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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
You've seen them, of course. It started many years ago with a yellow circle and a few lines - the happy smiley face that adorned buttons, billboards and bagels (well, not all bagels - but you could make one on a bagel). The smiley faces were everywhere. That was in the "early days," before the internet and email became really big.
Then came the usergroups and email and with it the big discovery: if you put a colon and end-parenthesis together and look at them sideways, it looks like someone smiling. Here, try it : )
From there people experimented with their keyboards. A colon and open parenthesis equaled a frown :( - a semi-colon and end-parenthesis, a wink ; ) and so on. Soon a whole vocabulary - or keyboard shorthand - developed.
Here was a convenient way to convey an emotion, to make sure the feeling behind the words also got transmitted.
And then came computer graphics. Suddenly we didn't have to twist our necks or imaginations to see an emoticon. : ) became J :( became L - and so on. The little emoticons showed up everywhere. Websites, email - even word processing programs.
Now some disparage these little symbols - emotional shorthand. They indicate an inability to use words properly, to understand nuance. If you can read - or write, or think - properly, you should be able to sense the feeling, to know what the person meant to say, "spirit" and "letter," nuance and all.
The objections may be true. Sometimes we use the emoticons instead of thinking, allowing the symbol to substitute for a real emotion we should feel. "Have a nice day. J" - and off we go without a second thought about the person, her situation or our relationship. The little : ) or J has, in a sense, done our feeling for us.
Maybe we sometimes approach Jewish ritual in general and prayer in particular the same way. We send the message - read the words correctly, but emoticon the feeling. Here, G-d, I'm having a good day. J Listen, G-d, I'm kind of down in the dumps. L
Emoticons may be good for a quick note or to reassure an unseen correspondent of the tenor of our remarks. But when talking to G-d, shouldn't we go deeper? Emoticons don't make a cliché any less a cliché. And prayer without an investment of our emotions, without a revelation of the details of our lives, doesn't move beyond a recitation and a repetition of words.
When we send an email or IM, we can't see the person on the other side of the screen. How will he or she react? What do my words mean? And so we find artificial ways - emoticons - to communicate the feelings, the very sense of who we are - that go unread when only the words appear on the screen.
In the Mishna of Avot, we read: "When you pray, do not make your prayer routine." In "modern terminology" - don't rely on the emoticons. If we read the words superficially, our emotional investment will be superficial - emoticonic. So when we open the prayer book, let's make sure our feelings, our experiences, our very selves are invested in the words, and thus emerge from them as well. J
This week's portion, Tetzaveh, contains the command to construct the golden altar that was placed inside the Sanctuary. Last week's portion related the command to construct the altar that was placed in the court-yard of the Sanctuary. Why aren't the two altars mentioned together?
The answer to this question is based on the concept that the Sanctuary represented the private sanctuary each one of us possesses in our hearts. An altar points to man's efforts to approach G-d. Just as, within our own hearts, we have feelings that we show to others, and inner, more powerful feelings that we usually keep to ourselves; so, too, in the Sanctuary, there was an outer altar in public view, and an inner altar within the Sanctuary itself.
The sacrifices were offered on the outer altar. Karban, the Hebrew word for sacrifices, comes from the root karov, meaning "close." The sacrifices brought a person closer to G-d.
The incense offering was brought on the inner altar. Ketoret, meaning "incense," shares a connection with the word keter, meaning "bond." The incense offering did not merely draw us close to G-d; it established a bond with Him.
What are the differences between the two? Wanting to be close indicates that there exists a distance, and that the person who desires to be close feels as a separate entity. He may love that person powerfully, but ultimately, the relationship is between two separate people.
When people bond, they subsume their personal identities to that of the new entity which is formed. A couple are not merely two people in love; they have bonded themselves into a new and more complete union.
The incense offering refers to the establishment of such a bond with G-d. A person loses sight of who he or she is and identifies with G-d and His purpose. He is no longer so concerned with his own personal wants or needs, but begins looking at the world from G-d's perspective.
This difference is also reflected in the substances of the offerings. On the outer altar, meat, fats, and blood were offered, substances identified with the body. On the inner altar, incense - spices which produce a pleasant fragrance - were offered. Our Sages speak of fragrance as a substance from which the soul, not the body, derives benefit.
Thus the outer altar represents our drawing close to G-d from the perspective of our bodies, while the inner altar represents the bond with Him established by our souls. Since they represent two different aspects of our Divine service, the two altars are mentioned in different portions.
Our desire for Moshiach's coming can also be seen from these two perspectives. There are some who desire the material prosperity that will accompany the Redemption. Others yearn for the outpouring of G-dly knowledge that will characterize that era. There is, however, a common denominator between these approaches. They look at the Redemption from man's point of view: what he will get out of it.
There is another perspective. G-d created the world for the sake of Moshiach. From the beginning of existence, G-d sought a dwelling in this world. Our desire for Moshiach should focus not on what we are lacking, but on what He is "lacking," that His desire has not yet been fulfilled.
From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi E.Touger, inspired by the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Just One Question
I was brought up in Brooklyn, New York, in a relatively Jewish neighborhood with all Jewish friends.
I still remember one afternoon when I was about eight years old. I was at a friend's house with about five other neighborhood kids and someone said, "We know that your father is not Jewish."
I ran home crying. My mother reassured me: "Don't worry, all you need to know is that you are Jewish because I am Jewish."
Although my mother had been raised in a very traditional Jewish home, as a young adult she married my father who was not Jewish. I did have a circumcision at birth in the hospital by the doctor, but it was not preformed according to Jewish law with a mohel.
Growing up I knew I was Jewish yet because it wasn't practiced in my home I was never observant. That was, until I married my wife, a Jewish woman, in 1973. Shortly after our children were born we decided that we wanted to give them the Jewish education that I had never received. My children when to orthodox yeshivas and as they learned we learned. Little by little they educated us in the Torah's ways.
I began to attend Sabbath and daily morning services. However, I always felt that when I was called up to the Torah something was missing. I never knew what name I was supposed to use for my father's name, as he was not Jewish. This caused a great deal of stress. I would use my name along with a Hebrew name that I thought would be appropriate for my father. But I just wasn't sure if this was the right thing to do.
One day when my wife was out, I noticed the Lubavitch pamphlet "Let There Be Light" that she uses each Friday to find out the time for candle-lighting. I called the number on the pamphlet and spoke to Mrs. Esther Sternberg. I told her I would like to ask her a question. "My mother was Jewish, my father was not. Therefore, when I am called up to the Torah I do not know what name to use."
Mrs. Sternberg referred me to a Rabbi Kasriel Kastel from the Lubavitch Youth Organization. I called the rabbi and asked him the same question. In good Jewish style, he asked me a question in return: "Well what does your ketuba [marriage document] say?"
Now that he had asked, it occurred to me that we did not have a ketuba from our marriage ceremony. In fact, as long as we were on the subject, I told him that I had never had a bar mitzva, nor had my bris been in accordance with Jewish law.
I had given the rabbi quite a bit of research to do and he said he needed some time to get back to me. A week later, Rabbi Kastel called me back and stated that we should do everything the right way. "You need a bris, a bar mitzva and a ketuba," he told me. I had decided to do everything in secret and surprise my family when everything was completed.
The Rabbi said that it would begin on November 11, 2004, which happened to be Veterans Day.
The night before, my older son called and said, "Dad, let's do something tomorrow. I'm off from work due to the holiday."
With some hesitation, I finally said to my son I have some personal things to take care of. This was not a sufficient answer for him and he did not let up.
Finally I said we could spend the day together if he would accompany me on my "chores." I met my son early the next morning and stated that I had to stop in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to meet a Rabbi Kastel. As we waited to meet he rabbi, I told my son that I had arranged to have a bris, my bar mitzva and to have a ketuba completed. When I finally met the rabbi he looked over some pictures of tombstones from my family to help determine lineage and family names as well as other documents. A mohel arranged by Rabbi Kastel completed the bris after which I went to the synagogue and received an aliya for my bar mitzva. When it came time to prepare the documents for the ketuba, I was informed that I must bring my wife under a chupa again because of the uncertainties of whether or not our original marriage ceremony had been in accordance with Jewish law. It was then time to tell my wife, and the rest of the family.
We all literally began to dance for joy in my determination to make things right. I ultimately stood under the chupa together with my wife, as our sons and their wives watched. During this process I received all the Hebrew names that I would need to complete my journey of making things correct. I now have the proper names when I get called up to the Torah and my wife and children are proud of my accomplishments. It is not too often that children can say they have attended their father's bris, bar mitva and wedding!
Eventually it comes to a point in each of our lives that we must prepare ourselves to enter into the next world. Although in my case things did not start out according to all of the traditional Jewish ways, getting older I realized that it would be my sole responsibility to initiate change. I was very lucky to get in touch with the right people who helped me on this journey.
Even though I want to remain anonymous, I would like to thank a number of people who were involved with my joyful occasions: Rabbi Eliyahu Shain who completed my bris; Rabbi Moshe Bogomilisky, who wrote our ketuba; Mrs. Bronya Shaffer who made the arrangements for my wife to go to the mikva and then hosted our "wedding meal" after our chupah; Rabbi Yisroel Stone who served as a witness to the chupa ceremony; To the Chasan and Kallah (Groom and bride) who were married in Crown Heights on December 23, 2004 and allowed my wife and I to participate in their chupa so selflessly on their special day. [Ed.'s note: As there was a question whether or not the writer's original wedding ceremony was done in accordance with Jewish law, the appropriate resolution was to have them participate in someone else's chupa where the officiating rabbi would have them in mind throughout the ceremony and they would answer "amen" to all of the blessings recited there.]
And of course, Rabbi Kasriel Kastel, without whom none of this would have happened. You took me in your hands as a father would a child. You led me though all of these stages of life. Thank you.
50,000 copies of the Rohr Chumash are being distributed to Jewish communities across the Former Soviet Union. The Chumash, translated into Russian and published by Shamir Press, was reprinted thanks to a grant from the Rohr Family Foundation. The Rohr Family Foundation previously sponsored 25,000 copies of the Russian-language Psalms, as well as 100,000 prayerbooks, 75,000 Passover Haggadas, 100,000 High Holiday prayer books for distribution in over 350 Jewish communities throughout the CIS and Baltic countries.
Continued from the previous issue from a letter dated 24th of Marcheshvan 5720 
Consider these six Miitzvoth [command-ments]. What does it mean, To believe in G-d? If we come to define belief in G-d, we will have to admit that a child's belief in G-d is adequate for him, though he imagines G-d to be a big, strong man, with powerful arms, something like his father, but perhaps more so. But what would we think of a grown-up person who has such an idea of G-d? For this is the very contradiction of one of the basic principles of our faith that G-d is neither a body nor a form in a body, etc.
Or consider the Mitzvah of being constantly aware that there is no reality outside of Him. This involves the principle that "there is no place devoid of Him" (as the Zohar states), for if one would admit that there is a place devoid of Him, one would admit a separate, independent existence, which again would be in direct conflict with our faith, as explained also in the Rambam, [Maimon-ides] in the beginning of Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah.
Similarly in regard to the commandment always to bear in mind that G-d is one and unchangeable, a belief which must go hand in hand with the belief that G-d created the world 5720 years ago, and that prior to that date our world was non-existent, yet G-d remained the same after the Creation as He was before Creation, and that the plurality of things does not, G-d forbid, imply a plurality in Him, and so on.
Suppose Mr. A. comes to Mr. B. and offers to give him a deeper understanding and insight into these highly abstruse subjects which are so remote from the ordinary mind, yet which have to be borne in mind constantly, and Mr. B. does not wish to be bothered, being quite content to remain with his childish image of G-d, etc. - this would not be a case of merely forgoing a Hiddur [enhancement] of a Mitzvah, but of renouncing the entire Mitzvah. For having the brain and ability to acquire the necessary knowledge about G-d, yet refusing to make use of them, is tantamount to willful refusal to comply with the Mitzvah.
Likewise than with regard to the commandments to love and fear Him. Surely it is impossible really to love or fear anything without at least some knowledge of that thing, as is also alluded to in the Rambam, beginning in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah Chapter Two. Note there.
Finally, the same is true of the sixth commandment - not to go astray after the heart and eyes. For insofar as a (spiritually) mature person is concerned, the commandment surely does not refer only to carnal temptation and crude idolatry, but that one should have a heart and eyes only for that which is true and good, to see in the world what is truly to be seen and to think what are truly good thoughts. However, to cultivate such vision as to see the inner content and reality of the world, and to train the heart only to dwell on the good and the true - this is a very difficult attainment which requires tremendous effort, as explained in Kuntres Etz haChayim.
Nevertheless, everyone is commanded to attain all that he is capable of attaining, each and everyone according to his mental capacity and grasp. And when it is said "each according to his capacity," it should be remembered that a rich man who brings a poor man's offering, has not fulfilled his obligation," and there is "no 'riches' or 'poverty' except when it refers to the mind," i.e. potential intelligence.
I trust you will take no offense, if I ask you, Do you really think that you can fully carry out the Mitzvah of "Though shalt love G-d thy G-d, a Mitzvah which is to be performed not by uttering a verbal form, but with heartfelt feeling, if you will know about G-d only from what you have learned in the Gemoro, or Yoreh Deah, etc.
Needless to say, all that has been written above at such length is not for the purpose of causing you pain, but in the hope that perhaps it may after all bring you to the realization that it is the Yetzer Hora [the evil inclination] that is inventing for you all sorts of strange and peculiar reasons to discourage you from learning Chassidus, thereby not merely preventing you from knowing what is taking place in the World of Atzilus [the highest spiritual world], as you put it, but preventing you from fulfilling actual Mitzvoth, commanded in the Torah, Toras Chaim [the Torah of life], to be fulfilled every day. But, of course, the Yetzer Hora does his work 'faithfully', and he will not come and tell you: Do not observe those six Mitzvoth which one is obligated to fulfill every day; he is too 'smart' for that. Instead he will tell you, what good will it do you to know what is happening in Atzilus!
Incidentally, let me add that the Wilner Gaon (not only the Baal HaTanya [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], mind you) writes that those who do not learn Pnimius haTorah [the inner teachings of the Torah] prolong the Golus [exile] and delay the Geulo [Redemption], and that without the knowledge of Pnimius haTorah it is impossible to know properly nigle d'Torah [the revealed aspects of Torah].
May G-d grant that you have good news to report concerning all that has been written above, and may it be soon.
10 Adar I, 5765 - February 19, 2005
Positive Mitzva 134: Making our Fields Available to Everyone during Shemita
This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:11) "But the seventh year. You shall let it rest and abandon it" Every seventh year, the entire Jewish people would stop working in the fields and orchards. During this year, the owners of fields are commanded to allow the produce to be collected and used by anyone who desires to do so. This mitzva reminds a Jew that everything belongs to G-d. It trains him to share his possessions with others in a generous way. The needy person, taking advantage of the available produce, will not be ashamed. He does not have to stretch out his hand before the owner, nor beg for his food.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, is the only portion in the Torah from Moses' birth, where Moses' name does not appear. It is also the portion usually read during the week in which the anniversary of Moses' passing (7 Adar) occurs.
Our Sages explain that the reason for this omission was Moses' own request, made of G-d after the Children of Israel sinned with the golden calf: "If You will not forgive them, blot me out, I pray you, from Your book which You have written." The words of a tzadik, a righteous person, are always fulfilled, even if spoken conditionally. Thus, Moses' wish was granted in this week's portion.
However, we find an interesting phenomenon in Tetzaveh: This portion, which specifically does not mention Moses, begins with a direct address to him! "And you shall command (ve'ata tetzaveh)."
A name is a means of identification and a way of being known to others. But one does not need a name in order to live. The use of "you" expresses an even higher level of relationship than calling a person by his given name. If such is the case, then it follows that the omission of Moses' name only serves to underscore the very special essence of Moses, which was even higher than the mention of his name could express.
Moses' whole life was Torah. Yet, Moses was willing to sacrifice that which he held most dear on behalf of the sinners of the Jewish people. "Blot out my name from Your book," Moses pleaded with G-d, if You will not forgive them even this grave sin.
Moses and the Jews formed one entity, each of whose existence was dependent upon the other. Rashi explains; "Moses is Israel, and Israel is Moses." It was Moses' self-sacrifice that expresses a unity beyond mere names. It is therefore precisely the portion in which Moses is not mentioned, that reveals his greatness. The willingness to sacrifice oneself for every fellow Jew, even one who sins, is the mark of every true leader of the Jewish People.
And you bring close, to yourself, Aaron your brother (28:1)
"You bring close" - Moses wasn't commanded to raise up Aaron, but rather to bring him close. This teaches us that a leader must not consider himself as one who is above the people but as one who is close to them.
And they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, and for his sons, to be a priest unto Me (Ex. 28:3)
It is a known principle that a person's actions follow the lead given by his thoughts and intentions. Therefore, it was fitting that the High Priest, serving in the Holy Temple as an emissary of the entire Jewish People, in atonement for all of their sins, would wear special clothes for his service. These clothes would remind him to concentrate on his service, and to remember before Whom he was standing. It is also one of the features of the mitzva of tefilin - to remind the one who puts them on to direct his thoughts in the proper manner.
To light a perpetual flame (Ex. 27:20)
The commentator Rashi explains: They shall light it until the flame ascends by itself. The menora symbolizes the Children of Israel. The priest who lights the menora is the one whom G-d has chosen to serve Him in the Holy Temple, and it is his duty to light the "perpetual flame." It states in our writings that "the flame of G-d is the soul of man." From this we learn that our duty lies in "lighting" up the souls of our acquaintances and those we meet, until "the flame ascends by itself" and does not require outside assistance.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
And Aaron shall bear the judgement of the Children of Israel upon his heart before G-d (Ex. 28:30)
Aaron the priest was the "heart" of the Jewish nation. And in the same way that the heart first feels the sorrows and pains of the body, so did Aaron feel for and empathize with every Jew, and would pray on their behalf. "And Aaron shall bear the judgement of the Children of Israel" - he bore all of their suffering and sorrow. He would take them "upon his heart," praying for them "before G-d," that their judgements, be rescinded.
(Be'er Mayim Chayim)
Rabbi Akiva is best known to us for his monumental accomplishments in the realm of Torah scholarship. Although he began his study of Torah late in life, he developed into the greatest teacher of his generation, amassing 24,000 students. But less known is his role as a great collector of charity for the poor.
Rabbi Akiva travelled far and wide to collect large sums of money to assist the poor. One day, as he sat at his table counting the money he had collected, he came to the unhappy realization that it was not nearly enough. "Where can I get the necessary amount?" he asked himself as he pondered the problem.
Then, he suddenly had an idea. Not far away, near the seashore, lived a very wealthy Roman woman. Although not a Jew, she believed in G-d and had great admiration for the Jewish Sages.
Early the next morning, Rabbi Akiva made his way to her luxurious home. When she realized who her guest was, she ushered him in and invited him to be seated. She listened as Rabbi Akiva made his request, and she replied: "I would certainly lend you the money, even though it is a very large sum, but who will act as a guarantor for you?"
Rabbi Akiva couldn't think of an answer. "Choose whomever you wish," was his reply. The woman sat down to think, her eyes gazing out to sea. As she listened to the sound of the waves, she smiled and said: "I declare the G-d of Israel and the sea to be guarantors to assure that the money will be returned at the proper time." And with that, Rabbi Akiva left with the money in hand.
Alas, the day arrived when the loan was due, but Rabbi Akiva lay ill, unable to find a messenger to send to the Roman woman.
In her home, the woman waited patiently, but the question turned around in her mind, "Where was Rabbi Akiva?" As the day drew to a close, she thought, "Maybe he won't come at all. Maybe I shouldn't have lent him the money."
But her good nature and trust returned, and she thought, "Maybe he is sick or doesn't have the money. Whatever his reason, I forgive him, but I need the money today."
As the sun began to set, she walked out to the shore and addressed herself to G-d: "Only You know why Rabbi Akiva hasn't come. Maybe he is ill, or else forgot, but I need the money today. G-d and the sea, you are his guarantors, and I await you to return the money to me."
As she ended her prayer, she raised her eyes, and astonishment replaced her previous emotions. Floating toward her on the waves was a magnificent chest. She opened it to find a fortune of gold and precious gems.
Far away across the sea, a princess had been strolling down the beach. She was accompanied by a servant who carried a small chest filled with gold and jewels, a gift from some visiting nobles. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the princess grabbed the box and tossed it far into the sea. The startled servant, thinking the princess had lost her reason, tried to retrieve the box, but to no avail. The waves had carried the precious treasure far out to sea.
Soon, Rabbi Akiva recovered from his illness and hurried to the Roman to return her money. "No, you owe me nothing; your G-d has already repaid your debt."
She proceeded to recount the wondrous story of the treasure chest which the sea had cast upon the shore. "I have already taken what was due to me. The rest I give to you to distribute to the poor who need it so desperately."
Happiness, simcha, breaks through barriers, including the barriers of exile. Indeed, Moshiach is described as "haporeitz," the one who breaks through barriers. He will lead the people to break through all obstacles and his coming will be hastened by people breaking through their own barriers and experiencing joy.How, though, is it possible to experience joy in the midst of the darkness of exile? Because Moshiach's coming is imminent. It is not a dream of the far off future, but an immediate reality, becoming more cogently present from day to day. The very thought of how close it is should bring joy to our hearts.