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Amidst headlines that scream out crime and its punishment, we read or hear a reminder that we have seen the last of winter and are "firmly" entrenched in spring.
Spring, the time when, unbeknownst to us, the crocuses are pushing their heads up through the cold earth, when sap -- someday to be syrup, is beginning to run in maple trees, when gardeners are calculating when to plant their seeds.
As we walk through our city streets, we see concrete and litter. Our minds and our lives seem ever so far away from spring, from farms and vegetable gardens and maple syrup.
It takes a person who is in tune with spring to recognize its onset, to notice -- even without the friendly reminder of the newscaster or calendar -- that the time for the spring season has arrived. The botanist and farmer know that the sap is running, though we don't see or hear it. The gardener knows when the daffodils and tulips will peak through and the farmer can describe in depth the secret, workings of the wheat kernel's genetic code.
One who is in touch and in harmony with nature can see the unseen, that which is not yet revealed to the naked eye.
Similarly, one who is in touch with and totally in harmony with G-d can see that which is unseen in the spirit of humanity and the spirit of the world.
Such a person is the Rebbe.
The Rebbe is guided by inspired insight in combination with encyclopedic Torah scholarship, and all his pronouncements are rooted in our Holy Torah. Time and again, it has been demonstrated that what was clear to the Rebbe at the outset became obvious to others with hindsight, decades later.
Before the Gulf War, the Rebbe began to quote the prophetic Midrash, which describes a terrible war in the Middle East but then concludes: "Moshiach will stand on the roof of the Holy Temple and proclaim, 'Humble ones: The time for your Redemption has arrived.' "
These words, quoted by the Rebbe, are a prophecy of Moshiach's imminent arrival, and that the time for the Redemption has arrived not only for the Jews but for all humankind. These words have spurred hundreds of thousands of Jews and non-Jews the world over to learn more about Moshiach and the Redemption, to do additional mitzvot, additional acts of goodness and kindness.
And the Rebbe can say that the time for the Redemption has arrived because the Rebbe sees that which is not yet revealed to our eyes.
Just weeks before the official declaration of war in the Persian Gulf, the Rebbe stated unequivocally, that there was no safer place in the world than the Land of Israel. And when 39 SCUDs fell on Israel, miraculously little damage was endured.
In 1985, the Rebbe told Dr. Herman Branover to relay to various persons in Russia the precise details of the unbelievable changes that were going to take there. When Branover related to the Rebbe that even some of his Chasidim in Russia were skeptical, the Rebbe requested that Branover contact them again, assuring them that these changes would indeed take place.
The realization of the Rebbe's words is now history. When Mikhael Gorbachev visited Israel, Branover told him what the Rebbe had said years earlier. Gorbachev was stunned: "I myself had no concrete plan for the future. I would like to meet this man who knew so much..."
Miracles are happening here and now. But the ultimate wonders of the days of Moshiach and the Redemption are, as the Rebbe emphasized and re-emphasized, soon to come.
On the verse "He tells His words to Jacob, His laws and ordinances to Israel" our Sages comment: "That which G-d does, He tells Israel to do." Conversely, G-d himself fulfills the same precepts He commands the Jewish people to fulfill. It follows, then, that on the night of the Passover seder G-d "reads" the Hagada along with us, albeit in a higher, more spiritual sense.
The Hagada begins with the words "This is the bread of affliction." This opening section makes three points:
- This is the bread of affliction (matza) that our forefathers ate in Egypt.
- Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Passover seder.
- This year we are here; next year in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year we will be free people.
The Jewish people are not alone in their exile; G-d is in exile with them. The inner meaning of exile and "affliction" is a lack of understanding and perception of G-dliness; indeed, the entire concept of exile is none other than the concealment of the true G-dliness that sustains the world.
G-d fills the entire universe; the reason we cannot see this openly is because the Divine Presence is in exile. Thus, "This is the bread of affliction" refers to the phenomenon of exile, "which our forefathers (avot -- symbolic, in Chasidic philosophy, of human understanding and intellect) ate in the land of Egypt". (Mitzrayim -- from the Hebrew meaning limitation, i.e., within the limitations imposed by the physical world.)
Next, G-d gives us His "recipe" for redemption: "Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat." I promise, G-d declares, that whoever is hungry for the truth, for the light of My holy Torah, will have his spiritual hunger sated.
"Whoever is in need, let him come." Even a person who is already knowledgeable and well-versed in Jewish teachings will be blessed with a richness of understanding, just as the Paschal sacrifice was eaten only after the meal, on a full stomach.
This "richness" leads to the third point: Even though we are now "here," in exile, "next year in the land of Israel" -- we will be in a state of redemption. Not that we will have to wait an entire year for Moshiach to come, G-d forbid, but the Redemption will occur "in the blink of an eye," and by this time next year we will have long since been "in the land of Israel."
"This year we are slaves, next year we will be free people." In the Messianic Era we will experience the ultimate liberation, for Moshiach will uncover the true and inner essence of every Jew, and the entire world will attain its ultimate freedom.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 3
Although the late Israeli President, Zalman Shazar obm, visited the Rebbe several times throughout his lifetime, one particular visit in the summer of 1966 was of special significance, as it was the first made in his official capacity as head of the Jewish state. Two more visits followed; his last visit to the Rebbe was in 1973, after his term in office had ended.
In the summer of 1966, at the invitation of their presidents, Zalman Shazar had set out on an extended trip to three South American countries: Uruguay, Chile and Brazil.
On his way back to Israel he stopped off in Washington to meet with President Lyndon Johnson, after which he was to continue on to New York, where he was slated to meet with a number of leaders of Jewish organizations. It was during this visit to New York that Mr. Shazar planned on visiting the Rebbe.
As Mr. Shazar well realized, paying a visit to the Rebbe was a controversial act, one which was sure to arouse intense opposition on the part of many in the Israeli government. President Shazar later related that after reaching New York, he had called the Rebbe's office and requested a meeting. "I don't care if it means that I won't be re-elected. I don't care if it's controversial. The only thing I'm concerned about is that it should not somehow damage the dignity of the State," Mr. Shazar related. The Rebbe informed the President he would consult his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, and give him his answer.
Rabbi Leibel Groner, one of the Rebbe's secretaries, recalls the day that Mr. Shazar called the Rebbe's office with the request for an audience:
"It was a Thursday; the Rebbe informed us that the next day, Friday, he would go to the Ohel. The Rebbe's stay at the Ohel was shorter than usual. When he returned, he asked us to tell Mr. Shazar that his father-in-law had said, 'No one ever goes away from Lubavitch.' Mr. Shazar immediately responded by saying that if so, he would definitely be coming to the Rebbe."
We find an account of the Israeli consulate's attempt to keep Mr. Shazar from meeting with the Rebbe in an Israeli weekly newspaper of 19 Menachem Av, 5726 (1966):
"It all started when the Israeli consulate was informed that President Zalman Shazar planned on visiting his spiritual mentor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, on the final leg of his official visit to South America. A flurry of activity commenced immediately.
"The first thing the Israeli consulate did was to contact the Rebbe's office and suggest that the Rebbe come to the Israeli President, and not the other way around. When they were told that the Rebbe does not generally leave his neighborhood and that no meetings are held outside of Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway (except for a few rare instances when meetings have been held in the Rebbe's home). The members of the consulate went so far as to try to convince the President himself: a hue and cry was raised that by Mr. Shazar going to the Rebbe instead of having the Rebbe come to him, the honor of the State of Israel was being compromised. [This is what prompted Mr. Shazar's initial question to the Rebbe about the damage to the dignity of the State]...
"Several members of the consulate then spread a rumor among the Israeli journalists in New York -- correspondents for the Israeli newspapers -- that President Shazar was ignoring diplomatic protocol by wishing to extend his stay in New York beyond the allotted time. No mention was made of why Mr. Shazar wanted to visit New York after his stopover in Washington. Nonetheless, the President stood firm, and insisted that a visit to the Rebbe be included in his schedule."
Nearly 20 years later, upon Mr. Shazar's passing, the Israeli newspaper Maariv wrote the following about that 1966 visit. "On the Saturday night of his stay in New York, the late President Zalman Shazar, a Chabad Chasid, paid a visit to the Lubavitch Rebbe. Even then there were many opponents of the presidency. But Zalman Shazar responded decisively to his detractors: "I knew I would be criticized... Another Israeli President might have chosen to attend the opera or go to a reception. I, however, prefer to go to the Rebbe."
The visit took place on Saturday evening. The decision to hold the meeting was made at the last minute -- after President Shazar remarked that it wasn't fair to "imprison" him, and that if his colleagues didn't allow him to go to the Rebbe, he would hail a taxi and go by himself.
During the first part of the meeting between the Rebbe and Mr. Shazar, there were some Israeli dignitaries and members of the Rebbe's secretariat who were present. One of these people later reported that Mr. Shazar informed the Rebbe that he was keeping up with the study schedule the Rebbe had suggested for him on his last visit, and mentioned the names of the people he studied with. He also told the Rebbe of his efforts to spread the study of Chasidut among children and said that he had wanted to move to a place where there were regular classes in Chasidut but that the location he chose wasn't considered 'presidential.' However, a new 'presidential palace' is currently under construction and it is directly across the street from a synagogue that holds regular classes in Chasidut!
The Rebbe handed Mr. Shazar a copy of a booklet containing a Chasidic discourse that had been written exactly 100 years previously and was about to be published. The Rebbe told Shazar it was being printed in honor of his visit and said that he was giving him the first copy.
Mr. Shazar said to the Rebbe, "There are some people who are not friends of the Land of Israel, among them --, as contrasted with the Rebbe, who loves Israel."
The Rebbe responded, "Inside, they also love Israel."
Everyone else then left the room and a private audience between Rebbe and Chasid, a true communing of souls, continued for an hour and a half. After the audience, the Rebbe led President Shazar to the smaller study hall on the first floor of 770 and gave him a tour of the premises, complete with explanations. When Mr. Shazar walked into the Rebbe's private office, the Rebbe pointed to his desk and said, "This desk has heard the cries of many Jews. I could not have brought it with me had I come to visit you."
President Shazar presented the Rebbe with a large box made of olive wood. It contained a parcel of letters written by the Rebbe Rashab (the Previous Rebbe's father). The letters, which had been part of the Previous Rebbe's library, had disappeared during the Holocaust. Years later they resurfaced in the public library of Warsaw, from where they were redeemed. The Rebbe kept this box on his desk for many years.
In a letter written on 17 Av, the Rebbe thanked Shazar for the visit and for the gift he had brought him and concluded, "I am indebted to you for the pleasure of our face-to-face meeting and the opportunity to speak with you in person, even though the time allotted to us was sorely inadequate to cover all the topics we touched upon -- how much more so all the topics we never got to, but will address in our future correspondence at the proper time."
From thirty days before a holiday we are enjoined to begin preparing for it by studying its laws. In addition, the Rebbe has always reminded us, beginning at least thirty days before the holiday of Passover, to make generous donations to Maot Chitim -- money for people toward their Passover holiday needs.
Free Translation of a Letter from the Rebbe
11 Nissan, 5731 
...The relation of Passover to the month of Spring has a deep significance:
Passover, the Season of Our Liberation, brought about a complete change from abject slavery to complete freedom, from utter darkness to brilliant light. This is also the kind of change which takes place in nature in the spring, when the earth awakens from its winter slumber and is released from the chains and restraints of the cold winter, to sprout and bloom until the stalks of grain begin to fill up.
Or, taking a detail: When from a seed after it had rotted away, there sprouts a new, living and growing crop. In both cases -- Passover and spring -- the change is not a gradual transition from one level to the next, but an extraordinary change, bearing no relation to the previous stage -- a change that creates a new being.
It has often been emphasized that every detail in Torah (meaning "instruction") conveys instruction and teaching; certainly a matter connected with a festival, and a comprehensive festival such as Passover, in particular.
One general instruction that may be derived from Passover, specifically from the connection of Yetziat Mitzrayim [the Exodus from Egypt] with the month of Spring, which is applicable to each and every Jew in his daily life, is the following: Human life, in general, is divided into two spheres: the personal life of the individual and his accomplishments and contribution to the world. In both of these there is the spiritual life and the physical life.
The task of the Jew is to "liberate" everything in the said spheres "from bondage to freedom," that is to say, to take all things out of their limitations and "elevate" them to spirituality, until every detail of daily life is made into an instrument of service to G-d.
Even such things which apparently he cannot change -- as, for example, the fact that G-d had created man in a way that he must depend on food and drink, etc. for survival -- he nevertheless has the power to transform the physical necessity into a new and incomparably higher thing: he eats for the purpose of being able to do good, to learn Torah and fulfill mitzvot, thus transforming the food into energy to serve G-d. Moreover, in the very act of eating he serves G-d, for it gives him an opportunity to make a blessing before eating, and after, and so forth.
We find something akin to the above in regard to the month of Spring: At first glance, there is nothing man can do about it. After all, the laws of nature were established by G-d ever since He created heaven and earth and subsequently ordained that "so long as the earth exists... the seasons of cold and heat, and summer and winter, shall not cease." Nevertheless, a Jew observes and watches for the month of Spring in order to "make a Passover to G-d your G-d."
In other words, in the phenomenon of spring he perceives and discerns G-d's immutable laws when nature releases its greatest powers -- that "G-d your G-d, brought you out of Egypt," in a most supernatural way.
In all spheres of one's daily life a person encounters conditions or situations that are "mitzrayim" -- in the sense of restraints and hindrances -- which tend to inhibit and restrain the Jew from developing in the fullest measure his true Jewish nature as a Torah- Jew.
The hindrances and limitations are both internal -- inborn traits and acquired habits; as well as external -- the influences of the environment. A Jew must free himself of these chains and direct his efforts towards serving G-d.
If, on reflection, a person finds that spiritually he is still on a very low level, so that he can hardly be expected to make a complete change from slavery to freedom and from darkness to a great light -- there is also in such a case a clear message from the festival of Passover.
For, as has been noted, Yetziat Mitzrayim was a change from one extreme to the other: beginning with abject bondage to the most depraved idol worshippers, the Jews were not only liberated from both physical slavery (hard labor) and spiritual slavery (idolatry), but soon afterward -- on the seventh day of Passover -- they were able to declare, "This is my G-d," as if pointing a finger; subsequently, they reached Mount Sinai, heard G-d Himself proclaim "I am G-d your G-d," and received the whole Torah, the Written as well as the Oral Torah -- an extraordinary transformation from one extreme to the other.
May G-d help every Jew, man and woman, in the midst of all our people Israel, to make full use of the powers which the Creator has given each of them to overcome all difficulties and hindrances -- to achieve a personal exodus from everything that is "mitzrayim," in order to attain true freedom, by attaching oneself to G-d through His Torah and His mitzvot...
Including the mitzva of remembering Yetziat Mitzrayim by day and by night, and from individual redemption to the collective redemption of the Jewish people as a whole, to merit the fulfillment of the prophecy, "As in the days of your liberation from Egypt, I will show you wonders," at the coming of our righteous Moshiach, speedily indeed.
There has always been one central theme in all of the Rebbe's talks: the Redemption. Throughout the years, the Rebbe suggested various projects to hasten the coming of Moshiach and to prepare for the eternal era of peace, prosperity and knowledge of G-d. But, upon declaring that "the time of the Redemption has arrived" in 5751 (1991), the Rebbe repeatedly stressed a number of practical and, of course, positive activities to further prepare ourselves and the world for Moshiach. We offer three of these suggestions to you and hope that we will all increase our activities in at least one of these areas in honor of the Rebbe's birthday.
"Since Moshiach is about to come a final effort is required that will bring Moshiach. Every individual -- man, woman and child -- should increase his Torah study in subjects that concern the Redemption.
This applies to the Written Torah and the Oral Torah -- in the Talmud, Midrashim as well as (and especially) in the mystical dimension of the Torah, beginning with the Zohar and particularly in Chasidut, especially as these topics are developed in the discourses and the Likutei Sichot of the leader of our generation...
This study is a foretaste and preparation for the study of the Torah of Moshiach... An increase in Torah study in these areas is the "straight way" to bring about the revelation and coming of Moshiach in reality.
(Shabbat Tazria-Metzora, 5751)
"The above-described study is not only a spiritual means of securing the speedy advent of Moshaich. Apart from this, and more importantly, it is a way of beginning to live one's life in the spirit of Moshiach and the Redemption -- to `live with the times' of the Days of Moshiach -- by having one's mind permeated with an understanding of the concepts of Moshiach and Redemption... Ultimately, the concepts will find expression in one's actual conduct -- in thought, words and deed -- in a way that befits this unique era in which we stand on the threshold of the Redemption."
(Shabbat Balak, 5751)
THE SOUND OF THE GREAT SHOFAR
The essays in the book The Sound of the Great Shofar are adapted from talks of the Rebbe from 5751-5752 (1991-1992). The wealth of concepts about Moshiach and the Redemption covered in this book include:
Helping to Bring Moshiach; Make this Place Eretz Yisroel; Living with the Redemption; Bringing Moshiach Now; Moshiach in Every Generation; Open Your Eyes.
After reading The Sound of the Great Shofar
, you will have a clear understanding of the main concepts expounded upon by the Rebbe in those years. Published by Sichos in English (718) 778-5436 or email@example.com
MOSHIACH: THE PRINCIPLE OF MOSHIACH AND THE MESSIANIC ERA
This slim volume by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet contains a tremendous wealth of the actual sources in the Bible, Talmud and Kabalah that deal with Moshiach and the Redemption. Published by Sichos in English.
FROM EXILE TO REDEMPTION
Compiled by Rabbi A.E. Friedman and translated by Rabbi Uri Kaploun, From Exile to Redemption contains excerpts from the teachings of the Chabad Rebbes on Moshiach and the Redemption. Read a short excerpt from this book before going to bed or over your morning coffee; you'll be surprised at how much you will learn. Published by Sichos in English
THE DAYS OF MOSHIACH
The Days of Moshiach takes the wealth of information on Moshiach and the Redemption that is scattered throughout Jewish teachings and presents it in an orderly fashion and in layman's terms. The short essays that comprise the book all of the basic questions that people have about Moshiach and the Redemption. A "must read" by Rabbi Menachem Brod. Available at Tzivos Hashem (718) 467-6630 fax (718) 467-8527
AS A NEW DAY BREAKS
As A New Day Breaks addresses itself to the trends affecting contemporary society as a setting for the ultimate Redemption. With chapters on topics such as "Chosen for What?" and "Kingship in Contemporary Society," the book helps the reader grapple with many commonly discussed concepts concerning Moshiach and the Redemption.
As A New Day Breaks encourages people to realize that the waves of change sweeping through our society and the imminence of the Redemption are interrelated. Published by Sichos in English.
COUNTDOWN TO MOSHIACH
Countdown to Moshiach, by Rabbi Shmuel Butman, answers 18 of the questions most frequently asked of Lubavitcher Chasidim on the subject of Moshiach. The answers, based on the teachings of the Rebbe as well as quotes from Biblical sources, are sure to aid the sincere inquirerer. Published by The International Campaign to Bring Moshiach, (718) 778-7000.
ANTICIPATING THE REDEMPTION
The seven Chasidic discourses in the book Anticipating the Redemption, represent classic treatments of Moshiach and the Redemption by the Rebbe including the dynamics of exile and Redemption, the spiritual transcendance which will characterize the Era of the Redemption, and the Resurrection of the Dead. Published by Sichos in English.
To Live and Live Again
To Live and Live Again gives an overview of the Revival of the Dead based on the teachings of Chabad Chasidism. Compiled by Rabbi N.D. Dubov, the book is an eye-opener into the fundamental Jewish principle of belief in the Resurrection of the Dead. Published by Sichos in English
THE CHOFETZ CHAIM ON AWAITING MOSHIACH
This book is a priceless collection of the writings of Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, known as the Chofetz Chaim, on the importance of awaiting and preparing for the Redemption. It contains essays and letters about the Redemption as well as the entire text of the Chofetz Chaim's famous Tzipita LeYeshua. Translated into English by Rabbi Moshe Miller and published by Targum Press/Feldheim Publishers.
AND HE WILL REDEEM US: MOSHIACH IN OUR TIMES
This book is for anyone who is interested in what the Rebbe said about Moshiach, including the identity of Moshiach, and what the Chasidim continue to say about the Rebbe and Moshiach. Included in this over 200-page book is also a 48-page photo essay of the Rebbe throughout the years. Published by Mendelsohn Press, (718) 467-1957 fax, (718) 778-5918.
THE WOLF SHALL LIE WITH THE LAMB
The Wolf Shall Lie with the Lamb: The Messiah in Chasidic Thought by Rabbi Shmuel Boteach of Oxford University is largely based on the teachings of the Rebbe. Written for an educated audience with minimal Jewish education, this book clarifies many misconceptions about Moshiach, the Resurrection of the Dead, and more. Published by Jason Aronson.
WHAT WILL THE WORLD BE LIKE?
What Will the World Be Like is a beautifully illustrated picture book that offers children an insight into what Jewish teachings, especially Midrashim, say about the Days of Moshiach. Written in rhyme by Adel Lebovics and illustrated by Norman Nodel, this book is fun to read again and again. Published by Hachai Publishing (718) 633-0100, fax (718) 633-0103.
LET'S GET READY
Let's Get Ready is a book for children about Moshiach. In a clear style and through numerous examples and analogies, Let's Get Ready helps teach children about Moshiach and the Redemption and answers their basic questions. Written by Malka Touger, this book will also aid adults in better understanding basic concepts about Moshiach. Published by Sichos in English.
WHEN MOSHIACH COMES
A delightfully illustrated book for young children that will help them imagine what mitzva they might be in the middle of doing when Moshiach comes. Artscroll Publishing
GETTING READY WITH YONA
An audiotape and activity/coloring book for children with a captivating story about Moshiach and what children can do to get ready for Redemption. Prepared by the Shluchim Office (718) 221-0500 fax (718) 221-0985.
Moshiach... It's good to know!
A two-part lecture series by Rabbi Manis Friedman. "It ain't over 'til the Cannibal loses his appetite," and "When the light goes on where will the darkness go?" To order call Beis Chana Tapes (718) 778-4270.
MOSHIACH series by Hadar HaTorah.
A five-part series by noted Chasidic scholars and educators dealing with the topics of The Coming of Moshiach, Revelations of Moshiach, Signs of the Messianic Period, and Who is Moshiach? To order call Hadar HaTorah Tapes (718) 735-0250, fax (718) 735-4455.
This series of tapes, by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg, is divided into three sets discussing the concept of Moshiach and the Redemption with an in-depth clarity of perception.
Some of the topics presented are "Moshiach: A Prophecy, a Torah Concept and a Mitzva"; "The Challenge in the Messianic Era," and "Living with Moshiach." To order contact Sichos in English.
Judaism teaches that everything in this world has a divine purpose; everything including Cyberspace. Dedicated to bringing our rich, Jewish heritage to the information superhighway, Chabad Lubavitch in Cyberspace is one of the most exciting and innovative ways to learn about Judaism. Appropriate for all ages and all levels of Jewish education. Contact them at: www.chabad.org
MOSHIACH INFORMATION CENTER
The Moshiach Information Center, at (718) 953-6168, contains numerous options in its computerized system. In English, Hebrew or Yiddish you can hear a different two-minute class each day about Moshiach, as well as answers to commonly-asked questions and quotes from Jewish scholars of previous generations about Moshiach and the Redemption. In the Yiddish section you can also listen to actual recordings of talks of the Rebbe.
The study programs available on Torah-on-the-Line include Chasidic philosophy, the Torah portion, stories of the Rebbe, insights into Moshiach, and Maimonides' Sefer HaMitzvot. A project of Sichos in English call (718) 953-6100 to access the center.
TZIVOS HASHEM SUPERPHONE
This telephone service especially for children can connect your children to inspiring Jewish stories, thoughts on Moshiach, the weekly Torah portion, even a computerized system that will allow them to figure out when their "Jewish" birthday is. Just dial (718) 467-7800 to hook into the superphone. Many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers have their own superphone systems, so call your local Chabad Center to find out.
"One should likewise upgrade one's meticulous observance of the mitzvot, particularly the mitzva of tzedaka which 'brings the Redemption near.' It would be well to make one's increased contributions with the intent that it hasten the Redemption. This intention in itself becomes part of one's study of subjects connected with the Redemption -- for this is a tangible study of the teaching of our Sages, `Great is tzedaka, for it brings the Redemption near.' "
(Shabbat Tazria-Metora, 5751)
When it comes to doing a practical mitzva, there are none more practical than tzedaka. Here are a few suggestions on how to make tzedaka a part of your life.
Getting tzedaka boxes
You can call charitable organizations and ask them to send you one of their "tzedaka boxes" if they have them. If not, generic tzedaka boxes can be purchased in many Judaica stores for just a few dollars. Of course, you can also purchase beautiful handcrafted, wood, ceramic, stone or metal tzedaka boxes; it all depends on your budget. Or you can take a jar, can or plastic container and designate it as a tzedaka box.
How many and where?
The Rebbe called for every child to have his or her own tzedaka box with his name written on it together with the words, "The earth and all its bounty is G-d's." The child can keep his tzedaka box in his room and should be encouraged to give of his own money (allowance, birthday money, Chanuka gelt) to tzedaka.
The Rebbe also suggested that a tzedaka box be placed in the kitchen where a few coins can be dropped in before preparing meals. This act will help us remember those who have less even at the very moment when we are taking care of our own needs.
In addition, the Rebbe strongly encouraged that in at least one place in the home a tzedaka box actually be fixed into a wall for the home to literally become a charitable home.
Suggestions for giving tzedaka
Tzedaka is a good habit. Give even just a few coins to tzedaka every day except Shabbat and holidays. It is a Jewish custom for women and girls to give extra tzedaka before lighting Shabbat and holiday candles.
Some people have a "quarter" or "dime" tzedaka box. Every time they get change, they put all of the quarters or dimes in the box. Before you know it, there is a sizable amount that can be donated to a worthy cause.
The Rebbe also suggested that employers give their employees money to be given to charity. Even if you don't own a business, you probably use the services of a "cleaning woman," babysitter, or other household help. Give them an extra dollar and tell them that the money is for poor people, or they can put it in one of your tzedaka boxes before they leave your house.
Some families have "meetings" to decide on a cause or organization for which they want to collect money. Everyone who visits their home is then asked to make a donation to that particular charity. Jewish law actually teaches that one who encourages others to give tzedaka has a greater reward than one who gives it! Give tzedaka with a smile!
"Simply put, it must be proclaimned and publicized everywhere, using words from the heart, that G-d tells every single Jew (through His servants the prophets) 'Look! I am placing before you a blessing!' and that literally today we will see the blessing of the true and complete Redemption with our physical eyes... Even a person who has not fully internalized the concept of the Redemption in his own mind should make efforts to spread this concept to others, beginning with his own family and circle of acquaintances."
(Shabbat Re'ei, 5751)
"And now here's something for you," you can tell the cashier as he gives you the receipt for your purchases. Present him with a "Good Card" designed for "all 6 billion of us." The Good Card, the size of a credit card, contains a message encouraging people to perform acts of goodness and kindness to make the world a better place and prepare for Moshiach. To order yours call Chabad House in Montreal at (514) 288-3130 fax, (514) 288-4574 or Tzivos Hashem (718)467-6630
Power Lunches Moshiach Style
Get your local Chabad Rabbi or Rebbetzin to lead a short class about Moshiach in your place of business or home. Or lead it yourself by purchasing materials listed in the "Study" section of this article and sharing what you've learned with your colleagues.
"I just read a great book"
Everyone's in the habit of sharing their book-finds with friends. Whether it's a best-selling novel or the latest self-help book, if we enjoyed it or got something out of it we want to share it with our friends. After you've read one of the books in the "Study" section share it with a friend whom you think will enjoy it.
SEND A POSTCARD
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"Every Jew -- man, woman and even child -- should augment his divine service in order to bring about the actual coming of our righteous Moshiach. One should not rely on others, nor should one pass on this responsibility to others; this is the task of every individual man and woman, and every individual has to fulfill it himself."
(Shabbat Shemini, 5751)
On the 11th of Nissan (falling this year on March 31), we will begin reciting the 95th chapter of Psalms in honor of the Rebbe's 95th year.
This Psalm is recited as the very first part of the Kabalat Shabbat Service welcoming the Sabbath: "L'Chu N'Ranena -- Come, let us sing to G-d..." Shabbat is referred to as a taste of the World to Come, and the World to Come is referred to as the day which is entirely Shabbat.
Thus, the significance of this Psalm being the Rebbe's new chapter cannot be minimized.
The commentator, Radak, explains that this Psalm refers to the times of Moshiach when the Jewish people will achieve a deeper awareness of G-d's omnipresence, as we are foretold, "the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d..."
Though the entire theme of this Psalm is the Messianic Era, let us delve into just a few of the verses which deal with it more specifically.
The Psalm beings, "Come, let us sing to the L-rd; let us raise our voices in jubilation to the Rock of our deliverance." The commentator Malbim explains, "Let us all recognize G-d as the source of our strength and salvation. Let us demonstrate our faith in a dramatic and public fashion, just as the shofar is sounded publicly to announce the coronation of a new king."
The third verse begins, "For the L-rd is a great G-d, and a great King over all supernal beings..." Radak comments on these words: "While Israel languishes in exile, there are those who dare to deny that G-d is G-d. But in the Messianic Era, G-d's presence will be clearly evident; then all will admit His greatness.
Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsh explains that the words, "a great King above all supernal beings" is of particular relevance to those Jews who may consider themselves subservient to other nations or governments.
The seventh verse reads: "For He is our G-d and we are the people that He tends, the flock under His guiding hand -- even this very day, if you would but hearken to His voice!" Radak explains, if we would only listen to G-d's commands, He would repeat the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt for us even this very day and bring us the long-awaited redemption.
But the words, "Even this very day, if you would but hearken to His voice," are much more powerful than one might consider at first glance. For these words contain the very same message Moshiach gave to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi when the rabbi asked Moshiach, "When are you coming?"
Moshiach answered, "Today!" When the day had passed and Moshiach had not come, Rabbi Yehoshua complained bitterly to Elijah the Prophet, "Moshiach told me he was coming today and he did not come!" Elijah explained, "Moshiach meant, 'Today, if you would but hearken to His voice.' "
If we hearken to G-d's voice, and to the voice of the prophet of our generation, the Rebbe, who has proclaimed, "The time of the Redemption has arrived -- we must get ready," then surely G-d will fulfill His promise to the Jewish people and this very day He will bring us to the long awaited Redemption.
The Torah commands us to be joyful on Shavuot -- "You shall rejoice before the L-rd your G-d," and on Sukkot -- "You shall be joyful before the L-rd your G-d," "You shall be happy" -- but there is no similar commandment on Passover. This is because an entire nation (Egypt) was punished; G-d said, "My handiwork is drowning in the Sea." Thus our joy on Passover is tinged with sadness and therefore incomplete.
During the year, the first letters of the Hebrew word "karpas" stand for "klal rishon peh sagur" -- "the first principle is to keep one's mouth closed." On Pesach, however, they stand for "klal rishon peh sach" -- "the first principle is to have a mouth that talks," i.e., to relate the story of the Exodus at the Passover seder.
Blessed is the Omnipresent One ("Makom," literally "Place")
Why is G-d referred to as "Place"? Because in truth, the world is "located" in G-d; G-d is not merely "located" in the world...
A Loaded Question
A Jew once came to his rabbi and asked if it was permissible to use milk instead of wine for the Four Cups. Apologetically he explained that he was too poor to afford wine, but the family owned a goat that produced plenty of milk. In answer, the rabbi reached into his pocket and gave the Jew some money. "Here," he said kindly, "take this and go purchase wine, meat and fish so your family can observe the holiday properly."
When the man had gone, the rabbi explained to his family why he had done this. "When he asked me if he could use milk instead of wine, I immediately understood he could not afford to buy meat, otherwise he would never dream of putting dairy products on the table. He was obviously in need of money for the other necessities of Passover as well..."
Reb Mordechai of Nadnorna once sent his regards through a messenger to the Liska Rav. "When you visit the Rav," he told the messenger, "tell him the following words: In the Shulchan Aruch of Rabbi Joseph Caro, when he begins his discussion of Passover, he writes, 'Thirty days before the festival begins, one should start to learn all the laws which relate to it.' Rabbi Moshe Isserles comments on that passage that it is customary to buy wheat to distribute to the needy so that they will also have matzo to eat.
His comment presents a problem, for a sage never introduces an unrelated topic to a discussion of the law. So, now I will explain what he meant: He was telling us that it doesn't matter how much you expound and discuss the philosophical concepts of Passover, just make sure that you buy wheat for the needy amongst you."
When the messenger arrived at the home of the Liska Rav he immediately told him what Reb Mordechai had said. The Rav was dumbfounded. "Every year when I prepare my Passover sermon I come to the words of Rabbi Moshe Isserles and I am puzzled. Now I understand the apparent difficulty."
That same year, just hours before the holiday was to commence, a poor woman came to the Liska Rav weeping profusely because she had no matzos for the festival.
Everyone was busily engaged in the last efforts to prepare for the holiday, and so the Rav himself took his sons-in-law and daughters and began to bake matzos for the poor woman. Of course, when the townspeople saw their rabbi and his family engaged in baking, they also pitched in to help. In less than an hour, the woman had all the matzos she needed for the holiday.
One year, while a group of Belzer Chasidim were drawing water for the baking of matzos for the festival of Passover, they wished their rebbe the traditional blessing recited at the end of the Seder, "Next year in Jerusalem!"
But the rebbe rebuked them: "Why do you say 'next year'? Don't we wait for and anticipate Moshiach every moment? We should believe with complete faith that this very water which we are drawing now will be used to bake matzo tomorrow, on the eve of Passover, in Jerusalem, and that we will enjoy the Seder there!"
A renowned businessman by the name of Heilprin was privy to the doings of the nobility. Through his contacts he had heard that a certain aristocrat threatened that if the Jews didn't give him 20,000 rubles by the gentile holiday, he would punish them with terrible edicts. He immediately posted a letter to the holy tzadik Reb Aharon of Chernobyl requesting that he and his brothers, also notable scholars and rebbes, exert themselves to raise the enormous sum.
The response of the tzadik amazed everyone. When he read Heilprin's letter he said simply, "Why is he bothering me with these fantasies?" The rebbe's secretary was shocked, "But Rebbe, this is a grave matter for all the Jews!"
The tzadik, however, paid no attention. Heilprin dispatched a messenger to speak directly to Reb Aharon, but the messenger received the same response.
"Please, Rebbe, give me something in writing that I can present to my employer, or else he may refuse to believe that I even saw you." The rebbe agreed and told him, "Go back to your employer and tell him to worry about business and forget about this thing."
The matter of the nobleman's threat came to the ears of Reb Aharon's brother, Reb Yitzchak of Skver, and he also contacted Reb Aharon, asking him to make every effort to collect the enormous sum of money. Reb Aharon's response did not change. The morning of Passover arrived. The Jews of Chernobyl had an honored custom of bringing their leftover leaven to the tzadik who would take all of the chametz and throw it into a great fire. This year the rebbe took the bowl which contained his own chametz and threw the entire contents quickly into the fire, saying to the chasid who had carried the bowl, "My brothers think that evil edicts are abolished with money, but that is not true. They are abolished thus."
The chasid looked puzzled. What had the rebbe meant to say, he wondered, for it was not clear at all. The rebbe continued, "Do you remember the words of the hymn that is recited on the Shabbat before Passover? There is one verse that says, 'That is to say, by the sixth hour to burn the chametz, why are we bid? To recall Divine haste, of edicts to be rid.'
Relief and amazement were experienced by every Jew when the news spread that the nobleman who hung the edict over the heads of the Jews had suddenly died, and with him his terrible threat.
"It was the custom of the Baal Shem Tov to partake of an extra meal on the last day of Passover. This meal was known as the "Meal of Moshiach," for on this day the radiance of Moshiach is openly revealed.
Partaking of this meal is intended to draw down the radiance of Moshiach in every aspect of one's daily life throughout the year.
Within every Jew there resides a spark of Moshiach. There is thus no Jew who does not have a connection with the revelation of the radiance of Moshiach, and with the festival meal held in his honor.