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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
"No more homework, no more books. No more teachers' angry looks!"
Remember muttering those words, or a similar sentiment, at your graduation?
"Ahh, we've graduated. We're finally finished," we sighed with relief.
But, as every principal, dean or university president will make sure to mention in his commencement speech, graduation is just a beginning, not an end.
Jewish teachings explain, "The end is connected to the beginning."
In other words, before we begin something, we need to clearly identify our final goal. Only once we have a definite understanding of the goal can we efficiently and effectively beg in working toward it.
To illustrate this point, the example of a house is often used. Were a construction crew to simply start building, without exact plans or a detailed draft, the home could not possibly be inhabitable.
And even once exact plans are drawn up, they must be executed in sequence: you can't put up the beams before the foundation is laid; you can't put in the electrical wiring after the walls have been plastered and painted.
The builder first conceives of the total project, the finished product, and then he breaks it down into various stages, steps and jobs.
The end is connected to the beginning. Before we begin anything, we have the goal in mind.
Envisioning the goal often makes it easier to bear with the nitty-gritty details and to follow a progressive path.
Applying this important mode of thinking to every aspect of our lives accrues unbelievable results.
As our Sages have stated, "A wise person sees the result." An intelligent person considers the consequence or outcome before undertaking a specific course.
What is true of graduations and house building is certainly true of the world at large.
G-d created the world with an intent and purpose. Thus, the world today is obviously much further along toward its goal than it was when it was created.
The world has advanced to the point that we are actually standing on the doorstep of our new home - the Messianic Era.
The Messianic Era is G-d's final intent, goal and purpose for the creation of the world. It is the "end" that we have been leading up to since the beginning of the world.
But, far from what non-Jewish teachings would have us imagine, Judaism does not have a doomsday view of the "end."
For, as mentioned before, the end is connected to the beginning, and conversely, the beginning to the end.
The "end of days" marks the beginning of days, the Days of Moshiach.
The Rebbe emphasized repeatedly that we will not lose anything in the Messianic Era; the G-dliness in everything will "simply" be apparent to all.
Some things, though, will end.
There will be an end to hunger, war, sickness, strife, jealousy... the list goes on.
In the Messianic Era there will be only good: peace, prosperity, divine knowledge - an end that is truly a new beginning.
This week's Torah portion, Behaalotcha, begins with G-d's command to Aaron to light the menora in the sanctuary. The Torah does not say "When you light the candles" but rather "When you raise the light." The commentator Rashi explains this unusual choice of words to mean that the one lighting the lamp should hold the flame to the wick until a flame arises of its own accord.
Like our ancestor Aaron, we are also lamplighters. In our everyday lives, in many different spheres, we find ourselves in a position to affect, to inspire and to help those around us. When presented with such opportunities, it is not sufficient to help someone up just to have him fall down again, requiring further help. Like Aaron in this week's portion, we are enjoined not just to light a lamp, but even more so to give it enough strength and enough power to remain lit by itself.
Later in the portion, G-d tells Moses, "I will cause some of the spirit that you possess to emanate, and I will grant it to them." (Num. 11:17)
One might wonder if Moses' prophesy was diminished by G-d apportioning some of Moses' divine inspiration to others. This is similar to when one lights a flame from another flame; the original flame does not lose anything. So too with us - when we seek to help and inspire others, without making calculations based on power (a zero-sum game), we actually increase the amount of light rather than depleting it.
Maimonides, in his classic legal work Mishnei Torah, enumerates different levels of charity. The very highest are those where one helps another to stand on his own two feet, the highest level being to do so anonymously. This is in keeping with the idea that the best way we can help another is not just to help him get up but to keep him standing.
The soul is compared to a light. In this area too, we must strive to kindle the lamp "so that a flame arises of its own accord." In dealing with another person, the objective should be to establish the person as an individual in his own right, independent of us. We should encourage others to hone their talents and abilities so that their lamps independently glow and, in turn, kindle the potential in others.
In the days before electric street lights, many locales had gas lamps. The people whose job it was to go out each evening lighting the street lamps were known as "lamplighters." Some of the lamps were in places that were difficult to approach, others had been neglected and were covered over. A conscientious lamp lighter had to make sure to light every lamp in his area.
Similarly when helping out others, we need to find those who may be difficult to approach or hidden from view in order to assist them in any way possible.
A Jewish Story
by Ida Dick
My story could have been a typical Jewish American immigrant story, if there is such a thing. Arrive, struggle, assimilate, achieve, assimilate some more and then live with the inevitable consequences. But the story has a different ending...
Still under the dark pall of war-torn Europe, we (a family of seven) left Russia and came to America in 1951, led by my father, of blessed memory. To my father, coming to the States meant that we could now, finally, live as Jews, the way he did in Poland before the war. However, I distinctly remember our friends coming into our house and saying to my father: "Pinchos Yair, America is different!"
Growing up I lived in several worlds. During the day it was public school, where I was so different. When I came home it was to our very European, Jewish home with all the memories. At night, I escaped into the world of books.
I knew that I was Jewish, but I equated being Jewish with traditional, irrational, complicated and antiquated rituals. Jewishness merged with the darkness and confusion of the war we had left behind. Surely, being a Jew in America would be better, brighter, and easier. I did feel something whispering to me, but I ignored that.
My husband, Rob, is the first American that I ever dated. I remember going to his house for my first Thanksgiving Dinner. Thanksgiving was a holiday that was easy to explain and keep. Put a turkey on the table, some cranberry sauce, a few sweet potatoes and....Voila! A holiday. I was amazed. This was easy.
I was ready to start on my American road. There were a few things that I did not leave behind. We did have a kosher home. We did put mezuzos up on all the doors. We did join an Orthodox shul. But with the rest, we compromised.
My husband and I were establishment. Rob was and continues to be a computer wizard in financial services and international stock exchanges. I ultimately became an executive recruiter in finance. Cogs in Corporate America, we moved through a succession of suburbs.
These moves forced us to make choices. Where should we live? Where was the shul? The school? The kosher butcher? Through each of these questions, my Judaism asserted itself. In our moves, I made sure that we were walking distance to the shul. We sent our children to a Conservative Day School. We were confident in what we were giving our children.
When we rented our vacation homes, I made sure that I brought up all the food so that it was kosher. We had Shabbos dinner every Friday night and went to shul almost every week.
We looked at our livesand said: "We are Jewish and we can still reap the best of America." Amongst our friends we were Mr. & Mrs. Judaism and Family.
The surprises began when our son and two daughters went off to college and became part of the college social scene. When they came home, their Jewish practices fell right back into place, but away was something else.
When our three children graduated, they were Americans dedicated to their careers. Like the original immigrants, they were prepared to give up the details of their Judaism to get ahead. Whatever Judaism they learned, whatever Judaism we lived, was easily pushed aside.
Dismayed, I wondered how this had happened. Weren't we Mr. and Mrs. Judaism? So why were we now being forced to justify our practices and, as a result, Judaism? The questions were endless and I became determined to find the answers. It wasn't enough to serve them latkes, kreplach and gefilte fish. It wasn't enough to feel it in my bones; I needed to be able to put it into words. And even action.
I started to think about my parents and what had sustained them. I saw my father putting on tefillin, wearing tzitzis, not eating in restaurants, not working on Shabbos. It was a given. He didn't talk about it, he just did it.
Rob and I had bought into the American way. We had pointed our children toward financial and social success. At the time we had thought we were pointing them to religious success as well. After all, hadn't we provided them with a solid Conservative Jewish education, including a term in Israel?! Weren't we members of an Orthodox shul?! Didn't our home look Jewish?! Hadn't we kept Judaism in our hearts?!
I turned to my old friends, books. The Jewish books I read were all good for me, but how could I pass it along....
A friend of ours introduced us to Rabbi Moshe Herson, director of Chabad in New Jersey. Rabbi Herson called on Rabbi Shmuel Lew in London to try to influence David, who was in London by that time. After several months of learning with Rabbi Lew and seeing a Judaism he had never experienced, David decided to put his banking career on hold and study in yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, Israel. A summer course stretched into several years. At each of the holidays, he came home and shared with all of us the deeper perspectives he had learned.
Intrigued, we too began to tap into the worldwide Lubavitch network. Rabbi Lew's children in New York became among our closest friends and had a profound influence on us, and even more so on our daughter Stephanie. They influenced her to go to Bais Chana, where the young women don't just learn but also live Judaism.
The network of the Rebbe's institutions and emissaries stretches around the world. Jerusalem, London, New York, Morristown, Kfar Chabad. Bais Chana, Machon Alta, Machon Chana. And always, always Crown Heights!
We were blessed. Within a twelve-month period our whole family decided to keep Torah and mitzvos.
I feel enormous gratitude to the Rebbe and his emissaries. Not only are we assuring that my father's grandchildren put Judaism first, but with G-d's help, there is now a realistic expectation that even my children's grandchildren will do so as well.
Heaven on Earth
Heaven on Earth, by Rabbi Faitel Levin, is the newest release from Kehot Publications. The book first outlines then details a theological system which the author labels "Dirah Betachtonim" ("a dwelling place in this world"). The author sets out to demonstrate that the physical, mundane world, specifically because it is physical and mundane, is intimately related to G-d's essence, and hence, is the true area for religious endeavor.
To Jewish Students and Schoolchildren Everywhere
G-d Bless You All!
Greeting and Blessing:
Vacation time is approaching, to release youths and children, boys and girls, from Yeshivahs, Talmud Torahs [afternoon Hebrew schools], Day Schools, etc., for a long summer recess.
The importance of a restful vacation is obvious. However, certain aspects of vacation time should be examined carefully. Is vacation time a stoppage of study, or is it a transition from one form of activity to another?
In all living forms, there is no such thing as a stoppage of life, followed by a completely new start, for a stoppage of life is death, and cannot serve as a temporary rest period. There can be a transition from one form of activity to another, but not a cessation or stoppage.
For example: The two most vital organs in our body are the heart and the brain. The heart is the principal seat of "physical" life; the brain is the principal seat of "intellectual" life. Because the heart and the brain have supreme control of the body, they are called "the Sovereigns of the body."
Now, these organs not only do not cease to operate in a living body, but they do not even undergo a radical change in their form of activity. And inasmuch as the actions of the other organs are being led by the activity of the heart and brain, it follows that the other organs of the body, though they may seem to be in a state of inactivity, as in the case of sleep, do not in reality stop working.
This is even more obvious in the case of breathing. We find that during sleep, breathing is slowed down considerably, but it never stops, for the "breath of life" must always be there.
Similarly in the case of students, boys and girls, studying our Torah, Toras Chaim - "The Law of Life," restful vacation does not mean interruption and stoppage of Torah and Mitzvos [commandments], G-d forbid. It means only just another way of furthering their course of study, a period during which they renew their mental abilities and increase their capacities for a more intensive study later on.
Therefore, my friends, bring light and holiness into your vacation time, by remembering always that it is the time of preparation in order to improve the quality and quantity of your studies during study-time to follow. But let it not remain so only in your thoughts and intentions; be always united with our holy Torah in your everyday actions and conduct. Let not a single day pass without the "breath of life" provided by the "Torah of Life." Let every one have appointed times for the study of Chumash [Five Books of Moses], Mishnah, Gemoro [Talmud], and so on, each one according to his or her standard of Torah education.
At this time, I wish everyone who is resolved to use his or her vacation in this productive "living" way - much success, as well as on returning to normal study later on.
23 Sivan 5762
Prohibition 132: Eating a sacrifice that has been rendered unfit
By this prohibition we are forbidden to eat pigul, "an abhorred thing," which is a sacrifice that has been rendered unfit through improper intentions as to its disposal at the time it was slaughtered or offered. It is derived from the words (Ex. 29:33): "He shall not eat thereof, because they are holy."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week, on Shabbat afternoon, we study the second chapter of the Misnha known as "Pirkei Avot-Ethics of the Fathers."
One of the first teachings that we read is from Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who said, "Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you--an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in a Book."
A deeper explanation of the above is that to keep oneself from transgressing, one must reflect on three things: the existence of G-d--who is Above; the all-seeing Eye and all-hearing Ear which makes us aware of Divine Providence-that G-d oversees everything; that everything is "written in the Book" which informs us that it is impossible that we will not be punished for any transgressions.
The Maggid of Mezritch rephrases just a few of Rabbi Yehuda's words and gives us the following inspiring comment. "Know that everything which is Above-is from you."
Everything in this world is dependent on G-d Above. But in addition, teaches the Maggid, all the blessings that rain from Above are dependent on each individual's personal actions.
How can this be so? According to Maimonides, every person must consider the world as being totally balanced between good deeds and those that are not good. Through one deed a person can tip the scale to the side of good.
And if this equation is true for any deed, it is certainly even truer when it comes to deeds which foster love of our fellow-Jews and peace in the world at large. For, as our Sages have taught, the Torah was given to bring peace to the world-peace between one person and another and between the Creator and His creations.
Just as in general the world can be tipped to the side of good through one deed, so, too, can the arrival of Moshiach be hastened and in fact actualized through one good deed.
Do a good deed today. It might just be the one that brings Moshiach!
This is the workmanship of the menora--beaten work of gold (Num. 8:4)
"Beaten work of gold," explains Rashi, means that the menora was to be made of a single piece of gold, beaten or pounded with a hammer and other tools, until it assumed the proper shape. Likewise, a person who desires to transform himself into a "menora," to kindle his G-dly spark and be illuminated with the light of Torah, should also do the same to himself -striking away at his negative qualities and working on his character until he, too, assumes the proper form.
From the base, until the flowers, beaten work (Num. 8:4)
The base of the menora symbolizes the simplest of Jews; the flowers, those on the highest spiritual plane. The Torah demands that the menora be made out of one piece of gold, just as the Jewish people is one entity. Every Jew is incomplete by himself, without the rest of the Jewish nation, just as in the human body, the foot needs the head to function no less than the head requires the foot for mobility.
We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt for naught (Num. 11:5)
G-d created the world in a way which makes it necessary to exert tremendous energy to attain sanctity; being holy demands hard work. But whatever interferes with our pursuit of holiness, come to us easily. As slaves, the Children of Israel had grown accustomed to receiving the bounty of Egypt. After their liberation, they protested that from now on they would have to work hard to obtain G-d's blessings.
But the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3)
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explained that Moses felt humble especially in comparison to our generation, the last generation before Moshiach. For, despite the extreme darkness that would reign immediately preceding the Final Redemption, Moses foresaw and was humbled by the self-sacrifice our generation would show to keep the Jewish faith alive even in the most difficult of circumstances.
(Sichat Purim, 5747)
A severe decree was being formulated against the Jews. Rabbi Menachem Mendel, known as the "Tzemach Tzedek" (the third Lubavitcher Rebbe), sent his youngest son, Reb Shmuel to Petersberg in an attempt to get the decree rescinded. Traveling with Reb Shmuel was his older brother Reb Yehuda Leib, twenty years Reb Shmuel's senior.
Before commencing the journey, Reb Shmuel insisted that Reb Yehuda Leib agree not to bless anyone during their trip. "Our father is the Rebbe and he is the only one who should give people blessings," he delared. Having no other choice, Reb Yehuda Leib agreed to these conditions.
In every town they visited along the way, people converged on Reb Yehuda Leib. They begged him, as the son of such a great tzadik (righteous person), to give them a blessing for health, a living, children, etc. To each person, Reb Yehuda Leib replied, "Go visit my father, surely he will bless you."
In one particular village, there was a woman who was especially persistent. She had not been blessed with children and was certain that, with the blessing of a tzadik, she would indeed merit to have children of her own.
The woman stationed herself in front of Reb Yehuda Leib. She begged and pleaded, screamed and cried that he must bless her to have children. But still Reb Yehuda Leib refused to bless the woman. "Go to my father, the Rebbe," he stated simply. "Surely he will bless you."
The woman was not satisfied with this answer. She continued to cry out to Reb Yehuda Leib that he should bless her. Finally, at wit's end, Reb Yehuda Leib said, "Go to my brother. Perhaps he will bless you."
The woman repeated the entire scene in front of Reb Shmuel. She begged and pleaded, cried and screamed that Reb Shmuel bless her to have children. But nothing could move Reb Shmuel. He insisted that only his father, the Rebbe, could do anything for the woman. Seeing that she would not take "no" for an answer, Reb Shmuel told his brother and the carriage driver to get ready to leave. They quickly got into the carriage to begin their journey home and away from the woman.
But the carriage didn't budge. The woman had cleverly placed a stick in the spokes of the wheels to keep them from turning.
Reb Shmuel climbed down from the carriage and, in annoyance told the woman, "Go eat a bagel" - equivalent in today's vernacular to "go fly a kite."
Satisfied at last, the woman left Reb Shmuel and Reb Yehuda Leib to continue their journey. She promptly went home and made bagels, concentrating all the while on the blessing that the bagel would surely elicit. It occurred to the woman that just to be sure that the blessing would really be actualized, she should maybe eat two bagels. So that is exactly what she did.
The following year, Rabbi Menachem Mendel passed away and Reb Shmuel, though the youngest of his seven sons, was chosen to succeed him as Rebbe.
One day, a man came into Reb Shmuel's study with two cakes which his wife had baked for the Rebbe. "You blessed my wife last year that she would have a child, so she has asked me to bring you these cakes in gratitude."
Reb Shmuel had no recollection of the event so the man recounted the entire episode to Reb Shmuel. He finished by saying, "You said to my wife, 'Go eat a bagel.' That is exactly what she did and your blessing came true."
"But why," asked Reb Shmuel in amazement, "are you bringing me two cakes?"
"My wife had wanted to make sure that the blessing would really materialize so she ate two bagels and had twins!" said the beaming father.
"Know," Reb Shmuel told the husband, "I saw that there was a heavenly decree that you and your wife were not destined to have children. It was only in exasperation that I told your wife to eat a bagel, not as a means of blessing. But because of her simple faith, her strong faith in the blessing of a tzadik, the decree was annulled and you and your wife were blessed with children."
Jews firmly believe that the Messiah will come. We believe that man will not self-destruct. Man is basically good, and G-d's Kingdom will be established. However, it is not enough to believe in G-d. Faith alone is not adequate; G-d demands deeds and action. G-d's revelation on Mount Sinai demands obedience to the 613 commandments spelled out in the written and unwritten Torah. G-d wants discipline, loyalty, and practice; not pious statements and magical formulas. Jews wait for the day when (Zacharia 14,9) "G-d will be King over all the earth and on that day He will be One and His name One."
(From The Real Messiah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)