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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Hurricane Floyd tore across the eastern seaboard of the United States this past month. The damage, thank G-d, was not as extensive as originally expected. But, due to threats of flooding and devastating winds, millions of people were evacuated, beaches were washed away, water plants were flooded out, and torrential rains caused dangerous mudslides. Airports and public schools closed, and even Disney Land closed for the first time in its history!
Although the international media brought news of the hurricane and its aftermath to all parts of the world, not since the times of Noah has a flood actually impacted the entire world.
This week, in synagogues around the globe, we will be reading the Torah portion which contains the account of the most famous flood.
The Torah is eternal. It applies in every time and in every place. Thus the story of the flood contains an important lesson for us to apply in our daily lives, thousands of years after Noah's lifetime.
As the Baal Shem Tov explained, every person faces a "flood" of troubles and worries in life that threaten to engulf him. To escape the deluge, G-d commands us (as he did Noah) to "go into the teiva," which has the double meaning of "ark" and "word." Our refuge and ultimately our salvation is in the holy words of Torah and prayer.
According to Chasidut, the act of uttering words of Torah purifies the air and has an effect on physical reality. The Chabad Rebbes stressed how important it is to commit Torah verses to memory (Chumash, Psalms, Mishnayot, etc.), to be able to recite them at will. As the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn put it, "Purification of the air...is effected through the letters of Torah. When reciting words of Torah in the store or walking in the street or riding the subway, one cleans the air. Everyone... must have some Torah memorized."
The Baal Shem Tov once led his students into a field and instructed them to stand in a circle with their arms on each other's shoulders. Suddenly, they saw a vision of people praying, wearing talit and tefilin. The Baal Shem Tov explained that more than 300 years previously, a group of Jews had prayed at that very spot. "What you see," he said, "is not the prayers themselves, for they ascended heavenward. But every element of holiness leaves an impression, and you are seeing the impression of the letters of prayer."
So remember, regardless of one's social skills, it isn't hard for a Jew to make a good impression.
After the Torah relates how the world was almost completely wiped out by the Flood, it states: "And only Noah remained." The word "only" seems superfluous, as by then we already know the fate of the rest of civilization. Rashi, however, explains that the use of the word "only" connotes that something was lacking or less than perfect about Noah when he exited the ark.
According to Rashi, the literal meaning of the verse is that only Noah remained alive out of everyone of his generation. Yet he goes on to cite two additional explanations from the Midrash: 1) Noah "was groaning and faint from the exertion of taking care of all the animals"; and 2) he "delayed feeding the lion, and was bitten." Thus according to the Midrash, Noah was either sick and exhausted from overwork or physically injured when he first stepped out of the ark.
But why would G-d allow Noah to be bitten by the lion? Out of all the lions that lived prior to the Flood, G-d chose that particular one (and its mate) to go into the ark. Why would He permit it to attack Noah just because its food was delayed on one occasion?
Rashi answers his own question with a quote from Proverbs: "Behold, the righteous man is rewarded on earth." When a righteous person commits even the tiniest misdeed, his punishment is meted out in this world to preserve his reward for the World to Come. Being bitten by the lion was actually to Noah's benefit, for it expiated whatever sin he would have been punished for later.
This contains an important lesson for our generation: Like Noah, the sole survivor of the Flood, we are "the firebrand snatched from the fire" that consumed the Jewish people only a generation ago. And just as Noah was entrusted with a special mission to nurture and sustain G-d's creations in the ark, so too have we been charged with providing spiritual sustenance to our Jewish brethren all over the world.
It is not a simple mission. Indeed, it is fraught with difficulties and obstacles, and an occasional threatening "lion." Yet we must not be frightened or become discouraged. Like Noah, we too must forge ahead despite the daunting nature of the task.
In truth, the fact that we have personally merited to fulfill G-d's mission is cause for great happiness and joy. That we have merited to be alive when so many of our righteous brethren perished should alone inspire us.
Furthermore, learning from Noah's example, we must always strive to ensure that the sustenance we provide is never "delayed." Rather, we must go out of our way to help our fellow Jews both materially and spiritually.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 5
THE SEARCHING SOULS
by Esti (Lynn) Wilson
We were two average Americans living average American lives: working until all hours of the night; talking constantly of work, real estate, and early retirement; finding ways to entertain ourselves through movies, bars, the gym, and TV.
I had met Doug at my new job. It took me a while to let him know I was Jewish, for I was afraid it would take away from my Yuppie status. Little did I know that being Jewish only enhanced my status in his eyes. We fell in love, got married, had two children...typical American story...or was it?
Doug was raised in a Catholic home. By the time I met him, he clearly did not consider himself a Catholic. His upbringing had given him a bad taste for organized religion and he was very wary of anything that smelled of it. As soon as we were "married" he began a study process of the history of the Jews. It was an intellectual pursuit to gain an understanding of a people and their heritage, as well as an attempt to gain an understanding of his meshugana Jewish wife. Doug consistently encouraged me to explore my own roots, to find an appropriate synagogue, to get involved in Judaism, to learn.
We paid our dues, went to services once a month on Friday evenings, and attended various events. Meanwhile, my brother had returned from a year in yeshiva in Jerusalem wearing tzitzit and a kipa. For Doug and me, having my brother in our home was a luxury. We felt we had our own private Rabbi to help us continue our learning.
We began to realize that a general understanding of Jewish tradition wasn't enough. We had a feeling there must be something more out there. Then Chabad moved in around the corner from our home. We finally went one Shabbat. When I left, my soul knew it had discovered the bigger thing - Hashem's Torah. The wheels that had been set in motion were now starting to turn at freight train speed. On Tuesday I attended a Torah class which was the first of many classes to come. Within a month, we enrolled our daughters at the Chabad cheder. I had a fire burning within me, which needed to be fed with more Torah learning.
My husband had his own journey from here on. Prior to this point, we were on similar paths; however, now that we had discovered the Torah, our journeys took different directions. I knew from that point that my mission was to grow in learning Torah and to teach our children to become good Torah Jews. For my husband however, it wasn't the same... he wasn't a Jew.
It had become a very exciting and wonderful time for us, but a very difficult one as well, in that we didn't know where we, as a couple, would go from here. But we continued to learn, began observing Shabbat and started keeping kosher. Doug learned to read Hebrew and started to take an interest in Yiddishkeit. Something had changed in him - the pursuit was no longer intellectual, it was something else. He struggled with the concept of G-d, but continued to push forward... always forward. I remained quiet about wanting my husband to be Jewish, but prayed to G-d every night to help Doug along that path.
Doug observed the Sabbath, he went to shul every Saturday, and read and read. Then one day, the minute Shabbat ended, he said, "I have to go somewhere, I'll be right back." He came home about two hours later and told me he had asked our Chabad Rabbi if he could convert! I had had no idea he was ready for this. Of course, the Rabbi rejected him and proceeded to do so several more times through that year, until eventually he felt that Doug was absolutely committed to joining the Jewish people.
The following year proved to be joyful, stressful, and a little scary. For, although we anticipated his final conversion as a joyful moment, the interim period was very difficult. Doug was given a program to study, and in the following months he was very focused on that program.
It was truly an amazing process to watch him go through. There was a fire burning in him, pushing him towards his goal. It was a very human drive but definitely had supernatural qualities. The day came when our Rabbi and the Rabbi from the Bet Din (Rabbincial Court) agreed he was ready.
The four weeks from when we received the date until the conversion was certainly a crazy time in our lives. Not only did Doug have to prepare for the conversion but we also had to prepare for Pesach. In addition, we had to plan our wedding, which would follow Doug's conversion. We decided that since this was our first Jewish wedding, we were going to treat it as such. By the time the day came, we were both high on adrenaline.
We arrived at the Bet Din with great anticipation and a whole lot of nervousness on my part. We were later told that prospective converts are not even allowed in front of the Bet Din unless they believe you're going to pass. He came out with a huge smile, and the Rabbis were saying Mazel Tov. I was very curious why it had gone so fast, and Doug's teacher (who was sitting in on the Bet Din) told me they had asked him questions which most people would probably not be able to answer. In addition, it was obvious to the Rabbis that his answers as to why he wanted to be a Jew were true and came from his heart and soul.
After the meeting with the Bet Din, we went directly to the mikva, where my husband completed his conversion and became Chaim Wilson. It was an overwhelming moment for us, but we were not done yet-we still had to be married! Onward to the wedding we went. Probably the most touching moment of the evening was when Chaim spoke. He thanked a number of people and then thanked me in a special way. He began by reading Aishes Chayil ("Woman of Valor") in Hebrew. It was truly a tremendous moment. A newly born Jew reading the language of our people in front of over 100 people. I was so proud.
Our lives have since proceeded at a steady pace of Torah growth. We feel tremendous gratitude to the Rebbe for sending Chabad to us. We look forward to the coming of the Moshiach.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsetter
The Jacques and Hannah Schwalbe Mikva, at 419 E. 77th St. on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is expected to be completed by the fall of 2000. Designed by an internationally-acclaimed architect, it will feature three immersion pools, including one equipped for use by people with disabilities. The converted brownstone will also host The Schneerson Center for Jewish Life, which will include a nursery school, a youth center, an adult education center, and a holiday and Sabbath community celebration center. The Upper East Side mikva project was initiated by Rabbi Ben Tzion and Chani Krasnianski, the Rebbe's emissaries to the area, shortly after coming to the Upper East Side seven years ago.
4th of Sivan, 5722 
I am in receipt of your letters of the 2nd of Iyar, and read with interest the news since your last writing to me.
I was particularly gratified to read about the Shiurim [classes] which each of you give. May G-d grant that you continue your good work, in a growing measure and with gladness of heart, and in good health.
As for your question regarding the Shiurim in Chasidus, the method and subject matter depend, of course, on the degree of comprehension of the students and their Jewish background. For the purpose of a shiur is to make the subject accessible to the students on their present level. However, I would like to make one general observation. It is not advisable to enter into lengthy discussions on abstract matters, since, after all, the essential thing is the practical side, and time is too limited and precious as it is, without expending it on matters which raise questions, etc. But since one Mitzvah leads to another, their steady progress in more comprehensible matters will give them deeper insight into the more abstract and more profound subjects - in due course, and they will then understand things which must be glossed over at this time...
20th of Sivan, 5721 
I received your recent letter, as well as the previous two.
With regard to your study program, I believe I have already suggested to you that you should discuss this matter both with___ as well as with your friends who know you and can also evaluate the efforts that may be entailed, etc. It has been said that a good solution comes as a result of many consultations.
You write that you wonder why G-d does not help you, etc. This surprises me, for surely you have had many occasions to recognize G-d's kindnesses to you. Every one of us receives G-d's blessings daily and that is why we recite in the morning prayer twenty blessings to thank G-d for His daily kindnesses. On the other hand, the fact that you feel some dissatisfaction could be applied to good use, in making growing efforts to improve your spiritual position as well as to increase the benefits bestowed on others.
With regard to your question about a Jewish girl who wants to learn in Gates-head or in Beis Yaakov in London, I do not understand why you should be opposed to this. For, at her age, it is just as important, and perhaps even more important, to learn in an environment which is permeated with the utmost degree of Yiras Shomayim [fear of Heaven], and where she would have good friends of her own age, etc. For all these reasons Gateshead would be the ideal place for her.
On the question of translation and the changes which you find necessary to introduce this is also something which would be well to discuss with other people locally. Above all, a translation must always be a free translation, which is also the case of all translations that are made here, for the important thing is to convey them in a fluent and readable language....
26th of Sivan, 5719 
I was pleased to receive your letter of the 10th of Sivan, in which you write that you have been elected as Gabbei in the Lubavitch Youth Minyan, and that you also participate in the Mesibos Shabbos [Sabbath youth club], and are trying to use your good influence to strengthen Yiddishkeit and the observance of the Mitzvos.
It is surely unnecessary to emphasize that in order to have a good influence effectively, it is necessary to be consistent in what one preaches and does, so that the theory and practice go hand in hand together. In other words, it is necessary to serve as a living example as to how a Jewish boy should conduct himself every day. Needless to say also, where the Torah and Mitzvos are concerned, there is always room for improvement and advancement, since the Torah and Mitzvos are endless. Therefore, I hope that you will make growing efforts all the time in this direction.
Enclosed you will find a brief message which was given to a group of boys active in the field of education and influence. I am sure you will find it inspiring and useful, especially as you are a Gabbei yourself, whose function is, among others, to illuminate the Shul and inspire the worshippers.
I send my prayerful wishes to you and all the children who attend the Minyan and Mesibos Shabbos. I hope every one of them will serve as a bright candle to spread the light of Torah and Mitzvos around him.
In Memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't
5 Cheshvan 5760
Positive mitzva 98: defilement of food and drink
By this injunction we are commanded to deal with uncleanness of food and drink in accordance with the Torah's prescribed rules. [These laws apply only to the Sanctuary and its holy objects.]
The name of this week's portion, Noach, is identified with rest and satisfaction. The Shabbat on which we read the portion of Noach infuses the upcoming week, and indeed, the entire year, with a sense of rest and satisfaction.
In a talk on this Shabbat a number of years ago, the Rebbe stated that it is an appropriate time to make a "just accounting" of one's conduct in the new year. The Rebbe described the manner in which this accounting should take place:
There are two approaches to the just account of one's conduct. One involves focusing one's attention on the particular weaknesses and failings evident in one's behavior. The other places the emphasis on involvement in positive activity, thrusting oneself into the service of Torah and mitzvot with renewed energy. In this way, all negative factors will be nullified for "a little light banishes much darkness."
Ultimately there should be a fusion of both services, that a person's focus of attention to his past conduct be included in a process of growth and development that is intended to lift one to a higher and more elevated rung.
When one approaches this just account in this fashion, one's feelings are not centered on bitterness or sorrow-although one is aware of problems that must be corrected. One is involved in a process of striving to ascend upward and this is the focus of one's emotions.
Furthermore, one appreciates that the reason for one's descent is to ultimately return to G-d and to demonstrate that regardless of the situation a Jew finds himself in, he still shares an essential connection with G-d. For these reasons, the just account mentioned above will be accompanied by feelings of happiness and pleasure.
The Rebbe concluded this discussion by saying that "We are living in an era when all the service necessary to bring the Redemption has been completed. Ultimately, then, the just account we make must lead to the conclusion that Moshiach must come immediatley."
And the L-rd repented that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart (Gen. 6:6)
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, 'sat shiva' and mourned the world He had created for seven days before engulfing it with the waters of the Flood." (Bereishit Rabba)
And G-d said to Noah, The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them (Gen. 6:13)
Noah lived before the giving of the Torah. Accordingly, he was not strictly obligated to feel a responsibility toward his fellow man. Nonetheless, because he didn't pray for mercy or try to convince his generation to repent, the Flood is known as "the waters of Noah." We, however, live after the Torah was given, when all Jews have became guarantors for one another. How much more so is it therefore necessary that we help others! (Likutei Sichot)
And behold, I Myself bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh (Gen. 6:17)
If the intention of the Flood was only to destroy evildoers, surely G-d could have gotten rid of them in some other way. Rather, the purpose of the Flood was to purify the world from the uncleanliness of that generation's corruption. The 40 days of rain correspond to the 40 se'ah (a liquid measure) required in a mikva. (Torah Ohr)
The Midrash explains that the verse in Ezekiel (22:24) - "You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation" - refers to the Land of Israel, which remained untouched by the Flood. This is textual proof that the true purpose of the Flood was spiritual purification. (Torah Ohr)
The Rabbi was sitting at his desk, immersed in study, when the knock on the door disturbed him. Opening it, he saw a Jew clutching a bundle of money in his hand. The man explained that he was on his way to a nearby village on business. Now that it was almost nightfall, however, he was afraid to travel with so much ready cash. As a special favor, he asked if he could leave the money with the Rabbi until his return trip.
At first the Rabbi hesitated, as it was very large sum of money. But the man begged and implored him, and in the end he agreed. The Rabbi put the bundle in a safe place and resumed his study.
A short time later there was another knock at the door. This time it was a Jew from his own town, who begged the Rabbi to lend him five rubles to buy a cow that was being offered for sale very inexpensively. The man said he would return the money the following morning after he had sold the cow at the market.
"I would gladly help," the Rabbi said, "but I don't have five rubles to lend."
The Rebbetzin, who had overheard the conversation, came over and whispered into her husband's ear: "What about the thousands of rubles in that bundle? Surely you can lend this man five rubles overnight."
The Rabbi hesitated. The Torah prohibits tampering with a pledge. But the Rebbetzin pleaded the man's case so fervently that the Rabbi gave in. The man promised to leave the cow in the Rabbi's courtyard overnight.
Early the next morning, well before dawn, an angry banging awakened the Rabbi. It was the police. Pointing to the cow in the courtyard, they informed the Rabbi that the animal had recently been stolen from its rightful owner. The Rabbi realized that he had fallen into a trap, but it was too late. He was led off to the police station in shackles.
Foremost on the Rabbi's mind was the disgrace this could bring upon the Jewish community. G-d forbid that the affair should become public knowledge! Considering the thousands of rubles still in his possession, he convinced himself that in an emergency situation like this, surely he was allowed to use some of the money. And so, by bribing the prison guards handsomely, the Rabbi was quietly released before word could spread.
Much to the Rabbi's surprise, however, the man who had deposited the money with him for safekeeping came back earlier than anticipated. He arrived that very day to reclaim it.
When the Rabbi muttered ashamedly that he no longer had the money, the man turned white. Despite the Rabbi's assurances that he would find the money, the man became increasingly agitated until he suddenly toppled over and fell to the floor. A doctor who was summoned confirmed that he was dead.
For the second time in a day the police led the Rabbi off to jail. But this time the charges against him were worse. The investigation that ensued revealed his tampering with the original pledge, his bribery of the prison guards, and his role in causing the depositor's death. The Rabbi was sentenced to ten years in jail.
Overnight, the Rabbi was reduced from a respected leader of the community to a common criminal. Even his cell mate, a young Jewish man who was also serving a ten-year sentence, felt pity for him.
Time passed, and the Christians celebrated their holiday. The village priest paid a visit to the hapless inmates. Addressing his words to the younger Jew, the priest promised his freedom if he renounced his faith. The young man rejected the offer adamantly.
After the priest left, the young man brooded for awhile before revealing what was troubling him. "Maybe I made a mistake. I could always run away to another country and resume my Judaism there..."
"How could you even consider it?" the Rabbi replied, aghast. "How many Jews have willingly given up their lives rather than renounce G-d's Name for even a single moment?"
The following year the priest returned and repeated his offer. This time the young man took him up on it, and he was freed.
Another year passed, and the priest returned. Again the Rabbi pushed him away with both hands, but this time the priest would not be deterred. All the Rabbi had to do was accept Christianity in his presence, and freedom was his.
Deep in his heart the Rabbi knew that it was forbidden by Jewish law, but he was so despondent that he agreed. Surely it was preferable to transgress for a single moment than to remain in prison for years...
At that moment the Rabbi awoke from his dream, shaken to the depths of his soul. He could not believe that he, an esteemed Rabbi, had entertained such a notion even in a nightmare.
Then he broke out in a sweat. A few days before he had been present at the deathbed of an elderly Jewish man, and had helped him recite his final confession. When he got to the part which states that if the dying person utters anything against G-d in his final moments, his words should be considered null and void, the Rabbi had wondered: How could it be possible for an 80-year-old Torah scholar to deny G-d, even in his final moments?
"Now I have my answer," the Rabbi whispered to himself. "Our Sages were certainly justified when they said, 'Do not be sure of yourself until the day you die.'"
Rav said, "The world was created only for [King] David." Shmuel said, "The world was created only for Moses." Rabbi Yochanan said, "The world was created only for Moshiach." (Sanhedrin 88b)