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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Aaron and Rivkah Slonim
This year marks the fiftieth year from when the Rebbe assumed leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. In his inaugural address, the Rebbe outlined his mandate and vision in broad strokes. He spoke of the various stages in Jewish history and then asserted that the culmination was at hand; the Rebbe proclaimed that the task of this generation is to usher in the Messianic Era.
It was a bold statement followed by bold action. Propelled by his deep faith in the Jewish soul and his vision of Jewish destiny, he set into motion a plan to bring Yiddishkeit-unadulterated, deeply intellectual yet passionately vibrant Judaism-to Jews everywhere. From among his Chasidim, the Rebbe sent young couples to settle in cities around the world. He charged them with establishing Jewish educational and social agencies and providing their communities with programs and services that would enrich Jewish life.
With the passage of time, the growing international network of Chabad Lubavitch institutions dotted the landscape of Jewish life with greater density. Lubavitch Mitzva Tanks, Mitzva Campaigns, usage of the mass media to promote Jewish ideals, innovative study programs and social services, became ubiquitous.
In time, the initial skepticism, even criticism of the Rebbe's radical ideas, gave way to grudging admiration and most importantly, emulation in many forms. Today, outreach is arguably the most important term in Jewish life-across the board.
But, we must understand that for the Rebbe "outreach" is in reach; peeling away at the onion skins to reveal the essential core of each Jew and make manifest their inviolable connection to G-d. The Rebbe's premise: every Jew has a soul; every soul wants to be united with G-d and will respond to Torah, and that what stands between the soul and the re-sponse is not essential, but extraneous, to our true selves. His formula and mandate to us: get out there, and find a way to bypass the artificial barriers, the cosmetic differences, and unnecessary fears, so that every Jew has the opportunity to taste Torah!
In the context of Torah tradition, 50 years has special significance. The fiftieth year is termed the Yovel, the Jubilee. During that year slaves were emancipated, the earth lay fallow (as during the Sabbatical year) and properties that had been sold were restored to their original owners.
Spiritually, the Jubilee year repre-sents a time of release from worldly constraints and concerns. It represents the abnegation of one's being to G-d; a place where there is no conflict, for the curtain of self-deception that separates man from G-d is no more.
The Rebbe told us that we are at the threshold of such a time and urged us to do everything we can to make it come about sooner. The Messianic Era is the Jubilee year that lasts for eternity. A time when the G-dliness-which is at the core of everything-is revealed and manifest and we are freed of the earthy, material, and essentially superficial involvements that so consume us today.
We are in the Jubilee year since the Rebbe first outlined his vision. Forty-nine years of "work"-of seeking to uncover and bring about a time of ultimate unity with G-d-have already passed. May this year be the consumate Jubilee year and may we celebrate Passover in true freedom: This year in Jerusalem!
The Slonims direct the Chabad House-Jewish Student Center at Binghamton University.
The Torah uses three different words to describe the commandments G-d entrusted Moses with transmitting to the Jewish people: dibrot, amirot and tzivuyim. Each of these phrases is loosely translated into English to mean commands.
Dibrot are those mitzvot enumerated whenever the Torah states "Daber el - Speak to [the Children of Israel."
Amirot encompass those mitzvot which follow the words "Emor el - Say to [the Children of Israel]."
Tzivuyim are those mitzvot which follow the phrase "Tzav et - You shall command."
All three categories of mitzvot - dibrot, amirot and tzivuyim - are G-d's commandments, but the concept of mitzva is more strongly emphasized in those that are expressed as tzivuyim, given their obvious etymological connection.
The Hebrew word mitzva has two meanings:
1) commandment, from the root word tzav, meaning a command or order; and
2) tzavta, meaning together.
In truth, the Torah's mitzvot are both G-d's commands to the Jewish people, and the means by which Jews effect a bond with Him.
In principle, whenever a word in the Torah has two definitions, both meanings are always interrelated. The word mitzva is no exception to the rule.
The potential for Jews to connect themselves to G-d exists only by virtue of His having commanded us to conduct our lives in certain manner. When Jews accept the yoke of heaven and observe G-d's mitzvot, they form a connection with the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and are united with Him.
The first Chabad Rebbe, known as the Alter Rebbe, said that a Jew must "live with the times," that is, live with the particular Torah portion that is read each week. It isn't enough to study the parsha of the week; a Jew must internalize its message and apply it to his daily life.
Every Torah portion contains a specific lesson for our daily conduct. From week to week our lives change in accordance with the corresponding Torah reading.
This week we are studying the Torah portion of Tzav. The name of the portion teaches that throughout our lives we are obligated to observe G-d's commandments. For by doing mitzvot we not only fulfill G-d's command but merit to be close with Him, effecting a deep and eternal bond that lasts forever.
Likutei Sichot, Volume 7; Shabbat Parshat Ki Tisa 5749
How Do You Eat Matzo with Chopsticks?
by Mendel Bluming
On the way back to New York from China last year after Passover, I was questioned by a flight attendant in the Hong Kong Airport my reason for having chosen to fly that particular airline.
"Sefirat HaOmer," was my candid reply. Perplexed, she searched through her checklist. The response did not fit under the category of service, advertising or scheduling. Confused, she looked back up at me.
I explained that traveling back to America by the Pacific route would cause us to pass the International Dateline. This would either add a day to, or subtract a day from, the forty-nine day Sefira- count, thus invalidating it.
She, too, was Jewish, she said, but this didn't seem to be a sensible reason for choosing a plane route.
I shared with her the idea that we prepare the world for Moshiach by permeating our lives with Torah, which dictates every minute detail of our physical lives.
I then related an incident I'd observed of a four year old girl running over to her mother with a quarter she'd found on the sidewalk. "Look Mommy!" she exclaimed excitedly, "I found tzedaka!" For this child, who is growing up with a solid Jewish education, a coin found on the street is not for candy or for a toy but for charity.
The attendant was moved. Now I took out the ammunition: two candlesticks and a Chabad of Hong Kong calendar with lighting times and the address of the Chabad House in Hong Kong. She promised to attend services on Shabbat.
In a nutshell, this was the mission with which my friends and I set out when we went for Passover as emissaries of the Rebbe to Shanghai. Our goal: to share with every Jew the Rebbe's message that hectic business lives have to be permeated with Judaism. Our job was to lead Passover seders, organize services, put mezuzot on doors, hold classes for men, women and children, and most importantly, to share the message that the exodus from Egypt was just a foretaste of the imminent arrival of Moshiach.
The local Chinese looked at us as if we were aliens and practically walked into walls as they passed us. Chinese men are incapable of growing beards beyond a few strands, and our beards were a real spectacle. We got used to having six Chinese at once approach us at about four inches from our noses to inspect our beards. They were enthralled!!
Before we left New York, we were told that we'd taste "freedom" at our seder in the Ritz Carlton Shanghai Center, one of the classiest hotels in the city. Indeed, we did feel free. To sit at a seder with over a hundred Jews in a Communist country where Judaism is still not a recognized religion, while Chinese waiters served with chopsticks, is a real experience. We figured out how to handle gefilte fish with chopsticks. It was when we came to the chicken soup that we had difficulty!!
There are certain phrases that we take for granted in the Unites States which take on a whole new meaning overseas. Let me give you an example. When we needed a (blow) torch to make the hotel kitchen kosher, we called the London-born manager of the hotel with our request. "No problem!" came the unexpected response. "Meet me in the kitchen in ten minutes and I'll have the torch for you."
Victory! Without problems or questions they're going to let us "blow torch" the kitchen at the hotel to make it kosher. What a miracle. We danced all the way down to the kitchen to meet the English manager who, with great joy, handed us a big nine-volt flashlight-a torch in the Queen's English! After four hours of explanations and assurances we eventually got a blow torch, sent everyone out of the kitchen, and were able to get to work.
A few days before Passover, we stopped a foreigner on the street to ask directions. "I don't know if you recognize me," was his reply, "but I was at the Chabad Seder last year and loved it. Unfortunately I'll be on business in Honolulu this Passover. Are there any Jews there?"
With our trusty Chabad Directory and cellular phone, we called the Rebbe's emissary in Honolulu and booked him a place for the Seder. He marveled, "Wow! How'd you do that?!"
"Chabad's a small family," we explained. We forget to get directions from him but he sure got some from us!!
A few days after Passover, I visited a Jew who worked in a Hilton in Nanjing, a three hour train ride from Shanghai. After a long conversation, the man exclaimed, "This morning, I woke up proud to be a Jew. Only a fellow Jew would shlep all the way here just to visit me. Rabbi, whatever you want, I'll do for you." Within a few minutes, forty curious Chinese watched as we hammered a mezuza to his front door.
"Actually, it wasn't my commitment that brought me here today," I explained. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent us here. He cares about each and every Jew wherever he may be and he is concerned with your physical and spiritual welfare. Every single Jew is a precious gem in his eyes." I showed him a picture of the Rebbe and told him he could keep it. "Can I write to him?" he asked. "Sure." I replied. And right there and then he composed a letter to the Rebbe which he read to me. The letter began, "Dear Esteemed Rabbi, Thank you for blowing the dust off of one of your Chinese gems. I hope to be able to see you soon and speak with you face to face..."
I closed my eyes, "Amen! So do I!"
May we merit this now!
Ed.'s note: Mendel Bluming and his colleagues went to China as "Merkos Shluchim"-the Rebbe's emissaries to communities that do not have permanent shluchim. Six months ago, Rabbi Shalom and Dini Greenberg moved to Shanghai, China, and become the Rebbe's permanent emissaries there.
Over 2,000 Chabad-Lubavitch Centers around the world will be holding communal Passover seders this year. In addition, Lubavitcher yeshiva students will be conducting full Passover seders in small Jewish communities and far-flung cities that do not yet have permanent emissaries. Nepal, Japan, and New Delhi are just a few of this year's sites. To find out more details about a seder near you call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
DON'T BLAME THE POSTMAN
Please note: This issue of L'Chaim is for the week of March 26/Nisan 9 and April 2/Nisan 16.
11th of Nissan, 5719 
To my Brethren, Everywhere
G-d bless you!
Sholom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:
Approaching the Feast of Matzos, the Season of Our Liberation, I send my prayerful blessing to my brethren everywhere that the festival instill into the daily life of every Jew and Jewess true and complete liberation from all anxiety and adversity, both material and spiritual, so as to rise to the inner meaning of Yetzias Mitzrayim [the Exodus from Egypt], the prelude to Receiving the Torah, and to fulfill the Divine promise: "When you will bring out the people from Mitzrayim you will serve G-d on this Mount (Sinai)."
Matters connected with Torah and Mitzvos are, of course, infinite and eternal, as G-d Himself Who has ordained them; so are also their instructive teachings, which are valid for all times and places, and can and must be applied in daily life. Even more so in the case of such a comprehensive matter as the Yom Tov [holiday] of Pesach [Passover], of Yetzias Mitzrayim, which we are enjoined to remember every day.
One of the instructive messages of the Yom Tov of Pesach is that a Jew has the inner capacity and actual ability to transform himself, in a short time, from one extreme to the opposite. Our Holy Scriptures and Rabbinic sources describe in detail the bitterness of the enslavement in Egypt and the nadir of spiritual depravity to which the enslaved Jews had sunken in those days.
Enslaved in a country from which even a single slave could not escape; completely in the power of a Pharaoh who bathed in the blood of Jewish children; in utmost destitution; broken in body and spirit by the meanest kind of forced labor - suddenly Pharaoh's power is broken; the entire people is liberated; the erstwhile slaves emerge from bondage as free men, bold and dignified "with an outstretched arm" and "with great wealth."
Likewise is their spiritual liberation in a manner that bespeaks a complete transformation. After having sunk to the 49th degree of unholiness, to the point of pagan idolatry - they suddenly behold G-d revealed in His full Glory, and only a few weeks later they all stand at the foot of Mount Sinai on the highest level of holiness and prophecy, and G-d speaks to each one of them individually, without any intermediary, not even that of Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses], and declares: "I am G-d, thy G-d!"
The lesson is highly instructive:
No matter what the status of the Jew is, individually or collectively; no matter how gloomy the position appears to be in the light of human appraisal, the Jew must remind himself every day of Yetzias Mitzrayim - and strive effectively towards complete liberation and freedom, in a bold manner ("with an outstretched arm") and to the fullest attainment ("with great wealth"): freedom from all shackles and obstacles in escape from his "Mitzrayim," in order to reach the height of "priestly kingdom and holy nationhood," through Receiving the Torah in all respects "as in the days of your liberation from Mitzrayim."
There must be no pause and no hesitation on this road; there must be no resting on one's initial accomplishments; one must go on and on, higher and higher, until one apprehends and experiences the call: "I am G-d, thy G-d!"
This message of Pesach is especially urgent and timely in our present time and age, when Jews as individuals and in groups have bestirred themselves to seek for a way of liberation from their spiritual bondage, and to set foot on the road of true freedom of the spirit; above all to completely free themselves from the fear of "What will the goy [nations] say?"
The "goy" of every description, including the goyeshe prodding of misguided Jews, and the "goy" within one's self, the Yetzer Hora [Evil Inclination]. To these, especially, Pesach calls: Do not stop; go further rise higher, "with an outstretched arm!" Your liberation will then be complete and certain, "with the young and the old, the sons and the daughters," and with great wealth.
With blessing for a kosher and happy Pesach, and may the Prophetic promise, "as in the days of thy liberation from Egypt will I show him wonders," through our righteous Moshiach, be soon fulfilled in our own time.
In memory of Yosef Yitzchok ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman (yblc't)
9 Nisan 5759
Positive mitzva 5: worshipping G-d
By this injunction we are commanded to serve G-d. This commandment is repeated several times in the Torah: "And you shall serve the L-rd your G-d" (Ex. 23:25); "And Him shall you serve" (Deut. 13:5), etc. Although this commandment is in the class of general precepts, it nonetheless imposes the specific duty of prayer. Our Sages also say, "To serve Him means the study of the Law."
This Sunday, 11 Nisan, we celebrate the Rebbe's 97th birthday. It is customary to recite daily the chapter in Psalms corresponding to one's years. Chasidic tradition encourages that one recite daily the Psalm of the Rebbe, as well. Thus, Jews the world over will begin reciting Psalm 98 this Sunday in the Rebbe's honor.
In general, Psalm 98 describes how the people of Israel in the Messianic Era will praise G-d for redeeming them.
The Psalm begins, "Sing to the L-rd a new song, for He has performed wonders..."
Rashi explains that all "new songs" refer to the time of the Redemption. Midrash Tanchuma lists ten great songs of the Jewish people. This Psalm, according to the Midrash, will be the tenth and final song sung by the Jewish people in the time of the Redemption.
Chasidut explains that although a previous Psalm (96) also spoke of a "new song" the fact that the term is repeated teaches us that even in the Messianic Era, the era of ultimate spirituality, there will still be room for growth.
Verse three begins: "He has remembered His loving-kindness and faithfulness to the House of Israel..." The commentary known as Radak explains that because of G-d's commit-ment to us to act with Divine kindness and faith, G-d will deliver Israel from the present exile and announce the advent of Moshiach.
Verse four begins, "Raise your voices in jubilation to the L-rd, all [the inhabitants of] the earth..." According to Radak's commentary, even the non-Jews should rejoice in recognition of Israel's salvation. Why is this so? Because the redemption of the Jewish people signals the redemption of the entire world as well.
But not only will all the nations of the world rejoice! As we read in verse seven, "The sea and all of its creatures will roar in joy, the earth and its inhabitants." As Ibn Ezra explains, all will rejoice at the universal peace ushered in by Moshiach.
May it commence NOW!
Command Aaron and his sons, saying (Lev. 6:2)
As Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator explains, the word "command" is used "to encourage and hasten immediately, and for future generations." When a person performs the same action every day it becomes routine, done by rote. He thus needs special encouragement to ensure that he will have the proper intentions. (Chatam Sofer)
This is the law (teaching) of the burnt offering; it is the burnt offering...and the fire of the altar shall be burning on it (Lev. 6:2)
The person who brings the burnt offering should have in mind that he himself should have been the offering. Yet G-d, in His infinite mercy, is willing to accept a sacrifice in his stead. (Peninei Torah)
A perpetual fire (Lev. 6:6)
There were two types of fire in the Sanctuary and Holy Temple: one that burned on the outer altar, and one that burned in the menora inside. The priest whose job it was to light the menora did so with a flame taken from the outer altar. This teaches an important lesson: The outer altar is symbolic of our Divine service with other people; the kindling of the menora alludes to Torah study, as it states in Proverbs, "The Torah is light." Thus in order to merit the Torah's light it isn't enough to concern oneself with one's own spiritual progress; the concern should be extended to others as well. (Likutei Sichot)
This is the law (Torah) of the burnt [offering], of the meal [offering], and of the sin [offering], and of the trespass [offering] (Lev. 7:37)
The Torah is an elixir of life for those who believe in it, but an elixir of death for those who pervert it. It can serve as a burnt offering or meal offering, or lead to sin and trespass. (Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin)
The following is excerpted and adapted from the childhood reminiscences of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn.
Passover was fast approaching. By now, thank G-d, I knew many of the laws of Passover by heart. At the baking of shmura matza (specially watched and meticulously prepared) I was already taking my share of responsibility and word had even reached me that this had brought my father pleasure. I now hoped that when it came to the baking of the matzot mitzva of Passover eve I would be at my best.
One night, about three days before Passover, I could not fall asleep. I was busy with happy thoughts about all the upcoming events - drawing water at dusk towards the end of the thirteenth of Nissan for matza baking; the search for chametz [the following evening]; the siyum [completion of a tractate of Talmud study in the morning] which would mark my completion of Tractate Megila by heart; the baking of matzot mitzva [that afternoon]; and reading the description of the offering of the Passover Sacrifice [following the afternoon prayer].
Before dawn I washed my hands and dressed, and then walked up and down my room. There was more than an hour to wait, for on Passover eve my father was accustomed to rise at five. The day's tasks passed smoothly and successfully - not only the siyum, which went very well, but I also made myself useful at the baking of the matzot mitzva. Part of the time I stood next to the oven and changed the rods with which the matzot were placed inside, and part of the time I stood at the place where the individual portions of dough were handed out to the people rolling them flat. Most of the time I was supervising wherever someone was missing.
The shul that evening was full of light. A new chandelier had been brought there by one of the worshipers who spent the whole year in Moscow and Petersburg, because he worked for the well-known Minister Poliakov, returning to his home in Lubavitch only twice a year, for the month of Tishrei and for Passover. This time he had brought a gift for the shul, which was suspended by gilt chains.
The shul walls were whitewashed, the windows sparkled, the benches were clean. A red silk cloth covered the table from which the Torah was read and the holy ark was draped over with a curtain of green and red. The podium was covered by a little red silk cloth which had been embroidered by my mother. The Western Wall was depicted in the middle, and its four corners showed the Tomb of our Mother Rachel, the Tomb of the prophet Samuel, the Tombs of the Davidic Dynasty, and the Tomb of R. Shimon bar Yochai. A fresh white towel hung on a ring near the entrance to the shul and the lamps made everything bright.
A noble spirit rested upon every corner of this House of G-d. The faces of the local householders were lit up likewise. Over at the northern corner sat old Zalman Leib, surrounded by a knot of listeners with whom he was sharing his recollections of long ago. Not too far from him, Yitzchak Shaul was recounting wild and wondrous adventures from the war against the Turks. Near the Reading Table, Berel the Shammes was talking to Yitzchak Gershon the Chazzan, who proudly told the music-lovers who buzzed around him that even Nissen the Belzer was impressed by his wonderful voice.
Near the south wall sat Zalman Munkes, who was holding forth about his father's medical expertise. His friend Yeshaya Kastier countered with stories about his own grandmother's father, who was such a great mathematician that using his fingers alone his could count up to 10,000 in two hours. Zalman Beshes and Zalman the Deaf leaned eagerly over them, overawed.
At the southwestern corner near the old clock, two hoary Chasidim - Reb Chanoch Hendel and Reb Shmuel Chayim from Poland - were discussing what Chasidut teaches about the particular sanctity of this night. Listening were Leibele's Reb Zalman, Reb Shlomo Chayim the Shochet, and a number of other Chasidim. Among them, listening wordlessly, sat the aged Reb Abba, who from time to time raised his eyes aloft.
When the prayer was over, the rav and all the householders converged on the southern side of the eastern wall to wish my father a good Yom Tov. People gradually left, and within an hour we were all seated in my grandmother's home and conducting the Seder.
The excitement of preparing to ask the Four Questions and the pure light that rested on my father's holy countenance banished sleep from my eyes. Thanks to G-d's never-ending mercies, I too found myself seated at the table like one of the grown-ups.
Every activity I handled with the self-assurance of a veteran - washing the hands, karpas, breaking the middle matza, covering and uncovering the matzot, holding the cup of wine in hand as we sang VeHi Sheamdah, and so on. All this gave me the strength to fight off the desire to sleep.
Thank G-d, I held my own until the exultant declaration: "Next Year in Jerusalem!" I then looked forward to going to sleep in a few minutes' time with a glad heart.
In the first few pages of the Hagada we read: "This year we are here; next year, may we be in the Land of Israel. This year, we are slaves; next year, may we be free people." On these words the Rebbe explains, "Mentioning the Land of Israel and our ultimate freedom at the beginning of the Hagada suggests that the purpose of the seder is not only to relive the exodus from Egypt, but to prepare for the Redemption."