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It seems as though everyone and everything is suspect these days. Whenever someone does something good, says something nice, acts altruistically, we wonder why. Is she being manipulative? What is he going to expect in return? How can I know the real reason?
Especially when it comes to organizations, lobbying groups, political parties, we want to know what the hidden agenda is behind the official platform.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the entire campaign to educate the world about Moshiach and let everyone--Jew and non-Jew--know about the imminence of Moshiach's arrival is also viewed by some with suspicion.
What might be the hidden agenda of the Moshiach Campaign?
THERE IS NO HIDDEN AGENDA!
There is only an overt agenda, one which the Rebbe made very clear and public at the outset of this entire campaign over 20 months ago:
"What more can I do to motivate the entire Jewish people to clamor and cry out, and thus actually bring about the coming of Moshiach. All that has been done until now has been to no avail. For we are still in exile; moreover, we are in an inner exile in regard to our own service of G-d.
"All that I can possibly do is to give the matter over to you. Now, do everything you can to bring Moshiach, here and now, immediately...I have done whatever I can; from now on, you must do whatever you can.
"Every man, woman, and child has an individual responsibility to work to bring about Moshiach's coming. No one else can shoulder this burden for him: his own efforts and energy are needed. Each one of us must prepare for the coming of Moshiach by increasing his study of the Torah and enhancing his performance of its commandments in a beautiful and conscientious manner. More specifically, our study should center on the subject of Moshiach and on the future Redemption." (April 11, 1991)
In addition, the Rebbe has also spoken about "living" with the Redemption, actually experiencing a foretaste of that great era.
"Previously it had been explained that an emphasis on love for one's fellow was necessary as a preparation for the Era of the Redemption. Since the exile came about because of unwarranted hatred, we would nullify the reason for the exile by spreading love among our people. And this in turn would cause the exile itself to cease.
"Since, however, to borrow an expression used by the Previous Rebbe, we have already completed all the spiritual service necessary to bring Moshiach, to the point that 'we have even polished the buttons,' we can assume that the reason for the exile has also been eradicated already. At present, therefore, the emphasis on love for one's fellow comes primarily as a foretaste of the Era of the Redemption.
And through living in the spirit of the Redemption, accustoming ourselves to this way of thinking, and more significantly, to this form of conduct, we will hasten the actual coming of the Redemption." (July 13, 1991)
Let's put aside our "isms"--cynicism, skepticism and pessimism--for long enough to look at the above words objectively and realize that we and the world will be much better--actually the best--as soon as we start implementing these ideas into our lives.
As the saying goes, "Try it, you'll like it!"
This week's Torah portion, Bo, contains the account of the tenth and final plague which G-d visited on the Egyptians, the only one in which the Jews were required to put a mark of identification upon their homes so that they would not also be afflicted when the firstborn sons were killed. The Jews were commanded to put blood from the Passover sacrifice on their doorposts, also symbolic of the blood of the covenant of circumcision, and warned to remain in their homes until the morning.
The Midrash offers an explanation why these precautions were necessary: "Once the Destroyer is given free reign, it cannot distinguish between the righteous and the wicked." This is why a special sign was needed to divert the Angel of Death. But wasn't the Angel of Death allowed free reign during the previous nine plagues? Why weren't measures taken then by the Jewish people to protect themselves?
The answer lies in the fact that the slaying of the firstborn was essentially different from the plagues which preceded it. The first nine plagues brought a limited and specific type of injury and devastation; the Angel of Death was not allowed to indiscriminately destroy in whatever manner it chose. During the tenth plague, however, the Egyptian firstborn died in a multitude of different ways.
Even more fundamental is the fact that the aim of the first nine plagues was to make the Egyptians acknowledge the existence and power of G-d. The final plague was sent solely to punish and to kill.
At this point, the Attribute of Justice complained before G-d and pleaded that the Destroyer be allowed to harm the Jews as well: "How are the Jews so different from the Egyptians? Both nations have served idols, and both nations have sunk into the 49 gates of impurity!" G-d therefore decreed that the Jews identify themselves with a special sign, so that no harm would befall them.
But how could a drop of blood on a doorpost defend the Jews against such a grave accusation? Chasidic philosophy explains that the tenth plague was visited by G-d Himself, and was a demonstration of G-d's overwhelming love for the Jewish people, the love a father has for his children. This is a love irrespective of the son's negative behavior; it transcends even the legitimate claims of the Attribute of Justice.
The blood with which the Jews painted their doorposts was symbolic of the essential connection which exists between G-d and the Jew, a bond which transcends all rationale and human understanding. Just as the command to publicly defy Egyptian sensitivities by slaughtering a lamb, the Egyptian deity, seemed to be irrational, it was precisely this disregard for the natural order and the desire for self-sacrifice which brought about the redemption. It is only when Jews go beyond the boundaries of logic to show their devotion to G-d that He repays in kind.
Today, the Jewish people finds itself in a situation similar to the one faced by the Children of Israel as they were about to leave Egypt. The Final Redemption is right at our door, and all that is required is that we transcend the bonds of rational deliberation and declare ourselves ready. In this merit may we see the coming of Moshiach and the dawn of the Messianic Era.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
A VERY SPECIAL ARMY
by Esther Rachel Elkaim,
The following is a speech delivered by Esther Rachel at this year's annual Tzivos Hashem dinner. Tzivos Hashem (which means G-d's Army) is the international youth club for children under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe 11 years ago.
My parents always wanted to have a child, but had never been blessed with one. Until, ten years ago, my father came to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita, and asked him for his blessing.
It was just before Rosh Hashana. The Rebbe was standing in front of his room, giving out honey-cake. At first, he gave my father two pieces. My father had never spoken to the Rebbe before, but my mother had told him that this time he would have to ask for the Rebbe's blessing to have a child. So he did.
The Rebbe turned around, and my father got very nervous. Perhaps he had said something wrong. But then the Rebbe filled his hands with cake and said, "Hashem, who is the source of all blessing, will speedily and surely answer your request."
Three months later, my father had to change his job. To his surprise, he got a phone call from a member of the Rebbe's secretariat. The rabbi told my father that the Rebbe wanted him to know that this was going to be a wonderful month for him. My father thought that it meant he would have good luck in his new position.
A few days later, my mother told him the good news, that she was going to have a baby. Thank G-d within the year, I was born.
So you see, in our family, we are all very grateful to the Rebbe for his holy blessing, and we know how powerful the blessing of the Rebbe is. May G-d grant the Rebbe himself a blessing for a speedy and full recovery, so that we can all personally receive his blessings again, soon.
When I was a little girl, my father arranged a tutor for me to learn to read and write Hebrew as my first language. Soon I was able to read and write the Hebrew alphabet. Since I now could write, I wanted to send a letter to the Rebbe myself. I didn't know how to write words or sentences, but my mother said I could just write the alef-bet and send it to the Rebbe.
I did just that. And the Rebbe sent me an answer. He said that he had enjoyed reading my letter very much. This meant very much to me. It made me realize that the Rebbe really cared.
When I was four years old, the wife of the Rebbe passed away. We were all very upset, and my father flew to New York right away to come to do the mitzva of comforting a mourner.
As my father passed by the Rebbe, the Rebbe called him back, and asked him, "How is Esther Rachel? How is she growing in mitzvot and good deeds?" Even when the Rebbe was in mourning, he was concerned to ask about a little girl.
I learned from this how much the Rebbe cares for every Jewish boy and girl in the whole world, and I know that's why he created Tzivos Hashem.
Everyone knows about how Hurricane Andrew recently struck Miami. When we read about it coming, we were very worried. But then my parents heard that the Rebbe said everything would be all right, so we weren't afraid.
Then the storm hit. The building shook. The chandelier shook. We were getting nervous, but then my mother said, "Look, the picture of the Rebbe isn't shaking!"
I was looking out through the metal shutters on our condominium window on the 18th floor. Then I saw the most unusual sight. I called my mother to come quickly. There was part of the Dreidel House in the garden below. The storm had blown it away from the shul where it is stored several blocks away. It was the side of the Dreidel House that had the letter "hay" on it. To me, it meant the "hay" for Hashem, reminding us that Hashem is here and He is always watching over us.
Reprinted from the Tzivos Hashem Newsletter
PORT WASHINGTON CHABAD
Just a few months have passed since Chabad of Port Washington moved to its present location at 10 Maple Street in Port Washington (Long Island). The Chabad Center has a Hebrew school, Bar/Bat Mitzva programs, Shabbaton dinners, holiday celebrations, a Jewish library, classes and a pre-school as well as Shabbat services and a junior congregation. Rabbi Shalom and Sara Paltiel, of the Chabad Center, are warm, caring, energetic people who are always available. For more information call them at (516) 767-TORAH.
Here is a true story which you might want to share with your readers:
Prior to this past Rosh Hashana, I decided that I would give some High Holiday material to a fellow attorney who is slowly doing more mitzvot and to whom I had previously given material on other holidays, such as L'Chaims, etc.
I was unable to give her the material as I didn't see her before Rosh Hashana. Throughout the eve of Rosh Hashana I kept thinking about the matter, but got caught up in the holiday preparations. Finally, a few moments before candle lighting, I recalled with regret that I still had not sent her the material. With but moments to go, I grabbed the Tishrei Holiday Guide, pulled it apart and fed it into my fax machine to a fax number I had for her, hoping that some time during the holidays she would get the material.
The Friday after Rosh Hashana I was waiting in court when she spotted me and rushed over. She immediately thanked me and told me it was a miracle from Heaven, via Fax, and then she told me the following:
What transpired was that she had set up the candles for Rosh Hashana and as she was about to light them, she realized that she did not know the blessing. She said out loud in her empty apartment, "Where will I find the bracha?" She walked over to her bookcase (which unbeknownst to me was where her fax was located), and voila, my fax began to come in with the bracha! Truly Heaven sent.
May we all merit to be proper shluchim of the Rebbe, shlita, Melech HaMoshiach.
THE CARE AND EDUCATION OF JEWISH RETARDED CHILDREN
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 1978
You ask for my views on "the care and education of Jewish retarded children," outlining some of the problems connected therewith and prevailing policies, etc.
I must, first of all, make one essential observation. While the above heading places all the retarded in one group, it would be a gross fallacy to propose any rules to be applied to all of them. For, if any child requires an individual evaluation and approach in order to achieve the utmost in his or her, development, how much more so the handicapped.
I assume that you have in mind the most general guidelines, allowing for the wide range of flexibility necessary for each individual case. All the more so, since our present society is poorly equipped in terms of manpower and financial resources to afford an adequate personal approach to each handicapped child. Even more regrettable is that little attention (little in relation to the importance of the problem) is given to this situation, and consequently little is done to mobilize more adequate resources.
I would suggest the following:
- Anyone who deals with retarded individuals should start from the basic premise that the retardation is only a temporary handicap, and that in due course it could certainly be improved, and even improved substantially. This approach should be taken regardless of the pronouncements or prognosis of specialists in the field. The reason for this approach is, first of all, that it is a precondition for greater success in dealing with the retarded. Besides, considering the enormous strides that have been made in medical science, human knowledge, methodology, and know-how, there is no doubt that in this area, too, there will be far-reaching developments. Thus, the very confidence that such progress is in the realm of possibility will inspire greater enthusiasm in this work, and hopefully will also stimulate more intensive research.
- Just as the said approach is important from the viewpoint of and for encouragement of the worker and educator, so it is important that the children themselves should be encouraged--both by work and the manner of their training--to feel confident that they are not, G-d forbid, "cases," much less unfortunate or hopeless cases, but that their difficulty is considered, as above, only temporary, and that with a concerted effort the desired improvement could be speeded and enhanced.
- Care should be taken not to exaggerate expectations through far-fetched promises, for false hopes inevitably result in deep disenchantment, loss of credibility and other undesirable effects. However, a way can surely be found to avoid raising false hopes, yet giving guarded encouragement.
- Included in the above approach which, as far as I know has not been used before, is to involve (some of) the children in some form of leadership roles without arousing the jealousy of the others. The latter could be avoided by making such elections on the basis of seniority, special achievement, exemplary conduct, etc.
- With regard to the efforts made in recent years to create "group homes" for retarded individuals, which, as you say, has been a source of controversy--it is to be expected that, as in most things in our imperfect world, there are pros and cons... Only by an individual approach and evaluation can it be determined which individual fits into which category.
- There is surely no need to emphasize, as in all cases involving Jews, that their specific Jewish needs must be taken into account. This is particularly true in the cases of retarded Jewish children, yet all too often it is disregarded. There is unfortunately, a prevalent misconception that since you are dealing with retarded children, who have more limited capabilities, they should not be "burdened" with Jewish education on top of their general education. In my opinion this is a fallacious and detrimental attitude, especially in light of what has been said above about the need to avoid impressing the child with his handicap. If the retarded child sees or feels that he has been singled out and removed from the Jewish experience, or has been deprived of his Jewish identity and heritage--it is very likely that he will have been caused irreparable damage.
On the other hand, if the child is involved in Jewish education and activities--and not in some general and peripheral way, but in a regular and tangible way, such as in the actual performance of mitzvot, customs and traditions--he will receive a sense of belonging and attachment, and a firm anchor to hold on to, whether consciously or subconsciously. Eventually, even a subconscious feeling of inner security will pass into the conscious state.
I am, of course, aware of the arguments that may be put forth in regard to this idea, namely, that it would require additional funding, qualified personnel, etc., not readily available at present. To be sure, these are arguments that have a basis in fact as things now stand. However, the real problem is not so much the lack of resources as the prevailing attitude that considers the Jewish angle as of secondary importance, or less; consequently the effort to remedy the situation is commensurate, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy. The truth of the matter is that if the importance of it would be seen in its true light--that it is an essential factor in the development of the retarded Jewish child, in addition to our elementary obligation to all Jewish children without exception, the results would be quite different.
What does "teku" mean?
"Teku" is used in the Talmud at the end of a discussion when no definitive answer was reached. Its basic meaning is that the question is unanswerable despite all attempts. It is also an acronym for four Hebrew words which mean: "Elijah the Tishbite will solve all difficulties and inquiries," i.e., we will know the answer when Moshiach comes.
Our Sages describe the Messianic Era as a time of wondrous abundance. The Talmud states, "In the future the Land of Israel will produce ready-made cakes and fine woolen garments," and "In the future wheat kernels will be like two kidneys of a great ox." Maimonides, too, says, "The good will be in abundance and delicacies will be like dust."
It would seem that all of this abundance has no purpose. After all, one of the main reasons for the Messianic Era is that G-dliness will be revealed in the world and we will see the secrets of creation; there will be unbounded spirituality. In such a situation, won't all of our desires be for holiness and spirituality, as Maimonides explains: "The occupation of the entire world will be only to know G-d." Who, then, will be interested in all of these mundane things that will be in the world?
Maimonides hints at this when he says, "Delicacies will be like dust." All of the wondrous, physical delicacies will be of the same value to us as dust. For we will be occupied with much loftier things--like understanding G-d. If this is so, what are we going to need all of the abundance for?
According to Maimonides, all of the material blessings that the Torah promises us --before the Messianic Era--if we keep the mitzvot are not simply a reward. For our ultimate reward is greater than physical gifts. Rather, having everything we need simply takes away many of life's difficulties thus making it easier to observe the mitzvot.
This better helps us understand why there will be abundant material resources. Since we won't have to worry about mundane matters, we will be free to pursue G-dliness and spirituality unhampered by worldly cares.
There is an additional reason, however. In the Messianic Era there will be revealed within the world unlimited G-dly energy. To say that this G-dly energy will be revealed exclusively in the spiritual realms would imply that G-d was, in some way, limited. It is therefore clear, that G-dliness must be revealed on a mundane, material level, also.
Just as when a person is truly joyous, not only are his head and heart happy, but his joy is physically manifested as well--he feels like dancing or "jumping for joy"--similarly the revelation of G-dliness in the world will make the trees and shrubs "dance for joy" and give off additional and even unique produce.
The Baal Shem Tov sat under warm, fur blankets in his carriage as it sped down the dirt road toward the town of Satnov. As the carriage neared the town the strange light emanating from there became brighter and brighter. It was not the light of a fire, nor any natural phenomenon, but a spiritual light discernable to the tzadik alone.
When the Besht entered the suburbs of Satnov he was greeted by a great many people who crowded around to see the famous tzadik. After a short while he addressed himself to the crowd: "Do you know that a great tzadeket lives among you--a truly righteous woman, whose light I was able to perceive even from afar."
"Of course, we know her. You are talking about the tzadeket, Rivka. She is known all around these parts for her piety and good deeds."
The Besht was very interested in hearing more about this unusual woman and even expressed his wish to meet her.
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that," replied one townsman with a smile. "She'll be here soon enough to see you. You see, Rivka will be here to ask you for a donation for the upkeep of needy families. She won't miss this opportunity."
He was right, for not an hour had passed before Rivka appeared before the Baal Shem Tov, asking for a donation. "Would the esteemed rabbi be good enough to contribute something for poor families?" she asked.
"Of course," replied the Besht as he handed her a small coin.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, but I can't accept such a small amount," she said, peering down at the copper coin. "You must have misunderstood me. You see, I am collecting for people who are poverty stricken and ill. They need expensive medicines and nourishing food. I need much more than that."
The Baal Shem Tov responded by giving her a few more small coins. She looked at him sternly and said in a strong voice, "No, this is still not enough. I can't accept anything less than forty rubles."
The Baal Shem Tov was very impressed with Rivka, but he pretended to be angry. "What a chutzpa! Who are you to demand such a huge sum? Do you imagine that you are the treasurer of the whole town? Why, I wouldn't be surprised if you pocketed three-quarters of the money!"
Rivka was not intimidated and stood as before with her hand out in expectation of receiving the money. The Besht didn't disappoint her. With forty rubles in her hand, the woman finally went on her way.
That night Rivka again appeared before the Besht with a request. But this time it was not money that she wanted. Instead, she asked for the tzadik's prayers. "Please, Rebbe, pray for the town doctor who is very ill."
"For that no-good sinner! Why the world would be a better place without the likes of him," replied the Besht.
"Oh, no," countered Rivka. "First of all, no one has seen him in the act of sinning, and secondly, he is completely ignorant of the severity of his sins. I'm sure that if he understood what he was doing, he would stop immediately."
The Besht was satisfied with that answer, for he knew that the man's death had been demanded by the Celestial Court, and the good defense Rivka had just given was necessary to stay the decree. Not long after, the doctor recovered.
The townspeople told many stories about Rivka. Once, her two grown sons decided they should interrupt their Torah studies to come to visit their mother for a Shabbat. But Rivka's greatest pleasure was in the knowledge that her sons were devoting themselves to the study of Torah, and she didn't wish them to be interrupted from their holy pursuit.
On the day before Shabbat she called her beloved sons to her. "I'm going to ask you to do something for me, and I want you to promise to do as I say."
They looked at her in surprise and answered, "Mother, why do you imagine we wouldn't? We will certainly do whatever you wish."
"In that case, I want you to go back to your yeshiva now, before Shabbat. I know it may sound strange, but you will do me more honor by spending your precious time in Torah study."
"But, mother, we haven't seen you for so long, and we came especially to visit."
"My sons, try to understand: Seeing you gives me great nachas, but I'm willing to wait for my reward in the World of Truth. Go back and continue your learning, so as not to waste a single precious moment. I have already prepared a carriage for you, packed with the special foods you love for the holy Shabbat. Go safely and prepare for me the eternal nachas which awaits me in the World of Truth." With that, Rivka blessed her beloved sons and sent them on their way.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months (Ex. 12:2)
Every month when we sanctify the new moon we say, "David, King of Israel, is living and enduring."Each month, when the moon diminishes and seems to disappear for a short time, there is no doubt in our minds that it still exists and that it will eventually reappear. Similarly, although its reign is now in a period of dormancy, we have faith that the House of King David will rule in all its glory with the coming of Moshiach.
For I have hardened his heart (Ex. 10:1)
G-d "boasts" of the free will He has given man, one of the greatest mysteries of all creation, and a part of the Divine plan. Only man can take the life-force and blessings he receives from Above and use them in a manner totally contrary to G-d's will.
We know not with what we must serve G-d, until we reach there (Ex. 10:26)
While we yet live in this world, we cannot accurately assess the value of our Torah learning and our performance of mitzvot, or even know if they were done only for the sake of heaven. It is only after we have reached the World to Come, the World of Truth, that we will know how faithfully we fulfilled our tasks.
Let every man ask of his fellow, and every woman of her fellow...and G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians (Ex. 11:2,3)
When Jewish people help each other in times of need, it causes them to be held in higher esteem even by their enemies; their actions arouse G-d to bestow His goodness in profusion.
Concerning the phrase in Genesis, "...until Shilo comes," Rashi says this refers to Moshiach. The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew words meaning "Shilo comes" is the same as the word, "Moshiach." Furthermore, the word "comes" is numerically equivalent to the word echad, "one." When there is unity among Jews, and in particular, when Jews unite in speaking about Moshiach, they will bring the Redemption through Moshiach.
(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn)