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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Have you ever watched a baby as she works toward upward mobility? At just a few months old, she's squirming around inch by inch. Months later, she's raising herself onto her hands and knees, rocking back and forth as she gets used to the new position and height. But her arms and legs aren't very strong and she plops down every once in a while, bumping her little nose or chin. But, don't worry, she'll be up again soon to try it again.
Months pass. Tentatively, she pulls herself up to a standing position using furniture and other objects as leverage. Even more cautiously she lets go for a few seconds and smiles, as if saying, "Look, no hands!" Oops, there she goes, plopping down once more, only to stand up again a few minutes later and repeat the whole exercise.
Soon she'll be cruising along the furniture. Weeks later she'll be taking a step, unaided, from one piece of furniture to the next.
When she's much more confident, she'll try two and three steps, each time plopping down. But she'll get back up again. Then six or seven steps before plopping down. Then ten wobbly steps, then plop.
A baby's approach to learning a new skill, such as walking, is the approach Judaism demands of us when even we are learning a new mitzva-skill, whether a mitzva between oneself and G-d or the interpersonal mitzvot between one person and another.
In general, we seek out experiences which enhance personal growth when there is a feeling of dissatisfaction with our present state. This is a good sign, for it indicates vitality and an urge to rise and improve oneself.
Unlike babies, however, many of us stop trying or slack off if we "fall," i.e., the attempt was not met with immediate success.
Today, when so much of our lives are measured in nanoseconds, we half expect to be able to eradicate a bad habit or master a new mitzva instantly. And when that doesn't happen, despondency or inertia can set in.
A little voice inside says, "Why bother, you'll fall back into your old routine anyway," or "You'll fall flat on your face trying and everyone will see." The little voice will use every means to prevent us from carrying out our good intentions of self-improvement and advancing in Jewish observance. An otherwise highly successful person can be paralyzed by that little voice, certain that he will fail miserably and that others will note his failure.
The misleading voice should be ignored. For, as Chasidism explains, the attempt itself is invaluable and esteemed by G-d. Only people who never try never make mistakes or fall short.
The next time we have the opportunity to learn something new or are presented with an obstacle that needs to be overcome, we should remind ourselves to take "baby steps." It's not just a matter of going slowly. More importantly, it means getting back up even if you've plopped down or fallen flat on your face.
This week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, describes the special clothing worn by the High Priest and the other priests as well as the consecration of the priests and the altar. Among the vestments of the High Priest was the ephod, an apron-like garment. On the ephod were two stones, concerning which the Torah states: "You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the Children of Israel [the Twelve Tribes]. Six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, according to their birth."
The Torah emphasizes that the names must be engraved in correct birth order. However, Rashi and Maimonides disagree on what this means. Rashi opines that the Tribes were listed according to the order they were born to their father Jacob. But according to Maimonides, they were engraved in the order they were born to their respective mothers: first the sons of Leah, then the sons of Bilha, then Zilpa's sons and finally Rachel's.
In order to understand the crux of Rashi's and Maimonides' disagreement, we must understand why the names were engraved on the ephod in the first place. The two onyx stones were intended to be a "remembrance" before G-d: "Aaron shall bear their names before the L-rd upon his two shoulders as a memorial." When G-d would see the names of the Twelve Tribes, it would remind Him of their righteousness, as it were.
This righteousness depended on the Tribes' unity. When the Jewish people are united in brotherly love into a single entity, they are deserving of G-d's blessing. When, G-d forbid, there is dissension and strife among Jews, G-d withholds His blessing. The names of the Twelve Tribes were engraved on the ephod to express the Jewish people's unity.
However, there are two different kinds of unity. When the Tribes are counted according to the chronological order of their birth, without regard for who their mothers were, it indicates a level of unity that supersedes individual differences or groupings. All the Tribes were the sons of Jacob. When they are counted according to their mothers, they are unified, albeit divided into disparate groups.
The unity of the Jewish people exists on both of these levels. On one level, we are unified because all Jewish souls have a common Source. On another level, we unite into a single entity - the Jewish people - as disparate, diverse individuals.
Thus Rashi's opinion reflects the first level of unity, whereas Maimonides' opinion expresses the second. For Jewish unity exists on both planes simultaneously.
Adapted from Vol. 36 of Likutei Sichot
Who Is Spencer Eig?
An exclusive interview with the Lubavitcher Chasid who is Elian Gonzales' Attorney
From The Richmond Jewish News, Jan. 21, 2000
by Fay Kranz Greene, Editor
The ongoing saga of six year old Elian Gonzales has created an unprecedented outpouring of emotion both in the United States and in Cuba. The adorable little boy who was miraculously rescued off the coast of Florida, clinging tenuously to a life raft, is at the center of a storm of controversy pitting him against the American political and justice system on one side and the frenzied rhetoric of Fidel Castro's oppressive regime on the other.
At the heart of the issue is whether Elian should be permitted to stay in the United States with his maternal uncle and family or be returned to his father and two sets of grandparents in Cuba. His mother and ten other refugees drowned when their ship capsized off the U.S. coast.
The story tops network TV news regularly, particularly in Miami, where the saga is unfolding daily. To Jewish viewers, an incongruous picture also appears regularly. The sight of an Orthodox Jew, with a black yarmulke and beard, who seems to be at the center of the debate.
His name is Spencer Eig, and he is the head of the 10-member team of attorneys representing Elian Gonzales.
Spencer, or Yisroel, as he likes to be called, graciously granted The Richmond Jewish News an exclusive interview last week. Although he has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, the Today show, CBS Early Show, Larry King Live and Geraldo twice, this was his first interview with a Jewish publication.
Casually dressed and seated comfortably in the living room of his modest ranch home in Miami Beach, Eig ruefully downplayed his "fifteen minutes of fame" and skillfully steered the conversation towards Jewish matters.
The Rebbe Wanted Me To Take The Case
Eig, who is now in private practice in Miami, was the U.S. Government Assistant District Attorney and had occasion to meet the Gonzales family previously on an unrelated issue.
"When I first got the call from a friend of the Gonzales family," says Eig "it was the 19th of Kislev, the day commemorating the liberation of the first Rebbe of Lubavitch from imprisonment in Czarist Russia. I felt it was a sign that the Rebbe wanted me to take this case."
Eig accepted the case on a pro-bono basis and assumed that it would be a strictly local matter. "I felt bad for the child," he said, "and in my mind compared it to the case of a Jew from communist Russia making it to Israel and then having to be sent back."
"In Cuba, they don't recognize G-d or freedom or all the things we take for granted here. If Eilan is returned to Cuba, he would be subject to severe psychological trauma. Eilan is currently in need of counseling to deal with the loss of his mother and in Cuba he will be deprived of his positive feelings for her. We also can't be sure that his father actually wants him back. Is it parental love or the guidance of Fidel Castro? There's no way to tell."
Eig notes that a friend of his, the rabbi at the Lakewood Kollel in Miami, "told me that according to Jewish law, the sole determining factor in a case such as this is the best interests of the child."
And then, characteristically, Eig smiles and says, "Let's not talk about the case anymore, let's talk about wearing a yarmulke."
Speak Softly and Wear a Big Yarmulke
Eig, a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Georgia Law School, was raised in a non-observant home in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York. His first contact with Orthodox Judaism was in Washington D.C. while he was working for the Dept. of Justice. "I had no experience with Torah before," he says, "and I went for it right away."
Subsequently, Eig became the assistant U.S. Federal Prosecutor in New Orleans, where he frequented the Chabad House and studied Chasidic philosophy with Rabbi Zelig Rivkin. He also began wearing a yarmulke. At that time, David Duke was attempting his run for governor. "Friends would call and ask, 'Are you okay down there, are you seeing a lot of anti-Semitism?' "
Eig says he made a "startling discovery. People in this country respect religious people. I found that when I started wearing a yarmulke publicly, I began getting the kind of deference that people usually reserve for clergy. Whether it was from my colleagues, jurors, judges, police or taxi-drivers, I was always treated with respect. It was totally undeserved and a very enjoyable surprise."
Eig's wife, Atara, is nine months pregnant with their third child. She was the catalyst for the oversize black yarmulke her husband now wears for his television appearances. "The first time I saw him on TV," says Atara, "I realized the cameras weren't picking up the smaller one he was wearing and he looked kind of funny with the beard and nothing on his head. Now that he's wearing this one, I think the cameras like it because they seem to always shoot him from that angle."
As we went to press, Eilan is back on center stage. His attorneys are filing a civil suit in Federal court demanding that he be allowed to remain in the U.S. and Congress is working on legislation that would make Eilan an American citizen.
Eig, however, was absent today. He had a more urgent assignment - his wife gave birth to their newborn daughter.
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF SHLUCHOS
Nearly 1,000 of the Rebbe's Shluchos (women emissaries) came to Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for the annual International Conference of Shluchos. Workshops, presentations, a resource fair, lectures and informal sessions were part of the packed weekend of January 28 - 31, which coincided with the 12th yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson. The participants hailed from every continent and talks were delivered in English, Hebrew, French, Russian and Yiddish.
Becoming financially secure is a goal we all share. How is our personal wealth affected by our spiritual lives? This question will be explored in the Shabbat Discovery Weekend, Feb. 18 - 20. Rabbi Simon Jacobson and Chana Rochel Schusterman are the keynote speakers at this special weekend hosted by the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. For more info call 718-953-1000 or visit www.chabadiscoveryweekend.com
THE WAY TO RECEIVE
Between Purim Kotton
And Purim Godol, 5736 
This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence and photo, and may G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all matters about which you wrote.
Especially as we are now in the auspicious days between Purim Kotton and Purim Godol, the festive days of the two Mazeldike [auspicious] months of Adar of this Jewish Leap Year, the highlight of which is, in the words of the Megillah [Book of Esther], "For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness and honor." As our Sages explain these words, they have in addition to their plain meaning also the inner meaning of "Light - this is Torah . . . Honor - this is Tefillin," Tefillin being symbolic of all the Mitzvos. May this be so also in your case.
Included is, of course, also the Mitzvo of V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho ["You shall love your neighbor as yourself"], the great principle of our Torah, which makes it the duty and privilege of every Jew to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvos in his surroundings. And while all this is a must for its own sake, this is also the way to receive G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
Wishing you and yours a truly happy and inspiring Purim,
7th of Adar, 5740 
Your letter of the 24th of Shevat reached me with a delay. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in all the matters about which you wrote, including, of course, advancement in all matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism], Torah and Mitzvos, in the everyday life.
All the more so since two essential aspects have been added, namely your preparations for marriage in a happy and auspicious hour, which will have an important bearing on your whole future and, secondly, that by Divine Providence you won the raffle for a visit here, which means that you will be representing all those who participated in the raffle, with whom you have to share the inspiration and benefits of this trip. Certainly it imposes on you additional obligations to show a shining example. It is also certain, of course, that since the Hashgocho Protis [Divine Providence] has singled you out for this privilege and responsibility, it has also provided you with all the necessary capacities to carry them out in the fullest measure, with joy and gladness of heart.
As requested, I will remember in prayer all those you mention in your letter. I trust you will be able to explain to them that since all blessings come from G-d, and the channel to receive them is through the everyday life in accordance with His will, every additional effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvos widens the channels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs. And there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvos, which are infinite, being connected with the Infinite.
6th of Adar I, 5733 
I duly received your telegram, and subsequently also the report through Rabbi Shlomo Cunin. May G-d grant that you should have good news to report. The Zechus [privilege] of the good work which your parents are doing to strengthen Yiddishkeit in general, and their activities within the framework of Lubavitch in particular, which are carried on in the spirit of my father-in-law of saintly memory, at whose holy resting place your father will be remembered in prayer, will surely stand your father in good stead.
Having had the pleasure of meeting your parents personally, I trust that it is unnecessary to emphasize to you at length the need to strengthen adherence in the daily life to the Will of G-d. In addition to this being the way to true spiritual happiness, since the Torah and Mitzvoth have been given for man's benefit, this is also the way to receive G-d's blessings in all needs. Needless to say, there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, since they are infinite, being derived from the Infinite.
Hoping to hear good news from you, especially as we are now in the auspicious month of Adar,
12 Adar I 5760
Positive mitzva 11: studying the Torah
By this injunction we are commanded to teach and study the Torah, which is called Talmud Torah. It is contained in the words (Deut. 6:7): "And you shall teach them diligently to your children."
This Sunday, the 14th of Adar I, is known as "Purim Katan," or the "Small Purim." In a leap year, when there are two months of Adar, the holiday of Purim is celebrated in the second month rather than the first.
The Rebbe explains that Purim Katan is especially relevant to Jewish children, before the age of Bar and Bat Mivtza, as its name indicates. Purim Katan also alludes to the Jewish people, who are referred to as "small." Moreover, Purim Katan also relates to Moshiach, a descendent of King David, about whom it states, "And David was the smallest."
Jewish children, the Jewish people and the Jewish Redeemer are characterized as "small," but they have the power to illuminate the entire world and redeem it. Why? Because they are intrinsically connected to G-d, Who is called the "Great Light."
On Purim Katan 1927, the Previous Rebbe spoke about the special quality of the Torah study of Jewish children, based on the verse "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You have founded strength.that You might still the enemy and the avenger." "Babes and sucklings" are Jewish children; "strength" is Torah study; "You have founded strength" refers to the foundation of our lives, the holy Torah; and "the enemy and avenger" is the Evil Inclination. In other words, victory over the enemy is achieved in the merit of the Torah study of the children.
In a conventional war, the biggest and strongest soldiers are chosen to fight. But in the spiritual battle against the Evil Inclination, it is the smallest who lead the way. For true might is not dependent on physical strength, and when young children are given a genuine Torah education, their spirit is the spirit of G-d.
Of course, "the main thing is the deed." Let us all utilize the "Small Purim" to prepare for the "Great Purim," by studying the laws of the holiday and influencing others to observe them. By doing so we will merit the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, speedily in our days.
And you shall command the Children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil (Ex. 27:20)
The Jewish people are likened to the olive, at it states in Jeremiah (11:16): "An evergreen olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form, did the L-rd call your name." In the same way that all other liquids can be mixed together, whereas oil always floats to the top, so too is it impossible for the Jewish people to fully assimilate among the nations of the world. And when Jews carry out G-d's will, they merit to stand above the entire world. (Midrash Rabba)
Why was olive oil chosen as the substance with which the menora in the Holy Temple was lit each day? Olive oil can only be extracted from the olive by crushing the fruit. This contains a practical lesson for every Jew: Torah knowledge and fine character traits are not automatically acquired; a person must invest hard work and much effort to attain them. (Parparot LaTorah)
And Aaron shall bear the judgment of the Children of Israel upon his heart, before the L-rd continually (Ex. 28:30)
Aaron, the High Priest, was the "heart" of the Jewish people, keenly sensing the pain and suffering of each individual, and constantly praying to G-d that He alleviate it. (Beer Mayim Chaim)
And I will dwell among the Children of Israel, and I will be their G-d (Elokim) (Ex. 29:45)
Why does the Torah use the Divine Name "Elokim," which indicates G-d's attribute of judgment? When a father loves his child, he expresses that love by protecting him from harm and judging anyone who attempts to hurt him. Similarly, our Father in Heaven uses His attribute of judgment when dealing with the enemies of the Jewish people. (The Magid of Mezeritch)
The Jewish community of Frankfurt was in mourning for their beloved Chief Rabbi. The rabbi had no heir, but he hadn't left his flock entirely without recourse. A few days before he died he had called the Jewish leaders together and instructed them on finding a replacement. The potential candidate would have to pass a test consisting of three complicated and difficult questions, involving very deep Torah concepts. "Whoever answers these questions," the rabbi had stipulated, "should be appointed the Rabbi of Frankfurt."
The search began after the funeral. A delegation was chosen of three of the most distinguished leaders of the community, and they set out to find their candidate. As a major Jewish center, Frankfurt required a very special personage; only a scholar with the highest level of piety and erudition would do.
The first city the delegation arrived at was Cracow, which boasted many Torah scholars. Surely it wouldn't be too difficult to find someone there who could answer the three questions.
On the day they arrived they learned that a great celebration would be taking place later that evening. The son of one of the wealthiest Jews in Cracow was becoming Bar Mitzva, and the entire community was invited. The members of the delegation from Frankfurt were also invited to attend.
In the middle of the festivities the Bar Mitzva boy stood up to deliver a speech, as is customary. The hall fell silent as everyone listened attentively.
The boy's sermon was very deep, revealing an unusual mastership of Torah knowledge and proficiency. It was, in short, the most impressive Bar Mitzva speech that anyone had ever heard. The boy began by postulating three difficult problems; when the members of the delegation realized that they were the same three questions the rabbi had raised, they looked at one another in amazement. They could hardly believe it when the boy proceeded to answer them skillfully one by one.
All of the guests were impressed, but the members of the delegation could barely contain their excitement. Clearly, the hand of G-d had steered them in the right direction. All they had to do was find the tutor who had prepared the boy for his Bar Mitzva; whoever he was, it was obvious that he must serve as the next Rabbi of Frankfurt. They thanked G-d for having led them to a suitable candidate so quickly.
Indeed, it wasn't difficult to locate the boy's teacher. As they learned from the boy's father, his name was Reb Yosef Shmuel the Teacher.
They found Reb Yosef Shmuel in a corner of the study hall surrounded by little boys. The teacher was dressed simply and rather poorly, but they didn't hesitate to approach him.
"We'd like to speak to you about an urgent matter," they said, but Reb Yosef Shmuel was busy. "Not now," he replied. "I am an employee, and it wouldn't be right to shirk my duties." Reb Yosef Shmuel resumed his teaching.
If anything, the teacher's answer made the members of the delegation even more hopeful. This was obviously a man of ethics, G-d-fearing and devoted to his job. They agreed to speak with him later that day.
When they came back they got quickly to the point. They told him about the passing of their rabbi, and the three questions he had established as a test for his successor. "So now you're going to be our rabbi!" they concluded.
They were shocked, however, when Reb Yosef Shmuel declined their offer most adamantly. He wasn't looking for honor or glory, he explained, and he already had a job as a teacher from which he derived great satisfaction. Politely but firmly he turned them down. All their pleas fell on deaf ears. They begged and implored the teacher, and even promised him an impressive salary, but to no avail. Reb Yosef Shmuel could not be budged.
The members of the delegation prepared to leave Cracow, dejected and forlorn. Who knew if they would be able find another qualified candidate? They had just left the outskirts of the city when their carriage broke down, and for several hours they had no choice but to sit by the side of the road until it was repaired. All of a sudden a messenger caught up with them; he had come directly from Reb Yosef Shmuel on a special mission.
The messenger revealed that the teacher had suddenly taken ill, and seemingly overnight had arrived at death's door. Indeed, the doctor who was summoned asserted that he had no more than a few days left to live. When Reb Yosef Shmuel heard this pronouncement he had cried out, "Master of the Universe! If You really want me to serve as Rabbi of Frankfurt, I'll do it!"
No sooner had he uttered these words than the mysterious illness began to dissipate. A messenger was immediately dispatched to intercept the delegation from Frankfurt and inform them of his decision.
The joy of the Jewish community of Frankfurt knew no bounds. Divine Providence had clearly demonstrated that Reb Yosef Shmuel was meant to be their leader, and he was formally appointed Chief Rabbi of the city a short time later. And everyone marveled at the prophetic vision of their previous Chief Rabbi, who had provided his flock with such a worthy successor.
The realization of the Redemption is within our reach, certainly now when "The time of redemption has arrived." Thus, we must now adopt that lifestyle as if Moshiach is here already. This is accomplished by ridding ourselves of envy and strife and by devoting ourselves to the spiriitual values and pursuits which are the essence of our human reality. As we actualize this human potential, we also actualize the Messianic potential inherent in G-d's creation. (From Living with Moshiach by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet)