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Devarim Deutronomy

   1389: Vayeilech

1390: Ha'Azinu

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Devarim Deutronomy

September 25, 2015 - 12 Tishrei, 5776

1390: Ha'Azinu

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  1389: Vayeilech1391: Bereshis  

Heavenly Guests  |  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

Heavenly Guests

A Kabbalistic custom is to invited Ushpizin, or heavenly guests into our Sukka each night of the holiday. the Chabad-Chasidic custom includes inviting each night one of the Chasidic masters, as well. On the first night, the guests are Abraham and the Baal Shem Tov. Since they arrive on the same evening, it stands to reason that there is some intrinsic connection between them.

Though their missions were similar, the life experiences of Abraham and the Baal Shem Tov were quite different. True, both made it their life's mission to share their knowledge of the creator with others, going to great lengths to show people the way. However, the life of Abraham was fraught with extreme difficulty from the outset, when he had to battle against his father, his family, his idolatrous society and a powerful king who imprisoned him for ten years as a young boy. Only later was he vindicated. The Baal Shem Tov, on the other hand, though he experienced years of poverty and anonymity in his youth, spent most of his life in comfort and honor, and miracles would follow him everywhere he traveled.

Despite their divergent experiences - torture and incarceration versus honor and miracles - both Abraham and the Baal Shem Tov were successful in their life's mission of empowering and enabling others with the ability to recognize the Creator.

So it doesn't really matter if we find ourselves in the highest peak or in the lowest valley in the journey of life. Each day, one has to go beyond the external experience to focus on the deeper meaning of life and ask: What is my mission in life and what am I doing today to make it happen?

The holiday of Sukkot is referred as the Time of Our Rejoicing in the prayers and Kiddush for the day, and the Torah mentions the word joy three times with regards to Sukkot. Part of the Sukkot celebration in the Temple was (and will very soon be) the Water Drawing Ceremony, about which the Sages say, "Whoever did not see the joy of the Water Drawing did not see joy in his lifetime" (Talmud Sukkah, 51a).

What does it mean to see joy? According to Kabbalah, there is a profound difference between way we process sound and sight. When we hear something, like a teaching or a piece of good news, the effect it has on our psyche and our emotional response are filtered through the way our brain processes the information, so distortions and omissions can occur along the way. On the other hand, when something is witnessed visually, the experience is immediately absorbed for what it is and possesses the entire person; you don't need to think about it or interpret it because you saw it in front of your eyes. You can become joyous and even ecstatic about hearing something that makes you happy: Your friend got engaged, you won the lottery, or you landed your dream job. But hearing about it doesn't compare to the joy of being there at the wedding, cashing the checking or signing the contract. Seeing joy means that the joy is not a result of something your heard, which remains outside of you, but an intrinsic joy that is born from a personal experience. That's what life will be life in the Messianic era: Instead of generating joy through a process of association, we will actually see and therefore experience the intrinsic joy in everything around us.

Living with the Rebbe

The festival of Sukkot, which follows Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, marks the beginning of the true days of rejoicing of the month of Tishrei, coming as it does after the solemnity of the High Holidays. Although Sukkot has many similarities and characteristics in common with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it is actually the culmination and fulfillment of the first two holidays. The difference between the two lies in the fact that the holiness that was in a more hidden state on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is revealed for all to see on "the day of our rejoicing (Sukkot)."

One of the fundamental themes of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is that of the unity of the Jewish People. But it is on Sukkot that this motif finds its highest expression.

The Jew's worship on the High Holidays lies in his uncovering of the "pintele Yid," the Jewish spark that can never be extinguished, that he shares in common with every other Jew. All of us stand as equals before G-d in prayer on Rosh Hashana, accepting His sovereignty and crowning Him King over us all; on Yom Kippur we are equally aroused to do teshuva (repent) and return to G-d. When a Jew does teshuva, he is merely uncovering and revealing his innate belief in G-d and love of Him.

The unity of the Jewish People during the High Holidays is a unity based on the common denominator inherent in every Jew. It does not take into consideration the many differences of temperament, intelligence, or any other marks which distinguish one person from another.

On Sukkot, however, we reach an even higher level of unity than before, further developing the theme of High Holidays.

One of the most important mitzvot of Sukkot is the taking of the Four Kinds. These four species symbolize the four different types of people which exist within the Jewish nation. The etrog (citron) symbolizes one who possesses Torah learning and also does good deeds; the lulav (palm) stands for one who possesses only Torah learning. The hadas (myrtle) symbolizes one who performs commandments and does good deeds, but does not have Torah learning, and the arava (willow) symbolizes the Jew who possesses neither Torah nor learning.

On Sukkot we take these four disparate species and bring them together to perform a mitzva. Our unity does not lie in our ignoring the external differences which divide us; rather, we go out of our way to include all types of Jews, even those in the category of arava, who would seem to have no positive contribution to make. Despite all our differences we are all bound together.

This is the highest degree of unity we can achieve. It is far easier to concentrate only on that which we have in common than to acknowledge that we differ as individuals and still remain together.

On Sukkot we verify and confirm the unity which was achieved during the High Holidays. This realization sustains us throughout the year and gives us the strength to live in harmony and solidarity with one another.

A Slice of Life

Mobile Sukka Journey
by Rabbi Meir Kaplan

For the past ten years, Rabbi Kaplan - founder and director with his wife Chani of Chabad of Vancouver Island - has been visiting Jews all over Vancouver Island with a Sukka Mobile. What follows are excerpts of his experience from his blog.

Every year on Sukkot, we travel with a "Sukka Mobile" to visit Jews across Vancouver Island. Only yesterday did I realize the significance of one meeting we had in Comox at the end of a long day.

When we arrived in Comox, a small group met us to celebrate the holiday on that beautiful day. One of the people mentioned that Mike, a Jewish elderly man who lives close by, was planning to come but wasn't well enough to get out.

I offered to go to his house with the mobile sukkah to bring the festivity to his home. We confirmed on the phone that he would be ready to see us in a few short minutes.

When Mike came out and saw the sukkah in the driveway of his house, he got very emotional. "Though I grew up with all of this, I haven't practiced it for many, many years." As he held the lulav and began to say the blessing, he broke out in tears.

I've often experienced emotional reactions to the "Sukka Mobile" visits, including earlier that day, when an Israeli couple met us in Cowichan Bay "by accident," and was amazed to celebrate Sukkot in the middle of "nowhere," but this was something else.

Mike was grateful for our visit in an extraordinary way. "I can't thank you enough," he said, "it made it my happiest day in a long, long time."

Yesterday I was informed that Mike just passed away.

Traveling with the sukka across the Island was well worth it, if only to visit Mike, do a mitzva (commandment) with him, share some moments of joy, and reconnect him with his roots days before his soul returned to his creator.

As I looked through photos from previous years, I remembered a very special photo from my first Sukka Mobile journey, seven years ago.

When we first arrived in Victoria, Sukkot arrived a few short weeks later. When I decided to build a Sukka Mobile and travel up the island, I had no idea how complicated this mission would be. Luckily, my handy brother-in-law was there to help. To make a long story short, we arrived in Nanaimo when it was nearly dark.

With the Jewish directory in hand, my brother-in-law began calling all the Jewish people in the city, asking them if we can "stop by with a Sukka." This wasn't an easy task... Finally, the first person who agreed to have us for a visit was an elderly man named Burton.

After getting lost a couple of times (before the age of Google map and GPS) we arrived at Burton's house. Although we were quite a bit late, he welcomed us in very warmly, offered us something to drink, and asked us what we were there for... I told him that we came to celebrate Sukkot, with a Sukka and a lulav and etrog. He wasn't able to walk out to the Sukka so we brought in the lulav and etrog and he made the blessing and seemed very happy with the interesting visitors...

Before we left the house, he told us how proud he was of his son, who is a "brilliant general in the Canadian army." He showed us his son's picture and we had a close look at it. This meeting - although fairly short - is engraved in my memory, as this was the first "up island" Jew we met in such a unique setting.

Three and half years later, I met Burton again in the home of a family who had recently moved to Victoria. It was actually the home of Burton's son, the general!

As I was preparing the route for the Sukka Mobile for next week, I remembered one of the highlights of our Sukkot visit last year. I don't think I'm going to forget the face of that man.

The Sukka Mobile was parked in Cowichan Bay, right next to the water, where a couple of Jewish people from the Valley were schmoozing and getting ready to climb up to the Sukka.

From the corner of my eye I saw a man walking slowly towards us with incredulous eyes. I remember seeing him actually rub his eyes and after a moment of shock, he hastened his pace. "What?! Jews on this Island? A Sukka here?! And you also have a lulav and etrog?!"

A moment later this Israeli man, was holding the lulav and etrog, in the Sukka. I don't think I ever heard someone saying a blessing on the lulav with such joy and excitement. I think I saw a tear slide down his cheek when he said: "Baruch Ata.. Shehecheyanu vekiyemanu vhigianu lizman hazeh" (Blessed are You... who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this day).[1]



  1. (Back to text) The first time on the holiday of Sukkot that one fulfills the mitzva of taking the Lulav and Etrog one recites the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" after reciting the blessing of "Al Netilat Lulav - upon raising the Lulav"

What's New

Public Sukkot

If you're in Manhattan, visit one of the Lubavitch Youth Organization's public sukkas during the intermediate days of the holiday. They will be open: Wednesday, September 30 and Thursday, October 1, 10 am - 6 pm; Friday October 2 and Sunday, October 4, 10 am - 1:30 pm. The Sukkot are: The City Hall Sukka at Foley Square, near Worth Street; the International Sukka in Ralph Bunch Park, First Ave. and 42nd St. at the UN; the Garment Center Sukka in Greely Square at Broadway and 33rd St.; the Wall Street Sukka in Battery Park at Battery Place and State Street. For more info call (718) 778-6000. To find out about public sukkot in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

Please Note

Our next issue of L'Chaim is #1392 for 26 Tishrei/October 9 - Shabbat Bereishit.

The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation from letters of the Rebbe written before the passing of the Previous Rebbe

13 Tishrei, 5704 [1943]

Greetings and blessings,

...As our Sages comment in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah, ch. 30), the festival of Sukkos is the first day of the reckoning between the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Jewish people after the atonement granted on Yom Kippur. On that day, we are commanded (Lev. 23:40): "You shall take for yourselves the fruit of a beautiful tree (the esrog - citron), palm branches, a bough of a thick-leaved tree (the myrtle), and willows of the brook."

Our Sages comment in the Midrash:

These are the Jewish people. The esrog alludes to people who possess the advantages of both Torah study and good deeds. The lulav - palm alludes to people who possess the advantages of Torah study, but not those of good deeds. The myrtle alludes to people who possess the advantages of good deeds, but not those of Torah study. The willow alludes to people who possess neither the advantages of Torah study, nor good deeds. The Holy One, blessed be He, says: "Bind them together as a single collective. At that moment, I am upraised."

Fortunate is the man who is named Shlomo2 - for that name reflects the concept of Shalom, "peace" - who can establish peace among the four categories of individuals within the Jewish people mentioned above. And when they are all joined together as one, they will be granted, as we request in the blessing Sim Shalom - "blessing, mercy, and life."

With wishes for a happy holiday and [with the blessing,] "Immediately to teshuvah [repentance], immediately to Redemption,"

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson

Chairman of the Executive Committee



  1. (Back to text) This letter was addressed to a man whose name was Shlomo

Erev Shabbos Kodesh, Parshas Lech Lecha, 5704 [1943]

I asked... my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe shlita, and he responded as follows:

"Banging the willow [during the special 'Hoshana' prayers recited on the last day of Sukkot, known as 'Hoshana Rabba'] draws down attributes of severity that have been sweetened. Attributes of severity that have been sweetened reflect G-d's abundant kindness as it descends in overtly apparent goodness."

With regard to the above, it is possible to explain:

The association of attributes of severity that have been sweetened with G-d's abundant kindness can be understood on the basis of the explanation in Likkutei Torah....

And when they are all joined together as one, they will be granted "blessing, mercy, and life."

On the basis of the Alter Rebbe's [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidim] statements in Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 10 and the first maamar in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Behaalos'cha, we can appreciate the difference between an ordinary expression of kindness and abundant kindness in our Divine service. Likkutei Torah, loc. cit., also explains that "abundant kindness" is related to Aharon the priest.

Based on the statements in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Korach, the discourse entitled Vihenei Porach, we can appreciate that:

Through G-d's abundant kindness, overtly apparent goodness is drawn down to this material realm.

This influence is drawn down by "Aaron and his descendants, the priests who raise their hands and bless the people with the Priestly Blessing."

These letters are from I Will Write It In Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger and published by Sichos In English


22 Tishrei

Shemini Atzeret and Rosh Hashana are parallel in many of the mystical devotions and higher yichudim ("unification" of different supernal elements attained by the individual during (and by) his mystical devotions). On Rosh Hashana, though, these are in a mode of elevation and on Shemini Atzeret in a mode of elicitation from On High downward. On Rosh Hashana a person's spiritual work is with supplication, submission and intense bitterness; on Shemini Atzeret it is with joy.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We are commanded to rejoice during the festivals. The rejoicing during the holiday of Sukkot reached its peak, in the times of the Holy Temple, in the unbounded joy of the Water-drawing celebrations (Simchat Beit HaShoeiva).

During the year, many offerings on the altar were accompanied by a special pouring or libation of wine. On Sukkot, in addition to the regular wine-offering, there was also a unique pouring of water. At that time the assembled crowds broke into limitless, profound, ecstatic rejoicing which continued for three days, and of which the sages said, "Whoever has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing has never in his life seen true joy!"

What does true joy entail? It entails breaking one's own bounds and inhibitions, exceeding one's own limitations. He goes beyond the rational, allowing his happiness to not be limited by his understanding.

In Temple times, wine was used as a libation. It was water, though, which was the main ingredient of the water-drawing ceremony. Wine has a taste, a flavor; water has no intrinsic flavor. Wine and water have their equivalents in spiritual life. When one is motivated to serve G-d by intelligent reasoning and logic, such service is termed "wine"; one savors the "taste" or "reason" for doing the mitzvah. Service impelled by a feeling of pure submissiveness to G-d, is called "water"; one cannot relish the "flavor" of rationality in such service.

But when a person realizes that he himself is limited, finite, he nullifies himself, he neutralizes his ego. In a spirit of total submissiveness he becomes one with limitless G-d through the union of the mitzvah. Then he transcends his limitations and can serve G-d with truly boundless joy.

Whoever has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing, has never in his life seen true joy. Because the libation of water, as opposed to wine, symbolizes the quality of submissiveness as opposed to the intellect and rationality of wine.

Thoughts that Count

Listen heavens, and I will speak; hear earth, the words of my mouth. (Deut. 32:1)

"Listen" is an expression of teaching, whereas "hear" connotes that one learns "by the way." The difference in language can be understand as follows: Moses wanted all the Jewish people, great and small, to listen to his words of exhortation to follow the Torah. Therefore, he started by addressing himself to the leaders of the people (hinted to by the word "heaven"). Once they listened, it would follow that the "earth," the simpler Israelites, would see that the leaders were conducting themselves in the proper manner, and they would behave, by the way, properly.

(Ohr HaChaim)

And the L-rd saw it and spurned them, because His sons and daughters were provoked. (Deut 32:19)

G-d's anger is kindled when "His sons and daughters are provoked" -- when the children of Israel provoke and anger one another, when there is strife, contention and separation. When the Jewish people are annoyed with each other, G-d is annoyed with them.

(Rabbi Moses Pollak)

Jacob is the lot of His inheritance (Deut. 32:9)

The Hebrew word for "lot"- "chevel"- also means "rope." Jacob was the third of the Patriarchs. Like a rope that is strong because it is made of three threads, Jacob had three merits: the merit of his father's father, his own father and himself. Through these combined strengths Jacob and his sons were able to become G-d's inheritance.


...He, and Hosheia the son of Nun (Deut. 32:44)

Why was Joshua (Yehoshua) referred to here by his original name, Hosheia? To inform us that although he was being given a position of greatness as the successor of Moses, he did not become egotistical or overbearing. He remained the same as always.


It Once Happened

It was in a forest just outside of Dobromysl that Yitzchak Shaul found his young friend, Baruch. Baruch had gone there to think about the differences between the two schools of thought he had encountered, the path of the Chasidim to which he was attracted, and the path of those who opposed Chasidism.

Yitzchak Shaul, who was Baruch's mentor in the ways of Chasidism, sensed that his friend's thoughts were tinged with sadness. "Baruch," he began, "we followers of the Baal Shem Tov do not believe in being associated with sadness. We believe rather in gladness. We avoid any sadness as we would something forbidden. People here in Dobromysl are not joyful as were the people in Harki from where I come."

"For instance, the people of Dobromysl," continued Yitzchak Shaul, "don't know how to rejoice on the holidays. I was here for Sukkot, the 'Time of Our Rejoicing,' yet I felt like a fish out of water. On Shemini Atzeret I almost got myself into trouble. I thought I would bring some life into the celebration and so, gathering a couple of young people to join me, I began to sing and dance. Some of the scholars present were deeply shocked and suggested that my behavior was disrespectful to the honor of the Torah. There was quite a lot of discussion before they decided that for ordinary working people, such a way of celebrating was permissible. Then it came to hakafot (encircling the lectern while holding the Torah scrolls), and I volunteered to sing some songs that had not been heard in Dobromysl before.

A discussion arose as to whether or not it was fitting, especially as it was accompanied by dancing and clapping. The Rav (rabbi) and the Dayan (judge) had a long talk before they decided that the singing could be permitted, but that the people must not clap in the usual way."

Baruch was now exceedingly interested and listened eagerly as Yitzchak Shaul continued: "When I first began to sing, people looked on with no special enthusiasm, but when it came to the second and third hakafa, more and more joined in the singing. Later, ever so many congregants were singing with me, for as you know, song has the ability to stir people and arouse them to the heights of enthusiasm. In no time the men were all holding hands and dancing and singing as they went around in an ever-growing circle.

"All of a sudden the Rav interrupted in a rush of fright, saying they must all stop immediately. Their behavior might be disrespectful to the Torah. The celebrants stopped uncertainly, but then the Dayan stepped forward and said he was sure it was all right. After all, the dancers and singers were not Torah-scholars, but simple workers and no disrespect was implied.

"The scholars shook their heads in disapproval at the thought of such unseemly behavior taking place in their Study Hall, which had never before witnessed such a scene! They themselves were completely unaffected and unmoved by the singing and the dancing. The working people, however, were thrilled and stirred. One could see they were positively uplifted by it all!"

Now, Yitzchak Shaul had a friend in the congregation, a musician named Chaim Shimon. In his opinion, the scholars' sole wish was to show their superiority to the "ignorant" workers. He decided to pay them back. When the beadle of the synagogue was about to call out the name of those to participate in the seventh hakafot, Chaim Shimon whispered in his ear, "This time don't call out any particular name; just call out, 'This is the hakafa for the scholars who are modest.' " The beadle looked up in surprise, and seeing that the person addressing him was no one important, refused his strange request.

Chaim Shimon asked the sexton to make the request of the shamash (beadle). Whether he thought such a joke was permissible on Simchat Torah, or whether he simply didn't understand the real intention, he did as he had been asked. When the scholars heard this unprecedented announcement they showed no surprise. The first to step forward was the Rav, followed by the Dayan. Next came Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Nachum "the Ascetic."

Chaim Shimon whispered to Yitzchak Shaul, "You see how 'modest' they are, and there is more yet to come!"

With a completely innocent expression on his face, Chaim Shimon went up to Nachum the Ascetic and said, "Now I see that you are the fourth modest person amongst the scholars, since you were the fourth to step up."

"What do you mean?" he protested. "If the names of the modest people in this congregation were called out in order of their modesty, I should be the first to be called, since when it comes to modesty, I have no equal here."

Rabbi Shimon looked on disapprovingly. Later he told Chaim Shimon, "When the announcement was made, I was the first to step out, but just then someone blocked my path."

Yitzchak Shaul finished telling his story. Baruch felt on the border of two divergent approaches to Torah; he was looking into both but belonged as yet to neither. Ultimately, Baruch became a follower of the Baal Shem Tov. Years later, his son, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founded Chabad Chasidism.

From the Memoirs of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn

Moshiach Matters

Each of the four species corresponds to another of Moshiach's four names - Menachem, Shilo, Yinon, Chanina. The four species are held together as one. Correspondingly, the Hebrew initials of the four names - mem, shin, yud, chet - combine to form the title "Moshiach." The four species also correspond to four different types of Jews. Combining the species symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people, which rectifies the discord that led to our exile and earns us the merit of Redeption. Thus, our Sages have stated that "as a reward for taking the four species" - the unity of the Jewish people - "we will merit the name of Moshiach" - the complete redemption.

(The Rebbe, from Yalkut Moshiach UGeula al HaTorah)

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