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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, the 103rd issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
This Shabbat we bless the new month of Nissan, therefore this week's issue focuses on Nissan.
It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind
18 Adar II, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah portion, Shemini, opens with a description of the eighth and final day of the consecration of the Sanctuary, the day when the Divine Presence first rested therein. The name of the Torah portion--Shemini--means "eight" and alludes to the special significance held by the number eight. Eight symbolizes that which is above the laws of nature and the boundaries of our physical world. It stands for that aspect of G-dliness that exists even beyond the realm of our human powers of description.
One would think that the contents of so lofty a section of the Torah would deal with correspondingly lofty subject matter--philosophy, belief in G-d, metaphysics--but we find that Shemini delineates the laws between kosher and non-kosher animals. Why such a mundane subject for a Torah portion that is supposed to express so high a level of holiness?
In many instances, a fine line exists between that which is kosher and that which is forbidden. A kosher animal whose windpipe and esophagus are only partially severed when slaughtered is not fit for consumption. A difference of only a fraction of a centimeter can determine whether or not the flesh of the animal is kosher or not, as Jewish law prescribes that both windpipe and trachea be more than half severed with one movement of the knife.
In our own lives, we also occasionally must make decisions that are as fine as a hair's breadth. Choosing between good and evil when the choices are obvious and blatant is much easier than making a decision between two extremely fine points. For such decision-making, extra help from Above is necessary.
The Evil Inclination sometimes disguises itself in a "robe of holiness." It discourages a person from performing a mitzvah through guile and doubt, presenting all sorts of seemingly plausible and erudite excuses. A person may become confused when the two paths of action before him both seem to have merit. The Evil Inclination can even make a sin appear to be an actual mitzvah.
How are we to overcome the wiles and cunning of the Evil Inclination? How can we be sure that the decisions we make are the right ones? By learning the lesson that is taught in Shemini.
Man alone, bound as he is by the laws of nature and the limitations of the human intellect, cannot always overcome his Evil Inclination. But when a person gives himself over to G-d, who is not bound by any natural law and is infinite, and asks His help to "distinguish between the unclean and the clean," one can indeed conquer the Evil Inclination and avoid falling into its net.
A Jew's connection to G-d is so strong that it cannot be split asunder by any power on earth. When a Jew does a mitzvah--mitzvah comes from the Hebrew word for binding together and connecting--he ties himself to G-d with a supernatural strength. Armed with this power, we can see through the mask of the Evil Inclination when we are presented with even the finest points of contention.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"
The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.
Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.
In this week's Torah portion, Shemini, we aren't just told what constitutes a kosher animal--e.g., split hooves and chewing its cud--we also learn that these animals and birds are specifically mentioned in the Torah.
Although thousands of years have passed since the Torah was given, and many new species of animal have been "discovered" by man since then, not one animal or bird has been found possessing the kosher characteristics besides those enumerated in our Torah portion.
There was a time when people used to brush aside the laws of keeping kosher as outdated, food storage and production being much more sanitary than in former years. But the G-d-given commandment to keep kosher was never dependent upon sanitary conditions. At one period in history, the extra cleanliness of kosher food might have been an added benefit of observing this important mitzvah, but it was never the reason for keeping kosher.
In fact, keeping kosher is in the category of mitzvot known as chukim--decrees. We are given no explanation by the Torah or our rabbis as to why we were given these "decrees." But, since our Creator knows what's best for us--which oils, fluids, fuels, etc. make the mechanics of our soul run the smoothest--it is prudent and wise to follow His operating instructions assiduously.
Give keeping kosher a chance. You might want to start out slowly, but once you get your engine revved up, you won't be able to imagine any other way to keep your soul fine-tuned.
To change a non-kosher home to kosher is, admittedly, a major undertaking. Any worthwhile change is bound to be difficult. In recognition of this fact, Chabad-Lubavitch has formed a Kashrut Committee to assist anyone sincerely interested in converting theirs to a kosher kitchen.
For more information, please call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. For a listing of the Centers in your area, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
"And just as the Redemption was brought about in the days of Mordechai and Esther (through the meticulous observance of Kashrut), so too, the Redemption will be brought about in our days through the meticulous observance of Kashrut." (The Midrash)
This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevorchim, the Shabbat before the new month. Literally translated, it means a Shabbat in which we bless the upcoming month. This Shabbat Mevorchim is special because it is the Shabbat before the month of Nissan, which is often referred to as "the month of Redemption."
On the surface, calling Nissan the month of Redemption is explained by the fact that Nissan is the month in which we celebrate Passover, the holiday which commemorates the Jews' redemption from Egyptian slavery. But the month of Nissan is also connected to the Final Redemption, as our Sages say, "In Nissan, our people were redeemed, and in Nissan, they will be redeemed in the future."
This Shabbat represents the transition from the month of Adar to the month of Nissan. Both months contain within them commemorations of miraculous events. In Adar we celebrate the downfall of Haman and the victory of the Jewish people, and in Nissan we celebrate our freedom from slavery.
The difference between the events is that the miracles of Purim occurred within the natural order of the world, while the miracles of Passover transcended the natural order. The story of Purim can be traced through a natural sequence of events. But by cloaking miracles in the natural order of the world, we are actually elevating the natural order.
That is our true purpose on this earth, to elevate the physical to the spiritual and have G-dliness revealed on this plane.
Another concept that the two months have in common is redemption. Adar celebrates redemption from Haman's wicked decree, and Nissan celebrates the redemption from Egypt. Shabbat is also a kind of redemption, a weekly redemption from mundane cares and worries to a place of light, joy, song and Torah-study.
May all of these redemption's be stepping-stones to our complete, final, and ultimate Redemption, the coming of Moshiach.
Wednesday, Nissan 2 (April 9), is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber (1860-1920), the fifth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, known as the Rebbe Rashab.
The Rebbe Rashab lived in the town of Lubavitch in White Russia, which had been the center of the Chabad movement. However, in 1915 the Rebbe and his chasidim were forced to leave the town of Lubavitch as the battles of World War I were approaching. They settled in the town of Rostov, which seemed to be a safe distance from the fighting. But in 1920, the Communists tightened their control over Rostov. This, however, did not discourage the Rebbe Rashab from continuing with his work of inspiring and encouraging his fellow Jews in all areas of Torah and mitzvot.
Only hours before his passing, the Rebbe Rashab told his chasidim, "I am going to heaven, but my writings I am leaving with you." Although he wouldn't be physically present, the chasidim could connect to him through his teachings.
There is a beautiful story concerning the Rebbe Rashab, illustrating the high esteem in which he held every Jew.
One of the Rebbe Rashab's followers, Reb Monye Monissohn, was a wealthy gem dealer. Once, when they were sitting together, the Rebbe spoke very highly about some simple, unlearned Jews.
"Why do you make such a fuss about them?" Reb Monye asked the Rebbe.
"Each one of them has many special and noble qualities," explained the Rebbe.
"I can't see any of these qualities," said Reb Monye.
The Rebbe remained silent. A while later, he asked Reb Monye if he had brought his package of diamonds with him. Indeed, Reb Monye had brought the diamonds, but asked the Rebbe if he could display them later, when they could be seen to their best advantage.
Later, Reb Monye took the Rebbe into a different room and arranged the diamonds for him to see. Reb Monye pointed to one gem in particular, extolling its beautiful color and quality.
"I can't see anything special in it," the Rebbe said.
"That is because you have to be a "maven" to know how to look at diamonds!" explained Reb Monye.
"Every Jew, too, is something beautiful and extra-ordinary," the Rebbe said. "But you have to be a "maven" to know how to look at him."
JEWISH WOMEN AND GIRLS LIGHT SHABBAT CANDLES
* For local candle lighting times, consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch
Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
* For a free candle lighting kit, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
* For a listing of the Centers in your area, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
Friday, April 4, Erev Shabbat Parshat Shemini:
Saturday, April 5, Shabbat Parshat Shemini:
*. The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.
**. Rosh Chodesh Nissan is on Tuesday, April 8.
Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind
Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing
"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.
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