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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Yitzchak Gansburg
One of the most common responses people have to news of the Rebbe's prophecy of Redemption is wonder based on sensory perceptions. "What do you mean the process of Redemption has already begun? I can't see any evidence of it. I don't hear any thing, or smell anything. How can you be so sure?"
Let's take a closer look at the way we process information.
How accurate are our senses? In truth, the more man discovers about his surroundings, the more he recognizes his own inherent limitations.
Many years ago, on one of my visits to an Israeli kibbutz, a kibbutznik questioned the mitzva of ritually washing one's hands before eating "Anyone can see that my hands are already clean when I wash with soap and hot water!" the gentleman exclaimed.
I related to him about the time I needed an injection. The nurse disinfected herself, despite the fact that she was already perfectly clean. Soap and water weren't good enough: she doused herself in evil-smelling substances and dabbed alcohol on the area of the injection. She wouldn't even touch the sterilized needle unless she was wearing gloves.
"Come on," I said impatiently. "Can't we get this over with already? Anyone can see that your hands are absolutely clean and the needle is uncontaminated."
"Don't be a fool!" she replied. "You think you can see everything with the naked eye? If you look through a microscope you'll see that there are billions of microbes and bacteria on every inch of skin..."
Of course, this isn't why we ritually wash our hands; I was merely giving him an example of how limited our sense of sight truly is. In other words, what we see with the naked eye is not all there is to be seen...
What about our sense of hearing?
In my hand is a small plastic box. Inside is a jumble of wires and tiny pieces of plastic -- the whole thing worth maybe a few cents if you take it apart. But amazingly enough, if I turn the knob in one direction I can hear someone speaking in Melbourne; turn it in the other direction and I can hear a song being played in Paris. I can even tune in to a news program in the holy city of Jerusalem. What a wonderful object!
Where did all those voices come from? The farthest sound can travel is a few hundred feet -- further if conditions are absolutely optimal. So how did the sound travel thousands of miles.
Scientists explain, there's a phenomenon known as waves -- sound waves and radio waves. These waves are present in the air at all times but are imperceptible to the human ear. You need a radio to be able to pick them up.
Yes, we have ears, but they're not exactly the best on the market. At best we can detect only a small range of sounds; a few cents worth of wire and plastic does a much better job!
And what of our sense of smell? As any policeman knows, the human sense of smell is significantly inferior to that of a dog. When someone is lost, G-d forbid, a specially-trained search dog is given an article of clothing belonging to the missing person and allowed to follow the scent, sometimes for miles!
The bottom line is that we've got to change our way of thinking. Assuming that nothing exists beyond that which we can immediately sense is just plain ignorant.
When the Rebbe tells us that the Redemption is imminent, he's not merely promising a future event; he's telling us something that is happening in the here and now, something that he can actually see with his G-dly vision! "All you have to do is open your eyes," the Rebbe assures us; very soon the Redemption will be visible to everyone. Till then, however, we can rely on him.
The Rebbe stated that "Behold, Moshiach is coming"; any minute now this higher reality will be visible to our eyes of flesh as well.
"This is the law when a man dies in a tent," we read in this week's Torah portion, Chukat. "Everyone who comes into the tent...and every open [earthen] vessel on which there is not a closely fitting cover, is [spiritually] unclean." Moreover, whatever substance was within the open vessel is also rendered spiritually unclean.
However, as explained by Maimonides, if a person happened to be in the tent of the deceased "in a sealed barrel with a 'closely fitting cover,'" he remained spiritually pure and unaffected.
Every aspect of Torah provides us with a practical lesson to be applied in our daily lives. To the Jew, spiritual life and death are defined by his connection to G-d, as the Torah states, "And you who cleave unto G-d are all alive this day." Conversely, any weakening in our service of G-d or defect in that connection constitutes the Jew's spiritual death, G-d forbid.
Nonetheless, no matter how connected to G-d the individual Jew may be, he still exists within the context of the material world, defined as "a world in which the wicked are ascendant."
Therefore, no matter how "alive" the Jew is in absolute terms, the world around him is unclean; the Jew is always "in the tent of the deceased."
This is especially true during the exile, when darkness covers the face of the earth, in contradistinction to the times of the Holy Temple, when G-d's Presence in the world was openly perceived, thus enabling Jews to perform mitzvot with vitality and enthusiasm.
What can a Jew do to protect himself from negative influences during these last few minutes of exile? How can we guard ourselves against the spiritual uncleanliness that surrounds us "in the tent of the deceased"?
The answer lies in the above-mentioned ruling, on the principle that properly sealing an earthen vessel protects its contents from spiritual impurity.
In terms of our service of G-d, the Jew must strive for the humility and self-nullification symbolized by the earthen vessel, which is composed of the dust of the earth.
Our Patriarch Abraham epitomized this quality when he declared, "I am but dust and ashes"; similarly, we recite during the High Holidays, "Man, whose basic element is dust ...is likened to a shard of clay."
Every Jew is obligated, therefore, to fit himself with "a closely fitting cover" --- to guard every opening and channel that connects him with the outside world in order to filter out the bad influences from the good. Doing so will protect him from spiritual uncleanliness and ensure that his connection to G-d remains healthy and intact.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 23
On the 12th of Tammuz, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (known as the Rebbe Rayatz), was freed from government-imposed exile.
The following story is just one of many episodes that the Rebbe Rayatz had with the Russian government who was trying to force him to stop spreading Torah and Judaism in Russia.
In his work to strengthen Judaism all over Russia, the Rebbe Rayatz often traveled from Leningrad to Moscow and met with many of his underground workers. The GPU, or secret police, particularly those who were also members of the (Jewish) Yevsektsia watched everything the Rebbe Rayatz did.
On one of these trips, the Rebbe Rayatz was sitting alone in his carriage on the train, when he suddenly heard a knock at the door. The train guard informed him that there was an important official who wanted to talk to him. The Rebbe Rayatz set up a meeting for the following morning.
The next morning the official entered the Rebbe Rayatz's carriage. "My name is Mark Bashkov, from the head office of the GPU. I'm the head of the Communist party of the district of Chelyabinsk.
Bashkov related that he was born in the town of Orasha, near Lubavitch. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were Lubavitcher Chasidim. He asked the Rebbe Rayatz if they could meet in Moscow, and the Rebbe agreed.
Once in Moscow, the Rebbe Rayatz went to meet with his committee of secret workers who were doing much to save Russian Jewry. He heard the reports on their activities in various Russian cities and, gave them advice and encouragement.
The following day, the Rebbe Rayatz received a phone call from Mark Bashkov. They made an appointment to meet in the Rebbe Rayatz's hotel room that evening.
When Bashkov arrived, he reminisced about growing up in a Chasidic home in a small town not far from Lubavitch. He spoke with great feeling.
"My father, Reb Shimon Bashkes, was a teacher of Torah, just as my grandfather had been. Both of my grandfathers used to travel to Lubavitch to see the Rebbe.
"As a child, I was very good at learning Torah. At the age of fourteen, I went to learn in a yeshiva in Minsk. I was there for three years, but I began to play around, and, eventually, I stopped learning Torah and keeping mitzvot altogether. I wandered from place to place until I reached Warsaw. I joined the Socialist Party, which believed in improving the lives of workers and ordinary people.
"I had not seen my parents for twenty years, and I was already a member of the GPU when I decided to visit them. When I arrived home, I was told that my mother had died two years earlier. When I saw my father, I hardly recognized him. He was lying in bed, groaning in pain. At first, he did not recognize me because I was wearing the uniform of the GPU.
"When he saw me, he shouted, 'Have you come to put me in prison again? I'm too weak and sick to go to jail. At least let me get better first!'
"I said that I was his son, Meir. He glared at me coldly without saying a word. I told him he should come live in Moscow. I would give him whatever he wanted, but he didn't want to listen to me."
The Rebbe Rayatz later wrote in his diaries: "This old teacher, Bashkov's father, is one of those whom I pay to teach Jewish children in secret, as is his uncle."
Bashkov described how he had risen through the ranks of the GPU to become one of the highest officials in the country.
Suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, the door opened. Kortov, the hotel receptionist and an agent of the Yevsektsia, burst into the room with three other men. They were all carrying guns.
Kortov said to the Rebbe Rayatz, "Citizen Schneersohn, you are under arrest! If you make one move, you will be shot. Give us your bags."
Bashkov was red with anger, but said nothing. During the search, Kortov boasted that he had once tortured a rabbi to death. When they had finished searching the Rebbe Rayatz's belongings, they turned to Bashkov. "Now it's your turn, Comrade. We'll see if you are one of Schneersohn's men."
Bashkov answered them very calmly. "Comrades! I'm sure that you know the law. Before you go through someone's private belongings, you have to show him a search warrant. I want you to show me these papers."
Kortov shouted at Bashkov. "I am an agent of the Yevsektsia. Who are you to ask me about papers? If you resist, we will blow you away."
Bashkov did not react to the threats. "I am telling you to act according to the law."
The policemen laughed at him and began to put their hands in his pockets. Bashkov took out an identity card, which described him as a member of the head office of the Soviet secret police. When Kortov and his men saw it, they turned pale. Bashkov asked Kortov and the other men for their papers. He wrote down their names and told them to appear at GPU headquarters. "There you will learn how to conduct a search," said Bashkov.
Bashkov apologized to the Rebbe Rayatz for everything that had happened. If any of the agents of the Yevsektsia ever bothered him again, the Rebbe Rayatz should let him know. Bashkov then said good-bye to the Rebbe Rayatz and left.
The Rebbe Rayatz thought about everything that had happened, truly an example of hashgacha pratis -- Divine Providence. Had he not met Bashkov when he did, and if Bashkov was not who he was, the whole story would have ended very differently. The Rebbe Rayatz wrote in his diary, "I saw G-dliness itself revealed before me."
Reprinted from The Rebbes, vol. 2, Mayanot Publishing
Increase in Tzedaka
Increase in gifts to tzedaka, not only the actual giving of monies to charity but "tzedaka" on the level of speech and deed, i.e. thinking and speaking favorably about other Jews.
(The Rebbe, 10 Tammuz, 5751)
At this time, in proximity to the anniversary of the Geula -- deliverance -- of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of saintly memory, from the tyranny of the Soviet regime, fifty-three years ago on the 12th-13th of this month, it behooves us to reflect again on those history-making events and how they relate to every one of us here and now. For, as he indicated in his first letter on the occasion of the first anniversary of his geula, and as we clearly see it now, his deliverance was more than a personal one, but a turning point in the survival of Russian Jewry, and is of lasting significance for every Jew everywhere.
This timely reflection should make every one of us all the more deeply appreciative of the blessing of freedom to live a full life of Torah and mitzvot, and what goes with it, the sacred obligation to do one's utmost to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit, with enthusiasm and love -- the love of G-d, love of the Torah, and love of our Jewish brethren, which are inseparable.
Moreover, by his total mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice) even in the face of overwhelming odds, and by his eventual triumph, with G-d's help, he has shown the way, and trodden the way, for every Jew to follow in his footsteps, with complete assurance that when a Jew is firmly resolved to work for Torah and Yiddishkeit, he or she will overcome whatever difficulties there may be, and be matzliach [successful] with G-d's help.
I hope and pray that the inspiration of the Baal HaGeula and Chag HaGeula -- especially as this year's geula anniversary also marks his 100th birthday on the selfsame day of the 12th of Tammuz -- will stimulate you and yours to redouble your efforts in the said direction in the days ahead, which will also widen the channels to receive G-d's blessings for yourself and all yours, in all needs, both materially and spiritually.
To the Esteemed Faculty Members of Cornell University and Ithaca College, Signatories to Letter of June 1, 1986
This is in reply to your above mentioned letter, in which you describe the hitherto highly successful Chabad activities in your community and express deep concern that they be continued, etc...
I was particularly gratified to note how closely you have been involved with the Chabad activities in your community. Your profound concern for the future of Yiddishkeit among your students and in the community at large, gives me the confidence that you, on your part, will do your utmost to ensure the continuation of these activities and their steady expansion.
I trust you do not underestimate your personal inherent in your respective prominent positions in the community and, especially among the academic youth. It is a prevalent experience, human nature being what it is, that students are often strongly influenced by the example of their professor's everyday life and conduct regardless of the academic field that brought them together.
This being so, each of you will surely readily recognize your special responsibility -- and extraordinary z'chut (merit) that Hashem has given you, individually and as a group, to help the young people who are fortunate to be exposed to your influence, to reinforce their identity with our Jewish people and its eternal heritage; and, with emphasis on the basic principle of Yiddishkeit that "the essential thing is the deed," to actually strengthen their commitment to the way of the Torah and mitzvot in their personal life and conduct.
Needless to say, Hashem does not bestow a responsibility on anyone without providing the ability to carry it out in the fullest measure, with joy and gladness of heart.
Apropos of the upcoming month of Tammuz, the month of geula of my father-in-law, the Rebbe of saintly memory, I trust you know the history and lasting significance of this anniversary (12th -13th of Tammuz).
The lifelong example of his real mesirat nefesh that permeated all his activities in his native land and beyond, including the last decade of his life in the USA, is a source of inspiration and strength to all of us who are privileged to be associated with, and continue, his sacred work.
Indeed, we have his assurance of Hashem's blessings for hatzlocha (success) in this, which also widens the "channels and vessels" for Hashem's blessings in all personal needs, both materially and spiritually.
THE CHASSIDIC APPROACH TO JOY
We all encounter obstacles in life that appear to block our path. Often we react to these challenges with anger, depression or despair.
Joy, on the other hand, a pleasant feeling, is the key to the inner power of the soul, unlocking personal strength and resources that one might never have been aware of possessing.
The Chassidic Approach to Joy by Rabbi Shloma Majesky, explains the spiritual power of joy and how every one of us can attain it. Published by Sichos in English, 788 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
[The original texts are available for your perusal in electronic form on the Gopher Site of Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace]
TZIVOS HASHEM NEWSLETTER
All Jewish children between the ages of 1 day and Bar or Bat Mitzva (13 year and 12 years respectively) can get a FREE subscription to the bi-monthly Tzivos Hashem Newsletter, packed with stories, games, and activities, by sending their names and ages to Tzivos Hashem, 332 Kingston Ave., Bklyn, NY 11213.
Monday - July 10, 1995 corresponds to the 12th day of the Hebrew month Tammuz. On this day in 1927, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe was informed of his release from Soviet exile and on the 13th of the month he actually left Kostrama.
The foremost commentator on the Torah, Rashi, explains that "The Nasi -- the leader of the generation -- is the entire people." Thus, whatever happened to the Previous Rebbe effects not only him but the entire generation and, in fact, the entire Jewish people for all eternity.
The redemption of the Previous Rebbe on Yud Beis Tammuz, sparked an increase in the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chasidut outward.
Moreover, it ultimately led to the Previous Rebbe's coming to America which brought about a marked increase in spreading the teachings of Judaism in general and Chasidic thought in particular.
In a gathering in honor of 12 Tammuz, the Rebbe explained that "the extent to which Chasidut has been revealed and spread since then has far exceeded the nature of these efforts in previous generations."
The Rebbe continued, "The effects of these efforts increase year after year. The service of spreading these teachings serves as a preparation for the ultimate revelation, the reward for 'spreading the wellsprings outward,' which is -- as the Moshiach told the Baal Shem Tov -- the Future Redemption. Then we will see the ultimate fusion of the G-dliness which transcends nature and the G-dliness invested with the natural order."
At the conclusion of the gathering, the Rebbe suggested, "Similarly, in connection with Yud Beis Tammuz, efforts should be made to organize gatherings in each and every place where Jews are found to inspire each other in the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chasidut outward. This will generate the potential of the transformation of the Three Weeks into a positive period, with the coming of the ultimate Redemption. Even before that redemption comes, we will merit a succession of Divine miracles.
When one Jew will ask another, 'What was the last miracle that happened?' he will be unable to answer because the miracles are taking place in such rapid succession. And these miracles will lead to the ultimate miracles, those which accompany the Redemption from exile, when 'As in the day of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.' "
This is the Torah's decree... have them bring you a completely red cow which has no blemish (Numbers 19:2)
There is a profound link between the precept of the "red heifer" and the principle of Messianic redemption: Mitzvot signify life.
When one follows the commandments one attaches himself to the Al-mighty and draws spiritual vitality from the Source of All Life.
Sin signifies death. Violating G-d's will disrupts attachment to the Creator, thus bringing about the "impurity of death."
Both the red cow and the Messianic redemption effect purification.
For just as the ashes of the red cow are used for removing a legal state of impurity, the Final Redemption with Moshiach will purify the entire people of Israel from any trace of deficiency in their bond with G-d.
Which has no blemish, which has never borne a yoke (Numbers 19:2)
If a person sees himself as "without blemish," confident that he has already reached perfection, it is a sure sign that he "has never borne a yoke" -- he has never accepted the yoke of heaven. Otherwise he would understand that he is still full of flaws and imperfections...
(The Seer of Lublin)
Ben Bag Bag says... Ben Hei Hei says... (Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 5)
According to an opinion in Midrash Shmuel these two sages were really one person, a convert to Judaism who so excelled in his studies that he is quoted in the Mishna.
Abraham and Sarah were the first converts ("geirim" in Hebrew), and are considered the parents of all future proselytes; "Bag Bag" is an acronym standing for "ben geir" and "ben giyoret" (the son of a male and female convert).
Moreover, Abraham and Sarah had their names changed by G-d through the addition of the letter "hei " (Abram to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah).
"Ben Hei Hei" therefore signifies "the son of the first converts whose names were altered with a 'hei.'"
Once, when Rabbi Michoel Vishetzky met with a rabbi in his Bronx shul, he was surprised to find Rabbi Rabinowitz sitting at the corner of the table with the head of the table oddly empty.
The elderly rabbi didn't permit Michoel to sit at the head of the table either, saying, "No one sits in that place." When the rabbi noticed Michoel's surprise, he began to tell him the following story.
"When I came to America, I was privileged to meet with the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak [known as the Rebbe Rayatz]. I told him everything that had happened to me in Europe and asked him what I should do with my life.
"The Rebbe Rayatz said, 'Since you are a Torah scholar, you should look for a position as a community rabbi.'
"Soon after that, I was recommended for a position in this shul, here in the Bronx. I asked the Rebbe Rayatz if I should take the job. The Rebbe Rayatz said, 'A shul is a shul, and so it's very suitable, but I don't like the shammas.'
"Why did the Rebbe mention the shammas? The Rebbe Rayatz saw that I was confused and repeated, 'A shul is a shul, but I don't like the shammas.'
"Time passed. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until I found out that the shammas was not pleased with me. After the passing of the shul's previous rabbi the shammas had assumed many responsibilities -- and had become the unofficial rabbi. He felt that I had pushed him aside and he began to cause trouble for me. Eventually the situation became unbearable.
"When it became too much for me, I went to see the Rebbe, who had by now assumed the leadership. Before I even had a chance to open my mouth, the Rebbe said, 'My father-in-law said that a shul is a shul and he did not like the shammas. Continue to serve as rabbi in the Bronx. As for the antics of this shammas, he will soon need to worry about how long he will keep his job.'
"I was amazed by the Rebbe's words. When I had spoken with the Rebbe Rayatz, no one else had been in the room, and I had never discussed the matter with the present Rebbe.
"A few nights later I couldn't sleep. Thoughts of the shammas would not leave me. At daybreak I decided to go to shul a little earlier than usual. On my way, I was surprised to meet the president and manager of the shul walking in the same direction as I. The manager pointed to a light in the windows of the shul. It looked suspicious. We quietly opened the door and walked in.
"The shammas was standing next to the bima holding the tzedaka boxes. He was emptying the money into his pockets. Needless to say, we fired him.
"The next few years passed peacefully. Then something even more incredible happened. The shul shared an adjoining wall with a butcher's shop. Business went very well for the butcher, and the shop soon became too small. He found a much larger shop, and sold the old shop to the shul as the congregation needed more space. After some friendly negotiations, a deal was struck. The whole transaction was conducted without a written contract.
"A few years later the butcher began to look for a storeroom. When he couldn't find one, he remembered that there was no official contract with the shul. Without any scruples, the butcher went to the shul management and asked them to give him his shop back. He hired a lawyer and was positive that the court would find in his favor as there had been no written contract of sale.
"After a short court case, the shul board received a court order telling them to vacate the premises by a certain date. If they disobeyed, the police would be called in. The date was drawing near. I went to the Rebbe for a bracha.
"When I described the situation, the Rebbe said, 'My father-in- law told you clearly that a shul is a shul. Everything will turn out the way it should.'
"The night before the critical date, I had a dream which I will never forget.
"In the dream I went to the shul and I saw the Rebbe Rayatz sitting in the chair at the head of the table -- the very same chair which I never let anyone sit in. Standing next to him was the Rebbe. He said, `Don't worry. Hashem will let everything turn out for the best.' He then pointed to the Rebbe Rayatz. `The Rebbe told you that a shul is a shul. What do you have to worry about?'
"I stood there in astonishment. The Rebbe Rayatz was right there, even though he had passed away ten years ago. I was still marveling at this extraordinary sight when I woke up. I ran to shul as fast as I could. A crowd had gathered outside the shul and people were arguing loudly with policemen who had blocked the entrance. They had started to remove the furniture. Then something very dramatic happened.
"On a nearby street, in the butcher's large shop, a light fixture fell suddenly from the ceiling. The butcher was knocked unconscious. When he regained consciousness, his first words were, 'Please, stop emptying the shul.' When the police arrived, the butcher admitted that he had made false accusations against the shul. He had, indeed, received payment for the old shop.
"Now you understand why I don't let anyone sit in that chair. The image of the Rebbe Rayatz sitting there will be in front of my eyes forever," Rabbi Rabinowitz said as he finished telling his story.
Reprinted from The Rebbes, vol. 2, Mayanot Publishing.
A well-known debate in the Talmud considers whether study is the ultimate value or whether action is greater.
It is explained in the teachings of Chasidut that even though the Talmud there concludes that in the present era study is superior, in future time the law will determine that action is superior.
The fact that we are now standing on the threshold of the Redemption thus adds weight to the teaching of the Sages, "What matters most is practice."