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It's more than 2,000 years old, but the Great Wall of China remains one of the great wonders of the world, an engineering feat rarely matched in the 22 centuries since its construction began.
There's another wall that's been around for even longer than the Great Wall. It's not fashioned from stones, bricks or cement and is much less well-known.
You see, described in the colorful and descriptive language of Chasidic philosophy is an "iron curtain and partition" that separates a person from G-d.
The "iron curtain" of Chasidic philosophy is not a physical barrier like the Great Wall of China. Nor is it an ideological partition like that of the Former Soviet Union. However, similar to the curtain of pre-Glasnost fame, it too, impairs the Jewish soul. Yet, its distinction is that it is self-imposed. It is created not by government policies or ideals, but rather by misdeeds and transgressions.
Shattering this wall can be accomplished, according to Chasidut, "by means of contriteness of the heart and bitterness of the soul" over the sins one has committed, i.e. teshuva-returning to one's roots-repentance.
Teshuva, according to Jewish sources, is as easy as one, two, three: 1) Admit to the sin; 2) Regret the act; 3) Make firm decisions about the future.
Not so easy, you say? This is true. There are stories of genuinely great people who spent their whole lives trying to awaken the proper feelings needed for sincere teshuva. And there are numerous other stories of much simpler folk who specially sought out the advice and counsel of a rebbe or other spiritual giant to direct them on the correct path.
Yet one story in particular describes just how simple teshuva really is-or should be:
A person came to the great Rebbe, Reb Yisrael of Ruzhin, and pleaded:
"I have sinned and I want to do teshuva."
"If so," asked the Rebbe, "why don't you?"
The man answered sadly, "I don't know how to."
"And how," replied the rebbe, "did you know to sin?"
"I just did it, then afterwards I realized I had sinned," he answered.
Responded Reb Yisroel: "You should do the same now. Return, and the reckoning will automatically be straightened out."
These days leading up to Yom Kippur are the most appropriate time of year to be involved in understanding and actually "doing" teshuva. For, Yom Kippur's spiritual energy is associated with teshuva and forgiveness.
The Iron Curtain has risen. The Berlin Wall has fallen. The future of the Korean Demilitarized Zone is in question. Barriers between people of different races, cultures and nationalities have been broken.
By availing ourselves of the opportunity to reconnect with G-d on these auspicious days leading up to and including Yom Kippur, we will surely merit to see the great wonder of the Third Holy Temple with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!
In the Torah portion of Vayeilech, Moses says, "Take this book of the Torah and place it beside the Ark of the covenant of G-d your G-d."
The Talmud cites two opinions as to where the Torah was actually placed. One says that it was inside the Ark together with the tablets of the Ten Commandments. And the other says that it was on the side of the Ark. But according to both opinions, both the Torah and the Ten Commandments were in the Holy of Holies, the chamber that housed the Ark.
The Holy of Holies was above nature, the place where the Ark stood was miraculous, though the Ark was there, it didn't take up space. The natural dimensions of time and space were suspended in the Holy of Holies. On one hand it was there and it could be measured, and at the same time, it didn't take up space.
The Ten Commandments were engraved in the tablets. When you engrave letters into stone, nothing is added to the stone, as many words as you engrave into the stone, it remains the same size and the same dimensions. Similar to the Holy of Holies and the Ark which were there, they weren't taking up space.
The Ten Commandments were also miraculous, the engraving went all the way through and through the stone, yet the letters final mem and samech, one being a square and the other a circle, in other words, the engraving completely encircled the center of the letter, nevertheless the center of the letter remained in place.
So it seems that the objects in the Holy of Holies had a common theme. They were miraculous and above space and time.
The question is, what was the Torah doing there? With letters written with ink on parchment, the letters took up extra space and there was nothing miraculous about it. What purpose did the Torah fulfill?
The purpose of the Holy of Holies, the Ark and the Ten Commandments, were not to remain hidden. Rather, that their G-dly light spread out to the Temple, to Jerusalem, throughout the land of Israel, affecting all the Jewish people, and ultimately to the whole world affecting the non Jewish people as well.
Being that the Holy of Holies, the Ark and the Ten Commandments were above nature, there had to be a go between, a conduit, to bring their light into the natural world. The Torah served as that conduit. It is the Torah that brings the supernatural G-dly light into our lives, and by us keeping the Torah, we spread that light throughout the world affecting all peoples.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
When Things Clicked
by Nosson Avrohom
Forty-five years ago, Yisrael Krauni visited New York after completing his Israeli army service. He had served in the Combat Engineering Corps and had spent three years manning posts on the banks of the Suez Canal.
After finishing his army service he wanted a vacation. Like many of his friends, he packed his bags and took a flight to New York.
"I came with a little money and some clothes and hoped things would work out."
Krauni happened to meet an Israeli, a Lubavitcher, who lived in Crown Heights and who was happy to host him.
"I was pleasantly surprised by this hospitality since we did not know one another, but it was enough for him that I am a Jew. He met me on the street and asked me whether I had a place to stay. When I said no, he invited me to his home."
On Yom Kippur, Krauni heard from a passerby that a war had broken out in Israel.
"At first, I did not believe him. I had just been there a week before and all was quiet. Nobody believed that anyone would dare to attack Israel. I sat at posts near the Canal and with my binoculars I could see the whites of the Egyptians' eyes. It did not look as though they planned on attacking us on such a scale."
Minutes later, he met another Israeli who was staying in the neighborhood and he repeated what he had heard. This man said that the Syrian and Egyptian armies had suddenly attacked from the north and the south. He was agitated and emotionally overwrought, and said that the Rebbe was surely immersed in his prayers and did not know what was going on while the Jews in Israel needed a great salvation.
"I tried to dissuade him but he was determined and off he ran, with me quickly following him. The sight in 770 was impressive, with masses of Chassidim dressed in white and the Rebbe in his place, praying before G-d. That Israeli did not care who was in the way; he made a beeline for the Rebbe. I followed right behind him.
"He reached the front of the synagogue and was about to go up the steps leading to the Rebbe when one of the secretaries blocked him. Later I was told it was Rabbi Binyamin Klein. He firmly asked him what he wanted and the man told him about the war that had begun in Israel. The secretary asked him not to go up the steps and reassured him by saying that he would soon go up himself and inform the Rebbe.
"At that moment, in front of everyone, the Rebbe turned around to the crowd and moved his hand from up to down in a gesture of dismissal. Later, I heard that the Rebbe said: I know already.
"The Rebbe did not appear worried; on the contrary, he looked calm and confident. We left the shul and waited for Yom Kippur to end so we could hear the news.
"The news we heard later was not encouraging. We had been attacked and caught unprepared and it was feared that this war would not end as did the Six Day War in 1967."
Many of Krauni's friends who were in Israel were drafted immediately. Krauni wanted to take the next plane out so he could join his unit.
"My Lubavitcher host begged me not to do anything without asking the Rebbe for a blessing. I wrote a letter about my desire to return to Israel immediately. I also included the names of some of my friends whom I knew had been drafted. I asked the Rebbe to pray that they return safely.
"The answer, received that same day, was written on my letter. The secretary showed me where the Rebbe had written and explained the answer: As far as flying, the Rebbe said not to change my plans, i.e. not to leave. The Rebbe also marked the names I had submitted for a blessing and wrote that he would pray for them at his father-in-law's grave.
"The secretary pointed out that one of the names was not included in the Rebbe's blessing. I did not know what this signified.
"I wasn't a chasid, in fact I was barely religious. I considered the Rebbe telling me not to leave merely a recommendation. I wanted to leave for the airport but the people I was staying with did not let me go. I was later able to thank them for this, because within a short time I understood how prophetic the Rebbe was.
"I found out that the friend the Rebbe had excluded from his blessing had been killed on the first day of the war. At that point, even his parents did not know about this. A few days went by before those who bring back the casualties were able to do so, but the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn knows what is going on with every Jew. When things clicked in my mind, I shuddered and began to comprehend that the Rebbe is not just another rabbinic figure, but a man of G-d.
"It's not that I became a chasid; my getting more involved with religion was a slow process. But I began going to 770 more often and committed to doing mitzvot that I hadn't done before.
"When Tishrei was over, my hosts arranged a private meeting for me with the Rebbe. I had some questions regarding my wife-to-be. We had met a while before and I asked the Rebbe if she was my intended wife. The Rebbe said yes and blessed us to establish a Jewish home. This bracha has stood by us and we are now happily married for 40 years.
"In that encounter with the Rebbe, I noticed that there was a large pile of papers on the desk. I was amazed when the Rebbe was able to pull out the paper I had submitted to him and he answered all my questions."
After a year and a half, Krauni returned to Israel and married. The couple settled in Yavne. Krauni says that through his encounter with the Rebbe he started a process of greater involvement in Torah and mitzvot and he credits the Rebbe with where he is at today. "What I saw there was absolutely incredible."
From Beis Moshiach Magazine
In the Beginning
Highlights for each Torah portion in the book of Genesis (Breishit) plus a short, fun facts and riddles. Adorable illustrations. Sure to be loved by children of all ages. Written by Leibel Estrin, illustrated by Dovid Sears.
New Chabad Center
Rabbi Shneur and Chana Wolf are arriving soon in Kalispell, Montana - in the Flathead Valley of northwestern Montana to open that state's third Chabad Center. The Wolfs will begin with a list of several hundred Jews, confident that they will find more Jews to involve in Jewish programs.
New Torah Scroll
A new Torah scroll was welcomed recently to Chabad of Rancho Mirage, California. The Torah was , which was welcomed with a dedication ceremony.
Freely translated and adapted
6 Tishrei, 5734 (1973)
...In the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "Thus said the L-rd G-d, 'I will protect you and set you up as a covenant-people for a light to the nations.' "
Just as the Jew, as an individual, must not forget his task, but must rather be permeated at all times with the responsibility of it - and not underestimate his powers - so must also the Jewish people, as a nation, always be mindful of its special purpose and not underestimate its powers, and certainly must not follow or imitate other nations.
The same applies, on a more limited scale, but in more concrete instances, to every Jewish community or organization, whatever the official purpose of its inception may be, and even to a single Jew whose status is such that people regard him as exemplary or representative of the entire Jewish nation.
The said affirmation is not necessary, needless to say, in the area where the uniqueness of the Jews is plainly evident to all, namely, in the sphere of Torah and mitzvoth (commandments). But rather in the sphere of things wherein all nations are more or less comparable externally, i.e., in the sphere of so-called general and mundane affairs, as, for example, in the relations of communities and organizations with the outside world, or with each other, as to what should be the aims and aspirations of the particular Jewish body, who should be the leaders, what priorities to establish, the resources which should be allocated, etc.
There is sometimes a tendency to determine such endeavors on the basis of quantitative rather than qualitative criteria.
Wherefore also in the area of these endeavors the Jewish people have been given the directive: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says G-d" to the Jewish people and Jewish community (even to the Jew as an individual) to carry out their task in the fullest measure. For, where Jews are concerned, their physical powers are linked with, and subordinated to, spiritual powers, which are infinite.
An historic example of this is found in the time of King Solomon, when the Jewish people stood out among the nations of the world, having attained the highest degree of its perfection.
Our Sages, referring to that state, describe it as being like "the moon in its fullness." For, as is well known, the Jews are likened to the moon, and they "reckon" their times (calendar months) by the moon. One of the explanations of this, is that just as the moon goes through periodic changes in its appearance, according to its position vis-a-vis the sun, whose light it reflects, so the Jewish people goes through changes according to the measure of its reflecting the G-dly light.
This perfection in the time of King Solomon (though even then, Jews constituted numerically and physically "the fewest of all the nations"), expressed itself, in quite a distinctive form, in the relations between the Jews and the other nations of the world.
The reputation of King Solomon's wisdom aroused a strong desire among kings and leaders to come and see his conduct and learn from his wisdom - the wisdom he had prayed for and received from G-d, and permeated with G-dliness.
And when they came, they also saw how under his leadership there lived a people, even in its material life, "with security, every man under his vine and under his fig tree," in a land where "the eyes of G-d, your G-d, are constantly on it..." And this is what brought peace between the Jews and all the nations.
Thus it was clearly demonstrated that when Jews live in accordance with Torah, true peace is attained, and they serve as a guiding light, for "the nations will go by your light" -- the light of Torah and mitzvoth.
The said task of the Jews and of the Jewish community is not limited to the time when they are in a state of a "full moon," but also when in exile, "spread and dispersed among the nations." For even then they are one people, whose laws are different from those of all other nations," a fact that is known and acknowledged by all nations of the world. Because even when Jews are in exile, it is only the Jewish body that is in exile, the Jewish soul is never exiled and is free from any external subjugation.
Consequently, also while in exile, Jews must not ignore their task, nor underestimate their capacities, however limited their material powers may be, inasmuch as a Jew's material resources, as already noted, are bound up with the spiritual, and in the spiritual realm there are no limitations also during the time of exile.
In plain words: Wherever Jews find themselves, in the diaspora or in the Land of Israel, even a single Jew in a remote corner of the earth -- it behooves every Jew and Jewish community to remember that they are part of the whole Jewish people, the one people ever since the Torah was given at Mount Sinai and until the end of times.
AVRAHAM means "father of a multitude." Avraham (Genesis 11:26) was the first person to recognize, on his own, that G-d is Creator of the whole world. Avraham was tested ten times by G-d to determine how strong his faith was.
AVITAL means "father of dew" - referring to G-d as sustainer of all creation. Avital (II Samuel 3:4) was one of King David's wives. Her son, Shefatia, was born in Hebron.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Shabbat marks the annivesary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chana, the mother of the Rebbe.
In honor of this occasion and the upcoming holy day of Yom Kippur ( beginning Tuesday evening, September 18 and ending Wednesday evening September 19) we share with you an excerpt from Rebbetzin Chana's Memoirs. The Rebbetzin's husband, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson was the chief rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, until he was arrested and exiled by the communist regime.
"When my husband would return home after Yom Kippur, he couldn't easily settle back into the everyday mundane existence. After coming home quite late in the evening, he drank only a glass of tea. Then he remained sitting, still garbed in his kittel and the gartel of his great-great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, to lead a gathering until two or three o'clock in the morning. This was his regular custom on the evening after Yom Kippur, both when Jewish life had been less constricted and later when Judaism could be practiced almost solely within the confines of one's own home.
"Some of our friends were aware of my husband's custom, and they would eat a quick evening meal with their families before coming to our home. My husband would deliver a Chasidic discourse on subjects connected with the Yom Kippur prayers. In later years he spoke about the great qualities of Jews, their self-sacrifice to observe Judaism, and how they expressed their love towards other Jews in that difficult era. Ten or fifteen people always attended this gathering, which included dancing as enthusiastic as on Simchat Torah."
May we all, as Rebbetzin Chana reminisced, observe Judaism and express our love towards each other as inspired by these Days of Awe throughout this new year.
From the Yom Kippur Prayers
We are like clay in the Creator's hand
Bricks of clay can build an opulent mansion or a wretched hovel; so too it is with us. The only question is the type of edifice we wish to build - a palace to bear testimony to G-d's glory, or a destitute and poverty-stricken shack.
(Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli)
For the sin that we have sinned
When confessing our sins it is customary to beat the chest just over the heart as a symbol of repentance as each transgression is enumerated. Yet logically the opposite would seem to make more sense: Should not the heart strike out at the hand that actually committed the sin? Our intention, however, is the source of all transgression -- the lusts and desires of the heart that lead to sin.
(Hegyonot Shel Ami)
For the sin that we have sinned with an insincere confession (literally "a confession of the mouth")
This type of sin is one to which we have already confessed, but have only given lip service, as it states in Psalms, "For my transgression I will tell; I am worried that I not sin." Although the lips may have declared their concern, the heart does not participate...
He forgives us our faults each and every year
By human standard, if one person harms another and asks his forgiveness and is pardoned, and then repeats the misdeed, it becomes very difficult to grant pardon again, and certainly a third and fourth time. But by G-d's standard, there is no difference between once and a thousand times, as pardon is a manifestation of the attribute of mercy, and Divine attributes are not limited and finite but are infinite, as it states, "For His mercies have not ended."
(Tanya, Igeret HaTeshuva)
Shortly after World War II, the brutal dictator Josef Stalin had reached the ultimate degree of dictatorship. He was adored and feared by the entire Russian populace. His rule and judgment were so absolute that even the millions of his own people that died in his Siberian "correction" camps were expected to be grateful to him for "re-educating" them.
Rabbi Mendel Futerfas was a Lubavitcher chasid and the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that everyone must have utter self-sacrifice to insure that each Jew, even in Stalin's U.S.S.R., gets a genuine Jewish education.
Reb Mendel was arrested, charged with teaching Torah, and put in jail to await trial one year after Rosh Hashana. It was pretty clear that he would spend the rest of his life in Siberia, which in most cases wasn't much time.
In his damp prison cell together with hundreds of criminals, Reb Mendel suddenly realized that several days had passed and in a few hours it would be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
He prepared a little synagogue for himself - his bed. He would sit on his bed and say as many of the prayers of Yom Kipper as he remembered. And G-d would help. But it wasn't so easy; most of the prayers of Yom Kippur are different and there are a lot of them.
But one prayer stood out in his mind. It was arranged alphabetically with each line beginning "Everyone believes" (Kol Maaminim). In the stillness of the night, while everyone else was asleep, Reb Mendel sat swaying gently back and forth on his bed and praying to the Creator.
Then suddenly the thought entered his mind, "Hey, what am I saying here! Everyone believes? Everyone believes? Why, the devils who turned me in were anti-Semitic bloodthirsty Yevsektsia (the Jewish division of the Communist party) who lived only to wipe out any mention of G-d and His people. Reb Mendel put this new question aside with all his others and finished his prayers.
Several nights later, Reb Mendel had a soul-shaking experience in the large cell where he and about two hundred other prisoners were imprisoned.
While everyone else was sleeping, Reb Mendel was reciting the Shema prayer before going to sleep. Suddenly, he looked up and noticed that a murderer was staring at him. It was Ivan, a huge mountain of a man with a scarred ugly face. Everyone knew him and was afraid of him. And now it seemed that he had set his sights on poor Reb Mendel.
Maybe because he hated Jews, perhaps another reason, but Ivan jumped silently from his bed, crouching like a huge cat and quietly approached the Rabbi.
When he reached Reb Mendel he bent down, put his face into his ear and whispered deliberately and slowly, "You're Jewish, right?"
Reb Mendel never hid his Judaism; better to die a Jew than to live a lie. He looked Ivan in the eye and answered firmly, "Yes."
The murderer pointed to himself and whispered, "So am I." Reb Mendel was shocked. "And I'll tell you something else," Ivan continued, "I even fasted this Yom Kippur. Me, Ivan the murderer who hates G-d, fasted on Yom Kippur."
He paused for what seemed an eternity and then continued. "A few days ago I heard one of the Jewish prisoners say 'Tomorrow is Yom Kippur' and suddenly I decided I was going to fast. I don't know why, but I did it.
"The next day I told the guards I was sick and they put me in the 'hospital' (which was no more than an empty room with a wooden bed in it) and locked the door and I just sat there.
"I couldn't figure out why I was sitting there but after a while I felt really uneasy. Then it occurred to me that I feel uneasy because Jews pray on Yom Kippur. I remembered that my grandfather took me to services and he used to pray and cry to G-d with all the other Jews, and now look at me! I'm a murderer, a thief, all I've done is hurt people all my life and I can't even...
"Then suddenly I remembered a prayer that my grandmother used to say with me every morning when she woke me up. I remembered her soft, sad eyes and I began to cry. I cried on Yom Kippur just like my grandfather did! Just like all the Jews! And when I stopped crying I said the prayer: "Modeh Ani L'fanecha Melech Chai v'Kayam, Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati B'Chemla Raba Emunatecha" (I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.)
"I don't even know what it means. But I sat in that room the entire day and I said that prayer over and over again." Ivan paused for another minute in deep thought, then snapped out of it. Then he whispered menacingly, "Don't you tell anyone what I just told you, understand?! ... Nothing. I said nothing."
Ivan turned and walked away.
Reb Mendel sat in silence. Suddenly, he thought, "That is the answer to my question I had on Yom Kippur! Why, if that murderer believes..... it's a sign that EVERYONE believes."
If Moshiach will appear during the Ten Days of Penitence, it is possible that we will be allowed to eat and drink on Yom Kippur, as it will fall out during the seven days of dedication for the third Holy Temple. This was the case with the first Temple, whose dedication began on 8 Tishrei, and the people of that time ate and drank on Yom Kippur. How much more would this be the case with the third Holy Temple, to which the Zohar relates the verse, "The glory of this latter House shall be greater than that of the first." It is reasonable to assume that its greater glory will be apparent not only (as with the Second Temple in its structure and its duration, but also in its dedication - which at the very least would equal that of the first Temple."
(Sefer HaSichot 5749 , Vol. I, p. 12.)