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Devarim Deutronomy

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1498: Vayetzei

1499: Vayishlach

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Devarim Deutronomy

December 1, 2017 - 13 Kislev, 5778

1499: Vayishlach

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

  1498: Vayetzei1500: Vayeshev  

You Are Here. Or Are You?  |  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

You Are Here. Or Are You?

During the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, a question was asked of parents each night on American television: "It's ten p.m., do you know where your children are?"

That question even made it to Time Magazine's "Top Ten" list of Public Service Announcements. Airing such a PSA today would probably bring looks of amusement from parents and disgust from their children.

If someone directed that question to you personally, at 10 p.m. or at any other time, you would likely suspect that the questioner was a bit strange.

Aside from visits to malls, zoos, airports or amusement parks when we often have to refer to maps to find out where we are, we generally know where we are.

Or do we?

The first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, was imprisoned on trumped up charges of anti-government activities. His release from prison is celebrated on the 19th of Kislev (Dec. 8 this year). During his imprisonment, one of the Czar's officers - having heard of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's keen intellect and outstanding genius in all areas of life - engaged him in a conversation.

The officer had an unsolved question concerning a passage in the Bible. "It says that after he sinned by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam 'hid.' When G-d wanted to speak with Adam, He asked him, 'Where are you?' Didn't G-d know where Adam was?" asked the officer.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied, "The Bible is eternal and its message is for all times. G-d was inquiring of Adam, and of all his descendants for all time, "Where are you? Where do you stand in the fulfillment of your life's mission? How much have you accomplished today and what do you intend to accomplish tomorrow that will help you fulfill the special task with which you have been entrusted?"

The question "Where are you?" is asked every day of each one of us. Like the question, "Who are you?" the answer must come from a place that goes beyond names and titles and positions and affiliations and job descriptions. To be able to properly respond, our answer has to come from our very essence. For G-d does not direct the question to Adam or Eve, to Michael or Jennifer. He directs it to you: "Where are you?"

An important start in being able to answer this question is to understand who "you" are. The Chasidic teachings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman - the dissemination of which was the true cause for his imprisonment - explain that you are comprised of a G-dly soul and a body. Torah, primarily as elucidated by Chasidic teachings, can help us fully understand these two components of ourselves. Together with that understanding comes the ability to begin to answer the age-old and ageless question, "Where are you?"

The New Year of Chasidut commences on the 19th of Kislev. Make a New Year's resolution that you will never regret. Join a Torah class illuminated by Chasidic teachings.

Then you'll find out where you really are.

Living with the Rebbe

The Haftora for Vayishlach is the entire book of Obadiah, which is the only book of the Bible that has just one chapter. The Haftora tells of the fate awaiting Edom, Esau's children, when Moshiach comes.

What are the attributes of Esau that he passed on to his descendants?

Esau oftened deceived his father, being disingenuous about his observance of his father's teachings. A second attribute of Esau was his coldness towards G-dliness in general. This is something that we see today, as we experience a barrage of godless laws being passed all over the world, in the name of progress. Where G-d is being erased from everywhere possible, and where all sense of morality and decency is being wiped out. We also see how the good people of the world are being treated badly, while governments bend backwards to make evil regimes happy.

The connection to the Torah portion is clear. The portion tells of the confrontation between Jacob and Esau's angel, Yaakov and Eisav and Eisav's departure from Canaan to Mount Seir. The Haftora continues with Eisav's future and tragic end.

Ovadia was chosen to convey this prophecy, because he was an Edomite who converted to Judaism. As the expression goes, "From the forest itself comes the handle of the ax." In other words, that which destroys the forest, comes from the forest itself. Here to Ovadia who came from Edom, says the prophecy of Edom's destruction. Ovadia merited to be a prophet, because he saved 100 prophets, hiding them from the wicked Ezevel, and borrowing money to sustain them.

The Haftora begins with the words "Chazon Ovadia." "Chazon" means vision, hinting to the verse that tells us that when Moshiach comes, "from my flesh I will envision G-dliness," i.e. at that time we will see the G-dliness in the physical. Obadiah's name actually means "to serve G-d." The prophet's name teaches us that we can bring Moshiach by serving G-d in the same manner as Obadiah - with action and self-sacrifice. Obadiah hid and sustained 100 prophets when they were being hunted down and killed by the wicked Ahab and Jezebel. The story continues, that Ovadia met Elijah the Prophet, who is the one who will herald the coming of Moshiach.

Similarly, we should strive to serve G-d with action and self-sacrifice as did Obadiah. Especially by supporting Jewish educational programs for our youth who, like the prophets, ensure the future of Judaism.

Through our efforts to make Moshiach real we will soon experience the final verse of the Haftora. "And the saviors will go up onto Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau," referring to the first stage of Moshiach's coming. And then ultimately the final stage when, "G-d will be King." May it happen 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

Good Friends. Good Deeds. Good Times.

Created over two decades ago by Esti Frimerman, Bat Mitzvah Club International aims to reach Jewish girls in their formative years with a powerful message.

"My objective is to help these girls realize that they have a soul, that there is another dimension to their essential being that is far more interesting than what they think they are and other than what they see in the mirror," says Mrs. Frimerman.

Involved in Jewish education for more than 25 years teaching 11 and 12-year-old girls, "I wanted to share with them that which is theirs," she said. "In addition to bodies, they have souls - G-dly souls - and I want to fill them with a strong Jewish pride."

Her students learned about the Jewish soul, spiritual and physical development, conflict between right and wrong and helped them search for meaningfulness.

Mrs. Frimerman's students at the time loved the curriculum, and the Bat Mitzvah Club idea was born.

After a successful year with happy girls, the Jewish Children's Museum joined the project, and Mrs. Frimerman began designing the program to reach a wider market.

"I felt like I could really relate to girls that age," said Mrs. Frimerman. A mother of five daughters, she knows "that turf very well," and enjoys the challenge of reaching that demographic with eye-opening, enduring ideas.

What started out as a tiny club in her classroom now reaches more than six continents, 30 countries and thousands of Jewish girls in 400 organizations across the globe.

"Our goal at the Bat Mitzvah Club is to inspire Jewish girls to become confident, smart, thoughtful, proud Jewish women who understand there is more to their bat mitzvah than just the party," explains Devorah Kaplan, co-director of the Downtown Jewish Chabad Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who runs the Downtown Bat Mitzvah Club.

The Bat Mitzvah Club lives by the motto: "Glow Wherever You Go," which appears on many of their tween marketing materials. "Good Friends. Good Deeds. Good Times." is their tagline. The goal of BMC is to give the girls the tools to cope with anything life can throw at them, all while becoming a strong Jewish woman.

The programming appeals to every need and whim of a young teenager - hands-on crafts, real-life role playing, and of course, the big three: friends, food and fun. Not only do club members learn about being a Jewish woman, they have the opportunity to socialize and friend like-minded girls their own age while being mentored by young women who are passionate about Judiasm, and who exemplify living with purpose and a defining identity.

Rochel Lowenthal, co-director of Chabad of Denmark, runs a Bat Mitzvah Club in Copenhagen, said that the most powerful part of being a leader is being able to "impact the girls at this sensitive time of their lives and show them that bat mitzva is not only about a party, but that bat mitzva, and everything Jewish, has tremendous depth and can totally impact their lives."

"The Bat Mitzvah Club is a very fun way for Jewish girls to connect with other Jewish girls their age going through the same beautiful journey from being a young girl into adulthood," Shterna Lipskier of Chabad of Sherman Oaks, California, said. "They can see that every girl is going through the same process of finding themselves and figuring out what they will do to make a difference in the world."

To find out more visit compiled from articles in the, and

What's New

Yeshiva Opens in Muslim Republic

In the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, a new yeshiva has opened. The Center for Torah Study is the first yeshiva to open in Tatarstan, Russia's largest Muslim republic. The new yeshiva building is situated on the same land as the Central Synagogue in the city of Kazan.

1,200 Students Converge

More than 1,200 students from 120 universities across North America and Europe and as far away as South Africa converged on Crown Heights for the annual Chabad on Campus Shabbaton. The weekend was crammed with tours of NYC and Crown Heights, Friday night meals hosted by local families, inspiring and entertaining workshops, lectures, joyous prayers, spirited dancing and an emotional trip to the Ohel (The Rebbe's resting place) to close the weekend.

The Rebbe Writes

Continued from the previous issue, from a freely translated letter of 10 Kislev, 5714-1953

It is also abundantly clear that since G-d, who is the essence of goodness, compels the soul to descend from its "sublime heights to the lowest depths," for the purpose of the study of the Torah and the fulfillment of the Mitsvoth [commandments] - how great is the value of Torah and Mitsvoth.

Furthermore, the descent of the soul for the purpose of ascent shows that there is no other way to obtain the objective except through the soul's descent to live on this earth. If there were an easier way, G-d would not compel the soul to descend from the sublime heights of the Seat of Glory down to this nether world, the lowest of all worlds.

For only here, in the lowest depths, can the soul attain its highest ascent, higher even than the angels, and as our Sages say, "The righteous precede the foremost angels."

Reflecting upon the greatness of the Torah and Mitsvoth, specifically pertaining to this life, reflecting also that the Torah and Mitsvoth are the only means to attain the soul's perfection and the fulfillment of the Divine purpose, one will experience a sense of real joy at his fate and destiny, despite the many difficulties and handicaps, from within and without, which are inevitable on this earth. Only in this way can one live up to the injunction: "serve G-d with joy," which the Baal Shem Tov made one of the foundations of his teachings, and which is expounded at length in Chabad, and stressed by its founder, whose liberation we commemorate on the 19th day of Kislev, in his monumental work, the Tanya (chapters 26 seq., 31 seq.).

I wish to express herewith, my inner wish that every one of us be liberated, with G-d's help and by determined personal effort, from all handicaps which arrest the good and noble in everyone's nature, so that this part of one's nature reign supreme, giving fullest expression to the threefold love: love of our people Israel, love of our Torah, and love of G-d, which are all one.

15th of Cheshvan, 5733 [1972]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to be informed of your forthcoming Dinner celebration on the 20th of Kislev. It is significant that the event will take place one day following Yud-Tes Kislev, the historic anniversary of the release and vindication of the Alter Rebbe [the "Elder" Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman], founder of Chabad. Moreover, the 19th of Kislev will this year also mark the 200th Yartzeit anniversary [of passing] of the illustrious Maggid of Miezricz, whose disciple and successor the Alter Rebbe was.

Anniversaries in Jewish life are observed for the purpose of their instructive significance, so that each and every one of us can learn from and be inspired by the life and work of our great leaders of the past, and translate this inspiration into actual deeds in our daily life and conduct.

The two great luminaries, the master and his disciple and successor, led consecrated lives, dedicated to the material and spiritual betterment of Jews and Judaism. Their selfless dedication knew no bounds. Furthermore, they set out from the beginning to involve the masses, for their love of a fellow Jew embraced all Jews. They laid particular stress on the education of the young, both the young in years as well as the young in Jewish knowledge and experience, and instilled this spirit in all their numerous followers.

The same spirit of love, responsibility, and dedication animates all those who are associated with the Chabad-Lubavitch educational activities in the present day, reaching out to our fellow Jews everywhere.

The Jewish community of Glasgow, with a fine tradition of its own, is fortunate to have the opportunity of sharing in this vital work for the preservation and strengthening of Torah and tradition in its midst.

May G-d grant that the Anniversary Dinner should have the utmost Hatzlocho [success] in every respect, and may He also bestow His generous blessings on each and every one of you and your families, to enjoy health and prosperity, both materially and spiritually.

All Together

What exactly is a Bar or Bat Mitzva?

On the day a boy becomes 13 he becomes a "bar mitzva," literally son of commandment; a girl on her 12 birthday becomes a bat mitzva - daughter of commandment. From then on they are subject to the obligations and privileges of an adult as pertains to mitzvot. The earliest reference to any celebration is by a 15th century authority saying that a father must make a festive meal on the day his son becomes a bar mitzva. There is no basis for the contemporary custom of celebrating with lavish parties.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat, the 14th of Kislev, marks the wedding anniversary of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin. The Rebbe spoke many times about the significance of a Jewish wedding and its connection with Moshiach. On one occasion (in 1989), the Rebbe related:

"At every wedding we recite the wedding blessings, concluding with 'let there speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of happiness....' These blessings are recited before a multitude, who respond with Amen.

"When the wedding takes place, reciting these blessings this serves to hasten and accelerate to an even greater degree the completed state of marriage of the Jewish people [with G-d] - 'Who sanctifies His people Israel through Chupa and Kiddushin.'

Then we will truly merit that 'there shall speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride,' in our Holy Land, and in Jerusalem our holy city, and within all the cities of Judah.

This coming Thursday, we will celebrate the Yud Tet Kislev (19), the Rosh Hashana of Chasidut.

19 Kislev is the anniversary of the release from prison of the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, known as the Alter Rebbe. Because the entire future of Chasidut was at stake, his liberation was not only a personal redemption, but the redemption of the entire movement.

The underlying purpose of Chasidut is to prepare the world for the Messianic era, when the knowledge of G-d will be commonplace. Maimonides explains that King Moshiach "will restore the entire world to serve G-d together, as it states, 'For then I will transform the nations...that they all call in the Name of G-d.'"

May the holy days of 14 Kislev and 19 Kislev lead to the ultimate Redemption of all mankind with the coming of Moshiach immediately.

Thoughts that Count

When Esau my brother will meet you, and ask you saying: "Whose are you, and where are you going?" (Gen. 32:18)

Esau's question is remarkably similar to the Mishna in Ethics of the Fathers: "Reflect on three things...know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a future account and reckoning." Why would the evil Esau suddenly adopt the pious tone of the Mishna? Rather, this question - "Where are you going?" - may be asked by both the Good and the Evil Inclinations. When asked by the Good Inclination, it prevents the person from committing a sin. The Evil Inclination, however, poses the same question in its attempt to bring the individual to despair. In such a case, one must remember that the mere fact that one is a Jew causes unlimited joy and appreciation Above.

(Chidushei Harim)

Because G-d has dealt graciously with me, and because I have all (Gen. 32:11)

This is a fundamental characteristic of the Jew, who is always content with his lot in life. Whatever he is given by G-d is exactly what he needs, no more and no less. This is why Jacob said, "I have all," whereas Esau declared, "I have enough."

(Chasidic Sages)

I am not worthy of all the kindness...which You have shown to Your servant (Gen. 32:11)

And what is the greatest kindness of all? That You have made me Your servant!

(Torat Avot)

It Once Happened

Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism) was deeply disturbed by the intrigues and dissension that jeopardized his activities, particularly those relating to the Chasidic community in the Holy Land. He had a premonition that his own eclipse was at hand. One day, the Rebbe confided in his daughter, Devorah Leah, and expressed his utmost apprehension in regard to the future of Chasidism and to the Baal Shem Tov's teachings.

Devorah Leah realized the gravity of the situation and sensed that her father's life was linked with it. For several days she kept her anxiety to herself. Then she decided that it was her duty to divulge her secret to some of the senior Chasidim. She also resolved that she would give her life for the life of her father.

Devorah Leah asked three senior Chasidim to meet with her. She asked them to promise on oath that they would act according to her instructions, whatever they might be, and would keep in strictest confidence all that she was about to tell them, until such time as it would be fitting to keep the matter secret no longer.

The three Chasidim requested time to consider. They realized that something was amiss. They had noticed that the Rebbe had secluded himself in his private room and not even they were admitted. This change in the Rebbe's routine was ominous. Undoubtedly, the Rebbe's daughter knew something that was of extreme gravity. Finally they came to the conclusion that they had to accept Devorah Leah's conditions. The following day they presented themselves to Devorah Leah with their resolution. She began by saying:

"We are all Chasidim of my father, our Rebbe, and each one of us must be ready and willing to give his or her life for him, and for the future of Chasidism." Then she was overcome by a flood of tears.

At her distress the three Chasidim were deeply moved. One Chasid ex-claimed: "I will be the first to give my life for the Rebbe and for the perpetuation of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings. I will gladly go through fire or water..."

"First," Devorah Leah interrupted, "you must swear to me by the most stringent Torah-oath which has no absolution, that you will do what I ask of you, without any mental reservation whatsoever, even if it is a matter of life."

Hearing these ominous words, they reiterated that they had already carefully weighed the matter and had agreed to abide by Devorah Leah's conditions, come what may. Thereupon the three of them gave their solemn oath as requested.

"Now I make the three of you a Beit Din (rabbinical court), and you will agree to act as a Beit Din, and to rule in accordance with the law of the Torah." Devorah Leah continued, "These were my father's words concerning the present situation in the wake of the intrigue which has cast a shadow over Chasidism:

" 'For 30 years a fruit-bearing tree requires cultivation and care in order to bring it to its optimum fruitfulness. It is now thirty years since the teachings of our master, the Baal Shem Tov, were firmly planted by my teacher and master, the Maggid of Mezritch, and grew into a Tree of Life. Now, the Adversary threatens to destroy it all. I do want to live, for this is the duty of every man, according to the Torah. Yet, more precious to me than life is my desire to cultivate this tree so that it continues to give its fruit until the coming of Moshiach.

" 'The Maggid, had forewarned me of difficult times, and had promised to come to my aid. I saw my teacher, but his face was overcast, an ill-omen.'

"In view of this situation, I have resolved to put my life in lieu of my father's. I bequeath my life to him; I will die so that he may live a good and long life, in order to cultivate the Tree of Life. In this way I will also have a share in it."

On the first night of Rosh Hashana, after the services, Rabbi Shneur Zalman broke his custom not to speak to anyone. He, asked: "Where is Devorah Leah?" When she appeared, he began to wish her the customary blessing to "be inscribed in a happy year." But she interrupted him immediately, and wished him, instead, to "be inscribed in a happy year."

After Rosh Hashana ended, Rabbi Shneur Zalman called Devorah Leah and her husband Rabbi Shalom Shachna into his room. What was spoken there is not known, but Rabbi Shachna was heard saying: "What is to happen to the boy?"

The following day Devorah Leah passed away. Rabbi Shneur Zalman took personal charge of her young son's upbringing.

The next years saw an intensification of intolerance in certain communities towards the Chasidic approach. The extent of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's suffering became apparent on Shavuot, the anniversary of the Baal Shem Tov's passing. He was immersed in a state of profound soulful reverie. It was an awesome sight. Suddenly, Rabbi Shneur Zalman stood up and exclaimed: "Zaida (Grandfather)! (referring to the Baal Shem Tov.) Invoke Divine mercy upon me, upon all your disciples and followers, upon the survival of your teachings! Our Heavenly Father, have mercy upon us!" Then, Rabbi Shneur Zalman fainted.

Turmoil broke loose. In the midst of the commotion, little Menachem Mendel, the orphaned son of Devorah Leah, came running into the room. Seeing his grandfather lying on the floor, he cried: "Zaida! Zaida!" Rabbi Shneur Zalman opened his eyes. "Zaida, take hold of my hand and get up!" the child kept saying. Reaching for the little hand, Rabbi Shneur Zalman stood up and said, "This one will comfort us!"

From the book, Shneur Zalman of Liadi

Moshiach Matters

According to Maimonides, this week's Torah reading contains an allusion to the impurity of idolatry. As Jacob prepares to return home with his family, he gives them the following instruction: "Put away the strange gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. " Here we see a clear connection between idolatry - the "strange gods " - and tumah, or impurity . By removing the "strange gods, " the idols, the household of Jacob will purify itself. Jacob's instruction will be completely and literally fulfilled in the era of Moshiach when, as the prophet declares, the spirit of impurity will be removed.

(From Reflections of Redemption, based on Likutei Sichos vol. 30, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)

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