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We hear stories now and then about a person who gets a tremendous inheritance from a long-lost aunt that he/she didn't even know existed. (Or does it only happen in the fairy tales?)
Now, imagine YOU are THAT person and it isn't a fairy tale. How would you feel?
Many Jewish children know the Biblical verse, "Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe... The Torah that was commanded to us by Moses is an inheritance for the Jewish people."
If it doesn't sound familiar, think back to your childhood when, in Sunday school, you sang the song, "Torah, Torah, Torah. Torah, Torah, Torah. Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe... " (Maybe you learned it for your first grade consecration ceremony and held one of those little paper Torahs in the satin wrapping as you sang. Is it coming back to you now?)
The Torah and its vast wealth of teachings is every Jews' inheritance.
We didn't inherit it from a long-lost aunt, but from G-d Who handed it over to us through Moses.
It is something to be cherished, valued, prized, appreciated, and most importantly studied and lived by.
In this inheritance we find an interesting custom.
During the weeks between Passover and Shavuot -- and in many communities up until Rosh Hashana -- it is customary to read a chapter of Ethics of Our Fathers each Shabbat afternoon.
This week we read the first chapter.
We precede this study with the teaching from the Talmud, "Every Jew has a share in the World to Come, as it says, 'My people are all righteous...' "
Another inheritance! A share in the World to Come. Jews really are rich! We have so many inheritances.
We inherit the World to Come because we are all righteous.
Every single Jew is righteous!
In the most sacrosanct core of our soul there is an aspect of the Divine spark which is inviolable. It is totally righteous. And because of this pure righteousness, we inherit the World to Come.
But an inheritance is not good unless you use it, or at least invest it for the future.
The Torah is used by studying it. It is invested by teaching it to our children, our future.
Our soul is used by doing mitzvot (one of which is studying Torah). But this inheritance never runs out, therefore, we don't have to invest it or wait until some future date (when I'm old and have time I'll do more...) because it is eternal and everlasting.
Let's start appreciating how truly wealthy we are.
"And it came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel," begins this week's Torah portion, Shemini.
"Moses said: This is the thing that G-d has commanded you to do; and the glory of G-d will appear to you."
G-d's command was to build the Sanctuary.
The Children of Israel, under the guidance of Moses, Aaron and his sons, were busy for seven days making all the preparations that were necessary for its erection. It was in the merit of these seven days of training for the service of the Sanctuary that the Jewish people were worthy of G-d's presence descending on the eighth day, when the Sanctuary was actually built and the Divine Presence began to dwell within it.
What lesson can we derive from the fact that G-d's presence was revealed on the eighth day, after seven days of intense preparation?
Chasidic philosophy explains that the number seven is symbolic of the world as it exists in nature, subservient to natural law and order.
An example of this is the seven days of the week, which represent a whole and complete cycle. The number eight, on the other hand, represents a deviation from this natural order, and thus symbolizes that which is supernatural.
The numbers seven and eight are also significant when speaking about G-d:
Seven represents the type of G-dliness that is contained within the physical world and hidden within the laws of nature;
Eight alludes to G-d's supernatural and miraculous intervention in daily affairs.
Yet even that G-dly light which exists on a level above the limitations of nature is not totally disassociated from physical existence. On the contrary, the number eight is only reached after the number seven is attained.
Applying this principle to ourselves, we see that even though a Jew's service to G-d may be limited by the confines and constraints of circumstance, when he tries with all his heart to go beyond these limitations he is rewarded with an infusion of holiness that can only be granted from Above.
Accordingly, the seven days of preparation served to pave the way and ready the Sanctuary for G-d's holy presence to descend on the eighth day.
This principle holds special significance for us today, for even though we stand on the threshold of the Messianic Era, we are still bound by the constraints of the exile until Moshiach is actually revealed.
We must therefore bear in mind that our service now actively prepares the world for the Final Redemption and the open revelation of G-dliness that will prevail.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Excerpts of the eulogy delivered by Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht at the funeral of Aaron Yosef Halberstam, Mar. 6, 1994.
Yesterday, when the Torah scroll was read at Lubavitch World Headquarters, a defect was found in the Torah. The word, "echad," oneness, or unity, was written defective.
Someone commented that the letters of the word "echad" comprise the initial letters of the names of the members of the Halberstam family, Aaron, the son, and the parents -- Chesed and Devorah.
The unity of this family has now been shattered by a terrorist's bullet. Our Sages tell us every Jew is a letter in a Sefer Torah.
When the life of one family is devastated, the entire Torah is affected; the life of the entire Jewish people is shattered.
Our Sages explain that when a father and mother teach their child to walk, the parents back away a few steps from the child. Their intention is to allow the child to take those tentative first steps, even though sometimes the child may fall and be hurt. Nevertheless, in this way the child becomes stronger.
So, too, there are times when it may appear to us that G-d seems to forget the righteous and they are inexplicably caused to suffer. But truly, this is only as a father steps back from his child so that he will be able to grow stronger and rise higher.
...This child learned "Alef-Bais" on the knees of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, may he be well and have a complete recovery. This child was beloved to the Lubavitcher Rebbetzin, of blessed memory, for so many years; this child who devoted himself to his studies and memorized so many chapters and verses of the Talmud and the Tanya; this humble and unassuming boy who excelled in everything from athletics to rabbinics, this child who was a firstborn to his parents and was a beloved brother, child and grandchild... this child was taken from our midst. Who will fill his place in the yeshiva? Who will take his place at the Shabbos table?
Heavenly Father, Master of the universe, how much more suffering? How many more sacrifices? My dear friends, I urge you to call out from the depths of your hearts and cry out to the Alm-ghty, Ad Mosai! How much longer? Enough exile! Enough suffering! Enough sacrifices! Send the Redeemer now. Bring us the Redemption.
Excerpts of remarks by Devorah Halberstam, mother of Ari, at a press conference on March 15, 1994.
I have just gotten up from shiva, the seven days of mourning for my firstborn son, and I am still in mourning. I don't know how any mother or parent can recover from having a son torn away in the flower of his youth -- especially a son as beautiful, as innocent, as beloved by everyone, and as perfect as my Ari.
As Ari's mother I now have certain responsibilities, and a few important points to communicate to my fellow Jews, and to the world as a whole.
First and foremost, I want it to be clearly understood by everyone that Ari was murdered purely and simply because he was a Jew. He was martyred, and his death was "al kiddush Hashem" -- sanctifying the name of G-d.
The bullet of terror found my son because he was obviously identifiable as a Jew, because he was proud of his heritage, and because he was engaged in an act of kindness.
The kind of people who gunned Ari down would just as soon gun down a Jew in Great Neck or on Park Avenue, or even someone who has no other connection to Judaism than the fact the he or she is called by the name of "Jew." When it comes to anti-semitism, no one is safe. All Jews are chasidim, whether you like it or not.
The murderer of my son did not know or care who he was shooting at, only that they were Jews.
It could have been anyone.
Anyone of us.
Anyone of our children, Heaven Forbid.
But it was not. It was Ari. He took it for all of us. I mean that very literally. And if a person saves your live, don't you owe him something?
My son was killed while doing an act of kindness. It was not an isolated act. Ari used to dedicate hours of his free time very week, on Friday afternoon, for community service. In order that his memory be perpetuated, I intend to call on the mayor and the governor, and ask them to propose legislation encouraging students in all schools to spend at least one hour a week doing acts of kindness, reaching out to those less fortunate, just like Ari did, in order to make the world a better and kinder place.
...Finally, I want to ask everyone, Jew and non-Jew, to pray for the beloved Rebbe. Ari's last act in life was a mission of prayer for the Rebbe's recovery. His last words, upon hearing that the Rebbe had successfully undergone eye surgery on that fateful morning, were, "Now I'm happy!"
I ask all of you to pray for the Rebbe by giving charity on his behalf, even if only a penny, regardless of what needy individual or worthy cause you choose. Only please be conscious that your charity is an act of prayer for the well-being of the one man who has been an unwavering beacon of light, hope and inspiration to the entire world for so many years -- and who has dedicated his entire life to bringing about the Redemption of the Jewish people from Exile, with the coming of our long-awaited and righteous Moshiach, may it be very soon.
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON JEWISH MEDICAL ETHICS
A Medical Ethics Conference will take place during the weekend of April 29-May 1 featuring doctors Abraham Abraham of Jerusalem, Fred Rosner of New York and Immanuel Schochet of Toronto. The conference, sponsored by the Lubavitch Youth Org. and State University at Downstate is certified for 16 CME credits. For more information call (718) 953-1000.
TORAH SCROLL FOR MOSHIACH
A completion ceremony for a special Torah scroll written for the immediate recovery of the Rebbe and the revelation of Moshiach took place on Sunday, March 20, in Stuyvesant Park across from Beth Israel Hospital.
As part of the ceremony, which included inscribing the final letters in the Torah, prayers for the Rebbe's recovery and the redemption took place. When the Torah was completed it was brought up to the Rebbe in his hospital room.
In honor of the Rebbe's birthday, 93 women will join in a day of study of Chasidic philosophy, dedicated to the immediate recovery of the Rebbe and the complete Redemption.
There will be interesting workshops and classes designed to appeal to women with little or no background. The program will be held at Machon Chana, 825 Eastern Pkwy. For more information call (718) 735-0217 or (718) 493-2859.
From a Letter by the Rebbe Shlita
23 Shevat, 5744 (1984)
WHY DID G-D PERMIT THE HOLOCAUST?
This is in reply to your letter of January 23, 1984, in which you write that you were born in a DP camp in Germany, a child of parents who survived the Holocaust, and you ask why G-d permitted the Holocaust to take place, etc.
No doubt you know that there is substantial literature dealing with this terrible tragedy, and a letter is hardly the medium to deal adequately with the question.
However, since you have written to me, I must give you some answer. Hence, the following thoughts.
Jews -- including you and me -- are "believers, the children of believers," our Sages declare.
Deep in one's heart every Jew believes there is a G-d Who is the Creator and Master of the world, and that the world has a purpose.
Any thinking person who contemplates the solar system, for example, or the complexities of an atom, must come to the conclusion and conviction that our universe did not come about by some "freak accident." Wherever you turn, you see design and purpose.
It follows that a human being "also" has a purpose, certainly where millions of human beings are concerned.
Since the Creator created the world with a purpose, it is also logical to assume that He wished the purpose to be realized, and therefore, would reveal to the only "creature" on earth who has an intelligence to understand such matters, namely, humankind, what this purpose is, and how to go about realizing it.
This, indeed, is the ultimate purpose of every human being, namely, to do his or her share in the realization of the Divine design and purpose of Creation.
It is also common sense that without such Divine revelation, a human being would not, of his own accord, have known what exactly is that purpose and how to achieve it, any more than a miniscule part or component in a highly complex system could comprehend the whole system, much less the creator of the system.
The illustration often given in this connection is the case of an infant, whose lack of ability to understand an intricate theory of a mature scientist, would not surprise anyone, although both the infant and the scientist are created beings, and the difference between them is only relative, in terms of age and knowledge, etc.
Indeed, it is possible that the infant may some day surpass the scientist in knowledge and insight. Should it, then, be surprising that a created human being cannot understand the ways of the Creator?
It is also understandable that since every person has a G-d-given purpose in life, he or she is provided with the capacity to carry out that purpose fully.
A further important point to remember is that since G-d created everything with a purpose, there is nothing lacking or superfluous in the world. This includes also the human capacity.
It follows that a person's capacity in terms of knowledge, time, energy, etc., must fully be applied to carrying out his, or her, purpose in life.
If any of these resources is diverted to something that is extraneous to carrying out the Divine purpose, It would not only be misused and wasteful, but would detract to that extent from the real purpose.
(to be continued)
Count Valentin Potocki (d. 1749),
He was known as Abraham ben Abraham, was the scion of one of the wealthiest families in Poland.
An intelligent young man, his search for truth led him to Judaism.
Eventually, he abandoned his high aristocratic position, and became a Jew. He settled down near Vilna. He was betrayed to the Polish authorities and was arrested for the crime of having converted to Judaism.
The greatest of the Polish aristocracy begged him to renounce his faith and save his life, but he refused, choosing to die as a martyr, with G-d's name on his lips.
His grave was a place of pilgrimage for many years.
"I will thank You, G-d, for You were angry with me."
These words from Isaiah are quoted by the Rebbe in a letter written in 1956.
In the letter, the Rebbe states that from the time he was a small boy in cheder, he envisioned a Messianic Era which would explain all of the terrible suffering of exile. It will be a redemption and revelation of G-dliness so powerful and unprecedented that we will actually thank G-d for all of the suffering, for we will understand clearly -- for the first-time -- the benefit of our suffering.
We now find ourselves at the climax and pinnacle of the history of humankind. We are standing, quite literally, on the threshold of the Redemption. As the Rebbe has said, we need only to open the door for Moshiach and he will enter.
The suffering of the Jewish people and Moshiach has all been foretold by our prophets and sages. That this suffering has now been fulfilled gives us even more certainty that the revelation of Moshiach and the commencement of the Messianic Era is literally only moments away.
We must be confident and even joyous that the long-awaited exile has finally come to an end and we will shortly be together in the Holy Land. But, how can we suggest confidence and joyousness in light of the current situation?
By taking a lesson from our Sages.
Rabbi Akiva, with his contemporaries, was visiting the ruins of the Holy Temple. Amidst the desolation and destruction, the Sages saw a fox walking in the ruins. The other sages wept at this sight, but Rabbi Akiva laughed.
"Akiva, how can you laugh when you see the Holy Temple in ruins?" they asked him.
"I laugh because I know that just as the prophecies of the destruction of the Temple have come true, so, too, will the prophecies of its rebuilding."
The sages told him, "Akiva, you have comforted us."
Just as all of the prophecies of Moshiach's suffering have already been fulfilled, we are certain and rejoice in the knowledge that G-d will very soon fulfill His promise and our prophets' prophecies about Moshiach being healed and leading us to the Holy Land and the Final Redemption.
The Torah portion of Shemini begins with the most sublime and elevated service on the eighth day of preparation for the Tabernacle, and ends with the prohibition against eating crawling insects, something which goes against human nature.
From this we learn that even one who stands on the highest level of spirituality and observance is not protected against spiritual downfall, G-d forbid, and must serve G-d with the same measure of acceptance of the yoke of heaven as others.
And G-d spoke to Aaron, saying: Wine or strong drink you shall not drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the Sanctuary of Meeting
The service in the Holy Temple was performed according to a certain schedule whereby each individual kohen knew in advance when he was due to serve.
The kohen was forbidden to imbibe either wine or liquor just prior to this time so that his mind would be clear when he performed the holy service.
This applies today as well, for we eagerly anticipate the re-establishment of the Holy Temple at any moment, at which time the kohanim will be required to commence their service immediately.
According to Jewish law, intoxication may be dissipated in one of two ways -- either by going to sleep, or by waiting for a period of 18-24 minutes to elapse.
This proves that Moshiach may arrive and the Holy Temple may be rebuilt in less than 24 minutes!
But these you shall not eat...the rabbit...the hare...and the pig...it is unclean to you (Leviticus 11:4-8)
Although now it is forbidden for a Jew to eat non-kosher animals, at a certain stage in the Messianic Era they will be purified of their uncleanliness and become permissible.
The only exception to this is the pig -- "chazir" in Hebrew -- which will be allowed immediately after Moshiach is revealed.
This is alluded to in its name, as our Sages said: "Why is it called 'chazir'? Because G-d will one day restore it to Israel."
(The root of the Hebrew word for "pig" is identical to the one meaning "restore.")
Our rabbis teach that thought serves as a catalyst, bringing about positive effects.
When people start thinking about the Redemption as the purpose of their lives -- hopefully before they have time for extended contemplation -- Moshiach will arrive.
(From Dawn to Daylight, by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger)