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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 highlight Chanukah in a special feature presentation.
The Jewish year that has recently 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
19 Kislev, 5759
Brooklyn, New York
The Jewish people, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are often referred to by the name of another of our great forebears, Joseph. "Listen, O Shepherd of Israel, You Who leads Joseph like a flock," sings the Psalmist. Rashi explains that every Jew is called "Joseph," "because he (Joseph) sustained and provided for them during the famine," a narrative of which appears in this week's Torah portion, Vayigash.
At first glance, this seems to be an insufficient explanation. Why call an entire nation after one individual, no matter how exalted, just because he was instrumental in aiding the Jewish people during a certain short period in their history?
Chasidic philosophy teaches that every phenomenon in the physical world exists only because of its spiritual root above. Indeed, the physical manifestation in this world is only a reflection of the true spiritual reality. The fact that Joseph sustained the fledgling Jewish people with food (as well as the rest of the known world at the time), reflects the fact that it was he who imbued his people with the spiritual nourishment and sustenance they needed to survive in exile as well. The lack of food, the famine which hit Egypt, was accompanied by a spiritual famine, for the exile in Egypt was a time of great darkness and trouble for the Jewish people. It was Joseph who gave his descendants the strength to deal with the hardships and adversity of exile.
Joseph, in his role as second in command to Pharaoh, broke new ground and paved an innovative path in the service of G-d. Joseph's brothers were shepherds, an occupation which gave them plenty of time to pursue a spiritual life. By contrast, Joseph lived a life of involvement in the world, first as the manager of Potifar's household, later when he was in charge of his fellow prisoners in jail, and finally, when he was appointed second in command over all of Egypt. Although Joseph was always intimately involved in the day-to-day details of the physical world, as was dictated by his various positions, his greatness lies in the fact that he never severed his spiritual connection to G-d, and in fact, emerged even stronger in his service and commitment.
Much of Joseph's life was spent in exile, in the center of the most cosmopolitan society of his time. Yet, he remained untouched by the lure of the material world and unbowed in his religious faith.
Joseph therefore symbolizes, more than any of the Patriarchs or the rest of the twelve tribes, the essence of the Jewish people. As we stand on the threshold of the messianic era, we look back on the thousands of years of Jewish exile spent under the dominion of the nations of the world. Although we have, of necessity, concerned ourselves with the daily, mundane details of our lives, our relationship with G-d has remained as strong as ever. Indeed, our goal in life is not to withdraw from the world to concentrate solely on the spiritual; a Jew's task is to combine the two realms, imbuing the physical world with holiness. It is in our forefather Joseph's merit that we have been given the power to withstand any spiritual "famine" which could possibly threaten our existence as "Joseph's flock."
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.
As Chanukah draws to a close, we can once again reflect with joy on the historic issuing (in 5756/1996) of the first Chanukah stamp by the United States Postal Service.(*) No longer do Jews have to feel second class or bulk rate during the winter holiday season when all of America is festooned with the thinly disguised "secular" trappings of the holiday of the majority religion.
The revolution began with the public Chanukah menorahs championed by the Rebbe several decades ago, instilling pride in tens of thousands of Jewish people as they finally encountered some recognition of their faith and traditions strolling along Union Square in S. Francisco, Central Park in New York or on Main Street, USA. The modern-day custom spread to exotic locations like the Kremlin and the Eiffel Tower, with the same message proclaimed all over: After centuries of persecution in country after country, generation after generation, finally a Jew need not hide his identity, and even more so, he can proudly publicize his faith, practice his religion freely and even shout it out on the steps of City Hall.
This message of religious freedom and the right to hold one's head high is the true meaning of the public menorahs. Of course, some opposed the Rebbe's innovation, whether because they were not secure in their own Jewishness, at least in public, or because to join rather than fight would have meant an admission of defeat in their own fruitless campaign to purge American public life of the observance of the non-Jewish winter holiday. Once the courts had found a way to cast trees and wreathes as "secular," their battle was truly lost, and nitpicking over which displays were secular and which religious, led only to a few legal victories but to no real benefit in the psyche of the young Jewish child who walked down the street in December, feeling overwhelmed and ignored.
Then, in a masterful stroke of cynicism, the opponents of public menorahs became the guardians of religion, arguing that Lubavitch was secularizing Chanukah. They were caught in the legal fiction of denying the religious origins of Dec. 25, which Christian America had used to preserve the public displays of their holiday in the face of court challenges. What they failed to understand is that a menorah can at once be a religious symbol and conveyor of a secular message of history, culture, tradition and, above all, freedom.
The Rebbe's solution is first-class all the way. It is both visionary and practical. Let us use the holiday that celebrates our religious freedom from Syrian-Greek oppressors to exert our own freedom to celebrate as Jews in benevolent America and restore Jewish pride to its proper place. How warm a Jewish commuter feels coming to a toll booth and seeing it adorned with a menorah shouting out its message of welcome. Not only welcome to live freely, but welcome to practice one's faith freely in private and in public.
So, as we tuck away a few stamps with the Chanukah gift-wrap to be used next year (when the stamps will surely be obsolete, as all Jews will be reunited in the Holy Land with Moshiach and we will be posting our Chanukah greetings from there) let's adopt the motto of the U.S. Postal Service of years gone by: Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night...will deter us from practicing our Jewishness openly and proudly.
*. For more information about the Chanukah stamp by the United States Postal Service, go to:
Thursday, the 5th of Tevet (Dec. 24), is a day of celebration and rejoicing known as Didan Natzach--"Victory is Ours."
It is the day, 12 years ago (in 5747/1987), when Federal Court Judge Charles Sifton rendered his legal decision on the ownership of the enormous and valuable library of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. For three weeks during the previous winter, the judge had listened to testimony concerning whether the Previous Rebbe's library was a personal possession, subject to the laws of inheritances, or if it was the possession of Chabad.
Judge Sifton was tremendously influenced by the statement of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, of blessed memory, daughter of the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe's wife, that "My father belonged to the chasidim just as the books belong to the chasidim."
There was great rejoicing on the day of the verdict, lasting for seven days. Each evening the Rebbe spoke publicly and expounded on the spiritual ramifications of the victory.
In one of these talks, the Rebbe said: "At the time of his imprisonment and redemption, the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi) found a Divine lesson in everything that had occurred. One of his conclusions was the need to increase with renewed vigor and strength the dissemination of chasidic philosophy. The eternal Divine connection [of the Alter Rebbe's imprisonment and subsequent release] to this event is obvious. Thus, especially because the charge was brought against Agudas Chasidei Chabad as a living and vital organization, we must strengthen even more the dissemination of the teachings of our Rebbes, learning them privately and in groups amidst great joy and enthusiasm, joy that breaks all boundaries...."
May we witness the ultimate breaching of limitations with the end of the exile and the ultimate joy of being united as one in the true and complete Redemption.
by Rabbi Avraham Kotlarsky*
The fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel (the Rebbe Maharash), had a chassid who was a successful businessman. Before undertaking any significant deal, he always consulted the Rebbe and followed his instructions.
One time, the chassid was offered a fabulous opportunity. If successful--and most certainly it would be--he would make millions. The deal, however, required that he invest almost his entire fortune. Before the chassid would make such a major move, he set off to the city of Lubavitch to seek the Rebbe's advice.
After hearing the details of the proposition the Rebbe Maharash told him that he should not go through with the deal.
The chassid was stunned. He tried to convince the Rebbe that this was a sound proposal; he described all of the great profits to be made, but to no avail. The Rebbe's answer was final: NO!
A few days later, the would-be business partners came to the chassid. When they heard that he was not interested, based upon the Rebbe's answer, they began to laugh at him. "Certainly you didn't understand the Rebbe's words," they told him. "And anyway, maybe there were some important details you left out that would solicit a different answer. After all," they said, "isn't there a saying that 'according to how you ask, that is how you're answered'? Go back to the Rebbe and make sure to tell him all the details. You'll see, the answer will be different this time."
Back to Lubavitch the chassid went. "Rebbe," he pleaded, "obviously I did not explain myself well enough last time. We're talking about tremendous sums of money. I can become rich overnight and give much tzeddaka [charity] as well..."
The Rebbe listened patiently once again, and at the end of the presentation his answer was simple and direct: "No. It's not worthwhile."
The chassid made his way home, thinking about all the money he could have made, if only the Rebbe would have agreed. "The Rebbe doesn't even explain his reasons," thought the chassid.
But his friends and family wouldn't let up. "It's forbidden to lose such an opportunity," they cried. "Go back to the Rebbe again and certainly the answer will be different."
In his third attempt, the chassid tried everything, even begging the Rebbe to let him make the deal, but the Rebbe answered once again: "No."
When the chassid came home, he couldn't stand up to the pressure of family and friends, and contrary to the Rebbe's advice, he signed the deal. He quieted his conscience by telling himself that he would now really give a lot of tzeddaka.
Unfortunately, things did not go well. In a short while, the chassid lost all his money.
The chassid realized how wrong it was to not follow the Rebbe's instruction. Full of regret, he made his way back a fourth time to see the Rebbe.
The chassid spent a long time in private with the Rebbe. When he came out, he revealed only one thing the Rebbe had told him.
"There are people," said the Rebbe, "big businessmen among them, who come to ask my advice concerning important matters. Sometimes the issues are quite complex; matters which I have never engaged in, nor did my ancestors. So then why do they ask me my advice, and follow my instructions and counsel?
"There are three answers, each one matching a different type of Jew who comes to me.
"One person thinks, 'It's very simple. The Rebbe has Ruach HaKodesh--Divine Inspiration! The Rebbe is a G-dly man, a prophet. It is G-d's words coming from his mouth and therefore we must follow him, no questions asked!'
"Another type," continued the Rebbe, "is a person who operates on a different level, somewhat more down to earth. 'The Rebbe studies Torah all the time and serves G-d with his entire being. His intellect is totally nullified to G-d's Will. Therefore, everything he says stems from Torah and certainly his words will be fulfilled.'
"The third type," explained the Rebbe, "says, 'The Rebbe meets so many people, from all over the world and from all walks of life. He has acquired an incredibly broad knowledge of worldly matters. With this knowledge and his ability to see things from many different angles, the Rebbe sees what others cannot. Therefore, we must listen to him.'
"Whichever group you might belong to," the Rebbe Maharash concluded, "you should never have gone through with the deal after hearing from me not once, not twice, but three times clearly 'no!'"
* * *
I remember the morning of Gimmel Tammuz 5754/1994, when I walked into the Chabad House for Sunday morning services. One of the people who had come to pray asked me, "What do we do now?"
What do we do now? The Rebbe told us that the Redemption is at the door; that we must prepare ourselves and the whole world for the revelation of Moshiach. It was true that even while the Rebbe was critically ill we believed that G-d would heal the Rebbe; that the Redemption we so eagerly awaited and anticipated would be heralded in with the revelation of the Rebbe as Moshiach, and that he would miraculously lead us to the Holy Land.
What now? Who will lead us on? Was the Rebbe wrong? Is the Redemption, after all, a beautiful dream to take place in another time, another place, but not in this "real" world of sorrow and pain?
Some people see in the Rebbe a great charismatic leader. Others see a Torah genius. Others emphasize the Rebbe's knack for finding the right button to push in the hearts of his followers, his admirers, or any stranger who approached him at Sunday dollars.(1) Others speak of the Rebbe's organizational skills and his foresight that has put him light-years ahead of prevailing thought.
The final word is that the Rebbe is a G-dly man. The Rebbe is not "us-plus," so to speak, a person who is merely more brilliant, more sensitive, more insightful, more spiritual, and capable of leadership than we. Rather, his teachings and personal life reveal him to be carved from a different substance altogether. His every word--carefully chosen and full of meaning; his every move--calculated, corresponding to Divine Emanations in a world concealed from our sight; someone transplanted from another world, to bring light to a darkened world, to lead the final generation of exile to Redemption.
The Rebbe is revealed to each person as he perceives the Rebbe. Like the three types of Jews who came to the Rebbe Maharash, every individual relates to the Rebbe on a different level.
Not once, not twice, nor three times, but literally hundreds of times--publicly and privately, in writing and verbally--the Rebbe has told all Jews of this generation what we must do in these last moments before the Redemption:
"Do everything you can to bring Moshiach, here and now." (28 Nissan, 5751/1991)
"...Publicize to all people that we have merited that G-d has chosen and appointed an individual incomparably greater than all other people in this generation as the judge, adviser and prophet of the generation to give instructions and advice in both the Divine service and daily activities of all Jews ... up to and including the main prophecy, "Redemption is imminent" and "Moshiach is coming." (Shabbat Shoftim, 5751/1991)
"All the service that was expected of the Jewish people in exile has been completed and perfected and we are now ready to receive Moshiach ... Moshiach not only exists, but is also revealed. All that remains is for us to receive and greet Moshiach in actual fact." (Shabbat Vayeira, 5752/1991)
"Every sheliach [emissary of the Rebbe] must prepare himself and all the Jews of his neighborhood, city, etc., to greet Moshiach through explaining the concept of Moshiach, as discussed in the Written and Oral Torah, in a way that each and every individual can relate to .... Since this is the necessary service of the time, it is self-understood that this is incumbent upon every single Jew, without any exception." (Shabbat Chayei Sarah, 5752/1991)
The Rebbe has told us to learn more about Moshiach and the Redemption; to start "living with Moshiach" by increasing our acts of kindness and mitzvot; to share this message with others.
Whatever group we belong to, regardless of how we define ourselves and at what level of faith we may operate, we should listen to the Rebbe.
There is no question that all that the Rebbe said will be fulfilled. There is no question that what the Rebbe said is not open now to reinterpretation. There is no question that we will see the Redemption very soon unfold before our eyes, precisely as the Rebbe said. There is no question what we must do now, for everything the Rebbe has said to us, all of the directions that he has given to this generation, must continue on and with greater strength, with more vigor and vitality.
We are the generation of the Redemption. And we will make it happen. Let us commit ourselves to fulfilling the Rebbe's directives, and then we will be able to see the realization of the Rebbe's most important prophecy, the revelation of Moshiach in the true and complete Redemption.
*. Executive Director, Chabad Lubavitch of Rockland, NY.
1. In the years 1986-1992, the Rebbe, every Sunday, personally distributed to each of the thousands of visitors who came to receive his blessings a dollar to give to charity.
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.
Buy Jewish Books!
The 5th of Tevet, is the anniversary of the return of stolen books of the Previous Rebbe to the Library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad as per the ruling of the U.S. Court. As part of the Previous Rebbe's library still remains in Russia, the Rebbe has urged that we purchase Jewish books to spiritually energize the process of the redemption of those books as well.
"Our efforts to show regard for Jewish holy texts will have an effect on the future of the Previous Rebbe's library. By purchasing comparable texts, such as the ethical and philosophical literature of Chabad Chasidus... we can hasten the return of that library to its rightful owners. Even little children should be given books as gifts, in the hope that what is not yet fully appreciated today will be studied before long."
(The eve of the 5th of Tevet, 5752)
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. 25, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayigash:
Saturday, Dec. 26, Shabbat Parshat Vayigash:
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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