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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi David Kaufmann
The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything we encounter is a lesson in our Divine Service. Sometimes that lesson is obvious. And sometimes we can draw more than one lesson from the same event. For instance:
This past winter, I was on my way from New Orleans, Louisiana, to visit my parents in New Jersey, who had relocated there after Hurricane Katrina. My father is a WWII vet, and is in a VA hospital with Alzheimer's. Getting off the plane at Newark airport, with three pieces of luggage (one of which contained precious family pictures), I followed directions to the airport train shuttle which took me to the train station. Getting to the little town in northern Jersey was a simple matter of taking an eastbound train, then transferring to a northbound one.
Except the eastbound was an express, not a local, and didn't stop at the transfer point. One of the New Jersey train conductors saw my dilemma and distress. He tried to explain the rather complicated train schedule. The express went into Manhattan - Penn Station; just transfer back to the local. Realizing that I might get lost in Penn Station, the conductor guided me to the transfer terminal, found out which track and train number was the correct westbound local, and took me there. We never exchanged names, or more than a "thank you" from my side and "your parents should be well" from the conductor.
I took two lessons from this story. First, and most literally, we see in action the Rebbe's observation that Moshiach is ready to come, all it takes is a little more goodness and kindness, small yet transformative acts, on our part. The conductor went out of his way to help a stranger. And in so doing, the conductor gained too - in a sense, did he not help my elderly parents, who suffered from the aftermath of Katrina? No doubt the conductor encounters thousands in his daily job, some polite, some rude - but surely his simple, kind act, and my genuine gratitude, will remain with him. And just as surely, I will also associate the joy of my visit to my parents with the small kindness of a conductor, the goodness of a fellow human being.
But there is another, more metaphoric lesson, as well. The story explains, in a way, what a Rebbe does. He's a conductor - in every sense of the word. So our religious Jew is a traveler - a metaphor for our Divine soul, journeying through this world to reunite with our Father Above. The soul knows the way - what route to take, the route of Torah and mitzvos. But sometimes it "misses the train;" sometimes it gets on the "fast train" - the express to the delights and confusions of the physical world - and doesn't know when to get off or how to get back. But the conductor - the Rebbe in our analogy - knows the schedule and connections and transfer points and can direct each soul onto its proper pathway, so that it can bring the "precious family pictures" home, as it reunites with our Father Above.
One of the laws pertaining to the Biblical affliction of leprosy discussed in this week's Torah portion, Metzora, seems somewhat surprising.
If a person discovered an eruption, a bright spot, or a white hair indicative of the disease on part of his body, he was pronounced "impure" by the priest. If, however, the leprosy covered his entire body, he was pronounced pure. "[If] it is all turned white, he is pure," the Torah repeats.
How can it be that when the leprosy is confined to one area, the person is impure, yet once it has spread all over his body, he is pure? There are two possible explanations:
- The sole reason he is considered pure is because it is G-d's will. According to logic, the person whose leprosy covers all of his flesh should be impure; G-d, however, has decreed that he is pure.
- The law itself is logical. When the leprosy appears on only a part of a person's skin, it is obvious that he is suffering from some sort of malady. If it covers all of his skin, it is indicative of the individual's constitution and nature, not symptomatic of a disease.
The Talmud cites this law in connection to the concept of redemption, using the affliction of leprosy as a metaphor for sin. "The son of David [Moshiach] will not come until all authority has become heretical," i.e., when G-dlessness is officially sanctioned and widespread throughout the world.
Here we may ask the same question raised regarding leprosy: If the world will be entirely dark, how will it be possible for the light of Redemption to shine through? Why will the Redemption occur precisely when evil is so powerful that it has overcome the entire world?
Again, the above two explanations may be applied to solve our dilemma:
- There is no logic involved. Moshiach will come when he does only because G-d will have decreed it thus; the Redemption will occur independent of the world's condition. An all-powerful and eternal G-d can certainly bring Moshiach no matter how degraded and evil the world becomes.
- The fact that evil is ascendent throughout the entire world is proof that something unusual is taking place; were this not so, some pockets of good would certainly have remained. Rather, the absolute supremacy of evil indicates that all the negative forces have become externalized, as they have already been fully vanquished from within.
Thus, the phenomenon of "all authority has become heretical" is actually part of the world's purification, a process of separating good from evil that will ultimately culminate with Moshiach's revelation. At that time, the world will be sufficiently prepared for the light of Redemption.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe Vol. 32
by Yehudis Cohen
"I am not a Lubavitcher chasid," says Mr. David Sostchin. "I am what people would call 'close to Lubavitch.'"
A lawyer in Miami Beach, Florida, Mr. Sostchin was born in Cuba into a traditional Jewish home. Mr. Sostchin says that "later in life," he and his wife started keeping more mitzvot (commandments).
Mr. Sostchin feels a special closeness to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. "I try to go to visit the Rebbe's ohel (resting place) four or five times each year." He is looking forward to his next visit to New York, when he will be able to properly thank the Rebbe for his "help" this past year.
"Late last July," begins Mr. Sostchin, "I was in Tampa and while there, I fell down. I got a nasty cut on my head at the eyebrow. I went to the hospital where they stitched up the cut and did a CAT scan. The scan did not detect any problems.
"A few weeks later, I went with Rabbi Yossi Smierc to New York to visit the Rebbe's ohel. I asked the Rebbe for blessings in the three areas I always ask for: shalom bayit (peaceful family life), health for me and for my family, and enough parnasa (livelihood) so that I can give even more tzedaka (charity). I always ask for these three general blessings.
"The day that I got back from New York, I was helping my wife in the kitchen when I started feeling tired. 'I'm going to lie down,' I told my wife, Rose. On the way to the bedroom, I fell down and hurt my shoulder. I went to the hospital where I was told that my shoulder was broken.
"The following week, as I was walking through the lobby of our apartment building, I fell down again. 'This is enough,' Rose told me. 'You keep on falling down. You must go to the doctor and have things checked out.'
"I went to a neurologist who sent me to the hospital to have a CAT scan. The CAT scan showed that I had slight bleeding on the brain. It was already late on Friday afternoon and the hospital wanted to keep me for observation after the CAT scan but I wanted to get home to celebrate Shabbat together with my wife. The doctor agreed that I could go home but insisted that I return to the hospital for more tests early Monday morning.
"Shabbat passed uneventfully as did Sunday. On Monday I went to my office early to take care of a few things before going to the hospital that morning. Before I knew it, it was late Monday afternoon. I went to the hospital where they did another CAT scan. The doctor told me that the new CAT scan showed that the bleeding had increased. She told me she was scheduling me for brain surgery the following day! I informed her that I have a pace-maker and so they immediately scheduled tests to check out my heart.
"The new set of tests revealed that I had a blood clot at the point where the pace-maker is connected to the heart. Now I was told that I would need to have heart surgery on Tuesday to remove the clot and the brain surgery would have to be rescheduled for Wednesday. On Tuesday, when they went in to remove the blood clot, they found a second clot that they also removed. The heart surgery was successful and they put in a temporary pace-maker that would be replaced the following Monday with a permanent pace-maker. The brain surgery on Wednesday also went well, thank G-d.
"Wednesday night, my wife went home after a long day at the hospital. While she was lying in bed, going over the events of the past few weeks, she began to have a 'conversation' with the Rebbe. 'My husband went to the ohel to pray for health, among other things. He came home and the first thing that happens is he breaks his shoulder. A week later he falls again. And then, before you know it, he is in the hospital for heart surgery and brain surgery! All of this, after he goes all the way to New York to pray to G-d at your resting place for health!' My wife continued along these lines for a while in her conversation and then fell asleep.
"Later that night she had a dream. In her dream the Rebbe came to her and told her, 'Don't you understand that I had to make him fall down, otherwise they would never have caught the clot in his heart and he could have been gone in a month?'
"Thursday morning, my cardiologist Dr. Vivas, came into my hospital room to check on me. 'I don't know what you believe in and what you don't believe in,' said Dr. Vivas to me, 'but I want to tell you that if you hadn't come into the hospital to have a CAT scan because you were falling, we would never have known about your blood clots. And had we not caught your blood clots, you very possibly would have been gone in a month.'
"When my wife came to the hospital later that morning, she told me about her conversation with the Rebbe and about her subsequent dream. I then told her about Dr. Vivas' statement to me. We both realized that my prayers had been answered and the Rebbe's blessing for health had come true.
"By the way," concludes Mr. Sostchin, "the neurologist told me that the bleeding in my brain was not what had been causing me to fall. They weren't sure what the cause was, but I haven't fallen since then."
Rabbi Shimy and Devorah Leah Heidingsfeld have established a new Chabad House in Moorpark, California where they will be focusing on serving the needs of the Jewish students and faculty at Moorpark College. Rabbi Yitzchok and Rivka Gurary have opened a new Chabad House in Montgomery County, Maryland, to serve the Jewish community of the East Rockville/Aspen Hill area. Rabbi Chaim Hillel and Devorah Leah Asimov have moved to Cyprus, where they are working primarily with Israelis in the Turkish half of the island.
Need a Seder?
Looking for a community Seder to attending this coming Passover holiday? Visit passover.org and click on "find a center" to locate the nearest Chabad-Lubavitch Seder near you.
Freely translated and adapted
11th day of Nissan, 5744
To the Sons and Daughters of
Our People Israel, Everywhere,
G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
...One of the details which differentiate the Festival of Passover from our other festivals is the fact that, in addition to having its exact date specified in the Torah as to the day and month of the year when "Holiday of Matzos" is to be observed (as with other festivals), the Torah emphasizes the exact point of the day, the very moment, when the deliverance from Egyptian bondage came, namely, "bachatzi halaila - in the very middle of the night"; and similarly pinpoints the exact moment of the Exodus from Egypt, namely, "b'etzem HaYom hazeh, bachatzi hayom - in the very middle of the day."
It was exactly at midnight that the moment of the liberation struck: Pharoah freed the Jews immediately, bringing the exile to an end; moreover, he ordered them and urged them to leave Egypt, while the Egyptians did all they could to speed and aid this departure.
A turning point in this direction occurred (five days earlier, on Shabbos) at the beginning of the preparations for the Passover sacrifice, when every Jew told his Egyptian neighbors, with absolute certainty, that the day of the Deliverance was approaching. It evoked a response akin to a spirit of liberation, whereupon the Egyptian firstborn (their eldest and strongest, symbolizing midnight, the darkest part of the night) took up arms against their king, demanding that he let the Jewish people go. This resulted in a "slaughter of Egyptians by their own firstborn," and served as a prelude to the Exodus from Egypt, as emphasized also by the designation and observance of the Shabbos before Passover as "Shabbos HaGadol - the Great Sabbath."
And it was exactly at midday that the Jewish people went out of Egypt "with uplifted arm," free men and women and proud to be Jews.
"Night" and "Day" are opposite phenomena, symbolizing opposing concepts of "darkness" and "light" in the spiritual sense;
Especially "midnight" and "midday," connoting, respectively, the bleakest darkness of the night and the brightest light of the day.
All this is also connected with the symbolic concepts of the "moon" and of the "sun."
The sun symbolizes constancy and sameness, while the moon represents change and renewal. Both these contrary elements combined together are indispensable to achieve completeness in serving G-d. Yet, there is a further fundamental distinction between the sun and the moon, as stated in the Torah: the sun being the "Great Luminary" to rule by day, while the moon is the "Small Luminary" to rule by night. This indicates two different and contrary ways in their "illuminating the earth": The lunar light, however brightly the moon shines, even at its maximum fullness, does not transform night into day; the night remains night, which is synonymous with "darkness", and "darkness He called 'night'." On the other hand, however weak is the light of the sun on the earth, such as at the beginning of the day or at day's end, when the sun's rays are at their weakest, it still makes "day," which is synonymous with light, and "HaShem called light - 'day'."
This difference - metaphorically speaking - is reflected also in our Divine service. As explained in our Torah, Toras-Chaim ("instruction for living"), our service of G-d encompasses the totality of a Jew's everyday life in all, literally all, detailed aspects, as defined by the principle "Know G-d in all your ways," meaning, to acknowledge and serve G-d in every way and in all activities. These comprise two categories: Mitzvah - the domain of religious duties, and R'Shus (literally "permissible") - the so-called "secular" domain.
The "Mitzvah" domain embraces all those ways and actions which a Jew is obligated to carry out, because G-d has commanded to do them. These are all matters of Torah and Mitzvos. When a Jew learns Torah and does Mitzvos, he irradiates himself as well as his surroundings, and the world at large, with the Divine light of Ner Mitzvah vTorah Or ("a Mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light"). Whether he does it with a full measure of inspiration or, sometimes, with less enthusiasm, it is always "a Mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light" - the "Great Luminary" in Divine service.
The second category, that of R'shus, is the domain of ordinary matters, such as eating, drinking and the like, which in themselves and for themselves are no Mitzvah (except on Shabbos and holidays, or in case of danger to life, etc.).
And, although the so-called secular aspects of the everyday life should, and must, be ruled by the Torah, Torah Or, they bear no comparison with Torah and Mitzvos.
They receive their minor light of a "Small Luminary" from the Torah, the "Great Luminary," in the way the moon is illuminated, and illuminates, by reflecting the light of the sun.
(continued in next week's L'Chaim)
What are some Jewish customs to celebrate on a birthday?
It is appropriate to celebrate with family and friends, to recite the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" over a new fruit (thereby showing one's "joy" in performing a mitzva - commandment). Also, to undertake a good resolution in the area of Jewish observance, give charity and increase one's Jewish knowledge. For more customs visit www.SichosInEnglish.org/books/birthday-celebrations/12.htm
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
It is a custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Many also have the custom to recite daily the Rebbe's chapter. The 11th of Nissan, Wednesday, April 16, marks the Rebbe's 106th birthday, and so we begin reciting chapter 107 of Psalms.
Chapter 107 describes four perilous situation from which G-d redeems us and for which we must specifically thank Him. These situations are: crossing the desert or ocean; being released from imprisonment; recovering from a life-threatening illness; surviving a serious accident.
In verses 23 we read, "Those who go down to the sea in ships, who perform tasks in mighty waters -"
Chasidic teachings explain that this verse refers to the soul's descent into this physical world, a place of many waters, i.e, the difficulties of earning a livelihood and involvement in worldly matters. There are three types of people who descend into this world: 1) Those who descend with ships, i.e., they were raised in a protected spiritual environment and they can easily navigate the mighty waters. 2) Those who descend with difficulties (the Hebrew word for ships, "aniyot," can also be translated as "difficulties.") These people experience difficulties in their Divine service. 3) Those who descend to "perform tasks" in the "mighty waters." These people recognize that our purpose in life is to help others.
The Rebbe explains that this verse alludes to three different kinds of people to teach us that one who finds Jewish observance "easy sailing," should make himself available to help one who has difficulties. In addition, if one is the "type" who is always busy helping others, he shouldn't forget that he has to find time out for his own personal Divine service.
Every time in the Psalm that the redemption from one of the four perilous situations is described, the Psalmist declares: "Let them give thanks to the L-rd for His kindness, and proclaim His wonders to the children of man." May we immediately experience the ultimate Redemption at which time there will never again be any kind of perilous situations, with the revelation of Moshiach NOW!
Then shall the priest command to take for the one who is to be cleansed two healthy, clean birds (Lev. 14:4)
Why were two birds used in the purification of a leper? One of the causes of the affliction of leprosy was gossip, a sin that causes a good relationship between two people to turn sour. The Hebrew word for bird, "tzipor," has the numerical equivalent of 376, the same as the word for peace, "shalom." The Torah alludes to the fact that in order for the leper to be forgiven, he must first make peace between the two individuals he has caused to quarrel. Accordingly, two birds are used in the purification procedure, symbolic of the two people involved.
And the priest shall take one of the sheep and offer it as a guilt offering (Lev. 14:12)
A guilt offering was generally brought for transgressions of sacrilege. The leper, who had committed the sin of slander and haughtiness, was guilty of such sacrilege against G-d. "He who commits a sin in private drives away the Divine Presence." A person who whispers his gossip, glancing right and left to see if anyone else can hear, has forgotten that there is an ear above that hears every word that is uttered. Likewise, a haughty person also causes the Divine Presence to depart, as it states, "Both he and I cannot dwell in the same place."
When they defile My sanctuary within their midst (Lev. 15:31)
When a person defiles himself, he defiles the Divine sanctuary - the Jewish soul - with which he is endowed. For every Jew is created in the image of G-d, and the Divine Presence dwells within him. Going against the will of G-d by sinning causes the sanctuary to become dirtied.
by Rabbi Leibl Groner
Rabbi Leibl Groner is a member of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's secretariat
A year ago, a relative of mine was at an expo and a businessman walked over to him. "You look like a Lubavitcher chasid," the businessman said.
"I am," the relative responded.
My relative took a picture of the Rebbe out of his wallet and showed it to the businessman. The man took out his wallet and produced a picture of the Rebbe, as well. "Let me tell you a story," the man began. "Two years ago, my wife became ill. The doctors thought that she had MS. We didn't know what to do. We decided to turn to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissary in our city and ask his advice. The emissary said, 'Fly to New York. Go to the Rebbe's ohel (resting place) and ask the Rebbe for a blessing that your wife should be well.'
"I agreed immediately to the emissary's suggestion. He continued, and told me, 'The Rebbe's blessing needs a vessel to contain it. Take upon yourself a mitzva (commandment) that will draw down the blessing.' I agreed to this suggestion as well. Before I left, I asked the rabbi, 'Tell me, why is your Chabad House in such small quarters? Surely you could use a much bigger space.'
"The rabbi told me, 'It is true that we are cramped here. There is a property that we have our eyes on not too far from here, but it will cost us over two million dollars and we don't have that kind of money now.'
"I looked at the rabbi and told him, 'I don't have that kind of money, but I will give you $10,000 for you to make a down-payment on the property and I will help you form a building committee. I am sure that over the course of the next two years, we will be able to raise the $2 million that you need.
"The emissary told me, 'When you go to the ohel to ask the Rebbe to intercede on behalf of your wife, tell the Rebbe what you have just agreed to here and that this is the vessel that you are making for the blessing.'
"I went to the ohel," the businessman concluded telling my relative, "and prayed there on behalf of my wife. I did as the emissary told me. When I returned home and my wife went back to the doctor, there was not a trace of any of her previous symptoms. And she has remained symptom-free for these past two years."
Recently, a man from Milan, Italy came into my office. He wanted me to ask the Rebbe for a blessing for him as he was scheduled to have a serious operation the following week. I spoke to him about making sure that he has kosher mezuzot on his doorposts and that he puts on tefilin regularly. He listened to my suggestion and then told me he wanted to tell me about something that happened to him when he was a young boy.
"When I was five years old, a hearing problem was detected. The doctors were concerned that my hearing impairment would get worse and worse over the years. My mother turned to one of the Rebbe's emissaries in Milan and asked him what to do.
" 'Go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and during Sunday dollars (when the Rebbe would distribute dollars for people to give to charity) ask the Rebbe for a blessing for your son's hearing.'
"My mother took me to New York and we stood in line and waited our turn to pass before the Rebbe and receive his blessing. When my mother told the Rebbe about the doctors' prognosis for my hearing, the Rebbe responded, 'He hears now and he will continue to hear without any problem.' And, in fact, I never did have any kind of hearing problem after that.
Each year on Passover, the Rebbe would always leave over some of the afikoman from the seder. One day in the middle of the summer the Rebbe told me, "There on the bottom of the bookcase is the afikoman. Take a piece and wrap it up."
The Rebbe then gave me an address in Bombay, India, and said that I should send the matza by express mail to the address he had given to me.
The Rebbe said, "After you send it, call the family and tell them that since I received a letter from them that their mother is very sick and the doctors don't know how to help her, I sent her the afikoman. When it comes, they should give her a bit of it and since matza is 'food of faith' and 'food of healing,' G-d will surely send her a complete recovery."
I called the family in India and told the daughter what the Rebbe had told me to say. Two weeks later she called and said that when they received the package, they gave some of the matza to their mother and she immediately improved. I encouraged her to continue doing so and a day or two later she regained consciousness and within a short time she had recovered.
Since "He (G-d) fulfills the desire of those who fear Him," and "You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living being," G-d will surely fulfill the desire of every Jew. That desire is expressed at the conclusion of the Book of Psalms, "Let every being that has a soul praise G-d." Each Jew has a soul which is "a part of G-d from above" and thus, wherever a Jew is, he can "praise G-d." This activity of praising G-d, especially when it comes on the initiative of the person himself (and not as "bread of shame") will hasten Moshiach's coming.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 11 Nissan, 5751-1991)