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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

December 2, 2016 - 2 Kislev, 5777

1449: Toldos

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  1448: Chayei Sara1450: Vayetzei  

A Limitless Treasure  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

A Limitless Treasure

The disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch had begged their master many times to show them Elijah the Prophet. Their persistence paid off; when a gathering of poritzim, wealthy Polish landowners, was being held the Maggid acceded to their request.

The Maggid instructed his disciples to stand in a certain location and watch the poritzim ride by. The third poritz they would see, he informed them, would be Elijah the Prophet. "If you are worthy," the Maggid added, "you will even merit to hear Torah thoughts from him."

The disciples followed the Maggid's instructions. They stood and waited in the exact spot the Maggid had indicated. When the third poritz rode by they hesitantly approached his carriage. True, he looked like an ordinary Polish poritz, but hadn't the Maggid declared that he was none other than Elijah the prophet?

Addressing him in Polish, they deferentially asked if they could speak with his lordship as they had a very important matter to discuss. To their surprise the "poritz" responded by flinging sharp insults and curses at them, after which he rode off to join the other landowners.

The bewildered and heartbroken disciples returned to the Maggid and related what had happened. They had seen Elijah the Prophet, for they didn't doubt for a moment that the poritz was, in truth, the prophet. But when they asked to speak with him he responded with a barrage of deprecations.

The Maggid's response was unexpected. "You rightly deserved the treatment he gave you! You knew for certain, for I gave you all the signs, that you were standing in the very presence of Elijah the Prophet. You should have addressed him in the holy tongue! You should have said to him 'Bless us!' instead of speaking to him in Polish and timidly asking the 'poritz' for an audience. If you could still relate to him as a poritz after I told you that he is Elijah the Prophet, you deserve the treatment you received!"

The Torah (in Deuteronomy) states, "You are a holy people to G-d your G-d." Every Jew is holy. Every Jew is, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, a trove of unlimited treasures.

But it's not enough to know in our heads that a fellow Jew is holy, that he has a wealth of goodness and G-dliness within him. It's insufficient to believe with absolutely certainty that what the Torah and great Jewish teachers of all generations have said about the worth of every Jew is true.

We have to relate to our brother or sister, from the start, in accordance with his or her true, goodly and holy nature. Then we will surely merit to see Elijah the Prophet - the harbinger of the Messianic Era - and ask of him, "Bless us."

Some Additional Thoughts

The sigh of a Jew over the suffering of another Jew breaks all the barriers of the Accusers, and the joy with which one rejoices in another's happiness and blesses him, is as acceptable by G-d as the prayer of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

Reb Elimelech of Linznsk related a teaching from the Maggid of Mezeritch: "Do you know what they say in Heaven? Love of a fellow Jew means loving the absolutely wicked like the perfectly saintly."

"G-d foregoes love of G-d in favor of love of the Jewish people," Rabbi Shneur Zalman declared.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Toldot, we read about Isaac and Rebecca's twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was the wholesome, studious child while Esau was a "wild child."

Jacob our ancestor was holy, so it makes sense that the Torah tells us all about him, but why does it tell us so much about Esau?

When it came time for Isaac to give his blessings, we find that he wanted to give the blessings to Esau. It was only when Jacob dressed as Esau that he was able to receive the blessings. Why did Isaac want to give the blessings to Esau?

Isaac saw something in Esau's nature that was positive and if harnessed could do amazing things.

Isaac knew that the purpose of Judaism is to transform the physical world into a holy place. Isaac felt that though Jacob was studious, he lacked the strength and the chutzpa (brazenness) necessary to take on the physical world. Esau surely did have strength and chutzpa, what he lacked was the holiness and will to do G-d's bidding.

And Isaac was hoping to eliminate the deficit by giving Esau the blessings. When Jacob came, dressed in Esau's clothing, Isaac realized that Jacob did indeed have what it takes and was happy to give him the blessings.

Some of us have a Jacob-like disposition, some of us have a "wild child" nature. While being the wholesome studious one is special, the strong chutzpa type can accomplish amazing things if his/her energy is harnessed and directed to fulfill G-d's will. This attitude is needed especially now when we are in these last, darkest moments of exile.

We need both wholesomeness and brazenness, and Jacob proved that he had both. He was by nature Jacob, and he was Esau when he had to be. This is why both are spoken about, because we also need to know the qualities of Esau if we are going to harness his nature to change this world.

Both types of "children" are a source of pride to G-d. One could venture to say that when a "wild child" directs his nature to the right things this is an even greater accomplishment and gives G-d great joy.

Ultimately, you should not look at your nature as an obstacle, but rather, as a blessing and opportunity to make a difference. Whether Jacob or Esau, you have a lot to contribute, you can change the world into G-d's home. Now go make a difference!

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.

A Slice of Life

Life Sketches
by Avraham Wolff - Odessa, Ukraine

I n 1996, I got a call from a woman living in Israel. She told me her story and asked me to help her. She had a son whom she had to give up to an orphanage some 10 years earlier. Could I help her find him and get him back?

In 1986, when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened, Anna Gekhtman who lived in the affected region, was pregnant. Her son was born without legs, only stumps and feet that were deformed, facing backwards, behind his body. He was also diagnosed as mentally abnormal.

Anna could not afford to pay for the medical intervention that her son, whom she named Gabi, needed. She was advised to bring him to the city of Tsyurupinsk, to an orphanage for children with disabilities. But the orphanage would only accept the child if she gave up her parental rights.

After communism fell, Anna moved to Israel with her other children. She was now settled, and finally found a job. "Please Rabbi Wolff, help me find my child and bring him home to Israel."

So we began a long, difficult process, a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. It would take several years.

I had a good friend Pesach Livshits who located Gabi. He found him in the orphanage, now a grown boy, sitting on a wooden board. The board, about one square foot in dimension and close to the ground, had four wheels attached to it. Gabi got around by pushing the board with his hands. It was very sad. But the good news was that they had misdiagnosed him. Gabi's mental development was normal.

To get Gabi back we first had to adopt him legally, as our son. Six months later, after many years of separation, his mother Anna came from Israel. When he saw his mom, Gabi, now 15, flew towards her on his wooden trolley. You can imagine the emotions.

A few days later, we completed the paperwork and transferred Gabi back to his mother. Before Anna left for Israel carrying her 15 year-old-son, I wished them that Gabi and I will dance together at his wedding.

Three months after he arrived in Israel Dr. G. Ilazarov operated on Gabi at Bnei Zion hospital, in the first of its kind operation in Israel. He extended Gabi's legs by 25 centimeters! That was followed by another surgery that would make it possible for Gabi to eventually walk.

A year later we celebrated the bris of our son Levi in Israel. During the celebration I had the surprise of my life. In walked Anna Gekhtman with her son Gabi on his own two feet!

by Rivky Drukman - Lucerne, Switzerland

My twins are nine now. Before they were born, I spent many weeks in the hospital on bed rest. One Sunday morning, my regular doctor was out, and a new obstetrician was doing the rounds. He asked if I was Israeli. "I am Jewish," I told him, "but not from Israel."

He confessed then that he was in fact Jewish, that he had been born in Israel, but that I wasn't to tell anyone. He didn't know anything about Judaism, he told me, and he wasn't interested. Nor did he want to be identified as a Jew. I invited him to our upcoming public menorah lighting but he didn't attend and we didn't hear from him again.

You have to understand, our city is nothing like what you have in the U.S. In America, I think, you can pull into a gas station and meet a Jew. Here, there are 150 Jewish families within a 30 km radius. And that's it. We are a tiny community.

Years later, I was again in my ninth month, and a new obstetrician moved to town with his Israeli girlfriend. We had them over for Shabbat dinner. They mentioned that they had an Israeli acquaintance, another obstetrician, in town. It was the obstetrician I'd met years earlier. We invited our guests again and suggested that they bring him next Friday night, for dinner. I was close to my due date, but with so many obstetricians over I figured I was in good hands.

I made a traditional menu for what I soon learned was this man's first Shabbat dinner. I presented the gefilte fish and told him about it. How strange, he told me (everyone always thinks gefilte fish is strange), and he said he had never tried it before.

But when he tasted it, he kind of cried out, "My grandmother made this! This reminds me of my grandmother."

I can't say he has started coming to events or synagogue. But he is now proud to say he's Jewish. On his website for his new practice he wrote that he speaks Hebrew.

A little taste of Judaism. Sometimes that's all it takes . . .

by Sashi Fridman - Moscow, Russia

Interesting things happen almost every week at our Shabbat table. We typically have an unpredictable mix of guests, all of them travelers who passing through Moscow from different countries. Some are business people, many work in the Israeli embassy, and others are tourists. It's fascinating, really, to see how people connect over these long Shabbat meals that go on for hours.

One businessman comes quite often from Israel. His wife, he told us, never wants to join him when he travels to Russia. For whatever reasons, she is afraid of Russia. But one week we got a call from him. He sounded very distressed. He had just landed, this time with his wife who finally agreed to join him and spend Shabbat with him in Moscow. He was excited and looked forward to giving her a good time.

But things got off to a bad start because no sooner had they arrived, and his wife's bag went missing.

"She had everything in it - her passport, her money, all of her credit cards," he told me. "She keeps saying, 'I knew I shouldn't have come.'"

I felt terrible about this. As always, we invited him to come for Shabbat, and hoped that the experience would ameliorate her disappointment. As we sat around the table and everyone got to talking, his wife, noticeably distressed, shared her unhappy story with our guests. When she finished, one of the people at our table who works at the Israeli embassy asked her what her name is. "Your bag is at the Israeli embassy. Someone found it and brought it to us. We didn't know where to find you. But here you are!"

It was a delightful moment.

Reprinted from Lubavitch International

What's New

There's A Reason Why

A young boy's best friend seems to ignore him and disappoint him all day long! Why does Shua leave without saying goodbye? Why doesn't he pick up the phone? Why doesn't he come to play in the park? In this full-color picture book, our hero stays positive and refuses to judge without having all the facts. In spite of his confusion, he decides to give Shua the benefit of the doubt! There's a Reason Why is a new release from HaChai Puboishing is written by Freidele Biniashvili and illustrated by Glenn Zimmer. It is for children ages 4 and up.

New Emissaries

Rabbi Shalom and Chani Zajac have been appointed Program Directors of Chabad of the Central Cascades in Issaquah, Washington. The new Program Directors, the Zajacs will be expanding and developing year-round programs, holiday events as well as the Gan Izzy day camp, assisting with the community synagogue, Preschool and Hebrew School.

The Rebbe Writes

16th of Shevat, 5724 [1964]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is in reply to your letter, in which you ask: since we live in a society based on law and order, are the laws of the Torah still relevant today as they were thousands of years ago? I trust the following few lines will provide an answer.

One of the basic messages of the Ten Commandments is contained in the fact that they begin with "I am G-d," etc,, introducing the profound principle of monotheism, the idea that there is one and only one G-d. This in itself was a tremendously revolutionary idea in those days of idolatry, dominated by the polytheistic culture of Egypt (as indicated in detail in the second commandment). Incidentally, the emphasis on monotheism, and the denial of all forms of idolatry, is to be seen not only in the fact that these ideas form the subject of the first two commandments, but also in the quantity of words and detail which they contain. At the same time, the Ten Commandments conclude with such apparently obvious injunctions as "Thou shalt not steal," etc.

The profundity of monotheism, with which the Ten Commandments begin, and the simplicity of the ethical and moral laws, with which the Ten Commandments conclude, point to an important lesson, namely:

  1. The true believer in G-d is not the one who holds abstract ideas, but the one whose knowledge of G-d leads him to the proper daily conduct even in ordinary and commonplace matters, in his dealings with his neighbors and the respect for their property, even if it be an ox or an ass, etc.

  2. The ethical and moral laws, even those that are so obvious as "Thou shalt not steal," and "Thou shalt not murder," will have actual validity and will be observed only if they are based on the first and second Commandments, that is to say, based on Divine authority, the authority of the One and Only G-d.

Since we live in a society based on law and order, are the laws of the Torah still relevant today as they were thousands of years ago?

If in a previous generation there were people who doubted the need of Divine authority for common morality and ethics, in the belief that human reason is sufficient authority for morality and ethics, our present generation has, unfortunately, in a most devastating and tragic way refuted this mistaken notion. For, it is precisely the nation which has excelled in the exact sciences, the humanities and even in philosophy ethics that turned out to be them the most depraved nation of the world, making an ideal of murder and robbery. Anyone who knows how insignificant was the minority of Germans who opposed the Hitler regime, realizes that the German cult was not something which was practiced by a few individuals, but had embraced the vast majority of the nation, who considered itself the "master race," etc. Surely it is unnecessary to elaborate on this at great length.

With all good wishes and with blessings,

All Together

What is the significance of the Ner Tamid - the Eternal Light - found in many synagogues?

The Ner Tamid is symbolic of the western-most light of seven-branched menora used during Temple times. This light constantly remained lit, though the other lights were cleaned and relit, their wicks and oil changed, every day. The western light (and today the Ner Tamid) was a reminder of G-d's everlasting presence.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

In this week's Torah portion we are told about the wells that Isaac dug. He dug three wells, or rather uncovered wells that his father Abraham had dug but had been covered over.

Though the first couple of these wells fell into enemy hands, Isaac was undeterred. He continued digging until he found water in an uncontested area.

When one digs wells, he removes the dirt and rocks until water is found, filling the well with fresh, living waters. The physical digging of wells which Isaac performed paralleled his spiritual conduct; in a spiritual sense Isaac also dug wells. He removed the "dirt and stones" of the physical world to reveal the latent waters of spirituality that were hidden within.

The actions of our patriarchs and matriarchs are a lesson for us in our lives today. We have been entrusted with the job of finding the spirituality and holiness in our day-to-day lives, our mundane actions, our interaction with others.

By delving deeply, beyond that which meets the eye, uncovering the superficiality of our physical world, we, too, become diggers of wells, we become like our ancestor Isaac.

But, like Isaac, we must be undeterred by those who might stand in our way or try to dissuade us from realizing our goal. Then, ultimately, we will uncover for ourselves and others, true, refreshing living waters, the life-giving waters of Judaism which are free and plentiful for every Jew to enjoy.

Thoughts that Count

Esau and Jacob

The name Esau is derived from the Hebrew word meaning done or completed. Esau felt whole, satisfied and comfortable with his spiritual status, and was thus lacking any desire to elevate himself. Jacob, by contrast, is derived from the word meaning heel. No matter how high a spiritual level Jacob achieved he considered it as nothing, and was consistently motivated to elevate himself further.

(Shem MiShmuel)

And these are the generations of Isaac...and the first came out...and they called his name Esau (Gen. 25:19;25)

Esau is symbolic of the forces of evil and impurity, which were created for the purpose of the Jew transforming them into goodness and light. (In fact, it is due to this inner, positive reason that the Torah refers to Esau as "the generations of Isaac.") The Hebrew name Isaac is related to the word for laughter. When "Esau" is successfully changed into good, G-d "laughs," as it were, and derives great pleasure from the transformation.

(Sefer HaMaamarim 5738)

And the children struggled together within her (Gen. 26:22)

The struggle between Jacob and Esau began before birth, and ever since, there has been no peace. Indeed, it is a perpetual war that continues till this very day.

(Be'er Yitzchak)

It Once Happened

All his life, the rabbi had longed for one thing only: to live in the holy land of Israel. There was no doubt in his mind that the time had now come to move to the Holy Land. Of course, just how he would manage it wasn't so clear, but G-d would surely help. The rabbi was sure that a trip to obtain the blessing of the great tzadik Reb Meir of Premishlan would facilitate his plans, and so the rabbi packed a bag and started off by foot.

When he finally arrived in Premishlan and was led into Reb Meir's study, the tzadik asked, "How will you raise the money for the journey?"

"Well," the rabbi began, "I have many relatives, and I am sure that when I explain the situation to them, they will be generous enough to help me."

Reb Meir didn't respond, but he appeared to be lost in thought. Finally, he said, "It would take many months to accumulate so much money - months which would be better spent devoted to Torah study. There is a different way. Remain here and you will obtain all the money you need for your journey and to set up your household." Needless to say, the rabbi readily agreed.

When the meeting ended, Reb Meir didn't dismiss his visitor as was usual. Instead, he had the next petitioner admitted to his study while the rabbi was still there. This man was a very wealthy person, and when he entered, Reb Meir said, "I would like to tell you a story, but I want the rabbi to listen as well for it will contain meaning for both of you.

"There was once a man named Moshe, who was very rich, but was a cruel and selfish person. Although G-d had provided him with great riches, he was the stingiest person you would ever have the misfortune to meet. Whenever a poor man came to his door asking for food or money, he would throw a veritable tantrum, screaming and cursing the hapless beggar. 'What do think this is?' he would thunder, 'a charity institution? Get out of here before I break every bone in your body!' And that beggar would be directed to the home of Moshe's neighbor, Reb Matisyahu. Now, this neighbor was not wealthy, far from it. But he had a kind and generous nature and never refused a fellow Jew in need.

"This scene occurred many times over the years, and Reb Matisyahu never failed to rise to the occasion. You might think that Moshe's reputation had gone as low as possible, but you would be wrong. For, since he was a very rich man, there were always those who sang his praises in order to ingratiate themselves with him - maybe there would be some gain in it for them.

"Reb Matisyahu's interminable kindnesses went unnoticed; after all, he was a nice guy and people expected him to be kind. The inequality of the situation may not have drawn notice down here, but in Heaven, it provoked the angelic host to fury. It was decided that Moshe's great wealth should go instead to Reb Matisyahu. The sentence was about to be carried out, when Elijah the Prophet spoke up. 'It's not right for a person to be judged on hearsay. I propose to go down to earth and test Moshe. Perhaps he isn't as cruel as we have heard.'

"This proposition was accepted, and soon an emaciated Elijah stood at the door of Moshe, knocking and begging for help. Moshe's reaction was the same as usual. First he berated the beggar for coming, and then he threw him outside into the bitter cold night. Elijah didn't give up so easily, though. He knocked again and with tears streaming down his face, he begged for a bit of food, a drop of warmth. But all to no avail, and the prophet realized that Moshe had forfeited his chance. The tears which continued to stream down his face were being shed for Moshe's lost soul."

The rabbi and the rich guest listened with rapt attention to the story, and as Reb Meir paused for a moment, they looked at him anxiously, wanting to hear the conclusion of the story. "When I heard about the terrible verdict that had been pronounced against Moshe, I felt very sorry for him. How could a man be condemned without fair warning, I thought. And so, I took it upon myself to provide Moshe with one last chance to redeem himself. If Moshe would provide the money necessary for the rabbi's move to the Holy Land, then he would be worthy of redemption. But, if, G-d forbid, he lost this one last opportunity, his soul would be lost. He would lose his fortune and be condemned to wander for the rest of his days, at the mercy of everyone he would meet."

Then, Reb Meir turned and his eyes met the terror-stricken eyes of the very Moshe of his story, but just for a split second, for Moshe fell to the floor in a dead faint. When he came to, he tearfully said to Reb Meir, "You are so right about me, and yet you have given me another chance to live and redeem my soul. He reached into his pocket and took out a heavy purse which he offered to the rabbi.

"Here, please take this, and when you reach the holy city of Jerusalem, please pray for me," said Moshe through his flowing tears.

The rabbi and his family were soon in Israel, living the fulfillment of their dreams. And Moshe completely turned his life around. In fact, every beggar or traveler who passed through his village was directed to his home, which was a comfortable haven for them all until the end of his days.

Moshiach Matters

The Redemption relates to the essence of the Jewish people. The uniqueness of the Era of the Redemption, is that in that age, the essence will come into revelation; the essential qualities of the Jewish people will be openly apparent. Our bond with G-d will permeate every aspect of our consciousness, and will affect our thought, speech, and deed. All of the revelations of the Era of the Redemption are dependent on our actions at present in the time. Accordingly, since the Era of the Redemption will be marked by an essential renewal of our being, it must also be prefaced by the revelation of that Jewish essence to the fullest extent possible in this time of exile.

(The Rebbe, Kislev, 5752 - 1991)

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