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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
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We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
In this week's issue we once again focus on the festive holiday of Shavuot.
This Jewish year, is the year 5758 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Taf-Shin-Nun-Ches. Over a decade ago, in the year 5742, the Rebbe stated that the Hebrew letters for that year were an acronym for "This should be the year of the coming of Moshiach."
Since that time, the Rebbe has publicized a phrase describing the year according to the acronym of its Hebrew letters. This year has been designated by the Rebbe's followers as "Hoyo Tihei Shnas Niflaos Cheiruseinu" meaning "It surely will be a year of wondrous miracles liberating us (from the material and spiritual problems of our exile)."
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
Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
In this week's Torah portion, Nasso, we find the command to count the Levites--the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari. The actual count of these people was taken only once, during the second year of their 40-year wanderings. What are we to learn from the Torah's inclusion of this commandment?
Let us examine the reason why the Jewish people had to wander for 40 years in the wilderness. When the spies gave a negative report about the Land of Israel, the Jewish people were reluctant to enter the land G-d had promised them. G-d, therefore, punished the Jews with 40 years of wandering and decreed that those who had been unwilling to enter Israel would not be allowed to do so. But why did G-d choose a wilderness for their wandering, as opposed to another location?
A wilderness is uninhabited by man, and indeed, the desert the Jewish People wandered through is described as "a great and terrible wilderness: snakes, poisonous serpents and scorpions, and thirst without water to quench." The Children of Israel, through their travels, were charged with transforming that wilderness and purifying the negative forces that still had their hold on the Jewish people. The cloud that preceded them as they traveled destroyed the snakes, serpents and beasts that threatened their existence. By overcoming the obstacles in the desert the Jews brought light and G-dliness into the world. The uninhabited wilderness became the dwelling place, for 40 years, of the millions of Jews who had just left Egypt, and the "unsown land" was blessed with water from Miriam's well, causing all kinds of plants and trees to flourish.
The commandment to count the Levites charged with transporting the Sanctuary, underscored and gave spiritual strength to this higher purpose--the transformation of a wilderness into an inhabited land. This, too, is the responsibility of every Jew, in every era, no matter where he may live, to transform and elevate his surroundings by infusing them with holiness. If at times it appears that we are surrounded by insurmountable forces, we are to remember the mission with which we have been charged and the special G-dly powers we are given to accomplish it. Just as the Children of Israel traveled from place to place by Divine command, so too is every Jew, by Divine Providence, faced with precisely those obstacles and challenges he is charged with overcoming. The Torah assures us that through our actions, we can succeed in turning any wilderness into a flourishing dwelling place for G-d.
We also learn from the fact that the Levites were not counted or required to carry the Sanctuary until the age of 30, that it is never too late to try to improve oneself. Even if our behavior has been less than admirable and undisciplined--in the category of "wilderness"--we must never become dejected and despair of achieving our spiritual goals. Once the decision to improve is made, G-d gives us the strength to serve Him, purify ourselves, and uncover the G-dliness concealed within.
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.
On Shavuot, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, used to bless the congregation, that "we receive the Torah with happiness and inner feeling." This blessing intimates that not only does Shavuot commemorate when we were given the Torah, but also the time when we accept and "receive" the Torah.
In a talk some years ago, the Rebbe explained that our personal experiences on Shavuot should reflect both of these qualities: giving and receiving the Torah.
It was during this same talk that the Rebbe urged every Jewish man, woman and child to become a teacher of Torah. The Rebbe explained that the matter was of utmost urgency and that everyone should become a teacher of at least ten other people.
The following Shabbat, and the Shabbat after that, the Rebbe reiterated his expectation that everyone involve himself/herself in this campaign, which was a matter of immediate necessity. The Rebbe also explained that not only would the people being taught benefit from the Torah study, but that the teacher would also benefit greatly as well.
The Rebbe explained the reason for this particular call to action: the need to reach out and involve others in study groups is particularly pressing in the present age. There are hundreds of thousands of Jewish men, women and children who lack knowledge of the elemental aspects of Torah and mitzvot. These are the last moments before the coming of Moshiach, and to prepare for his coming it is necessary to extend the knowledge of Torah, both Torah law and the inner dimensions of Torah, to as many individuals as possible.
Our Sages have assured us that an increase in Torah study will bring about increased blessings in all matters. May this also lead to the ultimate blessing, the advent of the age when, "a person shall no longer teach his colleague . . . because they will all know Me," with the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate and complete Redemption. May it be in the immediate future.
The sixth of the Hebrew month of Sivan, the first day of the Shavuot holiday that we recently celebrated, is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the general chasidic movement.
One year on Rosh HaShanah, the Baal Shem Tov had a special soul-journey, at which time he went into the Heavenly Palace where Moshiach's soul studies Torah until that time when he will be revealed. The Baal Shem Tov asked Moshiach, "Master, when will you come?" And Moshiach answered the by-now famous words, "When your wellsprings [chasidic teachings] will spread forth outside."
Recently an acquaintance who is new to Torah study told me that he had been studying Torah via audio tape. He popped a tape with a lecture on Chasidus into his walkman and heard a discussion about the above-mentioned dialogue between the Baal Shem Tov and Moshiach.
He told me that it occurred to him that the ultimate goal of the Rebbe was not "just" to send emissaries all over the world to open Chabad Houses and bring people closer to Judaism. The ultimate objective, as far as he could tell, was to spread the wellsprings of Chasidus, thereby actually bringing Moshiach.
Bringing Moshiach has been the Rebbe's goal since his first public discourse in 1951 and even before then. Moshiach has been the ultimate goal and purpose of the foundation of the chasidic movement over 200 years ago. Moshiach is the purpose and raison d'etre of the creation of the world 5,758 years ago.
These days, immediately following the festival of receiving the Torah, the yahrtzeit of the Baal Shem Tov and the yahrtzeit of King David (progenitor of Moshiach), are especially auspicious days for Moshiach's revelation. Let us all try our best to fulfill all of the Rebbe's many directives to each and every one of us personally to prepare for and hasten the Redemption, beginning with studying more Torah, giving more tzedakah--charity, increasing in our acts of goodness and kindness.
The Baal Shem Tov writes in a letter to his brother-in-law that on Rosh HaShanah of the year 5507/1746, his soul ascended to the heavenly realms where he was granted the privilege of entering the palace of the soul of Moshiach. He asked Moshiach, "Master, when are you coming?" Moshiach responded, "When your wellsprings [teachings] will be disseminated outward."
To this end, the Rebbe has always stressed the importance of studying chasidic philosophy and teaching it to others to hasten Moshiach's coming and to prepare ourselves for the messianic era.
What follows are excerpts of letters from the Rebbe about the importance of disseminating Chasidus.
The destiny of the teachings and the message of the Baal Shem Tov--that they should be disseminated to the furthest reaches of the world--must be fulfilled. Accordingly, no corner of the globe inhabited by Jews should remain untouched by this message.
And since we are now in the era in which we hear the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, who "is standing behind our wall," waiting only for the finishing touches to our refinement of this physical world, it is thus imperative that Chasidus be studied in Australia, too. This applies not only to the Russian-born chasidim who were sent there as emissaries; it should likewise permeate the local Jewish population. And since this is something that must happen, all the necessary resources will no doubt be forthcoming.
* * *
I was pleased to read of your decision to engage in the diffusion of the light of Chasidus, and so on. It is a pity, though, that you are deferring this for some time, when "behold, [Moshiach] is standing behind our wall," and is being delayed only because the wellsprings are not yet sufficiently widespread. Can anyone measure [the Jewish people's] anguish with every additional moment of exile, or [their] bliss in every additional moment of the Era of the Redemption?
* * *
It is my obligation (and my privilege) to make you aware of the great necessity of studying the inner dimensions of the Torah, which in these latter generations have been revealed within the teachings of Chasidus. And if this study is a necessity for every Jew, how much more is this true of a person who is in a position to influence others, and who is thus (in the words of the Mishnah) "himself meritorious and causes many others to attain merit." Moreover, from this affirmative statement one can infer [that the reverse is true when one does not take steps to be meritorious].
Especially in this period of the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, when "behold, he is standing behind our wall" and everyone should be prepared every day for his coming, every single individual must do his duty. For, as the King Moshiach himself stated, he will come "when the wellsprings will be widespread." Heaven forfend that the exile be prolonged, even for the shortest time, by reason of any inactivity in this task of dissemination, or even by incomplete activity. For this is an exile both of G-d and of the House of Israel, since "when they were exiled to Edom the Divine Presence accompanied them."
* * *
From the perspective of this world, today's world needs a more intense light and a greater diffusion of light, because of its lower standards (as the Sages write, "If the early generation were like angels, we are like mortals; if they were like mortals, we are like donkeys"), and because of the seriously depleted numbers of our Jewish brethren (as a result of the events of recent years).
From the heavenly perspective, year by year, in every era, a new and lofty spiritual light that has never yet radiated is drawn down to this world each year from a higher realm. This obliges us to provide additional "vessels" for this light. In this era in particular, we are coming ever closer to the time of which we have been promised, "In its time I will expedite it." This verse refers to the time of the coming and revelation of Moshiach. The "vessel" for this revelation is the light of Chasidus; the condition for this revelation is the dissemination of the wellsprings of Chasidus. It follows that this light must radiate even to places that until now were "outside" and that everywhere, vessels to contain the light of Moshiach should be expanded.
Chasidus classes are available for people of all ages and backgrounds. For information, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. For a listing of the Centers in your area: http://www.chabad.org/chabadir-access.html. In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
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 Ethics of the Fathers
We read one chapter of Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) each Shabbat following the afternoon prayer. Pirkei Avot contain ethics and moral exhortations.
Many have the custom to continue reading these chapters throughout the summer months until Rosh HaShanah; summer is a time when people are prone to become more lax in their Jewish observances.
The Rebbe emphasized the importance of not only reciting the chapters, but also actually studying them.
The weekly chapter of Pirkei Avot with the Rebbe's commentaries, are available electronically via the Internet, by sending your subscription request to: firstname.lastname@example.org - Subscribe "G-5."
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, June 5, Erev Shabbat Parshat Nasso:
Saturday, June 6, Shabbat Parshat Nasso:
1. 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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