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A fly and a flea in a flue
So what could they do?
Said the fly, "Let us flee."
"Let us fly," said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
Repeat this little tongue-twister three times.
Good. Now let's consider it for a moment.
Have you ever watched a fly try to get out of a closed window?
It beats itself against the window in an attempt to reach freedom on the other side.
Trying harder and harder, it repeatedly flies into the glass.
If you open the window the fly might just follow the window up and attempt to exit at a higher section of the same window, straight through the glass.
It's as if the fly is saying, "I know all I have to do is try harder and harder, and eventually I will succeed." Instead of stopping for a moment and evaluating his situation, the fly just keeps on trying.
With a little more of your help and cajoling though -- and maybe some guidance -- the fly will safely exit to the great outdoors.
The fly and the flea in our opening ditty behave differently, though. Stuck in a flue, they do not try to bash their way out through an impenetrable brick wall or even through the more conventional flue. They notice a flaw, a hole in the flue, and safely whizz away to freedom.
We are encouraged by Jewish teachings to approach many of life's obstacles like the flies in both scenarios.
If we try hard enough, if we keep on trying and trying we will eventually succeed.
Jewish teachings support this belief, stating, "[If someone says], 'I tried but I did not succeed,' don't believe him. [If someone says], 'I didn't try hard but I succeeded,' don't believe him. [If someone says], 'I tried hard and I succeeded,' believe him."
In addition, our Sages teach that "Nothing stands before one's will."
There are times when drive, perseverance and will allow a person to succeed.
There are also unique and singular moments in each person's life when a totally new approach -- a fresh outlook or innovative perspective -- is required in order to break out of and away from our limitations.
But, there are instances when -- while battering away at that window with determination, will and faith -- G-d opens it up for us and we sail through. Or, as with our ancestors when confronted with tests, they ignored them and the obstructions disappeared.
In the regular scheme of things, sweat and elbow grease will bring us success.
When we are attempting to break through boundaries and limitations, it is often necessary to step back for a moment and try an unconventional approach, something totally above and beyond one's nature or natural instincts.
Whichever method is the most appropriate, we need to realize that we are not a solitary fly in a flue or near a closed window. We contain, as Jewish teachings explain, an actual, essential part of G-dliness and are part of the Divine scheme.
When we allow ourselves to be ruled only by our limited intellect or nature, we restrict ourselves. Yes, we can be successful at reaching our goals, whether mundane or noble, for truly nothing stands before the will. But, if we want to achieve something totally beyond our natural capacities, we must hookup with the Infinite in our own selves, the essential spark of G-dliness within, which gives us unlimited power to overcome all obstacles, boundaries and limitations.
This week's Torah portion, Noach, contains the narrative of Noach and the Great Flood which covered the earth in his generation.
After many months "at sea" in his ark, Noach opened the window to check on the sodden and water-logged world, to see if it had finally dried.
"In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month," Noach found that the earth was indeed "perfectly dry."
It was then that G-d spoke to Noach and issued the command: "Go forth from the ark, you, and your wife, and your sons, and your sons' wives with you."
Why did Noach need a special command from G-d to induce him to leave the cramped quarters he had endured for so long? Why didn't Noach exit the ark joyously of his own accord as soon as he saw that the land was dry?
Noach's reluctance to leave may be understood in light of the great miracle which occurred inside the ark itself.
All the animals within it, the ferocious and the tame, miraculously co-existed peacefully with each other, contrary to their natural inclinations and instincts.
Just imagine the hundreds of different species sharing their relatively small living space (the entire ark was only three hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide) for an entire year -- yet no animal caused harm to another the whole time!
Chasidic philosophy explains that the atmosphere in Noach's ark was akin to what will happen when Moshiach comes, when "the lion will lay down with the lamb" and peace will reign on earth.
Noach, his family and all the animals in the ark enjoyed a peace which will return to the world only with the Final Redemption and the Messianic Era, speedily in our day.
Understandably, therefore, Noach was hesitant to leave the peaceful environment of the ark for the natural order that had existed before the Flood.
The earth may have finally dried, but Noach preferred the Messianic existence within the confines of the ark to returning to the vast expanse of dry land which beckoned.
He therefore needed G-d's encouragement to disembark, to begin the next chapter in mankind's history and to fulfill the purpose of creation -- the establishment of a dwelling place for G-d down below in the physical world.
"Go forth from the ark" is likewise G-d's counsel to every Jew.
The Jew is enjoined to go out of his "four cubits," no matter how rarefied and holy, to fill the earth with G-dliness and holiness according to Divine plan, through the learning of Torah and the observance of mitzvot.
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe
by Yosef BenEliezer
Continued from previous issue
Words cannot describe the trying days before the Six Day War.
The world held it breath as the war began. The sudden victory found me, Arthur Goldberg and his assistant glued to the television. As we watched the soldiers running to the Western Wall to kiss the stones and Chief Rabbi Goren blowing the shofar, we cried.
"Arthur," I said, "I thought the worst was going to happen. But there is one Jew who knew with certainty that victory was near." And I proceeded to tell him of my audience with the Rebbe.
As I had promised the Rebbe at our meeting before the war, I returned to 770. I expected an "I told you so" from the Rebbe. But that was far from what I got.
The Rebbe greeted me and then began, "This is a very great period for the Jewish people. Sometimes G-d makes a miracle for us, announcing as if with a shofar to the whole world: 'These are My people, the Jewish people.' This is the way it was last week. At times it is as if G-d hides Himself from His children, but at other times His goodness is open for all to see.
"G-d, Who created the whole world, gave the Jews Eretz Yisrael. For some time, a long time, He took it away from the Jews and gave it to other nations. Last week G-d took Eretz Yisrael back from the nations and gave it to the Jews.
"No one should have any doubts that it was G-d Who did it all. It was done with miracles, great miracles. The whole world witnessed how Eretz Yisrael was surrounded by enemies on all sides and everyone was terrified. G-d made our enemies fall in the quickest of time and gave us our holiest places. But Jews have free choice, and two things must be dealt with immediately. No one should say, 'My might won the war.' It was not the army that brought the victory; the miracles came only from G-d Him self. This is what pertains to you, and this is why I asked you to come again.
"I know," the Rebbe continued, "the nature of the Jewish people, including those in power in Israel. I am suspicious that very soon they will send a proposal to Washington agreeing to give back the acquired territory. They don't understand. They didn't win any territory. G-d gave it to them as a present, through miracles. G-d gave them back their land. You must prevent any returning of territory."
I told the Rebbe that it was not my department to agree or disagree with giving back land. But the Rebbe insisted that I tell the Israeli representatives I come in contact with what the Rebbe said. The Rebbe assured me that it was my right as a citizen to be able to do this.
"If they ask you where you get your certainty that this is so, tell them the story of the only child, and how his parents were in fear and how from this room he was promised his safety together with thousands of other only children.
"And if they ask how this room got its certainty, and on what basis, tell them that there is a Creator of the world Who decided to give back the land of Israel to the people of Israel, and if the Creator of the world gives a present, one is to hold it dear, protect it and not to look at how to get rid of it."
My views were shaken. My whole perception of Judaism changed. I thought, "Lucky is the nation that has a man like the Lubavitcher Rebbe in its midst."
I tried my best to perform the mission the Rebbe had given me. One day an Israeli in the UN approached me.
"I was at the Simchat Torah celebrations of the Rebbe yesterday. He sends you his regards and his thanks." I knew I was doing something right.
I married an Israeli woman, moved to Israel, and later joined the ranks of the Israeli government. I witnessed closely the great changes the Rebbe created in the world through his emissaries.
My last meeting with the Rebbe was at Sunday "dollars."
I received a dollar and told the Rebbe I was planning to visit Germany.
Though a top-secret visit, the Rebbe understood why. The Rebbe gave me an extra dollar and said, "This is for charity in Statograt."
"I am not planning to go to Statograt," I told the Rebbe. But the Rebbe ignored my statement, wished me success and began focusing on the next person.
I travelled to Germany. After leaving Frankfurt, the captain of the plane suddenly announced that there would be an emergency landing in Statograt.
I remembered the extra dollar in my pocket and while waiting for the pilot to announce our continuing journey I began speaking to a fellow traveler.
We became friendly and he told how although he was born a Jew, after the Holocaust he was left alone, confused, fearful and angry. He decided to convert to Christianity. "And I have not done so poorly. I am a wealthy man," the person told me.
I had an idea.
I told the man, "Listen, there's a rabbi in New York, a great rabbi of the Jews. This week he gave me a dollar to give to charity in Statograt. I didn't think I'd be here. I know you don't need charity but since you are Jewish, the only Jew I've met, maybe the Rabbi meant it for you."
"I'm not a Jew," the man insisted.
"Listen, I don't know, " I said. "It is true that you have not been living as a Jew, but maybe the Rabbi wanted at least that you should die as a Jew."
I don't know what made me say those words, but the sudden tears of my travelling companion made me think that the words had been the proper ones.
The Rebbe was blessed with eyes that see further than other human beings.
When I heard the news on 3 Tamuz I thought of the Rebbe's words, "I have thousands of only children." I consider myself one of them.
Translated from Kfar Chabad Magazine by Chaya Korf
Have a tzedaka box ("pushka") in every room in your home and even in your office.
By having one in your place of business, the Rebbe explains, one "involves G-d as an active partner in one's business and enhances his potential to distribute G-d's blessing to others."
Any container can be used as a tzedaka box; one can also make decorating suitable containers for one's home and place of business into a family project.
SMOKING AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH
From letters of the Rebbe
20 Adar, 5739 (1979)
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 7th of Adar, in which you write about the problem of smoking.
Needless to say, this is a matter for specialists in this field, namely the medical profession. Herein also lies the answer why rabbinic authorities have not taken a position on this matter.
Additionally, and this, too, is a basic factor:
Even according to those medical authorities who hold the opinion that cigarette smoking is harmful to the health, this opinion is based on the quality of cigarettes as they are now manufactured, which contain harmful substances.
A great deal of research is being conducted to find a way to eliminate those harmful substances in cigarettes and produce a harmless cigarette, in which case there would be no room at all for issuing an issur [ban] on cigarette smoking.
Thus, for rabbis to issue a ban at this time would, at best, be premature, but more importantly, any ban in accordance with the Torah would be a permanent one, as the Torah itself is permanent and unchangeable.
As for the general obligation to take care of one's health, there is no need for rabbis to take any special action, since this is a fundamental din [law] in the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law].
Since you have written to me on this matter, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to make a practical point.
Noting how concerned you are with a matter which has to do with physical health, even though it is not unanimous, and there are people who think that in certain cases, at any rate, there is a positive aspect, and the withdrawal from it may be even more harmful than the smoking, all of which need not be discussed here -- I trust that you are surely much more involved in promoting the spiritual health of fellow Jews, namely strengthening their observance of the Torah and mitzvot in everyday life.
In this area there is no room for any doubts or differences of opinion about the Torah and mitzvot being "our life and the length of our days."
It is surely unnecessary to point out to you that this is the obligation of every Jew in accordance with the mitzva of "You shall love your fellow as yourself" as well as "Reprove, you shall reprove your people."
Noting the repetition, our Sages emphasize that it indicates perseverance "up to 100 times," which means that having tried unsuccessfully 99 times, there is still the obligation to try once more, certainly if one is just beginning to fulfill this obligation.
17 Menachem Av, 5737
...On the basis of your writing it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at length the need to make additional efforts in matters of Torah and mitzvot, especially as I see that in certain matters you have already made important strides.
Needless to say, there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness -- Torah and mitzvot, which are infinite, being derived from and connected with the Infinite.
Every additional effort in this direction also brings additional Divine blessings.
I would like to point out that in taking upon oneself an additional effort in Torah and mitzvot, it should be "bli-neder" [without taking an oath].
With general reference to your request for guidance as to how to fulfill your purpose in life, particularly in light of the Chasidic teachings which you cite in your letter, the general guideline has already been given in the Mishna:
"I have been created to serve my Maker" -- such service being the study of Torah and fulfillment of its mitzvot; or, in the words of the Tanya... : "to make for Him, blessed be He, an abode in the lower world," as explained there and in Chasidic discourses at great length.
It is very helpful, indeed necessary, as our saintly Rebbes have urged, and this is also based on the teaching of our Sages in the Mishna, to have a companion with whom to discuss matters of Judaism from time to time.
The text in the particular Mishna is "Acquire for yourself a companion," which immediately follows the words "Make (appoint) unto yourself a teacher."
Thus, in regard to a companion, the emphasis is on acquisition, implying "at a cost" -- whatever form such "expense" may require.
Of course, such companionship is not binding, and if the companion turns out to be not after one's heart, a more suitable one can be acquired.
Cars in the New York MTA subway system recently carried this poster with the Rebbe's message: Let's Welcome Moshiach With Acts of Goodness and Kindness.
AND HE WILL REDEEM US
"And He Will Redeem Us" -- Moshiach in Our Time is the book for everyone who is interested in what the Rebbe has said about Moshiach and what the Chasidim continue to say about the Rebbe and Moshiach.
Included in this over-200-page book is also a 48-page photo essay of the Rebbe throughout the year.
To order send $25 to: Mendelsohn Press, 738 Lefferts Ave., Bklyn, NY 11203. For volume orders or more info call (718) 467-1957 or Fax (718) 778-5918.
THE REBBE'S LEGACY
The Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is hosting a series of special Shabbaton weekends in which the extraordinary legacy of the Rebbe will be explored.
Part I: The Intellectual Dimension, will be Nov. 11-13. Featured speakers include Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Dr. Susan Handelman, and Rabbi Gershon Shusterman. Upcoming weekends are Dec. 23-25, Feb. 17-19, June 16-18. For more info call (718) 953-1000.
The holidays are past; the days of introspection over the previous year have come and gone.
This week, Parshat Noach, is therefore an appropriate time to make a good account of the coming year.
As we continue to improve on the past and try to plan for the future, we need to keep one thing in mind:
Although an individual may realize that his own service is lacking and in need of correction, this does not affect the status of the service required of the Jewish people as a whole.
As the Rebbe said a few years ago at this time, "We must be conscious that all the service necessary has been completed and we are 'ready to receive Moshiach.'
"Therefore," the Rebbe continued, "even if there is a particular dimension of our own personal service which is lacking... this does not diminish the fact that as a whole, our service is complete and we are ready for the Redemption.
On the contrary, the fact that, as a whole, we are prepared for the Redemption, makes it easier for us to complete all the individual elements of our service and to do so with happiness."
The Rebbe went on to use an analogy to further explain this concept.
When a person is healthy as a whole, if he has a small ailment in one of his limbs it can easily be cured. Similarly, since as a whole, the Jewish nation is healthy, i.e., our service has been completed, teshuva [repentance] which is described as "healing," can cure all the particular difficulties of both individuals and the Jewish people.
Whether or not on an individual basis there are small ailments that need to be cured, as a whole, the Jewish people are healthy and our service in this long and bitter exile has been completed.
Let us not, Heaven forbid, give G-d excuses as to why we are still in exile. As the Rebbe told someone at Sunday dollars who suggested that there are conditions that still need to be met before Moshiach can come, "Why are you making conditions? Moshiach is long overdue!"
Let us, all together, therefore, beseech G-d to immediately fulfill the words of our Prophets, "Those who rest in dust will arise and sing [praise]," with the Rebbe leading us to the Redemption, now.
I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of My covenant between Me and the earth...and I will remember My covenant...and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh (Gen. 9:13-15)
Why does the rainbow signify that G-d won't bring another Flood?
Before the Flood, the clouds in the sky were thick and dense, obscuring the light of the sun.
The Flood, which cleansed and purified the earth, also refined the clouds and made it possible for the rainbow to be observed, a phenomenon caused by the sun's rays.
The rainbow, a product of the process of purification, is therefore symbolic of the Final Redemption, which will come about through the refinement and elevation of the physical world.
Its appearance in the sky is a sign of the imminence of Moshiach, as stated in the Zohar: "When a rainbow appears with its shining multicolored hues -- await the arrival of Moshiach."
The Messianic Era, in which the world will reach unprecedented levels of holiness and refinement, is the culmination of that process of purification.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Noach, 5721)
And G-d descended to see the city and the tower (Gen. 11:5)
Why does the Torah tell us that G-d "descended" to investigate? Isn't G-d All-Knowing and All-Seeing, present in all worlds and omnipotent?
Rather, these words contain a lesson for mankind:
One must always investigate a matter thoroughly and never pronounce judgment on something one has not personally witnessed.
For the earth is filled with violence (Gen. 6:13)
G-d could not have chastised the generation of the Flood with monetary punishment, for such punishment holds meaning only when a person has worked hard to acquire his money.
A thief, however, is not unduly disturbed when his money is confiscated, for he merely stole it from another individual.
During one of his journeys, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch once stopped at an inn near the city of Samargon. It was summer, the weather was pleasant, and the Rebbe decided to stay for a week.
When Rabbi Dov Ber's decision became known, many people from the Samargon area converged on the inn, wishing to be received by the Rebbe and to consult with him. The Rebbe began to receive each one in turn, in the private audience known as yechidut.
A few days later, while hundreds of people still crowded the courtyard waiting to be received, the Rebbe suddenly stopped the yechidut and locked his door.
His Chasidim assumed that the many visitors of the past few days had tired the Rebbe and that he had taken a short break to recoup his strength.
But after half an hour the Rebbe's secretary, Reb Zalman, emerged from the Rebbe's room extremely distressed, his eyes red from weeping.
He whispered a few words into the ears of the leading Chasidim who had accompanied Rabbi Dov Ber on his journey.
These Chasidim, too, became greatly alarmed, their faces turning red and white and red again, and a wave of horror spread through the crowd. All were at a loss as to what had happened.
An hour or two later several of the elder Chasidim entered the house and listened at the Rebbe's door. They heard him pouring out his soul, weeping and saying chapters of Psalms from the depths of his holy heart.
Some of them fainted in distress.
No one had an inkling as to what may have caused the Rebbe, in the middle of an ordinary weekday, to interrupt the yechidut and to be moved to such heart-wrenching prayers. Soon the distressing news seeped out to the anxious crowd, which broke up in to groups and began to tearfully recite Psalms.
When the Rebbe finished reciting Psalms, he began to prepare for the afternoon prayers, but he was so weakened from his earlier efforts that he was forced to first rest in bed for over an hour to recover his strength. Then he prayed in the manner that is customary during the Ten Days of Repentance.
After the prayers the Rebbe came out into the courtyard, seated himself on the platform which had been prepared for him, and delivered a lengthy discourse on the verse, "Wall of the daughter of Zion, let flow a tear as a stream."
The Rebbe spoke of how tears cleanse the soul of harmful words and thoughts, and expounded on the merit of saying words of Torah and Psalms.
The discourse greatly moved the audience, and reverberated throughout the Chabad-Chasidic community. Years later, Chasidim still remembered that day.
The next day the Rebbe was so weak he was confined to his bed, but on the day after, he resumed the yechidut. Still, no one knew what had so greatly distressed the Rebbe and caused his fervent prayer and address.
Rabbi Pinchas of Shklov, who had accompanied the Rebbe on this journey, was among the distinguished Chasidim from the time of the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. A few days later, Rabbi Pinchas asked the Rebbe what had happened.
A great sadness descended upon Rabbi Dov Ber.
Then he said: "When a Chassid enters into yechidut, he reveals to me the inner maladies of his soul, each on his own level, and seeks my assistance to cure his spiritual ills.
To help him, I must first find the same failing -- be it the most subtle of forms -- within my own self, and strive to correct it.
For it is not possible to direct someone else in cleansing and perfecting his character unless I myself have already experienced the same problem and undergone the same process of self-refinement.
"On that day," continued the Rebbe, "someone came to me with a problem. I was horrified to hear to what depths he had fallen, G-d forbid. Try as I might, I could not find within myself anything even remotely resembling what he told me. But this man had come to me, so I knew that somewhere, somehow, there was something in me that could relate to his situation.
"And then it occurred to me that it must be something imbedded so deep within me that it was way beyond my conscious reach. The thought shook me to the very core of my being and moved me to repent and return to G-d from the depths of my heart."
Reprinted from: Once Upon A Chasid by Yanki Tauber - Kehot Publications
When a person experiences a redemption in a personal sense, i.e., his Jewish core is revealed with happiness and joy, he will increase his Jewish practice.
This, in turn, will "bring salvation and deliverance to the entire world," as the Rambam writes, and will bring about the Redemption.