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The New York Times Arts and Entertainment section contained an article a while back discussing an interesting phenomenon.
It solved a long-standing mystery to women around the globe.
Entitled, "Why Don't Men Ask Directions?" the subheading answered the age old question quite succinctly: "They Don't Feel Lost."
The article's author, Sandra Blakeslee, went on to explain that each gender has its own way of navigating, according to researcher/psychologist Dr. Thomas Bever.
"Whereas women tend to rely on specific landmarks, men rely on a more primitive sense of motion using "remembered vectors."
Whether or not one knows what remembered vectors are, there is consolation for the feminine half of the species in knowing that men aren't just trying to be macho."
A current topic of conversation even outside of Jewish circles is the Rebbe's message about the imminence of the Redemption.
More specifically, people wonder, if the belief in and anticipation of Moshiach is so central to Judaism, why don't we see it across the board among all Jews of all persuasions?
Why does it seem to be mainly Lubavitchers who are preoccupied with this central Jewish belief?
The answer, like the explanation above, is that many people just don't feel lost!
We have become so used to being in this state of exile that we don't even realize we are missing anything. All we have to do is turn on the radio or look in the newspaper to see how de-sensitized we have become to everything intrinsic to exile.
We are no longer shocked when we hear unending reports of violent crimes, right in our own backyards.
Though world officialdom and political correctness no longer condone inhumane treatment of any living creatures, individuals in our society are becoming more and more inhumane.
The question is much more burning than "Why don't men ask directions?" Truly, why aren't we all asking for and working toward the Redemption? Why are we not re-evaluating our priorities to make room for hastening the era of true compassion, benevolence, peace and harmony? Why aren't we reorganizing our lives to leave more time for spiritual pursuits and altruistic acts of kindness? Why aren't we changing our personal lives, thereby changing the world?
Simply because we don't think we're lost.
But, what we may or may not think does not change reality!
Whether because of a lack of Jewish education, insensitivity, or a preoccupation with the here and now, we just don't think we're lost.
But, we can share the blame.
For merely living in exile itself - living in a very physical world where G-dliness is hidden and Divine goodness seems to be in short supply -- de-sensitizes us.
The Talmud tells us that in every generation we are to look upon ourselves as if we personally went out of Egyptian exile.
The first Chabad Rebbe modified this Talmudic teaching to state that every single day we are to feel as if that very day we came out of the limitations and boundaries of exile.
Conversely, the Rebbe says that every single day we are to feel as if we've just gone into exile.
The state of exile, the absence of the Redemption which will herald the total revelation of goodness and holiness, should be so foreign to a Jew that each day he should feel its newness, and be aware that it is strange, unsuitable, and even bizarre.
How do we achieve this?
By realizing and accepting that we are lost, then starting to get back on the right path.
Through studying Torah, and in particular, by learning more about Moshiach and the Redemption, we begin to notice that we're lost and can set ourselves on the right path. Mitzvot also help us navigate through these last, lost moments of exile.
In the second of this week's two Torah portions, Kedoshim, the Torah records G-d's command: "Sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am the L-rd your G-d."
Our Rabbis taught that this injunction refers to the realm of the permissible, those are as which the Torah neither specifically forbids nor allows.
The Torah asks us to exercise self-restraint in every aspect of our lives, counseling us to forego even permissible pleasures, if they are not truly vital to our service of G-d.
For example, we must restrain ourselves from partaking of a particular food (kosher, of course), if our craving to eat it arises solely from a desire to satiate our animal appetites and not for the sake of nourishing our bodies.
The first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, originated a wise saying on the subject:
"That which is forbidden is forbidden; that which is permissible is unnecessary."
In this manner, constantly exercising good judgment and restraint, the Jew sanctifies every minute detail of his life and imbues his entire being with holiness.
This process of sanctification plays a pivotal role in preparing the world for Moshiach, for the Messianic Era will be characterized by the open revelation of G-dliness throughout the entire creation.
At that time, G-d will allow His very essence to be revealed within the physical world, which will have been totally transformed into a fitting dwelling place for the Divine Presence.
This complete transformation of the material world into a place in which G-dliness is readily apparent may be explained by the following analogy:
When a person is at home, he permits himself to express his true personality. His manner is relaxed and open, for he feels free, unencumbered by the constraints of society.
When, however, a person goes out into the street or his friend's home, his behavior is more circumspect. Not only are his actions necessarily circumscribed, but his ability to express himself is also limited to a great degree.
When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Final Redemption, G-d will finally be "at home" in the physical world, and the holiness that exists within all of creation will be revealed in its entirety.
Torah and mitzvot are therefore insufficient, by themselves, to transform the world and ourselves into a proper vessel for such a revelation of G-dliness.
For it is possible for one to adhere to the letter of the law and still perceive himself as an entity separate from G-d.
When a Jew extends and broadens his service of G-d to include those areas beyond the realm of ritual law, he elevates both himself and his surroundings to unparalleled spiritual heights.
By removing his own ego from the equation, he leaves room for only G-dliness and sanctity to fill the void.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of Rebbe, shlita, Vol. 1
The date: Spring, 5734 (1974).
The place: 770 Eastern Parkway, the reception room of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's office.
The time: 4:10 a.m.
The door to the Rebbe's room opened, and the Rebbe could be seen escorting a young rabbi out.
He had just finished a private audience that lasted for two hours and forty minutes. The tens of students waiting outside were filled with curiosity.
They had heard that the pleasant man served as the rabbi of a neighborhood in Tel Aviv, but this did not justify such a lengthy private audience.
When they heard the Rebbe's final words to the young rabbi, their curiosity turned to respect. What had the Rebbe said? "I bless you that just as today your influence spreads over part of Tel Aviv, it should eventually spread over all of Tel Aviv and finally over all of Israel."
The young rabbi pondered the surprising conclusion to his discussion with the Rebbe.
He had thought that his greatest accomplishment was that he was still alive and able to meet the Rebbe. Yet the Rebbe had predicted a great and glorious future for him.
His thoughts returned to the past...
Seven-and-a-half year old Lolak knew that his parents were no longer alive. He knew that his brothers had also died.
Only he and Naftali, who was ten years older than he, were left.
Even Naftali had been cruelly separated from him. Lolak was being held with Russian prisoners of war, while his brother was kept nearby in a section reserved for Jews.
One morning Naftali was ordered to join a group of Jews who were told that they were going to work outside the camp. Naftali knew better. He realized that this was to be his final journey, a march to death. His eyes furiously searched the other side of the fence until he found what he was looking for - his little brother Lolak.
Under the eyes of the camp guards, he ran towards his brother and motioned him to come close to the fence. He stretched his hands through the fence to touch his brother one last time, and then, with tears streaming down his face, he said, "Listen, my dear Lolak. They are taking me away, and we will never see each other again. If you do manage to live, know that there is a place in the world called the Land of Israel. Go there and say only that you are the son of the Rav of Pietrokov. We have an uncle there who will surely find you."
Against all odds, in a most miraculous way, Naftali managed to escape the jaws of death.
He lived to find his brother and rescue him.
For months the two boys fled from the Germans and hid in the forest.
At times Naftali had to carry his little Lolak hidden in a sack on his shoulders. They both survived the war and reached the shores of the Holy Land.
Lolak was now known by his full name, Yisrael Meir Lau.
He grew up and studied in a yeshiva.
One goal always stood before him: to become a Rav.
A glorious chain of thirty-six generations of rabbis had preceded him. He was determined not to break the chain.
Years passed and Yisrael Meir succeeded in his goal.
He was appointed as the rabbi of an important neighborhood in North Tel Aviv.
In the years to come, Rabbi Lau earned a place of honor in the rabbinic world. From the neighborhood in North Tel Aviv, he went on to become the Chief Rabbi of Netanya.
Early in the spring of 5748 (1988), Rabbi Lau arrived once again in New York to meet with the Rebbe.
His esteemed father-in-law, Rav Yedidya Frankel, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, had passed away a year and a half earlier.
During their meeting the Rebbe had hinted that Rabbi Yisrael Meir would soon be appointed Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv.
When Rabbi Lau informed the Rebbe that elections to the post of chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv had not yet been held - the elective body had not even been appointed - the Rebbe just smiled and said, "Indeed, the formal elections have not yet taken place, but in Heaven, the decision has already been made as to who will be the next Rabbi of Tel Aviv."
Less than seven months later, on the 15th of Elul, Rabbi Lau was appointed Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv.
Exactly three years later to the day, Rabbi Lau again arrived at "770."
It was a Sunday, when the Rebbe handed out his weekly dollars for tzedaka.
Rabbi Lau told the Rebbe about the mikva that was being built in Tel Aviv and other projects he had initiated. He asked for the Rebbe's blessing for all these activities.
Suddenly, without any preamble, the Rebbe said to Rabbi Lau, "You should go from strength to strength. Snatch whatever time you can during your administration as Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv... in two years or less you will be appointed Chief Rabbi of Israel."
Excited and perhaps a bit confused, Rabbi Lau answered, "With the Rebbe's blessing."
"But a person cannot be forced in such a matter. It must be with your consent," the Rebbe continued. "If I intercede in this matter, then it will probably become a reality..."
Indeed, less than a year and a half later, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was appointed Chief Rabbi of Israel.
During a spontaneous meal of thanksgiving that night in his home, Rabbi Lau revealed that despite all the tension of the election campaign, he had never doubted that he would merit the esteemed position. As he stated in numerous interviews, he believes in the prophetic words of the Rebbe, which have proven to be true time and again.
From Miracles and Wonders, Vol. 2.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S CONVENTION
The 33rd International Lubavitch Women's Convention will take place May 5 - 9 (1994).
Hundreds of women from all walks of life are expected to join the vibrant and dynamic women of the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights for a weekend of Jewish inspiration, study, and warmth.
For more information about the convention call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or the central Lubavitch Women's Organization office at (718) 493-1773.
A limited quantity of bound volumes of the sixth year of L'Chaim are available.
For your copy send $28 ($25 plus $3 shipping) payable to LYO to: L'Chaim Books, 1408 President St., Bklyn, NY 11213.
Bound copies of the fifth year are available, but the first through fourth years are sold out.
Peace and Harmony in the Jewish Home
Translated from letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
28 Menachem Av, 5711 (1951)
In answer to the message about your birthday, I bless you that your good fortune should increase and that you may earn a livelihood with ease and support your family with peace of mind and heart; and G-d should strengthen your G-dly soul which finds itself in confinement, so that you should be able to achieve, in practical terms, peace in your home.
I am puzzled as to why you fail to have a concrete understanding of the fact that this situation is coming about through the suggestion and active intervention of the Evil Inclination which is intensifying its action in this matter.
As I have told you several times, and I repeat again, you must put the greatest possible efforts into the matter of achieving peace in your home, between you and your wife.
The saying of our Sages that "A woman's tears are readily found" is well-known. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to show forbearance, particularly in worldly matters.
If our Sages have expounded on the great virtue of peace in the home at all times, how much more vital is it on the eve of Shabbat, and we, including all of Israel, are now past mid-day on Shabbat eve. The end of exile is close at hand as is the coming of our righteous Moshiach.
It is understood that the greatest concealment of G-dliness prevails in relation to lack of peace in the home.
It is known how great peace is; the ways of the entire Torah are ways and pathways of tranquility and peace, particularly during this last exile, which came about as a result of the lack of peace.
With the approach of the end of the Exile, the resistance of the forces opposed to holiness increase so as to prevent peace in the world at large and specifically between man and wife here below, who reflect their spiritual counterpart above.
However, "the load is according to the camel," and certainly, the ability to withstand the challenge is given to you.
With blessing that you may have awe of G-d and achieve peace in your home,
17 Sivan, 5714 (1954)
I have been wondering why I have not heard from you all this time, and I hope it is a sign that all is going well.
Still in all, I would be happy to read so explicitly in your letter. May G-d help that this indeed be the case in the best way.
It goes without saying that the running of the home in general, and in particular, the relationship between husband and wife, depend, to a much greater extent, on the woman rather than the man.
As is the expression in the Bible: "The wisdom of the woman builds her home." This is especially true in the case of the "American lifestyle," in which the husband's work involves much anxiety and pressure.
Here, the woman's role is ever more crucial.
It is for her to see to it that the utmost peace and tranquility should prevail between them, through a maximum of understanding on her part.
Even when it seems - and perhaps, in part, rightly so - that the husband could have better qualities, one's attitude should be that, taking in to account that marriage has long been ordained by G-d, it is as when one sees a failing in oneself.
One does not wish to continue to suffer, but to seek a painless way to correct the failing.
This is even more the case as regards marriage.
Ultimately, it is difficult to truly know what the other is going through, or to gauge the effects of the difficulties he may have experienced in the past.
When the husband finds tenderness in his wife, and a strong faith in the Alm-ghty, they both see the entire world in a different light.
It becomes clear that G-d is the authority over the entire world, and, especially, in one's own home and environment; thus positive feelings and joy in the home is increased. She will then see how this was ultimately worthwhile for her own self, for it has brought warmth and tranquility, far in excess of the "cost" in effort to forgo and forgive.
Hopefully, in regard to yourself and your husband, all these considerations are unnecessary, and your home is as a home ought to be - permeated with Ahavat Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew).
It is only because there is no limit to "good" that I assume that these lines will only bring you to improve on this peaceful state and understanding attitude. Your example of harmony and light will also extend to your surroundings.
May G-d bless you,
Lot was the nephew of Abraham.
When the shepherds of Lot and Abraham fought among themselves, Abraham suggested that they separate and allowed Lot to chose where he wished to go.
Lot chose the fruitful land of Sodom, which was inhabited by wicked people.
When Lot was captured in a war between five kings, Abraham gathered a small force and liberated him.
Later, when G-d destroyed Sodom, Lot and his family were saved, except for his wife, who died when she disobeyed the command not to look back at the destruction which was taking place.
This coming Monday is Pesach Sheni, the "Second Passover."
It is customary on Pesach Sheni to eat matza, together with bread, in commemoration of the day.
In the times of the Holy Temple, all those who were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice at the proper time, on the 14th of Nissan, were permitted to bring it in the second month, on the 14th of Iyar.
This special sacrifice was initiated during the second year of the Jewish people's wandering in the Sinai desert, a year after the first Passover had been celebrated in the wilderness.
Some Jews due to ritual impurity, had not been permitted to offer the Passover sacrifice.
They approached Moses and Aaron and protested, "Why are we kept back, that we may not offer the offering of G-d in the appointed season among the children of Israel?"
They complained that unavoidable circumstances had prevented them from offering the sacrifice. They did not want to be denied the great reward of performing the mitzva.
Our ancestors' request was sincere and valid, and so, permission to bring the Passover sacrifice one month later was granted to anyone, throughout the generations, who was ritually impure, in a distant place, was prevented by some unavoidable circumstance, failed unintentionally or even intentionally.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn of Saintly memory, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, points out that there are many essential lessons we can learn from Pesach Sheni, including that it is never too late to correct a past failing.
For us today, as we stand literally on the threshold of the Redemption, the most appropriate lesson is that what the Jews sincerely requested, they received!
In the spirit of Pesach Sheni, each and every one of us today, must request, demand, ask and beg for the revelation of Moshiach and the commencement of the glorious Redemption. Then, certainly, G-d will hear our plea and answer them as in the days of old.
In the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you shall afflict yourselves...it shall be a Sabbath of rest...and you shall afflict yourselves, as a statute forever (Lev. 16:29, 31)
The fast of Yom Kippur is the most stringent on the Jewish calendar, for it is the only one mentioned in the Five Books of Moses and not just in later Prophetic writings.
Yom Kippur is the only fast we will continue to observe after Moshiach comes.
Nevertheless, the possibility exists that we may actually be permitted to eat and drink on this holiest of days!
If Moshiach is revealed during the Ten Days of Repentance (the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), the seven-day feast celebrating his arrival will take precedence, even if it happens to coincide with Yom Kippur.
This phenomenon already happened once before in Jewish history:
Back in the days of King Solomon, the celebratory feast marking the dedication of the First Temple began on the eighth day of Tishrei and continued for seven days (Yom Kippur falls on the tenth of the month).
And you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)
Because the Jewish people were exiled from their land on account of their causeless hatred for one another, the antidote which will bring the Redemption is an overabundance of brotherly love and harmony.
As we find ourselves on the very threshold of the Messianic Era, when the greatest love between all Jews will be felt, the time has come for a new phase in our relations with one another:
We must strive to "taste" beforehand, while still in exile, the wonderful atmosphere which will reign then. This, in itself, will hasten Moshiach's arrival.
Speak to all the congregation of the Children of Israel and say: You shall be holy (Lev. 19:2)
Rashi, the great Torah commentator, notes that this portion was said at a time when all the Jews were assembled together.
During the last century, the proponents of the Enlightenment originated the phrase, "Be a Jew at home and a person in the street."
Rashi's comment, however, teaches that a Jew must never be ashamed of his Jewishness nor try to conceal it, for at all times we are proud members of the holy Jewish nation and must conduct ourselves according to G-d's instructions.
Rabbi Shmuel, who is known by the acronym of his name, the Rebbe Maharash, was the fourth Rebbe of Lubavitch and the youngest of the nine children of the third Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek.
The saying which became identified with the Rebbe Maharash's name is "L'chat'chila Ariber," meaning that when one encounters obstacles, one should immediately seek to rise above them.
He said, "The world says that when you cannot go under it (around the problem), then you should rise above it, and I say, 'L'Chat'chila Ariber' - the first approach should be to go above it."
In other words, no obstacle should be considered too big, and whatever you do, do it as if you are in a position of power and command. Indeed, this approach characterized his whole approach to life and communal leadership.
The Rebbe Maharash had a style which was noteworthy in its expansiveness and opulence.
This lifestyle and corresponding conduct marked his personality even before he assumed leadership.
He lived affluently and performed extraordinary miracles.
The Tzemach Tzedek used to place a gold coin on the table while he studied Torah.
He explained that it is in the nature of a person to feel good and broad-minded when he sees gold; thus, the mind is more capable of grasping a concept on a deeper level.
Although such an incident is cited only once in the life of the Tzemach Tzedek, this was a guiding concept for Rebbe Shmuel, throughout his life.
This "broadness" of style was characteristic of him and his Divine service throughout his lifetime.
Two years after the Rebbe Maharash assumed leadership, his entire house burned down.
He ordered that it be rebuilt three times its original size, and in a space of time considered to be impossible. It was, indeed, finished in the specified time.
Not many details of this palatial dwelling are known, but we do know that there were five doors leading from the dining room to the outside. It had an enormous crystal chandelier, lit by thirteen kerosene lamps. Most of the utensils were made of silver and gold.
The room where the Chasidim met was lit by six candelabrums, each having twelve candles.
All of this extreme opulence, however, was not for the personal pleasure of the Rebbe, but in order to serve Hashem in a manner which would impress the oppressive Russian government and induce them to treat the Jews with respect.
It is known that the Ruzhiner Rebbe wore shoes that were golden on top, but had bottoms with holes. This shows that such tzadikim, whose service entailed a detail of great wealth, were themselves, completely humble before G-d.
The gentile coachman of the Rebbe once told the Chasidim, "I don't understand your Rebbe. He is so rich, and yet every time I take him in his coach (which was worth the princely sum of 300 rubles) for a ride to the forest - which is almost every day - as soon as he is out of sight, he sits on the ground and cries out to G-d as if he was a pauper."
His unique approach was also seen in his dealings with the Russian government.
The Rebbe Maharash was always very outspoken and bold when relating to government.
He believed that the government should not assist the Jews out of pity; rather, he demanded that they help, and explained that it was to their own benefit to aid the Jews.
As a result of his attitude to them, the Russian government was not well-disposed toward the Rebbe Maharash.
In fact, there were times when Rebbe Shmuel took great pains to publicly disavow certain proposals which he had actually originated, in order not to provoke government opposition.
Toward his final years, when violent pogroms overtook the Jews of Russia, the Rebbe Maharash spoke out very strongly against the violence. Even though the government admonished him for his actions and words, (he requested other governments to pressure the Russians) and threatened him with imprisonment, the pogroms stopped after he spoke out.
In fact, so harshly did he speak to the Russian Minister of the Interior that the Rebbe's health was adversely affected for two months after.
When his doctor complained that he should not have made himself ill, the Rebbe Maharash replied that it is the entire essence of the Lubavitcher Rebbeim to endure any consequence to help the Jewish nation.
This approach of "L'chatchila Ariber" by the Rebbe Maharash reinforced the Jewish belief that no matter how hopeless a situation appears to be, we must never abandon hope. Instead, we must proceed in each situation, knowing that with G-d's help it is possible to overcome all obstacles.
Adapted from "The Rebbeim" by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon.
When Moshiach comes there will be a trial to determine who is to arise at the Resurrection of the Dead.
Presiding over this trial will be Moshiach himself.
However, Moshiach will not judge like an ordinary judge.
He will see and feel the factors that caused the sinner to transgress.
He will weigh and consider the bleak life that Jews have lived in exile.
He will intercede on their behalf and seek out their merits, pointing out that they did not want to sin: they were unable to overcome their Evil Inclination.