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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Standing near your front door you overhear someone exclaiming in surprise, "These trees blossomed overnight. I'm sure the flowers weren't here yesterday."
You wonder to yourself, "Hmm, were the flowers there yesterday? They couldn't have appeared overnight. Maybe I just didn't notice them!"
The next time, it's you wondering how that house on the corner lot that's been empty for years suddenly appeared. It seems to have materialized from nowhere. Why, you pass this way everyday and never noticed it before.
As you go down the aisles of the supermarket with your shopping list in hand, you stop in front of the coffee. "When did coffee get so expensive," you gasp. "Maybe it was El Nino," you mutter. Or maybe you just buy coffee so infrequently that you never noticed the prices getting higher.
Night descends slowly, though suddenly you notice that it is no longer light outside. Light creeps through your window, day dawns. But didn't darkness enveloped the world just moments before?
This phenomenon is common to many of life's experiences; though taking place over hours, weeks, months or even over the course of years, they seem to suddenly be manifest in their completeness before our very eyes.
The visual and verbal image many have for the Messianic Era is the "dawning" of a new age, a better world, a perfect world. Not surprisingly, sunrises seem an appropriate illustration of this concept.
Many Jewish sources discuss how the Messianic Era will materialize: Moshiach will come riding on a donkey or on clouds of glory; G-d promises that the Redemption of the Jewish people and the entire world will come "in its time" but that He will "hasten it."; The Talmud tells us that if we see certain behavior and attitudes pervading society (all of which are prevalent today) we should "listen for the footsteps of Moshiach." The Rebbe declared that the time of the Redemption has arrived, if we open our eyes we can see that the table is literally set for the Messianic banquet, all we need to do is greet Moshiach. Yet, we have yet to step over the threshold and into the actual Redemption.
There seem to be contradictions between the sources, even within a particular source, because the movement toward the Redemption is not necessarily perceived. But it's happening.
Since the creation of the world nearly 6,000 years ago, when the spirit of G-d hovered over the waters (and as the commentaries explain, the "spirit" is that of Moshiach) we have been moving toward Moshiach and the Redemption. The time for the Redemption, as the Rebbe stated, has arrived. And the Rebbe sees the dawning (not just the day but the actual process of dawning) of the Redemption with a clarity of perception and vision that most of us lack. What we can and must do it to adjust ourselves now to this new era. We can do this by incorporating into our lives at this very moment how we will naturally be living very soon: performing additional acts of goodness and kindness; studying more Torah; experiencing Jewish living more fully; trying to see G-d's hand everywhere.
The name of this week's Torah reading, Emor, contains a lesson for every Jew. "Emor -- Say" the Torah commands every Jew. The power of speech entails a certain responsibility we must always be aware of every time we open our mouths.
The Midrash explains that all of G-d's utterances are amarot tehorot, "pure statements." Whatever G-d says comes into being, unlike the statements of a fleshly king, who may promise the world but not necessarily fulfill his pledge. G-d is the essence of truth, and His utterances endure forever.
As every Jew is intimately connected to G-d, his statements share this same quality of endurance. Every Jew must therefore be extremely careful when he speaks, and refrain from saying anything negative about his fellow Jew.
The Torah portion of Emor teaches us to speak only positively about other Jews. As Maimonides puts it, "It is a mitzva to love each and every Jew...therefore, one must speak [only] of his praise."
Maimonides writes that a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) "extols the virtue of his fellow and does not denigrate him." Every Jew is similarly obligated to say only kind things about others, and not, G-d forbid, speak evil of his fellow man.
Even if we see a Jew doing something wrong we must always judge him favorably and try to understand what caused him to sin. We must never defame his character or mention his transgression.
Just as G-d's utterances are "pure," abiding forever, so too do our positive statements about other Jews exert a lasting and powerful influence. The very act of praising another Jew serves to reveal the innate good that is hidden inside him, and causes him to want to live up to the words of praise.
Emor is read during sefirat ha'omer, the counting of the omer. These days are a period of mourning for the 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva who passed away because they did not treat each other with the proper respect.
Counting the omer reminds us to stop speaking about other Jews in an unfavorable light. Similarly, Emor reminds us to speak favorably about our fellow Jews.
"Emor!" the Torah enjoins us. Say only good about another person!
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 27
Rabbi Menachem Shmuel Dovid HaLevi Raichik of blessed memory
With thanks to the Lubavitch News Service.
(Editor's note: This past February, Rabbi Raichik, personal emissary of both the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe, passed away. Having had the privilege of being in Rabbi Raichik's presence on numerous occasions, of sitting in the Raichik home and hearing the pearls of wisdom of Rebbetzin Raichik, and of being friendly with some of their children, I know that no article can do justice to him. However, it would be a grave offense not to share with our readers a little about this unique individual with the hope that even before a more befitting article is published we will be reunited with Rabbi Raichik and all of our loved ones in the ultimate Redemption. Y.C.)
Born in the Polish town of Mlava 79 years ago, Rabbi Raichik excelled in his studies and at a young age was considered a Talmudic scholar of renown. In 1936, upon the advice of the famous Amshinover Rebbe, the young Rabbi Raichik enrolled in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Otwock, outside Warsaw, where he fell in love with the Chabad synthesis of scholarship and personal refinement.
Many recall Rabbi Raichik's meticulous observance of the mitzvot and the passionate way he prayed. His Shabbat morning prayers would last as long as six hours, and included lengthy meditations in the Chabad tradition. At night, when he recited the prayers before retiring, Rabbi Raichik would often become engrossed in introspection until the time came for the morning prayers.
It was in the Lubavitcher yeshiva that Rabbi Raichik became attached to the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. He soon became one of the select group who memorized and reviewed the Previous Rebbe's discourses.
With the outbreak of the War at the end of 1939, Rabbi Raichik and his fellow yeshiva students were forced to flee Otwock. In each place they arrived, the students quickly established new yeshivas and resumed their studies.
Once he reached Lithuania, Rabbi Raichik labored tirelessly to save fellow students from German-occupied Poland and the Baltic states. Despite his own capture once by border police, he organized smuggling operations, bringing many refugees across the border to safer territory.
When Japan's consul to Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, sacrificed his diplomatic career to issue Japanese passports to Jewish refugees, Rabbi Raichik helped procure visas for his fellow students and others. After spending close to a year in Kobe, Japan, the yeshiva relocated yet again, this time to Shanghai, where many other Jews spent the remainder of the War years as well.
In Shanghai, Rabbi Raichik became the foundation for the uprooted Lubavitcher yeshiva. In addition to overseeing the daily running of the school, friends recall how lovingly he served as surrogate parent to the younger students. Though given many chances to leave, Rabbi Raichik stayed until the last student was able to depart, in 1946.
When Rabbi Raichik finally reached the United States, the Previous Rebbe immediately put him under the wing of his son-in-law and later successor, to travel by train across North America to seek out Jews, in groups and as individuals, to identify local communal needs and bolster Jewish identity.
For months on end Rabbi Raichik crisscrossed the United States, visiting Jews in places like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Cheyenne, Wyoming, setting up schools and mikvaot. Because of his obvious refinement and gentle disposition, people took an immediate liking to Rabbi Raichik. Much of the post-war Jewish infrastructure in many cities across the United States can be traced to Rabbi Raichik's tireless efforts.
After his marriage in 1948, Rabbi Raichik and his new bride, Leah, were sent to Los Angeles as personal emissaries of the Previous Rebbe.
The Raichiks immediately set out to bolster Judaism on the West Coast, and became "the address" for thousands who sought them out for matters spiritual and physical.
Following the Previous Rebbe's passing in 1950, Rabbi Raichik was among the Lubavitcher Chasidim who pleaded with the Rebbe to accept the mantle of leadership.
The Rebbe, whose suggestion it was that the Raichiks be sent to Los Angeles, wrote to Rabbi Raichik that his position was not to be limited to one synagogue, but "his net should be spread on the entire city and its surrounding areas."
For close to 50 years, Rabbi Raichik brought the teachings of the Torah, the wisdom of Chabad philosophy and the instructions of the Rebbe to Jewish homes, offices and synagogues across the state. He was often seen hurrying through LA's streets with a pair of tefilin, in hopes of encouraging one more Jew to perform a mitzva.
In addition, Rabbi Raichik continued his travels across America to re- energize existing and sprouting Jewish communities and was an example and guide to the Rebbe's emissaries around the world.
So zealous was Rabbi Raichik in his work, he slept little and frequently forgot to eat. He often received notes from the Rebbe urging him to care for his health. The Rebbe also asked other Chasidim to encourage Rabbi Raichik to eat regularly. The Raichiks' children are the Rebbe's emissaries around the world.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was presented with a drawing by children from the 34th flight of Chabad's Children of Chernobyl which arrived last month. The most recent flight brings to a total nearly 1,600 children that CCOC has evacuated to Israel. Mr. Annan pledged his full support to help the organization in its Chernobyl relief work.
Take a ten-day journey into the depths of the Torah at this year's spring Yeshivacation '98, from May 22 - June 2. Join in a unique and fascinating quest into traditional Jewish life and philosophy by participating in thought-provoking courses, hands-on workshops and lively discussion groups. You'll discover that Torah has more to offer than you could have possibly imagined. For more info call Hadar Hatorah for Men at (718) 735-0250 or Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva at (718) 735-0030. See www.iltsp.org for more info.
Erev Shabbos Parshas
Acharei-Kedoshim, 5734 
To All Participants in the
Nineteenth Annual Convention
Neshei u'Bnos Chabad
On the occasion of the forthcoming Annual Convention during the weekend of Shabbos Parshas Emor, I send you prayerful wishes and blessing that it should be carried out with hatzlacha [success] in every respect, and in the fullest measure.
The name of the sedra [portion], Emor ("Speak"), immediately underscores the importance of instruction in general, and in the area of actual behavior in particular. And although the sedra begins with matters concerning primarily the "kohanim, the children of Aharon," the idea applies also to all the "children of Israel," especially as in a wider sense, the whole Jewish people is a Mamleches Kohanim, "a Kingdom of Priests."
The importance of instruction is further emphasized by the repetition of the words - emor... v'omarto, "Speak and say," which, as our Sages of blessed memory observe, means "to exhort the grownups on behalf of the little ones" - and this is, of course, the basis of chinuch, Torah-true Jewish education.
The chinuch of Jewish children begins at home, in the bosom of the family. In order that the chinuch be all that is desired, it is necessary that the family be one unified entity, unified by the spirit of the Torah and mitzvos in the daily life, and particularly by those mitzvos which are observed by the whole family together, namely, the celebration of Shabbos and Yom Tov.
Be it noted that the laws of Shabbos and the festivals occupy a central place in the sedra of Emor. Thus, when the parents do all that is up to them to strengthen the family unit, both during weekdays and, especially, in the hallowed days of Shabbos and Yom Tov, taking a personal interest in all that is happening to their children, they are in a position to give the children the proper instruction, and the children are imbued with true love and respect for their parents, and eagerly respond to their instructions and exhortations.
Which brings us to the vital role of the Jewish woman, the "Mother of the Children," and the "Foundation of the Home." For, the chinuch of the children begins in their most tender years, when they are entirely in the hands of the mother. And later on, too, the mother has a most important role in the education of the children, as has been frequently emphasized.
It is earnestly hoped that this subject - the relationship of chinuch to the family unit, which is also one of the main themes of the Convention - will find full expression, and will stimulate all participants to work in this direction with all their vitality and dedication, in the fullest Chasidic tradition.
Furthermore, since the Convention significantly opens on the eve of Shabbos, the day of Lag B'Omer, it will surely be inspired also by the spirit of this day, which emphasizes Jewish unity and harmony, as we are taught by the story, related by our Sages, of the disciples of Rabbi Akiva, the great pillar of Torah shebe'al peh (the Oral Law); the unity which expresses itself in boundless Ahavas Yisrael, as exemplified by Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai (for whom Lag B'Omer was a special day of joy), who personally identified himself with each and all of his fellow Jews, wherever they were, and however they were.
May G-d send His blessing that the Convention should be crowned with the utmost hatzlacha, based on boundless Ahavas Yisrael, which goes hand in hand with boundless Ahavas Hashem, as expressed by David, the Sweet Singer of the Songs of Israel, in behalf of all Jews, "Whom have I in heaven but You, and there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart go out to you, O G-d, the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
With blessing for hatzlacha spiritually and materially, and for good tidings in all above,
Rambam for 19 Iyar, 5758
Positive Mitzva 155: Proclaiming the Sanctity of the Sabbath By this injunction we are commanded to recite certain words at the beginning and end of the Shabbat, mentioning in them the greatness and significance of the day and its distinction from the weekdays. It is derived from the words (Ex. 20:8) "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," and refers to the making of Kiddush over wine Friday evening and in the daytime on Shabbat and Havdala at the close of the Sabbath Saturday night.
This week we study the fourth chapter of Ethics of the Fathers, a collection of practical advice and counsel from our Sages. One pearl of wisdom reads as follows:
"Rabbi Yonatan said: Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty will ultimately fulfill it in wealth. But whoever neglects the Torah in wealth will ultimately neglect it in poverty."
On the simplest, most literal level this teaches that G-d repays us according to our deeds measure for measure. A poor person who works long and hard to make a meager living, yet takes time out every day to learn Torah, will be rewarded with material riches. A wealthy man who neglects his Torah study to spend his days eating, drinking and lounging about will eventually lose his money.
On a deeper level, poverty and wealth refer to a person's understanding of Torah. A Jew who is not so knowledgeable about Judaism yet zealously observes the little he does know will eventually "fulfill it in wealth," as G-d will bestow him with wisdom. Conversely, a person who is knowledgeable about Judaism but doesn't bring it down into practice will eventually forget what he once knew.
Poverty and wealth can also refer to a Jew's level of faith, the very foundation of our relationship with G-d. A Jew's belief in G-d is an innate part of him, an integral component of his nature. Yet no matter how neglected that Divine spark may be, the Torah promises that it will flourish and grow into wealth if properly stimulated and nurtured.
Our Prophets have told us that when Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, material riches will be as abundant as the dust of the earth, reflective of the spiritual wealth of Divine knowledge that will permeate all of creation.
May it happen immediately.
None of them shall defile himself, among his people (b'amav) (Lev. 21:1)
The Hebrew word "amav" is related to the word "im'um," dimming or growing dark, as in dying embers or coals that have been left to burn out on their own. Serving G-d "dimly," halfheartedly and without fervor, is the cause of all defilement and impurity. The Torah warns us against allowing our G-dly spark to grow dim. Rather, it must be constantly nurtured and rekindled.
(The Rebbe of Alexander)
You shall not profane My holy name (Lev. 22:32) When a Jew does a mitzva purely and simply for the sake of G-d, without an ulterior or self-serving motive, he sanctifies G-d's Name. When one hears only positive things about a person, that too is a sanctification of G-d's Name. Conversely, G-d's Name is profaned when negative comments are made about a person-even if he has a legitimate excuse for his behavior.
(Maimonides, Igeret HaShmad)
But on the seventh day is the Shabbat of rest, a holy convocation (Lev. 23:3) According to the Midrash, the Torah was worried about being neglected once the Jews entered the Land of Israel. "Master of the Universe!" it cried. "What is going to happen to me? Everyone will be busy sowing and planting..." G-d, however, assuaged its fears. "I am giving you a special partner," He said, "and that is the Shabbat, when the Jews are free from work. On that day they will gather in the synagogues and study halls to engage in study."
And you shall count unto yourselves from the morrow after the day of rest (Lev. 23:15) In our times the counting of the omer is a Rabbinic decree, as without a physical Holy Temple in Jerusalem we obviously cannot bring the omer offering. That is why we conclude our counting with the words "May the Merciful One restore the Holy Temple to its place, speedily in our day": When Moshiach comes and the Temple is rebuilt, the omer offering will be reinstated.
Once, in a small Russian village, there lived a poor melamed (teacher). The parents of the children were as poor as he, and so, more often than not he wasn't paid the small salary due at the end of the week. The melamed and his family just managed to keep bread on the table, and so, it wasn't surprising that when it came time to marry off the eldest daughter, there was no money for a dowry or the many expenses needed to make a wedding.
The melamed had no choice but to take to the road and go from village to village collecting charity. The mitzva of "dowering the bride" has always been popular amongst Jews, and he found the townspeople very willing to help. After several weeks the melamed felt that he had collected a sufficient amount of money, and he decided to return home with his heavy, little pouch of money.
One day, as the melamed made his way down the dusty road, a highwayman suddenly jumped out at him. Brandishing a pistol, the man snarled, "Give me all your money, or I'll shoot!"
The terrified melamed was rooted to the spot in shock. "Sir, take pity on me! I have only a little money that I have collected in order to marry off my daughter. Without this money, my poor child will never be able to make a match! Please, sir, leave me in peace!"
"Be quiet, Jew! I'm not interested in your pathetic stories. Just give over your money, and be quick about it!"
The melamed took out his purse and handed it over. But then, the robber raised his gun again, and took aim, pointing it straight at the melamed's heart. "Now, I'm going to kill you," he said, grimly.
"But, why? I gave you all my money. Now, let me go to my family. Please, I am the father of a large family, and my small children will be left orphans - paupers, without me!"
But the robber was relentless. "No, if I let you go, you will just run to the police and then they will capture me. You will testify against me, and I will be hanged! No, I cannot allow you to go, or I will be the one killed!"
The melamed begged and pleaded for his freedom, swearing that he would never breath a word of the robbery to any soul in the whole world. But, all his pitiful words fell on deaf ears. The robber just became more hardened in his resolve. The melamed saw no hope, and he asked the robber for a few moments to prepare himself to face his Maker. To this request, the robber acquiesced, and the melamed said his last prayers.
When he had finished, the melamed had a new look in his eyes. Our tradition teaches us never to despair, for even when the sword rests upon one's neck, G-d can still bring about salvation. During his moment of prayer, the melamed was given the glimmer of an idea.
"Sir," the melamed began, "I can tell that you are not an ordinary, wicked man, for if so, you would never have allowed me to pray. I see than you have more than a spark of goodness in you, and you are not the type who would want to murder an innocent man in cold blood. I want to do you a favor and I thought of a plan by which you could kill me in self-defense. I will pretend to attack you and then you will have a good reason to shoot. You will be able to honestly say it was self-defense."
The robber looked at him as if he couldn't believe his ears. "What crazy things are you saying? You're going to do me a favor? That's a good one! If you imagine that I'll give up my gun, you really are nuts!"
"Of course, I would never imagine such a thing," the melamed countered. Nothing like that. Why, you just sit on this tree stump and hold your gun. I will take my walking stick and wave it in the air like this. Then I will run towards you and gently tap you on the head. But, you will pretend to believe that I'm attacking you, and you shoot me. Isn't that simple?"
The robber thought about it for a minute or two as the melamed prayed from the depths of his heart for salvation. "Well, I guess it'll be all right," he replied. "Just be sure that your tap is real gentle," he chuckled.
"Don't give it a thought," the melamed assured him. Then, backing up a few paces, the melamed grabbed his stick firmly in his right hand, and praying fervently, he sprinted toward the robber who was sitting calmly with a smirk on his face. It was over in a flash. The melamed brought his heavy walking stick down on the robber's head with all his strength (plus the extra strength he gathered by way of his prayers). The man toppled over, his glassy eyes registering the shock of this unexpected turn of events.
When the melamed realized that he had succeeded in saving his life, he grabbed his money purse and ran down the road, as fast as his feet could carry him, never even glancing back at the felled murderer.
Soon the family celebrated the joyous wedding of their daughter, but the melamed never forgot how he managed to save the dowry and his life at the same time.
"Yitgadal v'Yitkadash - Exalted and hallowed be His great Name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingship, bring forth His Redemption and hasten the coming of His Moshiach in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen."
(From Kaddish, said over a dozen times in the daily prayers.)