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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Once a Chasid went to his Rebbe and cried, "My son is about to be drafted to serve in the Czar's army! I have been informed that the draft board will be comprised of people from a different town. If a father brings a note from a doctor saying that his son is ill, the boy receives a three-month reprieve. I will bring a note saying my son is ill. In three months, when he has to appear before the board again, it will be comprised of local people with whom I am close and they will easily exempt him."
The Rebbe listened and then said, "I understand your plan, but I think your son should appear at this hearing."
The Chasid left the Rebbe's room bewildered, for his plan was completely logical. He went home and decided to continue as planned. He procured a doctor's note and appeared at the scheduled hearing. Upon entering the room he nearly fainted: it was the local board! He had no choice but to hand them the note and receive the three-month grace period. But he knew that when he appeared three months later, before the board of strangers, his son would surely be taken.
The distraught father came to the Rebbe again and pleaded with him for help. "Have pity on a poor fool. Should my innocent son suffer because he has a father such as me?" he wailed. The Rebbe thought for some time and then said, "Get your son a false passport and send him far away."
The father nodded. "But that leaves me with another big problem," he then related. "When a draftee runs away, the father is fined three hundred rubles, which I don't have! They will take my small children as hostages, until I pay."
The Rebbe fell deep into thought again, then answered: "Don't worry. There is a project in the works."
The Chasid was relieved. He bought a passport on the black market and sent his son off to safety. But what of the fine? he wondered. He tried to put his questions and doubts out of his mind.
Three months passed. A soldier came to his store and handed him many official-looking papers, announcing: "Sign these and appear at the bureau in 24 hours."
The Chasid was shaking as he entered the lawyer's office. He could not read Russian, and so he been unable to peruse the documents. The lawyer, a local Jew, studied the pages closely. Then he looked up with a smile. "Do you know that they have given you their entire file on your son? Were you to throw them into the fire, nothing would be left; it would be over." With that, he tossed the papers into the fire, and the Chasid suddenly understood his Rebbe's words which had been so unintelligible at the time: "There is a project in the works."
The Rebbe has told the world that "There is a project in the works"-the time of the Redemption has arrived. And though at times it might appear that things are going in a different direction, there really is "a project in the works."
We needn't accept on blind faith the existence of the "project." The Rebbe has shown us how the world is changing and moving toward the Redemption. He has pointed out examples of the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Nor should we be discouraged by temporary setbacks, for these, too, have their precedents: Even after we had gone out of Egypt amidst great wonders, some Jews wanted to turn back when faced with adversity. Later, though the journey to the Holy Land had already commenced, Moses was hidden from us as he studied the most sublime aspects of G-d's Wisdom, in order to ultimately share it with the Jewish nation.
Surely we will all contribute to the completion of the project and very soon we will join together with all Jewry of all generations in the holy city of Jerusalem, NOW!
The story related in this week's Torah portion, Korach, contains a lesson for each and every Jew.
"And it came to pass, that on the next day Moses came...and behold, the staff of Aaron...had budded...and bloomed blossoms...and yielded almonds." This was one of the signs by which G-d demonstrated that He had chosen Aaron for the priesthood (from whom all kohanim are descended). But what is the special significance of almonds vis-à-vis the priesthood?
Of all the fruits that exist in the world, almonds are the earliest to mature. The interval between the appearance of blossoms on the tree and the time when the nuts have ripened and are ready to eat is the shortest of any variety of fruit.
The Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism) explained that almonds are symbolic of the kohanim, who bless the Jewish people with the Priestly Blessing. In the same way that the almond is quick in maturing, so too is the blessing of the kohanim fulfilled in a swift manner, and without delay.
It states in the Talmud: "Kohanim are speedy and diligent." Kohanim are likened to almonds, for not only do they fulfill their priestly duties but they do so with speed and alacrity.
When G-d revealed His holy Torah, He told each and every Jewish man and woman: "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests." Every Jew is likened to a kohen, and must therefore derive a lesson from the priestly service:
The Holy One, Blessed Be He, entrusts each and every Jew with a Divine mission in life: to observe Torah and mitzvot in the physical world, and to pass this knowledge on to the next generation, by providing his children with a Torah-true education. How are we to fulfill this assignment? In the same manner as "almonds," i.e., with diligence and alacrity, never missing an opportunity to do an additional mitzva. A Jew should never put off till later a mitzva he can do right now. Rather, he should run to fulfill his mission in carrying out the Divine will.
Furthermore, when we act with alacrity, G-d promises that the fruits our good deeds produce will be swift in coming. Just like the almond, we will not have to wait a long time to see their results.
Adapted from Volume 4 of Likutei Sichot
Generation to Generation
by Yehudis Cohen
Less than one and a half years ago, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak and Tova Mayzlesh arrived in Mexico City from Brooklyn, New York, to open the first-ever Chabad House there. But for the Mayzleshes, and Tova in particular, the connection to Jewish life in Mexico goes back two generations.
"My grandfather, Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Hershberg, was the Chief Rabbi of Mexico for 25 years [1960 - 1985]," Tova relates. "In his youth, he studied at the famed Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in Poland, where the admission requirements entailed the memorization and mastery of 200 double pages of the Talmud. In addition, my grandfather's special area of expertise was the much less studied Jerusalem Talmud. Subsequently, my grandfather visited the Previous Rebbe in New York, who urged him to meet with his son-in-law (who would later succeed him as Rebbe). At that first meeting, my grandfather was astounded at the Rebbe's mastery in every area of Torah, but especially in his beloved Jerusalem Talmud. From then on my grandfather was an ardent admirer of the Rebbe and would not make any major decisions without consulting him."
Tova's mother, Mrs. Yehudis Metzger, together with Mrs. Devorah Marcovitch, helped Rabbi Hershberg create the first yeshiva in Mexico, Yeshiva d'Mexico. "For 25 years my grandfather raised the funds to support the yeshiva. Eventually, my mother moved away and married. Unfortunately, when my grandfather passed away, the yeshiva closed down."
Rabbi Hershberg's concern over the future prompted him to ask the Rebbe numerous times to send a shaliach, an emissary of the Rebbe, to Mexico. Each time he asked the Rebbe responded, "You are there."
Over the next few decades many other individuals asked the Rebbe to send an emissary to Mexico. Each time the Rebbe's answer was "no."
In 1992, Marcos Mareshli, a member of the Syrian Jewish community in Mexico City, traveled to New York. On a Sunday, when the Rebbe distributed dollars for charity to thousands of visitors, Mr. Mareshli asked the Rebbe if a Chabad House could finally be opened in his city. The Rebbe gave him a blessing along with an extra dollar and said, "This is for Chabad." One person standing near the Rebbe, who knew that for all the years the Rebbe had not allowed a shaliach to go to Mexico, blurted out in shock, "A Chabad House in Mexico?" The Rebbe then answered, "It is a proper thing to do."
It wasn't until eight years later, though, that a Chabad House actually opened in Mexico. Devorah Marcovitch's grandson Shachne had tragically passed away at a young age. The boy's parents, Shlomo and Sorie Marcovitch, decided that they wanted to do something in their son's zechut, merit, that would touch every Jew in Mexico. It was the Marcovitches who moved mountains and pulled strings so that Rabbi Hershberg's unfulfilled request of the Rebbe to send an emissary and the approval received by Mr. Mareshli would come to fruition.
Only after they had settled in Mexico City did the Mayzleshes discover that during a private audience with the Rebbe, Rabbi Hershberg had once discussed the fact that he was considering the possibility of moving to Israel in the future. He again pressed the Rebbe to send a shliach to Mexico, and the Rebbe answered, seemingly casually, "Someone from the family will eventually be there."
"We have learned so much from the Marcovitches about how to see every individual as precious," says Tova. "I remember this past April when, together with a group of volunteers, we were packing 10,000 boxes of hand-made matza to distribute before Passover in the Jewish schools, public schools with Jewish students, hospitals, prisons and other institutions. It was 4 a.m. and we were not yet finished. Someone had inadvertently put tape on one of the boxes and Shlomo carefully removed the tape before it damaged the box. 'Why should even one person receive a box that is spoiled?' he asked. The motto of Chabad of Mexico is 'De todo corazon para cada uno'- 'With all the heart for each individual.' We constantly learn this from Shlomo. If we lose the individual in the quest to touch thousands we have nothing," Tova concludes.
All of the Jewish educational materials that Chabad of Mexico distributes are prepared locally. "Central America has its own nuances in language, expression and Jewish culture. People here are very pleased that materials are prepared in Spanish especially for them."
The Chabad House printed a beautiful children's calendar. Attractively designed with magnificent artwork and packed with information on a variety of Jewish topics, each month also features a "mitzva mission." "I had a six-year-old child call me recently to ask how many Jews live in Uruguay," Tova recalls. "After relaying the information I asked him how he knew to call Chabad. 'I have the Jewish children's calendar!' was his matter-of-fact reply."
In addition to offering Jewish schools in Mexico the "usual" programs like a Shofar Factory before Rosh Hashana, an Olive Press Workshop before Chanuka, and a Model Matza Bakery before Passover, the Chabad House is called upon to provide lessons and lectures in Jewish schools throughout the area. Requests for curriculum on such diverse topics as prayer, agriculture, the prophets Habakuk and Ezekiel have been professionally prepared by a team of educators headed by Tova and her husband.
Although based in Mexico City, the Chabad House reaches out to Jews throughout the entire country and its environs. Jewish events for various holidays are held regularly in Cancun. Last year, for the first time, a seder was held in Cozumel, an island off Cancun. "One of the bochurim (yeshiva students) who led the seder related the following incident to us. A young man from an observant home in New York attended the seder. He had decided to discard his religious upbringing and observance and 'escape' during Passover to a place where he would not possibly meet a religious Jew. But when he came to Cozumel, the first person he saw was a Lubavitcher chasid organizing a seder for a group of businessmen! 'I see that I can't run away from G-d,' the young man told the bochur."
One of the projects in which Rabbi Mayzlesh and Shlomo Marcovitch have invested themselves heart and soul is the Yeshiva Ohr Shachne in Tecamachalco. At this new yeshiva, 11 young men study full-time for Rabbinical ordination. They are beloved throughout the city where they give private and public classes during their few hours of spare time.
Tova readily admits that they see Divine Providence manifestly revealed each day and in so many of their activities. "I went to visit Aishel, a Jewish old age home in Cuernevaca, a city about two hours away from Mexico City. Just as I arrived there, someone rushed over and said there was an old Jewish woman who was breathing her last, and she only spoke English! I was able to hurry to her bedside to say the Shema with her and be with her as her soul began its final journey."
Concludes Tova, "Just as my grandfather was in close contact with the Rebbe and received the Rebbe's personal guidance, we too feel the Rebbe guiding us every step of the way. Surely very soon the Rebbe's promise that Moshiach is coming will be fulfilled.
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The date of this letter was unavailable
Blessing and Greeting:
... I duly received your letter in which you describe your views and feelings in relation to Judaism, your encounters and conflicts, etc.
It is not completely clear to me from your letter on what particular matter you seek my advice, if at all. However, since we are taught by our Sages that every Jew is duty-bound to take an interest in his fellow-Jew, even a complete stranger, how much more so in this case, where you have written to me and have opened your heart to me, - I therefore consider it my duty, indeed privilege, to reply to you in the same spirit, which you may, if you wish, accept as advice or suggestion or simply regard as my own "thinking aloud."
By way of general introduction, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of where certain movements stand in relation to authentic Judaism. A closer look at their tenets confirm without a doubt, that these movements are based on compromise, and the surrender of principle in favor of convenience, for an easier "adjustment" to a particular time and place.
The consequence of this attitude is, first of all, that once one begins making concessions, holding no more to the principle of the inviolability of the pure faith and Divine Law, there is no telling how far one will go. Human nature is such that once one accepts the principle of compromise in matters of faith, there is bound to be a steady erosion, every time with a lighter mind and less qualms. Secondly, it is bound to undermine one's respect for one's religion, knowing that anyone can "do business" with it; trim it a bit here, a bit there; and whatever is left - what real value can be attached to it, and what binding force can it have? Moreover, one, at the same time, loses also one's self-respect, recognizing one's lack of courage and personal weakness to hold on to one's own belief, or the beliefs of his people, and taking instead the line of least resistance.
Young people, filled with energy and determination and unsullied faith are not naturally inclined to compromise in any field, much less in the higher values of life. This explains why most of the "conformists" in social and conventional aspects of life are to be found among older people. Consequently, young people take their personal convictions much more seriously and are bound to be more affected.
Has the present young generation been prepared to cope with the real aspects of life?
Unfortunately, in America at any rate, most parents, however well-intentioned, have been more concerned about their children's material, rather than spiritual, well-being. The reason for this is not hard to find. Having themselves had to face economic hardships, as immigrants or the children of immigrants, and having found that religious conviction and principles not infrequently proved "restrictive" in a materialistic society, they decided to do their utmost to shelter their children from the economic hardships which they had experienced. They were thus primarily interested in providing their children with careers and professions and other means of economic security, leaving it to their children to find their own way, eventually, in regard to such things as religion and a world outlook. However well-meaning the parents may have been, the result is the same: It fostered a way of life where principles have been sacrificed to expediency, and time-honored traditions have been relinquished for material gains, actual or imaginary.
Under these circumstances, it is small wonder that the tremendous upheavals which shook the world in general, and the Jewish world in particular, in our generation, have found young men and women almost totally unprepared. World wars on an unprecedented scale, followed by economic booms and busts, have made a shambles of hopes and aspirations even in the material sphere.
As for the world of the spirit, the bankruptcy of ideas and ideologies have left many young people terribly disillusioned morally and spiritually. A void has been created in their hearts and minds which they did not know how to fill. The widespread disillusionment and frustration among the young generation, and even among the not so young, with the resultant ethical, moral and social ills, are too well known, and too painful, to be elaborated here.
Fortunately, one has been able to clearly discern a new trend among our young Jewish men and women, especially academic youth, who come closer to the world of ideas and thought....
continued in next issue
2 Tamuz 5761
Positive mitzva 83: offerings on the first festival
By this injunction we are commanded to fulfill all the duties incumbent on us upon the commencement of Passover, the first of the three Festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot), so that everyone will have brought whatever offering he owes (at the first opportunity). It is contained in the Torah's words (Deut. 12:5-6): "There you shall come, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Is the so-called "Moshiach Campaign" a Lubavitch invention? At a gathering on Shavuot 1985, the Rebbe spoke about people's perception of the desire for Moshiach as an "innovation" of Lubavitch. The Rebbe said (freely translated):
"Someone wrote to me recently that he met a religious Jew who doesn't 'hold' from Lubavitch (not that the Jew has any idea what Lubavitch is, he just knows that he doesn't 'hold' from Lubavitch) and asked, 'Why do Lubavitchers cry out and proclaim, "Moshiach now!" '
"The person who wrote the letter wasn't sure what to answer the other Jew and therefore was writing to me for an answer.
"It is mind-boggling that the letter-writer didn't know what to answer the other Jew! But to answer the question:
"Belief in Moshiach and awaiting his coming- 'I believe in the coming of Moshiach... I wait every day that he should come'-is one of the 13 fundamental principles of the Jewish faith as enumerated by Maimonides.
"Every Jew requests in each of the three daily weekday services, 'Speedily cause the scion of David Your servant to flourish... for we hope for Your sal-vation every day.' And each day, including Shabbat and holidays, in the three prayer services, we beg, 'May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy!'
"After all of this, there are those who say that the request that we go out of exile to the Redemption -'Moshiach now,'-is a 'novel' idea of Lubavitch!
The Rebbe quoted a verse from Psalms, "As the deer longs for the springs of water, so does my soul call out in thirst for You G-d." The Rebbe explained that this verse emphasizes our great pain over the exile and our desire and longing for the Redemption. This desire is not just that we want "Moshiach now," but much more: In the same way a person who hasn't had water for a long time thirsts for it in order to revive his soul, so should our thirst for the Redemption affect our lives literally.
May our cry of "Moshiach now!" be filled with a true thirst for the Redemption that will reunite us with the Rebbe and bring the Redemption NOW!
And Korach took (Num. 16:1)
Korach's objective was authority and power. Thus the premise of his rebellion against Moses wasn't "kosher" from the very beginning, as genuine greatness and authority cannot be "taken" but only conferred from Above.
(Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)
You take too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi (Num. 16:7)
As Rashi notes, Korach was far from foolish. "So why did Korach, who was a shrewd and clever man, commit this folly? His eye deceived him; he saw a chain of great men issuing from him, including Samuel, who is weighed against Moses and Aaron." The Talmud relates that hundreds of years later, when Chana was praying for her son Samuel, she asked G-d that he be "neither wise nor foolish." Why didn't she pray that he be "wise"? Because she didn't want him to take after his great-grandfather Korach, who was too clever for his own good...
(Ma'ayana Shel Torah)
That he fare not as Korach and his company (Num. 17:5)
The Torah mentions not only Korach as an individual but everyone who took part in the rebellion with him. From this we learn that not only those who engage in controversy for personal reasons will eventually be punished but all who foment disagreement, even if there is no personal benefit involved.
By Shimon Katzman
Back in 1990 a friend was having some problems. I suggested that he go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing. Although not a chasid, I greatly revere the Rebbe.
"Okay," he said, "but only if you come with me."
We came to 770 (Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn) on Sunday morning and waited patiently on line for four hours. Over 5,000 people had come to receive a blessing and a dollar to give to charity from the Rebbe. As we approached the Rebbe, I began to think of a problem I had at work. I was under so much pressure from my boss that I had considered changing jobs or transferring to a different unit. I decided to ask the Rebbe what to do.
The line moved quickly. As I approached the Rebbe, I blurted out my question of whether or not to change jobs. To my surprise, the Rebbe answered, "If you have kosher tefilin you don't have to worry about parnasa (livelihood)."
That's strange, I thought to myself. How could there be something wrong with my tefilin? The scribes who had checked the tefilin over the years had consistently noted how nicely they were written. They recognized the handwriting of the scribe and would add, "He is one of the best scribes in Israel."
Could it be that my tefilin were not kosher? Was there a possibility that I had not worn kosher tefilin for 30 years? Why, the mere thought of it scared me. I immediately went to a scribe and had him check them over.
"It's a very nice pair of kosher tefilin," the scribe said. I breathed a sigh of relief, but I was still puzzled by the Rebbe's remarks. Thus, two weeks later I returned to the Rebbe to clarify the matter.
"I checked my tefilin and the scribe said they're kosher," I reported.
"How can that be?" said the Rebbe as he handed me a dollar. "Is the scribe an honest, reliable Jew?"
"Yes," I answered. Once again I was surprised at the Rebbe's remark. I had a strange feeling. I went to another scribe. I told the scribe the entire story and he carefully examined the leather boxes for any imperfections. He used a light table to check the parchments for minute cracks in the ink that may render tefilin posul, not kosher. Once again, nothing was found.
Unsatisfied, I went to the Vaad Mishmeres STAM, an organization that had developed a way of checking Torah scrolls, tefilin, and mezuzot by computer scanning to see if any letters are missing. Again the results were negative.
Now, for the third time, I returned to the Rebbe. This time as I passed the Rebbe I said to him, "I checked my tefilin by two different scribes and by computer and they said they're kosher."
"Nu," said the Rebbe, "if two honest scribes say they're kosher, then it's not your responsibility; it's their responsibility."
I was totally upset! Obviously the Rebbe was very insistent that something was wrong. I went to a great rabbi and told him the whole story.
The rabbi said to me, "Even if the Lubavitcher Rebbe is like an angel who sees things that no person can see, the Torah was not given to angels. We can only be expected to do what humans can do."
"Yes," I said. "But what's going to be 'after 120 years,' when I'm standing before the Heavenly Tribunal and they say, 'Shimon, you never wore kosher tefilin in your lifetime!' "
"Listen," said the rabbi, "don't worry. Heaven cannot expect you to do more than you did. If they ruled here on earth that your tefilin are kosher then it's kosher and you've done your duty."
I was still not at ease, so I went out and bought the finest pair of tefilin money can buy. The following morning, on the eve of Yom Kippur, I put on the new pair of tefilin for the very first time.
The night after Yom Kippur my wife, Brocha, received an interesting phone call. For six weeks she had been vying for a new position in her school as the Assistant Principal. However, the principal refused to give it to her. He claimed that since the school was growing he wanted to hire someone from outside to do the job. My wife countered that since she had been doing the job of the Assistant Principal until now, she should receive the title and the increase in salary. For six weeks the principal had been interviewing candidates for the job.
That night, the principal called to tell her, "I've decided it's only right that you be the assistant principal. And you'll be getting a five thousand-dollar raise."
We suddenly recalled the Rebbe's words: "If you have kosher tefilin, you don't have to worry about parnasa." A few months later my boss left my department and the pressure was finally off.
But the story doesn't end there. For several years after buying the new tefilin I continued to wear my old tefilin. I would put them on after I finished praying.
During that time I had applied for various managerial positions and had requested that my titled be upgraded. I had four people working under me but I was unsuccessful in getting a managerial title. My boss would tell me, "There are no more managerial slots to be filled, the department has reached its limit."
Someone told me that there was an unused title of "supervisor." He recommended I speak to my boss about it. My boss said he would look into it.
Months passed. In the interim, I had stopped wearing my old pair of tefilin and was now only putting on the "new" pair. One day, my boss called me and said, "I have good news for you, you're finally being promoted to supervisor and that means you'll be getting a ten percent raise!"
When Moshiach comes there will be a trial to determine who is to arise at the Resurrection of the Dead. Presiding over this trial will be Moshiach. The Prophet Isaiah teaches, "Not according to the sight of his eyes shall he judge, nor shall he rebuke according to the hearing of his ears." Unlike an ordinary judge, Moshiach will see and feel the factors that caused the sinner to transgress. He will weigh and consider the bleak life that Jews have lived in exile. He will intercede on their behalf and seek out their merits, pointing out that they did not want to sin; they were unable to overmaster their Evil Inclination.