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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Joe Greenberg was one of the wealthiest men in town. To every charitible organization that called him, knocked on his door or sent him an appeal letter, he always had the same response, "Soon, soon. Don't worry, you'll see."
Month after month, year after year, Joe became wealthier, but his response never changed: "Soon, soon. Don't worry, you'll see."
At a ripe, old age, Joe finally passed away. He never did make good on any of his half-hearted promises to give charity. In fact, he never gave a dime in his whole life.
When he arrived at the gates of Heaven, the Guardians scrutinized his list of good deeds. "What about all of these 'Soon, soons. You'll sees' that you told the charities, synagogues, and yeshivas?" asked the Guards at the Gates.
"No problem," said Joe, as he calmly pulled out his checkbook and started writing out checks to every single charitable organization that had every approached him. "I'll make good on everything right away," he confidently declared.
"Sorry, Joe," the Guards said solemnly. "Here, we only accept receipts.
For many of us, the approach of Yom Kippur turns our thoughts toward the Final Reckoning, or at least what our scorecard will look like on this year's Day of Judgement.
What "receipts" do we have to show for ourselves from this year? Did we make good on last year's pledges?
Of course, the receipts mentioned at the Heavenly Gates don't just include those given for charity.* Why, for that, even a cancelled check would be alright.
The receipts that are legal tender Above include each and every good deed that we did this past year. Promisary notes are just fine for the upcoming year, but what do we have to show for ourselves for the past twelve months?
As we do each mitzva, whether it's performing a positive commandment or abstaining from a prohibition, the mitzva is recorded in the Heavenly Record Book. Any and all feelings of remorse and regret over past misdeeds or missed deeds are also included. Then, taking into account all of the "receipts" for the mitzvot, G-d's decree for what the coming year will be like for us is written down on Rosh Hashana and "sealed" on Yom Kippur. (The "grace period" between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur allows for a change in Judgement if we work really hard-spiritually speaking-during those intermediary days).
Start making good on those promisary notes today and collect plenty of receipts over the next few days (months, and years!). We'll all be happy you did.
* This is not to minimize the greatness of the mitzva of charity, however. In fact, when it says "the mitzva" in the Talmud without clarification, our Sages say it refers to the mitzva of charity since it encompasses all other mitzvot. In addition, it is one of the only mitzvot about which Jewish tradition declares that it actually hastens the Redemption.
This Shabbat is known by two names: Shabbat Shuva and Shabbat Teshuva.
The name Shabbat Shuva is taken from the opening words of this week's haftora, "Shuva Yisrael - Return, O Israel." The second name, Shabbat Teshuva, is derived from the fact that this Shabbat falls out in the middle of the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance. This name is also associated with the haftora, as its central theme is returning to G-d.
The two names of this Shabbat reveal a timely lesson.
The phrase "Shuva - Return" is grammatically a command. G-d commands us to return to Him in repentance.
Teshuva, by contrast, is a noun denoting the action itself, the actual return to G-d.
The word "Shuva" relates more to the One who issues the command than the person being addressed. It implies a situation in which the command has already been issued, but not yet carried out. The command itself imparts a certain measure of strength, but does not ensure that it will necessarily be fulfilled in the future.
"Teshuva," on the other hand, implies that the action has already been taken, i.e., that the teshuva has already been done. But if that were the case, why would we continue to refer to this Shabbat as Shabbat Teshuva?
The answer is that the act of teshuva consists of both the command to return to G-d and its subsequent implementation.
Shuva teaches us that even after a Jew has done teshuva, he still needs to work on himself. No matter how much teshuva a person has done, it is always possible to rise higher; hence the directive, "Return, O Israel unto the L-rd your G-d." Thus it is understood that there is always room for improvement, for an even deeper and more infinite level of teshuva, as G-d Himself is Infinite and without limitations.
This, then, is the lesson of Shabbat Shuva: A Jew must never content himself with whatever spiritual accomplishments he has already attained. He must never think that, because he has worked on himself a whole week, he is now entitled to "rest" because it is Shabbat. No, today is Shabbat Shuva! Even after one has done teshuva, more work is required. For the service of teshuva is continual and without end.
Adapted from Hitva'aduyot 5744, Volume 1
THE AUTUMN HOLY DAYS
By Rabbi Elazar Nanas
Excerpted from his book Subbota: My Twenty Years in Soviet Prisons
The autumn Holy Days were getting closer and this caused me some concern. In barely three weeks I would be away from work for a total of seven full days. I decided to discuss the problem with the manager. She was extremely cordial.
"It is a privilege for me to help a man like yourself, ready to sacrifice so much for his faith. Don't you worry. I will arrange the work schedule so that you will finish and send off all the production before the Holy Days, and then when the Holy Days fall, there will be no dolls dry and ready for shipment. That way no one will realize that you are not on the job." Then, noting the precise dates in her notebook, she added, "Don't worry. Everything will be in order. If necessary I will help you pack any backlog."
The day before Rosh Hashana, September 16, 1947, I went to the thieves' barrack and confided to the senior prisoner that this evening the Holy Days began and I wanted to spend the time in his barrack, where no one would disturb me. He received me pleasantly and remarked that he remembered his childhood when he lived among Jews, and he knew that these days were the holiest ones for the Jews. He would help me in any way necessary. Every barrack had a small room for drying clothes. He gave me full use of the room and instructed his men to make a key for me. No one was to bother me during these days. I asked how I could thank him and he dismissed this with a wave of the hand. "Forget it. I'm not afraid of the officials. They can't do anything to me anyway, so it's no sacrifice for me to help you. But a man like you is worth helping."
I asked Zvi to draw up a list of all the Jews in camp so we could let them know the date of Yom Kippur. If we could not gather for a minyan, then they could at least try to get out of work that day. Zvi knew the location of every Jew and he informed each one about Yom Kippur. We decided that for reasons of safety we would fast individually, but would gather for the breaking of the fast in the archives. Zvi spent the week gathering an appropriate supply of provisions such as bread, herring, tea and sugar.
Zvi gave me the key to the archives for Yom Kippur. I said Kol Nidrei there and the next day Zvi came and we davened together. That evening for Neila the engineer in charge of the doll factory came, together with the artist and two Jewish prisoners who worked in the camp administration office. Some could not daven, but they all listened attentively to the davening. After Yom Kippur we all enjoyed the feast Zvi had prepared.
Everyone was so pleased with our post-Yom Kippur meal that we decided to celebrate Sukot together too. Every evening we assembled in the archives, each man bringing whatever he could. The food was pooled and we shared a common meal. For Simchat Torah, the engineer had a great surprise for us - a bottle of whiskey, a rarity in camp, as it was strictly prohibited. I said Kiddush and each man said l'chaim. We sat up late that night, recalling our homes and our families.
The next evening the engineer invited me to his room. I had the impression that he simply had a need to talk about something. "You know, I feel like I was converted. For the first time in my life I fasted on Yom Kippur, and for the first time I celebrated Simchat Torah. I am from an unobservant Jewish home. Judaism consisted of circumcision, putting on tefilin once at Bar Mitzva, and if you married a Jewish girl the rabbi would come to officiate. I abandoned even that little bit because I became a communist when I was very young.
"Since I met you, I keep thinking about you with amazement. If I were not a witness myself, I would never believe it possible to keep Shabbat and keep kosher in the dreadful conditions of our camp. And you've been doing this for over ten years. You can do such things only with faith." He paused thoughtfully. "From observing you here in camp, I've come to the conclusion that only thanks to deep faith and only by profound observance of the religious customs were the Jewish people able to survive. Without that we would have long ago stopped existing as a nation."
I was deeply moved by his words. Our conversation lasted deep into the might. "I swear to you, as long as I am with you. I will help you with everything possible so that you might keep all the mitzvot. And if I am ever so fortunate as to be freed, then I, too, will keep the Jewish laws. It is possible that I had to suffer so much in camp so that I could shake off communism and return to the Jewish people."
YOM KIPPUR IN PRISON
The Lubavitch Youth Organization, headquartered in New York, sends volunteers to state and federal prisons in the New York area for pre-holiday and holiday programs. Volunteers stayed within walking distance of a number of facilities on Rosh Hashana and will do the same for Yom Kippur to conduct services. For the festival of Sukkot, LYO sends volunteers to over a dozen facilities in New York state to bring the joy of the holiday to our incarcerated brethren.
GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY
Thousands of enthusiasts and dignitaries marked the historical inauguration of the edifice that will be dedicated to children - "the adults of tomorrow" - the Jewish Children's Museum. The ground breaking ceremony took place on September 8 at the museum's location on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York.
JERUSALEM OF GOLD
The Third Festival of Jewish Music at Sea will take place January 9 - 16. Sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch of Florida, American Express Travel and the American Society for the Advancement of Cantorial Arts, Inc., the cruise includes strictly kosher cuisine and 7 nights on the Holland America Lines newest five star ship MS Veendam. The cruise sails from Ft. Lauderdale to four islands in the Bahamas and features 14 entertainers and cantors performing Chasidic, Cantorial, Yiddish, Sefardic-Ladino and Klezmer music. There will be also be daily services, classes and lectures. For more information call 877-567-4372
In the Ten Days of Teshuva, 5736 
...Inasmuch as we are now in the propitious days of Aseres Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Return), it is well to remember that this is the time of the year which our Sages identify with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found, call on Him when He is near." This "nearness" is described as the "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark." May G-d grant that this be reflected in the daily life throughout the whole year, in all aspects, both spiritual as well as material.
Indeed, since all expressions used by our Sages, as all words of Torah, are exact, the said expression, "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark," is particularly meaningful. For, the proximity of the Source of Light increase the spark's flame and power, and so in the spiritual realm, where the nearness of G-d, the Source of Light and Source of Blessing, sets the Jew's heart and mind aglow with love of G-d and awe of G-d, stimulating him (and her) to observe and the channels and vessels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
With the blessing of Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo [be fully sealed for good] and good things in all above,
5th Tishrei, 5736 
I received, with considerable delay, your letter of Elul 6, in connection with the Induction of your esteemed Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick.
However, a blessing is always timely, especially in the propitious days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which our Sages identify with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found; call on Him when He is near." This special nearness to G-d, the Source of Blessings, surely brings Divine blessings, materially and spiritually.
I am therefore pleased to take this opportunity of extending to you and the entire Congregation prayerful wishes that your association with your esteemed Rabbi be blessed with much Hatzlocho [success].
...As is well known, a Jewish congregation is called Kehilla Kadisha, a Holy Congregation. To make this a reality, it is the function of the synagogue to inspire each and all of the members and worshippers to carry the holiness of the Mishkan Me'at ("Small Sanctuary") into their homes and homelife, in fulfillment of G-d's desire v'shochanti b'sochom - "I will dwell among them" - within each and all of them.
Rabbi Gutnick has the additional distinction of being a Kohen, of whom it is written, "A Kohen's lips preserve knowledge and Torah is sought from his mouth" (Malachi 2:7). In addition to being the traditional teachers of our people, kohanim have been also chosen by G-d "to bless His people Israel with love," and these blessings include, of course, well-being and prosperity in every respect, materially and spiritually. May G-d grant that this be so for your entire Congregation with your esteemed Rabbi, and in a growing measure.
With prayerful wishes for a Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo for a good and sweet year,
5th of Tishrei, 5721 
Students of Grade A and Gan of the
Beth Rivkah Academy,
I was pleased to receive your good wishes for the New Year. I also send my prayerful wishes to you, your parents, and your teachers, for a very happy and successful year in every respect.
It is written in our holy Torah that a great measure of happiness for every Jewish boy and girl depends upon their conducting themselves in their daily life in accordance with the Will of G-d. In doing so, they bring G-d's blessings not only upon themselves, but also upon their parents and families.
May G-d grant that you will have good news to report about your good progress in your studies and in your daily conduct.
Wishing you, each and all, a Chasimo and Gemar Chasimo Toivo.
5th of Tishrei, 5721 
...I was very pleased to read in your letter about the improvement in the observance of the Mitzvos in the family, and may G-d grant that this continues in a growing measure. Needless to say, if you will show a living example, and act with affection and respect, it will have a considerable effect.
I trust that you are taking full advantage of the present days of Divine benevolence and forgiveness, the Ten Days of Repentance, and the month of Tishrei in general, since these days inaugurate the New Year and have a lasting effect and influence throughout the year...
In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't
8 Tishrei 5760
Negative mitzva 107: substituting one holy offering for another
By this prohibition we are forbidden to change one kind of holy offering for another, such as a peace-offering for a guilt-offering. It is derived from the Torah's words (Lev. 27:26): "No man shall sanctify it."
Our Sages said that Moshiach will come to a particularly lowly generation (that's us). As to how a generation with such spiritual limitations will be able to cope with the intense light of the Final Redemption, they gave two explanations: one, when Moshiach comes, everyone will be aroused to complete repentence, and two, G-d Himself will wipe away all our sins and spiritual defects, rendering us worthy.
The second explanation is similar to what happens on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (this Sunday night/Monday). As our Sages put it, "the essence of the day provides atonement." But if doing sins causes a defect in the soul, how can the fact that it's a certain day on the calendar make everything all right again?
Chasidut explains that a Jew's connection to G-d exists on many levels. The outermost level is achieved through observance of Torah and mitzvot. But the very deepest level of connection is independent of a Jew's actions. This G-dly spark, known as the level of yechida, makes it impossible for a Jew to be separated from G-dliness. He can't be separated, he doesn't want to be separated, and he would even give up his life to retain that connection if he had to.
This level, also known as the "essence of the soul," is always pure and holy. A Jew can commit all the sins in the world (G-d forbid) and his essential connection to G-d remains untouched.
On a day to day basis, of course, we're unaware of this. And because the outer levels of the soul are affected by our bad behavior, repentence is indeed necessary.
Nonetheless, on Yom Kippur the "essence of the soul" is revealed. Always perfect and complete, it is so powerful that any defects in the lower levels of the soul are "automatically" corrected.
Similarly, when Moshiach comes, this essential nature of the Jew will be uncovered, revealing that we were always connected to G-d with an eternal bond. May it happen immediately.
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; O earth, the words of my mouth (Deut. 32:1)
Our Sages stated: "The words of every individual who has fear of heaven will be obeyed." Moses, who possessed a tremendous fear of heaven, first called upon the celestial spheres to listen to him. The lower, human realm would then follow and obey automatically. (Rabbi Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora)
How did Moses, the most humble man to ever walk the face of the earth, dare to demand the attention of the heavens? Because the more insignificant a person considers himself, the more right he has to ask that the heavens pay him mind. (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)
He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the Children of Israel (Deut. 32:8)
G-d established the borders of all the countries of the world so that the Jewish people, by living in those lands and observing Torah and mitzvot, could elevate the sparks of holiness they contain. The purpose of the Jews' exile among the nations is to illuminate the world through "the candle of mitzva, and the Torah, light." (Sichot Kodesh)
And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be (Deut. 32:20)
G-d assures us: Even though I will hide My face and subject the Jewish people to the laws of nature, it will only be a temporary situation. For even in their exile I am mindful of their "end," and will always protect their eternity. (Shem MiShmuel)
The Baal Shem Tov was once travelling with his disciples in their carriage. The horses came to a halt in the middle of a field. The Baal Shem Tov and his disciples disembarked, prayed the afternoon service and sat down to eat. Then, the Baal Shem Tov dug a little hole in the ground, poured a small amount of whiskey into the hole and said, "l'chaim!" The curious disciples asked for an explanation and were told the following story:
Many years ago there lived a man who had an only daughter. When she came of age he found a good husband for her, a young man of sterling character who studied Torah all day. The father supported the couple and the son-in-law pursued his studies. When the father passed away, his daughter began managing the store and business, and the young man continued his Torah studies.
Now, there lived in the area a minister who was especially devoted to trying to win learned Jews over to Christianity. When he found out about the young husband, he set his mind to finding a way to begin a dialogue with him.
Every day the minister would come to the Jewish store to make a purchase and ingratiate himself to the young woman. Once, when the minister came, the wife confided that her husband was ill. The minister commiserated, offered his wishes for her husband's recovery, and asked if he could pay a visit to cheer him up. The woman agreed, and the minister finally met the object of his plan.
The next time the young man took ill, the minister suggested that he come to his fine estate to recuperate. He advised the young man to bring his own servant along to prepare kosher food for his stay. The invitation, the minister explained, was being extended in gratitude for the many happy hours of conversation they had enjoyed in the past and would have in the future.
The invitation was accepted. Meanwhile the minister had succeeded in bribing the young man's cook to prepare food that was not kosher. As is explained in Jewish mystical texts, one effect of eating non-kosher food is that it dulls the mind and heart, preventing an individual from perceiving G-dliness. Unfortunately, such became the case. The minister's friendly overtures and kind words had an effect on the young man and after a period of time he decided to convert to Christianity. He abandoned his wife, married the daughter of the minister, and was showered with wealth and privileges.
The young man bought himself property with an orchard and a house. In charge of overseeing the orchard was a very old man who lived on the grounds. One day, when the young man and his wife went for a stroll, they heard the caretaker weeping as if his heart would break. The old man could not be consoled and would not reveal why he was crying.
The matter touched the heart of the young man. He was determined to discover the cause of the caretaker's grief. Eventually the caretaker revealed the cause of his anguished cries.
"I am a Jew," whispered the old man, "a descendent of Marranos who were forced to convert to Christianity in Spain. In my heart I have always remained faithful to my G-d. The Jews have one day a year which is called Yom Kippur, a day for repentance and seeking atonement. Today is Yom Kippur, and that is why I am crying," he finished.
When the young man heard this tale, he was overcome with emotion. He vowed to return to the true faith of his people. He revealed that he, too, was a Jew, and explained how he had reached his current position. After the two of them had wept together, a thought occurred to the old man. "Why are you crying? You are very rich. You must certainly have the means to travel to another country, to begin life anew as a Jew."
The young man did as the elderly caretaker suggested. He repented of his former ways and once again trod the path of the righteous.
When her husband disappeared the gentile wife did not know what to do. Having seen him in the company of the old man, she asked him if he knew of her husband's whereabouts. She continued to badger him until he revealed the entire story. The woman was so impressed by the power of the Jewish faith that she sold all her possessions, left her country and converted to Judaism. (In those days, in that country, it was against the law to undergo conversion to Judaism).
After all this took place the elderly caretaker began to think, "What is to become of me? I am responsible for two people living a Torah life, yet I myself am still here." Despite his lack of means, he decided to wander until he reached a place where he could live openly as a Jew. He began his travels, but before reaching his final destination, he suddenly died.
"And this spot," continued the Baal Shem Tov, pointing to the small hole he had dug, "is the final resting place of the old man. When his soul ascended to Heaven it was met by two camps of angels, each arguing his fate. The defending angels claimed that he decided to return to Judaism and had even taken the first few steps, even though he had not been able to complete his mission. The prosecuting angels argued that he be barred from entry, as he had not actually done what he set out to do.
"The case was left open, and since his death the old man's soul has wandered about, unable to find a resting place. Now, however, in the merit of our prayers on this spot and our saying 'l'chaim,' his soul has been elevated to where it belongs. May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life," the Baal Shem Tov concluded.
All of the Prophets prescribed teshuva and said that the Jewish people will be redeemed only through teshuva. The Torah has given assurance that Israel will do teshuva - at the end of its exile - and will be redeemed immediately, as it says in Deuteronomy: "It will be when all these things have happened... you will return to G-d... and G-d will return your captivity and will gather you from among all the nations where He dispersed you" (Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuva)