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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parshat Ki Savo | Here's My Story - Rabbi Schochet‏

Dear Friend,

We are pleased to send you this week’s (Parshas Ki Tavo) edition of Here’s My Story to you. 

Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet, of blessed memory, was an authority on Jewish philosophy, mysticism and Chasidism. He authored and translated some 35 books, including biographies of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezeritch. He was interviewed in Wilmington, Delaware in June, 2011. 


Black and White:

With warm wishes for a  beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi Levitin 

Here's My Story - Mr Lautenberg‏

Dear Friend, 

I am pleased to send you this week’s (Ki Teitzei) edition of Here’s My Story

This one is one of my personal favorites, because it describes the Rebbe’s care and empathy towards the IDF soldiers that protect the Holy Land. It is especially moving because of the way the Rebbe addresses the ‘wounded soldiers’. 

Mr. Yosef Lautenberg was injured in the battle for Jerusalem during the War of Independence in 1948. He was among the founders of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization, and the founder of Beit Halochem – a rehabilitation facility for wounded soldiers. He was interviewed in Tel Aviv in August of 2009. 


Black and White:

Warm wishes for a good Shabbos, 
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏ | Parsha Shoftim

Never at Home

Recently, I was flying back from New York and I was thinking of my father,    Harav Binyomin Ben Harav Shmuel obm, who’s third Yahrzeit is next month (this coming 18 Kislev he would have been 100!); I realized that I never remember seeing my father in Tallis (prayer shawl) and Tefillin (phylacteries) for morning prayers at home when I was growing up. Every morning, without fail, he went to the synagogue to pray. He attended a daily shiur (class) in Talmud every morning at 6am, given by the famous, Talmudic scholar and Chosid, Rabbi Zalman Guraryobm. Reb Zalman, as he was referred to, once said about my father, “The best kop in Lubavitch.” (The best head in Lubavitch). Can you imagine the imprint that education left on me?  How very important the synagogue was in his life?


Fast forward, to when my maternal grandmother, Bubba Fruma obm,passed away in the fall of 1965. She and my grandfather obm lived in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. They were Stoliner Chassidim and chose to volunteer as caretakers of their synagogue in Williamsburg. The Pesach after my grandmother passed, the grandchildren (including myself) were “mobilized” to help my grandfather get his home ready for Pesach. When my turn came I traveled from my home in Crown Heights and was tasked by him with cleaning the oven, (I’m fairly certain that was the last time I cleaned an oven, the old fashioned way, with steel wool!). After I was done, my grandfather said to me in Yiddish, “Now you are going to come with me to the synagogue.” He assigned me several cleaning duties there as well. It was only my grandfather and me in the Synagogue, I looked up and he had vanished; he reappeared with a long ladder and a bucket of soap. My grandfather then climbed up this high ladder and began to polish the chandelier. I was cleaning up the floor, lying almost flat to get to all the bits of paper and stuff that was on the ground. I saw him put his rag back into the bucket and raise his fist to the ceiling (which he was very close to!) and say loudly, “Almighty G-d, we are cleaning your Shul for Pesach with love!” His face was so bright and shining!


“One Thing…”

This past Shabbos, the first day of the month of Elul (the last month of the year), we began saying Chapter 27 of Psalms. King David asks the following, “One thing I ask of G-d, it is this I seek: to sit in the house of G-d all of my days; to behold the pleasantness of G-d, and to visit His sanctuary.”

One thing? But David asks many other things of G-d. In Midrash Tehillim, G-d complains to David that initially he only asked for “one thing,” but then followed it with other requests. David retorts that G-d Himself did the very same thing. First, He said, “What does the G-d, your G-d, require of you, except to fear G-d.” but this was soon followed by hundreds of other commandments!

The Maggid of Mezritch clarifies that; “In truth, David really did only want one thing, to be connected to G-d with all his being. The other details that he mentioned later were not separate, additional requests, but results of a devoted connectedness to G-d. Based on this, perhaps we could explain David’s response to G-d in a similar vein. At first glance David’s comment seems to border on the facetious: “You accuse me of promising just one request and then following it with others? Well, You should know that You did the same thing Yourself!” But what David was really saying was: “I learned from You, G-d. You taught us that there is just one underlying principle of all worship, ‘to fear G-d,’ and all the other commandments are just ramifications of that principle. So I did the same: I declared the essence of my worship, that ‘one thing,’ from which all other elements of my worship flow organically.” We all have at our core the same spirit which motivated David to declare his single-minded devotion to G-d. While it is normal to hear a chorus of conflicting voices in our heads, Judaism affirms that, in our essence, there is a space where there is but one psychological/emotional need: to worship G-d.

One thing. To sit in the house of G-d and visit his sanctuary.

“Communal Prayer is Always Heard”

Rambam elucidates in Chapter 8-1 of Hilchot Tefillah of the Mishneh Torah, “Communal prayer is always heard. Even when there are transgressors among the congregation, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not reject the prayers of the many. Therefore a person should include himself in the community and should not pray alone whenever he is able to pray with the community. One should always spend the early morning and evening hours in the synagogue, for prayer will not be heard at all times except when recited in the synagogue. Anyone who has a synagogue in his city and does not pray together with the congregation is called a bad neighbor.” Halochot 2 continues, “It is a mitzvah to run to the synagogue as [Hoshea 6:3] states: “Let us know. Let us run to know G-d.”



From the Hayom Yom, “The month of Elul is the month of reckoning. In the material world, if a businessman is to conduct his affairs properly and with great profit, he must periodically take an accounting and correct any deficiencies… Likewise in the spiritual avoda of serving G-d. Throughout the year all Israel are occupied with Torah, mitzvot and developing and expressing good traits. The month of Elul is the month of reckoning, when every Jew, each commensurate with his abilities, whether scholar or businessman, must make an accurate accounting in his soul of everything that occurred in the course of the year. Each must know the good qualities in his service of G-d and strengthen them; he must also be aware of the deficiencies in himself and in his service, and correct these. Through this excellent preparation, one merits a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually.”


Renewing the “Line of Credit”

I remember as a Yeshiva student observing a prominent businessman in my community; a survivor. He was nervous, tense and anxious as he awaited his appointment with his banker. He was going to be asking for the renewal of his yearly monetary line of credit for his business. In fact, if I remember right, hearing through the “grapevine” that he even fasted on the day of the appointment! He came very early to Shul, that day, and his Davening (prayers) were longer and more intense than usual. It was clearly a very important meeting, and much relied on the results.

We are all, now, preparing ourselves to request a renewal of our ownpersonal “lines of credit” with Hashem. As the year comes to a close let us prepare accordingly, and I am sure that we will be blessed with a year of health, joy and spiritual rejuvenation, and above all peace and the ultimate redemption.

Have a happy New Year and a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Re’eih- Rosh Chodesh Elul

This year Rosh Chodesh Elul begins this coming Shabbos, September 3. Elul is the 12th and final month in the Jewish calendar. It is a month that connects the past year with the coming year—a time when we reflect on where we stand and where we should be going.

It is called “the month of repentance,” “the month of mercy” and “the month of forgiveness.” Elul follows the two previous months of Tammuz and Av—months of tragedies that were brought upon us through our sins. In Tammuz, the Jews sinned with the golden calf; on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moses ascended to Mount Sinai for a third 40-day period until Yom Kippur, when he descended with the second tablets (luchot) and G‑d’s word of joyful, wholehearted forgiveness. (The first time Moses ascended was to receive the first tablets; the second time was after the sin, to ask for forgiveness; and this third time was to receive the second set of tablets.) These were days when G‑d revealed to the Jewish people great mercy. Since then, this time has been designated as a time of mercy and forgiveness, an opportune time for teshuvah—repentance.

In preparation for the New Year we blow the Shofar almost every day of the month of Elul, beginning this Sunday.

The optimum Shofar blowing time is right after morning services, when everyone is still together. You can also blow some time before sundown. We blow the Shofar every day OTHER than Shabbos, starting from Elul 1 and ending on Elul 28. We do NOT blow on Elul 29, the day before Rosh Hashanah.

The following Torah thought is excerpted from: The one-volume Synagogue Edition of the Kehot Chumash, based on the works of The Lubavitcher Rebbe. Translated and adapted by: Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky | General Editor: Rabbi Chaim N. Cunin | Produced and copyrighted by: Chabad House Publications | Published by: Kehot Publication Society Available for purchase at


Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

The fourth section of the Book of Deuteronomy continues Moses’ second farewell address to the Jewish people. Moses begins by urging the people to see (Re’eih, in Hebrew) the G-d has given them the choice between a life of blessings or one of curses; the choice is theirs.

What first gives us pause about parashat Re’eih is its name, which means, “See…” As we saw in the preceding two parashiot, Moses asked G-d to let the Jewish people perceive Divinity as he did- with the same direct clarity associated with sight- but G-d refused his request. The generation of the conquest (and thus, all subsequent generations until the final Redemption) would only be able to perceive Divinity indirectly- in the manner of hearing. How is it, then, that Moses begins the next portion of his address to the people saying, “See…”?

As we explained previously, the reason G-d did not grant Moses’ request, but instead kept the people at the level of hearing, was on account of the inherent advantages of hearing over sight. When a person has to establish and preserve Divine consciousness by struggling against the “din” of the material world, his perception becomes infinitely more profound than it could have been had it been solely based on a direct but external revelation. Inasmuch as the purpose of creation is to infuse Divinity into all strata of reality, it is clear that this goal can only be accomplished if our Divine consciousness assumes command over all of our mental and emotional faculties. This, of course, can only happen if we refine these faculties, re-orienting them away from the materialistic perspective they initially possess.

We further explained that Moses’ request was actually granted on a subtle, subliminal level. We all possess the unshakable conviction of “seeing” Divinity deep within our psyches; based on the extent of the imprint that this vision makes on our perception of reality, we can overcome the clamor of materialism that threatens to confuse us.

But in addition to this, the result of successfully “hearing” Divinity- of meditating and contemplating the reality of G-d deeply enough to affect and refine our cognitive and emotional faculties- is that the subliminal “sight” that G-d implanted within us on account of Moses’ prayer surfaces to our consciousness. Our clouded perception of truth is purified by our arduous efforts at clarification, such that our minds and hearts become transparent to our inner point of Divine enlightenment. We “see” Divinity with the same clarity of perception as did the generation of the desert, who experienced direct, Divine revelation. But our advantage is that this “sight” is superimposed on and anchored in the solid, inner conviction born of having methodically refined our conscious faculties on our own. Therefore, after instructing us to “hear,” Moses tells us to “see.”

Parashat Re’eih comprises a large variety of subject matter. In it, Moses begins his review of the legal matter of the Torah’s preceding three books, covering the laws of sacrifices, idolatry, kashrut, charity, the sabbatical year, slavery and the festivals. Thus, the focus in this parashah shifts from the basic tenets of Judaism, as discussed in the firstparashiot of Deuteronomy, to the specific duties of the Jew. This focus will remain throughout the next three parashiot, as well.

In this light, the brief introduction at the beginning of the parashah- headed by Moses’ sweeping declaration that yes, we can achieve sight-consciousness of Divinity after all- is the transitional nexus bridging the first three parashiot of Deuteronomy and the following four, setting the tone for the legal material that follows. We have been promised that we can ultimately receive the Divine gift of direct perception and relationship with G-d. We are then told to respond with renewed, ongoing efforts to refine and elevate the world, until it, too, becomes fit to behold Divinity directly, “and the glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see it together.”

 I wish you all a good Shabbos and a wonderful Chodesh month.

Rabbi Levitin

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