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Devarim Deutronomy

   687: Vayeilech

688: Ha'Azinu

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Devarim Deutronomy

September 21, 2001 - 4 Tishrei, 5762

687: Vayeilech

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

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 688: Ha'Azinu  

Reverse Biology  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Reverse Biology

A person consists of a body and a soul-a physical envelope of flesh, blood, sinew and bone, inhabited and vitalized by a spiritual force described by the Chasidic masters as "literally a part of G-d above."

Common wisdom has it that spirit is loftier than matter, and the soul holier (i.e., closer to the Divine) than the body. This concept seems to be borne out by the fact that Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year-the day on which we achieve the height of intimacy with G-d-is ordained by the Torah as a fast day, a day on which we seemingly abandon the body and its needs to devote ourselves exclusively to the spiritual activities of repentance and prayer.

In truth, however, a fast day brings about a deeper relationship with the body. When a person eats, he is nourished by the food he ingests. On a fast day, vitality comes from the body itself, from energy stored in its cells. In other words, on less holy days, it is an outside force (the energy in one's food) that keeps body and soul together; on Yom Kippur, the union of body and soul derives from the body itself.

Yom Kippur thus offers a taste of the ultimate state of creation known as the "World to Come." The Talmud tells us that "in the World to Come, there is neither eating nor drinking"-a statement that is sometimes understood to imply that in its most perfect state, creation is wholly spiritual, devoid of bodies and all things physical. Kabalistic and Chasidic teaching, however, describe the World to Come as a world in which the physical dimension of existence is not abrogated, but is preserved and elevated. The fact that there is "neither eating or drinking" in the World to Come is not due to an absence of bodies and physical life, but to the fact that in this future world, "the soul will be nourished by the body" itself, and the symbiosis of matter and spirit that is man will not require any outside sources of nutrition to sustain it.

The physical and the spiritual are both creations of G-d. Both were brought into being by Him out of utter nothingness, and each bears the imprint of its Creator in the particular qualities that define it.

The spiritual, with its transcendence of time and space, reflects the infinity and sublimity of G-d. The spiritual is also naturally submissive, readily acknowledg-ing its subservience to a higher truth. It is these qualities that make the spiritual "holy" and a vehicle of relationship with G-d.

The physical, on the other hand, is tactual, egocentric and immanent-qualities that brand it "mundane," that mark it as an obfuscation, rather than a revelation, of the divine truth. For the unequivocal "I am" of the physical belies the truth that "there is none else besides Him"-that G-d is the sole source and end of all existence.

Ultimately, however, everything comes from G-d; every feature of His creation has its source in Him and serves to reveal His truth. So on a deeper level, the qualities that make the physical "unholy" are the qualities that make it the most G-dly. For what is the "I am" of the physical if not an echo of the unequivocal being of G-d? What is the tactility of the physical if not an intimation of the absoluteness of His reality? What is the "selfishness" of the physical if not an offshoot of the exclusivity of "There is none else besides Him"?

Today, the physical world shows us only its most superficial face, in which the divine characteristics stamped in it are corrupted as a concealment of G-dliness. Today, when the physical object conveys to us "I am," it bespeaks not the reality of G-d but an independent existence that challenges the divine truth. But in the World to Come, the product of the labor of a hundred generations to sanctify the material world toward a G-dly end, the true face of the physical will come to light.

In the World to Come, the physical, in many respects, will surpass the spiritual as a conveyor of G-dliness. For while the spiri-tual expresses various divine characteristics, the physical expresses the being of G-d.

Today, the body must look to the soul as its moral guide, as its source of awareness and appreciation of all things divine. But in the World to Come, "the soul will be nourished by the body." The physical body will be a source of identification that is loftier than the soul's own spiritual vision.

Yom Kippur is a taste of this future world of reverse biology. It is thus a day on which we are "sustained by hunger," deriving our sustenance from the body itself. On this holiest of days, the body becomes a source of life and nurture rather than its recipient.

Adapted by Yanki Tauber from an address by the Rebbe. Reprinted from The Week in Review,

Living with the Rebbe

There is a difference of opinion in the Talmud as to how atonement is achieved on Yom Kippur. Most Sages maintain that Yom Kippur atones for a person's sins only if he does teshuva (repents). Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, however, contends that repentance is unnecessary, and that the holiness of the day itself effects atonement.

The issue is not whether the sanctity of Yom Kippur atones for sins or not; about that, all are in agreement. According to both opinions, a person who does not repent cannot attain the same level of atonement as one who does. The controversy is only over how the atonement of Yom Kippur is effected.

According to Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, the G-dly revelation of the "essence of the day" automatically atones for transgressions. The other Sages maintain that in order to reach the higher level of atonement of the "essence of the day," a person must first do teshuva. Having already repented, he can then attain the loftier level that only Yom Kippur can bring about.

Atonement means that a person's misdeeds have been forgiven and he will not be punished. However, the true meaning of atonement is that the person's soul has been purified. When a person sins, his soul becomes defiled. Atonement removes all traces of the sin's impression. When a Jew does teshuva, even his deliberate misdeeds are considered as merits.

A Jew's attachment to G-d exists on many levels. The first level is achieved through mitzvot. When a Jew accepts the yoke of heaven, he forges a connection with G-d.

Then there is the deeper level of connection that expresses itself in repentance. If a Jew transgresses G-d's command, it weakens his relationship with G-d. This disturbs him greatly and prompts him to repent.

The impetus for teshuva emanates from this deep-seated level of attachment. By doing teshuva, all taint of sin is removed, and the bond with G-d is strengthened. Yet even this level is limited in the absolute sense.

The loftiest level is that of the intrinsic connection between the soul and G-d's essence. Completely above all limitations, it transcends even the expression of repentance. A bond of this nature cannot be created through man's actions, nor can it be improved upon. It exists, purely and simply, solely by virtue of the Jewish soul, a "veritable part of G-d above."

Because it is so essential, this highest degree of connection with G-d cannot be weakened by anything, not even by sin. It is untouched by a Jew's repentance or lack thereof. Thus, as regards the supreme level of our relationship with G-d, the "essence of the day" of Yom Kippur achieves atonement.

The lower levels of our connection with G-d require that we actually repent, removing all hindrances to our relationship. But on the highest level that is completely untouched by sin, the atonement of Yom Kippur itself is sufficient.

Adapted from Volume 4 of Likutei Sichot

A Slice of Life

From Behind the Iron Curtain
by Rabbi Rafael Kahn

(Excerpted from Behind the Iron Curtain, Rabbi Kahn's narrative of his three years imprisonment for his efforts on behalf of Torah Education.)

On the eve of Yom Kippur the official returned from his tour of the neighboring villages and sent a message that an "ice breaker" ship was unable to reach the shore to unload its good. Therefore, we should go and manually transfer its cargo.

It was the solemn day before Yom Kippur and since the message was given in a general way and no specific persons were designated for the task I decided to remain behind. On the morrow, the holy day of Yom Kippur itself, the emissary appeared again and this time commanded that all of us report to the official. This was the normal procedure for all exiles wherever located: to report regularly to the local administrative official. In the village of Yum we had been required to report weekly. As we stood in line I observed that the official made inquiries of each person and then the prisoner was required to sign his name. In my turn I replied to all questions but when he handed me the form to sign I said, "Today is a Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, and it is forbidden to write." I added that though we had been required to report regularly in Yum and our presence recorded we had never been compelled to sign.

The official was infuriated. He stood up and shouted: "Have you come here to introduce matters of religion? There is no such thing in this area!" I remained silent and did not sign. Afterwards the official announced that I was to report to him every five days. We were free to go. Our next appearance was to be on the first day of the Sukot holiday.

Before Sukot I had been concerned about the means for building a suka. There was no s'chach material available with which it would be permissible to cover the suka. The area at the entrance of our man-made cave sufficed for the walls of the suka but I had nothing with which to cover it. I was informed by local people that about 30 kilometers away reeds grew that were slightly less than a meter in size.

Among the prisoners was a Professor of Metallurgy from the city of Kostrama and his name was Vasilov. He was an old bachelor, impoverished and oppressed by his circumstances and had no relatives to send him material support. We others would receive packages and money from our homes from time to time but he received nothing.

I gave him two portions of cake from the baked goods sent to me from home and he reciprocated by journeying and bringing the s'chach to me. Thus did I finally acquire a suka. But I did not merit having it for a long period of time. On the second night of Sukot I was imprisoned with two tribesmen and shortly afterwards the suka disappeared completely. A strong wind came and dispersed the s'chach.

When we reported to the government official the second time there was a recurrence of the former incident. When my turn came to sign I informed him that today was a holiday. The official exploded in rage. "What is this? Another holiday? You have come here for religious observance? You are a prisoner! Follow me!"

He led me to a nearby house which was dark inside. He ordered me to enter and closed the door. It was the second night of Sukot, and the time for reciting the evening prayer. I required some water for the ritual cleaning of hands and I began pounding on the door. When the guard appeared I told him that I was thirsty and wanted water. He brought me a bowl of water and I washed my hand and prayed. After I finished my prayers I sat down and fell asleep.

A few hours passed and suddenly the door was opened. The official of the G.P.U. appeared with his aide. He commanded me to follow him.

Great and bitter fear engulfed me, for when I had refused to sign the second time he had threatened in a high rage to send me to a place where there would be no need to sign.

I had been told that there was such a place of imprisonment, 140 kilometers northward. The place was called Kopetugan. No person had ever returned from there. People perished because they could not endure such trying conditions. He proceeded and I followed and when we came to the point where he had to turn to his home he asked in rage: "When will it be permissible for you to sign?" I answered that tomorrow at nightfall I could comply. "Then come see me tomorrow night," he commanded and we parted, each returning to his own home.

The next night I came to him. He said to me, "I too am a prisoner. I have been punished to work as an administrative official five years. I am compelled to fulfill my obligations. Why must you be so stubborn? Please obey the regulations."

I explained to him very calmly that the only time one could violate the Sabbath or the Holidays was when one's life was endangered and he did not have the right to shoot or slay me for non-compliance. I was only too aware of this on the basis of my imprisonment in the Buterka prison in Moscow and my later incarceration in Swerdelowsk. In addition there were instances in the Torah when one was obligated to sacrifice one's life rather than transgress: I explained that this applied to the three cardinal sins of bloodshed, immorality and idolatry. He listened attentively and when I concluded, he stated, "All of this is well and fine in the precincts of your own home but this does not apply here. There were many highly religious priests here who totally abandoned their earlier practices."

I replied that the Torah's Law is universal and applies in whichever geographic region an individual may happen to be.

After a lengthy conversation he finally said to me gently: "Assure me that this will not recur." I agreed to try to avoid further confrontation, but thought to myself that I would deal with future situations when they arose in whatever manner I deemed religiously permissible.

Translated by Rabbi A. B. Metzger for Di Yiddishe Heim

What's New

I Will Write It In Their Hearts

I Will Write It In Their Hearts, Vol. II, is a treasury of letters of the Rebbe. These letters, and those in the preceding volume, are from the years before the Rebbe's leadership. They are selected and translated from the original Hebrew and Yiddish by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger primarily from the second volume of the Rebbe's 26 volumes of personal correspondance. Published by Sichos in English.

The Rebbe Writes

Free translation of a letter of the Rebbe

Erev Shabbos-Kodesh, Shabbos Teshuvah
6 Tishrei, 5739 [1978]

To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere

Greeting and Blessing:

...Teshuvah [repentance] enables a person to rectify completely all that should have been achieved throughout the past, in matters of Torah and Mitzvos-"with one 'turn' and in one moment."

Parenthetically, it is surely needless to emphasize that the above must not, G-d forbid, serve as an excuse for wrongdoing, as our Sages warned, "Whoever says, 'I will sin and repent later,' is not given an opportunity to do Teshuvah."

On reflection, it can easily be seen that, all things added up, the world contains more quantity (materiality) than quality (spirituality), and more by far. Indeed, the more corporeal and gross a thing is, the greater is the quantity in which it is found. Thus, for example, the world in inanimate, (inor-ganic) matter is much greater in volume than the vegetable kingdom, and the latter is quantitatively greater than the animal kingdom, which, in turn, surpasses by far, in quantity, the highest of the four kingdoms, mankind (the "speaking" creature).

Similarly in the human body: the lowest extremities, the legs are larger in size than the rest of the body, and the latter is much greater in bulk than the head, wherein are located the organs of speech and the sense of smell, hearing and sight, as well as the intellect, etc., which animate the entire body and direct all its activities.

On further reflection, a person might also become disheartened, G-d forbid, wondering how is one to fulfill adequately one's real purpose in life on this earth, which is, to quote our Sages, "I was created to serve my Creator"-seeing that most of one's time is necessarily taken up with materialistic things, such as eating and drinking, sleeping, earning a livelihood, etc. What with the fact that the earliest years of a human being, before reaching maturity and knowledge, are spent in an entirely materialistic mode of living.

The answer is, first of all, that even the so-called materialistic preoccupation of the daily life must not become purely materialitstic and animal-like, for we have to be always mindful of the imperative, "Let all your doings be for the sake of Heaven," and "Know Him (G-d) in all your ways."

This means that also in carrying out the activities which are connected with the physical and material aspects of life (which, as mentioned, take up the greater part of a person's time) a human being must know that those material aspects are not an end in themselves, but they are, and must serve as, the means to attain to the higher, spiritual realm of life, namely, physical aspects with spiritual content, and utilize them for spiritual purpose. Thus, all these mundane, and in themselves trivial matters, are elevated to their proper role, perfection and spirituality.

But in addition to the above, there is also the unique effectiveness of Teshuvah, which has the power to transform-"With one 'turn' and in one moment"-the whole past-the very materiality of it into spirituality.

Time is, of course, not measured simply by duration, but by its content in terms of achievement. Thus, in evaluating time there are vast differences in terms of content, and, hence, in real worth, of a minute, an hour, etc. Suffice it to mention by way of example, that one cannot compare an hour of prayer and outpouring of the soul before G-d with an hour of sleep. And to use the analogy of coins, there may be coins of identical size and shape, yet different in their intrinsic value, depending upon whether they are made of copper, silver or gold.

With all the wonderful opportunities that G-d provides for a person to fill his time with the highest content, there is the most wonderful gift from "G-d who does wonders" of the extraordinary quality of Teshuvah, which transcends all limitations, inclu-ding the limitations of time, so that "in one moment" it transforms the whole past, to the degree of absolute perfection in quality and spirituality.

The Alm-ghty has also ordained especially favorable times for Teshuvah, at the end of each year and the beginning of the new year, together with the assurance that everyone who resolves to do Teshuvah-he, or she, can accomplish it "in one moment." Thus, the person transforms the quantity of the materiality in the past, into meritorious quality, spirituality and holiness. At the same time, one prepares for the future, in the coming year and thereafter, in a proper manner.

This is accomplished through Torah and Mitzvos in the everyday life, thereby elevating himself (or herself) and the environment at large to the highest possible level of spirituality and holiness, thus making this material world a fitting abode for G-d, blessed be He.

May G-d grant that everyone actively strive for the above, in accordance with the prayer of the Propehtess Chanah, which we read on the first day of the New Year: "My heart rejoices in G-d, my strength is uplifted through G-d...I rejoice in His help... and He will exalt the reign of His Moshiach."

With blessing for success in all and for a Chasimoh uGmar Chasimoh Toivoh [sealed and completely sealed for good], both materially and spiritually,

Rambam this week

4 Tishrei 5762

Prohibition 266: coveting another's belongings

By this prohibition we are forbidden to set our thoughts to covet and desire what belongs to another, because this will lead to scheming to acquire it. It is derived from the Torah's words (Deut. 5:18), "Neither shall you desire your neighbor's house."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

One of the main themes of Yom Kippur is teshuva, repentance.

As explained in the mystical Zohar, one of the many "job descriptions" of King Moshiach is that he will bring even the righteous (tzadikim) to repentance. On the surface, this seems contradictory. If they are truly tzadikim, why will they have to repent? And if they really do have something to repent about, how can they be called righteous?

Chasidic philosophy resolves the problem by explaining that when Moshiach comes, the righteous will not have to atone for any sins. Rather, in doing teshuva (literally returning to G-d), they will simultaneously combine the advantage of the righteous person who never sinned, with the advantage of one who returns in penitence. To explain:

A tzadik lives his life exactly as G-d wants him to, observing Torah and mitzvot without ever committing any transgressions. His entire life is spent in the realm of sanctity and holiness.

A baal teshuva (penitent), by contrast, has the advantage of actually being able to transform darkness into light. Precisely because he wandered so far afield, his desire to cleave to G-d is even stronger than the tzadik's. His love for G-d is so intense that even his deliberate sins are turned into merits.

When Moshiach comes, the righteous will do teshuva in the sense of ascending to ever-higher levels of connection with G-d. When all mankind, tzadikim included, will witness the infinite holiness of the Messianic era, even the highest spiritual levels already attained will seem like nothing, and they will be aroused to unprecedented heights, with the energy and vigor of baalei teshuva. This, of course, will be accomplished by Moshiach, who will open the whole world's eyes to the underlying G-dly reality of existence.

May it happen at once.

Thoughts that Count

Assemble ("Hakhel") the people, the men and the women and the little ones (Deut. 31:12)

The Sabbatical year (in which the land lies fallow and debts are declared in remission) brings with it peace and unity, as it blurs the distinctions between rich and poor. In the Sabbatical year all Jews are equal, rendering them worthy of the mitzva of Hakhel (the grand assemblage on Sukkot during which the king reads aloud certain portions of the Torah).

(Kli Yakar)

For I know your rebellion and your stiff have been rebellious with the L-rd (Deut. 31:27)

Why does the Torah specify "with" rather than "against"? For having involved G-d in every evil act that was perpetrated, and trying to turn negative behavior into a "mitzva."


The month of Tishrei is the seventh month of the year when counting from Nisan, about which the Torah states, "This shall be to you the first of the months of the year." The Hebrew word for seventh, "shevi'i," is related to the word meaning "sated" or "abundant." Indeed, Tishrei is "chock full" of holidays (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc.) and mitzvot (shofar, suka, etc.), as it is a very special time of G-dly revelation in the world.

(The Arizal)

He forgives us our faults each and every year (from the Yom Kippur prayer book)

By human standard, if one person harms another and asks his forgiveness and is pardoned, and then repeats the misdeed, it becomes very difficult to grant pardon again, and certainly a third and fourth time. But by G-d's standard, there is no difference between once and a thousand times, as pardon is a manifestation of the attribute of mercy, and Divine attributes are not limited and finite but are infinite, as it states, "For His mercies have not ended."

(Tanya, Igeret HaTeshuva)

It Once Happened

When the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, reached an age appropriate to marry, he was faced with having to choose between several prospective brides. One of those suggested was the young Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, daughter of Rabbi Avraham Schneerson of Kishinev, the son of the Rebbe of Nezhin.

The prospective bridegroom's father, the Rebbe Rashab [Rabbi Shalom Dovber, fifth Chabad Rebbe], was in favor of this match (which eventually did take place), but the bridegroom's grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivka, had other plans.

The Rebbe Rashab said to his mother, "Let us follow the advice of the Torah, and ask the boy himself what he wants to do." They called in the young Yosef Yitzchak, gave him the names of all the possible matches and told him to make the decision for himself.

The Previous Rebbe replied, "When Abraham sought a wife for his son Isaac, he sent his servant Eliezer to his own kinsmen to find a suitable match, saying, 'But you shall go to my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son.' " Evidently, Yosef Yitzchak had decided to marry his distant relative, Nechama Dina.

Now in those days, the custom of Rebbetzin Rivka was to distribute honey cake to everyone in the community on the day before Yom Kippur. Her son, the Rebbe Rashab, would be the first to receive a piece, after which all the Chasidim and townspeople would file past her and be given a piece of cake and her blessings for a good and sweet year.

That year, during which the match between the Previous Rebbe and Nechama Dina was arranged, the Rebbe Rashab came to his mother as usual for the honey cake before Yom Kippur. On that occasion, however, he asked for her forgiveness, as the match had not been made according to her wishes.

Rebbetzin Rivka responded with the following story:

There was once a Jew living in an isolated settlement with few Jewish neighbors, who wanted to spend Yom Kippur in a nearby town in order to be able to pray properly with a minyan. Many such isolated Jewish families would relocate before the High Holidays in order to be able to celebrate together with their brethren. The man informed his wife and family that they would be making the trip into town on the day before Yom Kippur, and asked them to ready themselves for the journey.

When it came time to leave, however, he was the only one ready. The rest of the family had not yet finished packing and making preparations.

He tried to hurry them, as it was Erev Yom Kippur, but it was obvious they would not be leaving for some time. The man therefore suggested that he start out on the journey himself, walking slowly, so that they would later be able to catch up with him. The entire family would meet at a particular tree and continue on their way together.

The father set off alone and soon reached the location where they were supposed to meet. Tired by his long walk (and by the drink of schnapps he had downed that morning), he decided to rest in the inviting shade of the tall tree. Lying down on a comfortable spot not visible from the main road, the man soon fell asleep and dozed for many hours.

Meanwhile, the other family members were hurrying along, trying to reach town before sundown. By the time they reached the tree near which their father was fast asleep they had quite forgotten about their agreement, and passed him right by.

Towards evening the man woke up from his nap. Seeing the advancing shadows, he realized that he would never be able to reach the town before it got dark, nor would he be able to return home without transgressing the holiest day of the year. He would have to spend Yom Kippur where he was, in the middle of nowhere, under the open sky.

Lifting his eyes to heaven, the man cried out, "Master of the Universe! My children have totally forgotten about me! I hereby forgive them; now You must forgive Your children who have forgotten about You!"

Rebbetzin Rivka finished her story with the following words addressed to her son, the Rebbe Rashab: "May G-d forgive all of us the same way that I have forgiven you."

Moshiach Matters

After the shofar is sounded at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, the congregation announces, "Leshana haba'a b'Yerushalayim-Next year in Jerusalem." In Jerusalem they say: "Leshana haba'a b'Yerushalayim habenuya-Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem."

 688: Ha'Azinu  
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