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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Yosef Y. Jacobson
It's been a long-standing tradition in Jewish communities the world over, to employ for the High Holiday services cantors, often accompanied by choirs, to engage, inspire and entertain the multitudes flocking to the synagogue.
Especially if the musical presentation is coupled with a rabbi who knows how to tell a good joke or bring a tear to the eye, it is a hands-down success story.
A moving parable from the Baal Shem Tov concerning this "cantor" and "rabbi" phenomenon may be worthwhile for all of us to reflect upon.
Once, long ago, the lion grew furious with all of the other jungle animals. Since the lion is "the king of animal life," and is most powerful, his ire evoked deep fright in the animals.
"What should we do?" murmured the animals at an emergency meeting. "If the lion lets out his fury, we are all finished."
"No worries," came the voice of the fox, known as the wiliest of animals. "In the reservoirs of my brain are stored 300 stories. When I present them to the lion, his mood will be transformed."
The animals joyously embarked on a march toward the lion's home, where the fox would placate him and restore the friendly relationship between the lion and his subjects.
During the journey, the fox suddenly turned to one of his animal friends and said, "You know, I forgot 100 of my entertaining stories."
Rumors of the fox's lapse of memory spread immediately. Many animals were overcome with trepidation, but soon came the calming voice of Mr. Bear.
"No worries," he said. "Two hundred vignettes of a brilliant fox are more then enough to get that arrogant lion rolling in laughter and delight."
A little while later, Mr. Fox suddenly turned to another colleague. "I have forgotten another 100 of my anecdotes," lamented the fox.
The animals' fear became stronger, but soon came the reassuring voice of Mr. Deer. "No worries," he proclaimed, "One hundred fox stories will suffice to capture the imagination of our king."
Moments later, hundreds of thousands of animals were at the lion's den. The lion rose to his full glory and cast a fierce gaze at his subjects, sending shivers through their veins.
Expectantly, all of the animals looked up to their bright representative the fox, to approach the lion and accomplish the great mission of reconciliation.
At that very moment, the fox turned to the animals and said, "I am sorry, but I forgot my last 100 stories. I have nothing left to say to the king."
The animals went into hysteria. "You deceived us completely. What are we to do now?"
"My job," responded the fox calmly, "was to persuade you to journey from your own nests to the lion's lair. I have accomplished my mission. You are here. Now, let each and every one of you discover his own voice and rehabilitate his personal relationship with the king."
This story, concluded the Baal Shem Tov, illustrates a common problem in institutionalized religion. We come to the synagogue on Yom Kippur, or any other time of the year, and we rely on the "foxes" - the cantors and the rabbis - to serve as our representative to the King of Kings.
Yet, sooner or later, each of us must discover his or her own inner voice, inner passion and spirit, and speak to G-d using that unique voice.
The function of cantors and rabbis is to persuade and inspire people to leave their own self-contained domains and embark on a journey toward something far more deep and real. But each and every one of us must ultimately enter the space of G-d alone.
So this Yom Kippur, don't rely on any foxes. Speak to G-d directly. With your own words, with your own soul.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day that is entirely dedicated to returning to G-d in teshuva (repentance). Among the many mitzvot involved in teshuva is the act of confession, as the Torah states, "You shall confess your sin." Indeed, this is the basis for the "Al Cheit" ("For the Sin of...") confessional recited on Yom Kippur, which enumerates the various sins a person may have committed.
In the Jerusalem Talmud, the question of whether or not this generalized confession is sufficient is debated. Rabbi Yehuda Ben Betaira maintains that in addition to reciting "Al Cheit," a detailed admission of personal sins is required. Rabbi Akiva, by contrast, opines that "It is not necessary to go into detail about one's deeds."
But what exactly is the crux of their argument? As the Tosefot explains, Rabbi Yehuda's insistence on a detailed account is for the purpose of arousing a deeper sense of remorse. The more a person is ashamed of his misdeeds, the deeper his repentance will be. Rabbi Akiva, however, takes the human factor into consideration, and asserts that if a person's individualized confession is overheard by others, "he might be suspected of other sins as well." In other words, the way people think about him might be negatively affected.
In essence, the argument revolves around where the emphasis should be placed: on the present, or on the future. When the present is emphasized - the fact that today is Yom Kippur - it is preferable to enumerate one's sins in order to achieve a higher level of teshuva. When the stress is on the future, the determining factor is to avoid any possible negative repercussions.
On a deeper level, there is another basis for their disagreement. Rabbi Yehuda views the individual in his present state, as one who is just beginning to do teshuva and draw closer to G-d. There are two basic motivations for doing teshuva: an initial stage, in which a person repents out of a sense of fear, and a higher level, on which the motivation is love for G-d. When a person enumerates his every little sin, it produces in him a stronger feeling of fear and awe of G-d.
Rabbi Akiva, however, looks at the larger picture, and anticipates that the person will eventually reach the higher level. In fact, his entire approach is to always perceive the hidden good in everything. When a person repents out of love for G-d, it makes no difference whether the sin is great or small; for he knows that every sin creates a distance between himself and G-d, and he will avoid committing even the smallest transgression.
Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot, vol. 24
A Yom Kippur in Greenland
by Yehudis Cohen
Long, long ago, in the days before cell phones and instant messaging, even before beepers, faxes and direct-dial, long-distance, a request came into the office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was less than a week until Yom Kippur in 1964 and dozens or even scores of Jewish servicemen at Thule Air Base in Greenland, had no one to lead services on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
The Jewish agencies responsible to supply chaplains for Jewish members of the armed forces required several weeks to process requests and work within government protocol. This request from Thule had simply come in too late. But how could Jews be left without a rabbi for Yom Kippur?
The Rebbe's secretariat reacted swiftly, contacting government officials and military officers. They needed all the help they could get to cut through red-tape and get a rabbi to Thule in the few days left until Yom Kippur. The Rebbe chose Rabbi Shmuel Lew to be his emissary for this special mission.
It was Friday afternoon when the Rebbe's office learned that the formal reservation on the United States Air Force jet leaving for Thule on Sunday, and the only means of transportation to Greenland before Yom Kippur, could not be obtained from the Pentagon until the following Monday.
Another flurry of phone calls reaped results. Saturday night, after Shabbat, Rabbi Lew received a telegram from Secretary of the Air Force Eugene Zuckert stating that all normal protocol had been waived for him. The telegram would serve as his "ticket" on the air force flight. It also stated that immunization requirements had been waived, security clearance had been waived, and an excess baggage allowance had been approved.
Earlier that day, on Shabbat, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, the Rebbe's mother, had passed away. The Rebbe stayed in Rebbetzin Chana's hospital room until evening when members of the holy burial society came. When Rabbi Hodakov, the Rebbe's senior secretary, came out of the hospital room, he told another member of the secretariat to inform Rabbi Lew, "For Shmuel, there is no funeral." Though thousands of Chasidim dropped everything when they heard the news and were already traveling to New York to be at the funeral, Rabbi Lew had a mission to accomplish and any personal desires had to be set aside.
On Sunday, Rabbi Lew traveled to McGuire Air Force Base where he would take a flight to Thule. In his excess baggage, as per the Rebbe's suggestion, he had 200 pairs of paper slippers for the Jewish military personnel, as it is forbidden to wear leather on Yom Kippur. Rabbi Lew also had with him 200 copies of the Rebbe's Rosh Hashana message, as well as booklets about Shabbat and tefilin published by Lubavitch in Danish that he had been told to take.
Rabbi Lew was met at Thule Air Base by the base's chaplain. He was shown the sizeable chapel where Yom Kippur services would be held, as well as the closet that contained all of the religious items. Rabbi Lew was eager to see the condition of the Torah scroll that the Rebbe's office had been assured was on base. The chaplain brought out of the closet a small ark and brought it to the front of the chapel. Rabbi Lew opened the ark and was utterly shocked to see that the Torah scroll inside was nothing but a child's toy, a paper copy.
"I remember that moment to this day," recalls Rabbi Lew. "It was a pivotal moment in my life. Tears sprang to my eyes and a half a cry escaped my lips. I felt so utterly far away from the Rebbe. But in the next half a second, an invigorating and empowering thought filled my mind, one that gives me strength in my shlichus (mission) to this day: Shmuel, the Rebbe has a minyan without you! This is where the Rebbe wants you to be."
People dropped by to meet Rabbi Lew and get information about the holiday schedule. They were curious about what Rabbi Lew had brought with him in the way of supplies and even more curious when he told a few of them about the booklets in Danish. "There are no Jews here who read Danish," Rabbi Lew was told emphatically. But Rabbi Lew wasn't surprised when he found out that the mother-tongue of one of the people who turned up for services, someone that no one on the base even knew was Jewish, was Danish.
Rabbi Lew returned to New York on Friday. That Saturday evening, Rabbi Hodakov asked him why he had not yet submitted a detailed report to the Rebbe regarding his activties in Thule. Rabbi Lew spent the entire night writing up an account of his four days in Greenland that he submitted to the Rebbe the following day, the eve of Sukot.
And on the eve of Sukot, the Rebbe composed a letter of thanks to one of the people who had taken an interest in the Jewish servicemen at Thule:
The Honorable Lyndon B. Johnson
Greeting and Blessing:
I have been informed of your taking a personal interest in the situation of the Jewish personnel at Thule Air Base, who had been left without a Jewish Chaplain for Yom Kippur....
Thanks to the kind cooperation of the honorable John W. McCormack and Air Force Secretary Eugene M. Zuckert, permission and all facilities were speedily granted to our emissary Rabbi Shumel Lew to fly to Thule for Yom Kippur.
Our emissary has now returned from his spiritual errand, his mission successfully accomplished. He praised very highly the courtesy and cooperation extended to him both at McGuire and Thule. Rabbi Lew particularly emphasized the profound gratitude of the Jewish personnel at Thule to you and to all concerned for having remembered them in connection with this most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. It has given them a great spiritual uplift and a warm feeling of "at-homeness" even in that remote, arctic outpost.
Please be assured of our grateful appreciation.
With prayerful wishes for your wellbeing
Rabbi Aharon Dovid and Chava Rivka Backman are joining the dynamic founder of Chabad at the University of Maryland, Rabbi Eli and Nechama Backman, as emissaries of the Rebbe in College Park, Maryland. Rabbi Bentzion and Chani Shemtov will be establishing a new Chabad House in Chicago, Illinois to serve the needs of the Jewish students and faculty at University Village (Chicago) and the University of Illinois at Chicago Campus (UIC). Rabbi Mendy and Dini Avtzon recently moved to Marina Del Rey, California where they will be focusing on adult education. Rabbi Levi and Rivky Gansburg moved with their newborn baby to Toronto, Ontario, where they have established Chabad Lubavitch of York Mills serving the Jewish community of Bayview - York Mills.
Freely translated and adapted
6th of Tishrei, 5750 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d Bless You All!
Greeting and blessing:
It is customary to "open with a blessing," in this instance, a blessing for a chasima (sealing) and g'mar chasima (final sealing) for a good and sweet year.
It is after Rosh Hashana and we have already entered the new year. At all times, even when a person's knowledge and actual conduct are satisfactory, he should constantly strive to invest his time in further study, and thus to improve his conduct (his thought, speech, and action). Surely this applies at the threshold of a new year, which reminds us that it is necessary to strive toward a new and more elevated level of perfection in our daily life.
...Both miracles and nature are expressions of G-dliness. Nature too emanates from G-d. He created and fixed the laws of nature and uses them as a means to control the world. What distinguishes miracles from nature is that miracles are out of the ordinary, a higher order of existence than G-d usually reveals. The Hebrew word for miracle, "nes," also means "uplifted," raised above and exalted. Thus, a miracle is an occurrence which introduces a higher frame of reference into creation, elevating the world beyond its natural limitations.
These two approaches, the natural and the miraculous, must be reflected in the behavior of every Jew. We must exhibit both a natural pattern of behavior and a miraculous pattern of behavior.
Even a Jew's natural pattern of behavior involves absolute adherence to the directives of the Torah. However, inasmuch as it is his ordinary conduct, it is limited by the bounds of his human potential.
G-d, however, grants a Jew an additional potential to serve Him through a miraculous pattern of behavior, allowing him to transcend his natural limits. This does not mean that a person merely improves himself slightly or even greatly, in the spirit of the directive that "in holy matters, one should always ascend higher," by increasing his commitment to sessions of Torah study, undertaking a new hiddur (enhancement) in the performance of a mitzvah (commandment), or the like. Rather, it means that he changes entirely, adopting a totally new and more elevated pattern of behavior.
"All Jews are presumed to act in an upstanding manner." Thus, we can assume that each Jew utilized the month of Elul, the month of stock-taking, to correct all his deeds of the previous year and to elevate them to the level of completion and perfection.
We can also assume that he was granted a full measure of pardon, forgiveness, and atone-ment, and was inscribed - and that inscription was sealed - for a good year in all matters....
It is now demanded of each Jew - man, woman, and child - that he work with himself and elevate himself to a plane so new and so high that his conduct in this year will be miraculous when compared to his conduct in the previous year.
This miraculous pattern of behavior - serving G-d (through Torah, prayer, and mitzvos) in an unlimited manner - must pervade every aspect of our conduct, including the mitzvos between man and G-d, the mitzvos between man and his fellowman, beginning with the mitzvah to "love your neighbor as yourself," and also the mitzvos that are connected with non-Jews and with the world at large.
G-d relates to the Jewish people "measure for measure." Accordingly, it is understood that a miraculous pattern of behavior on the part of a Jew arouses a miraculous pattern of Divine behavior and draws down unlimited Divine blessings upon himself, both as an individual and as a part of the Jewish people as a whole, and upon the world at large.
May each individual's acceptance of firm and powerful resolutions regarding all the above be considered by G-d as if these resolutions have already been carried out. In particular, this is true, since we have already experienced several days of the new year and one can assume that the above has already begun to be carried out. And may the meaning of the acronym resulting from the name of this year be fulfilled quite literally, so that "this will be a year of miracles."
May it also include the most vital miracle, the miracle of the true and complete redemption led by our righteous Moshiach, when there will be even greater miracles than those which occurred during the exodus from Egypt. Thus our Sages interpret the verse, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt will I show you wonders" - the miracles of the Messianic age will be "wonders" when compared to the "days of your exodus from Egypt."
May G-d fulfill the heartfelt prayer of each Jew and of the Jewish people as a whole - and bring the true and complete redemption in the immediate future.
What and how much is customary to eat on Yom Kippur eve?
On Yom Kippur eve we eat two meals before the fast. This is based on our Sages' statement that whoever eats and drinks on the ninth of Tishrei is considered as if he fasted for two days. It is customary to eat fish at the first meal, a meal that has more of a festive atmosphere, though not at the pre-fast meal. At the second meal preceding the fast, it is customary to eat kreplach, chicken or vegetable filled squares of dough served in soup.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Our Sages said that Moshiach will come to a particularly lowly generation. As to how a generation with such spiritual limitations will be able to cope with the intense light of the Final Redemption, two explanations are given: one, when Moshiach comes, everyone will be aroused to complete repentance, and two, G-d Himself will wipe away all our sins and spiritual defects, rendering us worthy.
The second explanation is similar to what happens on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (this Shabbat). As our Sages put it, "the essence of the day provides atonement." But if doing sins causes a defect in the soul, how can the fact that it's a certain day on the calendar make everything all right again?
Chasidut explains that a Jew's connection to G-d exists on many levels. The outermost level is achieved through observance of Torah and mitzvot. But the very deepest level of connection is independent of a Jew's actions. This G-dly spark, known as the level of yechida, makes it impossible for a Jew to be separated from G-dliness. He can't be separated, he doesn't want to be separated, and he would even give up his life to retain that connection if he had to.
This level, also known as the "essence of the soul," is always pure and holy. A Jew can commit all the sins in the world (G-d forbid) and his essential connection to G-d remains untouched.
On a day-to-day basis, of course, we're unaware of this. And because the outer levels of the soul are affected by our bad behavior, repentance is indeed necessary.
Nonetheless, on Yom Kippur the "essence of the soul" is revealed. Always perfect and complete, it is so powerful that any defects in the lower levels of the soul are "automatically" corrected.
Similarly, when Moshiach comes, this essential nature of the Jew will be uncovered, revealing that we were always connected to G-d with an eternal bond. May it happen immediately.
Weeping over the Exile on Yom Kippur
Once, on the eve of Yom Kippur, when the tzadik Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael of Kremenetz was blessing his children, he noticed that one of his grown daughters was overcome with emotion and began to softly cry. The young child that she was holding also began to weep.
"Why are you crying?" Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael asked his grandchild.
"My mother is crying, so I am also crying," the child explained.
In shul that evening, before the Kol Nidrei prayer, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael related to his congregation what had transpired earlier that day in his home and what his grandchild had told him. He then burst into tears and cried out emotionally, "When a child sees his mother weeping, he too weeps even though he may not understand the reason for his mother's tears.
"Our mother is also weeping. Our Sages tell us that the Shechina, the feminine aspect of the Divine Presence - the source of all of the souls of the Jewish people - 'Keens like a dove and cries: "Woe to My children, that becasue of their sins I have destroyed My home, set fire to My sanctuary, and have exiled them among the nations.'"
Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael concluded, "So even if we, her children, have become desensitized to the pain of exile, at least we should weep because our mother is weeping!"
You shall afflict your souls [fast] on the ninth day of the month at evening
A question is asked in the Talmud (Yoma 81b): "Why does the Torah state 'on the ninth day,' when we actually fast on the tenth of the month, on Yom Kippur? To teach that a person who eats and drinks on the ninth [in preparation for the fast] is considered to have fasted on both the ninth and the tenth." And why is eating on the day before Yom Kippur deemed so important? For, eating for the sake of heaven is far more difficult than fasting for the sake of heaven.
As Yom Kippur approached, Reb David of Michaelov, one of the Baal Shem Tov's most illustrious Chasidim, would begin his annual journey to the Baal Shem Tov in Medzhibozh. His sojourn with the Baal Shem Tov, which would last from Yom Kippur until the end of Sukot, gave Reb David the spiritual sustenance he needed for the entire year.
One year, Reb David traveled through a small village which had a tiny Jewish community. They begged Reb David to spend Yom Kippur with them so they could have a minyan (quorom) for the holy day. Reb David was torn. He would have liked to agree to their request, but how could he forgo the exalted experience of Yom Tov with the Baal Shem Tov? No, he simply couldn't remain.
When Reb David finally arrived in Medzhibozh and entered the Baal Shem Tov's synagogue he immediately felt a distinct lack of warmth from the Baal Shem Tov. Try as he might, Reb David couldn't figure out the reason he was being ignored.
When Sukot drew to a close, the Baal Shem Tov finally explained himself. "Reb David," he began, "by not remaining in the village over Yom Kippur you have caused great damage. In that village there was a soul which had been waiting seventy years for your arrival in order to be redeemed. And not only did that soul suffer, but your own soul suffered as well, for your two souls come from the same root source." The Baal Shem Tov explained that the only way for him to repair the damage would be to go undergo an indefinite period of wandering.
Reb David asked, "How will I know when the period of exile has ended?"
"You will receive a sign, and it will be clear to you," the Baal Shem Tov replied.
Reb David was soon on the road. Although he was a well-known figure, he passed unrecognized through towns and villages. Posing as a "maggid," a simple preacher, he spent a few days in a location, delivered an inspiring sermon and then moved on. After two years, Reb David arrived in the town of Slonim, where he was to deliver his sermon on Shabbat. However, a renowned preacher arrived that same week, and Reb David's sermon was postponed.
Both preachers were lodging in the home of the town elder. When the famous preacher met Reb David, he asked, "And who are you?" to which Reb David replied, "I am a simple traveling preacher. I was to deliver my speech this Shabbat, but in deference to you, I will wait until next week."
"Is that so! Let's hear what you can say right now!" the preacher said condescendingly. The town elder pressured Reb David as well and he had no way out. After Reb David made a few short remarks on the weekly portion, the famous preacher bellowed, "This fellow's an ignoramus!" An embarrassed silence ensued after which everyone retired to their rooms for the evening.
The following day, the host was horrified when he realized that all of the family's valuables had been stolen. Suspicion fell on Reb David as he was a total stranger, although in truth, the thief was none other than the "famous" preacher!
That Shabbat, the preacher addressed the crowd with words of rebuke and chastisement which could shrivel the heart of the most hardened criminal. When Shabbat ended, Reb David was brought into the shul and openly accused of the theft. Reb David said nothing to defend himself. Suddenly a voice was heard coming from outside the shul, saying, "Is Reb David Michaelov among you?" People ran outside to see who was speaking, but no one was there. Once more, it was demanded of Reb David that he admit his guilt. Again, a voice asked, "Is Reb David Michaelov there?" Still, there was no one outside. Finally the voice shouted: "Reb David, why don't you answer your accusers?"
At that, Reb David remembered the words of the Baal Shem Tov, and he knew that his penance had been accepted. Now Reb David movingly explained to the spellbound assemblage the events of the past few years. He began with the story of how he had made the mistake of spending Yom Kippur with his Rebbe rather than with the small Jewish community. He continued with an inspiring appeal to seize every opportunity to do a mitzva (commandment). He described how the past two years had served as a spiritual cleansing and had repaired the damage to his soul and that of the villager.
Soon, the "preacher" confessed to the theft. The entire community begged forgiveness of Reb David for wrongly accusing him and he gladly forgave them.
All of the Prophets prescribed teshuva (repentance, return), and the Jewish people will be redeemed only through teshuva. The Torah has given assurance that Israel will do teshuva - at the end of its exile-and will be redeemed immediately, as it says (Deut. 30): "It will be when all these things have happened... you will return to G-d... and G-d will return your captivity and will gather you from among all the nations where He dispersed you."
(Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuva)