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We've gone from believing there's a man in the moon to putting a man on the moon. From thinking it was made of green cheese to having samples of the moon scrutinized by high-tech scientific equipment. Why the big fixation with the moon?
Are you ready for some out-of-this-world insights into the moon?
For starters, G-d is likened to the sun and the Jewish people are like the moon. How so? G-d is constant and unchanging, while the Jewish people's fortune waxes and wanes as does the cycle of the moon. The light of the moon is merely a reflection of the light of the sun; thus the sun gives and the moon receives. Similarly, the Jewish people are the receivers of G-d's goodness, bounty and Infinite Light.
The light of the moon is constantly renewed, hinting to us that, though our light may be dim in comparison to that of the sun, though at times our "light" may be completely lacking, we have the eternal capacity for renewal.
The renewal of the Jewish people, which will take place in its fullest and most complete sense with the arrival of Moshiach, is alluded to by the rebirth of the moon each month. The moon's rebirth also hints at the resurrection of the dead which will take place during the Era of the Redemption.
There is a special ceremony called "Kiddush Levana"--Sanctifying the Moon--which we perform each month. Do you remember the words, "David Melech Yisrael Chai, Chai V'Kayam" from Sunday School or Hebrew School days? If so, you already know part of the Kiddush Levana prayer. These words mean, "David, King of Israel, lives and endures." We say them as an allusion to the renewal of the Kingdom of the House of David which will take place with the coming of Moshiach (Moshiach will be a descendant of David).
In fact, most of the Kiddush Levana ceremony hints at the Messianic Age. The greeting "Sholom Aleichem--Peace unto you" is exchanged with those nearby. It is said because the Redemption will be accompanied by peace throughout the entire world.
We continue with a verse from the Song of Songs, "The voice of my beloved! Here he comes, leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills." It is explained that "the voice of my beloved" refers to Moshiach. He comes and tells the Jewish people "You will be redeemed this month."
Each mitzva we do hastens Moshiach's arrival. Maybe if we all participate in Kiddush Levana we will truly be redeemed this month.
The accounts of our ancestors found in the Torah are not merely chronicles of Jewish history. Every part of the Torah is included to teach us how to worship G-d and conduct our lives.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, speaks of Jacob's departure from Israel to Charan. In Charan he worked for his Uncle Lavan for 20 years, married Rachel and Leah, and established the Twelve Tribes. Vayeitzei also relates his return from Charan to the Holy Land.
Jewish mysticism explains the difference between Jacob's departure to Charan and his triumphant return. After setting out on his journey, Jacob merited a personal revelation from G-d ("And behold, the L-rd stood above him"). The Torah describes the circumstances: "And he reached a certain place"--Jacob had to be in a particular place in order to receive the revelation, and then it was only in the form of a dream. But we find 20 years later, when Jacob was returning from Charan, "angels of G-d met him there"--the angels, and G-d Himself (as explained in the Zohar), actively went out and sought him. Furthermore, this time Jacob was awake and not dreaming.
We learn from Jacob's 20-year sojourn in Charan how much can be accomplished by "descent"-- by putting one's physical efforts into bringing holiness into the world. Every Jew must likewise "descend" into his own "Charan"--where he must wrestle with his own version of "Lavan the Aramean," and emerge victorious, having successfully elevated the sparks of holiness hidden in the physical world.
This is no easy task, and it requires much study and preparation. Before setting out into the world, a Jew must first ready himself in "the Holy Land," which symbolizes the highest level of holiness. Before a Jew can positively influence his surroundings, he must be sufficiently educated and knowledgeable in Torah. Before Jacob left Israel for Charan, he prepared himself by learning in the yeshiva of Eber for 14 years. Every Jew must likewise prepare himself by dedicating time to Torah study. This underscores the importance of a good Jewish education, and in particular, the necessity of beginning a child's Jewish education even before he is ready for formal schooling.
The theme of preparing oneself before embarking on life's journey is also expressed in a Jew's daily life. A Jew does not rely solely on his own power and talents, but rather, begins his day by praying and asking for G-d's help in carrying out his mission in this world.
By preparing ourselves properly before attending to our daily concerns, we are assured of success in both the spiritual and physical realms.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Walbrum, a small Jewish village in Poland near Warsaw, during the middle of the 1930s. Two youngsters, best friends, Dov and Benjamin. They learned together in cheder, they played together, they grew up together.
A new atmosphere begins to pervade the little village, the spirit of settling the Land of Israel, returning to the Holy Land. Two different Zionist groups try to win over the youths of the town: the secular Shomer HaTzair and the religious Agudat Yisrael.
Dov--in his desire to guard the traditions of his ancestors--joins Agudat Yisrael. Benjamin prefers to break with his past, as youths are wont to do, and joins up with Shomer HaTzair. The two mature, marry, move to Israel, and before long have established families in the Holy Land.
Israel, 1987. A new Chabad branch opens in one of the settlement towns.
A teenager, an 11th grader in the local school, has been circling around the Chabad House; he wants to enter but hesitates. Something pulls him, but he is afraid. He circles and circles, like a moth circling a fire; in the end, he enters.
During his first encounter with the Chabad rabbi he finds a common language and inundates him with questions. The rabbi is normal. He speaks like everyone else. He knows what's happening in the world; even the world of science isn't strange to him!
The boy's questions receive answers, the doubts are quelled, and science doesn't contradict Torah.
The boy starts to come regularly. He is especially pleased that no one pushes him.
It's almost a year that he has been coming to the Chabad House. He puts on tefillin every day, knows a lot of Chasidic philosophy, and still, when he leaves the Chabad House each time, the kipa on his head goes into his pocket. But this, too, changes with time.
The young man begins to reach out to others, to share with them the beauty of what he has found in his heritage. He speaks with friends, relatives, acquaintances, and among them, he speaks, too, with his old grandfather.
One discussion, and then another. And the grandfather asks if he can meet personally with the "rabbi who brought you back."
The grandfather and the rabbi, too, find a common language. At first they speak about the grandson, then the subject turns to the boy's mother who was actually the one who had encouraged him to enter the Chabad House. From there they start talking about the grandfather himself.
A word here, a word there. And the rabbi realizes that the grandfather is actually quite learned. He asks the grandfather about his past.
The grandfather relates that he was born in a little village in Poland near Warsaw. And when a new mood began to settle in the village, he, Benjamin, decided to break with the traditions of his family, joined Shomer HaTzair, and moved to the Holy Land as one of the early pioneers.
During those years, the embers of his Jewish observance cooled off, and there was no one to fire him up; and he speaks about the years of struggle and the years of yearning. The rabbi listens and understands.
The grandfather continues and says that during all those years of distance from Jewish tradition, still he carefully guarded his relationship with a friend from his youth, a soul-mate from his little village who also moved to Israel. The friend was a chasid, a tzadik, who during all the years of building up the Land remained steadfast in his commitment to Judaism, who was careful with each and every mitzva. But now, Benjamin feels a bit depressed, because this same chasid passed away two months ago. And now he feels truly alone, and he is almost the only one remaining from their little village.
The rabbi asks the name of the village. The grandfather says "Walbrum" and the rabbi's heart skips a beat.
"And what was the name of the chasid who passed away two months ago?" the rabbi asks.
The grandfather answers, "Dov."
The rabbi can not contain himself and cries out, "That was my father, of blessed memory..."
The grandfather falls on the rabbi's neck and hugs and kisses him, hugs and kisses him.
And the circle is closed.
Translated from the Kfar Chabad Magazine.
Billboards in Upstate New York, t-shirts with the words, "Moshiach is on the way--let's be ready." What will the International Campaign to Bring Moshiach think of next? Signs atop today's most preferred form of travel. For your own signs, including all necessary hardware, send $48, plus $8 shipping (payable to LYO) to: ICTBM, 1408 President St., Bklyn, N.Y. 11213.
BECOMING CONSCIOUS OF THE DIVINE
Our Sages equate the Sanctification of the Moon with welcoming G-d's presence, for the pattern by which the moon constantly renews itself enables one to appreciate the G-dliness manifest within the natural order. When one considers the unfailing pattern in which the universe continues, one becomes conscious of an infinite power that surpasses our human understanding. Although this concept can be perceived from all the elements of our worldly environment, our Sages associated this idea with the moon, for the regular monthly pattern in which it waxes and wanes is clearly observable.
Significantly, however, the Rabbis relate this manifestation of G-dliness within nature to the manifestation of His might and wonders in His relationship with the Jewish people. Thus, in his explanation of the Sanctification of the Moon, Rabbeinu Yona focuses on the verse, "Truly, You are a G-d who hides Himself, O, G-d of Israel and Savior," and declares:
Although You are "a G-d who hides Yourself," You are "the G-d of Israel," for You have wrought numerous wonders on their behalf and You deliver them at every time and juncture. Thus, You have revealed Yourself to them, and they are conscious of Your Presence.
Similarly, our Sages associate the moon's periodic rebirth with the ultimate renewal the Jewish people will experience in the Era of the Redemption for the Jews "calculate their calendar according to the moon and resemble the moon." Just as the moon wanes and becomes concealed, the Jewish people must endure the darkness of exile for a certain period of time. The reappearance of the moon anew each month, however, reassures us of the coming of the ultimate rebirth--the Redemption.
More particularly, the Sages associate the moon with the Davidic dynasty. This is borne out by the recitation of the phrase, "David, King of Israel, is living and enduring," in the ceremony of the Sanctification of the Moon. Thus the rebirth of the moon also reflects a promise of renewal for that dynasty, the shining forth of the light of Moshiach, who will be a descendant of King David.
The Sanctification of the Moon also carries with it assurances of security and protection for every individual as borne out by our prayer in the sanctification ceremony: "Just as I leap toward you and cannot touch you, so too, may all my enemies be unable to touch me harmfully." Even in the night of Exile, when the Divine Presence is not openly revealed, G-d is constantly watching over us and protecting us.
Our Sages explain that the Sanctification of the Moon should be recited with joy and celebration parallel to that of a wedding. For the redemption of the Jewish people to which it alludes is described by analogy, as the renewal of their marriage bond with G-d.
And this is all the more relevant at the present time, for the Redemption is imminent. As the Rebbe shlita has told us on countless occasions, we are "on the threshold of the redemption," and indeed, we are in the process of crossing that threshold.
The ceremony of the Sanctification of the Moon includes the following verse: "The voice of my beloved! Here he comes, leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills." On this verse, the Yalkut Shimoni comments: "The voice of my beloved"--this refers to the Moshiach. He comes and tells Israel, "You will be redeemed this month." May Moshiach leap over any and all obstacles that hold back the Redemption and allow this promise to be realized in the present month.
From an essay by Sichos in English.
What is Kiddush Levana?
Kiddush Levana--the Sanctification of the Moon--is a blessing recited over seeing the new moon. The ceremony also includes several Psalms and an excerpt from the Talmud. It is recited outdoors when the new moon is visible, preferably on a Saturday night, when one is already dressed in festive clothing. According to Jewish mysticism it is best to sanctify the moon between the 7th and 15th of the Jewish month. However, one can recite it as early as the 3rd or 4th and up to the 16th.
This Shabbos is the ninth of Kislev, the birthday and yahrtzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber (known as the Mittler Rebbe), the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch.
In 1816, Reb Dov Ber established a settlement of Chabad chasidim in Israel in the city of Hebron. He encouraged the chasidim already living in other parts of Israel to resettle in Hebron. In addition, his own daughter and son-in-law moved with their family from Russia to Hebron.
But the history of Chabad-Lubavitch support of people, institutions and settlements in the Holy Land predates even 1816. For the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, vigorously encouraged his followers to support the Jews in the Holy Land.
Each and every Rebbe of Chabad, up to and including the present Rebbe, shlita, has unequivocally supported the Holy Land and spoken out boldly concerning anything that might have the slightest impact on the security of the Jews there.
Our brethren in Israel know first-hand about the Rebbe's concern for them and their lives. During the Gulf War the Rebbe's emphatic message that "Israel is the safest place in the world for G-d is constantly watching it" was continuously played on the radio. The hundreds of Chabad Centers that dot the Israeli landscape were deluged with callers during the Gulf War asking, "What is the Rebbe saying now?"
Without a doubt, and everyone can be sure of this, the Rebbe's policy has not changed one iota in the past 40 years nor has it changed from that of his predecessors. Based on clear guidance from the Torah and Jewish law, the Rebbe reiterates: No action can be taken that might negatively affect the safety of the Jews of the Holy Land.
In the merit of Rabbi Dov Ber, who established the first Chabad settlement in the Holy Land, may we be privileged to go together with Moshiach to the Holy Land, NOW.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
When Dov Ber (later to be known as The Maggid of Mezritch) was a small child of five around the turn of the 18th century, his parents' home was consumed by fire. The child was upset by his mother's display of grief and he asked her: "Mother, is it right to grieve so much for the loss of our house?" "G-d forbid," she replied, "I am not grieving because of the loss of the house, but over the loss of the document of our family tree burnt in the fire. That document traced our descent to Rabbi Yochanan Hasandler who was a direct descendant of King David."
"If so," replied the child, "I shall start for you a new dynasty." In his seventy-odd years of service in this world, Dov Ber fulfilled the promise he made to his mother, becoming a remarkable Torah scholar and later assuming from the Baal Shem Tov (BeShT) the mantle of leadership of the growing Chasidic Movement
Like many of the Baal Shem Tov's sixty outstanding disciples Rabbi Dov Ber was won over to his master's controversial teachings in a profound and uniquely personal way. Once Rabbi Mendel of Bar, a leading disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, was staying next door to Rabbi Dov Ber. He happened to overhear the teachings of the "Maggid" and was fascinated by the explanations he heard. Stepping in to meet the teacher, he was shocked by the sickly appearance of the man. "Don't you know that there is a Baal Shem Tov? Go to him and he will cure you!" said Rabbi Mendel. The Maggid replied curtly with a quote from the Psalms, "It is better to take refuge in G-d than to trust in man!"
When Rabbi Mendel returned to Medzibozh he praised the Maggid but the Besht replied that he was already aware of him, and in fact, greatly desired that the Maggid come to him.
Over the course of the next few years the Maggid vacillated in his desire to meet with the Besht, but finally decided to travel to Medzibozh. Upon his arrival he expected to hear profound and wondrous expositions on the Torah, but instead the Besht regaled him with seemingly meaningless stories about coachmen and horses and similar themes. These stories were parables alluding to abstruse topics in Torah. Dov Ber was put off and decided to leave at once.
Just as he was about to leave, the Besht sent for him and questioned him, saying: "Are you well versed in Torah study?" Having received a positive answer, he continued, "Yes, I know that you are a scholar. Do you also know Kabbalah?" The Maggid replied that he did. With that the Baal Shem Tov questioned him on a passage, asking him to explicate it. When the Maggid presented his interpretation the Besht told him, "You don't understand it at all!" The Maggid reviewed the passage once more, and with assurance replied that it was certainly correct, and if not, he would like to hear a better explanation.
To that the Besht said: "Rise and stand!" As the Maggid gazed around him, the Baal Shem Tov interpreted the passage which referred to various angels. As he spoke the house was ablaze with light and the angels described in the passage were actually visible.
Over the course of perhaps two extended visits in Medzibozh the Maggid was able to absorb all the teachings of the Besht and take his place as the foremost disciple of the master.
In the tempestuous years following, the two spiritual geniuses were bound together in an extraordinary relationship of master and disciple. In the year 1760 when the Baal Shem Tov passed away, the Chasidic Movement was at a crucial juncture, requiring strong, dynamic leadership. The matter of succession was in question, as the Baal Shem Tov had left no specific instructions for his followers. In a move of respect and honor for the Besht, his only son Rabbi Tzvi was appointed interim leader. He served in that capacity for one year.
The disciples had gathered for the first yahrzeit of the Besht and were seated around a table with Rabbi Tzvi at their head. He had just concluded his Torah discourse when he rose and said: "Today my father appeared to me and informed me that the Shechinah and Heavenly Assembly that used to be with him 'have gone over this day to Rabbi Dov Ber; therefore my son, transfer to him the leadership in the presence of the Chevraya Kadisha (Holy Society). Let him sit in my place at the head of the table and you, my son, sit in his place.'" When he finished speaking he removed the white robe symbolizing his office and placed it upon the shoulders of Rabbi Dov Ber.
Thus, leadership passed to the Maggid. In a short time he was able consolidate his leadership, and although some of the older chasidim did not become his disciples, he was ultimately recognized as the official successor and spokesman for the entire Chasidic Movement. The yahrzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, is on the 19th of Kislev.
And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth (Gen. 28:14)
G-d promised Jacob that the Jewish nation will be like the humble dust: Everyone treads upon it, but in the end, the dust has the last word and covers all. The Jewish people, after suffering at the hands of the nations of the world, will eventually be victorious and prevail.
Surely G-d is present in this place and I did not know it (28:16)
When does man feel the presence of G-d? When "I did not know it"--when the I is ignored and the person works on negating his own ego.
Then Jacob rose up and set his sons and wives upon the camels (31:17)
When Jacob finally left Charan to return to Israel, he was a rich man with many possessions, though he had arrived there with neither silver, gold, nor cattle. Although at first glance it appears that Jacob's living amongst the idolators of Charan was a step backward, it was in this merit that he acquired his great wealth and established his family. So too, is it with this final Exile. Although the trials and tribulations have been many, when Moshiach comes and brings the Final Redemption, we will first realize the great advantage and good that came from it.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita)
And he lay down in that place (28:11)
Our rabbis teach that this was the first time Jacob lay his head down to sleep, having spent the previous 20 years working in Lavan's house, saying the entire book of Psalms each night. We learn from Jacob's behavior that even as we go about our daily lives and attend to our jobs and responsibilities, our "heads" should be concerned with Torah and our thoughts directed toward holy matters.
Of the 19 blessings in the Amida (Shemona Esrei) prayer which we recite three times daily, eight deal with Messianic ideals. According to Maimonides, the 12 middle benedictions of the Amida contain the request for everything that is central to all of the needs of each and every individual as well as the needs of the community. Within this section, there are five requests for Moshiach and the Messianic Age!