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Who is Moshiach? This question has been posed by CNN, asked by the New York Times, and theorized and pondered recently by Jews and non-Jews the world over.
You'd better sit down, because you are about to find out the answer to this oft-asked question:
Moshiach is a human being, born of human parents in the normal fashion. The only qualification about his origins is that he is a descendant of King David and of his son, King Solomon. From his birth onward, Moshiach's righteousness will increase continually, and by virtue of his deeds, he will merit lofty levels of spiritual perfection.
Any time is a potential time for the coming of Moshiach. This does not mean, however, that at the appropriate time he will suddenly emerge from Heaven to appear on earth. On the contrary: Moshiach is already on earth, a human being of great saintly status; such a person exists in every generation.
As a faithful shepherd he already cares so much about his people that he is willing to suffer to assure that not a single Jew who lived at any time will be lost.
Moshiach will study the Torah and be preoccupied with mitzvot. He will teach all the Jewish people and instruct them in the way of G-d. He will prevail upon the Jewish people to follow and observe the Torah, repair its breaches, and fight the battles of G-d.
Moshiach will reveal altogether new insights, making manifest the hidden mysteries of the Torah, to the point that "all the Torah learned in the present world will be as naught compared to the Torah of Moshiach."
There is no need for Moshiach to perform signs and wonders to prove himself. Nonetheless, he will do so.
So what are we, or better yet, what is he, waiting for?
True belief in the Messianic redemption is reflected in and verified by sincere anticipation, in eagerly looking forward to the coming of Moshiach. In turn, the sincerity of this hope and waiting is tested by what is done to achieve his arrival. For something which one truly desires, one will ask, beg, demand, and do everything possible to attain it. The same applies to the obligatory awaiting and anticipation of Moshiach.
G-d insists that we prove the sincerity of our claim to want Moshiach by doing everything in our power to bring it about, including storming the Gates of Heaven with demands for the redemption. "The Jewish people will not be redeemed until they will demand the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of the House of David and the Holy Temple."
Reprinted from the book Moshiach by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet.
The Jewish nation has endured four exiles: The first in Egypt, the second in Babylonia, the third in Assyria. The fourth and final exile is the one we have been in for the last two thousand years, the "exile of Edom." (Edom stands for Rome, and symbolizes the countries of the Western world.)
The Torah portion of Vayigash delineates the beginning of the Jewish people's journey into exile. G-d appeared to Jacob and promised, "I will descend with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again." Bolstered by this promise, Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt and began the Jewish people's 210-year sojourn there.
In many respects the exile in Egypt was the harshest of all the exiles; it occurred before the giving of the Torah, which afforded future generations the strength to withstand the suffering. Also, as with other painful experiences, the first time it occurs the wound is always the deepest and the hardest to overcome.
In addition, the Jews' exile in Egypt differed from future ones in that all Jews were involved. Later exiles found Jews scattered all over the world, assuring that whenever Jews were discriminated against in one country there were other lands in which they enjoyed relative freedom, and could come to the aid of their brethren.
Furthermore, Egypt itself was a land that posed particular difficulties. Not only was it spiritually corrupt, but our Sages describe it as a fortified country from which not even one slave could escape.
This first and most difficult exile served one positive purpose--to act as preparation for the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Egypt was the crucible in which the Jewish nation was purified and made worthy of the Torah.
We learn this from the Hebrew name for Egypt, "Mitzrayim," which comes from the word meaning "limitation" and "constriction."
When water's flow is artificially blocked by placing an obstruction in its path, the water flows even more forcefully because of the temporary impasse. When one's thumb is held over the tap to partially obstruct the flow, the water shoots out that much more forcefully from the faucet.
Such is the Divine purpose of our exile, to uncover within every Jew the hidden strengths and stores of faith that are in the Jewish soul. The difficulties and pressures of the exile cause these inner qualities and self-sacrifice to be revealed.
The experience of exile can be used for our maximum benefit--to strengthen our commitment to Torah and mitzvot. Just as the Jews eventually left Egypt victorious and with "great wealth," and were worthy of receiving the Torah, may we be worthy to usher in the Messianic era, now.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Man Who Built a Menora
by Hinda Langer
(This interview with Bill Graham appeared nine years ago in the Chabad Journal of Northern California. We are reprinting it here to show a side of the late rock impresario that many did not know.)
Standing in Union Square, a twenty-two-foot-high mahogany menora gives its serenity and warmth to a cold winter evening. It's December in America--a country where we are blessed with the freedom to publicly remember our Jewishness in the midst of the surrounding swirl of other lights.
The gift of the Menora to the Bay Area was made possible eight years ago by the fusion of two energies--Chabad, generator around the world for Jewish awareness, and Bill Graham, a Jew who has been the impresario of rock music promotion since 1965. Graham's stage production crew built the Menora.
Why does Bill sponsor the Menora each year and how does he feel about his own Jewishness?
"The primary reason I got involved some years ago with Chabad is that, from what I know in the East and down in L.A., Chabad attempts to do good work in the community on a person-to-person level. I was born a Jew in Germany to Russian parents. I wound up here in 1941, the first member of my family to come to America. If someone would ask me, 'Why do you openly support Chabad and not the Lutheran Church?' I would say, 'Because I was raised as a Jew.' (Although, I'm not as observant as many Orthodox Jews would like non-Orthodox Jews to be.) Though I'm not excusing myself, I'm not proud to say this either."
The lighting of the Menora is an outdoor event that's been going on for many years now and you've wanted it to be reaching out to more and more people. What kind of vision do you have for it?
"The early years of the Menora were extremely disappointing to me in that not enough people, Jews of the Bay Area, related to it. Maybe they thought it was too commercial--'How can I take my feelings outdoors, without the roof of the synagogue over my head or the roof of my home. This is too public. I'm going to expose my introverted prayers and feelings.'
"I have the hope that others will come closer to their Jewishness because of it, maybe even I will, too. If somebody said, 'Well, Bill, you could set a better example.' I'd say, 'Yes. But better than nothing is this.'
"My involvement may be looked at by some as crude--it's just money. But I think it should be respected. But to be totally straight, I put it there because I think it's a good worthwhile thing.
"I have a fear of not going back [to Judaism] soon enough. I'm 51 and I'm very, very lucky. G-d blessed me with a healthy body, stamina. But I'm beginning to feel I can't have hot fudge sundaes all the time, and I can't play ball the way I used to, and I can't stay up the way I used to. I'd say within another 5 years I'm going to turn somewhere for solace and I know that somewhere will be my religion. The majority of people turn there when we need, rather than when we can give. But maybe ...
"I'd just like to go to shul, and to sit down and feel at ease and learn about what's available. I know I'm going to do that. I just hope I do it sooner, rather than later. There are a number of friends that I have in New York who are older than I am and who were never religious. Some in their 40's and some even in their 60's eventually went back to tradition. The majority of them went there when they were in trouble and they had problems. I hope I go before. Through simcha, through happiness.
"One of these days I'll take the first step, and later on, take another step."
Millions of people throughout the world participated in an Intercontinental Satellite Broadcast highlighting the kindling of the first Chanuka light at Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Great Hall of the Kremlin in Moscow, as well as sites in Melbourne, Hong Kong and Milan. Over 50 PBS and 1,000 cable T.V. stations carried the two-hour broadcast. Space on hundreds of billboards and T.V. air time across North America was donated to advertise the event.
MOSHIACH IN EVERY GENERATION
At times openly and at times enclothed within the natural order, there is an inner motivating force which ultimately is the source for everything that occurs in the world at large.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe has described this year as "a year imbued with wonders" which will lead to the year when, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders," the wonders of the Redemption. Every Jew has an intrinsic connection with the Redemption and, indeed, Moshiach is here, waiting for us to recognize his mission and to create a climate in the world that will allow it to be fulfilled.
The potential for the appreciation of a clear revelation of G-dliness is an intrinsic part of every Jew's being, for a Jew's soul is "truly a part of G-d from above." The revelations of the Era of the Redemption are thus, deeply related to every Jew, for every Jew possesses a spark of Moshiach. Indeed, in the texts of Jewish mysticism the Kabbalah identifies this spark with the very core of our being, the innermost dimension of our souls.
Every Jew has been charged by G-d to reveal this essential dimension in his own conscious powers, in his physical activities, and in his interaction with his environment. The revelation of the particular sparks of Moshiach through these efforts will hasten the coming of the era of Moshiach, the age when the manifestation of this fundamental G-dliness will totally fill the world.
The responsibility every Jew carries to speed Moshiach's coming through such service is reflected in the fact that the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Moshiach is the same as the sum of the numerical equivalent of the word shaliach, which means "agent," plus ten. This implies that Moshiach's coming is dependent on every person's dedicating the ten faculties of his soul to the shlichut, the "mission," of revealing G-dliness in this world.
Implicit in this mission is disseminating the inner teachings of the Torah, and integrating them into our conscious thinking processes. In the Era of the Redemption, "a person will no longer [have to] teach a friend... for they will all know Me." "New [dimensions of the] Torah will emerge from Me," and every individual will experience a direct, personal knowledge of G-d.
Since Judaism conceives of reward as being granted "measure for measure," it follows that in preparation for this revelation, we should devote ourselves to the knowledge of G-d and the development of an inner bond with Him. It is the Torah which enables us to forge such a connection. This is reflected in our Rabbis' interpretation of the verse, "He kisses me with the kisses of His mouth," as referring to the inner bond which is established with G-d through the study of the inner teachings of the Torah.
The relevance of the above is made possible by the unique nature of our present times. To borrow an expression of the Previous Rebbe, we have already "polished the buttons" and have completed all the elements of service required of us.
Furthermore, Moshiach is not merely a hope for the future, but there exists in every generation--and surely, in our generation--"a person from among the descendants of Judah who is worthy of being the Moshiach of Israel." As the Chatam Sofer writes, "From the time of the destruction of the Holy Temple, there was born one who in his righteousness is worthy of being [Israel's] redeemer," and were there no impediments and obstacles which prevented his coming, he would have come already.
Moreover, these obstacles no longer exist, for when the service of the Jewish people over the centuries is considered as a whole, everything that is necessary to bring about the Redemption has been accomplished. There is no valid explanation for the continuation of the Exile. Accordingly, at this time, our spiritual service must focus on "standing prepared to greet Moshiach," anxiously awaiting his revelation with the willingness to accept him eagerly.
By Sichos in English, adapted from an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
What is involved in the mitzva of "visiting the sick"?
Visiting the sick, or Bikur Cholim in Hebrew, is one of the commandments for which the Talmud has set no limits. The Talmud states that by visiting a sick person one helps him to recover. One should cheer the sick person with pleasant conversation and good advice and helping them in any way possible. For the performance of this mitzva a person is rewarded in this world as well as in the World to Come.
When was the beginning of the destruction of the first Holy Temple? The destruction began place when the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem on the 10th of Tevet, December 17 this year. This day is traditionally designated as a fast day.
But this year, G-d willing, maybe we'll "break with tradition"; maybe we won't fast! Maybe we won't shed bitter tears and mourn for the Holy Temple's destruction! How could this possibly be?
When Moshiach comes--may he arrive before the 10th of Tevet--we will no longer fast on the three days designated to commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Rather, these days will become days of rejoicing, gladness and festivity.
How can we turn this dream into a reality? The Lubavitcher Rebbe has repeatedly stressed that each and every individual can hasten Moshiach's arrival. How can this be accomplished? By increasing our acts of kindness, goodness and tzedaka; by actively awaiting his arrival at any moment; by preparing ourselves to greet him; by learning more about Moshiach and the Ultimate Redemption.
A viable suggestion toward this end would be that each time we do an additional act of kindness, or goodness, give tzedaka or do mitzvot, we do so with the intent of hastening the Final Redemption. By doing this ourselves and encouraging those around us to do so the same, we will bring Moshiach that much closer.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
The Rav of Yanov was a great scholar. As a young man he had been the friend of Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg, and their friendship had endured in spite of the young man's terrible obstinacy and inability to concede the correctness of anyone else's viewpoint.
Once, the Rav of Yanov was traveling to his son's wedding together with an impressive party of illustrious well-wishers. The Rav and his party stopped at a lovely site on the outskirts of a forest to say the afternoon prayers. The Rav chose a secluded spot under the trees some distance away from the others, and he lingered over his devotions. The members of his traveling party waited patiently for him in the carriage, but when darkness descended, they began searching for him in the surrounding groves of trees. Their search proved unsuccessful and though they were a bit concerned, they assumed that he had accepted a ride from one of the many other carriages in the wedding party.
Their anxiety was borne out when they arrived at the site of the wedding and the Rav was nowhere to seen. There were all kinds of speculation, but there was nothing to do other than to proceed with the wedding without him. The sad group returned to Yanov without the Rav and in fact, without a clue of what might have happened to him.
Meanwhile, the Rav was wandering around in the depths of the forest unable to find a way out. He had unwittingly lost his way in the forest. As hours became days the Rav became more despondent and disoriented. He lost track of time and set about preparing for Shabbat a day early.
Finally, with G-d's help, the Rav found his way home and rejoined his jubilant family which had begun to fear the worst. When Thursday arrived the Rav busily set about preparing for Shabbat. When his family explained that it was Thursday and not Friday, he argued hotly that they were all mistaken. They tried patiently to explain that in the course of his wanderings he had somehow lost a day in his reckoning, but he just became more and more infuriated. His family invited many acquaintances to try to convince the Rav, but to no avail. What could they do, other than to allow him to celebrate the holy Shabbat on Friday. He celebrated with all the traditional foods and prayed the Shabbat prayers, and when Shabbat actually arrived he donned weekday garb and set about his usual weekday activities while his horrified family helplessly looked on.
Many weeks passed while he persisted in his mistaken behavior in spite of the steady stream of visitors all endeavoring to convince him otherwise. One day word of his strange fixation reached his childhood friend, Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg. Reb Shmelke set off at once for Yanov, making sure that he would arrive on Thursday. The Rav was thrilled to see him, and hastened to invite him for Shabbat. Reb Shmelke accepted enthusiastically, eager to implement the plan he had devised.
Reb Shmelke quietly gathered the Rav's family and outlined his plan to them. Needless to say they were anxious to do anything to bring the Rav back to reason, and so, in addition to the usual bountiful Shabbat fare, they also prepared some bottles of strong aged wine and set them on the table. The masquerade was carried out as the whole family and their many guests gathered to celebrate a festive Shabbat meal. After each delicious course Reb Shmelke poured a generous cup of old wine into the Rav's cup. Now, this was a heavy, red wine known to induce a deep slumber in the drinker, and Reb Shmelke didn't stint on the "L'chaims." Toward the end of the meal, the Rav fell into a deep sleep. Reb Shmelke sat back and relaxed with his pipe, telling his fellow diners that they could now return to their normal activities without worry, for the situation was under control. He took a soft cushion and placed it under the head of the sleeping man and settled down to guard the Rav throughout the night and into the following day.
On the next night, which was truly the Shabbat, the same guests returned and sat down at the table to enjoy the real Shabbat repast. When it was time to say the Blessings After the Meal, Reb Shmelke gently roused the Rav, who sat up and remarked, "It seems as if I've been sleeping for a long time." He then joined in saying the prayers and everything continued in the usual manner through to the conclusion of the Shabbat. The family and townspeople were overcome with happiness at the result of Reb Shmelke's visit and thanked him profusely. For his part, Reb Shmelke made them promise that they would never reveal the true happenings of that Shabbat.
The Rav never had an inkling of what had transpired. In fact, he was very proud that everyone else had come to the enlightened conclusion that his calculations had been correct. He was however, careful to credit his old friend Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg for helping lead his mistaken congregants and family to the right conclusion, saying, "Thanks to my friend from Nikolsburg, they were able to comprehend the truth. Isn't it amazing how impossibly stubborn some people can be!"
And you shall tell my father of all my honor in Egypt (Gen. 45:13)
"Tell my father not to worry," Joseph requested of his brothers. "All the honor and respect heaped upon me by the Egyptians has not had a negative effect. It has not made me lose the humility necessary to worship G-d properly."
And he saw all the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him (45:27)
Rashi comments that with these wagons Joseph alluded to the very last subject in Torah he had learned with his father Jacob before being sold into slavery, that of the egla arufa (beheaded heifer). When Jacob saw the wagons (agalot--the same root word as egla), he realized that his son was sending the message that he had not forgotten all that he had learned with his father so many years ago. We see from this that seemingly insignificant actions of the righteous are fraught with meaning and serve as lessons and examples for those who take heed.
(Maayana Shel Torah)
My lord asked his servants, "Do you have a father or a brother?" (44:19)
Judah tried, with this statement, to disprove Joseph's contention that the "stolen" cup magically told him everything. "If your cup is really magic and you already know all about us, why did you ask so many questions about our family?" claimed Judah.
Here is seed for you; and you shall sow the land (47:23)
The righteous Joseph, the spiritual leader of every generation, gives each of us the encouragement and strength we need to worship G-d. But we must not rely solely on that which we receive from the tzadik; we must also sow the seeds we are given.
Why should we, of all generations, merit the revelations of the forthcoming Messianic Era? Surely our ancestors were more deserving than the present generation! However, it does not depend on personal merit, but rather on the degree of purity and holiness the world has reached.