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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
The lead article in the January issue of Consumer Reports is entitled, "The Truth About Secondhand Smoke."
Gone are the days when we can afford to concern ourselves only with the quality of air in our own homes or immediate surroundings. It's not enough to provide no-smoking areas or plug in air purifiers to make our air more breathable.
Nowadays we must also contend with the danger secondhand smoke poses to family members or employees who are in continuous proximity with people who smoke.
As this subject continues to be debated, including the issue of whether or not the tobacco industry is waging a multi-million dollar campaign to play down the side effects of secondhand smoke, we might want to consider a little-known but very effective method of purifying the "spiritual" air we breathe.
Each of the Chabad-Lubavitch leaders gave Chasidic discourses that were recited and taught, which were designated especially for the purpose of purifying the atmosphere. Every two or three years they would review and recite them publicly.
The Previous Rebbe suggested that when one walks in the street or sits in his store, he should recite words of Torah or mentally review a Jewish concept. "That is more valued today than it was when the streets were bright with the light of Torah," he declared. Thus, he encouraged everyone to have some words of Torah memorized "to take into the street."
There is another advantage to reciting or thinking Torah thoughts when we are outdoors, in addition to purifying the atmosphere.
It is said of the Time to Come: "A stone in the wall will cry out and a branch from the tree will respond." At present, inanimate creations are mute; though trodden upon, they remain silent. But there will come a time -- when the Future Revelation becomes a reality -- that the inanimate will begin to speak, relate and demand: "If a person was walking along without thinking or speaking words of Torah, why did he trample upon me?"
According to Jewish teachings, the world has been in a state of waiting for millennia, ever since the Six Days of Creation.
All kinds of creatures have walked the face of the earth during this time, but it is still waiting for a Jew (or two Jews) to do so while discussing Torah. If they do not say words of Torah, the earth will protest: "You too are just like an animal!"
There seems to be a fairly airtight case for having Torah verses, teachings or thoughts (in any language) memorized and on the tip of the tongue.
Even those of us who have a hard time learning things "by heart" can acquire at least a minimal storehouse of "spiritual atmosphere purifiers."
Just think of all the commercial jingles, songs and nursery rhymes we know by heart without even having tried. We can use music or repetition to help us; listening to Jewish music, which often uses word s from our prayers or the Torah as lyrics, can also be very beneficial.
Start today to help refine the environment.
This week's Torah portion, Teruma, details the various components that went into the Mishkan -- the portable Sanctuary erected by the Jews during their journey through the wilderness.
The Sanctuary itself was built of tremendous planks of acacia wood, the dimensions of which were "ten cubits the length of the board, and one-and-a-half cubits the width of each board."
An obvious question is asked: Where did the Children of Israel find such a huge amount of wood in the middle of the desert?
Rashi, the great Torah commentator, provides us with an answer taken from the Midrash Tanchuma: "Our Forefather Jacob perceived with his spirit of prophecy that the Jewish people would one day build a Sanctuary in the wilderness. He therefore brought cedars with him to Egypt and planted them, commanding his children to carry the trees with them when they later left Egypt."
This explanation is also in accord with another verse in the Torah which states that the donations of wood for the Sanctuary were made by "those who had acacia wood with them," implying that the wood belonged to the Children of Israel while they were yet in Egypt.
Indeed, more than two hundred years before the Jews were even subjugated, Jacob saw to it that his descendants would have a sufficient reserve of wood to build the Sanctuary.
But why was this so important? Couldn't they have purchased the wood from Egyptian merchants, or sent emissaries to the nearest forest to obtain the needed materials?
In truth, Jacob's actions held a deeper meaning than merely supplying his children with wood. Jacob's intent was to provide the Jewish people with succor and consolation that would enable them to survive the harshness of the exile.
G-d's promise to redeem them from Egypt was not enough; Jacob wanted his children to be comforted by the sight of the trees and reminded of the Sanctuary they would one day erect.
Additional solace was derived from the fact that Jacob had brought the saplings with him from the holy land of Israel, reminding the Jewish people of their origins as well as G-d's promise to bring them back to their land.
This consolation during the exile is also alluded to in the source for this explanation -- Midrash Tanchuma, as Tanchuma is word related to the Hebrew word for consolation and comfort -- "nechama."
A similar type of consolation has also been granted to us during our present exile, which, G-d willing, is about to come to an end. The "cedar trees" of our time are the tzadikim (righteous people) who exist in every generation, as it states in Psalms, "A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow tall."
These tzadikim, who are entirely above the constraints of exile, prevent the Jewish people from losing hope and awaken their hearts to the Redemption.
In this way, the Jewish people will merit the ultimate comfort and consolation in the literal sense, with the full and complete Redemption with Moshiach NOW!
From Likutei Sichot Vol. XXXI
by Chaya Lewis
It all began two winters ago when my mother, Mrs. Syma Lezerowitz, was speaking to a childhood friend from Poland who lives in Borough Park.
They were reminiscing about the past, when my mother's friend asked her if she thought it was possible for her older brother, Meir Orzechowski, who had left Poland for Belgium in 1929 and was then in his early 20's, to have survived the war.
As a child I remember asking my mother the same question numerous times. The answer she gave her friend was the same one she always gave me: it was not possible, and if there was any remote chance, they surely would have found each other by now.
However, a doubt had been planted in my mother's mind, and the matter was not laid to rest.
Soon my mother became obsessed with the idea that her brother might be alive. My sister, Brana Weiss, phoned the Red Cross and asked for an application from Project Search. She filled out the form with the limited amount of information we knew about our uncle's life prior to the war. We were told that there would be a wait of one to two years before we might receive any information.
Very shortly after this, my husband's friend asked him to assist him with some computer work. One of the partners in the company who lives in Belgium was in town that day.
My husband mentioned my mother's dilemma to him and asked him for the name and address of Belgium's Yiddish newspaper so that we could place an ad.
The partner had a better idea. He advised my husband to contact the head of the Jewish community in Antwerp, Mr. Pinchas Kornfeld, who is known to have far-reaching contacts.
My husband wrote him a letter and then we settled down to wait.
About three weeks later I received a phone call. An unfamiliar voice identified himself as Mr. Pinchas Kornfeld. "I believe you are looking for your uncle?"
"Yes," I replied. "I just spoke to him a half-hour ago," Mr. Kornfeld informed me.
I cannot describe my shock at this news. I asked him many questions about my uncle, his past and his relatives, just to be certain that we had the right person.
After we hung up, I knew I had to quickly tell my mother. But first I called my Uncle Meir in Belgium to be one hundred percent sure it was really him.
News like this must be delivered in person. As I walked to her apartment, preparing the right words, my heart was pounding. When I told her, "Meir is alive," my mother's reaction was disbelief, followed by shock, and finally joy mixed with tears.
Later that same day, Mr. Kornfeld faxed my uncle's history to us, informing us how he had survived the war. He was able to get information which the Nazis (may their names be erased) kept on file.
During my uncle's months of deportation and hiding, his appearance changed so drastically that when he was finally able to return to his wife Gittel, she hardly recognized him. Uncle Meir also had no idea that his younger sister Syma (my mother) had run away to Russia (then at war with the Nazis).
Although we were anxious to meet my uncle and cousin, my mother felt she had to prepare herself physically and mentally. She and her brother Meir had parted as children; now, more than 50 years later, both were older people. We spoke with our relatives and exchanged photographs. And then, six months ago, we felt that the time had come to make the trip. My mother was ready for the reunion.
On July 26, 1994, my mother, sister and I flew to Belgium.
When we arrived, we were met at the airport by my uncle, my cousin, Chaim, and his first cousin Freeda, who was orphaned during the war and raised by my uncle and aunt.
The reunion was a happy and emotional one.
It was an unbelievable joy to see my mother and uncle talking about relatives and laughing at some of the humorous events of their childhood.
Neither one of them wanted to dwell on the Nazi atrocities or the long separation.
People in the airport who saw them did not realize what a special event they were witnessing. It is not every day that a family is reunited after 52 years!
Thank G-d all of us speak Yiddish fluently; my mother, my sister, my uncle, his son, his niece and I. Without Yiddish, a common language, I doubt we could have become as close as we are today.
When we reached Antwerp, we were greeted by Sara'le, who is the eldest married daughter of the Kornfelds. She welcomed us into her parents' home and we were made to feel very much at ease. It is difficult to describe the Jewish hospitality which was shown to us. They truly took care of all our needs and treated us royally, especially my mother, who was treated like a queen.
Mr. Kornfeld is a walking encyclopedia of Jewish European history, a talmid chacham, and is respected throughout Europe by Jew and Gentile alike. His wife, Roizy, is known for her chesed, ahavat Yisrael, wisdom and wonderful sense of humor.
Their daughter, Batya, gave up her room and comforts for us in the midst of preparing for her own wedding. Sara'le and her husband, Mechi, should be blessed for their kindness and concern for our family, and for their many hours of enjoyable company.
Discovering my relatives has taught me that we shouldn't be so quick to give up hope! I strongly urge people to continue to search for lost family, even if the chances are slim. The time is now. There is not a moment to waste.
Reprinted from the N'shei Chabad Newsletter.
Give your children an allowance:
Concerning the building of the Holy Temple, all Jews participate, including children. Thus we should accustom children even now to give money for charity; rather than their parents' money, they should give their own. Parents should therefore give children an allowance, and from that money, they should give to charity.
PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
[The Rebbe has spoken often and forcefully of the need to allow children to bring the beliefs of their home into their place of study in the public schools through the creation of a "Moment of Silence" at the beginning of each school day.
In this letter, dated 26 Nisan, 5724 (1964) the Rebbe addresses a similar issue which was being debated then.]
"... In my opinion, this acknowledgment [of the Creator] is absolutely necessary in order to impress upon the minds of the younger generation that the world in which they live is not a jungle, where brute force, cunning and unbridled passion rule supreme, but that it has a Master Who is not an abstraction, but a personal G-d; that this Supreme Being takes a "personal interest" in the affairs of each and every individual, and to Him, everyone is accountable for his daily conduct.
Juvenile delinquency, the tragic symptom of the disillusionment, insecurity and confusion of the younger generation, has not abated; rather, the reverse is the case.
Obviously, it is hard to believe that the police and law- enforcement agencies will succeed in deterring delinquency and crime, not to mention completely eliminating them at the root, even if there were enough police officers to keep an eye on every recalcitrant child.
Besides, this would not be the right way to remedy the situation. The remedy lies in removing the cause, not in merely treating the symptoms. It will not suffice to tell the juvenile delinquent that crime does not pay, and that he will eventually land in jail (if he is not smart enough). Nor will he be particularly impressed if he is admonished and told that lawbreaking is an offense against society. It is necessary to engrave upon the child's mind the idea that any wrongdoing is an offense against Divine authority and order.....
Children have to be "trained" from their earliest youth to be constantly aware of "the Eye that sees and the Ear that hears."
We cannot leave it to the law-enforcement agencies to be the keepers of the ethics and morals of the younger generation. The boy or girl who has embarked upon a course of truancy will not be intimidated by the policeman, teacher or parent, whom he or she thinks fair game to "outsmart."
Furthermore, the crux of the problem lies in the success or failure of bringing children to an awareness of a Supreme Authority, Who is not only to be feared, but also loved.....
The child attending public school knows that his attendance is compulsory, because his parents and the government consider his education of the utmost importance. Together with this comes the recognition that what is really important and essential to his education is taken care of in the school.
The child's instinctive feeling and inference from this is that anything that is not included in the school curriculum is of secondary importance, if, indeed, of any importance at all.
Hence, if religion (prayer) is excluded from the school, the child would inevitably regard it in the same category as an extra foreign language, or dancing, or music lessons, which are not required by the school but are left to the parents' free choice, and which the child, not illogically, considers a burden or even a nuisance.
In other words, the present system of public school education is such that it impresses upon the pupil the belief that everything connected with religion, such as knowledge of G-d's existence, etc., is of little or no consequence, or of no importance whatever.
It will neither interest nor impress the child if he is told that the exclusion of prayer from the school is due to the principle of the separation of Church and State, or to a constitutional technicality.
These explanations, even if they are actually conveyed to the child from time to time, will not impress him as much as the plain fact, which reasserts itself each and every day, that nothing can be very important to his education if it is not included in the school program....
The above would be true even in the case of a child who comes from a religious home and background. How much more so in the case of children whose parents and home are not permeated with the religious spirit.... This, after all, is the kind of home from which the vast majority of public school children come, inasmuch as the truly religious parents make every sacrifice in order to provide their children with the religious education and environment of a parochial school.
To be continued next week
The 13th flight of Jewish children from the Chernobyl area arrived in Israel last month, bringing the total number of children evacuated to 1089.
Chabad's Children of Chernobyl program brings the children to Israel and cares for them in a specially equipped medical relief center. Chabad also pays for housing, education, food, clothing and all other necessities of life until the parents eventually arrive in Israel, aided by Chabad as well.
ONE STOP SHOPPING
If you're in the market for your Jewish heritage, the Sunday Learning Annex at Machon Chana's Women's College is just for you.
Their One Stop Shopping spring semester begins on Feb. 5, 1995. Jewish law, philosophy, Hebrew, women in Judaism, guest lectures, and more, are just part of the Sunday program. For more info call (718) 735-0217.
The 7th of Adar is the birthday and yahrzeit of Moshe Rabeinu.
The Rebbe has spoken numerous times about the significance of this date in our G-dly service. In one of the Rebbe's last public addresses, the Rebbe delved further into the significance of this date.
In a leap year such as our current year, there is a difference of opinion as to whether we commemorate this date in the first or second month of Adar. Since both opinions are "the words of the Living G-d" it is appropriate to commemorate the date in both months.
On a person's birthday, "his mazal (source of influence) shines powerfully." If this concept applies to the birthday of any Jew, surely it applies with regard to the birthday of a Nasi of the Jewish people. Nor is this relevant merely as an event in the past. Instead, each year, the positive influence associated with the Seventh of Adar is increased, reaching a level immeasurably higher than in previous years.
The birthday of a Nasi affects every member of the Jewish people, for the Nasi is the source of influence through whom G-d's blessings are drawn down for the entire people.
Seven is symbolic of a complete cycle.
Thus, the Seventh of Adar should inspire every Jew to carry out his service in a complete manner. The positive influence of the month of Adar will facilitate the performance of this service.
Similarly, these positive influences will hasten the coming of the Redemption. It is of utmost importance that the Redemption come sooner, even a moment sooner, for the Divine Presence and the Jewish people are in exile. Therefore, it is important to hasten the coming of the Redemption; every single moment its coming can be speeded is significant.
The potential for this certainly exists: the very next moment can be the last moment of the exile, and the moment that follows, the first moment of Geulah.
Speak to the Children of Israel, that they may bring me a contribution (Exodus 25:2)
"The fool gives, and the clever man takes," states the popular expression. What does this refer to? The giving of tzedaka (charity).
The fool thinks he is parting with something belonging to him; the clever man realizes that whatever he gives , he actually receives [its reward].
(Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin)
They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst (Exodus 25:8)
It is taught in the name of Rabbi Tarfon:
How great is the significance of human labor [and practical action]!
[From the above verse we see] G-d did not cause his Divine Presence to rest in the Sanctuary until Israel had performed the tasks connected to its erection.
(Avot D'Rabbi Natan)
And they shall make an ark (Exodus 25:10)
Our Sages taught (Megila 10): "The place of the ark could not be measured"; that is, when the dimensions of the Holy of Holies were taken, the ark did not seem to occupy any space at all!
We learn from this that the obligation to learn Torah is not limited to a particular location or time, but applies wherever a Jew may be, in all situations.
And you shall make a candlestick of pure gold...its cups, its knobs, and its flowers (Exodus 25:31)
Symbolic of the entire Torah, each element of the menora represents a different part of the Torah's teachings.
The six branches of the menora stand for the sixty tractates of the Talmud. The knobs and flowers represent the baraitot and meimrot (teachings of the Sages outside the Mishna).
The cups allude to the esoteric teachings of the Torah, for cups are used to hold wine -- wine being the inner part of Torah, referred to as the "wine of Torah" (also alluded to in the saying, "When wine enters, secrets emerge."
During the period of Roman hegemony in the land of Israel, the great sage Rabbi Abahu was the leader of his generation. He was greatly honored, not only by his fellow Jews, but by the Roman rulers, including the emperor himself.
Just as Moses was at home in the royal palace of Pharaoh, so was Rabbi Abahu often the invited guest and valued advisor of the Roman emperor.
Whenever he would enter the royal palace, singers would be stationed at the entrance to laud his praises in song. And just as Moses was fluent in the language of the Egyptians, Rabbi Abahu was fluent in Latin, Greek and many other languages spoken in the huge Roman Empire.
Rabbi Abahu had every reason to hold himself in high regard, but, in fact, he is remembered for his extreme humility.
A very handsome and wealthy man, he was so self-effacing that it is written that it was hard to find his like, even in that generation of tremendous Torah giants and tzadikim. A number of instances are noted in the Talmud which illustrate his remarkable traits.
At that time, it was customary for the sages to address the masses with the aid of an interpreter. Rabbi Abahu would speak in a terse, abbreviated Hebrew, and his interpreter would expound on the ideas in great detail, simplifying them so that the thoughts were accessible to all.
One day Rabbi Abahu's wife and the wife of the interpreter had an argument. In the heat of the angry exchange the interpreter's wife blurted out, "What does my husband need your husband for?! He's just as great a scholar any day, and he is perfectly capable of teaching Torah without your husband's paltry contribution!"
Rabbi Abahu's wife was shocked and deeply insulted, for her husband was known as one of the outstanding sages of the age. Not wanting to argue further, she walked away without replying, but she was seething inside.
That night Abahu noticed that his wife was not her usual self.
"What is wrong?" he asked her. She told him the whole story of her encounter with the interpreter's wife, sure he would be upset at the woman's rude and coarse remarks. Perhaps he might even want to hire a different interpreter.
"Is that a reason to be so upset?" he asked her. "And even if she was speaking the truth, her husband and I both have the same goal. We are both teaching, not for our own honor, but for the honor of Heaven." Rabbi Abahu was so great that his own personal honor had no meaning to him.
Once, it was necessary to choose a new Rosh Yeshiva (spiritual leader and chief instructor of the Torah academy) for the great yeshiva in Caesaria.
On account of his great scholarship and remarkable personal qualities, the sages wanted to appoint Rabbi Abahu but he refused the honor, suggesting instead Rabbi Aba, a poverty-stricken sage who lived in the city of Acre.
Rabbi Abahu hoped that with the appointment to the honored position of Rosh Yeshiva, the poor man's financial hardships would be lifted. In making his recommendation Rabbi Abahu said, "Rabbi Aba is the most humble man I know. Why, when I see how he conducts himself, I cannot even compare to such a man!"
It happened once that Rabbi Abahu and Rabbi Chiya bar Aba were visiting the same town. Every evening they would meet to learn and discuss Torah thoughts, and afterward Rabbi Chiya would walk Rabbi Abahu home, as an indication of respect. That Shabbat they decided to deliver their discourses at different study halls.
Rabbi Abahu spoke about Aggada, the stories of the Torah, while his colleague spoke about Jewish law. Many people attended both lectures, but when they heard that Rabbi Abahu was speaking about Aggada, they left Rabbi Chiya and swarmed to hear Rabbi Abahu. When Rabbi Chiya realized what had happened, he was crestfallen.
Word of Rabbi Chiya's reaction reached Rabbi Abahu and he at once set out to the lodging of his colleague. "The people came to my lecture only for one reason, and I will illustrate it with a story," began Rabbi Abahu.
"Once, two peddlers came to the same town. One was selling precious stones, while the other was selling all sorts of household miscellany. The second man had so many customers he couldn't keep up with the demand, while the man selling the precious stones sold nothing. Was it because his wares were unworthy? No, the deficiency was entirely on the part of the customers. Not only did they lack the money to purchase jewels, they didn't even have an understanding of the value of gems. Common household items were all they knew about.
"You and I have come to a town where there are very few learned people. The majority find it easier to listen to the stories of the Aggada (without even realizing that they understand very little of them). So, you see, it isn't that they prefer my discourse to that of my learned colleague, they just find the topic more compatible with their unsophisticated level of understanding."
After Rabbi Abahu spoke to him in this consoling manner, Rabbi Chiya felt somewhat better, but Rabbi Abahu sensed that he remained unconvinced. As a further indication of his esteem, Rabbi Abahu changed the usual order and accompanied Rabbi Chiya to his residence, to show the great honor in which he held him.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches, "When you grasp the essence, you grasp [the object] in its entirety."
Therefore, even after G-d causes the soul to descend and enclothe itself within a physical body, and even when [the world at large] is in a period of exile, the soul is not in exile.
(From a Chasidic discourse of the Rebbe)