Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Tzaddik enables us to reveal G–dliness and overcome boundaries in our personal service of G–d. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains:

There are times designated for Torah study and prayer, and times designated for engaging in mundane matters, as it is written, “In all your ways [i.e., mundane parts of one’s life], know Him.”[1] However, the ultimate goal is that one abolish this division, such that the light of Torah and prayer illuminates one’s mundane affairs as well, and one comes to know G–d in all one’s ways in a way similar to one’s spiritual state while engaging in Torah study and prayer. ...

This is the connection with the redemption and miracle of 12 Tammuz [when the Previous Rebbe was miraculously released from prison], for it is known that G–d relates to the world in two ways: through nature and through miracles.[2] From the perspective of Seder Hishtalshelus [the orderly chain of the spiritual worlds], the natural and the miraculous are removed from each other. This is the reason that one who recites Hallel daily is considered a blasphemer,[3] for miraculous divine behavior, on account of which one recites Hallel, is contrary to the standard natural manner in which G–d treats the world.

However, this is only from the perspective of Seder Hishtalshelus, which stems from divine strictness, for our Sages say that the world was created through the attribute of judgment.[4] However, G–d then saw that the world couldn’t last, so he partnered the attribute of compassion along with the attribute of judgment.

The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya[5] that this divine compassion is expressed through “the revelation of G–dliness by Tzaddikim and signs and miracles.” This is the idea of abolishing the partition and division between the natural and the miraculous, such that even in nature, miracles are elicited in an open fashion.

These miracles infuse the Jewish people with strength in serving G–d, enabling them to abolish the partition between mundane matters and Torah and prayer, such that the light of one’s Torah and prayer shines even in one’s mundane matters. This reaches the point that they reveal G–dliness even in physical objects, as it is written, “The glory of G–d will be revealed and together all flesh will see that the mouth of G–d has spoken.”[6] This means that the flesh itself will perceive G–dliness, just as the Neshama sees G–dliness before it is vested in a body, and to an even greater extent.

All this is accomplished through signs and miracles performed by the Tzaddikim, who elicit the miraculous into the natural. This is also what occurred “in those days, at this time.”[7]

[1] Mishlei 3:6.

[2] See Ohr HaTorahBereishis, 18b.

[3] Shabbos 118.

[4] Rashi on Bereishis 1:1. Bereishis Rabba 12:15.

[5] Shaar HaYichud Veha’Emunah ch. 5.

[6] Yeshaya 40:5.

[7] I.e., when the Previous Rebbe was miraculously released from Soviet imprisonment, inspiring Jewry to overcome the challenges that they faced in Jewish observance under communist rule.

Sefer HaMa’amarim 5717-5718-5719, p. 470.

In my own words: When the Tzaddik performs miracles and suspends the division between the natural and the miraculous, he grants the Jewish people the ability to transcend the natural divisions in their personal lives, such that one’s inspired state while engaged in Torah study and prayer continues the entire day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I’ve translated the whole of this letter of the Rebbe because although some of it is not so relevant to the blog topic, it’s needed in order to know the context of the section that is relevant.

To the administration of Kfar Chabad,

Peace and blessing! ...

The lack of obedience in Kfar Chabad, and the disorganization that this leads to, cause me tremendous pain. I am not sure of the solution for this, for it would appear that the solution is simply to reach a recognition, which means an internal understanding and sensation, that Kfar Chabad carries the name of Chabad, and when it was founded it received the blessing of the [Previous] Rebbe, my father-in-law, for this. It is well known that while still alive he said here, that he leads it [Kfar Chabad] himself. Thus, you must all regard all matters related to Kfar Chabad as relevant to fulfilling the desire and will of the [Previous] Rebbe, my father-in-law, and honoring his name. This is not a personal matter.

The practical consequences of this are twofold:

In the positive sense: This is his [the Previous Rebbe’s] personal task, and he is the Nasi HaDor [Leader of the Generation]—meaning that all the flows of blessing related to our generation flow through him, and not only spiritual flows, but even physical ones. For as is known, this is the function of a Nasi—that he elicits all the flows of blessing for the generation without exception. Therefore it was necessary for even the physical meat of the generation of the desert to be elicited via Moshe Rabeinu [the Nasi of that generation]. (It is true that he said, “From where will I have meat?”[1] [which apparently implies that he was not a conduit for that type of physicality]. However, Chassidus explains that he said, “From where will I have meat?” [This indicated that he recognized that the blessing did need to come via him, and he was only questioning how this would occur in that particular situation.]) [Thus,] one receives his flow of blessing—provided the channels used conform to his [the Previous Rebbe’s] wish and desire—successfully, i.e., in a manner that transcends the natural order, and one may then use it for healthy, happy things.

In the other sense: Inappropriate behavior increases the power of the “other side” [a reference to the forces of Kelipah, i.e., concealment of G–dliness] not only in one’s own environment, but also in the environment of the Nasi HaDor. Thus, this affects the community to a far greater extent than the [general principle that] “All Jews are responsible for one another.”[2] It is unnecessary to elaborate upon this, for the matter is sufficiently straightforward, especially for those who have been involved in the teachings of Chassidus, and have an appreciation of the notion of Hiskashrus [bonding with a Tzaddik].

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 6, p. 257.

[1] Bamidbar 11:13.

[2] Shovuos 39a.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Short but powerful:

When Reb Hillel Paritcher taught the first chapter of Tanya concerning tzaddikim, beinonim, and resha’im, Reb Hillel explained what is a Rebbe, saying that a beinoni is finite, a tzaddik is infinite, and a Rebbe is the infinite within the finite.

Nitzutzei Ohr p. 47.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reb Rafael Nachman Kahn relates:

My mother related to me:

Once when the Rebbe Rashab and his son were in the country near Liozna, I was there as well. At the time I was pregnant.

One day I was walking with a chicken in my hand to the shochet, and in the other hand I was carrying my son’s hand, so I would be able to reach the shochet, who lived on the mountain.

The Rayatz was then sitting on the balcony, and when he saw a woman in such a situation (he did not know who I was then), walking with difficulty with a child and a chicken in my hands, he stopped me and said, “If you wish, I will slaughter the chicken for you.” In this way he saved me the walk to the shochet.

Here we see the tremendous ahavas Yisrael of our holy Rebbe’im.

Shemu’os V’Sipurim, Vol. 1, p. 193.

Some people only learn the lesson of a Rebbe’s superior powers of perception the hard way:

A Lubavitcher student told me [Rabbi Rafo’el Nachman Kahn] the following story. He had been a shochet[1] in one of the settlements near Moscow, and a dispute arose against him, and his opponents wrote to the Previous Rebbe, and the young man also wrote to him. The Previous Rebbe instructed him to give up slaughtering. The shochet was very angry at the Previous Rebbe, because on the surface there was no reason to warrant this prohibition.

When the Previous Rebbe was in Moscow, the shochet visited him for Yechidus in the house of Reb Chaim Zalman Gordon. When he left Yechidus, he told me that he had demanded of the Previous Rebbe, “Why had he been forbidden to slaughter? What had disqualified him?” The Previous Rebbe responded: “It is written, ‘For man sees [what is] before [his] eyes, and G–d sees the heart.’[2] We [referring to himself] are connected with the second half of the verse.” Once the Rebbe said this to him, he did not ask further.[3]

Shemu’os V’Sipurim, Vol. 1, p. 204:2.

[1] Ritual slaughterer.

[2] I Shmuel 16:7.

[3] The Previous Rebbe sensed that this shochet was not fit for his position, which requires exceptional fear of G–d.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Previous Rebbe discusses the dynamic of the Rebbe/chossid relationship:
One of the novelties that Chassidus introduced was that chassidim have a Rebbe, and they live with a saying, a gesture, or a melody of the Rebbe.

When a chossid hears a saying, a gesture, or a melody of the Rebbe, at that moment his Nefesh, Ru‘ach, and Neshamah [the three levels of the soul that are vested in a body] are connected to the Rebbe.

When one reviews an aphorism that the Rebbe said, or a melody that he sang, even if one only reviews the saying superficially, this is called “a knock on the door.”

The “knock on the door” indicates that he is here, and wants to come in. One will not knock on the door if he has no desire to enter; no one would have such arrogance, G–d forbid, to knock and not wish to enter. He is not such a type of person; rather, [he is acting] superficially. This is called “knocking on the door.”

The “knock on the door” is when a person with a chassidishe education says, “Rebbe, I’m yours. I devote myself to you completely. It is only that the sly one, who is ‘clever for doing evil’ [cf. Yirmiyahu 4:22], the evil inclination, who wants to deceive me, and put me in a sack. I do not want this. I am yours; I want to be as you desire. Have pity on me, Rebbe, extract me from where I am, and bring me to stand where I should be.”

Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. 3, p. 516.
Summary: The very act of reviewing an aphorism or a melody of one’s Rebbe, even if done half-heartedly, is a “a knock on the door,” i.e., it establishes a connection between the chossid and his Rebbe and indicates that the chossid desires to connect further with his Rebbe and receive from him even more deeply, and that this is his true desire, even if he falls occasionally, and that he asks the Rebbe to pull him out of the low spiritual state in which he finds himself.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The sublime level of a Rebbe can benefit a skeptic too:
Once someone came to the Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek and complained that he harbors doubts in Hashem. The Tzemach Tzedek asked him, “are you afraid of the king?”

“Have you ever seen the king?”

“No, never.”

“So why are you afraid of him?”

“My brother told me that he once saw the king.”

“Do you believe me?”


“If so ... ”

Shemu’os V’Sipurim, Vol. 3, p. 171.
Summary and lesson: The Hebrew word for world is olam, which is etymologically related to the word he’elem, concealment. We live in a world of tremendous spiritual darkness, and this darkness can weaken our faith and devotion to Hashem. In contrast, a Rebbe can “see” G-dliness in the sense that he relates to it as a reality; thus, by connecting with him, we too can come to “see” G-dliness to a significant extent, thereby strengthening our faith in Hashem, and making Him more of a tangible reality in our daily lives.

What is the impact of the actions of a Rebbe on the world? The Rebbe explains:

The reason that my father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, related this episode[1] and instructed that it be publicized is in order to increase the spiritual energies endowed to each and every Jew to accomplish this. Since the episode occurred with a “Nasi,”[2] of whom it is written: “The Nasi is everyone,”[3] it endows spiritual energy within every single Jew. This is especially so since it did not just take the form of a verbal Torah discourse, but of an action.[4] Moreover, the fact that it was revealed and publicized by a Nasi increases this endowment of spiritual energies further still.

Sefer HaMa’amarim Melukat, Vol. 4, p. 26.

[1] See there for the specific episode and its lesson.

[2] The Leader of the Generation.

[3] I.e., his soul includes all the souls of his generation. See Rashi on Bamidbar 21:21 and Likutei Sichos, Vol. 18, p. 165.

[4] cf. Bava Basra, 130b.

The Rebbe repeated the same message on many occasions, in connection with many stories. Based on to the above, let us define levels of events:

  • Everything a Jew sees and hears holds a lesson, as the Baal Shem Tov teaches.
  • An episode that occurs to the Nesi’ei HaDor, the Leaders of the Generation. Here the lesson is even stronger, for the very fact that it happened to them affected the entire generation and endowed the people of that generation with extra inner strength—even if they don’t know it. Thus, when the story is told, even by a non-Nasi, the episode has an even greater impact.
  • When the Nesi’ei HaDor related and publicized the story of the event themselves, the event had an even greater impact on the generation. (This apparently implies that retelling these stories holds special priority and can have a special impact.)

Thus, an episode that occurred with one of the Rebbeim has already had an impact on the entire generation, and has a special power to inspire the generation further. Let us take advantage of this sublime divine gift and study these stories carefully, deriving the necessary lessons and implementing them.