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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Every metropolitan city has its own unique character and flavor. S. Francisco, for instance, is known for its trolley cars, winding roads, fog and the Golden Gate Bridge. New York, the Big Apple, is considered the home of fashion, theaters, museums and high-society. It is also infamous for its dirty streets and sidewalks, more like the discarded core of the apple rather than the shiny piece of fruit itself.
Children drop candy wrappers, drivers throw trash out the window and home owners and apartment dwellers alike leave old appliances on the sidewalk. "Just put the washing machine near the street," the sanitation department workers inform other wise conscientious citizens. "We'll pick it up, eventually -- when we have room in the truck."
The Talmud tells the following story, quite appropriate for a discussion on litter:
A man was clearing the stones and rocks from his field. They were disturbing the growth of his produce. But, rather than disposing of the stones in a suitable area, he just did what was easiest for him: he threw them out onto the path in front of his property.
Passing by one day, as the landowner was clearing his field, was an old man who called out: "Oy, you fool! What are you doing? Why are you throwing stones from a place that isn't yours onto a place that is yours?!"
The landowner stopped his work for a moment and looked at who was speaking to him. Then he laughed and said, "You are the fool! What are you saying? The opposite is true. I am throwing stones from my land onto public property!"
The old man shook his head and passed by. Throughout the rest of the day, the fieldowner would remember the conversation of earlier in the day and break out in laughter. As he continued clearing his field and throwing stones onto the path, he thought of the stupidity of that passerby.
Not too long afterward, the landowner found himself burdened with a huge debt. In order to pay it, he had to sell his field after which he had to hire himself out as a laborer.
One day, as he was walking home from work, he began reminiscing about the good old days. Since he was not concentrating on the path in front of him, he tripped over a rock in the path and landed flat on his face! He just about managed to lift his bruised and aching body from the ground when he looked up and noticed where he was.
"Why, I'm right in front of my old fields," the once-proud landowner said aloud. And the stone that I just tripped over is undoubtedly one of the stones I threw out to clear my field so long ago! How right that old man was. This field from which I threw out stones is truly not mine any longer! And the path onto which I threw the stones belongs to me as it belongs to every person who passes over it. I myself caused this accident!"
We don't expect that anyone will trip over a candy wrapper, a cigarette butt or any other item of refuse unthinkingly tossed onto the sidewalk rather than into a the proper waste receptacle. We wouldn't dream of littering in our house, or letting guests or their children do so either. We should consider the whole of the great outdoors our home. For, truly, it is.
This week's Torah portion, Re'ei, speaks about a master's obligation to bestow gifts upon his servant when the latter's years of servitude are complete. "You shall furnish him liberally from your flocks, and of your threshing-floor, and of your wine press," the Torah states.
Maimonides classifies this obligation as falling under the category of charity--the gifts are in addition to the regular wages the master is required to pay.
Every facet of the Torah contains stores of wisdom for us to apply to our lives. The above verses are symbolic of the relationship between any two parties not on equal footing: The one on the higher level is always obligated to share his wealth and blessings with those who are less fortunate.
The terms "master" and "servant" may also be applied, in the spiritual sense, to the relationship between teacher and pupil. We see that this is not merely symbolic, as a student is required to serve his teacher in the same way a servant must attend his master. And a teacher's task is to instruct the pupil until the student grasps the concept on his own.
But what about concepts which are far beyond the ability of the student to comprehend, wisdom beyond the pupil's understanding? The commandment to bestow gifts above and beyond what is required applies here as well. A good teacher must ensure that his student acquires an appreciation of the deeper and more esoteric knowledge, in addition to the basic requirements of the syllabus. The teacher is obligated to share whatever knowledge he possesses with the student, who possesses less.
This principle also applies to the relationship between Jews who are more knowledgeable about Torah and mitzvot and those who are just beginning to learn about their heritage. It is not sufficient to impart only those Jewish concepts which are viewed as fundamental--the awesome depth and scope of Judaism must be shared as well.
A basic principle in Judaism is that G-d behaves towards man according to man's actions, measure for measure. When we share our wealth and bestow extra charity--both physical and spiritual--upon our fellow man, G-d responds in kind, granting us an abundance of His blessings.
For we are all G-d's servants, and He is the ultimate Master. The six thousand years of creation parallel the six years of servitude a servant must work; the seventh year parallels the freedom and redemption which follow--the Messianic Era and the Final Redemption.
By increasing our love for our fellow Jew and demonstrating that love with concrete actions, G-d will surely bestow an even greater measure of His infinite goodness upon us than ever before, with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Reprinted from the Connecticut Jewish Ledger
by Dorine Leogrande
Every Thursday, Rabbi Yosef Eisenbach goes to prison. His day begins at Garner Correctional Center, a new maximum security state prison in Newtown, Connecticut. The warden and a guard admit him past the iron vault-like gate and down many corridors to the chapel where two male Jewish inmates eagerly await his weekly visit.
This is one the young rabbi's "mitzva treks" to 21 state correctional and mental health facilities, part of the Tzedek Institute, a prison visitation program he established. Eisenbach is a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and believes that all Jews -- even those in prison have Jewish souls that must be nourished.
"I never ask the prisoners what crime they committed, because the goal is not to judge, but to spiritually heal," says Eisenbach, director of Chabad of Litchfield County.
After warm greetings, Eisenbach, 24, puts a kipa and a pair of tefilin on each inmate. The Rabbi then helps them say the blessings over the tefilin and the Shema.
The two men sit down at a small table and the rabbi teaches them about the Torah portion of the week. Eisenbach talks about the neshama (the soul) and how the Shechina (G-d's Divine Presence) rests on a group of ten Jews. The prisoners listen intently, absorbing the rabbi's words. "Carl" (not his real name) takes notes. "David" looks at the rabbi and says that his red kipa has been stolen during one of the prison's "shakedowns." He hoped the rabbi could bring him a new kipa soon.
The prison chaplain enters the room. She holds a file of Jewish study material, including a detailed chart of the Hebrew alef-bet that had been "approved" by the warden, along with other Jewish books and a Hebrew dictionary. The books were donated by The Aleph Institute, a national not-for-profit educational, humanitarian, and advocacy organization, which distributes free educational and religious materials to Jewish prisoners and has prison-visitation programs throughout the country. Aleph was founded by Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipsker, one of the Rebbe's emissaries in Florida.
Carl, a sailor who repaired and sold boats for a living, is in jail for drug dealing. He explains that he has recently been transferred to Garner from a prison in Cheshire. In Cheshire, he says he was physically assaulted by members of the Aryan Brotherhood Gang. The gang members said that since he was a "rich Jew," he had to "pay them in order to live on their block." The day following their "demand," Carl was attacked by them and subsequently transferred to Garner.
The rabbi's visits have greatly affected the lives of these two men. Carl says that he will carry his Jewish education with him forever. He adds, "The rabbi's visits and teachings have enhanced my knowledge and closeness to my heritage." Eisenbach's next stop is the Women's Federal Correction Facility in Danbury. There the rabbi meets with four Jewish women in "the camp," a part of the prison which holds 208 female inmates who have committed white-collar crimes.
Eisenbach meets with the four Jewish women, who are in prison for tax evasion or drug related activities, in the camp's chapel, a small cluttered room which is used by all prisoners.
When the class concludes, the four women agree that Thursday is the most important day of the week of them--the day the rabbi visits. The rest of the week, one inmate says with a smile, is like "Beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life here... prison life is a reminder we're Jews."
Mothers, grandmothers, wives, and business women prior to their incarceration, the women say they miss the days when they lived in a Jewish community and could go to synagogue where as one woman put it, "the community shared and gathered." One of the female inmates says that a synagogue Sisterhood group had once visited them, but acted "distant" and never came back.
Prisoners have sent Eisenbach letters, poems, made gifts for his wedding and hand sewn matza covers for his Seders. When a Jewish prisoner is released, he immediately connects them with a Chabad- Lubavitch emissary in their hometown. He's even found some of them jobs.
The Tzedek Institute provides and mails out two complimentary holiday cards, two menoras, and two holiday guides to two people of the prison's choice, such as family members or friends.
The organization provides family counseling, which many times is done over the phone long-distance for families of inmates who reside in other states. The counseling, Eisenbach said, gives them "a light at the end of the tunnel."
Eisenbach stated that he would like to see members of the Jewish community volunteer to visit Jewish prisoners to give them spiritual support and a sense of connection to the Jewish community.
Eisenbach brought West Hartford businessman Stuart Conn with him to visit a male inmate, an attorney who was recently incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Center. Conn said that the experience was, "very emotional" because the inmate, a man in his 60s, cried upon saying the Shema with Eisenbach. The inmate, whose grandparents were Orthodox Jews, said that the hadn't said the Shema since his bar mitzva.
For now, Rabbi Eisenbach will continue on his quest to bring Judaism to these isolated Jews.
As Carl says, "Despite his hectic schedule, he arrived like a strong gust of wind... a constant source of joy and information."
For more info write to: The Tzedek Institute On the Green PO Box 127 Litchfield, CT 06759.
[Additional access info on the Internet for services: The Aleph Institute has a home page - www.aleph-institute.org You can also access the home page of S. Barbara Chabad which provides Chaplaincy services to the incarcerated - www.sbchabad.org/ --YY ]
"The characteristic service of the month of Elul, which we bless this Shabbat, is stocktaking and personal evaluation. A Jew should appreciate Torah and mitzvot, not as an obligation which must be fulfilled, but as an expression of a love relationship with G-d. One should endeavor to explain this to his family (it will be easier to explain this concept to others after one experiences it himself. Conversely, explaining it to others will make this service easier to carry out oneself), the people with whom he is in contact, and other Jews whom he meets."
(The Rebbe, 27 Menachem Av, 5750-1990)
GOODNESS AS A MITZVA
Third Day of the Week of Shemini, 5741 
Many thanks for the rare copy of the T'NaCh [Jewish Bible] in Yiddish, printed in Amsterdam in 5436. I sincerely appreciate your thoughtfulness. The sefer [holy book] will certainly occupy an honored place in our Library. Thus you also have a share in the zechut harabim [public merit] that is associated with it.
May G-d grant you to continue doing good deeds for many, many years, in the spirit of the Torah which, as our Sages emphasize, is the real good--Lekach Tov.
Apropos of this, I may add, this acknowledgment is written on the day "twice blessed with ki tov [it was good]," meaning, according to our Sages, tov lashamayim v'tov labriyot [good for the Heavens and good for the creatures]. For it is not sufficient to do something good for a fellow Jew merely out of the goodness of one's heart, but it must be coupled with a sense of kedusha [holiness], as the fulfillment of a G-d-given mitzva, especially the mitzva of v'ahavta l're'acha kamocha [love of one's fellow Jew], the Great Principle of our Torah.
The above is also relevant to the sefer itself, which made the Yiddish translation of T'NaCh available to the Jewish masses, whose spoken language was Yiddish at that time, as it still is, of course. One can well imagine the tremendous effort that went into this task in those days, more than 360 years ago when a special government permit was required, as also the Censor's approval, getting expert Yiddish typesetters, painstakingly done by hand, not to mention the enormous financial outlay. Yet, despite all these difficulties, and this despite the fact that important Halachic seforim [books of Jewish law] were urgently needed to be printed, priority was given to this enormous undertaking in order to bring G-d's words to the many Jews who were not well versed in Chumash [the Five Books of Moses] and Nach [the Prophets and the Writings] in the original Holy Tongue.
Needless to say, this kind of good deed is doubly good, since for a Jew the spiritual is the source of material benevolence.
10th of Elul, 5718 
I received your letter of the 26th of Menachem Av, in which you write some highlights of your life, and the difficulties which you encounter in leading the way of life which a Jewish boy of your age should do, in accordance with our Torah, which is called Torat Chayim [Torah of Life].
You are doing very wisely in refraining from discussions with your father on this subject, especially, as you write, that your father in not in the best of health. Inasmuch as you write that you still have to attend high school, the question of where to learn later on will become actual only next year. This, therefore, is an added consideration in avoiding discussing the problem at this time.
Needless to say, that to graduate the high school at the Yeshiva can be done just as successfully as in a public school. Experience has shown that Yeshiva high schools have a high average. Besides, in a public high school there is a mixed crowd, and one might come in contact with undesirable friends, which is not the case in the yeshiva high school, where the atmosphere and companionship is on a different level altogether. It should not be difficult to find someone who would explain to your father these important considerations, and obtain his consent.
What has been said above concerns the ways and means of how to carry out your firm resolution to conduct your daily life as a Jewish boy of your age should. As for the resolution itself, there can be no doubt or question that this is the only proper and true resolution which is for your own good, as well as for the good of all those who are near and dear to you, inasmuch as the Torah and mitzvot were given by G-d, Who is the Creator of all the world, including man, and Who knows best what is good for the creatures.
As requested, I will remember you in prayer when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory. I suggest that you put aside a cent or two for tzedaka every weekday morning, which will stand you in good stead.
SAYING MAZAL TOV
For centuries, it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn both the birthing room and the cradle with Psalm 121 (Shir Lama'alot). The Psalm states our declaration of dependence upon the Creator for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. If you are expecting a child or know someone who is, you can get a free, beautiful, full color print of the Psalm by writing to LEFJME- Expectant Mother Offer, 1442 Union Street, Bklyn, NY 11213 or call (718)756-5700.
CHASIDUT BY THE SEA
Be'er Miriam presents "A Journey into Jewish Mysticism" every Wednesday through August 28 at the end of Pier 17 in Manhattan's South Street Seaport. The informal lecture/discussion series is from 8:00-9:30 p.m. and includes free refreshments and lots of food for thought. For more info call (718) 467-5519
This Shabbat we bless the month of Elul.
In Elul we prepare for the upcoming High Holidays by blowing the shofar each morning, having our mezuzot and tefilin checked to make sure they are still fit, being more careful about keeping kosher and saying special selichot (penitential prayers) toward the end of the month.
Why do we do all of this in the month of Elul? Can't it wait until we're closer to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur--most of us "work" better under pressure anyway?
These questions can be answered with a beautiful parable told by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement:
"Once each year, a very mighty king leaves his palace, his guards, his finery, and goes out in the field to meet with his subjects. At that time, they do not need to wait in long lines, go through security checks, be announced ceremoniously. They can speak with him without hesitation. When the king returns to his palace, his subjects will once again have to go through all kinds of protocol to meet with him. So, of course, his subjects make the most of the opportunity.
"During the month of Elul, G-d is "in the field." We don't need to go through all kinds of red tape to reach Him. We need only come out to meet Him, as it were, with a humble heart, and He will listen to us. He will accept our repentance and consider our requests most carefully. The king will soon be in the field. Make sure not to miss this opportunity."
And may we imminently merit the era when G-d will continuously be "in the field" the Messianic Era when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d like the waters cover the ocean."
Yehuda ben Taima said: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven.... May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d, and G-d of our fathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuild speedily in our days, and grant us our portion in Your Torah. (Ethics 5:20)
Bold as a leopard: A person must not refrain form fulfilling a mitzva because of others who scoff at him. Light as an eagle: This corresponds to the eyes. If one inadvertently comes across something which it is forbidden to look at, he should quickly close his eyes, for "the eye sees,' the heart desires, and his limbs complete the action." Swift as a deer: This corresponds to the legs, which should run toward good. Strong as a lion: This corresponds to the heart. Robust service of G-d is with, and in, the heart.
(Ba'al HaTurim & Orach Chaim)
Not only does Yehuda ben Taima deliver a nice sermon regarding alacrity, he himself follows his words with immediate action--by praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. G-d's will is that, "they shall make me a Mikdash, and I will dwell among them." He therefore prayed that the will of his Father in Heaven would be fulfilled speedily in his (our) days!
(Biurim l'Pirkei Avot)
He used to say: A five year old scripture; a ten year old-Mishna; a thirteen year old -- the mitzvot; a fifteen year old -- Talmud; an eighteen year old should marry; a twenty year old should pursue [a living]... --(Ethics 5:22)
When a boy reaches the age of thirteen years and one day, he is regarded as an adult. He is obligated to observe all the mitzvot of the Torah, and becomes liable for punishment. The passage from immaturity to maturity is on the day on which his holy soul completes its entry into him. (The soul begins its entry into the body with enhancement of the child's education in Torah and mitzvot. Our Sages decreed that we are obligated to begin this education from a young age).
(Shulchan Aruch HaRav)
Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin, a Chasidic Rebbe of the Ukraine, lived during the reign of Czar Nicholas. In those days, there were opponents to the Chasidic movement who did not hesitate to bring damaging accusations to the Russian Government. When an accusation of disloyalty of any Chasidic Rebbe reached the Czar, the Czar took it very seriously.
Once, when the Czar heard that the Rizhiner Rebbe did not recognize his authority, and, in fact, held him in contempt, the Czar dispatched a secret agent to Rizhin to ascertain the facts.
One of the high ranking advisors in the Royal Court was a renegade Jew, who readily agreed to act as a spy. He arrived in Rizhin, supposedly as a successful businessman. He made his way to the study hall, where he treated everyone to drinks and refreshments. After everyone had a number of "l'chaims," he began to talk about how his business ventures were being hampered by the troublesome government. He looked around, waiting to hear some of his listeners agree with him, but no one said a single word.
The spy kept up this pretense for several days, and yet, no one ever agreed with his condemnation of the Czar. When the "businessman" finally entered the Rebbe's room for his private audience, he began bewailing the fact that his business ventures were being unfairly taxed by the government.
Giving the visitor a penetrating look, the Rizhiner Rebbe responded with the following story:
There was once a Jewish innkeeper who lived in a small town, far away from other Jewish families. The innkeeper had a young son, Yosef, who, having no Jewish friends nearby, played with the handyman's son. The father arranged for a teacher to come and teach the son to read Hebrew, pray, and study Torah. The handyman's son, Stephan, used to sit in on those lessons.
Stephan showed such an interest in the Jewish studies that he attended every lesson. When Yosef was old enough to get married, the innkeeper arranged for a matchmaker to meet Yosef. Stephan was there with Yosef and remained present during the interview. When the matchmaker asked Yosef questions of Jewish knowledge, Stephan was always first with the answers.
When the innkeeper saw what was happening, he decided he had to separate Yosef from Stephan. He saw no other way than to discharge his handyman. The handyman protested that his son was old enough to go off on his own. To this the innkeeper agreed.
Stephan began to wander, pretending to be a Jewish orphan, knowing that kind Jews would befriend him. Whenever he went to a new town, he would go into the study hall, pick up a Talmud, and begin studying it. Someone would inevitably befriend the "poor orphan" and invite him to a meal.
Many years passed thus. One day Stephan reached a big city where there was a commotion going on. The custom of this city was to choose a new king every three years and that the king had to be a stranger. The citizens reasoned that such a king would thus have no favorites amongst the inhabitants and would rule with equal justice for all.
Stephan hurried off to the palace, presented himself as a candidate, passed all the tests and was crowned as the new king. Not long after being coronated, Stephan began issuing severe decrees against the Jews. Eventually he decreed that all Jews had to leave the kingdom within twelve months.
The chief rabbi of the city proclaimed a fast and ordered everyone into the synagogues for communal prayers. On the fourth day, the rabbi sent for the leading members of the Jewish community and told them it had been revealed to him in a dream that in a distant land, there was a young innkeeper who would be the one who could influence the king to annul his decree. To everyone's astonishment, it so happened that each member had the very same dream!
The young innkeeper was eventually found and agreed to return with them to see if he could help the Jewish community in any way.
The Jewish delegation and the innkeeper appeared before the king. When the king saw the innkeeper, he embraced him. "Don't you remember me, Yosef?" asked the king. "I am your old friend Stephan. Look what has become of me because I was forced to leave your home," he said with a chuckle.
"Now, what can I do for you?" he asked sincerely. Yosef asked the king to permit the Jews to remain in his kingdom.
"Believe me," said Stephan, "I have nothing against the Jews. They are good, kind people and are loyal to this country. But, every once in a while I get an overwhelming urge to persecute them. I don't know why."
The chief rabbi explained: "Our Torah teaches us that the hearts of kings and princes are in the hand of G-d. The way the king treats the Jews reflects their behavior toward G-d. That is why the Jews never pray for a new king. Because there is never any certainty that the new king will be any better..."
With this, the Rizhiner Rebbe looked straight into the eyes of his visitor and said, "Go and tell those who sent you here that all the accusations against Jews of being unfaithful to the king are false. Jews are always loyal citizens and pray for the welfare of the rulers and of the country in which they live."
A certain illustrious scholar once visited the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidut) and asked that he turn him into a chasid. "That I cannot do," replied the Alter Rebbe, "the frozen seas will be warmed up by Moshiach."