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Thursday, August 24, 2017 2 Elul 5777




20th of Menachem Av

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the saintly father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, served as the Chief Rabbi of Yekatrinoslav for over 30 years from 1907 to 1939. In 1939 he was arrested by the communist regime for his fearless stance against the Communist Party's efforts to eradicate Torah Judaism in the Soviet Union. After more than a year of torture and interrogations, he was sentenced to exile in Chi'ili, Russia. After completing four years in exile in Chi'ili, Reb Levi Yitzchak moved with his wife, Rebbetzin Chana (who had followed him into exile) to nearby Alma Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, where he passed away less than four months later on 20 Av, 1944.
 Reb Levi Yitzchak's concern for his fellow Jew was legendary. In Russia there was a Chasid (pious Jew) by the name of Reb Ozer Vinikorsky, who five times (!) had received a draft notice from the Red Army, with an invitation to appear before the medical board. After five close calls he still hadn't been drafted, but the constant threat was taking a psychological toll.
The Chasid went to Reb Levi Yitzchak for his blessing and advice. Touched by the man's suffering, Reb Levi Yitzchak not only blessed him, but outlined a detailed plan that would rid him of this worry forever. Reb Levi Yitzchak told him the particular day he was to appear before the board, the exact time to show up, which streets he was to take, which chapters of Psalms to recite - he even told him how many coins he should give to charity that morning! The most important thing, however, was to concentrate on G-d's holy Name Havaya before opening the door to the Ministry. If he followed these instructions, nothing bad would happen.
As Reb Ozer later related, "I followed Reb Levi Yitzchak's directives to the letter. Inside the Ministry were many tables; at each table sat a different type of medical specialist, and the potential recruits had to be examined by all of them. Afterwards, I took my files and handed them to the official who would give me my final answer. 'Poor fellow,' he said as he looked at my pityingly. 'It isn't often that every single doctor finds a different defect!' " Reb Ozer received a complete deferment.
May the memory of Reb Levi Yitzchak Schneerson inspire us all and stand the entire Jewish people in good stead.

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Chai (18) Elul
Baal Shem Tov
Elul 18 is the birthday of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism
Rabbi Israel was born in a small town in Ukraine in 1698. His father, Rabbi Eliezer, who was a member of the secret society of "hidden tzaddikim," passed away when young Israel was only five years old; his last words to his son were, "Fear nothing but G-d alone. Love every Jew with all your heart and all your soul."
The young orphan would spend much of his time wandering and meditating in the forests that surrounded his hometown; there, he one day met with one of his father's compatriots, and eventually joined their society. For many years, he lived disguised as a simple innkeeper and clay-digger, his greatness known only to a very small circle of fellow mystics and disciples. But on his 36th birthday, he was instructed by his master to "reveal" himself and publicly disseminate his teachings.
Drawing from the mystical "soul of Torah," the Baal Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name," as he came to be known) taught about the spark of G-dliness that is to be found in every creation, and about the great love that G-d has for each and every one of His children, scholars and simple folk alike. He emphasized the importance of joy and simple faith in serving G-d, rather than asceticism. Initially, his teachings encountered fierce opposition from the scholarly elite and established leadership of the Jewish community; but many of those very scholars and communal leaders ended up becoming his devoted disciples. When Rabbi Israel passed at age 62 on Shavuot of 1760, the movement he founded was well on the way of becoming the most vital force in Jewish life.
* * *
First Chabad Rebbe 
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of the "Chabad" branch of Chassidism, was born on Elul 18 of the year 5505 from creation -- the 47th birthday of his "spiritual grandfather", His famous work, Tanya, is studied and discussed in the greatest schools of thought to this day.   
Chassidic Holiday
"Chai Elul" (Hebrew for "the 18th of Elul," also meaning "the life of Elul") is celebrated by the Chassidic community as the birthday of the "two great luminaries" -- Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism; and Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad. Chassidim wish each other "Gut Yom Tov!" and conduct joyous gatherings called farbrengens.
12 Days of Reflection
Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, is a month devoted to stocktaking and introspection. A Chassidic tradition holds that the last twelve days of the year -- Elul 18 to 29 -- are specifically devoted to the twelve months of the closing year: on each of these twelve days, one should review the deeds and achievements of its corresponding month.

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