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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 focus on the Rambam, whose yahrtzeit is on Friday, the 20th of Tevet, Jan. 8.
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
5 Tevet, 5759
Brooklyn, New York
"These are the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt," begins this week's Torah portion, Shemot. The Midrash explains that the names of the Twelve Tribes that follow, enumerated when they made their descent into the land of Egypt, are mentioned in connection to the Jewish people's eventual redemption from that land.
We see that the narrative that follows tells of the beginning of the Jews' servitude, seemingly the direct opposite of their liberation and redemption. What is the meaning of this apparent contradiction?
Secondly, another opinion in the Midrash states that the names of the Twelve Tribes are mentioned to emphasize that they descended into Egypt with the names Reuven, Shimon ... and ascended after the redemption with these very same names. The emphasis is on the merit of the Jewish people, that throughout the Egyptian exile, they did not change their names.
The implication of both these passages is that one must understand the descent into Egypt as a phase in the redemption of the Jewish people, and indeed, as connected with the ultimate redemption that will take place with the coming of Moshiach. In that context, the obligation to recall--and relive--the exodus from Egypt every day serves as a catalyst to bring about Moshiach's arrival.
The Jews' redemption from Egypt, the first of their four exiles, "is a great fundamental principle ... of our Torah and faith," according to our Sages. That first redemption represents the opening of the potential for all future redemptions. The freedom which was granted at that time continues at all times.
In a spiritual sense, the exodus from Egypt represents the liberation of the G-dly soul from the limitations of the body, and in general, of the triumph of the spirit over the limitations inherent in the material world. Our obligation to remember the Exodus every day therefore consists of the following:
1. Every day, each of us must strive to go beyond his own personal boundaries and limitations;
2. Our obligation to recall the Exodus at night, refers to carrying out our service of G-d during the long "night" of our exile; and
3. We will also be obligated to recall the exodus from Egypt after Moshiach comes, even though the final redemption will far surpass the one that took place in Egypt. The potential for evil will be totally eradicated, and the Jewish people will never again be exiled.
In fact, the entire period of time from the Egyptian Exodus until the Future Redemption is described as "the days of your exodus from Egypt," for the exodus which began in Egypt will not be complete until the ultimate redemption is realized.
In practical terms, one must therefore anticipate the redemption and experience a foretaste of it in our daily lives, by bringing a consciousness of Moshiach into all our actions, for doing so will act as a catalyst and hasten the actual coming of the redemption.
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.
"From Moses to Moses there arose none like Moses." The first Moses to which this quote refers was the great prophet and Jewish leader, Moses. The second was Moses Maimonides, otherwise known as the Rambam, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon. Born on the day before Passover, 1135, in Cordova, Spain, the Rambam passed away on the 20th of Tevet, 1204 (this year, Friday, Jan. 8).
Maimonides was known in the Jewish world as a great talmudist and scholar. He served as chief rabbi of Egypt, the land to which he moved in his early thirties. He authored numerous books and treatises, including The Guide for the Perplexed, a commentary on the Mishnah, and the Sefer HaMitzvot (Book of Mitzvot).
14 years ago, the Rebbe urged all Jews to study every day a section of the Rambam's magnum opus, Mishneh Torah (a code of Jewish law), or at least the briefer Sefer HaMitzvot. Today, the Mishneh Torah, or the briefer Sefer HaMitzvot, is studied daily by hundreds of thousands of Jews--men, women and children--around the world.
The Rambam's fame and influence transcended the Jewish world. He was also internationally acclaimed as a philosopher and physician. In fact, he served as royal physician to the court of Saladin. He authored over fifteen works on the theory and practice of medicine, including one on asthma and another about poisons.
When the Rambam passed away, he was mourned by Jews and Moslems alike in Egypt, and Jews throughout the entire world. He was buried in the holy city of Tiberias in the northern part of Israel. By studying his works we can be united with his spirit.
* * *
A few years ago, the Rebbe discussed the following concepts:
"The name Rambam is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, "I will multiply My wonders in the land of Egypt," an allusion to the wonders associated with Redemption. Similarly, the Rambam's spiritual service involved giving Jews in Egypt--in the night of exile--a foretaste of the Redemption.
"Firstly, he lived in Egypt and it was there that he composed his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah (a code of Jewish law). As he explained in his 'Introduction,' the Mishneh Torah was composed because of the difficulties of exile, as the Jews were unable to derive halachic rulings from the Talmud and needed an auxiliary source. Nevertheless, the text that the Rambam composed gave the Jews a foretaste of the Redemption--reflected in the fact that it includes laws that will only be relevant in the Era of the Redemption when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt and in the conclusion of the text that focuses directly on the Era of the Redemption.
"Since, on the yahrtzeit of a tzaddik, 'the totality of his deeds, teachings, and service is revealed and... "brings about salvation in the depths of the earth,'" it follows that the Rambam's yahrtzeit grants us further potential to anticipate the Redemption.
"The above is particularly relevant in the present age when the Jewish people have completed the service required of them in exile. Everything is ready for the Redemption. All that is lacking is for G-d to open the eyes of the Jews and allow them to realize that they are sitting at the feast of the Redemption."
The Rebbe concluded: "There is no need for any further delay, and without any interruption we shall soon proceed from the present era to the era of the Redemption. The very next moment can be the last moment of the exile and the first moment of that era. As a catalyst for this, we must reflect an attitude of Redemption in our lives, showing how even within the exile, we can experience Redemption."
The Rambam is probably best remembered for his encyclopedic codification of all 613 commandments of the Torah in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah.
In the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam enumerates and details all of the 613 laws of the Torah. He places the laws relating to the Jewish king, and Moshiach, at the very end of his work. In the introduction to these laws he states that the Jews were commanded to fulfill three mitzvot upon conquering and entering the land of Israel: To appoint a king; to kill the descendants of Amalek; and to build G-d's Chosen House, the Beis HaMikdosh, in Jerusalem.
It would seem that these mitzvot should have been mentioned much earlier in his work if they were, in fact, so important! However, the Rambam chose to organize the Mishneh Torah in this fashion to emphasize that the true and complete performance of all the mitzvot of the Torah will be attained only when a king rules over Israel. The Rambam then defines Moshiach as a king, who will not only redeem the Jews from exile, but also restore the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot to their complete state.
For many, this would seem a rather novel approach. Yet, the Talmud states that "the world was created solely for Moshiach." This being the case, we certainly must do everything in our power to prepare ourselves for Moshiach's imminent arrival.
What is within the power and reach of each individual, great and small? Good deeds, charity, studying concepts and laws associated with Moshiach and the Final Redemption, fostering peace between family, friends and co-workers, and actively waiting for and anticipating his arrival each and every day.
The following story is told about how it was "decided" where the Rambam's final resting place should be:
People from all over gathered in Egypt to attend the funeral of the great Rambam. When the procession was over, a discussion erupted as to where to bury him. The Rambam had only requested to be buried in the Holy Land. No mention was made as to which city should be his final resting place.
Representatives of different cities in the Holy Land came forward, each one arguing that the Rambam should be buried in their city. Because no solution to the problem at hand was in sight, everyone agreed to begin taking the coffin toward Israel, hoping that along the way they might come upon a solution for this problem. The coffin was perched atop a sturdy camel and, with hundreds joining the caravan, made its way toward the Holy Land.
One of the most difficult and dangerous parts of desert travel was the constant fear of being overtaken by one of the many bands of highway robbers who attacked travelers.
As it began to get dark, the pace of the caravan quickened. Everyone hoped that they would find a relatively safe place to camp for the evening. Their fears were well founded though, for within a short while, the sound of hoof beats were heard, coming closer and closer. "We're being attacked," cried out the leader of the caravan. Many of the people panicked and scattered in different directions. A few remained with the coffin to guard it. But, they, too, were frightened away as the gang of vicious bandits came charging toward them.
The bandits approached the camel with the coffin. They assumed that the box contained a huge treasure since so many people were guarding it. As much as they tried, though, the box could not be taken off the camel.
"Grab the camel's reins," shouted the leader of the bandits. "We'll take it with us." Their efforts met with no success, and they could not get the huge animal to budge.
"Open the box," commanded the leader.
One of the gangsters swaggered over to the box and began to pry off the lid. "There's a body in this box," he shrieked, as he ran away. The other bandits, too, became frightened at the thought of a dead body in a box in the middle of the dark desert and quickly made their exit.
Upon seeing that the bandits had left, the people from the caravan made their way back toward the camel. But, to their surprise, the camel began moving determinedly, as if it had a specific destination in mind.
The caravan leader cautioned the other people not to go near the camel. "It seems almost as if something is guiding the camel. Let us see what direction it takes." Soon it was obvious that the camel was heading straight for the border of Israel.
The caravan followed from a distance. By now, everyone was certain that the problem of where to bury the Rambam was solved.
After reaching the borders of Israel, the camel continued to travel steadily. It came to the city of Tiberias in the northern part of the country. It continued on through the narrow streets of the city until it suddenly stopped and knelt down on the ground.
The people understood that this was the place where they should bury the Rambam. Carefully, they removed the coffin from the camel's back and placed it on the ground, then immediately began digging the grave. All who witnessed this strange event were amazed to see the wonderful miracle.
The people of the city of Tiberias built a beautiful structure over the spot where the Rambam was buried. And every year, on the anniversary of his passing, thousands of people from all parts of the world come to visit his holy grave.
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.
Study the Rambam's works daily:
"In honor of Rambam's yahrtzeit we should reinforce our study of the Rambam's works according to the three-pronged plan of study: three chapters or one chapter a day in the Mishneh Torah, or the parallel portions of Sefer HaMitzvot. Not only should one study these works himself, he should also influence others to do so."
(The Rebbe, 21 Tevet, 5752)
One can study one chapter a day in the Mishneh Torah and/or the daily lesson in Sefer HaMitzvot, via telephone # (718) 953-6100, except on Shabbat or yom tov.
The daily portion of Sefer HaMitzvot is also available electronically via the Internet by sending your subscription request to: email@example.com Subscribe "D-3."
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, Jan. 8, Erev Shabbat Parshat Shemot:
Saturday, Jan. 9, Shabbat Parshat Shemot:
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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