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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
For most of us, the only time we think about blood is when we see it or when we have to have a blood test.
Very infrequently do we think about the great river that flows within us. But, our blood is more than a river -- it is a great river system, with dozens of major arteries, hundreds of tributaries, thousands of rivulets and tens of billions of minute channels.
Fourteen-hundred times every day, this great river system -- which laid end to end would extend some 60,000 miles -- carries its life- sustaining fluid to every cell of the human body, supplying them with oxygen and nourishment, carrying away wastes, and combating adversarial cells that seek to harm them.
Man is a microcosm of creation. Like the blood in man, the Torah is the "blood" of the cosmic body.
Torah is the flow of divine influence that extends to every "cell" of creation, imbuing it with the breath of life, nourishing and developing it, and combating the negative forces that threaten to corrupt it.
The two primary active ingredients of blood are the erythrocytes, or red blood cells, and the leukocytes, or white blood cells.
The red blood cells carry oxygen to the body's cells. The white blood cells combat infection and resist the invasion of bacteria and other foreign bodies.
The Torah also has "red blood cells" and "white blood cells," its nutritive and combative elements.
By instructing and enlightening us, the Torah sustains and nurtures our spiritual essence, developing in us, and in the environment we live in, the potential for goodness that G-d imparted to His creation.
The Torah also combats evil with a series of prohibitions and sanctions against practices that compromise the spiritual integrity of the body-universe.
But the greater emphasis is on the positive, nurturing role. The Torah's "ways are pleasant, and all its paths are peace." Combating evil is still an unfortunate necessity until the revelation of Moshiach, but it is not the Torah's focus; the main task of Torah is to imbue our lives with spiritual sustenance.
In order for our limbs and organs to remain healthy, blood must be able to flow freely. If there is a blockage or a leakage, serious illness and even damage can take place.
Torah, and everything it encompasses, is the blood of every Jew. Torah must flow to every limb of our body, each one of our organs. This means that we must allow Torah to flow freely into every aspect of our lives; there can be no blockages o r leaks that restrict Torah from coursing through all that we do. This is the only possible way that all of our limbs and organs can remain healthy.
Jewish blood is rich and healthy. It is rich with Torah, with G-d, with love of our fellow, with mitzvot.
Excerpted, in part, from an essay by Yanki Tauber from The Week in Review.
This week's Torah portion, Ekev, opens with an unusual expression: "And it will be that 'ekev' ('if' or 'because') you listen to these laws..." Instead of the more common word "im" to denote "if," the Torah uses the word "ekev," which means "heel." Our Sages note that this word has two opposite connotations.
According to Rashi, "ekev" alludes to the "simple mitzvot which are usually trampled underfoot." Others interpret the word as alluding to the "very end" of the Jew's performance of mitzvot -- the reward he receives at the conclusion of his service of G-d.
In the first instance, the Torah speaks of a Jew who must be encouraged to perform even the simplest of the commandments. The second example, however, involves a Jew on a very high spiritual level, one who has already performed all the mitzvot and is ready to receive his reward.
This contradiction is also found in the term describing the period in which we now find ourselves -- "ikveta d'Meshicha" -- "the heels of Moshiach."
On the one hand, "heel" denotes a lowly level, for the heel is the least perceptive limb. Like the insensitive heel, this era is characterized by an inability to perceive G-dliness in the world.
On the other hand, "ekev" also denotes Moshiach's footsteps, and that they can already be heard approaching. This second meaning suggests the most exalted spiritual level, when Moshiach's influence in the world can be felt and one can sense t he impending Redemption.
This discrepancy is resolved when one considers the connection that exists between the highest and lowest spirituals levels, and between the beginning and the end of our service as Jews:
Performing the simplest mitzvot in a conscientious manner leads to the perfection of our service; likewise, observing the Torah's commandments even when our spiritual level is not what it should be allows us to attain ever higher levels of spirituality.
The same principle holds true on the larger scale as well. It is precisely because the period right before Moshiach's arrival is so dark that we are able to hear his footsteps coming closer; furthermore, the self-sacrifice we must have nowadays in order to live as Jews is the vessel to contain the greatest revelation of Divine light which will occur with the coming Redemption.
At present we are experiencing the climax of this dichotomy, for although all signs clearly indicate that "Behold, Moshiach is coming," the full Redemption has not yet occurred. We therefore implore the Alm-ghty with the cry of "Till when?", which will prompt Him to end all contradictions forever with the establishment of the Messianic Era.
Adapted from Sefer HaSichot of the Rebbe, 5751, Vol. 2
The Rebbe Touches Lives
by Sara Goldstein
One Friday morning, a few months ago, I was driving to work in Far Rockaway (Queens). Ahead of me were two traffic lights, the second a few thousand feet in front of the first. I went through the first light, which was yellow, and stopped at the second light, which had already turned red.
A police car drove up alongside my car and asked me to pull over to the side of the road. I complied and then noticed that the two police officers in the car were talking to each other. I imagined that they did not agree as to the status of the light I drove through and hopefully that the policewoman was telling the policeman not to give me a ticket.
The policeman, whose name was Rodriguez, got out of the patrol car and came swaggering over to my car. I rolled down my window and he said to me, "You ran a red light."
"I did not run a red light," I told the officer confidently but a little nervously. "I'm sure the light was yellow, or I would have stopped," I added.
He asked me for my driver's license and registration. In my hastiness I pulled out a little card that I keep in my wallet with the traveler's prayer on it instead of my driver's license. The prayer was on one side and a picture of the Rebbe was on the other side. Not realizing my mistake, I gave it to the police officer.
Officer Rodriguez's whole demeanor changed. He was pensive for a moment. Then he said, "This is a picture of the great Rabbi."
Another moment passed and he said, "This rabbi is a very great Rabbi."
"Yes," I agreed, slightly taken aback and curious as to what would happen next, "he is a great rabbi."
"I had the opportunity sometimes to be part of the police escort when the rabbi went to the cemetery," Officer Rodriguez continued. "He went to the cemetery a lot.
"One time someone told me I could talk to the rabbi and ask him for a blessing." Officer Rodriguez hesitated and then continued. "My wife and I had been married for a number of years and had not been able to have any children yet.
"I'm not Jewish. So I wasn't sure if he would give me a blessing. But everyone kept on encouraging me. So one day I asked the Rabbi for a blessing."
"The Rebbe loves all people. We, his followers, try to be the same and not make distinctions," I said.
Officer Rodriguez acknowledged my comment. Then he became very emotional. "We have a son now. We named him Mendy. And to me, it's a miracle."
"The Rebbe loves everyone," I repeated, "and he gave blessings to many, many people."
He looked at my driver's license, which I had by now managed to find. Then he handed it back to me and said, "Mrs. Goldstein, just have a really good day."
I watched Officer Rodriguez walk back to the patrol car and drive away. I sat silently for a moment, overcome with emotion: feelings of gratitude to Hashem for having given us the Rebbe, feelings of longing to be reunited with him once more.
Later that day, and when I related this incident to friends in the days that followed, they asked many questions. "Was his wife maybe Jewish?" "Is his son's real name Menachem Mendel and they call him Mendy for short?" "Did he ask the Rebbe for a blessing at the cemetery or did he come specially to 770 one Sunday for 'dollars'?"
I do not know the answers to any of these questions. At the time I did not think to ask. And, in truth, even if I had the answers, they would not really matter. What is significant is that this is just one small example of how the Rebbe has touched people's lives, much more than anyone could ever know or imagine. I only wonder how many more Officer Rodriguez's there are and how many Mendy's there are. How many millions of lives has the Rebbe touched?
Sara Goldstein and her husband, Issur, live in Crown Heights.
Facilitate an increase in Jewish education for children:
A number of years ago, near the end of the month of Av, the Rebbe explained, "We are nearing the close of the month of Av, a month associated with the destruction of the Holy Temple. Removing the cause of the Holy Temple's destruction -- "Jerusalem was destroyed solely because the Torah study of the children was nullified" -- will cause the effect, the destruction and the exile, also to cease, and bring about the revelation of the Third Holy Temple.
One should assure an increase in the area of the education of Jewish children." You can start by enrolling your child in a Jewish day school or afternoon school program or giving a donation to an institution dedicated to Jewish education.
COMMUNING WITH G-D
2 Sivan, 5711 (1951)
I want to send you a brief message, although I am greatly overburdened with work. This ought to indicate to you how highly I value the work of your group for advancement in both the knowledge of Torah and the practice of its precepts.
Being G-d given, the Torah has infinite aspects. The purpose of this message is to point out to you one of the most important aspects of the Torah.
To many, the Torah may be a means to gain reward and avoid punishment. Others consider the Torah a guide to good living. I will give you my view after a brief introduction.
The world consists of a variety of creatures, which are generally classified into "Four Kingdoms": mineral, vegetable, animal and mankind.
Taking the highest individual of the highest group of the four mentioned above, i.e. the most intelligent of all men, there can be nothing in common between him who is a created and limited being, and G-d, the Infinite, the Creator. No analogy can even be found in the relative difference between the lowest of the lowest "kingdom" and the highest of the highest, for both are created things.
However, in His infinite goodness, G-d gave us a possibility of approach and communion with Him. G-d showed us the ways how a finite, created being can reach beyond his inherent limitations, and commune with G-d the Infinite.
Obviously, only the Creator Himself knows the ways and means that lead to Him, and the Creator Himself knows the capacity of His creatures in using such ways and means.
Herein lies one of the most important aspects of the Torah and mitzvot to us. They provide the ways and means whereby we may reach a plane above and beyond our status as created things. Clearly, this plane is incomparatively above the highest perfection which a man can attain within his own created (hence, limited) sphere .
From this point of view, it will no longer appear strange that the Torah and mitzvot find expression in such simple, material and physical aspects as the dietary laws, and the like.
For our intellect is also created, and therefore limited within the boundaries of creation, beyond which it has no access. Consequently it cannot know the ways and means that lead beyond those bounds.
The Torah, on the other hand, is the bond that unites the created with the Creator, as it is written, "and you that cleave to G-d your G-d, are all living this day."
To the Creator -- all created things, the most corporeal as well as the most spiritual, are equally removed. Hence, the question, "What relationship can a material object have with G-d?" has no more validity than if it referred to the most spiritual thing in its relationship to G-d.
But the Creator gave us a possibility to rise, not only within our created bounds, but beyond, toward the Infinite, and He desired that this possibility be open to the widest strata of humanity. Consequently, He has conditioned this possibility upon ways and means which are accessible to all, namely, the Torah and mitzvot.
From this point of view it is also clear that no sacrifice can be too great in adhering to the Torah and mitzvot, for all sacrifices are within the limits of creation, whereas the Torah and mitzvot offer an opportunity to rise beyond such limits, as mentioned above.
It is also clear that no person has the right to renounce this Divine opportunity by professing indifference toward reward and punishment. Such views are but the product of his limited intellect which has no right to jeopardize the very essence of the soul, for the latter, being a "spark of the Divine," is above the intellect and any arguments it can produce, to deter him from the utmost perfection which he is able to attain.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIVE
Wednesday Night Live is a unique class every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Taught by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, author of the soon-to-be-published book by Willian Morrow, "Toward a Meaningful Life" the class helps you discover your spiritual roots and explore your Judaism. No registration needed, you can just drop in at 441 West End Avenue (corner 81st. St). For more info call (718) 774-6448.
JEWISH RENAISSANCE FAIR
Celebrate the past, present and future of Jewish life at the 18th annual Jewish Renaissance Fair at the Rabbinical College of America - 226 Sussex Avenue in Morristown, New Jersey.
The fair begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3 (rain date, Sept. 4). Live musical entertainment includes Piamentas, Avraham Fried, Shlock Rock, Marc Weiner and Weinerville.
Visit a recreated shtetle and special for the kids a Jewish Child's Wonderland. Adults $12.50, children $6.50. For more information call (201) 267-9404.
SUKKOT IN AUGUST?
It's never too early to start thinking about your very own Sukka. A new pop-up Sukka has been designed and patented by the RCA Community Outreach Program. In addition to canvas, fiberglass and wood Sukkot, the Lubavitch Centers in West Orange, Teaneck and Elizabeth distribute the pop-up Sukka which is lighter and more compact than any Sukka on the market. For information call (210) 731-0770.
This Shabbat afternoon we study the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avot -- Ethics of the Fathers. As the Rebbe has encouraged us not only to "read" Pirkei Avot each week, but to actually "study" it, I would like bring a thought from the Rebbe on one of the mishnas we will be studying this week.
"Rabbi Yaakov said: 'This world is like an ante-room before the World to Come; Prepare yourself in the ante-room so that you may enter the banquet hall.' "
The World to Come -- the Era of the Redemption -- reflects the ultimate purpose of creation, when it will be revealed that this world is G-d's dwelling.
To explain the analogy: A person reveals the fundamental nature of his character more easily in his own home. We express ourselves outside our homes as well, but there are always social conventions, personal reservations, and the like. When we're at home, these constrictions do not apply, and our true nature is revealed. In the analogue, our world is G-d's home, the place where His essence and the truth of His Being is manifest.
G-d nevertheless desired that mortals should fashion His dwelling, for man has a natural tendency to appreciate the fruit of his own labors. If, instead, this dwelling were to be granted as an unearned gift from above, the bliss we would enjoy would be tarnished. To borrow the metaphor of our Sages, we would be eating, "the bread of shame."
And so, in the present era, man's efforts are directed towards transforming the world into a dwelling for G-d. For this reason, the present era is referred to as an ante-room, a preparatory phase through which we must pass.
May we very soon enter the banquet hall, and together partake of the Messianic feast.
Then your heart will be lifted up (Deut. 8:14)
Humility is not enumerated among the Torah's 613 commandments; if being humble were considered a mitzva, many Jews would rush to observe it in the most beautiful manner possible, with the end result being pride in just how humble they are!
(The Baal Shem Tov)
And [He] will bless the fruit of your womb, and the fruit of your land, your grain, and your wine, and your oil (Deut. 7:13)
The Torah specifically mentions grain, wine and oil, for they are the mainstay of man's sustenance.
They have quickly turned aside from the way... they have made a molten image (Deut. 9:12)
Not every transgression causes a Jew to immediately abandon the straight and narrow and completely forfeit his connection to the Jewish people. The sin of idol worship, however, is so elemental and consequential that the very first step in its direction tears the Jew away from everything that is holy. As it states in the Talmud (Hulin): "An apostate who commits idolatry thereby rejects the entire Torah."
(The Rebbe, Reb Heshel)
With seventy persons...as the stars of the heaven for multitude (Deut. 10:22)
This verse begins and ends with the Hebrew letter beit, alluding to Yaakov's exhortation to his children that they remain attached and devoted to their households ("beit" means "house" in Hebrew) and not assimilate amongst the Egyptians; it i s for this reason that the Jews are known as "Beit Yaakov."
The great Maharal of Prague became famous throughout the Jewish world for his wealth of Torah knowledge and saintliness. His father-in-law, R. Shmuel Reich, had close contacts with royalty. The ruler of Prague at that time was Ferdinand I.
Shmuel Reich was a favorite of his, because of his intelligence and great ability. This aroused much jealousy and hate among the courtiers, who could not bear to see a Jew attain so high a position.
King Ferdinand was a devout Catholic, and if, at first, this did not influence him against his friendship to Shmuel Reich, there came a time when the king's mind, too, was poisoned against Jews.
In the year 5316 (1556) the Catholics in Rome experienced their "victory" over the Jews by publicly burning their treasures of literature, their precious books. When this inquisition triumphed, its spirit spread even into the court of King Ferdinand in Prague.
The king announced to the leaders of the Jewish community that he could no longer afford them his protection. It was therefore in their own interests to leave Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.
Shmuel Reich knew that the courtiers were vulnerable to accepting bribes, and he was willing to give away his entire fortune to save the Jews from being driven out of their homes. However, when he discussed this idea with his brilliant son-in-law, the Maharal, the latter advised against such a plan, fearing it would provoke similar measures elsewhere.
At that time, Prince Ferdinand of Bohemia, the son of the king, paid a visit to Prince Johann of Moravia. They were both deeply interested in astronomy and came upon a problem which seemed unsolvable. The two made a bet that the first to find the solution to the problem within six months would become the "spiritual master" of the other, who would become his "spiritual slave."
After the bet had been made, Prince Ferdinand visited some properties of his which were managed by a Jew, Moshe Yitzchak Sobel. In the course of their conversation, the Prince mentioned the bet.
"I understand that you have discussed the problem with your scholars, but have you approached Jewish scholars?"
The Prince scoffed at the suggestion. "What do Jews know about such subjects? All they can do is wail about the destruction of their Holy Temple and dream about some miraculous redemption," he retorted contemptuously.
Moshe Yitzchak Sobel had known the Prince since he was a child, and so he took the opportunity to speak to him frankly: "You have a completely erroneous conception of Jews, and of course the fault lies with the one who has been responsible for your training. If you wish to hear the opinion of a great scholar, why, you have one right nearby, in the person of the Rav of Prague. There is not a science of which he has not the most expert knowledge!" exclaimed Moshe Yitzchak.
"If you really believe that the Rav of Prague can solve my problem, then bring him to me," said the prince. "But arrange the matter secretly. It must not become known that Ferdinand has need to resort to such a low people as the Jews to help solve a scientific problem. I would be a complete laughingstock."
Although the prince uttered these words in a friendly tone, Moshe Yitzchak was deeply hurt. He spoke at great length to the Prince, refuting his appraisal of the Jewish people. Moshe Yitzchak's words made a profound impression upon Prince Ferdinand. He had known for some time of the palace intrigues against the Jews at the hands of the priests, but his father, the king, was helpless to combat their incitement.
A few days later, the Prince called Moshe Yitzchak and asked him to arrange that the Maharal visit the palace. The Maharal agreed to visit the Prince and at their meeting the Prince told of the problem which no one had been able to solve. To the great delight and surprise of the Prince, the Maharal wrote out the solution without hesitation! The Prince wanted to reward the Maharal. But the Maharal declined, saying that it is an accepted custom among Jews, since the time of Moses, to impart knowledge to others without remuneration, the only exception being when people did this as a means of earning their living.
The Prince took a great liking to this remarkable Jew who seemed to know so much about every conceivable subject. The Maharal stayed about a week at the castle, or rather at the house of Moshe Yitzchak Sobel, visiting the Prince at the castle every day and spending several hours discussing all sorts of scientific matters with him.
The Prince took the opportunity of learning all he could about Jews, their mode of living, their belief and faith, their history, etc. The prince was astonished at the great breadth of knowledge displayed by the Maharal. "How is it that you know so much about natural science?" he once asked the Maharal. The Maharal explained to him that actually all these sciences can be learned in our Torah, and in order to be a good Jew, one has to study them all. He further explained to the Prince that it was a Jewish tradition to hand down, from generation to generation, the Torah and everything connected with it.
Adapted from Memoirs of the Previous Rebbe
The Mishna teaches: " 'All the days of your life' includes (lit., 'is to bring') the Messianic Era."
The plain meaning of this phrase is that the Exodus is to be recalled not only during the days of our present life, but even in the days of the Messianic Era.
Noting the literal meaning of the verb lehavi ("to bring"), Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the previous Rebbe, perceived an additional teaching in these words: Throughout all the days of your life, your service should be directed to bringing about the days of Moshiach.