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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin
You are here -- that's what the sign keeps telling us, when we look for directions in bus terminals, big buildings, amusement parks and airports.
But even while acknowledging our present location, we're actually being pulled in opposite directions. There's no real concern or interest in where we are. "X" marks our spot only as a reference point toward other destinations.
But are we truly "here" -- when we want to move elsewhere? We certainly don't intend to settle down by the map in the terminal lobby -- which leaves us neither here nor there.
This is a typical sign of our society, and herein lies our problem. It's all here today and gone tomorrow. You can't set down roots and develop relationships while moving on a treadmill.
Now, can we enjoy our job or location if it's only a stepping stone, as we look elsewhere for bigger and better things? No patience. Modern transients rush thorough life on the fast track with no sense of permanence until their epitaph finally proclaims: "Here lies..."
But why wait for the Hereafter? Let's start right here. Don't skim over this page to skip further on. Let's "here" it over and over again to appreciate where we're at right now. If not here, where?
But where do we go from here? Do we remain stuck in the same place forever and ever?
Here we go again! Of course, we should progress and move onward an upward. Yet, we must realize, that meanwhile, we are here to stay and make it worthwhile right where we are.
This isn't all just hearsay. G-d is here, there and everywhere, and the Baal Shem Tov taught that every step we take is by Divine Providence. Each pale we visit offers us a special mission and purpose to fulfill. The Torah carefully enumerates each station of the wandering Jews in the desert, whether it was only for a day or for many years.
You've probably already had it up to here by now, so here's the story: Shmerl, a poor small-town Jew, dreams of a treasure buried in the big city. He travels to the city, and tells someone about his dream. The fellow replies, "Strange! I just dreamt of a buried treasure under the house of Shmerl who lives in the shtetl." Shmerl goes back to find the treasure right in his own backyard!"
Rabbi Rubin is the director of Chabad of the Capital District, in Albany, NY
In this week's Torah portion, Vaeschanan, we learn of one of the Torah's positive commandments, which is to recite "Kriyas Shema," the central proclamation of our faith, twice each day.
The Torah specifies when we must say it: "when you lie down," i. e., at night, and "when you rise," i.e., during the day.
"Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One. And you shall love...and you shall speak of them...when you lie down and when you rise...and upon your gates."
With the declaration of "Shema Yisrael," the Jew testifies that G-d is One, and that nothing else exists except for Him.
The word echad, one, is composed of three letters: alef, chet and dalet.
The numerical equivalent of alef is one. G-d is alone and unique in the universe.
The numerical equivalent of chet is eight. Only G-d is King over all seven firmaments and the earth below.
The numerical equivalent of dalet is four. This expresses the concept that G-d is the sole Sovereign over all four directions: east, west, north and south.
By saying the "Shema," the Jew negates the independent existence of the world. He declares that all of creation -- the celestial spheres, the earth below and the four winds -- are completely nullified before Him. G-d is the One Who sustains and rules over them; without Him, they would not exist. G-d is One; there is nothing else but Him.
A Jew is obligated to recite the "Shema" by night and by day, two opposites that allude to the variety of situations and circumstances a Jew will encounter throughout his life.
Nighttime, in the allegorical sense, is a time of spiritual darkness, when G-d's light is hidden and concealed. At such times it is hard for the Jew to perceive G-dliness; his spiritual condition is as dark as night.
Daytime, by contrast, is a time when the sun illuminates. Symbolically, this alludes to the illumination of the Jew's soul, when G-dliness is readily perceived and apparent.
Yet regardless of one's spiritual condition, no matter if it is day or night, the Jew must always remember (and remind others) that the entire world is only G-dliness! G-d is the only King of the universe. G-d is One.
Indeed, man's function is to reveal G-d's oneness within creation, and the obligation to nullify the world in His presence is independent of our personal situation and circumstances.
"Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One... when you lie down and when you rise."
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 4
by Anne Gottleib
It was a dreary Friday morning in winter. The phone rang. I answered. "How do you make cholent?" she wanted to know. And the question brought tears to my eyes.
"Mazel Tov," I responded and proceeded to give her the recipe, both of us aware, of course, that the precise measurement of beans had little to do with the dish. It was what would lay beneath the food which counted.
You see, this, her first cholent, would symbolize her decision to embrace the world of Shabbat. With this pot of beans she would say to herself and the Jewish people that henceforth she would no longer light a fire on Shabbat -- that she needed a recipe for a meal which would cook all night, because she had taken this significant step.
And she wanted to let me know.
Just as I had wanted to let someone else know when I was ready for a pot of cholent. Back then, some four years ago, in that time before the classes and courses, before the conversations, the study and the practice, back when I leaned heavily on someone else, I, too, called for recipes. And there was someone who answered. There was a woman who understood more than my surface questions, an individual who led me gently through the maze of rituals, who gave me confidence. And it was she who gave me my first taste of cholent.
So I cried when I received the call. I cried with the joy at the evidence of continuity -- at a heritage which dated back three thousand years. I smiled as I gave her my recipe and listened while she thanked me profusely, just as I had thanked someone else four years ago.
Then I heard her ask how she could repay me for the help she thought I'd given -- just as I had wanted to repay another. And I answered with the answer that was given to me. I told her that her call was my reward. She said she did not understand.
"You will," I promised, "someday soon. When, on a dreary winter morning, your phone rings with someone wanting to know your recipe for cholent."
It's not that I'm a stickler for style. In truth, where clothing is concerned, I have no taste. I wear what is comfortable, convenient, accessible. I wear what I like -- a factor which may have contributed to my son's concept of acceptable attire.
"I'm ready," he announced, stomping loudly across the wooden floor. "How come nobody else is dressed?" His question was a statement of maturity, a show of self-sufficiency. He was letting me know that he had selected his outfit for shul and donned the clothes all by himself. At 7:02 a.m. on a Saturday morning, he was smiling up at me from an additional inch of height gained by the brown cowboy boots he had chosen to complement his navy blue sweat pants which puckered at the knee. "C'mon, hurry up," he commanded impatiently, "We're gonna be late. Let's go already."
I swallowed my urge to laugh and stared somberly at the child. "You certainly are growing up," I mustered. "I don't think your sister has even gotten out of bed yet."
He accepted my words as a compliment and strutted cheerfully into the kitchen where the noise of his heels could be heard throughout the house. The pride of having beaten everyone at the business of "getting dressed" and the beauty of his cowboy boots were overwhelming. He marched across the floor like a soldier on parade.
How could I tell him to change his clothes?
I stood before my closet, inspecting my own selection of garments, handling first one dress then another, distracted by the prospect of cowboy boots in shul. And those sweatpants were really out of the question. Still, I could not bear to dash his sense of accomplishment. I simply would not be the one to criticize his style.
Perhaps, I thought, I could turn the task around. Still formulating a plan, I called him to my room. "Hey, big boy," I greeted him, "since you're so good at getting dressed, how about helping me pick out my clothes?" He nodded, accepting the seriousness of the task.
"I was thinking of wearing this," I told him, removing an old, faded, somewhat wrinkled jeans skirt from the hanger.
"No," he said immediately. "Not that."
Then, I unearthed an ancient sweatshirt and held it up for him to see. "How about this?"
"No," he said. "No good."
I frowned. "Why not? Don't you think this sweatshirt is appropriate for shul?" I glanced casually at his sweatpants as I posed the question.
"No," he answered. "Not appropriate." He likes it when I use four syllable words in conversation with him. "I'll show you what to wear," he said. With a little manipulative engineering on my part, he gave me a choice of two dresses, both tasteful and both appropriate for shul.
"So these are all right?" I feigned surprise. He said they were. "And what about shoes?" I asked, grabbing a pair of worn sneakers from the closet floor. He shook his head and handed me the black high-heeled shoes he's seen me wear with the dresses. "These, Ma," he told me.
"Is this what I should wear because shul is a special place where people are supposed to get a little dressed up?" I wanted to know.
"Umm humm," he said. "Yup, Mom. That's how come you gotta wear a dress and shiny shoes."
"Oh," I said. "I understand. Thanks for helping me. I really appreciate it. And now, I better hurry." And off he went.
When I saw him next, he was wearing dress pants, a striped shirt, a sport coat and shoes.
I told him his attire was "particularly and indubitably appropriate for shul."
From Behind the Lines, by Anne Gotleib, Bristol, Rhein and Englander
Night-time Soul Nourishment
Beginning on the 15th of Av, the days become shorter and the nights longer. "The Talmud says that after the 15th of Av, when the nights are visibly longer, one should add more time for Torah study and as a result he will add years to his life. Similarly, there should be an increase in tzedaka within the framework of Jewish unity. It should be added that the attitude of joy should also permeate and encompass all of these good actions, and this will speed the transition of the day of mourning [Tisha B'Av] into a day of rejoicing."
(The Rebbe, 20 Av, 5747)
15th of Menachem Av, 5725 
To All Participants in the Dedication Exercises at Camp Gan Israel Linden, Michigan
This is to convey my prayerful wishes to all of you, and particularly to the families of the distinguished friends of the camp who will be honored on this occasion. The memorial to the late Zeev Hordes, as well as the other distinguished Jews whose memory will be honored, will surely provide visible symbols for their families and friends, to inspire and stimulate them to ever greater accomplishments.
I have chosen the 15th of Av as the date of this letter because of its special significance and also because of its proximity to the day of these dedication exercises.
Our sages tell us that the 15th day of Av was a very joyous festival in the olden days, especially for the younger generation, with particular emphasis on the religious ideals and values of our Jewish way of life.
Coming so soon after Tisha B'Av, the radical transition from a mood of sadness to that of joy is doubly significant. Firstly, it signifies that any sad interlude in Jewish life is only transitory, and is based on the principle of "descent for the purpose of ascent." In other words, any and all sad events in our history which are commemorated on the few sad days on our calendar, are backwards steps which are necessary for a greater forward leap.
Secondly, that the very transition from sadness to gladness intensifies the joy, and adds real quality to it, which could not be appreciated otherwise.
The message of these days is best applied in the efforts on behalf of our Jewish youth. All too often we hear about the "lost generation," or our "lost youth." It is therefore most gratifying to see your efforts to provide true guidance, direction and inspiration to the younger generation in your community and your environs. Your efforts have, with G-d's help, been fruitful in the past; I hope and pray they will continue in a growing measure of success in the future.
15th of Menachem Av, 5735 
I was pleased to receive the report about your activities, and may G-d grant that they should continue and expand with much hatzlacha [success].
In the present days, having concluded the Three Weeks, which are connected with sad events of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash [Holy Temple], and having entered the period of the Seven Weeks of Consolation, which bring us the good tidings of the forthcoming Geula [Redemption] and restoration of the Beit HaMikdash -- every action which is connected with the strengthening of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and with the special mitzva campaigns -- notably those most pertinent to Jewish women: candle-lighting, kashrut, and taharat hamishpacha [family purity] -- in particular, is especially significant.
For as mentioned in the well-known prayer "Umipnei Chataeinu," the only cause of the sad events of the past, the destruction and exile, was the neglect of Torah and mitzvot. Therefore, through rectifying and removing the cause, the effect will also be removed. This is why every activity to spread Yiddishkeit is so vital, especially the efforts to provide the right influence and proper chinuch [education] for Jewish daughters, since this is the way to raise generation after generation of fully committed Torah-true Jewish families, in an endless chain reaction.
I send my prayerful wishes to each and all participants in these endeavors, which are at the same time a wide channel to receive G-d's blessings also in all personal needs.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above.
TO KNOW AND TO CARE, vol. 2
The long-awaited second volume of To Know and To Care, contemporary Chasidic stories about the Rebbe, is a rare jewel. The stories paint a varied picture of the Rebbe's selfless values, his creative initiative, and his thrust towards outreach. It shows how people the world over continue to enhance their lives through developing a relationship with the Rebbe. Written by Eli Touger and published by Sichos in English. To order send $20 to S.I.E., 788 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213. (or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
EXPERIENCE A HAPPENING
A one week (7 night) Glatt Kosher/Cholov Yisrael cruise on one of Celebrity's 5 star ships will be sailing on January 11-18 1998 from Fort Lauderdale Florida to the Western Caribbean. It is a "Festival of Jewish Music at Sea" and a commemoration for "Jerusalem 3000". It is sponsored in part by American Express Travel, Chabad-Lubavitch of Florida and The American Association for the Advancement of Cantorial Arts., Inc. of Miami Beach, Florida. Lectures, Entertainment by world class Jewish Musicians and Cantors, as well as daily services. For more information write to: email@example.com and ask for "Cruise Information." (Costs are based on double occupancy from $1245-2284, depending on cabin size plus $131.00 per person for Port Tax. If you can afford it, it promises to be a special event.)
This Shabbat, the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, is called Shabbat Nachamu. It is thus called after this week's Haftora, which begins with the words, "Nachamu, nachamu ami, -- Take comfort, take comfort, My people."
Shabbat is the continuation and completion of the past week. Thus, eventhough during this week we commemorated the saddest event in Jewish history by fasting and mourning the loss of the Beis Hamikdash - our Holy Temple - the whole purpose of this week is to renew our hope and to be comforted that G-d's promise will be fulfilled and our Holy Temple will be rebuilt. Our sadness of Tisha B'Av should be replaced by the comfort of Shabbat Nachamu.
Our sadness is further alleviated by the upcoming date of Tu B'Av, the fifteenth day of Av. This is considered a joyous day for numerous reasons.
One reason concerns the generation of Jews that was forced to wander in the desert for forty years before entering the Land of Israel, due to their acceptance of the spies' false report about the Holy Land. Every year, on Tisha B'Av, members of this generation would die. On the fifteenth of Av, in the fortieth year of their wandering, this decree was lifted.
Also, during the era of the Roman Empire, the Romans attacked the Jews who resided in the city of Beitar and killed multitudes of men, women, and children. On Tu B'Av, the Romans finally allowed those Jews remaining in Beitar to give the murdered Jews a proper burial.
In the time of the Holy Temple, Tu B'Av was celebrated as a full festival. In our times, it is celebrated by making gatherings and increasing in Torah study, especially at night, as from this point on, the nights become longer.
Let us ask G-d to send Moshiach, so that the next Tisha B'Av will be a day of rejoicing in our Holy Temple, in an era when the lessons that can be derived from everything in the world will be openly revealed and acted upon.
Ben Zoma said: Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot. (Ethics 4:1)
The attainment of true wealth lies within a person's ability to be satisfied with his lot, regardless of that person's circumstances. Acquiring this skill is an attainable goal. It does not depend on actual fulfillment of one's desires, and can only be achieved when there is meaning to one's existence. Our commitment to the Torah can change the most miserable of fates into a meaningful existence.
(Ethics From Sinai)
Run to perform even an easy mitzva (Ethics 4:2)
The intent is not that we should merely run to perform a mitzva, but that we should observe the mitzvot with joy, vitality and vigor. Even a mitzva which appears easy and insignificant should be observed with enthusiasm and devotion.
For the reward of a mitzva is a mitzva, and the reward of a transgression is a transgression (Ethics 4:2)
Reward and punishment are not extraneous treatments given to those with a surplus of merits or sins; they are natural consequences of what we do. Do one mitzva, and from Heaven you will be aided to do more; commit a transgression, and opportunities to transgress further will be placed before you.
The reward one receives for obeying G-d's word is qualitatively different from the payment a laborer is rewarded for his exertions. A worker who plows and sows receives his salary from the owner of the field, yet the actual money was not created by him; it is not the direct result of his labors. This is not so, however, in the case of mitzvot. According to Chasidic philosophy, the mitzva itself creates the reward.
Rabbi Yonatan said: "Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty will ultimately fulfill it in wealth..." (Ethics 4:9)
Poverty is not necessarily measured in financial terms. On the contrary, our Sages commented that it is with regard to one's knowledge that one is defined as being rich or poor. And poverty in knowledge is relative. Just as a member of the middle-class is dwarfed by a magnate's wealth, so too, all of us feel impoverished when we realized the infinite scope of the Torah's wisdom. This sense of poverty should awaken a thirst which will motivate earnest and sincere effort in Torah study.
(Sichot Kodesh, Naso, 5746)
At his grandson's circumcision celebration, the great Chasidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-1810), recounted the following episode:
"This morning I arose very early to prepare myself to perform the brit mila of my dear grandchild. At daybreak I opened the window and saw a penetrating darkness in the heavens. As I wondered about the blackness before my eyes, it was made known to me that this very day a prince of Israel, the holy Tzadik, Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Sassov, had passed away.
"As I mourned for that master of Israel, I heard a voice cry out: 'Make way for Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib!'
"When Rabbi Moshe entered the celestial realms, the Tzadikim and Chasidim formed a joyous circle around him. Suddenly, he heard a voice reaching from one end of the world to the other. Intrigued, he began following it until he found himself at the gates of Gehinnom (Purgatory).
"Without waiting for permission, Rabbi Moshe entered Gehinnom. The guards saw him walking back and forth as if looking for somebody. They were certain that he had come there by mistake and they politely asked him to ascend to his proper place in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden).
"Rabbi Moshe said nothing. The guards repeated their request, but he remained silent and did not move. They didn't know whether to drive him out or permit him to remain. They decided to confer with the Heavenly Court, but even it was puzzled. Never had a Tzadik descended into Gehinnom of his own desire. Rabbi Moshe was summoned before the Throne of Glory where he made his request known.
"Rabbi Moshe began, 'Master of the World, You know how great is the mitzva of redeeming captives. I have occupied myself with this mitzva my entire life, and I have never differentiated between wicked captives and righteous captives. All were equally beloved by me, and I had no peace until I had succeeded in freeing them. Now that I have entered the World of Truth, I find that there are many captives here, too. I wish to fulfill this mitzva here, as well.
"'I will not leave Gehinnom until I have fulfilled this mitzva. So dear are Your commandments to me that I have observed them no matter what the place or time or penalty might be. If I cannot bring these wretched souls to freedom, I would rather remain with them in the fires of Gehinnom than to sit with the righteous and bask in the light of the Divine Presence!'
"Rabbi Moshe's words flew before the Throne of Glory, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, uttered the decision: 'Great are the Tzadikim who are ready to relinquish their share in the Gan Eden for the sake of others. Because this mitzva is so noble, let it be calculated how many people Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib redeemed during his lifetime, both they and their children, and their children's children until the end of time. That number he may redeem here, also.'
"The Book of Records was immediately brought, opened and read. The names of all those who had been redeemed by Rabbi Moshe were counted and their children and their children's children. The final figure arrived at was sixty-thousand souls from Gehinnom to Gan Eden.
"Rabbi Moshe began to walk through Gehinnom, looking into countless pits and caves where he found souls who had suffered for hundreds of years and who had long ago lost all hope of redemption. One by one he gathered them and when he was finished, he found their number to be exactly sixty-thousand. Column after column emerged from Gehinnom, marching with them at their head, until they arrived at Gan Eden.
"When all sixty thousand souls had entered, the gates were closed."
After recounting this story, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak named his little grandson Moshe Yehuda Leib and blessed him to grow up to emulate the holy Tzadik, Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib of Sassov.
From The Crown of Creation, by Chana Weisberg, published by Mosaic Press
Sound the great shofar for our freedom; raise a banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land. Blessed are You L-rd, who gathers the dispersed of Him people Israel.
(From the "Shmona Esrei" prayer said three times daily)