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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
After a major event - a graduation party, a visit from the married kids with the grandchildren, whatever the get-together - what do you do? You go around the house picking up and straightening up, of course.
And in that process you inevitably find bits and pieces of this and that and worn out toys and used up clothes.
It's the clutter of our lives. We collect it. We accumulate it. We sort it. We discover it. We trip over it.
We wonder what to do with it. And in our frustration, we often just throw it out. Or pack it up, put it back in the attic, the closet, the drawer or back on the shelf. Until next time.
And sometimes we give it away. We call a charitable organization, a group that works with the homeless, or veterans, or those stricken with a particular disease. They pick up our clutter, we get a note (and a tax deduction) and away it goes.
We know someone who considers money to be clutter! He gives away his loose coins. Pennies in his pocket. A quarter on the counter. Nickels at noon. Dimes at dinner. It's all clutter. And it all goes one place: into a tzedeka pushke, a charity box.
By the end of the day, he's got no coins left.
He's not sure how much money he collects this way over the course of a week, a month, or a year. He just knows that there's an apparently unending supply of clutter - waiting to be turned into charity or, more appropriately, tzedeka.
The word tzedeka means "right," "correct," or "just." In other words, taking our junk, our clutter, and giving it away to someone who can make use of it, that's called "doing the right thing" or "justice."
This is because ultimately, we don't own anything. This is G-d's world, and we're just caretakers. Not even that. We're middlemen, distributors. Things pass through our hands. Some things we use for ourselves and the rest we transfer to others, to enable them to be transformed.
The funny thing about clutter is that it consists of things that were once valuable to us. This parallels, in a way, the Torah's laws of the field: while harvesting, if a sprig of grapes or a sheaf of wheat falls to the ground, we must leave it to the poor. They get the leftovers. Before being harvested, the grapes and wheat were of value to us. During the harvest, they fell by the wayside.
But they fell for a reason. Somebody needs them. Somebody can use them. To us, it's just clutter, a throwaway. But to the person who is needy, even a bit of clutter becomes a lifeline.
Why this is so, only G-d knows. But of this we can be sure: everything in G-d's world, even our clutter, has a purpose and can be transformed into tzedeka, thereby righting the world and making it a fit dwelling place for G-dliness.
This week's Torah portion, Shelach, contains the account of the 12 spies sent to scout out the land of Israel. Upon their return they announced, "We will not be able to go against the people, for they are stronger than we - mimenu."
Our Sages explain that the word "mimenu" may also be interpreted as "than him" - than Him! The spies insisted that the inhabitants of Canaan, as it was called, were even more powerful than G-d, Who had promised the land to the Jews.
How could they have made such a statement? Each of the 12 spies were scholar and pious. Furthermore, the entire Jewish people had just witnessed the greatest open miracles - the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea and the manna falling from the sky. Why wasn't the spies' report simply discounted, instead of being given such credence?
When the spies insisted that the Land was too well fortified to be conquered, Caleb stood up and calmed the people. "Don't worry," he insisted. "The same G-d who performed all these miracles for us will continue to guard His people. Let us go up at once, without fear!"
"But," countered the spies, "there we saw the nefilim, the sons of Anak!"
Who were these "nefilim," that their mention brought fear to the spies? The great commentator, Rashi, explains that the nefilim were people of gigantic stature, descendants of two angels who had descended to earth many years before during the generation of Enosh. Their very name - "nefilim" - attests to their descent, from the root word meaning "to fall."
Yes, conceded the spies, G-d is certainly more powerful than mere mortals. But can G-d prevail against the nefilim and their higher level of spirituality? The nefilim had even survived the great flood which destroyed the rest of the world. These two angels, who came down into the world with the best and holiest of intentions, were unable to withstand the lure of the material world. They and their descendants ended up degraded and debased. If angels, the spies contended, have failed, how much more so will we if we even attempt to conquer the Land. Let us simply reject the material world and remain in the wilderness!
To this, two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, replied, "No, this is not G-d's plan. G-d wants us to live in the physical world, performing physical mitzvot (commandments). 'Do not fear...for G-d is with us'." Angels may not be equipped to deal with this world, but we are even higher than the angels, for we possess a G-dly soul in a corporeal body. We have the power to fuse the physical with the spiritual, by performing concrete mitzvot which bring holiness into the world and make it a dwelling place for G-d. Thus, we can withstand any negative force, not only emerging triumphant, but transforming those very forces into instruments of good.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Art of the Heart
Rabbi Hendel Lieberman, who passed away in 1976, was a well-known Chabad Chasidic artist. Trained in the Moscow Academy of Art, Rabbi Hendel's trademark was his lively, colorful portrayal of shtetl scenes. For Rabbi Hendel, who lost his wife and two daughters in the Holocaust, his paintings were a source of solace, enabling him to forge a connection with a lost world. His paintings hang today in the New York Metropolitan Museum of art, London's Tate Gallery, and museums in Paris.
Rabbi Hendel was a devoted chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. After his harrowing experiences during World War II, he arrived in New York broken in both body and soul. The Rebbe encouraged him and breathed new life into him. Thanks to the Rebbe's blessings and support, Rabbi Hendel revived his art career. He also used his work to inspire others and draw fellow Jews back to Judaism.
Rabbi Hendel was once invited to attend an art exhibition in a large American city, where many well-regarded artists were to exhibit their works. Before accepting the invitation, he requested the advice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe instructed him to attend the exhibition, but not to stay in the hotel where the exhibition was being held. Rather, he should stay in another, nearby hotel.
Rabbi Hendel did as the Rebbe asked. He rented a room in the hotel and brought with him enough kosher provisions to last for the duration of the exhibition.
His paintings proved to be very popular among the exhibition viewers. His appearance, especially, attracted attention: A Jewish rabbi of the old generation, with side locks and a saintly look.
During his spare time, Rabbi Hendel sat in his hotel room studying Torah, so as not to waste a minute. One day, while in his hotel room, he heard a knock at the door. A stranger stood there and asked for a few minutes of his time.
Rabbi Hendel ushered him in, and the man asked to borrow his talit and tefilin. Rabbi Hendel was surprised at the request, as the man did not look Jewish, but he complied happily. The man thanked Rabbi Hendel and returned to his hotel room.
A while later, Rabbi Hendel passed the man's room and heard sounds of sobbing. He was sure that the man was overcome with emotion and crying to G-d from the depths of his heart.
An hour later, the man returned the tefilin. Rabbi Hendel noticed that the man's eyes were red and his face showed signs of deep emotion, but he pretended not to be aware of the change.
The man came several more times over the next few days, asking to borrow Rabbi Hendel's tefilin. His curiosity aroused, Rabbi Hendel engaged the man in a personal conversation. The man confided to Rabbi Hendel that in his youth, he had been a yeshiva student. Later, he became influenced by the communist ideology and left Judaism completely.
When he arrived in the hotel for the art exhibition, he passed by Rabbi Hendel's room and heard his prayers, so full of longing and beautiful melodies. The experience brought back memories of his youth, when he had learned in yeshiva and prayed with talit and tefilin. He remembered his Chasidic parents who had observed all the commandments stringently. The home had been filled with such light and warmth; the Shabbat and holidays were the highlights of their lives.
He could not contain his feelings any longer, and decided to borrow the tefilin from Rabbi Hendel. Now his longing for his childhood faith grew within him, and he could not let a day pass without prayer.
Rabbi Hendel was deeply moved by the story. He now understood the scope of the Rebbe's vision. This must be the reason why the Rebbe asked him to participate in the exhibition and to stay in that hotel. The Rebbe, with his special spiritual sensitivity, had foreseen that this Jew would be there, and assigned Rabbi Hendel the task of reigniting his Jewish soul. Rabbi Hendel's presence in the hotel caused the man to remember his past and return to his Creator.
At the close of the exhibition, the two men parted and Rabbi Hendel returned to his home in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He wrote a report to the Rebbe about all that had happened at the exhibition, and how a Jewish artist had been inspired to return to Judaism.
Not long afterward, Rabbi Hendel was dumfounded to read in a newspaper that the Jewish artist had passed away. The Rebbe had sent him on a mission to help this man return to G-d completely in his final days.
Reprinted from chabadworld.net
Big, Small or Just One Wall
Come one, come all, to the Great Shul (synagogue) Fair! When the Great Fair comes to town, children discover what makes each synagogue unique, and what makes all of them very much the same. Whether right around the corner, or halfway across the globe, a synagogue is always special! This latest release from HaChai Publishing has laminated pages. Written by Leibel Fajnland and delightfully illustrated by Tova Leff.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, serves as guide on a journey through the weekly Torah portion based on a discourse of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Torah Studies is a classic work that was recently re-released by Kehot Publication Society.
WHY DID G-D PERMIT THE HOLOCAUST?
23 Shevat, 5744 
This is in reply to your letter of January 23 1984, in which you write that you were born in a DP camp in Germany, a child of parents who survived the Holocaust, and you ask why G-d permitted the Holocaust to take place, etc.
No doubt you know that there is substantial literature dealing with this terrible tragedy, and a letter is hardly the medium to deal adequately with the question. However, since you have written to me, I must give you some answer, Hence, the following thoughts.
Jews - including you and me - are "believers, the children of believers," our Sages declare. Deep in one's heart every Jew believes there is a G-d Who is the Creator and Master of the world, and that the world has a purpose. Any thinking person who contemplates the solar system, for example, or the complexities of an atom, must come to the conclusion and conviction that our universe did not come about by some "freak accident." Wherever you turn, you see design and purpose.
It follows that a human being "also" has a purpose, certainly where millions of human beings are concerned.
Since the Creator created the world with a purpose, it is also logical to assume that He wished the purpose to be realized, and therefore, would reveal to the only "creature" on earth who has an intelligence to understand such matters, namely, humankind, what this purpose is, and how to go about realizing it. This, indeed, is the ultimate purpose of every human being, namely, to do his or her share in the realization of the Divine design and purpose of Creation. It is also common sense that without such "Divine revelation," a human being would not, of his own accord, have what exactly is that purpose and how to achieve it, any more than a minuscule part or component in a highly complex system could comprehend the whole system, much less the creator of the system.
The illustration often given in this connection is the case of an infant, whose lack of ability to understand an intricate theory of a mature scientist would not surprise anyone, although both the infant and the scientist are created beings, and the difference between them is only relative, in terms of age and knowledge, etc. Indeed, it is possible that the infant may some day surpass the scientist in knowledge and insight. Should it, then, be surprising that a created human being cannot understand the ways of the Creator?
It is also understandable that since every person has a G-d given purpose in life, he or she is provided with the capacity to carry out that purpose fully.
A further important point to remember is that since G-d created everything with a purpose, there is nothing lacking or superfluous in the world. This includes also the human capacity.
It follows that a person's capacity in terms of knowledge, time, energy, etc., must fully be applied to carrying out his, or her, purpose in life. If any of these resources is diverted to something that is extraneous to carrying out the Divine purpose, it would not only be misused and wasteful, but would detract to that extent from the real purpose.
continued in next issue
BARAK means "a flash of light" or "lightening." Barak was an army general who, together with the Prophetess Deborah, lead the Jews to victory against the Kenites (Judges 4:6)
BINA means "understanding."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Over a century ago, on the 20th of Sivan (occurring June 22nd this year), Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim - the Lubavitcher Yeshiva - was closed by special order of the Russian government. The yeshiva, which had been established to counter the new and foreign ideologies that threatened the Jewish people from within, was a favorite target of proponents of the Enlightenment. Indeed, on this occasion their slander succeeded, but only for a very short while, as we see in this excerpt from the Previous Rebbe's diary dated 21 Sivan, 5662 (1902):
"Yesterday, a messenger arrived around six o'clock with a letter stating that at twelve noon a police captain, his lieutenant, and three officers had burst into the great study hall of the yeshiva and ordered everyone to stop learning. They wrote down all the students' names, then ordered that the place be evacuated. The captain then instructed that the windows be closed from the inside, and when everyone had exited, the front door was locked. A wax seal was affixed to the official order, with strict instructions not to open it.
"The action had been initiated by the Regional Minister of the Enlightenment, who had issued an order to immediately close all yeshivot founded by Rebbe Schneersohn."
What was the reaction of the Previous Rebbe, the administrator of Tomchei Temimim? He simply made a new entrance.
"After arriving [in Lubavitch] and evaluating the situation, I instructed Yankel the builder to construct a small platform with a flight of stairs leading into the front window. He also made three steps going down on the inside. ...I put a metal can on top of the wax seal so that it wouldn't break. By seven in the morning the yeshiva was open as usual.
"When my grandmother Rebbetzin Rivka passed by the yeshiva on her way to shul she became upset, afraid that I had done something illegal. But the next day a telegram arrived granting permission for the yeshiva to reopen."
Contemplate three things and you will not come into the hands of sin: Know what is above you (mimcha)...(Ethics 2:1)
According to the Maggid of Mezritch, this teaching can be interpreted as follows: "Know that what is above - mimcha - is from you." Know that everything which you receive from Above is a reciprical reaction to what you do here in this world.
Do not separate yourself from the community (Ethics 2:2)
Hillel teaches that all Jews are intrinsically one and the same. They are not just separate entities that may later link themselves together. This is why the menora in the Holy Temple was made out of one solid piece of gold, which was beaten into seven branches. The different branches of the menora symbolize the diversity and broad spectrum of the Jewish community. Each Jew shines and expresses the light of Torah in a different way. We may represent various aspects of Jewish life, yet deep down we're all made of the same substance.
(Blossoms, Rabbi Yisroel Rubin)
Set aside your will because of His will (Ethics 2:4)
When a person sets aside his own desires for the sake of heaven, whether to desist from sinful deeds or to perform positive mitzvot, he succeeds in transforming his nature. The Evil Inclination is conquered by making one's will the same as G-d's.
As she closed the door after the departing guest, the woman found that she could barely stand. Her whole body trembled so much that she needed to lean on the wall. Several minutes passed until she was sure that she would not faint. Eventually she composed herself and sat down again at the table next to her husband, but her eyes were still wet.
"What's the matter?" her husband asked, alarmed at her distress.
"Oh, it's nothing," she replied. "I'm just feeling a bit dizzy."
But the husband could see that there was something wrong. "Tell me, is it that meal you just gave away to that beggar?"
"No! G-d forbid that I would regret such a thing," the wife answered, averting her eyes.
Just minutes before, the husband and wife had sat down to their noonday meal. The husband, a wealthy merchant, closed his business every day at noon and returned home for a sumptuous lunch. Prepared with love and care, his wife always tried to make his lunch break as pleasant as possible before he returned to work.
The couple had not been married long, and in truth, they did not know much about each other's past. The husband hadn't been born into a wealthy home, but he was a modest and kindly man. All the wife knew for sure was that her husband had once been a beggar, but the wheel of fortune had turned and he was now the proprietor of a successful business.
Yet despite his newfound riches the husband had continued to lead a simple life. Generous and giving, the memory of his own misfortune drove him to dispense charity liberally to anyone who asked for help.
The knock on the door that day had been nothing out of the ordinary. Poor people were always coming to ask for a handout, and those collecting money for a good cause knew they would be well received. But this time, the voice on the other side of the door had been especially pitiful.
"Have pity on a poor Jew," the beggar had pleaded desperately. "It's been days since I've had anything to eat. Please give me a crust of bread. I ask for nothing more."
The sound of that tormented voice had immediately reminded the husband of his own past suffering, and his appetite had fled. Without hesitation he told his wife to invite the beggar in and give him his entire plate of food. The beggar had quickly devoured the meal, the whole time thanking and blessing his benefactors.
After the beggar had left, the husband was surprised to see how agitated his wife had become. But why was she so upset? He knew she was a generous soul, so it couldn't be the food that he had given away.
In response to his gentle questioning the wife broke down. "I'm sorry," she apologized, "but I was suddenly reminded of my former life in Cairo, Egypt, before I was married to you. Like you, my first husband was a very rich man, and I also used to cook for him the most delicious meals. He too would close his store and come home for lunch.
"G-d blessed my husband with great wealth, and his business dealings were very successful. Unfortunately, my husband had one bad character trait that ruined his life: he was extremely stingy. He was so unwilling to help the poor that he forbade me to give them food and drink if they came to the door. It bothered me very much, but I wanted to preserve peace in the home and obeyed his wishes.
"Eventually we earned a reputation for being miserly. Beggars would cross the street rather than knock on our door. It pained me greatly, but what could I do? I was trying to please my husband.
"One day at lunchtime there was a knock on the door. I can still see my husband, having just taken his first bite of bread. 'Who's there?' he called out. 'I am a poor Jew,' was the answer. 'Please help me. I haven't eaten in many days, and I am about to expire from hunger.'
"But my husband had only gotten angry. 'Go away!' he shouted at the intruder who dared to interrupt his meal. 'These impudent beggars won't even let a person eat in peace...' He then slammed the door in the poor man's face. I burst into tears.
"From that day on my husband's business began to falter. One loss followed another until all the money was gone. Even the house was lost to creditors, and we were left with nothing. At that point my husband insisted that we divorce, and we each went our separate ways.
"I never saw him again, but it was rumored that he had become a beggar. That is, until today..." the woman said. "Do you know who that poor man was who just left our house? It was my first husband..."
The husband's eyes filled with tears. He too was moved to the depths of his soul. "As a matter of fact, my dear," he replied, "I recognized him. And I myself was the beggar he turned away from the door that fateful day..."
The Midrash explains that even if hope is all that the Jewish people have to their merit, for that alone, they are worthy of being redeemed. The Chida explains that this is the meaning of what we say in the Amida prayer: "May the bloom of Your servant David soon blossom... for we hope for Your salvation all day." We are praying to G-d that He should send us Moshiach immediately, and if it is said that we are not deserving, we respond, "For we hope for your salvation all day," meaning, (as a reward) for awaiting Moshiach alone, we are deserving of being redeemed.
(Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim)