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Saturday, May 25, 2019 20 Iyar 5779


The first Lubavitch/Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya and Code of Jewish Law, once remarked that a Jew must "live with the times." His son explained the meaning: A Jew must live with the Torah portion of the week - i.e., he must assimilate the lessons of the weekly Torah portion
Faith with Joy
In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah introduces the commandment to observe the Sabbatical year, when no sowing and harvesting is permitted. The Torah then promises that if we keep this commandment, “…You shall dwell securely on the land. The land will give its fruit, and you will eat your fill; you will dwell securely on it.”
The Torah then raises the following hypothetical question: “If you will say: What will we eat in the seventh year? Behold! We will not sow and not gather in our crops!”
To this the Torah gives a response: “I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three-year period. You will sow in the eighth year, but you will eat from the old crop; until the ninth year, until the arrival of its crop, you will eat the old.”
Commentators are puzzled that the hypothetical challenge of a skeptic that was included in the Divine narrative! When G-d commands us to observe the Sabbath the Torah does not give voice to the many skeptics who reject the commandment. Why does the Torah single out this commandment to address the likely challenge of the skeptics?
The Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos vol. 27, p. 184) notes that the precise wording of the Torah is not “if you will say,” but “when will you say.” In other words, the Torah is predicting that it is inevitable that we will ask that question, implying that it is a positive question that should be asked.
    The Rebbe explains that rather than viewing the questioner as a skeptic, we should view him or her as an inquisitive person, much like the Wise son of the Passover Haggadah who asks about the meaning of all the commandments. His interest is not to challenge the observances of Passover but rather to understand what they are all about.
Similarly here, the Rebbe elaborates, the question is not how it will be possible for us to observe the Sabbatical year. Rather the question is: how is G-d going to provide for our needs under these circumstances.
The fact that this “sophisticated” question is mentioned specifically in the context of the eve of the Sabbatical year suggests that it conveys a message for us as we stand in the end of the sixth millennium poised to enter into the Age of Redemption, which parallels the Sabbatical year.
What is the lesson for our times?
We too have good reason to ask a multifaceted question of G-d. Why are we still in Galus? Why is there still suffering in the world? Why hasn’t the third and final Beis HaMikdash been built? Why can’t we see our Rebbe?
Our question, why are we still in exile, can be approached in three ways.
The first, undesirable, approach is to become frustrated, angry and depressed. As a consequence of this negative attitude, the person may lose faith and become lax in doing those very things that will hasten the Redemption.
The second approach is to focus on what is our proper course of action. What should we do to prepare ourselves and hasten the Redemption? The answer includes the emphasis on learning the Torah’s teachings about Redemption and Moshiach to condition our minds to think in Moshiach-oriented fashion and to translate that sensitivity into our behavior. Or, as the Rebbe put it: “Live with Moshiach!”
And while this approach is certainly commendable, every second we remain in exile we must look for the spiritual “adventure” that G-d certainly had in mind for us in our temporary “detour” and take advantage of this unique opportunity. This realization—coupled with the trust that we will imminently be shown the express route to the Beis HaMikdash—should bring us tremendous joy.
There is, however, an important caveat. Even as we express our joy at the new adventures we confront, we simultaneously must cry out to G-d and demand that He relieve the pain and suffering of His people. The Rebbe emphasized that we must alternate between crying out with the words “ad masai-how much longer?” and the joy of knowing that we are living in Messianic times.


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