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It used to be a point of embarrassment, said in hushed tones. "Chapter 11." It meant you'd hit rock-bottom financially and needed the government to bail you out.
Today, someone saying he's in the midst of Chapter 11, however, can have significantly different connotations. Afterall, he might be quoting the foremost authority on the laws of Moshiach (Messiah) and the Messianic Era, Rabbi Moses Maimonides.
Maimonides (also known as the Rambam), 12th century scholar, philosopher, doctor and Jewish leader, is the virtually undisputed codifier of the laws regarding Moshiach and the Messianic Era. The final section of the Rambam's Mishne Torah is entitled "The Laws Concerning Kings." Chapters 11 and 12 of this section are called, "The Laws of King Moshiach."
Chapter 11: "In the future time, the King Moshiach will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will rebuild the Holy Temple and gather in the dispersed remnant of Israel....
"Whoever does not believe in him or does not await his coming, denies not only the statements of the other prophets, but also those of the Torah and of Moses, our Teacher, for the Torah attests to his coming, stating: [Deut.30:3-5]
And the Lord your G-d will bring back your captivity and have compassion upon you. He will return and gather you from among all the nations.... Even if your dispersed ones are in the furthest reaches of the heavens, [from there will G-d gather you in].... G-d will bring you [to the land]....
These explicit words of the Torah include all that was said [on the subject] by all the prophets. "One should not entertain the notion that the King Moshiach must work miracles and wonders, bring about new phenomena within the world, resurrect the dead, or perform other similar deeds. This is [definitely] not true...
"If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d;--we may, with assurance, consider him Moshiach.
"If he succeeds in the above, builds the Holy Temple on its site, and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Moshiach.
"He will then perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written, 'I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose.'"
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that by learning more about Moshiach and the imminent Redemption we actually hasten the Redemption. It's as simple as studying what Maimonides - as quoted above - and other great scholars wrote about the subject!
To learn more, visit sichosinenglish.org (translators of the above passages from Mishneh Torah and much more) moshiach.com, chabad.org
"These are the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt," begins this week's Torah portion, Shemot. The Midrash explains that the names of the Twelve Tribes which follow, enumerated when they made their descent into the land of Egypt, are mentioned in connection to the Jewish people's eventual redemption from that land.
We see that the narrative which follows tells of the beginning of the Jews' servitude, seemingly the direct opposite of their liberation and redemption. What is the meaning of this apparent contradiction?
Secondly, another opinion in the Midrash states that the names of the Twelve Tribes are mentioned to emphasize that they descended into Egypt with the names Reuven, Shimon... and ascended after the redemption with these very same names. The emphasis is on the merit of the Jewish people, that throughout the Egyptian exile, they did not change their names.
The implication of these passages is that one must understand the descent into Egypt as a phase in the redemption of the Jewish people, and indeed, as connected with the ultimate redemption that will take place with the coming of Moshiach. In that context, the obligation to recall and relive the exodus from Egypt every day serves as a catalyst to bring about Moshiach's arrival.
The Jews' redemption from Egypt, the first of their four exiles, "is a great fundamental principle...of our Torah and faith," according to our Sages. That first redemption represents the opening of the potential for all future redemptions. The freedom which was granted at that time continues at all times.
In a spiritual sense, the exodus from Egypt represents the liberation of the G-dly soul from the limitations of the body, and in general, of the triumph of the spirit over the limitations inherent in the material world. Our obligation to remember the Exodus every day therefore consists of the following:
Every day, each of us must strive to go beyond his own personal boundaries and limitations; Our obligation to recall the Exodus at night refers to carrying out our service of G-d during the long "night" of our exile; and we will also be obligated to recall the exodus from Egypt after Moshiach comes, even though the final redemption will far surpass the one which took place in Egypt. The potential for evil will be totally eradicated, and the Jewish people will never again be exiled.
In fact, the entire period of time from the Egyptian Exodus until the Future Redemption is described as "the days of your exodus from Egypt," for the exodus which began in Egypt will not be complete until the ultimate redemption is realized.
In practical terms, one must therefore anticipate the redemption and experience a foretaste of it in our daily lives by bringing a consciousness of Moshiach into all our actions, for doing so will act as a catalyst and hasten the actual coming of the redemption.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
RARA Emissaries: Jewish Detectives
by Sonja Heydeman
As Jewish communities in major cites celebrated the Chanukah festival, one group headed into country Australia to support Jewish people living in isolated areas without a synagogue or connection to their culture.
The founder of Chabad of Rural and Remote Australia, Saul Spigler, says while the census lists only 3,600 Jews as living in remote areas, the work of his group indicates there could be between 7000 and 10,000 in regional areas.
He says he and his workers are a little like 'Jewish detectives', who will go 'anywhere to visit anybody'.
Trawling the phone books, knocking on the doors of local shops and visiting cemeteries, town halls, police and Jewish doctors, they've found 250 new contacts in the past four months.
In the process, they've stumbled across some remarkable stories-a man who, as a baby, was smuggled out of Auschwitz, was discovered by Chabad in the telephone book, and eventually made his Bar Mitzvah as a 40-year-old with tears streaming from his eyes.
He turned out to be a direct descendant of the famous founder of Kabbalah, Rabbi Isaac Luria.
There was also a Jewish didgeridoo player they discovered living in a an Aboriginal community at Uluru, where he too, eventually made his Bar Mitzvah. The man's mother was a Jewess of Moroccan French descent and his father was an indigenous Australian.
Saul Spigler's son, Rabbi Yossi Spigler, recalls many enjoyable experiences along the way.
'We had a funny story in Proserpine where the lady in the local Post Office told our group, "I don't know of any Jews alive but there was a woman who passed away recently here, she was Jewish, and the priest was there and he read out the Jewish prayer", and it turned out the priest was actually Jewish!'
He also visited a family in Toowoomba where their young daughter took him by the hand to a room where she measured his height and put his name next to it, on an RARA 'honour wall'.
However, in isolated areas, not everyone is happy to stand out as Jewish.
'There might be a lot of people who've come from overseas and moved to these rural and regional areas and they might not necessarily want to put it out in the open that they're Jewish... you have a lot of people trying to hide it,' Rabbi Spigler said.
'But when you knock on the door and meet them, they just want to talk to you and learn more about their heritage.'
With very few synagogues outside city centres, only in Ballarat, Victoria and Wollongong, NSW, Chabad of RARA has sparked 13 small communities in regional centres such as Townsville, Cairns, Coffs Harbor, Geelong, Alice Springs, Darwin, Newcastle, Wollongong and Bowral.
George Koulakis is a Townsville supporter of the organisation, who describes his house as 'base camp' and maintains the motor home the group uses to travel.
As a member of the armed forces, Mr Koulakis used to bump into Jewish people on most of his postings, and had an interesting interaction after stopping to get a drink on one long trip through country New South Wales.
'I pulled into a one horse town and wanted an iced drink,' he said.
'When I came back an old Aboriginal woman was staring at our big yellow motor home and its Hebrew writing, and I said "It's Hebrew, we're Jewish".'
'She said "You know what? The Jews and the Aboriginal people have a lot in common, we're both from a very old culture and we're both still fighting for our land".'
'That was such a small but significant exchange.'
Reprinted from abc.net.au.
- (Back to text) ) Over thirty years ago, three young rabbis spent their summer holidays travelling around Australia in a campervan equipped with nothing more than a couple of maps and a desire to meet the Jews of the outback. The trip was an incredible success and they met hundreds of people some of whom they still keep in contact.
Out of that trip long ago grew Chabad of RARA, a non profit organisation that caters to the 7,500 Jewish men, women and children living in remote, rural and regional areas. The RARAmobile covers tens of thousands of kilometres a year and our volunteers come from afar afield as the United States and Europe. The mobile home is equipped with GPS, computers, cameras and everything one could need for a stint on the road.
The personnel may have changed and maps given way to GPS but the passion and love remains the same. Chabad of RARA (Rural and REgional Australia)
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Seeds of Wisdom
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21st of Shevat, 5724 
Your letter reached me with some delay. I was glad to read in it that you have made good progress in your learning of the Torah. I hope that you will not rest content with your accomplishments in the past, but that you will make ever-growing efforts to speed your achievements, not only in the study of the Torah, but also and especially, in the fulfillment of Mitzvoth [commandments], for the essential purpose of the study is that it should lead to practice and fulfillment.
You ask about the transmission of the Torah and Mitzvoth from generation to generation, and you mention that there are certain aspects which you do not understand especially in regard to certain details connected with the Mitzvoth. All these matters have been adequately explained in various books of Mussar and Chassidus. If you will discuss this matter with any Rov [rabbinic authority] in your environment, you will be able to clear up all these matters of questions and doubts.
I want to make one general observation, however, and this is so obvious, it is surprising that it had not occurred to you.
The point is this:
It does not surprise anyone if a small child does not understand the thinking of a very wise man or an advanced scientist, even though between the small child and the scientist is only a difference of years and development. For a small boy can one day become even a greater scientist, while the scientist was once a small boy.
Why should it, therefore, be surprising if a human being cannot understand G-d the Creator, especially as there is nothing in common between the Creator and the created? It is only because G-d, in His wisdom and kindness, saw fit to reveal to us some glimpses of the reasons for this or that Mitzvah that we have any idea about the significance of the Mitzvah, but actually, no human intelligence, however great, can fully understand the Mitzvoth or any details connected with them.
With regard to the question of dating, and similar questions which are dealt with in the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], you consult with a Rov, who will be able to tell you the Psak Din [legal ruling] and the Torah view on these and similar questions.
The important thing for you at this time is to apply yourself with devotion and diligence to the study of Torah, the kind of study that leads to action and good conduct, as our sages emphasized. Moreover, with this study of Torah, and especially with the observance of the Mitzvoth, you will get a deeper insight into the meaning and significance of the Mitzvoth. The illustration for this is simple:
When a person is hungry, but wishes to know how food turns into energy in the human body, the way to go about it is not to refuse to take nourishment until the question is answered, but rather to take nourishment first, and then try to get an answer to his question. For, in addition to the fact that the nourishment is needed to keep him alive, it is also needed in order to facilitate the various functions of the body, including the brain. Similarly, it is with matters of the soul and spirit, where Torah and Mitzvoth are the nourishment of the soul.
Surely no further elaboration is necessary.
Reuben (Reuven) was the firstborn son of Jacob and his wife Leah. When Leah named him, she explained that his name meant "G-d has seen my suffering." The commentator Rashi explains the name to mean that Leah was saying to G-d, "Look at the difference between" my father-in-law's (Isaac's) son, Esau, and my son. The firstborn's brithright was taken away from him because he acted unstably; kingship was given to Judah adn the priesthood to Levi. Hoshea the Prophet descended from Reuven. The portion of land inherited by the tribe of Reuven was on the east side of the Jordan River; they were the first to receive their Divinely mandated inheritance in the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
What is idolatry, according to Judaism?
Some people might dismiss the phenomenon as something that only existed in primitive cultures thousands of years ago, but for the Jew, the prohibition holds a much deeper meaning. Idolatry is one of the three fundamental mitzvot for which a Jew must give up his life rather than transgress. In fact, the first two of the Ten Commandments concern the topic.
Maimonides, whose anniversary of passing is the 20th of Tevet (this Monday), explained in his "Laws of the Worship of Stars" how idolatry came about in the first place: "In the days of Enosh, mankind made a great mistake... seeing that G-d had created the stars and constellations... and set them in the sky and gave them a place of honor... they assumed that these were worthy of praise... They began to build monuments and offer sacrifices, to verbally extol them and bow down to them." In the course of time people made representational images, and the worship of idols became widespread.
A person is also considered an idol worshipper if he believes that G-d exists, but that He is uninvolved in the world, or that other forces are also in control. Then there is a lower level of idolatry that is equally forbidden for Jews. "Shituf," literally "collaboration," is the notion that G-d has allotted certain powers to various subordinates. This also includes believing that anything other than G-d determines events.
Pure idolatry is the belief that there is something instead of G-d at the helm. The finer (but also prohibited for Jews) level is the belief that G-d has "helpers."
According to Judaism, whatever forces exist in the world (nature, planetary influences, etc.) are only doing the will of G-d. "Nature" has no choice but to obey; it is only a conduit through which G-d exerts His influence. Similarly, the boss who pays an employee a wage is not the source of his livelihood; rather, G-d alone is the source of all blessing.
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew (Ex. 1:12)
The literal translation of the Hebrew is actually in the future tense rather than the past: "But the more they will afflict them, the more they will multiply and grow." Indeed, the Torah promises that whenever the enemies of the Jewish people will seek to harm them, their actions will always have the opposite effect. And the greater the persecution and suffering, the more the Jews will ultimately be strengthened and empowered.
And when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid ("amata") to fetch it (Ex. 2:5)
As Rashi notes, an alternate meaning of "amata" is "her hand": When Pharaoh's daughter stretched out her hand to reach Moses' cradle, her arm was miraculously increased in length many cubits ("amot"). A question is asked: Pharaoh's daughter could not possibly have known that a miracle would occur. Why, then, did she attempt to rescue Moses in the first place? The answer is that when a person sincerely wishes to help another, he shouldn't stop to think if it "pays" or if it is even feasible. Rather, he must immediately do his part and "extend his hand" to his fellow man.
(Rabbi Yitzchak Vorker)
And he spied an Egyptian beating a Hebrew (Ex. 2:11)
Moses could not tolerate injustice against any human being, whether non-Jew against Jew ("an Egyptian beating a Hebrew"), Jew against Jew ("two Hebrew men struggled together"), or non-Jew against non-Jew ("and the shepherds came and drove them away.")
Rabbi Moses Maimonides, known also as the Rambam, was one of the greatest Jews of all times. During his life, he wrote numerous books in which he explained the laws and philosophy of the Torah. He was not only esteemed in the Jewish world, though. He was also known and well respected as a physician, philosopher and scientist.
The Rambam was born in Cordova, Spain, and moved as a young man with his family to Egypt. Because he did not believe in accepting monetary remuneration for his work as a Jewish scholar, he devoted himself to medicine in order to support himself and his family. The Rambam reached the peak of his professional reputation as a doctor when he was appointed to the staff of the court of Saladin as royal physician.
When the Rambam felt his end approaching, he instructed his family to bury him in the Holy Land. On the twentieth of Tevet, at the age of 69, the Rambam passed away. In Egypt, where he had been the chief rabbi, the Rambam was mourned by Jew and Moslem alike for three days. In the Holy Land and the rest of the world, where the Rambam had acted as guide and mentor to world Jewry, he was memorialized with special services and fasts.
People from all over gathered in Egypt to attend the funeral of the great Rambam. When the procession was over, a discussion erupted as to where to bury him. The Rambam's request had only been to bury him in the Holy Land. No mention was made as to which city or site should be his final resting place.
Because no solution to the problem at hand was in sight, everyone agreed to begin taking the coffin toward the borders of Israel, hoping that along the way they might be guided as to where tp bury him.
The coffin was perched atop a sturdy camel and, with hundreds joining the caravan, made its way toward the Holy Land. One of the most difficult and dangerous parts of desert travel was not necessarily the lack of water, nor sand storms. It was the constant fear of being overtaken by one of the many bands of highway robbers who attacked the innocent travelers.
As it began to get dark, the pace of the caravan quickened a bit. Everyone hoped that they would be able to find a relatively safe place to camp for the evening. Their fears were well founded though, for within a short while, the sound of hoof beats could be heard, coming closer and closer. "We're being attacked," cried out the leader of the caravan. Many of the people panicked and scattered in different directions. A few of the braver people remained with the coffin to guard it. But, they, too, were frightened away as the gang of vicious bandits came charging toward them.
The bandits approached the camel with the large box. It was obvious to them that this box must contain a huge treasure if so many people were guarding it. As much as they tried, though, the box could not be taken down from the camel.
"Grab the camel's reins," shouted the leader of the bandits. "We'll take it with us." Their efforts met with no success, though. They tried as much as possible to get the huge animal to move, but it would not budge.
"Open the box," commanded the leader.
One of the gangsters swaggered over to the box and began to pry off the lid. "There's a body in this box," he shrieked, as he ran away. The other bandits, too, became frightened at the thought of a dead body in a box in the middle of the dark desert and quickly made their exit.
The people from the caravan who had been accompanying the coffin slowly made their way back toward the camel. But, to their surprise, the camel began moving determinedly, as if it had a specific destination in mind.
The caravan leader cautioned the other people not to go near the camel. "Let us see what direction it takes." After a little while, it was obvious that the camel was heading straight for the border of Israel.
No one dared to go close to the camel. Instead, they followed from a distance behind. The people were amazed to observe how the camel kept on its course heading straight for Israel. By now, everyone was certain that there would no longer be a problem of where to bury the Rambam.
After reaching the borders of Israel, the camel continued to travel steadily. The camel came to the city of Tiberias in the Northern part of the country. It continued on through the narrow streets of the city until, at a certain spot, it suddenly stopped and began to kneel down on the ground.
The people understood that this was the place where they should bury the Rambam. Carefully, they removed the coffin from the camel's back and placed it on the ground. Immediately, the people began digging the grave. All who witnessed this strange event were amazed to see the wonderful miracle take place right before their own eyes.
The people of the city of Tiberias built a beautiful structure over the spot where the Rambam was buried. And every year, on the anniversary of his passing, thousands of people from all parts of the world come to visit his holy grave. For, the Talmud tell us that "He who prays at the grave of a righteous person is equal to one who has prayed in the Holy Temple."
In future time, the King Moshiach will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will rebuild the Holy Temple and gather in the dispersed remnant of Israel. Then, in his days, all the statutes will be reinstituted as in former times. We will offer sacrifices and observe the Sabbatical and Jubilee years according to all their particulars set forth in the Torah. Whoever does not believe in him, or does not await his coming, denies not only the statements of the other prophets, but also those of the Torah and of Moshe, our teacher, for the Torah attests to his coming.
(Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, ch. 11)