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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, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
This week's issue focuses on Yud-Beis Tamuz, the 12th day of Tamuz, Thursday, July 17.
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
28 Sivan, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah portion, Chukat, begins with the laws of the red heifer, by which a person was cleansed of ritual defilement. Maimonides, in his summary of these laws, includes an interesting historical note on this practice:
"There have been a total of 9 red heifers since the time this mitzvah was given until the destruction of the Second Holy Temple. The first was rendered by Moses, the second by Ezra the Scribe, and seven more between the time of Ezra and the destruction. The tenth red heifer will be rendered by King Moshiach, may he be speedily revealed, amen, may it be Your will."
These last few words seem out of place. Why did Maimonides, the greatest codifier of Jewish law, include a prayer for Moshiach to be revealed in the middle of a legal work? Every word Maimonides used is measured and exact. Indeed, many practical implications are learned from his choice of language. Why then, did Maimonides include this supplication in his discussion of these laws?
Maimonides' intent could not have been solely to teach us the importance of praying for Moshiach, for he would certainly have deemed it more appropriate to include this prayer in the section of his work dealing with the laws of Moshiach, and not in a section in which Moshiach is mentioned only in passing.
Rather, the inclusion of these words, inserted after only a passing reference to Moshiach, serve to underscore that the subject of Redemption must evoke a profound longing in every Jew, culminating in the heartfelt plea--"May he be speedily revealed, amen, may it be Your will!"
On the belief in Moshiach, Maimonides writes: "He who does not believe in him, or does not await his coming . . . denies . . . the Torah and Moses our teacher." It is not enough to have faith in Moshiach's eventual arrival--a Jew is obligated to actively anticipate his coming. The faith of a person who believes Moshiach will come but does not actually expect him to arrive is lacking.
Just as the belief in Moshiach is perpetual, so too, is the obligation to joyfully anticipate his arrival a perpetual commandment. A Jew must always feel as if Moshiach will arrive at any moment, for indeed, such is the case. Three times a day we pray: "For we hope for Your salvation every day"--all day, every day.
This unquenchable longing for Moshiach stems from our realization that a Jew cannot be complete until the Final Redemption, when the entire world will reach its perfection. Every minute till then, we find ourselves in a state of spiritual deficiency.
The lesson, therefore, to be learned from Maimonides' choice of words is that when a Jew anticipates Moshiach in the proper way, the very mention of the subject must elicit such strong emotion and longing that he will spontaneously cry out: "May he be speedily revealed, amen, may it be Your will."
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.
. . . At this time, in proximity to the anniversary of the geulah--deliverance--of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of saintly memory, from the tyranny of the Soviet regime on the 12th-13th of Tamuz, it behooves us to reflect again on those history-making events and how they relate to every one of us here and now. For, as he indicated in his first letter on the occasion of the first anniversary of his geulah, and as we see it clearly now, his deliverance was more than a personal one; it was a turning point in the survival of Russian Jewry, and is of lasting significance for every Jew everywhere.
This timely reflection should make every one of us all the more deeply appreciative of the blessing of freedom [which enables us] to live a full life of Torah and mitzvot. In addition, it should heighten our awareness of the sacred obligation to do one's utmost to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit, with enthusiasm and love--love of G-d, love of the Torah, and love of our Jewish brethren, which are inseparable.
By his total mesiras nefesh [self-sacrifice], even in the face of overwhelming odds, and by his ultimate triumph, with G-d's help, the Previous Rebbe has shown the way, and, in fact, trodden the path, so that every Jew can follow in his footsteps, with complete assurance that when he is firmly resolved to work for Torah and Yiddishkeit, he will overcome whatever difficulties there may be, and be successful, with G-d's help.
I hope and pray that the inspiration of the Previous Rebbe and the holiday of his Redemption will stimulate you and yours to redouble your efforts in the said direction in the days ahead, which will also widen the channels to receive G-d's blessings for you and yours, in all your needs, both material and spiritual.
The Russian Revolution had come to a close. Communism was the law of the land. Slowly but surely, the promised freedom and equality were disappearing. Rather than a society in which all men lived as brothers, a totalitarian regime emerged. Whoever did not conform was removed.
In addition, the new government tried to stamp out all religion. It undertook the cruelest means to do so. Disappearances and executions abounded. All too quickly, living Judaism became scarce. The penalties for providing Jewish education or for merely living as a Jew were just too frightening. But one man rebelled.
He was the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. The Previous Rebbe set up an underground network spanning thousands of miles. Throughout the length and breadth of Russia, his followers established underground shuls, schools and mikvehs (ritual baths). In the still of the night, in the dark of a cellar, adults and children gathered to learn and share the words of their holy tradition--under the threat of arrest, even of death.
The government soon caught on. They knew that one man was behind it all. As long as the Previous Rebbe was on the scene, they realized that the mighty Russian government would have to wait for its desires to be carried out.
The government started sending spies to the Rebbe's talks to hear what he said. But fearless, in front of these spies, the Previous Rebbe continued to call upon his followers to defy the government, however dangerous it was, and to ensure that Judaism survived.
And his followers listened. Though the dangers were worsening from day to day, they opened new schools, new shuls and new mikvehs.
Eventually the government decided to do away with their opponent. On the night of the 15th of Sivan, 5687/1927, KGB agents called on the Previous Rebbe and led him away. They took him to the most feared jail in the city from which hardly anyone returned. They subjected him to the greatest disgrace and torture, but he continued to defy them.
One day, while in prison, the Previous Rebbe was called in for an interrogation. He refused to reply to his tormentor's liking. The inquisitor took a gun in his hands, played around with it and said: "This little toy has made many people speak."
"Yes," said the Previous Rebbe, "It has made many people speak. That is, people with many gods and but only one world. But for me, who has one G-d and two worlds--this toy is meaningless."
Jews throughout the world prayed for the Previous Rebbe's release. International governments applied great pressure on the Russians. Slowly the Previous Rebbe's sentence was made easier. The death sentence was revoked, and instead came ten years of forced labor. Then, this too was challenged. Eventually, the Previous Rebbe was freed from jail to proceed to a distant town where he would remain in exile for a period of three years.
On the 3rd day of Tamuz, 5687/1927, the Previous Rebbe was exiled to the city of Kostrama. Before leaving to Kostrama, the Previous Rebbe was permitted to stop in his home for a few hours.
The Rebbe then proceeded to the train station where a large group of chasidim awaited him. Before boarding the train, the Rebbe made strong statements to the assemblage, among them:
"This, all nations on earth should know: Only our bodies were put in exile and subservience to kingdoms, but our souls were not driven into exile nor subservience to kingdoms. We must openly proclaim to all, that with regard to that which relates to our religion, Torah, mitzvot and Jewish customs, no one is going to impose his views on us, and no force has the right to subjugate us."
After just a few days in exile, on the 12th of Tamuz, the day of his birthday, the Previous Rebbe was informed that this punishment, too, had been commuted, but being a local holiday, he received his official release papers the next day, on the 13th of Tamuz.
The Previous Rebbe and his followers continued to adhere to Judaism and spread its message far and wide in defiance of the Russian government. To this very day, the underground network that the Previous Rebbe established in Russia still exists, though, thank G-d, now it can finally operate more openly.
About three months later, the Previous Rebbe left Russia a broken man physically, having been tortured in jail. But they were not able to touch him spiritually in the least.
A further stage in the Previous Rebbe's redemption was his coming to America, which brought about an increase in the work of spreading the teachings of Chasidus throughout the world.(1)
And this increase in the spreading of the teachings of Chasidus continues even to this day. It serves to hasten the Redemption, as exemplified by the famous quote of Moshiach to the Baal Shem Tov(2) that Moshiach would come when "your [the Baal Shem Tov's] teachings are spread outward."
1. See "The Ninth Of Adar II" in Living With Moshiach, Vol. 20, and Living With Moshiach, Vol. 100.
2. See Living With Moshiach, Vol. 114.
Thursday, July 17, marks both the birthday of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, and the 70th anniversary of his liberation from Soviet prison and exile. When the Bolshevik revolution succeeded in overthrowing the Czarist regime in 1917, it set about destroying religion. Judaism, and particularly Chabad-Lubavitch, was a prime target. The Previous Rebbe devoted himself to keeping the flame of Judaism alive in Communist Russia.
So powerful was the Previous Rebbe's impact that at one point he was even offered a deal by the Communist government! He would be allowed to continue to support rabbis, ritual slaughterers, etc., and even continue to encourage Jews to attend prayer services on one condition: He had to stop educating the children in the ways of the Torah.
To the Previous Rebbe this was unacceptable, and he refused, saying, "If there are no children there will be no adults..." Without the proper Jewish education for our children, we as a nation, cannot survive. And even when the Previous Rebbe reached the shores of America, he continued to strengthen Jewish life by establishing schools here as well.
The Previous Rebbe showed great courage and determination when it came to preserving the Jewish way of life through Jewish education. He stood up to both Communist oppression and to those here in America who told him that yeshivot couldn't thrive in the new world. His legacy, Chabad-Lubavitch schools the world over, has outlived Soviet Communism and continues to prove those who doubted him wrong.
The Previous Rebbe was a living example of his teachings. His strength and courage were not for his personal needs, but for the spiritual and material needs of the entire Jewish people.
Let us stand strong together, and demand from G-d what we need most, the arrival of our righteous Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption.
* * *
In a letter sent out by the Previous Rebbe on the first anniversary of his release from prison, the Rebbe explained that the 12th of Tamuz is a day of rejoicing for every single Jew:
"It was not myself alone that the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed on the 12th of Tamuz, but also those who love the Torah and observe its commandments, and so, too, all those who bear the name Jew--for the heart of every person of Israel, irrespective of his particular level in the observance of the mitzvot, is perfectly bound with G-d and His Torah. . . .
"This is the day on which the light of the merit of public Torah study banished the misty gloom of calumnies and libels.
"It is fitting that such a day be set aside as a day of gatherings--a day on which people arouse each other to fortify Torah study and the practice of Judaism in every place according to its needs . . . ."
* * *
The Previous Rebbe's redemption from prison is related to the ultimate Redemption through Moshiach and the personal redemption of every single Jew.
How can this be so? The Previous Rebbe was the leader of the Jewish people of his generation. The great commentator Rashi explains: "The leader includes the entire people." Therefore, the redemption of the leader of the generation affects the entire generation.
The Previous Rebbe himself emphasized this point in a letter that he wrote to his chasidim on the 1st anniversary of his release:
"It was not myself alone that the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed on the 12th of Tamuz, but also those who love the Torah and observe its commandments, and so, too, all those who bear the name Jew . . ."
Our Sages have taught that on a person's birthday his mazal--luck, or strength--is stronger than at other times. This is true even after the person's passing. In addition, Judaism also teaches that the spiritual influences and energy that were present on a specific date in Jewish history repeat themselves and return on that same date throughout the ages.
Thus, on the 12th of Tamuz, the birthday and anniversary of deliverance of the Previous Rebbe, all of these additional spiritual powers are in place. Let us hook into them and use this auspicious day for Torah study, additional good deeds and charity, and a special, heartfelt request from each of us to the Al-mighty to bring the Final Redemption immediately.
From the London Daily Telegraph to the Boston Globe and the New York Times, major newspapers have run stories about the political fallout from the birth of a calf. Not just any calf, mind you. The young heifer which is attracting so much attention as it munches on a few blades of grass in a settlement near Haifa, Israel, is completely red.
The various newspaper reports express concern that the appearance of this calf, born around Passover this year, could provoke an international incident.
Why all the fuss? In the Torah portion we read this week, Chukat, we learn how the ashes of just such a rare calf are required to purify one who has come in contact with a dead body.
When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, it was necessary for Jews to undergo such a purification before ascending the Temple Mount to participate in the Temple service. And it will be necessary for the entire Jewish people to undergo this purification before participating in the service of the Third Holy Temple.
In his code of Jewish law, Mishne Torah, Rabbi Moses Maimonides relates that, beginning with Moses, nine red cows were slaughtered at various points through history. The tenth will be offered by Moshiach who will lead the Jewish people to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago.
All excitement aside, it serves to remind us of the important message of the red heifer. The sprinkling of the ashes was necessary for the purification of a Jew who had come in contact with a human corpse. The defilement caused by an encounter with death is symbolic of a Jew's spiritual distance from the Creator and source of all life. The sprinkling of the ashes of the Red Heifer reminds us that a Jew's service of G-d must always be filled with vitality, life and enthusiasm.
Impurity relating to a corpse, which represents the absence of vitality, signifies a situation in which one loses sight of one's bond to G-d, the Source of Life. By contrast the Torah tells us "You, who are attached to G-d your master, are all alive today."
There is a profound link between the precept of the Red Heifer and the Messianic redemption. Mitzvot signify life: Observing the commandments enables one to attach oneself to G-d and draw spiritual vitality from the Source of all life. Sin signifies death: Violating G-d's Will disrupts attachment to the Creator, thus bringing about the "impurity of death." Both the red heifer and the Messianic redemption effect purification. For just as the ashes of the red heifer are used for removing a halachic state of impurity, the Final Redemption with Moshiach will purify the entire Jewish people, from any trace of deficiency in their bond with G-d.
Without doubt, our own spiritual renewal and reconnection will bring even closer the renewal of the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Temple, may we see it happen very soon.
The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." We therefore present from the Rebbe's talks suggestions what we can do to complete his work of bringing the Redemption.
Make Yud-Beis Tamuz Gatherings:
In connection with the 12th of Tamuz, the Rebbe explained that it is customary to organize chasidic gatherings that will inspire people to study and spread the teachings of Chasidus.
The Rebbe also said that "this will generate the potential of the transformation of the Three Weeks [of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple] into a positive period, with the coming of the ultimate Redemption. Even before that Redemption comes, we will merit a succession of Divine miracles. When one Jew will ask another, "What was the last miracle that happened?" he will be unable to answer because the miracles are taking place in such rapid succession. And these miracles will lead to the ultimate miracles, those which accompany the Redemption from exile."
For a 12th of Tamuz gathering in your area, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
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:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
Friday, July 11, Erev Shabbat Parshat Chukat:
Saturday, July 12, Shabbat Parshat Chukat:
3. 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.
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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