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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 23 Issue 30
 August 29-Sept. 4, 2021 - 21-27 Elul, 5781
Torah Reading: Nitzavim
 Candle Lighting : 7:29 PM
Shabbos Ends: 8:22 PM
Pirkei Avos: Chapter 5 & 6

 

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi

Essay · Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Nitzavim
Deuteronomy: 29:9-30:20

The Parshah of  Nitzavim includes some of the most fundamental principles of the  Jewish faith:

The  unity of Israel: “You stand today, all of you, before the L‑rd your  G‑d: your heads, your  tribes, your elders, your officers, and every  Israelite man; your young ones, your wives, the stranger in your gate; from your wood-hewer to your water-drawer.”

The future  redemption Moses warns of the  exile and desolation of the  Land that will result if Israel abandons G‑d’s laws, but then he  prophesies that in the end, “You will return to the L‑rd your G‑d . . . If your outcasts shall be at the ends of the heavens, from there will the L‑rd your G‑d gather you . . . and bring you into the Land which your fathers have possessed.”

The practicality of  Torah: “For the  mitzvah which I command you this day, it is not beyond you, nor is it remote from you. It is not in heaven . . . It is not across the sea . . . Rather,  it is very close to you, in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it.”

Freedom of choice: “I have set before you life and goodness, and death and evil: in that I command you this day to  love G‑d, to walk in His ways and to keep His  commandments . . . Life and death I have set before you, blessing and curse. And you shall  choose life.”

 

A Word From the Rabbi

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UNITED WE STAND...
Can Individuality and Unity Coexist?

One day when walking across a bridge, I encountered a man who was about to jump off.  So I ran over and said "Stop! Don't do that!"

"Why not," he asked. "Well, there's so much to live for.” I replied."Like what," he asked.

"Well...are you Jewish," I asked. “I’m Jewish," He said.  "Me too, I replied.

“Are you Orthodox or Reform?" He said "Orthodox." I said, "Me too. Are you Charedi or Modern?" He said "Charedi." I said, "Me too!

“Are you Litfish or Chassidish?  "He said "Litfish." I said, "Wow! Me too.”

Are you  Litfish Yerushalmi or  Litfish Bnei-Braker?" He said “Litfish Yerushalmi." I said "Me too!

“Are you  Litfish Yerushalmi Mussarnik, or are you  Litfish Yerushalmi Brisker?" He said "Litfish Yerushalmi Mussarnik" I said, "Imagine that! Me too!

“Are you  Litfish Yerushalmi Mussarnik Slobodker, or  Litfish Yerushalmi Mussarnik Kelmer?" He said "Litfish Yerushalmi Mussarnik Slobodker!"Apikores (heretic) that you are!” I shouted, and proceeded to push him off the bridge.

“Unity,” what a beautiful thing. Its virtuous qualities are echoed by politicians and clergymen as well as leaders, activists and ordinary folk of all ilk and class. The word conjures up fuzzy images of an idyllic state of existence – a world in which there is no strife – where humanity is bound by a single objective and a single mind and heart.

But is unity a real concept, or is it a wishful fantasy? Can humanity actually come together, with a single heart and mind towards any single objective?  

We humans are so different from one another. We possess extremely diverse desires, inclinations, interests and taste. This is not only because of our selfish and animal nature and agenda, which, to be sure, can take due credit for our propensity towards disagreement and contention. But our very minds tend to operate on different frequencies by mere biological design.

No, we humans do not think alike, nor were we meant to. The Talmud states: “Just as no two people are identical in image, so are no two people identical in their way of thinking.” Each of our brains is wired somewhat differently, and that’s how it was meant to be. Given the above can we even dream of unity and single mindedness?

The current political atmosphere is a perfect case in point. America has become so pulverized by the intense nature of the prevailing political landscape. Feelings run so deep; it is causing strife and even hatred amongst fellow citizens.

Neither has the Jewish community been spared the friction associated with the intense political divide. There is enormous contention and discord within all segments of the Jewish community over the contested national issues. We cannot even agree on what’s best for Israel and our  

 

Jewish values and interests, let alone the plethora of other matters. The prevailing political atmosphere is not a shining example of man’s capacity for tolerance and accord.

Yet, Judaism maintains that unity is not only a desirable and attainable trait but actually a necessity and prerequisite for Divine revelation and blessing.  How is this possible? If I’m for healthcare reform and you are vehemently opposed to it, how can we be united?

The answer is that Unity does not dictate or require that everyone believe or act the same, or agree with each other, for that matter.  Quite the contrary, unity by definition exists in light and in spite of our unique individuality and differences.

This is to say that we need not deny the reality of our (or anyone else’s) individuality in order to be united. Not only do we all have the “right” to be distinct in our behavior and thought, it is in fact very much part and parcel of the Divine design of the human mission.” Is it not G‑d, after all, who created us so different and distinct from each other? As one wife told her husband: “If we would always think alike, then one of our minds would be superfluous and unnecessary!”

We must, accordingly, not try to silence those who disagree with us or badger them into accepting our viewpoint or will. Most importantly, our differences of opinion and views do not constitute just grounds for animosity and hate.        

So, you ask, where lies the unity in this philosophy? While the notion of “agree to disagree” is very benevolent, it does not seem to symbolize unity. If anything, it is the antithesis thereof. Can individuality and unity coexist, and how so?

Unity is the ability to master and harness our individuality and diversity towards a common and higher objective. Rather than to “deny” them, it is to “unite” them – to utilize them as a means towards a higher end, not as the end of a higher means.

In practical terms, this means that we allow ourselves to be bound together by that which is higher than ourselves – higher than our individuality and diversity. For true unity to exist there must be the recognition of higher (Divine) morals and principles for which we are willing to yield our individual mind and heart.

Much as you don’t create light by beating-out the darkness with a stick, but rather by lighting a candle, you don’t create unity by beating-out your opponent’s individuality and point of view – a tactic that failed miserably throughout history – but rather by emphasizing and accentuating the higher morals and values which are greater than our individuality and separateness.

This is precisely what the Torah asserts in the beginning of  Parshas – Nitzavim, the first of this week’s double portion: “You are all standing this day before the Lord, your G‑d, the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers, that you may enter the covenant of the Lord, your God, and His oath, which the Lord, your God, is making with you this day.” (Deuteronomy 29:9-11)

– it does not gloss-over the distinct different classes and categories that comprised the legendary assembly. Yes there was perfect unity and individuality at the same moment – leaders, elders, officers, children, women, converts, woodcutters and water drawers, all with their own unique beliefs and way of thinking.

How was this possible? The answer is because they were “All standing this day before the Lord, your G‑d.” they were cognizant of a higher existence and creed – “The covenant of the Lord, your God, and His oath, which the Lord, your God, is making with you this day.”

In face of higher reality and purpose, our individuality and diversity are fused together – they become complementary of each other like the sundry instruments in a symphony.

The following is a charming little thought which I recently came across: As we all know, there are minor variations in the text of our prayers. In the Shacharis (morning) service, there is for example, a difference in the order of the first prayer. Chassidim say Hodu before Baruch She-amar, while Misnagdim say it after.  However, before the prayer of Yehie Ch’vod Hashem – which translates: “May the glory of G‑d [be forever]” – both groups find themselves aligned.  

The point here is that when it comes to the glory of G‑d, both Chassidim and Misnagdim – different as their ideas may be – find themselves on the same page.  This, as stated above, is precisely the message of our Parsha – unity is attained through higher awareness and commitment.

Among the numerous factors taken into account by our Sages when they arranged the Jewish calendar, is when each Torah portion will be read. Not only was the goal to complete the cycle of reading the Torah by the last days of the holiday of Sukkos, but also to make sure certain portions of the Torah would be read at particular times of the year.

Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment of all mankind. This gives the abovementioned point even deeper relevance. The words in our Parsha: “You are all standing this day before the Lord ‘this day,’” according to Chassidic philosophy, also refers to the day of Rosh Hashanah.

The message, accordingly, is that by standing together “this day” of Rosh Hashanah – through true Jewish unity, as described above – we all merit Divine revelation and blessing. We are certain to be inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy and sweet New Year. May this be the case for us all, with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA!

L’shanah Tova   

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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While We Are in Exile, Where is G‑d?

In our Parshah, Moses prophesies regarding our nation’s exile as well as our ultimate redemption, regarding which he says, “G‑d will return your exiles and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations where the L‑rd your G‑d had dispersed you” (Deuteronomy 30:3).

Though galut (exile), by definition, is a time when G‑d’s presence in our lives isn’t manifest and palpable as it was—and will soon again be—during the Holy Temple glory days, it by no means signals a hiatus in our relationship with Him. This idea was expressed by Jacob the first time that our nation was dispatched into exile, when he informed his children that they would spend many years exiled in Egypt, but “G‑d will be with you” (Genesis 48:21).

G‑d is omnipresent, He’s with everyone at all times, so Jacob’s special assurance that G‑d would be with the Jews was referring to G‑d’s overt presence and protection. Indeed, though our exiles have been times of great national difficulty, persecution and worse, it is these very travails that testify to the fact that G‑d is still “with us.” For is there any other explanation for the fact that a small, displaced and defenseless nation outlives all the superpowers that endeavor mightily to annihilate her?

But lest we think that G‑d is a master conductor who keeps a watchful eye over us while He Himself remains serenely unaffected by our suffering, the verse (Psalms 91:15) quotes G‑d as saying, “I am with him [Israel] in distress.” This was the message that G‑d conveyed by choosing to appear to Moses in a thornbush when the Jews were being oppressed by the Egyptians. When we suffer, it’s as if He is being pricked by thorns. After all, is there a father that is not distressed when his child is in pain?

The verse cited above, from this week’s Parshah, takes this idea a step further. The Hebrew wording employed in this verse is rather unusual. Rather than the standard וְהֵשִׁיב, which translates as “He [G‑d] will cause you to return,” the word וְשָׁב, which translates literally as “He will return,” is used. On this our sages comment: “From here we learn that the Divine Presence resides among Israel, as it were, in all the misery of their exile. And when they are redeemed, G‑d writes [here in the Scriptures] redemption for Himself—for He, too, will return with them!”

This is not simply a father who is commiserating with his son. This is a father who accompanies his son into exile. A king who voluntarily joins his son in captivity.

And when the time of the redemption arrives, He will return together with each and every one of us, as Isaiah prophesies (27:12), “You will be gathered up, one by one, O children of Israel.”

Adapted by Naftali Silberberg from the teachings of the Rebbe
Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.

 

Thoughts That Count
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You are standing this day all of you...every person of Israel (Deut. 29:9)

The Torah uses many different words to refer to Jews; the name "Israel" is the highest of all these descriptions, connoting magnitude and significance. The verse teaches that all Jews are in this category, i.e., exalted and essentially worthy. (Yismach Moshe)

And it shall come to pass ("vehaya"), when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse (Deut. 30:1)

Our Rabbis explain that the word "vehaya" is an expression of joy. A Jew must always strive to serve G‑d joyfully, regardless of whether he encounters blessing in life or (G‑d forbid) the opposite. As our Sages declared, "A person is obligated to bless G‑d for [apparent] evil in the same way he blesses Him for good." (Ohr HaChaim)

It is obvious that punishment and suffering can arouse the heart to teshuva (repentance). But how can blessing do the same? The Baal Shem Tov offered an analogy of a subject who rebels against his king. What does the king do? Instead of punishing him he appoints him minister, allows him into the royal palace and gradually increases his rank until he is second in command. The greater the king's beneficence, the more the recipient is ashamed of having rebelled against such a merciful ruler. The king's loving-kindness thus leads him to a higher level of repentance than had he been punished.

Then the L-rd your G‑d will turn your captivity (Deut. 30:3)

Rashi notes this means that "[G‑d] will literally take hold with His hand every person... as it states, 'You shall be gathered one by one, Children of Israel.' " As we know that the Redemption will come about through repentance, the Torah clearly promises that every single Jew will ultimately return to G‑d in repentance, as it states, "For not even one will be banished." (Tanya)

Once Upon A Chassid

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An Old Man's Weakness

To love G‑d… for he is your life (30:20)

How is it fitting to love G‑d?

A person should love G‑d with such great and powerful intensity that his soul is bound in this love and is constantly pursuing it as one, for example, who is smitten with lovesickness - as one who is so obsessed with a carnal love that his mind is never free of desire for that woman… Even more so is the love of G‑d in the hearts of those who love him…

This is what King Solomon meant when he said by way of metaphor, "for I am sick with love." Indeed, the entire Song of Songs is a metaphor for this concept…

- Maimonides

The Jewish calendar follows the phases of the moon. At the start of every month, the kiddush levenah prayer sanctifying the new moon is recited. This special mitzvah can only be observed in the first half of the month, while the new moon is growing nightly. Also, the moon must be visible when the blessing is said.

Once, during a rainy spell, the last night for kiddush levanah had arrived and still the moon had not made its appearance in the skies of Lubavitch. Rabbi Hillel of Paritch wrote in a request to Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, pleading that the Rebbe pray for the moon to appear. "Don't worry," said the Rebbe, "there will be a moon."

Late that night, the chassidim stationed on the 'moon watch' which Reb Hillel had set up reported that something of a moon had emerged. Reb Hillel went outside and shrugged off the yellow haze in the clouds: the Rebbe promised that there will be a moon, he insisted, not this sorry excuse for a moon. Just before dawn the skies broke, and a clear moon illuminated the heavens.

Remarked Reb Hillel: "Once, many years ago, cloudy skies prevented me from observing the mitzvah of kiddush levanah. But then I was a young man, hale and fit, and I managed to survive the disappointment. But today I am a weak old man; had the moon failed to appear, G‑d forbid, I don't think I would have made it through the month."

Tid Bits
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Why Rosh Hashanah Challah is Round, Not Braided

tid bit
I know this doesn’t sound like a profound existential quandary, but during this High Holiday season, I found myself debating the merits of round vs. braided challah.

I know that it is customary and traditional to eat round challahs during this time—dipped in honey, of course—and that the round shape symbolizes the cycle of life and the crown with which we coronate G‑d every year.

What I don’t know is: why don’t we seem to use the old, traditional braided challah this time of year? The one our bubbies used to bake weekly since time immemorial, the ones we savor every Shabbat? Is it the less preferable choice for Rosh Hashanah?

I think this qualifies as a decent question to ask a rabbi, don’t you? So I went online to ask a virtual rabbi, and . . . he didn’t know! He knew only why the round ones are good. But I already knew that. I want to know, what’s wrong with the braided ones?

Silence from the virtual rabbi.

So, what’s a good Jewish mother to do other than put forward an idea of her own? Here goes:

How do you make a braided challah? You take small balls of dough and roll them out into rope-like strands. Then you take as many strands as you can work with—three, four, six, or even eight—and braid them together to form one beautiful challah.

I believe this is the concept of unity, the one prerequisite that G‑d always demands of His children. Play nicely together, include your little sister, and don’t let go of her hand. Unity!

Our sages tell us “kol yisroel areivim zeh lazeh,” all of Israel is responsible for one another. When we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, we were “like one man with one heart.” For that alone, we deserved the gift of the Torah.

The braided challah is the symbol of this unity. Separate strands twist tightly together to form a picture-perfect whole, the ideal shape with which to celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays. But not Rosh Hashanah!

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, unity shares center stage with individuality, just for a little while.

The High Holidays are a time of personal introspection and soul-searching. We are enjoined to make up a mental balance sheet listing all of our spiritual shortcomings and accomplishments during the past year.

We take time to contemplate our choices: where did we make the right ones, and where, unfortunately, the wrong ones? How can we do better in the year ahead? In this accounting, we need to take personal responsibility; at some point, we need to do this alone.

The High Holiday liturgy is inclusive: “Forgive us for the sins that we have committed.” We are still united as one during the communal prayers.

But when we make our personal challah, we make it round. We take one long, thick rope of dough and wind it around and around, until it has assumed a perfectly smooth, round shape.

Symbolically, we are doing with the dough what we should be doing with our soul: kneading it over and over, round and round, smoothing out all the imperfections and mistakes of the year before.

If we do this often enough and well enough, we are assured that after the High Holidays, when it comes time to be once again a rope in the braided challah of the Jewish people, our strand will have something meaningful to contribute.

Fay Kranz Greene was an emissary of the Rebbe for more than 30 years in Oak Park, MI; S. Diego, CA; and Richmond, Virginia. She was the managing editor of The Richmond Jewish News and is a frequent contributor to various Chabad publications and websites. Fay has recently moved to Crown Heights, after the passing of her husband, Joel Greene.

 

Happenings

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