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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler
This week I logged into my Facebook account and lo and behold, there's a brand new feature. Until now, the only options (other than commenting) were to either "like" something or ignore it entirely. But there are so many situations which call for more than that.
When my friend had a new baby, the "like" button was insufficient. I didn't just like the news, I loved it!
And how to respond to someone's heartfelt, beautifully-written eulogy for a recently passed loved one? "Liking" seems wrong, because I certainly don't "like" their loss. But I don't want to ignore it either.
Likewise, when I was shocked to see which presidential candidate a friend supports, I had no means of expressing my outrage.
Finally, this week, Facebook presented a solution. Meet "reactions." Now, users can choose to react to a post with either: "Love," "Haha," "Wow," "Sad," or "Angry."
As Jews, we can learn a lot from this.
The problem with "like," is that it contains no emotion. It's too dry. We need more passion than a passive "like,"
Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that so far, "love" is by far the most popular of the new buttons. People don't just want to "like" something; they want to "love" it.
We read in the Shema prayer daily, "And you shall love the L-rd your G-d." Judaism demands passion and vibrancy. It's not enough to just "like" G-d, we have to love Him.
We need to find our passion for doing mitvot, like going to shul, learning Torah and putting on tefillin.
We need to feel fiery about helping our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
We need to yearn for Shabbat, its rest and holiness.
We need to find that love, for G-d and His mitzvot, and apply it to our lives. Display passion!
But what happens when we don't love Him?
That's why we have the other options: "Sad," Angry," etc.
It's better to be angry, than to not feel at all. Any passion, even anger toward G-d, is better than lack of feeling. As long as there is passion and feeling, there is a relationship. Without a relationship, we're in trouble.
So, how's your relationship with G-d?
Rabbi Vigler and his wife Shevy direct Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side in New York. From Rabbi Vigler's blog at www.chabadic.com
This week's Torah portion Tzav, contains the verse: "A continuous fire shall burn on the altar. It shall not be extinguished." Every element of the Sanctuary and the Temple is not merely part of our people's spiritual history, but is instead an ongoing dimension of our spiritual lives.
The altar refers to our hearts, the element of our being involved in the spiritual service of sacrifices (korbanot) which is interpreted as referring to our efforts to draw close (likareiv) to G-d. Within our hearts, a flame must continually burn. There is no way that our service of G-d should remain merely cold and cerebral. Instead, it should be ablaze with fire and energy. Our religious life should continuously vibrate with vitality and vigor.
The above concepts relate to one of the lessons of the recently celebrated Purim holiday. Haman came from the nation of Amalek, the arch-enemy of the Jewish people. And Amalek is described as the nation "asher korchacha baderech," literally meaning "who encountered you on the way," but figuratively interpreted as "who cooled you off on the way." The Jews were proceeding from the Exodus from Egypt to the Giving of the Torah with heightened spiritual consciousness and then Amalek stood in the way to cool them down.
Similarly, while the decree of Amalek's descendant, Haman, was directed at annihilating the Jewish people in a physical way, there was also a spiritual element to it. Had a Jew been willing to reject his Judaism, Haman would have left him alone. If one could coldly forgo all connection to his Jewish heritage, Haman didn't consider him an enemy.
How did Mordechai respond to threat of annihilation? He awakened his brothers' and sisters' spiritual vitality. Our Sages relate that at that time, our people renewed the commitment they made at the Giving of the Torah. At Sinai, our people acted rashly, promising "We will do" before "We will listen." And at the time of Purim, they reaffirmed that commitment, showing a dedication to their heritage unfettered by the limits of logic.
That same type of rash commitment is required in the present day. Although we are not threatened by annihilation as in the times of Purim, still we are in exile; Gdliness is not revealed. The material dimension of our existence pervades our consciousness to the point that we can hardly conceive of anything else.
The realization that we possess a Gdly spark within our souls that does not have complete expression and that the world possesses a spiritual dimension that lies hidden, should shake us to the very core of our beings. It should motivate us to want to do something, to change ourselves and our environment, to make ourselves and the world better.
When we confront this lack of responsiveness, our inner potential is aroused and inspired to do whatever is necessary to bring about the revelation of Gdliness in ourselves and in the world at large.
From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, sie.org
Why I Keep Shabbat
by Russell Wiener
Five years ago my mother (obm) passed away. During that time, my friends - primarily Jewish - have continuously asked me one question: "Why do you keep Shabbat?"; perhaps more to the point, "Why do you still keep Shabbat?" I never really gave an answer, usually dancing around the question; choosing to keep something so personal just that. I'd like to provide the answer here.
I grew up, basically, in a secular home. I went to Hebrew School classes a couple of days a week leading to my Bar Mitzva. I also began attending services during the High Holy Days with a neighbor. Sometime during my pubescent years and adulthood, my mother began lighting Shabbat candles, as she so aptly put it. Watching her say the blessings, then cover her eyes as she "personally" prayed to G-d for the welfare of family members (undoubtedly myself most prominently) had a profound effect on me. This woman, though not religious by "definition," both felt G-d and knew that her only child tried to maintain some semblance of direct-contact Judaism, so she was compelled to observe Shabbat as best she could.
Fast forward to February 15, 2011, when my mother passed away, I was devastated. Wanting to make sure my mother's passing was handled correctly, I quickly Googled everything I could about death and mourning in Judaism. Directed to Chabad.org, I learned of the soul's "cleansing process" and how important it was to say Kaddish for the departed. Thus would begin my transformative journey.
The Bronx, NY, is not generally thought of as a bastion of Torah observance. Still, the Pelham Parkway section, which I call home, still houses a few synagogues. I walked into Congregation Khal Adath Yeshurun, the shul closest to my home, on the morning of February 26, 2011. It was not the first time I'd been there-just the first time in a long time. I think it was that day that I made up my mind that, if I were going to go to shul every Shabbos, I would also maintain the laws of the day; hypocrisy being one of my primary pet peeves.
On one of my earliest shul visits, a Chassidic gentleman walked up and introduced himself as Rabbi Klyne. He was there along with his wife. There was no way I could possibly know or understand the impact meeting Levi and Chaya Mushka Klyne would have on my life. The Klynes, devoted to the mitzvah of helping fellow Jews, had learned of this small enclave of Yids in the forgotten Bronx that could use a helping hand. They began making the trip there every Shabbos, sleeping over in the dank back room of the Shul.
After davening one Friday night, Rabbi Klyne, whom I still barely knew, asked if I would like to stay and join him and his wife for Shabbos dinner. I don't usually take well to "new" people. With some trepidation, I accepted Rabbi Klyne's offer. Over dinner, I felt an instant connection with the Klynes. Somehow, they "got me." Most people don't "get me."
That was the first of many wonderful Friday night dinners. I can honestly say that Rabbi Klyne taught me the bulk of what I know about the religion; its laws, customs and, most important - what it means to be a good Jew. The time I've spent with the Klynes is forever indelibly etched as part of me. Levi is truly pious, wise and very giving. Chaya one of the kindest people I've ever met. Together, the two of them are one of a kind. I'd like to think that inspiring me might be a small part of Rabbi Klyne's life mission.
I was ecstatic when Yosef Klyne was born last year. Having a baby meant the Klynes would have to cut down on coming to the Bronx. Now, Friday night, I can't help but feel separation anxiety when I don't see these people I grew to know and love. They spoiled me, for Shabbos is simply not the same without their presence.
But there's yet more to this story and my Chassidic Connection. A couple of Passovers ago, another Chassidic gentleman walked into shul, introducing himself as Rabbi Pewzner. Turns out this Rabbi had also heard the call of Bronx Jews for a soul-boosting. A schluchim who had traveled the world, spreading the Rebbe's message, Saadia Pewzner, along with wife, Nechama, decided to take on the greatest challenge of all - uplifting Bronx Jews! Leaving family, friends and the comfort of Brooklyn behind, they decided to open the Bronx Jewish Center and sound a wake-up call for those slumbering Bronx Jews who needed a strong, loving hand to point them in the right direction.
On a personal note, Saadia and Nechama, like the Klynes, have been very kind to me. For someone who's single, with not much of a family left, they have made me feel "wanted." I usually spend Saturday afternoon after services at their home; dining on Nechama's yummy cholent and playing with their two great kids. It's especially meaningful to me during multi-day yom tovs when the Pewzners are understanding enough to host me multiple times.
So, why do I keep Shabbat? The best way I can explain it is that it's the only tangible way I can still connect to my mother. Every Shabbat when I stand before the Torah and get an aliyah, I picture my mother lighting the Shabbat candles. I hope she's standing above me, smiling, feeling nachas, knowing I'm doing my best to honor her. By keeping Shabbat, I get to be with her in the only way I still can! Because of my mother, I started keeping Shabbat, have kept Shabbat, and will always keep Shabbat.
Question hopefully answered!
Feminine Faith explores the unique gifts of the feminine - its connection to the undivided essence of G-d's reality in a way that transcends the masculine drive for mastery and control of nature's cause and effect. This discourse is a powerful meditation on the importance of the intuitive and the holistic. Part of the Chassidic Heritage Series, translated and adapted by Rabbis Shais Taub and Avraham Vaisfiche, published by Kehot.
A Diamond A Day
The two volumes of A Diamond A Day are an adaptation for children of Hayom Yom, an anthology of Chasidic teachings and customs assembled by the Rebbe from the talks and letters of the previous Rebbe. Masterfully adapted for children, the stories and examples make the lessons relevant for them. Adapted by Chaya Shuchat and illustrated by Avigail Najjar.
25th of Adar Sheini, 5744 (1984)
Mr. Shmuel Chaim Reshevsky
Greeting and Blessing:
After the long interval since I heard from you directly (which is somewhat surprising), I was pleased to have been informed of your recent success in the recent International Tournament, as reported in the New York Times of March 18, 1984. I was doubly gratified because it was good to know that you continue to participate in International Tournaments and, especially, that you shared the first prize in the Tournament at Reykjavik.
Needless to say, the most gratifying point is that you continue to display a Kiddush Hashem Barabim [Public Sanctification of G-d's Name], insisting on your right not to play on the holy Shabbat and that your stance was recognized and accepted. What made it even more conspicuous is that there was another Jewish contestant from the USSR who attempted to be a stumbling block in your way, which made the Kiddush Hashem all the more brilliant.
May G-d grant that for many years to come, you will continue to use your great influence in the cause of Kiddush Hashem, and to do so with good health, with joy and gladness of heart, and in happy circumstances both materially and spiritually .
The above is very much in the spirit of Purim, which we observed just recently, as we read in the Megilla [Book of Esther] that although in those days, as nowadays, Jews were spread and scattered among the nations of the world, facing all kinds of difficulties as Jews, nevertheless, they clung to their Jewish way of life, as the Megilla says, "Their Laws were different from those of other peoples." However, because of their determined and proud stance as Jews, to quote the Megilla again, "Mordechai the Jew" and the "People of Mordechai" would not "bend their knees nor bow down" before anyone or anything that challenged their Jewish commitment - precisely this is what brought about that "For the Jews there was light, gladness, joy and honor," meaning also honor and admiration for the Jews on the part of their erstwhile enemies.
There is surely no need to elaborate to you on the above. I would only like to add, in connection with the quotation of "Light, joy, gladness, and honor," the explanation of our Sages that this includes also the inner meaning of these terms, namely, "Light - this is Torah," etc. In light of this, I'm sure that you have regular daily periods of Torah study, with additional time on Shabbat and Yom Tov [holidays]. And though this is a "must" for its own sake, it also increases light and goodness in the ordinary sense.
17th of Adar, 5737 
I was pleased to receive your letter of the 8th of Adar, in which you write about your advancement in matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism], Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments].
As you know, the Mitzvo of V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho ["you should love your neighbor as yourself"] is the great rule of our Torah, requiring every Jew to help other Jews in every possible way. I trust that you have a good influence on your friends, especially by showing a good example of how a Jewish girl should conduct herself.
Having just celebrated Purim, the story of which is told in the Megilla, it is well to remember that although Mordecai and other people were also instrumental in bringing about the miracle of Purim, the Megilla is not called after both Mordecai and Esther, nor even after Esther and Mordecai in this order, but solely after Esther. This is surely a pointed reminder of how much a Jewish girl and woman can accomplish for the Jewish people. And although not everyone can compare to Queen Esther, it does emphasize that every Jewish girl in her own way can accomplish very much if she only uses all her abilities and opportunities. I trust that the inspiration of Purim will be with you throughout the year.
In the Hakhel year, the King read from the Torah to the entire Jewish nation. He stood on a bima, an elevated platform, to signify that while naturally humble, we must stand tall and be strong when faced with adversity. The platform was in the azara courtyard, a holy place. Only to defend holiness can we step out of a place of humility into the limelight. The bima was made of wood, a temporary material in comparison to the Temple's stones and metals. Our foray into fame is temporary, we are there for only as long as necessary until we return to our essential place of humility.
(Likutei Sichot 19, p. 328)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The 16th of Adar is the date in 5709 (1949) on which the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, received his citizenship papers from the United States government.
In a move indicating the government's tremendous respect for the Rebbe, citizenship was conferred upon him in his offices at 770 Eastern Parkway, World Lubavitch Headquarters since his arrival in the United States in 1940.
For this special occasion the Previous Rebbe wore his Shabbat clothes -- a spodek (fur hat) and special long black coat.
After greeting the delegation from the government, the Rebbe said: "In connection with what is taking place today, the Midrash states that after Abraham was commanded to 'Go out from your land, from the place of your birth, from your father's house, to the land that I will show you' and he came to Aram Naharayim, 'he saw the people there eating and drinking and he said: I hope I don't have a portion in this land.' When Abraham reached the border of Tzur he saw the people involved with weeding and hoeing and he said, 'O that my portion should be in this land!' G-d then said to him, 'To your children I will give this land.' "
"Similarly, after all my journeys and travels from place to place and from country to country, by Divine Providence I have now found the rightful place from whence the dissemination of Judaism and the spreading forth of the wellsprings of Torah will be directed -- here in America."
After he finished speaking, the Previous Rebbe signed the official papers and parted from the delegation with a broad smile.
As related by the Rebbe, it is interesting to note that a special law was passed in Congress to enable the Previous Rebbe, the leader of that generation, to receive his citizenship at home.
Command Aaron and his sons, saying (Lev. 6:2)
As Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator explains, the word "command" is used "to encourage and hasten immediately, and for future generations." When a person performs the same action every day it becomes routine, done by rote. He thus needs special encouragement to ensure that he will have the proper intentions.
A perpetual fire (Lev. 6:6)
There were two types of fire in the Sanctuary and Holy Temple: one that burned on the outer altar, and one that burned in the menora inside. The priest whose job it was to light the menora did so with a flame taken from the outer altar. This teaches an important lesson: The outer altar is symbolic of our Divine service with other people; the kindling of the menora alludes to Torah study, as it states in Proverbs, "The Torah is light." Thus in order to merit the Torah's light it isn't enough to concern oneself with one's own spiritual progress; the concern should be extended to others as well.
And any earthen vessel in which it may have been boiled shall be broken (Lev. 6:21)
An earthen vessel that has been used to cook non-kosher food and absorbed its flavor cannot be made kosher; it must be shattered. Similarly, the heart of a person who has become accustomed to sin must be "broken" before he can become pure.
And the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving-peace-offering shall be eaten the same day that it is offered (Leviticus 7:15)
Why is eating this type of sacrifice limited to only one day? asks Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur. Because it is brought to thank G-d for a miracle He has wrought on our behalf; indeed, G-d performs new miracles every day...
Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid was a medieval poet who lived in Moslem Spain from 993-1056 of the Common Era. One of his most prized possessions was a tiny Torah scroll he had written on special parchment, which he always carried with him wherever he went.
Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid's love for calligraphy was passed down to his sons, who even as young children demonstrated an aptitude for lettering. By the age of 8, his son Yehosef had already transcribed his father's book of poems, Ben Tehillim. Another work, entitled Ben Mishlei, was copied by his son Elyasaf at age 6½. Rabbi Shmuel wanted his third book, Ben Kohelet, to be copied by his son Yehuda, but the boy unfortunately passed away before he could do so. Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid was grief-stricken, as he had loved his son very much. In the end he transcribed the book himself, and dedicated it to the boy's memory.
Rabbi Shmuel had many enemies. When he came under attack, he was forced to defend himself and wage war. He was a fearless and successful fighter, but it was during one of these battles that he lost his precious manuscript, Ben Kohelet. He was especially distressed by the loss, as it was the only copy in existence.
Rabbi Shmuel returned home to what he hoped would be a life of tranquility and scholarship. However, this proved impossible, as he found himself besieged by numerous requests for holy books from Torah scholars near and far, who complained about their desperate shortage. (Remember, this was before the invention of the printing press, when all reading materials had to be painstakingly copied by hand.)
Rabbi Shmuel thus became the founder of a famous institute for copying Jewish holy books, with a large number of scribes in his employ. Indeed, he was responsible for developing a new method of "mass" production, whereby transcribers would sit in a half-circle around a single "reader" in the middle and faithfully reproduce his words.
Thanks to Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid, Jewish holy books became much more readily available to the common man. He also took pains to bind them in attractive bindings. Copies were sent to far-flung Jewish communities around the world. Apprentice scribes flocked to the new school, begging to be accepted. It was said that Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid could determine a person's character just by looking at his handwriting.
One day a potential scribe arrived at the school and asked to be accepted as an apprentice. When Rabbi Shmuel asked him to provide a sample of his calligraphy, he took one look at the handwriting and pronounced him to be a professional plagiarist. The man was immediately taken aback, and admitted that he had been involved in producing forgeries. However, he said that he was happy to have been found out, and promised to amend his ways. Rabbi Shmuel decided to take him on as a student.
Several years passed, until one day the former plagiarist brought Rabbi Shmuel a copy of the Talmudic Tractate Bava Metzia he had transcribed for his approval. After inspecting his work, Rabbi Shmuel told him that he could see from his writing that he had been "cured," and would never again fall prey to temptation. The man was so happy that he kissed his mentor's hands and gave him a small manuscript as a token of his affection. Rabbi Shmuel could hardly believe his eyes: it was an exact copy of his book, Ben Kohelet, that had been lost years before!
The student then told Rabbi Shmuel that as a result of his former criminal associations he had met a man who boasted of having written a book of poetry. Indeed, the man was very fond of quoting "his" poems at length. By that time, the student was well acquainted with Rabbi Shmuel's work and recognized his style. He realized that the poems could have only been authored by him, and learned them by heart, word for word and line by line. He then transcribed them into a book as a gift for his wonderful teacher, who had refused to give up on him and given him a second chance.
Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid's joy knew no bounds. Not only had he been proven a good judge of character, but the beloved manuscript he had thought was lost to him forever was restored to him in its entirety.
The First and the Second Holy Temples were destroyed. Thus, the ultimate vehicle for the revelation of G-dliness in the world will be the Third Holy Temple, which will be an eternal structure. Then, in the Era of Redemption, "the glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will together see that the mouth of G-d has spoken;" i.e., there will be an open revelation of G-dliness which will be appreciated by all mankind.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Tzav, 1991)