Points to Ponder | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | A Call to Action | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
With the approach of Gimmel Tammuz we present our readers with a few points to ponder.
The Rogatchover Gaon ("genius"), Rabbi Yosef Rosen, was one of the most prominent Talmudic scholars of the previous generation.
He was constantly studying Torah, but on Shabbat he often invited the young Talmudic Lubavitcher yeshiva students to be guests in his home and engaged them in conversation.
Once, he asked them if they could define what a "Rebbe" is. They answered that they had learned that "Rebbe" is the initials "Rosh Bnei Yisrael" (Head of the Jewish People.)
The Rogachover fell silent and then gave his own answer; "The truth is that no one can know what a Rebbe is... it is incomprehensible. But one thing for sure: If a Jew, any Jew in the world, is in distress...the Rebbe feels it." (Ohrtmimim.com)
Before the Lubavitcher Rebbe accepted the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, he once told another Jew regarding his father-in-law, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe:
You cannot imagine what a Rebbe really is. Your letter does not have to reach him in order for him to know the question, and you do not actually have to get a letter from him to receive an answer. (shmais.com)
Extending a request to G-d via an intermediary is only problematic if he is indeed a separate entity from the person who submits the request. However, the Tzadik (righteous person) is a Neshama klalit, a general soul that contains the souls of other Jews, just as the head contains the life of the body. Thus, the Tzadik is not a separate entity, but an extension of oneself. Put differently, one's own spiritual self is in fact an extension of the Tzadik. Thus, just as my head can pray for my foot, so can I ask the Tzadik to pray for me.
Therefore, not only does the Tzadik feel my pain, but my pain is the Tzadik's own pain, which he feels even more acutely than I do myself. Conversely, the Tzadik's pain is in fact my pain, even if I donot feel it tangibly.
Thus, the Tzadik is my head regardless of whether I recognize it. However, if I fail to recognize it, or I recognize it on some level but do not devote myself sufficiently to him, and I treat him as a separate entity, then asking him to pray for me is indeed problematic. However, since the person believes in the Tzadik and, at least deep down, wishes that he could be devoted to him, it may be derived from Jewish law that a verbal declaration of his intent is sufficient to reveal his true desire, even if he is yet to bring this true desire to conform with his daily life. His request for a blessing is then not problematic, G-d forbid, but on the contrary, it is desirable. (tzaddikim.blogspot.com based on Torat Menachem-Hitva'aduyot, Vol.2)
One year, on the eve of Simchat Torah when people were passing by the Rebbe to receive his blessings, a young boy said to the Rebbe, "We want Moshiach now!" The Rebbe emphatically exclaimed, "Amen, amen." The boy then asked, "Why hasn't Moshiach come yet?" The Rebbe answered, "Because only you ask this to happen. Your father wants to ask me for a blessing for success in his business. All these people are asking for their livelihood, health and other good things. No one is thinking like you are to ask for a blessing that Moshiach should come. If you try to get everyone to want and ask for Moshiach, just like you, Moshiach will come right now!"
In general, the Jewish people's entry into the Land of Israel is symbolic of the Jew's raison d'etre and indeed, his very function in the world. The Jewish soul descends to the physical plane for the purpose of imbuing it with holiness, transforming the material world into an appropriate vessel for G-dliness. Similarly, the objective of the Jews' entry into the Land was to transform it from "the land of Canaan" into "the Land of Israel," a place where holiness and G-dliness would be openly perceptible.
As this week's Torah portion of Shelach relates, before the Jews entered the Land, G-d commanded Moses to "Send men, that they may spy the Land of Canaan." Whenever a Jew is about to perform a commandment, the first step must be to carefully consider the task at hand and find the best way to achieve the objective. The Spies were sent to determine the most effective military strategy to conquer Canaan, within the confines of the natural order.
A Jew might think that once G-d has commanded him to perform a mitzva (commandment), he can ignore reality and close his eyes to his surroundings. However, the story of the Twelve Spies teaches that faith in G-d is not enough. A Jew is required to "use his head," to utilize his G-d-given intellect and abilities to determine the very best way to fulfill His wishes. For G-d has created a physical world, with the intention that mitzvot be performed within the natural order.
At the same time, one mustn't go too far in the opposite direction. The Spies' mistake was that they interpreted their fact-finding mission as permission to decide whether the Jews should enter the Land of Israel at all. This, in essence, was their sin: Moses sent them to determine how to achieve their goal, yet they assumed the right to determine if the Jews should do it in the first place. This led them to their conclusion that "We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than us."
This was contrary to G-d's will, and demonstrated a serious lack of faith. For whenever G-d sends an individual on a mission, He simultaneously gives him the power to succeed. G-d demands of a person only "according to his abilities." If it is illogical for a human being to require another to perform an act beyond his capabilities, how much more so does this apply to G-d, the Essence of goodness and kindness.
With this firm foundation in mind, the Torah goes on to caution that "One mustn't rely on miracles." A Jew is obligated to work within the natural order, not above it. Nonetheless, we are assured of Divine assistance whenever we encounter obstacles, so that we too may declare: "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it."
Adapted from Volume 13 of Likutei Sichot
As told by Rabbi Leibl Groner, member of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's secretariat
A certain yeshiva student had a yechidut, a private audience with the Rebbe. He gave the Rebbe a "tzetel," a note wherein he had written a number of things, including that he would like a blessing from the Rebbe to find his soul mate. After looking at the note, the Rebbe told the young man that he had forgotten to sign his name. "Go outside and ask someone to lend you a pen. Sign your name and then come back in with the tzetel," the Rebbe told him.
The young man went outside and asked a man whom he found for a pen, signed his note and then went back into the Rebbe.
The Rebbe blessed the young man that "G-d should send you a shidduch (a suitable marriage partner) as soon as possible."
A little while later, the person who had lent the student the pen had an audience with the Rebbe. Among other things, the man related to the Rebbe that he has a daughter of marriageable age and is asking the Rebbe for a blessing that he should find a suitable match for her. "The yeshiva student who asked to borrow a pen from me actually made a very nice impression. Should I consider him for my daughter?" the man asked.
"Why do you think I sent him out for a pen?" the Rebbe answered.
The young people, in fact, met and eventually got engaged and married.
From this story we understand not only that the Rebbe was able to see beyond the four walls of his office, but that he even knew from whom the young man would borrow a pen.
A person I know was having back problems since Rosh Hashana. The unbearably painful situation was diagnosed as spinal stenosis in both the upper spine and lower spine. The condition was so severe that doctors were recommending back surgery on both the upper and lower back. Because the spinal stenosis of the upper spine was more serious, the doctors were suggested operating on that part of the back first.
Although the surgery was very delicate and perhaps even risky, the two top specialists who were consulted did not believe that there was any option other than surgery.
Because the surgery was complicated and risky, the man decided to push it off as long as possible in the hope that an alternative would be found. A friend, knowing how much pain the man was in, suggested a very good neurologist at a top Manhattan hospital and advised, "Don't do the surgery without seeing this doctor first and hearing what he has to say."
The man made an appointment with the neurologist, and before the scheduled date, he went to the Rebbe's Ohel (resting place) to ask the Rebbe for help. "Since the Rebbe has the power to nullify the operation, I'm asking the Rebbe that the neurologist should say that I don't need the operation," the man prayed.
Afterwards, the rabbi went to the appointment. "The doctor was an ardent admirer of Lubavitch and we spent time sharing Torah thoughts and stories," related the man. "The doctor then gave me a thorough examination, after which he said, 'Sir, you do not need the operation. In fact, if you were my father, I wouldn't let you have it!' When I told the doctor afterwards that I had visited the Ohel and had asked the Rebbe to intercede on my behalf so that he would say that the operation was unnecessary, the doctor was not surprised at the outcome of the exam."
The man then went back to the other two doctors who had originally told him he needed the surgery and informed them what the third doctor had said. "If Dr. __ says that you don't need surgery, then I agree with him," both of the doctors told the man.
The Zohar states clearly that after the passing of a tzadik, his presence in this world is even great. The Rebbe hears. The Rebbe intercedes. The Rebbe answers.
A computer specialist whom I know had lost his job and was having a difficult time finding a new one in today's economy. He was offered a job in a city that had a small Jewish community and very limited opportunities for a proper Jewish education for his children. The man came to ask me what I thought. I encouraged him to ask the Rebbe. He wrote a letter to the Rebbe and placed it in one of the volumes of the Igrot Kodesh (letters of the Rebbe).
When he opened up the book at the place where he had randomly inserted his note, the letter from the Rebbe on that page stated, "Concerning his livelihood, he should make sure that he is in a place where there is chinuch (Jewish education) for his children."
"If that is the case," the man told me, "I obviously cannot accept this job as there will not be an opportunity for chinuch for my children there." The man resolved to continue looking for a job and sending out his resume.
A few weeks later, the man approached me again. "My savings are diminishing. I have been offered another job, but this one is also in a place where there are no proper Jewish schools for my children," he told me. Once again he wrote a letter to the Rebbe and once more he inserted it randomly in the Igrot Kodesh. This time, too, he opened to a letter of the Rebbe in which the Rebbe emphasized the importance of proper chinuch for children. "So what am I going to do?" the man asked me. "I don't have an income." He wrote a letter to the Rebbe, this time asking the Rebbe for his advice. The pages he placed his letter between had a letter that stated, "The first concern must be Jewish education. In the merit of the fact that you are affording your children a proper Jewish education you will be able to find parnasa (a livelihood)."
Two weeks passed and I didn't hear from the man. Then one day he came over to me, and excitedly told me that he had had an interview with a company in New York. "They are very happy with my portfolio and I am starting my new job tomorrow."
Not only did the man not have to sacrifice his children's Jewish education for a job, but in fact, making sure to place his children's Jewish education first was the vessel that held the Rebbe's blessing to get a job, despite the depressed job market!
For a one year subscription send $38, payable to LYO ($42 Canada, $52 elsewhere) to L'CHAIM, 1408 President St., Bklyn, NY 11213
L'CHAIM ON THE INTERNET
Current issues and archives: www.lchaimweekly.org
LEARN ABOUT MOSHIACH
Call (718) 953-6100, or visit www.moshiach.com or www.mashiach.org
The following is a unique private audience of the Rebbe that took place in the winter of 1969.
Question: The Rebbe's energy is so instrumental in helping us serve G-d properly, how is it possible that we still have free will?
The Rebbe: The Torah says, regarding Moses: "I stand between G-d and the Jewish people," because connecting directly with G-d is a challenge. The Jews pleaded with G-d to place an intermediary between the Jews and G-d. Each generation has its own Moses.
To understand this from a worldly perspective: when a regular person has an appointment to speak with the king, it is such a momentous occasion that in preparation for even a brief audience, the person dons brand new clothes and buys new shoes. He will need to know in advance what to speak about and, more importantly, how to speak to a king.
How does such a person prepare himself? He contacts an official or a lawmaker who is intricately familiar with the laws and customs of speaking to a king, and who will advise him on how to get a message across to a king.
The same applies spiritually: G-d intended for you to get involved in a specific type of business through which you became, thank G-d, very wealthy. Now your avodah (task) is also to give tzedakah (charity). There are times during the year, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when it is relatively easy for a Jew to communicate directly with G-d. However, reaching G-d on your own on a regular basis is a very difficult task. You go to a tzadik (righteous person), who knows how to speak to G-d, and this tzadik communicates on your behalf.
Regarding your question of free will: A wealthy and respectable person who wants to build a house still needs to find a contractor who will actually do the work, an architect to make the blueprints etc.; he will have to find someone specific for each detail of the house. In building a house it is impossible for one person to do everything.
It is true that there may be some people who are wealthy and they are also contractors themselves and this person can build a house on his own, but only a select few individuals can do all things involved in building a house.
When this wealthy person builds a house, the fact that he relies on various different people, with different professions, doesn't mean that his image as a wealthy and respectful person is diminished. Rather, he needs money to pay other professionals to do the various tasks, and without money, he indeed would not get anywhere.
The same in spirituality: a Jew who is occupied with business and with giving charity still needs a tzadik for help. On his own, a Jew does not have sufficient merits; he therefore needs the tzadik to elevate him closer to G-d.
For example: how do you connect a Jew here in Brooklyn who gives money in order to help free a Jew in Russia? How can a Jew in Russia give someone a part in a mitzvah (commandment)? The same thing regarding a Jew from here who gives money, enabling a Jew in Tel Aviv to don tefillin - how are those two people connected?
The fact that the Jew from here is connected to me and the Jew who is in Russia is also connected to me, and I know how to speak to the Above, I connect both of these Jews together. I am a physical human being like you. It is just that G-d gave me the strength to help out Jew.
Do a good deed in honor of the Rebbe
"The union of G-d and the Jewish people [which comes after the beginning of the new Jewish month] produces offspring and 'the essential offspring of the righteous are their good deeds.' This adds perfection to the good deeds performed by each and every member of the Jewish people and reveals how the Jews become G-d's partner in the work of creation...And the Jews' consent to accept this partnership causes Him to announce, 'The time for your redemption has arrived.' " (The Rebbe, 28 Sivan, 5751)
In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
One month after the passing of his father-in-law, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (10 Shvat, 1950), the Rebbe said, "Just as until now we were all certain that the Rebbe will lead us to greet Moshiach, so too, now we must be certain.
"The event which took place was only from our physical view point - nothing more than a test of faith."
Since the Rebbe clearly and unmistakably announced at the end of the summer in 1990 that "The time for your Redemption has arrived," Lubavitcher Chasidim around the world have had the privilege of publicizing the Rebbe's definitive statement.
The message remains unchanged. For, the Rebbe described his words about the coming of Moshiach as a prophecy and urged everyone to share this message as much as possible.
The Rebbe's instructions are clear. It is up to us to respond.
We urge everyone to heed the Rebbe's words: to study about Moshiach and the Redemption; to share the news about the imminent Redemption with others; to start living now in a manner befitting the Messianic Era; to do more acts of goodness and kindness with the certainty that the Redemption is only moments away.
May this pursuit of goodness and kindness help usher in the great Revelation of Moshiach and a new world without strife, prejudice and hatred; a world of peace, justice, tranquillity and brotherhood between man and man, and between nation and nation.
Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments...and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a thread of blue (Num. 15:38)
This was done in ancient times; today, however, we do not know how to make this blue dye, and all eight threads of the tzitzit (fringes) are white. Symbolically, blue alludes to fear of G-d and avoiding the negative ("depart from evil"). White alludes to love, and the service of doing good deeds ("and do good"). From this we learn that in our times, the primary thrust of our Divine service must consist of love and positive actions.
And it shall be to you for fringes, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the L-rd (Num. 15:39)
Rabbi Meir explained: The Torah uses the singular "it" rather than the plural "them" because it is referring here to the Divine Presence: "Whoever fulfills the commandment of tzitzit is considered to be greeting G-d's countenance." The "blue thread" resembles the sea, which resembles grass, which resembles the sky, which should remind the wearer of the Throne of Glory.
(Jerusalem Talmud, Brachot)
Making a sign to remind oneself to do something is always helpful and appropriate. A person shouldn't rely on memory alone, regardless of whether the obligation is physical or spiritual.
That you may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy to your G-d (Num. 15:40)
Said Rabbi Chanina ben Antignos: Whoever observes the commandment of tzitzit will merit to live in the times about which the Prophet Zechariah said, "In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men from the nations of every language shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that G-d is with you."
by Yehudis Cohen
It's not often that a story of the Lubavitcher Rebbe spans almost three hundred years and thousands of miles, but for Mr. Eli Betesh of Brooklyn, that is exactly what happened to him recently. "For years I have been going to Mezhibuzh (in Ukraine), the resting place of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, for his yom hilula (anniversary of passing) on Shavuot," begins Mr. Betesh. "Six years ago, I was invited for the first time to go with my neighbor, Rabbi N.Y. Twersky. Rabbi Twersky is a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov and he goes each year to Mezhibuzh for Shavuot with a small group of Lubavitcher Chasidim.
"Each year, about 700 people from all over the world arrive in Mezhibuzh especially to celebrate Shavuot there. The achdut (unity), true unity of the Jewish people that is felt there on that special occasion is very unique. Chasidim from every group, Ashkenazim, Sefardim, all Jews, come together truly as one. It is a very, very special experience. But this year would have to be different. Money was tight and I decided that there was just no way that I could go this year.
"I have a routine that every Tuesday I go to the Ohel (the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe) and on the Tuesday before Shavuot, I went, as usual. I wrote a letter to the Rebbe that I read at the Ohel. Among other things, I told the Rebbe that I would not be able to go to the Baal Shem Tov this year because of the tough money situation.
"When I came out of the Ohel, I went into the adjacent Chabad House and entered the room where there is a video machine constantly playing videos of people's encounters with the Rebbe. As I looked up at the screen, I saw that the Rebbe was speaking to the famous Chasidic artist and activist Boruch Nachshon of Hebron. The Rebbe was telling Nachshon that it is absolutely forbidden to give away any of the Land of Israel to non-Jews. 'You have to go to the Baal Shem Tov,' the Rebbe instructed Nachshon. 'You must go. If you cannot go, you must at least send a shaliach (emissary) there.
"My friend with whom I had gone to the Ohel stood next to me watching the video. He knew that I had decided that I could not possibly go to the Baal Shem Tov this year due to my difficult finances. My friend turned to me and said, 'You must go to Mezhibuzh. The Rebbe is telling you to go!'
" 'But it's Tuesday morning and Thursday evening is Shavuot!' I told my friend. 'I don't have a ticket. I don't have a visa to Ukraine. And as you know, I don't have the money! But what can I do? You are right!' For some unknown reason, the Rebbe wanted me to go to Mezhibuzh for Shavuot.
"I immediately started working on obtaining a visa and a ticket. The Ukrainian embassy told me that it would take a minimum of at least two weeks for them to process a visa. I explained to them that I needed it by the next day but they were not impressed! I prodded and cajoled. Finally they told me that if I could produce proof that I had a ticket, they would issue me a visa. I purchased my ticket on-line and sent them a copy of my ticket. My persistence paid off and I was rewarded with a visa by noon on Wednesday. With my visa and ticket in hand I left for the airport at 1:30 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight. After an exciting but uneventful flight, I arrived in Mezhibuzh 1½ hours before the holiday of Shavuot began."
From New York to Mezhibuzh, and back again, Mr. Betesh has one more story to share, this one from many years ago, though not as far back as the miraculous creation of the Baal Shem Tov's well.
"My wife and I had been married for three years and we had not yet been blessed with children. It was before Yom Kippur when the Rebbe would distribute "lekach" (honey cake) to thousands of people who wanted to fulfill this custom from the Rebbe's holy hand. I waited in line and my wife did as well. I asked the Rebbe for a blessing for children. The Rebbe gave my wife three dollars and the Rebbe gave me one dollar. Later, my wife and I went to do kaparot (the "atonement" ceremony performed with a live chicken that is then ritually slaughtered and donated to institutions that feed the poor). I purchased two female chickens and two male roosters. (A pregnant woman traditionally does kaparot with 3 chickens: one female for herself, and one male and one female for her unborn child whose gender is unknown). The Rebbe had given us a blessing for a child and I wanted to show that I believed 100% that the blessing would come true. Nine months later, our first son was born. The following year, I again approached the Rebbe at the distribution of lekach and asked for a blessing for children. Afterward, at kaparot, I purchased five chickens. One for myself, one for our baby, and once again, I purchased three chickens for my wife. Nine months later, our second son was born!
Queen Cleopatra said to Rabbi Meir: "I know that the dead will live again, for it is written, 'And they shall blossom out of the city like grass from the earth'; but when they arise, will they arise naked or clothed?" He replied, "You may deduce the answer by observing a wheat grain. If a grain of wheat, which is buried naked, sprouts forth in many robes, how much more so the righteous, who are buried in their garments."
(Talmud Sanhedrin, 90b)