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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Dovid YB Kaufmann a"h
You've been working late at the office. You go into the parking garage and notice how deserted it is. You glance nervously around. At least there aren't too many cars, everything's in plain sight.
Or you've been out shopping until the mall closed. When you arrived the parking lot was full. Now it's practically empty. You can see your car, alone on its row, one of a handful scattered about.
In either case, you get to your car, and reach for your keys. Nervously, you fumble with them, trying to find the right one. And you can't find it. Suddenly you realize, you left it in the office - and you can't get in until the morning. Or, you see them sitting on the driver's seat, where you dropped them.
You're locked out.
Or you've been out late, visiting with friends, or you're just coming back from a business trip. You've got your keys. But when you get to the door, you find it's chained.
You're locked out.
Of course, you can call someone or wake up a family member. Yet for a moment, there's a desperate feeling. It's different than the fright you might feel until you reach your car or get to the house. That's a fear of the unknown. But this, this is frustration. This makes you angry. It's your car. It's your house. Why can't you get in? And the sense of helplessness, of being kept out is worse, much worse than the fright you felt a few minutes ago. It's like you've been rejected, like you've been barred from what belongs to you. It's not right. No one should be locked out of what belongs to him.
Sometimes, unfortunately, we feel locked out of our lives, out of our souls - that is, out of Judaism. It may be because we haven't had the education. We feel ignorant when we walk into synagogue, angry or embarrassed that we don't know Hebrew. We feel awkward doing a mitzva for the first time; we should know this. When we sit in a class or hear a lecture, and the rabbi is quoting from the Talmud or the Torah or Maimonides and we don't know which is which, we may feel, why bother.
And when we pray, that's when we may feel the most locked out. The words seem so foreign. Even in English the phrases seem stale, artificial. We look around and see others with their eyes closed, concentrating, expressions akin to joy; we hear the joyousness, or at least the communality of the song. And it all seems to come from the other side of a wall, a place we're not allowed to go. We want to turn our back, reject that which excludes us, deny a helplessness we cannot refute.
To this feeling our Sages tell us, the gates of prayer are always open. And there are many stories that demonstrate and emphasize the power of the simple prayer said with sincerity.
The same is true of Torah study, or mitzvot. Rabbi Akiva, the greatest scholar of his time, did not start until he was forty. And he learned and observed, one letter, one mitzva, one step at a time.
G-d doesn't lock us out. We lock ourselves out. He'll hand us the key, if we let Him. All we have to do is ask.
When Moshiach comes, no Jew will be left behind. Regardless of where we are, spiritually, Redemption opens its door. For G-d never locks us out.
In this week's Torah portion Noach, we read of G-d's command to Noah to build an ark. The ark would be a safe-haven during the floor that will last for 40 days and 40 nights. Into the ark Noah will bring his family and pairs of all of the world's animal life to be saved from the flood.
The turbulent waters that destroyed so much were the very same water that lifted the ark high above the highest mountain tops, carrying Noah, his family and the animals who repopulated the world.
The key is to enter the ark, especially when the waters get rough.
The ark symbolizes an environment of hope, trust and closeness and commitment to G-d.
The word for "ark" in Hebrew is "teiva." Teiva also means "word." Jewish teachings relate this to words of Torah. The Torah is a source of strength and a refuge in times of difficulty. It also gives you the right perspective, which will keep you positive.
In Noah's ark, animals of prey coexisted with the other animals. This occurred because in the ark the "light" of Moshiach shone; an atmosphere of peace and no strife permeated the ark. The times of Moshiach is the goal of our existence, and when you understand the purpose and are focused on the goal, the waters are easier to navigate.
Being on the ark was hard work for Noach. He had to feed and take care of all of the animals. But the outcome of all of his hard work was that he saved the world. Doing what G-d wants is hard work, but what it accomplishes is amazing.
That is the way struggles, traumas, difficulties, etc., are. They can destroy you, but with the right attitude they can lift you up. Just like the waters of the flood, they can destroy or they can uplift. Having a strong support system in difficult times and looking toward a goal that makes you part of something greater enables you to be stronger than you would be on your own.
We have to realize that our struggles are of extreme importance, and when we finally complete our work, we will have brought the world to its ultimate destination, and the reward will be unlimited.
May we merit to see the completion of our toil and our struggles once and for all, with the coming of Moshiach.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the Rebbe's teachings, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
All in a (Rabbi's) Day's Work
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler
My children and I spent lots of time patrolling our Upper East Side neighborhood over the recent Sukkot holiday, offering people the opportunity to do the mitzva (commandment) of lulav and etrog.
Years of experience have given me a pretty good sense of who to ask, and I've found that approximately 90% of Jews are happy to see us and want to do the mitzva. There are always those, however, who are uninterested, and some who are downright hostile.
I knew we would undoubtedly encounter some who might be angry with us, and I didn't want my kids to be disheartened, so I told them the story of David* who is a regular in our Chabad Center.
On his way to work 25 years ago, David was approached by two Chabad students in a "Mitzva Tank" in downtown Manhattan. "Excuse me, sir, are you Jewish?" they asked. Not expecting to be asked so publicly, David was outraged and vociferously denied his heritage. "No, I am not Jewish!"
By the time he arrived at his office, guilt had set in. Although not a practicing Jew, he still felt strongly connected to his roots and regretted telling the boys he wasn't Jewish. Alas, what's done was done, but the guilt continued to niggle at the back of his mind.
When I first moved to New York, I met David on the street and asked him, "Are you Jewish?" Thrilled at the chance to fix the mistake he had made all those years ago, he answered with a resounding, "Yes!"
And so began a beautiful relationship. I asked him if he would like to study Torah and he gave me his office number to follow up. Because it was a holiday and I couldn't write it down, I memorized it and called him a couple of days later to set up a study date. He is now a regular at Chabad.
In August I took my kids on an end-of-summer trip to Bailiwick Animal Park where there are horse rides, a petting zoo, an elephant, parrots, and more. It's the kind of place I love, because proximity to animals reminds me of my childhood in South Africa.
We went to pay and the woman at the desk told me it would be $92. I handed over my Amex card and she told me they only take cash. "What wrong with Amex?" I asked. "How about Venmo? Paypal?" She didn't know what I was talking about. Cash only.
"There's an ATM here," she offered, but my credit card is not set up to withdraw cash. I don't carry cash on me, and it is never a problem. In 2018 everything and everyone is set up to accommodate cashless transactions. Even when I travel to South Africa I pay only with my credit card - I take no cash.
My kids realized we were going to have to leave, and were understandably disappointed. Just then, a complete stranger who had apparently overheard my conversation walked over and handed me a $100 bill. "Here's my email," she said. "You can Paypal me later."
I was astounded! $100 is a significant amount of money, and she had no way of knowing if I would actually pay her back. (I did, of course.) I was so touched. How many people would do that? The kindness of random strangers can restore one's faith in humanity.
Rest assured, in addition to being reminded of the value of unexpected acts of kindness and generosity, I have learned my lesson and will make sure to always carry some cash with me from now on.
We recently celebrated Rosh Hashana when we ask G-d for mercy and kindness and a good, happy, healthy, sweet year ahead.
But it doesn't come for free. We have to do our part and cough up the cash. We cannot tell G-d, "Oh, I'll pay you later." We must have cash with us, on hand, at all times. What is the cash?
Mitzvot! When we ask Him for what we want, we have to give Him what He wants.
Think of a mitzva you feel you should add to your repertoire of mitzvot and find a way to do it!
I take particular pride in doing a mitzvah in public. When we show pride in our heritage, our faith, and our background, others respect us. When people see that we respect ourselves and are not afraid to display our Judaism, we earn their admiration.
A while ago I had the opportunity to do just that.
For six years I've been stopping by Dan's* office to offer him the opportunity to put on tefillin, and every time he refuses. "I'm not ready," he says. Or "This isn't for me; I don't believe in it."
On Rosh Hashana, I blow the shofar in his office so he can hear it. He is happy to shake the lulav and etrog on Sukkot, because it takes about 10 seconds. But tefillin, I haven't been able to get him to commit to. Until last week.
I was driving around, looking for parking, when I spotted Dan walking down the street.
I pulled down my window and shouted across the street, "Dan! How are you?"
He was on the phone, but so excited (or alarmed!) to see me, that he called back, "Hey, Rabbi!"
"Want to put on tefillin now?" I asked.
Not wanting to lose the moment, I jumped out of my car and whipped out my tefillin. Dozens of onlookers watched as I helped Dan put on the tefillin and say the Shema.
And I wondered aloud, "Why did you agree today? In public? In the middle of the street? In your office, you always refuse!
"Because you're crazy, Rabbi! Screaming at me from across the street while I'm on the phone - I just love this about you!"
Our Sages teach, "Words that come from the heart, enter the heart." It would seem that until now, when I asked Dan to put on tefillin, I didn't mean it enough. This time, I did!
*) Names changed to protect privacy.
Rabbi Uriel and Shevy Vigler direct Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side (NYC). Read more at chabadic.com
Rabbi Mendy and Tirtza Ross will sooon be arriving in Duluth, Minnesota, to establish a Chabad Center in that state's northeastern hub city. The Ross' will be connecting with local residents, visitors attracted to the city's mild summer weather, college students - specifically those at University of Minnesota, Duluth, as well as inmates at Duluth's federal prison. Rabbi Chaim and Chaya Greenberg have moved to Lake Norman, North Carolina to open a new Chabad Center. They are focusing on working with young professionals and have started Chabad Young Professionals Uptown Charlotte. Rabbi Yisroel and Shternie Treitel recently arrived in Renton, Washington, a suburb of Seattle on the shore of Lake George, to open a new Chabad Center there
In "It Happened Once" of issue #1540, the story was about Reb Mottele of Rachmistrivka, son of Rebbe Yochanan Twerski, who had inherited the Sukka from his own father, the famous Rebbe Mottele of Chernobyl. The story took place when the effects of WWI (not WWII) were being felt around the world.
7 Cheshvan, 5737/1976
We have concluded the month of Tishrei, which is designated in our sacred texts as a "comprehensive month" for the entire year, and which is filled with a variety of festive days and experiences embracing all areas of a Jew's spiritual life throughout the whole year.
The month begins with awe and submission to the Heavenly Reign, the main point of Rosh HaShanah: teshuvah (repentance), the essence of the Ten Days of Return, and Yom Kippur; the performance of mitzvos [commandments] with diligence and joy, culminating with the highest expression of joy with the Torah - the essential aspects of Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah.
It is time to recall the custom that was prevalent in many communities to announce at the termination of Simchas Torah: "And Jacob went on his way."
The point of this custom was to call attention to the fact that, inasmuch as the time has come to return to the routine of the daily life ("his way"), it behooves a Jew to know that he is Jacob, a Jew, and that he has his own way, a way that originates in Simchas Torah and is guided by the joy of Torah and mitzvos.
This means that whatever a Jew undertakes, even his ordinary day-to-day affairs, must always be conducted in the spirit of "All your actions should be for the sake of Heaven" and "Know Him (and serve Him) in all your ways."
The month of Tishrei is a "comprehensive month" also in the sense that in this month the Jew acquires "goods" for the whole year. Immediately afterwards one must begin to "unpack" and draw from one's stock according to the needs of each day in all details. One cannot consider himself free from further obligation on the basis of the accomplishments of the comprehensive month.
Similarly, there are also "comprehensive mitzvos," although each and all mitzvos have to be fulfilled with the fullest measure of diligence and excellence. A comprehensive mitzvah should be performed with still greater excellence and still greater diligence, for its performance is of greater concern to all Jews and the Jewish people as a whole.
One of the main comprehensive mitzvos is the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel (love of a fellow Jew).
Of this mitzvah it has been said that it is a "great principle of the Torah," and the "basis of the entire Torah." The basis of this mitzvah is the fact that all Jews constitute one entity, like one body, so much so that every Jew sees every other Jew as "his own flesh and blood." Herein is also the explanation why the fulfillment of a mitzvah by every individual Jew affects the whole Jewish people; how much more so the fulfillment of comprehensive mitzvos....
May G-d grant that all the good wishes that Jews wished one another for the new year should be fulfilled, that it be a good and sweet year in every respect, with the realization of the above-mentioned pattern of Jewish conduct:
"AND JACOB" - an appellation that includes all Jews, not only those who have already attained the higher status of "Israel" and "Jeshurun";
"WENT" - in accordance with the true concept of motion, namely, moving away from the previous state to a higher state (for however satisfactory a state is, one should always strive to advance to an ever higher state in all matters of holiness);
"ON HIS WAY" - that "his way," even in non-obligatory matters, becomes a G-dly way, as stated immediately after: "And G-d's angels met him" - in keeping with every Jew's purpose in life to be an "angel" messenger - of G-d, to make for Him an "abode" in this earthly world.
May all the above be done with joy, derived from Simchas Torah, and Jacob "will sing (and praise) the G-d of Jacob," and merit the speedy fulfillment of the continuation of the verse, "The glory and strength of the tzaddik will be uplifted," the coming of our righteous Moshiach.
SHLOMO means "his peace." King Shlomo was the son of King David and Batsheva (II Samuel 12:24) renowned for his wisdom. He is the author of three books from the Bible: The Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. King Shlomo organized the building of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem. SHLOMIT means "peaceful." She was the daughter of Divri from the tribe on Dan (Lev. 24:11). A different though similar sounding name is SHULAMIT, meaning one who is perfect or whole, mentioned in Song of Songs 7:1.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The holidays are past; the days of introspection for the previous year have come and gone. This week, Parshat Noach, is therefore an appropriate time to make a good account of the coming year.
As we continue to improve on the past and try to plan for the future, we need to keep one thing in mind: Although an individual may realize that he has things and areas that need improvement, as a whole the Jewish people have accomplished what needs to be accomplished.
As the Rebbe taught, "We must be conscious that all the service necessary has been completed and we are 'ready to receive Moshiach.' Therefore, even if there is a particular dimension of our own personal service which is lacking... this does not diminish the fact that as a whole, our service is complete and we are ready for the Redemption.
"On the contrary," the Rebbe explained, "the fact that, as a whole, we are prepared for the Redemption, makes it easier for us to complete all the individual elements of our service and to do so with happiness."
The Rebbe went on to use an analogy to further explain this concept.
When a person is healthy as a whole, if he has a small ailment in one of his limbs it can easily be cured. Similarly, since as a whole, the Jewish nation is healthy, i.e., our service has been completed, teshuva [repentance] which is described as "healing," can cure all the particular difficulties of both individuals and the Jewish people.
Whether or not on an individual basis there are small ailments that need to be cured, as a whole, the Jewish people are healthy and our service in this long and bitter exile has been completed.
Let us not, Heaven forbid, give G-d excuses as to why we are still in exile. As the Rebbe told someone at Sunday dollars who suggested that there are conditions that still need to be met before Moshiach can come, "Why are you making conditions? Moshiach is long overdue!"
Noach was a perfect, righteous man in his generations (Gen. 6:9)
The Torah uses the plural "generations" because Noach's lifetime actually spanned two of them: the generation of the Flood, and the generation that replenished the earth afterward. Compared to the immoral people who lived before the Flood, Noach was righteous in deed. Compared to those who built the Tower of Bavel and who were intellectually dishonest, he was perfect and without blemish.
(Beit Yosef, quoted by Magid Meisharim)
Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14)
If the purpose of the ark was "to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth"-to make sure that each animal species continued to propagate-why did G-d instruct Noach to make it "for himself"? Because man's place in the universe is unique and crucial to all of creation. If he conducts himself according to G-d's will, he raises up and elevates the entire world; if not, he drags down the entire planet with him.
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5699)
And only Noach remained (Gen. 7:23)
In previous verses Noach is referred to as "perfect" or "righteous," yet after the Flood he is simply "Noach," the name he was given at birth. For it was only in relation to the wicked people around him that he was deserving of such complimentary titles and descriptions.
Many years ago there lived a Chasid of the Baal Shem Tov who was very poor. When someone suggested that he rent a certain tavern and become its manager, he took the advice and went to find the owner of the establishment.
As the tavern was located in a very desolate spot, far off the beaten path, the owner didn't even ask how much he was willing to pay, and immediately agreed. The Chasid then borrowed money to buy provisions, and moved into the inn with his family. Although the Chasid was no longer starving, the inn provided a very meager source of income.
One time, the Baal Shem Tov was passing through the region and stopped at the inn, much to the Chasid's joy. The Baal Shem Tov asked him to prepare a fine meal for himself and his attendant, but before they could eat he called the Chasid over and told him that he had lost his valuable snuffbox. The Baal Shem Tov asked the Chasid to take his horse and search through the surrounding forest until he found it.
The Chasid immediately complied, although it was the middle of the night. Suddenly, he heard a voice calling from the distance. "Someone help! Please save me!" Going over to investigate he discovered that the carriage of a wealthy nobleman had fallen into a ditch and was stuck in the mud. The Chasid was able to extricate the carriage and the nobleman, who introduced himself as Prince so-and-so, was extremely grateful. As the Prince was soaking wet and trembling from the cold, the Chasid invited him back to the inn to warm up. The Baal Shem Tov then insisted that the meal that had been prepared for him be served to the nobleman instead.
The next morning, the Baal Shem Tov told the Chasid that if the nobleman wanted to offer him money, he was to refuse it. Indeed, before the Prince's departure he offered the Jew 2000 rubles as payment for his kindness, but he refused to accept it. "Perhaps you'd like more," the nobleman then pressed him. "Here is 10,000 rubles." Again the Chasid refused. When the Prince offered him the staggering sum of 100,000 rubles, he ran back to the Baal Shem Tov to ask if he was permitted to accept it. "I've told you not to accept even a penny!" the Baal Shem Tov replied. The Chasid returned to the nobleman and declared, "I will not take any of your money. I did not help you in order to receive a reward." The Prince then offered him a treasure in gold coins in addition to the rubles, but the Chasid stood firm. When the Prince saw that it was impossible to change the Chasid's mind, he asked him for his name so he could at least record it for posterity. The Prince then went on his way.
Before the Baal Shem Tov departed, he asked the Chasid if he wished to give him a few cents for a pidyon (as is customary among Chasidim when asking for a blessing). The Chasid gave him his last few coins, and the Baal Shem Tov blessed him with good fortune.
After the Baal Shem Tov left the Chasid's wife let out a huge sigh. Not only had they refused a great fortune, but now they were completely penniless! At that moment there was a knock on the door. Someone was requesting a glass of whiskey. The Chasid told his wife to pour water into the empty whiskey barrel; maybe the water would somehow acquire the taste of whiskey from the few drops left at the bottom. Surprisingly, the customer reported that the whiskey was delicious and unusually strong. The process was repeated, and again the water was miraculously transformed.
Over the next few years the Chasid and his wife made a fine living selling this whiskey. They eventually bought the inn and became very wealthy.
Sometime later, two gentile businessmen lodged at the inn. In the middle of the night they had a violent argument, and one of them murdered the other. The next morning the guilty party accused the Jewish innkeeper of the crime (supposedly to rob the businessman), and the Chasid was hauled off to jail. The case was tried, and the Chasid was found guilty and sentenced to death.
In the meantime, the Prince who had once been helped by the Chasid had become King. As supreme monarch of the land, all executions had to be personally approved by him before they could be carried out.
When the case came before the King, he recognized the name at once. He insisted that he would not sign the decree until he had spoken to the accused. The prisoner was summoned to the palace.
When the King saw the Chasid he thought to himself, "Surely, someone who refused 100,000 rubles when he was on the edge of starvation would not commit murder to steal money as a wealthy man." Further inquiries were made, and the real murderer was arrested and hanged. And the treasure the Chasid had refused years before was finally bestowed on him, together with several valuable properties.
And they went to Noah into the ark...of all flesh where there is the breath of life (Gen. 7:15) The G-dly revelation that was manifested in the ark had a profound effect on all the animals, causing them to live together amicably and harmoniously for an entire year. Thus the conditions in the ark were the prototype and forerunner of the Messianic era, when according to many commentators, the Biblical prophecy of "and the wolf shall live with the lamb" will be fulfilled in the literal sense.