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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
You buy a brand new car. Each time before you go for a drive, you carefully make a 360 degree circuit around the car to ascertain that there are no scratches or dents. When you arrive at your destination, you leave your new car in a lone spot, far from the other cars parked like sardines. In this way, no laissez-faire motorist will unthinkingly swing his door open into your car.
The baby starts to crawl. Suddenly, a speck on the carpet is no longer innocuous; it might be daintily picked up by the baby and happily popped into her mouth. Loose change becomes a potential enemy when it rolls out of your pocket. You get down on your hands and knees, or perhaps even lower, to peer around from a kids-eye-view, scanning the terrain for anything that the horizontally mobile baby might go for.
Isn't it interesting how the slightest change in circumstances can alter your whole perspective on how you see your surroundings?
This insight answers a frequently asked question about the coming of Moshiach, whose arrival we await every day. How is it possible that the material world will remain unchanged with all its natural laws and characteristics, and yet, at the same time, we will have a heightened sensitivity to spirituality and be able to perceive the G-dliness in all of creation?
Our examples above can help us understand the answer to this question. The world will remain the same world. It is our perspective which will change. Our new consciousness of and sensitivity to the good and G-dly within ourselves and all of creation will allow us to be aware of and appreciate things we did not even notice before.
Another example, and this one from a positive viewpoint: You are on vacation and are touring ancient historical sites. You are impressed by the thought that you are seeing something which has been around for hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years. You ask your tour guide questions. Back in your hotel room you read a history book you picked up that has a detailed account written by an eyewitness to an event which actually occurred in that place. You visit the site a second time. But this time, your new perspective literally opens your eyes to an appreciation you could not have imagined before.
And so it will be with the Redemption. Our new-found appreciation of G-dliness and G-d's world will open our eyes and enable us to have a completely different perspective on the world and its real meaning.
The Rebbe has told us that we don't have to wait. By learning more Torah in general, and more about Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption in particular, we can open our eyes now and enjoy the inherent harmony and G-dliness of the world in anticipation of Moshiach's arrival.
In this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, we read that G-d commanded Abraham that he and all his male descendants have a brit mila (circumcision). And so, at the age of 99, Abraham circumcised himself, thereby entering into a covenant with G-d.
This is so significant, that even today, when a Jewish male has a brit, the blessing we say is "to enter him into the covenant of Abraham our father."
Interestingly, in the Mishne Torah, Maimonides explains that a brit is not done because of G-d's command to Abraham, but rather because of G-d's command to Moses at Sinai.
The same is true regarding all mitzvot (commandments) that our ancestors kept before the giving of the Torah. Our observance stems, not from the traditions we received from our forebears, but rather from them being commandments given to us by G-d at Mount Sinai.
If this is the case, why do we say, "to enter him into the covenant of Abraham our father"? Wouldn't it make more sense to say, "to enter him into the covenant with G-d?"
The Shulchan Aruch Harav of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of Chabad, explains that the soul enters the body at the brit. When a baby is born, the soul is already present, just not yet fused with the physical body. The act of the brit on the physical body fuses the physical and the spiritual, the new soul with the body. (For a girl, the fusion happens at her naming. This is why the custom according to Jewish mysticism is to name a girl at the Torah at the first possible opportunity.)
This is also the purpose of every Jew, to make this world into a dwelling place for G-d's presence, by fusing physical existence with holiness. We do this by using physical objects and places, in their natural state, for mitzvot or to serve G-d.
Perhaps the answer can be found in the reason given for why we make such a big deal of Abraham's sacrifice at the Akeida, the binding of his son Isaac on the altar. Throughout our history, many have sacrificed themselves in a similar fashion and perhaps greater, without having had a direct command from Hashem, as did Abraham. But he was the first, which breaks the ice for the rest.
So also, by having the first brit Abraham led the way and made it a little easier for later generations. But the analogy is not quite the same. A brit is done to a baby, who has no idea what Abraham did or didn't do. So the baby is in a way also a first. And that is the reason why we say the blessing, "to enter him into the covenant of Abraham." Because just like Abraham, everyone who has a brit, is as if he is the first.
We must see any painful situation as a mission from G-d, and we will find meaning, purpose and maybe even joy in them.
May G-d send Moshiach and put an end to our pain. The time has come.
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.
Body Challenged, Soul Redeemed
with Sarah Riva Spiro
I grew up in Montreal in a warm and loving family and was given every opportunity to succeed. I went to the best schools and camps, took luxurious family vacations, and truly lacked for nothing.
My parents instilled in me good values; I was raised in an environment of love and safety. I had it all. And yet from the youngest age I was overcome with a desire to search for an elusive something that seemed to be missing.
I could not put my finger on what that something was and, more often than not, when I got busy with school or friends, the unrest inside me would get pushed away. But it would come back every now and then and awaken in me feelings that I could not ignore. As I got older, I got used to these feelings and eventually, I completely ignored them and accepted life for what I thought it was. "Amanda," I would say to myself, "just keep it simple, don't get too complicated."
This worked out very well for me until the afternoon of September 8, 2003. I was weeks away from my 18th birthday. My father picked me up at school and told me something that ended my childhood and changed my life forever. My best friend Jackie had been killed in a car accident.
I have very little recollection of the funeral or shiva. My mind stopped functioning; I could not eat or sleep. There was nothing anyone could say to me to bring any measure of comfort. My parents sent me to the very best grief specialists, therapists, and psychologists but no one even began to scratch the surface of what had occurred and what it all meant. I wanted answers; I wanted comfort; I wanted truth. I left every appointment disappointed and frustrated.
One day I had a sudden intuition to go to shul. It was very strange because until that moment, shul was simply that place where my parents dragged me every holiday and forced me to stay until a designated time at which point my brother and I happily ran out of the building. This time it was different. I felt as if I was being drawn there. I sat there on Shabbat without ever opening a prayer book, yet I felt a deep calm that I could not explain and a measure of relief. Even though I felt that no one could give me the answers I was so desperately seeking, I had found a place that brought me comfort.
About a year later, through a series of seeming coincidences, I was introduced to Rabbi Pinny Gniwisch, Chabad emissary and businessman in Montreal. We met because I was on a March of the Living trip to Poland and he was the spiritual leader of that trip, so he spoke with each participant. For the first time since Jackie died, I discussed my feelings with someone who seemed to have the answers I was so desperately searching for. He shared with me a personal loss that he had suffered and then proceeded to tell me how he had dealt with it.
I didn't feel alone anymore. Suddenly life wasn't scary. I met his beautiful family and became a regular guest at their Shabbat table. Each time, I would learn something new about Judaism. Pretty soon I began to heal from my shock and loss and was back to school, work, and friends.
And then I began to feel a strange sense of fatigue. Several times I woke up mysteriously covered in black and blue bruises. I began to experience intense pain in my chest to the point that I rushed myself to the hospital. I was in the hospital for ten days, supervised by a team of doctors, and after the whole ordeal no one had any answers. When I was finally released from the hospital, I left frail and confused. Several months later, after another round of extensive testing, I found myself sitting in a doctor's office surrounded by my family. I was told I had a cancerous tumor in my chest. This was my warm welcome to the world of Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
The doctor called the original hospital where I had been seen a few months earlier to get my report. The results came back in seconds: "High prominence in chest, recommendation to do CT scan with infusion immediately." I had never received that recommendation.
The next year was a whirlwind. At the age of 21 I was forced to put my life on hold and face a new struggle. However, from the beginning there was another story line. While every day was physically challenging, I quickly discovered that there was a whole other part of me. The true me - my soul - was waking up. I began to realize there were miracles happening all around me. G-d led me along a path to come back to Judaism without me even realizing it.
My experiences created within me a strong desire to go to Israel and explore my roots. As soon as I was done with my treatments, the preparations began for a year of study abroad. It was at this time that a friend mentioned to me that Aaron Spiro was also planning on studying in Israel and was also becoming more interested in Judaism. We ran into each other at the wedding of a mutual friend. We were amazed to discover that we had both applied to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and were both waiting to see if our applications would be accepted. We instantly hit it off. Over the next months we spoke a few times a day, learning about each other`s past and discussing what the future had in store.
On Feb 29, 2008, I officially went into remission. Aaron and I flew to Israel to begin a new journey. What followed was an amazing two and half years of growth, joy and excitement. While we were taking courses in Hebrew University, I learned in seminary and Aaron learned in yeshiva and we slowly committed ourselves to what we were learning. We took everything one day at a time. Aaron proposed to me in a garden overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. We met at such a difficult time but he looked beyond my fragile health, uncertain future and bald head. Instead he focused on my soul. And now we stepped together into the future.
Our son Dovid was born four and a half years ago, happy and healthy. His brit was the shining moment in our lives as Aaron emotionally announced to all the guests that this miracle would soon be followed by another, as a few weeks later I would be reaching my five years (a milestone in cancer survival) and I was officially cancer-free - a survivor. Just over a year ago, we were blessed with another miracle baby as we brought Miriam into the world. Miriam is named after my friend Jackie and is a constant reminder of just how much G-d guides us like a loving Father through every part of our journey.
Reprinted and condensed from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
Sarah Riva Spiro lives in Montreal with her family and does public speaking to inspire people to connect with G-d and appreciate what they have and to give hope and encouragement to people with cancer. She can be reached at email@example.com
Tanya in a Nutshell
Tanya in a Nutshell is an easy-to-read synopsis created to help understand and review Tanya. It contains chapter-by-chapter summaries all 53 chapter of Tanya. By Nadav Cohen, author of GPS for the Soul, published by BSD Publishers.
Tales for the Shabbos Table
Stirring tales of great individuals and ordinary people who displayed unparalleled heroism, extraordinary kindness and tremendous love for G-d. Tales for the Shabbos Table has four stories for each Torah portion. Written by Zalmen Ruderman, published by BSD Publishers.
Torah Thoughts for Children
A compilation of weekly Torah thoughts written in a clear and simple style for children to read and share at the Shabbat table. Each Torah Thought includes a short question, answer and practical lesson in a child's day-to-day life. Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Written and published by Rabbi Yekusiel Goldstein.
I am in receipt of your letter, in which you outline your personal views on what you consider the right approach to Judaism. As you see it, the right road is to be reached in two phases: first, the understanding, by reason and intellect, of the "language" of the Torah, etc., and second, the eventual acceptance of the Divine Covenant and Yoke.
My view, which radically differs from yours, has been made known on several occasions in the past, and I will restate it briefly again.
The world is a well-coordinated system created by G-d, in which there is nothing superfluous and nothing lacking, with one reservation, however: For reasons best known to the Creator, He has given man free will, whereby man can be cooperative with this system, building and contribute to it, or do the reverse and cause destruction even of things already in existence. From this premise it follows that a man's term of life on this earth is just long enough for him to fulfill his purpose on this earth; it is not a day too short, nor is it a day too long. Hence, if he should permit a single day, or week, let alone months, to pass by without his fulfilling his purpose, it is an irretrievable loss for him and for the universal system at large.
The second thought to bear in mind is that the physical world as a whole, as can be seen clearly from man's physical body in particular, is not something independent and separate from the spiritual world and soul. In other words, we have not here two separate spheres of influence, as the pagans used to think; rather is the world now conscious of a unifying force which controls the universal system, what we call monotheism. For this reason, it is possible to understand many things about the soul from their parallels in the physical body.
The physical body requires a daily intake of certain elements in certain quantities obtainable through breathing and food consumption. No amount of thinking, speaking and studying all about these elements can substitute for the actual intake of air and food. All this knowledge will not add one iota of health to the body unless it is given its required physical sustenance; on the contrary, the denial of the actual intake of the required elements will weaken the mental forces of thought, concentration, etc. Thus it is obvious that the proper approach to ensure the health of the body is not by way of study first and practice afterward, but the reverse, to eat and drink and breathe, which in turn strengthen also the mental powers of study and concentration, etc.
Similarly in the case of the soul and the elements which it requires daily for its sustenance, known best to its Creator, and which He revealed to all at Mount Sinai, in the presence of millions of witnesses, of different outlooks, walks of life, character, etc., who in turn transmitted it from generation to generation, uninterruptedly, to our day, the truth of which is thus constantly corroborated by millions of witnesses, etc.
Thirdly. It is told of a famous German philosopher, the author of an elaborate philosophical system, that when it was pointed out to him that his theory is inconsistent with the hard facts of reality, he replied, "so much the worse for the facts." But, the normal approach of a person is as expressed by Maimonides, that opinions are derived from reality and not reality from opinions. No theory, however cleverly conceived, can change the facts; if it is inconsistent with the facts it can only do harm to its adherents.
The conclusion from all the above, in relation to your suggested approach and order of the two phases, is clear enough. And from the practical point of view, the essential point is this: every day that passes for a Jew without practical living according to the Torah is an irretrievable loss for him and for all our people, hurting them, inasmuch as we all form a single unity and are mutually responsible for one another - and also for the universal order, and all theories attempting to justify it cannot alter this in the least.
Finally, I want to note that there is a difference in how all the above should affect the individual concerned and his friend who wishes to help him and put him on the right path. Again, the following analogy may be useful. Where a patient places conditions before taking the treatment prescribed by the physician, then notwithstanding the fact that these conditions are detrimental to the complete therapy, yet, if by going along with the patient at least some measure of success may be achieved, it is necessary to do so, if the patient is quite adamant, for besides the partial help that can be given him this way, there is the hope that the patient may sooner or later see reason. This is why I have repeatedly reasoned with you that your approach is wrong and that you are losing valuable time and causing much harm to yourselves by your approach, and though you still do not see eye to eye with me, I try to help you if I can, although for the present you still follow your own view.
May G-d help you and your friends to see the light and place yourselves on the path of Torah and Mitzvos which ensures the true happiness for both the body and soul in complete harmony.
If we have a question in Jewish law, how many rabbis can we consult?
The Mishna (Avot 1:6) enjoins us to "make a rav (rabbi, teacher) for yourself." One should have a rabbinic authority to consult with questions of Jewish law. Once a person has chosen a rabbi, he should follow that rabbi's rulings and not "shop around" for other opinions. If one has consulted a rabbi and he has forbidden something, we may not consult another rabbi about the same question, unless we first advise him of the decision of the previous rabbi. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion we read G-d's blessing to Abraham: "I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; if a person will be able to count all the grains of dust in the world, then your offspring also will be countable."
The Baal Shem Tov explained why the Jews are compared to the "dust of the earth." For, just as there are treasures hidden deep within the earth, there are beautiful "treasures" hidden within every single Jew.
Along these lines, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked by a group of visiting academics, "What is the purpose of a Rebbe?"
The Rebbe answered, "Concerning the Jewish people, it says, 'And you will be for Me a land of desire.' A Jew is like land, earth. Within the earth one finds many treasures. But one needs to know how to look for them and how to take them out from the depths of the earth. One who doesn't know how to search will look in the earth and find only dirt and mud, or rocks and stones.
"The same is true with a person. One psychologist digs in a person's soul and finds dirt and mud. Another finds rocks and stones. The purpose of a Rebbe is to find the treasure - the G-dly soul that rests within every Jew."
How cohesive and united the Jewish community can be if, when looking at our fellow Jew, we search not for the mud or dirt, but for the treasures that are within each one of us.
And Malkitzedek, King of Shalem, brought out bread and wine, and he was a priest of G d, most high (Gen. 14:18)
Rabbi Mordechai of Lachowitz would say, "Malkitzedek 'brought out' introduced and led a new path in the worship of G d. Even when a person 'eats bread' and 'drinks wine,' he has the ability and potential to be a 'priest to G d, most high' one who serves G d."
At eight days old shall every male child be circumcised (Gen. 17:12)
A Jewish male enters into the covenant of Abraham at the tender age of eight days, before he can possibly understand the significance of the act, because brit mila (circumcision) involves the essence of the soul, which exists on a level far above human understanding and comprehension. The mitzva binds the soul to G-d, Who is also beyond our understanding and comprehension.
And the souls that they made in Charan (Gen. 12:5)
A person who takes pity on a poor man and sustains him is credited with having "created" that person, as we learn from Abraham our forefather: "The souls that they made" refers to the multitude of guests to whom Abraham offered his hospitality and brought into his tent.
And told it to Abram the Hebrew ("Ivri") (Gen. 14:13)
The word "Ivri" comes from the root word meaning, "side," for Abraham stood alone on one side, while all the world opposed him.
Look now toward the heaven and count the stars...so shall your seed be (Gen. 15:5)
Just as the stars in the sky appear from afar to be tiny specks of light, yet, in actuality, each one is an entire world, so, too, are the Jews: In this world Jews may be the object of scorn and derision, yet, in truth, the Jewish people are great and mighty, the foundation of the world's very creation.
(Baal Shem Tov)
One wintry day a man came to the saintly Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov. The man braved the winter weather to seek the saintly rebbe's help.
He told the rebbe that he was an innkeeper in a village some distance away, the inn having come down to him from his late father, who had rented it from the old country squire. The old squire was a reasonable man and made no trouble if the rent was not paid on time in a bad season, in the wake of a severe winter. But the old squire died, and his son, the new squire, was not so kind. Now, he threatened to throw them out if the rent was not paid on time. He came to ask the rebbe's help, so that his family would not be left without food and shelter in the midst of a terrible winter.
"Do you live in such and such village?" the rebbe asked.
"Still in the same house, with the narrow windows and three steps leading up to the front door?"
"Yes, Rebbe," the innkeeper replied, wondering how the rebbe knew.
"And is the well in the courtyard still plentiful, and the water still good?"
"Yes, Rebbe," the innkeeper answered with even greater amazement.
"I'm glad, I'm glad," the rebbe said, stroking his silver beard. "You have nothing to worry about."
The innkeeper's face lit up with relief and he turned to go. But then he stopped and hesitated. He was baffled. How did the rebbe know about the inn and the well, and what had the well to do with it all?
"Forgive me, Rebbe, for my insolence, but how does the Rebbe know my inn so well?" he finally asked.
The rebbe smiled and said, "Very simple. I was there. It was a long time ago. Let me tell you the whole story.
"Many years ago, a young man was on his way to the saintly rebbe, the 'Seer' of Lublin. He had been traveling for three days without food and shelter. He came to your village and stopped at the inn for a rest. He was so tired and hungry that he could barely climb the three front steps leading to the door. Your father was busy at that moment with peasants and wayfarers who crowded the inn, and he did not notice the stranger. After the young man rested a while, and seeing that no one took any notice of him, he decided to move on. As he passed by one of the narrow windows, he saw a small boy peeking out. The boy saw the haggard face of the stranger and ran after him. He begged the stranger to return with him to the inn. 'My father always welcomes poor wayfarers, and he would not forgive himself if he knew that one had passed by his inn without a good meal and a good night's rest. Please, come with me,' the boy urged.
"The young man returned to the inn and was immediately greeted by your father, then led to the dining room where a sumptuous meal was set before him. After the meal he was quite thirsty. The innkeeper sent the maid to fetch a pail of water. In her absence the innkeeper explained that she had to go to the village to fetch water.
" 'Have you no well in your courtyard?' the young man asked.
" 'Yes, but the water is not good. We only use it for the horses and garden.'
" 'If you don't mind, I'd like to taste your well-water. I'm very thirsty,' the young man said.
"The innkeeper brought a pitcher of water from the well and poured some for the thirsty guest. He drank it and said, 'Fancy giving such good water a bad name! Taste it, and see for yourself.' Everyone who tasted it was astonished. 'It's wonderful! It's even better than the water from the village well!' they said."
"Now I remember," the innkeeper said. "I was that little boy, and the young man - he must have been you!"
"Yes," said the saintly Rebbe, "and thanks to you I had a good meal and a good rest."
"That was nothing in comparison to the blessing which you brought into our home. Word got around how the water in our well suddenly turned pure and fresh. People still come just to drink our well water, saying it is good for their health!"
"If the water in the well is still good, then you can be sure that G-d is with you. Go home, and don't worry. Carry on with the mitzva of welcoming guests and G-d will continue to bless you," said the Rebbe.
From Talks and Tales
The journeys of Abraham in the portion of Lech Lecha are into the Land of Israel, while the journey of the seventh of MarCheshvan is from Israel to the lands outside of Israel. What is the connection between the journeys of Lech Lecha and the seventh of MarCheshvan? One must take the inspiration and the vision of G-dliness received at the Temple in Jerusalem during the festival and go forth to the whole world. The task and yearly journey of Lech Lecha, as we experience it on the seventh of MarCheshvan, reaches its culmination now when Moshiach's revelation is imminent and we will transform the world into a dwelling place for G-dlienss
(From Reflections of Redemption, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)