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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Isn't it wonderful that so many services are computerized over the telephone these days? You can pay bills by telephone and find out the balance on your bank accounts by telephone. You can call a big department store and be transferred to the correct department simply by listening to the menu when you make the initial call. And if you're calling a business with many employees and you don't know the correct extension, you can punch in the first three letters of the employee's name, be told the extension and immediately be connected.
There's only one problem with telephone computerization. When you need to speak to a real, live, breathing, thinking (?!) person, you usually have to wait indefinitely on the phone. "Please hold for our next available representative" has become the all-too-familiar refrain to many who call businesses, especially services and utilities, for help.
If you've had one of these frustrating experiences in the recent past (and who hasn't?), you'll be happy to know that there's no waiting or holding when it comes to getting through to G-d.
Each and every single person, from the youngest child to the most senior citizen, has equal access to the Big Boss. And it's as simple as can be, because you don't need any special equipment, nor do you need to call during "business hours." Every hour is a business hour for G-d and the only thing you need to get through is the desire to communicate with the Creator.
Another plus is that fame, position, success, and power have never made G-d unapproachable. And you won't be pushed off on some underling... you can always go directly to G-d.
One might wonder how so many billions of people can have such a personal relationship with G-d, but, as Jewish teachings explain, the matter is only dependent on each individual. Your ability to communicate with your Creator, to relate to your Divine Parent, to be intimate with your Beloved, depends on you and your desire.
This does not mean that the relationship is one-sided, though. For, when we work even slightly on our rapport with G-d, G-d responds infinitely, as Jewish teachings explain that G-d tells us, "Open for Me a space the size of the eye of a needle and I will open for you a space that an elephant can go through."
Lastly, there's nothing impersonal about our Divine relationship. Not excluding the fixed prayers that we say daily, we can and do turn to G-d for all our needs, great and small, in words that come from the heart, in the language of our choice, at the time we feel appropriate.
And even those fixed prayers, when studied and understood on a myriad of levels, can attain personal and subjective significance.
There is, however, one very major matter, concerning which G-d has made us "hold the line."
We have been holding, for the past two thousand years, for the commencement of the Redemption. It's time to stop being so patient and show G-d what we're really made of. It's time we take advantage of our very personal relationship with G-d, and during our own private communication as well as during the fixed prayers, we demand of G-d that He make good on his ancient promise to finally bring peace, harmony, health, prosperity, and G-dly light to a world that is so desperately in need of Moshiach. Surely if we are sincere we will not have to be put "on hold" much longer.
According to the Talmud, the sin of the Tree of Knowledge and Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden occurred on the very same day they were created -- Friday, the sixth day of Creation.
In this context, G-d's declaration in this week's Torah portion, Bereishis, is therefore surprising: "And G-d saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." How can it be that G-d considers sin and punishment not only good, but "very good"?
The comments of our Sages on these words only add to our perplexity. " 'Good'-- this refers to the Good Inclination. `Very' -- this refers to the Evil Inclination."
" `Good' is the Angel of Life; `very' is the Angel of Death." What were our Rabbis trying to tell us?
In order to understand, we need to look at why G-d, the epitome of good, created evil in the first place.
As the Evil Inclination, the Angel of Death, and the Serpent were all created by G-d, we must therefore conclude that the inner essence of these creations is also good, even though their external appearance seems otherwise.
And what exactly is this inner good? In essence, it is the power of teshuva -- the ability to return to G-d in repentance. For without evil, the phenomenon of teshuva could not exist. Without an Evil Inclination inciting us to disobey, we could never achieve the higher spiritual heights that are attained through teshuva, a process by which even our "deliberate sins are transformed into merits."
This, then, is the meaning of G-d's pronouncement on that first Friday: everything that He created is part of the Divine plan for the world to attain fulfillment. Endowing man with an Evil Inclination allows him to achieve an even higher level of perfection than that with which he was created.
Of course, sin itself is wicked, for it is contradictory to G-d's will. But after a person has sinned and done teshuva, he is on a higher level than a righteous person who has never transgressed! This concept is known as the "advantage of the light" that comes from the very depths of the darkness.
This principle contains an eternal message for us in our daily lives: If a person should claim that he is not responsible for his misdeeds, G-d having created him with an inborn inclination and propensity for sin, he should remember that the sole reason for the creation of the Evil Inclination is that it lead us to a higher rung in our service of G-d!
Thus it is through the temporary descent into sin and our subsequent teshuva that we reach the level of "very good" -- the objective of all of Creation, and its ultimate perfection which will take place in the Messianic Era, speedily in our day.
Adapted from Sefer HaSichot of the Rebbe, 5749 Vol. I
Rabbi Yisrael Goldstein
On August 7, 1994, Rabbi Yisrael Goldstein, an emissary of the Rebbe in Rancho Bernado (a suburb of S. Diego), California, received a phone call from Mr. Ed Altman telling him of his longtime friend, Mr. Ira Schube, who, at age 49, just had part of his leg amputated at Memorial Hospital in Las Vegas. Sadly, his kidneys were rapidly failing as a result of diabetes. Mr. Schube had been fighting this illness for more than ten years. He could no longer handle the pain and was giving up by refusing to eat. Mr. Altman was told by Mr. Schube's family that they had resigned themselves to the fact that it would be just a matter of days.
Mr. Altman was unable to accept his dying friend's prognosis and asked Rabbi Goldstein to visit him. Rabbi Goldstein and Rabbi Fradkin (the Executive Director of Chabad of S. Diego), arrived at the hospital in Las Vegas that evening to find Ira limp and speechless as he had not eaten for days. Rabbi Goldstein spent hours with Ira, explaining to him the meaning of life and faith in G-d. Rabbi Goldstein took out a dollar bill that was given to him by the Rebbe with the words, "Blessing and success" and gave it to Ira.
"Ira, this has been blessed by a great Rabbi, a great tzadik. But remember, G-d listens to everyone." After two and one-half hours, they left Ira's bedside.
On August 9th, Marlene Schube called Mr. Altman saying, "Ed, Ira ate for the first time in two weeks! The rabbis did something!" A couple of days later, Marlene called again: "Ira is sitting up! He's not fighting the doctors anymore!" By the 15th, Ira was standing up on his own; his strength was returning. Ira was discharged from the hospital to a convalescent home. Although still on dialysis, Ira spoke of faith and hope to the medical staff, who were amazed at his turn-around.
In his daily contact with Rabbi Goldstein, Ira said that he felt that G-d had listened to his prayers.
For Ira, continuing the rest of his life on dialysis was a bleak future; he would need a kidney transplant. So Rabbi Goldstein contacted Dr. Lynn Scott from the University Hospital Transplant Center, only to be told that Ira was not a candidate for a transplant.
The doctor said: "It's a lost cause. Ira is not interested. We have tried with him for months. It's a closed issue." Rabbi Goldstein met with Ira again and taught him how to don tefilin and pray daily.
Soon, Ira decided to go for the transplant. He met with Dr. Scott in early September and enrolled in the transplant program. While going through painful and rigorous tests in September and October, Ira showed incredible resilience and perseverance. During that period of time, he attended synagogue services regularly. No one at the dialysis center could believe that this was the same Ira!
In early December, Rabbi Goldstein received a fax from Dr. Scott: "Rabbi, I don't know what you have done or said to Ira Schube, but I have never in my whole medical career seen a patient make a turnaround like that."
The next task was the biggest one: finding a perfect match for Ira. He was put on a waiting list, given a pager, and told it could take two years to find a match.
Rabbi Goldstein asked Dr. Scott to provide him with Ira's blood and tissue match so that he could start a search among synagogues, congregations and medical centers throughout the United States. Even overseas groups were contacted by the rabbi in the hopes of locating a kidney for Ira.
While on a trip to Israel, Rabbi Goldstein received a phone call from Ed Altman saying that Ira was very concerned about receiving a kidney and asked that the rabbi go to the Western Wall and pray for Ira. The following morning Rabbi Goldstein went to the Wall and prayed to G-d for the welfare of his congregation, and specifically for Ira. That afternoon he boarded a plane back to S. Diego.
While on a five-hour layover in New York, Rabbi Goldstein received an emotional, tearful message from Dr. Scott: "Rabbi, this is Dr. Lynn Scott from the University Medical Center in Las Vegas. You will not believe this! Mr. Ira Schube has just received a kidney transplant! By the time you receive this message, he will have a brand new kidney." The rabbi called the University Medical Center in Las Vegas and discussed the wonderful news with the doctor. Ira was in the recovery room!
A jubilant Rabbi Goldstein boarded the plane for S. Diego. After circling the airport in S. Diego, the pilot announced that due to extremely bad weather conditions, they would have to be rerouted to Los Angeles. On the way to Los Angeles, the pilot announced they were being diverted to Las Vegas. Rabbi Goldstein, realizing that none of this was by "accident," disembarked. He made his way to a hotel and there found Mr. Altman who was in Las Vegas for a Jeweler's convention! Together they grabbed a taxi and headed for the hospital.
When Rabbi Goldstein went in to see Ira he was still groggy from the anesthesia. But Ira smiled from ear to ear and with tears said, "Rabbi Goldstein, blessed are you of the L-rd who has created miracles and has done good and kindness."
The next morning, Rabbi Goldstein went to see Ira again. Ira was discharged from the hospital a mere seven days later; a first in the history of University Medical Center. "Never in my medical career have I ever witnessed such a quick recovery and turn-around," said Dr. Scott. Ira Schube is now walking, driving, and without dialysis; and his kidney is operating just as new.
Was it the prayer at the Wall, the dollar from the Rebbe, the prayer in the hospital room, Ira, Rabbi Goldstein, or Ed Altman that brought about this miracle? It can be summed up in one word... Faith.
The unequivocal belief in G-d, the Creator of the World, who has bestowed upon us His blessings, His love, and His compassion.
Give charity on your wedding day
There is a custom to give charity on the day of one's wedding. As this day is the beginning of one's new life (bride and groom are considered like newborns on their wedding day) it is appropriate to do as many mitzvot as possible, including and especially, giving charity. Giving generously to charity on the day of one's wedding increases the joy and happiness of the occasion and emphasizes that the wedding is a special occasion for the entire Jewish people.
(The Rebbe, 27 Tishrei, 5752)
ONE JEW TO ANOTHER
18th of Cheshvan, 5723 (1963)
In addition to my letter of yesterday's date, which was confined to a purely scientific discussion, it is this second letter which will express my real approach to you, the Torah approach of one Jew to another.
It is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you that the basic principle of the Jewish way of life is b'chol d'rachecha dei'eihu -- "Know Him in all your ways." This principle has been enunciated in the Talmud, early and late Responsa, until it has been formulated as a psak-din [a Jewish legal ruling] in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, sec. 231).
It is there explained that it is the life's mission of every Jew to acknowledge G-d even in the simplest pursuits of daily life such as eating, drinking, etc. How much more does this apply to the more essential aspects of one's life, especially in the case of one who has been endowed with special qualifications, knowledge, and distinction, etc., all of which place him in a position of influence. These are gifts of Divine Providence, which the Jew is duty-bound to consecrate to the service of G-d, to disseminate G-dliness through the Torah and mitzvot to the utmost of his ability in compliance of the commandments of hochei-ach tochiyach ["you shall surely rebuke"] and v'ahavta l'reicha kamocha [love your fellow as yourself] -- the great principle of our Torah.
And since, according to the Torah view, everything in the world is ordered and measured and nothing is superfluous, the duty and zechut [merit] of every Jew are commensurate with his capacities and opportunities.
I have only seen you briefly, but I have formed some impressions which have been augmented by your book, the only one I have been able to obtain so far, and by what I heard about you and your station in the academic world and otherwise.
I have no doubt that you have unusual opportunities to disseminate the Torah and mitzvot among wide circles of Jewish scientists, students, and laymen.
In recent years, especially in the USA, we have witnessed two tendencies among Jewish youth, striving in opposite directions.
On the one hand there has been an intensified quest for the truth, a yearning for closer identification with our people and our eternal values. At the other extreme, the pull of assimilation, intermarriage, etc. has been gaining, too. Aside from the colleges and universities in a few major cities, the situation on campuses in regard to Kashrut, Shabbat, etc. is too painful to contemplate, not to mention the widespread confusion and misconceptions in respect to the most basic tenets of our faith.
If the first of the above-mentioned tendencies were to be stimulated and fully utilized at this auspicious time, the chances are very good that it would gain momentum and grow wider, and in time, also deeper. If, as our Sages say, to save one soul is to save a whole world, how much more so to save so many lost Jewish souls.
I want to express to you my fervent hope -- and, if necessary, my urgent appeal also -- that you put the whole weight of your prestige as a leading scientist behind a resolute effort in the cause of Torah and mitzvot.
I am informed that you have been elected this year's President of the Organization of Jewish Orthodox scientists. You could set the pace for the entire organization, individually and collectively, to follow your example, and set in motion a "chain reaction."
I will conclude with a well-known saying of the Baal Shem Tov, which I frequently heard from my father-in-law of saintly memory. "G-d sends down to earth a soul, which is truly a part of G-dliness, to sojourn, in a body for seventy-eighty years on this earth, in order to render a favor to another Jew, materially or spiritually."
If a single favor justifies a whole earthbound life, how great is the zechut of a consistent effort to help a fellow-Jew, and many of them, to find their true way, the way of the Torah and mitzvot in their day- to-day living.
May G-d grant that your words coming from the heart will penetrate the many hearts which are ready and eager to respond, and may G-d grant you success in this as in all your other endeavors for yourself and your family.
Two new children's books from HaChai Publications (Brooklyn, NY) teach children how to be happy with what they have and how to share.
MESSES OF DRESSES
"Two little dresses were all Gittel had,
"But she always felt happy and never felt sad.
"Then one day a new friend arrived at her door,
"With dresses and dresses and dresses galore!
When those messes of dresses take over Gittel's house, she learns that having more isn't always better. This delightfully illustrated book teaches the important lesson of our Sages, "Who is rich? He who is satisfied with what he has!"
AS BIG AS AN EGG
Bubbe Hinda stands near the bread-line collecting food for the sick. During the war, with bread so scarce, who could blame Chaim for wanting to eat his whole little loaf himself? It takes Bubbe Hinda's mysterious helper to show Chaim the importance of giving to others.
Let us read carefully and take to heart the words that the Rebbe said this Shabbat four years ago:
"Throughout the centuries, the Jews have been recognized as 'the chosen people.' In the world at large, and in particular, in the United States, the Jews are allowed to carry out their service of G-d without persecution, indeed, amidst rest and prosperity.
"Furthermore, the Government offers assistance to the Jews here and those in the land of Israel, enabling them to progress in the service of G-d.
"This has been made possible by the activities of many of the Torah Sages in their relations with the gentiles, including the activities of the Chabad Rebbes.
"Based on the above, we can understand how inappropriate are the statements which certain Rabbis have recently made that the Jews must comply with the demands of the gentile nations in regard to the Holy Land. These statements continue, stating that, heaven forbid, such compliance is necessary because the existence of the Jews in the Holy Land is dependent on the kindness of the gentile nations.
"The principle, 'Do not challenge the nations' is not relevant in this context, for this principle can never override an explicit teaching of Torah law.
"In this instance, we are clearly bound by the decision of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 329) that if gentiles threaten to attack a Jewish settlement we must take up arms and defend ourselves against them. And if that settlement is located on the border, we must take up arms against them even if they are demanding 'straw and hay' for by acquiescing to them, we 'open the entire land to them.'
"Since such statements were made, it is obvious that greater emphasis has to be placed on recognizing the uniqueness of the Jewish people and emphasis on their connection to the Holy Land... And this will lead to the ultimate wonder in this year of wonders, the coming of the Redemption. And then we will proceed together with the entire Jewish people to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem, and to the Holy Temple.
Six days of Creation
G-d created the world to exist for six thousand years, each millennium corresponding to one day of Creation. The seventh millennium, the Messianic era, corresponds to Shabbat.
Just as each day of Creation was divided into night and day, "And there was evening and there was morning, one day," so too does each millennium consist of a "night" and a "day": the first five hundred years are "night"; the second five hundred years are considered "day."
According to this calculation, the "morning" of the sixth millennium began with the Jewish year 5500 (some 256 years ago).
Exile is compared to night; redemption to the day. As 5756 years have now elapsed since the world was created, it is already late afternoon; thus we can already perceive the light of the ultimate Redemption with Moshiach.
In the beginning G-d created (Gen. 1:1)
The "beginning" and foundation of all knowledge is the understanding that "G-d created the heavens and the earth" -- acknowledging the Creator Who not only made the world but actively involves Himself in its existence. This first principle is the basis upon which all others are predicated.
(Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov)
All His work which G-d created to make (Gen. 2:3)
Throughout history every generation has made its own discoveries and innovations, but this ability to innovate is not "new," having been created by G-d during the Six Days of Creation.
This is the meaning of the words "to make": G-d invested His world with certain inherent powers which would evolve and be developed over time.
And man was not there to work the ground (Gen. 2:5)
A person must not put all of himself into working the ground; only his hands should be involved. Investing too much of oneself into this area is a sure sign that an individual has forfeited some of that which makes him "man": "and man was not there."
The simple village inn was full of people, but as soon as the well- dressed, distinguished looking man entered the large room, all eyes turned to him. It was not only his unusual appearance which attracted attention, but also the look of apprehension which could be seen in his eyes.
One of the wealthiest men in his city, he had just completed a series of extremely profitable business deals which had taken most of the summer. After a few more stops, he would finally return home, bearing the fruits of all his labor -- a purse containing five hundred gold coins. But the source of his unease was how to complete his successful journey without coming to a bad end at the hand of some sharp-eyed thief.
The hostel guests soon forgot the new arrival; only one person still stealthily eyed him, and that was the innkeeper himself. Suddenly, the merchant rose and with a deliberate step, walked outside. The innkeeper followed a few paces behind, h is curiosity egging him on.
After walking several dozen paces, the merchant stopped at the edge of a wood. The innkeeper hid behind a large oak and watched as the merchant dug a small hole, buried his money purse in its depths and smoothed the surface. He seemed satisfied with his work and paused to lean against the tree's rough trunk, his face now in repose as if contemplating a deed well done. Then he calmly returned to the hubbub of the crowded inn.
No sooner had the wealthy gentleman left, than the innkeeper emerged from the shadows and opened the newly dug repository of the money purse. He seized the heavy purse and hid it in his apartment. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting merchant continued his journey, never doubting that his ruse had succeeded and his money was safe.
Two weeks later, having completed his final negotiations, the merchant returned to retrieve his money. He made his way to the back of the inn and counted his paces to the edge of the forest. Recognizing the spot, he began to dig, but was soon overcome with a rising sense of panic. The mound of earth was growing too large, and yet the purse was not there. Many minutes passed in feverish digging, as the merchant's panic turned to a cold realization that his fortune of gold was not going to be found. He had to face the truth -- the money had been stolen. The very shock of it was like a physical pain and his breath came with difficulty.
After a few moments, though, his thoughts began to clear, and he began to recollect the scene in the inn just before he hid the gold. Yes, he dimly recalled the way the innkeeper had surreptitiously surveyed his belongings when registering his room. Yes, it could only have been the innkeeper; no one else had paid that much attention to him. His quick mind devised a plan that would surely snare the thief.
The merchant approached the innkeeper with a smile on his face and said: "My friend, I have been told that you are a very intelligent man, and I wish to benefit from your advice." The innkeeper was put at ease by the merchant's friendliness; he obviously had no suspicions.
"I know I can count on your confidentiality, for the matter which I am about to relate to you must be kept secret. As you know, I am a businessman, and a successful one at that. At times, I am forced to carry on my person a great sum of money , and at present, I have two full purses of gold: one containing eight hundred coins and the other containing five hundred."
The innkeeper listened with rapt interest, as the merchant's voice became all but inaudible: "Two weeks ago, I hid one of them where it will never be found, but I wonder what I should do with the second one which contains even more money than the first."
The innkeeper straightened up his shoulder and replied, "Well, sir, you are a stranger here, with no close friend whom you can trust. If I were you, I would hide this purse in the same place that I hid the first, since it was such a safe place."
After receiving that answer, the merchant had no doubt that he had found the thief. He pretended to think over the suggestion and then left the inn.
The innkeeper hadn't much time, for when the merchant returned to the hiding place, he would see that the purse was missing. He hurried to the woods and reburied the stolen purse. After all, he might be risking five hundred coins, but he would soon be gaining another eight hundred. It seemed quite a good investment.
The merchant waited a safe length of time before starting off for the woods. Uttering a prayer to the One Above, he began digging in the same spot. It didn't take long before he had retrieved the purse full of gold coins. He was overcome with gratitude, and with a full heart, he recited the blessing, "Praised by He who restores lost objects to their rightful owner."
According to Maimonides, the rectification of the world in the times of Moshiach will involve two stages. Initially, "Moshiach will fight the wars of Hashem and conquer all the surrounding nations. Only then will they accept him: "He will then gear the entire world toward serving Hashem together."
(The Days of Moshiach)