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Once a simple Jew went to his rebbe and cried, "My son is about to be drafted to serve in the Czar's army! Few Jews survive amidst the anti-Semites who make up most of the army. I have been informed that the draft board this time will be comprised of people from a different town.
"If a father brings a note from a doctor that his son is ill, the boy receives a three month reprieve. I will bring a note saying my son is ill. In three months, when he has to appear before the board again, it will be comprised of local people with whom I am close and they will easily exempt him."
The rebbe listened and then said, "I understand your plan, but I think your son should appear at this hearing."
The father left the rebbe's room bewildered, for his plan was completely logical. He went home and decided to continue as planned. He procured a doctor's note and appeared at the scheduled hearing. Upon entering the room he nearly fainted: it was the local board! He had no choice but to hand them the note and receive the three month grace period. But he knew that when he appeared in three months time before the board of strangers, his son would surely be taken.
The distraught father came to the rebbe again and pleaded with the rebbe for help. "Have pity on a poor fool. Should my innocent son suffer because he has a father such as me?" he wailed. The rebbe thought for some time and then said, "Get your son a false passport and send him far away."
The father nodded. "But that leaves me with another big problem," he related. "When a draftee runs away, the father is fined three hundred rubles, which I don't have! They will take my small children as hostages, until I pay."
The rebbe fell deep into thought again, then answered: "Don't worry. There is a project in the works."
The father was relieved. He bought a passport on the black market and sent his son off to safety. But what of the fine, he wondered. He tried to put his questions and doubts out of his mind.
Three months passed. A soldier came to his store, and handed him many official-looking papers, announcing: "Sign these and appear at the bureau in twenty-four hours."
The father was shaking as he entered the lawyer's office. He could not read Russian, and so he been unable to peruse the documents. The lawyer, a local Jew, studied the pages closely. Then he looked up with a smile. "Do you know that they have given you their entire file on your son? Were you to throw them into the fire, nothing would be left; it would be over."
With that, he tossed the papers into the fire, and the father suddenly understood his rebbe's words which had been so unintelligible at the time: "There is a project in the works."
The Lubavitcher Rebbe has told the world that "There is a project in the works" - the time of the Redemption has arrived. Though at times, it might appear that things are going in a different direction, there really is "a project in the works."
We needn't accept on blind faith that there is a "project." The Rebbe has shown us how the world is changing and moving toward the Redemption. He has pointed out examples of the fulfillment of ancient prophecies.
Nor should we be discouraged by temporary setbacks, for these, too, have their precedents: Even after we had gone out of Egypt amidst great wonders, some wanted to turn back when faced with adversity. Later, though the journey to the Holy Land had already commenced, Moses departed to study the most sublime aspects of G-d's Wisdom, in order to ultimately share it with the Jewish nation.
The Rebbe has encouraged us to recognize the miracles, small and large, personal and global, that are taking place around us. This heightened awareness of G-d's Hand directing everything, together with adding on in mitzva observance, Torah study, and good deeds, will help us prepare for and hasten the arrival of Moshiach, may it happen NOW!
This week's Torah portion, Shelach, tells the episode of the spies whom Moses sent to gather intelligence about the land of Canaan. Ten of the twelve spies returned with disparaging reports; that although the land was fertile, its inhabitants were too strong and their cities too well guarded to be defeated by the Israelites. This report broke the morale of the Jewish Nation.
These spies were no ordinary men. They were the leaders of their tribes, especially selected by Moses for this mission. Their report was not animated by fear of physical defeat; instead they feared a spiritual defeat.
In the wilderness, each of the Israelites' needs was met by a direct gift from G-d. Their bread was the Manna which fell from the heavens; their water came from Miriam's Well; their clothes never needed repair.
The possession of the land of Israel meant a new kind of responsibility. The Manna was to cease. Bread would come only through toil. The miracles would be replaced by labor; and with labor came the danger of a new preoccupation.
The spies feared that the concern to work the land and make a living might eventually leave the Israelites with less time and energy for the service of G-d. When the spies said, "It is a land which eats up its inhabitants," they meant that the land and its labor, and the resulting preoccupation with the materialistic world, would "swallow up" and consume all their energies. They thought that spirituality flourishes best in seclusion, in the protected peace of the wilderness where even the food was "from the heavens."
And yet, the spies were wrong. The purpose of life is not the elevation of the soul: it is the sanctification of the world.
The end to which every mitzva aims is to make a dwelling place for G-d in the world-to bring G-d within the world, not above it.
Every Jew may feel the doubts that plagued the spies. While involved with Jewish activities, he feels wholly given over to the spiritual demands of Judaism. But in his work he can see little or no religious significance.
But he is making the spies' mistake, of placing G-d outside the world, of failing to respond to G-d's presence in every human transaction, forgetting the imperative to "Know Him in all your ways."
The essence of spirituality lies in a Jew reaching out beyond himself to his fellow Jew, to the world of his work, extending holiness to everything he touches, without the thought that this or any situation lies outside the domain of G-d.
Excerpted from Torah Studies by Jonathan Sacks. Based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Tofutti: An Almost Divine Dessert
by Yehudis Cohen
Speak to Mr. David Mintz, CEO and founder of Tofutti Brands, Inc. and you know that you are talking to one who is connected to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, heart and soul.
When asked about the Rebbe's involvement and guidance during the early years of creating Tofutti, Mr. Mintz takes the question very seriously. He closes his office door so as not to be interrupted. This is very important to him. The Rebbe is very important to him.
"My brother Isaac, of blessed memory, was a Lubavitcher chasid and a shaliach (emissary) of the Rebbe. I was religious, but much more secular-minded than Isaac. Isaac continuously encouraged and nudged me to meet the Rebbe. Just to get him off my back, I agreed. From the moment of my first yechidus (private audience) with the Rebbe, my life was changed forever."
Recalling that first yechidus, Mr. Mintz begins, "I was all of 23 years old then, but I was already successful as a furrier. I was making good money and giving a lot of tzedaka (charity). During that first yechidus, the Rebbe told me things about my life that no one else in the whole world knew.
"I couldn't look at the Rebbe's face. His eyes were like looking directly into the sun. The way the Rebbe spoke to me, I was mesmerized. When I left the Rebbe's room, I was transformed. I waited anxiously to be able to meet with the Rebbe gain.
"My second yechidus came a few months later. This time, too, I was captivated by the Rebbe, but the feeling was even stronger than the first time. I began to correspond with the Rebbe and ask his advice regarding business and personal matters."
The bottom dropped out of the fur business and Mr. Mintz got involved in the food industry. He bought a small grocery store in the Catskill Mountains and decided to serve fresh Jewish delicacies. His immediate success encouraged him to branch out. Eventually, his success brought him to Manhattan where he operated a restaurant called "Mintz's Buffet."
The people who dined in the restaurant liked good food and excellent desserts. When Mr. Mintz heard about tofu in the early 1970s he began experimenting with it and incorporating it into his dishes as a dairy substitute, causing some of his patrons to accuse him of foregoing the kosher laws by mixing milk and meat in his kosher restaurant. Eventually he began making desserts with tofu as well, but he just couldn't lick the non-dairy frozen dessert problem as it did not have a pleasant consistency once frozen.
"Whenever I asked the Rebbe for advice, he always answered me and I always did what he said. Everything the Rebbe advised me about was always so right and I became very successful. The Rebbe gave me the 'blueprint' of how to run my business and I followed it meticulously."
For nearly a decade, Mr. Mintz experimented with tofu. At the end of the day, he would tell everyone at work, "It's tofu time." Workers would join him in the kitchen, trying different ingredients mixed with tofu to make non-dairy recipes.
"A pivotal moment in my business career came when the building housing our restaurant was purchased. I found a new, ideal location. I wrote to the Rebbe and immediately received the answer, 'Absolutely not.' I was shocked. The Rebbe continued, 'What you should do instead is to continue doing your experiments with your tofu projects.' I can't deny that I enjoyed experimenting with tofu, sometimes until 1-2-3 o'clock in the morning. But to make that my emphasis?
"The Rebbe warned me that the beginning would be difficult but that eventually I would overcome the difficulties. 'You will be successful and your products will be sold all over, even abroad.' I was amazed at what the Rebbe said to me but I listened. I rented a place in Brooklyn and started working day and night. My family and business associates thought I was crazy. When months passed and I was still no closer to my goal, they told me to go back to what I know, restaurants. I ignored them because this is what the Rebbe said I should do.
"I began to draw on my savings in order to continue my experiments. I continued to write to the Rebbe asking for brachos (blessings) for success. The Rebbe would answer me, 'You must have faith. With faith you can accomplish miracles.' The Rebbe gave me the energy and the mental capacity to go on even though I was continuously failing. The Rebbe also told me many time to give tzedaka generously.
"I rented space in an ice cream plant. After a few months they told me, 'Even though you are paying rent, we can't let you continue. You are wasting your time and money.' I begged them to give me one last chance. I wrote to the Rebbe again. 'You will be successful,' the Rebbe blessed me. And I was! We went into production and finally marketed it. Tofutti was big news. It was picked up by major TV networks and newspapers. People wanted to know more about this religious Jew who had invented a new kind of healthy, reduced calorie, low-cholesterol frozen dessert."
In the midst of all of the excitement, one incident from about 10 years ago stands out in Mr. Mintz's mind. "When the company that was distributing Tofutti saw how popular it was, they were afraid it would affect sales of their own product. So they started to play around with orders for Tofutti. I decided to leave them and they made things difficult. Things were very rough. I wrote to the Rebbe, 'I need a blessing, a miracle, all the help the Rebbe can give me.' The Rebbe answered that by supporting my local Chabad House I would be making a channel for all the blessings I needed. By giving charity you create a receptacle and G-d can send a blessing into your receptacle. The more you help the local Chabad House, the more you will succeed."
Mr. Mintz immediately increased his donations to Lubavitch of the Palisades. "As soon as I started helping more, I got an order from Brazil and then Mexico. The Rebbe's secret to success is to give charity above and beyond what you think you should, with your whole heart."
Rabbi Mordechai Shain, director of Lubavitch of the Palisades, speaks warmly about David Mintz, the president of the congregation. "Mr. Mintz has been actively involved with our work since its inception. The Rebbe had told Mr. Mintz one Sunday when he went to receive a dollar and blessings that a Chabad House would soon be opening in his neighborhood and that Mr. Mintz should help out. I knew nothing of this conversation when I approached Mr. Mintz some time later to move to Tenafly, New Jersey and open Lubavitch of the Palisades. The Rebbe told him many times that he is a partner with the Rebbe in the Rebbe's work; he is a partner with Chabad."
Mr. Mintz takes his partnership with the Chabad House as seriously as he takes his business. Says Rabbi Shain, "We make decisions together. He has a heart of gold but he's not a pushover. He has strong business acumen. He has been at the forefront of our growth, our beautiful center and our recently completed million dollar mikva."
Says Mr. Mintz, "Once, when I thanked the Rebbe for all of his blessings, he told me, 'You don't have to thank me because we are partners.' The Rebbe gave me a special blessing, 'You should never have any daigas, worries. It could be that once in a while you may have a question or a doubt. If that happen, study a portion of the Torah and then you won't have any more doubts. You will be very successful and sell products to the point that you will have difficulty keeping records of all the products you sell.' Thank G-d the company keeps growing; thank G-d I don't have any daigas.
"When people who are having a hard time in business because of the economy or have lost their jobs ask me for advice, I tell them the following: Here is my business strategy. It's very simple and it's guaranteed if you follow it. Give charity with your whole heart and more than you can afford. Nowhere in the Torah except concerning the mitzva (commandment) of tzedaka does G-d tell us we can test Him. I told that to a man in our shul who was down on his luck. A little while later he came into shul and started hugging and kissing me. 'I started giving charity even before I could afford to, with my whole heart, until it hurt. I got a call from a big company and it was my break,' he told me.
G-d willing and with the Rebbe's brachos, Mr. Mintz will continue to delight people with his non-dairy tofu products and inspire them with his faith in G-d and the Rebbe until the coming of Moshiach, and even after!
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Freely translated from a letter of the Rebbe
Continued from the previous issue
10 Elul, 5704 (1944)
According to the scheme that, at the outset, simple entities develop individually and afterwards, they join together, their coming together and uniting as a single (complex) entity is considered an ascent to a higher level of fulfillment for each of them.
Here a question arises: What or who is the grand coordinator who from the outset leads each of the entities on its path of development in a manner that it will complement another entity? With regard to the development of the entity itself, it is possible to say that everything is included in the seed, the germinal state from which the development begins. What connection, however, can it and its essence have with another entity? Therefore we must say that there is a coordinator outside of both entities and above them. It rules over both entities and leads them on the appropriate path to a common purpose that also surpasses these two entities.
Some basic concepts relevant to the above have their foundations in the teachings of Chasidus:
The Holy One, blessed be He, created the world and all it contains. In every entity, there is a Divine spark that brings it into being and grants it life at every moment. This spark is hidden, and not revealed. And yet, were it not for it, the entity would return to utter nothingness and void. (To cite an example, a person's soul is not seen. Its existence can be appreciated only by the mind.)
Whenever this G-dly spark is more apparent and active in a particular entity, that entity is - in a revealed manner - closer to its true existence. Accordingly, it ascends, develops more, and reaches greater fulfillment.
G-d is the source and the essence of life. Therefore the more this life-energy is revealed, [the greater] the ascent on the ladder of development. Therefore plant life is higher than inanimate existence. Animals are higher than plant life. And humans are higher than animals.
The Creator enjoys absolute liberty. For He created, not only all existence, but also the laws of nature. The only thing comparable to this - freedom and free choice - we find in man. This is one of the proofs that man is higher - in development - than the other created beings.
If a person, acting with his free choice does the opposite of what is desired and appropriate, through his deeds (acting in a "gluttonous and indulgent"[ Devarim 21:19.] manner), he increases the concealment of the G-dly spark in himself and in other entities.
Not only does he not ascend on the ladder of development, he descends and brings down with him (the food, the drink, and the Divine spark enclothed within them), adding to the havoc of the world.
The opposite is true when, however, through his free choice, he chooses good deeds. Not only does he personally ascend the ladder of development - such ascents are also common to other created beings who fulfill their purpose in creation - but he - due to his own initiative and will, for he had free choice - contributes a new dimension to the creation. In this he becomes a creator as it were. It is as if the Creator endows man with His creative power. As our Sages comment (Bereishis Rabbah, ch. 98): "Yisrael (Yaakov) creates worlds."
If you have any feedback with regard to the above, I would be happy to hear from you at any time.
From I Will Write it in their Hearts, published by S.I.E.
27 Sivan, 5763 - June 27, 2003
Positive Mitzva 97: Impurity of Creeping Animals
This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 11:29 "These also shall be unclean to you among the creatures that creep upon the earth"
There are eight types of creeping animals listed in the Torah. Contact with their dead bodies makes one impure.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
As we approach the date of Gimmel Tammuz, it is hard to realize that it has been nine years since the Rebbe's physical presence was obscured from the world.
Gimmel Tammuz is an appropriate date to reflect on the Rebbe's first and only mission statement for his leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch: To actually bring into reality the coming of Moshiach.
From the time he was a young child, and throughout the Rebbe's years of leadership, the concept of Moshiach and the long-awaited Redemption have been uppermost in the Rebbe's talks, teachings, and mitzva campaigns. The Rebbe's actions and guidance have always been permeated with the belief in Moshiach and the desire to hasten the Redemption.
In a public address a little over two years before the Rebbe's passing, the Rebbe enjoined everyone to "Do everything you can to bring Moshiach here and now." In honor of Gimmel Tammuz it is fitting that every man, woman and child do something to bring the era of peace, prosperity, health, harmony and knowledge and we all truly crave.
The Rebbe made a number of suggestions to this end, including: increasing in acts of goodness and kindness; giving extra charity with the awareness that, as our Sages stated, "Charity brings closer the Redemption"; enhancing one's mitzva observance; studying about Moshiach and the Redemption (as the Rebbe put it, the straight path to hasten the Redemption); praying for the Redemption and demanding of G-d that He bring the Redemption.
Maimonides teaches that each person should view the world as if it perfectly balanced between good and evil; each individual's good deed can tip the scale, bringing salvation not only to himself but Redemption to the entire world. Together, we will make it happen, NOW!
You shall take courage and take away some of the fruit of the land. (Num. 13:20)
When Moses sent the twelve leaders into Israel to spy out the land which had been given by G-d to the Jewish people, he told them to bring back some of the land's fruit with them. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1811) used to say: The nations of the world have stolen the Land of Israel from us. Therefore, it is our duty to stand up and unceasingly shout that it is indeed our land. We must protest to the whole world, that even though other nations have lived in the Land of Israel for many generations, it has not become theirs, and their claim upon it is no claim at all. We are obligated to cry out, as is indeed the law, that if one protests against someone's occupying land, his claim upon it is nullified.
You must separate the first portion of your kneading - arisa - as a dough offering. (Num. 15:20)
There are two meanings to the word "arisa." The first is the kneading trough in which dough is made, and the second is a child's cradle. This verse teaches us that one should pay particular attention to a child's education while he is still in the cradle. For even when they are so tiny it is our duty to educate them as Jews, and not to postpone it until a later time.
"The first portion of your kneading" means that the first part of the day must be dedicated to G-d. It should be "an elevated gift" (15:19) - one should say Psalms, learn Torah, pray in the synagogue and the like.
(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Pinny Young will remember one Friday night this past winter for a very long time. "We were walking home after Friday night services from the Jewish Discovery Center in Buffalo. The sidewalks had not been plowed from the snow so we were walking in the street near the curb. I was walking in the front with Rabbi Heschel Greenberg, the rabbi of the Center, and about a dozen people were walking behind us in groups of two and threes.
"Suddenly a car hit me from behind, and from what I'm told, I went up in the air, did a couple of flips and came down landing on my head. One of the men walking with us ran into the nearest house and asked them to call 911. The ambulance came and whisked me to a nearby hospital."
Sonya Young opened her front door expecting to greet her husband with a warm, "Good Shabbos." What she saw, instead, was a policeman. "Your husband has been in an accident. He was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. We wanted to let you know," the police officer her.
"Along the way I regained consciousness; I had been out for about 18 minutes," Pinny continues. "The paramedics asked me if anything hurt and my only complaint was the strong pain in my left leg and that I couldn't move it. They examined my leg and, based on what they saw, they wrote in their notes that it seemed I had broken it. When I got to the hospital, they wanted to x-ray me from head to toe even though aside from the strong pain in my leg, I felt fine.
Rabbi Greenberg arrived home shaken. The thud of the impact of the car hitting Pinny's body reverberated in his ears. He gazed at a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and solemnly asked the Rebbe for a blessing for Pinny. He took a volume of Igros Kodesh, letters of the Rebbe, off the shelf and randomly opened volume 13 to page 185. His eyes focused on the following words:
"Concerning that which he wrote about a damage that he had a week ago, he can be sure it is only a temporary suffering and it will be straightened out. Even more so, after the suffering, there will be revealed to him the attribute of mercy that is even more expansive than the kindness that came before it. The whole situation will be changed from one extreme to the other."
Pinny continues, "After a few minutes in the x-ray room, the pain suddenly disappeared and I felt fine, really fine. They took the x-rays and nothing was broken. I told the people at the hospital that I was going home.
"One of the doctors with whom I am friendly - I am doing an internship at that hospital - offered me a ride home. I explained to him that it was Shabbat and there was absolutely no legitimate reason for me to accept a ride so I was going to walk the mile and a half to my house.
"On my way home I stopped at the Greenbergs to let them know that I was alright. When I walked into their home, Rabbi Greenberg greeted me with the words, 'Blessed is He who revives the dead.' Rabbi Greenberg told me about the answer he had gotten from the Rebbe on my behalf. It came as no surprise that at pretty much the time Rabbi Greenberg was asking the Rebbe for a blessing for me in his home, the pain in my leg disappeared in the hospital.
"My wife, thank G-d, had already been informed that I was fine. But, of course, seeing is believing so I hurried home.
"The Torah portion we read the next morning tells of the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea. Many of the people in shul had seen the accident. (One of the men had even told me that he had not been able to sleep the entire night. The accident kept replaying itself in his mind, and he and his wife stayed up all night saying Psalms for my recovery.) Rabbi Greenberg pointed out that some people say that miracles don't happen today. 'But everyone here can attest to the fact that we witnessed a big miracle last night.'
"Truly," concludes Pinny, "the situation was changed from one extreme to the other."
In response to a reporter from CNN who asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe what is his message to the world: "Moshiach is ready to come, now. It is only on our part to increase in acts of goodness and kindness."