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1037: Ki Seitzei

1038: Ki Savo

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September 12, 2008 - 12 Elul, 5768

1037: Ki Seitzei

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  1036: Shoftim1038: Ki Savo  

Farming Sunshine  |  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

Farming Sunshine

As the energy crisis grows greater, discussion has turned again to alternatives to fossil fuels - oil, mainly. Obviously, the most efficient source for energy is the primary source - the sun. If only there was a way to gather light from the sun and transform it into useable electricity!

Well, there is a way to gather sunlight, through the use of solar panels and what's called photovoltaics - volts (units of electricity) produced by light (photons). If solar photovoltaics are efficient enough, and deployed on a large enough scale, we could in effect harvest, or farm, sunlight for energy.

There's now a plan to build two solar farms in California that, once fully operational in 2013, would produce 1.65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year - enough to power almost a quarter million homes.

As research continues the photovoltaic cells will become more efficient, converting more of the sunlight harvested into useable electricity. Perhaps sooner than we think solar farms will generate enough electricity to keep us going.

Transforming sunlight into electricity is not only an engineering challenge, and a geo-political necessity, it is also a metaphor, one that Chasidic teachings began using and developing 200 years ago. The transforming-sunlight-to-energy metaphor provides insight into our spiritual nature.

Our purpose, the performance of mitzvot (commandments), is to transform the world - to make it a dwelling place for G-dliness. The electricity entering our homes, transmitted through wires, outlets and then electric cords, powers our dishwashers, air-conditioning and computers, transforming our houses into places of comfort and production.

Similarly, we should direct our spiritual energy - the electricity of our souls - to transforming the realm of human relationships and awareness of the Divine. As Maimonides writes in his code of Jewish law, regarding the times of Moshiach, that then there will be neither jealousy nor greed, neither war nor famine. In other words, relations between individuals and between nations will be harmonious, and for each other's mutual benefit.

Also in the times of Moshiach, all humanity will direct its attention to the "knowledge of G-dliness." We will focus not on accumulating things or statistics but on deepening our awareness of and appreciation of G-d's Presence in the physical world.

But how do we achieve this? Whence our spiritual "electricity" which becomes ours - ours to use, and our responsibility to use to transform the world? Following the analogy, from some form of spiritual sunlight.

What is this "sunlight"? Well, what do we mean when we say someone "enlightens" us, or they "light up our life"? We mean they inspire us, reveal to us something about ourselves we weren't aware of, provide direction and guidance in how best to actualize our potential.

Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that on the 18th of Elul, twelve days before Rosh Hashana, we celebrate the birthday of two luminaries of the Jewish world - the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism in general, and Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidism in particular. (Indeed, the Alter Rebbe's first name means "two lights.")

So the sunlight is shining. We have within ourselves the spiritual photovoltaic cells to gather this spiritual sunlight and transform it into spiritual energy with which to transform the physical world into a dwelling place for G-dliness. All we need do is harvest it, to tend the solar farm of our souls.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, contains the commandment to pay a hired laborer on the same day he has worked. "At his day you shall give him his hire; neither shall the sun go down upon it." We, the Jewish people, are considered the "hired laborers" of G-d. Our "task" is to observe the Torah and its mitzvot (commandments), and our "payment" is the reward G-d grants us for having obeyed His will.

A general principle in Judaism is that G-d Himself performs the same mitzvot He commands us to observe. If we are forbidden to delay paying our employees until the following day, G-d too is required to "pay" every Jew immediately upon the performance of a mitzva. Yet the Torah also states, "Today is for observance; tomorrow (the World to Come) is for receiving reward." Is this not a contradiction?

If one considers a Jew's entire life - the sum total of his observance since the day he was born - as one long workday, after which he is entitled to his reward in Gan Eden (the World to Come) this explanation is in itself insufficient.

For the true reward for observance of Torah and mitzvot is not granted in the afterlife in Gan Eden, but in the Messianic Era, when the dead will be resurrected and live once again in a physical body.

The reward a Jew receives in Gan Eden is primarily in the merit of the Torah he studied during his lifetime; the reward for our mitzvot will come only after the Resurrection.

But how is this fulfilling the mitzva of "At his day you shall give him his hire" if we must wait thousands of years for our "payment"?

In order to understand, let us examine exactly what our Divinely-appointed job entails. According to the Torah, this physical world was created solely because "G-d desired a dwelling place down below." Precisely here, in a coarse material world that obscures the holiness within, G-d wants His Presence to be revealed.

The task of transforming the world into a suitable dwelling place for G-d is a collective one, spanning the generations since the beginning of time. Every mitzva that a Jew performs refines his body and purifies the world at large, gradually infusing the material world with G-dliness. Over the thousands of years of the world's existence this holiness has accumulated, readying the world for its ultimate perfection - the revelation of Moshiach and the Messianic Era.

The "contract" between G-d and His people is not that of an employer and his day laborer. Rather, the Jewish people has undertaken the collective charge of preparing the world for Moshiach, an undertaking that is not the responsibility of one individual, but is the duty of all Jews, throughout the generations. The full reward for our efforts will be granted only when the job is completed and Moshiach is revealed, speedily in our day.

Even now, however, during the last minutes of exile, G-d is obligated to ensure that all the needs of his "laborers" are met, so that we may properly attend to the task at hand and hasten the immediate Redemption.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 24

A Slice of Life

He Felt that I was in Trouble
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

It was the 1980s. The meeting had been set months before, and the group of five Chabad women had been waiting almost 20 minutes in the reception room outside the office door of Kenesset Member Sara Doron, anxious to present their well-prepared case regarding the law called "Mihu Yehudi" - Who Is A Jew.

But they were in for a surprise. Mrs. Doron came out of her office, briskly announced that she had another meeting, and abandoned the astonished women with only her secretary to complain to, which they did enthusiastically.

After listening to their bitter comments for several minutes, the secretary quietly said: "Oh, you are Lubavitchers, right? I know the Rebbe of Lubavitch. Let me tell you a story about him."

The secretary began apologetically. " I know that I don't look very religious." she said, pulling up unconsciously on the low neckline of her dress, "but believe me, since this story happened, I eat only kosher and even keep Shabbat.

"It happened like this: I was visiting some friends in the United States, California to be exact. One late afternoon I was driving to a party in my convertible alone on the freeway watching the sunset, listening to music and feeling great, when I had this feeling that something was wrong.

"I looked at my watch, and I realized what it was: it was already after eight o'clock. The party was supposed to be a 20-minute drive from where I was staying, and I had been driving for over an hour!

"It was getting darker and darker outside, and as far as my headlights lit up, all that could be seen was... desert.

"I figured that I must have missed my exit or something, so I turned the car around and headed back. But the more I tried to correct my mistake, the more lost I got. And not only that, but the road was empty, no cars were passing me by from either side.

"At first I wasn't worried, but after another hour of driving in the dark when I saw wasn't getting anywhere, and I was getting low on gas, I started to get nervous.

"Anyway, I decided all was not lost. I could always flag down a car for help, right?

"So I pulled over to the side of the road, turned on the light inside the car so people would see me, and began flashing my lights at oncoming cars.

"But this didn't work either. First, there were very few cars, second, the ones that passed didn't stop, and finally when this big truck did stop, two huge men got out laughing and shouting some obscene language. So I put the car in gear, and drove away as fast as I could.

"Now I was really scared, petrified, I even started crying and prayed out loud for help. But it didn't help, a few minutes later the gas ran out and I coasted to the side of the road, alone in the middle of the desert.

"Then, after about a half an hour it started getting cold. I don't know if you have ever been in the desert at night, but its like winter, and after a while with no heater I was really shivering. I was alone, frightened and it was at least eight hours till dawn. I began really crying, I lost control completely, I was sure that this would be the end of me.

"I had no blanket, the seats didn't even have covers, or I would have wrapped myself in them. I just curled up in a ball and kept saying, 'Oy Imala (mommy)! Please, please someone help me.'

"I lost track of time, but it must have been an hour until ... suddenly I saw a car coming!

"I began flashing my lights again like crazy and praying that everything would be all right.

"The car stopped.

"It stopped a good distance from my car. The door opened and... three men got out, all dressed in black and one of them had in his hand....a gun!

"They were still a bit far away. My heart was pounding like a drum. I still had a chance. I jumped out of my car and thought that I would run, but all that came out was a scream, 'Shema Yisrael!'

"The man with the gun yelled back quickly, 'Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad!-Hear, Israel the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.'

"They were Chabadnicks from California who were planning to travel to some convention early in the morning, but received an urgent telephone call from the Lubavitcher Rebbe's office to set off immediately.

"They thought it was weird to begin their journey at night, especially with no sleep, and arrive eight hours before the convention... but the Rebbe, they said, never makes a mistake.

"I'm sure that the Rebbe sent them to save me. I mean...there is no other explanation. They gave me gas from their tank, escorted me home and calmed me down. They were wonderful.

"But then I started to think, how did the Rebbe know about me? And why would he even care about me? I mean...I didn't even keep one commandment. (I even sort of hated those who do!)

"So I decided that there is no other explanation other than that he is somehow connected to every single Jew, like Moses. He felt that I was in trouble. He must care about everyone.

"After that, I wrote a letter of thanks to him and he wrote me back asking me to please begin to strengthen the Jewish people and myself and keep some of the commandments. So I did."

Then the secretary took a deep breath, looked at all the women, gave a big smile, and said.... "Wow! Thanks for listening to my story!"

The group of women now understood the real reason for their visit to the Kenesset.

Reprinted with permission from

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Zalman and Dit Greenberg recently moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to establish a new Chabad House serving the needs of the Jewish students and faculty at Lehigh University.

Synagogue Restoration Begins

The Jewish community Chernovtsy, Ukraine, recently succeeded in gaining title to the ancient Sadovskiy Street Synagogue and has begun restoring this august building. Future plans include building a Jewish Community Center adjacent to the synagogue which will house multi-generational activities. The Jewish community of Chernovtsy is a member of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS.

The Rebbe Writes

Free Translations

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5735 [1975]
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

The month of Elul, bringing the current year to a close, is - as is well known - the Month of Divine Mercy and Grace. It is also the time for every Jew to make a soul-searching self-evaluation (cheshbon hanefesh) in regard to the outgoing year - of all the achievements and failures and missed opportunities; it is the month of Teshuva (Repentance) - regret for the past and good resolutions for the future, by way of preparation for the coming year, with a view to making certain that the new year will be a better one in every respect.

The auspicious nature of the month of Elul is explained by the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, by means of the parable of the 'King in the Field':

When a king is about to return to his royal city, the inhabitants of the city go out to meet the king and to welcome him in the field. Then everyone who so wishes may come out to greet the king, and the king receives everyone graciously and shows a friendly face to everyone... Later on, when the king proceeds to the city, they follow... So in the month of Elul. G-d makes His countenance to shine on you, which refers to the emanation of the Thirteen Attributes, that it be in a manner of face to face.

Thus, the month of Elul is a time of (great responsibility as well as of) great opportunity, since this is the time of the year when G-d causes His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to shine forth, making it possible for every Jew - regardless of how the situation was in the past - to attach oneself to G-d with heart and soul, in a way that induces action, expressed in a substantial increase (in quantity and quality) in the study of the Torah and in the fulfillment of its mitzvoth.

May G-d grant that each and all of us should take the fullest advantage of this auspicious period in all that has been said above,

And reflect with a soulful reflection, to the extent of it permeating and guiding the daily conduct, on the words of David, the Sweet Singer of the Songs of our People Israel, in the Psalm that we begin to recite on Rosh Chodesh Elul, twice daily:

'G-d is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?... my oppressors and enemies have stumbled and fallen; if an army besiege me, my heart shall not fear... now my head is raised... teach me, O G-d, Your way... hope unto G-d, be strong and let your heart be fortified and hope unto G-d...'

And G-d our King since the days of old will work salvation in the midst of the earth, including that in the radiance of the countenance of the King the Source of Life everyone will be blessed with a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually,

With esteem and blessing for being 'written and sealed for good, for a good and sweet year.'

Erev Shabbos Kodesh, Chai Elul, 5747 [1987]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming event, taking place on the 27th of Elul. May it be blessed with Hatzlocho [success] in every respect, especially as it is taking place in this month of special Divine Grace and Mercy.

The significance of the month of Elul, the last month of the outgoing year, is explained by the Alter Rebbe, Founder of Colel Chabad (whose birthday is on the 18th of Elul), by the parable of 'A king in the Field.' The point of it is that at certain times the king goes out to meet the ordinary people working the field and gives them a unique opportunity to greet their king personally and present their petitions. At such a time the king is particularly gracious and benevolent and is pleased to grant their requests.

The parable, meaningful in all its details, calls attention not only to the 'King in the Field,' but also the 'man in the Field'. Here is a humble person engaged in the vital activity of planting seeds, with the fullest confidence - Bitochen, we call it - in the Creator that He will make the seeds grow into a rich harvest.

Colel Chabad, as is well known, is a time-honored institution that serves the needy in the Holy Land, both materially and spiritually. Colel Chabad, in the spirit of the aforementioned parable, is 'particularly gracious and benevolent and is pleased to extend assistance to all those who are in need.' At the same time, like all other Chabad institutions in all parts of the world, it works for a better society through its representatives and active friends and supporters.

I feel confident that all of you who actively support the various programs of Colel Chabad, consider it a privilege as well as an obligation to be partners in this vital cause. A 'partner' is, of course, more than a 'supporter.'

With prayerful wishes to each and all of you, and the guests of Honor in particular, for a Ksivo vachasimo toivo for a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually, and

With esteem and blessing,


Why is the shofar sounded during the entire month of Elul (except Shabbat)?

Maimonides explains that the shofar is blown as a means of stirring the Jew to repentance. On the morning before Rosh Hashana the shofar is not blown so as to differentiate between the shofar sounding of Elul which is custom and that of Rosh Hashana which is a mitzva (commandment). Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the second set of Tablets on Elul 1. A shofar was sounded to remind the Jews not to sin (as they had done when Moses was on Sinai receiving the first Tablets). The Shofar recalls Moses' ascent, Israel's repentance and G-d's forgiveness.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Thursday is "Chai Elul," the 18th of the Jewish month of Elul. This date was the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, and the birth, 50 years later of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad Chasidic philosophy.

In 1991, on the day before Chai Elul, the Rebbe spoke to children returning from the overnight camps of Gan Yisrael and Camp Emunah and discussed these two great giants.

He explained that both the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Shneur Zalman were renowned for their efforts to teach Jewish children about Judaism. In particular, in regard to the Baal Shem Tov, it is always mentioned that before he became well known, he served as a teacher's helper. In this capacity, he would remind the young children in his charge to begin their day thanking G-d that they were, indeed, alive that day. This is accomplished by reciting the "Modeh Ani" prayer, through which, as the very first act of the day, a Jew acknowledges G-d.

In this manner, a child not only makes a statement of thanks to G-d, he trains himself to feel genuine gratitude for all the good things which G-d has given him. And from that point on, through every moment of the day, a Jewish child increases his appreciation and awareness of G-d's goodness. For indeed, G-d gives graciously and generously.

The Rebbe went on to explain that this is particularly true in the month of Elul, when - as Rabbi Shneur Zalman teaches - G-d makes Himself accessible to the Jews as a king in the field. G-d does not tire, but renews constantly all the good which He grants to every child and adult. And in particular, He grants Jewish children success in studying G-d's Torah and fulfilling His mitzvot in a beautiful and conscientious manner, inspired by the love of G-d and the fear of G-d.

Though the above thoughts were addressed to children, they apply equally to all of us. For each one of us has the "child" within.

Thoughts that Count

When you build a new house, you shall make a railing (ma'ake) for your roof (Deut. 22:8)

Rearranging the letters of the Hebrew word ma'ake, defined by Rashi as "a fence around the roof," yields an acronym for "hirhurei aveira kashim mei'aveira" - "thinking about a sin is even worse than doing it." A person's head is his "roof," the loftiest limb of his body. We must guard it with a "railing," lest we use it for the wrong purpose.

(Toldot Adam)

You shall not give interest to your brother...anything that is lent upon interest (literally, "anything that bites") (Deut. 23:20)

Usury is likened to the bite of a serpent. Just as it takes the body a few minutes to react to a snake's poison, so too does it take time for the full effect of the compounding of interest to be felt by the borrower.

(Baal Haturim)

Remember what Amalek did to you (Deut. 25:17)

Why does the Torah use the singular form of the word "you" instead of the plural? The early Chasidim explained: Amalek, or the Evil Inclination, gains a stronghold only in an individual who is stand-offish and reclusive from the rest of the Jewish People. He who considers himself part of the larger whole and stands in unity with his brethren cannot be harmed by Amalek.

(Maayanei Hachasidut)

It Once Happened

The Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism) expected all members of his household to be sparing when it came to the way they spent money. "Since my household is supported by the public, and our sages teach that the Torah looks askance at wasting Jewish money, it is only proper that we live frugally," he would explain.

One time, when one of his grandchildren came to him wearing an expensive belt, the Alter Rebbe questioned him, "Are you such a rich man that you should be wearing such an expensive belt?"

The grandson was silent so The Alter Rebbe continued interrogating him concerning money matters. "Tell me, how much money did you receive as a dowry?

"Two thousand rubles," answered the grandson.

"What are your plans for this money?" questioned The Alter Rebbe further.

"I am planning on giving it to a successful merchant. In this way I will be able to earn something on it."

"Perhaps," countered The Alter Rebbe, "he will neither return you your capital nor any interest?"

"That is impossible," argued the grandson. "This merchant is very wealthy and reliable."

"What difference does it make if he is wealthy now?" argued The Alter Rebbe. "The wheel of fortune turns. In time, he could become poor."

"What do you suggest I do with my money?" asked the grandson, hesitantly.

"My advice to you," said The Alter Rebbe seriously, "is to put the entire sum into this box." And with that, the Rebbe motioned to a charity box.

The grandson was certain that the Rebbe was joking. Two thousand rubles was a tremendous sum of money. He didn't think his grandfather was one to joke about such things, but still...

"I really mean what I said. I suggest that you give the entire sum to charity. In this way, the "capital" and the "interest" will remain intact. I am afraid that if you invest with some wealthy merchant, you might lose both."

The grandson heard what the Rebbe said and nevertheless, decided to invest his money with a merchant who was not only trustworthy and wealthy, but a scholar, too. Several months later, however, a fire destroyed everything the merchant owned and he was reduced to poverty.

Later, when the Rebbe asked his grandson how his investment had fared, the young man related the catastrophe which had befallen the merchant.

"Why didn't you listen to my advice and put the money in this charity box?" admonished the Rebbe. "Had you done that, then the capital and the interest would have remained intact. Why do my chasidim not trust the advice of their Rebbe? Let me tell you a story about the simple faith of the people of Volhynia."

"Once, in the midst of the bitter cold of winter, I was on my way home from visiting my Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch. I was nearly frostbitten by the time we reached a Jewish inn.

"`How long have you been living here?' I asked the elderly innkeeper.

"`For nearly fifty years,' he answered me.

"`And are there other Jews nearby? Do you have a minyan to pray with, people with whom to celebrate the holidays?'

"`Only on the High Holidays do I go to a nearby village to pray together with a congregation.'

"`Why don't you live in that village so that you can be together with other Jews?' I asked.

"`How would I make a living?' he questioned me.

"`If G-d can find a livelihood for a hundred families, don't you think He can do the same for one more?" I asked him.

"I also happened to mention to him that I am a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch.

"He left the room immediately. Not more than one half hour later, I saw a few wagons parked in front of the inn, loaded with all kinds of household items and furniture. I saw the innkeeper near the wagons and asked him, `What is going on here?'

"`I am moving to that other town, just as you told me," the innkeeper answered simply.

"You see what strong faith that old man had in my Rebbe?" The Alter Rebbe challenged his grandson. "I only had to mention that I was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch and he dropped everything immediately, including his home and livelihood for 50 years. He was not even a chasid. And you heard from me twice that you should place the money in the charity box and yet you did not listen.

Moshiach Matters

Regarding the days of Moshiach, it is said, "And I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26)- specifically a heart of stone, and not a brain of stone, for it is very difficult to change the heart of stone before the days of Moshiach. Changing the heart is something that depends upon Moshiach. In contrast, it is possible to prepare the brain even today - through our divine service during the time of the exile. Therefore, we talk about such lofty matters in order to remove (at least) the brain of stone.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, second night of Passover, 1963)

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