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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.
In this week's issue, we focus on the Rebbe's 96th birthday.
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
2 Nissan, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
12th of Nissan, 5741/1981
. . . It was a pleasure to see you at the farbrengen [chassidic gathering] on the occasion of the 11th of Nissan, and to exchange l'chayim blessings.
Although it is not customary or proper to ask for a birthday gift, but considering our special relationship, I venture to do so, being confident that you will treat it in the proper spirit.
The birthday gift that I have in mind, which I would consider an honor, as well as a great pleasure, is that you devote a quarter of an hour of your time every weekday morning and dedicate it for the sacred purpose of putting on tefillin, with the appropriate prayer that goes with it, such as the Shema and the like. The latter need not be necessarily recited in Hebrew. If you can manage this in ten minutes, I am prepared to forego five minutes and let it be only ten minutes of your time.
In addition to the thing itself, being one of the greatest mitzvot, as our Sages said that the whole Torah was compared to it, the mitzvah of putting on tefillin on the left arm, facing the heart, and on the head, the seat of the intellect, has the special Divine quality of purifying the heart and the mind, emotion and reason, and bringing them into the proper balance and harmony. While this is important for every Jew, it is certainly of special significance to one whose normal activities involve a great deal of mental and emotional strain, and it is highly important to have them in the proper balance for the utmost degree of efficiency.
The above is of additional significance in your case as chairman of the board of the Rabbinical College of America, in which you have had such remarkable hatzlacha [success], with G-d's help, and have been able to involve many others to follow in your footsteps. Thus, this "birthday gift" would also have a salutary effect on the Rabbinical College, its administration and students, and further widen the channels for all concerned to receive G-d's blessings materially and spiritually.
I trust that you put on tefillin every morning in any case, and the reason I am asking you the above is only that you should make it a definite point on your calendar to make sure that your preoccupation with your personal business and the business of the Rabbinical College would not distract you even once to overlook the putting on of tefillin. And this will be my reward.
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.
A custom established by the Rebbe is to get together with one's relatives and friends on a birthday to contemplate the meaning of the day and to make good resolutions for the coming year. In honor of the Rebbe's birthday on Yud Alef Nissan, the 11th of Nissan (this year, Tuesday, April 7), Chassidim will be holding gatherings to reflect on their connection to the Rebbe and the significance of this special day. Let's listen in to what they have to say:
"Surely you realize that the Rebbe is a tzaddik nistar, a hidden tzaddik," says the chassidic scholar. "How so?" his students ask. "The Rebbe is renowned throughout the world. Millions have come to him for his blessings. Heads of state have paid tribute to him. People continually seek the Rebbe's advice."
The scholar continues, "All that you say is true. But for all that we know and have seen and experienced of the Rebbe, there is much more of the Rebbe that remains hidden from view, beyond comprehension."
* * *
"How many Rebbes do you have?" the elder Chassid asks a novice. The young Chassid does not understand. He has one Rebbe. Isn't a Chassid one who is devoted heart, mind and soul to his Rebbe?
The elder Chassid continues, "The Rebbe is a great scholar of Talmud. At the same time he is a master of Kabbalah and the mystical aspects of Judaism. He is a source of guidance to the thousands of people the world over who turn to him. He is a leader who takes a stand on issues even when he knows that his position will not be popular. And he is a teacher, a prophet, a source of healing and inspiration. One can go on and on. So, how many Rebbes do you have? Are these all different qualities? Or can you see a united, harmonious whole?"
* * *
"The Rebbe is, in one word, reality. When speaking to, listening to, or reading the words of the Rebbe, one becomes transfixed by something that is truly real. No superficiality, no vanity, no gossip. There is a constant sense of urgency, a sense that our actions truly matter, that people really matter--that you and I, and everything we do, is of vital importance. And in a climate of cynicism and selfishness, it is more than revitalizing to experience a taste of such reality." (Adapted from Toward A Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe by Rabbi Simon Jacobson.)
* * *
A Lubavitcher yeshivah student sits with one of the Rebbe's emissaries in Latvia. After a day of bringing Jewish pride, awareness and the Rebbe's prophecy "that the Redemption is imminent" to Jews' doorsteps as he had done each summer in various communities around the globe, the student gets involved in a deep discussion with the emissary about what it means to be a Chassid.
"Would you be willing, like Chassidim of old, to accept a mission from the Rebbe even if you knew it could cost you your life?" the emissary asks.
Without a moment's hesitation, the student answers, "Yes!"
Speaking more quietly now, the emissary says, "OK, you're ready to die for the Rebbe. But are you ready to live for the Rebbe, to live your life the way the Rebbe wants?"
* * *
"Chassidic teachings," says the teacher to her students, "explain that 'Rebbe' is an acronym for Rosh B'nei Yisrael--Head of the Jewish People. The head directs and the feet, hands and mouth carry out the directives. Now, more than ever," she concludes, "it is our responsibility and privilege to be the Rebbe's feet, to run to help another Jew; to be his hands, to give more tzeddakah--charity; to be his mouth, to share more Torah thoughts and to demand that G-d send Moshiach, now!"
* * *
As these gatherings draw to a close, the time comes to translate words into action with a greater commitment to the things the Rebbe holds dear.
The Rebbe's life mission is to bring about the revelation of Moshiach and thereby the fulfillment of the purpose for which G-d created the world. By committing to do a mitzvah, any mitzvah, with the awareness that this mitzvah is hastening the Redemption, we join with the Rebbe in making this goal a reality.
On the 11th of Nissan (this year, Tuesday, April 7), we will begin reciting the 97th chapter of Psalms in honor of the Rebbe's 97th year.
The Psalm begins, "When the L-rd will reveal His Kingship, the earth will exult..." This first verse sets the tone for the entire Psalm, for G-d's Kingship will be openly revealed for all to see in the Messianic Era. Thus, the subsequent verses are all connected to the Redemption.
Let us delve into a few of the verses to understand better the great importance of this Psalm.
The fourth verse begins, "His lightning bolts will illuminate the world..." One commentator quotes Maimonides to explain this verse as follows: Most people sincerely seek the correct path in life. On rare occasions, G-d illuminates our minds and hearts with a flash of perception like a lightening bolt. With this insight we are guided through the darkness, though it envelops us once more. In the future, however, G-d will grant us perpetual insight and understanding as it states here, "His lighting bolts illuminate the world constantly."
In verse 11 we read: "Light is sown for the tzaddik, and joy for the upright in heart." Rashi explains these words literally: G-d sows light for the tzaddik and the light is ready to sprout forth. Sforno explains that the light will be reaped in the days of Moshiach.
The light, the sparks of G-dliness sown throughout the world when it was created, are elevated and reunited with their Source through our observance of mitzvot. The bountiful produce of our spiritual farming will be reaped by all in the Messianic Era.
It would seem from the way this verse is constructed that some have light, others have joy, but no one has both. However, the Rebbe explains that the two are most certainly interconnected, for "light" ultimately leads to joy. G-d has given us a way to illuminate the darkness: Torah and mitzvot about which it says, "A mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light." This light illuminates our way and ultimately allows one to achieve and experience true joy.
This Psalm is the third recited in the prayers welcoming the Sabbath. Three is a chazaka--a strengthening. Even before we commence saying this Psalm in honor of the Rebbe, may we merit to welcome not only Shabbat, but the "day which is entirely Shabbat and peace for all eternity," the Messianic Era, with the revelation of Moshiach, now.
"For seven years after we were married we weren't able to have children," begins Yocheved Daphna. There were no known medical causes, nor were there suggestions from the doctors she and her husband, Yehuda, had consulted.
Yocheved met someone who was close to Chabad who kept encouraging Yocheved to go to the Rebbe for a blessing. "I grew up in a 'Modern Orthodox' family and the whole concept of a Rebbe was foreign to us. But this person was persistent and I finally agreed. 'What could it hurt,' I figured."
Together with Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson of Tzivos Hashem, and the friend who had spoken to them about the Rebbe, the Daphnas came during "Sunday dollars," when the Rebbe was distributing dollars for tzeddakah (charity). Yocheved recounts, "The Rebbe gave our friend three dollars and a blessing that he and his wife should have children. The Rebbe then gave my husband dollars for tzeddakah and said, 'You should give these dollars when your wife becomes pregnant.' The Rebbe told me to relearn the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha (Family Purity)."
Six months passed and Yocheved had not become pregnant. During that time she had been hit by a bicycle while crossing the street, winding up with a broken knee, broken teeth and time in a wheelchair. "Rabbi Benjaminson told me that we should go back to the Rebbe again. But beforehand we should have our mezuzot checked. We followed his advice and found that nine out of our ten mezuzot were not kosher."
Another four months passed and the Daphnas decided it was time to go to the Rebbe once again. On the Sunday, a week before they went to the Rebbe, Yocheved's parents went. "My younger brother's wife was pregnant with what was to be my parents' first grandchild. My mother had planned on asking the Rebbe for a blessing that everything should go well for my sister-in-law. On the spot, however, she got 'confused' and asked for a blessing that her daughter should have children. The Rebbe gave my mother three dollars.
"The following Sunday we went to the Rebbe," continues Yocheved. "Just days before we had attended the bris of our friends' triplets, the friend who had brought us to the Rebbe ten months earlier. I asked the Rebbe again for a blessing for children and the Rebbe told me, 'The Holy One Blessed is He is going to give you good news.' The Rebbe gave me three dollars. My husband had been unemployed for a year. He asked the Rebbe for a blessing for parnasa--livelihood. 'You will have truly good parnasa very soon,' the Rebbe told him. The Rebbe gave Yehuda three dollars."
Yehuda was involved in a deal to open a chain of frozen yogurt stores in Israel. He already had a 200-page agreement with the company. Yehuda decided to ask the Rebbe if his parnasa should be based in America or in Israel. The Rebbe told him, "You are here and you have to search for parnasa in the country you are in."
When they left the Rebbe, Yehuda told Yocheved, "But the business in Israel is a sure thing!"
Yocheved told him, "You can't believe that the Rebbe's blessing for children is true but what he has to say about your business deal isn't true!"
Before leaving Crown Heights the Daphnas purchased a book on Taharat Hamishpacha, to review the laws as the Rebbe had advised to Yocheved ten months earlier. "That month I became pregnant with triplets," says Yocheved.
When Yocheved was in her fourth month their house burned down. It was five days before Passover. They moved into Yocheved's parents' home.
A month later, the doctor noticed in a sonogram that there was a hole in the heart of one of the triplets. "We wrote in to the Rebbe and the Rebbe's response was not to do any tests. We weren't such Chassidim then," Yocheved laughs, "so we did tests but only non-invasive ones. When the test was over, the specialist said there was no hole."
The Daphna triplets were born on 5 Elul, 1992, eight months after Yocheved became pregnant, 9 months to the day that the Daphnas had been to the Rebbe the second time. Their two sons had their bris on time, on the eight day.
"My husband was all the while looking for a business to invest in. The triplets were getting bigger. It was just over a year since our fire. We were paying a mortgage on a house that was uninhabitable. My husband was ready to close on a deal to buy a kosher pizza shop in a popular area and wrote to the Rebbe for a blessing. The Rebbe's secretary called us to say that the Rebbe's response had been, 'with mazal and blessing.'
"On our anniversary, which is 11 Nissan, we were working out the final details until 4:00 a.m. Then, all of a sudden, in the morning, the owners of the pizza shop called to say that they had decided not to sell. We were crushed," recalls Yocheved.
But, with a blessing from the Rebbe of 'You will have truly good parnasa very soon,' bigger things were in store for the Daphnas. Just hours later, Yehuda got a phone call from someone with whom he had incorporated a private security business 2 years previously, though they had never done anything with it.
"We got a contract at a major airport. We need people, uniforms, equipment, within 6 to 8 weeks," his partner told him. Yehuda, whose 20 years of experience in Israeli intelligence had been the impetus for opening a security business, points out that the way the Rebbe had expressed the blessing for parnasa 2-1/2 years before had been unusual.
The Rebbe had told Yehuda to "search" for (rather than "find") parnasa. And that is what Yehuda's successful business, thank G-d, is today: "Searching" for security's sake.
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