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1587: Re'eh

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August 30, 2019 - 29 Av, 5779

1587: Re'eh

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

  1586: Eikev1588: Shoftim  

Looking in the Right Direction  |  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

Looking in the Right Direction

In general, as we walk along the twists and turns of life's promenade, we focus straight ahead, diverting our attention now and then to the right or to the left.

When taking a walk after a heavy rain, we walk with downcast eyes to avoid puddles and mud. A downward glance is also in order when searching for a lost item.

Our gaze is drawn to the skies above when we've sighted a flock of birds flying in formation, or when trying to determine if the storm will hold off until we get home, or when hearing the squeals of a delighted child who has spotted a kite dancing in the wind.

You can look up and you can look down. You can look sideways, front and back. It's a free world, so depending on what you need to see, you can look most anywhere you want.

But, is there a preferred place to look? Judaism, of course, has something to say about where and where not to look.

Peering into the Torah gives us our first insight:

When the non-Jewish prophet Bilam was attempting to curse the Jewish people as they dwelled peacefully in the Sinai desert, the words that tumbled out of his mouth were actually words of blessing. He said, "Ma Tovu-How good are your tents Jacob, your dwelling places Israel." We say these words each day in our morning prayers and sing them to express Jewish unity and brotherhood at camps or retreats.

Classical Jewish teachings explain that the cause of Bilam's blessing and awe of the Jewish people was that as they were encamped, each tent was pitched or situated in a way that allowed for the total privacy of every family. In addition, every family respected everyone else's privacy; no one attempted to pry into his neighbor's business which included not being concerned with what the neighbor possessed.

Surely the sentiments of "Ma Tovu" are positive steps toward Jewish unity: privacy, non-interference, no attempt to keep up with the Schwartzes.

Jewish mysticism takes the idea of where to look and where not to look one step further: In spiritual matters one should look up, in material matters one should look down, Chasidut suggests.

When working on one's relationship with friends, family, colleagues, and certainly G-d, one should "look up" to a mentor or role model who has healthy, strong and dynamic interactions.

Conversely, regarding our financial, physical or other situations - we should "look down" at (but not down on) those who are not as fortunate, and recognize

just how blessed we are.

To this outlook one might object, "Someone else's life is not my reality; his sack of woes is not mine." But if, rather than looking at whoever has a bigger house, a better job or fewer aches and pains, we consider that there are people without housing altogether, people whose employers have down-sized them out of a job, when we acknowledge that, thank G-d, we're alive to complain about the aches and pains, we will realize how fortunate we truly are.

In the Days of Moshiach we are promised that there will be no jealousy or strife. Each of us will have everything we need and we will recognize that we have everything we need! Perhaps even now, in these last moments before the Redemption, we can have a "happy with our lot" mindset, and certainly this will prepare us for and hasten the long-awaited revelation of Moshiach.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Re'eh, begins with the continuation of Moses' words to the Jewish people before his passing: "Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse." Thus G-d spoke to the Jewish people through Moses.

Jewish philosophical teachings explain that G-d is all good. That being the case, how can we understand this verse? What does it mean that G-d gives a curse?

The question is further compounded because in this instance; G-d refers to Himself as "Anochi." Anochi means "I." It is not a name of G-d. When G-d refers to himself as "Anochi" He is referring to His essence, greater than any of His names. How is it possible that the essence of G-d be connected to a curse?

Targum Yonaton translates the word "curse" (klolo) as "it's exchange," (chilufa). In other words there is a blessing and then something other. Similar but different.

There are different kinds of blessings. There are superficial blessings, the ones we all see; basic pleasures we recognize as good. Then there is a deeper good that comes into the world through difficulty and suffering. We don't see them as blessings at the onset, however with time we recognize how they are truly blessings.

Many times, it's the suffering that brings the greatest amount of change in the world.

So the verse could be understood like this:

"Behold I give before you a revealed blessing and a concealed blessing."

Anochi, G-d's essence, then, is only connected to blessing - different kinds of blessing.

Unfortunately, no one is free from suffering. Recognizing that all of life's challenges are from G-d will keep you positive, as you will be filled with a sense of deep purpose knowing that your struggle is making a difference.

May G-d send clear, open revealed blessing. There is no need for suffering anymore. We are all ready for Moshiach to come. May it happen now!

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

You Have a Friend in Cuba!
by Chava Gelman

From a speech at the Chabad Friends of Cuban Jewry Dinner

I grew up with my father's stories and his connection to Judaism in such a forgotten and small community.

My father, Mordechai Gelman, was born in Cuba in 1970, just one month after his parents left the port of Odessa. Until he was seven years old, he had no idea what the word "Jew" meant. The only Jewish experience he remembers from his early years was the language (Yiddish). During a visit to Odessa when he was 4 or 5 years old, he remembers his grandparents speaking with the older people in a different language than Russian. He remembers how proud his great-grandma was when, before leaving, my father used to shout on Odessa's street "A git nacht."

When he was seven, my father asked his parents to go to the school near the Soviet embassy that his friends attended. But his mother told him, "Better stay in a Cuban school. Many Russians do not like Jews, and Cubans do not know what a Jew is." That was the first time he was told he is Jewish, but still, the only understanding of what it is, was that language spoken by old people in Odessa.

Something changed when my father became 13. My great-grandparents decided to join the family in Cuba. My great-grandmother gave my father a Soviet wristwatch as a "Bar Mitzvah" present and told him that for Jews, beginning at the age of 13 a boy is already an adult!

From the time his grandparents arrived in Cuba, my father spent time listening to stories from the past: pogroms, Holocaust, anti-Semitism. During that time of his life, Jewish oppression was the only Jewish concept he knew about Judaism.

When my father was 17, he went to the Soviet Union to study physics at the University of Kharkov. That was in the time of Perestroika, Glasnost and the beginning of the revival of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union. Finally my father had a bit of an opportunity to appreciate and pursue his Judaism.

In August 1993, my father came back to Cuba. The collapse of the Soviet Union affected Cuba more than a war; there was a shortage of food, electricity and public transportation.

The day after his return, my father went to the synagogue in old Havana. There was a minyan of very old people, most of whom had come to the synagogue to have breakfast and to play dominos after the service. But there were two young Lubavitcher rabbis who came to work that summer with the community. One of them was Rabbi Shimon Aisenbach.

For the next two years that my father was in Cuba, the CFCJ emissaries to the island took care to provide my father all the needs to keep a Jewish life, from his first set of Tefilin, books, classes to the basic needs like kosher food, humanitarian aid and the most important - an "address" for the challenges he encountered living in such a complex place in such a complex age.

The manner in which these young Lubavitcher men conducted themselves inspired my father to go also want to help and share with those in need. That was kind of home where I grew up, hosting people, helping, and dedicating his time to the needs of the community.

But it was not only the Lubavitchers' self-sacrifices helping and taking care of the spiritual and material needs of fellow Jews that impressed my father. My father was inspired by their courage, and how they withstood all of the adversities from within the community and from the Cuban government.

One story exemplifying the above my father shared with me, was about an uprising that took place in Cuba one summer. It was the only time since the beginning of Cuba's 60 years of Communist revolution when people who were desperate by the hard-living conditions went out to the streets to protest. The streets were full of police and soldiers, myriads of people jumped into the ocean with rafts (and without!) to try and escape.

In the middle of all this chaos, there were the young CFCJ Rabbis, running a summer camp for 40 Jewish kids! They took them to parks and attractions, did fun activities, provided meals that attracted many parents to take part in the camp as well. In addition, these young men traveled around the country to provide Jews in remote towns with basic needs. Of course, the local State security, what I understand is a copy of the KGB, tried to stop them. They invited them in for a talk and intimidated them, but they did not stop and the camp successfully continued!

In April of that year, my father with his family finally left Cuba, but the relationship with Rabbi Aisenbach was not interrupted. Through CFCJ's Student Placement Program my father was provided the opportunity to continue his Jewish studies in a yeshiva in Israel, where he had the ability to freely progress in his studies and observance. The CFCJ took care to make sure my father had all that was necessary for him to build his family.

After meeting my mother Rivka, a Brazilian native, my parents married. I am the oldest child and I have five younger brothers and sisters. And you can see from the fact that I am here, that the relationship that started on an island in the Caribbean is still alive.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank Rabbi Aisenbach personally, and to express our gratitude to him, his family and to all the people who support the CFCJ activities.

For more info on Chabad Friends of Cuban Jewry visit

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Levi and Shaina Gurevitz will be moving son to Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the county seat of Forsyth County. They will be serving the Jewish population in the city that has seen a surge in growth and revitalization in the downtown area with hotels, restaurants, and apartments under construction.

As well, they will be involved with the Jewish students at Wake Forest University, a private research university in Winston-Salem, north of Raleigh.

New Facility

Chabad of Naperville, Illinois, directed Rabbi Mendy and Alta Goldstein recently purchased a new facility. When renovations are completed, the building will house a kosher kitchen, Hebrew school classrooms, a space for teens, and more.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5741 [1981]

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter in which you write about your anxiety as a result of an incident last summer, involving a verbal outburst, which, you think, may require a special teshuva etc.

I trust you know that one of the basic principles of our Torah, Toras Emes, is that G-d does not require of a person anything that is beyond the person's capacity. And, needless to say, G-d knows the capacities and weaknesses of the creatures He created, including the fact that a human being is subject to moods, which sometimes bring him to say or even do things which are contrary to his real character and will.

For this reason, G-d has provided teshuva, "repentance", which is the ability to rectify anything that needs to be rectified, even to the extent of erasing the past. Teshuva, basically, calls for a sincere regreat of the past failing and equally sincere determination not to repeat it. And when this is done, the person again becomes beloved to G-d, and even more than before, as is the case of a truant child who begs his father 's forgiveness and father embraces him more affectionately than before.

Moreover, as you surely know, G-d has set aside special times in the year for teshuva, such as the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur, so that a person should not become overly preoccupied with guilt feelings, remorse and sadness which are counterproductive and can only hinder is normal activities, especially the most important activity of serving G-d with joy.

It is clear from your letter that you have had more than your share of regret and remorse over the past. Thus you may rest assured that hot only are you a Jew in good standing with Hashem, but even closer and dearer than before and there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for any anxiety on that score. So you can completely dismiss the incident from your mind and turn your full attention to continued advancement in Yisddishkeit, Torah and mitzvoth, wholeheartedly and with joy.

With blessing,

P.S. With regard to your request for an order of teshuva , it is already included in the above, specifically: conducting the everyday life in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch, including complete trust/bittachon in G-d in general and also that He is the "Gracious One Who pardons abundantly" as we say in the amida of our daily prayers, and that "Nothing stands in the way of teshuva." All this - with joy, in compliance with the imperative: "Serve G-d with joy." I will remember you in prayer for the hatzlocho in the above.

Erev Shavuos, 5716 [1956]

Sholom U'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:

In reply to your (undated) letter, you should bear in mind the following points:

There can be no question but that Teshuvo [repentance] is effective in every case, and whatever the transgression, for Teshuvo is one of G-d's commandments, and G-d does not require of us the impossible.

It is likewise certain that any kind of depression, despondency or sadness, is a trick of the Yetzer Horah [evil inclination] to discourage one from serving G-d, as is explained at length in the books of Mussar, and in the books of Chasidus; and you would do well to refer to Tanya, ch. 26 and further.

Even where one has relapsed in committing the same transgression for which one has done Teshuvo, and, moreover, even while doing Teshuvo one is not certain whether he could resist the temptation should it recur, this must in no way prevent him from studying the Torah and observing its Mitzvos [comandments], included among which is also the Mitzvah [commandment] of Teshuvo, for every action of man has its repercussions both down here below and Above, and you surely know the saying of our Sages: "No transgression extinguishes a Mitzvah," (even though it extinguishes the reward of a Mitzvah). I refer you again to Iggeres Hateshuvo (part III of the Tanya), ch. 11.

I advise you from now on to stop weighing and dwelling on things which are of no practical value, and especially the kind of thought that only leads to despondency, but concentrate ever growing efforts on Torah and Mitzvos.

I wish you to celebrate the Festival of Our Receiving the Torah with inner and lasting joy,

With blessing,

All Together

NETANEL means "gift of G-d." Netanel ben Tzoar was the prince of Yissachar, the tribe which devoted itself solely to Torah study. About him it is said that he had the "kingship of Torah." Another Netanel was the fourth son of Jesse and King David's brother. (I Chronicles 2:14) NOADYA means "appointed by G-d." Noadya was a prophetess (Nechemya 6:14). According to some opinions, Noadya means "against G-d" and was the name used for Shemaya ben Dilaya when he prophesized against Nechemya.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the last month of the Jewish year, a month of reflection on the past year and preparation for the upcoming new year.

Numerous customs are associated with Elul.

As Elul is a month of preparation for the High Holidays we increase, to the greatest extent possible, our repertoire of mitzvot and good deeds, in the hope that G-d will judge us favorably and seal us for a good and sweet year.

Among the traditional customs of this month are:

Listening to the shofar being sounded daily. This aids our preparation and helps us in our repentance.

Saying three extra chapters of Psalms each day (beginning with chapters 1-3 on the first of Elul, 4-6 on the second of Elul, etc.)

Having our mezuzot and Tefilin checked during this month by a reliable scribe.

Sending out Rosh Hashana cards to family and friends and wishing a "good and sweet year" when corresponding with or speaking to people.

Spending time in self-reflection and stock-taking for the previous year.

Enhancing our interpersonal relationships

Asking forgiveness from those whom we might have wronged or hurt in the past year.

Making good resolutions for the coming year.

Our involvement in these traditional actions will keep us sufficiently busy doing only good as we prepare for the coming year. And may we experience the complete revelation of Moshiach even before the new year commences.

Thoughts that Count

When you go over the Jordan and dwell in the land...He will give you rest from all your enemies ...and you will dwell in safety (Deut. 12:10)

If G-d gives the Jews "rest from all their enemies," isn't it obvious they will "dwell in safety"? The seeming repetition, however, contains valuable advice: G-d counsels, If you truly wish to "rest from all your enemies," you must "dwell in safety" within your own camp - in peace and brotherhood, without inner squabbling and political strife. Declared our Sages: "Were Israel united into one group, no nation or tongue could rule over them."

(G'lilei Zahav)

Lest your eye be evil against your needy brother...and he cry out to G-d against you, and it be a sin in you (Deut. 15:9)

Not helping another person in his time of need is bad enough, but looking down on him and blaming him for his own predicament is even worse. For if "he cries out to G-d against you," your own behavior will be carefully scrutinized, and your own sins and failings come to light...

(Rabbi Shmelke of Nicholsburg)

And you shall bind up the money in your hand (Deut. 14:25)

The Torah commands the Jew to "bind up" his money and rule over it, and not the other way around. In other words, his monetary affairs must never exert such an influence over him that they become his master.

(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)

It Once Happened

The Jewish community of Frankfurt was in mourning for their beloved Chief Rabbi. The rabbi had no heir, but he hadn't left his flock entirely without recourse. A few days before he died he had called the Jewish leaders together and instructed them on finding a replacement. The potential candidate would have to pass a test consisting of three complicated and difficult questions, involving very deep Torah concepts. "Whoever answers these questions," the rabbi had stipulated, "should be appointed the Rabbi of Frankfurt."

The search began after the funeral. A delegation was chosen of three of the most distinguished leaders of the community, and they set out to find their candidate. As a major Jewish center, Frankfurt required a very special personage; only a scholar with the highest level of piety and erudition would do.

The first city the delegation arrived at was Cracow, which boasted many Torah scholars. Surely it wouldn't be too difficult to find someone there who could answer the three questions.

On the day they arrived they learned that a great celebration would be taking place later that evening. The son of one of the wealthiest Jews in Cracow was becoming Bar Mitzva, and the entire community was invited. The members of the delegation from Frankfurt were also invited to attend.

In the middle of the festivities the Bar Mitzva boy stood up to deliver a speech, as is customary. The hall fell silent as everyone listened attentively.

The boy's sermon was very deep, revealing an unusual mastership of Torah knowledge and proficiency. It was, in short, the most impressive Bar Mitzva speech that anyone had ever heard. The boy began by postulating three difficult problems; when the members of the delegation realized that they were the same three questions the rabbi had raised, they looked at one another in amazement. They could hardly believe it when the boy proceeded to answer them skillfully one by one.

All of the guests were impressed, but the members of the delegation could barely contain their excitement. Clearly, the hand of G-d had steered them in the right direction. All they had to do was find the tutor who had prepared the boy for his Bar Mitzva; whoever he was, it was obvious that he must serve as the next Rabbi of Frankfurt. They thanked G-d for having led them to a suitable candidate so quickly.

Indeed, it wasn't difficult to locate the boy's teacher. As they learned from the boy's father, his name was Reb Yosef Shmuel the Teacher.

They found Reb Yosef Shmuel in a corner of the study hall surrounded by little boys. The teacher was dressed simply and rather poorly, but they didn't hesitate to approach him.

"We'd like to speak to you about an urgent matter," they said, but Reb Yosef Shmuel was busy. "Not now," he replied. "I am an employee, and it wouldn't be right to shirk my duties." Reb Yosef Shmuel resumed his teaching.

If anything, the teacher's answer made the members of the delegation even more hopeful. This was obviously a man of ethics, G-d-fearing and devoted to his job. They agreed to speak with him later that day.

When they came back they got quickly to the point. They told him about the passing of their rabbi, and the three questions he had established as a test for his successor. "So now you're going to be our rabbi!" they concluded.

They were shocked, however, when Reb Yosef Shmuel declined their offer most adamantly. He wasn't looking for honor or glory, he explained, and he already had a job as a teacher from which he derived great satisfaction. Politely but firmly he turned them down. All their pleas fell on deaf ears. They begged and implored the teacher, and even promised him an impressive salary, but to no avail. Reb Yosef Shmuel could not be budged.

The members of the delegation prepared to leave Cracow, dejected and forlorn. Who knew if they would be able find another qualified candidate? They had just left the outskirts of the city when their carriage broke down, and for several hours they had no choice but to sit by the side of the road until it was repaired. All of a sudden a messenger caught up with them; he had come directly from Reb Yosef Shmuel on a special mission.

The messenger revealed that the teacher had suddenly taken ill, and seemingly overnight had arrived at death's door. Indeed, the doctor who was summoned asserted that he had no more than a few days left to live. When Reb Yosef Shmuel heard this pronouncement he had cried out, "Master of the Universe! If You really want me to serve as Rabbi of Frankfurt, I'll do it!"

No sooner had he uttered these words than the mysterious illness began to dissipate. A messenger was immediately dispatched to intercept the delegation from Frankfurt and inform them of his decision.

The joy of the Jewish community of Frankfurt knew no bounds. Divine Providence had clearly demonstrated that Reb Yosef Shmuel was meant to be their leader, and he was formally appointed Chief Rabbi of the city a short time later. And everyone marveled at the prophetic vision of their previous Chief Rabbi, who had provided his flock with such a worthy successor.

Moshiach Matters

This week's portion begins, "See! This day I place before you a blessing" (Deut. 11:26) The blessing in this verse does not refer to anything specific; rather, it is a comprehensive statement which includes all the blessings G-d confers on every Jew. First and foremost, therefore, it refers to the ultimate blessing of all - the complete Redemption through Moshiach. By using the emphatic "See!" the Torah stresses that the Messianic Redemption is not something theoretical or academic, but rather something that will be evident with our eyes of flesh - and this very day!

(The Rebbe, Shabbat Re'eh, 5751)

  1586: Eikev1588: Shoftim  
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