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Thursday
Nov142013

STARTING WITH THE ZOHAR

When I learned the sicha of Tazria-Metzora 5751, the words “starting with the book of the Zohar,” caught my attention. It gave me the idea of compiling statements from the Zohar that have to do with Inyanei Moshiach and Geula. * The popular lecturer and author on the topic of Moshiach, Rabbi Chaim Sasson, tells us about his new book, Zohar HaGeula.

Interview by Chaim Bruk

The book Zohar HaGeula has close to 700 pages packed with statements from the Zohar about the Geula and Melech HaMoshiach.

What made you decide to publish Zohar Ha’Geula?  

Some of your readers may be surprised, but in the past, Chabad Chassidim learned a section of Zohar every day. This appears in Seifer Minhagim (p. 21, in the footnotes). The source for this is the Rebbe Rayatz who writes, “In days gone by, in addition to the regular study of halacha established by the Alter Rebbe, every person learned daily: Chumash with Rashi, a chapter of Mishnayos, two chapters of Tanach, an amud of Gemara, a s’if in Shulchan Aruch, and a paragraph of Midrash and Zohar.”

In general, there are many statements from our Rebbeim about learning Zohar. In the brief maamarim of the Alter Rebbe it says, “… The advice for this is to learn Zohar, because the word “Zohar” is from the root that means to glow, to shine in the place of darkness etc. And as far as the rest of his learning, it should be in the following manner. One who is a busy businessman, most of his learning should be in the holy Zohar even though he doesn’t understand it … it is a segula.”

In the HaYom Yom for 16 Teves it says, “The Tzemach Tzedek told Reb Hendel at Yechidus: “Study of Zohar exalts the soul …” The Tzemach Tzedek even wrote a commentary on the Zohar entitled Biurei Zohar.

There are dozens of other quotes from our Rebbeim about learning Zohar but what I’ve referred to thus far is enough to show that learning Zohar is nothing new for Lubavitcher Chassidim.

However, with the spread of the teachings of Chassidus and the numerous maamarim of the Rebbeim explaining statements in the Zohar in a way of chochma, bina, and daas, Chassidim learned the statements of the Zohar as they are elucidated by Chassidus Chabad. They slowly stopped learning Zohar itself. In the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh there are a number of letters that the Rebbe writes to people, telling them to learn Zohar as it appears in the teachings of Chabad.

THE REBBE SAID TO LEARN ABOUT GEULA IN THE HOLY ZOHAR

If the Rebbe writes that Kabbala should be learned as it is explained in Chassidus, why did you publish a book that consists entirely of quotes from the Zohar?

When it comes to learning about the Geula, the Rebbe explicitly instructed us to learn the subject as it appears in the Zohar!

In the sicha of Tazria-Metzora 5751, in which the Rebbe tells us to learn Inyanei Geula, the Rebbe mentions a few main sources where the Geula is mentioned in Nigleh of Torah and then he adds that Inyanei Geula “are also, and especially, found in p’nimius ha’Torah starting with the Zohar (regarding which it says, ‘with this work of yours, which is the Seifer HaZohar… they will go out with it from galus with mercy’).” He concludes there that “additional learning of Torah on the subject of Moshiach and Geula is the ‘straight path’ toward bringing about the hisgalus and the actual coming of Moshiach and the Geula.”

In this sicha, it is obvious that the Rebbe means for us to learn from the Zohar itself and not just the excerpts that are explained in Chassidus, for after the Rebbe mentions learning in the Zohar he adds, “and especially in the teachings of Chassidus … in the teachings of our Rebbeim.” That means that we need to learn Inyanei Moshiach and Geula as they appear in the Zohar as well as in the teachings of Chassidus.

Now that I’ve compiled 566 entries from the Zohar that deal with Geula, we can more readily understand why the Rebbe emphasized learning about the Geula from the Zohar. It’s because there is a lot of material on the subject in the Zohar that was not explicated by our Rebbeim and it doesn’t make sense that in the “straight way” to bring the Geula, we should learn Inyanei Geula in all s’farim except for the Zohar about which it says, “with this work of yours, which is the Seifer HaZohar… they will go out with it from galus with mercy”).

WORK FOR AN
ENTIRE TEAM

In that sicha, the Rebbe urges the learning of Inyanei Moshiach in all parts of Torah, so what inspired you to focus on the Zohar?

Before I became a Lubavitcher, I learned in Mekor Chaim, a yeshiva of mekubalim. I was close with Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu z”l. At a certain point, thanks to R’ Eliyahu, I became involved with Chabad Chassidus and the Rebbe. When I learned the sicha of Tazria-Metzora 5751, it was only natural that those words, “starting with the Zohar” caught my attention. It gave me the idea of compiling statements in the Zohar that have to do with Inyanei Moshiach and Geula. 

I took out the nine volumes of the Zohar that I had on the Five Books of the Torah, Zohar Chadash, Tikkunei Zohar and the Igros. I used the indexes edited by R’ Edry and began looking for statements about the Geula. It was hard work and the type that is usually done by a team of people, but the Rebbe’s horaa spurred me on. Finding the sources was only the beginning. I learned them for the purpose of understanding where exactly the piece having to do with Geula begins and where it ends. Then I had to come up with a proper heading.

For the headings I tried to use a quote from the Zohar itself. I also had to decide which statements to include and I chose only those that explain an inyan in Geula and Moshiach.

The purpose of the book is to enable people to easily fulfill the Rebbe’s horaa, thus hastening the Geula.

THE SON-IN-LAW OF THE MASUK M’DVASH SEES IT AS A Z’CHUS

Are the statements of the Zohar quoted in your book translated and explained or is it only the original wording of the Zohar in Aramaic?

The editions of the Zohar that are in widespread use today are the Zohar with the commentary called Masuk M’Dvash (Sweeter than Honey) and the Zohar with a translation into Lashon HaKodesh which was published by the yeshiva for mekubalim – Nahar Sholom. As I worked on this project, I remained undecided about which edition I should use. At first I thought I would use the translation into Lashon HaKodesh which is a translation without a commentary.

But then I saw that the Rebbe spoke about the segula associated with the actual words of the Zohar (“For those who, for various reasons that are beyond his control, cannot be involved in this in a way of study, it is also a segula [just] to say the words”). So I decided to use the Zohar with the commentary of the Masuk M’Dvash, which brings the original wording of the Zohar and intersperses this with his commentary.

When I began to go over the sources I had found in this commentary, I discovered, to my surprise, that there are many other statements about the Geula that, without the commentary, are hard to understand.

I contacted the sons and son-in-law of the author, who is no longer alive. They have a team of people working on compiling various topics in the Zohar. At a certain point, I brought them all the sources I had compiled and I offered it to them, but time passed and nothing happened.

One day, I was returning to Crown Heights from a combined lecture/farbrengen in the Chabad house in Queens. The driver had a ponytail, and wore a jersey and jeans. On the way he said, “I found an interesting piece in the Zohar about the Geula. I took a picture of it and sent it to all my friends.”

I immediately said, “There is an entire book of statements from the Zohar about the Geula.” He was excited to hear about this and asked where he could get it. I had to disappoint him and tell him that it was still unpublished due to lack of funds.

“What?! There is a Rebbe in the world! He has no limitations. You’ve got to go ahead with it!”

I considered this a special hashgacha pratis and a sort of instruction from Above and I decided to do something. Upon arriving in Eretz Yisroel, I went to the office of the children of the Masuk M’Dvash in Meah Sh’arim. The previous time, I had not told them that this had anything to do with a horaa from the Rebbe. This time though, I said, “Your father’s commentary is the best, and this is a horaa from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that must be carried out in the best way possible.”

They immediately said, “It would be a great honor for us. Our father visited the Rebbe a number of times.”

A short while later, the son-in-law, who is in charge of editing the books, got back to me and was very excited about the project. “It will be a great Kiddush Hashem and a great privilege for us.” We sat together for hours and he gave me all the material I needed.

What connection did Rabbi Frisch, the author of Masuk M’Dvash, have with Chabad?

During the work on the book, I found out an interesting thing. At the beginning of each volume of Masuk M’Dvash, it says that the commentary was written by Rabbi Daniel Frisch z”l, and that he had learned the Zohar over a period of thirty years in the mosdos Mishkan Binyamin “Anshei Maamud.” This is a mosad for the study of Chassidus, among other things, and is named for the father of the mashpia, R’ Chaim Sholom Deitsch. His brother, R’ Deitsch, is the menahel of the yeshiva.

It seems as though, in the end, everything connects to the Nasi HaDor and this, apparently, is the reason why it worked out that Zohar Ha’Geula contains the commentary of the Masuk M’Dvash.

A “SWEET” ANSWER FROM THE REBBE AND A DREAM

I was particularly encouraged by the Rebbe through the following incident. As I waited to meet with a wealthy Lubavitcher in order to ask him to help cover the costs of the printing, I picked up a volume of Igros Kodesh that was lying there. I asked the Rebbe to give me a sign of encouragement. It was volume 10 and I opened it at random to page 249 where the Rebbe explains that Knessess Yisroel (the Sh’china as it is the spiritual source of the Jewish people) is compared to an abandoned woman whose “husband” has gone overseas with the intention of returning “as in the days of your going out of Egypt.” The Rebbe goes on to say: But it must be in a way of… and mesukim m’dvash (Chagiga 13a) [where it explains this verse as referring to] the study of the inner dimension of the Torah, which with it they will go out from galus with mercy (Zohar v.3 124b) when it will be revealed down below in the final generation, in the end of days. And because of that will be fulfilled “and I will proclaim liberty in the land” (Tikkunei Zohar, end of tikkun 6).

When I saw this, especially the words, “it needs to be mesukim m’dvash – sweet as honey,” I thought, it doesn’t matter whether the wealthy man will make a dedication; I’ve already gotten what I need.

One day, when I was in the midst of the exceedingly hard work on the index, after going to the mikva before Shacharis, I went out and was climbing the steps when an older, Sephardic man came over to me. I had no idea who he was but he said to me, “Can I tell you something?” I replied, “Gladly.”

Then he said to me, “I don’t know why I am telling this to you, but I have a feeling that I need to tell this to you. Last night I had a dream that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai came to me and said, ‘Why did you stop learning Zohar? You know that learning the Zohar hastens the Geula. Go back to this precious learning and publicize to whomever you can that learning the Zohar hastens the Geula.’ What do you say to that?”

I said, “It’s incredible, because over the years I spent a lot of time, on my own and on my radio broadcasts, publicizing this, and I am about to publish an entire book, Zohar Ha’Geula.” The man was dumbfounded. He said, “Now I understand why I was directed to speak to you.”

ZOHAR HA’GEULA – SPECIAL SEGULA

What makes this book special?

As I said, the purpose of the book is to enable people to easily fulfill the Rebbe’s horaa to learn Inyanei Moshiach and Geula in P’nimius HaTorah, “starting with the Zohar.” By learning it, a person is connecting to the Rebbe by fulfilling his horaa.

I once spoke at the Kinus HaShluchim and said that if a shliach finishes a lecture and his audience starts saying T’hillim as it is divided over the month as a result of his talk, even without learning Chumash and Tanya, he connected them to the Rebbe because they are fulfilling his horaa.

Today, the Zohar is considered a “hit.” All sorts of people, from all backgrounds, are getting interested in learning Zohar. Here is an opportunity for learning with understanding and comprehension. I left out most of the deep kabbala that is not necessary to understand the inyan. In places where I couldn’t leave it out, it appears in Rashi letters.

The Rebbe writes that the Zohar needs to be learned and he also writes of the segula aspect of merely reading the words, even if you don’t understand them. So the Zohar Ha’Geula is a double segula, not only being able to read the words about Inyanei Moshiach and Geula in the Zohar, but to learn it in a way of comprehension which is the “straight path” toward bringing the Geula.

As far as I’m concerned, it was worth publishing the entire book if only for the page with the excerpt from the D’var Malchus with the Rebbe’s horaa. The reader sees that an entire book was published as a result of a sicha of the Rebbe.

At the end of the introduction, I stated that those who want to understand the statements of the Zohar are advised to learn them as they are explained in the Rebbe’s teachings, in the “maamarim and Likkutei Sichos of Nasi Doreinu.”

REACHING YOUR
TARGET AUDIENCE

In your experience, how should a book be edited when the intended audience is the broader religious public?

In editing a book, I think of the variety of potential learners and try to see to it that the book attracts as many people as possible. So for example, I think about a Sephardic Jew who has a spiritual connection to kabbala. Inyanei Geula are a part of the mindset of a Sephardic Jew, as we know that all the liturgical poets and kabbalists who composed piyutim wrote about the Geula and the anticipation of the coming of Moshiach.

This is why, in the introduction to my book, I brought some interesting quotes from Rabbi Chaim Vital, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar and other great kabbalists, about the study of Zohar and the connection to the hisgalus of Moshiach. Then I quoted the Rebbe about learning the Zohar and the Geula. This enables everyone to relate to it and to be inspired to look forward to the Geula.

My previous book, Ohr Ha’Geula, is about Inyanei Geula in the teachings of the Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh. The purpose of that book is to connect the Ohr HaChayim, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, who wrote about himself, “Moshiach Hashem, his name is Chaim,” who was the Moshiach of his generation, and the final Moshiach, the Rebbe, who will actually redeem the Jewish people. I also bring the story about the printer who left out the Ohr HaChayim’s words, “Moshiach Hashem, his name is Chaim,” and the tzaddik who saw this and said (T’hillim 55:21), “He stretched forth his hands against him who was at peace with him; he profaned his covenant.” People read these quotes from the original sources and they get the message.

The approach is not to force feed the message but to present things pleasantly, including that which other g’dolim and mekubalim have to say. When the learner sees how widespread the subject is analyzed, and then he learns what the Rebbe says, he is more receptive to it.

I was once invited to speak in Natzrat Ilit and the hall was packed. When the event was over, some Lubavitchers went over to the one who organized the event, a guy who is affiliated with the Mizrachi movement and is not Chabad, and said to him, “Do you know who you brought? He’s a big Meshichist!” He said, “Of course I know who I brought. I don’t miss a single broadcast of his. He never says that the Rebbe is Moshiach but you’d have to be a fool not to understand that from what he says.”

INDEXES TO ALL INYANEI GEULA IN THE HOLY ZOHAR

The book was supposed to be published for Lag B’Omer. Why was it delayed?

The delay was due to unexpected reasons but good resulted from it. The rabbi of the Chabad community in Emanuel, R’ Chaim Kizner, heard about the book and told me that the Rebbe wants books to have an index so you can easily find what you’re looking for. I think the Rebbe mentioned this also in connection with learning Inyanei Moshiach and Geula.

Thanks to the delay, I worked not only on an index for this work, but also on an index to all the Inyanei Geula in the Zohar (even those not in the book) as well as an index of p’sukim and there are about 1800 p’sukim! It was very difficult work and thank G-d, I finished it.

While working, I discovered something interesting. The book contains the teachings of Rashbi, according to the horaa of the Rebbe, and unites the two. I realized that the words “HaRebbi Shimon ben Yochai” are numerically equal to 770.

Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to bring sources where the Zohar is explained in Chassidus?

I haven’t been able to do that yet. It’s a huge job that will take a long time and I didn’t want to delay the printing. But if someone will do it, I’d be happy to include it in the next edition, because ultimately, the goal is for the book to inspire the reader to learn the Zohar as it has been explained in Chassidus.

Do you have plans for other books?

I plan on publishing a book called Kol Tzofayich – the Ben Ish Chai on the Geula, and the Chida on the Geula. Maybe I’ll call that Chidas HaGeula.

Due to the demand for my book, Ata Yodaati, I plan on redoing it. And because of the great success of Bracha V’hatzlacha, I want to make a massive printing of an abridged edition, and maybe even with vowels, with a soft cover for mass distribution, because it connects people to the Rebbe. Also an abridged version of Vi’Kareiv Mishichei with the Rebbe’s advice and guidelines to hasten the Geula. And the book Ad Masai which is out of print, and a translation of some of the books into English and French. There are lots of plans; all that’s needed are supporters and Siyata D’Shmaya.

In conclusion:

Boruch Hashem, as of today, I have distributed over 40,000 s’farim on Inyanei Moshiach and Geula and I believe that the new book will stir things up, and perhaps as a result, others will publish additional anthologies. With Hashem’s help, everyone will join in following the Rebbe’s horaa to learn Inyanei Moshiach and Geula, and in this z’chus we will immediately merit the complete hisgalus.

 

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