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Devarim Deutronomy

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1079: Matos-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

July 17, 2009 - 25 Tamuz, 5769

1079: Matos-Masei

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  1078: Pinchas1080: Devarim  

In Between  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  A Call to Action  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

In Between

Sometimes we find ourselves in between. You know, caught in a bind between two events, related, both unpleasant - one leads to the other, and it's uncomfortable. It's the waiting period - you know, after you've hit the ball through the window - yeah, your parents know it's you - and before the inevitable punishment and lecture occur. Or after the plumber's looked at your sink and before he tells you what's wrong. Or... but you get the idea.

The point is that any transition, any change - even positive ones - goes through three stages: the initiation, the in-between waiting, and the conclusion, or actual transition. Often we think there's nothing we can do during the in-between but wait. We act as if the conclusion is a foregone. Once the process is started, it's inevitable. We took the test (broke the window), we have to face the consequences. That's it. Just let the inevitable conclusion happen as fast as possible, so we can get it over with.

While it's true that many times we can't change the outcome, that doesn't mean the in-between is an empty period, dead time, that we should give up and just wait around in limbo.

Rather, we can use the time to do three things: Assess how we got into the difficulty, make whatever changes we can to either prevent the problem in the future, to make the in-between easier, better or somehow mitigate the result, and finally prepare ourselves for the conclusion, so that we meet the consequences in the best manner possible.

This general understanding applies, perhaps, to all situations, but in particular to the Three Weeks, the time between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av - the darkest period in Jewish history.

These are two tragic days. On the 17th of Tammuz Moses broke the Tablets because the people were worshipping the Golden Calf. Over a year later, on the 9th of Av, G-d decreed the generation of the Exodus would not enter Israel, because of the sin of the spies. On the 17th of Tammuz, centuries later, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and on the 9th of Av, the Temple was destroyed.

And there are many other tragedies that occurred on one of these two days.

So the period in between, the Three Weeks, is a period of mourning. It is a time for return and introspection, for increased charity and charitable acts, and especially for increased study about the Holy Temple.

We can apply our observations about the "in-between" to the darkest "in-between" for the Jewish people.

Assess the cause: The people worshiped the Golden Calf. Our Sages tell us that they lost faith in Moses's return by half a day; that small miscalculation and ...

Make whatever changes are neces-sary and prepare ourselves: Increase our faith in the only way possible - increase our mitzvot (performance of the commandments). Increase our acts of loving-kindness, our Ahavat Yisrael - for it was unnecessary discord and baseless enmity that led to the destruction of the Temple. Increase our repentance and, as mentioned above, increase our learning about, which expresses our yearning for, the rebuilding of the Temple.

Prepare for the conclusion: In this case, we should prepare for Tisha B'Av not expecting it to be a day of mourning and fasting, but rather as a day of rejoicing and feasting, for if all we have done "in between" has been done as it ought, then the Tisha B'Av consequence will be the coming of Moshiach and the era of Redemption.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portions, Matot and Masei. Masei, meaning journeys, delineates the various travels of the Jews in the desert.

When the Jews left Egypt, they were beginning one long journey. Their departure from Egypt and their travels in the desert were all so that eventually the Jews would enter the Land of Israel. It would seem, then, that each of the forty-two stops they made along the way between Egypt and Israel was not really that significant. The stops presented an opportunity for the Jewish camp, comprised of millions of people, to take care of their various needs.

Yet, each and every stop the Jews made in the desert is mentioned separately, and each one is considered its own journey. Didn't the Jews reach the desert - and freedom - immediately upon leaving the borders of Egypt?

In every generation, in each individual's life, there must be an Exodus from Egypt, a departure from one's own boundaries and limitations. However, simply "leaving" Egypt is not enough. We must know that even after working on ourselves and spiritually leaving Egypt, we are not finished. No matter what spiritual level we have attained, we can still go further, we are still bound by our "Egypt." We must begin a new "journey," getting stronger and stronger as we go along.

There is a two-fold lesson from these "journeys."

Even when one has already attained a high level, one must never be content with what one has already achieved. Our whole purpose is to move in an upward spiritual direction - never to stagnate and remain in the same place. Each day that is granted to us by G-d should be utilized for fulfilling this mission. However, we must be cognizant that in relation to what is above us and what we can still achieve, we are still in Egypt.

On the other hand, one must never despair of all there is left to achieve and of one's lowly, spiritual state. One must remember that it is possible, through work, to leave "Egypt" immediately, with only one journey. We must never think that our toil is in vain; with one move we can elevate ourselves and reach the "good and wide land" - the Land of Israel.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, vol. 2

A Slice of Life

by Yehudis Cohen

It is a beautiful summer evening and I am walking around Crown Heights, the Chabad-Lubavitch neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York - home to "770" Eastern Parkway, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's synagogue and World Lubavitch Headquarters.

Thousands of my neighbors are out tonight as well. No, it's not a pre-scheduled "Take Back the Night" event. In fact, far from a sense of seriousness or determination in the air, there is a feeling of lightness, joy, and excitement.

On this last Sunday in June, there are six engagement parties and four weddings taking place in this Jewish community of 2,500 families. And although there are surely thousands of little children sleeping peacefully in their beds and hundreds of adults who are at home, as well, the prevailing atmosphere in the neighborhood is one of true joy and happiness.

How does someone with a wide circle of friends and/or many relatives manage on a night like tonight?

They go "Simcha" hopping, of course!

I meet a friend of mine on her way into one of the engagement parties. She has just come from one of the weddings -the groom's mother was her long-time friend and relative through marriage. It is already close to 11 p.m. and I am at my third and last engagement party for the evening. My friend is at the first of four she is still planning on attending. A quick "mazel tov" to the mothers of the newly engaged bride and groom, a nod here or there in the direction of a friend, neighbor or out-of-town guest who has come in specially for the simcha (a look in the direction of the Viennese table if you're on a diet and a taste if you're not), and you're off to the next simcha.

I see my friend dashing out. Her feet are aching from the hours of dancing earlier at the wedding and she has been offered a ride to the next engagement party. On a night like tonight most people do not drive; none of the wedding halls in the neighborhood have parking lots and only a few offer valet parking. Engagement parties are generally held in synagogues or private homes.

As I walk home, I meet an acquaintance. "Mazel tov" we greet each other with big smiles on our faces. Neither of us is directly related to any of the people celebrating simchas this evening, but we wish each other "mazel tov" all the same. Once, one of my children who was accompanying me to a simcha asked me "why." "Why are you saying 'mazel tov' to everyone that you meet tonight going in or out of the simcha? They're not the person who is... (fill in the blank: engaged, having a Bar Mitzva, getting married, or the mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother or grandfather of one of the above).

I explain to my child, "It's because all Jews are one family. We're all related. We feel each other's pain and suffering, and we rejoice in each other's simchas and good news.

I think about this short explanation I have given to my child as I continue walking home and as I continue greeting neighbors with a smile and a "mazel tov." This is such a basic ingredient of ahavat Yisrael - love of one's fellow Jew; feeling their pain and rejoicing in their simchas. (In fact, a Chasid of previous generations would berate himself if he heard of a misfortune that had befallen another Jew - any Jew, even a Jew whom he had never met and with whom he had never had any connection - and he was not as shaken by the news as if it had happened to him personally or one of his immediate family members.)

I am finally home. Before I go to sleep I have to "put L'Chaim to bed." I think about sharing my evening's experiences with the readers of L'Chaim, especially as this issue that is going to print will be read during the "Three Weeks."

The Three Weeks are a time of national mourning for Jews over the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish people for the past 2,000 years. The mourning begins on 17 Tammuz when, in 69 CE the walls around Jerusalem were breached by the Romans. Three weeks later, on 9 Av, the Holy Temple was set on fire. (On a recent trip to Israel I saw huge stones near the Western Wall in Jerusalem that still have the black soot from that fire nearly 2,000 years ago.)

During these Three Weeks, like mourners, we do not celebrate weddings, we do not listen to music, we do not take haircuts, nor do we purchase new clothing. We are not required to be sad, but we lessen our external demonstrations of rejoicing. In previous generations, there was an emphasis on the lessening of rejoicing.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that this was the appropriate approach in the past, when we were so much closer to the times of the destruction and so far away from the ultimate Redemption. But today, when we literally strand on the threshold of the Redemption, we should take every opportunity in permissible ways to rejoice during these Three Weeks. This includes the inner contentment and joy we (should) feel when studying Torah and particularly when completing a section of Torah learning. In addition, we should rejoice in the simchas of all of our friends, relatives and acquaintances: a new baby, a brit mila, a Bar Mitzva or Bat Mitzva, an engagement. And don't forget about birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs (and holding onto old ones!). When you hear about another Jew's good news, rejoice, as if it was your own. Because, in truth, we're all one family and it is your good news!

This kind of unity and rejoicing in each other's good news and good fortune is foretaste of the unity and rejoicing that we will all experience with the rebuilding of the third and eternal Holy Temple, may it commence immediately!

What's New

Bar Mitzva of 107 Orphans

One hundred and seven orphans celebrated their Bar Mitzva together at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The boys each received tefilin, a talit, a prayerbook and a kipa. Each Bar Mitzva boy was called to the Torah for an aliya. The Bar Mitzva celebration is organized annually by Kollel Chabad for orphans of Israeli soldiers who have lost their lives defending Jews in the Holy Land.

The Rebbe Writes

The following "memorandum" was written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in response to a query by psychologist Dr. Yehuda Landes (o.b.m.) regarding meditation
Teveth, 5738 [1978]

It is well known that certain oriental movements, such as Transcendental Meditation (T.M.), Yoga, Guru, and the like, have attracted many Jewish followers, particularly among the young generation.

In as much as these movements involve certain rites and rituals, they have been rightly regarded by Rabbinic authorities as cults bordering on, and in some respects actual, Avodah Zarah (idolatry). Accordingly Rabbinic authorities everywhere, and particularly in Eretz Yisroel [Israel], ruled that these cults come under all the strictures associated with Avodah Zarah, so that also their appurtenances come under strict prohibition.

Moreover, the United States Federal Court also ruled recently that such movements, by virtue of embracing such rites and rituals, must be classifies as cultic and religious movements. (Of. Malnak V. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, U.S.D.C. of N.J. 76-341, esp. pp. 36-50, 78)

On the other hand, certain aspects of the said movements, which are entirely irrelevant to religious worship or practices, have a therapeutic value, particularly in the area of relieving mental stress.

It follows that if these therapeutic methods - insofar as they are utterly devoid of any ritual implications - would be adopted by doctors specializing in the field of mental illness, it would have two-pronged salutary effect: Firstly, in the view of the fact that these methods are therapeutically effective, while there are, regretfully, many who could benefit from such treatment, this is a matter of healing of the highest order, since it has to do with mental illness. It would, therefore, be very wrong to deny such treatment to those who need it, when it could be given by a practicing doctor.

Secondly, and this too is not less important, since there are many Jewish sufferers who continue to avail themselves of these methods though the said cults despite the Rabbinic prohibition, it can be assumed with certainty that many of them, if not all, who are drawn to these cults by the promise of mental relief, would prefer to receive the same treatment from the medical profession - if they had a choice of getting it the kosher way. It would thus be possible to save many Jews from getting involved with the said cults.

It is also known, though not widely, that there are individual doctors who practice the same or similar methods as T.M. and the like. However, it seems that these methods occupy a secondary or subordinate role in their procedures. More importantly, there is almost a complete lack of publicity regarding the application of these methods by doctors, and since the main practice of these doctors is linked with the conventional neurological and psychiatric approach, it is generally assumed that whatever success they achieve is not connected with results obtained from methods relating to T.M. and the like; results which the cults acclaim with such fanfare.

In light of the above, it is suggested and strongly urged that:

Appropriate action be undertaken to enlist the cooperation of a group of doctors specializing in neurology and psychiatry who would research the said methods with a view to perfecting them and adopting them in their practice on a wider scale.

All due publicity be given about the availability of such methods from practicing doctors.

This should be done most expeditiously, without waiting for this vital information to be disseminated through medical journals, where research and findings usually take a long time before they come to the attention of practicing physicians. This would all the sooner counteract the untold harm done to so many Jews who are attracted daily to the said cults, as mentioned in the opening paragraph.

In conclusion: This memo is intended for all Rabbis, doctors, and layman who are in a position to advance the cause espoused herein, the importance of which needs no further elaboration.

Needless to say, even if one feels doubtful whether he can advance this cause, or whether the expectation warrants the effort - the vital importance and urgency of saving so many souls from Avodah Zarah, not only warrants but dictates every possible effort, even if there be a doubt about achieving success; certainly when there is every reason to believe that much, indeed, can be achieved, with G-d's help and Zechus Harabbim [the merit of the many].

A Call to Action

Make Torah Celebrations

As a further preparation for the Messianic Era, to reveal the positive qualities and joy that are latent in these Three Weeks, conclusions of Torah works (siyumim) should be held on each of the Nine Days including Shabbat. These activities will hasten the transformation of these days into days of celebration, when with true and complete joy we will proceed together with Moshiach, to the Holy Land in the true and ultimate Redemption.

(The Rebbe, 18 Tammuz, 5751)

In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple is central to the Redemption. Maimonides states that the rebuilding of the Temple will actually confirm that the Redemption has begun.

There are two differences of opinion as to who will build the Temple. According to the Zohar, G-d Himself will build the Temple. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba and Midrash Rabba) states that man will build the eternal Holy Temple.

Maimonides' ruling agrees with the Midrash, saying that rebuilding the Temple is a commandment incumbent upon the Jewish people.

Although these opinions may seem at variance, they are, in fact, not contradictory.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the Jewish people will build part of the Temple, as commanded, and that the Divine features of the Temple - those aspects which will ensure its eternity - will be built by G-d Himself.

Maimonides does not mention Divine participation because his work is a work of halacha, Jewish law; he writes only about that which is incumbent upon the Jewish people.

The man-made and the G-dly components will be combined in the Holy Temple.

Chasidic thought teaches that this combination of man's effort "from below," united with G-d's effort "from above," is the true meaning of Redemption.

For, with the Redemption, the material and the spiritual will be eternally and fully bound.

One explanation of how they will be com-bined is brought from the verse in Lamentations, "Her gates sank into the ground..."

The Midrash asserts that the gates of the Holy Temple are buried on the Temple Mount. When the Third Temple descends from heaven, the gates will rise up - but only with man's help. As the one who fixes the gates is considered to have built entire house, so too, in this case, the Jews will thus fulfill the commandment to build the Holy Temple by fixing its gates in place.

May it happen in the immediate future.

Thoughts that Count

Moses said to the children of Gad and the children of Reuben, "Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here?" (Num. 32:6)

The tribes of Reuben and Gad wanted to stay in the land east of the Jordan river. Even though the Jewish people are dispersed all over the world, we are emotionally connected, and when a Jew experiences misfortune, Jews all over the world feel compassion. Therefore, Moses asked the tribes of Reuben and Gad, "Can you sit here calmly and enjoy your land when you know that your fellow Jews are engaged in battle?"

(Sha'ar Bat Rabim)

These are (Eileh) the journeys (masei) of the Children of Israel (Bnei Yisrael) (Num. 33:1)

The first letters of these Hebrew words allude to the four exiles of the Jewish people: alef/Edom-Rome; mem/Madai-Persia; beit/Bavel -Babylon; and yud/Yavan-Greece.

(Nachal Kadumim)

And these are their journeys according to their starting places (Num. 33:2)

The Hebrew word for starting places or departures (motza'eihem) comes from the same root as descendants, alluding to the future Redemption and the ingathering of the exiles that will occur in the Messianic era. At that time, all 42 journeys made by the Children of Israel in the desert will be duplicated by the Jewish people as they make their way back to the Land of Israel.


Aaron the Priest went up onto Mount Hor at the command of G-d and died there... in the fifth month on the first of the month. (Num. 33:38)

Our Sages said that "the death of the righteous is equal to the burning of G-d's house [the Holy Temple]." The fifth month is the month of Av, the month in which the Holy Temple was burned and destroyed. Another connection between Aaron's death and the burning of the Temple is as follows: The Second Temple, in particular, was destroyed because of causeless hatred. The remedy for causeless hatred is unwarranted love, which was exemplified by Aaron. Aaron "loved peace, pursued peace, loved all creatures and brought them closer to the Torah."

(Likutei Sichot)

It Once Happened

Ptolemy II ruled over the Land of Israel with a friendly attitude toward his Jewish subjects. He was a great friend of books, and his gigantic library contained hundreds of thousands of volumes of all the creative authors of ancient times.

At the suggestion of his librarians, he approached the Jewish people for a Greek translation of the books of the holy Bible. Eleazer, the High Priest, who was then at the head of the Jewish state in the Holy Land, sent him seventy of the greatest Jewish sages. They were well versed in the Greek language and knew all the meanings and interpretations of the text of the Bible in the Written and Oral tradition.

When the sages arrived at his palace, King Ptolemy gave them a royal welcome. He honored them with feasts and gifts. He then sent them off to a small island not far from Alexandria. There, each sage was placed in a separate room. "Write for me the Torah of Moses, your teacher," he commanded each one. They were to translate the Bible into Greek while confined to their rooms. None of the sages was allowed to communicate with each other.

Miraculously, each individual translation agreed on every point, even on the most difficult passages in the Bible. There were a number of places where each sage intentionally altered the literal translation. Yet, in the end, all of the sages had made the same changes despite the fact that they could not communicate with each other.

For instance, the first verse of the Torah, "B'reishit Bara Elokim" could have been translated literally - "In the beginning created G-d." This might easily have been misinterpreted to mean that a deity "In the beginning created G-d." However, every sage translated the verse: "G-d created in the beginning...." They also translated "we will make man" to "I will make man," lest people say that G-d has a dual nature.

The Egyptian ruler and his scholars were amazed at the miraculous feat, and they rightly honored the scholars upon the completion of the translation. The "Septuagint" (Latin for seventy) became one of the most important documents of Jewish and world literature.

It contains not only all the books of the Bible, but also works not included in the Bible that were largely lost in their original Hebrew.

The Jews of Egypt were greatly elated by this translation of the Bible into Greek. For many centuries they celebrated the day of completion, the eighth of Tevet, as a Jewish holiday.

However, the Sages of the Holy Land considered the eighth of Tevet as a day of sorrow for the Jewish people. They all saw an awesome act of G-d in it, yet the matter evoked general wonder in non-Jewish eyes. The day was nevertheless considered a day as tragic as the day on which the golden calf was made.

According to the Talmud, the matter was likened to a lion captured and imprisoned. Before his imprisonment, all feared the lion and fled from his presence. Once imprisoned, all came to gaze at him, saying, "Where is his strength now?"

As long as the Torah was in the hands of Israel and was interpreted by the Sages in its own language - Hebrew - it evoked reverence, and many feared to cast blemish upon it. Even a non-Jew who desired to study the Torah had no contact with the Torah until he had acquired a knowledge of the Holy tongue and the prescribed ways for understanding the Torah.

Once the Torah was imprisoned in Greek translation, it was as if the Torah were divested of reverence. Whoever wished could now come and gaze at her. Whoever wished to fault her, could now do so.

Moshiach Matters

In the present era, unity involves people of differing natures joining together. As the diverse limbs of the body function together as part of a single organism, so too, unity can be established between different individuals. Nevertheless, such a bond does not raise a person above his individual identity entirely. On the contrary, his very awareness of self should be employed in his efforts to unite with others. In contrast, the transcendent unity of the Era of the Redemption will raise every individual above the limited horizons of his personal identity.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 2 Menachem Av, 5751 - 1991)

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