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It's early in the morning. The doorbell is ringing incessantly and you're still in your pajamas. Should you ignore it and miss a possible delivery or should you...
Oops! You forgot that Aunt Esther is coming all the way from Florida and she is due to arrive soon. Could that be her? Hurriedly you throw on a robe, your slippers and a smile and run to the door. And there she is, Aunt Esther.
There's a moment of confusion. Do you go out, in your pajamas, and help the taxi-driver with the rest of Aunt Esther's packages or do you let him do the shlepping himself and tip him a few extra bucks?You choose the latter.
When everybody and everything is inside, you excuse yourself for a second to get dressed and make yourself more presentable. By the time Aunt Esther is settled in and you're chatting over a fresh cup of coffee you don't even remember the momentary embarrassment.
Some people are afraid of Moshiach. They've heard that if they weren't 100% observant of all of the mitzvot (and who can claim that they really are?) they're in for some bad times when Moshiach comes.
But Rabbi Moses Maimonides says about Moshiach, "He will not come to declare the pure impure or the impure pure, nor to disqualify people presumed to be of legitimate lineage or to legitimize those presumed to be of disqualified lineage, only to establish peace in the world."
When Moshiach comes, and his arrival--like Aunt Esther's--is imminent, we'll all be at various levels and degrees of readiness to greet him. Mitzvot, according to Chasidic philosophy, are likened to clothing. So, some people will be fully decked out in their best clothes. Others will be wearing their work-clothes and still others might be in their pajamas.
But, when that great day comes, Moshiach isn't going to be busy spending his time reprimanding us for not being dressed properly. He's not going to be saying who's pure and who's not pure, who's been "good" and who hasn't been so hot. He'll be doing more important things, like influencing the entire world toward universal peace. And teaching unique concepts about G-d and spirituality to a world that is finally able to understand them.
And we, for our part, aren't going to spend too much time in our pajamas. We'll hastily excuse ourselves for a moment and get dressed properly. We'll have to hurry to catch up with some of the others, but that we will be able to do.
O.K. Now that you're no longer paralyzed by fear over Moshiach's arrival it's time to rouse yourself from the inertia and inactivity and GET OUT OF THOSE PAJAMAS even before Moshiach comes. Because, after all, even though it's nothing to worry about, who doesn't want to be ready?
So, start learning more about Moshiach and the Redemption. Discuss the subject with friends or family, just to see what they think of the whole thing. Do a mitzva, any mitzva, to help better prepare yourself. The time to act is now!
The Jewish people, descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are often referred to by the name of another of our great forebears, Joseph. "Listen, O Shepherd of Israel, You Who leads Joseph like a flock," sings the Psalmist. Rashi explains that every Jew is called "Joseph," "because he (Joseph) sustained and provided for them during the famine," a narrative of which appears in this week's Torah portion, Vayigash.
At first glance, this seems to be an insufficient explanation. Why call an entire nation after one individual, no matter how exalted, just because he was instrumental in aiding the Jewish people during a certain short period in their history?
Chasidic philosophy teaches that every phenomenon in the physical world exists only because of its spiritual root above. Indeed, the physical manifestation in this world is only a reflection of the true spiritual reality. The fact that Joseph sustained the fledgling Jewish people with food (as well as the rest of the known world at the time), reflects the fact that it was he who imbued his people with the spiritual nourishment and sustenance they needed to survive in exile, as well. The lack of food, the famine which hit Egypt, was accompanied by a spiritual famine, for the exile in Egypt was a time of great darkness and trouble for the Jewish people. It was Joseph who gave his descendants the strength to deal with the hardships and adversity of exile.
Joseph, in his role as second in command to Pharaoh, broke new ground and paved an innovative path in the service of G-d. Joseph's brothers were shepherds, an occupation which gave them plenty of time to pursue a spiritual life. By contrast, Joseph lived a life of involvement in the world, first as the manager of Potifar's household, later when he was in charge of his fellow prisoners in jail, and finally, when he was appointed second in command over all of Egypt. Although Joseph was always intimately involved in the day-to-day details of the physical world, as was dictated by his various positions, his greatness lies in the fact that he never severed his spiritual connection to G-d, and in fact, emerged even stronger in his service and commitment.
Much of Joseph's life was spent in exile, in the center of the most cosmopolitan society of his time. Yet, he remained untouched by the lure of the material world and unbowed in his religious faith.
Joseph therefore symbolizes, more than any of the Patriarchs or the rest of the twelves tribes, the essence of the Jewish people. As we stand on the threshold of the Messianic Era, we look back on the thousands of years of Jewish exile spent under the dominion of the nations of the world. Although we have, of necessity, concerned ourselves with the daily, mundane details of our lives, our relationship with G-d has remained as strong as ever. Indeed, our goal in life is not to withdraw from the world to concentrate solely on the spiritual; a Jew's task is to combine the two realms, imbuing the physical world with holiness. It is in our forefather Joseph's merit that we have been given the power to withstand any spiritual "famine" which could possibly threaten our existence as "Joseph's flock."
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
by Faige Miller
My mother, of blessed memory, always wore a golden necklace with a heart-shaped locket which held pictures of her parents.
When she would open the locket to show us, two truly saintly faces looked out at us, my grandfather with his beautiful, white beard and my grandmother with her kerchief covering her whole head down to her beautiful, kind eyes.
My mother told us of all the good that they had done, how my grandmother always brought meals to needy or sick people, or to women after childbirth.
And how, when a regiment was stationed in the nearby armory, all the Jewish soldiers would come to their house for a nourishing, wholesome meal, because they wanted to eat kosher. And everyone was served, day or night, at no charge.
It is brought down in our holy books that tzadikim are even greater after their demise, and that they can intercede in heaven for their loved ones on earth, and bring miracles to pass for them. And such a miracle my grandparents wrought for me. It happened a long time ago.
It was Friday night. My family was sitting around the Sabbath table, my father and mother, my sister and her husband (all of blessed memory), and I, who was still unmarried.
It was after the Sabbath meal, and I found myself in need of a toothpick. Too lazy and cozy to leave the table I plucked a bobby-pin from my hair and began poking at my teeth.
Suddenly, I realized that the bobby-pin was no longer in my hand. I started looking for it on my lap, and on the floor, although I did not remember dropping it, or hearing it fall. I did not find it, and realized that I had swallowed it. Yet I had not felt the slightest irritation or scratch in my throat.
When I announced this astounding phenomenon to the assembled, my sister offered to go with me to a doctor. After wandering around for some time, we saw a doctor's shingle, and the light was on inside. It was Dr. Lockett on South Fourth Street and the young doctor was sitting in his study.
He took me in, and placed me on the fluoroscope and there it was staring at me, stark black on the white screen, standing upright, right near my heart. As the doctor explained, between my heart and lungs.
He became very solemn as he explained to me the seriousness of the situation. Of course, the pin must be taken out. There was only one specialist doing the Bronchoscopal work, and he was in Philadelphia. As this should be done without delay, he offered to take me there first thing in the morning--on the Sabbath!
He explained that with children and with round objects it is easier, but with grownups it is more dangerous, as a person cannot breathe during the whole procedure.
He gave me a sedative and cautioned me not to cough, as this could push the pin farther down.
We came home and told a fib, that the doctor had given me a medicine, and that the pin would come out by itself.
My father did not believe me. He rushed to the doctor and learned the truth. He walked home, holding his head in both hands, shaking from side to side, moaning, "My child, my child."
As I took the sedative, my mother took off her necklace with the heart-shaped locket that held pictures of her departed parents, put it around my neck, and prayed, "May my dear parents intercede for you in heaven."
Just as she walked out of the room, I started to cough violently. My mother shouted, "Don't cough, don't cough! The doctor told you not to cough!"
But I had to cough and I coughed up the pin! There it swam up, into my mouth, and just as I had not felt it going in, I did not feel it coming out.
I shouted, "Mother, mother, I got the pin!"
Everyone came rushing in, standing in awe of our personal miracle.
When my father went in the morning to inform the doctor that our trip was not necessary, the doctor just looked at him and said, "Go to your synagogue and thank your G-d. A miracle like this could happen once in a thousand years."
My father put the pin in a little empty spice-bottle and carried it with him at all times. Sometimes, when times were hard, he looked at the pin, remembering that G-d helps in every situation, no matter how hopeless it might seem.
The cover photo on a brochure produced by Chabad Youth Organization of Israel detailing their recent activities in bringing the message of the imminence of the Redemption to the world. The photograph, taken in front of a replica in Kfar Chabad of Lubavitch World Headquarters, shows cars with illuminated signs saying, "Get Ready for Moshiach's Arrival."
MARRIED WITH CHILDREN
The internationally renown Bais Chana Women's Institute in Minnesota will be holding special session for married women from January 17-24. Childcare will be available for children up to age 3. For more information call the New York office at (718) 756-2591 or Bais Chana in Minnesota at (612) 698-3858.
The Lubavitch Women's Organization 31st International Winter Convention took place earlier this month in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "Behold, A World of Justice and Righteousness" was the theme of the weekend-long gathering.
A FRIEND AMONG US
Tours of the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights will begin once again this January under the auspices of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. Every Sunday, from noon until 2 p.m. you can reserve a spot in a tour of Crown Heights which includes a visit to the Matza Bakery, mikva, Chasidic Art Gallery and Lubavitch World Headquarters. The tour ends at the kosher pizza shop. For reservations call Rabbi Epstein at (718) 953-1000.
WHEN A HOUSE IS ON FIRE
Excerpted from a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Referring to the subject of your letter, in which you mention that I "admonish" you, it is not my custom to admonish for the sake of admonishment. However, when I see that a person could live on a higher level, no matter how satisfactory the present level seems to be, and if I think that I can do something to encourage that person towards the higher level, I would be remiss in my duty if I remained silent.
In your case, I see three areas in which, with all due respect, I feel that you could do a great deal more:
- regarding your own opportunities;
- in the matter of encouraging your husband to utilize his capacities to the fullest advantage;
- in the conduct of your home, and above all, the education of your children.
During our conversation we touched upon the subject that, as the Torah has always been called Torat Chaim, the Law of Life, and has always been both the source of our life and existence and the guide for our daily life, it is infinitely more so in the present age. The danger to Jewish life and existence in the free countries, especially in these United States, is not the danger of physical extermination, G-d forbid, but there is, nevertheless, a danger which is no less destructive, the danger of assimilation. Precisely because there is no external antagonism and discrimination against the Jews the danger of mass assimilation is a very real one.
It is, therefore, the duty of every conscious and conscientious Jew to do everything possible to stem the tide of assimilation, and it is truly a matter of saving lives.
It is self-evident that such an effort should not be limited to the older generation, but especially in regard to the younger generation, and the very young in particular. And needless to say, a person on whom Divine Providence has bestowed special capacities for influence, is especially duty-bound to use these capacities in the direction outlined.
This is not the time to engage in theoretic research as to all the aspects of the situation, and therefore postpone action pending the results of such research. For, when a house is on fire, there is no time to study the laws of combustion and methods of fire extinguishing, but everything must be done to extinguish the fire before the house is destroyed and there is any possible loss of life.
Another important point to bear in mind is the following--there can be a two fold approach to life:
- to consider it as a matter of pleasure, in which case every effort should be spent towards getting the most out of life, in terms of pleasure, and in every situation to seek the easiest way out;
- to consider life as a challenge, and to help make a better world to live in, especially as the society in which we live is far from perfection. In this case, every effort must be spent towards this end, even if it means the sacrifice of certain personal pleasures, and even if it requires a great deal of continuous physical and mental exertion. But it is this latter approach that offers the maximum pleasure, real pleasure and gratification.
To return to the subject matter of our discussion. I have no doubt that you can do a great deal to influence and encourage your husband in the right direction. Similarly, you have the capacity to extend your influence beyond your immediate surroundings at home, to the community at large. This you can do both in a direct way and perhaps even more so in an indirect way, by raising the standards of your religious and spiritual life.
This brings me to the third area mentioned earlier, namely, the conduct of your home and especially the education of your children, whom you surely want to see growing up to be conscientious Jews and to retain a certain standard of Jewish practice. It is possible to ensure this only if the children receive their education while they are still young, in such an atmosphere, and on such a level, that even when they come under the pressures of life, mentioned earlier in my letter, they will retain at least that minimum standard.
I need hardly point out to you that Jewish education is not confined to the acquisition of a certain level of knowledge and information about Jewish life. Its essence is rather, that the child be brought up within a Jewish lifestyle and in an atmosphere which is permeated with Judaism. This is something that a private teacher cannot replace by simply teaching a set number of hours a week. Besides, when the Hebrew lesson comes after the child has spent most of the day in public school, where he is given tests and homework, the Hebrew lesson cannot have the same importance in the mind of the child as does the public school (not to mention other factors such as the effect of classroom, discipline, community with other children, etc.). All of these factors serve to relegate the Hebrew lesson to a third or fourth place in importance, so that it often comes to be regarded altogether as an unnecessary burden.
To reiterate, the purpose of this letter is not to admonish, but only to point out to you those areas where you can attain a higher level of accomplishment and efficiency. As I also mentioned at the end of my previous letter to you, it is not a question of doing something to qualify as a true Jewish daughter, but, on the contrary, inasmuch as you are a Jewish daughter, and a member of the Jewish people whom G-d has chosen and singled out, not for pleasures, but rather for holiness and for bringing light and holiness into the world, that you owe it to yourself, as well as to your people, to make the fullest use of the capacities which Divine Providence has generously bestowed upon you and your husband, along the lines indicated above.
Why do the bride and groom fast on their wedding day?
Since on the day of one's wedding G-d forgives the bride and groom of all their previous transgressions, it is seen as a private Yom Kippur for the couple. They fast until the ceremony, add Yom Kippur confessions to their afternoon prayers, recite the Book of Psalms, and ask for forgiveness for the wrongdoings of their youth, committed knowingly or unknowingly, before starting their new life together.
This week, last year, the Rebbe spoke once again about the imminence of the Redemption--an era of peace, prosperity, goodness and G-dliness brought about through Moshiach.
The Rebbe explained that living with the concept of the Redemption will actually help make the redemption a reality.
In the Talmud, our Sages explain that, in contrast to other living creatures who were created in pairs, man was created alone. Because of this each and every individual should feel, believe, and act on the idea that "The world was created for me."
Rather than this statement being an egocentric cliche of the "me" generation, it is an acknowledgment and appreciation of the fact that every person's conduct can affect the totality of existence, that an individual's single act can change the world.
This, then, puts the responsibility for bringing about the Redemption on every single individual. Thus, if everyone of us would simply open our eyes to the miracles around us, the readiness of the world for Moshiach, the fulfillment of the preliminary signs of the Redemption, "the door would open and Moshiach would enter."
Today and everyday, this moment and every moment, live with the Redemption and Moshiach's arrival as a reality--and then it will be.
In about the year 1501, a Spanish Jew named Joseph Jospa arrived in Cracow. He become known as a great scholar and a veritable saint. For 30 years, until the age of 50, he kept himself completely apart from everyone.
At that same time, a wealthy businessman named Levi, who had numerous dealings with the nobility, also lived in Cracow. He was a great philanthropist whose house was open to all. His married son, Joseph, was a brilliant young man. He was well versed in several languages and became very active in his father's business. He was liked by all and valued for his outstanding personal qualities.
Tragedy struck when, on a business trip, Joseph was attacked and murdered by robbers. His childless widow was left to carry out the ancient custom of chalitza, the ceremony which allowed her to remarry. A few months after this took place, Joseph Jospa, or as he was called "the Spanish Jew," came to the Jewish court and announced his intention to marry the widow. For reasons he did not wish to divulge, he had decided to marry in spite of his advanced age.
When the court summoned the widow to present the proposal to her, she began to weep and recounted the following strange tale:
"I have a terrible secret weighing me down, yet I cannot make up my mind whether to tell you about it or not," she replied in a choked voice. She then proceeded to relate the recurring dream which had burdened her so much. Her deceased father had appeared to her in the same dream already several times, and she had completely lost her peace of mind on account of it. The rabbinical court decided that she had best tell them the dream, and this is what she related:
"My father appeared to me in my first dream, dressed in his Shabbat clothes. Stretching his hands over my head, he blessed me and wished me a 'mazal-tov,' saying, it had been decreed that I marry 'the Spanish Jew.'
"When I awoke from this dream I was very upset, but I didn't attach any importance to it, as our Sages tell us that dreams contain much nonsense. But a few days later, my father appeared to me again and repeated the same message, that I must marry 'the Spanish Jew.' Still, I didn't think much about it until it occurred yet again.
"The third time he appeared, my father looked very serious. He told me to have someone speak to Joseph Jospa and arrange the marriage, for it had been decided in Heaven. 'If you will do my bidding,' he said, 'you will be blessed with a son, but if you disobey me, you will come to a bad end.'
"The dream appeared to me altogether six times, and I had just concluded that I must go to the rabbinical court, when I received a summons from you."
This story astonished the members of the court, and the marriage was arranged immediately. The celebration was attended by all of Cracow, and it was felt that this match had an inner significance beyond human comprehension.
In the second year of their marriage the couple had a son who was named Eliahu, after the prophet. The child received a very special education. The little boy was told he must not indulge in mundane talk nor discuss Torah matters with anyone. About two weeks before Eliahu's bar-mitzva, Joseph Jospa informed his wife that he felt his end drawing near. He enjoined his wife to allow their son to leave home in order to perfect his study of Torah, for his soul had been sent into the world in order to uplift and inspire the people. He was destined to be the first in a long chain who would play a great role leading up to the coming of the Moshiach.
It was only now that Joseph Jospa told his wife that he had received a Divine command to marry her, having been promised that they would have a son who would be endowed with an exceptionally high soul and a special mission to fulfill. Before he passed away Joseph Jospa summoned the rabbinical court, thanked them for their help and asked that they care for his widow and orphan.
True to his father's prediction, Eliahu left home to pursue his studies. He disappeared from sight for forty years, until 1590, when he appeared in the city of Worms. He became known far and wide as "Rabbi Eliahu Baal Shem," a scholar, holy person, miracle-worker and healer. His healing was often accomplished without the aid of medicine, rather by encouraging his patients to raise their spiritual level. He also established a yeshiva and was himself responsible for its support.
Most of his patients were poor people who came to him from everywhere, staying in his house for weeks and even months. His fame increased with every year and his "wonders" were talked about for hundreds of miles around.
Adapted from the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs.
Then Judah drew near and said, "My lord--bi adoni..." (Gen. 44:18)
The Hebrew words "bi adoni" may also be rendered "the L-rd is within me."A Jew must always remember when he prepares himself to pray that he has an actual part of G-d inside him, his Jewish soul, on whose behalf he is communing with his Maker.
G-d has made me--samani--lord of all Egypt (Gen. 45:9)
What was this message to Jacob from his long-lost son Joseph supposed to impart? Was this news meant to be reassuring? The Hebrew word "samani" may also be read "sam ani"--"I have caused G-d to be lord of all Egypt." It is through my public prominence that G-d has become known, Joseph implied. This indeed was a comforting thought to Jacob when he at last heard from his beloved son.
(Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin)
Laden with the best things of Egypt (Gen. 45:23)
Rashi explains that among the gifts Joseph sent to his father Jacob was wine--something which is especially pleasing to elderly people. But wine only improves with age if of superior quality to begin with; if the vintage was sour and the grapes of poor quality, the passage of time will only make the wine even more disagreeable.The same can be said for people. A person who was substantive in his youth will only become more so as he ages. Unfortunately, the opposite holds true as well.
(Rabbi Shlomo Alter)
I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up (Gen. 46:4)
G-d has cast his lot with that of the Jewish people: When Jews enjoy elevated status, G-d Himself is elevated; when the wheel of fate spins downward for the Jews, G-d shares their degradation.
A chasid once observed, "We see the forces of evil in the world insistently gaining strength. The reason is that we are now so close to the Redemption. When a wrestler is thrown to the ground and realizes that his opponent is about to overpower him, he summons every last shred of strength in a desperate bid to rally himself. The very fact that evil in the world is putting up a desperate struggle, in itself testifies that its end is near [for when Moshiach comes, according to the Prophets, evil will no longer exist].
(From From Exile to Redemption)