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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Naomi Zirkind
As I write this, I'm at a hotel attending a seminar as part of my job as an electrical engineer. Of all places, this hotel is right in the middle of Disney World, in a town called Magic Kingdom, Florida.
It certainly is an immersive atmosphere. And it is indeed a magic kingdom for those who are culturally indoctrinated with the Disney themes. A large statue of a mouse character stands in the hotel lobby. Young children sitting in rows of tiny chairs watch excitedly as continuous videos of cartoon characters play on a large screen. A shop in the hotel is filled with shelves stocked with various souvenirs on the Disney theme. Music on this theme plays in the lobby area.
As I walk through the lobby, a thought enters my mind: This immersive atmosphere is so powerful and engulfing. Wouldn't it be nice if a tract of land could be acquired for building a different kind of theme park - a "Moshiach World"? In this park, we could enact whatever we know about the era of Moshiach, and hopefully, we could feel the presence of Moshiach while at this theme park.
As I envision it, in one area of the park would be a synagogue, i.e., a house of prayer and study, since when Moshiach is here, our main occupations will be to learn about G-d and pray to G-d. Furthermore, all the nations of the world will live together in peace, so we could have some sort of display about that. Even the animals will not attack each other, so we could have a wolf and a lamb playing together peacefully.
As I continued developing my plans for this theme park, a number of practical difficulties present themselves. Where would this park be? Who would pay for it? Perhaps there would be controversies about these issues, and strife is certainly not part of the Moshiach world. Also, how could we ensure that the wolf does not hurt the lamb? Regarding having a synagogue in the theme park, there already are a lot of synagogues in the world. What would this one add? The biggest difficulty is: How would we create the awareness of G-d's Presence that we will feel when Moshiach is here?
This last concern got me thinking. It's true that there are already many synagogues in the world. In fact, a synagogue is one place where one can feel a great awareness of G-d's Presence. But that is not the only such place. Actually, wherever a person fulfills any of G-d's commandments, G-d's Presence is felt.
This thought process leads to an amazing conclusion. We don't have to travel anywhere to get to Moshiach World. Moshiach World is right here with you and me. Whenever we help another person, study Torah, say a prayer, or do any mitzva (commandment), we make a mini Moshiach World here in our own immediate surroundings! And the more enthusiasm we put into our mitzva, the more immersive the mini Moshiach World will be.
May G-d complete our efforts, join all the sparks together, and make the whole world a Moshiach World, a G-dly Kingdom, very soon, and then the whole world will be filled with knowledge of G-d as the water fills the sea.
Dr. Zirkind is a lead general engineer for the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC). In her spare time, she writes books and articles and gives speeches on Torah topics.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayigash, Joseph, viceroy of Egypt, dramatically reveals his true identity to his incredulous brothers. Joseph reassures them that the entire sequence of events, beginning with his being sold into slavery to his eventual rise to power, was the hand of G-d guiding him from above. "It was not you who sent me here, but G-d," he tells his brothers. Joseph then asks them to carry the following message back to their father, Jacob: "G-d has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me (to Egypt); do not tarry."
At first glance, Joseph's choice of words seems odd. If Joseph's intent was merely to convince Jacob to undertake the lengthy journey, why would he imagine that his elderly father would be swayed by the news that his son now occupied a high political office?
Rather, Jacob knew that the Jewish people was destined to go into exile in Egypt. When informed of Joseph's rise to power, he understood that this was an integral part of that process. Once that stage was reached it was time for Jacob to follow and the next phase to begin.
Many years before, G-d had explained the objective of the exile in Egypt: "Afterwards (after the exile), they will emerge with great wealth," G-d promised Abraham. Under Joseph's tenure, Egypt was transformed into a wealthy nation. In exchange for the food he had so cleverly stockpiled, Joseph collected much of the world's riches-all done in order for the Jews to eventually depart Egypt "with great wealth." Indeed, the accumulation of wealth was one of the prime reasons behind the entire 210-year exile.
Yet the concept of "great wealth" must be understood on a deeper level as well, not only in the literal sense. The material riches accumulated by the Jewish people was only a reflection of the great spiritual wealth with which they left Egypt. For the Jews were sent into exile for the purpose of extracting and refining the sparks of holiness hidden within the most morally degraded and degenerate place on earth - Egypt. Those sparks of purity, once freed from their prison within Egypt's "49 gates of impurity," were the ultimate riches derived by the Jews during their exile.
The accumulation of "wealth" is likewise the purpose of our present exile as well - extracting the good from the material world and transforming it into holiness by utilizing physical objects for the purpose of Torah and mitzvot.
This process is now complete. Over the thousands of years of exile, the Jewish people have uncovered and elevated all of these sparks of holiness, dispersed throughout the four corners of the earth. According to Divine plan, the time has therefore come for G-d to fulfill His promise and send Moshiach, NOW!
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
by Rabbi Shmuel Marcus
Rabbi Marcus lighting a public Chanuka menora in Los Alamitos
For one year, I lived in Kharkov, Ukraine. I was 20 years old. With me were Yossi, Yefim, and Benny - all of us rabbinical students from a Brooklyn Lubavitch Yeshiva. We weren't worried. Communism was over, and we had winter gloves.
Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz, chief Rabbi of Kharkov, and his wife Miriam, were responsible for our presence in Kharkov. Our mission would be to teach and act as assistant rabbis.
In Kharkov, every Jew over 70 claims to have a grandfather who was a shochet (ritual slaughterer). The problem is the grandchildren don't' know the difference between a shochet and a mohel (ritual circumcisor).
Ignorance has no real, concrete existence of its own. Like a question before the answer, ignorance is the absence of education. Usually.
In the former Soviet Union, ignorance seems to be an entity unto itself, a force with headquarters and plans. True, the average Russian is a working engineer, he has read all of Pushkin and played in at least one chess championship. What I'm talking about is the ignorance that makes the former Soviet Union a Christian missionary's paradise.
In the shul (synagogue) where I grew up, the rabbi gives a sermon after the reading fo the Torah, expounding on the text just read.
In Kharkov, the rabbi gives the sermon beforehand, explaining in Russian what soon will be read in Hebrew. One sermon I shall never forget. It is about Laban the Swindler.
As usual, Rabbi Moskowitz is telling the story. "And Jacob awoke and behold it was not Rachel his beloved but Leah, the eldest."
"Oy!" The congregation gasps out loud, visibly shocked. It is their first time hearing the story and they are upset.
The rabbi does not gasp; he is not shocked. He knows all about the ignorance. That's why he lives in Kharkov.
It's early and cold as I step onto the black school bus. True, school buses with noisy kids tend to shine lemon yellow, but a school bus with a coffin in it turns instantly black.
Yossi, Yefim, and I sit on one side, two old women sit on the other. The shorter woman repeatedly touches her eyes with a wet handkerchief. I figure it's her husband on the floor between us in the box.
I am thankful for the fact that it's a school bus and not a hearse. This way, we aren't riding with a dead man; he is getting a ride with us.
Many Russians cremate their dead because it's simpler and cheaper. But to me, a cremated Jew is the saddest thing. Jewish law prohibits it and it's irreversible. Eternity has already happened.
Rabbi Moskowitz says, In the former Soviet Union it's hard to live as a Jew, and even harder to die as a Jew." Today, a traditional burial is almost reason for celebration.
Baruch Israelnaya's family cannot afford to buy him in the Jewish way. Rabbi Moskowitz does Baruch a true kindness. I notice that about once a week Baruch shows up with a different name and face, and Rabbi Moskowitz does the same kindness every time.
The Jews are known as those who bury their own, and I remember sitting on the bus trying to focus on what had to be done and not on what I was doing.
The school bus stops and we get out. Perhaps, thinking I was too young to know, fresh snow had intentionally covered most of the graves.
Yossi and Yefim carry the wooden box to a small gated area marked with a Star of David. There, Rabbi Moskowitz and a few others wait silently in front of open earth.
On the other side of the pit, four Russians dressed like railroad or construction workers look me up and down. I try not to look back. Gravediggers have no family no friends, and please, never mistake them for one of us.
Rabbi Moskowitz says a prayer about being tied to the bond of life. The Kaddish prayer is said for the first time. The handkerchief is still wet, and I've become a gravedigger. And death has become eternal life.
Chicken Kiev is available at www.kehot.com
Rabbi Marcus, and his wife Bluma, founded and direct Chabad Lubavitch of Cypress / Los Alamitos, California.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Devorah Leah Chekly are opening the first permanent Chabad center in the African coastal nation of Angola. The seventh largest country in Africa, Angola lies on the Atlantic Ocean, and is bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo on the north and Zambia on the east. Rabbi Levi and Adina Tiechtel moved to West Lafayette, Indiana to start a Chabad House at Purdue University where they are serving the Jewish students enrolled there.
A new mikva was recently built by Chabad in La Paz, Bolivia, under the leadership of Rabbi Itzhak and Chaya Kupchik. While only aboout 150 Jews live in La Paz permanently, up to 20,000 Jewish tourists visit Bolivia each year.
5th of Teves, 5712 
Students' Study Group
Sholom u'Brocho: [Peace and blessing]:
In reply to your request for a message in connection with Chanukah, in view of your recent visits I trust I may regard our conversation on that occasion as having, in part at least, satisfied your request.
However, inasmuch as Chanukah extends to the beginning of this week, belonging to the weekly Sidrah [Torah portion] of Vayigash, I take this opportunity to convey to you a thought apropos of this Sidrah, which may serve as a message not only for the festival of "Dedication," but which is also of fundamental significance in our daily life.
The Sidrah of Vayigash contains the climax of the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph, as you no doubt recall, had been torn from his happy home in the Holy Land and delivered into slavery in Egypt. However, he overcomes all trials and temptations, being guided by the high moral code he brought along with him from his home. Eventually he emerges as the Grand Vizier and ruler of all Egypt, who not only saves his brothers from famine, but also all Egypt and the world around. When finally his identity is revealed to his brothers he tells them - and herein lies the key to the great and mysterious drama - not to feel sorry for all that had befallen him, "For G-d has sent me as a sustenance for you."
There is a profound message in these words for all humanity and for Jews in particular. The whole episode may serve as an illustration and answer to the mystery of our life on this earth. It is man's soul that represents the essential part of his existence. The soul, which is a "part of G-d above," is torn from its heavenly abode, its real "Holy Land," and sent down to the earthly and corporal world (its "Egypt"), where it becomes largely enslaved by the physical body.
Needless to say, the purpose of it is not to torture the soul. The soul is sent down to be a "Joseph" who both in slavery and glory remains loyal to his fatherly home in the "Holy Land." It should never acquiesce or despair in slavery, but should remember its mission, to become the ruler of "Egypt" and the giver of sustenance - Divine Food - to his own body and to all with whom it comes in contact.
The way to achieve this is to be constantly conscious of one's origin and "home" and always remain receptive to the vibrating influences emanating from the parental home in the "Holy Land," until the moments when the shackles of slavery are completely broken and the soul - Joseph - becomes ruler of "Egypt" - body - the materialistic world, and the Divine goal is thus fully attained.
I trust that each one of you will try and be a "Joseph" in this sense.
12 Teves, 5739 
c/o Telshe Yeshivah
Your letter of Rosh Chodesh Teves reached me with some delay. In it you write that you stopped shaving, with the intention to grow a beard.
I trust you have seen the Sefer [book] Hadras Ponim Zoken, whose author is a talmid [student] of the Mirer Yeshivah, which was published recently, with Haskomos [approbations] by prominent Rabbonim, on the great significance and the must and importance of growing a full beard. The Sefer includes also Teshuvos beruros [clear responses] by Gedolei Yisroel [great rabbinic authorities] who had been asked for an opinion in this matter.
May Hashem Yisborach [the Blessed G-d] grant you Hatzlocho [success] that in addition to preserving the sanctity of Hadras Ponim you should go from strength to strength in Torah learning and the observance of its Mitzvos with Hiddur [in a beautiful manner], which is also one of the teachings of Ner Chanukah [the Chanuka lights], kindled in growing numbers and brightness from day to day, reflecting Ner mitzvah v'Torah Or ["a mitzva is a candle and Torah is light], and may you be a source of true Nachas-ruach [pride] to your Roshei Yeshivah [deans] and Mashpiim [mentors].
P.S. Since you have written to me on this matter, it is my duty and Zechus [privilege] to refer you "also" to the Teshuvo "Tzemach Tzedek" (Yore-Deah, par. 93), as well to his Sefer "Yahel-Or" on Tehillim (in the Miluim, on the verse "Vehu Rachum," p. 626).
When Moshiach comes we will realize the greatness of hoda'a (acknowledgement, or belief) and t'mimut (earnestness), everyone's pure faith in G-d and His Torah and mitzvot. (commandments). Talmud - namely, human comprehension, even on its highest level - is limited. But hoda'a, faith, is a feeling that is boundless. Moshiach will explain the magnificent achievement of t'mimut - earnest G-dly service flowing from the heart.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
We are currently in the month of Tevet. The word "Tevet" is related to the Hebrew word "tov," which means "good." However, in this month, we commemorate many sad events, including the Tenth of Tevet. This year, the tenth of Tevet occurs this coming Thursday, January 1.
The tenth of Tevet is the day on which the evil king Nebuchadnezar layd siege upon Jerusalem, which eventually led to the destruction of the first Holy Temple, and the Babylonian Exile. The tenth of Tevet is considered an especially solemn day, because it is the first in a series of events which led to the present exile. Therefore it is a day to reflect upon all of those events and the actions that led to them, and to reflect upon which of our own actions need improving in order hasten the end of exile and prepare for the imminent Redemption.
And yet, as stated previously, Tevet is connected to good. We see from this that we have the power to transform bad into good, sorrow into joy, darkness into light, and exile into redemption. Since Tevet marks the beginning of the calamitous events which befell our people, our Sages named this month "Tevet" to inspire the positive, good energy that is within every one of us.
Tevet has the added significance of being connected to the number ten, as Tevet is the tenth month of the year counting from Nissan. Additionally, we commemorate the siege of Jerusalem on the tenth day of the tenth month.
Ten is a number of great power. Yom Kippur is on the tenth day of Tishrei. G-d gave us ten commandments. The Torah mentions nine times that the Jews sang to G-d and the tenth song will be song with the coming of Moshiach.
We must harness this additional power to fulfill the service of Tevet, which is to transform the darkness into light.
Then Judah came near to him (Gen. 44:18)
The word "came near" - in Hebrew "vayigash," implies that Judah and Joseph came very close. Many years later the descendants of Judah and Joseph split, and formed two separate kingdoms. Vayigash alludes to the time of the Redemption when we ill unite as one kingdom under one king, Moshiach.
And behold, your own eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaks to you (Gen. 45:12)
This was the first time that Joseph was speaking to his brothers in their native language. Prior to this time the brothers had spoken to him in Hebrew, but Joseph had answered in the Egyptian tongue. The only time a person can recognize another through his voice is when he has previously heard him speak the same language. When a person speaks a different language, his accent is different and it is difficult to identify him. Because Joseph was now speaking Hebrew his brothers would be able to recognize him.
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt... I will go down with you... and I will bring you up again (Gen. 46:3-4)
Jacob was not sent into exile alone; G-d descended with him and guarded him there. Jacob possessed a comprehensive soul that included the souls of all Jews. "Jacob" thus stands for every single Jew, and his descent into Egypt alludes to Israel's descent into exile. Thus it follows that even now we are not alone, and that G-d will mercifully hasten the Final Redemption with Moshiach, as it states, "I will also bring you up again."
The Jewish people can rest assured they will eventually go out of exile, as the time must ultimately come for G-d to be revealed in the world. The only way this revelation can happen is for the Jewish people to be redeemed and their true advantage revealed in the world.
There is a story told of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism and the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, concerning a chasid who was in the publishing business. He wanted to publish and print Torah books, but he needed a government permit to do so from the Minister of Education. He was very concerned about receiving it because the government wasn't favorable toward the Jews and was especially unwilling to print any sort of Jewish literature or in any way disseminate Jewish teachings. The printer, therefore, went to Rabbi Shneur Zalman for a blessing and advice on what to do.
He was told to go to the city of Vilna, and there to speak to a certain individual who was the melamed (a teacher of Torah to young children). He was very puzzled because the Minister of Education was not in Vilna, but in St. Petersburg, and the melamed was a simple, ordinary person with no particular political insight or connections.
Nevertheless, if the Rebbe sent him there, he would go. In the city of Vilna he met with the melamed, who was equally puzzled. He said, "I have no idea why the Rebbe would send you to me. I am an ordinary person. I have nothing to do with any kind of political issues, nor do I have any important connections."
The two of them went to a third chasid who had a position of some authority in that town. He did have some political connections, but nevertheless he also couldn't fathom the Rebbe's reason for sending the printer to their town. All three men being chasidim, decided that if Rabbi Shneur Zalman had sent him, then this had to be the place for him to be. The Rebbe's rationale would eventually become apparent.
A few days later the three of them were outside in the street, when a stranger walked by. According to his apparel and bearing, this stranger seemed to be some sort of a nobleman. He stopped and looked directly at the melamed and then said to him, "I'd like to meet you tomorrow. Could you please come to my hotel?"
The following day, the melamed went to the hotel, and the nobleman said to him, "Don't you remember me? Don't you recognize me?"
"No," the melamed replied. The noble continued, "Do you remember the town of X that you lived in as a child?" The melamed stared at him, "Yes, of course, but how do you know?"
The stranger began, "I'll tell you a story. Do you remember that in your town there was a boy who was an orphan, and the people in the town did everything they could to raise this child and to help him. But this boy was very rebellious and violated the Torah and the Jewish way of life. Eventually they took the boy and punished him by embarrassing him publicly. They tied him up, and people walked by and ridiculed him. Then somebody came over to him and untied him, allowing him to run away. Do you remember such an incident?"
"Yes," answered the melamed. In fact, he himself was the one that released the boy. The stranger finally identified himself as that boy, and said: "I want you to know that all my life I have felt indebted to you. I have always wanted to pay you back, but I never knew where you could be found until I just happened to see you yesterday. I want you to know that I'm in a position to help you. I'm a very wealthy person, and I'd like to repay you for what you did for me. I hold a high government position--I am the Minister of Education."
When the melamed heard these words, he nearly fell off his chair. Turning to the Minister of Education, he replied, "Thank you very much for your offer, but really, I didn't do it for money. But I would like to tell you a little story which will explain to you how we just 'happened' to meet yesterday." He recounted how the Alter Rebbe had sent a person who needed a permit from the Minister of Education to visit Vilna just at this time. The Rebbe had, for some unexplained reason, referred the man to him, the melamed. And now, this meeting shed light on the Rebbe's actions. He added, "The greatest favor you could do for me is to grant this person permission to print his books."
The great insight of Rabbi Shneur Zalman astounded the group of men. Obviously, the Rebbe had seen that the Minister of Education would be in the city of Vilna, and the Minister owed a debt of gratitude to the melamed. For this reason he sent the chasid to the city of Vilna to meet the melamed, so that all these three would meet. The Alter Rebbe was able not only to see into the future to know where the Minister of Education would be, but he also saw the past and knew the whole story of how this melamed had freed the little boy.
When the Torah lists Jacob's offspring, it counts the total number: "The number of individuals in Jacob's family who came to Egypt were 70..." The Midrash (Tanchuma) tells us that there are ten times where the Children of Israel are counted. The first time was when they went down to Egypt and the tenth time will be when the Redemption comes, as the prophet Jeremiah said, "The flock will again pass by the one who counts them." Who is "the one" whom G-d will appoint to count them? It will be Moshiach.