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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin
"All you need is a dollar and a dream!" goes the slogan for New York Lotto. Though statistically you have only a one in 13 million chance of winning, everyone who buys a ticket hopes that he'll be the one.
The proof is that you bought a ticket.
You begin to fantasize about what you'll do with all the money when you win the Lotto jackpot. The "hope of winning" adds a spirit of optimism to your life. You are now more cheerful, more joyful, and, most of all, more productive because maybe, just maybe, you will be the winner.
The same is true with Moshiach.
The mere hope that Moshiach can and will come today and change your life for the better -- ushering in an era of eternal life and health, when wealth will be as common as the dust of the earth -- is rewarding in and of itself, for it renews your hope and gives you a spirit of optimism and joy that makes your day more productive.
It's ludicrous to say that believing in Moshiach is wrong because it brings disappointment, as the very same people who believed they would win the Lotto jackpot and didn't, still bought tickets the following week. For even if you are disappointed, once again your hope is reawakened and you buy another ticket. Even though Moshiach did not come last week and we are disappointed, we reawaken the spirit of optimism and hope that today will be the day.
There is yet another lesson we can learn from this.
People say, "When I win, I will donate 10% of the jackpot to my synagogue... When I win, I will give 10% to my yeshiva... I will buy my parents a condo down in Florida." But what if you don't win? Well, perhaps you can't give a million dollars to the synagogue or the yeshiva, but you can give a thousand dollars or even one hundred dollars. If you can't buy your parents a condo, you can at least pay them a visit and take them out to a restaurant.
The concept of Moshiach reflects the same approach.
People promise to do great things: "When Moshiach comes, I'll learn Torah... I'll pray every day... I'll give lots of charity... I'll celebrate Shabbat and all of the Jewish holidays." But why only then and not now -- why must we wait until Moshiach comes to do more and be better?
Another truism: The more participants there are, the more people you influence to buy tickets, the larger the jackpot; the more tickets you buy, the larger the winnings.
The same holds true for Moshiach and the era into which he will usher the world, an era of reward and peace for all mankind. The more mitzvot you do, the larger the jackpot. The more mitzvot you cause others to do, the larger the dividends. Yet, there is one difference between Lotto and Moshiach. In Lotto, there can be only one winner. With Moshiach, everyone is a winner.
Let us prepare and be ready. All you need is a mitzva and a dream!
This week's Torah reading, Mishpatim, delineates the four categories of guardianship:
- An unpaid keeper -- one who serves as trustee for another person's property and does not receive payment;
- A paid keeper -- one who is remunerated for his guardianship;
- One who "rents" the use of another person's possessions; and
- A borrower -- a person who uses someone else's belongings without paying for the privilege.
The seventeenth-century Sage, known as the "Shaloh," explained that these four categories of guardianship correspond to the four different types of Jews who serve G-d, as every Jew is charged with "guarding" G-d's universe through the observance of Torah and mitzvot.
The first and highest level of this charge is the "unpaid keeper."
This refers to a person whose focus is entirely on guarding the owner's property, without consideration for his own benefit.
A person in this category serves G-d with the utmost dedication and devotion, for his sole aim is to serve his Master, unmindful of the reward his actions will bring.
Maimonides refers to this type of person as "one who serves G-d out of love...and not because of any other consideration...not in order to accrue benefit, but one who does the true thing because it is true."
The second level of guardianship is the "paid keeper."
This person also devotes himself to safeguarding the owner's possessions, but expects to be paid for his labors.
This category refers to a Jew who serves G-d with genuine vitality and enthusiasm, at the same time anticipating that he will be rewarded for his observance of Torah and mitzvot.
The third level of guardianship is one who pays for the use of the owner's property.
For this person, the enjoyment he derives from the object is his main goal, yet he feels compelled to recompense the owner for granting him the privilege.
In the spiritual sense, this refers to a person whose principle desire is to enjoy the pleasures of this world, all the while cognizant that it is G-d Who is allowing him to do so. This type of Jew serves G-d solely out of a sense of obligation and duty.
The lowest level of guardianship is that of the "borrower."
This person is only interested in his own gratification, and does not even feel the need to compensate the one who has lent him the object.
In terms of our G-dly service, this refers to one who delights in the pleasures of this world without even thinking of "paying" G-d back for His beneficence.
Yet even the "borrower" is considered a guardian, for he too observes Torah and mitzvot, albeit without perceiving the connection between his service of G-d and the blessing he receives from Above.
This person is convinced that all of the goodness and bounty in his life has been granted to him simply because he is deserving!
What is the point in a mitzva done for personal considerations?
Our Sages explain: "A person should always busy himself in the observance of Torah and mitzvot, even when it is not for its own sake." For we are assured that from the wrong considerations, one will come to observe for the right reasons. Every Jew is promised that ultimately, he will perfect his service of G-d, achieving the level of the "unpaid keeper."
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 31
"In seven years you will be in medical school, and celebrating your first wedding anniversary. You will be a fully observant Jew, and returning with your wife from a year of yeshiva study in Israel."
If someone had said these words to me when I first started college at SUNY-Binghamton, I would have certainly thought that being in medical school was a possibility. I could even imagine being married, though I would have had no idea to whom. But Judaism and yeshiva -- no way.
Nonetheless, such a prediction would have been entirely accurate.
When I first stated my desire to go to Israel for a year, I encountered a variety of responses.
Shortly after becoming engaged to Jennifer, we discussed our plans for the next few years, and it seemed that we would never have a better opportunity for serious Jewish studies. My parents' concern was that we return to finish our graduate educations. Confident that we would, they supported our plans for a year of Torah study.
"Why don't you just become a rabbi?" was the typical response of most of my friends, particularly the Jewish ones. It seems that many Jews today feel that serious study of the Torah, Talmud, philosophy, and other Jewish texts is only for rabbis.
I tried to explain that all Jews, not just rabbis, are expected to be interested and proficient, at least to a certain degree, in Jewish texts so they can live a Jewish life.
"It sounds like an excellent idea," said the chairman of the medical school's Leave of Absence Committee. In contrast to my friends, who couldn't conceive of the idea of delaying a career or professional school for a year, everyone at the medical school strongly encouraged me to go ahead. Before making a formal request for a leave of absence, I discussed the idea with a few of my professors.
No one was concerned that a year's interruption would pose any serious problems in my education. Also, my professors felt that there was great importance in staying well rounded and maintaining serious, outside interests. A year dedicated to Torah study would be more than a refreshing break from medical school; it would give me the skills for Jewish learning for the rest of my life. Not only did I want to learn, but I needed to learn how to learn.
In the most hectic three weeks of my life, I finished my second year of medical school, took the National Board examination, saw my best friends get married, married Jennifer, packed, and left for our new home in Jerusalem.
Our first Shabbat was an overwhelming experience.
In Israel, there is a certain intensity in the air, a force that is perceptible but indefinable.
In Jerusalem it is even more intense.
It's not just the people. It's everyone -- there's a feeling that even inanimate rocks are charged with an energy or life force. Late Friday afternoon, as the sun moves toward the horizon, even the most insensitive person can feel something special happening, as thousands of Jews bustle around to get ready, children dressed in their Shabbat clothes play in the street, the long siren signals that it is time for candle lighting, there is singing in synagogues on every corner, and the smell of freshly baked challa pervades the air.
But these are not the cause of the feeling itself; they are a consequence.
There is an event taking place of cosmic significance.
When the sun finally sets, it becomes clear that you've left the world you were in a few hours ago, and you've entered another realm -- Shabbat.
After synagogue that first Saturday morning, we had an experience that really made us feel at home and pointed out how small the Jewish world is.
As soon as we got to our host's house, our hostess informed us that she was going into labor. As she and her husband took off for the hospital, they sent us, along with their five young children, to their upstairs neighbors, the Tougers.
As it turned out, we had read several of Rabbi Eli Touger's books on Maimonides and Chasidism. As it also turned out, the Tougers knew our Rabbi and Rebbetzin in Binghamton, the Slonims.
The readiness of religious families to take in guests with little or no warning, and the miraculous fact that there is always enough food, was a definite factor in our curiosity about religious life.
In Israel, we never spent a Shabbat or holiday meal by ourselves. By sharing meals with so many different people, we were privileged to hear life stories which rival any epic novel -- near escapes during the Holocaust, the Israeli War of Independence, life in Arab lands, stories of Divine providence bringing couples together, reasons for becoming religious...
Once yeshiva started, Torah study was a full-time occupation for both Jennifer and me. Talmud was the primary focus in my yeshiva, with an emphasis on logical structure and methodology. Jennifer's days were similar, but with more emphasis on Jewish philosophy and Tanach.
Also, we both pursued some study of Chasidic philosophy and Kabala privately. We both found this immensely rewarding.
In a famous analogy, Talmud, Jewish law and Bible are referred to as the "meat and potatoes" of Torah study, while Chasidic thought is compared to the "spice" which gives the meal its overall flavor. The insight and added dimension provided by Chasidic philosophy certainly justifies this metaphor.
Jerusalem is a source of intellectual and spiritual energy.
After a year of nourishment, we have returned as more complete people and more educated Jews. And even though it is impossible to predict what will be seven years from now, we are continuing our lives with even greater certainty about who we are and what we are doing.
by Andrew Klafter Reprinted from the Chai Times, Binghamton, NY
Increase in Simcha -- Rejoicing:
Our Sages have taught that when the month of Adar begins we increase our joy. When one makes another person happy he increases his own happiness as well.
The Rambam (in the Laws of Yom Tov) explains that the main point of simcha is that when one works and strives to make others happy, his simcha is true simcha. "And all who increase are praiseworthy."
11 Cheshvan, 5721 (1961)
...First of all, in regard to your question, "Whose ship is it?" I am surprised that you should have any doubts, since, obviously, the ship is that of my father-in-law of saintly memory, our Nasi and the Nasi of our people.
It is explained in the Zohar and the Tanya at length that tzadikim continue to participate in our world even in the afterlife, and moreover, to a greater degree than during their life on this earth, since, in their exalted state, they are free of physical limitations.
Happy are they whom he has enrolled in his crew and has assigned them various tasks! The more responsible the task, the greater the reward, both in this world and in the world to come.
...As I have emphasized to your husband, the difference between his present and his previous work is not a difference of place or surroundings, but a difference of the essential quality and character of the work itself. For previously he was in the capacity of an employed "clerk," and as such, there were certainly a number of advantages.
A clerk has definite hours, and upon completion of his day's work he can dismiss it from his mind, knowing that the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of his superior. He need only do the task given to him, in the best way he can, then he will feel no worries, responsibilities or other commitments.
Furthermore, such a job arouses a minimum of envy, less nervous strain, etc.
On the other hand, when one has the task of an executive, upon whom the full responsibility rests, and has to make decisions (especially when he takes up such a job willingly and enthusiastically and is successful), it is bound to call forth envy.
Envy is a mental state that evokes various feelings and expressions in the envious person, which frequently are inconsiderate and unjustified; very often the envious person himself regrets them.
It is also obvious that such a position entails greater personal commitment, nervous strain, etc.
Obviously, for one whose capacity limits him to a secondary position, such as that of a clerk, there is little he can do about it, as this is all he can accomplish. On the other hand, for one who has the capacity to be an executive and in charge of a responsible undertaking, if such a person should confine himself within the framework of a clerk's job, it would be a gross injustice even for himself, not to mention the cause.
It is written, "More knowledge, more pain," and the more knowledgeable and advanced a person is, the more inevitably involved he is in complicated things.
One can say, "I don't want to be on the higher level, so that I can be spared the pain." But this would be like a person saying, "I don't want to be a human being; I want to be like an animal and be spared all the pain associated with human life."
Aside from the above general considerations and principles, if one considers the specific work of disseminating and strengthening Judaism, the outlook assumes new dimensions.
For, our Sages say that the first word of the Torah, "Bereishis," indicates that the whole of creation is for the sake of the Torah, which is called "Reishis." Considering further that the work concerns education of Jewish boys and girls, which is not only of vital interest to themselves but also to posterity, for all generations to come, we arrive at a further dimension, namely, the second interpretation of "Bereishis": "For the sake of the Jewish people, who are called 'Reishis.' "
Furthermore, there is the added dimension in that the work is carried on in a country where Judaism is still in its infancy, requiring a real pioneering spirit to transform the whole of Jewish life in that remote continent. What a challenge and opportunity such work offers to the qualified person!
Finally, and this is the most basic consideration, it is necessary to bear in mind that "G-d directs the steps of man and finds delights in his (His) way," as explained at length by the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.
When individual Divine Providence leads a Jew, man or woman, in a certain direction, and in a way that G-d finds delight in because it is His way, it is to be expected that the yetzer hara [evil inclination] will seek ways and means to lessen the enthusiasm and dampen the spirit. For the greater the accomplishments in the realm of holiness, the greater is the opposition on the part of the "other side."
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As this year is a leap year on the Jewish calendar, there are two months of Adar, known as Adar Rishon and Adar Sheini, or Adar I and Adar II. This Shabbat we bless the new month of Adar I.
Our Sages have taught that, just as when the month of Av begins (the month in which we commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem) we lessen our joy, so, too, when the month of Adar begins, we increase our simcha -- joy and happiness.
In talks delivered immediately preceding and during the two months of Adar, 5752 (1992), the Rebbe emphasized the importance of simcha in turning the darkness of exile into the light of Redemption.
The Rebbe also stressed that, being as there are two months of Adar this year, there are 60 days during which we are to increase our simcha. More importantly, in Jewish law, the quantity of 60 has the ability to nullify an undesirable presence.
Specifically, this concerns food, as we see that if a quantity of milk, for instance, has accidentally become mixed with meat, if the meat outnumbers the milk by a ratio of 1:60, the milk is nullified and we may eat the meat.
Similarly, explains the Rebbe, 60 days of simcha have the ability to nullify the darkness of the present exile, allowing us to actually turn the darkness into light.
Concerning the kind of things that should be done to arouse simcha, the Rebbe suggested that each person should proceed according to his level: a child, for instance, should be made happy by his parents; a wife by her husband, and visa versa. The bottom line, my friends, is that the Rebbe did not let up on encouraging an increase of simcha in all permissible manners during the entire month.
We must hearken to the Rebbe's words and utilize simcha, especially during this month, to turn darkness into light, sadness into joy, and pain and tears into rejoicing with Moshiach in the Final Redemption, may it take place, as the Rebbe so fervently prayed, teichef umiyad mamash -- immediately, literally.
If you lend money to My people, to the poor (Exodus 22:24)
Our Sages commented that not only is one obligated to lend money to someone who is poor, it is also a mitzva to lend money to one who is wealthy!
Sometimes, for whatever reason, a rich person is in need of money for a particular purpose; at that moment, it is considered as if he is poor.
Furthermore, no matter how wealthy a person may be, he can always become richer.
Thus, in comparison to his later financial status, he may be considered poor in his present state.
The same holds true of the various periods in world history.
Compared to the Messianic Era, even the golden age of the Jewish people under King Solomon, when the Holy Temple existed in all its glory, will be considered impoverished. Therefore, no matter how secure we may be in exile, we look forward to the Era of Redemption in the same way a poor man anticipates becoming rich.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Acharei, 5746)
He that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution (Exodus 22:5)
The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said: "I, too, must make restitution for having kindled the fire in Zion, as it states, 'He has kindled a fire in Zion and it has devoured its foundations.' Indeed, Zion will be rebuilt with fire, for "I will be to her a wall of fire round about."
You shall not afflict any widow or orphan (Exodus 22:21)
Whenever Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev reached this verse he would cry out. "Master of the Universe! You instructed us in Your holy Torah to be kind to widows and orphans, and yet we are like orphans in this bitter exile! You must therefore take us out of this galut at once!"
And He will bless your bread and your water, and I will remove sickness from your midst (Exodus 23:25)
Most illnesses are caused either by food that is ingested, or from an intensification of internal forces within the body. G-d therefore promised to send His blessing in both of these areas, blessing the food one eats -- "your bread and water" -- and "removing sickness from your midst" -- making sure that illness does not come from within.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was justly known far and wide for the tremendous hospitality he extended.
In his endless kindness, he would take anyone into his home; a poor man felt just as welcome and was honored in the same way as a wealthy man. Whoever crossed Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's threshold left satisfied in body and in spirit.
In that town, however, there was a wealthy man whose ways deviated completely from the Rabbi's. He had no time for the common people. On the contrary, he would accept only the famous or wealthy as house guests. When word came to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak about the rich man's conduct he was horrified, and he set out to remedy his character flaw.
When the next Shabbat arrived Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was prepared to deliver his customary sermon, but this time it was pointedly directed to one particular member of his congregation.
The rabbi began: "As is well known, it is a basic tradition that our ancestor Abraham was very hospitable, a trait that has been greatly praised and has been ingrained in the character of the Jewish people in his merit. But wasn't his nephew Lot also hospitable? Why then is all the credit given to Abraham? The answer is that there was a tremendous difference in the kind of hospitality each of them demonstrated.
Lot would allow only angels into his home; simple folk were refused. Abraham, however, led any person to his table with acceptance and even honor. In this merit Abraham earned his reputation and set the example we still follow today."
During the time when Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was serving as rabbi in Pinsk, Reb Shlomo Karliner, a disciple of the Maggid, lived nearby. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak sent a messenger requesting Reb Shlomo to come to him.
The two tzadikim sat for many hours looking intently at each other, but saying nothing at all. After hours had passed, they began laughing out loud. Then, suddenly, Reb Shlomo stood up and took his leave. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's aide had been watching the whole time and was completely baffled. Finally he asked the rabbi to explain.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak replied: "For some time I have known that the Jews of our province have been under the threat of a terrible decree.
I had discovered that the great nobles of the region were about to meet in order to confirm this edict. I tried my hardest to bring all their plans to nothing, but to no avail.
One day I prayed with such extreme fervor begging G-d to crush the evil plan, that I felt my soul almost depart from my body. But, try as I might, I received no answer to my prayers. I then received a message from G-d that if Reb Shlomo would join me in my petition, it would surely be granted, for isn't it true that Elijah the Prophet himself often visits Reb Shlomo?
"I lost no time in summoning him to me. He arrived at the exact same time the evil noblemen were gathered at their meeting, discussing the final implementation of their terrible plan. We were paralyzed with fear as we observed the meeting in a vision.
The evil nobles were unanimous in their decision to expel the Jews from the entire province, and we were helpless, unable to utter a word. It is known that, according to the law, if there is even one dissenting vote, the decree becomes annulled. Can you imagine our surprise when we saw Elijah the Prophet enter the meeting?
Disguised as a white-haired squire, he sat down unnoticed.
The noblemen were passing the document around the great table, and each one signed it in turn. When it was handed to Elijah, he began to object loudly: 'I disagree with this whole idea! I refuse to sign this calumnious paper!'
"All of a sudden, their unanimity was destroyed; the verdict was overturned in a flash! A terrible commotion erupted in the hall and in the course of the demonstration, the document was torn up.
Elijah vanished and there was nothing for the assembled noblemen to do but leave. This was such a completely amazing turn of events that Reb Shlomo and I both burst into laughter at the sight."
This story was told by the Rav of Munkatch about Rabbi Levi Yitzchak:
Once two lumber merchants came to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak in a dispute involving a very large sum of money. Each man presented his case.
When it became apparent to one litigant that the decision would not go in his favor, he began looking for a way out. "Maybe the esteemed Rabbi doesn't understand all the intricacies involved in this type of business," he stated.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak replied: "Honored Sir, if we were dealing with heavenly matters, then perhaps you would know more than I. Or if we were discussing the matter of fear of Heaven, you might perhaps know more than I. But here we are discussing simple worldly matters, a place where I am perfectly at home."
You are writing off one of the tenets of our belief, the essential foundation of Judaism, belief in Moshiach, and ceding it to the non-Jews, just because they profess to believe in it as well!
Would you likewise cease to observe Shabbat, family purity, tefilin, tzitzit, etc. if the Christian missionaries would embrace them as their own religious doctrines?
(From a letter of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)