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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
This article is presented here to mark the anniversary of Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneerson, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's liberation from prison, on 12 Tammuz. His crimes against Soviet Russia consisted of teaching Torah and Judaism.
On September 27, 1939 during the bombing of Warsaw, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneerson, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, made the following entry into his diary.
"As the bombs fell we ran through the streets looking for shelter. An awesome site unfolded before our eyes, houses were transformed into cauldrons of flame and smoke. People, terrified and desperate, ran alongside sobbing bitter tears. The barrage of bombing intensified by the minute, transforming the street into a sea of fire. Ominous tongues of flame danced through the boulevards, as if threatening to consume the entire world. Clouds of smoke conspired to obscure the beauty and clarity of the bright sunny day.
We gathered in a temporary shelter and began to pray. Around us stood young, old and middle aged Jewish men and women from all walks of life. Some dressed as traditional Jews others as modern Poles, some bearded others not, some with head coverings others without.
The artificial calm was suddenly shattered as the ground shuddered beneath us; a bomb had exploded nearby. We found ourselves staring into the face of death as a river of flame raced through our shelter. At that very moment, simultaneously and spontaneously, all the assembled cried out, chanting the sacred words "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad." As one person in one voice, it was the outcry of a Jew on the verge of death."
The rabbi closed the entry with the following observation. "Such a Shema Yisrael, such a deep hearted cry, I had never heard before in my life. I clearly witnessed the power of faith and how deeply rooted it is in the Jewish heart. This moment taught me an entirely new respect for all Jews. I pray to G-d that this moment be forever preserved in my memory."
This excerpt clearly demonstrates that all Jews, regardless of background or affiliation, belong to the same family and in the same camp. In the desert, our ancestors demonstrated this concept through the canopy of clouds that encompassed and defined their camp. All Jews lived in the same place, all Jews occupied the same space, all Jews walked the same ground, and every individual was included.
The "Clouds Of Glory" came to them in the merit of Aaron the high Priest. What was it about Aaron that merited the inclusiveness of these clouds? It was his all-accepting and embracing love for every single Jew.
This week we read of the passing of Aaron, so in a sense we commemorate his yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing). Let us walk in his footsteps and live up to his image. Let us accept and embrace all Jews of all kinds and at all times.
Rabbi Gurkow is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario. For more on Rabbi Gurkow and his writings, visit InnerStream.ca.
The Haftora for the Torah portion of Chukat is from the book of Judges. It tells the story of how Jephtah, a rather boorish individual, became a judge and won a battle against the Ammonite nation.
When the people of Ammon waged war against Israel, the elders of Gilad asked Jephtah to lead them in battle. After some discussion Jephtah agreed on condition that they appoint him as their leader.
Jephtah sent a message to the king of Ammon asking why he was waging war against Israel. The king responded, "Because we want our land that you captured when you came up from Egypt."
The message that Jephtah sent back was based on what we read about in this week's Torah portion. He explained that when the Jewish people came up from Egypt, we went around Edom, Moab and Ammon, because they wouldn't grant us passage through their lands. The Amorite people waged war against us and with G-d's help we won the battle and captured their land. So Ammon had no claim to the land as it was not their's to begin with.
He concluded with a strong warning: "G-d the Judge will judge today between the Children of Israel and the Children of Ammon."
The king of Ammon did not heed Jephtah's words that there was no basis for war. The spirit of G-d was on Jephtah and he went to war against Ammon. He had a massive victory, and Ammon was now under Israel's rulership.
An additional connected with our portion to the one we already mentioned is that just as in the portion we read about the great victories of the Jewish people over Sichon and Og, in the Haftorah we read of the great victory over Ammon.
Another similarity is that when Moses sent messengers, one verse says, "Moses sent messengers," and another verse states "Israel sent messengers." Rashi explains that similarly when Jephtah sent messengers to the king of Ammon it says, "Israel sent messengers." This teaches us, explains Rashi, that Moses is Israel and Israel is Moses. Because the leader of the generation is like the whole generation, for "the leader is everything." Similarly, Jephtah is Israel and Israel is Jephtah.
Amongst the many lessons we can learn for our Haftorah are the following: Anyone who sincerely desires to do G-d's will, even someone who is just average or even not average, can have the spirit of G-d with him. Also, though Jephtah was a boorish man, we see from his words and actions that he truly believed in G-d. Perhaps the leadership in Israel today should learn from Jephtah how to stand up against the enemies of Israel, with truth and without fear, knowing that G-d is with them.
May we merit to have great and holy leaders, and may we have true peace and the entirety of our land, with the greatest leader of all, Moshiach. 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.
The Ever-Lit Soul
by Menachem Mendel Shimanovitch
This past January, all of the students at our Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva relocated from the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the pastoral Tucuman province for our summer session.
After travelling 20 hours by bus, we reached our destination, a spacious complex in S. Pedro. In this tranquil location there lived about 3,000 people. We were told that none of the locals were Jewish.
The second Friday after we arrived was 10 Shevat, the anniversary of the Rebbe becoming the leader of Chabad-Lubavitch. Outreach during free time on Fridays is a staple activity for every Chabad yeshiva student. Despite the remote location and assurance that there were no Jews, especially this Friday would be no different. Several of the yeshiva students were determined to find even just one Jew in S. Pedro with whom to share a Torah thought or an opportunity to do a mitzva.
We went to the local park. No one we encountered knew of any Jews living in the city or the surrounding area. After quite a while of searching with no success, most of the students returned to the complex to start to prepare for Shabbat.
Three of the students continued to search in vain for another hour, asking everyone they saw, if they knew of any Jews. Before returning to the yeshiva utterly dejected, they decided to ask one more person. At the snack store, they asked a middle-aged man if he knew of any Jews living in the city. The man that while he didn't know her personally, there was an elderly woman sitting at a nearby restaurant who would surely know if there were any Jews in the region.
The trio went over to the restaurant, found the woman, and asked her if she knew of any Jews living in the city. While she said no at first, after thinking for a while, she recalled an old story from her youth, when she heard one of her friends laughing at a neighbor because she was Jewish. She remembered her name, but she didn't know where she was living or what had happened to her.
A quick calculation revealed that this woman was quite old. No one knew if she was even alive, and if she was, what was the state of her health.
The students checked the local telephone book, found her name and called the number. The recorded message stated that the number had been disconnected.
Were they on to something?
They went to the local taxi stand and asked all of the cabbies any of them had heard of this woman.
Time passed, and it was getting closer to Shabbat. Just before they were ready to agree to pursue this mystery another time, a cab driver came in. He believed that he knew who this woman was and he offered to take the students to her. He drove them to the outskirts of town, to a small, old wooden house.
They knocked on the front and rang the bell. After a few minutes the door was opened by a fragile-looking elderly woman.
The expression of surprise on her face was clearly visible as she invited the yeshiva students into her living room. The woman immediately asked: 'What are you doing here? Where did you come from? How did you get here? Who brought you here?' At first, they were certain that they had come to the wrong person, as there was Christian symbols in the living room. However, when the woman burst out crying, they realized that they had arrived at the correct address.
She asked them to sit down and then began to speak. She had just celebrated her eighty-eighth birthday. She was born and raised in Poland, and she survived the fires of the Nazi death camps during the World War II. When the war ended, she discovered that her entire family had been murdered in the Holocaust. She had come alone to Buenos Aires, where she lived for many years. Then she decided to move to the most remote spot on the continent, where she would never meet any Jews.
Over the years that passed, she had three children - two sons and a daughter. Two of her children had passed away from the same illness.
She said that her life was terribly lonely and she had only one neighbor - a very kind-hearted non-Jewish woman who cared for her and in whose merit she managed to survive. Recently, this neighbor began efforts to persuade and pressure her to convert to Christianity. "What good is it to you that you're Jewish? All the anguish you have suffered came as a result of that," she told her again and again.
Yet, none of this succeeded in convincing this elderly Jewish woman to change her religion, despite the fact that she hadn't observed anything of her Jewish tradition for over half a century, even running as far away as possible from her Judaism. "I was born a Jew and I'll die a Jew," she found herself saying proudly to her neighbor.
The previous evening, a Thursday, the neighbor had brought a Christian symbol to her, and placed it in the middle of her living room. That night she dissolved into bitter sobs and asked G-d to give her a sign that she was following the right path. She felt that she wouldn't be able to stand up to the powerful pressure that would undoubtedly continue and even intensify. And now, these three young Jewish men, dressed in traditional Chassidic attire, proud of their Jewish heritage, came knocking at her door! As she finished telling her story, she again burst into tears.
"I solemnly promise you that I will continue to be a Jew and will not convert, even if I'm forced to place my hands in a fire," she declared with resolve.
The yeshiva students, too, were shedding tears. They spent considerable time encouraging her, speaking about the Divine Providence that accompanies every Jew, even those who are certain they are as far away as one can be.
After everyone was calm, they told her about the Rebbe, who inspired their search for her. She promised that she would light Shabbat candles every Friday before sundown, at which time she would pray for her health and her son's health. They left her with the candlesticks that they had opportunely brought and wrote out for her the blessing for her to recite at the time of candle lighting.
Before they left, the woman again felt the need to make a solemn promise to the students that she would never abandon her people.
To say that we were all touched by this story is an understatement. Perhaps, we wondered, this was the entire reason why our yeshiva had relocated for the summer to S. Pedro!
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine,
Tanya, Tanya, Tanya
In two cities in England, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, was printed. The Tanya was printed in the beautiful beach city of Hove, about an hour from London. It was also printed in Battersea, on the south bank of the River Thames in the south west of London. In 1978, the Rebbe launched a campaign to print the Tanya in every city and location around the world.
Jewish School for All
A campaign titled "Ecole Juive Pour Tous" which translates to "Jewish School for Everyone" was launched this past year by the Chabad-Lubavitch Shneor School in Aubervilliers, France. The school, for students who learn differently, recently dedicated its own building a short distance from the Shneor Campus.
25th of Teves, 5741 
Dr. R. Wilkes, DSW
Thank you very much for your letter and for the Conference kit received separately. I appreciate the trouble you have taken to report to me on the Conference and its recommendations. May G-d grant that the Conference will produce the desired fruits, even in excess of expectations. Especially as the zechus Horabim [merit of the many] helps, particularly when the Rabim are, in this case, our Jewish youngsters.
With reference to the question at the conclusion of your letter, raised by a mother, to the effect that if the primary purpose of existence is to fulfill G-d's commandments; and if a Jew is unable from childhood to carry out any of these commandments because of physical or mental limitations; what then is the purpose or meaning of his/her existence?
The answer to this question must be sought in the context of a more embracing general problem, of which the above is but one of many possible facets.
It should be remembered that according to the Torah itself, it is impossible for every Jew, as an individual, to fulfill all the 613 Mitzvos. Apart from mitzvos which are applicable only in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] and during the time that the Beis Hamikdash [Holy Temple] is in existence, there are mitzvos which are obligatory only to Kohanim for example, while there are mitzvos which a Kohen is precluded from fulfilling. But by virtue of the fact that all Jewish people are one entity, like one organism, every individual who fulfills his or her obligations to the extent of their G-d-given capacities, share in the totality of the effort and accomplishment.
A similar principle prevails also in every human society in general, where everyone has to contribute to the common weal, though each one is necessarily limited in one's capacities, be one a plain farmer, producing food or a scientist or inventor of farm machinery and the like. One who excels in one's particular field of endeavor may be limited or useless in another area. Who is to say which one is more important, which one makes a greater contribution? Only harmonious collaboration and utilization of all human resources make for the utmost completeness and perfection of the society. As for the individual, all that need be said - as indeed our Rabbis have emphasized, is that G-d does not demand of an individual anything that is beyond the individual's natural capacities. It is not for a human being to question why G-d has endowed one individual with greater capacities than another individual.
If the primary purpose of existence is to fulfill G-d's commandments; and if a Jew is unable from childhood to carry out any of these commandments because of physical or mental limitations; what then is the purpose or meaning of his/her existence?
To return to the subject of the correspondence, namely, the needs of the special children (or the so-called retarded or developmentally limited, as often spoken of), they are, to be sure, limited in certain areas (and who is not?), but there is no reason nor justification, to generalize all into one and the same category of "limited" or "retarded." Human experience is replete with examples of individuals who have been severely limited in some aspects, yet they subsequently excelled and made great extraordinary contributions to society in other aspects.
I am quite convinced that if a proper system of aptitude tests were instituted, to determine the particular skills of our special children at an early age and appropriate classes were established to enable them to develop these skills, the results would be enormously gratifying, if not astounding. Needless to say, such an educational method would greatly enhance their self confidence and general development, not to mention also the fact that it would enable them to make an important contribution to society.
With esteem and blessing,
YITZCHAK means "laughter." Yitzchak (Isaac) was the son of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21:5). At the age of 37 he allowed himself to be sacrificed by Abraham, but at G-d's command was spared and a ram was sacrificed instead. The ram's horn (shofar) is blown on Rosh Hashana to "remind" G-d of this incident and encourage mercy for Yitzchak's descendants.
ILONA is from the Hebrew meaning "oak tree." ILANA is a different name, meaning simply "tree."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming week on Monday and Tuesday, we celebrate the birthday and anniverary of liberation of the Previous Rebbe from Bolshevic imprisonment. He was imprisoned in the infamous Spalerno prison for spreading and strengthening Judaism.
The Rebbe had been sentenced to death, but because of tremendous pressure throughout the world, the sentence was commuted to life in exile.
On 3 Tammuz, the Rebbe was exiled to the city of Kostrama. On the way to Kostrama, the Rebbe was permitted to stop in his home for a few hours.
The Rebbe then proceeded to the train station where a large group of Chasidim awaited him. Before boarding the train, the Rebbe spoke:
"Now it is apparent to all of the nations of the world: Our bodies alone have been handed over into exile ...but not our souls. We must openly proclaim to all that with regard to everything involving our religion - the Torah of the people of Israel, with its commandments and customs - no one is going to impose his views on us, and no force has the right to subjugate us."
In a letter sent out by the Previous Rebbe on the first anniversary of his release from prison, the Rebbe explained that the 12th of Tammuz is a day of rejoicing for every single Jew.
"It was not only me who G-d redeemed on 12 Tammuz, but also those who love the Torah and observe its commandments, and so too, all Jews - for the heart of every person of Israel, irrespective of his particular level in the observance of the mitzvot, is perfectly bound with G-d and His Torah....
"This is the day on which the light of the merit of public Torah study banished the misty gloom of calumnies and libels.
"It is fitting that such a day be set aside as a day of gatherings -- a day on which people arouse each other to fortify Torah study and the practice of Judaism in every place according to its needs...".
On this auspicious day of redemption and liberation, may we merit the true and complete redemption through Moshiach.
Ten entities were created on Shabbat eve at twilight. They are: ... as well as the [original] tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs. (Ethics 5:6)
Tongs represent man's ability to change and mold his environment. The Mishnah emphasizes that this potential (the original tongs) is a gift given to man by G-d. The tongs were created on Friday at twilight, i.e., they were the very last creations brought into being. This indicates that man's efforts represent the ultimate goal of creation, for it is man's efforts which will bring all existence to perfection.
(Sefer HaSichot 5748, Vol. II, p. 605)
Seven things characterize a foolish person, and seven a wise one.... concerning that which he has not heard, he says, "I have not heard," and he acknowledges the truth. And the reverse of these characterize a fool. (Ethics 5:7)
It is possible to interpret the Mishnah's statements simply: a wise man is not ashamed to admit his lack of knowledge. He has the humility to acknowledge the limits of his wisdom.
(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XVII, p. 110)
There are four character types among people: He who says, "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine" is an ignoramus. He who says, "What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours" this is a median characteristic; some say this is the characteristic of the people of Sodom. He who says, "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours" is pious. And he who says, "What is yours is mine, and what is mine is mine" is wicked. (Ethics 5:10)
He who says, "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours," is pious - The Mishnah is talking about a person who may not have the financial means to give generously. Nevertheless, while giving the little he can, he bolsters the spirits of the poor person by explaining that even the little which he himself owns belongs equally to the poor man. This attitude is sufficient to have him termed pious.
(Sichot Kodesh Shabbat Parshat Re'eh, 5739)
From In the Paths of Our Fathers, sie.org
One time a case was brought to judgment before Reb Levi Yitzchak. A young and inexperienced broker who lived in Berditchev had the idea that if a certain business in Berditchev merged with one located in a neighboring town, each would have a much greater profit.
Because he was unfamiliar with the world of business and virtually unknown, he turned for help to a more experienced broker who also lived in Berditchev.
The young man proposed that in exchange for the older man's help, the two would divide the profit equally. The experienced broker agreed. He successfully arranged the deal, and when the transaction was completed, collected the profit.
The trouble began when the experienced broker refused to divide the money as he had promised. There was no choice but to go to court. Reb Levi Yitzchak heard the case and ordered the man to give the other fellow his fair share of the profits. The case was closed and the two departed, but as time passed it became obvious that the older man still refused to abide by the ruling of the rabbi. The young man had no recourse but to return to Reb Levi Yitzchak with his complaint.
When Reb Levi Yitzchak heard what had transpired he immediately dispatched an emissary to the broker, who repeated the words of the rabbi: "My dear sir, you should be aware that I too am a broker with quite a bit of experience under my belt. I, in fact, act as a broker between the Jewish people and their Father in heaven. In this capacity, I transport the merits of the Jews to G-d, and in return, I receive my sustenance and many blessings from Him.
"As I occupied myself with these matters, I realized that here was an excellent opportunity to make a very good deal. Amongst the Jews I saw three types of products for which they had absolutely no use: intentional sins, unintentional sins, and sins which occurred because they were ignorant that the Torah considered them sinful.
"I saw that in Heaven they also had three kinds of products for which they had no use: forgiveness, absolution and annulment. And I said to myself, what a good idea it would be if the Jews and Heaven were to exchange products! I went and presented my ideas to the Heavenly Court and they were quite pleased to accept my proposition. But before the deal was finalized, they suggested that I first speak to the other partner in the transaction, the Jewish people.
"So, I went to the Jews, but it was more difficult to sell my idea to them. They convinced me to try for a greater commitment from the Heavenly Court.
"They wanted three additional things - children, health and livelihood - to be added to the package. I went back to the Heavenly Court with their request, and the new terms were granted.
"The deal was signed and sealed. I was then asked by the Heavenly Court what I wanted as my reward for completing this transaction. I replied that as far as the Jews were concerned, I didn't want any reward; as for G-d, I trusted completely that He would pay me whatever is my due.
"At that point G-d said to me, 'Levi Yitzchak, I will give you a special reward: the additional terms the Jews added to the original contract, namely, children, health and livelihood. I hereby place these in your hands, to distribute or revoke at will.'
"I therefore tell you that if you fulfill the ruling of my court at once, it will go well with you, but if you continue to refuse, I will act according to the law of the Torah that was put into my hands."
The broker listened to the rabbi's message, but thought the entire episode was just a jest. He went home that night and laughingly repeated the story to his wife.
Imagine Reb Levi Yitzchak trying to pressure him to incurring such an enormous financial loss with such a ridiculous story!
He had no sooner finished speaking when he was suddenly afflicted with a high fever. Moaning and groaning in pain he tossed from side to side, unable to find comfort.
The best doctors were called in; no expense was spared, but nothing helped. Finally, the patient was given up for lost.
With his last ounce of strength, the man summoned his wife. "Take a purse of money to Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and beg him to have mercy on me."
The hysterical woman ran weeping and pleading to the rabbi. She gave him the money, accurate to the last penny. "Please, have mercy on my husband. He's dying," she cried.
Needless to say, as soon as the debt was paid, Reb Levi Yitzchak prayed for the man's recovery. The broker's body returned to full health, and as far as his soul was concerned, that too was much healthier for the experience.
The new generation did not ask to send out spies, nor did they question Moses' leadership. Having grown up immersed in G-d's presence and teachings in its desert "academy," it did not subject its connection to G-d to the approval of human intellect. Similarly, when we inspire ourselves to fulfill our Divine mission unconditionally, optimistically focused on our ultimate goal, G-d grants us the opportunity to make our dreams come true and lead us to the final Redemption.
(From Daily Wisdom, translated and adapted by Moshe Wisnefsky from talks of the Rebbe)