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It used to be a point of embarrassment, said in hushed tones. "Chapter 11." It meant you'd hit rock-bottom financially and needed the government to bail you out.
Today, saying you're in the midst of Chapter 11, however, can have significantly different connotations. For, with the topic of Moshiach being discussed on radio, TV, in newspapers, magazines and debated in seminars, workshops and gatherings all over the world, it's not surprising that people are quoting the foremost authority on the laws of Moshiach and the Messianic Era, Rabbi Moses Maimonides.
Maimonides (also known as the Rambam), 12th century scholar, philosopher, doctor and Jewish leader, is the virtually undisputed codifier of the laws regarding Moshiach and the Messianic Era. The final section of the Rambam's Mishne Torah is entitled "The Laws Concerning Kings." Chapters 11 and 12 of this section are called, "The Laws of King Moshiach."
Chapter 11: "In the future time, the King Moshiach will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will rebuild the [Beit Ha]Mikdash and gather in the dispersed remnant of Israel. Then, in his days, all the statutes will be reinstated as in former times. We will offer sacrifices and observe the Sabbatical and Jubilee years according to all their particulars set forth in the Torah.
"Whoever does not believe in him or does not await his coming, denies not only [the statements of] the other prophets, but also [those of] the Torah and of Moshe, our Teacher, for the Torah attests to his coming...
"One should not entertain the notion that the King Moshiach must work miracles and wonders, bring about new phenomena within the world, resurrect the dead, or perform other similar deeds. This is [definitely] not true...
"If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d;--we may, with assurance, consider him Moshiach.
"If he succeeds in the above, builds the [Beit Ha]Mikdash on its site, and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Moshiach.
"He will then perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written, 'I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose.'"
Nearly two years ago, the Rebbe said that by learning more about Moshiach and the imminent Redemption we actually hasten the Redemption. It's as simple as studying what Maimonides--as quoted above--and other great scholars wrote about the subject!
[Sichos in English is the translator of the passage above from the Mishne Torah. They would be happy to send you their whole catalogue of books, booklets and audio-tapes about Moshiach if you contact them at 788 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213. Call them at (718) 778-5436 or fax (718) 735-4139. To learn more about Moshiach and the Redemption you can also call the Moshiach Hotline at 1-800-MOSHIACH (718-2-MOSHIACH in New York) or the Moshiach Information Center at (718) 953-6168.]
And tell your friends what you've learned about "Chapter 11." Once they get over the initial shock, they'll be happy you did!
This week two Torah portions are read, Tazria and Metzora. Metzora deals with the various types of leprosy and the purification procedure one had to undergo after suffering that affliction. Yet on another level, leprosy signifies something deeper than just a skin condition or disorder.
Surprisingly enough, Moshiach is often referred to as a leper. The Talmud calls Moshiach a "leper," for "he suffers our burdens, and our maladies are his. He is therefore afflicted, stricken by G-d and tortured."
But Moshiach is considered a leper only during the exile, before the Final Redemption takes place. Although Moshiach exists in every generation, he is not yet in a revealed state, although his essence is whole and unchanged. He must therefore suffer the pain of the Jewish nation and bear the burdens of exile together with them.
But what is the nature of Moshiach's suffering? Leprosy, as pointed out by Chasidic philosophy, is a disease affecting only the "skin of his flesh." It is an illness which disfigures only the external layer, and does not involve internal organs or even the flesh itself. Leprosy therefore symbolizes a state in which a person's inner being remains unaffected, despite the outward manifestation of disease.
The leper represents a person whose inner self has already been purified and refined. All that remains is for the outermost shell, the husk, to be cleansed. In Moshiach's case, this outer layer consists of the Jewish people's collective infirmities.
This, then, is the condition in which we find ourselves today, on the threshold of the Messianic era. On the one hand, it appears as if we are still afflicted with many plagues, but in truth our afflictions are only external, for the essence of the Jewish people has been refined and cleansed by the long years of exile.
The laws of purification delineated in this week's portion also parallel the process of Moshiach's revelation and the purification the Jewish people must go through when he is revealed. Moshiach, too, impatiently awaits the day he will no longer suffer and G-d will bring the final Redemption, speedily in our day.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
by Goldie (Feld) Goldbloom
There was Sara and there was Laura.
My two problems on the horizon, proverbial blots in the copy-book of an otherwise good year. I honestly didn't know what to do with either one.
I was working two jobs; the morning as a kindergarten teacher, and the afternoon as a Jewish chaplain in a large, Australian hospital. My students were a motley crew, mainly from non-religious homes, mainly boys with a penchant for Batman. I had them pretty much in control when Laura arrived. Funny, I thought she was shy when I first saw her.
Big black eyes fringed with long lashes. Blink. A tear dropped out. Another. Crocodile tears for Mummy on the first day. She oozed around the cubbies and clung to her mother's leg. Mum gave her an impatient push and said, "Do grow up, Laura! Here's your lunch. That's Miss Feld. Call her 'Miss.'" Then she was off.
Laura took one look at Miss and gave a dreadful howl. Then she threw her lunch at me, and whilst I was dealing with a cheese and tomato sandwich gone soggy, she bit Randy on the cheek. I did say she was a blot.
I tried everything with that girl, but she was Trouble. Little monster, I loved her anyway. We had a Big Prize for trouble, and those who made it. I was dying to use it on her. A Polaroid instamatic. Just when Trouble was--let's say--helping the Janitor (i.e., giving the broom a whirl), Miss would snap her picture. Being good. And then we'd hang it up and say, "Oh look, there's Laura cleaning up!" A dirty trick, but it worked wonders.
At the Shabbat party, I took Laura's picture, lighting the candles. She looked very sweet.
It didn't help. On the weekend, she tried to repeat the performance, and her non-religious family assumed she was trying to burn down the house. On Monday, there was No More Laura. Apparently sent off to some other school where Miss didn't teach the kiddies to play with matches. (I really hadn't!)
At any rate, I forgot about Laura pretty quickly, since I discovered Sara.
She was about 80, I'd say. An old dear who had had a rather drastic stroke. She was left completely immobilized, and unable to speak. I liked her immediately, as is my way with older ladies. Of course, it was a bit hard to communicate with her.
Actually, I lie. It was impossible to communicate with her. She lay unmoving, a slow stream of grey drool inching out of her mouth, occasional stomach noises disrupting the unearthly quiet in her secluded room.
Oh yes, you could tell they thought she was going to die. She was stuffed in an awful, windowless room, as far away from the nurses' desk as it could be.
As a chaplain, I was supposed to brighten her day. It was a bit hard. I told funny stories. I brushed her hair. She just slipped further and further into Cotton Wool Land. A belch would surprise me, and I'd utter some inane comment on how cholent beans had risen in price by two cents. She wasn't interested.
I tried Russian. Yiddish? I threw in some Finnish and Italian to spice it up. How about Hebrew? No takers. I showed her my Shabbos candles, and she groaned.
Well, she groaned and squeezed my hand. It was like having a dead body suddenly ask for a cup of tea. I ran to tell the nurses, who told me kindly and sympathetically that I needed my head read, and NO! She could NOT light candles in her room.
Well, I had another good idea up my sleeve. I went home and made her a mobile of photographs of Shabbos candles. Some girls lighting them. Some shining nicely by themselves. And I hung it over her bed where she could see it.
Sara certainly loved that mobile. Her eyes wandered mistily over it and leaked poor old tears down her yellow face. I was so glad that I had done it for her. Even though she never acknowledged my presence in any way, those tears were her quiet thanks.
The next week, she wasn't there. The mobile spun lazily in the air from the vent, but one photo had been cut off. Laura lighting her Shabbos candles. I went to the nurses' station to find out what happened.
"Oh yeah," she chewed methodically, "That old biddy was real religious. Her daughter was more 'normal,' and said just feed her pureed whatever. Don't worry about kosher. Funny thing though. The old lady somehow grabbed that gizmo in there in the night, and was holding a picture of a little kid when she died. Gave her daughter a nasty turn. Couldn't figure out how she got a picture of her granddaughter lighting Jewish candles. Said she never did it. Ever."
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 Organ. For more info call (718) 953-1000.
SPRING COUPLES' WEEK
Spring Couples' Week at internationally reknowned Bais Chana Institute in S. Paul, Minnesota, runs from May 9-16. The week of "live and learn" Judaism includes: men's, women's and couples' classes, stimulating discussions on marriage and child rearing and sightseeing options. For more info contact Bais Chana at (612) 698-3858 or the NY office at (718) 756-2657.
A special experience for American boys ages 12-16 this summer is Camp Nifla-ot--"The camp that takes you to the wonders of the Holy Land for a summer you will never forget. The 25 adventure packed days include sightseeing, Hebrew Ulpan, hands-on Jewish workshops, and a sports program. For more information contact HOASCANIM at 25 Broadway, P.O. Box 249, NY, NY 10004 or call (718) 778-8329.
Machon Chana is expanding its Sunday Program with the class, Ethics of the Fathers For Today's Woman. It is customary to study "Ethics of the Fathers" each Shabbat afternoon from Passover through Rosh Hashana. For more info call Machon Chana at (718) 735-0217 or call your Chabad Center for a class in your area.
EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF CORRESPONDANCE
Excerpts of letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe to a young man from January, 1961-July, 1962
15th of Tevet, 5721
I received your letter of Rosh Chodesh Tevet, in which you ask for guidance in your efforts to spread Torah and mitzvot.
The best way to inspire others is by providing a living example, by pointing to many native-born young people, who are strict observers of Torah and mitzvot, and cannot be called "old-fashioned" by any means, who are leading a meaningful and happy life.
I suggest that you discuss the matter also with Rabbis..., who belong to this category and who have been in personal contact with American-born Jewish youth during their stay in this country.
Since many other young people look up to you for guidance and inspiration, it is unnecessary to add that your own conduct should be the best possible. While it is necessary to continue your efforts in a growing measure and with persistence, you should bear in mind that the ways of the Torah are the ways of pleasantness, and that the best way to influence others is through a pleasant, friendly and sincere approach, for we are assured that words coming from the heart penetrate the heart...
I hope that you know of, and observe, the learning of three daily portions of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya.
Lag B'Omer, 5721
You write that you have been invited to lecture to a youth group, and ask for some suggestions in this connection. You surely know my general principle, that the emphasis should be placed on action, in accordance with the teaching of our Sages, "The essential thing is the deed." This applies to every activity, including lectures, which must bring some practical benefit into the daily lives of the participants. The emphasis should be placed on the need for religious practice and experience in everyday life, and not to limit it to special occasions or special days, such as the High Holy days, Shabbos and holidays. For, the greater part of life has to do with the everyday, and it is the purpose of Jewish life to introduce sanctity, even into the weekdays and everyday contact with the secular environment.
As we are now in the days of Sefira, [the counting] which connects the Festival of Passover, the Season of Our Liberation, with the Festival of Shavuot, the Season of Our Receiving the Torah, we are especially reminded that true freedom can be accomplished only through the Torah and mitzvot, and on the principle that Naase ("we will do") precedes Nishma ("we will listen"), again emphasizing that the practice must come before the theory.
May G-d grant you success in your activities to strengthen and disseminate true Yiddishkeit to the utmost of your ability. This will surely be the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessings in your personal needs as well.
20th of Kislev, 5722
With regard to learning at the yeshiva, you are certainly right in thinking that "If not now, when?" especially at your age. Since this is a matter which affects and influences the rest of a person's life, it is clear that the time dedicated to yeshiva learning before entering the world, is surely a very good investment. It should by no means, be considered a loss of time, G-d forbid.
As for the matter of parnoso, [livelihood] surely parnoso is ultimately something which depends on G-d's benevolent Providence, and as we say in Grace Aftermeals: "Who feeds the whole world in His goodness, grace, kindness and mercy." Of course, it is necessary to prepare a vessel or channel for parnoso in the natural way, but before doing that it, is absolutely necessary to strengthen the foundations of one's future life. In a case like yours, there should be at least a year or two of exclusive study at the yeshiva.
3rd of Tammuz, 5722
I received your letter in which you ask for advice on two points. You write that it seems to you that you cannot concentrate during prayer as well as you used to, and also that you seem to experience a greater affinity for Nigleh [the "revealed" aspects of Torah] than Chasidut.
With regard to the first point, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at length that it is one of the well-tried tricks of the Yetzer [the evil inclination] to discourage and distract; in other words, it is an external thing, if it has any reality at all. It should therefore be recognized for what it is--a test and a challenge to be overcome by the very fact of being recognized as such.
There is an additional explanation in your case, as you have recently come into the Holy Land. It is expected of a Jew that his G-dly service is on a higher level when he lives in the Holy Land than before he sets foot on the sacred soil. If, however, he remains on the same level, then, even though it is hard to see it rationally, he has an inner feeling of dissatisfaction. But, be it as it may, there should be no place for discouragement, but a determination to advance in all matters of holiness, especially in the Holy Land.
As for your experiencing a greater affinity for Nigleh than Chasidut, this should be made use of not, G-d forbid, to reduce the study of Chasidut, but to increase the study of Nigleh. And since one mitzva leads to another, it will surely lead to an increase in Chasidut.
Rabbi Shmuel, who was known by the acronym the Rebbe Maharash was born on 2 Iyar, 1834 and passed away in 1882. He was the son and successor of the Tzemach Tzedek. He traveled extensively on communal matters, succeeding in several instances in nullyfying disasatrous governmental anti-Jewish decrees. He is known for his approach "L'chatchila Ariber
," to overcome obstacles by rising above them as if they didn't exist.
Our Sages speak not only about belief in Moshiach's coming, but also of the importance of anticipating and yearning for his arrival. Maimonides, in his Thirteen Principles of Faith, emphasizes, "If he tarries, wait for him." And, in fact, in the Ani Maamin prayer based on Maimonides' Thirteen Principles it says, "Even though he tarries, I await his coming every day."
At the outset of Maimonides' discussion on Moshiach in his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, he states: "Whoever does not believe in him, or does not await his coming, denies not only [the statements of] the other prophets, but also the Torah and of Moshe, our Teacher."
The Talmud even states that one of the questions a person is asked on the Day of Judgement is, "Did you yearn for the Redemption?"
Thus, it is clear, that every Jew is actually required to yearn for the coming of Moshiach in addition to believing in him.
Awaiting the Redemption facilitates the proper belief in Moshiach, as well. For, we are not only enjoined to believe in Moshiach's coming in general, or that Moshiach could come eventually, but to believe that he could come today. Thus, the concept of "to await" is appropriate because it shows that we believe not that he will arrive in some distant future, but here and now. True belief in Moshiach means believing that he can come today, and therefore awaiting his arrival today.
Yearning for the Redemption is also one of the principles that hastens the Redemption. The Midrash states that after the destruction of the Holy Temple, our forefather Isaac approached G-d and asked, "Master of the World! Why have you not returned the children?" G-d answered, "When there is a generation who yearns for My sovereignty, they will be redeemed immediately..."
Another Midrash states, "Even if the Jews have nothing in their hands [i.e. no other merits] but their hope, they can gain the Redemption in the merit of their hope."
As the Chofetz Chaim expressed it so beautifully, "We ask for the Redemption so many times in the course of our daily prayers. But requests alone are not enough. We must demand the Redemption, like a worker demands his salary."
The Sage, Rabbi Abba, had great love for his people and traveled around encouraging them to study the Holy Torah. One day he arrived in a small town where there were no Torah scholars. In fact, most of the townspeople there were ignorant. Rabbi Abba felt sorry for them and decided on a plan by which he could increase their Torah learning.
One morning he came into the local synagogue and made an announcement: "Whoever would like to have great wealth and be granted life in the next world should come and learn Torah with me!" He managed to stir up a lot of interest amongst the local people and many came to study with him. Through his kind demeanor and clear method of teaching he developed a circle of eager and steady Torah learners.
One day a new face showed up at the study session. It was an intelligent-looking young man who approached Rabbi Abba, saying: "I heard about your promise of riches if one studies Torah and I would like to begin my study so that I may be able to receive them."
"Very well," replied the rabbi. Of course, Rabbi Abba hadn't meant that his students would receive actual physical gold, but spiritual riches when they learned Torah. He was sure, though, that the young man would soon come to that conclusion himself when he had developed a true appreciation of Torah. "Who are you, what is your name?" the rabbi inquired.
"I live in this town and my name is Yosay," the young man answered.
"Well, Yosay, you are welcome to join our group. From this day on your name will be Yosay the Rich!" Yosay's face lit up when he heard these words, as visions of gold shone in his eyes. Yosay came to study with Rabbi Abba every morning without fail. He grasped the material easily and Rabbi Abba saw in this young man the potential for greatness.
One day Yosay wasn't his usual self. He sat listlessly looking out of the window throughout the entire study period. When it ended Rabbi Abba approached him and asked, "Yosay, my son, what is bothering you today? I missed your questions. Today you seem to be somewhere else."
"Rabbi, I have been studying diligently for weeks and yet I haven't received any of the riches you promised me," said Yosay in an accusatory tone. Rabbi Abba was saddened to hear him speak in such a fashion, for he had hoped that by now, Yosay would have begun to love Torah study for its own sake. Nevertheless, he didn't want to dissuade him from his learning and so he answered, "My son, you are doing very well. Just be patient and continue. I have no doubt that one day you will be rich."
After hearing his teacher's encouraging words Yosay felt better and continued to study as before, but Rabbi Abba was worried about him. Would he continue to study long enough to reach his great potential, or would he give up because of his expectation of receiving a material reward?
One afternoon as Rabbi Abba was sitting alone and poring over his parchments, a strange, well-dressed gentleman approached him. "Are you Rabbi Abba?" the man inquired. "Yes, how may I help you?"
"Rabbi, I have heard that you are a great scholar and I'm hoping that you will be able to help me. I am a very wealthy man, but I never had the opportunity to study Torah. Now I am very busy and I don't have the time or ability to begin studying at this late stage in my life. Therefore, I would like to pay someone else to learn in my place. Here, I have a solid gold goblet. It is worth a great deal of money, and I have eleven more cups just like this. I am willing to give a golden cup to whomever will 'sell' me a share in his Torah learning."
Rabbi Abba jumped at the offer. Losing not a moment he called Yosay over and introduced him to the wealthy gentleman. He explained the arrangement, and Yosay was, of course, more than happy to agree. Both parties were satisfied. Yosay devoted himself to his studies more and more diligently, until he could hardly tear himself away from the holy texts. He barely ever thought about the gold.
One evening, Rabbi Abba was alarmed to hear weeping coming from Yosay's corner of the study hall. "What happened? Why are you weeping?" he asked, fearing that his student had received bad news. "Rabbi, I can't stand it any more! I hate the thought that I am learning G-d's Torah for a monetary reward. At first, the money was my sole motivation, but now that I understand much more, I see that my actual reward is the knowledge itself. I have gained so much and feel a great difference in myself. Now I feel like a thief taking gold in return for my beloved spiritual labors. I was foolish to make a deal like this and I just wish I could get out of it."
Rabbi Abba's blinked back tears of joy, for he saw that his prize student had truly matured in his learning. His greed for riches had disappeared and been replaced with a genuine love of Torah. Rabbi Abba summoned the rich man and said, "You have reaped great rewards in Torah and mitzvot from your bargain with Yosay, but now it is time for you to share your wealth with another poor student. I will help you find a new partner. Meanwhile, know that you have succeeded greatly in this 'deal.'"
When Yosay heard what his rabbi and teacher had done for him, he couldn't contain his happiness. Yosay continued to study Torah for the rest of his long life and taught Torah to his children and grandchildren. He became known as "Yosay the Golden" because he had exchanged his rewards of gold for the study of Torah.
When a woman conceives and gives birth... (Lev. 12:2)
This Torah portion is immediately preceded by the words "to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten," to teach that keeping kosher has a direct effect upon the spirituality of future generations.
Giving birth to a child is compared by the Prophet Isaiah (66:8) to the Redemption. Just as birth takes place in a day, the Redemption can come and the Jewish nation be "reborn" in a moment.
The Torah portion is called Metzora--"Leper"--though it deals primarily with the purification process of an afflicted individual. This teaches us that the affliction was not only a punishment for slander, but to cause one to repent. Accordingly, the leprosy was actually part of the purification process, for once detected one was prompted to change.
And he shall slaughter the sheep in the place where the sin-offering and the burnt-offering are slaughtered (Lev. 14:13)
Even though the burnt-offering was of a much higher sanctity than the sin-offering, they were brought in the same place to avoid embarrassing penitents who might hesitate to publicly proclaim their transgressions; onlookers would not know which offering was being brought.
The Prophet Hoshea said, "And the children of Judah and Israel will gather together and appoint over themselves one leader and they will go up from the land." On this verse the Metzudat David comments, "One leader--this is the king Moshiach. And they will go up--from the countries of their exile they will go up to their land." Further, the Targum (the Aramaic translation of the Five Books) explains, "And they will appoint one leader from the House of David and then they will leave the place of their exile."