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A young person recently spent a Shabbat with a Lubavitcher family. As dusk began to fall, signaling the end of his visit, he decided to bare his soul to his host. "I think Lubavitch is really great. You guys do so many amazing things, help so many people, open your homes to everyone. You have centers in the most far-flung places. But, I think all of this Moshiach stuff has gone a little too far. I mean, what ever happened to regular Torah and mitzvot? What ever happened to trying to become a better person? Aren't you forgetting about everything else?"
The host was only slightly surprised, knowing that these questions came from a lack of understanding of the Moshiach Campaign initiated by the Lubavitcher Rebbe nearly twenty-two months ago.
"One minute," began the host. "Were you at our house when my wife and daughters lit candles before Shabbat?"
The guest nodded affirmatively.
"And did we make kiddush and say 'hamotzee?'..."
Once again, the guest nodded.
"Did we speak words of Torah at the table? Was the food kosher?"
To each question, the guest nodded yes, not understanding exactly what his host was getting at.
With a smile the host said, "So we have not forgotten about regular Torah and mitzvot, have we?"
The guest conceded. "But what about bettering ourselves?" he asked.
"All of this Moshiach stuff is one of the most effective ways to start improving ourselves. When our belief that Moshiach can come at any moment is real and practical, we have taken the first step to the self-betterment that you're talking about. According to the Talmud, our belief in Moshiach's arrival at any moment has to be very practical! 'If someone says, "I will be a *nazir* - one who takes a vow not to drink wine or cut his hair for 7 years - on that day Moshiach comes," he is forbidden to drink wine all his days since Moshiach may appear any day.'
"So, we must be ready to welcome Moshiach--constantly, at any moment. But how do we welcome Moshiach? How can we do our best to be ready at a moment's notice--if we have even that much warning?"
By now the guest was beginning to understand a little more about "the Moshiach stuff."
He asked, "O.K. So how do we get ready?"
"First, we can learn more about Moshiach and the Redemption. There is an ever-growing library of books on the subject in numerous languages; there are audio tapes and telephone messages that you can listen to at your leisure, and classes you can attend or help organize. The Rebbe said that the easiest way to hasten the imminent Redemption is by learning about it! The more we learn, the more we come to desire the Redemption and the more we can implement Moshiach-type activities into our lives while we're still in exile.
"We can try to keep in mind the thought: 'Is this what I want to be doing when Moshiach comes?' This simple question is potent, for it can even bring an intense argument to a grinding halt--if you decide that you don't want to get caught arguing when Moshiach arrives. You will find yourself being kinder, gentler, and ultimately better. You'll be better prepared to deal with others in a cheerful manner, better prepared to give a friend a listening ear, better prepared not to do those things that you know, deep down, are wrong.
"We can do all of this in simple but meaningful ways--ways which will ultimately help us to become the best we can be."
The host couldn't tell for sure whether or not he had convinced his guest. And, truthfully, he hadn't intended to "convince" him anyway. He was just trying to share with him the Rebbe's message that the Redemption of the entire world is imminent. Each and every Jew will be redeemed. Armed with this knowledge it behooves each one of us to do everything we can do to prepare ourselves and help others prepare for the dawning of a new age.
This week's Torah portion, Vayikra, which begins the book of Leviticus, deals with the service of offerings and sacrifices which were brought in the Sanctuary and the Holy Temples. Although today we cannot bring physical sacrifices, the Torah Is eternal and applies in any day and age. In fact, each Jew is likened to a sanctuary, whose purpose is likewise to bring G-dliness Into the world. We may therefore apply the lessons we learn from these offerings to guide us in our own worship of G-d.
The "tamid" (perpetual) offering was the foundation of the entire daily service, for it was the first to be offered in the morning and the last one to be brought at the end of the day. The tamid was relatively cheap, consisting of a lamb, a little oil, and some flour and salt. The tamid was not brought by individuals, but rather, all Jews contributed a small amount of money every year with which to buy the necessary items. This offering brought down G-d's blessings for all Jews, wherever they might live.
We learn from this that G-d does not require us to give up all of our material possessions without leaving anything for our own use. What is required, however, is that whatever we do offer, must be given wholeheartedly and with sincerity. Quality is more important than quantity, and our service of G-d should be conducted with joy and enthusiasm.
Another lesson to be learned is that although the tamid was offered only twice each day, it was called a "perpetual" offering because its influence was felt throughout the rest of the day.
The same is true in our own lives. Most of our daily tasks are devoted to necessary and mundane matters, and we are often too busy to sit and contemplate G-dliness a whole day long. That is why, as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, we bring our own "perpetual offering," to express the same utter devotion and dedication to G-d that was expressed by the tamid: "Modeh ani lefanecha, Melech chai ve'kayam" -"I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King." With this declaration, we not only thank G-d for having restored our soul, but designate Him as our King, whose sovereignty we willing accept.
The recitation of "Modeh ani," the saying of which takes only a moment, sets the proper tone for the rest of the day. Thus do we bring our own tamid offering even today, enabling us to remain connected to G-dliness even when occupied with our daily affairs, and ensuring that all our endeavors will be blessed with success.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
THE POWER OF THE JEWISH WOMAN
"U.S.A," "Europe," "Israel and all other countries." These banners hung from the ceiling above the registration table at the Fourth Annual International Convention of Shluchos (women emissaries) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita.
Six hundred women from all over the world attended the five-day-long convention this past month. The women hailed from Alaska, Sweden, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Uruguay, and all points in between. What makes the women's gathering different from their male counterparts' goes far beyond the 100 rented playpens taking nearly an entire floor in the hall where the convention took place. It is more than the work these women left behind as teachers, principals, fund-raisers, editors, party planners, administrators, caterers, and secretaries--some of them wearing all of these hats simultaneously, in addition to their responsibilities to their families.
The difference, somehow, is epitomized by a comment of one of the keynote speakers, a Chasidic scholar and world-renowned lecturer, who emphasized the women's impact at this historic time, immediately before the final Redemption. "In the blessings under the chupa we say, 'Let there speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride.' As we are so close to the Messianic Era, the 'voice of the bride' is being heard loud and clear."
But just what were the voices of these most amazing women saying? The overriding concern of most of the speakers was how to implement and best publicize the Lubavitcher Rebbe's instruction of 20 months ago to tell the world that the time of the Redemption has arrived and to prepare by learning more about it. Some of the sessions touched on the differences of opinion which might come up as to exactly how this message is to be relayed. How-ever, everyone agreed that it is supremely important to keep in mind that we are all working toward one goal; we must stand united.
Workshops abounded. And though the weather alternated between sleet, snow, rain, biting wind and freezing temperatures, all of the programs were well attended. The majority of the workshops and main sessions were conducted in English with simultaneous translations into French and Hebrew.
There were many highlights of this convention. The whole program took on an exciting new atmosphere following the afternoon prayers on Sunday. At that point, the women were informed that each one would have the privilege of passing before the Rebbe. Many of the women had not seen the Rebbe personally since the previous year's convention and certainly not since the Rebbe's illness. With tear-stained faces--tears of joy and powerful emotion--the women gathered in clusters in the courtyard outside of the Rebbe's room after going past the Rebbe. The fleeting moment had been intense, yet uplifting. With their own eyes--and not through second-hand reports or video clips--the women saw the Rebbe, his improving health, and his startlingly clear, penetrating glance.
Another notable moment was a timeless instant on Sunday evening at the banquet. By now, the crowd of 600 women had grown to 1,000 with the addition of relatives, guests and local Chabad Women's Organization representatives. The hall, which up to that moment had been jam-packed with tables and chairs --leaving little or no room for waiters--turned into a makeshift dance hall. Time stood still. The waiters retreated to the kitchen, tables were pushed together, and 1,000 women stood up to dance--a dance of unity, a dance of prayer for the Rebbe's immediate recovery, and a song of yearning for the Redemption.
From there, the women went to "770" Eastern Parkway, World Lubavitch Headquarters, for the keynote addresses. The "call of the hour"--to help everyone prepare for the imminent Redemption--was re-emphasized. In terms of Chasidic philosophy, the chairwoman explained that some people are led more by their emotions, while others take their cues from the intellect. Both are perfectly valid forms of expression. This causes diverse approaches in every area of our lives, including how the Rebbe's teachings and instructions are implemented and transmitted.
Next the guest speaker, a dynamic woman who recently became involved with Lubavitch, began to speak. It soon became apparent that the Rebbe would come out to see the women once again. The woman stopped in mid-speech as the curtains opened to reveal the Rebbe. Some of the French guests called out, "Vive Le Rebbe," as an elderly chasid approached the lectern. With a voice full of emotion he read a prayer written by the women, asking G-d for the complete recovery of the Rebbe and the immediate Redemption to which the Rebbe and all of the women answered, "Amen." A "kohein" (member of the priestly tribe) recited the Priestly Blessing to which, once again, the Rebbe and all of the women answered "Amen." After the Rebbe went back to his room, the program continued. The evening was concluded with a moving speech by an emissary in France, entitled, "Merci Rebbe, " describing her own personal reasons--including a life-saving blessing from the Rebbe--for being grateful for the Rebbe's all-encompassing leadership.
The closing sessions on Monday afternoon included reading the convention's resolutions, more inspiring speeches and the distribution of wine from the Rebbe to the women. As each woman raised her cup in salute to the Rebbe, it was with the inner hope that we will all very soon merit to say "L'Chaim" together with the Rebbe in the Holy Temple.
WEEK OF THE JEWISH WOMAN
Initiated seven years ago by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Week of the Jewish Woman each spring has become a major source of education and inspiration for women around the world. In England, a beautiful brochure was produced, detailing 18 events in London and 16 in the provinces, all with the general theme of women at the forefront of bringing the Redemption.
JEWISH MEDICAL ETHICS WEEKEND
The fourth international Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics is being held in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from April 30-May 2. The conference, which is accredited by the Medical Society of the State of New York, is being jointly sponsored by a group of 20 doctors and the Lubavitch Youth Organization. For more information, call LYO at (718) 953-1000.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MOSHIACH
Call weekly 1-800-4-MOSHIACH in the U.S., 1-800-2-MASHIACH in Canada. Or locally, every day (718) 953-6168.
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
16th of Cheshvan, 5734 (Fall, 1973)
Here I wish to refer to one point in your latest letter, where you wrote about the difference between the Six Day War and the so-called Yom Kippur War, in that G-d's miracles were more obvious in the Six Day War, etc.
As a matter of fact, there were ample miracles, and quite obvious ones, in the last war. The overall miracle, which has now been revealed, although not overly publicized, is the survival after the first few days of the war, when even Washington was seriously concerned whether the Israeli army could halt the tremendous onslaught of the first attack. Slowly and gradually some details are being revealed also in the Israeli press as to how serious was the danger in those early days of the war.
The greatest miracle was that the Egyptians stopped their invasion for no good reason only a few miles east of the Canal! The obvious military strategy would have been to encircle the few fortified positions in the rear, and with the huge army of 100,000 men armed to the teeth, to march forward in Sinai, where at that point in time there was no organized defense of any military consequence. This is something that cannot be explained in the natural order of things, except as it is written, "The dread of the Jews fell upon them," in the face of their intelligence reports about the complete unpreparedness of the Jews in Israel at that time.
There are also scores of reported miracles in various sectors of both fronts, which need not be recounted here.
The essential point of this whole tragic war is that it could have been prevented, and, as in the case of medicine, prevention is more desirable than cure. For, at first glance, the accomplishments of the physician in curing the sick seem more impressive by the dramatic results than preventive medicine where there could be some delusion that sickness would somehow be avoided, but in truth it is much better, of course, to be spared the pain and anxiety of sickness altogether, by immunization. The latter approach is the way of G-d, as it is written, "All the sickness...I will not afflict upon thee, for I, G-d, am thy physician" (Ex. 15:26).
Now it is quite evident how important and urgent was the appeal made last summer, centered on the verse, "Out of the mouths of babes and infants You have ordained strength (oz), to still the enemy and avenger." All the more so since in the present situation the "enemy and avenger" has made no secret of his intentions.
If recent events will have taught everyone the basic lesson that Jews have no one to rely upon except G-d Himself, and that the real strength of our people lies in the Torah and mitzvot, called "oz," as it is written, "HaShem oz l'amo yitein "--then the sacrifices will not have been in vain. Certainly every one of us must redouble our efforts to bring this realization closer to all our fellow Jews everywhere.
- (Back to text) This brought full victory to the Germans over France in a few days.
One of the maxims of Chasidic teachings is that "Joy breaks boundaries." To this we might add that joy breaks the bounds of evil and hastens the coming of Moshiach, concerning whom it is written, "The one who breaks through will ascend before them."
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita
The great prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) lived in approximately the Jewish year 3,000 (760 c.c.e.) and lived at a time when the Jews were greatly tempted by idol worship. He pitted himself against 450 priests of the Baal cult on Mount Carmel when he successfully demonstrated the veracity of G-d. When the prophet Yonah died as a young boy, Eliyahu was able to bring him back to life. Taken by a fiery chariot, he was one of the seven saints who went into the next world alive. Tradition names Eliyahu as the one who will announce the advent of Moshiach.
This coming Shabbat we bless the new month of Nisan. On this Shabbat we read the special portion called "Parshat HaChodesh," which begins with the words, "This month will be for you the head of the months."
This refers to the ninth of Nisan, known as the "month of our Redemption," for in the month of Nisan we were redeemed from Egypt. In addition, our Sages interpret the words, "this month will be you--for your Redemption."
There is a very beautiful description in Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov's work, "The Book of our Heritage" about the concept of redemption: "The word 'redemp-tion' applies only when one emerges from darkness into light. One who has never experienced the suffering of bondage and oppression cannot appreciate redemption. The very essence of redemption is the freedom which comes from the oppression itself. Had the Children of Israel never been enslaved, they would never have experienced true freedom. Once they were enslaved, the slavery itself gave rise to the redemption and from the midst of the darkness, and only from that darkness, the light burst forth. Thus said our Sages: The Israelites said to the Holy One, 'When will you deliver us?' G-d answered, 'When you will have reached the lowest depths, at that moment I will redeem you.'
"The future redemption will also burst forth from the midst of darkness. At the very moment when every heart trembles at the point of despair, the glory of G-d will shine forth. And when will that moment be? In the month of Nisan, for G-d has appointed it as a time of redemption. Every misfortune which befalls Israel during this month is nothing else but an assurance that the deliverance is about to begin.
"When G-d chose the Jewish people as His nation He established for them a month of redemption, a month in which the Jewish people would be redeemed from Egypt, a month in which they are destined to be redeemed in the future."
May we merit the true and complete redemption of the entire world even before the beginning of the "Month of Redemption."
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
On's daughter gingerly placed one foot upon the path leading to the well, as if testing its firmness. Could it be that only yesterday, on this very spot, the earth had opened up its jaws and swallowed men, women, and children alive? As she approached the well, On's daughter thought back to the last time she had been there...
Although she and her mother had risen early that moniing, there were already many others before them. "Have you heard what Korach's been saying?" asked a tall, fair-skinned Levite woman. "He claims that Moshe is inventing his own conunandments."
A young bride from the tribe of Shimon nodded. "My husband said nothing could be sillier than some of the laws he has been taught. Take the laws of fringes, for instance. Must a man attach a blue fringe to his garment even when the garment itself is completely blue?"
"And what about the mezuza?" added the Levite woman. "Korach asked why a house full of Torah scrolls still needs the piece of parchment with the words of the Shema posted on its doorpost?"
On's wife tugged on her daughter's sleeve and pulled her away from the well. "That such nonsense should be spoken in this camp! Korach obviously wants to discredit Moshe and claim the high priesthood for himself. But if he is already mentioning the fringes, he should remember what they stand for.
"The numerical value of 'tzizit,' fringe, is 600, and each one contains 8 threads and 5 knots. That's 613 altogether, symbolizing the 613 commandments given to us as a nation. No one person was meant to do them all. G-d has created each one of us as a limb in the body of Israel. Do the eyes fight with the tongue over who should speak? Do the hands push aside the feet and try to walk? We must all be true to our G-d-given essence."
"But, Mother," the young girI asked, "what about the blue fringe?"
Her mother nodded. "Even if the entire tzizit is blue, the single fringe stands out and attracts attention. When we see the blue string it should remind us of the blue sea which a reflection of the blue skies. This lifts our thoughts to our Father in Heaven. The blue fringe's message is: 'Stop focusing on yourself. Put aside your petty desires. Turn your eyes upward, and let all your actions be for the sake of Heaven!"
As they continued walking, they saw a crowd gathering. They drew closer and heard voices shouting: "He makes himself king!" "And his brother the high priest!" "And don't forget his nephews ... they're the priests!"
They turned to go, but suddenly they heard a familiar voice in the crowd. In disbelief, they turned... Yes, there he was, among the rebels...
"Well, it's time, you knew," shrugged On. "I'll do as I see fit." On's daughter looked at her mother with concern. "I gave Korach my word. I swore to join their rebellion tomorrow when they go to burn the incense."
Mother and daughter glanced at each other in horror. "Burn the incense?" On's wife cried out, "Don't they know that only priests are permitted to do that?" The woman shook her head slowly. "These men are going to their deaths and you swore you'd go with them?"
On had turned deathly white. He nodded, but did not meet her eyes.
When On awoke the next morning, his wife was waiting for him with a large goblet of wine. "Have a drink," she urged. "Go back to sleep."
"Come," she motioned to her daughter. "Let's make sure your father is not disturbed today." She took a stool and sat at the entrance of the tent. Then she untied her kerchief and began to comb out her thick, black hair.
"Mother!" the young girl shrieked, "what are you doing?"
"I am saving your father's life. He has sworn to join the rebels when they call for him. But I shall make sure they never get near him. "
It was not long before one of Korach's messengers appeared to summon On. As he neared the tent, he caught sight of On's wife and clapped a hand over his eyes. How could he approach them with her hair exposed? And so he turned back.
Suddenly they heard a great ripping sound. The earth began to quake and then they saw Moshe running past. "Away, away!" he shouted. "Get away from the tent of Korach!"
And then it happened. The earth came alive and opened up its mighty lips. Entire families--their clothing, jewels, furniture, cattle ... all gulped down into the bowels of the deep. On's wife sat frozen ... her fingers still clutching the comb. From afar, the women's eyes fell upon a deep chasm pushing through the camp--and hurtling right towards them.
Suddenly the earth beneath their tent began to shift and crack open. Raising his head groggily, On peered over the side of his bed. Down, down went the endless chasm. On's wife gripped the edge of the bed. "Master of the Universe! " she cried out. "On has separated himself from Korach's rebellion. Spare his life and he shall never speak against Moshe again!"
With the eyes of a dead man, On gaped incredulously as his wife fought for his life. Her prayers were all that stood between him and annihilation. Slowly, the ground began to shift back, and the crevice closed.
Excerpted with permission from *No Greater Treasure,* Shoshana Lepon, Targum Press.
And G-d called to Moses (Lev. 1:1)
We learn about the various offerings and sacrifices to teach us that we must be willing to make sacrifices, both monetary and otherwise, to afford our children a proper Jewish education. Furthermore, a child's earliest and most precious years must be devoted to Torah study, without regard for later professional choices. For this reason, young children just beginning their Torah studies start with the book of Leviticus.
If any one of you bring an offering to G-d (Lev. 1:2)
Chasidic philosophy interprets this verse to mean that the personal offering each one of us brings to G-d must truly be "of us," from our innermost part. Yet a person might hesitate, thinking that a mere mortal can never bridge the gap between the finite and infinite. We must therefore remember that our relationship with G-d is, in actuality, dependent only on our initiative. Once that initiative is taken, nothing can stand in the way of communion between man and G-d.
(The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)
He shall kill it on the side of the altar, northward, before G-d (1:11)
The person bringing the offering must be willing to sacrifice his own wants and desires for a higher cause. The offering is only a symbol of our willingness for self-sacrifice. This is alluded to in the Hebrew word for "north," which is related to the word meaning "hidden." Even our hidden thoughts and feelings must be dedicated to G-dliness.