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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 Shabbat, Parshat Shoftim, is six years since 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.
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
23 Menachem-Av, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
Adapted from the Rebbe's talk, on Shabbat Parshat
Shoftim, 5751/1991, as edited by the Rebbe, and printed in
"Sefer Hasichot 5751," Vol. 2 (pp. 780-795):
This week's Torah portion of Shoftim, opens with the command, "Judges and officers you shall place at all your gates." The wording is reminiscent of, but differs from, the one that we say three times daily in the silent Amida prayer, taken from the prophet of Redemption, Isaiah: "Return your judges as of old and your advisors as in the beginning."
We can well understand why the word officers is not part of the promise of the Redemption, for officers enforce the law and will therefore not be necessary at a time when the very existence of evil will be banished from the earth.
Here we see the difference between the times of exile and the times of Redemption. In our portion, the Torah links the judges to officers, indicating that their reign is by decree and dependent on enforcement. In the Redemption, soon to come, the judges will be seen more as advisors as the people will be convinced more of the personal benefit that is derived from compliance. This feeling develops the closeness between judge and judged, which is implied in the wording of Isaiah, "your judges" in the second person.
The way this concept is worded in the Torah is associated with the nature of the Torah itself, it being a direct revelation of the will and wisdom of the Al-mighty, a decree from Above, as it were. On the other hand, the words of the Prophets, though also emanating from G-d, are more clearly associated with the human mind, which transmits them and thus are more similar to the judge as advisor mentioned before. Indeed part of the role assumed by the prophets of each generation has been to care for the spiritual and even material needs of the people.
Our current portion is also the source of Maimonides' ruling that the belief in human prophets is a fundamental of Judaism. In his letter to Yemen, Maimonides describes "Prophecy returns to Israel" as a preparation to the Redemption particularly in the personage of Moshiach who is to be "close in prophecy to Moshe."
It is therefore essential to convey to the world that there are human beings in our times who have been endowed with prophecy, that we have a positive commandment to obey them once established as such. Particularly in the major prophecy that all required conditions for the coming of Moshiach have been met, and that we should prepare to greet the Redemption that is immediately to unfold.
Adapted from the Rebbe's talk, on Shabbat Parshat Shoftim, 5751/1991
* * *
What makes the Rebbe's declaration--that Moshiach's arrival is imminent and the time for the Redemption has arrived--different from those of great leaders of previous generations?
The Jewish people have believed in and awaited Moshiach's coming since the beginning of our nation. In numerous instances throughout Jewish history, tzaddikim (righteous people) of various generations pointed to hints in the Torah that the promised Redemption was near at hand. Sensing the special opportunity for Moshiach's coming, they motivated the Jewish people to study more Torah, do more mitzvot and repent in the hope that these actions would be what was needed to make the Redemption happen.
In the times of the Previous Rebbe, the anticipation for the Redemption was truly tangible. The Previous Rebbe issued an urgent call to world Jewry: "Immediate repentance brings immediate Redemption."
Even when the Rebbe accepted the leadership in 1950, though he said unequivocally that our generation is the last generation to live in exile and the first generation of the Redemption, he did not say that we had yet reached the moment of Redemption. Only forty years later, after sending thousands of emissaries around the world, initiating the Mitzvah Campaigns to reinvigorate Jewish observance, and inspiring millions, did the Rebbe proclaim, "The time of our Redemption has arrived." This is a totally different message that has never before been enunciated in the history of the Jewish people.
The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) tells us that in a time when we will witness certain events (similar to those that we saw during the time of the Gulf War), Moshiach will tell the Jewish people that the time of the Redemption has arrived. This is not a hope, a wish, or a special opportunity, but a call to prepare to greet Moshiach.
The Rebbe has never given a date. But the Rebbe has said that the time is now. The question each of us must ask ourselves is not, "When is Moshiach coming?" but rather, "Am I ready for Moshiach's coming today!"
Adapted from the Rebbe's talk, on Shabbat Parshat
Balak, 5717/1957, as edited by the Rebbe, and printed
in "Likutei Sichot" Vol 2 (pp. 588-9):
Of all the prophecies in Scripture that refer to the Messianic Era, the one contained in the Torah portion of Balak, is most unusual in that it came from Bilaam, a gentile prophet. Bilaam, the foremost prophet of his time, was forced against his will to foretell the downfall of the nations of the world and the ultimate ascendancy of the Jewish people.
The very fact that this prophecy is included in our holy Torah indicates its special significance; indeed, it contains a distinct advantage precisely because it was said by a non-Jew. For when Moshiach comes, the Jewish people will no longer be subservient to the nations; on the contrary, the gentile leaders will vie with one another for the privilege of serving the Jews! Thus, the prophecy of Bilaam concerning the Final Redemption not only gave the Children of Israel cause for rejoicing over their future, it actually afforded them a "taste" of the way things will be in the Messianic Era.
As far as prophecy itself is concerned, our Sages foretold its reoccurrence among the Jewish people before Moshiach's arrival according to the following chronology: Commenting on the verse in the Torah portion of Balak, "At the proper time shall it be said to Jacob and to Israel, what G-d has wrought," Maimonides noted that prophecy would return to Israel after "the proper time" had elapsed after Bilaam, i.e., after the same number of years as had passed since the creation of the world until his prophecy. Bilaam's prophecy was said in the year 2488; 2488 years after that, in the year 4976, prophecy was destined to return to the Jewish people.
In fact we find that this was indeed the case, for it was then that prophetic luminaries began to appear on the Jewish horizon--Rabbi Shmuel Hanavi, Rabbi Elazar Baal "Harokeach," Nachmanides, the Ravad (Rabbi Abraham ben David), Rabbi Ezra Hanavi and Rabbi Yehuda the Chasid, and others.
More generations passed until the birth of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidut, and his successor, the Maggid of Mezeritch, about whom it was said that they "could see from one end of the world to the other." The following generation produced Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who formulated Chabad Chasidut. Had he lived in the times of our prophets he would have been on a par with them; moreover, this chain of prophecy continued from one Chabad leader to the next, until the present day [when the Rebbe has prophesied that Moshiach's arrival is imminent].
The return of prophecy to the Jewish people is therefore both a prerequisite and preparation for the Messianic Era, which is due to begin at any moment.
The Rebbe is a rare blend of prophetic visionary and pragmatic leader, synthesizing deep insight into the present needs of the Jewish people with a breadth of vision for its future. In a sense, he charts the course of Jewish history - initiating, in addition to reacting to, current events. The Rebbe is guided by inspired insight and foresight in combination with encyclopedic scholarship, and all his pronouncements and undertakings are, first and foremost, rooted in our Holy Torah. Time and again, it has been demonstrated that what was clear to him at the outset became obvious to other leaders with hindsight, decades later.
The Rebbe's ability to accurately ascertain what the future holds has become all the more evident recently. For, in the past few years, even before we have been able to settle back into our daily routines, yet another cataclysmic event has shaken the very foundations of our understanding of what the world is all about.
Before the Gulf War, on the second night of Sukkot (October 5, 1991), the Rebbe began to quote the prophetic Yalkut Shimoni: "In the year that Moshiach will be revealed, nations will challenge one another. The King of Paras will challenge the King of Aram ... and the entire world will panic and will be stricken with consternation ... Israel will also panic and will be confounded."
The Rebbe went on to explain that the King of Paras refers to the present-day Iraq. The King of Aram refers to the world's superpowers (for Aram is related to the word "rom" which means "uplifted").
This ominous situation, however, contains the potential for good, indeed, the ultimate good, as the Midrash continues:
[G-d] will tell them: "My children, have no fear. Whatever I have done, I have done only for your sake. Why are you afraid? Have no fear; the time for your redemption has arrived!" Moshiach will stand on the roof of the Holy Temple and proclaim, "Humble ones: The time for your redemption has arrived!"
Way back in November of 1990, when U.S. Army Major Yaakov Goldstein went to the Rebbe for "dollars" on his way to the War Zone, the Rebbe told him that the Gulf War would be over by Purim. And indeed it was.
On December 29, 1991, just weeks before the official declaration of war, the Rebbe stated unequivocally, that there is no safer place in the world today than the Land of Israel. He went on to say that no one living in the Holy Land should think of leaving at this time. On the contrary, whoever is planning to visit the Holy Land should go without fear and should let others know of his trip as well, for this will raise the confidence of the Jewish people throughout the world.
The Rebbe, of course, as he always does, based his words on the Torah. In particular, he quoted the verse in Deuteronomy: "It is a land constantly under G-d's scrutiny; the eyes of G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to its end."
The Rebbe meant what he said and his words of encouragement and inspiration were repeated time and again on Israeli radio and in the newspapers. And the Rebbe included everyone in his call to continue with plans. In fact, more than one Lubavitcher family asked the Rebbe if they should switch the location of upcoming weddings from Israel to New York, but the Rebbe was adamant that everything should go ahead as planned. The weddings took place in Israel as planned amidst much rejoicing.
But, though it is only recently that many have begun to appreciate the Rebbe's ability to foresee future events, this capacity of the Rebbe's step is not a new phenomenon.
The Six Day War
On May 28, 1967, a giant Lag B'Omer parade and rally of tens of thousands of children from all over the New York area took place at the World Lubavitch Headquarters. Among other things, the Rebbe spoke about the tense situation in the Middle East and explained to the children what they could do to increase G-d's protection of the Holy Land. Barely a week later, on June 5, the "Six Day War" broke out.
In his address, the Rebbe told the children about the lesson to be learned in connection with the state of affairs in the Holy Land. They are presently in a situation where G-d is protecting and bestowing His blessings and His deliverance upon them in an increased measure so that they may emerge - and they will emerge - from this situation with success.
The Rebbe told the children that they could help by learning an extra verse of Torah, by doing another mitzvah and yet another, and not letting any opportunity slip by in the fulfillment of mitzvot. He also encouraged the children to influence their friends and family to utilize all their opportunities to increase Torah study and mitzvah observance.
As a consequence of the children's efforts, the Rebbe said that we should see the fulfillment of the assurance in the Torah portion read the previous day, "And you will dwell securely in your land ... and I will give peace in the land."
A cassette of the Rebbe's talk was rushed off to Israel where copies were made and it was listened to by people all over the trembling country.
In addition, on the Shabbat before the war broke out, the Rebbe launched the by-now famous "Tefillin Campaign," as a safety measure for the Jewish people in general, and Jewish soldiers in particular. This campaign, too, is based on the Torah, for the Torah declares concerning tefillin, "And they shall fear you" - specifically relating to the fear that is instilled in the hearts of the enemies of Israel as a result of the observance of this mitzvah and particularly upon defenders of Israel to vanquish the enemy in the course of battle.
Before and during the war, every soldier - observant and non-observant - put on tefillin. And every newspaper in Israel carried the Rebbe's telegram sent just days before the war began: "To the leaders of Kfar Chabad and the Head Rabbi who are privileged to find themselves among tens of thousands of Jews in the Holy land where 'the eyes of G-d are constantly upon it' and certainly, most assuredly 'the Protector of Israel does not sleep or slumber,' 'G-d is on our right side' and G-d will guard them and all of the Jewish people from now and forever. I am awaiting good news, good in a recognizable and revealed manner, soon."
The Yom Kippur War
In the summer of 1973, life in Israel couldn't have been better. To most, it seemed like the best of times. Israel was at "peace" with Egypt and the financial situation in Israel was the best it had been for a long time.
So when the Rebbe started speaking about a great danger that was threatening the Jewish people, everyone was confused. The Rebbe quoted the verse from Psalms, "Out of the mouths of babes and infants You have established strength ... to destroy the foe and avenger," and issued a call for all Jewish children to receive a Jewish education. The Rebbe declared that this was of utmost importance and must be implemented immediately. He asked that more day-camps be opened all over the world and gatherings for children be organized everywhere.
On three separate occasions during the ensuing months the Rebbe urged there to be gatherings at the Western Wall. And in the Rebbe's annual letter of the Sixth of Tishrei, addressed to all Jews all over the world, the Rebbe added a footnote before it was published. The footnote, which seemed to come from nowhere, read: "The Metzudat David [a commentary] explains that the Jewish hand will be superior."
And then came Yom Kippur, 1973. Anyone who was more than a mere toddler at the time will never forget Yom Kippur of 1973. On the Sunday after the war began, when two chasidim asked the Rebbe what would be, the Rebbe answered, "There will be a great victory, a victory greater than was in the previous war."
When the war was over, Israeli papers were emblazoned with the headline, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe saw the war and its outcome." The Rebbe, in his humility, answered with a verse from the Prophets, "I prophesied but did not know what I prophesied."
When Soviet Jewish emigration increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Rebbe arranged that new Chabad settlements in Israel be founded to accommodate them. In 1987, the Rebbe began to speak once again about the need to establish settlements to accept the tremendous influx of Russian immigrants who would soon be arriving in Israel. "It is proper for all Jews to participate in building dwellings in Jerusalem for the Jews from Russia who will soon be coming out. Those who have already been appointed to head this project should do so with great haste and energy, and this should be the main point in their lives from now on." In June of 1987 the Shamir neighborhood in northern Jerusalem was born. Within the Shamir neighborhood SATEC - the Shamir Center for Advanced Technologies - was established. It is a commercial enterprise that allows highly skilled Soviet Jewish scientists and engineers to find high-level jobs.
At this time, people were surprised. Emigration of Jews from Russia was just a trickle. But the Rebbe foresaw the flood of immigration and put in motion projects that would be able to help the new immigrants both materially and spiritually.
The Collapse of Communism
Well before the advent of the year 5750 (September 1989 through September 1990), the Rebbe announced that the Hebrew letters whose numerical equivalent equals 5750 are an acronym for "This will be a year of miracles."
Indeed, the Rebbe spoke many times throughout the year about the miraculous nature of 5750, including the collapse of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the freedom granted to Russian Jews to emigrate to Israel.
Our Sages relate that miracles can occur to a person without his even realizing that they have taken place. Though some might have the audacity to conclude that the breakdown of communism and subsequent emigration of Russian Jews were not miraculous in nature, they could hardly say the same for the events of the following year.
The Gulf War
As the world foundered in panic and consternation over the events in the Persian Gulf, the Rebbe served as a source of confidence and quiet optimism for people from all walks of life, from all over the world. Drawing on the depths of our Torah heritage, the Rebbe gave assurance that this would be a year when "I will show you wonders," that miracles would transpire and, moreover, that G-d would take pains, as it were, to reveal them to the Jewish people.
As the SCUDs flew overhead most Israelis were calm. Not because they sat in sealed rooms or wore cumbersome gas-masks. But because over and over again they heard the message of the Rebbe of Lubavitch on the radio: "Israel is the safest place in the world because the eyes of G-d are always upon it." Thirty-nine SCUDs fell on Israel with miraculously little damage sustained. But when a single SCUD fell on Desert Storm troops in Saudi Arabia the damage was devastating.
For some people, it takes a crisis to identify a genuine leader. Others do not have to wait so long.
In either case, the Rebbe is showing us stage by stage how to recognize the miracles that are happening here and now. As we watch these events unfold, we can wholeheartedly say: Thank G-d for the Rebbe's foresight and vision.
For the ultimate wonders are yet to come.
Professor(1) Yirmeyahu (Herman) Branover has achieved worldwide renown as an authority on magneto-hydrodynamics. Research in this area of alternative energy technology is carried out by a very limited number of highly trained professionals. Raised in the then Soviet Union, Professor Branover's published research had won him an international reputation in this field in the '60s.
Along with his work on hydrodynamics, Professor Branover has a dynamic Jewish heart. He applied for an emigration visa to Israel, knowing that it would mark the end of his professional career in the Soviet Union. He was dismissed from his post at the Academy of Sciences in Riga and prevented from continuing his research.
During this time, he was exposed to the Torah and mitzvot by members of the Lubavitch chassidic underground. When he was finally allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel in 1972, he was already fully observant.
After making aliyah, Professor Branover was in constant demand as a lecturer, not only in his profession. He was frequently invited to lecture on science and Torah. Campus audiences around the globe were extremely interested to hear an internationally renowned scientist reconcile his belief in the Torah with the supposed conflicts emerging from modern science.
"In the winter of 1973," relates Professor Branover, "I was on a lecture tour in the United States. Towards the end of the two-month tour, Rabbi S., one of the shluchim, requested that I add the University of Pennsylvania to my itinerary. My wife and I were both weary from the constant travel, but our commitment to spread Torah motivated us to agree.
"Shortly before the scheduled date, I was privileged to visit the Rebbe at yechidut (a private meeting). Among other matters, I mentioned the trip to Philadelphia. The Rebbe inquired about the details of the program and commented: 'During your stay in Philadelphia, do not forget to introduce yourself to a local professor who has an interest in your field.'
"The Rebbe's statement baffled me. I was well acquainted with the names of the American scientists involved in magneto-hydrodynamics and I knew the universities with which they were associated. I was certain that no Philadelphian was familiar with my field.
"I made the trip to Philadelphia, following the busy schedule of lectures. On the morning of my arrival, when Rabbi S. met me at the train station, I spoke about my encounter with the Rebbe. I mentioned the Rebbe's strange remark and added that it appeared to be an error.
"'The Rebbe does not make mistakes,' Rabbi S. said emphatically. 'Allow me to assist you in locating the scientist.'
"Rabbi S. convinced me to visit Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and to check the faculties of these institutions. After many hours of searching, we were introduced to Professor Hsuan Yeh. It was a refreshing change of pace to engage in a sophisticated discussion with a person who was clearly knowledgeable in magneto-hydrodynamics.
"As we concluded our conversation, Professor Yeh said: 'In six weeks there will be a Magneto-Hydrodynamics Energy Convention at Stanford University in California. Although the program is already finalized, I will insist that your name be added to the list of lecturers. A colleague who has arrived so recently from Russia should be given the opportunity to present his thoughts.'
"I looked at him in surprise. 'Didn't you just say that the program was finalized?'
"Professor Yeh added with a smile, 'You see, I am on the program committee.'
"I appreciated the professor's offer, and yet I graciously declined, explaining that both my wife and I were anxious to return to our home in Israel. The trip had already been extended more than we would have liked.
"I returned to New York and we prepared to return home. Just before leaving, I wrote the Rebbe a report of our trip to Philadelphia, mentioning my encounter with Professor Yeh. Once again, the Rebbe made an unexpected statement. He advised me to reschedule my plans and to accept the invitation, for the convention presented an important opportunity.
"My wife and I were taken by surprise by the Rebbe's response. Despite the need to rearrange our plans, we were acquainted enough with the Rebbe to value his advice. I called Professor Yeh, who was happy to arrange for me to deliver a lecture.
"The significance of my participation at the convention became clear very rapidly. I met two representatives of the Office of Naval Research in Virginia, who had read about my work, and who were prepared to finance further research. They added, 'We understand that you want to establish your laboratory in Israel, and we are willing to provide you with funds for your work there.'
"As a result, I set up a laboratory in Beer Sheva, which has gained worldwide recognition for its magneto-hydrodynamics research. My contract with the Office of Naval Research has been renewed six times since that original grant. I could not have imagined at that point how valuable and far-reaching the Rebbe's advice had been.
"This year, 1993, marks twenty years since the Stanford convention. My project has just been awarded a 15-million dollar grant by the United States government to further research and development of this energy technology."
Professor Branover frequently briefs the Rebbe on his various research projects. In one report, he presented a very sophisticated study built upon extensive calculations that had been prepared by computer. As he reviewed the details, the Rebbe remarked:
"Two numbers here are inconsistent."
Professor Branover was stunned. "But all the calculations were done by computer and the program used is based on our most advanced theory."
The Rebbe smiled. "With all due respect to the experts, you will see that there is an error."
In the preparation of the calculations, an incongruity indeed had appeared. It took Professor Branover's research team six months to locate it.
Once, before Professor Branover was scheduled to address a conference of Jewish scientists, the Rebbe told him: "You have an important message to communicate. Tell your colleagues that as a scholar of solar energy you encourage every Jew to emulate the sun.
"Why is this star of such great importance? There are larger heavenly bodies, indeed, many that dwarf the sun in size. What is unique about the sun? It provides light and generates heat.
"There are other heavenly phenomena called 'black holes.' These are also powerful sources of energy, but in this instance, the energy is directed inward. The 'black holes' pull everything, even the energy they emit, to themselves.
"The sun, by contrast, generously gives of itself to the entire planetary system. So, too, a Jew must radiate ahavas Yisrael--love for a fellow Jew. After all, if the sun was only capable of heating its own mass, who would have paid any attention to it?"
Professor Branover also is active in developing programs of Jewish education and professional training for Jews in the former Soviet Union and for Russian immigrants to Eretz Yisrael. In the course of these activities, he has been chosen by the Rebbe for several missions.
"In the spring of 1985, I received word from the Rebbe's office that the Rebbe requested to speak to me," relates Professor Branover. "Of course, I arrived at '770' [Eastern Parkway, the address of Lubavitch World Headquarters], as soon as I could. The Rebbe greeted me and informed me of his desire that I relay his forthcoming message to various persons in Russia. Not in my wildest dreams was I prepared for the content of the message.
"The Rebbe unraveled before me the precise details of the unbelievable change that was going to take place in Russia. With Mikhail Gorbachev's ascent to power, a new era of openness and freedom would begin, the Rebbe prophesied. Waves of Russian Jews would emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. Two years afterwards, in expectation of this wave of immigration, the Rebbe initiated the plan to build a special housing project in Jerusalem for the new immigrants.
"To say that I was stunned is quite an understatement. If I had heard these words from anyone but the Rebbe, I would have dismissed them as fantasy. As such, I was neither surprised nor offended when various people in Russia whom I contacted by phone were skeptical. 'Are you sure this is exactly what the Rebbe said?' they asked again and again. And, may I add, these people were not unfamiliar with the Rebbe. Quite the contrary, these were his own people who were directing the Lubavitch underground activities in Russia. It was simply that the Rebbe's prediction seemed so far-fetched.
"In the spring of 1985, newspapers such as The New York Times and the New York Post had published front-page articles predicting that Gorbachev's government would follow a communistic hard line. This was felt even more powerfully by people who were living in the then Soviet Union.
"When I related the response from Russia to the Rebbe, he requested that I contact them once again, assuring them that these changes would indeed take place.
"The realization of the Rebbe's words is now history. In 1992, when Mikhail Gorbachev visited Israel, I was introduced to him, and I told him and his wife Raisa what the Rebbe had said seven years earlier. Gorbachev was stunned. 'When I assumed power in 1985, I myself had no concrete plan for the future. I would like to meet this man who knew so much about the direction that my country and I would follow.'"
1. Adapted from the book, To Know and To Care (Brooklyn, NY: Sichos In English, 1993).
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, September 5, Erev Shabbat Parshat Shoftim:
Saturday, September 6, Shabbat Parshat Shoftim:
2. 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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