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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

November 24, 2017 - 6 Kislev, 5778

1498: Vayetzei

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  1497: Toldos1499: Vayishlach  

Movement  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters


Did you ever do a double-take when you were in a store and you noticed a mannequin that looked alive? Or maybe you were in a wax museum and sat down next to a person only to find out that it was a wax figure.

In either case, what gives the mannequin or the wax figure away is the lack of even a small, slight, almost imperceptible movement. It could be the blink of an eye or the ever-so-faint rise and fall of the chest. Or maybe a nose twitch. But it is always some kind of movement all the same.

Movement is a dead giveaway for the existence of life. Which is one of the reasons why, according to Jewish teachings, people are called "movers" whereas angels are called "stationery."

A person moves, stretches, bends, reaches, climbs, falls.

A person moves both physically and hopefully - and more importantly - spiritually.

The noun "mover" when applied to people as compared to angels is specifically referring to spiritual matters. And it is in spiritual matters as well that a person stretches, bends, reaches, climbs and sometimes falls, but gets up again to climb once more.

Just as physical movement is a sure sign of life, spiritual movement is a true indication of the vitality of the soul.

How do you move your soul? Simply by making an even small, slight, almost imperceptible move.

By studying Torah concepts that stretch you. By reaching out to another person with love and compassion. By bending your will to G-d's will. By climbing, one step at a time, through the mitzvot (commandments). By falling once in a while, but then by getting up again.

Torah study (and Torah as used here is not confined to the Five Books of Moses but encompasses all areas of Jewish teachings) is limitless. It is full of joy and life and movement and excitement and mind-expanding concepts.

Mitzvot, as well, give us a chance to move. With mitzvot we cleave to G-d, we connect to another Jew, we help shoulder a friend's burden, we laugh and sing and dance.

A Midrash relates that when the dove was created she complained to G-d, "It is not fair. I am so small and I have no way of outrunning my many pursuers who try to capture me."

So G-d added wings to the delicate body of the dove.

But once more the dove objected. "These wings are so heavy. Now I certainly have no way of escaping my predators."

G-d taught the dove that the wings are not a burden but can be used to fly.

Torah and mitzvot are not something we have to "shlepp" along like lifeless weight. They can help us reach higher and higher. They can help us grow. They help us move in the most graceful, exhilarating way possible.

Living with the Rebbe

The Haftora for the Torah portion of Vayetzei is the prophecy of Hosea. It speaks of Jacob's descent to Haran and his work for Laban to have the right to marry Rachel and leah.

Sprinkled throughout the Haftora is the exodus from Egypt, allusions to our future redemption and assurances that if we follow on G-d's path then G-d will help us succeed. Similarly, in the Torah portion, with G-d's help, Jacob succeeds in Haran, coming out with great wealth and a beautiful family.

The story of Jacob going down to Haran, is the story of the Jewish people going into exile and the future redemption. On a deeper level it is the mission of the soul coming into the body.

There are two types of exile. There is an exile of plenty, where we are free and lack nothing. However, because of this abundance, we follow our desires, falling lower and lower. When this happens, our holy energy, meant to nourish the good and positive forces in the world, ends up energizing the negative forces. This is symbolized by the country of Ashur, in which we enjoyed relative freedom.

Then there is the exile of suffering, where we feel stuck, unable to get out and do the simplest of things. Because of the suffering and oppression, our thoughts and abilities become constricted and obstructed. We are stuck in our troubles. This is symbolized by the country of Mitzrayim (Egypt), which means constraints, and where we were in servitude.

To this the Haftora says, that when Moshiach comes, "He will roar like a lion... They will hurry like a bird from Egypt, and like a dove from Ashur, I will settle them in their homes, says G-d." What is the lion's roar? That is the sound of the shofar that G-d will sound when Moshiach comes. Why does He use the metaphor of a bird and a dove? Because no matter how far they stray from their nest, they always find their way back home. The same is true about the Jewish people, no matter which kind of exile, or how far we stray, we will find our way back home.

Now the Haftora says, "Like a merchant who has deceitful scales in his hand." The merchant is likened to the soul. When it was above, it had silver and gold (love and awe of G-d). The soul/merchant is "deceitful" because it intends to "trick" the body into being the vehicle for holiness. The soul is willing to give up everything, descend to this lowly world, enter the body and impact the body and the world through Torah and mitzvot (commandments). This is the meaning of the verse in Psalms, "To me, the Torah of your lips, is better, than thousands of gold and silver." The Torah uttered by the lips, down in this physical world, is more valuable to the soul than all the love and awe it experienced while it was still in heaven.

This is a testament to how precious and valuable even the smallest mitzva we do is to our souls and by extension, G-d.

May we each get closer to G-d and may our precious mitzvot finally tip the scales and usher in the redemption.

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.

A Slice of Life

When the Child Becomes Bar Mitzva

On the eve of 20 Elul 5760 (2000), the Bar Mitzva of Yosef Sorotzkin was celebrated. It was an especially moving occasion because Yosef, a sweet boy, was born with tremendous physical handicaps and was not expected to survive. With the tremendous efforts of his parents and his own strong will, he reached the age of bar mitzva and was now celebrating this special milestone with his friends and family.

Understandably, the guests at the Bar Mitzva were very moved to be sharing this special occasion with the Sorotzkin family. They all knew of the trials and tribulations that the family had undergone and were overjoyed to be celebrating Yossi's Bar Mitzva. The bar mitzvah was also an opportunity to give thanks to G-d for His kindness and miracles.

Emotions ran even higher as the grandfather of the Bar Mitzva boy, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, then Chief Rabbi of Israel, stood near his grandson and spoke. On behalf of the entire family, Rabbi Lau expressed his gratitude to G-d for allowing them to raise the child and reach this occasion. At the end of his speech Rabbi Lau said with great emotion, "This is an open miracle and I must include you in, since I have to fulfill a mission of the Rebbe and close a circle.

"Ten years ago, my wife and I and my daughter, the mother of the Bar Mitzva boy, visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was Sunday, 17 Sivan 5750, during 'dollars.'* When we approached the Rebbe to receive our dollar, we told the Rebbe about Yossi's medical condition, which was poor at that time, and the doctors were very pessimistic.

"We told the Rebbe the doctors' opinion and then, in opposition to everything everybody thought and said, the Rebbe gave my wife another dollar and said: 'When the boy is Bar Mitzva, give him this.'

"The Rebbe's words were a surprise to us. At that time, the thought of celebrating Yossi's Bar Mitzva seemed absolutely unrealistic. We were filled with fears and anxieties about Yossi's future, because of his dire medical prognosis. But the Rebbe said it with such confidence that it gave us all a feeling of tranquility and faith. We had no doubt at that moment that Yossi would reach the age of Bar Mitzva, and we would give him the dollar then as the Rebbe had instructed."

Rabbi Lau removed the dollar from his pocket and said, "I hereby fulfill the shlichut (mission) the Lubavitcher Rebbe assigned me and my wife more than ten years ago. You can see that at the time I wrote on it, 'to give it on the day of the bar mitzva, for a bracha, to Yosef ben Miriam.' "

Rabbi Lau tearfully gave the dollar to his grandson and said, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe said to give this to you today."

After the celebration, Mrs. Miriam Sorotzkin, Yosef's mother, said, "After the Rebbe gave my mother another dollar for Yossi, my father and the Rebbe spoke about mikvaot, ritual baths.

"At the end of their discussion, the Rebbe turned to me, gave me a dollar and blessed me with much success and then gave me another dollar. 'Give this to the sofer (scribe) who will write the parshiyos of the Tefilin for Yossi before his Bar Mitzva.' This, in essence, repeated the blessing he had given my parents. I must admit that the blessing seemed very unrealistic yet it gave us renewed faith. When I received that dollar, it reinforced the Rebbe's promise that Yossi would reach Bar Mitzva age and we would purchase Tefilin for him, like any ordinary child. With all the trials and tribulations involved in raising Yossi over the years, this dollar has been an incredible source of solace and blessing.

"I've been carrying the dollar for ten years. It has been moved from wallet to wallet. Now I've carried out the mission and have given it to the scribe who wrote the Tefilin for Yossi. When the scribe heard the story about the dollar, he was so moved that he refused to keep it; instead, he gave the dollar back to us."

*Beginning in 1986, each Sunday, the Rebbe would stand in a small room near his office as thousands of men, women and children filed past to see him and receive his blessing. Many used the opportunity to pose a question and receive a word of advice. To each of them the Rebbe gave a dollar bill, appointing them as his personal agent (shaliach) to give it to the charity of their choice.

What's New

Shabbos Surprise

Based on the classic Peanut Butter and Jelly for Shabbos, this board book will introduce a new generation of babies and toddlers to those endearing brothers, Yossi and Laibel. Join them in this simplified rhyming adventure, as they prepare a Shabbos surprise for the whole family! Complete with Norman Nodel's original artwork. Written by Dina Rosenfeld, HaChai Publishing.


Every person has a story. Footprints is an exploration of the lives of 20 individuals and couples, celebrating their remarkable humanity. Most lived quietly, far from the public eye, yet they faced human challenges without surrendering. From czarist Russia to Auschwitz, and from Riga to Boston, follow the paths they carved through Jewish history with courage, perseverance and kindness. By Dovid Zaklokowski, Hasidic Archives.

The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation

10th of Kislev, 5714 [1953]

To my brethren, everywhere

G-d bless you all!

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

In connection with the Day of Liberation (19th of Kislev) of the Founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya, whose release from imprisonment for the dissemination of Chabad established freedom of though and practice of the ideology and way of life of Chabad Chassidism in particular, and of General Chassidism as a whole,

I wish to express herewith my inner wish, that every one of us be liberated, with G-d's help and by determined personal effort, from all handicaps which arrest the good and noble in everyone's nature, so that this part of one's nature reign supreme, giving fullest expression of the three-fold love: love of our people Israel, love of our Torah, and love of G-d, which are all one.

Our Sages said that "Each and every soul was in the presence of His Divine Majesty before coming down to this earth," and that "The souls are hewn from under the Seat of Glory."

These sayings emphasize the essential nature of the soul, its holiness and purity, and its being completely divorced from anything material and physical; the soul itself, by its very nature, is not subject to any material desires or temptations, which arise only from the physical body and "animal soul."

Nevertheless, it was the Creator's Will that the soul - which is "truly a 'part' of the Divine Above," should descend into the physical and coarse world and be confined within, and united with, a physical body for scores of years, in a state which is absolutely abhorrent of its very nature. All this, for the purpose of a Divine mission which the soul has to fulfill: to purify and "spiritualize" the physical body and the related physical environment by permeating them with the Light of G-d, so as to make this world an abode for the Shechina [the Divine Presence]. This can be done only through a life of Torah and Mitsvoth [commandments].

When the soul fulfills this mission, all the transient pain and suffering connected with the soul's descent and life on this earth are not only justified, but infinitely outweighed by the great reward and everlasting bliss which the soul enjoys thereafter.

From the above one can easily appreciate the extent of the tragedy of disregarding the soul's mission on earth. For in doing so one condemns the soul to a term of useless suffering not compensated for, nor nullified by that everlasting happiness which G-d had intended for it. Even when there are moments of religious activity in the study of the Torah and the practice of the Mitsvoth, it is sad to contemplate how often such activity is tinted by the lack of real enthusiasm and inner joy, not realizing that these are the activities which justify existence.

Aside from missing the vital point through failure of taking advantage of the opportunity to fulfill G-d's Will, thus forfeiting the everlasting benefits to be derived therefrom, it is contrary to sound reason to choose that side of life which accentuates the enslavement and degradation of the soul, while rejecting the good that is inherent in it, namely, the great ascent that is to come from the soul's descent.

It will now become eminently clear what our Sages meant when they said, "No man commits a sin unless he was stricken with temporary insanity." No profound thinking is required to realize that since " life is compulsory," and since the soul which is a "part" of the Divine Above is compelled to descend into "a frame of dust and ashes," the proper thing to do is to make the most of the soul's sojourn on earth; only a life, in which every aspect is permeated by the Torah and Mitsvoth, makes this possible.

Continued in next issue

All Together

On which arm are tefilin worn and why?

In the Torah's commandment to wear tefilin, the word "your arm" is spelled "yadcha" with the letter "hei" at the end. Due to this unusual spelling, the word can also be read "the weak arm." Therefore a right-handed man wears them on the left arm and a left-handed person on the right arm. Another reason is that wearing tefilin is to help us control our heart's desires and direct them towards serving G-d. Since the majority of people are right-handed, the tefilin are placed on the same side as the heart, thereby reminding us of this aspiration.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Next Monday, 9 Kislev (Nov. 27 this year) is the birthday and yartzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber, the second Chabad Rebbe, known as the Mitteler Rebbe. The following day, 10 Kislev, is the anniversary of the Mitteler Rebbe's release from imprisonment on false charges.

There is a famous story about the Mitteler Rebbe told by the Previous Rebbe and often related by the Rebbe:

The Mitteler Rebbe was known for his unusual power of concentration. When he was engaged in study or prayer, he did not hear or see a thing around him.

Once, when Rabbi Dov Ber was studying, his baby sleeping in a nearby cot fell out and began to cry. Rabbi Dov Ber did not hear the baby's cries and continued learning. But the infant's grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (the founder of Chabad Chasidism), who was in his room on an upper floor and was also studying at that time, did hear the baby's cries. He interrupted his studies, went downstairs, picked up the infant, soothed him and put him back in his cot. Still, the infant's father did not hear what went on around him. Later on, Rabbi Shneur Zalman told his son: "No matter how important the thing is that a Jew is engaged in, one must always hear the cry of a child."

This story is applicable to parents, teachers and even children. We must always here the cry of a child, whether that child is a child in years or knowledge or commitment to Judaism. Even when we are involved in important things, we must not neglect or ignore the cry of the child.

This applies, as well, to the child within each one of us. This spark of good and G-dliness, the wide-eyed and innocent trust and belief that the world can become a perfect place, that evil can be eradicated, that goodness can prevail, and that "I" can be a part of it or perhaps even be the catalyst for realizing the world's potential, must be listened to and heeded.

Thoughts that Count

And Jacob lifted up his feet ("raglav") (Gen. 29:1)

The Hebrew word for foot, "regel" is related to the word meaning habit, "hergel." Jacob "lifted up" and elevated his daily, mundane and habitual actions and transformed them into holiness. "If you turn away your foot because of the Sabbath," said the Prophet Isaiah, "I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father." If you make an effort to rise above and transform your baser instincts in order to bring holiness into the world, you will be rewarded by G-d for your actions.

(Baal Shem Tov)

And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth (Gen. 28:14)

The Jewish people is likened here to the dust of the earth, although sometimes the Torah compares the Jews to sand, and sometimes to the stars. We learn a lesson from each of these different expressions. Stars are far apart from one another in the heavens and never come into contact with each other. Grains of sand, on the other hand, are in close proximity to the other grains, but do not stick and adhere to each other. Dust, however, attaches to other particles and forms a cohesive mass. The Jewish people receives G-d's blessings when they are unified and undivided like dust.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Surely G-d is present in this place and I did not know it (28:16)

When does man feel the presence of G-d? When "I did not know it" - when the "I" is ignored and the person works on negating his ego.

(Panim Yafot)

It Once Happened

Reb Pinchas Reizes was a Chasid of the Mitteler Rebbe (Rabbi Dovber, whose birthday and passing are on 9 Kislev). When Reb Pinchas passed away his only heir was a nephew, who unfortunately was a complete scoundrel. Among the items that came into the nephew's possession was a letter written by the Mitteler Rebbe to his uncle, asking him to serve on a special committee to disburse funds for charity. The sum cited in the letter was 4,000 rubles.

The nephew saw this as a golden opportunity to blackmail the Rebbe. If the Rebbe did not give him money, he threatened, he would go to the authorities and tell them that the Rebbe was collecting funds for clandestine and illegal purposes. But the Rebbe was immune to his intimidations. "Not one penny will you get from me," he told him. "Do whatever you want, for I have done nothing wrong and am not afraid of your slander."

Incensed by the Rebbe's response, the nephew carried out his threat. With the help of some unsavory associates he forged the original letter to make it appear as if the Rebbe had 104,000 rubles instead of 4,000 - a veritable fortune in those days. The Rebbe was accused of various criminal activities, such as trying to bribe the Turkish Sultan, and it was also alleged that the Rebbe's study hall had been built to the exact specifications of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

On Saturday night, investigators showed up at the Rebbe's house. They conducted a thorough search of the premises. Careful note was taken of all written materials, and anything else they considered suspicious. At the same time, a separate group of investigators measured the Rebbe's study hall; no one could figure out what they were trying to find.

By that time a large crowd had gathered in front of the Rebbe's house, and everyone could hear the tearful pleading of the Rebbe's family with the police. The only one who seemed to be taking everything in stride was the Rebbe. As if nothing unusual were going on, he withdrew to his room to write a Chasidic discourse. A while later he announced that he would receive people for private audiences, which he did.

The following morning the Rebbe was ordered to accompany the police to their headquarters in Vitebsk. Word of the Rebbe's arrest quickly spread, and in every town and village along the way hundreds of Jews came out to greet him. Thanks to the efforts of several influential Jews, it was agreed that the long journey would be made in stages, with numerous stops to allow the Rebbe to rest.

When the carriage arrived in Dobromisl, the Rebbe asked to be allowed to pray the afternoon service in the local synagogue. Afterwards, to everyone's surprise, he delivered a Chasidic discourse on the verse from Song of Songs, "Many waters cannot quench love." The allusion to his present situation was clear.

The Rebbe was subsequently imprisoned in the city of Liozhna and placed under tight security. Sometime later it was learned that the formal charge against him was rebellion against the government.

The Rebbe was jailed for one month and ten days, but even from the beginning he was granted certain privileges. Three people were permitted to stay with him, and three times a day, 20 Jews were allowed inside to pray. The Rebbe was also permitted to deliver a Chasidic discourse twice a week in front of 50 people after the Rebbe's doctor testified that it was crucial to the Rebbe's health.

In the meantime, efforts to secure the Rebbe's release were being made behind the scenes. Several high-ranking government officials who had heard about the Rebbe and held him in great esteem tried to exert their influence. The Rebbe was interrogated numerous times, during which he proved that not only were his connections to the Turkish Sultan completely fabricated, but his designs on the Kaiser's throne were equally fictitious.

At the end of several weeks the results of the investigation were turned over to the Minister of the Interior. The Minister was very impressed by the Rebbe's responses to all the questions, and decided that a direct confrontation between the Rebbe and his accuser was in order.

On the designated day the Rebbe dressed in his white Shabbat finery. When he walked into the Minister's office, the official was so disconcerted by his angelic appearance that he ordered a chair be brought to the Rebbe.

The informer began to heap his invectives upon the Rebbe, but one by one, the Rebbe dismissed the accusations entirely. At one point in the proceedings the accuser addressed the Rebbe as "Rebbe," prompting the Rebbe to turn to the Minister and remark, "Did you hear that? First he calls me a charlatan and a revolutionary, and in the next breath he calls me Rebbe!"

From that point on the accuser's allegations became increasingly illogical. The Minister was so irritated by his behavior that he ordered him to "stop barking," and he was led away in humiliation. The Rebbe was escorted back to his room with great deference, and informed that he would soon be released.

The Mitteler Rebbe was liberated on the 10th of Kislev, having been informed of the government's decision while reciting the verse from Psalms: "He has saved my soul in peace."

Moshiach Matters

When discussing the Redemption and the coming of Moshiach, one of the most frequently asked questions concerns the role of the non-Jew. Maimonides explains at length that it will be an era of universal peace. Moshiach will "improve the entire world, motivating all the nations to serve G-d together." As well, "in that era there will be neither famine nor war, envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and all delights will be as common as dust." And, ultimately, in the times of Moshiach, just as the Jew will be blessed a thousand-fold, so too, will the non-Jew.

(From Reflections of Redemption based on Likkutei Sichos 20, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m.)

  1497: Toldos1499: Vayishlach  
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