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1488: Ki Savo

1489: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

September 15, 2017 - 24 Elul, 5777

1489: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

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  1488: Ki Savo 

Command Performance  |  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

Command Performance

by Rabbi Israel Rubin

Years ago, when life was simpler and times were quieter, people relaxed to the natural sounds of birds chirping, leaves rustling and sheep bleating.

Today the myriad bells and whistles of high technology disturb our peace and quiet. The cacophony of hi-tech pops, pings, chimes and jingles permeate our homes and offices, as muzak pervades our halls and malls.

What looks like a piano used by a DJ is actually closer to an electronic orchestra. Synthesizers, stimulators and simulators dub, mix, blend and digitalize all that noise to the utmost in surround-sound amplifiers, considered by some to be music to their ears.

A shofar is certainly no match for all these highly touted musical instruments. Plain and simple, a shofar is really just bare bones.

Lacking the array of metallic buttons, mouthpieces, slides and valves that help adjust the pitch and volume on the more sophisticated wind instruments, the shofar can hardly carry a tune.

Yet, the shofar makes the strongest statement, loud and clear for all to hear. The shofar's sighs and groans provide little in the way of entertainment, but it is truly a command performance. Blowing the shofar is a most important mitzva, the very focus of Rosh Hashana and it deserves our full attention.

The shofar is the world's oldest instrument that still remains in use to this day, but it has not changed in 4,000 years. The shofar's effect depends solely on our own personal input, effort and direction. A personal expression from within our heart, its deep emotional outcry is a prayer beyond words.

The shofar reminds us of our early beginnings, to the devotion of Abraham at the binding of Isaac, and all of its ramifications.

The sound of the shofar resonates with the thunder that accompanied the Divine Revelation at Mount Sinai.

Joshua's shofar blowing brought down the walls of Jericho, and its quaking sound echoes the voices of our prophets calling to repentance. It eventually builds up to a mighty crescendo that heralds the arrival of Moshiach and the Redemption.

As we prepare for Rosh Hashana, the shofar rises above the din and pandemonium. Let us listen carefully to the shofar's sound advice, as it exclaims: "Awaken, O you sleepers, and arise from your deep slumber! Examine your deeds, repent, and remember your Creator... Search your souls, improve your ways and actions." (Maimonides)

Like a faithful alarm clock, the shofar tries to rouse us from our deep sleep and slumber, but is anyone listening? Unfortunately, there is so much distracting noise in the background, that many of us just don't give a hoot.

Now is the time to wake up, tune in and strain to hear the shofar's call, so that its urgent meaning and message doesn't fall on deaf ears.

Starting off on an upbeat, confident note, the shofar recital opens. The shofar's three stanzas come in sets of three, with brief interludes. Instead of a constant flow, the shofar keeps b-r-e-a-k-i-n-g down in the middle. Its series of lines, dashes and dots serve as a Save Our Soul distress signal, as an expression of repentance.

Ending its grand finale on a majestic note, the shofar ushers in a good, happy and healthy New Year to all.

Rabbi Israel Rubin and his wife Rochel are directors of Chabad of the Capital District in Albany, New York

Living with the Rebbe

Rosh Hashana marks the day Adam and Eve were created, it is the birthday of humanity. The mission of mankind began 5778 years ago, on this day. Therefore it is, by definition, the New Year for humanity.

Our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, took on the mission and when G-d took us out of Egypt, the mission became ours.

What is unique about us, that enables us to accomplish G-d's purpose? Couldn't the angels do it?

G-d wants that this physical world be transformed into a place that His presence can dwell openly. He created this world unfinished and put us on it, just to transform it. We are His greatest masterpiece, we are different from all other creations. Without us the world is a fish tank, void of any meaning, with the sole purpose of being observed.

An angel is spiritual, holy and powerful but lacks freedom of choice. The physical world is not his domain. G-d sends angels on all kinds of missions but not being physical, precludes them from transforming the physical.

We, on the other hand, are a fusion of soul and body. We have a physical body that is drawn to earthly pleasures and a G-dly soul, which is drawn to everything G-dly and holy. While our body is part of the world, the soul, being a part of G-d, transcends all physical and spiritual realms. Being part of G-d it has the creative ability to transform this unfinished world.

Every time we do a mitzva (commandment) we infuse the physical object/s used in performance of the mitzva with holiness. Every time you say words of Torah or prayer, you are transforming the place, infusing it with holiness. When you do every day things with the intention to serve G-d, for example, if you work to support your family, so that you can bring them up in the ways of our Torah - everything connected to your work becomes infused with holiness. Every aspect of life becomes a holy endeavor.

With time the world is transformed into a dwelling fit for G-d. At that time our work finishing creation will be done and Moshiach will come.

May G-d bless us all with a happy and sweet year, and may G-d send Moshiach and do away with suffering. May he come soon.

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

Machine Vs Mystic
with Dr. Les Rosenthal

Dr. Les Rosenthal practices dentistry in Encino, California. This story was taken from Here's My Story and is presented with permission from JEM's My Encounter with the Rebbe oral history project, which is dedicated to recording first-person testimonies documenting the life and guidance of the Rebbe.

Although I am a dentist, I have a good singing voice and I dabble in cantorial music. In 1981, I was asked to sing for a Conservative synagogue, which held its High Holiday services at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City, Los Angeles.

The hall was full - probably 1,500 people were there - and I had a solo to sing, the prayer Unesaneh Tokef. One bar before the solo, a massive headache struck me and I fell to the ground - they had to carry me off the bima in the middle of Rosh Hashana.

I was taken to a room where I could lie down and rest for a while. But two hours later, the headache had not gone away, its intensity was unchanged, and it was clear this was not a good thing.

At that point, I was taken to the hospital, where they took X-rays of my skull and neck, and came back with the diagnosis, "You have a tumor in the pituitary gland. It's destroying the bone, and the pressure is causing the headache."

A neurologist was called in who ordered a tomograph, in order to get a better picture of the bone destruction. After he got the results, he said, "There is no tumor. There is no destruction of the bone."

Relieved, I thought, "Good - I'm going home!"

But he said, "Since we do not have a cause for your headache, we need to do further tests."

He ordered a CAT-scan. The CAT-scan revealed that behind my right eye, in the middle of the grey matter, I had an aneurysm - a blood vessel that had blown up like a balloon - and it was about ready to burst. If it burst, death would be instant.

When my wife heard that, she became hysterical. She was pregnant with our third child. She began to push me to go the next step - an aortic angiogram - which the neurologist recommended. This involved putting a catheter into a major artery in my leg and feeding it up to the aorta, then releasing a dye. This test allowed the doctors to map where the blood vessels are and see if it was possible to stop blood flow to the blood vessel with the aneurysm.

If so, they could make a hole in my head or else remove the eye to get to the affected area, and then they could put metal clips there so that the aneurysm wouldn't burst. While that might sound good, the problem with such a procedure is that the particular blood vessel could be feeding some vital part of the brain, and once it is clipped-off, a stroke could result. That did not sound like a risk I wanted to take.

There was another option, which, unfortunately, did not sound much better. This called for surgically exposing the aneurysm and coating it with glue to reinforce its walls. In this procedure, the surgeons would have to destroy tissue to expose the aneurysm and that could also cause a deficit in brain function.

Neither of these options sounded good to me, but my wife was very upset and pushing the doctors to do something. Finally, I told them, "Okay, we'll do this. But only on the condition that, if you're going to do the aortic angiogram, you must have an operating room ready, so you can move me and do the next procedure. If I ever wake up, I want it to be over."

Everyone agreed, and that's when Rabbi Joshua Gordon (of blessed memory) stepped in. He was the Director of Chabad of the Valley and we had taken advantage of his Shabbat hospitality a number of times. At his table, we heard about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and we attended classes where the Rebbe's teachings were discussed.

Rabbi Gordon said to me, "You have to write the Rebbe a detailed letter about what's going on here. You have to ask him for a blessing."

While I was moving toward Torah observance, I was still skeptical about the mystical aspects of Judaism, and I didn't know what good a blessing could do. I said to him, "Listen, it's not my thing ... I mean, what does someone 3,500 miles away, know about what's going on in my head?"

Rabbi Gordon's comment was, "Why not write the letter? What harm could it do for you to write it? You will be asking for a blessing from a very great man who has given blessings to many, many people who - as a result of his blessings - have had wonderful things happen in their lives."

So I relented. I actually wrote a three-page letter by hand and sent it off.

Four days later, the answer came in the form of a phone call to Rabbi Gordon. Essentially, the Rebbe's message to me was, "There is nothing wrong with you. If you have to take this last test for your own peace of mind, I give you a blessing that it should be successful. But there's nothing wrong with you."

Since I had already decided to do the aortic angiogram I went through with it. When I woke up, I saw, standing over me, the radiologist who specializes in reading neurological films. His faced look very somber, almost miserable.

But I was happy. The very fact that I woke up made me happy. I could think! I could see! I could speak! I didn't care about anything else.

The radiologist stared at me for a few moments, and then he said, "I've never seen anything like this before - that something so clear on a CAT scan should turn out to be absolutely non-existent in an aortic angiogram. You are fine. You have absolutely nothing wrong with you at all. I have no clue why you had that headache."

The bottom line is - I haven't had that headache since. Not since 1981.

Afterwards, we threw a big party catered by one of the kosher restaurants in Los Angeles, since our house was not kosher enough as yet. My neighbors thought I had died and it was a wake, because they saw all these black-hatted rabbis coming over. But then they saw me dancing in the street, celebrating this miracle.

It didn't take more than that to make me Torah observant and a loyal follower of the Rebbe and of Chabad, which I am to this day. My whole family was profoundly affected as well. All our kids attended yeshivas and seminaries, and today, everyone in the family keeps Shabbat, keeps kosher. And we are now expecting our fifteenth grandchild.

This whole level of nachas would not have been mine if it wasn't for the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He sent a Jew - whom he had never met and who knew nothing about him - such a saving blessing.

To read more visit

What's New

Shofar Services

Don't miss the call of the Shofar! Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center to find out about services for the upcoming Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holidays. Rosh Hashana begins Wednesday evening, September 20. Special Shofar blowing services Thursday and Friday in Chabad Centers world-wide.

Saying Mazel Tov

For centuries, it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn the birthing room and the cradle with Psalm 121. The Psalm states our dependence on G-d for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. For a color print of the Psalm call LEFJME at (718) 756-5700, e-mail, or visit, or download from

The Rebbe Writes

Excerpted from a free translation

Motzoei Shabbos-Kodesh, 18th of Elul, 5733 [1973]

...I wish to dwell on one particular teaching that has to do with the central place that man occupies as the "crown" of Creation, and the one on whom depends the fulfillment of the entire Creation, as indicated above.

Rosh Hashanah teaches and reminds every individual about the tremendous powers which have been vested in him; powers which enable him not only to attain personal fulfillment in the fullest measure, but also to influence and direct-and transform, if need be-the whole world around him.

Together with this comes also the tremendous responsibility not to underestimate the powers with which he has been endowed, and to utilize them in the fullest measure for his benefit and for the benefit of the world around him.

The very fact that Rosh Hashanah, which is also the Day of Judgement of the entire world, has been set, not on the day when everything was created yesh me-ayin (ex nihilo), but on the day when man was created, clearly indicates that the outcome of the judgement of the entire creation depends on him.

From which it follows that he has been given the capacity to influence and direct the whole of Creation.

All this is explicitly brought out and emphasized by our Sages of blessed memory in their narration (which is also Torah, "instruction") about the first man, Adam, on the first day of his Creation: No sooner was Adam created than he looked around and pondered on the Created world and recognized that it was all "Thy works, O G-d"-everything is G-d's Creation. Thereupon, he called (and called forth in all creatures): "Come, I and you, let us go... and accept upon us the kingship of Him who created us!" This means that right at the time of his creation, man was given the extraordinary power to raise himself and all Creation with him to the highest level of perfection, through the fullest recognition that finds immediate expression in a basic and concrete manner.

And as explained in many places in our Torah, the manner of creation of the first man, Adam, and the details thereof, are duplicated in many respects in every Jew.

From what has been said above follows a crucial point, which though really self-evident, needs to be emphasized nevertheless, especially in the present day and age: The above mentioned conception in general, and the conclusions that follow from it as to the extraordinary Zechus (privilege) and responsibility-all of this is not a "private" matter which concerns the individual alone. For, as has been stated, it is the duty of every individual to elevate not only himself to the expected height, but to elevate also the whole of the created order, for which purpose he was created and endowed with tremendous powers.

As for the claim that the task of elevating the environment can be accomplished by others, leaving the utilization of his capacities as his private affair - the Torah tells us that the first man was created single in order to impress upon everyone of us that each individual is (like Adam at creation, an only one, hence) - the entire world.

Consequently, just as Adam had no one to shift to the G-d-given task of bringing the whole world to the realization of "Come, let us accept the kingship of Him Who created us," so it is also with every individual regarding his responsibility; it is not transferable.

And when one comes to recognize this responsibility and privilege, all hindrances and difficulties encountered in the way become negligible. For, considering the far-reaching implication of every action of each individual, not only for himself, but for everyone else, reaching to the very end-purpose of creation-surely all difficulties must be trivial by comparison. one of the basic teachings of Rosh Hashanah as the "head" of the year, in the sense of directing all the days of the year as the head directs the functions of all the organs of the body: That a Jew must every day be permeated with the awareness that his every deed, and even word, and even thought affects not only himself and the immediate environment, but also the totality of the world, and into the highest worlds. At the same time he must remember that being "A branch of My planting, the work of My hands," he is given the fullest capacity to carry out his task as it was given to the first man, Adam, "formed by G-d's own hands"-the task of advancing himself and the world around him to the acme of their perfection...

With blessing for a good and sweet year,

All Together

What is an "eruv tavshilin"?

Unlike Shabbat, when cooking/baking is forbidden, we are allowed to cook/bake on Yom Tov if we will be eating it on that day of the holiday itself. When Yom Tov occurs on Friday, as this year, one makes an "eruv tavshilin" to be permitted to cook and bake for Shabbat. To make an eruv tavshilin we take two cooked foods that will be eaten on Shabbat, recite a blessing and declare that this marks the start of our Shabbat preparations. For more info on the exact procedure visit

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

May this year be:

A year of "Arise and have mercy on Zion,"... uplifted in matters of Moshiach and the Redemption... faith in G-d and Moses His servant... traveling with the Heavenly clouds... Revealed Wonders; Wonders in Everything... the building of the Holy Temple... trust; Great wonders... the true and complete Redemption; Dignified Wonders... victory... the seventh generation is the generation of Redemption...King David lives and is eternal; "Those who rest in the dust will arise and sing and he will lead them"... Moshiach is coming and he has already come... the revelation of Moshiach; "He will redeem us"... "And they believed in G-d and in Moses His servant"; "This one will comfort us"; the wonders of true freedom... a new song; an abundance of good (Rambam); the king shall live; inscribed and sealed for a good year... the harp of Moshiach; learning Moshiach's teachings; the coming of Menachem who will comfort us... the King Moshiach; wonders... revealed miracles... a double portion; treasures... the completion and end of exile... the revelation of the Infinite Divine Light; "Humble ones, the time of your Redemption has arrived"; "Jerusalem will dwell in open space"; Your servant David will go forth; the ingathering of the exiles... acceptance of his sovereignty by the people; Rebbe - Rosh B'nei Yisrael; peace... a new song... Moshiach's shofar... unity of the Torah, unity of the Jewish people, unity of the land of Israel; Resurrection of the Dead... "A new Torah will come from Me"

Thoughts that Count

Our patriarch Abraham... (Ethics 5:3)

Just as a father bequeaths his estate to his descendants, Abraham bequeathed his spiritual legacy to every Jew. This legacy gives us the strength to withstand the challenges we face in our Divine service.

(Sichot Parshat Chukat)

Ten miracles were performed for our forefathers in Egypt... (Ethics 5:4)

Pirkei Avot is intended to teach us pious conduct. What is the lesson learned from the above statement? When the Jews in Egypt witnessed the miracles performed on their behalf, they became aware of their true identity. Although they were in exile, they knew that they were servants of G-d rather than the Egyptian's slaves. Although we are still in exile, we are G-d servants, answerable to Him before any other authority.

(The Rebbe)

There are four types of temperaments: He who is easily angered and easily pacified, his loss is cancelled by his gain... (Ethics 5:14)

The Talmud teaches: When any person gives way to anger, if he is wise, his wisdom leaves him; if he is a prophet, his power of prophecy leaves him. And even if greatness was decreed for him from Heaven, whosoever becomes angry will be degraded. Conversely, says the Talmud, among those whom the Holy One loves are a man who does not become angry as a rule, and one who will overlook irritating causes for retaliation.

(Talmud, Pesachim 66b, 113b)

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: "Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth from Mount Choreb..." (Ethics 6:2)

Our souls exist on several planes simultaneously. This Heavenly Voice reverberates, and is "heard" by our souls as they exist in the spiritual realms. And this causes our souls as they are enclothed within our bodies to be aroused to teshuva-repentance.

(Likutei Sichot, vol. 9)

To make the people of Israel meritorious...

There are special verses recited each week upon completing the study of Pirkei Avot. The Hebrew word for "make meritorious" can also mean "to refine." The goal of Torah and mitzvot is to refine the Jewish people, and this is especially true of Pirkei Avot, which teaches us to lift our conduct above the limits of human wisdom.

(Likutei Sichot)

It Once Happened

It was the first day of Rosh Hashana in the synagogue of the famous Berditchever Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak.

The shul was crowded. The Rebbe himself was leading the congregation.

The Rebbe's soft, vibrant voice touched the heartstrings of every worshipper. As the Rebbe pronounced the words, his voice broke, and everyone's heart was filled with remorse. Each pictured himself standing before the Judge of the Universe.

The Rebbe recited line after line of the solemn prayer, which the congregation repeated, until he came to the line:

"To Him, Who acquires His servants in judgment..."

Here the Rebbe suddenly paused, for the words died on his lips. His prayer shawl slid from his head, revealing his pale face; his eyes were shut, and he seemed to be in a trance.

A shudder passed through the worshippers. A critical situation must have arisen in the Heavenly Court; things were not going well for the petitioners.

A few moments later, the color returned to the Rebbe's face, which now became radiant with joy. His voice shook with ecstasy and triumph as he recited:

"To Him, who acquires His servants in judgment!"

After the service, the Rebbe explained:

While we prayed, I felt myself lifted up to the gates of heaven, where I saw Satan carrying a heavy load. The sight filled me with anxiety, for I knew that he was carrying a bag full of sins to put onto the Scales of Justice before the Heavenly Court.

For a moment the bag was left unattended, so I went up to it and began to examine its contents. The bag was crammed with all kinds of sins: evil gossip, hatred without reason, jealousies, wasted time which should have been spent in study of the Torah - ugly creatures of sins, big and small.

I pushed my hand into the bag and began pulling out one sin after another, to look at them more closely. I saw that almost all the sins were committed unwillingly, without pleasure, downright carelessly, or in sheer ignorance. No Jew was really bad, but the circumstances of exile, poverty and hardship, sometimes hardened his heart, set his nerves on edge, brought about petty jealousies, and the like.

And strangely enough, as I was examining all these sins, and thinking what was really behind them, they seemed to melt away, one by one, until hardly anything was left in the bag. The bag dropped back, limp and empty.

The next moment, I heard a terrible cry. Satan had discovered what I had done. "You thief!" he screamed. "What did you do to my sins? All year I labored to gather these precious sins, and now you have stolen them! You shall pay double!"

"How can I pay you?" I pleaded. "My sins may be many, but not so many."

"Well you know the Law," Satan countered. "He who steals must pay double, and if he is unable to pay, he shall be sold into servitude. You are my slave now! Come!"

My captor brought me before the Supreme Judge of the Universe.

After listening to Satan's complaint, the Holy One, blessed is He, said:

"I will buy him, for so I promised through my prophet Isaiah (46:4): 'Even to his old age, I will be the same...I have made him, I will bear him, I will sustain and save him!'"

At this point I awoke - concluded the Rebbe - Now I understand the meaning of the words, "To Him, who acquires His servants in judgment!" We are the servants of G-d, and if we are faithful servants, G-d protects us and is our Merciful Master. Let us remain faithful Servants to G-d, and we'll be spared from being servants of servants, and in the merit of this, the Alm-ghty will surely inscribe us all in the Book of Life, for a happy New Year.

Adapted from The Complete Story of Tishrei, Kehot Publications

Moshiach Matters

Our Torah portion of Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana. In it we read, "G-d will return your captivity." It can also be read, "G-d will return with your captivity." So long as one Jew remains in exile, so does the Divine Presence. An individual's personal exile and redemption includes, and is part of, the general exile and redemption of the Jewish people as a whole. When a Jew is redeemed from his own personal "exile," he must see what other Jews need for their own "exodus." All Jews must go out of exile for the Redemption to be true and complete. Therefore, whatever depends on him, he must do.

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

  1488: Ki Savo 
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