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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
The disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch had begged their master many times to show them Elijah the Prophet. Their persistence paid off; when a gathering of poritzim, wealthy Polish landowners, was being held the Maggid acceded to their request.
The Maggid instructed his disciples to stand in a certain location and watch the poritzim ride by. The third poritz they would see, he informed them, would be Elijah the Prophet. "And if you are worthy," the Maggid added, "you will even merit to hear words of Torah from his lips."
The disciples followed the Maggid's instructions. They stood and waited in the exact spot the Maggid had indicated. When the third poritz rode by they hesitantly approached his carriage. True, he looked like an ordinary Polish poritz, but hadn't the Maggid declared that he was none other than Elijah the prophet?
Addressing him in Polish, they deferentially asked if they could speak with his lordship as they had a very important matter to discuss. To their surprise the "poritz" responded by flinging sharp insults and curses at them, after which he rode off to join the other landowners.
The bewildered and heartbroken disciples returned to the Maggid and related what had happened. They told him that they had seen Elijah the Prophet, for they didn't doubt for a moment that the poritz was, in truth, the prophet. But when they asked to speak with him he responded with a barrage of deprecations.
The Maggid's response was unexpected. "You rightly deserved the treatment he gave you! You knew for certain, for I gave you all the signs, that you were standing in the very presence of Elijah the Prophet. You should have addressed him in the holy tongue! You should have said to him 'Bless us!' instead of speaking to him in Polish and timidly asking the 'poritz' for an audience. If you could still relate to him as a poritz after I told you that he is Elijah the Prophet, you deserve the treatment you received!"
The Torah (in Deuteronomy) states, "You are a holy people to G-d your G-d." Every Jew is holy. Every Jew is, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, a trove of unlimited treasures.
But it's not enough to know in our heads that a fellow Jew is holy, that he has a wealth of goodness and G-dliness within him. It's insufficient to believe with absolutely certainty that what the Torah and great Jewish teachers of all generations have said about the worth of every Jew is true.
We have to relate to our brother or sister not according to what appearances tell us. From the beginning our entire interaction has to be in accordance with his or her true, goodly and holy nature.
Then, surely, we will merit to see Elijah the Prophet - the harbinger of the Messianic Era - and ask of him, "Bless us."
Some Additional Thoughts
The sigh of a Jew over the suffering of another Jew breaks all the barriers of the Accusers, and the joy with which one rejoices in another's happiness and blesses him, is as acceptable by G-d as the prayer of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.
Reb Elimelech of Linznsk related a teaching from the Maggid of Mezeritch: "Do you know what they say in Heaven? Love of a fellow Jew means loving the absolutely wicked like the perfectly saintly."
"G-d foregoes love of G-d in favor of love of the Jewish people," Rabbi Shneur Zalman declared.
In the opening lines of this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, G-d commands Abraham to "go out" from his land, from his place of birth, to a land which He will show him. What can we to learn from this very first commandment to Abraham, that we can apply to our own lives as well?
The first and most fundamental requirement of every Jew is to "go out" - to be in a constant state of ascent, developing and elevating both our inner potential and our surroundings.
But the very next thing that happened to Abraham after heeding this command and going to Israel appears to be the exact opposite of development and elevation: "And there arose a famine in the land, and Avram went down into Egypt." Thus, Abraham had to leave Canaan and journey to Egypt, during which time Sarah was forcefully taken to Pharaoh's palace. Although G-d protected her from harm while there, she nevertheless underwent the hardship of the whole incident.
How does this obvious descent fit into the aforementioned theme of ascent and elevation, and our task of climbing ever higher?
On a superficial level, Abraham's and Sarah's hardship was a step down, but on a deeper level it was merely a part of their eventual elevation and triumphant return. The purpose of the descent was to achieve an even higher ascent than was possible before. When they returned to Canaan they were "very heavy with cattle, with silver, and with gold."
Just as Abraham's descent was part of the greater plan of ascent, so it was with the generation of his descendants to follow. The Jewish people have found themselves thrust into exile after exile, only to return to their Land and achieve even higher spiritual heights than before. Galut (exile), although appearing to us to be a negative phenomenon, actually carries the potential for the highest good. And now that we are in the last days of the final exile, we approach an era of unprecedented spirituality and goodness, for although the First and Second Temples were eventually destroyed, the Third Temple is to stand forever, and our coming Redemption will have no exile to follow.
We therefore draw encouragement from our ancestor Abraham's descent into Egypt and eventual return to Israel: We must remember that the darkness which seems to prevail in the world is only external, and is part of G-d's greater plan for the ultimate prevailing of good over evil and the coming of Moshiach.
Teach with Love and Kindness
by Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz
I grew up in South Africa in a vibrant Jewish community. As a child I was encouraged to join Jewish youth groups. I loved the activities and discussions. However, about Judaism I had many unanswered questions. Then it all unraveled.
There was a youth Shabbaton in Johannesburg. It was during this Shabbaton that I met two rabbis who were emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to South Africa, Rabbi Mendel Lipskar and Rabbi Shalom Ber Groner. I had never met real live Chasidim and was a little nervous and intimidated. This soon disappeared as their humor, warmth and wisdom was so inspiring. I could not stop asking questions and stayed up the entire Friday night talking with Rabbi Groner.
The following year I went to Israel in order to study in yeshiva in Kfar Chabad. It was here I met a teacher and Chasid who had a tremendous impact on my life. His name was Rebbe Mendel Futerfas.
Reb Mendel, as we all affectionately called him, had been sentenced to a Siberian prison camp in the former Communist Russia. His only crime was teaching the Torah. I could not help but admire his strength, determination and wisdom. He agreed to teach a small group of us the Tanya (the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, written by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi). We had to be disciplined, vigilant, and ready to learn no later than 4:45 a.m. every day.
He would end each lesson with a story. They were stories of the bravery, devotion and inspiration of Chasidim. Reb Mendel himself was like the characters in the stories he told. One could not help but admire his inner strength as he suffered so much hardship from all those cold, harsh years in Siberia. Nevertheless he always displayed such faith, compassion, sincerity and heart.
I remember Reb Mendel telling me to take the stories and place them in some sort of a freezer chest in my mind. When the time comes, he said, take them out, defrost them with warm words and let them enter the hearts of children. After spending two years at the Yeshiva Kfar Chabad I began to realize how much there is still to learn. I went to New York to be near the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. This was the moment that changed my life.
Being near the Rebbe and witnessing everything that was going on around him was overwhelming; it is hard to put it into a few words. What I saw and heard impacted me so tremendously that I knew that this was where I needed to be. The Rebbe talking for hours at Chasidic gatherings called farbrengens. The people coming from all over the world to hear his teachings.
I saw miracles, wonder, love of humanity and a spirit of goodness that could not be replicated anywhere else. The Rebbe spoke with such clarity and enthusiasm about teaching Torah and spreading the warmth of Yiddishkeit (Judaism). The message of the importance of Torah education for children is what inspired me the most.
I will never forget the day I received a phone call from my mother asking me to come back to South Africa as my father was ill. She told me that the doctors had given my father three months to live and I needed to come home and help in his business.
Before leaving New York I received a private audience with the Rebbe. I asked for a blessing for my father. The Rebbe replied that my father should have a speedy recovery and that I should "teach Torah to children with a true love and a true kindness and touch their lives." When I asked the Rebbe once again he repeated the words "true love and a true kindness." My father went on to live another nine and a half years. Nine years more than the doctors told him. I went on to do what the Rebbe told me, "Teach children with a true love and a true kindness." It is the best blessing I could ever receive. I hope to live up to it.
Written by Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz, the spiritual leader of the Foothills Shul at Beis Yael. He is also the director of Judaic studies at Tucson Hebrew Academy.
Jewish tradition offers an intimate experience of time, empowering us to delve beyond its homogeneous expanse to behold a terrain of great diversity. A terrain marked by a weekly cycle of creative workdays and Shabbat rest; with the annual landmarks of Rosh Hashanah awe, Passover freedom, Chanukah light, and Purim joy; with designated hours for the daily prayers, lighting Shabbat candles, or the havdalah ritual. Through these and a host of other time specific observances, we reach within time to uncover its multifaceted nature and actualize its particular potentials. Inside Time is a three-book series exploring the soul of time as defined by the Torah and as illuminated by chassidic teaching, particularly by the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Adapted by Rabbi Yanki Tauber, published by The Meaningful Life Center.
Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 5732 
To the Participants in the Testimonial Banquet honoring Rabbi Dr. Moshe Yitzchok Hecht
Greeting and Blessing:
I am very pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Testimonial Banquet in honor of Rabbi Hecht's twenty-five years of dedicated service to the greater New Haven community.
The occasion is a fitting testimony to the personal achievements of the recipient of this honor. It also shows that he is fortunate in having Baalei-batim [supporters] who appreciate his services to the community. Furthermore, and this is the most essential aspect, the occasion reflects recognition of the vital importance of Jewish education, the field in which Rabbi Hecht has particularly distinguished himself and made his greatest contribution.
All this gives me the confident expectation that the event will serve as a further stimulus to the cause of Chinuch [Jewish education], where there is of course still much more to be done. For, as long as there is a Jewish boy or girl who does not yet receive a Torah-true education, the obligation of the community cannot be considered fully done.
On the other hand, we live in a situation which is especially conducive to Chinuch. Parents are more keenly aware of the compelling need of Chinuch in the present days of confusion and misguided values. As for Jewish children and youth, they are always receptive to the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments]. This has again confirmed the truth of the Torah and of the Lubavitch approach, namely, that the Torah and Mitzvos are part of the Jewish essence, and that it is only necessary to help a Jew bring this essence to the fore and rediscover himself. And having been brought into the experience of Torah and Mitzvos, they are happy and grateful, and proceed to go from strength to strength on their own accord, and help others, in the manner of a chain reaction.
It is customary to make a reference to the Torah portion of the week, in which any event takes place. It is, therefore, significant that the weekly portion Lech-lecho begins with G-d's call to Abraham to leave his land and birthplace, etc., in order to begin a new life in the Promised Land.
Symbolically speaking, this is also the call and challenge to every Jew, at all times and in all places. It is the eternal call to the Jew not to allow himself to be swept by the outside environment, nor to be swayed by inborn temptations, or acquired habits, or common daily routine. A Jew must rise above all this and follow the Divine call to go "To the land which I (G-d) will show you" - the Jewish way of life, which G-d prescribed for Abraham, the first Jew and for our Jewish people as a whole at Mt. Sinai. Moreover, G-d promises that this way of life, far from being impossible, as some mistakenly think, is within reach of every Jew and it is the source of blessing for himself and the society in which he lives, as G-d further promised, "And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you."
I send my prayerful wishes that the enthusiasm and dedication of all participants in this Banquet will inspire also others to a concerted and ever-growing effort on behalf of Torah-true education, both for the young as well as for the old who are still young in Jewish knowledge and experience. May G-d bless you with Hatzlocho [success] and true Nachas [pleasure] from your children, and fulfill your hearts' desires for good materially and spiritually.
One of the early teachings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism (at the time these teachings were called "verter" - lit. "words," short sayings):
Sh'ma Yisrael - Hear O Israel: a Jew senses that
Havayeh Elokeinu - the L-rd is Our G-d: our strength and life is beyond nature,and
Havayeh Echad - the L-rd is One.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On the eleventh day of Cheshvan (this coming Shabbat, October 24 this year), the Matriarch Rachel, Jacob's wife, passed away. She was not buried in the cave of Machpelah with our other Matriarchs and Patriarchs, but was buried en route from her father Laban's house. Jacob chose this spot because he knew in the future that his descendants, the Children of Israel, would pass on their way into Babylonian Exile. Her grave in Bethlehem has always been a holy site, where Jews pray for their individual or communal needs.
When the Jews in fact went into exile, Rachel wept before G-d on behalf of her children who were crying by her grave. G-d replied to her, "Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your labor...and the children shall return to their boundary."
This is related to this week's Torah portion, in which G-d promises Abraham that the land he travelled through, the Land of Israel, will belong to his children, the Jewish people.
Throughout the generations we have had to struggle to claim the land that has always been ours, as we see in the Torah a Divine "transfer of ownership" of Israel to our ancestor, which is to be handed down to each and every one of his descendants. G-d comforts Rachel by telling her that we will be returned to the land that is rightfully ours.
We carry G-d's promise to Rachel with us today and pray that very soon, our mother Rachel will rejoice as we, her children, are "returned to our borders." At that time, when we will be living in the Holy Land in security and peace, we will be governed by Moshiach and will be experiencing the wonders and glory of the Third Holy Temple, may this be speedily in our times.
Fear not Abram, for I am your shield (Gen. 15:1)
Our forefather Abraham was the epitome of unlimited loving-kindness; in his eyes everyone was good and had merit. Unfortunately, however, looking at the world in such an undiscriminating fashion precludes the entire purpose of creation, i.e., the eradication and nullification of evil. For this reason G-d promised Abraham that He would put a "shield" on his loving-kindness, to make sure it would be applied with the proper discretion.
And Abram took Sarai his wife... and all the souls they had made in Charan (Gen. 12:5)
As Rashi explains, this refers to the people whom Abraham and Sarah "brought under the wings of the Divine Presence. Abraham converted the men [to the belief in one G-d] and Sarah converted the women." Because this took place before the Torah was given at Sinai, the concept of conversion did not exist as it does today; according to halacha, Abraham and Sarah were considered "Children of Noah." Thus Rashi uses the unusual phrase "brought under the wings of the Divine Presence" to establish this fact before using the word "conversion" in a non-literal sense.
For their wealth was great, so that they could not dwell together (Gen. 13:6)
Not poverty but wealth, and the jealousy it engenders, is the cause of most of the dissension and conflict in the world.
Your reward will be exceedingly great (Gen. 15:1)
The reward a Jew receives for doing mitzvot is vastly out of proportion to the deed itself: a finite and limited action is rewarded with an eternal and everlasting dividend.
When he was a youngster, Rebbe Naftoli Katz, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Posen, was once playing outdoors with his friends. They were throwing rocks, and Naftoli accidentally hit the passenger of a fine carriage that was nearby. Unfortunately, that passenger was none other than the High Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The prince's guards arrested the boy for this act of "rebellion." He was brought to court and found guilty. His sentence: public execution.
Naftoli was to be escorted by a guard to the empire's capital, where his sentence was to be carried out. It was a difficult journey, and the stormy weather they encountered made travelling almost impossible. At one point they stopped at an inn that was owned by a Jew.
While the guard made himself comfortable in a corner by the stove, young Naftoli sat and listened to the innkeeper's sons studying Talmud with their tutor. Naftoli knew this tractate by heart, and when the boys and their tutor were stumped by a question in the tractate, Naftoli supplied them with the answer.
The innkeeper realized that this was a brilliant boy, and when he found out why Naftoli was being kept in custody, he thought of a plan to save the boy's life. The innkeeper offered the guard free food and drinks, thus convincing him to stay at the inn for a few days until the weather cleared up.
After a while the innkeeper approached the guard casually: "What would happen if a prisoner was to die in custody as he was being escorted from one city to another?" he inquired.
Replied the guard, "The escort would simply have to present a document testifying to the prisoner's death, signed by the local authorities."
Using his connections, the innkeeper obtained the required document and handed it to the guard, along with enough money to bribe him. The guard left Naftoli with the innkeeper, who took the boy in and raised him as if he was a member of his own family.
Years passed. Naftoli was of marriageable age, as was the innkeeper's daughter. The innkeeper proposed a match between the two young people and they both agreed. The wedding date was set.
One night, some time later, the innkeeper passed by Naftoli's room and heard him talking. He peeked through the keyhole and saw Naftoli sprawled on the floor, begging and pleading. "What can I do?" Naftoli was saying, "these people saved my life."
The scene repeated itself the next night. The innkeeper could not contain his curiosity, as he knew no one was in Naftoli's room, and he asked Naftoli for an explanation. "My parents keep appearing to me and telling me that your daughter is not my intended mate."
The innkeeper, realizing that a Heavenly hand was guiding the young man, told him to obey his parents' wishes, and that he bore Naftoli no ill will.
Before Naftoli left, he requested that the innkeeper give him a written account of the money paid on his behalf to bribe the guard so many years before.
"I have merited to fulfill the commandment of redeeming a hostage, and seek no reimbursement," exclaimed the righteous innkeeper.
Naftoli insisted and the innkeeper finally gave him a paper stating the sum paid to the guard. Naftoli left and became famous for his exceptional qualities. He married and was appointed the rabbi of the city of Posen.
The innkeeper's daughter married a storekeeper, and settled in a town near Posen. One night, as she was walking home from the store, she was kidnapped by a wealthy landowner and brought back to his estate with obvious intentions. Despite the dangerous situation, the young woman maintained her composure. "I will go along with all your wishes," she told the landowner, "but first you must go to town to purchase some fine liquor for me." The landowner readily agreed.
While he was in town, the clever woman looked for a means of escape from the mansion. The only window she found unbarred was very high up. Realizing the jump was dangerous, she looked for something to cushion her fall. She found the landowner's heavy lambskin overcoat and, wrapping herself in it, offered a prayer and leaped out the window. Miraculously, she was not hurt. She fled home, still wrapped in the coat.
The husband was thankful for his wife's narrow escape. He related the entire incident to the rabbi of Posen.
Rabbi Naftoli told the husband, "Your wife is a righteous woman and her level-headedness is admirable. G-d is truly with her. Open the seam of the landowner's coat, and you will find money that rightfully belongs to you and your wife."
A few days later, the landowner came into the husband's store to make a purchase. He complained about "some Jewish woman" who had not only outwitted him, but had managed to steal his overcoat that had a large sum of money sewn inside it. The husband returned to Rabbi Naftoli and told him what the landowner had said.
"This finally concludes a much longer story," Rabbi Naftoli replied, and proceeded to tell the husband the whole story of his arrest and ransom. "That landowner," he concluded, "was the guard who had escorted me. The amount of money in the coat is the sum that your father-in-law paid for my release. Here, I will show you a bill which confirms the figure exactly."
The Torah states: "And also that nation whom they serve will I judge, and afterward they will go out with great substance." (Gen. 15:14) Just as those Jews living during the previous exiles in Egypt and Babylonia who put their faith in the nations and their kings for their salvation were proven wrong, so too will those who, in our present exile, think that we must rely on the nations of the world for our continued existence and redemption. When Moshiach comes and G-d judges all the nations, the Jews will see that their faith in them was misplaced. At that time we will also "go out with great substance," the greatest riches of them all - the ultimate Redemption.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)