Food For the Soul
The future is in our hands
Devarim (Deuteronomy), last of the five books of the Torah, is also called Mishneh Torah – “A Repetition of Torah.” In it Moses speaks directly to the Jewish people, recalling the major events and laws that are recorded in the Torah’s other four books. One might wonder why this repetition is necessary. In fact, this repetition was so important that Moses dedicated the last days of his life to it. Clearly, it was necessary to insuring the future of his beloved nation.
We often hear talk about the “Jewish future.” How will we overcome the threat of assimilation and inspire the younger generation to care about their heritage? There are task forces, studies and conferences all focusing on this issue. Inspired by the book of Devarim, I’d like to suggest that the best way to insure a Jewish future is through Jewish education. The first choice is a Jewish day school, which provides young people with all the knowledge and skills they need to live as Jews in the modern world. The second choice is an after-school or Sunday Hebrew school.
Let’s consider the facts: The values of Judaism enrich us; they provide us with a moral center, spiritual depth and purpose. They link us to thousands of years of tradition that reach back to Mount Sinai, when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people. It’s hard to think of anything that could be more important.
Perhaps Moses spent his last days on earth repeating lessons he had already taught to underscore the necessity of education. The chain of history is only as strong as the weakest link. We need to ensure that the next generation remains connected to their heritage and understands the depth and richness that Judaism has to offer. Education is the key. The future is in our hands.
Condensed from an article by Rabbi David Eliezrie
Shabbat of Vision
The Shabbat before the Ninth of Av is called Shabbat Chazon (“Shabbat of Vision”) after the opening words of the day’s reading from the prophets (“haftara”), which is the third of the series of readings known as “The Three of Rebuke”. On this Shabbat, say the Chassidic masters, we are granted a vision of the Third Temple; we may not see it with our physical eyes, but our souls see it, and are empowered to break free of our present state of galut (exile and spiritual displacement) and bring about the Redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple.
Fast Begins Saturday Evening
The fast of Tishah B’Av begins this evening (Saturday, July 17) at sunset. Finish eating by sunset. After nightfall say, “Blessed is He who distinguishes between the holy and the mundane.” No Havdalah tonight, but light a candle and recite the fire blessing. Havdalah is recited after the fast (omitting the candle and incense blessings). See Chabad.org for the particular observances of the fast day.
Mind Over Matter
Is “the good life” an easy life?
You can’t move up the ladder by yearning for a life of ease. And so, while our forefathers and mothers didn’t have easy lives, they had profoundly meaningful and spiritual lives—lives that charted our very course and destiny, and whose qualities are embedded in our spiritual DNA. When we don’t confuse the “good life” with an “easy life,” then we can embrace challenges as a means of self-discovery. And when we don’t expect our lives to be simple, then we can tap into our significance. In giving us the Torah, you could say that G-d was the first life coach ever, exhorting us to live our lives by design and not by default.
From an article by Hanna Perlberger
“See, I have set the land before you. Come and possess the land G-d swore unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give unto them and to their descendants after them.” (Devarim 1:8)
“Should the people of the world say to Israel, ‘You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations (of Canaan),’ they can respond to them: ‘The whole earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He. He created it and He gave it to whom He saw fit. (The Land of Israel) was given to (the nations) by His Will, and by His Will He took it from them and gave it to us!’ ” (Rashi on Genesis 1:1). When we shall demonstrate this true and absolute faith in G-d, we shall merit immediately the promise “No one will contest this, and there will be no more wars nor the need for any weapons”: “I shall break from the earth the bow, the sword and warfare, and I shall make them lie down securely” (Hosea 2:20).
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Refusing to forget
They say that Napoleon was once passing through the Jewish ghetto in Paris and heard sounds of crying and wailing emanating from a synagogue. He stopped to ask what the lament was about. He was told that the Jews were remembering the destruction of their Temple. “When did it happen?” asked the Emperor. “Some 1700 years ago,” was the answer he received. Whereupon Napoleon stated with conviction that a people who never forgot its past would be destined to forever have a future. Jews never had history. We have memory. History can become a book, a museum, and forgotten antiquities. Memory is alive. And memory guarantees our future.
Even amidst the ruins, we refused to forget. The first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. As they led the Jews into captivity, the Jews sat down and wept. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept remembering Zion.” What did we cry for? Our lost wealth, homes and businesses? No. We cried for Zion and Jerusalem. “If I forget thee ‘O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning. If I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy, then let my tongue cleave to its palate.” We were not weeping for ourselves or our lost liberties but for the heavenly city and the Holy Temple. Amidst the bondage, we aspired to rebuild; amidst the ruins we dreamt of returning.
And because we refused to forget Jerusalem, we did return. Because we refused to accept defeat or accept our exile as a historical fait accompli, we have rebuilt proud Jewish communities the world over, while our victors have been vanquished by time. Today there are no more Babylonians and the people who now live in Rome are not the Romans who destroyed the Second Temple. Those nations became history while we, inspired by memory, emerged revitalized and regenerated and forever it will be true that Am Yisrael Chai — the people of Israel lives!
I remember hearing a story of a Torah scholar and his nephew who were in the Holocaust. In the concentration camp, they studied the Talmud together. They were learning the tractate Moed Katan, a part of the Talmud that, ironically, discusses the laws of mourning. And when the time came that the uncle saw himself staring death in the face, he said to his nephew, “Promise me that if you survive you will finish studying this book of Moed Katan.” Amidst the misery, desolation and tragedy, what thought preoccupied his mind? That the Talmud should still be studied. This was his last wish on earth. Was it madness, or is it the very secret of our survival?
Only if we refuse to forget, only if we observe Tisha B’av, can we hope to rebuild one day. Indeed, the Talmud assures us, “Whosoever mourns for Jerusalem, will merit to witness her rejoicing.” If we are to make it back to Zion, if our people are to harbor the hope of being restored and revived, then we dare not forget. We need to observe our National Day of Mourning. Forego the movies and the restaurants. Sit down on a low seat to mourn with your people; and perhaps even more importantly, to remember. And, please G-d, He will restore those glorious days and rebuild His own everlasting house. May it be speedily in our day.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman