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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler
I turned on my phone in the morning only to see multiple messages reading "Nu, any news?" and "Anything happen overnight?" In fact, for the past two weeks I had been getting daily messages, emails and phone calls like these from friends and family in anticipation of the big day.
My wife and I were expecting our fourth child, and her due date had come and gone. For some reason, this pregnancy was lasting longer than expected, and our friends and family were waiting on the good news. "Is there a mazal tov, yet?" they wanted to know.
But the message that took the cake was from my sister-in-law in Israel. She had been WhatsApping me every day for two weeks, at which point she wrote, "THIS IS NOT NORMAL! WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG?!"
Thank G-d, our beautiful, healthy princess was born in good time, when she was ready, and not a minute sooner. We named her Shterna Sara.
The Chassidic masters compare exile to pregnancy and redemption to birth. The suffering and persecution we experience in exile is called the "birth pangs of Moshiach," and is likened to the pain and discomfort a mother feels during pregnancy and labor.
In the Talmud we read about Yosef, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua, who fell ill, lost consciousness and came very near to death. Today, we would call it a near death experience.
When he regained consciousness, his father asked him, "What did you see 'on the other side'?"
He responded, "I saw an upside down world. Those who are prestigious and superior and honored in this world are looked down upon the in the true world. But those appear lowly in this world are honored and respected in the true world."
His father acknowledged, "You have seen a clear world."
Exile is the upside down world. Pregnancy is likened to exile, which is why the fetus lies upside down in the mother's womb.
We are the ones who see an upside down world. In our world, all you need to do is check out Facebook, Twitter or any magazine to see which people are glorified and why. In the true world, these people are not the honored and admired role models; not at all! And the reasons we look up to them are completely meaningless.
We worship and glorify the dollar bill, we idolize celebrities, we respect the wrong things. Things that are worthless in the world to come.
In truth, we have to ask ourselves every day, "Nu, when it is happening? What's going on? Has anything changed?" We need to experience that same anticipation that my wife and I, and all our friends and family, felt about our upcoming birth. This is how we should feel about Moshiach and the redemption!
Like my sister-in-law texted me, "This is not normal!" Our state of exile is not normal. When will we finally give birth? When will the redemption come? When will everything be right side up instead of upside down?
The Jews in Egypt waited 210 years for their redemption. We have been waiting close to 2,000 years and we want it to end now.
So, nu, when will it happen? And what can you do to hasten it?
Rabbi Vigler and his wife Shevy direct Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side in New York.
The Torah portion of Tetzaveh contains the commandment to make a special altar for burning incense: "And you shall make an altar to burn incense upon." Our Sages explain that the Sanctuary and Holy Temple are symbolic of the Jewish soul; all of its components have a parallel in the spiritual make-up of the Jew, and reveal important lessons to be applied in our daily lives.
There were two different altars in the Sanctuary: an outer altar made of bronze, for animal sacrifices and meal-offerings, and an inner altar made of gold for burning incense. It was forbidden to offer anything except incense on the inner altar, and the person burning the incense had to do so alone, without anyone else present in the chamber.
In general, the altar is symbolic of the heart and the Jew's innate, burning love for G-d. More specifically, however, the outer and inner altars of the Sanctuary symbolize two different levels of this love, i.e., its external and internal aspects, as well as two different ways of approaching our Divine service.
For example, there are many things a Jew must do which require only the "outer" aspect of the heart. Other pursuits, however, should be approached with the utmost enthusiasm and full inner powers of the soul.
To illustrate: A Jew is obligated to eat, drink, sleep and attend to the physical health of the body. These activities, however, should not be done for personal pleasure, but in a manner of "All of your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven," and even the higher level of "Know Him in all your ways."
In the same way the Sanctuary's outer altar was reserved for offering "limbs" and "fats," a Jew should approach the fulfillment of his physical needs with only the "external" aspects of his heart, i.e., without undue enthusiasm, as if fulfilling an obligation.
By contrast, the "internal" aspects of the heart should be reserved for the pure service of G-d, for learning Torah and prayer. A Jew's true enthusiasm and inner vitality should be channeled into holy pursuits, in the same way the incense on the inner altar rose completely upward to G-d, without leaving a residue or remain.
When offering the incense, the kohen (priest) had to be alone in the chamber. Symbolically, this means that when it comes to matters of holiness a Jew must act solely for the sake of G-d, humbly and without trying to attract attention: only the individual and G-d need to know about it. When a Jew serves G-d with pure intention, he merits that the Divine Presence will rest of the work of his hands.
Adapted from Volumes 1 and 6 of Likutei Sichot
Joy Breaks Barriers
by Malka Touger
Everyone loves Teddy, a big man with a big heart, whose outgoing personality and generosity endear him to others. So when Teddy first met Rabbi Chaim and Charna Mentz, of Chabad of Bel Air, California, they naturally struck up a friendship. Teddy enjoyed the lively spirit at Chabad House, and he and his wife Michelle became frequent attendees at Chabad events.
One Thursday, on a trip with his three young daughters to the East Coast, Teddy phoned Rabbi Mentz. "Rabbi, you're always talking about the Rebbe and we were in Queens so I decided to go with my kids to his grave site and say a prayer. I asked for a blessing for health and prosperity," Teddy continued, "so that I can continue to support all the good work you and the others are doing. It was really an uplifting experience."
"Great, Teddy!" Rabbi Mentz responded. "How about connecting the inspiration to a mitzva (commandment)?"
"You're right, Rabbi. Why don't you get tefilin for me? You'll teach me how to put them on when I get back."
That Saturday night, Teddy's wife Michelle called, frantic. "Rabbi, Teddy's in the hospital. The doctors don't know what it is. He's really sick. Please pray for him."
Early Sunday, Rabbi Mentz went to the hospital. "It's my leg, Rabbi," he mumbled. Someone in the room said, "It's a staph infection from a small cut that got infected."
Rabbi Mentz unzipped a velvet bag. "Teddy, let's put on tefilin." Teddy put the tefilin on, and after him, all the men in the hospital room did so as well.
On his way out after the visit, Michelle introduced Rabbi Mentz to the chief physician in residence, one of Teddy's childhood friends, Dr. Michael Chaiken.
The doctor said grimly, "The last few people who had this infection in the States didn't make it."
On Monday, Teddy's condition worsened. He was given strong medication, causing him to sleep a lot. When Rabbi Mentz came to visit on Tuesday, Teddy had been sleeping the entire day. The rabbi stayed at the bedside, hoping for a wake moment to put on Teddy's new tefilin. But nothing had changed by evening and Rabbi Mentz had to leave to give a class.
In the middle of the class, Michelle called. "Rabbi, you really have to pray now. All of the top doctors from S. Joseph, Kaiser and Sinai are here to study Teddy's case. They may learn something for others, but they say it's too late for Teddy."
When Rabbi Mentz came to the hospital the next morning, Teddy wasn't in his room. "He's been transferred to the intensive care unit," a nurse informed him.
Michelle, who was at the entrance to the ICU, looked desperate. "You must have faith," Rabbi Mentz told her. "You husband has always been a robust man. A perfectly healthy man goes to the Rebbe's grave site and gets sick? Stay positive and have trust."
On Thursday 60 people were assembled in a room adjoining the ICU. The atmosphere was somber when Rabbi Mentz arrived. Dr. Chaiken hastily approached him.
"Go on in and see him," he said. Dr. Chaiken accompanied Rabbi Mentz into the isolation room. The infection had spread mercilessly. "It will enter his lungs in 10-12 hours," he said sadly. "We've done all we can."
Rabbi Mentz said softly, "There is something else you can do. You can put on tefilin."
"Rabbi, I'm a non-believer."
"Do it for the sake of Teddy's recovery!"
"Look, Rabbi, I do my thing for him and you do yours. If you want to stay here and pray, I'll make sure the attendant doesn't interfere."
Rabbi Mentz stayed in the room and recited Psalms. When he came out into the lobby where the others were assembled, the atmosphere was heavy; people were talking about death as an inevitable part of life. Rabbi Mentz told Michelle that he would be back soon.
Once out of the hospital, Rabbi Mentz struggled for clarity. "What is this?" he thought. "Doctors are given permission to heal not to depress. The Rebbe said many times that positive thinking is powerful and can bring about positive results, that a person who makes a step toward Jewish practice has great merit, that joy breaks through all barriers. I will make a conscious decision to break through this barrier with positivity and joy."
A short while later, Rabbi Mentz returned with 18 boys from the Ohr Elchonon Chabad Yeshiva. They filed into the room where the depression was tangible.
Rabbi Mentz passed around a tzedaka (charity) box. "I propose an alternative to this negative atmosphere. Let's give charity, which our Sages say averts calamity. Let's generate positive energy in Teddy's direction, and focus on recuperation and health. Let's heal ourselves of our own negativity, and we may have an impact on Teddy's condition as well. Let's think good thoughts of miraculous outcomes and joyful thanksgiving. I'll go into Teddy's room with these yeshiva boys and pray, and you do your part in praying and positive thinking."
Rabbi Mentz fervently led the boys in prayer and Psalms. Then he told them: "We are taught never to give up hope, and to use positive energy and joy to overcome hurdles. Joy penetrates barriers, and we want to break through barriers. Join me in song and joy, here and now!"
The boys sang - hesitantly at first, and then strongly enough to bring a nurse running. Rabbi Mentz gestured to the boys to follow him down the hospital corridor, still singing. The astonished staff looked on as the strange procession returned to the room with the assembled crowd.
Rabbi Mentz addressed them. "We don't need to wait until we see the miracle. Let's celebrate Teddy's recovery now!" The rabbi's words fell upon ready ears. Rabbi Mentz led everyone in lively prayer and Psalms and shared a Torah thought. "May I suggest that we all go home with hopeful hearts and uplifted spirits, and may we meet again tomorrow to share good news."
Friday morning, Rabbi Mentz went straight to the familiar room next to the ICU. It was empty. Rabbi Mentz spotted Dr. Chaiken. "How's Teddy?" he asked anxiously.
"Before I answer you, I have a question," snapped Dr. Chaiken. "I know that rabbis make use of all kinds of kabbalistic formulas. What did you do here last night?"
Rabbi Mentz answered, "Nothing of the sort. I just tried to generate positive energy to affect a morbid situation."
"Teddy's condition took an unexpected turn; his body is fighting the infection. It looks like he's going to make it!"
"Is this a miracle?" inquired Rabbi Mentz.
"Yes! I must admit there is a supernatural force up there and it's not modern medicine. A sheer miracle."
Rabbi Mentz smiled, "Miraculous enough for you to put on tefilin?" The doctor paused, then nodded and rolled up his sleeve.
Two weeks later Teddy returned home. And five of his friends and relatives purchased tefilin and committed to putting them on regularly.
Reprinted with permission from Excuse Me Are You Jewish
Chabad of The Woodlands, Texas, welcomed a new Torah scroll amidst great rejoicing. This is the first time that the Chabad House has a Torah of its own. Until now they were borrowing a Torah scroll.
A new exciting youth movement, "EnerJew" has been established by the Federation of Jewish Communities of CIS for Jewish teens in Russia and Ukraine. The new initiative began with five groups in various cities and expects to expand to a dozen in the next few months.
New Chabad on Campus
Rabbi Yossi and Mushka Greenberg have moved to Oxford, Ohio, where they have opened a Chabad on Campus serving Miami University.
29 Shvat, 5711 (1951)
Greetings and blessings,
In response to your letter of the 17th of Shvat in which you ask for help in preparing speeches so that you will be able to speak in front of your congregation.
It is difficult to give instructions regarding the content to deliver to your congregation since you do not describe their character (are they businessmen, intellectuals, youth, in their elder years, etc.?) or what they seek - what they are searching for in the Rabbi's speech. Nevertheless, by and large, you can find enough material in HaKeriah VeHakedushah for a variety of types of American Jews; for example, kashrus (there is an article in English as well), the role of women (in the urgent message addressed to women), the concepts of exile and redemption, etc. There is an ongoing column on all the Torah readings and the Haftorahs that, at the very least, can be used as a basis and material with which to construct your talks.
If you have a particular subject in mind that you wish to speak about and are seeking relevant sources and references, please notify me and I will make an effort to find them.
It is surprising that you do not mention anything about the religious life of your community and your activities to strengthen Judaism and even to spread the wellsprings of Chassidus. Ultimately, this is also incumbent on you. Certainly, you have been given the potentials to fulfill this mission. And when you begin, you will succeed.
With blessing, awaiting good news,
2 Adar I, 5711 (1951)
Greetings and blessings,
...Of course I remember you and I would like to emphasize to you that you should carry out what my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, told you and repeated to you: that one should be happy at all times.
Surely you remember our conversation where it was emphasized that the world is not without an owner. Instead, just as Gd created it, so too, He controls it at present, in every time and at every moment. Nothing happens without Divine providence. This is the simple faith of every Jew, a believer, the son of believers.
We all also believe that Gd is the ultimate of good. Therefore everything He does is for the good.
Remembering this and contemplating it from time to time makes it easier to understand many events in life. Of primary importance - and this gives a person true security in his day-to-day life - is that, in the words of King David: "Gd is my shepherd." As a result, "I shall not lack... because You are with me."
I would be happy if you would find time to write me a few words describing how you are feeling. I wish you good health and hope that you will be able to share good tidings concerning it.
With blessings for all types of good,
2 Adar I, 5711 (1951)
Greetings and blessings,
I heard different tidings concerning your uncle ... from our emissaries who visit Switzerland from time to time and from your relatives here.
I also had the opportunity to become personally acquainted with ... and to see how necessary friendship and warm personal attention are to someone of his character.
It is certainly superfluous to call your attention to this matter and to emphasize how important it is both from the standpoint of ordinary human values and from the standpoint of the Torah. Nevertheless, I will take the liberty of emphasizing the great mitzvah (commandment) that you and your wife will have by relating to your uncle with a degree of warm personal attention and friendship that exceeds the norm.
There is an adage from my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe: "Gd never remains in debt." I am certain that Gd will repay you with much success and a life of good fortune and much satisfaction from your son.
With blessings for blessing and success; also for the members of your household,
From I Will Write it in Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos in English
7 Adar I
It is imperative that every Jew know that he is an emissary of the Master of all, charged with the mission - wherever he may be of bringing into reality G-d's will and intention in creating the universe, namely, to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and avoda (prayer). This is done through performing practical mitzvot (commandments) and implanting in oneself fine character traits.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
"V'ata Tetzaveh - and you shall command" are the words that begin this week's Torah portion. A Chasidic discourse based on this verse was issued by the Lubavitcher Rebbe and personally distributed to thousands of men, woman, and children on "Purim Katan - the Minor Purim," 14 Adar I, 1992. This Chasidic discourse was the last discourse edited personally and distributed personally by the Rebbe.
The discourse was based on a discourse of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. When the Previous Rebbe delivered his discourse, it was with true self-sacrifice: Hundreds of Chasidim were risking their lives and defying the Communist government to gather in a small Lubavitch synagogue in Moscow in order to hear the Rebbe deliver the discourse. They knew that KGB agents were there. They knew that the Rebbe had been warned to cease his activities that maintained and bolstered Judaism in Russia. Indeed, only four months later the Previous Rebbe was arrested on capital charges. Moreover, the discourse encouraged them to defy the regime and to risk their lives for Judaism and Jewish education.
The discourse emphasizes the inspiration generated by Moses and the "extensions of Moses in every generation," the Torah leaders of the Jewish people. It is the Moses of the generation who stirs our people's desire for Redemption and prevents them from being lulled into complacency by the exile. Even when a person is blessed with success and prosperity, Moses' influence causes him to feel a hungering want for Redemption because of the very fact that he is in exile.
The discourse concludes by emphasizing how Moses' inspiration enables each individual to continue their divine service on their own initiative, shining as "a constant light" without change or variation.
And you shall command the Children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil (Ex. 27:20)
Why was olive oil chosen as the substance with which the menora in the Holy Temple was lit each day? Olive oil can only be extracted from the olive by crushing the fruit. This contains a practical lesson for every Jew: Torah knowledge and fine character traits are not automatically acquired; a person must invest hard work and much effort to attain them.
Aaron shall bear the judgment of the Children of Israel upon his heart, before the L-rd continually (Ex. 28:30)
Aaron, the High Priest, was the "heart" of the Jewish people, keenly sensing the pain and suffering of each individual, and constantly praying to G-d that He alleviate it.
(Beer Mayim Chaim)
And I will dwell among the Children of Israel, and I will be their G-d (Elokim) (Ex. 29:45)
Why does the Torah use the Divine Name "Elokim," which indicates G-d's attribute of judgment? When a father loves his child, he expresses that love by protecting him from harm and judging anyone who attempts to hurt him. Similarly, our Father in Heaven uses His attribute of judgment when dealing with the enemies of the Jewish people.
(The Magid of Mezeritch)
The Jewish community of Frankfurt was in mourning for their beloved Chief Rabbi. The rabbi had no heir, but he hadn't left his flock entirely without recourse. A few days before he died he had called the Jewish leaders together and instructed them on finding a replacement. The potential candidate would have to pass a test consisting of three complicated and difficult questions, involving very deep Torah concepts. "Whoever answers these questions," the rabbi had stipulated, "should be appointed the Rabbi of Frankfurt."
The search began after the funeral. A delegation was chosen of three of the most distinguished leaders of the community, and they set out to find their candidate. As a major Jewish center, Frankfurt required a very special personage; only a scholar with the highest level of piety and erudition would do.
The first city the delegation arrived at was Cracow, which boasted many Torah scholars. Surely it wouldn't be too difficult to find someone there who could answer the three questions.
On the day they arrived they learned that a great celebration would be taking place later that evening. The son of one of the wealthiest Jews in Cracow was becoming Bar Mitzva, and the entire community was invited. The members of the delegation from Frankfurt were also invited to attend.
In the middle of the festivities the Bar Mitzva boy stood up to deliver a speech, as is customary. The hall fell silent as everyone listened attentively.
The boy's sermon was very deep, revealing an unusual mastership of Torah knowledge and proficiency. It was, in short, the most impressive Bar Mitzva speech that anyone had ever heard. The boy began by postulating three difficult problems; when the members of the delegation realized that they were the same three questions the rabbi had raised, they looked at one another in amazement. They could hardly believe it when the boy proceeded to answer them skillfully one by one.
All of the guests were impressed, but the members of the delegation could barely contain their excitement. Clearly, the hand of G-d had steered them in the right direction. All they had to do was find the tutor who had prepared the boy for his Bar Mitzva; whoever he was, it was obvious that he must serve as the next Rabbi of Frankfurt. They thanked G-d for having led them to a suitable candidate so quickly.
Indeed, it wasn't difficult to locate the boy's teacher. As they learned from the boy's father, his name was Reb Yosef Shmuel the Teacher.
They found Reb Yosef Shmuel in a corner of the study hall surrounded by little boys. The teacher was dressed simply and rather poorly, but they didn't hesitate to approach him.
"We'd like to speak to you about an urgent matter," they said, but Reb Yosef Shmuel was busy. "Not now," he replied. "I am an employee, and it wouldn't be right to shirk my duties." Reb Yosef Shmuel resumed his teaching.
If anything, the teacher's answer made the members of the delegation even more hopeful. This was obviously a man of ethics, G-d-fearing and devoted to his job. They agreed to speak with him later that day.
When they came back they got quickly to the point. They told him about the passing of their rabbi, and the three questions he had established as a test for his successor. "So now you're going to be our rabbi!" they concluded.
They were shocked, however, when Reb Yosef Shmuel declined their offer most adamantly. He wasn't looking for honor or glory, he explained, and he already had a job as a teacher from which he derived great satisfaction. Politely but firmly he turned them down. All their pleas fell on deaf ears. They begged and implored the teacher, and even promised him an impressive salary, but to no avail. Reb Yosef Shmuel could not be budged.
The members of the delegation prepared to leave Cracow, dejected and forlorn. Who knew if they would be able find another qualified candidate? They had just left the outskirts of the city when their carriage broke down, and for several hours they had no choice but to sit by the side of the road until it was repaired. All of a sudden a messenger caught up with them; he had come directly from Reb Yosef Shmuel on a special mission.
The messenger revealed that the teacher had suddenly taken ill, and seemingly overnight had arrived at death's door. Indeed, the doctor who was summoned asserted that he had no more than a few days left to live. When Reb Yosef Shmuel heard this pronouncement he had cried out, "Master of the Universe! If You really want me to serve as Rabbi of Frankfurt, I'll do it!"
No sooner had he uttered these words than the mysterious illness began to dissipate. A messenger was immediately dispatched to intercept the delegation from Frankfurt and inform them of his decision.
The joy of the Jewish community of Frankfurt knew no bounds. Divine Providence had clearly demonstrated that Reb Yosef Shmuel was meant to be their leader, and he was formally appointed Chief Rabbi of the city a short time later. And everyone marveled at the prophetic vision of their previous Chief Rabbi, who had provided his flock with such a worthy successor.
The rulership of Moshiach will be more elevated than that of Moses. For the Talmud teaches that Moshiach will "judge by his sense of smell," whereas a king may judge only based on the testimony of witnesses. This observation throws light on the two views cited by the Sages on the verse, "Behold My servant will prosper; he shall be uplifted and exalted, and held very high." According to one view, Moshiach will be "more exalted than Isaac"; according to the other view, Moshiach will be "more exalted than Moses." The first view speaks of his gift of prophecy, and in this he will not be greater than Moses; the second view speaks of his sovereignty, and in this he will be greater even than Moses.
(Igrot Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 181)