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Talk of the world as a global village is already passe. But discussing the world as a global home is a different twist altogether.
In truth, however, Judaism has been teaching for thousands of years that the world is in the process of becoming one, great big home. Home to G-d.
G-d created the world with a purpose: to make it into a "home" for Himself.
We all know what a home is. Home sweet home is a place where we feel totally comfortable, totally at ease. Where we can be ourselves without having to hide anything. With the coming of Moshiach the world will be G-d's home. No longer will G-dliness have to be hidden to a world that is unready or unable to appreciate it. The world and everything in it will be fitting receptors to this G-dliness and G-d will be able to "be Himself," so to speak, in the world of the Redemption.
We are the contractors, the builders, the electricians and the bricklayers of G-d's home. We are its plumbers, tilemen and woodworkers. But G-d is the owner and makes the final decisions.
The 613 mitzvot that G-d gave us are our tools, materials, supplies and instructions. Some are necessary for the foundation and others are for the finishing touches. Some are for the detail work and others are for the basics. But they are all in the original blueprint approved by the Owner.
After thousands of years of working on this great global home (and you thought you had the slowest contractor around!) it's finally complete.
We stand at the threshold of the Redemption and we need only open the door and enter.
But, some ask, how can we say that the home is complete as evil in all its forms and permutations still exists in the world? Maybe we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go!
Chasidic philosophy explains that good is cumulative whereas evil has no permanent substance. Goodness and holiness are eternal. Hence, when one fulfills a mitzva, it is eternal.
Evil, by contrast, has no true existence: it is no more than a concealment of G-dliness, the same G-dliness that will be revealed in all its glory in the world of the Redemption. Hence, when a person has been punished for his evil, or when he repents, the evil ceases to exist.
Considering, once more, the home in the process of being built, makes it easier to understand the temporary nature of evil as compared to the permanence of good. If a brick is not laid level, a pipe is installed incorrectly, or a wall is painted with a mistaken color, the wrong is righted -- the "evil" ceases to exist -- and the correction remains.
Since good is eternal, all the accumulated good of all the past generations still exists. And this is why now, specifically, even though superficial appearances might indicate that our generation, or the world, is not worthy, we will soon be privileged to open the door and walk over the threshold of G-d's home into the Redemption.
In the Torah portion of Vayechi, Yaakov blesses Yosef's two sons who were born in Egypt, Menashe and Efraim. These names were chosen by Yosef because they alluded to his circumstances in Egypt at the time when they were born.
Yosef named his firstborn Menashe, "For G-d has made me forget (nashani) all my troubles, and even my father's house." Far from home, Yosef was in danger of assimilating. Yet he remained connected to his people and to G-d. In choosing the name Menashe, Yosef indicated that he had, in fact, not forgotten his father.
Yosef named his second son Efraim, "For G-d has caused me to become fruitful (hifrani) in the land of my affliction." Not only have I not been influenced by the Egyptians, Yosef was saying, but precisely here, "in the land of my affliction," I established a family, became wealthy and made spiritual progress.
Menashe is symbolic of the bond Yosef shared with his father and the deep yearning he continued to feel for him.
Efraim is symbolic of Yosef's success in Egypt, a land that was vile and depraved.
Our situation in exile is similar to that of Yosef in Egypt. In exile, we are far from our Father's house -- the Holy Temple -- and G-dliness is concealed. What can we do to overcome our predicament? How are we to conduct ourselves during our sojourn in "Egypt"?
The answer is to learn from Yosef, and emulate him.
On the one hand we are obligated to remember our "Father's house," to yearn for the Holy Temple and G-d's closeness. A Jew must never resign himself to the exile. Rather, we must always look forward to the Redemption, continue to observe Torah and mitzvot, just as Yosef refused to acclimate himself to Egypt and named his son Menashe.
On the other hand we must always remember that it is precisely in exile, where poverty of the spirit prevails, that we must remain strong. Just as Yosef remained righteous and flourished in the land of his "affliction," so too must we spread Yiddishkeit and foster the belief in G-d precisely in a world that does not recognize His greatness.
When Yaakov blessed Yosef's sons he placed his right hand on Efraim's (and not Menashe's) head, saying, "His younger brother shall be greater than he." For even though Menashe was the firstborn, and the beginning of our service must be the longing for our Father's house, the main objective of our service in exile is expressed in the name Efraim: an increase in Torah and good deeds, thereby causing G-d's Name to be known in the world. By emphasizing this aspect we will merit G-d's light t o shine, even within the exile.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 15
Shmuel Chaim Reshevsky
by Shaindel Reshevsky
My father, Shmuel Chaim Reshevsky, of blessed memory, was an International Grandmaster of Chess and seven time United States Chess Champion. He was born in Ozorkov, Poland, and was known as a child prodigy and chess genius at the age of 4. He learned the game by observing his father, Yaakov, play. At the age of 6 he defeated high- ranking officials in simultaneous chess exhibitions, where he played against as many as 30 players at a time, moving quickly from board to board. He had a photo graphic memory for chess and could repeat all 30 games, move by move. He was known as "Shmulik der vunder kind" -- Shmuel the wonder child.
At the age of 9, my father came to America and gave chess exhibitions across the country, astounding the players and the audience. He gained the title of International Grandmaster at the age of 36, after winning a tournament in England.
My father was a descendant of Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz, who descended from the great Kabalist, the Arizal. He grew up in an Orthodox home, and throughout his life he was known as a man who observed Shabbat. As chess was his livelihood he refused to play it on Shabbat or Yom Tov.
[Ed.'s note: although it is permissible according to Jewish law to play chess on Shabbat, one is enjoined not to be involved with one's business matters on Shabbat.]
Even the anti-Semitic Russsian government had to change around the chess tournament schedule to accommodate the observance of Shabbat. This was a great Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d's name).
Whenever my father competed outside of New York City he always lost weight. He took along a suitcase of canned tuna and salmon and boxes of matza; his only substantial meals were on Shabbat, when he was the guest of an observant family.
My parents lived in Crown Heights before the Rebbe became Rebbe. During that time my father walked the Rebbe home from shul on Shabbat for nearly one and a half years. My father attended some farbrengens (Chasidic gatherings), and at one farbrengen the Rebbe spoke about chess and talked about my father.
During one tournament, when my father's game was not going well, he got up during a break, sent a telegram to the Rebbe asking for a blessing, and won the game. Whenever my father had to participate in a tournament out of New York or out of the country, he called the Rebbe's office and asked for the name, address and phone number of a family he could stay with for Shabbat.
When my father was 70 years old he asked the Rebbe if he should retire. The Rebbe said to continue playing because it was a Kiddush Hashem, and my father never retired. He wrote seven books on chess, was a chess columnist for the New York Times, Chess Life magazine, The Herald Tribune, World Journal Tribune and the Jewish Press. He was a television commentator during two World Chess Championships. My father was the only person ever to have beaten Bobby Fischer in a match.
After the age of 70 (with the Rebbe's blessing) in a Russian tournament he beat former World Champion, Vassily Smyslov, and the Russian audience of 1,000 people gave him a standing ovation. In 1986 he was inducted into the "United States Chess Hall of Fame." On his 80th birthday the United Chess Federation gave a party for him in a kosher restaurant, of course, and presented my father with a chess set and board and a beautifully worded tribute engraved on the box. Some people told my father that the fact that he was famous and still adhered to Torah and mitzvot inspired them to remain religious.
During a trip to play in a tournament in Caracas, Venezuela, my father's plane arrived late -- very close to Shabbat. He hailed a taxi to take him to his hotel and remained in the cab until it was almost Shabbat. At that point he got out of the cab, asked the driver for directions to his hotel and to meet him there with his belongings -- money, passport, clothes and food. He continued to walk the rest of the way. He met a Jewish man along the way who accompanied him to the hotel, and my father was pleased to discover that all of his luggage had arrived intact at the hotel.
My father passed away on 2 Nissan, 5752 (1992), at the age of 80. Even in his passing, my father caused a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. In the New York Times and Jewish newspapers, all of the obituaries stressed the fact that Shmuel Reshevsky was an Orthodox Jew who wouldn't work (play chess) on Shabbat and ate only kosher food. Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Study About Mitzvot
Can you imagine getting an overview of all the 613 mitzvot in the Torah just by studying for a few minutes each day? You can accomplish that by studying Maimonides' Mishne Torah or Sefer HaMitzvot ("Book of Mitzvot") established by the Rebbe over a decade ago.
In honor of the yahrtzeit of Maimonides (also known as Rambam), start today. "Not only should one study these works himself, he should also influence others to do so. (Similarly, an emphasis should be placed on the study of the final chapters of the Mishne Torah which deal with the Era of the Redemption.)" -- The Rebbe, 21 Tevet, 5752.
Mishne Torah and Sefer HaMitzvot, as well as a youth edition of Sefer HaMitzvot are available in English. To study the Mishne Torah or Sefer HaMitzvot daily lesson via telephone call (718) 953-6100 (except on Shabbat or Yom Tov). You can also access it on the internet at www.chabad.org or by subscribing to the D-3 series offered by email@example.com
[If you would like a description of the 613 Mitzvot, (248 positive and 365 negative) please send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org and in the body of the text or the subject line, please write "613" ]
PROUD STANCE AS JEWS
25th of Adar Sheini, 5744 (1984)
Mr. Shmuel Chaim Reshevsky Greeting and Blessing:
After the long interval since I heard from you directly (which is somewhat surprising), I was pleased to have been informed of your recent success in the recent International Tournament, as reported in the New York Times of March 18, 1984. I was doubly gratified because it was good to know that you continue to participate in International Tournaments and, especially, that you shared the first prize in the Tournament at Reykjavik.
Needless to say, the most gratifying point is that you continue to display a Kiddush Hashem Barabim [Public Sanctification of G-d's Name], insisting on your right not to play on the holy Shabbat and that your stance was recognized and accepted. What made it even more conspicuous is that there was another Jewish contestant from the USSR who attempted to be a stumbling block in your way, which made the Kiddush Hashem all the more brilliant.
May G-d grant that for many years to come, you will continue to use your great influence in the cause of Kiddush Hashem, and to do so with good health, with joy and gladness of heart, and in happy circumstances both materially and spiritually .
The above is very much in the spirit of Purim, which we observed just recently, as we read in the Megilla [Book of Esther] that although in those days, as nowadays, Jews were spread and scattered among the nations of the world, facing all kinds of difficulties as Jews, nevertheless, they clung to their Jewish way of life, as the Megilla says, "Their Laws were different from those of other peoples." However, because of their determined and proud stance as Jews, to quote the Megilla again, "Mordechai the Jew" and the "People of Mordechai" would not "bend their knees nor bow down" before anyone or anything that challenged their Jewish commitment - precisely this is what brought about that "For the Jews there was light, gladness, joy and honor," meaning also honor and admiration for the Jews on the part of their erstwhile enemies.
There is surely no need to elaborate to you on the above. I would only like to add, in connection with the quotation of "Light, joy, gladness, and honor," the explanation of our Sages that this includes also the inner meaning of these terms, namely, "Light - this is Torah," etc. In light of this, I'm sure that you have regular daily periods of Torah study, with additional time on Shabbat and Yom Tov [holidays]. And though this is a "must" for its own sake, it also increases light and goodness in the ordinary sense.
BILLBOARDS ON FLORIDA HIGHWAYS
Billboards on the Sunshine State's highways bring the Rebbe's message that "The Time of Your Redemption Has Arrived" to hundreds of thousands of motorists. The billboards were put up by the Yechi HaMelech organization based in Miami.
THE CHABAD SQUAD
The Young Leadership Division of The Shul of Bal Harbour (Miami) is hosting a Singles Shabbaton for ages 20s to 30s over the weekend of January 3 and 4. Reservations can be made by calling the Shul at (305) 868-1411.
Bound volumes of L'Chaim issues 353-405 (the eighth year of the L'Chaim publication) are now available by sending a check payable to LYO for $25 (plus $3 s&h) to: L'Chaim Books, 1408 President St. Bklyn, NY 11213. Limited quantities of the sixth and seventh year are still available.
This coming Monday (December 30) is the 20th of Tevet, the yahrzeit of Rabbi Moses Maimonides, otherwise known as the Rambam.
The Rambam lived in the 12th century and was a great philosopher, doctor, and Jewish scholar. But he is probably best remembered for his encyclopedic codification of all 613 commandants of the Torah in his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah.
In the Mishne Torah, the Rambam enumerates and details all of the 613 laws of the Torah. He places the laws relating to the Jewish king, and Moshiach, at the very end of his work. In the introduction to these laws he states that the Jews were commanded to fulfill three mitzvot upon conquering and entering the Land of Israel: To appoint a king; to kill the descendants of Amalek; to build G-d's Chosen House.
It would seem that these mitzvot should have been mentioned much earlier in his work if they were, in fact, so important! However, the Rambam chose to organize the Mishne Torah in this fashion to emphasize that the true and complete performance of all the mitzvot of the Torah will be attained only when a king rules over Israel. The Rambam then defines Moshiach as a king, who will not only redeem the Jews from exile, but also restore the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot to its complete state.
For many, this would seem a rather novel approach. Yet, the Torah states that "the world was created solely for Moshiach." This being the case, we certainly must do everything in our power to prepare ourselves for Moshiach's imminent arrival. What is within the power and reach of each individual, great and small? Good deeds, charity, studying concepts associated with Moshiach and the Redemption, fostering peace among family and friends, and actively anticipating his arrival each and every day.
This week's Torah portion speaks of Yaakov's death, yet it begins with "and Yaakov lived." The Hebrew word for "and he lived," vayechi, has the numerical value of 34. Yaakov lived for 147 years. Of those years, the ones he enjoyed most were the 17 years that Yosef lived at home before his brothers sold him, and the 17 years after Yaakov was reunited with Yosef until his passing, totalling 34 years.
He blessed Yosef saying, "The angel who redeemed me from all evil should bless the lads [Menashe and Ephraim]" (Gen. 48: 15-16)
Yaakov began by blessing Yosef, but ended up blessing Yosef's sons. Yaakov's blessing to Yosef was that his children, Menashe and Ephraim, would be righteous and G-d-fearing Jews whom Yosef could be proud of. This is the greatest blessing for a parent.
And Yosef died at the age of 110 years. (Gen. 50:26)
Previously the Torah states that "Yosef lived 110 years." To now state that he died at the age of 110 appears to be redundant. When Yosef was appointed viceroy over Egypt, Pharoah gave him an Egyptian name, "Tzafnat Paneach." However, nowhere do we find that Yosef used this name. Yosef knew that the one way to retain his Jewish identity was to keep his Jewish name. The Torah emphasizes that up to the very last day of his life, Yosef lived -- and died -- with his Jewish name.
(Sha'ar Bat Rabim)
Gather together (Gen. 49:1). Gather together (Gen.49:2).
Yaakov told his sons to gather together twice. This actually hints to the two times that all of the Jews would be gathered together from exile. The first time was when the Jews were brought back to Israel from the Babylonian Exile, and the second time will be when we are all brought back to Israel with the coming of Moshiach.
Reprinted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
One day, she awoke early with a nebulous feeling that something was very wrong. Maybe it was just that everything looked so desolate in the stark grayness of the morning. She got out of bed and looked around the one room dwelling. The children were sleeping soundly, huddled under the ragged blanket like a litter of kittens in the one bed they shared.
She never expected that her husband would leave, and without warning... She opened the heavy wooden door and allowed her eyes to wander across the empty yard. The fear in the pit of her stomach made her nauseous, and she walked inside and sat down on a chair. It was true -- he was gone.
The next day it was a little easier to think, to plan. She would travel to the Rebbe Rashab. Only the holy Rebbe would know how to help her out of this terrible situation. Sympathetic neighbors watched her little ones, and even lent her the money for the trip, and soon she was sitting nervously on the train traveling to the Rebbe's court.
When she alighted from the train, she had no trouble finding the Rebbe's synagogue, but gaining a private audience with the Rebbe was another thing altogether. Some had been waiting for days, some for weeks, some even longer. Finally, one man told her, "Your best chance is to write the Rebbe a letter. Explain the whole situation, and he will surely answer you."
The poor woman, now even more distraught, wrote the letter. The Rebbe's shamash (assistant) took it and promised to present it to the Rebbe at an opportune moment. Not more than a couple of days passed when the woman was called to the shamash . "Come quickly," she was told, "The Rebbe has answered your letter."
The woman came running to the Rebbe's residence. "Here," said the Rebbe's shamash, "here is your answer." She unfolded the sheet of paper and on it was written but one sentence: "Go to Warsaw."
What could it mean? she wondered. And how in the world would she get to Warsaw? It was wartime; she had no money; she had small children.
Perplexed, she returned to her town and showed the Rebbe's answer to the Chasidim there. "If the Rebbe says, 'Go to Warsaw,' then go to Warsaw you must," they concurred. They gathered money for the woman and soon she was sitting on the train to Warsaw.
When she arrived in the metropolis, she had no idea where to go or what to do, for the Rebbe had given her no further direction. Suddenly, she was stopped by a Chasid.
"What do you need?" he asked. She replied that she had come to find her husband. The Rebbe had sent her to Warsaw, but she had no clue where to begin her search. "Go to -- Street. There is a factory where many immigrants go to work. You will most likely find your husband there."
With nothing to lose, she made her way to that street and asked to speak to the foreman. He was a kind-hearted man and, after hearing her story, allowed her to search through the list of workers. Her eyes widened with shock as her husband's name leaped up at her from the page. She went to him and pleaded with him to return home with her. He remained adamant until she told him how she had managed to find him. If the Rebbe had sent his wife to him, then he would return home with her.
She decided it was only right to return to the Rebbe's court and thank him for the miracle he had done for her, and so she traveled there once more.
This time, as well, she was not permitted to enter the Rebbe's chambers. "Wait until the Rebbe comes out to pray, and then approach him," she was told. So, she waited by the door, mentally composing the words she would use to thank the Rebbe. Suddenly the door opened. Upon seeing the Rebbe's face she fell down in a dead faint.
The Chasidim surrounded her, all wanting to know what had happened. When she was revived she told them, "When I saw the Rebbe's face, I realized that the chasid who had suddenly appeared and helped me on the street in Warsaw was the Rebbe!" Word of this amazing happening spread like wildfire. The Chasidim calculated and figured and finally determined the exact time that this strange meeting had occurred.
It had been on a day when the Rebbe had not prayed publicly with the minyan as usual. The Chasidim had been concerned about his welfare, and one young student had gotten up the nerve to climb up a tree and peer into the Rebbe's room. He put his face near the window, and looked in. There stood the Rebbe, looking like nothing he had ever seen. The Rebbe's face was aflame and his eyes were peering into the distance, totally unseeing. The boy was so overcome by the sight that he lost his balance and fell to the ground.
This story was related by the one who had been that young student during World War I and had himself witnessed the events described here.
Elijah the Prophet refined his body to the extent that when he left this world, even his body ascended in the stormwind heavenwards. This is why Elijah specifically is the prophet connected with the tidings of the Redemption -- for in the future even man's flesh will be refined, to the point that "Together all flesh shall see that the mouth of G-d has spoken."
(Likutei Sichot, vol. 2)