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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 20 Issue 30
August 12-18, 2018 -Rosh Chodesh - 7 Elul, 5778 
Torah Reading: Shoftim
 Candle Lighting: 7:48 PM
Shabbos ends: 8:42 PM
Pirkei Avos: Chapter 6

 

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

 

Parsha Synopsis

Shoftim
Deuteronomy: 16:18-21:9

Moses instructs the people of Israel to appoint  judges and law enforcement officers in every city. “ Justice justice shall you pursue,” he commands them, and you must administer it without corruption or favoritism. Crimes must be meticulously  investigated and evidence thoroughly examined—a minimum of two credible  witnesses is required for conviction and punishment.

In every generation, says Moses, there will be those entrusted with the task of  interpreting and applying the laws of the Torah. “According to the law that they will teach you, and the judgment they will instruct you, you shall do; you shall not turn away from the thing that they say to you, to the  right nor to the left.”

Shoftim also includes the prohibitions against  idolatry and  sorcery; laws governing the appointment and behavior of a  king; and guidelines for the creation of “ cities of refuge” for the  inadvertent murderer. Also set forth are many of the rules of  war: the exemption from battle for one who has just built a  home planted a vineyard married, or is “ afraid and soft-hearted”; the requirement to offer  terms of peace before attacking a city; and the prohibition against wanton  destruction of something of value, exemplified by the law that forbids to cut down a  fruit tree when laying siege (in this context the Torah makes the famous statement, “ For man is a tree of the field”).

The Parshah concludes with the law of the  eglah arufah—the special procedure to be followed when a person is killed by an unknown murderer and his body is found in a field—which underscores the  responsibility of the community and its leaders not only for what they do, but also for what they might have prevented from being done.

A Word From the Rabbi

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PERCEPTION OR DECEPTION?
The Pious Animal Inclination

Abe Seinfeld is sure that the man on the street he’s just run into is his old friend Sam.

"Sam," he says, "Is that you?! Why, you've put on a lot of weight and your hair has turned so gray. You seem a few inches shorter and your cheeks are somewhat puffy. What's happened to you Sam?" You sound so different; gosh, your walk is even different.

"My name is not Sam and I don’t believe I know you sir,” replies the gentleman; half amused and half bewildered, “So why don’t you just move on."

"Wow Sam!” says Abe: “You son-of-a-gun! You even went and changed your name on me."

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“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

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The story is told that the Rebbe of Volborz beheld an apparition of a recently deceased man whom he well knew. The man appeared confused and was oddly urging him to find for him a wife, since his late wife had recently died.

“You’re extremely confused,” said the Rabbi. “You obviously don't realize that you are no longer amongst the living.” Refusing to accept this, the Rabbi lifted the man's coat revealing his shroud. This seemed to have done the trick and the apparition let up.

When the Rabbi's son heard what had happened, he mused in bewilderment: “In that case how could anyone know that he is not living in delusional state with regards to all that he sees and believes. Perhaps I too am living in a state of confusion and imagination.”

To this his father replied: “So long as you are aware that such a problem exists, you are not likely to be its victim.”

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When Kaiser Wilhelm sought to invade Belgium, he was reminded of the signed treaty agreements, which his actions would blatantly violate. Dourly brushing the matter aside the Kaiser declared: “We shall take Belgium! As for the treaties? We can leave it to the philosophers to supply the necessary explanations.”

“Philosophy,” correctly asserted one contemporary thinker “Is simply the formation of bad reasons for what we already believe on instinct.”

A phrase that comes up a lot nowadays is: “Perception is Reality.” Many, including Dr. Phil, are of the belief that “There is no reality; only perception. Whatever meaning or value a particular circumstance has for you, will be the meaning or value that you give it.” Our perceptions determine how we act and react, which can cause trouble, especially when dealing with people.

Although I’m not sure whether or not the latter is true and what Judaism’s position actually is on this critical issue, I think it is safe to say that “Perception certainly effects reality.”

Reality seems like such a straight forward thing. We assume that we really have a firm grip on reality, whether it is the weather, our boss, our relationships, a news story, or the size of our hips. Not so fast. We might physically see or experience the same thing as someone standing next to us, but we perceive it differently. That's because perception involves running what we see or feel through our mental filters that are based upon our cumulative life experiences.

If the latter is the case with respect to our physical reality, how much more so is it the case with our mental and spiritual reality. Perception undoubtedly is a critical factor in how we understand the reality of our spiritual status.

With the above in mind it is extremely important to note and to remember that while it is true that our perceptions affect our personal reality, not all of our perceptions are correct. We might be under the influence of false perceptions, created by our self closeness and love.

Indeed, we humans have a resident “philosopher,” which is capable of justifying any act to which we set our mind. Reason, more often than not, serves as a handmaiden of man’s will; providing creative explanations and rationalizations for any objective upon which his heart is set. No wonder that Judaism has always had a healthy dose of suspicion of man’s capacity to rationalize.

An act for which we are quick to criticize another, is often quite all-right for ourselves. People who insist they are honest and fair tend to have two standards; one for themselves and one for others. While there are endless excuses and explanations with regards to one’s own misconduct, for the next guy there is no such tolerance and understanding.

When it comes to others, we might see fit to air harmful rumors and speculation – fomenting animosity among family and friends, even as we tear the guy’s reputation to shreds without compunction.

How many friendships are wrecked, Shidduchim aborted and marriages destroyed by a simple self-important “Krim mit de nuz?” (a crooked nose (Yiddish)), or skeptical remark, if only under one’s breath and only by way of question or possibility. Whatever one’s reasoning for his destructive conduct might be, it is no less damaging.

There are those who even wrap themselves in the mantle of piety while indulging in this disparaging activity. They manage to drag all that is holy and pure into their self-serving destructive agenda. As a result they turn Jew against Jew, Synagogue against Synagogue and ideology against ideology, all in the name of holiness.

In fact, when not preoccupied destroying others with their malicious tongue, these very people can sometimes be heard preaching about “Shmiras Halashon” and “Lashon Hara.” In addition to the obvious hypocrisy and harm stemming from the abuse of religion for one’s personal agenda, preaching about Shmiras Haloshon, while personally engaging in this negative conduct, is equivalent to raising a white flag while approaching the enemy, as if to surrender, and then lobbing a grenade. That soldier has not only acted immorally, he has furthermore, betrayed and undermined an important institution of life and civilization.

In his anthology, Hayom Yom, the Lubavitcher Rebbe relates the following episode in the name of his father in law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson:

“My grandfather said to my father: ‘The Yetzer Hara (evil impulse) is called “Animal soul,” not because it is necessarily a brute animal. At times it may be a fox – the most cunning of beasts – whose machinations require great wisdom to perceive. At other times, it may clothe itself in the garb of an earnest, straightforward, humble Tzaddik – possessing fine traits of character.

The animal soul manifests itself in each person according to his individual character. One person may suddenly experience a powerful urge to study Chassidus (Chassidic philosophy) or to meditate deeply on some Divine concept. In truth, however, this is nothing more than the Yetzer Hara's counsel and its machinations to prevent him from engaging in what is actually required of him at that time, i.e. prayer [with a Minayn] or the like. . .

My father concluded: ‘Until then, I had not known that there can be a ‘pious’ animal soul, let alone a ‘Chassidic’ animal soul.’”

Our Parsha; Shoftim, begins with the commandment to appoint judges and law officers throughout the land: “Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself in all your gates [cities].” (Deuteronomy 16:18).

The use of the words for “You” and “Yourself,” which in the Hebrew language are in the singular, indicate that this is not only a communal command but also one that is directed towards the individual.

Indeed the Zohar (classic Kabbalistic text) states that the concept of “judges and officers” applies to each individual with regards to his own persona. In order to triumph over one’s evil inclination and tendencies, one must develop an internal judicial system within one’s self. One must exercise enormous acumen in evaluating one’s own choices and decisions and their true motivation.

In this regard the prohibitions in our Parsha against perverting justice and taking bribe apply to each individual as much as to a public adjudicator. Everyone – even an accomplished Torah scholar – no matter how much greatness and stature he has achieved, must scrutinize his every action to determine its true and inner motivation, for he is no less partial to his own benefit and interests. Self deception is an equal opportunity human trait; it is by no means limited to the wicked.

I’m reminded of a talk given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe with regards to a certain painful matter. After describing the nature of the given situation, leaving out all names and references to guilty parties or individuals, he proceeded to admonish those who would try to direct his deliberately indistinct remarks towards a particular incident or individual that they fancied to be the subject of his remarks. The Rebbe continued to predict that there are those who were busy doing just that, even as he spoke these very words.

We must search the crevices of our soul for the true motivation of our actions and desires, even when it involves an overtly positive and holy act, how much the more so when the act in question is of an adversarial, disciplinary or counteractive nature. The motive and purity of such actions must be examined twice and thrice. Is it an act of Pinchas, or perhaps that of Korach? While the line may sometimes be fine, they are worlds apart; polar opposites.

One must further take care to avoid the pitfalls of self deception and delusion that so often creep up on us. One must not allow pleasure, profit, honor, or any of the countless other self-interests, to influence his judgment – bribing him into thinking that an unworthy act is permitted, worthwhile, or perhaps even a Mitzvah.

The latter can only be accomplished through the appointment of Judges and officers at all our personal “Gates,” i.e. points of entry and exit. We must examine discerningly everything that comes in and goes out – what our eyes observe, our ears absorb, and what our mouth ingests and exhales. Then, and only then, can we be somewhat sure that the motivation and drive behind what we believe to be holy and pure, is truly for the sake of Heaven.

May we merit the time when evil will be eradicated from the world and truth will shine forth as the light of day – a time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d like the water that covers the ocean, with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.

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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Packaging

I have a friend who will not buy avocados on principle. "Fifty percent of the weight is the seed," he explains. He loves purchasing apples, grapes and bananas, but avocados and mangos are out. Peaches and dates are borderline — he'll buy them on occasion, with deep misgivings.

My friend has a point - the whole fruit business is a scam. Trees need to procreate; that's why they grow seeds. But trees are not very mobile, leaving them with the problem of how to get their seeds planted a reasonable distance away (if both you and your offspring are immobile, you can't throw them out of the house at age 35). One way would be to tap a passing bird, animal or human on the shoulder and say: "Excuse me, sir, can you please take these seeds and drop them off some distance away, preferably some place with good soil, sunshine and an abundant water supply?" But most passersby would probably mumble something about a doctor's appointment and slink away. So the tree packages its seeds in colorful, tasty and nutritional pulp, and markets it as "fruit."

 


 

"Man is a tree of the field" (Deuteronomy 20:19).

We resemble the tree in numerous ways: in our ceaseless "upward" striving, in our need for "roots", in the way that our lives fork and "branch" off in different directions, among others. Chief amongst them, of course, is the way that everything we are and do is focused on the generation of seed.

Man is a spiritual being, which means that we not only reproduce physically — by giving birth to children — but also spiritually: we replicate ourselves by seeding our ideas, feelings and convictions in the minds and hearts of others. And here, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we find an interesting parallel between the way that the fruit tree dispatches its seeds and the way that we disseminate our thoughts and experiences.

The fruit tree's vehicle of reproduction consists of two basic components:

1) the seed, into which the tree distills its very self - its characteristics, its nature, its quintessential treeness;

2) the "packaging" that makes it attractive and palatable to its curriers and consumers.

Both are necessary. Without the packaging, the seed wouldn't get very far, or would do so only with great difficulty. On the other hand, if a tree were to produce a most luscious and attractive fruit but neglect to include a seed, nothing would happen. There would be no shortage of consumers, but no progeny.

When we seek to "reproduce" spiritually by communicating our thoughts and feelings to others, we, too, package our seeds. We envelop them in intellectual sophistication, steep them in emotional sauce, dress them in colorful words and images. If we didn't, our message might not get very far (my avocado-shunning friend, for one, would not display much interest). But the important thing to remember is that there must be a "seed" in there. If the fruit of our mind doesn't encase a piece of our soul, what's the point?

 

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.

Thoughts That Count
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Judges and officers you shall appoint upon yourself...and they shall judge the people (Deut. 16:18)

First "you shall appoint upon yourself" - first you must adorn yourself, and then "they shall judge the people" - you will be able to adorn and beautify others and to judge them. In other words, most people are blind to their own faults. (Klei Yakar)

The Torah enjoins the judge - "you shall appoint upon yourself" - the same criteria and set of rules that you use to judge others you should apply to yourself as well. Demand of yourself the same fear of G‑d that you demand from those you are judging. (Toldot Yaakov Yosef)

What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house (Deut. 20:8)

Moses said this to those who were to wage war. Rabbi Yosi Haglili said: This means one who is afraid because of his sins. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov added another insight: The worst thing is when a person dwells on his transgressions and sinks into a depression. When the Evil Inclination tries to entice a person to sin, it is more interested in the depression following the wrongdoing than the sin itself. The damage done by depression is greater than the damage done by the gravest transgression.

You shall set a king over yourself (Deut. 17:15)

This commandment's purpose is to instill the fear of G‑d, the subjugation to Him, and the acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven. The king himself is nullified to G‑d; therefore, when the nation subjugates itself to him, they nullify themselves to G‑d as well. (Derech Mitzvotecha)

Once Upon A Chassid

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The Dripping Hat

Be wholesome ('tamim') with G‑d (18:13)

To be 'tamim' with G‑d means: Walk with Him with simplicity and without guile. Do not seek to manipulate the future; rather, accept whatever He brings upon you wholeheartedly. Then, He will be with you and you will reap the rewards of His apportionment. (Rashi's commentary)

When Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was released from his imprisonment in 1798, there was great rejoicing and celebration. At one of the farbrengen sat the Rebbe's synagogue in Li'ozna, the celebrating chassidim invented a most unique dance: a barrel of vodka was set up in the center of the room, with a dipper at its side; as each chassid passed the barrel, he dipped in for a l'chayim. Round and round swirled the dancers, dip, dip, dip, went the dipper.

Soon the predictable happened: the hat of one of the dancing chassidim took a nose-dive into the barrel. Rabbi Schneur Zalman himself fished out the hat, replaced it on the young man's head, and quoted: "A hat of salvation upon his head." 1That year, the young chassid became extremely wealthy.

One year later, when the celebration and the dance were repeated, an enterprising young chassid decided to try the hat trick himself. As he passed the barrel, he nonchalantly flipped his hat into its spirited contents. The Rebbe rewarded him with nary a glance…

Tid Bits
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What Does Geshmak Mean?
tid bit
Geshmak (pronounced gish-MOCK) is a Yiddish word that means “delicious,” “pleasurable,” or “fun.” Geshmak functions as both a noun and a verb. So if, for example, your nephew has a geshmak in cooking, you can confidently tell him that the food he made was simply geshmak. In American Yinglish (English sprinkled liberally with Yiddish), a person whose company is enjoyable may also be referred to as geshmak.

Learning With a Geshmak

Our sages teach that a person should always learn Torah in a place that his heart desires.This means that not only should the subject be dear to your heart, but you should also pick a venue where you will be able to enjoy your studies. Follow their adage, and you’re guaranteed to be learning with a geshmak.

A Geshmak in Doing Favors

Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch taught:

It is a magnificent gift of G‑d to merit an innate sense (a “feel”) and a geshmakfor doing kindness to another. This can develop to the point that one cherishes the other more than oneself. He may find many explanations as to why he deserves his own tribulations, G‑d forbid, but to do so with regard to another's suffering is inconceivable.

The Path Less Geshmak

A father once took his young son to dip in the river, as per the custom of the pious to immerse in the cleansing waters of a mikvah before praying each morning.

It was a bitterly cold day, and the river was almost frozen over. The duo quickly undressed and slipped into the water. “Oy, Tatteh!” cried the son. “It’s freezing!”

As soon as the pair emerged, they wrapped themselves in warm towels, headed for home and warmed themselves near the crackling fire. “Ah,” signed the son with pleasure, “this is geshmak!”

“My dear son,” said the father, “let this dip in the cold river be a lesson for you. In life you will face many choices, and it will not always be clear to you what is right and what is wrong. One path may appear more geshmak than the other; how will you know which is correct?

“You must always look a few steps ahead,” he continued with wisdom gleaned with age. “If the oy is followed by an ah—first difficult but then geshmak—know that you are on the correct path. But if it is first an ah and then an oy—starting out geshmak but going downhill from there—know that you must change direction.”

It’s Geshmak to Be a Jew

There is an oft-told anecdote of a rabbi who observed how some Jewish families managed to maintain their fealty to Judaism in early 20th century America, while others fell to the wayside:

Many Torah scholars who were devoted to Judaism with every fiber of their being, never compromising even an iota, found that their children didn’t follow in their footsteps.

Then there were others who did not appear to be any more learned or devout, yet their children took the torch of Judaism and made it their own.

What was the difference?

It’s the end of a long workweek, and two men are laid off for refusing to work on Shabbat. Both come home with empty pockets and no idea where their next penny will come from.

One of them sighs deeply and says, “Oy, s’iz shver tzu zein a Yid” (“Oh, it’s tough to be a Jew”).

The other greets his family with a smile and tells them with joy, “Oy, s’iz geshmak tzu zein a Yid (“Oh, it’s a pleasure to be a Jew”).

It’s not difficult to imagine which children chose to follow their father’s example . . .

 

Notes From Israel

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