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It Happened Once | Moshiach Matters
It's an old story.
A poor beggar goes from house to house collecting alms for his impoverished family. Knocking on the door of one glorious home, he is greeted graciously, given some money, and encouraged to join the family for supper.
At dinner, other beggars and wayfarers sup at the wealthy family's expansive table.
For each course, from appetizers to dessert, the host rings a crystal bell and waiters appear with delectable delights. Our beggar is totally amazed that simply by jingling a small bell, such lavish results can be achieved.
At the end of the meal the host offers the guests anything they want from amongst all of his many possessions. Our poor beggar asks for the wonderful crystal bell.
Arriving home, the beggar asks his wife to set their tiny table.
"But we have no food to eat. I was waiting for you to return before I went to the market to buy some beets and potatoes."
"Just set the table, my dear. And leave all the rest to me," said the beggar confidently. "I have a surprise for you."
So the wife dutifully set the table and seated herself and all of the children around it.
Our beggar sat down and slowly and carefully unwrapped the crystal bell which had been secreted in a rag in his pocket.
Boldly, he rang the bell and waited. Nothing happened.
He rang the bell again and waited.
Again nothing happened.
He continued ringing ringing, until he was afraid that the crystal bell would break.
"What are you doing?" his wife asked him.
The husband proceeded to describe what had happened in the wealthy man's house and how each time the bell was rung luscious food was served.
"My dear husband," the woman said patiently, "the bell works only for those who have labored in advance so that they have something to serve. Your wealthy host worked hard to earn the money to hire workers who purchase and prepare the food. It is only after a tremendous amount of energy is invested that there such an amazing result is achieved. Nothing comes without toil."
It's comparable to young children who, accustomed to seeing their parents write out checks, or withdraw money from a cash machine are told by their parents, "We don't have any money right now."
"Well, just take money out of the bank," is the inevitable and childishly logical retort of the naive youngster.
The parent patiently explains, "You can't take money out unless you first put money in. You can't withdraw money unless there is money in the bank."
Nothing comes without toil; you can't take something out unless you put it in first.
What is true for a lavish meal or money is certainly true of Judaism.
If we want our children to appreciate and value their Jewish traditions, we have to work assiduously at developing that appreciation by surrounding them with Jewish traditions.
If we want to feel close to our Creator, we have to enhance our relationship with G-d through prayer and mitzvot.
If we want to better understand our purpose in life as individuals and as a people, we have to study Torah and Jewish philosophy.
We have to put effort in if we want to get something back. As the Talmud teaches, "According to the labor is the reward."
From a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Shabbos Parshas Tazria-5751
Both of this week's two Torah portions, Tazria and Metzora, detail the special laws which governed the plague of leprosy, an affliction whose root cause was spiritual and bears no resemblance to the modern disease of the same name.
This leprosy altered the skin of the suffering individual, causing a radical change in the appearance of the affected area.
It is therefore, surprising that the Talmud refers to Moshiach as suffering from this affliction. "What is Moshiach's name?" the Gemara asks. "Chivra (Aramaic for 'Leper') is his name," the Gemara concludes.
How can King Moshiach, a person of flesh and blood, who stands head and shoulders above all other Jews by virtue of his spiritual perfection, be referred to as a leper?
Moshiach will be distinguished not only by his vast wisdom, but also by his prophetic powers.
We must therefore, conclude that the term "leper" contains a deeper significance, one which will shed light on its inner meaning.
Leprosy is an external disease, one which affects only the outer skin of the sufferer.
The internal organs of the leper remain healthy and unaffected, as does the flesh itself. Only the outermost part of the individual is afflicted, causing the color of the skin to undergo transformation.
Throughout the thousands of years of exile, the Jewish people has been involved in learning Torah and doing mitzvot, in an effort to illuminate the darkness of the exile by strengthening the forces of good over evil.
Exile is characterized by G-d's seeming withdrawal from the affairs of man; the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption will usher in an era in which G-dliness is open and apparent.
By their consistent and ongoing service of G-d throughout the centuries, imbuing the four corners of the earth with holiness and G-dliness, the Jewish people has succeeded in healing the world of its internal sickness, the seeming absence of G-d from the physical world.
We stand now at the very end of the exile, on the threshold of the Messianic Era.
All that prevents Moshiach's imminent arrival is a tiny and external blemish, an affliction of "leprosy on the skin of the flesh."
The final touches on the world's preparation for Moshiach have been entrusted to our generation, the generation which will be worthy of witnessing Moshiach's revelation.
Up until that time, however, Moshiach is said to be "leprous." For Moshiach himself suffers the pain of the end of exile -- "the affliction of leprosy" -- as he waits with longing and impatience for the moment the world will be fully prepared for his coming, at which time he will reveal himself and redeem the Jewish people and the entire world.
By Rabbi Chaim Zev Bomzer, on the first yartzeit
of Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov, of blessed memory.
Reprinted from the Yiddishe Heim.
I had the privilege of knowing, loving and learning from Rabbi Hodakov for a decade and a half.
Shortly after G-d directed me to come close to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita -- may he have a speedy and full recovery -- a dear friend suggested that I visit with Rabbi Hodakov. It turned out to be a most fruitful, inspiring and instructive meeting.
Rabbi Hodakov knew I was involved in many facets of Jewish life and leadership: my shul, the Vaad Harabonim of Flatbush, Yeshiva University, etc.
He wanted to hear about their activities and "How they strengthen our service to our Creator."
He offered sagacious advice, plans, ideas and Torah thoughts.
He would speak with obvious friendship, expertise and emotion.
His eyes seemed to look directly into my mind.
Here I was, a rabbi, the head of a Yeshiva, an officer in prestigious rabbinic groups, sitting in that small office and taking notes to be sure that his thoughts would not be forgotten.
I recognized that Rabbi Hodakov was closer to the Rebbe (yebadel l'chaim) than anyone, and that he served the Rebbe loyally and efficiently.
He had a broad understanding of the areas of challenge in the Jewish experience in America, Israel, and throughout the world.
He guided the Chabad emissaries throughout the globe. Therefore, talking and listening to Rabbi Hodakov made me feel close not only to him, but also to the Rebbe.
When Rabbi Hodakov heard that I was the Chairman of the Religious Activities Committee of the R.C.A., he questioned the planned program of the Committee.
He was concerned about the students on the college campuses, and where they would spend Passover and the holiday seders.
Our discussion resulted in newspaper ads in The New York Times. Messages were sent to over 1,000 rabbis throughout the U.S.A., urging them to seek out these Jewish students.
I remember laughing at a critic who said I sounded like a Lubavitcher; these mitzvot had not been invented by Chabad, since they were part of the Torah.
Rabbi Hodakov advised ignoring such nonsense and concentrating on Jewish Law rather than on opinions. His constructive suggestions were read by thousands, and who knows how many were affected positively.
His most poignant and meaningful thoughts were based upon his unusual insight into Jewish law and people.
Rabbi Hodakov had a brilliant mind; he was a novel and logical thinker and an innovator, and he called for, and indeed, demanded action in areas untouched or even contemplated by others.
Rabbi Hodakov was in the forefront of talking about Russian Jews before and after the Iron Curtain disintegrated.
After my visit to Russia in 1987, he listened raptly to my report and to the description of the groups and people who studied with me.
At the end, his response was, "So what will you do now to help Jews there, and those who have already come out?"
Rabbi Hodakov worried about non-conventional problems.
Sure I had brought shmura matzot to Russia. But what about the food for the rest of the days of Passover?
This question was an indictment of those of us who thought about, and even did something, to arrange for sedorim for Jews from Russian lands now in America.
But who worried about kosher food for all the days of Passover?
Interestingly enough, in the past few years, we have arranged for meals to be served for all eight days of the holiday at only $1 per meal in our Flatbush community -- his idea.
Rabbi Hodakov constantly reiterated the thought that we must always ask ourselves, "Why are we in a particular place? What act of serving Hashem is being presented here?"
When, in 1982, I spoke to him from the hospital after serious and troublesome surgery, (he called me regularly for 6 1/2 weeks), he suggested that I discover why I was there, beyond the obvious physical reason. I did find out.
On the second day of Sukkot, when I visited the patients on my floor to wish them well, I met a Jewish man who was having a difficult time.
After introducing myself as a fellow patient and rabbi, he asked me to say a prayer for him. In response to my question, he indicated that except for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, he had not entered a shul in over forty years, had not put on tefilin nor had he performed any other mitzvot.
We talked about the holiday of Sukkot and the "Clouds of Glory" which protected our people, and their significance in our time and for ourselves at that moment.
I told him that the Divine Presence is in his room, and that we should therefore pray for ourselves. Then I asked whether he would like to fulfill the special Sukkot mitzva of the "Four Species"; he said he'd never done it before. So, he made a real "shehecheyanu" on that day.
I was discharged after Sukkot, but we kept in touch.
He now keeps Shabbat, and is proud of his grandson, who is in yeshiva. When I related this to Rabbi Hodakov, he smiled and said, "You see?!"
Inspired by the Rebbe, shlita, Rabbi Hodakov was the epitome of a chasid who acts and does what his Rebbe wishes. May his memory be a blessing.
NEW CENTER IN MEMPHIS
A new Chabad Center opened this past month in Memphis.
Though Rabbi Levi and Rivky Klein, and their son Menachem, don't have "blue suede shoes," they do have lots of energy which they are using to implement Jewish enrichment activities with youngsters, classes, and Shabbat and holiday programs.
The new Chabad Center is at:
2177 Ealing Circle #2,
Just the vacation you've been looking for!
From May 27 - June 5, spend ten days living and learning Judaism.
YeshiVacation offers a highly individualized program as well as a general program with classes on all levels.
Whether it's learning to read Hebrew, studying a text in-depth or discussions on contemporary issues, the program will energize you. For more info call (718) 735-0200.
WHY DID G-D PERMIT THE HOLOCAUST
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
continued from previous issue
In the Torah, called Torat Chaim ("instruction of living"), G-d has revealed what the purpose of Creation is, and provided all the knowledge necessary for a human being, particularly a Jew, to carry it out in life.
Having designated the Jewish people as a "Kingdom of Kohanim [Priests] and a holy nation," a Jew is required to live up to all the divine precepts in the Torah.
Gentiles are required to keep only the Seven Basic Moral Laws -- the so-called Seven Noachide Laws with all their ramifications -- which must be the basis of any and every human society, if it is to be human in accordance with the will and design of the Creator.
One of the basic elements of the Divine Design, as revealed in the Torah, is that G-d desires it to be carried out by choice and not out of compulsion.
Every human being has, therefore, the free will to live in accordance with G-d's Will, or in defiance of it.
With all the above in mind, let us return to your question, which is one that has been on the minds of many: Why did G-d permit the Holocaust?
The only answer we can give is: only G-d knows.
However, the very fact that there is no answer to this question is, in itself, proof that one is not required to know the answer, or understand it, in order to fulfill one's purpose in life.
Despite the lack of satisfactory answer to the awesome and tremendous "Why?" -- one can, and must, carry on a meaningful and productive life, promote justice and kindness in one's surroundings, and indeed, help create a world where there should be no room for any holocaust, or for any kind of man's inhumanity to man.
As a matter of fact, in the above there is an answer to an unspoken question: "What should my reaction be?" the answer to this question is certain: It must be seen as a challenge to every Jew --because Jews were the principal victims of the Holocaust-- a challenge that should be met head-on, with all resolve and determination, namely, that regardless how long it will take the world to repent for the Holocaust and make the world a fitting place to live in for all human beings -- I, for one, will not slacken in my determination to carry out my purpose in life, which is to serve G-d, wholeheartedly and with joy, and make this world a fitting abode -- not only for humans, but also for the Shechina, the Divine Presence itself.
Of course, much more could be said on the subject, but why dwell on such a painful matter, when there is so much good to be done?
P.S. Needless to say, the above may be accepted intellectually, and it may ease the mind, but it cannot assuage the pain and upheaval, especially of one who has been directly victimized by the Holocaust.
Thus, in this day and age of rampant suspicion, etc., especially when one is not known personally, one may perhaps say -- "Well, It is easy for one who is not emotionally involved to give an `intellectual' explanation..."
So, I ought perhaps, to add that I, too, lost in the Holocaust very close and dear relative such as a grandmother, brother, cousins and others (G-d should avenge their blood). But, life according to G-d's command, must go on, and the sign of life is in growth and creatively.
Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, known as the Rebbe Maharash, was the fourth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch.
He was born on 2 Iyar, 5594 (1834) and passed away on 13 Tishrei, 5643 (1882).
He began his communal activities at the age of 22 and traveled extensively throughout Europe to help Jewish communities in need.
He succeeded his father as Rebbe in 1866.
He is well-known for his teaching, "The world says, 'If you come upon an obstacle and cannot go around it, then go over it.' and I say, 'Lichatchila Ariber -- from the start, go over it.' "
This week, on Wednesday, we celebrated the birthday of Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Rebbe of Lubavitch, known as the Rebbe Maharash.
In one of his many writings, the Rebbe Maharash quotes an interesting Midrash on the attitude and sentiment of the Jewish people when G-d will send Moshiach:
"It says in the Midrash on the Song of Songs that when the King Moshiach comes, he will say to them, 'In this month you will be redeemed.' But the Jews will protest that G-d told us we would be enslaved to the 70 nations [and we were not yet enslaved by all 70 nations].
"G-d will reply to them, 'One of you was exiled to the Barbary Coast, and one of you was exiled to Samatry, etc. So it is as if you were all enslaved to the 70 nations of the world. Therefore, in this month, you will be redeemed.'"
The Rebbe Maharash quotes a Midrash which touches on a very tender spot.
There will come a time when G-d is ready to send Moshiach to redeem the Jewish people and some Jews will protest that it's not the right time!
Unfortunately, this will not be the first time that such an occurrence has taken place in Jewish history.
For some commentators state that at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, some of our brethren protested to G-d, "But You said we would be enslaved for 400 years, and we have only been here for 210 years!" G-d explained to them that because the servitude had been so difficult, the 210 years counted as 400.
Can you imagine? They were being worked to the bone by the Egyptians, and yet, there were some who preferred staying in Egypt. Whether it was because we prefer the known, even if it is horrible, than the unknown, or simply because they had become comfortable with the Egyptian lifestyle, etc., they preferred Egypt to the Redemption!
It is time we stop making excuses for G-d, and finding reasons why this exile should be extended, can rightfully be extended, or even (G-d forbid) needs to be extended.
As the Rebbe, shlita, said so many times, everything has already been done. Let us not be act as our own prosecutors and place the blame the continued exile on a lack of unity, or mitzvot, or faith. Let us judge each other and the entire Jewish people meritoriously.
And let us cry out to G-d from the bottom of our hearts, "Ad Mosai -- how long?"
When you will come into the land of Canaan which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy upon a house (Lev. 14:34)
Throughout the forty years during which the Jewish people wandered in the desert, the native inhabitants of the land of Canaan, the Edomites, systematically hid their gold and valuables within the walls of their homes so that the conquering Jews would never find them.
After the Jews took possession of the land, whenever a house was afflicted with leprosy, Torah law dictated that the walls of the structure be demolished, revealing the great treasures within.
The plague of leprosy itself, therefore, was what led to the discovery of inestimable wealth for the dwelling's inhabitants.
Similarly, when Moshiach comes, we will see that the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples was only for the purpose of revealing a higher good -- the establishment of the Third Holy Temple, which will exist forever.
(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 22)
If a woman has conceived seed (Lev. 12:2)
The potential contained within a seed is virtually limitless.
When properly nurtured, a seed will develop into a mature tree, which, in turn, will yield more seeds with the potential for growth and regeneration.
Our service of G-d must be performed in a similar manner.
A good deed must not be self-limiting; a Jew must always strive to ensure that his actions have far-reaching effects, bearing fruit in the next generation as well.
(Likrat Shabbat, Issue #22)
He shall be brought to Aaron the kohen or to one of his sons the kohanim (Lev. 13:2)
Only a kohen was allowed to determine whether or not a plague was leprous, a severe affliction necessitating that the sufferer to be sent outside the camp for seven days.
Only a kohen, whose job is to bless the Jewish people with the priestly blessing, could fully appreciate the magnitude of being sent outside the warm and loving Jewish camp. He could therefore, be relied upon to try all possible means to pronounce the individual clean.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita)
Reb Yerucham was never much of a breadwinner. Instead, he devoted all his time to Torah-study and prayer while his wife, Leah went to the marketplace to conduct business.
She would make small purchases which she would in turn, sell to her neighbor sat a small profit. The arrangement worked well, for although they never had much, they both felt very privileged to be able to serve G-d by devoting themselves to His Torah.
In the winter, though, when the roads were blocked with snow and ice, and the farmers couldn't make it into the market, Leah didn't fare so well.
She was forced to sustain her family on the few coins she had managed to squirrel away during the previous months. Every time she had to dip into her meager "capital" her heart fell.
When only a few pennies remained, she decided it was time to go to her husband. "Yerucham, what are we going to do? How are we going to feed our children?"
Reb Yerucham lifted his eyes from his tome and replied, "Have faith. Our Heavenly Father has never forsaken us before, and will not forsake us now..."
"What good is faith on an empty stomach!" the poor woman said bitterly. "I can't bear to see my children starving! What am I to say to them when they cry for bread tomorrow morning?"
"Don't worry now -- till tomorrow morning there is ample time for G-d to provide for our needs. Put your trust in Him, Leah; He won't forsake us."
Poor Leah left the room very troubled, but a little comforted by her husband's assurances. Reb Yerucham went outside, and as he was about to come back in, he spotted something lying in the mud.
He picked it up and brought it into the house. He washed it, and sure enough, it was a silver coin!
Now, his wife would be happy and they would be able to manage a little longer. But then another thought passed through his mind, "If G-d had wanted to send them sustenance, couldn't He find a better way than throwing him a muddy coin?
No, He doesn't want me to accept it this way; He is only testing our faith in Him."
So Yerucham decided that in the morning he would put the coin into the tzedaka box.
Yerucham became so engrossed in his study that he was startled by his wife's cry of joy when she spied the silver coin on his table. "Don't get too excited; it's not ours!" he said quickly.
"What do you mean?"
"I have already donated it to charity."
Looking into his wife's shocked eyes which were already filling the tears, he continued explaining, "Imagine if I were to give you a present and throw it into the garbage heap, saying, 'Go pick it up, dear.' You wouldn't want it anymore. Well, I believe that G-d has sent this coin to us as a test of our faith in His readiness to provide for us. Be strong in your faith, and you will see that I'll be proven right."
Leah walked out of the room, shaking her head. She knew that her husband was a scholar and a saintly man, but there was not one morsel of food in the house. Meanwhile Reb Yerucham sat by the light of a candle studying into the wee hours.
Late that night two tired merchants were travelling through one of the persistent snow storms that had enclosed the little hamlet.
Exhausted, they saw a faint glimmer of a candle in the pitch, black darkness. They knocked on Reb Yerucham's door asking for accommodation. He agreed, but very apologetically, since he had very little to offer them.
The men were just happy to have a place to sleep.
They spread out their bountiful food supplies on the table and invited their hosts to join them in a feast fit for a king.
During the meal, the conversation took a scholarly turn and the merchants saw that their host was no country bumpkin, but a very learned and wise man.
One of the merchants turned to his companion and said, "Why should we trouble ourselves to travel all the way to Lemberg to mediate our dispute when we have a great scholar right here."
"Yes, I agree," said the second, and he proceeded to explain.
"We are not only partners, but also close friends, but we have a disagreement which we want to present before a Rav. We were about to continue to Lemberg, but we feel that you are a person very qualified to judge the problem, and G-d has brought us to your door. We will be happy to pay you the same amount we would have paid the Rabbi of Lemberg.
Reb Yerucham didn't usually involve himself in judgements or arbitrations, but under the circumstances, since the two men were so anxious to settle in a peaceful fashion, he agreed to take up their case.
The following morning, Yerucham and his guests made their way to the synagogue for the morning prayers. Yerucham slipped the silver coin into the charity box, thanking G-d for not forsaking him and his family in their hour of need, and sending him generous sustenance in an honorable and worthy manner.
When Moshiach comes, everyone will possess true perception, and whatever one sees one will understand, with the truth of the soul.