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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
As children, we all knew three very important numbers to dial in any kind of emergency requiring the police, fire department, or an ambulance: 911.
Some cities are considering installing a new dispatch system -- known as the 911 enhancement -- so that non-life threatening emergencies will dial a different number. This will facilitate a quicker response for services under both numbers, as responses can be routed more effectively.
One New York City official was quoted as saying, "Saving twenty or thirty seconds can mean a life."
"Twenty or thirty seconds can mean a life" is actually a very profound thought. Twenty or thirty seconds can save a life, can mean the difference between life and death, and can substantially affect the quality of one's life.
Now get out your stop-watch and do this little exercise. On your mark, get set, go.
Take a coin out of your pocket, wallet or purse--any coin. Drop it in a nearby cup, ashtray, or envelope.
That probably took you less than five seconds. Let's say that instead of dropping it into just any cup, ashtray or envelope, you had specially designated that container as a charity box. In less than five seconds you would have done a mitzva -- a commandment that is also a good deed.
By the way, according to Jewish teachings, "Charity saves one from death."
Here's another one.
Hold an apple, a pear, or a peach. Say, "Baruch Atah Adon-nai Elo-haynu Melech HaOlam, boray p'ree ha-aytz (Blessed are You, King of the World, Who creates fruit of the tree)." Now take a bite of the fruit.
Voila, you've said a blessing before eating and performed another mitzva in less than fifteen seconds.
Turn to the bottom of page three of this L'Chaim and read "Moshiach Matters." It took you about thirty seconds, right?
Chasidic philosophy explains, "Torah study every day is crucial to life itself. This applies not only to the soul of the one studying but also to the souls of the entire family."
Do you remember that not-so-nice comment you made to a loved one this past week? You can: 1) Spend a few seconds sincerely regretting it, 2) resolve to bite your tongue in the future, and 3) call and apologize. How long does that take? (Let's assume you get an answering machine or voice mail and you don't get into a long conversation). In thirty seconds, give or take a few minutes, you have done the mitzva of teshuva -- regret and repentance.
Our Sages say that a moment of teshuva and good deeds in this world is better than all the life of the World to Come.
They also teach that "one may acquire eternal life in one hour." (Okay, so that's a little longer than twenty or thirty seconds, but it's still a small amount of time, especially for eternal life!) This remark by our Sages was elicited by the episode of Eleazar ben Dordai, a person who lived a totally corrupt life.
Late in his life, he had a momentary flash of insight into his depravity, and in his remorse, he wept so bitterly ... that he died of a broken heart. Our Sages say, "A voice from heaven then pronounced, 'Rabbi Eleazar ben Dordai has merited Paradise.'" This incident teaches us that it is never too late to repent.
One may indeed merit Paradise even in the final moment of life. Before saying the Shema prayer in the evening we say, "For they [mitzvot] are our life and the length of our days."
Start this very day to take twenty or thirty seconds out of your day for Torah and mitzvot. It can mean a life.
One of commandments contained in this week's Torah portion, Kedoshim, is the mitzva of ahavat Yisrael -- loving one's fellow Jew.
"You shall love your fellow as yourself," the Torah enjoins us. This mitzva is so important that Rabbi Akiva termed it "a great principle of Torah" -- the key to observe all Torah and mitzvot.
Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, sought out the unlearned Jew, whose simplicity and sincerity placed him on a higher spiritual level than many sophisticated scholars.
Commenting on the Talmud's statement that the Jewish people are the two pairs of G-d's "tefilin," the Baal Shem Tov likened the simple Jew to the tefilin bound around the arm (symbolic of the deed), whereas the learned Jew is likened to the tefilin worn on the head (symbolic of the intellect). Just as tefilin are placed on the arm before the head, so too, practical deeds take precedence over intellectual knowledge.
Loving one's fellow Jew, therefore, involves respecting both the ignorant and the learned. In both these cases, however, the Jews in question are undeniably good. But what about those who are not? The Magid of Mezeritch, successor of the Baal Shem Tov, demanded that we love the absolutely wicked and the righteous in equal measure! The underlying reason is that when one concentrates solely on the Jew's inner essence, all Jews are equal and worthy of being loved.
Yet even this kind of love is somewhat limited, for when we say that one type of Jew should be loved like another, it implies that certain differences between them do exist, no matter how minute.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, taught that the love one Jew feels for another cannot be measured, much like the love between two brothers that stems from their very souls.
The commandment to "love your fellow as yourself" must therefore be taken literally: "as yourself." Just as self-love covers up a multitude of defects, so too must we love our fellow Jew with the same intensity.
Isn't this just a high ideal for which we strive but never hope to actually attain? Jews are different. Is it really possible to love a total stranger to the same degree one loves himself?
Yes! Although much has been written on the subject, suffice it to say that our love for each other is only a reflection of G-d's love for His children, the Jewish people.
Consequently, it is only natural that not only do we love G-d in return , but we extend that love to those whom He loves as well, without distinction.
In a deeper sense, however, the entire Jewish people may be said to comprise one collective whole, for the essence of every Jew is his soul, "a veritable portion of G-d Above." On this level, ahavat Yisrael is really loving ourselves, not some outside entity!
May we witness the greatest revelation of G-d's love for His children with the immediate Redemption by Moshiach.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Mother - my mother - our mother
by Aidel Backman
My mother, Esther Margolin, was a very private and unassuming person and hated to be the center of attention. Despite this, I am writing this article in the hope that her self-sacrifice and dedication to her family, to Judaism, and will serve as an inspiration to others.
She was born in a small village in Russia in 1915. During her childhood, she witnessed terrible pogroms, the Russian Revolution with its upheavals, and the campaign of terror aimed at stamping out Judaism by the communists.
One of her earliest memories was that of a pogrom. Her father, my grandfather, was a teacher who conducted classes in Judaic Studies. He taught everything from the basics of alef-bet to the complexities of the Talmud with everything in between: Chumash, Tanach, Hebrew grammar and Jewish philosophy.
After the communists came to power, it became illegal to be a rabbi and to teach about Judaism; doing so was punishable by slave labor in Siberia, which most often meant certain death. My grandfather did not stop teaching.
He moved the classes to his home and taught the children to hide behind the couch whenever there was a knock on the door in case it was the NKVD, the Russian secret police. He taught my mother everything that he taught in his classes, and so she was highly educated in all areas of Judaism -- something very rare for a woman in Russia at that time.
My grandfather was eventually caught and sent to Siberia where, because he would not eat bread on Passover, he died of starvation. After her father's death, an uncle in Moscow offered my mother a home, hoping to make things easier for my grandmother and to give my mother opportunities not available in her small village.
She arrived in Moscow at age fifteen to find that her uncle, while kindly and well-meaning, had become a communist and was urging her to drop her Judaism in order to get ahead in life.
She resisted with every fiber of her being and went to live with friends of the family who took her in, despite their difficult financial circumstances, until she could earn a ticket to go back to her village.
When World War II broke out, my mother and grandmother had to leave their home to find shelter from the bombings and to stay ahead of the Nazis. One of her brothers was in prison in Siberia; the other was on the run from the NKVD, both for their illegal Jewish activities.
My mother ended up in Samarkand in Uzbekistan which was comparatively safe from bombs, Nazis and the NKVD. There she met my father and they were married after the war. They left Russia thirteen months later with a month-old baby (myself), and rode through Russia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia in cattle cars.
Six months later they reached France and freedom, and eventually made it to the U.S. where they lived in Bayonne, NJ until I was fifteen.
They then moved to Crown Heights where my mother came into her own, teaching at the Beth Rivkah School for girls for over thirty years. She had hundreds of students; many of whom were newly arrived Russian immigrants. She taught them carefully and lovingly until they could be mainstreamed into regular classrooms. The following is a letter written by one of her students:
"Someone might ask about me, 'How did you catch up with your class so fast?' or, 'You read Hebrew very well, how did you manage?' There are many reasons why I was able to succeed, but the main reason is that when I came to Beth Rivkah two years ago, I was privileged to be taught by Mrs. Margolin.
"I have accomplished a great deal in a short period of time. Mrs. Margolin treated each and every one of us as her own daughter. She always said, 'Girls, remember, I'm a shliach, a messenger, from Hashem. I am going to teach you that the mitzva of ahavat Yisrael - loving your fellow Jew - is very important." She instilled in us the importance of this mitzva and I am always going to try my utmost to fulfill this mitzva.
"Mrs. Margolin was not only a teacher. She comforted me when I didn't feel well. She even came to get me ready before summer camp. Honestly speaking, she made me what I am today. Mrs. Margolin's smile and way of handling situations made me feel special."
When my mother became ill she came to Monsey to live with my sister. She faced her illness, as she faced everything in her life, with dignity and courage despite the unrelenting pain. When we had to find a nurse to help with her care, it wasn't enough that she be a competent nurse, she had to be a woman that my mother could teach about Judaism. The Russian Jewish women that nursed my mother so devotedly received as much as they gave. While they were taking care of her body she was taking care of their souls.
My mother, Esther Ita Bas Meir Yitzchok Margolin passed away on the sixth of Nissan, 5754 after a long and painful illness. Her last words were, "How is the Rebbe?"
Make study groups
"Study should be communal in nature, preferably in groups of ten, for 'over every group of ten, the Divine Presence rests.'
Furthermore, communal study contributes an element of happiness.
Even a person who prefers the peace and quiet of individual study, should compliment his own studies by participating in these communal sessions. Everyone should consider the need to participate in these efforts as directed to him individually.
(The Rebbe, 6 Iyar, 5751-1991)
The first two paragraphs were written in Hebrew. The rest of the letter is in the Rebbe's original English
10 Kislev, 5740-1980
Concerning the notification that you will soon be entering the age of mitzvot, it should be G-d's will that from 13 years of age you will grow to 15, etc. as it says in the Mishna (Avot Chapter 5), and you will increase in studiousness and diligence in the study of Torah, the revealed Torah and Chasidut, and you will be careful in the performance of mitzvot, and G-d will make you successful to be a Chasid, a fearer of Heaven, and a scholar.
P.S. The following is written in the "language of the land" so that he will be able, if he wants, to show it to his friends, in the spirit of the commandment of "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself," that if in all matters one must look for the good of others, how much more so in matters of Judaism, Torah and its mitzvot.
At first glance, it is strange that the day of Bar Mitzva, which is so important that the Zohar declares that for the Bar Mitzva boy it is almost like the day of Matan Torah (when Jews first received the Torah and mitzvot), yet, insofar as Tachnun [a special penitential prayer] is concerned, which is omitted even on the so-called "Minor Holidays," if it does not occur on Shabbat or Yom Tov (or another day that Tachnun is not said) -- Tachnun is said by the Bar Mitzva boy, as on any ordinary weekday.
One of the explanations is as follows:
When one considers that human capacities are limited in general, especially the capacities of a boy at the start of his fourteenth year, yet he must assume all the duties and responsibilities of a full-fledged Jew; and, moreover, fulfill them with joy, in keeping with the rule: Serve G-d with joy -- the question begs itself: How is he going to carry out all that is expected of him, especially being a member of a people which is a small minority among the nations of the world; and even in this country, where one has every opportunity to carry out all religious duties, but most are more interested and engaged in the material aspects of life?
The answer is that the Torah and mitzvot have been given by G-d, the Creator of the world, and of man, and He knows all the difficulties that a Jew may encounter. G-d has surely provided every Jew with the necessary strength to overcome any and all difficulties to live up to G-d's Will, for G-d would not expect someone to do something which is beyond his capacity.
If, however, there should be a moment of weakness, when carrying out G-d's Will is not in the fullest measure of perfection, G-d in His infinite goodness makes it possible to "say Tachnun" -- to do Teshuva. Indeed, as the Alter Rebbe explains, teshuva is basically for the lack of perfection in Avodat Hashem [G-dly service].
Therefore, on the first day of becoming a full-fledged Jew, and after fulfilling the very first mitzva, namely, the saying of the Shema, by which a Jew declares his total commitment to G-d and obedience to all His commandments, the Bar Mitzva boy does say Tachnun the following morning and afternoon (provided it is not Shabbat or Yom Tov, etc.), for the essence of Tachnun is teshuva, and there is the assurance that "Nothing stands in the way of teshuva."
This knowledge will, moreover, also stand him in good stead when he will involve himself in the great mitzva of v'ahavta lre'acho kamocha [loving one's fellow Jew as oneself], to bring the alienated closer to Judaism. For remembering the rule that "Nothing stands in the way of teshuva," he will eagerly and compassionately apply it to them, especially when in most cases, the failure to observe fully the Torah and mitzvot is due to extenuating circumstances.
With all the above in mind, and being fortunate in growing up in a family where Yiddishkeit is a living experience in your everyday life, you will start out on your way of life as a full- fledged Jew with confidence, and will proceed from strength to strength, and be a source of true pride and joy to your dear parents and family, and to all our Jewish people.
REVIVAL THROUGH THE EYES OF SCIENCE
The Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib Research Institute on Moshiach and the Sciences will be holding its annual conference on May 13 and 14. The proceedings on May 13 will be held at Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and the sessions on Sunday, May 14 will be held at the Courant Institute of Mathematics at New York University. The theme of the conference is "Revival of the Dead Through the Eyes of Science" and will feature a special video-tape presentation by Dr. Yirmiyahu Branover, professor of Magneto-hydrothermodynamics at the Beersheva University in Israel. There is no charge and light refreshments will be provided.
For more information call (718) 773-1987
MORE THAN A MUSEUM
The Chasidic Discovery Center is... more than a museum -- it's a place where Judaism comes alive! Groups or individuals can visit the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on a walking tour.
The walking tours begin at 305 Kingston Avenue with an introduction to the community and an overview of the history and philosophy of the Lubavitch Movement.
The tour then proceeds to the focal points of the community which include a Chasidic synagogue, Lubavitch World Headquarters, the Rebbe's Library, a mikva, and a Chasidic Art Gallery.
For more info call (718) 953-5244 or 1-800-838-TOUR.
Many people ask, "Is the Moshiach campaign good public relations ("PR") for Lubavitch?"
From the beginning of the Rebbe's leadership, his primary concern has been the essence of the matter: whether it was right, not whether it was popular.
The Rebbe's outreach activities were sharply criticized by many. Today, those who criticized his approach are emulating the Rebbe's pioneering efforts of outreach.
Take, for instance, a "simple" mitzva such as putting tefilin on another Jew. What could be more noble and selfless than finding a Jew on Main Street, USA, putting a pair of tefilin on him, and together with him, saying the Shema?
Yet when the Rebbe started this campaign in 1967, you cannot imagine the opposition he encountered. The criticism, of course, did not cause the Rebbe to diminish his activities in any way, and today, thank G-d, millions of Jewish men throughout the world have put on tefilin due to the efforts of the Rebbe.
How could anyone find fault with asking little girls, or their mothers or grandmothers, to light Shabbat candles and illuminate their homes, and indeed, their lives?
Nevertheless, there was great opposition to that as well. The Rebbe, however, continued the campaign, bringing the authentic light of Judaism into the homes and lives of millions of girls and women, and through them to future generations throughout the world.
In the '80s and '90s, the Rebbe launched his campaign to illuminate the entire world through the lighting of public Chanuka menoras. Although there was much hardship, expense and legal battles, the Rebbe didn't give up. Today, menoras stand proudly all over the world, bringing the message of Religion and Freedom to millions of people regardless of race, religion, color and creed.
It is clear that the Rebbe always does what is right. When the Rebbe tells us to do something, he takes full responsibility for it, and sooner or later everyone realizes how right the Rebbe is.
You shall be holy... and My Sabbaths you shall keep (Leviticus 19:2,3)
You shall be holy: The meaning of "holy" is "separate" and "apart"; the Jew is distinguished from the non-Jew in all aspects of his life. This distinction must be apparent not only when one is involved in matters of Torah and mitzvot, but must be equally evident when engaging in those activities (eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.) that are seemingly shared with non-Jews.
And My Sabbaths you shall keep: The strength to do this is derived from Shabbat itself, for it reminds us that G-d's relationship with the Jewish people is super-rational and above the constraints of nature. This knowledge in itself grants us the ability to become involved in worldly matters in a manner of holiness and purity.
You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy (Leviticus 19:2)
According to the Midrash, this portion was said at the public Hakhel gathering (held every seventh year) because of its great importance.
There are two ways to bring a Jew to repentance: with the carrot or the stick. One may either threaten him with punishment for transgressing, or emphasize the intrinsic value of the Jew and the holiness of the Torah's laws.
From the Midrash it is clear that the second method is superior to the first. At a time when the entire Jewish nation is gathered together, the positive -- "You shall be holy" -- is to be stressed over the negative.
And you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)
The Midrash relates that although many people have love and affection for others, human nature is such that "a person dislikes another who is of the same profession as he."
The Torah therefore emphasizes through the words "as yourself" that a person must make every effort to love his fellow Jew even if they are in the same field of work.
The Holy One, Blessed be He, loves every single Jew with the same intensity as elderly parents love an only child born to them in their old age.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
In the years before Reb Mordechai of Neshitz became known as a tzadik and leader of many Chasidim, he was the rabbi of a small, poverty-stricken town far off the beaten track.
Although he held a position of authority and honor, his congregants were far too poor to pay him a decent salary, and so, he was as poor as they were. His wages were so meager that he could afford only the barest necessities of life, and to make matters worse, he received the money only sporadically. When times were really bad, he would visit the broken-down shop of the town pawnbroker who would give him a few coppers to tide him over.
Life in the small town was a difficult struggle, but Reb Mordechai's spiritual life was bright. The highlight of his life came when he would make his periodic visits to his rebbe, the tzadik, Reb Michel of Zlotchov.
Lacking the money to travel in comfort, Reb Mordechai would take up his walking stick and make his way to Zlotchov by foot.
With only a few crusts of bread to tide him over, he would sludge through muddy roads and forbidding woods. Only the thought of the spiritual feast or the desperately needed advice of his rebbe made the long trip bearable.
One wintry day, Reb Mordechai sat in his cold cottage, surrounded by his hungry wife and children, and of course, there was not a penny in the house. Their misery was compounded by the dampness of the many puddles which dotted his cottage, small ponds formed by the melting ice which dripped through the holes in the roof. What was there to do, other than to undertake the arduous journey to Reb Michel of Zlotchov.
It was a hungry, worn out Reb Mordechai who arrived one freezing morning in a village where a certain wealthy Chasid lived.
Surely, he would provide a warm repast for the traveler. But, no, when Reb Mordechai knocked on the door and asked for food, the Chasid replied, "Don't you know I'm marrying off my daughter tomorrow?! I don't have time to cater to every wanderer who happens to pass by!" Reb Mordechai was shocked, but he departed without a word and continued on his journey.
When he finally arrived in Zlotchov, he received a warm welcome, a warm meal and an invitation -- to join the Rebbe at the wedding of a wealthy Chasid the following day. Reb Mordechai happily agreed to join the celebration. Can you imagine his surprise when they pulled up in front of the same house he had left with a rumbling stomach the day before!
When the master of the house came to greet the Rebbe, he saw that the Rebbe's companion was none other than the "beggar" he had so rudely turned away from his house. The wealthy Chasid was beside himself with remorse and shame, and he fell on the floor, pleading for forgiveness. Reb Mordechai and the Rebbe observed his outburst in silence. When the man finally calmed down Reb Mordechai spoke: "The sin of refusing to provide food for a hungry Jew is so great that it reaches the highest heavens. When the pain of that Jew reaches Heaven, it causes a very severe decree to fall upon the one who caused the suffering." The wealthy man began to plead even more bitterly, until Reb Mordechai said, "I forgive you, and I hope that G-d will do the same."
Then, Reb Michel spoke very solemnly: "We should all beg the Al-mighty to forgive, and if there should be an evil decree, let it all be vented on bricks and stones." The guests glanced at one another nervously. Suddenly screams were heard: "Fire! Help!"
Everyone ran outside to find people running from all sides carrying buckets of water. But it was impossible to douse the flames which had already consumed most of the surrounding buildings, property of the wealthy Chasid, who had suddenly become a poor man. Indeed, no sooner had the Rebbe spoken, than his words had come true. All of the property was lost; all the lives were saved.
The next day, before Reb Michel was to leave, his host came to bid him farewell. "Remember," said the Rebbe, "we must thank G-d for whatever happens to us, for were it not for His great mercies, our sins would consume us. When you failed to provide food to a hungry traveler, it was decreed in Heaven that your entire family die on the wedding day. But instead, through intense prayers, the verdict was changed and only your property was lost."
The Chasid lived to see his fortunes restored, but every day of his life was illuminated by the lesson he had learned. He became known as one of the most charitable men in his city, and his table provided nobly for the many guests from whom his blessings came.
After all the living are gathered together, only the dead will be left behind. Then a great shofar will be blown and all dead Jews will live again. Zerubabel will blow his shofar, and the earth will tremble enough to raise all the bones buried therein, imbedded in buildings, burned up, or submerged under a landslide. They will unite, bone by bone, as described in the episode of the valley of dry bones. G-d will give them sinews, flesh and skin. Then, the dew of life -- which contains the light of a soul's life -- will fall upon them from heaven.
(Rav Hai Gaon)