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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg
There was a time when the Israeli government was involved in gathering Jewish children from primitive countries and resettling them in Eretz Yisrael (the Holy Land). First, however, the children were brought to refugee camps in Europe where they were supposed to make a transition to Western culture.
When the children were served their meals, in front of them was a full place setting - a plate, a cup, and silverware. The only problem was that these children had never seen silverware before and they didn't know what to do with them. Then, one boy picked up his fork and put a piece of paper in the prongs and started blowing on it. With this, he made a little harmonica. The other children saw and they all figured out what this fork must really be for - making a harmonica - and they all did the same thing.
Everything in this world was created and designed for a purpose. Yet a person can always invent his own way of using whatever he wants. But this is not the real purpose. The real purpose is revealed to us through G-d's Torah.
Torah in general, and Chasidic philosophy especially, describes the true objective behind everything in this world, for the world itself and for ourselves. The Sages say that the only reason gold was created was to be used in the Holy Temple. The fact is, gold has also been used for many other purposes: good functions, holy purposes, mundane things and even idolatry. Nevertheless, the Sages tell us that none of that is the real purpose of gold. Gold was created only for the Temple.
Many years ago, people in the religious community asked the Rebbe how he could instruct his Chasidim to broadcast Torah on the radio when radio is a vessel for so many negative messages. They felt that perhaps radio was a contaminated medium. The Rebbe expained that if something was created and exists in this world, then G-d wants us to have it for a purpose. That purpose is the making of this world into a dwelling place for Him. The radio was really only created for disseminating Torah and making the world a more holy place.
This is the true purpose for everything - that we make the world a fitting place for G-dliness to be seen by the physical eye. This should be immediately through the revelation of Moshiach.
Rabbi Goldberg is the dean of Hadar HaTorah Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York. Hadar Hatorah, founded over 50 years ago, is the world's first yeshiva for Jewish men with little or no formal background in Jewish studies or practice. For more info visit hadarhatorah.com
In this week's Torah portion, Behar, we learn about thethe Sabbatical Year. The Torah states: "Six years you shall sow your field. and harvest your crops, but the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of strict rest for the land, you must not sow your field." (Lev. 25:3)
"If you wonder, 'What will we eat in the seventh year.?' I shall command My blessing upon you in the sixth year to yield crops for three years." (Ibid. 25:20-22)
This passage, which speaks of the mitzva of shemita (the Sabbatical year for the Land of Israel), may also be interpreted in the context of the world at large and the redemption.
The six years of working the land are analagous to the first six millennia of the world's existence, when everything is prepared for the seventh millennium by means of Torah and mitzvot.
Our present generation is near the end of the sixth millennium. This raises an obvious question: Why should our generation, which is qualitatively so much lower than all our predecessors, merit to experience the Messianic redemption? What makes us more worthy than the spiritual giants of the past that we shall usher in the "seventh year," the "day that is entirely Shabbat and repose for life everlasting"? In other words, we have a metaphorical paraphrase of the question, "What will we eat in the seventh year.?"
The Divine response is: "I shall command My blessing upon you in the sixth year." The stature and deeds of the earlier generations were indeed much greater than those of now. On the other hand, the present state of moral corruption throughout the world requires an unprecedented amount of fortitude and self-sacrifice to carry out even our minimal obligations. This lends our continued observance of Torah and mitzvot a quality and blessing superseding that of our predecessors. Thus we are more than worthy to experience the redemption.
We shall merit the "crops for three years," i.e., of the three stages in the Messianic era: the initial redemption, the later stage of the resurrection of the dead, and the ultimate "seventh millennium."
From Living With Moshiach, adapted from the works of the Rebbe by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, o.b.m.
High Notes, Low Notes
by Mikhoel Pais
It happens every time. When I am seated on the piano bench, my fingers poised to begin playing, I pause. The audience is waiting for music to entertain them; this entertainer is hoping to convey a message.
My family immigrated to America from Odessa, a city in Ukraine, when I was three years old. Our lives were transformed as we poured our energy into achieving the American dream, joining the notorious melting pot of cultures, economies and lives.
Coming from a Russian-Jewish family, I was raised with a foundation of good values and an appreciation for culture. It was no wonder that when I was six my grandparents and parents took me to Shostakovich Music School where I began studying voice, dance, art, and, of course, piano.
Right before I started Junior High School, my parents divorced. It was very difficult for me, though on the surface I didn't show it much. I began to find comfort in piano music as the only thing that spoke to me, or rather that I could speak through, and really felt that it resonated with what I was feeling.
For sixth grade, I was accepted into Bay Academy, the top Junior High School in Brooklyn at the time, primarily thanks to my piano skills. A few years later, I heard of a specialized high school called LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in Manhattan. I began to dream of striking a real chord in the world. I auditioned for the school and with my acceptance took my first big step into the professional musical world. During that first year in high school, I began participating in and winning piano competitions. I performed in a winners' recital in Carnegie Hall and traveled to Amsterdam for a music festival. Things were beginning to get serious.
One Friday night in Brooklyn, I took my first few steps toward the local Chabad House run by a Russian rabbi, Rabbi Asher Altshul, an Odessit (originally from Odessa) like me. My mom had told me about it (Odessa connection).
What inspired me to want to go, after my mother suggested it? After all, mothers make a lot of suggestions. I think it was due to my childhood memories. In elementary school I had studied in Released Time, and surely that gave me a warmth to Judaism that drew me closer years later. I was actually convinced by a non-Jewish friend to go because he told me that they raffle off Game Boys. I totally went just for that and the cookies and Sprite. They taught us songs, brachos; we made our first kippas and glittered them. For years I had the tzitzis that they gave us.
Growing up, I had heard stories of my family turning to the Rebbe for his blessing in times of need. When I decided to explore my roots in my sophomore year in high school, I wasn't sure that there was truth in the world. But my family's personal interactions with the Rebbe made me hopeful.
High school was an interesting experience. Vast quantities of ridiculously liberal propaganda was mixed into the educational program and a huge number of incredibly talented individuals were all striving to achieve and succeed, although no one really knew what for. I somehow didn't imagine pursuing anything but music. Yet, I felt that just making a buck couldn't be all that life is about. I hoped that with my talent I could convey something worthwhile, something meaningful, and bring people to a better place in their make-a-buck lives.
I went off to The Boston Conservatory for a year. But I soon made the choice to return to New York, closer to Crown Heights, closer to Jews, closer to the Rebbe. I wanted to find the real spirit inspiring my life and the world and to channel that in my music.
Although I continued playing piano and studying professionally, I began to study Torah seriously: Hadar Hatorah Yeshivacation, Torah Ohr in Miami for a semester and Seagate Yeshiva for several years.
The greatest struggle for me was in identifying myself. Am I a pianist who is a Jew and a chasid? Or a chasid who plays piano? Is my dream of being a world-class pianist slipping from my fingers? It was definitely challenging to find a balance in my life.
When the administrator of the Seagate Yeshiva offered me full-time study at the school, that proved to be the most difficult choice. A commitment to studying full time in yeshiva would mean that I wouldn't have the necessary three to four hours or more per day to practice piano. I feared that if I accepted, I would be closing the door on any future career in piano that I could possibly have.
How could I practice and take lessons and put together programs and organize concerts when from sunrise to sunset I would be praying and studying Torah? I chose to put Torah first. When I let go of my rigorous music schedule, a whole new world opened up for me. I suddenly had an organized day, with even more time than before to practice. I felt that I had finally given
myself over to Torah and mitzvos, and in doing that I discovered after all these years who I really am. I began to understand Chassidus better and was learning to read the Rebbe's sichos in Yiddish, which I had dreamed of doing. Chassidus began to permeate my day, my outlook, and I began to learn and see how a simple sky or breath of air is an expression of G-dliness, a truly divine creation and expression. The truth I discovered is that even the piano keys, the concert stage, the world of harmony and sound can be a stage for the spiritual and divine.
As a chasid of the Rebbe, I'm marching out into the world, with my music, sifting through and discovering the G-dliness within it all. Through my art, I'm doing my best to give others a taste of life in its purest form. Music is the perfect tool for that. It makes us feel alive when we're down because it comes from the deepest parts of our soul. It can liberate us from the daily rhythm of limitation to appreciate the infinite world that we live in. With my family, with my classical arrangements of Chasidic melodies, with my piano students who eagerly bring life into motionless piano keys and with Torah and mitzvot, I strive daily to influence the world... one note at a time.
Mikhoel, his wife Nava and their son live in Crown Heights. You can hear Mikhoel's work at www.MikhoelPais.com. Reprinted with permission from the N'shei Chabad Newsletter from the column "Delving Deeper" curated by Yonit Tanenbaum of YQ Media.
An annual program at SUNY Binghamton for the past 22 years, "Shabbat 1800" brought together nearly that many students on a recent Friday evening to celebrate - Shabbat! The program started with candle-lighting and Kiddush, and included a full Shabbat meal. Originally named "Shabbat 1000," the event has been duplicated bu Chabad on many campuses across the nation.
Two Acres at
Chabad at the University of Central Florida recently purchased a two-acre property down the block from the UCF campus. They will be building a facility to serve the 6,000 Jewish students who attend UCF. The new facility will include a lounge, social hall, commercial kitchen, Jewish library, synagogue, guest rooms and residence for the Chabad emissaries at UCF Rabbi Chaim and Rivkie Lipsker.
Continued from previous issue. In the first part of this letter, written in 1964, the Rebbe makes the point that when a house is burning, all theoretical and philosophical discussions must be put aside to take care of the matter at hand: saving the lives of those in the burning building. The Rebbe continues, emphasizing that Hitler (may his name be erased) aimed to destroy the Jewish body and spirit.
In light of these prefatory remarks, let us - you and I - consider our position. Surely, in the face of the situation as it now exists, which is one of continuing deterioration, all debates and philosophical speculation must be set aside. The existing emergency demands immediate action - to save Jewish souls, of the old, the middle-aged, and the young. This is the primary obligation of each and every one of us who desires to counteract the Hitlerian objective. This obligation is particularly binding in regard to the immediate environment where one has been raised, and to which one owes a debt of gratitude for the many benefits received. More compelling still is this duty for one who has put his abilities to work in the field of education and has met with success. So obvious should this be to the thinking and conscientious person, that it is puzzling that the latter should fail to see it. I can only explain this as follows:
If the yetzer hara [evil inclination] should accost a thinking person with the words, "Forget about those spiritual crematoria; instead go out and have a good time, give yourself up to the pleasures of the flesh!" - such a line of approach would not of course work. But the yetzer hara has a better tactic, one that is more "discreet" and "diplomatic." It takes a different track altogether, somewhat like this: "For a person like you, mundane pleasures are too trivial. You should think in terms of universal ideas, ideas that embrace the whole of mankind based on the most profound philosophies, etc. Here you will find fulfillment of your soul's mission, for in saving the whole world you will save its individual parts as well," and so on, and so on. Unfortunately, this deception succeeds more often than not with many a well-meaning individual, inducing him to concentrate his attention on some utopian idea or other, to the neglect of the immediate surroundings.
I simply want to understand how it is possible for a young man who contemplates what is happening around him to fall into such a misconception.
All that has been said thus far - in the hope of your kind indulgence - is, of course, not intended, G-d forbid, as a rebuke or argument for the sake of arguing. I simply want to understand how it is possible for a young man who contemplates what is happening around him to fall into such a misconception. Surely the daily newspapers cannot delude one into thinking that all is well and normal. The reports on juvenile delinquency and crime; the promiscuity among college students; the rising tide of intermarriage and assimilation, etc., surely must be a constant challenge to the decent and right-thinking young man, and should "sting" him into doing something practical, rather than engaging in some abstract topic of research which, as all will agree, could at the very least wait for a while; whereas the boy or girl in the college cannot be left to wait, and unless helped and guided immediately, might soon be swept away by the tide of intermarriage and assimilation and irretrievably lost, G-d forbid.
Concluded in next issue
Maimonides explains that during the Hakhel gathering in the Holy Temple, everyone is "obligated to concentrate their attention... listening with reverence and awe, rejoicing while trembling as on the day the Torah was given at Sinai. Even those who know the entire Torah are obligated to listen with exceedingly great concentration. One who cannot hear should focus his attention on this reading, for Scripture established it solely to strengthen the true faith. He should see himself as if he was just now commanded regarding the Torah and heard it from the Alm-ghty.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Lubavitch Women's Organization (N'Shei Ubnos Chabad) will be hosting its 61st Annual International Convention this weekend. The over 1,000 women who will attend the convention will come from nearly every country in the world, from all walks of life and all degrees of Jewish observance.
Each year, the Rebbe would send a letter to the participants of the convention. I would like to quote from the introduction of a book containing the letters from the first 25 conventions:
Expressed in these letters, more than anything else, is the Rebbe's confidence in the Jewish woman's ability to exercise unlimited influence over her home and environment. In our own generation, as the Rebbe is utilizing all resources to uplift us all in the preparation for Moshiach, this expression of confidence in the Jewish woman as one of our greatest assets is not merely a compliment, but a challenge. As the Rebbe emphasizes several times in these letters, the existence of the challenge is itself an assurance that the potential exists within the Jewish woman to tackle it, and thereby make her irreplaceable contribution to the strengthening of Judaism and the coming of Moshiach.
Our Sages teach us that in the merit of the righteous women of the generation of Egyptian Exile we were redeemed, and in the merit of the righteous women we will see the future Redemption. May this year's convention be the last one - here in Exile, and may next year's convention take place in the Holy Land with all Jewish women in attendance, from all four corners of the world in fulfillment of G-d's promise that at the time of the Ultimate Redemption all of the dispersed of our people will return to the Holy Land.
And G-d spoke to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Lev. 25:1)
Rashi's famous question about the Torah's juxtaposition of Mt. Sinai with the mitzva of the Sabbatical year can also be interpreted as follows: The Sinai desert is symbolic of the "wilderness of the nations" - the time of exile; the Sabbatical year refers to the Days of Moshiach. The two concepts are juxtaposed to teach us that when a Jew keeps the imminent Redemption in his consciousness, he can actually have a foretaste of the Messianic era even now. Human nature is such that when a person anticipates a great event, the very knowledge that it is about to occur makes him happy and joyful.
And if your brother has become poor, and his means fail with you, then you shall strengthen him (Lev. 25:35)
To help another Jew who is stuck in the mire, a person must be willing to "immerse himself in mud up to the neck" in order to drag him out.
(Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin)
When you will come to the Land... the Land will keep a Sabbath to G-d. (25:2)
"When you will come to the Land" - when a person organizes his life and begins to be involved in earthly matters and mundane work, "the Land will keep a Sabbath to G-d" - it is imperative for the person to know that the whole intention and purpose of his involvement in earthly matters is for the purpose of the "Sabbath" - holiness.
For six years you shall prune your vineyard. (25:3)
The Jewish people are called a "vineyard": For G-d's vineyard is the army of the House of Israel. (Isaiah 5). Each and every Jew must work at clearing up and pruning his own vineyard - his unfavorable traits such as jealousy, hatred, lustfulness, etc.
The great scholar Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides), also known as the Rambam, was an accomplished physician, personally attending the Sultan of Egypt and his family. He was not the only doctor in the palace, but the Rambam was the Sultan's favorite, and this provoked much envy and jealousy.
His rivals lost no opportunity to devise schemes and plots to discredit the Rambam in the eyes of his royal employer, but the Sultan was not fooled by the wicked plots. With each failed scheme, the Rambam rose even higher in the Sultan's estimation.
The Rambam's detractor's never rested in their machinations. Finally, the Sultan exploded in anger. "You charlatans never give up! How many times will you come to me with your foolish stories and ridiculous claims against ben Maimon? This time I challenge you to prove that you are superior to the Jewish doctor!" The physicians left elated, confident that they would surely find a way to finally ruin the hated Jew.
The following day they appeared at the appointed hour at the royal palace, an unknown man in tow. "This man, your Excellency, has been blind from birth, and we, Sire, will cure him before your eyes! Ben Maimon surely cannot perform this feat, but we can do it!"
The Sultan smirked at these words. "Liars! It is patently impossible to cure someone who has been blind from birth!" At that, one of the physicians stepped forward and with a flourish, he applied a layer of salve to the man's eyes. Everyone stood staring at the man, waiting to see some sign of a cure. Could it really happen that a blind man would see?
The silence was broken by the man's joyous cries, "I can see! I can see!"
But before a word was spoken, the Rambam flashed a scarf before the man's eyes. "What color is this handkerchief?" he asked.
The man responded in a victorious tone, "It is red!"
"Aha!" said the Rambam with a smile. "The fraud is obvious! A blind man cannot possibly identify colors, which he has never before seen!"
The Sultan rose from his seat and exultantly clasped the Rambam's hand, exclaiming, "How could I have believed them for a moment!"
The group of deceitful physicians quickly left the room, praying the Sultan would not punish them in his anger.
There was a very wealthy merchant who lived in Lithuania many years ago. In addition to his business he lived in a fine home filled with rich and luxurious furnishings. One day, as he contemplated his possessions, he decided that he had better take out some fire insurance to protect his property. The agent lived in the town of Horodna, and he so he traveled there to meet with him.
As he was making his way to the agent's home, he saw the famous tzadik, Reb Nachum of Horodna, as he went about his rounds distributing alms to the poor of the town. Despite his great scholarship, Reb Nachum was extremely modest, and he shunned fame, serving as a lowly caretaker of the local shul. Nevertheless, he became widely known as a miracle worker.
The wealthy man approached him, saying, "Might I have a few words with the esteemed rabbi?"
"What can I do for you?" asked Reb Nachum.
"I have come to Horodna to take out a fire insurance policy on my properties. However, as I happened to meet you here, a thought came to me. If, instead of giving these 50 rubles to the insurance agent, I give them to you to distribute among the poor, maybe you will promise me that I will never suffer a loss from fire."
"How can I make you such a promise?" he replied. "Only G-d can guarantee. I cannot do what you ask. I can, however, give you my blessing that the merit of your charity will protect you from all evil, including fire." The wealthy man was satisfied and he gave Reb Nachum his 50 rubles and returned home.
On a hot summer day many years later, the wealthy man awoke to the odor of smoke and the cries of men and women. People rushed from their beds to see the glow of flames flashing from the roof of the warehouse. Many ran with buckets to join the fire brigade, pouring water on the raging fire.
Panic increased as the flames seemed to rise higher and higher. Only the wealthy man stood impassively watching the conflagration. He turned to the frantic crowd and quietly said, "Reb Nachum gave me his blessing that my estate would not be destroyed by fire, and I trust that he will fulfill his word."
No sooner had he uttered these words, than a stiff wind came and extinguished the flames. The wealthy man recounted the miracle for many years after always concluding, "Everyone who witnessed it could attest that it was no normal occurrence. It was an open miracle!"
The Torah (Lev. 25:19) states, "And the land shall yield her fruit and you will eat your fill." The Torahemphasizes "her fruit" because in the Garden of Eden, the earth was capable of producing fruit on the day it was plowed and sowed, and even the tree trunks were edible. After Adam sinned the earth was cursed, and we no longer receive those blessings. Here the Torah alludes to the days of Moshiach when we will once again receive these blessings, and the land will produce her fruits according to her potential.