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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Over the years, there has been much talk and research and study in the international Jewish community as to what can be done to inspire Jewish kids to grow up to be committed, active, involved Jewish adults.
One simple line from the Talmud (Shabbat 119b) really says it all: "We do not disrupt the Torah learning of school children even for the building of the [Third] Holy Temple."
Much has been written about the centrality in Judaism of the belief in Moshiach and the Redemption of the world. Our prayers, meant to express our most intimate and profound feelings and give voice to our heartfelt pleas to G-d, contain dozens of references to Moshiach. In fact, Moshiach and related concepts, such as the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, is mentioned about 60 times in the daily prayers. In the course of a year, one who prays the three daily prayers speaks of Moshiach and the Redemption over 20,000 times!
Despite or perhaps because of the importance of Moshiach and the Redemption, we do not disturb the Torah study of children even for the building of the Holy Temple. In fact, so important is it for Jewish children to receive a Torah education that our Sages say that Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were destroyed only because the Torah education of children was neglected! As proof, the Talmud brings the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "Pour it out [G-d's wrath] because of the children in the street." Why, the Talmud explains, did G-d pour out His wrath? Because the children were in the streets, as no Torah institutions had been organized for them.
The Talmud also states that "The world endures only for the sake of the breath of school children." A discussion between two Sages as to whether it is more accurate to say that the world exists because of the breath (as they study the words of Torah) of the children or of the learned and righteous Sages themselves concludes that it is because of the children.
So what are we all waiting for? If we have children and are not yet providing them with a solid Jewish education, let's do it. If our children are already receiving a Jewish education, certainly things can be done to enhance it. If we don't have school-age children, then we should be helping to make sure that the children are not "in the streets" by supporting Jewish education in whatever way we can.
If we do our part, the children will do their part and G-d will certainly do His part and bring about the era of peace, G-dliness, knowledge and goodness which will mark the Redemption.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, G-d promises Jacob: "I am the L-rd G-d of Abraham your father and the G-d of Isaac; the land on which you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed."
According to our Sages, "G-d folded up the entire Land of Israel beneath him, thereby hinting that it would be as easily conquered by his descendants as four cubits, which is the area that a person covers." In the same way that conquering a tiny space (the four cubits Jacob occupied when he lay down to sleep) is easy, so too would it be easy for Jacob's children to conquer the entirety of the Land of Israel.
Two generations previously, when G-d promised Abraham that Israel would belong to him and his descendants, He commanded him: "Arise and walk through the land in its length and in its breadth, for I will give it to you." Abraham strode throughout the Land of Israel, visiting any location he wished without interference. He walked through the Land as its "baal habayit" (proprietor), thereby demonstrating his ownership.
G-d's promise was in effect even before Abraham's sojourn. But after he walked the length and breadth of the Land, he was able to more strongly perceive the fulfillment of G-d's words.
Jacob, by contrast, was never commanded to "walk"; it was enough for him to lie down on the ground to sleep. Jacob did not openly demonstrate his ownership of the Land. No one else was present, and thus no one knew that G-d "folded up the entire Land of Israel beneath him."
The innovation in G-d's promise to Jacob (as opposed to His promise to Abraham) was that the Land of Israel would be conquered easily and without effort. You will not have to do anything to obtain it; just lie down on the earth, and it will come into your possession.
G-d promised the Jewish people that they would conquer the Land successfully and effortlessly.
Today, there are some Jews who must still be convinced that the entirety of the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people forever. There are some Jews who are not entirely sure of our ownership of the Land.
Nothing is created by G-d without a purpose. No element in the world exists that has no function, nor does G-d do anything "coincidentally" or without significance. If G-d "folded up the entire Land of Israel" to show Jacob that it would easily conquered, He did so because that is the true reality!
Adapted from Volume 20 of Likutei Sichot
Tefilin and the Rock
by Scott Davis
This story started when my mother had hip-surgery scheduled. At the time we lived in Connecticut and had become close with emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New Haven.
My mother had been encouraged by one of the emissaries to write a letter to the Rebbe asking for a blessing for her surgery. She wrote the letter and randomly placed in a book of the Rebbe's correspondence known as Igrot Kodesh (Holy Letters). The letter she opened to was dated 15 Av and one of the things the Rebbe wrote about was the mitzva (commandment) of putting on tefilin. "What does that have to do with me?" she wondered, and so she shared this experience with me. True, the date of the letter was my Hebrew birthday, but I was already putting on tefilin. I also didn't understand the relevance of the letter to our lives but I was eager to see what would unfold. I believe the following encounter will explain it all.
After graduating from college, I began working at a Best Western Hotel in Southern Connecticut as the Director of Sales and Marketing. One day a hotel guest was having difficulty printing some material he needed for his job, and he asked for my help. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I offered to print his material in the back office. We struck up a conversation. His name was David Greer, a 62-year-old Senior Construction Manager and former U.S. Marine, originally from Pittsburgh and currently living in Murrieta, California. He was here on business in Southern Connecticut. I told him our family was planning to move to Las Vegas in the near future. We had a nice chat that day and subsequently, whenever he needed to print his maps and plans, he would forward them to my personal email and I would take care of it.
It was May 12, 2014. That evening, as I was leaving the hotel, David was coming in. We spoke briefly. Before letting him go, I said to him "With a name like David Greer you must be Jewish." He grinned and said "Naaah, not really." I smiled and said, "Well, I'm Jewish! You either are or you aren't! Is your mother Jewish?" He replied hesitantly, "Yes." Then I asked, "What about your mom's mom?" He said, "Yes, and she was religious." I exclaimed, "So you are Jewish!"
During this encounter, sensing his spiritual nature, I asked David if he knew about tefilin, as I made the wrapping motion with my arm. He said that he didn't. I told him that it is very important for a Jewish man to put on tefillin. I told him that I have been putting them on for quite some time and how connected to G-d it makes me feel. I saw the excitement on his face as I explained this to him. I suggested that if he wanted to, we could get together sometime, in a quiet place to do it. He was very receptive to the idea and said, "Yeah, tell me when!"
One week later on May 19th, David and I agreed to meet. I got coverage from the front desk and went to my car to get my tefilin. When I returned, I was walking towards the elevator with the velvet tefilin bag in hand, and Benjawan, a Thai woman who was covering for me, asked me why I was going to this man's room. I told her that it was for a "religious, spiritual experience." She said, "Good luck!" I smiled and said, "Thanks."
I met David at his room on the 7th floor, after his return from work that day. I placed a kipa on his head and then carefully removed the tefilin from the bag. After wrapping the tefilin on him, He repeated after me "Shema" and "V'ahavta."
I suggested to him that he could say his own personal prayer at this holy time, which he did. Then he told me that he felt connected to his soul for the first time in his life. Later that day, he sent me a text message: "Scott, thank you from my heart. It was an honor and a blessing that you shared." I responded, "You are welcome and it was a very big mitzva that you did. But the One to truly thank is Hashem (G-d) because He gave us the opportunity to meet and for me to share this with you. Without Him, none of this would be possible."
David answered, "Yes, and I thank Hashem every day." I sent him the picture I took of him wearing the tefilin (at left). He responded, "What a picture! This was special, the way the light is shining behind me. It is as if you captured what had taken place." The next day, David told me that he never slept as well as he did that night. He asked, "How can I repay you?" I answered, "Just continue to do it."
Later that week, David shared a story with me about the construction project he was working on. He explained that he and his crew had been struggling with the project, which involved excavation followed by the construction of Clean Energy Bloom Fuel Cells (they are the same technology that powers the space station). They were having difficulty splitting a large granite rock correctly which was delaying the progress, and they were about to abort the project.
One day they finally split the rock! The machine operator said that he had never seen such a perfect split in his 25 years of excavating rocks. The occurrence is still talked about at the Home Depot. As one executive put it, "Not too many people could have pulled that one off." This "miracle" occurred just a few days after David had put on tefilin for the first time. David attributes the "perfect split" to his newfound connection to G-d. As David so intuitively said, "This is the rock that only He could break."
The Annual Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim (emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe) took place this past weekend in Brooklyn, New York. At the grand banquet on Sunday, attended by nearly 5,000 people, over 2,000 shluchim were joined by laymen and supporters. Workshops, speakers and educational events were organized simultaneously in a number of languages and for the various groups attending.
Young Adults Gather
Some 270 young adults, ages 18 to 30, from throughout Latin America - Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil - gathered in Argentina for four days of Jewish educational activities and socializing as part of a program called "Peguisha." One hundred and fifty young adults from 10 cities in the Former Soviet Union attended a five-day seminar as part of an innovative young adult organization, EnerJew, which took place in the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus.
A dedicated staff and a fabulous program awaited the young representatives of the EnerJew's ten branches in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia, who arrived in Minsk to attend the long awaited event that brings together all the leaders and activists of the rapidly growing movement.
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of your forthcoming Building Dinner. May G-d grant that it should be with much hatzlocho [success] in every respect.
The current Shmittah Year is an auspicious one, for the Sabbatical Year corresponds to the Shabbos day which is the source of blessing for all the days of the week. In also has a meaningful message for us, even though the laws pertaining to the cessation of all agricultural activity during the year of Shmittah do not apply outside of the Holy Land.
Nonetheless, as in the case of certain other mitzvos [commandments] which do not apply "at our time" (in the absence of the Bais Hamikdash [Holy Temple]), their inner spiritual content and message are eternal, for the Torah in all its details is eternal. Consequently, these mizvos too, can and ought to be made part of our actual experience, in our daily life, here and now.
The basic point of Shmittah is that when a Jew possesses a field and has title to it, and the Torah itself recognizes his ownership and obliges him to dedicate part of its produce to terumah and ma'aser/tithes, etc., the Jew must at the same time recognize that the real owner and master is G-d, Who declares "The earth is Mine." And the recognition of this truth is not to be merely a matter of symbolic formality. It had to be implemented in a tangible way, by actually renouncing ownership to the field, ceasing all work on it and abandoning its produce to all and sundry, even to the beasts of the field. All this for the duration of the entire year. Moreover, as in the case of all mitzvos which have to be fulfilled with joy, a Jew fulfills the mitzvos of Shmittah likewise most joyfully, realizing how greatly a mitzvah is to be cherished and that there is no greater happiness than doing G-d's Will. On His part, G-d explicitly promises an immediate and supernatural reward for the observance of Shmittah, assuring a three-fold yield on the sixth year, to produce for three full years.
Thus, Shmittah, like Shabbos, reminds us that although the Torah expects a Jew to engage in matters of parnosso [livelihood] in the natural way ("Six days shall you toil and do all work"), yet when it comes to Yiddishkeit [Judaism], the observance of Torah and mitzvos, the Jew is placed over and above nature and he comes directly under Divine Providence, even miraculous Divine intervention. If in the realm of the material a Jew is not always complete master, he is so in the realm of the spiritual. It is up to him to exercise this mastery and to do this not on special days in the year such as the High Holidays, Shabbos and Yom Tov [holidays], or on special occasions, but each and every day of the year, the weekdays as well as Shabbos and Yom Tov, etc., just as Shmittah encompasses the entire year and each and every day of it.
In light of the above, and in the spirit of the current Shmittah Year, I trust that the participants in the Dinner and all who cherish Torah-true Yiddishkeit, will respond generously to the occasion and give the Lubavitch Foundation the financial and moral support needed to carry on its vital program of strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit in your worthy community, in an ever growing measure. And, as above, G-d's reward will surely be "in kind", bestowing a supernatural abundance of blessings to each and all, in all needs, materially and spiritually.
With prayerful wishes for hatzlocho and With esteem and blessing,
Man should ponder thoughtfully how great are the kindnesses of the Creator: Such a puny insignificant being, Man, can bring great delight to the "Greatest of all great" of Whom it is written, "There is no delving into His greatness." Man ought therefore always be inspired, and perform his avoda with an eager heart and spirit.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Monday, the ninth of Kislev, is the birthday and anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Dovber, the second Rebbe of Chabad.
A story is told of Reb Dovber when he was a young boy of four or five. At that time, the boy's father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of the Chabad movement, was the Rebbe. After cheder one day, little Dovber ran into the room where many of his father's chasidim sat. He sat next to one elderly chasid. The chasid was asking his two fellow-chasidim who were wealthy businessmen why they were so sad. The two men answered together, "Times are bad, and business is slow."
Dovber sat up straight and, in pun, said to the first chasid, "Why do you need to ask them about their sadness ("atzvut" in Hebrew)? Does it not say in Psalms, 'Their idols (atzabeihem, sharing the same root letters in Hebrew as "atvut" ) are silver and gold...' Their sadness comes from money."
Later that day, when the three chasidim had the opportunity to speak privately with the Rebbe, they asked him how Dovber, at this tender age, had such a keen understanding of Torah and Chasidic philosophy.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman explained, "I have had to make great sacrifices in my life for Torah and Chasidism. They therefore automatically became my legacy to my children."
As illustrated by this story, when we make sacrifices for our children in matters of Judaism and Torah, we are automatically insuring that our children will inherit an extra measure of strength and commitment in those areas. G-d sees our sacrifice, He sees the extra effort we put in, and rewards us with true Yiddishe nachas, Jewish pleasure - our children and grandchildren will follow in our footsteps.
And he lay down in that place (Gen. 28:11)
Our Sages teach that this was the first time Jacob lay his head down to sleep, having spent the previous 20 years working in Laban's house, saying the entire book of Psalms each night. We learn from Jacob's behavior that even as we go about our daily lives and attend to our jobs and responsibilities, our "heads" should be concerned with Torah and our thoughts directed toward holy matters.
And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall break through westward and eastward and northward and southward; and through you shall be blessed all the families of the earth and through your seed. (Gen. 28:14)
G-d promised Jacob that the Jewish nation will be like the humble dust: Everyone treads upon it, but in the end, the dust has the last word and covers all. The Jewish people, after suffering at the hands of the nations of the world, will eventually be victorious and prevail.
At present, we must serve G-d in a manner of "ufaratzta - you shall break through," that is, without any restrictions or limitations. Thus we shall hasten the coming of Moshiach, of whom it is written in the Book of Micha, "The poretz (the one who breaks through, i.e., the one who clears all obstacles and barriers) is gone up before them."
(Living With Moshiach)
The day is yet long (Gen. 29:7)
Such is the way of the world: When a person is in his prime, he sees no need to hurry, as he still has plenty of time to devote to refining his character - "the day is yet long." When that long-delayed time comes, however, he finds that the day is almost over.
(Maharish of Mezritch)
An upright young merchant once set out from his home in Vilkomir to buy up stocks of tobacco in Niezhin. Though not a chasid himself, he was on very friendly terms with a celebrated chasid by the name of Reb Yaakov Kadaner, so before he left he called on Reb Yaakov, who said: "My friend! Even though you are not a chasid, I would still ask you to visit the grave of a renowned tzadik (righteous person) who is buried in Niezhin, Reb Dov Ber of Lubavitch, the son of Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi."
The young man gave his promise, and set out for a journey that was to take six months. While he was far away trying to do business, his wife became so desperately ill that the doctors despaired of her life. One evening she lost consciousness, and though three expert physicians sat by her bedside all night, there was nothing they could do to help her. Then, at ten in the morning her illness loosened its hold on her, she began to regain her strength. Within a month, without the aid of doctors or medicines she regained her strength and was strong and robust. Her friends were amazed, but not nearly as much as the doctors.
When her husband finally came home, he barely stuck his nose in the door. Without even stopping to take off his overcoat, he ran off in agitation to the home of his friend Reb Yaakov.
"Now I ask you," said Reb Yaakov, "is this the way to do things? After you have been away from home for over half a year, you don't even stay there a little while to gladden the hearts of your wife and little ones, but off you run to say hello to me?! There must be something behind your behavior, something remarkable."
"And indeed," affirmed the other, "something remarkable did bring me to you, something of a marvel. You see, my business dealings out there fell through, and I not only lost everything I owned, but got myself deep into debt through all kinds of unfortunate circumstances that befell me on the way. To make things worse, throughout all that time I was in a state of fear: I imagined that my wife was desperately ill. When I arrived in Niezhin I recalled my promise to you, and went to the local mikva (ritualarium) to immerse myself in its spiritually purifying waters in preparation for my visit to the holy resting place of the tzadik. Though all the way there my warm clothes had sufficed to keep out the bitter cold, as soon as I came close to where he lay I was overcome by an awesome fear, the likes of which I have never experienced. My hair stood on end, and despite my warm clothes I trembled in a feverish cold. It even occurred to me to flee from that fearful place, but then I thought: 'No evil is going to befall me on account of the tzadik who lies here. Why should I flee from the presence of the tzadik?'
"So I began instead to read the quotations from the mystical Zohar, and the chapters from Psalms, and other passages, which are inscribed there on a tablet, on the wall of the enclosure which is built around the grave. And while I read, I wept rivers of tears. Then I wrote out two notes which expressed my special requests - one note bearing a prayer for the welfare of my family and myself, and the other especially for my wife, for my heart was uneasy. The moment I put those two notes on the grave, I was overcome with the most exquisite joy I had ever experienced. It was just as I imagine the flavor of the Garden of Eden to be. It took me two full hours to tear myself away from that bliss, and to depart from there with a heart full of gladness and peace.
"That joy accompanied me all the way home, and when I arrived, I was told the whole story of what my wife had been through, including the events of that long, long night that ended only at ten in the morning. I asked what date this had been. Sure enough, it was the very day on which, at ten o'clock in the morning, I had placed the notes on the resting place of the tzadik. You cannot be surprised, therefore, that when I heard all of this, I did not even take off my greatcoat, but ran as fast as I could to tell you, my friend, of the wondrous ways of heaven.
"I have only one thing to add. If your Rebbes are so alive and luminous after they have departed from this world, then they must be even greater and even holier in their lifetime!"
From A Treasury of Chasidic Tales, Mesorah Publishing.
In describing Jacob's dream, the Torah states, "And he arrived at the place and lodged there because the sun had set, and he took some of the stones of the place and put them at his head, and he lay down in that place." (Gen. 28:11) The "place" spoken about is Mount Moriah where the Holy Temples would later be built. The mention of the "place" three times hints to the three Holy Temples. The first time hints to the first Temple and the setting sun corresponds to its destruction. The second time ("and he took some stones...") hints to the second Temple because the second Temple had only "some" of the holiness of the first Temple. The third mention of the word "place" corresponds to the third Holy Temple which will stand forever; then we will finally merit to rest and serve G-d in eternal peace.