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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 89th issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
In this week's issue, our feature presentation focuses on the Rambam, whose yahrtzeit is on Monday, the 20th of Tevet, Dec. 30.
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
5 Tevet, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
With this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we conclude the Book of Genesis. "So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old...and he was put into a coffin in Egypt" is its final verse.
This conclusion to the entire Book is somewhat surprising, in light of the principle that "one should always end on a positive note." Why couldn't Genesis have concluded a few verses back, when we learn that Joseph lived a long life and merited to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Why couldn't the description of Joseph's death have waited until the Book of Exodus?
We must therefore conclude that Joseph's passing is somehow related to the theme of Genesis itself. The primary difference between Genesis and the other four Books of Moses is that Genesis relates the early history of our Forefathers and the twelve tribes--the preparation for our existence as a distinct nation--whereas the other four books contain a narrative of our history as a people.
The Book of Genesis begins with an account of the creation of the world. The Sage, Rabbi Yitzchok, explained that although the Torah should have begun with a practical mitzvah, G-d chose to commence with the Creation to refute the arguments of the Gentiles, who would one day claim that the Jews had stolen the land of Israel from the seven nations who lived there prior to its conquest.
To counter their assertion, the Jews will say, "The entire world belongs to G-d; He created it and divided it as He saw fit. It was His will to give it to them [the seven nations], and it was His will to take it from them and give it to us."
Surely G-d did not change the entire order of His Torah just to supply an answer to the arguments of the Gentiles. The comments of Rabbi Yitzchok must therefore contain a more fundamental teaching for the Jewish people as a whole.
The nations of the world are already cognizant of the Jew's uniqueness and his special mission. Their claim, however, is that precisely because Jews are different, they should limit themselves to the spiritual service of G-d and not tie themselves down to a physical land.
Because Jews are a nation like no other, they have no right to claim ownership of a homeland. To the non-Jew, the spiritual and physical realms are incongruous and incompatible.
"The entire world belongs to G-d," the Jew responds--the worldly as well as the spiritual realm. Both require sanctification through the light of holiness--the sacred mission of the Jewish people.
With this concept the Book of Genesis begins, and on this note it concludes. Joseph's coffin remained in Egypt in order to give strength and inspiration to the Children of Israel in their Egyptian exile. The power of Joseph is symbolic of the ability of the Jewish people to overcome even the most difficult of obstacles, imbuing even the coarsest of physical matter with holiness and bringing the full and complete Redemption.
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.
"From Moses to Moses there arose none like Moses." The first Moses to which this quote refers was the great prophet and Jewish leader, Moses. The second was Moses Maimonides, otherwise known as the Rambam, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon. Born on the day before Passover, 1135, in Cordova, Spain, the Rambam passed away on the 20th of Tevet, 1204 (this year, Monday, Dec. 30).
Maimonides was known in the Jewish world as a great talmudist and scholar. He served as chief rabbi of Egypt, the land to which he moved in his early thirties. He authored numerous books and treatises, including The Guide for the Perplexed, a commentary on the Mishnah, and the Sefer HaMitzvot (Book of Mitzvot).
Twelve years ago, the Rebbe urged all Jews to study every day a section of the Rambam's magnum opus, Mishneh Torah (a code of Jewish law), or at least the briefer Sefer HaMitzvot. Today, the Mishneh Torah, or the briefer Sefer HaMitzvot, is studied daily by hundreds of thousands of Jews--men, women and children--around the world.
The Rambam's fame and influence transcended the Jewish world. He was also internationally acclaimed as a philosopher and physician. In fact, he served as royal physician to the court of Saladin. He authored over fifteen works on the theory and practice of medicine, including one on asthma and another about poisons.
When the Rambam passed away, he was mourned by Jews and Moslems alike in Egypt, and Jews throughout the entire world. He was buried in the holy city of Tiberias in the northern part of Israel. By studying his works we can be united with his spirit.
* * *
A few years ago, the Rebbe discussed the following concepts:
"The name Rambam is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, "I will multiply My wonders in the land of Egypt," an allusion to the wonders associated with Redemption. Similarly, the Rambam's spiritual service involved giving Jews in Egypt--in the night of exile--a foretaste of the Redemption.
"Firstly, he lived in Egypt and it was there that he composed his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah (a code of Jewish law). As he explained in his 'Introduction,' the Mishneh Torah was composed because of the difficulties of exile, as the Jews were unable to derive halachic rulings from the Talmud and needed an auxiliary source. Nevertheless, the text that the Rambam composed gave the Jews a foretaste of the Redemption--reflected in the fact that it includes laws that will only be relevant in the Era of the Redemption when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt and in the conclusion of the text that focuses directly on the Era of the Redemption.
"Since, on the yahrtzeit of a tzaddik, 'the totality of his deeds, teachings, and service is revealed and... "brings about salvation in the depths of the earth,'" it follows that the Rambam's yahrtzeit grants us further potential to anticipate the Redemption.
"The above is particularly relevant in the present age when the Jewish people have completed the service required of them in exile. Everything is ready for the Redemption. All that is lacking is for G-d to open the eyes of the Jews and allow them to realize that they are sitting at the feast of the Redemption."
The Rebbe concluded: "There is no need for any further delay, and without any interruption we shall soon proceed from the present era to the era of the Redemption. The very next moment can be the last moment of the exile and the first moment of that era. As a catalyst for this, we must reflect an attitude of Redemption in our lives, showing how even within the exile, we can experience Redemption."
The Rambam is probably best remembered for his encyclopedic codification of all 613 commandments of the Torah in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah.
In the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam enumerates and details all of the 613 laws of the Torah. He places the laws relating to the Jewish king, and Moshiach, at the very end of his work. In the introduction to these laws he states that the Jews were commanded to fulfill three mitzvot upon conquering and entering the land of Israel: To appoint a king; to kill the descendants of Amalek; and to build G-d's Chosen House, the Beis HaMikdosh, in Jerusalem.
It would seem that these mitzvot should have been mentioned much earlier in his work if they were, in fact, so important! However, the Rambam chose to organize the Mishneh Torah in this fashion to emphasize that the true and complete performance of all the mitzvot of the Torah will be attained only when a king rules over Israel. The Rambam then defines Moshiach as a king, who will not only redeem the Jews from exile, but also restore the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot to their complete state.
For many, this would seem a rather novel approach. Yet, the Talmud states that "the world was created solely for Moshiach." This being the case, we certainly must do everything in our power to prepare ourselves for Moshiach's imminent arrival.
What is within the power and reach of each individual, great and small? Good deeds, charity, studying concepts and laws associated with Moshiach and the Final Redemption, fostering peace between family, friends and co-workers, and actively waiting for and anticipating his arrival each and every day.
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.
Study the Rambam's works daily:
"In honor of Rambam's yahrtzeit we should reinforce our study of the Rambam's works according to the three-pronged plan of study: three chapters or one chapter a day in the Mishneh Torah, or the parallel portions of Sefer HaMitzvot. Not only should one study these works himself, he should also influence others to do so" (The Rebbe, 21 Tevet, 5752).
One can study one chapter a day in the Mishneh Torah and/or the daily lesson in Sefer HaMitzvot, via telephone # (718) 953-6100, except on Shabbat or yom tov.
The daily portion of Sefer HaMitzvot is also available electronically via the Internet by sending your subscription request to: email@example.com Subscribe "D-3."
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, Dec. 27, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayechi:
Light Shabbat Candles,* by 4:17 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 28, Shabbat Parshat Vayechi:
Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:23 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
"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.
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