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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

December 28, 2018 - 20 Tevet, 5779

1553: Shemos

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

  1552: Vayechi1554: Vaera  

Shadows  |  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


Shadows. Every physical object has one.

Depending on the time of day (i.e., the sun's location in the sky) the very same object's shadow will be short and fat or tall and thin. Since your shadow is always with you, it is a built-in compass, as long as you're not in a forest or a city of skyscrapers.

It's also a ready-made source of outdoor fun for kids - remember trying to stand on your friend's shadow?

The Baal Shem Tov comments on the verse in Psalms, "G-d is your shadow at your right hand," that G-d has implanted a spiritual dynamic into the universe: Just as the movement of a person's body is reflected and magnified in his shadow, every step of our conduct in this world likewise arouses spiritual forces of incomparable power.

Every action we take in this physical world, every mitzva we do, has a reaction and ramification in the spiritual worlds.

But this concept of our conduct in this world impacting the spiritual worlds is not limited to physical actions. It also includes even our words (and thoughts) as illustrated by the following anecdote:

Once, while in the Baal Shem Tov's shul, two villagers were arguing. One shouted at the other that he would tear him to pieces like a fish. The Baal Shem Tov told his disciples to hold one another's hands, and to stand near him with their eyes closed. Then he placed his holy hands on the shoulders of the two disciples next to him, completing the circle. Suddenly the disciples began shouting in great terror: They had seen that fellow actually dismembering his disputant!

This incident shows clearly that every potential has an effect - either in physical form or on a spiritual plane that can be perceived only with higher and more refined senses.

With these teachings in mind, it might actually be a compliment to say of someone, "He's afraid of his shadow." If that "fear" is actually cautiousness toward his words and actions, fearing that they might have negative ramifications, then we would all do well to be afraid of our shadows.

But, lest one think that only our actions and our words create shadows, think again. For, in the words of the Previous Rebbe, "Thought is potent." Even our thoughts can effect the world. Thought knows no bounds; no partition can stand in its way; at all times it reaches its required destination.

We see an example of this from the story of Job, when his friends felt his plight despite their distance from him. People who are connected, friends or family, can often feel when someone is thinking about them. And if the thought is a warm one, one that shows concern for the person's situation, it can have lasting benefits. It can, according to Chasidic teachings, actually help a person spiritually and even materially.

And we all thought that a shadow was just an image cast on a surface by a body intercepting light!

Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah portion of Shemot we read that Moses struck and killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a Jewish slave. Moses hid the body in the sand, thinking that no one had seen. The next day he saw two Jews quarreling (Datan and Aviram). One raised his hand to hit the other. Moses said to him, "Why do you strike your friend?" The man retorted, "Who appointed you as a leader and judge over us, do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?!" Moses was afraid and said, "So the fact is known."

The Midrash tells us that Moses said, "You have spoken lashon hara (evil speech) between you, how are you worthy of redemption?"

From this Midrash is seems that Moses considered lashon hara so terrible that it could delay the redemption from Egypt. Why is lashon hara so horrific?

Upon being redeemed from Egypt we became a nation of our own, as it says about the Exodus, that G-d took for Himself "a nation from within (another) nation." And while we were a nation even before the Exodus, united with the common ideal and purpose to teach the world about G-d, in Egypt many Jews were influenced and became entrenched in the Egyptian culture and lost their sense of purpose.

And so Maimonides tells us that "out of G-d's love for us, and to keep the promise he made to Abraham. . . G-d chose Israel as His 'nachala' (portion). . ."

From these last words of Maimonides, the difference between the kind of nation we were before the Exodus and after the Exodus becomes clear. In Egypt, we were united under a common ideal, but G-d took us out of Egypt because He chose us, and we became a nation based on something greater than any human ideal, that G-d chose us to be His nachala. What is a "nachala?"

A nachala refers to the portion of the land of Israel that was given to a family, to stay in the family forever. In other words, when G-d chose us to be His nachala, it means that we became His nation forever. This uniting factor, being from G-d is not subject to change.

When G-d chose us as His nation, He included all of us, from the most righteous to the least. That is why even idolaters went out of Egypt, because they were also part of the nation that G-d chose. The only thing is that we had to be united, because if we weren't, then there would be no nation for G-d to choose. So the only thing that would hold up the redemption is disunity.

Now we can understand why lashon hara is so bad, and why it bothered Moses so much. The mere fact that someone speaks badly of another shows that there is disunity. And as mentioned earlier, when there is disunity, there is no nation for G-d to choose, and by extension, there is no redemption possible.

The unity of the Jewish people, is what caused the redemption from Egypt, and it is the same unity that will bring the future redemption. May it come soon.

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

A Slice of Life

No One is Forgotten

The Aleph Institute was founded in 1981 by Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipsker at the express direction of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Over 35 years since its founding, Aleph is fortunate to include in its network an impressive array of jurists, judges, attorney generals, and military officers, and to be recognized by both the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Aleph Institute's team has grown from just one rabbi to become a family to thousands of men and women who are in prisons around the world. Aleph's International department is now operating in over 20 countries.

Danny, who was an IDF Major in field intelligence and risked his life in top secret operations, was languishing in prison in Cambodia, for failure to pay a bank loan.

Danny had been imprisoned for 14 long, lonely months in very challenging conditions in the Phnom Penh prison in Cambodia when Aleph's International Advocacy team got wind of his plight.

Working closely with Rabbi Bentzion Butman, the Chabad emissary in the area, who was a tremendous support to the family, Aleph's team (led by Yonatan Hamborger - an Aleph volunteer from Los Angeles) worked tirelessly to advocate for Danny on many levels and to ensure he received the vital support he needed, and that his medical needs were addressed.

Every day, his dedicated wife rode on a rickshaw for 45 minutes to bring Danny kosher food, sponsored in part by The Aleph Institute and the local Chabad Synagogue. Without her dedicated daily trips, he would have gone hungry.

In a series of open and revealed miracles, Danny was finally released and allowed to return home to his family in Israel. In a very moving letter to Aleph, Danny wrote:

"Indeed, there was a great miracle here, in February 2018 you appeared in our lives as a redeeming angel bringing joy, hope and faith. We have not been abandoned. You have no idea how a prisoner feels, who reads this amazing sentence that says: 'No one is alone. No one forgotten.' "

In yet another miraculous outcome, Allen Lowe, an attorney who volunteers with Aleph, recently attended the wedding of a young man who was rescued from a Peruvian prison and transferred to Israel. (He'd gone through such abuse, including a broken pelvis after being thrown down two flights of stairs, while being held in custody.)

Allen worked closely with The Aleph Institute and the local emissary of the Rebbe in Peru - Rabbi Blumenfeld - to help secure the young man's safety and help him transfer to Israel. This young man, now healthy and thriving in Israel, helps others who are at risk.

In a tragic recent case, The Aleph Institute worked closely with Rabbi Blumenfeld, as well as with the financial support of hundreds of Jews around the world, to ensure that an Israeli who died in a Peruvian prison was able to be transported to Israel for burial.

Sandra benefitted from Aleph's re-entry division. "What Mrs. Colker and Aleph's re-entry department offered was so simple, and practical; yet I can honestly say it changed my life. She didn't offer an 'oh things will be fine attitude.' Instead she handed me a little gold nugget, and what I did with it was up to me. I will always be grateful for her kindness and her knowledge about employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals." Sandra received job resources from Aleph's re-entry division and was able to secure employment within three months after her release!

A woman incarcerated in California who was visited by Aleph volunteers wrote: "Dear Aleph, I want to thank you on behalf of the ladies here for sending the rabbinical students! Two young men both named Mendel arrived promptly at 9:30 this morning. They were a joy. They had great conversation, a lot of knowledge but most of all great compassion. I consider meeting the next generation of rabbis to be one of the greatest blessings I could ever receive. Thank you again for sharing such beauty with us. Shalom."

Aleph's International division works closely with local Chabad emissaries, rabbis and communities all over the world, to provide spiritual, emotional support, and advocacy to men/women in third world countries the world over. Many of these cases are truly matters of life and death where people are being held in the furthest places. If you know anyone in need of help, or who can help further this cause, please contact

What's New

Kaliningrad Synagogue Rededicated

Eighty years after the first and largest synagogue in Kaliningrad, Russia, was torched by the Nazis (may their names be erased) on Kristallnacht, the synagogue was rededicated. Originally built in 1896, it was the only synagogue in Russia that was destroyed on Kristallnacht. The ancient synagogue's exterior was preserved. The synagogue's crown jewel is its stained glass windows depicting the creation of the world, made by Mark Chagal.

Wit and Wisdom

Wit and Wisdom by Rabbi Yacov Barber is a distillation of his weekly Torah portion classes. The book contains inspirational thoughts on faith, friendship and life that can be culled from the weekly portion. Rabbi Barber's classes on-line have over one million views.

The Rebbe Writes

2nd of Tammuz, 5730

Greeting and Blessing:

After a long interval, I was pleased to receive your letter of last week, with enclosure.

For various reasons, I am replying in English, one of them being that you may wish to show the letter to some of the friends of Chabad in your community, for whom a Hebrew text may not be so easy.

Referring to the main topic of your letter, namely the dissemination of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] among the Jewish women, I can hardly overemphasize that this activity is one of the most basic and vital efforts for general strengthening of Yiddishkeit. The role of Jewish women in Jewish life goes back to the time of Mattan Torah [Giving of the Torah], as is well known from the commentary of our Sages on the verse, "Thus shall you say to the House of Jacob and tell the Rashi on this verse). In other words, before giving the Torah to the whole people of Israel, G-d told Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses]to first approach the women and then the men. This emphasizes the primary role of the Jewish wife and mother in preserving the Torah. Ever since, and throughout the ages, Jewish women have had a crucial role in the destiny of our people, as is well known. Moreover, the Jewish housewife is called Akeres habayis - " the foundation of the house." In addition to the plain meaning of this term, namely that she is the foundation of her own home, the term may be extended to include the whole "House of Israel," which is made up of many indivisual homes and families for, indeed, this has been the historic role of Jewish womanhood.

Being acutely aware of this role of Jewish women in Jewish life, especially in the most recent generations, my father-in-law of saintly memory frequently emphasized this, so much so that immediately after his liberation from Soviet Russia in 1927, when it became possible for him to publish his teachings, he published a number of discourses, talks and addresses in Yiddish in order to make them more easily accessible to Jewish women and daughters. There is no need to further elaborate on the obvious.

With blessing,

2nd of Shevat, 5740

Greeting and Blessing:

This is in reply to your letter in which you write that you would like to change your surname to Davidson.

As you surely know, from the viewpoint of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], there is a special significance to the given Hebrew name, but not to the surname, which could therefore be changed if desired. Especially in your case where you wish to change it in a way that would emphasize the Jewish aspect of it. Therefore, it is quite in order and may it be in a happy and auspicious hour.

The above has a special relevance to the Sidras [Torah portions]which we have been reading lately, dealing with the golus [exile] and Yetzias Mitzrayim [Exodus from Egypt]. For, as you surely know, our Sages declare that one of the merits of the Jewish people to make them worthy of the deliverance form Egypt was the fact that they did not change their Hebrew names, since thereby they not only preserved their Jewish identity, but also proclaimed it proudly.

There is no need to add that the essential thing is the everyday life and conduct in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch and I trust that your personal names, as well as your adopted surname, will always remind you of your obligations as well as privileges of being a Jew, a true son of our forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.

With blessing,

All Together

SHOSHANA means "rose." In Song of Songs, the verse "Like a rose among thorns" alludes to the Jewish people amongst the nations. The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah) refers to our matriarch Rebecca as a "rose amongst thorns" having grown up in the home of her wicked father and brother. The Yiddish version of the name is Raizel.

SHEMAYA is from the Aramaic, meaning "to hear." Shemaya was a prophet during the times of King Rehovoam (I Kings 12:22). Shemaya was also the name of the President of the Sanhedrin (Great Court) during the first century, b.c.e. He said, "Love work; abhor taking high office; and do not seek intimacy with the ruling power." (Avot 1:10)

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

There are many similarities between Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rambam) whose yartzeit is this Friday, 20 Tevet, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, whose yartzeit is this upcoming week on 24 Tevet.

The Rebbe spoke about the connection between the two in a talk on Shabbat, 24 Tevet, 1982.

He explained, "The connection between Rabbi Shneur Zalman and the Rambam is expressed in many stories and in many way.

"Each one was a leader of his generation, each one was a Jewish legal authority of his generation. And both continue to guide the generations that followed.

"There is also a unique and obvious similarity: When one speaks of Maimonides, one mentions "Rambam" - which while being an acronym for his name is actually how his Jewish legal work the Mishne Torah is known. One also mentions "The Guide for the Perplexed," his book on the Jewish world-outlook, matters of the heart, and prayer. Similarly, when speaking of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, for what was he most known? For his Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Code of Jewish Law) and his philosophical work Tanya.

"Another similarity is that Maimonides encountered tremendous opposition and persecution, more so than even Rabbi Shneur Zalman. And yet, those who actually took the time to explore and investigate Maimonides' teachings eventually became his staunchest supporters and disciples. And so, too, with Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

"The lesson for us is not to be discouraged when we are doing the right thing. Even if there are detractors or opposition, if and when they will properly investigate the reason for their opposition, they will find that there is nothing to oppose and ultimately they will become supporters.

Thoughts that Count

All the soul(s) that came out of the loins of Jacob were 70 soul(s) (Ex. 1:5)

The Children of Israel are referred to in the collective singular, "soul," whereas Esau's descendants are described in the plural, "souls." The sphere of holiness is characterized by awe of G-d, self-nullification and unity. (Think of two royal ministers, who, despite their disagreements, become totally nullified and of one mind in the presence of the king.) The opposite of holiness, however, is characterized by disunity and plurality.

(Siddur, with Chasidic notes)

And behold, it was a weeping boy... and she said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children" (Ex. 2:6)

How could Pharaoh's daughter have recognized that the child was Jewish, just from his cry? This is because a Jewish cry is unique; even when he weeps, a Jew is filled with hope.

(Rabbi Mordechai Chaim of Slonim)

And she called his name Moses... because out of the water have I drawn him (Gen. 2:10)

The name Moses ("Moshe" in Hebrew) comes from the verb "to draw out," and is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing action. This alludes to the task of the true Jewish leader, which is to elevate the Jew from the depths of physicality and guide him toward the shores of spiritual safety. Moses, the first Jewish leader, was the prototype for all time; his actions are continued by the "reflection of Moses" that exists in every generation.

(Teivot Shalom)

It Once Happened

In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia, and the route of the invasion led through White Russia. Rabbi Shneur Zalman, leader of the Chasidic movement in White Russia, who had twice been accused of high treason, turned out to be a most loyal patriot. Although the French conqueror was hailed in some religious Jewish quarters as the harbinger of a new era of political and economic freedom, Rabbi Shneur Zalman saw in Napoleon a threat to basic religious principles and spiritual values.

The Rebbe had nothing but contempt for the man whose arrogance and lust for power knew no bounds, and who represented to the Chabad leader the antithesis of humility and holiness. The Rebbe urged his numerous followers to help the Russian war effort against the invaders in every possible way. With the aid of his followers behind the enemy lines, some of whom were employed by the French Military Command, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was also able to render valuable intelligence service to the Russian generals at the front.

When the French armies approached Liadi, the Russian generals advised Rabbi Shneur Zalman to flee. In August (1812) the Rebbe hastily left Liadi, leaving everything behind, and fled with his family towards Smolensk. For some five months Rabbi Shneur Zalman and his family suffered the hardships and perils of the road and of an unusually inclement winter, until they reached a village in the district of Kursk. Here the Rebbe succumbed to a severe illness in the final stages of the harrowing journey, and passed away at the age of 68.

Traditions and records preserved in the family of Rabbi Shneur Zalman provide interesting details in connection with the Rebbe's last and fateful journey. From an account by Rabbi Nachum, grandson of the Rebbe, relating his personal experiences, we learn the following details:

The Rebbe fled from Liadi on the advice of the generals commanding the Russian armies in that area. Sixty wagons were put at his disposal, but they were not enough, and many had to walk on foot. A number of armed troops were assigned to accompany and protect the caravan. In view of the rapid advance of the French army, the generals suggested that the best route for the flight of the Rebbe would be through the town of Bayev. But the Rebbe decided to head for Krasna, urging the caravan to make the utmost haste, in order to cross the river Dnieper at the earliest possible time.

After covering a distance of about two miles, the Rebbe suddenly requested that the accompanying troops to let him go back to Liozna. Arriving at his deserted house, he ordered his men to search the house carefully to make sure that nothing whatever, however trivial, had been overlooked. The only things found were a pair of worn-out slippers, a rolling pin and a sieve, which had been left in the attic. He ordered these to be taken along, and to set the house on fire before the enemy arrived, first removing the sacred Torah scrolls from the adjacent synagogue. Then he blessed those of the townspeople who remained in the town, and speedily departed again.

No sooner had he left the town on the road leading to the Dnieper than the "front-runner" of Napoleon's army reached the town from the opposite end. Presently, Napoleon himself with his entourage entered the town on their galloping steeds. Napoleon inquired after the house of the Rebbe, but when he reached it, he found it ablaze, the fire burning beyond control. Napoleon wished to have something which belonged to the Rebbe and offered a rich reward to anyone who could bring him anything. But nothing was there. [It seems that Napoleon practiced some sort of sorcery for which such an object was required.]

During all his long and arduous journey Rabbi Schneur Zalman kept in touch with the situation of Russian Jewry caught in the gigantic Franco-Russian war. The retreating Russian armies, using the scorched earth policy in order to deprive the enemy of vitally needed supplies, exacted a tremendous sacrifice from its own people. At the same time the invading armies plundered everything they could lay their hands on. Starvation and ruination were the order of the day, and the Rebbe's heart went out to his suffering brethren, who were the most hard-hit victims of the invasion.

The Rebbe had foreseen Napoleon's invasion of Moscow as well as his defeat there. He also predicted that Napoleon's final defeat would be at the hands of his own compatriots. At the same time he knew that the retreating French armies, starving and desperate, would plunder the Jewish communities which lay in their path. Arriving in Piena, the Rebbe embarked upon a relief campaign to aid the Jewish victims of the war, including resettlement plans, fund raising, and relief distribution. For ten days after his arrival in Piena the Rebbe worked feverishly on his plans and projects to alleviate the plight of his brethren. Then, he fell ill, his condition worsening day to day.

At the conclusion of Shabbat he composed a letter full of mystical allusions, and a few minutes later he returned his soul to his Maker.

From Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Kehot Publication Society

Moshiach Matters

In this week's Torah portion we read, "Behold his hand was as leprous and white as snow...and behold it was turned again as his other flesh." (Ex. 4:6,7) Leprosy is symbolic of Exile and healthy flesh symbolizes the Redemption. Through this sign, G-d hinted to Moses that the leprosy-exile would be transformed into healthy flesh - the redemption, and could occur in the blink of an eye.

(Ohr HaTorah)

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