Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prayer - The Shema

In the Shema we proclaim our belief in the unity of G-d, and express our love for G-d "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." You, as an individual, cannot truly love G-d when your animal soul loves something else.
But as you go through the processes of prayer, your animal soul begins to recognize that maybe its first love should be G-d. And maybe it shouldn't stand in the way of the G-dly soul. And then you can love G-d b'chol l'vovcha, "with all your heart(s)."
The Talmud comments that the expression l'vovcha denotes a double heart. And the Talmud remarks that this is because your heart is split. One set of emotions, one heart, is guided and inspired by your G-dly soul, another set is guided by your animal soul. It's not enough that your G-dly soul loves G-d; your animal soul has to feel this love of G-d, too.
When you say the Shema, ideally, this is what you should be expressing - not only the love of G-d through your G-dly soul, but also your basic animal nature's love of G-d.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moshiach's times....delicacies.. like dust.

Our Sages describe the Messianic Era as a time of wondrous abundance. The Talmud states, "In the future the Land of Israel will produce ready-made cakes and fine woolen garments," And, according to Maimonides,"The good will be in abundance and delicacies will be like dust."

At first glance, it would seem that all of this abundance will serve no purpose. After all, one of the main reasons for the Messianic Era is that G-dliness will be revealed in the world and there will be unbounded spirituality. In such a situation, won't all of our desires be for holiness and spirituality?? As Maimonides explains: "The occupation of the entire world will be only to know G-d." Who, then, will be interested in all of these mundane things that will be in the world?

Maimonides hints at this when he says, "Delicacies will be like dust." All of the wondrous, physical delicacies will be of the same value to us as dust. We will be occupied with much loftier things--like understanding G-d. If this is so, what are we going to need all of the abundance for?

According to Maimonides, all of the material blessings for keeping mitzvot that the Torah promises us --before the Messianic Era--are not simply a reward. Rather, our ultimate reward is something greater than physical gifts. Having everything we need simply takes away many of life's difficulties, making it easier to observe the mitzvot.

This helps us understand why there will be abundant material resources. Since we won't have to worry about mundane matters, we will be free to pursue G-dlinesss with the mindfulness of one unhampered by worldly cares.

Additionally, the abundance of materialism in the Messianic Era, will be a revelation of G-d's unlimited energy that will be expressed not only in the spiritual realms but on a mundane, material level, as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Previous Rebbe meeting with Bashkov

Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Shneerson, known as the previous Rebbe, once went to Moscow. There after hearing reports of his secret workers, and giving them advice and encouragement, he was asked if Mark Bashkov, an official from the head office of the GPU communist party, can meet with him in his hotel room.

Bashkov told the Rebbe, that his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were Lubavitcher Chasidim. As a child he learned Torah, but then stopped. He eventually joined the Socialist Party and had risen through the ranks of the KGB to become one of the highest officials in the country.

In the middle of their conversation, the door burst opened and policemen with guns barged in. "Citizen Schneersohn, you are under arrest! If you make one move, you will be shot. Give us your bags!"

When they had finished searching the previous Rebbe's belongings, they turned to Bashkov. "Now it's your turn, Comrade. We'll see if you are one of Schneersohn's men."

Bashkov red with anger answered calmly. "Comrades! I'm sure that you know the law. Before you go through someone's private belongings, you have to show him a search warrant. I want you to show me these papers."

"I am an agent of the Yevsektsia"
shouted one of them to Bashkov, " Who are you to ask me about papers? If you resist, we will blow you away."

Bashkov then took out an identity card, which described him as a member of the head office of the Soviet secret police. When the men saw this, they turned pale. Bashkov asked them for their papers. He wrote down their names and told them to appear at GPU headquarters. "There you will learn how to conduct a search," said Bashkov.

Bashkov apologized to the Previous Rebbe for everything that had happened. If any of the agents of the Yevsektsia ever bothered him again, the Rebbe should let him know. Bashkov then said good-bye to the Rebbe and left.

The Previous Rebbe thought about everything that had happened, truly an example of Divine Providence. Had he not met Bashkov when he did, and if Bashkov was not who he was, the whole story would have ended very differently. The Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak wrote in his diary, "I saw G-dliness itself revealed before me."

The Chozeh of Lublin's clock

In one of his travels, chassidic master Rabbi Dov Ber of Radoshitz stayed the night at a wayside inn. In the morning, he eagerly sought out the innkeeper.

"The clock," he started excitedly, "the clock you have hanging in my room -- where is it from? Where did you get that wonderful clock?"

"Why," replied the surprised innkeeper, "it's quite an ordinary clock. There are hundreds like it hanging in homes around the country."

"No, no," insisted Rabbi Dov Ber. "This is no ordinary clock. You must find out for me where this clock comes from."

If only to humor his righteous guest, the innkeeper made some inquiries, which yielded the information that this clock once belonged to the famed "Seer of Lublin". An heir of the "Seer" had been forced by poverty to sell all his possessions, and so the clock passed from owner to owner until it came to hang in one of the guestrooms of the inn.

"Of course!" exclaimed Rabbi Dov Ber upon hearing the clock's history. "This clock could only have belonged to the 'Seer of Lublin.' Only the Seer's clock could mark time in such a manner!

"A standard clock," he explained to his bewildered host, "strikes such a mournful tone. 'Another hour of your life has passed you by,' it says. 'You are now one hour closer to the grave.' But this clock joyfully proclaims: 'Another hour of exile has gone by. You are now one hour closer to the coming of Moshiach and the Redemption...'

"All through the night," concluded Rabbi Dov Ber, "whenever this clock sounded the hour, I leaped from my bed and danced with ecstasy."