An Uncomfortable Letter, To Help You Find Comfort: Rabbi on Pittsburgh

B"H

Peace & Blessings,

As I just finished Sunday morning Hebrew school, I needed to sit down and write this.

Staring at the beautiful children braiding Challah with Aliza, learning about the first Jewish woman Sarah and her daughter-in-law Rivkah, seeing the loving parents nachas apparent in their broad smiles at their children’s Jewish experience, the concept of Jewish continuity and horrors of this past Shabbos are still seared into my Soul.

The eleven Souls that were murdered - just for being Jewish - is unfortunately nothing new.

It’s just new in America.  

If you are looking to the U.S.A. to solve the problems that have faced the Jewish people for 4,000 years, you’re looking in the wrong place. I wish I could have told my ancestors four generations ago this.

They thought through assimilation, economic opportunity, cultural success they could escape and transform the horrors of Europe here in the U.S.  Today we think through social media, voting, social awareness, politics, humanitarian causes that we can end antisemitism and change the world. We are ALLwrong.

We see this clearly from the events in Pittsburgh on Shabbos.  

The uncomfortable fact - the elephant in the room at every Synagogue board meeting, Jewish Federation, “Never Again” slogan - is that they will always hate us.  Not for being observant, not for being assimilated - just for being Jewish.

Sorry folks, no anti-gun legislation or ‘right to bear arms’, no statements or lawsuits, Bills in Congress or Executive Orders, or even interfaith dialogues or insular Jewish neighborhoods are going to save us.

This tragedy, these horrific murders of Jewish people must be a catalyst for real, meaningful and lasting change for good.

So what is the answer?

There is only one answer.  It’s found in the Passover Haggadah.

"This is what has stood by our fathers and us! For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!"

G-d, HaShem, The One Above, Al-mighty wants us to bring Moshiach now.  
THIS IS REAL.

Moshiach is a real person. The redemption he brings is real.

The way to bring this change is real, too.  It’s through strengthening Torah study, through Mitzvahs as prescribed in the Torah.  Adjusting our lives - inside and out - accordingly, brings about personal, communal, and global freedom.  We are able to attain this freedom more now than ever before in our history.

Freedom that this country affords us has been the best and worst of challenges for our people. Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion. Voting is not a Mitzvah. Assimilating is not American. If your life changes so drastically by the person elected, it is you that is letting them affect you. Right, Left or Center, they’re not going to save you, your children, or the world. Nor can they irreparably harm it.

G-d is going to reveal for us Moshiach very soon - He perhaps even has, as we see in the Rebbe. Moshiach will end this bitter exile that we are experiencing inside ourselves and as it’s reflected in the horrors of exile in the world. We need to reclaim for ourselves the Jewish concept of Moshiach.  It starts with learning about it, which in turn leads to living it, which leads to experiencing Moshiach as a reality.

So practically, today - WHAT CAN I DO?

You want to do something? Do a Mitzvah from the Torah.

You want a vigil? Go to Shabbos Minyan.

You want unity? Wrap yourself in Tefillin, meditate, become centered.

You want to be informed, awareness, ‘woke’? Study Torah.

You want to ‘post’ something meaningful? Post a Mezuzah on your door.

You want to change your profile image? Change your inner profile and show the world the image of an observant Jew.

You want a leader to change things? Moshiach Now!

This is the Jewish way to combat darkness - to spread light!  The light that has been given to us by G-d Al-mighty.

Blessings & Success, 

Rabbi Chanan Krivisky

Rabbi donated a kidney. You kiddin' me?? A New Year's message.

Dear friends, 
As we approach Rosh HaShana 5779, and head into a month permeated by the Jewish festivals that impact our entire year, we are reminded that in one moment, one action, one speech, even with one thought, a person can change the entire trajectory of their life.
The vast majority of our endeavors take time, and are not ensured of success, even after exerting much effort.
Yet a Jewish person has the ability, with proper resolve and determination, in 'one moment', to rectify completely all failures and deficiencies, and to resolve to strengthen all successes and harness all strengths.
This called 'Teshuvah'. 
As many of you know, I donated a kidney 1½ months ago.  Why? Who? How? Whaaat? 
You'll have to come to services or better yet, a Shabbos meal to get the story.  But the most important lesson I came away with through the entire process is something that I in fact knew all along, and actually lived by, yet now realize as a deeper reality. That is - 'live in the moment'.
'Living in the moment' might seem cliché, and it does not mean #yolo or divorcing oneself from reality or responsibilities. The opposite is true. It means it means actualizing that which you are meant to do at every given moment.
It was revealed to me that I had an ability (that I might argue came with a responsibility). I was given a task, not easy. None of which I knew of before, yet when confronted with this reality - would I answer the call? I now seek to apply these conditions to every situation in my life.
By removing all constraints of the past, leaving the future, to well, the future, and concentrating sincerely on one's rai·son d'ê·tre - reason for being - we embue life with purpose, resolve and meaning. 
"How?", you may ask.
'Teshuvah' is perhaps the most powerful tool we have in achieving the best of ourselves.
Through earnest introspection, profound regret and the greatest of joy we can transcend the element of time and the whole physical world, and in 'one moment' it transforms the entire past and sets the proper stage for the whole future.
We are given this capability to by G-d, and it's special preeminence is accentuated this time of year before and during the High Holidays.  Though one can do 'Teshuvah' all year long, this time of year is set aside for our return to our roots and essence.
When we hasten to do 'Teshuvah', immediately we experience redemption. We are assured that G-d 'reciprocates in kind' and in a most generous measure. 
May G-d's blessing pour down without limit, overflowing! That all good resolutions be fulfilled entirely and in the most complete measure, increasing further into being "Inscribed and sealed for good" for us and all Israel.  
Blessings for L'Shana Tova, for a good and sweet year materially and spiritually, 
Rabbi Chanan Krivisky

Feast of Moshiach

The Eighth Day of Pesach: The Feast of Mashiach

Transforming the Belief in Mashiach into Reality

Mashiach’s Seudah is intended to deepen our awareness of Mashiach and enable us to integrate it into our thinking processes. The twelfth article of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith is,4 “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Mashiach. Even if he delays, I will wait every day for him to come.” Though all believing Jews accept this principle intel­lectually, for many the concept of Mashiach remains an ab­straction. Partaking ofMashiach’s Seudah reinforces our belief in this principle, translating our awareness of Mashiach into a meal, a physical experience which leads us to associate this concept with our flesh and blood.

The Baal Shem Tov’s linking of our awareness of Mashiach to the physical is significant because it prepares us for the revelations of the Era of the Redemption. In that Era, the G‑dliness that is enclothed within the physical world will be overtly manifest; as the prophet Isaiah declared, “And the glory of G‑d will be revealed and all flesh will see it together.”5 At that time, “the glory of G‑d” will permeate even the physical aspects of the world — “all flesh.”

Chassidus explains6 that the preparations for a revelation must foreshadow the revelation itself. Since, in the Era of the Redemption, the revelation of G‑dliness will find expression even in the physical world, it is fitting that our preparation for these revelations be associated with physical activities such as eating and drinking.

Transforming the Worldly

Mashiach’s Seudah, as mentioned above, is held on the Eighth Day of Pesach. The Torah originally commanded us to celebrate Pesach for seven days. When our people were exiled, however, a certain degree of doubt arose regarding the exact date on which the holidays should be celebrated. To solve the problem of determining the Jewish calendar in exile, our Sages added an extra day to each festival. In other words, the Eighth Day of Pesach had been an ordinary day, but through the power endowed by the Torah, the Jewish people were able to transform it into a holy day.

When Mashiach comes, a similar transformation will oc­cur throughout all of creation. Even the material and mun­dane aspects of the world will reveal G‑dliness. Celebration of Mashiach’s Seudah on the Eighth Day of Pesach — once an ordinary day, now transformed — anticipates the kind of transformation that will characterize the Era of the Redemp­tion.

Why the Baal Shem Tov?

That the Baal Shem Tov originated the custom of Mashiach’s Seudah is particularly fitting. Once in the course of his ascent to the heavenly realms on Rosh HaShanah,7 the Baal Shem Tov encountered the Mashiach and asked him, “When are you coming?” The Mashiach replied, “When the wellsprings of your teachings spread outward.”

The goal of the Baal Shem Tov’s life was to prepare us for Mashiach, and the institution of Mashiach’s Seudah was part of that life’s work.

The Contribution of Chabad

Like many other teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, the custom of conductingMashiach’s Seudah was explained and widely disseminated by the successive Rebbeim of Chabad. Moreover, in 5666 (1906) the RebbeRashab (the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe) added a new element to Mashiach’s Seudah, the drinking of four cups of wine.8

During the time of the Baal Shem Tov, the main ingredi­ent of Mashiach’s Seudah was matzah. The tasteless flatness of matzah symbolizes selfless humility, a desire to transcend oneself. Wine, by contrast, is flavorful and pleasurable, and thus symbolizes the assertiveness of our individual personali­ties. Combining matzah and wine in Mashiach’s Seudah teaches us that self-transcendence does not require that we erase our personal identities.

Self-transcendence may be accomplished within each in­dividual’s nature. A person can retain his distinctive character and identity, yet dedicate his life to spreading G‑dliness in­stead of pursuing personal fulfillment. Once he has funda­mentally transformed his will, an individual can proceed to a more complete level of service of G‑d in which his essential commitment permeates every aspect of his personality.

This innovation of the Rebbe Rashab exemplifies the comprehensive contribution of Chabad Chassidus to the leg­acy of the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov taught each Jew how to reveal his essential G‑dly nature and thus rise above his personal identity. Chabad, an acronym for the Hebrew words Chochmah, Binah and Daas (“wisdom, under­standing and knowledge”), brings the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings into the realm of the intellect, allowing them to be integrated and applied within each individual’s personal framework.

The Mission of Our Generation

Our generation has been charged with the responsibility of making all Jews aware of Mashiach — and this includes the custom of conductingMashiach’s Seudah. This mission is par­ticularly relevant in our day, for the Jewish people have completed all the divine service necessary to enableMashiach to come. As the Previous Rebbe expressed it, “We have al­ready polished the buttons.”9 Mashiach is waiting: “Here he stands behind our wall, watching through the windows, peering through the crevices.”10The walls of exile are already crumbling, and now, in the immediate future,Mashiach will be revealed.

There are those who argue that speaking openly about the coming ofMashiach may alienate some people. The very op­posite is true. We are living in the time directly preceding the age of Mashiach. The world is changing and people are will­ing, even anxious, to hear about Mashiach. It is thus our duty to reach out and involve as many people as possible in the preparations for his coming.

These endeavors will escalate the fulfillment of the prophecies of theHaftorah recited on the Eighth Day of Pesach:11 “A shoot will come forth from the stem of Yishai..., and the spirit of G‑d will rest upon him” — with the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our days.

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pp. 272-278; the Sichos of the Last Day of Pesach, 5722