A Perfect World | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | The Rebbe Writes
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March of Dimes. Soup Kitchens. United Way. AIDS Awareness.
We want to fix the wrongs of the world, to abolish prejudice, to alleviate poverty, to wipe out war, to find cures for all illness and to give every person of any stripe or color the education they so rightfully deserve.
At the core of our very beings, we want a perfect world and we want to be a part of perfecting that world.
Sometimes, most of the time, we get so caught up in the rat-race of our day-to-day lives that we forget our desire - no, our need - for a perfect world. But the passion is always there, waiting until we reorient ourselves, re-prioritize our lives, reestablish our true goals.
This is the essence of the thousands year old desire for Moshiach.
As physical human beings, we are a fusion of body and soul. It is not enough for us to feel a need; we must act upon those feelings and perform concrete actions that will bring us ever closer to our goal. And we must use every fibre of our physical beings and even our possessions to reach our objective:
A hand giving charity,
Fingers striking a match to kindle Shabbat and holiday candles,
A mouth speaking respectful words,
Feet walking to visit the sick or elderly,
A body immersing in the "living waters" of the mikva,
Knees bending, so as to see eye-to-eye with a child when imparting an ethical teaching,
A stomach digesting kosher food,
Money purchasing Jewish books,
A mind comprehending a Torah book,
Eyes gazing at a mezuza on the door post,
An arm and head with tefilin wound upon them
A heart feeling love for another Jew,
The Rebbe said that we are on the threshold of a perfected world, a perfect world, the days of Moshiach. He enjoined every man, woman and child to do everything possible to hasten the eternal era of peace, prosperity, health, and knowledge that will commence with the Redemption.
Maimondes said that every person should view the entire world as balanced between good and evil. Each person's one good deed can tip the scale to the side of good and bring Redemption to himself and the entire world.
No one knows which person or what act will tip the scale. Let's all try.
This week's Torah portion, Chukat, tells of the death of Aaron, Moses' brother, in whose merit the miraculous "Clouds of Glory" used to accompany the Jews on their journey through the desert. When Aaron died the clouds disappeared, but later reappeared in the merit of Moses. Two other outstanding miracles that accompanied the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert were the Manna that fell daily, and the "Well of Miriam" which supplied them with water.
Each of these three miracles had very different characteristics.
The Clouds of Glory protected the people externally. The clouds protected them from harsh winds, snakes and serpents. They smoothed out the mountains, and kept the Israelites' clothes clean. All of these are external functions.
The Manna was a wonderful food in which one could experience any taste one desired. Food is something that is absorbed internally and provides nourishment and sustenance.
The Well of Miriam was a source of water - which is not, in itself, nourishing. The principal function of water in the body is to act as a medium to carry food to all parts of the body.
Three different aspects or "dimensions" of Torah are signified and paralleled by the Clouds, the Manna and the Well. There is an aspect of Torah which is absorbed internally like the Manna; there is an aspect that provides external protection, like the Clouds of Glory; and there is that aspect of Torah that carries the "external protection" and the "nourishment" to all Jews - like the water of Miriam's Well.
There is another way in which the "Clouds of Glory" are similar to the Torah, for they encompassed and protected all the Jews - even those few who still clung to idolatry - from the crossing of the Red Sea until their entry into Israel. In a similar way, the Torah encompasses each and every one of our people from the greatest to the smallest; it gives us the strength to go through the wilderness, not to fear the snakes and serpents, and to be constantly imbued with a spirit of self-sacrifice.
The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, related how he was once standing with a large group of diverse Jews taking shelter from the Nazi bombardment of Warsaw. The group was made up of Jews from every spectrum and every level of spirituality, from great tzadikim such as the Rebbe, to simple Jews, and even those who had no connection with Judaism. But when a bomb exploded not far from them, the entire group cried out in unison, "Shema Yisrael."
Through studying the Torah, even if one understands no more than the simple explanation, one receives the nourishment (Manna) and protection (Clouds of Glory) of Torah.
by Dr. David Nesenoff
I had been a Conservative rabbi for 20 years, but each of us has our moment, or moments, when we evaluate life and ponder our purpose, when we ask ourselves those big questions: What do I really want to do? What is important to me? What will I accomplish in my future?
The Land of Israel was on my mind. My wife Nancy and I had recently returned from there and I wanted to do something for Israel. I decided to make video snippets of Jews talking about Israel. I would ask people, "Any comments on Israel?" And they would say how much they like the spirituality, or the falafel, or the archeology or the beaches. I would put these snippets on the Internet and the whole world would see that Israel is a beautiful place. All the ills and ill-wills against Israel would be readjusted.
At the time, my website, RabbiLIVE.com was being used to broadcast prayer services for American Jewish soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and on aircraft carriers... I figured I would post my Israel falafel videos there.
My son, Adam Natan, had a website of his own for teenagers to learn about and discuss Jewish topics. He is quite a remarkable young man. He had gone to Washington and streamed on his website the entire AIPAC pro-Israel conference by himself.
In May, Adam called up the White House and requested to attend the President's Chanuka celebration the following December. They asked him if he was confused. "Do you mean the upcoming Jewish heritage celebration?"
"Yes, the upcoming Jewish heritage celebration," he answered. The White House media office provided press credentials for Adam, his friend Daniel Landau and me.
I drove to Washington to celebrate Jewish Heritage Month with two teenagers and the president. Maybe this would be a good place to find Jews to ask my "Any comments on Israel?" question.
On May 27, 2010, we attended President Obama's press conference in the East Room of the White House. The topic was the oil leak in the Gulf. After the press conference, we had an hour before the Jewish heritage celebration. We decided to leave the grounds of the White House for a little walk. As we headed for the gate, I noticed Helen Thomas walking toward us. I mentioned to the boys that she is one of the most famous reporters in the world. She had covered 10 U.S. presidents at the White House.
She was a journalist for 60 years, and I was a journalist for 60 seconds; I figured it was time we met. So we stopped and exchanged pleasantries. Although my cameras were in the White House, I had my small Flip video camera on me and I started filming. She looked directly into the lens and gave some rather gracious advice about journalism.
I was waiting until later in the day to shoot my Israel question at the guests of the Jewish celebration, but something made me fire one round a little early. "Any comments on Israel?"
Hashgacha pratit, Divine providence. The ultimate Creator of this story, and all stories, placed in my camera the snippet to aid my dear Israel and change my life. "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she said.
I asked her, "Where should they go?"
"Where's home?" I asked.
"Poland and Germany."
Back home to Poland and Germany. I wish I could go back to my grandparents' town of Drobnin, where on a Friday evening the smell of challah no doubt permeated the town, and candles twinkled in the window of every home. But not one shtetl, not one candle, not one Jew is there. They're all gone. The anti-Semites erased them.
I wanted to post the video immediately on my website. But even if you are a billionaire CEO you need a 15-year-old to figure out how to put something on a website. I needed my son to post the video, and unfortunately he was tied up with final exams and Driver's Ed. An entire week went by, and the video remained in my camera.
Divine providence. Something happened that week that brought Israel into the spotlight. On May 31, 2010, Israeli soldiers boarded a flotilla of boats that were bent on defying the Gaza Strip security blockade. The "peace activists" on one of the boats attached the Israelis with metal rods and knives. Several of the activists were shot.
The whole world was against Israel. Helen Thomas stood in the White House, near the president, in front of the international press corps, and said, "It was a deliberate massacre by Israel against peace activists on the high seas."
That night my son had some time. We posted the video at around 2 a.m. Friday morning. We forwarded it to some people, including Jewish blogger Jeff Dunetz.
After Shabbat I turned on the computer to see if anyone had looked at the video. There were over 700,000 views. By Sunday it was over a million.
At a time when the events of the flotilla fueled the foggy views of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic people, my video cleared the air. Helen Thomas resigned. She was banished from the White House; her name was removed from various awards throughout the country.
Every media outlet in the world converged on me. I received thousands of threatening hate emails as well. Law enforcement and private agencies got involved. Everyone wanted to know about the guy behind the camera.
Sitting at the computer in my son's room with the soccer ball wallpaper and the little desk, I was overwhelmed. I thought that this would be a good time for some Divine providence. The phone rang. It was Ari Fleischer, former president Bush's White House press secretary. He said that I should have a definitive message. It was important that I know what message I wanted to deliver to the world.
My son came home from school, and I told him that Ari Fleischer had called. My son said, "I know; I told him to call you." (Who is this kid?)
My son said, "You can speak to anyone in the world; who do you want me to call for advice to find out what our message is?" I thought for a moment and said one name. Sure enough, within minutes, my son handed me the phone to speak with Elie Wiesel.
As per Ari's counsel, I asked, "Professor Wiesel, what is my message?" He said that he had read in the newspaper that I attend services at Chabad each morning, and he suggested that I should find out what the Rebbe would have wanted me to say.
I couldn't figure out what I was more confused and amazed about. The fact that Elie Wiesel was advising me to find out what the Lubavitcher Rebbe would have me say, or that Elie Wiesel was reading about where I pray.
I called my local Chabad rabbi, Chaim Grossbaum, and told him that Elie Wiesel had advised me to find out what the Rebbe would want me to say. "Okay, let's find out," he said without any hesitation.
We contacted Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, an emissary of the Rebbe, a renowned individual who has great knowledge of the Rebbe's teachings, and also has terrific insight into world politics and media. We asked him what he thought the Rebbe's message would be in this situation.
"If you have a friend and you don't see him for a little while, he is still your friend. But if you don't see him for 50 years, you can't be sure if he is still your friend," Rabbi Shemtov said. "If your child goes away for a little while, he is still your child; and if your child goes away for months or even years, he is still your child. And if, G-d forbid, you don't see your child for 50 years, he is still your child.
"We are not the friends of Israel. We are the Children of Israel. We were away for a few hundred years in Egypt, or a thousand years in Persia, Spain, or North America. We were away for a few years in Auschwitz. But we are still the Children of Israel.
"Israel and the Children of Israel are one. It doesn't matter where or when you are born and live, what language you speak or what century or era you come from; we are always the Children of Israel. We and Israel exist because of each other; G-d gave the Land to us. The Jew walking on the street in New York, whether or not he even knows or cares about Israel, is alive because of Israel, and Israel exists because of him."
Two days later, I was on CNN's "Reliable Sources" with Howard Kurtz. I can't remember what he asked me, but I know the answer was that the Children of Israel and the Land of Israel are one, and that is what Helen Thomas and those who want to delegitimize Israel are denying.
I was asked to be the keynote speaker at Yale University's inaugural symposium on global anti-Semitism. The chairman of the symposium, Professor Charles Asher Small explained to the audience of professors from all over the world why I was the keynote speaker.
He said that he never watches television, but one day he was visiting his parents, and they happened to have on CNN's Reliable Sources. He heard me say that "the Children of Israel and the Land of Israel are one. They only exist because of each other; it is G-d-given." He said those words caused him to ask me to speak. He said those words needed to be heard at Yale University by all the assembled.
Helen Thomas said, "Go home," and I did. After being a Conservative rabbi for over 20 years, I traveled home to my roots. And so did my family. My son Adam studied at Chabad's Mayanot Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and he is currently studying at the Rabbinical College of America in New Jersey. On Sukkot he built sukkas in Guatemala; on Passover he conducted a Seder for Jews deep inside Cuba.
My daughter Shira studied at Machon Chana Women's Institute and then Beth Rivkah Seminary, both in Crown Heights. An accomplished dancer, she teaches dance to the daughters of the Rebbe's emissaries over the Internet. My wife and I are very proud of our children.
I not only went home; I went to hundreds of homes. I have spoken at hundreds of Chabad Houses throughout the world. I have been inspired and I have, thank G-d, inspired others as well. Each time I tell my story, I offer my conclusions about how to fight anti-Semitism. I tell my audiences that the way to fight anti-Jewish is by doing Jewish. Do Torah. Do Mitzvot. Do Shabbat. Do kosher. I know this is what the Rebbe would have wanted me to say.
Adapted from an article in the N'shei Chabad Newsletter.
Freely translated and adapted
Adar 26, 5710 (1950)
Greetings and blessings,
In one of his letters, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, writes: "Chassidic philosophy brought about a situation in which one is not alone." If that applied when "the tzaddik (righteous person) was living on this earth...in a physical place," (Zohar) certainly it applies to a much greater degree at present when "he is found" - even in this world of deed - "more than in his lifetime." How much more so does this apply with regard to a tzaddik who is also a Rebbe who is "an intermediary who binds" between G-d (Havayah) and the Jewish people!
The name used for G-d, Havayah, is not related to the limitations of nature, Heaven forbid. The intermediary possesses dimensions of both the entities between which he mediates. With regard to his chassidim and those bound to him at present, as previously - for a connection with a Rebbe is one of yechida which is above the concept of time - the motif of bonding is even stronger now. For the chassidim tell their souls and their bodies that we have no other alternative at all. And then there will be no interruption in that bond, Heaven forbid. On the contrary, "the spirit will draw down the spirit." This will be manifest in spiritual matters and in material matters, in all forms of good. For just as Above, so too below, i.e., with regard to a Rebbe: the nature (i.e., a tendency above nature) of the good is to do good.
10 Nissan, 5710 (1950)
I received your letter of 9 Nissan. In brief, an answer to what you wrote there, can, in my opinion, be found in my preface to the pamphlet published after the passing of the [Previous] Rebbe and in this letter.
In reply to the question you raise: that now we cannot ask my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, when there is doubt how to conduct oneself: If you will stand firm in your connection with him, without paying attention to the lures of the yetzer hara (evil inclination), and send the question to the gravesite of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, the Rebbe will find a way to answer you.
12 Nissan, 5710 (1950)
Greetings and blessings,
...My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, dedicated his life for the benefit of the Jewish people as a whole and for every Jew as an individual in particular, and most particularly, to those who bound themselves to him. He certainly conveys his influence to them at present as well.
Nevertheless, the influence he conveys is at present - to a certain degree - different from what it was previously. For at present, his soul is free from all the limitations and constraints of the body and can ascend to one peak after another. (This is the meaning of the term histalkus.) Hence the influence that he grants - both the material and the spiritual influence - is also on a higher and more elevated plane.
As a natural consequence, this demands that a recipient adapt himself to that higher influence by elevating himself.
Throughout his life, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, taught us how to proceed forward, not only on the level of thought, but also in actual fact. Even now, his lips are moving even in this world through his numerous teachings, discourses, talks, and letters. Through fulfilling his desire and will in actual practice, we generate the mediums through which to receive the elevated influence that he wishes to convey to us. and in your holy work...
From I Will Write it in Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos in English
The name of our publication has special meaning.
It stands for the name of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (obm), wife of the Rebbe.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Talmud relates that once, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked the prophet Elijah, "When will Moshiach come?"
Elijah responded: "Go ask him. He is sitting among the sickly paupers at the entrance to Rome. You will recognize him because the other paupers untie all their bandages at once, clean their sores, and then rebandage themselves. Moshiach, however, unties and replaces each of his bandages separately, so that when the time comes to reveal himself, he will not be delayed."
Rabbi Yehoshua traveled to Rome, found Moshiach and asked, "When will you come?"
Moshiach answered, "Today."
Rabbi Yehoshua returned to Elijah, saying that Moshiach had lied: "He said he would come 'today' but he did not come." Elijah explained that Moshiach's answer was based on the verse from Psalms, "Today, if you heed His voice."
The Maharal discusses this passage and explains that when Elijah said to ask Moshiach, he meant that Rabbi Yehoshua should elevate himself to Moshiach's spiritual level. This level is "at the entrance to Rome." For just as an entrance is where a house ends, the entrance to Rome is where the Roman empire ends, i.e., collapses. Thus, Moshiach will arise when the Roman empire-symbolic of our present exile-crumbles.
The paupers symbolize separation from the world, for as they are impoverished they do not benefit from the world. Moshiach sits among them because he, too, is "removed" from the world. Furthermore, they are sick because the natural world has declared war on them, just as it has on Moshiach, who transcends nature.
As evidenced by the way he rebandages himself, Moshiach is willing and ready to overpower the natural world and bring Redemption any moment. When Rabbi Yehoshua came to this realization, he reached the spiritual level of Moshiach and expected him that day. Elijah then explained, in effect, "As far as Moshiach is concerned, he would come today, but G-d wants the world to be prepared for him. Thus, he will come 'Today-if you heed His voice.'"
The Rebbe has said that "today" has arrived. May we merit this very day to behold the return of Moshiach into the physical world from which he is removed, with the Final Redemption.
Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: "He who fulfills one commandment acquires for himself one advocate..." (Ethics 4:11)
The simple meaning of this Mishna is that the performance of a mitzva (commandment) creates an angel that will act as an advocate for the person in his final judgment. Nevertheless, the fact that the Mishna uses the expression "acquires" rather than "creates" implies something deeper. In addition to the angel created by each mitzva he performs, a person acquires One advocate; the One becomes an advocate for him. For every mitzva a person performs, regardless of his intent, connects him to G-d.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Motzei Shabbat Eikev, 5738)
Rabbi Yannai said: "We are unable to understand either the well-being of the wicked or the tribulations of the righteous." (Ethics 4:15)
One of students of the Maggid of Mezeritch asked him how it was possible to accept tribulation with joy. The Maggid sent him to his disciple, Reb Zushya of Anapoli. Reb Zushya was poor, suffered from physical difficulties, and endured many different types of privation. Nevertheless, he radiated happiness. When the student told him the purpose of his journey, he replied: "I don't know why the Maggid sent you to me. I have never suffered any adversity in my life." Not knowing, in the positive sense, is the key. When a person makes a commitment to G-dliness that is not bound by the limitations of understanding, he is able to appreciate that everything which G-d grants him is good.
(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 4)
by Rabbi Mendel Samuels
From his keynote address at the 59th Annual Convention of the Lubavitch Women's Organization
Just as previously the Rebbe spoke to each person in his or her own "language," today is no different. The bond and connection with the Rebbe continues, each person in his or her own way. I will share with you two of my own, personal stories of the Rebbe.
This encounter happened many years ago, but it still inspires me until today. It took place when I was 16 years old. At the time, I studied in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Morristown, New Jersey, where my grandfather (of blessed memory) Rabbi Meir Greenberg was the dean of the yeshiva.
My grandfather was a real "zaidy"; if I was ever not feeling well and I mentioned it to him, he would immediately take me to his house to rest up or to see a doctor if necessary. One day I mentioned to him that I had an in-grown toenail that had become infected. As soon as he heard the word "infected" he whisked me into his car and we drove to Patterson, New Jersey, to have an appointment with a podiatrist he had just met a few weeks earlier.
The podiatrist, who had absolutely no "bedside" manner - perhaps due to the fact that he was young - used the word "amputate" to describe cutting away part of the nail. In the 20 minutes that I was in his office, I think he used the word "amputate" 30 times.
I was so traumatized by the thought of the impending "amputation" that I told my zaidy I would not go ahead with the procedure without calling the Rebbe and receiving a bracha (blessing). I stood my ground and insisted there would be no "amputation" of my toenail without receiving the Rebbe's blessing.
Eventually, my grandfather saw that there was no way out and he called the Rebbe's office. He reached one of the Rebbe's secretaries, and with much hesitation and embarrassment, asked the secretary to give a note to the Rebbe requesting a blessing for his grandson to go ahead with the procedure on his in-grown toenail. There was silence on the other end. "Are you serious?" the secretary asked. My grandfather looked at me and then assured the secretary that he was very serious.
After he hung up the phone, my grandfather assured me that since we had contacted the Rebbe's office, certainly the blessing was given. He explained that I should not expect an answer due to the Rebbe's busy schedule and the seriousness of the other letters and requests the Rebbe receives. (The Rebbe received hundreds of letters in the mail each day, and possibly as many requests over the phone as well.)
Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. It was the Rebbe's secretary calling. "Rabbi Greenberg, I must tell you the truth, when you told me that you were calling for a blessing for your grandson's in-grown toenail, I had a hard time with this and did not want to bother the Rebbe with what seemed to me to be such a trivial matter. However, I wrote what you asked me to write and put the note deep inside the pile of envelopes that I was bringing in to the Rebbe. When I put the pile down on the Rebbe's desk, the Rebbe pushed aside the envelopes until he found the note with your request. The Rebbe read it and then told me, "Call him immediately and let him know that everything is going to be ok." And so it was.
The Rebbe had many other things to do that day, I'm a sure. The in-grown toenail of a 16 year old boy was not the most pressing. But the Rebbe took a few moments from his overflowing schedule to make sure that I felt ok!
Our youngest child has a chronic illness (caused by a Jewish genetic disease). The first year of his life was the most difficult. One Friday night, he was so ill that we had to go by ambulance to the hospital where all-night emergency surgery took place. Things were touch and go. A few days after the surgery and he still had not yet regained consciousness.
My wife and I were trading off shifts at the hospital. I stayed all night and my wife stayed all day. On this particular morning, when my wife came to relieve me, I was "on the edge"; the doctor had just given us not such good news. No one should ever know from a child who is not well.
As I walked downstairs to get my car and go home, I had my own very private conversation with the Rebbe. "Rebbe I need a sign that you are here with me, a clear sign that doesn't require the guidance of a big scholar to decipher it. I can't take anymore. I need to know that you are with us."
I was deep in my own thoughts, oblivious to my surroundings. I gave the concierge a $10 bill to bring my car and stood there with my eyes closed, still communing with the Rebbe. The concierge got my attention and handed me the change in singles. I came out of my reverie and I noticed that one of the dollar bills had Hebrew writing on it. It said (in translation) "Received from the holy hand of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita, 3 Elul, 5746 (1986)." Getting the dollar from the Rebbe itself was enough of a clear sign for me. But, in addition, 3 Elul is the yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of my grandfather for whom this son is named. I began to cry. I called my wife who was in the room with my son and told her, "I know its going to be okay." Forty-five minutes later, my son regained consciousness.
Rabbi Samuels and his wife Blumie direct Chabad of the Farmington Valley in Weatogue, Connecticut.
The question arises: Even if a single individual carries out his mission in this world in a perfect manner, what effect can such activity have on the world at large? On the surface, the world seems to be going on without being affected by a Jew's service in spreading the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings outward or preparing for Moshiach's coming. This, however, represents a very narrow view of what is going on in the world. In truth, the world is ready for Moshiach's coming and when a Jew carries out his service in the proper manner, the world itself and the gentile nations will assist him. May these activities hasten the time when we will all proceed to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem, and to the Holy Temple.
(The Rebbe, 3 Tammuz, 5751-1991)