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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 20 Issue 34
Sept.9-15, 2018 - 29 Elul, 5778-6 Tishrei 5779
Torah Reading: Vayeilech
 Candle Lighting: 7:15 PM
Shabbos ends: 8:08 PM
Shabbos Shuva
Complete High Holiday Schedule

 

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi
Essay ·
Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Vayeilech
Deuteronomy: 31:1-30

The Parshah of Vayelech (“and he went”) recounts the events of Moses’ last day of earthly life. “I am one hundred and twenty years old  today,” he says to the people, “and  I can no longer go forth and come in.” He transfers the leadership to Joshua, and writes (or concludes writing) the Torah in a scroll which he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping  in the Ark of the Covenant.

The mitzvah of hak’hel (“gather”) is given: every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot of the first year of the  shemittah cycle, the entire people of Israel—men, women and children—should gather at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the  king should read to them from the Torah.

Vayelech concludes with the prediction that the people of Israel will turn away from their covenant with G‑d, causing Him to  hide His face from them, but also with the promise that the words of the Torah “ shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their  descendants.”

A Word From the Rabbi

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THE ART OF TESHUVAH
In Connection With the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur

The month of Tishrei revolves around Teshuvah (repentance). There is Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Teshuvah, including this Shabbos, known as Shabbos Shuva, and Yom Kippur, all of which are about Teshuvah. Even the second part of the month, i.e. Sukkos and Simchas Torah, represent  the idea of Teshuvah, albeit in a different  way. Moreover, the entire month of Elul, the month leading up to the high holidays, is devoted to Teshuvah as well.

The nature of inspiration is that it comes and goes. How often are we emotionally stimulated by an inspirational  episode – even to the point of tears – yet the next day it is business as usual? We don't even give it a second thought, let alone act upon it; the inspiration evaporates like it never was.

The type of inspiration that lead to Teshuvah clearly requires some skill. Let us examine the skills that are necessary in the art of Teshuvah. A good place to start is the Talmud.

There is a somewhat mysterious statement in the Talmud regarding the posture to be adopted while engaging in prayer. It suggests that the the one praying should direct his heart upward and his eyes downward. While this is essentially referring to one’s physical posture (one's body should be fully erect, with his face pointed downward), it is no doubt also alluding to one’s mental posture.

This is to say, that in order for our prayers to be productive – for our inspiration to have an enduring effect – yes, our heart must climb the heavenly ladder; it must soar to the highest of heavenly spheres, yet that is only half the job. While the heart is afloat in the heavenly realms, absorbing inspiration and spirituality, the eyes must be focused below.

In the midst of the most intense spiritual experience we must take a moment to think about what happens when we finish praying and our soul returns to this dog-eat-dog world? How are we going to put the inspiration to use in changing the way we do business – the way the world does business? For this our eyes must be focused downward. We need to think practically. We must make very real and tangible resolutions.

The latter is true of repentance as well. While inspiration may come easy at this time of year, it can just as quickly disappear. To harness the inspiration requires a strategy. The first step is to keep our eyes on the target while our heart floats adrift – to identify and commit to a practical set of resolutions while we are still in the state of spiritual elation. The following are a few other important navigational tools in our pursuit of Teshuvah:

Change comes in small increments. One must hence resist the desire for extreme makeover. While our society is captivated by Hollywood's various Extreme Makeover series’, from one's looks to one's home, let's not forget that Hollywood is Hollywood and real life is real life. When it comes to character, there are no extreme makeovers. The attempt at radical transformation may well end in failure and disappointment. It is hence much wiser to take small deliberate steps; one successful resolution followed by another.

 Another pitfall is the act of becoming weighed down by the task ahead. The thought of how far one has drifted and how laborious is the path of return can be paralyzing. One may worry how he will be able to achieve the necessary level of self-control in order to avoid sinful behavior – how can he resist the powerful urges and temptations of the forbidden that seem unrelenting. He may feel that he can do this 

for a day or a week but not indefinitely. Now, since he knows that he will sooner or later succumb to temptation, of what point is the battle in the first place – why deprive himself now?

This person must realize that this too is nothing but the conniving tactics of the yetzer hara, evil inclination). The way to deal with fear is not to consider the prospect of future temptation. One must only worry about the temptation at hand.

It is precisely with regards to this syndrome that the Mishnah states: He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not your obligation to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it… (Avot 2:16)

What did David do when he faced the giant Goliath? He transformed the circumstances through decisive action – small as it was. He didn't dwell on the fact the Goliath was three times his size, or that Goliath was a skilled warrior, he didn't focus on the magnitude of the challenge before him. He chose instead to focus on the task at hand. The rest is history.

Another trap to look out for is the hypocrisy argument. The logic of this contention goes as follows: "You know who you really are. You know the sins you have committed yesterday and the one's you are likely to commit tomorrow And, most importantly you know that G‑d knows. So who are you kidding? You're just a weak person who is not able to live by G‑d's rules; so why pretend? If you are going to follow G‑d's rules than follow them completely. If you are not going to follow all of them, then stop acting like a saint. To embrace one mitzvah is not only meaningless it is actually hypocritical!"

This too is the working of the yetzer hara. A person must start somewhere, and has got to crawl before he can run. The evil inclination is well aware that it's not what step on the ladder you're on that counts, but the direction in which you are heading. Our mischievous inclination will, however, do anything to keep us from getting on the right path.It will even use high moral ideals to stop us. If we recognize from where such arguments stem we might be able to contend with them better.

Another trap to look out for is the "When I will get a chance I will do for G‑d" syndrome. This theory espouses that "Now is a busy time in my life. Now I am engaged in earning my fortune. It makes no sense for me to give charity at this time. After all, how much could I give now? Plus, now I need to reinvest every penny. But just have some patience G‑d and you'll see. I'm not just going to contribute towards the Synagogue building fund; I'm going to build the entire Synagogue single handedly."

The same argument is made with regards to the study of Torah and other Mitzvos: "At this juncture in my life I'm preoccupied with raising a family, earning my degree, building a business, conquering the world. My time is better used for other things, which will of course all help with my resources to better serve you at a later point in life." This is another trap of the evil inclination.

The reality is that one who doesn't give charity when he has less, doesn't give when he has more, because there is never enough. One who doesn't make time to study Torah when he is busy, does not make the time to study when his time is free. Our sages summarized this phenomenon in a single potent statement: "Do not say, 'When I will have free time I will study,' for perhaps you will never have free time." – Avot 2:4.

During this time of year of our soul beckons us to Teshuvah, we must not squander the moment in rosy dreams and flaky ideas, with no specific and tangible plan. Nor should we be discouraged by feelings of inadequacy and hypocrisy. We must remain focused on the process that is most conducive to tangible and enduring change – a single, small but specific resolution – one that is immutable and non-negotiable.

May we all experience a sincere and complete Teshuvah.

Gut Shabbos!

 

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Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 

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Who Let the Kids in?

I received a call a few years ago from a reporter at the local Jewish newspaper. Seems that a synagogue had just voted to exclude all children under 10 from entering the main sanctuary during prayers. The little kids had been attracting so many complaints for their antisocial behavior that the older members had banded together in protest. After an acrimonious special general meeting, the motion in favor of decorum had been carried by a large majority. The reporter who contacted me was calling other synagogues to see whether we had any intention to enact similar rules.

I replied that it was ironic that she’d contacted us, as we’d recently identified a contrary problem, and had solved it in a different way. We wanted more kids around.

shul without children is boring. Their wide-eyed innocence as they run to kiss the Torah, the sense of excitement at hearing the biblical story for the very first time, the joyful anticipation as they clamber under their father’s tallit during the priestly blessing. What kind of organization would deliberately reject their own future and opt for a sterile, boring, child-free environment?

Our congregation appointed a lolly man to hand out treats to the children at strategic junctures during services. Call it bribery, call it positive reinforcement, call it what you will, but just call the kids into shul.

I take no credit for this attitude towards involving the youth in religious activities; it’s explicit in the Torah. Almost the last mitzvah that Moshe commanded the Jews before his death was Hakhel, the once-in-seven-years gathering of the Jews in Jerusalem, where they would be addressed by the king and re-inspired to the ways of faith. The responsibility to be present at Hakhel was universal; every single Jew living would take his or her place in the throng. Interestingly, even infants and young children were expected to be present in person.

It makes sense; the purpose of this mitzvah was “to hear . . . that they will observe to do all the words of this Torah” (Deuteronomy 31:12). It’s nice if adults do the right thing, but the real target of the whole ceremony was “their children . . . who will hear and learn to fear the L‑rd, your G‑d, all the days that you live” (ibid. 31:13).

If you want a committed crowd of adults, people “observing the words of the Torah,” it’s crucial to attract them while they are young. Adults are hit-and-miss: they might be inspired for a while, but their excitement often dissipates just as quickly. When a child buys into something, however, thatcommitment can last a lifetime.

Imagine the excitement of being in a huge crowd of Jews, all focused on a common goal and listening to the same message. Even if the child doesn’t yet understand what he’s hearing, even if he’s too young to fully appreciate the scene, the emotional imprint will hopefully last “all the days that he lives.”

And I suggest that is why we always read this section right around Rosh Hashanah. Our synagogues are full this week, but will the children be active participants in the experience or shunted off to side rooms of irrelevancy? Synagogue seats are expensive, and adults often worry that the little children will disturb, but we need our children to believe that they are welcome in the room and are an integral part of the service.

Obviously, there is a time and a place for educational, fun, and memorable children’s programs, and it is a parent’s responsibility to sit with his or her own kids and teach them how to act in a holy place when they do come into the sanctuary. But first and foremost, it is up to the community leaders to welcome all Jews, especially children, into our synagogues. Our children are the future of our faith, and as Jews gather together this week, let us commit to welcoming everyone into the fold.

 

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum is spiritual leader of Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation and co-director of L’Chaim Chabad in Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia.

Thoughts That Count
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Gather the people together, men, women and children (Deut. 31:12)

Rashi asks: Why were the children included? To reward the parents who brought them. G‑d helps parents raise their children to be G‑d-fearing and upright to the same degree that they put their efforts into the task. (Sefat Emet)

And they will say on that day, is it not because my G‑d is not in my midst that these evils have overtaken me? (Deut. 31:17)

Every Jew must believe that G‑d is with him and within him wherever he goes, even in times of trouble. It is only when our belief falters and we forget G‑d's presence that "these evils" are given the opportunity to occur. (Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)

Behold, while I am still alive with you this day, you have been rebellious against G‑d; how much more so after my death (Deut. 31:27)

The Talmud relates the story of Rav Zeira, who lived in a town with many wrongdoers. After he died they all became righteous, as there was no longer anyone whose merit would protect them. Moses, by contrast, knew that the Jewish people would not improve their behavior after his death. Years before, when Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah, the Satan had fooled them into thinking he was dead; the result had been the Golden Calf. He therefore realized that the Jews would continue to rebel after his actual passing. (Minchat Yehuda Al HaTorah)

And call heaven and earth to witness against them (Deut. 31:28)

They, the Jewish people, will be My witnesses, testifying that I created heaven and earth. For it is through the Jews that the world comes to know that G‑d is the Creator and that He constantly oversees His handiwork. (Chidushei Harim)

Once Upon A Chassid

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The Cop-Out

I shall hide my face from them… (31:17)

Rabbi Avraham 'the Angel' was the only son of Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch. When Rabbi Avraham was a young child, he once came weeping to his father: He had been playing hide and seek with a friend, sobbed the child, but the friend had lost interest and had run off to some new amusement, leaving little Avraham all alone in his hiding place, waiting in vain to be searched out.

Rabbi DovBer lifted his eyes to heaven and cried: "You, too, have hidden Your face from us only because You want us to seek You. But Your children have tired of the game and have run off…"

Tid Bits
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Begging for Honey Cake
tid bit
Growing up, Erev Yom Kippur was a busy day.

I remember waking up and feeling that there was a solemnity to the day, even though the actual holy day had yet to begin. Words were measured more than usual, actions were thought about. The house smelled of chicken soup, salmon, potatoes and the kreplach that my Bubba used to make and send over to our house.

But as the day wore on and the rush began, there were two veryimportant things to do—and they were done every single year, no matter what.

We would go to my father’s parents, Bobba and Zeide, and bet lekach and be blessed by my grandfather. Soon after that, we would head over to my mother’s parents, Bubba and Zeide, bet lekach and be blessed by my grandfather.

The concept of bet lekach is really quite simple. Bet means to “beg” in Yiddish. As my mother explained to us, we were begging for honey cake from our grandparents in the hopes that this would be the only “begging” that we would do in the coming year. Let us not have to beg for money, let us not have to beg for health, let us not have to beg for food. Here we are already begging for something sweet. May that be the end to our begging!

It was a custom that my very Chabad and very Russian grandparents held onto from yesteryear, fast and dear. And so my mother didn’t need to bake a honey cake; we were going to bet it twice that day!

It is amazing how the mind remembers facts, but it is the senses, smell, taste and touch that bring life to those memories.

Bobba loved to bake. Our favorite cake was her cheesecake. No one made a cheesecake quite like Bobba. It didn't look particularly fancy, now that I think of it, but the taste was just incredible.

Bubba, my mother’s mother, may she live and be well, is a fantastic baker, and quite honestly could have sold her creations. I don’t even know the names of all the cakes and cookies she made, but there was always something on her table when we came to visit. it was always homemade, and it always tasted divine.

On Erev Yom Kippur, there was only honey cake on the table at my grandparents’ houses. Bobba’s honey cake was high and fluffy, light-colored and more dry than wet. Bubba’s honey cake was lower, very moist and dark in color.

We had a certain awe of my father’s parents—a respect for them and a tendency to be quiet in their presence.

There was a moment of trepidation, nervousness, before we went up to Bobba after the small talk was over.

“Bobba ... Ich bet lekach.”

It was the one Yiddish sentence I could complete, and I was always relieved when it came out right. Bobba’s eyes would literally light up, and she would bring the plate over to us. “Lekach? Of course! Of course!” And she would hand out the honey cake with a string of blessings, usually given over in Yiddish, and a kiss on our cheek or forehead.

Bubba and Zeide lived up the street from us, and we were very familiar with their house, visiting them at least once a week, often twice. When we went to bet lekach,we often met other cousins leaving or coming at the same time.

“Bubba, Ich bet lekach!” we would state proudly, and she would dole out the honey cake with pleasure, saying “Nem, nem (‘take, take’).”

We ate the honey cake, chatted and played, and then it was time for Zeide to bentch us.

Zeide was a Holocaust survivor, and there was a part of him that got lost in the war years that never quite found its way back. He was quiet, often pensive, and kept to himself. Bubba would send us into the morning room—a little room off the kitchen where the sunlight streams in through a large window and pretty flowered curtains.

I remember Zeide’s hands trembling as he placed his hands over my head and intoned the blessing: Yevorechecha Hashem ... k’Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel v’Leah, blessing me to be like our matriarchs.

My heart would pound being in such close proximity to him, and my mind would whirl with questions. What is he thinking about when he blesses us, his grandchildren, who don’t know the world he came from and what he left behind? What nightmares does he have of the horrors he experienced? Does he ever have peace of mind and serenity?

Every year, without fail, Zeide would lower his hands and plant a kiss on our foreheads. I can almost feel the coarseness of his beard, bumping against my face as he leaned closer to me. His kiss always felt like something I should treasure and never forget, and indeed, I will never forget it.

Traditions.

As Yom Kippur approaches this year and these memories come flooding back to me, I am struck by the stark differences in my own children’s lives. For a while, it caused me to feel a fundamental sadness. I live across a vast ocean from my own parents. My Bubba, who currently resides in London, will receive a phone call from me over the phone to replace the visit I used to make. My father’s parents left this world within the last few years, and I am suddenly feeling that void that family traditions and customs bring into our lives, especially around holiday time.

Tomorrow, we will go eat the meals at my dear in-laws. There will be store-bought honey cake, and I will teach my girls to bet lekach. My older one will probably laugh at the words and my second one, who can’t quite talk coherently, will stare me down and make a run with her cake. My father will bless me and my girls over the phone, and my father-in-law, Sabba, will encircle my children with his warmth and love and give them blessings.

Maybe, just maybe, I will bake a honey cake.

It’s time, perhaps, to start my own family traditions.

Blumie Abend is a wife and mother currently living in Crown Heights. She has a passion for writing and currently works as a freelance writer.

 

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