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"It is an ancient tradition that in every generation there is one Tzadik above all others who is the heart of all those alive on the face of the earth," writes Tzvi Freeman in his book Bringing Heaven Down to Earth.
"The Tzadik is the transparent channel through which all life flows on its way to the Creation and all its beings. The Tzadik is the seat of the megaconsicouness of all minds and all souls. The Tzadik is us and we are the Tzadik and in the Tzadik we are one.
"This is my gut feeling. The Rebbe is the heart.
"Then sometimes I look at the face of the Rebbe, and I think, 'This, my heart? But we are so distant! His world, my world... I am he and he is me?! If he is my own heart, then how do I feel such a stranger to him?!'
"But then, do you feel your heart beating within you? Most people will answer they don't and cannot, unless they search for a pulse somewhere. But isn't that absurd: Your entire body is incessantly throbbing in every limb and organ with the relentless pumping of the heart -- and you say you do not feel it? It is just that it is so close to you, so much you, that you cannot feel it, just as you do not notice your own nose in front of you.
"All events of body and mind reflect the nuances of the beating of the heart and of the life-giving blood that passes through it.
"All our searching for higher fulfillment, all our rejection of the established order, all our awaiting of 'the Aquarian Age' or 'the New Age' or whatever you want to call it -- all is an expression of the flow of life that comes to us through the Tzadik.
It has been evident to Jews throughout the ages that their leaders are spiritual giants. They were, and are, not "us-plus" so to speak, people who are merely more brilliant, more sensitive, insightful and capable of leadership than we. Rather their teachings and personal lives reveal them to be people carved from a different substance altogether. The awe they inspire in their people lies in their very tangible "humanness" yet simultaneous transcendence of the limitations of the physical world to which we are all subject.
At the Exodus from Egypt, the Children of Israel broke free of the constraints of over 200 years of servitude to Egyptian masters. For forty-nine days they traveled, until they finally reached Mount Sinai where G-d's Holy Torah was revealed to them and to all future generations.
This Friday, the tenth of Shevat, begins the 49th year of the Rebbe's leadership. The Jewish people have been journeying for nearly five decades together with the Rebbe. Having survived almost 2,000 years of exile, including the devastation of the Holocaust, we have been traveling steadily toward the universal revelation of G-dliness which will commence in the Final Redemption.
At the beginning of his leadership the Rebbe stated that ours is the last generation of exile and the first generation that will experience the Redemption. A number of years ago the Rebbe said that the time of the long-awaited Redemption has arrived and that we must ready ourselves to greet Moshiach through Torah study, mitzvot observance and good deeds. These words are words from the heart. And as our Sages teach, "Words that come from the heart enter the heart."
In this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, we read about the splitting of the Sea. This miracle prepared the Jewish people for the giving of the Torah and the Final Redemption.
Concerning the splitting of the sea, the Torah tells us about Nachshon ben Aminadav, who risked his life to jump into the Sea. It was only after Nachson entered the Sea that the waters parted and the Jews were able to proceed.
How could Nachshon disregard his life and jump into the sea? How could he not! For Nachshon knew that G-d had taken the Jewish people out of Egypt for the sole purpose of giving them His Torah at Mount Sinai. Nachshon was guided by the desire to advance toward the Torah. It mattered not to Nachshon that a body of water obstructed his path; he jumped into the Sea.
Faced with a seemingly impossible situation the Jewish people had been of several opinions. Nachshon, however, was uninterested in any of their "options" -- returning, waging battle or running away -- for he knew that none of this would bring them closer to Mount Sinai. He was also not interested in arguments or calculations. There was only one solution: to go forward to Mount Sinai. And so he did so, with great mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice).
The portion of Beshalach is generally read on the Shabbat preceeding or following the 10th of Shevat, the anniversary of the passing of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. The circumstances surrounding the splitting of the Sea contain a timeless lesson; so do the actions of the Previous Rebbe. For throughout his life the Previous Rebbe acted with mesirat nefesh and set an example for all future generations.
The Previous Rebbe did not specifically seek out mesirat nefesh; this was not his intent, as his sole objective was to spread Torah. The Rebbe didn't stop to consider if self-sacrifice was necessary, nor did he pay attention to the prevailing opinions and views of the other Jews of his time. To him, their arguments carried no weight at all. The only thing that motivated the Previous Rebbe was the need to get closer to Mount Sinai. Even if a "sea" stood in his way, he would jump in. What would happen next? That was G-d's concern, not his. This was immaterial to the Previous Rebbe. He simply did what he had to in order to reach Mount Sinai.
From this we learn a lesson to apply in our daily lives. Our function on earth is to serve G-d, to love His creations and bring them closer to Torah. Differences of opinion and approach are not our concern. Our only true goal is to draw nearer to Mount Sinai, and to do so without consideration for anything else.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 1
by Tzvi Freeman
No one rises above the earth by tugging at his own hairs. A prisoner cannot free himself from his prison. He needs first to bond with one who is already free.
And so, at an early age, I was looking for someone who could guide me -- a mentor, a guru. But who will be your guide when you beat your own path?
My path has always been like those of the deer in the forest -- skipping over, squeezing and breaking through, steering far from the clear highways that everyone else travels.
On my fifteenth birthday I dropped out of high school. The year before I had been on the honor roll, and this year I was the grade ten president -- but now I had no interest in following the established order.
When my parents made it clear that room and board were contingent on my completing high school, I found a tutorial college that allowed me to take my exams that spring. And so, I found myself two years ahead of the game. Free -- in my father's words -- to associate with the fringe members of our society.
These were the early 70s in Vancouver -- Canada's San Francisco. I gave classical guitar lessons and organized the "Anarchist Discussion Group" of the Vancouver Free University. I learned Tai Chi, yoga, became a strict vegetarian, and attended countless "Encounter Groups." I hitch-hiked around Canada, the U.S., Israel, Europe and the U.K. I found souls traveling and dabbling on every kind of path I never had imagined.
I returned with a broader mind, but still a craving empty soul. None of what I found was for me. When you search, it doesn't matter where you look -- the last thing you'll find is your own self.
I decided it was important to be able to do something well, and for me that would be music. I approached a well-known composer who lived in Vancouver for private lessons. She agreed, but after a few sessions, commanded one of her graduate st dents to take me by the hand and register me at the music college of the University of British Columbia. This was not the place I wanted to be, but I decided I would learn something. At the same time I began seriously practicing meditation, teaching yoga, and became fascinated with Lao Tse.
Nevertheless, my soul's stomach was as empty as ever. Perhaps, I wondered, what I need is to go off and hide in a Zen monastery for a few years. The conflict of spirituality and sensuality, the metaphysical and material career was ripping me apart. There was no real direction, only confusion. I remember praying with all my heart -- not for any answers, not for any revelation -- only that I should be able to talk heart to heart with my G-d, because life in such a complicated, convoluted world makes it very hard to talk sincerely with your G-d.
When a fish finds the ocean, it must dive in. When I first heard a talk of Chasidic mysticism, it didn't matter that I had no comprehension of most of what was being said. Rain comes as a stranger to a land parched for generations by drought, but the earth remembers. What to my mind was foreign, to my guts was home.
The first splash of native waters came from a traveling student of the Rebbe. I recall how he explained to me that our purpose was to perceive the G-dliness within every created thing. From between his words I perceived that there was much more. At least a few thousand years of collective wisdom and beauty.
I wanted to know who taught this stuff. I wanted it explained to me. They told me there was a Rebbe in New York. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe."
My first reaction was inspiration. I had to find out more about this man. After that, friends, relatives and acquaintances began to cool me off. They told me this was idol worship. They told me I was surrendering my power of thought and independence.
My intellect had to concur. Where was all my background in anarchist philosophy? After all, these were the reasons I had failed to follow any other guru or mentor more than a few steps. I did not want my mind taken away. I wanted my own path. I did not want to be swallowed alive by a larger ego.
That conflict continued for many years. There are some things you know inside, but the ego and all your rationalization refuses to allow that inner knowledge to take charge.
Nevertheless, today I find myself a chasid of the Rebbe and still my own self. The Rebbe just never matched the ego-consuming demagogue I had so much feared.
For one thing, the trappings were always conspicuously absent. No majestic flowing robes. No magnificent estate. No private jet. A modest home in good taste and a bare bones office. Nothing on the outside to distinguish him from any of his chasidim.
As for my rebellious spirit, in the Rebbe I found the ultimate rebel. I could even say, you don't submit to the Rebbe -- you rebel with him.
It's a long tradition of the Rebbes of Lubavitch to defy the monster the world feigns to be, to follow an inner knowledge, rather than the superficial perception of the flesh eyes.
In the 60s, the rest of the Jewish Establishment looked on in disdain at what was happening to their youth and cried, "Student unrest! Hippies and freaks! This is certainly a deranged and lost generation."
The Rebbe declared, "Finally the iceberg of America is beginning to melt! Finally its young people realize they do not have to conform! They have smashed the idols of their parents -- they need now only be led back to the living waters of their great-grandparents."
The Rebbe told his chasidim to go out and bring Jewish youth in touch with their roots. He was ridiculed for it for years. Only after the strategy began to work did those who had mocked him jump on the bandwagon as well.
The Rebbe took this radical attitude into his way of running things as well. Lubavitch became an organization where action came from the bottom up. Rarely, very rarely, did the Rebbe demand something specific be done. There were always suggestions. Chasidim were expected to take the initiative and do what they thought would work. Several times the Rebbe thwarted plans to create a rigid hierarchy of decision making within Lubavitch. Each person must find his mentor, and each mentor his mentor.
The Rebbe has been held prisoner too long in a little box of stereotype and preconception. People simply don't look in Brooklyn for modern day gurus -- not at a rabbi in 18th century clothing. Perhaps had he hailed from the mountains of Tibet or taught psychoanalysis at Berkeley.
A well-known author came for a private audience with the Rebbe. After he left the Rebbe's office, he turned to the Chasidim, and accused them, "You are thieves! You are stealing from the entire world! You have taken the Rebbe and made him exclusively your own, as though he were a Rebbe just for you Lubavitcher Chasidim. But the Rebbe is the Rebbe of the entire world!"
Reprinted from Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, 365 Meditations of the Rebbe - member.aol.com/tzvif
15 Shevat, 5758
Negative Mitzva 268: It is forbidden to eat more than allowed when harvesting crops as a hired worker. This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 23:25) "When you come into your neighbor's vineyard, then you may eat your fill of grapes at your desire, but you shall not put any in your container." This mitzva forbids a worker from taking more than a fair share. He may only eat enough grapes to satisfy his hunger. He is not allowed to gather grapes for himself take home or eat later.
12th of Shevat, 5734 
Mr. Mordechai Shoel Landow
Greeting and Blessing:
I just received your letter of January 30th, which arrived in close proximity to Yud Shevat [the tenth of Shevat], the Yahrzeit of my father-in-law of saintly memory.
Everything is, of course, by Divine Providence. However, sometimes this is not on the surface, and requires deep introspection, but at other times it may be right on the surface and ever conspicuous. Such is the case in regard to your letter and its timely arrival around Yud Shevat.
The immediate connection is, of course, the subject matter of your letter, which is chinuch [Jewish education], and which, as you know, was the object of my father-in-law's greatest interest, to which he had dedicated all his life, to the point of actual mesirat nefesh [utter self-sacrifice].
And, as my father-in-law often pointed out, the matter of chinuch, education, does not refer merely to children, but also to those who are "children" in regard to knowledge and experience of Torah and mitzvot. In other words, chinuch must be directed to Jews of all ages, to bring them closer to their Father in Heaven. I emphasize the word closer, because basically every Jew is really close to G-d, by virtue of his Divine soul which is part of G-dliness Above, and as the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism] underscored it "Mamash" ["actually"].
And even if by reason of external circumstances, the soul may be in a state of sleep, or suspended animation, it is written, "Though I am asleep, my heart is awake." There is no need for me to elaborate this to you, since this is some thing which you have personally experienced in your own life long ago and in helping awaken others, and have shown that you could do this with real mesirat nefesh.
I might add, however, that in evaluating the mesirat nefesh of my father-in-law of saintly memory, we can appreciate it better if we realize, that it meant for a person like him to tear himself away from his own profound studies of Torah and spiritual matters, in order to give of his time, energy and attention so that one more Jew should be able to learn aleph beit, in the plain sense, as well as aleph beit of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] which many an adult Jew had to begin.
I dare say that this kind of mesirat nefesh was perhaps even harder than placing his physical life in jeopardy for the sake of Yiddishkeit. For, surely, in the case of the Baal HaHilulo [the one whose yahrzeit is being commemorated], his soul -life and constant striving for spiritual perfection was uppermost. Herein too we can find something which is of practical instruction to each, and everyone of us. For, as has been mentioned on previous occasions, although none of us can compare to his stature and spiritual qualities and powers, we have the advantage that he has already trodden the path for us, and made it so much easier to follow in his footsteps.
DAILY AUDIO LECTURES
Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace has added a special feature to its website. Using the on demand "Vivo Format" visitors to the site are now able to listen to daily study lectures of the Tanya, (basic text of Chabad-Lubavitch Philosophy) ending with the Chassidic thought for the day from the "Hayom Yom". Additionally, the daily study lectures of the Rambam (Maimonides) are available. Set your browser to: www.chabad.org/luach.html for the frames/no frames pages.
In a renowned letter, the Baal Shem Tov describes an elevation of his soul to the chamber of Moshiach at which time he asked Moshiach when he would come. "When your teachings will become widely known in the world, and your wellsprings will be disseminated outward," Moshiach answered.
Thus, from its very beginning, bringing Moshiach has been an integral goal of the Chasidic movement.
From his earliest childhood, Moshiach and the Redemption were uppermost in the Rebbe's mind, as he once wrote: "From the day I went to cheder and even before that, there began to form in my mind a picture of the future Redemption, the Redemption of the Jewish people from their final exile..." Even before the age of three the Rebbe's young mind was already occupied with the Redemption. And this has been the Rebbe's focus ever since.
Preparing the world for Moshiach is thus integral to the entire Chasidic movement, particularly to Chabad-Lubavitch. Thus, once the Rebbe accepted the enormous responsibility of the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, he stated in no uncertain terms the ultimate purpose of his leadership:
"This is what is demanded of each and every one of us of the seventh generation -- and `All those who are seventh are cherished': Although the fact that we are in the seventh generation is not the result of our own choosing and our own service, and indeed in certain ways perhaps contrary to our will, nevertheless `All those who are seventh are cherished.' We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down G-d's presence -- moreover, the essence of G-d's presence -- within specifically our lowly world."
These words were spoken in the Rebbe's first public discourse on the tenth of Shevat, 5711 (1951). The Rebbe completed the discourse by saying, "May we merit to see and be together with the Rebbe, down here in a physical body and within our reach, and he will redeem us."
So it should be with us.
And He took off the wheel of their chariots, and He made them drive heavily (Exod. 14:25)
Had G-d removed all four wheels of their chariots, the horses could have exerted themselves and dragged the chariots on the ground. However, by removing only one wheel, G-d caused their ride to be turbulent and agonizing, with the chariots swaying from side to side.
(Sha'ar Bat Rabim)
And it was told to the King of Egypt that the people fled; Pharoah and his servants had a change of heart. (Ex. 14:5)
The children of Israel were originally destined to be slaves for 400 years in Egypt, but were only there for 210 years. The word "barach" - - "fled" has the numerical value of 210. When the Egyptians began to complain to Pharoah that the people "barach" -- that the Jews were there only 210 years -- again his heart hardened and he regretted sending out the Jewish people prematurely.
G-d made the sea dry land and the water split (Exod. 14:21)
According to the Talmud, pairing two people in marriage and earning a livelihood are as difficult as splitting the Sea. When the Jews saw the Egyptians chasing them, they formed a number of plans of action, one group favored a battle with the Egyptians, another group advised leaping into the sea, a third said to surrender and return to Egypt, yet another suggested fleeing into the wilderness. No one dreamt that the sea would split and they would march through on dry land.
Young people will often fantasize about their most suitable match, but very often one meets one's intended in a totally unanticipated way. Similarly, in earning one's livelihood, a person may make plans and calculations, but ultimately G-d provides him an unanticipated source of income.
(Harav Baruch Cohen)
From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
In 1995, Jeremy Jordan underwent extensive surgery. During his recovery, he developed a severe infection, which necessitated an additional operation.
His own surgeon was out of town at the time, and so, Dr. S. -- a man whom Jeremy had never met before -- would be performing the second surgery.
Dr. S. had Jeremy put under general anesthesia and began the operation. Then, while still on the operating table, Jeremy woke up! He felt no pain, and was aware of his surroundings. As he looked up at the ceiling, he saw a clear vision of the Rebbe. In this vision, the Rebbe told Jeremy that he wanted to give him a message for the doctor who was operating on him!
The Rebbe then told Jeremy to tell Dr. S. that if he began to put on tefillin every day, the difficulties he was experiencing with his daughter would cease. The Rebbe stressed that although something was very wrong with the man's daughter, it would be rectified if he performed this mitzva.
Jeremy told the Rebbe he would pass on the message. Imagine the consternation in the operating room when the "anesthetized" patient began to speak! The nurse told Dr. S. that the patient began to speak! The nurse told Dr. S. that the patient had awakened, and asked what she should do. Dr. S. replied that she should give him additional anesthesia.
Before this could be done, however, Jeremy spoke up and asked Dr. S. to come close so that he could see his face. Dr. S. complied, asking Jeremy if he was in any pain, and curious to know if his "unconscious" patient truly understood what was going on around him. Jeremy made it clear that he did.
Then Jeremy told the doctor: "You may think I'm crazy, but I have a message for you. Do you know who the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson is?"
Dr. S. replied, "I've heard of him, why?"
"Well," Jeremy continued. "He has just appeared to me in a vision and told me to tell you that the difficulties with your daughter will be solved if you put on tefillin every day."
The doctor was dumbfounded, but remembering where he was, he managed to say that the surgery was almost finished and that he would have Jeremy out of the operating room soon.
During the remainder of the procedure, Jeremy remained conscious, feeling a unique peace of mind as the Rebbe's words echoed in his thoughts.
While Jeremy was in the recovery room, Dr. S. came over and closed the curtain around the bed. He took Jeremy's hand in his own and, with tears in his eyes, whispered: "I believe you!
"The last time I was in a synagogue was at my bar mitzva. I hadn't prayed or acknowledged G-d since then. My daughter happens to be very ill. Since I am a physician, I feel doubly helpless that I can't help her.
"This morning, I prayed for the first time in over 30 years, pleading with G-d to heal her. And I added: 'If you really exist, please show me a sign.'
"Then you awoke during surgery and gave me that message from Rabbi Schneerson! It's incredible."
After this experience, Dr. S. purchased a pair of tefillin and began attending synagogue. Within weeks, his daughter recovered completely.
Reb Nachum Rabinovitz, one of the vintage Chasidim of Jerusalem, was once waiting for a private audience with the Rebbe. Among those waiting was a man, obviously wealthy, but wearing a morose and despondent expression.
A short while later, the man entered the Rebbe's room, and when he emerged, his expression had changed. His face beamed forth energy and vitality.
Curious about this abrupt shift in emotion, Reb Nachum inquired about the man's identity from the Rebbe's secretaries and arranged a meeting.
"Recently, my only son died," the man told Reb Nachum. "I felt that my life no longer had any purpose. I saw no value to my wealth or my position. I went to the Rebbe for solace and advice.
"The Rebbe asked me what my feelings would be if my son went overseas and was living in a foreign country from which I could be assured that all his needs were being met and he had no suffering at all.
"I answered that although the separation would be difficult to bear, I would be happy for my son.
"'And although he could not respond, if you could communicate with him and send packages to him,' the Rebbe continued, 'would you do so?'
"Of course," I answered.
"'This is precisely your present situation,' the Rebbe concluded.
'With every word of prayer you recite, you are sending a message to your son. And with every gift you make to charity or institution which you fund, you are sending a package to him. He cannot respond, but he appreciates your words and your gifts.'"
Reprinted from To Know and To Care, vol. 2, published by Sichos In English
At the present time, when the world trembles, when all the world shudders with the birth-pangs of Moshiach, for G-d has set fire to the walls of the Exile... it is the duty of every Jew, man and woman, old and young, to ask themselves: What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the birth-pangs of Moshiach, and to merit the total Redemption which will come through our righteous Moshiach?
(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe)