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"Ask the Mayor." "Ask the Governor."
Many major cities throughout the world have call-in shows when you can tell your government official what's on your mind and possibly expedite matters if you're having a problem with some bureaucratic red-tape.
And if it's an election year, well we all know that elected officials make sure to go out of their way to visit neighborhoods, cities small and large, to hear what's on people's minds.
This special time when our leaders are more accessible gives us insight into a Chasidic analogy for the time of the Jewish calendar we find ourselves in. Chasidic thought describes the Hebrew month of Elul, which began this week, as a time when the "King is in the field."
According to the analogy, the king goes into the field, ready and willing to listen to the requests of his people. He didn't go into the city, where it might be necessary to greet him with pomp and circumstance, splendor and glory. He's out in the field, with the workers, the commoners, the simple folk,right there in the nitty gritty of it all.
The King is G-d. "In the field" means that G-d is more accessible to us during this month - the days and weeks that precede Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur - days of reflection, introspection and Divine Judgment.
G-d makes Himself available to us. And He does it out of His great love for us, a love to that can be likened to that of a husband and wife.
The analogy of a husband and wife is especially appropriate during these days, for Jewish teaching explains that Elul is an acronym for the Hebrew words, "Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li - I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine."
There is a give and take in every kind of relationship. This is certainly true of the relationship between the G-d and the Jewish people.
G-d gives of Himself by coming out "into the field" at this special time of year. We take advantage of the opportunity, show our appreciation and give of ourselves by greeting G-d in the field and also by doing things that will give pleasure to our Beloved. G-d responds to our overtures by becoming our Beloved in a more revealed sense.
So don't worry if you're in a suit, overalls, wearing shirts with white colors or blue collars. Go out into the field and greet the King! Tell Him what's on your mind. He's waiting for you!
This week's Torah portion, Shoftim, begins with Moses' instruction to the Jewish people to appoint judges and law enforcement officers in every city. In this context, Moses enjoins the people with the famous words, "Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land the L-rd, your G-d, is giving you.
The portion contains many mitzvot (commandments), among them the laws governing the appointment and behavior of a king.
One of the laws a king must follow is that he have two copies of the Torah scroll made for him. One of the scrolls is to be placed in his treasury, and the other should accompany him constantly. The reason for the scroll accompanying him is "and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the L-rd his G-d, to keep all the words of this Torah..."
Isn't one Torah enough, why did a king need two? What point is there in having one Torah kept in his treasury?
To be a king means to wield great power. Whereas every Jew is obligated to write a Torah, a king must write two. This act is an extra measure and different from other laws pertaining to kings, as it doesn't make sense. The king goes through this experience merely for its humbling effect. This Torah is put in his treasury or lit. beit gnazav, his hidden place, a place the king goes to when important decisions need to made. Going to war, taxes, major projects, etc. Seeing his Torah there (and possibly the Torahs of the kings before him) is a strong reminder, that while the great power to make these decisions are in his hands, he should be humbled and bend to G-d's will when making them.
We are all consider kings and queens, as G-d empowers us to make decisions that effect our "kinG-doms" big or small. Yourself, your family, your wealth, your treatment of others, etc. You May be learning from the outside Torah, yet you must write it in the deepest recesses of your being. So that when making important decisions you will bend to G-d's will.
Royalty fails in arrogance and succeeds in humility. A Jew is royalty, in dress, in speech, in thoughts and action.
Now in month of Elul, the King of kings, is open to all of us. Get close to G-d now, go out to greet Him. He, in turn, will grant you a happy and sweet New Year.
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.
Photos: Above Israel: Clockwise from top left, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine Girls Division; Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine Boys Division; Seattle, Washington; Ottawa, Canada; Winter Camp in Johannesburg, South Africa; Siberia, Russia; Beit Shean, Israel; Lyon, France.
There are hundreds of them around the world, with tens of thousands of campers. When the sun is at its zenith in every major city and on every continent, the Chabad-Lubavitch Gan Israel summer camps shine their light on yet another generation of Jewish children.
The Gan Israel camps span a diversity of cultures, languages and regions, extending from Alaska to Florida and from Australia to Zaire. But no matter how disparate, they are - like some spiritual Starbucks - all alike in their trademark spirit, joy and Jewish pride that permeate the Gan Israel camp experience.
In 1956, the Rebbe launched Gan Israel, an international network of summer camps, where children of all ages and walks of life learn to love their heritage while enjoying the best experience that camping offers.
In those days, enjoying a summer camp complete with sports, arts, crafts, and entertaining activities was a novelty reserved for children of families with means. When Gan Israel summer day and overnight camps were founded, the guiding principle was that every child deserves to gain from the integration of education and camp activities and that no child should be left out.
Gan Israel has grown into the world's largest network of Jewish summer camps. Typical activities such as swimming and sport, as well more specialized activities like science workshops, tennis, karate, and dance, all complement the spiritual programs that are the hallmark of Gan Israel: Jewish songs and creative Shabbat parties, ritual arts and crafts, and a variety of programs designed to generate interest and excitement in Jewish life and mitzva observance.
Kosher in Copenhagen
The newly opened restaurant Taim ("tasty" in Hebrew) inside the Chabad House in Copenhagen is enabling local residents and tourists to eat out kosher. The restaurant, located in the main hall of the Chabad House, is open six evenings a week. Taim also offers catering and delivery to area hotels and conference centers.
It Only Takes a Minute
In this lively picture book, the adorable main character happily shares his biggest discovery: One little minute can make a big difference! How wonderful to realize that it only takes a minute to help, to smile, to notice, to practice, and to listen. After reading this book, boys and girls can think of their own ideas, as well! by Bracha Goetz, illustrated by Bill Bolton, published by Hachai.
25th of Elul, 5738 
In these days of Selichos [penitential prayers] and Rachamim [mercy], which bring the outgoing year to its end and prepare for the new year, I am addressing these lines to you, hoping they will bring you some comfort.
To begin with, there are many matters and occurrences that are hard for the human mind to understand. Among them also such that even if they can be understood intellectually, they are hard to accept intellectually. Specifically in the case of bereavement.
Nevertheless, every Jew has been instructed by the Creator and Master of the world that the matters connected with avelus/mourning must be limited in time. Though during the proper time it is natural and proper to give vent to one's pain and sorrow at the sad loss, in keeping with the nature which G-d implanted in man.
However, when the various periods of mourning pass - the first three days of profound pain and tears, the seven days of shiva, shloshim [30 days of mourning], etc. - then it is not permitted to extend these periods beyond their allotted days. And since this is the instruction of the Creator and Master of the world, it is clear that carrying out these Divine instructions is within the capability of every Jew, for G-d does not expect the impossible of His creatures and provides everyone with the necessary capacity and strength to carry out His instructions as set forth in His Torah, called Toras Emes, because it is true and realistic in all its teachings and imperatives.
It follows also, that those who think that the gradual lessening of mourning, as above, may cause the soul of the departed that is now in the World of Truth to feel slighted, are totally wrong, for the opposite is true. Indeed, excessive mourning by relatives is not good for the soul in the World of Truth, seeing that it is instrumental in this improper conduct on the part of the relatives here on earth; improper - because it is not in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Torah.
Undoubtedly, there is also a rational explanation for the above. One explanation, as mentioned at length on another occasion is that the soul is, of course, eternal as is universally recognized. It would be contrary to logic and common sense to think that a physical disorder in the body could affect the vitality and existence of the soul, which is a purely spiritual being. The only thing that a sickness or fatal accident can do is to cause a weakening or termination of the bond that holds the body and soul together, whereupon the soul departs from its temporary abode in this world and returns to its original world of pure spirit, in the eternal world.
Needless to say, insofar as the soul is concerned, death is a release from its "imprisonment" in the body. For, so long as it is bound up with the body, it suffers from physical limitations of the body, which necessarily constrain the soul and involve it in physical activities which essentially are alien to its purely spiritual nature. Nevertheless, the departure and ascent of the soul to its Heavenly abode is mourned fro a time by the surviving relatives and friend, because the person is no longer physically here on earth and can no longer be seen and heard and felt by the physical senses and is therefore sadly missed. However, the soul retains all its faculties and, as explained in our holy sources, reacts to the conduct and feelings of its relatives left behind, sharing in their joys and in their sorrows and benefitting from their good deeds, especially those done on behalf of the soul, and it prays and intercedes in behalf of its relatives here on earth.
In other words, the departure of the soul from the body is a great advantage and ascent for the soul, and the loss is only for the bereaved, and to that extent it is also painful for the soul, of course.
There is yet another point that causes pain to the soul after departing from the body. While the soul is "clothed" in the body, it can actively participate with the body in all matters of Torah and mitzvos [commandments] and good deeds practiced in the daily life here on earth. But since all this involves physical action and tangible objects, the soul can no longer engage in these activities when it returns to its Heavenly abode, where it can only enjoy the fruits of the Torah and mitzvos and good deeds performed by it in its sojourn on earth. Henceforth, the soul must depend on its relatives and friends to do mitzvos and good deeds also on its behalf, and this is a source of true gratification for the soul, and helps it ascend to even greater heights.
continued in next issue
From The Letter and the Spirit, vol. 4, by Nissan Mindel Publications
When do we send "New Year" cards?
It is appropriate during the entire month of Elul to send wishes to friends and family that they be "inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet year." In fact, these are the words with which one greets a friend from the 15th of the (previous) month of Av until Yom Kippur. From Yom Kippur until Hoshana Rabba (the last day of Sukkot) when the Heavenly books have already been inscribed but not yet sealed, we say, "May you be sealed for a good year" or "gmar chatima tova," in Hebrew.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is the first in the month of Elul, the month that precedes the "Days of Awe" - Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Our Sages have noted that the word "Elul" is an acronym for a number of verses in the Tanach (Bible). One such verse is "Ina leyado vesamti lecha - it chanced to happen and I set aside a place for you." This verse refers to the cities of refuge the Jews were commanded to establish.
Who fled to the cities of refuge? A person who had killed someone unintentionally. There he was protected from the relatives of the victim, who could not exact retribution. An accidental killer had to uproot himself and leave his home and family. His exile atoned for the great sin he had committed.
An intentional murderer was also offered temporary sanctuary in the city of refuge. No one was allowed to touch him until his sentence was determined by the court.
A person who commits a sin damages his G-dly soul, extracts its vitality and "spills its blood." Symbolically, a sinner is a "murderer."
What does a murderer do? He flees to the cities of refuge.
The month of Elul is the year's "city of refuge." In Elul we assess our conduct, identify misdeeds and get rid of bad habits. Returning to G-d in teshuva atones for our sins in the same way exile in a city of refuge atoned for murder.
When a person does teshuva he is protected from the "blood avenger" - the Evil Inclination. It simply becomes stripped of its power to entice.
Even a person who sinned intentionally can find refuge in the month of Elul. Just as the city of refuge protected an intentional killer until his trial, so too does Elul provide sanctuary to an intentional sinner until Rosh Hashana. Of course, if he repents before then, he is forgiven.
Let us therefore take advantage of this special month to correct our undesirable behavior, for our actions have the power to make amends. And surely we will all be inscribed in the Book of the Righteous for a good and sweet year to come.
Shimon Ben Shatach said: "Examine the witnesses thoroughly" (Ethics 1:9)
There is a homiletic dimension to this teaching. Our Sages say: "The walls of a person's house testify regarding his [character]." On the most simple level, it is possible to "examine the witnesses" and determine a person's character by studying the walls of his house - which books, whose pictures, and which art do they feature.
Shemayah said... "Do not seek intimacy with the ruling power" (Ethics 1:10)
Since Shemayah was the Nasi - the Torah leader of the Jewish people - he knew the importance of humility. For a leader's prominence comes as a result of his selflessness. Because he has no concern for himself, he is fit to serve as a medium to lead his people to an awareness of G-d's sovereignty.
(Sichot Kodesh, Shemini, 5728)
Be of the disciples of Aaron... loving the created beings, and bringing them near to the Torah (Ethics 1:12)
The use of the term "created beings" instead of "people" implies that Aaron would reach out to individuals whose only redeeming virtue was the fact that they were G-d's creations. Aaron's concern for his fellow man was all the more impressive because of his exalted position as High Priest. Leaving the Sanctuary where G-d's Presence was openly revealed, he would reach out to people who had no virtue other than their having been created by G-d. The order used in the Mishna is also significant. It implies that Aaron first concerned himself with establishing a relationship of love and trust, confidant that this would in turn enable him to draw them near to the Torah. Also significant is the phrase, "bringing them near to the Torah." Although Aaron reached out to these individuals and tried to accommodate them to the fullest degree possible, his efforts were centered on "bringing them near to the Torah," and not bringing the Torah near to them. His willingness to extend himself on behalf of others did not involve any compromise of Torah law.
Wolfe the Cobbler and his wife wandered from town to town supporting themselves by cobbling, a job Wolfe carried on with great keenness, for it meant for him much more than a means of earning a modest living, it was a shield behind which to hide his righteousness and learning.
Wolfe's wandering went on for some time until he reached a village in Wohlyn, not far from Lukatsh, where he settled and made his permanent home, "permanent" until he had to leave.
In this village Wolfe had at first found the contentment he had been looking for. He was able to lead a quiet, unassuming life without it occurring to anyone that he was a great man, a scholar and mystic. Wolfe had won a good name for himself among Jews and non-Jews alike on account of his honesty and conscientiousness in his work. He was liked for his quiet manner, and for never gossiping about people. In truth, Wolfe spoke very little altogether, and was considered a silent fellow. People ascribed this to his simplicity as well as to his goodness.
Now something occurred which compelled Wolfe and his wife again to pack and depart. In this village there lived a priest who was trying to convert the Jews. At first the priest began with soft words and a friendly manner. Every time there was a public holiday he called together all the inhabitants, Jews as well as non-Jews, and addressed the assembly from a platform in the market place.
It did not take very long, however, before the Jews saw that the priest's fine words were but a preparation. It soon became clear that all this talk of "friendship" led to his open request that the Jews submit to conversion. Soon, the priest began openly to rant against the Jewish faith.
Learned Jews knew how to answer such arguments. Jewish leaders throughout the ages have had to deal with so-called proofs submitted by missionaries, and frustrated them completely. In this village in Wohlyn, however, there seemed to be no Jew capable of replying convincingly to the priest.
Once, just before a Christian festival in the summer, the priest assembled all Jews and non-Jews in the market place again and addressed them from the platform in his usual manner. But this time the priest spoke more sharply against the Jewish religion and demanded that the Jews should embrace Christianity. He made fun of their customs and of their faith.
"Can anyone reply to my arguments?" asked the priest, looking around, confident that there was no Jew present who could reply. But suddenly someone stepped forward from among the gathered Jews, saying in a clear voice that he was ready to answer the priest. Everybody in the crowd turned round to see who this man could possibly be. And, to their great astonishment, it was Wolfe the Cobbler.
"What is the idea of his coming forward?" the people asked each other, in wonder. The priest was intrigued.
"Good Wolfe," he called out, "do you wish to say something? Come up here onto the platform and let us all hear what you have to say!" The priest was obviously certain that this Wolfe could help pin the Jews down.
With assured steps Wolfe walked onto the platform and began to speak. To the amazement of all present, they heard language which they had never believed could come from him. He spoke in a fluent clear Polish, unusual for a Jew in those days. The biggest surprise he gave the listeners, however, was what he said. He started refuting the priest's arguments one after another, and brought counter-arguments which made the priest appear ridiculous. The cobbler quoted passage after passage from the Bible in Hebrew, quickly and fluently translating them into Polish. Surprisingly, everyone understood him clearly and easily, and could see that he was right.
Thus was Wolfe discovered to be a mystic. His own actions had brought this about, but the urgent need of upholding the sanctity of G-d's name, had left him no alternative. After that, however, he did not feel like remaining in Wohlyn. He had fulfilled his mission in this place; he could leave now.
Adapted from the Memoirs of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe
The Torah emphaizes the importance of appointing a king. Various commentators explain why. Among them, Maimonides says that: "The king's heart is the heart of the entire Jewish people." Since the main function of a king is to lead, the analogy should have been to the brain. But there are two types of rulers of the Jewish people: a melech and a nasi, a king and a leader. A king may be compared to the heart and the nasi to the brain. In many periods of Jewish history one person was king and another was nasi. But Moses, the first Redeemer, was both king and nasi, combining within himself the qualities of both. Moshiach, the last Redeemer, will also be both king and nasi.
(From Reflections of Redemption by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)