Sunday, 6 July 2008

Contemplations for Gimmel Tammuz - 3 Tammuz 5754



Today marks the day in the year 5754 / 1994 that the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe was concealed from the world. It is difficult to understand the concept of a Tzaddik dying, since as the Zohar points out that a Tzaddik – when he “leaves” this world, is to be found more in all the worlds. He no longer has the burden of a human body, and is therefore in a state of existence that allows him to be present more so in this world, than he ever was able to be before.

The Torah also teaches, that a wicked person, even while alive is dead, and a righteous person, even when “dead” is actually alive!

One may wonder of what benefit there may be in a Tzaddik departing this world.

When the Rebbe took over the Nesius of Chabad, he related to every single Chassid and Jew – as well as every single person - in the same way (and perhaps even more so!) as he did 44 and more years later. If, however, one follows the leadership process, it is interesting to note his actual physical involvement with people. In the beginning, the Rebbe would engage in one-on-one Yechidus with those who would come to see him. Certainly it may have been difficult to book an appointment to see the Rebbe, but it was possible. As time went on, it became more and more difficult to speak to the Rebbe in person. One might have to wait months before being able to get an appointment. Later, when there were simply too many people for the Rebbe to spend time with one-on-one as lengthy as he used to, the Rebbe would give public audiences, where he would address a number of people in a Yechidus session, although speaking to each one – and apparently, each person hearing only what was necessary for him to hear!

But this too became difficult, as even here, there were eventually too many people wanting the Rebbe’s personal attention, and the Rebbe – already in his eighties, arranged for something he became most famous for – the giving of Dollars. The Rebbe would be able to relate to thousands of people in a relatively short period of time – just hours! Amazingly, whereas in the beginning, he would relate to individuals one-on-one often spending hours with a person at a time – this process evolved into relating to thousands – each one for seconds at a time. However, even here, the Rebbe was able to interact completely with this person – so to speak – as if he were engaged in an hour long Yechidus! And although the person passing by may not have been able to know it or sense the “hour” one-on-one session, the Rebbe, being the comprehensive soul of the Jewish people – and the Moses of our generation – was certainly relating to each one within that time frame! While the Rebbe’s gentle “Blessing and Success,” or, “Much Success” might have seemed to simply indicate some nice words, the truth is that as he said these words, he literally brought total blessing to another.

Time exists differently for a Tzaddik than it does for the rest of us! What a Tzaddik can achieve with the words of his mouth within seconds – may never be able to be achieved in lifetimes by the average person. Balak and Bilaam are certainly proof of these things – both being the greatest magicians and sorcerers of the non-Jewish world and being able to destroy everything in their way in just moments – just from the power of their mouths! (See Zohar on this blog related to their ways of magic!) As a point of fact, 3 Tammuz 5754 was the Motzaei Shabbos of Parshat Balak! The previous Parsha just read was Parshat Chukat, where we are taught of the death of Miriam and that the death of a Tzaddik brings atonement for the entire generation – and that Moses… is the whole of Israel and all of Israel are Moses for he is a composite of all of them.

And as the Rebbe would comment many times to those wishing a Brocha “Azkir Al HaTzion” – I will mention it at the grave (of his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe). Many people were frustrated with such a response which seemed to indicate nothing more than a gesture of good manners! Yet once again, this statement was a guarantee that the Rebbe would do everything possible to see to it that the message was “delivered on time” and “to the Right People” in order to elicit blessing from Above!

Dollars were handed out – and blessings – almost at the speed of light itself. Yet, everything was still in a realm of physicality, being limited by material bodies and words.

Let us go back in time to the days that people would write to the Rebbe. Way back then decades ago, before the world of email – things took a little longer, and presumably, not everyone was as keen to continue asking the Rebbe for help - *all the time.* And so, people would write the Rebbe, wait for the postman to deliver, and then wait for an answer. Of course, as far as the Rebbe is concerned, the letter was received while it was being written, but practically speaking, it only actually reached its destination days or possibly weeks later! Now, the Rebbe had parcels of letters that he would read, standing by the previous Rebbe’s Ohel for the entire time that he went through them. Could there have been more though?

Then the fax machine was invented – and it became far easier to send letters to the Rebbe. Why the bother of waiting for days when a message could be delivered immediately?! Although I myself do not know how much the letters increased, I am certain that the fax machines worked over time and many more letters reached the Rebbe than would be by ordinary mail.

And while it is that theoretically the Internet was already around in the late 1960’s… this was only so for the military – and later the educational institutions. In fact, it was only around the time 1994 – that the Internet really began making headway for the average person! I can just imagine it now. The Rebbe would make use of all technology to bring the redemption. Everything is G-dly – and should be used for G-dly purposes! From the postman delivering the letters to fax machines transferring messages of pain, immediately to a Rebbe who was able to deal with huge volumes of paper with letters and words of help crying out on them.

What would the Rebbe have said of the opportunity of having an email account and computer in his office?! It would be ideal! Imagine for a moment, no more fax machines and no more letters. Any Jew wishing to send a message simply sits behind his computer, types away his inner most thoughts, hits “send” and voila the message is there printed out immediately. In fact, typing today is considered such a norm, that it’s a pleasure to be able to express one’s inner most feelings to another – within seconds – and send them off! Of course much damage has been done to people through all this – but the amount of good that has resulted is without estimate!

I can imagine the Rebbe today, sitting behind his desk in his office, as his secretaries enter his room with the latest requests from Jews all around the world. They’d hardly be a few pages of paper. Reams of paper… maybe! Trees-worth of paper – definitely!

Would the Rebbe truly be able to deal with the volume of requests coming through? The Rebbe was not one to turn away from reading even one letter. As is known the famous story regarding an occasion when one of the secretaries wished to purchase a machine envelope opener to help the Rebbe open his mail – saving hours of time. The Rebbe’s response? How can I open envelopes with a machine – when these envelopes were sealed with the tears of these Jews?! Only hands can open up such envelopes! If this applies to envelopes, how much more so would it apply to reading the letters themselves.

If so, is it possible for us to imagine the Rebbe reading the mail of today – while sitting at his desk – or even at the previous Rebbe’s Ohel?!

One need only take a look at the abundance of people visiting the Ohel today – and the letters that are sent there – from email alone – to know just how many Jews are in pain – and are crying to the Rebbe to help them NOW!

While back in the fifities, life seemed to have been moving at a slower pace. People wrote slower, mail moved slower, and time seemed to even move slower… today life is moving at such a pace, that email is reaching its destination… too late!

We’re in need of the redemption. The pains which we experience on both an individual as well as communal level are so great that there’s just no more time to wait to express it all – and wait for answers. We need things to happen NOW!

I don’t know if this is the reason why, but I often think to myself, that when the Rebbe was concealed – it was just about that time that life seemed to move into a new realm of speed. One which, had the Rebbe been sitting behind his desk reading the mail, he simply may not have been able to get through it all. Of course, this is only bodily – where a Tzaddik is confined – even if his confinement is like freedom to others – to a degree that he cannot attend to every single request. It would take… freedom from the body to be able to deal with matters of the soul.

I’m no expert in understanding how bodies and souls work. I’m neither a physician, nor a surgeon of the soul. I do imagine, however, that when souls are hidden away from others (even if they are connected to their “bodies” elsewhere), it allows them the freedom to deal with much more than can be done when the laws of physical nature force them to act and behave like everyone else in a physical body – attending to only those things that most people can attend to (even when they can do so much more!)

Did Yaakov die? No… he was a Tzaddik. Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi (the author of the Mishna) would recite Kiddush for his family every Shabbos and fulfil their obligation for them – even after he had “died”! Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was hidden from everyone after he “died” and continued answering Halachic questions – for some time!!! I’ve even heard the crazy idea that Elijah the Prophet never died either – and in fact walks around the earth to this very day doing all sorts of acts of goodness and kindness – and even teaching great righteous people. He does with this soul fully enclothed in his body!

Did Moshe die? Rashi says he buried himself!!! (I’ve often wondered what kind of a death that was then!) And while we’re talking of the death of the righteous, I’ve heard some interesting stories of those who tried entering the Caves of Machpela where Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca – and Jacob and Leah are buried. Actually there is quite a lot regarding the mysteries of those who have apparently died.

But Tzaddikim do not die. None of them do. Every one of them is as present in this world as they were at the time they left it. A Tzaddik lives on a different level to the souls of those who are not Tzaddikim. Much like a child cannot understand the tricks performed by a magician (although he uses sleight of hand!) so too can the child-soul not understand how certain things can actually be when they really seem not to be at all!

How do we know the truth? Can we claim it ourselves? What does the Torah say? Do Tzaddikim die? Who is Moshiach? There are a host of questions to get through! But then again, there’s a Torah to get through as well. There are 5 books of Moses… there’s the 24 complete books of the Tanach. There are the six orders of the Mishna, with the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud. There’s also the Midrashim, the Zohar, the kabbalistic writings of the Arizal. There’s the teachings of the Rambam, the Rosh, the Rif and the Ran… there’s the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch! There are also the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov – founder of Chassidus, his pupil the Maggid of Mezritch, the Alter Rebbe and the six other Rebbe’s of Chabad. There are the teachings of Rabbi Nachman – the Breslov Rebbe, and the dozens of other Rebbes to learn from as well, as the entire corpus of Chassidut which is practically infinite! There are the teachings of the earlier generations and the later, the commentaries of all these books… and this… this is just the surface!

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was the least of the students of Hillel. The greatest was Yonatan ben Uziel, who when he would learn Torah, the birds above would be singed by his learning… but for the “small” Rabbi Yochanan, who knew all the teachings above (although many would only be published many years later) not only understood all these teachings, but could even speak the language of the birds, the trees, the angels and various other languages!

Do we know the truth? There is much to learn before we are too quick to know just where the Rebbe is right now, what he is doing, how he is aware of our every desire and need – even when we merely think about these things in the corner of our home.

On Gimmel Tammuz the sun did not set for Joshua – it continued to shine.

When Moses went onto Mount Sinai and never returned, the Satan showed the Jewish people the coffin of Moses claiming he had died – and they believed him. There was the coffin and Moses was inside it! (Are we any different today and have we learned our lesson yet?!) When Jacob was being buried, the embalmers embalmed him and yet this too was an illusion, for he wasn’t there at all.

Today we are faced with the same dilemma. Any good (and honest) magician will tell you – it’s really all just an illusion, a trick by the magician. And according to the wisdom and greatness of the Magician, so are the tricks even better, and the illusion more real.

But the Tzaddikim know the truth, for their very existence is different from our own. There is no death for them. This world is only an illusion, for G-d is everywhere and is everything, filling and surrounding everything – yet we feel ourselves as existing independently – just as Pharaoh did – perhaps even feeling that we have “created ourselves!” Our task is to connect with G-d, to become totally consumed by Him, to become one with Him, to realise that everything is an illusion. There is nothing that has real life, and there is nothing that dies. Everything is an illusion.

Our task is to do what is necessary for us to do – to serve G-d, to fulfil His commandments each day, until eventually we will all connect to such a degree, that we will see how indeed Ain Od Milvado. There is nothing but G-d Himself. This will be revealed when Moshiach comes and awakens us from our slumbers, to know and to see clearly that He is One and His Name is One.

May this take place immediately, that there no longer be debates of what is right and what is wrong, what we can see and what we can’t, and who is right and who is wrong, but rather that the revelation of Moshiach overwhelm us in order that we clearly see the truth with our own two eyes – each of us – as we welcome Moshiach immediately and he redeem us NOW!

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