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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 83rd issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
In this week's issue, we focus on Tes Kislev, the 9th day of Kislev.
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
25 Cheshvan, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah portion, Toldot, begins with the words, "These are the generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac." What is the meaning of the repetition in this verse?
By stating "the son of Abraham" and "Abraham begot Isaac"--two ways of expressing the same idea--the Torah offers us the reason for "the generations of Isaac": The generations of Isaac are the consequence of Abraham having begotten Isaac.
Abraham, as the Torah relates, was "one"--the only Jew in the entire world. The whole world stood in opposition to Abraham, as the name Ivri--"Hebrew" (from the word eiver--"side") implies. The entire world was on one side and Abraham on the other. Nonetheless, Abraham persisted in his mission to make G-d's Name known, as it states, "And he called there in the name of the L-rd, G-d of the world."
This approach was passed on to Abraham's son Isaac as an inheritance, thereby paving the way for the possibility of future "generations of Isaac"--both in the spiritual sense (according to the explanation of our Sages that the primary "descendants" of the righteous are their Torah, mitzvot and good deeds) and the physical sense, actual offspring.
This contains a lesson for every Jew in his daily life. When a Jew takes a look at the world he is apt to become discouraged. Evil people seem to prosper and flourish, and countless obstacles stand in the way of his service of G-d. For most of the day he must involve himself in mundane affairs; it is an ongoing struggle to bring holiness into his life. The Jew is liable to wonder where he will get the strength to observe the commandments and perform good deeds. How can he withstand the many trials that he must endure?
The answer is contained in this week's Torah portion.
"The deeds of the forefathers are a sign for their children"--and not only a sign or indication of how they should conduct themselves, but an infusion of strength. "Abraham begot Isaac" -- Abraham was the rock from which Isaac was hewn, and the source of strength for all Jews. Just as Abraham did not flinch at taking on the entire world, spreading the belief in one G-d and the knowledge that "there is none but Him," so too must every single one of Abraham's descendants take courage in his ability to overcome all hindrances and impediments that come his way.
By striving to fulfill "the generations of Isaac" in the spiritual sense, i.e., Torah, mitzvot and good deeds, we thereby merit to become "the generations of Isaac" in the literal sense as well, vanquishing the enemies of G-d and His Torah in preparation for the conquest of the holy land, at the hands of Moshiach.
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.
Wednesday, the ninth of Kislev (Nov. 20), marks the birthday and, 54 years later, the passing, of Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch, known as the Mitteler Rebbe.
About the Mitteler Rebbe it was said that he was so immersed in Chasidus that "if his finger would have been cut, it would have bled Chasidus instead of blood!"
When the Mitteler Rebbe was arrested by the Czarist government on slanderous charges (he was later released on the 10th of Kislev), even the governmental doctor, who was a prominent specialist, acknowledged that Chasidus was the Mitteler Rebbe's very essence and life. The doctor told the Russian authorities that they must allow the Mitteler Rebbe to give talks on Chasidus to his chasidim, explaining, "Just as you provide food for prisoners to ensure their existence, so, too, must you allow him to teach Chasidus. His very life depends on it."
The authorities saw that this was true when, while imprisoned, the Mitteler Rebbe's health waned. They agreed to let fifty chasidim enter his prison room twice weekly to listen to a chasidic discourse.
But the Mitteler Rebbe was not only concerned about the spiritual life of his fellow Jews; he also worked to better their situation materially as well. He encouraged thousands of Jews, both his chasidim and others, to settle on the land as farmers so that they would not have to be at the mercy of the anti-Semitic landowners or peasants. He established twenty-two Jewish farm settlements on land near the town of Cherson, which he had convinced the government to give for this purpose. Many of his chasidim, however, were reluctant to move so far away from their Rebbe. Thus, the Mitteler Rebbe promised to go to the trouble of travelling to them so he could teach Chasidus to them there.
The Rebbe spoke numerous times of the importance of celebrating the ninth and tenth of Kislev in a fitting manner, with gatherings that will foster brotherhood and lead to good resolutions. May such gatherings this year be in Jerusalem, with the Rebbe and all of his predecessors presiding.
For a Tes/Yud Kislev gathering in your area, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Money is a funny thing. It is part and parcel of our day-to-day living. Yet, most people would sooner tell you their age or weight than how much they have in their bank account. Money is a very personal matter; the way we feel about it, the way we spend it, the way we earn it, differs from person to person.
It's not surprising that the commandment to give of one's money to tzedakah--charity--is considered a very great mitzvah indeed. So great, in fact, that throughout the Jerusalem Talmud it is called simply, "the commandment."
Giving charity is the core of the mitzvot of action, even surpassing them all, because a person invests his entire self--feelings, mind, body--to acquire money. So when you give tzedakah, it is not only the hand that writes out the check or puts the coin in the pushka that is involved; your entire body is doing a mitzvah as well.
Even if you didn't have to work hard to get the money--let's say you just happened upon an extra thousand or two--since it could have been used on yourself (for life's necessities or otherwise), giving part of this "found" money to charity is also of great merit.
Jewish teachings so strongly emphasize the virtues of charity that they say "It balances all the other commandments." And it also has the power to "tip the scales." Just imagine! There's this big scale with our mitzvot on one side, perfectly balanced or not tipping in exactly the direction we would like, and we add a check, or some cash on the side of mitzvot and good deeds and, voila, the scale tips effortlessly to that side!
Whose money is it, anyway? Jewish teachings explain that when a person gives charity, he is acting as the hand of G-d. As everything truly belongs to G-d, we are but conduits for dispensing G-d's bounty and sustenance. So we should feel humbled that G-d has entrusted us with this job of giving away His money. By the way, even one who is on the receiving end is supposed to give charity, even if only a few pennies. We needn't think that only the multibillionaires who can afford to have buildings named after them are required to give charity. Every single one of us, great or small, rich or poor, is expected to participate in this mitzvah.
There's another benefit to consider concerning charity. The Talmud states that charity brings the Redemption nearer. In addition, it states that the Jewish people will be redeemed through giving charity. So let's start giving, today. Figure out what you feel comfortable giving and then give a little more.
Imagine brushing your teeth once a year for three days straight, or once a week for an hour, rather than the prescribed minimum of twice daily.
The benefits of tooth brushing would certainly be lost on such a regime, and it might even be detrimental to the gums or other tissue (let alone your arm muscles and social life if you opted for the annual approach).
Or contemplate calculating your monthly requirements of vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc., and consuming them on the first Tuesday of each month. Without even considering the possible toxicity of ingested vitamins and minerals in such large quantities, would there be any nutritional gain in such an approach?
Even the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," whether it bears any truth, would certainly fail to keep the doctor away--and probably necessitate a trip to the doctor--if one ate seven apples once a week.
Just as making hygiene, a balanced diet, or exercise a part of our daily schedule is touted by experts far and wide, so too is the importance of giving tzedakah--charity--daily (except Shabbat and holidays) commended by Judaism.
Jewish teachings are replete with references, inferences, recommendations and requirements concerning charity. From Maimonides' well-known ladder of tzedakah-giving (giving begrudgingly is the lowest level; helping a person get a job so he needn't require tzedakah is right there at the top) to the plethora of inspiring stories about giving tzedakah, to the detailed and exacting laws about how much tzedakah to give, we find tzedakah very much a part of the fabric of Jewish life.
Writing out a check to a Jewish institution yearly is a great deed. Giving donations to every organization that make a request is also exemplary. And if the first or second option mentioned above were to equal 10% of one's income (the amount we are required by Jewish law to give to charity annually) we would be fulfilling the "letter of the law." We would also be activating the talmudic teachings that "charity saves from death" and "great is charity for it brings the Redemption closer."
Yet, like hygiene, nutrition, exercise, or any other number of daily activities--the full benefit of which are felt when performed on a daily basis--tzedakah, too, should be performed daily.
One of the unique benefits of giving charity is that the act of giving reminds us that we are, thank G-d, in the enviable position of being able to give rather than receive, i.e., there are others less fortunate than us. Giving tzedakah can help sensitize us to the needs of others and helps strengthen the trait of loving-kindness inherent in every Jew.
A news item citing a recent study noted that in the U.S., it is the poor who give the most to charity! Those families who earn less than $10,000 per year give a much higher percentage of their income than people who earn $20,000, $50,000, $200,000, or even millions annually! It would seem that those who have not are more sympathetic to the plight of others in a similar or even more desperate situation.
Making tzedakah part of our daily routine has tremendous benefits. A few coins a day in a tzedakah box of your choice (in addition to those more sizable donations) is a great way to stay spiritually fit.
The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." Hence, we present suggestions from the Rebbe's talks of what we can do to complete the Rebbe's work of bringing the Redemption.
Awaken Your Core This Month:
"Awakening the core of our being must be reflected in a concern for the fundamental existence of every Jew. This should be expressed in efforts to provide our fellow Jews with the necessities required to celebrate the holidays of the month of Kislev [the 'Chasidic New Year' on the 19th of Kislev and Chanukah] with happiness and joy. Similarly, they should have the means to fulfill the custom that the Rebbes followed of giving Chanukah gelt to the members of their household."
(1 Kislev, 5752/1991)
Simply stated, this means that as we think about our own family's holiday celebrations this month, we should make sure to help provide for other, less fortunate people in the greater Jewish family.
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, Nov. 15, Erev Shabbat Parshat Toldot:
Light Shabbat Candles,* by 4:20 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 16, Shabbat Parshat Toldot:
Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:22 p.m.
*. 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
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