Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Shavuot Departure of the Baal Shem Tov


[Shavuot is the Yarzheit of the Baal Shem Tov]

Biographical note: Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer [18 Elul 1698-6 Sivan 1760] - the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"] - a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehot.

* * *

Following the revelation of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov, on 18 Elul 1734, as a great Jewish leader and mystic, many of the Jewish community, especially in Poland, became followers of the Chassidic path of Judaism. Twenty-six years later, the time arrived all too soon for the Baal Shem Tov to pass on to the next world.

For Passover 1760, Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, came to visit his Master, the Baal Shem Tov. On the afternoon preceding the festival, Seventh Day of Passover, Rabbi Pinchas was feeling weak and decided not to go to the mikveh, as was his custom.

The next day during his morning prayers, he had a premonition that the Baal Shem Tov would soon pass away. Rabbi Pinchas began to pray more intensely, begging that the Heavenly decree against the Baal Shem Tov be lifted. But he felt that he was unable to affect the decree and started to deeply regret that he had not gone to the mikveh before the holiday.

Interestingly, after morning prayers, the Baal Shem Tov asked Rabbi Pinchas if he had gone to the mikveh on the previous afternoon. When he answered he had not, the Baal Shem Tov replied, "It's too late to correct that now."

* * *

After Passover, the Baal Shem Tov fell ill. However, he did not tell his followers and continued to pray before the ark. Whoever among his close followers might have been able to effect changes with their prayers, he sent on missions to other communities. Rabbi Pinchas, knowing of the Heavenly decree against the Baal Shem Tov, did not return to his home but stayed on in Medzibuz.

Previously, on the eve of Shabbat Hagadol, the Sabbath preceding Passover, the Baal Shem Tov had sat down to write a last will and testament addressed to his disciples. He concluded it with the words, "I write this today because last night my [heavenly] master and teacher [Ahiya of Shilo-a biblical prophet,] revealed to me that this is my last eve of Shabbat Hagadol…."

Seven and one half weeks later, on the eve of Shavuot, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov called his personal scribe, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh, and dictated to him some final revisions and amendments to an earlier, detailed will, ordering among other things that all his books and manuscripts be given unto "my disciple and peer, the Prince of Torah, Rabbi Dov Ber [the Magid of Mezritch,] son of Rabbi Abraham, except for all the books in Yiddish which belong to my G-d fearing daughter Adele."

He reaffirmed article 18 of his original will to the effect that his copies of "the commentaries of Gersonides on the bible, and the book Neveh Shalom [a 15th century philosophical-homiletical work, with Kabbalistic overtones composed by Rabbi Abraham Shalom] both with my marginal notes and annotations, are to be given unto my disciple, dear to me like a son, the Pillar of fire, Rabbi Jacob Joseph Hacohen [of Polnoy]."

* * *

On Tuesday evening, the [first] night of Shavuot, all of the followers of the Baal Shem Tov gathered with him to spend the night in Torah study, as is the custom. The Baal Shem Tov expounded on the Torah portion of the week and the meaning of Shavuot.

In the morning, he sent for his closest followers to gather in his room. He told Rabbi Leib Kessler and several others to arrange for his burial. Because they were members of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) and were knowledgeable in signs of illness, he showed them the signs on his body and explained how the soul emanates from each part. Then, he told them to gather a minyan to pray with him. Before they began, he said, "Soon I shall be with the Holy One, blessed be He."

After the prayers, Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka went to the Study Hall to pray for his Master. Later, the Baal Shem Tov said, "He petitions in vain. Maybe if he could have entered in the Heavenly gate where I was accustomed to enter, his prayers would have helped."

When the shammesh (attendant) of the Baal Shem Tov entered his master's room, he heard the Baal Shem Tov saying, "I grant you these two hours. Do not torture me."

The asked, "Rebbe, who are you talking to?"

The Baal Shem Tov answered, "Don't you see the Angel of Death? Before, he always ran from me. Now that he has been given control over me, he stands straighter and laughs at me."

Later, during the festival day meal, he asked his attendant to put mead in a large glass. Instead, the shammesh put it in a small glass. The Baal Shem Tov remarked wryly, "'Man has no power on the day of death,' even my attendant does not obey me."

After the meal, many of the town's people, who did not know of the Baal Shem Tov's condition, came to see him. As always, he delivered a discourse of Torah to them.

All of his close disciples were sitting in the room of the Baal Shem Tov while he lay in his bed. He gave them a sign. "My friends, when I leave this world, both clocks in this room will stop."

He asked for a large cup of water and a basin to be brought to him. While he was washing his hands, His followers saw the hands of the big clock stop. They stood in front of it so that the Baal Shem wouldn't see that it had stopped.

He said to them, "My friends, I am not concerned for myself because l know that when I leave through the door of this world, I'll immediately enter into the door of the next world."

The Baal Shem Tov then sat up in his bed and told them to gather around him. He spoke words of Torah, explaining about the column upon which one ascends from Lower Paradise to Upper Paradise, and how this was so in each of the Four Worlds. Then he described the World of Souls, and expounded the order of worship. He instructed them to say with him, "Let the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us" [Psalms 90:17].

He lay down and sat up several times. Meanwhile he concentrated on mystical kavanot (intentions) until they could not distinguish the syllables of his speech.

Finally he lay down and told them to cover him with a sheet. Then he began to tremble as when he said the nineteen blessings of the Amida prayer. Slowly he became quiet.

They saw that the small clock had stopped. They waited for a long time but he didn't move. Then they put a feather under his nose to detect his breathing, whereupon they finally had to accept that he had passed away.

A Rabbi Jacob of Medzibuz, reported that Rabbi Leib Kessler of the Burial Society saw the departure of his soul as a blue flame rising.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition of Tzvi Meir HaCohane (Howard M. Cohn. Patent Attorney) on //besht.com, and supplemented from other written and oral sources, mainly "The Great Maggid" by J. I. Schochet (Kehot).  Ascent of Safed


Friday, May 26, 2017

Eliyahu's Gift: Forgiveness


The Presence of Eliyahu Ha'navi at a Brit Mila by Rabbi Eli Mansour

Tradition teaches that Eliyahu Ha'navi is present – in one form or another – at every Brit Mila, and for this reason a chair must be designated for him. One should expressly designate the chair by saying, "Zeh Kisei Shel Eliyahu Ha'navi Zachur Latov" - ["This is the chair of Eliyahu Ha'navi"]

Why does Eliyahu attend every Brit? The Gemara tells that Eliyahu, who lived during the reign of the idolatrous king Achav when many Jews abandoned the Torah, came to God and complained that Bnei Yisrael were not observing the Mitzva of circumcision. God reprimanded Eliyahu, saying that He does not need a prophet to prosecute against His people, to accuse them of disloyalty. The prophet's job is to pray on their behalf and show them compassion even if they sin. God therefore decreed upon Eliyahu that for all time he must attend every circumcision ritual performed by Bnei Yisrael, and then return to God and report that the Jewish people faithfully observe this Mitzva.

It is further told that Eliyahu then told God that he would be unable to tolerate attending a Brit Mila if the child's father is a sinner. After all, Eliyahu was a zealot, who could not tolerate any sin or infringement upon the Almighty's honor. [The Sages teach that Eliyahu was Pinchas, who, as we know from the Torah, was a zealot when it came to God's honor.]  God replied that He will forgive all the father's sins. Eliyahu then noted that the Mohel, or perhaps one of the guests, might have a sinful record, and God again responded that He will forgive the sins committed by the Mohel and all the attendees. [See Taamei HaMinhagim]

For this reason, attending a Brit Mila is considered an effective means of achieving atonement. It should be noted that according to the Bnei Yissaschar [work by the Chassidic sage Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, 1783-1841], attending a Brit earns one atonement only if he stands near Eliyahu's seat. Given Eliyahu's zealotry, those near him at the Brit Mila require atonement lest he react angrily to their sins. One should therefore endeavor to stand near Eliyahu's chair at a Brit Mila.

Additionally, some Rabbis write that one earns atonement at a Brit Mila only if he performs Teshuva. Attending a Brit does not obviate the need for repentance, but rather allows a person to repent and earn atonement more easily. It is therefore appropriate when attending a Brit Mila to contemplate sincere thoughts of remorse and repentance.

Eliyahu Hanavi appears at a baby naming for a girl just as he appears at a bris [Rabbi Sholom of Belz]. This is hinted in the verse [Bereishis 2:19] vchol asher yikro lo haadam - the acrostic forming the word Eliyahu. [Divrei Naftali Berishis ibid]. in the name of the Yismach Moshe, it is reported that he also attends a pidyon haben, as alluded to in the words which follow the injunction of pidyon haben [Bo 13:2] "lee hu". These words can be rearranged to read Eliyahu [ibid].

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The 50th Gate



The Kabbalah speaks of "50 gates of spiritual understanding", 49 of which can be achieved by a person as a result of his own initiative.  The final 50th gate is then granted by G-d from Above.

When Avraham had circumcised himself, he had reached the greatest degree of spiritual perfection that he could possibly achieve as a human being - the 49th gate - and he became "sick" yearning for the 50th gate.  This is alluded to by the fact that choleh חולה [the Hebrew term for "sick person"] has the numerical value [gematria] of 49.  Then "God appeared to him", revealing to him the 50th gate of spiritual understanding, which cured his spiritual sickness.

And, being that his physical sickness was a reflection of his spiritual dissatisfaction, the Divine revelation healed him physically too.

Based on Sichat Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5750 - Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why Learning Torah Is So Great - The Pnimiyus of Torah


Rabbi Mendel Kessin - Ramchal's Yahrtzeit 5777/2017

Don't know where to start with all the wonders of this shiur..... you really need to just listen to it. Some incredibly fascinating insights into angels and white magic [!] aka practical kabbalah.  Rabbi Kessin has a unique way of explaining everything and you need to hear this one.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Souls and Names

Art by Sharon Tomlinson


The Talmud [Berachot 7b] teaches that a Hebrew name has an influence on its bearer. Therefore, it is extremely important to name children after individuals with positive character traits who led fortunate lives and helped bring goodness to the world.

The Arizal writes that the nature and behavior of a person, whether good or bad, can be discovered by analyzing his or her name. For example, a child named Yehudah could possibly be destined for leadership, for Yehudah, the fourth son of Jacob, symbolized monarchy and most Jewish kings descended from the tribe of Yehudah.

It is said that parents are actually blessed with prophesy when naming their newborn babies.

According to the Arizal, even the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in one's name can be indicative of an individual's character. For example the gematria of the name Elisheva is equivalent to the numerical value of the Hebrew words yemei simcha, meaning "days of happiness," perhaps portending a joyous life for a baby girl named Elisheva.

It is precisely because the fortunes and misfortunes of mankind are concealed in the secrets of the letters, vowels and meanings of Hebrew names that a seriously ill person is given an additional name like Chaim, meaning "life," or Rafael, meaning "God heals," in order to influence his destiny. We hope and pray that the new name will herald a new mazel, or fortune, for the stricken individual.

Rabbi Elimelech of Lyzhansk, writes in his classic work on Torah "Noam Elimelech" [Bamidbar] that there is a profound connection between the soul of an infant and the soul of the person for whom he or she is named.

When a child is named after the deceased, the latter's soul is elevated to a higher realm in heaven and a spiritual affinity is created between the soul of the departed and the soul of the newborn child. That deep spiritual bond between these two souls can have a profound impact on the child.

Zocher HaBris 24:4, who also quotes Noam Elimelech on Bamidbar: “If they give him the name of a tzaddik who has already lived in this world, this will cause him also to become a tzaddik, because it has aroused the soul of the departed tzaddik in the Supernal World.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Good Advice




“In material things, look to those who have less than you and thank G-d for His kindness to you. In spiritual matters, look at those above you and ask G-d to give you the wisdom to learn from them.” 

 - Hayom Yom

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Sign from The Angel Micha'el ...?



This is a photo of the final resting place of the car that ploughed through pedestrians at Times Square NY earlier today.  As you can see it is underneath a sign that says 1515 Broadway.  There was some speculation on a conspiracy site that this sign weirdly suggested ''ISIS" - but a quick search on the internet for the gematria of 1515 came up with the following:


From Rabbi Ginsburgh:

1515 = 15 x מיכאל  [Micha’el]. We have previously noted that Micha’el [מיכאל ], whose numerical value is equal to 101, is considered the angelic minister of the Jewish people, Israel. The numerical value of Israel- ישראל is 541. Amazingly, the 101st prime number is 541!

Let us examine the names of the angels in context of their mission: Micha’el came to give Sarah the news of Isaac’s upcoming birth; Gavri’el came to destroy Sodom; and, Repha’el came to heal Abraham. Taking the sum of the angels’ names with the objects of their mission, we get that:


מיכאל שרה ┴ גבריאל סדם ┴ רפאל אברהם = 1515 = שרה שרה שרה


Now, the numerical value of Sarah [שרה] is 505, which is 5 times the numerical value of Micha’el [מיכאל]:

שרה = 5 · מיכאל , or 5 · 101

Therefore, it follows that 1515 = 15 · מיכאל , or 15 times Micha’el.

Click here to see Rabbi Ginsburgh's original article, with a lot more info.

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. Daniel 12:1 

Also see Revered Rabbi's Deathbed Message Invokes Angel Michael Bringing End of Days

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Prophetic Letters


Diagram above shows how the Sefer Yetzirah relates the relationships of the Seven Double Letters to the Seven Days of Creation, the seven visible Planets and their corresponding physical/spiritual gates, and the relationships of the Twelve Simple Letters to the Constellations and corresponding Hebrew Months and vital organs. [L. Kude]


The following text is by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

Five Double Letters
Of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, five are called 'double letters,' as they take on a different form when appearing at the end of a word. The five letters are Mem, Nun, Tzadi, Pay, and Chaf. When placed together as one word, they spell M-N-Tz-P-Ch.

According to Talmudic tradition [Shabbat 104a], the dual form of these letters goes back to the prophets. The abbreviation M-N-Tz-P-Ch can be read as Min Tzophim — 'from the prophets.'

From the Prophets
This claim — that the special form of these letters originated with the prophets — needs clarification. The Torah of Moses is complete and whole in itself. Even a prophet is not allowed to add or invent a new mitzvah. The Torah explicitly states:

"These are the decrees, laws and codes that God set between Himself and Israel at Mount Sinai, through the hand of Moses" [Lev. 26:46]

The phrase ' These are the decrees' indicates that only the decrees that Moses set down in the Torah are in fact between God and Israel. How could the prophets change the Torah by adding new shapes of letters?

The Talmud explains that the prophets did not actually introduce anything new. There always existed two ways to write these five letters. With the passage of time, however, it was forgotten which shape belongs at the end of the word, and which at the beginning and middle. The prophets did not devise the two forms; they merely recovered the lost knowledge of which letterform belongs at the end of the word.

Why Two Forms?
Still, we need to understand: why do these letters have dual forms? What is the significance of their relative position in the word? And why were the prophets (and not the sages or the grammarians) the ones who restored this knowledge?

Letters are more than just elements of speech. They are the building blocks of creation. The Sages taught, "The universe was created with ten utterances" [Avot 5:1]. Each letter in the alphabet represents a fundamental force in the world.

Rav Kook explained that the 'final forms' — the shape that these letters take at the end of words — are the holiest. The final forms most accurately portray the sublime essence of each letter, fully expressing its ultimate purpose. To better understand this statement, we must analyze the morphological differences between the two forms of these letters.

With four of the letters — Nun, Tzadi, Pay, Chaf — the regular form is smaller and more cramped. The 'leg' of the letter is constrained and bent upwards. The form appearing at the end of the word, on the other hand, allows the 'leg' to stretch and extend itself fully. It is the final form that truly expresses the full content and power of these letters.

The two shapes of the letter Mem are distinguished in a different fashion. The regular Mem has a small opening at the bottom. It is called the Mem Petuchah, the Open Mem. It is open and revealed to all.

The final Mem is closed off on all sides. It is called the Mem Setumah, the Sealed Mem. Or perhaps — the Esoteric Mem. This form of Mem is more sublime than the regular Open Mem. Thus, the holiest written object, the stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments, contained only Sealed Mems, with the center part of the Mem hanging miraculously in place. The final Mem is closed off and concealed. It guards its inner secret, which due to its profound holiness may not be revealed to all.

Why is the more elevated form used at the end of the word? A hidden light appears at the ultimate vision of every noble matter. The hidden light of the M-N-Tz-P-Ch letters belongs to the end. The beginning and middle appearances of these letters are open and revealed. Their light steadily increases, until it brings us to the final, sublime conclusion.

The prophets are called tzofim, visionaries, as they were blessed with prophetic vision. Their greatness was that they could perceive the final outcome while still living in a flawed present. Understandably, it was these tzofim who sensed that the more elevated letterforms belong at the end.

Source: Rav Kook Torah

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Confusion Before Moshiach

For those who are not aware, there were a few rabbis who recently visited the pope, amid much controversy from within the Jewish community.  At least one of these rabbis then issued a written apology for certain things which were made public, and which he thought were private.  Without getting into the nitty gritty, I thought this was very interesting....


Seen on FB: HT Avrohom Alter


From the Sefer Plaos Yisroel. One time The Riziner Rebbe became very inspired and said  "In the period heralding the Moshiach there will be an exceedingly great thirst for spirituality. So much so that some Jews [in their confusion Ed.] will travel to the pope in Rome to receive his guidance. This will cause a great storming in Heaven, which will result in the fall of many world leaders and kings.… AND THEN WILL COME MOSHIACH OUR RIGHTEOUS!!

Guarding The Eyes

Art: "Forgotten Sunglasses" by Vladimir Kush


Written by Yosef Peretz, Mirrer Yeshiva Kollel, Jerusalem

The Talmud (beginning of Tractate Berachos) compares a person's soul to G-d himself; just like G-d sees but is not seen, so too the soul of a person sees but is not seen and just like G-d fills the entire world, so too the soul of a person fills his entire body, etc.. What does this mean and from where does the soul "see"? The Kabbalah answers that the soul of a person "sees" through his eyes.

If you look into someone's eyes, you're not just looking at a biological camera. You are accessing the deepest recesses of the person.

"The candle of G-d is the soul of man".

"A mitzva is a candle and Torah is light".

The Talmud teaches, "sin extinguishes a mitzva but sin doesn't extinguish Torah".

The Zohar explains: sin extinguishes a mitzva and mitzva is a candle. So sin extinguishes a candle. But which candle? The candle of G-d - which is the soul of man. So, when a person sins, he extinguishes his own soul. He then walks through life in darkness (until he repents). Conversely a righteous person who has reached a high level of purity, has eyes that literally glow with a tangible spiritual light. I know from experience that looking into the eyes of such a person can have a life-long effect.

Having said that, a person should be very careful what he exposes his eyes to. Whatever you expose your eyes to, know that you are exposing your deepest essence - your soul. If you look at the wrong things, you literally extinguish some of the spiritual light in your eyes. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler taught (Michtav m'Eliyahu) that if a person does not sense holiness inside himself, it's a sign that his soul has left him.

This is why, according to the Talmud, it is forbidden to look at the face of a wicked person. When you look at his (or her) face, your soul absorbs some of the ruach (spiritual energy) of this person. Your soul which is beyond the physical, senses all the deeds and all the twisted drives and views of this person through his eyes and you become a little bit like him.

This is why children inherit the character traits of their parents. By constantly looking into their eyes, they absorb all of their parents' deepest spiritual traits.

The Torah forbids accepting a convert from the nations of Moab and Amon for all generations. Why? Because these nations demonstrated a lack of hakaras hatov (gratitude) to the Jewish nation when they were about to enter Israel. But why are their descendants excluded for all time to convert? Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian z''l explains (beginning of Lev Eliyahu) since their parents did not have proper gratitude, they will transmit this evil trait to their offspring and their offspring to their offsprings, and so forth forever and ever. By constantly looking into their parents' eyes, the children will inherit completely all of their spiritual traits.

Conversely, looking in the eyes of a Tzaddik (righteous person) elevates you. A person who has reached a high spiritual level has eyes that shine forth with a spiritual light. This is why it is so important to learn Torah from a great Rebbi and not just from books. The Talmud says, if your Rebbi does not look like an Angel of G-d, do not learn Torah from him. Only if you sense "Sinai" in this person should you learn Torah from him. Such a person will transmit to you the non-verbal, "internal" part of the Torah and the proper character traits which can only be transmitted through eye contact. No amount of learning in books can help you here.

I heard from Rabbi Simcha Wasserman zt''l that "when you review your lesson, picture your Rebbi's face while he was giving over the lesson. This way, you will review not only the verbal part of the lesson but also the non-verbal messages in the lesson".

The Steipler wrote (beginning of Kareina D'Igarta) every interaction with a person leaves a spiritual mark on you. The Chafetz Chaim said, the first time he saw a Jew willfully transgressing the Shabbat, he cried for an hour. The second time it lasted only 20 minutes. Why the change? He had exposed his eyes and therefore his soul, and was now no longer on the same level of purity as before.

One who is constantly surrounded by people with no faith is in great danger of becoming like them. This is not because of sharing their ideas. No! During every interaction, your soul absorbs some of the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of the person. If you don't strengthen yourself continuously, you will slowly become more and more like him. This is why it is so important to live in an area with a strong Jewish community. The Rambam wrote, if you can't find a community of righteous people to live in, you should move to the desert.

On a deeper level, everything you come across contains the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of it's source. I heard from Rabbi Shmuel Nussbaum of Gateshead (who is now a Rosh Kollel in Israel) that every book you read, contains part of the soul of the author. If you read the book of a tzadik, you are not only receiving the information he wrote. The soul of the tzadik also has a hashpa (a spiritual influence) on you.

Conversely, when you read the news from CNN or some novel, you should know that you are not just reading innocent information. You are putting your mind into the mind of the author, absorbing the spiritual energy and the drives and mentality of this person and you will tend to become like him (or her). Watch out! They didn't tell you that in the fine print!

Rav Kook zt''l

The same is with the holy Torah. When a person learns, his soul is absorbing the spiritual energy of the Almighty himself! (Although in this case, the Almighty provided two conditions in order for the Torah to transmit the spiritual light (see Derech Hashem Vol.4:Ch.2). The first is proper Yira (reverence) and tikun hamaase at all times - striving to fulfill what you are learning. Without that, learning Torah is like reading a science book.)

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says a person can learn the laws of an ox that gores a cow, and it will help him in controlling his mouth from saying lashon hara (slander). Why? The light in the Torah, elevates his soul and gives him the spiritual strength needed to fight off the evil inclination to slander.

Think before you look as it says by Avraham in the Akeida - "And Avraham lifted his eyes". Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm zt''l says that from here, we learn that even lifting your eyes should be a calculated and weighed decision. Watch your eyes. Be careful what you read and what you look at. Try to attach yourself to a righteous person and you will become like him. Look at the picture above and in the eyes of the holy Tzadik - Rav Kook zt''l and you will taste greatness.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Rabbi Kessin: The Secret of Lag B'Omer



The most recent shiur


Yehai


Source: Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Yaakov Avinu was the first to say “Amen, yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – Amen, May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

Chazal say [Pesachim 56a], that when Yaakov Avinu felt that his days were numbered, he gathered his sons and attempted to reveal to them the End of days, as it is said: “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the End of Days.” Since Hashem did not want him to reveal it, the Shechinah withdrew from him.

Yaakov Avinu was shaken and feared: Perhaps, Heaven forbid, one of my sons are not worthy, as happened to Avraham, who had Yishmael, and like his father Yitzchak, who had Eisav. Thus, his sons, the holy Tribes, declared: “Hear, O Israel: The L-rd is our G-d; the L-rd is one.” “Just as there is only One in your heart, so too is there only One in our hearts.”

At that moment, Yaakov Avinu said: “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.”

This also appears in the Yerushalmi with a slight change: After the declaration of the Tribes, Yaakov Avinu said: “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

Then, what did Yaakov Avinu actually say; “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity,” or “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever?”

A closer look at the two verses reveals that both have the same meaning:

“Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity” means “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever” in Aramaic. Then, during Kaddish, why do we not recite the verse in Hebrew, but rather in Aramaic?

The Midrash [Devarim Rabbah 2:35] states that when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, he heard the angels say, “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.” Moshe took those wonderful words of praise and revealed them to Bnei Yisrael. But, in order not to arouse the jealousy of the angels, they are recited in Aramaic, and when we say them in Hebrew following the declaration of “Shema,” they are said in a whisper.

Rav Assi likens this with a parable to a man who stole diamonds from the king’s palace. When he gave them to his wife, he warned her not to display them in public, but wear them only inside her home.

The analogy: Once, and only once a year, on the most holy day of Yom Kippur, when Am Yisrael are like the angels, they say this verse out loud.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Moshiach's Rainbow and Lag B'Omer


Lag B'Omer occurs on the 18th day of Iyar: this year Sunday 14 May.

Why is Lag b’Omer celebrated with bonfires and bows and arrows?
by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

The bonfires celebrate the immense light that was brought into the world by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai [who passed away on Lag b’Omer], especially on the day of his passing.

The bow commemorates the fact that during Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime no rainbow was ever seen. [Bereishit Rabbah 35:2] Note: This was a good thing because the rainbow appears when the earth deserves punishment. The first time a rainbow appeared was after Noah’s flood, when G-d said that He will no longer destroy the world, rather He would send a sign: the rainbow. During Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime, the world was filled with merit because of him and therefore never saw a rainbow. [Genesis 9:8-17 and Rashi there]

There is a Kabbalistic tradition that on Lag b’Omer a rainbow will appear in a different color, which will symbolize the arrival of the Messianic age [Bnei Yissaschar]

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sweetening Judgments

Art OceanXGoddess



from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

When the messengers who bring suffering are despatched, they are made to take an oath: that they will neither set out nor return except on such and such a day, at such and such a time, and only [carry out their mission] by using the designated means. However, repentance, prayer and charity have the power to nullify [the enactment of] this oath.

Reciting the Torah chapters concerning the Choshen, the Breastplate [Exodus 28:15-30; 39:8-21] is a tikkun [rectification] for harsh judgments.

A person who suffers affliction should give charity. This charity will be considered as if it were a fee paid to a judge for his services, which when accepted, nullifies the verdict's validity. And through this his suffering will be alleviated.

When a person rebukes his friend for the right motives, he has a thread of loving-kindness drawn over him.

A person who does not accept rebuke will experience suffering.

To sweeten harsh judgments, recite Psalm 39 and Psalm 77.

When the nations have issued an evil decree against the Jews, Psalm 62 should be said.

A person can determine and understand his sins from the suffering which he experiences.

There are four things which abolish harsh decrees: Tzedakah [charity], crying out to G-d, changing one's name and improving one's conduct.

Crying out to G-d helps the individual only prior to the final decree.

A person's accusers are beaten off by the study of Torah.

A final decree accompanied by an oath cannot be abolished, even for the sake of an entire community.

The effects of a decree against a person apply only in a specific place. He can save himself by changing his location.

A person should tell others of his anguish so that they will pray for mercy on his behalf.

Accepting suffering with love is like bringing a sacrifice.

A person who falls down while walking should see this as a sign of a downfall on a spiritual level. Falling down while walking sometimes serves to nullify a pronouncement of death which has been issued against the person.

A person who finds himself suffering from harsh judgment should make it a habit to gaze at the Heavens.

The Holy One exonerates the person who teaches righteousness to the wicked.

A man of truth receives G-d's lovingkindness undisguised by judgments.

Trust in G-d sweetens judgment and draws down loving-kindness.

Through faith [emunah] it is possible to convince G-d to follow your will.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

''Sons of Aharon'' and ''Kohanim''

Birkhat Kohanim by Alex Levin

The son of a Kohen's forbidden marriage may not serve in the Temple, yet he can still make a Korban, and it will be accepted.

by Chanan Morrison

Emor: Agents of Holiness
The Talmud in Nedarim 32b describes the kohanim as sheluchei didan. The kohanim act as our agents or emissaries as they perform the Temple service.

Yet this idea — that the kohanim act as agents for the Jewish people - appears to violate the legal definition of the powers of a shaliach. An agent acts on behalf of the one sending him [the principal], executing his wishes. The agent cannot do that which the principal himself is incapable of doing. So how can the kohanim perform the Temple service on our behalf, when non-kohanim are not permitted to serve in the Beit HaMikdash?

Potential vs. Actual
The parashah opens with special directives for kohanim: "God spoke to Moses: Tell the kohanim, the sons of Aaron..." [Lev. 21:1]. Yet the text appears repetitive — "the kohanim, the sons of Aaron." Do we not know that the kohanim are descended from Aaron?

These two terms — 'kohanim' and 'sons of Aaron' — indicate two different aspects of the special sanctity of kohanim. The first is an intrinsic holiness, passed down from father to son. The phrase "sons of Aaron" refers to this inherent sanctity.

The second aspect is an additional layer of holiness, one's actual functioning as a kohen. This aspect is designated by the term 'kohanim.' [The verb lechahein means 'to serve,' so the word 'kohanim' indicates their actual service.] Thus the term "sons of Aaron" refers to their inherited potential, while 'kohanim' refers to their realized state of priestly service.

The Chalal
Usually a kohen will have both potential and actual kohanic-holiness. Yet there are certain situations that allow us to distinguish between the two.

A kohen is forbidden to marry a divorced woman. Should he nonetheless marry a divorcee, his son falls under a special category. He is called a chalal, from the word chilul, 'to defile holiness.' Despite his lineage, a chalal may not serve in the Temple.

Yet if a chalal went ahead and offered a korban, his offerings are accepted after the fact [Maimonides, Hilchot Bi'at Mikdash 6:10]. This is quite surprising. In general, a chalal has the legal status of a non-kohen. If a non-kohen brought an offering, his service would be disqualified. Yet the offerings of a chalal are accepted after the fact. Why is this?

The distinction between potential and actual kohanic status, between "sons of Aaron" and 'kohanim,' allows us to understand the unusual status of a chalal. Due to the fact that he is the son of a divorcee, he has lost the realized sanctity of a functioning kohen. But he still retains the inherited sanctity of "sons of Aaron." This intrinsic sanctity cannot be revoked. Therefore, while a chalal is not allowed to serve in the Temple, after the fact his offerings are accepted.

The Sages derived this ruling from Moses' blessing of the tribe of Levi: "May God bless his strength ['cheilo'], and favor the works of his hands" [Deut. 33:11]. Even the works of those who are chulin, who have lost part of their kohanic-sanctity, are still acceptable to God [Kiddushin 66b].

[That a chalal falls under the category of "the sons of Aaron" but not 'kohanim' is seen in the Midrash Halachah quoted by Rashi. "One might think that chalalim are included? Therefore it says, 'the kohanim'" - excluding chalalim from the special laws of kohanim.]

Continue reading at: Rav Kook Torah

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Judaism and Abusive Marriages - Reality Check


What do you do if you're an orthodox Jewish woman and you're in an abusive marriage?  You go to your rabbi and he tells you that you must do everything you can to save your marriage, and Hashem ''never gives you more than you can handle'' etc etc - so do you stay in the marriage and continue to be abused, thinking that this is Hashem's Will ?

Rabbi Yossi Jacobson has all the answers in this audio.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Adults vs Children


Re-blogging because it's been this kind of a week.
Send this to someone who needs to hear it.

 

Want to see more?  Click here

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Judging Others Favorably




It is written, “With righteousness shall you judge your fellow” [Acharei/ Kedoshim 19:15]

The Sages interpret this to mean, “Judge your fellow favorably” [Shevuot 30b]. How can we apparently lie to ourselves by judging people favorably in every case, when in certain cases we can see them doing the very opposite of something favorable? What is the meaning of this mitzvah in that case? The Sages have said, “Any man who is insolent will in the end stumble into sin” [Taanith 7b]. This means that shame serves as a barrier and an obstacle to sin. Once a person had breached the barriers of modesty and shame, there is nothing to prevent him from sinning, as it is written: “It is a good sign if a man is shamefaced. … No man who experiences shame will easily sin” [Nedarim 20a]. 

The same applies to a person’s influence on others. The first one who sins completely breaches the barriers of shame. The one who follows him does not require as much insolence to sin, and the third person needs even less, once these barriers have been broken down. This is why the sin of desecrating Hashem’s Name is so grave. A person who openly sins diminishes the intensity of the fear and shame that are engraved in man with regards to committing a sin, thereby prompting others to sin as well.

We can now understand how the advice given to us by the Sages, to judge others favorably, is designed to help us. It is meant to ensure that the barriers of shame are not breached within our own hearts, for once we are certain that everyone is righteous, how could we dare to be the first ones to sin? However if a person tries to find fault with everyone, he will be more likely to sin at a time of weakness.

Source – Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin via Rabbi David Pinto

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Second Error of President Donald Trump: Rabbi Mendel Kessin




Finally Rabbi Kessin returns to our screens.  Can't wait to hear this one.





If you haven't seen the previous lecture ''The First Error of Donald Trump'' - click here to view

Worlds, Souls, and Divinity



Every interaction we have with another person can be experienced on four different levels.  Rav DovBer Pinson explains.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Iyar: The Month of Healing


The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim writes that our new month of Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments and pains that may affect a person. Why is this so? He brings the B’nai Yisaschar, who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not comport with the person’s nature or composition.  Read full article at: Days of Mashiach

There are a couple of ways to assist in your own healing, and that is by saying the Unique Healing Prayer [but you have to do it properly and say every chapter relating to your [Hebrew] name, instructions are at the site].... and the other thing to do is to change your eating habits for the following reason:

"The reason a person's health returns through taking medicines is that his soul sees that he is able to control himself and to act contrary to his physical desires and habits. Perhaps he is accustomed to eating bread and other foods, but now he curbs his desires and submits to a medical regime, taking bitter medicines for the sake of his health. His soul sees that he has the power to control his impulses in order to achieve a certain goal, and she therefore comes back to him in the hope that he will curb his desires for the sake of the true purpose - which is to carry out the will of the Creator" [Likutey Moharan I, 268].  

Do we recite a Blessing on Medication?  Rabbi Eliezer Posner says:

If the medicine has a good taste, such as flavored chewable pills, recite the Shehakol blessing. [Seder Birchat Hanehnin 7:8] Flavorless medicine, such as pills that you swallow, do not require a blessing—but we do say a prayer that the medicine should take effect:

"May it be Your will that this medicine shall bring healing."

No blessing is recited on water that you drink to swallow down the pill. If you are swallowing it down with a beverage other than water, then you do recite the appropriate blessing on that beverage. [Tip: recite the blessing, take a sip, swallow the pill and then drink it down with the rest of the beverage.]

Friday, April 28, 2017

Recognition




''A person who seeks recognition is much like a goat that wears a bell around its neck to announce its whereabouts."

Source: Rav Mendel of Kotzk zt'l

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Do Jewish Sources Predict a North Korean Threat in the End of Days?


Fake weapons 


Listen to Tamar Yonah interviewing  R' Dov Bar Leib from the Years of Awe blog

Do Jewish sources predict a North Korean threat in the End of Days?  Tamar takes a spiritual look and then a more factual geo-political look at the North Korean threat.

Tamar also speaks to Dr. Mordechai ben-Menachem, author of the book Muslim Winter.  Click here to listen: The Tamar Yonah Show


The Power of Words

Pharris Art

These parshiyot – Tazria and Metzora tell about the metzora. Chazal say that the word “Metzora” is a combination of the word “motzi ra – one who emits slander” [lit. spreading negative information], implying that tzara’at is retribution for one who slanders, since he spread derogatory information. But there is another meaning to tzara’at that a metzora suffers, as it is stated in Gemara about tzara’at [Berachot 5b]: It is nothing else but an altar of atonement. Suffering purifies a person from all evilness, since through suffering he is cleansed from all sin. This is the reason for the juxtaposition: “If a woman conceives … and on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” and following this is parashat Metzora, which signifies that just as through the mizvah of Brit Mila [circumcision] the child connects to the Covenant of Avraham Avinu, so too the suffering and pain that a person experiences because of his tzara’at removes all evilness from him and connects him to Hashem, since suffering is for the benefit of man and he should not despair when it comes upon him.

Source: Rabbi David Hanania Pinto



This shall be the law of the person afflicted with tzara'ath, on the day of his cleansing: he shall be brought to the kohen. [Metzora 14:2]

People have a tendency to make light of the sin of loshon hara, said the Dubno Maggid.  They say to themselves:  ''What are mere words? I am not harming my friend in any way by simply speaking about him.''

The Torah therefore requires that the metzora be brought to the Kohen, in order for him to witness what man's speech is capable of doing.  With one word, the Kohen defines the status of the metzora, making him either pure or impure - such is the power of man's words!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dreams are Always Revealing


HaRav DovBer Pinson on dreams and how they always contain either prophetic or subconscious revelations. You'll need to have a very quiet space and turn up the volume to hear him, he's talking very quickly.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Holding On


Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day [Yom HaShoah] 2017 in Israel


Story by Yaffa Eliach from "Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust", based on a conversation between the Grand Rabbi of Bluzhov, Rabbi Israel Spira and Baruch Singer: January 3, 1975.

It was a dark, cold night in the Janowska Road Camp. [The Janowska Road Camp was situated near the cemetaries and sand mountains outside the city of Lvov, in the Ukraine]

Suddenly, a stentorian shout pierced the air: "You are all to evacuate the barracks immediately and report to the vacant lot. Anyone remaining inside will be shot on the spot!"

Pandemonium broke out in the barracks. People pushed their way to the doors while screaming the names of friends and relatives. In a panic-stricken stampede, the prisoners ran in the direction of the big open field. Exhausted, trying to catch their breath, they reached the field. In the middle were two huge pits. [The vicinity of the Camp was scarred with bomb craters from WW1. The huge pits were used as torture sites and mass graves.]

Suddenly, with their last drop of energy, the inmates realized where they were rushing, on that cursed dark night in Janowska. Once more, the cold healthy voice roared in the night: "Each of you dogs who values his miserable life and wants to cling to it must jump over one of the pits and land on the other side. Those who miss will get what they rightfully deserve - ra-ta-ta-ta-ta." Imitating the sound of a machine gun, the voice trailed off into the night followed by a wild, coarse laughter. It was clear to the inmates that they would all end up in the pits.

Even at the best of times it would have been impossible to jump over them, all the more so on that cold dark night in Janowska. The prisoners standing at the edge of the pits were skeletons, feverish from disease and starvation, exhausted from slave labor and sleepless nights. Though the challenge that had been given them was a matter of life and death, they knew that for the S.S. and the Ukranian guards it was merely another devilish game.

Among the thousands of Jews on that field in Janowska was the Rabbi of Bluzhov, Rabbi Israel Spira. He was standing with a friend, a freethinker from a large Polish town whom the rabbi had met in the camp. A deep friendship had developed between the two.

"Spira, all of our efforts to jump over the pits are in vain. We only entertain the Germans and their collaborators, the Askaris. Let's sit down in the pits and wait for the bullets to end our wretched existence." said the friend to the rabbi.

"My friend," said the rabbi, as they were walking in the direction of the pits, "man must obey the will of G-d. If it was decreed from heaven that pits be dug and we be commanded to jump, pits will be dug and jump we must. And if, G-d forbid, we fail and fall into the pits, we will reach the World of Truth a second later, after our attempt. So, my friend, we must jump."

The rabbi and his friend were nearing the edge of the pits; the pits were rapidly filling up with bodies. The rabbi glanced down at his feet, the swollen feet of a 53 year old Jew ridden with starvation and disease. He looked at his young friend, a skeleton with burning eyes. As they reached the pit, the rabbi closed his eyes and commanded in a powerful whisper, "We are jumping!"

When they opened their eyes, they found themselves standing on the other side of the pit. "Spira, we are here, we are here, we are alive!" the friend repeated over and over again, while warm tears steamed from his eyes. "Spira, for your sake, I am alive; indeed, there must be a G-d in heaven. Tell me Rabbi, how did you do it?"

"I was holding on to my ancestral merit. I was holding on to the coat-tails of my father, and my grandfather and my great-grandfather, of blessed memory," said the rabbi and his eyes searched the black skies above. "Tell me, my friend, how did you reach the other side of the pit?"

"I was holding on to you" replied the rabbi's friend.

Memorial Sign for Jews killed in Lviv Janowska Concentration Camp



Rebuke


"He should be brought to Aharon the Kohen..." [Tazria 13:2]

The Kohanim (priests) were people of inherent kindness who blessed the Jewish people with love.  Therefore, when it came to declaring somebody with the severe condition of tzara'as, which required total isolation from the Jewish camp, it was imperative that this harsh judgment be done out of love, so the Torah required it to be done by a Kohen.

From this we can learn a powerful lesson: that if one feels that another person has acted disgracefully and one wishes to chastise him, one must first examine one's own motives to see if one's desire to rebuke another is truly being done out of love.

Source: Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Sunday, April 23, 2017

North Korea threatens Australia



US Vice President Mike Pence  is currently in Sydney, ensuring that Australia is America's best friend, and this has angered North Korea who are now threatening us with a possible nuclear strike.

Mr Pence is spending today seeing some of Sydney's tourist attractions and will return to the States on Monday morning.  



Friday, April 21, 2017

A Sobering Thought

Art Rob Gonsalves


"Do not drink wine that will lead to intoxication, neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, so that you shall not die. [This is] an eternal statute for your generations..." [Shemini 10:9]

There is a view [see Rambam, Laws of Entering the Temple 1:7] that even nowadays a priest [kohen] may not drink a revi'is [86ml] of wine, for this is sufficient to cause some degree of intoxication, and since it is quite feasible that the Holy Temple will be rebuilt within the time it takes for him to become sober, the wine would thus render him unfit for service in the Temple.

Now, according to Jewish law, intoxication caused by a revi'is of wine can be removed by either a short sleep, or by waiting the time it would take to walk a mil. (There are different views as to precisely how long this is: either 18 or at most 24 minutes).

From here we see a remarkable ramification of the above principle: that Jewish law takes seriously into consideration the fact that it is possible for Moshiach to come, with a completed Holy Temple, within a maximum of 23 minutes and 59 seconds, thus requiring the priests to be ready for service immediately!

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe [Gutnick Chumash]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Chasidah Bird


The Chasidah [white stork]

 וְאֵת הַחֲסִידָה  "The chasidah" [Shemini 11:19]

Why is its name chasidah (literally meaning "kind one") asks Rashi. "Because it does kindness with its companions with food."

According to the Ramban, said the Chiddushei HaRim (R' Yitzchak Meir Alter of Gur), the reason why the nonkosher birds are not kosher is because of their cruel nature.  If so, the chasidah should have been a kosher-type bird; after all, it bestows kindness upon its companions!

The chasidah acts kindly towards its companions, answered the rebbe, but it does not act kindly toward anyone else. This is why it is considered not kosher.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seudah Moshiach

Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach has a special connection to the coming of Moshiach and is celebrated accordingly, by partaking of Moshiach's Seudah [the meal of Moshiach..... sometimes known as the Third Seder]

The last day of Pesach  is celebrated by eating a special, festive banquet called Moshiach's seudah, a custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov. The connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach is explained by the Tzemach Tzedek: "The last day of Pesach is the conclusion of that which began on the first night of Pesach. The first night of Pesach is our festival commemorating our redemption from Egypt by the Holy One, Blessed be He. It was the first redemption, carried out through Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the first redeemer; it was the beginning. The last day of Pesach is our festival commemorating the final redemption, when the Holy One, Blessed be He, will redeem us from the last exile through our righteous Moshiach, who is the final redeemer. The first day of Pesach is Moshe Rabbeinu's festival; the last day of Pesach is Moshiach's festival."

Pesach is the festival which celebrates freedom. The first day celebrates the redemption from the first exile; the last day celebrates the future redemption from the final exile. The two are intimately connected, the beginning and end of one process with G-d in the future redemption showing wonders "as in the days of your exodus from Egypt."

That Moshiach's festival is celebrated specifically on the last day of Pesach is not merely because Moshiach will redeem us from the last exile. Being last has a significance beyond mere numerical order, for that which is last performs a unique function. When the Jews journeyed in the desert after leaving Egypt, they marched in a specific order, divided into four camps. The last to march was the camp of Dan, which is described by Torah as "ma'asaf l'chol hamachanos" - "gatherer of all the camps." Rashi explains this as meaning that "The tribe of Dan...would journey last, and whoever would lose anything, it would be restored to him."

The concept of "gatherer of all the camps" - restoring lost property and making sure that nothing is missing - may be applied to various situations. The Baal Shem Tov, for example, taught that just as the Jews in the desert made forty-two journeys before they reached their final destination, Eretz Yisroel, so there are forty-two journeys in each Jew's individual life. The birth of a person corresponds to the initial journey when the Jews left the land of Egypt, and at each stage of life a Jew is somewhere in the middle of one of the forty-two journeys he must experience before he enters the next world.

Not only a person's entire life, but also every individual service to G-d has various stages or "journeys." In particular, the conclusion of a specific service acts as the "gatherer of all the camps" - to make sure that nothing is missing from that service. Pesach, it was noted earlier, is associated with the concept of redemption, and our service on Pesach is correspondingly directed towards hastening the arrival of the final redemption. But even if service on Pesach was deficient, if opportunities were missed, not all is lost: the last day of Pesach acts as "gatherer of all the camps" for the entire festival. Just as the tribe of Dan restored lost articles to their owners, so the last day of Pesach provides a Jew with the opportunity to rectify omissions in the service of Pesach, and thereby regain what is rightfully his.

Because Pesach is associated with the redemption through Moshiach and the last day of Pesach is the finish to and completion of Pesach, the last day of Pesach accordingly emphasizes the coming of Moshiach.

The notion of "gatherer of all the camps" applies not only to each individual Jew's life and service, but also to Jewry in general. The forty-two journeys between leaving Egypt and entering Eretz Yisroel took place in the desert, the "wilderness of the nations," which is an allusion to the period of exile when Jews sojourn amongst the nations of the earth. The forty-two journeys in the desert served as the means wherewith Jews left the limitations of Egypt.  Thus all the journeys undertaken until the Jews actually entered Eretz Yisroel may be viewed as part of the exodus from Egypt. So too with the journeys in the exile: until Jews merit the final redemption, they are still journeying to reach Eretz Yisroel.  In every generation, Jews are somewhere in the middle of one of those forty-two journeys.

As in the journeys in the desert, there is a "gatherer of all the camps" in the generations-long journey of Jews to the Messianic Era. Our present generation is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach," the last generation of exile. It is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations of Jews.

That this generation of exile is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations is not just because it is the last. Exile is not just punishment for sin.

The mission of Jews is to elevate and refine this corporeal world, to reveal G-dliness and to transform the physical into a dwelling place for G-d. Dispersed throughout the world in exile, Jews have been given the opportunity and the means to carry out this mission in all parts of the world.

This has been the Jews' task throughout their history. "Gatherer of all the camps" in this context means that if any portion of that task is missing, it now can be rectified. Thus the era of "gatherer of all the camps" is the era when the world will have been fully refined and G-dliness revealed: the Era of Moshiach.

It is for this reason that it is our generation which is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach" and "gatherer of all the camps." For the service of Jews throughout the generations has been all but completed, and only the finishing touches - "gatherer of all the camps" - is needed. We stand ready and prepared to greet Moshiach.

Moshiach, of course, could have come in previous generations. The Talmud, for example, relates that at the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, a cow lowed twice. The first time meant that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed; the second time meant that Moshiach was born. In other words, the potential Moshiach was born immediately after the destruction and had the Jews merited it then, he would have been the actual Moshiach.

Although Moshiach could have come in previous generations, the future redemption nevertheless has a greater connection to our generation - just as the idea of Moshiach is emphasized on the last day of Pesach,  although the whole of Pesach is associated with the future redemption. For both are the concept of "gatherer of all the camps" and we accordingly celebrate Moshiach's seudah specifically on the last day of Pesach.

There is still more to the connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. The prophet Yechezkel describes the exodus from Egypt - which took place on the first day of Pesach - as the birth of the Jewish nation.

The last day of Pesach, the eighth day, is therefore the day of the circumcision, which is "the beginning of the entry of the holy soul." Moshiach is the yechidah - the most sublime level of the soul - of the Jewish people. Until the body of Jewry has undergone circumcision it is not whole; its holy soul is missing. Moreover, the Alter Rebbe writes, the highest level of circumcision will take place in the future, when "The L-rd will circumcise your heart."

The Haftorah read on the last day of Pesach is also connected with the Messianic Era. It states: "The wolf will lie down with the lamb...He will raise a banner for the return...the earth will be full of the knowledge of the L-rd." All of these verses refer to the Messianic Era.

Thus the relationship between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. But why do we mark this relationship by eating a meal?

Belief in Moshiach is a cardinal tenet of the Jewish faith, enshrined as one of Rambam's thirteen principles of belief: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach; and although he may tarry, I will wait for him every day that he shall come." But abstract belief is not enough. Our intellectual awareness must be translated into concrete action - by eating of Moshiach's seudah. Moreover, the food from Moshiach's seudah becomes part of our flesh and blood, and our faith in, and yearning for Moshiach permeates not just the soul's faculties but also the physical body.

Moshiach's seudah was initiated by the Baal Shem Tov, and there is good reason why it was by him specifically. In a famous letter to his brother in law, R. Gershon of Kitov, the Baal Shem Tov tells of the time he experienced an elevation of the soul to the highest spheres. When he came to the abode of Moshiach, he asked, "When will the Master come?" to which Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside." In other words, it is the Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chassidus - which will bring Moshiach, and it is therefore particularly appropriate that it was the Baal Shem Tov who initiated Moshiach's seudah on the last day of Pesach.

In the time of the Baal Shem Tov, the principal element of the seudah was matzah. The Rebbe Rashab, fifth Rebbe of Chabad, added the custom of drinking four cups of wine. Matzah is poor man's bread, flat and tasteless. Wine, in contrast, not only possesses taste, but induces joy and delight, to the extent that our Sages say, "Shirah (song) is said only over wine."

Chabad Chassidus conveys the concepts of Chassidus, first propounded by the Baal Shem Tov, in an intellectual framework, enabling them to be understood by a person's Chochmah (wisdom), Binah (knowledge), and Da'as (understanding) - ChaBaD. And when a person understands something - in this case the concepts of Chassidus - he enjoys it that much more. Chabad, in other words, introduced "taste" and "delight" into Chassidic doctrines, which until then were accepted primarily on faith alone.

The four cups of wine also allude to the Messianic Age, for which the dissemination of Chassidus - especially Chabad Chassidus - is the preparation. The four cups symbolize: the four expressions of redemption; the four cups of retribution G-d will force the nations of the world to drink; the four cups of comfort G-d will bestow upon the Jews; the four letters of G-d's Name which will be revealed; the four general levels of repentance.

[Source: Sichah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Acharon Shel Pesach, 5742]