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1588: Shoftim

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September 6, 2019 - 6 Elul, 5779

1588: Shoftim

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

  1587: Re'eh1589: Ki Seitzei  

A Month of Acronyms  |  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

A Month of Acronyms

There's something special about the current Jewish month of Elul. Of course, we could say there's something special about every Jewish month! But Elul in particular, as the last month of the outgoing year and preparation for the new year, is quite unique.

There's something else special about Elul, though. It has more acronyms associated with it than any other month, probably even more than the most beloved and observed Jewish holidays! (Do you know any acronyms for Chanukah or Passover?)

Elul has five acronyms.

The four Hebrew letters that spell "Elul" are aleph, lamed, vov, lamed. Each stands for the first letter in a verse, like this: "ani ledodi v'dodi li" (Song of Songs 6:3). That means, in English, "I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me." Our Sages explain that this verse refers to our relationship with G-d, which we establish through prayer.

Perhaps you've heard of the "three pillars": the world stands on three pillars, prayer, Torah study and acts of loving kindness (Ethics, chapter 1).

And, you guessed it, there's an Elul acronym for the other two pillars, as well. We thought you'd never ask:

Acts of loving kindness, or charity: "ish lerei'eihu v'matanot la'evyonim" (Esther 9:22), or, "A person to his fellow and gifts to the poor." (Oh, yeah, the word "ish," man, begins with an aleph, the silent letter.)

Torah study: "inah le'yado vesamti lach" (Ex. 21:13), or "... caused it to happen, I will appoint for you." The verse is talking about establishing a "city of refuge," and Torah study, our Sages teach, is a spiritual "city of refuge."

The other two refer to acts that do more than sustain the world; they refer to acts that elevate it to a higher level of spirituality.

Acronym number four comes from Deut. 30:6: "et levavcha ve'et levav" (Yes, the word "et" begins with an aleph, which is why in English it begins with a vowel). This means "your heart and the heart [of your children]." G-d will metaphorically circumcise the heart - remove the obstructions to an open heart, a reference to teshuva, which is a change of heart. Teshuvah elevates the individual. And individual teshuva, gathered together, leads to the fifth acronym.

For, finally, there's this passage: "l'hashem v'yomru leimor ashira" (Ex 15:1), which means, "to G-d, and they said, saying, I will sing." Now, if you'll look at that transliteration, you'll notice that this acronym is in reverse: it goes lamed, vov, lamed, aleph, or lulE. This verse comes from the Song of the Sea, which celebrates Redemption, both the Redemption from Egypt and the future Redemption with Moshiach. Redemption - the theme of the fifth acronym.

Why is the acronym in reverse? Being so, it's hidden, just as the future Redemption is, momentarily, hidden.

And now we ask, why does Elul generate five acronyms, subtle indications of how we approach our relationship with and service to G d, and the results therefrom? Because Elul is the month of preparation. During Elul we habituate ourselves to these five, the three pillars of the world and the two elevations, individual and global. And in so doing, we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashanah, the day when the shofar blowing counts, an echo of the Great Shofar that will usher in the era of Redemption.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Shoftim, we are given the commandment to appoint a king: "You should surely appoint over yourself a king (melech)."

While in our verse the word "melech" is used for "king," the Torah does sometimes use the word "nassi" for king. (At other times "nassi" means "head of a tribe.")

What are the differences between a melech and a nassi? The differences are similar to those of the brain and the heart.

A king's job is to take care of the needs of the nation, just as the heart serves all of the organs in the entire body.

The nassi is the head of the Jewish people, the brain. The nassi's job is to be an impartial arbiter of Torah law, he directs the entire nation in G-d's ways, just as the brain directs the entire body. The brain, however, also has a function of its own - to think and impartially scrutinize ideas. Yet, it is "nourished" by the heart, just like all other organs.

However, two kings of Israel have both titles, nassi and melech. The first was Moses, our first redeemer. He was a king, as it says, "And there was a king in Yeshurun (Israel)," which refers to Moses. He took care of the Jewish nation in the desert, just as a king was meant to. He was also the nassi, head of the Sanhedrin, the primary teacher of Torah to the Jewish people.

The second will be Moshiach, our final redeemer, who will be our king and nassi, he will teach us new insights in Torah that will take us to spiritual heights, beyond anything we could imagine.

In Jewish mystical teachings, the cognitive abilities are connected to the brain and the emotions are connected to the heart.

The brain is above the body, it is not intermingled with the organs of the body. This is because, to be impartial when thinking, you need to be separate or above feelings, if you want to come to the a true conclusion. Because your feelings will skew your thinking. The same is true about a nassi, he is above the nation, he needs to be able to determine the true Torah law, and he can't let his feelings get in the way.

On the other hand, the heart is inside the body, among other organs, because emotions are connected to your feelings. The same is true about a king, he needs to be among the nation, he needs to be able to feel for them, so he can properly serve them.

Each of us is king and nassi over ourselves, our families and our surroundings. It is very important to know when to be a nassi and when to be a king. When you are studying Torah or you have a question in Jewish law, you need to be the nassi, to follow what is true and right. But when it comes to your welfare and the welfare of your family and friends, you need to be the king. You need to feel for them, and provide for them accordingly. Of course within the parameters of Torah.

May our efforts to lead lives guided by Torah hasten the coming of Moshiach, who will be our king and our nassi!

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the Rebbe's teachings, Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.

A Slice of Life

Learning by Example
by Rabbi Moishe Kievman

Born in Moscow, escaped to Samarkand, was in DP camps in Germany and Poking, until finally my father - Yosef Kievman - and his family members who survived the war, made it to Israel in 1948. From a renown Chabad family, father came to U.S. soil on his 21st birthday in 1960. He came straight to Brooklyn to be near the Rebbe, who was a father figure to him, since his father had passed away.

When drafted to serve in Vietnam, my father was scared to go. The Rebbe told him not to worry, as they wouldn't send him to actual combat.

While at Ft. Jackson, my father made an impact on many people there. He studied with the Jewish doctors and taught Talmud to the son of the Jewish chaplain at the base. The chaplain's son ended up becoming observant, and my father took extra pleasure when years later, the grandson would eat Shabbat meals at our home!

At various times, my father manufactured wallets, had a travel agency and an electronics store. By the time I was growing up, he was in the business of refining precious metals. He played with different formulas and liked to say he was a chemist. I loved helping him design jewelry which he sold, and would often travel with him for work. Everyone loved my father, or Joe, as they called him. He dealt with many kinds of people from all religious and ethnic backgrounds, and had a positive impact on everyone he dealt with. He spoke to everyone in their language and knew exactly what to say to make them feel good. Whenever he met with Jewish business associates, he always made a point in sharing a Torah thought, or saying something that would encourage them to upgrade their Jewish observance.

One of my father's prized treasures was a Talmud that he took with him throughout Europe and his travels. It was a one volume book that had the entire Talmud in it. It's the same book of Talmud that he would learn from in his store, in between customers. I don't know if my father knew the entire Talmud by heart, but I do know that any time we quoted from the Talmud, he knew it.

My father always had a Jewish book in the car which he would study from at red lights. Many times, he would ask us to read for him while he was driving, and he would correct our reading mistakes. He often read from the Torah scroll for his Minyan and he knew the entire Torah by heart, with the correct tunes and exact grammar.

My father was brilliant. He spoke 13 languages. In Crown Heights, where I grew up, people from all over the world constantly came to visit, and many of them would come to my father to exchange their money. He communicated with each of them in their own language and loved making them feel at home.

My father was one of the founding members of the Crown Heights Hatzalah (medical emergency first responders). Someone shared the impact it made on him as an 11 year old in my father's store, choosing his first watch, when he witnessed how after getting a Hatzalah call, my father immediately closed his door, leaving his livelihood behind, and ran to help save someone. After delivering the first of many babies at home on a Hatzalah call, my father added the sign "We Deliver" to the front window of his store. (Just one example of my father's excellent sense of humor ;-)

My father took great pleasure in doing a favor for another. I remember once when returning with him from Maryland on business, when he saw an older woman together with her daughter whose car had broken down on the side of the road. They were crying when we stopped for them and he gladly gave them a ride to where they were heading.

My father answered his store phone with "at your service," and that's exactly the best way to describe him. He was always there to be of service to others. Countless people have shared how they spent hours in his store shmoozing with him and how he made them feel so at home in a foreign country. Because he was so sincere and approachable, people felt comfortable unloading to him.

My parents enjoyed a Shabbat table full of guests. There are hundreds of people who over the years ate at our home. My parents were often struggling financially, but they always made do with what they had. Anywhere I've been in the world, there were people who told me that they've eaten at my parents' home and of the singing they so enjoyed, that went on for hours. Many known Chasidic and other Jewish melodies, but many which were unique to our home.

I'm not sure I always appreciated him and the love he had for us. After all, which kid wants his father to come to school in the middle of the day to bring rubber boots and make sure they are put on correctly, just because there was a forecast for snow?! Although he worked extremely hard, he would come into our bedrooms each night to make sure we were properly tucked into bed, our yarmulkas were on our heads and that we had negel vasser (a cup filled with water to wash our hands upon waking up), and of course a paper towel with which to wipe our hands.

My father was always super careful with honoring his mother. He would call his mother before and after every Shabbat and holiday. In the later years of her life, when she lived full time near us, my father would either pick her up to eat supper with us, or if she wasn't in the mood, he would bring supper to her. Her last few years, my father would make sure to visit his mother, making sure she was comfortable and had all her needs, every single day.

There were so many lessons we learned from my father. Not to be afraid of exploring untrodden territories to build a better life. To always be willing to try something new, as long as it's permitted. To be an entrepreneur and think out of the box. To work hard and never waste time. Giving and sharing. Hosting guests. The importance of chazara, reviewing your learning over and over again (when reviewing, he would count with his fingers Yad - 14 times). Modesty, honesty and humility were very important to him.

My father led by example, teaching us to take our time and choose right for ourselves. He taught us that your spouse comes first, must be treated with the highest respect and is the absolute most important person in the world to you.

May we merit very soon to be reunited with all our loved ones, with the coming of Moshiach!

What's New

Friendship Circle Bakery

The Friendship Circle of Wisconsin, directed by Rabbi Levi and Leah Stein, is opening a Friendship Bakery and Art Studio. The new 6,500 square-foot Friendship Circle complex will house the Friendship Bakery, a large kosher coffee shop, an art studio and a huge kitchen. The Friendship Bakery trains local people with special needs on the job as they produce professional-quality baked goods. The baked goods are sold at a local Food Market.

Inclusion and Power

Inclusion and the Power of the Individual tells the remarkable story of the Rebbe's perspective on, and advocacy for, inclusion. The Rebbe's message: Every single human being is worthy of dignity, respect, love, and inclusion. Culled from the Rebbe's public talks, writings and conversations by Rabbi Ari Sollish, published by Ezra Press.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated

The Days of Selichos,5734 [1974]
To the sons and daughters of Israel
Wherever they may be:

May G-d's blessings for life be with you.

Greetings and Blessings!

[...] The question arises: How can every Jew be expected to attain such a level, and to do so not only truthfully but happily as well? This question is accentuated when one realizes that on the one hand, the Divine dwelling place among the nether beings is to be built in a world that is spiritually lowly and that is physical and materialistic, in a world in which Jews are - physically - "the least among the nations"; and on the other hand, this task is demanded of every Jew, placed as he is in a predicament in which his indispensable needs (such as eating, drinking, sleeping and working) occupy a great part of his time and exertion, leaving little time for holy and spiritual matters. How, then, can a Jew be expected to attain such a level?

The answer to this question, which can be understood by every man and woman, lies in the attribute of bitachon, placing one's trust in G-d. This attribute is fundamental to the Torah, which is called Toras chayim ("the Torah of Life"). And since in the Holy Tongue the word "Torah" is cognate with horaah (which means "teaching" or "instruction"),the phrase Toras chayim signifies "a guidepost for one's daily life."

The attribute of bitachon is also highlighted in the psalm that is read twice daily throughout Elul, the month of self-preparation for the new year, and also at the beginning of the year, during most of the month of Tishrei: "A Psalm of David. G-d is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?"

This trust in G-d, this utter reliance on His help, which King David expresses here on behalf of every Jew, embraces both the material and the spiritual aspects of one's life. It extends to the highest reaches of one's Divine service. This may be seen in the later verses of the above psalm, culminating in the final verse: "Place your hope in G-d; be strong and let your heart be valiant, and place your hope in G-d."

Having trust in G-d means that one feels a certainty and a conviction that G-d will help overcome all of life's difficulties, whether material or spiritual, since He is "my light and my salvation." Every man and woman will certainly be able to fulfill their mission in This World - and with joy, great joy - when they consider that it is G-d Himself Who chose them to be His emissary in the world, to build Him "a dwelling place among the nether beings." Moreover, they have G-d's assurance that as they carry out His mission, He is their light, help, and strength.

One's joy in executing this mission is heightened when one recalls that G-d grants His help in the spirit of the verse, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine" - and His love is extraordinary, G-dly.

This love, as our Sages teach, becomes mainly manifest in the period from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur.

At this time, therefore, and indeed throughout the year, this love ought to elicit in response a boundless love for G-d, a love that finds expression in the verses, "Whom [else] have I in Heaven? And aside from You, I desire nothing on earth. My life and my heart expire [to You, G-d]."

These verses, too, focus on one's love for G-d and one's trust in Him, both in spiritual matters ("in Heaven") and in material matters ("on earth").

Every Jew's innate trust in G-d is a heritage bequeathed to him by our Patriarchs. Of them it is written, "Our forefathers trusted in You; they trusted and You saved them."All that is required is that one should allow this trust to surface and materialize, enabling it to permeate every detail of one's daily life.

There is a principle taught by the Sages, of blessed memory: "By the same measure with which a man measures, his due is meted out to him."Accordingly, the stronger and more disproportionate is one's trust, the more disproportionately will one's trust be manifestly vindicated and fulfilled - by the bestowal of G-d's blessings, both material and spiritual.

May G-d grant that all the above - fulfilling the G-d-given mission of building Him a dwelling place down here below, placing one's trust in Him, and receiving His material and spiritual blessings - be true of every Jew in the fullest measure.

And this in turn will hasten the fulfillment of the most comprehensive blessing for the entire House of Israel - the true and complete Redemption through our Righteous Moshiach.

With blessings that you be inscribed and sealed for a good and a sweet year, in both material and spiritual matters together,

From In Good Hands, published by Sichos in English

All Together

YEHOSHEVA means "G-d has sworn; G-d's oath." Yehosheva was a daughter of Yoram, a king of Judah (II Kings 11:2) The Midrash lists Yehosheva as one of the 23 great righteous women of the Jewish people. She saved her brother Yoash from death, thereby assuring the continuation of the Davidic dynasty.

YISHAI means "gift." Yishai was the father of King David (I Samuel 16:1) The Anglicized form is Jesse.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

What is teshuva, and how does it work? How can a single turn in the right direction "erase the slate" and eradicate years of ingrained behavior?

Chasidic philosophy explains this by comparing the Jew's relationship with G-d to a fire, based on the verse "For the L-rd your G-d is a consuming fire." In the same way a physical fire requires certain conditions in order to burn, so too does the Jew's connection to G-d depend on several conditions in order to thrive.

A physical flame must meet two requirements in order to be sustained: it must be given a sufficient amount of material to burn, and avoid any substances that can extinguish it. A fire that isn't fed or is doused with water will eventually sputter and go out.

Likewise, there are two requirements for nurturing the spiritual "flame" that symbolizes the Jew's relationship with G-d: It must have sufficient "food" to sustain it (Torah study and the performance of positive mitzvot), and avoid any substances that can extinguish it (those things that the Torah has forbidden).

When a Jew observes positive mitzvot and is careful not to transgress the Torah's prohibitions, his "flame" flourishes and burns brightly. If he is lax about meeting the flame's requirements, the fire will sputter and grow dim.

When a person does teshuva, he is merely "re-igniting" a flame that wasn't properly tended. To do so, he must bring a fire from another source, one that has never been allowed to go out. This fire, which is completely impervious to being extinguished, exists in the innermost recesses of every Jew's heart. Like the flint rock that can always give off a spark after years of being submerged in water, the potential for a "fiery" and all-consuming relationship with G-d always exists.

When a Jew sincerely regrets his distance from G-d and contemplates his innate love for Him, he accesses this inner and eternal "fire." Teshuva, then, is the "match" that can rekindle even the tiniest flame, and cause it to burst into a giant conflagration.

Thoughts that Count

Justice, justice you shall follow (Deut. 16:20)

Contrary to popular opinion, the end never justifies the means, no matter how noble or virtuous. Even the pursuit of justice must be carried out in a just and honest manner.

(Rebbe Simcha Bunim)

Judges and officers you must appoint for yourself in all your gates (Deut. 16:18)

"In each and every city," comments Rashi. The Talmud goes even further, explaining that "city" may also be understood to mean the individual person, who is called the "small city." In order for a person's Good Inclination to be victorious and to rule, one must have the assistance of "judges and officers." The "judge" part of a person's spiritual make-up first looks into the Code of Jewish Law to see if a certain act is permissible or not according to the Torah. If the Evil Inclination afterwards balks at fulfilling G-d's command, the "officers" come to the rescue to force the individual into compliance. "Man's Good Inclination must always be in a state of anger against the Evil Inclination," states the Talmud.

(The Rebbe)

You shall be perfect with the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 18:12)

It is not all that difficult to appear to be perfect and whole to other people. That is why "with the L-rd your G-d" is specified - your uprightness and honesty should be genuine and not just for show.

(Rebbe Simcha Bunim)

You shall be perfect with the L-rd your G-d. (Deut. 18:13)

One must always be concerned that the soul should be whole and perfect, and not "missing any limb." For it is known that just as there are 613 parts of the human body, 248 limbs and 365 sinews, so are there 613 "limbs" of the soul. The wholeness and integrity of the limbs of the body are dependent on the keeping of the 613 commandments in the Torah.

(Likutei Torah)

For a person is like a tree of the field (Deut. 20:19)

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism, once remarked to a Torah scholar during his first private audience: "The Torah states, 'For a person is like a tree of the field.' A tree that does not bear fruit is a barren tree. A person can be fluent in the entire Talmud and still be 'barren,' G-d forbid. A Jew must produce 'fruit.' For what benefit is there in your learning and Divine service if you do not bear 'fruit' - if you do not cause your light to shine upon another Jew?"

It Once Happened

There are numerous stories describing why the great Rabbi Yaakov Yosef from Polanyah renounced his initial opposition to the fledgling Chasidic movement and became an ardent follower of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism. The following story is considered by some to be the most accurate.

Early one morning, the Baal Shem Tov arrived at the marketplace in the town of Sharigrad, where Rabbi Yaakov Yosef served as the city's rabbi, and began talking to the passersby. Soon his heartfelt words and inspiring stories attracted a sizeable crowd. Many of his listeners had been on their way to shul for the morning services and stopped to hear him instead.

One can imagine Rabbi Yaakov Yosef's displeasure upon arriving at shul only to find it empty, except for the attendant.

"Where are all the people?" he demanded to know.

"Honored Rabbi," replied the attendant. "A distinguished-looking Jew is telling stories in the marketplace and many people have congregated around him."

"Well, please go tell them to come to shul immediately so we may proceed with services as usual," the rabbi ordered.

The attendant went to summon the people, but instead found himself among those captivated by the newcomer's tales.

"I'll go out there and call them myself," decided Rabbi Yaakov Yosef when the attendant failed to return.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef neared the crowd just as the Baal Shem Tov had begun a new story and found himself listening with interest.

"There was once a simple porter who always began his day at dawn, participating in the early minyan (quorum) for the saying of Psalms and the morning prayers. After praying, he would toil for many long hours, finishing shortly before sunset. Despite his exhaustion, the porter would always rush to shul for the afternoon service. He was careful never to miss the minyan and would stay on through the evening service to join a study group for the simple laborers, appropriate to their limited knowledge and understanding of Torah.

"The porter lived next door to a self-employed, learned scholar who led a much more comfortable life. The scholar did not have to rush to services, since his occupation afforded him both leisure and peace of mind. His prayers were always preceded and followed by an hour or so of concentrated study.

"One evening, the two neighbors met on their way home. The simple porter heaved a deep sigh in envy of the scholar whose prayers and learning far surpassed his own.

"Hearing the sigh, the scholar smiled to himself, thinking, 'How dare he aspire to my level of service!'

"Years later both neighbors passed away. Upon his arrival at the Heavenly Court, the scholar's prayers and Torah study were placed on one side of the scale, and they weighed heavily in justification of his devout service. Then, an unpleasant smile was placed on the other side, and the balance of the scales was tipped against him.

"In contrast, the porter's limited amount of study and prayers weighed lightly until his heartfelt sigh was added to them. Then, the scales tipped easily in his favor."

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef began to consider his own service and realized that it too, was tinged with self-concern and conceit. Perhaps, he thought to himself, this story-teller could show him a new path of service.

Reprinted from From My Father's Shabbos Table by Rabbi Y. Chitrick.

Moshiach Matters

The Talmud lists a number of signs for the approaching redemption, and concludes that the most manifest sign is when "You, mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit..." (Ez. 36:8). When our conduct will reflect the trees of the field, that "the shoots taken from you will be like you," to blossom and cause a chain-reaction of self-perpetuating fruits of Torah and mitzvot in oneself and others, we can be sure of the imminent coming of Moshiach. This applies especially to the study and application of the teachings of the deeper, inner dimension of the Torah, referred to as the "Tree of Life."

(by Rabbi J.I Schochet from Living with Moshiach)

  1587: Re'eh1589: Ki Seitzei  
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