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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.
It is with tremendous pain and sorrow that I dedicate this issue of Living With Moshiach to the loving memory of my dear cousin, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Kazen, founder and Director of Activities, of Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace, who passed away, at the age of 44, on Tuesday, 12 Kislev, 5759 (Dec. 1, 1998).
In this week's issue, we focus on the auspicious date of Yud Tes Kislev, the 19th day of Kislev. This year's Yud Tes Kislev marks the 200th anniversary of the Alter Rebbe's (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi), release from incarceration in czarist Russia.
The Jewish year that has just begun is the year 5759 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Tav-Shin-Nun-Tes. 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 T'hei Shnas Niflaos Tovoh" meaning "It surely will be a good year of wondrous miracles."
Our sincere appreciation to L'Chaim weekly publication, published by the Lubavitch Youth Organization, for allowing us to use their material.
Also, many thanks to our copy editor, Reb Mordechai Staiman, for his tireless efforts.
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
12 Kislev, 5759
Brooklyn, New York
At first glance, this week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, chronicles the circumstances leading to Joseph's appointment as second in command over Egypt, subordinate only to Pharaoh. Yet, upon examination, we find that Joseph's story is synonymous with the history of the Jews.
Joseph, the pride of his father, at the age of 17 is suddenly plucked from his secure environment, his family, and his country. Sold into slavery and finding himself in a foreign land, he must now cope with the most adverse and cruel of circumstances. Worst of all, Joseph is not to blame, for all this has come about through no action of his own.
A lesser individual would have surely succumbed to bitterness and depression. Another might have become indifferent. But Joseph realized that he must deal with the reality that presented itself. As the servant of Potifar, he fulfilled his duties to the best of his ability. It soon became apparent even to Potifar that it was in Joseph's merit that his household enjoyed its material blessings.
This, then, is the task of every Jew: No matter how adverse the circumstances, each Jew must live up to his full potential and fulfill his duties to the best of his ability.
But how was Joseph repaid for his loyalty? He was thrown into prison! Why? Because he refused to betray his master by succumbing to the advances of the master's wife. Not only didn't Joseph's honesty and integrity bring him any positive benefits, these very qualities caused him to be incarcerated. Was Joseph discouraged? Did he reject his lifestyle and renounce his high standards? Joseph's response to adversity was to continue in the same path, acting honestly and in good faith. Eventually his behavior and virtue drew the attention of his jailers.
This is the history of the Jew as well: No matter how depraved and corrupt his surroundings, he remains undeterred from his faith in G-d and His Torah.
When Joseph noticed that two of his fellow inmates, Pharaoh's chief butler and chief baker, were distressed for some reason, he rushed to their aid, without thought of rejoicing at their misfortune or of taking revenge for the role they played in his downfall. Joseph could not bear to see people in need, and so he immediately offered his assistance. He was able to bring them relief by interpreting their respective dreams.
In return, Joseph did not ask for monetary payment or special treatment. He merely requested that the chief butler mention his name to Pharaoh when he was freed, which he didn't do. In his unbending faith in the goodness of man and in ultimate justice, Joseph believed that fairness would prevail if only Pharaoh was presented with the facts.
This theme has been played out time and again in Jewish history. Joseph unfortunately learned the hard way that this world is full of lies and deception. Yet when he later found himself in a position of almost unlimited power, he refused to exact revenge on those who had harmed him. This is not the way of the Jew. Joseph faithfully used his office to steer the Egyptians and the whole world from potential catastrophe during the years of famine, enacting, for the first time, the historic role the Jews have played during their exile among the nations.
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.
Legal holidays, bank holidays, American holidays. For most Americans, Presidents' Day and July Fourth, Memorial Day and Columbus Day conjure up images of long weekends, no mail, 24-hour banking machines and sales.
In Jewish tradition, a holiday, special event, or the birthday or yahrtzeit of a great person, has a different type of significance. Chasidic philosophy reveals that every special day in the Jewish calendar can have its own special impact on a person's life and the entire year.
From Passover, for instance, one receives the strength to break out of one's own Egypt, one's own limitations. From the upcoming holiday of Chanukah, we derive the ability to rededicate ourselves to G-dly service just as the Hasmonian Maccabees rededicated the Holy Temple after its desecration.
In the spiritual realm, the same forces in effect at the time of the original event reassert themselves at the time of the anniversary of the event. This makes an anniversary an opportune time to benefit from those forces.
Tuesday, Dec. 8, is Yud Tes Kislev, the 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, a day of import to chasidim the world-over. But, in keeping with the above comments, it has great significance for every Jew. The 19th of Kislev is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov. It is also the day of liberation for Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Maggid's disciple and the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman's arrest by the Russian government was instigated by opposers to the chasidic movement and its teachings. His liberation, then, meant freedom for the Chasidism.
"Every Jew is a brother, every individual Jew is important...A Jew is, by his very nature, inseparable from G-d, regardless of how much circumstances have temporarily overshadowed this connection." These were some of the basic teachings of the Baal Shem Tov expounded upon and disseminated by his chief disciple, the Maggid, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
The spiritual energy inherent in the 19th of Kislev gives each one of us the strength necessary to explore the Baal Shem Tov's teachings. From understanding and implementing the intrinsic unity of the Jewish people to the more esoteric and mysterious aspects of the Torah as explained in chasidic philosophy, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
Tuesday, Dec. 8, is Yud Tes Kislev, the 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. This date marks a special day in the Chabad-Lubavitch calendar in particular, and the Jewish calendar in general. It is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, disciple and successor to the Baal Shem Tov.
The 19th of Kislev is also the day on which Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, and disciple of the Maggid, was released from his incarceration in czarist Russia. He was imprisoned on false charges of spreading anti-government sentiments.
On the simplest level, the event leading up to the Nineteenth of Kislev was the arrest of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. His arrest was instigated by those who opposed the chasidic movement and fabricated lies against Rabbi Shneur Zalman. His arrest threatened his life and the survival of Chasidism.
The spiritual reality of the 19th of Kislev, however, was a charge, in the Heavenly court, against Rabbi Shneur Zalman, for expounding Chasidism and disclosing the mysteries of Torah.
Traditionally, the secrets of the Torah were studied only by a select few whose piety matched their scholarship. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the chasidic movement, began disseminating the hidden aspects of Torah to even the simplest, unlettered Jews. His successor, the Maggid of Mezritch, continued in this vein. Both of these great leaders were faced with strong opposition to their "innovation."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, a disciple of the Maggid, revealed the mysteries to an even greater extent than his predecessors, in order to reach every Jew. In Heaven, this brought about a tremendous accusation, which was reflected in the physical arrest and trial of Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
The liberation of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, then, indicates the spiritual approval of all the Rebbe's actions, on the physical and spiritual level.
We celebrate the Nineteenth of Kislev because it was the physical liberation of the Rebbe; his life was no longer endangered. But, more importantly, it is a day of celebration, for it shows Divine approval of Chasidism.
Why celebrate an event that took place 200 years ago to an individual in far-away Russia?
According to Jewish teachings, the same spiritual forces functioning at the time of the original event--whether a birth, wedding, yahrtzeit, or victorious incident--reassert themselves at the time of the anniversary. Therefore, it is an opportune time to benefit from those powers.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was one of the chief proponents of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. His vindication, therefore, was the vindication of the entire fledgling movement. Through his release from prison, the teachings of chasidic philosophy--the inner and mystical aspect of Torah--could be freely taught.
The spiritual forces operative on the original 19th of Kislev, and the Nineteenth of Kislev in each subsequent year, are intimately tied up with the dissemination and study of Chasidus.
May we all use this special time, and the unique spiritual forces it brings with it, for the advancement of the study of chasidic teachings, especially as elucidated by Rabbi Shneur Zalman and his successors.
Happy New Year!
Wait a minute. It's a little late for Rosh HaShanah.
Actually, on the 19th of Kislev (this year, Tuesday, Dec. 8), we do celebrate a "New Year," of sorts, the little-known Rosh HaShanah of Chasidus. On that day, 200 years ago, the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, who had been imprisoned on trumped-up charges, was released. To this day, chasidim greet each other with a "Happy New Year" and other appropriate salutations, on the 19th of Kislev.
But what, in fact, was so important about the first Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman--and his release--that we make such a big hubbub about it?
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was imprisoned because he was teaching and making available to all Jews Chasidus--the inner mysteries of the Torah.
Today, what with modern technology, "sharing" and honesty in relationships, movies about ghosts and extraterrestrial beings, there don't seem to be many mysteries left to unravel. But, when it comes to Torah, and in particular to Jewish education, one big mystery still remains. It's the mystery of how Jewish children in free countries continue to grow up with little or no Jewish education.
It would seem that, in the spirit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's life work, this "New Year" is the perfect time to be making resolutions about Jewish education. So, break out the bubbly, put on a hat, toot a few horns, and let's figure out how we can help that Jewish kid down the block learn something about being Jewish.
The question of decades ago, "It's ten p.m. Do you know where your children are?" might bring more looks of exasperation today than in the past. Yet, if someone directed a similar question to you--"Do you know where you are?" we would think that the questioner is a bit daft.
Aside from visits to malls, zoos or amusement parks, when we often have to refer to the map at the information center to find out "you are here," we always seem to know where we are.
But do we really know where we are?
The first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, was imprisoned on trumped up charges of anti-government activities. During his imprisonment, one of the czar's officers--having heard of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's keen intellect and outstanding genius in all areas of life--engaged him in a conversation.
The officer had an unsolved question. "It says that Adam 'hid' after he sinned by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. When G-d wanted to speak with Adam, He asked him, 'Where are you?' Didn't G-d know where Adam was?" asked the officer.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied, "The Bible is eternal and its message is for all times. G-d was inquiring of Adam, and of all his descendants for all time, 'Where are you? Where do you stand in the fulfillment of your life's mission? How much have you accomplished today and what do you intend to accomplish tomorrow that will help you fulfill the special task with which you have been entrusted?'"
The question "Where are you?" is asked every day of each one of us. Like the question, "Who are you?" the answer has to come from a place that goes beyond names and titles and positions and affiliations and job descriptions. To be able to properly respond, our answer has to come from our very essence. For G-d does not direct the question to Adam or Eve, to Michael or Jennifer. He directs it to you: "Where are you?"
An important start in being able to answer the question is to understand who "you" are. The chasidic teachings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman--the dissemination of which was the true cause for his imprisonment--explain that "you" are comprised of a G-dly soul and a body chosen by G-d at Mount Sinai. Torah, primarily as elucidated by chasidic teachings, can help us fully understand these two components of ourselves. Together with that understanding comes the ability to begin to answer the age-old and ageless question, "Where are you."
The New Year of Chasidus commences on the 19th of Kislev. Make a New Year's resolution that "you" will never regret. Join a Torah class that includes chasidic teachings. Find out where you really are.
Chasidus classes are available for people of all ages and backgrounds. For information, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
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.
The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." We therefore present from the Rebbe's talks suggestions what we can do to complete his work of bringing the Redemption.
Gatherings should be held in every Jewish community, in honor of 19 Kislev--the "New Year of Chasidus" and anniversary of the liberation of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe.
Participate in as many gatherings as you can. They needn't be huge assemblies; begin with yourself (i.e., a gathering of one's own strengths and powers for good).
At these gatherings an emphasis should be placed on inspiring each other to increase in Torah, prayer and deeds of kindness.
(The Rebbe, 16 Kislev, 5752/1991)
For a Yud Tes Kislev gathering in your area, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
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, Dec. 11, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev:
Sat., Dec. 12, Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev:
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.
2. Rosh Chodesh Tevet is on Saturday, Dec. 19, and Sunday, Dec. 20.
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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