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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Would you consider turning your yard into a petting zoo complete with a camel, a draft horse, a bull, ponies, two llamas, a yak, a goat, a chicken, a turtle and a boa constrictor?
One grandmother in the mid-West did, for the joint first birth day celebration of her two grandaughters. The $1,200 price tag included entertainment, gifts and Lion King decorations.
Or maybe your child would prefer a catered birthday party with a clown, pony rides, a horse and a fountain spewing apples juice?
These are just two examples of birthday parties this past year that, as one psychologist notes, "set up lifelong expectations that might be unrealistic. It is important during birthdays to help a child avoid valuing materialism over family and friends."
In a drive to reinstate good, old-fashioned values and, at the same time, keep expenditures down, many parents are opting to get off the birthday bandwagon while they still can.
A little over seven years ago, the Rebbe started an innovative campaign to make birthdays meaningful for both children and adults.
The Rebbe encouraged people to celebrate their birthdays in the traditional Jewish manner.
Jewish teachings explain that a birthday is a time when mazalo gover -- the particular spiritual source of a person's soul shines most powerfully. The Divine energy that was present at the time of your birth is once more present and dynamic on the anniversary of your birth each year.
Therefore, your birthday is a perfect time to enhance the quality of your life in the year to come. Things you can do on your birthday to get the most out of your soul-power. These include spending time in self-evaluation, making a positive resolution for the coming year, giving charity, studying Torah, and organizing a birthday party with friends and family. At the gathering make sure to share with friends some of what you learned on your birthday.
After hearing about the Rebbe's suggestions for birthdays, one public school teacher was so taken with this meaningful way to celebrate that she incorporated some of these recommendations into her students' classroom birthday parties. She asked each child to make a positive resolution and to share with the other students something meaningful and valuable they had recently learned.
This coming Wednesday is the 18th of the month of Elul, the birthdays of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov -- founder of Chasidism in general, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi -- founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidic philosophy.
On this day, their spiritual sources shine powerfully. We, today, can key into the extra measure and quality of Divine energy that is present on the 18th of Elul.
Consider taking advantage of that energy this year by increasing in Torah study and mitzvot.
To find our when your birthday falls on the Jewish calendar, you can call 718-467-7800 (the "Tzivos Hashem Superphone") from a touch- tone phone and key in your civil birthday. You'll be told the corresponding date on the Jewish calendar and when it occurs this year.
Celebrate your birthday in a traditional Jewish manner, de-emphasing the materialism and concentrating instead on family, friends and spiritual growth.
[For more in depth "electronic" reading on the Jewish Birthday, see the Chabad Gopher Site - www.chabad.org/gopher/birthday/ - item #10 - Practical Guides, subsection #1.]
In this week's Torah portion, Teitzei, we read about the concept of divorce. In order for a Jewish couple to terminate their marriage, the husband must "write her a get (bill of divorce), and give it in her hand," i.e., the actual document must leave the husband's domain and be given over into the wife's.
Allegorically speaking, the Jewish people and G-d are likened to husband and wife, the "marriage" having taken place when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai.
Years later, when the Jewish people sinned, G-d "sent her from his house," i.e., banished them from the land of Israel, handing them, in effect, a "bill of divorce."
Yet how can we say that G-d "divorced" the Jews, when one of the principal requirements in the dissolution of a marriage is that the get leave the husband's domain and be given over into the wife's?
Is not the entire world G-d's domain, as it states, "The earth is filled with His glory"? Indeed, how can there be any domain that is separate from G-d?
The answer is that while G-d is certainly everywhere, His Presence in the world can be either revealed or hidden. When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem the Divine Presence was clearly manifest; ten open miracles perpetually proclaimed G-d's existence. It was a period in which the love between G-d and the Jewish people was open and apparent; His Presence in the world was palpable and easily perceived. During the exile, however, G-d "conceals" Himself, as it were, with the resultant perception of estrangement and disconnection from G-d.
In truth, however, this perception is only an illusion, brought about by our misdeeds. When Israel sinned, G-d responded by "withdrawing," causing them to feel as if they had entered another domain, and thus validating the "bill of divorce." We must therefore bear in mind that the entire concept of the existence of "another domain" is fallacious; the "divorce" between G-d and the Jewish people is also an illusion. The Jewish people's alienation from G-d is only imaginary, the consequence of the darkness of exile.
Very soon, when Moshiach ushers in the era of Redemption, G-d's eternal love for His people will again be openly demonstrated, and the imaginary "divorce" between the Jews and G-d will have been annulled.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 9
"When will you come?" the Baal Shem Tov asked Moshiach. "When your teachings are spread outward," Moshiach responded. What could be more "outward" than Cyberspace?
The following letters were received by Rabbi Yossi ("YY") Kazen of Chabad-Lubavitch of Cyberspace from Frieda Roseman.
3 Av, 1995
I have been on the Chabad in Cyberspace list for about a year, and have tried to apply some of the principles that I have learned from reading these messages, even though I am not a 'Chabad' person myself. In fact, I pass on these pages to a neighbor (in Gilo, Jerusalem), who sends them on to his son who is a Chabadnik living in Canada!
When I read the message about celebrating one's Hebrew birthday [L'Chaim #360], that struck a rather responsive chord, as my 60th birthday was approaching. And that seemed like a meaningful way to celebrate turning 60.
But I didn't know the Hebrew date! My brother-in-law in Kew Gardens Hills (an orthodox rabbi), figured out that Aug. 2, 1935 was the equivalent of the 3rd of Av. I decided to ask a rabbi to say a few words so that we all could learn, and thought about giving tzedaka. I even invited my friends with the admonition that they shouldn't bring a gift, rather they could also contribute tzedaka, if they wished. (I also got that idea from Chabad pages about a Bar Mitzva that was celebrated in that fashion!) [L'Chaim #361]
My son, who works in Bank Mizrachi in Givat Shaul, said that he had a client in his bank who 'loves' to give classes, and that gave me the rabbi whom I could ask. Never having seen him, I accepted my son's recommendation. Imagine my surprise when he turned out to be a Chabad rabbi!
I firmly believe that Hashem really knew what to do to get me to celebrate my birthday (for the first time in my life), in this Chabad fashion.
With much gratitude to Hashem for keeping me alive and healthy until this moment, and with gratitude to Chabad in Cyberspace for helping me increase my learning and religious practices.
Frieda E. Roseman, Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
Her second letter:
Thanks for your birthday wishes. I would just like to add a sequel to my story of yesterday. First, the rabbi's name was Rabbi Motti Stern of Har Nof. And second, because of the request I received through Chabad in Cyberspace yesterday for saying Tehilim [Psalms] for the missing person, I decided to print out and photocopy the translation of Psalm 20 which I handed out to my guests as their 'take-home' present!
The 'party' was a very lovely affair -- a light buffet dairy meal for about 35 women on my balcony which faces the view of Yerushalayim, a meaningful class by Rabbi Stern (who told a story about a rav going to Australia, which I had read recently in Chabad in Cyberspace pages) [L'Chaim #366], and tzedaka to Chabad and other charities. I thought it was a most memorable and unusual 'simcha', and the whole idea came from Chabad in Cyberspace -- for which I am very grateful.
May Chabad have continued success in having their suggestions turned into actions!
Thanks again, most sincerely!
Her Third Letter:
Shalom Rabbi Kazen,
I wanted to let you know how Chabad is continuing to help me.
On July 31, 1995, 4 Av, my son, David Roseman, father of five children, Efrat (Gush Ezion) resident for 9 years, assistant-manager of Bank HaMizrachi, was arrested (and hit!) by Israeli policemen, along with 213 other protesters on Givat Dagan (Efrat). They had been passively resisting the government evacuation of a new 'settlement,' which was on land that the Israeli government had originally declared to be part of the land of Israel.
The 'protest-demonstration' was to show that we don't want to turn over any piece of the land of Israel to the Arabs. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin was part of the group which was jailed, along with other highly respectable people.
When my daughter-in-law called to tell me of my son's arrest, the only thing that came to mind for me to do was to say the translated version of Psalm 20 which Chabad had circulated via the e-mail two days previously.
Thank you, Chabad, for giving me the right 'tool' to use in my moment of distress.
P.S. Another sequel to my birthday party story. When I called Rabbi Stern to thank him for his class the day after, I had the pleasure of speaking with his wife. I told her how much the women enjoyed and learned from Rabbi Stern's class, and how so many commented that Rabbi Stern seemed to speak to us, not over or beneath us, as so many Israeli rabbis tend to do. Mrs. Stern said that her husband was just following the example of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Again, many thanks for being there -- just when I needed it. I, personally, am trying to include Psalm 20 in my morning davening. May all our prayers be answered soon,
To contact Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace e-mail to: email@example.com
Web Page is www.chabad.org
Increase in Prayer:
In the month of Elul we increase our prayers, with the knowledge that G-d is "closer" to us at this time and easier to approach. It is customary to add Psalm 27 which begins, "G-d is my light..." in the morning and afternoon prayers.
By David. The L-rd is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The L-rd is the strength of my life whom shall I dread? When evildoers approached me to devour my flesh, my oppressors and my foes, they stumbled and fell. If an army were to beleaguer me, my heart would not fear; if war were to arise against me, in this I trust.
One thing I have asked of the L-rd, this I seek, that I may dwell in the House of the L-rd all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of the L-rd, and to visit in His Sanctuary. For He will hide me in His tabernacle on a day of adversity; He will conceal me in the hidden places of His tent; He will lift me upon a rock.
And then my head will be raised above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of jubilation; I will sing and chant to the L-rd.
L-rd, hear my voice as I call; be gracious to me and answer me. In Your behalf my heart says, "Seek My countenance;" Your countenance, L-rd, I seek. Do not conceal Your countenance from me; do not cast aside Your servant in wrath; You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, G-d of my deliverance. Though my father and mother have forsaken me, the L-rd has taken me in.
L-rd, teach me Your way and lead me in the path of righteousness because of my watchful enemies. Do not give me over to the will of my oppressors, for there have risen against me false witnesses and they speak evil. [They would have crushed me] had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the L-rd in the land of the living.
Hope in the L-rd, be strong and let your heart be valiant, and hope in the L-rd.
15 Elul, 5739 (1979)
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming Concert on the eve of the 18th of Elul.
The date is particularly significant and auspicious for the occasion. For the month of Elul is dedicated to teshuva -- return to the roots and sources of Torah and mitzvot which are bound up with the real essence of every Jew.
The Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], founder of Chabad, explains in Tanya that the essential aspect of teshuva is in the sincerity of the heart, since it entails profound feelings of regret for past failures and the strongest resolve and commitment for the future. And it is well known that very often the heart strings can be touched more readily and effectively by an inspiring nigun [Chasidic melody] than by a word of admonishment.
Moreover, the concert is taking place on Chai [the 18th of] Elul ("Chai" for "life") -- the birthday of the two great luminaries, the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, who brought new life and inspiration to our Jewish people.
May the concert event be a great success in every respect, a source of lasting inspiration to all of you, and stimulating the activities of Chabad Lubavitch to strengthen Torah-true Yiddishkeit in the community at large.
Wishing you a kesiva vachasima tova for a good and sweet New Year.
8 Elul, 5723 (1963)
To the Participants in the Ground Breaking of the New Main Building in Camp Gan Israel and the Administration and Campers in particular:
It is with pleasure that I associate myself with you in the Ground Breaking celebration, taking place this coming Sunday, the 12th of Elul.
The scheduled time is auspicious for more than one reason, especially as it occurs within the week of the 18th of Elul.
For Chai Elul is the birthday of the two great luminaries, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, whose name Camp Gan Israel bears, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the "Alter Rebbe" and founder of Chabad, whose spirit is the guiding light of the camp.
I hope and pray that this auspicious occasion will stimulate the steady expansion of the camp, with a view to increasing its absorptive capacity. In this day and age, and in this country in particular, the educational benefits and lasting inspiration which Camp Gan Israel has to offer, should be made available to the maximum number of children.
In view of the fact that the Ground Breaking ceremony is expressly related to the occasion of this year's 150 yahrzeit Anniversary of the Alter Rebbe, I will quote one of his teachings, expressed in very few words, but containing a most profound and comprehensive doctrine:
Commenting on the teaching of our Sages, "He who saves one Jewish soul is deemed as if he saved the whole world," the Alter Rebbe said: "One must see a Jew in the state in which he appears in the root of roots on high, where every soul stands with all its generations of its descendants down to the Coming of Moshiach, the True Redeemer.
"Hence, when one renders a service to a Jew, the benefit is one that extends to all those souls, to the end of all generations." (Hayom Yom, 16th of Elul).
This brief but profound explanation inspires the desire to act kindly towards every Jew; it should certainly inspire a desire to help Camp Gan Israel, which is itself conducted with the spirit of this teaching. The help given to Camp Gan Israel is an everlasting benefit to every one of its campers, in body as well as soul. Such benefit, moreover, given to children as it is at an early age, is eventually multiplied manifold, as is readily understandable from the well-known analogy of a seed or sapling, in which a little extra timely care is incomparably rewarded when the seed or sapling becomes a fully grown fruit-bearing tree. It is a benefit which, in the words of the Alter Rebbe, is extended to all souls, to the end of all generations.
I send my prayerful wishes for the success of this occasion, and may it be soon possible to celebrate the completion of the new building. May G-d also grant that the good efforts of all participating be for them a channel through which to receive G-d's blessings, everyone according to his or her needs, materially and spiritually.
With the traditional blessing for a kesiva vachasima tova.
A weekend devoted to inspiring preparations for the upcoming Days of Awe will take place Sept. 15-17.
Hosted by the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the weekend is open to Jewish couples, families and singles and features thought-provoking lectures, discussions and workshops accompanied by delicious cuisine, amidst the unique joy of Chasidic family life, song and dance. For more info call (718) 953-1000.
THE VILLAGE VOICE
The September 5, 1995 issue of the Village Voice, (a New York City newspaper) had its front page feature article about "Jews in Cyberspace - My Life with the On-line Hasidim" by Donna Gaines.
The Writer who found Judaism once again by surfing on the Internet, shares her feelings and thoughts.
Chabad's Children of Chernobyl received the Israeli government's Award for Outstanding Service for its "unique humanitarian mission to rescue boys and girls from the contaminated area of Chernobyl and bring them to Israel."
The Children of Chernobyl Project celebrated its fifth anniversary in August and to date has airlifted to Israel 1,216 children from areas which were contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Gearing up for Rosh Hashana is fun for kids when they attend a hands- on "Shofar Factory" sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide.
At the shofar factory, children participate in preparing a ram's horn and turning it into a shofar that can be used on Rosh Hashana!
Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center to see if they are one of the hundreds of centers sponsoring a Shofar Factory. In the New York area, call Tzivos Hashem at (718) 467-6630.
The eighteenth of Elul -- "Chai" Elul -- is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov in the year 5458 (1698). The Hebrew letters for the year 5458 spell the word "nachat" which means tranquility, fulfillment or pleasure. The Previous Rebbe explains that this is no coincidence, for this is what the Baal Shem Tov brought both to G-d and to the Jewish people.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi was born in 5505 (1745). The Hebrew letters making up the year 5505 form the word "kehat" which is an acronym for the phrase, "the glorious rays of the Torah."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, whose first name, "Shneur" means "two lights" brought to the world the glorious rays of the two lights of Torah -- the revealed aspects of Torah ("nigleh") and the inner aspects of Torah ("penimiyut HaTorah--Chasidut").
Our spiritual service of the entire month of Elul is stock-taking for the previous year.
Beginning with the 18th of Elul, though, we concentrate each day on a different month. Thus, on Chai Elul, we review Tishrei, the first month of the Jewish year. We contemplate how we observed the High Holidays and how we celebrated Sukkot and Simchat Torah. On the 19th of Elul we do a mental review of the month of Cheshvan, a month devoid of holidays but filled with the extra "treasures" we picked up in Tishrei.
In this manner, on each day we take time out of our hectic schedules to see how and where we can improve in the future.
We obtain the energy and enthusiasm to do this soul-searching from the day of Chai Elul itself, which gives "chai" -- life -- vitality to all the days of Elul, those preceding the 18th and those following the 18th.
The Rebbe's custom has always been to hold a farbrengen, gathering, in honor of Chai Elul each year. This year, may we all merit to attend such a gathering once again in the Holy Temple with the Rebbe.
Good Yom Tov!
When you go out to wage war... G-d will deliver them into your hands and you will take captives ("shivyo") (Deut. 21:10)
The literal meaning of the word "shivyo" is "his captives," implying that we shall regain the enemy's capture, i.e., that which the enemy captured from us in the past.
One of the tasks of Moshiach in the early stages of his revelation is, in the words of Maimonides, "He will wage the battles of G-d and succeed." At the end of the Messianic battle, the Jewish people will find restored all the precious spoils that were taken by the nations during the exile, first and foremost among them the Holy Temple.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Teitzei, 5750)
When you build a new house you shall make a parapet for your roof... if anyone fall from it (Deut. 22:8)
When a couple marries and makes the transition from their parents' homes to their own, the need to earn a livelihood brings them into contact with many new things. They must therefore make a "parapet" beforehand, setting the proper limits and spiritual standards, to ensure that no harm comes from their involvement in worldly matters.
You shall surely lift him up (Deut. 22:4)
When a person helps his fellow Jew, he himself is thereby elevated. Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe, wrote that when one does a spiritual favor for another, "his mind and heart are purified one thousand-fold"; his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek, added that this is no exaggeration!
Remember what Amalek did... how he met you by the way and smote the hindmost of you, all that were feeble (Deut. 25: 17-18)
Amalek attacked only those Jews who had sinned and were expelled from the camp beyond the Clouds of Glory, thus no longer under their protection. From G-d's command, "Go out and wage war with Amalek," we see just how important it is to draw all Jews to Torah and Judaism, even those who are presently "outside the camp," in order to protect them from Amalek's assault.
Chai, the 18th of, Elul is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, the great tzadik who brought Chasidut to the modern world and initiated its dissemination which will bring about the Redemption. Here are some reflections on the tzadik and his wisdom:
The Baal Shem Tov (the Besht) was once asked, "Why is it important for Jews to travel to visit the tzadikim of their generation? Why isn't it sufficient to read the words of the great Sages?"
He replied with the following Scriptural verse: "G-d said to Moses, 'Write this down in a book and place it in Joshua's ears.'" It might seem, at first, to be sufficient to commit Torah teaching to writing, but we see that Moses was told to transmit it personally to his pupil, Joshua. Thus we see that when a Jew, with his own ears, hears Torah taught from the tzadik of his generation, it makes a lasting impression on him which influences his whole life.
To be in the presence of a tzadik has an impact on a person far greater than medicine. For a drug is capable of curing a person's illness, but it has no lasting impact on his future life. A visit to a tzadik, on the other hand, inspires in the person a holiness which endures long after he has returned home.
The Baal Shem Tov said, "Whoever spent a Shabbat with me, whoever ate at my table, has absorbed a portion of purity and sanctity which will protect him from evil desires long after he has departed from me."
Once the disciples of Reb Aharon Leib of Premizlan were sitting on a Friday afternoon, telling wondrous stories of the Baal Shem Tov.
Suddenly the door opened and Reb Aharon Leib entered from the adjoining room and spoke to them:
"Don't speak about the Baal Shem Tov's miracles, but rather his great piety and saintliness. Every Friday, when it approached midday, the Besht's heart began to pound and his insides would begin to rumble. Anyone standing near him would be aware of this noise, which was caused by his awe and trembling in the face of the approaching Shabbat."
Once the Baal Shem Tov visited a town where he was accorded the greatest honor and respect. He told the townspeople who gathered around him:
"You should know that when a person is honored and acclaimed by people, he is immediately brought to the attention of the Heavenly Court. All of his deeds are examined in the most exacting way to see if he is worthy of such honor. For one who is blessed with Divine wisdom and awe, it is a good thing, for he immediately examines his own deeds. His introspection causes him to do teshuva, and that makes all the honor he has received worthwhile.
It was once asked of the Rebbe of Ziditchov, "Why are these times different from previous ages? Since the Besht arrived in this world, he has drawn a huge multitude of followers to his teachings, which are essentially those of the 'Ari' (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria), whereas the Holy Ari did not attract such a large following. What is it in the Baal Shem Tov that has allowed him to have such great success in spreading his teachings?"
The Rebbe replied by way of a parable:
"Once, the people in a certain country were in need of a new leader. They had heard that there was an exceptional person living in a far- away land and they wondered if perhaps he might be the leader they were seeking. He was said to have great physical beauty as well as the noblest character -- indeed he was unique in his wonderful qualities. Still, they couldn't make up their minds about his worth until one man who had just returned from his land described what he had seen with his own eyes. Still, with his vivid descriptions, he succeeded in convincing only some of the citizens.
One wise person decided to take the initiative to go to that distant land and fetch the candidate back with him to his country. When the people of the land saw with their own eyes the marvelous qualities of the candidate, they unanimously rose and crowned him king.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his followers were the first to reveal Holy secrets in the Zohar, but this book was closed to all but the initiates. Then came the Holy Ari who spread these teachings amongst the populace. But he, too, attracted only the greatest scholars, for his writings were very lofty and difficult to apprehend. When the Baal Shem Tov came to this world, he succeeded in showing that G-dliness is inherent in even the tiniest speck of matter in this low world. The Besht taught us how to reach G-d through each of our deeds, thought and speech, even the most mundane, and so, he succeeded in bringing all people closer to the Creator.
In Elul we greet another Jew by wishing him a good and sweet year.. including the greatest good of all, the Future Redemption.