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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Standing near your front door you overhear someone exclaiming in surprise, "These trees blossomed overnight. I'm sure the flowers weren't here yesterday."
You wonder to yourself, "Hmm, were the flowers there yesterday? They couldn't have appeared overnight. Maybe I just didn't notice them!"
The next time, it's you wondering how that house on the corner lot that's been empty for years suddenly appeared. It seems to have materialized from nowhere. Why, you pass this way everyday and never noticed it before.
As you go down the aisles of the supermarket with your shopping list in hand, you stop in front of the coffee. "When did coffee get so expensive?" you gasp. "Maybe it's global warming," you mutter. Or maybe you just buy coffee so infrequently that you never noticed the prices getting higher.
Night descends slowly, though suddenly you notice that it is no longer light outside. Light creeps through your window, day dawns. But didn't darkness enveloped the world just moments before?
This phenomenon is common to many of life's experiences; though taking place over hours, weeks, months or even over the course of years, they seem to suddenly be manifest in their completeness before our very eyes.
The visual and verbal image many have for the Messianic Era is the "dawning" of a new age, a better world, a perfect world. Not surprisingly, sunrises seem an appropriate illustration of this concept.
Many Jewish sources discuss how the Messianic Era will materialize: Moshiach will come riding on a donkey or on clouds of glory; G-d promises that the Redemption of the Jewish people and the entire world will come "in its time" but that He will "hasten it."; The Talmud tells us that if we see certain behavior and attitudes pervading society (all of which are prevalent today) we should "listen for the footsteps of Moshiach." The Lubavitcher Rebbe declared that the time of the Redemption has arrived, if we open our eyes we can see that the table is literally set for the Messianic banquet, all we need to do is greet Moshiach. Yet, we have yet to step over the threshold and into the actual Redemption.
There seem to be contradictions between the sources, even within a particular source, because the movement toward the Redemption is not necessarily perceived. But it's happening.
Since the creation of the world nearly 6,000 years ago, when the spirit of G-d hovered over the waters (and as the commentaries explain, the "spirit" is that of Moshiach) we have been moving toward Moshiach and the Redemption. The time for the Redemption, as the Rebbe stated, has arrived. And the Rebbe sees the dawning (not just the day but the actual process of dawning) of the Redemption with a clarity of perception and vision that most of us lack. What we can and must do it to adjust ourselves now to this new era. We can do this by incorporating into our lives at this very moment how we will naturally be living very soon: performing additional acts of goodness and kindness; studying more Torah; experiencing Jewish living more fully; trying to see G-d's hand everywhere.
The Passover offering (korban Pesach) was offered only once during the Jews' 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year after the Exodus, at the express command of G-d, as it states in this week's Torah portion, Beha'alotcha: "In the second year of their going out from the land of Egypt, in the first month...and the Children of Israel made the Passover offering in the proper season."
For the next 39 years there was no Passover offering, as G-d stipulated that it could only be offered after the Jews entered Israel. In fact, the bringing of the Passover offering resumed only after the Jews had taken possession of the land, where upon it was sacrificed every year.
Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, interprets the Jews' failure to bring the Passover offering in the desert in a negative light, despite the fact that G-d had told them to wait. "This was to the disgrace of Israel, that all 40 years they were in the desert they brought only one Passover offering."
But how can Rashi fault them for following G-d's command? What could possibly be shameful about not offering a sacrifice when they were not required to do so?
The "disgrace," however, was in the Jews' meek acceptance of the prohibition. Had they begged and pleaded with G-d, surely He would have allowed them to offer it, even in the desert.
Rashi thus finds it shameful that 39 years elapsed during which the Jews were silent. Praiseworthy behavior, by contrast, would have been to repeatedly beseech G-d until He acquiesced to their demand.
In truth, had the Jewish people requested permission to offer the Passover offering before reaching Israel, G-d would have allowed it, just as He gave the Jews who were ritually impure on Passover a second chance to bring an offering on Pesach Sheini, the "Second Passover." For G-d listens to our requests. Had the Jewish people but asked, they would have merited to bring the Passover offering even in the desert.
From this we learn just how important G-d considers a Jew's requests. Asking something of G-d is praiseworthy; not asking Him is "disgraceful."
This also teaches how important it is to repeatedly entreat G-d to bring the Final Redemption "speedily," as we say in our prayers, "Speedily cause the scion of David Your servant to flourish," and "May it be Your will...that the Holy Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days."
The initiative must come from us. We must continually beg G-d to bring Moshiach. For when Jews ask, G-d listens.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 23
Looking for Friends and Finding Family
by Evan Moskowitz
I came to the University of Hartford three years ago with two goals. One - of course - was doing well academically, while the other was finding friends. I asked myself, what would be a good way to meet people? There were many organizations to choose from on campus, so I joined a couple. I had fun in those clubs and I met a handful of friends with whom I am still friends today.
One of them urged me last year to come to Chabad Chevra for services and dinner one Friday night. I didn't think much of it, and went because I hadn't been to services in a while and thought it might be nice to go again. When I walked in, I felt welcomed immediately. Many students came over to me and introduced themselves, and I did likewise. Then Rabbi Yosef Kulek introduced himself, and I have to admit, I felt a little intimidated. Maybe it was the black hat and long beard, but the truth of the matter is that I had never met, let along talked to, a Chabad rabbi before.
It didn't take long, though, for me to feel at home.
Rabbi Kulek told me of the "Kosher Dinner Hour" that occurs every Thursday night. I decided to try it out, and boy did I enjoy it! The food, cooked by Dalia Kulek, the rabbi's wife, was outstanding, but the best part was the people. The conversations were enthralling. I felt like I belonged.
At another event, a kosher barbeque - as you can tell, I really enjoy food - I saw so many of the other students working so hard to make the event possible. I wanted to help, so I pitched in by selling shirts that encouraged people to perform Mitzvot, such as putting on tefllin.
At a Chabad Chevra board meeting a few weeks later, I was given the responsibility to handle public relations. My job is to help publicize the group and its events.
When I look back at the past year, I realize that things moved pretty quickly. Remember, I had never met a Chabad rabbi before then, and here I am a board member of the Chabad House on my campus. But I attribute my involvement to the fact that not only is Chabad Chevra so welcoming, it is literally filled with energy: There is an event almost every day.
On Mondays, we have board meetings that all are welcome to attend. The weekly "Chat and Chew," where the rabbi brings homemade sandwiches and talks about Torah, happens on Tuesdays. "Kosher Dinner Hour" occurs every Thursday, and needless to say, Shabbat services take place on Fridays and Saturdays, followed by meals at the Kuleks' house.
And still, Chabad Chevra is growing. The Purim carnival this year attracted more than 100 people. With each passing week, more and more students turn out for events, making Chabad Chevra one of the most popular organizations on campus.
Since my first visit, I have learned so much about Judaism while having fun at the same time. Thanks to the food, I've also gained a little weight. I came to college looking for friends; I ended up joining a family in Chabad Chevra.
Evan Moskowitz just completed his junior year at the University of Hartford, and will be returning as the student president of Chabad Chevra. Reprinted with permission from Chabad.edu
Chabad-Lubavitch serves several hundred college and university campuses worldwide. Students at more than 100 schools are served by on-site Chabad Student Centers.
What Else Do I Say?
It's so much fun for the boys and girls to open the flap and discover exactly what to say throughout the day! This latest release from Hachai Publishing is written by Malky Goldberg and illustrated by Patti Argoff.
Tending the Garden
What unique gifts do Jewish women bring into the world? How can she use those gifts to fulfill her special purpose? Tending the Garden, by Chana Weisberg, illuminates the special blessings, gifts, and unique feminine qualities of the Jewish woman. The author explores the lives, experiences, and roles of Jewish women in history, the matriarchs, the Jewish festivals and cycles, special women's commandments, mysticism, to understand what is the Divine mission of the Jewish woman. Published by Targum Press.
Pirkei Avot - Russian
A new edition of Pirkei Avot - Ethics of our Fathers with a modern Russian translation and brief but insight-laden commentaries has been released by F.R.E.E. in conjunction with SHAMIR. The bulk of the commentary consists of elucidations by the classic commentators, as well as insights adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
This freely translated and adapted letter was sent to the presiding members of the 28th National Conference of Agudas Yisrael in America.
Eve of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5710 
Greetings and blessings,
In response to your letter of 20 Sivan, 5710:
Any question concerning the life of the Jewish people, whether minor or major, requires serious attention on the part of any convention that is called to judge about matters concerning the Torah and Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. Nevertheless, questions arise from time to time that involve risk to - material or spiritual - life, that of individuals or that of many people. Hence they require special attention and that all one's powers be focused with extra ardor on the task of saving lives.
The issue of the education of the children now immigrating to our Holy Land and how to save them from heresy and spiritual destruction, Heaven forbid, is one of these questions.
My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, hk"m, led the Jewish people without consideration of any party affiliation and carried out his entire life-work with self-sacrifice over decades above all party factionalism. Whenever there was, Heaven forbid, a danger to the Jewish nation, he endeavored to use all the groups that could possibly help to save the situation. And during his lifetime, he had already begun gathering together different forces to save those children.
Even though the fruits of those efforts have already been seen, the situation of those children remains sufficiently perilous and the question of their education and guidance of the most pressing severity.
Therefore any gathering of Jews that concerns itself with the benefit of the Jewish people must be a platform where "a call from the high places is heard," a voice powerfully demanding the solution to this worrisome question in the most immediate future. Decisions must be made to use all the mediums available to remove all of the obstacles and stumbling blocks that might appear from all possible directions which prevent and negate these children's right to be educated according to the Torah and Yiddishkeit.
Indeed, in our country as well, the question of saving the youth requires great and wide-reaching efforts - one of its dimensions being a battle against the feelings of equanimity within the Jewish community which has already become used to the situation in which only a limited percentage of Jewish boys and girls receive a proper Jewish education. At the most, they sigh at this terrible state of affairs and leave it at that. Although the efforts of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, hk"m, in this field have also been crowned with great success, there is still a long road before we reach the desired intent. Much energy and resources are necessary to establish Jewish education in the United States on a proper foundation.
I would hope that the national convention of Agudas Yisrael will place these two questions - the question of the education of the youth immigrating to our Holy Land and the question of the education of the youth of America who are presently distant from traditional Judaism - in their proper place on its agenda, and that its voice will be heard and its influence will be felt in concrete actions, for "deed is most essential."
With respect and with blessing to all the participants; may this convention bring them success in strengthening the foundations of our faith and spreading the Torah permeated with the fear of Heaven,
From "I Will Write It In Their Hearts," translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos In English
Why does the bride encircle the groom under the wedding canopy?
There are many explanations to the above question, one of them being that the bride is symbolically "binding" her new husband to herself. This parallels a man's binding of tefilin on his arm to signify his connection with G-d. Another explanation is that by making a complete circle around the groom, the bride figuratively indicates that by marrying her, the husband's life has become complete and fulfilled.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion we read about Aaron the High Priest and G-d's command to him to light the menora in the Sanctuary. Our Sages have enjoined us to be like Aaron, who "loved peace and pursued peace, loved his fellow creatures and brought them nearer to Torah." Aaron did not wait until others took the first step, but went "outside" to draw them closer to Judaism.
Significantly, Aaron "brought them nearer to Torah," not the other way around. The Torah's principles were never altered or compromised to fit a given situation. Rather, each individual Jew was brought to the Torah, the same true and eternal Torah that has stood immutable for thousands of years.
As High Priest, Aaron's job entailed kindling the menora in the Sanctuary.
A candle is symbolic of the Jewish soul, as it states, "the candle of G-d is the soul of man." Aaron's function was to light the candle, i.e., ignite the soul of every Jew, for every Jew possesses a G-dly soul, no matter how concealed it may be. By lighting this "candle," Aaron revealed the flame that burns inside each and every one of us.
Furthermore, Aaron made sure that the candle would continue to burn without his assistance. It is not enough to uncover the G-dly soul that exists in the recesses of every Jewish heart; the soul must be so aroused that it continues to burn with love of G-d and seeks perpetually to reunite with its Source above.
"Spreading the wellsprings outward" thus requires that we go "outside," beyond our own "four cubits," to awaken the hidden spark of G-d that is the birthright of every Jew. For no matter how hidden it may seem to be, all that is necessary is that we find it and fan its flame until, like a candle after the match which lit it has been removed, it continues to burn by itself.
Hillel used to say, "...nor can an ignorant person be pious" (Ethics 2:5).
Just as a fire will not burn unless it has the proper channel - wick and oil - so, too, will love of G-d not take hold unless it is contained in the proper vessel. The mitzvot (commandments) a Jew observes and the Torah he learns define his capacity to love and fear G-d and form the vessel with which this is accomplished. An ignorant person has not spent sufficient time creating that vessel and, thus, cannot be truly pious.
(Torah Ohr; Sefer Hamaamarim)
Rebbi would say, "..Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzva as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot. (Ethics 2:1)
The Hebrew word zahir, translated as "careful" also means "shine." All the mitzvot share a fundamental quality; each of them enables one's soul to shine forth.
Reflect upon three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you... (Ethics 2:1)
The Maggid of Mezritch would say: "Know that everything above" - all that transpires in the spiritual realms - is "from you" - dependent on your conduct. Each of us has the potential to influence the most elevated spiritual realms.
(Or HaTorah al Aggados Chazal)
Rabban Gamliel, son of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, said..., "Be wary of those in power, for they befriend a person only for their own benefit... (Ethics 2:2)
While the literal meaning is surely sound advice, there is also a non- literal interpretation. The Rebbe explains that "those in power" refers to our egos, thoughts, and feelings. Although we rely on these in order to function, we must be aware of their fundamental self- interest, and that they are only concerned with their own benefit. However, the soul - the essential self - is concerned only with being closer to G-d and observing His Torah and mitzvot.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Tazria-Metzora, 5739)
Many years ago in a small village a Jewish boy was orphaned. A fellow villager took pity on him and took him into his own home. The child attended the local yeshiva but try as he might, he just couldn't grasp even the most rudimentary subjects.
Finally, the boy's guardian decided to apprentice him to a tar-maker. No sooner did his master teach him some element of the work than he could perform it faultlessly. After half a year his master said, "You don't need me any longer. You are competent enough to go into business for yourself."
The boy, now a young man, opened his own business in a neighboring village. He quickly established himself amongst the villagers, for both Jews and non-Jews alike were drawn to his cheerful manner and absolute honesty. His business thrived and he married the daughter of a local tradesman. He was soon able to support not only his family, but to give charity generously to the local yeshivas and other needy causes in the town. He even had built a special guest house to feed and maintained travellers at his expense.
His only regret in life was his ignorance of Torah. His father-in-law tried to soothe him, assuring him that the charity he provided to Torah scholars was counted to him as if he himself had studied, but to no avail.
One day in his guest house he noticed a certain visitor who was suffering from sores all over his body. "How did this happened to you?" he inquired.
"I was proficient in learning Torah," the man replied, "but the study of the commentaries was very hard for me. I decided to torment my body in order that G-d would help to open my mind to my learning. With G-d's help, I succeeded and reached my goal. With His help these sores will also heal," he replied.
The young man had never heard of such practices, but he was overjoyed to learn that he still had a chance. And so every day he would go into the woods, sit in a spot where there were biting gnats and flies, and there he would expose his skin to the creatures until it bled and itched unbearably.
One day, as he sat on a tree stump with flies buzzing all about him, a stranger approached and asked, "Why are you doing this?"
The young man explained about his great desire to learn Torah. "It is totally unnecessary for you to do this. I will make a deal with you. If you will give me all of your worldly possessions, I promise you to teach you Torah."
"Of course, I am willing, but I must discuss it with my wife, for it affects her as well. I will meet you tomorrow, and I will tell you our final decision."
The man returned home and related the incident to his wife. "This is what you have always wanted. Of course, you should do it without delay," was her reply. But the man was still wary. After all, he had always been a responsible person. He went to his father-in-law and asked his opinion.
"What! To sign away all your possessions to an utter stranger in return for some foggy promise that you will learn Torah! Your charity is equivalent to the learning of a great scholar!"
The young man left in confusion. But his wife told him: "It seems to me that you aren't sure of what you want. You always professed the strongest desire to learn Torah, but now when you have the chance, you balk!"
The following day the stranger, who was none other than the Baal Shem Tov, came to the same spot in the forest, and the two men proceeded together to the young man's home. When they entered a tantalizing aroma greeted them, and they were astounded to see the table set for a lavish banquet.
"What is this?" asked the Baal Shem Tov.
The wife explained, "This is the last time we will be able to fulfill the holy mitzva of entertaining guests, and I wanted to perform the mitzva as beautifully as possible. In addition, we have reason to celebrate, for now you will be able to achieve your life's ambition. But I had one other consideration: There are many ways in which G-d is able to take away a person's fortune. We have the privilege of giving away all in order to 'buy' Torah learning. This is also a great cause for celebration."
After they had eaten, the Baal Shem Tov asked the young man, "What have you decided?" The young man seemed unsure but a look in the direction of his wife, gave the young man the courage to make the decision. He took a quill and signed all of his worldly goods over to the Baal Shem Tov. In accordance with their agreement, the couple was permitted use of the house and its garden as well as flour to bake bread. And in return, the would-be scholar traveled with the Baal Shem Tov to a place of Torah, where his eyes were illuminated.
True to his promise, the young man eventually became a great scholar and a tzadik. Years later, the Baal Shem Tov was heard to say that which was uttered about Rabbi Akiva's wife, Rachel, "Everything he has achieved belongs to her" - to his selfless wife who sacrificed everything for Torah.
At the present, the all-embracing Unity of G-d is not overtly visible; accordingly, the created universe appears to be an independent entity that enjoys a self-sufficient existence. In the future, however, the all-embracing Unity of the Creator will be manifest for all to see: everyone will see how the universe is utterly nullified to the Divine light that flows into it and animates it.
(Torah Or, Vaeira, p. 55c)