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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Mashiach’

Mashiach Now!

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Only an infant expects his desires to be gratified immediately. He wants his bottle now! He wants his rattle now! If he doesn’t get it, he screams, he hollers, he cries. Sometimes, when a child gets to be an adult, he still wants everything handed to him on a silver platter now, without having to do any work. For instance, some big babies demand Peace Now! To get their way, they are willing to do the most self-destructive things, like surrendering their homeland to the enemy and give them guns which end up killing Jews.

There are also people who want Mashiach Now! While the wish for Mashiach’s coming is a very praiseworthy thing, these people don’t realize that Mashiach’s coming is a process that evolves over time. These people want everything to be finished at the start. They say that when Mashiach comes and does all the work of rebuilding the Land of Israel, and gathers all of the exiled Jews to Israel, and fights the wars of Hashem, and rebuilds the Beit HaMikdash, then they will come on aliyah. First, everything has to be perfect. First, the Mashiach has to do all the work. If not, come hell or high water, they’re staying right where they are in Brooklyn, Boston, and Beverly Hills.

The Talmud speaks of “Tzaddikim who do not believe” (Sotah 48B). Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook explained that there were people at the time of the Second Temple who complained about the situation in their days, when a small portion of the Jews returned from exile, yet didn’t achieve the greatness of the past and the exalted level of the First Temple because the majority, including the community leaders, preferred to remain in Babylon with their businesses and wealth (Kuzari, Ch.2). In their eyes, the Second Temple was an affront. They would weep and express reservation and scorn, declaring, “This is the Temple? How pathetic.” The Prophets rebuked them for their attitude, asking, “Who has despised the day of small things?” The Talmud answers: “The small-minded among them who didn’t have faith in the Almighty” (Sotah 48B). You are disbelievers, the Prophets told them. The Lord is returning His children to Israel, it is He Himself who has re-established the Holy Temple, and yet you complain?

In our time too, Rabbi Kook taught, there are “tzaddikim” who criticize the Almighty for the way that He is returning the Jewish People to Zion. In their eyes, it isn’t glatt kosher enough for them. There are those who even say that what is happening now is the work of the Satan. Somehow they forget that everything that happens is from the Holy One Blessed Be He. Is it the Satan who has gathered millions of Jews from all over the world to Israel? Is it the Satan who has made the Land of Israel blossom and bloom after having lain fallow for two thousand years? Is it the Satan who has restored Jewish sovereignty over vast stretches of The Holy Land, and brought about miraculous victories in war, rebuilt Jerusalem, and made Israel the Torah center of the entire Jewish world? And still these people complain. They want everything perfect now! They want everything complete without having to lend a hand in the work and get their shoes dirty.

It is true that babies dirty their diapers, and teenagers do all kinds of stupid things that they shouldn’t do, and yes, even adults make mistakes. But is this a reason to throw the baby into the trash can, or kick the teenager out of the house, or burn an adult at the stake? Yes, there are problems in Israel; yes, not everything is perfect with the government; yes, the Supreme Court still has a goyisha cop; yes, not everyone is religious. But what about all the incredible good things? There’s more Torah being learned in Israel than everywhere else in the world. And in just a handful of decades, Israel has become one of the leading nations in just about every field you can name, from agriculture to computer technology. Just because we haven’t yet reached our ultimate Torah ideal, is this a reason to throw out the baby and kick the teenager out of the house?

Miracles In Moscow

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

“If you put Google, Apple, and Microsoft together, it still doesn’t compare to the miracles of Jewish renaissance I have witnessed in this country,” I said to two reporters from The New York Times and Moscow Times.

I had just finished a talk at a Shabbos night meal for 35 English-speaking ex-pats in the Marina Roscha shul in Moscow, a seven-story tall Jewish center that features, among other things, a mikveh, library, swimming pool, fitness center, banquet hall, theatre and two restaurants (one milchig, one fleishig).

It was one of over twenty talks I gave in Russia during my visit there last month. This particular event was hosted by one of the more than ninety Chabad shluchim serving the Jewish people of Moscow. The hosts were Rivkie and Rabbi Yanky Klein. Yanky is the son of Rabbi Binyamin Klein, one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s secretaries, and a grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Shusterman, the Rebbe’s baal korei.

“My grandfather actually got married in the Marina Roscha shul over 70 years ago when the building was a dingy shack and a dangerous place to visit,” Rabbi Klein told the two reporters. “On the day of his wedding, ten Jews had to surreptitiously enter the building at intervals so that no KGB personnel or KGB informer would suspect a religious ritual taking place inside. The wedding was performed quickly and quietly.”

“I remember Mrs. Klein, Yanky’s mother,” I added, “telling me that her father, Yanky’s grandfather, the same Rabbi Shusterman, used to take a detour around the Kremlin just to avoid coming near that dreaded place.”

The Kremlin in his eyes was the symbol of communist oppression – an oppression that claimed the lives of countless Jews and which brutally repressed Jewish life, closing down shuls and chedarim and arresting Jews who dared keep Shabbos or refused to send their children to communist schools.

“Fast forward to 2012,” I told the two reporters. “Right now, you are at a joyous Shabbos dinner together with hundreds of people (there were over 400 that evening enjoying staggered meals in the various entertainment spaces of the Marina Roscha) being served a sumptuous meal. Is this not a miracle?”

During my entire stay in Russia I kept pinching myself. Could I really be in what used to be the Soviet Union? Next to the Marina Roscha shul is the Chesed Center, a gorgeous sleek-looking building. The center services 15,000 Jews. And when I say “service,” I don’t just mean food (though it does have a soup kitchen). This humanitarian center provides dental care, eye care, haircuts, manicures, Hebrew classes, art classes, wheelchairs, shoes, clothes, Bolshoi Ballet tickets, etc. All this with high-class trappings. No smell of bleach or peeling walls. Quite the opposite. It exuded the aroma of the cosmetics floor in any American department store. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t want to leave. An aside: In the basement is perhaps the largest kosher kitchen in the Russia, preparing all kosher airline meals coming out of the country as well as all the challahs sold in Moscow.

Next to that building is yet another miracle. It is the site of the future Russian-Jewish Museum of History and Tolerance Center – expected to be the biggest Jewish museum in the world when it’s completed (scheduled to open in November 2012). Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to open it and he provided a good portion of the funds for the building. A visit to the museum will be mandatory for all Russian schoolchildren in grades 4– 7.

Who could have imagined any of this just two decades ago? Can any of us who lived through the terrifying Cold War era not get goose bumps when seeing this transformation?

On the last day of my trip, I hired a cinematographer for a project I’m working on, walked to Red Square, and filmed a standup saying the following: “Lenin and Stalin, where are you with your failed philosophies and ideologies, and where in contrast are the Chabad chassidim who fought you in the 1920s and ‘30s to keep Judaism alive in your land?”

As I said these words, four policemen were standing by. Just twenty ago, these words – in Red Square no less! – would have landed me in jail.

Getting Back Together

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

We all know we have to take the Three Weeks seriously. But at the same time we all just want the time between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av to pass already.

Each year seems more worrisome; this year is no exception. Every day brings new evidence that the world situation is deteriorating, with tzouris on every level. Of course, Israel is becoming more and more isolated. The rockets fall, and no one cares except us.

What exactly should we focus on during this sober time of year?

We all know that sinas chinam, gratuitous hatred between Jew and Jew, caused the destruction of the Second Temple. We all know it, but clearly we are having trouble incorporating it into our lives. The knowledge is not going to help us unless it becomes an imperative whose urgency is driven by our desire for a real solution to our problems.

We’ve all become somewhat depressed, affected by the cynicism we learn from the surrounding society, which is content to try to enjoy itself as the world spins out of control. How many people really believe the world can ever be transformed into a peaceful planet on which the Children of Israel can live in our Holy Land, “each man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)?

Let’s try to understand how we can really make this happen. If we took this seriously, we could well be rejoicing soon in the new Beis HaMikdash. Since we are not there yet, we obviously need to hear it again.

Here is the source:

“[At the time of] the Second Temple, [we know] that the people occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvos and acts of kindness. Why was it destroyed? Because of the gratuitous hatred that existed there. This teaches you that gratuitous hatred is tantamount to the three sins of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed [put together]” (Yoma 9b).

I know of instances in which Jews try to hurt each other and do hurt each other. This is crazy, of course.

People are not using their brains. Maybe it is because so many of us are lost somewhere inside our smart phones or computers. If we would think, we would not act this way, because this behavior is suicide.

All our tzouris stems from the fact that we have no Beis HaMikdash.

“Because of our sins, we have been exiled from our land and sent far from our soil. We cannot ascend to appear…before You…in the…great and holy House upon which Your Name was proclaimed…” (Yom Tov Mussaf). When we will return to our land in teshuvah, Hashem will “command rain for your land in its proper time, the early and later rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied” (Shema prayer/Devarim11:14).

* * * * *

I am going to suggest a few ideas.

There are things we can do.

We have to become closer.

We are one family.

My wife and I recently conducted several programs in the beautiful Syrian community of Mexico City. Before going, we wondered how we would be able to relate. After all, we are Ashkenazim from New York. It’s a different world, right?

Wrong!

It is unbelievable how close we all are. In fact, we learned that our granddaughter from Israel was best friends with the daughter of our host in Mexico. They had met at camp in the Catskills. Do you understand? It’s 7,732 miles from Israel to Mexico, and they met at a camp in between.

Mashiach is almost here. We are all about to unite as “one man with one heart.” Let’s get serious. It makes me insane when I see not only how cruel we can be to each other but how we often just distance ourselves. Would you pass your brother on the street and not greet him? Would you stare in the other direction as if he didn’t exist? If we all would try to modify our actions, then perhaps one – even unnoticed or invisible – act of chesed could tip the scale and bring Mashiach.

First Of The Land

Friday, June 29th, 2012

There are 613 mitzvoth – we all know that. We also all know it is impossible for one person to perform all 613. Twenty-five mitzvot can only be performed in the Land of Israel, which leaves many Jews out in the cold, shall we say. After all, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel are inextricably intertwined; they are in fact dependent on one another for survival. But Judaism has a solution or as a modern Israeli would say, a “patent.” Mitzvot can be performed by proxy; by taking a part in a mitzvah one merits a share in the whole.

For example, let’s say you want a share in the mitzvah of reshit hagez, the first wool of the first sheep shearing that is brought to the Kohen. No problem, you just contact, Reshit Ha’aretz, a farm established in Beit El, a community that also fortuitously has a stellar Yeshiva. They sheer the sheep on the farm and bring the first wool to the rabbis who are also Kohanim in the yeshiva there.

Reshit Haaretz, now in its fourth year was established for the precise purpose of performing the mitzvot that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. And the cooperative also offers you the opportunity of performing these mitzvahs virtually. It’s an opportunity Moshe Rabbeinu would have treasured.

“We thought that we were really missing out because so many important mitzvot, obligatory me’de’oraita, are so very distant from every Jew, and we began to think of a practical way to enable every Jew to participate in their performance,” explains Rabbi Ronen Zer, 46, the founder of the Reshit Ha’aretz farm. Zer means bouquet, so it appears his agricultural calling was predestined.

“After receiving blessings and approval of the endeavor from the most prominent rabbis, I left Tzfat together with my family and settled in Bet El. Here in the region designated for the tribe of Binyamin, we decided to establish the Reshit Ha’aretz farm.”

The farm enables any Jew, no matter where in the world he resides, to be a partner in the purchase of the farm and the performance of the 25 land-related mitzvot. The farm spans an area of several dunams and contains fields of crops, vineyards and olive groves, enclosures for animals and livestock and a winery where the biblical mitzvot are performed using the fruits and produce of the farm. For example- setting aside terumot and maasrot (tithes), neta revai (the eating of fourth year produce in Jerusalem), peah, leket, shichecha and others. And the holy animals of Israel are also not neglected. For example, The rarely performed mitzvoth of Peter Chamor, the aforementioned reshit hagez, and the gifts of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva to the Kohen among others. During a Shemittah year, of course all the laws are stringently observed and the fruit orchards are open for the public at large, who are free to help themselves. The fruit is hefker, after all.

“With the establishment of the farm, we intended to grant merits to the residents of Israel living in cities and urban areas, who wouldn’t have an actual opportunity to perform these important mitzvot personally,” explains Rabbi Zer, as he plants a new vineyard on one of the farm’s slopes. “Afterwards, we thought that if we can grant merits to Jews in Israel, why not also grant the same privilege of these mitzvot to our brothers and sisters overseas, as well? We approached Torah leaders and they gave us their blessing for this holy enterprise. The Institute Machon HaTorah VeHa’Aretz cooperated with us and we composed a monetary contract that is halachically binding and a means by which our brothers and sisters abroad can also become partners in the farm.”

A few weeks ago a festival celebrating reshit hagez was held at the farm, as well as the mitzvot of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva, with the participation of rabbanim and an appreciative crowd of participants. The wool of an entire of flock of sheep was sheared, the parts of the animals undergoing ritual slaughter were presented to the Kohen amid a festive atmosphere, and the celebration also included hands-on activities and creative workshops for children, music, and a food market. It was a grand festival celebrating the performance of mitzvot ha’teluyot ba’aretz, reinforcing our attachment to and ownership of the land of Israel and our joyful adherence to its mitzvot.”

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Two: Golda

Monday, June 25th, 2012

All of that night, Tevye was unable to sleep. He rose from his bed, paced around the tiny room where his family had shared their modest meals, said a prayer over his sleeping children, and walked outside, holding his aching head from the after-effects of the vodka he had imbibed earlier in the day. The winter was ending, and the night was cold and black. Rays of moonlight shone now and again from behind a thick quilt of clouds. A thin layer of snow remained on the ground like manna, the wafers of food which God provided six days a week to the Jews in the wilderness. Tevye glanced up at the clouds.

“My God, and God of my forefathers,” he said, as if speaking to someone close by. “I know you are Master of everything. I know that a blade of grass does not grow unless you give it an order. I know we are like sheep in Your hand. I know that Tevye, Your servant, is a worm and not even a man. But what great sin did I transgress that You, in Your very great kindness, are throwing me out of my house? Haven’t I tried to please you all of my miserable life? Haven’t I woken up before dawn to milk the cows You gave me? Haven’t I trudged off to work day after day, pausing only at sunrise to don my tefillin and say morning prayers – just as You have commanded us in Your Torah? And though I could not always pray in a minyan with nine other men, and though I do not study Talmud as much as I might, haven’t I always tried to be a good Jew? And for my reward, I am given three days to abandon my house and my village. Yes, I know, Tevye is not the world’s biggest saint and tzaddik, and sometimes my neighbor’s horse looks a lot healthier than mine. But what, may I ask, do You want from us here in tiny Anatevka? Instead of uprooting us from our homes, don’t You have something more important to do in some other part of the world?”

Tevye walked through a familiar path in the forest. The night was as dark as the exile of the Jews from their land, but Tevye knew the path’s windings by heart. How many thousands of miles had he traveled back and forth through the forest, bringing his milk products to the neighboring villages, and to Boiberik and Yehupetz, where the aristocrats lived? Usually, he would lead his horse and wagon along the main road, but when the four-legged creature was sick, Tevye would drag the cart behind him in order to delivery his fresh milk and cheeses on time. And that meant taking the less traveled path through the forest.

Now in the moonlight, he could see the Jewish cemetery. A glow seemed to shine off Golda’s small tombstone. Careful not to step on Lazar Wolf, the butcher; nor Mendel, the cantor; or Shendel, the wife of the sandal maker; nor on the grave of the poor tailor, Motel, his son-in-law, Tevye walked to the only resting place his Golda had ever enjoyed.

He sighed a loud, weary sigh, a sigh of centuries, the sigh of a gypsy who has to wander on to yet another temporary home. A sob shook his body. He was not a man to break down like a woman and cry, but if he could not share his feelings with Golda, if she was not at his side to listen to his complainings, kvetchings, and moments of despair, where would he find the strength to carry on for the children? Hadn’t she been his helpmate since the day their fathers had brought them together under the canopy of the marital chuppah? True, she always moaned that she had been a fool to agree to the match, yet, dutifully, she had borne the pain of seven childbirths, and raised up seven daughters. As it is written in the Holiest of Books, “And they became one flesh.” She was his wife. Even in death. How could he leave her? How did he dare?

The Last Secular Jew in Israel

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

It’s no secret that a tremendous spiritual revolution is approaching in Israel. Even the secular Jews know it, and that’s why they’re so uptight. In a big way, it’s already happening. Israel is the Torah center of the world. Religious Jews are everywhere. The baal tshuva phenomena is booming. And while secular families in Israel have one, two, maybe three children, the religious start with five and end up with twelve or more. You don’t have to be a genius at statistics to realize that even if the rate of tshuva isn’t accelerated more than it is today, and even if the Lords of Flatbush and Brooklyn Dodgers don’t come on aliyah from New York, even without them, in another decade, the religious will have a majority of seats in the Knesset, and then we’re in for a lot of fun! So, as part of our continuing tribute to Jewish Book Week in Israel, we are posting another short story from Days of Mashiach  about the last remaining secular Jew in Israel. Happy reading!

OPERATION HALLEL

The chief of staff, the generals, nuclear physicists, and rabbis stood staring at the panoramic screen in the IDF’s Strategic Military Control Center. The computerized screen spanned a wall in the war room which had been code-named “Magen David” because of its star-shaped design. Up on the screen was a satellite map of the world. Israel was a small red light in the center of the globe, like a heart amidst the organs of the body. Other lights were flickering on the screen from all over the northern hemisphere. New lights flashed on over Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Each light marked the launching of a nuclear warhead from an underground silo. Russia had started the massive attack only a minute before with a wave of missiles which were now on their way over Turkey and arcing steadily closer toward Israel. Bombers were streaking toward the Mediterranean. None of the bearded men in the room seemed surprised when the United States joined in the air strike. America’s participation in the UN coalition against the tiny Jewish State had been predicted for weeks, ever since the mass arrests of Jews in America. The Arab oil embargo had crippled world economy and left Americans angry and cold. Until Palestine was freed, the Arabs were refusing to export their oil. On the pretext of safety, American Foreign Service personnel had been evacuated from Israel. Once again, the Jews had been set up for slaughter. On the screen in the war room, lights were flickering now over Pakistan and, France, and Germany.

“It’s seems like every uncircumcised dog with an A-bomb wants to get a crack at us,” Yehuda growled, throwing up his hands in dismay.

For a moment, everyone laughed, even the rabbis. In fact, Yehuda, the world-famous air-force commander was the only non-religious officer in the underground center. The secret bunker had been re-nicknamed “The Covenant Room” because all of the bearded, skull-capped men present believed that this was the place where God would reaffirm, before the eyes of the world, the ancient Covenant He had made with Abraham, bequeathing the Land of Israel to the Jews. Yehuda believed it, too, in a deep non-religious way which he couldn’t define nor express. He was a simple man, a soldier’s soldier, born with an ardent love for his land and his people. In war after bloody war, he had risked his life on the battlefield and in the skies. Both Jews and Arabs called him the Lion of Yehuda. Now, once again, he had stayed on to fight, long after many others had left, because he knew, in the way only a military specialist could know, that Israel’s great victories over much vaster forces had been caused by something more than military prowess and weaponry. Yehuda had sensed, almost mystically from his very first battle, the presence of some unseen helping hand.

All of the eyes in the room were watching him now. Lights had flashed on over China and from submarines scattered throughout the seven seas. Yehuda gazed at the tense faces around him. They were all good solid soldiers. Many were graduates of Hesder yeshivot. Others were Russians who had spent years in Siberian jails. Several of the bearded men had been his soldiers before they had become baale tshuva during the great religious revolution in Israel. Seemingly overnight, the nation had returned to the Torah. After the last elections, when the majority of the Knesset became religious, most of Yehuda’s contemporaries had fled. The people he had grown up with, the builders of the country, had become a tired and spiritually empty minority – all of the socialists, liberals, democrats, professors, and writers who had lacked the final faith to continue the struggle against what seemed like insurmountable odds. The young people had abandoned the country with them, the children of the kibbutz generation who had yearned for peace at all costs. The orphans of Rabin Square had fled the country for the more peaceful plazas of L.A. and New York when the religious parties took over.

Days of Mashiach

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Since so many of you enjoyed the story, “The Great America Novelist,” here’s another literary gem from my collection of fun and poignant short stories about the Jewish People in our time, Days of Mashiach.

I wrote the little fable in order to explain the first sentence of Rabbi Kook’s book, Orot, his classic treatise on the Redemption of Israel. The book begins: “Eretz Yisrael is not a peripheral matter, external to the inner essence of the Jewish Nation.” Rabbi Kook wants us to know that the Land of Israel isn’t just a nice place to visit, or merely a place to do extra mitzvot, but that it is an essential part of our lives, attached to us by an inner oneness, like a person’s mother or his wife. It’s not something you give away.

By the way, for readers who thought I was serious about going to LA – I was only kidding in order to make the point that, in our generation, a Jew has to do whatever he or she can to promote the rebuilding of Israel, and not only worry about his personal material pleasures. I’m actually driving to Beit El today to see how I can help out in the struggle to save the Ulpana neighborhood. I made a poster to hold up at demonstrations and I want to drop it off to the local troops who are faithfully trying to save the threatened buildings. Along the way, I’ll drop some posters off on the embattled settlement of Migron. Here’s the story. Let me know what you think.

EHUD

Ehud was a happy man, truly content with his lot. He had a lovely wife, three lovely children, and a lovely house in a lovely community. He had a good job and good friends. He liked and respected all people, and all people liked and respected him. He was friendly, optimistic, and always tried to see the good side of things, believing that everything that happened in life was for the best. He did whatever he could to help people, and he avoided quarrels and fights, believing that peace was life’s most precious value. He was a smart man, an educated man, but humble, never thinking he was better than anyone else. He had his opinions, but he respected all points of view, except for the radical. He kept to the middle path in life and followed the rule, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” He wasn’t a religious man, practicing rituals and the like, but he lived a very moral, principled life.

One quiet evening, while Ehud was reading his newspaper, there was a knock on the door. A man stood outside. He was a tall man, a big man, with a nondescript face. He might have been a Gentile, or an Arab, or a Jew.

Ehud greeted him with a smile and a pleasant hello. The man seemed surprised that Ehud didn’t recognize him.

“The other day in town, I lent you twenty shekels,” he said.

Ehud didn’t remember. He thought and thought, but he couldn’t remember a thing. It wasn’t like him to forget, but the man seemed quite certain. It wouldn’t be polite to argue, Ehud thought. It was only twenty shekels. And apparently he had given the man his address. Ehud apologized for forgetting, gave the man twenty shekels, and said goodnight.

The very next night, he returned. The same man. He appeared at the door while Ehud’s wife, Tzipora, was cooking dinner in the kitchen.

“I came for my television,” the man said.

“Your television?” Ehud asked.

“The television set that I lent you,” the man said. “I want it back. My children don’t have a TV to watch.”

“What will my children watch?” Ehud asked.

“I’m sorry, but that isn’t my problem,” the man replied.

“But the television is mine,” Ehud protested. “I bought it, and I have a warranty to prove it too.”

Ehud walked to the cabinet where he kept all of his papers in alphabetically arranged files. But the television warranty wasn’t there. He searched through his old bank statements, phone bills and medical records, but the warranty was nowhere to be found. Embarrassed, he returned to the door.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/days-of-mashiach/2012/06/19/

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