Keeping in Touch Vol 2 | Jews And Judaism | Jewish Behaviour And Experience

‫בסייר‬

**Keeping In Touch
TORAH THOUGHTS INSPIRED BY T H E WORKS OF T H E LUBAVITCHER R E B B E , RABBI MENACHEM M . SCHNEERSON

Volume II

Adapted by Eliyahu Touger

Published and Copyrighted by

Sichos In English In Touch. A Division of Fax A Sicha
788 Eastern Parkway • Brooklyn, N.Y. 11213
5762 • 2002

‫הועתק והוכנס לאינטרנט‬

www.hebrewbooks.org
‫ע י חיים ת ש ם ז‬

Keeping In Touch Volume II
Published and Copyrighted © by

Sichos In English In Touch. A Division of Fax A Sicha
7 8 8 Eastern Parkway • B r o o k l y n , N . Y . 11213

Tel. (718) 778-5436

A l l rights reserved. N o part o f this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including photo-copying, without permission in writing from the copyright holder or the publisher.

ISBN 1-8814-0063-8

First Printing 5762 Second Printing 5767

2002 2006

‫״‬ ‫״‬

Table of Contents

Publisher's F o r e w o r d E d i t o r ' s Preface Bereishis Shmos Vayikra Bamidbar Devarim Festivals

v ix 1 41 75 101 131 162

Publishers Foreword
T h i s b o o k was w r i t t e n for people w h o w i l l probably n o t l o o k for i t . There's Brad, a lawyer i n M a n h a t t a n , Joan, a consultant with a

computer n e t w o r k i n g f i r m i n C a l i f o r n i a , P h i l , an advertising executive i n C o n n e c t i c u t , and countless others. W e k n o w t h e m all t o o well. A t one p o i n t i n their lives, almost all o f t h e m sought contact w i t h some sort o f Jewish involvement, and Judaism did not come t h r o u g h for t h e m . I t wasn't meaningful,

exciting, and j o y f u l enough t o m a i n t a i n their interest. T h e y can't be blamed for n o t c o n t i n u i n g t o identify as Jews; they're being honest. H a d Judaism presented a message that they felt was viable, they w o u l d have listened. Brad, Joan, and P h i l have n o t closed their doors. A l t h o u g h they may be involved w i t h other pursuits, they are s t i l l w i l l i n g t o listen. I f Judaism presents a message that they can relate t o , they w i l l respond. I t is for t h e m that this b o o k was w r i t t e n . But we should n o t set up differences between "we" and "they."

F i r s t o f all, n o one s h o u l d ever draw lines o f demarcation separating one Jew f r o m another. B u t more i m p o r t a n t , t o inspire them, we have t o inspire ourselves. H a d they seen more vibrant, purposeful, happy Jews, their feelings o f d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t and alienation w o u l d never have arisen. Reaching o u t t o them, therefore, m u s t involve reaching i n t o ourselves. W e must l o o k inside — i n t o our core being and i n t o the core o f our T o r a h heritage. W e hope the b o o k serves this purpose as well.

V

The Book's Structure
T h e b o o k centers o n the weekly T o r a h readings, for they convey lessons o f timeless relevance. Year after year, century after century, a five-year-old c h i l d and a venerable sage have studied the same T o r a h passages, and year after year they have b o t h discovered depth and meaning. T h i s is an o n g o i n g process. T h e t r u t h s that have generated happiness, depth, and purpose for our people for centuries continue t o do so at present. T h e very w o r d " T o r a h " relates t o the H e b r e w w o r d horaah,
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meaning " i n s t r u c t i o n " or "guidance." G - d gave us the T o r a h t o guide us i n our day-to-day lives. I n that vein, every weekly p o r t i o n can be seen as a b u l l e t i n o f immediate relevance containing new insights t o help us advance i n our D i v i n e service. We have prefaced these lessons w i t h stories, i l l u s t r a t i n g h o w the not merely theoretical constructs, but truths that are are

ideas are

expressed i n actual experience. Moreover, intellectual concepts

meant t o be grasped and understood, t o f i t i n t o the pockets o f our m i n d s , as i t were. A story, by contrast, conveys a m u l t i - d i m e n s i o n a l message that embraces us and allows us t o experience the concept i n heart as w e l l as i n m i n d . After each o f the lessons f r o m the T o r a h readings, we draw a connection t o Mashiach and the R e d e m p t i o n that he w i l l initiate, for the c o m i n g o f Mashiach is the fundamental goal o f our existence. Our G-d's w o r l d is essentially good. I t is — at least i n p o t e n t i a l —

dwelling. I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , this p o t e n t i a l w i l l into actuality and G-d's presence w i l l permeate every

blossom

dimension o f our environment. As is explained i n several places i n the book, the era o f the

R e d e m p t i o n is n o t a dream o f a f a r - o f f future, b u t a reality that is

1.

This is the second volume o f Keeping In Touch. T h e first volume was somewhat smaller, containing only insights on the Torah reading and on festivals and d i d not include the introductory stories or related ideas concerning Mashiach that have been added here. I n keeping w i t h our Sages' directive (Berachos 28a, et al): "One should always advance i n holy matters," and in order to give our readers a more complete picture o f the guidance the Torah offers, we made these additions.

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becoming manifest i n our lives at present. T o heighten our awareness t o the shifting paradigms that characterize our society, we h i g h l i g h t Mashiach's c o m i n g i n each o f the readings. S i m i l a r l y , we included readings that focus o n the Jewish festivals and fast days, for these are far more than mere dates o n the calendar. Each one o f t h e m p r o m p t s a different mode o f s p i r i t u a l activity, beckoning us t o explore and experience inner g r o w t h and development i n a unique way.

What is the In Touch
H o w should we respond t o loss? I t ' s almost natural t o d r i f t i n t o a powerless state o f grief. After all, the anguish is great and hard t o overcome. A proactive person, however, endeavors t o t r a n s f o r m the pain i n t o a positive force leading t o g r o w t h and development. O n the 3 r d o f T a m m u z 5 7 5 4 (June 12, 1 9 9 4 ) , the Lubavitch c o m m u n i t y , w o r l d Jewry, and indeed, m a n k i n d as a whole felt pangs o f pain as i t heard o f the passing o f the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M . Schneerson. A l l o f the m i l l i o n s whose Rabbi

lives very

touched by the Rebbe felt the magnitude o f the loss. B u t those w h o had assimilated the Rebbe's teachings refused t o remain m i r e d i n sadness. Rather than bemoan the darkness, they w o u l d create l i g h t . Instead, o f lamenting the loss o f the Rebbe, they w o u l d spread his insights o u t w a r d . T h i s spirit m o t i v a t e d a small group o f people t o begin a bi-weekly fax service sharing the Rebbe's teachings business, legislators, and professionals w i t h a cross-section of

i n the

legal, medical, and

entertainment fields. T h e overwhelming majority o f the recipients d i d n o t identify as Lubavitcher chassidim. By and large, they were Jewish, b u t they were also contemporary Americans and they wanted t o hear a message of ideals and values that both dimensions of their

personalities c o u l d accept w i t h integrity. Some o f the recipients were non-Jews, b u t they understood that m o r a l principles and s p i r i t u a l

t r u t h s were i m p o r t a n t i n m o l d i n g the face o f our society. T h e y became the core o f the I n T o u c h Family.

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Every other week, they received by facsimile, a message sharing the Rebbe's teachings o n the weekly T o r a h readings and the Jewish Eliyahu

holidays, w r i t t e n by the celebrated author and translator, T o u g e r and edited by Y o s s i M a l a m u d .

T h e I n T o u c h family has g r o w n rapidly since its i n c e p t i o n i n 1 9 9 4 and is currently circulated i n over 12 countries and 150 cities w o r l d w i d e w i t h o u t cost or o b l i g a t i o n t o anyone w h o desires t o be included among the recipients. T o keep I n T o u c h and receive this free T o r a h fax, send us a fax ( o n company letterhead i f applicable) w i t h y o u r name, address, telephone and fax number t o ( 7 1 8 ) 9 5 3 - 3 0 0 0 .

Sichos I n E n g l i s h Crown Heights, N . Y . Yud Aleph Nissan, 5762

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Editors Preface
Perhaps today more than ever before, each one o f us feels a centrifugal force scattering our energies o u t w a r d among many diverse types o f c o m m i t m e n t s . O u r workplaces, our families, our investments, and our diversions a l l make their demands u p o n us. By and large, we are happy w i t h what we are d o i n g ; i f we weren't, we w o u l d n ' t continue d o i n g i t . We'd simply choose other options. But despite these different

involvements, we're l o o k i n g for something more. W e ' r e n o t l o o k i n g for just another activity or possession. W h a t we want is something internal, something that gives depth and meaning t o what we're d o i n g , something that prompts the satisfaction and

happiness that w e l l up f r o m w i t h i n when we k n o w that life has value and purpose. F o r centuries, our people have f o u n d that satisfaction i n the Torah. I n our material environment there are certain i m m u t a b l e laws, principles that are embedded i n the fabric o f nature. A s k any farmer and he w i l l explain t o y o u that there are certain "laws o f the f a r m " that he cannot violate. I f he wants a viable crop, he m u s t c o n f o r m t o t h e m . T h e r e are also laws o f the soul, principles equally valid and equally embedded i n t o the fabric o f our lives. These laws govern our

relationships w i t h G - d and our relationships w i t h our fellow man. These are the T o r a h insights that we should reach for.

A Story and Its Analogue
Once R . Shmuel, the f o u r t h Lubavitcher Rebbe, emerged f r o m his study after h o l d i n g private meetings w i t h his followers. H i s attendant was surprised t o see the Rebbe d r i p p i n g w i t h sweat. T h e Rebbe had sat w i t h about f i f t y individuals i n a l i t t l e b i t less than t w o hours, so the

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attendant could understand that the Rebbe w o u l d be exhausted, b u t w h y the rivers o f perspiration? W h e n he questioned the Rebbe about i t , R . S h m u e l explained: " W h e n a person comes i n t o m y r o o m w i t h a d i f f i c u l t y , I realize that he is l o o k i n g at the w o r l d differently than I do. T o understand the way he faces his p r o b l e m , I can't sit back and abstractly consider the issue; I have t o p u t myself i n his clothes. B u t after I p u t myself i n his clothes, I w o n ' t be able t o focus o n the issues objectively. T o do that, I m u s t r e t u r n t o m y o w n clothes and f i n d appropriate advice. A n d t h e n t o convey the message t o the listener, I must enter i n t o his clothes again. I f y o u switched c l o t h i n g 150 times i n less than t w o hours, y o u w o u l d also be sweating." I n this book, we have t r i e d t o f o l l o w a similar process, t a k i n g the inner dimension o f the T o r a h ' s insights and c l o t h i n g t h e m t o f i t the intellectual and e m o t i o n a l tastes o f contemporary A m e r i c a .
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A Man and a Mission
A l t h o u g h the readings i n this b o o k are o r i g i n a l compositions, they are all based o n the insights o f the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R a b b i M . M . Schneerson. There are many people w h o describe the Rebbe in

superlatives: a T o r a h genius, a visionary leader, a miracle worker, or simply a caring and sympathetic listener and counselor. W h a t draws us most is the quality that can only be described by the t e r m "Rebbe" — a limitless, unique energy and v i t a l i t y that comes f r o m the G-dliness w h i c h we all possess and w h i c h the Rebbe revealed i n a distinctive way.

2.

W e have also tried to have the text appear as "easy reading," even in its external form. For that reason, although the text makes copious references to Biblical verses and Talmudic passages, those sources were not cited, lest the text appear to technical i n nature. Similarly, when referring to Rabbinic leaders, rather than enter the quagmire of trying to determine what is the proper title Rav, Rebbe, Reb, or Rabbi, we have employed a uniform R . W e hope that single abbreviation w i l l save our readers the difficulty o f questioning why a particular sage was described as Rebbe, this as Rav, and the third as Reb.

X

T h e Rebbe w o u l d cry and laugh. W h a t made h i m special, however, was what he cried and laughed about. C o m i n g i n t o his presence, y o u became aware that he lived for a goal beyond himself. A n d more i m p o r t a n t l y , he was able t o awaken the spark inside each o f us w h i c h likewise seeks t o live for goals beyond ourselves. W h i l e fully i n t o u c h w i t h the present, he also gave us a promise and a picture o f a deeper and more meaningful future. W h i l e i n contact w i t h the Rebbe, the peace, love, and s p i r i t u a l awareness that w i l l characterize the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n are n o t just abstract goals. You understand them, because y o u relate t o a person w h o had

anticipated and foreseen t h e m i n his day-to-day life. H e gives others tools t o share i n this awareness, and i n that way, endows sampled them with a sense o f mission and purpose. wants For, having than to

these qualities, a person

n o t h i n g more

communicate t h e m further and i n that way, help b r i n g the w o r l d t o its ultimate f u l f i l l m e n t . T h a t is our i n t e n t i n p u b l i s h i n g this volume: t o allow the waves o f insight the Rebbe generated t o ripple further t h r o u g h o u t our society and by d o i n g so, empower us all t o draw o n the self-generating spark o f G - d l y fire f o u n d w i t h i n our hearts and w i t h i n the T o r a h .

In Thanks
T o communicate w i t h others, a person m u s t go beyond his o w n subjectivity. F o r that reason, the I n T o u c h is a team effort, involving the c o n t r i b u t i o n s o f many different individuals. W a r r a n t i n g special r e c o g n i t i o n are m y mother, Rosalynn M a l a m u d , for her continuous help i n e d i t i n g a p r o d u c t w o r t h y o f t a k i n g pride i n , and m y wife, Kayli, w h o has made the I n T o u c h family part o f our family, sacrificing her t i m e — and bearing w i t h m y late hours — t o make sure that each person o n our list receives their bi-weekly fax o n t i m e . A n d special thanks t o R o c h e l Chanah R i v e n w h o labored over the e d i t i n g o f the text, h a r m o n i z i n g chassidic ideas w i t h elegant w o r d i n g . Also, I w o u l d like t o thank y o u , our readers. Y o u r encouragement, questions, and occasional corrections makes us the I n T o u c h an

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interactive

dynamic, where y o u r response p r o m p t s

us

to

deeper

understanding. W i t h i n the chassidic c o m m u n i t y , i t is n o t accepted for a chassid t o thank his Rebbe. Nevertheless, i t is impossible t o conclude w i t h o u t m e n t i o n i n g his continuous c o n t r i b u t i o n . T h e I n T o u c h is n o t merely "established i n his m e m o r y " or "a perpetuation o f his teachings." Instead, i t is our way o f staying I n T o u c h w i t h h i m and the mission he gave us: t o prepare ourselves and the w o r l d at large for the c o m i n g o f Mashiach, n o t as a dream o f the future, b u t N o w . Yossi Malamud Fax A Sicha Crown Heights, N . Y . Yud Aleph Nissan, 5762

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Shortly after the Rebbe assumed leadership o f the chassidic movement, Charles Raddock, a secular Jewish historian and journalist, asked him: " H o w can chassidism function on the heathen soil o f my America?" and "What answers does chassidism have for my own lost, 'atomic' generation?" The Rebbe replied: "America is not lost. Americans sincerely crave to know, to learn. They are inquisitive. The American mind is simple, honest, and direct. This is good, tillable soil for chassidism, or for just plain Judaism." "Where a person starts is not important. Ideally, a person should fulfill all the responsibilities Judaism places upon him," the Rebbe would often say. "But at the same time, we welcome doing even a part." And the Rebbe taught his followers to reach out and communicate w i t h others, confident that the depth o f awareness and spiritual consciousness the chassidic lifestyle spawned would have a message to which every Jew can relate.

Parshas Bereishis
T h i s week's T o r a h reading recounts the narrative o f creation; h o w G - d b r o u g h t the w o r l d i n t o being f r o m absolute nothingness. T h i s is n o t merely a story o f the past. Firstly, o n an mystic level, creation is a continuous process. Since the w o r l d was b r o u g h t i n t o being from

absolute nothingness, nothingness is its true nature. T h e fact that i t exists comes only as a result o f G-d's kindness. H e brings the entire cosmos i n t o being every m o m e n t , and every m o m e n t o f existence is a reenactment o f the very first m o m e n t o f creation. B u t beyond the abstract, this concept provides a practical lesson i n the personal w o r l d o f every individual. Parshas Bereishis is an experience o f renewal. Every person has the chance t o recreate h i m s e l f anew, t o establish a new o u t l o o k o n the way he approaches life experience. I n that vein, our Rabbis said: " T h e stance w h i c h a person adopts o n Shabbos Bereishis determines the manner i n w h i c h he w i l l proceed

t h r o u g h o u t the c o m i n g year." 1

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

O u r Sages teach: " G - d l o o k e d i n t o the T o r a h and created the w o r l d . M a n looks i n t o the T o r a h and maintains the w o r l d . " The

T o r a h serves as the b l u e p r i n t for creation; i t is the treasure store for the principles and patterns o n w h i c h our existence is based. Similarly, i n the personal sense, the T o r a h can provide us w i t h guidelines for our i n d i v i d u a l process o f renewal. Each one o f us can use the T o r a h t o help us redefine our existence and develop a new means o f relating t o our environment. W h e n we study a p o r t i o n o f the T o r a h ' s w i s d o m , be i t a law, a story, or a p h i l o s o p h i c a l or ethical concept, we are n o t just collecting i n f o r m a t i o n . Instead, we are u n i t i n g our m i n d s w i t h G-d's w i s d o m . H e is the author o f those laws, stories, and concepts. T h r o u g h this study, we are aligning — our minds — and through them, our entire

personalities desires.

t o f u n c t i o n i n accordance w i t h G-d's w i s d o m and

F o r learning brings about, and o n a deeper level, is i t s e l f a change i n behavior. Just as learning t o talk gives a c h i l d new tools for selfexpression, learning such wisdom gives a person new tools for

appreciating the nature o f the w o r l d we live i n and relating t o the people and situations around h i m . I n this manner, s t u d y i n g the T o r a h gives a person the means t o go beyond his i n d i v i d u a l subjectivity. H e becomes less concerned with

what he wants and what he t h i n k s is correct, and instead, focuses o n what is true. H e begins d e f i n i n g the way he responds t o others

according t o the objective standards that G - d has laid d o w n . O u r o w n horizons o f g r o w t h are l i m i t e d , for o n his own, a person is capable o f seeing only so far. T h e study o f the T o r a h opens us up t o new vistas beyond our o w n conceptions and enables us t o internalize these levels w i t h i n our personalities. Moreover, this study grants a person new v i t a l i t y and energy that extends far beyond the intellect. G - d has invested H i m s e l f i n the T o r a h ; therefore, when a person is s t u d y i n g the T o r a h , he is n o t merely establishing a connection w i t h G-d's w i s d o m , he is establishing a b o n d w i t h G - d H i m s e l f . T h i s taps an u n l i m i t e d f o u n t a i n o f energy that enriches all o f his activities and pursuits.

BEREISHIS

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Looking to the Horizon
T h e w o r l d was created w i t h a purpose, as our Sages say: " T h e w o r l d was created solely for Mashiach." T h e reason G - d b r o u g h t our existence i n t o being was so that m a n k i n d w o u l d live i n the environment o f knowledge, peace, and love that w i l l characterize the era o f Mashiach. G - d d i d n o t desire that this i n t e n t be achieved o n H i s initiative alone. Instead, H e wanted this i n t e n t t o resonate w i t h i n the w o r l d and entrusted that purpose t o m a n k i n d , a l l o w i n g i t t o assume the role o f being G-d's partner i n creation. Each one o f us has t o do his part t o m o l d the w o r l d t o c o n f o r m w i t h its intended purpose. W i t h patient love, G - d is g u i d i n g m a n k i n d t o the acceptance o f this mission. Just as o n a personal level H e charts a course for each i n d i v i d u a l t o achieve self-realization; so, t o o , the w o r l d at large is being led t o the f u l f i l l m e n t o f its u l t i m a t e i n t e n t , the era o f Mashiach. T h i s , moreover, contemporary is n o t a dream for the distant future, b u t a

reality. W e

each have the p o t e n t i a l t o experience a

foretaste o f this era i n our present lives. As we do so, we hasten the realization o f this i n t e n t i n the w o r l d at large.

I n Berditchev, a small town just outside o f Kiev, there lived a Jew who did not believe i n G-d. From time to time he would meet the holy Berditchever Rebbe, Reb Levi Yitzchak, and they would talk. Once the Rebbe told the non-believer, " Y o u know, that G-d that you don't believe in, I don't believe in either." O f course, the Rebbe believed in G-d. What he was telling the non-believer is that the non-believer's lack o f faith was due to an underdeveloped conception o f who G-d is. N o one would want to believe i n such a deity. Were he to expand his awareness and reach deeper within his soul, he would discover a G-d that he could and would desire to relate to. This illuminates, also, the unique contribution o f the Rebbe. When he assumed leadership, many questioned the place o f Judaism in contemporary society. A n d to them, the Rebbe said: "Yes, i f you look archaically at Judaism then i t has no place. But who says Judaism has to be archaic?! Open your eyes and see how rich and contemporary Judaism can be." Moreover, the Rebbe didn't allow us to remain content w i t h our own understanding and relationship w i t h G-d, he pushed us to open ourselves up to others and share our understanding w i t h them.

Parshas Noah
T h e beginning o f this week's T o r a h reading relates h o w G - d tells N o a h that because he was righteous, he and his family w o u l d be saved. A l t h o u g h all m a n k i n d w o u l d be punished for their wickedness and annihilated i n a terrible f l o o d , N o a h and his descendants w o u l d n o t perish. For that purpose, Noah built an ark according to G-d's

specifications and when the rains came, he and his family entered. B u t theirs was far f r o m a pleasure cruise. F o r together w i t h N o a h and his family were gathered i n t o the ark one pair each o f all the existing n o n kosher animals and seven pairs o f each o f the kosher animals.

4

NOACH

5

W h a t d i d N o a h do for the entire year he was i n the ark? H e b r o u g h t f o o d for the animals, cleaned their stalls, and t o o k care o f their needs. N o r were the animals p a r t i c u l a r l y appreciative. O u r Sages relate that once when N o a h delayed b r i n g i n g f o o d t o one o f the lions, the beast t o o k a swipe at h i m and w o u n d e d h i m . Is this a b e f i t t i n g reward for a person w h o m G - d t o l d was righteous? H e r e i n lies a fundamental lesson. N o person exists for himself. W e were created for service. T h e Jewish ideal is n o t a w o r l d where "the righteous sit crowned w i t h their knowledge." T h a t is a description o f the W o r l d t o Come, the afterlife, where the souls bask i n D i v i n e l i g h t . B u t u n t i l a person reaches that state, he m u s t w o r k . We have all been given a m i s s i o n — t o prepare the w o r l d t o be a

d w e l l i n g for G - d . A n d t o be complete, that d w e l l i n g m u s t encompass every element o f creation. Therefore every element o f our environment is i m p o r t a n t and deserving o f our concern and a t t e n t i o n . S i m p l y p u t , a person cannot seclude h i m s e l f i n a synagogue or a house o f study and claim that he is creating G-d's dwelling. F o r i f all G-d wants is prayer and study, H e w o u l d n o t have created a physical would have made us s p i r i t u a l beings w i t h heightened

world. H e

intellectual potentials. He d i d n o t do this. Instead, H e made us mortals and placed us i n

a material environment. As such, our lives s h o u l d be dedicated t o the above mission, caring for every e n t i t y created w i t h i n the w o r l d and revealing the G - d l y spark i t contains and the i n t e n t for w h i c h i t was created. M a n ' s task i n life is t o take that abstract ideal and make i t actual.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e r o o t o f the H e b r e w name " N o a c h " relates t o the concepts o f rest and satisfaction. Indeed, our T o r a h p o r t i o n foreshadows the u l t i m a t e state o f repose and satisfaction that w i l l be reached i n the era when, as M a i m o n i d e s relates, "there w i l l be neither famine n o r war, neither envy nor c o m p e t i t i o n , for good things w i l l flow i n abundance." I n N o a h ' s

ark were lions, tigers, and other predators, and yet they dwelt i n peace w i t h other animals, anticipating the f u l f i l l m e n t o f the prophecy, " T h e

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w o l f w i l l d w e l l w i t h the lamb, and the leopard w i l l lie d o w n w i t h the y o u n g goat." T h i s m o t i f can be detected as t a k i n g f o r m already as evidenced by developments that are b e g i n n i n g t o shape the contemporary business landscape. Rather than the dog-eat-dog c o m p e t i t i o n that characterized previous generations, corporations are beginning t o appreciate h o w each can gain m o r e w h e n t w o companies p o o l their efforts t o b r i n g about a greater good for m a n k i n d . W e a l t h is being gained, n o t by t a k i n g f r o m others, b u t by c o m b i n i n g care and k n o w - h o w t o produce p r o d u c t s that w i l l benefit others, c o m p e l l i n g t h e i r desire t o purchase them. Similarly, i n a personal sense, the t i m e has come w h e n we can graduate f r o m the scarceness m e n t a l i t y that says that w h e n one person has, the other lacks. T h e pie is b i g enough for all o f us. A n d uniquely, i t is the individuals w h o help others get their share w h o receive the largest pieces. T h i s approach will precipitate the c o m i n g o f the

u l t i m a t e age o f peace and cooperation that Mashiach w i l l initiate.

Once a renowned cardiologist visited the Rebbe. "You should devote your attention to treating healthy people, not only the sick," the Rebbe told him. " A m I to improve on what the Almighty has done?" questioned the doctor. "Yes," responded the Rebbe. " A n ordinary laymen, and how much more so a doctor, should be able to improve on what the Almighty has done." "Are you asking me to make man perfect?" answered the doctor. " N o , " the Rebbe responded. "Making people perfect is a job for Mashiach. But every person should try to make his life and those o f the people around h i m a little bit better." As the following concepts emphasize, each o f us has his or her own mission i n making our portion o f the world "a little bit better." Often, our missions are intertwined, and as one person steps forward, he takes others w i t h him.

Parshas Lech Lecha
T h i s week's T o r a h p o r t i o n is named Lech Lecha, recalling G-d's first c o m m a n d t o Abraham. Lech means "go." G - d was t e l l i n g h i m t o go out, t o leave his native land and his father's household, t o emerge f r o m the cocoon o f protected existence and set out o n his o w n p a t h i n the world. Our Rabbis interpret the second w o r d lecha as meaning "for

yourself." Rashi explains that setting o u t o n such a journey is fraught w i t h danger, and there was a p o s s i b i l i t y that Abraham w o u l d lose everything he had. Therefore G - d p r o m i s e d h i m that the journey

w o u l d be t o his benefit. H i s wealth, his family, and his r e p u t a t i o n w o u l d increase. R . M o s h e A l s h i c h offers a deeper interpretation. Lecha means "to yourself." B y j o u r n e y i n g t h r o u g h o u t the w o r l d , Abraham was setting o u t o n a p a t h o f self-discovery. T h e purpose o f his journey t o Eretz^ Yisrael, his descent t o Egypt, his r e t u r n t o the land, and all his

7

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wanderings was intended t o enable h i m t o understand his o w n i d e n t i t y and express his positive qualities i n his s u r r o u n d i n g environment. Abraham's story is n o t merely a page f r o m a h i s t o r y b o o k . O n the contrary, as our Rabbis teach, " T h e deeds o f our forefathers are a sign for their c h i l d r e n . " A b r a h a m was a singular i n d i v i d u a l , one man w h o taught the belief i n G - d t o a w o r l d that d i d n o t want t o listen. W e are, however, all singularly unique. T h e Baal Shem T o v taught that G - d loves every Jew w i t h the love parents lavish o n an only c h i l d b o r n t o t h e m i n their o l d age. Just as H e commanded and guided

A b r a h a m o n a journey t o his true self, so, t o o , w i t h loving patience, H e guides each one o f us o n our o w n journey t h r o u g h life. T h r o u g h a web o f i n t e r l o c k i n g designs, H e directs us all t o a c o m m o n i n t e n t — that

we each reveal t o ourselves and t o others the unique G - d l y potentials that we have been granted. T h e Baal Shem T o v teaches that everything w h i c h a person sees or hears serves as a lesson for h i m i n his relationship w i t h G - d . Since everything providence, that happens in this world is controlled by Divine it

and man was "created solely t o serve his Creator,"

follows that any and every event or e n t i t y that a person encounters is intended t o help h i m advance his relationship w i t h G - d . F o r that purpose, G - d leads us all f r o m the cradle onward, step by step, t h r o u g h a variety o f experiences — the s u m t o t a l o f w h i c h are intended potential. W h e n A b r a h a m set o u t o n his journey, he t o o k w i t h h i m "the souls he had made i n Charan": the people he had m o t i v a t e d t o j o i n h i m i n his mission. T h i s t o o is a lesson. M a n ' s journey t h r o u g h life is n o t intended t o be a lonely trek o n m o u n t a i n crags or i n desert to enable us to discover and express our inner G-dly

settings. Q u i t e the contrary, G - d leads us t h r o u g h a w o r l d w i t h other people w i t h w h o m we interact i n synergy, b o t h giving and receiving. F o r they are o n similar journeys, parallel i n purpose i f n o t necessarily i n route. As a person grows t o appreciate these concepts, he w i l l be able t o maximize his o p p o r t u n i t i e s i n life, m a k i n g his experiences happier and more f r u i t f u l . H e w i l l n o t be encumbered by fear or w o r r y , because he w i l l realize that at every m o m e n t , a w a t c h i n g hand is g u i d i n g h i m ,

LECH LECHA

9

d i r e c t i n g h i m t o encounters intended t o advance his personal g r o w t h and his c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the w o r l d .

Looking to the Horizon
As Abraham's descendants, we are all i n the m i d s t o f f o l l o w i n g a similar journey. W e are traveling t o Eretz^ Yisrael, preparing ourselves and the w o r l d at large for the t i m e when we w i l l r e t u r n t o that land led by Mashiach. W e — like our forefather A b r a h a m — are g o i n g " t o the land that I w i l l show y o u . " F o r the nature o f our people's p a t h t h r o u g h the generations is one that confounds all students o f h i s t o r y because i t is G - d l y — a chronicle that n o m a n c o u l d or w o u l d logically devise or foresee. And t h r o u g h i d e n t i f y i n g w i t h this process, a person develops a

unique appreciation o f his or her o w n self. " I , [i.e., G - d , ] w i l l reveal you, [i.e., the s p i r i t u a l core that we a l l possess]." T h r o u g h seeing this

journey as one's o w n and accepting one's role i n i t , each o f us can rise above his o w n i n d i v i d u a l concerns and endow his life w i t h significance that is t r u l y cosmic i n nature. As one strives t o achieve these goals, he or she w i l l discover a new and deeper understanding o f w h o he or she really is.

Reb Binyamin Kletzker was one o f the followers o f the Alter Rebbe. H e was both a very successful timber merchant i n Russia and a mystic who was known to meditate for hours on end. Once after laboring over his annual budget and arriving at the bottom line — one which sported quite a hefty profit — he wrote i n Hebrew: Ein od milvado, "There is nothing apart from H i m . " A n associate took h i m to task for this; i t was not appropriate for h i m to try to "show off" his spirituality w i t h such pronouncements. Reb Binyamin explained that he was not trying to show off, i t was simply how he had felt at that moment. Responding to the look o f amazement on his associate's face, he continued: "Just as from time to time we think o f our business i n the midst o f prayer, so, too, at times, we can think o f prayer in the midst o f business." The awareness that "There is nothing else apart from H i m , " that we are living i n G-d's world, is a fundamental Jewish concept. A n d i t is not merely an abstract principle, it can serve as a directive to guide our conduct on a day-to¬ day basis.

Parshas Vayeira
T h i s week's T o r a h reading relates that A b r a h a m established an i n n for guests, and there he "called u p o n the name o f the eternal G - d . " O u r Rabbis interpret this phrase, explaining that the i n t e n t is n o t that only Abraham h i m s e l f called t o G - d , b u t that he m o t i v a t e d others p r o c l a i m G-dliness as well. W h a t d i d he do? H e established his tent at a crossroads i n the desert and generously p r o v i d e d f o o d and d r i n k t o wayfarers. A f t e r they completed their meal, he asked t h e m t o : "Bless the O n e w h o p r o v i d e d y o u w i t h food and d r i n k . " W h e n the guests began t o bless h i m , A b r a h a m t o l d t h e m : "Was i t I w h o p r o v i d e d y o u w i t h food? Bless H e w h o spoke and b r o u g h t the to

10

VAYEIRA

II

w o r l d i n t o being." By p r o v i d i n g people w i t h their physical needs, he made t h e m conscious o f the s p i r i t u a l reality. T h e H e b r e w t e r m translated as "the eternal G - d , " ‫ א ל ע ו ל ם‬has also attracted the a t t e n t i o n o f the commentaries. ‫ א ל ה ע ו ל ם‬w o u l d mean " G - d o f the w o r l d , " i.e., there is a G - d and there is a w o r l d , and even the w o r l d recognizes that G - d is A l m i g h t y and i n c o n t r o l . B u t ‫ א ל ע ו ל ם‬represents a different and deeper insight. T h e r e is n o difference between G - d and the w o r l d ; everything is an expression o f G-dliness. T h i s is the i n t e n t o f the phrase " G - d is one" that we recite i n the Shema prayer: n o t only is there o n l y one G - d , b u t everything i n the w o r l d is at one w i t h H i m . This is n o t only an abstract concept. I t affects a person's

fundamental approach t o his life. W h e n he sees G - d as " G - d o f the w o r l d , " he understands that he has obligations t o H i m . A f t e r all, i f G - d is the R u l e r o f the w o r l d , a person has t o pay his dues. B u t that — he t h i n k s — is all he is obligated t o do. I n the rest o f his affairs, his life is his o w n . I t ' s like paying taxes. Y o u have t o give the government a percentage o f y o u r income, b u t afterwards, y o u can spend the remainder o f y o u r money however y o u like. Similarly, i n a s p i r i t u a l sense, such a person recognizes that he owes something t o G - d , b u t his life is p r i m a r i l y his o w n ; he can do w i t h i t whatever he wants. W h e n we appreciate the w o r l d as one w i t h G - d , by contrast, our entire relationship w i t h H i m changes. R e l i g i o n is n o t merely g o i n g t o the synagogue or carrying o u t a certain body o f laws, b u t an a l l encompassing experience, affecting every element o f our lives. Every s i t u a t i o n i n w h i c h we are f o u n d , every person w h o m we meet gives us an o p p o r t u n i t y t o advance i n our knowledge o f G - d and our connection t o H i m . T h i s is the heritage that A b r a h a m gave t o his descendants — t o spread the awareness that we are l i v i n g i n H i s w o r l d , that our lives are n o t intended merely t o provide ourselves w i t h a l i t t l e b i t o f enjoyment and satisfaction, b u t are instead m e d i u m s t o make H i s presence k n o w n t o others.

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Looking to the Horizon
T h e r e is a forward l o o k i n g o r i e n t a t i o n t o the above concepts. F o r while, i n our present mindset, we may believe that G-dliness permeates every element o f w o r l d l y existence, at best, we w i l l gain merely an intellectual awareness o f that concept. I t w i l l n o t be perceived overtly as actual fact. In the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , this w i l l change. I n that age,

m a n k i n d as a whole w i l l have a direct experience o f G - d . . As the p r o p h e t declares: " N o longer w i l l one man teach his fellow... saying: ' K n o w G - d , ' for they w i l l a l l k n o w M e , f r o m the great t o the small." I n that era, " T h e earth w i l l be f i l l e d w i t h the knowledge o f G - d , as the waters cover the ocean bed." I m p l i e d by the simile is that just as the ocean contains a m u l t i t u d e o f beings, so, t o o , i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , all entities w i l l continue t o exist. However, just as w h e n a person looks at the ocean and sees the water he does n o t notice all the different beings i t contains, so, t o o , i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , when we w i l l l o o k at the w o r l d i n w h i c h we live we w i l l appreciate the G-dliness that encompasses a l l existence. Every entity will be

subsumed i n the consciousness o f H i s presence.

A peasant was once laboring i n the field, harvesting his wheat. H e proceeded w i t h vigor, his sickle cutting through stalk after stalk o f grain. A count driving by saw the grace and energy o f his cutting strokes and was struck by its beauty. "Can I hire you to work for me?" he asked the peasant. "Thank you, but I have my own field," said the peasant, refusing the offer. "How much can you earn from the sale o f your grain?" asked the count. "Five hundred ruble." " I will give you a thousand ruble i f you work for me." unable to refuse the offer, the peasant agreed. The count told h i m to present himself at the palace w i t h his sickle at ten o'clock on the following morning and drove on. At ten, the peasant came to the palace and was ushered in to the count's drawing room. "Now cut wheat," the count said. "so I can watch your graceful movements." "But there is no wheat," the peasant answered. "So swing your sickle as i f there were. I ' l l pay you the thousand ruble I promised you. Start cutting." At first the peasant was pleasantly amused. I t was far easier to cut imaginary wheat i n the palace than to sweat under the hot sun and cut real grain. But slowly, he began to tire. After an hour, he told the count that he wanted to quit. "Why?" asked the count. "Aren't the work conditions here better than out i n the field?" The peasant had one simple answer: "When you don't see the fruits o f your labor, you don't feel you're doing anything." A sense o f worthless effort is one o f the hardest things for man to bear, something no amount o f money can recompense. We all have the potential for achievement, and a mission for which we were brought into being to fulfill. There is nothing more satisfying than working hard and seeing that mission blossom into fulfillment.

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Parshas Chayei Sarah
T h i s week's T o r a h reading describes A b r a h a m as being " o l d , advanced i n years." T h e Midrash notes the seeming r e p e t i t i o n and explains that there are some m e n w h o are o l d , b u t do n o t appear advanced i n years, and others w h o appear advanced i n years, b u t are n o t o l d . Abraham's advancement i n years paralleled his age. on a simple level, the Midrash is speaking about physical

appearance: There are some older people w h o l o o k y o u n g and some younger people w h o l o o k o l d . B u t there is a deeper p o i n t t o the teaching o f the Midrash: often people f u n c t i o n o n a level o f m a t u r i t y far below t h e i r chronological age. W h a t i t says o n the person's b i r t h certificate is one t h i n g , b u t the degree o f intellectual and e m o t i o n a l development he shows may be something else entirely. Indeed, he m i g h t be a white-bearded c h i l d . Abraham, the Midrash teaches, grew as he aged. H i s personal and s p i r i t u a l development went hand i n hand w i t h the passage o f t i m e . Chassidus develops this concept further. A b r a h a m "advanced" i n t o "his years." H e p u t h i m s e l f i n t o the days that he lived; each o f his days was f i l l e d w i t h a deepening o f his connection t o G - d . T o explain: A n y one o f us w h o has t o take tests knows what i t is t o cram. Y o u t r y t o cover an entire course i n t w o weeks. o r in

business, y o u k n o w the end o f the m o n t h is c o m i n g and y o u t r y t o push i n a few more sales t o improve the b o t t o m line. T h e r e is something u n n a t u r a l i n such an approach. T r y c r a m m i n g the g r o w t h cycle o f a crop o n a farm: n o t w o r k i n g for m o s t o f the season and t h e n p l o w i n g , sowing, watering, and harvesting i n a m o n t h . W o u l d n ' t be very successful, w o u l d it? W e l l neither — i n the l o n g t e r m — is c r a m m i n g for a n y t h i n g

else. W h a t was remembered for the test is f o r g o t t e n t w o weeks later. F o r a business t o be maintained, sales m u s t be steady. T h e same t h i n g applies spiritually. T o o often, we cram. O n R o s h Hashanah and Y o m K i p p u r , suddenly we get very involved. W e like t o focus o n peak experiences. W h a t A b r a h a m teaches us is t o take each

CHAYEI SARAH

15

day one day at a t i m e , and t o live i t t o the u l t i m a t e . N o t t o have occasional s p i r i t u a l heights, b u t t o relate t o G - d earnestly each day, t o take that day seriously and use i t i n the fullest and m o s t complete way possible. T h e r e may be some w h o t h i n k that l i v i n g such a life is drab; they are afraid o f consistency lest i t become m o n o t o n o u s . B u t those w h o emulate Abraham's example appreciate the energy and v i t a l i t y i t brings. F o r i n t r u t h every day is f i l l e d w i t h a variety o f different experiences. W h e n a person focuses his a t t e n t i o n and relates t o each o f the events and every person he encounters t h o u g h t f u l l y , his life becomes f i l l e d with genuine color and variety. Each day contributes something

different and new.

Looking to the Horizon
I n his commentary t o the T o r a h , the great Jewish philosopher and mystic Nachmanides writes that each o f the seven days o f creation is paralleled by a m i l l e n n i u m i n the s p i r i t u a l h i s t o r y o f the w o r l d . F o r example, the first day is associated w i t h the creation o f l i g h t , an

u n b o u n d e d source o f positive energy. S i m i l a r l y , i n the first m i l l e n n i u m o f existence, animals reached immense sizes; m e n and w o m e n lived for hundreds o f years and received m a n i f o l d unearned G - d l y blessings. T h e second day was characterized by the division o f the waters. S i m i l a r l y , the second m i l l e n n i u m o f existence was characterized by an awareness o f the g u l f between man and G - d . A n d i t was permeated by severity — the f l o o d and the dispersion o f h u m a n i t y at the T o w e r o f Babel. T h e t h i r d day o f creation was characterized by the emergence o f dry land and the creation o f p l a n t life. S i m i l a r l y , the t h i r d m i l l e n n i u m saw the emergence o f s p i r i t u a l life w i t h i n the w o r l d w i t h Abraham's discovery o f G - d , the giving o f the T o r a h , and the c o n s t r u c t i o n o f the Temple. A n d so the cycle continues u n t i l the seventh day, w h i c h is Shabbos, and the seventh m i l l e n n i u m w h i c h w i l l be "the day w h i c h is all Shabbos and rest for life-everlasting," the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n .

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I f we extrapolate this concept t o chart a m i l l e n n i u m i n a t w e n t y four h o u r m i c r o c o s m , i t follows that at present, we are already more than three-quarters i n t o the s i x t h m i l l e n n i u m , that is, three-quarters o f the Jewish day — w h i c h begins at sunset — has passed. I t ' s like the beginning o f F r i d a y afternoon. N o w ask anyone i n a t r a d i t i o n a l Jewish household what a F r i d a y afternoon is like. T h e y ' l l t e l l y o u that y o u can sense Shabbos i n the air. I t ' s what's o n everyone's m i n d and what everyone is busy preparing for. T h a t ' s what our s p i r i t u a l climate is like now. T h a t ' s w h y the Rebbe t o l d everyone t o wake up and begin preparing, that the t i m e for the R e d e m p t i o n has come.

Reb Isaac o f Krakow wanted to build a new synagogue for his community but lacked the financial resources. o n e night he dreamt that there was a treasure buried under a bridge i n prague. The following day he arranged his affairs and set off, shovel in hand, for the Czech capital. When he reached the city he was overjoyed. The bridge appeared exactly as i t had i n his dream. But as he started digging, he felt a strong hand on his arm. "What are you doing? Y o u can't dig here," a guard told him. Reb Isaac told the guard the entire story: his desire to build the synagogue, his dream o f the buried treasure, and his journey from Poland. "Silly man," the guard told him. "For several nights I've been dreaming about a treasure buried under the stove o f a Jew called Isaac who lives i n Krakow. N o w do you think that I ' d travel all the way to Krakow to look for this treasure?" Reb Isaac smiled and returned home. He dug under his stove, found the treasure, and built his synagogue. What he had been looking for had been buried right in his own home.

Parshas Toldos
T h i s week's T o r a h reading focuses o n the Patriarch Isaac. O f a l l the Patriarchs, Isaac was unique. H e was the only one w h o never left the H o l y L a n d o f Eretz^ Yisrael. Even when he considered departing d u r i n g a t i m e o f great famine, G - d gave h i m a specific missive: " D w e l l i n this land and I w i l l be w i t h y o u . " W h y was Isaac commanded t o live i n Eretz^ Yisrael? O u r Sages

explain that after being b o u n d as an offering o n M o u n t M o r i a h , he became consecrated as a sacrifice and c o u l d n o t be taken beyond the boundaries o f holiness. Within this story there is a personal message. Isaac w i l l i n g l y

allowed his father t o b i n d h i m as a sacrifice; he was ready t o sacrifice everything, even his life, for the sake o f G - d . u l t i m a t e l y G - d d i d n o t desire that sacrifice. H e wanted Isaac t o live i n this w o r l d : t o marry, raise children, and become wealthy.
17

But

once

Isaac

had

been

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consecrated

as a sacrifice —

once he had been prepared

t o give

everything away for G - d — the way he related t o these matters was different. He had to live i n Eretz^ Yisrael; i.e., even his external

environment — the way he relates t o his w o r k environment and his family — had t o be characterized by holiness. B u t u n l i k e others w h o heed a calling t o holiness, he w o u l d n o t live as a h e r m i t . o n the contrary, the T o r a h reading describes the richness o f his family life and h o w he became fabulously wealthy, b u t these were all externals. A t the heart o f his existence was the full-hearted c o m m i t m e n t t o G - d he made at M o u n t M o r i a h . B u t instead o f " d y i n g for G - d , " he was l i v i n g for G - d , extending his b o n d w i t h H i m i n t o

every element o f life. H e lived i n the material w o r l d , b u t his actions were spiritual, infusing everything he d i d w i t h D i v i n e i n t e n t . T h i s concept is reflected i n one o f the tasks that our Sages

describe h i m as p e r f o r m i n g : the digging o f wells. W h e n one digs a well, he penetrates beneath the external, earthy surface and taps the f o u n t a i n o f l i v i n g water that lies h i d d e n below. I n every being there is such a f o u n t a i n . Isaac was able t o f i n d water where others c o u l d n ' t . Because he was focused o n G-dliness, he c o u l d discover the G - d l y core i n every created being. Every day i n prayer, we recall Isaac's sacrifice. F o r prayer is a t i m e when, like Isaac o n M o u n t M o r i a h , we s h o u l d make a c o m m i t m e n t t o G-dliness. T h e strength o f that c o m m i t m e n t influences the manner i n w h i c h we conduct our lives t h r o u g h o u t the remainder o f the day. I n that manner, even as we carry o u t our day-to-day activities after prayer, spiritually, "we w i l l n o t leave Eretz^ Yisrael!' W e w i l l "live for G - d , "

b r i n g i n g all the awareness o f G - d i n t o all o f our concerns. A n d we w i l l dig wells, discovering the f o u n t a i n o f life i n every person and setting.

Looking to the Horizon
our Sages t e l l us that after the Resurrection o f the Dead, when the entire Jewish people arise, we w i l l p o i n t t o Isaac and t e l l h i m — n o t A b r a h a m or Jacob — " Y o u are our Patriarch." Why Isaac? Each o f the patriarchs embodied different s p i r i t u a l

characteristics: Abraham, love, Isaac, awe, and Jacob, mercy. T h e era o f

TOLDOS

19

the

Resurrection w i l l

be

characterized

by s t r i k i n g revelations o f

G-dliness. T h e y w i l l be so p o w e r f u l that m a n k i n d w i l l "enter the clefts o f the rocks and cracks o f the crags because o f the awe o f G - d and the glory o f H i s splendor." Isaac, whose D i v i n e service embodied the quality o f awe, w i l l teach us h o w t o conduct ourselves i n that era. Moreover, Isaac's D i v i n e service provides us w i t h an example o f how t o precipitate that era. T h r o u g h his service, Isaac was able t o o f the W o r l d t o C o m e . As he existed and the true reality o f t o realize, at least

experience a foretaste functioned

i n our w o r l d , he could appreciate

s p i r i t u a l existence. T h i s is a lesson for us —

intellectually, h o w every circumstance i n w h i c h we are f o u n d is the outer shell o f a fundamental s p i r i t u a l t r u t h . T h i s should inspire us t o dig beneath the surface and b r i n g that t r u t h i n t o overt revelation.

Once the Baal Shem Tov spent the night at an inn in a forest. When he arose the next morning, he noticed that his host had gotten up before h i m and was already immersed i n prayer. After he had finished his own prayers, the Baal Shem Tov noticed that his host was still praying. This surprised him. His host had appeared to be a simple man. W h y would he take such a long time to pray? The Baal Shem Tov decided to wait and speak to his host after he had finished. When approached by the Baal Shem Tov, the host explained why i t took h i m so long to pray. He was unlearned and did not know the order o f the daily prayer service. So each day, he would recite the entire siddur. Hearing this and seeing the man's sincerity, the Baal Shem T o v volunteered to teach the man how to pray. Painstakingly, the man took notes as the Baal Shem Tov told h i m which prayers to recite i n the morning, i n the afternoon and i n the evening, what to say on Shabbos, and what to say on the festivals. The man put the notes i n his siddur, each note on the appropriate page, happy that he would now be able to pray in the proper manner. H e put the siddur on the window shelf and wished the Baal Shem Tov goodbye. Some time after the Baal Shem Tov left, a strong wind blew the window open and knocked the siddur to the floor. A l l the carefully placed notes fell out and scattered everywhere. The innkeeper tried to put them back in place, but was at a loss. He did not know what to do; he was back where he had started. u n w i l l i n g to accept the situation, he ran down the road on which the Baal Shem Tov had set out, hoping to catch up w i t h him. W i t h i n a short while, he caught sight o f h i m standing at the shore o f a river. Although there was no bridge, the Baal Shem Tov did not pause. H e took out his handkerchief, spread i t on the waters, uttered a mystic incantation, and rode to the other side.

20

VAYEITZEI

21

When the innkeeper reached the river, he d i d the same thing. H e took out his handkerchief, placed i t on the river, and rode i t across. Soon he reached the Baal Shem Tov. Puzzled to see his host, the Baal Shem Tov asked why he had followed him. " M y siddur," the inn-keeper explained, telling h i m how the notes had gotten jumbled. " I ' l l be glad to help you," said the Baal Shem. "But wait, how d i d you get here? H o w d i d you cross the river?" " I d i d what you did. I put down my handkerchief and rode i t across." " I f so, you don't need my help. I t appears that G-d likes your prayers just the way you've been saying them."

Parshas Vayeitzei
O u r T o r a h reading relates that as Jacob our Patriarch left Eretz^ Yisrael t o journey t o Lavan's home where he w o u l d m a r r y and establish his o w n household, he "encountered the place." O u r Rabbis interpret this as referring t o M o u n t M o r i a h , the site o f the T e m p l e i n Jerusalem. T h e r e Jacob prayed. Jacob had lived i n his father's home and afterwards had studied under Shem and Ever, the s p i r i t u a l luminaries o f the age. N o w he was going t o Charan, an idolatrous environment, where he w o u l d labor, n o t study. Faced w i t h such an awesome t r a n s i t i o n , Jacob t u r n e d t o G - d , asking for success i n the new phase o f activity he was undertaking. T h e r e is n o way a person can insure success o n the basis o f his o w n efforts alone. M a t e r i a l reality reflects o n l y one d i m e n s i o n o f our existence. Prosperity is a m u l t i - f a c e t e d D i v i n e blessing and cannot be guaranteed through mortal efforts alone. Even when all the

fundamentals add up, there are times w h e n a business deal doesn't w o r k o u t and other situations, where for n o apparent reason, one's efforts b r i n g h i m success. T h i s is n o t mere chance. T h e Baal Shem T o v taught us that even a leaf t u r n i n g i n the w i n d is directed by G-d's w i l l . C e r t a i n l y i t is true when speaking o f what happens t o man. I n every phase o f our lives,

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

there is an Eye w a t c h i n g over us and a H a n d d i r e c t i n g our future. Therefore, particularly when we set o u t o n a new road, we ask assistance t h r o u g h prayer. O n the surface, however, such prayers are self-serving. M a n is asking G - d for something for his o w n self. H e is n o t praying for G-d's sake; he is praying because o f his o w n needs or wants. Is that spiritual? A n d is this what G - d desires? Yes. G-d's i n t e n t i n creating our w o r l d was t o have a d w e l l i n g place i n the lower w o r l d s ; that H i s presence be revealed w i t h i n the realm o f material things. H e physical w o r l d . H e wants d i d n ' t create angels t o i n h a b i t this man interacts with the G-d's

a w o r l d where

physical and i n so d o i n g , understands that i t is c o n t r o l l e d by G - d . T h a t is precisely the awareness generated when a person prays for his material well-being. H e is concerned w i t h everyday things, and H e is asking G - d t o grant H i m success i n this realm. Instead o f relying o n his o w n resources, he is l o o k i n g t o H i m . These prayers are extremely sincere. W h e n a person asks for

s p i r i t u a l things, his requests may n o t come f r o m his inner core. B u t when he prays for his material well-being, he p u t s his whole heart i n t o his prayer. H e is t u r n i n g t o G - d w i t h all o f his a t t e n t i o n and asking for H i s help. I n d o i n g so, he consummates the purpose o f creation, connecting G-dliness w i t h the m o s t mundane dimensions o f w o r l d l y existence.

Looking to the Horizon
O n e o f the p r i m a r y focuses o f our daily prayers is the R e d e m p t i o n . M o r e than 1 0 0 times each day, we t u r n t o G - d w i t h requests like: "Sound the great shofar for our freedom," "Return i n mercy to

Jerusalem Y o u r c i t y , " and "Speedily cause the scion o f D a v i d Y o u r servant t o f l o u r i s h . " These requests should be made w i t h the same sincerity as " G r a n t complete cure and healing," and "Satiate us f r o m Y o u r b o u n t y . "

S i m p l y p u t , R e d e m p t i o n is just as real a need for us as physical health or material well-being, and i t s h o u l d be felt as strongly.

VAYEITZEI

23

W e should n o t ask for the R e d e m p t i o n only because o f hardship, or because we have problems and difficulties that we d o n ' t have

solutions for. W e should ask for the R e d e m p t i o n because this is our purpose and our raison d'etre. W i t h o u t i t , our lives are s i m p l y n o t complete; we are n o t l i v i n g t o our fullest. Even when a person prospers and enjoys g o o d health, he is lacking. H e is missing the fullness o f life that the R e d e m p t i o n w i l l grant h i m . H e should pray — for h i m s e l f and o n behalf o f all those around h i m — fullness w i t h the c o m i n g o f Mashiach. that G - d grants us this

Rabbi Avraham Gluck was a successful English lighting contractor w i t h interests i n many European countries. H e was also a dedicated follower o f the Rebbe. A t yechidus (a private audience), the Rebbe told h i m that every Jew is like a light bulb, waiting for another Jew to help h i m glow. His mission, the Rebbe emphasized, was to spread spiritual light as well as electric light throughout the continent. Rabbi Gluck dedicated himself to this purpose w i t h selfsacrifice and as result there are chabad Houses i n Hungary, Germany, and Spain. Once Rabbi Gluck found himself confronted by a particular difficulty. H i s natural reaction was to consult the Rebbe, and the Rebbe responded with a letter offering blessing and advice. I n addition to his business acumen, Rabbi Gluck was also a devoted father. He kept up a steady correspondence w i t h his son Herschel who at the time was studying i n France. One o f the points he sought to share w i t h h i m was an understanding o f the Rebbe-chassid relationship and he wanted to show his son the letter the Rebbe had sent him. H e did not feel comfortable sending the Rebbe's letter by ordinary mail, so when a Frenchyeshivah student appeared i n England, he asked h i m to hand-deliver the letter to his son. The yeshivah student agreed and took the letter. But as it happens, he did not have the opportunity to deliver the letter immediately. I t was put aside, placed i n a book and then forgotten. Almost twenty years later, and about six years after Rabbi Gluck's passing, his son was troubled by the same difficulty. As a dedicated chassid, despite the fact that i t is more than five years after the Rebbe's passing, he too wrote a letter to the Rebbe. About that time, a French chassid was putting the books in his study i n order. While doing so, he noticed a letter inserted between the pages. O n his next trip to England, he somewhat sheepishly made his way to the home o f Rabbi Gluck's son. H e knew

24

VAYISHLACH

25

of Rabbi Gluck's passing, but felt that his son would appreciate having the letter the Rebbe had sent his father. H e apologized profusely and gave Rabbi Gluck's son the letter. Rabbi Gluck's son accepted his apologies and thanked him. H e then curiously opened the letter the Rebbe had sent his father. There was a blessing and advice that served as a most appropriate response to the letter he had so recently written. There is no way we can fail to appreciate the Hashgachah Protis, the working o f G-d's hand, i n this narrative. A n d one can only be amazed at how the Rebbe "answers" those who seek to connect to him. After the passing o f his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe urged the chassidim to continue writing to the Previous Rebbe as they had done before. "Don't worry," the Rebbe assured them, "the Previous Rebbe w i l l f i n d a way to answer." A n d seemingly, the Rebbe also finds his ways. Let's not belabor the issue, because it is not miracles o f this nature, but rather his insight and vision that motivate our connection to the Rebbe. That said, it sure is a nice story.

Parshas Vayishlach
T h i s week's T o r a h reading relates that after leaving Lavan's household where he had lived for t w e n t y years, Jacob set o u t for Eretz^ Yisrael. u p o n hearing that his b r o t h e r Esau was preparing t o attack h i m , he relocated his family t o protect t h e m against Esau's advance. That

n i g h t , Jacob remained alone i n his camp. H e was m e t by an attacker and "wrestled w i t h h i m u n t i l the m o r n i n g . " O u r Rabbis explain that the attacker was n o t a mere m o r t a l , b u t rather the personification o f Esau's archangel. Jacob was able t o w i t h s t a n d his challenge. A l t h o u g h the angel dislocated Jacob's h i p , Jacob held his o w n u n t i l , at day break, the angel conceded defeat and blessed Jacob. I n c o m m e m o r a t i o n o f this encounter, the Jewish people do n o t eat the sciatic and the peroneal nerves or the tendons o n an animal's h i p

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

socket (gid hanesheh; this is the reason that there is n o kosher s i r l o i n steak). T h e Sefer HaChinuch explains the reason for this prohibition,

explaining that i t alludes t o the future o f the Jewish people. A l t h o u g h they w i l l endure many difficulties i n exile ( " n i g h t " ) f r o m the gentiles and f r o m Esau's descendants, Jacob's v i c t o r y teaches t h e m t o remain confident and secure that they will not perish and that their

descendants w i l l endure forever. Our Rabbis ask: W h y is this concept, an idea o f sweeping

relevance, commemorated by a p r o h i b i t i o n that focuses o n o n l y one element o f the encounter? Moreover, w h y does the c o m m e m o r a t i o n seem t o focus o n an undesirable element, a w o u n d that Jacob suffered? I n response, they explain that this m o t i f — that one particular detail enables us t o relate t o a general p r i n c i p l e o f fundamental importance — lies at the core o f the confidence and t r u s t we m u s t have that G-d's providence w i l l p r o t e c t us and guide us t h r o u g h the challenges o f exile. T h e i n t e n t is that every detail is i m p o r t a n t . N o t only w i l l the Jewish people as a w h o l e be led t h r o u g h exile, b u t each i n d i v i d u a l w i l l feel G-d's providence. G - d cherishes every i n d i v i d u a l Jew as a father cherishes an only son b o r n t o h i m i n his o l d age. W i t h patience and care, G - d charts n o t o n l y the p a t h o f our people as a whole, b u t that o f every i n d i v i d u a l , g u i d i n g and d i r e c t i n g each o f us t o attain the greatest good that we c o u l d possibly reach and enabling us t o make our special c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the c o n s u m m a t i o n o f G-d's desire i n creation. T h e manner i n w h i c h G - d manifests H i s providence u p o n each i n d i v i d u a l is n o t meted o u t according t o any scale o f importance w h i c h logic c o u l d conceive. F o r because o f G-d's desire and choice o f the Jewish people, every person enjoys unique importance. Each one fulfills a d i m e n s i o n o f G-d's master p l a n that another c o u l d n o t possibly f u l f i l l . Therefore H e lavishes o n each person a unique measure o f patience, care and love, enabling that i n d i v i d u a l t o play his part i n p a i n t i n g a p i c t u r e that far surpasses any o f his personal aspirations. T o emphasize these concepts, we commemorate Jacob's encounter by focusing o n one detail. F o r this teaches that there are n o mere

particulars; everything plays its part i n the whole. M o r e o v e r , the

VAYISHLACH

27

commemoration

focuses

on

something

that

appears

undesirable,

teaching that what we call evil is sometimes the m o s t efficient and perhaps the only means t h r o u g h w h i c h — for the person and his

c o n d i t i o n at the t i m e — G - d can convey the u l t i m a t e good.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e T o r a h reading relates that, at their encounter, Jacob p r o m i s e d t o visit Esau at his home i n Seir. I n fact, however, he never made that journey. O u r Sages ask: W o u l d Jacob, the e m b o d i m e n t o f the a t t r i b u t e o f t r u t h , lie? They explain that Jacob's words were future-oriented. W h e n

w o u l d he keep his promise? I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , when "saviors w i l l ascend M o u n t z i o n t o judge the m o u n t a i n o f Esau." T h e i n t e n t is that the i n t e r a c t i o n between Jacob and Esau is o f cosmic significance. F o r the u l t i m a t e o f existence is n o t for the

s p i r i t u a l and the physical t o remain as separate realms, b u t for the t w o to be i n t e r t w i n e d and for s p i r i t u a l awareness t o encompass the w o r l d l y realm. So w h i l e Esau — material reality — is d o m i n a n t , Jacob w i l l n o t visit Seir. B u t ultimately, after the w o r l d w i l l be refined and its

s p i r i t u a l content b r o u g h t t o the surface, he w i l l also go t o Seir. F o r every element o f our existence m u s t be b r o u g h t i n t o contact essential G-dliness. with

The Alter Rebbe, the founder o f the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, lived i n the bottom story o f a two-story home in Liadi. H i s son, later to become the Mitteler Rebbe, lived on the upper floor. Once the Mitteler Rebbe's son fell out o f the cradle i n which he was sleeping and began to cry. The Mitteler Rebbe was so absorbed in his studies, he did not even hear the baby's cries. The Alter Rebbe was also studying. Nevertheless, he heard the baby and went upstairs to calm him. Afterwards, he reprimanded his own son. " H o w could you leave the baby crying?" The Mitteler Rebbe had what he thought was a legitimate excuse and explained to his father that he simply hadn't heard. H e had been so enwrapped in the subject he was studying that he was oblivious to everything else. The Alter Rebbe refused to accept the excuse. "You should never be so involved in your own spiritual endeavors that you fail to hear the cry o f a Jewish child," he told his son. When the Rebbe repeated this story, he explained that there are children who cry out because o f physical discomfort and others whose pain is spiritual. Sometimes, the child himself may not consciously know that he is in pain. We must, however, listen carefully and heed his call. We should never be so involved i n our own spiritual refinement that we remain insensitive to the cries o f others.

Parshas Vayeishev
T h i s week's T o r a h reading mentions the selling o f Joseph i n t o slavery by his brothers. W h e n discussing this p u z z l i n g narrative, our Sages note that Reuven — the oldest o f Jacob's sons — had originally

protested against selling Joseph and after discovering that he had been sold, bemoaned the pain that this w o u l d cause their father Jacob.

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VAYEISHEV

29

So where was Reuven when Joseph was being sold? Some o f the Rabbis explain that he was involved i n fasting and repentance i n solitude. H e had seriously offended his father's h o n o r previously, and f r o m t i m e t o t i m e w o u l d go o f f t o lament the gravity o f his offense. W h i l e he was away t r y i n g t o atone for his deeds, his brothers sold Joseph. T h i s narrative gives us a clear perspective o n h o w a person s h o u l d order his p r i o r i t i e s . Because Reuven was crying over his sins, Joseph was sold i n t o slavery. By m o u r n i n g the past instead o f acting t o correct the present, Reuven allowed his b r o t h e r t o be taken t o Egypt. c e r t a i n l y , a person m u s t be concerned w i t h his o w n s p i r i t u a l development and he m u s t seek t o correct his personal failures. B u t this concern s h o u l d never stand i n the way o f steps that are immediately necessary t o help his fellow man. W h e n a person realizes that someone else is i n danger — whether physically or spiritually — he s h o u l d t e m p o r a r i l y p u t aside his s t r i v i n g for self-development and deal w i t h the pressing p r o b l e m at hand.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e importance w i t h w h i c h we m u s t regard every i n d i v i d u a l also relates t o the future R e d e m p t i o n . I n the r e d e m p t i o n f r o m Egypt, our Sages explain, only one Jew o u t o f five left. F o u r - f i f t h s o f the people died i n the plague o f darkness. I n the F u t u r e R e d e m p t i o n , by contrast, n o Jew w i l l be left behind. Every member o f our people w i l l share i n Mashiach's c o m i n g . Why the difference? Because at the t i m e o f Mashiach's c o m i n g , the

t r u t h o f G-dliness w i l l be revealed. A t the core o f every Jew lies a soul that is "an actual part o f G - d , " a spark o f H i s being. W h e n the t r u t h o f G-dliness w i l l be revealed, every Jew w i l l realize that G-dliness is the t r u t h o f his o w n being. By a n t i c i p a t i n g the R e d e m p t i o n and applying its t r u t h s t o our own lives now, we can b r i n g i t closer. R e a l i z i n g and focusing o n the

G - d l y spark w i t h i n ourselves serves as a catalyst for the revelation o f G-dliness t h r o u g h o u t existence.

Parshas Mikeitz is always read during or directly before the festival o f Chanukah. As such, i t is appropriate to share one o f our favorite contemporary Chanukah stories. I t has three heroes: the first is an unnamed Lubavitcher yeshivah student handing out menorahs i n the M i a m i airport. The second is David Shapiro, a successful M i a m i lawyer, and the third, Sean McDonald, a wealthy land-owner i n Guatemala (not their real names). David has made a habit o f spending one week each year doing welfare work w i t h the poor and homeless i n Guatemala. H e goes i n the middle o f the winter and lodges at Sean's home, but spends most o f his time i n the city, getting down to the nitty-gritty o f helping humanity in some o f the places where i t is most needed. One year, his annual trip happened to include the first days o f Chanukah. N o w David is an observant Jew and had second thoughts about spending the holiday away from his family. O n the other hand, he had made the arrangements well i n advance, before he had realized when the festival would fall and he would have much difficulty rescheduling everything. "Anyway, I ' l l be home for the last days o f the holiday," he thought to himself, opting to make the trip anyway. As he was waiting i n the airport for his flight, the Lubavitcher student came up to h i m and offered h i m a Chanukah menorah. "Mine's in my luggage," David replied. "A lot o f people have told me that," replied the yeshivah student. "But after a while, they get over the embarrassment o f admitting they haven't packed a menorah and they take one. Listen, Chanukah is an important holiday. Even i f you won't be at home, you should celebrate i t " After a few minutes, David saw that i t would be easier to take the menorah than to convince the student that he had his own. Stuffing i t into his carry-on bag, he ran to catch the plane.

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MIKEITZ

31

I t was a very busy week. O n the first night o f Chanukah, he d i d not get back to light the Chanukah menorah u n t i l well past nightfall. After he showered, he placed his menorah in the window o f his room and sat down to watch the candles. Soon he saw Sean, who had taken an evening stroll, stop and stand outside, transfixed by the light o f the candles. "What's this?" he asked David. David explained to h i m the story o f the holiday and the miracle behind the lighting o f the Menorah. "It's coming back to me," Sean said w i t h a faraway look in his eye. " M y grandmother used to light these." "Your grandmother?" "Yes. M y grandmother was Jewish. She married a good Irish Catholic and didn't keep too much o f her religion. But she would light these candles." "Was it your mother's mother or your father's mother?" " M y mother's." " D o you know that you're Jewish?" A n d after a little more conversation, Sean asked David i f he had another one o f those candelabras. After all, i f he was Jewish, he might as well do what his grandmother did. N o w would the Lubavitch student ever dream that the menorah he handed out at the airport would be used by Sean McDonald to fulfill his first mitzvah?

Parshas Mikeitz.
T r y t o p u t y o u r s e l f i n Joseph's shoes. H e was s i t t i n g i n an E g y p t i a n p r i s o n after being framed by his master's wife. F r o m being a free man, his father's m o s t cherished son, he had sunk t o being a slave, and t h e n t o a prisoner i n a b r i e f a m o u n t o f t i m e . Year after year he languished i n p r i s o n . There had been a b r i e f w i n d o w o f hope when he had helped Pharaoh's butler, b u t that had been t w o years ago and he had obviously f o r g o t t e n a l l about Joseph. Joseph probably was n o t downcast. O n the contrary, i f he had any tendency t o depression, he probably w o u l d have been overcome by

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

g l o o m years ago. B u t h o w c o u l d he be happy? H e had l i t t l e r o o m for o p t i m i s m . H o w i n the w o r l d w o u l d he ever leave this dungeon? M o m e n t s later, a messenger came r u n n i n g for h i m . H e was being s u m m o n e d by Pharaoh. T h e y washed h i m , gave h i m fine clothes, and ushered h i m i n t o the presence o f the m o s t p o w e r f u l m a n i n the w o r l d . M o m e n t s later, that m a n thanked h i m for i n t e r p r e t i n g his dreams and made h i m his viceroy. W h a t ' s at the core o f this dynamic? Firstly, never t o despair. A person must realize that no matter h o w l o w he has sunk, his

circumstances can change, and at a m o m e n t ' s notice. T h e m o s t radical shifts i n p o s i t i o n and power are n o t only possible; they happen, more frequently than we realize. Secondly, prepare y o u r s e l f t o benefit f r o m these changes when they come. T h e r e are people w h o w i n m i l l i o n - d o l l a r lotteries and several years later are l i t t l e better o f f f r o m i t . Joseph became a viceroy because even i n p r i s o n he had the mindset o f a k i n g . H e possessed insight, self-control, a willingness t o help others. M o s t i m p o r t a n t l y , he had faith i n G - d and an awareness o f H i s providence, realizing that whether we are riding the crest o f a wave, treading water, or

t e m p o r a r i l y g o i n g under, i t is H e w h o is m o t i v a t i n g that process o f change. These and other qualities made h i m capable o f m a x i m i z i n g the benefits f r o m the change i n f o r t u n e visited u p o n h i m . Joseph was n o t angry w i t h his brothers for selling h i m i n t o slavery. O n several occasions, he t o l d t h e m : " I t was n o t y o u w h o sent me here, b u t G - d . " H e was n o t merely consoling t h e m ; he was i n f o r m i n g t h e m o f the understanding that had accompanied h i m t h r o u g h life. W h e n a person understands that he is l i v i n g i n G-d's w o r l d , he can f i n d peace and satisfaction i n whatever framework he finds himself. A n d he lives w i t h hope — n o t a dream o f faraway good, b u t an internalized understanding that since i t is an all-good G - d w h o is controlling m y life, " n o t h i n g evil descends f r o m heaven." What

appears t o be evil is i n i t s e l f h i d d e n good, and what's more, i t is part o f a process leading t o overt and apparent good. F o r what G - d intends for each i n d i v i d u a l and the w o r l d at large is a greater g o o d than our m o r t a l intellect can possibly appreciate.

MIKEITZ

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Looking to the Horizon
Parallels t o Joseph's circumstance exist for us as a whole, for p r i s o n is one o f the metaphors used t o describe exile. W e m u s t realize that exile is o n l y temporary. I t is n o t what G - d really wants; i t covers up w h o man really is and what the w o r l d really is. H o w surprised w o u l d we be i f the exile were t o end t o m o r r o w ? I f the present-day equivalent o f Pharaoh w o u l d call u p o n us and ask us for guidance, w o u l d we be ready t o respond? T h e three concepts m e n t i o n e d above are all relevant i n our present lives: a) W e m u s t realize and t r u s t that this is possible. As M a i m o n i d e s said: "Every day, I wait for h i m (Mashiach) t o come." b) W e m u s t prepare ourselves and develop the inner strength t o be ready for this change. I t is n o t the w o r l d outside that m u s t change for Mashiach t o come. O n the contrary, the m o s t p r o f o u n d changes m u s t take place inside, i n our hearts and m i n d s . c) W e m u s t realize that this is G-d's i n t e n t . T h e s p i r i t u a l h i s t o r y o f m a n k i n d has a goal t o w h i c h i t is being led by a g u i d i n g hand. Step by step, G - d is d i r e c t i n g our progress t o the c o m i n g o f Mashiach and the dawning o f the age w h e n "the earth w i l l be f i l l e d with the

knowledge o f G - d as the waters cover the ocean bed."

Once a group o f Jewish educators came to the Rebbe, proudly telling h i m that the number o f children i n Jewish schools had increased, and now half the Jewish children i n the New York area were receiving a Jewish education. The Rebbe's response was immediate: "Don't pat yourselves on the back. What about the other half?" When focusing on another person, Chassidus emphasizes looking at the person's positive qualities and not his or her shortcomings. But when it comes to confronting a task, instead o f resting on one's laurels, one should appreciate what must be done and set about doing it. Once the Rebbe Rashab, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, was sitting at a strategy session w i t h some other Jewish leaders. The Russian government was trying to impose certain restrictions on Jewish education and many people in the Jewish community felt that there was no alternative but to give in. The Rebbe Rashab differed, and together w i t h a handful o f other devoted Rabbis, he set out to w i n the others over to his perspective. As they were considering different alternatives, the Rebbe Rashab broke down and began to cry. One o f the other Rabbis tried to comfort him, saying: "Lubavitcher Rebbe, why are you crying? You've done all you can. Y o u have fulfilled your obligation. N o one can hold you responsible." The Rebbe answered: "But the objective is still to be accomplished." H e was not concerned w i t h his own personal responsibility; he was focused on the mission. Our people have been given a task: to prepare the world for the Future Redemption. Each one o f us has been given a unique role within that greater goal. I n moments o f truth, the question that we must ask ourselves is not: " H o w are we doing? D o we deserve a pat on the back?" but rather: "What can be done to complete the mission one day earlier?"

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VAYIGASH

35

Parshas Vayigash
T h i s T o r a h reading tells us h o w Jacob and his family made t h e i r journey f r o m the L a n d o f Israel t o meet Joseph i n Egypt. Jacob was hesitant about leaving the H o l y Land, and i t was n o t u n t i l he received a pledge o f assurance f r o m G - d that he resolved t o do so. W h y was he hesitant? I t ' s obvious. Eretz^ Yisrael is the H o l y Land, "the land o n w h i c h the eyes o f G - d are [focused] f r o m the b e g i n n i n g o f the year t o the end o f the year." T h a t is certainly where Jacob our Patriarch w o u l d like t o have spent his final days. s o w h y d i d he go t o Egypt? O u r sages answer that i t was pre¬ destined. I f necessary, Jacob w o u l d have been led t o E g y p t i n chains o f i r o n . B u t o u t o f G-d's kindness, H e ordained that Jacob's son become the viceroy and that Jacob make his journey t o that land by royal invitation. B u t that just deflects the question: Jacob went t o E g y p t because G - d wanted h i m t o . B u t w h y d i d G - d want h i m to? A n d w h y does H e want us, Jacob's descendants, t o continue l i v i n g i n the different Egypts o f our widespread Diaspora? T h e Jews were created w i t h a m i s s i o n : t o make this w o r l d a d w e l l i n g for G - d . A n d that does n o t mean o n l y the L a n d o f Israel. O n the contrary, since Erttz^ Yisrael has an inherent d i m e n s i o n o f holiness, the essence o f that m i s s i o n is directed t o places outside its borders. W i t h i n the material substance o f the w o r l d are contained sparks o f G-dliness. Every piece o f f o o d we eat, every person we meet or

s i t u a t i o n we encounter is maintained by G - d l y energy. O u r m i s s i o n is t o tap that energy and use i t for a positive purpose. F o r example, w h e n we recite a blessing before or after eating and use the v i t a l i t y that the f o o d generates for a G - d l y i n t e n t , we f u l f i l l G-d's objective i n creating that f o o d . I t ' s like a f r u i t and a peel. T h e f r u i t — i n the analogue, the G - d l y spark — is what is o f p r i m a r y importance, b u t for that f r u i t t o exist i n our material w o r l d , i t needs a peel — the material substance o f our world. T h i s is the i n t e n t o f the Jewish people i n the w o r l d — t o refine the w o r l d by h i g h l i g h t i n g the existence o f this s p i r i t u a l dimension, t o

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show — ourselves and others — that there is a f r u i t beneath the peel. F o r this purpose, the Jews have wandered f r o m c o n t i n e n t t o c o n t i n e n t and f r o m land t o land, seeking t o reveal the G - d l y life-force h i d d e n i n these places. T h i s process began w i t h Jacob's descent t o Egypt. W h e n G - d t o l d A b r a h a m that his descendants w o u l d be slaves i n Egypt, H e t o l d h i m : "Afterwards, they w i l l leave w i t h great w e a l t h . " W h y w o u l d A b r a h a m be interested i n k n o w i n g that his descendants w o u l d receive this

wealth? seemingly, he w o u l d have desired that they leave earlier, even i f they w o u l d n o t receive those riches. T h e wealth A b r a h a m was p r o m i s e d was the elevation o f the D i v i n e sparks enclothed i n the wealth o f Egypt. T h i s is the s p i r i t u a l m o t i v e for Joseph's collecting all o f Egypt's wealth d u r i n g the famine — so

that afterwards, t h r o u g h the Jews' labor and t o i l , they c o u l d elevate these D i v i n e sparks and depart E g y p t heavily laden w i t h g o l d and silver. T h e process was consummated w h e n they used that g o l d and silver t o b u i l d the sanctuary i n the desert, establishing a d w e l l i n g for G - d i n this w o r l d .

Looking to the Horizon
M a i m o n i d e s m e n t i o n s the belief i n Mashiach and the belief i n the Resurrection o f the Dead as two o f the thirteen fundamental

principles o f the Jewish faith. H e cites prophecies f r o m the Bible w h i c h p o i n t t o their importance and says that a person w h o denies these principles is n o t merely rejecting one aspect o f the T o r a h , he is renouncing the Jewish f a i t h i n its entirety. W h y is Mashiach so i m p o r t a n t t o our faith? Because i n the present era, our religious and s p i r i t u a l lives are secondary elements o f our existence. W e are far more concerned w i t h our material well-being. A n d this is n o t a fault. I f we weren't concerned, n o one else w o u l d be, and we w o u l d n o t be able t o m a i n t a i n our existence. But this is n o t the purpose o f our lives. These efforts are

intermediaries, necessary only t o create a setting for our

spiritual

service. T h e purpose o f our lives is our service o f G - d , expressing the s p i r i t u a l p o t e n t i a l that we all possess.

VAYIGASH

37

Just as these concepts are true i n an i n d i v i d u a l sense, they apply t o m a n k i n d as a whole. G - d desired that after thousands o f years o f our focusing o n the material elements o f our existence, there w o u l d come a t i m e when the s p i r i t u a l dimensions o f existence w o u l d receive the prominence that they deserve. T h i s is the core o f our belief i n Mashiach and the R e s u r r e c t i o n : that u l t i m a t e l y we w i l l live i n a perfected w o r l d where our fundamental energies w i l l be directed t o w a r d s p i r i t u a l and G - d l y ends.

A young man from an observant home was presented w i t h many challenges as he tried to integrate himself into American life. H i s encounters with the chassidim and the philosophy o f Lubavitch helped h i m overcome these hurdles. Once, at a private meeting w i t h the Rebbe, he asked whether he could consider himself a chassid. " I am attracted to the chassidic way o f life," he explained, "but can never see myself donning a black hat or chassidic garb. Does this disqualify me?" The Rebbe responded: "When every day a person endeavors to take a step forward i n the service o f G-d and the love o f his fellow man, I am happy to consider h i m my chassid." Advancing within our Jewish heritage does not necessarily mean adopting the clothing or the lifestyle o f the past. Instead, i t has to do w i t h living in the present — and looking toward the future — i n the most complete manner a Jew can.

Parshas Vayechi
T h i s T o r a h reading relates that Jacob blessed Joseph's sons, E p h r a i m and Menashe, saying: " T h r o u g h y o u Israel shall bless, saying, ' M a y G - d make y o u like E p h r a i m and Menashe.'" T h i s is the blessing that every father gives his son o n Friday nights, o n the day before Y o m K i p p u r , and o n other occasions when blessing is appropriate. I m p l i e d is that E p h r a i m and Menashe are prototypes. T h e y b o t h represent Jewish c h i l d r e n b o r n i n exile, away f r o m the H o l y L a n d . Nevertheless, they p o i n t t o t w o different m o t i f s . T h e name Menashe was given h i m because: " G - d has made me forget... m y father's household." I m p l i e d is that a Menashe Jew is concerned about losing the l i n k t o his father's household. H e realizes that he lives i n Egypt, i n exile, and does n o t have the awareness o f G - d inherent t o those w h o live i n the H o l y Land. T h a t bothers h i m . H e is concerned about his f o r g e t t i n g and that makes him remember.

A l t h o u g h he lives i n exile, he is l o o k i n g back t o the t i m e when his 38

VAYECHI

39

ancestors lived i n Eretz^ Yisrael. T h i s keeps h i m connected t o his Jewish heritage. T h e name E p h r a i m was given h i m because " G - d made me f r u i t f u l i n the land o f m y oppression." E p h r a i m does n o t l o o k back; he looks forward. H e takes exile, "the land o f m y oppression," and makes i t f r u i t f u l , t r a n s f o r m i n g i t i n t o a m e d i u m for the expression o f G-d's i n t e n t . Certainly, l i v i n g i n exile is different f r o m l i v i n g i n Eretz^ Yisrael. But there is a D i v i n e purpose i n that circumstance as w e l l . W h i l e a

person is i n exile, he need n o t spend all his effort t r y i n g t o recall Eretz_ Yisrael. Instead, he s h o u l d do what he can t o spread G-dliness i n his surroundings, showing h o w there is n o place and no s i t u a t i o n i n the w o r l d apart f r o m H i m . For this reason, E p h r a i m is given the greater blessing. F o r the p a t h o f D i v i n e service his name connotes is m o r e comprehensive, a l l o w i n g us to appreciate how H i s presence permeates every element of

existence.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e T o r a h reading relates that before Jacob passed away, he t o l d his sons: "Gather together and I w i l l t e l l y o u what w i l l happen t o y o u i n the E n d o f Days." O u r sages t e l l us that Jacob wanted t o t e l l his children w h e n Mashiach w i l l come. Nevertheless, G - d d i d n o t desire that he reveal this i n f o r m a t i o n and so H e removed the s p i r i t o f

prophecy f r o m h i m . R e a l i z i n g this, Jacob spoke t o his sons about other matters. T h e r e are several lessons f r o m this narrative; m o s t obviously, that G-d does n o t want the t i m e for Mashiach's c o m i n g t o be k n o w n . Some

commentaries have explained the reason being that i t m i g h t lead t o despair. I f people k n o w that they w i l l have t o w a i t for Mashiach, they m i g h t lose hope. O t h e r s explain that i t m i g h t make people lazy. I f they k n o w that Mashiach w o n ' t come u n t i l this and this time, they m i g h t be less inclined t o apply themselves t o t h e i r D i v i n e service. T o p u t i t i n the vernacular: "Let's relax and have a good t i m e u n t i l he's ready t o come and o n the day before, w e ' l l get everything i n order."

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

M a i m o n i d e s says: " I await for his (Mashiach's) c o m i n g every day," i.e., that any day — and every day — Mashiach can come and indeed, we are l o o k i n g f o r w a r d t o h i m d o i n g so. T h e r e is n o appointed date o n w h i c h Mashiach m u s t come. T h e r e is, however, a desired state w i t h i n the w o r l d . W h e n the w o r l d reaches that state o f awareness and that level o f conduct, Mashiach w i l l come. Therefore, there is n o cause for despair. T h e matter is i n our hands. I f we apply ourselves, Mashiach's c o m i n g can become a reality. conversely, there is n o t h i n g t o be lazy about. u n l e s s we apply

ourselves, the w o r l d w i l l n o t be prepared and Mashiach w i l l be delayed. T h e Biblical narrative also provides us w i t h i n s i g h t regarding one of the i m p o r t a n t preparatory steps. Jacob tells his sons: "Gather

together." u n i t y is one o f the fundamental breakthroughs Mashiach w i l l introduce. By anticipating this oneness and m a k i n g i t part o f our lives at present, we can precipitate the d i f f u s i o n o f this idea t h r o u g h o u t the w o r l d and hasten Mashiach's actual arrival.

The wife o f one o f New York's distinguished Rabbis came to the Rebbe one sunday to receive a dollar for charity. The Rebbe greeted her warmly, saying: "It's so nice to see you. Y o u have not been here for a while. But that's the way it is w i t h really precious things. Y o u see them only from time to time." Each person is truly precious, possessing gifts that no one else has. A true leader appreciates those gifts and gives each person the tools to develop them.

Parshas Shmos
W h e n speaking o f G-d's first revelation t o Moses, the miracle o f the b u r n i n g bush, the T o r a h tells us: " A n angel o f G - d appeared t o h i m i n a fiery flame f r o m the bush. H e saw — behold, the bush was b u r n i n g w i t h fire, b u t the bush was n o t consumed. Moses t h o u g h t , ' I w i l l t u r n aside n o w and l o o k at this great sight.'... G - d saw that he t u r n e d aside to see and G - d called t o h i m . " W h y d i d Moses m e r i t G-d's call? Because "he t u r n e d aside t o see." We all see awesome sights f r o m t i m e t o t i m e , for everything f r o m a

leaf t u r n i n g i n the w i n d t o the geopolitical movements o f nations is governed by D i v i n e providence. O f t e n , that providence is overt enough that were we t o pay a t t e n t i o n t o i t , we w o u l d be overawed. B u t what happens a l l t o o frequently? W e h u r r y by w i t h o u t giving i t a second glance. We have our o w n concerns t o w h i c h we attach m u c h importance, seeing

so m u c h so that they serve as blinders preventing us f r o m

anything else. W e expect the familiar pattern o f our lives t o continue and that expectation governs the way we l o o k at the w o r l d . W e d o n ' t anticipate or l o o k forward t o any major changes. O n the contrary, we are comfortable w i t h yesterday and we expect that today w i l l be just like i t . T h i s mindset prevents us f r o m realizing h o w different today really is. Moses also had concerns and familiar patterns. Nevertheless, he had the sensitivity t o " t u r n aside t o see." W h e n he saw something

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

awesome, he was prepared t o let that realization overwhelm h i m . T h i s is what G - d was l o o k i n g for. T o o often, a leader is t o o busy, t o o preoccupied. H e does n o t show the m e n t a l f l e x i b i l i t y t o appreciate what a person has t o offer or what a s i t u a t i o n can b r i n g . H e has a p l a n and that plan m u s t be executed come what may. A "Moses" can stop. H e is prepared t o change his game plan. H e is n o t so fixed i n his way o f t h i n k i n g that he cannot learn s o m e t h i n g new. T h i s lesson f r o m the W r i t t e n T o r a h is reinforced by an insight f r o m the O r a l T r a d i t i o n . T h e Midrash asks: " W h y d i d Moses go t o the m o u n t a i n where he saw the b u r n i n g bush?" and answers that he was p u r s u i n g a runaway lamb. As shepherd o f Jethro's flocks, he t o o k

responsibility n o t only for the herd as a whole, b u t for every i n d i v i d u a l sheep. W h e n he saw that a lamb was missing, he pursued i t . T h i s lamb led h i m t o the b u r n i n g bush. T h i s was n o t an accidental sequence. G - d was seeking a leader for H i s people. H e wanted someone w h o w o u l d be concerned n o t o n l y w i t h the collective, b u t w i t h every i n d i v i d u a l , one w h o w o u l d care for the people's personal needs. A n d so H e tested Moses. u n q u e s t i o n a b l y , every i n d i v i d u a l has t o make sacrifices for society as a whole, b u t these s h o u l d be made w i l l i n g l y , n o t forced u p o n h i m . W h a t t o ask o f a person and h o w t o ask — or m o r e precisely h o w t o create an environment where the person offers w i t h o u t asking — are a leader's challenge. G - d was l o o k i n g for a leader w h o w o u l d n o t make these choices callously, b u t w o u l d t h i n k o f every i n d i v i d u a l as that person w o u l d t h i n k o f his or her self. A n d so, when Moses chased after the lamb, G - d showed h i m the b u r n i n g bush.

Looking to the Horizon
O u r T o r a h reading also teaches us h o w the message o f R e d e m p t i o n was conveyed t o the Jewish people. G - d revealed H i m s e l f t o Moses and told h i m to inform the Jewish people that the R e d e m p t i o n was

coming. Moses conveyed the message t o the people, giving t h e m the vision t o l o o k beyond their hard labor and see a future. W h e n the

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people j o i n e d together,

believing i n Moses' message, G - d w o r k e d

miracles that enabled t h e m t o leave Egypt. T h e Zohar, the fundamental text o f Jewish m y s t i c i s m , tells us that i n every generation there is "the extension o f Moses," a T o r a h giant whose visionary leadership empowers the Jewish people t o l o o k beyond their h o r i z o n s . Our Rabbis t e l l us that Moses (‫ )משה‬and echad (‫)אחד‬, "one,"

together are numerically equivalent t o Mashiach (‫)משיח‬. F o r when the Jews j o i n together t o listen t o the message that the Moses o f their generation tells t h e m , Mashiach's c o m i n g w i l l n o longer be a dream o f the future.

A boy came running to his father in tears. H e had been playing hide-and-go-seek w i t h his friends and the boy who had been chosen to be " i t " had played a trick on him. They had all hidden, but instead o f going to find them, the one chosen to be " i t " simply went home. For a while, the children hiding felt very successful. After all, they had remained i n hiding a long time without being found. But afterwards, they began to feel lonely and betrayed. As the son was talking, he saw his father — the Maggid of Mezeritch — also break out i n tears. "Why are you crying?" the child asked his father. "Because G-d has the same complaint that you do." When He hides Himself, He is waiting for us to search for H i m .

Parshas Vaeira
I f y o u were G - d and y o u wanted people t o be conscious o f Y o u r existence, what w o u l d Y o u do? M o s t o f us w o u l d answer: Just say " H e l l o . " After all, we like things t o be straightforward. W e are n o t interested i n games. I f we want something, we go for i t . W h y doesn't G - d do that? O n e o f the reasons is that i f H e were t o reveal H i m s e l f as H e is, n o t h i n g else could exist. I t w o u l d be like l o o k i n g directly at the sun; the l i g h t w o u l d be t o o powerful. W e r e H e not to withdraw and conceal H i m s e l f , we could not exist. To

introduce a mystic t e r m , this is the concept o f tzimtzum. B u t i f concealment is necessary t o m a i n t a i n our existence, h o w can H e make H i m s e l f known? I f i t is necessary for H i m t o w i t h d r a w t o create the w o r l d , h o w can H e enter i t again? These questions lie at the core o f the s p i r i t u a l h i s t o r y o f the w o r l d . T h e concealment o f G-dliness creates the framework o f our existence. O n the other hand, the progress o f civilization is directed towards one goal: that H e make H i m s e l f k n o w n . O n e o f the tools that H e uses t o make H i m s e l f k n o w n is nature itself. T h e natural makeup o f the w o r l d conceals G-dliness, creating

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the impression that the w o r l d exists independently w i t h its o w n rules and o n its o w n power. O n the other hand, when a person probes more deeply, he or she comes t o the awareness that nature cannot exist o n its o w n . T h e inner h a r m o n y that pervades the w o r l d is t o o deep and encompassing t o ignore. T h i s is one way that man comes t o appreciate G-d. This way is, however, problematic. F i r s t o f all, i t requires

c o n t e m p l a t i o n and deeper t h o u g h t . As such, n o t everyone w i l l come t o that awareness. secondly, even when a person is capable o f reaching such an understanding, i t w i l l n o t be his inherent reaction. Ingrained i n his nature is the idea that the w o r l d exists for itself. T h e awareness o f G - d always comes second, as a learned — and therefore a weaker — conception. For this reason, from time to time, G - d performs revealed

miracles, for example, the T e n Plagues visited u p o n the Egyptians, seven o f w h i c h are described i n this week's T o r a h reading. Why d i d G - d b r i n g the plagues? H i s purpose was n o t o n l y t o t o release the Jews, for after the fifth plague,

motivate Pharaoh

Pharaoh was prepared t o do so. I t was only because G - d "hardened his heart" that he persevered i n his s t u b b o r n refusal. T h e i n t e n t o f the plagues is clearly stated i n the T o r a h : " s o that you tell... y o u r son and y o u r grandson that I made sport o f Egypt... so that y o u may k n o w that I am G - d . " T h e miracles o f the Exodus made i t plainly obvious that G - d exists. A f t e r all, water does n o t o r d i n a r i l y t u r n t o b l o o d , frogs do n o t swarm over the land, nor does fiery hail descend. seeing these miracles, one after the other, made everyone — the Egyptians and the Jews — conscious o f G - d . On the other hand, miracles are n o t ordinary. F i r s t o f all, were

that t o be the case, the m o t i f o f concealment m e n t i o n e d above w o u l d be broken. T h e r e w o u l d be t o o m u c h revelation for this w o r l d . Also, there w o u l d be l i t t l e p o i n t i n man's service. A f t e r all, when G-dliness is obvious, is i t a challenge t o serve H i m ? Therefore, our lives contain a fusion o f the t w o . T h e prevailing paradigm is that o f the n a t u r a l order. Nevertheless, f r o m t i m e t o t i m e ,

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we are granted an appreciation o f G-dliness that transcends nature t o inspire us t o deeper and more c o m m i t t e d service.

Looking to the Horizon
But G-dliness is n o t o n l y about concealment. Just as H e has also has the p o t e n t i a l t o remain h i d d e n , H e Himself. That is the the p o t e n t i a l t o reveal

essence o f the message o f the era o f the

R e d e m p t i o n — that "the w o r l d w i l l be f i l l e d w i t h the knowledge o f G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed." But h o w is i t possible for H i m t o be revealed i n a w o r l d o f

l i m i t a t i o n ? As m e n t i o n e d above, revealing H i m s e l f w o u l d eradicate the prevailing framework o f our existence. T h i s revelation is dependent o n the D i v i n e service o f Jewish people. T h r o u g h our efforts t o refine the G - d l y sparks that permeate every element o f existence, we make the w o r l d f i t for H i m t o be revealed. F o r thousands o f years, we have been creating the setting, painstakingly showing h o w every element o f existence can serve as a m e d i u m for the revelation o f G-dliness. V e r y soon, w i t h the c o m i n g o f Mashiach, we w i l l see the fruits o f our efforts, when "the glory o f G - d w i l l be revealed and a l l flesh w i l l see."

I n 5751, the Rebbe complained that he was having difficulty reading the commentaries whose notes are printed i n small letters in the Talmud. His secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, arranged that an ophthalmologist check the Rebbe's vision. One o f the tests required that he insert several drops i n the Rebbe's eyes and wait a few minutes until his pupils would dilate. W h y they were waiting, the doctor inquired whether he could ask the Rebbe a question. The Rebbe, o f course, agreed. The doctor was the head o f the Iraqi Jewish community in exile. H e explained to the Rebbe that in this role, he had visited Jewish communities in many places throughout the world. H e had seen many different activities performed by Lubavitch shluchim both openly and secretly in hundreds o f communities, and he had seen how Jews had responded eagerly, expressing their Jewish identity and increasing their Torah observance. " I n light o f all this," he asked the Rebbe, " I have only one question. W h y hasn't Mashiach come yet?" " I have the same question," the Rebbe answered. " I also don't know why Mashiach has not yet come. That is why I tell my chassidim not to sleep, and to do more and more so that he will come one moment earlier."

Parshas Bo
T h e r e is an amazing Midrash concerning the Paschal sacrifice f o u n d i n the holy text Lekach Tov and other sources. Generally, i t is explained that just p r i o r t o their departure from Egypt, the Jews eagerly

circumcised themselves and offered the Paschal sacrifice. T h i s Midrash says otherwise. I t explains that when Moses t o l d the people t o take a lamb and prepare t o b r i n g the Paschal sacrifice, his words fell o n deaf ears. T h e people s i m p l y were n o t interested. T h e y were grateful t o be freed f r o m slavery, b u t leaving Egypt and going o u t i n t o the desert d i d n o t allure t h e m .

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

O n the f o u r t e e n t h day o f Nissan, Moses was the o n l y one t o b r i n g a Paschal sacrifice. So, w h y were the Jews redeemed? T h e Lekach Tov continues, stating that the savory aroma o f Moses' sacrifice spread t h r o u g h o u t the entire land o f Goshen where the Jews lived. Slowly, somewhat shamefacedly, each one appeared at Moses' door, requesting: " Y o u r roast smells so good. c a n I have a piece?" Moses t o l d t h e m t o circumcise themselves. So anxious were they t o taste the meat that they complied. H e then explained that this was n o t simply a piece o f roasted meat, i t was a sacrifice t o G - d . T h e y nodded i n agreement, sacrifice. W h e n there is a difference o f o p i n i o n among the Rabbis, our Sages say: "These and these are the words o f the l i v i n g G - d . " W h a t that means is that b o t h opinions have i m p o r t a n t lessons t o teach us i n our D i v i n e service. F r o m the Lekach Tov we can learn that i t was Moses — and o n l y Moses — w h o was interested i n r e d e m p t i o n . T h e people at large had other concerns. W h a t m o t i v a t e d t h e m t o seek redemption? influence. Let's explain: O b v i o u s l y , the people d i d n o t relish being slaves i n Egypt. N o b o d y likes being compelled t o p e r f o r m hard labor by a task¬ master. B u t the exile began w e l l before they were slaves. W h e n they lived as free m e n i n Egypt, they were n o t upset. A f t e r all, E g y p t was a nice c o u n t r y w i t h a t h r i v i n g economy. W o u l d i t be so bad i f that s i t u a t i o n c o n t i n u e d forever? Moses differed. H e h i m s e l f was never enslaved. Nevertheless, he wanted t o lead the people o u t o f E g y p t because the whole m o t i f o f exile was foreign t o h i m . W h a t ' s the difference between Egypt and Eretz^ Yisrael? I n Egypt (exile), the water supply is f r o m the N i l e , while i n Eretz^Yisrael, i t comes f r o m rain. I n Egypt, y o u t h i n k there is a natural, dependable source for maintaining y o u r existence, and i n Eretz^ Yisrael, y o u must l o o k heaven¬ ward. Moses' recited the blessing, and w i t h appetite partook o f the

BO

49

Moses wanted the people t o l o o k beyond the N i l e and realize that i t and other "natural, dependable sources" o f influence also come f r o m G - d . So, Moses says, " W a k e up and live w i t h the t r u t h . D o n ' t let Egypt and its norms c o n t r o l the way y o u t h i n k ! " T h e people d i d n ' t listen t o Moses because they d i d n ' t understand. After all, they were b r o u g h t up i n Egypt and that setting defined their mentality. Moses was simply speaking about a completely different frame o f reference. B u t Moses wanted and u l t i m a t e l y succeeded i n g e t t i n g t h e m t o ac¬ cept his level o f understanding. W h e n this happened, redeemed. they were

Looking to the Horizon
T h e prophet tells us "As i n the days o f y o u r exodus f r o m Egypt, I w i l l show [the people] wonders," establishing a correlation between the exodus f r o m Egypt and the F u t u r e R e d e m p t i o n . T h e equivalence is multi-faceted and the story o f the enslavement and r e d e m p t i o n o f our people f r o m Egypt provides us w i t h many insights w i t h regard t o the Future Redemption. T h e T o r a h tells us that when Moses first delivered the message o f R e d e m p t i o n , the people " d i d n o t heed Moses because o f shortness o f spirit and d i f f i c u l t w o r k . " I t was n o t that they d i d n o t believe Moses. T h e y d i d n ' t hear h i m . T h e y were t o o busy. T h e y had their quota o f bricks t o make and this was all that concerned t h e m . T h e y were n o t able t o take the t i m e t o consider any other t h o u g h t , and certainly n o t the t h o u g h t o f r e d e m p t i o n . H o w close a parallel t o our present s i t u a t i o n ! F r o m m o m e n t t o m o m e n t , our w o r l d is g r o w i n g increasingly Messianic as the break¬ throughs in science, technology, and communication bring the

wondrous Biblical prophecies w i t h i n our sights. A n o u t p o u r i n g o f knowledge, the v i r t u a l conquest o f famine, and even w o r l d peace are n o longer dreams o f the future, b u t realities that are becoming more im¬ mediate f r o m day t o day. T h e "Moseses" o f our people appreciate these cues and invite others t o j o i n t h e m . T h e y want people t o live o n a higher frequency, t o

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understand the w o r l d and their relationship w i t h G - d as i t t r u l y is. A n d t h r o u g h various and sundry means, they endeavor t o motivate the people t o come and ask t o partake o f their Paschal sacrifice, i.e., t o acknowledge and embrace this deeper appreciation o f reality.

I n the 1950s, there was a Reform Rabbi who carried on an extended correspondence with the Rebbe and would visit h i m from time to time. Once he told the Rebbe, " I envy the peaceful happiness and calm that radiates from the faces o f your followers. I feel, however, it stems from naivete. Were they exposed to the world and its challenges, it would be different." The Rebbe replied: "They are not naive. They're simply not living a dichotomy." People at large feel torn between who they are and who they would like to be; their morals and their actual conduct. The Rebbe was telling his questioner that his followers do not face such a split. chassidism gives them a wholesome approach to life that empowers them to be at peace w i t h themselves and live the values they profess. The result is the inner joy and tranquility that his questioner envied.

Parshas Beshallach
T h e beginning o f this week's T o r a h reading: " W h e n Pharaoh sent o u t the nation...." invites several questions: W h y is Pharaoh m e n t i o n e d as the active agent o f the Exodus? u n t i l this time, he was the one preventing the Jews f r o m leaving Egypt. W h y is he suddenly given credit for sending t h e m out? T h e r e s o l u t i o n o f these questions focuses o n an issue o f greater scope: W h y does G - d create Pharaohs t o begin with? Surely, the displayed was his o w n

excessive wickedness and cruelty Pharaoh

choice. G - d d i d n o t create h i m inhumane, n o r d i d H e compel h i m t o oppress the Jews. B u t G - d gave h i m the o p p o r t u n i t y as w e l l as the tendency t o do so. I f G - d d i d n o t want that t o happen, H e s h o u l d have created Pharaoh differently, or n o t have created h i m at all. Some explain that this is simply the way the w o r l d is. T h e w o r l d has Pharaohs. N o t everything we see is a rose garden. B u t that runs contrary t o the very core o f our faith. There can't be anything i n this w o r l d that G - d doesn't want, for H e created the w o r l d

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f r o m absolute nothingness. T h e r e isn't a n y t h i n g that H e was forced t o allow i n the w o r l d . So whatever exists, exists because H e chose for i t to exist. So w h y does H e make Pharaohs? T h e u l t i m a t e answer is: So Pharaoh can send the Jews o u t o f Egypt. Pharaoh is n o t intended t o be evil or malicious. Instead, Pharaoh exists t o help the Jews reach R e d e m p t i o n . B u t there are some entities that express their positive i n t e n t at the outset and others like Pharaoh that require effort and even t r a n s f o r m a t i o n before their positive

qualities come t o the surface. T h e r e is n o t h i n g i n G-d's w o r l d that wasn't created for the good. H e is good, and H e can't make a n y t h i n g that is n o t good. But i t is n o t always apparent that everything that H e makes is

good, and i n those situations, H e invites the Jewish people t o w o r k together w i t h H i m t o b r i n g that good t o the surface. H e w i l l do H i s part, b u t there has t o be an agent here o n earth t o serve as H i s representative and endeavor t o further H i s purpose. T h a t is the role He gave the Jewish people: t o c o n f r o n t Pharaoh and others like h i m

and b r i n g o u t the good that G - d invested i n t h e m . I t is n o t always easy, because when y o u deal w i t h Pharaohs, y o u can get h u r t . B u t what comes as an end result is the satisfaction o f being G-d's partner i n creation — i.e., that y o u d i d y o u r part i n

h e l p i n g G-d's vision o f an ideal w o r l d become a reality. Moreover, there is m u c h more involved than just satisfaction. Pharaoh u l t i m a t e l y sends o u t the Jews and becomes the active agent for the r e d e m p t i o n because that is what he is created for. H e may balk, protest, and fight, b u t he w i l l eventually f u l f i l l his purpose, because he has n o choice than t o do that for w h i c h he was created. I t is similar w i t h regard t o a Jew. H e may n o t appreciate the fact that he was chosen t o serve as G-d's agent t o be "a l i g h t u n t o the nations." H e m i g h t prefer an easier, less challenging task. H e must, however, realize that this is w h y he was created. A n d i f this is his purpose, i t is t h r o u g h the realization o f that purpose that he w i l l f i n d f u l f i l l m e n t .

BESHALLACH

53

Looking to the Horizon
O u r efforts t o refine Pharaoh and others like h i m are also future oriented. O n e o f the prophecies that M a i m o n i d e s quotes w i t h regard t o the R e d e m p t i o n is: " I w i l l make the nations pure o f speech so that they w i l l all call u p o n the name o f G - d and serve H i m w i t h one

purpose." A n d he continues stating " I n that era, the occupation o f the entire w o r l d , [i.e., non-Jews as w e l l as Jews,] w i l l be solely t o k n o w G-d." F o r the R e d e m p t i o n w i l l n o t involve solely the Jewish people. I t w o u l d be ludicrous t o t h i n k that as an advent t o a perfect w o r l d , G - d would eliminate a b i l l i o n Asians. Instead, the intent is that the

revelation o f G-dliness that w i l l permeate that era w i l l be appreciated by a l l m a n k i n d . I n a n t i c i p a t i o n o f this revelation, efforts m u s t also be made t o refine the conduct o f all nations, n o t only the Jewish people. I n that light, i t is significant that directly before speaks his of the describing Seven the Future Laws the the

Redemption, commanded

Maimonides to Noah and

universal is that

descendants. I m p l i e d

awareness and the practice o f these universal laws w i l l hasten

c o m i n g o f the R e d e m p t i o n . For the T o r a h is n o t o n l y a guide for the Jewish people, b u t rather serves as a signpost for all m a n k i n d , showing h u m a n i t y as a whole a p a t h t o a more meaningful and existence. purposeful

There he was, shipwrecked, alone on an island. H e surveyed the few articles washed ashore w i t h him: a few tools, a few necessities, and one book. He took the book and put i t i n a special place, for he realized that this was to be his sole source o f outside intellectual stimulation. The island had ample supplies o f water, fruit, and animals, and he was able to survive. But man is interested in more than survival. What did he do to grow? H e read his book. A n d reread it, and reread it over and over again. Seven years passed until a passing ship spotted him. By that time, he had so thoroughly studied the text that not only did he know the book, he knew the author. He understood which dimensions o f the author's personality each o f the characters represented and why their destinies were intertwined. The analogy refers to the book o f books, the Torah. The Torah is not merely a book. I t is a tool that enables us to know G-d who composed it. Through that knowledge of G-d, our entire conception o f existence changes. Our relations w i t h our fellow men also become richer and more fulfilling. For as we study the Torah, our conceptual processes become aligned w i t h G-d's and we view others as H e desires us to.

Parshas Yisro
" I am a g o o d person at heart. I want t o help others; that's what's i m p o r t a n t . L e t me concentrate o n d o i n g good for m y fellow man. W h e n I ' m finished w i t h that, I ' l l w o r r y about d o i n g what's good for G-d." T h i s is n o t a new argument. O n the contrary, we hear i t surfacing many times t h r o u g h o u t our history. Y e t , f r o m the earliest times, Judaism has n o t accepted this approach. O n M o u n t Sinai, when G - d gave us the T e n c o m m a n d m e n t s , H e divided t h e m up i n t o t w o

groups: T h e first four commandments focus o n our relationship w i t h G-d: t o believe i n H i m , n o t t o w o r s h i p idols, n o t t o take H i s name i n vain, t o keep the Shabbos. T h e remaining six speak about our relations

54

YISRO

55

w i t h our fellow man: h o n o r i n g y o u r father and mother, n o t k i l l i n g , n o t stealing, and n o t c o m m i t t i n g adultery, n o t bearing false testimony, and not t o covet. The t w o groups are given together and the commandments

between man and G - d come first. W h y ? Because o n our o w n , we can't be sure we w i l l always be g o o d people. W e need an objective standard governing our conduct. A person can have the best i n t e n t i o n s and yet when i t comes t o his actual conduct, he may h a r m others severely. How could that possibly happen? Because "love covers all

blemishes," and self-love is the m o s t p o w e r f u l f o r m o f love there is. Because o f a person's preoccupation w i t h himself, what he likes, and what he t h i n k s is r i g h t , he may lose sight o f what is happening t o another person. Even t h o u g h he is h a r m i n g another person, he m i g h t t h i n k that he is d o i n g good. A l i t t l e b i t m o r e than a generation ago, this thesis m i g h t have been contested o n the battlegrounds o f logic. B u t today, we are all witness to what happens when the need for a G - d l y standard is ignored. I n the early 1 9 0 0 s , the paragon o f civilization, the master o f science, culture, p h i l o s o p h y and ethics, was Germany, and as a n a t i o n she p o i n t e d t o the success o f man's efforts t o better himself. And yet this n a t i o n perpetrated the m o s t hideous crimes and

atrocities i n h i s t o r y — and a l l i n the name o f humanity's advancement. Moreover, i t was n o t only the rabble i n the street that supported these deeds. By and large, the champions o f science and culture d i d n o t stand up against the N a z i regime. Indeed, the overwhelming m a j o r i t y collaborated w i t h i t . L e f t t o his o w n devices, m a n may n o t perceive the m o t i v a t i o n for his actions, or t h e i r consequences. T h a t ' s w h y the T o r a h gives us objective standards o f justice and g o o d . A person s h o u l d u p h o l d t h e m , not because he t h i n k s they're valuable or beneficial, b u t because they

are G-d's law, i m m u t a b l e and unchangeable. This perspective also protects us from the other extreme:

individuals w h o claim t o be religious, b u t have n o conception o f dealing fairly w i t h their fellow m a n . W h e n ethics are understood as G-d's law, such people w i l l n o t be able t o continue their double

standard. T h e y can't hide b e h i n d the cloak o f holiness w h i l e they act

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dishonestly. For, o n the contrary, the T o r a h leads us n o t o n l y t o s p i r i t u a l development and connection t o G - d , b u t also t o g r o w t h as people and advanced interpersonal relationships.

Looking to the Horizon
W h e n discussing the c o m i n g o f Mashiach, M a i m o n i d e s writes: " T h i s is the m a i n t h r u s t o f the matter. T h i s T o r a h , w i t h its laws and statutes, is everlasting. W e may neither add t o them, n o r detract f r o m t h e m . " On one hand, M a i m o n i d e s ' words are intended to contrast

Judaism's concept o f Mashiach's c o n t r i b u t i o n s f r o m that o f other faiths. T h i s is obvious f r o m the c o n t i n u a t i o n o f his text — censored from

the standard p r i n t e d versions, b u t recently published — w h i c h states: "Whoever adds [to the mitzyos] or detracts from them, to or be

misinterprets

the T o r a h , i m p l y i n g that

the mitzyos are n o t

understood literally, is surely a heretic." O n the other hand, there is a deeper t r u t h involved. T h e giving o f the T o r a h represents a t u r n i n g p o i n t i n the w o r l d ' s s p i r i t u a l h i s t o r y : G-d revealed H i m s e l f t o man and gave h i m a code o f law. Since that

law is G - d l y , i t — like G - d — does n o t change. T h a t ' s w h y we d o n ' t expect Mashiach t o change the T o r a h for us or reveal new laws. Since the T o r a h is G-d's t r u t h , there is n o t h i n g that can be done t o improve o n i t . Nevertheless, the T o r a h is i n f i n i t e and u n b o u n d e d as is G - d

H i m s e l f . A l t h o u g h the T o r a h w i l l n o t be changed, i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , new dimensions o f T o r a h w i l l be revealed that will

eclipse the T o r a h teachings o f the present age. F o r at present o n l y a l i m i t e d g l i m m e r o f the T o r a h ' s essence is revealed, and i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , we w i l l appreciate the T o r a h as i t t r u l y is.

I was recently speaking w i t h a friend, a podiatrist w i t h a growing practice i n the Midwest. H e mentioned that he had been observant for two years before he believed in G-d. " H o w could that be?" I asked h i m i n surprise. "Belief i n G-d is the starting point o f Jewish practice. I f you didn't believe, why would you want to perform mitzyos?" " I look at things differently," he answered. " I am a scientist. T o me, the practical application o f a concept is more important than theory. Before I got married, I was looking for a way o f life and a structure on which to base my home life. I saw that Torah-observant families shared greater communication between husbands and wives and between parents and children. Even people who I never thought could live w i t h another person, had successful marriages." "That was enough for me. M y wife and I began observing. Later on, we also began believing, but the first step was a simple matter o f statistics."

Parshas Mishpatim
T h e conclusion o f this week's T o r a h reading speaks about the Jews' acceptance o f the T o r a h . Last week's T o r a h reading spoke about the giving o f the T o r a h , so w h y the repetition? T h e r e are, however, t w o dimensions t o the event at Sinai: G-d's perspective and ours. Parshas Yisro relates that H e gave the T o r a h , m a k i n g i t possible for man t o relate t o H i m o n H i s frequency. u n t i l the T o r a h was given, there was an unbreachable chasm d i v i d i n g man f r o m G - d . F o r there is n o other channel t h r o u g h w h i c h a finite man can relate t o G - d i n H i s i n f i n i t y . By giving the T o r a h , G - d reached o u t t o m a n and granted h i m the o p p o r t u n i t y t o connect h i m s e l f t o G - d o n G-d's terms. Parshas Mishpatim focuses o n man's response t o G-d's initiative. T o what extent are we w i l l i n g t o c o m m i t ourselves t o H i m ? T h e r e are some w h o are prepared t o do what G - d says when i t makes sense. I f there is a D i v i n e c o m m a n d m e n t that they appreciate

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and feel a connection t o , they w i l l observe i t . I f , however, they do n o t understand, then they w i l l pass. Is there a n y t h i n g w r o n g w i t h that approach? W e l l , such a person is not bad. H e or she may indeed be quite refined and very pleasant

company. Nevertheless, i f the decision whether or n o t t o f o l l o w a c o m m a n d is based o n the person's logic or desires, he is n o t m a k i n g a c o m m i t m e n t t o G - d ; he is basically serving himself. H e is his o w n man, n o t G-d's. u l t i m a t e l y , that can lead t o a d i f f i c u l t y , for a person w h o is

d e t e r m i n i n g what is r i g h t or w r o n g o n his o w n can easily err. Self-love is the m o s t p o w e r f u l bribe there is, and i t is possible that i t w i l l warp a person's perception u n t i l he w i l l confuse good and evil, defining values solely o n the basis o f his o w n self-interest. Moreover, even w h e n the person does n o t fall prey t o such failings and is able t o m a i n t a i n exemplary standards o f conduct, s o m e t h i n g is missing. The word mitzyah relates to the word tzavsa, meaning

"connection." W h e n a person fulfills a mitzyah o n l y because o f the dictates o f m o r t a l w i s d o m , his observance lacks the fundamental

awareness o f the b o n d w i t h G - d that the mitzyah establishes. A t Sinai, the Jews accepted the T o r a h by saying: " W e w i l l do and we w i l l l i s t e n , " expressing their c o m m i t m e n t t o f o l l o w G-d's w i l l even before they heard — let alone understood — what He would

c o m m a n d . By d o i n g so, they adopted an objective standard o f g o o d and evil, for i t w o u l d be the T o r a h ' s guidelines and n o t t h e i r o w n subjective feelings that w o u l d determine their values. But more than that, giving such a s p i r i t u a l blank check is the m o s t appropriate way t o respond t o G-d's initiative. I t implies that just as He Him is boundless and u n l i m i t e d , we are prepared t o open ourselves t o i n an boundless and u n l i m i t e d way. T h i s enables the T o r a h t o

b r i n g about a complete b o n d w i t h H i m , t y i n g us n o t o n l y t o the dimensions o f H i m that we can comprehend, b u t t o H i s aspects w h i c h defy all h u m a n understanding. infinite

MISHPATIM

59

Looking to the Horizon
When speaking that: about "In the era o f the days, Redemption, all the Maimonides will be

emphasizes

[Mashiach's]

statutes

r e i n s t i t u t e d as i n former times

T h i s is the m a i n t h r u s t o f the matter:

T h i s T o r a h , w i t h its statutes and laws, is everlasting." M a i m o n i d e s is ostensibly teaching us something about the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , that the giving o f the T o r a h w i l l n o t be repeated; there w i l l n o t be a new covenant. I n d o i n g so, however, he is teaching us s o m e t h i n g about the T o r a h . By h i g h l i g h t i n g that Mashiach w i l l n o t i n t r o d u c e a new t r u t h t o man, he heightens our awareness o f what the T o r a h is. M a n w i l l n o t need a deeper and more encompassing truth i n the era of the

R e d e m p t i o n , because that is n o t a p o s s i b i l i t y . T h e T o r a h is perfect G - d l y t r u t h . I t cannot be augmented or i m p r o v e d . I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , this t r u t h w i l l be embraced by all m a n k i n d and this w i l l be the catalyst for the environment o f peace, prosperity, and knowledge that w i l l characterize that age. T h i s leads t o a further p o i n t . I f the fundamental t h r u s t o f the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n is that " T h i s T o r a h , w i t h its statutes and laws, is everlasting," then by m a k i n g the T o r a h the fundamental t h r u s t o f our lives, we can anticipate and actually create the mindset that w i l l prevail in the era o f the Redemption. This will expand the frontiers

encompassed by this approach, h e l p i n g i t spread u n t i l i t becomes man's universal framework o f reference.

"Where is G-d?" the Kotzker Rebbe once asked his students. The students were perplexed. The Rebbe had always told them that G-d is everywhere, that H i s Being permeates every element o f existence. They did not answer their teacher. And so the Rebbe told them: "Where is G-d? Where you let H i m in." Although G-dliness is everywhere, for G-dliness to become an apparent and revealed factor i n one's life, man must let H i m i n and open himself to G-d's involvement. As an invitation for mankind as a whole to bring G-dliness into the world, G-d commanded us to build H i m a Sanctuary i n the desert and later a Temple in Jerusalem. This commandment, the subject o f this week's Torah reading, enabled man to create an ongoing source o f spiritual inspiration for our world.

Parshas Terumah
T h i s week's T o r a h reading communicates the c o m m a n d t o b u i l d a Sanctuary. G - d t o l d the Jewish people: " M a k e M e a Sanctuary and I w i l l dwell w i t h i n " T h e Sanctuary, and later the T e m p l e i n Jerusalem,

was "the place w h i c h G-d... chose... t o place H i s name there." T h i s was H i s home o n earth, as i t were. Just like a person can relax and express h i m s e l f w i t h o u t i n h i b i t i o n s i n his o w n home, so too, the T e m p l e was — and w i l l be — the place where G-dliness was revealed w i t h o u t

restrictions. I n every person's i n d i v i d u a l w o r l d , his soul rests i n his m i n d , and that makes his entire body human. Similarly, i n the w o r l d at large, G-d's presence rested i n the T e m p l e , and that made i t possible for us to appreciate G-dliness i n every element o f existence. T h e existence o f the T e m p l e makes the entire w o r l d H i s home. Our Rabbis teach us that the H e b r e w w o r d for " w i t h i n " ‫ ב ת ו כ ם‬,

literally means " w i t h i n t h e m , " n o t " w i t h i n i t . " B u i l d i n g a Sanctuary for G - d d i d n o t mean merely erecting a structure where H i s presence

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TERUMAH

61

w o u l d be manifest. Instead, the i n t e n t was that every single person w o u l d become "a sanctuary i n m i c r o c o s m , " for G - d w o u l d dwell

" w i t h i n t h e m , " w i t h i n each and every individual. A l l the details about w h i c h the T o r a h reading speaks have parallels i n our relationship t o G - d . T h e y are n o t just particulars that existed i n the Sanctuary l o n g ago, b u t are instead o n g o i n g m o t i f s relevant t o our b o n d w i t h G - d . T h e ark i n the H o l y o f H o l i e s where the D i v i n e presence rested refers t o the inner reaches that exist w i t h i n our heart. F o r i n each o f us, there is a resting place for the D i v i n e . Similarly, the Sanctuary and the T e m p l e contained: • the Menorah, the golden candelabra; this p o i n t s t o the p o t e n t i a l we all possess t o i l l u m i n a t e our surroundings w i t h G - d l y l i g h t ; • the table, o n w h i c h the showbread was placed; this p o i n t s t o our p o t e n t i a l t o earn a livelihood; this is also a h o l y endeavor deserving o f a place i n the Sanctuary; and • the altar, where sacrifices were b r o u g h t . Korban, H e b r e w for

sacrifice, relates

t o the w o r d karov, meaning "close"; t h r o u g h the

sacrifices, we draw close t o G - d . A l t h o u g h we n o longer have the Sanctuary b u i l t by Moses, n o r the T e m p l e i n Jerusalem, the sanctuary i n every Jewish heart remains. T h e home for G - d w i t h i n us is an inseparable element o f our existence.

Looking to the Horizon
Immediately after the giving o f the T o r a h , G - d ordered the b u i l d i n g o f the Sanctuary. F o r i n times o f D i v i n e favor, w h e n H e openly shows H i s love for m a n k i n d , H e has ordained that there be one central place where H i s presence be openly manifest. W h e n the Jews lived i n Eretz^ Yisrael, i t was i n Jerusalem that G - d chose t o have H i s d w e l l i n g constructed. F r o m that t i m e onward, the T e m p l e M o u n t is the place where the D i v i n e presence rests. F o r this reason, one o f the signs that M a i m o n i d e s gives for

verifying the i d e n t i t y o f Mashiach is that he w i l l r e b u i l d the T e m p l e o n its place i n Jerusalem. T w o p o i n t s are i m p l i e d : a) that the existence o f a T e m p l e is a fundamental element o f the Messianic age. F o r as M a i m o n i d e s had

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stated previously, at that t i m e , all o f the laws o f the T o r a h w i l l be observed and the sacrifices w i l l be offered. b) T h e T e m p l e w i l l be b u i l t i n Jerusalem, i n the exact place that the previous Temples stood. Why place m u s t the T e m p l e be b u i l t i n that place? Because that was the as the p o i n t o f D i v i n e revelation. T h i s turns our

chosen

a t t e n t i o n t o the t h i r d — and m o s t fundamental — element o f the Temple's importance: I t is the place where G-d's presence w i l l be revealed, and i t is f r o m the T e m p l e that the overt appreciation o f G-dliness, w h i c h w i l l characterize the era o f Mashiach, w i l l spread f o r t h .

A n unlearned chassid would recite his prayers in prolonged meditation. His conduct attracted the attention of his colleagues who wondered what was the subject o f his lengthy contemplation. "What are you thinking about while you are praying?" they inquired. W i t h whole-hearted simplicity, the chassid repeated a teaching he had heard from the Alter Rebbe. I n the Book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments introduce the Sabbath w i t h the word Zachor ("remember"). I n the repetition o f the Ten Commandments i n the Book o f Deuteronomy, however, this command begins with the word Shamor ("Observe"; literally, "pay heed t o " ) . Our Sages explain that there is no contradiction: "Shamor and Zachor were recited i n one statement." The Alter Rebbe offered a non-literal interpretation o f their words: " I n every statement, a person should remember and pay heed to the One." "That," he told his attentive colleagues, "is what I try to do when I pray." There are two dimensions to prayer: a) Asking G-d for our needs. This is very important, for we should realize that H e — and not our own efforts — is the ultimate source for our success and well-being. b) Connecting w i t h H i m . Each one o f us has moments when he or she rises above thinking about his wants or needs. A t that time, we pray so that we establish a bond and identify with G-d and H i s purpose.

Parshas Tetzayeh
T h i s week's T o r a h reading contains the c o m m a n d t o construct the golden altar, the altar that was placed inside the Sanctuary itself. N o w last week's T o r a h reading related the c o m m a n d t o construct the outer altar i n the courtyard o f the Sanctuary. Questions immediately come t o m i n d : W h y aren't the t w o altars m e n t i o n e d together? W h y are many other concepts i n t r o d u c e d between the two?

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T h e r e s o l u t i o n o f these questions is based o n the concept that the Sanctuary p r o v i d e d a visible representation o f the private sanctuary each one o f us possesses i n our hearts. A n altar p o i n t s t o man's efforts t o approach G - d . Just as, w i t h i n our o w n hearts, we have feelings that we show t o others, and inner, m o r e p o w e r f u l feelings that we usually keep t o ourselves; so, t o o , i n the Sanctuary, there was an outer altar i n p u b l i c view, and an inner altar w i t h i n the Sanctuary itself. T h e sacrifices were offered o n the outer altar. ‫ ק ר ב ן‬, the H e b r e w w o r d for sacrifices, comes f r o m the r o o t ‫ ק ר ב‬, meaning "close." T h e sacrifices b r o u g h t a person closer t o G - d . The incense offering was b r o u g h t o n the inner altar. ‫קטרת‬,

meaning "incense," shares a connection w i t h the w o r d ‫ ק ט ר‬, meaning " b o n d . " T h e incense offering d i d n o t merely draw us close t o G - d ; i t established a b o n d w i t h H i m . T h e difference between the t w o is obvious. W a n t i n g t o be close indicates that there exists a distance, and m o r e i m p o r t a n t l y that the person w h o desires t o be close feels as a separate entity. H e may realize the positive qualities o f the article or the person t o w h o m he desires t o draw close. H e may love that person powerfully, b u t ultimately, the relationship is between t w o separate people. W h e n people b o n d , they subsume their personal identities t o that o f the new e n t i t y w h i c h is f o r m e d . A couple are n o t merely t w o people i n love; they have bonded themselves i n t o a new and more complete union. T h e incense offering refers t o the establishment o f such a b o n d w i t h G - d . A person loses sight o f w h o he or she is and identifies w i t h G - d and H i s purpose. H e is n o longer so concerned w i t h his o w n personal wants or needs, b u t sees a larger p i c t u r e . H e begins l o o k i n g at the w o r l d f r o m G-d's perspective. T h i s difference is also reflected i n the substances involved i n the t w o offerings. O n the outer altar, meat, fats, and b l o o d were offered, fleshy substances i d e n t i f i e d w i t h the body. O n the inner altar, incense — spices w h i c h produce a pleasant fragrance — were offered. O u r

Sages speak o f fragrance as a substance f r o m w h i c h the soul derives benefit, n o t the body.

TETZAVEH

65

T h u s the outer altar represents our drawing close t o G - d f r o m the perspective o f our bodies, while the inner altar represents the b o n d w i t h H i m established by our souls. Since they represent t w o very different aspects o f our D i v i n e service, the t w o altars are m e n t i o n e d i n different T o r a h readings.

Looking to the Horizon
Our desire for Mashiach's c o m i n g can also be seen f r o m these t w o perspectives. T h e r e are some w h o seek Mashiach for their o w n purposes. Some desire the material prosperity that will accompany the

R e d e m p t i o n . F o r then, "good things w i l l flow i n abundance and all delights w i l l be as accessible as dust." Others are concerned w i t h spiritual fulfillment. They yearn for the outpouring o f G-dly

knowledge that w i l l characterize that era. T h e r e is, however, a c o m m o n denominator between these — and many other intermediary — approaches. T h e y l o o k at the R e d e m p t i o n f r o m man's p o i n t o f view: what, either materially or spiritually, he w i l l get o u t o f i t . T h e r e is another perspective. G - d created the w o r l d for the sake o f Mashiach. F r o m the beginning o f existence, G - d sought a dwelling i n this m o r t a l realm. O u r desire for r e d e m p t i o n should focus n o t o n what we are lacking, b u t o n what H e is lacking, as i t were, that H i s desire has n o t yet been f u l f i l l e d .

Before Rabbi Shlomo o f Karlin passed away, he made i t known that his students should transfer their allegiance to Reb Mordechai o f Nischiz. As each o f Rabbi Shlomo's disciples came to Karlin after the sage's passing, they were given this advice and made their way to Nischiz. One o f Reb Shlomo's students was Reb U r i , known as "the fiery one" because o f his ardent love o f G-d and fervid character. He also set out for Nischiz and arrived at a time when Reb Mordechai was receiving visitors. W i t h his spiritual insight, Reb u r i perceived that among those calling on the Rebbe was a man who had just committed a grave sin. This man had merely come to inquire about a business matter and to seek a blessing. Reb Mordechai received this man warmly. As they were talking, Reb Mordechai sensed Reb u r i seething w i t h anger. The disciple was thinking: How could this man approach the Rebbe without repenting? Before Reb u r i could speak, Reb Mordechai ordered h i m to leave the room, and continued talking cordially to his guest. Reb u r i , dismayed at being sent away by the man he had hoped would agree to become his new spiritual guide, went to one o f the synagogues i n town to think. Shortly afterwards, Reb Mordechai sent for him. "Don't you think I saw what you saw?" he asked Reb U r i . " I also knew the severity o f his sin. But this is why Reb Shlomo sent you here: so that you should learn how to love your fellow man. I f your feelings o f love aren't powerful enough that you want to embrace even a man who has sinned, you are lacking. Moreover, this is the best way to spur a person to repentance. When you reach out to a sinner w i t h love, he will naturally improve his conduct." Reb u r i had been able to see behind the visitor's physical appearance and perceive his spiritual faults, but Reb Mordechai had looked even deeper. He recognized the other person's G-dly core and understood his potential for good.

66

K I SISSA

67

Parshas Ki Sissa
T h i s week's T o r a h reading, Ki Sissa, speaks about the sin o f the G o l d e n Calf, and the Haftorah w h i c h echoes the message o f the T o r a h reading, speaks o f the confrontation between the p r o p h e t Elijah and the

prophets o f the false deity, Baal. I n that era, the m a j o r i t y o f the Jewish people were worshipers o f the Baal. Nevertheless, they d i d n o t renounce their ties t o their Jewish heritage entirely. Instead, they w o u l d alternate between these t w o forms o f worship, at times f o l l o w i n g the T o r a h ' s guidelines, and at times reverting t o paganism. The p r o p h e t Elijah reproached the people: " H o w l o n g w i l l y o u

straddle the fence? I f G - d is the L - r d f o l l o w H i m , and i f i t is Baal, then f o l l o w i t . " The people remained silent, and then Elijah proposed a test. T h e

prophets o f Baal w o u l d offer a b u l l t o Baal, w h i l e Elijah w o u l d offer a bull to G-d. Fire would not be kindled under either sacrifice.

Whichever deity answered w i t h fire f r o m heaven w o u l d be accepted. The two people and the prophets o f Baal agreed t o t h i s test, and the

bulls were sacrificed. T h e prophets o f Baal were f o r l o r n , as n o

answer came t o their calls. A n d w h e n Elijah asked for G - d t o answer him, a fire issued f o r t h from heaven. W h e n the people saw t h i s

miracle, they all j o i n e d f o r t h p r o c l a i m i n g i n u n i s o n : " G - d is the L - r d . " The challenge Elijah posed to the people is worthy of

consideration: H o w c o u l d he t e l l t h e m : " I f i t is Baal, f o l l o w Baal"? Seemingly, i t is better for a person t o be " s t r a d d l i n g the fence" than t o serve Baal entirely. c e r t a i n l y , s t r a d d l i n g the fence is n o t a desirable state, b u t for a person w h o is n o t ready t o make a t o t a l c o m m i t m e n t , i t has certain advantages. H e is n o t t o t a l l y divorced f r o m his Jewish heritage. T h e door is open for h i m at all times, and sometimes he even enters i t . W h y s h o u l d Elijah t e l l such a person t o f o l l o w Baal? T h e r e are, however, disadvantages i n s t r a d d l i n g the fence that are p o w e r f u l enough t o m o t i v a t e Elijah's statement. F i r s t o f all, a person straddling the fence w i l l f i n d i t very d i f f i c u l t t o ever make a sincere c o m m i t m e n t t o Judaism. W h e n a person serves Baal wholeheartedly, he may be m a k i n g a serious error, b u t he is sincere about his s p i r i t u a l

68

KEEPING I N TOUCH

search. A n d so, there is the p o s s i b i l i t y that he w i l l realize that his service is m i s g u i d e d and he may seek other alternatives. W h e n , however, a person straddles the fence, he is n o t t a k i n g either approach seriously. W e r e he t o be sincere about serving either G-d or the Baal, he w o u l d see that the w o r s h i p o f the t w o cannot

coexsit. B u t because such a person lacks such sincerity, i t w i l l be very d i f f i c u l t for h i m t o ever realize his error. H e is likely t o continue straddling the fence forever. A n o t h e r d i f f i c u l t y arises i n the image he presents t o others. W h e n a person is a sincere believer i n Baal, i t is uncertain whether he w i l l convince anyone else t o f o l l o w h i m . Jews are u n l i k e l y t o o p t for such an approach. T h e complacent m i d d l e p a t h o f s t r a d d l i n g the fence, however, is socially acceptable and may seem attractive t o others. Elijah was able t o motivate the Jews t o "get o f f the fence." H i s own zealous c o m m i t m e n t t o facing the t r u t h caused the n a t i o n as a

whole t o seek t r u t h and accept a c o n f r o n t a t i o n . A n d t h r o u g h that c o n f r o n t a t i o n , i t was clearly established that " G - d is the L - r d . "

Looking to the Horizon
I n one o f the prophecies o f the R e d e m p t i o n , we are p r o m i s e d : "Behold I w i l l send y o u Elijah the p r o p h e t before the c o m i n g o f the great and awesome day, and he shall t u r n the hearts o f the fathers t o the

c h i l d r e n . " T h e commentaries interpret the verse t o mean that children w i l l t u r n the hearts o f t h e i r parents — i.e., they w i l l awaken w i t h i n their hearts an earnest desire t o t u r n t o G - d — and this w i l l spur the c o m i n g o f the R e d e m p t i o n . T h i s is n o t a theoretical issue b u t a m o t i f that is at w o r k i n many homes today. F o r as y o u n g families are s h o w i n g an interest i n having and raising children, they realize that they m u s t provide t h e m w i t h s p i r i t u a l content i n their lives. A n d as a result, the parents themselves are becoming more spiritually inspired. As they teach their children, they themselves learn, and together they approach the u l t i m a t e purpose o f all m a n k i n d , the c o m i n g o f Mashiach.

Stretch your imagination some. M r . Goldberg gets a buzz on his intercom. "There's someone who wants to see you," his secretary announces. "Who is it?" "A distinguished-looking gentleman who calls himself Mashiach." "Listen, tell h i m that I would really like to speak to him, but I ' m busy. Give h i m an appointment i n two weeks." I n a similar vein, but i n an entirely different context, a classic chassidic tale is told: Mashiach arrives and the entire Jewish people come out to greet him. A few eminent scholars i n the front row ask h i m : "Mashiach, would you like to hear a learned Talmudic dissertation to be delivered in your honor?" Mashiach agrees, and one o f the scholars begins to speak. When he concludes, he asks "Nu, Mashiach, how was it?" " N o t bad," replies Mashiach. "Only not bad?!" protests the scholar. "Well, quite frankly," explains Mashiach, " i t could have been improved here and there." The scholar shamefacedly admits, "You're right. unfortunately, I ' m afraid, we weren't quite expecting you.... I f you had come a day or so later, i t would have been better." Mashiach is then greeted by a jovial group o f chassidim. "Shalom Aleichem, Mashiach. W o u l d you like to join us i n a LeChayim?" Mashiach agrees, glasses are poured, and a toast is made. One o f the chassidim asks: "Nu, Mashiach, how was the mashkeh?" And Mashiach tells the truth: "The mashkeh was good, but there was very little o f i t . " The chassid explains: "Every day we were so sure you were coming that day, that we've been saying LeChayim all along! I f you had come a day earlier, there would have been more."

What's the point o f these stories?

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70

KEEPING I N TOUCH

Whether busy gathering spiritual or material wealth, each o f us is preoccupied w i t h the immediate here and now in which we live. Mashiach will break that pattern. H i s coming will ruffle our everyday routine and prevent tomorrow from being the same as yesterday. Neither the businessman nor the scholar mentioned above is ready for that. One o f our Thirteen Principles o f Faith, however, is to wait for Mashiach — every day — to expect h i m to come not only sometime i n the far-off future, but each day. Waiting for Mashiach, moreover, need not be passive. W e can anticipate Mashiach's coming by accepting a different mindset, and begin looking at our lives and our environment from a different perspective. This i n turn will motivate us to act differently and increase our Divine service and our acts o f goodness and kindness.

Parshas Vayakhel
T h i s week's T o r a h reading describes the b u i l d i n g o f the Sanctuary i n the desert. I n precise detail, i t delineates the measures and the f o r m o f each o f the elements o f that structure. B u t for a student o f the T o r a h , this is n o t new i n f o r m a t i o n . A l l o f these details were related just t w o and three weeks ago i n the parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh. G - d t o l d Moses h o w the Sanctuary s h o u l d be b u i l t and Moses recorded the o u t l i n e o f that structure i n the T o r a h . Now, every w o r d i n the T o r a h is precise and every letter is

interpreted by our Sages as having meaning and significance. W h y t h e n are entire passages repeated? T h e review, however, is significant, for the Sanctuary — and later the T e m p l e i n Jerusalem — was a t w o f o l d structure. I t was a m e d i u m for the revelation o f G-d's presence. T h a t is the message o f the parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh. B u t i t is also the place where man's efforts i n refining his surroundings are h i g h l i g h t e d and given consummate

expression. T h i s is the message communicated by Parshas Vayakhel.

VAYAKHEL

71

G-d has H i s image o f the w o r l d . H e created i t so that i t w o u l d be H i s home, the place where H e reveals H i m s e l f w i t h o u t l i m i t a t i o n s or constraints just like a person reveals h i m s e l f freely i n his o w n home. But G - d wanted man t o feel at home i n H i s dwelling, so H e left

its c o n s t r u c t i o n t o man. H e c o u l d have b u i l t i t H i m s e l f . B u t then we would have felt like guests, unneeded and therefore somewhat

superfluous. G - d d i d n ' t want that t o happen. H e wanted us t o feel like — and actually t o be — H i s partners. Therefore H e left the j o b o f

m a k i n g the w o r l d H i s d w e l l i n g t o us. It's dwelling true that as the w o r l d exists now, i t is hardly f i t t o be a for man. T h e r e is n o need to elaborate on the greed,

selfishness, and crass material desire that permeate our lives. Just l o o k at any newspaper. c e r t a i n l y , there is the p o t e n t i a l for g o o d i n the w o r l d . B u t so often, that p o t e n t i a l is h i d d e n and underdeveloped. T h e task o f revealing and developing that p o t e n t i a l is man's

mission. H i s goal i n life is n o t t o avoid involvement w i t h w o r l d l y matters and escape i n t o the s p i r i t u a l realms. T h a t w o u l d defeat G-d's purpose. I t w o u l d i m p l y that the material w o r l d as i t exists w i t h i n its own context is separate f r o m H i m . Instead, man's l i f e w o r k centers o n

the physical environment i n w h i c h he lives. H i s purpose is t o take elements o f our existence and show that they were n o t destined t o be used for our petty, selfish purposes, b u t rather that they were intended to be part o f G-d's Sanctuary. T h a t is the message o f Parshas Vayakhel. Moses calls the people together ( w h i c h also serves as an i m p o r t a n t lesson, teaching that this task m u s t be achieved by g o i n g beyond our o w n i n d i v i d u a l selves and j o i n i n g w i t h others) and communicates this m i s s i o n t o t h e m . G - d w i l l do H i s part and manifest H i s presence, b u t creating the setting for the manifestation o f H i s presence is man's responsibility.

Looking to the Horizon
These concepts are relevant n o t o n l y t o this particular T o r a h reading, but t o the u l t i m a t e goal o f all our D i v i n e service: the era o f the

R e d e m p t i o n . F o r i t is i n this era that "the glory o f G - d w i l l be revealed

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and all flesh w i l l see"; i.e., H i s presence w i l l be revealed t h r o u g h o u t a l l existence. T h e setting for this revelation, however, w i l l be created by man's efforts and labor. Mashiach's c o m i n g is n o t dependent o n G-d's initiative alone.

Indeed, H e is w i l l i n g and even anxious t o b r i n g that revelation. W h a t is necessary? M a n ' s effort t o prepare h i m s e l f and his environment. W e have t o focus our a t t e n t i o n o n the true nature o f our lives and the true purpose o f the w o r l d i n w h i c h we are l i v i n g . W h e n we are conscious o f the fact that the w o r l d exists so that G - d can have a dwelling, when we realize that our lives were given t o us for the purpose o f creating that dwelling, and when we act u p o n —

n o t merely philosophize about — that realization, we w i l l b r i n g about change. As these ripples o f change spread, they w i l l become larger and soon — m u c h sooner than we can possibly appreciate — awareness o f the R e d e m p t i o n w i l l permeate all existence.

Once the Rebbe, Reb Zusia o f Anipoli, was trudging down a country road. He passed a wagon w i t h its wheels mired in the mud. "Help me push the wagon out," the driver called to Reb Zusia. Reb Zusia realized that he was weak and frail and could not be o f much assistance. " I would like to help you," he told the wagon driver, "but I can't." "You can," replied the wagon driver, "but you don't want to." Reb Zusia understood this as a lesson. T o o often, we feel mired down, unable to generate positive energy, stuck where we are without the strength to go forward. That feeling is an illusion. N o matter what our spiritual level, we always have the potential for growth and advancement. Every person has a soul, which is an actual part o f G-d, and just like there is nothing that can hold G-d back, there is nothing that can hold us back. We just have to want to go forward.

Parshas Pekudei
T h i s week's T o r a h reading concludes the B o o k o f Exodus. T h e final passage o f that b o o k tells us: " T h e c l o u d covered the T e n t o f M e e t i n g , and the glory o f G - d filled the Sanctuary.... F o r the c l o u d o f G - d w o u l d be o n the Sanctuary... before the eyes o f a l l o f the H o u s e o f Israel t h r o u g h o u t their journeys." The B o o k o f Exodus begins w i t h the narrative o f the Jews'

enslavement i n Egypt, recounts the story o f their r e d e m p t i o n , and then tells o f the giving o f the T o r a h and the c o n s t r u c t i o n o f the Sanctuary. I t is a story o f constant g r o w t h . As slaves, they saw the revelation o f G-dliness t h r o u g h the T e n Plagues. T h e n they were granted their the

freedom and left the land o f Egypt, whereupon they witnessed

utter devastation o f the Egyptians at the miraculous crossing o f the Sea. F o l l o w i n g the attainment o f physical freedom, they proceeded t o Sinai where G-d gave t h e m the Torah and they witnessed the

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revelation o f s p i r i t u a l t r u t h . A t Sinai, every person experienced a direct b o n d w i t h G - d . T h i s enabled t h e m t o appreciate a p a t h o f life that made possible a connection w i t h H i m , n o t only o n a m o u n t a i n i n the desert, b u t w i t h i n the day-to-day realities o f ordinary life. T h i s is accomplished t h r o u g h the mishpatim, the realm o f T o r a h law that can be rationally u n d e r s t o o d and that governs interpersonal relations. Moreover, this s p i r i t u a l awareness is given concrete expression

t h r o u g h the c o n s t r u c t i o n o f the Sanctuary. T h e Jewish people t o o k material entities — gold, silver, w o o d , and brass — and made t h e m i n t o a d w e l l i n g for the D i v i n e presence. T h e conclusion o f this process — G-d and o f this entire sequence o f ascent — came when "the glory o f filled the Sanctuary." Despite the l i m i t a t i o n s o f our m o r t a l

existence, m a n k i n d was able t o create a place that G - d c o u l d call home, a place where H i s very essence was revealed. T h e T o r a h emphasizes, however, that this sequence o f g r o w t h

does n o t lead t o a dead end. D i r e c t l y afterwards, i t states: " W h e n the c l o u d arose... the c h i l d r e n o f Israel set f o r t h o n all their journeys." D i v i n e service requires constant progress. W e can never "rest o n our laurels," b u t m u s t instead c o n t i n u a l l y undertake new and greater goals. Just as G - d is i n f i n i t e and unbounded, so t o o , our relationship w i t h H i m knows n o l i m i t a t i o n s . To express this idea w i t h i n the personal realm: A person may go

t h r o u g h a process o f self-development and g r o w t h that w i l l take h i m f r o m being hampered and confined t o the p o i n t o f experiencing a connection w i t h G - d i n his daily life. A n d this relationship w i l l n o t be self-contained, b u t instead w i l l be extended i n t o his environment; he w i l l make his surroundings a d w e l l i n g for G-dliness. H e s h o u l d n o t , however, stop there. Instead, he s h o u l d s u m m o n up the inner strength to "journey f o r t h " and spread the awareness o f G - d t o new and even broader h o r i z o n s .

Looking to the Horizon
W h e n speaking o f the F u t u r e R e d e m p t i o n , the p r o p h e t declares: "As i n the days o f y o u r Exodus f r o m Egypt, I w i l l show [the people] wonders," teaching that like the Exodus f r o m Egypt, the Future

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Redemption natural order.

will

be

characterized

by miracles

that

transcend

the

T h e commentaries,

however, raise the question: W h y does the

verse say "the days o f y o u r exodus"? T h e Jews left E g y p t i n one day. Seemingly, i t s h o u l d have used the singular t e r m , "the day o f y o u r exodus." Among the explanations given is that all the days u n t i l the

u l t i m a t e R e d e m p t i o n are "the days o f y o u r exodus f r o m E g y p t . " T h e exodus f r o m E g y p t was n o t an end i n itself, b u t the beginning o f a sequence intended t o be completed w i t h the c o m i n g o f Mashiach. u n t i l Mashiach's c o m i n g , we are s t i l l i n the m i d d l e o f "the days o f y o u r exodus," for the process has n o t been consummated. Each o f us as an i n d i v i d u a l , our people, and the w o r l d as a whole is s t i l l lacking

r e d e m p t i o n . T h i s is the journey o f our people and the journey o f each one o f us — t o proceed t o Eretz^ Yisrael together w i t h Mashiach.

When Napoleon invaded Russia, the Alter Rebbe sided w i t h the Russian czar — not so much because he appreciated the czar's policies, but because he feared what would happen i f Napoleon would be victorious. " I f the czar prevails, it will continue to be difficult for the Jews materially, but spiritually they will prosper. I f Napoleon prevails, by contrast, they will prosper materially, but falter spiritually." Following the Alter Rebbe's directives, some o f the chassidim took an active role in supporting the Russian war effort. One o f them, Moshe Meisels, served as a spy. He would pretend to be a wholesale merchant purveying goods to the French, while secretly listening to their military secrets and communicating them to the Russians. Once, i t became a little b i t too obvious that he was listening to the French plans and he aroused their suspicions. N o w in wartime, when a Jew was caught as a suspected spy, not too many questions were asked. He would be executed on the spot. Moshe Meisels was a quick and persuasive talker and so that verdict was not handed down immediately. There were enough people who believed his protests o f innocence. There were, however, an equal number whose suspicions were aroused. As the argument between the two sides became heated, Napoleon himself happened to be passing by. " I ' l l show you whether he is a spy or not," he told his officers. A n d putting his hand over Moshe's heart as a primitive polygraph, he began to question him. Moshe remained calm and answered the queries confidently. Napoleon was impressed and released him. Afterwards, Moshe said: "Now I know I have mastered the Alter Rebbe's teachings. For he would always emphasize that the mind must rule the heart, controlling its impulses."

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Parshas Vayikra
T h i s week's T o r a h reading focuses o n the korbanos, the offerings and

b r o u g h t by the Jewish people i n the Sanctuary i n the desert

afterwards, i n the T e m p l e i n Jerusalem. I t introduces this subject w i t h the verse (translated l i t e r a l l y ) : " W h e n a man w i l l offer o f y o u a

sacrifice t o G - d o f the animal." N o w proper grammar w o u l d have the verse read: " W h e n a man f r o m among y o u offers...." B u t the verse is structured i n this manner t o teach that the o f f e r i n g is " o f y o u , "

dependent o n each person and n o one else. T h e w o r d korban has its r o o t i n the w o r d karov, meaning B r i n g i n g an o f f e r i n g means c o m i n g close t o G - d . A n d the "close." Torah

teaches us that c o m i n g close t o G - d is dependent o n each i n d i v i d u a l . N o external factors can stand i n his way. Every person can come close t o G - d . I f he t r u l y desires, he can reach the highest peaks. A l s o i m p l i e d is that the offering comes " o f y o u , " o f the animal w i t h i n the person himself. F o r each one o f us has an animalistic side. This isn't necessarily something bad, for n o t all animals possess

negative qualities such as cruelty or parasitism. O n the contrary, most animals are pleasant creatures that are n o t h a r m f u l t o humans or other beasts. Even so, an animal is n o t considered a positive m o d e l for our

D i v i n e service. F o r an animal acts only t o f u l f i l l its o w n i n s t i n c t u a l drives. I t t h i n k s o f n o t h i n g m o r e than satisfying its o w n needs and achieving gratification. I t s selfishness lies n o t i n the desire t o take advantage o f others; i t just doesn't t h i n k o f others. I t is w i t h one t h i n g : h o w t o get what i t wants and needs. W e each have a certain animal d i m e n s i o n t o our personalities. concerned

T h e r e are times w h e n we t h i n k only o f ourselves and what we want. T h i s is n o t necessarily bad, b u t i t can lead t o conflict when t w o people want the same t h i n g , and i t does n o t represent a developed state. O n e o f the unique dimensions o f a h u m a n being is that he can t h i n k and his b r a i n can c o n t r o l his feelings and desires. B u t w h e n a person allows the animal i n h i m t o c o n t r o l his conduct, he does n o t h i n g w i t h this h u m a n p o t e n t i a l . H e w i l l leave the w o r l d the same way he came i n w i t h o u t having developed himself.

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T h a t is n o t w h y G - d b r o u g h t us i n t o being. H e created us t o make a change i n the w o r l d and t o begin by m a k i n g a change i n ourselves. Instead o f just acting because we feel like d o i n g something, our actions should be m o t i v a t e d by t h o u g h t . W e should act because what we're d o i n g is r i g h t , because i t follows G-d's i n t e n t i n the w o r l d . Instead o f always t a k i n g we should t h i n k o f l o o k i n g o u t w a r d and giving. A n d this involves changing the animal i n ourselves, b r i n g i n g i t closer t o G - d . T h a t ' s the s p i r i t u a l service associated w i t h b r i n g i n g a sacrifice. How is this done? T h r o u g h t h o u g h t . T h e animal i n us is also

intelligent. W h a t does i t want? T o feel good. W h e n i t appreciates that giving can be more satisfying than receiving and that the greatest happiness comes f r o m a t t u n i n g oneself t o G-d's w i l l , i t w i l l also act i n that manner. T h a t ' s w h y we must inspiring ideas and uplifting c o n t i n u a l l y expose ourselves t o this way, we w i l l be

concepts. I n

m o t i v a t e d t o l o o k beyond our self-interest and seek goals that benefit m a n k i n d as a whole.

Looking to the Horizon
W h e n describing Mashiach's coming, M a i m o n i d e s states: "Goodness w i l l flow abundantly and a l l the delights w i l l be as freely available as dust." M a i m o n i d e s is n o t w o n t t o speak i n similes. H e r e he uses one to communicate a fundamental concept. Yes, i n the era of the

R e d e m p t i o n , there w i l l be abundant goodness, b u t man w i l l regard i t as dust, as something n o t at all alluring. T h a t is n o t t o say that he w i l l n o t partake o f that goodness. O n the contrary, that is necessary. I n that era o f supreme f u l f i l l m e n t , we w i l l also be granted the u l t i m a t e i n physical satisfaction. E v e r y t h i n g that we need, we w i l l have. But the physical w i l l n o t be i m p o r t a n t t o us. Yes, we w i l l n o t lack anything, b u t our a t t e n t i o n w i l l be elsewhere. T h e depth and power o f s p i r i t u a l t r u t h w i l l capture and c o n t r o l our m i n d s ; that is what our thoughts w i l l be engaged i n and that is where we w i l l direct after being exposed t o the knowledge o f G-d our that

energies. F o r

Mashiach w i l l reveal, we w o n ' t be interested i n a n y t h i n g else. O u r m i n d s and hearts w i l l be focused o n s p i r i t u a l awareness.

As he was passing by a shul in a small village, the Baal Shem Tov heard a chazan practicing for the Y o m Kippur services. Appreciating his pleasant voice, he listened closely and heard h i m intoning the confessional prayers i n a joyous, cheerful melody. curious why he chose such a tone, he sent for him. The chazan explained with an allegory. A king allocated several tasks among his servants. Some he entrusted with polishing the palace jewelry. Others he charged w i t h preparing a feast. A n d still others, he ordered to clean the stables. The stable-cleaners were, nevertheless, happy. True, the work was not the most luxurious, but they were serving the king. Nothing could make them happier than that. When the Baal Shem T o v heard this explanation, he asked the chazan to lead the services for his congregation that year.

Parshas Tzav
T h i s week's T o r a h reading begins w i t h the c o m m a n d t o remove the ashes f r o m the altar. A t n i g h t , the limbs o f the sacrifices w o u l d be offered o n the altar and i n the m o r n i n g , the priests w o u l d take the ashes f r o m Jerusalem. T h e r e were priests chosen t o offer animal sacrifices and others chosen t o b r i n g the incense offering. A n d there were s t i l l others w h o were given the task o f cleaning the ashes f r o m the altar. O u r Sages emphasize that this was a lesser service, so m u c h so that i t could n o t be performed while wearing the ordinary priestly garments, but instead required special, less dignified robes. the altar and b r i n g t h e m t o a special place outside

Nevertheless, those priests also p e r f o r m e d their jobs eagerly. T h e y were serving G - d i n the T e m p l e . I t d i d n o t matter h o w they were serving H i m . As long as they were serving H i m , they were happy. O u t s i d e o f the T e m p l e , G-d's presence is n o t overtly revealed. T h u s we do n o t have the same i n s p i r a t i o n t o carry o u t H i s service. B u t

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that is o n l y because we are unaware. F r o m H i s perspective, our service is cherished whether we are aware o f the p o w e r f u l s p i r i t u a l effects i t produces or n o t . A n d this is so regardless o f what service we are asked t o p e r f o r m . R . S h o l o m D o v b e r (the Rebbe Rashab) w o u l d say: "Even i f G - d had commanded us t o chop w o o d — i.e., an activity that appears t o have n o s p i r i t u a l content — we w o u l d do so happily." T h e Baal Shem T o v communicated this concept i n his interpreta¬ t i o n o f the verse i n Psalms: " I placed (‫ )שויתי‬G - d before me at all times." ‫ ש ו ה‬, the r o o t o f the w o r d ‫ ש ו י ת י‬, also means "equal." W h e n G - d is before me at all times, everything is equal for me. There is n o difference which or path the of service I'm given, whether the most

sophisticated

simplest.

Every positive act

is a means o f

connecting t o H i m . Every positive act brings us one b i t closer t o the c o m i n g o f Mashiach.

Looking to the Horizon
Similar concepts apply w i t h regard t o the Jewish people. T h e r e is n o Jew w h o is better than any other. Each person was created by G - d w i t h different potentials and challenges. A person w i t h one set o f gifts should n o t l o o k d o w n o n a person w i t h lesser potentials. O n the

contrary, the fact that the other person is able t o continue i n his D i v i n e service despite the fact that he has lesser potentials s h o u l d make h i m w o r t h y o f respect and h o n o r . G-d desires all these different modes o f service. F o r H i s i n t e n t is

that every element o f this w o r l d — f r o m the t o p t o the b o t t o m o f the spectrum — s h o u l d be elevated. F o r this reason, when Mashiach comes, n o Jew w i l l be left behind. B r i n g i n g the w o r l d t o its desired state depends o n each person's i n d i v i d u a l c o n t r i b u t i o n . Each one has a certain d i m e n s i o n that only he can add. T h r o u g h that c o n t r i b u t i o n , he w i l l elevate that p o r t i o n o f the w o r l d that was designated for h i m . As each i n d i v i d u a l prepares his personal corner for the R e d e m p t i o n , the larger p i c t u r e comes i n t o focus. W e appreciate h o w our missions

interlock, for the w o r l d is greater than any one o f us and we begin t o understand h o w the w o r l d as a whole is G-d's dwelling.

R. Yisrael Meir, the founder o f the chassidic dynasty o f Ger, was wont to forgo any food concerning which there was the slightest question whether i t was kosher or not. Even i f a Rabbi would rule that i t was acceptable, he would refrain from eating it. Once a new maid began working i n R. Yisrael Meir's kitchen. She was unaware o f this practice and so when a question arose as to whether a chicken was kosher or not, she brought i t to the local Rabbi. When he ruled that i t was acceptable, she served it to R. Yisrael Meir. Unaware o f what the maid had done, he nevertheless politely put the chicken on the side, saying he had no appetite for it. Later the chassidim investigated and discovered what had happened. "Ruach HaKodesh, prophetic inspiration," they claimed. "No," answered R. Yisrael Meir. "This is something anyone can do. When a person makes a f i r m resolve that he will not eat anything that is not kosher, G-d puts h i m i n touch w i t h his feelings and enables h i m to see to i t that the desire will be fulfilled."

Parshas Shemini
T h e conclusion o f this week's T o r a h reading speaks about the laws o f kashrus: w h i c h animals may be eaten and w h i c h may n o t . These laws are placed i n the category o f chukim, laws that do n o t have an explanation w i t h i n the realm o f m o r t a l w i s d o m . S i m p l y p u t , there is n o logical reason w h y we may eat beef and n o t p o r k . I t has n o t h i n g t o do w i t h health factors, preventing trichinosis, or other apologetic explanation. We eat certain meats because G - d said we could, and we d o n ' t eat

others because H e commanded us n o t t o . T h a t said, there is s t i l l a difference o f o p i n i o n among our Rabbis: Did G - d have a reason for what H e commanded? I n other words, is

there a s p i r i t u a l reason n o t t o partake o f these species? Some Rabbis m a i n t a i n there is. T h e y explain that we as material beings cannot

perceive s p i r i t u a l t r u t h s and hence do n o t understand w h y one species is p e r m i t t e d and one is n o t . B u t since G - d created the w o r l d and
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everything w i t h i n

it, He

k n o w s the

particular s p i r i t u a l

qualities

associated w i t h every created being. H e k n o w s that certain species have undesirable qualities and i f we partake o f t h e m , those undesirable

qualities w i l l be assimilated i n t o our bodies and i n t o our characters. As a favor t o us, H e t o l d us w h i c h foods t o eat and w h i c h n o t t o eat. O t h e r Rabbis differ. T h e y explain that we s h o u l d f u l f i l l G-d's w i l l because i t is H i s w i l l . W e d o n ' t need a reason t o do what H e wants. We s h o u l d do what H e wants because H e wants i t and s h o u l d feel

happy that H e has given us the o p p o r t u n i t y t o connect t o H i m by fulfilling H i s will. Chassidus explains that there is v a l i d i t y t o b o t h approaches. A l l o f the mitzyos s h o u l d be f u l f i l l e d because that is what G - d wants. I f H e commanded us t o chop f i r e w o o d or draw water, we s h o u l d do so gladly. F o r the very fact that we are f u l f i l l i n g H i s c o m m a n d establishes a b o n d between us and H i m ; there is n o t h i n g greater than that. On the other hand, G - d is n o t a creature o f w h i m . H e , H i s w i l l ,

and H i s w i s d o m are one. A n d thus everything that H e wants also has a reason. Nevertheless, there is a difference between man's desires and

G-d's. W h e n i t comes t o h u m a n beings, we have desires and we have reasons for t h e m . F o r the things we want and the reasons we want t h e m existed before we d i d . T h e i r existence motivates our desire. T h i s isn't true w h e n speaking about G - d . O n the contrary, i t is His He desire that brings about their existence. T h e r e was no w o r l d before created i t , and w h e n H e created i t , i t came i n t o being as H e

desired, according t o the dictates o f H i s w i l l and reason. Kosher f o o d came i n t o being because H e wants man t o partake o f i t . G-d is the u l t i m a t e good, and as such, H e wants t o grant us

consummate good. F o r this reason, H e made k n o w n H i s w i l l by giving us the T o r a h and its mitzyos. H e does n o t c o m p e l us t o f u l f i l l these mitzyos. O n the contrary, H e gives us free choice, and we can do whatever we please. Nevertheless, i n H i s kindness, H e has shown us a p a t h that conforms w i t h H i s w i l l and H i s w i s d o m that, s h o u l d we choose t o embark o n i t , w i l l b r i n g us absolute g o o d i n b o t h the s p i r i t u a l and the material spheres.

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Looking to the Horizon
T h e observance o f mitzyos w i l l continue i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . I t is n o t that the present era is one o f t r i a l and once we have proven ourselves and our c o m m i t m e n t t o G - d , H e w i l l relax H i s restraints and allow us t o do whatever we want. Instead, the mitzyos are D i v i n e channels for g o o d and well-being. A t the present age, this is n o t always evident and i t m i g h t appear at times that greater satisfaction can be attained t h r o u g h other means. Therefore, keeping H i s commandments may appear t o be quite a challenge. In the era o f the Redemption, this lack o f perception will

disappear. W e w i l l appreciate what the mitzyos are, the benefits they bring us, and the connection to G-d established through them.

Needless t o say, when that w i l l be apparent, we w i l l f u l f i l l the mitzyos eagerly. W e d o n ' t have t o wait for Mashiach t o begin observing the mitzyos i n this manner. I t ' s true, these concepts are n o t p l a i n l y evident for us. B u t our lack o f perception does n o t change the reality. By understanding and i n t e r n a l i z i n g what the mitzyos are, we can change our o u t l o o k and inspire our observance w i t h a foretaste o f the w a r m t h and energy i t w i l l possess d u r i n g the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n .

The Rebbe tells o f two sages traveling in a coach on a mission to help Jews i n a distant community. They were speaking words o f Torah and as such, they were accompanied by angels. The horses, on the other hand, were going to their destination to receive their fodder, while the wagon driver was motivated by thoughts o f his paycheck. The sages had a mission to accomplish and the angels, well, who can know what spurs them. When describing this setting, the Rebbe would conclude: "Because the horses were thinking about their fodder, are the angels not angels?" The mindset that prevails within our world does not enable us to appreciate spiritual reality, but our lack o f appreciation does not obstruct the existence o f that reality. concepts like purity and impurity are real. They describe forces as potent — indeed even more potent — than forces i n our material realm. Mortals, however, cannot perceive them openly.

Parshas Tazria
T h i s week's T o r a h reading focuses o n the concept o f r i t u a l p u r i t y and i m p u r i t y . O u r Rabbis explain the d i s t i n c t i o n between the T o r a h ' s p r o h i b i t i o n s and its laws o f i m p u r i t y as follows: P r o h i b i t i o n s guard against evil that our m i n d s and hearts can appreciate. T h e laws o f i m p u r i t y , by contrast, p r o t e c t against a d i m e n s i o n o f evil w h i c h we cannot comprehend. As the Midrash states: " I t is a statute w h i c h I

( G - d ) ordained, a decree that I i n s t i t u t e d . " A l t h o u g h the evil associated w i t h a p r o h i b i t i o n can be appreciated more readily, there is a more severe dimension associated with

i m p u r i t y . F o r since the evil associated w i t h i m p u r i t y is n o t easily discerned, i t is m u c h more d i f f i c u l t t o guard against and t o eradicate. T o cite an example, w h e n a person eats non-kosher food, he has p e r f o r m e d a transgression and m u s t repent. Nevertheless, even before he repents, he may enter the T e m p l e and b r i n g a sacrifice.

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c a s u a l l y c o m i n g i n t o contact w i t h an i m p u r e substance can change an individual's personal state and isolate h i m f r o m holiness. For

example, were a person t o t o u c h a dead lizard, he w o u l d be f o r b i d d e n to enter the T e m p l e or partake o f a sacrifice. Moreover, just as r i t u a l p u r i t y is a quality w h i c h cannot be grasped by our m o r t a l intellect, i t affects the levels o f our souls that transcend reason and understanding. I t has an effect o n the dimensions o f our being that are connected t o G - d above the level o f logical t h o u g h t .

Looking to the Horizon
At present, the entire Jewish c o m m u n i t y is r i t u a l l y impure, for

t h r o u g h o u t the ages, since the d e s t r u c t i o n o f the T e m p l e , i t has been impossible t o m a i n t a i n a state o f r i t u a l p u r i t y . F o r example, one o f the fundamental sources o f i m p u r i t y is contact w i t h a h u m a n corpse. T o restore a person t o a state o f p u r i t y after such contact, a priest m u s t sprinkle water m i x e d w i t h the ashes o f a red heifer u p o n an i m p u r e person. Since the d e s t r u c t i o n o f the T e m p l e , these ashes have n o t been available and therefore our entire people are i m p u r e . This will be one o f the first achievements o f Mashiach after

r e b u i l d i n g the T e m p l e — t o restore our people t o a state o f p u r i t y . W h e n that is accomplished, our relationship w i t h G - d w i l l be l i f t e d t o an entirely different level.

Once, a youth from an observant home strayed from Jewish practice. H i s family tried everything, but nothing they did was able to influence h i m to return to observance. After several years, this youth encountered a Lubavitch mitzyah mobile. Although he refused at first, the polite persistence o f the rabbinical student manning the mitzvah mobile finally convinced h i m to put on tefillin. A n d that changed everything. After having been away from Jewish observance for so long, fulfilling this one mitzyah whetted his appetite for more. H e underwent a transformation, and w i t h the help o f the Lubavitchers, returned to his Jewish roots. His father, overjoyed at this sequence o f events, went to the Rebbe to thank h i m for the efforts o f his chassidim. H e explained that previously he had not understood the Lubavitch outreach campaign, but now he appreciated the validity o f that approach. The Rebbe accepted his thanks gracefully, telling him: "You have now experienced the pain a father feels when his son departs from the Torah's ways, and the joy he senses when he returns. I feel such pangs whenever a Jew strays from Jewish observance, and similar satisfaction whenever one returns."

Parshas Metzora
This week's T o r a h reading begins with the description o f the p u r i f i c a t i o n process for a person w h o became i m p u r e because o f tzaraas, a skin c o n d i t i o n resembling leprosy. O n l y i t is n o t leprosy. Indeed, i t is an ailment that has no biological cause whatsoever, b u t instead comes about because o f a person's conduct. Because he spread lashon hara, malicious gossip about another person, his o w n body is affected and his skin begins t o decay. H o w can he correct himself? After the kohen (priest) determines h i m t o be impure, he is t o l d t o go outside the city l i m i t s and live alone, distant f r o m others. As our Sages explain: "Since he created separation among others, he is forced t o live alone." As he lives his solitary 86

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existence, he hopefully learns the severity o f his transgression and i n this way, expiates his sin. How does he become pure? A kohen comes o u t beyond the city

l i m i t s and inspects his body t o see i f his skin ailment is healed or n o t . Now usually a kohen is n o t allowed t o become impure himself; he m u s t

take u t m o s t care i n this regard. T h i s is o f essential importance t o h i m . For i f a kohen becomes impure, he may n o t serve i n the T e m p l e for the d u r a t i o n o f his i m p u r i t y , and that is his p r i m a r y mission i n life. I t is h i g h l y likely that i m p u r e objects w i l l be located i n the place where the person afflicted with tzaraas stays. A n d yet, the kohen makes an

exception and goes o u t t o help this person. His conduct is an example for us i n our present-day lives. I t is

obvious that our relationships w i t h our fellow m e n should n o t be negative, spreading discord and strife, b u t s h o u l d instead lead t o harmony and love. T h e kohen, however, teaches the extent o f the c o m m i t m e n t we m u s t make, showing that these efforts are necessary even w h e n there is a risk t o our o w n personal selves — and n o t only a risk t o our material p o s i t i o n , b u t also t o our s p i r i t u a l welfare. Even t h o u g h we may be prevented f r o m entering G-d's T e m p l e as a result, we have t o do what we can t o enable another person t o attain p u r i t y and resume n o r m a l social relations w i t h his fellow men.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e theme o f b r o t h e r l y outreach m e n t i o n e d above is intrinsically related t o our shared life mission o f b r i n g i n g the R e d e m p t i o n . F o r the p a t h t o that R e d e m p t i o n m u s t be t r o d d e n by m a n k i n d together. I t is not enough that a person seek o u t refinement h i m s e l f and endeavor t o reach s p i r i t u a l heights. W h a t is necessary is that he motivate others — his fellow Jews and i n a larger sense, all m a n k i n d — t o j o i n h i m i n his strivings and share these aspirations. I f a person w i l l say: " I want t o serve i n the T e m p l e i n a spirit o f p u r i t y ; I d o n ' t care about others," he w i l l never see his wishes f u l f i l l e d . For the T e m p l e w i l l n o t be r e b u i l t because one — or a small group o f individuals — attains l o f t y s p i r i t u a l peaks. Instead, i t w i l l be when Mashiach motivates the entire n a t i o n — and a l l m a n k i n d — t o devote

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themselves t o G-d's purpose, that this milestone w i l l be reached. T o achieve that goal, we m u s t reach o u t t o our brethren wherever they are, even i n places o f i m p u r i t y , and m o t i v a t e t h e m t o j o i n us i n our efforts.

I t was Y o m Kippur eve and everyone was i n shul waiting for the Alter Rebbe to give the signal to begin the Kol Nidrei service. The Rebbe was wearing his kittel, the special Y o m Kippur robe, and had lifted his tallis over his head. The entire congregation had their eyes focused on him, watching h i m while he stood absorbed i n thought. Suddenly, the Rebbe removed his tallis and his kittel and strode quickly out o f the synagogue. Stunned, the chassidim remained i n shul, waiting for him to return. They waited 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour Where had the Rebbe gone? W h y on the holiest day o f the year was he not i n the synagogue? Finally, after more than two hours had passed, the Rebbe returned. H e hurriedly donned his kittel and his tallis and gave the signal for the prayers to begin. Later, the chassidim found out where the Rebbe had gone. O n the outskirts o f Liadi, there lived a young woman who had just given birth. Her husband had traveled away on business and she was left alone w i t h the newborn. Her neighbors had all gone to shul and there was no one to tend to her. I t was cold. There was no wood i n the house to make a fire. She did not have the strength to chop firewood and bring i t in from the forest, and so she and her baby were huddling under the covers. She had not been able to cook any food before the fast and therefore she was hungry. When the Alter Rebbe entered her home, he immediately took an ax and went out and felled a tree. H e then chopped o f f the dried branches, making them small enough to serve as firewood, and carried them into the home. He kindled a fire and prepared soup for the woman. Only after she had eaten d i d he return to the synagogue. W h y d i d the Rebbe violate the laws o f the holiest day o f the year? A n d why d i d he violate them himself? There is no question that i f he had told anyone else to do what he did, they would have gladly done his bidding. There is something dearer to G-d than Y o m Kippur, and that is the life o f a Jewish person. When the life o f a

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Jewish mother and her child were at stake, the Alter Rebbe did not think for a moment o f the holiness o f the day. H e went right out to save the woman. O n the other hand, i t must be emphasized that o f all the people i n the town, i t was the Alter Rebbe who appreciated the woman's need. I t was his holiness that sensitized his perception and enabled h i m to realize her dire straits.

Parshas Acharei
T h i s week's T o r a h reading describes the sacrificial w o r s h i p carried o u t i n the T e m p l e o n Y o m K i p p u r , b u t i t prefaces that description w i t h an allusion t o the death o f Aaron's sons, Nadab and A v i h u . W h y d i d Nadab and A v i h u die? T h e T o r a h relates previously that they entered the H o l y o f H o l i e s w i t h "a strange fire that G - d d i d n o t command them [to b r i n g ] . " N o w o n Y o m K i p p u r , the H i g h Priest w o u l d enter the same sacred place, the H o l y o f H o l i e s . A n d so, the T o r a h warns h i m n o t t o repeat the error made by Aaron's sons. W h a t was the mistake o f Aaron's sons? T h e y sought closeness t o G - d and were w i l l i n g t o give up everything, even their lives, t o achieve that. T h e Or HaChayim, one o f the classic commentaries o n the T o r a h ,

explains that t h e i r death d i d n o t come as a p u n i s h m e n t . Instead, t h e i r souls appreciated the G - d l y l i g h t manifest i n the H o l y o f H o l i e s and clung t o i t . T h e i r desire for G-dliness was so great that their souls simply expired. T h i s was the error that the H i g h Priest was t o avoid o n Y o m K i p p u r . A l t h o u g h he w o u l d enter the H o l y o f H o l i e s and come face t o face w i t h the D i v i n e presence, he was warned t o keep i n focus that the i n t e n t o f his service was life i n this w o r l d , n o t a b o n d w i t h G - d i n the s p i r i t u a l realms. Rather than seek o u t closeness w i t h G - d , his purpose i n entering was t o evoke atonement and blessing for the Jewish people as they exist i n this material realm. W h a t is the core o f the issue? Aaron's sons sought their o w n s p i r i t u a l satisfaction; what was gratifying for t h e m . T h e H i g h Priest,

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on the other hand, is a servant, carrying o u t G-d's w i l l , aware that what G-d desires is n o t a b o n d w i t h H i m i n the s p i r i t u a l realms, b u t rather

the observance o f H i s w i l l and H i s mitzyos i n this material w o r l d .

Looking to the Horizon
Similar concepts apply w i t h regard t o the u l t i m a t e , desired state o f existence. M a i m o n i d e s maintains that the u l t i m a t e is the spiritual

w o r l d o f souls, the afterlife. A l l material existence, even the heights t o be reached i n the era o f the Redemption and the era of to the be

Resurrection, he maintains, is secondary experienced when the soul leaves the body.

t o the

G-dliness

T h e sages o f the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystic t r a d i t i o n , differ and m a i n t a i n that the u l t i m a t e state w i l l be the Resurrection o f the Dead. Souls that have enjoyed s p i r i t u a l bliss i n the afterlife for thousands o f years w i l l descend and live again i n a material body. F o r G-d's essence is invested i n this material w o r l d , and i t is t h r o u g h life i n this w o r l d that the m o s t encompassing b o n d w i t h H i m can be established.

The great saint, R. Yisrael o f Ruzhin, and several o f his chassidim stopped at an inn to spend the night. O n the following day, one o f the followers noticed that the innkeeper was busying himself w i t h various chores before reciting his morning prayers. "Perhaps you should pray?" one o f the chassidim ventured. "There are great Rebbes who also pray late," the innkeeper responded. The chassid responded w i t h a parable: "When your wife serves supper late, you get upset. If, however, she serves you a special meal, meat and vegetables sumptuously prepared, you're willing to forgive her for the delay. If, however, all she serves is simple borsht, you'll feel justified in becoming angry." The innkeeper retorted quickly: "When you really love your wife and she loves you, you're never upset, no matter what or when she feeds you." There are commentaries that interpret the verse from this week's Torah reading, "Love your neighbor as yourself," as referring to G-d. Implied is that G-d is like a beloved friend w i t h whom we share a deep and allencompassing relationship, a bond that encompasses not only the way we pray and study, but also the manner in which we carry out all aspects o f our lives.

Parshas Kedoshim
O u r T o r a h reading begins w i t h the charge "Be h o l y , " b u t i t continues w i t h a variety o f commandments i n c l u d i n g p r o h i b i t i o n s against theft, lying, gossip, i n t e r m i n g l i n g species o f animals, eating produce before the plants w h i c h bear i t mature, and giving the guidelines for m a r i t a l relations and the foods we eat. Implied is that the holiness the Torah asks o f us is not

o t h e r w o r l d l y , b u t instead anchored i n the day-to-day routines o f life. Judaism does n o t want us t o be angels, b u t rather h o l y m e n and

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w o m e n , people w h o live i n t o u c h w i t h material reality and c o n t r o l their involvement w i t h i t , rather than l e t t i n g i t c o n t r o l t h e m . W i t h i n every element o f existence, there is a G - d l y spark. Being h o l y means seeking t o tap that G - d l y energy instead o f becoming involved w i t h the entity's material nature. We have a natural tendency to polarities: either to seek

gratification t h r o u g h indulgence i n material pleasures or t o renounce t h e m and search for s p i r i t u a l f u l f i l l m e n t i n an ascetic lifestyle. In the long not run, however, neither for of these approaches is not not

satisfactory, appreciate

for man, n o r

G-d. G-d

certainly does man is also

material indulgence. A n d ultimately,

satisfied w i t h that. Deep inside, man wants something more f r o m life than having his desires gratified. Eating, d r i n k i n g , and other sensual pleasures cannot provide him with the lasting and meaningful

satisfaction he is l o o k i n g for. O n the other hand, asceticism is also n o t an answer. F i r s t o f all, f r o m man's perspective, i t denies n a t u r a l instincts. Every one o f us has a gut feeling that i f G - d d i d n o t w a n t these instincts t o be expressed at all H e w o u l d n o t have given t h e m t o us. I f H e wanted us t o be angels, H e w o u l d have made us that way. I f H e made us w i t h physical bodies and material tendencies, i t seems obvious that they are also part o f H i s intent. T h a t ' s w h y asceticism is n o t acceptable for G - d either. O u r Sages say that H e created the w o r l d because H e desired a d w e l l i n g i n the lower realms. I n other words, the material d i m e n s i o n o f our existence is an integral element o f H i s w i l l t o create. O n the other hand, H e d i d n o t create material existence for the sake o f indulgence. He invested Himself i n the material realm,

infusing sparks o f holiness i n t o every material entity. W h a t H e desires is that we uncover those sparks by using the material entities for H i s intent. B u t h o w can m a n k n o w G-d's intent? u s i n g his o w n i n t u i t i o n alone, i t is a d i f f i c u l t and perhaps impossible task. F o r we are mortals and cannot really be expected t o k n o w h o w t o appreciate and tap the s p i r i t u a l energy H e endowed t o all entities.

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For

that reason, H e gave us the T o r a h . T h e very name T o r a h

comes f r o m the w o r d horaah meaning " i n s t r u c t i o n . " T h e T o r a h is a guidebook showing us w h i c h material entities can be elevated and h o w they can be refined. T h e mitzyos and p r o h i b i t i o n s i t contains provide us w i t h advice and d i r e c t i o n i n our efforts t o tap the G-dliness present w i t h i n the w o r l d around us. I n particular, the w i d e range o f subjects discussed i n Parshas Kedoshim offer guidance i n h o w t o reveal the

holiness present i n a broad spectrum o f material activities.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e u l t i m a t e fusion o f the material and the s p i r i t u a l w i l l come i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . A t present, we k n o w that every material e n t i t y contains sparks o f G-dliness, b u t that knowledge is merely intellectual. W h e n we l o o k at the material e n t i t y , we see only its b o d i l y f o r m . I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , that w i l l change as M a i m o n i d e s says: " T h e sole occupation o f the entire w o r l d w i l l be t o k n o w G-dliness."

M a t e r i a l reality w i l l continue t o exist — we are n o t speaking o f a w o r l d o f souls w i t h o u t bodies — b u t its connection t o the s p i r i t u a l w i l l be readily apparent. W e w i l l be able t o appreciate the G - d l y energy that grants life t o every creation. D e s c r i b i n g the nature o f the reality that w i l l prevail d u r i n g the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n is n o t intended merely t o arouse our desire for the advent o f that era. Instead, i t gives us the p o t e n t i a l t o anticipate that era by l i v i n g our lives i n that spirit i n the present age. T h a t endeavor w i l l precipitate the blossoming f o r t h o f this t r u t h i n t o manifest G-dliness reality. F o r when man into turns his a t t e n t i o n t o becomes the more

embedded

creation, that

G-dliness

evident and overtly recognizable.

Once Reb Simchah Bunim o f Pesischitza sent his chassidim to visit an innkeeper i n a distant village. "You'll learn something very important from him," R. Simchah Bunim promised. When the chassidim reached the inn, their happy host prepared a feast for them. But they were slightly hesitant about partaking o f the meal. They were very meticulous about the kashrus o f the food they ate. D i d the innkeeper keep such high standards? The appetizing aroma o f the food soon began to waft through the air, and the question became quite agonizing: Could they partake o f the food? W i t h hushed whispers, they discussed the matter. The innkeeper appeared simple, how much could he have studied? Was i t possible for h i m to know all the laws? He spoke naturally w i t h his non-Jewish workers. Perhaps that implied that he fraternized w i t h them at other times as well. The innkeeper was not oblivious to the rustling undertones o f their conversation. "Chassidim," he told them. "You are very careful o f what you put into your mouths, but perhaps you should exercise the same care regarding what comes out o f your mouths."

Parshas Emor
The name o f this week's T o r a h reading, Emor, means "speak," h i g h l i g h t i n g the power o f our words. O u r Sages state: "Lashon hara (malicious gossip) k i l l s three: the one w h o speaks, the one w h o listens, and the one w h o is being spoken about." W e can understand w h y the speaker and the listener suffer. T h e y have committed a serious

transgression. B u t w h y s h o u l d the person spoken about be affected? In resolution, the mystic sages o f the Kabbalah explain that

speaking about a person's negative qualities provokes their expression. A l t h o u g h the person m i g h t n o t even be aware that he is being spoken about, the fact that his character flaws are being discussed fans the revelation o f those qualities. 95

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T h e converse

is also true. c o n s i s t e n t

m e n t i o n o f the g o o d a unfathomed

person possesses —

and w i t h i n every person there are

reservoirs o f g o o d — w i l l facilitate the expression o f that good i n the person's conduct.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e above concepts apply w i t h regard t o all positive matters and, i n particular, t o the u l t i m a t e goal o f our D i v i n e service, the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . C o n s t a n t l y speaking about Mashiach and the R e d e m p t i o n , m a k i n g i t a reality i n our o w n m i n d s and i n the m i n d s o f the people we encounter, w i l l help i t blossom i n t o f u l f i l l m e n t i n the w o r l d at large. I n a d d i t i o n t o generating a process o f s p i r i t u a l causation like that described above, sincere talk about the R e d e m p t i o n can have a m o r e tangible effect. F o r many, the R e d e m p t i o n is n o t a factor i n their lives at all. Some may accept i t as a s p i r i t u a l belief, b u t even they do n o t l o o k forward t o i t i n the same way they l o o k forward t o an u p c o m i n g vacation; i t just isn't real. A n d therefore, they d o n ' t talk about i t . W h e n , by contrast, Mashiach and R e d e m p t i o n are d r i v i n g forces i n a person's life, he w i l l talk about i t w i t h others. T h e others will

respond w i t h interest, for we are a l l l o o k i n g for a better w o r l d . A n d we all t r u s t that G - d can provide us w i t h the material and s p i r i t u a l blessings t o make the w o r l d better. T h i s is what we really want. So when someone talks about the R e d e m p t i o n w i t h c o n v i c t i o n , we w i l l listen.

I t was in the early years o f the space effort. Millions o f dollars and years o f planning had gone into designing a rocket launch. A t the planned time, the rocket rose from Cape Kennedy and ascended upward. Everything looked fine and then suddenly, a fire broke out. O n T V screens throughout the country, everyone watched i n horror as the flames spread and the rocket exploded. When N A S A investigated what had gone wrong, they discovered that almost everything had been i n order. The only problem was that one screw had been slightly loose. That had allowed for a current o f air to pry loose some o f the coating and ultimately destroy the entire rocket. This tragic incident brings home a fundamental point: There is no such thing as a small, inconsequential element of a larger picture. O n the contrary, every element o f the picture relates to the set as a whole.

Parshas Behar
T h i s week's T o r a h reading begins: " A n d G - d spoke t o Moses on M o u n t Sinai, saying...," and continues t o describe the laws o f the Sabbatical year. O u r Rabbis ask: " W h y does the T o r a h associate the Sabbatical year w i t h M o u n t Sinai?" After all, the Sabbatical year is observed i n the H o l y Land only. W h a t connection does i t have w i t h the Sinai experience? I n resolution, our Rabbis explain that w i t h this expression, the T o r a h is teaching us that o n M o u n t Sinai, the Jews were given n o t only the general concept o f the Sabbatical year b u t all its particulars. Moreover, they continue, the fact that the Torah makes this

association teaches us n o t only about the Sabbatical year, b u t about all the mitzyos: A l l their particulars were given o n M o u n t Sinai. T h e association w i t h Sinai conveys more than a h i s t o r i c a l p o i n t . Associating the mitzyos w i t h Sinai means that every i n d i v i d u a l mitzyah a person performs — whether i t be p u t t i n g o n tefillin, l i g h t i n g Shabbos candles, eating kosher, or h e l p i n g a person i n need — is more than an isolated g o o d deed. I t is an extension o f the revelation at Sinai.

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O n M o u n t Sinai, every person had direct contact w i t h G - d . T h e y all heard H i m speak and felt H i s presence. W h e n we p e r f o r m a particular mitzyah, we may lack the external trappings o f the Sinai experience, the thunder and l i g h t n i n g that the people perceived, b u t the fundamental dimension of what happened there — the

establishment o f a b o n d w i t h G-d's essence — continues t o prevail. T h e Sabbatical year and all the other mitzyos are n o t isolated details, b u t rather integral elements o f a larger whole. G - d gave us the mitzyos t o establish a m u l t i - d i m e n s i o n a l connection w i t h H i m and draw H i s holiness i n t o our material w o r l d .

Looking to the Horizon
T h e Sabbatical year makes us conscious o f a more inclusive p a t t e r n that pervades our entire existence. T i m e is structured i n sets o f seven. As mentioned above (see essay o n Parshas Chayei Sarah), i n his

C o m m e n t a r y t o the T o r a h , the Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that just as there are seven days o f the week, there w i l l be seven m i l l e n n i a i n the existence o f the w o r l d , each one paralleling the corresponding day in the seven days o f creation. T h e c u l m i n a t i o n is the seventh

m i l l e n n i u m w h i c h , like the Sabbath, w i l l be a t i m e o f rest, peace, and spiritual fulfillment. A c c o r d i n g t o that conception, the present age can be compared t o Friday afternoon, past midday. N o w i n every t r a d i t i o n a l Jewish home, at that time, the house begins t o l o o k a l i t t l e Shabbosdik. Similarly at this time, G-d's home, the w o r l d , is beginning t o anticipate the era o f the Redemption. W e can see how the advances i n science and

technology have prepared the backdrop for Mashiach's c o m i n g . W h a t is necessary is for us t o c o n t r i b u t e the f o r e g r o u n d by l i v i n g i n the s p i r i t o f the R e d e m p t i o n and m i r r o r i n g t o the fullest o f our p o t e n t i a l the mindset that w i l l prevail i n that era.

O n this Shabbos, as on Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo, we read the tocheichah, a series o f curses that G-d will visit upon the Jewish people i f they repeatedly disobey H i m . R. Shneur Zalman o f Liadi himself served as the Torah reader. Once he was not at home for Shabbos Parshas [Ki] Savo, and his son, R. Dovber, at that time a youth before bar mitzyah, heard the Torah reading from another person. He experienced such sorrow upon hearing the curses i n the tocheichah that on Y o m Kippur, the R. Shneur Zalman was unsure whether his son would be able to fast. When they asked R. Dovber to explain the severity o f his response, for after all, this same passage is read every year, he replied: "When my father reads it, they do not sound like curses." This concept applies with regard to all adversity. When a person realizes that i t comes from his Father, from G-d, he appreciates it i n a different manner.

Parshas Bechukosai
T h i s week's T o r a h reading contains the Tocheichah, the series o f 4 9 curses that G - d w i l l visit u p o n the Jewish people for their lack o f observance. T h i s is a very d i f f i c u l t concept for us t o accept today. W e operate under the conception that i f H e is G - d , l o f t y and u p l i f t e d as H e is, then: a) H e does n o t have t o be bothered by what we do; even i f we sin H e can bear the evil that we p e r f o r m ; b) even i f this evil bothers H i m , H e does n o t have t o show i t ;

what g o o d w i l l p u n i s h i n g us do? H o w w i l l that benefit H i m or undo the w r o n g that we did? This approach runs contrary to Judaism's basic tenets.

M a i m o n i d e s lists as the eleventh o f his T h i r t e e n Principles o f F a i t h the belief that " G - d grants a generous reward t o those w h o observe the mitzyos of the Torah and punishes those who transgress its

prohibitions."

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T h i s p r i n c i p l e is deep-rooted i n a fundamental realization. Every act has its consequences. Indeed, one of the qualities which

distinguishes an adult is his willingness t o take r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for his deeds, and even more so, t o see the consequences at the outset and act i n a manner that prevents negative consequences f r o m arising. T h i s , however, conjures up images o f a vengeful G - d , carefully s c r u t i n i z i n g man's actions and w a i t i n g for the m o m e n t when man has sinned enough t o deserve r e t r i b u t i o n . H o w far f r o m the t r u t h ! T h e w o r l d is created as an expression o f G-d's kindness. People w h o speak o f an angry and w r a t h f u l G - d are expressing anger they have inside. I t ' s true that n o t everything that happens t o us is overt and revealed good. T h e r e are times w h e n we w o u l d rather that other things happen and do n o t understand w h y G - d has done what H e does, b u t we m u s t appreciate that this is H i s d o i n g . W i t h careful providence, H e is g u i d i n g everything that happens i n this w o r l d f r o m the t u r n i n g o f a leaf i n the w i n d t o the relations between nations. Surely, this applies w i t h regard t o the particular events that happen i n our lives. B u t we d o n ' t understand: H o w can a G - d w h o is g o o d and k i n d do things w h i c h kindness? T h e r e are some w h o , because o f this question, say that G - d is not d o i n g i t . H e has left the w o r l d t o nature. H e does n o t , they m a i n t a i n , interfere w i t h the existential reality that governs our existence. W e l l , i f H e does n o t govern our existence, h o w is H e our G-d? Instead o f resolving the issue by t a k i n g H i m o u t o f the picture, we have t o learn t o t r u s t H i m , t o feel confident that even i f we do n o t understand everything H e does, H e is d o i n g good. W e offer such t r u s t t o a doctor when we take medicine and even undergo surgery, a l t h o u g h we do n o t understand exactly w h y we s h o u l d and h o w this w i l l help us. Similarly, we s h o u l d t r u s t our c r e a t o r and appreciate that even what does n o t overtly appear as g o o d is really for our benefit. t o us are so clearly the opposite o f goodness and

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Looking to the Horizon
T h e above explanation, however, is a temporary one. Since G - d is the c r e a t o r and the Master o f the w o r l d , i t follows that u l t i m a t e l y , the good that H e desires for m a n k i n d w i l l materialize i n a revealed way. F o r this reason, the t w e l f t h o f M a i m o n i d e s ' T h i r t e e n Principles o f F a i t h is the belief i n the c o m i n g o f Mashiach. T h e n we w i l l appreciate an ideal w o r l d , an environment o f material prosperity and well-being amid spiritual fulfillment. T h e c o m i n g o f Mashiach is dependent o n our deeds d u r i n g the era o f exile. W h e n we refine our conduct, and i n that way b r i n g about refinement i n the w o r l d at large, we w i l l b r i n g about this era o f endless good. A t that time, there w i l l be no need t o explain w h y G - d d i d this or that. O n the contrary, we w i l l be appreciative that G - d gave us the o p p o r t u n i t y t o b r i n g about the R e d e m p t i o n t h r o u g h our deeds. W e w i l l understand the purpose o f any suffering that we experienced i n the l i g h t o f the great good that we — and the entire w o r l d — will

appreciate. Moreover, our satisfaction w i l l be increased by the fact that we were able t o earn that g o o d t h r o u g h our actions.

George Rohr is a businessman who supports many Lubavitch activities. H e had been inspired by the Rebbe on many occasions and wanted to find some way to repay the Rebbe. One year, when the Rebbe personally distributed lekach (the honey cake traditionally given out before Y o m Kippur to convey blessings for a sweet year), George happily told the Rebbe that he had organized a minyan on Rosh HaShanah for 150 Jews w i t h no Jewish background. The Rebbe's facial impression immediately turned very serious. He looked at Rohr intently and told him: "Go and tell each o f the 150 participants that they possess a very powerful Jewish background. They are all descendants o f Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov." Every Jew is endowed w i t h the same spiritual heritage and every Jew has an equal share i n the Torah and its commandments. What we need are catalysts; spurs to prompt us to focus on that heritage and highlight its expression.

Parshas Bamidbar
T h i s week's T o r a h reading begins the B o o k o f Numbers, a b o o k given its name because o f its focus o n several census takings o f the Jewish people. W h y d i d G - d ask that the Jews be counted? O u r Sages state: "Because H e cherishes them, H e counts t h e m at all times. Like a r i c h m a n c o u n t i n g his gold, G - d c o n t i n u a l l y counts what is dearest t o H i m — the Jewish people." A census also focuses o n a quality that is particularly relevant regarding the Jewish people: their essential equality. F o r when t a k i n g a census, everyone — those w i t h the highest potentials and those o n the lowest levels — count equally. N o one is given greater p r i o r i t y than anyone else. Each Jew possesses a soul that is an actual part o f G - d . G - d loves us so m u c h that H e invests a dimension o f H i m s e l f inside every one o f us. A t the core o f each person — regardless o f w h o he t h i n k s he is and

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how

m u c h he has achieved — lies a spark o f G - d . T h a t is w h o we

really are. W h e n we shed all externals, this soul is the essence o f our being. A t this level, we are all equal. Therefore, when t a k i n g a census, every one o f us is counted the same. T a k i n g a census also brings this d i m e n s i o n t o the surface. I t is n o t enough merely t o k n o w that we have a spark o f G - d w i t h i n ourselves, we m u s t endeavor t o act i n a manner that expresses the oneness w i t h i n our being i n our day-to-day conduct. T h i s involves h i g h l i g h t i n g the

G - d l y spark present w i t h i n every person and every e n t i t y that we encounter.

Looking to the Horizon
Our Sages relate that there have been nine censuses taken i n Jewish

history. T h e t e n t h and final census w i l l be taken at the t i m e o f the c o m i n g o f Mashiach when the essential quality that lies at the core o f every Jewish soul w i l l be f l o u r i s h i n complete manifestation. A t present, m o s t o f us are involved w i t h the day-to-day details o f our personal lives. These are the factors that c o m m a n d m u c h o f our

a t t e n t i o n . I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , when " T h e occupation o f the entire w o r l d w i l l be solely t o k n o w G - d , " this w i l l change. I n Jewish mysticism, ten is a s y m b o l o f consummate fulfillment. Similarly,

t a k i n g the t e n t h census w i l l serve as a cue that i t is necessary t o move to a different level o f consciousness, one that allows our inner core t o be expressed. I n this way, i t w i l l encourage us t o b r i n g o u t our inner G - d l y p o t e n t i a l i n every facet o f our lives.

A chassid once came to the Rebbe w i t h a problem: he felt over-extended. He was employed as principal o f a local day school, wrote a weekly column for the city's Jewish newspaper, and contributed to several other publications. He was constantly being sought after for personal advice and counseling, and had also gained a reputation as a public speaker. Besides all this, he had his own family life. He told the Rebbe that he did not see how he could continue and asked the Rebbe's advice regarding the areas on which he should cut back. The Rebbe did not answer immediately, and the chassid thought that he was considering the options. When he d i d reply, however, the chassid was bewildered. " I would like you to take on new responsibilities i n directing Lubavitch activities i n your city," the Rebbe requested. " H o w can I?" the chassid replied. " I am overwhelmed w i t h what I am doing at present and don't know how I can manage without cutting back on my activities." "What you're doing now," the Rebbe answered, "you are not doing with your own powers, but w i t h G-d's. G-d is unlimited. Just as He gives you the potential to do what you are doing now, He can certainly give you the potential to undertake greater and more expanded responsibilities." When a person dedicates himself to G-d's service, he is able to redefine his personality and discover new resources within himself.

Parshas Naso
T h e name o f this week's T o r a h reading, Naso means " L i f t U p . " I t is always read either immediately before or after the holiday o f Shavuos, h i g h l i g h t i n g h o w the T o r a h is the m e d i u m that enables a person t o elevate himself. I t gives h i m the p o t e n t i a l t o rise above the framework o f m o r t a l understanding and t o relate t o G - d o n H i s terms. There is, however, an implicit difficulty i n such a concept:

Generally, w h e n we speak o f transcending our personal i d e n t i t y , this usually connotes l e t t i n g go o f our i n d i v i d u a l i t y ; c o n f o r m i n g t o a G - d -

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given code o f conduct and thus abdicating our i n d i v i d u a l w i l l s and personalities. T h i s is n o t Judaism's approach. Judaism teaches a person h o w t o l i f t his self above himself: t o conduct h i m s e l f i n a G - d l y manner, n o t by f o r g e t t i n g about w h o he is and what potentials he has been given, b u t by using those potentials for a G - d l y purpose. T h i s fusion o f i n d i v i d u a l effort and D i v i n e d i r e c t i o n is reflected i n the c o n c l u d i n g passages o f this week's T o r a h reading w h i c h describe the sacrifices b r o u g h t by the leaders o f the tribes. W h e n glancing at these passages, one can't help be struck by the apparent redundancy contained therein. Each leader b r o u g h t an identical offering: the same number o f animals, the same measure o f incense, the silver bowls o f the same size, and yet the account o f the offerings is repeated verbatim for each leader. T h e commentaries pose a question. T h e T o r a h is careful never t o use an extra w o r d or even an extra letter. W h y t h e n does i t repeat the entire passage twelve times? I t c o u l d have stated the passage once and then said: "These same offerings were b r o u g h t by each t r i b a l leader." T h e commentaries explain that the T o r a h is teaching that the

sacrifices o f the leaders were indeed different. A l t h o u g h they b r o u g h t the same items, each one had a different i n t e n t . Each one saw the sacrifices as representative o f the D i v i n e service destined for his

particular tribe. W h e n b r i n g i n g these offerings, he was i d e n t i f y i n g w i t h and expressing the particular m i s s i o n and nature o f his ancestral

heritage. T h e deed was the same; the s p i r i t u a l c o m m i t m e n t differed f r o m leader t o leader. These concepts apply t o every one o f us. W e are all g o i n g t o p u t on similar tefillin, l i g h t similar Shabbos candles, and keep all the other universally applicable laws o f the T o r a h . T h i s does n o t , however, i m p l y sheep-like c o n f o r m i t y . Instead, i t opens up a broad channel for each person t o serve G - d , b u t rather than d o i n g i t according t o the w h i m s o f our fancy, we w i l l do i t o n G-d's terms. I n other words, i f we were t o f o l l o w our o w n i n s p i r a t i o n , one person m i g h t decide t o serve G - d t h r o u g h meditative prayer, another t h r o u g h deeds o f kindness, and a t h i r d , t h r o u g h c o n t e m p l a t i n g the oneness f o u n d i n nature. Every person's approach w o u l d be different.

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Each person w o u l d be relating t o G - d as he or she desires. T h e very beauty i n that approach, however, implies a drawback, because since i t is "as he or she desires," an enormous amount o f subjectivity is

involved. u l t i m a t e l y , the "as he or she desires," w o u l d reveal its fundamental flaw: that i t is n o t necessarily as G - d desires. W h e n , by contrast, a person is observing the T o r a h and its mitzyos, he is d o i n g what G - d wants. Nevertheless, w i t h i n that framework, he has ample — indeed, u n l i m i t e d — r o o m for self-expression, for the i n t e n t and the mode o f observance are left t o his choice and his

initiative. Again, the same deed can mean many different things t o many different people.

Looking to the Horizon
This concept o f diversity w i t h i n a unified approach w i l l also be

reflected w i t h the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . Mashiach's c o m i n g w i l l n o t mean an end t o i n d i v i d u a l i t y and personal expression. O n the contrary, i n that era, i t w i l l be apparent h o w every avenue o f expression is t r u l y G - d l y and was b r o u g h t i n t o being solely t o express a particular d i m e n s i o n o f H i s being. F o r the u l t i m a t e o f oneness involves a simple entity's manifestation i n numerous forms. I n that era, the w o r l d w i l l be suffused w i t h a revelation o f G - d l y l i g h t . T h a t l i g h t w i l l n o t b l i n d us t o the i n d i v i d u a l characteristics o f every entity. Instead, i t w i l l enable the positive dimensions o f that e n t i t y t o shine f o r t h w i t h greater intensity.

Reb Mendel Futerfas spent 14 years i n Soviet hard labor camps. One evening, all o f his fellow prisoners were depressed. Each one lamented his own tale o f woe. Before being arrested, one was a doctor. His career had been booming, and suddenly he was arrested for dealing on the black market. Another was an official i n the communist Party. H e had held the keys to power i n his hand, and then, out o f the blue, orders from on high had come to send h i m to a hard labor camp. Another had been a professor. H e had led a quiet, but peaceful academic life w i t h his family until one o f his papers had been termed counter-revolutionary. N o w look where they were. Each o f them had a sorry story contrasting his position before being arrested and his present state. "And what were you before you were arrested?" they asked Reb Mendel. "Before I was arrested, I was a chassid. A n d now, I am a chassid," he answered. "Imprisonment can't change that. Your civilian lives," he told his comrades, "were all dependent on external factors. Therefore, you feel acute pain when they are gone. M y life has always been focused on the internal, and therefore, I am not crushed even in these harsh settings."

Parshas Behaaloscha
T h i s week's T o r a h reading describes the preparations for, and the i n i t i a l stages of, the journey o f the Jewish people t h r o u g h the desert after having camped at M o u n t Sinai for more than a year. A t M o u n t Sinai, the Jews received the T o r a h and soon constructed the Sanctuary after

there. Y e t , our people d i d n o t remain than

content w i t h having achieved these s p i r i t u a l heights. Rather

resting o n their laurels and staying i n the desert where G - d p r o v i d e d for all their needs, they set o u t o n a m i s s i o n — t o journey t o Eretz_ Yisrael. T h e desert is barren and desolate. Y e t as the Jews traveled t h r o u g h the desert, they transformed i t , albeit temporarily, i n t o a settled land, a 107

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place where crops, trees, and even flowers grew. F o r the Jews d i d n o t travel empty-handed. W i t h t h e m , they t o o k the T o r a h that they had been given and the Sanctuary within that the they had constructed. and w h i c h G-d's

presence, w h i c h rested

Sanctuary,

is given

expression i n our lives, b r o u g h t about these positive changes i n the surroundings i n w h i c h they lived. T h e Baal Shem T o v explains that the journeys o f the Jewish people t h r o u g h the desert are reflected i n the journeys o f every

i n d i v i d u a l t h r o u g h life. Some o f the phases that we pass t h r o u g h may appear barren and desolate. Nevertheless, we m u s t appreciate that this is o n l y the external setting i n w h i c h we are placed. I t s h o u l d n o t reflect our inner state — for G-d's presence accompanies us at all times and the T o r a h is w i t h us i n all surroundings. T h i s fills our lives w i t h inner meaning and d e p t h w h i c h i n t u r n empowers us t o be o u t w a r d oriented. W e can change the environments i n w h i c h we live and cultivate their g r o w t h and development.

Looking to the Horizon
I n a similar vein, the journeys o f the Jewish people t h r o u g h the desert are also interpreted as an allusion t o the journeys o f our people t h r o u g h the ages t o w a r d the c o n s u m m a t i o n o f the purpose o f creation: the revelation o f the l i g h t o f Mashiach. Accordingly, t h r o u g h o u t h i s t o r y the Jews have wandered f r o m c o u n t r y t o c o u n t r y f u l f i l l i n g a unique D i v i n e mission, revealing the sparks o f G-dliness i n different lands by u t i l i z i n g their physical substance i n the f u l f i l l m e n t o f mitzyos. T o explain this m o t i f : O u r Sages state that G - d exiled the Jewish people i n order that converts s h o u l d be enabled t o j o i n t h e m . I n a d d i t i o n t o the simple meaning o f this statement, Jewish m y s t i c i s m expands the meaning o f the w o r d "convert" t o refer n o t only t o

individuals w h o accept Judaism, b u t also t o the sparks o f the G - d l y life-force w h i c h are h i d d e n w i t h i n the w o r l d ' s material substance. W h e n a Jew uses an object for a mitzyah, he or she releases these h i d d e n sparks o f G-dliness and enables t h e m t o be overtly revealed. So f r o m land t o land have our people wandered, c o m p l e t i n g phase after phase o f this mission.

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I n the process o f d o i n g so, they have made "the desert blossom." T h e y have endowed the w o r l d w i t h s p i r i t u a l meaning and purpose, p u s h i n g i t t o w a r d the c u l m i n a t i o n o f this process; Mashiach's coming, when the G-dliness that pervades our existence w i l l be manifest apparent. and

"There are some," the Rebbe once told a university professor, "who have two sets o f bookshelves: one for seforim, sacred texts, and another for secular books. That is a wrong approach. I f a person conceives o f secular wisdom as being unrelated to the Torah, he does not understand the Torah. A n d neither does he truly understand the secular subject he is studying." ultimately, there need not be a split between the holy and the secular. Instead, all elements o f our lives should be united i n serving H i m .

Parshas Shelach
T h i s week's T o r a h reading begins like many others: " A n d G - d spoke to Moses." B u t then something very different happens. u s u a l l y , G - d would tell Moses: "Tell the people to perform this or that

commandment." O r , " T e l l t h e m that i t is f o r b i d d e n for t h e m t o do such and such." B u t that does n o t happen i n this T o r a h reading. Instead, as Rashi explains, G - d tells Moses: " I f y o u want, send spies t o f i n d o u t about the land o f Israel." Moses isn't commanded t o send the spies and he is n o t p r o h i b i t e d f r o m d o i n g so. H e is t o l d t o make the decision himself. This teaches us something very i m p o r t a n t about Judaism's

approach t o personal g r o w t h and development. T h e r e are mitzyos and there are p r o h i b i t i o n s . T h e y are tests, enabling a person t o show his w i l l power. N o matter h o w d i f f i c u l t i t is for h i m , he should endeavor to f u l f i l l all the mitzyos, and n o matter h o w great the challenge, he should refrain f r o m d o i n g those things that the T o r a h p r o h i b i t s . But does Judaism end there? W e have delineated the black and the white, b u t what about the gray area i n between? Does Judaism allow this area t o remain neutral? I n other words, w h e n we're d o i n g a mitzyah we're serving G - d , and when we are sinning, we are obviously v i o l a t i n g H i s w i l l . B u t when we are neither d o i n g a mitzyah n o r sinning, w h e n we are just l i v i n g our life — eating, d r i n k i n g , being involved i n our w o r k , or just having a good

t i m e — what is our relationship w i t h G - d then?

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There's a verse i n Proverbs: " K n o w G - d i n all y o u r ways," about w h i c h our Sages comment: " T h i s small verse contains the entire

T o r a h . " F o r the secret o f Judaism is that even when a person is involved i n "your ways," i.e., his o w n affairs, matters that are n o t mandated either way by the T o r a h , he should k n o w G - d and live his life i n awareness o f H i m . T h i s gives us a different conception o f the gray area o u t l i n e d above. I t ' s n o t that there is good, bad, and neutral. Instead, there are realms o f conduct that are inherently connected w i t h G - d , i.e., mitzvos. And there are other realms o f conduct that are inherently separate

f r o m H i m , w h i c h is what we mean by sin. T h e n there is an area where i t is left t o man t o determine whether or n o t he w i l l connect h i m s e l f w i t h G - d . H e may choose t o develop a connection or he may decide t o t u r n his a t t e n t i o n elsewhere and ignore G - d . T h i s is the lesson that Moses was given i n this week's T o r a h reading: that G-d's commands involve even those things H e doesn't c o m m a n d y o u about. F o r even when H e does n o t t e l l y o u what t o do, y o u r choice should be i n accordance w i t h H i s w i l l . Significantly, this lesson was given t o the Jews as they prepared t o enter the land o f Israel. I n the desert, they existed o n manna. A l l o f their needs were met i n a miraculous way and they were free t o devote their t i m e t o T o r a h study and s p i r i t u a l pursuits. I n Eretz^ Yisrael, they w o u l d have t o t i l l the land and reap its harvests. I n that land, they w o u l d spend m u c h more o f their t i m e i n the gray area, i n tasks and activities that are n o t inherently connected w i t h G - d , and w o u l d have to learn h o w t o connect even these seemingly mundane activities w i t h G-d.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e approach t o D i v i n e service described above serves as a catalyst for the revelations o f the era o f Mashiach. O n e o f the unique dimensions o f that era w i l l be the all-encompassing revelation o f G-dliness that w i l l permeate all existence. Moreover, what w i l l be most unique w i l l be n o t the intensity o f the revelation, b u t its all-pervasive quality. I n the present age, we feel the w o r l d l y nature o f our environment. T h i s is the

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basic t r u t h o f our existence. I n the era o f Mashiach, we w i l l feel the G - d l y nature o f our environment. T h a t does n o t mean that we w i l l cease t o be aware o f material entities. Instead, i n the era o f Mashiach, we w i l l be aware n o t o n l y o f the b o d y b u t also the soul — the s p i r i t u a l truth connected with every e n t i t y — and this w i l l be as openly

apparent t o us as its physical existence. To usher i n this type o f awareness, we must precipitate i t by

extending the consciousness o f G - d i n t o all aspects o f our present-day conduct. By l i v i n g i n connection with G-d and recognizing His

oneness, even i n the gray areas m e n t i o n e d above, we herald the age when there w i l l be n o more gray, for a l l existence w i l l shine w i t h H i s light.

Once, one o f the New York State Senators asked for a private meeting (yechidus) w i t h the Lubavitcher Rebbe. After speaking w i t h the Rebbe for a little over an hour, he emerged from the Rebbe's office quite excited. " I never realized what a great man your Rebbe is," he told Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe's personal secretary. H e explained that he had asked to see the Rebbe to seek his guidance concerning certain issues involving the Jewish community. After the Rebbe had advised h i m with regard to these matters, the Rebbe asked i f he could ask the senator a favor. "Here it comes, I thought to myself," he told Rabbi Groner. "Just like all the others, the Rebbe is also looking for a payoff. But what did the Rebbe ask me?" "There is," the Rebbe said, "a growing community in chinatown. These people are quiet, reserved, hard working and law-abiding, the type o f citizens most countries would treasure. But because Americans are so outgoing and those residents are, by nature, reserved, they are often overlooked by government programs. As a senator from New York, I would suggest that you concern yourself with their needs." " I was overwhelmed. The Rebbe has a community o f thousands in New York who could benefit from government programs, and he has institutions all over the country for which I am i n a position to help secure funding. But the Rebbe didn't ask about that. He was concerned w i t h chinatown. I don't think he has ever been there, and I ' m certain that most people there don't know who he is, but he cares about them. N o w that's a true leader!"

Parshas Korach
I t ' s a typical American trait t o support the underdog, so there are many o f us w h o m i g h t have r o o t e d for K o r a c h i n his c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h Moses described i n this week's T o r a h reading. Moreover, Korach s t o o d for the people. H e protested: " T h e entire n a t i o n is h o l y and G - d

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is among t h e m . W h y do y o u exalt y o u r s e l f over the congregation o f G-d?" Why d i d n ' t Moses agree w i t h Korach? A n d w h y d i d G - d support

Moses totally, b r i n g i n g about a unique miracle t o destroy K o r a c h and his following? To understand this story, we have t o focus o n t w o different

approaches o f leadership. O n e approach is based o n charisma. Such a leader attracts people because he shines; he projects an image o f a m o r e exciting future. K o r a c h was rich, he t o l d g o o d jokes and he p r o m i s e d the people better stakes. A n d so, many gullible people ran after h i m . Moses was tongue-tied and had t r o u b l e c o m m u n i c a t i n g . T h e

people f o u n d i t d i f f i c u l t t o understand h i m . Nevertheless, they knew that Moses spoke G-d's t r u t h . H i s source o f strength was n o t his personal self, b u t rather his ability t o transcend himself. The dissonance between conflict. the feelings he inspired led t o d i d n ' t promise an

approach-avoidance

Because Moses

them

glitter, they weren't overly excited about his message. O n the other hand, they realized — and were constantly r e m i n d e d about this by G - d — that Moses was G-d's messenger. H e wasn't speaking his o w n words; he was saying what G - d wanted h i m t o say. W h a t this seems t o i m p l y is that K o r a c h is attractive, b u t Moses is r i g h t . So i f I ' m l o o k i n g for excitement, I ' l l choose Korach. A n d i f I ' l l choose Moses, i t w i l l be w i t h a k i n d o f drab a t t i t u d e of, " W e l l , this is what's g o i n g t o be, so I m i g h t as w e l l resign myself t o i t . " Moses deserves more than that. A Korach-style leader caters t o his followers i n a superficial manner. H e offers t h e m shiny perks —

immediate gratification. H e w i l l n o t make the investment o f energy necessary t o penetrate t o a follower's core. A Moses is different. H e is concerned w i t h empowering his

followers t o discover and f u l f i l l their m i s s i o n i n life. Every person was created w i t h a unique G-d-given purpose. A Moses does n o t give a person q u i c k answers and ready solutions. Instead, he motivates h i m t o penetrate t o the depths o f his being and understand G-d's i n t e n t for him. True, this requires a person to look beyond his immediate

horizons. H e has t o t h i n k n o t o f what makes h i m feel g o o d at the

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m o m e n t , b u t o f what is genuinely r i g h t and true. T h a t ' s a l o t more challenging, b u t u l t i m a t e l y a l o t more gratifying. F o r i f something is r i g h t and true, even t h o u g h i t may require some immediate sacrifice, i t w i l l certainly lead t o the person's good. M o r e o v e r , that g o o d w i l l be continuous, existing n o t only for the m o m e n t , b u t for the future. Moses gives people a l o n g - t e r m vision that enables t h e m t o live their lives w i t h depth, purpose, and j o y . H e spurs the kind of

happiness that wells up f r o m w i t h i n when y o u do something that has meaning. Instead o f l o o k i n g for an immediate h i g h , a Moses person t h i n k s about the goals he is l i v i n g for. A n d the awareness o f that mission endows h i m w i t h v i t a l i t y and j o y . H e is excited about l i v i n g his daily life because every act he performs resounds w i t h significance; there's genuine value i n what he is d o i n g . In every generation, we can f i n d leaders w h o are Korachs and

Moseses. Similarly, each one o f us can be a Moses or a K o r a c h — for i n our homes, i n our workplaces, and among our friends — a l l o f us act as leaders at one t i m e or another. W h e n exercising this leadership p o t e n t i a l , we s h o u l d n o t focus o n self-interest — neither our o w n or that o f the people we are t r y i n g t o impress — b u t o n the higher

purposes that are involved. T h i s is the m o t i f spawned by the leadership Moses teaches.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e issue o f leadership also relates t o the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . F o r that era will not be merely a t i m e when m a n k i n d reaches its will

f u l f i l l m e n t . I t w i l l be the era o f Mashiach. O n e man, Mashiach, i n i t i a t e the changes that w i l l encompass m a n k i n d as a whole. Why w i l l we f o l l o w Mashiach? N o t because o f charisma,

and

certainly n o t because o f campaign promises. W e w i l l f o l l o w Mashiach because he has a message o f t r u t h . W h a t he says w i l l h i t home and we w i l l recognize that this is man's goal and purpose. F o r when a person comes face t o face w i t h the t r u t h , he recognizes i t . Indeed, the t r u t h empowers us and lifts us t o its level, awakening w i t h i n us the p o t e n t i a l to have i t realized as fact. T h i s is the key t o Mashiach's leadership.

T w o chassidim and a secular Jew named Bernhardt were part o f a hard labor unit which was forced to accompany the German troops i n their retreat through Hungary before the rapidly advancing Russian army at the close o f W o r l d War I I . A t this point, the Germans realized that they had lost the war. Frightened and frustrated, they vented their vehemence and anxiety on the Jews i n the hard labor unit. As their threats and violence increased, these three men began to plan their escape. "It's true," they told each other, "that the probability o f fleeing without being detected is not high. But neither is the probability o f remaining alive through the brutalities o f this retreat." A n d so, they planned their breakout. They figured that the Germans would not pursue them very far; they would not risk confrontation w i t h a Russian scouting party. I f they could make i t beyond the camp's limits and avoid detection the first night, they would probably be safe. One day, at nightfall, they h i d behind the kitchen, and when darkness fell they slid on their stomachs to the neighboring forest. As soon as they were beyond eye range, they got up and began to run for their lives. Somehow the Germans did not detect their absence immediately. By the time they did notice, the three had already proceeded far beyond the camp's boundaries. The fear o f the Russians deterred the Germans from tracking them too far. After several hours, i t dawned upon them that they had attained their freedom. For three days, they wandered through the Hungarian forest, subsisting on the vegetation growing there, sleeping briefly. Towards evening, they discovered an abandoned hut w i t h three mattresses and the remnants o f some food. They d i d not need any invitation. They feasted on whatever crumbs there were and lay down to sleep. Many hours later, they were startled to hear the door kicked open. Suddenly, rifles were pointed i n their direction. As a knee-jerk reaction, one called out: Shema Yisrael....

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A command was hastily issued i n Russian and the rifles were lowered. The leader o f the Russian party was Jewish and had recognized that these were not German soldiers. The two chassidim looked at each other in amazement. I t was Bernhardt, the "secular" Jew, who had shouted Shema Yisrael. Their lives were testimony to the concept that no Jew can or will separate himself from his heritage. Each person has his particular, individual identity and his characteristic personal means o f self-expression. Beyond that, at the core o f our beings, lies a fundamental G-dly soul. The trick is to get the two elements i n sync.

Parshas Chukas
W h e n speaking about the different types o f mitzyos, the T o r a h singles out chukim as being unique. T h e r e is one category o f mitzyos, mishpatim, w h i c h prescribe activities that make sense. Even i f the T o r a h w o u l d not have been given, we w o u l d have u n d e r s t o o d the necessity to

observe t h e m o n our o w n . Y o u d o n ' t have t o be G - d t o k n o w that y o u s h o u l d n ' t k i l l , steal, or c o m m i t adultery. T h e r e are other mitzyos, eidus, that commemorate certain events i n our n a t i o n a l h i s t o r y . W e rest o n Shabbos t o commemorate the creation o f the w o r l d i n seven days. W e eat matzos o n Pesach t o commemorate the matzos our ancestors ate d u r i n g t h e i r exodus f r o m E g y p t . I f G - d had not commanded these mitzyos, we probably w o u l d not have

invented t h e m . Y e t once they were commanded, we understand w h y they were commanded and appreciate their observance. Chukim are i n a different category reason. T h e r e is n o given for their observance. W e d o n ' t k n o w o f any material or s p i r i t u a l advantage that w i l l be garnered by their observance; we f u l f i l l because G - d commands us t o . T h e r e are some w h o explain that i t is i m p o r t a n t t o have such commandments commitment to show our that our Torah will. observance involves a we do not t h e m simply

beyond

personal

Even w h e n

understand what G - d has commanded us, we are w i l l i n g t o carry o u t His commandments. A c c o r d i n g t o this understanding, the observance

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o f these mitzyos is rather dry. Yes, i t is necessary, b u t there is really n o w a r m t h or vibrancy t o i t . Not everyone observes chukim i n this way, however. O n the

contrary, we see some people w h o have a special joy i n f u l f i l l i n g chukim. W h y ? Because chukim relate t o a p o i n t i n the soul that is above our o w n w i l l and our understanding. I n the observance o f these mitzyos, a person identifies w i t h G - d o n H i s terms. H e or she is d o i n g what G - d wants because H e wants i t and for n o other reason. I n essence, that is the m o s t encompassing f o r m o f satisfaction a person can have.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e above enables us t o appreciate one o f the unique dimensions o f the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . T h e Rambam states that " I n that age, the occupation o f the entire w o r l d w i l l be solely t o k n o w G - d . " Indeed, the singleness o f aspiration that characterizes the chukim w i l l resonate

t h r o u g h all m a n k i n d , as the Prophet states: " A l l the nations w i l l be transformed t o [speak] a pure language ... t o serve H i m w i t h a single purpose." F o r our energies w i l l focus o n comprehending G-d's t r u t h . We have a m u l t i t u d e o f different desires. N o w it's true, the inner

m o t i v a t i o n for any o f our desires is G-dliness. A t present, however, that inner d i m e n s i o n is covered by many other externals. W e t h i n k we are seeking things like love, wealth, or power. W e aren't aware o f the essential drive p r o p e l l i n g our w i l l . F o r i n any experience, what we are really seeking is the G-dly truth i t contains. I n the era o f the

R e d e m p t i o n , by contrast, this t r u t h w i l l surface, and i n everything that we do, we w i l l appreciate the G - d l y i n t e n t .

The Mitteler Rebbe, Reb Dovber o f Lubavitch, was receiving guests for private audiences. Each chassid was given his time. Some asked for blessings for material things, others sought spiritual guidance. Suddenly, i n the middle o f his meeting w i t h one person, the Mitteler Rebbe cut the audience short and left word for those waiting that he would not be taking other visitors for some time. Perplexed, the chassidim bided their time in anticipation. From inside the Rebbe's room they could hear deep sighs and heart-rending sobs. This continued a prolonged time. Afterwards, the Rebbe called for the person whose meeting he had interrupted, spent some time w i t h him, and then accepted other callers. Some time later, he explained his conduct to those close to him. "When a person comes to me and complains about a flaw i n his spiritual makeup, I help h i m by looking for a parallel deficiency in my own character. Even when my inadequacy is not as great as his, i f I see a correspondence, we have a point o f communication. I understand what I need to do to better myself, and so I can advise h i m on what he should do to better himself. "When this person told me o f his difficulties, I could not find any parallel to such a deficiency within my character, not even a remote association. O n the other hand, I realized that i f Divine providence was showing me this problem, i t was because I had a connection to it. A n d so, I had to exert myself i n introspection and personal analysis until I was able to discover a resemblance and see how to change. After I was able to deal w i t h the difficulty as i t existed within myself, I was able to help the other person as well." For the Mitteler Rebbe, insight into another person's difficulty came hand i n hand with his own efforts to attain spiritual refinement. He would not just sit back and give abstract spiritual counsel. Instead, not only the seeker, but also the Rebbe himself had to be actively involved i n growth and character development.

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Parshas Balak
T h i s week's T o r a h reading focuses o n the blessings given the Jewish people by the gentile p r o p h e t Balaam. Balak, the k i n g o f M o a b , feared that the Jews w o u l d attack h i m and his people o n their way t o Eretz^ Yisrael, and so he h i r e d Balaam, a gentile prophet, t o curse the Jews. A l t h o u g h Balaam sought t o do Balak's b i d d i n g , whenever he prepared to deliver curses, G - d p u t blessings i n his m o u t h and he was forced t o utter t h e m . So p o w e r f u l were his blessings that they are recorded i n the T o r a h for eternity and some have taken their place i n our prayers. W h e n Balaam saw that G - d w o u l d n o t allow h i m t o curse the people, he sought t o h a r m t h e m i n another way. " T h e i r G - d , " he t o l d Balak, "hates i m m o r a l i t y . Have y o u r w o m e n seduce their men." Balak d i d that and as a result, a plague beset the Jewish people, k i l l i n g thousands. Our Sages ask, " W h y d i d G - d bestow s p i r i t u a l insight and gift o f

prophecy u p o n a w i c k e d man like Balaam?" T h e y explain that i n the future, the gentiles w i l l c o m p l a i n t o G - d , t e l l i n g h i m that the Jews were granted prophets and therefore they were able t o advance spiritually. G - d w i l l answer that i t was n o t the gift o f prophecy alone w h i c h caused the Jews t o advance. F o r H e also granted the gentiles a prophet, Balaam, and what d i d he do? Instead, o f h e l p i n g the people advance spiritually, he encouraged i m m o r a l i t y . I m p l i e d w i t h i n the narrative is an i m p o r t a n t lesson for a l l t i m e . S p i r i t u a l i n s i g h t cannot be seen as separate f r o m a person's conduct. T h e concept o f a k n o w i n g wizard, aware o f s p i r i t u a l reality and yet l i v i n g a depraved existence runs contrary t o Judaism's fundamental thrust. Judaism sees s p i r i t u a l awareness as a t o o l t o enhance and intensify one's day-to-day experience, not merely a l o f t y spiritual plateau.

Whatever s p i r i t u a l i n s i g h t and experience one has m u s t be applied i n deeper and more meaningful conduct. S p i r i t u a l i t y is n o t a h i g h t o be enjoyed, and then ignored. Instead, i t m u s t be incorporated i n the way we b u i l d our relationships, establish our families, and forge our role i n society at large. T h e lesson is t w o - f o l d :

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a) T h o s e seeking s p i r i t u a l experience m u s t realize that this s h o u l d lead t o a deeper c o m m i t m e n t t o m o r a l life at home and at w o r k . b) T h o s e w h o w o r k t o p r o m o t e family values and m o r a l t r u t h

should focus o n the s p i r i t u a l component o f these values and t r u t h s and understand that such awareness can enhance and intensify power o f their message b o t h for themselves and for their students. the

Looking to the Horizon
I n c l u d e d i n the blessings conveyed by Balaam is the verse: " A star shall shoot f o r t h f r o m Jacob, and a staff w i l l arise w i t h i n Israel," w h i c h our commentaries interpret as the m o s t explicit reference t o Mashiach i n the Torah. T h e question arises: W h y is Mashiach's c o m i n g associated with

Balaam's prophecy? Balaam was an i m m o r a l man w h o sought t o h a r m the Jewish people. Seemingly, i t w o u l d be m u c h more appropriate for the message o f Mashiach t o have been conveyed by Moses or another Jewish leader. T h i s message is, however, associated w i t h Balaam t o show h o w encompassing the concept o f R e d e m p t i o n w i l l be. T h e R e d e m p t i o n w i l l n o t be for o n l y a few select righteous men, or a s p i r i t u a l elite. N o r w i l l its effects be confined t o the Jewish people alone. Instead, "the earth w i l l be f i l l e d w i t h the knowledge o f G - d as the waters cover the ocean bed." A l l existence w i l l be permeated w i t h the awareness o f G-dliness. W h a t does this mean i n practice? A t present, we view our lives i n material terms — what we see, hear, and t o u c h — and therefore these physical entities are the p r i m a r y focus o f our t h o u g h t s . W e understand that there appreciate is a s p i r i t u a l purpose that G-dly energy t o our lives, and we may even existence. This,

is m a i n t a i n i n g our

however, is a secondary

factor. F o r the overwhelming m a j o r i t y o f

h u m a n i t y , g o i n g t o w o r k i n the m o r n i n g and p r o v i d i n g f o o d for one's family is a m u c h m o r e pressing reality than s p i r i t u a l consciousness. W h e n Mashiach comes, this w i l l change. Everyone w i l l become

acutely aware o f G-dliness. R a b b i L e v i Y i t z c h a k o f Berditchev once said: " G - d , h o w can Y o u blame people for n o t paying a t t e n t i o n t o the

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spiritual? Y o u let people see and taste the pleasures o f the material w o r l d w h i l e Y o u p u t s p i r i t u a l i t y i n books. A r e Y o u surprised h o w people live their lives? Reverse these factors and see what w i l l happen!" T h a t ' s precisely what w i l l transpire when Mashiach comes. material framework o f existence in which we live w i l l The

continue

u n i n t e r r u p t e d , b u t we w i l l become conscious o f the G - d l y forces that m a i n t a i n i t . T h a t awareness w i l l be granted t o everyone. Just as we are aware o f material things today, when Mashiach comes, we — and all m a n k i n d — w i l l be aware o f the spiritual. I t w i l l be our n a t u r a l way o f perceiving and appreciating the w o r l d . To allude t o these concepts, the prophecies o f Mashiach were

conveyed by Balaam. T h i s demonstrates

that even a non-Jew whose

character is n o t refined w i l l share a connection t o the revelations o f Mashiach, for Mashiach's c o m i n g w i l l affect all h u m a n i t y .

Once, a chassid was waiting to see his Rebbe, hoping that the Rebbe would help h i m out o f his spiritual malaise. O n one hand, he was very anxious to see his Rebbe for he felt that the Rebbe would provide h i m w i t h the inspiration and the direction to jolt h i m out o f his spiritual inertia. O n the other hand, he hesitated. He knew that the Rebbe could read his mind and would detect all the undesirable thoughts that occurred to h i m from time to time. H e debated back and forth: Should he go to his Rebbe or shouldn't he? Then he had a flash. G-d also reads his thoughts and he is not embarrassed to stand i n front o f G-d. I f he can stand i n front o f G-d, he can stand in front of his Rebbe. W i t h that resolve, he proceeded toward the Rebbe's door. As he approached, the Rebbe stepped out o f the door and told him: "G-d is patient and I am not." A Rebbe is given his mantle o f leadership because he can shake people out o f the " I ' l l do it tomorrow" mentality that holds them back from actively embracing their G-dly purpose.

Parshas Pinchas
T h i s week's T o r a h reading contains a passage that sheds unique insight o n the nature o f Moses' leadership qualities. G - d tells Moses that the t i m e has come for h i m t o pass away. Moses' response is n o t t o ask a n y t h i n g for h i m s e l f or for his children. Instead, he asks G - d : " G - d , L - r d o f spirits, appoint a m a n over the assembly." A t the m o m e n t o f t r u t h , he shows n o self concern. H i s a t t e n t i o n is focused solely o n the welfare o f his people. T h i s is the fundamental quality that distinguishes a Jewish leader. I n general, leadership involves i d e n t i f y i n g w i t h ideals and principles that transcend one's o w n self. I f all a person is selling is his o w n self, others w i l l n o t identify w i t h h i m so easily; for they are concerned w i t h their o w n selves. W h y should they n u l l i f y themselves before the other person? 123

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Yes,

they can be forced t o accept a u t h o r i t y or they can be bribed.

But then, the person's a u t h o r i t y w i l l be dependent o n the strength o f the stick or the flavor o f the carrot. T h e people w i l l have n o inner connection t o h i m . W h a t w i l l inspire a person t o w i l l i n g l y accept the a u t h o r i t y o f another? A purpose w h i c h b o t h the leader and the follower recognize as greater than his self. W h e n the leader espouses and identifies w i t h an ideal that gives his life greater meaning and d i r e c t i o n , he w i l l be able to share t h i s ideal w i t h people at large. F o r every person is u l t i m a t e l y l o o k i n g for s o m e t h i n g more i n life than the f u l f i l l m e n t o f his personal desires. A Jewish leader, a Moses, transcends h i m s e l f t o a greater degree. F i r s t o f all, he is n o t concerned w i t h his o w n personal objectives — even as an afterthought. M a n y leaders, t h o u g h concerned w i t h a

purpose beyond themselves, are s t i l l l o o k i n g for their o w n payoff. T h e y bear i n m i n d their o w n h o n o r , wealth, or self-interest. A Moses is n o t l o o k i n g for that. But m o s t o f all, the purpose w i t h w h i c h a w o r l d l y leader identifies is s t i l l somewhat i n t e r t w i n e d w i t h his o w n self, for ultimately, what is a leader l o o k i n g for? T o make the w o r l d a better place for all the people l i v i n g here. A l t h o u g h he is concerned for others besides

himself, his u l t i m a t e goal is h o w t o make his o w n life better. H e merely has the vision t o appreciate that his o w n life cannot be

consummately good u n t i l the lives o f others are also i m p r o v e d . A Moses, by contrast, is concerned w i t h G-d's purpose, n o t man's. H e wants t o make the w o r l d a d w e l l i n g for H i m , n o t merely a pleasant abode for m a n k i n d . c e r t a i n l y , w h e n G-d's d w e l l i n g is completed, i t w i l l also be very comfortable for man t o live i n , b u t that is n o t his purpose. H e is concerned w i t h G-d's objective, and the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h that goal takes h i m beyond his personal self entirely and makes h i m the u l t i m a t e paradigm o f leadership.

Looking to the Horizon
Our Sages identify Pinchas w i t h Elijah the Prophet, the herald o f the

R e d e m p t i o n . T h e y explain that Elijah's f u n c t i o n w i l l be m o r e than

PINCHAS

125

that o f a bearer o f news. H e w i l l also help inspire the mindset o f love and h a r m o n y that w i l l make R e d e m p t i o n a reality. T h u s the p r o p h e t M a l a c h i states that Elijah w i l l " t u r n the hearts o f the fathers t o the children and the hearts o f the c h i l d r e n t o the fathers." I n the same vein, M a i m o n i d e s writes that Elijah w i l l come "solely t o spawn peace." For spreading peace and h a r m o n y w i l l encourage Mashiach's c o m i n g ,

creating a setting i n t o w h i c h he w i l l desire t o enter. T h i s also serves as a lesson t o all o f us. W o r k i n g t o generate h a r m o n y i n the m i c r o c o s m i n w h i c h we live w i l l serve as a catalyst for the u l t i m a t e h a r m o n y Mashiach w i l l i n t r o d u c e i n the w o r l d .

Once two tzaddikim met and discussed their different attainments in Divine service. One o f them told the other how he had succeeded i n dulling the sensations o f his palate. A l l food tasted the same to him. "Is your ability to control your sensations so weak that you have to k i l l them?" his colleague answered. " I t is not difficult to divorce oneself from involvement i n the world. The challenge o f Divine service is to live i n the world and use it for G-d's purpose."

Parshas Mattos
T h i s week's T o r a h reading focuses o n the mitzvah o f m a k i n g vows, whereby a person forbids h i m - or herself f r o m partaking o f certain foods or becoming involved i n certain activities. W h y w o u l d a person make a vow? Because he sees that he is becoming t o o involved i n w o r l d l y entities; that his life is becoming t o o materially oriented. Therefore he seeks a safeguard. T h e i n t e n t i o n o f this p a t h o f conduct is certainly positive, b u t i t has drawbacks. O u r Sages teach: " W h y add more prohibitions? Is n o t what the T o r a h has f o r b i d d e n enough?" F o r G - d d i d n o t create material existence t o be ignored, b u t instead t o be used for a G - d l y purpose and i n t e n t . A t the heart o f this issue is an inner conflict m o s t o f us face. Generally, we conceive o f a person devoted t o s p i r i t u a l pursuits as o t h e r w o r l d l y , somewhat ascetic, and a b i t somber — n o t the k i n d o f person w i t h w h o m w e ' d like t o relax and spend a Saturday n i g h t . A n d for that matter, n o t really the k i n d o f person w e ' d like t o be. W h e r e d i d this conception come from? There are some s p i r i t u a l approaches that consider a l l material involvement as "a necessary evil," n o t areas i n w h i c h G - d created m a n t o spend his t i m e o n . Some get very graphic about h o w bad material indulgence is and what difficulties i t can lead t o . Since people at large aren't w i l l i n g t o accept such an approach, they go t o the other end o f the spectrum, seeking o u t sensual

gratification and m a k i n g that the object o f their endeavors. T h e y aren't

126

MATTOS

127

necessarily p r o t e s t i n g against

asceticism. T h e y ' r e concerned

simply

w i t h what makes t h e m feel good. A n d there are some w h o vacillate between the t w o extremes, at times i n d u l g i n g and at times feeling remorse over t h e i r deeds and i n a b i l i t y t o h o l d themselves back. W h y these t w o extremes? Because material satisfaction i n and o f i t s e l f is n o t very u p l i f t i n g or f u l f i l l i n g . I t does n o t expand y o u r

h o r i z o n s or enable y o u t o grow. O n the contrary, we a l l k n o w h o w we can sometimes get caught up i n seeking such satisfaction t o the

exclusion o f all else. T h e n we become coarse and d o w n w a r d oriented. B u t this is n o t what we want t o do w i t h our lives. A f t e r 1 2 0 years, n o one is g o i n g t o be p r o u d that he or she ate another p o t a t o or piece o f steak. W e want our lives t o have meaning and depth. O n the other hand, we k n o w that we are n o t angels and we d o n ' t want t o pretend that we are. Judaism offers a r e s o l u t i o n t o this quandary that satisfies b o t h perspectives: Live i n the w o r l d , b u t k n o w that i t is G-d's w o r l d . Be happy. K n o w h o w t o appreciate the good things i n life and do so i n a manner that others enjoy y o u r company. However, d o n ' t indulge i n material things o u t o f selfish desire. Instead, partake o f material things as an act o f appreciation t o G - d for creating a w o r l d that contains a great variety o f good. A classic example o f this concept is Shabbos. W e are commanded t o h o n o r the Shabbos by p a r t a k i n g o f sumptuous foods, wearing our finest garments, and i n d u l g i n g i n all forms o f delight. T h e day, however, is "sanctified u n t o G - d . " I t is H i s day o f holiness. These material forms o f satisfaction are m e d i u m s w i t h w h i c h we can establish contact w i t h H i m , n o t distractions f r o m H i s service. I n this vein, our Sages taught that the verse " K n o w H i m i n all y o u r ways" is "a small passage o n w h i c h the entire T o r a h depends." F o r the T o r a h is intended t o teach man t o relate t o G - d i n all forms o f experience.

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

Looking to the Horizon
T h i s m o t i f w i l l reach its consummate fulfillment i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . A t that t i m e , " G o o d things w i l l f l o w i n abundance and all the delights w i l l be freely available as dust." W h a t is the p o i n t o f the simile? I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n we w i l l be surrounded by a l l forms o f material satisfaction. I t w i l l be an era o f peace and prosperity where we w i l l feel n o lack. But material things w i l l n o t be the center o f our focus. W e w i l l

benefit f r o m all the delights w i t h w h i c h the w o r l d can provide us, b u t they w i l l n o t dominate our a t t e n t i o n . O n the contrary, we w i l l consider t h e m "as dust." O u r energies w i l l be focused o n the s p i r i t u a l . As the Prophet says, " T h e occupation o f the entire w o r l d w i l l be solely t o k n o w G - d . " T h e r e w i l l be n o conflict between the s p i r i t u a l and the physical, because i t w i l l be obvious that the physical is just another expression o f G-dliness.

O n entering the Rebbe's room for a private audience, a Lubavitcher communal leader noticed that the Rebbe's expression had a hint o f sadness. W i t h some boldness, he asked the Rebbe what was troubling him. The Rebbe replied that there was a family in c r o w n Heights w i t h six children — five boys and a girl. The boys had already grown up, married, and assumed positions heading Lubavitch outreach centers in cities throughout the world. A while ago, the girl had also married. Recently, she and her husband had written the Rebbe, asking i f they should assume a position i n a distant city. The Rebbe gave his approval contingent on the consent of the girl's parents. Although this would mean that the elder couple would be alone, they willingly agreed. "At the present moment," the Rebbe concluded, "the parents and their daughter are at the airport saying farewell. Many tears are being shed. It's true that they are tears o f joy, but they are crying all the same. A n d when they are crying, how can I not cry?"

Parshas Maasei
A m o n g the concepts taught i n Parshas Maasei is the commandment t o set aside cities for the Levites. A l l o f the other tribes were given a specific p o r t i o n o f land for t h e m t o populate. T h e Levites, by contrast, were given 4 2 cities that were dispersed t h r o u g h o u t the entire H o l y Land, several i n each o f the ancestral heritage o f each o f the other tribes. W h y this distinction? Because the Levites were given the m i s s i o n t o serve as teachers and s p i r i t u a l leaders. Such a person m u s t realize that he cannot f u l f i l l his m i s s i o n by remaining secluded i n an ivory tower. Instead, he m u s t become integrated w i t h the people as a whole. T h i s concept has i m p l i c a t i o n s o n many levels. O n the most

obvious, a teacher should n o t wait for a student t o come t o h i m . H e m u s t be w i l l i n g t o go o u t t o the student and attract his interest. Moreover, his " g o i n g o u t " should n o t be an occasional visit after w h i c h he retreats t o his o w n spiritually secure c o m m u n i t y . Instead he 129

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

should be w i l l i n g t o make the investment t o live permanently among his students and become involved w i t h t h e m i n an o n g o i n g manner. T h e r e is, however, a deeper p o i n t . T r u e teaching comes from

l i v i n g w i t h a person. T h e Bible praises Elisha as one " w h o p o u r e d water over Elijah's hands." I n other words, he p e r f o r m e d manual tasks for h i m , h e l p i n g h i m i n the ordinary details o f day-to-day life. O u r Rabbis ask: W h y isn't Elisha praised as being Elijah's student? T h e y answer that Elisha learned more f r o m l i v i n g w i t h Elijah and p e r f o r m i n g these basic tasks o n his behalf than f r o m hearing his teachings. W h e n a person lives together w i t h a teacher, he does n o t receive mere abstract knowledge. H e sees h o w the teacher has

integrated his values and objectives i n t o his o w n life. T h e T o r a h insights the teacher imparts are n o t just l o f t y ideals, b u t active

principles. T h e student can see these principles b r i n g about results i n the way the teacher relates t o his family and t o others, and h o w they endow his life w i t h m o r e meaning and purpose. These are the types o f lessons that make an impression o n a student and empower h i m t o change his o w n life. I n order t o teach i n this manner, the Levites were commanded t o live dispersed among the other tribes.

Looking to the Horizon
Parshas Maasei is always read i n the p e r i o d o f t i m e k n o w n as the "three weeks" interposed between and the commemorative These fasts fasts of mark the the

Seventeenth

of Tammuz

Tishah BeAv.

conquest o f Jerusalem and the d e s t r u c t i o n o f the H o l y T e m p l e . As such, i t is a t i m e when we focus our a t t e n t i o n o n the idea o f exile and our people's hope for R e d e m p t i o n . A person may legitimately ask: " W h a t does i t mean that we are i n exile? I t does n o t appear that I have been taken f r o m another place and transported here. T h i s feels like m y home." I t ' s true, we feel at home i n our present environment. W h y s h o u l d n ' t we? I t offers peace, prosperity, and o p p o r t u n i t i e s for g r o w t h that n o culture i n h i s t o r y has ever experienced. F o r this, we m u s t be very t h a n k f u l .

MAASEI

131

Simultaneously, there is something missing. W h e n the T e m p l e was standing, it afforded every visitor a direct appreciation of

G-dliness. A person felt as i f he had seen the D i v i n e . T h i s is what i t means t o be i n exile. I t is n o t necessarily suffering G-dliness. T h i s is what we lack today. A n d as a result, there is something missing i n all the good that we do have. I t isn't bad, i t just isn't life at its fullest. As we become conscious o f the nature o f exile, a t h i r s t for difficulty and hardship, but the inability to about

appreciate

R e d e m p t i o n is k i n d l e d , for every person sincerely desires t o live a life connected w i t h G - d .

After Napoleon conquered the city o f Acre i n Northern Israel, he walked through the streets o f the ancient seaport. Suddenly, his attention was caught by a group o f people wailing bitterly. Incensed at the thought that perhaps they were mourning because o f his conquest, Napoleon sent agents to investigate. His agents returned and told h i m that i t was a group of Jews who were mourning. Although their mourning was prompted by a conquest, i t was not Napoleon's victory that they were lamenting. I t was the night o f Tishah BeAv, the ninth day o f the Hebrew month of Av. They were mourning the conquest o f Jerusalem and the destruction o f the Holy Temple that had taken place more than 1750 years previously. Napoleon was moved. He exclaimed that any nation whose sense o f history is so strong as to remember — and remember to the point o f actual tears — what took place those many years previously will live to see that history become present again. Parshas Devarim is always read before the fast o f Tishah BeAv, the day on which we commemorate the anniversary o f the destruction o f the Temple by the Babylonians and the Romans. More importantly, it is a day when we focus on building from those ruins, seeing that exile is not i n itself an end, but rather a phase in the progress o f mankind to its ultimate goal — the Future Redemption.

Parshas Devarim — Shabbos Chazon
T h i s week the Shabbos is given a special name, Shabbos Chazon, w h i c h means "the Shabbos o f vision." I t refers t o the Haftorah read o n this Shabbos w h i c h begins: " T h e vision o f Isaiah." Isaiah's vision speaks o f the r e t r i b u t i o n G - d w i l l visit u p o n the Jewish people for their sins. conversely, however, the name o f this Shabbos has a positive c o n n o t a t i o n . As R . Levi Y i t z c h a k o f Berditchev w o u l d say: O n the Shabbos o f vision, every Jew receives a vision o f the T h i r d Temple.

132

DEVARIM —

SHABBOS CHAZON

133

B o t h o f these interpretations relate t o the fact that this Haftorah was i n s t i t u t e d t o be read o n the Shabbos preceding Tishah BeAv, the fast c o m m e m o r a t i n g the d e s t r u c t i o n o f the T e m p l e and the exile o f the Jewish people. T h e t r a d i t i o n a l meaning focuses o n the negative, the severe descent o f our people i n t o sin. F o r as the p r o p h e t warns, Israel w i l l be harshly punished for her grave transgressions. T h e chassidic i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , by contrast, p o i n t s t o the r e d e m p t i o n f r o m that exile, a l l u d i n g t o a foretaste o f the m o s t exalted s p i r i t u a l levels, a peek at the u l t i m a t e and m o s t inclusive revelation o f G-dliness that there w i l l ever be. How opposite. Such a paradox, however, reflects the unique nature o f the Jewish people. O u r n a t i o n is prone t o extremes — whether we are at the highest peaks or the lowest depths, we simply are n o t ordinary. W h y ? Because our people, as a w h o l e and as individuals, share a connection w i t h the essence o f G - d . T h e essence o f G - d is n o t computable; i t doesn't f i t o n a graph. Instead, it defies all d e f i n i t i o n s and foreseeable determinations, can the t w o interpretations coexist? T h e y are seemingly

m a k i n g rules, rather than c o n f o r m i n g t o t h e m . T h a t essence was i m p l a n t e d i n every one o f us. Therefore we w i l l be exceptional; at times s i n k i n g t o the depths about w h i c h Isaiah spoke, and at times r i s i n g t o the peaks that enable us t o anticipate the revelations o f the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . W h a t is m o s t unique is that the t w o extremes are interrelated. T h e descent leads t o the ascent. G - d structured the challenges o f exile t o compel us t o express our deepest s p i r i t u a l p o t e n t i a l . A n d just as H e presented us w i t h these challenges, H e gave us the ability t o overcome them.

Looking to the Horizon
Our Sages describe exile w i t h the analogy o f sowing seeds. Before a

seed can grow i n t o a flowering plant, its exterior husk m u s t u t t e r l y decompose. Similarly, for the G - d l y core o f the Jewish people to

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

flourish,

all the external dimensions

o f their personality m u s t

be

stripped away. I n the analogue, the drastic descent that characterizes the exile

wears away at our intellectual and e m o t i o n a l connection w i t h G - d . W i t h o u t gentleness or mercy, exile tears apart the husky shells o f our personalities. Layer after layer o f w h o we t h i n k we are, and what we've been trained t o be, what we w o u l d like t o be is peeled away. U l t i m a t e l y , what is left? T h e very essence o f the soul, the p o i n t w i t h i n our being that is an actual part o f G - d . A n d w h e n that essence is tapped, true g r o w t h begins. W h e n this p a t t e r n spreads f r o m person t o person, the Jewish people blossom. I n d o i n g so, they spread the awareness of G-dliness throughout the world, precipitating the

dawning o f the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n .

When R. Levi Yitzchak o f Berditchev returned home from his first visit w i t h the Maggid o f Mezeritch, his father-in-law asked h i m what he had learned. " I learned that G-d exists," R. Levi Yitzchak answered. "Is that all?!" replied his father-in-law. "Why even the servant girl knows that there is a G-d." "She will say that she knows," Rabbi Levi Yitzchok answered. " I actually know."

Parshas Vaes'chanan
T h i s week's T o r a h reading contains the Shema, the fundamental prayer i n Jewish l i t u r g y . W h e n a person recites the Shema, he is n o t merely declaring that there is only one G - d . T h e i n t e n t o f the Shema is that all existence is one w i t h H i m . Judaism does n o t believe that the s p i r i t u a l and the physical can be separated f r o m each other. W e do n o t believe i n a G - d w h o sits i n the heavens and allows the w o r l d t o f u n c t i o n however i t desires. Instead, the s p i r i t u a l and the physical are b o t h manifestations o f a single u n i t y . T h i s is what we mean when we say " G - d is one" — that G-d's oneness embraces everything that we see, hear, or become aware of. These concepts are h i n t e d at by ‫ א ח ד‬, echad, the H e b r e w w o r d for one. T h a t w o r d is made up o f three letters. T h e first letter, the ‫ א‬, alef, stands for the Ein Sof, G-d's i n f i n i t y . T h e second, the ‫ח‬, ches, is

equivalent t o the number eight, referring t o the seven s p i r i t u a l realms and our material earth. T h e last letter, the ‫ד‬, dalet, equivalent t o four, alludes t o the f o u r directions o f this earth. W h a t is inferred is that the alef, G-d's i n f i n i t e transcendence, permeates the ches, all eight levels o f existence, and more particularly, the dalet, the four directions o f our w o r l d . Wherever we go, there is n o t h i n g apart f r o m H i m . On this basis, we can understand w h y the Shema is the message

associated w i t h our people's martyrs. W h e n a m a r t y r gives up his life for his faith, he is m a k i n g a statement that he refuses t o separate the physical f r o m the spiritual. H e w i l l n o t live a life that does n o t reflect his inner G - d l y essence. I f he is forced t o sever the connection between the t w o and live i n c o n t r a d i c t i o n t o what he believes and what he
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KEEPING I N TOUCH

knows is r i g h t , then he w o u l d rather n o t live. F o r he cannot conceive o f a life that runs contrary t o his s p i r i t u a l core. F o r h i m , the oneness o f G - d is an actual — n o t merely a theoretical — reality. T h e Shema continues w i t h the c o m m a n d m e n t t o love G - d . T h a t c o m m a n d raises a question: H o w can the T o r a h c o m m a n d us t o love? You either feel love or y o u d o n ' t . N o one can t e l l y o u t o feel

something that y o u d o n ' t . That's w h y the c o m m a n d m e n t t o love G - d follows after the

declaration o f G-d's oneness. W h e n a person understands the oneness of G - d and appreciates h o w H e is manifest i n every element of

existence, he w i l l be spurred t o feelings o f love. F o r intellect gives b i r t h to e m o t i o n and our awareness o f G - d p r o m p t s us t o love H i m . Afterwards, the Shema mentions several mitzyos — the

commandments t o study T o r a h , wear tefillin, and affix mezuzos o n our doorposts. F o r i t is t h r o u g h these deeds — and by extension, the

t o t a l i t y o f Jewish observance — that the oneness p r o c l a i m e d i n the Shema is made part and parcel o f our everyday lives.

Looking to the Horizon
T h i s Shabbos is given a special name, Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos o f c o m f o r t . T h e name is taken f r o m the Haftorah o f this week w h i c h begins with Isaiah's prophecy: "Take the c o m f o r t , take tragedy of comfort, M y the Temple's

people."

After

commemorating

d e s t r u c t i o n o n Tishah BeAv,

our Sages i n s t i t u t e d a series o f seven

p r o p h e t i c readings that change our focus. These readings promise that Israel w i l l be c o m f o r t e d w i t h the

c o m i n g o f the R e d e m p t i o n . Exile and destruction are just phases, the beginning o f a process, n o t its end. I n that vein, our Sages t e l l us that Mashiach was b o r n o n Tishah BeAv. Whatever the simple meaning o f that statement, its i n t e n t is that every year, Tishah BeAv generates a renewed impetus for R e d e m p t i o n . concealed beneath the d e s t r u c t i o n and exile is G-d's desire t o b r i n g Mashiach, and t o elevate b o t h Israel and the w o r l d t o a state o f u l t i m a t e f u l f i l l m e n t . A t n o p o i n t i n our n a t i o n a l h i s t o r y has the redemptive aspect o f Tishah BeAv been as relevant as i t is today, for we are at the t h r e s h o l d o f

VAES'CHANAN

137

the R e d e m p t i o n and, indeed, i n the process o f crossing that threshold. M a y we m e r i t the c o m p l e t i o n o f this process and the c o m i n g o f the era when we w i l l n o longer k n o w sorrow, and instead share i n the j o y o f R e d e m p t i o n w i t h the c o m i n g o f Mashiach.

I n the upcoming week falls the 2 0 t h day o f the month of Av, theyahrzeit o f Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the Rebbe's father. The Rebbe's father was a great luminary in his own right, an awesome reservoir o f Talmudic and Kabbalistic knowledge. But perhaps the most unique dimension o f his character was his unflinching commitment to Jewish practice and the total lack o f fear w i t h which he expressed that commitment. One night i n 1935, i n the midst o f the fiercest Stalinist oppression, a woman knocked on his door. "I've come from a distant city whose name I cannot mention. I n approximately one hour, my daughter and her fiance will also arrive. They both hold high government positions and so their coming here is fraught w i t h danger. They have agreed to be married according to Jewish law, provided you would perform the wedding i n your home." Rav Levi Yitzchak consented and set about gathering together a minyan for the wedding. W i t h i n half an hour, he had brought eight other men into his home. But the tenth man was lacking. O n the bottom floor o f the apartment house where Rav Levi Yitzchak lived a young Jewish man who had been hired by the communist authorities to spy on the goings on i n Rav Levi Yitzchak's home. Rav Levi Yitzchak was well aware o f who this person was and how he was employed. Yet when the tenth man was lacking, he sent for him. "We need a tenth man for a minyan so that a Jewish couple can marry," he told his neighbor. "And so you sent for me?!" the neighbor responded in utter amazement. A n d yet he consented to participate in the minyan and did not inform about the ceremony. Years later, the Rebbe would say: "From my father I learned never to be afraid."

Parshas Eikev
T h i s week's T o r a h reading contains the second passage o f the Shema, the passage beginning Vihayah im shamoa. O n the surface, the passage 138

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139

seems unnecessary. I t repeats many o f the concepts stated i n the first passage o f the Shema. Moreover, i t appears t o p o i n t t o a lesser degree o f c o m m i t m e n t . T h e first passage states: " A n d y o u shall love G - d your L - r d w i t h all y o u r heart, w i t h all y o u r soul, and w i t h all your m i g h t , " w h i l e the second passage speaks o f l o v i n g H i m only " w i t h all y o u r heart and w i t h all your soul." N o t i c i n g the difference, our Sages

explain that the first passage refers t o a s i t u a t i o n when the Jews f u l f i l l G-d's w i l l , w h i l e the second passage refers t o a s i t u a t i o n when they do n o t f u l f i l l G-d's w i l l . Why is the second passage referred t o i n such a manner? A f t e r all,

i t speaks o f the Jews l o v i n g G - d " w i t h all their hearts and w i t h all their souls." chassidic thought answers by explaining what " w i t h a l l your as " m i g h t , " also

m i g h t " means. Me'od, the H e b r e w w o r d translated means "very." T h e dictionary defines

"very" as " i n a h i g h degree;

extremely; exceedingly." I n other words, the love o f G - d spoken about i n the first passage is " o f a h i g h degree, extreme, and representing a commitment beyond a person's exceeding," and

intellectual

e m o t i o n a l capacities. W h a t we can give is " a l l our heart" and " a l l our soul." T h i s we can c o n t r o l ; what is beyond our hearts and our souls — "all our m i g h t " — is n o t w i t h i n man's conscious power. A n d yet we can love G - d " w i t h a l l our m i g h t " because there is an aspect w i t h i n our being that is beyond our conscious power. Every one o f us possesses a soul that is an actual part o f G - d . T h a t ' s w h o we really are. W h e n this inner p o t e n t i a l surfaces, the love i t inspires is extreme and exceeding. T h e question then arises: I f a person possesses the p o t e n t i a l for this type o f love, w h y should the T o r a h again command us — in a

later passage — t o love G - d only w i t h " a l l our heart" and w i t h " a l l our soul"? I f this higher p o t e n t i a l is tapped, what can these lower, more l i m i t e d forms o f love contribute? T h e r e s o l u t i o n is that we should n o t o n l y love G - d w i t h the aspect o f our being that surpasses our personal selves, i.e., our inner s p i r i t u a l core. Instead, our conscious powers should also be directed t o w a r d H i m . T h e love for G - d that stems f r o m our inner, transcendent core is not our achievement. Yes, we m u s t encourage its expression and

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remove the barriers standing i n its way, b u t ultimately, i t is H e w h o i m p l a n t e d this love w i t h i n us. Therefore b r i n g i n g i t o u t does n o t reflect an accomplishment o n our part. W h a t can we do and what is the realm where our achievements can shine? T o love H i m " w i t h all our heart and w i t h all our s o u l " — t o dedicate our conscious powers t o k n o w i n g H i m and e m u l a t i n g H i s ways. A d d i t i o n a l l y , the order is significant. L o v i n g G - d " w i t h all y o u r m i g h t " expands the meaning o f loving H i m " w i t h all y o u r heart and w i t h all y o u r soul." T h e power o f our supra-rationale c o m m i t m e n t should resonate w i t h i n our m i n d s t o the extent that i t reshapes the nature o f the c o m m i t m e n t that is w i t h i n our conscious grasp.

Looking to the Horizon
Our Rabbis teach that the opening phrase o f our T o r a h reading Vihaya " alludes t o

eikev tishmayon — " I t shall come t o pass when y o u heed

our present era, ikvasa demeshicha, the t i m e when Mashiach's approaching footsteps can be heard. W h e n we observe the T o r a h and its mitzvos i n ikvasa demeshicha, the commentaries explain, G - d w i l l keep the promises m e n t i o n e d i n the T o r a h and b r i n g the R e d e m p t i o n . I m p l i e d is that there is s o m e t h i n g unique about our that w i l l precipitate the R e d e m p t i o n . T h e observance

unique q u a l i t y o f our

generation is h i n t e d at by the w o r d eikev w h i c h also means "heel" i n H e b r e w . W h e n y o u want t o enter an extremely cold s w i m m i n g p o o l , w h i c h is the easiest l i m b t o p u t i n first? T h e feet. A l t h o u g h the feet lack the sensitivity o f the more refined l i m b s o f the body, they respond more readily t o our w i l l . Similarly, a l t h o u g h our generation may lack some o f the s p i r i t u a l refinement o f the

previous generation, like the heel, we are able t o show a deeper c o m m i t m e n t t o f u l f i l l i n g G-d's w i l l .

I n the sixties, the Rebbe met with a group o f Jewish college students. One o f them unabashedly told the Rebbe that he had heard that the Rebbe was capable o f performing miracles, and asked the Rebbe i f it was true. The Rebbe replied that our world is one link i n an intricate system o f spiritual reality. Everything that happens i n our world comes from — and is influenced by — the spiritual potential o f the higher realms. When a Jew connects the Divine spark in his own being w i t h G-d through sincere prayer, the study o f the Torah, and the observance o f the mitzvos, he can arouse influences that bring about change in a manner that cannot be calculated. This is what we mean by working a miracle. This is not the prerogative o f only one Jew, but o f every Jew. As the students were preparing to leave, the Rebbe asked them to join h i m i n the performance o f a miracle. "Let us," the Rebbe said, "add more Torah and mitzvos to our lives and influence the people around us to take similar steps, and let us do this i n a manner that could not possibly have been calculated beforehand. Let this be our miracle."

Parshas Re'eh
T h i s week's T o r a h reading speaks o f a false p r o p h e t p e r f o r m i n g miraculous acts. W h y is he given this power? T h e verse explains: " G - d , y o u r L - r d , is testing y o u t o k n o w whether y o u love G - d . " T h e w o r d i n g o f the verse sheds l i g h t o n an i m p o r t a n t issue. Frequently, we speak o f "tests o f f a i t h , " situations that challenge our belief system. W h a t lies at the core o f these tests? T h e w o r d ‫ מ נ ס ה‬, translated as "is testing," can also be rendered as "is raising y o u up." G - d sets up each test and challenge t o b r i n g a person t o a higher state o f k n o w i n g and loving G - d . Nothing happens by accident. Everything is controlled and

directed by D i v i n e providence. Moreover, that providence is a l l inclusive, encompassing every facet o f our existence.

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G-d's providence is purposeful. H e is d i r e c t i n g our progress w i t h the i n t e n t that each one o f us realize our i n d i v i d u a l G - d l y nature, and i n d o i n g so, encourage the expression o f the G - d l y core that lies at the heart o f every person and every object w h i c h we encounter. T h i s may n o t appear easy, p a r t i c u l a r l y when i n the throes o f the tests and challenges we spoke o f previously. B u t we m u s t that these are also f r o m G - d . Why do we consider t h e m challenges? Because they d o n ' t f o l l o w appreciate

the logical p a t t e r n dictated by our m i n d s . " I f G - d really wanted the w o r l d — or me as a person — t o appreciate H i m , " we often t h i n k , " H e w o u l d do things the way I t h i n k is r i g h t . " B u t that's the p o i n t . T h e way G - d t h i n k s is n o t the way we t h i n k . Our m i n d s are l i m i t e d i n nature. G - d is i n f i n i t e and therefore H e is

not confined t o our l i m i t e d scope. T h e r e are events that d o n ' t f i t our l i m i t e d conception o f what ought t o be. Therefore we perceive t h e m as challenges. B u t i n G-d's eyes, these are expressions o f a higher order. H i s i n t e n t i n exposing us to t h e m is t o " l i f t us u p , " t o enable us t o step beyond the m o r t a l

conception o f reality, confident that w h e n this happens, we w i l l k n o w H i m and love H i m o n a deeper level.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e r e is a difference o f o p i n i o n between t w o o f Judaism's great Sages, Maimonides and Raavad (Rav Avraham ben David). Maimonides

states: " O n e s h o u l d n o t entertain the n o t i o n that i n the era o f Mashiach any element o f the natural order w i l l be n u l l i f i e d , or that there w i l l be any i n n o v a t i o n i n the w o r k o f creation. Rather, the w o r l d w i l l continue according t o its pattern.... Our Sages taught: 'There will be no

difference between the current age and the era o f Mashiach except [ o u r emancipation f r o m ] subjugation t o the gentile k i n g d o m s . ' " Raavad differs and cites prophecies f r o m Scripture and f r o m the Talmud which appear to indicate that there will be miracles. the for

M a i m o n i d e s , i n a n t i c i p a t i o n o f those objections, explains that prophecies t o w h i c h Raavad alludes are analogies and metaphors

s t r i k i n g , b u t natural events; for example, the establishment o f peace

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between Israel and the gentile nations. T h e commentaries argue back and f o r t h concerning the issue, advancing supports and rebuttals o f b o t h positions. I n l i g h t o f some o f the changes t a k i n g place w i t h i n our lives at present, we can i n t r o d u c e a possible r e s o l u t i o n that preserves b o t h perspectives. T o cite a personal example: I remember the first t i m e I saw a fax machine. As I watched the d o c u m e n t emerge f r o m the

machine, I b l u r t e d o u t : " A miracle!" Indeed, there are many o f these types o f miracles happening today. Some, like the fax machine, are really p r e t t y straightforward, b u t others represent transitions that can t r u l y be seen as miraculous. To r e t u r n the subject t o its R a b b i n i c framework: O n e o f the

prophecies Raavad cites as p r o o f o f his p o s i t i o n is: " I w i l l remove w i l d beasts f r o m the l a n d . " O u r Sages offer the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n that the beasts o f prey w i l l lose their predatory tendencies, as Isaiah declares: " A w o l f w i l l lie d o w n w i t h the lamb." An obvious miracle. A n d yet after having mapped the h u m a n

genome, is i t so far-removed t o t h i n k that we w i l l be able t o identify the gene that causes a l i o n or a w o l f t o prey, and breed o u t that tendency f r o m the species? I d o n ' t mean t o oversimplify the issue, b u t far greater m o d i f i c a t i o n s i n nature based o n the m a n i p u l a t i o n o f D N A have been proposed — and these by businessman seeking p r o f i t s , n o t by scientists exploring theories. T h i s is merely the t i p o f the iceberg. I n many ways, 2 1 - c e n t u r y life is b e g i n n i n g t o l o o k like science f i c t i o n . W e have cloned mammals and isolated telomerase which can be used to establish stable,
st

i m m o r t a l i z e d h u m a n cell chains w h i c h can undergo m u l t i p l e rounds o f genetic engineering. Nanotechnology, manipulated, is where being the very structure in of atoms is

already

applied

industry. A n d

today's

breakthroughs are nowhere near what we w i l l see i n the n o t t o o distant future. Are these miracles? Yes and n o . F r o m the vantage p o i n t o f 1 0 0 — perhaps even 2 5 — years ago, they m o s t definitely are. B u t according to today's perspective, this is n o t a " n u l l i f i c a t i o n o f the n a t u r a l order."

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W h a t was once considered miraculous and beyond man's reach is n o w natural. T h i s fusion o f the miraculous and the natural shows us s o m e t h i n g o f what the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n w i l l be. Since G-d's essence w i l l be revealed w i t h i n our w o r l d , there w i l l be a r e d e f i n i t i o n o f material existence. T h e material f o r m w i l l remain, b u t i t w i l l be suffused w i t h an i n f i n i t e G - d l y d i m e n s i o n that w i l l produce the natural miracles o f the type — and indeed, far greater than the type — we m e n t i o n e d .

I n the town o f Pshischah, there lived a great scholar who, while personally friendly w i t h Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, the saintly Yehudi, felt that the honor and prestige which the chassidim gave to their Rebbe should really have been granted to him. After all, he was the greater scholar. Once he candidly made that observation to Reb Yaakov Yitzchak himself. Reb Yaakov Yitzchak agreed. " I really don't see myself as f i t for leadership," he told his colleague. " I will emphasize this point the next time I address my followers." Reb Yaakov Yitzchak kept his promise and spoke to the chassidim about the faults he possessed and his need for self-refinement. At their next meeting, his scholarly friend asked h i m why the chassidim were still coming to him. " I don't know," Reb Yaakov Yitzchak answered, assuring his friend that he had kept his promise. " I understand," his friend replied, "that chassidim love humility. So i f you want to drive them away, you should speak proudly. A t your next gathering, tell them how great you are and how deserving you are o f their honor." "That I cannot do," Reb Yaakov Yitzchak replied, "for I will not say anything but the truth."

Parshas Shoftim
T h i s T o r a h reading contains the command t o appoint a k i n g . T h e idea of a king as an absolute monarch — not merely a ceremonial

figurehead —

is foreign t o our worldview. W e are n o t w i l l i n g t o

subjugate our lives t o the rule o f another h u m a n being. O n the other hand, we are starving for genuine leadership. W e are disgusted by candy-coated figureheads w h o lack i n t e g r i t y ; w h o stand for themselves and their personal image and l i t t l e else. K i n g D a v i d was the exemplar o f Jewish monarchy and yet, as he says o f himself: " I d i d n o t l i f t up m y heart; m y eyes were n o t haughty... I stilled and silenced m y soul." T h i s absolute h u m i l i t y made h i m a f i t t i n g m e d i u m for the manifestation o f G-d's K i n g s h i p .

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T h i s serves as an example t o our people as a whole; for the purpose o f Jewish monarchy is t o teach the people self-nullification. T h e purpose o f paying homage t o a m o r t a l k i n g is t o infuse kabbalas ol, "the acceptance o f G-d's yoke," i n t o every d i m e n s i o n o f our people's D i v i n e service, deepening the intensity o f our c o m m i t m e n t u n t i l i t affects our very essence.

Looking to the Horizon
M a n y o f us are fascinated by royalty. I f something happens t o the Queen or even a Princess i n England, i t makes headlines a l l over the world. Mashiach, the Torah teaches, w i l l r e - i n s t i t u t e true monarchy.

A d m i t t e d l y , this is a radical, even abhorrent n o t i o n t o a w o r l d p r i d e d on its independence. B u t let's t h i n k for a second. A desire for shortt e r m satisfaction over l o n g - t e r m g r o w t h and purpose plagues most

democracies. T h i s can be overcome only t h r o u g h inspired leadership, a leader w h o has no desire to show a u t h o r i t y , no fear o f being

unpopular, n o immediate desire t o be loved, and whose d e v o t i o n t o his people is selfless. H o n e s t l y speaking, what are the chances o f such a person being elected — and maintained i n office — i n a democratic society? H o w w o u l d such a person convince people t o f o l l o w his p l a n i f d o i n g so involves sacrificing opportunities for immediate success and

satisfaction? These are among the reasons that i n the era o f Mashiach, monarchy w i l l be r e i n s t i t u t e d . T h e i n t e n t w i l l n o t be t o take away man's power o f independent decision, b u t rather t o use the advantages o f monarchy t o elevate our decision-making t o a higher r u n g .

Rabbi Aryeh Levine, famous for his efforts on behalf o f Jews imprisoned by the British for their efforts to seek Israel's independence, shared a unique relationship w i t h his wife. As the couple advanced i n years, the woman began to feel several o f the difficulties associated w i t h old age, including acute pains i n her leg. Because o f his efforts on behalf o f the prisoners, Reb Aryeh knew whom to turn to for medical advice. As he and his wife sat down i n the doctor's office, Reb Aryeh began to explain: "Doctor, our leg hurts "

Parshas Ki Seitzei
T h i s week's T o r a h reading speaks about the laws o f marriage and divorce. I n that context, our Sages said: " I f a m a n and a w o m a n m e r i t , the D i v i n e presence rests between t h e m . " O u r Sages explain this concept as follows: T h e H e b r e w w o r d for man is spelled ‫( א י ש‬ish), and the H e b r e w w o r d for w o m a n is spelled ‫( א ש ה‬ishah). T h e letters that spell the H e b r e w w o r d aish meaning "fire," and the letters ‫ י ה‬spell o u t one o f G-d's names. I f the couple m e r i t , they combine the energy they each possess t o create G - d l y fire: constructive energy that can be used t o fuse together the different elements o f their existence i n t o a comprehensive whole. If, however, their u n i o n is devoid o f G-dliness (G-d's name is

removed), all that is left is fire, unharnessed energy that can wreak havoc and destruction. T o translate our Sages' message i n t o contemporary terms: Each person has a character o f his or her o w n , a unique p o t e n t i a l w h i c h only he or she possesses. Because o f that uniqueness, i t is d i f f i c u l t for one person t o communicate and share totally w i t h another, and this results i n a fundamental aloneness w h i c h all o f us feel at times. I t ' s neither good, n o r bad; it's just the fact o f our existence. W e are our o w n selves and there is n o one else w h o operates entirely o n our frequency. So h o w do we relate t o others? There are some w h o t r y t o use people t o their advantage, seeing other people as pawns. W h a t they are

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interested i n — whether a d m i t t e d l y or u n a d m i t t e d l y — is what the other person can c o n t r i b u t e t o their o w n benefit. O t h e r s are more benign. T h e y d o n ' t want t o take w i t h o u t giving. A n d some t r y t o make sure that the exchange is fair; e m p l o y i n g a w i n w i n approach. I n the l o n g r u n , however, that's n o m o r e than enlightened selfinterest. Y o u d o n ' t want anyone t o take advantage o f y o u and so y o u treat others as y o u w o u l d want t h e m t o treat y o u . Barter — even o f this type — is n o t a healthy basis for a marriage. W h a t a m a n and a w o m a n are t r u l y l o o k i n g for i n a marriage is communication — another person. Given our inherent self-interest, h o w is that possible? W h e n b o t h partners appreciate a purpose above themselves. By dedicating t o go beyond themselves and really share w i t h

themselves t o a higher goal, they step beyond their ego concerns. T h i s enables t h e m t o relate t o others selflessly, and t h i n k o f the other person's benefit, n o t o n l y their o w n . T h i s is achieved by "the fire o f G - d . " (‫ה‬-‫ )אש י‬m e n t i o n e d above. A Jewish home has three partners. I n a d d i t i o n t o the husband and wife, "the D i v i n e presence rests between t h e m , " creating h a r m o n y between the t w o . T h e cornerstone for such h a r m o n y is f o l l o w i n g G-d's guidelines for our conduct, the laws that govern Jewish family life. As l o n g as our commitment to G-dliness is merely abstract and theoretical, the

d i m e n s i o n o f self-transcendence

is n o t so apparent, for after all, our

o w n t h o u g h t s and feelings are defining the nature o f our c o m m i t m e n t . H o w do we k n o w that our c o m m i t m e n t t o G - d possesses a selfless dimension? W h e n we do what G - d tells us t o do, p e r f o r m i n g deeds and actions for the sole reason that G - d commanded t h e m . T h i s allows us t o live selflessly w i t h our spouses and children, b u i l d i n g the

atmosphere o f our home i n t o a place where "G-d's presence rests."

Looking to the Horizon
A c c o r d i n g t o T a l m u d i c Law, marriage is a two-staged process i n v o l v i n g erusin ( b e t r o t h a l ) and nisuin (marriage). A t present, b o t h stages are

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149

p e r f o r m e d i n the t r a d i t i o n a l marriage ceremony under the chupah. I n Talmudic times, however, there were m o n t h s — up t o a year — between the t w o stages. T h e couple were man and wife, b u t because they had n o t had the o p p o r t u n i t y t o live and share together, they d i d n ' t k n o w each other t h o r o u g h l y . Marriage o n this plane is an analogue t o the relationship G - d shares w i t h the Jewish people. H e r e also there are t w o stages. A t M o u n t Sinai, w i t h the giving o f the T o r a h , our people were b e t r o t h e d t o H i m ; b u t the nisuin, the c o n s u m m a t i o n o f that b o n d , w i l l be only i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . T h u s a l t h o u g h we have shared a three-thousand-year relationship

w i t h G - d , there is s t i l l a measure o f distance between us. W e do n o t fully understand and relate t o H i m , and even H e , as i t were, is n o t fully u n i t e d w i t h us. I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , that w i l l change. O u r b o n d w i t h G - d w i l l be complete, as the Prophet states: " Y o u r M a s t e r w i l l n o longer be hidden, and y o u r eyes w i l l b e h o l d y o u r Master." M a y this take place i n the immediate future.

I n the shtetl communities o f Eastern Europe, there were often sages who would seclude themselves i n houses o f study and spend the entire day i n prayer and contemplation of the Talmud and its commentaries. The Baal Shem Tov once entered a room where one o f these self-styled saints was sitting. " H o w are you feeling?" the Baal Shem T o v asked. " D i d you have a good breakfast today?" The scholar looked at the Baal Shem Tov in confusion. What d i d he want from him? D i d n ' t he see that he was studying? The Baal Shem Tov, however, persisted: D o you have warm clothes? D o you have a comfortable home?" The scholar finally erupted i n anger. "Why are you disturbing me?" he asked the Baal Shem Tov. "You're making a mistake," the Baal Shem Tov replied. "Any simple Jew would respond to these questions by saying 'Boruch Hashem or 'Thank G-d.' By not responding in this manner, you're taking away G-d's dwelling place. For the Psalms describe H i m as 'sitting on the praises of Israel.' For G-d to rest within our world, we have to acknowledge H i m through praise." The Baal Shem Tov could have asked the scholar whether his studies were proceeding well. I t would have been far more likely that he would have answered h i m then. Instead, he asked h i m about physical things. For the intent is that G-d be praised — and thus caused to dwell — within the physical realm, that we bring the awareness o f H i m into our basic material activities. Hence the questions asked by the Baal Shem Tov.

Parshas Ki Savo
O n e o f the m o s t i m p o r t a n t attributes we l o o k for i n people is the ability t o say "thank y o u " ; the sensitivity t o appreciate that a favor has been done and the forthrightness t o express that appreciation openly.

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A p p r e c i a t i o n stems f r o m involvement; the deeper the relationship between people, the m o r e one appreciates the uniqueness o f the other. W h e n a person appreciates a colleague, he is m o t i v a t e d t o do whatever he can for that other person. I f this is true w i t h regard t o our relationship w i t h our fellow man, i t certainly applies w i t h regard t o our relationship w i t h G - d . O n e o f the major thrusts i n Judaism is hakaras hatov, appreciation o f the good that G - d constantly bestows u p o n us. Here, t o o , the emphasis is o n appreciating n o t only the material d i m e n s i o n o f G-d's kindness, b u t also the love and care that H e showers o n every person. I n this vein, we can understand the sequence o f the subjects

m e n t i o n e d i n our T o r a h reading, Parshas Ki Savo. T h e reading begins by describing the mitzvah o f bikkurim, the first fruits that the Jews w o u l d b r i n g t o the T e m p l e , and s h o r t l y afterwards speaks o f a covenant concerning the entire T o r a h . W h a t is the connection between these subjects? T h e mitzvah o f bikkurim was i n s t i t u t e d t o show our gratitude for the good G - d has granted us and t o display our appreciation t o H i m for " g r a n t i n g us all the blessings o f this w o r l d . " T h i s appreciation is n o t expressed merely by words o f thanks, b u t t h r o u g h deed. A person w o u l d select his first fruits and make a special journey t o b r i n g t h e m t o Jerusalem as an offering t o show his thanks t o G - d . M o r e o v e r , the first fruits w o u l d thereby become consecrated, i n d i c a t i n g that a lasting connection t o G-d's holiness had been established w i t h i n the material world. H e r e i n lies the connection t o the entire T o r a h , for i n a larger sense, every aspect o f a person's life can become bikkurim. W e are always standing "before G - d " and we s h o u l d express our thanks for H i s goodness. T o refer back t o showing appreciation t o a friend: Saying thanks i n a m e a n i n g f u l way requires a person t o tune i n t o the mindset o f the person he wants t o thank. I f he doesn't, his gesture is superficial, perhaps satisfying his o w n need, b u t n o t giving anything t o the other person.

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Here, t o o , a parallel applies i n our relationship w i t h G - d . W e m u s t say thank y o u i n a way that H e w o u l d appreciate, i.e., serving H i m according t o H i s conception, n o t our o w n . T h i s lesson is uniquely appropriate for the present t i m e o f year, the m i d d l e o f the m o n t h o f E l u l , w h e n we take stock o f our D i v i n e service o f the previous year and prepare for the c o m i n g year beginning i n a few short weeks. I t ' s a t i m e t o t h i n k seriously o f all the good G - d has given us and say t h a n k y o u by increasing our observance o f the T o r a h and its mitzvos.

Looking to the Horizon
Saying t h a n k y o u is also integrally connected t o the coming o f

Mashiach. O u r Sages relate that after the miraculous h u m i l i a t i o n o f the Assyrian king, Sannecherib, G-d desired to bring the ultimate

R e d e m p t i o n , m a k i n g K i n g H e z e k i a h the Mashiach. W h y d i d n ' t He? Because H e z e k i a h d i d n o t celebrate the miracle w i t h songs o f praise. G-d wants us t o appreciate and acknowledge the w o r k i n g s o f H i s

hand. T h a t realization should p r o m p t happiness and j o y t o the p o i n t that we break o u t i n joyous song. Such a realization is fundamentally relevant t o the m o t i f of

R e d e m p t i o n , because i t is i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n that we w i l l actually realize that this is G-d's w o r l d . T o d a y , m o s t o f us lack this awareness. W e view the w o r l d as f o l l o w i n g its o w n r h y t h m and r u n n i n g o n its o w n . T h i s is w h y our Sages call exile a dream. W h e n y o u dream, y o u live i n a w o r l d that y o u create. Y o u d o n ' t k n o w what is really true. T h e same is true o f the exile. I t hides the t r u t h and prevents us f r o m realizing that we are l i v i n g i n G-d's w o r l d . I n d o i n g so, i t h o l d backs true happiness. In the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , the veil w i l l be l i f t e d and all

m a n k i n d w i l l share the awareness o f G - d . By l i v i n g i n the spirit o f the R e d e m p t i o n , c o n d u c t i n g our lives i n r e c o g n i t i o n o f G-d's presence, we anticipate and precipitate the c o m i n g o f the t i m e when this awareness w i l l encompass all existence.

One Rosh HaShanah, Reb Levi Yitzchak o f Berditchev felt uplifted. He sensed that his prayers and his sounding of the shofar had been uniquely inspired. A heavenly echo interrupted his thoughts: " I n a far-away Russian village, there is a congregation whose prayers far surpassed yours." I n humble supplication, Reb Levi Yitzchak asked G-d i f he could see the prayers o f that congregation whose entreaties had been so genuine and so sincere. The following year, as Reb Levi Yitzchak prepared to sound the shofar, he saw a vision. A group o f Jewish soldiers from the Russian army were huddled together i n a cellar. Some were wearing talleisim; others were not. One held a shofar i n his hand. Before he proceeded to sound it, one o f his colleagues stepped forth and spoke: "G-d, we were taken away from our families at a young age and received little, i f any, Jewish knowledge. We cannot marry and have no hope o f achieving fame or fortune. We have neither spiritual nor material aspirations that we can anticipate being fulfilled. For what do we pray? That Your Kingship will be revealed throughout the world." Reb Levi Yitzchak understood: this was the congregation whose prayers had surpassed his. Parshas Nitzavim is always read on the Sabbath preceding Rosh HaShanah, the Day o f Judgment. We all have spiritual and material aspirations and we wish that they be fulfilled. But we must understand that the motivating force behind all our aspirations, both spiritual and material, should be the desire for the revelation o f G-d's sovereignty, as will be actualized with the coming o f Mashiach.

Parshas Nitzavim
T h i s week's T o r a h reading begins: Atem nitzavim hayom, " Y o u are stand¬ ing today." " T o d a y " refers t o R o s h HaShanah, the D a y o f Judgment. T h e T o r a h is t e l l i n g the Jews that they "are standing," t r i u m p h a n t i n

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the j u d g m e n t . T h i s is the blessing for the m o n t h o f T i s h r e i , and i n a larger sense, the blessing for the entire year. M o r e particularly, the w o r d nitzavim — the core o f the blessing given by G - d — does n o t merely mean "standing." W e f i n d the t e r m : nitzav melech, "the deputy serving as k i n g . " i.e., the use o f the t e r m nitzavim indicates that G-d's blesses us t o stand w i t h the strength and confidence possessed by a king's deputy. T h i s blessing enables us t o proceed t h r o u g h each new year w i t h u n f l i n c h i n g power; no challenges w i l l budge us f r o m our c o m m i t m e n t to the T o r a h and its mitzyos. O n the contrary, we w i l l "proceed f r o m strength to strength" in our endeavor to spread G-dly light

t h r o u g h o u t the w o r l d . W h a t is the source o f this strength? I m m u t a b l e permanence is a D i v i n e quality, as the Prophet proclaims: " I , G - d , have n o t changed." G-d, however, has granted the p o t e n t i a l for H i s unchanging firmness

to be manifest i n the conduct o f m o r t a l beings, for the soul w h i c h is granted t o every person is "an actual part o f G - d . " W h e n a person identifies w i t h G - d — the G - d l y core w i t h i n his own being and the m i s s i o n o f revealing G-dliness i n the w o r l d at large — he discovers i n d o m i t a b l e resources o f strength. T h i s enables h i m t o overcome all obstacles and appreciate the b o u n t i f u l good w i t h w h i c h G - d has endowed the w o r l d .

Looking to the Horizon
Standing f i r m l y does n o t necessarily mean standing s t i l l and inner power is n o t merely defensive. O n the contrary, true strength is reflected i n forward progress. T h e u l t i m a t e goal t o w a r d w h i c h we are all progressing is the c o m i n g o f Mashiach. As R a b b i Pinchas o f K o r i t z w o u l d say: " U n t i l the b i r t h o f the Baal Shem T o v , the Jewish people always l o o k e d backward: H o w many years has i t been since the d e s t r u c t i o n o f the Temple? " F r o m the b i r t h o f the Baal Shem T o v onward, the clock has been t i c k i n g t o w a r d the future. W i t h each new year, we l o o k forward,

realizing h o w m u c h closer we are t o the R e d e m p t i o n . "

NITZAVIM

155

B u t proceeding t o the R e d e m p t i o n is n o t a pleasure s t r o l l . F o r G - d ordained that we earn the revelations o f that era t h r o u g h our efforts t o perfect the environment i n w h i c h we live. O f t e n , these

efforts require special strength, for b r i n g i n g Mashiach requires us t o appreciate that we are l i v i n g i n G-d's w o r l d . T h a t may appear d i f f i c u l t , because i t seems t o r u n contrary t o the current o f the w o r l d at large. I n what many perceive as an unfriendly, existential environment, we are enjoined t o f i n d meaning and G - d l y purpose. F o r that we need the f i r m stance p r o m i s e d by Parshas Nitzavim, and w i t h that energy we can proceed t o a year o f blessing and success, i n c l u d i n g the u l t i m a t e

blessing, the c o m i n g o f Mashiach.

Once the vintage chassid, Reb Peretz Chein, was sitting together at a chassidic gathering w i t h several colleagues. T o hide what was then an illegal gathering, they were meeting i n a cellar. Their candles had burnt out and the only light was a faint glimmer from the lanterns in the street. The chassidim didn't mind. Their light and warmth was internal. The fellowship they were sharing, the concepts they were discussing, and the songs they were singing were powerful beacons. A chassid passing by on the street heard the sounds o f their singing and asked to join. When he was given permis¬ sion, he opened the door and began to make his way to the cellar. But after the first few steps, he stopped. The dark¬ ness was so powerful he could not see where he was going. "Why aren't you coming?" the chassidim called to him. "It's too dark," the chassid replied. "Just wait," one o f the voices called out. "Soon your eyes will get used to the darkness and you'll be able to see." Reb Peretz took this as an analogy. "That's precisely the problem w i t h us, he told his colleagues. "We get used to darkness and then i t isn't so difficult to bear!" We all face spiritual inertia, for it is natural to become comfortable w i t h one's settings, even when they are dark. But that is only part o f the picture. Inside, everyone possesses an urge to progress and face new horizons.

Parshas Vayeilech
Vayeilech, the name o f this week's T o r a h reading means " A n d he went," and p o i n t s t o the need t o "go f r o m strength t o strength" i n our D i v i n e service. T h i s concept is reflected i n the narrative w h i c h begins the

reading. T h e subject o f the verb Vayeilech is Moses. A t this p o i n t i n time, Moses was 120 years o l d and had attained the highest peaks o f D i v i n e understanding. H e knew that this was t o be the last day o f his life. Nevertheless, he was n o t prepared t o "rest o n his laurels." Instead,

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VAYEILECH

157

he u n d e r s t o o d the imperative for c o n t i n u e d progress, and even o n this day, he strove t o reach new h o r i z o n s . Sometimes Parshas Vayeilech is read together w i t h Parshas Nitzavim. As m e n t i o n e d above, nitzavim means "standing." A l t h o u g h the t w o

names have opposite connotations, they nevertheless harmonize. F o r the T o r a h and its mitzvos are channels o f c o m m u n i c a t i o n between a never-changing G - d and ever-changing mortals. As such, there certain elements o f our D i v i n e service that are unchanging are

(nitzavim),

reflecting the T o r a h ' s i m m u t a b l e Source, and there are other elements that teach man t o use the p o t e n t i a l for change i n a positive manner (vayeilech). W h e n Parshas Vayeilech is read as a separate T o r a h reading, i t is read on Shabbos Teshuvah, the Shabbos o f Repentance. T h e r e is a thematic

connection between the t w o , for i n a f u l l sense, Vayeilech implies n o t merely gradual progress, b u t radical change. Just as " g o i n g " means changing one's place, its s p i r i t u a l parallel involves r i s i n g t o a previously inconceivable level o f D i v i n e service. Similarly, teshuvah involves leaving one's previous s p i r i t u a l level and beginning a new phase o f D i v i n e service. F o r teshuvah involves a f i r m decision t o abandon one's previous mode o f conduct, and o n a deeper level, t o remake one's personality. As the Rambam explains, a baal teshuvah s h o u l d feel that: " I am another person; I am n o t the same i n d i v i d u a l w h o p e r f o r m e d these deeds."

Looking to the Horizon
W h e n speaking about the need for constant progress, the verse states: " T h e y shall go f r o m strength t o strength, and appear before G - d i n z i o n , " i m p l y i n g that the u l t i m a t e goal o f our s p i r i t u a l progress s h o u l d be the R e d e m p t i o n , w h e n we w i l l again appear before G - d i n z i o n . Teshuvah also shares a connection t o the R e d e m p t i o n . As our Sages taught: " T h e T o r a h p r o m i s e d that Israel w i l l t u r n [ t o G - d ] i n teshuvah towards the end o f her exile, and she w i l l be redeemed immediately." I t m u s t however be emphasized that the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n w i l l n o t involve a cessation o f activity, for " T h e righteous have n o rest, neither i n this era, n o r i n the W o r l d t o c o m e . " W e w i l l continue t o

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progress spiritually. T h e difference is that the i n t e r n a l and external tension w h i c h presently accompanies s p i r i t u a l g r o w t h w i l l cease, and our advances w i l l be characterized by h a r m o n y and peace.

I t is said that the AriZal (Rabbi Isaac Luria), the mystic luminary upon whose teachings so much o f our understanding o f the Kabbalah is based, was more familiar w i t h the passageways o f heaven than the streets o f Safed, the town in Israel where he lived. When this was told to the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the chassidic movement, he responded: "And I see the passageways o f heaven as they are manifest i n the streets o f Mezibuzh (the village i n Poland where he lived)."

Parshas Haazinu
T h e w o r d haazinu, the name o f this week's T o r a h reading, is generally translated as "listen." Literally, i t means "give ear." I n that vein, our Sages compare Moses' call: " L i s t e n O heavens, and I w i l l speak; earth, hear the words o f m y m o u t h , " w i t h Isaiah's prophecy: "Hear heavens..., listen O earth." T h e y explain that Moses was "close t o the heavens and far f r o m the earth." Therefore, he was able t o address the heavens at close range. Isaiah, by contrast, despite his l o f t y s p i r i t u a l stature, was s t i l l "close t o the earth and far f r o m the heavens." A n d thus he used w o r d i n g that reflected his level. B u t questions arise: W h y d i d Moses address the earth as w e l l as the heavens? A n d w h y d i d Isaiah address the heavens as w e l l as the earth? W h y d i d they n o t confine themselves t o speaking t o the realm closest t o them? T h e answer t o these questions depends o n a fundamental tenet o f Judaism: W e m u s t relate t o b o t h earth and heaven. F o r material and s p i r i t u a l reality are meant t o be connected, instead o f existing o n separate planes. Judaism involves drawing d o w n spiritual reality u n t i l i t meshes w i t h w o r l d l y experience (Moses' c o n t r i b u t i o n ) , and elevating w o r l d l y experience until a bond with the s p i r i t u a l is established O

(Isaiah's c o n t r i b u t i o n ) . Indeed, the t w o initiatives can be seen as phases i n a sequence. By revealing the T o r a h , Moses endowed every individual with the the

p o t e n t i a l t o become

"close t o the heavens." Isaiah developed

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connection further, m a k i n g i t possible for a person t o experience being "close t o heavens" w h i l e "close t o the earth" — mundane details o f material life. I n a more particular sense, "the heavens" can be seen as an analogy for the T o r a h . T h e T o r a h is G-d's w o r d , and t h r o u g h its study a involved i n the

person comes "close t o the heavens," nearer t o s p i r i t u a l t r u t h . Mitzvos, by contrast, are often associated w i t h the earth, for their observance involves w o r l d l y matters. I n the first stage o f a person's s p i r i t u a l development, he s h o u l d be "close t o heaven," submerged i n T o r a h study. Afterwards, he m u s t realize that deed, n o t study, is the essential. Each o f us m u s t emerge f r o m the protective cocoon o f study and become "close t o the earth," shouldering our part i n the m i s s i o n o f m a k i n g this w o r l d a d w e l l i n g for G - d .

Looking to the Horizon
These t w o stages are reflected i n the development o f m a n k i n d as a whole. I n the present era, our Sages state that study takes precedence over deed. I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n — the c u l m i n a t i o n o f our h u m a n experience — deed w i l l take precedence. F o r i n that era, man's D i v i n e service w i l l have established a consummate connection between heaven and earth, and we w i l l perceive the G-dliness that permeates every element o f existence. F r o m G-d's perspective, the R e d e m p t i o n has been a reality f r o m the first moment o f creation. T h a t ' s our Sages' i n t e n t i n their

i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f the verse: " A n d the spirit o f G - d hovered over the [primeval] waters" as meaning, " T h i s refers t o the spirit o f Mashiach." But G - d left m a n the task o f b r i n g i n g that ideal f r o m the p o t e n t i a l to the actual. Rather than feeding m a n "bread o f shame," unearned

reward, H e afforded man the o p p o r t u n i t y o f becoming "a partner i n creation" by revealing the inner s p i r i t u a l p o t e n t i a l the w o r l d contains. Man does n o t have t o b r i n g about a n y t h i n g new. A l l he has t o do

is uncover the p o t e n t i a l that already exists. T h i s serves as a lesson for each o f us: W h e n l o o k i n g at the w o r l d , focus o n its p o t e n t i a l . D o n ' t get h u n g up o n those factors that are

HAAZINU

161

preventing i t f r o m being expressed. See the w o r l d —

and for that

matter, y o u r s e l f — as what i t t r u l y is, i n the image that G - d originally intended for i t t o be. W h e n we t e l l that t o people — t o ourselves and then t o others — the message resonates. I t rings true because i t is true; it's the real reason for the w o r l d ' s being here. Focusing o n this message also enables us t o achieve a foretaste o f the R e d e m p t i o n at present, for conceiving o f existence i n this manner habituates us t o treat the people and the situations we according t o G-d's desire and i n t e n t . T h i s i n t u r n precipitates the Redemption's dawn. W h e n a person lives according t o this understanding, it's natural that the people he encounters w i l l be influenced t o assimilate this way o f t h i n k i n g i n t o their lives. T h e r i p p l e effect this brings about creates the setting for Mashiach's c o m i n g , b r i n g i n g i t ever so m u c h nearer. encounter

A chassid o f the Rebbe Maharash, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, asked the Rebbe why he sacrificed himself on behalf o f simple Jews. "They don't appear to have any unique characteristics," explained the chassid. The Rebbe did not answer the chassid's question, and instead turned the conversation to the chassid's business affairs, asking h i m several questions about the gem market w i t h which he was involved. After listening to the chassid's explanations, the Rebbe asked the chassid i f he had any o f the stones i n which he had invested w i t h him. When the chassid answered affirmatively, the Rebbe asked to see the stones. "They don't look very special," the Rebbe told him. " I don't see any unique characteristics." "You don't understand," the chassid replied. " T o understand gems, you have to be a maven." "And to understand neshamos (souls), you also have to be a maven," replied the Rebbe. Every neshamah is a gem, for every person's soul is an actual part o f G-d.

Parshas V'Zos HaBerachah
Rashi explains that the final phrase o f the T o r a h , "l'einei kol Yisrael," "before the eyes o f the entire Jewish people," refers t o the breaking o f the tablets containing the T e n c o m m a n d m e n t s . O u r Sages attach great importance t o conclusions, explaining that they summarize the content o f all the preceding concepts. W h y then does the conclusion o f the entire T o r a h m e n t i o n a subject w h i c h seemingly reflects the disgrace o f the Jewish people? F o r the tablets were b r o k e n because o f the nation's sin i n w o r s h i p p i n g the G o l d e n c a l f . T h i s question leads t o the inference that this phrase alludes t o a positive quality possessed by the Jewish people, a quality so

praiseworthy that i t is appropriate t o conclude the entire T o r a h . I n another source, Rashi explains that Moses broke the Tablets t o protect the Jewish people f r o m G-d's w r a t h . H e r e we see the unique importance o f the Jewish n a t i o n . T h e T o r a h is the embodiment o f 162

V ' Z O S HABERACHAH

163

G-d's w i l l and w i s d o m . A n d the tablets o n w h i c h the T e n Com¬ mandments were engraved were "the w o r k o f G-d... and the w r i t i n g o f G-d," given t o Moses by G - d H i m s e l f . Y e t when the future o f the

Jewish people was at stake, Moses was w i l l i n g t o break the Tablets w i t h o u t hesitation. Why d i d Moses take such a step? Because there is n o t h i n g — n o t

even the T o r a h — that G - d cherishes m o r e than a Jew. T h e soul o f every Jew is "an actual part o f G - d f r o m above." A n d therefore the expression, " M y son, M y f i r s t b o r n , Israel," can be applied t o every member o f our people. W h a t then is the purpose o f the Torah? T o reveal this essential quality; t o make every member o f our people conscious o f i t , and t o provide a m e d i u m that w i l l allow this d i m e n s i o n o f our being t o become manifest. T h i s is the theme underscored by the conclusion o f the T o r a h .

Looking to the Horizon
T h e last o f M a i m o n i d e s ' T h i r t e e n Principles o f F a i t h is the belief i n the Resurrection o f the Dead. O f course, i t is an i m p o r t a n t prophecy and one that we all expect t o see f u l f i l l e d . B u t what makes i t one o f the fundamentals o f Jewish belief? W h y is i t a core issue w i t h o u t w h i c h one's f a i t h is incomplete? Because at the r o o t o f the concept o f resurrection is the awareness that the soul is eternal, that i t is an actual part o f G - d w h i c h is t r u l y alive and therefore, unable t o be conquered by death. Moreover, i t teaches that n o t only is the soul eternal, b u t that the eternality o f the soul affects the b o d y as w e l l and causes the b o d y t o be resurrected. T h i s relates t o the Jewish faith as a whole, for the purpose o f Judaism is t o show us h o w t o infuse the D i v i n e power o f the soul i n t o all the physical settings i n w h i c h we are f o u n d , i m p a r t i n g s p i r i t u a l l i g h t i n t o our material being.

One o f the elder chassidim I knew, Reb Mendel Futerfas, spent 14 years i n hard labor camps because o f his involvement i n the chassidic underground in Stalinist Russia. The camp authorities knew that he would not perform ordinary work on the Jewish holidays, so they gave him chores that did not involve forbidden tasks. But that was the extent o f their tolerance. I t goes without saying that they did not provide h i m w i t h time to pray or a prayer book. Once on Rosh HaShanah, while Reb Mendel was performing the chores he was given, he was singing the holiday prayers to himself. While he was reciting the Musaf service and singing the hymn V'chol maaminim, which declares how all men share in the belief i n G-d, he stopped and thought: W h y was he i n a hard labor camp? Because there were people who did not believe, and whose unwillingness to believe was so fierce that they tried to crush — both physically and spiritually — those who did. As he was thinking, he noticed one o f the guards looking at h i m closely. The guard was tall and imposing. H e had a scar running across his face that made h i m look particularly threatening. W i t h such a person eyeing him, i t was better not to take time out to think. Reb Mendel returned to his chores and shortly afterwards, the guard moved on. O n Y o m Kippur, as Reb Mendel was going about his assigned chores, he saw the guard with the scar approaching. W i t h a few deftly planned steps, the guard maneuvered Reb Mendel into a corner where no one else could see or hear what they were saying. "Are you fasting today?" the guard asked Reb Mendel. Reb Mendel answered affirmatively. There was no way he could deny i t ; his observance was common knowledge. "So am I , " the guard continued. "Ten days ago, I heard you chanting a tune and i t brought back memories o f my father taking me to shul as a child. I realized that i t was Rosh HaShanah, and I counted the days until Y o m Kippur. I am also fasting."

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Reb Mendel and the guard both sensed that others might be looking, and each turned to go his way. But Reb Mendel's quandary had been solved. He proceeded, humming the tune: V'chol maaminim, " A l l believe." Inside, we all believe, and Rosh HaShanah is an appropriate time to think how to have that inner belief control our thoughts and our conduct.

Rosh Hashanah Today
A l l Jews understand the difference between R o s h HaShanah and the secular N e w Year. R o s h HaShanah is n o t a t i m e t o party and let loose. T r u e , i t is associated w i t h celebrations as the Bible states: " G o eat succulent foods and d r i n k sweet beverages and send p o r t i o n s t o those who have n o t h i n g prepared D o n o t be sad, for the joy o f G - d is y o u r

strength." B u t the very same passage mentions the reason for that rejoicing: " T h e day is sacred t o our G - d . " M o r e particularly, R o s h HaShanah is the D a y o f Judgment, when G-d "opens the b o o k o f memories... and all the inhabitants o f the A n d H e writes o u t their decree."

w o r l d pass before H i m like sheep

K n o w i n g the awesomeness o f H i s j u d g m e n t , many are concerned w i t h their o w n future: " W h a t w i l l m y c o m i n g year be like?" Some are concerned w i t h their material f u t u r e : H o w m u c h w i l l they make i n the c o m i n g year? W h a t w i l l their health be? W i l l they marry and have children? O t h e r s focus o n s p i r i t u a l desires: W i l l they be able t o gain wisdom? W i l l they be inspired w i t h the love and fear o f G-d? W i l l they be able t o meet the standards o f piety and righteousness expected o f them? A l l o f these desires can be expressed o n many planes, w i t h various different levels o f m o t i v a t i o n . W h e n , however, they are reduced t o their lowest c o m m o n denominator, the question p r o m p t i n g a l l others is: W i l l G - d give me what I want i n the c o m i n g year? O n R o s h HaShanah, however, what we really should be t h i n k i n g about is n o t what we want, b u t what H e wants. T h e r e is a classic chassidic adage: " O n R o s h HaShanah, i n some shuls, i t is when the chazan comes t o the words: 'Repentance, prayer, and

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charity n u l l i f y the evil decree,' that the emotions reach their peak. B u t i n chassidic shuls, i t is the words 'Reveal the glory o f Y o u r sovereignty u p o n us' that arouse the congregation m o s t p o w e r f u l l y . " G-d d i d n o t have t o create this w o r l d . O n one hand, the fact that

there is no reason c o m p e l l i n g the creation introduces a d i m e n s i o n o f utter randomness. There is no need for H i m t o c o n f o r m t o an existing plan; H e can do anything H e wants. conversely, however, the very same logic necessitates that

everything w h i c h H e d i d create was created for a specific desire and purpose. O n R o s h HaShanah, when we relive the dynamic o f creation, we should hone i n o n that purpose and make i t the focus o f our conduct. What is H i s purpose i n creation? As Rashi states at the very t o the T o r a h , all o f existence was

beginning o f his c o m m e n t a r y

created " f o r the sake o f the T o r a h and the Jewish people." S i m p l y p u t , that means that G - d created the w o r l d so that a Jew c o u l d study the T o r a h and observe the mitzyos, n o t for our sake b u t for H i s . T r a n s l a t i n g that i n t o practical directives, this means w h e n I see a person i n need, I should help h i m , n o t because I feel sorry for h i m , b u t because G - d commanded us t o go o u t o f our way t o help another

person. W h e n I do a mitzyah, I should be t h i n k i n g n o t o f the reward G-d w i l l give me for f u l f i l l i n g H i s w i l l , b u t o f the fact that I am

f u l f i l l i n g H i s w i l l . W h e n I am s t u d y i n g the T o r a h , I should be d o i n g so n o t because i t is intellectually edifying or interesting, b u t because i t is H i s w i s d o m and H e asked us t o explore i t .

Looking to the Horizon: A Foretaste of the Shofar of Mashiach
O u r Sages compare the sounding o f the shofar o n R o s h HaShanah t o the sounding o f trumpets at a king's coronation. Similarly, our H i g h H o l i d a y prayers make a p o i n t o f emphasizing H i s sovereignty. I n the present age, the use o f the analogy o f k i n g s h i p t o describe our relationship w i t h G - d is problematic. F o r a k i n g is a figure o f the past w i t h no f u n c t i o n a l meaning t o us today.

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Yet

that t o o is significant; for at present G-d's K i n g s h i p is n o t

overtly revealed and the w o r l d appears t o f u n c t i o n independently. W h e n w i l l H i s K i n g s h i p be revealed? " O n that day, a great shofar will be sounded. A n d those w h o are lost... and those w h o are

banished... shall come and bow d o w n t o G - d o n the holy m o u n t a i n i n Jerusalem." I n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , " G - d w i l l be K i n g over the entire earth... G - d w i l l be one, and H i s name one." O n R o s h HaShanah, our acceptance o f G - d as K i n g should have at its core a yearning t o k n o w true K i n g s h i p , and see G - d "reign over the entire w o r l d i n [ H i s ] glory... and reveal [ H i m s e l f ] i n the majesty o f [His] glorious m i g h t over a l l inhabitants" w i t h the c o m i n g o f Mashiach.

M a y i t be speedily i n our days.

I n the first year after Perestroika became a reality, one of my friends was leading the Kol Nidrei services i n the main synagogue o f Kiev on Y o m Kippur night. Announcements o f the services had been posted all over the city and Jews responded eagerly. O l d men who remembered accompanying their parents to shul as children, young families who wanted a taste o f their heritage after more than a half-century o f Soviet persecution, and youth in their teens who barely knew they were Jewish, flocked to the synagogue. The chazzan chanted Kol Nidrei. The moving melody stirred the hearts o f all those who had come. But as the service proceeded, my friend sensed feelings o f disappointment beginning to surface. After all, most o f the people had never been i n a synagogue i n their lives; none o f them knew how to pray together w i t h the chazzan. Despite the best intentions, Hebrew-Russian prayerbooks, and explanations in Russian, he could sense that the people were becoming bored, and within their hearts a question was beginning to take form: Were these the prayers that they had yearned for so many years to be allowed to say? I n the middle o f the services, after the Amidah prayer, my friend ascended to the lectern and began to tell a classic chassidic story: The Baal Shem Tov was praying together w i t h his students i n a small Polish village. Through his spiritual vision, the Baal Shem Tov had detected that harsh heavenly judgments had been decreed against the Jewish people, and he and his students were trying w i t h all the sincerity they could muster to cry out to G-d and implore H i m to rescind these decrees and grant the Jews a year o f blessing. This deep feeling took hold o f all the inhabitants o f the village and everyone opened his heart i n deepfelt prayer. Among the inhabitants o f the village was a simple shepherd boy. He did not know how to read; indeed, he could barely say the letters o f the alef-beis, the Hebrew alphabet. As the intensity o f feeling i n the synagogue began to mount, he decided that he also wanted to pray. But he

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did not know how. H e could not read the words o f the prayer book or mimic the prayers o f the other congregants. H e opened the prayer book to the first page and began to recite the letters alef, beis, yeis — reading the entire alphabet. H e then called out to G-d: "This is all I can do. G-d, Y o u know how the prayers should be pronounced. Please, arrange the letters i n the proper way." This simple, genuine prayer resounded powerfully within the Heavenly court. G-d rescinded all the harsh decrees and granted the Jews blessing and good fortune. M y friend paused for a moment to let the story impact his listeners. Suddenly a voice called out: "Alf." A n d thousands o f voices thundered back Alef. The voice continued: Beis, and the thousands responded Beis. They continued to pronounce every letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and then they began to file out o f the synagogue. They had recited their prayers.

Yom Kippur Today
O n Y o m K i p p u r , we fast. T h a t ' s what a Jew does o n Y o m K i p p u r . H e realizes that a l i g h t n i n g b o l t w i l l n o t come d o w n f r o m heaven and strike h i m i f he eats, b u t he is n o t concerned with reward or

p u n i s h m e n t . H e doesn't eat because he understands that G - d does n o t want h i m t o . H e knows that a Jew does n o t do that o n Y o m K i p p u r . A day before, he may n o t have felt this way. H e may have been lax i n the observance o f one mitzyah or another. B u t o n Y o m K i p p u r he feels that he has t o do what a Jew s h o u l d do. W h y ? Because there is something special about this day. O u r Sages explain the idea using gematria, T o r a h numerology. T h e H e b r e w w o r d for "the Satan'' ‫ ה ש ט ן‬, is numerically equivalent t o 364. O n 3 6 4 days o f the year, Satan has the power t o t e m p t the Jewish people. O n one day, Y o m K i p p u r , he has n o power. A Jew is simply n o t interested i n what he has t o offer. O n Y o m K i p p u r , he has other things o n his m i n d . Y o m K i p p u r is a day for being Jewish.

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W h a t w o u l d happen o n Y o m K i p p u r ? T h e H i g h Priest entered the H o l y o f H o l i e s , at w h i c h t i m e he was alone w i t h G - d . N o h u m a n or s p i r i t u a l being was p e r m i t t e d t o i n t r u d e u p o n his connection w i t h Him. Each year this sequence is replayed i n our o w n hearts. T h e essence o f the Jewish soul is one w i t h the essence o f G - d . T h i s b o n d is constant; i t is n o t the p r o d u c t o f our efforts. c o n s e q u e n t l y , neither our thoughts, our words, n o r our deeds can weaken i t . A t this level o f essential connection, there is n o existence outside G-dliness, no

p o s s i b i l i t y o f separation f r o m H i m . T h i s connection exists above t i m e . B u t w i t h i n time, i t is revealed o n Y o m K i p p u r . O n this day, we each "enter the H o l y o f H o l i e s , " and spend t i m e "alone w i t h G - d . " T h i s is the heart o f the Neilah prayer, the final service recited o n Y o m K i p p u r . Neilah means " l o c k i n g . " T h e r e are some Rabbis w h o interpret the name as meaning that the gates o f heaven are being locked and there are a few short m o m e n t s left i n w h i c h our prayers can enter. A c c o r d i n g t o chassidic t h o u g h t , the meaning is that the doors are locked b e h i n d us. Each one o f us is "locked i n , " alone and as one with G-d. A t this level o f essential connection, there is no existence outside G-dliness, n o p o s s i b i l i t y o f separation f r o m G - d , n o p o s s i b i l i t y that the soul c o u l d be affected by sin. T h e revelation o f this level o f connection removes the blemishes that sin causes. T h i s k i n d o f cleansing is a natural process, for the revelation o f our inner b o n d w i t h G - d renews our connection w i t h H i m at all levels. T h i s is the meaning o f the saying o f our Sages that "the essence o f the day atones." O n Y o m K i p p u r , our essential b o n d w i t h G - d is revealed, and i n the process, every element o f our s p i r i t u a l p o t e n t i a l is revitalized. T h i s s p i r i t u a l experience also renews our lives w i t h i n the material sphere, e n d o w i n g us w i t h blessing, and causing each one o f us t o be granted concerns. a g o o d and sweet year i n all our material and spiritual

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Looking to the Horizon
M a i m o n i d e s describes Y o m K i p p u r as "the t i m e o f teshuvah for all; for individuals as w e l l as the c o m m u n i t y . " T h e u l t i m a t e expression o f this m o t i f w i l l come i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n when, as the Zohar, the fundamental text o f Jewish m y s t i c i s m , teaches, Mashiach w i l l motivate even the righteous t o t u r n t o G - d i n teshuvah. W h a t is teshuvah? R e t u r n i n g t o G - d by focusing o n the G - d l y spark that lies w i t h i n each one o f us. I n the era o f consummate s p i r i t u a l i t y that Mashiach w i l l introduce, everyone — even those w h o appear t o

have attained s p i r i t u a l f u l f i l l m e n t — w i l l realize the m o r t a l l i m i t a t i o n s w h i c h constrain them, and w i l l seek the inner core o f their s p i r i t u a l potential. Similarly, i t is the expression o f the p o t e n t i a l for teshuvah that w i l l serve as the catalyst for the R e d e m p t i o n . F o r s t r i v i n g t o reach our s p i r i t u a l core w i l l serve as the catalyst for the revelation o f G-dliness throughout redeemed all existence. As only through Maimonides writes: has "Israel w i l l promised be that

teshuvah. T h e

Torah

ultimately, towards the end o f her exile, Israel w i l l r e t u r n [ t o G - d ] , and immediately w i l l be redeemed."

Reb Pinchas o f Koritz was beloved by all the inhabitants of his city. People would seek out his sage counsel on a variety o f matters, involve h i m i n their family affairs, and look to h i m for guidance in their Divine service. As a result, Reb Pinchas' schedule became overburdened. H e no longer had the time to study and pray as he desired. Turning to G-d i n prayer, he petitioned: "Make people hate me. Let them flee my company so I will have time to pray and study." Reb Pinchas' prayer was accepted and people began to shun him. They would not speak to h i m or do favors for him. Reb Pinchas, however, was happy. H e was able to focus on his Divine service without distraction. Then came Sukkos. Reb Pinchas wanted to invite guests, but no one desired to come to his house. H e was displeased, for on the festival i t is a mitzvah to have guests grace one's table. ultimately, however, he accepted the fact. It was better to lack guests for the holiday than to be disturbed the entire year. O n Sukkos, our Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, together w i t h Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and King David, visit the sukkos o f the Jewish people. As Reb Pinchas was about to enter his sukkah, he saw our father Abraham waiting outside. "Welcome to my sukkah," Reb Pinchas told him. "Sorry, I will not enter," Abraham replied. "Why?" "Well, i f none o f my descendants feel at home as guests here, I don't think I will either." That was enough for Reb Pinchas. H e prayed for his original good graces to be restored and for h i m to find favor i n people's eyes again.

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Being Surrounded by a Mitzyah: The Mitzvah of Sukkos
T h e T o r a h commands: " F o r seven days y o u shall d w e l l i n sukkos." I n defining this mitzvah, our Sages explain that for the d u r a t i o n o f the Sukkos holiday, these small huts w i t h roofs o f branches and leaves m u s t be considered as our homes. A l l o f our daily routines s h o u l d be carried o u t w i t h i n t h e m . As our Sages explain: " A person s h o u l d eat, d r i n k , relax... and study i n the sukkah." Proverbs tells us t o " K n o w H i m i n a l l y o u r ways"; and our Sages comment, " T h i s is a short verse u p o n w h i c h all the fundamentals o f the T o r a h depend." F o r G-dliness is present n o t merely i n the synagogue or i n the house o f study, b u t i n every d i m e n s i o n and corner o f our lives. T h i s concept becomes manifest t h r o u g h d w e l l i n g i n a sukkah. T h e sukkah teaches us that every aspect o f our conduct can serve as a means t o relate t o H i m and become l i n k e d w i t h H i s oneness. T h e u n i t y established by this mitzvah resolves the differences that exist between s p i r i t u a l i t y and material existence. u s u a l l y , we see the two as opposite. to S p i r i t u a l i t y , we often is think, and and is o t h e r w o r l d l y i n real. F r o m the spiritual G-d's are

contrast

physicality w h i c h however, both

tangible material

perspective,

the

expressions o f H i m s e l f and can be fused harmoniously. L i v i n g i n a sukkah helps us adopt this m i n d frame and attune ourselves t o this inner u n i t y .

Genuine Unity: The Mitzvah of Lulav and Esrog
T h e mitzvah o f lulav and esrog requires us t o take branches or f r u i t f r o m four different species o f trees (these t w o and the m y r t l e and the w i l l o w ) and combine t h e m i n the performance o f this mitzvah. O u r Sages explain that each o f the species used for this mitzvah refers t o a different type o f person, f r o m the m o s t spiritually developed t o the least refined.

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T h e r e i n is an obvious lesson. T h e mitzvah cannot be f u l f i l l e d w i t h only the esrog, the m o s t elevated o f the species. T h e w i l l o w — w h i c h i n the analogy t o people refers t o those o n the lowest levels — is also necessary. So, t o o , no person isolated, out o f touch w i t h can attain f u l f i l l m e n t others. Even the by r e m a i n i n g

realization o f his

i n d i v i d u a l p o t e n t i a l cannot be complete w i t h o u t h i m reaching o u t t o others and j o i n i n g together w i t h t h e m . Our Sages explain that the lulav and the esrog are a v i c t o r y symbol, and

i n d i c a t i n g our v i n d i c a t i o n i n the j u d g m e n t o f R o s h HaShanah Yom

K i p p u r . W h e n we stand b o u n d together i n u n i t y , as the lulav and

esrog teach, we can be assured o f positive blessings i n the year t o come.

Looking to the Horizon
I n our prayers, we describe Sukkos as " T h e Season o f O u r Rejoicing." T h i s theme w i l l reach its u l t i m a t e f u l f i l l m e n t i n the era o f Mashiach, when, as the Prophet relates, our people w i l l r e t u r n t o Eretz^ Yisrael "crowned w i t h eternal j o y . " A n d as i t says i n Psalms: " T h e n [ — opposed t o n o w — ] our m o u t h s w i l l be f i l l e d w i t h laughter." In previous generations, Jews d i d n o t need explanations w h y as

happiness was associated specifically w i t h Mashiach's t i m e . I t was quite obvious. By and large, they d i d n o t live i n happy times. B u t they knew that this sadness was not forever. A t one p o i n t , the trials and

t r i b u l a t i o n s o f the exile w o u l d end and they w o u l d enjoy happiness and j o y . T o d a y , however, when a person can enjoy a l l the comforts that a free and affluent society has t o offer, we are able t o ask: W h a t is so special about the happiness that Mashiach w i l l provide? Some w i l l offer somber explanations. T h e freedom and p r o s p e r i t y o f the present age may o n l y be temporary. I n Spain and i n Germany, for example, the Jews enjoyed wealth, acceptance, and freedom o f

expression, and l o o k what happened. I n the personal sphere, they w i l l say, there is the p o s s i b i l i t y o f sudden illness and/or death. W i t h o u t arguing the t r u t h o f these explanations, we d o n ' t want Mashiach o n l y because he is a g o o d insurance policy t o prevent all these

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negative factors f r o m happening and assure us o f c o n t i n u e d prosperity and well-being. Yes he w i l l , b u t that is n o t what Mashiach is about. Peace, prosperity, and well-being are n o t the essence o f the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . T h e y are merely the backdrop and the setting that w i l l allow the message o f the R e d e m p t i o n t o be communicated more effectively. I n the present age, we're happy because things — g o o d f o o d , good people, good times — make us happy. I n the era o f Mashiach, we w o n ' t need external factors t o make us feel happy. W e w i l l feel happy because we're alive — because we have a soul and because we're l i v i n g i n G-d's w o r l d . T h i s awareness w i l l be as real t o us as material reality is today. W e have the p o t e n t i a l t o appreciate a foretaste o f this happiness i n the present era. I t is true that at present our knowledge o f s p i r i t u a l i t y is merely intellectual, and o n l y i n the future era w i l l we have f i r s t h a n d experience o f the s p i r i t u a l core i n our o w n being and i n the w o r l d at large. Nevertheless, even today, k n o w i n g that this is the t r u t h and

focusing o n i t intensely can grant us a g l i m m e r o f this awareness and thus a sampling o f the happiness that w i l l result f r o m i t . T a s t i n g this happiness and sharing i t w i t h others w i l l anticipate and precipitate the t i m e w h e n this mindset w i l l spread t h r o u g h o u t a l l existence and "our m o u t h s w i l l be filled w i t h laughter."

Before the Hakkafos on Simchas Torah night, the Rebbe would hold a farbrengen i n the main synagogue at Lubavitch headquarters i n 770. A t such a gathering, the Rebbe would explain the spiritual significance o f the holiday. I n between thoughts, the chassidim would give expression to their feelings through joyous song. One year, one o f the chassidim felt uniquely inspired. The songs penetrated his heart. As the Rebbe smiled broadly and encouraged the singing by waving his hands, the chassid's feelings began to mount. Suddenly, he could control himself no longer; he climbed up onto one o f the tables and began to dance. I t was a natural, spontaneous outpouring o f emotion. His body flowed w i t h the song, expressing the inner rhythm all those assembled shared. The Rebbe looked at h i m and gave an even broader smile; he swung his hand i n a motion not unlike a cheerleader's motion to charge. A t this point, the chassid's eye caught the Rebbe's and he became self-conscious. There he was dancing on a table in front o f the Rebbe and the entire chassidic community! Which steps should he use? H o w should he move his hands? The Rebbe immediately sensed the change. He looked down and gave a downward motion w i t h his hands. The chassidim understood and they helped their colleague descend from the table. What had happened? A t first, the chassid had been dancing naturally. His happiness had welled up from an inner source. H e wasn't attempting to impress anybody; indeed, he had no thoughts o f self whatsoever. Afterwards, he was showing off his happiness. I t wasn't phony, but i t wasn't natural either. There was a dichotomy between his self and his experience. Our Rabbis say: " O n Simchas Torah, the Torah itself wants to dance. I t can't, however, dance by itself, and so a Jew becomes its feet, becoming the medium for the expression o f its joy."

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177

Sukkos and Simchas Torah are known as "The Season of Our Rejoicing." A t this time, true, genuine happiness is overflowing and we can capture i t w i t h barrels and buckets. I n this way, these holidays serve as the natural conclusion to the sequence begun w i t h the H i g h Holidays. O n Rosh HaShanah and Y o m Kippur, we tap into the essential bond our souls share w i t h G-d. O n Sukkos and Simchas Torah, the joy this bond generates wells up inside and bursts f o r t h into expression.

Simchas Torah
" W h y are y o u celebrating so powerfully?" the scholar asked the simple man. " I t ' s Simchas T o r a h , the day o f the T o r a h ' s rejoicing. Since y o u are n o t learned, what is y o u r connection t o the T o r a h and w h y is today a reason for y o u t o rejoice?" " W h e n y o u r b r o t h e r m a r r i e d o f f his daughter d i d y o u celebrate?" the simple man asked. "Of intent. " W e l l , for that same reason, I am celebrating today," the simple man responded. " A l l Jews are brothers. So, i f today is a day o f course," replied the scholar, unsure o f the simple man's

celebration for the scholars, i t is also a day o f celebration for me." I n t r u t h , the reason for our celebration o n Simchas T o r a h goes deeper than the connection t o the T o r a h forged t h r o u g h study. O n Simchas T o r a h , we celebrate our connection t o the essence o f the T o r a h , a level that transcends comprehension entirely. F o r that reason, the celebrations are held w h e n the T o r a h is t i e d closed. O n Simchas T o r a h , we rejoice because we are Jews. A n d as Jews we share a connection t o the essence o f the T o r a h , a connection that i n t u r n bonds us t o the essence o f G - d . A t this level, the scholar and the simple man are equal — for the soul is a part o f G - d H i m s e l f , i n f i n i t e and u n b o u n d e d as is G - d . T h i s applies t o each o f us. Every Jew has a soul w h i c h is an essential G - d l y spark, and by v i r t u e o f that spark, we share a connection t o the essence

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o f the T o r a h . As the Zohar states: "Israel, the T o r a h , and the H o l y O n e , blessed be H e , are one." Therefore, the scholar and the simple m a n celebrate equally, for one is n o m o r e Jewish than the other. I f anything, the simple man's celebration is greater, for his intellect does n o t get i n the way o f his connection t o his Jewish essence. W i t h the o u t p o u r i n g o f joy o f Simchas T o r a h , we chart our p a t h i n t o the new year. H a v i n g touched the core o f our beings o n the H i g h Holidays and celebrated this connection t o G-d on Sukkos and

Simchas T o r a h , we prepare t o elevate the realm o f our o r d i n a r y day-to¬ day f u n c t i o n i n g i n the year t o come.

Looking to the Horizon Celebrating with Mashiach
A f t e r the conclusion o f the Simchas T o r a h celebrations, the prayers say: " I w i l l rejoice and celebrate o n Simchas T o r a h . Tzemach (Mashiach) w i l l certainly come o n Simchas T o r a h . " On one level, the connection between the t w o statements can be

explained as follows: A t a t i m e o f great happiness, a Jew takes t i m e o u t to appreciate that the happiness w h i c h he experiences i n the present age is merely a g l i m m e r o f the u l t i m a t e happiness t o be experienced at the t i m e o f the c o m i n g o f Mashiach. I n that era, m a n k i n d w i l l be "crowned w i t h eternal joy," for all the distressing elements that restrict our happiness at present w i l l dissipate, and all existence w i l l appreciate the G-dliness present t h r o u g h o u t existence. But there is a deeper message. Happiness is also a catalyst that w i l l actually b r i n g the R e d e m p t i o n . O u r Rabbis teach: Simchah, happiness, breaks d o w n barriers. F o r w h e n a person is happy, he is n o t restrained by any o f his i n h i b i t i o n s , and shows generosity and kindness above the norm. T h e same m o t i f applies i n the s p i r i t u a l realms. O u r simchah shel mitzvah, the happiness felt i n connection w i t h the f u l f i l l m e n t o f G-d's w i l l , arouses G-d's happiness. A n d this i n t u r n causes H i m t o overlook any possible shortcomings i n man's R e d e m p t i o n immediately. D i v i n e service and b r i n g the

Once the Baal Shem Tov had a vision i n which he ascended through various spiritual realms until he came to the palace o f Mashiach. c o m i n g face to face w i t h mankind's redeemer, he had only one question: "When are you coming?" Mashiach answered him: "When the wellsprings o f your teachings spread outward."

Yud Tes Kislev
Chassidus explains that Mashiach was n o t giving the Baal Shem T o v a t i m e frame, he was explaining t o h i m the p a t t e r n o f s p i r i t u a l causation. W h e n w i l l Mashiach come? W h e n the w o r l d is ready t o receive h i m . And when w i l l the w o r l d be ready t o receive him? W h e n T o v ' s teachings, the

wellsprings outward.

o f Chassidus,

the

Baal Shem

spread

Chassidus makes us aware o f the G - d l y spark w i t h i n our souls and the spiritual reality that permeates the w o r l d at large. W h e n the awareness o f these factors spreads t h r o u g h o u t h u m a n i t y , the w o r l d w i l l be prepared t o accept Mashiach. Yud-Tes (the 1 9 t h of) Kislev, the anniversary o f the release o f

R a b b i Shneur Z a l m a n o f L i a d i (the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, founder o f the Chabad movement) f r o m p r i s o n i n Czarist Russia, is celebrated as a milestone i n spreading Chassidus o u t w a r d . I t is explained that the inner, mystical cause o f R . Shneur Zalman's i m p r i s o n m e n t was the resistance i n the heavenly realms t o his unrestrained efforts t o spread Chassidus. H i s release thus served as a sign that the s p i r i t u a l forces opposing the dissemination o f these teachings had been overcome and i t was possible t o continue that initiative.

Looking to the Horizon
The teachings o f Chassidus are a foretaste o f the w i s d o m that Mashiach w i l l reveal. O n Friday afternoon, before the onset o f the Shabbos, i t is customary t o taste the foods prepared for that special day. So, t o o , Mashiach's era is referred t o as "the day that is all Shabbos and rest."

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W i t h i n the context o f the w o r l d ' s s p i r i t u a l h i s t o r y , i t is n o w Friday afternoon; the m i d d a y hours are almost over, and i t is possible t o sense a gleam o f the approaching Shabbos. T h i s is the reason w h y the

teachings o f Chassidus were revealed at this j u n c t u r e o f t i m e . T h e uniqueness o f the era o f Mashiach w i l l be the o u t p o u r i n g o f the knowledge o f G - d . As the Prophet tells us: " T h e earth w i l l be f i l l e d w i t h the knowledge o f G - d as the waters cover up the ocean bed." O u r existence w i l l be submerged i n the awareness o f G - d ; i n every element o f our lives, we w i l l sense H i s presence. The foretaste o f that revelation is an overflow of spiritual

knowledge: W e gain an understanding o f the s p i r i t u a l forces governing our existence, we learn t o appreciate G-d's hand g u i d i n g our lives, and we sense the oneness w i t h H i m c o n t r i b u t e d by every element o f the T o r a h and its mitzvos. T h i s is granted t o us by the teachings o f Chassidus.

A century ago, there were no electric streetlamps. H o w would people make their way through the public domain at night? There were kerosene lanterns on every corner whose light shined forth and made going through the streets less threatening. There were lamplighters who would trudge through the night and go from lamp to lamp w i t h a torch, kindling its flame. Even i n the cold and the dark, these lone figures would make their way through the night, leaving a path o f light behind them. We are all lamplighters, charged w i t h the mission o f illuminating the world w i t h the light o f the Torah and its mitzvos. While this theme is always relevant, at certain times its importance resonates more forcefully than others. Chanukah is one o f those times. As we put our menorahs near the doors or windows o f our homes with the intent that they shine light into the darkness, we convey a message to the world: "Darkness is temporary. W i t h a little bit o f light i t can be banished."

Chanukah
The Previous Rebbe would t e l l his chassidim, " W e m u s t listen

carefully t o what the c h a n u k a h candles are saying." F o r the l i g h t o f the c h a n u k a h candles p o i n t s us t o w a r d many i m p o r t a n t goals for our lives. Firstly, the c h a n u k a h lights should be k i n d l e d after sunset and m u s t b u r n i n t o the n i g h t . Each person has his or her o w n d e f i n i t i o n o f the metaphor o f darkness. T h e c h a n u k a h candles teach us n o t t o accept darkness as reality, b u t instead t o k i n d l e l i g h t . Moreover, we place the candles at our doorways or i n our w i n d o w s , indicating that we should n o t remain content w i t h l i g h t i n g up our o w n homes. Instead, we must reach o u t and spread l i g h t as far as we possibly can, l i g h t i n g up the p u b l i c domain. G o i n g further: O n each n i g h t o f c h a n u k a h , we add t o the number o f candles l i t o n the previous n i g h t . I m p l i e d is that we can't sit s t i l l
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and rest o n our laurels. Instead, we m u s t increase our endeavors every day t o spread l i g h t t h r o u g h o u t the w o r l d . T h o u g h we i l l u m i n a t e d our environment o n the previous n i g h t , we cannot remain content, b u t instead m u s t strive t o make a further and greater c o n t r i b u t i o n .

Looking to the Horizon
chanukah is celebrated for eight days, a n u m b e r that our Sages

associate w i t h the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . W h a t is unique about eight? T h e natural order is s t r u c t u r e d i n sets o f seven: there are seven days i n a week; seven years i n the agricultural cycle observed i n Eretz^ Yisrael. E i g h t represents a step above that cycle. I n the m o t i f o f "eight," the transcendent oneness o f G - d that surpasses nature's set o f seven

becomes revealed. T h o u g h connected w i t h oneness, eight is n o t one. T h e idea is n o t that i n f i n i t y w i l l be revealed i n a manner that obscures entirely the material framework i n w h i c h we presently live. Instead, 8 is 7 + 1 , i.e., H i s oneness w i l l permeate seven, the set o f nature. W e w i l l appreciate how the t r u t h o f our o w n existence is G-dliness. T h e transcendent w i l l be enclothed w i t h i n the framework o f our w o r l d l y sphere. T h i s message is illustrated and i l l u m i n a t e d by the l i g h t o f the c h a n u k a h candles. T h e y recall the miraculous b u r n i n g o f the Menorah i n the T e m p l e and imbue us w i t h the awareness that the Menorah w i l l soon be k i n d l e d again, spreading G - d l y l i g h t openly t h r o u g h o u t the world.

" W o u l d you take me as a partner i n your business?" Max Kotz, a member o f the Lubavitch community i n England, was shocked by the Rebbe's question. For the Rebbe to be his business partner! Never i n his wildest fantasies would he have dreamed o f being made such an offer. He immediately agreed. The Rebbe took out a token sum o f dollars and gave i t to M r . Kotz as his investment. " I n a partnership," he reminded M r . Kotz, "Neither partner should engage i n a deal without the okay o f the other. D o you agree?" M r . Kotz, an international fur dealer, was somewhat puzzled. What did the Rebbe know about furs? But he agreed. The Rebbe then advised h i m to purchase large quantities o f a particular type o f fur. M r . Kotz returned to England and invested several thousand dollars i n the type o f fur the Rebbe had suggested. When he advised the Rebbe o f the purchase, the Rebbe answered that his investment had been far too conservative; a much larger quantity o f fur should have been purchased. And so i t went, back and forth, until on the Rebbe's urging, M r . Kotz had purchased truly astronomical quantities o f the desired fur, investing his entire personal fortune and even borrowing large sums. T o M r . Kotz's surprise, the value o f the fur that the Rebbe had advised h i m to buy began to plummet. Perhaps, he thought, he should sell at least some o f the fur he had purchased. As promised, he contacted the Rebbe before making the sale. T o his surprise, the Rebbe reminded h i m that, as partners, i t was possible to sell only when both agreed, and at this time, the Rebbe continued, he did not agree to the sale. The price o f the fur continued to sink. A n d w i t h i t sank M r . Kotz's spirits; it seemed to h i m that he would certainly be ruined. He contacted the Rebbe repeatedly, but always received the same answer: Don't sell! Worried about his financial future, he finally began to question his entire relationship w i t h the Rebbe and Lubavitch. Perhaps it was all a mistake?

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For several months, the price o f the fur M r . Kotz had purchased remained low. But then i t suddenly began to rise. When i t reached a level at which the loss was bearable, M r . Kotz again consulted the Rebbe. "Maybe it's time to sell?" But still the Rebbe refused. Again there followed a chain o f telephone calls from M r . Kotz to the Rebbe's office as the price o f the fur steadily advanced. A t each juncture, M r . Kotz desired to sell, and always the Rebbe advised h i m to wait. As the price o f the fur continued to rise, M r . Kotz's trust i n the Rebbe also returned. Only when the price o f the fur had doubled d i d the Rebbe finally agree that the time had come to sell. I n a relatively short time, M r . Kotz was able to sell his entire inventory at a resounding profit. Even after repaying the loans and calculating his costs, he had still made millions. I t was time, thought M r . Kotz, to give his partner his share. Atyechidus, the Rebbe declined to take a penny, instructing M r . Kotz to donate the Rebbe's share to different charitable causes throughout the world. " W o u l d you like to continue as partners?" M r . Kotz asked hopefully. The Rebbe, however, demurred. "You're a shvacher shutaf, too weak-hearted," he replied. Yud (10th of) Shevat marks the Rebbe's assumption o f the leadership o f the Chabad movement. W i t h the farsighted vision that characterizes true leaders, the Rebbe charged us — b o t h as individuals and as a community — w i t h significant long-term missions, including the ultimate mission, preparing the world for the coming o f the Redemption. Often our limited perception and the descents and ascents that characterize mortal existence subject us to doubts and hesitations similar to those experienced by our fur dealer. Someone who is not "a weak-hearted partner" endeavors not only to heed the Rebbe's instructions, but to expand his own horizons, so that he is comfortable w i t h the mission i n which the Rebbe has invited h i m to share.

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Yud Shevat — The Yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe and the Anniversary of the Rebbe's Ascent to the Leadership of the Chabad Movement
T h e 1 0 t h day o f the H e b r e w m o n t h o f Shevat is the yahrzeit o f the Previous Rebbe, R a b b i Y o s e f Y i t z c h a k Schneersohn, w h o passed away o n Yud Shevat 5 7 1 0 ( 1 9 5 0 ) . A yahrzeit is the day o n w h i c h a person's D i v i n e service is consummated. Each year, this anniversary gives others an o p p o r t u n i t y t o establish a connection t o that person, learn f r o m his life, and apply the lessons they learn i n their o w n D i v i n e service. That same date is also the day o n w h i c h the Rebbe, assumed Rabbi

M e n a c h e m M e n d e l Schneerson,

leadership o f Lubavitch a

year later. W i t h o u t d i m i n i s h i n g its connection t o the Previous Rebbe, this d i m e n s i o n o f the date commands the focus o f m o s t chassidim today. W e are n o t interested i n the events o f 5 7 1 0 ( 1 9 5 0 ) and 5 7 1 1 ( 1 9 5 1 ) merely f r o m a historical perspective. O n the contrary, m o s t o f us are n o t historians, and what happened i n the past is relevant only as i t affects us today. W h a t is i m p o r t a n t about the 1 0 t h o f Shevat is n o t that over 5 0 years ago the Rebbe became Rebbe, b u t that today, we can accept h i m as Rebbe and i n d o i n g so, enhance our o w n personal g r o w t h and s p i r i t u a l development. Once w h e n the Rebbe was asked t o elaborate o n the nature o f his p o s i t i o n , he explained that he is a m i n e r . Just as a m i n e r digs i n t o the depths o f the earth, sifts t h r o u g h m u c h d i r t and stone, and u l t i m a t e l y comes up w i t h jewels and precious metals, so, t o o , the Rebbe teaches and empowers us t o penetrate t o the depths o f our being and reveal the inner G-dliness d o r m a n t w i t h i n our souls. Now g o i n g beneath the surface o f our personalities is not

particularly new. F o r over a century, psychologists have spoken about this goal, and i n the last decades m o t i v a t i o n a l specialists and personal g r o w t h coaches have become structure approach? o f western society. a major p a r t o f even the So what's new about the corporate Rebbe's

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T h e novelty is n o t i n the idea o f digging, b u t what one comes up w i t h when one digs. Secular psychologists have d u g and come up w i t h passions and fears that d i m i n i s h rather than enhance our h u m a n i t y . H u m a n i s t s have dug and come up w i t h existential despair and emptiness. T h e Rebbe dug and came up w i t h G-dliness. W h y do the psychologists come up w i t h fears and passions, or the humanists w i t h despair, when they t r y t o probe beneath a person's surface? Because that is their o w n inner mindset. T h e y do n o t set o u t t o d i m i n i s h man's p o t e n t i a l . Q u i t e the contrary, they want t o help; they are w e l l - i n t e n t i o n e d and honest. B u t that very honesty causes t h e m t o project their o w n image over h u m a n i t y as a whole. Y o u can't blame t h e m for that. T h e y are h u m a n and this is the way they see man. B u t what is their image o f themselves or o f m a n i n general? A n d what is the image o f man the Rebbe projects? T h e y l o o k around at their environment and t r y t o make sense o u t o f the different forces and factors they see. T h e y discover patterns and share t h e m w i t h others. B y d o i n g so, they reinforce the patterns that they discover. The Rebbe operates from a different perspective. What is

significant is n o t what he or other people see or want i n this w o r l d , b u t what G - d wants. W h y d i d G - d create the world? A n d w h y d i d H e create this particular person, this particular situation, and this

particular moment? T h e question motivates the answer. I t frees a person t o look a

beyond his o w n i n d i v i d u a l horizons and see a larger p i c t u r e — D i v i n e picture.

M o s t o f us do n o t ask these questions naturally. B u t as we connect w i t h the Rebbe, study his teachings, f o l l o w his directives, and endeavor t o understand his m o t i v a t i o n , we learn t o do so.

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Looking to the Horizon
E x t e n d i n g this approach further, one looks t o the era when G-d's conception o f the w o r l d w i l l blossom i n t o manifest f u l f i l l m e n t : the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n . F o r just as every particular e n t i t y was created w i t h a purpose, so, t o o , the w o r l d at large was b r o u g h t i n t o being w i t h a goal. As our Sages c o m m e n t , Mashiach." For that reason i t is i m p o r t a n t t o learn about the era o f the "The world was created solely for

R e d e m p t i o n and appreciate the mindset that w i l l prevail at that t i m e . As we become m o r e acquainted w i t h G-d's purpose for creation, we are m o r e capable o f p r o d d i n g that purpose i n t o f u l f i l l m e n t and enabling the w o r l d t o reach that desired state.

Once the Baal Shem Tov had a spiritual vision o f a calamity that was to be visited on an outlying Jewish community. H e traveled there w i t h his students and for several days and nights engaged i n spiritual activities that were able to arouse G-d's mercies and avert the decree. Afterwards, his students asked him: "Why d i d you have to travel to that community? Y o u could have carried out the same spiritual activities i n your home town." The Baal Shem Tov answered: " I f I could not save them, I would share their fate."

Purim
T h e P u r i m saga centers around t w o people: M o r d e c h a i and Esther. Certainly, the sequence o f events reflects a series o f D i v i n e miracles, b u t these t w o were the ones w h o set the example and p r o v i d e d the catalysts t o call f o r t h those miracles. W h a t was so unique about their conduct? T h e Megillah relates that Mordechai informed Esther of Haman's decree, stating: " A n d

M o r d e c h a i t o l d [her messenger] o f all that had happened t o h i m . " T h e decree was against the Jewish people as a whole. As the king's

counselor and the cousin o f the queen, i t is h i g h l y probable that M o r d e c h a i w o u l d n o t have been included i n i t . B u t he had n o t h o u g h t o f that. T h e decree "happened t o h i m . " W h e n Esther at first hesitated t o take action, he t o l d her: " D o n o t imagine... that y o u w i l l be able t o escape i n the king's palace any m o r e than the rest o f the Jews." Mordechai's response touched Esther's core. She took the

initiative and risked her life for her people. Esther and M o r d e c h a i weren't absentee leaders, the type w h o sit i n the back and give advice o n h o w t o deal w i t h difficulties. W h e n their people were i n danger, they felt their o w n lives were o n the line and they risked everything. W h y ? Because the m o s t i m p o r t a n t things t o t h e m were their people and their people's mission i n the w o r l d . F o r a true Jewish leader, there is no difference between the fate o f his people and his o w n personal fate. O n the contrary, he has n o

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189

t h o u g h t s o f h i m s e l f at all. H e t h i n k s about his o w n destiny as i t is i n t e r t w i n e d w i t h theirs. Such an approach has an effect o n the people, j a r r i n g t h e m o u t o f their self-concern and involvement i n their o w n p e t t y private affairs and p o i n t i n g t h e i r a t t e n t i o n t o their n a t i o n a l mission. W h e n a person sees a M o r d e c h a i giving up all his private concerns for the people as a whole, that person realizes that he t o o can and s h o u l d focus o n a goal i n life that is greater than his i n d i v i d u a l self. And as that aspiration spreads w i t h i n the Jewish people, G-d

creates an environment that allows i t t o happen, even bending the natural order — i f that is what is necessary — for that t o happen. T h i s is the core o f the P u r i m story.

Looking to the Horizon Celebrating Purim with Mashiach
Our Sages relate that d u r i n g the era o f R e d e m p t i o n , all the festivals commentaries

w i l l be n u l l i f i e d w i t h the exception o f P u r i m . T h e

question this statement, for the T o r a h is eternal and unchanging. T h e y explain that i n the present era, the festivals represent revelations o f G-dliness that transcend the ordinary p a t t e r n o f s p i r i t u a l revelation. Hence they stand o u t w i t h prominence. I n the era o f R e d e m p t i o n , by contrast, the revelation o f G-dliness w i l l be an o n g o i n g aspect o f our existence. Therefore, the festivals w i l l n o t be considered unique. T h e y w i l l be observed and all the laws w i l l be kept; b u t the s p i r i t u a l nature o f the days w i l l n o t stand out. T h i s is n o t true i n regard t o P u r i m . Even w i t h i n the setting o f revealed G-dliness that w i l l characterize the era o f R e d e m p t i o n , P u r i m w i l l be special. N o t o n l y w i l l we observe the laws o f the holiday, its unique s p i r i t u a l significance w i l l stand o u t p r o m i n e n t l y . W h a t is the reason for this difference? A l l o f the other holidays came about because o f a revelation o f G-dliness f r o m H i s initiative. P u r i m , by contrast, came about i n response t o the self-sacrifice o f the Jewish people. I t was they w h o t o o k the first step. Despite the

challenges o f exile, they powerfully reaffirmed their c o m m i t m e n t t o

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their Jewish heritage. Therefore they were rewarded w i t h a festival whose l i g h t w i l l continue t o shine even i n the era o f R e d e m p t i o n .

One Saturday night, shortly after the conclusion o f the Sabbath, the phone rang i n the home o f Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe's personal secretary. A n elderly chassid was on the line asking for a blessing for his wife. She had been i n the hospital for several days, and her condition was critical. " c o u l d Rabbi Groner ask the Rebbe for a blessing?" the chassid asked. Rabbi Groner offered some words o f reassurance to the chassid but told h i m that i t was often difficult to establish contact w i t h the Rebbe on Saturday night. H e would try, but i f it was not possible, he would communicate the message first thing Sunday morning. As Rabbi Groner had suspected, he was unable to contact the Rebbe that night. Sunday morning, as soon as the Rebbe came to 770, Rabbi Groner told h i m o f the chassid's wife. The Rebbe listened and told Rabbi Groner to call Rabbi chodakov, the Rebbe's senior aide. Rabbi Groner got Rabbi chodakov on the line. After speaking to the Rebbe for several minutes, Rabbi chodakov told Rabbi Groner to call the chassid so that he, Rabbi chodakov, could communicate a message from the Rebbe. Several moments after Rabbi chodakov spoke to the chassid, the elder man called Rabbi Groner back and told him the entire story. His wife had been severely ill for several days. O n Friday night, her condition had become so desperate that the doctors abandoned all hope. Early Saturday morning, however, her condition took a sharp turn for the better. Nevertheless, since i t was still serious, as soon as the Sabbath ended, the chassid had called Rabbi Groner to ask for the Rebbe's blessing. During the interim, her condition continued to improve, and now the doctors were confident that she would recover. "Rabbi chodakov said the Rebbe had instructed h i m to tell me that my wife's condition had begun to improve about 5:00 a.m. on Saturday. H e emphasized that, in case I

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might think this was due to other factors, the Rebbe told me to tell you her recovery came about because she had been brought to m i n d at that time," [i.e., the Rebbe had thought about her]. O n that Saturday morning, no one had told the Rebbe about the woman's condition. There was no way the information could have been given him, and yet he had sensed the woman's need. N o t only could he sense her predicament, his positive thinking was able to bring about her recovery.

Yud-Aleph (11th of) Nissan: The Rebbe's Birthday
T h e above story is n o t an isolated p h e n o m e n o n . D o c u m e n t e d evidence has forced even the m o s t hardened skeptics t o a d m i t that the childless were blessed w i t h progeny, the i l l w i t h health, and that fortunes were made and/or saved because o f the Rebbe's blessings. W h a t does this mean t o us today, several years after the Rebbe's passing? F i r s t o f all, the Rebbe has never stopped keeping people i n m i n d . A f t e r the passing o f his father-in-law and predecessor, R a b b i Y o s e f Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Rebbe told the chassidim t o continue

w r i t i n g t o h i m and he w o u l d f i n d a way t o answer. As countless stories indicate, even i n the present years, the Rebbe h i m s e l f has f o u n d a way t o answer those w h o seek his blessings. B u t more i m p o r t a n t l y , the Rebbe's greatest miracles are i n the realm o f ideas. H e p r o v i d e d us w i t h clarity and insight, an awareness o f w h o we are and where we are going that rings true and empowers. Each person whose life he has touched has become deeper and richer and a source o f i n s p i r a t i o n for others. T h e chain reaction that this dynamic i n i t i a t e d continues t o produce change i n many people's lives. Yud-Alef N i s s a n is the Rebbe's b i r t h d a y . O u r Sages teach us that o n a person's b i r t h d a y , his or her s p i r i t u a l potentials and goals are given a d d i t i o n a l power. T h i s is the day w h e n the Rebbe's goals and purposes are h i g h l i g h t e d and given greater expression.

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Looking to the Horizon
I n one o f his letters, the Rebbe writes that f r o m his earliest c h i l d h o o d , he w o u l d p i c t u r e the future R e d e m p t i o n i n his m i n d . Perhaps the most appropriate b i r t h d a y present we c o u l d give t o the Rebbe is t o do something t o advance that purpose, and the Rebbe has t o l d us exactly what he w o u l d like us t o do: a) Learn about the era o f G - d l y knowledge, peace, and cooperation that Mashiach w i l l initiate, and share that awareness w i t h others; and b) Be proactive by reaching o u t t o the people around y o u w i t h

deeds o f love and kindness. By living with the Redemption, era anticipating the day-to-day knowledge, can

harmony,

and peace o f that

i n our

lives, we

precipitate the t i m e when these values w i l l spread t h r o u g h the entire w o r l d w i t h the c o m i n g o f Mashiach.

One year, shortly before the first Pesach Seder, the holy Rebbe, Reb Levi Yitzchak o f Berditchev, took several o f his students into town. He knocked on the door o f a local store and asked to buy cigarettes. The storekeeper replied, " I don't have any. Don't you know that they are illegal?" Reb Levi Yitzchak was persistent and again asked to buy cigarettes. After several requests, the storekeeper produced the cigarettes and was willing to sell them. Reb Levi Yitzchak then approached a man walking down the street and asked i f he had a cigarette. "Don't you know that they are illegal? I can get thrown i n jail for possession!" Again, after several requests, the gentleman displayed his stash and offered one to the Berditchever. Reb Levi Yitzchak then sent his attendant to a Jewish home to ask i f they had a small piece o f bread. "G-d forbid!" was the reply, and not knowing why the attendant was asking, continued to explain, " O n Pesach we are forbidden to have any bread or chametz^ in our home." The attendant went to a second home and a third home, and the reply was the same. When the attendant returned empty-handed to his Rebbe, Reb Levi Yitzchak held his hands up high and exclaimed, "Master o f the Universe! The Czar forbids the importation of these cigarettes. H e has soldiers and policemen to help enforce this law. But yet these cigarettes are on the streets and available to all, somehow smuggled across the border. "Three thousand years ago, Y o u commanded Your children not to bring bread into their homes on Pesach. You have no soldiers or policemen, yet there is no bread to be found i n all o f Berditchev. See how powerfully Your children love You!!"

Passover Today
In the Haggadah, we say: "Even i f we are all wise, all m e n o f understanding, and all k n o w the T o r a h , i t is a mitzvah for us t o t e l l o f

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the exodus f r o m E g y p t . " T h i s quote indicates that the p o i n t o f the Seder is n o t merely an intellectual experience. F o r after all, i f we are wise and k n o w the T o r a h , then we also k n o w the story o f the Exodus. Instead, the i n t e n t is that the Seder enables us t o relive the Exodus, t o realize — as we say later i n the Haggadah — that " n o t only our

ancestors [were] redeemed f r o m Egypt, b u t

[ G - d ] redeemed us as

w e l l . " Every Seder is an o p p o r t u n i t y for each one o f us t o leave Egypt. W h a t does i t mean for us t o leave Egypt, w h e n many o f us have never seen that part o f the w o r l d ? Mitzrayim — the H e b r e w name for E g y p t — shares a connection with the term meitzarim, meaning "boundaries" or " l i m i t a t i o n s . "

Leaving E g y p t means going beyond those forces that h o l d us back and prevent us f r o m expressing w h o we really are. T h e idea o f leaving E g y p t reminds us that, i n a certain way, we are all slaves. Each one o f us has a soul w h i c h is "an actual part o f G - d . " T h i s is the core o f our being, our real " I . " B u t we f i n d ourselves i n Egypt, for there are forces, b o t h external and internal, that prevent us f r o m being i n t o u c h w i t h this s p i r i t u a l p o t e n t i a l and giving i t expression. T h e Seder n i g h t is a t i m e w h e n these forces do n o t have the power t o h o l d us back. F o r Passover is " T h e Season o f O u r Freedom." F r o m the t i m e o f the Exodus — and indeed, f r o m the beginning o f t i m e — this n i g h t was chosen as a n i g h t o n w h i c h the p o t e n t i a l is granted t o express our G - d l y core. Every year, at this t i m e , w i t h i n the s p i r i t u a l hierarchy of the world, there is "an exodus from Egypt." A l l

restrictions fall away and transcendent G-dliness is revealed. T h i s s p i r i t u a l awakening filters d o w n w i t h i n our souls, p r o m p t i n g us t o tap our s p i r i t u a l core, express our u n b o u n d e d G - d l y p o t e n t i a l , and leave Egypt, i.e., t o break t h r o u g h any and all restraints. T h i s experience should n o t remain an isolated s p i r i t u a l peak. Instead, Passover should initiate a process of endless growth,

empowering us t o c o n t i n u o u s l y break t h r o u g h ever subtle levels o f l i m i t a t i o n s and express our s p i r i t u a l p o t e n t i a l at all times. T h i s concept is reflected i n the L u b a v i t c h custom n o t t o recite the passage "Chasal Siddur Pesach" ( " T h e Passover Seder is concluded")

w h i c h others say at the end o f the Seder. T h e i n t e n t o f the omission is to emphasize that our Passover experience should be ongoing.

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

T h r o u g h o u t the year, we s h o u l d l o o k t o the Seder as the beginning o f a p a t t e r n o f new g r o w t h and s p i r i t u a l expression.

Looking to the Horizon
Our Sages teach: " I n N i s s a n (the H e b r e w m o n t h i n w h i c h Pesach falls) the Jews were redeemed, and i n Nissan they w i l l be redeemed i n the f u t u r e . " T h e r e is a c o m m o n a l i t y between the r e d e m p t i o n f r o m E g y p t and the R e d e m p t i o n t o be led by Mashiach. O u r Sages emphasize that the s p i r i t u a l t i m i n g for the t w o is also similar, and hence they w i l l occur i n the same m o n t h . T h e r e is a slight d i f f i c u l t y , however, w i t h this prophecy, for as M a i m o n i d e s states i n his T h i r t e e n Principles o f F a i t h , we wait for Mashiach, "every day that he w i l l come." T h e i n t e n t is n o t that every day we l o o k forward t o Mashiach's u l t i m a t e arrival, b u t that every day, we

wait expectantly for Mashiach t o come o n that very day, regardless o f the m o n t h o f the year. Our Rabbis resolve this d i f f i c u l t y as follows: T h e p o t e n t i a l exists

for Mashiach t o arrive every day o f the year. Nevertheless, there are certain times, for example the m o n t h o f Nissan, where the s p i r i t u a l climate is more conducive for such happening. I n Nissan, the

R e d e m p t i o n is an idea o f immediate relevance. T h i s concept is true, n o t only w i t h regard t o the m o n t h s o n the yearly calendar, b u t w i t h regard t o epochs i n the h i s t o r y o f m a n k i n d as a whole. T h e Lubavitcher Rebbe has p o i n t e d t o the present era as the m o s t o p p o r t u n e t i m e for the R e d e m p t i o n t o take place. "Even the b u t t o n s have been polished, and we are prepared t o greet Mashiach." T h i s is n o t merely a lofty, s p i r i t u a l statement. O n the contrary, its t r u t h can be appreciated by t a k i n g an honest l o o k at what's happening in our w o r l d . W e are i n the m i d s t o f an i n f o r m a t i o n revolution.

Resources o f knowledge that have been gathered for centuries are n o w o n l y a few strokes o f a keyboard away f r o m any person w i t h a personal computer. Instant another has communication from one end o f the earth to are

transformed our w o r l d

i n t o a global village. W e

p r o d u c i n g enough f o o d t o feed all o f m a n k i n d ; i t ' s o n l y p o l i t i c a l strife that is preventing hunger from being eliminated. T h e search for

PASSOVER

197

s p i r i t u a l i t y has become so m u c h a part o f our lives that chroniclers o f the major trends o f the new m i l l e n n i u m place i t among the t o p five. N o w isn't that all somewhat Messianic? T o d a y , w h e n a person speaks about Redemption, his words resound with the power

possessed by an idea whose t i m e has come.

When Reb Pinchas Horowitz first became a disciple o f the Maggid o f Mezritch, the Maggid advised h i m to study w i t h Reb Zusycha o f Anapoli. Reb Pinchas went to Reb Zusycha and told h i m o f the Maggid's advice. Reb Zusycha humbly replied that he could not understand why the Maggid would send anyone to study w i t h him, but that he would be happy to join as great a sage as Reb Pinchas in his intellectual endeavors. "What should we study?" Reb Pinchas asked. "Whatever you are studying," Reb Zusycha replied. Reb Pinchas took out a volume o f Talmud and began explaining the following passage. "When there are only nine people i n the synagogue, there is an opinion that the ark o f the synagogue can be counted to complete the quorum o f ten necessary for prayer. The Talmud then asks: Is the ark a person? For no matter how holy the ark is, i t is humans that are required to fulfill the quorum for prayer." As Reb Pinchas stated this, Reb Zusycha interrupted: "What does the Talmud mean: 'Is the ark a person?' Everyone knows the ark is only an object." Reb Pinchas was puzzled; the question was obviously rhetorical. D i d n ' t his partner appreciate that? Reb Zusycha continued: "Maybe the intent is that a person can be an ark in which the Torah is contained, a veritable repository of knowledge, but unless he is a person, unless that knowledge is integrated with his humanity, there is a question i f he can be counted among the community." Reb Pinchas understood that this was the lesson the Maggid had wanted h i m to learn from Reb Zusycha: not how to augment his knowledge, but how to use his knowledge to refine himself and change his character.

Sefiras HaOmer: The Counting of the Omer
Judaism considers personal g r o w t h a lifelong task for each o f us, 3 6 5 days a year for every year o f our lives. Nevertheless, every year, a p e r i o d

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SEFIRAS H A O M E R

199

of

t i m e is set

aside when these efforts

become the focus

o f our the

a t t e n t i o n . T h i s reflects the s p i r i t u a l significance o f Sefiras HaOmer,

forty-nine-day p e r i o d between the holidays o f Passover and Shavuos. T h e H e b r e w w o r d sefirah means, " c o u n t i n g . " Every n i g h t we count one o f these f o r t y - n i n e days. B u t sefirah also means, " s h i n i n g . " D u r i n g these f o r t y - n i n e days, we s h o u l d endeavor t o make our shine. A c c o r d i n g t o the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical t r a d i t i o n , we have seven fundamental emotional qualities. These qualities then personalities

interrelate, c o m b i n i n g each one w i t h another t o f o r m the f u l l range o f h u m a n feeling. Seven times seven equals f o r t y - n i n e , the n u m b e r o f days m e n t i o n e d above. T h i s is n o t coincidental, for the c u l t i v a t i o n o f our s p i r i t u a l personalities d u r i n g these f o r t y - n i n e days involves the

refinement o f our emotions, e l i m i n a t i n g their coarseness and d i r e c t i n g t h e m t o G-dliness. As we w o r k t o upgrade our e m o t i o n a l p o t e n t i a l , we prepare ourselves t o relive the experience o f the giving o f the T o r a h o n the holiday o f Shavuos.

Looking to the Horizon
T h e u l t i m a t e experience o f personal refinement w i l l come i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , w h e n "there w i l l be neither envy n o r c o m p e t i t i o n "

F o r then the G - d l y spark that is latent w i t h i n every person w i l l be revealed. At present, effort is necessary to look beyond our

fundamental self-concern and appreciate the inner, s p i r i t u a l core that exists within ourselves and within others. In the era of the

R e d e m p t i o n , such an endeavor w i l l n o t be necessary; i t w i l l be the way we naturally view things. What can we do t o hasten the c o m i n g o f this era? conduct

ourselves at present i n a manner that demonstrates our awareness o f this inner G-dliness. W h e n we show genuine love t o another person, we are h i g h l i g h t i n g the G - d l y spark that b o t h we and the other person possess and are establishing a connection between the t w o . H o w more Messianic can one be?

One o f the leaders o f an academy for men who turned to Jewish study after being brought up i n a secular environment was describing his program to the previous Gerer Rebbe, Reb Simchah Bunim. H e explained how the studies were tailor-made to enable a person coming from such a background to grow in Jewish knowledge and practice. "We understand the mentality o f our students and appreciate what they have gone through," he stated. T o prevent his intent from being misunderstood, he continued: "This comes from years o f work. It's not that we come from such an environment. I have been studying Torah all my life. I am not one who had to turn to G-d in teshuvah, repentance." u p o n hearing these words, the Gerer Rebbe answered: "Maybe it's about time that you did."

Pesach Sheni: The Second Passover
Every Jew was commanded t o commemorate the exodus f r o m Egypt by b r i n g i n g a paschal sacrifice o n Passover. B u t what i f a person d i d n o t b r i n g a paschal sacrifice? T o b r i n g such a sacrifice a person had t o be r i t u a l l y pure and i n Jerusalem. T h a t was n o t always possible. I f a person was impure, far away f r o m the T e m p l e i n Jerusalem or even i f he just d i d n o t want t o b r i n g the required sacrifice o n Passover, the T o r a h does n o t give up o n h i m . Instead, he is given another chance. A m o n t h later o n the Second Passover, he c o u l d b r i n g the prescribed sacrifice. T h e lesson is apparent: T h e r e is no r o o m for despair. N o one is ever lost. A person can always correct himself. I n c o m m e m o r a t i o n o f the o p p o r t u n i t y t o offer this sacrifice, i t is customary t o eat matzah o n the 1 4 t h day o f the H e b r e w m o n t h o f Iyar, the day the second paschal sacrifice was b r o u g h t . A question, however, arises: M o s t o f the people c o m m e m o r a t i n g the Second Passover today are the same ones w h o celebrated the first. I f they celebrated Passover t o the fullest the first t i m e , w h y must they be concerned w i t h the Second Passover?

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201

T h e r e s o l u t i o n t o this question is dependent o n the concept that our s p i r i t u a l service m u s t be a continuous u p w a r d progression. T o d a y cannot be like yesterday. I t m u s t represent an improvement; indeed, so great an improvement that when l o o k i n g back at yesterday, a person should feel that he was i m p u r e and far away, that the Passover service he rendered was n o t sufficient. So he is given a Second Passover, a chance t o make advance o n his new level o f consciousness. another

Looking to the Horizon
T h e manner i n w h i c h the p o s s i b i l i t y was granted t o b r i n g the second paschal sacrifice is also significant. T h e T o r a h relates that i n the first year after the Exodus, when the Jewish people were preparing t o b r i n g the Paschal sacrifice, "There were [certain] m e n w h o were impure.... T h e y came before Moses... and said, ' W h y s h o u l d we be held back f r o m b r i n g i n g the offering o f G - d i n its time?... ' Moses b r o u g h t t h e i r c o m p l a i n t before G - d and H e granted t h e m — and likewise any Jew i n a similar s i t u a t i o n i n subsequent times — a second o p p o r t u n i t y t o offer the Paschal sacrifice. T h i s shows us the importance o f m a k i n g demands o f G - d . W h e n a Jew feels a sincere s p i r i t u a l desire, he s h o u l d insist t o be given an o p p o r t u n i t y for this desire t o be expressed. T h i s concept applies today for every one o f us. W e all lack

Mashiach. T h i s is n o t just a small matter, b u t something that affects every element o f our lives. W i t h a sincere and positive stubbornness, we s h o u l d persist i n our calls for the R e d e m p t i o n , asking and

demanding o f G - d t o end our exile.

A large fish was caught by the Count's servants. Gasping for breath, the fish took some comfort i n the words he overheard: "What a beauty! The Count will be so happy. After all, the Count loves fish." Although he suffered all the way to the castle, the fish consoled himself in the expectation o f better things to come, for everyone who saw h i m exclaimed: "The c o u n t will be so happy. He really loves fish." T o his surprise, however, when they reached the castle, instead o f being placed i n a lagoon or, at the very least, i n a large tank, he was brought to the kitchen. There again, he heard the people exclaim: "The c o u n t will be so happy. He really loves fish." Realizing his fate, the fish cried out to the butcher who had raised his knife over his head: "The c o u n t does not love fish. H e is not thinking about me at all. He loves himself!" Often, when we speak o f "loving another person," what we are really loving is what we can get out o f that person or how loving the person makes us feel good. This story serves as a good introduction to Lag BaOmer, one o f Judaism's days o f festive celebration. One o f the reasons we celebrate i t is that on this day, a plague that killed thousands o f Rabbi Akiva's students ended. What was the reason for that plague? Because, our Sages explain, Rabbi Akiva's students d i d not show respect for one another. That explanation has raised many questions. Rabbi Akiva placed great emphasis on sharing and unity. I t was he who taught: "'Love your fellowman as yourself is a great general principle in the Torah." H o w then could his students depart from their master's path and fail to show one another respect? The answer is that really loving someone means going beyond oneself, not relating to that person for what you can get out o f him or her, but for that person's sake. Even w i t h the best intentions — and we can be sure that Rabbi Akiva's students had the best intentions — our self-

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203

interest can get i n our way. Quite possibly, we will fail to show a person — even one whom we are trying to love — proper respect and consideration.

Lag BaOmer
Lag BaOmer also commemorates the passing o f Rabbi S h i m o n Bar

Y o c h a i , one o f the foremost sages o f the Talmud and author o f the Zohar, the p r i m a r y text o f the Kabbalah. R a b b i S h i m o n perceived distinct, self-contained legal aspect (the Talmud) (the Zohar), these t w o areas o f knowledge n o t as

disciplines, b u t as one composite u n i t . T h e serves as the body and the mystical element

the soul, o f one integrated T o r a h . recognized,

T h i s u n i t y w i t h i n the T o r a h , w h i c h R a b b i S h i m o n

enabled h i m t o perceive the D i v i n e u n i t y w i t h i n our material w o r l d , and moreover, to see this u n i t y expressed even i n the material

dimensions o f his life. On Lag BaOmer i t is customary for y o u n g yeshivah students t o

leave the halls o f study and go o u t t o play i n the fields. T h e i n t e n t o f this c u s t o m is obviously n o t t o m a r k Rabbi Shimon's yahrzeit by t a k i n g a vacation f r o m the study o f T o r a h , b u t rather, t o b r i n g the yeshivah o u t i n t o the fields. R a b b i S h i m o n was able t o unite the deepest mystical elements o f the T o r a h w i t h the natural elements o f the w o r l d . I n e m u l a t i o n o f h i m , children w i l l often go out t o play i n the fields, extending the

atmosphere o f the yeshivah i n t o areas seemingly beyond the usual sphere o f T o r a h study.

Looking to the Horizon
W h e n R a b b i S h i m o n Bar Y o c h a i completed the Zohar, the fundamental text o f Jewish m y s t i c i s m , he was t o l d f r o m heaven: " W i t h this text o f yours, the Jewish people w i l l leave exile w i t h mercy." T h e r e is a cause and effect relationship here. As people appreciate the mystic t r u t h s taught by the Zohar, they w i l l understand the G - d l y nature o f their o w n souls and the souls o f the people around t h e m . T h e y w i l l comprehend

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

how

every

element

o f existence

expresses

a different

aspect

of

G-dliness and h o w every event that occurs is a manifestation o f H i s providence. When people begin thinking and living according to these

insights, the society that they produce w i l l reflect the prophecies o f knowledge, peace, and unity that accompany the era of the

R e d e m p t i o n . T h e R e d e m p t i o n w i l l n o t merely be an abstract ideal; i t w i l l be a m o t i f that r i p p l e by ripple makes its way i n t o the fabric o f our lives.

Many living i n c r o w n Heights remember the day well. 770, Lubavitch W o r l d Headquarters, was packed to the gills. But most o f the people there were not adults. They were children o f all ages. I t was Shavuos, the anniversary o f the giving o f the Torah. N o w i t is not at all unusual for children to come to shul. O n the contrary, one o f the more attractive things about living i n a chassidic community is that almost everyone comes to shul on the holidays. But this holiday was different. Everyone, literally everyone, was there. There were infants alongside elderly men who might ordinarily pray at home. What had happened? A few days previously, the Rebbe had held a surprise gathering and suggested a new initiative: that Jews recreate the Sinai experience. Every Jew — man, woman, and child — was present when G-d pronounced the T e n commandments. Our Rabbis relate that i f even one Jew was missing, the Torah would not have been given. The Rebbe had suggested that we renew our acceptance of the Torah by simulating, at least i n microcosm, that experience. Let everyone gather i n the synagogues to hear the reading o f the T e n Commandments on the holiday. I n particular, the Rebbe placed an emphasis on the participation o f the children. He cited the Midrash that relates that before G-d gave the Torah, He asked for guarantors. Our people made several offers: the Patriarchs, the prophets, and others, but G-d refused. A n d then our people said: "Our children will be our guarantors." G-d accepted this proposition and gave the Torah. "Therefore," the Rebbe explained, "our children should feature prominently i n our commemoration o f the Sinai experience." A n d they did. Can you imagine a synagogue filled with literally hundreds o f babies and children o f varying ages? The din was awesome. But for the reading o f the T e n Commandments, they quieted. As the reader read that passage, his voice could be heard throughout the shul.

205

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KEEPING I N TOUCH

This took place decades ago, i n 5739 (1979). Every year afterwards, not only in 770, but in communities throughout the world, the experience is repeated. I t allows you to appreciate how the giving o f the Torah is not just a story o f the past, but a present-day occurrence.

Shavuos Today
T h e Midrash relates that G - d chose M t . Sinai for the giving o f the T o r a h because i t was "the smallest o f all m o u n t a i n s , " emphasizing the importance o f h u m i l i t y . I f so, however, one m i g h t ask: W h y d i d n ' t G - d give the T o r a h o n a p l a i n or i n a valley? I m p l i e d is that the choice o f a m o u n t a i n indicates the need for a certain degree o f self-esteem. F o r b o t h these qualities — h u m i l i t y and self-esteem — are necessary for our acquisition o f T o r a h . A n i n d i v i d u a l w h o is beset w i t h egotism cannot connect w i t h G - d . As the Talmud states, " [ W i t h regard t o ] any person w h o possesses

haughtiness o f spirit, the H o l y O n e , blessed be H e , declares, ' I and he cannot b o t h d w e l l i n the w o r l d . ' " I n our daily prayers, we express the l i n k between h u m i l i t y and T o r a h study by requesting i n direct succes¬ sion, " L e t m y soul be as dust t o all; open m y heart t o Y o u r T o r a h . " Nevertheless, h u m i l i t y alone is insufficient for the acquisition o f T o r a h . A person w h o lacks strength o f character and self-esteem w i l l be unable t o overcome the many obstacles that can obstruct his way t o the observance o f the T o r a h . H u m i l i t y and p r i d e need n o t be m u t u a l l y exclusive. Pride and selfesteem do n o t always stem f r o m self-concern, nor are they always the result o f an individual's perception o f his personal virtues. A positive self-image and feelings o f self-esteem f l o w naturally f r o m a healthy o u t l o o k o n life. N o one needs a reason t o feel g o o d about himself. T h e very fact that he exists and that G - d created h i m is reason enough for one t o experience self-worth. These feelings are enhanced by our awareness o f the connection t o G-d we we are able t o establish t h r o u g h the T o r a h . T h e knowledge that can f u l f i l l G-d's w i l l t h r o u g h the observance o f mitzvos is the

greatest possible source o f personal strength.

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207

F r o m this perspective, the qualities o f h u m i l i t y and p r i d e may be seen as complementary. H u m i l i t y encourages the development o f an ever deeper connection t o G - d , w h i c h , i n t u r n , increases the abovedescribed mode o f self-esteem. T h e feeling o f p r i d e produced by a connection t o G - d is more powerful than the feeling generated by the appreciation o f one's

positive virtues. Self-centered p r i d e is l i m i t e d by the f i n i t e scope o f one's qualities and can be dampened by a formidable i n d i v i d u a l or challenge. T h e personal strength derived f r o m a c o m m i t m e n t t o f u l f i l l G-d's w i l l , by contrast, is reinforced by G-d's i n f i n i t y . N o obstacle is able t o stand i n its way.

Looking to the Horizon
Shavuos, the 6 t h o f Sivan, also shares a connection t o the c u l m i n a t i o n o f the initiative begun at the giving o f the T o r a h : the era o f the Re¬ demption. O u r Rabbis compare the giving o f the T o r a h t o the forging o f the marriage relationship between G - d and the Jewish people. T h e era o f the Redemption, they explain, serves as the consummation o f that b o n d . T h i s process leading f r o m Sinai t o r e d e m p t i o n also relates t o t w o significant events i n our n a t i o n a l h i s t o r y that occurred o n the 6
t h

of

Sivan: the passing o f K i n g D a v i d and the passing o f the Baal Shem Tov, the founder o f the chassidic movement. T h e Jewish m y s t i c

t r a d i t i o n teaches us that the t o t a l i t y o f a person's D i v i n e service is revealed o n the day o f his passing. T h u s the fact that K i n g D a v i d and the Baal Shem T o v passed away o n Shavuos implies that the s p i r i t u a l c o n t r i b u t i o n s they made share an integral b o n d w i t h the theme o f that day. K i n g D a v i d represents the epitome o f Jewish monarchy. T h i s attribute will reach consummate expression in the era of the

R e d e m p t i o n when Mashiach w i l l restore monarchy t o Israel. The Baal Shem Tov initiated the widespread dispersion of

s p i r i t u a l knowledge. H i s teachings represent a foretaste o f the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n when "the occupation o f the entire w o r l d w i l l be solely t o k n o w G - d . "

Every year, on Tishah BeAv, the anniversary o f the destruction o f our H o l y Temple i n Jerusalem, Reb Avraham, the son o f the Maggid o f Mezritch, would sit for the entire day bent over, w i t h his head between his hands, mourning for our people's exile. Every so often, he would raise his head and ask those around him: "Has he come? Is he here yet?" He was awaiting the arrival of Mashiach, for he was convinced that Tishah BeAv could not pass without his coming. We may not have the depth o f spiritual feeling possessed by Reb Avraham, but both o f these feelings, sadness over the Temple's destruction and the anxious expectation of Mashiach's coming, are relevant to each o f us.

The Three Weeks
There are three weeks between the fast o f the 1 7 t h o f T a m m u z , w h i c h recalls the destruction o f the walls o f Jerusalem and the capture o f the city, and Tishah BeAv, w h i c h commemorates the destruction o f the

Temple. These three weeks are times o f m o u r n i n g ; we d o n ' t conduct weddings or cut our hair. F o r our Sages t e l l us that whoever does n o t witness the c o n s t r u c t i o n o f the T e m p l e should feel as i f i t was

destroyed i n his lifetime. Therefore, d u r i n g these three weeks, we take stock o f the faults that led t o the destruction o f the T e m p l e , and t r y t o eradicate t h e m f r o m our o w n conduct. But these aren't merely somber the times. Quite o f the the contrary, that

although we commemorate

destruction

Temple,

concern is forward oriented — we are l o o k i n g forward t o i t being rebuilt. O u r recollection o f its destruction has that purpose i n m i n d . F o r this reason i t is desirable t o spend these weeks studying the laws o f b u i l d i n g the T e m p l e . T h e study o f these laws serves as a p o w e r f u l catalyst, leading t o the t i m e when they w i l l actually be applied. Indeed, the prophet Ezekiel refers t o the study o f the laws o f the Temple's c o n s t r u c t i o n as " b u i l d i n g G-d's house."

208

T H E THREE WEEKS

209

Looking to the Horizon
A l t h o u g h the conquerors o f Jerusalem — the Babylonians and the

Romans — carried away many o f the T e m p l e utensils, they were n o t able t o take possession o f its m o s t sacred vessel. T h e H o l y A r k — i n w h i c h the T e n c o m m a n d m e n t s were placed and o n w h i c h G-d's

presence rested — was n o t taken i n t o captivity. M a n y years before the d e s t r u c t i o n o f the F i r s t T e m p l e , Josiah, the last o f Jerusalem's righteous kings, h i d the ark i n a mazelike system o f chambers and vaults that K i n g S o l o m o n had constructed under the T e m p l e b u i l d i n g . T h e ark is s t i l l b u r i e d there, beneath the site o f the H o l y o f H o l i e s . W h e n Mashiach comes, i t w i l l surface. I t follows that there are t w o places for the H o l y A r k : one i n the H o l y o f H o l i e s , where i t is openly revealed, and another, concealed i n the mazelike vaults w i t h i n the T e m p l e M o u n t . Each one o f us has a Sanctuary i n m i c r o c o s m i n his heart, a place where G-d's presence rests. T h e r e are times when the G-dliness i n our hearts shines openly; our personal H o l y o f H o l i e s is revealed. O n other occasions, that G-dliness is hidden, b u r i e d i n mazelike vaults. But even when hidden, i t is n o t captured. L i k e the H o l y A r k o n the

T e m p l e M o u n t , i t is w a i t i n g anxiously t o be revealed. This is the essence o f Mashiach's coming — that the Divine

p o t e n t i a l , w h i c h we and every element o f existence possess, w i l l shine i n overt revelation.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman o f Liadi, the founder o f the Chabad movement, describes the intensification o f the bond between G-d and the Jewish people i n the month o f Elul w i t h the following parable: Before a king enters his city, its inhabitants go out to greet h i m i n the field. A t that time, anyone who so desires is granted permission [and can] approach h i m and greet him. He receives them all pleasantly and shows a smiling countenance to all. O n Rosh HaShanah and Y o m Kippur the King is i n His palace, where G-d reveals Himself i n all His majesty. Only select individuals can approach H i m , and our approach must be w i t h all the protocol and awe due the King o f kings. During Elul, however, the King is i n the field; G-d is accessible to all o f us. H e relates to us generously, opening Himself to us within the framework of "the field," our worldly framework o f reference.

The Month of Elul
F r o m the beginning o f the m o n t h o f E l u l , we add Psalm 2 7 t o our daily prayers. T h i s prayer tells us m u c h about the D i v i n e service associated w i t h this special m o n t h . I n this psalm is the verse: " O n Y o u r behalf, m y heart says: 'Seek M y countenance.'" ‫פני‬, translated as " M y countenance," can also mean " M y inner d i m e n s i o n . " E l u l is a m o n t h when our hearts seek o u t G-d's inner dimension. c e r t a i n l y , i t is a m o n t h i n w h i c h we intensify our devotion t o the o u t w a r d expressions o f Jewish practice: prayer, T o r a h study, and

charity. B u t these activities are reflections o f a deeper, inner t h r u s t . O u r hearts are t e l l i n g us that there is something more i n life, that we have an o p p o r t u n i t y t o establish a b o n d w i t h G-d's inner dimensions. T h e r e are those w h o focus o n the mechanics o f the m o n t h — what sins they m u s t repent for and what degree o f regret they m u s t manifest. Others penetrate to the spiritual core and focus on

developing i n t i m a c y w i t h G - d .

210

T H E M O N T H OF ELUL

211

T h i s latter concept is h i n t e d i n the very name E l u l (‫ )אלול‬w h i c h is interpreted by our Sages as an acronym for the phrase, ‫א נ י ל ד ו ד י ודודי לי‬ ( " I am m y Beloved's and m y Beloved is m i n e " ) . E l u l is the m o n t h wherein the love relationship between G - d and the Jewish people is heightened. A n d i t is we w h o must take the initiative i n causing this intensification o f feeling.

Looking to the Horizon
E l u l is also an acronym for the phrase, [ ‫ א ת ה ש י ר ה ה ז א ת‬. . . ‫] א ז ישיר מ ש ה‬ ‫ [ " — א ש י ר ה ל ה ׳ ו י א מ ר ו ל א מ ר‬T h e n M o s h e and the C h i l d r e n o f Israel sang this song] t o G - d and they spoke, saying, ' I shall sing....'" ( H e r e , however, the order o f the words m u s t be rearranged.) O u r Sages

explain that this verse uses the future tense, i n allusion t o the u l t i m a t e revelation t o be realized d u r i n g the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n w i t h the Resurrection o f the Dead, at w h i c h t i m e G-d's essence w i l l be revealed t h r o u g h o u t the w o r l d . T h e connection t o G - d that reflects r e d e m p t i o n is one i n w h i c h a person connects w i t h his essential source — the level at w h i c h "Israel and the H o l y One, blessed be H e , are one." H e does n o t go t h r o u g h a process o f intellectual s t o c k t a k i n g w h i c h results i n the decision t o do good; he does n o t t h i n k about the matter at all. H i s i n d i v i d u a l w i l l and i d e n t i t y have undergone a complete metamorphosis, and have become u t t e r l y unified w i t h G - d . M a n k i n d as a whole w i l l experience this level o f connection i n the era o f the R e d e m p t i o n , about w h i c h i t is prophesied: " I w i l l remove the s p i r i t o f i m p u r i t y f r o m the w o r l d . " A t that time, the G-dliness w h i c h permeates the w o r l d w i l l be revealed, as i t is stated: " T h e w o r l d w i l l be f i l l e d w i t h the knowledge o f G - d like the waters that cover the ocean bed." I n this setting o f manifest G-dliness, man's w i l l shall be identified entirely w i t h that o f his c r e a t o r . May we all be blessed w i t h a year o f apparent and revealed

goodness, i n c l u d i n g the u l t i m a t e blessing, the c o m i n g o f Mashiach. ‫לשנה ט ו ב ה ת כ ת ב ו ת ח ת ם בגשמיות וברוחניות גם יחד‬

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