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Devarim Deutronomy

   788: Rosh Hashana

789: Ha'Azinu

790: Succos

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Devarim Deutronomy

September 26, 2003 - 29 Elul, 5763

788: Rosh Hashana

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 789: Ha'Azinu  

"Our Father, Our King -- Avinu Malkeinu."  |  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

"Our Father, Our King -- Avinu Malkeinu."

The theme of G-d as Parent and Ruler dominates Rosh Hashana.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the love G-d has for each one of us is analogous to and surpasses the love a father has for an only child born in his old age.

Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. Thus, it corresponds to the rebirth of humanity and we reestablish our relationship as children of G-d on this day.

The sounding of the shofar is connected to this central motif of Rosh Hashana, that of G-d as our Divine Parent.

To better understand this we look to another parable of the Baal Shem Tov:

An errant prince, an only son, traveled far from the palace. After many years had passed, the prince yearned to be reunited with his father, the king. However, by the time he returned to his native land, he had forgotten his mother tongue. From deep within his soul a cry emerged, a cry that -- no matter how estranged the child -- a father could understand.

This fervent broken-hearted plea, of "Father, it is I, your only son, help me!" broke through the barriers separating father and son more eloquently than any words the prince might have uttered. At this moment, the king embraced the errant son.

For thousands of years the Jewish people have wandered in exile. At times, we even seem to have lost our means of communicating with our Father. We are very much like the proverbial prince, who when facing his father the king could only cry.

We are in pain not only because our self-created barriers separate us from G-d. But also because even when we wish to return we encounter all sorts of seemingly insurmountable obstacles born of the national and spiritual exile of our people.

The shofar represents the wordless cry of the only child within each of us. Chosen because of its simplicity, it symbolizes the incorruptible nature of the soul connected to the essence of G-d, Himself.

Transcending the conventional modes of communication, the shofar's shattering wail arouses in us an awareness of the most powerful bond uniting Father and child. No matter how far we may feel we've strayed throughout the year, no matter how muted or inadequate our ability to communicate with G-d, the shofar of Rosh Hashana enables us to reconnect in a more fundamental and powerful way than previously envisioned.

The "Great Shofar" sounded by G-d signaling the Messianic Age, will pierce all barriers and penetrate beneath the surface of our very beings. When G-d sounds the Great Shofar we will be able to express, completely and openly, the fundamental child/parent relationship we intrinsically have with G-d. The shofar of Redemption will usher in a time when the love between G-d and the Jewish people -- concealed throughout our trial-ridden exile -- will be fully revealed.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year. But even before the New Year may we all find ourselves in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with the revelation of our righteous Moshiach, and he will redeem us.

Living with the Rebbe

This Shabbat and Sunday are the holy days of Rosh Hashana. Traditionally, the High Holidays are associated with Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka - repentance, prayer and charity - which together form the three pillars of our service of G-d. The usual translation of these three concepts do not, however, convey their true Jewish essence.

Teshuva is usually rendered "repentance." However, the exact translation of "repentance" is "charata."

Charata stresses a movement toward a new path of action by the individual. He regrets that he committed an evil deed, or failed to perform a good one, and now wishes to conduct himself in a new manner. Teshuva, on the other hand, signifies return. A Jew is essentially good, and his innermost desire is to do what is right. It is only due to various circumstances, wholly or partly beyond his control, that he has erred. This is the Jewish concept of teshuva - a return to his roots and origins, to his innermost self, revealing his innate personality, which will now become the master of his life.

Tefila is generally translated as "prayer." Yet the more accurate translation of prayer would be "bakasha."

Similar to teshuva and charata, tefila and bakasha are antonyms. Bakasha means a request, a plea. Tefila means "to attach oneself." Bakasha emphasizes a request to the Alm-ghty to grant us our needs. However, when we lack or desire nothing, our asking is superfluous. Tefila signifies attaching oneself to G-d, and is relevant to everyone at all times.

Every Jew has a soul that is bound and connected to G-d. At times, these ties to the Alm-ghty may become weakened. To correct this, we have specific times during the day for tefila in order to renew and strengthen our ties with G-d. Hence, even for those who lack nothing material, there exists the concept of tefila, "wanting to get closer to G-d," so to speak. It is the means of strengthening the bond and attachment between the Jew and his Creator.

Tzedaka is often translated as "charity." But the more accurate word for charity is actually "chesed." The word chesed stresses the kindness of giving. This concept does not demand that the recipient be deserving, nor the donor obligated to give. Instead, out of goodness, he gives. Tzedaka, on the other hand, comes from the Hebrew word meaning "justice," signifying that justice demands of the Jew that he give, and for two reasons: First, he is not giving of his own, but only what has been entrusted to him by G-d to give to others. Second, since everyone depends on the Alm-ghty to provide for his needs, one is obligated to repay "measure for measure" and give to others.

Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

Igniting Souls With Music

"I was born into an assimilated family in Peoria, Illinois," begins David Louis. "My parents belonged to the Conservative community and my mother worked as a secretary at the Temple. I personally felt no obligation to attend services with my parents, but I went anyway to please them. In general, my parents wanted to hide their Jewish background as much as possible, which is why they changed our name from Ginsberg to Louis."

The walls of the Louis home in Kiryat Gat, Israel are decorated with musical instruments alongside stunning landscapes painted by David, a talent he inherited from his mother. Yet his parents preferred that he study music, because "you can't make a living from painting," and so little David studied music diligently.

David excelled in his study of music and while still quite young, he became a star performer on the trumpet as well as a composer. In university, Louis continued to study music, along with philosophy and mysticism.

This was in the 60's. The war in Vietnam was raging. Large groups of students began to rebel. Many left the universities and normal life and wandered around, living as they pleased.

David Louis was affected by these upheavals. "The student riots changed America, me included. My entire worldview changed." David became a hippie who searched for meaning in life. He tried "to find himself" on long trips throughout the U.S. and Canada.

David Louis grew his hair long and wore decrepit clothes. At a certain point he joined an infamous Indian religious group. "Eventually I made a major transition from a life of abandon to life within the strictures of a cult."

Louis still hadn't found peace, though. He left the cult and continued traveling.

David arrived in S. Francisco and rented a room. Looking out the window the first evening, he saw an old Gothic building and went to investigate. "I went inside and was told that this was a monastery with a college nearby. I met with people from the monastery and offered to teach music in the college. After telling them my musical history, I was employed and became part of the staff." The administration quickly grasped that Louis was a first-class musician. In fact, they wanted him to join the monastery and become a priest!

Deep within, however, David felt he couldn't do it. His neshama made him proudly declare, "But I'm Jewish!" He decided to get out of there as fast as possible.

"I followed my instincts and without a definite plan, I packed my few belongings and left the monastery with only 50 dollars. I decided to go to Los Angeles, which cost me 20 dollars. I was left with 30 dollars for my basic needs."

In Los Angeles, David looked for the university. On his way, he noticed a sign that said "Chabad House," as well as a young man who looked like an Orthodox Jew. David wondered what it was all about. He entered the Chabad House and met Rabbi Yosef Teitelbaum, who invited him home for a visit. "We got to the Teitelbaum house and R' Yosef opened a Torah Ohr and began to explain it. I was dumbfounded. He spoke about the Prophets, the Jewish soul, the images associated with the heavenly throne - it really grabbed me. I couldn't understand how it happened that all those years I had searched for this in various cults, and it was right there in Judaism.

"I decided to stay at the Chabad House. During the day, I learned more about my Jewish heritage. I was especially interested in the conversations with Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, head Lubavitch emissary to California, who spoke a lot about Chasidic philosophy and mysticism

"In the winter of 1973 I went to Crown Heights, and was accepted into Yeshiva Hadar Hatorah, a school for Jewish students interested in learning about their heritage." This also gave David a chance to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe, about whom he had heard so much.

David's first deeply touching experience with the Rebbe occurred a few months after he came to Crown Heights. It was the night of Pesach, and he was sitting in the yeshiva dining room. "One of the students announced that the Rebbe would be arriving shortly. Suddenly, the Rebbe walked in with a serious expression on his face. Everybody was silent. The Rebbe walked over to the kitchen and checked that everything was set up properly for Passover.

"It's hard to describe what I felt. The seriousness on the Rebbe's face expressed for me an inner, profound seriousness that was interwoven with the foundations of Judaism and Chasidism."

David later married and moved to Israel, where he lives in Kiryat Gat. He now spends his time composing, playing, drawing, and teaching Jewish mysticism. About a year ago, Louis made four trips around the world for the purpose of bringing joy to Jews in far-off places. He visited communities in Yugoslavia, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, Italy, South Africa and the U.S., and performed in some 30 concerts!

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine.

What's New

60 Days

The High Holiday season is a paradox for many. These are awesome days, full of tradition and history. Days, we are told, that determine the destiny of our lives. Yet, how many of us are truly transformed on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? 60 DAYS addresses this dilemma. This newest book from Rabbi Simon Jacobson, author of Toward a Meaningful Life, offers tools to revitalize and invigorate the holiday experience, both for those new to the experience and those who have become all-too familiar with it. 60 DAYS is a practical guide, a 240 page illustrated book, filled with daily inspirations and exercises, fascinating facts and history. At Judaica stores or at

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated and adapted

In the Days of Selichos, 5734 [1973]

To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere: G-d bless you all,

Greeting and Blessing:

One of the main aspects of Rosh Hashana is its being the anniversary of the creation of man. Hence Rosh Hashana is also the Day of Judgement for mankind, as well as for the world in general - which had been created for man's sake, to be conquered and governed by him.

This is also the reason why Rosh Hashana is Coronation Day, when Jews proclaim G-d's Sovereignty as King of the Jewish people and King of the Universe, and petition Him - in all prayers of Rosh Hashana: "Display Your reign over all the world," with certainty, that He will favor the petition and accept the Coronation.

Needless to say, this Coronation must be wholehearted and complete, meaning that together with the feeling of awesome reverence for the sublime majesty of the King of the Universe, coupled with the profound joy at G-d's acceptance of the Coronation,

There is bound up with it a firm resolution of allegiance and obedience to His commandments - to carry them out on each and every day of the incoming year and thereafter.

The general and essential nature of this resolution is: to order one's life - in every aspect of the daily life - in accord with the purpose of man's creation, which is - to quote our Sages: "I was created to serve my Master (Creator)"; and to serve Him with joy, as it is written, "Serve G-d with joy."

The nature and end-purpose of this service is: "To make an abode for G-d in the lowest world." This means, to conduct oneself in such a way that every detail in the surrounding world, and certainly every detail of the individual's personal life, becomes an "abode" for G-dliness, which is achieved through everyday Torah and mitzvos (commandments) living.

All this is required of every Jew, man or woman, young or old, regardless of position and status, as this is also indicated in the verse alluding to Rosh Hashana: "You are standing firmly this day, all of you, before G-d your G-d: your heads... down to the drawer of your water." Every Jew, without exception, is required and expected to rise to the level of "standing before G-d, your G-d," regardless how it was in the past year.

The question arises: How can one expect every Jew to attain such a level, and to attain it truly and with joy, considering that it has to do with an "abode in the lowest world," a world that is predominantly materialistic; a world in which Jews are - quantitatively - "the fewest among all the nations"; and, moreover, to expect it of the Jew when his indispensable physical requirements, such as eating drinking, sleeping, making a living, etc., occupy the major part of his time and energy, leaving little time for matters of spirit and holiness?

The explanation of it - in terms understandable to all - is to be found in the concept of bitochon, trust in G-d, bitochon being one of the foundations of the Torah.

...The idea of bitochon is to feel reassured and convinced that G-d will help overcome all difficulties in life, both material and spiritual, since "G-d is my light and my help." It is especially certain that everyone, man or woman, is able to carry out their mission in life, and do so with joy - reflecting on the extraordinary privilege of having been chosen by G-d to be His emissary on earth for the purpose of "making for Him an abode in the lowest world" - with the assurance of having G-d's light, help and fortitude to carry out this mission.

The joy of it is further increased by contemplating the nature of this help from G-d, which comes to him in a manner of "I turn to my Loving G-d and my Loving G-d turns to me" - the G-d Who loves me with infinite Divine love - bestowed particularly from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur, as explained by our Sage.

Hence, during this time, as also throughout the year thereafter, this extraordinary divine love must evoke in the heart of every Jew a boundless love for G-d, as the Psalmist expresses it: "Whom have I in heaven? And on earth I desire nothing but You: my flesh and my heart languish for You, O G-d." Here, too, the love and trust in G-d are underscored in all aspects of life: "in heaven" - the spiritual, and "on earth" - the material.

Bitochon is for every Jew an inheritance from our Patriarchs, as is written, "In You our fathers trusted; they trusted - and You delivered them." It is deeply ingrained in the Jewish heart and soul; all that is necessary is to bring it forth to the surface, so that it permeates the daily life in all its aspects.

In light of the rule, enunciated by our Sages, that "By the measure that a person measures, it is measured to him" it follows that the stronger and more embracing one's bitochon is, the greater, more evident, and more inclusive is the fulfillment of this trust, through the blessings which G-d bestows, materially and spiritually.

May G-d grant that all the above should be realized in every Jew in the fullest measure.

And this will also hasten the fulfillment of the all-inclusive Divine blessing to our people - the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach.

With the blessing to be written and sealed for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually.

Rambam this week

3 Tishrei, 5764 - September 29, 2003

Positive Mitzva 176: Appointing Judges

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 16:18) "Appoint judges and officers in all your gates" The Torah contains laws and rules governing every aspect of our lives. It deals not only with how we pray in the synagogue, but how we should grow our crops, run our businesses and set up laws for our people. The job of enforcing that the Torah laws are followed is given to the judges (courts) and the officers (police).

Positive Mitzvah 175: Abiding by a Majority Decision

Exodus 23:2 "To follow the majority"

Differences of opinion about Torah law often arise among Torah scholars.

Since all rabbis sitting on a Rabbinic court are learned, they cannot dismiss an opinion at random.

However, a decision must be reached.

Therefore, the Torah set down a basic guideline - the majority rules.

Whenever there is a dispute between the Rabbis sitting on a court, it must be resolved by following the opinion of the majority.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

May this year be:

A year of "Arise and have mercy on Zion,"... uplifted in matters of Moshiach and the Redemption... faith in G-d and Moses His servant... traveling with the Heavenly clouds... Revealed Wonders; Wonders in Everything... the building of the Holy Temple... trust; Great wonders... the true and complete Redemption; Dignified Wonders... victory... the seventh generation is the generation of Redemption...King David lives and is eternal; "Those who rest in the dust will arise and sing and he will lead them"... Moshiach is coming and he has already come... the revelation of Moshiach; "He will redeem us"... "And they believed in G-d and in Moses His servant"; "This one will comfort us"; the wonders of true freedom... a new song; an abundance of good (Rambam); the king shall live; inscribed and sealed for a good year... the harp of Moshiach; learning Moshiach's teachings; the coming of Menachem who will comfort us... the King Moshiach; wonders... revealed miracles... a double portion; treasures... the completion and end of exile... the revelation of the Infinite Divine Light; "Humble ones, the time of your Redemption has arrived"; "Jerusalem will dwell in open space"; Your servant David will go forth; the ingathering of the exiles... acceptance of his sovereignty by the people; Rebbe - Rosh B'nei Yisrael; peace... a new song... Moshiach's shofar... unity of the Torah, unity of the Jewish people, unity of the land of Israel; Resurrection of the Dead... "A new Torah will come from Me"

Thoughts that Count

For You are He who remembers forever all forgotten things. (Musaf Rosh Hashana Amida)

One of the great Chasidic masters said of this verse: G-d remembers only that which a person forgets. If a person sins but he remembers the sin and it troubles him, G-d forgets it. But if he sins and he forgets about the sin, i.e., it doesn't bother him, G-d remembers it. The same is true of mitzvot (commandments). If he does a mitzva and remembers it, always thinking how great he is to have performed the mitzva, G-d forgets it. But if he does a mitzva and forgets about it, i.e., he doesn't become impressed with himself over it, G-d remembers it.

The Cry of the Shofar

The word used in the Torah to describe the sound of the shofar also denotes the sound of someone crying. There are two types of crying sounds. The first is like the moaning and crying of a person in pain, which is slightly drawn out. Another type of crying is tightly spaced short sobs. And sometimes, the first turns into the second; longer sounds followed by the shorter sounds. The first category of sounds are called shevarim, the second are teru'ot and the combination are shevarim-teru'ot. Each type of crying must have a single long sound, called a tekiah, preceding and following.

Good Wishes on Rosh Hashana

Reb Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch said: "Every person is accompanied by two angels when he returns home from the synagogue. After the evening prayers of Rosh Hashana, when they hear each person wishing his neighbor with a pure heart - 'May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year' - they soar aloft and appear as defense attorneys in the Heavenly Court, where they plead that the well-wishers be granted a good and sweet year, as well."

Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur

Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we are given a period of seven days, containing every day of the week - one Sunday, one Monday, and so forth. This complete week, neither more nor less, enables us to atone and repent for any wrong deeds accounted for during the previous year, and to better our way of life in the new year. That we have been given a complete week in which to accomplish this is significant: Spending the Sunday of this week as we should, and making the most of the time, serves as an atonement especially for the wrong done on all the Sundays of the previous year. The same is true of the repentance done on Monday for all Mondays, etc.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

It Once Happened

It was the first day of Rosh Hashana in the synagogue of the famous Berditchever Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak.

The shul was crowded. The Rebbe himself was leading the congregation.

The Rebbe's soft, vibrant voice touched the heartstrings of every worshipper. As the Rebbe pronounced the words, his voice broke, and everyone's heart was filled with remorse. Each pictured himself standing before the Judge of the Universe.

The Rebbe recited line after line of the solemn prayer, which the congregation repeated, until he came to the line:

"To Him, Who acquires His servants in judgment..."

Here the Rebbe suddenly paused, for the words died on his lips. His prayer shawl slid from his head, revealing his pale face; his eyes were shut, and he seemed to be in a trance.

A shudder passed through the worshippers. A critical situation must have arisen in the Heavenly Court; things were not going well for the petitioners.

A few moments later, the color returned to the Rebbe's face, which now became radiant with joy. His voice shook with ecstasy and triumph as he recited:

"To Him, who acquires His servants in judgment!"

After the service, the Rebbe explained:

While we prayed, I felt myself lifted up to the gates of heaven, where I saw Satan carrying a heavy load. The sight filled me with anxiety, for I knew that he was carrying a bag full of sins to put onto the Scales of Justice before the Heavenly Court.

For a moment the bag was left unattended, so I went up to it and began to examine its contents. The bag was crammed with all kinds of sins: evil gossip, hatred without reason, jealousies, wasted time which should have been spent in study of the Torah - ugly creatures of sins, big and small.

I pushed my hand into the bag and began pulling out one sin after another, to look at them more closely. I saw that almost all the sins were committed unwillingly, without pleasure, downright carelessly, or in sheer ignorance. No Jew was really bad, but the circumstances of exile, poverty and hardship, sometimes hardened his heart, set his nerves on edge, brought about petty jealousies, and the like.

And strangely enough, as I was examining all these sins, and thinking what was really behind them, they seemed to melt away, one by one, until hardly anything was left in the bag. The bag dropped back, limp and empty.

The next moment, I heard a terrible cry. Satan had discovered what I had done. "You thief!" he screamed. "What did you do to my sins? All year I labored to gather these precious sins, and now you have stolen them! You shall pay double!"

"How can I pay you?" I pleaded. "My sins may be many, but not so many."

"Well you know the Law," Satan countered. "He who steals must pay double, and if he is unable to pay, he shall be sold into servitude. You are my slave now! Come!"

My captor brought me before the Supreme Judge of the Universe.

After listening to Satan's complaint, the Holy One, blessed is He, said:

"I will buy him, for so I promised through my prophet Isaiah (46:4): 'Even to his old age, I will be the same...I have made him, I will bear him, I will sustain and save him!'"

At this point I awoke - concluded the Rebbe - Now I understand the meaning of the words, "To Him, who acquires His servants in judgment!" We are the servants of G-d, and if we are faithful servants, G-d protects us and is our Merciful Master. Let us remain faithful Servants to G-d, and we'll be spared from being servants of servants, and in the merit of this, the Alm-ghty will surely inscribe us all in the Book of Life, for a happy New Year.

Adapted from The Complete Story of Tishrei, Kehot Publications

Moshiach Matters

When Moshiach comes, every creation will understand and recognize that within everything in this world there is a G-dly power which makes it exist and gives it its life-force. This is the meaning of the prayer that we say in the Amida of Rosh Hashana "May everything that has been made, know that You made it." We beseech G-d to reveal His Kingship in this world because in truth nothing exists without this G-dliness.

(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi)

 789: Ha'Azinu  
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