"LIVING WITH MOSHIACH,"
Parshat Vayechi, 5761
Tevet 17, 5761
Jan. 12, 2001
Dedicated to educating the public regarding the
current situation in Israel, based on Torah
sources, with special emphasis on the opinion
and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
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"I BELIEVE WITH COMPLETE FAITH IN THE ARRIVAL OF THE MOSHIACH.
"AND THOUGH HE MAY TARRY, I SHALL WAIT EACH DAY, ANTICIPATING HIS
Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
THIS PUBLICATION IS DEDICATED
TO THE REBBE,
RABBI MENACHEM M. SCHNEERSON
Click here, to see pictures
of the Rebbe
The Daily Sicha (in Real Audio)
- Listen to selected excerpts of the Rebbe's Sichos
[talks] which are relevant to the particular day.
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 next
Monday, the 20th of Tevet, Jan. 15.
Our sincere appreciation to
publication, published by the Lubavitch Youth Organization, for allowing
us to use their material.
Also, many thanks to our copy editor, Reb
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
15 Tevet, 5761
Brooklyn, New York
With this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we conclude the Book of Genesis.
"So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old...and he was put into
a coffin in Egypt" is its final verse.
This conclusion to the entire Book is somewhat surprising, in light of the
principle that "one should always end on a positive note." Why couldn't Genesis
have concluded a few verses back, when we learn that Joseph lived a long
life and merited to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Why couldn't
the description of Joseph's death have waited until the Book of Exodus?
We must therefore conclude that Joseph's passing is somehow related to the
theme of Genesis itself. The primary difference between Genesis and the other
four Books of Moses is that Genesis relates the early history of our Forefathers
and the twelve tribes--the preparation for our existence as a distinct
nation--whereas the other four books contain a narrative of our history as
The Book of Genesis begins with an account of the creation of the world.
The Sage, Rabbi Yitzchok, explained that although the Torah should have begun
with a practical mitzvah, G-d chose to commence with the Creation
to refute the arguments of the Gentiles, who would one day claim that the
Jews had stolen the land of Israel from the seven nations who lived there
prior to its conquest.
To counter their assertion, the Jews will say, "The entire world belongs
to G-d; He created it and divided it as He saw fit. It was His will to give
it to them [the seven nations], and it was His will to take it from them
and give it to us."
Surely G-d did not change the entire order of His Torah just to supply an
answer to the arguments of the Gentiles. The comments of Rabbi Yitzchok must
therefore contain a more fundamental teaching for the Jewish people as a
The nations of the world are already cognizant of the Jew's uniqueness and
his special mission. Their claim, however, is that precisely because Jews
are different, they should limit themselves to the spiritual service of G-d
and not tie themselves down to a physical land.
Because Jews are a nation like no other, they have no right to claim ownership
of a homeland. To the non-Jew, the spiritual and physical realms are incongruous
"The entire world belongs to G-d," the Jew responds--the worldly as well
as the spiritual realm. Both require sanctification through the light of
holiness--the sacred mission of the Jewish people.
With this concept the Book of Genesis begins, and on this note it concludes.
Joseph's coffin remained in Egypt in order to give strength and inspiration
to the Children of Israel in their Egyptian exile. The power of Joseph is
symbolic of the ability of the Jewish people to overcome even the most difficult
of obstacles, imbuing even the coarsest of physical matter with holiness
and bringing the full and complete Redemption.
* * *
It has been mentioned numerous times that the Rebbe's statements regarding
the Holy Land, and his staunch position not to give back even one inch of
land to the Arabs, has nothing to do with biblical promises or messianic
visions. Rather, the Rebbe has made these statements and taken this position
because of Pikuach Nefesh--the imminent danger to life--of Jews in
the Holy Land.(1)
Unfortunately, the Rebbe's stand has been shown to be absolutely true!
Let us read carefully and take to heart the words that the Rebbe said on
Shabbat Bereishis nine years ago:
"Throughout the centuries, the Jews have been recognized as 'the chosen people.'
In the world at large, and in particular, in the United States, the Jews
are allowed to carry out their service of G-d without persecution, indeed,
amidst rest and prosperity. Furthermore, the government offers assistance
to the Jews here and those in the Land of Israel, enabling them to progress
in the service of G-d.
"This has been made possible by the activities of many of the Torah Sages
in their relations with the gentiles, including the activities of the Chabad
"Based on the above, we can understand how inappropriate are the statements
which certain Rabbis have recently made that the Jews must comply with the
demands of the gentile nations in regard to the Holy Land. These statements
continue, stating that, heaven forbid, such compliance is necessary because
the existence of the Jews in the Holy Land is dependent on the kindness of
the gentile nations.
"The principle, 'Do not challenge the nations,' is not relevant in this context,
for this principle can never override an explicit teaching of Torah law.
In this instance, we are clearly bound by the decision of the Shulchan
Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chayim, 329), that if gentiles
threaten to attack a Jewish settlement we must take up arms and defend ourselves
against them. And if that settlement is located on the border, we must take
up arms against them even if they are demanding 'straw and hay' for by
acquiescing to them, we 'open the entire land to them.'
"Since such statements were made, it is obvious that greater emphasis has
to be placed on recognizing the uniqueness of the Jewish people and emphasis
on their connection to the Holy Land.... And this will lead to the ultimate
wonder in this year of wonders, the coming of the Redemption. And then we
will proceed together with the entire Jewish people to the Holy Land, to
Jerusalem, and to the Holy Temple."
1. See "EYES UPON THE LAND" - The Territorial Integrity of
Israel: A Life Threatening Concern. Based on the Public Statements and Writings
of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Adapted by Rabbi
Eliyahu Touger (1997: Sichos in English).
See also: REBBE'S VIEWS
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that
"The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his
The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this
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,
next Monday, Jan. 15).
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).
16 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat
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).
Times shown are for Metro NY - NJ
Friday, Jan. 12, Erev Shabbat Parshat Vayechi:
Light Shabbat Candles,(2) by 4:31 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 13, Shabbat Parshat Vayechi:
Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:36 p.m.
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
"Let There Be
Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.