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Before Tisha B'av*, when we commemorate the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples, it is the perfect time to talk about love.
We are told that the reason for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was because of "sinat chinam," literally "free hatred" of one Jew toward another. The antidote to this unwarranted hatred, explain our Sages, is "ahavat chinam - free love."**
Ahavat chinam is so important that even if it doesn't come "freely," even if one has to work at it, we are required to extend ourselves and toil away until we are successful.
Rabbi Gamliel (the son of Rabbi Judah the Prince) taught, "It is good to combine the study of Torah with an occupation, for the effort required by them both keeps sin out of mind; while all Torah study that is not combined with work will ultimately cease and will lead to sin."
The obvious meaning of the term "work" is actual labor. However, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev quoted the Baal Shem Tov as explaining that in this context, "work" refers to ahavat Yisrael ("love of a fellow Jew") - our efforts to establish bonds of love with other Jews. According to this interpretation, in order for Torah study to be perpetuated, it must be coupled with love toward our brethren.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, who was known as the consummate "lover of Israel," explained that it was this teaching that brought about a fundamental change in his life, motivating him to dedicate himself to the welfare of his fellow Jews.
Ahavat Yisrael is referred to here as "work" to teach us that we must work at extending ourselves in this area to include even those whom we have no inclination to love. And we must use every means possible to reach out to them.
It's easy to act lovingly toward our fellow Jew. It can be as simple as (but certainly not limited to) greeting a person properly. Said the Sage Shammai, "Receive every person with a cheerful countenance." "Every person" means just that, everyone, even someone we might not otherwise want to greet pleasantly!
Stated slightly differently, Rabbi Yishmael, a high priest, taught, "Receive every person cheerfully." Despite his high office and standing, he was prepared to show respect and warmth to "every person."
Finally, Rabbi Matya (son of Charash) said, "Be the first to extend greetings to anyone you meet." Again, the common thread of being pleasant to "anyone" or "everyone" runs through Rabbi Matya's teaching.
But it's not enough for us to just "study" about loving our fellow Jew. Let's stop talking and start rebuilding the Holy Temple now, by reaching out to someone else with true love and respect uppermost in our minds.
*) This year, Tisha B'Av occurs on Shabbat, a day on which we are not allowed to mourn. It is therefore commemorated on Satruday night through Sunday evening.
**) When speaking of the love that each Jew is expected to have toward every other Jew, the term "free" love. is more accurate than "unwarranted" love, for every Jew deserves to be loved by his fellow due to the mere fact that he/she is a Jew, part of the Jewish nation, inseparable from G-d and the Jewish people.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon, the Sabbath of Vision. Named for the Haftora, the vision of Isaiah.
This week's Torah portion is Devarim, and it starts with a rebuke of the Jewish people; Moses lectures them on many of their failings. It ends, however, on a positive note. Moses tells them that when they enter the land and go up against Canaan, they should not fear, because G-d will fight for them.
So too in the Haftora, Isaiah starts his vision with a rebuke, only to turn around and end on a positive note "Zion will be redeemed through justice..."
These readings are always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av, the fast of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Commemorating the destruction of both our temples in Jerusalem and much more. (This year Tisha B'Av occurs on Shabbat and the fast is pushed off until Saturday night and Sunday.)
The rebukes found in our Torah portion and Haftora seem to fit the theme of Tisha B'Av, but how does the positive ending fit?
The positive ending reminds us and emphasizes to us that though Tisha B'Av is a sad day, all the sadness connected to it has a positive purpose. None of the suffering was in vain.
Even more, we will see with clarity how our efforts and suffering was that which accomplished the ultimate redemption.
This helps answer a second question.
When Moshiach comes Tisha B'Av will be celebrated as a happy day. Why? True all sadness will end, but its history remains a sad one.
In the Messianic Era Tisha B'Av will be celebrated as a happy day not merely because all sadness will end, but even more we will see the positive in all the Tisha B'Av events.
Each of us finds ourselves in difficult situations from time to time. It's hard to see the positive in it. But if you stop and recognize that G-d placed you in that specific situation, you will realize that there must be a positive purpose. Though you might not be aware of what the purpose is, you will be able to keep upbeat and positive.
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.
Where I Belong
by Sara Yitta Gopin
The Jewish calendar has many joyous holidays, but there are days intended for mourning as well. Yet the Chasidic approach is that even as we are overcome with sorrow over the destruction of the Holy Temple we strengthen ourselves by learning the laws applicable for the time when it will be rebuilt.
Just as the Jewish calendar is diversified, the Jewish people are multicolored, and every Jewish soul glows with the light of its particular mission. As the nine day period of mourning that culminates on Tisha B'Av approaches, I want to share the journey of Dina Betzalel. She is an educator, and a seamstress whose childhood dream is to sew the garments of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) for his service in the Holy Temple.
Dina tells her story: "I was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and when I was six years old our family immigrated to Israel. We were a large family and my parents worked very hard to provide our needs. My mother was a seamstress and spent many hours of the day at her sewing machine to fulfill the requests of her clients. I was adamant not to engage in such a demanding occupation, yet I was also thankful to inherit the gift of being able to sew beautiful clothes. I became a teacher of fashion design and taught young women for 14 years until the educational program closed.
"At the time I was married and had built a Torah observant home, but was yearning for more spirituality in my life. We were living in Holon which, as is typical of cities in Israel, has a varied Jewish population. I had four children and my youngest, Yinon Chananya, was just turning three years old. Whenever he would see a man who was Chabad he would want to join him, as if there was some kind of magnetic force bonding them together. Could it be that such a young child has an understanding of where his soul belongs? I began to wonder...
"The summer was ending and we had to decide where to send Yinon Chananya to yeshiva. I presented the dilemma to Goldie Setton, o.b.m., the Chabad emissary who together with her husband Rabbi Daniel Setton worked endlessly to establish the Lubavitch community in Holon. With her encouragement my husband and I participated in the inauguration ceremony of the three year old boys at the Chabad Talmud Torah of Tel Aviv. Each child was wrapped in a tallit (as is traditional) as they were carried in by their father and then seated around a cake magnificently decorated with Hebrew letters glazed with honey. The experience was overwhelming, and there were tears in my eyes. My little boy had shown me where he belonged.
"Soon afterwards I decided to enroll my other children in Chabad schools as well. For that reason we joined the Lubavitch community in Rechovot, where I began working as a kindergarten teacher and later became the director of the Chabad day care center. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of spiritual growth that was inspired by my three-year-old son!
"Several years later, once again, G-d 'moved' my path to a different course. I realized that it was time to find the right outlet to express my talents as a seamstress. I have always loved sewing festive clothes for myself and for my daughters and I had even designed and sewn my wedding gown. Thus I have begun to sew wedding gowns, since there is no bigger mitzva than to bring joy to a bride!
"Recently I have also been honored to receive requests to sew articles that beautify the synagogue, such as the parochet, the curtain that covers the Ark where the Torah is placed. Yet my greatest pride are the cloaks for the Torah scrolls that I was appointed to sew, and to design the delicate embroidery that enhances the dedication to loved ones who have departed.
"When I was young my dear grandfather, Shlomo Elmelam, o.b.m., would visit us. He was a simple Jew who came to Israel from Casablanca and worked as a shoemaker. Yet his thoughts were elsewhere, studying the inner dimension of the Torah and anticipating the time of Redemption. My grandfather would often sit beside us, his grandchildren, and emphatically describe the apocalyptic vision of the Prophet Zecharya (14:4-7). Overcome with excitement, I imagined the tremendous tumult in Jerusalem from which the Mount of Olives will split in half just before G-d illuminates the world with the restoration of His kingdom.
"The service of the Holy Temple has always especially fascinated me. Several years ago my oldest daughter Efrat was working in Machon Hamikdash, an educational center located near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. One day she forwarded their request that I sew the eight holy garments of the Kohen Gadol for their display. This task required knowledge and expertise, but gave a true sense of fulfillment of my childhood dream.
"I thank G-d that the path of my life becomes more meaningful with every passing day. But there will always be the deep yearning that is heightened in this period of mourning. My soul cries out, "When will I merit to sew the clothes of the REAL Kohen Gadol for his service in the Holy Temple that will be rebuilt speedily in our days?!"
Sara Gopin, originally from Riverdale, New York and now living in Rechovot, Israel, is an artist and freelance writer. You can view her art at saragopinart.com.
Rabbi Yossi and Rivka Posen recently arrived in Epping, Essex, England to open a new Chabad-Lubavitch Center there. The Posens will serve Epping, North Weald and Theydon Bois, located some 17 miles north-east from the center of London. They join the team of the Rebbe's emissaries in Chabad North East London and Essex. Rabbi Shmuel and Mushky Wilhelm recently founded Chabad of Florence, New Jersey, and will serve as the Rebbe's emissaries in Bordentown, Florence and Burlington Townships.
Three for Cannes
Three major events took place last week in Cannes, France, and the region. The facility of the Jewish School of Cannes was expanded to accomodate it's growing student population and was recently completed - it is now 1200 square meter. There was also a groundbreaking for a new Mikva at Chabad of Cannes and the inauguration of the new Mikva in Frejus-St Raphael, a 45 minute drive from Cannes.
2 Menachem Av, 5734 (1974)
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of July 1st.
The reply in detail to the contents of your letter you will no doubt have received from your father, with whom I discussed it at some length. Nevertheless, I want to put down in writing some of the points and briefly at any rate.
First of all, I am grateful to note your concern, indeed profound concern, for your parents. This does not surprise me, of course, knowing your father and your upbringing. But it is nevertheless gratifying to see it expressed in a letter.
As for the subject matter of your letter, it is surely unnecessary to point out to you that when one thinks about the well-being of any person, including above all, his inner harmony and peace, one must obviously think not in terms of the immediate days and weeks, but also how it will be in the long run. This should be the consideration in regard to all affairs, but especially so when it is a question of where to settle down.
This is a very serious question even when one is at the crossroads, and much more so when one has already been settled in a place and contemplates changing it.
Now, with regard to your father, and knowing him, I have no doubt that he could feel in his element only in a place where he can fully utilize the knowledge which he has acquired and the qualities which G-d has bestowed upon him, that is, to utilize them in the fullest measure for the benefit of the many.
By comparison with this, personal amenities - and I mean this also in a spiritual sense - are not the decisive factor, and perhaps no factor at all.
All the above would be true even if it was a matter of conjecture. But in this case, after he has been so successful in his accomplishments in the past, there is no room for any doubt whatever as to the importance of this overriding consideration.
On the basis of what has been said above, supported by what you and all the other members of the family have seen of your father's hatzlocho [success] not only in your city, but South Africa as a whole, you will surely realize without any shadow of a doubt that your father will feel in his element and be truly happy if he continues his present situation in your country.
Moreover, it is surely unnecessary to bring special proof that the trend of assimilation, even assimilation in its coarsest form, namely intermarriage, is still very strong in all of South Africa, and that the work and fight to turn back this trend will still be required for a long time.
Fortunately, experience has shown that where there is a suitable and determined person with courage and determination to guide the young generation, the response is gratifying, and often highly gratifying. This has also been the experience of your father, who has succeeded, with G-d's help, to literally save many Jewish men and women from complete assimilation and to lead them in the way of G-d within the Jewish fold.
To return to you, I of course inquired from your father about your activities, as well as about those of the other children, in the spreading of Yiddishkeit.
May G-d grant strength in accordance with the saying of our Sage, "He who has 100, desires 200, and having achieved 200, desires 400." If ambition grows with achievement, even in material things, how much more should this be the case in matters of the spirit, which are the essential aspect of Jewish life.
I trust that you have read about the Five Mitzvah Campaigns which I have been urging recently, also pointing out that Jewish daughters and women have their part in these activities, and a very important part. I am confident that you and your friends are taking an active part in them.
P.S. Inasmuch as I understand that your letter was written with your father's knowledge, I am sending him a copy of my reply.
ARIEL means "lion of G-d." Ariel was a leader who served under Ezra (Ezra 8:16). It is also a symbolic name for King David's city, Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:1).
AZUVA means "abandoned." Azuva was the wife of Caleb (I Chronicles 2:18) According to the Talmud, Azuva was another name for Miriam because she was "abandoned" when she had leprosy. A later Azuva was the mother of King Jehoshafat (I Kings 22:42).
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In the Book of Zecharia it states that when Moshiach comes, four fast days on the Jewish calendar - 17 Tammuz, 9 Av, 3 Tishrei and 10 Tevet - will be abolished and celebrated as joyous festivals. As Maimonides explains, "Not only will all these fasts be abrogated in the Messianic era, but they will be observed as holy days and days of rejoicing."
It is obvious that when Moshiach comes there will be no need to commemorate the Temple's destruction and thus no reason to perpetuate these fasts. But why will they be celebrated as "holy days and days of rejoicing"?
The answer is that the four fasts are not just commemorations of tragic dates in Jewish history, but contain a hidden good of such magnitude that we will only be able to discern it when Moshiach comes. In fact, the fasts represent four stages in the progression toward Moshiach. We would never be able to attain the revelation of Moshiach were it not for the destruction and the exile. The entire exile may therefore be termed a "descent for the purpose of ascent."
During the exile, we mourn on these days because we cannot perceive the good concealed within. To our eyes, the world appears to continue its descent into greater and more intense darkness. But when Moshiach comes, the ascent that was hidden within the descent will be fully revealed, and the four fast days will indeed be celebrated as "holy days and days of rejoicing."
The Rebbe stated that the Redemption is imminent. "Not only is the Redemption about to commence, it is literally standing on our threshold, waiting for each and every Jew to open the door and pull it inside the room." The Rebbe explained, "The 'spiritual eyes' of the Jewish people can already perceive the Redemption; it is now necessary to open the fleshly eyes as well."
May the fast of Tisha B'Av be immediately relegated to history, and may we merit to celebrate it this year as a day of unprecedented rejoicing with Moshiach himself.
Moses began to explain the law (Deut. 1:5)
Moses explained the law in all seventy languages. Why did he have to go to all this trouble? Because G-d knew that one day the Jews would be scattered about the face of the earth and would be mingled among the other nations. By explaining the Torah in all languages, G-d insured that in every land and among each people there would be a spark of Torah.
Behold, I have set the land before you... to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give it to them (Deut. 1:8)
This verse does not say the land will be given "to you," but "to them" - Abraham, Issac and Jacob - an allusion to the resurrection of the dead.
Hear the causes between your brethren and judge honestly between each person (Deut. 1:16)
"Hear" - he who hears and feels the great love of the Creator for each Jew, and how precious each Jew is above - he will behave in a manner of "between your brethren" - getting along well with people and appreciating each Jew. Another explanation: If you truly want to hear and feel this love of fellow Jews, you should relate to people in a manner of "between your brethren" - you must be sociable and civil with your fellow Jews.
(Baal Shem Tov)
May He make you so many more than you are, a thousand times (Deut. 1:11)
The ultimate fulfillment of this blessing will take place in the Messianic era, as prophesied by Isaiah: "The smallest one shall become a thousand, and the youngest one a strong nation." At that time, the Jewish people, now numerically insignificant, will multiply and become a thousand times as great.
There was a period in Napoleon Bonaparte's life when he was very interested in Jews, and in all things Jewish. Many stories are told of how the French leader attempted to infiltrate among them and learn their "secret." A favorite ruse was to dress in simple clothes and leave the confines of the palace. Walking the streets of France as a common citizen, Napoleon could thus take the public's pulse without drawing attention to himself. Quite often, he visited the Jewish sector.
One summer evening Napoleon, dressed in his usual disguise, set out for the Jews' district. The weather was oppressively hot and sticky, and Napoleon anticipated seeing crowds of people chatting in doorways and in the street, hoping for a breath of fresh air. But oddly enough, it was quieter than usual. Even the courtyards and back alleys were empty.
"This is very strange," Napoleon thought to himself. "What on earth would prompt all my Jewish citizens to leave their homes at the same time? It must be," he concluded, "that today is a Jewish holiday. I'll go to their synagogue and check. No doubt that's where everyone has gone."
Napoleon rushed off in the direction of the synagogue. In his mind's eye he could already see the Jews in their great hall. They would be dressed in their Shabbat finery, swaying to and fro, their eyes glistening with fervor.
But what was this? Opening the synagogue door, Napoleon froze. Where were the festive celebrants, joyfully pronouncing their faith? Why, he could barely see, it was so dark inside! The only light came from a few flickering candles set on the floor. Instead of sitting at tables, the Jews were crouched on low stools or seated directly on the ground. Each person was holding a small book, chanting quietly to a sorrowful tune. The whole atmosphere was one of mourning, not jubilation. Sounds of lamentation filled the air.
Napoleon was completely baffled. Surely some sort of tragedy had befallen the Jewish community. He approached a Jew sitting off in a corner. The man was barefoot, tears streaming from his eyes. "What happened?" Napoleon asked him. "Why are you all crying like that?"
The Jew looked up the stranger and gazed at him sadly. "We are mourning the destruction of our Holy Temple," he explained simply.
"The destruction of what?" The Emperor of France did not understand.
"We Jews used to have a Holy Temple," the man went on. "It was the place where G-d's Divine Presence dwelled, and we served Him in it. Three times a year we made special pilgrimages. But it was destroyed, and that is why we are in mourning."
Napoleon was confused. How could it be that he had not even heard of such a terrible event? Why, he hadn't even known that the Temple existed!
"And who had the audacity to destroy your Temple?" he wanted to know. "The Romans," the man replied. "The evil Romans brought this destruction down upon us."
"The Romans?!" Napoleon cried. "Do you mean to tell me that the Romans have invaded our land?"
"No, it wasn't here in France that this happened," the man explained patiently. "It was in the Land of Israel, in the holy city of Jerusalem."
"Jerusalem? Very interesting," Napoleon said thoughtfully. "I hadn't even heard the slightest rumor. When did this all occur?" Napoleon's curiosity was growing from minute to minute.
At that moment the Jew realized he was talking to a gentile, who had no idea what he was referring to. "The Temple was destroyed 1800 years ago!" he told him. "This wasn't a recent event!"
"Eighteen hundred years ago?" Napoleon sputtered, not believing what he was hearing. "Are you saying that all these people are sitting here mourning an occurrence that not even their great-grandparents witnessed?"
"Perhaps you don't know," the Jew continued, "but we Jews see the destruction of the Temple as the beginning of all our woes. It was then that we were exiled from our land, and dispersed among the nations, persecuted and humiliated. But we also believe," he stated with conviction, "that our Father in Heaven will one day redeem us. At that time He will rebuild the Holy Temple, gather all the Jews from exile and bring us back to our land."
"What a strange people," Napoleon thought to himself as he walked home. No other nation was quite like them; indeed, the Jews were truly unique. After consulting with his advisors Napoleon decided to invite the Chief Rabbi to the palace, and ask him to solve the mystery.
For many hours Napoleon sat and listened as the Rabbi outlined the Jews' bitter history. As legend has it, at the end of their discussion Napoleon rose to his feet and declared, "At first I thought the Jews were peculiar, clinging to their antiquated ways and ancient sorrows. But I now see that you are an eternal people, having outlived even the greatest of empires and civilizations. Surely you will continue to exist long after I and my republic have disappeared from the face of the earth. In the end, you will return to your land and rebuild your Holy Temple. I don't know when it will happen: this year, next year, ten years from now or even two hundred. But it will happen one day, of that I have no doubt."
In the portion of Devarim we read: "And I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the causes between your brethren' " (Deut. 1:16) It is only during the present era, "at that time," that it is necessary to listen to both sides of a dispute to reach a just decision. When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, judgment will be rendered through the sense of smell, as it states, "He will smell the fear of G-d, and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes and decide after the hearing of his ears."