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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Not long ago, if a person wanted to describe something that had happened very quickly, he would talk in terms of the "blink of an eye," or the "snap of a finger." Today, as our long distance telephone carriers bill us in six second increments and computer time is measured in nanoseconds, our imagery is more high-tech than human.
Despite these state-of-the-art changes, today, as in yesteryear, an instant is utterly short and at the same time, long enough for a life-altering occurrence to take place.
"Because good things happen in an instant," is a tag-line on some of the ads for New York State Lottery's new "Rich for Life" game. Play it, and you could win $5,000 a week for the rest of your life.
But how many of us think in terms of a change for the good that takes place in an instant? With the news from Israel not yet what we've been hoping and praying for, and with deadly diseases not yet eradicated, it seems easier to come up with "instant" changes that are far from good.
However, as real to us as these negative momentous moments are, so too must be the possibility of lightening swift changes for good. For, Jewish teachings enjoin us to recognize that "G-d's salvation comes in the blink of an eye." In "Rich for Life" speak this means that good things can and do happen in an instant.
The Torah sites as a primary example of deliverance occurring instantly the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. When the time came for the Jewish people to be redeemed from Egypt, "G-d did not push it off for even the blink of an eye," Midrashim explain.
The Exodus from Egypt and the Jewish people's redemption is the prototype for all future redemptions, personal and national. Thus, any situation can be turned around, soaring from utterly bad to absolutely good in a moment.
The prophet Ezekiel prophesied to the Jewish people when they were exiled from the Land of Israel to Babylon with the destruction of the First Temple. By the rivers of Babylon the Jews sat down and wept, remembering Jerusalem in all its glory. Ezekiel had a vision of G-d's heavenly chariot accompanied by angels that were moving at lightening speed. This vision enabled the prophet to assure the Jewish people that G-d was with them and that His salvation could come in the blink of an eye.
When confronted with a tragedy or news that isn't great, G-d forbid, it is natural to focus on the negative. But what we really need to keep in mind is that just as the "bad news" came in an instant, good news, too, can come in an instant.
May G-d's salvation come instantly, bringing us a time which is utterly good for eternity, an era when we will be rich for life monetarily, spiritually, in all matters of health and heart, and may it take place in the blink of an eye.
This week's Torah portion, Vaetchanan, contains the verse, "And you shall know this day, and take it to heart, that the L-rd is the G-d in the heavens above, and upon the earth below; there is none else." This recognition of G-d's unity may be divided into three distinct areas: "heaven," "earth," and "there is none else" (which, according to the Midrash, refers to G-d's oneness "even within the very depths of the earth."
Why does the Torah go to such great lengths to emphasize the oneness of G-d? Would anyone seriously entertain the notion that there is another G-d hiding in the murky depths of the sea or in the earth's core? Why is it necessary for the Torah to explicitly command us to "take it to heart?"
Chasidic philosophy explains that this verse not only negates the possibility of another deity's existence, G-d forbid, but rather emphasizes the fact that there is no existence at all besides G-d. G-dliness is the only reality; everything else is an illusion covering up the true essence within. Were we able to clearly perceive that there is no independent reality except for G-d, we would easily recognize that it is only G-d's constant re-creation of the world, every minute and every second, that sustains both physical and spiritual reality. In truth, "there is nothing else."
Because one may mistakenly think that only spiritual matters are G-dly, the Torah specifically mentions "the earth below." The physical world, with its multitude of creations, is also a vessel for G-dliness, and must be properly utilized in the service of G-d.
This division is also symbolic of man himself: "Heaven" refers to man's G-dly soul; "earth" refers to his corporeal body, the vessel in which the G-dly soul illuminates; and "the very depths of the earth" refers to man's actions.
By stressing this verse, the Torah emphasizes that this awareness of G-d must be brought into all facets of our lives - spiritual, physical and practical. By recognizing G-d's unity and reflecting it in our every action, we ready the entire world for the complete revelation of G-dliness that will take place with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, speedily in our days.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
In Beijing... To Stay
by Dini Freundlich
Why would a young, observant Jewish couple move to a city where there was no shul, no Jewish day school, no mikva, and where obtaining kosher food is a struggle? A city where the language spoken and written is totally different from any language they had ever heard or seen?
I was raised in South Africa, where my parents are emissaries (shluchim) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Soon after I married Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, we moved to Hong Kong. I had worked in the Chabad House in Hong Kong before I was married so the Chinese culture was not so foreign to me. We spent five years in Hong Kong after which we moved to Beijing, China, to open our own Chabad House.
People living in democratic countries have a hard time understanding the repression in China. The army is everywhere. Visas are hardly ever given to rabbis. Our home and phone are most certainly bugged. Meat, dairy and wine are illegal to import, mail is opened and appliances are heavily taxed. The closest mikva is a 4-hour flight.
There is a Chinese joke that says that the Chinese will eat everything with four legs except the table, and everything that flies except a plane! Living in China, I saw this first hand at the market.
In a country where the average person buys one small bunch of greens and a few small mushrooms, a person wanting anything more than two potatoes is looked upon as strange. So you can imagine the attention I get when I ask for 25 cucumbers, 10 heads of lettuce, 65 potatoes, 12 onions, and 40 carrots. I've become a regular sight at the market (they refer to me as "fang la" i.e. crazy), but I have made some friends as well. After all, I may be fang la but I'm also a good, paying customer!
From the start, one of my biggest challenges was the language, so I signed up for Chinese lessons. I discovered that one word can mean many things depending on the tone used. For example: "Ma" is "mother," "linen," "horse," "scold." It all depends on the tone in which you say "Ma."
I can now hold a basic conversation in Chinese, do my shopping without too much frustration, and am learning to read and write. As part of my children's home schooling, a Chinese-language teacher teaches them twice a week.
The Beijing Jewish Community has approximately 700 Jews. Two hundred are Israeli, 250 are American/European and 250 are Russian; every event has to be in at least three languages.
We arrived in Beijing right before the High Holidays, so our first Rosh Hashana was small. But, thank G-d, things picked up quickly.
I decided to start a monthly women's Rosh Chodesh group. When twelve women attended, I was flying. But then, in the middle of the event, an even more amazing thing happened.
We went around the room to introduce ourselves. Eventually it was Roberta's turn. "You all know me so I will tell you something about me that you do not know. This past year was the worst year of my life. When I heard that Chabad was coming, I was devastated. You are all happy that Shimon and Dini are here but I am the happiest of all! I only regret wasting a year of my life in dreading their coming," she concluded. Roberta has become one of our staunchest allies and a dear friend.
With the High Holidays over and our first Rosh Chodesh group a success, we started planning Chanuka. We prepared for 30-50 people.
At four o'clock in the afternoon, the bell rang and we never closed the door after that. Before we knew it there were over 150 people. Everyone kept saying, "Only Chabad could bring the whole community together."
For Purim, we organized a great party, highlighted by the reading of the Megila (Scroll of Esther) and food, of course. This time we were prepared for the nearly 200 people who came. One woman thanked my husband, saying that she had grown up in Israel and had always celebrated Purim with parties and merriment, but had never heard the Megila read. She did not know that listen to the Megila is an integral part of the holiday.
A few days before Passover, we arranged the first-ever Bar Mitzva on the Great Wall of China. It was an emotional, beautiful Bar Mitzva, and the locals really enjoyed the show. As all the men were wrapped in tallit and tefilin, a group of El Al flight attendants walked onto the wall. They were shocked to find a Bar Mitzva going on. Of course they all joined us, and partook of the bagels and cream cheese afterward.
Next came Passover. We decided to use the beautiful, elegant hotel nearby for our seder. We rented one of their rooms to prepare in, and we transformed the room into a full scale kitchen/factory. The hotel staff was horrified. In contrast, the people at the market could not believe their luck. In one day, they made the money they usually make in two years. We had 150 people at our first seder, so we had the last laugh.
After Sunday school one week I was getting into a separate taxi from the rest of my family. Roberta looked at me and my little suitcase and asked if I was running away from home. On a whim, I confided to her that I was going to the closest mikva, in Hong Kong, seven hours door-to-door. She was shocked that I had to travel so far and told me she was sure we could do something locally. True to her word, she set up a meeting with the head of our apartment complex. They owed her U.S. $10,000 and a favor and she was going to use them both to get a mikva built in Beijing.
My husband and Roberta went to a meeting with the owners of our complex. We had plans drawn up by Rabbi Meir Posen and, with G-d's help, we will soon finalize the details and start to build the first mikva on mainland China.
Oh, and in answer to that question that I asked at the beginning. There can be only one answer: A passion and burning desire to reach out to one's fellow Jew as an emissary (shaliach) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Adapted from an article in the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
Nearly 12,000 Jewish children are currently attending camps sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Former Soviet Union this summer. In 60 camps, in cities as remote as Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Khabarovsk in the far east of Russia, children are taking advantage of a Jewish summer camp experience that will change their lives forever.
Gan Israel Network
Gan Israel day camps and overnight camps, under the auspices of Chabad-Lubavitch, comprise the largest Jewish camping network in the world. Sponsored by the local Chabad-Lubavitch Centers in 3,000 locations world-wide, the camps give children a summer of Jewish pride and exploration. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center for registration information.
11th of Menachem Av, 5720 
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of July 28th, with the enclosure.
I thank you in anticipation of the film which you sent, even though you write that it did not come out as well as desired. However, to see the children marching, with radiant faces, etc., surely this is the most important thing.
I note your plans for visiting the Holy Land, and I send you my prayerful wishes for an enjoyable and inspiring trip. No doubt you will visit the Chabad institutions, although some of them may have reduced programs in view of the vacation period.
Having just observed the sad period of the Destruction [of the Holy Temple] (may G-d convert it to a period of joy), I need hardly emphasize to you that the purpose of such observance is to be inspired to do everything possible to remove the causes which brought about he Destruction and Exile, as we say in our prayers "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land." Every activity of "Depart from evil and do good," helps to offset these causes and to lay the foundation for the Geulo Shleimo [complete Redemption].
Included in this category is, of course, also your work for strengthening Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in your community, especially in the field of Kashrus and Kosher education, and I trust both you and your wife will continue to make growing efforts in this direction, in good health, with minimum of business anxiety and a maximum of Parnosso [livelihood], including Tzedoko [charity].
Hoping to hear good news from you always,
15th of Meanchem Av, 5719 
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 17th, and thank you also for the regards from our Holy Land, in connection with your recent visit there. I also appreciate your sending me the clipping and for your intention to send me a copy of the films you took in Kfar Chabad, if they come out well. I am looking forward to receiving them.
With regard to the necessary documents for your son, the matter was turned over to the Yeshiva Administration, and no doubt they will take care of the formalities.
May G-d grant that, in asmuch as when the Beth Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] was in existence the 15th of Av was a very special and joyous day, may it inaugurate for you and yours a period of increased Divine blessings in all the matters you mention in your letter.
With prayerful wishes and kind regards to you and Mrs. J-, and with blessing to all your family,
15th of Menahcem Av, 5717 
Greeting and Blessing:
I received your letter of July 29th. As the 15th of Menachem Av begins an auspicious period, of which our Sages said that he who increases his effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], receives increased Divine blessings, I trust that this will be so in your case, and that you will, therefore, not take it too much to heart that the last deal did not materialize, especially as no human being can know what is best for him.
In accordance with this period mentioned above, I trust that you and Mrs. J- will make increased efforts in strengthening Yiddishkeit in your community, and thus merit increased Divine blessings.
I had been hoping to receive good news from you about a shidduch [match] for your brother J-. May it come to pass very soon.
14 Av 5762
Positive mitzva 97: defilement through carcasses of certain creeping creatures
By this injunction we are commanded (Lev. 11:29-30) concerning the uncleanness of the eight varieties of creeping things. These are the weasel, mouse, great lizard, gecko, land crocodile, lizard and sand lizard.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Nachamu." It is the first Sabbath after Tisha B'Av, when we commemorated the destruction of the Holy Temple. After the Torah reading, we read the Haftorah which begins, "Nachamu, Nachamu-Console, console yourselves, My people."
Our Sages explain the twofold use of the word "console": "[The Jewish people] committed a twofold sin... received a twofold punishment... and are likewise comforted twofold." Elsewhere our Sages comment, "Because its [the Torah's] commandments are doubled, so too are its consolations doubled."
Why this emphasis on the number two? How can a sin be twofold? And, what is meant by the statement that the commandments are "doubled"?
The terms "twofold" and "double" refer to two different dimensions. Everything in a Jew's life - the Torah and its commandmants, the destruction of the Holy Temple and our consolation - reflects this duality, for everything in the world is composed of both a physical and a spiritual component.
A Jew is a mixture of body and spirit which together form a complete being. A Jew is considered whole when both his body and soul are working together to serve G-d. Mitzvot (commandments) are likewise composed of these two dimensions.
Every mitzva contains a spiritual component - the intentions behind it - and a physical component - the way the mitzva is performed.
This is what our Sages referred to when stating that the Torah's mitzvot are "doubled"; similarly, the "twofold sin" committed by the Jewish people refers to the physical and spiritual aspects of their sin.
Accordingly, the punishment which followed - the destruction of the Holy Temple - was both spiri-tual and physical. The destruction was not limited to the stones of the Temple; the Jewish people were chastised with a concealment of G-dliness as well.
The Holy Temple itself reflected this duality. The Temple was a physical structure. Yet, the G-dly light with which it was illuminated was infinite in nature. Its destruction was therefore a double blow as it affected both of these aspects.
When the Holy Temple is rebuilt in the Messianic era our consolation will be doubled because it will encompass both dimensions: not only will the physical structure of the Temple be restored, but its G-dly revelation will also return.
And I besought G-d at that time, saying... "Let me go over, I pray You, that I may see the good land" (Deut. 3:23-25)
The Midrash relates that Moses beseeched G-d with 515 prayers (the numerical equivalent of the word "va'etchanan" - "and I besought") to be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Even after G-d explicitly told him, "Do not continue to speak to Me any more of this matter," Moses persisted. We learn from this that we must never give up begging and imploring G-d to allow us back into the Land of Israel, with the coming of Moshiach, for we have been promised that we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe Shabbat Parshat Devarim, 5751)
Why did Moses so desire to enter the land? "The Jewish people have been commanded many mitzvot (commandments) which can only be done in the Land of Israel. Let me therefore enter the land so that they can all be performed through me," he reasoned, as related in the Talmud. Moses' motivation was not personal. Rather, had Moses merited to accompany the Jewish people into Israel, the Final Redemption would have occurred immediately, without the necessity of having to endure subsequent exiles and wait several thousand more years for Moshiach.
(The Rebbe, 5746)
Take good care of your souls (Deut. 4:15)
One must not abuse or neglect the physical body, for "a small defect in the body creates a large defect in the soul."
(The Mezeritcher Magid)
From there you will seek the L-rd your G-d and will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29)
It is precisely when you seek the L-rd your G-d "from there" - from the depths of your heart and with a sense of complete nullification before the Creator, that "you shall find" the sudden revelation of the greatest G-dly light.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
You have been shown to know that the L-rd is G-d (Deuteronomy 4:35)
When G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to the soul of every Jew of every generation, He thereby made it possible for any Jew who sincerely desires to serve Him to perceive the true essence of the world, despite the darkness and concealment of what presents itself as reality.
There are numerous stories describing why the great Rabbi Yaakov Yosef from Polanya renounced his initial opposition to Chasidism and became an ardent follower of the Baal Shem Tov. The following story is considered by some to be the most accurate account:
Early one morning, the Baal Shem Tov arrived at the marketplace in the town of Sharigrade, where Rabbi Yaakov Yosef served as the Rabbi, and began talking to the passersby. Soon his heartfelt words and inspiring stories attracted a sizeable crowd. Many of his listeners had been on their way to the synagogue for the morning services and stopped to hear him instead.
One can imagine Rabbi Yaakov Yosef's displeasure upon arriving at the synagogue only to find it empty, except for the shammas (attendant).
"Where are all the people?" he demanded to know.
"Honored Rabbi," replied the shammas. "A distinguished-looking Jew is telling stories in the marketplace and many people have congregated around him."
"Well, please go tell them to come to the synagogue immediately so we may proceed with services as usual," the Rabbi ordered.
The shammas went to summon the people, but instead found himself among those captivated by the newcomer's tales.
"I'll go there and call them myself," decided Rabbi Yaakov Yosef when the shammas failed to return.
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef neared the crowd just as the Baal Shem Tov had begun a new story and found himself listening with interest:
"There was once a simple porter who always began his day at dawn, participating in the early minyan for Tehilim (Psalms) and Shacharit (the morning service). After praying, he would toil for many long hours, finishing shortly before sunset. Despite his exhaustion, the porter would always rush to the synagogue for the Mincha (afternoon) services. He was careful never to miss the minyan and would stay on through Ma'ariv (the evening service) to join a study group for the simple laborers, appropriate to their limited knowledge and understanding of Torah.
"The porter lived next door to a self-employed, learned scholar who led a much more comfortable life. The scholar did not have to rush to services, since his occupation afforded him both leisure and peace of mind. His prayers were always preceded and followed by an hour or so of concentrated study.
"One evening, the two neighbors met on their way home. The simple porter heaved a deep sigh in envy of the scholar whose prayers and learning far surpassed his own.
"Hearing the sigh, the scholar smiled to himself, thinking, 'How dare he aspire to my level of service!'
"Years later both neighbors passed away. Upon his arrival at the Hevenly Court, the scholar's prayers and Torah study were placed on one side of the scales, and they weighed heavily in justification of his devout service. Then, an unpleasant smile was placed on the other side and the balance of the scales was tipped against him.
"In contrast, the porter's limited amount of study and prayers weighed lightly until his heartfelt sigh was added to them. Then, the scales tipped easily in his favor."
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef began to consider his own service and realized that it too was tinged with self-concern. Perhaps, he thought to himself, this story-teller could show him a new path of service.
From From My Father's Shabbos Table by Rabbi Yehudah Chitrik
"I, I am He Who consoles you." Rabbi Abba said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Ben Levi: "This may be compared to a king who became angry with his wife, and he expelled her from his palace. After a time he wished to bring her back. She said: 'Let him double the value of my marriage contract and afterwards he may bring me back.' Likewise did G-d say to Israel: 'My children, at Sinai I said once to you, "I am the L-rd your G-d," and in Jerusalem-in the future that is to come-I shall say twice to you, "I, I am He Who consoles you." ' "