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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

June 25, 1999 - 11 Tamuz, 5759

574: Chukat-Balak

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

  573: Korach575: Pinchas  

Two Keys  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Two Keys

In a little village, two Jews met each other on market day. David was wealthy, and Meir was financially challenged.

David asked Meir, "How are things going, friend?"

To which Meir responded, "Thank G-d, I have two keys."

(Of course, this conversation was in Yiddish, as were most conversations amongst European Jews in those days. However, we left untranslated only the final word, "keys," which means "cows.")

When David went home, he asked his wife to purchase their milk the following day from his friend Meir, to give him a bit of business.

Early the next morning, David's wife went to Meir's home and asked if she could buy some milk.

"I would be happy to sell you milk, but I have neither cows nor milk," Meir toldher.

When David's wife reported this information back to him, he was puzzled and decided to find out what the story was.

That evening, when David saw Meir he queried, "Didn't you tell me you have two keys (i.e. cows)? I asked my wife to buy milk from you but you told her you don't have milk or cows!"

"It's true I don't have two keys (cows), but I do have two other keys ('because' in Hebrew): 'Key - Because we hope all day for Your salvation' and 'Key - Because Your kindness is always before my eyes....' With these two 'keys' I manage, thank G-d."


Although we should all strive to reach Meir's level of faith in the face of life's challenges, many of us have a hard time not losing these "keys," at least once in a while.

However, there is a different kind of key that every Jew has, and can never lose, regardless of level of observance, Jewish education, age, rank or serial number.

"The key to the Redemption is in the hand of absolutely every individual" the Rebbe said. "It is the task of every Jewish man, woman and child, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small, to bring about the Redemption. This mission is unaffected by distinctions in prayer rites, ideological circles, or parties: it is the concern of the entire House of Israel."

We are on the threshold of the Redemption, an era of personal and world peace, health, prosperity, and appreciation for and understanding of G-dliness. All we need to do is to use our key to unlock the door.

What are today's keys? Certainly not cows, and not just "becauses." Our keys are mitzvot, good deeds, Torah study. As Maimonides writes in Mishna Torah (Laws of Repentance), "Every person should view himself and the whole world as if perfectly balanced between good and evil. If a person fulfills one mitzva, he tips the scales in favor of himself and of the whole world, and brings about redemption and salvation for himself and for the whole world."

Most people would never only have one car key, house key, mailbox key, etc. Concerning keys to the Redemption (mitzvot), we should also make sure to have a few spares and duplicates.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portions, Chukat and Balak. In the second portion, Balak, it is related that when King Balak asked Bilaam to curse the Jewish people, Bilaam responded by uttering several prophecies. The first one established that it was impossible to curse the Jews, as they are especially beloved by G-d. "How shall I curse whom G-d has not cursed? And how shall I execrate whom the L-rd has not execrated?" he said. Bilaam's second prophecy went even further: Not only is it impossible to curse the Jewish people, but they deserve special blessing because of their good deeds: "Behold, I have received [the word] to bless; and when He has blessed, I cannot call it back."

Bilaam then cites one of the special qualities of the Jews: "Behold, it is a people that shall rise up as a lioness, and as a lion shall it raise itself." As Rashi explains, this means that "when [the Jews] awaken from their sleep in the morning, they show the strength of a lion to seize the commandments - to put on tzitzit, to recite the Shema, and to don tefilin."

According to Rashi, whose explanation is based on a Midrash, the main reason G-d loves the Jews so much is their willingness to "seize the commandments." Not satisfied to merely observe mitzvot in a routine manner, they "seize" and "grab" them as an expression of their eagerness.

Reaching out to grab something is an indication of how much a person wants to possess a particular object. If he is not that interested in the object, he will not stick out his hand or rush to take it.

In fact, the Jewish people love G-d's commandments so much that immediately upon arising, they "attack" them with the forcefulness of a lion. As soon as they regain consciousness they "put on tzitzit, recite the Shema, don tefilin, etc."

On a deeper level, the act of "seizing" indicates an action that transcends logic. In the service of G-d, this is the level of mesirut nefesh, self-sacrifice, the "illogical" willingness of the Jew to give up his life for the sake of G-d. When we say that a Jew "siezes" the commandments, it means that he observes mitzvot with a sense of mesirut nefesh.

This brings to mind a statement of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, who encouraged his Chasidim to actively demonstrate self-sacrifice in the face of Communist oppression: "Jews, you must grab mesirut nefesh now. Grab it! Because the time for mesirut nefesh is about to end. The day is coming very soon when there will be complete religious freedom; you will look for mesirut nefesh but will not find any."

Indeed, in the merit of the Jewish people's self-sacrifice throughout the generations, we will very soon merit the fulfillment of the rest of Bilaam's prophecy-"a scepter shall arise out of Israel"-the coming of Moshiach, speedily.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 33

A Slice of Life


The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, visited the Holy Land in 1929, to pray at the graves of the righteous "and to awaken great mercy for ourselves, our students, and all our brethren." What follow are translated extracts from the diary of Rabbi Shimon Glitzenstein of that visit.

Thursday, 17 Tamuz

The Rebbe's intended visit has aroused great interest. It is well known that all the Chabad Rebbes had a strong desire to go to Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] and were prevented by extraordinary obstacles such as those which caused the Alter Rebbe to cancel his journey when already en route. Because the Rebbe transcends parties and movements, all sections of Jewry in Eretz Yisrael have commenced preparation to receive him.

Thursday 2 Av

At 6:40 a.m. the train arrived at Lod where the Rebbe was greeted with song and with great joy.

At the railway station in Jerusalem a similar scene was being enacted. By 9:15 a.m. when the train arrived at the Jerusalem railway station a crowd of over 5,000 people had gathered.

On his arrival in Jerusalem the Rebbe rent his clothes and said the blessing, "Dayan Ha'Emet-...Blessed be the True Judge."

At 4:00 p.m. the Rebbe left to pray Mincha [afternoon prayers] at the Kotel [Western Wall]. This news spread like wildfire and once again large numbers of people hurried to see the Rebbe.

Mincha was recited with great emotion. Following Mincha, the Rebbe said Psalms. The crowd was visibly moved by the prayer of the tzadik and his quiet crying as he prayed by the remains of our Holy Temple. Within minutes the crowd joined in the Psalms being recited by the Rebbe and their loud weeping could be clearly heard.

The Rebbe enquired of those near him whether it was the custom to kiss the holy stones. On receiving an affirmative reply the Rebbe's eyes filled with tears. The sound of him kissing the remains of our Holy Temple could be heard.

Sunday, 5 Av

At 5:30 p.m. the Rebbe arrived in Safed. A large crowd had gathered at the resting place of the Ari Zal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria. The Rebbe went to the tomb. He raised his eyes to heaven, standing silent except for deep sobbing. The Rebbe read the pidyonot [prayers from the depths of the soul] which he had brought with him and then walked around the tombs of the Ari Zal, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, and Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz. The Rebbe then visited the tomb of Rabbi Joseph Caro who is buried nearby and continued alone to the resting place of Rabbi Moshe Alshich and spent some time there. Later in the evening the Rebbe walked up the mountain, a difficult task even for a younger man, especially after such a long, tiring, journey. The Rebbe walked with strong steps and a holy spirit; his strength surprised everyone present. He said to those present: "With the first visit to the holy places one becomes emotionally stirred to the extent that the physical world disappears." Later, a table was brought to him on the porch where he wrote Chasidut for three hours.

At 3:00 a.m. the Rebbe left to visit Meron, the resting place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (the Rashbi). He went to the cave and secluded himself there. He lit some candles and prayed at the grave, crying bitterly in a manner which stirred all who heard it. The Rebbe again read the pidyonot. Then he walked to the grave of Rabbi Eleazar, son of the Rashbi, where he recited some chapters of Psalms. The Rebbe circled the grave and went on his own to the cave of Rabbi Yitzchak Napacha. A Chasid who entered the cave afterwards found a note written in the Rebbe's hand: "All the students who learn in Russia and Jewry in general are experiencing a deficiency in material and spiritual matters."

At 9:00 a.m. the Rebbe arrived in Tiberias and went immediately to the tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. Here, too, he said a short prayer. He continued to the graves of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, the Sheloh and the Rambam. At the grave of the Rambam he stood in quiet contemplation for a while and as he left the grave the Rebbe said the verse from Ecclesiastes, "And the living should take to heart," explaining that the life of a person should be an everlasting life - like tzadikim, who even when they die are still referred to as being alive. He added that the merit to achieve this was possible only through the verse, "Today is the day to do it."

Tuesday 7 Av

At 2:00 p.m. the Rebbe commenced his journey to Hebron. Several hundred people travelling in a cavalcade of cars accompanied him. At Beth Lechem the Rebbe visited the Tomb of Rachel. The Rebbe's countenance portrayed the elation of his soul as he prayed and wept. He circled the tomb and again read the pidyonot.

The cars then moved on towards Hebron. [Special permits were obtained to allow the Previous Rebbe to visit the Cave of Machpelah where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried.] He visited the Cave of Machpelah and prayed Mincha with the special tune from Rosh Hashana which moved everyone present to tears.

Thursday 9 of Av

On Tisha B'Av the Rebbe went to the Mount of Olives to visit the resting places of Zecharia the Prophet, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik... and the burial places of the Kings of the House of David. When one of his entourage said that these resting places were very dear ones the Rebbe replied that it will be interesting when all those resting here are raised up to life.

Monday 13 Av

7:00 a.m. The Rebbe visited the Kotel again. He expressed his excitement and poured out his heart in prayers and tears. On his way back, the Rebbe explained the expression of our Sages "No man ever said to his fellow: 'I have no room to lodge overnight in Jerusalem.' " Our Sages used the Hebrew term "makom - place" and not the term "zeman-time," for in place, no matter how overcrowded, one can always squeeze oneself in, but as far as "time" is concerned there is never enough.

What's New


The serene Catskill Mountains and the charming village of Tannersville are the venue for the Machon Chana Almunae Retreat Week Aug. 12 - 19. This is one of the special events at the Machon Chana in the Mountains Summer Program, running from July 2 - August 22. For more info call 718-735-0030 or visit their website at machonchana. org.


On Wednesdays, 8-9:30 p.m. in July and August, Be'er Miriam presents "Chasidut by the Sea: A Journey into Jewish Mysticism." At Pier 17 in Manhattan's South Street Seaport, join the informal lecture series rain or shine. For more info call 718-467-5519.

The Rebbe Writes

3rd of Tammuz, 5741 [1981]

To All Participants in the Annual

Bais Chana Scholarship Dinner


I was gratified to note that the forthcoming Annual Dinner will take place on the 10th of Tammuz, during the auspicious days between the 3rd and 12th-13th of Tammuz, the anniversary of the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory from imprisonment in Soviet Russia, for his extensive activities to strengthen and spread Yiddishkeit in that country in defiance of the regime.

The point that is particularly pertinent to the Dinner is the fact that the main reason for his arrest and threat to his life was his special dedication to the Torah education of Jewish children, and this was the only way to preserve Jewish identity and Jewish existence, which the regime endeavored to obliterate. But it is also precisely because of it that Hashem granted him a miraculous Geulo [redemption], which not only saved his life but also enabled him to expand his activities for Jewish education and general strengthening of Yiddishkeit on an even greater scale than before.

The obvious lesson for every one of us is that if in the circumstances prevailing in that country at that time it required real Mesiras Nefesh [self-sacrifice] to work for Torah education and Yiddishkeit, no such price is demanded of all of us living in a free country and conducive circumstances. All that is required of us here is to have the good will and determination to take advantage of the happy circumstances and support such vital institutions as Bais Chana financially and through personal involvement.

I trust that each and all of you will indeed give this institution your most generous support in every possible way, in order not merely to carry on its vital work, but also to enable it to expand and grow to meet the challenges of the present day and age.

Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] and the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good, materially and spiritually.

With esteem and blessing,

9th of Tammuz, 5724 [1964]

I received your letters in which you write about things that happened after your return home. May G-d grant that you should always have good news to report.

As we are only a few days away from the auspicious 12th-13th of Tammuz, the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory, no doubt you have made arrangements to observe these days and also organize a gathering. May G-d grant that it should be successful, and that you and every one of us should derive lasting inspiration and blessings from these auspicious days.

With blessing,

10th of Tammuz, 5726 [1966]

I duly received your letter.

In addition to the regards and blessings which were conveyed to your husband, and through him also to you and your children, I wish to reiterate again herewith my prayerful wishes, all the more so since these are auspicious days connected with the 12th-13th of Tammuz. No doubt you know about the history and significance of this Liberation Day of my father-in-law of saintly memory.

It is surely unnecessary to emphasize that whenever I write to your husband with special blessings on various occasions, particularly in connection with the Yomim Noroyim [Days of Awe] and other festivals, you, the Akeres Habayis [mainstay of the home] and helpmate, are of course included, together with the children.

May the inspiration and influence of the 12th-13th of Tammuz stand you and all yours in good stead.

With blessing,

Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman, yblc't

11 Tamuz

Positive mitzva 92: the Nazirite to let his hair grow

By this injunction the Nazirite is commanded to let his hair grow. It is contained in the words (Num. 6:5): "[He shall be holy;] he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long." (The Nazirite vow to abstain from wine, defilement by the dead, etc. could only be fulfilled in the land of Israel.)

A Word from the Director

This Shabbat, the 12th of Tamuz, marks 72 years since the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, was released from Soviet prison. Originally sentenced to death for heading a secret network of Talmud Torahs, mikvaot and synagogues throughout Russia, the Rebbe's victory over the Communist ideology was a triumph for Jews everywhere that resonates and continues till the present day.

With the clarity of vision that comes with hindsight, we can now see how the 12th of Tamuz was the first substantial blow delivered against the "Evil Empire" that eventually led to its downfall. In the struggle between Communism and Judaism, the faith of Israel would emerge triumphant. In the battle of decadence and corruption against justice and righteousness, truth and virtue would prevail.

Back in 1927 it seemed as if the Jewish religion was ready to be tossed onto the ash heap of history as a relic of the past. Communism, with its promise of social justice and equality for all mankind, was the wave of the future. Seventy-two years later, when most of the world regards it as a failed experiment, it is hard to imagine how massive a threat Communism once was. Yet the present reemergence of Torah-true Judaism throughout the former Soviet Union is nothing short of a miracle when viewed objectively. Indeed, this is what the Rebbe fought for all along.

The 12th of Tamuz is a celebration of our faith in G-d, a holiday for everyone who believes in the Torah and its commandments. L'chaim, Jews, and may we merit to celebrate the ultimate victory of good over evil with the coming of Moshiach, immediately and at once.

Thoughts that Count

This is the statute of the Torah which the L-rd has commanded (Num. 19:2)

The sin of the Golden Calf was due to a lack of faith; the mitzva of the red heifer is therefore a chuka, a commandment whose reason is not revealed to us, to "counteract" that sin: The only reason we observe it is our faith. (Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorky)

This is the statute of the Torah (Num. 19:2)

Comments Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator: "Such is My decree: you do not have permission to second-guess [the Torah]." The same word for permission appears in Ethics of the Fathers (3:15): "Everything is foreseen, yet permission [freedom of choice] is granted." Permission implies that something is possible; "you do not have permission" implies that second-guessing G-d is outside the realm of possibility. In truth, it is against the Jew's nature to question a Divine decree. If doubts do exist, they are only the product of the Evil Inclination. (The Rebbe)

Aaron shall be gathered unto his people (Num. 20:24)

Why does the Torah use this unusual phrase to mean that Aaron was about to pass away? Because despite the fact that Aaron would no longer be alive in the physical sense, his positive character traits and exemplary behavior would be "gathered up" and perpetuated by the Jewish people forever. (Peninei Torah)

He has not beheld any wrong in Jacob...the L-rd his G-d is with him (Num. 23:21)

When the word "Jacob" is used for the Jewish people, it alludes to the inner struggle of the G-dly soul against the animal soul. Yet, even on this level, the Torah states that the Jew is without wrong. Where does the Jew derive the

strength to prevail? From his unique Jewish soul, of which it states, "the L-rd his G-d is with him." The Jewish soul, a "veritable part of G-d Above," is endowed with the power to transform even the animal soul into holiness. (The Rebbe)

It Once Happened

In commemoration of the 17th of Tamuz we bring you this excerpt from The Book of Our Heritage by E. Kitov concerning events that took place on that day in Jewish history, may it soon be turned into a day of rejoicing.

During the days of the destruction of the First Temple, the wall of Jerusalem was breached on the 9th of Tamuz. On that day the enemies broke into the city. They were, however, unable to enter the Sanctuary in which the Kohanim (priests) fortified themselves, and performed the Divine Service till the 7th of Av. Beginning with the 13th of Tamuz, the Kohanim did not have sufficient sheep for the daily sacrificial offerings. So the Jews began to bribe the besieging soldiers outside the wall. They did this by lowering silver and gold over the wall in return for which the soldiers sent up sheep. They did this each day till the 17th of Tamuz.

In the Jerusalem Talmud, a similar event is related as having occurred in the days of the Second Temple: "Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi: In the days of the Greek kingdom, they used to lower two baskets of gold, in return for which, two sheep were sent up. Once they sent down two baskets of gold, and two kids goats (kid goats may not be used for the daily-offering) were sent up. That hour, G-d lit up their eyes and they found two sheep... Rabbi Levi said: In the days of this wicked kingdom (Rome), the Jews also sent down gold and the Romans sent up sheep. In the end, however, the Jews sent down two baskets of gold, and in return the Romans sent up two pigs. The baskets did not reach half way up the wall before a pig stuck his nails into the wall, whereupon the pig was thrown a distance of 40 parsa."

At the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, the walls of Jerusalem were breached on the 17th of Tamuz. This was the day on which day Titus and his armies broke into the city. During the destruction of the First Temple in the days of Tzidkiyahu, the city walls were breached on the 9th of the month.

(The Jerusalem Talmud relates that even during the destruction of the First Temple, the walls of Jerusalem were breached on the 17th of Tamuz. Because of the dreadful calamities which occurred then, the records were confused and the people thought that the walls had been breached the 9th of the month of Tamuz. And though G-d knew, and Jeremiah the prophet knew, He allowed the Jeremiah to write that the breaching of the walls had occurred on the 9th of Tamuz in accordance with the notion of the people. It was shown thereby that G-d shared in their sorrow, and that even His calculation was based, as it were, on error; a thought which the mouth is incapable of speaking, and the ear is incapable of hearing.)

This following event is mentioned in the Mishna. It occurred during the time of the Roman procurator, Comenus, some 16 years before the great rebellion against the Romans. At that time, the Roman military forces engaged in harsh provocations against the Jews and their holy places, and they plunged the country into great tumult. Josephus Flavius related the following of the period:

"After this calamity (some 10,000 men had been slain on the Temple Mount as a result of violence provoked by the Romans), new unrest erupted because of an act of robbery. On the royal road, near Beit Horon, robbers befell the cortege of Stephanius, a royal official, and thoroughly plundered it. Comenus sent an armed force to the nearby villages and ordered the arrest of their inhabitants, who were then to be brought before him. It was their sin that they had failed to pursue and capture the robbers. One of the soldiers seized a scroll of the Holy Torah in one of the villages; he tore it and cast it into the fire... From all sides the Jews gathered in trembling, as if their entire land had been given to the flames. Upon hearing the first reports, they gathered in a spirit of great zeal for their holy places and object, and they hastened to Caesaria, as with the speed of arrows, to appeal to Comenus. They demanded that he should not save from retribution the man who had so greatly blasphemed their G-d and their Torah. The procurator realized that the rage of the people would not subside till he would placate them. He therefore ordered that the soldier be brought and hung on the gallows, in the presence of his accusers. Whereupon the Jews returned to their cities."

Beit Horon is on the road between Lod and Jerusalem, which corresponds to the reference of the Jerusalem Talmud to the "Roadways-of-Lod." According to the conjecture, the event occurred on the 17th of Tamuz a number of years before the destruction of the Second Temple and the name Stephanus is a variant of Apustumus. (Such variants of names were quite frequent.) Some hold that this same Apustumus placed an idol in the Sanctuary of the Holy Temple on the 17th of Tamuz.

Moshiach Matters

For what underlying reason does the 12th of Tamuz fall in the midst of the somber month of Tamuz? Because it is in our very generation, the generation that can hear the closely approaching footsteps of Moshiach, that the theme of redemption which lies hidden in the month of Tamuz has been revealed. (Likutei Sichot, vol. 18)

  573: Korach575: Pinchas  
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