Thursday, September 2, 2010

What father can possibly condemn his own children

The hour for the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue of the “Seer of Lublin” had long passed one Rosh HaShanah morning, yet the great Chassidic sage remained secluded in his study. Finally, one of the Seer’s disciples knocked on his master’s door to ask what was amiss.

The Seer’s face was pale with terror and his eyes red with weeping. “I see a terrible decree ordained in the Heavenly court for the people of Israel this year,” he told his disciple. “I’ve been praying and pleading all morning to nullify the decree, but to no avail.”

The Seer noticed a young lad next to his disciple. “What are you learning these days?” he inquired of the young boy.

“We have just concluded a Talmudic section dealing with the laws of witnesses,”
replied the young student.

“So, tell me an original insight that you’ve come up with in the course of your learning,”
prompted the Seer.

And the Talmudic discussion began.

The boy said that he had been puzzled by the law that a person cannot serve as a witness in a case involving a relative of his, whether his testimony is for his relative’s benefit or to his detriment. Understandably, a witness cannot be believed when he testifies in support of his relative, the bias would be clear; but why do we not accept his testimony against his relative?

“Well, do you also have an answer to your question?”
asked the Seer of Lublin.

said the boy. “I thought of the verse, ‘And the two persons shall stand ... before the judges,’ which the Talmud interprets as a reference to the witnesses. The Torah is saying that only ‘persons’ are qualified to serve as witnesses. Someone who is prepared to testify against his own brother, father or child is not a ‘person.’”

The Seer burst out joyously, “My son!
With this argument we shall win our case in the Heavenly court! We shall remind G-d that He is our father, and which father can possibly condemn his own children? Come, let us go hear the sounding of the shofar.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Human beings are not angels.

"Why is life was full of struggle and disappointment. Why can't it just be simple and easy?" Why? because we are not angels. Angels are impeccable and flawless, always on target. Human beings, on the other hand, are fragmented and vacillate between extremes and shaken by conflicts.

"But why did G-d create us in such a complicated fashion? Would G-d not have enjoyed us far more if we were like the angels?"

The Rebbe gives the following analogy as he responds to an artist.

A photograph, which is lifeless, captures and freezes a person or a scene as is. A painting, on the other hand, contains the richness of human imagination, the depth of human emotion and human creativity. That is what gives a painting its great value. We call it - art.

Angels are like photos, they are perfect shots of the spiritual realities. Like photos, they never err. Yet it is precisely the fluctuating drama of human existence, the perpetual conflict between our inner light and darkness, and the inner human void searching for meaning and truth that turns our life, into a piece of art.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that our every deed, every word we speak, even a single thought we think, has an effect throughout all the worlds and through the whole of history. With every thought and action, we are capable of defining our life into art.

Only in the tormented chambers of our human heart can G-d discover genuine, awe-inspiring artwork. It is the goodness that emerge from human struggle that bestow upon humanity a splendor that the highest of angels can never attain.