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Devarim Deutronomy

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1378: Balak

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Devarim Deutronomy

July 3, 2015 - 16 Tamuz, 5775

1378: Balak

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

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  1377: Chukas1379: Pinchas  

Don't Put it Off  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Teachings  |  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 Tamuz this year, we'd side with the procrastinator.

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

The 17th of Tamuz is the date nearly 2,000 years ago when the wall surrounding the holy city of Jerusalem was breached by the Roman army. This initial cracking and breaching of the wall allowed for the eventual destruction of the Holy Temple which took place three weeks later, on the 9th day 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 ("the prince") opines that being that the fast is postponed until Sunday (for Shabbat is a day of pleasure and enjoyment, and we must not mourn or afflict ourselves on Shabbat), it 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 Tamuz (and concluded on the 9th of Av) is actually a preparatory stage for - and thus part of - the ultimate Redemption, there is the real hope that the Redemption will come before the postponed fast can be observed.

Jewish mysticism explains that although outwardly, the fasts associated with the destruction of the Holy Temple and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people from our land seems to be entirely negative, in fact, the essence of these fasts is positive, since they are entirely connected to the 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 which will take place in the Era of Moshiach.

The 17th of Tamuz is the beginning of this ultimate era. It is when the cracks and crevices 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. The Rebbe then explains, "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? If we do not see him," the Rebbe concludes, "it is because it is our wall that is standing in the way."

Celebrate Shabbat this week, for in general, Shabbat is a taste of the World to Come. And particularly this Shabbat of the 17th of Tamuz, which is essentially and intrinsically connected to the Redemption. And as we celebrate and delight in Shabbat, let's contemplate which spiritually refining and elevating tasks we need to do (that should not be pushed off to tomorrow!) so that our wall no longer obstructs Moshiach's presence but reveals him entirely.

Living with the Rebbe

The period of the Jews' exile began, to a certain degree, with the destruction of the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and will only end with the arrival of Moshiach. Although the Temple was rebuilt and existed for a long time, this period is also considered part of exile, for the Second Temple was missing five key elements that the First Temple had.

Bilaam, the gentile prophet, alluded to the years of exile in his prophecy in this week's Torah portion, Balak. "He crouches and lies down as a lion and as a leopard; who shall make him rise up?" During the period of exile, the Jews have assumed a position of "crouching" and "lying down," as if they are bowed and resting. The Jewish People is not in full possession of its faculties and powers, and is bent and slumbering. Bilaam's words accurately describe the period of exile.

But even as the Jews are in exile, they are still likened to the lion and the leopard. When a lion crouches down, it is not in a position of weakness; the animal retains its power and potential to pounce even in this position. It is the lion's desire to lie down; it was not forced to by an outside power.

Even during the long exile among the nations, the gentiles do not have true control over the Jewish People. For, the exile only applies to worldly affairs; the exile has no influence over a Jew's performance of mitzvot (commandments). There is nothing in the world that can prevent a Jew from serving G-d and fulfilling His commandments.

The Previous Rebbe said: "Only the body of the Jew was subjected to exile and domination by the nations; the soul was not. It is our duty to make it clear to all that strangers have no authority over anything having to do with our religion, with Torah, mitzvot, and Jewish customs, and nothing in the world can change this fact."

It can sometimes appear to us that the world does indeed rule over the "lion" and the "leopard" - over the Jewish nation. This is because of the concealment of G-dliness which is characteristic of the exile, making it possible for us to be deceived into thinking that others can truly rule over the Jewish People. That is why, from time to time, G-d shows us open miracles and wonders - to remind us that "there is nothing else but Him."

These miracles, which occur in every generation, include those signs and wonders which are revealed through the righteous and serve to dispel the darkness and reveal the holiness in the world. They allow us to see, with our own eyes, that the Jewish People are indeed "lions" and "leopards," though "crouched" and "lying down." In reality, the Jew remains a free agent and the exile has no dominion over his true essence.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Wounded Warriors' Warm Welcome

Roey Amir, who fought in Israel's Operation Protective Edge against Hamas, wrote to the New York Post about his visit 10-day visit to New York City with other wounded Israeli veterans, organized by Belev Echad, a project of the Chabad Israel Center..

This time last year, I was planning a summer filled with relaxation, rejuvenation and, of course, plenty of ice cream. Instead, I found myself fighting for my life.

When Hamas terrorists kidnapped three young Israeli boys on June 12, 2014, the nation held its breath.

Tragically, their bodies were found weeks later, brutally murdered. While Israel searched for the missing boys, Hamas terrorists sent a near-constant barrage of deadly rockets into heavily populated civilian areas.

Determined to protect its people, Israel declared Operation Protective Edge.

As a commander in the Israel Defense Forces, I had just finished training a group of new soldiers and was not on active duty, but I asked for (and was granted) permission to rejoin my unit.

We were sent to Gaza to find and destroy the deadly tunnels Hamas had built underground, to infiltrate and terrorize Israel.

During one deployment, we got a call that our location was compromised. We were a small group of eight men in a bombed-out building, and one by one we tried to escape. I was the seventh.

I started to make my way across the road when I saw something blue and metallic out of the corner of my eye. By the time I saw it, it was too late. The explosion sent me flying into the air. I was sure I was going to die. My eyes were bleeding profusely and my legs were mangled.

I was airlifted to Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, where I somehow managed to pull through. I was confined to my hospital bed for many months as I underwent surgery after surgery - 15 in all.

I am now completely blind in my left eye and I walk with a cane, sometimes two. But if I had to, I'd do it all over again.

This month, on a whirlwind trip to New York with a group of fellow injured soldiers, I've come to understand that we are not alone.

From the moment we arrived, brought here by the incredible Belev Echad organization, a project of Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side, we have been warmly welcomed by everyone we encounter.

During the war, we knew the world was against us. We were accused of committing all kinds of atrocities; slandered on the news virtually everywhere. But here in New York, we've been embraced lovingly, with open arms.

We've been treated like heroes.

We rode Harley Davidson bikes through Bear Mountain State Park for a day - in Israel, we often find and stop motorcycles strapped with explosives meant to detonate and kill us.

We were treated to a helicopter ride over Manhattan - for most of us, the last time we rode in a helicopter was when we were being evacuated from the battlefield, severely injured and unsure we would live through the hour.

One night, 600 Jewish young adults joined us for a party open to the public by Chabad. One individual sent us to Washington on his private jet, and on another day we were given the opportunity to open NASDAQ.

We played frisbee in Central Park, went shopping at Jersey Gardens, checked out Manhattan's ice bar and did the Times Square circuit, including Madame Tussauds wax museum, Ripley's Believe it or Not.

We feel like this is New York making a point to us and to the world.

But most importantly, we have been greeted with love and appreciation everywhere we go. And when we visited the 9/11 memorial in Lower Manhattan, it all made sense.

You, New Yorkers, have witnessed terrorism firsthand. You know what it means, and you know it must be confronted.

You will never allow the terrorists to win, and that's something we have in common.

You understand that when Israel fights terror, it is the same war on a different front.

Rabbi Uriel Vigler, who heads the Belev Echad organization together with his wife Shevy, told me that the late leader of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, treated the Israeli soldiers with the highest regard, insisting they be called special soldiers, rather than handicapped soldiers.

And indeed, we have been made to feel special and appreciated over and over during our time here.

Thank you, New York, for treating us as you do and for not looking away in pity. Thank you for looking us in the eye and saying, "We're in this together."

To read more reports on the ten-day trip visit

What's New

From Coffee to Chabad

Chabad of Southern Oregon, in Ashland, Oregon, recently purchased a building in the center of Ashland that formerly housed the local Starbucks. The property is steps away from Southern Oregon University. It is slated to become the new Chabad Center for Jewish Life and will include a Sanctuary, Cafe Lounge, Social Hall, Classroom, Library, Children's Play Area, Kitchen, and Offices, where Chabad of Ashland works with students and faculty.

New Torahs

The Chabad Jewish Community Center in Medford, New Jersey, recently completed and welcomed a new Torah scroll, the first time in history that a Torah had been completed in Medford, a suburb of Philadelphia.

Darchei Menachem school in Brooklyn, New York, welcomed a new Torah scroll that was written in memory of Crown Heights activists Rabbi Shlomo and Miriam Lakein.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Northwest Bergen County in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, welcomed a Torah scroll.

The Chabad Youth of Melbourne, Australia, celebrated the completion of a new Sefer Torah and welcomed it eagerly into the Chabad Youth Center.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5743 [1983]
Dr. - M.D.,

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 19th of Tammuz, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing to me in detail about our esteemed mutual friend. No doubt you have already heard from your patient, who has kept in touch with me.

I am most gratified to note the personal attention and concern you have shown towards your patient. There is certainly no need to emphasize to you how important it is for the patient - also therapeutically - to know that his doctor is taking a special interest in him. This is all the more important in a case of a sensitive person, and especially as our mutual friend is truly an outstanding person who lives by the Torah, and particularly, by the Great Principle of the Torah V'Ohavto L'Re'acho Komocho [the commandment to love one's fellow Jew as one loves oneself].

The above, incidentally, is particularly timely in connection with the present days of the Three Weeks, which remind all Jews to make a special effort to counteract, and eventually eliminate, the cause which gave rise to the sad events which these days commemorate, and hasten the day when these sad days will be transformed into days of gladness and rejoicing.

Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] with this patient and all your patients, and in all your affairs.

With blessing,

15th of Tammuz, 5723 [1963]
To the Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Alliance of America -

I acknowledge the receipt of your invitation to your annual convention taking place, please G-d, on Tammuz 22-25.

I hope that the convention agenda will include items which can be practically and expeditiously implemented to take full advantage of the opportune moment now at hand. An opportunity stemming from the spiritual reawakening now exciting large segments of our people, and particularly our youth.

Those who are sincerely concerned with the development and future of our youth, are cognizant of the fact that this spiritual ardor is caused in part by a realization of the shallowness and emptiness of philosophies alien to traditional Jewish thinking, and inability of these foreign ideas to cope with the problems of our times. Many who are imbued with this new spiritual eagerness lack definitive purpose and direction; others have a somewhat greater understanding of their religious experiences and have acquired an awareness of their bonds with the foundations of traditional Judaism. In both cases, the spiritual resurgence has created a situation whereby large segments of our people are once more amenable and responsive to being guided along the true and righteous path - the way of Torah and Mitzvos [commandments].

Unfortunately, the opportunity has not been duly exploited and far too many are still groping in the darkness lacking proper direction and influence, proper leadership and guidance to proceed along the path of G-d, and especially lacking knowledge of the course of action one should pursue in his daily life.

The problem is of particular importance when it concerns our youth for they instinctively respond with zeal and determination to ideas which are novel to them. They are unafraid to alter the course of their lives if they believe that which is being offered to them is the unadulterated truth.

More particularly, the attention should be focused on the young boys and girls of school age about whom the Torah instructs: "You shall teach your children diligently" This commandment is recited in our daily prayers in the first paragraph of the Shema which is bound up with the recognition and submission to the yoke of heaven. This verse is then repeated in the second paragraph of the Shema to stress the importance of giving the children a Jewish education in general and especially - the study of Torah which is the most important "of all the good deeds."

continued in next issue


"The Tablets were the work of G-d and the writing was the writing of G-d, charut ('engraved') on the tablets. Do not read charut, but cherut ('freedom'). There is no free person except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah" (Ethics 6:2).

Chasidut explains that engraved letters are unique in that they are an integral part of (and not a separated entity from) the object on which they are written. When a Jew studies Torah in a manner of "engraving," he becomes unified entirely with the Torah he studies. His entire existence becomes Torah. This leads to true freedom; he is lifted above all worries and distraction.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is the 17th of Tammuz and the fast usually commemorated on this date is postponed until Sunday. The Rebbe explained that there are two ways of explaining the fact that the fast is put off:

  1. It is forbidden to fast on Shabbat, because no element of sadness should be associated with this day. In particular, this applies in regard to those fasts that commemorate national calamities.

  2. The postponement serves as a foretaste of the revelation of the true nature of the date of the fast that will surface in the Era of the Redemption when, as Maimonides writes, "all the fasts will be nullified... and will be transformed into festivals and days of joy and rejoicing."

On an overt level, a fast day is obviously undesirable. The suffering endured on a fast is surely not pleasurable, nor appreciated. Never-theless, the inner dimension of a fast is good, as the prophet states, "It is a day of will to G-d."

This contrast is openly expressed in regard to the 17th of Tammuz. On an obvious level it is associated with negative factors, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem, which led to the destruction of the Holy Temple. Nevertheless, its inner, essential quality is good. This is even alluded to in the date itself, for 17 is numerically equivalent to the word "tov." This points to the intent of the exile, that it should lead the Jews to the Era of the Redemption.

The connection to the Redemption also relates to Shabbat which is a foretaste of "the era which is all Shabbat and rest for eternity." Moreover, the mitzva of delighting in the Shabbat by partaking of material delicacies is also paralleled by "the feast that G-d will make for the righteous in that future era." That feast will be an actual physical meal. For, as Chasidut explains, the ultimate reward of the Messianic Era will be experienced in this material world, as the souls are enclothed within the body.

May this take place immediately!

Thoughts that Count

Balak saw and the people of Moab were afraid (Num. 22:2-3)

When Balak, the king and leader of the Moabites, saw the approach of the Jews his fear quickly spread to his people. This contrasts sharply with the behavior of Moses, leader of the Jewish nation. When he was afraid of Og, king of Bashan, it was only "in his heart." He did not allow his fear to show even to himself, let alone to others. This is a lesson for Jewish leaders in all times. Even in the most difficult times they must exude only hope and encouragement.

(Divrei Chachamim)

May my soul die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like him. (Num. 23:10)

A Jew once came to the tzadik Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz, and while speaking to him expressed the desire that "at least I should die like a Jew." The Rebbe interrupted him and said, "That is what the non-Jew Bilaam requested when he said, 'May my soul die the death of the righteous.' He wanted to die as a Jew but to live as a non-Jew. We must ask G-d to grant us to live as Jews."

How goodly are thy tents Jacob - thy dwelling places, Israel. (24:5)

It is a good for Jacob to build tents - synagogues and houses of learning. But only on the condition that they become "thy dwelling places, Israel" - that Jews should actually be in them. A synagogue should not be built solely for its beauty, standing empty a whole week and only with difficulty finding a minyan on Sabbaths and Festivals.

(Rabbi Yaacov Yosef of Polonye)

It Once Happened

David and Meir had been childhood friends. From the earliest they could remember, they were partners in Torah study. After they both married, David mysteriously disappeared and Meir didn't see him for many years. Meir did, however, hear that David had joined the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and eventually became the Rabbi of Nikolayev.

Meir eventually inherited his father-in-law's business and divided his time between business and Torah study. On one of his many trips to a fair in a far-off city, he was staying in an inn where he saw a group of chasidim rejoicing.

"What are you rejoicing about?" asked Rabbi Meir.

"Rabbi David of Nikolayev is here," they answered him.

Rabbi Meir realized that they were speaking of his childhood friend, and asked the chasidim where Rabbi David was. They pointed to a closed door. Rabbi Meir knocked on the door. "David, open the door for me!"

Rabbi David opened the door and recognized his old friend. They fell on each other in great excitement.

"Why did you go to the Baal Shem Tov?" Rabbi Meir began.

"Remember when you and I used to discuss that we wanted to learn Torah lishma - for its own sake - but we were not able to reach that level? I heard that in the Besht's circle, they learned Torah lishma."

"And what made you stay, once you got there?" asked Rabbi Meir.

"When I came to the Baal Shem Tov," answered Rabbi David, "I didn't find what I was looking for at first. But the chasidim encouraged me to stay a while longer. I stayed the eve of Shabbat and managed to be in the Baal Shem Tov's room when he read the holy book, Song of Songs.

Truly, it was something to hear. I felt as if a tumult was being made in the heavens. But I still wasn't convinced that this was the place for me.

"Yet, the Baal Shem Tov's chasidim convinced me to stay on, at least until they observed the yartzeit (anniversary of the passing) of one of his parents. That entire night, the Baal Shem Tov would remain in his room repeating the six books of the Mishna by heart. The chasidim were certain that this phenomenon would convince me. I waited until the night of the yartzeit, and there was truly something to be awed by. However, I still was not convinced.

"Stay until the night after the yartzeit, the chasidim told me, 'for the Baal shem tov will fast for the entire day and then, at night, he will make a big meal for the greatest of his students. If you attend this meal, it is impossible that you won't be totally drawn to the Baal shem tov.' 'But prepare yourself well,' they warned me. 'Most people fall asleep during the meal.'

"I agreed to stay. I rested well in preparation for the evening. I even said special prayers to help me stay awake. At the meal, the Baal Shem Tov sat at the head of the table, surrounded by his chasidim. He began to expound on the meditations for immersing in the ritual bath (mikva). "One of his students stood up and said, 'Rebbe, the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) explains this concept differently.'

"The Baal Shem Tov's face went a fiery red, and then a deathly white. Immediately, I became exhausted and could not stop myself from falling asleep. While asleep, I saw many people running somewhere. I asked the people where they were going and they told me that in a few minutes the Baal Shem Tov was going to expound on some deep concept. I, too, began to run.

"We arrived at a large building and I saw two seats in the middle of the hall. I was told the seats were for the Baal Shem Tov and the Arizal. I managed to stand right near the Baal Shem Tov's chair.

"The Baal Shem Tov began to expound on the mediations for immersion in the ritual bath. After he finished his lecture, the Arizal asked him many questions and the Baal Shem Tov answered him. Thus proceeded the exchange until the Arizal acknowledged the truth of the Baal Shem Tov's words.

"Immediately thereafter I awoke to find myself once again at the festive meal with the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov once again began to expound on the meditations for the mikva and the same disciple said once more, 'But the Arizal explains differently.'

"The Baal Shem Tov looked straight at me and said, 'David, stand and tell us what you saw!'

"And that," concluded Rabbi David, "is how I became a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov." When Rabbi Meir heard this story, he decided to travel together with Rabbi David to the Baal Shem Tov and eventually became one of his greatest chasidim.

Moshiach Matters

"A star will shoot forth from Jacob, a staff will stand up from Israel." (Num. 24:17) According to the Jerusalem Talmud, this verse refers both to Moshiach and to the Jewish people. Chasidic teachings explain that the soul of Moshiach is a soul that contains within it all the souls of Israel. The soul of each and every Jew, therefore contains a spark of Moshiach's soul. Hence, each and every Jew is given the same appellation ("star from Jacob" and "leader of Israel") as that which is given to Moshiach, for it refers to the Moshiach within the Jew - the essence of the Jew's soul. When the Divine essence of the Jew's soul will be openly revealed in his/her personal life, this effects a personal "coming of Moshiach."

(, based on a talk of the Rebbe, Simchat Torah eve, 1985)

  1377: Chukas1379: Pinchas  
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