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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
It is three years to the day when, in the course of a rather unexceptional public gathering, the Rebbe changed his tone and his topic and emotionally shared the following:
"Because of the unique stress on the Redemption in this time, an astonishing question arises: How is it possible that despite all these factors, Moshiach has not yet come? This is beyond all possible comprehension.
"It is also beyond comprehension that when ten (and many times ten) Jews gather together at a time that is appropriate for the Redemption to come, they do not raise a clamor great enough to cause Moshiach to come immediately. They are, heaven forbid, able to accept the possibility that Moshiach will not arrive tonight, and even that he will not arrive tomorrow, or on the day after tomorrow, heaven forbid.
"Even when people cry out `Ad mosai -- Until when will we remain in exile?' they do so only because they were told to. If they had sincere intent and earnest desire, and cried out in truth, Moshiach would surely have come already.
"What more can I do to motivate the entire Jewish people to clamor and cry out, and thus actually bring about the coming of Moshiach. All that has been done until now has been to no avail, for we are still in exile; moreover, we are in an inner exile in regard to our own service of G-d.
"All that I can possibly do is to give the matter over to you. Now, do everything you can to bring Moshiach, here and now, immediately.
"May it be G-d's will that ultimately ten Jews will be found who are stubborn enough to resolve to secure G-d's consent to actually bring about the true and ultimate Redemption, here and now immediately. Their stubborn resolve will surely evoke G-d's favor, as reflected by the interpretation of the verse, `For they are a stiff necked people; You will pardon our sins and wrongdoings and make us Your possession.'
"I have done whatever I can; from now on, you must do whatever you can. May it be G-d's will that there will be one, two, or three among you who will appreciate what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, and may you actually be successful and bring about the true and complete Redemption. May this take place immediately, in a spirit of happiness and gladness of heart."
Far from "passing the buck" or throwing up his hands in defeat, from that day forth, the Rebbe continued, with increased vigor and enthusiasm, to discuss the imminence of Moshiach's arrival and to offer suggestions as to what we could do to get ready for the Redemption.
In fact, the very next Shabbat, the Rebbe said:
"Every Jew, man, woman and child, has an individual responsibility to add to his service with the intent of bringing about the actual coming of Moshiach. One should not try to shift the burden of responsibility to others. Rather, each person should recognize his individual responsibility.
"This service must involve an increase in the study of the Torah, both hidden and revealed and an increase in the performance of mitzvot in a beautiful and conscientious manner...
"In addition to making such increases oneself, one should also influence others to make similar increases. And all of this should be suffused with yearning for and expectation of Moshiach's coming.
"May our resolutions to involve ourselves be successful and bring about the coming of the ultimate redemption."
This week's Torah portion, Acharei, begins with the words, "The L-rd spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they had come close before G-d, and died."
According to our Sages, both Nadav and Avihu were righteous; their failing was that they got so close to G-d that their physical bodies could not withstand the intense holiness. The desire of Nadav and Avihu to merge with G-d was so great that their souls departed, in contradiction to G-d's plan that the soul remain in a body, effecting change in the physical world through Torah and mitzvot.
Aaron's sons are symbolic of a negative type of willingness for self-sacrifice. For, one may never attempt to draw closer to G-d at the expense of one's personal mission in the world, no matter how lofty the motive.
The Talmud relates that "Four people entered the Garden: Ben Azai peeked in and died...Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and went out in peace."
"Entering the Garden" refers to the attempt to attain the highest levels of union with G-d, by delving into the Torah's most esoteric mysteries. Ben Azai's venture was as unsuccessful as Nadav and Avihu's: his extreme thirst for holiness led him to cross a certain forbidden boundary, with the result that he passed away. Rabbi Akiva, however, "entered in peace and went out in peace."
The reason Rabbi Akiva was able to "go out in peace" was because he had "entered in peace." His only motivation in drawing closer to G-d was to fulfill His will. Thus, he was able to navigate successfully when confronted with dangerous choices, with a positive outcome.
Nevertheless, Rabbi Akiva is not symbolic of the highest level of a Jew's desire to fulfill the will of G-d, a position occupied by Abraham, the first Jew. Even though Rabbi Akiva's primary motivation was to obey G-d, he desired to give up his life to sanctify G-d's name (a desire that was ultimately fulfilled when he was tortured to death by the Romans. Right before he died, Rabbi Akiva declared that he had spent his whole life in anticipation of that moment.)
Abraham, on the other hand, never sought this out. All he thought about was G-d; his entire life was devoted to making His name known in the world. If self-sacrifice proved to be necessary he would gladly give up his life, but it was never an end in itself.
From Abraham we learn that our primary concern must always be to fulfill G-d's will, without involving ourselves in the equation. If all our actions are done for the sake of Heaven we are assured that both our "entry" and our "exit" from the Garden will be peaceful, and our service of G-d will be full and complete.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 3
(An interview with Dr. Alvin & Ruth Cohen of New Orleans, by their daughter, Aliza Horowitz. Dr. Cohen is a psychiatrist and Mrs. Cohen is a play therapist)
From the Machon Chana Hakhel Reunion Journal
How did you feel when I first became religious?
Dr. Cohen: I felt that maybe you would want to pull away from your non-religious family. I hadn't heard of Lubavitch at that time (19 years ago) and I thought we would be excluded. Now, knowing Lubavitch, it seems funny in retrospect because Lubavitch is the epitome of including everyone and accepting a Jew where he or she is at that time.
Mrs. Cohen: I was so excited that you were excited about Judaism. I felt that someone had to hold onto all the standards in order for Judaism to continue. If it continued in the direction it was going, soon there would be no one left to practice authentic Judaism, G-d forbid. I was proud because my grandfather was a Torah scholar and someone in our family was carrying on the tradition.
What did you know about Chasidim at the time?
Dr. Cohen: I knew they were the Jews who studied mysticism and kept the commandments with joy and love.
Were you surprised when I chose this path?
Dr. Cohen: Well, New Orleans Jews aren't sure whether to eat matza or latkes on Passover and they eat bread along with the matza, so I couldn't imagine where you had picked up this yearning for Orthodox Judaism.
Mrs. Cohen: I guess I was surprised but I knew I would never cut myself off from my children no matter what they chose.
How have your feelings changed over the years?
Dr. Cohen: You seem to be delighted with your lifestyle. The only hard thing is not going with you to a restaurant when you visit us in New Orleans. But you do save me a lot of money this way.
You believe and you enjoy and I'm happy for you. I'm amazed at how easy it seems for you to mother seven children so effectively. The children are tuned into loving, sharing and giving much more than the average American child. It seems to be partly from good parenting and partly because Judaism encourages these values so much. Shabbos is very special and the children love and appreciate Shabbos from an early age.
They are nurtured on love of the Rebbe and are able to transfer this love outward. All of us eat, but you say a prayer over everything and it makes you more sensitive and appreciative of others, and the world around you.
Mrs. Cohen: I like hearing about different things and learning about religion and customs. I don't like the things that seem like superstitions but I do like stories. I love Kingston Avenue because I hear different languages and it seems like a different culture to me. Shabbos is a great blessing. I'm not ready to do it yet but it could be a wonderful feeling to have -- to know it's Shabbos and I'm not going to do anything else. The children look and act differently on Shabbos.
I love how the Chasidim have more joy in their lives. The sheer joy of singing and dancing that goes along with every ceremony is wonderful.
I think it's hard on you to have so many children. However, from a grandmother's point of view, it's the most wonderful thing in the world to have grandchildren. I can give unconditional love and make up for some of the mistakes I made in raising my own children.
When you visit Crown Heights, what impresses you the most?
Dr. Cohen: A Lubavitcher home is very child oriented. The children are part of all the gatherings and not relegated to another room. Your friends accept me openly and warmly (even without a beard and not being religious myself). They are always respectful and kind and give me credit for my daughter's merits.
I'm so moved by how eager the learned Rabbis of Machon Chana are to answer my deep questions and the time they give so freely and lovingly. The flip side of this quality that people have all the time in the world for you is that they come late to all the gatherings. When I'm on time I am the only one there.
How has my being religious affected you?
Dr. Cohen: My relationship with you has grown. We talk more because I'm interested in spirituality and especially the concept of free will. Actually it was a one-half column in the L'Chaim from the Rebbe's letters that explained the issue in the clearest, simplest way. I enjoy plumbing the depths because of my philosophical interest. You gave me Steinsaltz's first Talmud translation and this encouraged me to learn some Talmud. I didn't want the book to go to waste after all. A Rabbi Akiva I'm not but I'm plodding away at my bi-weekly class.
Ironically, I'm the expert amongst my non-religious even non- Jewish friends. If they ask me a question I call you. You ask your husband, and he asks your son.
Mrs. Cohen: I haven't changed my actions very much but my consciousness about Judaism is much greater and I do light Shabbos candles.
What are your goals for yourself?
Dr. Cohen: One day I decided that I knew how to do but I don't know how to be. My wish is to know how to appreciate life's gifts. I want to continue to be productive in my work and to spend more time with my children and grandchildren.
From the Machon Chana Hakhel Reunion Journal
Study Ethics of the Fathers:
Each Shabbat afternoon beginning after Passover, it is customary to study a chapter of the Mishna known as Pirkei Avot -- Ethics of the Fathers.
Some have the custom of continuing through Shavuot while other continue through the summer months until Rosh Hashana.
The Rebbe emphasized the importance of not only reciting the chapters but actually studying them.
Recommended books for this study include, In the Paths of Our Fathers translated from the Rebbe's talks, Ethics from Sinai by Rabbi I. Bunim, and for the kids, the Artscroll Pirkei Avot.
To receive Pirke Avos via e-mail write to: email@example.com in the subject or body of text write: G-4
A TIMELESS LESSON
Freely translated from a letter of the Rebbe 11 Nisan, 5724
...The liberation from Egypt, which is the essence of Passover is linked with the Korban Pesach (the Paschal offering).
The liberation from Egypt was not merely the liberation of numerous individuals; it was the liberation of a People.
Accordingly, one would have expected that the Korban Pesach would emphasize the "nation" motif, the idea of community. Actually the approach and instruction was exactly the reverse.
True, all the "congregation" was enjoined to offer the Korban Pesach, but the instructions were explicit: each home had to have its own Korban Pesach; each Jew was individually singled out and counted for the purpose of sharing in it; each one had to be confined to his particular home or company for the duration of the Korban Pesach repast.
Herein the Torah teaches us that the way to accomplishment, even if it is intended for the community as a whole, and even if it concerns the very "liberation" of the community, must nevertheless begin with concentration on the self, and on the members of one's family and immediate circle, even though the call must necessarily go out to the whole community.
Moreover, attention should be directed not towards general considerations and all-embracing resolutions, but towards applying the main concern and energy in the realization, in the daily life, of the various "small" duties. For it is precisely this approach that will eventually bring the deliverance of the individual as well as of the community as a whole.
Of particular importance is this message to leaders of groups and movements, and especially to those who occupy the position of spiritual leaders of their communities.
All too often are they involved in "world problems," in "tremendous issues ," while only occasionally, or even quite rarely, do we find a leader who stoops to engage in "small, ordinary" problems besetting the daily life; problems which directly concern his congregants.
The more prominent the leader, the more acutely is he "compelled" to address himself to all humanity. If he is particularly imaginative, he sees himself called upon to speak also to posterity. Should he be blessed with oratorical powers, he considers it his duty to arouse the "world conscience" with all the powers of his eloquence, which makes headlines, so that he comes to be regarded as a leader of leaders and the voice of spokesmen, who envy his "public image" and seek to emulate him and even outdo him.
Responding to the leader, the follower is often carried away, and he joins the leader in offering wise council to various governments on matters of policy, and to all mankind -- on matters of good conduct, so as to ensure the happiness of all future generations. After engaging in such lofty resolutions, it would hardly be "fitting" to sound the alarm on ordinary problems in daily life; problems which cause a large percentage of the children, of those who are supposed to be led and guided, to be brought up in a way which, by any stretch of the imagination, cannot bring them to become the Wise child of the Hagada; rather they swell the ranks of one who is conspicuously absent from the Seder.
What is true on the collective level, is true also of the individual.
Every individual comprises "leaders" -- (the head and the heart; the intellectual and emotion), and "followers" -- (the limbs). Here, too, the same phenomenon is frequently in evidence: The individual makes general resolutions on a cosmic (microcosmic, since every individual is a microcosm) level: to be good and righteous before G-d and man, aware that it is G-d Who breathed a soul into him, and that He is the "King of the Universe"; he even fulfills the instruction of taking upon himself the fulfillment of the mitzva of "You shall love your fellow as yourself."
But when it comes to details and "small" deeds there is neither time nor patience; and when it comes to the injunction against business encroachment, he is tempted to disregard it, lest the Alm-ghty might deduct it from his livelihood; and when it comes to help the needy before Passover -- he desires to be affluent in "silver and gold vessels, and garments" for himself and his family, leaving very little to be spared for charity for strangers.
May G-d grant that every Jew take a lesson from the above-said, and unsaid, messages of Passover; and just as at the time of the Exodus, the liberation of the People came as a result of the liberation of the individual, so be it also here and now...
IS "MAZAL TOV" ENOUGH?
Many beautiful and mystical customs surround the birth of a Jewish child, including having the "Shir LaMaalot (Song of Ascents) psalm with the mother as she gives birth.
If your or someone you know would like to have a beautiful, illuminated Shir LaMaalot card call LEFJME at (718) 756-5700 (800-860-7030 outside NYC) or write to them at 1442 Union St., Bklyn, NY 11213.
CONFERENCE ON JEWISH MEDICAL ETHICS
The 6th International Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics will take place on May 11 - 14 in Brooklyn. It is sponsored by the Lubavitch Youth Organization and the State University of New York Downstate Health Sceince Center at Brooklyn.
The conference offers 14 continuing Medical Education Credits for physicians and Nursing continuing Education Contact Hours. It is for all health professionals.
The latest issues in medicine will be addressed including: Human Genome Project; Obligation for Providing Care to the Elderly; Reproductive Technology; the role of the nurse in the ethical decision process. For more info call (718) 953-1000.
The second of Iyar is the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash, Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe.
When the Rebbe Maharash was seven years old, he was once tested in his studies by his father, the Tzemach Tzedek. He did so well in the test that his teacher was enormously impressed. Unable to restrain himself, he said to the Tzemach Tzedek, "Well, what do you say? Hasn't he done marvellous?" The Tzemach Tzedek responded, "What is there to be surprised about that 'tiferet within tiferet' does well?"
What is tiferet within tiferet?
The Rebbe Maharash's bithday, the second of Iyar, the day of tiferet within tiferet, an extraordinarily high spiritual level.
There are seven midot, or Divine attributes, the first and major three being chesed -- kindness; gevura -- severity, and tiferet - beauty.
Each attribute contains elements of the other six, chesed within chesed, gevura within chesed, etc. 49 combinations in all, corresponding to the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot -- the 49 days of the omer.
Chasidim emphasize the connection of the second of Iyar to tiferet within tiferet ("beauty within beauty"). This day is also associated with the Rebbe Maharash's characteristic pattern of conduct, known as "lechatchila ariber."
As the Rebbe Maharash would say, "People usually say, 'If you can't crawl under, try to climb over,' and I say, lechatchila ariber: 'Right from the outset, you should climb over.'"
This level of conduct can also have a retroactive effect; elevating all the preceding days, and causing them to reflect the qualities of tiferet within tiferet and lechatchila ariber.
With this ("bezot"), Aaron shall come into the holy place (Lev. 16:3)
The Hebrew word "bezot" has the numerical equivalent of 410, alluding to the 410 years of the First Holy Temple's existence. But why would Moses tell the Jewish people that the Temple would exist for only a specific time? What is to be gained by predicting this tragedy?
Rather, Moses' intent was not to dishearten. On the contrary, he informed the Jewish people that it was in their power to prevent the sad event. Proper behavior would confer eternity to the first Beit HaMikdash and preclude any exile. Now, too, it is up to us. Our present conduct can rid us of the galut. Our actions can hasten the coming of Moshiach and the establishment of the Third Holy Temple, which will stand forever.
You shall live by them (Lev. 18:5)
When is life true life? When one's energy and vitality are derived from Torah and mitzvot.
For on that day [the high priest] shall make an atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins; before G-d you shall be clean (Lev. 16: 30)
Why is it necessary to explicitly add the words "from all your sins"? Is this not already implied? "An atonement to cleanse you" refers to sins that are committed against G-d; "All your sins...you shall be clean" refers to sins that are committed against one's fellow man. For these transgressions, Yom Kippur does not offer atonement until the wronged party has been properly conciliated.
In years gone by, it was not unusual for Chasidim to spend extended periods of time in their rebbe's presence, where they would fine-tune their own character traits and learn a path of spiritual service which would become the basis for their own spiritual endeavors.
Once, the tzadik, Reb Michel of Zlotchov, sent one of his Chasidim to another town to learn from a simple, unlearned Jew, the attribute of trust in G-d.
The Chasid was a good student, and he remained in that town for many weeks, observing that individual and learning how to perfect his trust in the Creator.
Finally, when the time came to leave, the Chasid made his way home, pondering the lessons he had learned. He was walking down the road lost in thought, when he was shaken by the cries and screams of women and children.
The Chasid looked up to see two Jewish women, bound in chains, being dragged down the road by two large, muscular gentile guards. He ran after the party and asked the women, "What has happened to you?"
The weeping women replied to him, "Our husbands leased the inn which belongs to the master of the village and they owe him a lot of rent. When they couldn't pay the rent, the master took us and he says he will kill us!"
The Chasid told the guards, "I will go to your master and I will pay the entire debt." They all went to the house of the master of the village, but instead of finding him, they found the manager of the estate. When the Chasid explained his intention to repay the debt, the manager was very willing to make the deal.
"Here is 150 rubles and I will sign a note for the balance," the Chasid said. "You don't know my master," said the manager. "He's not the type to settle for less than the whole amount. He's waited a long time for these Jews to pay up! Either you produce the whole amount, or the deal is off!"
The Chasid had no choice but to comply, for the fate of two Jewish families was at stake. He laid all his money on the table, but was still short. Then he went and pawned whatever possessions he had to amass the entire sum of money. The manager took the money and released the women.
The Chasid continued on his journey home, giving thanks to the Creator for having given him the privilege of performing the exalted mitzva of redeeming captives.
Before dark, the Chasid stopped at an inn to rest for the night. He soon fell into conversation with another Jewish traveler, who, by the look of his clothing, was a wealthy merchant.
The wealthy Jew asked him many questions. It so happened that the two men came from the same town. They passed the entire evening in pleasant conversation, until the dawn broke and it was time to recite the morning prayer.
The Chasid mentioned to his new acquaintance the names of the towns he intended to pass through on his trip home. "You know, I have a relative living in the town of R--, not far from the road you will be taking. For some time I have been looking for a trustworthy messenger with whom I could send him inheritance money. Perhaps you would agree to perform this favor for me?"
The Chasid agreed at once. He wouldn't have to go far out of his way, and he was happy to be able to do yet another favor for a fellow Jew. He took the money and carefully sewed it into the lining of his jacket. The wealthy merchant thanked him warmly and offered to compensate him for his trouble, but the Chasid refused, saying, "It is really no trouble for me to make a short detour, and I'm glad to be able to help you out."
But the merchant persisted, saying, "I promise you that your mitzva will stand intact, even though you accept this small gift from me." At last the Chasid agreed to take the money, for indeed, he had not even enough to pay for his night's stay at the inn. The two men shook hands and went their separate ways.
The Chasid finally came to the little town and asked around for the man, but no one recognized the name or the description. He was puzzled, for the merchant had entrusted him with an enormous sum of money. He certainly must have known that his relative lived in that town. Perhaps he was a recluse, or lived on the outskirts of the town. The Chasid decided to spend a few days in the town in the hope that he would discover the whereabouts of the lost relative, but all his searching was in vain.
It was a very downhearted man who returned to Zlotchov, to the court of Reb Michel. The Chasid went into the room of his rebbe and related to him all he had learned about his service to the Al-mighty; how he had learned to put his trust entirely in his Creator with a pure and simple belief. He also told the rebbe about his encounter with the two women and how he had ransomed them from their cruel captors.
Finally, he told the tzadik about his meeting with the wealthy merchant who had entrusted him to deliver the inheritance to the relative who could not be found.
"Rebbe," said the man, sadly, "In this last mission which was entrusted to me I regret that I have failed, and now, I have a great sum of money which I cannot deliver to its rightful owner."
Reb Michel smiled at him and replied, "Let me offer you the explanation of what you experienced. In the merit of the great mitzva of redeeming the two Jewish women, angels were created as your advocates in the Heavenly Court. The man you took for a wealthy merchant was really an angel which was created by your merciful deed, and the money he gave you is for you to make use of with a happy and peaceful heart."
There will be honor and glory for the righteous in the future. How will it be in the world to come? G-d will sit in His study hall, the righteous of the world will sit before Him; each and every one's face will light up with the Torah that is within him. The ministering angels will stand around Israel, and say, "Fortunate is Israel, for all the pain, torture, and pressure they've had has passed and is gone, and now they have all that good and greatness."
(Tanna DeVei Eliyahu)