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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
A princess, an only child, was very beloved by her father, the King. Designers created her exquisite clothing. The finest chefs prepared her meals. And her friends were only people of culture and class.
When she was of marriageable age, she could find no match. No prince suited her fancy, no noble was good enough for her.
The king became so annoyed that he decreed: "The very next bachelor to walk in will be your husband!"
Moments later, a young gardener who had lost his way appeared. The horrified princess looked at the gardener. He tried to hastily retreat, apologizing all the while.
But the king was a man of his word. The princess would wed this common gardener!
When the princess got to know her husband, she found him to be kind and gentle, albeit simple. She began to enjoy her unrestricted lifestyle: she did what she wanted, wore what she chose, ate what she pleased. It was exhilarating to be "free."
Months passed thus, and then one day, the gardener returned home to find a forlorn wife.
He considered the situation and had an idea. "I have guessed the cause of your sadness. Tomato season is over and weeks have passed since we've had them! Though they are very expensive, I will buy them, for what importance is money unless it is used to make you happy?"
The gardener looked at his wife and to his surprise saw large tears rolling down her cheeks.
The following evening, the gardener came home with a gift. "My dearest, yesterday I erred. I realize that in the palace, you did not work.The broom handle, which is rough, must hurt your tender hands. I have brought you a broom with a smooth handle!"
The princess burst into bitter tears. With a trembling voice she whispered, "What a terrible mistake. I can never be a gardener's wife. I am a princess!"
Every Jew has a soul that resided at the foot of the Throne of Glory, delighting in G-d's presence and enjoying a close relationship. This is because the soul is truly the King's daughter. Eventually the soul must come into this world to accomplish a mission. The soul is wed to the "gardener" - the body. She becomes enamored with her apparent freedom and by the novelties that did not exist in the King's palace.
But one day, the soul feels a strange sensation. She can do what she pleases and the gardener is indeed pleasant. But, she misses the King's palace. "I did not appreciate what I had and even felt restricted. But now I understand that those were special."
The gardener - the body - sensing that his wife is unhappy, tries to find a solution. But his simple peasant intellect can conceive of nothing more than tomatoes and broomsticks. He offers his wife these in the hope that they will satisfy her. "We'll buy a luxury leather sectional and a plasma t.v. We'll move to a new house in a nicer neighborhood, with hardwood flooring from an environmentally sound source and live-in help!"
But the soul can no longer restrain herself. "I yearn for the life of royalty and how can you, a simple and coarse body, comprehend me?
"You understand furniture and food, but do you know what closeness to G-d is? About Torah and mitzvot? You cannot understand why I am sad, and what I am really lacking!"
Especially on the High Holidays, our souls plead with us to be heard and understood. "Do not try to placate me with tomatoes and smooth broom handles. I am the King's daughter, help me renew and enhance my connection to my Father in Heaven."
The mitzva (commandment) of teshuva, returning to G-d in sincere repentance, is a mitzva independent of a specific time or place. Whenever a Jew commits a sin, G-d forbid, he is immediately obligated to do teshuva.
In this light, a Jew who never sins is technically exempt from the mitzva (commandment) of teshuva, for he has neither misdeeds to regret nor a need to repair his relationship with G-d.
According to this simple explanation of teshuva, Maimonides' comments concerning Yom Kippur are problematic: "Yom Kippur is a time of teshuva for all, both for the individual and collectively...everyone is obligated to do teshuva and confess his sins on Yom Kippur."
Maimonides' words raise two questions: If a person is obligated to repent immediately after committing a sin, why repeat the process again on Yom Kippur? Furthermore, why would a Jew who never sinned need to do teshuva at all? Yet Maimonides maintains that "everyone," without exception, is obligated in teshuva on Yom Kippur.
The answer to these questions lies in the very essence of Yom Kippur and the uniqueness of the day itself. The teshuva one does on Yom Kippur is of a different nature than the teshuva that is required as a result of one's transgressions, and is an obligation that falls equally on every single Jew, regardless of his spiritual standing.
Throughout the year, the mitzva of teshuva is dependent on the individual's personal circumstances. If a Jew sins he must do teshuva in direct proportion to the severity of the transgression.
A person who never sins is logically exempt from this obligation. On Yom Kippur, however, the obligation to return to G-d stems from the holiness of the day itself. On Yom Kippur, it doesn't matter whether a Jew transgressed, G-d forbid.
For those Jews who may have committed a sin and not properly repented during the year, Yom Kippur offers atonement simply by virtue of its holiness. At the same time, those individuals who have already corrected their behavior can reach an even higher level of teshuva on the holiest day of the year.
Maimonides explains that every Jew must confess his sins on Yom Kippur, even those for which he has already done teshuva, as it states in Psalms, "For my sin is before me always."
This obligation applies even to tzadikim (the righteous), for "there is no righteous person in the world who does only good and does not sin." Every single Jew is obligated to thoroughly scrutinize his deeds on Yom Kippur, irrespective of his current level of observance.
The uniqueness of Yom Kippur - a "time of teshuva for all" - lies in the special bond between the Jew and G-d that is revealed on that day, a connection that transcends the limitations of the natural world.
Integral to this special relationship with G-d is the obligation to do teshuva in an ever-increasing and ascending manner, both for those who may not yet have done teshuva in the most basic sense and those who stand on a higher spiritual plane.
With true teshuva, every Jew can renew his commitment and attachment to G-d on Yom Kippur, and be blessed with a good inscription in the Book of Life for the coming year.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 29
Yom Kippur Vignettes
We Need a Cantor!
by Shmuel Bollen
The Days of Awe are a time of spiritual awakening for most Jews. Most rabbis, however, are already awake and working hard to prepare for the influx of additional worshippers that attend synagogue during the High Holy Days.
Rabbi Moshe Bleich, spiritual leader of the Wellesley-Weston Chabad Center in Wellesley, Massachusetts, is no exception. While services are held year-round in his home, the number of guests that come for Yom Kippur each year necessitates renting a large tent. Visible from Route 9, Rabbi Bleich's Chabad House is a warm beacon of light that gets even brighter with the appearance of this festive tent every year.
In addition to the tent, Rabbi Bleich imports a cantor from New York to lead the five prayer services of Yom Kippur. The inspirational Chabad melodies have become a treasured part of the experience for the annual regulars, so Rabbi Bleich was thrilled last year to arrange something even more special; a well-known cantor who would bring his four sons to form a backing choir.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, around noon, the cantor telephoned Rabbi Bleich to let him know that they had left and were planning to arrive in Wellesley by 4:00 p.m., in time to eat the pre-fast meal and prepare for Yom Kippur. Several hours later, a rather worried cantor called to say that he was stuck in traffic in Hartford, Connecticut. Consulting a clock, Rabbi Bleich made some quick mental calculations and replied, "Don't worry; you'll still be able to get here in time."
An hour later, the cantor called back to say that he had made almost no progress, and even with no traffic there was virtually no chance of getting to Wellesley before the commencement of the holiest day of the year. The cantor was going to find a place to stay and pray in Hartford.
Losing no time, Rabbi Bleich wished him a good year, and began calling colleagues in the area to see if a replacement cantor could be found. Call after call, he got the same answer: sorry, but we have no "extra" cantors.
Finally, with about 40 minutes left until Yom Kippur, Rabbi Shmuel Posner, director of the Chabad House of Greater Boston, found a capable substitute, lent him a car, and sent him on his way. With minutes to spare, the young man arrived in Wellesley and presented himself to Rabbi Bleich, introducing himself as Avremel Cohen.
"Avremel Cohen? From Pittsburgh?" asked Rabbi Bleich.
Rabbi Bleich was astonished and delighted to realize that Avremel's father, Leibel Cohen, was born and raised in the Wellesley area. Through Divine Providence, Leibel's son had now returned to lead a congregation in the area where his own father had once prayed!
The answer to Rabbi Bleich's next question, "What brought you to Boston?" prompted more wonder. Chabad of Greater Boston enjoys the cantorial services of Rabbi Sholom Ber Baumgarten of Brooklyn, New York, every year. Avremel had specially travelled to Boston to hear the well-known cantor, but had gladly sacrificed his own enjoyment and inspiration for the benefit of a congregation that needed a cantor!
The answer to one more question was all it took to reduce Rabbi Bleich to an awed silence. "Tell me, Avremel," continued Rabbi Bleich, "which yeshiva are you studying in now?"
"Right now I am taking a short break as I am recovering from donating bone marrow," answered Avremel. This rabbinical student was generous with more than just his time and talent; he had literally given the gift of life to a critically ill person.
Needless to say, Avremel did a beautiful job leading the congregation. And the original cantor? Well, he found a synagogue in Hartford that needed a cantor!
Opening the Ark
Chaim had been married for a number of years and he and his wife still had not been blessed with children. Chaim knew that when the ark was opened during the last service on Yom Kippur, N'eila, it was an auspicious time to beseech G-d for all one's needs. For a number of years, no matter how high the bidding went, Chaim would always buy the privilege of opening the ark, yet no salvation was in sight.
One particular year, as was customary, on Yom Kippur afternoon the gabbai (sexton) came up to the bima to auction off the opening of the ark. A guest from far away was visiting the synagogue - someone who decided it was imperative that he get the privilege of opening the ark for N'eila, no matter the cost.
The bidding went up and up, higher and higher. Everyone in the shul sat open-mouthed, in suspense, waiting to see what would happen, who would give in and who would win.
Many a kind person tried to persuade Chaim and the guest to concede and give the other one the privilege. However, they were both equally adamant that they absolutely needed this special privilege due to painful situations they were facing in their lives.
The bidding had reached about double the amount it usually sold for and both men were locked in to buy it, no matter the cost. Someone from the congregation had an idea. Perhaps they could buy it together, share the privilege and share the obligation.
Chaim and the guest both said they needed to discuss it first with their wives first. They went out to speak with their wives and after a few minutes both returned, and agreed! They would split the financial obligation and the privilege.
It seems that this was what G-d was waiting for. A little less than 10 months later, Chaim and his wife celebrated the birth of their first daughter. Since the guest was only visiting, we don't know his name and we can't confirm if he, too, received the Divine assistance he was praying for. But we are quite certain he did because "love of a fellow Jew" goes a long way.
Reprinted with permission from the N'shei Chabad Newsletter
Just Around the Corner
With Yom Kippur, Sukkot must be just around the corner! If you're in Manhattan, visit one of the Lubavitch Youth Organization's public sukkas during the intermediate days of the holiday. They will be open Sun., Oct. 16 - Tues., Oct 18, 10 am - 6 pm, and Wed., Oct. 19, 10 am - 1 pm. The Sukkot are: the International Sukka in Ralph Bunch Park, First Ave. and 42nd St. at the UN; the Garment Center Sukka in Greely Square at Broadway and 33rd St.; the Wall Street Sukka in Battery Park at Battery Place and State St. For more info call (718) 778-6000. To find out about public sukkot in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Official free translation
6th day of Tishrei
In the Ten Days of Return, 5737
To the Sons and Daughters of
Our People Israel, Everywhere
G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
The Ten Days of Return - in addition to their distinction as the days of Teshuvah "Return," being the propitious days in the year when Teshuvah can be more easily attained, and when it is also more effective, extending its influence also throughout the new year,
Are distinctive also in that in these days G-d makes His closeness to Jews felt even more than usual, as explained by our Sages, who interpret the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found, call on Him when He is near," as referring to the Ten Days of Return.
This means that during these propitious days all things connected with G-dliness are closer and more easily attainable than at any other time of the year. For, although a Jew is expected to be conscious of G-d's Presence at all times, as it is written, "I have set G-d before more always," and, as in everything, the essential thing is the deed, all good feelings and intentions having ultimately to be expressed (also) in tangible actions, which constitute the "vessels" wherein to receive G-d's blessings (as it is written, "And G-d your G-d will bless you in all that you do"); nevertheless, by virtue of the propitiousness of these days, one is capable of accomplishing more by the same action during the Ten Days of Return than at any other time, and incommeasurably more with greater effort.
One aspect in regard to the above is that many matters which at any other time of the year can be accomplished only through the concerted action of Tzibbur (a quorum of at least ten), can be accomplished in the Ten Days of Return by an individual. And in view of the preeminence of a Tzibbur vis-à-vis an individual at all times it is clear that during the Ten Days of Return the results of an action b'Tzibbur are incomparably greater than those resulting from the same action carried out individually.
Be it noted that the preeminence of a Tzibbur vis-à-vis an individual is not limited to prayer, but pertains to all good activities and Mitzvos [commandments].
In light of the above, this is the time for a reminder and call about utilizing the present especially favorable days, by way of getting active more and more in all good things - and, whenever possible, to do them b'Tzibbur.
Beginning with the fulfillment of the Mitzva which is "the foundation and root of the whole Torah," namely, the Mitzva of V'ohavto lre'acho komocho ("Love your fellow as yourself"), which unifies Jews, all Jews, into one Tzibbur, and also, more specifically, getting involved in the "Three Pillars," Torah, Service (prayer) and acts of Loving kindness (Tzedoko), and to do them b'Tzibbur: having periods of Torah-study b'Tzibbur, prayer b'Tzibbur, and Tzedoko b'Tzibbur; Tzedoko being typical of all Mitzvos.
...Since these are the days when G-d is "found" and "near," and on the basis of the well-known instructions of imitate" G-d's ways and attributes, as implied in the commandment, "You shall walk in His ways": as He is gracious, etc., it follows that every Jew should also make himself "found" and "near" to G-dliness, by becoming truly involved, and more than ever, in all good things, to do them with greater devotion and on a larger scale, in quantity and quality, both on an individual level and more so as a member of a Tzibbur.
And, needless to say, all this should be continued with the same vitality (as a "continuous" action) and more, in accordance with the principle that all things of holiness should be on the ascendancy (ma'alin b'kodesh) - throughout the year.
In the merit of Jews making themselves more readily "found" and "near" towards one another, and toward the Jewish people as a whole, and of every Jew individually and collectively towards all Three Pillars of Torah, Prayer and Tzedoko, the Almighty, on His part, will surely make Himself even more readily "found" and "near" to each and all of His people, and bless everyone and one's family, in the midst of all our Jewish people, with the Seal of a good year in all needs.
Including much success in all these good activities, mentioned above, which will further increase the Divine blessings also materially, with much true Nachas from children, long life and good health, and plentiful sustenance,
To the point of ultimate true "plentitude" - with the fulfillment of the promise "He will raise high the glory and strength of His anointed (Moshiach)," in other words, the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach, when "the glory and strength of the Tzaddik (righteous person) will be uplifted," meaning every Jew, since "Your people are all Tzaddikim," and all Jews together as one Tzibbur, in the singular form, Tzaddik.
With esteem and blessing for a Chasimo ugmar chasimo toivo for a good and sweet year,
KETURA means incense. Abraham married Ketura after Sara passed away (Genesis 25:1). Most commentators agree that Ketura was the name given to Hagar when she returned to Abraham.
KATRIEL means "G-d is my crown." In the Ashkenazic pronunciation it is Kasriel.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
There is a custom on the eve of Yom Kippur to eat "lekach" - honey cake. The reason for this custom is that honey cake is a sweet dessert. By eating it, we are expressing our desire and hope that G-d will bless us with a sweet, pleasant, good year.
There is also a custom to give (and receive) honey cake. The reason for this is much less well-known. When we receive honey cake from someone we do it with this thought in mind: Let the honey cake be the only thing this year that we have to take from someone else. Let us be self-sufficient, self-supporting, even be able to help support and provide for others, with G-d's help.
Thus, if there was any possible heavenly decree that the person would have had to ask another for his food during this year, when one asks for lekach the decree has been fulfilled and there will be no further need to ask; all one's needs will be provided for by G-d.
On a deeper level, even the lekach is not really being received from a person! In reality, all food comes from G-d, and therefore a poor person who receives food from a person thanks G-d, Who "provides nourishment and sustenance for all." This is because the person is only an intermediary for delivering G-d's blessings.
However, both parties still feel that a transaction has taken place between two human beings. The giving of lekach on the eve of Yom Kippur is not like this, however. Since these are the days when G-d is "close," all parties involved feel that G-d Himself is doing the giving, and the giver is no more than a messenger. Even more so, the giver is not even seen as a messenger, but just a link enabling G-d's gift to come to the person.
May we, this very Yom Kippur and even before, see with our own eyes that G-d is truly the Giver and that He gives only good, with the complete revelation of our righteous Moshiach NOW!
From Our Yom Kippur Prayers
We are like clay in the Creator's hand
Bricks of clay can build an opulent mansion or a wretched hovel; so too it is with us. The only question is the type of edifice we wish to build -- a palace to bear testimony to G-d's glory, or a destitute and poverty-stricken shack.
(Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli)
For with You is forgiveness, that You may be feared
How does being forgiven lead us to fear G-d? Would not G-d's perpetual mercy have the opposite effect on a person, knowing that he will always be forgiven? This may be explained as follows: A poor person who has borrowed a large sum of money is only able to pay back half of the loan, not in one lump payment, but in many smaller payments stretched out over several years. If the lender accepts these terms and is kindly and understanding, the borrower is far more likely to exert himself to try to repay the entire amount. If, however, the lender is intransigent, insisting that the entire loan be repaid immediately, the borrower will despair of ever being able to return the full sum. The lender's kindness and mercy, therefore, lead the borrower to fear him all the more.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
The King who forgives and pardons our transgressions
How can we be so certain when saying this blessing that G-d pardons and forgives our transgressions? The Rozhiner Rebbe explained: "When I was a little child, we once had apples in our house. I desperately wanted an apple but my father didn't want to give me one. What did I do? I made the blessing over the apple in a loud voice and motioned to my father to quickly give me an apple so I wouldn't have uttered a blessing in vain. He didn't have a choice but to give me the apple. It is the same with us. When we call G-d 'the King who forgives and pardons...' G-d doesn't have a "choice" as it were, and he must forgive us. Otherwise we would be saying G-d's name in vain.
In Berdichev lived a man named Hirshele who was a failure in every business enterprise he attempted. Needless to say, he was not a happy man. His neighbors disregarded him, and his wife was always nagging him to bring home some money so they could have food on the table.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, he hoped to have a small bite to eat before the fast, but with what should his wife have prepared a meal? Instead of even a meager meal, Hirshele received a tongue lashing from his frustrated wife, and set out early for the synagogue. His stomach gurgled as he trudged to the shul, where everything gleamed and shone in anticipation of the great day.
Hirshele felt even worse as he looked around at the congregants, each wearing a stark white kittel and talit. Hirshele tried not to listen to the angry growling of his poor stomach, but the harder he tried, the less success he had.
Then a thought entered poor Hirshele's head. It was certain that he wasn't going to get anything to eat, but just maybe Reb Baruch, the wealthy businessman who sat at the first row near the eastern wall, would give him a little smell of his snuff. That would, perhaps, revive his spirits enough to allow him to pray.
Hirshele cautiously approached the front of the synagogue and tapped Reb Baruch on the back: "Shalom Aleichem, Reb Baruch. Maybe I could have a little sniff of your tabak?"
Reb Baruch turned with an incredulous look on his face. Who could have the nerve to bother him now, interrupting his prayers on this holiest of nights, to ask for some snuff? When he saw it was none other than Hirshele, the pauper, he just looked at him, and with an unmistakable tone of disgust said only one word: "Now?!"
Hirshele turned stiffly and made his way back to his seat, as humiliated as he had ever been. "Humph," he thought, "I'm not even worth a sniff of tabak."
No one in the shul had witnessed the little episode, but on High, the ministering angels were in an uproar. How could the wealthy man have humiliated his poverty-stricken brother like that? It was decreed that in the upcoming year, things would be radically different. The wheel of fortune would turn and Hirshele would be on top for the first time in his life. Reb Baruch, however, would be on the bottom.
And so, right after Yom Kippur, Hirshele received an unexpected inheritance from a deceased relative, and invested in some merchandise. Hirshele made an enormous profit and reinvested it. Again, he had the wildest success, and from that time on, whatever he set his hand to was successful. At the same time, Reb Baruch began losing money at every turn. He went to his rebbe, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev who asked him, "Can you think of any dealings you may have had with Reb Hirsh?"
At first Reb Baruch could think of nothing, but then he remembered Yom Kippur when he refused the snuff to Hirshele. "That must be it!" said Reb Levi Yitzchak. "Because of your actions, it was decreed that you would lose your money and that he would become wealthy."
Reb Baruch was stricken with remorse. "How can I atone?" he cried. Reb Levi Yitzchak just looked at him. "It won't be easy. All I can say is that when you approach Reb Hirsh and ask for a sniff of snuff and he refuses you, then you will have something to bargain with."
Many years passed and Reb Baruch was unable to extricate himself from his crushing poverty. Reb Hirsh, however, continued to prosper. He was now a respected member of the community and when his daughter reached marriageable age, she was betrothed to the son of the Rabbi of Zhitomir.
The whole town looked forward to celebrating the great event. Reb Baruch's anticipation was perhaps greater than most, for he had a plan to recoup his wealth. As the young couple stood under the wedding canopy surrounded by their happy parents, Reb Baruch quietly came up to Reb Hirsh and said, "A sniff of tabak, Reb Hirsh?"
Without a thought, Reb Hirsh removed his gilt snuff box from his coat pocket and handed it to Reb Baruch. Reb Baruch immediately fell to the ground in a dead faint. A stir went through the crowd. When Reb Baruch regained consciousness, Reb Hirsh asked him, "Was it something I did which caused you to faint?"
"Please come with me to some place where we can speak privately," replied Reb Baruch. The two men sat down and Reb Baruch explained everything that had transpired and related the words of Reb Levi Yitzchak. They agreed to go together to the tzadik and follow the advice he would give.
Reb Levi Yitzchak listened to the story and turned to Reb Hirsh. "Are you willing to give a percentage of your wealth to Reb Baruch?" Reb Hirsh decided to divide his great wealth with Reb Baruch and the two lived as close as brothers, in prosperity and health for the rest of their lives.
All of the Prophets prescribed teshuva (sincerely returning to G-d), and the Jewish people will be redeemed only through teshuva. The Torah has given assurance that Israel will do teshuva - at the end of its exile - and will be redeemed immediately, as it says (Deut. 30): "It will be when all these things have happened... you will return to G-d... and G-d will return your captivity and will gather you from among all the nations where He dispersed you."
(Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuva)