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The Laws of Conservation form the foundation of modern physics and cosmology; without knowing them, much of our current technology and engineering wouldn't exist. Research, both theoretical and practical, starts from applying, analyzing and understanding these basic laws. From them flow the theories that shape science's insights into the universe.
One of the most basic is the conservation of energy: It states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant. Or, energy cannot be created or destroyed. (Einstein showed the relationship between mass and energy, in the famous formula from his special theory of relativity E=MC2. This law also became known as the conservation of mass and energy.
There are other laws of conservation in physics, such as the conservation of angular momentum - useful when calculating the orbits and movements of planets and stars, but also of billiard balls and pool.
There's the conservation of electric charge, meaning, obviously, that there will be just as many positively charged ions as negatively charged ones.
Some of the conservation laws seem esoteric, and apply to sub-atomic particles: the conservation of color charge, for instance.
There aren't very many of these laws of conservation. There don't need to be. Physicists use what they have. But they all share a central, critical characteristic: what exists, once it exists within a closed system, cannot be destroyed. Energy/mass can be converted, changed; so too with angular momentum or electric charge. But they continue to be, to impact the physical world.
In the same way, Chasidic philosophy teaches us, there's a Conservation of Spirituality. Every holy act - and everything a human being does generates holiness - continues to exist, even after the physical cause ceases.
Yes, the physical object disintegrates - the lulav branch, for instance, the ram's horn, etc. - all "return to dust."
But the spiritual force invested in a physical object - the spiritual force resulting from the performance of a mitzva (commandment), from study of Torah, from thoughts about the nature of G-dliness, that lead to love of G-d and awe of G-d - these are everlasting and endure.
But what of a negative act - a thought, word, or deed that is prohibited by Jewish law? Well, the "Law of Conservation of Spirituality" applies to the negative as well. Our every misdeed remains existent in the spiritual realm.
However, when it comes to rectifying the negative, the law of conservation applies as well. The act and its ramifications can never cease to exist, but they can be transformed into positive energy.
The process of transformation, reformation, reshaping, is called teshuva. Teshuva is typically translated as "repentance." But more accurately, it means "return," a return to the source or essence of what something truly is. In this case, it refers to a person returning to his/her true spiritual and holy essence, to his/her G-dly soul.
This time of year, the 30 days before the High Holidays, are specially set aside as days of teshuva, of returning to our true selves. Tapping into the energy of these days can give us insight into own personal worlds and into the universe.
This week's Torah portion, Re'ei, speaks about a master's obligation to bestow gifts upon his servant when the latter's years of servitude are complete. "You shall furnish him liberally from your flocks, and of your threshing-floor, and of your wine press," the Torah states.
Maimonides classifies this obligation as falling under the category of charity - the gifts are in addition to the regular wages the master is required to pay.
Every facet of the Torah contains stores of wisdom for us to apply to our lives. The above verses are symbolic of the relationship between any two parties not on equal footing: The one on the higher level is always obligated to share his wealth and blessings with those who are less fortunate.
The terms "master" and "servant" may also be applied, in the spiritual sense, to the relationship between teacher and pupil. We see that this is not merely symbolic, as a student is required to serve his teacher in the same way a servant must attend his master. And a teacher's task is to instruct the pupil until the student grasps the concept on his own.
But what about concepts which are far beyond the ability of the student to comprehend, wisdom beyond the pupil's understanding? The commandment to bestow gifts above and beyond what is required applies here as well. A good teacher must ensure that his student acquires an appreciation of the deeper and more esoteric knowledge, in addition to the basic requirements of the syllabus. The teacher is obligated to share whatever knowledge he possesses with the student, who possesses less.
This principle also applies to the relationship between Jews who are more knowledgeable about Torah and those who are just beginning to learn about their heritage. It is not sufficient to impart only those Jewish concepts which are viewed as fundamental - the awesome depth and scope of Judaism must be shared as well.
A basic principle in Judaism is that G-d behaves towards man according to man's actions, measure for measure. When we share our wealth and bestow extra charity - both physical and spiritual - upon our fellow man, G-d responds in kind, granting us an abundance of His blessings.
For we are all G-d's servants, and He is the ultimate Master. The 6,000 years of creation parallel the six years of servitude a servant must work; the seventh year parallels the freedom and redemption which follow - the Messianic Era and the Final Redemption.
By increasing our love for our fellow Jew and demonstrating that love with concrete actions, G-d will surely bestow an even greater measure of His infinite goodness upon us than ever before, with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Jewish "Peace Corps"
Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, sends out hundreds of rabbinical students each summer to small communities around the world. Most of these communities do not have full-time rabbis. Dubbed the "Jewish Peace Corps," the program was founded in 1946 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. What follows are excerpts from articles about three of the over 100 pairs of young rabbi-teams that are spread out around the globe this summer.
Billings Gazette by Susan Olp
...For the past three weeks, Leibel Kahanov and Ephraim Zimmerman have traveled throughout Montana, encouraging other Jews in their faith....
This is Zimmerman's second time in Montana; he spent a month here in the summer of 2007. It's Kahanov's first visit, and both men said they have enjoyed their time here, among Jews and non-Jews alike. "People are very friendly," Zimmerman said.
In one town, the pair knocked on the door of the wrong home after getting the address mixed up. Even so, a woman opened the door and invited the two in for refreshments and to chat.
"Back East, that wouldn't happen," Kahanov said.
The two men have driven throughout the state, from Kalispell and Missoula to Helena, Bozeman, Livingston, Billings and places in between. They bring books, tools for worship, knowledge and a helping hand.
Their work is easier because Rabbi Chaim Bruk and his wife, Chavie, opened a permanent Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Bozeman in 2007. So the two travelers use the center as their launching place and return there to stock up on kosher food before they again hit the road. They also get from Bruk names of people they can visit. Or they find people Bruk hasn't yet met and they put those people in touch with the Bozeman rabbi.
"You used to meet someone, and that was all for a year," Kahanov said. "But now there's a Chabad center, so it's not the end. It's more of a beginning of a connection. That's a very positive thing."
The Spokesman Review, Rebecca Nappi
...They volunteered for the Roving Rabbi program, which sends 250 students and young rabbis to locations throughout the world. Neither [Mendy] Singer nor [Mendel] Dalfin had ever heard of Spokane.
"I had heard of Washington," Singer says. "I knew there were a lot of potatoes around here."
Their mission in Spokane? "To raise Jewish identity and boost the Jewish community," Singer says. "We hope to inspire and educate."
They are staying at the home of their sponsor here, Rabbi Yisroel Hahn, who started a Jewish Chabad center in Spokane two years ago.
The young rabbis are looking for unaffiliated Jews who do not attend religious services or know much about the religion. But such a challenge to find Jewish people in Spokane!
Last summer, Singer did outreach in Lake Worth, Fla.
"We could practically go door to door and meet Jews more often than not," he wrote on the RovingRabbis.com blog, where some of the 250 rabbis recount their summer travels.
To find unaffiliated Jewish people in Spokane, the two young rabbis look in the phone book. They cold-call people with Jewish-sounding names.
The young rabbis also hang out in public places and search for people who look Jewish. Or they ask people whether they know any Jewish folks.
They are not shy about asking. The day after the interview, they pose for a newspaper photo at Manito Park. They ask the photographer if he is Jewish. Nope, he tells them, Italian.
They also met some folks at Wal-Mart.
"We don't believe in locking ourselves up," Dalfin said. "G-d put us in the world. We have to be part of the world, not separate."
The young men are not in Spokane to convert non-Jews.
"The Torah teaches us to discourage conversion," Dalfin explains. "G-d created every person the way they are. If G-d made someone not Jewish, it means his mission in life is not to be Jewish."
...The young men are pleased that strangers who see them at Starbucks, Wal-Mart and walking along the street shout out "Shalom!" because they recognize them as rabbis.
Tacuarembó, Artigas, Salto, and Paysandú are just a few of the 'Departamentos' that Mendy Minkowitz and Zalmy Shemtov have visited.
...Some cities, like Bella Unión, which is 629 kilometers from the country's capital, and a major producer of sugar, have only two Jews.
And although Montevideo boasts a full-time Chabad House under the direction of Rabbi Eliezer and Rochel Shemtov, for many in the back-country, their only connection with the wider Jewish community is through the glossy magazine the Shemtovs mail out four times a year, and the summer visits from the rabbinical students.
"They wonder and ask us why we travel all the way there 'just for them,' and it gives them a real sense of belonging when they hear us explain how every Jew counts," says Zalmy Shemtov, who, being a native from Montevideo, seemed like the ideal candidate for the task.
They taught them a little Torah, helped them put up mezuzas, donned tefilin with them, distributed Shabbat Candles and most importantly, strengthened their connection with their heritage.
"These people want to connect to Judaism, but they have no way to express it," said Shemtov. "We're thankful we get to help them."
Rabbi Moshe and Nechama Dina Leeds have recently moved to Gilbert, Arizona, in Maricopa County. They have established a new Chabad House to serve the needs of the local Jewish community.
The Menachem Mendel Cheder Day School was founded 35 years ago and has operated out of Chabad of Seattle's headquarters all of these years. The school recently acquired a new location, a secluded 1.6 acre property with a 21,000-square-foot building surrounded by fir trees and a park.
25 Teves, 5741 (1981)
With regard to your question, ... if the ultimate purpose of existence is that of performing G-d's mitzvos [command-ments], what then is the goal and meaning of the life of a Jew who from a young age on is unable to perform any of the mitzvos because of physical or intellectual limitations:
The answer to this question must be found in connection to a more general and encompassing question, your question being only one of it aspects.
You must bear in mind that according to the Torah itself it is impossible for all Jews as individuals to perform all 613 commandments. Aside from those commandments that can only be performed in Eretz Yisrael [the Holy Land] and during the time that the Holy Temple was extant, there are other commandments that apply only to a Kohen, while yet others generally cannot be performed by a Kohen.
However, in light of the fact that all the Jewish people are a single entity, similar to a single body, each individual who performs his or her obligations according to the capacity he or she was endowed with by G-d, becomes a partner to the totality of all Jewish efforts and achievements.
A similar principle applies to mankind in general. Each and every individual is to contribute to the common achievements of mankind, although each individual's capacity is inherently limited, whether he is a simple farmer who produces food or a scientist or an inventor of farming machinery, and the like.
A person who excels in his individual area of endeavor will generally be limited, or even useless, in another area. Who is authorized to state which is more important, which individual contributes the most? Only a harmonious partnership and the use of all human resources will contribute to the overall good of society.
With regard to the individual, all that needs to be said - as our Sages have indeed stressed - is that G-d does not demand from any individual anything that is beyond his or her capabilities. A person cannot ask why G-d provided some individuals with greater capacities than others.
Getting back to the subject of our correspondence - the needs of special children (or as they are termed, "retarded," or "suffering from arrested development," as I have already mentioned many times about this):
It must be made clear that while they are limited in specific areas (and who of us is not?), there is no reason or justification for lumping them all in one equal category of "limited" or "retarded."
Human experience is replete with examples of people who were severely restricted in many areas and nevertheless afterwards excelled, making tremendous, even extraordinary, contributions to society in other areas.
I am absolutely convinced that if a system would be instituted to test the special aptitudes of these special children of ours at an early age, and appropriate classes would be established in order to enable them to develop these aptitudes, the results would be manifestly gratifying, if not truly astonishing.
It goes without saying that such an educational system would greatly enhance the self-confidence and general development of these children, not to mention the fact that this would enable them to make meaningful contributions to society as well. ...
From Healthy in Body, Mind and Spirit, Vol III, compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, published by Sichos in English
Talking Actualizes It
"Even a person who has not fully internalized the conception of the Redemption in his own mind should make efforts to spread this concept to others, beginning with his own family and circle of acquaintances. Why should one's own failure to internalize these concepts cause others to be denied this knowledge? Ultimately talking about the Redemption will precipitate its coming. And it will cause it to come immediately. Indeed, the potential exists for Moshiach to come this very Shabbos." (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5751 - 1991)
In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat we bless the month of Elul.
In Elul we prepare for the upcoming High Holidays by blowing the shofar each morning, having our mezuzot and tefilin checked to make sure they are still fit, being more careful about keeping kosher and saying special selichot (penitential prayers) toward the end of the month.
Why do we do all of this in the month of Elul? Can't it wait until we're closer to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur - most of us "work" better under pressure anyway?
These questions can be answered with a beautiful parable told by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement:
"Once each year, a very mighty king leaves his palace, his guards, his finery, and goes out in the field to meet with his subjects. At that time, they do not need to wait in long lines, go through security checks, be announced ceremoniously. They can speak with him without hesitation. When the king returns to his palace, his subjects will once again have to go through all kinds of protocol to meet with him. So, of course, his subjects make the most of the opportunity.
"During the month of Elul, G-d is "in the field." We don't need to go through all kinds of red tape to reach Him. We need only come out to meet Him, as it were, with a humble heart, and He will listen to us. He will accept our repentance and consider our requests most carefully. The king will soon be in the field. Make sure not to miss this opportunity."
And may we imminently merit the era when G-d will continuously be "in the field" the Messianic Era when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d like the waters cover the ocean."
See! This day I place before you a blessing (Deut. 11:26)
The blessing in this verse does not refer to anything specific; rather, it is a comprehensive statement which includes all the blessings G-d confers on every Jew. First and foremost, therefore, it refers to the ultimate blessing of all - the complete Redemption through Moshiach. By using the emphatic "See!" the Torah stresses that the Messianic Redemption is not something theoretical or academic, but rather something that will be evident with our eyes of flesh - and this very day!
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Re'eh, 5751)
That you remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life (Deut. 16:3)
"To include the days of Moshiach," our Sages commented, meaning that even in the Messianic era we will still remember the Exodus and express gratitude for it. Literally, however, their words can be translated "To bring the days of Moshiach," teaching that every single day of our lives must be imbued with the singular objective of bringing about the Messianic era.
(Sichot Kodesh, Chayei Sara, 5752)
Observe the month of spring, and keep the Passover to the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 16:1)
The Egyptians believed in the supremacy of natural law and worshiped man's ability to influence the world through science. G-d therefore took the Jewish people out of Egypt in the springtime, when the workings of nature are most evident, to demonstrate that nature is only a tool in His hands and has no intrinsic power of its own.
(From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 11 Nissan, 5725)
From all over Europe, thousands of Jews used to come to visit Reb Yisroel, the holy Rabbi of Ruzhin. For little Pesach, the orphan who had been taken in by the Rebbe's family, it was an amazing sight which he never became accustomed to - so many people with so many kinds of troubles - each with his own hopes for a better future.
"The Rebbe is a holy man," he was told. "All these people come to him for a blessing. When he gives it, he can see what will happen to them many years from now."
One day the Rebbe called Pesach aside and told him, "A time will come when you will have to go away. You will study medicine and become a doctor. Then you shall go to the Holy Land. There is your place. And there you will save many lives." Pesach burst into tears. "Must I leave, Rebbe?" he cried.
"Don't be upset," the Rebbe said. "My thoughts will always be with you."
And so it was that Pesach grew up and became a doctor - taking the family name of his beloved Rebbe, Friedman - and settling in Israel in the town of Tzefat in the Galilee.
One day a regal carriage stopped in front of his house, and an important looking man stepped out. "I am looking for Dr. Friedman," he announced.
When Dr. Friedman came to the door he was told, "The Princess of Prussia is visiting Tzefat and she is extremely ill. One minute she is burning with fever, the next moment she is shivering with cold. You must come at once. Her father, the Kaiser, is anxious that you come at once."
Dr. Friedman hurried to the princess's bedside. He examined her and diagnosed malaria. "Take this medicine for three days. If we are fortunate, the disease has been caught in time for a cure."
Three days later the princess's fever broke and it could be seen that she was on her way to recovery. After three weeks Dr. Friedman was summoned again. "The Princess will be resuming her trip, however she still feels weak and has begged that you come with her."
Dr. Friedman explained, "Your Highness, it is difficult for me to fulfill your request. As a Jew I must pray three times a day with ten men, and I may eat only kosher food. The trip to Jerusalem is a long one."
The Kaiser replied, "Spare no expense. Bring along ten men and whatever food you require. Only come."
Dr. Friedman joined the traveling party for the long, arduous journey. When he finally returned home, his wife asked, "Did they reward you for saving the life of the princess?"
"Not really, but they said the Kaiser would be in my debt. True, it was very difficult, but for me it is enough that I saved her life."
Many months passed and no more was heard from the princess or her father. The land of Israel was beset by problems and the interesting episode of the princess was forgotten as everyone was consumed with a different worry - the safety of their children. The government of Turkey, which then ruled the Holy Land, was demanding that young Jewish men serve in its army. Not only was it impossible to observe the Torah in the army, it was also highly dangerous. The only alternative was prison. Then, out of the blue, came a telegram for Dr. Friedman from the Kaiser of Prussia.
The brief cable stated that by the grace of His Royal Highness, the King of Prussia, Dr. Pesach Friedman had been appointed Consular Agent in Tzefat for the government of Prussia, with full authority to issue passports, visas, and any other such papers to citizens of Prussia.
Dr. Friedman was silent for a long while, as he read and reread the telegram. Then, he remembered the words of his Rebbe, as if they had just been spoken, "There you will save many lives."
Hastily, he called a meeting of the communal leaders.
"Gentlemen," he announced, holding up the telegram, "here is the answer to our troubles. By this document I have been given the right to issue passports to citizens of Prussia. Do you realize what this means? No longer will the Turks have power over us. If any young men are threatened, let them come to me. I'll issue them a Prussian passport that will save them! With these papers they'll become citizens of Prussia, and won't have to serve in the Turkish army!"
And so, the words of Reb Yisroel of Ruzhin came true over and over again!
Adapted with permission from The Story Hour, Ed. Dr. D.S. Pape
In the days of Moshiach the Divine light will be utterly revealed in the heart of every individual, and in every heart there will be a constant and visible fear of G-d; as it is written, "They shall go into the caves of the rocks and into the tunnels of the earth, for fear of G-d...." The body too will change. It will be like the body of Adam before the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, clean of any evil. As the Midrash states, "His heel threw a shadow on the orb of the sun." That is to say, his body was nullified to the Divine Will even more than was the inanimate sun.
(Derech Chayim, p. 25)