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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
You've been working late at the office. You go into the parking garage and notice how deserted it is. You glance nervously around. At least there aren't too many cars, everything's in plain sight.
Or you've been out shopping until the mall closed. When you arrived the parking lot was full. Now it's practically empty. You can see your car, alone on its row, one of a handful scattered about.
In either case, you get to your car, and reach for your keys. Nervously, you fumble with them, trying to find the right one. And you can't find it. Suddenly you realize, you left it in the office - and you can't get in until the morning. Or, you see them sitting on the driver's seat, where you dropped them.
You're locked out.
Or you've been out late, visiting with friends, or you're just coming back from a business trip. You've got your keys. But when you get to the door, you find it's chained.
You're locked out.
Of course, you can use your cell phone to call someone or wake up a family member. Yet for a moment, there's a desperate feeling. It's different than the fright you might feel until you reach your car or get to the house. That's a fear of the unknown. But this, this is frustration. This makes you angry. It's your car. It's your house. Why can't you get in? And the sense of helplessness, of being kept out is worse, much worse than the fright you felt a few minutes ago. It's like you've been rejected, like you've been barred from what belongs to you. It's not right. No one should be locked out of what belongs to him.
Sometimes, unfortunately, we feel locked out of our lives, out of our souls - that is, out of Judaism. It may be because we haven't had the education. We feel ignorant when we walk into synagogue, angry or embarrassed that we don't know Hebrew. We feel awkward doing a mitzva for the first time; we should know this. When we sit in a class or hear a lecture, and the rabbi is quoting from the Talmud or the Torah or Maimonides and we don't know which is which, we may feel, why bother.
And when we pray, that's when we may feel the most locked out. The words seem so foreign. Even in English the phrases seem stale, artificial. We look around and see others with their eyes closed, concentrating, expressions akin to joy; we hear the joyousness, or at least the communality of the song. And it all seems to come from the other side of a wall, a place we're not allowed to go. We want to turn our back, reject that which excludes us, deny a helplessness we cannot refute.
To this feeling our Sages tell us, the gates of prayer are always open. And there are many stories that demonstrate and emphasize the power of the simple prayer said with sincerity.
The same is true of Torah study, or mitzvot. Rabbi Akiva, the greatest scholar of his time, did not start until he was forty. And he learned and observed, one letter, one mitzva, one step at a time.
G-d doesn't lock us out. We lock ourselves out. But He'll hand us the key, if we let Him. All we have to do is ask.
When Moshiach comes, "no Jew will be left behind." Regardless of where we are, spiritually, Redemption opens its door. For G-d never locks us out.
The beginning of this week's Torah reading, Noach, relates how G-d tells Noah that because he was righteous, he and his family would be saved. Although all mankind would be punished for their wickedness and annihilated in a terrible flood, Noah and his descendants would not perish.
For that purpose, Noah built an ark according to G-d's specifications and when the rains came, he and his family entered. Together with Noah and his family were gathered into the ark one pair each of all the existing non-kosher animals and seven pairs of each of the kosher animals.
What did Noah do for the entire year he was in the ark? He brought food for the animals, cleaned their stalls, and took care of their needs. Nor were the animals particularly appreciative. Our Sages relate that once when Noah delayed bringing food to one of the lions, the beast took a swipe at him and wounded him. Is this a befitting reward for a person whom G-d told was righteous?
Herein lies a fundamental lesson. No person exists for himself. We were created for service. The Jewish ideal is not a world where "the righteous sit crowned with their knowledge." That is a description of the World to Come, the afterlife, where the souls bask in Divine light. But until a person reaches that state, he must work.
We have all been given a mission - to prepare the world to be a dwelling for G-d. And to be complete, that dwelling must encompass every element of creation. Therefore every element of our environment is important and deserving of our concern and attention.
Simply put, a person cannot seclude himself in a synagogue or a house of study and claim that he is creating G-d's dwelling. For if all G-d wants is prayer and study, He would not have created a physical world. He would have made us spiritual beings with heightened intellectual potentials.
He did not do this. Instead, He made us mortals and placed us in a material environment. As such, our lives should be dedicated to the above mission, caring for every entity created within the world and revealing the G-dly spark it contains and the intent for which it was created. Man's task in life is to take that abstract ideal and make it actual.
The root of the Hebrew name "Noach" relates to the concepts of rest and satisfaction. Indeed, our Torah portion foreshadows the ultimate state of repose and satisfaction that will be reached in the era when, as Maimonides relates, "there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance."
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Reprinted from Keeping In Touch, by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos in English
Eyes to See
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Daniel was just a baby when his parents moved from Russia to Israel. His father was a doctor and quickly found work in Israel and things looked good, until the "allergy."
Daniel was only four and a half years old when his eyes started itching. At first it was just annoying but it developed into more. The itching didn't let up and it was getting more painful.
The doctors ordered all sorts of tests. They thought that perhaps it was a nervous condition, perhaps something hereditary, perhaps an infection, perhaps an allergy.
And meanwhile, the pain was becoming unbearable. Eventually the doctors concluded that it was a rare eye disease caused by a virus which made the eyes react violently to light.
Poor little Daniel had to take pills, get shots and wear special sunglasses to insure that no sunlight would reach his eyes. Although there was some relief, the problem was not solved.
Even in the dark, Daniel's eyes itched constantly. And if there was ever a bright light - a camera flash, the passing glare of a car window on the classroom wall, clouds parting on a rainy summer day - Daniel would begin screaming in excruciating pain.
His parents refused to be defeated. They vowed to spare no money, time or trouble to search for the cure. They took Daniel from one specialist to another. Each time the doctors came up with new theories and tried new approaches, but inevitably these also failed.
In addition to conventional medicine Danny's parents did not rule out "alternative methods." He was taken to the greatest experts in acupuncture, massages, herbs, oils, diets, meditations, amulets, unique gems, ancient Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Russian healing, etc. but nothing worked.
Then there were blessings from great rabbis. When Daniel's parents heard that there were holy rabbis whose blessings bore fruit, their hopes again rose.
They went from rabbi to rabbi, city to city. They visited all of the greatest rabbis in Israel who had made the lame walk and the barren give birth. But for some reason, Daniel was different. He remained in pain.
It took Daniel an average of one and a half hours every morning to open his eyes; the lids were simply stuck closed. In school he had to sit behind a special partition in the classroom where no bright light could enter and it goes without saying that he could not play like the other children.
Finally, after they had tried everything available and Danny was eleven years old the foremost eye expert in Israel sadly contacted Danny's parents and advised them to teach him Braille. If possible he should be prepared psychologically for in another year, he told them, Danny would be blind
It was just before this time that Daniel's parents had decided to move to America. They had found good jobs in New York, friends had found a place for them to live and also a renown specialist for Daniel. Before they knew it they were on the plane to a new chapter in life. Perhaps the change in place would change their "mazal" (luck) as well.
The first Shabbat in America they spent at the home of a friend in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, world headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim. On Shabbat, Daniel's parents attended a "farbrengen" (Chasidic gathering) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Daniel also attended the farbrengen and recalls that it was interesting to look at the Rebbe's face.
The next day was Sunday. It was already a number of years that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was distributing dollar bills to be given to charity to thousands of Jews and non-Jews each week who came from all corners of the world.
That Sunday, Daniel and his parents also stood in the long line and awaited their turn for a precious moment with the Rebbe.
When their turn came, young Daniel was anything but shy. He looked up through his thick, dark glasses at the Rebbe and said in Russian: "I want to be healthy and I want to be a Talmudic scholar. And I wish the Rebbe success and health."
The Rebbe smiled, gave Daniel a dollar and said "Amen." As Daniel was about to leave, the Rebbe added "B'karov Mamash - very, very soon."
One week later on Sunday morning, Daniel woke up and opened his eyes! It was the first time in six years that they weren't stuck closed.
Daniel noticed that there was no itching. He put on his glasses, went to the window, opened the shades, and looked outside. It was a beautiful summer day. He opened his eyes as wide as possible, slowly removed the glasses and began to cry from joy.
The pain was gone.
The next day the specialist, after performing a thorough examination, concluded that Daniel probably needing reading glasses, but that was it. From what he could see, there had never been any other problem. Had it not been for all of the medical records that Daniel's father had meticulously saved over the years, no one would have believed differently.
Daniel went on to receive his rabbinic ordination from the Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva in Morristown, New Jersey. A number of years ago he married and just a little while ago he became an emissary of the Rebbe in a very active and growing Chabad House in Russia, where I met Daniel and heard this story directly from him.
Fort Collins, Colorado, has a new Chabad-Lubavitch Center under the directorship of Rabbi Yerachmiel and Devorah Leah Gorelik. The Chabad House will serve the Jewish communities of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University.
Rabbi Shmuly and Dini Gutnick are joining the team of shluchim (emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe) in Boca Raton, Florida, where they will serve as youth directors for the multifaceted Jewish programming taking place at Chabad of Boca Raton.
A new Chabad-Lubavitch Center is opening in Northern California under the directorship of Rabbi Yossi and Malki Korik. The Chabad House will be located in Roseville, California, just north of the state's capital of Sacramento.
From a talk of the Rebbe, 4 Marcheshvan, 5752-1991
The Shabbat when we read the portion of Noach is of general importance, for it is the first Shabbat after the week following Shabbat Bereishit, which concludes the month of Tishrei. It is in this week that the Jews begin their service within the context of mundane activities. In this context, the name of this week's portion, Noach is also significant. Noach in Hebrew is identified with rest and satisfaction, for this service should arouse such feelings.
In this context, we can appreciate the contrast between Shabbat Bereishit and Shabbat Noach. The Zohar states that all the days of the following week are blessed from Shabbat. Thus Shabbat Bereishit represents the blessing for the first week of ordinary mundane activity in the new year. Shabbat Noach represents the conclusion of this week, the day which infuses rest and perfection into this service. Thus Shabbat Bereishit can be considered as the source of potential, while it is on Shabbat Noach that we see how this potential is brought into actual expression.
There is another common, yet contrasting dimension to the Sabbaths of Bereishit and Noach. Both portions are related to the existence of the world as a whole. The portion of Bereishit describes the creation of the world and Noach contains G-d's promise that the world will continue to exist forever.
There is, however, a distinct contrast between the two portions. Bereishit describes the world as it exists as a complete and perfect entity, the world as G-d conceived of it and created it. The portion of Noach, in contrast, describes the world after the descent into sin and the state of perfection that can be reached through the service of man who turns to G-d in teshuva (repentance). Through this service, man generates satisfaction and pleasure for G-d as it were, fulfilling His desire to have a dwelling in the lower worlds.
To use different terminology, the portion of Bereishit reflects G-d's conception of the world - the potential. The portion of Noach, in contrast, reflects man's service within the world as it actually exists. This can involve, as indeed is reflected in the beginning of the portion of Noach, a tremendous descent. Nevertheless, the ultimate result of this service is that the world is brought to a higher level of refinement and purity. This is reflected in the Midrash's statement, "Noach saw a new world."
The service of man relates to a higher level of G-dliness as is reflected in the contrast between the two portions. In the beginning of Bereishit, when the Torah refers to G-d, it uses the name Elokim. Elokim is numerically equal to "hateva - the nature" and is described as "the Master of potential and power," i.e., the dimension of G-dliness which brings our limited world into being.
In contrast, in regard to Noach, the Torah states "And Noach found favor in the eyes of Havaya," i.e., he revealed a level of G-dliness above the natural order within the world. Furthermore, this leads to the potential that Havaya will be fused with Elokim, that within the natural limits of the world, the name Havaya which reveals G-dliness above those limits will be revealed.
This fusion of Elokim and Havaya is reflected in the covenant G-d established with Noach regarding the existence of the world, that the natural order would continue without interruption. For the maintenance of the natural order is a reflection of G-d's infinite power, i.e., the lack of change in the natural order is a reflection of how "I G-d have not changed."
And from the portion of Noach, we proceed to the portion of Lech Lecha, which begins with the command "Go out" - i.e., that a person must leave his previous spiritual level - and proceed to "the land which I will show you." Moreover, the expression "I will show you," arecka in Hebrew, can also be rendered "I will reveal you," i.e., the Jew's essential self will be revealed. For it is through the service in refining this earthly plane, that a Jew reveals his true potential. Regardless of a Jew's position in the world, he is connected with G-dliness and thus he can elevate the world, revealing G-dliness within it. And in this manner, he relates to a higher level of G-dliness and is able to draw down even this level within the world.
Translated/adapted by Sichos In English
5 Cheshvan, 5766 - November 7, 2005
Positive Mitzva 59: Blowing the trumpets in the Sanctuary
This mitzva is based on the verse (Num. 10:10) "Also on the day of your gladness... you shall blow with your trumpets"
In the Holy Temple while certain sacrifices are offered, we are commanded to sound trumpets. The sound arouses a stir in the hearts of all the people who were present in the Holy Temple. Each one will concentrate and resolve to strengthen his bond of closeness with G-d. Similarly, we are commanded to blow the shofar in times of need and despair, calling for G-d's attention and requesting His help.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week's Torah portion is Noach. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to consider the implications of the Rebbe's campaign to diseminate, among non-Jews, the knowledge and observance of the Seven Noachide Laws.
The nations of the world were given a Divine code of conduct, the Seven Noachide Laws, which consist of six prohibitions against murder, robbery, idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, cruelty to animals - and one positive command, to establish a judicial system.
The Rebbe has encouraged his emissaries around the world to meet with government officials and heads of state to sign proclamations encouraging the study and observance of the Seven Noachide laws.
The Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides) states that an important part of the Jew's task is to see to it that all people, not just Jews, acknowledge G-d as Creator and Ruler of the world and to therefore conduct themselves according to the Seven Noachide Laws. Each and every Jew has an important role to play in this task. But how can this be accomplished?
When a Jew conducts himself properly in all areas of his life - business, recreation, family, and religious - he will automatically influence the people around him. When the nations of the world see Jews acknowledging G-d as Ruler of the world, through prayer and by following His commandments, they, too, will come to realize the importance and truth of G-d's omnipotence.
And G-d said to Noach, "Come with all your household into the teiva (ark)" (Gen. 7:1)
Teiva also means "a word." The Baal Shem Tov interprets this phrase as an exhortation to "enter" the words of Torah and prayer. When one brings his children into the protective "ark" of the words of Torah, and sets limitations for their behavior according to the standards of Torah conduct, then those youngsters are saved from the stormy flood waters of the negative influences of the environment.
I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh (Gen. 6:17)
Why did G-d choose a flood with which to punish mankind? Could he not have chosen another method to destroy the wicked? Another purpose of the flood, however, was to purify the world which had become unclean and defiled by its inhabitants. This is alluded to in the duration of the flood, forty days, and the requirement that a purifying mikva contain at least forty sa'a (a measure) of water.
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman)
And Noach went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives into the ark (Gen. 7:7)
A person should not content himself with his own entrance into the "ark" - the holy letters of prayer and of the Torah, but should always seek to bring others with him as well, not only members of his family but every fellow Jew. Just as G-d helped Noach by closing the door of the ark after all were safely inside, so, too, is every Jew assisted by G-d when he comes to the aid of his fellow man.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
In a small town not far from Lublin, Poland, there lived a simple but wealthy Jew. He had a good heart and was always ready to give charity and to perform mitzvot as best as he knew how.
Once a year Yudel would travel to the Tzadik of Lublin. This one trip managed to inspire him and carry him through the year. He never made the trip empty handed; he always brought a large donation for the Tzadik to distribute to needy Jews.
One year, however, he began to suffer losses in his business. One loss followed another and soon he was a poor man.
Ashamed to ask anyone for financial help, he took any work he could find. But despite his best efforts, he barely managed to earn enough money to feed his family.
The poor man was ashamed to make his annual trip to the Tzadik of Lublin empty-handed. He stopped making his annual visit and without the inspiration he became more and more dejected.
One day, as he was standing in the market place hoping to get some work, the local priest passed by. "I'm sorry to see you in this difficult situation," the priest said to him. "Not so long ago you were a wealthy man, and now this...I would like to help you. Come to my house, and I promise work for you."
The first thought that occurred to Yudel was that he would have nothing to do with this priest. But as he stood there hour after hour and still found no work, he decided to accept the priest's invitation.
The priest greeted him warmly. "What a pity you are a Jew," the priest said. "What good is your Jewish faith if your Jewish G-d has abandoned you? Come over to my religion, and I promise you a good and easy life."
Yudel agreed to think about it for a few days. He decided that it would not be so terrible to just pretend to become a Christian, but remain a Jew; G-d would surely understand.
When Yudel told his wife about what he had in mind, she was horrified. She advised him to go to the Tzadik of Lublin for advice.
The Tzadik assured him that converting would only make matters worse. But when Yudel insisted that G-d had indeed abandoned him, the Tzadik suggested that he call G-d to hearing.
"I will arrange for a Beit-Din (Rabbinic Court) to hear your complaint and I guarantee you a fair trial."
Yudel agreed and the Tzadik appointed three elderly Jews to be the Beit-Din.
After the Judges heard all the claims, they asked if Yudel was prepared to forgive G-d if G-d forgave him. Yudel insisted that he would gladly forgive G-d if He returned his lost fortune to him.
The Judges than gave the verdict that the Alm-ghty shall restore Yudel's lost fortune on condition that Yudel repent for his past wrongdoings and that he should spend some time every day and evening studying Torah.
The verdict was written down, signed, and sealed, and a period of thirty days was allowed to the parties to carry out the judgment.
He set off to the market place looking for work. Finding none there, Yudel went to the train station to work as a porter. When the thirtieth day arrived, Yudel was at his usual post at the train station. He saw a rich nobleman pushing a huge suitcase out of a train. "Help me with my suitcase," the rich man called out to Yudel. Yudel helped the man who hurriedly told him that he had an appointment somewhere. "You wait here and keep an eye on my suitcase," the nobleman said and disappeared.
Hours passed. Yudel decided to take the suitcase back to his house and inquire after the owner later.
Yudel somehow managed to heave the heavy suitcase onto his shoulder and proceed homeward. Just inside his courtyard, the suitcase slid off his shoulder, burst wide open and spilled gold coins all over the ground.
He hurried back to the station only to find that the mysterious passenger had not returned. Neither had anyone seen or heard of him. It dawned on him that maybe G-d had sent him this treasure in fulfillment of His part of the verdict! Yudel ran off to the Tzadik in Lublin.
"Is there enough gold in the treasure to make you as rich as you were?" the Tzadik asked.
"At least as rich, if not richer." Yudel assured the Tzadik.
"Then keep it. Enjoy it in good health, and be sure to keep your part of the verdict of the Beth-Din," the Tzadik told him.
Yudel became a rich man as before and had no more complaints against G-d. He hoped, too, that G-d had no complaints against him.
There is no explanation why Moshiach's coming is being delayed. Therefore, even if there is a personal dimension of one's Divine service that is lacking and that is delaying the Redemption, this does not diminish the fact that as a whole, our service is complete and we are ready for the Redemption. Although these particular elements of service must also be completed, this does not detract from the service of the Jewish people as a whole. On the contrary, the fact that as a whole, we are prepared for the Redemption makes it easier for us to complete our individual service and to do so with happiness.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 4 Marcheshvan, 5752-1991)