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Chasidic thought teaches that the core of every person's soul is yechida, a spiritual spark which is one with G-d. When the level of yechida manifests itself, a person believes, not because he suddenly has a reason to believe, but because at that plane, G-dliness is the only reality; there is nothing else.
Just as every individual soul possesses a yechida, in every generation there is an individual who constitutes the yechida of the Jewish nation as a whole. G-dliness is as real to this individual as ordinary material existence is to us.
When people come into contact with such an individual, they cannot remain unmoved. On the contrary, meeting a person whose yechida is openly revealed stirs their own yechida into expression. This explains why when people met the Rebbe, they began to believe.
Moshiach is described as the yechida of history itself. In the Messianic Era, innate awareness of G-d will spread throughout the world.
This helps explain why the Rebbe pressed so powerfully for the Redemption. It was not only that he was a visionary, able to appreciate that the spiritual climate of the times is changing, and that "the time for your Redemption has come."
There was something more fundamental involved. Since the Rebbe is identified with yechida, Moshiach is his mission. From his early childhood he was a harbinger of the future, already possessing the mindset that will characterize the era of Moshiach, and he shared that mindset with others.
This sharing was more than a contact between minds; it was a soul-connection. When you came face-to-face with the Rebbe, you believed, you felt, you lived Moshiach.
The Zohar teaches: "When a righteous man departs he is to be found in all the worlds more than during his lifetime." In Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chasidism, explains that this does not refer only to the spiritual realms. Rather, the intent is that even in this material world, the righteous man's presence is more powerfully felt after his passing than during his lifetime. For during his lifetime, his physical body, however refined it might be, restricts the extent to which his disciples can be nourished by the contact of their souls with his. After his passing, those restrictions no longer exist.
After the passing of the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe told the chasidim to continue directing their requests for blessings to the Previous Rebbe. "He will find a way," the Rebbe explained, "to communicate his response."
What the Rebbe said about the Previous Rebbe holds true regarding himself. As so many real-life stories indicate, he finds a way to respond. Be it through dreams of the Rebbe, prayers at his resting place (called "the Ohel"), or by placing written requests for guidance randomly in any of the volumes of the Rebbe's thousands of letters (Igrot), anyone who so desires can establish or maintain a relationship with the Rebbe.
The Rebbe is a source of energy and vitality for all of us. And with that energy and vitality, we must do our share in furthering the mission with which he charged us: preparing ourselves and the entire world to welcome Moshiach, and creating an environment in which his purpose can be fulfilled.
by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger from Highlights, published by the Mashiach Resource Center, www.mashiach.org
"This is the law when a man dies in a tent," we read in this week's Torah portion, Chukat. "Everyone who comes into the tent...and every open [earthen] vessel on which there is not a closely fitting cover, is [spiritually] unclean." Moreover, whatever substance was within the open vessel is also rendered spiritually unclean.
However, as explained by Maimonides, if a person happened to be in the tent of the deceased "in a sealed barrel with a 'closely fitting cover,' " he remained spiritually pure and unaffected.
Every aspect of Torah provides us with a practical lesson to be applied in our daily lives. To the Jew, spiritual life and death are defined by his connection to G-d, as the Torah states, "And you who cleave unto G-d are all alive this day." Conversely, any weakening in our service of G-d or defect in that connection constitutes the Jew's spiritual death, G-d forbid.
Nonetheless, no matter how connected to G-d the individual Jew may be, he still exists within the context of the material world, defined as "a world in which the wicked are ascendant."
Therefore, no matter how "alive" the Jew is in absolute terms, the world around him is unclean; the Jew is always "in the tent of the deceased."
This is especially true during the exile, when darkness covers the face of the earth, in contradistinction to the times of the Holy Temple, when G-d's Presence in the world was openly perceived, thus enabling Jews to perform mitzvot with vitality and enthusiasm.
What can a Jew do to protect himself from negative influences during these last few minutes of exile? How can we guard ourselves against the spiritual uncleanliness that surrounds us "in the tent of the deceased"?
The answer lies in the above-mentioned ruling, on the principle that properly sealing an earthen vessel protects its contents from spiritual impurity.
In terms of our service of G-d, the Jew must strive for the humility and self-nullification symbolized by the earthen vessel, which is composed of the dust of the earth.
Our Patriarch Abraham epitomized this quality when he declared, "I am but dust and ashes"; similarly, we recite during the High Holidays, "Man, whose basic element is dust ...is likened to a shard of clay."
Every Jew is obligated, therefore, to fit himself with "a closely fitting cover" - to guard every opening and channel that connects him with the outside world in order to filter out the bad influences from the good. Doing so will protect him from spiritual uncleanliness and ensure that his connection to G-d remains healthy and intact.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 23
Miracle of Miracles
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
About 12 years ago, Zachar, a young Russian Jew from S. Petersburg participated in our summer program at Ohr Tmimim yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, Israel.
A year and a half later, Zachar sent me an email packed with good news. He had just had a brit mila and was now called Zachariah. He was engaged to be married and was inviting me to his wedding. He had just received his doctorate in both chemistry and physics.
I flew to Russia for the wedding (it was fantastic!) and it was there that I met David and Esther Segal. I was hosted by them for my week stay in Russia. David had a doctorate in physics and she was an accomplished writer. Esther had a doctorate in linguistics. When they had first met and married, David and Esther knew little of Jewish life and customs. But over the years, they had become involved with the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in S. Petersburg, and with the chief rabbi of that city, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissary, Rabbi M. M. Pewzner.
During one of our conversations, the Segals told me that they had been married for almost four years, had been through a myriad of fertility tests and treatments, and just a few weeks earlier had been told that it was medically impossible for them to have children. When it came to leave, I thanked them for their hospitality, encouraged them to continue to pray for children, and urged them to be in touch if they ever come to Israel.
Three years later David called me. He was in Israel and wanted to tell me a very special story. A few months after I visited, David and Esther travelled to Israel and were the guests of a Chabad rabbi in Kiriyat Malachi, Rabbi Avraham Freidlander. When Rabbi Freidlander heard that they were childless and how they longed to have children, he urged them to write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to pick at random one of the 26 volumes of the Rebbe's letters (Igrot Kodesh), to insert the letter anywhere in that book and to follow the Rebbe's instructions on the page where the letter lay.
The Segals listened to Rabbi Friedlander's advice. They wrote about their inability to have children and the treatments they had undergone. When they opened the book of letters, they were amazed to read a blessing for children and a request to give the newborn child a certain name!
David and Esther returned to Russia with new hope; against all odds they would have a child! After some searching they found a doctor who was willing to try a new method. They got together the money and commenced treatment.
A month later Esther went back to the doctor and, miracle of miracles, the results were positive! The doctor himself was overjoyed and gave Esther his phone to call home and relate the good news.
In the middle of her call, a smiling nurse entered the room and interrupted with new results; Esther was pregnant with twins.
David heard the news and began singing and dancing. But a few seconds later another nurse entered and announced that there were triplets. Esther had to sit down, she hadn't expected such a miracle. But her joy was premature.
A few moments later a doctor entered with a serious look on his face - a fourth fetus had been detected and that spelled danger. One or two of the fetuses would have to be eliminated.
Esther instinctively refused. She rushed out, took a taxi home and together with David, went to Rabbi Pewzner's office. It was a life and death situation and they needed a rabbinic opinion.
Rabbi Pewzner immediately got on the phone and began consulting other rabbis, as well as some professors in Israel. There were many different opinions as to what should be done.
The only solution, said David, was to again turn to the Rebbe. The Segals wrote a long letter to the Rebbe, explaining all the new developments and opinions. They inserted the letter into the book and opened to an undeniably clear answer. The Rebbe wrote about the importance of life, the preciousness of each and every human being, and the importance of never giving up on saving a person.
When the doctor in the Petersburg hospital heard their decision he immediately advised them to go to Israel where, perhaps, they could find a doctor willing to take the case.
The Segals took the doctor's advice and a month later moved to Jerusalem only to find the situation even more complicated than before. The examination in the Israeli hospital revealed that Esther was carrying quintuplets. All of the Israeli doctors were in agreement that five was too many!
The doctors described to the young couple the misery and tragedy that awaited them if they did not listen. But the Segals refused to listen.
Esther was put in intensive observation and was warned that at the slightest sign of danger they would operate.
At one point there was a crisis. Esther became ill and the doctors announced that they had to remove several fetuses immediately. The doctors threatened to call the police if they did not agree! The pressure mounted.
David again consulted the Rebbe via the Igrot Kodesh. The answer he received was in volume 11 page 162. The Rebbe inquired as to the health of his wife, told him to check his tefilin and mezuzot and assured him of a safe and successful pregnancy and birth.
David ran to the nearest reliable scribe handed in his tefilin and mezuzot and begged him to check them immediately. The ink on the parchment had somehow faded and his expensive tefilin were completely unfit. On the spot, David had new parchments installed. Esther's problem disappeared and the doctors calmed down; they realized they were up against the supernatural.
In fact, at the next crisis, the doctors actually asked David to write to the Rebbe. And the answer he received was, again, as accurate, practical and wondrous as the others. On 2 Elul 5761 (Aug. 21, 2001) three healthy boys and two healthy girls were born to David and Esther Segal.
All the doctors were totally impressed but they also agreed that it had been medically impossible for the Segals to have children in a normal way.
Two and a half years later, David called to tell me that his wife had given birth to another baby boy and that I should try come to the brit in Jerusalem, in a half an hour. "I live a good hour from Jerusalem," I told him, "and my wife has the car. I can't make it!"
"A chasid is above nature" he answered.
I couldn't argue with that! I managed to find a ride and get to the brit on time. David was happy to see me. He told me excitedly that this baby had been conceived without any treatments at all, against all the prognosis of all the doctors. Another miracle!
Rabbi Tuva Bolton is the assistant dean of Ohr Tmimim yeshiva in Israel and an accomplished musician and writer. Reprinted from ohrtmimim.org
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Freely translated and adapted
Adar 26, 5710 (1950)
Greetings and blessings,
In one of his letters, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, writes: "Chassidic philosophy brought about a situation in which one is not alone." If that applied when "the tzaddik (righteous person) was living on this earth...in a physical place," (Zohar) certainly it applies to a much greater degree at present when "he is found" - even in this world of deed - "more than in his lifetime." How much more so does this apply with regard to a tzaddik who is also a Rebbe who is "an intermediary who binds" between G-d (Havayah) and the Jewish people!
The name used for G-d, Havayah, is not related to the limitations of nature, Heaven forbid. The intermediary possesses dimensions of both the entities between which he mediates. With regard to his chassidim and those bound to him at present, as previously - for a connection with a Rebbe is one of yechida which is above the concept of time - the motif of bonding is even stronger now. For the chassidim tell their souls and their bodies that we have no other alternative at all. And then there will be no interruption in that bond, Heaven forbid. On the contrary, "the spirit will draw down the spirit." This will be manifest in spiritual matters and in material matters, in all forms of good. For just as Above, so too below, i.e., with regard to a Rebbe: the nature (i.e., a tendency above nature) of the good is to do good.
10 Nissan, 5710 (1950)
I received your letter of 9 Nissan. In brief, an answer to what you wrote there, can, in my opinion, be found in my preface to the pamphlet published after the passing of the [Previous] Rebbe and in this letter.
In reply to the question you raise: that now we cannot ask my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, when there is doubt how to conduct oneself: If you will stand firm in your connection with him, without paying attention to the lures of the yetzer hara (evil inclination), and send the question to the gravesite of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, the Rebbe will find a way to answer you.
12 Nissan, 5710 (1950)
Greetings and blessings,
...My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, dedicated his life for the benefit of the Jewish people as a whole and for every Jew as an individual in particular, and most particularly, to those who bound themselves to him. He certainly conveys his influence to them at present as well.
Nevertheless, the influence he conveys is at present - to a certain degree - different from what it was previously. For at present, his soul is free from all the limitations and constraints of the body and can ascend to one peak after another. (This is the meaning of the term histalkus.) Hence the influence that he grants - both the material and the spiritual influence - is also on a higher and more elevated plane.
As a natural consequence, this demands that a recipient adapt himself to that higher influence by elevating himself.
Throughout his life, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, taught us how to proceed forward, not only on the level of thought, but also in actual fact. Even now, his lips are moving even in this world through his numerous teachings, discourses, talks, and letters. Through fulfilling his desire and will in actual practice, we generate the mediums through which to receive the elevated influence that he wishes to convey to us. and in your holy work...
From I Will Write it in Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos in English
What are some customs connected to the coming of Moshiach?
To mention a few: There is a "cup of Elijah" at the Passover Seder. This custom is an expression of the Jewish people's belief in the coming of Elijah, who will herald the imminent Redemption. With the Melaveh Malka meal at the close of Shabbat, the Sabbath Queen is escorted on her way. This meal nourishes the "luz" bone, and from this bone the body will be resurrected when Moshiach comes. In addition, many of the laws and customs observed when preparing a person's physical remains for burial are inspired by the anticipation of Resurrection.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
A Rebbe is a comprehensive soul, a soul which is connected to and understands every other soul. In the book Hayom Yom, compiled by the Rebbe from the teachings of the previous Rebbes, it says that when the Rebbe - the comprehensive soul - prays and there is an ascent of his soul on high, at that very moment he connects with every single Jew in the generation.
In Jewish law the needs of the community, supersede the needs of the individual. Thus, an individual must be willing to sacrifice for the community. How much more so does this apply to the Rebbe, a comprehensive soul. And even though the "private life" of the Rebbe is minimal, even though his needs are minimal, the needs of the community, of the world community, supersede the Rebbe's minimal needs.
On the third of Tammuz, 1958, the Rebbe stated about the Previous Rebbe:
"In the case of a spiritual leader and shepherd of Israel, his entire raison d'etre is to promote the welfare of his contemporaries and to guide them. (His 'private' affairs are incomparably less important to him.) ...
"We don't understand why the Rebbe's physical life had to end, but it is the needs of the community that dictated it. In the case of a comprehensive soul, his private affairs are also relevant to all Israel."
What are the needs of the Rebbe? "I need my children [disciples]." These were the words with which Rabbi Yehuda the Prince left his children and disciples. These are the words which the Rebbe expounded upon after the passing of the Previous Rebbe. These are the Rebbe's needs.
Why does the Rebbe "need his children"?
"I have done all I can. Now I am giving it over to you. Do everything you can to bring Moshiach in actuality," the Rebbe stated.
The Rebbe has one need, which is the need of our entire generation and of all the generations, the commencement of the Redemption. We can accomplish this through fulfilling the Rebbe's directives: studying about Moshiach and the Redemption; increasing in acts of goodness and kindness; living with the daily reality of Moshiach; sharing this information with others.
This is the statute of the Torah which the L-rd has commanded (Num. 19:2)
The sin of the Golden Calf was due to a lack of faith; the mitzva (commandment) of the red heifer is therefore a chuka, a commandment whose reason is not revealed to us, to "counteract" that sin: The only reason we observe it is our faith.
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorky)
This is the statute of the Torah (Num. 19:2)
Comments Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator: "Such is My decree: you do not have permission to second-guess [the Torah]." The same word for permission appears in Ethics of the Fathers (3:15): "Everything is foreseen, yet permission [freedom of choice] is granted." Permission implies that something is possible; "you do not have permission" implies that second-guessing G-d is outside the realm of possibility. In truth, it is against the Jew's nature to question a Divine decree. If doubts do exist, they are only the product of the Evil Inclination.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Aaron shall be gathered unto his people (Num. 20:24)
Why does the Torah use this unusual phrase to mean that Aaron was about to pass away? Because despite the fact that Aaron would no longer be alive in the physical sense, his positive character traits and exemplary behavior would be "gathered up" and perpetuated by the Jewish people forever.
by Chaya Miriam F., as told to Yehudis Cohen
I grew up in Long Beach, Long Island (New York). One day, When I was about six years old, in the early 50s, there was a heat wave. My mother was at work and my sister, who was a teenager, took me to the beach. There was a low tide that day. I remember seeing the barrels in the water and we were close to them because even near the barrels the water was shallow.
The water was very calm. I was sitting on a sandbar, building castles. Since it was so hot, my sister decided to get us both ice creams. There were many lifeguards at the beach and my sister asked the closest lifeguard if he would watch me for the few minutes that she would be gone. The lifeguard agreed and I continued to play without a care in the world, building my droopy sand castles with a shovel and pail. I was happy. What child wouldn't be? I was at the beach, playing in the sand, and my sister would be back in a few minutes with an ice cream!
Suddenly, the sandbar shifted. I was pulled into the water. I wasn't afraid, though. It seemed to me like a fun ride at the amusement park.
And then the lights went out. I saw in my mind's eye a farmer, chasing after animals. I shouted, "No, no. I don't like that." After all, he was harming the innocent animals and that wasn't nice! Looking back now I realize that the lights going out was due to a lack of oxygen and I was in danger of drowning. But at the time, I was not afraid. I was watching cartoons!
Before I knew it, the lights were on again. Above the water, I even let out a laugh before I was pulled back down under the water once more. This time, when the lights went out, I saw a man in a red suit with white hair and a white beard. "No, that's not my holiday," I said. "I don't want to watch this one."
I was pushed up to the surface again and then pulled back under once more. The third time, I saw a vision of a holy man. He was wearing what looked like some kind of white sheet. I had seen my grandfather wear something like that when he was at the synagogue. I was a little afraid, because I knew the man was a zeidy (grandfather) but he was not my zeidy.
The man spoke in English but with some Yiddish words. I knew a few Yiddish words from my zeidy. The man said, "Give me dein hentala now." (Give me your hand now.) I didn't want to give the man my hand because he was a stranger and I had been taught not to talk to strangers. Then the man said again, more insistently, "I am a Jew like you, give me dein hentala now." I obeyed and reached out my hand toward the man. At that moment, the lifeguard grabbed my hand which was above the water and pulled me out.
I don't know how much time passed because I went unconscious. But when I came to, the lifeguard was squeezing the ocean out of me. I opened my eyes and there were a whole group of people, including my sister and a number of lifeguards, surrounding me. The lifeguard who had been pumping the water out of me, held up his fingers in front of my eyes and asked me how many fingers he had. "You're a life guard, you're supposed to know how many fingers you have!" I scolded him.
Then I saw my sister. The ice creams were dripping but I was glad to see her and the ice cream!
Now they turned their attention to my sister. How long had she been gone? How could she have left me all by myself?
My sister answered them angrily. "I left her with you," and she pointed to the lifeguard who had agreed to watch out for me. They questioned the lifeguard who admitted that he had seen me but when he had looked in my direction I laughed so he turned his attention to swimmers in the deeper area.
As memorable as the experience was at the time, I eventually forgot about it. Time passed. I got married and had a little girl of my own. I was taking steps toward getting more involved in Jewish observance. My daughter attended public school and went to an afternoon Hebrew school.
One day, when I went to pick her up at the Hebrew School, I saw a flyer that said in big letters, "T.N.T." Underneath, it stated, "Torah Never Terminates: What are you doing with your child for the summer?" The flyer shook me. It was advertising the Li Ohr day camp, run by the Yahadus Center, directed by Rabbi Sholom Ber and Frida Schapiro. The Center was established by N.C.F.J.E. under the auspices of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The camp was to be held at the local Young Israel synagogue. I decided to enroll my daughter.
When I got to the synagogue, there were a number of other pamphlets from the Yahadus Center. I picked up a brochure and saw a picture of a rabbi praying in a tallit. I nearly fainted. The memory of what had taken place 30 years earlier passed before my eyes. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was the holy man, the zeidy, who had saved me when I was drowning as a child!
That day was the beginning of my involvement with the Rebbe and Chabad. With the help of a tutor over the summer, my daughter caught up enough in her Jewish studies to be able to attend the Hebrew Academy in the fall. We became close with the Schapiro family and with Mrs. Schapiro's parents, Rabbi Nissan and Necha Mindel.
There are many, many more stories to tell. But suffice it to say, today, I am the proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of, thank G-d, many children who observe Torah and mitzvot (commandments), thanks to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Just as the first Redeemer (Moses) was revealed and then concealed from them [the Jewish people], similarly, also the final Redeemer will be revealed to them [the Jewish people] and then concealed.
(Bamidbar Rabba 11:2)