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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chassidic Concepts: Acquiring a Master Quotes from the Rebbe's Sicha on Purim 5747 (1987)


The Rebbe writes about the qualification of a Rav (close to Moshe Rabbeinu's Yahrzeit):

This is one of the reasons for the recent stress on the Mishnah’s statement, ‘Make for yourself a Rav.’ Since the Rav is neutral and uninvolved, he will certainly be able to give sound advice.

Even with this advice, however, a person might complain that he’s unsure whether or not he chose a proper Rav. Here again, the Torah provides guidance, in a verse which also speaks of the pre-Messianic era (Malachi, 2:7), ‘ Torah from his mouth, because he is an angel of G‑d.’ The Talmud explains, ‘If he resembles an angel of G‑d, then ‘seek Torah from his mouth,’ and if he does not, then don’t.’

But how can one tell if the Rav resembles an angel of G‑d; one never even saw an angel of G‑d! Here again, the Torah provides guidance, in the works of the Rambam, where he describes the lives of angels: ‘there is no eating or jealousy, hatred or enmity.’

Therefore, in order to tell whether or not someone is fit to be a Rav, one must see if he fits this description. Is his spiritual life governed without influence of physical factors (corresponding to ‘no eating or drinking’)? Is he free of jealousy, hatred, etc.?

Of course, as always the Evil Inclination comes along with another objection — and one ‘according to the Torah’ (since it likes to conceal its true motives in the holy garb of a ‘silk kapote’). ‘Isn’t one of the signs of a true talmid chacham,’ claims the Evil Inclination, ‘that he is ‘vengeful like a serpent’?’ According to this reasoning, peaceful behavior would not be a correct way of identifying a qualified ‘Rav’!

Fortunately, the Torah also answers this clearly. When is it proper for a talmid chacham to behave in this way? Only when someone has shamed him publicly, and a general insult to the Torah is involved. However, should he be insulted in private, the Torah requires the exact opposite response. In the words of the Rambam, the way of talmidei chachamim is to ‘listen to insult without answering back; and furthermore to forgive the person who uttered the insult.’

Aside from these signs of a Rav, there is an obvious prerequisite: that the person has the signs indicative of a Jew in general. As the Talmud says, ‘This nation has three signs: they are merciful, bashful, and kind.’ Since these are called ‘signs,’ it is impossible that a person practice them only in private. To be considered a sign, the person must actually behave in these ways.

It should be reiterated that this process of choosing a proper Rav is associated with the necessity of having everything ‘clarified, refined, and purified’ — both regarding choosing the Rav and regarding his guidance in clarifying ambiguous cases.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chassidic Concepts based on Rebbe's Maamar for Shabat Parashat Yitro, Mevarchim Adar I 5732


Chassidic Concepts based on Rebbe's Maamar for Shabat Parashat Yitro, Mevarchim Adar I 5732

Two Kavim: Chesed and Gevurah

Torah is Machriah both of them.

Leviathan and Shor HaBor, Tzadik and Beinoni: Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

In the Rebbe's first Ma'amar for the Torah Portion of Shelach, delivered on the Shabat blessing the month of Tammuz, 5711, the Rebbe delves into why the Torah states that the decision to send the spies was dependent on Moshe's initiative, and what exactly would have been Moshe's rationale for sending spies given that he knew that the entrance and conquest of the Land of Israel would be miraculous in nature.

The Rebbe explains that the entrance into the Land of Israel first and foremost represented the beginning of the practical mitzvot. The Rebbe then explains what it is written in Likutei Torah (from the Alter Rebbe) that there are two kinds of Tzadikim (righteous individuals): those in the category of Leviatan and those in the category of Shor HaBor.

Leviatan comes from the word, Levayah (accompaniment), and represents connection, and it represents the Tzadikim that are involved primarily in spiritual "unifications" (Yehudim) The Leviathan is a fish, from the sea, which represents the hidden spiritual realm. An example of this kind of Tzadik would be Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai during his 13 years inside a cave with his son Elazar. There, Rabbi Shimon and his son performed the mitzvot in a spiritual way only. The Arizal was also a Leviathan type of Tzadik, as was the Baal Shem Tov as well.

Shor HaBor represents Tzadikim that are involved primarily with the practical, physical mitzvot. Shor means an ox, and there is a saying that "Rav Tvuot beKoach haShor," great produce comes with the strength of the ox. There is a special advantage to souls called "beasts of the land," as we see in the Heavenly Chariot (which had images of animals, such as the ox), and how the loftier one's spiritual source, the deeper into physicality it falls. Man is dependent on the food he eats because in truth the food comes from a higher spiritual source than himself.

Even Tzadikim in the Leviatan category have to perform the Divine service of physical mitzvot, unless there is a decree from above, as was the case with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

In the desert, the Jews' spiritual services was that of Leviatan Tzadikim, spiritual in nature. As they were now about to enter the service that involved physicality as well, they needed special assistance from Above, to receive additional strength. That was in fact the main purpose of Moshe sending out the spies, in order to additional strength from Above, in order to be involved in the service of Shor HaBor Tzadikim as well.

This specifically had to come from Moshe, who was complete nullified to Hashem, and could sense the higher level of involvement in the physical world. That is why, our sages explain, Moshe longed so much to enter the Land of Israel: to be able to perform the physical mitzvot connected to the Land itself.

The spies, although "kosher" individuals, did not have this same level of nullification. They did not sense the holiness of this service, and instead claimed that "the Land devoured its inhabitants" - it made them physical like the Land itself. Two of the spies, however, Caleb and Joshua, understood that it was in fact possible to elevate the physicality of the Land. These two spies were only able to come to this conclusion because they themselves were nullified to Moshe.

The Rebbe also compares mission of the spies that Moshe sent, compared to those sent by Joshua. Moshe's spies explored the entire Land and the 7 Canaanite nations that lived there. This is compared to the Divine service of the Tzadik, to fix the 7 Middot (also called Sefirot) in their essence. The mission of the spies of Joshua, however, are connected to the Beinoni (intermediary) only scouted Jericho, which comes from the word for Reiach, smell, and represents the rectification of only the outer garments of the soul: its thought, speech, and deed.

[The Tanya teaches that there are two kinds of service: that of the Tzadik (completely righteous) and that of the Beinoni (intermediary). The heart of the Tzadik is a like a Land that has been completely conquered. There is no Other, and therefore there is no struggle. The heart of the Beinoni is like a single Land with two competing governments, only one of which is preoccupied with Jewish causes. Neither should the Beinoni delude himself and think he is a Tzadik, nor should the fact that he is a Beinoni make him sad in any way, for it is exactly in this struggle that G-d finds the greatest joy. The Beinoni should also not ignore the Other, or even fail to help him in his time of need. On the contrary, he should raise the Other, and bring him along in the service of God. The Land of Israel today is like the heart of a Beinoni.]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"The Kabbalah of Time" Co-Author Featured in the Miami Herald


Aventura author presents book on Jewish pioneers’ struggles in Brazil

Email Ann Helen Wainer at


Aventura author Ann Helen Wainer gave a history lesson on the relationship between Jews and Brazilians as she presented her new book at the North Miami Beach Public Library last week.
In her book, Jewish and Brazilian Connections to New York, India and Ecology, she refers to her Brazilian homeland, which is where the first Jewish pioneers to New York came from.
With the history of persecution in Europe, Jews found refuge in Recife, Brazil, which was occupied by the Dutch. Government leaders allowed Jews to freely practice their religion.
But, after the Dutch lost their place in Brazil to the Portuguese, Jewish people no longer were tolerated and they began immigrating in 1654 to New York – known at the time as New Amsterdam.
Wainer, who is Jewish and originally from Brazil, has written several books and talks freely about the struggle of Jewish settlers.
“It is necessary to take a step back and understand the adversities that these pioneer Jews faced,” she said. “Before their arrival in New Amsterdam, they faced material losses, jumping from ship to ship, imprisonment and much more. They were ill-prepared for the prejudice and intolerance they found.”
Wainer, an attorney in Brazil who moved to the United States in 1999, is separated by only one generation in her family from the surviving Jews of the Holocaust. She highlights this in a previous book, “Family Portrait.”
Rabbi Daniel Kahane, a co-author on another of her books – “The Kabbalah of Time” – talked about the strong history and Jewish culture represented in Wainer’s writing.
“It shows just how deeply ingrained the struggle for fairness and equality is in Jewish religion, culture and tradition,” said Kahane, an attorney who volunteers as a teacher at Aventura Chabad. “Fixing the world, changing it and making it a better place – what is known in Hebrew as ‘Tikkun Olam’ – is an essential aspect of being a Jew.”
Wainer, who currently teaches at Florida Atlantic University about the Jewish connection with the Brazilian Cinematheque, talked at her book signing about the success that Jewish people have had in the United States and the importance of remembering the struggle it took to get there.
Her son, David Wainer, 28, reiterated that point.
“Jews have it good in this country. They represent a well-off minority group, and the book highlights that,” said the younger Wainer, a Boston University graduate who is a business reporter currently based in Israel. “It wasn’t always like that,” he said. “There were pioneers [who] had to fight for their survival and the basic ability to be who they want to be. It provides the proper context for the Jewish community in the U.S.”
Wainer closed out her lecture by telling the crowd the process she went through and the support she received while writing her book.
“I believe when you have a purpose like this, the universe has a way of conspiring in your favor,” she said. “It made me feel very connected to this country and Brazil, and it helped me understand more about where my two hearts are.”

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