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Friday
Jun132014

ADDING CONVERTS IN EXILE

“The Alm-ghty only exiled the Jewish people among the Gentile nations in order to add to them converts.” “Coverts” alludes to and signifies the sparks of holiness present in all aspects of the world. * This approach of taking a foothold in the place of our dispersal brings about fortitude and success in our avoda. * From Chapter Six of Rabbi Shloma Majeski’s Likkutei Mekoros (Underlined text is the compiler’s emphasis.)

Translated by Boruch Merkur

HOW ARE WE MORE READY NOW THAN EVER?!

1. We have mentioned many times recently, especially on the last occasion, that according to all the signs, we are presently in the last generation of exile and of consequence, the first generation of redemption. The basis for this claim is that we have already completed all aspects of serving G-d, and we now stand ready for the true and compete redemption through Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

There are those who ask: The redemption is dependent upon the preparedness of the entire world – not just one person or a few individuals, not even one part of the world, but the entire world. The entire world must be ready because the redemption is connected with and dependent upon gathering the exiles of the Jewish people from the four corners of the earth, as well as refining the gentile nations of all the countries of the world.

In what sense – people ask – is the world different now, that it is said to be more prepared for the redemption than the previous generations?!

AN ACT OF TZ’DAKA BY DISPERSING US AMONG THE NATIONS

2. The answer emerges from a discussion of the reason underlying the Jewish people’s long history of journeying in exile from place to place:

Superficially, the dispersal of the Jewish people throughout the various countries of the world (“alienated and dispersed among the nations”) is a descent – and the greater the dispersal, the greater the descent. Nevertheless, our Sages say (P’sachim 87b), “The Alm-ghty did an act of tz’daka (righteousness, charity) by dispersing them among the Gentile nations.” The well known (inner) interpretation of this Talmudic adage sheds light on the matter: Settling in foreign lands and adopting their customs – (in a way that is permitted by Jewish law; for example, by speaking the national language when handling mundane affairs), in each place according to its manner, according to the qualities of the place, as well as its national character – benefits the avoda of the Jews of those places.

In this spirit, our Sages say, “When you go to a city, follow its customs.” In fact, the law is (Rambam’s Laws of Selling, 26:8): “The foremost rule regarding transactions is that you follow the terminology and customs of the people of the locale,” “The national custom is the principal rule in these matters.” Here Rambam refers to the national customs of gentiles (who comprise the majority of the inhabitants of the Diaspora), illustrating the benefit in utilizing their customs to serve G-d, in the spirit of, “All your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven,” and, “Know Him in all your ways” – even bringing about an increase in Torah and Mitzvos.

In Chassidic lexicon, interpreting the saying of our Sages, “The Alm-ghty only exiled the Jewish people among the Gentile nations in order to add to them converts”: “Coverts” alludes to and signifies the sparks of holiness present in all aspects of the world. “The Alm-ghty exiled the Jewish people” to various places in the world in order to refine, purify, and elevate the sparks that are situated in each place. Thus, “The Alm-ghty did an act of tz’daka by dispersing them among the Gentile nations,” for in this way they achieve through their avoda the virtue of refining the sparks of holiness present in (the customs of) each nation and in each place.

This then comprises the benefit in the dispersal of Jews throughout – and their residing in – a great variety of countries across the globe, described in the verse (where G-d blesses Yaakov), “You shall burst forth to the west, east, north and south”: Specifically through the inner avoda of Jews in all countries of the world (in each place according to its character), through their residing and living in the land and conducting themselves, in activities permitted by Jewish law, according to the national customs, a Jew (taking personal initiative) can accomplish the refinement and purification of each and every place according to its quality. In this manner, each location becomes a “dwelling place for G-d in the lower realms” – “lower realms” in the plural – each in accordance with its (place and its) nature. The impact of refugees, however, unsettled people, on the place is not the same – nor is the effect of those who extend influencing on a place from a distance – in comparison with the impact of those who live there in an established and settled way, and are familiar with the local customs.

SUCCESS BY FOLLOWING THE LOCAL CUSTOMS

Moreover, this approach of taking a foothold in the place of our dispersal brings about fortitude and success in our avoda, as is plainly understood, as follows. The reason for the difference of custom (according to Torah) between one country and another is on account of the special character of the country (the geographical quality, as well as the character of the people, and the like). Thus, when we conduct ourselves according to the national custom, which is in line with the character of the particular place, it is met with success. A Jew who lives in that place must, therefore, conducts himself according to the national custom, even utilizing these customs in his service of G-d. In this manner, he experiences greater success even in his service of G-d, in accordance with the customs of the place.

(The very fact that the law is that we must conduct ourselves according to the local customs, establishes that these customs become a Torah recognized manner of conduct. That is, when they in no way contradict Jewish law, the law itself obligates a Jew to conduct himself in accordance with the regional customs [at least] in business matters.)

(From the address of Shabbos Parshas VaYeishev, 23 Kislev, Mevarchim HaChodesh Teives; Seifer HaSichos 5752, pg. 114)

 

 

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