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"Moshiach tzeit"--"Moshiach's times" old chasidim whisper to each other as they hear from the grapevine about the latest episodes of Moshiach Consciousness on T.V., radio, or newspaper.
These comments about Moshiach that millions of people have been hearing or seeing lately are not paid advertisements. They're actually part of the regular network fare and they've popped up in such unlikely places as Northern Exposures and major networks' nightly news.
For example, if you tuned into the T.V. series Northern Exposures this past November, you would have heard the show's star, "Dr. Joel Fleishman," explaining that Jews believe that Elijah the Prophet will announce the coming of the Messiah.
Did you ever learn that little fact in Hebrew School or Sunday School? If you did, what about all the Jews who never had any formal Jewish education as children? Did they know, before seeing the show, that Elijah's ultimate mission is not to visit Passover seders, but rather to herald the coming of Moshiach?
After the tragic passing of Media-magnate Robert Maxwell, there was a clip on the nightly news showing his funeral in Israel. The reporter stated that Mr. Maxwell's desire to be buried in Jerusalem stemmed from the belief that the people buried near the site of the Holy Temple will be the first to be resurrected when the Messiah comes.
In a split second, millions of people throughout this country learned about Moshiach and the Messianic Era.
As preparation for the imminent arrival of Moshiach and to hasten Moshiach's arrival, the Lubavitcher Rebbe has been strongly encouraging that people learn about Moshiach and the Final Redemption.
The statement from the Talmud that G-d created everything for His Glory takes on new meaning during these high-tech days immediately preceding the revelation of Moshiach. For, what better proof that, in fact, everything can be used for holiness than the television. Considered by many educators to be a primary reason for the diminished attention span in children today, regarded as one of the contributing factors for the increase in crime by law enforcement agencies, the television has finally come of age in this pre-Messianic time. When will we all take the plunge and come of age?
Before Jacob passed away he called all his children together and said, "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which will befall you in the last days." But we find that Jacob did not reveal the future. Our Sages explain that the Divine Presence left Jacob, and with it, the knowledge of the end of days. In other words, G-d prevented Jacob from revealing the date of the Final Redemption.
We can be sure that Jacob did not intend merely to satisfy their curiosity; rather, Jacob thought that he would be doing the Jewish people a favor by revealing when the end of days would come. However, this revelation would not have brought any tangible benefit, but would have actually caused Jacob's descendents harm: Had the fledgling Jewish nation learned that the Final Redemption was not to come for thousands of years, they would have despaired. Why would Jacob want to reveal something to his children that would have caused them to despair?
In order to explain what really took place, we must understand the two different ways in which the Redemption can come about. The Talmud teaches that although G-d has fixed a definite date in history for Moshiach to come, if the Jewish people is worthy, Moshiach will arrive before the appointed time. If the Jews, through their actions, merit the Redemption sooner, they will not have to wait until the specified date.
Jacob did not plan on revealing the final date by which time the Redemption would have to occur; he wanted to give his children a far closer one by which time Moshiach would come if they so merited. It is quite possible that Jacob was referring to a time only a few years after that very day. Why was this not allowed to happen?
The answer lies in the fact that had Jacob been successful in revealing the date, the Redemption would have had to occur then. Once the Divine Presence was withdrawn from him, the opportunity to speed the process was taken away, and we still await the Redemption today.
Had the Jewish people known that the Redemption was so near, they would surely have perfected their actions and been worthy. The knowledge would have encouraged and inspired them to remove all obstacles to Moshiach's arrival, and we would not still be waiting.
Obviously, this was not meant to be. G-d prevented Jacob from revealing the secret, for the Final Redemption must come about purely on the merit of our efforts, working within the limitations placed on us by the physical world. Jacob's revelation would have affected the quality of man's worship and changed the Divine plan. G-d therefore caused His Presence to depart from Jacob.
Jacob, for his part, knew all this, but tried to hasten the Redemption even at the expense of man's mission in perfecting the world. Although G-d has ordained otherwise, the request of a tzadik is never in vain and the ramifications of Jacob's actions are felt today: Every Jew must demand and insist that G-d bring the Final Redemption in our own time, and this very insistence will infuse us with strength and determination in our worship. When we say, "We want Moshiach now" and "Moshiach is on the way," we automatically improve our behavior in our desire for the Redemption to finally come.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
ROBERT MAXWELL: HIS OTHER SIDE
One of Robert Maxwell's last known conversations aboard his yacht before his tragic death was a conference call with Rabbi Yosef Aharonov in Moscow and Rabbi Feivish Vogel in London. They were discussing an issue with which Maxwell had recently gotten involved--the restoration to Lubavitch of the private library of Rabbi Sholom Ber Schneersohn, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, which is currently being retained by the Soviet Government.
But Robert Maxwell's involvement with Lubavitch precedes the library case. It began in August of 1990, on the ninth of Av in the Jewish calendar, historically a day of tragedy for the Jewish people. With Maxwell's help, though, a major calamity was averted.
As the eyes of the world were focused on Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, 196 children were waiting in the Minsk airport, USSR, for the plane that would take them to a new life of hope. They were to be the first group of the Children of Chernobyl, whose lives were changed forever by the terrible accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor five years ago. On that unforgettable day in August, the children and their parents were full of hope for the future as Chabad prepared to fly them to Israel for medical treatment, food and water uncontaminated by radiation, and clean air to breathe.
As they waited with their families at the airport, the Soviet authorities suddenly and unexpectedly revoked their permits to leave for Israel. For the next 60 hours, negotiations and pleas for their release fell upon deaf ears. But when the situation looked hopeless, Chabad appealed to Robert Maxwell.
As Rabbi Yona Pruss, director of Project Revival in the United Kingdom explains, "We were originally contacted because the children were scheduled to stop over in London. As soon as we heard about the trouble we called a friend in a marketing agency who does business with the Soviet Union. They suggested we call Mr. Maxwell because of his superb contacts in Eastern Europe and Russia in particular."
As Rabbi Pruss tells it, he sent a page and a half fax to Mr. Maxwell's office and called ten minutes later to speak with the media-magnate. "They told me he was in a meeting and I assumed I was being pushed off. But, in fact, he did return my call as soon as the meeting was over." Mr. Maxwell agreed to get involved and, says Rabbi Pruss, "He worked literally three days, non-stop."
In addition, Mr. Maxwell sent his personal emissary to Minsk to look after the children's welfare and encourage them during their ordeal. Thanks to Mr. Maxwell, the children were finally granted permission to leave the USSR. But, to their dismay, the planes which had been chartered to fly them from London to Tel Aviv were detained in the Persian Gulf area. The original crew was not permitted to fly them on to Israel according to aviation regulations so Mr. Maxwell sent his own private jet to fly in a new crew from Bucharest to London.
One week after the children arrived at their new home in Kfar Chabad, Mr. Maxwell went to visit them. He surprised them by speaking in Russian and in Yiddish.
As a result of Robert Maxwell's bold vision and leadership, not only did the 196 children reach Israel that day, but to date, 518 children are now in Israel receiving medical treatment by a team of Hadassah Hospital specialists. In addition, the families of 200 of the children have been reunited in Israel.
"Mr. Maxwell was truly devoted to both the Chernobyl Children project and the return of the library," says Rabbi Pruss. "We had access to Mr. Maxwell 24 hours a day; he made available to us a directory of the phone numbers where we could reach him all over the world. In fact, we were amongst the first to know that he was successful in purchasing the Daily News. Just two minutes after the deal was completed we had a conference call with him and he told us the good news. "Mazal tovs!" were shouted over telephone wires from Moscow and London."
Mr. Maxwell's funeral in Jerusalem was attended by 50 Chernobyl children, as well as Rabbis Aharonov and Vogel, who flew in from Moscow and London, respectively.
"Mr. Maxwell was born in Czechoslovakia and attended the famous Pressburg Yeshiva until he was 17 years old," said Rabbi Pruss. "Concerning his reinvolvement in Judaism, after his funeral in Jerusalem his wife said he had come full circle."
Beth Chana High School Academy for girls in Orange, Connecticut recently held an open house for prospective students at their 5-acre campus. Beth Chana is equipped with a full-size gymnasium, science lab and computer lab. Dormitory facilities are available for out-of-town students. For more info about Beth Chana call (203) 795-5261 or write to: Beth Chana, 261 Derby Avenue, Orange, CT 06477.
What's there to do on those long winter nights? How about visiting the Levi Yitzchok Library in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to choose one of the more than 30,000 books to curl up with. The library houses books on various Jewish subjects in English, Hebrew and Yiddish, 10,000 casette tapes, thousands of periodicals, and more. For library hours call (718) 778-4598.
NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN
If you are interested in sponsoring a L'Chaim subscription for one of the many elderly or incarcerated Jews from whom we receive requests you can do so by sending $30 (payable to LYO) to: L'Chaim sponsor, 1408 President St., Bklyn, N.Y. 11213.
A special Shabbaton program will take place on December 27 - 29. Hosted by the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights, participants will be treated to an enticing menu of Jewish concepts, Chasidic thought, warm home-hospitality and good Jewish cooking. The weekend is open toall Jewish singles and families, regardless of affiliation or background. For more information or reservations call (718) 953-1000
PRESERVING THE MINORITY
Excerpt from a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
To start off with a general, yet essential observation, Jews have always been a minority, and as in the case of all minorities which find themselves under the pressures of the environment, it is necessary to make a special effort to preserve the identity of the minority. This is true, especially in a country where there is freedom in every respect, inasmuch as the natural forces of assimilation are very strong, not only in regard to the young generation, but even the older ones. Therefore, even from the point of view of self-preservation, it is necessary to do everything possible to counteract these forces if the way to do this is to emphasize the good and intrinsic qualities which the minority possesses, while not exaggerating those good qualities which are common to both, especially where there is no need to do so.
Unfortunately, my observation of the attitudes and policy of many Rabbis, and spiritual and lay leaders, leads me to the conclusion that part of them generally makes the mistake of believing that they could best impress their audiences or their readers, by displaying a proficiency in non-Jewish literature and culture. This is evident from the tendency of supporting their views by quotations from non-Jewish sources in preference to Jewish sources. Even at public affairs in support of Jewish institutions, when the emphasis should be on the purity of Jewish tradition, efforts are made to have some prominent gentile as an honored guest or speaker. If taken to task, the explanation given is that such a policy is good for the mutual relationship and is in accord with the injunction of Jeremiah, "Pray for the welfare of the country wherein you live."
To be sure, the principle, "Accept the truth from whatever source it comes," is a valid one, nevertheless, in the light of what I have said earlier, I firmly believe that spiritual leaders should emphasize the greater values from our own great and sacred sources.
Another general observation, which I have emphasized in one of my public addresses, is to the effect that where a person has a special mitzva, function or duty which cannot be fulfilled by others, it is not right that that person should engage in a mitzva which can be done by others. I have in mind the propagation of those values which should properly be the topic of a spiritual leader, and he should not take up his time with general topics which are discussed by others whose functions lie in those areas.
Fortunately, one can observe a gratifying change in the attitude of the young generation of American Jews, in that they are not afraid of commitment to the truth, if the full truth be presented to them. Even though some are not yet prepared to accept all the commandments, they at least consider themselves mature enough to be given the truth about Yiddishkeit [Judaism] straight from the shoulder, and resent being treated as children who can only swallow a pill if it is sugar-coated. No doubt in your dealings with young people you have noticed this yourself. At the same time it does not mean that the approach is that of "either-or," that is to say, either he accepts all the mitzvot, or else I will have nothing to do with him. It should be explained that even if he is not yet prepared to accept all the commandments as a total commitment, he is not free from the obligation to observe and fulfill all those commandments which he can, until he will gradually reach the maximum which is incumbent upon him as a Jew, which is facilitated by the fact that "one mitzva brings another in its train." Underlying it all is the conviction, as explained at length in the Tanya [the basic work of Chabad Chasidic philosophy], that every Jew possesses a Divine soul which is truly a spark of G-d above. This Divine soul gives him the ability to overcome all obstacles in his way to fulfill his duties and obligations as a Jew, which, if he fulfills them, are the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings, both materially and spiritually.
Is it a mitzva to return a lost article?
There is a mitzva from the Torah to return lost objects called HaShavat Aveida. If one finds an item and does not know the rightful owner a rabbinic authority should be consulted.
Ahead of you, behind, up or down? There is a beautiful teaching from the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, about how to honestly view your "surroundings." He said that in material matters one should always look "down," while in spiritual matters one should always look "up."
What does this mean?
When it comes to the material aspects of our lives, we should look around at those who are not as fortunate as us, who have less than us--whether that be in health, possessions, livelihood, etc. By doing this we will realize how truly lucky we are. For, by only looking at those who have more, we remain unsatisfied and ultimately become envious.
However, this attitude of looking at those with less does not apply in the least to the spiritual realm of our lives. In spiritual matters, in refinement of our emotions and in eradicating unsatisfactory character traits, as well as in our relationship with G-d and His creatures, we must always look at those who are "higher"--those individuals who, through working on themselves--have become more refined and more in touch with G-d and His Torah.
In fact, the Previous Rebbe states unequivocally that that which is considered a good trait in material matters--being satisfied with one's lot--is actually a tremendous flaw if it is applied to the duties of the heart and soul. Therefore, when our Sages taught, "Who is rich? One who is happy with his portion," this was stated only in connection with one's portion in the physical world. In the spiritual world we should continuously be striving to improve our lot.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
Reb Leib Sarah's, one of the greatest of the Baal Shem Tov's disciples, had long desired to live in the Holy Land. After years of struggle, of wandering, of perfecting himself to the utmost of his ability, his deepest desire was to settle in the Holy Land, there to be able to attain spiritual achievements unreachable elsewhere.
Although he was himself a person of renown, he was also a chasid, and so, he went to his rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov, to ask his permission and blessing for the trip. "Rebbe," he asked, "I request your permission to settle in the Holy Land, which is my heart's desire." But, to his surprise, the Besht's reply was negative. The next year Leib Sarah's again went to his rebbe with the same petition. But, again, the Besht denied his request, without even an explanation. This scenario repeated itself year after year for several years, and Leib Sarah's was deeply disappointed.
One year he decided that he wouldn't go to his rebbe at all; he just wouldn't ask. The desire to travel and settle in the Holy Land had become so strong within him, that he could no longer deny it. So, Leib Sarah's sat down with his wife and then with his children and discussed the question of moving to the Holy Land, there to perfect his soul in the service of his Maker. His wife and children were all agreeable, and so it was decided to go. Wasting no time, he sold all of his worldly goods save the barest necessities, and gathering all of his money, he bought tickets for himself, his wife and children for the long journey to the Land of Israel.
When everything was in order, Reb Leib Sarah's packed up his belongings and set off with his family through Russia toward Turkey, whence he would travel to Israel. It was a slow and arduous journey overland with many stops in the small towns and villages through which they had to travel. One day they came to a small town and noticed some sort of excitement in the town. Leib Sarah's inquired of the villagers, and was shocked when he heard their reply. For none other than the famous Baal Shem Tov was unexpectedly visiting the town, and the people were overwhelmed by the great honor of receiving such a personage.
Leib Sarah's was even more overwhelmed by his own dilemma. He thought of the possibility of not going to greet his rebbe, thereby avoiding any embarrassment because of his disobedience, but how could he not acknowledge the presence of his great rebbe and teacher? He sat in his wagon deliberating, when suddenly he had no choice, for the Baal Shem Tov's carriage pulled up next to his own. Reb Leib Sarah's dismounted and approached the rebbe. The Besht appeared to be surprised and asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Rebbe, please forgive me for not heeding your words, but I am now on my way to settle in the Holy Land."
The Besht replied, "Well, if your wish to go is so strong, then go. But now, where are you going to spend the Shabbat?"
"I am just now searching for a place, but it's difficult since I spent all of my money on the tickets for the journey," replied Reb Leib. The Baal Shem Tov offered to host Reb Leib and his family for the whole Shabbat. When they were in their rooms preparing for the arrival of the holy day, the Besht knocked on Reb Leib's door, asking if he had immersed in the mikva yet. "No," he replied, "I have no money remaining, so I will forego the mikva this week." To this, the Baal Shem Tov replied that he would pay the entrance fee for him, and they should go together to the mikva. Reb Leib Sarah's joy was unbounded, for he understood the profound meaning of the immersion and was relieved not to miss his usual ritual.
Upon arriving at the mikva the Besht said, "Reb Leib, you go first." But, he refused, saying, "Please, Rebbe, you go; you are my teacher, after all." The Besht was adamant, and Reb Leib immersed first. After the proscribed immersions were completed, he rose from the water, turned to his rebbe and said, "I have changed my mind. I will not go to the Holy Land. I will return to Medzibozh, to you. Let me tell you what I saw in the mikva during my immersions. As I entered the water I saw a continent. As I looked closely I saw Eretz Israel, and as I looked even more closely I saw Jerusalem. As I narrowed my focus still more, I could see all the parts of the Temple Mount, even the Holy Temple itself. Then I looked inside and saw the Holy of Holies, but though I strained my eyes as hard as I could, I couldn't see the Holy Ark, the Tablets of the Law, or the Divine Presence. In my anguish I cried out, "Where are the Tablets? Where is the Divine Presence? But a Heavenly Voice answered me, saying, 'They are found in Medzibozh.' Therefore, I am following you back to Medzibozh to fulfill my Divine Service. I now see that during the exile, the Divine Presence dwells with the leader of the generation."
And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years (Gen. 47:28)
When the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, was a child, he learned a commentary on this verse that these 17 years were the best years of Jacob's life. This surprised the boy, and he went to his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, to find out how it was possible that the years spent in such a spiritually corrupt and abominable land could have been Jacob's best.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied: Before Jacob descended into Egypt, he sent an emissary to establish yeshivot and places of learning. Whenever and wherever a Jew learns Torah, he cleaves to G-d and achieves a true and meaningful life. Furthermore, precisely because Egypt was such an abominable place, the holiness and spirituality Jacob attained there shone that much brighter against the dark and evil background of his surroundings.
With you shall Israel bless...May G-d make you as Ephraim and Menashe (48:20)
In the previous verses Jacob had said, "Ephraim and Menashe shall be to me as Reuven and Shimon." Despite the fact that Ephraim and Menashe were born in exile and were educated in Egypt, a land not conducive to Torah learning and Judaism, they were still as righteous and pure as Reuven and Shimon, who grew up in more enclosed and insular surroundings in Jacob's household.
And let my name be called on them, and the name of my fathers (48:16)
Jacob blessed his grandsons, Menashe and Ephraim, by expressing his wish that they grow up to be a source of pride to the family.
When, G-d forbid, children do not follow in their parents' footsteps and stray from the proper path, the grandparents and parents are ashamed that the children bear their name. Jacob blessed his grandsons that they should be worthy of being called the descendents of Abraham and Isaac.
"I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Moshiach. Even if he delays, I will wait every day for him to come." This is the 12th of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith. This does not mean that every day we should wait for Moshiach's ultimate arrival, but that every day we should wait expectantly for Moshiach to come on that very day. The Talmud teaches that "Thinking is potent." Accordingly, the very fact that Jews around the world are intensely and persistently focusing their hearts and minds on the world's urgent need for Moshiach, will in itself surely hasten his arrival.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)