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Jewish tradition advocates celebrating birthdays not only in one's lifetime, but commemorating the birth-day of a person -- especially a tzadik -- even after his passing from this world.
Thus, it is not surprising that Jews the world over will be gathering for birthday celebrations in honor of the Rebbe on or around 11 Nisan (April 11 this year).
What is perhaps unique about this year's birthday celebrations is that followers, admirers, even people who have had only casual interaction with the Rebbe, are still "living with the Rebbe," following his directives, turning to him for advice, asking for his blessings.
How is this being done?
Studying the Rebbe's teachings is one of the most important and basic ways to live with the Rebbe.
The Rebbe often quoted the Previous Rebbe's letters which explain that a true connection with the Rebbe is attained only by studying the teachings of the Rebbe. The Rebbe clarified, though: "Most certainly the Rebbe is a tzadik who bestows blessings; G-d surely fulfills his blessings to the utmost, to each and every individual, according to his need.
Specifically, the Rebbe holds each person by the hand and guides him; one must only be careful not to involve his own will in the matter."
Just two months after the Previous Rebbe's passing the Rebbe wrote the following to someone: "You worry that now one cannot ask the Rebbe when he is in doubt how he should conduct himself. If you stand strong in your connection to him... and send your questions to the Rebbe's Ohel [gravesite], the Rebbe will find a way to answer."
Some people fax letters to the Ohel (718-723-4444 or send in requests via e-mail - email@example.com), some come from near or far to go personally. Others ask one of the Rebbe's secretaries to read the letter at the Ohel.
Another way people "live with the Rebbe" is by placing a letter to the Rebbe in any of the nearly 100 volumes of the Rebbe's Torah teachings or correspondence. This is, in fact, what Chasidim of previous generations did when they were unable to correspond with their Rebbe in the conventional way.
There's a modern twist, though.
Today we have 33 volumes of Igros Kodesh -- letters written by the Rebbe to private individuals over the past 50 years. As they are letters to private individuals -- and the Rebbe "tailor- makes" the advice to fit the soul -- there are different answers to similar questions.
For instance, to one person who asks the Rebbe if he should move, the Rebbe answers "yes." To another person the Rebbe's answer is "no."
After writing to the Rebbe, one opens the book "randomly" and the advice in that letter is one's answer. And we haven't heard of a case yet when one sincerely asks the Rebbe advice in this manner that there hasn't been an answer.
How are these answers, blessings, and guidance, possible?
Again, let's turn to the Rebbe directly for an explanation. "In answer to your question, when people came to the Rebbe for a blessing they did so not because of the superiority of his physical body, but because of the superiority of his soul. Death only pertains to the physical body, for the soul is eternal, especially the soul of a tzadik to whom purgatory and punishment have no relevance. The passing of a tzadik is merely a departure, an ascent to a higher plane, and cannot therefore be termed 'death,' as is explained in the Zohar."
May we all celebrate the Rebbe's birthday together this year in the Third and Eternal Holy Temple. Happy birthday, Rebbe!
One of the laws pertaining to the Biblical affliction of leprosy (discussed in this week's Torah portion, Metzora), seems somewhat surprising.
If a person discovered an eruption, a bright spot, or a white hair indicative of the disease on part of his body, he was pronounced "impure" by the priest. If, however, the leprosy covered his entire body, he was pronounced pure. "[If] it is all turned white, he is pure," the Torah repeats.
How can it be that when the leprosy is confined to one area, the person is impure, yet once it has spread all over his body, he is pure? There are two possible explanations:
- The sole reason he is considered pure is because it is G-d's will. According to logic, the person whose leprosy covers all of his flesh should be impure; G-d, however, has decreed that he is pure.
- The law itself is logical. When the leprosy appears on only a part of a person's skin, it is obvious that he is suffering from some sort of malady. If it covers all of his skin, it is indicative of the individual's constitution and nature, not symptomatic of a disease.
The Talmud cites this law in connection to the concept of redemption, using the affliction of leprosy as a metaphor for sin. "The son of David [Moshiach] will not come until all authority has become heretical," i.e., when G-dlessness is officially sanctioned and widespread throughout the world.
Here we may ask the same question raised regarding leprosy: If the world will be entirely dark, how will it be possible for the light of Redemption to shine through? Why will the Redemption occur precisely when evil is so powerful that it has overcome the entire world?
Again, the above two explanations may be applied to solve our dilemma:
- There is no logic involved. Moshiach will come when he does only because G-d will have decreed it thus; the Redemption will occur independent of the world's condition. An all-powerful and eternal G-d can certainly bring Moshiach no matter how degraded and evil the world becomes.
- The fact that evil is ascendent throughout the entire world is proof that something unusual is taking place; were this not so, some pockets of good would certainly have remained. Rather, the absolute supremacy of evil indicates that all the negative forces have become externalized, as they have already been fully vanquished from within.
Thus, the phenomenon of "all authority has become heretical" is actually part of the world's purification, a process of separating good from evil that will ultimately culminate with Moshiach's revelation. At that time, the world will be sufficiently prepared for the light of Redemption.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe Vol. 32
by Susan Handelman
I grew up in suburban Chicago in the 1950's, a typical third- generation assimilated American. Like many of my generation I fled from Sunday School and the Temple to which my family belonged, and could see nothing true or compelling in what seemed to be the hollow rituals that most of the congregants hardly understood.
Being Jewish in that milieu was a vaguely uncomfortable and perplexing experience, but not any obstacle to full immersion in the non-Jewish culture which surrounded us and swept us along with it.
What power took me out of the deep exile in which I lived -- not just geographically, but intellectually, spiritually and emotionally?
Of course, the Torah promises that ultimately each and every Jew will be returned from exile and redeemed. But it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who could not wait placidly for that redemption, who reached out to every Jew wherever she or he was found... to the furthest corner of the globe.
Among other reasons this was -- I believe -- because the Rebbe felt the pain of every Jew and of the Jewish people in every second of exile. And because the Rebbe also saw the sparks of the divine everywhere, waiting to be uncovered.
And so, eventually, the Rebbe reached me, and helped take me out of my exile too.
In the late 60's, when many of my generation rebelled in extreme ways, the Rebbe understood us, he sensed that our restlessness came from a spiritual discontent.
Instead of chastising us, he sent us his best Chasidim to found Chabad Houses, to teach us, to live with us, to love us.
I think that was what was really behind the development under the Rebbe's leadership of the extraordinary international network of Chabad institutions from Hong Kong to Paris to Katmandu.
He felt our pain, he intuited our yearning. And he saw us not just as products of late twentieth century America, but under the light of Jewish eternity. We were princes and prophets and sages, each Jew was royalty; each Jew was precious; each Jew was the emissary and reflection of G-d in the world.
I first encountered the Rebbe through his emissaries at the Chabad House at the State University of New York at Buffalo where I was attending graduate school.
I then spent six months living in the Lubavitch center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in close proximity to the Rebbe. By the time I came to Crown Heights in 1976, private audiences with the Rebbe had become very restricted. When he had been younger, he would meet with people all through the night. In my time, he was in his late 70's and would meet with people "only" until midnight or one o'clock a.m.
I never had an extended private audience with him, but I had many small encounters, and received answers to the letters I wrote, and comments about essays I published.
Everyone speaks about the Rebbe's eyes, the depth and penetration of his gaze. In his presence one felt immediately purer, truer, closer to G-d. One knew what mattered and what was important in life.
When my mother came to visit me in Brooklyn, perturbed about my affiliation with this group of Chasidim, I took her to the alcove by the Rebbe's office on the day she was to leave.
People who were going on a trip would stand there and as the Rebbe would emerge to pray the afternoon prayer with the yeshiva students, he would give blessings to the travelers. He turned and looked at my mother and said softly in Yiddish, in his mellifluous voice: "Fohr gezunterheit" -- "travel safely."
All of a sudden my mother was crying, tears streaming down her face. "I don't know why... I don't know why I am crying" she said. "I'm not sad." Something in his glance and voice had penetrated to the depths of her soul.
Another friend came with me to one of the Rebbe's special gatherings for women -- a secular, radical feminist. She passed closely by the Rebbe, and tears, too, came into her eyes, from some unknown depth. "He looks like what I imagine Moses must have looked like," she said.
When I first came to study in Crown Heights, I struggled very hard with the issues of Judaism and feminism. To work these conflicts out, I wrote an article called "The Jewish Woman: Three Steps Behind?" and gave it to the editor of one of the Lubavitch women's magazines called Di Yiddishe Heim -- The Jewish Home, which is a modest Yiddish-English publication. Before the article was published, I had occasion to write to the Rebbe for a blessing for a sick uncle.
The Rebbe could receive -- and personally read and answered -- around 400 letters day. And probably equally as many telephone calls with questions and requests for blessings would come in each day from around the world. How, I wondered, did he find time and energy for all this especially amidst all his other responsibilities?
The Rebbe's secretary called me back to read me the response the Rebbe had written on my letter. The Rebbe promised to say a special prayer for my uncle, and the Rebbe added the words, "I enjoyed your article in the forthcoming Yiddishe Heim."
I was surprised; how did the Rebbe know about an article which had not even been published? The editor told me that the Rebbe had such a deep desire to support the efforts of Lubavitch women, that he personally took the time to read and make his own notes and corrections on all the manuscripts for this journal.
I subsequently wrote several articles for the magazine, and as a favor, the editor gave me back my typescripts with the Rebbe's notes and corrections.
As an English professor who has taught college writing I was amazed at the Rebbe's editing of my English. He not only deepened the Torah concepts, he took out excess words, amended punctuation, spelling, syntax with careful attention to each detail. I wish I could give the same attention to correcting my own student's papers as he did to my manuscripts.
The Rebbe was a great supporter of Jewish women and had a special relationship to them. He spoke often of the greatness of the Jewish woman; he held special gatherings to address them; he advocated depth and breadth in their Torah study; he sent them on missions around the world; he initiated several campaigns to encourage Jewish women to perform the special mitzvot pertaining to them.
He created a stir in the Jewish world when he urged all women, even those who were not married, and all girls over the age of three, to light the Sabbath and Yom Tov candles.
As a woman engaged in intellectual and academic work, I received the greatest encouragement from the Rebbe -- blessings to continue my Ph.D. in English, advice about possible dissertation topics, advice about how to negotiate the politics within the University (the Rebbe himself had attended the Sorbonne and University of Berlin).
I sensed that he wanted me to employ to the fullest all my intellectual capacities, and all the secular knowledge I attained from my Ivy League education... to elevate all this and use it in the service of Torah and Yiddishkeit.
From the Rebbe's own personal example, I learned that there was nothing in the world a Jew need fear; that every place and every action and every moment called for a Jew to bring G-dliness in the world; and that no obstacle would ultimately stand in the face of a Jew's will to do so; that to be a Jew was the highest calling, a privilege and immense responsibility.
Growing up in suburban Chicago in the 1950's and '60's, we Jews had kept a low profile. From the Rebbe, I learned not to be ashamed, not to be afraid that the world, in fact, was yearning for the light of Torah.
In an article for Di Yiddishe Heim, which I based on one of the Rebbe's talks, I compared the thoughts found in secular philosophy and science, to those of Torah. The Rebbe had discussed the ways in which secular forms of knowledge are all limited; yet these very limitations also give a person a sense of satisfaction because one can grasp a body of secular knowledge; "master a field." Torah, however, is unlimited and infinite, and I wrote the sentence, "Thus one can never contain Torah, master it."
In editing this manuscript, the Rebbe amended the sentence to read, "Thus one can never contain all the content of even one dvar (sentence of) Torah, master it."
Yet, if there was a master of Torah in our generation, it was also surely the Rebbe. I remember standing at farbrengens, the public gatherings the Rebbe would hold.
The large synagogue in Brooklyn would be packed with a thousand or more people. If it were a weekday, the Rebbe would start to speak at around 9 p.m. and often give several sichot (talks), each lasting about 40 minutes. Without a note, he would speak into the early hours of the morning, for five or more hours, citing liberally from memory the whole corpus of Jewish literature -- Bible, Midrash, Talmud, the classic commentaries, Kabbalah, Jewish law, Chasidic philosophy.
He would discuss the needs of the Jewish people, the political situation in Israel, and in between talks, the Chasidim would sing and drink l'chaim.
When he spoke Torah, it was not just another lecture, a flow of words; there was something magnetic about the Rebbe's presence.
Each talk was complex but beautifully structured and full of startling insights. There are now about 40 volumes of these edited talks and scores more volumes of his letters. Yet indeed, in that emendation he made to my sentence, one also sees his great humility. "One can never contain the content of even a sentence of Torah."
There was a regality and elegance about the Rebbe, and yet there was also his great humility.
In the few years before he became ill, when he was in his 90's, he would stand in the alcove by his office every Sunday to speak for a few moments personally and face-to-face with anyone who wanted to see him, and give out dollars to each person to be given for charity.
How could a 90-year-old man stand on his feet for hours and hours without talking a moment's rest, or a drink? And how could he focus so intently and exclusively on each and every person who came through the line of thousands of people which stretched for blocks outside his office?
I heard that when he had been urged to sit during these long sessions, he responded by asking how could he sit when people were coming to him with their problems and needs and pains?
And despite the crush of the crowds, and the pressure of all his responsibilities, the Rebbe never seemed to be in a hurry. But he also never wasted a moment; every movement of his body was exact and yet fluid--like a maestro conducting a symphony. There was a combination of intense energy and intense calm about him.
Watching and listening to the Rebbe at his public gatherings, time and space dissolved.
I would catch myself and think -- "I am standing in the midst of some of the worst slums of New York City; how can it be that in the `heart of darkness' there is so much light?"
I said to a friend once, "It is so paradoxical to find this great tzadik in the midst of all the violence and squalor and despair of this broken-down part of Brooklyn." And my friend responded, "And where else do you think you would find him; where else does he belong... the Plaza Hotel?"
The Rebbe refused to abandon Crown Heights when the neighborhood changed. It was consistent with his refusal to abandon any Jew, to leave anybody behind. And it was consistent with his refusal to give in to fear. It was also consistent with the principle of mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice for love of the Jewish people that he embodied and that he taught his followers.
And it was an affirmation of one of the great principles of Chasidic philosophy that "every descent is for the purpose of an ascent"... that from overcoming the darkness ultimately comes the greatest light.
As the Rebbe often said, we live in an era of "doubled and redoubled darkness -- that is, a darkness so deep we do not even know it is darkness any more. He was the light in that darkness, and he remains so even after his passing.
Susan Handleman is A professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Reprinted from Wellsprings Magazine, a publication of Lubavitch Youth Organization.
Use hand-baked, "shmura matza" for your Passover seders. This is the traditional and most "enhanced" manner to fulfill the Biblical commandment to eat matza at the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center today to order or call 1-800-SHMURAH.
11 Nisan, 5734 (1974)
Rabbi Cunin duly conveyed to me your kind regards, letter and good wishes, which I heartfully appreciate.
I can best reciprocate your good wishes by reiterating the Divine blessing given to our Father Abraham, "I will bless them that bless thee." Accordingly may you and all your family enjoy G-d's blessings in a generous measure, both materially and spiritually.
I trust you recall our discussion and my suggestion that you be actively involved in spreading Yiddishkeit in your environment, especially through the Chabad-Lubavitch institutions and projects.
In addition to the great importance of this activity per se, and the rewards that go with it both in this world and the next, it will include in its immediate effects also the benefit of banishing depressing thoughts and releasing new sources of energy and enthusiasm in the right direction, in the spirit of the Festival of Our Liberation which we are about to celebrate, including liberation from all negative and distracting aspects in the daily life.
11 Nisan, 5734 
...I can best reciprocate your good wishes by reiterating the Divine blessing given to our Father Abraham, "I will bless them that bless thee." Accordingly...
It is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at length how much Sefardic families cherish their distinguished Sefardic tradition, especially those of Priestly (Kohanim) descent, as in your case.
I am fairly certain that your father Eliahu, of blessed memory, and his ancestors, proudly added to their signature "s.t." which, according to one interpretation, means sefardi tahor -- of pure Sefardic descent.
May G-d grant that this golden chain of tradition will be continued through your children, and children's children to the coming of Moshiach Tzidkenu...
30 Nisan, 5738 
I was deeply gratified to receive your letter with the co-signatures of Rabbi Moshe Herson and your other distinguished friends and associates, especially after having seen you at the farbrengen [Chasidic gathering], joining in the singing and adding to the general spirit of the occasion.
Your letter was all the more meaningful in that it contained also a glowing report of the First Annual National Founders Dinner of the Rabbinical College of America. May G-d grant that you should always have good news to report about the ever growing success of this great Torah institution, above all about a steady increase in the student body and their advancement in Torah education.
For, as has often been emphasized, the purpose of this unique Torah facility is not only to ensure the personal advancement of the students in Torah education, but that each one should become a dynamic source of influence and inspiration in his family and surroundings, to illuminate them with the eternal light of our Torah, for the benefit of our people and for the betterment of the environment at large.
To conclude on the opening note of your letter, I heartily reciprocate your good wishes in connection with my birthday, which I can best do by reiterating the Divine promise to our Father Abraham "I (G-d, the Source of all blessings) will bless them that bless you." ...
4 Iyar, 5738 
To begin with a bracha [blessing], I want to convey to you my sincere appreciation of your good wishes for my health and in connection with my birthday.
I prayerfully reciprocate your good wishes by reiterating the Divine promise to our Father Abraham, "I (G-d, the Source of all blessings) will bless them that bless you."
Accordingly, may G-d bestow His generous blessing on you and your children and all yours, in all needs, especially to have true Yiddish Chasidish Torah nachas from each other and from each and all of your children, and to enjoy it in good health and hatzlacha in all affairs.
I was particularly pleased that your good wishes were accompanied by your recently concluded work which, I trust, is the forerunner of further accomplishments in this area as well as in related fields, for which I wish you a special hatzlacha.
I am particularly appreciative of your devoted and untiring effort to prepare for publishing the paper of my late brother, a"h. Although it is not in my field, I can see clearly that it was not simply a case of editing, but represents almost a total revision and reworking of the paper.
In addition to being instrumental in the publication of it as perfectly as possible, it is also a case of gemilut chesed [an act of kindness] for one who is in the World of Truth, which is designated as "chesed shel emet," and is one of the highest forms of chesed. I appreciate what you have done more than I can express in words.
Following are quotes from the Rebbe from 1961 - 1991
Special thanks to Sichos In English for the compilation
LOVE WITHOUT CAUSE
"Since the Holy Temple was destroyed on account of undeserved hatred, this reason must be undone by means of unearned love -- by loving every Jew without cause, even when one sees no apparent justification for loving him. And it is this unity which will bring the Prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the Redemption."
TORAH STUDY CAMPAIGN
"The Zohar teaches that as a result of wasting opportunities for Torah study, 'the day on which Moshiach will redeem us from this exile is postponed.' Through the Torah campaign, by studying both the revealed and the hidden dimensions of the Torah, this postponement can be revoked."
KASHRUT AND FAMILY PURITY CAMPAIGNS
"When our forefathers were in the wilderness, on the eve of their entry into the Land of Israel, they were commanded to be vigilant with the kashrut of their vessels, and with the purity and sanctity of their family life.
"In our days, too, in these last days of exile, our generation should be particularly vigilant with these two mitzvot -- with kashrut and with the laws of family purity -- as a preparation for our entry into the Land of Israel together with our Righteous Moshiach."
SHABBAT CANDLE CAMPAIGN
"Every Jewish daughter, as soon as she comes to the age of Jewish education [3 years of age], should light a candle each Sabbath and Yom Tov eve, and through the lighting of Shabbat candles we will merit the fulfillment of G-d's promise, 'If you will keep the lights of the Sabbath candles, I will show you the lights of Zion," in the complete and true Redemption.'
LOVE AND UNITY
"The Redemption will unify all of Israel, from the greatest to the smallest. For not a single Jew will remain in exile: 'You, the Children of Israel, will be gathered in one by one.'
"Moreover, the multitudes who will then be gathered in are described collectively, in the singular: 'A great congregation will return here.' In preparation for this state, therefore, one should make every endeavor to unify all the different kinds of Jews, in a spirit of ahavat Yisrael, the love of a fellow Jew."
CAMPAIGN FOR JEWISH EDUCATION
"Concerning the era of the Redemption it is written, 'I shall pour My spirit upon your seed, and My blessing upon your offspring.' This plainly refers, quite literally, to one's sons and daughters. Hence, since all the revelations of the future depend on our present actions and Divine service, propagating the Torah education of Jewish children becomes a matter of the utmost urgency."
"The obligation to write a Torah scroll is the culmination of all the 613 mitzvot. It is thus clear that acquiring a letter in one of the universal Torah scrolls now being written hastens the culmination of the exile."
In connection with the campaign for every single Jew throughout the world to acquire a letter in a Torah scroll written to foster Jewish unity, the Rebbe quoted the verse in the Book of Daniel, "At that time will stand forth the Angel Michael, the great prince, who stands over the children of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as there never was since there was a nation till that time. And at that time your people will escape, everyone found written in the Book."
The Rebbe explained that the "Book" is the Torah scroll, and all those who own a letter in a Torah scroll will escape harm.
CAMPAIGN FOR LARGE FAMILIES
"With every Jewish infant born, the Redemption is brought nearer. As our Sages teach, 'Moshiach the son of David will not come until there are no souls left in the heavenly treasury.' (Yevamot 62a) By doing our part in bringing souls down to his world, we will thus bring the Redemption nearer."
"All Jewish children must know that they are, from birth, soldiers in Tzivos Hashem -- G-d's army -- and conduct themselves accordingly. For every generation has, (in addition to the overall task of transforming the world), its own special mission and goal.
"Today's goal is to hasten and ensure the ultimate victory -- the coming of Moshiach. New goals need new measures; we need a mobilization of all available reserves -- new Jewish boys and girls...
"May G-d grant that every Jewish child be successful in his or her duties as a soldier in Tzivos Hashem, each rising to attain ever higher ranks in the army. May they, together with all of us, receive quickly in our time the greatest soldier of all, our righteous Moshiach."
THE SEVEN NOACHIDE LAWS
"The future Redemption will apply not only to Israel, but to the whole world as well. In preparation for this Redemption, therefore, action needs to be taken so that the world at large will be ready for such a state. This is to be achieved through the efforts of the Jewish people to influence the nations of the world to conduct themselves in the spirit of the verse that states that G-d 'formed the world in order that it be settled' (Isaiah 45:18) in a civilized manner, through the observance of their seven mitzvot."
"Since in the future Redemption not a single Jew will remain in exile, it is clear that the Redemption of every individual Jew has a bearing on the Redemption of the entire House of Israel. It is thus our duty to work with every Jew to ensure that he will be ready for the Redemption.
"This is accomplished by disseminating the Torah and especially its innermost and mystical dimensions, wherever Jews are to be found, and wherever even only one single Jew is to be found. Therefore, in order that the wellsprings themselves should reach the furthermost places, the Tanya should be printed everywhere."
To date, Tanyas have been printed in over 3,500 locations in over a dozen languages, including Braille.
ONLY "KOSHER" TOYS
"Concerning the Days of Moshiach it is written, 'I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the earth.' As the footsteps of Moshiach approach ever closer, we should now enjoy a foretaste of the revelations which will be ours in future time, just as concerning Shabbat it is written, 'Those who savor it shall merit eternal life,' a phrase which inspired the Friday afternoon custom of tasting the delicacies prepared for Shabbat.
"Accordingly, it would be advisable to use illustrations only of pure subjects. When choosing toys for infants, for example, one should buy only representations of kosher animals; only such illustrations should appear in the booklets that are prepared for the use of children; and so on."
CHAIN LETTERS ABOUT MOSHIACH
"It would be advisable that everyone publicize the teachings of famous Torah scholars concerning the obligation to hope for and anticipate and demand the coming of Moshiach. This can be done by sending a letter (including such quotations) to ten fellow Jews, with the suggestion and request that each of them send a copy of it to another ten Jews, and so on."
"Since our righteous Moshiach is about to come, though he has not yet actually come, a final effort is required that will bring Moshiach. Every individual -- man, woman, and child -- should increase his Torah study in subjects that concern the Geula...
"This study should preferably be undertaken in groups of at least ten, for group study excites happiness, and increases the eager anticipation of the participants for the coming of Moshiach.
"One should likewise upgrade one's meticulous observance of the mitzvot, particularly the mitzva of tzedaka, 'which brings the Redemption near.'
"It would be well to connect one's additional contributions to tzedaka with one's additional study of subjects connected with the Redemption, by making one's increased contributions with the intent that it hasten the coming of the Redemption."
"What more can I do to motivate the whole world to cry out and demand the Redemption? I have done all I can; now you do everything you can, here and now, to bring the Redemption immediately." - The Rebbe - 28 Nisan, 1991-5751
This week we celebrate the Rebbe's 94th year. It is customary to recite daily the chapter in Psalms corresponding to one's years. Chasidic tradition encourages that one recite daily the Psalm of the leader of the generation as well. Thus, Jews the world over will begin reciting Psalm 94 in the Rebbe's honor on 11 Nisan (April 11).
The Talmud designates Psalm 94 as the Song of the Day for the fourth day of the week -- the day on which G-d created the sun and the moon. In the future, G-d will punish the idolators who worshipped these celestial bodies.
The Biblical commentator known as the "Radak" has many beautiful explanations of the verses in this Psalm. He begins by stating that Moses composed this Psalm as a prayer to bring the day of Messianic redemption and retribution closer.
The Psalm begins, "Ad Mosai -- How long -- will the wicked, O G-d, how long will the wicked exult?"
Radak explains, "We are already weary from the long exile and the success of the wicked; how much more can we endure? How much longer will You respond to the wicked with Your Attribute of Kindness? Is it not time to put an end to this kindness and to begin acting toward them as Elokim -- with strict judgement?"
Our Psalm continues, "For G-d will not cast off His nation, nor will He forsake His heritage."
G-d will not abandon Israel in exile, Radak clarifies, because the time will come to summon His people back to their homeland.
"If I said, 'My foot is slipping,' Your kindness G-d, supported me."
This means, says Radak, that if the perils of exile threaten to make Israel falter, G-d's kindness supports them, because G-d fortifies their hearts with courage enforcing and strengthening their weakened feet.
"When my forebodings were abundant within me, Your comforts cheered my soul."
The commentator, Sforno, explains that, "Even when I seemed to be lost in exile, I did not panic because I was cheered by the comforting promise which You made in the Torah (Deut. 4:31,) 'For a G-d of mercy is G-d, Your G-d; He will not let you loose nor will He destroy you.'"
Even before we begin saying this Psalm, may we merit to be reunited with the Rebbe, and may it be G-d's will that Moshiach take us out of this long and bitter exile into the eternal Redemption of light, prosperity, and knowledge of G-d.
If this week's Torah portion speaks primarily of the laws of purification, why then is it called "Metzora" -- "Leper"? The purpose of the plague is not merely to punish the individual, but to cause him to repent and return to G-d.
Essentially, therefore, the leprosy itself is part of this process of purification, commencing as soon as the individual notices that he has been afflicted.
Then shall the priest command to take for the one who is to be cleansed two healthy, clean birds (Leviticus 14:4)
Why were two birds used in the purification of a leper?
One of the causes of the affliction of leprosy was gossip, a sin that causes a good relationship between two people to turn sour.
The Hebrew word for bird, "tzipor," has the numerical equivalent of 376, the same as the word for peace, "shalom."
The Torah alludes to the fact that in order for the leper to be forgiven, he must first make peace between the two individuals he has caused to quarrel. Accordingly, two birds are used in the purification procedure, symbolic of the two people involved.
When they defile My sanctuary within their midst (Leviticus 15:31)
When a person defiles himself, he defiles the Divine sanctuary -- the Jewish soul -- with which he is endowed. For every Jew is created in the image of G-d, and the Divine Presence dwells within him. Going against the will of G-d by sinning causes the sanctuary to become dirtied.
He shall sprinkle upon him that is being cleansed from the leprosy (Leviticus 14:7)
The literal translation of "him that is being cleansed" is "he who cleanses," to teach us that the process of purification is not a passive one; the leper must repent of his misdeeds before he is worthy of approaching the priest.
The Holy Ruzhiner Rebbe told the following story about his ancestors:
When Reb Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, felt his end drawing near, he declared, "I will not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d sends Moshiach."
When the Maggid passed away, he was brought to the Heavenly Court and told that a special place was a waiting him in the Garden of Eden.
The Maggid, however, stood his ground and demanded that G-d send Moshiach, or else he would not budge.
After much arguing and cajoling, the Maggid was offered a spiritual reward that enticed him to forgo his promise.
The Maggid's son, Reb Avraham, was known as "the Angel," for he was as disassociated from this physical world as a human being could be, approaching the spiritual level of an angel.
Reb Avraham, knowing that his father had been unsuccessful at forcing G-d to send Moshiach, determined that he would not be dissuaded when his time came, but would refuse to enter the Garden of Eden until he had brought about the coming of Moshiach.
Avraham's end of days approached and he strengthened himself for the celestial battle.
When he passed away and stood before the Heavenly Court, he insisted that he would not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d would send Moshiach.
All manners of spiritual enticements were offered to Reb Avraham. Spiritual pleasure and bliss that had not even been offered to the greatest tzadikim. But Reb Avraham stood his ground.
And G-d stood His ground.
Until finally, G-d took Reb Avraham by the hand, as it were, and shlepped him into the Garden of Eden.
Reb Sholom Shachna was the son of Reb Avraham and the grandson of the Maggid of Mezritch.
Through Divine inspiration he knew of his father's and grandfather's decision to not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d would send Moshiach.
He knew, too, that neither of them had been successful and eventually entered the Garden of Eden although Moshiach had not arrived.
As Reb Sholom Shachna advanced in years, he, too, determined that he would not enter the Garden of Eden until he made sure that G-d would send Moshiach.
Upon his passing, Reb Sholom Shachna was led before the Heavenly Court and was invited to proceed to the Garden of Eden.
But Reb Sholom Shachna remembered his promise and refused, and with utmost determination and stubbornness declared that he would not proceed until G-d sent Moshiach.
Reb Sholom Shachna did not budge. He would not move one iota until G-d agreed to send Moshiach.
Exactly what transpired is not known. But what is known is that G-d extended the boundaries of the Garden of Eden to encompass that area in which Reb Sholom Shachna stood.
At a gathering in 1989, the Rebbe related that the same thing transpired when Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev passed away.
He, too, had promised that he would not enter the Garden of Eden before G-d sent Moshiach.
But, alas, Reb Levi Yitzchak was also persuaded to forego his promise.
The Rebbe then stated, "What should be done to prevent this from happening again is to take a vow, with the people's consent, to not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d sends Moshiach.
A vow which is accepted with the consent of the multitude cannot be nullified without the consent of the multitude."
In simple words this means that the Rebbe took upon himself a vow that if it came to this point, he would be unable to be enter the Garden of Eden without G-d abiding by the Rebbe's vow.
We know with certainty, that the Rebbe is standing outside of the gates of the Garden of Eden, demanding that G-d send Moshiach.
And the Rebbe will succeed.