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It's an election year and every political campaign these days seems to bring with it revelations. Whether leaked by the F.B.I. or sold to the media for big bucks, most politicians make headlines during their campaigns via these revelations.
Jews are often involved in political campaigns. So, it's not unusual that we don't always see eye-to-eye on political issues. Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican--these terms help define and label how we feel about political issues.
But there's one campaign Jews have been waging for thousands of years. And in this campaign, there are no labels. Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Traditional, Chasidic; these labels have no value in the campaign to bring Moshiach.
The revelations associated with this special campaign, the Ultimate Campaign, we might say, are only positive. And they seem to be pointing to the fact that we'll soon be participating in the Great Victory Celebration, a celebration which we will all attend, regardless of which political party we belong to.
Some interesting revelations concerning this Ultimate Campaign:
In explaining one of the Torah portions read during the time of the Gulf War, the Zohar states that before the coming of Moshiach there will be a three-month-long war among the Arab nations. It will be a strong nation from the far end of the earth which will fight this short war.
The 19th-century Chasidic leader Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, the Rabbi of Tzanz, basing his comment on ancient texts, told one of his followers, "Before the Messianic Era, Russia will crumble into many pieces and then Moshiach will come!"
The prophet Isaiah said concerning the Messianic Era: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." After the Disarmament Talks at the United Nations on January 30, the United States and Russia announced that they would direct money previously used for weapons toward producing food.
Five hundred years ago, Rabbi Moshe Cordovera described the period immediately preceding the Final Redemption by saying that at that time all the nations of the world would come together to speak about peace. But the underlying goal of these talks would be to destroy Israel. Nevertheless, the Jews will not be destroyed. In fact, from this very situation they will be saved.
There are a lot of great things about this age-old campaign. It doesn't need massive funds, nor does it require elections. It's basically a grass-roots movement whose success is enhanced when everyone gets personally involved. This can be done by giving additional charity, going out of your way to be kind to others, and studying about Moshiach and the Redemption--all with the intention to hasten the Redemption.
See you at the Victory Celebration.
In this week's Torah portion, Tzav, we read about the eight-day consecration of the Sanctuary. All the instructions for building the Sanctuary had been followed. The utensils and altar were ready for use, and the Jews began to bring the various types of sacrifices. Yet, "the Divine Presence did not rest on the work of their hands." For the first seven days, the Sanctuary was erected. But each day it was taken down again. Only on the eighth day of the consecration, when the last trace of spiritual impurity caused by the sin of the Golden Calf was removed, did the Heavenly fire descend and the G-dly Presence rest on the Sanctuary.
We see here two components to the perpetual fire which burned on the altar. On the one hand, a fire came down from Heaven to consume the offerings. But the priests were nonetheless commanded to bring ordinary fire, too. The act of bringing the fire served as a preparation for the G-dly flame which came from Above. Only after human initiative had been taken could the G-dly fire descend. And only at that point did the Sanctuary attain permanence.
Why could the G-dly fire be drawn down only after the human component of the worship was perfected? What special nature of the G-dly fire brought permanence to the Sanctuary?
Human beings are finite. No matter how high their aspirations, they can reach only a finite level of spirituality. And, being finite, human beings cannot reach a level of permanence in their worship without the assistance of G-d, Who is infinite and unlimited. Permanence cannot be attained solely through human effort. The G-dly intervention added a permanence that could not be achieved by human endeavor. The Sanctuary no longer needed to be disassembled.
The fire teaches us that we, as finite beings, must first complete our own tasks and achieve as much as our limited capabilities allow, in order for G-d to provide the spiritual edge which we cannot reach alone.
The completion of the first seven days of the consecration also symbolized the limitations of the physical world. A week constitutes a recognized, full cycle symbolizing the spiritual limitations inherent in the corporeal world. The eighth day of the consecration symbolizes the infinite attribute of G-d which cannot be contained in the natural order of seven. This is the level of "perpetual fire'" which burned on the altar, showing that finite beings could transcend even time itself, through the perfection of their worship of G-d.
The verse concerning the perpetual fire reads: "A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar--it shall not go out." This means that our enthusiasm and warmth towards Judaism must remain kindled and never be allowed to diminish. It is not enough to rely on our spiritual achievements of the day before, or even a minute ago. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that the innate spark of love of G-d in every Jewish soul never grows cold.
Every single Jew is a sanctuary to G-d, as it states, "And they shall build me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst"--in the midst of each and every Jew. If we always keep the spark of love for G-d and Judaism glowing, we can ensure that the Divine Presence finds a dwelling place in this world below.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
CAPTURING LUBAVITCH ACTIVITIES IN EUROPE
By Jerry Levine
As the city lights from Strasbourg disappear, an eerie feeling of vulnerability seems to hover and then get inside of me.
With the glow of a portable computer screen punctuating the pitch darkness of my cabin, I'm peering out of a large window on a train heading from Paris to Austria. This 15-hour leg of the trip is carrying us across the border into Germany. For me, such a first-time excursion awakens dormant memories and ideas.
As the steel rail cars move beneath us, I flash-back on cattle cars filled with Jews that survivors still painfully remember, and that I recall from seeing in black and white war films I saw as a camper at a Jewish summer camp called Cejwin, tucked away near the Catskill Mountains in Port Jervis.
Entering Germany for the first time, I wonder if every Jew has similar thoughts while traversing the soil that gave birth to Hitler, the Nazis, Auschwitz, and a hundred billion tragedies that wiped out more Jewish children than anyone wants to ever think about, but no Jew can ever forget.
I am travelling across this region with a television crew producing a documentary about the post-Holocaust efforts coordinated by the world Lubavitch movement. Why others were hauled across these same tracks, when they served as an unstoppable delivery system of death, remains a mystery.
Signs flash by the window: "Baden-Baden," "Rastat," "Karlsruhe." I see the dimmed lights of German factories, warehouses and homes. After decades of Jewish religious dormancy, Munich is now the center of one of the newest Lubavitch efforts. Classes have started and there is plenty of commotion surrounding the fresh start of activities blossoming there.
So far, our cameras have logged broad brush strokes of diversity. We have seen Lubavitcher rabbis at night reaching out to London's street kids, and a dynamic, cutting edge "Chabad House" offering sought after campus debate in Oxford. In Paris we saw one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's newest efforts come to fruition in the form of a $12 million super-school, where the youngest students are only 5 months old.
In Milan, we witnessed Jewish children studying Torah in Italian, and in Venice we captured a young rabbi who literally made waves by hitting the canals in a gondola prominently equipped with a blazing, nine-foot high Chanuka menora.
As I resume work on this short article, I am behind a modern desk in Vienna, where a new array of photo opportunities awaits our crew and eventually millions of viewers.
We have already had the good fortune to interview the chief rabbis of Great Britain and France--two youthful and eloquent trendsetters who say the Lubavitcher Rebbe's leadership has changed their lives. We have even been received by Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister.
Thatcher said of the Rebbe, who will turn 90 in April, "the greatest quality of a person like that is fearless leadership. It's not enough to believe in things--you have to proclaim them. Your belief has to be such that you have to feel it and it kind of shines out of you because that is the way you influence other people... of course, the world is moved along into the future by such leadership."
Sometimes hearing the perspective of a prominent non-Jew helps us better appreciate what the Lubavitcher Rebbe is accomplishing for world Jewry.
Formerly an anchorman at WPLG T.V. in Miami, Levine is executive director of The Aleph Institute in Miami, and a winner of The Columbia University Dupont Award for Excellence in Journalism.
Reprinted with permission from the Dade Jewish Journal.
LUBAVITCH IN LITTLE ROCK
Pinchus and Esther Hadassa Ciment
One of the newest Chabad Centers is in Little Rock, Arkansas, which opened its doors to the Arkansas Jewish community just weeks ago. Their first, a Purim party and Megila reading, of course!Rabbi Pinchus and Esther Hadassa Ciment, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Arkansas, are already organizing afternoon and evening classes for children and adults, Friday evening communal meals, and a model matza bakery. Plans are also under way for a summer day camp. For more information about Chabad-Lubavitch in Arkansas call (501)221-7940
It's never too soon to think about vacation and it's not to early to plan to attend YeshiVacation. YeshiVacation, 10 days of living and learning Judaism, is for college students from all backgrounds and levels of Jewish observance. For more information about the upcoming YeshiVacation call the National Committee and ask for Yaakov Silverstein at (718) 735-0200 or 1-800-33NCFJE.
THE JEWISH OUTLOOK
A country divided. A nation confused. Abortion is the most divisive issue today. What is the morally and ethically correct approach to this conscience-stirring question? Jewish law, the age-old guide of Jewish life, offers a clear perspective on this issue. Rabbi Howard Jachter, an expert lecturer on the relationship between Jewish law and contemporary issues, will guide participants in an April 1 lecture sponsored by Lubavitch of Bucks County (PA) on a journey through traditional Jewish Law and its application to contemporary issues. For more information call (215) 321-4320.
UNITY IN JUDAISM AND THE WORLD
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
The unity of the material and spiritual is one of the features of Purim. For Haman's decree began with an attack on the spiritual freedom of the Jews, as our Sages explain the verse "But Mordechai did not bend his knee nor bow down" to Haman, who wished to impose his idolatry upon all, and indeed succeeded, except for Mordechai. But then his decree extended to the physical annihilation of all the Jews, young and old, children and women. That is why the miracle of Purim is observed both spiritually and materially, with "light, and gladness, and joy and glory," which our Sages explained in a spiritual sense--"light" that is the Torah, etc., and at the same with a seuda, with wine, etc.
Indeed, the principle of unity, the essence of Judaism, since Abraham first proclaimed monotheism in a world of idolatry, came to full fruition at the Revelation at Mount Sinai. For true monotheism as professed by us and as explained in the Jewish religion is not only the truth that there is only One G-d and none with Him, but that there is "nothing besides" (Ein Od). And that is the denial of the existence of any reality but G-d's, the denial of pluralism and dualism, the denial even of the separation between the material and the spiritual.
It is interesting to note that the more the physical sciences advance, the closer they approach the concept of unity, even in the world of matter. For it was once the accepted opinion that the plurality and compositeness of the material world could be reduced to some 100-odd basic elements and entities, and physical forces and laws were regarded as being separate and independent, not to mention the dichotomy between matter and energy. In recent years, however, with the advancement of science, the basic elements themselves were reduced to the several more elementary components of the atom, viz., electrons, protons and neutrons, and even these were immediately qualified as not the ultimate "blocks" of matter, until the discovery was made that matter and energy are reducible and convertible one into the other.
It is well known that the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidut, taught, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, explained and amplified, that every detail in human experience is an instruction in man's service to His Maker. Thus, what has been said above about the advancement of science exemplifies also the progress of human advancement in the service of G-d. Man possesses two apparently contradictory elements, no less incompatible than the incompatibility of matter and spirit, the counterpart of which in the physical world is matter and energy. I refer to the Divine soul and animal soul, or, on a lower level, the yetzer tov [impulse to righteousness] and yetzer hara [impulse to evil]. But this incompatibility is evident only in the infantile stage of progress in Divine service, comparable to the plurality of elements and forces which were presumed to exist in physical nature. But just as the appreciation of the underlying unity of Nature grew with the advancement of science, so does perfection in the Divine service lead to the realization of the essential unity in human nature, to the point where the yetzer tov and yetzer hara become one, through the transformation of the yetzer hara by and into the yetzer tov, for otherwise, of course, there can be no unity and harmony, since all that is holy, positive, and creative could never make peace and be subservient to the unholy, negative and destructive. And in this attained unity the Jew proclaims, "Hear, O Israel, G-d our G-d, G-d is one."
This is also what our Sages meant when they succinctly said--as they often compress far-reaching ideas into a few concise words--that the words "And you shall love G-d, your G-d, with all your heart (levavecha)" which immediately follow Shema Yisrael, mean: with both your yetzarim, with the yetzer hara, as with the yetzer tov.
How is food to be treated?
There are many laws and customs concerning the respect with which food is to be treated. We are not allowed to throw bread for this is degrading. In fact, we may not throw any food that would become loathesome by throwing it. We should not throw crumbs out, rather we should feed them to the birds. Neither should we step on food. When we see food lying on the ground we should pick it up.
Our sages teach us that: "He who reads the Megila--Scroll of Esther--backward does not fulfill his obligation to hear the Megila." So the Talmud teaches us.
It seems like the Talmud is telling us something rather strange. Who, after all, would want to read the Megila backward?
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, interpreted this statement of our sages in a very interesting manner. He said, "He who reads the Megila backward--a person who believes that the miracles of Purim occurred back in those days and are not valid today--does not fulfill his obligation."
All the events that took place on Purim thousands of years ago are equally applicable today. The Jewish people survived Haman's evil decree in a manner which seemed to be dictated by nature. Esther just "happened" to be chosen as the new Queen out of an entire land of beautiful women. Mordechai, "by chance," overheard the evil design of assassination planned by the king's guards. Ahasuerus conveniently forgot to reward Mordechai for saving his life and just as conveniently remembered at exactly the right time. These seemingly natural occurrences in the Purim episode go on and on.
So, too, today. We look around us and take for granted personal and world events. The Gulf War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the mass emigration of Russian Jews to Israel, the U.N. Disarmament Agreement. These are all modern-day miracles like the miracle of Purim, but with one distinction. They were all foretold by our prophets and in our holy books long ago. They are the prelude to and the beginning of the Messianic Era, the ultimate miracle for which we have waited for so many years.
May this Purim be our last celebration in exile. For, we hope and pray that our very next Yom Tov will be celebrated with Moshiach, NOW.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
During the time that the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem there lived a poor farmer in the far northern Galilee. His house stood on a small rocky plot sparsely dotted with olive trees. Every day he went out to his little field and worked the ground, but despite his efforts, nothing seemed to grow in the poor soil.
One evening, after a hard and disappointing day's work he turned to his wife and said, "I have no luck here. I will travel to the south and work on a large farm. If G-d grants me success I will return and buy a larger field, an orchard, and even a flock of sheep. While I am gone our sons will tend our fields here."
The man walked to the south where he got a job on the estate of a rich man. His new employer was very pleased with his work, for he was competent and loyal. The farmer worked hard and found his employer to be a fair man. He stayed on for several years, all the time dreaming of the day he would come home and establish his own large farm.
It was nearing Rosh Hashana. After three years of hard labor in the fields, the man prepared for his triumphant return home. He approached his employer: "I have worked well for you these years and now I wish to go home. Please give me my wages so that I may return to my family."
But to his surprise, the rich man replied, "I'm sorry, but I have no money now and I can't pay you."
The laborer thought to himself, "How could it be possible that such a wealthy man not be able to pay me?" But he held his tongue and replied only, "Then, pay me in produce and I will be able to sell it."
But his employer answered, "I haven't any produce, either."
"Then give me a field and I will sell it." But this suggestion received the same reply, "I do not have any fields to give you."
"Then I will take my pay in cattle."
"I'm sorry, but I have no cattle to give," answered the rich man.
"Then I will accept payment in blankets and pillows. Such items are very useful in the Galilee where it is cold."
But the rich man replied, "I have no bed linens either."
Finally the laborer ceased his requests and started off for home empty-handed, his heart heavy with disappointment. And yet, he couldn't feel anger against his employer, for through the years of his employment he had been well treated. He knew that his employer wasn't a swindler or an evil man. If he hadn't been able to pay him, there must be some reason. And with that generous thought, he made the long journey home.
He returned home in time to spend Rosh Hashana with his family. Fall and winter passed and soon it was spring. The poor farmer resumed working in his small field. One day he looked up to see a caravan approaching. There were three donkeys all heavily laden with goods. As they neared, the man recognized his former employer as the driver who was leading the procession. He ran to greet him. The wealthy landlord dismounted from the donkey. "Everything that I have brought is for you." The first donkey carried fresh fruits and raisins; the second, oil and wine; while the third carried cakes and sweets for the family.
The landlord then took out of his cloak a bag of gold coins which he gave to his former employee, who was speechless with wonder.
"The food and drink which I give you are a gift, but the gold is what I owe you for your years of honest labor. Please, tell me the truth, what did you think when you asked for your wages and I said I couldn't pay you?"
The farmer replied, "I must admit that I couldn't understand it. Then I thought that maybe you had invested all your money in some merchandise and had no available cash."
"Then what did you think when you requested that I pay you in produce and I again said that I couldn't do that?"
"I thought that perhaps you had not yet tithed your fields."
"And what about when you asked for a field?"
"I thought that perhaps you had rented out your fields to a tenant farmer and that they were not yet available for your use."
"And what about when I refused to give you cattle?"
"I assumed that you had lent them out to someone."
"And when you finally asked for blankets and pillows?"
"I could only think that you had vowed to consecrate all your possessions to the Beit Hamikdash and had nothing left to give me."
"All that you have said is true! I was so angered by my son's obstinance that I vowed to give all my possessions to the Holy Temple instead of to him. But then I regretted my vow and asked the rabbis to annul it. As soon as this was done I came here to bring you your wages. The other things I bring as a token of my thanks. I bless you that G-d always judge you as favorably as you have judged me."
And the priest shall put on his linen garment (Lev. 6:3)
Rashi comments, "His garment (mado) should befit his stature (midato). The service of the high priest who performs his duties while wearing the garment of an ordinary priest is invalid."A person must always behave in a manner befitting his stature. The higher up one is on the ladder, the more is required of him.
And he shall take off his garments and put on other garments (Lev. 6:4)
"The clothes worn to 'cook the pot' are not also worn to 'pour the wine,'" comments Rashi. It was forbidden for a priest to perform his other duties wearing the same clothes he had worn to remove the ashes from the altar; he was first required to change into cleaner and more elaborate garments. From this we learn that we change out of our weekday clothes and don our finest and most beautiful garments in honor of the holy day.
(Gemara Shabbat, and Maharsha)
He shall carry the ashes outside the camp, to a clean place (Lev. 6:4)
Even though the ashes which remained after the sacrifices were burnt were only a waste product of Israel, they too were worthy of being kept in a pure, clean place.
And every meal offering which is mixed with oil, or dry...to one as much as the other (Lev. 7:10)
The meal offering mixed with oil was voluntary, but the dry one was brought by a person who had committed a transgression. The Torah says, "to one as much as the other." One must treat both individuals with the same respect, love and spirit of brotherhood, regardless of the reason why the offering was brought.
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)
If one did not complete his Divine mission on Earth the first time--if he did not utilize and perfect his soul through Torah and mitzvot according to his capacity--his soul must des-cend a second or third time, etc., to complete the unfinished work. At the time of the Re-surrection all bodies will return to life. The portion of the soul utilized and developed du-ring the first life will enliven the first body, the portion of the soul developed during the second life span will enliven the second body, etc.
(Rabbi I. Altein in The Yiddishe Heim)