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Devarim Deutronomy

June 7, 2019 - 4 Sivan, 5779

1575: Bamidbar

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

  1574: Bechukosai1576: Nasso  

The First Word  |  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 First Word

by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

Once, the chasid Reb Mendel Futerfas saw one of his friends coming out of the room in the synagogue where pages of holy books are stored until they are buried (as it is forbidden to dispose of them in a disrespectful manner). The friend had a pile of torn pages in hand.

"What are you doing with those?" asked Reb Mendel.

"I take them home and sew them together and make a book!" the friend answered. (This was during the day of Communist rule in Russia when there was a tremendous shortage of holy books).

"But what kind of book will that be?" Reb Mendel asked, "There will be no beginning and no end, just unrelated pages! How can you read a book like that?"

His friend replied simply, "There are three aspects to the Torah: studying the Torah, understanding the Torah, and the holiness of the Torah. The first two are accessed through wisdom and understanding, but the holiness of the Torah is in the letters themselves, and that's what my book will be about"

The upcoming holiday of Shavuot is one of the most important of all the Jewish Holidays. It celebrates the Giving of the Torah. Without the Torah not only would we not know the commandments, but by now there would be no Jewish people (G-d forbid).

In fact, the famous commentator Rashi states that if the Jews hadn't accepted the Torah on Shavuot, the whole world would have ceased to exist.

If so, Shavuot is actually the most important day in the history of the world.

Yet, if we examine what happened on the day that the Torah was given, it seems anticlimactic: The Jews did not receive the entire Torah or even most of it; they heard only ten simple commandments.

One would think that after 210 years of Egyptian slavery, mind-boggling miracles including the plagues, the splitting of the sea, manna from heaven, and more, they would get something a little more impressive or at least more mystical than ten obvious commandments, Don't kill, Don't steal, etc.; statutes which can be found in even the most primitive of cultures!

But the answer is that on that first Shavuot, G-d gave.... Himself.

The first word of the Ten Commandments sums it all up: "Anochi"

G-d has many names. Kabalistically, each name corresponds to a different facet of G-d's infinite "personality." But the name "Anochi" ("I") is not one of them. It refers to something that is above all names or facets; it is the essence of G-d Himself. And this is what the Jews received at Mount Sinai - G-d Himself.

The experience was so unique that until this day no one can even begin to understand it. In fact no religion has ever even claimed that such a thing happened to them!

With the first commandment alone, "Anochi - I am the L-rd your G-d" G-d united Himself with each and every Jewish soul for all time. Anochi" became "Elokecha," "your G-d" - singular.

What this means today is that when a Jew studies Torah, any aspect of the Torah, or does any mitzva (commandment), s/he can feel that G-d is very, very close. In fact, closer than we are to our own selves.

It's called "the Jewish feeling" or, the G-dly Soul. It's what draws people to Jewish experiences. That is what we are celebrating on Shavuot.

Rabbi Bolton is the dean of Ohr Tmimim yeshiva in Israel. From

Living with the Rebbe

On Shavuot we read the Ten Commandments, which begin, "And G-d spoke all these words, saying...." Usually the word "saying - laimor" signifies that what is being said should be repeated to the Jewish people or to later generations. However, at the Giving of the Torah all of the Jewish people were present, even the souls of all future generations. So, why the word "saying" in this verse?

The Maggid of Mezritch explains that it means that we have to put the Ten Commandments into the Ten Sayings with which G-d created the world.

In other words, don't make the mistake of thinking that the Torah and the world are separate domains. Don't say, "When I am doing Jewish things, like praying, studying Torah, doing mitzvot (commandments), etc., I will do as the Torah dictates, but when I am doing worldly things, eating, drinking, business, etc., I will act as the world dictates."

This is clear from the Ten Commandments themselves. From all of the 613 commandments that Hashem gave us, He chose to give these ten personally, to every Jewish person. One would think that He would have chosen the most spiritually sublime ideas to tell us, and while He did say, "I Am the Lord your G-d," and "You shall not have any god before Me," which are holy and sublime ideas, it also has, "You shall not murder," and "you shall not steal..." which are the most basic physical no-nos. Even if G-d wouldn't tell us these, we would understand that they are wrong.

The fact that G-d juxtaposes the oneness of G-d together with not murdering and not stealing, shows that He wants us to fuse the physical and the spiritual.

Murder and theft are wrong, and each of us understand that, but we shouldn't only refrain from doing them because they make sense, we should keep them because of the "I am the Lord your G-d," that is hidden in these laws, meaning, that they are G-d's will. This should be the primary reason for keeping them. And the same is true for all the Torah laws that make sense, we should keep them because they are Hashem's will. This is drawing what is above down below.

On the other hand, those who need commandments to tell them that murder and stealing are wrong, that G-d should have to say it with thunder and lightning, otherwise they wouldn't get it, they too should contemplate on the greatness and oneness of G-d. This is, below going above.

How do we bring the above and below, spiritual and physical together? Through mitzvot. Because the 613 commandments that we received at Sinai, came from the essence of G-d. G-d's essence is above creation, it can fuse opposites, above and below, spiritual and physical together.

May we be successful in bringing the two together through our mitzvahs, making this world into a dwelling for Hashem. This is the work that will bring 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

With One Heart
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

Let me introduce you to Yarin Ashkenazi, who we hosted for 10 days as a guest on one of our Belev Echad trip.

Yarin was a sergeant in the Givati Brigade and he was injured when a terrorist rammed his car into him at 70 miles an hour. Yarin was able to shoot at the car, causing it to overturn, but it still crashed into him, injuring him severely in the head and legs. The terrorist then exited his car and went after the other soldiers with an axe. Fortunately, one of the other soldiers was able to shoot and neutralize him, preventing more injuries and deaths.

At the end of the week, I asked Yarin what had been the highlight of the Belev Echad 10 day New York trip. I assumed he would choose the helicopter ride, motorcycle trip, or one of New York's famous tourist attractions, but he surprised me by choosing our visit to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Ohel in Queens.

"It was a very moving experience," he explained.

"What did you pray for?" I asked.

"I prayed for a blessing to be strong in Torah and mitzvot (commandments)."

"Did it work?"

"Yes! For the first time since my injury, here on the Belev Echad trip, I kept Shabbat fully! I did not answer my phone or check my emails. I kept Shabbat 100%."

I was astounded!

Here is a man who had suffered tremendously since his injury. When he arrived at the hospital after the attack, the doctor's tried to revive him three times without success. The head doctor indicated they would try once more before giving up, and it was that final time that brought him back to life. After that he had to undergo tremendously risky surgery, where the doctors reattached his skull. He had to re-learn how to walk, talk, eat, laugh, smile, and perform basic daily functions that every child knows how to do.

And when presented with the opportunity to pray at the Rebbe's grave and ask for a blessing, what does he choose? He asks for strength in Torah and mitzvot!

One year on Simchat Torah, the Rebbe told a story. He had received a letter from a young student in Russia, who was stuck behind the iron curtain, persecuted for being Jewish. In the letter, he asked the Rebbe to bless him with the ability to properly focus on his prayers.

As he told the story, the Rebbe cried profusely. The boy did not beg for an easier life. Even though he was suffering tremendously in Russia, he didn't beg for freedom. All he asked was for help in serving G-d better.

I think the Rebbe received another such letter from Yarin last week!

Soon we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, when we will receive the Torah for the 3,331th time. This is an opportunity to emulate Yarin, and ask G-d to grant us strength and clarity in our understanding of the Torah, and excitement and motivation in our fulfillment of the mitzvot.

Meir Raginyano, an IDF soldier and member of one of our Belev Echad trips, shared his story with our community at the Friday night event.

Meir was born without fingers on his right hand, and spent much of his life fighting to be like everyone else. His parents insisted that he not be treated differently, and as a result he learned to work around his disability and keep up with his friends.

When he turned 18, Meir went to the draft office. They took one look as his hand and gave him an exemption. But for years Meir had dreamed of serving his country and he refused to be deterred. He trained and trained. He showed the draft officers that he could run as well as anyone else. He taught himself how to hold a gun. He even spent eight months training on one specific exercise until he mastered it just as well as everyone else, despite his lack of fingers.

Eventually, he proved that he would be of tremendous value and they agreed to draft him into active duty. Time and again, Meir proved he could stand ground with the best of them.

Unfortunately, while fighting, Meir was severely injured. Anti-tank missiles were fired at the building he was in, and he was seriously wounded in his leg and right hand. Shrapnel was scattered throughout his body. He was taken to Soroka hospital where he underwent several complicated operations. He currently still undergoes treatment and rehabilitation at Tel Hashomer hospital, but his greatest wish is to return to the army and once again fight alongside his comrades to protect his nation!

As I listened to Meir sharing his story, I realized it holds a tremendous lesson for all of us in our own lives as we celebrate Shavuot.

When G-d gave us the Torah, He drafted us into His elite army. He gave us a mission-conquer the world by spreading Torah wherever you may be. Perform acts and kindness and encourage others to do so as well. Remember Who you represent and sanctify G-d's name.

Unfortunately, we are not all as determined to embrace our draft as Meir was. We may prefer to shirk our responsibilities and let others take the lead.

But we can learn from Meir how fortunate we are to have been drafted, and how hard we should work to embrace our mission. We can't just give up and expect others to take over! We need to fight the Good Fight, spreading goodness and kindness and Torah and mitzvot wherever we go!

Meir wanted nothing more than the opportunity to join the army. We have that. Each and every one of us was automatically given that chance - all we need to do is implement it.

Rabbi Uriel Vigler, with his wife Shevy, directs the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In addition he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers.

What's New

Kosher Shop Opens

A new kosher store has opened at Chabad of Wimbledon, England. The shop opening is in memory of Rabbi Eliyahu Moscowitz, brother of Wimbledon rabbi Yossi Moscowitz. Rabbi Eli Moscowitz was a kosher supervisor as well as a kind and well-liked member of the chicago, Illinois Jewish community where he lived. He was killed on Simchat Torah this year in an as-yet unsolved murder.

Friendship Circle

Friendship Circle of Brooklyn, a vibrant chapter of the internation Friendship Circle organization held an art event at the Jewish Children's Museum recently. Under the guidance of local artists, the Friendship Circle of Brooklyn held creative art workshops for their members. The art work was displayed at the 7th Annual Art of Friendship Gallery.

The Rebbe Writes

2nd Sivan, 5711 [1951]

Greeting and Blessing:

With the approach of Shovuoth, the Festival of our Receiving the Torah, I want to send you a brief message, although I am greatly overburdened with work. This ought to indicate to you how highly I value the work of your group for advancement in both the knowledge of the Torah and the practice of its precepts.

Being G-d given, the Torah has infinite aspects. The purpose of this message is to point out to you one of the most important aspects of the Torah.

To many the Torah may be a means to gain reward and avoid punishment. Others consider the Torah as a guide to good living. I will give you my view after brief introduction.

The world is a creation by G-d. As such, it can have no common denominator with its Creator. This cannot be amplified here, for lack of space, but it should be sufficiently clear anyway.

The world consists of a variety of creatures, which are generally classified into "four kingdoms": minerals, vegetation, animals and mankind.

Taking the highest individual of the highest group of the four mentioned above, i.e. the most intelligent of all men, there can be nothing in common between him who is a created and limited being, and G-d, the Infinite, the Creator. No analogy can even be found in the relative difference between the lowest of the lowest 'kingdom' and the highest of the highest, for both are created things.

However, in His infinite goodness, G-d gave us a possibility of approach and communion with Him. G-d showed us the way how a finite, created being can reach beyond his inherent limitations and commune with G-d the Infinite.

Obviously, only the Creator Himself knows the ways and means that lead to Him, and the Creator Himself knows the capacity of His creatures in using such ways and means. Herein lies one of the most important aspects of the Torah and mitzvot to us. They provide the means and the ways whereby we may reach a plane above and beyond our status as created beings. Clearly, this plane is incomparatively above the highest perfection which a man can attain within his own created (hence, limited) sphere.

From this point of view, it will no longer appear strange that the Torah and mitzvoth [commandments] find expression in such simple, material and physical aspects as the Dietary laws, and the like.

For our intellect is also created, and therefore limited within the boundaries of creation, beyond which it has no access. Consequently, it cannot know the ways and means that lead beyond these bounds.

The Torah, on the other hand, is the bond that unites the created with the Creator, as it is written," and you that cleave to the G-d your G-d, are all living this day."

To the Creator - all created things, the most corporeal as well as the most spiritual are equally removed. Hence the question, what relationship cans a material object have with G-d? has no more validity then if it referred to the most spiritual thing in its relationship to G-d.

But the Creator gave us possibility to rise, not only within our created bounds, but beyond, toward the infinite, and he desired that this possibility be open to the widest strata of humanity. Consequently, He has conditioned this possibility upon ways and means which are accessible to all, namely, the Torah and mitzvoth.

From this point of view it is also clear, that no sacrifice can be too great in adhering to the Torah and mitzvoth, for all sacrifices are within the limits of creation, whereas the Torah and mitzvot offer an opportunity to rise beyond such limits, as mentioned above.

It is also clear that no person has the right to renounce this Divine opportunity by professing indifference toward reward and punishment. Such views are but the product of his limited intellect which has no right to jeopardize the very essence of the soul, for the latter, being a 'Spark of the Divine,' is above the intellect of any argument it can produce, to deter him from the utmost perfection which he is able to attain.

I wish each and every one of you and your respective families an enjoyable and inspiring Yom Tov with lasting effects throughout the year.

With Blessing,

All Together

Emanuel means "G-d is with us." Emanuel was the son of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). In English, it can also be spelled Immanuel.

Elisheva means "G-d's oath." Elisheva was the wife of Aaron (Exodus 6:23). When the Bible was translated into Greek by the 70 Sages (this translation is know as the Septuagint) the name Elisheva was translated as Elizabeth.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Saturday night through Monday night is the holiday of Shavuot, celebrating when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai.

Three people in Jewish history are particularly associated with Shavuot: Moses, King David and the Baal Shem Tov. And these three great leaders were also intimately connected with Moshiach and the Redemption.

As the one through whom the Torah was given to the Jewish people, Moses is intimately connected with Shavuot. The Torah is even referred to as "The Torah of Moses" - Torat Moshe. Moshiach will be so like Moses in his leadership qualities, humility and Torah scholarship, that our Sages even stated, "Moses is the first redeemer and the last redeemer."

Shavuot is the birthday and anniversary of the passing of King David. One of the functions of Moshiach is that he will restore the Davidic dynasty, for Moshiach will be a descendant of King David, a human king.

Finally, we come to the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov, too, passed away on Shavuot, on the second day of the holiday. In a famous letter to his brother-in-law, the Baal Shem Tov described a spiritual "journey" when he visited the chamber of Moshiach. He asked Moshiach, "Master, when will you come?"

Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings--your teachings - will spread forth to the outside."

The Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chasidut - were recorded and expounded upon by his various disciples. They are a foretaste of the new and deeper revelations of Torah that we are promised will be revealed and taught by Moshiach, himself.

This year on Shavuot, when all Jews, young and old, gather in our synagogues to re-experience the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, let us also reconnect with the essence of the holiday and cry out for the ultimate revelation of the Torah and G-d through Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

G-d spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai... (Num. 1:1)

G-d purposely chose a desert in which to give the Torah. He spoke to the Jews in a place where everyone enjoyed free access, to show us that every Jew has an equal obligation and share in the Torah.

(Bamidbar Rabba and Michilta B'Shalach)

Count the heads of the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses... (Num. 1:2)

In order to know the number of people in each tribe, first they were counted according to their families and then each member of the family was counted. This shows us the importance of the family. The existence of the Jewish people is based on and dependant on the actions of each family.

(The Rebbe)

When a count is taken, no distinctions are made between what is being counted. The great and the small are both equal, each having the value of one. The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the holiday on which the Torah was actually given on Mount Sinai, for all Jews stand equal on that day. Our Sages said that if even one Jew had been missing, the Torah would never have been given!

(Sichot Kodesh)

It Once Happened

A group of Chasidim of the Shpoler Zeide from a rural area had been suffering for years under the heavy yoke of their cruel landlord, a high-ranking member of Poland's nobility, who owned all the land in that area. He was constantly raising the rents on their homes and the leases for their businesses.

What hurt most, though, were his vicious anti-Semitic twists. He had tried to force them to open their businesses on Shabbat. But his most recent depravity was the worst: he had issued a degree that in all buildings on his extensive properties, a depiction of the Christian god had to be displayed. The Shpoler Zeide's Chasidim travelled to their Rebbe to tell him this latest tale of woe.

"I've waited a long time for that wicked man to change his evil ways," said the Rebbe furiously. "He must be taught a lesson. It is time for him to hear the Ten Commandments. This is what you must do: Gather for the Shavuot holiday at the home of the Chasid with the largest property. But first, invite the landlord and all of his noble friends to come hear the festival morning prayers. As for you, prepare yourselves for the holy occasion of Receiving the Torah. I will come to join you. So, go in peace and don't worry."

The Chasidim were eager to carry out the Rebbe's instructions. The villagers who went to invite the poritz were received pleasantly, much to their surprise. He promised that he and his associates would attend. He immediately launched preparations for a huge party for all the noblemen in the region, the highlight of which would be the spectacle of the Jewish prayer to which they were all invited.

The Shpoler Zeide arrived in the village on the eve of Shavuot. They quickly realized there would not be enough room on the largest farm for so many people. The Rebbe told them to go to the nearby hill, and raise up a large tent there.

On Shavuot morning, the grassy lands around the hill were crowded with hundreds of Jews, waiting in nervous anticipation. A significant number of non-Jewish landowners and nobility in the region also waited eagerly, looking forward to the wonderful spectacle their host had promised them.

The Rebbe approached the platform to lead the prayers himself. The Jews began to pray with enthusiasm. The gentiles - seeing an old man with a long beard, covered with an oversized white shawl, chanting loudly the words of the prayers - all laughed heartily. But when the Rebbe called out powerfully, "Shema Yisrael - Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is one," their laughter ceased. It was as if a lion had roared. They were gripped by terror. How could a puny, absurd Jew make them afraid? But they couldn't shake the mood. It was as if the Rebbe's voice continued to reverberate off the hillside. A few minutes later, the praying Jews stood silently, reciting the Amida prayer, after which followed the joyous singing of Hallel and chanting of the Akdamot. The festival joy was palpable. The Rebbe signaled for the Torah scroll to be brought out. The Shpoler Zeide then summoned a very tall, distinguished man to be the Torah reader.

The reader's voice was both musical and powerful. When they reached the section of the Ten Commandments, the atmosphere altered radically. It had been a beautiful, clear, spring morning. Suddenly, the heavens darkened, and tremendous peals of thunder boomed out. Fright took hold of everyone.

The reader's voice rose in volume and intensity. "I am G-d who brought you out of Egypt." Though he did not know even a word of Hebrew, amazingly, the landlord understood everything that was being read. "You shall not have other gods before Me. Do not make any statue or image..." The landlord trembled as he thought of how he had demanded the Jews put up graven images.

When he heard "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy," his knees buckled. Why had he tried to force the Jews to open their businesses on the Sabbath?

His friends were similarly affected. They too felt they understood the commandments directly. Each one thought about his sins and was seized with fear. Their faces were deathly white. Many of them fainted. After a few moments which seemed like an eternity, the reading drew to a close and the noblemen recovered somewhat. Deeply embarrassed, they slipped away one by one.

After the prayers were concluded, the Jews sat down to the traditional dairy meal. The Shpoler Zeide related: "I assure you that the poritz and his friends will remember today for the rest of their lives and they will never afflict you again. To accomplish this I was forced to trouble Moses himself to come and read the Torah. You have a great merit, my friends, to have been here today.

The Rebbe continued, "Know that your landlord has in him a spark of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law and the priest of Midian, who came to the Jews in the desert and acknowledged the existence of G-d...and that Israel is His chosen people."

After the holiday ended, the duke requested that the Rebbe come to see him. The two men spent hours together alone and the next morning the Shpoler Zeide returned home.

From that day on, the landlord's attitude towards his Jewish tenants changed dramatically. They were able to live in peace, without any unfair pressure from the landlord. Not only that, but with his own money he paid for the construction of a synagogue for the Jews on his estates, insisting, though, that it be built on the hill where the holy rabbi had come to pray.

Translated and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles (and first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Shemu V'tchi Nafshechem #258.

Moshiach Matters

Take a census of the entire congregation of the Children of Israel (Num. 1:2) Our Sages note that the giving of the Torah at Sinai required the presence of all 600,000 Jews; if just one had been missing, the Torah would not have been given. The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read before Shavuot, the day on which the Torah was given, to remind us of this principle. Furthermore, it reminds us that it was not enough for all Jews to be present; it was necessary that the Jewish people be united in love for one another. "Israel camped there [before Mount Sinai] as one person with one heart." This peace and unity is the channel for all Divine blessings, including the greatest of all - the coming of Moshiach.

(Peninei HaGeula)

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