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Devarim Deutronomy

July 18, 2014 - 20 Tamuz, 5774

1330: Matos

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

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  1329: Pinchas1331: Masei  

We Were Kidnapped  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Today Is ...  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

We Were Kidnapped

by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

Shock. Horror. Tragedy. Outrage.

There are literally no words that can accurately describe the profound loss we felt on June 30.

For 18 days, I had checked the news first thing each morning to see if the boys had been found. Eyal, Gilad and Naftali have been in our hearts and on our minds virtually non-stop. We prayed fervently and wholeheartedly that our boys would be found alive. I listened to Eyal's grandfather pray at a rally with 10,000 people. When I heard him scream from the depths of his heart, I was sure the heavens would pierce open.

But after 18 days we received the shocking, brutal news that Eyal, Gilad and Naftali had been shot dead in cold blood just hours after they were abducted. We were brought to tears when Rachel Frankel, Naftali's mother, cried, "Rest in peace, my dear son,"

We also finally heard Gilad's phone call. He was able to call the police and whisper, "I've been kidnapped." In the background are Arab voices screaming, "Put your heads down!" and then shots are fired. Then there are voices of rejoicing. The call should have created an emergency alert. Instead, it was ignored and the kidnappers had a 10 hour head start.

The Jewish nation is likened to a lioness, crouching in the field, ready to pounce. Often we lie dormant, but when the call comes, we wake up and pounce.

While Gilad wasn't able to initially mobilize the police force, he was certainly able to mobilize the global Jewish community. There are rare moments in life where we get "that call" - a call to action. This was one of them. "I have been kidnapped." The call of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali grabbed hold of us, shaking us to the core, refusing the loosen its grip. And even though we, as a nation, disagree sharply on so many things, this call mobilized us as a single unit. We responded as one nation, with one heart. One family. We prayed, studied Torah, lit Shabbat candles, put on tefillin and committed to keeping new mitzvot in their merit.

For 18 days it didn't matter if you live in Japan, South Korea, Alaska, America or Israel. It didn't matter which branch of Judaism you identify with or which community you belong to. The truth became abundantly clear - we are all Jewish and we are all in this together. Eyal, Gilad and Naftali awakened us and we pounced.

The unity that prevailed is unprecedented. The immense power of social media enabled us to connect with one another, pray together and cry together. And then tragedy struck. But that does not mean we should abandon the call. No, instead, we should listen and internalize it.

We read in Torah portion from the week of the funeral of these three holy murdered teenagers, that the Jewish people are a "nation that dwells alone." We saw that too, throughout those 18 days. Nobody cares about us like we do, but the love and care we have for each other stretches across the entire globe. Let's make a concerted effort to continue what Eyal, Gilad and Naftali started - unparalleled love and unity through all segments of the Jewish population. When we are truly united, nothing can stand in our way.

We continue to demand from our dear Father in Heaven #bringbackourboys, bring Moshiach and redeem us from this bitter and dark exile, when we will be reunited with Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.

Living with the Rebbe

The conclusion of this week's Torah reading, Matot, relates how the tribes of Reuven and Gad approached Moses with a request. Instead of entering the land of Israel with their brethren, they preferred to settle in the lands conquered by the Jews on the eastern bank of the Jordan. That land was good grazing land; they had many sheep and they wanted to settle there.

Moses was aghast. He had shepherded the people for 40 years, nurturing them to the point where they would be ready to enter the Land. That moment had almost arrived and suddenly, some of the people weren't interested. Moreover, their lack of interest could be infectious, deterring everyone from entering the land.

Moses voiced his concerns quite forcefully and the members of those tribes comprehended the negative consequences that could arise. On the other hand, they really wanted to settle in those lands. So they offered a compromise. They would enter the land of Israel as the vanguard of the Jewish people and they would stay there until the land was conquered and divided. Only afterwards would they return to their land in Transjordan.

Moses understood that this approach would not dishearten the people as a whole, so he accepted it. But the question arises: He was the shepherd of the entire people. Why did he give up on two entire tribes and indeed, invite half of another tribe, the tribe of Menashe, to join them on the other side of the Jordan?

To resolve this question, we have to understand the uniqueness of a shepherd's tasks. Of all the ways of earning a livelihood available in Biblical times, shepherding was the most peaceful. A shepherd spent his time peacefully watching his flocks. He had time to think and to meditate. In that way, he was not bogged down with material concerns.

Judaism needs such people. On the other hand, it also - and primarily - needs people who are in the business of making things happen. Whether in agriculture or in commerce, the main bulk of the people have to produce.

This is not only an economic perspective; it is a spiritual one. Gd created the world so that our material world be made into a home for Him. To accomplish that objective, He needs people ready to be involved in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day realities. On the other hand, were everyone to follow that course, there might not be anyone who would see past those realities.

This was the core of the compromise suggested by the tribes of Reuven and Gad. The people at large would be involved in the Jews' primary mission of establishing a dwelling for Gd through involving themselves in mundane activities. They themselves, however, would be involved in the more contemplative, pastoral lifestyle of shepherds. And they would work to make sure that a connection between the two was maintained so that the spiritual awareness they attained could be shared by the people at large.

From Keeping in Touch, adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos in English.

A Slice of Life

We Are With You
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

The following is from Rabbi Vigler's blog written during the search for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.

It's been a full week since our boys - Eyal, Gilad and Naftali - were abducted by Hamas terrorists from a bus stop on their way home for Shabbat.

The global Jewish community has banded together, united in outrage, courage and prayer. We feel the pain of the teens and their families intimately. Their agony is our agony, their loss our loss.

I watched Iris Yifrach, Eyal's mother, speak at a press conference on Israel's national television. What would her message be, I wondered. She is suffering unimaginably. Her son, who she has loved, cared for, and raised for 19 years has been snatched by cruel, despicable terrorists, and she has no idea where he is or what he's going through. This is every mother's nightmare, a torturous reality. How would she have the courage to speak? I was certain she would not be able to utter a sound.

But when I watched, I was astounded to see her strength and determination. Despite the pain in her heart and the worry in her eyes, despite the crushing agony and palpable distress, she was not broken down. She appeared strong and composed, and I was able to draw strength from her.

"Our Jewish people, we love you with all our hearts. I'm begging from the bottom of my heart, continue to pray!

"Our Eyali, we love you! The Jewish world is praying for you. Look what a beautiful people! Give a strong hug to Gilad and Naftali. Thanks so much to everyone."

The mothers of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, the three abducted teenagers, travelled to the UNHRC in Geneva this week, where Rachel Frenkel, mother of Naftali, passionately implored the international community to put greater pressure on those responsible.

These brave women waged a desperate attempt to explain to the world that Palestinian terrorists kidnapped young students - a criminal act which blatantly violates every human rights law.

It was shockingly horrific to watch UN representative after representative mock these poor mothers who had just poured out their hearts and souls.

One after the next, representatives from Syria, Iran, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Russia, China and Cuba, attacked the three Israeli women and accused Israel of every possible - and impossible - crime against the Arab people. They accused Israel of being the biggest human rights violator in the world.

As we know, those inciting against Israel don't let facts stand in their way.

In fact, they had the audacity to blame the kidnapping on Israel (!) because Israel has been "occupying" their land since 1948. What a ludicrous and dishonest portrayal! But it is certainly nothing new. For 60 years the Arab world has been calling us thieves, claiming we stole their land and built our country on Islamic soil.

Well, let me tell you something, dear UN. Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were kidnapped near Chevron area and the IDF search has focused mainly on the Hebron area. My father is an 8th generation Jerusalemite, and his great-grandmother Chaya Bluma Rikel lived in Hebron in 1929. My family is descended from Menucha Rochel Slonim, the granddaughter of the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who immigrated to Israel and settled in Hebron in 1845.

So long before Israel declared independence, long before the IDF was even established, my family was living in Hebron, and here's what happened:

On August 24, 1929, local Arabs went on a murderous rampage, butchering and massacring Jews, ransacking homes and synagogues. At the time, 20,000 people were living in Hebron, only 700 of whom were Jews. By the time the massacre ended, 67 Jews lay dead - their homes and synagogues destroyed. Why were they murdered? Simply for being Jews.

Chaya Bluma Rikel's first cousin was Rabbi Dov Slonim, who was extremely well connected and friendly with the Arab leaders. He sheltered about 30 Jews in his home that day, because he'd been promised many times he would never be harmed by the Arabs. But on that fateful morning he, and all the Jews with him, were brutally murdered. Why? Simply for being Jewish!

Following the horrific massacre, the Jews were forced to leave Hebron, until in 1967 G-d performed a tremendous miracle and returned Hebron to the Jews. At that time, the Arabs were sure the returning Jews would try to take revenge for the massacre, but no. The Jews, who the UN claims are the biggest human rights abusers, let their Arab neighbors live in peace. In fact, they have more rights there than their Arab brothers in most other places.

In 1929 while my family was slaughtered, the British stood idly by. And nothing has changed. Terrorists from Hebron kidnapped our boys and the world stands idly by. So no, we will not "show restraint." We will do whatever is necessary to bring back our boys.

We know this land is our land. The only reason Jews travelled perilously from Odessa, Vilna, Warsaw etc. to the Land of Israel is because G-d gave His holy land to us, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is stated clearly in the Torah.

We know we'll persevere; we know we'll survive. The tremendous outpouring of unity, love and concern from Jews worldwide proves that nothing can destroy us.

Rabbi Vigler and his wife Shevi direct Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side (New York City).

What's New

Daily Wisdom

Daily Wisdom's 378 daily lessons, are a taste of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's vast and deep teachings, filled with love for G-d, Torah and the Jewish people, pragmatic optimism, and the conviction that evil and negativity will disappear when we learn to emphasize goodness and kindness These ideas are woven together throughout the book, resulting in a precious daily resource that will enrich and elevate the lives of all readers. Translated and adapted by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky, and produced by Chabad House Publications of California, Daily Wisdom summarizes each daily Torah reading and presents an original insight based on the Rebbe's teachings.

The Rebbe Writes

16 Tammuz 5743 [1983]

Greeting and blessing:

This is in reply to your letter of June 20.

I must say that it is one of the most "amazing" letters I have ever received, based on a most amazing conclusion of a person who, after following the Jewish way of life for 17 years, has now decided that it was wrong because he did it for the sake of his wife and family. Hence he feels impelled to make a radical change, although by his own admission the conclusion is not based on irrefutable proofs, but is solely motivated by "strong doubts" and insufficient knowledge about G-d and the need of observing His mitzvoth [commandments].

Curiously, as strong as his doubts are about the past, there seems to him no doubt whatever about his future course; so much so that he has already initiated steps to put an end to his past 17 years' life and family.

Surely there is no need to point out that however wise a person may be, it is not always wise to rely entirely on one's judgment, since the wisest person may sometimes make a mistake, especially in a case where one is personally and deeply involved.

Moreover, by your own recognition, your conclusion is based on doubts, albeit strong doubts, but doubts nevertheless. If so, why all this haste to carry out your decision? Surely, before taking steps that even from your viewpoint could possibly be destructive to yourself and your family, don't you think you ought first to discuss your doubts and conclusions with knowledgeable friends, both frum [Torah observant]and (if you so desire) not frum? After 17 years, a little more time wouldn't make all that much difference.

After all, when a Jew is in doubt - lacking strong convictions about the need to do mitzvoth, the logical way of thinking is as follows: If after further intensive study his convictions are strengthened, all the better. On the other hand, should he come to the conclusion that what he was doing was unnecessary, then the most he could regret would be the "inconvenience" of having spent a few minutes on putting on tefillin every weekday morning, or having deprived himself of non-kosher food, having kept Shabbos and Yom Tov [holidays], and so on. But if he recklessly gives up his Jewish way of life, and eventually, sooner or later, he is bound to realize that the Torah and mitzvoth and Jewish way of life are indeed "our life and the strength of our days," both in this life and in eternal life - then he will never forgive himself for having treated it so "lightly."

As for your doubts about the basics of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] - there is a whole body of literature, classical and contemporary (including in English) that deal with the subject. Much of it is based not on faith but on fact. Suffice it to mention here, by way of example and because of its timeliness (having recently celebrated zman mattan Toroseinu [Shavous]), that the Divine Revelation at Sinai, when G-d pronounced the Decalogue and gave us the Torah, is one of the most scientifically established events in human history. It is based on the evidence and personal experience of 600,000 male adults, besides women and children, which has been transmitted in identical form from parents to children throughout the generations in an uninterrupted chain of tradition, further authenticated by virtually identical daily observances of the same mitzvoth by Jews in all generations and in all countries of the world, and with such devotion and commitment that they were ready to make every sacrifice, even martyrdom, in their loyalty to the One G-d, One Torah, and One Jewish people.

continued in next issue

Today Is ...

22 Tammuz

Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch said: A Chasidic aphorism makes the head clear and the heart clean; a Chasidic virtuous practice fills the home with light; a Chasidic melody fortifies hope and trust, brings joyousness, and places the home and family in a state of "light."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This past week began the three-week period of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The period commenced with the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz, this year July 15 and culminates with Tisha B'Av on August 5.

On the Seventeenth of Tammuz (70 c.e.), the Romans breached the wall surrounding Jerusalem. This in turn enabled them to enter the city, and ultimately destroy the Temple on the Ninth of Av.

Our Sages say that the Holy Temple was destroyed because of reasonless and unwarranted hatred amongst Jews. In previous generations, a focus during these three weeks was to increase in ahavat Yisrael - love of a fellow Jew - as an antidote to the destruction. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe has stated unequivocally that even this terrible sin, on a national level, has been rectified. What remains for us to do is, especially at this time, is to increase in ahavat Yisrael as a foretaste of the manner in which we will live when Moshiach comes and the Temple is rebuilt. This behavior, says the Rebbe, will prepare us for and hasten the Redemption.

Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz said: "When every Jew will give his hand one to another, the hands will join into one great hand that will be able to reach all the way to G-d's holy 'throne.'"

We must all strive to put aside our differences and join hands, one to another. Then surely we will be able to approach G-d's holy throne and petition Him to take us out of exile and bring us to the Holy Land with Moshiach, NOW.

Thoughts that Count

All Israel have a share in the World to Come... (Introductory Mishna to Ethics of the Fathers)

In Hebrew, the verse literally says, "All Israel, they have a share in the World to Come." The plural is used to indicate that it is only because of their brotherhood and unity that the Jewish people is deserving of reward. According to Maimonides, a person who is otherwise totally scrupulous in religious observance but separates himself from the Jewish community is not worthy of a portion of the World to Come.

(Blossoms, Rabbi Yisroel Rubin)

Moses received the Torah from Sinai (Ethics, 1:1)

Why doesn't the verse say, "Moses received the Torah from G-d"? Just as the Jews received the Torah at Sinai with awe and reverence, so too must all Torah study be approached with the same respect. Furthermore, the Torah in its entirety was revealed at Sinai, including those commandments which G-d had previous given the Jewish people. All mitzvot are done solely by virtue of their being given at Sinai.

(Biurim L'Pirkei Avot)

And passed it on to Joshua (Ethics, 1:1).

Just as Moses passed on to Joshua the complete body of Torah knowledge, so too must we impart the entire Torah to future generations. Because all Jews inherit the Torah from Moses, as it states, "The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob," we must likewise emulate his actions as well.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Whoever engages in excessive talk brings on sin (Ethics, 1:17)

Rabbi Abraham Yaakov Sadigorer used to say: "The train was invented to teach us that every minute in life is important; a person may miss the train if he arrives even one minute late. The telegraph was invented to teach us that our every word is precious, numbered and accounted for. And from the telephone we learn that everything that is said is also heard..."

(Fun Unzer Alten Otzar)

It Once Happened

Years ago, the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel was entirely dependent on the generosity of its brethren in the Diaspora. To that end, special emissaries would travel throughout Europe collecting donations, visiting local Jews and soliciting funds.

One time an emissary arrived in a certain city and was given a warm welcome. All of the townspeople came to the synagogue to hear him deliver his appeal. At the end of the speech, a prominent member of the local community volunteered to accompany him on his rounds from house to house.

The two men walked through the Jewish section knocking on doors and asking for donations. Not one family refused to contribute. The contributions varied according to financial circumstance, but everyone was happy to give at least something. Then the emissary noticed that they had skipped a mansion, and asked his companion why. "It would be a waste of effort," he was told. "The man who lives there is miser. He has never given even a penny to charity."

"But we have to try," the emissary insisted. "Who knows? Maybe our words will penetrate his heart."

They knocked on the door, which was opened by the wealthy miser himself. "Good day!" the emissary said cheerfully. "May we speak with you for a minute?"

"You may certainly speak, but if you've come for a donation of money you're wasting your time," the miser said dryly.

But the emissary would not give up. "You're obviously a wealthy man. Don't you want to help support the poor Jews of the Holy Land? Everyone else is contributing generously."

"My money belongs to me," the miser declared sharply. "I worked very hard for it, and saved every penny. I refuse to give the fruit of my labors to someone who didn't expend the effort."

The emissary looked at him with pity in his eyes. "You're right, it's your money and your decision," he conceded. But before he left he added under his breath, "It looks as if you're going to be the third."

The miser closed the door with the emissary's words echoing in his ears. What did he mean? A whole day he couldn't get the comment out of his head, and that night he tossed and turned in bed. "It looks as if you're going to be the third." The third what? He had to find out.

The next day the miser searched the city until he found the emissary from Israel. "I must know," he pleaded with him. "What did you mean when you said that I would be the third?"

The emissary smiled. "Yesterday I honored your principle of not giving away any of your hard-earned money. So how can you expect me to share my wisdom with you for nothing? I also worked very hard to acquire it."

The miser acknowledged that he was right, and agreed to pay for the answer. The emissary insisted on a sum three times what he usually asked of the rich, and the transaction was made.

"Now I will tell you a story," the emissary began. "Many years ago there lived a very wealthy man who was as stingy as he was rich. He was even miserly when it came to himself. He even refused to marry, lest a wife and children drain his finances.

"The man worked very hard his whole life and eventually amassed a fortune. Before he passed away, he instructed the Burial Society to bury him with all his money. Even after death he refused to part from his riches.

"His final wishes were carried out, and not one cent remained above ground. When the grave was filled, the angel in charge of the deceased came to accompany him to the Heavenly Court.

"'Did you study Torah?' the man was asked. 'No,' was his reply, 'I was a businessman.'

"'Then certainly you supported those who did with your charity. Tell us,' the judges urged him, 'which good deeds did you perform with all your money?'

"'Look, there's nothing to talk about,' the man answered. 'I brought all my money with me. Do whatever you want with it.'

"'You don't understand,' they explained. 'Here money has no value. The only currency is mitzvot (commandments).' The man's fate hung in the balance.

"After much discussion the judges realized that there was only one precedent in history, when the wealthy Korach had been swallowed up by the earth with all his riches. In the end it was decided that the miser, who had also been buried with all his money, should be sent to keep him company. The lonely Korach would no doubt be delighted.

"But it's very hard to spend such a long time with even two people," the emissary continued. "I'm sure that Korach and his friend are very bored by now, and would welcome a third conversationalist into their group. When I met you I thought to myself, 'Who knows? Maybe their boredom will soon be alleviated. But now that you've given me your donation, I think that Korach and his friend will have to wait a while longer."

From that day on the former miser was always the first to contribute to every charitable cause that came his way.

Moshiach Matters

Since we are standing on the threshold of Redemption which will arrive imminently, it follows that the study of the laws of building the Temple this year must be of an entirely different order. First and foremost, this study must be permeated with the awareness and full recognition that this study is not merely an academic exercise, but it is relevant for practical use for the very next moment. For indeed, the "Future Sanctuary that we are anticipating has already been built and is fully developed (above and will thus imminently) be revealed and arrive from Heaven" instantaneously!

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 17 Tammuz 5751-1991)

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