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1583: Matos-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

August 2, 2019 - 1 Av, 5779

1583: Matos-Masei

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  1582: Pinchas1584: Devarim  

Connecting  |  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


You're walking down the street and you see a person who looks perfectly normal walking toward you. You notice him talking to himself and look for the earbuds or blue-tooth, but there is none. He's gesturing, pointing and wagging his finger in the air to make a point. What's going on here?

As you get closer you avert your eyes. Perhaps he's not embarrassed but you sure are!

When you are within just a few feet of the individual, you chuckle to yourself. "Bose Sunglasses!"

Everywhere we go, at any time of day or night, people stay connected with family, friends and work via computers, phones or even watches!

Mitzvot, Divine precepts that guide and govern every aspect of a Jew's life from the moment of his birth to his last breath, are a means by which we connect with G-d. In fact, the word mitzva itself has two meanings: "commandment" and "connection."

And at any time of day or night, we can stay connected with G-d via mitzvot.

By commanding us the mitzvot, G-d created the means through which we can establish a connection with Him. The hand putting a few coins in a charity box, the mind thinking Torah thoughts, the lips curved into a smile to greet another person, the voice soaring in prayer, the stomach digesting matza on Passover, the ears hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashana, all become instruments to connect us with G-d. So there are mitzvot for each limb, organ and faculty of a person, mitzvot governing every aspect of a person's life, so that no part of him remains uninvolved in his relationship with his Creator.

Each time we do a mitzva we connect with G-d. Sometimes, the connection is so natural that we don't even notice it. At other times we feel the connection of a mitzva - tears streaming forth in a moment of prayer; an intangible peace as the Shabbat candles are lit; the slow exhale as tefilin straps are unwound.

But what about when there is no connection? When we're out of our home area and our service is roaming, when we forget to recharge the battery and the phone goes dead, or when we're driving through a tunnel and we get disconnected?

Our family, friends and office can't get in touch with us then. But G-d still can. Because we can never truly disconnect from G-d. "A Jew neither wants to nor can be disconnected from G-d," taught Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. Even if we think the connection is broken or that we got disconnected, we're still connected with G-d and He's still connected with us. Furthermore, we can still communicate with Him and vice versa. Because, in truth, the service never goes down, there's never a media messaging outage.

Maybe it's a wrong number or something has affected the microwaves. But the lack of connection is never permanent.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Haftora is always read during the Three Weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, with the portion of Maasei, or Matot-Maasei when they are together like this year.

In the Haftora, you can't help but feel G-d's hurt and pain, because of us having forsaken Him. "...What wrong did your forefathers find in Me, that they distanced themselves from Me, and went after futility..." And so it continues, until the end, where it brings verses from a later chapter that have a positive note.

The most hurt is felt in the verses, "Heavens be astonished by this... For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the source of living waters, in order to dig for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

Isn't forsaking G-d the worst possible thing? Once that has happened, it's over, why go any further? Why is digging broken cisterns even worse and more hurtful than forsaking G-d? And what positive lesson can we take from this?

G-d loves us, and wants a relationship with us. Just like a married couple are intrinsically one, because they share one soul, so too we have a soul that is actually part of G-d and makes us one with Him.

G-d gives Himself to us by giving us His essence, "the source of living waters," the Torah. After opening up Himself to us, what did we do? First, we forsook Him, and then we did something even more hurtful, we started digging for other waters.

This is the theme throughout the whole Haftora. G-d did concrete actions to prove that He is there for us: He took us out of Egypt, He took care of our every need in the desert, He brought us to and gave us the Holy Land, He showed us miracles daily in the Holy Temple. Not only did we forsake Him, we put our effort into idol worship, which is futile, like broken cisterns that don't hold water. Even if you bring your own water and pour it into them, they can't contain it. These false gods have no truth, and no ability to help you. What is worse they ruin your ability to recognize that which is really true.

Digging other waters is worse than forsaking G-d. When one just forsakes, it is bad, but it is not ruining the person's ability to see real truth, and one day, when he will search, he will be able to recognize truth for what it is.

Today, idolatry is not our issue. The issue is our replacing temporary truths with Torah. For over 3,000 years as a nation, the Torah - G-d's knowledge - has proven over and over again, to be true. Yet many give up Torah, and pursue other knowledges. What is true today however, it found to be false tomorrow.

The lesson here is to deepen our relationship with G-d, strengthening our essential bond with Him. By each of us adding in Torah study, whether in quality or quantity, we reverse the effects of our nation's failures. We reverse the desolation of the Three Weeks, the destruction of our Holy Temple and reveal the nature of our bond with G-d. May we experience all this soon, with Moshiach.

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

Happy Campers

Photos: Above Beachwood, Ohio: Clockwise from top left, Plano, Texas; Rostov, Russia; Montreal, Canada; Johannesburg, South Africa; Phoenix, Arizona; Special camp for hospitalized children in Israel; Ufa, Russia; Poconos, New York; Hancock Park, California.

There are hundreds of them around the world, with tens of thousands of campers. When the sun is at its zenith in every major city and on every continent, the Chabad-Lubavitch Gan Israel summer camps shine their light on yet another generation of Jewish children.

The Gan Israel camps span a diversity of cultures, languages and regions, extending from Alaska to Florida and from Australia to Zaire. But no matter how disparate, they are - like some spiritual Starbucks - all alike in their trademark spirit, joy and Jewish pride that permeate the Gan Israel camp experience.

In 1956, the Rebbe launched Gan Israel, an international network of summer camps, where children of all ages and walks of life learn to love their heritage while enjoying the best experience that camping offers.

In those days, enjoying a summer camp complete with sports, arts, crafts, and entertaining activities was a novelty reserved for children of families with means. When Gan Israel summer day and overnight camps were founded, the guiding principle was that every child deserves to gain from the integration of education and camp activities and that no child should be left out.

Gan Israel has grown into the world's largest network of Jewish summer camps. Typical activities such as swimming and sport, as well more specialized activities like science workshops, tennis, karate, and dance, all complement the spiritual programs that are the hallmark of Gan Israel: Jewish songs and creative Shabbat parties, ritual arts and crafts, and a variety of programs designed to generate interest and excitement in Jewish life and mitzva observance.

What's New

The name of our publication has special meaning.

It stands for the name of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (obm), wife of the Rebbe.

The Rebbe Writes

Continued from the previous issue from a letter dated 5 Tammuz, 5743 [1983]

It may be asked, if it is a "release" for the soul [when it passes on and returns to its heavenly source, unencumbered by the physical body], why has the Torah prescribed periods of mourning, etc.

But there is really no contradiction.

The Torah recognizes the natural feeling of grief that is felt by the loss of a near and dear one, whose passing leaves a void in the family, and the physical presence and contact of the beloved one will be sorely missed.

So, the Torah has prescribed the proper periods of mourning to give vent to these feelings and to make it easier to regain the proper equilibrium and adjustment.

However, to allow oneself to be carried away by these feelings beyond the limits set by the Torah - in addition to it being a disservice to oneself and those around, as well as to the neshama [soul], as mentioned above, would mean that one is more concerned with one's own feelings than with the feelings of the dear neshama that has risen to new spiritual heights of eternal happiness.

Thus, paradoxically, the overextended feeling of grief, which is due to the great love for the departed one, actually causes pain to the loved one, since the neshama continues to take an interest in the dear ones left behind, sees what is going on (even better than before), rejoices with them in their joys, etc.

One thing the departed soul can no longer do, and that is, the actual fulfillment of the mitzvos [commandments], which can be carried out only jointly by the soul and body together in this material world. But this, too, can at least partly be overcome when those left behind do a little more mitzvos and good deeds - in honor and for the benefit of the dear neshama.

More could be said on the subject, but I trust the above will suffice to help you discover within you the strength that G-d has given you, not only to overcome this crisis, but also to go from strength to strength in your everyday life and activities in full accord with the Torah.

The Torah recognizes the natural feeling of grief that is felt by the loss of a near and dear one, whose passing leaves a void in the family, and the physical presence and contact of the beloved one will be sorely missed.

In your case there is an added G-d-given capacity, having been blessed with lovely children, long may they live, with a strong feeling of motherly responsibility to raise each and every one of them to a life of Torah, chupah [marriage] and good deeds, with even greater attention and care than before, and in this, as in all good things, there is always room for improvement.

Now to conclude with a blessing, may G-d grant you much Yiddishe nachas [Jewish pride] from each and every one of your children, raising them to Torah, chupah and good deeds in good health and peace of mind, and in comfortable circumstances.

P.S. I do not know if you were aware of it when writing your letter on the 3rd of Tammuz. But it is significant that you wrote the letter on the anniversary of the beginning of the geula [redemption] of my father-in-law of saintly memory - an auspicious time for geula from all distractions and anxieties, to serve Hashem [G-d] wholeheartedly and with joy.

All Together

REUEL means "friend of G-d." Reuel was another name for Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, who joined the Jewish people during the their journey in the desert. (Exodus 2:18) RUTH is from the Syrian and Hebrew meaning "friendship." In the Book of Ruth, Ruth was a Moabitess who married the son of Naomi when they lived in Moab. When Naomi's sons and husband died, Ruth returned with Naomi to Israel and said the famous words, "Wherever you go, I will go. Your people will be my people." Ruth, a righteous convert to Judaism, was an ancestress of King David, and, therefore, Moshiach.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Friday is Rosh Chodesh Av, the yahrzeit of Moses' brother, Aaron the Priest.

As the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, on a yahrzeit, "all the deeds, Torah, and service for which a person toiled throughout his revealed...and 'brings about salvation in the depth of the world.' "

What was Aaron's special service? Aaron was the epitome of ahavat Yisrael, love for his fellow Jew. He was characterized by "loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the created beings and bringing them close to the Torah." Throughout his life Aaron made special efforts to spread love, peace and harmony among all Jews, especially husbands and wives.

For this reason Aaron was especially beloved, and when he passed away he was mourned by "the entire House of Israel" - both men and women. This was because the love he showed and encouraged among Jews relates to the essential point of the Jewish soul that transcends all division and differences between individuals.

The Hebrew letters comprising Aaron's name - alef-hei-reish-nun - reflect his all-encompassing love:

The alef stands for "ahava - love," the reish for "rabba - great," alluding to Aaron's tremendous ahavat Yisrael. The hei and the reish spell "har - mountain," which is frequently used as a metaphor for love. The letters of the alef itself can be rearranged to spell "peleh - wonder," indicating that Aaron's love was wondrous and unbounded.

Lastly, the final letter of Aaron's name, the long nun, protrudes below the line, expressing how he extended himself to all Jews without distinction, even those whose behavior was not up to par. Because Aaron's love was unbounded, it had the potential to extend to every single person, regardless of individual nature.

Emulating Aaron's example, let us all resolve to love our fellow Jews simply because they are Jewish, thereby hastening Moshiach's immediate arrival.

Thoughts that Count


The word matot, which means tribes, also means staffs. Staffs symbolize stability and permanence, like a staff which is hard and strong. Masei means "journeys," and alludes to a changing and non-permanent situation. The fact that the two Torah portions of Matot and Masei are read together teaches us that even when we are traveling on a journey, for vacation or business, we must be as vigilant and unchanging in our religious observance as when we are at home.

(The Rebbe)

To execute the vengeance of G-d on Midian (Num. 31:3)

The name Midian comes from the root madon, meaning quarrel and strife. Midian symbolizes contention and unwarranted hatred. Therefore, the war against Midian is truly "the vengeance of G-d." For, there is nothing as opposed to G-d as dissention and needless hatred.

(Sefer HaMaamarim)

These are the journeys of the Israelites (Num. 33:1)

Why does the Torah mention all 42 stops during the Jews' 40 year sojourn in the desert? To later generations it might seem beyond belief that millions of Jews survived 40 years in the desert. They might say the Jews traveled through habitable regions, sustaining themselves - like nomadic tribes - with regional water and vegetation. The Torah repeatedly describes the deserts, most completely uninhabitable, where the people could never have survived. This, therefore, would firmly implant in our hearts the belief that G-d Himself miraculously sustained us and led our people through the wilderness.


It Once Happened

In the year 361 of the Common Era, 293 years after the destruction of the Second Holy Temple, a new leader of the Roman Empire ascended the throne. Julian would be Caesar for only two years (from 361-363 CE), but his short reign would be distinguished by an unusually friendly relationship with the Jewish people. In fact, Julian was responsible for initiating an abortive attempt to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. We are aware of these events thanks to a Greek historian who recorded them for posterity some 80 years after they occurred.

Julian was a nephew of Constantine the Great, who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. He also moved its capital from Rome to Byzantium (Turkey), and changed its name to Constantinople.

When Constantine died, his three sons fought over who would take his place. Almost all the members of the royal family were murdered, with the exception of Julian. After traveling to Athens and studying philosophy, he became disaffected with Christianity and reverted to the ancient idolatry of the Romans.

Julian went on to become a celebrated military leader, enjoying many victories over the warring Germanic tribes. When the then-reigning Emperor decided to exile him to the Far East, his troops rebelled and established him as the new Caesar. One year later, he declared full religious freedom for all citizens of the Empire. In truth, he was far more benevolent toward his Jewish subjects than to his Christian ones. In an official letter addressed to the "Jewish communities" of the realm, he wrote that he was henceforth exempting the Jews from the special tax that had been levied against them, and declared himself a long-time defender of the Jewish people.

In the same letter he blamed his uncle, the late Emperor Constantine, and his uncle's cohorts, whom he termed "barbarians," for the state-sponsored and institutionalized discrimination against the Jews. At the end of the letter he reassured everyone that he had personally had them killed, and advised the Jews to forget about them and relegate their nefarious deeds to history. Julian also promised that after the war with the Persians ended he would rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem, "which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited; indeed, I will help you inhabit it."

In general, however, the Jews were unimpressed by Julian's professions of fellowship. They knew that they were not sincere, and were actually motivated by selfish political ambitions. Nor did they consider him a new "Cyrus," who had been sent by Divine Providence to bring their exile to an end and rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

In fact, the Greek historian who chronicled this episode wrote that Julian's "friendship" with the Jews was largely the result of his hatred for the Christians. Moreover, he hoped that they would ultimately follow his example and assimilate into the dominant Roman culture.

At one point, Julian summoned the Jewish elders and asked them why they were not keeping the Torah's laws with regard to the sacrifices. The elders explained that after the Holy Temple was destroyed bringing sacrifices was forbidden, as doing so depends on having a standing Temple with priests to serve in it.

To demonstrate his serious intentions, Julian then ordered that the Jews be given a considerable stipend from the royal treasury, so they could begin to take the first steps toward reconstruction. According to the historian, the Jews actually started recruiting artisans and laborers. Their first task, however, was to clear the Temple area from the filth and debris that had accumulated over the centuries. Women, too, joined in the work, while others contributed their jewelry. After the ground was cleared they were ready to lay the foundation stone, but an extremely powerful earthquake intervened. Huge boulders flew in all directions, and the earth split in many places. A number of Jewish workers were injured, houses came tumbling down, and many residents of the city lost their lives in the disaster.

When the dust settled, the laborers returned to their tasks. Some assumed they were still obligated to carry out the Emperor's orders, while other truly wished to continue. In any event, they refused to recognize the Divine Providence that was obviously against rebuilding the Temple at that time.

And then, as if to further indicate G-d's displeasure, a huge fire broke out at the construction site and many more workers were killed. At that point everyone agreed that the time had not yet arrived to build the Temple, and the project was halted.

Although there is no way to verify all the details in the Greek historian's account, it is undisputed that the Emperor Julian fell in battle against the Persians in 363, effectively putting an end to his plans.

The Rebbe has declared that the time for the Final Redemption has arrived. May we merit to see the Temple rebuilt immediately and at once.

Moshiach Matters

And you shall not render unclean the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the L-rd dwell in the midst of the children of Israel (Num. 35:34) Not only does G-d's Divine Presence accompany the Jewish people throughout the exile, but G-d Himself, as it were, goes into exile with them, sharing the suffering of the Children of Israel. Because of G-d's great love for His children, He does not abandon them even when they are exiled because of misdeeds. When Moshiach comes, the Divine Presence, no less than the Jews, will also be redeemed from exile.

(The Rebbe)

  1582: Pinchas1584: Devarim  
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