was thinking about this sweet, angelic little girl over Rosh Hashanah. Every time her parents argue, she feels tormented. When they raise their voices, her heart beats with fear. She internalizes the tension in the house and worries deeply that her family will be torn apart.

We are just a few days away from Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest 25 hours on the Jewish calendar. G-d's love for us is unconditional, and akin to the love between a parent and child. If we truly regret our wrongdoings, He will surely forgive us, no matter how low we've fallen.

But no matter how much He loves us, there are some sins G-d cannot forgive: those between man and man. No matter how much we pray on Yom Kippur, if we haven't first approached the people we've wronged, G-d cannot help us. He is like my friend's little daughter. Just as she desperately needs her parents to get along, G-d needs us to get along. When we fight, we cause G-d anguish and pain. Every argument that we have splinters His "heart."

So before Yom Kippur, if there's a friend or relative we've wronged, we need to call, sincerely apologize for our offense, and genuinely ask forgiveness. We need to resolve to get along, and truly stick to it.

But what happens if someone refuses to forgive us? We are told that if we approach a person, on three separate occasions, feel and show sincere remorse, and truly ask for forgiveness, and they refuse all three times, then the sin we originally committed against them, now becomes their responsibility.

Jewish law also instructs us not to hold onto past hurts, but to be willing to forgive those who seek our forgiveness.

As Yom Kippur approaches, let's resolve to forgive those who have wronged us. And even if they don't approach us to ask for forgiveness, we can forgive them in our hearts.

Rabbi Vigler and his wife Shevy run the Chabad Israel Center in New York city.

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Vayeilech teaches us about the commandment of Hakhel: During the times of the Holy Temple, the Jewish People made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem every seventh year to hear the king read the Torah aloud, "that they may hear and that they may learn and fear G-d."

At that time, the kohanim, or priests, surrounded the city of Jerusalem. With golden trumpets they signaled that it was time for everyone to assemble at the Holy Temple. In fact, this musical alarm was so important that, "any kohen who did not have a gold trumpet did not seem to be a kohen at all."

This curious comment needs further explanation. To understand what was meant, let us examine what exactly the kohen's job in the Temple was.

The kohanim were responsible for serving in the Temple, and performed many of the tasks associated with the worship there. Sounding the golden trumpets in the outskirts of Jerusalem was, however, only the preparation for the commandment of hakhel, and not part of the mitzva itself. What, then was so important about this, that a kohen who did not participate was not considered a "real" kohen?

One of the most important and central services performed by the kohanim in the Temple was the burning of the ketoret (incense). Maimonides explains that the purpose of the incense was to dispel any offensive odors and make the Temple smell pleasant.

As with all aspects of Torah, this is understood on many different levels. It is explained in the Zohar that the kohanim were not merely interested in converting unpleasant smells to pleasant ones; the inner purpose of the ketoret was to dispel the foulness of the Evil Inclination.

The ketoret was composed of various inedible substances, among them chelb'na (galbanum), a particularly foul-smelling resin. The Talmud teaches that this ingredient symbolized all that was lowly and inferior. The task of the kohanim was to take the lowly and mundane and utilize it in the service of G-d. Their job was to elevate even the most mundane aspects of life and infuse the physical world with holiness.

This fundamental service of the kohanim found its most emphatic expression in the preparation for the commandment of hakhel. For seven long years prior to this day, the kohanim had been busy in the Temple elevating the physical world. Now it was their turn to elevate the entire Jewish People to a higher spiritual level.

To a certain extent, this was the "test" which determined a kohen's mettle. If he took his G-d-given task to heart, he would run to assemble his fellow Jews, and thereby prove that he was of priestly stock. If, however, he lazily remained at home, he "did not seem to be a kohen at all."

In a broader sense, every single Jew is also a kohen, as it states, "And you shall be a nation of kohanim (priests)." It is every Jew's task in life to go out into the world and "sound the trumpet," arousing his fellow Jews to reach spiritually higher and higher.

A Slice of Life

A Yom Kippur Miracle

It was during the Yom Kippur War, 1973. The Arab armies had surprised the Jewish state with a coordinated attack. All of Israel's reserve soldiers were rushed to the front. Among those drafted was Elazar ben Yishai, a member of Kibbutz Kinneret.

At first, Elazar and his friends were euphoric, believing that the miraculous victory of the Six-Day War would repeat itself. It did not take too long for the bitter reality to sink in. A significant number of Israeli soldiers lost their lives, and the outlook was grim indeed.

Elazar served as a tankist in Division 18 and fought on the Northern front, against the Syrians. Their division was located in front of the Arik Bridge and they were given the task of holding off the Syrian advance. The commander of the division intercepted a message sent by the Syrian captain to his headquarters in Syria, saying, "The historic moment has come to stampede into Tel Aviv." But this stampede was never carried out. Apparently, the captain was given orders by Syria to remain in place. Why? Heaven only knows.

To their credit, the Israeli forces fought valiantly against the Syrian tanks, despite suffering heavy losses. Dozens of Israeli tanks went up in flames, with the soldiers inside, may G-d avenge their blood. When the Israeli soldiers heard about the losses in the south and the number of downed aircraft, they lost whatever morale remained. Nevertheless, they continued to battle the Syrians with all their might, together with a Golani brigade that fought alongside them.

One night, in a hastily erected camp, all the damaged tanks were gathered in one location. The Golani soldiers came and went, bringing more and more wounded soldiers. Some of the injured reported that their lives were saved when they played dead as the Syrian tanks approached. The losses were devastating. Out of a hundred Israeli tanks, only five were left, and even those had sustained considerable damage, some unable to start. The soldiers doubted they'd be able to fight further with them.

Elazar was placed in charge of a group of mechanics whose mission was to "revive" the damaged tanks. In the course of his work, a senior officer approached him and told him to remove all the mechanical equipment from his vehicle. "Right now we need you to transport injured soldiers to Ziv [hospital in Safed]."

Obediently, Elazar cleared his armored personnel carrier (APC) to make room for injured soldiers. Since he did not know the way to Safed, an IDF Jeep led the way. After traveling a short distance, Elazar suddenly froze. The Jeep driver yelled, "A Syrian tank!" and quickly disappeared.

The tank approached and stopped only meters from the APC, which was alone on the road. It seemed to Elazar that he was only moments away from being blown to pieces...

"Bring me grenades!" Elazar called behind him. He wanted to launch a counter-attack against the Syrian tank. But he soon realized he was alone with the injured soldiers.

Elazar looked around and realized he was totally alone, defenseless. He did not even have a gun on him. During those moments, which seemed to last forever, Elazar remembered what his father had taught him - during times of distress, scream the verse "Shma Yisrael," and await G-d's salvation.

That was exactly what he chose to do now. He had no other option. He placed a hand over his eyes and cried out "Shma Yisrael." He heard the sound of an explosion and was sure that these were his last moments.

A second passed, and then two. Elazar was not sure which world he was in... He opened his eyes and saw that the Syrian tank was off the road. The explosions he heard, apparently, were the sound of the track's impact with the asphalt. To Elazar's astonishment, the Syrian tank made a 180 degree turn, heading back to Syria.

Elazar's body was bathed in a cold sweat. Without a doubt, he had been saved from certain death. In his heart he expressed his thanks to G-d. The Syrian soldiers had apparently mistaken his vehicle for a Syrian APC. If he had succeeded in throwing a grenade, they would have realized that it was an Israeli vehicle and responded accordingly.

While Elazar caught his breath, he heard another tank approaching. The Syrian tank appeared in the horizon and raced past him, seemingly not noticing him at all.

Elazar proceeded on his mission, where he encountered no further surprises. On the way to Safed he met an ambulance, and asked the driver to please transport the wounded soldiers to the hospital. The soldiers were transferred to capable medical care and Elazar returned to his base.

Elazar was to experience many more difficult moments during the war. However, he had already determined what he would do to thank G-d for saving his life. After the war, he would enroll in a yeshiva.

An additional impetus for his decision was the sight of Chabad chassidim, who visited his base at the height of the war, uplifting the spirit of the soldiers with their lively singing: "In You, G-d, I place my hope; I shall not be ashamed ever!"

Today Elazar ben Yishai is a Chabad chassid himself, living in Beitar Ilit, Israel.

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Peretz and Chaya Mushka Kazen arrived recently in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they will be founding a new Chabad Center in the city.

Rabbi Leibel and Mushka Lipskier moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, joining the existing emissaries at the academic institution. They will be specifically working with undergraduates at the Chabad House at Tulane University.

Rabbi Kussi and Rosie Lipskier are opening a new Chabad on Campus at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The public research university which was founded in 1831 and has a vast cultural imprint on the state.

Rabbi Matisyanu and Nechama Devlin have arrived in Riverside, California to open a new Chabad on Campus at the University of California Riverside.

The Rebbe Writes

In the Ten Days of Teshuva, 5736 [1975]

...Inasmuch as we are now in the propitious days of Aseres Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Return), it is well to remember that this is the time of the year which our Sages identify with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found, call on Him when He is near." This "nearness" is described as the "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark." May G-d grant that this be reflected in the daily life throughout the whole year, in all aspects, both spiritual as well as material.

Indeed, since all expressions used by our Sages, as all words of Torah, are exact, the said expression, "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark," is particularly meaningful. For, the proximity of the Source of Light increase the spark's flame and power, and so in the spiritual realm, where the nearness of G-d, the Source of Light and Source of Blessing, sets the Jew's heart and mind aglow with love of G-d and awe of G-d, stimulating him (and her) to observe and the channels and vessels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.

With the blessing of Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo [be fully sealed for good] and good things in all above,

5th Tishrei, 5736 [1975]

I received, with considerable delay, your letter of Elul 6, in connection with the Induction of your esteemed Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick.

However, a blessing is always timely, especially in the propitious days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which our Sages identify with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found; call on Him when He is near." This special nearness to G-d, the Source of Blessings, surely brings Divine blessings, materially and spiritually.

I am therefore pleased to take this opportunity of extending to you and the entire Congregation prayerful wishes that your association with your esteemed Rabbi be blessed with much Hatzlocho [success].

...As is well known, a Jewish congregation is called Kehilla Kadisha, a Holy Congregation. To make this a reality, it is the function of the synagogue to inspire each and all of the members and worshippers to carry the holiness of the Mishkan Me'at ("Small Sanctuary") into their homes and homelife, in fulfillment of G-d's desire v'shochanti b'sochom - "I will dwell among them" - within each and all of them.

Rabbi Gutnick has the additional distinction of being a Kohen, of whom it is written, "A Kohen's lips preserve knowledge and Torah is sought from his mouth" (Malachi 2:7). In addition to being the traditional teachers of our people, kohanim have been also chosen by G-d "to bless His people Israel with love," and these blessings include, of course, well-being and prosperity in every respect, materially and spiritually. May G-d grant that this be so for your entire Congregation with your esteemed Rabbi, and in a growing measure.

With prayerful wishes for a Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo for a good and sweet year,

5th of Tishrei, 5721 [1960]

Students of Grade A and Gan of the
Beth Rivkah Academy,

I was pleased to receive your good wishes for the New Year. I also send my prayerful wishes to you, your parents, and your teachers, for a very happy and successful year in every respect.

It is written in our holy Torah that a great measure of happiness for every Jewish boy and girl depends upon their conducting themselves in their daily life in accordance with the Will of G-d. In doing so, they bring G-d's blessings not only upon themselves, but also upon their parents and families.

May G-d grant that you will have good news to report about your good progress in your studies and in your daily conduct.

Wishing you, each and all, a Chasimo and Gemar Chasimo Toivo.

5th of Tishrei, 5721 [1960]

...I was very pleased to read in your letter about the improvement in the observance of the Mitzvos in the family, and may G-d grant that this continues in a growing measure. Needless to say, if you will show a living example, and act with affection and respect, it will have a considerable effect.

I trust that you are taking full advantage of the present days of Divine benevolence and forgiveness, the Ten Days of Repentance, and the month of Tishrei in general, since these days inaugurate the New Year and have a lasting effect and influence throughout the year...


6 Tishrei

V'ahavta..., "Love your fellow as yourself." (Lev. 19:18) Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad chasidism, taught that this love is an instrument, a means to "Love the Eternal your G-d." (Deut. 6:5) This is explained in the statement, "Whoever is pleasing to man is pleasing to G-d." (Ethics 3:10) This service of teshuva stems from goodness of heart.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat marks the anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. She passed away on 6 Tishrei, 1964.

Rebbetzin Chana was born in 1879 in Nikolaiev. She married the renowned scholar and kabbalist, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson. They had three sons. In 1939 Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was arrested because of his energetic work to preserve religious observance; a year later, he was exiled to Kazakhstan. When Rebbetzin Chana learned of her husband's location, she joined him, despite the difficulties and danger involved. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok passed away in exile. In 1947 Rebbetzin Chana succeeded in emigrating from the Soviet Union to the U.S.

Being that this coming week holds within it the awesome day of Yom Kippur, we present to you a short except from Rebbetzin Chana's memoirs about Yom Kippur in exile in Kazakhstan:

"On Yom Kippur, my husband, a Rumanian Jew, and I, enclosed ourselves in our room. It is hard to set down on paper the emotions and the spiritual states that we experienced on that day.

Suddenly, we became aware of strange eyes peering at us through the window. As soon as the Rav realized what was going on, he went over to the door and threw it open wide. Our unexpected guest turned out to be a young Lithuanian Jew, also in exile.

Here, in exile, this young fellow worked as a wagon-driver. He related to us that while driving his wagon, he had caught a glimpse of the Rav and was struck by his appearance. He had decided to find out who this person was and where he lived. The lad felt that if he could be privileged to be with the Rav on this holiest of days, it would ease the weight of his sorrows and be a balm for his soul. Somehow, our young visitor had managed to locate us.

Half an hour later we heard a knock on the door. We opened it to find a frightened woman who, like the wagon-driver, yearned to be in the Rav's presence on this day. Not allowing the fast to deter her, she trudged four km in order to reach our house...

Thoughts that Count

From the Yom Kippur Prayers

(He) forgives our sins, year after year

A human being, if wronged by his neighbor, will forgive him after that person apologizes and begs for forgiveness, but will find it more difficult to forgive a second time if the very same thing happens again. How much more so is this true if it occurs a third or a fourth time. To G-d, however, there is no difference between a first and a thousandth offense committed against Him. G-d's attribute of mercy has no limit or boundary, as it states, "For his mercy endures forever."

(Rabbi Shneur Zalman, Igeret Hateshuva)

We are like clay in the Creator's hand

Bricks of clay can build an opulent mansion or a wretched hovel; so too it is with us. The only question is the type of edifice we wish to build - a palace to bear testimony to G-d's glory, or a destitute and poverty-stricken shack.

(Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli)

For the sin that we have sinned

When confessing our sins it is customary to beat the chest just over the heart as a symbol of repentance as each transgression is enumerated. Yet logically the opposite would seem to make more sense: Should not the heart strike out at the hand that actually committed the sin? Our intention, however, is the source of all transgression - the lusts and desires of the heart that lead to sin.

(Hegyonot Shel Ami)

For the sin that we have sinned with an insincere confession (literally "a confession of the mouth")

This type of sin is one to which we have already confessed, but have only given lip service, as it states in Psalms, "For my transgression I will tell; I am worried that I not sin." Although the lips may have declared their concern, the heart does not participate...

(Torat Yitzchak)

How to Repent

A Jew once came to the saintly Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin and cried, "Rebbe! I am a very great sinner and I want to repent." "So why don't you repent?" the Rabbi asked him. "I don't know how," he replied. "Where did you learn how to sin?" the Rabbi asked. "First I sinned, and only afterward did I learn that it was a sin," he explained. "In that case, you already know how to proceed," the Rabbi said. "All you have to do is repent. Afterwards you'll see that you did it properly!")

It Once Happened

"I was born in Tel-Aviv on Yom Kippur. And on a Yom Kippur years later, I was again "born" somewhere in the Far East." So begins the interesting tale of Arnon G.:

My parents weren't religious in the usual sense of the word, but both of them were believers. I grew up on a foundation of a generalized belief in some sort of 'Being' that ran the world.

On holidays my father would take me, the eldest son, and my two brothers and sister to synagogue, each year a different one. He wanted to expose us to Jewish culture and to familiarize us with different communities and customs. And always, on Yom Kippur, my father would point out that it was my birthday.

On the Yom Kippur that I turned 13, I was called up to the Torah, and I recall that everyone was kidding around and joking that my parents "got away" with a cheap bar mitzva celebration, in that they didn't have to provide any food.

At around the age of 16 I started to undergo a personal crisis. I asked myself many questions. I argued with my teachers, my friends, and my parents. All these arguments only made me more confused. I was searching for meaning in life and couldn't find any.

The next few years were spent vacillating from one side to the other. I tried every fad that came along. I felt as if I were seeking some sort of clear path in life.

After the army I left on a tour of the world which was to last at least a year. I travelled around the United States and Europe and finally ended up in the Far East. I was drawn there primarily because of the mystical teachings and traditions which emanated from that part of the world. I thought that perhaps there I would find the answers to the questions I had about life.

An English girl I knew brought me to a particular sect which interested and excited me very much. Finally I was among people who deal with the real issues and questions and who looked for the way to draw nearer to what they called "the way." I had several powerful mystical experiences with them that brought me to the decision to become a permanent member of the sect.

They had a special ceremony for receiving new members. They would bring a big box full of various things, spread them all out on a red velvet carpet, and the person to be initiated into the sect would have to light some incense and swear allegiance to the sect and to its principles. Without knowing why, I found myself becoming repulsed by this ceremony.

The night before the ceremony I was trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep. Every time I closed my eyes I saw in front of me Jews wrapped up in talises, wearing kittels (white robes), and swaying to and fro in intense prayer. It was an early childhood memory of Yom Kippur. The scene kept repeating itself in my mind until suddenly the idea flashed into my head to check the calendar. I opened the calendar and froze: It was Yom Kippur!

That night I didn't sleep. Doubts and worries too great to bear tore through me. I decided to discuss my difficulties with the leader of the sect, a venerable old man with a pleasant face and a discerning eye. I told him my story, and when he heard that I was a Jew and that I was born on Yom Kippur, he started to shake his head from side to side, murmuring, "no, no." After a long silence he took hold of my hands, and said, "Return to Israel. Everything that we have is contained in Judaism!"

I returned to Israel and started to study about Judaism, to study the Torah and keep the commandments, and I finally found what I was looking for. That is why I say that I was born twice on Yom Kippur.

Translated by Basha Majerczyk from Sichat Hashavua.

Moshiach Matters

Provisions must be made to "send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared." This will lead to the celebration of Sukkos with great joy which, in turn, will bring about the ultimate joy, the coming of the future redemption led by Moshiach. He will "build the Temple in its place" and "gather the dispersed of Israel." He will perform the mitzva (commandment) of Hakhel "collecting together the nation: men, women, children, and the stranger in your midst." We will all be inscribed for a good and sweet year with open and revealed good.

(The Rebbe speaking on the second day of Rosh Hashana, 1980)

 1390: Ha'Azinu  
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