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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Traveling on the highway at 60, 70 miles per hour. Listening to the radio, maybe eating a cookie. BLOOM. KA-thud-thud-thud. A blow-out. Every driver's nightmare. Initially, panic. Then, control.
After that, the mind can process the Thank G-d's: Thank G-d I didn't lose control. Thank G-d no one hit me. Thank G-d no one was in the other lane. Thank G-d I'm not hurt. Thank G-d it's not the middle of the day. Thank G-d it's not the middle of the night. Thank G-d I had a cell phone. Thank G-d I had a spare. Thank G-d I didn't have to change it on a bridge. Thank G-d the hazard lights work. Thank G-d it's not raining. Thank G-d I'm not in the middle of nowhere. Thank G-d it's not rush hour. Thank G-d I was wearing my seat belt. Thank G-d the kids weren't in the car.
In truth, they can be multiplied endlessly. Even as we pull off to the side of the road, wave down a passing highway patrol car, call 911, or do any of the myriad things necessary to stay safe and get home, our minds race through scenarios - not only of what we must do now, but of what might have been.
How thin the line between us and disaster - a little rubber and a lot of air.
But then we begin to question: Why did it happen? How did it happen? The tires were rotated just over a thousand miles ago. I checked the pressure last week - 32 psi, just like the manual says. Plenty of tread left. Did I run over a nail or piece of glass?
And: Why me? Why now? I missed that appointment. There goes half a day's work, waiting in a tire store. I just seem to keep pouring money into this thing, and it's already five years old.
How thin the line between us and ingratitude - a little rubber and a lot of air.
The first chapter of Tanya (the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, written by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism) describes the negative characteristics that derive from the element of Air: frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk - "hot air," in the cliché of the idiom. And when we think about it, isn't that what happens when a tire blows out? The friction on the road, like the friction of interacting with the world and those around us, heats the air inside the tire, just like our ego gets inflated by mocking others or bragging about ourselves. When the air gets too hot, or egos too inflated, the rubber coating - the self-flexing and identity-stretching we use to hide from the facts - or truth - on the ground begins to leak. Our steel-belted self-image explodes.
At such a time, when the crisis has passed and we're waiting to have a new tire installed and reconstruct our ego, we need to assess not only what we're paying for - the means to safely transport our souls and their passengers, those who ride with us on life's journey; we also need to assess what we received - the very opportunity to move forward, with a more balanced self-image, ready to roll along the potholes, through the rainstorms and over the snowdrifts of life. Instead of relying on "hot air," and the resultant overcharging of our emotions, we drive on, properly inflated with words of Torah and lovingkindness.
This week's Torah portion, Eikev, talks about the desert in which the Jews wandered for 40 years before entering the Land of Israel. It is described as: "The great, terrifying desert, where there were snakes, vipers, scorpions and thirst. When there was no water..."
The great desert symbolizes our long exile, that we must endure until the arrival of Moshiach. A desert or wilderness is uninhabited by man. This is symbolic of the Jewish People in relation to the other nations of the world. The uninhabited areas of the globe far outnumber the portions which are populated, in the same way that the nations of the world far outnumber the Jews. Furthermore, within the Jewish nation itself, those who study the Torah and observe mitzvot (commandments) are also vastly outnumbered by those who do not yet observe.
The Torah warns us that the very act of considering the outside world "great" is the first step in causing our spiritual exile. Thinking that because Jews are outnumbered by non-Jews means that the non-Jews have power over us creates the possibility that these non-Jewish influences can enter our lives. We must always remember that "You have chosen us from among the other nations...and elevated us."
The next spiritual step down is alluded to in the word "terrifying." This is the fear of the nations, that fear that the non-Jewish world will find out that we keep the laws of the Torah. This type of thinking causes a Jew to measure his behavior according to non-Jewish standards. Such a mentality increases the power of the exile over Jewish behavior.
The next level down is that of "snake." The salient characteristic of a snake is that "its poison is hot." This alludes to the heat and enthusiasm that a Jew can have for things that are really foreign to his essence. When a person's excitement is reserved solely for physical pleasures, his enthusiasm for the spiritual is decreased. From here, the next jump down is to the level of "vipers"- saraf - which in Hebrew comes from the word "to burn." This is the level on which a person's whole interest and inclination toward the satisfaction of his physical desires is so great that it completely overshadows any attraction to holiness and G-dliness which he may still have.
But even worse than this is the level of "scorpion." A scorpion's sting is cold. The coldness of the scorpion's poison symbolizes total coldness and indifference to holiness. Heat and excitement, even if directed towards things which are unworthy, can eventually be redirected and transformed into enthusiasm for holiness. But when a person is cold and indifferent to everything, it is that much more difficult to arouse him at all.
The lowest rank of all belongs to the "thirst. When there was no water." G-d, in His great kindness, sometimes causes a Jew to be aroused and thirsty for holiness and Judaism, but if one is very far removed from Torah (compared to water), he may not recognize exactly for what he is thirsting. This is the lowest level of our existence in exile.
The antidote to the above progression of spiritual degradation is the avoidance of the first pitfall, that of considering the world to have unnecessary significance. By having the proper mindset and thinking the proper way we will be worthy of meriting the Final Redemption.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Shul Restored to Save Russian Youth
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson (known affectionately as "Reb Levik"), the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, served as the rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk from 1909 until his arrest by the communists in 1939. Reb Levik was subsequently exiled to Kazakhstan for his efforts to strengthen Judaism among his many followers. In 1930, the communist rulers closed the synagogue, which had been named after the beloved Reb Levik. They later seized the building and converted it into a warehouse, and then allowed it to fall into a sadly dilapidated state. But when the Soviet Union was dissolved, a new non-communist government was installed in Ukraine. Eventually, it proved willing to return the now derelict synagogue building to Dnepropetrovsk's Jewish community, which, with the support of the international Tzivos Hashem children's organization, restored and renovated it for use as a Jewish orphanage for boys.
But let's start at the beginning.
The boys' orphanage, as well as a Home for Girls which has been operating under the sponsorship and direction of Tzivos Hashem, has so far rescued upwards of 500 abandoned Jewish children, and stands ready to receive all Jewish children at risk referred to Tzivos Hashem by concerned relatives, rabbis, social workers and representatives of the Jewish Agency from throughout the former Soviet Union.
The desperate need for boys' orphanage and a sperate girls' orphanage in the former Soviet Union first came to light in the winter of 1995, completely by accident. Ira Yavarkovsky, who had been a prime supporter of Tzivos Hashem, was attending a trade show in Atlanta, Georgia when he came upon a publication that described the massive efforts by Christian missionaries working in the former Soviet Union to ensnare Jewish children. With massive financial backing from Christian groups around the world, the missionaries have been focusing their efforts on Jewish children in hospitals and orphanages all over the former Soviet Union, with alarming effectiveness.
Mr. Yavarkovsky immediately brought the publication to the attention of Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson, executive director of Tzivos Hashem who consulted about the situation with Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. In just a few years, Rabbi Kamenetsky has created a model Jewish community out of the spiritual void created by 70 years of communist rule. Thanks to his efforts, Dnepropetrovsk today has a synagogue, a mikva, kosher food, a school of eight hundred children, classes and activities for adults, a soup kitchen, a girl's seminary and other essential services and institutions for authentic Jewish living.
Rabbi Kamenetsky's report confirmed that over half a million children in the former Soviet Union are in public institutions. They are not only orphans, but also children who have been abused or neglected by parents who may be drug or alcohol abusers, or just too ill or poor to care for them properly. Malnutrition, violence and premature death are exacting a fearful toll among all of the children of the region. As a result, many Jewish children today are living in state-run orphanages, and many more have been sent to live with grandparents or other relatives who cannot properly care for them either. Now, in the face of the active missionary efforts, all of these Jewish children are at spiritual as well as at physical risk.
Rabbi Kamenetsky knew a successful Ukrainian Jewish businessman who had begun to build a luxurious mansion for himself. But as the building neared completion, he began having second thoughts.
The businessman realized that his ostentatious new mansion was likely to draw unwelcome attention from people who might be looking for a scapegoat, or just a convenient target for anti-Semetic sentiments. He therefore was willing to sell his new mansion, which was nearly perfect for use as a children's home, to Tzivos Hashem at a greatly reduced price.
Enter Dr. Esther Benenson, a leading supporters of Tzivos Hashem. Her late husband, Dr. William Benenson, was born in Dneperpetrovsk, and had always felt a special responsibility to support Tzivos Hashem programs in that area. She decided that it would be most appropriate to set up the new orphanage in memory of her husband.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Kamenetsky began compiling a list of needy Jewish children living in government orphanages across the former Soviet Union. Word of the new Jewish orphanage quickly spread, and children soon began to arrive. One day, a woman knocked on Rabbi Kaminetsky's door, holding her young son by the hand. "Here Rabbi," she said, pushing her son towards him. "I have an incurable illness, and I'm going to the hospital to die. Please take my son. I know that I'm leaving him in good hands."
Today, this young boy, as well as hundreds of other Jewish boys and girls, have found a warm, loving Jewish home in the city where Reb Levik worked tirelessly and uncompromisingly to create a warm, loving Torah community.
Kosher in Athens
Just in time for the Olympic Games in Athens, the newly established Chabad-Lubavitch Center of Greece has opened a kosher restaurant. The facility has been opened to cater to the needs of the many Jewish visitors to that city. Rabbi Mendel and Nechama Hendel have set up a Jewish information center and the Kol Tuv Glatt Kosher restaurant close to where the Olympic games are taking place for the expected 20,000 Jewish tourists. Take-out meals as well as Shabbat meals with advance reservations are available. The menu includes fine Greek cuisine and international specialties. To find out more about Chabad of Greece and the Kol Tuv restaurant visit www.chabad.gr
Freely translated letters
7 Elul, 5712 
To the members and Gabboim
K'hal Chasidim Synagogue of Manchester·
Greeting and blessing!
A number of days ago I received the copy of your letter, and I was happy to see that you appropriately appreciate the work and achievements for your community of Rabbi S- R-. This shows that you take his work with interest and integrity, and that you want to keep a close connection with us here, which is expressed by your wanting to send him here as your representative.
I hope that like every living thing, your good feelings will keep on growing and will permeate through the Shul members to their homes and all their activities. This is the essence of our Torah and faith: that they should apply not only to a part of the day and the rest of the time Yiddishkeit [Judaism] is not to be acknowledged. Rather, a Torah of life, of a living G-d, who encompasses all of life from the first moment to the last moment after one hundred and twenty good years. Not only to be a Jew in Shul, while praying and studying, but also at home, in the street, in the office, and so on. As we say twice every day in our prayers: "...when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way."
As for your suggestion that Rabbi S- R- should make the journey here: the situation is, that according to what he writes to me about the state of his health, I assume the fatigue of travel and the changes in what is habitual, eating and drinking and general lifestyle, as well as the excitement (albeit from joy), would be too much strain for him. Surely, he already gave you my letter to him, which is in accordance with the above.
I want to thank you for the good thought of sending your representative, especially from a community that bears with pride the name "K'hal Chasidim." "A good idea is joined to action," and as the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism] (Tanya, Chapter 16) explains these words of our sages of blessed memory: "joined to action," means that there must be an action as well, even if far from the thought.
I therefore hope that you will also undertake an action, that is, the good result that the visit would have brought will be actualized in reality, though the specific thought did not actualize.
I conclude with a wish to be inscribed in heaven for a good year to all the members of your synagogue and the members of their households, to each according to his needs in the physical and the spiritual.
25th Menachem Av, 5721 
Greeting and Blessing!
I confirm receipt of your letter from 21 Menachem Av and the previous one.
Being that the usual typist is on vacation and I do not want his replacement to see your letters, I am replying this time in Yiddish and surely this won't disturb you. The main thing is that we should always be able to write to each other good tidings, in the obvious and revealed good.
Regarding your writing about the offer of the insurance company and your question whether to negotiate with them:
In general one must reckon with the opinion of the solicitor who is handling the case and who knows the prospects of what can be expected.
In any case, in my opinion, you must avoid a recurrence of a deposition and testimony by you and your wife, as this involves much anxiety both for you and the children. It is also possible that this will attract publicity, newspaper reporters and the like, something which is not desirable. As to the question: what about money? G-d can also supply money in a pleasant and happy way.
This does preclude negotiating with the company for a better settlement. For surely, England is similar to America in that companies would rather reach a settlement out of court. It is therefore possible that they will increase the sum they have already proposed.
As per your request, the second sum has been sent out to you. May it be G-d's will that it be brought to good use and that the revenue be used for happy things, things of Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] , beginning with Tzedokah [charity].
Being that in the interim the first talk given to the group· has been published, I am enclosing one copy, and obviously when you inform the secretariat of the amount you need, they will send them to you.
We are now in proximity to the month of Elul, the month of mercy and goodwill, may G-d in His many mercies give everyone what he and his family need both spiritually and materially, and, as mentioned at the outset of this letter, only good tidings from one another.
22 Av, 5764 - August 9, 2004
Positive Mitzva 200: Paying Wages on Time
This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 24:15) "Give him his wage on the day it is due"
The Torah warns us to be careful when paying people who work for us. We are commanded to pay them on time and not withhold their wages.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is the 20th of Av, the yartzeit of the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson.
Previously, in a gathering on Shabbat that coincided with Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's yartzeit, the Rebbe spoke about the significance of his father's yartzeit and specifically of it occurring on Shabbat.
The Rebbe quoted the Talmudic saying that "The death of the righteous is compared to the burning of the House of G-d." The Rebbe then went on to explain that the true meaning of this statement is that the tragedy of a righteous person's passing is, like the destruction of the Holy Temple, a descent that must ultimately bring us closer to the building of the Third Holy Temple.
The Rebbe then went on to explain that on this Shabbat there are many reasons to be joyous. It is the Shabbat following Shabbat Nachamu - the Shabbat when we are doubly consoled for the destruction of the two Holy Temples. That this Shabbat follows the 15th of Av (known as a very joyous day in the Jewish calendar) means that it brings completion to the day. In addition, that it is the 20th of Av, a day that will ultimately bring us closer to the building of the Third Holy Temple is also a reason to be joyous.
The Rebbe also spoke about the importance of permeating all of our actions with joy, thus hastening the promised redemption:
"This joy, consolation and salvation must all be expressed in a revealed way and in actuality.... Our action in all areas of Torah and mitzvot (commandments) will speed the realization of the promised redemption.... the attitude of joy should also permeate and encompass all of these good actions, and this will speed the transition of the day of mourning into a day of rejoicing."
May this take place immediately, NOW!
And it shall come to pass - eikev - because you listen to these ordinances... (Deut. 7:12)
When Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch was a small boy, he was tested by his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. He asked his grandson to explain the passage in Genesis 22, "because - eikev - Abraham obeyed my voice." The young Menachem Mendel replied, "Our Father Abraham obeyed the command of G-d with all his limbs, even his heel - eikev." The grandfather enjoyed the boy's response, and added, "Indeed this applies also in the verse, 'and it shall come to pass, because you listen to these ordinances.' The heel must also hear and obey the commandments."
If you should say in your heart, "These nations are more plentiful than me"...Do not be afraid of them (Deut. 7:17, 18)
Once you admit to yourself that the nations are indeed more plentiful than you and that your own powers are insufficient to conquer them and that you are really in need of Divine assistance, G-d then promises you, "Do not be afraid of them."
And now, Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d require of you, but to fear the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 10:12)
Our Sages learned: Everything is preordained except for the fear of Heaven. Rabbi Chanoch of Alexander once remarked about this: "Human beings are very strange. They stand and pray and beg G-d for 'fear of Heaven,' when the whole time they themselves have the power to achieve it through their own effort. At the same time, they imagine that it is their own doing that they receive their sustenance and livelihoods."
A man once came to the Chofetz Chaim and requested a blessing for his children, that they should grow up to be G-d-fearing Jews. The Chofetz Chaim replied: "Do you really think that a blessing can achieve this? Fear of G-d can only be achieved through hard work and self-sacrifice. G-d will then help to insure that all the toil was not in vain."
In Europe it was the custom to fatten up geese in the months preceding Passover, since many families refrained from using any oil other than goose fat. For six to eight weeks the geese would be fed a full bucket of corn twice a day, so that by the time the holiday arrived they would be so huge they could barely waddle.
Two religious giants of the day, the Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer) and the Yismach Moshe (Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum) differed in their rulings as to whether the practice of force-feeding rendered the geese treife (not kosher). The question revolved around whether or not the sharp corn grains which were forced down the throats of the birds would damage the esophagus, thus making the birds treife (i.e., unable to live another year). The Chasam Sofer held that the esophagus would not necessarily be damaged, and so he ruled the practice permissible. (Of course, the geese had to be carefully checked before being consumed to prove that they were kosher by the process described later.) His contemporary, the Yismach Moshe felt that since the corn kernels were sharp, the likelihood was that the birds would be rendered treife by the force feedings. He ruled that geese fed in this manner would not be permissible.
The two corresponded back and forth, each presenting learned arguments to prove his point, their dispute purely "for the sake of heaven." Finally, the Chasam Sofer suggested that instead of theorizing, they should put their rulings to a practical test. Each was to take ten geese and fatten them up. Then, they would slaughter them, fill the esophagi with air and float them in a full tub of water. If the esophagus was damaged, air bubbles would escape into the water, thus proving that the bird was treife. If no bubbles were seen, the bird would be kosher.
When the birds were duly fattened and slaughtered, an amazing thing took place. All the birds from the household of the Chasam Sofer proved to be kosher, whereas all the birds of the Yismach Moshe tested treife.
So it was seen that the legal rulings of these two great giants dominated the physical reality, proving the axiom that the rulings of true halachic authorities determine the actual reality of a physical situation.
Another story is told which illustrates the same point. There lived in Europe in the last century a well-known Chasidic rabbi who was rebbe to tens of thousands of Chasidim. He was known as the Zidochover Maggid.
One Friday as he sat and learned Torah with a group of his disciples, a woman entered his study carrying a chicken that she wished to prepare for the Shabbat meal. However, there was a question on the kashrut of the bird, so she had brought it to the Rabbi to ask if it was permissible. Now, on the face of it, the chicken had lesions on its lung that would normally indicate that it was treife, but to the astonishment of his students, the Rebbe spent hours studying many texts in an attempt to find an opinion that would permit the chicken. It was incomprehensible to them just why the Rebbe would go to such lengths when he could just as easily give the woman a ruble to buy another chicken. After hours of study the Rebbe stood up and pronounced the chicken kosher! The Rebbe's disciples couldn't believe their ears, but he had labored and succeeded in finding a way to rule the chicken permissible. The happy woman went home to prepare her Shabbat meal, and the scholars resumed their study.
Soon after she left another woman entered the hall in a state of hysteria. "Rebbe, Rebbe!" she screamed, as she fainted to the floor. When she was revived she resumed her wailing, crying, "Rebbe, you must help my husband, the doctors have given up hope!" Again the poor woman fainted and had to be revived. The Rebbe stood by her side and said, "Tell me please, what is the exact nature of your husband's ailment?"
She replied that he had serious lesions on his lungs. When he heard that, the Rebbe comforted her saying, "I just ruled that this type of malady is kosher. Go home and don't worry; your husband will live for many years." And this, in fact, is what happened. Only then did the students understand that through his ruach hakodesh (Divine inspiration) the Rebbe had known that he would need that halachic ruling to help a fellow Jew. Through his pronouncement which allowed the chicken to be used he also, so to speak, negated the fatal effects of the same illness on a fellow Jew.
The saintly Kabbalist, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, passed away on the 20th day of Menachem Av, 5704 (1944). Throughout the morning of that day, unceasingly, his lips were seen to murmur. As one of the Chasidim at his bedside leaned over, he heard a few words from the Book of Psalms (ch. 197) being uttered with a sigh: "Your footsteps were not known." And then he heard a whisper, yearning for those footsteps: "Ah! Ikvos Meshicha - the footsteps of Moshiach!"