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Parshat Ki Tavo, 5761

Elul 19, 5761 * September 7, 2001

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We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.


In this week's issue we focus on Chai Elul, the 18th of Elul, Thursday, Sept. 6.


We take this opportunity to wish you and yours a K'Siva Vachasima Tova, a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


Our sincere appreciation to L'Chaim weekly publication, published by the Lubavitch Youth Organization, for allowing us to use their material.

Also, many thanks to our copy editor, Reb Mordechai Staiman, for his tireless efforts.


It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!

Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind

13 Elul, 5761
Brooklyn, New York

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Ki Tavo

In this week's Torah portion, Ki Tavo, we read: "This day the L-rd your G-d commands you to do these statutes and ordinances." Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains, "Every day they should seem new in your eyes, as though on that very day you were commanded regarding [Torah and mitzvot]."

The Torah portion continues with the verse, "You have set apart the L-rd this day to be your G-d and to walk in His ways...and the L-rd has set you apart this day to be His own treasure."

From this we learn that the "setting apart" of G-d to be our G-d, and His "setting apart" of the Jews to be His people, is also a daily and ongoing occurrence.

Each and every day G-d chooses the Jewish people, individually and collectively, as His "treasure," and as the verse continues, "in praise and in name and in glory...a holy people to the L-rd your G-d." G-d glories and takes pride in the Jewish people, each of whom is described as "the work of My hands to be praised." G-d "boasts," as it were, about every Jew, through whom His Name is glorified and exalted in the world.

And as stated above, the delight G-d takes in the Jews and the Jews in Him, is "new" each and every day, as fresh as if today the Torah was just revealed on Mount Sinai.

* * *

The Torah portion of Ki Tavo is always read in the month of Elul. As everything in Torah is exacting and nothing occurs by coincidence, it follows that the above must somehow be connected to the special service of this month, preparatory to Rosh HaShanah.

The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidism, explained that in Elul, G-d is likened to a "King in the field." Outside the strict protocol of the royal palace, everyone is granted an opportunity to approach the King, speak with Him directly and present Him with our requests. Moreover, during Elul, G-d "greets everyone with a smiling countenance and shows a pleasant demeanor to all."

For this reason, "You have set apart the L-rd this day to be your G-d and to walk in His ways...and the L-rd has set you apart this day to be His own treasure," is particularly relevant now, when every Jew has this special opportunity and capacity for connecting to G-d and glorifying His Name. And because G-d shows us a "smiling countenance" and a "pleasant demeanor," it makes all of our Divine service easier and more successful.


The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"

The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.

Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.


Chai (the 18th day of) Elul (Thursday, Sept. 6), is the "birthday" of the greater Chasidic movement and of Chabad Chasidus in particular.

On Chai Elul (5458/1698), the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the greater Chasidic movement, was born. On that date 26 years later, Achiya Hashiloni began to teach him Torah "as it is studied in Gan Eden."

On Chai Elul (5505/1745), the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, spiritual grandson of the Baal Shem Tov,(1) the founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy and of the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, was born.


An individual's birthday has a very special meaning for that person. The birthday of a tzaddik has deep significance for everyone who attempts to live according to the tzaddik's teachings. A tzaddik's birthday is, in some ways like the spiritual birthday of his followers.

The Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi dedicated their lives to teach the value of every single Jew. Ahavas Yisrael -- unconditional love of each Jew -- was at the forefront of their philosophy.

Today, two centuries later, we still benefit from their guidance and revelations. The date of their birth, then, is not only their birthday -- it is also our birthday.

On our birthday we take time out to reflect on our achievements of the past year and our goals for the future. It is fitting that on the birthday of these tzaddikim, we reflect on how well we have followed and benefited from them, and we make our resolutions for the New Year. We will, in their merit, be blessed with a K'Siva Vachasima Tova, a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


One of the main teachings of the Baal Shem Tov was to always remember G-d and to thank Him frequently.

The obligation to remember G-d constantly and thank Him begins as soon as a Jew wakes up in the morning. Before he does anything else, he says "Modeh Ani -- I offer thanks to You, Living and Eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great."

The lesson of Modeh Ani, that everything we have comes from G-d and we must constantly thank Him, is connected to another important teaching of the Baal Shem Tov: G-d did not just create the world once [5761 years ago]. He constantly recreates everything anew at every moment, and gives it new life.

The purpose of this "continual creation" is to allow us to appreciate G-d's kindness. At this very moment, G-d has "taken the trouble," so to speak, to re-create each of us. When we realize that G-d is giving us life and everything we have at every moment, we will want to constantly thank Him.

The above teachings have a special connection not only to the Baal Shem Tov, but also to his birthday on the 18th of Elul. the Hebrew word "chai" -- living -- equals 18, and the 18th of Elul is called "Chai Elul," for it helps us add liveliness and enthusiasm to our appreciation of and feelings of thanks for our Creator.

May we merit, this very Chai Elul, to experience true and eternal life, as G-d intended it to be, with the complete revelation of Moshiach and the start of the Redemption.


The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn explained, that Chai Elul introduces an element of chayut, vitality, to our Divine service during Elul, the month in which we correct and make amends for past misdeeds. In the merit of our repentance, G-d grants us a good and sweet year. By infusing our service with vitality, Chai Elul helps us do teshuvah with enthusiasm, not just by rote or out of habit.

Superficially, vitality and teshuvah may seem contradictory. Vitality is associated with joy, whereas repentance is associated with bitterness, regretting past actions and resolving to do better. Those these seem to be opposite emotions, in Elul we feel both, and at the same time!

Every mitzvah we do should be performed with joy, for by observing that mitzvah, we fulfill the will of G-d. As teshuvah is a mitzvah like any other, we experience joy for having been given the privilege.

However, Chasidus gives us another reason to be happy while doing teshuvah, by explaining how bitterness and joy can exist simultaneously.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman describes this in the Tanya as "weeping on one side of the heart, and joy on the other side." When we do teshuvah, we rage against our Evil Inclination and of failure to withstand temptation. Yet at the same time we are happy, for we know that we are becoming closer to G-d.

Chai Elul (and by extension, Chasidus) thus transforms the entire month of Elul into a labor of love and joy.


1. The Alter Rebbe, was one of the foremost disciples of the Baal Shem Tov's successor, Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch.


Since the beginning of the month of Elul we've been doing teshuvah, getting rid of negative baggage and "cleaning up our act" before Rosh HaShanah. But this Saturday night, Sept. 8, after midnight, we're going to really get down to business, as Jews around the world go to the synagogue to recite Selichot ("prayers for forgiveness"). These special penitential prayers are the next stage of our preparation for the High Holidays.

Chasidic philosophy makes the following distinction:

During the month of Elul, we concentrate on improving our thought, speech and deed. But when we say Selichot, we focus on an even deeper level of the soul and correct the emotive powers themselves.

Though it sounds serious, Chasidim have always approached Selichot (like everything else!) with a sense of joy, rather than sadness and gloom. We look forward to the opportunity to reach even higher levels of holiness and sanctity.

The Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber, the fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, quoting Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidus, explained one of the lines in the Selichot thusly: "The needs of Your people are great, and their knowledge is narrow and limited." Our needs are many precisely because our knowledge is limited. If our knowledge were "wider," our needs would be fewer.

The pursuit of luxuries, adds the Rebbe, can even diminish the "regular" measure of blessing a person would otherwise receive. Because our "knowledge is limited" we demand too much, over-inflating our importance and assuming that G-d "owes" us. Our "needs" tend to multiply when we put too much emphasis on material rather than spiritual concerns.

Nonetheless, the Rebbe concludes, "Our request from G-d is that He fulfill all the needs of His people, even though what we ask for stems from a deficiency in knowledge. And may every single Jew lack for nothing."



by Yehudis Cohen

A person sees things through his own set of "lenses" which are created by his life experiences, environment and education.

A case in point: There are, thank G-d, well over a thousand boys and men in the community where I live by the name of "Mendel." My seven-year-old son is one of them. Upon moving recently to a different part of our neighborhood, one less densely populated by Chabad-Lubavitch families, I was intrigued to note that our new neighbors were calling Mendel what sounded like "Mandela" (and my younger son was "Smiley" not "Shloime").

I was amused that when we said "Mendel" they heard "Mandela." Sure enough, one afternoon, I overheard our next-door-neighbor inform Mendel, "You know, you have the same name as a great black leader, Nelson Mandela."

In the heart of our neighborhood, part of the life-experience of all of the residents, Jew and non-Jew alike, is that many boys and men are named "Mendel." But at the fringes of the neighborhood, this is not part of the experience and thus Mendel is Mandela to some.

As ludicrous as it must have seemed to our neighbor that we would have named our son Mandela, it was easy for him to conceive of such a name viewed through his lenses.

* * *

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, teaches that everything we see and hear can and should serve as a lesson for us in our Divine service.

This Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Selichot," for on Saturday night, Sept. 8, after midnight, we begin reciting the special penitential "Selichot" prayers, and we continue each weekday until Rosh HaShanah. Rosh HaShanah initiates the Aseret Y'Mei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance, which culminates on Yom Kippur -- the Day of Atonement.

For many of us, the names of the distinctive prayers and special days at this time of year conjure up images of morose moods, contrite conduct and plenty of sighs. When it comes to understanding repentance, for instance, many of us have grown up with a decidedly non-Jewish approach to this fundamental Jewish concept.

So, we shouldn't be surprised if our initial reaction to the next few weeks on the Jewish calendar is based on some rather ludicrous assumptions. We're seeing penitence, repentance, atonement, through our own lenses -- created by our own life-experiences, environment and education. But that doesn't mean that what we're seeing is authentic.

If we are open to new experiences, then we will see things for what they really are, otherwise we will end up making ridiculous assumptions about reality.

Reality: The word "teshuvah" is commonly translated as "repentance." Actually it comes from the Hebrew meaning "return." In fact, within the word teshuvah itself we find directions on how to do teshuvah: tashuv -- return -- and the Hebrew letter "hei" which stands for Hashem, G-d. We are returning to G-d, to our source, our essence. Teshuvah has the power to literally erase our sins, to correct the blemishes and defects caused by those sins.

Over the next little while, when someone says "Rosh HaShanah," "Yom Kippur," "teshuvah," hear the reality of what they are saying. Take off your glasses and hear "return to my source, to my essence."


The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." We therefore present from the Rebbe's talks suggestions what we can do to complete his work of bringing the Redemption.

Say the Special Selichot Prayers

On Saturday evening, Sept. 8, after midnight, the first Selichot ("prayers for forgiveness") are said in synagogues throughout the world.

From Monday, Sept. 10, through the eve of Rosh HaShanah (Monday, Sept. 17), the Selichot prayers are said every weekday, in the early morning. Go with the whole family Saturday night, let the kids stay up late! This is a real, hands-on Jewish experience that is bound to be remembered for months, if not years.


Call your local synagogue, or Chabad-Lubavitch Center for the exact time and location nearest you.


Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat Candles

For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
or: http://www.candlelightingtimes.org/shabbos

For a free candle lighting kit:
contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).

Times shown are for Metro NY - NJ

Friday, September 7, Erev Shabbat Parshat Ki Tavo:

  • Light Shabbat Candles,(2) by 7:02 p.m.

Saturday, September 8, Shabbat Parshat Ki Tavo:

  • Shabbat Selichot.
  • On Shabbat following the afternoon prayer, we read Chapters 3 & 4 of Pirkei Avot -- Ethics of the Fathers.
  • Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 8:01 p.m.


2. The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.

Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind

Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing

"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.

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