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"No more homework, no more books. No more teachers' angry looks!"
Remember chanting those words, or a similar sentiment, at your graduation?
"Ahh, we've graduated. We're finally finished," we sighed with relief.
But, as every principal, dean or university president will make sure to mention in his commencement speech, graduation is just a beginning, not an end.
Jewish teachings explain, "The end is connected to the beginning."
In other words, before we begin something, we need to clearly identify our final goal.
Only once we have a definite understanding of the goal can we efficiently and effectively beg in working toward it.
To illustrate this point, the example of a house is often used.
Were a construction crew to simply start building, without exact plans or a detailed draft, the home could not possibly be inhabitable.
And even once exact plans are drawn up, they must be executed in sequence: you can't put up the beams before the foundation is laid; you can't put in the electrical wiring after the walls have been plastered and painted.
The builder first conceives of the total project, the finished product, and then he breaks it down into various stages, steps and jobs.
The end is connected to the beginning.
Before we begin anything, we have the goal in mind.
Envisioning the goal often makes it easier to bear with the nitty gritty details and to follow a progressive path.
Applying this important mode of thinking to every aspect of our lives accrues unbelievable results.
As our Sages have stated, "A wise person sees the result."
An intelligent person considers the consequence or outcome before undertaking a specific course.
What is true of graduations and house building is certainly true of the world at large.
G-d created the world with an intent and purpose.
Thus, the world today is obviously much further along toward its goal than it was when it was created.
The world has advanced to the point that we are actually standing on the doorstep of our new home -- the Messianic Era.
The Messianic Era is G-d's final intent, goal and purpose for the creation of the world. It is the "end" that we have been leading up to since the beginning of the world.
But, far from what non-Jewish teachings would have us imagine about the "end" being near, Judaism does not have a doomsday view of the "end."
For, as mentioned before, the end is connected to the beginning, and conversely, the beginning to the end.
The "end of days" marks the beginning of days, the Days of Moshiach.
The Rebbe has stressed repeatedly that we will not lose anything in the Messianic Era; the G-dliness in everything will "simply" be apparent to all.
Some things, though, will end.
There will be an end to hunger, war, sickness, strife, jealousy... the list goes on.
In the Messianic Era there will be only good: peace, prosperity, divine knowledge -- an end that is truly a new beginning.
This week's Torah portion, Chukas, begins with the laws of the red heifer, by which a person was cleansed of ritual defilement.
Maimonides, in his summary of these laws, includes an interesting historical note on this practice:
"There have been a total of nine red heifers from the time this mitzva was given until the destruction of the Second Holy Temple.
"The first was rendered by Moses, the second by Ezra the Scribe, and seven more between the time of Ezra and the destruction. The tenth red heifer will be rendered by King Moshiach, may he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will."
These last words seem out of place.
Why did Maimonides include a prayer for the revelation of Moshiach in the middle of a legal work?
Maimonides measured every word he used.
Indeed, many practical implications are learned from his choice of language.
Why, then, did Maimonides include this supplication in his discussion of these laws?
Had Maimonides' intent be to teach the importance of praying for Moshiach, he would have included this prayer with the laws of Moshiach, and not in a section in which Moshiach is mentioned only in passing.
Rather, the inclusion of these words -- inserted after only a passing reference to Moshiach -- underscores that the subject of Redemption must evoke a deep and profound longing in every Jew, culminating in the heartfelt plea: "May he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will!"
On the belief in Moshiach, Maimonides writes,
"He who does not believe in him, or does not await his coming...denies...the Torah and Moses our teacher."
It is not enough to have faith in Moshiach's eventual arrival; a Jew is obligated to actively anticipate his coming, all day, every day.
The faith of a person who believes Moshiach will come but does not actually expect him to arrive is lacking.
Just as the belief in Moshiach is constant, so too, is the obligation to joyfully anticipate his arrival a perpetual commandment.
A Jew must always feel as if Moshiach will arrive at any moment, for indeed, such is the case.
This unquenchable longing for Moshiach stems from our realization that a Jew cannot complete his personal mission until the Final Redemption, when the entire world will reach its perfection.
Every minute till then, we find ourselves in a state of spiritual deficiency.
The lesson, therefore, to be learned from Maimonides' choice of words is that when a Jew anticipates Moshiach in the proper way, the very mention of the subject must elicit such strong emotion and longing that he will spontaneously cry out, "May he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will."
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 28
Today, Reb Mendel Futerfas is the spiritual mentor of the city of Kfar Chabad in Israel. But in the 1940s, he was imprisoned and finally exiled to Siberia by the Soviet government. His crime: teaching and practicing Judaism.
On his birthday one year in Siberia, Reb Mendel longed to celebrate in the Chasidic manner by gathering with one's friends, making an account of the past year and good resolutions for the upcoming year, and by having a private audience with the Rebbe.
Reb Mendel's only "friends" in Siberia were the boorish Cossacks and political prisoners with whom he was exiled. A Chasidic gathering he could not make. But what he could do was to have a private audience with the Rebbe -- in his mind.
Reb Mendel made the customary spiritual preparations for the communing of his soul with the Rebbe's.
He then pictured himself writing a note to the Rebbe with all of his requests for blessings for the coming year. He imagined himself giving the note to the Rebbe and the Rebbe reading the note.
Then, in his mind's eye, the Rebbe assured him that everything would be well.
Reb Mendel felt encouraged and strengthened.
Years later, when Reb Mendel was released from Siberia, he joined his wife and children who had meanwhile moved to England.
One day, as Reb Mendel perused the correspondence that his wife had received from the Rebbe in his absence, he came across a telegram.
The telegram's date was the day after Reb Mendel's birthday, years before. The Rebbe had sent Mrs. Futerfas a telegram to notify her that, "I received your husband's letter..."
No distance, physical, spiritual, or medical, can separate a Jew from the Rebbe.
Rabbi Sholom Ber Stock, an emissary of the Rebbe in Bridgeport, Connecticut, tells the following story which took place three months ago.
"A friend of mine called me up at 8:00 a.m. Passover eve with the bad news that his sister, who the doctors had thought was cured of cancer, was found to have malignant tissue in a recent test. 'Please write to the Rebbe and ask him for a blessing for my sister,' my friend cried.
"This request came from my friend even though he knows that the Rebbe has been unconscious since suffering his second stroke. I offered to do what chasidim have traditionally done when time or distance have made it difficult to communicate with the Rebbe in the regular fashion. I told him I would write a letter to the Rebbe and place it in a Maamer [Chasidic discourse] of the Rebbe. My friend agreed and we ended our conversation.
"At 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, my friend called back. 'They re-tested frozen tissue they had taken,' he told me. 'And the doctors said they made a mistake. There is no malignancy. The doctors think they made a mistake, but you and I and my sister know that this was a miracle from the Rebbe.'"
Rabbi Berel Bell, dean of the Chaya Mushka Seminary in Montreal, related this story:
"On April 25, 1994, Guila Levy, one of the students in the Seminary's adult education program, spent much of the day crying in class. After speaking with program coordinator Chana Seraf, Mrs. Levy related to me the serious medical condition of her 16 year old daughter, Shani,
"After a long history of ear pain, weakness and related problems, surgery in August, 1993 revealed an ear tumor. The doctor removed as much of the tumor as was possible and said that it might suffice, but that if symptoms return, further surgery would be necessary and she would be, G-d forbid, in great danger.
"Around February, 1994, symptoms started to return and continually worsen. In mid April, the doctor finally decided they could wait no longer and scheduled a series of pre-surgical tests.
"I suggested to Mrs. Levy that she request a bracha from the Rebbe, and that evening I sent the letter to the Rebbe.
"About one week later, I saw Mrs. Levy in class beaming from ear to ear. The doctor again examined Shani, and was confounded. 'I don't know what to tell you... Forget everything I've told you before... I don't know what happened... The problem has disappeared!"
Adds Rabbi Bell, "Regardless of how your letter is sent -- whether via fax, e-mail, or the regular post office -- it reaches the Rebbe. And there is no question. The Rebbe is fully in control of the situation as before, giving blessings as before, and watching how we are working to hasten the imminent redemption."
The Rebbe's address is 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
On Sunday, June 5th, the 1001st "Children of Chernobyl" youngster arrived in Israel.
Chabad's Children of Chernobyl is a humanitarian medical relief program for Russian Jewish children who suffer health problems due to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster five years ago.
The children will be given state-of-the art health care in a medical facility especially established to meet their needs, together with members of previous airlifts.
Children of Chernobyl also works tirelessly to bring the other family members to Israel, reuniting children with their parents often within a few months.
NEW CHABAD HOUSE
Another exciting event took place this past June 5th. The dedication and ground-breaking ceremony of the new Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey took place in White Meadow Lake.
The Center will be a permanent home for teen programs, adult education, a daily minyan, holiday programs and other outreach work.
For more information about Chabad of Northwest New Jersey call (201) 625-15245.
Assorted texts from letters of the Rebbeim
CUP OF BLESSING
On the festival of Simchat Torah, six months before his imprisonment, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the previous Rebbe, issued a call to all of his Chasidim to begin reciting Psalms.
The Rebbe made this appeal because he foresaw the decree that hung over his own life.
The Rebbe explained later to one of his Chasidim, "I was very much afraid. It was not myself I was anxious about; I was thinking about the Chasidim. I experienced great difficulty in finally issuing the directive that people should start reciting Psalms."
The following are excerpts of letters from the Previous Rebbe about the importance of reciting Psalms.
"...Wherever you go, be sure to check whether our practice established over the past six years, that of saying the Psalms for the day after the davening and concluding with the mourner's Kaddish in every minyan, is followed (of course, individuals who pray without a minyan are to say the daily Psalms, too).
Wherever the practice is not introduced, urge them to do so, for good and for blessing.
The Tzemach Tzedek said that the "cup of blessing" should be raised a handsbreadth. King David's "cup," the Psalms, raises one a handsbreadth higher.
"The cup of salvation I lift, and in the name of G-d I call."
"Look from Your sacred dwelling-place, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel." Here is not the place to relate the entire narrative of that occasion.
I feel fortunate to learn that my request about Psalms has been accepted among the Chasidim and those who revere His word wherever they are.
May G-d bestow immense good, visible and revealed good, to the House of Israel, physically and spiritually.
The recitation of Psalms is not a matter of nusach [text of prayer, which differs slightly according to custom].
There is no difference between Chabad shuls and those who use nusach Ashkenaz [the Western European version] or the Polish siddur -- may G-d bless all of them.
Torah commands us about ahavat Yisrael, [love of one Jew to another] and it is engraved in our hearts, in our very souls.
This means that the natural love of souls is because they are actually one, because of G-d Who is inclusive of them all.
This is the meaning of the statement in Tanya, [the primary philosophic treatise of Chabad Chasidut] "The souls are all of a kind," referring to the essential love that binds all Israel as one, regardless of variations in nusach.
This alone is sufficient to cause us to make efforts for the true welfare of every individual Jew, particularly considering the great value of public Psalms and the deeper purpose of this practice, a practice that affects the Jewish community in the material sense, in children, life, and livelihood, and in the spiritual sense -- with the radiance of blessing, success, salvation and redemption. We simply must energetically urge that every shul of whatever nusach adopt daily Psalms.
...It is clear that the simple people who excel in their pure faith, in their sincerity in reciting Psalms, in their participation in attending Torah study, in their attending brotherly gatherings and fulfilling the mitzva of ahavat Yisrael with affection and joy -- They are the delights of Gan Eden; they are the pride of the Rebbes.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi lived in the third century c.e.
He headed the Torah academy of Lydda, in southern Israel.
So gentle a soul was he and so desirous of peace, that he refused to battle or curse the heretics who were then gaining ground, but rather besought Heaven's mercy for them.
A famous meeting between Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi and Elijah the Prophet is recorded in the Talmud.
Rabbi Yehoshua asked the prophet where he could find Moshiach.
The prophet directed him to the gates of Rome where Moshiach was sitting among the sick and wounded unbandaging and re-bandaging his wounds.
Rabbi Yehoshua asked Moshiach, "When will you come?" Moshiach replied, "Today," referring to the Biblical verse, "Today, if you hearken to My voice."
The Previous Rebbe was imprisoned in the infamous Spalerno prison for spreading and strengthening Judaism.
He had been sentenced to death, but because of tremendous pressure from throughout the world, the death sentence was commuted to life in exile.
On the 3rd day of Tammuz, the Rebbe was exiled to the city of Kostrama. On the way to Kostrama, the Rebbe was permitted to stop in his home for a few hours.
The Rebbe then proceeded to the train station where a large group of Chasidim awaited him. Before boarding the train, the Rebbe made strong statements to the assemblage, among them:
"Now it is apparent to all of the nations of the world: Our bodies alone have been handed over into exile to be ruled by the nations of the world, but not our souls. We must openly proclaim to all that with regard to everything involving our religion -- the Torah of the people of Israel, with its commandments and customs -- no one is going to impose his views on us, and no force has the right to subjugate us."
In a letter sent out by the Previous Rebbe on the first anniversary of his release from prison, the Rebbe explained that the 12th of Tammuz is a day of rejoicing for every single Jew.
"It was not myself alone that the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed on the 12th of Tammuz, but also those who love the Torah and observe its commandments, and so too, all Jews -- for the heart of every person of Israel, irrespective of his particular level in the observance of the mitzvot, is perfectly bound with G-d and His Torah....
"This is the day on which the light of the merit of public Torah study banished the misty gloom of calumnies and libels.
"It is fitting that such a day be set aside as a day of gatherings -- a day on which people arouse each other to fortify Torah study and the practice of Judaism in every place according to its needs...".
On this auspicious day of redemption and liberation, may we merit the true and complete redemption through Moshiach.
Ten miracles were wrought for our ancestors in the Holy Temple...no person ever said to his fellowman; "The place is too crowded for me to lodge overnight in Jerusalem." (Ethics, 5:5)
This miracle can be understood as an expression of the unity generated by Jerusalem. The mishna does not say that the city was not crowded.
On the contrary, it is highly likely that it was crowded, for the many pilgrims could not easily have found lodgings. Nevertheless, the unity which the city inspired motivated both hosts and guests to be accommodating, and everyone accepted the crowded conditions willingly, without allowing the crowding to detract from their love for the holy city.
(Sichot Kodesh, Parshat Re'eh, 5738)
Ten entities were created on Shabbat eve at twilight... (Ethics 5:6)
This mishna has particular relevance for the present age.
For, according to the concept that each of the days of creation parallels a millennia of existence, we are approaching twilight on Friday.
Just as in the narrative of creation, miraculous entities which completed the work of creation as a whole were created at that time, we too are living in a time of miracles in which perfection can be granted to all existence.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. IV)
The mishna can also be appreciated as teaching us the importance of using every moment.
Twilight -- the last moments before he commencement of the Sabbath -- was used to enhance creation in its totality.
Similarly, we have the potential to use every moment granted us to influence and improve our environment as a whole.
(Sichot Kodesh, Parshiot Behar-Bechukosai, 5747)
There are four types of temperament:
- He who is easily angered and easily pacified....
- He whom it is hard to anger and hard to pacify....
- He whom it is hard to anger and easy to pacify is pious.
- He whom it's easy to anger and hard to pacify is a wicked person.
The Talmud teaches:
When one gives way to anger, if he is wise, his wisdom leaves him; if he is a prophet, his power of prophecy leaves him. And even if greatness was decreed for him from Heaven, whosoever becomes angry will be degraded.
Conversely, says the Talmud, among those whom the Holy One loves are a man who does not become angry as a rule, and one who will overlook irritating causes for retaliation.
(Talmud, Pesachim 66b, 113b)
The physical body of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, was incarcerated in the infamous Spalerno prison, but his indomitable spirit was completely unfettered.
In spite of severe physical and psychological tortures inflicted upon him by his cruel and coarse jailers, he never wavered in his belief in G-d and devotion to Judaism.
On the 15th of Sivan, after an endless night of torture he demanded that he be given his tefillin. "Forget about it!" laughed his torturers. "You'll never get them as long as you're here!"
"If that is so, I declare that I am undertaking a hunger strike. Until you give me my tefillin, I will neither eat nor drink, and the prisoners in my cell will be witness to my fast."
The Rebbe stood in the dark cell praying in a loud voice, while his cell-mates stood in silent awe of the scene.
Neither the terrifying surroundings nor the screamed profanities of the guards could penetrate the Rebbe's profound meditations.
The Rebbe continued his hunger strike throughout the next two days and nights. At ten o'clock that night he was taken to be interrogated. There were three interrogators: two Jews -- Lulov and Nachmanson -- and one gentile, Dachtriov.
The room was large and the marble walls were lined with large tubes which enabled the GPU agents in the adjacent room to hear and transcribe the interrogation.
When the Rebbe entered the room he turned to his interrogators and remarked, "This is the first time that I have come into a room and not a single person has risen from his place!"
"Do you know where you are?" they asked him.
"Of course. I know that this is a place where it is NOT required to put a mezuza. There are several such places, for example, a stable and a bathroom."
The Rebbe refused to be intimidated and declared angrily, "You have no right to accuse me! Return my possessions to me!"
But they proceeded to read the charges against the Rebbe:
Abetting the reactionary forces of the USSR; counter-revolution; exerting an influence on Russian Jews; spreading religion; corresponding with foreigners and relaying information about the Soviet Union, etc.
The Rebbe explained that he didn't impose his will on anyone; it is the way of Chasidut to influence by example, not by force or power.
One hundred and eighty years before, his ancestor, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, had been forced to explain the tenets of Chasidut to the interrogators of the Czar; now Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak had to do the same to Soviet interrogators.
The Rebbe responded to all of their accusations, and then lashed out against Lulov, saying: "Listen to me. Maybe you think you will start a new Beilis case [the infamous blood-libel charge], but remember how that attempt failed." And the Rebbe continued in this manner to refute all their words.
At that time, Nachmanson entered the room and related the following anecdote: "Lulov, do you know that my parents were childless until they went to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing? This is the man right here...and I am the child who was born." The interrogators laughed hilariously at this irony.
The interrogation lasted late into the night.
At the end, Lulov angrily blurted out, "In another 24 hours you will be shot dead!" This was a real possibility at the time.
Suffering excruciating pain from the beatings he had received, the Rebbe continued his hunger strike until Friday, when his tefillin and books were returned to him.
At that time, the Rebbe announced that he would eat only food brought from his home. That Shabbat, he was brought three whole challas baked in his home (an example of the new deferential treatment he was to receive).
The guard who had previously been so gratuitously cruel, now went out of his way to accommodate the Rebbe. As the Rebbe had requested, the guard would knock on his cell door to indicate the time for evening prayer, and at the conclusion of that Shabbat, the Rebbe was given two matches with which to make Havdala [the prayer marking the separation between the holiness of Shabbat and the mundane week].
On the 12th of Tammuz, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok was released from prison and sure death.
Thirteen years later, the Rebbe arrived in the United States.
His arrival marked the inception of a new era in Jewish America.
It had been assumed that Torah could never flourish in America as it had in Europe, but with his famous pronouncement, "America is not different," the Rebbe opened the way for a dramatic growth of Torah observance on these shores.
The day of his liberation is a day of liberation for Jews the world over.
"For a small moment have I forsaken you, but with great compassion shall I gather you in." (Isaiah 54:7)
When Moshiach comes and G-d's great compassion will become manifest, everyone will see how this entire lengthy exile was in fact "a small moment".
(Chasidic discourse of the Previous Rebbe)