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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by David Y.B. Kaufmann
Monitoring. It's not just part of life, it's critical to our functioning, our progress and our growth. We monitor just about everything, not just our health.
A coach monitors the progress, the practices and plays of an athlete. Does he - or she - understand the playbook? Is the swing within his zone? How's the bat being held? Is she pacing herself throughout the race, and if not, is she running too fast in the middle?
In school, we're monitored. Our social skills, our behavior, and of course our learning. Progress Reports. Tests and grades - when they work right. Observations.
On the job, we're monitored. Performance reviews, meetings with a supervisor, feedback from peers. And if we're in the public service sector - police, firefighters, teachers, first responders, etc. - we're monitored by the public.
If it's done right, we're informed of the results of the monitoring, and together with the monitor we come up with a plan of action - change this, do a little bit more, or less, keep things the same, etc.
So while we are the recipients of monitoring, to implement the findings and observations, we must be participants.
Monitoring is not just an integral part of activities, our interactions with others. Monitoring is an integral part of our daily lives, of how we view, analyze and interact with ourselves. And it happens on all four levels of our being.
Physically, we monitor ourselves through exercise, diet, our activities of daily living. Am I getting enough sleep? Where's the muscle ache come from, perhaps lifting that box the wrong way? Am I getting enough vegetables? Etc.
Emotionally, we monitor ourselves by how we feel, how our relationships impact our emotions. Am I sad? Happy? Angry? Proud? Is this the way I want to feel? If not, what can I do to change it? If so, what can I do to maintain it?
Intellectually, we monitor ourselves by our thoughts, our learning, our curiosity, our ability to reason and argue. We are all self-monitoring scientists, setting up experiments with and about our minds, developing a hypothesis - about who we are, about why we are - testing it, learning from mistakes and failures. Reading, classes, arguments we make and encounter, this is how we monitor the intellectual part of our selves. And we either progress, or regress. Life-long learning, not just in school.
And spiritually, we monitor ourselves by our relationship with the Divine, by our generosity, service and charity, by our acts of goodness and kindness. Is the Divine a living presence, an eye that sees? A relationship requires trust, communication, awareness of and responsiveness to the will, or needs, of the other. How do we relate to G-d?
And spiritually, there's a tested way to monitor that relationship: prayer. Prayer, done properly, done with reflection and intention, is the way to spiritually monitor ourselves, to measure, judge and improve our relationship with G-d and through that, our relationship, on all levels, with others.
Rabbi Kaufmann is the author Two Minutes for Torah, a collection of short 50 essays on Torah topics. He is also the author of three novels, available on his webwsite ScotchandHerring.com.
This week's Torah portion, Re'eh, begins with the continuation of Moses' words to the Jewish people before his passing: "Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse." Thus G-d spoke to the Jewish people through Moses.
Jewish philosophical teachings explain that G-d is all good. That being the case, how can we understand this verse? What does it mean that G-d gives a curse?
The question is further compounded because in this instance; G-d refers to Himself as "Anochi." Anochi means "I." It is not a name of G-d. When G-d refers to himself as "Anochi" He is referring to His essence, greater than any of His names. How is it possible that the essence of G-d be connected to a curse?
Targum Yonaton translates the word "curse" (klolo) as "it's exchange," (chilufa). In other words there is a blessing and then something other. Similar but different.
There are different kinds of blessings. There are superficial blessings, the ones we all see; basic pleasures we recognize as good. Then there is a deeper good that comes into the world through difficulty and suffering. We don't see them as blessings at the onset, however with time we recognize how they are truly blessings.
Many times, it's the suffering that brings the greatest amount of change in the world.
So the verse could be understood like this:
"Behold I give before you a revealed blessing and a concealed blessing."
Anochi, G-d's essence, then, is only connected to blessing - different kinds of blessing.
Unfortunately, no one is free from suffering. Recognizing that it is from G-d will keep you positive, as you will be filled with a sense of deep purpose knowing that your suffering is making a difference.
May G-d send clear, open revealed blessing. There is no need for suffering anymore. We are all ready for Moshiach to come.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Farmer to Actor and In Between
by Nosson Avraham
Michael Melech Thal grew up on a farm in South Africa. His father was called "king of the potatoes." He spent the first 20 years of his life on an isolated farm near Cradock in South Africa where he was born and raised.
"My father, who studied agriculture in an exclusive college in South Africa, imported special strains of melons and cucumbers from Israel and potatoes from Scotland. The produce on our farm was some of the best in the country," recalls Melech.
"By the age of ten I would wake up at dawn on vacation days and with a rifle slung over my shoulder I would saddle my horse and gallop along the fences of the farm to make sure that nobody had broken in during the night. When I returned home for lunch at noon, it was after I had managed survey only a quarter of the area of our farm." The Thal family also had thousands of sheep, goats, geese, and chickens.
Melech studied law at Durban University. He graduated and began working as an associate in a big law firm in Port Elizabeth. "I soon realized I had wasted years of my life studying a profession that I didn't like. The dishonesty and lack of justice in this profession screamed out to the heavens."
In 1967, during the Six Day War, Melech decided to move to Israel. "I went to the Jewish Agency office and said I wanted to make aliya and volunteer on a kibbutz. They were looking for volunteers at the time because many kibbutznikim were in the army, and it was feared that the whole industry would collapse in their absence. I agreed to go to Israel and contribute my knowledge and experience in farming."
The Jewish Agency accepted Meilech, approved his aliya, and paid for his ticket. "As soon as the war ended, I got on the first plane and was sent to Kibbutz Ginosar on the banks of the Kinneret." But rather than contribute in the area of farming, they had Melech washing dishes in the kibbutz kitchen.
"At a certain point I wanted to go back to South Africa but a good friend showed me an ad in the Jerusalem Post which said they were looking for fencing instructors to prepare Israeli kids for the Olympics. Since I loved the sport, I called the number in the ad. The person who answered the phone was Judge Amnon Carmi, the founder of the fencing club in Israel. He invited me to meet him.
"When I arrived at the club in Safed, they had me compete against one of his students In Safed I met Michoel Vardi who was the Israeli fencing champion. I had a match with him too and they were very enthused. That same day they brought me into their organization. I left the kibbutz and was asked to open fencing clubs across the country."
Melech put a lot into these clubs. Within a short time, he opened three clubs in Upper Nazereth. For a long time, he even taught at Machon Wingate. Then he joined the Fencing Academy with the fencing master and coach, Andre Spitzer. "We were good friends. He was murdered in Munich at the Olympics, along with thirteen other athletes and coaches. It took time for me to digest that terrible news.
"After a while, I returned to South Africa where I went back to work at the wholesale store. I began taking an interest in photography, an old hobby of mine, which was then going through a breakthrough period. I was swept up in the magical world of photography. I took courses and seminars with experts who taught the secrets of the trade."
When he returned to Israel a few years later, he settled in Upper Nazereth and decided to turn his hobby into his livelihood. He bought some cameras and advertised as a photographer.
When Melech's father, Chaim o.b.m., died suddenly, Meleh was heartbroken. "My father was a strong man and was hardly ever sick. His passing was a shock to me and my family. I flew to South Africa for the shiva. I had mixed feelings. I spent hours thinking about the meaning of life. The rabbi of the city visited in order to help us with mourning related matters and he was a nice person who was ready to listen.
"When I asked him what the Torah teaches us about life, he gave me a Code of Jewish Law and suggested I read it. I did. Many things in it interested me, especially the fact that the Torah has something to say about every moment of life. When I had questions he graciously answered them.
"Until that point, I did not know much about Judaism. I hadn't looked into it, but at home I had learned a great respect for our heritage and traditions. There was a deep awareness of the Jewish people and the holidays. My father put on tefillin every weekday and we celebrated Shabbat and my mother kept a kosher home.
"The rabbi guided me in how to pray and he taught me the importance of saying Kaddish for my father. When I returned to Nazereth, I looked for a synagogue where I could say Kaddish. The closest synagogue to my house was Chabad, so I started going there. The people there welcomed me with open arms."
Melech started attending classes that were given in the shul and later on, began keeping Shabbat. His wife, who had gone to a Jewish school in Johannesburg, respected his decision and helped him in his new path.
In recent years, after the photography business became less profitable, Melech changed professions and became an actor in Jewish educational films and in other films in which he can uphold all aspects of Jewish law.
"When I studied law, I had an acquaintance who developed a drama course and I was encouraged by my cousin to take it, if only so that he would have enough students. I went to the first class as a favor but got caught up in the magic of drama. I went to the rest of the classes most willingly. Now I see how G-d prepared me years ago for what I would do in the future."
Adapted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Rabbi Alexander and Esti Piekarski are moving to Atlanta, Georgia where they will be joining the Chabad Israeli Center. Rabbi Piekarski will be the assistant rabbi and coordinator of adult education and and Mrs. Piekarski will be the youth director. Rabbi Levi and Mushky Druin will be joining the staff at Chaya Mushka Chidren's House, the Chabad Day School in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as coordinating teen programs for Chabad of Atlanta. Rabbi Motti and Sarah Gruzman have arrived in Basel, Switzerland, to bolster Chabad-Lubavitch of Basel's services for the Jewish population living close to the country's borders with France and Germany. Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Devorah Zalmanov are moving to the city of Kostanay, Kazakhstan, to open the first Chabad House in the city. Rabbi Mendy and Brocha Benhiyoun have moved to Chicago, Illinois, to direct Chabad of Lincoln Park and DePaul University. Rabbi Eli and Musia Laufer are moving to Dix Hills, Long Island, New York, where they will direct Torah programming and a new branch of the Friendship Circle.
25th of Elul, 5735 
Greeting and Blessing:
I received your letter in connection with the forthcoming new year, together with a copy of a previous letter. As requested, I will remember you and your family, as well as those mentioned in your letter, in prayer for the fulfillment of your hearts' desires for good.
With reference to your writing about doubts and difficulty and about a feeling of insecurity in general, I trust it is unnecessary to elaborate to you at length that such feelings arise when a person thinks that he is alone; and can only rely upon himself and his own judgment and therefore feels doubtful and insecure about each move he has to make. And while he also trusts in G-d, this trust is somehow superficial, without permeating him and his way of life in every detail; and only on certain days, such as the High Holy Days, he feels more close to G-d.
But when a person's faith in G-d is deep, and when he reflects that G-d's benevolent Providence extends to each and every person and to each and every detail and each and every minute, surely he must develop a profound sense of security and confidence. The concept of Divine Providence is better understood in the original term of Hashgocho Protis, for Hashgocho Protis means careful watchfulness, for which reason the term hashgocho is used also in connection with the law of kashrus [kosher], where every detail has to be carefully watched. Nor is another translation which is sometimes used in connection with Hashgocho Protis, namely "supervision," entirely satisfactory in this case, because supervision implies "overseeing," that is to say, seeing from above, whereas hashgocho in the sense of G-d's watchfulness means knowing matters through and through.
The belief in such Hashgocho Protis is basic to our religion and way of life, so much so that before every new year and during the beginning of the new year, we say twice daily Psalm 27, "G-d is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? G-d is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" From this it follows that even if things happen not as desired according to human calculations and even if it seems that even according to the Torah it should have been different, a Jew still puts his trust in G-d, as the said Psalm concludes, "Hope to G-d; be strong and strengthen your heart and hope to G-d." In other words, it is sometimes necessary to be strong and strengthen one's heart to achieve full confidence in G-d, but there is also the promise of being able to achieve it.
When a person's faith in G-d is deep, and when he reflects that G-d's benevolent Providence extends to each and every person and to each and every detail and each and every minute, surely he must develop a profound sense of security and confidence.
The above comes more easily through strengthening the adherence to the Torah and mitzvos [commandments] in the daily life. And however satisfactory this may be at any particular time, there is always room for improvement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and mitzvos, which are infinite, being derived from the Infinite. Indeed, I am pleased to note that despite the doubts that you have, you devote time and effort to be of help in your field, and may G-d grant that it should be with hatzlocho [success], especially as it surely does not interfere with having regular periods of Torah study each day. In this connection it is well to remember the words of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], the founder of Chabad - that true kvias ittim/fixed times for Torah study implies not only in time, but also in the soul.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above.
Wishing you and all yours a Kesiva vaChasimo Tovo, for a good and sweet year, With blessing,
The goal of Hakhel imposes a weighty responsibility on Jewish communal organizations. For the true role of every Jewish organization is to bring together individuals who share some common outlook. Thus, bodies serving G-d-fearing Jews should seek ways of encouraging the shared endeavors of their members or students in the observance of Torah and mitzvos. Reciprocally, encouragement of this nature will of course upgrade the sense of responsibility that members will develop towards their organization.
(From a talk of the Rebbe, during the Hakhel Year of 5748)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul
In addition to being the name of a Jewish month, the word Elul is an acronym for five verses from the Bible which are connected to the five different types of service, each identified with our new month.
The Rebbe enumerated these five verses :
Prayer - "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." For it is through prayer, the "duty of the heart" that our relationship with G-d is enhanced and intensified.
Torah study -"It chanced to happen and I set aside for you a place." This verse describes the Cities of Refuge to which a person who killed unintentionally can flee. But it also refers to Torah study for "the words of Torah provide refuge."
Deeds of Kindness - "A person [gives presents] to his friend and gifts to the poor." In this verse the concept of deeds of kindness is clearly expressed.
Teshuva - "And G-d your L-rd will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants." For the service of teshuva - returning to G-d wholeheartedly, is primarily the service of changing one's inner self, the feelings of one's heart.
Redemption - "And they said, `We will sing to G-d' " This phrase is taken from the Song of Redemption sung at the Red Sea.
The first three services are identified with the three pillars of man's service. These services must be permeated by the service of teshuva and by the service of redemption and thus, they will be endowed with a boundless quality that surpasses the limits of a person and the world at large.
You shall bind up the money in your hand (Deut. 14:25)
The Torah commands the Jew to "bind up" his money and rule over it, and not the other way around. In other words, his monetary affairs must never exert such an influence over him that he becomes subservient.
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)
It states in Psalms (51:16): "Save me from bloodshed ('damim'), O G-d, G-d of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness." In Hebrew, the word "damim" also means money; King David was thus praying that he never make the mistake of considering money to be G-d.
(Rabbi Moshe of Kovrin)
And the curse, if you will not listen...and turn aside out of the way (Deut. 11:28)
In connection with blessing, the Torah states only "if you will listen," without mention of "the way." The reason is that when a Jew "listens" - has the right intentions, before he can even perform the deed - G-d "connects the good thought with the action" and blesses him immediately. By contrast, a "bad thought" is not punished until the person actually acts on it.
(Be'er Mayim Chaim)
You shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your needy neighbor (Deut. 15:7)
In performing mitzvot, complete simplicity and sincerity of heart are the highest motivations. We observe G-d's laws without asking questions. Yet there is one mitzva in which a little discretion is required: the giving of tzedaka (charity). The giver must always make sure that the recipient is not embarrassed.
(Arono Shel Yosef)
Lest your eye be evil against your needy brother...and he cry out to G-d against you, and it be a sin in you (Deut. 15:9)
Not helping another person in his time of need is bad enough, but looking down on him and blaming him for his own predicament is even worse. For if "he cries out to G-d against you," your own behavior will be carefully scrutinized, and your own sins and failings come to light...
(Rabbi Shmelke of Nicholsburg)
It states in Proverbs 22:2: "The rich and poor meet together; G-d is the Maker of them all." Most wealthy people think they acquired their riches because of how clever they are; the poor man, by contrast, is pitied as being a hapless ne'er- do-well. Yet when rich and poor come together, they both realize that everything is determined from Above.
(Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Berlin)
Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveichik, the rabbi of the town of Slutsk once happened to meet a young man who had been one of his students at the yeshiva in Volozhin. The meeting was very cordial and the rabbi invited the young man to dine with him at his home.
"What are you doing these days?" the rabbi inquired. "Thank G-d," the former student replied. "I have become a merchant and I'm very successful. In the past few years I have done very well for myself, and I'm making a very comfortable living."
The rabbi looked at his former student, paying close attention to his words and then said, "What are you doing?"
The young man was perplexed. Hadn't the rabbi understood him? he wondered, and he repeated his explanation. But instead of acknowledging his statement, the rabbi only repeated, "What are you doing now?"
"I hope the rabbi will forgive my asking, but three times the rabbi has asked me what I'm doing and I have answered him. I don't understand," asked the young man.
The rabbi replied with a deep sigh: "It is correct that you have answered my question three times over, but your answer is not the one I was hoping to hear. In so far as you have accumulated money, that is nothing to your credit, for it all belongs to G-d, as it says, 'Mine is the silver and mine is the gold." It is He who gives you riches, health, and in fact, your very life.
"When I ask you 'What are you doing?' I am referring to your good deeds, which are wholly your own. Do you give tzedaka (charity)? Do you do kindness to your fellow man? Do you devote a set time every day to the study of Torah? These are the only things in this world which are truly your own possessions which you accomplish through your efforts alone. I am asking you what you are doing, not what G-d is doing for you!"
Reb Moshe Leib Sassover was a great Tzadik known for the tremendous love and kindness he constantly expressed for his fellow Jews. There was a constant stream of Jews who came to him to ask for a word of advice or a blessing.
One day a poor women appeared at his door. As soon as she was admitted to his rooms she began to weep as if her heart was breaking. "I beg you, Rebbe," she pleaded, "give me a blessing for my daughter who is very sick."
Reb Moshe Leib responded with the blessing, "May G-d send her a complete and speedy recovery."
But for the distraught mother this blessing wasn't sufficient. "No, Rebbe, you must promise, you must swear to me that my daughter will recover. You must swear to me on your share in the World to Come that G-d will cure my child."
Without hesitating a moment Reb Moshe Leib replied, "I swear on my portion in the next world that G-d will cure her and she will recover." When she heard these words, the women thanked the Tzadik copiously and left with a light heart.
Reb Moshe Leib's students who had observed the entire incident were astounded. They asked him, "Rebbe, how could you have made such a promise? The girl is seriously ill, and it is very possible she may not survive."
"What else could I have done?" Reb Moshe Leib replied. "The tears of a Jewish mother are more precious to me than the entire World to Come. If my swearing on my future reward in the World of Truth was necessary to stop her from crying, then it is more than worth it to me, even if it will cost me my portion in the next world.
In this week's portion, we read: "A blessing for obeying the commandments of the L-rd your G-d, and a curse, if you will not obey the commandments (Deut. 11:27-28) The Torah's language is significant and precise: G-d promises to bless the Jews for obeying His commandments, yet threatens to curse them "if" they will not obey. The blessing is assured; the curse is only conditional. In fact, all Jews will return to G-d in the End of Days and receive His blessing.