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Devarim • Deutronomy

July 22, 2016 - 16 Tamuz, 5776

1431: Balak

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

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  1430: Chukas1432: Pinchas  

Don't Put It Off  |  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

Don't Put It Off

A goal-oriented person, especially when lecturing a procrastinator, quotes the golden rule, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

A procrastinator, however, will cite the principle, "Don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow. For tomorrow you might not need to do it anymore."

Although neither of these cliches is a perfect fit for the Jewish experience of this coming Shabbat and Sunday, if we had to choose one over the other to describe the 17th of Tammuz this year, we'd side with the procrastinator.

For, even though 17 Tammuz is a day of fasting and mourning, this year it will be a day of joy and pleasure. How can this be? The 17th of Tammuz this year occurs on Shabbat, thus the fasting and mourning are pushed off until Sunday.

The 17th of Tammuz is the date nearly 2,000 years ago when the wall surrounding the holy city of Jerusalem was breached by the Roman army. The initial breaching of the wall allowed for the eventual destruction of the Holy Temple that took place three weeks later, on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av.

A discussion about what to do when the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat is recorded in the Talmud. The esteemed Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi opines that since the fast is postponed until Sunday (for Shabbat is a day of pleasure, and we must not mourn or afflict ourselves on it), the fast should be altogether cancelled.

Although the ruling was ultimately decided according to a differing opinion, the concept of "If it's being put off until tomorrow, don't do it altogether" does have validity.

For certainly, when we consider that the sad three-week period inaugurated by the 17th of Tammuz (and concluded on the 9 Av) is actually a preparatory stage for - and thus part of - the ultimate Redemption, there is real hope that the Redemption will come before the postponed fast can be observed.

Externally, the fasts associated with the destruction of the Holy Temple and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people from our Land seem to be entirely negative. According to Jewish mystical teachings, however, the essence of these fasts is positive, as they are connected to the ultimate Redemption. For the whole purpose of the destruction of the Holy Temple and our people's exile is solely to reach the pinnacle of existence that will take place in the Era of Moshiach.

The 17th of Tammuz is the beginning of this ultimate era. It is when the cracks were first created in the wall.

Quoting a verse in Song of Songs, "Behold, he stands behind our wall, he looks in at the windows; he peers through the crevices," the Rebbe brings the opinion that this verse refers to Moshiach: "Moshiach is standing on the other side of a wall that is already cracked and crumbling... Moshiach is watching and waiting in anticipation: When are we finally going to finish off our sundry outstanding task, and complete the final sorting out that needs to be done to refine and elevate the world?"

Shabbat is a taste of the World to Come. So celebrate Shabbat this week, and especially this Shabbat of the 17th of Tammuz, which is so connected to the Redemption.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Balak, we have the famous verse, "Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenosecha Yisrael - How good are your tents Jacob, your dwellings Israel."

The wicked Balam wanted to curse the Jewish people but when he saw their modesty and fidelity he could only bless them. What did he see? He saw their tents set up in a way as to give each one privacy. There was no direct line of sight from one tent into another. He saw that they were organized according to their tribes, which was possible because of marital fidelity.

This is followed by the prophecy of Moshiach's coming.

What lesson can we take from here? How does it connect to Moshiach?

Many are unaware that the Torah's laws of modesty apply to both men and women. It covers modesty in speech, dress, action and thought. We also have laws of appropriate behavior between men and women. It is these laws that have been our protection and makes us special and holy.

We find these laws difficult because they go against nature. It is natural for a man to have inappropriate thoughts. Which can bring to immodest speech and actions. While men love dress codes and uniforms it goes against the grain and is totally unnatural to women. To women, their dress is an expression of how they feel inside. If the dress code is not how they feel, it feels like a lie.

To this we have a two step plan. First, laws to set boundaries and safeguards. Second, to work on our inside so it resembles the Jewish spirit.

Don't think that this means that you have to be a prude or that you need to dress in shmattes. Rather, to become beautiful and dignified within and allow that to be expressed in thought, speech, action and dress.

A Jewish man is meant to be a light of decency and a living example to the world around him.

A Jewish woman is meant to be a bas melech, a princess, beautiful and dignified. Her presence effecting her surroundings.

When we act with modesty and fidelity we are in a position to change the world around us. We become as Hashem's ambassadors to make His presence known, accepted and welcome to all. It is the foundation upon which our Torah and Mitzvahs stand. It protects from our worst enemies because we are protected when we are Hashem's ambassadors. Finally, it is the basis and starting point of our positive effect on the world that will bring Moshiach.

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

Everything Is Okay
by Lieba Rudolph

"Is it me or is it always either really hot or really cold here?" my husband Zev asked as we walked through Montefiore Cemetery in Queens. There wasn't a cloud in sight; it was May but it felt like August. The sun was intense, a force to be reckoned with. It was a fitting day for the funeral of Rivky Deren-Berman.

Born with Bloom syndrome, pain and challenge were interwoven into Rivky's life the entire twenty-nine years she was on the planet. She and her family were tested in ways that would have undone most people, but for them, being broken hearted never dimmed or darkened their love of G-d or their love of the Rebbe.

I met Rivky's family soon after my husband and I became involved with Chabad almost thirty years ago. Rivky's grandmother, Mrs. Keny Deren, OBM, was principal of Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, which is why she and her family visited frequently from Stamford, Connecticut. (Rivky's great-grandparents, Rabbi and Mrs. Sholom Posner, started the school in 1943.) I was immediately attracted to the obvious gifts of Rivky's parents, Rabbi Yisroel and Vivi Deren; they were wise and knowledgeable and warm and funny, yet they had also known enormous pain. This was clear testimony to the depth of their spiritual connection, which inspires me still, but was especially powerful for me as a new ba'alas teshuva.

Rivky lived in Pittsburgh for seven years when she came to school at Yeshiva. She stayed in the home of her aunt and uncle, Rabbi Yisroel and Blumi Rosenfeld, the city's head emissaries. Our families spent a lot of time together, to the point that I asked all the kids in the entire extended family to use the Yiddish term for "aunt" and call me Tante Lieba.

I was always touched by each family member who used this term, which I took as a sign of affection, but from Rivky, it was especially sweet. (Her husband Shmulie, whom she married in 2012, won my heart when he also called me Tante Lieba as soon as he met me.)

I always hoped Rivky liked me, because I sure knew she didn't need me: Rivky was blessed with a huge and loving family. (And when I say huge, I mean huge, and when I say loving, I mean loving.) It was obvious to me that she was especially beloved by them for her humor, her candor, her optimism, and her ability to be genuinely happy for others - who wouldn't love a person like that? But because I was on the periphery of her life, I could only project how poorly I would have dealt with her circumstances - her tiny stature attracted stares and she was in the hospital as much as she was out. Yet I knew she would be annoyed by my assessment because, by some mystical miracle, she didn't feel sorry for herself or think less of herself, at least no more, and quite possibly less, than "normal" people do.

In spiritual terms, her life was golden: she deeply affected many, many people who will carry forward her life lessons. Surely G-d will compensate her well in heaven for her work here. But what about the rest of us? We who are that much weaker without Rivky in the world to remind us that anything is possible? She had been on the Tehillim lists so many times, it seemed that getting better after almost passing away was just what Rivky did. It's hard to believe that I could be shocked that she didn't recover this time after all the health challenges she'd faced, but I was. She was made of highly unusual matter and spirit - clearly - why should this time be different than all other times?

I watched Rivky as she ended her high school graduation speech, when she introduced the line that defined her life: everything is okay in the end, and if it's not okay, it's not the end.

Her words paraphrase G-d's promise to us, His assurance that the Messianic era will be the glorious end to all that pains and confounds us. The Rebbe has told the world that Moshiach is waiting to come, waiting to end the pain, waiting to make everything okay in the end. Rivky seemed to get the message early; she looked at her own life through a lens of joy no matter what challenges she faced.

Of course it's up to each of us to demand Moshiach. Of course we need to tell G-d that everything is not okay. But Rivky showed us the most successful way to express the sincerity of that plea - to live our lives now, today, as if Moshiach has already arrived.

From Lieba Rudolph's blog For more on Rivky Berman's life and a Torah scroll being written in her memory visit

What's New

Saying Mazel Tov

For centuries, it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn the birthing room and the cradle with Psalm 121. The Psalm states our dependence on G-d for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. For a color print of the Psalm call LEFJME at (718) 756-5700, e-mail, or visit

Hundreds in Ukraine Camp

Four hundred and fifty children are attending a Chabad-Lubavitch Gan Israel camp in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine this summer. The camp is one of 61 Gan Israel camps in the FSU that will host over 5,000 children this summer. Gan Israel day and overnight camps in the FSU are under the umbrella organization of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS,

The Rebbe Writes

Continued from previous issue

In the nature of things, G-d has so created man that he should advance from the elementary to the advanced and from the simple to the complex. However, even at the lowest and most elementary level it is necessary to act with strength, as indicated in the verse above, that is to say to give them of the Torah and Torah spirit the maximum they can absorb, and then we can be sure of the fulfillment of the promise of our Sages, "Try hard and you will succeed," for such all-out effort on the part of man is certain to bring forth the utmost help from On High in a most wonderful way. This is one more meaningful lesson of the 12-13th Tammuz anniversary, which not only led to the wonderful triumph of my father-in-law of saintly memory over his adversaries, but also ensured the extra-ordinary success of his work. For even now, half a century later, we see the fruits and the fruits of fruits of his labors, in the hundreds of Jewish families coming out from the Soviet Golus, with their children and grandchildren proudly bearing the banner of Torah Yiddishkeit and Chasidus, and whose dedication to the Torah and mitzvos in their daily life is a source of inspiration even in the Holy Land.

Once again, wishing you and all your co-workers the utmost hatzlocho [success] to follow in the footsteps of my father-in-law of saintly memory, and this will surely broaden the channel to receive G-d's blessings in the utmost measure, materially as well as spiritually.

With blessing,

26 of Tammuz, 5743 [1983]

I received your correspondence.

In general, I have already expressed my opinion on the matters about which you wrote, and will again remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

Now that we are in the period of the Three Weeks, commemorating the sad events which led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh and the dispersement of our people, we are reminded that every one of us has to do all in one's power to minimize and eventually eliminate the cause that brought about the Destruction and Exile. The only cause of it is clearly spelled out in our Mussaf Prayer: "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land." If alienation from the Jewish way of life, the way of the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments] has been the cause of the Golus [exile], every one of us must work all the harder to bring Jews closer to the Torah and Mitzvos. Thus, every effort in this direction brings all the nearer the appearance of Moshiach Tzidkeinu [our righteous Redeemer] , who will usher in the true and complete Geulah [Redemption]. May it come speedily in our days.

With blessing,

15th of Tammuz, 5723 [1963]

I was pleased to receive your letter with the enclosure. I am gratified to note that you found the children well and happy, and that all is well also in the educational work.

I was, of course, also pleased to note that after our conversation, you felt much encouraged in regard to your work for spreading Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. In regard to your writing that you had the feeling that you could conquer the world, may I add that this is not only a manner of speaking, but has a basis in fact, as indicated in the Gemara (Kiddushin 40b), and also the Rambam [Maimonides] states something to that effect, as a matter of halachah [Jewish law], when he says that a person should always consider his positive and negative deeds as equi-balanced, and so the whole world. If one does an additional mitzvah, he places himself, as well as the whole world in the scale of zechus [merit], outweighing the negative side.

The above is true, of course, also in the matter of spreading Yiddishkeit, and not only for the purpose of out-balancing. For the activities in chinuch [Jewish education], starting in a sincere and hearty way, create a chain reaction, and eventually the students themselves become sources of influence, whether as teachers of in other active capacities, with the same enthusiasm and inspiration.

I trust that you observed in a suitable way the auspicious days of 12-13th of Tammuz. These days marked the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory from Soviet imprisonment, where his life was in jeopardy as a result of his relentless and sustained tattle for the preservation of the Jewish life and institutions even under that totalitarian and anti-religious regime. His selfless dedication, as well as miraculous triumph, is an inspiration to every one of us, and proves once again that where there is a will and determination in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, no obstacles are insurmountable. May the inspiration of these days be with you throughout the year.

All Together

Hakhel: It is the duty of everyone who is a "king", a leader, in his circle - the spiritual leader in his congregation, the teacher in his classroom, the parent in his family - to raise the voice of the Torah and Mitzvot (commandments), forcefully and earnestly, so that it produce a profound impression and an abiding in­fluence in the audience. Similarly, when the days of Hakhel come around (once in seven years), every one of us, including the very small children, must become deeply mindful that our homes and every Jewish home, also the Jewish school that houses the children (and their classmates), should be pure and holy, like being in the Holy Temple.

(The Rebbe)

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Shabbat (July 23) is the 17th of Tammuz, which begins the period in the Jewish calendar known as the Three Weeks or "Bein HaMeitzarim" ("Between the Straights").

In these next few weeks, as we commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temples and the beginning of our long and bitter exile, it is appropriate and commendable to strengthen and increase our observance of Torah and mitzvot.

But we should do this with a unique outlook. For, the Rebbe stated that the Jewish people, as a whole, has already rectified the reason for the exile.

The Rebbe clarified that he was speaking specifically about "unwarranted hatred" which had caused the destruction of the Second Holy Temple.

The Rebbe, therefore, explained that by enhancing our ahavat Yisrael - the love of a fellow Jew - we would experience a foretaste of the unity and ahavat Yisrael that will be prevalent in the Messianic Era.

For, when Moshiach is revealed, the G-dly essence of everything will also be revealed.

Thus, we will experience the true appreciation of our fellow Jew, and this will lead to true "love of a fellow Jew."

The Rebbe also declared that "Teshuva [repentance] has already been done." We have repented of our transgressions, the reason for the exile, and thus, at any moment, G-d can fulfill his long-overdue promise to the Jewish people and the world at large and bring the true and everlasting redemption.

At that time, according to our Sages, our days will be occupied with performing mitzvot and the pursuit of knowledge of the Divine through studying Torah, and especially the new insights into Torah that will be revealed by Moshiach.

May our additional mitzvot and enhanced Jewish knowledge tip the Heavenly scales and bring the Revelation of Moshiach now.

Thoughts that Count

And now come, I pray you, and curse me this people (Num. 22:4)

Bilaam sought to curse the Jewish people, yet G-d reversed his intention and summoned forth powerful blessings It is interesting to note that the individuals who Bilaam wanted to curse were those who were unprotected by the cloud of glory, as the commentaries mention on the verse "he saw the furthermost part of the people." The clouds of glory protected all the Jewish people except those impure or spiritually blemished. Nevertheless, G-d's great love for the Jews, even these Jews (and even after Bilaam recalled the sin of the Golden Calf) caused Him to reverse Bilaam's intention and transform his prophecy into blessings.

(The Rebbe, 17 Tammuz, 5738)

He has not seen any wrong in Jacob, nor has he seen any evil in Israel; the L-rd his G-d is with him, and the glory of the King dwells with him (Num. 23:21)

Only one who "sees no wrong in Jacob" or "evil in Israel," who does not try to find fault with his fellow Jew and always judges him favorably, will merit that "the L-rd his G-d is with him, and the glory of the King dwells with him."

(Rabbi Chaim of Szanz)

The L-rd his G-d is with him (Num. 23:21)

A Jew is never alone. Wherever he goes and wherever he stands, the L-rd his G-d is with him.

(Baal Shem Tov)

It Once Happened

All his life, the rabbi had longed for one thing only: to live in the holy land of Israel. There was no doubt in his mind that the time had now come to move to the Holy Land. Of course, just how he would manage it wasn't so clear, but G-d would surely help. The rabbi was sure that a trip to obtain the blessing of the great tzadik Reb Meir of Premishlan would facilitate his plans, and so the rabbi packed a bag and started off by foot.

When he finally arrived in Premishlan and was led into Reb Meir's study, the tzadik asked, "How will you raise the money for the journey?"

"Well," the rabbi began, "I have many relatives, and I am sure that when I explain the situation to them, they will be generous enough to help me."

Reb Meir didn't respond, but he appeared to be lost in thought. Finally, he said, "It would take many months to accumulate so much money - months which would be better spent devoted to Torah study. There is a different way. Remain here and you will obtain all the money you need for your journey and to set up your household." Needless to say, the rabbi readily agreed.

When the meeting ended, Reb Meir didn't dismiss his visitor as was usual. Instead, he had the next petitioner admitted to his study while the rabbi was still there. This man was a very wealthy person, and when he entered, Reb Meir said, "I would like to tell you a story, but I want the rabbi to listen as well for it will contain meaning for both of you.

"There was once a man named Moshe, who was very rich, but was a cruel and selfish person. Although G-d had provided him with great riches, he was the stingiest person you would ever have the misfortune to meet. Whenever a poor man came to his door asking for food or money, he would throw a veritable tantrum, screaming and cursing the hapless beggar. 'What do think this is?' he would thunder, 'a charity institution? Get out of here before I break every bone in your body!' And that beggar would be directed to the home of Moshe's neighbor, Reb Matisyahu. Now, this neighbor was not wealthy, far from it. But he had a kind and generous nature and never refused a fellow Jew in need.

"This scene occurred many times over the years, and Reb Matisyahu never failed to rise to the occasion. You might think that Moshe's reputation had gone as low as possible, but you would be wrong. For, since he was a very rich man, there were always those who sang his praises in order to ingratiate themselves with him - maybe there would be some gain in it for them.

"Reb Matisyahu's interminable kindnesses went unnoticed; after all, he was a nice guy and people expected him to be kind. The inequality of the situation may not have drawn notice down here, but in Heaven, it provoked the angelic host to fury. It was decided that Moshe's great wealth should go instead to Reb Matisyahu. The sentence was about to be carried out, when Elijah the Prophet spoke up. 'It's not right for a person to be judged on hearsay. I propose to go down to earth and test Moshe. Perhaps he isn't as cruel as we have heard.'

"This proposition was accepted, and soon an emaciated Elijah stood at the door of Moshe, knocking and begging for help. Moshe's reaction was the same as usual. First he berated the beggar for coming, and then he threw him outside into the bitter cold night. Elijah didn't give up so easily, though. He knocked again and with tears streaming down his face, he begged for a bit of food, a drop of warmth. But all to no avail, and the prophet realized that Moshe had forfeited his chance. The tears which continued to stream down his face were being shed for Moshe's lost soul."

The rabbi and the rich guest listened with rapt attention to the story, and as Reb Meir paused for a moment, they looked at him anxiously, wanting to hear the conclusion of the story. "When I heard about the terrible verdict that had been pronounced against Moshe, I felt very sorry for him. How could a man be condemned without fair warning, I thought. And so, I took it upon myself to provide Moshe with one last chance to redeem himself. If Moshe would provide the money necessary for the rabbi's move to the Holy Land, then he would be worthy of redemption. But, if, G-d forbid, he lost this one last opportunity, his soul would be lost. He would lose his fortune and be condemned to wander for the rest of his days, at the mercy of everyone he would meet."

Then, Reb Meir turned and his eyes met the terror-stricken eyes of the very Moshe of his story, but just for a split second, for Moshe fell to the floor in a faint. When he came to, he tearfully said to Reb Meir, "You are so right about me, and yet you have given me another chance to live and redeem my soul. He reached into his pocket and took out a heavy purse which he offered to the rabbi.

"Here, please take this, and when you reach the holy city of Jerusalem, please pray for me," said Moshe through his flowing tears.

The rabbi and his family were soon in Israel, living the fulfillment of their dreams. And Moshe completely turned his life around. In fact, every beggar or traveler who passed through his village was directed to his home, which was a comfortable haven for them all until the end of his days.

Moshiach Matters

Those who were prepared to surrender the territories, extended the exile and postponed the Redemption for many years! The Jewish people is a chosen nation, and one must be proud of this. The purpose of the darkness of the exile is for the Jew to scream out to G-d to take them out of exile. A Jew, in essence, cannot become nullified by a majority. There is a clear ruling in the Code of Jewish Law that even nowadays every Jew has a portion in the Land of Israel. Thus every Jew, even Jews living outside the Land of Israel, has ownership rights, which cannot be overidden by others including a government that wants to surrender land.

(The Rebbe, 17 Tammuz, 1978)

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