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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Simon Jacobson
G-d created us as physical beings in a physical world. He created a world wherein we could be independent and make free choices, a world where the higher realities of spirit are obscured and the physical reality becomes paramount.
In a sense, therefore, there are two realities occurring simultaneously. In Kabalistic and Chasidic terminology, one reality is called daat elyon, the view from Above (the spiritual viewpoint), and the other reality is called daat tachton, the view from below (the physical viewpoint). These perspective are perhaps better described as the view from "inside-out" and from "outside-in," respectively. We see the universe from the outside-in. When we meet people, the first thing we perceive are their external features. Then we study their body language and try, through communication and other methods, to pierce the surface to discover what is within.
The only existence on earth that we truly experience from the inside-out is ourselves. We don't need to look in a mirror to know what mood we're in.
The Torah and Kabbala say this phenomenon is true with the entire universe. G-d made a world that is outside-in, and asked us to reveal its G-dliness by transforming it inside-out.
Now, if we are looking at life with an outside-in perspective, that which is spiritual, more internal, can easily be misperceived as nothing. But from the inside-out perspective, the exact opposite is true: that which is taking place on the outside is really nothing. From this perspective, what we call nothingness is really something (the somethingness of the spiritual reality), and what we call somethingness (the external achievements of the material world) is relatively nothing.
Shabbat is the day that reveals to us the nothingness of something and the somethingness of nothing. When we sit at our Shabbat table and have to come up with a discussion that's not about the stock market or sports or gossip, we're forced to reach deeper and experience the beauty of family, spend time with our children, talk about things that really matter, and relate to G-d in song, study and prayer. What emerges is an inside-out reality, a nothing reality that is really something.
Reprinted from Farbrengen Magazine, published by Chabad of California. Simon Jacobson is the author of Toward A Meaningful Life and director of the Meaningful Life Center. Their website is www.meaningfullife.com
This week's Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, is always read on the Shabbat on which we bless the new month of Kislev. The association between the Torah portion and the month is not incidental, but is an example of G-d's Divine Providence. As will be demonstrated, both the name Kislev and the holiday which is celebrated this month, Chanuka, are intimately connected to the Torah reading.
The Torah portion begins with the verse, "And the lifetime of Sarah was a hundred years and twenty years and seven years." Sarah was 127 years old when she passed away.
The gematria (numerical equivalent; in Hebrew, each letter has a numerical value) of Kislev is also 127, when configured in the following manner:
Kof = 20
Samech = 60
Lamed = 30
Yud (when Kislev is spelled in its "full" form) = 10
Vov = 6
With the addition of 1 (for the word itself), the tally of the above numbers is 127.
The Torah portion relates the miracle of two of our Matriarchs' Shabbat candles. Each week, Sarah lit candles on the Sabbath eve. Miraculously, the oil burned throughout the entire week, illuminating the tent until the following Friday.
When Sarah passed away the miracle ceased. But Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains that the phenomenon resumed when Isaac married Rebecca. He bases his comments on the verse: "And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother, and took Rebecca, and she became his wife. And he loved her and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." Isaac was comforted when he saw that his wife, like his mother, also merited to have a miracle take place through her.
A similar miracle involving oil occured in the month of Kislev. The festival of Chanuka commemorates the cruse of oil that burned for eight days instead of one. Although the amount of oil was sufficient for only one day, a miracle happened and the menora in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem remained aflame for eight days.
Thus we see that all three - the Torah portion read on the Shabbat when we bless the month, the name of the month, and Chanuka, the central holiday of the month - share a common theme.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 15
Yeshiva Captures Hearts
The visiting students studying
by Steve Hyatt
If you've never been to Portland, Oregon before you've missed one of the great visual delights in the world. Majestic mountains, beautiful blue bodies of water, giant fir trees and a vibrant city nestled comfortably near the Pacific Ocean. Since sunshine is a precious commodity in the great Northwest, local residents maximize every opportunity they get to spend quality time outdoors in the summer.
In the very center of the city is a curious place called "Pioneer Square." It is well known as a meeting and mingling place for people from all walks of life. On any given Friday this summer a casual visitor could find business leaders lunching in the park, young kids showing off their high-tech skateboard skills, food vendors hawking their wares and a number of energetic young boys, dressed in black suits and black felt hats .
Every once in awhile you'd hear one of these energetic young lads ask a passerby, "Excuse me, sir, but are you Jewish?" More times than not the answer was , "Why yes, why do you ask?" The boys would quickly follow up and ask them if they would like to put on tefilin. After getting over their initial surprise, a lot of the individuals graciously accepted the invitation and right there, in the middle of Pioneer Square, put on tefilin, many for the very first time!
One young man, Mendy Blau from Crown Heights, New York, told me this was the first time he had ever successfully convinced someone to put on tefilin right there on the street! He said he had asked men many times in New York, but most were too embarrassed to put them on while standing on the sidewalk. He said he was amazed at the positive reception he and his friends received here in Oregon.
Getzel Rubashkin of Postville, Iowa told a story of meeting a rather intimidating looking fellow whose arms were covered in tattoos. With just a little of encouragement the big burly tattooed man agreed to put on tefilin, despite the taunts and jeers of his similarly-tattooed buddies. He went on to say that on that particular day, a man dressed in a pink robe was standing near him distributing brochures for the cult he represented. After a few minutes Getzel felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned around, the pink-robed man asked him, "Excuse me, sir, but are you a Quaker?" Trying to suppress a laugh Getzel told him that he was not a Quaker, he was Jewish.
They had a brief conversation in which Getzel told the man why he was there and what he was doing. The man went back to his business and continued to stop everyone and anyone who passed by. However, he soon modified his speech and he too started asking people if they were Jewish. When he finally got an affirmative answer he gave the man a brochure and told him to go see his new acquaintance Getzel because he had something to tell him. The gentleman in question was the previously mentioned tattooed man.
So who were these fearless young "Men in Black" you might ask. They were three of the 16 students who attended the first-ever summer Bais Medrash L'Tzeirim Yeshiva that Rabbi Moshe Wilhelm and his team from Chabad of Oregon conducted this summer. Arriving from cities, states and countries from around the world, these 16, fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds spent seven weeks learning Talmud, Jewish law, Chasidic discourses, about Moshiach and Redemption under the watchful eyes of a world-class group of teachers. The program was established in the name of Rabbi Wilhelm's father-in-law the esteemed Rabbi Menachem Shmuel Dovid HaLevi Raichik.
These were an inspired group of young men. When the teenagers finally closed their books, after a day of intense learning, they all volunteered an additional few hours to learn with local residents. It was inspirational to watch 14- and 15-year old boys huddled over books with "students" who were three, four and sometimes five times their age. It was hard to know who had a better time, the "students" or the "teachers."
During their time in Portland the band of 16 captured the hearts of everyone they came in contact with. While most of their time was spent advancing their knowledge of Torah, they still found time for fun with at trip to the Oregon coast, Vancouver, BC, and Seattle. During the last Shabbat they spent in the "Rose City" I asked one young man, Mendel Levin of Palo Alto, California, "Where are you off to now Mendel?" he paused and said, "I am going to the Brunoy Yeshiva near Paris to continue my studies." I smiled and said, "Remember, Paris will be interesting, but it won't be Portland and you won't find a kugel to compare with Rebbetzin Wilhelm's."
Torah study, Pioneer Square and kugel, it was a summer the boys and the Jewish community of Portland will not soon forget!
CAN YOU IMAGINE?
A special brochure for children, entitled "Can You Imagine?" describes what the world will be like when Moshiach comes and suggests good deeds and mitzvot children can do "to help bring Moshiach and make this world a wonderful place!" Children are also encouraged to write an essay about what s/he is doing to help prepare the world for Moshiach. Every entry receives a prize. To receive a copy of the brochure send a SASE to: Imagine, 29 Balfour Place, Bklyn, NY 11225.
A Shabbat Discover Weekend hosted by the Lubvaitch community in Crown Heights, New York and sponsored by the Lubavitch Youth Organization will take place on Nov. 19-21. Featuring Rabbi Laibl Wolf, director of the Human Development Institute in Australi a and scholar, artist and writer Shimona Tzukernik, the weekend is devoted to learning meditational techniques that will draw on the tremendous power inherent in the Jewish soul. For more info call 718-953-1000 or eves 718-493-8581.
Continued from previous issue
(5) You refer to my statement that scientists know very little about interactions of isolated atoms and subatomic particles, and also question its relevance to the theories about the dating of the world. The relevance is this: The evolutionary theory as it applies to the origin of our solar system and planet Earth, from which the dating is inferred, presumes (at least in the case of most of the hypothesis) that "in the beginning" there were atoms and subatomic particles in some pristine state, which then condensed, combined together, etc.
I am aware of the fact that a major part of physics research in this century has been concerned with interactions of individual units ranging from atoms to the most elementary particles known. But as late as 1931, of the subatomic particles only protons and electrons were known and "explored." The bubble chamber was constructed only in 1952, and a field ion microscope (by Dr. Muller of Penn State University?), reaching into the realm of the atom and subatomic particles - only in 1962. We have good reason to believe, I think, that just as scientific knowledge was enriched with the introduction of the first microscope, we may expect a similar measure of advancement with the aid of the latest (though it had been preceded by the electronic microscope). Therefore, it is safe to assume that all we have learned in the field of nucleonics in the last few decades is very little by comparison with what we can confidently expect to learn in the next few decades.
(6) You object to my statement that conditions of pressure, temperature, radioactivity, etc. must have been totally different in the early stages supposed by some evolutionists from those existing today, and you assert that those environmental conditions have, for the most part, either been duplicated in the laboratory or observed in natural phenomena. Here, with all due respect, I beg to differ, and I believe the study of the sources will confirm my assertion.
(7) You state that there is no evidence that any radioactive element produces cataclysmic changes, and go on to note that there is a lack of clear distinction in my letter between cosmogony and geochronology. The reason for the lack of such a distinction in my letter is that it is irrelevant to our discussion. The subject matter of my letter is the theory of evolution as it contradicts the account of Creation in the Torah. According to the Torah, the creation of the whole universe was ex nihilo, including the Earth, the sun, etc. The theory of evolution presents instead, a different explanation of the appearance of the universe, solar system and our planet Earth.
Now, in evaluating this theory, I have in mind that the strength of a chain is measured by its weakest link, and in my letter I attempted to point out some of the weakest links in both areas, cosmology and geochronology. With regard to geology and the changes and upheavals that may have occurred at a time when the whole universe is supposed to have been in a state of violent atomic instability, with worlds in collision, etc., cataclysmic changes cannot be ruled out, such nuclear reactions should have caused changes which would void any evolutionary calculations. Similarly, in the evolution of vegetables, animal and human life on the Earth, a radioactive process of such magnitude should have produced sudden changes and transmutations which would normally take long periods of time.
(8) You state, finally, that the crucial point to consider in regard to geochronology is the existence of objects and geological formations in and on the crust of the earth, which serve as physically observable clocks, etc. But I have already pointed out in my said letter that such criteria are valid only as of now and for the future, but cannot be applied either scientifically or logically to a primordial state. By way of illustration, though you do not identify any of the objects you are referring to, let us examine radiocarbon dating, since most of the letters and questions I received on this subject pointed to it. This method assumes that the average cosmic ray intensity has remained constant for the whole period of the dating, and that atmospheric mixing is rapid compared to the lifetime of...
Now to mention but one flaw in the criterion: it requires that the shielding power (density etc.) remain constant. But the evolution theory is built on the premise that there had been most radical changes. Incidentally, in most recent years geologists in South Africa discovered such a disorder in geological formations in that part of the world that it contradicted all the accepted theories of geology. The discovery was publicized at that time, but I do not have the informational media at hand, and I mention this in passing only. I suggest another look in my letter, p.5, par. beg. "The theory of evolution..."
Should you wish to continue the discussion, please do not hesitate to write me.
P.S. I have just been able to trace and borrow one of your books, "The Attenuation of Gamma Rays and Neutrons in Reactor Shields."
May I say that I was greatly impressed with the effort, material and clarity of presentation. Incidentally, I noted in it your observations about the "discrepancies between theory and experimentation" which I found more than once in your book. Such a statement as "Not only is the simplest organism an incredibly complicated entity whose chemistry and physics are barely glimpsed at, but the classical scientific pattern of experimentation is necessarily not available in studying radiation efforts" - is very significant and has a direct bearing on the theory of evolution which involves an age of unimaginable radioactivity both in the universe and our planet Earth.
In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't
28 Cheshvan 5760
Negative mitzva 244: stealing money
By this prohibition we are forbidden to steal money. It is contained in the words (Lev. 19:11): "You shall not steal," on which the Mechilta says, "This is the prohibition against stealing money." A person who transgresses must pay in accordance with whatever Scripture prescribes: two-fold, four-fold or five-fold restitution, or returning only the principal.
What does it mean for a Jew to have "faith in G-d"?
"Bitachon," more accurately translated as "security" or "trust," is one of the foundations of Judaism. Every Jew is obligated to place his trust in G-d and expect that He will provide him with all his needs. But having bitachon is not the same as seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Nor is it mindless optimism that "everything will be good." Bitachon entails a certain amount of responsibility and effort on the part of the individual.
When a Jew is sick, G-d forbid, he isn't supposed to throw up his hands and hope that G-d will miraculously heal him. Judaism teaches that he must go to a doctor, who will prescribe a course of treatment to make him better.
A Jew needs money to support his family. Does he sit back and say "G-d will provide"? No, he is obligated to go out and work. His efforts do not stand in contradiction to his faith in G-d.
The underlying principle is that man, through his actions, is supposed to make the "vessel" to receive G-d's blessings. G-d wants us to work within the natural order, rather than rely on miracles. The trick, however, is to maintain the right balance. Along with our obligation to make an appropriate vessel, we're also expected to pray, to learn Torah, and to give our children a Jewish education.
This is where bitachon comes in: A Jew with real bitachon doesn't put in an 18-hour day to the detriment of his spiritual obligations. He recognizes that the more mitzvot he does, the more obstacles and barriers are removed to receive the flow of G-d's blessings.
When we do our part, we can fully expect that G-d will do His. And the more we rely on Him, the more He will respond in kind.
"And let it be that the girl to whom I say, 'Let down your water jar'... and she will say, 'Drink, and I will also give your camels to drink' (Gen. 24:14)
Eliezer was looking for a wife for Isaac who would embody all the good qualities in the world. Yet the "test" he devised would only determine if she was generous and good-hearted. This is in keeping with the statement of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai (Avot 2:13), who said that a good heart contains within it all other positive character traits. (Peninei Torah)
Our Sages describe the challenge of making a good match between husband and wife as being "as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea." The act of dividing water is easy; what's difficult is making each wave stand up on its own. Similarly, finding a partner to marry is the easy part; what's difficult is creating a stable marriage that will endure... (B'Maagalei HaChaim)
And the servant ran towards her (Gen. 24:17)
As Rashi explains, Eliezer ran toward Rebecca because he had just seen the water in the well spontaneously rise. A question is asked: Having just witnessed an open miracle, why would Eliezer need further evidence that Rebecca was kind? Rather, this teaches that one positive character trait in a person is worth more than a hundred wonders and miracles. (Rabbi Yechezkel of Kozmir)
Then Laban and Betuel answered and said, "The matter proceeds from the L-rd" (Gen. 24:50)
There are three "proofs" in the Torah that G-d Himself chooses a man's wife. From the Five Books of Moses, concerning the match between Isaac and Rebecca: "Then Laban and Betuel answered and said, 'The matter proceeds from the L-rd.'" From our Prophets (Judges 14:4), concerning the marriage of Samson: "But his father and mother knew not that it was from the L-rd." And from our Writings (Proverbs 19:14): "House and riches are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the L-rd." (Moed Katan 18b)
In the Tunisia of old, it was customary for the "Bey," the supreme ruler of the country, to personally appoint all nominees to public positions. This included all posts within the Jewish community.
One time the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia passed away, and the vacancy needed to be filled. The Chief Rabbi held an extremely crucial position, as many important powers were invested in him. As the official head of the Jewish community, he represented all of Tunisia's Jews in the secular courts, and his word carried much weight.
At the time of the Chief Rabbi's passing, Rabbi Nehorai Germon was serving as his assistant. In most cases it was only a matter of form for the assistant to be promoted. This time, however, there were forces within the Jewish community who opposed Rabbi Nehorai's promotion.
On the one hand, Rabbi Nehorai was easy to get along with, modest and unassuming. Yet when it came to upholding the Torah's laws and Jewish customs, he was absolutely rigid and fearlessly unbending. To some people, this was untenable. What they sought was a Chief Rabbi who wouldn't be a stickler for detail, someone who would know when to look away...
And so, a delegation of protesters went to the Bey. "He's much too fanatical," they told him. "Under no circumstances should Rabbi Nehorai become the next Chief Rabbi." The Bey was very receptive to their message. Soon rumors were flying that Rabbi Nehorai was no longer in the running.
It was precisely then that Rabbi Nehorai's inner strength and fortitude was revealed. As our Sages put it, "Wherever there is humility, there is also greatness." Overcoming his natural aversion to self-promotion, the Rabbi realized that he could not in good conscience simply withdraw from the fray. The dignity and reputation of the Chief Rabbinate demanded more of him.
Rabbi Nehorai went to the royal palace, where he was astounded by the throngs of people milling about. He asked the palace guards to be admitted but was informed that he would have to wait his turn. Stubbornly, Rabbi Nehorai refused to budge, demanding an immediate audience with the Bey. A commotion ensued, the angry sounds of which reached the ears of the Bey himself.
The Bey sent an aide outside to see what was going on. Quickly sizing up the situation, he returned to the Bey and explained that the assistant to the former Chief Rabbi was insisting on speaking to him. The Bey was surprised by the Jew's agressive behavior, but instructed that he be brought in.
"Why was it so urgent to meet with me that you defied all social conventions?" the Bey asked Rabbi Nehorai, an artificial smile on his face.
Rabbi Nehorai was not intimidated. "If all the conventions were being adhered to," he replied seriously, "I would not have had to come here."
"What do you mean?" the Bey asked, his curiosity aroused.
"When affairs of state are attended to fairly, the assistant to the Chief Rabbi is automatically promoted to the office upon his death..."
The Bey stopped smiling. "From all the information I have received about you," he said, "it appears that you are too inflexible for the job, wedded to what you perceive as inviolate principles. It is said that you are unwilling to compromise for the sake of peace. In my opinion, a successful Chief Rabbi must know when to keep his eyes open and when to shut them..."
Rabbi Nehorai did not react, seemingly ignoring the Bey's words. "What a beautiful garden you have," he said suddenly, looking out the window at the magnificently manicured palace grounds. "I've never seen one more beautiful."
"It is unparalleled in all of Tunisia," the Bey responded, unable to resist the compliment.
"If I may be so bold," the Rabbi said, "it seems to me that if a lush garden like this will grow only here, of all places in the entire kingdom, surely it is a sign that G-d smiles favorably on your kingship."
The Bey almost laughed. "If everyone in the kingdom employed as many skilled horticulturists as I do, their land would also yield the same results. My gardeners are extremely vigilant, busy from dawn till dusk, planting, digging, trimming and plucking out stray weeds. But tell me, what does all this have to do with the subject we were discussing?"
"Well, I was wondering," Rabbi Nehorai replied. "Why do you insist on employing such skilled horticulturists? Why don't you hire a gardener who sometimes keep his eyes open, and other times keeps them closed..."
"Are you telling me that the Jewish community is the same as a garden?" the Bey smiled.
"In certain respects, yes," the Rabbi explained. "Our holy Torah contains 248 positive commandments, lovely seedlings in G-d's garden that must be nurtured and cared for. Then there are the Torah's 365 negative commandments. Like weeds, they must be carefully plucked out and uprooted. The Chief Rabbi is entrusted with caring for this garden, and must carry out his responsibilities faithfully."
The Bey was convinced, and a few days later Rabbi Nehorai was officially appointed Chief Rabbi of Tunisia.
That which we endured in the past, G-d speaks of as a brief moment, as transient as the twinkling of the eye. But of the reward He will give us in the future, He speaks in terms of a boundless compassion. For the trials and ordeals of the past He will give us double of our double share, which is over and above that which He promised, an amount of bliss not quickly or easily measured. (Rabbi Saadia Gaon)