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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

November 3, 2017 - 14 Cheshvan, 5778

1495: Vayera

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  1494: Lech-Lecha1496: Chayei Sara  

The Uncomfortable Guest  |  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

The Uncomfortable Guest

by Dovid YB Kaufmann obm

Being a guest can be awkward. Of course it's fun not having to wash the dishes. Or cook. Or clean up. Or do laundry or take out the garbage or pay the bills or put the kids to bed or answer the phone or do any of the things or take any of the responsibilities that come with being in charge of the house.

Being a guest in someone's home differs from being a guest in a hotel. There, we pay for the gratuities and amenities. The kindness may not be forced or artificial, but it's bought and contingent. Staying at a hotel, we feel neither guilt or gratitude. Nor do we have to temper our demands. (We have to be polite because people need to be well-mannered.) At a hotel, we pay for what we get.

Being a guest, we're on our best behavior. We don't spread the newspaper out over the whole table; even when the host gives us permission and says 'help yourself,' we still ask beforehand or inform afterwards.

As a guest, we're dependent on others. We're dependent on them materially - for a bed, for amenities and utilities. We're also dependent in an emotional or spiritual sense. We can be a guest, but unwelcome. The host can provide food, a room, all the appropriate accommodations, but make us feel like an intruder, almost like a thief. Someone else creates an atmosphere of security, of inclusion, of belonging - we feel almost like a part of the family.

But no matter how pleasantly we lodge, we live tentatively. A guest has a temporary lease, his stay always contingent. There's nothing unconditional about life as a guest; guests stay with restrictions, provisions, conditions.

Being a guest in someone else's home is sort of like, well, being a soul in a body. The soul's lodging is temporary. It has a metaphoric room and board, but in a sense the body isn't home. The soul can't be completely comfortable in the body. After all, it has to share the body with the animalistic. The selfish, material side has first claim on the body's resources. It belongs to the animal in us and is subject to the urges of the physical.

In fact, we might even say that G-d is a guest in this world. Those who live here don't always act according to His Will. His Presence isn't always felt; even when It is, It finds Itself in the background. The Divine Presence in this world too often resembles a guest at the dinner table - invited to eat, allowed to participate in the conversation, but not the center of attention.

But everything changes when Moshiach comes. Then we'll have transformed ourselves into a home for the soul and the world into a dwelling place for G-d. The guest room ceases to resemble a hotel suite and looks like part of the house. The soul becomes content within the body and G-d becomes comfortable in His world.

Maybe that's why the Sages say that hachnasat orchim - welcoming guests - is greater than greeting the Divine Presence. True hospitality - a trait inherited from Abraham - does more than make the guest feel at home. It transforms our house into His home.

Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah portion of Vayeira, G-d tells Abraham, that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomora. Then it says, "... And Abraham was still standing before G-d. Abraham came forward and said, 'Would You blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!'"

If Abraham was still standing before G-d, what does it mean, that he came forward?

Rashi explains that Abraham didn't come forward in a physical sense, but rather, he prepared himself emotionally, to defend Sodom and Gomora from annihilation. Abraham intended to plead the case before G-d in three ways: to argue sternly with Him; to appease Him; and to pray to Him.

We see that he did all three, first speaking sternly, he said "Would You blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!" In appeasement he said, "It would be sacrilegious for You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are alike, that would be sacrilegious of you! Shall the Judge of the whole world not judge fairly?!" Then in prayer he said, "Behold I have begun to speak to my L-rd, and I am dust and ashes."

We are taught regarding Abraham that he manifested the attribute of kindness and love. In last week's Haftora, G-d even called him, "Abraham who loved Me." So it seems strange and out of character that Abraham opens his argument with stern words. "Would you blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!" Why doesn't he begin with words of appeasement or prayer, and if that doesn't work, try stern words? That would be more in character with the Abraham we know.

When it speaks of Abraham's kindness and love, it is referring to the way he served G-d, in line with his nature. However, here lives were on the line, and the angel tasked with destroying Sodom and Gomora, were already on the way there. Abraham went against his nature and spoke sternly first, not making diplomatic calculations, because lives were in the balance.

The stories of our ancestors are a lesson to us, his children. Even more, just as we inherit from Abraham the kindness and the love that he had, we must be ready to take action when it is called for, just as he did.

The lesson here is that when the well-being of another is on the line - whether it is his spiritual - or physical well-being, it is not a time for calculations, it is a time for action, throwing yourself into the task with strong and effective action, even if it means going against your nature. To save a life, we go the extra mile.

May the merits of the kindness and love all of the Jewish people give be the mitzvat that tips the scale and sets in motion the coming of Moshiach! 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

Body Challenged, Soul Redeemed
with Sarah Riva Spiro

In connection with this week's Torah portion, which teaches about the importance of visiting the sick, we share a few stories from the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign's newsletter to inspire all of us to be more actively involved in this important mitzva.

What are the odds that an empty bottle of ibuprofen might actually help save someone's life? Yet, that is exactly the circumstance that recently contributed importantly to saving the life of KM, together with the very crucial help of the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign.

The story began when Rabbi Aron Wolf, founder and director of CMC, received a phone call from KM, who asked if CMC could please bring a bottle of ibuprofen to his house. Surprised by the unusual request, Rabbi Wolf inquired as to KM's health, and KM replied that he had a headache and felt like he needed an ibuprofen before going to sleep, but he had just recently finished the last remaining tablets in his bottle.

Concerned about the possibility of a serious health issue, Rabbi Wolf did not simply send someone to KM with a new bottle of ibuprofen. Instead, he dropped everything and quickly made his way over to KM's residence, in order to see him in person. And sure enough, upon seeing Rabbi Wolf in person, KM admitted experiencing much more than just a regular headache. He was also feeling dizzy, nauseated, and unusually weak and faint.

Losing no time, Rabbi Wolf immediately called Hatzalah (emergency medical service). KM was rushed to the hospital, where he was found to have a brain hemorrhage. Thankfully, the doctors were able to intervene and operate on KM, thus stabilizing his condition and saving his life.

Upon awakening and understanding what had occurred, KM expressed his gratitude to Rabbi Wolf for helping to save his life. "CMC could have just accepted my request for ibuprofen at face value," he said. "But instead, you were concerned enough to realize that something much worse may be going on, and your caring was responsible for saving my life."

"Yes," replied Rabbi Wolf. "CMC's caring definitely helped to save your life - along with an empty bottle of ibuprofen!"

Seven years ago, CMC received a request for assistance from the owner of a local nursing home. The owner was in the process of selling the nursing home, and he was very concerned about Harold, an extremely ill and isolated Jewish resident. Seeing that Harold had been abandoned by his family and did not have any friends, the owner had always made sure to take a very personal interest in his care. Now however, the nursing home was changing hands; consequently, the owner asked CMC to step in and effectively fill the role of Harold's family.

So, for the last seven years, CMC visited Harold, making every effort to uplift his spirits and rekindle his interest in life. Throughout scores of hospital admissions and whenever a medical decision needed to be made, CMC always acted as Harold's family, visiting him, advocating for him, and taking the responsibility of being his power-of-attorney for health care.

About a year ago, Harold's health took an even further significant turn for the worse, to the extent that his doctor almost decided to transfer him to hospice care. Over the last year of Harold's life, CMC intensified their efforts on his behalf, including dozens of hospital visits, and countless meetings and phone calls with doctors and nurses. As Harold's POA, CMC left no stone un-turned in seeking the best possible outcome for him.

Sadly, Harold passed away. Although the legal responsibility as POA terminated with his passing, CMC continued to care for Harold as family. CMC organized and paid for all the necessary arrangements (with the help of Chicago Jewish Funerals for their professionalism and assistance in providing special considerations for indigent burials) for Harold to receive a dignified traditional Jewish burial. The only attendees at the funeral were the individuals whom CMC arranged and transported in order to make a minyan so that kaddish could be recited for Harold at the graveside.

Who can measure the impact of befriending a lonely and infirm individual? Thanks to CMC's visits and caring, Harold was not left alone during his final years, but felt valued and cared for. May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.

As a man with an appreciation for milestones, Seymour E. was very excited about the prospect of celebrating his 90th birthday in style, together with his nearest and dearest family and friends. Indeed, long before the big day began approaching in earnest, Seymour was already eagerly looking forward over the horizon toward his 90th birthday.

Unfortunately however, as the months ticked by, Seymour's health took several turns for the worse. He became further inhibited from walking and independent movement, and required an increased level of care in the home. Although throughout his life Seymour was distinguished by his brilliant intellect, friendly approach, and engaging conversational style, he would now spend more and more of his time either disengaged or sleeping.

Seymour missed his former activities. He was frustrated by the limitations of his poor health, and by the burden that these limitations imposed upon him and his dear wife, Bella. And as these limitations only increased over time, Seymour's big dream of having a grand 90th birthday celebration seemed to become ever more distant from reality.

CMC, however, refused to allow any limitations to get in the way of celebrating Seymour's important milestone. Weeks in advance of the big day, CMC got together with Seymour's family, and made all the necessary plans and arrangements to ensure that his 90th birthday party would truly be one to remember.

Thus, as a result of CMC's encouragement and manifold assistance, Seymour proudly sat at the head of a glorious 90th birthday party table, surrounded by family and friends. The table was beautifully set and decorated, and was adorned with a delicious buffet of tantalizing dishes, cakes and fruit. But the true joy of the party was the palpable love and closeness of Seymour and Bella's nearest and dearest who came to participate and rejoice in the celebration. It was truly an uplifting occasion, which will remain in the hearts of many for years to come.

What's New

Jewish Heritage in Ukraine

A tour organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine visited 20 southern Ukrainian cities. A "Mitzvah Tank" mobile home, while a common site in New York City or Israel, is unusual in Ukraine. the goal of the weeks long tour was to reach Jews who haven't been reached through the local synagogues and Jewish community programs.

Torah Scrolls Welcomed

A new Torah scroll was welcomed to the Chabad Jewish Center of Camarillo, California. The Torah was dedicated by Moshe and Ruth Daniels in memory of the senior Daniels. Chabad of Clinton, New York, serving Jewish students at Hamilton College and the Jewish community of Utica and its environs, welcomed a newly refurbished Torah Scroll, sponsored by Daniel and Diana Sragowicz and organized by the Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach.

The Rebbe Writes

From letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

The Week of the Torah portion Vayeira, 5730 (1969)

It was a Jewish custom to relate the events of the week to the weekly portion of the Torah, and thereby to derive true instruction from the Torah.

This week's Torah portion tells us of the birth and upbringing of the first Jewish child, born of Jewish parents, namely, Yitzchak, the son of Abraham and Sara, the first ancestors of our Jewish people.

The circumstances surrounding Yitzchak's birth were supernatural and miraculous. His circumcision took place when he was eight days old, and his upbringing was fraught with difficulties and trials.

Quite different was the case of Abraham's son Ishmael, whose birth was quite normal, and who was circumcised when he was 13 years old, i.e, at a mature age.

Yet is was Yitzchak whom G-d chose to be Abraham's true heir, from whom the Jewish people would descend.

Thus, the Torah teaches us that when new generations are to be born who are to ensure the Jewish future and continuity, the approach must not be based on natural considerations and human calculations. For Jewish existence is not dependent upon natural forces, but upon G-d's direct intervention and providence.

Similarly, the education and upbringing of Jewish children is not to be determined by the same considerations and criteria as in the non-Jewish world. Jewish parents do not wait until the child becomes mature enough to determine his behavior and find his own way to Judaism. He is given the strongest and fullest possible measure of Jewish training from infancy. Only in this way is it possible to ensure the "everlasting covenant" with G-d, to come through all difficulties and trials with strength, and endowed with G-d's blessings materially and spiritually.

Fifth day of the Torah portion Vayeira, 5731 (1970)

...This significant event, taking place on the day after the reading of the weekly Torah portion of Vayeira, is indeed related to the concluding highlights of the Torah portion, namely, the birth and upbringing of the first Jewish child, Yitzchak, born of the first Jewish parents, Abraham and Sara.

Some of those present thought the celebration unrealistic, seeing no future for a single Jewish child surrounded by a hostile world.

The Torah tells us that Abraham made a "great feast" (When Yitzchak was two years old), at which the leading dignitaries of the age were present (Rashi, quoting the Midrash). Some of those present thought the celebration unrealistic, seeing no future for a single Jewish child surrounded by a hostile world. Yet, G-d promised that this child would be the father of a great and holy nation; a nation which, though overwhelmingly outnumbered, would not only outlive its enemies, but would be a leader and a guiding light to the rest of mankind.

The cue to the fulfillment of the Divine promise is to be found in the passage immediately following the above narrative, where the Torah tells us of Sara's heartfelt concern for Yitzchak's upbringing and appropriate atmosphere even at that early age.

Thus the Torah sets the pattern for Jewish education. it teaches us that regardless of the odds, the future of the Jewish child, as of the Jewish people as a whole, is assured by Divine promises, provided the parents fulfill their responsibilities, even to the point of mesirat nefesh [self-sacrifice] if necessary. Not least, it teaches us that in matters of Torah and holiness, even "a small beginning flourishes exceedingly in the end."

All Together

Are there Jewish customs during pregnancy?

There are numerous prayers for various stages of pregnancy and labor/delivery, some said by the mother-to-be and others by the future father. In addition, the Rebbe encouraged pregnant women to give charity every weekday, and on the eve of Shabbat to give charity specifically to a Rabbi Meir Baal Haness charity fund, as well as to have one's mezuzot checked at some point during the pregnancy. Visit for more customs.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Next Thursday (November 9), is the 20th of Cheshvan, the birthday of Rabbi Shalom Dovber, the fifth Chabad leader known by his initials as the Rebbe Rashab.

In the summer of 1960 the Lubavitcher Rebbe visited Camp Gan Israel in upstate New York, during which he related a little-known story about the Rebbe Rashab. It seems that one time the Rebbe Rashab had left Lubavitch in Russia and traveled to Vienna, to be treated by doctors. While in Vienna, the Rebbe had suddenly announced that he wished to visit a certain village 100 kilometers away. Before he left, he went to a store and purchased several articles of clothing, and various other items.

When the Rebbe Rashab arrived in the town he sought out the home of a widow and her two daughters. He gave her the things he had bought and some money, and told her it was to help her marry off her daughters. In fact, the widow had been too poor to do so.

In the Rebbe's words: "Just think about it: In a far-off town 100 kilometers from Vienna, the Rebbe found an opportunity to bring G-d nachas. In truth, the Rebbe had made the lengthy trip solely for that purpose. And he himself went to the store to make the purchases, just so a poor bride could get married.

"This, then, is the lesson to be learned: Regardless of where we are, we must always look for a good deed to perform. For we will certainly find one, and thereby bring pleasure to G-d."

May we merit this year to celebrate the Rebbe Rashab's birthday together with him and with all the great tzadikim of all generations, led by our Righteous Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him. (Gen. 18:19)

Rashi comments that the phrase "For I know him" implies love and affection for Abraham. G-d loved Abraham because He knew that Abraham would teach his children to follow in his footsteps. As great and impressive as Abraham's worship of G-d was, more worthy of merit was the fact that he could be counted on to instruct others.

(Hayom Yom)

To do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19)

When G-d bestows wealth and abundance on a Jew, he must honestly judge himself and ask: "Am I really worthy of all this goodness? What have I done to deserve these blessings?" When a person is thus honest with himself, it will cause him to realize that the sharing of his wealth with those less fortunate is truly tzedaka - righteousness.

(Sefer HaMaamarim)

In all that Sara may say to you - hearken unto her voice (Gen. 21:12)

The Talmud states: Three tzadikim (righteous people) were given a taste of the World to Come in this world - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the World to Come, the prophecy - "the female will surround and encompass the male," and "a woman of valor is the crown of her husband" (Proverbs) will be fulfilled. Abraham was given a glimpse of this when G-d told him to heed the words of Sara, who was an even greater prophet than he.

(Likutei Torah)

G-d appeared to him (Gen. 18:1)

Rashi explains that the entire reason for G-d's appearing to Avraham was for the purpose of "visiting the sick." From here we learn the greatness of the mitzva of visiting the sick.

It Once Happened

When Reb Aryeh Leib, who was known as the Shpoler Zeide, had been rebbe for three years, there was terrible famine in the area. The tzadik (righteous person), whose love for the poor, the needy, the widowed was unbounded, felt compelled to provide for the thousands affected by the disaster. He could neither eat nor sleep, and his heartache was so great that for weeks he couldn't bring himself to eat anything more than bread and tea.

As the famine spread to the furthest provinces of Russia, rebbes from the starving communities wrote to Shpola, begging Reb Aryeh Leib to raise a storm in the Heavens, and beg that the deadly decree be rescinded.

Who, if not he, a tzadik, known to work wonders, could accomplish this?

The Shpoler Zeide, on his part, wrote to ten of the greatest tzadikim of the day - Reb Zusya of Hanipoli, Reb Yaakov Shimshon of Shipitovka, Reb Ze'ev of Zhitomir, and others - requesting that they come to Shpola immediately.

They soon arrived and were seated at the long table of the Shpoler Zeide, and heard his awesome words: "My masters, I am taking the Alm-ghty to a din Torah, a lawsuit, and you are to serve as the judges. It is true that, according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must take his case to the place where the defendant is, but since in this unique case, 'there is no place devoid of His presence,' and since, more particularly, 'wherever ten are assembled the Divine Presence rests,' we will hold the court case here."

The holy congregation agreed, and joined in prayer, their fervent supplications battering the Gates of Heaven.

The Shpoler Zeide then instructed his aide to announce: "By the order of those gathered here, I hereby proclaim that Reb Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel, summons the Alm-ghty to a court-case which will be duly conducted here in three days."

The holy rebbes spent the next three days together, in fasting and prayer, and no one was permitted to interrupt their devotions. On the fourth day, after they had concluded the morning prayers and they were still wrapped in their prayer shawls and adorned by their tefilin, the Shpoler Zeide solemnly signalled his aide to announce that the court case was about to begin.

"In the name of all the women and children of the Jews of Russia," the tzadik declared, "I hereby state my claim against the Defendant. Why does the Creator of the Universe not provide them with food, thereby preventing their death (G-d forbid) of hunger? Doesn't the Torah itself say, 'For unto Me are the Children of Israel bondsmen; they are My bondsmen'? Do we not have His promise, recorded by the Prophet Ezekiel, that even if His children should someday desire to go in the ways of the nations of the world, that this will never happen? One can draw the conclusion that the Children of Israel are the Alm-ghty's servants for all eternity.

"In that case, they should, at least, be in the category of Jewish bondsmen. Jewish law teaches that a master is required to provide for the wife and children of his bondsman. Can the Al-mighty violate his own Torah so blatantly?

"Now I'm well aware that some clever prosecuting angel will argue in defense of the Creator, saying that these servants are remiss in their service; that they don't serve their Master as well as they should. But to this bogus argument I have two replies: Firstly, where is it written that if a bondsman is lazy and doesn't work properly, his wife and children are to deprived of their sustenance? Secondly, if these servants are lacks in their performance, their Master can fault no one, but Himself. For who else gave each servant an evil inclination whose whole job and purpose it is to drive them to abandon their loyalty and to destroy their desire to serve? Why, I can swear that if this evil inclination, which the Master Himself created, would cease to exist, they would become the most perfect servants possible!"

Ten judge-tzadikim consulted their tomes of Torah to search the law for the correct verdict. After the passage of some time they stood to deliver the unanimous ruling:

"This court finds in favor of Reb Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel. The Alm-ghty is accordingly required, by whatever means at His disposal (and the whole world is His) to provide for the women and children of His People. And may the Heavenly Court above agree and support the verdict of this court in the World Below." The court pronounced its verdict three times.

Then the Shpoler Zeide asked to have vodka and refreshments served. The tzadikim said "l'chaim" and ate together in a joyous mood before departing for home. Five days after the momentous verdict had been reached, the government announced a shipment of thousands of tons of grain. Immediately, the grain prices fell and before long, there were ample fresh supplies. For the entire following year, bread was bountiful for all.

Moshiach Matters

Of the many events in the Torah that have a clear connection to Moshiach, surely the Akeida, the binding of Isaac that we read about in this week's Torah portion, is one of the most powerful. Indeed, the Sages mention several aspects of the Akeida that foreshadow the Redemption. For example. the Great Shofar that signals the coming of Moshich will be from the ram that was sacrificed in Isaac's stead.

(From Reflections of Redemption, based on Likutei Sichot 20, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)

  1494: Lech-Lecha1496: Chayei Sara  
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