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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky
Most of us have been to a car wash at least once in our lives. The ones that are the most fun, for kids and adults alike, are the kind where you remain in the car, shift into neutral and float along on the conveyor belt.
First, there's a spray of water from one side, then the soap hits the car from somewhere else, and for an additional couple bucks you can get some hot wax so that the shine lasts longer.
Finally, big rubber pieces envelope the car and dry it without so much as a scratch. Thirty seconds after this wash cycle has begun, you're driving out in your car that looks like a million bucks. That is, until you realize that the interior of your car still has windows that are smudged from the inside, a few cookie crumbs are on the floor, there's an empty styrofoam container from your most recent cuppa and there are even a few loose coins embedded in the seat.
What can you do to get rid of the mess inside? The only way to clean it is to open up your door and let some guy with a bottle of Windex and a vacuum jump in and do the rest of the job.
On Yom Kippur we all go to the synagogue, sit down, position ourselves in neutral and wait for the conveyor belt to begin moving. The rabbi zaps you from this side, the cantor gets you from the other side, sit down, stand up, sit down. There's a sermon, the Torah reading, and before you know it, there's an announcement of a break and another announcement telling you when the break will be over and when the afternoon services will resume.
Many of us walk out of shul after the shofar blowing signaling the close of Yom Kippur feeling like a million bucks, all clean and shiny and new. But then it hits us. We aren't any cleaner on the inside than when we walked in. All of those faults and bad habits we had promised ourselves we'd change are still with us. And no amount of sitting in the synagogue, no matter how much the seats cost, is going to change us.
How can we change? Unlike our cars, unfortunately, it isn't a matter of letting someone in with rags and cleaning solution. It's much more difficult because we're the only ones who can really make sure that our insides get cleaned. Which isn't to say that change has to be a solitary experience. It certainly is easier when we have help and support from the people around us.
Like a car wash, however, getting our insides clean is intrinsically tied up with "opening up." Once we're open to change we're half way there.
This season of the High Holidays is the time when we contemplate our past behavior, our involvement in Judaism, our goals and values. It is a most appropriate time to begin making the necessary changes in our lives. Open up. Try something new. Attend a Torah study class. Read an edifying Jewish book. Learn the choreograpy of prayer. Incorporate Jewish teachings and wisdom into your family life, parenting techniques, business relations, charitable endeavors. Add a new mitzva to your repetoire of mitvot. Clean up your insides. Then you'll look and feel like a million bucks.
Based on a sermon of Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky, Chabad of Westlake Village, California.
This week's Torah portion, Nitzavim, is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana. There are so many things about this portion that connect to Rosh Hashana. Nitzavim speaks of our commitment to G-d, His Torah and mitzvot (commandments). It teaches about "teshuva" and tells of how G-d will gather us from the farthest places. It is clearly talking about us and our time, as we sit on the threshold of Moshiach's coming.
Teshuva means "return [to G-d]." On a basic level this means, to regret your past lapses, ask for forgiveness and get back on G-d's path.
For a person who has broken trust and wants to once again be trusted, being remorseful and saying "I'm sorry" is not enough. He needs to reach higher, find a greater level of character and prove himself worthy.
However teshuva can be so much more. Even the holiest of people can tap into the power of teshuva.
The verse in our Torah portion states, "And you will return until the L-rd your G-d." What does "until" mean? "Return" implies going back to a place or situation you were in before. We are returning to a place where we are in perfect harmony with G-d, the place before our lapse or indescretion.
Each of us have a soul, described in Chabad Chasidic teachings as an actual "part" of G-d.It is our essence. Over time we could become so involved in the world around us that our soul gets forgotten.
Teshuva is connecting to our G-dly essence, the soul. It is a journey to your core, every step you take inward, brings clarity. You see how you are one with G-d, and that He loves you because you are part of Him. When you connect at this level, the lower levels of teshuva are automatic. How could you remain the same after connecting so deeply? Regret, remorse and contrition over your previous state will overtake you, and you become closer to G-d.
Being that our soul is infinite - part of Infinite G-d - there are always deeper levels to connect to. Through teshuva even a totally righteous person will access new levels of bonding with G-d.
Your core essence is already there; your soul has always been at the highest level. You now have to "return until G-d," return to where your soul is one with G-d.
Suffering also brings one closer to G-d. We have suffered enough. Perhaps G-d wants our closeness to come from our own initiative.
Being a father and a husband, I love my family to no end, like any father and husband would. When the love and closeness from my family is from their own initiative, the pleasure is even deeper.
In preparation for Rosh Hashana, let us take the initiative to get closer to G-d. May He, with His Parental love, send Moshiach and gather the exiles and bring us home.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Rosh Hashana "Merchandise"
Meir Zeiler is a Lubavitch Chasid who lives in the Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi. He opened Flocktex Industries in Israel in the 1970s at the urging of the Rebbe to help give employment to newly arriving emigrants from the former Soviet Union.
As part of Mr. Zeiler's work, he travels extensively around the world for trade fairs and exhibitions. At each of these shows, he would always set up a private area where he could invite any fellow-Jew that he met to come in, have some refreshments, and put on tefilin, In addition to the tefilin "booth," Mr. Zeiler would always write a report to the Rebbe after the shows to let the Rebbe know how many people had put on tefilin. Often the shows were not very profitable financially, yet the Rebbe always encouraged them to continue attending. Mr. Zeiler understood that very possibly the "spiritual" merchandise of tefilin were the reason for the Rebbe's interest and encouragement.
There was a trade show in 1994 that was taking place in Belgium from Sunday through Wednesday. Monday night was Rosh Hashana. "To have everything all set up and ready Sunday morning meant I would have to bring my staff before Shabbat and keep them there until Thursday, just to display for a day and a half. But I knew how much the Rebbe wanted us to participate in these exhibitions so we went. "
Recalls Mr. Zeiler, "I set out armed with an additional pair of tefilin, a shofar, a Machzor, and a kosher food."
The plan was that Mr. Zeiler would close on Monday afternoon. As per the Rebbe's suggestion, from the start of the show, Mr. Zeiler would always post a sign stating when his pavilion would be closed due to the Sabbath, or in this case, Rosh Hashana.
"At about 1:30 p.m. on Monday, I saw an elderly man walking back and forth near our pavilion. He seemed agitated. I saw him looking at the sign, then walking away, and looking at the sign again. Finally, he walked over to our manager, and started talking to him, motioning with his hands. I came closer and heard him say to the manager, 'What is this all about, closing for the holiday. This is an international trade show!' "
Mr. Zeiler walked over to engage the man in conversation and see if he could calm him down. "Where are you from?" he asked the gentleman.
"Chile," was the man's reply
"But I could tell his accent wasn't South American," remembers Mr. Zeiler. " 'Where are you from before Chile?' I prodded. And he responded in Yiddish, 'I'm from Poland.' "
Mr. Zeiler invited the gentleman inside to have some refreshments. Eventually he agreed to come into the partitioned office area. When Mr. Zeiler offered to help him put on tefilin, the man looked at Mr. Zeiler as if he was crazy. "You believe in all of this stuff? I don't believe in anything. I don't believe in G-d, nothing. I went through Hitler. I was 12 years old during the war..."
Mr. Zeiler's response was with utmost compassion, "My friend, I understand. You have every right to be angry with the world and angry with G-d. But why not have a Bar Mitzva? You've never put on tefilin. Put on tefilin. You'll be able to say that even though G-d didn't do right by you, but you still put on tefilin.
"Nothing compares to putting on tefilin in the final hours before Rosh Hashana," Mr. Zeiler shared with the gentleman, whose name he now found out was Mr. Lieberman.
Suddenly Mr. Lieberman became complaint. He rolled up his sleeve and allowed Mr. Zeiler to help him wrap the tefilin straps around his arm. He repeated the blessing word-by-word. "Then," recalls Mr. Zeiler emotionally, "he said the 'Shema' and tears started streaming down his face. He hugged me, he hugged my son. And he put his hand to his heart and said, 'Ich ken nisht I can't... he kept thanking us over and over again as he sat down."
Mr. Zeiler and Mr. Lieberman walked out of the "office" and all of the Jewish and non-Jewish workers looked on in shock. Now that the "spiritual" business had been taken care of, Mr. Zeiler wanted to help Mr. Lieberman with the "material" business. Surely he had originally walked over to his pavilion because the merchandise was of interest to him.
"What kind of fabric do you deal with?" Mr. Zeiler asked Mr. Lieberman. After all, this was an international exhibition exclusively of upholstery fabrics.
"Fabrics? I'm not in fabrics," replied Mr. Lieberman. "I'm in the fish business."
Now Mr. Zeiler was shocked. This was not an exhibition that one could just walk into off the street. One had to pay money to get in. Generally only people in the fabric business attended. "If you're in the fish business, what are you doing here?" Mr. Zeiler asked.
"I had a thought recently to get into the fabric business," Mr. Lieberman shared with his new-found confidant.
"Here was a man already 70 years old, and he had a thought at this advanced age to open a new business, and to go into textiles... And that's how he wound up at our pavilion and put on tefilin for the first time in his life," recalls Mr. Zeiler, still with a look of wonder.
"That Rosh Hashana, my son and I said the holidays prayers with much feeling. Although the exhibition had not been a huge success for our company monetarily, we knew without a doubt that we had accomplished what we had come for.
Based on an interview with Mr. Zeiler on JEM's Living Torah and an article in Kfar Chabad Magazine.
Glad to be Me
As you read Glad to be Me, a charming, action-filled story, your child can bounce like a ball, sway like a tree, and flap like a bird. But people don't fit into any of those groups. We transcend them all, and have the wonderful ability to elevate the world with our mitzvot. Full of fun and meaning, Glad to be Me! will make even the very youngest children appreciate the unique role and responsibility we share! "Most of all, I'm glad to be Just the way G-d made me! Full color paintings on laminated pages and lyrical verse are sure to make Glad to be Me! a family favorite. This newest release by HaChai Publishing is written by Sara Blau and illustrated by Len Ebert.
Freely translated and adapted
First Day of Selichoth, 5713 
On the threshold of the New Year, may it bring blessings to us all, I send you my prayerful wishes for a good and pleasant year, materially and spiritually.
Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of a new year - 5714 - since the Creation, a new date in the cycle of time, and everyone hopes and prays that it will also be the beginning of a new year in one's personal life, one that is "good and sweet" materially and spiritually.
It is significant that the anniversary of the Creation is not celebrated on the first day of Creation, but on the sixth, the day when Man was created. Although all other things making up our vast universe - the inanimate, vegetable and living creatures - preceded the Creation of Man, as is related in the Torah, in the first chapter of Genesis, nevertheless it is on the anniversary of Man's creation that we celebrate Rosh Hashana, and on this day we say, "This is the day of the beginning of Thy works!"
Herein lies a profound lesson for every one of us:
Man, the microcosm ("small world") contains within him all the "Four Kingdoms" into which the macrocosm, the universe at large, is divided.
In the course of his life, man passes through the stages of inanimate, vegetable and animated existence until he reaches maturity and begins to live a rational and spiritual life of a human being. Even then, in his daily life, he may experience a varied existence, as reflected in his deeds and actions.
Part of the time he may be regarded in the category of the inanimate; at other times he may vegetate, or live an animated existence; but a true human being he is when his activities give evidence of his intellect and spiritual qualities.
Moreover, the name "Adam - man" is justified only then, when also those areas of one's life and activities which correspond to the animal, vegetable and even inanimate "kingdoms" are sublimated, elevated and sanctified to the level of human quality.
Rosh Hashana, and the Ten Days of Repentance introducing the New Year, is the time for self-evaluation and mature reflection on the profound lessons of these solemn days:
Just as the world, all the world, begins its true existence, an existence befitting the purpose of its creation, from the day Man was created, who immediately after coming to life proclaimed the sovereignty of the Creator to all the universe: "Come, let us worship, let us bow down and kneel before G-d our Maker" inspiring the whole universe with this call (Zohar I, 221b; Pirkei d'Rabbi Eleazar, ch. 11), thereby making all the universe an abode for the Divine Presence and carrying out the inner purpose of the Creation,
So each and every individual must realize that his whole essence and purpose consists in the predominance of the true human element of his being and the 'humanization' of the inanimate, vegetable and animal parts of which he is composed.
It is not enough, not enough at all, if part of his time and effort correspond to the behavior of a true human being; it is absolutely necessary that the 'man' should inspire, sublimate, elevate and sanctify all his component parts, including the animal, vegetable and inanimate, in order that they, too, respond to the call, "Come, let us worship, let us bow down and kneel before G-d our Maker." Such a life in accordance with the commands of the Creator, a life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvoth which G-d, our Maker, has given us, and only such a life, justifies one's own existence, and justifies thereby also the Creation.
With the traditional blessing of K'siva vaChasima Tova, [may you be inscribed and sealed for good]
May it please the One Above, Whom Jews crown on Rosh Hashana as the "King of Israel" and "Sovereign Over All the Earth," to bless each man and woman in carrying out the said task, in the fullest measure, and this will also speed and bring closer the time when the mitzva of Hakhel will be fulfilled in all its details, in the Holy Temple, with the appearance of Moshiach, speedily in our time.
(From a letter of the Rebbe dated "Days of Selichot, 5726-1066)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In honor of this new year, 5777, we would like to wish the entire Jewish People our sincerest blessings for a k'siva vachasima tova, l'shana tova u'msuka - to be inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet year, with blessings from every letter of the Hebrew Alef-Beis. May this year be:
A year of "Arise and have mercy on Zion,"... uplifted in matters of Moshiach and the Redemption... faith in G-d and Moses His servant... traveling with the Heavenly clouds... Revealed Wonders; Wonders in Everything... the building of the Holy Temple... trust; Great wonders... the true and complete Redemption; Dignified Wonders... victory... the seventh generation is the generation of Redemption...King David lives and is eternal; "Those who rest in the dust will arise and sing and he will lead them"... Moshiach is coming and he has already come... the revelation of Moshiach; "He will redeem us"... "And they believed in G-d and in Moses His servant"; "This one will comfort us"; the wonders of true freedom... a new song; an abundance of good (Rambam); the king shall live; inscribed and sealed for a good year... the harp of Moshiach; learning Moshiach's teachings; the coming of Menachem who will comfort us... the King Moshiach; wonders... revealed miracles... a double portion; treasures... the completion and end of exile... the revelation of the Infinite Divine Light; "Humble ones, the time of your Redemption has arrived," wealth, materially and spiritually; "Jerusalem will dwell in open space," paratzta - 770; Your servant David will go forth; the ingathering of the exiles... acceptance of his sovereignty by the people; Rebbe - Rosh B'nei Yisrael; peace... a new song... Moshiach's shofar... unity of the Torah, unity of the Jewish people, unity of the land of Israel; Resurrection of the Dead... "A new Torah will come from Me"
You are standing this day all of you...every person of Israel (Deut. 29:9)
The Torah uses many different words to refer to Jews; the name "Israel" is the highest of all these descriptions, connoting magnitude and significance. The verse teaches that all Jews are in this category, i.e., exalted and essentially worthy.
And it shall come to pass ("vehaya"), when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse (Deut. 30:1)
Our Rabbis explain that the word "vehaya" is an expression of joy. A Jew must always strive to serve G-d joyfully, regardless of whether he encounters blessing in life or (G-d forbid) the opposite. As our Sages declared, "A person is obligated to bless G-d for [apparent] evil in the same way he blesses Him for good."
It is obvious that punishment and suffering can arouse the heart to teshuva (repentance). But how can blessing do the same? The Baal Shem Tov offered an analogy of a subject who rebels against his king. What does the king do? Instead of punishing him he appoints him minister, allows him into the royal palace and gradually increases his rank until he is second in command. The greater the king's beneficence, the more the recipient is ashamed of having rebelled against such a merciful ruler. The king's loving-kindness thus leads him to a higher level of repentance than had he been punished.
Then the L-rd your G-d will turn your captivity (Deut. 30:3)
Rashi notes this means that "[G-d] will literally take hold with His hand every person... as it states, 'You shall be gathered one by one, Children of Israel.' " As we know that the Redemption will come about through repentance, the Torah clearly promises that every single Jew will ultimately return to G-d in repentance, as it states, "For not even one will be banished."
by Rabbi M. M. Gorelik (of blessed memory)
I was imprisoned in a labor camp in the far north of Russia. The crowding in the bunk was terrible and there wasn't even enough air to breathe. I went out into the yard in order to get some fresh air and was met with -60 degrees temperatures; all that could be seen for miles was snow.
It was Rosh Hashana and one thought plagued my mind and heart: Where is my wife? Where are my children? The K.G.B. had told me terrifying things about my family. They had said, "Your wife is dead. When our men came to her house to take your children from her - because she cannot educate them in the Soviet spirit - she adamantly protested and went into a panic. In her great emotion she had a heart attack and died. But don't worry. Your children are with us, in a Soviet orphanage where they'll get an excellent education in the spirit of communism. There will be none of your Jewish nonsense and religious stupidities."
When they saw that I believed them, they continued to torment me, saying: "Where is your G-d for whom you sacrificed your wife and children? Why doesn't He save you from us?"
I wanted to cry but I had no tears. I kept all the pain deep inside. I felt that in another moment I would die from a broken heart. I decided to speak my heart to G-d before my end, before I left this world of falsehood.
I began: "Master of all, today is Rosh Hashana and we don't say 'Al Cheit' asking You for forgiveness from our many transgressions. But under the circumstances I cannot wait until Yom Kippur. I ask forgiveness for every day and year of my entire life in this world of falsehood. And You, in Your great mercy, forgive me also for saying Al Cheit today, on Rosh Hashana."
I began to emotionally recite my unique Al Cheit: "For the sin of organizing a secret school; for the sin of organizing workplaces so Jews wouldn't be forced to work on the Sabbath and holidays; for the sin of organizing factories in which they worked a few hours and in the rest of the time they taught children Torah; for the sin of arranging documents for those children so they wouldn't be caught and be sent to where I am now.
"I sinned greatly against these wicked people, but I did it all in order to preserve Your Torah and Your commandments, so please forgive me for my sins. Please allow me to express my final request: Tell me where my wife and children are. What has happened to them? Show them to me so it will be easier for me to leave this false world. Show me Your kindness.
"And one last thing. Today is Rosh Hashana. Merciful Father, give me the opportunity to fulfill today's mitzva of hearing the shofar."
Then, a voice resounded in my heart so clearly, I was sure it was a voice from heaven. It said, "Don't be sad and don't believe those wicked ones. Your wife and children are alive and are at home, as always. You will see one another with joy and success."
I cried out, "G-d! Please change Your rules of nature! We can hear long distance via the radio. Do me this kindness, let me actually hear the sound of the shofar."
Suddenly, I saw before my eyes a large synagogue with a bima in the center. On the bima stood the Lubavitcher Rebbe blowing the shofar. T'kia - my heart cried wordlessly at this sound. Shvarim, t'rua - my soundless crying intensified. My heart stood still in anticipation, and once again I heard: shvarim, t'rua. I stood there, drinking in this awesome and holy sight. I cried deep in my heart: "Father! Have mercy on us! Father! Rescue your children who need help..."
And then tears began to burst forth, copious, warm tears. I cried out before G-d for my troubles, for my wife's difficulties, and for the children, who did not sin, and for my brothers and sisters in these same straits.
During those moving moments, there was no snow and ice covered camp, no guard dogs or human-animals who patrolled the fence. What I saw and felt was only G-d, the holy Torah, the Rebbe blowing shofar, and many Jews who were listening to the sound of the shofar and were crying from the depths of their hearts. The Rebbe, too, was crying.
Many years passed and with G-d's kindness I remained alive. I was freed from the labor camp and returned home. I found my wife and children alive and observing Torah and mitzvot despite the dangers they endured while I was away. More decades went by and miraculously we were freed from that hell. Together with my wife and children we arrived in Israel.
I travelled to the Rebbe in New York at my first opportunity, to pray in his synagogue on Rosh Hashana, to thank him for praying for us, and for his blessings that encouraged us to be strong.
I entered "770." I saw before me a large synagogue with a bima in the center. The Rebbe prepared himself to blow the shofar as thousands of chasidim watched in awe. It was utterly silent. The Rebbe went up to the bima. He took three bags with him that contained letters requesting blessings, many from Jews in the Soviet Union requesting a blessing to be able to leave.
The Rebbe covered his holy face with his talit and cried. He cried for all the Jewish people. The Rebbe began to blow the shofar. T'kia, shvarim, t'rua...
It was the same vision I had seen in the labor camp decades ago. But this time it was not a vision!
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine.
There are three types of shofars that may be blown on Rosh Hashana. The optimal shofar is the horn of a ram. If a ram's horn is not available, then the horn of any kosher animal other than a cow may be used. And if a kosher shofar is not available, then one may blow on the horn of any animal, even one which is not kosher. When using a horn from a non-kosher animal, however, no blessing is recited.These three shofars of Rosh Hashanah correspond to three 'Shofars of Redemption,' three Divine calls summoning the Jewish people to be redeemed and to redeem their land.
(Rav Kook, Rosh Hashana, 1933)