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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shoftim

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mrs. Yocheved Daphna and her husband Yehudah reside in Five Towns, New York, where they were instrumental in founding Chabad of the Five Towns. They and their children were interviewed in June, 2013.
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Eikev

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Mayer Zeiler resides with his family in Nachlat Har Chabad, Israel, where he directs Flocktex Industries. He was interviewed in January, 2008.
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vaetchanan

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mrs. Tzirel Weinbaum is the director of the London Jewish Family Centre. She and her husband, Dr. Bunim Weinbaum, reside in Hampstead Garden, a suburb of London, where she was interviewed in August, 2007.
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

Parsha Devarim & Tisha B'Av

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We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Shabsi Alpern has been serving as a Chabad emissary in Brazil for the past fifty years. He was interviewed in November, 2010.
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Tisha B'Av
Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. This  year it falls on Shabbos (July 21, 2018), therefore the fast of Tisha B’Av begins Shabbos at sunset and concludes Sunday evening at nightfall. For more information, click on the following links:
What Is Tisha B'Av?
Tisha B’Av That Falls on Shabbat or Sunday

Let us pray that this day be transformed to a day of joy with the coming of our righteous Moshiach.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

“Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here?”

“Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here?”
Numbers 32/6:

It was a summer afternoon in Brooklyn - June 1966 at 1:45pm (I looked at the clock), when the famous “Yankel”, who took care of the Mikvah, ran into the Yeshiva and loudly shouted, Men shloked ah yid! (A Jew is being beat up). In less than 30 seconds, all the Yeshiva students, including myself, were out in the street asking, Vu (where)?

Someone pointed North towards Lincoln Avenue. Dozens of students ran weaving through heavy traffic on Eastern Parkway Boulevard towards the location of the assault. By the time we arrived, the police were present trying to control the gathering crowd. The fight was in full swing.

“The Children of Gad and the Children of Reuben”

This time of the year, learning this week’s Parsha, Mattos (Badmindbar 32/1-42), I am reminded of that incident years ago in Brooklyn.

Historical Background:

The children of Israel were en route to the land of Canaan when they were attacked by the armies of Sichon and Og, whose domain lay on the easternbank of the Jordan. Moses led the Israelites into battle, defeated the two kings and conquered their land. The tribes of Gad and Reuben, who owned much sheep and cattle, asked that they be given these territories, which were prime pastureland, in lieu of their allotment in the land of Canaan, which lay to the west of the Jordan.

Moses was extremely upset by their request, and responded:

“Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here?”

And now, said Moses, you are repeating the sin of the Spies—a sin which condemned an entire generation and stopped Jewish history in its tracks for forty years. Like your parents before you, you are declining to take possession of the land deeded to you by divine decree. (Bamidbar 13/1-33)

How did the two tribes respond to this accusation? They promised that they would enter the land of Canaan together with the other tribes of Israel and aid them in its conquest.

But how does any of this address Moses' concern? While perhaps a fitting response to Moses' opening words ("Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?"), it doesn't seem to address the main point of Moses' criticism—that, like an earlier generation of Jews, they were spurning the divine mission to settle the land of Canaan – Eretz Yisroel.

 Surprisingly, however, Moses accepted their proposal and gave them the territories which they requested. He even arranged, at his own initiative, that half of the tribe of Manasseh should join the tribes of Reuben and Gad in settling the lands east of the Jordan.

Why this dramatic shift in Moses' view on the Jewish settlement of the eastern territories? If the two tribes' petition initially struck him as reminiscent of the sin of the Spies, what convinced him to endorse their plan and even expand on it?

Eretz Yisroel – Land of Israel

Bereishis1/1:  In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heaven and the earth.

In the beginning of  – R’Yitzchak said: G-d need not have begun the Torah but from “This month shall be for you (the beginning of the months), because it is the first commandment which Israel was commanded. What is the reason that it began with the book of Genesis? It began thus because it wished to convey the message of the verse, “The power of His acts He told to His people, in order to give them the estate of nations.” So that if the nations of the world will say to Israel, “You are bandits, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations who inhabited the Land of Canaan,” Israel will say to them, “The whole earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed is He. He created it and He gave it to the one found proper in His eyes. By His wish He gave it to them, and by His wish He took it from them and gave it to us.” (Rashi 1/1)

Later, by Avram, the Torah says, I am Hashem who brought you out of Ur Kasdim to give you this land to inherit it. (Bereishis 15/8)

G-d revealing himself in the burning bush to Moses: I shall descent to rescue it from the land of Egypt and to bring it up from that land to the good and spacious land, to the land flowing with milk and honey.

The Holy Land

Eretz Yisroel has two qualities of Holiness: Inherent Holiness, due to the G-dly presence which rests in it and Acquired Holiness through the nation of Israel.(Tshbaz)

According to Scriptural Law, the obligation to separate the terumot and the tithes apply only to Eretz Yisrael. It applies whether the Temple is standing or not. (Rambam – Hilchot Terumot)

Holiness of the G-dly presence – This land uniquely belongs to G-d. He calls it My Land… The inheritance of G-d… Therefore, no other land is suitable for the Holy Temple and for the resting of the G-dly presence – only in Eretz Yisrael.

The Question

After all is said and done, why did Moses acquiesce (also with G-d’s permission!) to the request of the tribes of Gad and Reuben? “Abundant Livestock”!?

The Holiness of the land – The G-dly presence in the land – The biblical mitzvahs connected to the land – ALL put aside because of livestock!?

In addition, why only did the tribes of Gad and Reuben have an abundance of livestock?

To suggest that the Eastern side of the Jordan had the same Holiness as the Western side, then why did Moses so movingly and emotionally implore G-d to go into the land (Land of Canaan), as expressed in Deuteronomy 3/23:

I implored Hashem at the time, saying, for what power is there in the heavens or on the earth that can perform accordingly to Your deeds and according to Your mighty acts? Please let me cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.

But Hashem became angry with me because of you, and He did not listen to me; Hashem said to me, “It is much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter. Ascend to the top of the cliff and raise your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan.

He already experienced Eretz Yisrael, if the Eastern side of the Jordan River had the same qualities as the Land of Canaan (the western side of the Jordan).Why were the tribes of Gad and Reuben and half a tribe of Menashe allowed to settle on the eastern side?

At the very least, on the level of Peshat, this needs further thought.

To Be Continued…

Have a good Chodesh and a wonderful Shabbos,
Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Pinchas

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Dennis Eckstein presently lives in Lake Worth, Florida, where he was interviewed in March of 2011.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Balak

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week's edition of Here’s My Story

Mrs. Pearl Lebovic and her husband, Rabbi Yechezkel Lebovic, reside in Maplewood, New Jersey, where they lead Congregation Ahavath Zion. They also work as hospital chaplains at the Morristown Medical Center. Mrs. Lebovic was interviewed in March of 2018.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Chukas

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this edition of Here’s My Story

Rabbi Aaron Dalfin is presently retired from his sweater manufacturing business and spends his time learning Torah. He was interviewed in December of 2010.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shlach

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Meir Moss is a businessman who lives in Sydney, Australia. He was interviewed in August of 2016.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behaalotecha

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Joseph Karasick, who served as president of the Orthodox Union from 1966 to 1972 and chairman of its board of directors from 1972 to 1978, is the author of the memoir, Thirteen Steps. He was interviewed in January of 2016.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Nasso

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Dr. David W. Weiss, of blessed memory, is a scientist who moved to Israel in 1966. He was interviewed in his home in Jerusalem in September of 2015. A very powerful interview. 

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin 

Farbrengen with the Rebbe

Dear Friends,

As we prepare ourselves for this Holy Shabbos, Parsha Bamidbar (May 19), followed by the Yom Tov of Shavous - Zman Matan Torasenu (the time of the giving of the Torah) Sunday and Monday, May 20-21, I'd like to share with you a section of a farbrengen given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, OBM. The Rebbe is speaking in Yiddish with translated English captions. Please, click on the image below to see the video.

Pre-Shavuot Farbrengen with the Rebbe, OBM

An hour-long excerpt from a 1982 farbrengen

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Each year, the Rebbe would hold a Farbrengen the night before Shavuot, often touching on topics from Tractate Sotah, which is customarily studied during the Counting of the Omer period, as well as discussing the lessons of the approaching holiday.  

Tractate Sotah in the Babylonian Talmud concludes with a surprising statement of Rabbi Yosef. In the Jerusalem Talmud the tractate concludes with a story featuring Hillel, Shmuel the Small, and Rabbi Eliezer the Great.  

In this pre-Shavuot Farbrengen, the Rebbe delivers a Hadran (studying the tractate’s conclusion); drawing on these colorful personalities to explain the hidden link that connects them, and the deeper lesson which their stories convey.  

  We urge everyone to attend services on Sunday, May 20th to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments.

www.chabadofseattle.org

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behar-Bechukotai

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Peter Kalms is a businessman who has had many interactions with the Rebbe throughout the years. He was interviewed in his home on aMy Encounter trip to London, England, in August of 2007.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

"On The Run" - From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin

It was after the horrible destruction. The resistance had been fierce. There was dissention among the defenders. At the end, the second temple was destroyed and Jerusalem lay desolate. Among those who survived was the famous Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, author of the HolyZohar (Sefer Tanya, Iggeres Ha Kodesh 143a), whose Yahrzeit is today, the 18th of Iyar, the 33rd day of the Omer, known as Lag B’omer.

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, also known as the Rashbi, was being pursued by the Roman authorities. A death warrant had been issued against him.

Talmud Shabbos 33b

“Upon hearing that a death sentence had been passed upon him, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, ran away and hid in a study hall. Every day, Rabbi Shimon’s wife would bring them bread and small pitcher of water, and they would eat this to sustain themselves. When, however, the decree intensified. i.e. the Romans escalated their hunt for the fugitives….”

“They then went and hid themselves in a cave. Food was thus no longer brought to them, but a miracle happened and a carob tree and a spring of water were created for them, and they drew their sustenance from these sources…”

The Gemara recounts their daily routine in hiding: “They would shed their clothes, and would sit covered in sand up to their necks. All day long they would study together, and when the times for prayer arrived, they would dress, cover themselves, and pray. They would return and shed their clothes, immersing themselves in sand once again, so that their clothes would not wear out from prolonged use…”

The Gemara continues: “They dwelled secluded in the cave for twelve years.” (According to tradition, it was during his time in this cave that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai composed the Holy Zohar.)

Exiting the Cave

“Elijah the prophet came and stood at the mouth of the cave, and he proclaimed: “Who will inform the son of Yochai that the Caesar has died, and that the decree has been annulled?” – Rabbi Yochai and his son heard this, and they emerged from the cave…”

As they ventured back to civilization, they saw some people who were plowing a field and sowing crops there. Angered by this, Rabbi Yochai declared: “These people are forsaking the pursuit of the Life of the World to come, and occupying themselves instead with the concerns of the transitory life!” – And there-after, everywhere Rabbi Yochai and his son would cast their gaze the object of their vision would immediately be incinerated.

Finally, a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed to them: “Have you emerged from seclusion in order to destroy My world?” Return to your cave!”

“So, they returned to the cave…” They remained there for twelve additional months.

“A heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed: “Emerge from the cave!”

“They emerged from the cave, and again encountered people seeking their livelihood through ordinary means. This time though, everywhere Rabbi Elazar would destroy something through his fiery gaze, Rabbi Shimon, his father, would heal it…”

“Presently, Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Elazar: “My son, the world has enough total devotees of Torah study in you and me alone; we need not hold others to our standard of devotion and diligence.”

The Gemara continues: “As night began to fall late Friday afternoon, Rabbi Shimon and his son saw a certain old man who was clutching two bundles of myrtles, and was running home with them as twilight descended. They said to him: “The myrtle bundles; for what do you need them?” He answered them: “They are in honor of the Sabbath.”

Rabbi Shimon and his son questioned: “But could you not have sufficed with just one bundle?” He answered them: “One is forzachor, and one is for shamor.” [In the Ten Commandments, the almighty enjoined the Jewish people to remember (Zachor) and observe (Shamor) the Shabbos day]

Hearing this, Rabbi Shimon said to his son: “Look how cherished themitzvos are to the Jewish people; each nuance of the law they celebrate separately!” And they were appeased.”

“In The Beginning”

“In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1/1)

Rashi: In “G-d’s creating” (this name of G-d, used in this first verse of the bible, represents G-d in his attribute of strict justice.) The name representing His attribute for mercy (Hashem) is not used here, because, “at first it rose in thought (i.e. G-d considered, so to speak) to create It (the world) with the attribute of strict judgement, but he saw that the world could not last if he did. He gave precedence to the attribute of mercy and joined it (fusion) to the attribute of strict judgement.”

RamBam, Hilchot De’ot, chapter 3, 1

“A person might say, “Since envy, desire, (the pursuit) of honor, and the like, are a wrong path and drive a person from the world, I shall separate from them to a very great degree and move away from them to the opposite extreme” For example, he will not eat meat, nor drink wine, nor live in a pleasant home, nor wear fine clothing, but, rather, wear sackcloth and coarse wool and the like…”

“This, too, is a bad path and it is forbidden to walk upon it. Whoever follows this path is called a sinner (as implied by Numbers 6:11’s) statement concerning a nazarite: “and he (the priest) shall make an atonement for him, for his having sinned because of the dead.” Our sages declared: how much more so does one who abstains from everything.”

Purpose of Creation

Maybe it’s just possible for us to suggest that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar achieved a level of spiritual elevation during “twelve years in the cave”, as the original plan of G-d in the process of creation through strict justice. But, the purpose of the creation for people like ourselves, as the RamBam describes above, is to engage the physical world, infuse, elevate, and ultimately to transform the mundane and make it an abode for the G-dly presence.

Have a Good Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi S.B. Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Acharei-Kedoshim

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Alan Baker is an expert in international law and former Israeli ambassador to Canada. He is presently the director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was interviewed in July of 2010.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

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