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It used to be that instant potatoes, instant soup and instant oatmeal epitomized the fast-pace of the American lifestyle. They weren't really so instant, though, as one still needed to first boil up the water, which took a good few minutes. But back in the days before instant international communication via fax machines and e-mail, a few minutes was instant enough.
Instant today is quicker than it was 20 years ago. But it's still not instant enough, as proven by computer advertisements that ask us what we do while we're "waiting" the minute or two for the computer to do an auto-sort or the laser printer is printing out the 16-page report (at a rate of eight pages per minute).
We're in the instant age, so it's no wonder that when someone tells us something is happening imminently we expect it now. But some things are worth waiting for, even if just for a few more moments.
A man once dropped a security bond worth many thousands of dollars into a huge box filled with scrap paper. He rummaged through the papers for hours trying to find his note.
Another man passed by and expressed his surprise at the fellow's eagerness and mounting excitement, even after hours of unsuccessful searching. "Quite the contrary," exclaimed the first man as he scrutinized each piece of paper. "Now that I am nearing the bottom of the pile I am more encouraged, because I know I'll find it very soon."
That person knew that his long search was worthwhile. He was not discouraged.
Now, imagine if he had found a hundred dollar bill at the top of the pile. Would he have said: "Oh, why bother to take so much time and effort to search for the lost bond?"
Of course not!
There's a big difference between cash and a security bond. Cash, as we know, is immediate money. A security bond is worth money later.
We like to be handed things now, immediately. When we want something, we want it right away. In this age of immediate gratification, some people get discouraged or are disappointed if they don't get results at once.
But we should never be discouraged by the long wait for Moshiach.
Our neshamos can appreciate the value of a security bond. They are not disheartened by the wait. Like the person searching at the bottom of the box, our neshamos are encouraged and excited with anticipation the closer we get to Moshiach's coming.
According to Nachmanides, the medieval Torah sage, a person bringing a sacrifice to the Sanctuary in the desert or the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was obligated to contemplate what was being done to the animal, for in actuality, the animal was offered in his stead.
Every Jew is required to "sacrifice" his animal soul his evil inclination in the service of G-d.
Contemplating this aspect of the sacrifices enabled the Jew to overcome his baser instincts and draw closer to G-d - the very function of the korbanot (sacrifices -- from the root word meaning "close").
Thus, every detail pertaining to the order of the sacrifices and the way in which they were offered contains a spiritual counterpart that is relevant in every time and in every age, even when we cannot bring a physical offering to G-d.
An example of this may be found in a verse in this week's Torah portion, Tzav. "This is the law of the burnt-offering...which shall be burning upon the altar all night until the morning."
Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains that this means that although the proper time for the burning of the fat and limbs of the sacrifice is during the day, if, for some reason, this was not done, one may also burn them at night. Moreover, the kohanim (priests) serving in the Temple may eat their portion of the offering only after the fat and limbs have been burned.
How does this apply to us nowadays?
Fat is symbolic of a person's instinct to experience pleasure and self-gratification. The Torah therefore tells us that "All fat belongs to G-d" a Jew must direct this inner drive towards G-dly things, deriving true joy and happiness solely from the Torah and its mitzvot.
This principle applies to spiritual pleasures as well.
Not only does the Jew eat, drink and conduct his physical life for the sake of heaven, but the pleasure he derives from holiness from learning Torah and performing mitzvot must also be for a higher purpose and not just for his own gratification.
From this verse we also learn that the proper time to burn this fat is during the day.
Daytime - light - is symbolic of our involvement in Torah and mitzvot, as it states, "A mitzva is a candle, and the Torah, light." Nighttime, however, alludes to our involvement in our own personal needs.
The Torah teaches us that the most fitting time in which to derive pleasure from holy pursuits is during the day, when the greatest danger exists that one will become distracted.
Although the Jew's entire service of G-d learning Torah and doing mitzvot must be motivated by a sense a joy, this joy must come from the fact that we are thus commanded by G-d, and not because one finds it to be particularly enjoyable.
The Jew learns Torah because it is G-d's Torah; he performs a mitzva because this is the way he connects himself to G-d. Furthermore, "sacrificing" our pleasure to G-d will eliminate ulterior motives and ensure that our actions are always properly motivated by the pursuit of ultimate truth.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. 3)
Reprinted from the Chabad Children of Chernobyl Insider's Update.
by Devorah Caytak
August was fast approaching, and with it the bar mitzva of our eldest son, Herschel. My husband, Yosef, and I wanted to make Herschel's bar mitzva something special and meaningful for him.
Instead of receiving 13 watches, video games and sports equipment, why not help Jewish children who were suffering from the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl?
We approached Herschel with the idea of asking people to make a donation to Chabad's Children of Chernobyl instead of giving a bar mitzva present.
Herschel thought about the idea. "But what about all the video games I would get?"
"Don't worry," we assured him, "you'll still receive presents from your relatives."
Herschel agreed, and we printed up his bar mitzva invitations to read:
"Herschel Benyamin is looking forward to greeting you personally at his bar mitzva. In lieu of a present he kindly asks that you make a generous donation to Chabad's Children of Chernobyl (benefiting Jewish children affected by the radiation disaster in Russia)."
As the big day approached, Herschel received over $9,000 in donations and envelopes were still coming in. How proud he was. But this was just the beginning.
Herschel's bar mitzva went off beautifully.
The next day, Sunday, when all the festivities were over, the relatives from Minnesota, including aunts, uncles and cousins, went to the "Great Ex" a travelling amusement park. Nine children were in our group, and every adult had one or two children by the hand. But somehow, after the camel ride, no one was holding Esther's hand. Herschel's little two-year-old sister was lost.
In a crowd of tens of thousands of people, we started to panic. How would we ever find our precious Esther?
Meanwhile, Herschel had gone off to wait his turn for something called "The Violent Ride." He was just about to go on when his Uncle Max came running up. "Esther is lost! Come quickly and help us find her."
They left the line and went searching. Yosef ran up to a policeman. "We've lost our two-year-old daughter! She has blond hair and blue eyes."
"Run up to the front gate. Maybe someone has turned her in at the Boy Scout's lost and found tent," he advised us.
As soon as Yosef walked into the tent he saw Esther sitting with a Boy Scout. "Esther!" He shouted in relief.
"Mommy's lost," was all Esther had to say.
Relieved and upset we decided to cut our trip short and leave the amusement part. As we were walking out, in somewhat of a daze after our ordeal, one, two, three, four ambulances sped past us. We were too upset to even wonder where they were going: we had Esther back and that was all that mattered.
"Violent Ex Ride Injures Six" read the headline in the Ottawa Citizen the next day. A surge of electricity had caused the ride to malfunction. Six people received serious head injuries.
That's where the ambulances were rushing to, we realized.
Herschel would have been on the ride when the accident occurred if he hadn't left to look for Esther! We all felt Herschel was saved and Esther was found because of the tzedaka raised for the Children of Chernobyl.
The next day, four relatives set off back to Minnesota.
On their way home, a huge white Cadillac crossed the highway and hit their car head on. The vehicle was so badly smashed it had to be sawed apart to release the passengers. Yet, miracles of miracles, everyone was alive. Apart from cuts and bruises, only my brother Max required hospitalization for a broken shoulder.
My brother had to have emergency surgery and a pin was set in his shoulder. He avoids doctors at all costs but this time he didn't mind; he was just so thankful to be alive!
When the time came to have the pin taken out, the doctor noticed a distortion in Max's abdomen: his intestine was twisted. Again, Max had to have emergency surgery, this time to untangle his bowel. According to his doctor, he narrowly escaped a colostomy or worse, which would have drastically altered his life.
Max had only gone to the doctor because of the shoulder. The shoulder was injured because of the trip. And the trip was all on account of Herschel's bar mitzva.
This amazing series of events strengthened our family's belief in our Sages' teaching that "tzedaka saves from death."
Thirty days before a holiday is the time to begin studying about and preparing for it.
As we are now 30 days before Passover it is traditional to begin collecting charity now for Maot Chitim money that will be used toward the purchase of matzot and other holiday needs for the poor.
August 26, 1948
I am referring to the two questions you raised in connection with the Talks & Tales of the current month [Menachem Av], and which have been conveyed to me for reply.
The first question concerns the interpretation of "eikev" in the featured series, "The Names of the Sidras," in the sense of "minor" precepts which one is apt to treat too lightly and "tread upon." It was pointed out that the significance of the first verse of the Midrash was to make us mindful of the so-called "minor" mitzvot which often present the real test of our faithfulness to our Torah, and "that is why G-d promises special rewards for these precepts."
You referred to the last statement and pointed out that it seemed in contradiction to Mishna 1, chapter 2 of the Ethics of the Fathers, where Rabbi Yehuda taught that "thou knowest not the grant of reward for mitzvot."
In reply: The reward for mitzvot is of two kinds:
- the reward for the very nature of the precept performed, where we do not account for the relative importance of the various mitzvot, and,
- special reward cited in the Talks dependent upon certain conditions, i.e., the nature of the person performing the precept, the kind of performance, and the circumstances of time and place involved.
To illustrate point b):
Two people buy the same kind of etrog, pay the same amount of money, make the same blessing. But one of them could less afford to pay the price. This person is performing the mitzva at greater sacrifice. He is deserving of greater reward.
Or take the case of a heavy smoker who stops smoking before the Sabbath and abstains from smoking throughout the Sabbath. He is deserving of a greater reward than one who is less addicted to smoking.
Or the case of a "self-made" man, who never had occasion to take orders from anybody, and grew up with the idea of exceptional self-reliance. When such a person puts his own strong will aside and accepts the guidance and leadership of a spiritual leader in Israel, he is deserving of a greater reward than the person who has been brought up since childhood in the spirit of self- abrogation and submission to the wishes and guidance of the Rabbi.
This is what our Sages meant by "According to the [painstaking] labor is the reward" (Ethics, end of chapter 5).
Your second question concerns the story of Yavneh ("Let's Visit Yavneh"), particularly the plea of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, "Give me Yavneh and its scholars." You asked, why didn't Rabbi Yochanan plead for Jerusalem instead? Your own suggestion was that since Rabbi Yochanan knew that G-d had decreed the destruction of Jerusalem, he did not want to act against G-d's wishes.
While your suggestion is an interesting one, it cannot, however, be applied to this case. Any Divine decree concerning the fate of an individual, and especially that of a community, can be rescinded by teshuva, prayer and good deeds. Consequently, the idea you suggested could not have served as a basis for Rabbi Yochanan's request.
The Talmud, dwelling upon the same question, gives two explanations of Rabbi Yochanan's apparent failure to plead for Jerusalem:
- it was a case of temporary beclouding by G-d of the intellect, and
- Rabbi Yochanan was afraid that if he asked for too much, he would get nothing.
The first explanation itself requires elaboration.
Why should his intellect have failed him at such a crucial moment, which was so abnormal for such a great man? Here is where your suggestion can be fitted in: Because the decree was already in force, G-d caused Rabbi Yochanan's intellect to fail him.
I trust that the above will satisfactorily answer your questions, but should you have any further remarks concerning the above, or any other questions, do not hesitate to write to me.
One of the greatest Chasidim of this generation was Reb Nisan Nemenov, of blessed memory. He was a great "oved," spending many hours daily in prayer and worship of G-d.
I remember it was a few days before Sukkot, and Reb Nisan farbrenged (conducted a Chasidic gathering) in 770 with the students late one evening. He could not understand how anyone could possibly begin to celebrate the festival of Sukkot without first studying the Talmudic tractate Sukka, the section of the Shulchan Aruch that dealt with the laws of the festival, and the Chasidic discourse that explained its spiritual significance. Without all that, asked Reb Nisan, how can one possibly have a true "taste" of Sukkot?
The same, and much more, is true about Moshiach.
We cannot have an appreciation for Moshiach unless we actually experience a foretaste of the Messianic Era, which can only be attained by learning about Moshiach. There are scores of books available about Moshiach and the Redemption on all levels and in many languages: Scripture, Talmud, Midrash, and classic works by the Maharal of Prague, Don Yitzchak Abarbanel and the Chofetz Chaim, many of which are available at least partially in English.
In our generation, we are particularly privileged to have the great works of the Rebbe concerning Moshiach in the original Yiddish, as well as Hebrew, English, Spanish, Russian, French and Portuguese.
One should not, however, make a hasty decision to abandon this study if the results are not instantaneous.
I once heard a story from Rabbi Eli Moshe Liss, who told the tale of a frail and weakly Jew who was sent to a sanatorium to gain weight. The treatment was very expensive, but what doesn't a Jew do for his health? After eating his first seven-course breakfast, he started pinching himself to see if he had already gained a few pounds. When he realized that he hadn't he was very upset and asked for his money back.
A good friend explained to him that the sanatorium had no magical formula; gaining weight is a gradual process. Only after spending time eating healthy, nutritious meals does one see a difference in strength and weight.
This is even more true concerning "matters of the heart." One needs to be steady and persistent, knowing that the longed-for results will certainly come and that one's hardship will be repaid with great dividends.
Indeed, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov said that for one to really long for Moshiach he must study the concept of Moshiach in depth. This will surely generate the proper results.
This is the law of the burnt-offering...which the L-rd commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that He commanded the Children of Israel to offer their sacrifices (Leviticus 7:37-8)
From this verse Maimonides concludes that the proper time for bringing sacrifices is during the day and not at night.
Nonetheless, he continues, it is permissible to burn any portions of the animal that were not consumed during the daytime throughout the night.
Similarly, the Jew's mission in life is to "sacrifice" his animal soul his lust and desire for physical pleasures and transform it into holiness. Optimally, this type of service is to be done "in the daytime" when the Jew's connection to G-d is fully revealed, illuminating and sustaining him body and soul.
Nonetheless, if our sins have caused us to enter a state of spiritual "night," our service of G-d must continue, for this in itself will dispel the darkness and transform it into light.
(The Rebbe, Bechukotai, 5749)
And he shall lift up the ashes left from the burnt-offering which the fire consumed on the altar (Leviticus 6:3)
A person wishing to witness a fiery, all-consuming service of G-d need not search among the elite; let him better look among the simple Jews who serve G-d with all their heart, for there he will find a true, holy fire.
(The Magid of Mezeritch)
And the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving-peace-offering shall be eaten the same day that it is offered (Leviticus 7:15)
Why is eating this type of sacrifice limited to only one day? asks Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur. Because it is brought to thank G-d for a miracle He has wrought on our behalf; indeed, G-d performs new miracles every day...
Command Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 6:2)
"A command is only given to spur a person on," comments Rashi, the great Torah sage.
Whenever a person is obligated to fulfill a requirement, special encouragement is needed. For as soon as G-d tells us to do a mitzva, the evil inclination tries to prevent us from complying.
Our Sages said: "Greater is one who is commanded and performs than one who is not commanded and performs," for the one who is commanded must overcome his evil inclination.
(Rabbi Herschel of Cracow)
Adapted from the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs
There once was a certain miller named Yerachmiel Hirsch who employed three Jews as workers in his mill.
This Reb Yerachmiel was a notable scholar, even giving a regular Talmud class in the local study hall, but he exhibited one particular character flaw: He held the simple, uneducated Jew in contempt.
One of Reb Yerachmiel's employees, Ephraim Kalman, was also a competent scholar, and as such, he was well respected by his employer.
The other worker, Baruch Shimon, had never had the opportunity to study Torah, and perhaps even lacked the sharpness to succeed in such an endeavor. Although he lacked a knowledge of Torah, he was a man of high character and as an employee no complaint could be lodged against him.
Nevertheless, the miller lost no opportunity of belittling him and showing him that he held him completely in contempt. If that happened when Ephraim Kalman was there, he did not shirk from reproving Reb Yerachmiel, quoting to him from the sages to the effect that even if he happened to be a Torah scholar, he shouldn't consider himself superior.
The miller had so much respect for Ephraim Kalman, that he swallowed the reproof without a word, but still, he did not alter his attitude towards Baruch Shimon.
One day Reb Yerachmiel returned from the Beth-Hamidrash where he had given his usual Talmud class. Seeking the approbation of his learned worker, he rushed up to Ephraim Kalman, reviewed the lecture, and waited eagerly for his comments. While the two of them were deeply engaged in the scholarly discussion, Baruch Shimon sat quietly in a corner, reciting Psalms with tears flowing down his cheeks.
When the miller and his worker concluded their discussion, they noticed Baruch Shimon, sitting with closed eyes, reciting the Psalms. Realizing that the man was reciting a certain passage with many mistakes, Reb Yerachmiel remarked in a contemptuous tone, "What has this poor Hallel [prayer] done to you? You're absolutely murdering it!" Pleased with his own wit, he burst into derisive laughter.
Poor Baruch Shimon looked heartbroken and bewildered, then threw a look of gratitude to his co-worker Ephraim Kalman who was giving their boss a good "telling-off" in a voice full of fury.
"You ought to know," he rebuked him, "that our sages tell us that for every word of praise to the Al-mighty that comes from the lips a Jew, an angel is born! And these angels speak always in defense of the Jew in whose merit they have been created. How dare you then laugh at poor Baruch Shimon when he was singing G-d's praises and causing angels to be created!"
"And what angels they would be," scoffed Yerachmiel Hirsch. "If their creation depended upon Baruch Shimon's words, they would all be born crippled." And he laughed again at his witticism.
"And what sort of angels so you think are born from our Torah- learning?" asked Ephraim Kalman.
"Now that is where you can be sure that the angels will be perfect, healthy and strong, as if carved of iron or stone. And their songs would reach right up to the Celestial Throne itself!" said the miller proudly.
"For my part, I am convinced that the Al-mighty would find much greater delight in the angels which you term 'crippled' but which come from the sincere words of simple, good-hearted Jews, than from those created from the words of people who are haughty in their Torah knowledge!" retorted Ephraim Kalman.
The miller said nothing more, but from that day he never again "attacked" Baruch Shimon in the presence of Ephraim Kalman. This did not stop him from persecuting Baruch Shimon even more than hitherto. He rebuked him for desiring to take time off to pray with the quorum, but Baruch Shimon insisted on his right to this privilege.
"My time for prayer belongs to me and is as holy to me as Shabbat and Yom Tov, when you cannot expect me to work," Baruch Shimon told his boss fearlessly.
"But the Al-mighty doesn't want any special prayers from you," the miller told him heartlessly. "It is enough if you say your prayers at home."
This was too much for the poor fellow, and he chokingly replied: "Is it my fault that G-d has not blessed me with a good brain so that I too could have become a scholar? And can I help it if I must spend my time carrying sacks of grain for a living, so that I have no time for Torah study?"
The miller had a nephew named Shalom Yechiel who had come to live with him and was a keen follower of the Baal Shem Tov's new way of life. Upon hearing how his uncle was putting this simple man to shame, he pleaded with him: "Uncle, listen to what the Baal Shem Tov teaches. He says that he values the simple but sincere, ordinary Jew with his goodness of heart, much more than the Torah scholar who is puffed up with his own self-importance.
Shalom Yechiel spoke at length about the ideas of his Rebbe, and his uncle must have listened with his heart and mind as well as his ears, for, from that time on, he refrained from taunting Baruch Shimon.
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 11:3) says that the future Redeemer will be revealed, then concealed, then revealed again. This is quoted by the Chatam Sofer on the Torah at the end of the Torah portion of Exodus. He writes: "This is a great test that the Redeemer [Moshe] is concealed...and so it will be at the time of our righteous Moshiach; he will be concealed after his revelation, as mentioned in the Midrash."