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Wednesday
May222013

DOING THINGS THE TORAH WAY

In cults they tell you that you’re a nobody. You just do what we want you to do. That’s Torah? Torah wants you to use your mind. Battul to G-d doesn’t mean being a nobody; it means you become part of the Eibeshter – and that’s not too bad. You’re not such a nobody anymore. * The following is a transcript of a farbrengen held in Morristown, New Jersey in late MarCheshvan 5753, with Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak “Fitzy” Lipskier, of blessed memory. Part 2.

MORE THAN JUST 
A PIECE OF WOOD

What did the Rebbe mean when he asked people for “a house filled with s’farim?” The Rebbe explained it with a Halacha: It says in Hilchos Shabbos that if someone deliberately carries in a public domain on Shabbos after being warned, the penalty is severe. What’s the definition of “carrying?” If someone walks out in the street with a crumb in his pocket, he is not guilty of desecrating the Shabbos; the item being brought into the public domain has to be a certain size. What is that limit? What makes something “significant” or “insignificant”?

The Torah tells us: When someone carries out solids or liquids, there’s a minimum measurement that makes a person guilty of desecrating the Shabbos. If he carries out a vessel, it too has a required amount, depending on whether it’s broken or whole. For example, if a person carried out an empty plate, he’s liable if he needed the plate as a separate entity. Suppose he carries out a full-sized plate containing liquid that did not exceed the minimum measurement. If he would have carried out that liquid in his hand, he would naturally be exempt because it was less than the minimum amount. If he carried out the liquid in a vessel with the minimum measurement, he would be exempt even for the vessel. Why is he exempt even though he carried out a full-sized vessel? The Halacha states that if he carried out the vessel in order to transfer an amount of liquid that is less than the minimum amount, he is exempt, because the vessel is “battul,” i.e. it loses its existence in relation to the liquid.

Getting back to the point of “a house filled with s’farim:” What’s the difference between a bookshelf and a piece of wood? Aren’t they both just pieces of wood? Actually, there is a difference. By definition, the whole essence of a bookshelf is that it contains books. The bookshelf is also a piece of wood, but it’s no longer merely a piece of wood. That means that it loses its own initial identity, which is very shallow, and it becomes a new entity.

A bookshelf is a vehicle for books. What’s “a house filled with s’farim?” The house is a giant bookshelf. What happens spiritually, according to Halacha? A house is made out of wood, cement, plaster – no different than any other physical object with a limited lifetime. However, such a house that is filled with s’farim is not a house anymore. It’s “a house filled with s’farim.” It is a vehicle for Torah. It’s a whole new entity. Its whole essence and purpose contains Torah.

That’s the whole concept of bittul. When a Jew does Torah and mitzvos, he’s battul to G-d. This is really a fancy term that’s often misunderstood. It means that a person is a nobody. Where does it say in the Torah that a Jew has to be a nobody? And since when is being a nobody such a positive thing? To me, it’s sounds very negative. A zombie. That’s what they do in cults; they tell you that you’re a nobody. You just do what we want you to do. That’s Torah? Torah wants you to use your mind. Battul to G-d doesn’t mean being a nobody; it means you become part of the Eibeshter – and that’s not too bad. You’re not such a nobody anymore.

A Jew is not a Jew only when he davens or when he learns: a Jew is a Jew twenty-four hours a day. Judaism is not a religion. Yiddishkait is life. Torah is the life of a Jew.

Take a Jew, Joe Shmo (sounds more Jewish than John Doe), and we see he does certain things. He does mitzvos, he learns Torah – but is that the definition of a Jew? A Jew is a Jew, through and through – when he sleeps, when he eats, when he walks, when he works. It’s not that a person can be a Jew in some areas; we have to permeate Yiddishkait into every aspect of our lives.

IT’S NOT ENOUGH 
TO BE A CHASSID 
UNDER THE TALLIS

In Parshas Toldos, the Chumash teaches us about the birth of Yaakov Avinu. We know that Yaakov was a pretty nice guy, while Eisav wasn’t so hot. The Jewish People are descendants of Yaakov, as they are called “B’nei Yaakov” or “B’nei Yisroel.” Why was he given the name of Yaakov at birth? Torah gives the reason, although it doesn’t sound like a very positive one. He came out hanging onto Eisav’s heel. Our great forefather has this beautiful name because he grabbed – not the brain – but the heel. And whose heel? The heel of the world – the worst of them all. What’s the meaning of all that?

The truth is that’s the avoda of a Jew. A Jew has to take the heel of Eisav and connect it to Yaakov. He wasn’t named Eikev, which means a heel, but Yaakov beginning with a Yud, the first letter of G-d’s Holy Name. We have to bring the Yud into the heel, to take the lowest of the lowest and make that Jewish, too. A person can not be satisfied with being Jewish only when he prays. A Chassid is holy everywhere.

WHAT KIND OF TRUTH 
DO YOU REALLY WANT?

What’s happening right now in our generation is intense, really awesome. Of course, it’s also something revolutionary that never happened in history, as Moshiach has never come. The funny thing is that even though it’s actually happening, some of us still have a hard time believing that.

Here’s a story with a message that is so powerful that it’s always appropriate. Back in the sixties, everyone was out there looking for the truth. This was a really crazy time in the United States and all over the world – hippies, the Beatles, other nutty things. Once there was this fellow who searched high and low, but he failed to satisfy his curiosity. He went everywhere, yet no matter where he went, there was always a limit. Thus, he still felt that there was something missing.

One day, as he was out walking, he saw this brilliant light from a distance. The closer he got, the more intense the light shone. He came into this brightly lit room, and saw that it was filled with lights. There was an attendant walking around, and he asked him where he was. “This is the World of Truth,” the attendant replied. “You see all the millions of lights on these tables? Each of these lights represents the life of an individual.” (Out there, you can bluff all you want, but this is the real world.)

“Where’s my light?” the man inquired. The attendant brought him over to one of the tables, points to one of the lights, and says, “Here’s yours.” The man looked in and nearly had a heart attack: There was very little fluid left in his glass; it was almost empty. The attendant then proceeded to get back to his own business, as if he didn’t see what was happening. The visitor waited until the attendant appeared not to be looking, took one of the other cups, and poured its contents into his glass.

The attendant naturally saw this and knew what was going on. He approached the man and said, “Do you want the Truth or do you want the truth as you would like it to be?”

What do you want? If you want what’s good and what’s right, there’s only one way. However, if you want what you think is good and right, you may get just that. Who loses out in the end? Some people like to take the easy way out. This discussion is actually irrelevant today, because we really should be dealing with other things, such as thinking about Moshiach. Yet, there are some pessimists out there who are still living in galus and are thinking about the future. For the benefit of those people (they’re probably not here anyway), we’ll mention a few brief points:

On a daily basis, a person who sits in yeshiva can lose or change his perspective on what he’s doing here, etc. He has to know why he came and what he wants. Of course, people do get lazy, and that’s okay every once in awhile. You get tired, you get burnt out – that’s both acceptable and understandable occasionally. But a bachur ought not to kid himself; he has to decide that this is what he wants. He wants the truth, and this is only possible in the right, the kosher, and the true way. There’s only one way, and that’s the yeshiva way, the Torah way. There are no compromises in Yiddishkait. One can’t do a mitzvah 99.9% – either he did it or he didn’t. A Yid can’t do half of G-d’s Will. Otherwise, in effect, he did nothing. That’s not what He wanted. He wanted this, and that’s not what He was given. That’s the way it is.

I have no doubt that everybody here would love to be a Torah scholar. However, with regard to learning to become a Torah scholar, there may be some different opinions. “If only the books could just fall into my head, then everything would be great…” I can guarantee you that’s never going to happen. Books might fall onto your head, but not into your head. You have to work and toil. How? There’s only one way to work. Unfortunately or fortunately, there are no shortcuts.

You probably know better than I do that the world out there is a very strange place, to put it mildly. To be a bit more accurate, it’s a sick world – mentally, emotionally, and morally. This is what they call “the disposal age”: disposal cigarette lighters, cups, paper goods, wives, etc. You don’t like it? You get another one. What’s the big deal? Years ago, when your radio broke, what did you do? You went to the repair shop, and they would replace a few tubes and fix it. Have you ever seen such repair shops lately? Computer repair shops, maybe. Today, when your digital alarm clock breaks, what do you do with it? You throw it out and buy another one.

That’s the age we’re living in right now. This is not just in the non-Jewish world; it goes across the board. It’s happening everywhere. Everyone’s got his head on backwards – if he has a head. That’s the reality we are facing.

LIVING IN THE CLOUDS

As crazy and serious as it sounds, it’s worse than that. The average American home is a broken or single-parent home. This is what you’re looking forward to r”l? I don’t think anybody in his right mind wants that, but this is what we’re dealing with. You’ve got to straighten your head now, and it starts here. It’s not going to happen when you’re out there.

There were bachurim who learned in yeshiva, and they would come to me and say, “I don’t understand. When I was a yeshiva bachur, I learned about the levels of tzaddik and beinoni, and how everyone could and should be a beinoni…” What did you think the first you heard it? I don’t doubt for one moment that when you first came here and saw all these holy guys dressed up in black, and then you went to 770 and saw everyone with long coats, black hats, and glasses to top it off, shuckling with their talleisim, did you question for a moment that they were all beinonim? And the rabbis here? They’re all almost tzaddikim…

“I learned what the Alter Rebbe said in Tanya, I learned maamarim and I know what they say about the world out there. The world is essentially G-dliness, and you have to make ‘a dwelling place for Him in the physical world’. I went out there, and lo and behold, I found a different kind of world. It’s not the world you told me about in the books. I found people who weren’t so nice: They cheat you, they give you a rough time, and some of them are Jewish, chassidic, acidic, whatever…” This is what happens when you don’t use your learning properly.

WHEN COMMON SENSE BECOMES TREIF

Yet, there’s an element of truth to it in many such cases. What does t’shuva mean? “I know where I used to be, and to some extent, what I used to do wasn’t so kosher. Therefore, I have to leave my past behind…” As a result, you “suppress” your whole past, all your inside feelings – hold them back, block them, bury them – including your innate talents and qualities. And there’s the big mistake –  – assuming that since everything you did previously was treif, it all has to be discarded.

However, that’s not the meaning of “a dwelling place for Him in the physical world.” The true meaning is taking everything that’s kosher and elevate it. There are people – here and elsewhere – who were talented in certain areas, such as art, music, etc. What’s not kosher about it? Ay, the art he used to draw and the music he used to play wasn’t so kosher? Therefore, burn it along with the fingernails… Where did you get such an idea? It’s bad enough that what you did in the past was bad; now you have to throw away the good?

People tend to go to extremes and throw away all their past, including primarily the good past and the good qualities, such as common sense. If you’re a lamdan and baal t’shuva, you tend to think, “The common sense I used to have before I became frum was goyish. Therefore, common sense must be treif. Now that I’m Jewish, it’s a new world…” With that type of attitude, it is easy to lose touch with reality and even throw away the good you once had, as opposed to incorporating it into your new life.

(To be continued be”H)

 

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