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By Rabbi Shloime Ezagui
The Rebbe once recalled that even before the age of three, he envisioned what the world would be like in the times of Moshiach. Nearly five decades later, upon becoming Rebbe, his first official public address outlined the mission of our generation - to bring about the long-awaited Redemption. And today, as we approach the Rebbe's 99th birthday (on 11 Nisan, April 4 this year), the vision of almost a century ago remains clear and the 50 year-old mission remains unchanged.
The true unity between the physical world and the Torah will only be apparent in the Messianic era. However, as we are now rapidly approaching that time, G-d is allowing us a glimpse into the ultimate reality. As the Rebbe has said, all we need to do is open our eyes to perceive the unraveling of this actuality.
Consider this: There are 100 trillion cells in the human body. (To put this number in perspective, a million seconds is 11 days, a trillion seconds is 34,446 years.) Most of these 100 trillion cells have a nucleus that contains a complete set of the body's blueprints, which are twisted into packets of chromosomes. Unravel a chromosome and you get DNA. Within the DNA are the blueprints - genes - for making proteins. The DNA molecule has a twisted, ladder-shaped structure. The genetic code can be read on the rungs of the ladder. Four chemicals spell out the code: "A" pairs with "T" and "G" pairs with "C," forming the rungs.
Now imagine a factory with over a million different machines at work in it. Each machine is perfectly coordinated with all the others to produce a superior product. If someone were to tell you that the factory exists by accident, and the product it manufactures is also an unexplained coincidence, you would say that the idea is ludicrous.
Similarly, it is totally illogical to assume that the human body, with its over 100 trillion components, has not been put together by a Higher Power for a positive, constructive purpose.
While it's true that just about every cell in the body contains the instructions for making a complete human being, most of these instructions are inactivated after the cells have become a particular organ. The only time cells truly have the potential to turn into any and all body parts is very early in a pregnancy, when so-called stem cells have not yet begun to specialize.
That is why the Torah tells us we can pray concerning the gender of a baby until the 40th day of pregnancy, while there is still a chance to direct the course. (Not long ago, doctors discovered that this is the point in gestation when the baby's gender is determined.)
If doctors could isolate stem cells, then direct their growth, they might be able to furnish patients with healthy replacement tissue. And cloning is just the other side of the coin. With cloning, the genome within a developed cell is reactivated, resetting its developmental instructions to their pristine state. This ability to reset body cells could also potentially enable doctors to cure disease.
What does all this have to do with Moshiach?
As the Rebbe has repeated many times, we mustn't accept outer limitations but dig deeper into the Source. Science is now thinking in exactly these terms.
When Moshiach comes there will be a revelation of truth.Everyone will see that everything is constantly energized by G-d, everything comes from Him, everything is G-dliness. As we are on the threshold of the Redemption, we are already getting a foretaste of this Divine unity.
The Name of G-d, through which everything was created, has four Hebrew letters, yud-kei-vav-kei. Accordingly, the number four is reflected in so many essential areas of creation, such as the four spiritual worlds and the four levels of creation (inanimate, vegetative, animal and human). Through their different combinations, the four letters of G-d's Name give life to every hour of the day.
Now modern science "discovers" that there are basically four essential elements that constitute all matter: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Likewise, the Torah has already told us that there are four elements at the essence of all existence: earth, water, fire and air.
At the core of the abovementioned four elements is the DNA of all living tissue, four components that pair into two. This parallels the combinations of G-d's Name into yud-kei and vav-kei, the source and potential of all creation. Moreover, just as DNA is arranged in a ladder-shaped structure, the stairs of the Holy Temple, the source of all energy in the world, were spiral. Thus DNA, the physical blueprint of life, reflects the underlying G-dliness of all creation.
In these last days of exile, G-d is enabling us to better understand His world, revealing His guidance within the natural order. Every new discovery confirms that creation is essentially a united existence, with a single, four-component imprint on all of it.
The Rebbe has told us not to be satisfied with nature, which is only a limited, superficial expression of something more profound. We must reach deeper to the true Source, opening our eyes to see how the opportunity for Redemption is all around us.
This week's Torah portion is the first portion in the Book of Leviticus-Vayikra. The Book of Leviticus, which deals primarily with the laws of sacrifices, opens with the words "And He [G-d] called (Vayikra) to Moses." According to Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, this expression "is language indicating affection." G-d called out to Moses as a manifestation of His love.
Chasidut explains that the fact that the Torah does not specify by name who is calling is significant. G-d's call to Moses is derived from His Essence, which transcends all Names or descriptions. Similarly, G-d's affection for Moses also stems from His very Essence.
Every Jew possesses a "spark" of the soul of Moses; G-d's "call of affection" is thus directed to every individual Jew. In Leviticus, G-d teaches us how to offer the korbanot (sacrifices), from the root word meaning closeness. By means of the korbanot, one is able to draw closer to G-d.
This same idea is also expressed in the haftorah that is usually read after the portion of Vayikra, which begins with the words "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall proclaim My praise." Like the opening verse of Leviticus, these words describe G-d's tremendous love for His people.
The simple explanation of the verse is that the Jews proclaim G-d's praise through their actions, i.e., by observing G-d's commandments, studying His Torah and praying to Him. But on a deeper level, G-d is "praised" independent of the Jewish people's conduct and even their will. This is the natural consequence of the Jews' very existence, and nothing else.
The first half of the verse describes the Jews' fundamental nature: "This people have I formed for Myself." By mere virtue of his existence a Jew belongs to G-d, having been created specifically for that purpose.
However, the Jewish people "proclaim G-d's praise" in the collective sense as well. The simple fact that the Jews - "a sheep among 70 wolves" - have survived while other, mightier nations have disappeared off the face of the earth, is a tribute to the Alm-ghty. A Jew proclaims G-d's greatness just by being alive.
This is especially true in our generation, the generation after the Holocaust. Whenever one sees a Jew continuing the tradition and passing Judaism along to the next generation, it is a living miracle of the Holy One, blessed be He.
G-d loves every Jew with an essential love regardless of his actions. From this we learn how important it is to love our fellow Jews unconditionally, judge them favorably, and always treat others with respect. For "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall proclaim My praise!"
Adapted from Volume 1 of Sefer HaSichot 5750
Whose Birthday Is It?
By Yossi Tewel (in memory of Reb Avraham ben Pinchus)
It was 1971. My grandmother was in Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn. At the time we had no experience with hospitals and doctors.
At our annual yechidut (private audience) with the Rebbe, my father (o.b.m.) handed the Rebbe a note asking, amongst other things, what we could do for my grandmother. The Rebbe looked at us with a big smile and asked, "Whose birthday is it today?" No one responded; as far as we knew it wasn't any family member's birthday. The Rebbe glanced at the note and once more he asked with a smile, "Whose birthday is it?" Again, no one responded.
The Rebbe then said to my father, "In connection with your mother, there is a precious young man named Yudel Keller. His father has connections at Maimonides Hospital. Call him when you leave my office (it was about 2: 45 a.m.) and ask him in my name to do the maximum he can."
When we left the yechidut my father did as the Rebbe had said. Then he thought about the Rebbe's question as to whose birthday it was. What with the hardships of life in Poland and the Holocaust, he did not know the date of his Jewish birthday.
The next day, at the hospital, my father asked his mother when he was born. She said his birthday was the 18th of Av. It should come as no surprise that that very day was the 18th of Av! My father quickly went back to "770" (World Lubavitch Headquarters). Before the afternoon prayers, when the Rebbe saw my father, he smiled broadly. My father said, "Rebbe! I know whose birthday it is today, mine!" The Rebbe again blessed my father and encouraged him to fulfill the customs of a Jewish birthday, including having an aliya, studying extra Torah, giving extra charity, etc.
In 1988 I became involved with various Bikur Cholim organizations (for the welfare of the sick). I became acquainted with a number of doctors, including a Jewish doctor who is an authority on radiation oncology. Whenever we met, Dr. R. always asked me questions about Lubavitch and the Rebbe.
A few years passed. When the Rebbe had a stroke in the spring of 1992, Dr. R. asked me what would become of the Rebbe's prophecies. I assured him that whatever the Rebbe said would come true.
Near the end of the summer, I came to Dr. R.'s office to show him an MRI. I had planned on leaving the test with the secretary and phoning later for the busy doctor's opinion. I was shocked when the doctor called out, "Tewel, you're here! I need you!" Dr. R. told his secretaries to hold all calls as he ushered me into his office. "Tell me about Rabbi Schneerson," he said. "Is he really as big as they make him out to be?"
"Whatever you've heard about the Rebbe," I told Dr. R., "is just the tip of the iceberg. But the Rebbe's greatness doesn't come from the fact that he is a prophet or does miracles. It is much more than that. The word 'Rebbe' stands for 'Rosh B'nei Yisrael' - the head of the Jewish people...."
Dr. R. asked me to tell him a few miracles of the Rebbe that "defy gravity," as the doctor put it. I told him a few stories but I emphasized to Dr. R. that the Rebbe concerns himself with every Jew. Then I told the doctor about my father and his birthday.
I explained to Dr. R. that a number of years ago the Rebbe came out with a campaign to celebrate one's Jewish birthday. I told him that a birthday is a personal Rosh Hashana. He asked me if I could tell him when his Jewish birthday is.
"Sure," I said, promptly dialing the number of a computer program for just that purpose. Moments later I turned to Dr. R. and said, "Happy birthday. Today, the 13th of Elul, is your Jewish birthday!"
The doctor was flabbergasted. But he was even more surprised when I abruptly told him that I had to run to another appointment but would return later.
I called my brother Pinye and we put together a mini-birthday farbrengen (gathering). Fifteen minutes later we returned to Dr. R.'s office. He was delighted and touched when we told him we were going to celebrate his birthday. The doctor took a yarmulka out of his drawer, made a blessing on the birthday cake, and we shared Torah thoughts.
Finally, Dr. R. said, "I'll tell you why I asked so many questions about Rabbi Schneerson. I have a non-Jewish colleague. He called me this morning at 4 a.m. 'Rabbi Schneerson came to me in a dream,' he told me excitedly. He related that he had happened upon one of the Rebbe's televised talks. 'I don't understand Yiddish but I was mesmerized by Rabbi Schneerson. I always watched his televised talks. When I heard that he had a stroke,' my colleague said, 'I called the Rabbi's office and offered my services.'
"My friend," continued Dr. R., "sent the Rebbe a get well card and in the card asked the Rebbe ten questions, both personal and work related. He also wrote that he hoped that very soon the Rebbe would recover and would be able to answer the questions. One week passed, two weeks passed, and there was no response, not even an acknowledgement from the Rebbe's office. My colleague became very upset.
" 'I was sleeping,' my colleague continued, 'and I dreamt that I saw Rabbi Schneerson! When he saw me he broke into a beautiful smile. "Thank you for your good wishes," the Rabbi told me. "There is no reason to be upset." Then he started answering my questions one by one. I woke up in a cold sweat. I remembered every word he said and everything made perfect sense. I couldn't fall back asleep,' my colleague concluded, 'so I called you.'
"That is why I wanted to speak with you today to find out what you think about this," Dr. R. told us.
I told the doctor that if his friend had the privilege of communicating with the Rebbe and of recognizing the Rebbe's greatness, then he had a responsibility to share his experience with others.
A month later I ran into Dr. R. at a Sukkot fair during the intermediate days of the holiday. "Yossi, since you told me about the Rebbe I haven't been the same. Before Rosh Hashana I bought myself a talit and went to shul on both days. I fasted on Yom Kippur. I bought a lulav and etrog for Sukkot. And now I've brought my grandchildren here so they can see thousands of Jews enjoying the festival."
This past year, on the 13th of Elul, my brother and I called Dr. R.'s office to wish him a happy birthday. "Thank you so much for your good wishes, how did you remember?" he asked. "How could I forget?" was my response.
Thirty-one years ago, with a simple question to a simple chasid, the Rebbe started a chain of events which continues bearing fruit to this day.
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Freely translated letter of the Rebbe
11th of Nissan, 5733 (1973)
To the Sons and Daughters of
Our People Israel, Everywhere -
G-d Bless you All!
Greeting and Blessing:
Pursuant to the previous letter, and in order to further clarify the point which was brought out in it:
That the true Jewish concept of Divine Providence is - as indicated in the plain sense of the term - that it is continuously active, every day and in every detail, and that supernatural (miraculous) Divine Providence is not limited to revealed miracles, but that also in the ordinary daily life there is miraculous intervention, except that "the one to whom a miracle occurs does not recognize his miracle."
It will be well to add some pertinent points, and to bring out the practical message of the whole thought, in addition to the explanation of the above-mentioned basic Jewish tenet, relating it to actual conduct, since "the essential thing is the deed."
Supernatural (miraculous) direction can take two forms:
- revealed miracles, such as the miracles which accompanied the Liberation from Egypt, this is to say, miracles which are entirely above and beyond the natural order, and at complete variance with nature;
- miracles on the order of the miracle of Purim, which was "clothed" in natural "garments."
The miracles of the Exodus from Egypt - beginning with those that took place in Egypt, right up to and including the liberation of an entire people, "young and old, sons and daughters," after centuries of enslavement in a land, from which even a single slave could not escape; an Exodus, moreover, with "upraised arm" (in broad daylight and with honor) and "with great substance"- these were events which everyone clearly saw as revealed miracles.
Different was the Miracle of Purim, for although also in this case there were miracles, to the extent of a complete "reversal" of circumstances, culminating in extraordinary triumph, as expressed in the words, "For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness and honor."
Nevertheless, the miracle of Purim was "clothed" in natural developments: Esther becomes queen; Mordechai gains a place "at the gate of the palace" and saves the king from an assassination plot; Esther intercedes with the king to annul the decree, etc., as all these events are related in the Megillah; although every event individually, and especially the congruence of all the events, "in those days at this season," into a predesigned pattern, was obviously miraculous, as we acknowledge this many times in prayer on Purim, referring to the "miracles, deliverance, mighty deeds, salvations, wonders."
Divine direction within the natural order, likewise, takes two forms:
- direction that "outwardly" is entirely natural;
- direction in which Divine Providence is clearly in evidence.
An example of the former is the course of sowing and reaping: To plant, and later to harvest, is entirely natural, so much so that in order to discern Divine Providence in this natural order, one must ponder deeply the way in which this Providence, extending to every detail, causes the congruence of a variety of natural phenomena - such as winds, rains and sunshine, etc., each in the right time and the right measure - to produce the desired results.
The second, an easily discernible form of Divine Providence, is what people commonly call "success," "good luck" (Mazel) , "windfall," and the like. These terms do not say what the thing is, but rather what it is not, namely, not personal achievement, i.e., not the result of special intelligence or hard work. However, the Torah, called "Toras Emes," tells us the real truth, that such Mazel is the gift of Divine Providence, the Divine blessing in the three general areas of human needs, namely, "children, life and sustenance," real and extraordinary Nachas (joy) from children, exceptional good health, and extraordinary Hatzlocho (success) in Parnosso.
This, then, is the point that was emphasized in the previous letter, to be learned from the distinction of the month of Nissan as "This month shall be unto you the first of the months."
By ordaining the Jewish people to count all the months of the year from Nissan, the month whose significance is contained in the fact that "in it you came out of Egypt" through the intervention of revealed Divine miracles, the Torah teaches us that such is the essence of the Divine conduct of the Universe throughout all the months of the year, whether it expresses itself in revealed miracles or in miracles which are dressed in "natural" garments, or when Divine Providence is in evidence, or it is totally obscured by the natural order - in each of these forms it behooves the Jew to know and remember that G-d is the Creator of the world and the sole and exclusive Master of the world, and that He directs the whole world in all its details; certainly the "small world" (microcosm), i.e., man, everyone, and in all details of his and her daily life.
In light of the above, it is self-evident that every detail of a person's life, however "small" it may be, is subject to Divine directive, and must be carried out in accordance with that directive, i.e., the will of the One Whose Providence extends also to that particular detail. Nothing can override it, or change it, for the "counting" has its roots in the month of Nissan, whose essence is the revealed miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim...
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Wednesday, 11 Nisan (corresponding with April 4 this year), we celebrate the Rebbe's 99th birthday. It is customary to recite daily the chapter in Psalms corresponding to one's years. Chasidic tradition encourages the daily recitation of the Rebbe's Psalm as well. Thus, Jews the world over will begin reciting Psalm 100 in honor of the Rebbe.
Psalm 100 was sung in the Holy Temple during the offering of the thanksgiving sacrifice (karban toda'a). This sacrifice was brought by a person who survived a great danger.
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, nineteenth century commentator and leader of German Jewry, explains that this song of thanksgiving deals with the gratitude that will be due to G-d in the Messianic age. Psalm 100 serves as a finale to the previous series of Psalms, which spoke about the Redemption.
The Psalm begins, "A song for the thanks offering." The commentator Radak explains that in the Messianic era, the Jewish people will offer thanksgiving to G-d for all His kindness. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba) teaches that in the Messianic era only the thanksgiving offering will be brought. No one will transgress and there will be no need for sin offerings.
The next verse emphasizes a fundamental approach to Judaism. "Serve the L-rd with joy." We must serve G-d with joy and we are enjoined to serve G-d constantly. Therefore, we must always be joyous. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, greatly emphasized this principle. The Previous Rebbe explained that when a person rejoices he breaks out of all his limitations and inhibitions. The Rebbe noted that by being joyous and serving G-d with joy, we will break out of this final limitation of exile into the Redemption.
"Know that the L-rd is G-d; He has made us," the Psalm continues. In this world there are three partners in the creation of a child: the father, the mother and G-d. But at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, we will be recreated by G-d alone -"He has made us."
The fourth verse reads, "Enter His gates with [sacrifices of] gratitude, His courtyards with praise." At that time, when everything is good, we will continue our sacrifices of gratitude and sing G-d's praises.
The final verse of this Psalm expounds another principle of Judaism: "For the L-rd is good; His kindness is everlasting." G-d is good and His deeds are good forever. The commentator Ibn Ezra explains that it is with these words that the Jewish people are destined to praise G-d.
The verse concludes... "and His faithfulness is for all generations." These words teach us that G-d keeps His promises. May He immediately fulfill His promise to take us out of exile and bring us to the Holy Land with the revelation of Moshiach and the long-awaited Redemption, at which time we will sing G-d's praises together with all mankind.
And He called to Moses (Lev. 1:1)
Of all the righteous people who lived in that generation - Aaron, the Seventy Elders, Betzalel and Chur - why did G-d call only to Moses? Because Moses was a person who "fled from power," as our Sages stated: "He who pursues authority and power, authority and power flee from him; he who flees authority and power, authority and power pursue him."
For you shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the L-rd made by fire (Lev. 2:11)
"Leaven" and "honey" are two extremes; by taste and attributes, they are opposites of each other. The Torah teaches that any kind of extreme should be avoided. A Jew must always seek the middle road, "the golden path."
(Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson)
When a person will sin unintentionally from among all the commandments of G-d that may not be done...for his sin that he committed he shall bring...a sin-offering (Lev. 4:2-3)
Why should a person be expected to bring an offering for a sin he committed accidentally, i.e., without prior intent? The answer is that had he not already committed the same sin deliberately, G-d would have prevented him from being in a situation where he repeated it unintentionally. This is alluded to by the text itself: "When a person will sin unintentionally...for his sin that he committed."
(Rabbi Moses Alshich)
It was the late '50s. In yechidut, a private audience with the Rebbe, Mrs. Bassie Garelik, emissary of the Rebbe in Milan, Italy, mentioned the name of their local supporter, Reb Avraham Tzippel.
The Rebbe interrupted: "He is a very straightforward man."
When Mrs. Garelik returned home, she recounted her yechidut to her husband, Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik. He thought there was something unusual in the Rebbe's mention of Reb Avraham, and decided to investigate.
He called on Reb Avraham and asked him about his health and that of his family. How was his business proceeding?
Reb Avraham was puzzled by Rabbi Garelik's queries, and asked the reason for them. Rabbi Garelik told him of his wife's yechidut.
"When did the yechidut take place?" Reb Avraham wanted to know.
When Rabbi Garelik told him the date, Reb Avraham hesitantly explained the significance of the Rebbe's words.
Reb Avraham was a furrier who had extensive business dealings in the then Soviet Union. He would utilize his trips there to bring in prayerbooks, tefilin and other religious articles, and bring out manuscripts of Chasidic thought for the Rebbe. These activities were carried out in absolute secrecy.
Generally, Reb Avraham's trips had proceeded without interference from the authorities. During his most recent visit, however, the authorities had placed him under house arrest for several hours. And then they had freed him, without any explanation for either his arrest or his release.
His release had come shortly after Mrs. Garelik's yechidut.
During the '60s, the Rebbe sent several Chasidim to Russia as tourists. In some cities, they would have clandestine meetings with members of the Chasidic underground. In other places, however, such meetings were too dangerous. Nevertheless, the Rebbe instructed his emissaries to pass through these cities and stop at the synagogues and places of Jewish interest.
Years later, after being able to leave Russia, one of the members of the Lubavitch community explained how important those visits were.
"In our city," he explained, "none of us had a chance to speak to the Rebbe's emissaries. Nevertheless, their visits had a tremendous effect on us.
"The Russian government had begun a campaign to demoralize us. It would call in members of the Chasidic community and show them headlines from American Jewish newspapers and magazines which spoke of assimilation and intermarriage. 'Your faith is doomed to extinction,' they told us. 'In Europe, your brethren have been wiped out and in America, they have forgotten their heritage. Why must you be so stubborn in your observance?'
"Their words had an effect, not that we believed them totally. But still, when you read an American Yiddish newspaper that speaks of 'the vanishing American Jew,' you become disheartened.
"And suddenly we saw evidence that it was not all that dark in America. These were young Americans wearing yarmulkas, tzitzit and full beards. It reinforced our faith in the future."
At their first yechidut with the Rebbe, in the fall of 1968, Rabbi Zalman Leib and Mrs. Raizel Estulin were overcome with emotion. After many years of struggle in the Chasidic underground in Russia, they had been able to emigrate to the Holy Land. Soon after their arrival they traveled to New York and were finally speaking to the Rebbe face to face!
True to Chasidic tradition, Mrs. Estulin's thoughts were not self-centered. Instead, she was worried about her sister and brother-in-law, Rabbi Yaakov and Mrs. Sara Lepkivker. They had applied for emigration visas. Knowing of his involvement with the Chasidic underground, the Russian authorities had told Rabbi Lepkivker: "You will rot here. Never will you leave Russia."
On the Estulins' note to the Rebbe, the first item was a request for the Lepkivkers' emigration.
When the Rebbe read their note, he gave a blessing for the Lepkivkers, but Mrs. Estulin felt there was something lacking; she had hoped to hear more powerful words of assurance. Breaking into tears, she told the Rebbe of the Lepkivkers' bitter situation.
The Rebbe listened patiently and answered: "Where would you be today if you had listened to the KGB? G-d performed a miracle and took your family out of Russia. Now a greater miracle is needed. But tell me: Does it make any difference to G-d whether He has to make a great miracle or a small miracle?"
A few months later, Rabbi Yaakov Lipskier went to yechidut. Rabbi Lipskier, Rabbi Lepkivker's brother-in-law, would always mention the Lepkivkers before making any requests for his own needs. Each year, the Rebbe would give the Lepkivkers a blessing, but from the way in which he spoke, Rabbi Lipskier understood that the time for their deliverance had not yet come.
That year, before the Rebbe even looked at his note, he told him: "In several months, you will see your brother-in-law."
And indeed, several months afterwards the Lepkivkers were in the Holy Land, thanking G-d for His miraculous providence.
Reprinted from To Know and To Care by Rabbi E. Touger, publsihed by Sichos In English.
As Jews, particularly in the end of the period of exile (after the passing of all the deadlines and after my sainted father-in-law testified that we have already repented and that all the necessary efforts have been completed), we are totally immersed in "awaiting Moshiach every day that he will come." Throughout each and every day we wait and yearn for the true and complete Redemption. And, inasmuch as Jews are passionately involved with the coming of Moshiach, it is reasonable that in all matters we should search primarily for their association with our awaitng every day that he will come.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Mikeitz, 5751)