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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Traveling requires preparation. A lot of preparation, when we think about it. We have to pack toiletries. We have to plan to take enough casual, formal or business outfits for the length of the trip, plus extras. Books to read while waiting. Food to eat while waiting or in case of a delay. Notes, papers and other material for the presentation or gifts and knick-knacks if it's for pleasure. Medicines, aspirins, creams, vitamins.
If we're bringing our laptop, we have to make sure all the files and programs are loaded, we've got the wires we need, the battery pack, disks and other peripherals. If it's cold we'll need sweaters, coats and hats. If it's warm, sunscreen, sunglasses and hats. In either case, an umbrella and books to read while waiting.
Then we have all the pre and post arrangements. Buying the tickets. Getting online to buy the tickets. And if we can't find anything online that saves time and money - after having spent how many hours looking? - we call our travel agent and wait (while reading a book) for the call back.
Do we need to rent a car? A hotel room? A tour? Let's not forget to suspend newspaper delivery, mail delivery, and "can I mow your lawn for ten dollars" delivery. We need to change the answering machine message and set the email auto-reply message.
Of course, there are personal items we need to take. The tickets are electronic, but we need id, money, a book to read while waiting in line (can't forget that!), phone card, cell phone (maybe two, one for each ear).
When we travel, we have a plan and a purpose. We go somewhere to accomplish something. But often what we get done isn't what we intended to do. In a sense, there can be no greater demonstration of Divine Providence than taking a trip. Because we don't always end up where we planned and things rarely go according to schedule. But somehow, despite our designs gone awry, something significant, spir-itually life-altering happens anyway.
That's because when we go someplace, we think we're going to have a vacation, conduct some business or - whatever. But in truth we're going wherever we're going because G-d wants us to go there. And that means we're going there to do a mitzva (commandment), to help someone spiritually or materially, to reveal a level of G-dliness. We have to remember that when we encounter the glitches, delays (don't forget a book of Jewish value to read while waiting), postponements, cancellations, re-routings and other malfunctions that are the unplanned part of traveling.
Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber (the fifth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe) explained this phenomenon: "By decree of Divine Providence a person goes about his travels to the place where the G-dly 'sparks' that he must purify await their redemption. The righteous, who have vision, see where their sparks await them and go there deliberately. As for ordinary folk, G-d brings about various reasons and circumstances that bring these people to that place where lies their obligation to perform the service of elevating the sparks."
And by the way, there's a custom called shliach mitzva money - giving money to someone who's traveling to be used for charity at his or her destination. By making the traveler a shliach - a messenger - for a mitzva, it helps insure a safe and successful journey, a trip that fulfills our purpose as well as G-d's.
The end of this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sara, tells of the passing of Abraham and the order of succession of his descendants: "And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac." Isaac, Abraham's only son from his beloved wife Sara, was chosen to continue the new path he had forged in the service of G-d. The children of Abraham's concubines, however, received only a token of their father's wealth: "But to the sons of the concubines...Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son."Isaac was designated his father's heir, despite being younger than Ishmael and the others.
This week's Haftara contains a similar incident that occurred toward the end of King David's life. When Adoniyahu, David's eldest son, sought to usurp his father's throne, Batsheva reminded David of the oath he had made that Solomon, the younger son, would reign. King David agreed to honor the oath and Batsheva declared, "May my lord, the King David, live forever!"
What is the significance of both these choices? When Abraham designated Isaac his heir, he thereby bestowed upon him the special relationship he enjoyed with G-d, the essential "chosenness" he would pass on to his children after him. Abraham's choice of Isaac allowed every Jew to acquire that same eternal bond with G-d as his birthright, an immutable bond that can never be severed.
Similarly, Batsheva's declaration, "May my lord, the King David, live forever!" is an expression of G-d's promise that "the kingship will never be cut off from the progeny of David." Dominion over the Jewish people belongs solely to the descendents of King David through his son Solomon, ultimately one of whom is King Moshiach.
The common thread between these two incidents is the underlying principle that the actions of an immutable G-d are eternal and unchanging. Just as G-d Himself experiences no change, so too are His choices fixed and immutable. Batsheva's declaration, "May my lord, the King David, live forever!" will find ultimate fulfillment when King Moshiach arises and ushers in the Final Redemption.
Indeed, we find that the wholeness of the Jewish people is connected to the concept of kingship, for it was only after King David's descendants were chosen to rule that the Jewish nation was at peace, the Holy Temple was built in Jerusalem and G-d's Divine Presence dwelt in the Holy Temple. Likewise, the Final Redemption of the Jewish people will only commence when the ultimate King of the House of David arises, to initiate the Ingathering of the Exiles and build the final and indestructible Third Holy Temple, speedily in our day.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher
The Start of Kislev
The Lubavitcher Rebbe's complete recovery from two serious heart attacks in 1977 is celebrated by his Chasidim each year on the first day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. That is the day when the Rebbe finally left "770" after weeks of intensive medical care and returned to his home. What follows are excerpts from diaries and recollections of people during the first days after the Rebbe's heart attacks.
The main Lubavitch synagogue, "770," is packed. Thousands of Chasidim from around the world are here to celebrate the holidays with the Rebbe. All eyes focus on the Rebbe as the hakafot (circular dancing) with the Torah begins. The Rebbe holds the Torah scroll aloft. His face radiates the sheer joy of the holiday. It is the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, the day following Sukkot, 1977.
The first hakafa ends. The Rebbe walks slowly back to his place. The fourth hakafa begins. The Rebbe strains to bring his hands together to clap. He asks for a chair and sits. A shudder ripples though the shul. The Rebbe never sits during Hakafot.
The Rebbe leans forward and closes his eyes. There is shouting. "Water! Air! Back off!" Glass shatters. Every window in sight becomes an escape route. Within minutes, 770 is empty. Less than a hundred remain inside.
Doctors rush to the front. The Rebbe smiles and says that everything is fine. He is only tired; no one should be concerned. "Continue with the Hakofos!" Who knew that the Rebbe had just suffered the first of two serious heart attacks.
The fifth and sixth hakafot are finished quickly. The seventh hakafa traditionally belongs to the Rebbe, and tonight will be no different. Despite everything, he dances with his brother-in-law, Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary, known as "the Rashag." The Rebbe smiles as the Rashag ends the hakafa early. After services finish, the Rebbe wishes his Chasidim the customary "Gut Yom Tov!" The Rebbe walks slowly out and up the stairs to his office, where he shuts the door behind him. Only G-d knows what the night has in store.
The doctors who had been called in urged the Rebbe to go to the hospital. The Rebbe firmly refused. "What would one do if one was in a place where there are no hospitals?" the Rebbe asked.
In the wee hours of the morning, the Rabbis returned with the same plea to the Rebbe. The Rebbe remained adamant. The doctors discussed this problem between themselves. One of them approached the bedside of the Rebbe and said, "Rabbi, if you do not agree to be transferred to a hospital, we will leave and free ourselves of any responsibility. You are placing your life in danger."
At 2:00 a.m. the doctors left. Only a few hours after a serious heart attack the Rebbe was without medical care. But, within an hour - with the help of a Jewish hospital in Brooklyn that the Rebbe's secretariat had contacted - the Rebbe's room became an intensive care unit. Five o' clock that morning, the ECG registered a second, more serious heart attack.
At that critical stage, Dr. Ira Weiss of Chicago, a renowned cardiologist, came to mind. A few hours later, Dr. Weiss stood by the Rebbe's bedside. Tearfully, he commented, "I have often treated people who the Rebbe has sent to me. I have witnessed the miracles he has performed for so many. And now I have to treat the Rebbe himself..."
When Dr. Weiss entered the room, the Rebbe's spirits rose. The Rebbe told the doctor to treat him as he would any other patient. Dr. Weiss began examining the Rebbe. Almost immediately, the Rebbe's condition began to improve.
Dr. Weiss was one of the few doctors who consented to let the Rebbe remain in 770. He said the Rebbe was correct in choosing not to go to hospital for several reasons: a) The Rebbe would want to personally instruct the doctors as to his treatment. In a hospital that would be near impossible. b) Doctors are not always on duty in a hospital and assistants do much of the work. In 770, doctors would constantly monitor the Rebbe. c) Familiar surroundings aid a patient's progress.
At one point, one of the doctors told the Rebbe, "You must watch your health, if you don't, there is - G-d forbid - a 25% chance that a relapse will occur." The doctor asked the Rebbe whether he had been listening. "Sure," the Rebbe responded, "you said that if I do not take care of my health there is a 75% chance that the illness will not recur!"
On the afternoon following that first long night, the Rebbe sent a message to the Chasidim: "Do not forget to 'make Jews happy' in [visiting] the various shuls [throughout the NY Metro area]. Go there with a shturim [commotion]! The evening service and hakofos should be with the greatest joy and - most importantly - with a shturim!"
The Rebbe announced that those who wished to aid his recovery should rejoice. An elder Chasid who tearfully wished the Rebbe a speedy recovery was chided by the Rebbe, "You act contrary to our Torah, which teaches, 'Rejoice in your festivals.' We (all) want that I should become more healthy - we will achieve that through an increase in simcha [joy]. Crying is against my wishes."
Later that day, on the eve of Simchat Torah, the Rebbe asked Rabbi Leibel Groner if he had participated in 'rejoicing' in other shuls. Rabbi Groner answered affirmatively, but the Rebbe asked, "With a shturim?"
The Rebbe then asked what was happening in the main shul. Rabbi Groner replied that the gathering had been scheduled for 9:00 p.m. "With a shturim?" the Rebbe wanted to know. "Tell them I said it should be conducted with a great shturim!"
The Hakafot that night were so lively that they could be heard in the Rebbe's room. When the Rebbe heard them sing "Der Rebbe Iz Gezunt!" (The Rebbe is healthy) he smiled broadly and exclaimed, "This is what Chasidim are!"
Adapted from the Souvenir Journal, published by the Rebbe's Shluchim S.A.
New Torah For Chabad of Wall Street
A new Torah scroll was completed last month after having been commissioned by Chabad of Wall Street in memory of the victims of 9/11. The Chabad Center serves the Jewish community around ground zero-Wall Street, Battery Park and Tribeca, in New York City.
Greeting Moshiach in Sunshine State
The 41st Annual Convention of the Lubavitch Women's Organization takes place Nov. 15-17 at the Eden Roc Resort and Spa in Miami Beach. The weekend commences with an address by Mrs. Goldie Tennenhaus entitled, "Welcoming Moshiach through Joy and Kindness." It includes "A Message of Hope from the Holy Land" with Mrs. Chani Glitzenstein and features a lecture by Rebbetzin Bassie Garelik of Milan, Italy. For more info visit www.nsheimiami.org
11 MarCheshvan, 5722 
... in connection with your writing that your children had been attending a Hebrew Day School, but that you took them out from there and have engaged a private teacher instead. I need hardly point out to you that Jewish education is not confined to the acquisition of a certain level of knowledge and information about Jewish life, but rather that the child should be brought up within such a life and within an atmosphere which is permeated with this kind of life. This is something that a private teacher cannot replace by teaching just a number of hours a week.
Besides, when the Hebrew lesson comes after the boy has spent most of the day in public school, where he is given tests and homework, the Hebrew lesson cannot have the same importance in the mind of the boy as the public school, not to mention other factors such as the effect of classroom, discipline, community with other children, etc., etc. All this relegates the Hebrew lesson to a third or fourth place in importance, so that it often comes to be regarded altogether as an unnecessary burden.
12 MarCheshvan, 5722 
... I believe that during our conversation we touched upon the subject that, as the Torah has always been called Toras Chaim, the Law of Life, and has always been both the source of our life and existence as well as the guide in our daily life, it is infinitely more so in the present day and age. The danger to Jewish life and existence in the free countries, especially in these United States, is not the danger of physical extermination, G-d forbid, from another Hitler or Eichman, but there is, nevertheless, a danger which is no less destructive, the danger of assimilation. Precisely because there is no external antagonism and discrimination against the Jews, especially on the middle and lower class level (although in the upper classes, the tendency towards assimilation is checked by prejudice), the danger of mass assimilation is a very real one.
In addition, such factors as compulsory education and social and economic pressures of conformity, etc., coupled with the widespread ignorance of Jewish values, greatly increase the danger of assimilation from one generation to the next. If allowed to continue unchecked, who knows to what it might lead.
It is, therefore, the duty of every conscious and conscientious Jew to do everything possible to stem the tide of assimilation, and it is truly a matter of saving a life.
It is self-evident that such an effort should not be limited to the adult and older generation, but especially in regard to the younger generation, and the very young in particular. And needless to say, a person on whom Divine Providence has bestowed special capacities for influence, is especially duty-bound to use these capacities in the direction outlined.
This is not the time to engage in theoretic research as into all the aspects of the situation, and postpone action pending the results of such research. For, when a house is on fire, there is no time to study the laws of combustion and methods of fire extinguishing, but everything must be done to extinguish the fire before the house is destroyed, with possible loss of life.
... Similarly, you have the capacity to extend your influence beyond your immediate surroundings at home, to the community at large. This you can do both in a direct way and perhaps even more so in an indirect way, by raising the standards of your religious and spiritual living.
27 Cheshvan, 5763 - November 2, 2002
Prohibition 317: It is forbidden to curse another Jew
This commandment is based on the verse (Lev.19:14) "You shall not curse (even) the deaf." Though this prohibition mentions the deaf, it applies to all people. The Torah cautions us never to curse anyone, neither a deaf person, nor even people who can hear.
Positive Mitzva 178: Giving Evidence
This commandment is based on the verse (Lev. 5:1) "He is witness, whether he has seen or known of it." If a Jew happens to witness an incident and it is brought before the judges, he is obligated to testify. He is not allowed to withhold the evidence he witnessed - he is commanded to tell it to the judges.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
"What draws the blood from the veins, the needle or the vacuum?" the Rebbe once asked one of the doctors who treated him during his recovery from two serious heart-attacks.
The doctor explained that it was due to the vacuum. On hearing this, the Rebbe noted, "This matter caught my attention previously. A person came to me and claimed that he was 'empty' and unfit for anything. I told him that the opposite was true. An empty vessel draws into itself with added force; he was a vessel for all types of good and holiness."
Later the Rebbe repeated these comments to a member of his secretariat. Due to his state of health, the Rebbe would not be leading the festive holiday gathering that customarily took place at that time. The Rebbe added, "We see that the emptiness will draw into it more forcefully than something filled would. At tonight's gathering, although the 'one who sits in the chair' [the Rebbe] will be absent, this should not dampen the holiday spirit. On the contrary, the void will bring all goodness from Heaven."
The Rebbe then explained this concept in Chasidic terms and it was repeated publicly at the evening's gathering.
There are times when we feel "full." We are happy, things are going well, the sun is shining and we see clearly that G-d is "smiling" on us. But, as the Rebbe noted, especially when we are feeling "empty," that is the most opportune time to draw down G-d's blessings, to fill up on all types of good and holiness.
Hear us, my lord (Gen. 23:6)
As a token of their respect, the sons of Chet addressed Abraham as "my lord." Abraham, however, refused to reciprocate, even in his business dealings. Abraham, the first Jew, reserved the term solely for G-d, despite social convention.
(Rabbi Yosef Horowitz)
And the servant ran to meet her (Gen. 24:17)
According to the commentator Rashi, it was only when Eliezer saw the well water miraculously rising toward Rebecca that he decided she would make the perfect wife for Isaac. Yet only the water Rebecca drew for her own use rose up by itself; the water she drew for Eliezer and his camels had to be brought up by hand. We learn from this that although G-d may perform miracles to assist a righteous person, when it comes to doing mitzvot, it is preferable to perform them oneself in a natural manner and not to rely on miracles.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)
And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, but to the sons of the concubines...he gave gifts (Gen. 25:5-6)
Isaac is symbolic of holiness and the spiritual realm; the "sons of the concubines" stand for the physical and corporeal world. The Torah teaches that we must give "all" of ourselves - the lion's share of our time, energy and talents - to spiritual matters. Worldly matters, however, can be placated with "gifts."
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites (Gen. 24:3)
Although Abraham's relatives were idol worshippers like the Canaanites, they were not similarly degenerate in the moral sense, a trait passed on from generation to generation. Abraham's family may have held false religious beliefs, but mistaken ideas are not hereditary.
Then Abraham expired, and died in a good old age (Gen. 25:8)
On the day that Abraham passed away, the greatest of the nations cried, "Woe to the world that has lost its leader; woe to the ship that has lost its captain."
(Talmud, Baba Batra)
Among all of his [Ishmael's] brethren he settled (lit. "fell") (Gen. 25:18)
With these words the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah concludes, to be followed immediately by, "And these are the generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham," the beginning of the Torah portion of Toldot. This alludes to the ultimate fall of Ishmael in the End of Days and the subsequent triumph of Moshiach, the son of David, who is descended from Isaac.
One time, a chasid who was a simple merchant came to the Maggid of Mezritch, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov. "I am not able to concentrate during prayer and study," he complained to the Maggid. "Often, my mind begins to wander and I start to think about work, or my family, or even the latest news in town. And, what is even worse," he continued, "I sometimes have improper thoughts at these times."
"I am unable to help you," the Maggid told the visitor sadly. "But, go to my disciple, Rabbi Zev of Zhitomir. He will be able to advise you what to do."
The visitor took the Maggid's suggestion to heart. He immediately set out for the village in which Rabbi Zev lived. He arrived at the village later that evening. Without much difficulty, he was able to locate the inn that Rabbi Zev managed. The hour was late, though, and the inn closed.
Because he had come at the Maggid's suggestion, the merchant was certain it was permitted for him to knock on Rabbi Zev's private door and gain entrance in this manner. He knocked on the door, but there was no reply.
The visitor knocked again on the door, this time a little louder. Again, no one seemed to hear - no once answered the door. Again and again the visitor knocked, pounded, banged, and even kicked the door, all to no avail. Despite the commotion, the door was not opened.
The winter night was cold and the merchant was uncomfortable. He had traveled a long distance to arrive at Rabbi Zev's inn. He was tired and hungry. But, the Maggid had sent him to Rabbi Zev, and so he persisted in trying to gain entrance to Rabbi Zev's private dwelling or at least the inn rather than staying some place else for the evening. He kept knocking and finally began shouting in anger and frustration. "How can you be so merciless to leave me standing out here in the cold?" he cried loudly. Still, through everything, the door remained closed.
As daylight broke, the door was opened. The visitor entered and made arrangements to stay at the inn for a few days. Throughout the entire time, Rabbi Zev practically ignored his guest.
The man began to wonder why the Maggid had sent him here. How was he to learn from Rabbi Zev, who would not even give him the time of day? He resigned himself to the futility of his trip and began preparing to leave. Up until now, Rabbi Zev had rebuffed the merchant's attempts at communicating.
He decided to try once more before he left. "I cannot understand why the Maggid sent me to you!" he told the innkeeper. "I told the Maggid that I could not concentrate during prayer and study because my mind wandered off in all directions. He told me that he could not help me but that you could. I think my trip was in vain," he exclaimed sullenly.
To this Rabbi Zev replied, "I will tell you why the Maggid sent you to me. You have seen that I have acted like a true 'master of the house.' When I did not want you to enter my house, you were compelled to remain outside. So too, with your complaint. If you do not wish to have extraneous thoughts or, worse yet, improper thoughts, enter your mind during prayer, Torah study or at any other time, do not let them in! Fill your mind with words of Torah. You, as the 'master of the house' of your mind, can let in whatever you wish and refuse entrance to those thoughts that you chose not to let enter."
Rabbi Zev's words made a strong impression on the chasid. He returned home knowing full well that he could be in control of his thoughts if he so desired. True, it would require effort and work, but ultimately he would be the one to determine which thoughts were "welcome" and which were not.
The Talmud states, "The only reason that G-d exiled the Jewish people among the nations of the world was that proselytes be added to them." But were there in fact so many converts in the course of the exile? Rather, the Sages were alluding to a different tastk - the task of sifting and refining the materiality of this world, and elevating the sparks of holiness that are to be found within it. A convert is someone who was first distant and later came close; so, too, these sparks were first subject to the impure rule of kelipa, and through man's spiritual labors of sifting and refining materiality are brought ever nearer to holiness.
(Sefer Hamaamarim 5702)