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September 20, 2017 - 29 Elul, 5777

1490: Rosh Hashana / Ha'Azinu

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

 1491: Yom-Kipur  

Mission not Impossible  |  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

Mission not Impossible

Impossible: preposterous, inconceivable, unthinkable, unachievable. The list in the thesaurus goes on and on. There seem to be quite a lot of synonyms to describe something that we consider impossible. But must you be Don Quixote to dream about doing the impossible? Must you work for IMF to accept a mission which seems impossible?

When a Jew undertakes an activity that is totally in concert with his inner self and his Jewish existence, he needn't be bothered by the seeming impossibility of the endeavor. Rather than being overwhelmed by any difficulties, hurdles, or challenges, he can be certain of success. Success might not be immediate, it can take time - maybe a month, a year or even more. But in the end he will be successful. For this is an assignment connected with his essence, and "A G-dly thing exists forever."

But what if this endeavor not only seems to be totally impossible, but actually is impossible according to the laws of nature? We should attempt it anyway, and eventually we will be totally successful, beyond our wildest, most quixotic dream.

Enough theory. How does this work in practice? An apt example is from the life of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, of blessed memory, the mother of the Rebbe. When her husband, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, was exiled by the Communist government in the 1930s, she produced ink out of herbs, so that he could record - in the margins of his books, for there was no paper - his unique, esoteric commentaries and explanations on the Torah.

But, we haven't gotten to the impossible part yet. That happened after Rabbi Levi Yitzchok had passed away. Rebbetzin Chana undertook to smuggle his manuscripts out of Communist Russia. This was truly an impossible task according to everyone's calculations. And yet, somehow, she succeeded in smuggling out his voluminous library of holy manuscripts.

What kind of thoughts go through our heads when we are confronted with an impossible, but crucial and momentous task such as the one just mentioned? Upon reflecting, we might think that it isn't appropriate to be involved in such an activity, for it is a pity to take time away from some simpler task which we are certain to complete successfully.

Everything that happens is Divinely ordained. If you find something that needs fixing, then you have to try to fix it. If you were dealt the card, it's in your hand and you have to play it.

You can take into consideration all the significant obstacles and limitations of the task at hand. You have to speak with certain people, try to influence others, while going about things in a very natural, organized way. However, the energy with which you attack the assignment needs to be above any considerations or limitations. It is a Divinely ordained mission.

It is because of this attitude that people take on impossible tasks and succeed!

An additional reason for our success when we put aside natural considerations and undertake impossible tasks: The Talmud states, "The emissary is like the sender." When a Divine assignment is sent your way, you have the Divine strength of the Sender.

Inspired by a talk of the Rebbe on the anniversary of the passing of his mother, 6 Tishrei.

Living with the Rebbe

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shuva for the first words of the Haftora, "Shuva Yisrael - Return Israel." Some call it Shabbat Teshuva, because it is in The Ten Days of Teshuva.

Teshuva means "return to G-d." On a basic level this means to regret your way, ask for forgiveness and get back on G-d's path.

For a person who has broken trust and wants to once again be trusted, being remorseful and saying "I'm sorry" is not enough. He needs to reach higher, find a greater level of character and prove himself worthy.

However Teshuva could be so much more. Even the holiest of people can tap into the power of Teshuva.

The first verse in the Haftora reads: "Return Israel, until the L-rd your G-d."

What does "until" mean? When you say "return,"it implies going back to a place or situation you were in before. What place are we speaking of here?

This takes us to a whole new level of Teshuva, to a place where we are in perfect harmony with G-d.

Each of us have a soul, a piece of G-d inside of us. It is our essence. Over time we could become so involved in the physical, mundane world that our soul gets forgotten. Even when doing mitzvot (commandments), they can be done out of habit, void of meaning.

Teshuva is connecting to your G-dly essence, your soul. It is a journey to your core, every step you take inward, brings clarity. You see how you are one with G-d, and that He loves you because you are part of Him. When you connect at this level, the lower levels of Teshuva are automatic. How could you remain the same after connecting so deeply? Regret and remorse over your previous state will overtake you, and you become closer to G-d.

Being that our souls are infinite, there is always deeper/higher levels to connect to. Through Teshuva even a Tzadik can find new levels of closeness to G-d.

Your essence is already there, your soul has always been at the highest level. You now have to "return until G-d," return to where your soul is one with G-d. Since G-d is Infinite so is our journey, giving us the ability to get ever closer.

Suffering also brings us closer to G-d. We have suffered enough. Perhaps G-d wants our closeness to come from our own initiative.

In preparation for Yom Kippur, let us make the effort to get closer to G-d. May He, with His Fatherly love, send Moshiach and gather the exiles and bring us home.

May you be sealed for a good and sweet year.

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

The High Holidays in Exile
from the diary of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson

In the diary of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, mother of the Rebbe, she relates various incidents that took place after her husband was arrested for "anti-Soviet" activities.

Time passed in this way, until the month of Tishrei arrived. My husband's turn to receive packages occurred on the day before Rosh Hashana and on the day before Yom Kippur. This was comforting as I would be able to send him various foods - meat and fish - which would remind him somewhat of Yom Tov at home.

In anticipation of Yom Kippur, I secretly requested from a Jewish doctor that worked there that he pay a visit to my husband. Indeed, late at night after Yom Kippur and havdalah he visited my husband's cell and spent some time with him observing how he ate as he broke his fast.

One day, on an afternoon in the month of Cheshvan, a young man entered our home. He ascended the steps, walked into our apartment, and went straight to the dining room. He asked no one for directions; it was as if he knew the house well. The young man seated himself on a chair and introduced himself by asserting that if I breathe a word to anyone about his visit, we will both be in danger!

Rachel, the girl who stayed in our home for many years, was present in the room when the man entered. (She was so devoted to us that she had pleaded with the NKVD agents that they arrest her and spare the Rav, insisting that she will gladly be imprisoned in his place for the entire term of his sentence.)

When the young man noticed her, he said that "her presence did not concern him, and proceeded to state that he wished to convey regards from "Levik Zalmanovitch" (as my husband was referred to).It is impossible to express in writing the feelings that I experienced at that moment...

He continued: "Your husband gave me an exact description of your home so that I would not need to ask anyone for directions, and would go unnoticed. Levik Zalmanovitch was 32 days in solitary confinement and on the thirty-third day I was confined to that cell with him."

He was a Christian, and an engineer, who was released after sixth months of incarceration. Before his release, he promised my husband that as soon as he would return home and change out of his prison uniform, he would bring regards from him. This he did, and immediately came to our home.

He related that he had spent the month of Tishrei together with my husband. "As long as I live, I will never forget his Yom Kippur. He wept and cried out aloud the entire day, reciting chapters of Psalms by heart until late at night. He didn't say a single word to me the entire day, and I didn't have the courage to initiate a conversation."

"Of what crime has my husband been accused?" I asked. "He built a "meeka" (i.e., a mikveh) in the courtyard of the synagogue - this is what he is being accused of. The shammes (beadle) had divulged some information about him."

Indeed, at that time there were discussions about building a mikveh. The shammes of the synagogue had disclosed that the Rav had raised a large sum of money to build it. He also testified that there was a collection in our home, on Simchas Torah, for widows, and that the main solicitor had been my husband, of blessed memory.

In order to confirm this testimony, they brought together the witnesses and my husband for a joint, face-to-face interrogation. The moment the shammes and a shochet - who was also in prison - saw my husband they repudiated their earlier testimony, declaring that they had only signed because they had been placed under duress.

Time passed and all the while I sought ways to prevent my husband from being brought to trial. I approached the director of the division of the NKVD where he was being held, and although he was Jewish, he cruelly rebuffed me every time.

From the prosecutor I learned that the prosecution had classified the matter as a group of religious counter-revolutionaries, headed by Schneersohn. This was terrifying news.

In my search for ways to save my husband, I travelled to Moscow with a petition in hand to the chief prosecutor. After several days I located the waiting area to his office, and spent several hours a day waiting there. Eventually, he received me quite graciously, and assured me that my husband's file would be re-examined. As I sat before him, he looked through all the documents in which I made out the title "Schneersohn's Group."

I sensed that his civility was insincere. Yet when he told me to return home and that he would send me a response - I wanted to believe that the outcome would be positive.

Shortly afterward, reports began to circulate that the case will be transferred to Moscow, and that it would be tried by a "Special Council." This meant a "trial" tightly supervised by a team of four representatives of the highest civil and military administrations. They would also decide from the outset, even before the trial, the category of criminal to which the accused belonged.

This was despite all the petitions that I had presented to the authorities, and after all the telephone calls that I had made to the prosecutor and the interrogator. After all this, they sent me a message informing me that they had already compiled all the evidence against my husband, and that it has been dispatched to Moscow, to the Department for Special Matters. They even added venomously, "See how prominent your husband is - that we are transferring his case exclusively to Moscow, the capital city."

From all this it was clear that they were planning to sentence my husband to be exiled. Considering that his passport confirmed that he was more than 70 years old, and he had papers diagnosing a heart condition. I pressed hard to win approval for a special escort to accompany him on the journey. I was informed that they expected him to make the journey in good health.

When I asked for permission to include more food in the package for my husband, they responded that he had become so healthy that I wouldn't recognize him, and that he eats all the prison food...

However, once they had set the day that my husband was to be exiled, the interrogator told me to bake something for him for the journey, because he had not put any of their food into his mouth during his entire stay in prison...

What's New

Triple Ceremony

The conclusion of the study of Maimonides' Mishne Torah will take place for the 36th time this year for those who study one chapter a day and for the 12th time for those who study three chapters daily. The conclusion will be celelbrated with a special ceremony to take place on Tuesday, 6 Tishrei/September 26, in various locations throughout the world. In New York the main "siyum" will be at Oholei Menachem on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, near Lubavitch World Headquarters.

The Sounds of the Shofar

The main mitzva (commandment) of Rosh Hashana is to hear the shofar being sounded. To this end, thousands of Chabad Centers around the world have special Shofar blowing ceremonies at various times throughout the Rosh Hashana holiday to enable as many Jews as possible to fulfill this mitzva. In addition, Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim walk throughout their cities to visit nursing homes, hospitals and prisons to afford as many Jews as possible to hear the sound of the shofar.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated and adapted

6th of Tishrei, 5750 [1989]
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d Bless You All!

Greeting and blessing:

It is customary to "open with a blessing," in this instance, a blessing for a chasima (sealing) and g'mar chasima (final sealing) for a good and sweet year.

It is after Rosh Hashana and we have already entered the new year. At all times, even when a person's knowledge and actual conduct are satisfactory, he should constantly strive to invest his time in further study, and thus to improve his conduct (his thought, speech, and action). Surely this applies at the threshold of a new year, which reminds us that it is necessary to strive toward a new and more elevated level of perfection in our daily life.

...Both miracles and nature are expressions of G-dliness. Nature too emanates from G-d. He created and fixed the laws of nature and uses them as a means to control the world. What distinguishes miracles from nature is that miracles are out of the ordinary, a higher order of existence than G-d usually reveals. The Hebrew word for miracle, "nes," also means "uplifted," raised above and exalted. Thus, a miracle is an occurrence which introduces a higher frame of reference into creation, elevating the world beyond its natural limitations.

These two approaches, the natural and the miraculous, must be reflected in the behavior of every Jew. We must exhibit both a natural pattern of behavior and a miraculous pattern of behavior.

Even a Jew's natural pattern of behavior involves absolute adherence to the directives of the Torah. However, inasmuch as it is his ordinary conduct, it is limited by the bounds of his human potential.

G-d, however, grants a Jew an additional potential to serve Him through a miraculous pattern of behavior, allowing him to transcend his natural limits. This does not mean that a person merely improves himself slightly or even greatly, in the spirit of the directive that "in holy matters, one should always ascend higher," by increasing his commitment to sessions of Torah study, undertaking a new hiddur (enhancement) in the performance of a mitzvah (commandment), or the like. Rather, it means that he changes entirely, adopting a totally new and more elevated pattern of behavior.

"All Jews are presumed to act in an upstanding manner." Thus, we can assume that each Jew utilized the month of Elul, the month of stock-taking, to correct all his deeds of the previous year and to elevate them to the level of completion and perfection.

We can also assume that he was granted a full measure of pardon, forgiveness, and atone-ment, and was inscribed - and that inscription was sealed - for a good year in all matters....

It is now demanded of each Jew - man, woman, and child - that he work with himself and elevate himself to a plane so new and so high that his conduct in this year will be miraculous when compared to his conduct in the previous year.

This miraculous pattern of behavior - serving G-d (through Torah, prayer, and mitzvos) in an unlimited manner - must pervade every aspect of our conduct, including the mitzvos between man and G-d, the mitzvos between man and his fellowman, beginning with the mitzvah to "love your neighbor as yourself," and also the mitzvos that are connected with non-Jews and with the world at large.

G-d relates to the Jewish people "measure for measure." Accordingly, it is understood that a miraculous pattern of behavior on the part of a Jew arouses a miraculous pattern of Divine behavior and draws down unlimited Divine blessings upon himself, both as an individual and as a part of the Jewish people as a whole, and upon the world at large.

May each individual's acceptance of firm and powerful resolutions regarding all the above be considered by G-d as if these resolutions have already been carried out. In particular, this is true, since we have already experienced several days of the new year and one can assume that the above has already begun to be carried out. And may the meaning of the acronym resulting from the name of this year be fulfilled quite literally, so that "this will be a year of miracles."

May it also include the most vital miracle, the miracle of the true and complete redemption led by our righteous Moshiach, when there will be even greater miracles than those which occurred during the exodus from Egypt. ...

May G-d fulfill the heartfelt prayer of each Jew and of the Jewish people as a whole - and bring the true and complete redemption in the immediate future.

All Together

What are "kapparot"?

Kapparot means "atonement." Customarily before Yom Kippur, one takes a chicken and passes it over the head three times while reciting a special prayer. The chicken is then ritually slaughtered and often given to the poor to use for their pre-Yom Kippur meal. The purpose of kapparot is to invoke sincere repentance through the thought that a similar fate as that awaiting the fowl might be due us, but through G-d's mercy and our true repentance it is averted. A fish or money can also be used for the kapparot.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

In these days Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, our thoughts turn to Teshuva - repentance.

The Rebbe discusses the Sages' comment of the need for the Jewish people to do teshuva (return to G-d) before Moshiach comes. The Rebbe said:

"The Talmud (Sanhedrin) states that the coming of Moshiach is dependent only on teshuva - repentance. As to the continuation of the above declaration of the Sages, that 'the matter now depends on teshuva alone,' G-d's people have already turned to Him in teshuva. For teshuva is an instantaneous process, which transpires 'in one moment, in one turn.' Furthermore, a single thought of teshuva is sufficient to alter one's entire spiritual status....

"Since on more than one occasion every Jew has had thoughts of teshuva, the coming of the future Redemption is surely imminent..."

Thus, though we are obligated to continuously do teshuva, the Rebbe clearly stated that the teshuva necessary to bring the Redemption has already been done.

May we merit the Redemption, as the Rebbe prophesied, in the immediate future.

Thoughts that Count

Give ear, O heavens and I will speak; listen, O earth to the words of my mouth (Deut. 32:1)

The Divine service a Jew is asked to perform involves the fusion of two opposites. We must serve G-d with simple faith and accepting G-d's authority, which stem from the essence of the soul and transcend our understanding. But our Divine service must also involve our conscious powers of intellect and emotion. They too must perceive G-dliness. The bond which the essence of the soul shares with G-d must be extended into the realm of the conscious powers, so that we will serve G-d with more than simple faith. We will also be able to understand G-dliness, love Him, and hold Him in awe.

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 4)

The essential G-dly potential within a Jew allows him to be simultaneously "close to the heavens" while he is immersed in the application of Torah to worldly concerns. His state of spiritual elevation elevates, without negating, his existence within the material world.

(Sichot Kodesh, Ha'azinu-5751)

I will heap misfortunes upon them; I will use up My arrows on them (Deut. 32:23)

Comments Rashi, "My arrows will be spent, but they [the Jewish people] will not be spent." All the nations who have oppressed the Jews throughout the ages will eventually be punished with extinction, but the Jewish people will exist forever, despite the persecutions against them.

(Torat Moshe)

It Once Happened

Two brothers, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech, were great tzadikim and amongst the most prized disciples of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Magid of Mezritch. With the passing of time and difficulty of communication, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech lost contact with a third brother, who was not a chasid.

The two brothers, throughout their many travels, would ask about their brother and try to ascertain his whereabouts. They were intrigued to know what type of lifestyle he was living. Was he religious like themselves, or had he, G-d forbid, abandoned the teachings of the Torah? And even if he was religious, was he exacting in his practice, concerned only for the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law?

And so, in each town and village they visited, as they spread the teaching of their master, the Magid, they asked if anyone knew the whereabouts of their brother. Try as they might, they could not find out any information. Yet, they still persisted on their self-imposed mission.

When finally they did hear some information concerning where their brother lived, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech rejoiced. And yet, there was a certain amount of hesitation in their rejoicing for, after over a dozen years of separation, they had no idea what their reunion would bring.

And so, with slight trepidation, the two brothers made their way to a small village where their brother was an innkeeper. Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech entered the inn and observed their brother at work. He was busy the entire day greeting guests, preparing rooms, and cooking food. He ran from person to person, task to task, with a cheerful countenance and dealt with each guest, rich or poor, graciously. With his long beard, tzitzit, and long black coat, Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech were assured that their brother had indeed remained true to the Torah even in this isolated village.

But still, a question remained unanswered for Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelch. These two chasidic masters were known for their humility. But, of course, humility doesn't preclude the fact that they understood that there was something special about themselves. They might have considered themselves undeserving of the remarkable qualities which G-d gave them, but to outright deny their uniqueness would be like denying a precious gift. And so, they wondered, was there something exceptional about their brother, too, and the way he served his Creator?

Evening came at their brother's inn. Most of the guests had already arrived and the furious activity of the daytime hours had slowed. Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech observed as their brother entrusted his wife with the inn's duties and entered his study. In the study, he prayed the evening service and then poured over his holy books until it was quite late.

The brothers were reassured by this sight, but not awed; it was not uncommon for a Jew to put in a full day's work and then spend his "leisure" hours in prayer and Torah study. However, their brother's next activity was indeed unusual. Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech watched as their brother began to say the Shema before bedtime. In the middle of the prayers before retiring, their brother took out a worn ledger and opened it toward the end of the book.

For long moments he sat motionless, pouring over a page of his ledger. "How much could be written on one page that it takes him so long to read it?" they wondered. They continued to watch, transfixed. As the minutes ticked away, they saw their brother begin to shake. Tears rolled down his cheeks and onto the page of the ledger in front of him. In a quiet, trembling voice they heard him read from the ledger, "I didn't serve this guest today with as much honor as is befitting a fellow-Jew...I was too quick to answer this person when they asked me a question..." On and on went the list of their brother's "sins" which he had written into the tear-stained ledger.

Reb Zusia and Reb Elimelech watched as their brother continued crying and reading from the ledger until the words on the page literally disappeared. Whether it was his tears or a miracle that washed away his "sins," the brother knew that when his sins were no longer on the page, his sincere repentance had been accepted.

The brothers thought of their parents, and wondered at what great deeds they had done to merit raising such remarkable children.

Moshiach Matters

We have the right and a responsibility to remove every obstacle that conceals or obscures the Redemption. We have the power to nullify the decree witholding Moshiach. To fulfill our obligation, we must demand "We Want Moshiach Now" and do all in our power to reveal the Moses, the Moshiach within ourselves. In this way we bring about the Redemption and the revelation of Moshiach, the Moses of our generation.

(From Reflections of Redemption, based on Likutei Sichot 19, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)

 1491: Yom-Kipur  
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