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You're expecting some guests.
You clean the bathroom, straighten out the books on the bookshelf, dust the furniture, and hide all the bits and pieces in your junk drawer and clutter closet. Everything looks fine from the outside.
And then, like a bolt of lightning, it hits you. How could you have forgotten that among the guests will be your mom, a neat nut if you ever saw one? Just doing the outside, surface stuff won't be enough?
So you start cleaning a little more seriously. You clean out the fridge, straighten up your bedroom (you were just planning on closing the door), and wash out the bathtub. Then run to get some of Mom's provisions: decaffeinated tea, bran flakes, and spring water.
"Next year in Jerusalem," "I believe with perfect faith," smashing a glass under the chupa.... At different moments in our lives, consciously or unconsciously, we have prayed for the Redemption.
Throughout our lives, the mitzvot we have done have helped to hasten the Redemption--the ultimate purpose for the creation of the world. Our mitzvot--those between ourselves and G-d and those between ourselves and our fellowmen--have been effecting spiritual changes in the world which will, eventually lead to the spiritual and physical perfection of the world in the Messianic Era.
What does all this have to do with guests and cleaning?
In our regular, day-to-day lives, we straighten a little, take the garbage out, load up the dishwasher, do the laundry. We listen to a friend's tale of woe, give a cont to a street person, visit a sick friend, drive the kids to Hebrew school.
At special times, when "guests" are coming, we clean a little more vigorously and straighten a bit more enthusiastically. We go to a seder, light a Chanuka menorah, hear the sounding of a shofar.
Then, there's now. Not just any guest is coming, a very close relative will be arriving soon. And special measures need to be taken. We know we need to clean the insides--the insides of our fridge and the inside of the tub. We go beyond the closed doors of our bedrooms and closets and straighten those up, too.
A special guest will be arriving soon, a close relative to every one of us--Moshiach. It should hit us like a bolt of lightning: We have to go out of our way to have in our house the "necessities" that this special guest would like to see there: mezuzot on our doors, Jewish books, a tzedaka box in a place of importance. And we have to try to live like the Redemption is already here by being kinder, more considerate, less competitive, more truthful.
This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, describes the apportionment of the Land of Israel. The Torah states, "Through the lot shall the land be divided." The Talmud notes that the process by which the lots were drawn was neither arbitrary nor random; the miraculous *Urim* and *Tumim*, in the breastplate of the High Priest, guided the outcome. Rashi explains that not only was the portion of the Holy Land to be given to each tribe written on the lot picked for that tribe, but the lot itself spoke and announced the result. In other words, the division of the soon-to-be conquered Land of Israel was determined by G-d Himself.
The inheritance of the physical portion of land is symbolic of the spiritual inheritance of every Jew with which he is enjoined to fulfill his individual mission in life. Just as each of the Twelve Tribes was given a specific portion of land to live in and cultivate, every Jew is allotted his own spiritual realm to perfect.
Although a person might think he is free to choose his own spiritual portion, following whichever path in the service of G-d that appeals to his nature, the Torah teaches that this is not a matter of free will or logic, but is ordained by G-d.
Every Jewish soul has its own particular inclinations and disinclinations; some mitzvot are easier to observe than others. The Talmud notes that many of our Sages were especially careful in their performance of one particular commandment. Although they certainly observed all 613 of the Torah's mitzvot, their performance of that one mitzva was especially praiseworthy. The exemplary observance of that one mitzva served as the conduit through which all other mitzvot flowed.
A person cannot choose his own spiritual bent; it is an integral part of his individual spiritual makeup. But how does one determine exactly which mitzvot are especially relevant to him? By objectively ascertaining those which he finds the hardest to do!
A person may safely assume that a given direction is his "inheritance" whenever the path seems strewn with obstacles and hindrances. In fact, the more important the mitzva, the harder the Evil Inclination tries to dissuade the person.
A lack of interest in a particular facet of Torah study or indifference to a certain mitzva indicates that it is precisely in these areas that special efforts must be made. In the merit of this effort, G-d grants the individual success in all other areas of his life as well.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
GOOD NEWS AMERICA
"Good new America. Moshiach is going to change the world--for good." This was the message painted on the five "Mitzva Tanks" that toured the U.S. and Canada this past spring.
What was the response of "America" to the parade of specially outfitted mobile homes, the 17 yeshiva students they housed, and the message that each individual's additional good deed would make the world a better place and help bring Moshiach?
"The reaction was very positive," says Montreal native Moshe Ezagui, part of the international crew of 25 students who manned the Mitzva Tanks. "Most of the people had never seen a Mitzva Tank before, though it's common on New York City streets. So, we had a lot of explaining to do. They wanted to know what the tank was, and, of course, what Moshiach means."
In the 30 states where the tanks stopped, they visited Russian Jewish Centers, JCCs, and the capital building. "We went everywhere and anywhere that the shaliach (Lubavitcher emissary) arranged for us to go," explained Moshe.
"Our goal was to touch everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike, and to tell them that more good deeds would help make this world a better world and bring Moshiach," said Moshe.
Did they push any particular "good deed" or mitzva? "No, we told them it could be any good deed. To children, we suggested it could be helping their parents at home, or being nicer to their friends. But we encouraged them to think of their own good deed that they wanted to do. Teachers told us that they were surprised at the seriousness with which children approached the decision and at the interest the children showed. Jewish men, of course, we encouraged to put on tefilin while they were visiting the tank, and to women, we have Shabbat candle-lighting brochures. For non-Jews, we had information about the Seven Noachide Laws. The parade was for everyone and we had information that was suitable to the whole spectrum of Americans."
One of the most interesting questions Moshe remembers being asked was by a little boy in Florida. "Could President Clinton be Moshiach?" asked the youngster. "After all, he's trying to change the world for good." Moshe patiently explained that Jewish law tells us what qualifications a person must have to be Moshiach, including that he is a descendant of King David, does many, many mitzvot and knows and learns a lot of Torah. "I told him that I'm sure President Clinton is doing a lot to make the world a better place, but that he doesn't really fit the other requirements," said Moshe with a smile.
It took the yeshiva students--who received special permission to interrupt their studies for the five weeks of the parade itself --about one and a half months to prepare for the project.
Any idea how many people the parade actually touched? Moshe thought for a moment. "On one day in Chicago we spoke to 600 kids. There were 5 tanks doing the same thing and we met groups seven days a week--for Shabbat the shaliach usually made arrangements for us to speak in local shuls. I can't give you exact numbers, but that gives you an idea."
Cleveland, Texas, Chicago and Florida stick out in Moshe's mind as places where there was a "great response." "In bigger cities we covered more ground and spoke to more people. In the smaller towns people had never even heard about Moshiach and they were excited about the information. They were both exhilarating for us."
To prove his point, Moshe mentioned, "We were busy until very, very late every night [most evenings they slept in the beds in the Mitzvah Tanks] and were up well before 7 a.m. each morning to clean up and be ready for the radio, TV, and newspaper reporters who often came to speak with us by 7 o'clock."
The parade was inspired by the Rebbe's message to tell the world that the time of the Redemption has arrived and to do additional good deeds to prepare ourselves and the world. "The Rebbe gave his blessing for the parade and was very happy with the reports we sent in while we were away," said Moshe.
Moshe leafed through the pictures of the trip. There were photographs of children inside the tank (he and the four other yeshiva students in his group dealt primarily with children), highway signs welcoming them to various states, photographs of them doing what they dubbed "the chasidishe dance" that newspaper photographers always requested, with government officials speaking to groups inside Chabad Houses, JJCs, shuls and Jewish schools. Then he explained his own, very personal reason for wanting to be a part of this historic Moshiach Mitzvah Tank Parade. "I wanted to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears how America is reacting to Moshiach. People were thrilled to meet us. They didn't think the concept of Moshiach is crazy. They were willing, even eager, to listen. This was the response throughout all of America. And people were pleased and excited to do something concrete in their own lives to bring Moshiach.
During the three-week period preceding the Ninth of Ave--the day on which we commemorate the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem--the Rebbe has initiated a practice to study various topics relating to the First and Second Temples and also the Third Holy Temple, may it be built very soon. The texts for this study, many of which are currently available in English, include the Mishna tractate of *Midot*, Maimonides' "Laws of the Chosen House" -*Hilchot Beit HaBechira*, and the "Book Of Ezekiel" (Yechezkel), the Artscroll version of which is highly recommended. A series of booklets, soon to be published as a book, entitled, "Seek Out The Welfare of Jerusalem," is available from Sichos In English, 778 Eastern Pkway, Bklyn, NY 11213 or call (718) 778-5436. For classes on the topic contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
TRADITIONAL JEWISH CRAFTS
Wheat grinding and matza baking, shofar crafting, tying tzitzit and Shabbat candle making, are amongst the traditional crafts of the Jewish people. Jewish Children International/Tzivos Hashem, the international organization uniting all Jewish children, will send craftsmen to your school, camp organization. For more info, call (718) 467-6630.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MOSHIACH
Call weekly 1-800-4-MOSHIACH in the U.S. (718-2-MOSHIACH in NY), 1-800-2-MASHIACH in Canada. Or for more extensive options, call (718) 953-6168.
PROBE AND INQUIRE
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
26th of Tammuz, 5733
I was pleased to receive your letter of 18th of Tammuz, fol-lowing our conversation when you visited here. May G-d grant that just as your letter included good news, so should you be able to continue reporting good news in the same vein and in a growing measure.
You mention that you had some questions and doubts. Of course, one must not feel any shame in asking for clarification, and certainly one should not keep any doubts within oneself, but should seek answers. However, there is only one condition: Whatever the questions and doubts may be, this must not affect a person's simple faith in G-d and in His Torah and mitzvot, even if the answers have temporarily eluded him. This condition goes back to the day when the Torah was received at Sinai on the principle of "naaseh" [we will do], before "v'nishmah" [we will understand], the guiding principle for all posterity. The "naaseh," the doing, follows "v'nishmah," the understanding, for G-d, the essence of goodness, desires us to follow the path of Truth on the basis of faith, and then to follow it up with knowledge and understanding. For only then is the whole person involved in serving G-d to the fullest capacity.
One must always bear in mind, however, the limitations of the human intellect in general, and particularly in relation to the area of G-dliness, which is essentially beyond human comprehension. By way of analogy, even within the realm of human intellectual achievement, a small child cannot possibly comprehend an advanced mathematical or scientific formula conceived of by a great professor, although the latter was a small child at one time, and the former could one day even surpass the intellectual prowess of the professor. The relationship between the human mind and the Divine mind is quite different, for it is a difference not in degree, but in kind. It is the difference between a created being and its Creator. Therefore, the Torah and mitzvot, which are G-d's Wisdom and Will, can at best be comprehended in only a limited fashion. A person is welcome to inquire and probe to the extent of his capacity, but, as above, he must not lose sight of the basic condition of doing and then learning in order to understand.
What has been said above is especially pertinent in the present Three Weeks, which commemorate the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and our Exile. For, as we say in prayer: "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land." Hence, every one of us must do our utmost to rectify and reverse the cause of our Exile by studying more Torah and doing more mitzvot, and spreading them throughout the environment. Thus we hasten the reversal of the effect of the sins, and bring about the fulfillment of the Divine prophecy that these days shall be converted into days of joy and gladness, with our true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
Herod, who became the ruler of Judea, was the eldest son of Antipater, a descendant of slaves of the Hasmonian kings. A cruel and bloody tyrant, his rule lasted from 3725-3757 (36-4 BCE), and wreaked an unprecedented suffering upon the Jewish people. He destroyed the royal house of the Hasmonians, murdering even his wife, Mariamne. In penance for the murder of most of the Jewish Sages he built the magnificent reconstruction of the Second Holy Temple, which was described thus, "He who did not see Herod's building has never in his life seen a truly grand building."
This past Tuesday, on the 17th of Tammuz, we commemorated the beginning of the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem. For, it was on the 17th of Tammuz that the fortified walls surrounding Jerusalem were breached and began to crack and crumble.
The famous Song of Songs by King Solomon is a song of devotion and commitment between the Jewish people and G-d. One of the verses in it reads, "Here he is standing behind our wall, looking out the window, peering through the lattice." This verse describes how close G-d is to the Jewish people.
On this verse, the Rebbe explained:" "In our generation we see and feel that Moshiach is 'standing behind our wall.' Even more so, the wall is not solid, for it already has windows and lattices. Moshiach is looking out the window and peering through the lattice. He is looking out and waiting; when will we finish the last few things that we have to do here in exile?
"If we do not see Moshiach, it is because it is our wall concealing and hiding Moshiach from us."
The cracking and crumbling of a wall, like the wall surrounding Jerusalem, however, need not be totally negative, especially when the wall is specifically the one concealing Moshiach. A few years ago, the Rebbe discussed the above verse once again and added: "The Righteous Moshiach is on the other side of the wall, a wall which is already cracked and crumbling. And through the windows and lattices thus created, he is looking and peering out at us. It is understood that a glance from Moshiach gives one the personal strength necessary to complete the preparations required of him to be ready to welcome Moshiach."
May the wall, lattice, curtain, or whatever it may be surrounding Moshiach, continue to crack and crumble until we very soon merit the complete revelation of Moshiach to the entire world.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
While the Holy Temple stood, G-d gave the Jews a way to purify themselves from even the grossest impurity, and that was through sprinkling upon them the ashes of a red heifer. But finding such a cow was no easy matter. First of all, it had to be completely red, with not even the slightest admixture of another color.
Secondly, it had to be a cow which had never borne a yoke on its neck, that is, a cow which had not yet been used for any work. Such a heifer was rare, and, therefore, every valuable, and the Sages would go to great lengths to procure one.
So, when the Sages heard that a red heifer was owned by a certain gentile, they travelled to seen him and to examine the heifer. Upon close examination, they saw that the cow was completely kosher and they offered to buy it. "We would like to buy this cow from you and we will gladly meet your price. How much do you want?"
The gentile was very agreeable and answered, "If you pay what I'm asking, I will sell it to you." The man realized that this was his chance to make a good profit. He said, "I'm asking three, no, four gold coins."
Although the price was high, the Sages didn't haggle. They agreed at once, saying only that they had to return home for the rest of the money.
When they left, the gentile began to think: Why did the Jews want this particular cow? What was so special about it? And if something was so special about this cow, perhaps he should have asked a higher price. He thought and thought, until he remembered that the Jews needed a red calf for their Temple. He decided to renegotiate when they came back.
The rabbis returned shortly, expecting to make the purchase and return home, but the gentile refused to sell the animal! He demanded a much higher price--a thousand gold coins! The rabbis were shocked,but acquiesced and returned home to get the enormous sum of money required.
The gentile, however, wasn't satisfied. Now he decided to have one up on them. He would put a yoke on the cow's back--why, they would never know and he would get the money anyway! What he didn't know was that there were two signs distinguishing a cow that has never worked from a cow which has borne a yoke: there are two hairs on a cow's neck that stand up straight before a yoke is placed upon it and a cow's eyes look straight ahead. Afterward, its eyes tend to cross and look to the side.
The Sages returned, money in hand, ready to bring the precious heifer back to Jerusalem with them. They examined it for a final time, but they couldn't believe their eyes! The telltale hairs on the heifer's back were now flat and crooked. They checked the heifer's eyes, and they were crossed and gazed to the side. They understood that they'd been duped. The cow that had been priceless in value was now worthless.
Meanwhile, the gentile, never suspecting a problem, was impatiently waiting to receive his money. His mouth dropped open when he heard the words: "We have no use for your cow now, since by putting a yoke in it, you have made it invalid for use in our Holy Temple. We will have to look further for a red heifer." With those words, the rabbis turned and sadly made their way back to Jerusalem without the coveted cow?
The gentiles was shocked by what had occurred. He had thought to play a joke on the Jews, but he had never dreamed that he would be the one to suffer. His opinion of the Jewish Sages changed to one of respect and admiration. How had these holy men been able to discern any difference in the heifer? The man suffered from his great disappointment to such an extent that his health suffered and he was never the same again.
"All Israel have a share in the World to Come" (Intro to Ethics of the Fathers)
In Hebrew, the verse literally says, "All Israel, they have a share in the World to Come." The plural is used to indicate that it is only because of their brotherhood and unity that the Jewish people is deserving of reward. According to Maimonides, a person who is otherwise totally scrupulous in religious observance but separates himself from the Jewish community is not worthy of a portion of the World to Come.
(*Blossoms*, Rabbi Yisroel Rubin)
"Moses received the Torah from Sinai" (Ethics, 1:1).
Why doesn't the verse say, "Moses received the Torah from G-d"?
Just as the Jews received the Torah at Sinai with awe and reverence, so too must all Torah study be approached with the same respect. Furthermore, the Torah in its entirety was revealed at Sinai, including those commandments which G-d had previous given the Jewish people. All mitzvot are done solely by virtue of their being given at Sinai.
(*Biurim L'Pirkei Avot*)
"And passed it on to Joshua" (Ethics, 1:1).
Just as Moses passed on to Joshua the complete body of Torah knowledge, so too must we impart the entire Torah to future generations. Because all Jews inherit the Torah from Moses, as it states, "The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob," we must likewise emulate his actions as well.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita)
"Whoever engages in excessive talk brings on sin" (Ethics, 1:17).
Rabbi Abraham Yaakov Sadigorer used to say: "The train was invented to teach us that every minute in life is important; a person may miss the train if he arrives even one minute late. The telegraph was invented to teach us that our every word is precious, numbered and accounted for. And from the telephone we learn that everything that is said is also heard..."
(*Fun Unzer Alten Otzar*).
We must anticipate that G-d will hasten the redemption by some strategy or other, whether by virtue of the tremendous anguish we have suffered, or by some other means. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning of "...in its time, I will hasten it"--that is, G-d will hasten the period of "in its time" itself.
(From *Shem Olam* by the Chofetz Chaim.)