Extended Warranty | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | A Call To Action
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It Happened Once | Moshiach Matters
When purchasing a major appliance, it's not enough to shop around for the best price, to check it out in Consumer Reports, and to talk to people who already own the item in question.
We often want to know what kind of warranty the appliance has, w hat is covered and for how long. Once we've considered all the pros and cons and we've actually decided to buy the item, we have to decide whether to invest in an "extended warranty."
Extended warranties are offered by the manufacturers, private companies, and even credit card companies.
What you're getting for those extra dollars is more coverage and insurance.
Judaism has its own extended warranty policy, and it's called a mezuza.
"Mezuza" is actually the Hebrew word for lintel -- the side of the doorpost. But colloquially it refers to the small piece of parchment upon which a scribe writes by hand the "Shema" prayer found in the Torah and the verses immediately following it.
One of the functions of the mezuza, which is to be placed on every doorpost, is to actually guard our comings and goings.
It offers us an "extended warranty," not simply guarding the home itself, but also providing coverage for the people living in the home and is not in effect only when they're at home, but even when they go out. And the "guarantee" never expires! Now that's what you call extended coverage!
In fact, the mezuza's job is actually hinted to in the Hebrew letter "shin" found on most mezuza covers.
Shin is the first letter of one of G-d's names, "Sha-dai" which is an acronym for the words "Guardian of the Doors of Israel."
The great Torah commentator Onkelos once explained G-d's coverage of His people via the mezuza as follows:
"In the world of men the king sits inside his palace, while his servants stand on guard outside. With G-d, however, the opposite is true. His servants sit inside, and He alone protects them round about."
A similar sentiment was expressed by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Rabbi Judah the Prince).
The King of Persia once sent a valuable jewel to honor the great Rabbi Yehuda. As was the custom in those days, a suitable gift of worth was expected to be sent in return. After much thought, Rabbi Yehuda sent a mezuza to the king.
The king was offended by the small gift, to his eye nothing more than a piece of parchment covered with strange writing.
Rabbi Yehuda, however, explained to the king: "The jewel you gave me has to be guarded night and day from being stolen. But the mezuza itself guards its owner, even while he sleeps, for G-d never sleeps, as it says, "The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps."
The Jewish extended warranty policy does, however, have some stipulations and small print.
One clause is that the mezuza parchments need to be checked twice every seven years.
Another specification is that particularly in the month of Elul, our current month (which precedes the High Holidays) we show our interest in being more conscientious with mitzvot by having our mezuzot checked by a reliable scribe.
(This inspection is necessary as a mezuza can become invalid if even one of the letters is faded or cracked.)
Extend your Jewish extended warranty this week by having your mezuzot inspected by a knowledgeable scribe and by affixing mezuzot to doorposts in your home which require them.
Our Torah portion, Shoftim, opens with the command, "Judges and officers you shall place at all your gates."
The wording is reminiscent of, but differs from, the one that we say three times daily in the silent Amida prayer, taken from the prophet of Redemption, Isaiah, "Return your judges as of old and your advisors as in the beginning."
We can well understand why the word "officers" is not part of the promise of the Redemption, for officers enforce the law and will therefore not be necessary at a time when the very existence of evil will be banished from the earth.
Here we see the difference between the times of exile and the times of Redemption.
In our portion, the Torah links the judges to officers indicating that their rulership is by decree and dependent on enforcement.
In the Redemption, soon to come, the judges will be seen more as advisors since the people will be convinced more of the personal benefit that is derived from compliance.
This feeling develops the closeness between judge and judged which is implied in the wording of Isaiah, "your judges" in the second person.
The way this concept is worded in the Torah is associated with the nature of the Torah itself, it being a direct revelation of the will and wisdom of the Almighty, a decree from Above, as it were.
On the other hand the words of the Prophets, though also emanating from G-d, are more clearly associated with the human mind which transmits them and thus are more similar to the judge as advisor mentioned before.
Indeed part of the role assumed by the prophets of each generation has been to care for the spiritual and even material needs of the people.
Our current portion is also the source of Maimonides ruling that the belief in human prophets is a fundamental of Judaism.
In his epistle to Yemen, Maimonides describes "Prophecy returns to Israel" as a preparation to the Redemption particularly in the personage of Moshiach who is to be "close in prophecy to Moshe."
It is therefore essential to convey to the world that there are human beings in our times who have been endowed with prophecy, that we have a positive commandment to obey them once established as such.
Particularly in the major prophecy that all required conditions for the coming of Moshiach have been met and that we should prepare to greet the Redemption which is immediately to unfold.
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe, Parshat Shoftim, 5751.
by Tzvi Jacobs
The Jewish comedian drew a large crowd.
However, you could say the last laugh was on Paul Miller, a pre-med student visiting from Leeds University.
Because after the show, Rabbi Shmuel Boteach, the Chabad emissary at Oxford University who sponsored the performance, invited Paul to a class on Jewish philosophy.
"If G-d wanted to destroy the entire world, G-d forbid, how do you think He would do it?" Rabbi Boteach asked the roomful of students.
The students offered various answers, such as floods, meteor crashes, and so on.
"G-d would simply stop creating the world," the Rabbi answered. "Creation is not something that happened once, many years ago. G-d is constantly creating everything anew, from absolute nothingness, every single moment."
Inspired by this novel concept, Paul bought some books on 'Chassidus' (Chassidic philosophy).
He spent much of his spare time absorbed in his Jewish books, and shared what he was learning with Elliot Shear, a close friend and classmate at Leeds, who also was not observant.
They both developed an unquenchable thirst to learn more.
They "happened" to meet Rabbi Y. Sufrin, who had a Chabad House near Elliot's parents' home, and he recommended the Ivy League Summer Torah Study in New York's Catskill Mountains.
In June of 1992, Paul and Elliot flew to the United States, to experience Judaism first-hand and taste "Jewish soul food" at the Ivy League retreat. It was a very powerful experience for the two British students.
By the time they returned to college, Chaim and Eliezer (formerly Paul and Elliot) were putting on tefilin every day, eating kosher, and observing Shabbat.
But there was a problem.
On campus, there were no Jewish classes, no Shabbat program, no Jewish services. There was a Chabad House in Leeds, but the University had been off-limits to Chabad for many years; it was the territory of the Hillel House.
"I don't think we'll be able to achieve anything," Chaim said to Eliezer, "but we have to try. I think that's what the Rebbe wants us to do."
Chaim and Eliezer started a weekly class on Chassidic philosophy. They taught what they had learned in the Ivy League program, and supplemented their limited background by studying books in English.
After a while, they added a weekly discussion group on Thursday nights. And on Shabbat, they organized a meal and made a "fabrengen," where they told stories, sang songs and opened up their souls -- and, of course, ate `kugel' and other Jewish foods. They invited Rabbi Dove, the Hillel House rabbi, to give a weeknight class in Jewish law.
The classes became extremely popular. 40 to 60 students attended on a regular basis. "It's amazing what being armed with a little Chassidus, and some enthusiasm, can do," Chaim wrote Rabbi Benzion Metzger, his Ivy League mentor and teacher. "Just one Shabbos and we'll all be free..." was a popular song of their Shabbos group.
The students originated an idea which has since spread throughout campuses in England, Europe and Israel: "Shabbat Olamit".
The idea was that every Jew on campus should celebrate one Shabbat together.
Rabbi Dove was in South Africa when the students were arranging the Shabbaton. When he returned from his three-week trip, Rabbi Dove was upset to learn they were planning to make a Lubavitcher the main speaker at the Shabbaton.
"Lubavitch is okay," Rabbi Dove politely told Chaim, "but don't think it's the only way."
It was too late to change the program; the flyers, billing Rabbi Benzion Metzger of New York as the guest speaker, were already posted all over campus.
On the Shabbat before Lag B'Omer, about 150 students of Leeds University were placed in homes in the Jewish neighborhood of Leeds. They prayed and ate together in the shul of Rabbi Angyalfi, the Chabad emissary in Leeds. Rabbi Metzger enlightened and inspired everyone with his dynamic talks.
Even Rabbi Dove was impressed with the brilliance and deep insights of Rabbi Metzger's talks. He was also moved by the the self-sacrifice of Rabbi Angyalfi, who happily cooked all the meals for the students.
The next day at the Lag B'Omer Parade, Rabbi Dove spoke: "The Lubavitcher Rebbe has publicly announced, 'Moshiach is on his way'. We should be excited by this unprecedented announcement. We should be preparing for Moshiach!"
Rabbi Dove meant it.
As a first step, he opened the doors of the Leeds University campus to Chabad. Rabbi Angyalfi immediately started a weekly Tanya class, and another Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Rapaport, taught a Talmud class. Rabbi Dove continued teaching his popular class on Jewish law.
"It's like a small yeshiva here," Chaim wrote Rabbi Metzger, "but I want very much to learn full-time in a real yeshiva."
Chaim also yearned to see the Rebbe, whom he had never seen.
"You should go to the Yeshiva in Morristown, New Jersey," Rabbi Angyalfi told Chaim. "It's one of the only places in the world that a person can come in fresh, and catch up, while learning in a full yeshiva environment."
Last summer, Chaim arrived in Morristown, and has been learning full-time ever since. (Eliezer, by the way, finished college and arrived in Morristown this summer.)
"I'm very glad I came," Chaim said. "The opportunity is incredible -- to learn all day from excellent, dedicated teachers, and in a peaceful environment. And, to study in one of the Rebbe's institutions is a tremendous privilege."
Preparations for the High Holidays
"Our Sages state that thirty days before a holiday, we should learn the laws pertaining to it.
It is already less than thirty days before the holidays of Tishrei begin and in this context, it is necessary to mention the importance of providing Jews with their holiday needs so that they will be able to celebrate Rosh Hashana and the holidays which follow in the manner stated in the Bible, 'Eat sumptuous foods and drink sweet beverages and send portions to those who do not have them prepared.'
(The Rebbe, Elul, 5750--1990)
6 Teves, 5737 (1977)
I received your letter of 24 Kislev about your Teflon which you had checked.
With regard to the law whether the tefilin had been posul [invalid] or not, you should ask a Rabbi in your neighborhood, to whom you could give additional details, which are lacking in your letter but need to be known in order to answer the question.
In general, however, in such a situation it would be good to be instrumental in persuading at least one Jew who does not put on tefilin daily, to do so; and to encourage one who does actually put on tefilin and yourself to review the laws connected with the mitzva of putting on tefilin.
Since you mention that your daughter Chaya Leah has become 3 years old on 2 Tevet, I trust she has begun to light the candles on erev Shabbat (and erev Yom Tov), the importance of which has been greatly emphasized lately. This will also brighten up her mazel.
And as we are now coming from Chanukah, I trust that you and all your family will increase the light of Torah and mitzvot at home and outside, with an additional measure of hiddur, [enchancement] since there is always room for improvement in all matters of goodness and holiness. Torah and mitzvot, being derived from the En Sof [Infinite].
Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 5735 (1975)
With regard to the tragic occurrence of some years ago about which you write, which you think might be connected with a lack of meticulous observance... there is, of course, the well-known rule of Torat-Chayim [the Torah of life] that nothing stands in the way of teshuva [repentance]. And teshuva, too, must be done with joy, in full trust that G-d has accepted the teshuva.
Indeed, the Alter Rebbe in his Iggeret Hateshuva (ch. 11) proves halachically that teshuva is accepted, from the fact that we conclude the prayer "Slach lanu" [pardon us] with a blessing, "chanun hamarbeh lislo'ach." [Gracious One who pardons abundantly]
And were there any doubt about it, no blessing could be made, since when there is doubt as to whether to recite a blessing we are lenient. (And to add in a lighter vein -- if one has any doubt about it, this in itself calls for teshuva).
At any rate, for an added measure, I would suggest that you use your influence to induce... who have not been meticulous in this area, to be more observant, which would make up for any past deficiency on your part.
5 Shevat, 5718 (1958)
...It is certainly unnecessary to emphasize that the more one devotes oneself to matters of Torah and mitzvot, the more blessings are bestowed by G-d upon all involved, and the more one is provided with one's needs.
Although it is uncomfortable to write what follows, I consider it my duty to speak up and not to avoid the issue.
In many cases, the situation you have described is the result of their parents not having properly observed the laws of Family Purity at the moment of conception.
If, G-d forbid, this is true concerning the matter of which you wrote, it is self-understood that when one wants to change the outcome, one must first set to right the underlying cause.
Although at first glance this may seem to be something which has already happened and exists in the past, our holy Torah offers advice, teaching that "nothing stands in the face of repentance."
The repentance must obviously be great, "a double repentance," involving both parents' firm principles of Torah regarding Family Purity, and also to do the same, as the Midrash stated, "You have saved a soul, etc."
For G-d Alm-ghty will ensure that through their efforts, many Jewish children will be spared by virtue of their parents' observance of Family Purity, which, in turn, will cure their own child. May G-d Alm-ghty help you find the appropriate words to convey this, words that emanate from the heart, to bring about the desired effect.
With blessings, and awaiting good tidings,
P.S. I am taking this opportunity to encourage you to undertake the learning of the three daily portions of Chumash, Psalms and Tanya, for, as the Previous Rebbe said on many occasions, this applies equally to every Jew and is a remedy for many matters.
The Ascent Institute of Tsfat offers Shabbat hospitality, daily classes, a youth hostel, tours and hikes, and special seasonal seminars.
The eleventh annual "Day of the Holy Ari" Kabbala Seminar, commemorating the yartzeit of the 16th century Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the "Ari") took place recently.
The weekend included classes with modern mystics, midnight kabbalistic customs at the resting place of the Ari and a hiking tour.
You can contact Ascent at 2 Ari St., POB 296, Tsfat, Israel 13102, tel (06) 921364.
Do you have a personal experience you would like to share with L'Chaim readers for the "Slice of Life" column? If so, please send it to: L'Chaim Editor, 1408 President St., Bklyn, NY 11213 or fax it to (718) 493-1000. Include your address and phone number. We regret we cannot return or acknowledge all manuscripts but we will contact you if we chose to publish your article.
To purchase a copy of the sixth year of L'Chaim send $28 to: L'Chaim Books, 1408 President St., Bklyn, NY 11213. The 5th year is also available.
The first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, described the spiritual atmosphere of the month of Elul, the month preceding the High Holidays, with a parable:
"Before a king enters his city, the inhabitants of the city go out to greet and receive him in the field. At that time, anyone who desires is granted permission and can approach him and greet him. He receives them all pleasantly and shows a smiling countenance to all...
To explain the parable: In the month of Elul, we go out to receive G-d's blessed countenance in the field..."
G-d, the King of Kings, is in the field, so to speak.
We don't have to go through any protocol or wait in long lines in order to approach Him. Our ability to interact, to connect and to relate to G-d is much less constricted and more open during the month of Elul.
Our Sages have taught that G-d says, "Open for Me an entrance the size of the eye of a needle and I will open for you an entrance the size of the Great Doors of the Holy Temple."
They have also taught that in the path a person wants to go, in that direction G-d will lead him.
If this is true at all times of the year, how much more so is it true in the month of Elul. Thus, these next few weeks are an especially auspicious time to enhance our relationship with G-d, through mitzvot, prayer, and Torah study.
In a slightly different vein, Rabbi Shneur Zalman described the relationship of a tzadik to his "flock" even after his passing by stating that the tzadik is even more in this physical world than during his lifetime.
After his passing, too, Rabbi Shneur Zalman continues, the tzadik cares for his people even in physical matters of livelihood and health.
As a member of the Rebbe's secretariat noted, the Rebbe now is, "in the field" as it were. One needn't call the Rebbe's office, or mail a letter, or stand in line for "Sunday dollars." There is no protocol or lines to wait in. These limitations to our relationship with the Moses of our generation no longer exist.
The Rebbe is continuing to tend to his "flock" -- the entire Jewish people. He is continuing to intercede on our behalf, and will do so until the revelation of our righteous Moshiach, may it be NOW.
And this is the case of the slayer...whoever unwittingly kills his neighbor...he shall flee to one of those cities, and live (Deut. 19:4,5)
The Torah designates six cities of refuge to which a person who has inadvertently killed someone can flee and atone for his deed. When Moshiach comes and the borders of Israel are expanded to include the territory of the Kini, Kenizi and Kadmoni, three more cities of refuge will be established.
But why will additional cities be necessary in the Messianic Era? If peace will reign supreme, and violence between men will disappear from the face of the earth, what purpose will these cities of refuge serve?
Although no new acts of violence will occur, the cities of refuge will allow those Jews who accidentally killed someone throughout the centuries of exile to seek atonement and be worthy of the Messianic Era.
(The Rebbe, Rosh Chodesh Elul 5746)
For these nations...hearken to soothsayers and to diviners. But as for you, the L-rd your G-d has not permitted you to do so (Deut. 18: 14)
Heavenly bodies and constellations have no power over the Jew; whatever is foretold by stargazers will be nullified, for "Israel is not under the influence of the stars."
You shall appoint judges... in all your gates. (Deut. 16:18)
In the homiletic explanation of this passage, "your gates" refers to our sensory orifices (our eyes, ears, nose and mouth) which are the gates between the person and all that surrounds him.
You should "appoint judges" on "all your gates," that all one's senses should be led by the "judges" of his soul, the intellect of the G-dly soul with which he learns Torah. The Torah should control the functioning of one's sensory powers.
(Sichot Kodesh, parshat Shoftim, 5751)
Neither shall you set up for yourself any pillar (matzeiva), which the L-rd your G-d hates (Deut. 16:22)
The word "matzeiva" comes from the Hebrew root meaning constant, steady and permanent.
Do not look at this world as an end unto itself, the Torah counsels. Regard it merely as a passageway to be navigated and a preparation for the World to Come.
In the year 1848 a war raged between Austria and Hungary.
It so happened that a Chasid, Rabbi Israel of Skoli, was travelling through Hungary and was in the town of Deberzin on business. It was his misfortune that while he was still in the town, the Austrian army surrounded the town and lay in wait to besiege it.
Rabbi Israel was trapped.
When he realized that he was unable to leave the town, he decided to prepare himself for the duration of the crisis, and he went to the market and bought food that would last him for a while. Then, he steeled himself to wait out the hostilities.
Every day Rabbi Israel went to the synagogue to pray, recite Psalms and pass the day studying Torah. He was very careful not to engage in business or do anything else that might raise suspicion, for the soldiers of the Hungarian army patrolled the streets day and night looking for trouble.
One morning as he walked down a quiet side street on his way to the synagogue, he was stopped by an army patrol.
"Who are you?" demanded the soldiers.
"I am a Jew and my name is Israel," was the straightforward reply.
"Where do you come from and what are you doing here?"
He couldn't help but answer the truth, that he was a merchant travelling from Austria. They immediately arrested him on suspicion, and in the tense atmosphere of war, they threw him into prison, although he was innocent.
Poor Rabbi Israel was put on trial before a wartime military tribunal and found guilty of spying for Austria. The shocking sentence was read and he was given the death penalty, to be carried out the following Shabbat.
The condemned man sat in his dark cell for the next few days, desperately reciting Psalms and beseeching G-d to have mercy on him and rescue him from this terrible fate.
Rabbi Israel prayed as usual.
He had just completed his prayers when he heard the sound of marching in his direction. The sound stopped just outside his door which swung open to reveal armed soldiers.
"Prepare yourself, for we have come to bring you to the place of execution," the leader announced. They bound Rabbi Israel's arms and marched him toward the courtyard as he lifted his eyes towards Heaven.
As the condemned man and his captors walked past a group of soldiers, one officer looked directly at the prisoner and called out, "Srulke, where are you going?"
Rabbi Israel turned and stared at the officer, but he didn't recognize his face at all. Reb Israel replied bitterly, "I am going to die."
"Why is that?" the officer asked, with a smile on his face.
Rabbi Israel went on to explain that he had been arrested as a spy and sentenced to death. The officer let out a loud laugh. "Ha! You, a spy! That's a good one! I know you're an honest fellow.
"Soldiers," the officer barked, "Take this man back to his cell!" But the soldiers replied that they had other orders.
"Wait here. I am going to get new orders."
In a few minutes the officer returned with the orders to return Rabbi Israel to his cell. Once there, the astonished man sat down and opened his book of psalms to resume his heartfelt prayers.
That very day the Austrian troops captured the town. When they went to the prison they found Rabbi Israel sitting over his book. "What are you doing here?" they asked.
He retold his tale, and the Austrian soldiers freed him and treated him like a hero. When they asked what they could do for him, he only said, "I would like to get my fruit and wine back, please." But when they went to the place he specified, his provisions were gone.
Rabbi Israel returned to his home and went at once to visit his Rebbe, Reb Meir of Premishlan.
When Rabbi Israel entered the room the Rebbe turned to his shammes [attendant] and said, "Do you remember that Shabbat when we ate Reb Israel's dried pears?"
It happened to be the same Shabbat that Rabbi Israel was to be executed in Deberzin and had been miraculously rescued. And with that, the Rebbe asked that the pears be served. "If you only knew whom I was forced to trouble in order to rescue you!"
Suddenly he will come
Rabbi Menachem Zev Greenglass of Montreal related that in the early '50s, he and a few other chasidim were standing outside the Rebbe's room discussing the coming of Moshiach and how it would happen.
In the midst of their discussion the Rebbe's door opened suddenly -- without their being prepared -- and the Rebbe stepped out, explaining: "This is how he will come."