Through The Eyes of a Woman
From HaYom Yom: Sample Readings from the Rebbe's Calendar
 We are assured
by covenant that any wide-ranging effort and labor [in outreach] pursued wisely
and with friendship is never fruitless.
This is good to remember all the time. It's very, very profound and comforting.
What the Rebbe Rayatz is saying is that a person should know that when he or she
does anything, provided that it is done (a) with wisdom, not just haphazardly, but
with thought and with kavanah (proper intention), and (b) with friendliness,
and a feeling of ahavas Yisrael, then you have a guarantee --
not just a possibility or a probability, but a covenant -- that you will
meet with success.
Let's say you are trying to work with something, but it looks very difficult;
it looks like it's not going to happen very easily. But you try and you see that
it's just not going; you don't see any response, you don't see tremendous success
and you can get discouraged. Very often people get discouraged just when they are
about to succeed. But what we think of as success is not always true success. In
other words, especially in American culture, success is often interpreted in terms
of quantity. But as far as Torah, as far as spirituality is concerned, large numbers
may not be successful at all. What you see and what HaShem sees are two different
The Rebbe once told a story about someone who had distanced himself from Yiddishkeit,
and decided to return when he saw a Yeshivah student with a beard and
peyos. Yeshivah students go on shlichus in the summer to cities
that are very far from Yiddishkeit. As the Rebbe's emissaries, they try very
hard to inspire people to come back to Yiddishkeit. And we know sometimes
it's very easy -- the people are waiting for you, they light up and they
respond and it's a pleasure -- and sometimes you try but your words fall
on deaf ears. You feel like no one is listening and no one is interested. You've
heard it before: "I'm wasting my time; I'm running around and nothing is happening."
It could be that the person whose door you knocked on may not be so interested,
at least at this point -- but very often people notice you, through a
window, from across the street, and so on. Someone is looking out their window and
sees a bachur (unmarried Yeshivah student) with a beard and tzitzis.
You don't even know that that person is looking at you, but what that person sees,
just that sight, makes him remember his father or his grandfather or his greatgrandfather,
or his early childhood... and just that moment of reminiscing can cause him to think
of teshuvah. In other words, not always what you do directly, but often what
happens indirectly because of somebody that noticed you or overheard you, can be
the true reason that you went there.
The success that we can point to or talk about is not always what HaShem
has in mind. What we must know is that if we made a true effort and we think about
what we are doing, and do it with friendliness, then our efforts will not be in
vain. It's like planting a seed. You plant a seed in the ground and then you think,
"What did I do? I don't even see the seed anymore. Nothing is happening." Months
go by and you don't see anything. And then you can go to the other end of the world
and that seed that you put in a long time ago will take root.
We see the same thing with people -- a word somebody said or some interaction
can take a long time to germinate and to bear fruit. But knowing that we have a
guarantee gives us a certain encouragement not to get depressed or discouraged before
we even begin.
The Rebbe my father told someone at yechidus: ever since G-d told our father
Avraham, "Go from your land etc.," and it is then written, "Avram kept travelling
southward," we have the beginning of the mystery of beirurim. By decree of Divine
Providence a man goes about his travels to the place where the "sparks" that he
must refine await their redemption.
Tzaddikim, who have vision, see where
their beirurim await them and go there deliberately. As for ordinary folk,
the Cause of all causes, the Prime Mover, brings about various reasons and circumstances
that bring these people to that place where lies their obligation to perform the
avodah of beirurim.
Beirurim in Chabad terminology may be understood as follows: This
world is filled with many, many physical things. Now, because we are Jews, we have
within us a G-dly soul, and each of us was sent down to this earth on a specific
and unique mission, a shlichus, unduplicated by any other person. No one
can do your shlichus but you, because your neshamah is unique. No
one else in the world has your neshamah with its particular composition.
Now in the course of your life, it is important for your particular neshamah
to come in contact with specific physical things. Why? Because just as you have
a neshamah, those physical things also have a spark of G-dliness, which is
their neshamah. This is what Chassidus reveals to us. So when HaShem
created the world, he created it yesh mei-ayin, something from nothing, physicality
from spirituality. Nevertheless, the spirituality, which is like the soul of the
object, is still hidden within it. Every fruit, every garment, every object has
a spiritual life force. If it didn't, it wouldn't exist. What keeps any physical
thing in existence, is a spark of G-dliness. This is its soul. Now when you come
in contact with a physical object, and you use it in a way that HaShem wants,
then you elevate it from being neutral to having a connection with holiness. And
that is called avodas habeirurim -- the task of refining and elevating
An example: Let's say a person is looking for a job. And he goes to seven different
places for interviews. At the end he gets one of the seven jobs. But in the course
of the interviews he's gone through many offices, met with many people, filled out
many forms. It could be that while waiting in some of the offices that person had
some time on his hands so he recited the Tehillim of the day. That is an
elevation for the chair he was sitting on. In another office you were thirsty, so
you went to get a drink of water. You went to the water fountain and you made a
blessing before drinking the water. It could be that a lot of people drink from
that fountain every day, but very few of them make berachos. Each time a
berachah is made over the water in that fountain, the fountain, the water,
the earth, the tiles that you walk over on your way to the fountain are all elevated.
There are so many opportunities during the day to elevate the material world. You
kissed a mezuzah on your way out, you met someone and they asked you how
you felt and you said, Baruch HaShem. How many times did that stone in the
sidewalk have a person standing on it that said Baruch HaShem?
One day you are driving to some place and you make a mistake, so you end up in
a place that you never intended to go to. Did you waste a half an hour because you
turned off at the wrong exit? Not necessarily. True, perhaps you did not have a
tape of a shiur in your car at that time; nor did you stop to daven
or do a mitzvah. However, there are certain mitzvos that are called
constant mitzvos. For example, ahavas HaShem, love of G-d. It's not
something reserved only for a certain time of the day, such as during davening;
rather, it's a constant part of my being that I love HaShem. Similarly with
fear of G-d, or believing in the Oneness of G-d. There are six mitzvos like
that. They are part of you. When you are driving along that road, as you are driving
you are getting frustrated because you are missing your appointment and you begin
to wonder why you are there. Meanwhile, however, this road has a person who believes
in the unity of HaShem driving on it. That is an elevation for the road.
In other words, it is very difficult for us, being so physical, to appreciate
that wherever our bodies are at this moment, whether it's on an airplane, on a bus,
in a taxi, or waiting by a bus stop, there is an opportunity to refine and elevate
that particular place. This is why the Rebbe Rayatz insisted that a person know
some Tehillim or some verses from Torah or from Tanya, so that he
or she can repeat them wherever they are. This automatically elevates the place
where the person is.
When Avraham Avinu left his birthplace and went to the Land of Israel
at HaShem's command this began the mystical process of purifying the physical
world. And through the workings of Divine Providence a person is presented with
those sparks of holiness which are his or hers to elevate. Sometimes he must go
to the places where those sparks are awaiting their redemption. At other times the
sparks come to the person. This last point applies primarily to tzaddikim.
Whatever a Jew hears he should take a lesson from in his service to G-d. We all
have different experiences. We don't all read the same books, or hear the same radio
programs at the same time. Now, according to this concept of the Baal Shem Tov,
why did YOU turn on the news at 4 o'clock and listen to this item, but she turned
it on at 7 and heard that news item? Because if you would meditate upon everything
you heard you could learn something from that in avodas HaShem.
In material matters, one should look at someone whose situation is lower than
one's own, and thank HaShem for His kindness. In spiritual matters, one should look
at someone who is above his own level, and plead with HaShem to give him the proper
understanding in order to learn from that person, and the power and strength to
The things we absorb in childhood unfortunately continue with us, unless we make
efforts to change them. One thing that is universal among children, is that they
compare themselves to other children, and are always jealous of what others have
that they don't. You're always looking at what somebody else has that you want.
And unfortunately, only the things change, not the person. First it's a doll, then
it's a dress, then it's a husband, then it's a baby carriage, then it's a vacation.
The only difference between men and women is the type of toy.
Our world is divided into two realms -- physical and spiritual.
HaYom Yom tells us that in each of these worlds we have to look in different
directions. As far as gashmiyus, the material world, is concerned, we have
to look down. Not, "Who has more dresses than us, or who has the nicer dress," but,
"Who has less than us?" We can train ourselves to look at things in this
way. Instead of what I don't have, look at all the people who don't even have what
I have. Baruch HaShem that I got to where I am -- and that simple
change of direction makes all the difference in one's life and peace of mind.
In spiritual things, the natural tendency of a person is to look down at other
people and think of himself as superior. That's the nature of people. We're built
to be arrogant. So Chassidus comes along and says, "You may be right; you
may be kind, but there are many people better than you. And instead of going around
in life patting yourself on the back, wonderful, take a look up, at all the
people who have achieved more than you. There are people who have worked
on themselves harder than you, and who have achieved more than you in spiritual
matters. The idea of ahavas Yisrael is to see how another Jew is superior
to you, not the opposite. When you see a person, HaShem showed you that person
because there is something you can learn from them. Who in this world can be a role
model? It could be this person isn't smarter than me, but look how much tolerance
she has for other people, or patience for others. Everybody has some superior quality,
and if you spend your life that way, looking for the way in which another
person is superior to you, you will progress spiritually.
Divine Providence leads everyone to his place of residence for the purpose of
strengthening Yiddishkeit and disseminating Torah. When you plow and you sow, things
It is a fundamental teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that wherever you go, you are
in fact led -- by Divine Providence. You must go there because that is
the place where you will be able to refine and elevate sparks of holiness.
However, do not think that this means that all you have to do is go somewhere
and wait for the masses to come to you to hear your words of wisdom. Shlichus
-- to be an emissary of the Rebbe, and ultimately an emissary of Divine
Providence -- means finding and inventing acceptable ways of spreading
Torah and Yiddishkeit. You don't wait at home until someone knocks on your
door and says, "Please teach me Torah!" No, you have to plow a little bit, you have
to plant seeds, and then comes the harvest.
The true way is to know one's character, truly recognizing one's own deficiencies
and one's good qualities. And when one knows his deficiencies, he should correct
them with actual avodah, and not satisfy himself merely with bemoaning them.
There's no chochmah in fooling yourself. The Rebbe Maharash (the fourth
Lubavitcher Rebbe) used to say, "You cannot fool HaShem; ultimately, you
cannot fool others either. The only one you can fool is yourself. And to fool a
fool is no great achievement." But there are two sides to this: Don't think of yourself
as superior to others, but don't think of yourself as inferior either. It is very
important to know your flaws as well as your strengths.
When you finally identify your flaws and faults, you have to know that it's not
going to help to sit and get depressed, or cry and say, "Oy vey is me!" The
reason HaShem gave you understanding about your shortcomings is so that you
can do something; because you have the power to do so. HaShem never
demands anything which is beyond our strength. And one act is worth more than a
thousand groans. You know, it's not enough to say, "Oy! I'm such a lazy person."
To just say that "I know that it's my own fault..." is only the first step. Then
you've got to do something about it.
In psychology there is a concept called "life script." Now psychology is not
necessarily true. But sometimes they hit upon a way of expressing an idea in
Chassidus. This is one of them. The concept of a "life script" is that every
person is patterned to live a certain way, depending on certain factors that are
beyond their control. One of these important factors is their parents. Everyone
inherits certain genes from their parents, and certain other factors which also
have a major effect on their life. There is the family constellation: if you're
the oldest child, or the middle child, if there were 15 children in your family,
if you're an only child -- all of these things are very, very important
factors in determining how your life is going to go. Another important factor is
the financial status of your family -- wealthy or poor -- which
can also have an effect on the way your life will go. So there is a concept that
people are geared to go a certain way because of certain given factors in life.
However, psychologists also point out that you cannot deny the reality that there
are many people who logically should have grown up in a certain way, but surprisingly
turn out completely different from what would have been expected. People that have
had every chance to be successful, ended up dismal failures in life. And people
who came from the lowest economic levels, or the socially disadvantaged, end up
being extremely successful and influential, defying the prophecy that labeled them
as "goners." This is called "rewriting your life script." You are the author
of the play, not nature, not circumstances. For one person it might be very easy
to travel a certain path and for another person, very, very difficult. However,
once you get it into your head that you are the author of the book and not your
parents, and not your brothers and not your second grade teacher who made you crazy
-- though all of these things are factors that you have to consider, they
cannot change your life, and you cannot blame your life on other people --
then you take responsibility for who you are.
When you sit down with yourself and decide that you can rewrite your life
script and do things that don't make sense according to the laws of family mess-ups,
then you can call yourself a chassid.
A comforting thought to remember, if you are one of those unlucky people who
have trouble and difficulties, is that "according to the pain is the reward." So
if somebody else had everything else going for them, the right parents, the right
school, the right friends, the right husband, everything was right, so it was easy
for them. Well, if they achieve more in life, it doesn't mean that they get more
points. Because HaShem knows how to discriminate between effort and fortunate
circumstances. If somebody has a very difficult situation, and they achieve much
less as far as the eye can see, it doesn't mean that it counts for less.
The important thing in Yiddishkeit is -- in which direction am
I going, not how fast am I getting there!
A fundamental principle of Chabad philosophy is that the mind, which by its innate
nature rules over the heart, must subordinate the heart to G-d's service by utilizing
the intellectualization, comprehension and profound contemplation of the greatness
of the Creator of the universe.
The principle stated above is not simply a requirement that a person act as a
rational human being. It far transcends that, as we can understand by way of contrast
with the secular world. According to the secular way of thinking, desire and intellect
are the two fundamental catalysts for action. You either do what you feel like doing,
as your emotions dictate, or you follow your reasoning and intellect. The Jewish
way of thinking is that you must do what you know is right.
Chassidus makes the basic assumption that a Jew knows intrinsically and
gravitates towards what's right. HaShem will guide a normal person who is
honest and sincere, but lacking knowledge, in the way that he should go.
When Mashiach comes, we will see the superiority of hodaah (acknowledgment, belief)
and temimus (earnestness, sincerity) -- in everyone's pure belief in G-d
and in His Torah and mitzvos. Talmud -- namely, human comprehension, even
on its highest level -- is limited. But hodaah -- belief --
is an unlimited feeling. Mashiach will explain the superiority of simplicity --
earnest divine service that springs from the heart.
There is a law in the Shulchan Aruch that all week long people have to
pay damages if they cause injury or damage to a person or property. However, on
Friday afternoon it's a known fact that everybody is rushing, so if somebody pushes
into you unintentionally, you can't blame them, because it's erev Shabbos.
That's what happens on erev Shabbos: everybody's hyper, everybody's rushing,
everybody's nervous. That little detail makes a difference in the entire ruling.
The period before Mashiach is very similar. Normal rules do not always
apply because we're so close to the era of Mashiach. This is why the logical
sequence of things isn't always valid. Sometimes we have to start from the top instead
of from the bottom.
In today's HaYom Yom, the Rebbe says the main thing used to be to try
and serve HaShem with seichel, with one's intellect. In other words,
to try to reach as high an understanding of Yiddishkeit as you can, then
serve HaShem with your knowledge.
However, our times are known as ikvesa diMeshicha, which means "the heels
of Mashiach." Try to picture the entire span of time, since the creation
of the world, as a body. The first generation, Adam, is compared to the top of the
head, and the next generation a little lower, like the nose, then the neck, then
the heart, then the abdomen, then the top of the legs, until the time of Mashiach.
Almost 6,000 years after creation we've descended down the entire body from head
to foot. The generation which will greet Mashiach, the generation which is
right before Mashiach, is called the heels of Mashiach --
and there's nothing lower than the heels of the body.
The difference between the "heel" and the other parts of the body is that other
organs of the body have some will of their own -- the brain has a mind
of its own, the heart has emotions. According to Chassidus, the kidneys also
have some relationship to the process of thought (even though scientists may not
know it, but they will find out some day that the kidneys have their own place in
the thought processes). But the heel? That is one part of the body that we look
at as kind of passive. The heel cannot make major decisions. The heel simply follows
the will of the person. If the brain decides that it wants to go someplace, then
the heel has no choice but to go where the brain wants. So in Chassidus the
heel symbolizes the idea of kabbalas ol, receiving the yoke --
not making one's decisions as the result of a rational process, but following submissively.
Chassidus explains that the era of the "heels of Mashiach" therefore
means that just like the heel receives its directions and mission in life without
too much intellectual enquiry, we too, should not be guided overly much by our intellect
and reason, by rationality, but by pure, simple faith in HaShem. Even a person
who has reached a deep understanding of G-dliness, of Torah and mitzvos,
should nevertheless not be motivated chiefly by his understanding, but by his faith,
regardless of how high his or her IQ is, and no matter how much knowledge he or
she has. Whether you understand it, or whether you do not yet understand it, you
do it with kabbalas ol.
That's a thought from HaYom Yom, and although it sounds simple, it's not
so easy to live like that. These things from HaYom Yom are easy to say and
hard to do.
The theme of Pesach Sheni is that it is never too late. It is always possible
to put things right. Even if one was tameh (ritually impure), or one was far away,
and even in a case of "lachem," when this (impurity etc.) was deliberate --
nonetheless he can correct it.
To most people Pesach Sheni seems to be no longer relevant. It is a very minor
historical festival on which you're allowed to work. It is not celebrated by eating
a special seudah; the only visible difference between it and a regular day
is that we do not say tachanun. And we eat some matzah.
All of this is the way Pesach Sheni is generally perceived. However, Chassidus
always goes beyond the surface and gives us the deeper meaning that makes everything
on the Jewish calendar relevant and current, and not simply historically interesting.
What was Pesach Sheni? In the time when there was a Beis HaMikdash, when
sacrifices were brought, on the eve of Pesach, on the 14th of Nissan, there was
a special sacrifice offered -- the korban Pesach, or the Paschal
lamb. Now the Halachah states that if somebody was spiritually impure because
of contact with the dead, then he could not bring the sacrifice. Also, if a person
was too far away from Jerusalem when the sacrifice was offered, he was also exempt
from bringing the sacrifice. What happened was that the first year that Pesach was
celebrated, there was a group of people who were spiritually impure because they
had fulfilled the mitzvah of burying the dead. Accordingly, they were not
able to bring the sacrifice. Now, even though they were not to blame at all, nevertheless,
these people felt deprived in a way, because they were unable to participate. So
they came over to Moshe and said, "Why should we be denied the privilege of bringing
the Pesach sacrifice?" Moshe really didn't know what to do. He didn't know what
should be the case with a person that wants to have that merit but is exempt from
it. He asked HaShem. And HaShem said, We'll make a Pesach Sheni for
them. This is the only holiday in the year that we have a re-run. We don't have
a Shavuos Sheni, or a Sukkos Sheni for someone who couldn't build a sukkah
on time. It's only for this holiday that we have the chance to do it over.
Chassidus therefore explains that Pesach Sheni thus teaches us that there
is never a situation in your spiritual life that is totally hopeless, where you've
just missed the boat. There is no such thing in Yiddishkeit. Even a person
who was impure for the wrong reasons, that is, not because he was occupied with
a mitzvah, but because he was occupied with impure things, or because he
is far from the spiritual ideal called the Beis HaMikdash, nevertheless,
he always has the opportunity to correct the situation. This message is eternally
relevant to each and every one of us.
The command, "You shall rebuke," is preceded by the words "You shall not hate
your brother," for this is a precondition for the rebuke. The Torah continues, "...and
you shall not ascribe sin to him," for if the rebuke was ineffectual, you
are certainly the one responsible, for yours were not words coming from the heart.
There are too many people who see it as their Divine duty to rebuke others. Their
motto is that, "It says in the Torah that you have to rebuke everybody; it's a
mitzvah!" But Chassidus says that you have to examine this mitzvah
in its context. In the Torah, nothing is a blank. Everything has a verse preceding
it and a verse following it.
The word "Torah" is derived from horaah -- to instruct or teach.
None of the stories found in Torah are incidental. HaShem did not give us
a Torah so that we should have bedtime stories to read. Every story in Torah is
a fundamental and vital teaching. And if you always tell the story without getting
the moral of the story, it's been wasted.
Now not only are the stories of Torah teachings, not only is every pasuk
(verse), and every idea in Torah a teaching, but it goes even deeper. The context
of a story, and the order of verses is also a teaching. In other words, if there
are three mitzvos that appear in one parshah, the fact that one is
placed first and is followed by a second and third is also by Divine plan. You can
learn something from the fact that one mitzvah precedes the other.
In our case, the verse describing the mitzvah of rebuking your friend,
is preceded by another verse -- "Do not hate your brother in your heart."
What is your motivation for rebuking your brother? Because you love him or because
you hate him? If you rebuke somebody out of caring for him, and out of love, the
rebuke comes out very different. A person may even use the same words, but it is
said in a different tone of voice... And believe me, it is heard and it is felt.
If you dislike the person your rebuke is most likely only an opportunity to shtech
him, to jab him. The prohibition against hating your fellow Jew in your heart precedes
the mitzvah of rebuking your friend. Only when you are positive that your
rebuke is not caused by a feeling of hatred, may you then go ahead and rebuke him.
But this is not the end of the story. The verse which follows the mitzvah
of rebuking your erring fellow states, "and do not cause him to sin." What does
this mean? The explanation is as follows: If a person is not on the right path,
he does aveiros, this is not your fault. You can't expect to be responsible
for every Jew who isn't behaving the way a Jew should. However if you go to this
person and you greet him and say, "Look my friend, you are not acting the way you
should. You should really shape up and do XY and Z instead of what you are doing."
If that rebuke is coming from the right place, if it's coming from real concern,
and real love to the other person, you are really worried about him, you don't want
him to get punished.
Because you have so much ahavas Yisrael, and because you know how good
it is to do the right thing, you also want him to be on the right side of the fence.
When your rebuke comes from love and concern, then words that emanate from the heart
find their way into the heart and will surely have their desired effect.
Shavuos is an opportune time to achieve everything in improving Torah-study and
avodah marked by fear of G-d, and also to strive in teshuvah concerning Torah study,
without interference by the Accuser -- just like the time of sounding
the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah and the holy day of the Fast of Yom Kippur.
Many of us think of Shavuos as a minor holiday. It doesn't rate anywhere near
Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur or Pesach. I have many friends who are baalei teshuvah
and some of them tell me that they never knew Shavuos existed when they belonged
to their Conservative Temple. It just wasn't one of the crowd-drawers. There's nothing
special to do, it seems, other than eat blintzes, which you can do on any day of
the year. On the surface of it, there's nothing dramatic about Shavuos.
However, when one looks into what Chassidus says about Shavuos, it becomes
an entirely different story. Shavuos is the marriage of HaShem and Bnei
Yisrael. Accordingly, in a sense it's the greatest Yom-Tov of all. The
reason that it's only one day (yom echad), or two in chutz laaretz,
in the Diaspora, is not that it's minor, but because it symbolizes the unity, the
oneness, the echad of HaShem and Yidden.
HaYom Yom continues and states that Shavuos is a good time for a person
to make resolutions as far as learning the Torah is concerned. Since it's the
Yom-Tov of receiving the Torah, it's an opportune moment to make a firm decision
to do better in learning the Torah and serving G-d with yiras shamayim (Fear
of Heaven) and teshuvah.
As is known, the Baal Shem Tov passed away on Shavuos. The year that the Baal
Shem Tov passed away, Shavuos fell on a Wednesday. Now in the Torah, what was created
on Wednesday, the first yom revi'i of the world's existence? The sun, the
moon and the stars. They are called in Hebrew the meoros, the luminaries.
And the expression used by the Sages is bayom harevi'i nitlu hameoros," on
the fourth day of Creation the luminaries were suspended (nitlu, spelled
with a tav) in the sky. Some years later the Alter Rebbe declared that
bayom harevi'i nitlu hameoros, -- nitlu spelled with a tes,
which means "removed." On the fourth day of the week the luminaries were taken away:
the Baal Shem Tov was taken away from us on a Wednesday.
Now among all the possible resolutions that a person might want to make on Shavuos,
a very good one is to undertake to do Chitas. For those of you who don't
know what I'm talking about when I say Chitas -- Chitas
is a three-part daily shiur that the Rebbe Rayatz instituted. He advised
that everybody, even women, should undertake them. The ches stands for
Chumash, the first tav stands for Tehillim, and the second
tav stands for Tanya. The way one studies them is this: The weekly portion
in Chumash is divided into seven parts -- the seven aliyos
to which men are called during the Reading of the Torah on Shabbos in
shul. There are also seven days of the week. Accordingly, studying the Chumash
of Chitas means that every day of the week you learn that aliyah part
that corresponds to the day of the week. On Sunday, rishon; Monday sheni;
and so on. So every day you would be learning approximately one seventh of that
week's parshah. That's Chumash. The daily portion of Tehillim
is one thirtieth of the Book of Tehillim. The Tehillim has 150 chapters
and it's divided into thirty sections that have an average of five chapters a day.
However, since some are longer and others are shorter, it has been divided for us
into thirty more or less equal portions corresponding to the days of the month,
so that we finish Tehillim every month. That is the dose of Tehillim.
Tanya: In the back of the Tanya there is a schedule that divides
the Tanya into daily portions so that we complete the entire Tanya
in a year -- from the 19th of Kislev to the following 18th of Kislev.
The Rebbe has urged people to study these passages every single day. If you cannot
manage one day's passage, you can make up for it the following day. You cannot generally
do that with davening (except in the prayer immediately following the one
you missed, called tashlumim -- ask your rabbi) but you can do
it with Chitas. Even if you don't understand everything you're saying, it's
good (even vital) for your neshamah. There have been many stories. I don't
really want to digress and go off on a tangent, but the Rebbe has mentioned many
times that Chitas is a channel through which health and many good things
accrue to the person who says it.
Now these three things, Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya, are
all connected very strongly with the holiday of Shavuos: Chumash, because
the Torah was given to us on Shavuos through Moshe Rabbeinu. Tehillim. Can
anybody figure out how Tehillim is related to Shavuos? Right. David HaMelech
was born and passed away on Shavuos.
Tanya because, even though Tanya was not written by the Baal Shem
Tov, it was written by the Alter Rebbe who was a second-generation disciple of the
Baal Shem Tov. The teachings of the Baal Shem Tov are explained in Tanya.
So we see that all of these three people are closely connected with Shavuos. The
Rebbe said it's not coincidental. Of course it's hashgachah peratis and therefore,
if there is a Jew who has not yet undertaken to say Chitas, this is an excellent
occasion to make this resolution. Nowadays we can just pick up the phone and hear
beautiful dissertations on the daily Tanya. It's a golden era. You can even
wash your dishes while you're listening.
If you are in the situation where reading Hebrew will be too cumbersome and too
difficult then you can definitely read Tanya in English. Try and work your
way up. One should never be satisfied with doing it only in English and it's better
to do a little bit in Hebrew and a little bit in English, but certainly there is
value also in doing it in English.
The words of Tehillim are G-dly words. And so it is with Tanya.
These are very, very holy words. I understand Hebrew but many times I don't understand
exactly what the Tanya is saying, either because it's late at night and my
head is not working any more, or because it's abstract concepts that you really
have to think and concentrate on. I don't always have the time. I remember asking
the question -- is there any value in saying words if you don't really
comprehend or you don't have the time to learn it properly, and the answer is: Of
course it's ideal and wonderful and more desirable to understand deeply, but since
for many of us that's not a reality and it's not practical, then it's better to
do it superficially than not to do it at all.
The reason, the rationalization, behind it is as follows. First of all the words
themselves are holy, so even saying those words has a value. The other thing is
that the neshamah of a person does not depend on his brain. The brain, which
is the seat of the intellect, and the neshamah are not connected in such
a way that things have to go through the brain in order to get to the soul. It is
possible for the soul of the person to comprehend something even if the brain does
not comprehend it. So even though we're not getting it completely, the neshamah
is getting it completely. Torah nourishes your neshamah.
You can almost use the example of when a person takes medicine. A person has
a certain problem. You go to a doctor and the doctor says, you need to take this
medicine or this supplement and you don't really understand how swallowing this
pill is really going to alleviate your symptoms. And you start asking the doctor:
"But I don't understand, just because I swallow this pill a few days a month or
twice a day, is that going to make me feel better? It's such a little pill and I
feel so miserable." The doctor says, "Look, I went to medical school for ten years
and I really cannot convey to you in five minutes the reason that it will help,
but I promise you that this will alleviate your problem." And so you swallow the
pill, and you find that sure enough you're feeling better after a few days. You
cannot comprehend it. You don't know exactly what was in the pill. You don't know
exactly which part of the body it went to, exactly what it did to you, but you do
know that you felt better. So it's not necessary for a person to have total comprehension
of a thing in order to know that it helped and made him feel better. I know many
people who definitely don't totally understand the Chumash or the Tehillim
or the Tanya. But it keeps their neshamah fit and healthy. Come on
now, let's make that resolution!
The Alter Rebbe's response to a brilliant young man who was famed for his intellectual
gifts, at his first yechidus (a private audience with the Rebbe)...: Spiritual and
physical are antithetical in their very essence. A superior quality in the physical
realm is a deficiency in the spiritual.
In material matters, a person who
is content with his lot is an individual of the highest quality. Through avodah,
a person who has such a trait, with additional work on himself, can come to the
highest levels. In spiritual matters, however, to be satisfied with one's lot is
the worst deficiency, and makes one regress and fall, G-d forbid.
In material matters, a person who is satisfied with his lot is an individual
of the highest quality. We look at such a person and we say, "What a wonderful
middah this is, that he is content and does not seek more than he has." What
HaShem gave him is his share, and he doesn't want more. However, in ruchniyus,
this is the worst flaw. Through feeling totally complacent with his spiritual portion,
a person can have the greatest downfall.
In material matters we should strive to be satisfied and not look for more. But
G-d forbid that in spiritual matters we should fall to the level of just being smug
about where we are or who we are. That is the worst fault.
With this advice, the Alter Rebbe hoped that this person would devote his life
to an emphasis on running after ruchniyus -- unlike some people
in our generation, who are never content with their physical things, who spend their
whole lives running after materialism and are only too happy with where they are
spiritually. It should be totally the opposite.
In Torah study the person is devoted to the subject that he wishes to understand
and comes to understand. In davening his devotion is directed to that which surpasses
In learning Torah a Jew feels like a pupil with his master;
in davening -- like a child with his father.
Study and prayer are two of the most basic concepts in Yiddishkeit. But
there's a distinction. Obviously we're talking about studying Torah, not studying
trigonometry. So a person's sitting learning Torah, man or woman or child. What
do you see? You see the devotion of a person to a thing which he wants to grasp.
He is trying to take this knowledge and understand it and take it in; hopefully,
he will eventually understand it. As long as he has an earnest desire to understand,
it is very likely that he will succeed.
However, in davening the devotion of a person is to something which is
beyond understanding. Learning is a thing that depends on your intellectual capacity.
The greater your intellect, the more you can grasp. Davening is not merely
an activity of intellect; it's also an emotional activity. It is the devotion of
a person to something that is beyond his intellect.
In learning we see the relationship of a student to a teacher. Of course, in
a sense, HaShem is the teacher since the Torah is His word, and we are the
students, whereas in davening the relationship is like that of a child to
his father. A teacher can favor a student who is more intellectual, who has a better
head, but the relationship between a parent and child doesn't depend on who understands
more and who understands less. All children are equally beloved by their father.
That's the difference between davening and learning.
Each of them has a unique quality, and we don't weigh what's more important,
what's less important, what's better and what's worse. Each one is special and each
one has a superior aspect. To be a complete Jew you need both aspects, and others
as well. A Jew who only davens and never learns is not a full Jew. A Jew
who only learns and doesn't daven is also not a full Jew.
The month of Elul is the month of reckoning. In the material world, if a businessman
is to conduct his affairs properly and with great profit, he must periodically take
an accounting and correct any deficiencies... Likewise in the spiritual avodah of
serving G-d. Throughout the year all Israel are occupied with Torah, mitzvos and
[developing] good traits. The month of Elul is the month of reckoning...
Even though this quotation from HaYom Yom is in the month of Av, it was
written for the Shabbos which precedes and blesses the month of Elul.
The Rebbe explains the role of the month of Elul in the Jewish calendar: it is
the month of cheshbon, the month of accounting. Just as in the material world,
when somebody has a business, in order that the business should profit, the owner
from time to time has to make an accounting in order to correct the flaws. In order
for a business to be profitable you have to see if you are doing things right. You
can't check what you're doing if you're in the middle of the business. So periodically
you have to close the store and say, "Today we're doing an inventory, we're not
having business as usual, in order to see how things are running." The Jew needs
that too. He needs to step back from his regular work and make an accounting of
his soul -- a cheshbon hanefesh. The entire year a Jew is involved
in Torah and mitzvos and middos tovos, so that he doesn't have so
much time to think about himself. He's busy. But in the month of Elul, in whatever
realm he operates, he has to stop and make a cheshbon tzedek, a true accounting.
Because it's very easy to make a superficial accounting where you always come out
right. But what you need is to make a truthful accounting, to see where you're really
holding and review the events of the entire year so that you will know not only
your positive qualities, and where you're doing well, but also your flaws, your
omissions -- and correct them. Through this preparation, a Jew merits
a good year begashmiyus and beruchniyus.
Furthermore, not only is Elul the month of preparation for Tishrei, but Av is
the month of preparation for Elul. And if we can start Elul on the right foot we
can do what needs to be done in Elul, in Tishrei, and the entire year!
There are two general approaches in healing a bodily illness: (a) To heal the
particular organ or faculty that is defective, sick or weak; (b) to strengthen the
healthy organs and faculties so that they may overcome and heal the sick organ or
faculty. The parallels in illnesses of the soul are the two approaches in service
of G-d -- teshuvah and good deeds.
There are two general approaches to healing a bodily illness. One approach is
to heal the particular organ that is defective, sick or weak. You might say this
would be the approach of conventional medicine. For a toothache you fix the tooth;
for a sore throat you treat the throat. The other approach, which is more like today's
holistic or natural healing, is to strengthen the healthy organs and faculties,
so that they may overcome the disease and heal the sick organ. Antibiotics are not
always the best medicine; they may heal the sore throat, but they don't treat the
low resistance that the patient has which caused him to get the sore throat in the
first place. These are the two different approaches in dealing with bodily illness.
The Rebbe goes on to say that the parallels in illnesses of the soul are two
approaches in the service of G-d: teshuvah, and good deeds. Teshuvah,
in the eyes of the world, means that you have to repent for a particular transgression.
This is like conventional medicine. But, unfortunately, it is possible that you
might have treated only the symptoms, and not the cause of the illness --
why you transgressed in the first place.
"Good deeds," on the other hand, means trying to change your whole approach to
life in general, and to Yiddishkeit in particular. You have to work on the
positive; then, if you are so busy doing good deeds, you won't have time to transgress.
Let us examine an example of this. There is a very big movement today to learn
the laws of shmiras halashon -- guarding your tongue --
with workshops and classes and seminars and so on. Somebody asked a certain Lubavitcher
Rabbi why it is that Chabad is not involved in this movement. Shouldn't they
be in the forefront of this worldwide shmiras halashon, anti-lashon hara
campaign? So that Rabbi wrote a three-part essay on the subject. The gist of this
essay was that shmiras halashon is a defensive approach, a negative approach;
you're involved with doing away with a transgression. You get preoccupied and involved
with not talking lashon hara. In contrast, the chassidic approach to dealing
with this problem is to increase one's ahavas Yisrael, a subject the Rebbe
always talks about. Through ahavas Yisrael the source of the "illness" which
leads to it is treated -- a lack of love for one's fellow Jews. This is
something much more encompassing than just shmiras halashon. When do you
say bad things about somebody else? When you don't have ahavas Yisrael. Now,
of course you must know the laws pertaining to the prohibition of speaking badly
about other people. However, Chassidus always stresses the positive approach,
ahavas Yisrael being a recognition of the beauty of every neshamah,
as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, Chapter 32. Ahavas Yisrael on
a deeper level means realizing that you are connected to all Jews, since all
Yidden are part of HaShem. In short, if a person is preoccupied with
ahavas Yisrael, he'll never even need to apply his knowledge of the laws
of shmiras halashon. It wouldn't dawn on him to talk badly about someone
when he's just been talking about how great that person's neshamah is.
There must be avodah by one's own efforts. There is something superior about
being taken by the hand and led; it is more precious though, when one makes one's
This reading from HaYom Yom focuses on the difference between the approach
of Chabad Chassidus and some other approaches. Chabad Chassidus very
much emphasizes the idea of individual avodah, serving G-d in general, and
self-refinement in particular. It means that no man or woman can ever be complacent
and say, "I'm good enough," or, "Under the circumstances, coming from where I am,
I'm pretty good"; "I'm better than other people that started the way I started."
In other words, avodah means that people have to constantly examine themselves,
to see where they are coming from, where they are at, and where they should be going,
and always try to improve and increase.
A Jew in this world is called a mehalech, one who goes or progresses,
and life can be likened to going up a down escalator -- you can't stop.
You either keep going up, or else you regress; there is no such thing as staying
in the same place.
The Rebbe has often illustrated this by describing the mitzvah of neiros
Chanukah: On the first night of Chanukah, if you light one candle, you're fantastic;
you're excellent; you've done the mitzvah beautifully. But if you light one
candle on the second night of Chanukah, you have not done the mitzvah in
the best possible way. So you say, "I don't understand. Last night I did this and
you said I was great; tonight I'm doing it and you say I'm not!"
Now, why is that? So you're told, "Because yesterday was the first night and
today is the second night; you have to grow. Today you have to increase, to add
another light." That is the idea of avodah: you cannot stay in one place,
and you cannot say you're too old. As the Rebbe has pointed out, the older you get,
the more wisdom and experience in life you have. Perhaps you cannot jump as far
or walk as fast; but certainly, as far as serving HaShem is concerned, you
can grow. In fact, I have taught many elderly women, and I was constantly amazed
at these women, who are 70 years old, and would never miss a shiur. They
say Tehillim, daven, and learn. This is really the beauty of old age.
These women are not fading away; they're growing and they're living, and they're
using their years and their free time in the most beautiful way. The idea of
avodah is -- never stop. The Rebbe says the concept of vacation or
retirement is foreign to Chabad Chassidus.
Growing up in America, in the Western world, you feel like a person has earned
his retirement; now he has a right to be lazy for the rest of his life --
to lie on the beach in the sun and say, "I worked, I earned it, now let me have
my retirement and don't bother me; I deserve it." This idea of letting loose is
contrary to Torah. Torah says that if you have life, you have to work.
I remember when my father was in his sixties, he was the head of a printing shop
-- a physically demanding business. He knew that according to New York
law, at the age of 65 he was eligible for retirement, and he was concerned what
would happen with the printing shop. So he wrote to the Rebbe to discuss his anticipated
retirement, and the Rebbe told him not to retire. My father could take less of a
work load, but the Rebbe did not want him to retire. In fact, by hashgachah peratis,
his partner passed away and the place closed; he then became the head of a kollel.
He did not retire, because he received a clear instruction from the Rebbe not to
retire. That's the idea of avodah. If you want to stop, then you're not a
chassid. You have to keep going.
The Rebbe Rayatz explains that if you let somebody lead you by the hand, you
can get very high. In other words, there are those chassidim other than Lubavitch
chassidim that cling to a Rebbe who is very pious and lofty. They feel that if they
watch and copy the Rebbe, then they'll sort of hang on to the Rebbe's coat-tails,
and they'll also go up when he goes up. However, that is not the idea of Chabad
Chassidus. Chabad Chassidus says that although you can get to superior heights
by being led, it is more precious when you get to wherever it is by your own strength.
In other words, there is a tremendous value in doing it yourself. You may go slower,
you may not get so high so fast, but that is what avodah means. It does not
mean that you're never allowed to look at or listen to the Rebbe. Seeing the Rebbe
is inspirational and gives you an idea of which direction you should be taking.
But that is no replacement for your own avodah.
When the Tzemach Tzedek was nine years old, the Alter Rebbe told him the following:
I received a directive from my Rebbe (the Maggid of Mezritch) who received it from
his Rebbe (the Baal Shem Tov) in the name of his Rebbe (Achiyah HaShiloni.
The Baal Shem Tov was taught by the soul of Achiyah HaShiloni, who lived
thousands of years earlier, during the time of King David. He was one of the 48
Prophets, and a transmitter of the secrets of the Torah. According to some authorities
he was the master of Eliyahu HaNavi). This is the teaching that was transmitted:
From the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, we are to say three chapters
of Tehillim every day, and then, on Yom Kippur, 36 -- nine before Kol
Nidrei, nine before going to sleep, nine after Mussaf, and (the last) nine after
Neilah. If one did not start saying Tehillim on the second day of Rosh Chodesh,
one is to start with the Tehillim of the particular day on which he realizes his
omission, and complete the missing Tehillim later.
This is a custom, a minhag, which I would like to encourage all my students
to take part in; if you can inspire your friends and acquaintances to do this, please
do. The Tzemach Tzedek was the grandson of the Alter Rebbe and the son of
Devorah Leah who gave up her life so that her father could live. The Alter Rebbe
was under arrest because of the degree to which he had revealed the secret teachings
of the Torah. There was an accusation Above, in the Supernal Court, which was reflected
in the presence of opponents (i.e., misnagdim) of the Alter Rebbe below,
and it was decreed that he should die because he had revealed so much Chassidus.
His daughter, Devorah Leah, through divine inspiration, got wind of this. She called
in three elder Chassidim and said she wanted to give her life for her father's,
and indeed, shortly afterwards, she passed away, and the Alter Rebbe continued to
live. She had mesirus nefesh so that Chabad Chassidus could continue.
Devorah Leah had a small son. She asked her father if he would raise her child,
because she was dying for him, and he accepted. That baby was the Tzemach Tzedek.
Therefore, although he was really the grandson of the Alter Rebbe, he was in a sense
his son, since he was raised by him in his home. There was a warm closeness between
them. From a very young age he lived in the Alter Rebbe's home, and he witnessed
and absorbed a tremendous amount from his very early youth.
Now, you might ask what is so great about adding three chapters of Tehillim
to your daily schedule in Elul? You have to know that Tehillim is something
that in the past was associated with very simple, plain people; all that people
who did not know how to learn Gemara could do -- was say Tehillim.
However, the Baal Shem Tov taught that when simple folk recite Tehillim,
this is often dearer to HaShem than the Torah learning of great scholars,
because it comes from the heart. Tehillim is always associated with the heart
of the Jew. When you say extra Tehillim during Elul, it's like taking an
extra vitamin. It's like the "stress tabs" some people take when they're going through
a difficult period in their lives. They say that going through stress robs the body
of vitamins; you need extra vitamins at such a time. Using this analogy, Elul is
a stressful time for a Jew, because he has to make a cheshbon hanefesh, he
has to account for everything he did or did not do. The equation does not always
add up. Accordingly, this is a time when you have to put extra energy into teshuvah,
and into reviewing the year. And so you need an extra boost, some extra vitamins.
This secret was revealed to the Baal Shem Tov by his teacher, Achiyah HaShiloni.
It is very easy to add three chapters, especially since you can make it up the
next day. (I'm speaking here to women who are not always in control of their own
time: if you don't manage to say them that day, you can always make up for it the
following day.) This has been the secret passed down for hundreds of years already:
it is an extra segulah for this period.
Dedicated to the memory of
Nechoma Greismanone of the pioneer shluchos
of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Eretz Yisrael who passed away at an early age
on Twenty-Three Shvat 5752She will be missed by all those whose
lives were warmed by her compassionate encouragement her level-headed counsel her
tireless outreach work and her constant happinessFor more people
than she knew, her life served as an inspiring example of what a chassidic woman,
wife and mother can aspire to"My Beloved went down to His garden
to gather roses." This the Midrash perceives as alluding to G-d, Who "gathers
in those righteous souls" which have completed their mission in this world
Nechoma Greisman was one of those roses. But petals close in the evening
only to reopen in the morning. In the meantime, until that long-awaited dawn, this
volume is dedicated to her luminous memory by family and friends.