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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Dr. Yaakov Brawer
Times, thank G-d, are good. We are, for the most part safe, well fed, and free to pursue the lifestyles and goals we choose. Why do we need Moshiach? Everything is just fine. How can this be called exile?
This bewilderment regarding the need for Moshiach is the biggest indication of how much we need Moshiach. The most distressing aspect of exile is that we are unaware that we are in exile.
Physical suffering is not exile's cardinal characteristic, as is obvious from the experience of most Jews today. The definitive feature of exile is the absence of a central, unifying purpose to existence. People's lives appear to be determined by random forces: economic, political, and physical.
One classical metaphor for exile is that of a dream. A dream is often a grossly distorted melange, totally alien to what one encounters in normal life. From the dreamer's point of view, the dream world appears entirely ordinary and very real. The surrealistic distortion that is so apparent on awakening is entirely acceptable and natural in the dream. The dreamer may be terrified by something that, on awakening, merely evokes a shiver or even a bewildered smile.
In the dream-like world of exile there is the illusion of reality. People are entirely comfortable with the lunacy of modern life. No one sees it as unusual that billions of people watch videos for hours, enjoying murder, rape, filth and perversion. It is normal for thousands of people to push and scream in a stadium to watch a man hit a ball with a stick. A person spends his precious life's strength laboring to acquire prestige or a moment's illusion of power. Driven by advertisements he labors mightily for the latest electronic gadget or luxury vacation. Such behavior is not only "normal," it is exemplary.
In resolving the question as to why people are content with exile, the dream metaphor raises an even more perplexing paradox. If we are all products of the dream of exile, how can we objectively assess our circumstances? How can we expect a world that is blind to its own madness to yearn for redemption?
The answer is that the darkness of exile is not absolute. There are those for whom the dense obscurity of exile is only partial. They are like dreamers who know that they are dreaming and are thus able to stand somewhat aloof and perceive the truth. The agonizing impact of exile can be properly appreciated only by such people. Such individuals must be totally out of step with the rest of humanity.
Each Jew has the innate ability to be such an individual. The Divine Jewish soul penetrates the profuse concealments of exile and illuminates the life of the Jews in this world. The strength of this influence varies, from prophets and holy individuals whose very perceptions are those of the Divine soul, to ordinary Jews in whom the illumination is somewhat beclouded by the insensitivity of the body and the delusions of worldly life.
The Jews have always been a people apart, isolated, alienated, regarded with suspicion by an uncomprehending world. For 2,000 years the Jews have yearned for redemption and to that end, have pursued goals that are incomprehensible to the rest of humanity. Because Jews, in essence, transcend exile, we are ultimately capable of, and therefore responsible for, ushering in the redemption, for ourselves, and for the entire world.
Dr. Brawer is professor emeritus at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine. He is the author of two books on Chassidism, Something From Nothing and Eyes That See This article originally appeared in The Yiddishe Heim.
In this week's Torah portion, Shemot, we read about the burning bush. "The bush was on fire, but the bush was not being consumed."
What is the meaning of the symbolism of a bush being ablaze burning but consumed? What can we take from this to help us in our lives?
For the Jewish people in Egypt, the bondage had reached an all time low. Pharaoh, inflicted with a skin ailment, was told by his doctors that to cure it he needed to bathe in the blood of Jewish children. This was the blow that broke the Jewish people.
Until this point there was the hope, the understanding that as difficult as things are, there is a purpose to the suffering and soon there will be an end to the bondage. But with their children being murdered, all hope of a future was gone.
Yet the Jewish people did not despair! When they had nothing left they remembered that a Jew always has G-d. They cried out to G-d with all their hearts and G-d heard their cries.
It was at this critical time when G-d showed Moses the burning bush and the redemption started.
The bush burns but it is not consumed. The bush is the Jewish people. When there seems to be no fuel left, we remember that we have G-d and this enables us to burn bright and strong and we are not consumed. The turning to G-d from the depths of our heart is what kick-starts our redemption.
At times life is so difficult; we can see no hope. But there is no reason to despair, rather it is time to shine brighter than ever and cry out to G-d from a place far deeper than what we ever imagined, from the inner fire that can never be extinguished. And then G-d gives us true redemption.
Many people "burn the candle at both ends." On fire, but not consumed, is a level beyond. It is the revelation of an open connection to G-d, the connection of soul-flame to G-d's flame. This is my wife, Dina. She is the real thing, a Jewish mother, unbreakable and with an open connection to G-d.
I think we have already suffered enough, G-d please send Moshiach.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Jewish Life on Campus, the Chabad Way
by Rachel Neuhausen
When I began my sophomore year of college at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, there was nothing more exciting than signing up for the annual Birthright Israel trip. My spirit was dampened, however, when I learned to my dismay that my boyfriend, Jared, and I were placed on the U of I Chabad trip instead of on one of the many other Birthright options that we were hoping for.
I didn't know what Chabad was, or who Rabbi Dovid and Goldie Tiechtel were, but I knew that this was supposed to be my trip to break free from the Chicago Jewish circle that I was raised in, and to meet new people from across the US. I worried that a trip with Chabad wouldn't offer me the new experiences I was looking for.
I definitely could not have predicted the effect that the trip would have on Jared and me, and that I would be mentioning that very trip at our wedding seven years later, with Rabbi Dovid laughing in the audience. Not only was that trip a great introduction to a new way of living Jewish life on campus, it was the first of many experiences with Chabad that has weaved itself through our young adult lives and helped us develop into the strong Jewish couple that we are today.
In November, an independent study of Chabad on Campus found that participation at Chabad while at college significantly increases participation in Jewish life after graduation. Jared and I can personally attest to this, and can attest to having seen this happen to dozens of other young Jews.
The study, commissioned by the Hertog Foundation and conducted by leading sociologists, surveyed and interviewed 2,400 students and validated much of what I already knew about Chabad. One of the key findings was that 88% of the students who participate at Chabad, like myself, do not come from an Orthodox background. This holds true for us as we both were raised in conservative Northshore Chicago homes, with family Shabbats and weekly services.
I've had the opportunity to experience Chabad on campus as both a student leader as well as an observing adult, after returning to the University of Illinois for my master's degree. I would describe much of Rabbi Dovid and Goldie's success as stemming from their ability to relate to the students so well. The rabbi is a Facebook master, and he Instagrams and Snapchats. He visits fraternity houses, and lets them ask whatever questions they want.
But when they're not throwing high fives and sending texts, Dovid and Goldie also act as your Jewish parents' right in the middle of campus. When you're ill, you can count on hot matza ball soup, delivered. When you're homesick, you can count on a traditional home-cooked meal nearly every night of the week, and five children pulling you in every direction making you forget you're on a college campus. For me, it was at my most vulnerable moments that I needed a heartfelt reminder that as a Jew, you stay strong and repair the world with goodness, light, and compassion.
My husband and I lost a family member during our undergraduate tenure, and Rabbi Dovid and Goldie played an active role in helping us cope with the loss. This included picking me up from class one day when my stress turned into a full-blown panic attack. The rabbi even drove up to Chicago several times to make house calls to both our families, and did the same for many of our friends as well when they were in similar circumstances.
The study's report says that out of the 2,400 alumni that were surveyed, the most frequently used word to describe Chabad was "welcoming." This sort of judgment-free atmosphere opens a host of opportunities for young adults to begin exploring their lives and opportunities, including determining whom they marry, what they study, and how to handle life's challenges.
As the survey indicates, Chabad didn't stop on campus for us, but it introduced us to an entire network around the world in which to feel comfortable. My husband and I love to travel, and as Jews, we feel better knowing that we have a safe haven wherever we go. All it took was one phone call from Rabbi Dovid, and we were connected to a network of families that hosted us overnight for amazing meals and holiday celebrations. I stayed with the Chabad family in Costa Rica while I studied abroad my junior year, while my husband visited the Chabad in Rio de Janeiro. Together, we visited Chabad in Panama for Passover, and spent Hanukkah with the Chabad in the Dominican Republic. Likewise, as our lives took us to central Chicago, we continue today to be active with our local Chabad house, and feel well-educated on maintaining a Jewish home.
This is our story, but it is one of thousands being written around the country.
A Birthright trip that was supposed to offer us new experiences gave us that and so much more. Our lives were changed in so many ways from that one trip and from meeting Chabad. While this study has proven the success of Chabad as an organization and in general, for me it is personal. Chabad has offered me a home, a lifestyle, and connection to something so much bigger than myself.
And I wouldn't trade that for the world.
Rachel Neuhausen is currently pursuing her MBA at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Before returning to school, Rachel worked as a management consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, and held a presidential appointment with the Obama administration in Washington. Rachel lives in Chicago with her husband, Jared, and their dog, Pearl. This article originally appeared on jpost.com
First International Kids Shabbat
This Friday, thousands of Jewish children will be joining to celebrate Shabbat. The latest in a series of fun, inspiring, and family centered events from CKids Club, the International Shabbat Dinner unites Jewish families from more than 80 Chabad Houses and Hebrew Schools in the US for an evening of connection, friendship, and spiritual rejuvenation. It is unique opportunity to introduce children and their families to the beauty of Shabbat, and to evoke a sense of connection to the larger global Jewish community, fostering pride, enhancing unity, and ultimately helping to bring redemption to the world.
New Israeli Center
Rabbi Yaacov and Bluma Goldstein have opened a Chabad Center for Israelis in Dnepr, Ukraine. The new center is housed in the Menorah Center, the world's largest Jewish institution in all of Europe."not only in Phuket, not only in India, Chabad of Dnepr reaches out to many Israelis who live here and visit the city,"
28th of Teveth, 5726 
Shalom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:
This is in reply to your letter, the delay being due to a backlog of correspondence.
You ask - what is the meaning of the Baal Shem Tov's words aimosai kossi mar/when will the master come? and what is the interpretation of this in regard to Chabad Chasidus?
The meaning of the first part of the question is simply "When will the master (Moshiach) come?" In other words, "What could be done to speed up your coming?"
To this, Moshiach answered - and this is the answer to the second part of your question: "When your fountains will be spread forth abroad (literally, 'outside')/lich'she'yofutzoo ma'ayonossecho chootzo.
The meaning of those words is that Moshiach promised to come when the fountains of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings, i.e. the life-giving teachings of Chasidus, will be spread far and wide among the Jewish people, even among those who are as yet "outside" and removed from Torah and mitzvos [commandments].
In other words, Chasidus is the way which has been revealed by the Baal Shem Tov not only to bring life and vitality into the observance of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] among the observant, but it has the power also to bring back into the Jewish fold those who for various reasons have been brought up in total ignorance of the Torah and mitzvos.
Why is it that Chasidus has such power to inspire and infuse and illuminate a Jew's heart and soul? This is connected with the very nature and teachings of Chasidus, which cannot here be discussed; we can only say, Go and study it for yourself. One quality may be mentioned here briefly: Chasidus, with its emphasis on love of G-d, love of the Torah and love of fellow-Jew, touches the innermost fibers of the Jewish soul, in which these qualities are already there from birth; hence it finds a ready response. In Chabad the teachings of Chasidus are expounded and explained systematically and deeply, in a way that appeals both to the heart and mind, bringing both into true harmony.
Chasidus, with its emphasis on love of G-d, love of the Torah and love of fellow-Jew, touches the innermost fibers of the
Jewish soul, in which these qualities are already there from birth...
Chabad therefore has a particular appeal also to the individual with a bent for deeper thinking. Nevertheless, the emphasis is always on the actual deed, the practice and fulfillment of the mitzvos, which is the first step on the journey into Chasidus, as into Yiddishkeit in general, since, as Chabad explains at length, the very act of a mitzvah unites the Jew with G-d and enables him, the Jew, to break though the barrier of his otherwise finite and limited mind (as every human brain has its natural limitations), opening up new horizons and insights, many of which have been revealed in Chasidus in general and in Chabad Chasidus in particular.
Why do we use a simple, round ring without adornment for the wedding ceremony?
The round shape of the ring signifies that just as a circle has no beginning and no end, so may the devotion and love of the new couple for each other be never ending. In addition, the reason for the simplicty of the ring is to avoid any of possible misrepresentation on the part of the groom - for example, using a fake gem that the bride believes is genuine.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Sunday is the 24th of Tevet (coinciding with January 22 this year), the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman opened a new path which allowed the teaching of the previously hidden aspects of the Torah - P'nimiyut HaTorah - to be comprehended through the intellect and thus reveal additional G-dliness within the world.
But Rabbi Shneur Zalman was not only a master in the area of the more esoteric aspects of the Torah. Even as a child he was considered a great scholar of the revealed parts of the Torah - nigle d'Torah, as well.
This quality of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's is alluded to in his name, Shneur, which can be broken up into two Hebrew words, "Shnei" and "ohr" which mean "two lights." Rabbi Shneur Zalman illuminated the world with his greatness in the two light of the Torah.
In Rabbi Shneur Zalman's magnum opus, Tanya, he writes: "The Messianic Era... is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for which purpose it was originally created." This means that our spiritual service will reach its full completion only with the fulfillment and culmination of the entire creation which will take place when Moshiach is revealed.
The entire purpose, in fact, of the revelation of Chasidic philosophy was to hasten and prepare the world for the Messianic Era.
Thus, when each one of us studies Chasidut, whether the more sublime aspects or the most esoteric concepts, we prepare ourselves and the world around us for Moshiach.
When G-d saw that he turned aside to see, G-d called him from the midst of the bush and said: "Moses, Moses." And he said: "Here am I." (Ex. 3:4)
Why when G-d called out to Moses from the burning bush did He repeat Moses' name twice? G-d was hinting to Moses concerning the two different eras in which he will teach Torah to the Jewish people: once in his lifetime and once in the days of Moshiach. In the future, the Jewish people will go to Abraham and ask him to teach them Torah, and Abraham will say, "Go to Isaac, he studied more than me." Isaac will tell them, "Go to Jacob, he studied more than me." When they will come to Jacob, he will say, "Go to Moses, he learned it directly from G-d." And Moses will teach the Jewish people. But there will come a time when all the scholars and righteous, including Moses and our patriarchs, will all come to Moshiach to hear him teach Torah.
(Shemot Rabba and Midrash Chachamim)
She saw the child, and behold it was a weeping boy (Ex. 2:6)
We can learn (and emulate) three things from a child: He is always happy, he is always occupied and never sits idle, and when he wants something, he cries.
(Reb Zussia of Annipoli)
And Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro (Ex. 3:1)
A young goat once ran away from the rest of the flock Moses was tending in the desert. Moses followed the animal into a thicket that hid a pool of fresh water. Seeing the goat drinking he exclaimed, "I didn't realize that you were thirsty. You must be so tired now." After the animal had quenched its thirst, Moses tenderly picked it up and carried it to the rest of the flock. When G-d saw Moses' act of kindness toward his father-in-law's goat, He decreed that Moses was equally worthy of tending G-d's own flock - the Jewish People.
Reb Meir Raphaels, a leader of the Jewish community of Vilna, started out as an antagonist of the Chasidic movement. Eventually, though, he became one of the most enthusiastic disciples of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe. His transformation was caused in part by the following story:
A poor man was on his way to Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Thursday evening he arrived in Vilna, entered one of the synagogues, took out a Talmud and was soon immersed in it. He contented himself to spend the Sabbath in the synagogue.
Shabbat approached. The shul attendant noticed that the visitor was a scholarly person. He approached the visitor, "In our city there are many people who fulfill the commandment of hospitality with all their heart. You would be allowing someone to fulfill this great mitzva (commandment) by agreeing to grace someone's Shabbat table." With much persistence, the attendant managed to convince the traveler to partake of someone's hospitality.
The Friday night meal was richly spiced with Torah discussions. The host, a wealthy and learned man, seemed more than pleased at the good fortune of having such a knowledgeable guest. At the end of the meal, however, the host sighed deeply. The guest wondered at this but said nothing.
At lunch the following day, a lively discussion ensued on Torah related topics. Again the host seem delighted, yet at the end of the meal sighed once more. This scene repeated itself at the third meal, too. When it happened once again at the Melave Malka meal following Shabbat, the guest could contain himself no longer. He asked the host what was troubling him. The host sadly related that trumped-up charges had been brought against himself and his business partner and they had been sentenced to three years hard labor in Siberia. In the regional court the verdict was confirmed and the case was soon to be reopened, for the last time, in S. Petersburg.
The guest immediately advised him, "Set out at once for Liozna and ask my Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman what to do. He will certainly be able to help you."
The host discussed it with his partner. They were concerned that the reaction of their neighbors would be less than positive if people heard they were getting involved with the "Chasidim." They decided to take the matter to Reb Meir Raphaels, a mutual friend, and do whatever he advised. They were surprised to hear Reb Meir tell them, "I agree that you should go to Rabbi Shneur Zalman."
The partners quickly journeyed to Liozna and told Rabbi Shneur Zalman their problems. The Rebbe said to them, "You are both learned men. Tell me, what is the meaning of the statement in the Talmud 'The worldly kingdom resembles the heavenly kingdom.' " The partners stood silently.
"I will explain it to you," offered the Rebbe. "G-d's name is not pronounced the way it is written. The Alm-ghty is not called by His 'personal name,' as it were. The same is true of earthly monarchs. They are not addressed by their personal names but rather as 'czar'."
The partners travelled back to Vilna sorely disappointed. Not once did the Rebbe mention the matter which had brought them to him. They could clearly understand why there was such opposition to this new Chasidic movement. When they arrived in Vilna, they told Reb Meir what had transpired. He, too, lost what little faith he had in Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
The date for the trial in S. Petersburg arrived and the situation still looked grim. As a last chance they decided to try meeting the Minister of Justice in person and beg his mercy. They traveled to S. Petersburg and found out that he always took a walk in the municipal gardens at a fixed time. They bribed the guard of the gardens and were let in before the minister's daily constitutional.
That day, it just so happened that the Minister of Justice was ill. The Minister of Education, however, was taking a walk in the gardens at that exact hour. The partners fell at his feet, described their situation and begged him for help.
"I am sorry, you have the wrong man," said the Minister, when they completed their petition. "I am the Minister of Education," he explained.
The two partners started to leave the park, but the minister called after them. "A few days ago, the czar posed a question to me from your holy Talmud. I have been unsuccessful in finding a satisfactory answer. If you can give me an acceptable answer, I will tell it to the czar in your names. Maybe that will help you. Now, here is the question. In the Talmud it is written, 'The worldly kingdom resembles the heavenly kingdom.' The czar was unable to fathom this and I could not help clarify it for him. Perhaps you have an answer?"
The two partners were speechless for a moment. Then they clearly gave the interpretation which they had heard months before from Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
The Minister of Education was pleased with this explanation. At his next meeting with the czar, he related the interpretation and whence came the answer. Upon the request of the education minister, the czar bid the senate to drop the charges against the partners.
When the partners returned to Vilna, the first place they stopped was at the home of Reb Meir Raphaels. They told him everything that had happened. Reb Meir lost no time in setting out for Liozna. He joined the disciples of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and before long became a prominent chasid.
And Moses said, "Oh L-rd please send by the hand of whom You will send." (Exod. 4:13) Moses asked G-d to send Moshiach. He wanted G-d to spare the Jews the Egyptian bondage and allow them to immediately experience the Redemption through Moshiach. G-d refused because the exile of Egypt was a preparatory stage to receiving the Torah, and through these two events the Jews would merit the coming of Moshiach.