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Devarim Deutronomy

   837: Rosh Hashana / Ha'Azinu

838: Yom-Kipur

839: Succos

Breishis Genesis

Shemos Exodus

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L'Chaim
September 24, 2004 - 9 Tishrei, 5765

838: Yom-Kipur

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


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  837: Rosh Hashana / Ha'Azinu839: Succos  

The Ultimate Car Wash  |  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

The Ultimate Car Wash

Most of us have been to a car wash at least once in our lives. The ones that are the most fun, for kids and adults alike, are the kind where you remain in the car, shift into neutral and float along on the conveyor belt.

First, there's a spray of water from one side, then the soap hits the car from somewhere else, and for an additional couple bucks you can get some hot wax so that the shine lasts longer.

Finally, big rubber pieces envelope the car and dry it without so much as a scratch. Thirty seconds after this wash cycle has begun, you're driving out in your car that looks like a million bucks. That is, until you realize that the interior of your car still has windows that are smudged from the inside, a few cookie crumbs are on the floor, there's an empty styrofoam container from your most recent cuppa and there are even a few loose coins embedded in the seat.

What can you do to get rid of the mess inside? The only way to clean it is to open up your door and let some guy with a bottle of Windex and a vacuum jump in and do the rest of the job.

On Yom Kippur we all go to the synagogue, sit down, position ourselves in neutral and wait for the conveyor belt to begin moving. The rabbi zaps you from this side, the cantor gets you from the other side, sit down, stand up, sit down. There's a sermon, the Torah reading, and before you know it, there's an announcement of a break and another announcement telling you when the break will be over and when the afternoon services will resume.

Many of us walk out of shul after the shofar blowing signaling the close of Yom Kippur feeling like a million bucks, all clean and shiny and new. But then it hits us. We aren't any cleaner on the inside than when we walked in. All of those faults and bad habits we had promised ourselves we'd change are still with us. And no amount of sitting in the synagogue, no matter how much the seats cost, is going to change us.

How can we change? Unlike our cars, unfortunately, it isn't a matter of letting someone in with rags and cleaning solution. It's much more difficult because we're the only ones who can really make sure that our insides get cleaned. Which isn't to say that change has to be a solitary experience. It certainly is easier when we have help and support from the people around us.

Like a car wash, however, getting our insides clean is intrinsically tied up with "opening up." Once we're open to change we're half way there.

This season of the High Holidays is the time when we contemplate our past behavior, our involvement in Judaism, our goals and values. It is a most appropriate time to begin making the necessary changes in our lives. Open up. Try something new. Attend a Torah study class. Read an edifying Jewish book. Learn the choreograpy of prayer. Incorporate Jewish teachings and wisdom into your family life, parenting techniques, business relations, charitable endeavors. Add a new mitzva to your repetoire of mitvot. Clean up your insides. Then you'll look and feel like a million bucks.

Based on a talk by Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky, Chabad of Westlake Village, California.


Living with the Rebbe

On Yom Kippur, a Jew fasts. He realizes that a lightening bolt will not come down from heaven and strike him if he eats, but he is not concerned with reward or punishment. He refrains from eating because he understands that G-d wants him to. He knows that a Jew does not do that on Yom Kippur.

A day before, he may not have felt this way. He may have been lax in the observance of one mitzva (commandment) or another. But on Yom Kippur he feels that he has to do what a Jew should do.

Why? Because there is something special about this day. Our Sages explain the idea using gematria, Torah numerology. The Hebrew word for the evil Satan is numerically equivalent to 364. During 364 days of the year, Satan has the power to tempt the Jew. On one day, Yom Kippur, he has no power. A Jew is simply not interested in what he has to offer. Yom Kippur is a day for being Jewish.

What would happen on Yom Kippur? The High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, at which time he was alone with G-d. No human or spiritual being was permitted to intrude upon his connection with Him.

Each year this sequence is replayed in our own hearts. The essence of the Jewish soul is one with the essence of G-d. This bond is constant; it is not the product of our efforts. Consequently, neither our thoughts, our words, nor our deeds can weaken it. At this level of essential connection, there is no existence outside G-dliness, no possibility of separation from Him.

This connection exists above time. But within time, it is revealed on Yom Kippur. On this day, we each "enter the Holy of Holies," and spend time "alone with G-d."

This is the heart of Neila, the final prayers recited on Yom Kippur. Neila means "locking." This name is generally understood to mean that the gates of heaven are being locked and there are a few moments left when our prayers can enter. According to Chasidic thought, the meaning is that the doors are locked behind us. Each one of us is "locked in," alone and as one with G-d.

At this level of essential connection, there is no existence outside G-dliness, no possibility of separation from G-d, no possibility that the soul could be affected by sin.

The revelation of this level of connection removes the blemishes that sin causes. This kind of cleansing is a natural process, for the revelation of our inner bond with G-d renews our connection with Him at all levels.

This is the meaning of the saying of our Sages that "the essence of the day atones." On Yom Kippur, our essential bond with G-d is revealed, and in the process, every element of our spiritual potential is revitalized.

This affects also our lives in the material sphere, endowing us with blessing, for a good and sweet year in all our concerns.

Adapted by Rabbi Eli Touger from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

My Father's Handwritten Machzor
by Rabbi Zushe Greenberg

In 1951, my father, Rabbi Moshe Greenberg, didn't recite Kol Nidrei. Instead, he was a prisoner in a labor camp in Siberia. At age 20, my father's crime was trying to escape from Russia.

He dreamed of making aliya. But he was caught and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor, leaving behind his parents, two sisters and a brother (a prisoner in another camp for a similar "crime").

The job of 1,000 men at my father's labor camp was creating an electric station. About 20 of the prisoners were Jewish.

At the end of the summer, the Jewish prisoners yearned to observe the upcoming High Holidays. They knew they would lack a shofar (ram's horn), Torah scroll and Tallitot (prayer shawls), but they hoped they could find a machzor (High Holiday prayer book).

My father spotted a man from the outside, an engineer who worked for the camp on certain projects. He believed the engineer might be a Jew.

"Kenstu meer efsher helfen" - perhaps you can help me" he asked the engineer in Yiddish.

At that time, most Russian Jews were fluent in Yiddish. He saw the flicker of understanding in the engineer's eyes.

"Can you bring a machzor for me, for the Jews here?" he asked. The engineer hesitated.

Such transaction would endanger both of their lives. Even so, the engineer agreed to try.

A few days passed.

"Any developments?" my father asked the engineer.

"Good news and bad news," he replied. He had located a machzor with difficulty, but it was the only machzor belonging to his girlfriend's father, and the man was furious when his daughter asked him to give it up. Maybe she told him why she wanted it, maybe not.

My father would not relent, however. Perhaps, he suggested, the man would lend him the book and he could copy it and return it in time for Rosh Hashanah.

In secrecy, the engineer handed the machzor to my father.

To copy it, my father built a large wooden box and crawled into it for a few hours everyday. There, hidden from view, he copied the book, line for line into a notebook. After a month, he had copied the entire machzor, but there was one page missing - Kol Nidrei - the very first prayer recited at Yom Kippur.

My father returned the book, and autumn arrived. The Jewish prisoners learned the dates of the impending holidays from letters from home and, on the holiday, they bribed the guards, probably with cigarettes, to let them gather in the barrack for services.

With his handwritten prayer book, my father served as chazan (cantor) and recited each prayer, repeated by others in low solemn voices.

Seven days later, they met for Kol Nidrei services. But despite their efforts, none of the worshippers could recall all of the words of that prayer form memory.

After nearly seven years in jail, my father, along with all political prisoners, were released, owing to the death of Joseph Stalin. The only item my father took with him was his machzor.

He reunited with his family near Moscow and later married. I was an infant when, in 1967, 15 years after his release from prison, my family was allowed to immigrate to Israel. The machzor came with us.

My father, who still lives in Bnei Brak, Israel, doesn't like to remember those painful years in Siberia. But on the rare occasions that I hear him tell a story, he tearfully states that he had never participated in services as meaningful as those in prison.

In 1973, he visited the Lubavitcher rebbe in New York City and presented the machzor to him as a gift.

A few months ago, I visited the rebbe's library and found my father's machzor. I looked at the worn book with its fragile pages and Hebrew letters written in haste and with such respect and determination. I copied it - on a copying machine.

This Yom Kippur, as I lead services at the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon, I will have with me the copy of my father's machzor, with the Kol Nidrei prayer still missing.

My father couldn't recite Kol Nidrei during his years in prison. This year I will ask my congregation, and all of us, to say it for him and anyone else who may not have the opportunity to do so.

Rabbi Greenberg is the director of Chabad Jewish Center of Solon

What's New

New Ohr Avner Chabad Schools in FSU

The Jewish community of Kazan, in Russia, is celebrating the opening of its new elementary school, part of the Ohr Avner Chabad school network that operates throughout the Former Soviet Union. The school is open to enrollment of children from the first through fourth grades. New Jewish day schools in this network also opened in Toliatti, Russia and Poltava, Ukraine.

In Russia, new Jewish kindergartens have opened in Astrakhan, Kemerovo, Kursk and Omsk. Kindergartens have also opened in in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in Brest and Grodno, Belarus, in Makeyevka and Sevastopol, Ukraine. In Nikolayev, where the Ohr Menachem Day School has been operating since 1998, a new building was dedicated earlier this month. The school, part of the Ohr Avner school network, provides high quality education to children from grades one through eleven.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letter

Between Yom Kippur and Succos 5741 (1980)
To the Sons and Daughters of our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

We find ourselves in these days of preparation for the Festival of Succos, Season of our Rejoicing, and following Yom Kippur, the Holy Day, which is unique in the year, when all Jews were granted the complete sealing of their fate for a good and sweet year - good also in our understanding, being the revealed and obvious kind of good. It is an appropriate time to reflect on the following thought:

We are still in exile, when "darkness covers the earth," because the light of Torah, which is the only true light, has not fully pervaded the world and its everyday affairs. This fact is reflected also in the attitude, sometimes even the actions, of the world towards Jews; and among some Jews - in their attitude towards Jewishness.

Both aspects are interrelated. For, as has often been pointed out, when Jews, as individuals or as a group, proudly adhere to their Jewishness and show it - that is also the way that earns them the respect of the Gentile world and a friendly and helpful attitude,

The essential thing is that by adhering to Judaism in actual practice of learning Torah and doing mitzvos (commandments), thus diminishing and even eliminating the only cause of the commandments (as we clearly affirm in our prayer, "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land") - the exile is shortened and eventually brought to an end by the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach.

Nevertheless, the fact of still being in exile must not, and does not, dampen the joyful preparations for Succos, much less the actual joy of the holiday, particularly since it is the Festival of Succos (including the intermediate days, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah) which has been singled out and designated as "The Season of Our Rejoicing";

For as in the case of exile in Egypt, when at the height of the surrounding darkness "there was light for all the children of Israel in their dwellings," a Jew's life, wherever he may dwell, is illuminated in all its aspects by the light of the Torah and mitzvos. And by intensifying this light in his daily life, the Jew is also hastening the Redemption and sooner to welcome our righteous Moshiach.

Then there is an additional factor, which is also one of our fundamental beliefs and basic principles of our Torah - bitochon (trust) in G-d, the true and absolute bitochon in the Master of all the universe, whose Divine Providence extends to each and everyone individually, and specifically, and in detail -

The bitochon, first of all, that He surely granted the sealing of our fate for good in everything and in every detail, including also - especially - the fulfillment in our own very days of the hope, heartfelt yearning, and most fervent daily expectation, namely, the "coming of Moshiach, for whose coming I wait every day."

This bitochon unites and unifies all Jews. Moreover, this belief is the very same in all Jews, in all the ten categories into which Jews are classified by the Torah, from "heads" to the "drawer of water," though in all other aspects they differ and to the extreme.

It is this bitochon that makes a spiritual ingathering of the people a reality, unifying all Jews into one congregation, one entity - since their common simple belief also pervades and moves everything in which they differ (as indicated in the verse): listening to, learning, keeping and doing all the words of the Torah.

This is also reflected in the "essence of the Day (Yom Kippur)" the unique and only day in the year, which of all the festivals ordained in the Torah, is celebrated for one day only, both in and outside of the Land of Israel.

The day which all Jews conclude on the same culminating refrain and proclaim it with profound inspiration and in a loud voice: "Shema Yisrael - Hear, O Israel, G-d is our G-d, G-d is One, Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever; G-d, He is G-d!"

The same unifying principle is reflected also in the Festival of Succos, in combining together the "Four Kinds" (esrog, lulav, myrtle, and willow), symbolizing all different types of Jews, into one mitzva, which is created by virtue of a Jew unifying them,

And also in the Succah itself, concerning which the Torah says: "It is possible for all Jews to sit in one Succah."

May G-d grant that just as on Yom Kippur, after the many prayers, one shofar blast is sounded, followed by the loud proclamation: "Next Year in Jerusalem," so may every Jew among all Israel - after the many prayers throughout the long exile, including the daily prayer, "May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy" - very soon indeed hear the sound of G-d's great Shofar announcing our liberation, followed immediately by - "Bring us... to Jerusalem Your Holy House with everlasting joy."

With esteem and blessing for a joyous Festival of our Rejoicing,


Rambam this week

10 Tishrei, 5765 - September 25, 2004

Positive Mitzva 173: Appointing a King

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 17:15) "You may appoint a king upon yourselves" When the Jewish people occupy and settle the Land of Israel, they are commanded to appoint a king to rule the nation. This king is chosen by G-d and the Torah guides him regarding how to conduct his kingdom. He must lead the people in the way of G-d and be dedicated to fulfilling Torah and mitzvot.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We stand at the eve of Yom Kippur. In preparation for this awesome day, we perform many mitzvot and customs whose purpose it to inspire us to understand our frailties as human beings, our reliance upon our Creator for everything, and the need to sincerely regret our previous inappropriate actions and resolve to improve in the future.

An interesting story is told about one of these customs.

In many synagogues and shuls on the eve of Yom Kippur, plates and containers are put out for various charities. As people enter and leave the synagogue, they drop a few coins into the containers. The larger or busier the shul, the more noise is made by the clanging and jingling of the coins as they are dropped in. And, of course, during these solemn days, more charity than usual is given.

In the Baal Shem Tov's shul, there was constant noise from the rattling of coins, so much so that some of the people found their prayers sorely disturbed. One person approached the Baal Shem Tov and asked him if it might not be possible to abandon this disruptive custom.

"Heaven forbid," cried the Baal Shem Tov in horror. "It is this very jingling and clanging of the coins that is our deliverance during these awesome days. It confuses the Adversary on High who is spending his time trying to convince the Alm-ghty that we are not worthy of being forgiven."

On Yom Kippur, we solemnly intone the ancient words: "Repentance, prayer and charity, annul the harmful decree." It is not only the noise made by the charity, then, as the Baal Shem Tov mentioned, but the actual giving of the charity that is so important. Let us all remember this in these days before Yom Kippur.

My best wishes that all of you, dear friends and readers, be sealed for a good and sweet year, and that we all celebrate Yom Kippur together in true joy and happiness in the Holy Temple together with Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

Yom Kippur Eve

Yom Kippur atones for sins against G-d, but not for wrongdoings between one person and another. It is therefore important, on the day before Yom Kippur, to apologize and seek forgiveness from friends, relatives, and acquaintances, to heal any ill feelings which may have arisen.


The Essence of Every Jew

The atonement procured by Yom Kippur is loftier even than that obtained through repentance, for on this day Jew and G-d are absolutely one. The quintessence of the Jew blazes forth, uniting with his G-d to reveal a bond untouchable by sin.

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. IV)


A Gift from G-d

On Yom Kippur we receive what is perhaps G-d's most sublime gift: His forgiveness. When one person forgives another, it is because of a deep sense of friendship and love that overrides the effect of whatever wrong was done. Similarly, G-d's forgiveness is an expression of His eternal, unconditional love.


The Close of Yom Kippur

At the close of Neila, after the Yom Kippur service, we declare "Shema Yisrael" and "G-d is the L-rd" - statements that emphasize the oneness of G-d with our material existence. This oneness will be realized as we conclude "Next year in Jerusalem," with the coming of the Redemption. Furthermore, as the Previous Rebbe explained, the intent of that statement is not that we must wait until next year for the Redemption to come. Instead, the Redemption will come immediately and, as a natural result, next year, we will celebrate the holiday in Jerusalem.

(The Rebbe, the eve Yom Kippur, 5752)


Yom Kippur and Teshuva

The Zohar, the fundamental text of Jewish mysticism, teaches that Moshiach will motivate even the righteous to turn to G-d in teshuva. What is teshuva? Returning to G-d by focusing on the G-dly spark within each one of us. In the Messianic era, everyone - even those who appear to have attained spiritual fulfillment - will realize the mortal limitations which constrain them, and will seek the inner core of their spiritual potential. Similarly, it is the expression of the potential for teshuva that will serve as the catalyst for the Redemption. For striving to reach our spiritual core will serve as the catalyst for the revelation of G-dliness throughout all existence. As Maimonides writes: "Israel will be redeemed only through teshuva. The Torah promises that ultimately, Israel will return [to G-d], and immediately will be redeemed."

(Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eli Touger)


It Once Happened

by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

Evening was falling. In another few minutes Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, would begin. The large room was filled to capacity.

But a strange, unearthly silence filled the synagogue. The year was 1945, just after the war. The place was a refugee camp somewhere in Germany. Jews fresh out of concentration camps had gathered in a barracks-turned-synagogue to pray.

The unanimously chosen rabbi of this unique congregation was none other than the famous Klausenberger Rebbe. His holiness and erudition were unquestionable, but even more amazing, he had retained his sanity and saintliness after loosing his wife and 11 children in the Holocaust.

The congregation was composed of all Jews of all persuasions, from ultra-Orthodox to those that had never been in a synagogue before. But one thing they all had in common; they had all experienced living hell.

The cantor began singing and the congregation followed. There was much genuine weeping that night. But a special cry went up when the services reached the confessional prayer known as "Al Chait." In this prayer, recited numerous times throughout Yom Kippur, we request forgiveness from G-d for the sins we did with our eyes, with our hands, with our heart, for sins performed through brazenness, through callousness, through spitefulness.

In the midst of the prayer, one of the congregants stood up and stamped his foot. "No!!" He screamed.

Everyone turned and looked at him. One or two tried to gently calm him down. "No!" he looked at them and yelled.

"What? I should ask forgiveness of G-d for sins I did with my eyes or my hands? These eyes saw my own children killed! These hands had no time to sin, they had to work for those German devils day and night! What? I was brazen?! I didn't dare lift my head for three years! I was callous? I gave my last piece of bread to people I didn't know!

"No, no! If anyone has to ask for forgiveness, it is G-d Himself. That's right. G-d should ask me for forgiveness. He gave the Nazis eyes to see and hands to torture, and brazenness and callousness to maim and murder. So let Him ask forgiveness from us!"

The entire congregation was silent. All eyes, filled with tears, turned to the Klausenberger Rebbe. What would he say?

After several moments of heavy silence, the Rebbe cleared his throat and said, "You...are...right."

Everyone burst out in uncontrollable weeping. Men fell to their knees, and others just put their faces in their hands and wept and wept and wept.

After the crying had subsided and the room fell quiet once again, the Rebbe continued where he had left off.

"But I want to tell you why I asked G-d for forgiveness. In our camp the guards used to amuse themselves every morning by playing a sadistic game. They would line us up and pick five inmates. These unfortunate souls would be forced to carry a load of bricks up a steep flight of stairs in front of everyone. If one brick would fall, they would add another two in its place, and if the prisoner himself fell, they would slowly torture him to death before our eyes.

"So it was every morning. True, the rest of the day wasn't much better. It was unbearably cold, our clothes were infested with lice, and we were given almost nothing to eat. Everyone was sick, and prisoners were dying like flies. But the worst and most humiliating was that morning ordeal.

"It got to the point that the prayer each of us said before we went to sleep was, 'G-d, merciful G-d, please let me die in my sleep. Please don't let me wake up tomorrow morning.' And I used to say it also.

"That is what I ask forgiveness for. It never even entered my mind to ask G-d to set me free! I forgot that there could be such a thing as being free!"

The congregation was silent for several moments. And then, the cantor resumed the prayers.


Moshiach Matters

At the close of Neila, after the Yom Kippur service, we declare Shema Yisrael and "G-d is the L-rd" - statements that emphasize the oneness of G-d with our material existence. This oneness will be realized as we conclude "Next year in Jerusalem," with the coming of the Redemption. Furthermore, as the Previous Rebbe explained, the intent of that statement is not that we must wait until next year for the Redemption to come. Instead, the Redemption will come immediately and, as a natural result, next year, we will celebrate the holiday in Jerusalem.

(The Rebbe, Yom Kippur eve, 5752)


  837: Rosh Hashana / Ha'Azinu839: Succos  
   
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