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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 11, 1999 - 27 Sivan, 5759

572: Sh'lach

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  571: Beha'alotcha3 Tammuz  

A Perfect World  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  The Rebbe Writes
Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count  |  It Once Happened
Moshiach Matters

A Perfect World

March of Dimes. Soup Kitchens. United Way. AIDS Awareness.

We want to fix the wrongs of the world, to abolish prejudice, to alleviate poverty, to wipe out war, to find cures for all illness and to give every person of any stripe or color the education they so rightfully deserve.

At the core of our very beings, we want a perfect world and we want to be a part of perfecting that world.

Sometimes, most of the time, we get so caught up in the rat-race of our day-to-day lives that we forget our desire - no, our need - for a perfect world. But the passion is always there, waiting until we reorient ourselves, re-prioritize our lives, reestablish our true goals.

This is the essence of the thousands year old desire for Moshiach.

As physical human beings, we are a fusion of body and soul. It is not enough for us to feel a need; we must act upon those feelings and perform concrete actions that will bring us ever closer to our goal. And we must use every fibre of our physical beings and even our possessions to reach our objective:

A hand giving charity,

Fingers striking a match to kindle Shabbat and holiday candles,

A mouth speaking respectful words,

Feet walking to visit the sick or elderly,

A body immersing in the "living waters" of the mikva

Knees bending, so as to see eye-to-eye with a child when imparting an ethical teaching

A stomach digesting kosher food,

Money purchasing Jewish books

A mind comprehending a Torah book,

Eyes noticing a mezuza on the door post,

An arm and head with tefilin wound upon them

A heart feeling love for another Jew,

The Rebbe said that we are on the threshold of a perfected world, a perfect world, the days of Moshiach. He enjoined every man, woman and child to do everything possible to hasten the eternal era of peace, prosperity, health, and knowledge that will commence with the Redemption.

Maimondes said that every person should view the entire world as balanced between good and evil. Each person's one good deed can tip the scale to the side of good and bring Redemption to himself and the entire world.

No one knows which person or what act will tip the scale. Let's all try.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Shelach, literally "Send," narrates the story of the 12 spies who were sent on a special shlichut (mission) to the Land of Israel.

The spies were instructed to scout out the land in order to determine the best strategy the Jews should employ to conquer it. Indeed, when they returned from their mission, they gave their report on the land and its inhabitants.

Their sin, however, consisted in going one step further. In addition to providing the information they were supposed to obtain, the spies insisted on venturing their own opinion about the mission itself: "We will not be able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we!" they declared.

G-d hadn't asked the spies whether or not they thought conquering the land was possible. Their shlichut was solely a fact-finding mission; adding their own opinion and discouraging the Jewish people from fulfilling G-d's request was thus an egregious transgression.

In principle, a shliach (emissary) is required to carry out his mission to the best of his ability, no more and no less. Altering that mission to accommodate his own thoughts and feelings is a distortion of the assignment with which he was entrusted.

In truth, every Jew is an emissary of G-d, Who caused him to be born into this world in order to fulfill a unique mission. For the mission of every Jew is to transform his surroundings into "the Land of Israel" - a "dwelling place for G-d" - through the performance of Torah and mitzvot.

As G-d's emissary, the Jew is required to "scout out the land" - to determine the best possible method of fulfilling his assignment. Each individual's circumstances in life will determine the answer, be it through strengthening his observance of Shabbat, keeping kosher more stringently, lighting Shabbat candles or putting on tefilin.

G-d doesn't ask the Jew if it is possible to attain his goal; the very fact that he has been sent for the purpose of bringing G-dliness into the world indicates that the "land" can indeed be conquered. As Caleb put it, "We should go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it." No matter how difficult the mission may seem, a Jew must never arrive at the spies' conclusion and despair of ever being victorious.

Yes, the Jew is entrusted with a special shlichut, but G-d has given him the power and capacity to fulfill his mission. Bearing this in mind is the key to success.

Adapted from Hitva'aduyot 5743


A Slice of Life

THE FIFTIETH YEAR

Rabbi Groner with the Rebbe

by Rabbi Leib Groner

In a European city live two brothers who are multi-millionaires. Many years ago they decided not to sign any business deal without first receiving the Rebbe's consent and blessing.

Once, they were offered the opportunity to invest $15 million and earn back $50 million within 18 months. The two brothers showed all of the paper work to their accountants and lawyers who, after scrutinizing it, said it was a sound deal.

As usual, before signing on the dotted line, the brothers called the Rebbe's office and asked for his consent and blessing. I took down all the information they gave me and then I went in to the Rebbe.

In answer, the Rebbe wrote (in Hebrew): "Don't do this deal," underlining the word "don't" twice. I called the brothers to relay the Rebbe's answer.

When I finished reading the answer, there was silence on the line. Finally, they said that apparently I hadn't given over the information to the Rebbe properly because it just wasn't possible that the Rebbe would reject such a good proposal. I repeated back to them exactly what I had told the Rebbe and they agreed that I had gotten it all down properly. Yet the Rebbe had said not to do the deal!

Years passed. A few years ago I went to speak in the city where the brothers live. One of them asked me whether I remembered the story. I told them I did and he told me the end of the story.

After they had received the Rebbe's answer, they asked their lawyers and accountants to go over the contract again. After scrutinizing it once more they said they saw nothing wrong and that they could only anticipate huge profits.

The two brothers faced a difficult test. Some friends told them to invest and, 18 months later when they had earned the $50 million, they would give a tenth to the Rebbe who would no doubt thank them for not listening to him this one time.

They decided to do what they always did-to only go ahead if they had the Rebbe's blessing. To everyone's amazement the deal was called off.

Three weeks later they understood how far-reaching the Rebbe's vision is. The person who had presented them with a "sure" deal was arrested by Interpol for fraud. All the papers he had shown them were counterfeit documents.

The two brothers concluded their story excitedly: "See what a miracle happened here! The Rebbe sits in New York, and from there he sees what none of the experts over here could see!"

I told them that they were mistaken. The miracle was that they decided to listen to the Rebbe even when logic dictated the opposite. They did this with simple faith in the words of the Moses of our generation, with faith that is above reason and logic. This is true faith in the words of the Rebbe!

To illustrate how the Rebbe is here with us as before, let me share with you just two stories:

A shaliach, an emissary of the Rebbe, was faced with a dilemma. One of his primary supporters was involved in some activities which were disturbing the spiritual well-being of his city. When the shaliach came to New York, he went to the Ohel and asked the Rebbe if he should weather out the situation, or distance himself from this man. Later that day, when the shaliach phoned his office, he was surprised to hear a strange voice answer the phone. "Is this the Chabad House?" he asked. "No," a woman replied. It turned out that he had dialed a wrong number and had reached the daughter-in-law of the very supporter! He had never phoned her before and didn't even have her number. She told him how highly her father-in-law regarded him. The shaliach had his answer, to maintain connection with the man.

Another story is about a New York family. One daughter was studying in a women's seminary not far from New York. The other daughter, who was graduating high school that year and would be attending seminary in the fall, didn't want to study in the same school as her sister. She wanted to go to school in Melborne or Sydney, Australia, or in Israel. The father didn't know how to advise his daughter. The girl imagined herself before the Rebbe asking him for his advice. She then took a volume of the Rebbe's letters and randomly opened it up. On the page she opened to was a letter that the Rebbe had written to a certain girl. It said: "In response to your letter regarding where you should continue your studies, it is not fitting for you to go to a place far from your parents; but try to go to a place close to home." The girl had her answer right away.

What do we see from all this? Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, quotes the Zohar which says that a tzadik is found in this world more after his passing than during his life. A shepherd doesn't leave his flock.

This year Gimmel Tammuz is unique in that it takes place in the jubilee year of the Rebbe's leadership. Concerning the jubilee year the Torah says, "And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year." This verse expresses the essence of the fiftieth year; the fiftieth year is holy. This year, then, is a time to rise above the mundane.

Chasidut explains that during the jubilee year, an infinite G-dly light is drawn down. Throughout the 49 previous years the G-dly light was limted, but in the fiftieth year the holiness is infinite.

In this fiftieth year of the Rebbe's leadership we are given special, unlimited abilities. We have always had the ability to fulfill the Rebbe's directives, but this year we have an unlimited light with which we can overcome all obstacles. This year nothing can stop us from carrying out the Rebbe's most fervent desire: to bring the final Redemption.

How can we do this? Let me illustrate with a personal story. One time I wasn't feeling well but I went to the office as usual. When I entered the Rebbe's room, the Rebbe asked me whether I had gone to the doctor. I said that if the Rebbe said so, I would go to the doctor. When I got back, the Rebbe asked me what had happened. I told the Rebbe that the doctor had examined me and had given me a certain medicine. The Rebbe said: "You should know that the medicine wasn't meant to sit on the shelf so that you could go over to it three times a day and bow before it and tell it that you hold it in great esteem. The medicine is meant to be used, and you have to actually take it three times a day, and that's how you will get better."

The Rebbe compared it to the miracle of the oil. When the Hasmonians found the sealed jar of oil, they could have sent it to a museum, as was fitting for such as unusual find. But they chose to be smart and use it and in the merit of their using it, they merited the miracle.

We also have a medicine. We are given special G-dly abilities in the fiftieth year. We cannot leave them "on the shelf," content that we know they exist and are giving them the proper respect! We have to actually use these abilities and dedicate the fiftieth year to fulfilling the Rebbe's instructions.

The Alter Rebbe writes that we will go from our personal redemption to the collective redemption. When each of us strengthens our faith in the Rebbe's words that "Moshiach is coming," and "the time of the Redemption has arrived" we can more easily prepare for Moshiach.

May we use the abilities given us in this fiftieth year, and may we merit the revelation of Moshiach and the Rebbe taking us out of exile, NOW!


The Rebbe Writes

12th of Nissan, 5739 [1979]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 9th of Adar, which reached me with considerable delay. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

...With reference to your writing "I do not 'hold' by a Rebbe now. My allegiance is to the Yiddishkeit with which I grew up," etc. - of course, what is expected of you, as of every Jew, is that the daily life and conduct should be in accordance with the Torah, Toras Chaim [the Torah of life], and this is the very essence of Yiddishkeit. However, inasmuch as the Torah is described as "longer than the earth and wider than the sea," it is normal that no individual, however proficient he is in Torah and Mitzvos, and however educated he is, isolates himself from others, from whom he can learn a better and deeper understanding of Torah, at any rate, in those areas where he has not yet attained the highest level. This is the function of a Rebbe, a teacher and instructor who have in their sphere of learning devoted more time and attained a higher level of knowledge, etc.

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5730 [1970]

My dear Assaf:

I was pleased to receive you letter, but I was very much surprised at the question you asked.

You wrote: "I want to know if Hashem really exists." I will answer it this way: Suppose you were walking in the streets and saw a skyscraper. Would you ask, "Is there someone who made it?" And if this is so with a building of a number of floors what will you say about the whole world, with the sun, moon and stars, oceans and mountains and woods and all the creatures on land and in the seas and so on?

Your other question was, if you daven the rest of the year, will you get a trumpet?

Since you are a thoughtful boy I will again answer it with an illustration: Suppose you were invited to the White House and the President of the United States received you with pleasure and asked you what kind of a present would you like? Would you ask him for a candy? Perhaps you know the story of King Solomon, who was only 12 years old when he became King of all the Jewish people, after his father, King David. G-d appeared to him in a dream and asked him, "What shall I give you?" And all he asked for was a wise and understanding heart! And G-d gave him that as well as everything any person could wish for.

I trust you are learning Hashem's Torah with devotion and diligence and conduct yourself the way Hashem wants you to as befitting for a Jewish boy, a son of Abraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov the fathers of our people.

16 Adar, 5712 [1952]

. . . You seem to be disturbed because you feel that you have not attained the proper level in Torah and Mitzvos and cannot see the tachles [purpose] etc., which makes you downhearted.

Leaving the details of your complaints aside, I wish to make several observations:

1. A feeling of dissatisfaction with one's self is a good sign, for it indicates vitality and an urge to rise and improve one's self, which is accomplished in a two-way method: withdrawal from the present state, and turning to a higher level (see Sichah [talk] of my father-in-law of sainted memory, Pesach 5694).

2. If the urge to improve one's self leads to downheartedness and inertia, then it is the work of the Yetzer Hora [evil inclination], whose job it is to use every means to prevent the Jew from carrying out good intentions connected with Torah and Mitzvos.

The false and misleading voice of the Yetzer Hora should be stifled and ignored. Besides, as the Baal Hatanya [author of the Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism] states (Ch. 25), even one single good deed creates an everlasting bond and communion with G-d (ibid., at length). Thus, a feeling of despondency is not only out of place, but is a stumbling block in the worship of G-d, as is more fully explained in the above and subsequent chapters of Tanya.

3. With regard to understanding, or lack of understanding, of the tachles, the important thing required of the Jew is contained in the words of the Torah: "For the thing is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart (and the tachles is) to do it." Understanding is, generally, the second step. The first step is the practice of the Mitzvos....

My prayerful wish to you, as you conclude your letter, is that the next one coming from you will be more cheerful.


Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman, yblc't

28 Sivan

Prohibition mitzva 192: eating orla

By this prohibition we are forbidden to eat orla (the fruit of young trees during the first three years). It is contained in the words (Lev. 19:23), "Three years shall it be as forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten." Although the text of the Torah refers only to the Land of Israel, the prohibition against eating orla outside the Land is contained in the oral law given to Moses at Sinai.


A Word from the Director

The Talmud relates that once, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked the prophet Elijah, "When will Moshiach come?"

Elijah responded: "Go ask him. He is sitting among the sickly paupers at the entrance to Rome. You will recognize him because the other paupers untie all their bandages at once, clean their sores, and then rebandage themselves. Moshiach, however, unties and replaces each of his bandages separately, so that when the time comes to reveal himself, he will not be delayed."

Rabbi Yehoshua traveled to Rome, found Moshiach and asked, "When will you come?"

Moshiach answered, "Today."

Rabbi Yehoshua returned to Elijah, saying that Moshiach had lied: "He said he would come 'today' but he did not come." Elijah explained that Moshiach's answer was based on the verse from Psalms, "Today, if you heed His voice."

The Maharal discusses this passage and explains that when Elijah said to ask Moshiach, he meant that Rabbi Yehoshua should elevate himself to Moshiach's spiritual level. This level is "at the entrance to Rome." For just as an entrance is where a house ends, the entrance to Rome is where the Roman empire ends, i.e., collapses. Thus, Moshiach will arise when the Roman empire-symbolic of our present exile-crumbles.

The paupers symbolize separation from the world, for as they are impoverished they do not benefit from the world. Moshiach sits among them because he, too, is "removed" from the world. Furthermore, they are sick because the natural world has declared war on them, just as it has on Moshiach, who transcends nature.

As evidenced by the way he rebandages himself, Moshiach is willing and ready to overpower the natural world and bring Redemption any moment. When Rabbi Yehoshua came to this realization, he reached the spiritual level of Moshiach and expected him that day. Elijah then explained, in effect, "As far as Moshiach is concerned, he would come today, but G-d wants the world to be prepared for him. Thus, he will come 'Today-if you heed His voice.' "

The Rebbe has said that "today" has arrived. May we merit this very day to behold the return of Moshiach into the physical world from which he is removed, with the Final Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

Send out some men that they may spy out (veyaturu) the land of Canaan (Num. 13:2)

"V'yaturu" is etymologically related to "veyatiru" - to undo and release a tie. Before the spies' visit, the land of Canaan was spiritually "bound" to the seven nations, under their dominion and control. By touring the length and breadth of Israel, the spies sent by Moses "undid" this tie and severed it forever. (The Chozeh of Lublin)

Every one who is a prince (nasi) among them (Num. 13:2)

The Hebrew word "nasi" contains the words "ayin" (nothing) and "yesh" (something), revealing a lesson about the hallmark of a true Jewish leader: A leader who considers himself "nothing," who is humble and without pretension, is really a "yesh," the genuine article. By contrast, a leader who considers himself "something" is really worth nothing at all. (Degel Machane Efraim)

It is a land that consumes its inhabitants (literally "those who sit in it") (Num. 13:32)

The Land of Israel consumes "those who sit in it," as opposed to those who are always on the move. A person must never be idle, content to wallow in whatever spiritual accomplishments he has already attained. Rather, one must always strive upward, from one level of holiness to the next. (Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)

The L-rd...visits (pokeid) the iniquity of the fathers upon the children (Num. 18:14)

The Hebrew word "pokeid" also means "to be lacking or missing." In other words, G-d minimizes and "condenses" the sins of the fathers in the merit of their children. If the children are good and behave properly, the parents are forgiven on their behalf. (HaKetav VeHaKabala)


It Once Happened

From the personal diary of a chasid written during the first years of the Rebbe's leadership.

There was a Jew who had a daughter who was terribly ill and was hospitalized. The doctors had given up hope and said she had only a few days left to live. The father did not know what a "rebbe" is, but his wife told him to go to rabbis and rebbes to ask them to save their daughter.

The father went to some rebbes and promised them large sums of money if they would promise him his daughter would recover. But they all refused to make such a promise.

In the meantime, the daughter's condition worsened and the father was at his wit's end. He then met a Lubavitcher chasid who told him to go the Rebbe. That evening the father went to 770. He entered the secretaries' office and asked Rabbi Chadakov to allow him to see the Rebbe. Rabbi Chadakov said he would have to ask the Rebbe. The Rebbe answered that he should come the next morning at ten o'clock.

Throughout the night the father was convinced that his daughter was dying or already dead. So certain was he that he was afraid to call the hospital to see how she was doing.

At ten the next day, the man went to the Rebbe. The Rebbe told him, "Your daughter is still alive. In heaven they delayed her judgement until now. Now it all depends upon you."

The father said he would give the Rebbe any sum of money so that his daughter would be saved.

The Rebbe told him: "That is not what I meant. I meant that you should put on tefilin every day, and then your daughter will recover."

The father agreed of course, and also decided to observe Shabbat, and his daughter suddenly and miraculously recovered.

***

At a gathering during Sukot, the Rebbe said incredible things about the Previous Rebbe. Among other things, he said that those Chasidim who maintain that the Rebbe continues to live continue to receive from the Rebbe in material and spiritual matters.

***

In the winter, Reb Avrohom Sykens was found in the street badly wounded. He was taken unconscious to the hospital, and he lay in a coma for three days. The doctors despaired, saying there was no hope.

One of the yeshiva students called the Rebbe's office and asked that they tell the Rebbe about the situation and ask for a blessing.

The Rebbe said they should whisper in Reb Avrohom's ear that they had told the Rebbe what had happened, and they should whisper the Rebbe's name and his father's name.

The student did so immediately, and Reb Avrohom suddenly opened his eyes and recognized the people standing around him. The doctors were astounded and said it was entirely unnatural.

***

At a gathering, someone asked the Rebbe for a blessing that his brother would be able to leave Russia, "a blessing like so-and-so had received."

The Rebbe said: "The truth is that giving a blessing is something connected with the individual's soul. (Therefore it makes no sense to ask to receive a blessing like someone else.)"

***

A certain chasid had a very unhappy second marriage and he always said that the reason was that he had badgered the Previous Rebbe until he received his consent for the match. At a gathering, the Rebbe said to him: "G-d should help you understand that when it concerns a Rebbe, there is no such thing as his being forced. If the Rebbe agreed, it is because he wanted to."

***

A person gave a letter to the Rebbe about a friend. The Rebbe said: "Tell him to write it himself, because when I read a letter I also read between the lines."

***

Someone wrote a letter to the Rebbe in the month of Adar [when we are enjoined to be especially joyous], asking for a blessing for someone who was seriously ill, and for whom they had already despaired.

The Rebbe answered: "It's surprising that we talk and talk and when it comes to action, everybody thinks that it doesn't apply to them.

"The saying and directive of the Rebbes has been quoted many times: 'Tracht gut vet zein gut (think positively and it will be good),' which conversely illustrates the problem with negative thoughts.

"Despite the fact that we are in the month of Adar, when we are commanded to increase in joy, he is steeped in despair.

"And we will conclude with...: 'Tracht gut vet zein gut' in a visible and revealed way.' "

The end of the story was that the sick person suddenly became better, to the surprise of all the doctors.

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine.


Moshiach Matters

Some people are apprehensive about having the Redemption arrive so suddenly. What will come of all the businesses that they have set up, the property and possessions they have accumulated, the friendships and the contacts that have been established, and so on? They need not worry. The Redemption does not imply the annulment of the natural order nor the loss of the good things that came into being (in the spirit of the Torah) during the exile. Indeed, these very things will be comprised in the Redemption, and will be elevated to a state of Redemption, to the level of their true consummation. (The Rebbe, 5751-1991)


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