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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

   979: Devarim

980: Vaeschanan

981: Eikev

982: Re'eh

983: Shoftim

984: Ki Seitzei

985: Ki Savo

986: Nitzavim-Vayeilech

July 20, 2007 - 5 Av, 5767

979: Devarim

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

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  978: Matos-Masei980: Vaeschanan  

Like An Only Child  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Customs  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Like An Only Child

Two cherubs of gold stood on either end of the covering of the holy Ark in the Temple. Our Sages relate that when the Jewish people followed G-d's will, the cherubs faced each other, embracing like lovers; when the Jewish people were rebellious, the cherubs would avert their gaze and face opposite walls.

Our Sages state that when the gentile invaders entered the Holy of Holies, they saw the cherubs embracing. They brought them out to the marketplace and displayed them, exclaiming, "How could Israel worship these?"

During the destruction of the Holy Temple, G-d "poured out His wrath like fire; G-d was like an enemy." Why, then, were the cherubs intertwined in love at this time of apparent anger? If their position reflected the fluctuating relationship between G-d and Israel, what could their embrace mean at this time?

These questions can be resolved through a more comprehensive understanding of our relationship with G-d. At one level, the bond is dependent upon Israel's conduct. If Israel is meritorious, she will be rewarded; if she sins, she will be punished. In this vein, exile appears to be a punishment, an expression of G-d's wrath at Israel's misdeeds.

This view, however, reflects only one dimension of the bond between G-d and Israel. Beyond this connection, however, there is a deeper relationship, a level at which Israel are "children unto the L-rd your G-d." The Baal Shem Tov intensifies the child-parent metaphor: G-d cherishes every Jew with the love of a parent for an only child who is born to him in his old age.

A father does not love his son only because the son is virtuous or obedient; most fundamentally, he loves him - unconditionally and unwaveringly - because he is his son. With or without redeeming qualities, his father loves him.

G-d loves Israel in the same way. No matter what our conduct, we are His children. Therefore, even when G-d appears to be displeased with us, His love for us is revealed in the Holy of Holies, at the inner core of the Sanctuary.

Continuing with the child-parent metaphor, we can even understand G-d's wrath as an expression of love. It is written, "He who withholds the rod, hates his son," implying that when a parent punishes a child he is in fact manifesting his love. In fact, defying one's natural impulse to excuse misconduct, and instead rebuking a cherished child, demon-strates a deep and selfless commit-ment on the part of the parent.

Following this pattern, exile can be conceived as a temporary medium to a positive end. G-d's purpose in exiling His people is to elevate them to a higher rung, and the hardships endured - however difficult - are eclipsed by their ultimate goal.

The awareness of the nature of this process is a fundamental element in bringing it to its culmination. When a child realizes his parent's love and corrects his conduct, his parents will no longer show him any harshness. Similarly, our consciousness of G-d's love for us will motivate us to mirror those emotions. And this in turn will motivate His love to be expressed only in positive ways.

From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by S.I.E.

Living with the Rebbe

The Shabbat before Tisha B'Av is called "Shabbat Chazon" (vision), for on that day, as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explained, a glimpse of the Third Holy Temple is given to every Jewish soul, affording it strength and sustenance. Following the week's regular Torah portion (Devarim), the "Vision of Isaiah," a prophecy about the Temple's destruction, is read in the synagogue. Oddly, the word "vision" is used in connection to both the destruction of the Temple and its rebuilding.

About the destruction, our Sages declared, "A lion (Nebuchadnezzar) came in the month whose sign is a lion (Av) to destroy Ariel ('the lion of G-d' - the Holy Temple), so that a lion (G-d) will come in the month whose sign is a lion and build Ariel." Once again we find the same word - "lion" - referring to both the destruc-tion and the rebuilding of the Temple. What can we learn from this?

In order to understand the connection between the two, let us examine the true nature of the destruction. Our Sages explain that G-d Himself observes the Torah's 613 mitzvot (commandments). But if so, how could He have destroyed His Holy Temple, when we are expressly prohibited from razing a synagogue or place of worship? It is also forbidden to wantonly destroy an object of value. Why, then, did G-d allow His dwelling place on earth to be demolished?

One cannot explain the destruction and the subsequent 2,000- year exile by saying that the Jews lost their right to the Temple because of their misdeeds, for instead of destroying the Temple, G-d could have hidden it away as He did the Sanctuary, for such a time as the Jews would merit its return.

Rather, the only instance in which it is permissible to tear down a synagogue is when one wishes to build an even more magnificent edifice on the same site. It follows that the destruction of the Holy Temple also fell into this category. The Second Temple was destroyed only because G-d wanted to build the Third and most exalted Holy Temple - the one that would stand for eternity.

The inner purpose of the destruction, therefore, was solely to rebuild. That is why the Midrash relates that "the redeemer of Israel" was born at the moment the Temple was destroyed: from that moment on, the true objective of the destruction - the Redemption and the building of the Third Holy Temple - could begin to be realized.

It is for this reason that our Sages used similar words to refer to both the exile and the redemption, for just as the Temple's destruction was an integral part of its rebuilding, so, too, is the exile an integral part of the Final Redemption and the coming of Moshiach, may it happen speedily.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

From the Monastery to Meah Shearim
by Michael Freund

For three years, Aharon Calderon was a monk at a Catholic monastery in South America, living an austere existence of contemplation and introspection. But amid all the silence, he heard the call of eternity, leading him to embrace Judaism. This is his story.

Aharon Calderon was born 36 years ago, in the city of Parana, capital of Argentina's Entre Rios province. "I was born into a Catholic family, though it was not a very religious one," Calderon says. "But my parents did send me to a Catholic high school."

The ideal of helping people greatly appealed to him. At school, Calderon found himself taking a growing interest in religion, confident that it would offer him a framework in which he could give to others while also achieving his own sense of spiritual satisfaction.

After high school, he attended a Catholic seminary for two years, where he had his first experience with missionary activity. Along with his fellow students, Calderon was charged with assisting a group of Indians from a less affluent part of Argentina. At the time, he enjoyed it immensely. It seemed to embody the idea of universal love that he was always hearing about in school.

In retrospect, however, Calderon says it proved to be an important moment, one in which the first seeds of doubt regarding the Church were planted in his mind, albeit subtly. "The work gave me a great deal of satisfaction because I was helping people. However, it also created a spiritual vacuum within me, because it was to a certain extent superficial."

Continuing, Calderon asserts that, "To give can also be a form of falsehood. And this, by the way, was the first intuitive criticism that I had regarding the Church: we would help the poor, give them second-rate food and drink, and then go back to our comfortable institution, where we would take a warm bath, relax and eat expensive delicacies."

At the age of 19, Calderon sought out what he terms "a more archaic, more ancient order, one more connected with Catholicism's roots." He found and joined a Benedictine monastery.

"It was a contemplative order, where the monks were forbidden to speak most of the day," Calderon says. The enforced silence, he says, was a powerful experience, and it gave him an opportunity for self-exploration and discovery.

Among other things, Calderon spent a lot of time engaged in inner reflection and in reading the Bible. "When a person connects to their true self," he says, "they can then discern the existence of the Creator, of a solitary being Who protects, creates and sustains the universe."

It was during this period that Calderon began to develop a sense of unease with basic Catholic doctrine. One evening, Calderon was reading the Bible when he came to the verse, "Hear O Israel, the L-rd our G-d the L-rd is One." As he thought about the text, he wondered why his own faith contradicted this most fundamental of principles.

Calderon's doubts persisted. Eventually, he decided to leave the monastery. But he remained intrigued by the world of the spirit and went to study theology at a Catholic university. While there, he decided to learn Hebrew. He found an adult-education institute where Hebrew was taught, and through the classes Calderon first met Jews.

The turning point came one day when, "I said to my friend, 'The Jews say every Friday, "The Children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath an eternal covenant for their generations." If it is an eternal covenant, then G-d would not go back on it. So if we move it to Sunday, then we are making a mistake!'

"I understood then that there was no turning back. This was the spiritual point at which I decided to join the Jewish people."

Calderon had heard that an Orthodox rabbi had recently arrived in the city. One day, Calderon saw the rabbi walking in the street, so he introduced himself, and said that he wished to convert.

They later arranged a meeting, where Rabbi Moshe Blumenfeld, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Argentina, said something that made a deep impression on Calderon. "He explained to me that I did not need to convert to achieve redemption... it was sufficient for me to keep the seven basic commandments required of a gentile."

"This," Calderon explains, "led me to understand that the G-d of Israel is a G-d of love Who accepts all of mankind. By contrast, according to Christianity, anyone who does not accept their way of thinking is condemned to hell."

Calderon found Rabbi Blumenfeld to be warm and hospitable, and for the next two years, he spent a great deal of time with him studying Judaism. "I wanted to learn how Jews live. In the process, I watched, internalized and then connected to it."

Calderon decided that he wanted to go to Israel to convert.

"From the moment I arrived in Israel, I felt a connection with the Land and with the Jewish people." He began to study at a yeshiva in Jerusalem.

A few months later, a friend of Calderon's took him to see the Rebbe of Stropkov, who is from the Sanzer dynasty. Calderon was immediately captivated by the Rebbe and by his personality. He found himself drawn to the Chassidic lifestyle.

Eventually, he went before a rabbinical court in Jerusalem and converted. After his conversion, Calderon continued to study while working. He married, and he and his wife Anya have three children. Calderon remains close to the Rebbe of Stropkov, serving as his assistant in Jerusalem's Meah Shearim neighborhood.

Looking back, Calderon remembers something that Rabbi Blumenfeld told him. "He explained to me that the conversion must be like a fruit that ripens and falls by itself from the tree when it is ready. That is how I view my Judaism, as something natural and integral to me."

Calderon is proud of his spiritual journey, and he hopes that it will inspire more Jews to cherish their heritage. "Generally speaking, once people know that you have converted for no reason other than love for G-d and for the Torah, it causes them to feel proud and gives them yet another reason to appreciate their Judaism."

Michael Freund served as Deputy Communications Director in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office under former premier Binyamin Netanyahu. He is the founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (, a Jerusalem-based group that assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Zevi and Leah Schtroks will soon be arriving in Royal Palm Beach, Florida where they will be establishing a new Chabad-Lubavitch Center to serve the needs of the Jewish community there. Rabbi Schneur and Chanie Wilhelm are moving to Milford, Connecticut where they will be establishing a new Chabad House to serve the local Jewish community. Rabbi Yisroel and Chani Zavdi will be moving to Huntington Beach, California where they will serve as the Youth and Program Directors for Chabad of West Orange County. Rabbi Chaim Boruch and Sara Alevsky are arriving soon in Manhattan (New York City) where they will serve as Youth Directors for Chabad of the Upper West Side.

The Rebbe Writes

12 Nissan, 5734 [1974]

A human being is called a "world in miniature." Our Sages point out that this is not merely a phrase, but that the analogy corresponds in many, even minute details.

The idea behind this analogy is that man and the world in which he lives are intimately bound up and mutually affect one another.

The idea of an aron kodesh (holy ark) is that it is a physical thing, made of wood, metal, or some other material, and is conse-crated to house a Sefer Torah - Torah scroll - which is also made of material things (parchment inscribed by quill and ink). It is holy because the writing is the word of G-d, the ultimate of all that is spiritual and sacred.

Because the ark is holy, by reason of its housing the holiest of all sacred objects, the Sefer Torah, it is customary to make it beautiful - as is, indeed, the case with the one which has been presented. Even when an ark has lower compartments, these are used exclusively for keeping other sacred objects.

A human being may be compared to an ark. The body, which consists of tissue, bone, etc., is physical, but it houses the soul, which is spiritual, sacred and pure. Consequently, the body, too, must be kept holy, as an ark housing a Sefer Torah.

Indeed, the analogy may be extended to the whole world at large, wherein G-d commanded to construct a Mikdash, a sanctuary from which G-d's light and holiness should spread to, and permeate, the whole world.

In like manner, an individual must endeavor to make his heart and mind - though they are made of physical substances - "sanctuaries," that is, sacred depositories for even more sacred contents and qualities, attuned to the supreme holiness and perfection which G-d revealed in His Torah and mitzvoth (commandments). So much so, that even the "lower compart-ments," that is, the application of the mind and heart to such material things as business or a job are not an end in themselves, but a means to a better and higher spiritual level. In this way the mundane occupations assume a different complexion, a higher meaning and value. This would then correspond to the Sanctuary which G-d commanded to be erected in this material world, the Sanctuary to which the Jewish people contributed such material things as gold, silver and brass, whereby they elevated to sanctity not only the contributions themselves, but also the effort that went into the acquisition of all their material things, including the major share that is used for personal and family needs.

Both sanctuaries - the "sanctuary" that is within every Jew, man and woman, and the Sanctuary which G-d commanded to be built as a dwelling place for Him on earth - are mentioned in one and the same sentence in the Torah: "They shall make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell within them" - "Within each and every one of them," as our Sages interpret this verse. In other words, the ultimate purpose of the Sanctuary built for G-d is to make every Jewish heart and mind a fitting abode for G-d to dwell in.

The immediate inference from the above is that although, at this time, the Sanctuary, the Holy Temple, is not in existence, and will be rebuilt when Moshiach comes, the sanctuary which is within every Jew, man or woman, is always there, and it is very much up to him and her to cultivate it and make it effective in sanctifying all of life.


What are some of the laws and customs of Tisha B'Av?

Tisha B'Av, which begins this year on the evening of July 23 and ends on the evening of July 24, is a full day fast. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, we do not wear leather shoes, bathe, apply lotions and oils, or engage in intimate relations. Special prayers are said in the evening and morning, as well. Many have the custom to clean their homes after noon on Tisha B'Av in anticipation of the Redemption, as the Talmud relates that Moshiach was born on Tisha B'Av. For more info or the times for the fast visit

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Our Sages teach that Moshiach was born on Tisha B'Av. One of the explanations of this statement is that from the moment of the destruction of the Holy Temple there was the real potential for the coming of Moshiach, the end of the exile and the ultimate Redemption.

Additionally, our Sages were expressing the idea that, just as on a person's birthday the particular spiritual source of that person's soul is more powerful, similarly on Tisha B'Av Moshiach's soul powers and the potential for the Redemption are much stronger.

The First Holy Temple was destroyed because of heinous transgressions committed by the Jews, including idol worship and murder. The reason for the destruction of the Second Holy Temple was because of the senseless and baseless hatred one Jew had towards another. Jewish tradition explains that this teaches us that baseless hatred is equal to idol worship and bloodshed.

Since we are still in exile, although we await every moment the imminent arrival of Moshiach, we would do well to try and "fix" the transgression for which the Second Holy Temple was destroyed.

This can be accomplished through "baseless" love of a fellow Jew. In practical terms, it means being good, kind, and nice to another person - "just because." Try smiling at someone and see how his face lights up. Hold the elevator, even if you're in a rush. Are those extra 5 seconds you're "wasting" really going to make or break your day? Think or say something positive about another person. Call an elderly relative to ask her how she's doing. Say yes the next time someone asks you to do him a favor.

Make a point of trying to practice "baseless" love on Tisha B'Av, the day on which the spiritual energy to bring the ultimate Redemption is even stronger.

And remember that simple acts of goodness and kindness can and will undo the damage done by baseless hatred and ultimately hasten the Redemption.

Thoughts that Count

He [Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa] used to say: "Anyone whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure; but anyone whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure... "(Ethics 3:10)

Through study a person learns how to do a mitzva. Nevertheless, the final deed is the main thing, for the deed causes an additional measure of spiritual light to infuse the level of wisdom. In this way, a person's wisdom will not merely survive, but also endure.

(Sefer HaMa'amarim 5654)

The Jewish view of wisdom is essentially different from that of the ancient Greeks. According to Aristotle, the function of man, his highest virtue and his ultimate purpose are the attainment of the contemplative life, the exercise of reason. But for the Jew, wisdom and knowledge are only the means to an end. "Great is study because it leads to action," states the Talmud. No one in the throes of hunger has ever benefitted from another's high thoughts alone. Jewish thought requires "fruit" - tangible accomplishment in the real world, practical achievements in reforming the heart of man.

(Ethics From Sinai)

Rabbi Akiva used to say: Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of G-d; but it is by a special love that he was informed that he was created in the image of G-d (Ethics 3:14)

G-d created man in His image, charging him, by virtue of his intellect, with dominance over the rest of creation. This is reflected in the fact that human beings walk erect with head held high, whereas all other creatures, whose source is earthly, walk on all fours looking down.

(Midrash Shmuel)

Everything is for the preponderance of (good) deeds (Ethics 3:15)

The number of times that a person performs a positive act is significant, therefore it is preferable to give charity in the form of many different gifts rather than in one lump sum of the same amount. By giving repeatedly, a person ingrains the trait of generosity in his character.

(The Rebbe)

Where there is no flour, there is no Torah; where there is no Torah, there is no flour (Ethics 3:17)

Flour (bread) is food for the body; Torah is sustenance for the soul; both are necessary to sustain the Jew properly. Each type of nourishment complements the other, for when one is lacking, the other suffers as well.

(Maharal of Prague)

It Once Happened

The town was buzzing with the great news of the impending visit of the tzadik (righteous person). Reb Yossele, the son of Reb Mordechai of Neshchitz, couldn't rest from the moment he heard that the tzadik Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, the famous "Seer" or "Chozeh" of Lublin would be passing through his town. He had heard many awesome reports about this holy man and he burned with the desire to meet him and glean some insight from him.

So intent was he to host the great tzadik that he commissioned a local carpenter to build a bed especially for the Chozeh. He undertook this extraordinary preparation because he had heard it said that when the "Seer" travelled and had to sleep in a strange bed, he would sometimes be heard to cry out, "It's prickly! It's prickly!" Wanting to avoid any possible discomfort for the tzadik, he decided to provide a brand-new bed for him, and thus eliminate any possible problem.

Reb Yossele was very exacting in his instructions to the carpenter. First of all, he was careful to choose a workman who was known to be a G-d-fearing man; second, he instructed the carpenter to immerse himself in the mikva (ritualarium) before beginning his work, and to very carefully guard himself from impure thoughts while he was working.

For his part, the carpenter was not anxious to accept this complicated assignment. He was particularly unwilling since the work would have to commence during the first week of the month of Av, the intense mourning period for the Holy Temple. However, since his rebbe had made the request of him, he couldn't bring himself to refuse. He undertook the job in a depressed frame of mind, feeling spiritually unworthy of the task ahead. Despite his unwillingness, he worked well and completed his task successfully and in good time.

When the bed was finished, Reb Yossele placed it in a specially prepared room. He covered the bed with fresh, new bedclothes, and put next to it a small table, a lamp and a chair. Satisfied that his preparations would ensure the comfort of the Chozeh, he then closed and locked the door to guarantee that the bed would be untouched by anyone except the tzadik himself.

A few days later, when the Chozeh arrived in the town, Reb Yossele went out to meet him. His joy was complete when the tzadik accepted the invitation to be his guest. Reb Yossele happily escorted his honored guest into the newly appointed room. He proudly showed the Chozeh the bed, explaining that a G-d-fearing carpenter constructed it especially for the tzadik's use. Tired from his long journey, the tzadik lay down to rest.

After only a few moments had passed Reb Yossele heard the Chozeh exclaiming, "Prickly, help, it's prickly!"

Reb Yossele was astonished. What could these cries mean? He quickly went to the tzadik's room and not knowing what else to do, offered him the use of his own bed, hoping it would prove more comfortable. The Chozeh gladly accepted Reb Yossele's offer, and all was quiet. Reb Yossele, however, suffered a sleepless night wondering if the tzadik's rest would be disturbed by some spiritual unworthiness in his house. When morning came the Chozeh awoke refreshed and happy. He remarked to Reb Yossele, "Thank you so much, I had an excellent rest. Your hospitality has revived me!"

Reb Yossele was gratified by the tzadik's words, but still, he couldn't understand the Chozeh's initial reaction to the new bed, and he questioned him about it.

"Don't worry about it at all. The bed is perfect and kosher in every respect," the tzadik assured him. "The reason I couldn't sleep in it was because it had a certain smell of sadness about it since it was built during the Nine Days preceding Tisha B'Av. The carpenter, being a pious man, was mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple while he was building it, and the spiritual residue of his grief adhered to the bed."

Moshiach Matters

"And I shall turn their mourning into joy." When Moshiach comes Tisha B'Av will be a Yom-Tov. The Holy Temple was destroyed on account of Israel's evil deeds, which aroused Divine anger. Nevertheless, though the external and visible aspect of this anger was outright punishment, its inner aspect - its ultimate motivation - was G-d's intense love of His people. It was precisely this love that caused Him such extreme distress when His children became soiled by sin. Once judgment will have been done, and the Divine fury will have run its course, what will remain will be G-d's love for His people.

(Rabbi Shneur Zalman)

  978: Matos-Masei980: Vaeschanan  
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