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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Leiba Rudolf
There's a new video game coming into arcades these days.
Virtual Reality uses a technology so advanced and lifelike that people who play it actually feel as if they're in a different place and time. Players wear a computerized headset equipped with a video screen that covers their entire field of vision. Their whole reality is then transformed.
Since most people are looking for action, Virtual Reality games usually feature deadly weapons or thrilling car chases. There are even computerized props to add to the excitement.
It's actually a bit frightening, say some psychologists, because Virtual Reality is so lifelike that some people might confuse it with true reality, with very dangerous results.
On a more civil level, similar technology is used when children (and adults!) visit hands-on science centers where the results are purely educational and entertaining.
Despite whatever drawbacks it might have in the field of entertainment, Virtual Reality affords us a striking parallel in how we can simulate life in the Messianic Era. We, too, can look at the world through "Virtual Moshiach" eyes and actually experience the first stages of the Redemption. And we don't even need a computer game to do so: The Rebbe has told us that Moshiach is here and all we have to do is "open our eyes and see."
Okay, so it's not that easy, mainly because we've gotten used to G-dliness being hidden all these thousands of years and we don't recognize how much more is being revealed as part of Moshiach's imminent arrival. But by learning about Moshiach and practicing living with Moshiach, we can actually make Moshiach our reality. Everything we experience can be viewed as an opportunity to recognize, hasten, learn about, long for, or teach someone else about the coming of Moshiach.
By doing this, we actually enable Moshiach to become manifest in this world not only for us, but for everyone -- for all time.
It's the most exciting game to come along in two thousand years because everyone's a winner!
Of course, Virtual Moshiach is not without its challenges.
The yetzer hara (inclination toward evil) is forever trying to foil our attempts to bring the world to its Ultimate Redemption. With so much goodness waiting to be revealed and with no room for evil in the Messianic Era, it's no wonder that the yetzer hara is pulling out all the stops these days, trying to give people all sorts of doubts and diversions to throw them off track.
But the game is almost over and victory is near. Every one of us can think about what we can do to get ourselves ready.
We can look at others without judging them and do what we can to help, both spiritually and materially. We can view ourselves not as independent entities or two-dimensional beings in an arcade game, but as the last small but vital link between the world of exile and that of Redemption. The responsibility is great, but so is the reward.
No matter what our eyes see, what our ears hear, or what our heart desires, the true reality is Moshiach. And each of us must do our part -- no, more than our part -- to bring Moshiach now.
This week's Torah portion, Ki Tissa, contains one of the most misunderstood occurrences to be recorded in the Torah -- the sin of the Golden Calf.
This sin was so great that its consequences are still being felt today, thirty-three hundred years later. For, as a result of the sin, G-d promised that every punishment that would ever befall the Jewish people would contain an element of chastisement for this grievous transgression.
And yet, as it appears in the Written Torah (without the accompanying commentary), the entire account is illogical and difficult to understand. How could the same Jewish people who had just left Egypt under miraculous circumstances, received the Torah at Mount Sinai amidst open miracles and actually heard the voice of G-d utter the first two of the Ten Commandments, stoop so low as to worship a molten image?
Closer study reveals, however, that the Jewish people were not seeking a substitute for G-d in the Golden Calf; what they desired was a substitute for Moses, as expressed in the verse, "And the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down ...and they said [to Aaron]: Get up, make us a god...for this man, Moses, who has taken us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."
Without Moses, the Jewish people were in a quandary. Moses was the intermediary that connected them to G-d Above, as it states, "I stand between G-d and you." Moses was the medium through which the Children of Israel were freed from Egypt and through whom they received the Torah, to the point where "the Divine Presence spoke from his throat."
Moses is referred to as "a man of G-d," for despite the fact that he was mortal, Moses existed on a spiritual plane on which he was totally united with the Divine. His function as intermediary between man and G-d served to strengthen the Jews' belief in the Creator, for it is difficult to believe in a G-d one cannot see. When the Jews beheld a human being on such a G-dly level, it strengthened their faith in G-d and connected them to Him in a tangible manner.
In this light, the mistake they made is far easier to comprehend. When Moses did not reappear when they expected him, the Jewish people feared they had lost the means by which they bound themselves with the Infinite. They rightly understood that such an intermediary needs to be completely united with G-d; having just witnessed the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, at which G-d descended in a "supernal chariot" bearing the face of an ox, they decided to forge a calf of gold that would closely resemble it.
The Jewish people were correct in their recognition of the need for an intermediary between man and G-d in the form of a G-dly human being; there was also nothing wrong with their choice of an inanimate object to draw holiness down into this world (G-d's voice would later issue forth from between the cherubim -- fashioned in the form of two angels -- above the holy ark in the Sanctuary).
Rather, their error was in taking into their own hands a matter which can only be determined by G-d. Only G-d has the authority to decide how His holiness will be transmitted; only He may choose the correct medium.
Adapted from the works of the Rebbe
by Tzipora Reitman
It's the Harvard of American cooking schools. And if recent graduate Chef Gershon Schwardron has his way, it may soon include a Department of Kosher Cookery.
The Culinary Institute of America is the renowned leader of culinary education. Its world-class faculty includes master chefs from around the world. CIA graduates figure prominently among the staff of kitchens from the White House to the world's finest restaurants.
This bastion of fine cuisine seems an unlikely setting for a strictly kosher chef sporting a beard, yarmulke and tzitzit.
But Gershon Schwardron, a staunch adherent to the laws of kashrut, had long dreamed of studying the culinary arts at America's finest school and was determined not to let anything stand in his way. He was encouraged in this pursuit by the Bostoner Rebbe.
When Gershon first applied to the school, he didn't mention his observance of kashrut or Shabbat, or how these might interfere with his studies at CIA. But once he was accepted and arrived there, he knew he'd have to face the music.
As Gershon unloaded his belongings into the dorm, the residence administrator spoke pessimistically. "You're going to have to shave off your beard, you know. You'll have to taste everything you cook, and you'll have to go to classes on Shabbat," he warned.
"I knew that being a graduate of the Culinary Institute would open many doors, and I was determined that no one would prevent me from realizing this dream," Gershon says.
Disturbed by the school official's words but not ready to throw in the spatula, Gershon spent the weekend in Crown Heights, where he encountered the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
"He beamed me out a bracha," Gershon said. When he returned to school after he was called to the dean's office, Gershon put his cards on the table: He wouldn't cook meat and milk together; he wouldn't taste the food; and he wouldn't attend classes on Shabbat. "No problem, Mr. Schwardron," came the answer. Thus began the fulfillment of Gershon's longtime dream to study at the Culinary Institute.
Although Gershon received official permission to adhere to his standards of kashrut and Shabbat, some of the chefs on the faculty needed some time to understand and accept this situation.
Gershon's very first cooking class presented the first hurdle. The dish to be prepared was cream of broccoli soup. Sounds innocuous enough, but done the classical way, the broccoli is cooked in meat stock, the onions are sauteed in butter, and heavy cream is added at the end.
Gershon asked the teacher for non-dairy creamer as a substitute.
This was not just any teacher: this was an old master from Germany, a certified Master Chef, the highest level, of which there are only fifty in America (thirteen are on the faculty of CIA). The teacher was quite reluctant to allow Gershon to substitute ingredients but he relented, and Gershon prepared the soup with margarine and non-dairy creamer.
When the students presented their dishes for tasting by the teacher, he said to Gershon, "I thought you're not cooking milk and meat."
"When I told him that I had used substitutions, he said he honestly could not tell the difference. After that, he became one of my biggest champions!" tells Gershon.
Gershon decided to move to Israel in 1988 and he took advantage of the offer to new immigrants to receive training in any field at the Israeli government's expense. Gershon had been offered a great opportunity to study with a famous Swiss chef at the five-star Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. Although initially the government said he could only attend a culinary school, Gershon persisted and was granted this special chance to apprentice.
During his apprenticeship, the Dan Hotel hosted the Crown Prince of Thailand and his entourage. The Prince was displeased with the standard French cuisine, and missed his native food. Although he had no idea of Thai food, Gershon, ever ingenious, created a meal which the Prince loved.
The Crown Prince was so impressed that he insisted that Gershon travel with him throughout his stay in Israel. Gershon received special permission to work as a visiting chef at the famous King David Hotel during the Prince's visit.
Gershon has always used his culinary talents to express his gratitude to those who have offered him hospitality and taught him Torah. In one of his many efforts to "give back" to his community, he established a free kosher catering service in Jerusalem for people who couldn't afford regular catering. Gershon's professional catering services have extended as far afield as Kenya, where he once catered a glatt kosher safari!
Gershon returned to the United States to study at the Culinary Institute in May 1993. He graduated from CIA this past August with the hope that he has paved the way for other Jews to study there and to continue his work of finding appropriate kosher substitutes for non-kosher recipes.
"It was a wonderful opportunity," he says. "I had a million- dollar consulting staff at my disposal."
Gershon also helped establish a course, designed for industry people such as hotel chefs, called Kosher Cooking Around the World in CIA's Continuing Education Program, with lectures given by kosher supervision professionals. At the current time, although the ingredients are kosher, they are prepared in non- kosher vessels. Eventually, Gershon hopes that the school will provide all new utensils and establish a real kosher kitchen.
Reprinted from Kosher Outlook, a publication of the Chof-Kay.
Influence others to give tzedaka:
In addition to giving charity oneself, one should encourage family members to give charity as well. As the commandment of giving charity also applies to non-Jews, one should encourage them, as well, to give charity.
SERVE G-D WITH JOY
From letters of the Rebbe
14th of Cheshvan, 5736 (1976)
....Your question is surprising, inasmuch as you surely know that one of the basics of our Torah -- called Torat Emet because it tells the truth -- is that everything happens by Divine Providence. Hence you certainly have your mission in this world, that is to say, you have also been given the ability and capacity to carry it out. For it is logical that G-d would not give one a task which is impossible to carry out. Furthermore, it is possible and necessary to carry out one's mission with joy, as it is written, "Serve G-d with joy"; also for this the necessary capacity has been given.
One of the ways to stimulate such joy is to reflect, first of all, upon the fact that G-d has chosen the Jewish people, and you in particular, to carry out a mission for Him.
Imagine if a human king would come from his city and residence to visit your home and entrust you with a special task how welcome this would be; how much more so in regard to the King of Kings.
Our Sages state that "It is a pleasure, so to speak, for G-d that He has given a commandment and His Will has been done." Surely it is most gratifying to be able to please G-d, especially as G-d has also promised a generous reward both in this world and in the World to Come.
Carrying the illustration a little further, one should consider that in the case of a human king, one can never be certain that the task he assigns is all for good, or that it can be carried out fully, or that he can fully keep his promise of reward. All this, of course, does not apply in the case of a mitzva.
It is also clear that when a person goes about his tasks with joy and confidence he is likely to have greater success, and also more likely to overcome any discouragement or difficulty that might arise.
If you reflect on the above in some depth you will surely find a great deal of strength and encouragement, and you will see how easy it is to carry it out without any doubts in this regard.
7 Adar II, 5717 (1957)
I received your letter of the 5th of Adar I.
With regard to the inclination toward a feeling of sadness, a good remedy for it is to have it firmly engraved on your mind that G-d, the Creator of the world, watches over everyone individually and, being the Essence of goodness, there is therefore no room for sadness or worry, as has been explained at length in various parts of the Tanya (see Index). It would especially be good for you to learn by heart from the beginning of Chapter 41 (on page 56) until the next page second line; when ever you feel sad or depressed you should review that section in your mind or recite it orally to dispel the unwelcome feeling.
With regard to the question of a beard, since, as you write, you spend most of the day in the yeshiva, it would be the right thing to let it grow. In addition to all the reasons you mention in your letter, there is one fundamental reason in accordance with the Tzemach Tzedek -- Yoreh De'ah, paragraph 93.
It should also be added that when a Jew does something beyond the call of duty, G-d sends extra special blessings, as is explained in the Zohar and also in the commentary of the Tzemach Tzedek on the verse in Psalms, "And He is merciful" (see supplement to Tehilim Yosef Yitzchak HaShalem). May G-d grant that your example will be emulated by your friends at the yeshiva, and thus you will have the additional satisfaction of having been a pioneer for a good cause.
As requested, I will remember you and all those mentioned in your letter when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law, of saintly memory, and may G-d grant that you will have good news to report in all of the above and will be successful in your studies and in your conduct, both of which are based on "serve G-d with joy."
An evening for women in honor of the yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka -- wife of the Rebbe -- was hosted by the Kosher Tea Room in Manhattan. Sponsored by Chabad at NYU, the women were treated to an elegant meal and an inspiring lecture on the Jewish Woman's Mystique.
For information about future events call (212) 995-3147.
THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE
A provocative seminar to break your stereotypes of man and G-d, The Jewish Experience is being sponsored by Chabad of the Upper West Side.
The Reality of G-d, Secret Codes of the Torah, Mysticism, and the Divinity of the Torah are some of the topics that will be covered in this day-long seminar. The Jewish Experience will be held on Sunday, March 5, Ohab Zedek, West 95 near Columbus. Featured lecturers are Dr. Immanuel Schochet, Miryam Swerdlow, and Rabbi Aaron Raskin.
For reservations and more info call (212) 864-5010.
The 16th of Adar is the date in 5709 (1949) on which the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, received his citizenship papers from the United States government.
In a move indicating the government's tremendous respect for the Rebbe, citizenship was conferred upon him in his offices at 770 Eastern Parkway, World Lubavitch Headquarters since his arrival in the United States in 1940.
For this special occasion the Previous Rebbe wore his Shabbat clothes -- a spodek (fur hat) and special long black coat.
After greeting the delegation from the government, the Rebbe said: "In connection with what is taking place today, the Midrash states that after Abraham was commanded to 'Go out from your land, from the place of your birth, from your father's house, to the land that I will show you' and he came to Aram Naharayim, 'he saw the people there eating and drinking and he said: I hope I don't have a portion in this land.' When Abraham reached the border of Tzur he saw the people involved with weeding and hoeing and he said, 'O that my portion should be in this land!' G-d then said to him, 'To your children I will give this land.' "
"Similarly, after all my journeys and travels from place to place and from country to country, by Divine Providence I have now found the rightful place from whence the dissemination of Judaism and the spreading forth of the wellsprings of Torah will be directed -- here in America."
After he finished speaking, the Previous Rebbe signed the official papers and parted from the delegation with a broad smile.
As related by the Rebbe, it is interesting to note that a special law was passed in Congress to enable the Previous Rebbe, the leader of that generation, to receive his citizenship at home.
You shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen (Exodus 33:23)
According to Rashi's commentary, G-d showed Moses the "knot of the tefilin (phylacteries)." What are we to learn from this?
Tefilin consist of two parts -- one placed on the hand, and the other on the head. The hand represents interpersonal relationships, for it is with our hands that we extend aid and assistance to others, whereas the head, the seat of our intellect, is the medium through which we connect ourselves to G-d by learning His Torah.
In order to serve G-d properly, the Jew must excel in both areas.
Moses asked to see G-d's glory so that he would have a better understanding of what is required of the Jewish people.
The knot of the tefilin symbolizes G-d's desire that every Jew bind these two aspects of our worship together -- doing our utmost for our fellow Jews and at the same time devoting ourselves to Torah study.
And the Children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations (Exodus 31:16)
The Hebrew word for "their generations" ("le'doroteihem") can also be read "le'diratam" -- "in their home." According to the Talmud, every Jew is accompanied home from the synagogue Friday night by a good angel and an evil one. If the angels find the home ready for Shabbat, the table set and a spirit of peace prevailing, the good angel gives a blessing that it also be thus the following week, to which the evil angel must answer "Amen." The Torah is therefore alluding to the fact that in order to receive the angel's blessing, we must beautify the Shabbat and make it noticeable in our homes.
When you shall take the sum (literally, "the head") of the Children of Israel... then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul (Exodus 30:12)
When the time will come for you to appoint a "head" -- a leader of the Jewish people -- make sure it is one who is willing to give up his very soul on behalf of his brethren; only one such as this is worthy.
The Rizhiner Rebbe had thousands of Chasidim in Ukraine while Czar Nicholas sat on his throne. It was during this period that the opponents of Chasidism made terrible accusations against Chasidim which reached even the highest gentile authorities.
One time the Czar was told that the Rizhiner Rebbe considered himself a king, and that he did not recognize the authority of the Russian crown. Incensed, the Czar decided to dispatch an infiltrator to make an investigation.
The infiltrator was a high-ranking officer, a renegade Jew happy to turn informer. Arriving in Rizhin, he asserted that he wanted ask the tzaddik for his blessing for business endeavors. To ingratiate himself with the Chasidim, he bought refreshments. Then he began discussing his business, attacking the government for making laws and restrictions. The infiltrator was surprised that not one voice was raised in his favor. He repeated this performance several times, but each time was met by total silence from his listeners.
One afternoon he was ushered into the Rebbe's room. The spy began to tell the Rebbe how, as a wealthy merchant, he was suffering from the terrible decrees and regulations imposed by the government.
The Rebbe looked deeply at his visitor and said, "I will tell you a story.
In a small village lived a Jewish innkeeper who had an only son named Yossel. Because the village was so isolated, Yossel had no Jewish friends. His best friend was Stepan, the son of the gentile handyman who worked for his father.
Stepan had a quick mind and enjoyed sitting in on the Torah lessons Yossel received. In fact, Stepan was quicker than Yossel to grasp the lessons.
Years passed, and it was time to look for a bride for Yossel. A matchmaker came to the little village to interview him. Stepan sat together with Yossel as the matchmaker questioned him on Jewish topics. Each time a question was posed, however, Yossel was silent, while Stepan supplied the answer. It was clear to the matchmaker that this boy was not a good prospect and he left.
The innkeeper decided to separate his son from Stepan.
After much thought, he decided to send away both father and son. When the handyman heard, he protested: 'Why should I be punished on account of my son? Let him go out into the world.' And so Stepan left the inn.
For many months Stepan went from one study hall to another masquerading as a Jewish orphan and receiving hospitality from Jews wherever he went. Eventually he tired of that life and decided to move to a large city, where he enrolled in a university and excelled in his studies. When he completed his courses he began searching for a good opportunity.
One day, arriving in a very distant city, he heard that the citizens were about to choose a new ruler, something they did every three years. All candidates were to present themselves at the palace where their suitability for kingship would be determined. Stepan rushed to the palace. With his outstanding intelligence he was chosen king.
Soon after his coronation the new king inexplicably began making terrible decrees against the local Jews. The most devastating was that the Jews would have to leave the realm at the end of twelve months!
The Chief Rabbi declared a public fast, during which the people begged G-d to soften the king's heart. On the fourth day, he called a meeting of the seven most prominent members of the community at which he related to them his strange dream. He dreamed that in a faraway land there was a young innkeeper named Yossel who would be able to change the decree of the king. Strangely enough, each man present had had the exact same dream.
Messengers were dispatched at once to bring the innkeeper to their city. They related their strange tale and begged him to accompany them and Yossel agreed. The prominent Jews of the city managed to arrange a meeting with the king, and Yossel was ushered into the royal throne room. Stepan was overjoyed to see his old friend, and they embraced each other warmly.
What is this I am told about the evil decrees you have made against the Jews of this realm? asked Yossel.
I really don't have anything against the Jews, Stepan replied. In fact, they have always treated me very kindly, but as soon as I became king, I felt that I had to make these new decrees. I don't entirely understand why.
The rabbi explained: Your majesty, our Torah teaches that the hearts of kings and rulers are in the hand of G-d. When Jews keep the Torah and do mitzvot, they fare well, but when they rebel against G-d, He hardens the heart of their king and they fall prey to evil decrees. Nonetheless, they do not pray for another king, for they know that it is their own actions that shape their destiny and not the will of the king.
Having concluded his story, the Rizhiner looked into the eyes of the informer and said: Go and tell those who have sent you that the accusations against the Jews are untrue. They are loyal citizens and pray for the welfare of their rulers and the country in which they live.
Adapted from Talks and Tales
G-d forbid that we despair of Moshiach's coming because of his delay. We must stand ready and await salvation as it is written (Habakuk 2:3): "Await him..." One must stand alert for Moshiach as one would stand awaiting another person. Perhaps at this very moment he is already standing behind the wall.
(The Chofetz Chaim)