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Parshat Tetzaveh (5768)

In this week's Torah portion are eight commandments all of them relating to the Holy Temple. Two of them are lighting the Menorah and burning the incense.

Both were done once a day in the inner sanctum and both were replete with meaning and mystery.

And although we Jews haven't had the Temple for almost two thousand years these commandments are very vital to us:

1) According to the inner teachings of Kabala, especially as they are explained by Chassidic teaching each Jew can and must convert him/herself into a spiritual Holy Temple. And in this personal Temple are the services of the Menorah and the Incense.

2) Our fulfilling of the spiritual aspect will HASTEN the arrival of Moshiach who will rebuild the real physical Temple and gather all the Jews to Israel when we will again resume the actual Menorah and incense service!

In order to understand exactly what are these 'spiritual' menorah and incense services, here are two stories. The first is from Chabad Yagel, Kislev 5768.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe's wife Chaya Mushka, in addition to being a person of great holiness in her own right, was a very intellectual person regularly visited the library in Manhattan.

Once it so happened that when she took out a book the woman librarian who was helping her noticed the name 'Schneerson' on the withdrawal form and asked if she was any relation to the great Rabbi in Brooklyn.

When the answer was positive and the librarian inquired further she replied "He is my husband."

"Ahhh" The librarian sighed, "I once got a blessing from your husband. Two years ago I went to visit him and told him my problem. Unfortunately my husband and I have been married for almost ten years but still have not been blessed with children. And I was told that the Rebbe was a great and holy man and his blessings were pure and powerful.

"So I went and it was a very amazing experience. A very amazing man! I got a private audience with him and I asked him for a blessing for a child. He said that he would give me the blessing I wanted but blessings are like the rain; they require a proper vessel. So he said that I have to accept on myself to do a commandment

"I asked him which one and we agreed that I would light Shabbat Candles. In fact a long time ago in Europe when I was a girl my mother used to light them. So I started lighting Shabbat Candles and I've been doing it for two years. But, not that I regret lighting the candles, I am very happy that I began to light them! But for some reason the blessing didn't work. We still have no children."

The Rebbe's wife listened to the sad story and knew exactly how to comfort her. "I'm very sorry. And, believe me, I know exactly how you feel. You see… I also have no children. There are simply some things that we don't understand."

(Here I want to interject the second story; something I just heard from a Rabbi friend of mine who had a Chabad House in Russia. There he met an old man whose entire life had been a saga of tragedies (as it was with so many others that lived in those awful days) he had suffered the horrors of the holocaust then the tortures of Communist prison in Siberia, poverty, disease etc. but he summed up his life like this, "Rabbi, I want you to know that after all this I can honestly say I had a lot of difficulties but I never had a one bad day in my life. Not even one!

I had a lot of days that I didn't understand! But I never had a bad day!")

But the librarian's eyes filled with tears as she almost whispered. "But, I'm different. I'm a survivor. My family… I have no family… they were all wiped out in the holocaust… all of them. Only I survived. If I don't have children no one will be left….. no one. This is why it is so important for me to have children. It means continuing the family."

The Rebbe's wife thought for a few seconds and cautiously asked. "Tell me again. Exactly what did my husband tell you?"

She answered, "I asked him what commandment I should do and he told me to light Shabbat candles every Friday. So I agreed."

"Perhaps you missed one or two Shabbats?"

"No! I would never do that!" she replied. "It was the blessing! The blessing for children! I wouldn't dream of missing the blessing. Every Friday, without exception, when my husband came home from work I lit the candles."

"And when would he come home?" the Rebbe's wife asked.

"After work; at seven or eight o'clock in the evening… he would even put on a Yarmulke and watch. I covered my head and lit the candles… just like my mother used to do."

The Rebbe's wife understood what had happened and she explained the mistake. The woman obviously either did not know that the Shabbat begins at sunset and that it is forbidden to light fire on Shabbat.

So, instead of honoring the Shabbat she was unwittingly transgressing it!

The librarian thanked her, promised to correct the mistake and sure enough shortly after she began lighting properly she became pregnant and nine months later gave birth to… a boy. From then on they kept in constant touch, a close friendship developed between them and the librarian even visited the Rebbitzin's home in Crown Heights several times.

This answers our questions. The lamps of the Menorah made light for all to see while the incense is a fragrance that touches the inside of the soul. (When a person is unconscious often the only way to arouse him is with a strong smell. Light will certainly not help.)

Similarly there are two ways of serving G-d; external and internal.

The Menorah is external; arousing and giving birth to emotions; love, fear, awe, connection etc. in the service of the Creator in action, speech and thought. (Therefore there were seven branches corresponding to the seven emotions: love, fear etc.) Something like the Rebbe did to the librarian in our story.

But there is a deeper connection to G-d corresponding to the incense. Just as smell touches the essence of the soul so there is service from pure faith to the point of self-sacrifice… totally above understanding; like the old man in the second story.

Similarly Moshiach will arouse all mankind in these two ways: spreading the light of Judaism by teaching Torah and encouraging commandments to those who are vessels (like the librarian). But to those who are 'unconscious' (like the not yet conceived child of the librarian) Moshiach will awaken with prayer and blessings.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that we are ALL representatives of Moshiach: It is upon each of us to arouse everyone around us; especially every Jew, in every way possible.

To 'shine' in thought, speech and action and also to awaken the world with the 'fragrance' of redemption (Moshiach will judge by his sense of smell - Isaiah 11:3) namely from the essence of our souls to hope and pray and do all we can so that soon all mankind will see the building of the Third Temple with....

Moshiach NOW!

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