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Devarim Deutronomy

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1530: Matos-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

July 13, 2018 - 1 Av, 5778

1530: Matos-Masei

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

  1529: Pinchas1531: Devarim  

Going Home  |  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

Going Home

The business trip is over - finally. Successful? Oh, yes. In fact, the most successful business trip you've ever taken. But grueling. It was cross-country and even took you overseas. There were delays, lousy accommodations, scheduling conflicts, missed appointments, and a few good deals gone sour at the last moment.

It was all worth it, though. You made invaluable contacts - lifetime commitments. Some excellent sales. Even on the rare occasion when you didn't close the deal, you succeeded in changing the other guy's mind a little. The most hostile contact had in the end to acknowledge the truth of your presentation, whether or not he accepted your offer. And changing that mind set from negative to positive, might bring more in the future. So really, every minute of the trip paid off somehow.

But you've been gone from home a long time. Way too long. It seems you've lost track of time. Sometimes it's hard to remember what the house looks like. And the family - oh, sure, you talk to them on the phone, keep in touch by long distance, but of course it's not the same. You want to be with them. Only now do you realize how much you miss them.

And then, it happens. Your flight is delayed. Bad weather. An engine malfunction. You're stuck, so close, so very close, but with no way to get out of the airport, no way to get home. You're tired, frustrated, angry and not a little worried. Will they cancel your flight? Will you ever get home?

When at last the announcement comes to board the plane, your relief and joy know no bounds.

We the Jewish people have been on a "business trip" for over two thousand years. It's taken us across countries and over all the seas. We've been "selling" G-dliness, changing how the world views itself and how it acts, even though sometimes that change seems imperceptible. But the goodness in the world, a goodness that stems from the holiness in the Torah, has been growing. And it's grown because wherever we've gone we've established holiness, revealing the truth of Torah and inculcating the value of mitzvot (commandments).

Of course there have been obstacles, delays, hostilities, hardships, etc. But when we look back on our accomplishments, on the sparks of holiness we've gathered, on the transformation of the world into a dwelling place for G-d, we must feel that ultimately, it was all worth it.

Yet now, now when it's time to go home there are delays, disappointments and diversions. It's been so long since we've been home, home living in peace and security. It's been so long since we've been home in Israel, an Israel unthreatened, whole, without internal strife. It's been so long since we've been home in a Jerusalem, united, with the Holy Temple standing, and all the people visibly experiencing the Divine Presence. We're so close to Moshiach, to the final Redemption, that any postponement, hindrance or impediment makes us tired, frustrated, angry and not a little worried.

We don't want to wait any more. We want to go home.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portion, Matot and Massei. In Massei, the 42 journeys and encampments of the Children of Israel are listed. The list begins with the Exodus from Egypt and concludes with the Jewish people's encampment on the plains of Moab across the river from Canaan.

In Massei the boundaries of the Land of Israel are deliniated, the land is apportioned to the various tribes, and cities of refuge as safe-havens and places of exile for inadvertent murderers are designated as well. Finally, the daughters of Tzelafchad marry within their own tribe of Manasseh, so that the portions that they inherited from their father would not pass on to another tribe.

Massei is always read during the Three Weeks, the time of year that we mourn the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the exile of our people.

What message is found in all this for us now?

A main focus of Massei is the boundaries the Land of Israel and apportioning of the land. This emphasizes to us that every Jew has a portion in the Holy Land. That every Jew has a portion in the Land shows a natural unity among the Jewish people. It is specifically through love and unity that we merit the Holy Land.

When we are united, we are even stronger. We help each other overcome obstacles.

Now, during the Three Weeks is a time to strengthen our bonds of friendship, especially those with whom we have the most difficulty. Now is the time to overcome our differences!

When Jewish people are unified with love and friendship it gives G-d the greatest pleasure. It is almost irresistible to G-d, to see his children in a state of togetherness.

More than any other mitzva (commandment), Ahavat Yisrael (love between Jews), is what will end this exile. We need Moshiach now more than ever.

Massei is the last portion in the book of Bamidbar (Numbers). At the conclusion of the Torah reading, we call out "Be strong, be strong and be strengthened."

Our brave soldiers in the Isaeli farmy fight to protect our brothers and sisters in our homeland. We should do our part from wherever we are, by studying extra Torah, praying, and giving charity in their merit.

Let us wish them "chazak," be strong, we are with you and G-d is with you. We are in this together.

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

Sharon and the Rebbe

Ariel Sheinerman was born on Sept. 27, 1928 in Kfar Mala, a small agricultural settlement near Tel Aviv, where he spent his childhood. The Sheinerman family lived in a very modest bungalow.

Ariel was all set to follow in his father's footsteps and study agronomy when Israel's War of Independence broke out. The young fighter earned many decorations as a platoon leader.

In the early 1950s, Arab terrorists were routinely infiltrating into Israel, murdering innocent Jews. This is when the famed Unit 101, an elite commando anti-terrorist squad, came into being. Sheinerman, who was now known as Ariel (Arik) Sharon, was part of this legendary unit.

A few years later, Arik Sharon was appointed commander of the Golani Brigade, whose acts of reprisal eventually led to the Sinai Campaign. Sharon, as head of the army's parachutists, led the first attack of its kind in Israeli history.

Sharon would later serve in many other important military capacities, from head of the armored corps to director of training. During the Six-Day War his name was associated with another famous encounter that effectively opened up the path to the Suez Canal.

It was shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967 when a small group of Chabad Chasidim from Jerusalem set up a tefillin stand in front of the newly-liberated Western Wall. Among the tens of thousands of Jews who would put on tefillin, many for the first time, was Ariel Sharon. Among those present that day was a chasid who related the incident to the Rebbe. The Rebbe asked, "Nu, and what happened next?" When Chabad activist Rabbi Yitzchok Gansburg heard about the Rebbe's response, he kept a note on his desk as a reminder to follow up on the connection with Ariel Sharon.

Unfortunately, a terrible tragedy took place in the Sharon household only a few weeks later. Sharon was at home with his two sons, Omri and Gur, when all of a sudden a shot rang out, followed by a scream.

Eleven-year-old Gur had been playing with a hunting rifle when it accidentally went off and killed him. In Sharon's own words, "This is something a person thinks that he can never overcome, that it is impossible to ever recover from and continue on with your life. At that moment, your whole world is destroyed. I thought so, too. It was very, very difficult. In the beginning, you are reliving that moment thousands of times a minute. The pain never goes away. It is always there - you carry it around on your back wherever you go. But people are tested all the time. Some people are able to withstand even the very worst trials and continue to function. I was fortunate to have the strength to do this."

When Rabbi Gansburg heard about the accident he decided to visit Sharon. As he recalls:

"Sharon's house was filled with army generals. I sat down, and a few minutes later Arik walked into the room. As soon as he saw me he called me over into a side room and asked me what I, as a religious person, thought about the tragedy.

"I said to him, 'I'm only a simple Jew. I don't know what to tell you. The only thing I suggest is that you write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He will give you the right answers.'

"After I explained that the Rebbe is the leader of the entire Jewish people, and that every individual Jew's pain is the Rebbe's pain, he agreed to write a letter that very night. I told him I would come back the following morning to pick it up."

The next night Rabbi Gansburg came back with several other Lubavitchers. "The house was full. First we prayed the evening service and Arik said Kaddish. Then he gave us his complete attention, and swallowed up everything that one of the rabbis told him. We left him a tallis and tefillin and a small siddur. Before we left he asked us to please ask the Rebbe to write him a few words of encouragement, as the tragedy had affected him to the depths of his being. On the way out, his close friend Zev Amit walked us to the door and told us that Arik had been looking forward to our return visit."

The letter of consolation that the Rebbe sent (see "The Rebbe Writes") was the beginning of a decades-long correspondence.

The letter was sent to Sharon via Rabbi Gansburg, with the following message from the Rebbe's secretariat: "Enclosed is a letter from the Rebbe to Mr. Ariel (Arik) Sharon. As not many personal details are known about the addressee, exactly when and how to deliver the letter is left to your discretion. Please keep us posted, and thank you in advance."

Rabbi Gansburg returned to Sharon's house for a third time, accompanied by several elder Chassidim. He gave him the Rebbe's letter, and spent a long time discussing it with him.

From that point on, Sharon's encounters with Chabad Chasidim became more frequent. Around that time that the Jewish Agency sent Sharon to the United States. When Rabbi Gansburg heard about the impending trip, he suggested to Sharon that he take the opportunity to meet the Rebbe in person.

Sharon described his first encounter with the Rebbe to Rabbi Gansburg: "Before I went in to the Rebbe, I assumed I would be meeting a Chasidic rabbi whose only field of expertise was in the realm of Torah. I was astounded when the Rebbe began to talk about defense issues so authoritatively one would have thought he was a general in the IDF!

"One of the topics that came up was the battle for Kalkiliya. The Rebbe asked me why eight soldiers had fallen. When I explained to the Rebbe that we had had to cross a certain wadi where the enemy had been lying in wait, the Rebbe said, 'But why did you have to go through that wadi? Surely you could have approached the city from another direction...' The Rebbe then drew up a diagram of how we should have captured Kilkiliya, as if he had consulted the most detailed military map of the region!

"Then the Rebbe started talking about the different weapons in use by the IDF. Here, too, I was shocked by his knowledge. The Rebbe even asked me why we were using a certain gun instead of a superior model. The Rebbe was so thoroughly familiar with all our military vehicles it was as if he was receiving daily intelligence updates!"

From Beis Moshiach Magazine.

Continued in next issue.

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Mendel and Nechama Danow will be establishing a new Chabad Center in Pensacola, Florida, to serve the Jewish population in the area and its surrounding towns. Pensacola is home to two universities and the new Chabad Center will also cater to the needs of the Jewish students at the universities.

Curiosity and the Desire for Truth

A NASA scientist, Dr. Velvel Greene, recounts his search for higher meaning and deeper understanding of purpose. From the first word to the final note, Curiosity and the Desire for Truth is a masterful presentation of Divine Providence, science and religion. The book also gives us a glimpse of Dr Greene's extensive interactions, correspondence and relationship with the Rebbe.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated by Rabbi Zushe Kohn

13 Tishrei, 5738 [1977]

I was deeply grieved to read in the newspaper about the tragic loss of your tender son, may he rest in peace. We cannot fathom the ways of the Creator. During a time of war and peril you were saved - indeed, you were among those who secured the victory for our nation, the Children of Israel, against our enemies, in which "the many were delivered into the hands of the few, etc." - yet, during a time of quiet and in your own home, such an immense tragedy occurred! But if it is not surprising that a small child cannot comprehend the ways of a great, venerable, and elderly sage, even though it is only a finite gulf that separates them, then it is certainly not surprising that a created being cannot comprehend the ways of the Creator, Who is infinitely transcendent.

Obviously, the aforesaid does not come to minimize the hurt and pain in any way. Despite the vast distance between us, I wish to express my sympathies. At first glance it would appear that we are distant from one another not only geographically, but also - or even more so - in terms of being unfamiliar, indeed, unaware of each other, until the Six Day War, when you became famous and celebrated as a commander and defender of our Holy Land and its inhabitants, and as a person of powerful abilities. G-d shined His countenance upon you and granted you success in your activities - indeed a victory of unexpected proportion.

But on the basis of a fundamental, deeply rooted, Jewish principle, namely, that all Jews are kindred, the fame that you received served to reveal something that existed even before, i.e., the interconnectedness of all Jews, whether of the Holy Land or of the Diaspora. It is this interconnectedness that spurred me to write the above-mentioned words to you and your family.

Another factor that motivated me to write this letter is the great arousal that you affected in the hearts of many of our Jewish brethren when you put on tefillin at the Western Wall, an act which merited great publicity and echoed powerfully and positively into the various stratums of our nation, both in places near and far.

An element of solace - indeed, more than just an element - is expressed in the ritual blessing, hallowed by scores of generations of Torah and tradition among our people: "May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."

At first glance, the connection between the mourner to whom this blessing is directed and the mourners of Jerusalem's destruction appears to be quite puzzling. In truth, however, they are connected, for as mentioned, the main consolation embodied by this phrase is in its inner content, namely, that just as the grief over Zion and Jerusalem is common to all the sons and daughters of our people, Israel, wherever they may be (although it is more palpable to those who dwell in Jerusalem and actually see the Western Wall and the ruins of our Holy Temple, than to those who are far away from it, nonetheless, even those who are far, experience great pain and grief over the destruction) so is the grief of a single individual Jew or Jewish family shared by the entire nation. For, as the Sages have taught, all of the Jewish people are one composite structure.

Another point and principle, expressing double consolation, is that just as G-d will most certainly rebuild the ruins of Zion and Jerusalem and gather the dispersed of Israel from the ends of the earth through our righteous Moshiach, so will He, without a doubt, remove the grief of the individual, fulfilling the promise embodied by the verse, 'Awaken and sing, you who repose in the dust.' Great will be the joy, the true joy, when all will be rejoined at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead.

There is yet a third point: Just as in regard to Zion and Jerusalem, the Romans - and before them, the Babylonians - were given dominion only over the wood and stone, silver and gold of the Temple's physical manifestation but not over its inner, spiritual essence, contained within the heart of each and every Jew - for the gentile nations have no dominion over this and it stands eternally - so too regarding the mourning of the individual, death dominates only the physical body and concerns of the deceased person. The soul, however, is eternal; it has merely ascended to the World of Truth. That is why any good deed performed by the mourner that accords with the will of the Giver of Life adds to the soul's delight and merit, and to its general good.

May it be G-d's will that henceforth you and your family know no hurt and pain, and that in your actions in defense of our Holy Land... and in your observance of the mitzva of tefillin - and one mitzva brings another in its wake - you will find comfort.

With esteem and blessing.

All Together

REFAEL means "G-d has healed." He was one of the angels sent to heal Avraham after his circumcision. In Chronicles I 26:7, Refael was a Levite who served in the Temple. RACHEL means "ewe," a symbol of purity and breeding. Rachel was the wife of Jacob (Genesis 29:16) and father of Benjamin and Josef. Rachel's tomb lies just outside of Bethlehem. Rabbi Akiva publicly declared that all his learning was due to the encouragement and hard work of his wife, who was also named Rachel.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Friday is the first day of the month of Av. With the beginning of Av, the three week mourning period over the destruction of the Temple intensifies.

The first of Av was also the day on which Aaron, the High Priest and brother of Moses, passed away.

Concerning his passing, the Torah tells us that "All of the house of Israel wept for Aaron for 30 days." But only the men wept for Moses and not the women. Why was this? Because Aaron had made peace between a man and his wife, and between a person and his friend, so all of the Jewish people mourned him.

Certainly it is Divine Providence that Aaron, who was known as a "pursuer of peace," passed away just on the day when, hundreds of years later, we would be intensifying our mourning over the destruction of the Temple? His life's work, evident even at his passing and how he was mourned, teaches us how to remedy the reason for which the Temple was destroyed.

Our Sages tell us that the first Temple was destroyed because the Jews indulged in idolatry, adultery and murder. The second Temple was destroyed through the sin of causeless hatred. We see, then, that hatred and divisiveness among Jews is equal to idolatry, adultery and murder.

We have much to learn from Aaron and his passing. But, most importantly, we must learn to emulate the wonderful example he showed us, that of doing everything in our power to bring peace and harmony amongst our fellow Jews. When this happens, we will no longer mourn the passing of Aaron, nor the destruction of the Holy Temples, for we will all be united, together as one, in the Third and Everlasting Holy Temple, NOW!

Thoughts that Count

All Torah study not combined with work will cease in the end and lead to sin. (Ethics 2:2)

Although the obvious meaning of the term "work" is actual labor, the Baal Shem Tov explained that in this context, "work" refers to ahavat Yisrael - our efforts to establish bonds of love with other Jews. For Torah study to be perpetuated, it must be coupled with ahavat Yisrael. Why does the mishna refer to ahavat Yisrael as "work"? To teach us that we must strain to extend our ahavat Yisrael to include even those whom we have no inclination to love. And we must use every means possible to reach out to others.

(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. I, p. 260-261)

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five outstanding disciples... He used to enumerate their praiseworthy qualities: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya - happy is she who bore him (Ethics 2:9)

- Why does the mishna ascribe happiness to Rabbi Yehoshua's mother? Because she was to a large degree responsible for his greatness. When Rabbi Yehoshua was an infant, she would hang his cradle in the House of Study so that he would become accustomed to the sweet sing-song of Torah study. As he matured, the influence of his formative years played a large part in shaping his sage-like character. This message is relevant to Jewish women today, for they bear the responsibility for shaping the environment of their children. A child is always learning from his surroundings; whatever he sees or hears makes an impression. When the child's home - and more particularly, his individual room - is filled with Torah teachings, a charity box is proudly displayed and a siddur is always handy, the values of study, kindness, and prayer will permeate his character.

(Sichot Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim, 5736)

Rabbi Eliezer said: "Cherish the honor of your colleague as your own" (Ethics 2:10)

- Rabbi Eliezer possessed far greater knowledge than his colleagues. Indeed, his colleagues would refer to him as Rabbi Eliezer the Great and as "Sinai,"36 indicating their recognition of him as the repository of our Torah heritage. Despite his greatness, he appreciated the need to cherish the honor of others.

(Sefer HaSichot 5748, Vol. II, p. 563)

From In the Paths of Our Fathers,

It Once Happened

Reb Yehoshua Milner owned a mill in Jerusalem over a hundred years ago. A devout and scholarly man, he made a good living from the mill, although he almost never went there. The old-fashioned mill was situated near a river and the huge millstone was turned by the steady and patient treading of a horse which spent its days pacing round and round in an endless circle. The working of the mill was supervised by the manager, Reb Shmuel. And so, Reb Yehoshua was free to devote all his time to Torah study.

When Reb Shmuel passed away another man was hired to be the manager of the mill. This new manager decided to improve the mill by replacing the slow, old horse with a new massive one, stronger by far than the other horses that had worked there before. The new horse accomplished work so much more quickly than the previous ones, that it became known as "the wonder horse."

Soon word of this magnificent horse spread through the countryside, and bidders came from near and far to try to buy the fabulous animal. Much more money was waiting to be made through the horse if it would be used for other more demanding tasks, such as pulling huge loads, or transporting the wealthy from place to place.

Reb Yehoshua was unwilling to sell the horse, and he refused all bids that were presented to him. However, no matter how many times he said "no," and how many people he rebuffed, offers continued to come his way from people who wished to purchase the horse. Finally, when Reb Yehoshua tired of the continual interruptions to his Torah study, he set a price for "the wonder horse" of 25 Napoleons, a sum that would support a family for two years. Surely, no one would be so foolhardy as to make an offer like that! Reb Yehoshua, however, underestimated the tenacity of his would-be buyers. One merchant actually came up with the sum and a deal was struck.

The night before the sale was to be finalized, Reb Yehoshua couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned in his bed until, finally, in the middle of the night, he gave up. He dressed and left the house, telling his family he would soon return.

His employees were shocked to see the owner, Reb Yehoshua, arrive at the mill. As he never visited the mill during the day, what was he doing there in the middle of the night? Reb Yehoshua walked straight up to the horse as all of the employees looked on. He stopped at the horse's side and whispered in the mighty animal's ear, "Shmuel, I forgive you completely." When the horse heard those words, it literally dropped dead. Reb Yehoshua said nothing and returned to his home.

The next day news quickly spread that "the wonder horse" had died the previous night, for no apparent reason. "A healthy horse!" everyone exclaimed, and a horse worth 25 Napoleons! Who had ever heard of such a thing!

Reb Yehoshua called his family and friends and related the amazing story of the previous evening. "Last night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned and when I fell asleep at last, I had a very strange dream. In the dream my former employee, Shmuel, appeared to me and said, 'I must confess to you. I wasn't the wonderful manager you thought me to be. I stole from you throughout all the years I worked at the mill. When I died and appeared before the Heavenly Court, I was informed that the only way I could expiate my terrible sin against man and G-d was to return to earth in the form of your mill horse so that I could repay my debt to you. I was given an especially strong body so that I could work extra hard. For months I toiled tirelessly, making up for what I stole from you throughout the years. But it seems I did my job too well, for I became renowned for my strength and stamina. When I heard that you were planning to sell me, I was horrified. I would not be able to expiate my sins unless I was working for you in your mill. If you would sell me, I would have to return to earth once more, perhaps in an even lesser form, to atone for my misdeeds. I cannot bear the idea of returning again, so I beg you, please forgive me for what I did to you.'

"When I heard his plea, I jumped up out of bed and ran immediately to the mill. I went up to the horse and told him that I forgave him with all my heart. And when he heard my words, he expired, for he had fulfilled his purpose here on earth. Now, poor Shmuel will find his peace in the next world."

Moshiach Matters

The Midrash relates, G-d showed Ezekiel the Temple to be built by Moshiach and declared: "Tell the people of Israel of the Temple." Ezekiel asked: "Why are You telling me to go and tell Israel of the Temple?... They are now in exile. Is there anything they can do about it? Let them be until they return from the Exile. Then, I will go and tell them." G-d answered: "Should the construction of My House be ignored because My children are in exile.... The study of the Temple's design can be equated to its actual construction. Go, tell them to study the Temple's form. As a reward for their study, I will consider it as if they had actually built the Temple."

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