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It Happened Once
A basic teaching of Chasidic philosophy is that everything that happens in this world is guided by Divine Providence.
The book, "From Day to Day," was compiled by the Rebbe in 1942 at the behest of his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, and contains short thoughts for each day from the teachings of the Previous Rebbe.
The thought included by the Rebbe for this past Sunday, the third of Tamuz, reads:
"A Jewish groan which, G-d forbid, arises from physical misfortune, is also a great repentance; how much more so then, is a groan arising from spiritual distress a lofty and effective repentance. The groan pulls him out of the depths of evil and places him on a firm footing in the realm of good."
Though the third of Tamuz is actually the day in 1927 on which the Previous Rebbe's death sentence by the Russian government was commuted to life in exile -- thus marking the beginning of his liberation -- the Rebbe chose not to include a message appropriate to these happy tidings, but rather, a thought about the tremendous power of a Jewish sigh.
Was there even one Jew in the most desolate corner of the world who did not emit a sigh for the spiritual distress of the Rebbe leaving this physical world this past Sunday?
Master of the Universe! Our Sages have taught us that when the Jewish people repent You will send Moshiach.
The Rebbe told us that the repentance of the Jewish people has already taken place.
If You were awaiting the repentance of each individual Jew, gather the millions of sighs that were torn from the depths of the hearts of Jews around the world this past Sunday, and send Moshiach now!
Before the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rashab, passed away, he told his chasidim: "I am going to Heaven but I leave my writings with you. Through my writings, you can take me into your homes and into your shuls, and we will be together."
The hundreds of volumes of edited talks, letters and discourses of the Rebbe over his 44 years of leadership must be taken into our homes, our shuls, and our hearts, thus uniting us with and strengthening our connection to the Rebbe.
And the inspiration and wise counsel found within the Rebbe's teachings will continue to guide us until we are reunited.
It is important in these difficult moments, to put things into perspective.
In retrospect, the refusal to allow for the possibility of the Rebbe's passing has not made it harder to deal with it when it came.
The certainty of a positive outcome in trying times gave us the energy to transmit the Rebbe's message and accomplish his charge of helping others in excruciatingly difficult times.
Neither was the belief that the Rebbe would miraculously recover misguided.
The belief in the coming of Moshiach is not a Lubavitch invention, nor is the revival of the dead.
These are central tenets of Judaism, since Talmudic times, expressing the certainty that the world is going in a positive direction and not towards destruction.
We are commanded to believe every day that today is the day. But even when evening comes and it has not yet happened, we go forward undiscouraged.
The Rebbe's life work of bringing about the times of Moshiach will still be crowned with success.
Even at this dark moment, when the unthinkable has occurred, we, his followers re-dedicate ourselves to that work in the belief that everything he foretold will come to pass, and that we will very soon witness the great day when Redemption comes to the entire world.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 28
This week's Torah portion, Chukat, begins with the laws of the red heifer, by which a person was cleansed of ritual defilement.
Maimonides, in his summary of these laws, includes an interesting historical note on this practice:
"There have been a total of nine red heifers since the time this mitzva was given until the destruction of the Second Holy Temple.
The first was rendered by Moses, the second by Ezra the Scribe, and seven more between the time of Ezra and the destruction.
The tenth red heifer will be rendered by King Moshiach, may he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will."
These last few words seem out of place.
Why did Maimonides, the greatest codifier of Jewish law, include a prayer for Moshiach to be revealed in the middle of a legal work?
Every word Maimonides used is measured and exact.
Indeed, many practical implications are learned from his choice of language.
Why then, did Maimonides include this supplication in his discussion of these laws?
Maimonides' intent could not have been solely to teach us the importance of praying for Moshiach, for he would certainly have deemed it more appropriate to include this prayer in the section of his work dealing with the laws of Moshiach, and not in a section in which Moshiach is mentioned only in passing.
Rather, the inclusion of these words, inserted after only a passing reference to Moshiach, serve to underscore that the subject of Redemption must evoke a profound longing in every Jew, culminating in the heartfelt plea -- "May he be speedily reveal ed, Amen, may it be Your will!"
On the belief in Moshiach, Maimonides writes, "He who does not believe in him, or does not await his coming...denies...the Torah and Moses our teacher."
It is not enough to have faith in Moshiach's eventual arrival -- a Jew is obligated to actively anticipate his coming.
The faith of a person who believes Moshiach will come but does not actually expect him to arrive is lacking.
Just as the belief in Moshiach is perpetual, so too, is the obligation to joyfully anticipate his arrival a perpetual commandment.
A Jew must always feel as if Moshiach will arrive at any moment, for indeed, such is the case.
Three times a day we pray, "For we hope for Your salvation every day" -- all day, every day.
This unquenchable longing for Moshiach stems from our realization that a Jew cannot be complete until the Final Redemption, when the entire world will reach its perfection.
Every minute till then, we find ourselves in a state of spiritual deficiency.
The lesson, therefore, to be learned from Maimonides' choice of words is that when a Jew anticipates Moshiach in the proper way, the very mention of the subject must elicit such strong emotion and longing that he will spontaneously cry out, "May he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will."
According to Chabad-Lubavitch custom, we do not eulogize a person upon their passing until the completion of the thirty days of mourning.
When the Previous Rebbe passed away, the Rebbe cited this custom and said that he would therefore tell stories about the Previous Rebbe.
Literally millions of stories about the Rebbe can be told, for in one way or another -- personally or through his emissaries -- the Rebbe has touched millions of lives.
The following story was published in Redbook Magazine this past winter.
The very nature of a miracle is that it cannot be explained.
Yet for a group of Orthodox Jews, the Lubavitcher Chasidim, miracles happen so frequently they no longer bother to keep a count or record of them.
Serenely, they accept an outpouring of wonders, attributing them to the piety and virtue of their spiritual leader, 91-year- old Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
The bearded patriarch, who's based in Brooklyn, doesn't deliver miracles on demand, but his blessings are said to have cured cancer, healed sick children, and mended broken marriages.
For many of his followers, the best miracle of all is a modern- day version of the biblical story of Sarah, the barren woman who is made fertile.
Diane Abrams was 48 when she and her husband, Robert Abrams, the outgoing New York state attorney general, paid one of their annual visits to the Rebbe.
"I very much wanted to have a child," she remembers.
"We'd been trying, but noting was happening. We'd been seeing a doctor for six months, but still nothing.
"I hadn't even told my parents that, at my age, I wanted a baby. And though I'd met him before, I'd never said a word about it to the Rebbe.
"He handed me a piece of honey cake and said, out of the clear blue sky, "I give you a blessing for an addition to your family in the coming year."
"Six weeks later she was pregnant.
"People can form their own conclusions, but these are the facts," she says."
Four weeks ago, a group of Lubavitcher yeshiva students in Rostov, CIS, decided to go to the resting place of the Rebbe Rashab, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, to pray for the Rebbe's recovery. Upon their arrival, and to their dismay, the guard at the cemetery would not let them in.
"We are here to pray for the recovery of the Rebbe, the successor to Rabbi Sholom Ber Schneersohn who is buried here," they told the guard.
Still the guard refused to admit them.
"The Rebbe is very, very ill and we want to pray at the holy grave of his predecessor," the students tried again.
Try as they might, the guard would not budge. Finally, in desperation, one of the students said, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe is very sick. Do you know who the Rebbe is?" and he took out a photograph of the Rebbe and showed it to the guard.
"That man is not ill," the guard said, looking at the picture.
"I see him coming here every week to pray at that very grave that you want to go to."
From the New York Post, March 9, 1994, by Andrea Peyser:
My friend performs like a tiger in business, is wired politically and has a face the dictionary could use to illustrate the phrase "Nice Jewish Boy."
He is also quite sane.
So when he talks about this major, defining moment in his life, you want to plotz:
"I had been seeing this girl a few years ago," he tells me.
"My parents didn't know about it. Nobody knew. I was thinking about asking her to marry me. Then I was in Crown Heights when the Rebbe was giving out dollars. And just like that, he said to me -- 'Stop going out with her.'"
"Now wait just a minute. How could a frail, bearded man like Grand Rebbe Menachem Schneerson know all about a guy's girl friend -- one who managed to sneak below the radar of the boy's own Jewish mother?"
My friend continues: "The Rebbe told me, 'You have to be in a situation where everyone is happy -- your parents and your grandparents."
The girl of his dreams, according to the Rebbe, apparently was not up to snuff. But the Rebbe did have some good news.
"You will be in a good situation in the future."
"You're wildly in love. And someone tell you to break it off. What do you do?
"I broke up with her immediately," my friend tells me -- impatient with my stupid question.
"The Rebbe was right. She would have been terrible for me."...
A Lubavitcher woman from Paris come to the Rebbe one Sunday for dollars. As she passed by the Rebbe he gave her one dollar for herself and then handed her five more dollars, telling her that they were for her children.
The woman was quite distressed. She had six children and the Rebbe had only given her five dollars. What could this mean?
The woman asked a member of the Rebbe's secretariat who in turn asked the Rebbe.
The Rebbe explained that only five of her six children were registered in Tzivos Hashem. (Tzivos Hashem is an organization for all Jewish children under the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah established by the Rebbe in 1981 with the motto, "We want Moshiach now!")
The woman called her house and asked them to check how many of the children were enrolled in Tzivos Hashem. Sure enough, only five of the children were members. The woman immediately registered the other child.
It was in the first years of the Rebbe's leadership.
The Rebbe used to walk from his home on President Street to 770 Eastern Parkway each day by way of Brooklyn Avenue.
Mrs. Goldman, who lived on Brooklyn Avenue, often had the privilege of seeing the Rebbe pass by on these daily walks.
One day, near the end of the pregnancy of her second child, Mrs. Goldman was taking out the garbage as her little daughter sat playing on the front steps. Her daughter lost her balance and started tumbling down the steps.
Without concern for her own safety at this awkward time, Mrs. Goldman dashed down the front steps and managed to soften the little girl's fall. Unbeknownst to her, the Rebbe was passing by on the other side of the street.
That evening, as the Rebbe entered the shul for Shabbos davening (prayers), he called over Rabbi Goldman.
Rabbi Goldman was surprised. He had not recently requested a blessing or answer from the Rebbe about anything as far as he could recall.
Bewildered, he went to the Rebbe. "Tell your wife that when children tumble over, the angels cushion their fall so they shouldn't get hurt. She should be more careful for herself in her condition," the Rebbe said with a smile.
THE LIFE OF A TZADIK IS SPIRITUAL
Excerpts from a letter of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe, when he wrote to comfort the Chasidic community in Israel upon the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok.
...This is the meaning of the statement in the sacred Zohar that "when the tzadik departs he is to be found in all worlds more than in his life-time." That is, he is to be found more even in this world of action....
This is as regards the service of G-d, with respect to heavenly matters. As for mundane matters, it is stated explicitly in the Zohar that the tzadikim shield the world, and after their death even more so than in their life-times.
Were it not for the prayer of the tzadikim in that world, the world would not endure a single moment. And whoever is closer to the habitation of the L-rd [i.e. to the tzadik] during his life- time, has precedence to the blessing.
In elucidation of the above: It is stated in the Zohar that when the tzadik departs he is to be found in all worlds more than in his life time... Now this needs to be understood, for granted, that he is to be found increasingly in the upper world, because he ascends to there; but how can he be found more in this world?
As is known, the life of the tzadik is not a physical life, but a spiritual life, consisting of faith, awe, and love.
Thus, of faith it is written: "And the tzadik lives by his faith."
Of awe it is written: "The awe of the L-rd is for life."
And of love it is written: "He who pursues tzedaka [charity] and chesed, [kindness] will find life," and chesed refers to love.
Now, while the tzadik was alive on earth, these three attributes were contained in their vessel and garment on the plane of physical space.
This is the aspect of the nefesh [soul] bound to his body.
All his disciples receive but a radiation from these attributes, and a ray [from them] radiating beyond this vessel by means of his holy utterances and memory, said that a person cannot comprehend his master...
But after his passing, as the nefesh [which remains in the grave] is separated from the ruach [i.e. these three attributes] which is in the Garden of Eden, whoever is nigh unto him can receive a part from the aspect of his ruach [which is in the Garden of Eden], because it is no (longer) within a vessel, nor on the plane of physical space.
Thus is known the saying of our Sages, of blessed memory, with reference to our father Jacob, peace be to him, that "The Garden of Eden entered with him."
Likewise, it is stated in the book Asarah Maamarot that the sphere of the Garden of Eden spreads itself around every person, and in this sphere are recorded all his good thoughts and utterances of Torah and Divine worship....
Thus, it is very easy for his disciples to receive their part of the essential aspects of their master's ruach, i.e. his faith, his awe and his love wherewith he served the L-rd, and not merely a ray thereof which radiates beyond the vessel.
For the essential aspect of his ruach is raised, elevation upon elevation, to become absorbed in his neshama which is in the upper Garden of Eden, in the supreme worlds.
Now it is known that something sacred is never wholly and totally uprooted from its place and original level, even after it has reached the highest point.
Thus it is this original aspect, remaining below, in the lower Garden of Eden, in its place and original level, which extends itself among his disciples; each one according to the level of his alliance and closeness to (the tzadik) during his lifetime and after his death out of a magnanimous love...
Now, there is yet another type of radiation to his disciples.
However, it does not vest itself truly in their mind -- as is the case with the first one, but radiates over them, from aloft.
The illumination of the supernal lights radiates over all his disciples who became servants of the L-rd through his Torah and worship.
And this radiation, which is over them from aloft, instills in their hearts thoughts of repentance and good deeds.
But this radiation is in great latency and concealment, just like the sun radiating to the stars from below the earth.
Thus it is stated in the Tikunim, in reference to Moses our Master, peace to him, that after his passing his radiation extends in every generation to the sixty myriad souls, just like the sun radiating to the sixty myriad stars from below the earth...
Following the event of this past Sunday morning, we have received an outpouring of sympathy and also numerous inquiries as to our response to the situation. I would like to offer the following thoughts.
Four weeks after the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (10 Shvat, 1950), the Rebbe gave a talk precisely addressing our current situation.
At that time, 44 years ago, the Rebbe said, "Just as until now we were all certain that the Rebbe will lead us to greet Moshiach, so too, now we must be certain.
"The event which took place was only from our physical view- point -- nothing more than a test of faith."
Many times throughout the years the Rebbe stressed that he and the Previous Rebbe are totally united.
Thus, we know that this event, too, is only from a physical viewpoint, a test of faith before the revelation of Moshiach.
In the past few years, Lubavitcher chasidim around the world have had the privilege of publicizing the Rebbe's definitive statement that "The time of our Redemption has arrived," and "Moshiach is on his way."
That message is unchanged by the happening of this week.
The Rebbe described his words about the coming of Moshiach as a prophecy and urged everyone to share this message as much as possible.
Any questions we may have cannot diminish our certainty in the Rebbe's words.
The Rebbe's instructions are clear.
It is up to us to respond.
We therefore urge everyone to heed the Rebbe's words: to study about Moshiach and the Redemption; to share the news about the imminent redemption with others; to starting living now in a manner befitting the Messianic Era; to do more acts of goodness and kindness with the certainty that the Redemption is only moments away.
May this pursuit of goodness and kindness help usher in the great Revelation of Moshiach and a new world without strife, prejudice and hatred; a world of peace, justice, tranquillity and brotherhood between man and man, and between nation and nation.
The Holy Ruzhiner Rebbe told the following story about his ancestors:
When Reb Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, felt his end drawing near, he declared, "I will not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d sends Moshiach."
When the Maggid passed away, he was brought to the Heavenly Court and told that a special place was a waiting him in the Garden of Eden.
The Maggid, however, stood his ground and demanded that G-d send Moshiach, or else he would not budge.
After much arguing and cajoling, the Maggid was offered a spiritual reward that enticed him to forgo his promise.
The Maggid's son, Reb Avraham, was known as "the Angel," for he was as disassociated from this physical world as a human being could be, approaching the spiritual level of an angel.
Reb Avraham, knowing that his father had been unsuccessful at forcing G-d to send Moshiach, determined that he would not be dissuaded when his time came, but would refuse to enter the Garden of Eden until he had brought about the coming of Moshiach.
Avraham's end of days approached and he strengthened himself for the celestial battle.
When he passed away and stood before the Heavenly Court, he insisted that he would not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d would send Moshiach.
All manners of spiritual enticements were offered to Reb Avraham. Spiritual pleasure and bliss that had not even been offered to the greatest tzadikim. But Reb Avraham stood his ground.
And G-d stood His ground.
Until finally, G-d took Reb Avraham by the hand, as it were, and shlepped him into the Garden of Eden.
Reb Sholom Shachna was the son of Reb Avraham and the grandson of the Maggid of Mezritch.
Through Divine inspiration he knew of his father's and grandfather's decision to not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d would send Moshiach.
He knew, too, that neither of them had been successful and eventually entered the Garden of Eden although Moshiach had not arrived.
As Reb Sholom Shachna advanced in years, he, too, determined that he would not enter the Garden of Eden until he made sure that G-d would send Moshiach.
Upon his passing, Reb Sholom Shachna was led before the Heavenly Court and was invited to proceed to the Garden of Eden.
But Reb Sholom Shachna remembered his promise and refused, and with utmost determination and stubbornness declared that he would not proceed until G-d sent Moshiach.
Reb Sholom Shachna did not budge. He would not move one iota until G-d agreed to send Moshiach.
Exactly what transpired is not known. But what is known is that G-d extended the boundaries of the Garden of Eden to encompass that area in which Reb Sholom Shachna stood.
At a gathering in 1989, the Rebbe related that the same thing transpired when Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev passed away.
He, too, had promised that he would not enter the Garden of Eden before G-d sent Moshiach.
But, alas, Reb Levi Yitzchak was also persuaded to forego his promise.
The Rebbe then stated, "What should be done to prevent this from happening again is to take a vow, with the people's consent, to not enter the Garden of Eden until G-d sends Moshiach.
A vow which is accepted with the consent of the multitude cannot be nullified without the consent of the multitude."
In simple words this means that the Rebbe took upon himself a vow that if it came to this point, he would be unable to be enter the Garden of Eden without G-d abiding by the Rebbe's vow.
We know with certainty, that the Rebbe is standing outside of the gates of the Garden of Eden, demanding that G-d send Moshiach.
And the Rebbe will succeed.