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It Happened Once | Moshiach Matters
This coming Jewish year is a leap year, or, as it is known in Hebrew, a "shana m'uberet" -- a "pregnant year."
Our Sages have used such terminology not only for the Jewish calendar year that has 13 rather than 12 months, but as a metaphor for Moshiach and the Redemption, as well.
Moshiach's coming is the culmination of a process, the length of which has been a mystery.
However, we do know that the longer we wait, the closer we are to the event.
The best analogy for this is pregnancy and birth.
The present period of exile is akin to pregnancy and the Redemption is the final birth.
Although we may not know with any certainty as to when the woman might give birth, we do know with certainty that: she will give birth; it will come within a prescribed period (seven to twelve months, but usually nine); the longer we wait, the greater is the expectation that the birth is imminent; when the waiting period is too long, i.e., longer than usual, it can be dangerous for the mother and the child, and therefore; something must be done to hasten the process i.e, something to help induce the birth; advanced labor is a sign that it is time for the mother - to-be to push, something which she was told not to do in an earlier stage of pregnancy.
The analogue of all this is clear.
What was true in the Talmudic era, close to 2,000 years before the Messianic deadline, is not true today.
To suggest otherwise not only flies in the face of logic, but is also the equivalent of one who in his "piety" insists that the restrictions of the Sabbath apply on Tuesday as well.
The fact that the "pregnancy," i.e. exile, has lasted for much longer than anyone could have predicted, dictates that we realize: Moshiach's coming is imminent; that to delay Moshiach's coming even one more day is fraught with great danger for the Jewish people -- every day we are witness to the loss of hundreds and thousands of Jews through intermarriage and assimilation; something must be done, within the parameters of Jewish law, to hasten his coming, and even more intense measures than before; and that inasmuch as we have gone through the most advanced and painful stages of labor (the Holocaust), we must now begin to push, something we were expressly told not to do in the past.
For those who fear that a push for Moshiach can cause the emergence of a false Messiah, the analogy of pregnancy is apt here, as well.
Just because there is false labor doesn't mean that all labor is false!
"Let G-d decide when he wants to bring Moshiach," some say.
In Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith, the 13th principle (concerning the Resurrection of the Dead), reads "whenever G-d deems it appropriate," whereas in the twelfth principle concerning the belief in and anticipation of Moshiach no such qualification is mentioned.
Commentaries point out the obvious.
With regard to Moshiach, his coming depends on our effort.
We should not say that he will come when G-d is ready.
G-d is ready.
Moshiach is ready.
The world is ready.
Are we ready?
Adapted from: Teaching About Moshiach by Rabbi H. Greenberg
This week's Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, contains the commandment to pay a hired laborer on the same day he has worked.
"At his day you shall give him his hire; neither shall the sun go down upon it."
We, the Jewish people, are considered the "hired laborers" of G-d.
Our "task" is to observe the Torah and its mitzvot, and our "payment" is the reward G-d grants us for having obeyed His will.
A general principle in Judaism is that G-d Himself performs the same mitzvot He commands us to observe. If we are forbidden to delay paying our employees until the following day, G-d too is required to "pay" every Jew immediately upon the performance of a mitzva. Yet the Torah also states, "Today is for observance; tomorrow (the World to Come) is for receiving reward." Is this not a contradiction?
If one considers a Jew's entire life -- the sum total of his observance since the day he was born -- as one long workday, after which he is entitled to his reward in Gan Eden, [the World to Come] this explanation is in itself insufficient.
For the true reward for observance of Torah and mitzvot is not granted in the afterlife in Gan Eden, but in the Messianic Era, when the dead will be resurrected and live once again in a physical body.
The reward a Jew receives in Gan Eden is primarily in the merit of the Torah he studied during his lifetime; the reward for our mitzvot will come only after the Resurrection.
But how is this fulfilling the mitzva of "At his day you shall give him his hire" if we must wait thousands of years for our "payment"?
In order to understand, let us examine exactly what our Divinely-appointed job entails.
According to the Torah, this physical world was created solely because "G-d desired a dwelling place down below."
Precisely here, in a coarse material world that obscures the holiness within, G-d wants His Presence to be revealed.
The task of transforming the world into a suitable dwelling place for G-d is a collective one, spanning the generations since the beginning of time.
Every mitzva that a Jew performs refines his body and purifies the world at large, gradually infusing the material world with G-dliness.
Over the thousands of years of the world's existence this holiness has accumulated, readying the world for its ultimate perfection -- the revelation of Moshiach and the Messianic Era.
The "contract" between G-d and His people is not that of an employer and his day laborer. Rather, the Jewish people has undertaken the collective charge of preparing the world for Moshiach, an undertaking that is not the responsibility of one individual, but is the duty of all Jews, throughout the generations.
The full reward for our efforts will be granted only when the job is completed and Moshiach is revealed, speedily in our day.
Even now, however, during the last minutes of exile, G-d is obligated to ensure that all the needs of his "laborers" are met, so that we may properly attend to the task at hand and hasten the immediate Redemption.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 24
by Rabbi Nachman Bernhard
Reprinted from the Chabad Magazine.
I received my Rabbinic ordination in 1958 and left for my first position in Wichita, Kansas. Once, Rabbi Yosef Wineberg came to Wichita on the behest of the Rebbe. I met him but I had no idea he was a Lubavitcher.
We left Wichita five years later and returned to New York when our eldest daughter was of school age.
The Orthodox Union asked me to be their New York director. I accepted the position. Within a few months I was asked to become Rabbi of the largest synagogue in South Africa.
Not feeling drawn to the Rabbinate and wanting to pursue my studies, I declined. But they insisted that I at least come and see the place.
After my visit, I read a friend's report about a lecture tour to South Africa. The report mentioned Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. The name rang a bell and I thought maybe it was worthwhile to hear his opinion about the proposed position.
I met with Rabbi Wineberg and told him my hesitations. He firmly insisted that I go there. "They need a young, dynamic rabbi like you," he said. Rabbi Wineberg didn't give up easily and suggested that I ask the Rebbe. "I would if you arranged it," I told him.
It was after 1 a.m. when I entered the Rebbe's office and saw the Rebbe for the first time in my life.
The yechidut [personal audience] lasted for over an hour.
I felt as if the whole world around us had disappeared and it was only the Rebbe and I.
This yechidut took place a year after I had left both the Rabbinate and the Orthodox Union; I had devoted myself to learning full time.
In the yechidut, the Rebbe told me that Jewish life today is being devastated, as if by a fire, and whoever can extinguish the fire, must do so.
The Rebbe pointed his finger at me: "You have no right to sit and become a talmid chacham [scholar]." I said that I could fulfill my obligation by giving a class, but the Rebbe responded, "How many people will you affect, 20 or 30?"
I mentioned I was offered a principal's position.
The Rebbe said again, "You will only influence 200 or 400 children in a big school. Hashem has given you the skills and strength to lead an entire community." He urged me to utilize my potential to the fullest.
I still resisted.
"I have already left an important position for the sake of my children's education. What will happen to them in South Africa?" By then, I had three daughters.
The Rebbe answered that the children of every Jew who devotes himself to communal work receive Divine protection.
The Rebbe didn't exactly tell me "go," but he calmed my fears about going to South Africa.
When I went out of the Rebbe's room I said to myself, "I may not yet be a Lubavitcher Chasid, but from now on I am the Rebbe's Chasid."
We arrived in South Africa in 1966, a few weeks before Rosh Hashana. Whenever I was offered exciting positions in other parts of the world, I asked the Rebbe.
The Rebbe always answered me that South Africa was my proper place, that I was there by Divine Providence, that my situation was improving, and that G-d would help.
After three years, the government wanted to throw me out because of my opposition to apartheid. I didn't call for an open rebellion. I just spoke from the Jewish heart and conscience. I said that we should work to bring about change legally and within the system. But the prospect of deportation did not upset me at all. The Rebbe had wanted me to be there, so I was. But if I was deported, I would be able to move to Israel.
The Rebbe "arranged" that the government wouldn't deport me.
In 1974, after 10 years in South Africa, I made plans to move to Israel. I wanted to see the Rebbe to ask him to recommend someone to replace me. Two weeks before my trip, my thirteen year old daughter told me that she was worried that the Rebbe would not allow us to abandon the community in South Africa. She wanted to write the Rebbe about it, so I agreed.
In the letter she pleaded with the Rebbe to let us go to Israel.
I allowed her to send the letter on the condition that she would write that I hadn't told her to write it.
I flew to New York and went into yechidus, which lasted an hour and a half.
The Rebbe told me how much I could accomplish in South Africa.
Everyone can accomplish best in his own milieu, the Rebbe said, but it is much harder to have an effect in an alien environment.
The Rebbe suggested that I remain in South Africa.
I let out a big sigh.
The Rebbe suggested that I visit Israel frequently.
I objected that these trips were very costly.
The Rebbe smiled and said that he would pay for my ticket, and continued to encourage me to stay in South Africa.
Again I sighed, and again the Rebbe asked me, "Why are you sighing? You are fulfilling a Heavenly mission! The hundred thousand Jews that you can effect will bring G-d so much satisfaction!"
The Rebbe also spoke about himself.
"Don't you think that I also want to be in Israel, near the holiness, but we have responsibilities..."
By now I knew that I would return to South Africa.
But the Rebbe wasn't satisfied. He knew that I accepted his decision, but he wanted me to be happy about it, "not as a decree but with joy and good spirits."
I asked again about the political situation in South Africa.
Would South Africa remain stable? The Rebbe said, "Yes, until Moshiach comes."
Shortly after I returned to South Africa, my daughter got a response to her letter. (see "The Rebbe Writes")
The Rebbe knew that I spoke publicly against apartheid and that I founded an educational center in my shul to help blacks.
Several times the Rebbe encouraged the government to dissolve apartheid.
Once at the Rebbe's encouragement, I went with Rabbi Lipsker to speak to former Prime Minister Joe Vorster, who started making changes regarding apartheid.
A few months after our meeting, we were informed that the Prime Minister wanted to meet with us again.
This was several days before he went to Germany to meet Kissinger -- a meeting of paramount importance to South Africa.
The Prime Minister wanted to know "what does the Gentleman in New York have to say now?"
We said that he continues to give encouragement.
Many people in South Africa, Jews and non-Jews were strengthened by the Rebbe's assurance that they had nothing to fear because conditions would be good until Moshiach comes.
Maintain Your Jewish Name
Our Sages stated that one of the reasons the Jews merited the redemption from Egypt was that "they did not change their names."
They continued using Hebrew names throughout the entire exile.
Find out what your Jewish name is (a Jewish name can be Hebrew or Yiddish) and your mother's and father's Jewish names.
If you were never given a Jewish name, chose one yourself after consulting your rabbi.
Consider slowly switching to using your Jewish name.
UTILIZING ONE'S POTENTIAL
2 Menachem Av, 5734 (1974)
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of July 1st.
The reply in detail to the contents of your letter you will no doubt have received from your father, with whom I discussed it at some length. Nevertheless, I want to put down in writing some of the points and briefly at any rate.
First of all, I am grateful to note your concern, indeed profound concern, for your parents. This does not surprise me, of course, knowing your father and your upbringing. But it is nevertheless gratifying to see it expressed in a letter.
As for the subject matter of your letter, it is surely unnecessary to point out to you that when one thinks about the well-being of any person, including above all, his inner harmony and peace, one must obviously think not in terms of the immediate days and weeks, but also how it will be in the long run. This should be the consideration in regard to all affairs, but especially so when it is a question of where to settle down.
This is a very serious question even when one is at the crossroads, and much more so when one has already been settled in a place and contemplates changing it.
Now, with regard to your father, and knowing him, I have no doubt that he could feel in his element only in a place where he can fully utilize the knowledge which he has acquired and the qualities which G-d has bestowed upon him, that is, to utilize them in the fullest measure for the benefit of the many.
By comparison with this, personal amenities -- and I mean this also in a spiritual sense -- are not the decisive factor, and perhaps no factor at all.
All the above would be true even if it was a matter of conjecture. But in this case, after he has been so successful in his accomplishments in the past, there is no room for any doubt whatever as to the importance of this overriding consideration.
On the basis of what has been said above, supported by what you and all the other members of the family have seen of your father's hatzlocho [success] not only in your city, but South Africa as a whole, you will surely realize without any shadow of a doubt that your father will feel in his element and be truly happy if he continues his present situation in your country.
Moreover, it is surely unnecessary to bring special proof that the trend of assimilation, even assimilation in its coarsest form, namely intermarriage, is still very strong in all of South Africa, and that the work and fight to turn back this trend will still be required for a long time.
Fortunately, experience has shown that where there is a suitable and determined person with courage and determination to guide the young generation, the response is gratifying, and often highly gratifying. This has also been the experience of your father, who has succeeded, with G-d's help, to literally save many Jewish men and women from complete assimilation and to lead them in the way of G-d within the Jewish fold.
To return to you, I of course inquired from your father about your activities, as well as about those of the other children, in the spreading of Yiddishkeit.
May G-d grant strength in accordance with the saying of our Sage, "He who has 100, desires 200, and having achieved 200, desires 400." If ambition grows with achievement, even in material things, how much more should this be the case in matters of the spirit, which are the essential aspect of Jewish life.
I trust that you have read about the Five Mitzvah Campaigns which I have been urging recently, also pointing out that Jewish daughters and women have their part in these activities, and a very important part. I am confident that you and your friends are taking an active part in them.
With blessing, M. Schneerson
P.S. Inasmuch as I understand that your letter was written with your father's knowledge, I am sending him a copy of my reply.
MY JEWISH ABC'S
Delightful drawings and a simple but well-written text make this Jewish ABC book a truly welcome addition to any child's library. Written by Draizy Zelcer and published by HaChai Publishing.
ANTICIPATING THE REDEMPTION
Anticipating the Redemption contains seven Chasidic discourses of the Rebbe focusing on the Redemption and its ultimate consumation, the Resurrection of the Dead.
Translated by Rabbis Eliyahu Touger and Sholem Ber Wineberg.
To order send $12 to Sichos In English, 788 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213.
The Jewish people have a unique relationship with G-d, a relationship described in Song of Songs as that of a marriage between G-d (the groom) and the Jewish people (the bride).
During Elul a special dimension is added to this relationship as alluded to in the verse from Song of Songs which serves as an acronym for the word Elul, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine."
This verse actually contains two different types of G-dly service. We can enhance our relationship with G-d by focusing on these two services, the advantages of each and on the interrelation between them.
"I am my Beloved's" refers to a relationship with G-d that is initiated by man. It possesses an advantage over the service of "my Beloved is mine," specifically because it is accomplished on man's own initiative.
It contains, however, a limitation.
For, since man is limited, such service can reach only those levels of G-dliness which relate to the limitations of man and not to the infinite dimensions of G-dliness.
In contrast, the service of "my Beloved is mine," which refers to our relationship with G-d initiated by G-d, reflects a revelation of G-d as He is, unlimited and unbounded, to man.
However, since this comes about as a revelation from Above, it is not appreciated by man. Quite the contrary, it is regarded as "bread of shame," as our Sages refer to it. For a person appreciates and cherishes more that which he, himself has worked for and accomplished.
Since both services contain advantages and disadvantages, there is a need for the fusion of both these services and this is reflected in the name "Elul."
In this manner, even prayer, mitzvot and acts of kindness, carried out by man on his own initiative will have an unlimited dimension especially during this month.
When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the L-rd your G-d has delivered them into your hand, and you have taken them captive (Deut. 21:10)
Not only does G-d assure us victory over our enemies; we are promised that the spoils plundered by the nations will be fully restored to the Jewish people.
According to Maimonides, one of the first things Moshiach will do is "wage the wars of G-d and prevail."
Everything that was wrongfully stolen from the Jews during the exile will be returned to our hands.
Most significantly this includes the ultimate target of their hatred, the Holy Temple, which was twice destroyed.
When Moshiach comes and rebuilds the Temple, it will finally be redeemed from the captivity of the nations where it has been for almost two thousand years.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Teitzei 5750)
When you go forth to war...
These words refer to the descent of the soul, "a veritable part of G-d Above," into the physical world.
Its mission, enclothed within a physical body, is to wage war and conquer the material world by infusing it with holiness, learning Torah and observing its commandments.
This conflict will reach its successful conclusion with the coming of Moshiach, when G-dliness will reign triumphant.
You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together (Deut. 22:10)
G-d has mercy on all His creations, big and small.
The smaller donkey is unequal in strength to the mighty ox, and is unable to pull a plow with the same force. Yoking them together would cause the donkey to exert itself beyond its natural capacity, and is therefore forbidden.
You shall not give interest to your brother...anything that is lent upon interest (literally, "anything that bites") (Deut. 23:20)
Usury is likened to the bite of a serpent.
Just as it takes the body a few minutes to react to a snake's poison, so too does it take time for the full effect of the compounding of interest to be felt by the borrower.
There was once in Poland, a Jewish timber merchant named Reb Dov Ber who traded for many years with the gentry.
One day he was walking through the dense forests as was his custom before entering a bid on any timber.
Suddenly he was accosted by a huge brown bear, two heads taller than himself.
Dov Ber was himself a burly, muscular man, but he had no desire to fight the huge monster, and so, he quietly and calmly moved away from its line of vision. The hungry bear pursued him and he hid behind a thick tree, hoping the bear would continue moving on.
The bear, however, caught up to him and they began a frantic chase, running in circles around the trees, both becoming increasingly exhausted.
Finally, the weary bear, reached out trying to grab the man, but instead encircled the tree trunk with its massive paws.
Dov Ber grabbed both paws with his hands and desperately stuck them into the wood of the trunk. As the bear tried to disengage his paws, Dov Ber removed his belt and with his last strength, he tied the helpless bear to the tree.
He hurried to the closest village and related his harrowing experience to the villagers.
They listened skeptically to his tale, and although it seemed far-fetched to them, they armed themselves and followed him to the spot. Sure enough, the bear was still belted to the tree, tired from its struggle to extricate itself.
One of the men ran to get the local poretz, who finished the bear off with one well-placed shot.
Reb Dov, suffering from the terrible trauma, appeared home the next day a changed man. His hair and beard were now snow-white, and from that day on he was called "White Bear."
Reb Dov prospered in his business, earning a reputation being an honest, G-d fearing man.
From his contract with the great Count Potocki he made a large annual profit, for although the timber was available to the highest bidder, White Bear had established his claim.
Once, a new timber merchant named Meir Pinsker came to the area and decided that he would take Count Potocki's business away from Reb Dov.
When Reb Dov was informed that this new-comer had decided to try to take away his accustomed account he was deeply disturbed.
How could a fellow Jew disregard the Torah law of not encroaching on the livelihood of another? He decided to visit his Rebbe, the Shpoler Zeide, who was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.
The Shpoler Zeide listened to Reb Dov's problem and told him, "G-d hates injustice. Don't worry. Go home and continue your business as usual. The L-rd who provided for you up to now will not abandon you."
When the time arrived for the bids to be considered, his new competitor won the contract to the timber.
Pinsker hurried to the forest and was marking his trees when two horsemen appeared and angrily asked his name, demanding to see his contract. They studied the document and said, "If your name is Pinsker, then you are a thief, for there is another name written here. And they beat Reb Meir unmercifully.
Meanwhile, Reb Dov followed the advice of his Rebbe and went about marking his trees as if this year was no different than all the preceding ones.
The same two horsemen stopped him in the forest and in a friendly tone one remarked, "Can you imagine that! Just a couple of days ago another man claimed these trees as his own. And with your name clearly on the contract!" They handed him the contract, and there was his own name clearly written and stamped."
When Meir Pinsker recovered from his beating, he went to make a complaint to the count. But when all the forest-keepers were summoned, Reb Meir was unable to identify the two who had beaten him. The count scoffed. "Perhaps they were devils, paying you in kind for your bit of devilry with the "White Bear," he chided. But he promised to look into the matter.
Reb Dov was summoned to appear before the count.
They concluded that due to the custom of many years, Reb Dov's name was filled in as a matter of habit. "What would you like to do, White Bear?" asked the count.
"Let Meir Pinsker and I go before my rabbi and he will decide."
The count was agreeable and the two men stood before the Shpoler Zeide.
"Your lust for money caused you to transgress the commandment not to diminish your brother's livelihood!" the Rebbe said to the repentant Pinsker, and he gave him an appropriate penitence to atone for his sin.
Reb Dov was told to make a monetary settlement with Reb Meir, so that the latter would not suffer unduly. In the end both men left the Rebbe feeling happy with his verdicts with peace established between them.
The Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev of Brisk, wrote:
"It is not enough to believe in the concept of Moshiach but we must look forward to his coming every day, as Maimonides writes that whoever does not look forward to his coming is a heretic.
"It is not enough to believe that he will come but as we say in our prayers, 'We hope for Your salvation all day,'-- we must yearn for Moshiach's coming every moment of every single day."
(Hagadah Beit HaLevi)