Food For the Soul
In Your Own Voice
The fifth book of the Five Books of Moses, Devarim, which means “Words,” is named for the opening statement in the book: These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel on that side of the Jordan.
The Torah continues: It came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the L-rd had commanded him regarding them.
Toward the end of Moses’ life, as the Jews were about to enter the promised land, Moses spoke to his beloved people. He repeated all the commandments written in the first four books and he retold the stories of their sins and shortcomings of the past 40 years, in hopes that his words would help them learn and grow from their negative experiences. While the first four books are written in third person the fifth book is written in first person, in the voice of Moses himself. This difference is significant. It represents a change in Moses’ role, and a change in the way we are to understand the Torah.
Moses received the Torah from G-d and transmitted it to us. In the fifth book, however, Moses was no longer a mere transmitter. The words, ideas and teachings were internalized within Moses, and he therefore spoke them in his own voice. This explains how both themes of the book of Devarim, the repetition of the Torah in Moses’ own voice and the words of rebuke, are interrelated. The purpose of rebuke was to inspire the Jewish people to return to G-d. But how would a person who rejected the voice of morality, and the will of G-d, be inspired to return? The inspiration comes not from heeding the voice from above, but rather from listening to the voice that emanates from within ourselves.
Like Moses, we experience both of these steps in our own study of the Torah. At first, we listen and learn. We seek to hear and understand that which the Torah is teaching us. This is the first stage, the stage represented by the first four books, in which we seek to receive the Divine words handed down to us. And then we arrive at the fifth book. Over time we begin to discover the ideas of the Torah within our deepest self. We identify with them, and they express our own point of view.
From an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman
Tisha B’av Fasting
Because of the holiness of Shabbat, the Fast of the Ninth of Av (Tisha B’av) mourning destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel is postponed to after Shabbat. The fast begins Saturday evening at 8:14 p.m and ends Sunday at 8:55 p.m.
Some of the fast’s mourning practices–such as refraining from Torah study other than texts related to the events and nature of the fast day–are observed beginning from midday on Shabbat. 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).
Visit Chabad.org for the particular Tisha B’av observances
Mind Over Matter
You murmured in your tents, saying, ‘”Because G-d hates us, He took us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to exterminate us.” (Deuteronomy 1:27) Really, He loves you, but you despised Him. As the common saying goes, “Whatever is in your heart towards your friend, you imagine he feels towards you.” (Rashi)
Sometimes you feel that you are good, but G-d is not being good to you. So how does G-d feel? Just as you do—that He showers you with love, and awaits the time when you will return that love to Him. He awaits every word of your prayers, every mitzvah you might do, and every word of Torah that comes from your lips. You may push back. You may run away. As soon as you turn around, He’s there waiting.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Is belief in Moshiach a Utopian dream?
No! Judaism fervently believes that, with the correct leadership, humankind can and will change. The leadership quality of Moshiach means that through his dynamic personality and example, coupled with manifest humility, he will inspire all people to strive for good. He will transform a seemingly utopian dream into a reality. He will be recognized as a man of G-d, with greater leadership qualities than even Moses. In today’s society, many people are repulsed by the breakdown of ethical and moral standards. At the same time, technology has advanced in quantum leaps. There is no doubt that today man has all the resources—if channeled correctly—to create a good standard of living for all mankind. He lacks only the social and political will. Moshiach will inspire all to fulfill that aim.
From an article by Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubov
Have I Got A Story
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