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What are you doing to get ready for Presidents' Day?
It's really not such a big deal, you say. What, after all, is Presidents' Day other than a long weekend, government offices closed and sales all over the place?
But certainly, you have prepared at least a little. Even if you aren't going skiing for the weekend or flying off to the Bahamas, you've surely made plans for the time off--even if those plans are to not do anything.
You mailed the bills and birthday cards early enough to allow for no mail service. You maybe even worked a little late one day to make up for the shorter week. O.K., so you didn't do anything that actually has anything to do with President Washington or Lincoln, but you did get ready for Presidents Day, right? And, the more you prepared in advance, the better your long weekend will be.
What are you doing to prepare for Moshiach, whose arrival will herald the longest weekend of all? What kind of plans have you made for the Messianic Era, the age of blissful Utopia? According to our Sages, the amount of Divine Revelation we will experience in the Messianic Era is proportional to the amount that we prepare for Moshiach in advance of his arrival.
When Moshiach comes, the main vocation of the entire world will be to pursue the knowledge of G-d. This awareness of G-d will eliminate the mentalities that lead to strife, envy and jealousy. No more dog eat dog and stepping on toes to climb the corporate ladder.
When Moshiach comes, we won't need sales. Delicacies will be as plentiful as dust, and there will be an overabundance of food. So we won't have to fight the lines at the cashier or check-out counter.
No need to compare costs of long d istance services or collect frequent flyer miles for free trips to visit relatives. We'll all be together in the Land of Israel. We've seen how the Holy Land has "stretched" to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of new immigrants. A few million more isn't impossible, especially since, according to our Sages, the Land will actually expand during the Messianic Era.
No doctors appointments; we'll all be healthy. No special provisions for the handicapped; we'll all be healed.
Sounds great doesn't it? So now you're wondering what you can do to get ready for the ultimate legal holiday (legal in this context meaning rightful, legitimate, valid).
You can start with learning about Moshiach and the Messianic Era. Any Jewish book store worth its name should have at least a few selections dealing with this topic. As an alternative, or in addition, you can join up with or start your own study group learning about Moshiach.
And you can wait. You can actively, consciously wait for Moshiach to come. For, just as a part of one of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith is to believe in the coming of Moshiach, the other part is to await his arrival.
How do you actively wait for something? As one person put it, if we'd all only anticipate the arrival of Moshiach as we do the cleaning lady when the house is a total mess (or Presidents' Day when we need a break), then surely Moshiach would be here.
- (Back to text) The Messianic Era is called the "Day which is entirely Sabbath."
This week's Torah reading, Tetzave, is the only portion in the entire Torah following Moses' birth, in which Moses' name does not appear. (It is also, incidentally, the portion usually read during the week in which the anniversary of the Moses' passing, the seventh of Adar, falls.)
Our Sages explain that the reason for this omission was Moses' own request, made of G-d after the Children of Israel sinned with the Golden Calf: "And if not (if You will not forgive them), blot me out, I pray you, from Your book which You have written." The words of a tzadik, a holy and righteous person, are always fulfilled, even if spoken conditionally. Thus, we find that Moses' wish was granted in this week's Torah portion, for his name never appears in the entire portion.
However, when we delve into the text itself, we find an interesting phenomenon: This chapter, which specifically does not mention Moses, begins with a direct address to the very person whose name it omits! "And you shall command (ve'ata tetzave)."
A name is of lesser importance than a person's essential nature. It is a means of identification and a way of being known to others. But one does not really need a name in order to live. A newborn baby exists as an independent being from the moment it is born, and only receives its name after several days. From this we learn that the use of the grammatical second person, "you," expresses an even higher level of relationship than calling a person by his given name, which was only bestowed on him secondarily. If such is the case, then it follows that the omission of Moses' name only serves to underscore the very special essence of Moses, which was even higher than the mention of his name could express.
Moses' whole life was Torah, to the extent that we refer to the Torah as "The Five Books of Moses." But his greatness was best illustrated when the lowest elements among the Children of Israel sinned with the Golden Calf, explicitly expressing their desire to separate themselves from the Torah. Yet, Moses was willing to sacrifice that which he held most dear on their behalf. "Blot out my name from Your book," Moses pleaded with G-d, if You will not forgive them even this grave sin.
Moses and the Jews formed one entity, each of whose existence was dependent upon the other. The commentator Rashi explains; "Moses is Israel, and Israel is Moses." When even some Jews sinned, Moses suffered a spiritual blow. Even though Moses was up on Mount Sinai when the Golden Calf was actually made, he was still affected by the actions of the others.
It was Moses' self-sacrifice and his desire to forgo that which was most important to him that express a unity that is beyond mere names. It is therefore precisely the portion Tetzave, in which Moses is not mentioned, that reveals his strength and his greatness. The willingness to sacrifice oneself for every fellow Jew, even one who sins, is the mark of every true leader of the Jewish People.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
CROWN HEIGHTS DIARY: SPIRITUAL MUSCLE
by Esther Altmann
"770", Lubavitch World Headquarters, was bustling as ever. But on this night, women rather than men filled the shul. Upon entering, we gazed at scores of long, beautifully set tables extending the length and breadth of the large hall. We were participating in an event which was replete with meaning and potential; for this was a Melave Malka (the festive meal after Shabbat ends), both like and unlike any others which had preceded it in history. We were gathered in force, thousands of Jewish women from various walks of life, all affirming our ardent desire for the advent of Moshiach, now, in reality, in this world.
We took our seats and looked around, basking in the sight of so many women joined in a communality of purpose, faces glowing, each extending herself to her sister in friendship. It is a well-known axiom that just as the Second Holy Temple was destroyed because of "Sinat Chinam" (baseless hatred), the Third and eternal Holy Temple will be rebuilt because of love extended to our fellow Jews without demands or expectations.
Platters of food were distributed to the far reaches of the hall, a foreshadowing of the great banquet to be served in celebration of Moshiach's actual arrival. Then, we will sit at golden tables reflecting in the light of G-d's Presence; now, we sat at wooden tables, eating from golden paper plates, listening to words of desire and encouragement, our longing so strong that we could almost reach the Supernal Heights. We stretched out our fingertips trying to reach the Ultimate, and perhaps we succeeded.
We were joined in our joyous gathering by women everywhere. They met by the hundreds and thousands in every nation where Jews live. Jewish women flexing their "spiritual muscle." In Canada, France, England, Hong Kong, Peru, and Russia. In Israel, in the ancient city of Hebron--burial site of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs--women gathered at 4 a.m. to be in time sync with us. The ground swell was building, and women were again at the forefront, spearheading the practical implications of the call of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who said that Moshiach is here, waiting for us to receive him.
The Redemption of the Jews from the enslavement of Egypt was brought about because of the righteous Jewish women. When their husbands languished in the Egyptian labor camps, all hope abandoned, the women went out to them with food and encourgment, urging them to go on. When the Jews fled in terror, the pursuing Egyptian armies licking their heels, the Jewish women had not forgotten to bring along their tamborines; the women knew their G-d would not abandon them, would not abrogate His promise of redemption; they were ready to sing the song of praise and of freedom. And we, are we less, this the generation which has been promised that we will greet Moshiach? We too, must be ready to inspire our generation to pursue and achieve our goal, which is that of the entire Jewish nation.
This Melave Malka, the "Kaballat Panim"--reception--for Moshiach, was a concrete statement both of our faith in the fulfillment of the Divine Promise and our willingness to receive Moshiach. True, the evening came and went, and Moshiach had not yet come, but in our very realization of our great lack, we gained tremendous strength. When you prepare a fabulous feast for guests whom you love, and they are unable to come, how deeply you experience the disappointment. We gathered to affirm in the strongest possible manner our longing for Moshiach; we were ready for him, but G-d did not see fit to send him, and our disappointment was concretized. One speaker gave the parable of a person who issues many invitations to his friend, but when the friend comes, no one is there to open the door; the hospitality was a sham. We Jews have prayed three times a day over the thousands of years, at times asking, at times begging Hashem to send Moshiach. The Rebbe has told us that the time is now. We gathered to show our "guest" that our invitation is heartfelt; not only was our door open, and the table set, but the food was even served.
This first effort to marshal our forces was a great success; there will yet be other efforts to persuade G-d to heed our cries, and we will continue until He does. We don't know exactly what is required of us, but certainly when Jews unite in friendship, our cause is well served. The Rebbe has called upon the entire world to add in mitzvot, to add in deeds of kindness and tzedaka.
A grassroots movement is building; the word is spreading; and action is what is demanded. If the souls' yearning expressed by all the women who participated in this momentous event could be activated, the world would shake. Spiritual power of such intensity has the effect of moving spiritual worlds. There are times when the impact of disappointment can be stronger than that of fulfillment. We must realize what we are missing. Only then will our strong desire lead us to action, and now we must all act to bring Moshiach.
1,000 POINTS OF LIGHT
1,000 women, representing Jewish communities throughout the entire world, gathered this past month at Lubavitch World Headquarters for the annual conference of Lubavitch Women Emissaries [Shluchos]. The five-day conference was a kaleidescope of workshops, panel discussions, lectures and study groups. One of the highlights of the event was the "roll call" during the main banquet at which time a list of the countries whence the shluchos hailed was read. As Israel was announced, dozens of shluchos stood to the enthusiastic applause of their peers.
Thanks to modern technology and the work of Vaad HaNochos HaTimimim, you can have a copy of the Rebbe's latest talk--in Hebrew, Yiddish, French, Spanish or Persian, as early as 24 hours after the talk. Brief synopses of the Rebbe's talks or edited versions of the talks are available via fax, computer bulletin board, or (ho hum) the post office. To find out more call voice--(718) 774-6448, fax--(718) 774-7329, or modem (718) 771-2924.
24 hours a day, every day except Shabbat and holidays, you can Dial Kiddush and hear the blessings over the wine, Shabbat songs and "Sholom Aleichem" chanted. The toll-free number means you can call as many times as you need to in order to "get it right." Sponsored by the Rockland Hebrew Educational Center, Dial Kiddush can be reached at 800-331-7837.
HOW TO MAKE A MILLION
From a letter to Mr. Mordechai Shoel Landow from the Lubavitcher Rebbe
This is to acknowledge receipt of your celebrated book. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending me an autographed copy. I understand you are soon to publish a second book, and take this opportunity of thanking you in anticipation of a copy of it, too.
The world of business and finance is, of course, not the primary sphere of my interest. Nevertheless, many principles and even methods are common, or at any rate relevant, to various disciplines of human endeavor. In truth, therefore, that I may glean from your books some useful points that may successfully be applied in the area nearer to my sphere of interest, namely "how to make a million souls"--to paraphrase the title of your book--for Torah Judaism, which admittedly may be a little harder.
The approach and method to attain this goal, however, is not radically different. We cannot expect of every "poor" Jew to be instantly transformed into a "millionaire" Jew in terms of total commitment to Torah Yiddishkeit. It is a step-by-step process--"retailing," but with the clear understanding that, while concessions may be made to human nature on the road to a radical change, there can be no dilution or compromise insofar as the immutability of Torah and mitzvot. If, at any point in this gradual advancement, commitment falls short of the goal, the goal is unmistakenly clear. For the Torah, Torat Emet, is not subject to change. And our great teacher Maimonides declared it a basic principle of our Faith. This great "Guide for the Perplexed" (the title of one of his major works), and universally recognized doctor--of both the body and soul, was concerned not merely with the perplexed of his generation, but with the perplexed of all times, including, especially, those of our own day and age, when perplexities have perhaps never been greater.
It has been very encouraging to learn that you are utilizing your substantial influence and other resources in taking an active part to further the activities of Lubavitch to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit in your community. Our representatives there have informed me of your personal interest, which has found such eloquent expression in the text of your address to the Banquet as I see from the copy received by me. I am told that it made a strong impact on the audience. This is certainly proof that it was a case of "words coming from the heart, which penetrate the heart," to quote our Sages. And, if I may be permitted another quotation, our Sages succinctly expressed human ambition, which grows with accomplishment, in the adage "He who has 100 desires 200, and having attained 200--desires 400" (not merely a further increment of 100). If this is so in mundane matters, how much more so should it be in regard to eternal spiritual values.
May G-d grant that this should be so in your case, in your communal endeavors in behalf of the advancement of all matters of Torah. The utmost hatzlacha is assured where the endeavor is a total one, in terms of "body, soul, and financial resources," to quote our Sages again. In other words, not only through generous financial contributions, but also through personal involvement, including the recruiting of friends to the cause, by word and example, and in a way that all these efforts are permeated with inspiration and joy, reflecting all the spiritual capacities of one's soul.
With prayerful wishes and hatzlacha in all the above.
What is the significance of "Purim Katan"?
In a leap year such as this year, there are two Hebrew months of Adar. Marriages, births and deaths that took place in Adar of a non-leap year are all celebrated in the second Adar. The holiday of Purim, too, is celebrated in Adar II on the 14th of the month. However, it is customary to recognize the 14th of Adar I as "Purim Katan," or the Minor Purim. This is done by making meals of a festive nature, not delivering eulogies and not fasting.
Egypt and their subsequent 40-year sojourn in the desert, the Jewish people made a number of stops. These stops, called "masaot" in Hebrew, mean journeys, and they numbered 42. The 42 journeys were in preparation for the Jews' entry into the "good and ample land" of Israel.
The question has been raised as to why each stop was called individually a journey rather than the entire passage from Egypt to Israel considered one, long journey.
The Talmud tells us that in every generation each person must see himself as if he personally went out of Egypt. Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, taught that going out of Egypt was not a one-time matter, for it is, in actuality, a steady process of going out of exile. Therefore, each of the 42 stops that the Jews made were journeys out of Egypt, and journeys out of their own personal exiles and limitations. Too, they were journeys toward the ultimate fulfillment of self and the world which will take place with the arrival of Moshiach.
We recently celebrated the anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's 42 years of leadership. Perhaps, these 42 years are symbolic of the 42 journeys, journeys in preparation for the final redemption.
There is a famous saying that a journey of a thousands miles begins with one small step. Every mitzva that we do is one small step toward the fulfillment of ourselves and the world. Every mitzva takes us that much farther away from our personal and national Egypt, and that much closer to our personal, national and genuine "good and ample land."
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
After the death of his mother Devorah Leah, Menachem Mendel, who was to become the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, was raised by his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe. They formed a special bond, a relationship so strong that it was able to extend even beyond the bounds of space and time. For even after his passing, the Alter Rebbe revealed himself to his grandson in order to help him resolve certain difficult problems in halacha or other aspects of Torah study.
This phenonmenon occurred so regularly that Rabbi Menachem Mendel came to expect his grandfather to appear to him whenever he had the need of his guidance. Once, he was dealing with a difficult and perplexing problem and he had a strong desire for the help of his grandfather. Whereas usually the Alter Rebbe would be revealed to him, this time, try as he may, his grandfather failed to come. Several days passed and Rabbi Menachem Mendel again tried to reach the Alter Rebbe. He davened and meditated in the prescribed manner, but he was not rewarded with success. When, after waiting for a few days he failed to perceive the spirit of his grandfather, Rabbi Menachem Mendel attempted to bring down the holy soul by means of various Kabbalist methods. When even these strenuous efforts failed and he was deeply disappointed, he couldn't understand why the Alter Rebbe would not appear to him anymore.
One day, soon after these events, Rabbi Menachem Mendel went to the synagogue in Lubavitch to pray the early morning service. He took his talit and placed it over his head in preparation for the Shacharit prayer. Suddenly, in rushed the butcher of the town. He ran over to Rabbi Menachem Mendel and said: "Please forgive me, Rabbi, for interrupting you, but you know, this is market day and all the local farmers have brought their livestock into town to sell. Since many of my customers have not yet paid me, I don't have any money to buy animals, and unless I can buy them now, I won't have any livelihood this week, and the townspeople won't have any meat. Please, Rabbi, lend me the money just for one week, and I'll be able to repay you on the next market day."
The Rabbi looked up at the butcher, "My friend, please don't worry. Of course, you know I trust you completely, and I would be very happy to lend you whatever you need. But, you see, I have already put on my talit and begun my preparations for the morning prayer. I would like to finish my prayers, and then when I am done in two or three hours, I will go right home and get the money for you."
The butcher was relieved, but at the same time he was also disappointed, for the market was in full swing now, and who knew what kind of animals would be left when Rabbi Menachem Mendel finished his prayers in a couple of hours. Still, the butcher had no choice, so he thanked Rabbi Menachem Mendel, and made his way home, intending to return to the shul after the morning service.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel was about to wrap himself in the voluminous folds of his talit, when he suddenly realized what a mistake he had made. Why, how could the butcher wait several hours to purchase his animals! In that space of time it was possible that all the choice cows and sheep would be bought already and he would have lost his livelihood for an entire week. He quickly took off his talit and lay it on the table. Then he rushed out of the shul and headed for his house. His amazed household looked on as he wordlesly ran through the door, took his purse and losing no time, left again. He quickly made his way to the home of the butcher. The butcher was surprised to see the Rabbi standing at his door, money in hand. The man happily rushed out to the market and was able to complete all of his business successfully, purchasing good quality animals to supply the town of Lubavitch with meat. Rabbi Menachem Mendel returned to shul ready to pray with an easy heart, happy in the knowledge that he had helped the butcher in that crucial hour.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel picked up his talit, intending to resume where he had left off, when he suddenly perceived quite near him, the spirit of his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe spoke to him, saying, "My son, know that the mitzva which you just performed by helping a fellow Jew is even greater than your most elevated prayers. In the Upper Worlds as well as in the Lower Worlds the mitzva of ahavat Yisrael is precious." In the merit of this great mitzva Rabbi Menachem Mendel was again graced by his grandfather's spiritual presence.
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for ornament (Ex. 28:2)
The commandment to make special priestly clothes comes directly after the mitzva to prepare pure olive oil for the menora. Oil symbolizes the intellect, which should be kept pure and unsullied. The priestly garments symbolize the physical body, the "garment" of the soul, which should be utilized "for glory and ornament." The Torah teaches that purity of thought and cleanliness of body must go together.
I will dwell among the Children of Israel, and I will be to them G-d (Ex. 29:45)
Rabbi Henoch of Alexander once said : "When I was young I spent much time near a person whom everyone considered to be very great. But the longer I knew him, the more I noticed his faults and shortcomings. Later, when I was a little older, I traveled to Kotzsk and attached myself to the Rebbe there. I found the exact opposite to be true. The longer I was in his presence, the more I came to appreciate his greatness."
This is what is meant by the verse, "I will dwell among the Children of Israel and I will be to them G-d." The closer one draws near to G-dliness, the stronger the desire to cleave to Him.
An older chasid once posed a question to Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz, while he was still a young boy: "I'll give you this gold coin if you can tell me where G-d can be found," he said.
The youngster responded by saying, "I'll give you two gold coins if you can tell me where He is not found!"
Olive oil, pounded, for the lighting (Ex. 27:20)
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad, once said: "He who wants to reach the 'lighting,' the enlightenment to be found in the Torah, should work on himself by 'pounding' away at his ego and nullifying his sense of self. How? By always bearing in mind that the Torah he learns is none other than the wisdom and the will of G-d. That is the meaning of our supplication, 'Open my heart to Your Torah.'"
Someone once complained about the difficult economic and political plight of Russian Jewry to the renowned 19th-century Chasidic leader Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, Rabbi of Tzanz. Rabbi Halberstam replied: "Unfortunately I can't help you now. But before the Messianic Era, Russia will crumble into many pieces and then Moshiach will come!"