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by David YB Kaufmann obm
The global economy is growing moderately, and that's a great deal better than news headlines imply. World GDP is likely to expand by 2.8 percent this year, inflation adjusted. That's down from 3.4 percent two years ago, but still decent growth.
Even in the best of times, many of us sometimes find ourselves with a "cash flow" problem: It's not that we don't have money, we just don't have it right now when we need it.
Or sometimes we miscalculate, thinking we have more in the bank account than we do.
In either case, we find out that we're overdrawn. And then the bank starts charging us and the deficit snowballs.
However, many banks offer what they call "overdraft protection." It comes in different forms, but one basic set-up is that when your account becomes overdrawn, there's an automatic transfer of funds from your savings account. Another version creates an instant loan. Either way, you have access to funds that protect you from being charged an overdraft fee. Overdraft protection also protects your credit.
We can look at our deeds - our thought, speech and action - as deposits or withdrawals, as an asset (a mitzva) or a liability (a transgression) in our spiritual bank account. This idea fits with the theme of Elul and Tishrei - a spiritual accounting in Elul, in preparation for the Divine audit in Tishrei.
Of course, Jewish teachings explain that "Even the simplest Jew is as full of good deeds as a pomegranate is of seeds." But still, there may be times when we are "spiritually overdrawn." For whatever reason, an accurate assessment shows that, on balance, we've got more spiritual liabilities than assets, and payment is due now.
Our Sages teach that mitzvot and transgressions are measured qualitatively as well as quantitatively. Thus, one small mitzva may outweigh tens or even hundreds of transgressions (and vice versa). It's possible that we might have a huge cache to our credit. But it's also possible that unknowingly, we may be "overdrawn": payment is due and our spiritual credit rating is suffering.
We can prevent this; we can set up a spiritual "overdraft protection," by conducting ourselves in accordance with G-d's kindnesses, that are "without limit or end." By acting with chesed - kindness and compassion, we "draw down upon ourselves the Supreme compassion" - an overdraft protection from the Source of unlimited, infinite Chesed.
How do we do this? How do we conduct ourselves with a kindness that knows no bounds? Through giving tzedeka - charity.
When we give tzedeka above and beyond the requisite amount (10%), when we give it just because and on a regular basis, we create an "overdraft protection."
This is why our Sages tell us that giving tzedeka brings redemption, both on a personal basis, during the High Holiday spiritual accounting, and also globally, that tzedeka brings the ultimate redemption of the world through Moshiach.
Western Wall Vignettes
by Gutman Locks
After he finished his personal prayers, I took off the tefillin and we spoke for a few minutes.
He said, "You remind me of my grandfather. He said the same things."
I told him, "That's because he is Jewish and we both want the same thing... for the Jewish people to flourish."
He said, "Here, look I have a picture of him. He passed away four years ago. One of the reasons I came to Israel was to put this picture of him in the Kotel"
You could see how much he loved his grandfather. That's him in the middle of the photo putting his Grandparents' picture between the stones of the Kotel.
When we do a mitzvah, and pray for our loved ones, they receive a blessing, even if they are already in Heaven.
I love it when I get a bonus.
I put tefillin on a father who was with his two young sons. The oldest was maybe nine. As usual after saying the Shema I had the father put his right hand on the boys' heads and read the blessing that the Kohen say to us in the morning prayers.
As always, before the father removed his hand, I told him to add the personal things he wanted for his son. The fathers usually say, "Hashem give you health, prosperity, success..." and they go on for a while. It is nice to see a father asking for blessings for his son. Israeli fathers can go on for a while but Americans seem to get stuck after asking for one or two things
Then, as soon as he finished, I asked, "Is he a good son to you?"
The father answered, "He's the best, a really wonderful son."
The boy melted. He stepped closer to his father with a tear in his eye and put his cheek on his father stomach. The father put his hand on the boy's head and lovingly pulled the boy even closer.
A Bonus! I love it when I help parents and children show their love for each other, especially when they are doing a mitzva.
Mike is from America. I think he said Wisconsin. He is a 69-yr. old retired teacher of children with special needs. When I called out for him to come put on tefillin he walked right over. He wanted to do it.
He told me although his rabbi is Reform, Mike puts on tefillin when he comes to the Kotel. The last time was three years ago.
After reading the Shema in English I showed him how to pray for his loved ones. He stood by the Kotel praying for a long time.
Then, after I took his picture he said, "Thank you very much. You are special."
I asked, "What is your favorite time of the week?" Almost everyone answered, "Shabbos." Then I asked, "What time on Shabbos?"
Their answers were all very interesting. What is so interesting about asking this question is you bring people to recall something they love, and when they do that you see their faces recalling joy. It is a very warm thing to do. Here are the responses I received:
Shabbos morning, the prayers and everything...
When Shabbos first comes in...
Friday night... I can catch up on my sleep.
Shabbos morning after davening when we make kiddush in Shul and I am with all my buddies.
Shabbos afternoon, nap time.
Early Shabbos morning at the Kotel when I come and set up for the minyan.
Shabbos night dinner with the family.
Shabbos afternoon...the third meal.
7:00 o'clock in the morning on Shabbos. No one is up yet. It's totally quiet. I love it.
Late Friday afternoon... work is over.
Each of us seems to have his or her own special time of the week when we enjoy what we are doing the most.
Shabbos is a wonderful gift to the Jewish people.
He's a really great kid. He helped me to bring his father over so he would put on tefillin, and when I asked him, "Where is G-d?" he answered right away, "Everywhere!"
Then, when I told them how to stand by the Kotel and talk to G-d in their hearts, to pray for their loved ones and for those they know who are in need, the boy came back unable to stop crying. These were not tears of sadness. They were tears of being overwhelmed, tears of humility, tears that can come when you realize G-d is right here listening to our prayers.
A great kid.
He was visiting from America. I asked him to come put on tefillin but he refused, He just wanted to keep walking by. I saw that he had a huge US Marine Corp symbol on his shirt.
I asked, "Were you in the Marines?"
"What year did you join?"
"I joined in 1955"
He did not seem impressed. "What was your rank?"
"I was a sergeant... so you have to listen to me. Come put on tefillin." I put the tefillin on him.... First time I ever tried that one!
Gutman Locks is well-known at the Western Wall's Chabad Tefillin Booth for over two decades. With humor, warmth and love, he helps thousands of Jews try this mitzva. He is the author of several books, musical tapes and many educational videos.See more of his writings at www.thereisone.com
Rabbi Yona Elimelech and Esther Malka Zilberstrom have moved to Tiberias, Israel, one of the four "holy cities" to the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. (The other holy cities are Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed.) Located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, its Old City holds important Jewish pilgrimage sites including the Tomb of Maimonides, Rachel - Rabbi Akiba's wife, and many Sages of the Talmud.
Rabbi Yisroel and Golda Ohana recently joined the team of Chabad emissaries at SUNY Binghamton, New York. The Ohanas will serve as Directors of Engagement and Programming.
Rabbi Chaim and Dina Bar Sella are opening a new Chabad Center in Kigali Rwanda, the smallest African country. They will establish the nation's first synagogue served by the country's first permanent rabbi. The Rwanda center will be the ninth Chabad center in Central Africa.
Freely translated and adapted
Chai (18) Elul, 5737 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere -
These are the concluding days of Elul, the month of soul-searching and honest self-appraisal with respect to the outgoing year. These days are also devoted to preparation for the New Year - may it bring all the good to all our people Israel.
It is obvious that this effort should, first of all, be applied to ensure that the outgoing year should be a complete one - namely, that it be both complete (not lacking) and perfect.
The ability to achieve this perfection is given by means of Teshuva Shleima (complete return to G-d), particularly in the last twelve days of the year, each day corresponding to a month of the outgoing year - to make good any past deficiency as well as insufficiency.
It is also self-evident that the resolutions which one makes for the coming year should likewise be perfect, which is to say that one should not be content to strive only for the most necessary and minimal, but for the highest and fullest measure, in all areas of human activity - in thought, speech and deed.
Understandably also, the degree and quality of perfection which is required of a person grows together with the person. For, as a person rises in stature, a correspondingly superior perfection is expected of him, since the perfection which accorded with his previous state is no longer good enough for his higher state. Thus, from time to time, as a person grows older and wiser, the quality of perfection in all his activities must rise in a corresponding measure.
It has often been pointed out that man's mission in life includes also "elevating" the environment in which he lives, in accordance with the Divine intent in the entire Creation and in all its particulars, by infusing holiness and G-dliness into all the aspects of the physical world within his reach - in the so-called "Four Kingdoms" - domem, tzome'ach, chai, and medabber (inorganic matter, vegetable, animal, and man).
Significantly, this finds expression in the special Mitzvos which are connected with the beginning of the year, in the festivals of the month of Tishrei:
The Mitzvah of the Succah, the Jew's house of dwelling during the seven days of Succos, where the walls of the Succah represent the "inorganic kingdom";
The Mitzvah of the "Four Kinds" - Esrog, Lulav, myrtle and willow - which come from the vegetable kingdom;
The Mitzvah of Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the Shofar being a horn of an animal;
And all of these things (by virtue of being Divine commandments) are elevated through the medabber, the "speaking" (human) being - the person carrying out the said (and all other) Mitzvos, where-by he elevates also himself and mankind -
Both in the realm of doing as well as of not doing - the latter as represented in the Mitzvah of the fast on Yom Kippur.
Thus, through infusing holiness into all four kingdoms of the physical world and making them into "vessels" (and instruments) of G-dliness in carrying out G-d's command - a Jew elevates them to their true perfection.
It also follows that just as in regard to his personal perfection, which is expected to rise in harmony with his rising state, so also in regard to the four kingdoms he is expected (and given the ability) to raise, from time to time, the state of perfection to which he elevates them (as explained above) - both quantitatively and qualitatively - in the manner of doing the Mitzvos (where there can be grades of performance, such as acceptable post facto; good to begin with; according to unanimous opinion; with hiddur [excellence], etc.) and their inner content.
Taking into account the assurance that G-d does not require of a human being anything beyond his capacity, it is certain that everyone, man or woman, can achieve utmost perfection in all aforesaid endeavors, "in one instant," since the person so resolved receives aid from G-d, for Whom there are no limitations.
May G-d grant that the efforts to achieve utmost perfection in the outgoing year, and the good resolutions to achieve perfection in all the above mentioned matters each day of the coming year, should bring down upon everyone G-d's blessings in all needs, material and spiritual, also in complete measure,
And - very soon indeed - the complete blessing, the true and complete Redemption through our Righteous Moshiach.
NACHSHON is from the word "nachash" meaning serpent. Nachshon was prince of the tribe of Judah and Aaron's brother-in-law - his sister Elisheva married Aaron. (Ex 6:23). He was first to enter the waters of the Red Sea when the Egyptians were in pursuit. Thus the name "Nachson" is associated with courage. NAAMA means pleasant or beautiful. Naama was the wife of Noah. (Gen 4:22) According to the Zohar, she was an exceedingly skilled metal worker. Another Naama was one of King Solomon's wives, mother of King Rehoboam. (I Kings 14:21)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Saturday night, in preparation for the High Holy Days, we will begin saying the special set of penitential prayers known as "Selichot."
There is a story about a Chasid who came into a small town during the days before Rosh Hashana. Over Shabbat he stayed at an inn that was managed by a simple Jew. Late Saturday night, the innkeeper and his wife readied themselves to go to the synagogue to say the Selichot prayers.
"Where are you going?" asked the chasid.
Answered the innkeeper, "Our cow gives milk, the vegetables are growing. Our orchard produces fine fruits. We are going to shul to say selichot."
"Feh," said the chasid emphatically. "Old people get up in the middle of the night to ask the Alm-ghty for food?"
In truth, we should and are required to ask G-d for food and all of our other necessities. However, selichot is not the time to be asking G-d for these things.
Selichot means forgiveness. More than forgiveness, it means making amends. We recharge our batteries, return to our Source, and make an accounting of what we did last year. We contemplate on how we can improve in the coming year and begin to put our thoughts into action.
If we make sure that our Selichot prayers contain all of the above, the Alm-ghty will certainly give us not only the food and other necessities that the simple innkeeper prayed for, but a good year in all material and spiritual areas as well.
And it shall come to pass, when you come into the land which the L-rd your G-d is giving you (Deut. 26:1)
The Jews' entrance into the land of Israel is symbolic of the soul's descent into the body and its being forced to live in the physical world. The Midrash teaches that the words "and it shall come to pass" are always used to denote something of great joy. Though the G-dly soul is saddened when it temporarily leaves its place under G-d's throne to dwell in a Jewish body for a certain number of years, it is a joyous occurrence, since the descent is to elevate the corporeal world through doing mitzvot (commandments).
You shall go to the place the Eternal your G-d will choose to cause His name to dwell there. (Deut. 26:2)
A Jew must know that when he goes from one place to another, he is not going on his own, but is being directed from Above. And the intention and purpose of this is "to cause His Name to dwell there" - to make G-d known in the place to which he was Divinely led.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
"I have not transgressed any of your commandments neither have I forgotten" (Deut. 26:13).
Why were two such similar statements necessary? To teach us that it is possible to fulfill a commandment and at the same time forget it. This happens when one fulfills it without intent - while the mind is focused on other things.
Since you did not serve the L-rd your G-d out of joy and gladness of heart...you shall serve your enemies (Deut. 28:47).
From this verse we learn the importance of joyfulness in serving G-d. The severe punishment of "you will serve your enemy" - becoming slaves - is not brought on because one doesn't serve G-d, but rather when one serves G-d without joyfulness.
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman)
The Baal Shem Tov was a great lover of all Jews. He loved the young and old, the scholars and the unlearned. The Baal Shem Tov would invite the poor and simple folk to eat with him on the Sabbath and holidays. His brilliant students and the many scholars who also sat at the table could not understand why the Baal Shem Tov showered so much attention on these unlearned people.
Knowing how the scholars felt, the Baal Shem Tov once told them: "You are surprised that I should favor the simple people, aren't you? It is true that they have not learned as much as you; some of them even do not know the meaning of the prayers they recite every day. But their hearts are made of gold. They love humanity and all of G-d's creatures. They are humble and honest. How I envy them!"
The students listened to their master and could hardly believe what they heard. The Baal Shem Tov looked at them earnestly and said, "I will show you soon that I have not exaggerated."
During the third meal on the Sabbath, it was the Baal Shem Tov's custom to teach his disciples the secrets of the Torah. The simple folk who could not understand the mysteries of the Torah would go into an adjoining room, where they would recite the Psalms of David as best they could.
On this occasion, the Baal Shem Tov closed his eyes, becoming deeply engrossed. Suddenly his face lit up with great joy. When he opened his eyes, all of his disciples could feel his happiness. The Baal Shem Tov turned to the student sitting on his right. "Place your right hand on the shoulder of your neighbor." He ordered the next one to do the same, and the next, until they all formed a chain. Then he told them to sing a melody which they sang only on the most solemn occasions. "Sing as you have never sung before," he instructed them. As they sang, they felt their hearts rising higher and higher.
When they finished singing, the Baal Shem Tov completed the human circle by placing his hands on the shoulders of the students next to him. "Let us close our eyes and concentrate," the Baal Shem Tov said.
Suddenly the disciples heard songs, melodies interlaced with moving pleas, touching the very soul. One voice sang, "O, Master of the World... 'The sayings of G-d are pure sayings...' " Another sang "Tayerer Tatte (dearest Father) ... 'Test me, G-d, purify my heart.' A third introduced his verse with a spontaneous cry, "Tatte hartziger (compassionate Father); Be gracious to me O G-d, be gracious to me, for in You has my soul taken refuge...." A fourth exclaiming, "Oy, gevald zisser Foter in himel (O sweetest Father in heaven, "Let G-d arise: His foes will scatter..."
The disciples hearing these songs of Psalms trembled. Their eyes were still shut but tears coursed down their cheeks; the songs shattered their hearts. Each of the disciples fervently wishes that G-d would help him to serve Him in this manner.
The circle of disciples that had joined with the Baal Shem Tov into this spiritual excursion were spellbound. They lost all sense of time and place; tears flowed from their closed eyes and their hearts were full of ecstasy, ready to burst.
Suddenly, the singing stopped, for the Baal Shem Tov had removed his arms and broken the chain. An instantaneous hush fell over the group. The Baal Shem Tov sat in deep meditation for a prolonged time then looked up and said, "The songs you heard were the songs of the simple Jews saying Psalms with sincerity, from the recesses of the heart and with simple faith.
The Baal Shem Tov then explained to them how much G-d enjoys listening to the Psalms, especially when they come straight from the pure hearts of simple, honest, humble people.
"You were listening for one brief moment to the Psalms recited by the simple people in the next room, as the angels in heaven hear them!"
Later, the Maggid of Mezrich who had been present, told his disciple, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "My soul just spilled forth. I felt such a longing, such a yearning to behold G-d, as I had never yet been privileged to feel. My boots were soaked with the perspiration and tears of repentance from the depths of the heart."
Not only the actual observance of Torah and mitzvot, but also the emotional service of love and fear, and similarly, the knowledge of the inner teachings of the Torah, are accessible and therefore should be attained by every Jew. This will lead to the ultimate Redemption when "G-d will return your captivity"; He will proceed together with the entire Jewish people to the Holy Temple. This will come about through each Jew's efforts in revealing the spark of Moshiach in his soul. May it take place in the immediate future.
(The Rebbe, Third Night of Selichos, 1991)