Torah Fax  
Friday - February 27, 2009 - 3 Adar, 5769

Torah Reading: Terumah (Exodus  25:1 - 27:19)
Candle Lighting Time 5:27 PM
Shabbat ends 6:27 PM

The Comforting Cedar   

When the Jewish people were told to build a Mishkan, portable Sanctuary, they were commanded to build it out of wooden cedar boards, which prompts the obvious question: Where did the Jews find such an ample supply of boards to build the Mishkan in the middle of the desert?


Rashi asks this very question and quotes the words of the Midrash: "Rabbi Tanchuma explains: Jacob our father foresaw with his Divine inspiration that the Jewish people were destined to build a Mishkan in the desert. When he came to Egypt he therefore brought cedar trees with him and planted them there. He subsequently commanded his children that when they will depart from Egypt they should take these cedars with them."


One of the most important teachings of Judaism is that everything we learn about in the Torah has eternal lessons for us. What, we are entitled to ask, is the lesson to be derived from the story of how Jacob brought trees and transplanted them in Egypt and ordered his children to carry them out of Egypt into the desert?


The desert where the Jews sojourned is symbolic of our own existence in exile. While exile has also been compared to the period of Egyptian bondage, there is a salient characteristic of exile that is best represented by the desert metaphor.


A desert is a desolate place, devoid of most life forms that can be found in other climates. In Deuteronomy, the Torah describes a desert as a place that is infested with deadly serpents and scorpions and a place that lacks water. These features serve as an analogy for the lethal negative spiritual influences that abound in exile conditions.


More specifically, from a Jewish parochial vantage point, the desert component of exile refers to the lack of interest in spiritual pursuits; the lack of interest in studying Torah, which has been compared to water. in addition, the insidious process of assimilation, wherein Jews are oblivious to their own heritage and, in some extreme cases, cease to identify themselves as Jews, can be connected to the lifeless aspects of the desert.. 


All this is what our Sages meant when they compared our existence in exile to a parched desert.


However, there is no reason for us to despair. On the contrary - where was G‑d's first commandment to build a Sanctuary for Him given if not in the desert?


This, however, begs the next question. How? How do we have the ability to transform a G‑d forsaken area and transform it into a Sanctuary for G‑d? 


The answer lies in what Jacob did. Jacob represents the ideal Jewish leader whose existence derives nourishment from Israel, the Holy Land, which transcends the mindset of exile.


Jacob took the souls of the righteous leaders that are compared to the majestic cedar trees and planted them in Egypt, in an exile situation. These righteous leaders enabled the Jews to rise above the terrible exile conditions.


No matter how difficult our lives may seem, materially and especially spiritually, we can be comforted (the author of the foregoing Midrash was Rabbi Tanchuma, the root of his name means consolation and comfort) by the idea that G‑d has transplanted the cedar-souls of Israel, into our generation.


Our generation has been blessed with the unprecedented guidance and leadership of the Lubavitcher Rebbe-who has served as a Rabbi Tanchuma, a rabbi and Sage who has provided the Jewish people and the entire world with words of comfort and strength to overcome the obstacles and build a Sanctuary for G‑d even in our heretofore parched desert.


Among all of the many forms of inspiration that have come from the Rebbe's leadership, the one that stands out is his declaration and incessant emphasis that our generation is poised to enter into a new era, the coming of Moshiach and the permanent departure from exile.


The Rebbe also stressed the need for us to prepare for this glorious new era, not by sitting back and waiting for it to unfold, but to be a part of the change, by living our lives now in a "Messianic manner." This means simply, to live a life that is imbued with increased goodness, kindness and a pursuit of all that is holy and G‑dly. All of these efforts are the stuff from which the third Holy Temple will be built from, with the imminent coming of Moshiach.

Moshiach Matters


Though the Talmud says that “in the future time, Mitzvahs will be annulled” (Nidah 61b), this is to be understood in the figurative sense: the degree of Divine energy elicited by the performance of Mitzvahs today is exponentially inferior to the degree of G‑dly light that will be brought about by the fulfillment of the Mitzvahs in the age of Moshiach. (The Rebbe Rashab, 5th Rebbe of Chabad)


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