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"Sweet dreams," is a typical wish before retiring for the night.
Sometimes you're lucky, and your dreams really are quite pleasant, though more often than not a bit unrealistic. At other times, though, it doesn't go so well. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.
Dreams often seem so real, so believable. In fact, people have been known to get angry with a friend for something he did only in a dream!
In King David's Psalms we read: "When G-d will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers."
The state in which we presently find ourselves -- exile -- has often been likened to a dream.
For, when dreaming, we think that what we see in our mind's eye is real, when in reality, it is simply a phantom of our imagining.
Similarly, while in exile, we think that the world runs itself, that G-d is removed from this world; that every occurrence is independent, or, at the most, "coincidental ." This is our reality. But our reality is just a dream.
"There are people who are unable to understand how one can talk over and over again about the coming of Moshiach; how one can constantly stress that at that particular moment the Redemption can come. They are willing to concede that an occasional mention of the subject might be in order, but why must it be raised at every opportunity, and with such tangible immediacy?" the Rebbe mused.
"The very asking of this question is in itself a result of the exile. A person can become so permeated with a feeling of exile that he cannot sense the impending Redemption, to the point that any discussion of it sounds to him like a dream. In reality, however, the opposite is true: it is the exile which resembles a dream, as is explained in Chasidut.
"There is a positive side to this analogy, for in one moment one can wake up from a dream and return to reality. In the same way the entire Jewish people can return, in one moment, to their true reality -- to a state in which they love G-d and cleave to Him, to an actual state of Redemption.
Current conditions can be transformed, literally in one moment, so that on this very day, and at this very moment, people will open their eyes and suddenly see that our Righteous Moshiach is here with us."
There is only one fail-safe method to make sure that we stop dreaming and start living with the reality of the Redemption.
A story is told about the Chasidic Rebbe, the "Yid HaKadosh" ("the Holy Jew") and Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa.
The two were discussing the statement of one of our Sages in the Talmud, "Let him [Moshiach] come, but let me not be there."
The Sage felt compelled to say this because the time immediately preceding the coming of Moshiach will be a very difficult one, so difficult that we are told we will be holding on to our faith by the skin of our teeth!
The two Rebbes were debating what the best way to react would be if they were privileged to be alive at that time.
Said Rabbi Simcha Bunim, "The best advice I can think of is to get drunk and go to sleep."
"That is truly good advice," responded the Yid HaKadosh. "If someone has sechel (intelligence), that is certainly what he will do!"
"Why," one might ask, "would someone -- a scholar and holy person at that -- give such advice? Get drunk?! Go to sleep?!"
The true meaning of these sagacious words is as follows:
Get drunk on Torah, particularly the Torah as elucidated by Chasidic philosophy, known as the "wine of Torah." Imbibe it, savor it, partake of it at every opportunity. And then, in this spiritual drunken stupor, go into a deep sleep, a sleep in which exile is considered just a bad dream nay, a nightmare. And know that the true reality is Redemption, a time when we will truly be awake to the goodness and G-dliness inherent in every creature and all of creation.
"In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth." With these momentous words the Torah begins the very first chapter of Bereishis, establishing G-d's Kingship over all of creation.
The Torah, however, is not history book. The Torah is the guide by which we live our lives, applying its teachings to every aspect of our existence.
The ancient Sage, Rabbi Yitzchak, raises a pertinent question.
"Why does the Torah open with the story of Creation?" he asks, as quoted by Rashi in his commentary. "Why didn't G-d begin with the words, 'This month is to you,'-- the first commandment containing practical implications?"
"The might of His deeds He told to His nation; to bequeath to them the heritage of the nations," Rabbi Yitzchak himself answers.
"If the nations of the world will one day accuse the Jewish people of being thieves, having 'stolen' the land of Israel from the seven nations who formerly inhabited it, they will counter, 'The entire earth belongs to G-d! He is the One Who created it and bequeathed it to whom He saw fit. It was His will to give the land to the nations; it was His will to take it from them and give it to us."
According to this explanation, the entire order of the Torah's portions was changed solely to refute the world's complaint that the Jewish people misappropriated their land. But is their accusation really so important that G-d would change even one letter in His holy Torah for its sake? Would not a refutation in the Oral Tradition have been sufficient to counter whatever complaint Gentiles would one day lodge against the nation of Israel?
In truth, the Torah's choice of language holds significance not only for the nations of the world but for Jews themselves.
"In the beginning" contains an important lesson for every Jew to apply in his daily life.
In general, the life of a Jew may be divided into two realms: the religious and the secular.
The Jew willingly observes his various religious obligations because the Torah requires him to.
When, however, he is asked to also sanctify those mundane aspects of daily existence that seemingly fall outside the domain of religious observance, he balks, rejecting this demand as an invasion of privacy.
The secular realm of a person's life, pertaining to the physical and material domain, metaphorically belong to the "seven nations."
Yet it is precisely this realm that the Jew is called upon to conquer, elevating his every action by performing it solely for the sake of heaven.
"You are thieves!" the world cries out against the Jew. "How dare you conquer the domain of the seven nations and blur the distinction between religious observance and the mundane?!"
To which the Jew replies, "All of creation belongs to G-d." Every realm of existence is part of Divine plan and can be made holy.
Indeed, such is the mission of every Jew -- to transform wherever he may be into a spiritual Land of Israel.
Judaism demands that we sanctify even the lowest aspects of the material world, thereby imbuing all of creation with holiness and demonstrating the unity of the One Creator.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. XX
A Lesson from Baseball
by Yosef BenEliezer
I met the Rebbe a month before my Bar Mitzva in 1954, when my grandfather took me for a blessing. The Rebbe spoke to my grandfather in Yiddish. Then the Rebbe looked at me and asked me, in English, "Which sport do you like the best?"
Though shocked, I answered, "Baseball!"
The Rebbe continued, "Do you like to play when there are two teams or just one?"
"Rabbi, you can't play baseball with just one team."
"Why not?" the Rebbe asked seriously.
I explained patiently, "Rabbi, the whole trick is to see who will win, so there have got to be two teams."
"And who usually wins?" the Rebbe asked.
"The one who plays the best," I smiled.
The Rebbe continued, "Do you ever play baseball with your friends?"
"For sure," I answered.
"Do you ever go to see professional games?"
"Sure I do."
"Why isn't it enough just to play with your friends?"
"Rabbi, I'm just playing kids' stuff with my friends. But at a professional baseball game, it's for real."
"Yosef," the Rebbe addressed me with a broad smile, "in your heart you have a big field. The two sides are your yetzer hara (evil inclination) and your yetzer tov (good inclination). Till now they played kids' stuff. But from your Bar Mitzva day on, the game is for real. You've got to make sure to always win over your yetzer hara. Remember, just like baseball, the one who plays the best wins. If only you'll want to, you'll always be able to win. May your grandfather and parents always have much nachas from you."
The Rebbe's audience with me stayed engraved in my mind, although outwardly I continued as before. In two instances the Rebbe's words literally saved me. The first was when, at age 16, my class was rewarded with a trip to New Orleans for special achievement.
When I came home with the good news, my parents realized that the trip was scheduled for Yom Kippur. "You can't leave for the weekend of Yom Kippur. We've never broken Yom Kippur!"
"Please try to understand. All year we've been dreaming about this trip. I'll never forgive myself if I don't go!" I pleaded.
My parents understood me well, but still they maintained their stand.
I claimed that Yom Kippur was still holy to me. I fasted last year and would fast next year, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. My parents ultimately left it up to me and I decided to go.
The night before the trip I was at my friend's house watching a baseball game. At the end one team won the game in a surprise upset. The commentator discussing the outcome said, "After all, in baseball the team that plays the best wins." When I heard these words I had a sudden flashback to three years earlier. I changed my plans and stayed home for Yom Kippur.
The second incident occurred during my college days.
A group of Mormon missionaries had a successful group on campus. Many Jewish students became interested and "converted." My friends joined the group and urged me to go. I, too, became involved.
The day before my conversion, I was playing a game of baseball with my friends. My team lost, but I went over to the coach of the winning team, patted him on the back and said, "The team that plays the best... wins."
I didn't know what hit me. Again, a flashback to eight years earlier. I turned white. I didn't go through with the conversion. And when I explained to my friends what had happened and described my memories of the Rebbe, they joined me in leaving the Mormons.
The next time I met the Rebbe was before the Six Day War in 1967.
At that time, I was working as an assistant to Arthur Goldberg, then representative to the United Nations.
One day in June I got a phone call from my cousin about a very urgent matter. She told me about her precious only son, Avraham. He had become a baal teshuva and was learning in a Chabad yeshiva in Israel. Now, with threats of war escalating, she had sent him a ticket to come home. Avraham, however, refused, saying the Rebbe said no Jews should leave Israel.
"I wrote to the Rebbe, explaining that Avraham is our only child, our whole life. He answered with one sentence. 'G-d, Who never sleeps, watches the Jewish people.' Tell me," she asked, "How bad is it in Israel?"
I didn't want to scare her. I just said, "Avraham has to come home. I'll try to get into the Rebbe. I have ties with Arthur Goldberg that might give me some pull."
And indeed, the next evening I entered the Rebbe's room. "I was here once before, when I was 13," I told the Rebbe. The Rebbe smiled broadly, his beard whiter than before, but his piercing eyes still young.
"I want to make this a personal visit," I said, and then explained the plight of my cousin and her only son.
The Rebbe's face became serious.
"I have thousands of only sons in Eretz Yisrael. If I tell them to remain there, it's because I'm sure nothing will happen to them. Tell your cousin she should be completely calm. G-d, Who doesn't sleep, watches the Jewish people everywhere and especially in Eretz Yisrael."
"Rebbe," I said, "with all due respect, I can't be calm. Maybe the Rebbe doesn't know, but I know the extent of the danger to Israel."
The Rebbe answered, "The land of Israel is in no danger. It stands before a great victory. This is a month of great goodness for the Jewish people."
The Rebbe continued, "I have a personal request. Tell Avraham's father that there is something he can do for the Jewish people -- put on tefilin every weekday. You too, should put on tefilin every weekday. And when everything ends well, I would like to talk to you again."
I was left speechless. I don't know how long I stared at this man opposite me, awed by his fantastic strength and the great responsibility he was able to shoulder.
"Rebbe," I said, choking back tears, "as a Jew I am proud that we have someone like you leading us. I thank you for the time you gave to me."
"Let's hear good tidings," the Rebbe ended.
As I was about to leave, the Rebbe smiled and asked, "By the way, do you still like baseball?"
Continued in next week's L'Chaim.
Translated from Kfar Chabad Magazine by Chaya Korf.
Help Jews from Russia here and in Israel:
"Among the unique wonders of this era is the mass exodus of Jews from countries in which emigration was previously restricted.
Now, thousands of Jews are being given the opportunity to emigrate and to do so with dignity.
Many have settled in the U.S. and in other countries, and a large proportion have made aliya to Israel, our Holy Land. They should surely be given the means to enjoy prosperity and success -- both material and spiritual -- in their new home.
The privilege and merit to help them achieve such prosperity has been granted to every one of us."
(The Rebbe, 7 Tishrei, 5752--1991)
LIKE ONE BODY
From a letter of the Rebbe
7 Marcheshvan, 5737
We have concluded the month of Tishrei, which is designated in our sacred texts as a "comprehensive month" for the entire year, and which is filled with a variety of festive days and experiences embracing all areas of a Jew's spiritual life throughout the whole year.
The month begins with awe and submission to the Heavenly Reign, the main point of Rosh Hashana: teshuva [repentance], the essence of the Ten Days of Return, and Yom Kippur; the performance of mitzvot with diligence and joy, culminating with the highest expression of joy with the Torah -- the essential aspects of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.
It is time to recall the custom that was prevalent in many communities to announce at the termination of Simchat Torah: "And Jacob went on his way."
The point of this custom was to call attention to the fact that, inasmuch as the time has come to return to the routine of the daily life ("his way"), it behooves a Jew to know that he is Jacob, a Jew, and that he has his own way, a way that originates in Simchat Torah and is guided by the joy of Torah and mitzvot.
This means that whatever a Jew undertakes, even his ordinary day to day affairs, must always be conducted in the spirit of "All your actions should be for the sake of Heaven" and "Know Him (and serve Him) in all your ways."
The month of Tishrei is a "comprehensive month" also in the sense that in this month the Jew acquires "goods" for the whole year.
Immediately afterwards one must begin to "unpack" and draw from one's stock according to the needs of each day in all details.
One cannot consider himself free from further obligation on the basis of the accomplishments of the comprehensive month.
Similarly, there are also "comprehensive mitzvot," although each and all mitzvot have to be fulfilled with the fullest measure of diligence and excellence. A comprehensive mitzva should be performed with still greater excellence and still greater diligence, for its performance is of greater concern to all Jews and the Jewish people as a whole.
One of the main comprehensive mitzvot is the mitzva of ahavat Yisrael (love of a fellow-Jew).
Of this mitzva it has been said that it is a "great principle of the Torah," and the "basis of the entire Torah."
The basis of this mitzva is the fact that all Jews constitute one entity, like one body, so much so that every Jew sees every other Jew as "his own flesh and blood."
Herein is also the explanation why the fulfillment of a mitzva by every individual Jew affects the whole Jewish people; how much more so the fulfillment of comprehensive mitzvot...
May G-d grant that all the good wishes which Jews wished one another for the new year should be fulfilled, that it be a good and sweet year in every respect, with the realization of the above-mentioned pattern of Jewish conduct:
"And Jacob" -- an appellation that includes all Jews, not only those who have already attained the higher status of "Israel" and "Jeshurun";
"Went" -- in accordance with the true concept of motion, namely, moving away from the previous state to a higher state; (for however satisfactory a state is, one should always strive to advance to an every higher state in all matters of Holiness);
"On his way" -- that "his way," even in non-obligatory matters, becomes a G-dly way, as stated immediately after:
"And G-d's angels met him" -- in keeping with every Jew's purpose in life to be an "angel" messenger -- of G-d, to make for Him an "abode" in this earthly world.
May all the above be done with joy, derived from Simchat Torah, and Jacob "will sing (and praise) the G-d of Jacob," and merit the speedy fulfillment of the continuation of the verse, "The glory and strength of the tzadik will be uplifted," the coming of our righteous Moshiach.
A CABLE TO JEWISH LIFE
A Cable to Jewish Life is airing a series about the Rebbe.
The first programs featured Professor Herman Branover of Ben Gurion University; Rabbi Yosef Hecht, Chief Rabbi of Eilat; and Dr. Manfred Lehmann, noted writer and commentator.
The series continues with guests addressing the contributions of the Rebbe in all aspects of his concern for humankind.
The show airs weekly on many cable stations in the tri-state (NY, CT, NJ) area. For more info call (718) 773-1546.
JEWISH CALENDAR, 5755
Chai Publications has produced a beautiful calendar for the new year dedicated to the Rebbe. Different portraits of the Rebbe adorn each month.
Candle-lighting times world-wide, Jewish holidays, and special dates in the Chabad calendar are all included.
For your copy send $8.50 in US, $12.50 elsewhere to: Chai Publications, 420 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, FL 33141.
This Friday, the 25th of Tishrei, is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the paradigm of ahavat Yisrael, beloved by the Jewish people for the tremendous and all-encompassing love he had for them.
At the very moment Reb Levi Yitzchak was born, miles away, the Baal Shem Tov served his disciples food and a made a "l'chaim," saying: "A soul has just come into this world which will be a good advocate for our fellow-Jews."
And, in fact, stories abound about Reb Levi Yitzchak's tremendous ahavat Yisrael -- love for every Jew.
It was Reb Levi Yitzchak who, even when he saw a Jew openly transgressing, would find a way to judge a person meritorious and report the positive verdict to the Supreme Judge.
Reb Levi Yitzchak was very close to Rabbi Shneur Zalman (the "Alter Rebbe"), the first Chabad Rebbe; the two became "mechutanim" (in-laws) when their grandchildren married.
At that wedding, the Alter Rebbe delivered a discourse which ended, "G-d is righteous in all His ways": G-d is the Tzadik Above, and Reb Levi Yitzchak is the tzadik here below."
The Alter Rebbe was also known to say about Reb Levi Yitzchak that because of his abiding love of the Jewish people, whenever a Jew while reciting Psalms mentions Reb Levi Yitzchak's name, the letters of the Psalms will go up to the chamber of "merits" and will awaken mercy for that person and his entire household.
May we all emulate Reb Levi Yitzchak's boundless ahavat Yisrael, thereby enjoying a foretaste of the love we will exhibit toward our fellow Jews in the Messianic Era, and may it commence immediately.
In the beginning (bereishis) G-d created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1)
Our Sages tell us that the entire world was created solely for the sake of the two things that are called "reishis" ("first") -- Israel and the Torah.
Speaking about the Messianic Era, the Prophet Isaiah said, "The nation and the kingdom that does not serve you will be destroyed."
When Moshiach comes the nations of the world will lend aid and support to the Jewish people, recognizing that their very existence depends on their service; those who refuse to accept their subservient position will disappear from the face of the earth.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. XXIV)
Although the Torah mentions the creation of heaven, its emphasis is clearly on earth, for that is where man is destined to fulfill his G-dly role.
(Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsch)
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:2)
What kind of spirit? "The spirit of King Moshiach" answers the Midrash.
From this we learn an important lesson in our faith.
Our longing for Moshiach must include a yearning for both the first and second stages of Redemption. During the first stage of the Messianic Era, the "yoke of the nations" will be removed from Israel's neck, although the world will continue to exist according to natural law.
The second stage will be marked by open manifestations of G-dliness, such as the resurrection of the dead and other miracles that will be commonplace.
G-d's objective in creating the world, mentioned in the Torah before the creation of man, is the Messianic Era. Our yearning must therefore be for the complete fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the realization of Divine plan.
(Sichat Parshat Acharei 5746)
And G-d blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28)
The birth of a Jewish child brings joy not only to his parents and extended family but to the entire Jewish people, for it signifies a step closer to the coming of Moshiach.
The Talmud states that Moshiach will not arrive until "all the souls in guf" (the storehouse in which they await their descent into the physical world) have been born.
The birth of a Jewish baby therefore hastens the Redemption and brings closer the blessings of the Messianic Era.
(Sichat 25 Iyar, 5743)
The great Sage Reish Lakish had once lived among the wild people called Loddites.
Known for his bravery and prowess, the Loddites wanted him to be the leader of one of their fierce robber bands. Reish Lakish, however, was destined for greater things.
He fled from those wicked people and changed his life completely, becoming a great baal teshuva and dedicating his tremendous intellect and power to the study of Torah.
He married the sister of Rabbi Yochanan, the greatest Sage of the time, and excelled so much at his learning that he was appointed to a high position in the yeshiva at Tiberias.
Although Reish Lakish now spent all his days and nights in the study hall, he had lost none of his fire and strength. He feared no one but G-d, and would stand up to deceit or corruption whenever he encountered it, no matter what danger he had to face.
One morning, as Rabbi Yochanan walked to the Study Hall, he was attacked by a band of robbers who stole all his money. When he finally arrived at the Study Hall he was very shaken by the incident, and, although he tried to lead the class as usual, he was unable to concentrate on the questions his students posed. It became obvious that the great Sage was troubled by something.
Noticing that his teacher was deeply troubled, Reish Lakish pressed Rabbi Yochanan for an explanation. "What is wrong? Has something happened to you?" Rabbi Yochanan answered by way of a hint, saying, "The whole body depends on the heart, but the heart depends on the pocket." Reish Lakish didn't understand his teacher's allusion, and he repeated his question.
This time Rabbi Yochanan explained clearly, "I can't gather my thoughts because as I was coming to study today, I was set upon by a band of robbers. I was carrying a great deal of money, and they stole it all. Now I will have to spend my energy trying to support myself and my family, and I'm afraid I won't be able to learn Torah as I did before."
Reish Lakish was outraged. "Where did they attack you and which way did they go?" he demanded to know. They went out to the road and Rabbi Yochanan pointed to the location of the attack. Not bothering to bring any weapons, Reish Lakish set out to find the robbers.
He found them in a nearby forest and he shouted in a booming voice, "Stop where you are!" The robbers were so surprised by his temerity they meekly waited for him to approach. When he reached them, he faced the band and bellowed, "How dare you steal from the greatest Sage of the Jewish people! The entire world is sustained by the holy words he utters, and you, low creatures that you are, have dared to rob him!" The hardened criminals were moved by his words. "We had no idea who he was. We'll return half the money to him."
But Resh Lakish had no intention of making a deal.
"Absolutely not!" he cried. "You won't keep even one penny of his money!" And Reish Lakish grabbed his teacher's purse from their clutches.
In a similar display of bravery, Reish Lakish once rescued another great Jewish Sage.
Once, as a group of rabbis was walking down a deserted road, Rabbi Ammi was captured by a roving band of robbers. So ruthless and cruel were these outlaws, that once captured, no one ever escaped from them.
Everyone fled; only Reish Lakish refused to abandon Rabbi Ammi.
Risking his life, Reish Lakish pursued the robbers, and, using his experience with brigands, he cleverly managed to obtain Rabbi Ammi's release.
The robber chief, however, demanded to know what kind of reward he would receive for having freed the well-known rabbi.
Reish Lakish thought quickly. Certainly such a cut-throat deserved nothing better than the end of a rope, but he replied, "Come with me to our greatest Sage, Rabbi Yochanan, and he will bless you and pray for you."
This answer pleased the chief, and he and Reish Lakish proceeded to the study hall of Rabbi Yochanan. "We have been promised that the Rabbi will bless us, since we returned your comrade to you. We never meant him any harm, and now we want you to pray for us," announced the robber chief.
Rabbi Yochanan understood Reish Lakish's object in bringing the brigand to him. He looked the robber chief in the eye and said, "Since your intentions were so noble, I bless you that whatever were your plans for this man, G-d should repay you in the same way." True to Rabbi Yochanan's words, the robber band was attacked in the forest and killed to the last man.
The light which the Jewish people yearn for is the light of Moshiach, as it says in Genesis, "G-d saw the light that it was good."
This teaches us that G-d yearned for Moshiach and Moshiach's deeds even before He created the world and hid this light for Moshiach and his generation under his Divine throne.
(Pesikta Rabbatei, ch. 36)