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Jewish mystical teachings explain that evil has no permanence. Only good exists eternally and every good deed endures forever.
The way to fight evil, then, is with good, with everlasting and incessant good.
How much can you or I do to eradicate evil from the face of the earth, to wipe out terror and eliminate violence? Realistically speaking, how much of an impact can any one, single individual have on the entire world?
In the beginning of September, nearly four decades ago, the Rebbe addressed precisely this question in a pre-High Holiday letter to Jews around the world.
"One single individual has the capacity to bring the whole of creation to fulfillment, as was the case with the first person, Adam....
"Our Sages teach us that the first person, Adam, was the prototype and example for each and every individual to follow: 'For this reason was man created as an individual in order to each you "one person equals a whole world," ' our Sages declared in the Mishna.
"This means that every Jew, regardless of time and place and personal status, has the fullest capacity, hence also duty, to rise and attain the highest degree of fulfillment, and accomplsh the same for the creation as a whole.
"This disproves the contentions of those who do not fulfill their duty with the excuse that it is impossible to change the world; of that their parents had not given them the necessary education and preparation; or that the world is so huge, and one is so puny-how can one hope to accomplish anythng?
"There were times when the aforesaid idea, namely, the ability of a single individual to 'transform' the world, met with skepticism, and demanded proof.
"However, precisely in our generation, we unfortunately do not have to seek far to be convinced that one person could have such impact. We have seen how one individual brought the world to the brink of destruction, but for the mercies of the King of the Universe, Who ordained that 'the earth shall stand firm; shall not fall.'
"If such is the case in the realm of evil, surely one's potential is much greater in the realm of good. For, in truth, creation is essentially good, and therefore more inclined toward the good than its opposite."
So what can I do to fight evil? What contribution can I make in the war against terrorism? What is my memorial to the thousands who perished last month and the millions before them? I can be good, and so can you.
It sometimes happens that the external appearance of a thing or event can be in stark contradiction to its true meaning. For example, if one happens to see a parent in the midst of disciplining his child, his actions might seem to be an expression of cruelty. In truth, however, the parent is motivated by love and concern for the child's welfare.
On a larger scale, an event or occurrence can take place in the world that seems to be negative, yet ultimately derives from a positive source and is actually beneficial. A prime example of this was the Great Flood in the times of Noah, as described in this week's Torah portion. Outwardly, it was a terrible phenomenon - the annihilation of every living thing on earth. But on a deeper level the Flood signified spiritual purification and cleansing, similar to immersion in a mikva (ritual bath).
The Midrash relates that during the Flood the world was in a very exalted state, much like the very beginning of creation. Completely submerged in water, the entire world was an expression of "praise of the Holy One, Blessed be He."
What does being underwater have to do with praising G-d? Moreover, how does this relate to the simple, literal significance of the Flood, which was death and destruction?
The most salient property of water is that it covers whatever is submerged within it. When an area is flooded, its numerous disparate features disappear, and it acquires a uniform appearance. Nothing protrudes from the surface; no element declares that it is different from any other. In this sense, water is symbolic of the underlying G-dly unity of existence.
This is also the deeper significance of immersion in a mikva: the individual's nullification of his essential self before G-d. This was the initial state of the world immediately following creation and also during the Flood, when the whole world was nullified and subsumed in the greater G-dly reality.
On the physical plane, the Flood manifested itself as devastation and punishment. But the inner, G-dly intention was the world's purification and spiritual elevation.
Nonetheless, G-d promised that He would never again bring a flood upon the world, as according to Divine plan, this nullification must occur as a result of man's service rather than come from Above. The underlying unity of existence will be fully revealed in the Messianic era, when "the world will be filled with G-dly knowledge as the waters cover the sea."
Adapted from Volume 30 of Likutei Sichot
Life with the Rich and Famous
by Miriam Karp
Bulgarian-born and Israeli-raised Molly Resnick moved to New York City in 1972 to seek her fortune in the communications industry. She landed a coveted position at NBC news as a producer of the only daily interview show in New York "Five Minutes With & ..."
"As the 'gate-keeper' I was the one who decided who was to be featured on the TV show-Menachem Begin, Henry Kissinger, President Carter, Dr. Spock, Gregory Peck, Sofia Loren, kings, prime ministers, prima ballerinas, the 'Who's Who' of the political, art and literary world."
Molly enjoyed her enviable position. But after years of encountering celebrities, "it hit me that being rich and famous didn't mean you found the key to happiness or had common sense."
Molly took a leave of absence to embark on a worldwide search for spirit and meaning. On a jaunt to Rio she had a critical encounter with the Chief Rabbi, the late Yerachmiel Blumenfield, who invited Molly to a Shabbat dinner. In spite of her agnostic skepticism, Molly was persuaded to light Shabbat candles. She became mesmerized by the beauty and intelligence of the Rabbi's daughter Chana, who showed Molly a photo of her obviously religious fiance, bearded and black-hatted. Molly's response was one of incredulity. "You don't want to spend the rest of your life being pregnant, cooking chicken soup and praying behind a curtain. Come, I'll help you run away!" she offered the young bride-to-be.
Chana insisted that she was happy and had freely chosen this lifestyle. Molly found this hard to digest. "Chana picked me up the next day and I said, 'You mean they let you go out and drive? Aren't they afraid you'll run away?'" For three days the sophisticated producer bombarded Chana with questions about observant Jewish life.
As a political science student Molly was enamored with the American Constitution. "To me it was the epitome of justice and wisdom. I then realized that the Torah, my people's 'Constitution,' was not just 200, but thousands of years old. I had dabbled in every '-ism'-Hinduism, Buddhism, you name it-but I knew so little about my own heritage.
"It was like falling in love. I had finally found meaning. I realized that our world has a G-d and a purpose." Molly retuned to New York ready to learn and grow Jewishly.
Each week she visited another observant family for Shabbat. She found the Lubavitchers to be warm, intelligent and most accepting. Eventually, Molly's observance grew to Shabbat, keeping kosher and dating only Jewish men interested in marriage.
A friend arranged a shidduch (match) with the man who became her husband. Molly smiles, "Even my mother forgave me when she found out the religious young man I was bringing home was a Harvard doctor." Dr. Lawrence Resnick, an expert in hypertension who is today a Professor of Medicine at Cornell in Manhattan, was then the Lubavitcher Rebbe's personal physical.
Molly continued her work at NBC for several years. Her new ways met with mixed responses of cynicism and admiration. "G-d is almost a four letter word among the self-declared intelligentsia circles. To some I'd become a fanatic, a fundamentalist! Others praised me for the almost extinct quality of dedication to beliefs."
As her family grew to include three children, Molly's priorities shifted and she left NBC, devoting herself to motherhood and the less rigorous schedule of freelancing.
Summing up the difference between her former secularism and embrace of Judaism, Molly extols the depth, beauty and joy of getting in touch with one's inner self-the Jewish essence. "The worldly success I once pursued is shallow compared to the depth of Jewish living."
She finds how she defines herself has radically changed, as well. "I used to define myself as first and foremost a woman, a journalist, an Israeli, an American, a liberal, and a humanist. And somewhere, I was also Jewish, but that meant little to me." Now she puts the Jewish part first. This priority is essential to "having it all," she says.
The fiery spirit that drove Molly up the career ladder and fueled her quest for truth has found a new outlet. Combining her journalistic savvy with the concern of a Jewish mother, Molly now fights the indoctrination of Palestinian children into Jew-haters.
In 1998, Molly and several friends formed M.A.T.C.K.H.-Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate. They use the proven combination of media blitz and mothers, modeled after MADD, Mother's Against Drunk Driving. "MADD is a grassroots organization that changed the laws of the land, and our cause is no less urgent."
For the past three years, Molly had been telling people, "Today Arab Palestinians direct their hatred against Israelis and Jews in the Middle East, tomorrow it will be Americans right here in our own back yard." The recent World Trade Center bombing does not set Molly up as a prophetess. Rather, it is a natural progression of brainwashing children to hate and kill. "People used to feel safe because terror was only happening in the Middle East, but September 11, 2001 changed that for all people of the world."
M.A.T.C.K.H. uses public forums and educational programs to inform the public and lobby officials to oppose groups teaching bigotry, hatred and murder to children. M.A.T.C.K.H. exposes the constant hate featured on Palestinian television, in songs, and in school textbooks and summer camps.
Molly cities a Palestinian textbook that uses anti-Semitism in its 5th grade grammar lessons: "Define the subject and predicate in the following sentence: 'It is the duty of every Moslem, man and woman, to launch jihad [holy war] against the Jews.'" Another timebomb is a poem, "The Martyr." It extols the virtue of children becoming suicide warriors. "In Palestinian-controlled areas," explains Molly, "children dress as suicide bombers and parade at extremist rallies. Theatrical shows at these rallies included the blowing up of cardboard Israeli buses and setting mock Jewish settlements on fire. Striving for peace without changing the attitudes of children is like constructing another floor above a termite-ridden foundation."
Molly visits schools and youth clubs around the country to encourage children to write letters for peace that are assembled into colorful quilts. On October 4th, during the intermediate days of the festival of Sukkot, students displayed their quilts at a massive rally that M.A.T.C.K.H. planned at the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C. under the auspices of several Congressional leaders. In preparation for that event, Molly sent out a press release stating: "We urge President Bush in his quest to root out terrorism to consider where the seeds of extremist motivations are planted, and to consider those sources to be equally as dangerous to freedom as terrorists and those who aid them."
Summing up her activism, Molly states, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe's teachings concerning the security of the land of Israel has greatly influenced my involvement in M.A.T.C.K.H. I do not have illusions of grandeur that I can solve the world's troubles. There are deeply ingrained problems, but G-d can change the whole scenario in a second. The least I can do is to use my G-d-given talents and skills to do my part.
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How the Rebbe Responded to Terrorist Threats
On the 28th of Nissan, 5750 (April 1990) the Rebbe was notified that P.L.O. terrorists were threatening to attack various targets throughout the world. The following is the Rebbe's response, freely translated.
I was notified that the P.L.O. has given instructions to all its branches worldwide to strike at targets throughout the world, G-d forbid.
It is therefore necessary to invoke and emphasize the blessings from G-d to all Jews in all places, in all their needs. Primarily the most needed blessing is the miracle of the complete and perfect Redemption through Moshiach (whom we await every day that his coming not be delayed even as much as the blink of an eye). These blessings should be emphasized with complete trust and confidence, as well as with joy and gladness of heart.
We should especially fulfill the directive of the Chabad Rebbes, "Think good and it will be good."
This means that thinking positively causes the course of events to actually turn out good.
This information should be utilized not to scare anyone, G-d forbid, but rather in the positive sense, to enhance the service of the Jewish people in the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvos.
On the verse (Gen.), "The voice is the voice of Jacob," our Sages tell us that the power of the Jewish people is with "our mouth." Through our heartfelt prayers and Torah learning we can eliminate the plans of "the hands of Esau," the terrible schemes of our enemies.
Thus there should be additional activities in Torah study and prayer and in mitzvos in general.
Special emphasis should be placed on studying Torah diligently. For our Sages explain the verse, "If you will follow my statutes" to mean that if you will labor in Torah... "I will grant peace in the land. You will sleep without fear."
Through Torah study we eliminate all negative things and they are even transformed to good.
Also, additional prayers should be said. Keeping with the spirit of "thinking positive" it would be advisable to recite daily an extra three chapters of Psalms. One of these three chapters should be the final chapter of Psalms (ch. 150) which concludes with the verse, "Let every being that has a soul praise G-d." This means that every man, woman and child praises and gives thanks to G-d for His benevolence, and for the blessings and good fortune that He bestows upon us and will continue to bestow upon us.
It would also be appropriate to add in the giving of charity.
Although "fasting" is out of place (especially in the context of "thinking positive") this does not contradict the giving of charity to redeem a fast.
It would be appropriate to give charity in the amount of two meals, and even better in the amount of three meals. This charity should preferably go to support people who learn Torah or institutions involved in disseminating Torah.
Certainly these directives will be publicized in all Jewish communities, to all Jews, men, women and children.
Emphasis must be placed however, to be very cautious not to scare anyone, G-d forbid. Rather, the purpose is to inspire everyone to enhance their Torah study and mitzvah observance, with true bitachon, complete trust and confidence, with joy and a glad heart.
The main thing is that the resolutions regarding the above should hasten and quicken the concept of "think good and it will be good" in actuality starting from the ultimate good-the complete and perfect Redemption through Moshiach.
2 Marcheshvan 5762
Positive mitzva 245: the law of buying and selling
By this injunction we are commanded concerning the law of buying and selling, i.e., the procedure by which a sale is to be effected between the vendor and the vendee. It is derived from the Torah's words (Lev. 25:14): "And if you sell something to your neighbor, or buy something from your neighbor's hand, etc."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Because of the publication schedule of L'Chaim, this is the first chance we have to share our thoughts with our readers after the tragic, earth-shaking events of the terrorist attack on America, and in essence, all people, on September 11.
I would like to share with our readers the announcement that I was able to deliver on New York radio following the bombing:
"This is a tragic time for New York, for the United States and for the entire world.
"Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families.
"This is a time to be strong and to strengthen each other.
"Let us unite in doing an extra mitzva, an extra good deed each day, in honor of those who perished.
"As the Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us, a mitzva, a good deed, is the perfect vehicle for all divine blessings.
"Let us also unite in prayer in beseeching Alm-ghty G-d for the great Redemption, and a world without violence and without madness, without terrorism and without grief, without pain and without sorrow, a world of peace, brotherhood and harmony between nation and nation and between man and man."
One of the fundamentals of Jewish belief is the belief that in the Messianic Era all those who have perished will be resurrected. We are waiting! Surely we all feel how close we are to that time, when we will all be reunited with our loved ones. As the Rebbe said, the world is ready, we are ready. May it take place immediately.
And Noah walked with G-d (Gen. 6:9)
Noah himself was a G-d-fearing man, but he did not reprove other people or encourage them to improve their behavior. For that reason he is termed "perfect in his generation": He was not disliked by his fellow man, as no one really cared how he conducted his personal life - provided he did not make any unpleasant demands on them.
And the earth was corrupted before G-d (Gen. 6:11)
Only in G-d's eyes was the earth "corrupted," whereas mankind considered the world to be pleasant and good. The members of Noah's generation were perfectly satisfied with the rules they had established to govern their society.
(Rabbi Avraham Saba)
Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean (Gen. 7:8)
According to the Talmud, the Torah uses an extra eight letters to describe the non-kosher animals in this manner, rather than portray them negatively as "unclean" or treif. Elsewhere in the Torah, however, such as those verses enumerating which animals we are allowed or forbidden to eat, they are clearly defined as "unclean." The difference is that when it comes to a matter of Jewish law, fancy language is inappropriate. The law must be stated definitively and unequivocally: "This you may do, and this you may not do."
And they went to Noah into the ark...of all flesh where there is the breath of life (Gen. 7:15)
The G-dly revelation that was manifested in the ark had a profound effect on all the animals, causing them to live together amicably and harmoniously for an entire year. Thus the conditions in the ark were the prototype and forerunner of the Messianic era, when according to many commentators, the Biblical prophecy of "and the wolf shall live with the lamb" will be fulfilled in the literal sense.
Reb Gavriel was a simple, honest shopkeeper living in the town of Vitebsk. He and his wife of 25 years had no children and their financial situation was not the best, but they never complained. They lived pious lives and always contributed generously whenever their Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism), asked for donations for any of the numerous charities he supported. Over the years, Reb Gavriel's financial situation deteriorated, but no sigh escaped his lips and he kept the matter to himself.
A large sum of money was once needed to ransom a number of Jews from debtor's prison. Rabbi Shneur Zalman told Reb Gavriel the amount he hoped Reb Gavriel would contribute. When Reb Gavriel mentioned the sum to his wife, she immediately noticed his unhappiness. After some prodding, Reb Gavriel revealed that business had taken a turn for the worse. In fact, it was so bad that they were penniless and could not possibly come up with the money the Rebbe had requested.
His wife chided him softly, "Haven't you told me many times the Rebbe's words that one should always trust in G-d, and should always be joyful? G-d will help, and enable us to contribute the amount the Rebbe expects of us!"
She then quietly collected all of her jewelry and valuables. She went into town and sold them, triumphantly bringing the money to her husband. "Here is the entire amount the Rebbe asked for," she told him happily.
Reb Gavriel immediately set out for the Rebbe's home in Liozna. Upon being called into the Rebbe's room, he placed the sack of money on the Rebbe's table. The Rebbe asked him to open the sack to count the money, which he did. Both Rabbi Shneur Zalman and Reb Gavriel were surprised to see that the coins shone as if they had been newly minted.
The Rebbe contemplated the coins, then said, "The contributions to the Sanctuary in the [Sinai] desert included gold, silver and copper. But the only metal that shone was the copper from the mirrors of the women. This was formed into the laver and its pedestal ... Tell me, where did this money come from?"
Reb Gavriel finally revealed to the Rebbe that for the past ten years his business had been suffering. He explained that his wife had sold all of her jewelry to raise the money the Rebbe had requested.
The Rebbe meditated for some time, then said: "Your harsh trials are over. May G-d grant you and your wife sons and daughters and long life to see the children of your children; may G-d grant you over and again prosperity wherever you turn, and favor in the eyes of all those who see you. Close your shop and start dealing in precious gems."
Reb Gavriel hastened home to Vitebsk and brought his wife the good news of the Rebbe's blessing. And, of course, he asked her why the coins shone.
"I polished each coin lovingly," she explained, "until they glistened and sparkled like stars in the sky." She wanted to do this special mitzva in the most beautiful manner possible. "In my heart I beseached G-d that by virtue of that," she continued, "our fortunes would start sparkling, too!"
Reb Gavriel closed his shop and began dealing in gems. With G-d's help, the local nobles and squires soon became his regular customers. His clientele grew from day to day. And within a year from when he had travelled to Rabbi Shneur Zalman to turn over the sparkling coins from his wife, she gave birth to a son.
Reb Gavriel soon became known by the nickname "Gavriel Nosei Chein" (the Likeable). He and his wife continued in their simple, pious ways, giving charity even more generously than before. They were respected by all who knew them and were successful at whatever they attempted.
Said the prophet Hosea (3:4-5): "The children of Israel shall sit many days without king and without prince, and without sacrifice... Thereafter, the children of Israel shall return and ask for G-d, their G-d, and for David their king, and they shall be in fear before G-d and (hope) for His goodness in the end of days." "Ask for G-d" refers to the restoration of the Kingdom of Heaven; "Daivd their king" refers to the restoration of the Kingdom of the House of David, through Moshiach; "fear before G-d.... His goodness" - the restoration of the Holy Temple. For Israel will not see the redemption until they shall return and ask for these!