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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
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 Seventh and Ninth of Adar:
The Seventh of Adar (Thursday, March 5), is the birthday and yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu. The Ninth of Adar (Shabbat Parshat Tetzave (March 7)), is the day that in 1940, the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, arrived in the United States.
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
27 Shevat, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah reading, Tetzave, is the only portion in the entire Torah following Moses' birth, in which Moses' name does not appear.
Our Sages explain that the reason for this omission was Moses' own request, made to G-d after, the Children of Israel sinned with the Golden Calf: "And if not (if You will not forgive them), blot me out, I pray you, from Your book which You have written." The words of a tzaddik, a holy and righteous person, are always fulfilled, even if spoken conditionally. Thus, we find that Moses' wish was granted in this week's Torah portion, for his name never appears in the entire portion.
However, when we delve into the text itself, we find an interesting phenomenon: This chapter, which specifically does not mention Moses, begins with a direct address to the very person whose name it omits! "And you shall command (ve'ata tetzave)."
A name is of lesser importance than a person's essential nature. It is a means of identification and a way of being known to others. But one does not really need a name in order to live. A newborn baby exists as an independent being from the moment it is born, and only receives its name after several days. From this we learn that the use of the grammatical second person, "you," expresses an even higher level of relationship than calling a person by his given name, which was only bestowed on him secondarily.
If such is the case, then it follows that the omission of Moses' name only serves to underscore the very special essence of Moses, which was even higher than the mention of his name could express.
Moses' whole life was Torah, to the extent that we refer to the Torah as "The Five Books of Moses." But his greatness was best illustrated when the lowest elements among the Children of Israel sinned with the Golden Calf, explicitly expressing their desire to separate themselves from the Torah. Yet, Moses was willing to sacrifice that which he held most dear on their behalf. "Blot out my name from Your book," Moses pleaded with G-d, "if You will not forgive them even this grave sin."
Moses and the Jews formed one entity, each of whose existence was dependent upon the other. The commentator Rashi explains: "Moses is Israel, and Israel is Moses." When even some Jews sinned, Moses suffered a spiritual blow. Even though Moses was up on Mount Sinai when the Golden Calf was actually made, he was still affected by the actions of the others.
It was Moses' self-sacrifice and his desire to forgo that which was most important to him that express a unity that is beyond mere names. It is therefore precisely the portion Tetzave, in which Moses is not mentioned, that reveals his strength and his greatness. The willingness to sacrifice oneself for every fellow Jew, even one who sins, is the mark of every true leader of the Jewish People.
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.
Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5738/1978
As you surely know, the special additional Torah portion, Parshat Zachor, which is read on the Shabbat before Purim, contains the commandments to remember what Amalek, the arch-enemy of our Jewish people, did to our people when they were on their way to receive the Torah at Sinai. Amalek's unprovoked and stealthy attack was calculated to shake their belief in G-d and dampen their enthusiasm for His Torah and mitzvot.
Haman, a direct descendant of Amalek, was driven by hatred of the Jews, because "their laws were different from those of any other people," as the Megillah states. Likewise did all subsequent Amalekites and Hamans of all ages hate the Jews.
But "Amalek"--in a wider sense--represents all obstacles and hindrances that a Jew encounters on his or her way to receive and observe the Torah and mitzvot with enthusiasm and joy in the everyday life. And so Parshat Zachor comes to remind us, and never forget, that Amalekites exist in every generation and in every day and age, and that we must not allow ourselves to be deterred or discouraged by any Amalekite in any shape or form.
If the question be asked, "Why has G-d done thus?" Why should a Jew be confronted with such trials and difficulties? The answer is, that every Jew has been given the necessary powers to overcome all such Amalekites, and he is expected to use them, in order to demonstrate to himself and others that nothing will deter him, nor dampen his fervor, in the observance of the Torah and mitzvot in accordance with G-d's Will. And once he recognizes that whatever difficulty he encounters is really a test of his faith in G-d, and resolves firmly to meet the challenge, he will soon see that no Amalek of any kind is a match for the Divine powers of the Jewish soul. Indeed, far from being insurmountable obstructions, they turn out to be helpers and catalysts for ever greater achievements, having been instrumental in mobilizing those inner powers that would have otherwise remained dormant.
This is also forcefully brought out in the Megillah, in the example of Mordechai the Jew, who "would not bend his knee nor bow down" before Haman. As a result of this indomitable stance, not only was Haman's power totally broken, but many enemies became friends, as the Megillah tells us that "many of the peoples of the land were becoming 'Jewish,' for the fear of Mordechai fell upon them!"
May G-d grant that each and all of you should go from strength to strength in emulating Mordechai the Jew, advancing in all matters of Judaism, Torah and mitzvot, with joy and gladness of heart, and may you all be blessed with a full measure of "light, joy, gladness, and honor," both in the plain sense as well as in the inner meaning of these terms in accordance with the interpretation of our Sages--"Light--this is the Torah... Honor--this is tefillin"--since the Torah and mitzvot, though a "must" for their own sake, are the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
Wishing each and all of you a happy Purim, and may its inspiration be with you every day throughout the year.
The Seventh of Adar (Thursday, March 5), is the birthday and yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moshe our teacher).
The Rebbe has spoken numerous times about the significance of this date in our G-dly service. In one of the Rebbe's last public addresses, the Rebbe delved further into the significance of this date.
On a person's birthday, "his mazal (source of influence) shines powerfully." If this concept applies to the birthday of any Jew, surely it applies with regard to the birthday of a nasi (leader) of the Jewish people. Nor is this relevant merely as an event in the past. Instead, each year, the positive influence associated with the Seventh of Adar is increased, reaching a level immeasurably higher than in previous years.
The birthday of a nasi affects every member of the Jewish people, for the nasi is the source of influence through whom G-d's blessings are drawn down for the entire people.
Seven is symbolic of a complete cycle. Thus, the Seventh of Adar should inspire every Jew to carry out his service in a complete manner. The positive influence of the month of Adar will facilitate the performance of this service.
Similarly, these positive influences will hasten the coming of the Redemption. It is of utmost importance that the Redemption come sooner, even a moment sooner, for the Divine Presence and the Jewish people are in exile. Therefore, it is important to hasten the coming of the Redemption; every single moment its coming can be speeded is significant. The potential for this certainly exists: the very next moment can be the last moment of the exile, and the moment that follows, the first moment of Redemption.
* * *
Jewish teachings (Shemos Rabba) state that "Moshe is the first redeemer and he is also the final redeemer." This does not mean that Moshe himself will be the "final redeemer." For, Moshe belongs to the tribe of Levi, while Moshiach is from the tribe of Judah.
However, many traditional sources view the redemption from Egypt as the prototype of the Final Redemption, based on the verse in our Prophets: "As in the days of your exodus from the land of Egypt, I will show you wonders."
In this way, Moshe--who was the leader of the Jewish people in his generation--is the prototype of every Jewish leader and ultimately, of Moshiach.
Thus, for example, in Egypt, first G-d appointed the redeemer--Moshe. He spoke to the Children of Israel, telling them that G-d had remembered them and that the time had come for them to leave Egypt. Only afterward did Moshe redeem the Children of Israel and take them out of Egypt. Similarly, first Moshiach informs us that the time of the Redemption has arrived, and only afterward does the actual Redemption take place (Sfas Emes).
In one of his kabbalistic works, Rabbi Chaim Vital describes Moshiach as a tzaddik, a human being born of human parents, and writes that he will receive the soul of Moshiach that has been stored in the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Chaim Vital then explains how this may be compared to Moshe and his progression to self-perfection.
The Chatam Sofer, as well, describes Moshe, the first redeemer, and then compares him to the final redeemer, "And when the time comes, G-d will reveal Himself to him, and the spirit of Moshiach, which has been hidden in the higher worlds until his coming, will light upon him."
The story of Moses taking the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt is well known, but long before he emerged as the redeemer of the Jewish people his life was full of wonders and miracles.
Times were bitter for the Jews. Their favored status as Joseph's people had long ago been replaced by the degradation of a harsh and cruel slavery. Pharaoh's star-gazers had foreseen the birth of a baby boy who would one day lead the Jewish slaves to freedom, but would die because of water. Pharaoh would forestall that possibility by ordering the death by drowning of every boy born to the Jews. He would make sure the Jews would never leave Egypt.
Jewish women refused to despair. They beautified themselves and went out to the fields where their husbands labored in the burning sun. "Do not despair, do not give up hope," they would tell their husbands. "G-d will not forget us forever." They gave birth in secret, hiding the babies as long as possible. Yocheved and Miriam, popular midwives, were commanded to kill the babies, but what could they do, they dissembled, "The Jewish women give birth quickly, before we can even get to them."
Soon, it was Yocheved's turn to hide her precious little boy. For a few months she succeeded, but she knew the attempt was futile. The Egyptians had spies everywhere. When there was the slightest suspicion, they would bring an Egyptian baby into the Jewish house and pinch it to make it cry. It was impossible to quiet the Jewish baby who would wail in response. Then the soldiers would seize the child from his helpless parents and toss him into the Nile.
Yocheved had an idea. In a desperate attempt to save her son's life, she set him afloat in a little reed basket, which she lovingly prepared to withstand the waters of the Nile.
"Go and watch your brother, and see what will happen to him," she instructed Miriam. Obediently, she stood on the banks of the Nile where she watched her beloved brother's fate unfold.
Batya, Pharaoh's daughter, had just come down to the river to bathe and, startled by a baby's cry coming from the direction of some reeds, she sent her servant girl to fetch the semi-hidden basket.
When she opened it, a bright light emanated from the child's face and he peered at her with a mature intelligence. She knew it must be a Hebrew child, but she couldn't bear the thought of this beautiful boy being killed.
"Go, bring me a wet-nurse," she commanded, but when the Egyptian woman arrived, the starving baby refused to drink. At that point Miriam saw her chance. "If you wish, I will bring a nurse from the Hebrew women," she offered, and without a moment's pause, Batya agreed.
And so, G-d's plan unfolded in unexpected ways. Yocheved was not only able to bring up her beloved child in her own home, but she had the explicit permission of Pharaoh's daughter--she was even paid for her "services."
Moses was a beautiful child--radiant, intelligent, the favored child on whom the princess lavished her love and attention.
One day, the young child was brought to a royal banquet--the first time he witnessed such a gala event. Everyone assembled sparkled in all their finery. Suddenly, baby Moses reached out his little hand and seized, of all things, the king's golden crown. And what's more, he set the glittering symbol of kingship on his own tiny head! The shocked gasps were audible throughout the great hall. The king's advisors saw that this act boded ill for the monarchy. "Put the child to death before he grows up and seizes your throne!" they said. But then one other voice was heard, that of Jethro, the Priest of Midian, a highly respected sage and great magician.
"Your majesty, it is a known fact that every child will reach out for a glittering object. Why should you assume that this child is intelligent enough to discern the great meaning of your majesty's crown. Why should you take away your daughter's beloved child if this is just a childish whim? I suggest that you put him to the test: Put before him a piece of burning coal and your crown. See which he will grab. If he reaches for the coal, which is shinier than the golden crown, you will know he has no understanding of his actions."
Jethro's advice seemed sensible enough, and a burning coal was brought and put in front of the child. Moses, however, was not a child like all others; he knowingly extended his hand toward the crown. Suddenly his hand moved, pushed by an angel, and he seized the coal and put it into his mouth. He screamed in pain, and Batya's heart jumped--Moses was hurt, but he would live. The proof was incontrovertible, the child simply liked glittering objects.
Moses, the great redeemer of the Jewish people, was raised in the king's palace, tutored in the ways of royalty and even bounced on his would-be murderer's own knee, until the time arrived for him to begin his mission.
This week contains within it a special date for the American Chabad-Lubavitch community, yet possibly even more so for the American Jewish community at large.
The date is the Ninth of Adar, this year, Shabbat Parshat Tetzave (March 7). On this day, in 5700 (March 19, 1940), the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, arrived in the United States.
For all purposes, this day marks the beginning of the "dissemination of the wellsprings (of Chassidus) to the outside" in the Northern Hemisphere.
Though weakened in body--as he was confined to a wheelchair--he was not weakened in spirit.
After his arrival in the United States, the previous Rebbe successfully devoted himself to establishing a strong educational system here. Within two years, yeshivot in New York, Montreal, Newark, Worcester and Pittsburgh were founded. This flurry of activity, however, did not at all affect the manner in which he continued to work toward the establishment of educational organizations in other parts of the world. For, within ten years, programs were started in Paris, Safaria (Israel) and North Africa.
Before his arrival in the United States, the previous Rebbe was told that "America is different." The customs and ways from the "old country" just wouldn't do here. The Rebbe replied in his usual indomitable manner, "America is not different!" and proceeded, throughout the rest of his life, to prove that he was right.
The Jewish community here is greatly indebted to this prophetic and visionary giant.
* * *
The Previous Rebbe announced, upon his arrival, that he was going to open the first Chabad-Lubavitch yeshivah in America. He said, "America iz nisht andersh--America is not different [from Europe]." Just as yeshivot had dotted the European landscape for centuries, so too would they flourish here in America.
Upon hearing this, many people came to the Previous Rebbe and tried to dissuade him, citing examples of prominent rabbis who had also tried to establish yeshivot in America and had failed.
The Rebbe replied, "I did not come to America to relax, but rather, Divine Providence brought me to America to start rebuilding Judaism." He refused to go to sleep that night until he was assured that the yeshivah would open as he wished. The following day, Tomchei T'mimim Lubavitch Yeshivah in Brooklyn opened with ten students.
* * *
The Previous Rebbe wrote and spoke at great length about the process of education and the momentous task that is bestowed upon teachers.
In "The Principles of Guidance and Education," the Previous Rebbe describes the process of introspection and refinement that an educator must undergo in order to properly guide his/her students. He also explains how a teacher must carefully examine each individual pupil's character and tailor his/her teaching style to best educate the student with both love and firmness.
Contrary to the old saying that "those who can, do, and those who can't, teach," the Rebbe shows us that only a person with a truly fine, exceptional character can properly carry out the task of teaching the next generation.
The Rebbe explains that the arrival of the Previous Rebbe on our shores marked the beginning of the primary efforts to spread Chassidus and Judaism to the outer reaches of the world at large.
We should intensify our efforts to carry out the service begun on the 9th of Adar, namely, to spread the light of Torah to the entire world, until the Redemption comes and this world is revealed as G-d's dwelling.
When people comment that Lubavitchers may be going a little overboard, as it seems that every other word is about Moshiach or Redemption or the Messianic era, our only response is that we are emulating the Rebbe.
An example (and this is not an exception, but the rule) may be found in a talk of the Rebbe's a few years ago (in 5750/1990) at just about this time of year. At that time the Rebbe spoke of the 50th anniversary of the previous Rebbe's arrival in America.
In the course of just 5 minutes the Rebbe said:
"May the completion of these 50 years of service bring about the complete and ultimate redemption -- the eternal Redemption led by Moshiach.
"The Messianic Redemption is also connected to the present month, the month of Adar. Adar is a month of celebration as our Sages commented, 'When Adar commences, happiness should be increased.' This happiness, in contrast to the happiness of the other months of the year, is unlimited in nature. Thus, we find that though the festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot are described as 'festivals of rejoicing,' the court would send emissaries to ensure that the celebrations were kept within certain limits. In contrast, the celebrations of Purim are unlimited in nature. This relates to the Messianic Redemption, for the ultimate expression of happiness will come in the Messianic age.
"This unbounded happiness is not restricted to Purim alone. The Megillah describes Adar as 'the month that was transformed,' implying that the month as a whole is one of celebration. In particular, this is true now that eight days of the month have passed. The number "eight" shares a connection to the Messianic Redemption.
"The present day, Tuesday, is also connected to the Messianic Redemption, for Tuesday is associated with the repetition of the phrase, 'And G-d saw that it was good,' interpreted by our Sages as a reference to a twofold good: 'good to the heavens' and 'good to the creatures.' This twofold service relates to Moshiach's coming, since, as our Sages explain, all terms that are repeated in Torah are allusions to the concept of redemption.
"A connection to the Messianic Redemption can also be found in this week's Torah portion..."
So you see, if the Rebbe's chassidim and admirers are known to be Moshiach-minded, it is the greatest compliment possible!
This Sunday marks the beginning of the month of March.
Hey, wait a minute. In a Jewish publication, shouldn't we reserve our discussions for Jewish months and not secular months?
A famous teachings of the Baal Shem Tov is that from everything a person sees or hears--whether in the realm of holiness or the seemingly secular--he can learn a lesson in his G-dly service.
So, what can we learn from March?
Most of us know the saying, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." And the juxtaposition of the lion and the lamb brings to mind a time of world-peace. So powerful is this image of lion and lamb connoting world-peace that a grass-roots group of parents who promote non-violent toys for children call themselves the Lion and the Lamb.
In truth, when our prophets speak of the ultimate world peace in the Messianic Era, they state, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid..." The prophet continues, "...And the lion will eat straw as the ox."
One might ask, "Is this allegorical, or will animals that were previously adversaries actually co-exist peacefully?" That's a good question! (Every sincere question is a good question, actually.)
According to the opinions of many of our great Sages, these prophecies should be taken literally. Nachmanides documents this stand profusely, although he maintains that their fulfillment will not necessitate great changes in Creation because, "Initially when the world was created, prior to the sin of Adam, animals were not predatory. Only after Adam's sin did their natures change...."
Similarly, Rabbi Dovid Kimchi, the Radak declares that animals were not originally predators, as G-d created only one male and one female of each species. If either one would have been killed, the species would have become extinct.
However, there are other great Sages whose opinions differ. No less a giant than Maimonides declares: "Do not presume that in the days of Moshiach the nature of the world will change, or there will be innovations in the work of Creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern."
How are we to understand Maimonides' words, knowing that he established as one of the 13 principles of Judaism the belief in the resurrection of the dead, an act that is certainly a change in the nature of the world?
The Rebbe explains that there are two stages to the Messianic Era. In the first stage, "the coming of Moshiach," everything will go according to its natural pattern. In the second stage, the actual Redemption, we will experience supernatural and miraculous occurrences.
However, it is possible, according to the Rebbe, that we could by-pass the first stage and go straight to the miracles--if we are meritorious.
Differing opinions aside, whichever way it's going to happen, let it just happen already!
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.
Increase In Joy!:
This joy will be increased by our fulfillment of the special directives for the month of Adar, to help our fellow Jews in both spiritual and material affairs: to teach a new Torah concept that they had not previously known (or to reveal additional depth in a concept with which they were already familiar), and to afford them material assistance. Fulfilling these directives will increase their happiness and thus, increase G-d's happiness, as it were.
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, March 6, Erev Shabbat Parshat Tetzave:
Saturday, March 7, Shabbat Parshat Tetzave:
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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