"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chassidus is built on davka

A classic letter of the Previous Rebbe (my translation):

Chassidus is built on davkadavka so, no different:

1. G–d could have created a spiritual world, not such a physical one, but He created davka a physical world.

2. G–d could have given the Torah and the Mitzvos to angels, but He davka gave the Torah and the Mitzvos to people.

3. G–d could have elevated all Jews to the heavens and given them the Torah and Mitzvos there, but He davka gave the Torah and the Mitzvos on this physical world.

4. G–d could have made matters such that people would have no evil inclination, and especially a Jew, but He davka created people with an evil inclination. (I shall reveal a secret: the Gemara says: “He who is greater than his fellow has a greater evil inclination.” [Sukkah 52a])

5. G–d could have made everyone love Jews, but He davka made matters such that all the nations hate Jews. (The mountain upon which the Torah was given is called Sinai. The Gemara says that “sinah [hatred] descended upon the non-Jews” [Shabbos 89a]: Since the Jews have such a beautiful, pure, wise Torah, they are hated.)

6. G–d could have made matters such that all Jews be chassidim, but He davka made matters such that misnagdim were first, and only then did the best ones become chassidim.

7. G–d could have made matters such that all chassidim have good heads and good hearts, but He davka made matters such that chassidim have average heads and very average emotions.

8. G–d could have made matters such that all chassidim have chassidishe, religious children, but He davka made matters such that all chassidishe children’s minds are dreaming with confusion—they themselves don’t know what they want.

So we find that there are many davkas—davka so, no different.

It’s all about davka:

davka to create a physical world,

davka to give the Torah and the Mitzvos to angels, not people,

davka to give the Torah and the Mitzvos on the earth,

davka to create people with an evil inclination,

davka that the Jews be hated,

davka to be born misnagdim first,

davka to first have a simple head, etc.,

davka to that the children should first be in a state of tumult, and then set themselves on a healthy path.

All these davkas, and tens of thousands more, depend on one davka—that one should davka want the truth.

Then, even a chassidishe child,

even with a simple head,

born a misnagid,

and a Jew, whom everyone hates,

with an evil inclination,

on the earth,

not an angel,

in a physical world

will be able to refine his simple head,

and refine his simple, coarse emotions,

and then become from a misnagid, a chossid,

and all nations will acknowledge that a Jew should be loved,

and the evil inclination will become a good inclination,

and the physical world will begin to shine cleanly and purely, like the heavens,

and then the angels will recognize that [Jewish] souls are higher ...

Igros Kodesh of the Rayatz, Vol. 1, pp. 448-450.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The slogan of modern music: Everything is permitted!

The following answer of the Rebbe appears to be to the question of whether to create Jewish music that is similar in some respects to secular music, done in the style of popular genres of music. Examples today might be rock, hiphop, rap, blues, reggae, etc. The Rebbe may also be responding to the issue of whether it is acceptable to remake existing goyishe music using Jewish lyrics.

The Rebbe says that creating such music is a matter of saving Jewish lives in the spiritual sense, apparently because it reaches people already affected by secular music and helps them break away from it. On the other hand, it simultaneously creates the problem that it introduces listeners not yet corrupted by secular music to the world of that genre, which can be very detrimental, and this presents a challenge that one needs to overcome:
... Based on the verse: “In all your ways, know Him” (Mishlei 3:6), it follows that as a whole, your plan is correct and necessary, and so on.

Understandably, just as with any plan, success is more likely and greater when [the plan] is performerd by an experienced expert in the relevant area, or at least if it is done under his orchestration and administration, and with the requisite and appropriate devotion.

However, the area of music is unique. The present situation is that a segment of this music 1) is able to conquer people’s hearts; 2) can provide a livelihood for the musician, at least a moderate one (which will enable him to devote himself to these plans in a way fit for their success); 3) has already conquered the “market” and become famous, and so on.

It [the popular music] is not just secular, but it also
forms the listeners’ attitude towards excitement of their evil inclination, destruction of the existing “boundaries” and “order” (including, to our great anguish, mainly in the area of modesty), etc.

On the one hand, this emphasizes even more the need for your plan (since it is literally a matter of spiritual life and death [“
pikuach nefesh mammosh”]).

On the other hand, this magnifies even more the difficulty, etc. in carrying it out since you must
fight against the existing situation, to negate the suspicion of the religious listeners and leaders, which is based on the atmosphere prevalent in the music world of the youth and even of the adults.

Furthermore, and this is also primary—how can it be ensured that for those for whom this will “introduce them” to the world of music that it will not introduce them also to its very large (at least in quantity)
already existing side, which is very colorful and knows no boundaries, and on the contrary—its slogan is: Everything is permitted, everything is desirable for you to try yourself davka [and find out] what it is all about, and when the time comes you will decide for yourself your attitude to it without any preconceptions whatsoever.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 38, p. 179 (emphasis in original).

Monday, October 6, 2008

28 Nissan: Do everything you can to bring Moshiach in actuality

On 28 Nissan 5751 (1991), the Rebbe gave us a holy mission, “Do everything you can to bring Moshiach in actuality.”

Let’s analyze this:

Do”: Focus on action, which is “the main thing,” as the Rebbe has said countless times.

Everything”: What?! Everything? That seems somewhat ... undefined. And perhaps unattainable.
Perhaps it means as follows: The Torah tells a Jew to love Hashem “be’chol me’odecho” (usually translated as “with all your might”). Chassidus translates this as “with all your me’od (Torah Ohr 39d, Shoresh Mitzvas HaTefillah ch. 16)” “Me’od” means literally “very much.” To love Hashem properly, one must constantly go beyond one’s limitations. But personal limitations are inherently relative. What is difficult for one person comes easily for another, and vice versa. So “do everything you can to bring Moshiach.” Push yourself to go beyond your normal limits, and then push yourself again. Until he comes.

You”: That’s right, lil’ ol’ you. And me. Every Jew can bring Moshiach, regardless of position or social standing. Even a small child can bring Moshiach.

Can”: Every person can do different things, for we all possess different skills and spheres of influence. Each person needs to assess whether he or she is using his time and talents to maximum effectiveness.

To bring Moshiach”: Our efforts have a goal, and it is forbidden for us to lose sight of it. The goal is that Moshiach actually come and bring the full redemption. This goal must propel us to action, but continue to inspire us even as we concern ourselves with the nitty-gritty details of carrying out the task at hand.

In actuality”: Our part is to do and do and do. Whether we accomplish, and Moshiach actually comes, is really in Hashem’s hands. But until we do, we cannot rest. Although it hasn’t happened yet, we know that it’s in our hands. We can make it a reality. So that knowledge makes us responsible and accountable. It propels us to transcend our own petty concerns, to reject personal preference and desires and instead embrace this noble cause. For if we choose wisely, our every action could be the one to change the entire physical and spiritual cosmos, to make the final redemption a reality.


Maintaining inspiration 2

How does one maintain one’s inspiration throughout life? The key is building oneself up spiritually in one’s younger years. The higher one’s level in his youth, the less he will fall later on:
... Concerning your question about where to continue your studies, and in what manner.
In my opinion, education of youth, especially education at your age, influences the entire course of one’s life, and one’s independence and firmness depend upon this. This enables every person to withstand the challenges that he may face in life.

We find ourselves in an age of numerous changes, in which it is impossible to predict our lifestyle in several years time. Thus one cannot know how great the challenges one is destined to face in the realm of just, righteous behavior, and in faith and religion.

Therefore every single member of the youth should and must receive religious education to the maximum degree, in order to enable him to overcome any danger that may come, G–d forbid. And even if such an education involves some inconvenience or the like for a certain period of time, of what significance is this when compared with the immunization and extra strength that one only receives through this education, for one’s entire life.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 22, p. 387
If in one maintains a certain religious level to a certain degree, this is only thanks to the fact that in his youth he was on a higher spiritual level. Then although difficulties of life and the struggle for survival and against the environment may have reduced the level of his youth, he remains at least with his level of middle age. It follows that one who is on a lower level in his youth will naturally fall from his level after several years to a level lower than what one would have hoped.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 22, p. 386.
Someone once questioned the need for the rigorous schedule and intense atmosphere of Tomchei Temimim. chossid responded with an analogy from a furnace: If one only wishes to heat up the room where the furnace is, then it need not be heated up so much. But if one wants to heat up the entire house, even the rooms a fair distance away from the furnace, then the furnace must be heated up to the highest temperature possible!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kashes: To ask or not to ask

Is it appropriate to speak in a complaining way against the Aibishter, to ask kashes (doubting questions) when others suffer tragedies? To in effect challenge the wisdom of the divine decree?

I recall being told that one can differentiate between davenen  (praying) for the future and complaining about the past:

If the painful events are ongoing and reversible, then we davven and are even allowed to demand (many Tefillos are written in a demanding tone) that from now on these events unfold in a good direction. However, when we hear the news of a final, irreversible event, e.g. that someone died (lo aleinu), the Torah tells us to say “boruch Dayan Emes”—blessed is the True Judge—and accept the divine judgement.

Are there any exceptions to this rule? Cases where we find that even after irreversible events occurred, Tzaddikim continued to complain against the divine decree, to ask kashes?

In any case, even if there is legitimacy to such kashes, they are liable to be atzas ha’yetzer, a ploy of the evil inclination to bring the person to fall:

1. Since by definition such kashes have no answers, or at least no truly satisfying ones, dwelling on them for too long can be spiritually unhealthy. These are, after all, the same sort of kashes that many heretics use to dismiss all religion and all belief in an omnibenevolent Creator and Director of the universe. So these thoughts can lead one to doubt Hashem altogether, G–d forbid.

2. Even if one’s emunah remains unshaken, these thoughts weigh the person down and make it very difficult to fulfill the Torah’s exhortation to serve Hashem with simchah (joy).

On the other hand, it seems that our role is to be the defenders of our fellow Jews, the saneigor shel Yisroel. It follows that if Jews suffered, it should bother us, and especially when the suffering seems unjust—when the righteous suffer. As the angels cried out when they witnessed the slaying of the ten martyrs, “Is this Torah, and is this its reward?!” (Berachos 61b) The Torah seems to be telling us that this was the appropriate response, especially considering that angels don’t possess free will. Granted, Hashem negated this, and responded “Be silent, so did it arise in thought before Me,” but that was a later stage. Although Hashem’s response to our complaint is to tell us to be silent, I don’t think this means that it was wrong to express the kashes in the first place. I think that the kashes are a normal, proper response from a thinking, feeling, caring person who seeks Hashem.

In my humble opinion there is a balance to strike here, where kashes are recognized and deeply bother the person, but do not affect the person in a way that weakens his or her emunah and simchah.