Parshas Devarim 5757

"These are the words which Moshe Rabbenu spoke to all of Israel. . . ".
(Deut. 1:1)

R' Elimelech of Lizhensk writes, that this verse hints at a lesson for serving Hashem earnestly.

It says, (Ecc. 7:20) ". . . there isn't a Tzaddik in the Land that does (only) good and has not committed some transgression." Every one of the mitzvohs in the Torah is associated with one of the 613 limbs of the body. When one has transgressed, his spiritual body is imperfect. Therefore, if even the greatest Tzaddik is suffering from imperfection, how is it possible for any Jew to dare approach Hashem and to engage himself in some mitzvah or act of Holiness?

The answer is that he can unite himself to the whole of his people. There is a spiritual realm called Klal Yisrael, the Community of Israel, and this realm is perfect, complete, without any taint of sin or imperfection.

"Ki Amcha kulam tzadikkim." (Isaiah 60:21) "Your people, they are all Tzaddikim." Or read, "your people all together = Tzaddikim." Even if there are individual members of the community who are imperfect because of their transgressions, nevertheless, the realm as a whole is complete. This is the strength of Klal Yisrael.

Therefore when a Jew will bind himself up in the realm of the community, any limb that might be suffering from imperfection is healed and re-sanctified. Then it is possible to fully perform the mitzvah or Avodah in complete Kedusha. This is the explanation of the short invocation that we make before performing a mitzvah. We say, "For the sake of the union of the Holy One Blessed be He, with his Shechinah to unite the Name "Yud Kay" with "Vav Kay" in a perfect union in the name of all Yisrael. ( for example, look in the Artscroll Siddur before the taking of the four species)

BEIN HAMETZARIM (17th of Tammuz - 9th of Av)


The Chiddushei HaRim explains the Chassidic custom of "circumventing" the prohibition of eating meat during the 9 days from Rosh Chodesh Av until after Tisha B'Av.

Since the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed by senseless hatred, we know that the only way to repair such tragic behavior is through unconditional love.

The Gemarra (Shabbos 118) states, "Abbaye said that when a scholar completes the study of a Tractate of the Talmud, it is proper that he and his friends make a festive meal together."

When Torah scholars gather to celebrate with one another over the completion of a tractate of Talmud their joy knows no bounds. This is the opposite of senseless hatred. This unity is based on unconditional love. It is the remedy which heals the ravages of senseless hatred.


This thought was sent out by my friend Rabbi Avraham Novick. He is the outreach worker in Tel Aviv University for Jeff Seidel's Jewish Student Information Service.

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av begins the 'Nine Days'. Our sages teach us that "when the month of Av begins we should reduce (memayate) our joy". During the Nine Days the tragedies of the `Three Weeks' intensify. Traditionally, these are days of mourning and deep self reflection.

The Chassidic masters interpret the sages as "when the month of Av begins, you should reduce/humble yourself...joyously". During this period of tragedy, (both past and present, national and personal) there is a greater concealment of G-d's Presence. Finding ourselves surrounded by increasing darkness, not only do we often lose our balance and inner calm, but all too easily, we forget about G-d.

Our mission in this world is specifically to reveal G-d's presence. This is achieved when we recognize G-d's greatness and our own smallness. Humbling ourselves, we become vessels that reveal the Divine Presence in this world. In times of darkness, this is more difficult. However, the light that shines forth from darkness, is brighter and more easily recognizable. This greater revelation that shines forth from the darkness, is the source of our joy in these days.


The Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish Law (Orach Chaim 1:1), advises that one who has any measure of the Fear of Heaven, should be distressed and disquieted over the destruction of the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem. It is written that a generation that doesn't rebuild the Beis HaMikdash (with their exemplary behavior) is as if it destroyed it.

But the one who should be the most concerned is the one who feels nothing at all. He must search his soul as to why he doesn't feel the pain of his people and doesn't rejoice in its Simchas.


The famine in Russia that year was worse that anybody could ever remember. Slowly but surely the markets became bare and soon there was only a meager selection of vegetables and the barest amount of groat bread and margarine for sale.

Letters from all over Russia began to arrive in Shpole. These emergency messages were addressed to the Tzaddik, the Shpoler Zeide, for he had always been able provide for the poor and downtrodden of his people. He was called the Zeide, (grandfather) on account of his great spiritual and practical benevolence. He himself was in such anguish over the famine that he could only partake of a few bites of bread and some tea for weeks on end. Who could beseech Hashem that the decree be rescinded. Even the Gentiles looked to the Jews for help them, and the Jews looked to the Shpoler Zeide. Still, Hashem wasn't answering prayers for food. The famine spread.

The Shpoler Zeide decided on a bold course of action. He requested 10 of the generation's most venerated Tzaddikim including, Reb Zusia of Anipoli, Reb Shimshon of Shipitovka and Reb Wolf of Zhitomir, to meet with him in Shpole.

When they had all finally arrived a few days later, he seated them around a long and broad table then arose to address them. "My Masters', I have decide to press charges and to take the Almighty to court. While according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must take his case to the place where the defendant is located, nevertheless Hashem is called Makom (the place) and there is no place devoid of His presence. Not only this, but as we all know, a place where there is a gathering of 10 men is considered a dwelling place of the Shechinah. (divine presence) Therefore, the court case will conducted here in this chamber". The attendant then announced, "Reb Aryeh Leib ben Rachel hereby summons the Almighty to a lawsuit in this location three days from now."

For the next three days the Tzaddikim fasted and prayed, allowing no one to interrupt them. On the fourth day, wrapped in his Tallis and crowned in his Tefillin, the Shpoler Zeide instructed his attendant to call the court to order.

The Shpoler Zeide presented his case. "In the name of all of the men, women and children in Russia, I come to claim that the defendant, The Almighty, is failing to live up to His obligation to His People. Instead of sustaining them as is written, "He opens up His hand and satisfies every living thing with His favor" (Psalms 145), he is allowing them to perish from hunger." "Does not the Torah itself state, 'For the Children of Israel are bondsmen to me, they are my bondsmen . . .'? (Lev. 25:55) They belong to the Almighty for eternity. And doesn't the Law as stated in the Mechilta and the Talmud require the master to provide for the wife and children of the bondsman? How can the Almighty disregard His own Torah?

Now I can imagine that some prosecuting angel might argue in the defense of the Almighty that these servants do not serve the Master properly as they should. 'Nevertheless', I would answer him, 'Where is written that if the servant is lazy and unfaithful therefore his wife and children should suffer? Furthermore, it is all the fault of the Master Himself. For He burdened His servants with a Yezter Hara (base inclination), which constantly tries his loyalty. I am confident that were it not for this Yezter Hara, they would provide the Almighty with the most praiseworthy service."

With that, the Shpoler Zeide fell silent. He slumped into his chair, exhausted from the ordeal of bringing a lawsuit against the Almighty. Clutching his head in his hands, he awaited the verdict.

The judges huddled, discussing the case amongst themselves for some time in hushed, solemn tones. Finally, Reb Zusia rose to his feet to announce the verdict.

"The court finds", he declared, "that justice is with Reb Aryeh Leib ben Rochel. The Almighty is therefore obligated to find whatever means He deems appropriate to provide for His people. It is our prayer that the Heavenly Court concur with the decision of this court."

Then all the Tzaddikim rose to their feet, and declared the verdict aloud three times in unison, sealing the outcome.

The Shpoler Zeide jumped to his feet with great joy, and called for refreshments to be served. The food restored their strength a bit and they bouyantly drank L'Chayim together, celebrating the victory. Then each Tzaddik left to return to his home town in expectation of the salvation to come.

It was only five days later that the Russian government announced that they would soon be bringing inexpensive wheat and other grains from Siberia over a previously inaccessible route. The price of available grain plunged, as merchants scrambled to cash in before the arrival of the new stock.

Within the month, new supplies were on the market. That whole year, even the family with the most humble of means had plenty to eat.

A Guten Shabbos