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Friday, January 18, 2019 12 Shevat 5779



The Rebbe
It was 10 days in the month of Shevat, 1951, that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, accepted the leadership with these words: “We are the generation to complete the work of all the generations before us, to finally bring heaven down to earth.” Until this point, Chabad had been about the soul, the mind and the heart. That was the material world that needed to be fixed.
The Rebbe undoubtedly is the most influential and charismatic Jewish religious leader of all time. He came on the scene just after the horrors of the Holocaust had occurred, and he inspired and reinvigorated the Jewish world to renew its connection with Hashem and do everything in its power to make this world a dwelling fit for Hashem’s presence.
For the Rebbe, fixing up the material world meant the entire big world, every last country, every last culture, every last individual. You could almost say that everything up to this point had been only a rehearsal, battle practice for the final victory. And now, the paratroopers were landing on foreign soil. Everywhere.
It meant sending young couples and their children out to every place a Jew may roam—whether that be Tunisia or Thailand, Kathmandu or Kentucky. What Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Baal Shem Tov, and the author of the Zohar, the Ari had spoken in the esoteric language of the soul and the heavens suddenly meant here, now, down on this earth. Tikun had hit the hard, concrete pavement.
It wasn’t just those chassidic families. The Rebbe asked this of every Jew and every human being with whom he came in contact. The message, always: You have a job to do. The circumstances in which you find yourself, the community in which you live, and yes, the prison you find yourself in and the skills and talents G‑d has given you—they are all screaming out to you to do your job. And what is that job? To turn this world on its head.
Neither is the Rebbe satisfied with his impact on the Jewish world alone. He has urged Jews to speak with their non-Jewish neighbors and acquaintances, to tell them, “You are created in the divine image. You have a divine mission to accomplish. We all have to increase our acts of goodness and kindness. That is all that’s needed to bring the redemption of the entire world.”
Chabad/Lubavitch had been about theological contemplation and “labor of the heart.” The Rebbe introduced something the likes of which had never been seen before: A worldwide organization dedicated to reaching out to every Jew and pulling them back in.
Not that any of that contemplative, inner labor was ever left behind. It remains the curriculum of every Chabad student. It was simply extended outward, downward, and into the world.
An outside observer would explain simply: These were urgent times. Six million had been lost—even more in Russia—the rate of assimilation in the West was accelerating, and if something drastic wasn’t done fast to save world Jewry, there wouldn’t be any Jews left to save.
But if you stood at the Rebbe’s farbrengens—the gatherings at 770 Eastern Parkway, where students and chassidim would sit or stand for hours and listen to his talks, sing chassidic melodies, say l’chaim, and listen some more—there you would pick up an entirely different story. The inside story.
“We are the last generation of this exile, and the first generation to greet Moshiach,” the Rebbe says. “We have gathered the very last sparks, the most concealed and tightly held. We have made the final touches, even "polishing the buttons: has been accomplished. The the last preparations are done, as we must greet our Righteous Moshiach. And to do that, you cannot stay within the four walls of your yeshiva or your synagogue. To do that, you must go out into the world, with all your essence and being, and there be a beacon of light, teach others about Moshiach and  Redemption and publicize it.”
Chabad is not two worlds. It is all one, and the only way it can be understood is as a single whole—albeit, working in two opposite directions: from the top-down and from the ground-up. Chabad is bringing the highest light of the divine to every corner of G‑d’s world, discovering and redeeming the divine hidden within all that exists.
At one time, that was achieved only in the world of the spirit. In our times, it has become as literal as imaginable.
Certainly, every human being on this planet has his or her role to fulfill in its tikun. But the Maker of All Souls had deemed that a Jewish soul was meant to heal the world with the light of Torah. And that raises a great question. Because, if that is so, why would G‑d toss such a soul into a world where it would have no idea that there could be anything spiritual or meaningful to discover in the whole of Judaism?
It could only be that this is the exclusive means to recover those final, lost sparks.
Like a homing pigeon sent on a journey to return with precious jewels, so the souls of Israel are scattered among the nations of the world, among every sort of ideology and idealism, lifestyle and compulsion, ashram and cult, rat-race and escapism. So deep must they plunge that it takes the army of a tzadik, a battalion fighting with all its might, to pull them out of there, so they can bring those jewels back home.
Some sparks can be returned home with a simple mitzvah. Some can only be extracted by cracking a hard nut and tossing out a pile of trash. And some—those “tied down,” as Rabbi Schneur Zalman described them—only by exerting every ounce of your strength to pull yourself out of their sticky mud.
In 1967, the Rebbe spoke about how the souls had begun to return home. In the 1980s, he talked about the walls of the exile crumbling before us. In 1991, he insisted that enough sparks had been gathered, and it was incomprehensible that the final Redemption (geulah) had not yet come.
It was up to us, he said, to complete the job—we have to prepare ourselves to greet Moshiach, and to demand it with sincerity. And in order for that to happen, we had to learn what Redemption (geulah) is, understand it and come to feel it as though we were living it already.
The Rebbe said again and again, the world is ready. We must bring the message to the world.

* * *

Creating Leaders
by Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth. 
From his remarks at the banquet of the  Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.
Throughout Jewish history there were great leaders. But I know of no precedent for one who transformed, visibly and substantively, every single Jewish community in the world - including many parts of the world that never had a Jewish community before.
It was 1968. I was a sophomore at Cambridge University. I had already encountered Chabad. They were among the very first to go out to university campuses and I was one of the very first beneficiaries. I came to America to meet great rabbis of the day. Every single rabbi that I met said, "You must meet the Rebbe!"
Eventually the moment came when I was ushered into the Rebbe's study. I asked him all my intellectual, philosophical questions; he gave intellectual, philosophical answers.
And then he did what no one else had done. He did a role reversal. He started asking me questions. How many Jewish students are in Cambridge? How many get involved in Jewish life? What are you doing to bring other people in?
I'd come to ask a few simple questions, and suddenly the Rebbe was challenging me!
I answered the Rebbe, "In the situation in which I find myself..." - and the Rebbe did something which I think was quite unusual for him, he actually stopped me in mid-sentence. He said, "Nobody finds themselves in a situation; you put yourself in a situation. And if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another situation."
That moment changed my life. Here I was, a nobody from nowhere, and here was one of the greatest leaders in the Jewish world challenging me not to accept the situation, but to change it. And that was when I realized what I have said many times since: That the world was wrong. When they thought that the most important fact about the Rebbe was that here was a man with thousands of followers, they missed the most important fact: That a good leader creates followers, but a great leader creates leaders. That's what the Rebbe did for me and for thousands of others.
There was a point when the Rebbe developed a very interesting campaign - the Seven Noachide Laws campaign - to reach out not just to Jews, but also to non-Jews.
I realized that in my new position as Chief Rabbi I could do just that. So I started broadcasting on the BBC, on radio, on television, writing for the national press. I wrote books read my non-Jews as well as Jews and the effect was absolutely extraordinary. The more I spoke the more they wanted to hear. The more I wrote the more they wanted to read.
That experience showed me not only the wisdom, the vast foresight of the Rebbe in understanding that the world was ready to hear a Jewish message. It taught me something else as well.
Non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism. And non-Jews are embarrassed by Jews who are embarrassed by Judaism.
The Rebbe teaches us how to fulfill the verse, "Let all nations see that the name of G-d is called upon you." Let all the world see we are never ashamed to stand tall as Jews.

* * *

New Year for Trees
(15th of Shevat)
The central and focal point of this month is the New Year for Trees, which brings to mind the well-known Biblical analogy, "Man is like a tree," an analogy that embraces many aspects, general and particular. Since this analogy is given by the Torah, the Torah of Truth, it is certain to be precise in all its aspects, each of which is instructive in a general or particular way, for every one of us, man and woman.
For such is the purpose of every detail of the Torah (meaning, "instruction") - to induce everyone to reflect on it and derive practical instruction from it in everyday life.
Accordingly, we will refer to some general points of the said analogy.
To begin with, the essence of a living tree is, above all, that it grows; its growth being the sign of its being alive.
The purpose of a tree is to be - in the words of the Torah - "a fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, whose seed is within itself," which is, to produce fruit with seeds from which will grow trees and fruits of the same kind.
Indeed, the perfection of a tree lies in its ability to produce trees and fruits to all posterity.
To translate the above points in human terms:
A human being must grow and develop continuously, however satisfactory the level may be at any given time. This is also indicated in the expression of our Sages - whose sayings are concise but profoundly meaningful - ma'alin b'kodesh, "holiness should be kept on the ascendancy."
Similarly in regard to the second point: A human being should produce "fruits" for the benefit of many others beside himself; the kind of benefit which is coupled with delight.
The meaning of "delight" in this context will become clear from the distinction in regard to the seven species of produce with which the Land of Israel is praised in the Torah: A land of wheat and barley, and vine, and fig, and pomegranate, a land of olive oil and (date) honey." Wheat and barley are basic goods necessary for human sustenance, while the fruits of trees are both sustaining and nourishing as well as enjoyable and delightful.
And the third point: One must strive to produce "fruit-bearing fruits," so that the beneficiary enjoying these fruits should in turn become a "fruit-bearing tree" like the benefactor.
Needless to say, the "fruits" of which we are speaking here, are those which our Sages specify, saying, "the fruits of Tzadikim [the righteous] (which includes every Jew and Jewess, as it is written, "And Your people are all Tzadikim") are mitzvos [commandments] and Good Deeds."
These are some of the basic teachings of the New Year for Trees, which have an immediate practical relevance to each and every Jew, man and woman. There is a further allusion to this in the meaningful Jewish custom to eat on this day various kinds of fruits which grow on trees.
And when a Jew firmly resolves to proceed from strength to strength in all matters of Torah and mitzvos, both in regard to himself and in disseminating them in his environment, he has the assurance of realizing his fullest potential - "like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper."
Until the time will be ripe for the fulfillment of the promise, "the tree of the field shall yield its fruit," in the plain sense, meaning that even non-producing fruit trees shall produce fruits.
* * *
Are there special customs associated with Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for Trees?
Tu B'Shevat occurs on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat (this year January 21). It is customary to eat from the 5 fruits (of the seven grains and fruits) that the Torah enumerates when describing how blessed is the Land of Israel: "A land of wheat and barley, and (grape) vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and (date) honey." (Deut. 8:8) These seven grains and fruits are called the seven species (shivat haminim) and they have a special status. It is also customary to eat a "new" fruit that one did not eat yet that season in order to recite the "Shehecheyanu" blessing on it. 

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