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You may never have realized this, but it's O.K. to want Moshiach. Not only is it O.K., it's also politically correct!
You see, Moshiach will redeem the entire world. The Messianic Era and everything it will bring is for everyone--people of all races, religions, colors, economic standards, and nationalities.
Though our prophets have promised specific things for the Jews, such as the ingathering of the exiles, the whole world will be positively affected by the many prophecies which were made in regard to that Era.
Just what will happen in the Messianic Era and how will it affect the world?
The Messianic Era will mark the end of evil and corruption. But, not because they will--abracadabra--miraculously disappear (though G-d does promise that He will remove evil from the world). Rather, there will be a universal awareness, perception and knowledge of G-d. And this knowledge will make people want to improve, will encourage us and urge us to work to change our basic and baser nature until we have eradicated the evil within and around us.
The awareness and knowledge of G-d promised by our prophets--which will be experienced by the entire world--will lead to universal peace and harmony. A foretaste of "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks," is literally taking place in Russia at present as surplus army vehicles pull farm equipment. It's not hard to imagine, then, that the time will actually come when "Nations shall not lift a sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).
This state of peace and harmony will not be just between governments. Animosity and bitterness between races, religions and nationalities will also cease, for everyone will recognize and understand how they fit into G-d's master plan. Peace and harmony will not be just on a global level, though. It will be experienced internally--within each family, relationship and certainly within each individual. Our lives will no longer be fragmented, our loyalties will not be tested, we will understand ourselves and our relationships better because a world filled with the awareness of G-d means an infinitely bigger world that can accommodate everyone. When a person is filled with the knowledge of G-d he can make space for anyone.
There will no longer be protests or demands that money go into researching cures for various diseases. Or, for that matter, that governments initiate national health care plans. For everyone will be healed from their disabilities and diseases.
Lastly, whether or not the welfare system is helpful or hurtful won't be an issue. For "All good things will be bestowed in abundance, and all delicacies will be accessible like dust," (Maimonides' Laws of Kings).
Be politically correct. Learn more about Moshiach and the Messianic Era. Look forward to Moshiach's imminent arrival. And start living your life now as if the Messianic Era was already here.
This week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, contains an interesting exchange between Moses and G-d. "Show me, I pray, Your glory," asks Moses. G-d replies, "You cannot see My face...you will see My back, but My face shall not be seen."
The Torah is obviously speaking in symbolic terms. "Face" refers to a clear and unequivocal revelation of G-dliness, in much the same way that an individual's face reveals his inner self; glimpsing a person's "back" reveals far less about the person. But what did G-d show Moses?
The great commentator, Rashi, explains that G-d showed Moses the knot of His tefillin (phylacteries). What kind of answer to Moses' petition was that?
In order to understand, we must first place the exchange in its proper context. Moses made this request after the Jews sinned by making the Golden Calf. After such a grave sin, how could they ever be forgiven? What possible merit did the Jews have for G-d to absolve them of idolatry? Rashi explains that G-d's answer was to teach Moses the proper way for a Jew to pray for Divine mercy.
Sin itself defies logic. How could it be that a Jew, a member of a nation described as "believers, the children of believers," should sin? How can a Jew, who believes in his innermost heart that G-d created the world and continues to sustain it every minute of the day, denies this by transgressing G-d's will?
The answer is that all sin stems from forgetfulness. It is only when a Jew forgets the true nature of the world that he transgresses; when he forgets that G-d is the only absolute reality he strays from the right path. The minute a Jew is reminded of this, there is no room for sin and it ceases to exist.
This, then, is the significance of the knot of the tefillin. If sin is only the result of a Jew's forgetfulness, he need only be reminded of G-d and he will not transgress. This is accomplished by the tallit and tzitit (ritual fringes), whose purpose is to remind the Jew of his task in life, as it states in the Torah, "And you shall see it, and remember." The tefillin serve the same purpose: "And it shall be as a remembrance between your eyes."
Most specifically, it is the knot of the tefillin which symbolizes this, as a knot serves both as a reminder (such as when one ties a knot around one's finger to remember something), and as a symbol of the binding knot between G-d and the Jewish people.
By showing Moses the knot of the tefillin, G-d was instructing him how to seek atonement, for if we always bear in mind that there is nothing but G-d, there is no room for sin.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
CROWN HEIGHTS DIARY--"YEHI HAMELECH"
by Esther Altmann
I stood in front of the mirror fastening a long strand of pearls around my neck. My children were wearing their Shabbos clothes. We were about to go out and join others in celebrating this auspicious day of the 10th of Shvat. On this day--the anniversary of the passing of the Previous Rebbe and the present Rebbe's ascension to the leadership of Chabad, we were in a festive mood. It was certainly going to be different from what we had witnessed in previous years when thousands of chasidim and "friends of Chabad" packed World Lubavitch Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway to hear the Rebbe's discourses. This year's "Yud Shvat" was different in many ways, most notably in that since his stroke over 10 months ago, the Rebbe's communication with his chasidim and the world was through actions, not words. And so, this year, on Yud Shvat, the chasidim would be speaking to the Rebbe and to the world at large.
And what were we going to say? We were going to declare our most fervent wish that G-d restore the Rebbe's health and beg Him to finally send the promised Redemption. The central event in the short gathering was to be the declaration by the chasidim, "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu VeRabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach LeOlam Va'ed"--"May Our master, teacher and Rebbe, the King Moshiach, live forever," stating our belief that the Rebbe is the Moshiach of our generation and will bring the long-awaited Redemption. This is something we had done in the Rebbe's presence often twice daily, each time the Rebbe participated in the prayers at "770." In addition, today we would be unified with our fellow chasidim across the world who would be connected via telephone and satellite hook-up.
The press, imagining the scoop of being first to report the arrival of Moshiach had brodcast teezers like "Moshiach will be revealed at five tonight." They would certainly be there in large numbers to report on what occurred.
As we walked off in the direction of "770," I noticed other people emerging from their homes and heading in the same direction. I felt a surge of excitement overcome my late afternoon tiredness. After all of the Rebbe's exhortations during the past few years urging us to spread the concept of Moshiach and to announce to the Jewish people that "The time of Your Redemption has come," I felt fortunate to be present at an historic event of great magnitude when the Rebbe's message would be so widely heard. For the first time in history, tens of thousands of Jews across the world were electronically gathered for the purpose of beseeching G-d to make good His promise. We had neither forgotten nor forgiven Him His oath never to abandon us and to bring us out of exile. Now, as one great global voice, we were declaring that our Father in Heaven fulfill His promise.
We took up our positions in front of "770." On the basis of claustrophobia I opted for technology. Instead of going inside the crowded shul, we stood in front of the satellite truck outside and waited for the image of the proceedings to be cast onto the side of the truck. The "media" was everywhere, but we were inured to them. In the past two years we had become veterans of news reportage, for both the good and the bad. We looked with mild interest at the news vans from various stations, and watched the reporters who were scanning the crowd, notebooks in hand.
I wondered what they really expected. I wasn't sure myself, but I was sufficiently struck with the wonder of what was actually occurring. I was standing together with tens of thousands of chasidim (and many others in addition--Moshiach is not an exclusive), and seeing the words of the Previous Rebbe fulfilled before my eyes: the advent of Moshiach being near, we were actually reading about it in the newspapers and hearing about it on the radio and television, and seeing it espoused through international communication. (According to reports from Israel, over 1,000,000 people there stayed up past midnight to watch the proceedings on television). When the Rebbe had told us in the Spring of '91 to publicize the concept of Moshiach, to learn the details and teach them to others, many of us felt shy. How could we broach the topic? Who would have imagined that, merely 20 months later, the entire world would be discussing the subject of Moshiach. Still, I mused to myself, the idea is gaining a certain familiarity...CNN will be ready at a moment's notice to pick up the story.
We stood in the brisk chill of the early evening and listened to speeches which preceded the evening prayers. We watched, admittedly with great love, the face of the Rebbe as he participated in the gathering. And then we, together with Jews in Russia, England, France, Israel, Argentina, Australia and all over the U.S. said the words, "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu VeRabbeinu Melech Hamoshiach Leolam Va'ed."
When it was over I turned to go home, to make dinner, to do tomorrow's homework, but with a feeling of elation. I recognized that my own private, internal life had changed over the past months. I was happy to have been among thousands of other Jews who believe enough in the reality of Moshiach's coming to make the demand and expect it to be fulfilled. In modern parlance, "my consciousness has been raised" in the matter of Moshiach. Can I myself bring the Moshiach? Only in so far as my own deeds have the capacity to "tilt the scale toward merit" and my own prayers have become more focused. Have I flown away on clouds? No, my feet are firmly planted on the ground. My house is not up for sale, the bills still have to be paid on time, and I still wonder what I'll do with my children next summer. But...I await his coming with genuine expectation and so do tens of thousands of others whose prayers have taken on a new immediacy.
EXPLORING NEW HORIZONS
The Chabad Lubavitch Centre in Thornhill, Ontario, offers a series of classes called, "Exploring New Horizons." Each Monday evening, from 7:45 to 9:40 p.m. one can attend classes on the "inner" and "outer" dimensions of Judaism. This month's classes include: the Synthesis of Individuality and Unity; Intimacy with G-d; Talmud; Hebrew; and Jewish Law. For more information call (416) 731-7000.
The national headquarters of Tzivos Hashem in Brooklyn sponsor Shabbaton weekends for children throughout the winter. Shabbat, in all its beauty, is experienced in Crown Heights and an exciting activity--skiing, ice skating, or bowling, takes place on Sunday. For more info call (718) 467-6630.
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Although what follows is self-evident, its importance requires it to be emphasized, at any rate briefly.
To begin with, it is obvious that the said blessing of healthy offspring both physically and spiritually is largely dependent upon the conduct of the parents. For, just as the physical health and constitution of parents have an impact on the physical health of the children, so it is also mentally and spiritually.
Indeed, as every intelligent person understands, the spiritual aspect is stronger than the physical, so that the order should be reversed, namely, that the spiritual impact is predominant.
Inasmuch as the Torah, which is called the "Torah of Truth," declared that Jews are "believers, the sons of believers," meaning that in addition to one's own belief in G-d, one has the cumulative heritage of countless generations, beginning with our Father Abraham, the first believer, that the Source of blessings is G-d, the Creator and Master of the universe. If a human being who introduces a certain system must give guidelines as to how the system works, how much more so is it to be expected that G-d would provide guidelines which were revealed at Sinai with the Giving of the Torah and mitzvot, which were transmitted from generation to generation, not only in content, but also in the exact terms. Thus, the Torah provides the guidelines as to how Jews have to conduct their lives, especially their family lives. But inasmuch as a human being, however perfect he may be, is liable to fail occasionally, G-d has provided the way in which it can be rectified, namely by way of teshuva--repentence, which, as our Sages declare, was created even before the world. And teshuva is effective not only in respect to the future, but also retroactively to a large extent, inasmuch as G-d is omnipotent and is not restricted in any way.
It is a matter of common experience that it is part of human nature that parents will make every sacrifice for the benefit of children, even in a case where the benefit may not be certain, but has prospects.
All the above is by way of introduction to my earnest plea that regardless of how it was in the past, you will strengthen your commitment and adherence to the Will of G-d, the Creator and Source of all blessings, particularly in the area of the strict fulfillment of the laws and regulations of family purity which, aside from the essential aspect of their being Divine imperatives, have the Divine Promise of reward in terms of healthy offspring, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Needless to say, when it comes to carrying out the commandments of G-d, it is absolutely irrelevant what neighbors or friends might say when they see a radical change in one's everyday life.
Herein is also the answer to many questions, including the question of why this or that mitzva has to be observed. For a human being to question G-d's reasons for His mitzvot is actually contradictory to common sense. If one accepts them as Divine commandments, it would be presumptuous, indeed ridiculous, to equate G-d's intellect to that of a human being. By way of a simple illustration, which I had occasion to use before: one would not expect an infant to understand the importance of nutrition as set forth by a professor who has dedicated his life to this subject, even though the difference between the infant and the professor is only relative in terms of age and education. There can be no such comparison between a created human being and the Creator, where the difference is absolute.
It should therefore be a matter of common sense to understand what the Torah, the Torah of Truth, explains clearly, that whatever doubts and difficulties a Jew may have in matters of Torah and mitzvot are only tests of his faith in G-d. It would be illogical to assume that G-d would impose obligations which are beyond human capacity to fulfill. Indeed, if one has more difficult tests, it only proves that he has greater capacities to overcome them.
In summary, just as when we received the Torah and mitzvot at Sinai, we accepted them on the basis of Naaseh [we will do], first and then, V'nishma [we will hear, i.e. understand], namely on the basis of unconditional obedience and readiness to fulfill G-d's mitzvot regardless of our understanding them rationally, so has our commitment been ever since. And while we must learn and try to understand as much as possible, prior knowledge and understanding must never be a condition for living up to the guidelines which G-d has given us in regard to our actual way of life and conduct.
Mordechai was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin and a member of the Sanhedrin. In the year 434 b.c.e. he was exiled to Babylonia together with the leadership of the Jewish people by King Nebuchadnezzer. Mordechai was instrumental in saving the Jews from annihilation through his influence with Queen Esther who had been his ward. After Haman's downfall Mordechai was elevated to a position of high status in the Persian court, serving as the chief advisor to the king.
In Chasidic philosophy exile and redemption are compared to pregnancy and birth. The unborn child lives, eats, grows, and perhaps we might even say he has it "good" within his mother. But, compared to even a newborn, its existence is much less complete. His eyes don't see, his ears don't hear, the senses of taste and smell are not used, his nose does not breathe and his entire essence is caught up in growth. Thus, the unborn child's life is restricted.
Only after birth does the child begin to see and hear, does he begin to taste, to eat by himself and to breath. Only then does he begin a more complete life.
This is just like the exile. A person can be living a very spiritual life--he can be enhancing his Jewish knowledge, praying to G-d, he might even feel a personal connection with the Creator. But all of these are like the experiences of the unborn child. He doesn't see the G-dliness that is inherent in everything nor does he hear each creation crying out to be used for a holy purpose.
The world seems to exist by itself. Only through a tremendous amount of contemplation and thought does one come to the realization that the world exists only because of the G-dly power invested in it each and every moment. Even the mitzvot and good deeds that a person does during the exile sustain him more in the way of the nourishment an unborn child receives from the umbilical cord when he doesn't discern the taste or texture.
The preparations and the desire for the redemption are similar to the desire of the unborn child to be born, to begin to open its eyes and ears to the great, big world. Only when the Redemption comes will we be privileged to see the revelation of the G-dly light with our physical eyes: When a person will perform a commandment, he will feel the connection that he forms with G-d. He leaves the level of an embryo and becomes a vibrant, feeling, seeing newborn.
Looking at exile like pregnancy gives us an even deeper understanding of our present situation. Pregnancy is the preparation for birth just as the exile is a preparation for the redemption. When a person tries to cleave to G-d, to love and be in awe of Him, despite G-d's concealment in exile, he prepares himself for the imminent redemption.
Once a chasid travelled to the Mitteler Rebbe with a dire problem. He was renting an inn from the local poretz (landowner), and was about to be evicted because he was unable to pay his debts. The poretz was unwilling to wait any longer, and the Jew was in danger not only of losing his livelihood, but his home as well.
The chasid entered the Rebbe's room for a private audience and told him the predicament. He requested that the Rebbe write a letter for him to a wealthy businessman named Moshe A. This man was a personal friend of the poretz and therefore a good potential intermediary.
The Rebbe agreed and wrote the letter for him. The chasid left in good humor, letter in hand, sure that his situation would shortly change. However, when he left the Rebbe and read the letter, he had a shock, for the letter was addressed to the wrong person. Instead of being addressed to the wealthy Moshe A., the letter was addressed to Moshe M. who was as poor as the chasid, himself. Oh, no, thought the chasid, the Rebbe must have made a mistake, for what could Moshe M. possibly do for me?
The chasid turned around and went right back to the Rebbe's residence and said to the Rebbe's attendant, "I must go back in to speak with the Rebbe. He gave me the letter, but he made a mistake in it, and I need him to change it."
"I'm sorry," replied the gabbai. "You cannot see the Rebbe again so soon. There are many others waiting to be received."
"But, you don't understand," the chasid protested. "This is a matter of the greatest importance, and it can't wait, even a day. I won't take much of his time. The Rebbe just has to change a few words. You see, he addressed it to the wrong person."
The conversation was overheard by the Rebbe's son, who turned and commented, "A Rebbe doesn't make mistakes."
Seeing he wasn't going to get anywhere with the gabbai, the chasid turned and left, meditating on the words he had just heard, "A Rebbe doesn't make mistakes." He took this to heart and resolved to go the next day to see Moshe A. and present him with the Rebbe's letter.
When he arrived at Moshe A.'s humble cottage he told him about his audience with the Rebbe and showed him the letter. Moshe A. was confounded by the request that he intercede. "I would be very glad to help you, but what can I possibly do? I have nothing whatsoever to do with the poretz." But the chasid, who had become convinced that the Rebbe must have had something in mind, was persistent. Finally, Moshe A. agreed, although, one couldn't say that he knew what he was agreeing to do. He arranged to set out the following morning to visit the poretz and try to help his fellow chasid, as it seemed that the Rebbe had requested him to do.
In the middle of the night there was a pounding on the door. Moshe A. roused himself and went to the door. "Who is there?" he asked.
"Open, please, it is I, the Count," came the reply. Moshe A. opened the door, and to his astonishment, there stood the poretz, the very man he planned to visit the following day, soaked and shivering with cold.
"Please, come in Your Honor," he said, and within an hour the poretz had changed into dry clothing, eaten and drunk, and was feeling back to himself. He explained that he loved hunting, and that evening he was deep in the forest when he had been caught in an unexpected storm. This house had been the first one he had encountered when he left the forest, and that is how he came to be the grateful guest of Moshe A.
Now, Moshe A. saw the Divine Providence in the unusual situation, and when they all went to bed for the night, he retired in a state of high anticipation as to how events would play themselves out. The next morning the poretz arose fit as before and readied himself to go home. Turning to his host, he said, "I am very grateful for everything you have done for me, and I would like to repay your kindness. What can I do for you."
Moshe A. answered, "Please, Sir, just having had the honor of helping you is all the payment I need."
The poretz wouldn't take no for an answer, and repeated his request to repay the Jew. When the offer was made a third time, Moshe spoke up: "Sir, I have a brother who rents one of the inns on Your Honor's property. Due to financial hardships of the past few years, he has been unable to pay his rent, and he is due to lose his lease on the inn. Might I ask Your Honor to reconsider his case?"
The poretz was immediately receptive to the request. "My friend, you are such a good fellow, I am sure that your brother is just like you. I will not only renew his lease, but I will also forgive his past rent. And you know, it is very lucky that you are speaking to me about it today. Why, I was planning to give the lease to the relative of a good friend of mine. My friend Moshe M. spoke to me recently about his relative that needed a position, and tomorrow I was planning to take care of the matter."
Later, when the two chasidim met, they discussed the workings of Divine Providence as foreseen by the Mitteler Rebbe. For had the letter been addressed to the "right" rather than the "wrong" Moshe, the situation would have come to a very different and unhappy end for the chasid. They saw that indeed, "A Rebbe doesn't make a mistake."
And the Children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath (Ex. 31:16)
The holiness of Shabbat exists independently of the Jew; all he is enjoined to do is guard it. Yet at the same time, the Jew is commanded to observe Shabbat by his own actions, adding to its inherent holiness with his preparation and service.
(Sefer Hamaamarim Tav Shin)
Every Jew is given an extra G-dly soul on the Sabbath, which is why we are especially careful in keeping its laws: G-d is always more stringent with those He is closest to.
Before all your people I will perform wonders, such as have not been done on all the earth, nor in any nation (Ex. 34:10)
The Hebrew word for "wonder" is related to the word meaning "set apart." G-d promised the Jews that they would be set apart from the rest of the nations of the world, for His Divine Presence would henceforth rest only on them. But what "wonders" were promised? Not merely miracles in the physical world, but wonders in the spiritual sense, a deeper understanding of G-dliness and holiness than is afforded others. That is why the verse specifies "before all your people," for only the Jew can really understand and appreciate the depth of these wonders.
G-d forbid for us to despair of Moshiach's coming because of its delay. We must stand ready and await salvation as it is written (Chabakuk 2:3), "await him..." One must stand alert for Moshiach as he would stand awaiting another person. Perhaps at this very moment he is already standing behind the wall.