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1486: Shoftim

1487: Ki Seitzei

1488: Ki Savo

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September 1, 2017 - 10 Elul, 5777

1487: Ki Seitzei

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  1486: Shoftim1488: Ki Savo  

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

When purchasing a major appliance, it's not enough to shop around for the best price, read all of the reviews on-line, check it out in Consumer Reports, and to talk to people who already own the item in question.

We often want to know what kind of warranty the appliance has, w hat is covered and for how long. Once we've considered all the pros and cons and we've actually decided to buy the item, we have to decide whether to invest in an "extended warranty."

Extended warranties are offered by the manufacturers, private companies, and even credit card companies.

What you're getting for those extra dollars is more coverage and insurance.

Judaism has its own extended warranty policy, and it's called a mezuza.

"Mezuza" is actually the Hebrew word for lintel - the side of the doorpost. But colloquially it refers to the small piece of parchment upon which a scribe writes by hand the "Shema" prayer found in the Torah and the verses immediately following it.

One of the functions of the mezuzais to actually guard our comings and goings.

It offers us an "extended warranty," not simply guarding the home itself, but also providing coverage for the people living in the home and is not in effect only when they're at home, but even when they go out. And the "guarantee" never expires! Now that's what you call extended coverage!

In fact, the mezuza's job is actually hinted to in the Hebrew letter "shin" found on most mezuza covers.

Shin is the first letter of one of G-d's names, "Sha-dai," an acronym for the words "Guardian of the Doors of Israel."

The great Torah commentator Onkelos once explained G-d's coverage of His people via the mezuza as follows:

"In the world of men the king sits inside his palace, while his servants stand on guard outside. With G-d, however, the opposite is true. His servants sit inside, and He alone protects them round about."

A similar sentiment was expressed by Rabbi Judah the Nasi.

The King of Persia once sent a valuable jewel to honor the great Rabbi Yehuda. As was the custom in those days, a suitable gift of worth was expected to be sent in return. After much thought, Rabbi Yehuda sent a mezuza to the king.

The king was offended by the small gift, to his eye nothing more than a piece of parchment covered with strange writing.

Rabbi Yehuda, however, explained to the king: "The jewel you gave me has to be guarded night and day from being stolen. But the mezuza itself guards its owner, even while he sleeps, for G-d never sleeps, as it says, "The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps."

The Jewish extended warranty policy does, however, have some stipulations and small print.

One clause is that the mezuza parchments need to be checked twice every seven years.

Another specification is that particularly in the month of Elul, our current month (which precedes the High Holidays) we show our interest in being more conscientious with mitzvot by having our mezuzot checked by a reliable scribe.

(This inspection is necessary as a mezuza can become invalid if even one of the letters is faded or cracked.)

Extend your Jewish extended warranty by having your mezuzot inspected by a knowledgeable scribe and by affixing mezuzot to doorways in your home that require them.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, tells us: "If there is a quarrel between (two) men, who come to court to be judged, the innocent one will be acquitted and the guilty one will be condemned."

In the Torah there is nothing extra. Here, however, there seems to be extra words. The verse starts, "If there is a quarrel," yet it could have started "men, who come to court..." Isn't it obvious that there is a dispute, when two men come to court?

The verse then continues, "the innocent one will be acquitted and the guilty one will be condemned." What other option is there? Isn't that what a court ought to do?

This is a special case. First the two men were quarreling, from the fighting a dispute arose. When they come to court the judges recognize that this case started as a quarrel. They might be tempted to deal with the true underlying issue instead of judging the case at hand. The Torah tells the court to judge the case properly.

There is a message here for us all. Don't think that quarreling with a friend is OK. Ultimately it will escalate and you will end up in court. Your case will not be judged according to your feelings but by the law.

We each need to think about our relationships. Is it really worth fighting with friends and family. How many of us haven't spoken to a friend or, even worse, a family member for a long time because of some petty matter?

Don't let it come to that. Whether you feel innocent or guilty in the situation, it's not worth the constant fighting, bickering and hurting.

Sometimes we lose focus, forgetting that G-d puts us in our situation. We start to feel negative about ourselves and everyone around us. Then the quarreling begins.

Practice recognizing G-d's hand in all that happens. It will keep you positive.

Life is short. Be positive and easy to get along with. Be a good friend and good family. Let the petty stuff slide. Be happy, friendly and smile a lot.

You will positively change the world for the good, and you will bring out the positive In those around you.

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

In A Word
by Richard Morris

Teshuva! Yes, that is right: teshuva, baby!

During this month of Elul, when returning to and strengthening our Judaism is front and center, I wanted to share some thoughts about my own personal return to my Judaism and also something about ... words.

When I was doing stand-up comedy in New York and Los Angeles, and pretty much everywhere else across the country and Canada, beginning in the 80's, I was in a whole other world ... baby! A headliner in comedy clubs, guest comedian on national network television talk shows, the opening act for star performers in Las Vegas, Atlantic City....

I heard a lot of interesting words in those years. But mixed in with the sometimes atrocious, word-rabble, a good word did happen to slip in, teshuva (literally, in Jewish terminology: return).

And whereas the word teshuva is a constant, many words and terms are generational, fleeting. Current words like: goosh, rad, tickety. Huh? For anyone over a certain age, be comforted, I had no idea what these words meant either!

But as words are used to describe all sorts of things in all sorts of ways, religion - many times - is described unflatteringly. And before I started learning about and experiencing my Judaism again, I stood with the large number of Jews who might have used certain words to describe religion in general, and Judaism in particular, as: un-cool, stuffy, strange, restrictive. Talk to many Jews about Judaism and you'll get all sorts of looks from them. Believe me, not looks of: oh, please I'll put down my phone and talk to me more about religion!

But as someone who, indeed, was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to start learning about my Judaism again, I now take a second look at some words that might have been written about other things - but can also, interestingly enough, relate to Judaism. Maybe these words, these song lyrics, might sound familiar to you:

"Come back ... come back ... come back to where you once belonged."

Or how about: "Come back, baby, rock 'n roll never forgets."

Yes. Through the years, the answers, the ideas, the nods, somehow seem to have been contained in popular song lyrics! They've already been out there. It's just a matter of hearing and seeing. But when I was not practicing or expressing my Judaism it never occurred to me that these songs might, indeed, have some meaning in Judaism as well.

So, as a Jew, I got to thinking: if rock 'n roll never forgets, I wondered if, maybe, Judaism never forgets either. Hmm. Come back, baby, Judaism never forgets? Hmm. Doesn't sound right.

But it is right.

Words.... Do you think the collective Jewish people were gathered together at Mt. Sinai with the words: "This is gonna to be goosh?" Uh, uh, I don't think so. But it was goosh! That is, among it's definitions: Cool, important. And whether you get the idea from the words of rock 'n roll songs - or from today's rap - or from friends and family - or from the Sages or rabbis - or from yourself.... Now's a perfect time to think about coming back to where you once belonged. To yourself.

To your real self. That's what teshuva is.

In the 80s, I had the chance to put on Tefillin one Friday afternoon on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. I hadn't put on Tefillin since my Bar Mitzva.

The young rabbi who offered me that chance, as it would happen, years later became the rabbi of a Chabad shul in Manhattan near where I lived. I went there without knowing who the rabbi was at that time and, amazingly enough, through conversation, we soon realized that he was the one who helped me put on Tefillin on Fairfax Avenue all those years before. And not only do I see him now at the synagogue's services, he remains a strong influence in my life to this day: Rabbi Shlomo Kugel, Chabad of the West Side (of Manhattan).

So if you're Jewish, this month of Elul, right before the Jewish New Year, is a great time to sincerely think about coming back to your Judaism - because that's without question who you really are, really! And not only is that goosh (something worth looking into) ... it's also certainly the shiznik (something great)! You won't hear the rabbis using these short-lived words in the synagogues, but that is where you will hear deep-seated words that will hopefully encourage, hopefully inspire, and hopefully offer-up some new hope and direction for the coming New Year.

I wish us all a meaningful Elul, a Happy Rosh Hashana - and G-d willing, this will be the best year yet! In those words - or in any other words, like: far out! (For a definition, ask your parents or grandparents.... Oy!)

Richard Morris is the author of the book Funny You Should Think About a Return to Judaism. He currently performs his entertaining outreach program Comedy and Coming Home at Jewish venues and events, and can be reached at:

What's New

New Emissaries in Ohio

Rabbi Moshe and Mussie Sasonkin have established a new Chabad on Campus at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The public research university with an undergraduate student population of about 29,000, has a Jewish student body of 1,200. Rabbi Mendy and Mussie Greenberg have moved to Twinsburg, Ohio, where they will establish the Twinsburg Chabad Jewish Center.

The Divine Prism

The Divine Prism on the book of Deuteronomy provides illuminating interpretations on the Torah portion, but far more importantly, it trains the reader to think creatively and in that way discover insights that enable him to see how the Torah`s eternal truths can be applied to enrich his day-to-day experience. Adapted from the works of the Rebbe by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Heichel Menachem.

The Rebbe Writes

Continuation of a letter dated 25th of Elul, 5738 [1978]

In summary, it is not surprising that the human intellect cannot grasp the ways of G-d and why He should take away good persons who practiced good deeds all their life and helped spread G-dliness on earth through spreading the Torah and mitzvot [commandments], which they would have continued to do had they been spared more years. It is not surprising, because a human being is a created thing and limited in all his aspects, and no creature can possibly understand the Creator.

By way of simple illustration: an infant cannot understand the wisdom of a very wise man or scientist, although the scientist was himself and infant at one time, and the present infant could in time become an even greater scientist than the other. If, therefore, this is not surprising even though the difference and distance between the infant and the scientist is only relative, how much less surprising is it where the difference is absolute and quite incomparable, as between a created being and the Creator.

Secondly, knowing that G-d is the Essence of goodness and benevolence and "it is the nature of the Benevolent to do good" etc., the knowledge of which is one of the very basic tenets of our Faith, as explained at length in the Written Torah and the Oral Torah - it is certain that all that G-d does is for the good.

Thirdly, it is also certain that the neshama [soul] in Olam Ha'emet [the World of Truth] waits and expects that all the good deeds it had been doing while here on earth, and would have continued doing had G-d given her more years in this world, would be continued in its behalf by all near and dear ones. Certainly it expects that the mourning period will not be extended beyond the prescribed time, since this would be contrary to the teachings of the Torah.

Moreover, when it concerns persons who were brought up and who brought up their children in the way of Torah - which is called Torat Chesed, the Torah of Loving-kindness, whose Golden Rule is V'ahavta l're'acha kamocha, making it the privilege and duty of every Jew to spread the Torah and mitzvot to the utmost of their capability and to do all things of Torah and mitzvot with joy and gladness of heart, and who themselves personified all these qualities - all that has been said above is underscored with even greater emphasis.

It is not surprising that the human intellect cannot grasp the ways of G-d. . . a human being is a created thing and limited in all his aspects, and no creature can possibly understand the Creator.

Much more could be said on the subjects mentioned in this letter, but I am sure that the above will suffice, in keeping with the saying "Give instruction to the wise person and he will increase his wisdom even more." (Proverbs, 9:9).

May G-d bless each and all of you, in the midst of all our people, that henceforth only goodness and benevolence be with you always, and inscribe and seal you all for a good and sweet year, in the good that is revealed and obvious.

With esteem and blessing,

P.S. It is a timely, meaningful and everlasting memorial to the souls of the dear departed that the holy book of Tanya was published these days in Milan and dedicated to them. May Their Souls Be Bound Up In The Bond of Eternal Life.

From The Letter and the Spirit, vol. 4, by Nissan Mindel Publications.

All Together

What are some special ways to prepare for Rosh Hashana?

The month before Rosh Hashana is a month of account-taking for the past year. We increase our good deeds and try to be more meticulous in commandments that we already perform. We also hear the shofar blown each weekday, add Psalm 27 to our daily prayers, increase in charity - especially to causes that help people with their upcoming holiday expenses, many have their Mezuzot and Tefilin checked to assure that they are still fit.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We are currently in the month of Elul, the month preceding the days of Awe of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

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.

Thoughts that Count

He used to enumerate their praiseworthy qualities... (Ethics 2:9)

Each of the students of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai possessed a quality in which he surpassed all others. As a teacher, Rabbi Yochanan did not push them all in a single direction. Instead, he appreciated their uniqueness and endeavored to give each the opportunity to develop his own potential. This concept can be applied on a larger scale. Each person possesses a particular virtue in which he surpasses all others, even the leaders of the generation. He (and those who help him in his growth and development) should not seek universal conformity, but should strive to cultivate this unique gift.

(Shabbat Parshat Matot-Masei, 5743)

...Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Chananya - Happy is she who bore him (Ethics 2:9)

Why does the Mishna ascribe happiness to Rabbi Yehoshua's mother? Because she was to a large degree responsible for his greatness. When Rabbi Yehoshua was an infant, she would hang his cradle in the House of Study so that he would become accustomed to the sweet singsong of Torah study. As he matured, the influence of his formative years played a large part in shaping his sage like character.

(Jerusalem Talmud)

It is not incumbent upon us to complete the work, and he is not free to desist from it (Ethics 2:16)

A person is never required to do more than he can. On the contrary, G-d gives each person a mission that he can fulfill without having challenges that he is unable to overcome. Even if at times a person feels daunted by the task facing him, he must know that "he is not free to desist from it" and must persist. Even when he does not naturally feel joy in his Torah service, he should persevere; such full-hearted dedication will lead to personal fulfillment.

(The Rebbe, 5741)

It Once Happened

In the town of Polotsk, Russia, lived a simple storekeeper by the name of Yisrael. He was a follower of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the Tzemach Tzedek), the third leader of Chabad. Once, on a visit to the town of Lubavitch, Yisrael heard a Chasidic discourse from the Rebbe, explaining how our ancestor Abraham was charitable monetarily, spiritually and bodily. The Rebbe proceeded to give a profound mystical explanation to show how Abraham's physical acts of charity in this world were in a sense higher than G-d's Infinite Kindness.

Yisrael did not understand the entire dissertation, but he did grasp these few words about Abraham, which he repeated over and over until he committed them to memory. When he came home, his fellow Chasidim asked Yisrael if he could perhaps repeat the discourse that the Rebbe had said. Yisrael replied that he could not, but he had committed to memory a few words about Abraham's charitableness, which he proceeded to repeat to them.

The next day, Yisrael went back to his store as usual. Nachman and Yosef, also storekeepers in Polotsk, were friends of Yisrael. Yisrael decided that he would go into Nachman's store and ask him for a loan. He did not need the money, but having heard from the Rebbe the great quality of charitableness (which includes lending money without interest) he wanted to give Nachman the opportunity to fulfill this great mitzva (commandment). Nachman and Yosef followed his example; every day they would borrow and repay small sums of money from each other.

When Yisrael was next in Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek came out of his study into the synagogue and asked one of the senior Chasidim, "Please find out a little about that Chasid over there" looking toward Yisrael.

The Chasid was not at all familiar with who the Chasid was, for Yisrael was not one of the "well-known" Chasidim. Eventually he discovered who the person was and that he was a storekeeper from Polotsk. The Tzemach Tzedek asked that Yisrael be invited to his study.

When Yisrael came in, the Rebbe asked him about his work and his daily schedule. Yisrael replied that he got up every morning at five, recited the book of Psalms, drank a cup of tea, chopped wood, and then went to the synagogue to pray. After the prayers, he studied a chapter of Torah, went home to eat breakfast and then went to the marketplace to his store. Later, in the afternoon, he went to the synagogue again, to say the afternoon prayers, studied a little more, prayed the evening service and went home.

The Rebbe was not satisfied. "Nu, and what about tzedaka (charity)?" he inquired.

"I am a poor man and cannot afford to give charity," Yisrael replied. After further questioning by the Rebbe, however, Yisrael's custom of taking and giving back small loans came out.

Later, the Tzemach Tzedek's son, Rabbi Shmuel, asked his father, "What do you see in him?"

The Rebbe replied, "I saw, surrounding the simple store-keeper, Reb Yisrael, a radiance, a pillar of light as great as that of the Supernal Kindness."

In 1843 the Czarist government of Russia called a rabbinical conference concerning various matters affecting the religious life of the Jews. The delegates chosen were the Tzemach Tzedek, Reb Yitzchak of Volozhin, Reb Yisrael Heilprin and Betzalel Stern, the headmaster of the Jewish school in Odessa.

When the Rebbe returned after the conference, he heard that his Chasidim were speaking about the tremendous self-sacrifice he had had there. Upon hearing this, the Rebbe cried bitterly. "You call it self-sacrifice," he said, "when a person sacrifices himself for the Jewish people? Who knows, maybe he is even doing it for his own self-interest because he knows it increases his share in the World to Come! There is nothing worthy about this kind of self-sacrifice.

"I will tell you a story of true self-sacrifice," the Rebbe continued. "Reb Baruch of Mezhibuzh sacrificed his life and his share in the World to Come for a single Jew. Not even for the Jew's life, but only for his property!

"One of Reb Baruch's Chasidim was a wine-merchant who used to travel to distant towns delivering his merchandise. He did not have enough capital to pay for the wine outright. But, he was known to be an honest, trustworthy man, so the wholesalers gave him the wine on credit.

"One evening, during one of his business trips, he realized that he had not repented properly for something he had done. Utterly distressed over this thought, he left his wagons loaded with wine, right there at the inn, and set out immediately to Reb Baruch. When he arrived in Mezhibuzh, Reb Baruch asked him about his business affairs and the Chasid proceeded to tell him everything that had just taken place.

"'Fool,' cried out Reb Baruch. 'How could you have left other people's property totally unattended!' A barrage of scolding and condemnation followed. The entire Shabbat, Reb Baruch continued to rebuke the Chasid, even in the presence of other guests. One of the guests was Reb Baruch's relative, Reb Avraham of Chmielnik.

" 'Reb Baruch,' Reb Avraham protested, 'Do you not know that the Talmud has something to say about someone who shames another?'

"'I know,' answered Reb Baruch, 'that he who shames his fellow in public has no share in the World to Come. But it is more important to give up my share and help this man. His wagon drivers had planned to make off with all the unattended wine. But my abuse has saved it. For, in the Heavenly Courts, it is reckoned that the abuse I subjected him to is equal to the anguish he would have felt over the monetary loss.'

"This," concluded the Rebbe, "is true self-sacrifice - when a person is prepared to give up his Eternal Rewards to help a fellow Jew be spared from a monetary loss!"

Moshiach Matters

A laborer must be paid on time for his work. Why has not G-d paid the Jewish people for their Divine service throughout the centuries? One gets paid only when the job is finished. The job of the Jewish people isn't done until we finish the Divinely ordained task of making the world a dwelling place for G-dliness. The task requires the combined effort of all the Jewish people. When the fast is completed, all the Jewish people will be paid, at that time of the resurrection of the dead.

(From Reflections of Redemption by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)

  1486: Shoftim1488: Ki Savo  
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