Monday, September 24, 2012

A Soup-Story of Auschwitz

Where Mengele (יש''ו) did his "experiments"
My dear mother, ע‫''‬ה, hardly ever answered my questions as to what happened in Auschwitz, the concentration camp she eventually was liberated from. Sometimes she'd try, but then the hairs on her arm would stand on end, which she'd sometimes show me - her way to get me to back off. Other times she'd just politely say "No".

Nevertheless, from childhood into adulthood, once in a blue moon I'd give that question a try. On occasion she'd respond with a "safe" story, one for which she'd feel no surge of anxiety. (Like the time she worked, as seamstress, sewing clothes in a German officers' barrack, where German soldiers, male and female, drank heavily and fell asleep, and she sewed a huge hem into her "skirt", into which she stuffed many sugar cubes she took out of a large barrel, then shared her "treasure" with the other inmates in her "bunk" that night.)

But then, once, in my adult life, she did tell me a story she'd witnessed. She was in the kitchen, busy making chicken soup on a Friday afternoon, getting it ready for Shabbos, and I was sitting at the kitchen table behind her. (She was, by the way, an outstanding cook, never needing a recipe to prepare mouth-watering, aroma-savoring Hungarian dishes.) One of the ingredients she used in her chicken soup was large slices of cow bones, those with marrow in them. This triggered a memory she decided firmly to share with me on the spur of the moment.

She turned around, said "You want to hear a story of Auschwitz?", sat down across from me and began telling me.

Railways into Auschwitz
My mother often saw transports of Jews coming into Auschwitz behind wire fences that separated her camp ground from the transport platform. As I understood it, Auschwitz had two sets of rails that hugged either side of a platform onto which the Jews, transported there in cattle-cars, were unloaded. Both sides of this platform were last stops for this railway system.

The far end of the train's offload platform was fenced off; This was a "one-way" platform. At the other end, towards which Jews were prodded to "line up" and navigate to, sat the nefarious "Doctor" Josef Mengele, may his name be blotted out forever. Here this monster decided the fate of over 1.5 million Jews. On his hand he wore a white glove. With his little finger, he pointed right or left as each Jew passed him by, then and there determining this Jew's fate to live or die.

A unique, obsessive hobby of this fiend was to make "experiments" on twins.

She related: One particular day, this barbarian noticed in the crowd making their way towards him a father and son, both hunchbacks. Mengele suddenly was seized with excited frenzy.

With wicked delight he took the father and son into the "kitchen", where stood two huge pots used to make "soup" for the enslaved inmates. This soup was nothing more that hot water and some peels of potato thrown in. He had the father placed in one pot and the son placed in the other, and boiled them until their flesh simply could come away from the bone with minimal effort. He did this just so he could compare the bones of father and son.

Surprisingly, she got through the whole story under full composure. That's my memory of it, which I here record, for the first time since about 30 years ago, when I first heard it. (I saw a picture of that demon on the web and decided to write up this short story I'll never forget.)

UPDATE (Jun 9/15): Just read this article regarding Auschwitz, where it also makes mention of father and son hunchbacks, and what happened to them. Not that my mom's story needed corroboration, but the proof is overwhelming.
"Above all, the Lilliputs dreaded suffering the same fate as two male dwarfs — a hunchback and his son — who’d arrived in the camp three months after them.

Having decided to send their skeletons to a museum in Berlin, Mengele had ordered his staff to boil their bodies over a fire until the flesh separated from the bones."

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Story of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ע''ה

Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzefat, tells a fascinating story of his father, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, ע‫''‬ה, which Reuven, from, translated:
When our teacher, Rav Eliyahu, ob”m, was the chief rabbi of Israel, he traveled to France for an official visit. France, as usual, was not with us. As always, she exerted pressure on Israel to abandon sections of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel for the benefit of the Arabs. During that period, the pressure was quite strong.

The visit schedule included a state reception in the presence of French President Jacque Chirac. Before the official reception the Rav had to follow the accepted tour route, including the State Museum which contains cultural treasures of the French people.

During the visit they showed the Rav a throne upon which Napoleon sat. “When did Napoleon live?” the Rav asked. The hosts were embarrassed by the question, and “explained” to the Rav when Napoleon lived. The Rav then asked, “Is the throne of Napoleon for sale?” An awkward silence hung over the room. “No,” the hosts finally answered, “This is a very important item. We don’t sell historic heirlooms.”

They continued the visit and arrived at the section which described the French monarchy. They showed him the room of Louis XIV: “Who was Louis XIV?” the Rav asked. “What did he contribute to the world? Was he ethical?”

“No,” the hosts answered honestly. “The entire monarchy was not that ethical, but this is our history, and we’re proud of it and honored by it.”

At the state reception with the French president, before a large crowd, the Rav spoke about his visit to the museum. He told the guests how embarrassed his hosts felt that a rabbi from Israel would not know who Louis XIV was. After all, these are very important historical figures.

“I asked them whether they were ethical people and they hemmed and hawed, but they told me that this is their history, and they’re proud of it.”

The Rav said to the crowd, which included the president of France and some of his cabinet: “You expect me to know and honor French history, despite the fact that I’m not a citizen of France. Am I, as an Israeli, not supposed to know and honor my own history? Do the French not have to honor the Bible which has made such a great contribution to the world? Am I able to dishonor the words of Moses that told us not to place the Land of Israel into the hands of strangers? Why must we honor your kings, who lived two or three hundred years ago, but dishonor a chain of our own kings who lived long before them?”

The Israeli translator from the embassy was not so bold as to translate the Rav’s words exactly.

The rebbetzin signaled to the Rav – who wasn’t intimidated by anyone, and stopped in the middle of his talk, and said, “I understand that my translator does not exactly recognize the rabbinic mode of speech. I ask the Chief Rabbi of France to translate my words.”

He had no choice. The Rabbi of France rose to translate the Rav’s talk. The Rav explained that he tried to find out the price of Napoleon’s throne. “I wanted to buy it.” The audience burst out laughing. He explained how they “explained” to him, in all seriousness in the museum that the effects from Napoleon are very important, and not for sale. “These are historical items, and we don’t sell our history.”

“Napoleon lived two hundred years ago,” the Rav answered, “and you respect him and refuse to sell his throne. Now I ask: must we sell Jerusalem, a city that has belonged to the Nation of Israel for 2,800 years?”

The entire audience was moved, stood up and began to applaud. Even the President of France stood up, approached the Rav, shook his hand firmly and said to him, “I have never heard words like these.”

The French President turned to the invited guests and said, “We would like to bestow upon the Rabbi a precious golden medallion that we give only to heads of state. When we arranged this reception we did not think to give it to the rabbi. But the instructive words of Rabbi Eliyahu were a ‘once in a lifetime experience.’ We would like to express our appreciation to him with this state medallion.”
After his translation (link), Reuven adds, "I tell this story because it’s not just a story about Rav Eliyahu. It’s a story about ourselves. This is a story of life training. It’s a story of faith – for if we are strong in faith, we will prevail."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rabbi Chiya's Parable

A story in Talmud (Bava Metzia 85b) tells of Rabbi Chiya who planted seeds of flax, then, from the harvested flax spun a large net, which he used to trap deer, which he then skinned; The meat he delivered to orphans and from the skin he fabricated parchment. He then laboriously wrote out the Torah on scrolls of parchment, packed his scrolls, walked to towns where such literature was absent, and personally taught the children Torah. He then left these scrolls to the children, for them to further disseminate Torah's teachings.

Why did he bother going through all this trouble, when he could have simply purchased written scrolls and then distribute them?

The Maharsha explains that only if children studied Torah from a Chumash made with pure intentions could Rabbi Chiya be sure the Torah he taught children would endure.

In other words, had Rabbi Chiya used the commercial option, he could not have guaranteed that all the money that traded hands in every transaction, was, in fact, earned 100% righteously. Even a shred of doubt that that money was earned wrongfully or improperly, without the purest intentions, would have transformed itself into a negative influence that would rob the children of the full impact he himself could deliver by teaching the children, given his pure intentions from the start and all along this long chain of events.

(I relate this story in response to suggestions I mitigate my Lubavitcher message - that the Rebbe is King Moshiach and we live in the initial period of the Era of Redemption. I blog to deliver a specific message I do not intend to dilute. This Rabbi Chiya story encourages me that my pure intention will yield positive results.)

(My obstinacy reminds me of the Rebbe's explanation of an otherwise incomprehensible Midrash that might interest you - "A Midrash Explained - The Future Foretold".)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Bamboo Plant and the High Holidays

You can learn about yourself as you learn about the wonderful bamboo plant, both growing in Hashem's garden.

A beautiful 2-min. video well worth your time:

Mission in Hell

A social phenomenon in current Israeli society is the "festival". The great Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 that took place in upstate New York serves as its model. These festivals no longer happen in America but in Israel the tradition carries on and draws a large following. Thousands of Israeli youth gather at various venues several times a year to spend a few days together and indulge in whatever theme prevails. It could be a Beer Festival, a Music Festival or an Artwork Festival; Actually it's just an excuse to just come and "hang out" and have fun together.

One Chabad chassid got the bright idea to "crash" such sites. He took it seriously and finally won approval by the director of these festivals and of the police. He and his team create a Chabad "domain" within these festivals. It has become so well entrenched, in fact, the team, in whatever festival it happens to find itself, goes by its own autonomous name - "Festival of Lights"; A festival within a festival. Another most important result thanks to this Chabad initiative has been the removal from the festivals of a once-rival group - christian missionaries.

Last Shabbos the "Festival of Light" team, under the direction of self-appointed Chabad emissary, Rabbi Michael Kedlborg, joined the "Drugs Festival", in what turned out to be the largest festival of the last decade in Israel. His team comprised a small group of Chabad men who staked out a spot where they set up their large tents to accommodate the drifting youth.

The venue for this Drugs Festival was near "Yesod Hama'alah" situated in the Hula Valley.

Festival conditions were extreme and hectic. In the shade, the temperature registered 103 degrees. The soil, very dry and dusty, spawned a constant cloudy overcast of powdered dust. A storm swept through Friday afternoon that whisked away many tents. Portable chemical toilets weren't emptied and by Shabbos afternoon began overflowing. A single, small faucet in the sprawling area malfunctioned.

Despite these difficulties, the "Festival of Lights" team, with heroic effort managed to set up their tent-halls and get ready for Shabbos, which included two huge pots that eventually provided cholent for hundreds of participants.

On Friday night about 10,000 Israelis streamed to the festival! They filled the entire landscape, the basin of a huge fish pond that long ago dried out.

The Chabad structure attracted many attendees the entire night. Scores of kiddushes were said, as were hundreds of "LeChaim's". Like a watchtower on a dark sea, the teeming masses got a taste of Jewish light.

When the young rabbi awoke Shabbos morning, he found thousands of youngsters already up, under the influence of various drugs, dancing and jumping about to loud, deafening music.

"I felt really bad, as if in a dream of being in hell. I felt like my strength was oozing from me. I wanted to pack it in. I couldn't take this sick, oppressive atmosphere. But during the day, as hundreds were coming in to visit us, and were saying the Shabbos kiddush, learning some Tanya and discussing with us profound issues, I understood that the whole atmoshpere was merely an external shell, and what really mattered to them and what their souls yearned for was, in fact, the Redemption! The director of the Festival too was very grateful for our participation."

The following pictures were taken soon after arrival on Friday, afterwhich they had no spare time left:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Who is Moshiach?" Precedents

How dare Chabad ruffle the composure of the rest of Jewry. Have they nothing better to hawk than some phony goods, taking Jews for fools? Blinded by love for their Rebbe, are they so vain and insolent to cast their leader as the anointed one who leads all Jews and therefore all Jews should fall in line and parade for him as well?

To be sure, Chabad is not the first group of Jews to so flaunt their Rebbe to the public. In fact, they aren't the 2nd, 3rd or even the 4th either. In Jewish history we have recorded in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b) several such cases that occurred roughly two millennia ago. Four other chassidic groups in the past began a campaign trying to get all Jews to acknowledge their rebbe as the Moshiach. Each of these four groups was convinced it was their own rebbe who achieved that coveted anointed status of Moshiach, and then tried to foist upon the rest of Jewry to accept their conclusion.

These four groups came from four different Yeshivas. The yeshiva students in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Shiloh held that their yeshiva leader was Moshiach. Another group of yeshiva students, from the Yeshiva of Yanai, claimed Moshiach was none other than the chief rabbi of their Yeshiva. Yet another congregation of yeshiva students, from the Yeshiva of Chaninah, claimed it was Chaninah who was Moshiach. A forth group felt Moshiach was the personage of Menachem, the son of Chizkiyah.

Who started these rumors of Moshiach? In each of the above 4 cases, Rashi (ibid) reveals to us a very valuable lesson. He says, regarding each of the yeshiva leaders,
"כל אחד היה דורש אחר שמו"
"Each head of the yeshiva found scriptural sources in Torah to bear out his contention."

Note, then, the yeshiva students did not by themselves initiate the Moshichist rumors! Not any of the 4 times did the students - on their own - originate that which later they broadcast. In each case, the initiator who convinced the yeshiva students as to the identity of Moshiach was - none other than their own rebbe - himself - of himself!

As with the precedents, Chabad chassidim too did not launch their newsworthy revelation of their own initiative. As with the precedents, the initiative came - from The Rebbe himself!

Those outside of Chabad and resistant to granting the Rebbe the rank of Moshiach my believe Chabad sucked out this fantasy from sheer love and admiration for their rebbe and from some flimsy or hollow evidence.

In fact, the Rebbe fostered in his chassidim a deep anticipation for Moshiach for over 40 years, since the beginning of his leadership - in fact, from the very first articulation of chassidus (מאמר) he delivered upon accepting his role. And right from the start Moshiach was the hallmark with which he associated this generation, calling it "the last generation of Exile and the first generation of the Era of Ultimate Redemption". Then, over all the years, he provided more and more evidence that lead his chassidim to the inexorable conclusion that none other than their Rebbe is, in fact, Moshaich. Not only that, but he asked his chassidim to broadcast this revelation, albeit in a delicate manner.

How easy it is to deride Chabad based on what his chassidim are saying. The mockers cannot, after all, get over 40 years of talks, anecdotes, prophecies, miracles and observations packaged neatly into a brief comprehensive overview from chassidim anxious to tell it all, to blurt it all out (although the book "עתה ידעתי" does a great job of it in Hebrew). Those bent on criticizing the Chabad chassid's knowledge will not study - nor open any of the Rebbe's scores of volumes of talks to read for themselves. They will not check for themselves. For these mockers, Moshiach is an important subject - but not that important. It's easier to trivialize the single most important aspect of Jewish life the world was created for in the first place and thereby dodge their responsibility to truth and commitment to Hashem's final master plan.

Moshiach will not become King of the Jews unless the Jews nominate him as king over them.
"אין מלך בלי עם".
The job of Moshiach's soldiers is to march out into the crowds and herald his identity. In the end it will happen however, that
"ומלכותו ברצון קבלו עליהם"
"And his sovereignty they will accept upon themselves - willingly!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where's the Outrage?

How absurd to give away land so the enemy can create a state of its own, and then absorb the enemy-turned-terrorist's rockets on a daily basis with no consequences to this ingrate beneficiary. Instead, towns near Gaza suffer from this terror now for 7 years, with Jewish lives constantly at risk, let alone extreme inconvenience. This policy deems Jewish blood cheaply, and Jewish pride next to nothing.

And how absurd is it to fight wars of defense and then return the hard-won territory so your enemy can try again? Or how absurd is it to take territory in war, encourage its settlement, only to thereafter stigmatize the settlers as usurpers of land that never was meant to be annexed? Are Israelis in high office crazy? Are humans as worthless as roaches?

But why are the people of Sderot and of other communities not taking stern action against such foolhardiness instead of tolerating this charade of normalcy?

Giving an Arab an inch inflates his ego, so he brazenly now asks for a yard. Arabs once held their noses to the ground in Eretz Yisrael. As youngsters with backpacks, we could walk the land anywhere we wanted years ago, from one edge of the land to the other. Arabs were never a concern. Then came more and more concessions. The result: entire cities and towns became Judenrein and off-limits to Jews. Then came all the bloody Arab signs all over Jewish highways and cities. Now Arabs hold their nose higher than their brow. They now want it all. Already they have infested every important circle of Israeli life - Knesset, law, medicine, business, what not? You can no longer find a park for children to play without Arabs staking their claim to part of it. They used to stay in their villages. But now the freedom given them drives them to fan out and conquer more.

(Those quick to read this as racist talk are racists themselves because they will do everything to undermine the Jewishness of the Jewish Land of Israel. ALL Gentiles, except Noahides, must be excluded from citizenship in The Holy Land! Most especially those calling themselves "Palestinians", by which they mean to imply they wish harm for the Jew. Only leftists Jew-haters will push for the "rights" of these "poor" indigenous Arabs, as if they could live anywhere in the Arab world under better conditions. A pox on these leftist liberals who support the creation of Israel's 5th column.)

Used to be a time when in Tel-Aviv you could go out and look for a Jew to complete a "minyan" for prayer. Today you're lucky if the person you hail is Jewish. Used to be you could find a quiet spot somewhere next to the Kinneret. Now wherever you turn, an Arab horde is there to intimidate you.

At least for a long time driving was safe. You were free to travel almost everywhere. Then came the time when driving became dangerous if you could lose your way. One wrong turn could cost you and your fellow travellers, kids included, mortal danger. Nevertheless, at least the roads were still safe to drive if you knew your way.

But today already, those years were rather "good old days". Things have gotten much worse. No matter where you drive, the Arab today can wreak havoc - on any road. They ram, ambush, use snipers, highjack or just jump out and use their fists or guns.

Meanwhile, the Israel government takes this all nonchalantly. Arab license plates are just as valid and command the same respect as Israeli plates. Like pollution that builds up slowly without you sensing the damage, the administration calmly "takes this all in stride" and occasionally takes out a gang to make a hollow impression.

Tel-Aviv residents won't do it, but the people of Sderot should - with their children - go out on strike! Close down the schools! Close down the malls! Sleep in the streets! Get the attention of Israeli folk everywhere. Why succumb and tolerate a stupid submissive self-destructive government policy!? Where's the outrage?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

All is God and God is All

A guest at my Shabbos table told us of a religious Jewish professor who sat next to him on a flight from Israel. This Jew began philosophizing about the powers of God. He engaged questions such as, "What could God do and what could He not do", or "Where could God be and where can He not be". Our young Chassid guest said he wanted to jump out of his skull but hung on tightly to his seat, shuddering all the while, to let this man unload his nonsense before answering him.

Are God and the universe two separate things? The answer is a resounding and definite "No!". Most Gentiles (except for Noahides) and even some religious Jews, such as our professor, still make this mistake.

When Torah tells us God created the universe, this universe is real insofar as it becomes our frame of reference, for such is as we can make it out to be, but to believe it is actually apart from its Creator -- is heresy!

One of our opening daily prayers reads "אדון עולם". An incorrect interpretation of these words would be "Master of the universe". For that, proper Hebrew would read, "אדון העולם". The correct interpretation is "Master - universe", or "Master [is the] universe".

God, as it were, attires Himself for us to see as the universe. One is not separated from the other. We must understand, despite our perceptions, "I God do not change." (Malachi 3:6).

Anecdote: A Chassid applied for the position of a rabbi in a town full of Misnagdim. During his interview with the electing committee he was asked, "What's the difference between Chassidim and Misnagdim?" He said, "Misnagdim always think about God; Chassidim always think of themselves."

His answer appealed to the committee and they proudly hired him. Later one of the committee members approached the new rabbi and asked, "What did you mean?"

The Chassid explained: Chassidim know for sure nothing in the world exists but God. Therefore this leaves them always thinking "So am I real, or am I not real?" - thus they always are thinking of themselves. Misnagdim, on the other hand, feel certain they themselves are real, so perforce they keep asking themselves, "So is God also real as me, or maybe not?" - thus always thinking of God.

Two realities exist, one higher than the other. There is the absolute reality of God, which comprises the core of Jewish belief.

Then there is a relative reality, that which we humans sense and interact with. But while this second reality is our 4-dimensional frame of reference in which we operate, we know this reality is subordinate to the absolute reality that is God; Except that we, as mere products of God, can never really fathom the real truth of Our Creator. Any time God wishes, He can simply turn the entire universe "off".

In the middle of our prayers too we say, "אפס בלתך" - "There is nothing but You!";
"גדלו וטובו מלא עולם" - "His greatness and goodness fill the universe";
"מלא כל הארץ כבודו" - - "The entire world if filled with His glory";
and, of course, "שמע ישראל ד‫'‬ אלקנו ד‫'‬ אחד" - "Understand Israel God our Lord that God is One". This last statement means that everything is God and God is everything.

We conclude every daily prayer during עלינו לשבח with this quote from Torah (Deut. 4:39), "God is in the heavens above and on the earth and below - there is nothing else!".

(For those who understand Hebrew, this 1-minute video illustrates the Chassidic concept that despite the differences we ourselves see, God remains unchanged.)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Syria - A Miracle Unfolds

Bad as things may appear for Israel, what with Iran rattling its sword and Egypt looking for ways to throws jabs, the truth may well be quite extraordinarily great. What's happening in Syria can be eye-opening. First take a look at what a threat Syria can be, as I quote a paragraph from The Cutting Edge:
Syria’s vast arsenal of operational-level chemical and biological weapons, based on lethal and incapacitating agents, is diverse by any standard. Syria also possesses many sophisticated launch platforms and dispersion equipment, including missiles, rockets, aircraft, artillery shells, cluster warheads, and unitary ammunition – most of which are of high quality. Syria has Scud missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads that can strike anywhere in Israel, even when launched from deep behind Syria’s front lines.
And of course you know Hizbullah in Lebanon is armed to the teeth and represents Iran's remote proxy. Then you have the might of the Turkish forces, and of course the Iranian monster's terror potential.

Now recall a miracle that happened in Egypt just before the Jews made their exodus through the split Reed Sea, a miracle sandwiched between the 9th and 10th plagues. God commanded the Jews to sacrifice a lamb in a most conspicuous way in order to pique the curiosity of Egyptians, who then were told about the upcoming "Plague of the Firstborns". This alarmed the firstborns to rebel against their parents and siblings who still resisted letting the Jews out of bondage. Egyptians then began killing each other in great numbers during those few days. This is one reason the Sabbath before Passover is called the The Great Sabbath - to commemorate that miracle.

Notice that the same thing is happening in Syria. Both sides of the conflict are engaged in savage internecine warfare. They are killing each other as Egyptians killed each other millennia before, prior to a Jewish redemption. ( כימי צאתך מארץ מצרים אראנו נפלאות [Michah 7:15] - "As in the days when you left Egypt, such wonders I will show you in the future!") The might of Syria's army has thereby greatly diminished. Syria is, on its own, removing itself as a threat it once posed against Israel.

This is only the beginning. Arab tempers in Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, and elsewhere are brewing, with Syria's fight as their linchpin. In the end they may all fight each other while the Jewish people remain on the sidelines as observers to the enemies divesting themselves of their own powers and threat to the Jewish nation.

You can see the cup of Syrian affairs as half empty, or - as one that's half full. You can seek and find reasons to remain pessimistic. I prefer to see the positive in all this and remain very optimistic. We are in the Era of Redemption. All we need do now, says the Rebbe, is "Open your eyes and see it happening about you!" Moshiach - bring it on - now!

By the way, recall what the Rebbe said (see here), that Jerusalem and Damascus pivot on the same fulcrum; Only one can rise while the other must fall!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Gentile's Refreshing Opinion

It's a bit refreshing to hear a Gentile come out strongly and sanely in favor of the Jewish side of events, when most Gentiles of the world could care less of the prevalent anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik's Verdict of Chabad's Meshichistic Stance

In the summer of 1996, the president of "The Rabbinical Council of America" in the U.S. wrote an impertinent letter, in which he claimed the belief of Lubavitcher chassidim that the Rebbe is Moshiach rests upon non-traditional sources. The letter caused a storm among American Jewry, and people wanted to determine if in fact the rabbis of The Rabbinical Council of America were behind those words.

When the renowned Rabbi Ahron Halevi Soloveichik, זצ''ל, this council's spiritual mentor, got wind of the letter, he published a sharp letter, one that could not be misunderstood, in which he said the belief "that the Rebbe can still be Moshiach" is based on sturdy sources from gemora and halachic texts, as well as on literature from kabalah and on the Rebbe's own writings. A Chabad rabbi of Buffalo, Heschel Greenberg, was in the room when Rabbi Soloveichik signed the letter. Here is that letter, dated the 7th of Tammuz, 5756 (Jun. 24, 1996).

Rabbi Greenberg also said that when they wanted to publish this letter in the weekly Jewish Press, the latter's editorial personnel called Rabbi Soloveichik for his confirmation, to which he answered he agrees and wishes it to be published.

This letter caused a stir among rabbis of Chabad, and on the 15th of Tammuz they wrote to Rabbi Soloveichik a letter of thanks, for he declared a Torah verdict fearlessly, a letter that carried the signatures of rabbis from Rabbinical Courts of Chabad in Israel, the U.S., Canada, Australia and of various European countries.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Elul and the Actual Redemption

The following editorial, entitled "Elul and Redemption", appeared in the final edition of a magazine published by the Previous Rebbe
(הקריאה והקדושה, Sept. 1945, p. 778) - roughly translated from Yiddish.

A deep secret every intelligent person must find interest in concerns the final Jewish Redemption and, particularly, the logistics of departure from the diaspora. Even deniers of our Final Redemption - as per the prophets and sages - really believe Jews will eventually attain some sort of independence in Israel being as a nation among equal nations, but how great a percentage of Jews will depart from their lands of exile, and under what circumstances this will occur - this they know not. Similarly, faithful Jewish believers know not how the Final Redemption will unfold, whether it will arrive suddenly and completely, or slowly and piecemeal. Be this as it may, it's difficult to imagine Jews will evacuate their exiled lands en masse at one time, as happened in the exodus from Egypt.

Elul, the month of penitence, and the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 52, give us an answer to all the above questions, and a precise picture of how the final exit from exile will manifest. Nobody must make the mistake that Isaiah's divine prophecy merely suggests a possible scenario of the future. It is of utmost urgency for every Jew to familiarize himself with this scenario, which is in fact a precise picture of the exodus from exile, and however more quickly and not to forget it for a minute!

Here we will present the facts and let them speak for themselves.

In chapter 52, Isaiah speaks of a time when, in Jerusalem, the tip of the Redemption begins to appear. It will be a time when the Jewish guard will proclaim to the Jewish nation, "Your God reigns!" (!מלך אלקיך); "Your God has taken over the kingdom!" It will be when all the world's nations will marvel at the great, divine help rendered to the Jewish nation (see too the chapter's first half and following chapters).

From this we can easily understand in Eretz Yisroel the Jewish redeemer will suddenly appear and miraculously he will free the entire state , establishing a Jewish kingdom and calling all Jews of the world to come home! Most likely, then, all Jews will be free to leave their domiciles, otherwise it would be foolish to issue them the invitation.

It is this time period for which the prophet instructs us how to respond to the call, and for this reason he paints for us a picture how the exodus will proceed. He tells it to us in two short verses (11,12). Twenty-seven words that contain the entire secret of the Jewish Redemption, the entire program of exodus from exile. It tells HOW we will depart; WHO will depart, and what will happen to those who do NOT depart! This compact, rich content provides the passport without which no Jew can leave without, one every Jew himself will write, knowing precisely what he must write therein.

" סורו סורו צאו משם טמא אל תגעו צאו מתוכה הברו נשאי כלי ד׳ "
"כי לא בחפזון תצאו ובמנוסה לא תלכון כי הולך לפניכם ד' ומאספכם אלקי ישראל"

"Turn away, turn away; Go out from there; Impurity do not touch; Go out of it; Cleanse yourselves, carriers of God's vessel.
For not in haste will you depart; Nor by flight will will you go; For God goes before you, and the God of Israel gathers you up from behind."

These words seem superficial or practically incomprehensible. First the prophet says "Get out from there" - telling us to leave exile. But then he says we won't be leaving in haste, nor by flight, and we'll have to wait for God who gathers us to lead us out.

And, were we to leave on our own, without waiting for God's lead, then it will anyhow happen slowly, so what sense is there in urging us to "Get out"? And so - how do we get out?

And how does a Jew's impurity or purification relate to a non-hasty departure? "Cleanse yourselves ... for not in haste will you depart" seems to say we can make a hasty exit without cleansing ourselves. And what about those who cleansed themselves already beforehand? Why should these be restrained from a hasty getaway?

The prophet could have just said, "For not in haste will you depart, for God will go before you." Instead, the prophet injected the issue of cleansing as somehow associated with a non-hasty exit!

The meaning of both verses is simple. By "Turn away, turn away", the prophet refers to two types of "turning away". Then he immediately tells what he means by these. The first "turning away" is, "Impurity do not touch". That is, turn away from tangible impurities, as from non-kosher, intermarriage, from family-purity laws, and other corporeal impurities.

The second "turn away" refers to "Cleanse yourselves, carriers of God's vessel". This means turn away from spiritual impurities of the soul. Jews are carriers of a Godly soul; They must therefore turn away from all false ideologies, from all the "isms", from their trust in non-Torah cultures and foreign gods. They must self-cleanse by penitence and a return to Torah and the practice of its mitzvot.

On both these demands the prophet strongly urges the Jews because every Jew will have to satisfy them. His argument is furthermore twofold.

"For not in haste ... will you go". Firstly, the redemption will be a slow one. At the very beginning, only the cleansed ones will be redeemed - those who turned away from both types of impurity. Those NOT YET cleansed will remain behind, getting more time to "return" and to self-cleanse.

Secondly, thereafter, God Himself will take the initiative to gather in the remaining diaspora. This means, He will apply such means that will leave no Jew any other choice but to either self-cleanse or, God forfend, go under! "For God goes before you!" God will stand before you prepared to take in all those cleansed and lead them to join those earlier redeemed - to Eretz Yisroel. "And the God of Israel gathers you up from behind". And behind all those as yet uncleansed in the exile lands, the God of the Jews will do the ingathering. The "God of Israel" means God will gather in those not yet entirely lost to Judaism, those still amenable to persuasive action to come clean. It's self-evident that AFTER God's ingathering, nobody of redeeming value will remain behind. Those who won't want to purify themselves or won't be able to, will perish.

Here then is the deepest secret - the scenario of the Final Redemption, of the new Egyptian exodus from all exile lands. We will have a very bright rejuvenation through wonders and miracles in the liberated Land of Israel, which will be marvelled at by all nations of the world. A difficult situation in all exile lands will be avoidable for all Jews who resolve to repent and thereby become redeemed to a happy life in Eretz Yisroel. A time when a long chain of groups of happy, emigrating Jews, who cleansed themselves of bodily and spiritual impurities to become fit to join a Torah-inspired Jewish collective in the Holy Land. The earlier a Jew self-cleanses of impurities, the sooner he'll be freed from exile and lead into Eretz Yisroel. This will happen with the very last ones, after which no single Jew will remain in exile lands. Israel will of course resist absorbing into itself someone unjustifiably, because blessed God will be the gatherer and the leader of this exodus.

The deep idea of redemption is thus the idea of true penitence, the same that stands behind the the calling of the month of Elul every year - to strive to do penitence. Had all Jews done this sincerely whenever since the Temple's destruction , they would surely have been redeemed. Instead, they could not make up for the great sin for which the destruction occurred. We thus had to wait for redemption to arrive at its own pace, in its due time - which will, according to the prophets, occur slowly. Not all Jews shall be redeemed quickly, together, at one time. Instead it will proceed in groupings, each group redeemed as per their earlier or later decontamination of impurities in body and soul. And the very last group will be forced into it via a heavy dose of needless adversity, God help them.

This year's Elul, taking place in the Era of Redemption, unfolding in its due time now, gives every Jew the best oppotunity to book himself for the front rows among those who will be first redeemed among Jewry, speedily in our days! There are and shortly will be more than enough proof that the Jewish guard will soon herald the redemption officially with the words "Your God reigns!". For those more alert will be privileged to achieve quicker results; "First come, first served!" Those sooner redeemed will be able to claim for generations that they enjoyed this privilege among all the Jews.

Elul calls for penitence. And the prophet warns us that only through penitence can the final redemption arrive; And only via penitence can it be decided who will constitute the first wave of the redeemed, who the following waves and who the last wave. Every Jew can, and will, himself write his own passport and his own position among the camp of the redeemed coming to Eretz Yisroel at Redemption time, soon in our days.

If someone, meanwhile, wants NOT to understand this, it's his own fault and responsibility. But our words are not written only for today; They are meant also, in fact mainly written for near future, when the news of Redemption and the words "Your God reigns" will already be heard by everyone. At least then every Jew will need to know the progress by which Jews are achieving redemption. An Elul-fitting penitence will be the secret of the general redemption and also the secret for being one of the first groups to achieve redemption.

Every Jew must sometimes cleanse himself in body and soul; Even during the redemption process there will be those earlier and later redeemed; But those who will cleanse themselves the last will also join the Redemption as the very last.

And the Days of Redemption will already not have too many Eluls, Amen!