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Thursday
Jul182019

Genius with simplicity

Recognized integrity of each level of Torah, yet he also saw their interdependence; the connections between each of these levels.

In the preceding paradox we described how the Rebbe would demonstrate the integrity of each subject of Torah, the same way he demonstrated the unique contribution of each individual. Each discipline of Torah has a life and character of its own. And the rules that apply to one discipline cannot be applied to the others.

Yet, after the Rebbe presented an explanation of Rashi’s approach to the P’shat of a certain verse, the Rebbe would then cite the Midrashic or Kabbalistic or Chassidic approach and then demonstrate how each level is intertwined with the others.

In other words, the Rebbe sees the Torah in three dimensions: 

The overarching aspect of Torah in which all of the Torah shares one G-dly character.

The unique and individualistic nature of each section of Torah; in which each discipline or subject has its inimitable approach which distinguishes it from the other.

After seeing the differences between subjects; one can then see how each individual section is connected to all the others.  

***

When he said a deep Ma’amar (Kabbalistic and philosophical) discourse he often brought it down to the level of a simple person, when he said a more casual sicha (talk) he would occasionally soar to the highest level beyond the capacity of most scholars. 

 The Rebbe’s public talks were divided into two categories. The first was the Ma’amar, a Chassidic discourse in which he would transmit lofty, mystical, philosophical spiritual ideas. The Rebbe would say this genre of discourse with his eyes closed, preceded by a special soul-searching melody and with the entire crowd present standing. It was also chanted in a very unique way.

The other genre of discourse called a Sicha - a talk, was much more eclectic. It would range from a deep Talmudic discourse, commentary on Rashi or Rambam, current events in the light of Torah, Chassidic teachings and frequently very down-to-earth teachings for children and those with limited knowledge of Torah.

However, there were several occasions where the Ma’amar which may have started on a deep kabalistic note transferred into a down-to-earth relevant message for the average person. Conversely, a sicha which began on a simple level would turn into a soaring journey into the spiritual stratosphere, leaving even the most advanced scholars behind.

Whatever the Rebbe’s rationale for this phenomenon may have been it is clear that we can learn a lesson:

No matter how lofty a subject, one must bring it down-to-earth and make it relevant to us in our daily lives.

Conversely, no matter how simple a subject of Torah may seem, it carries within it the deepest secrets.   

***

Was perfectionist in writing, yet allowed even less than perfect versions of his Torah to be disseminated.

There are two kinds of writers. There are those who are perfectionists and will never allow any of their writings to be published unless they have devoted immense amount of time and effort to edit and reedit.

Then there are those less rigid who will gladly allow anything written to be publicized because their concern is not perfection; it is relevance. They want their message to go out even if it is lacking in accuracy. 

The Rebbe was both or neither.

On the one hand, the Rebbe was scrupulous in his editing of his talks, making copious amount of corrections, additions etc. 

Yet, the Rebbe was able to put a stop and after 2 or 3 edits of his work, he asked that it be publicized without any further comments or edits, so that the message is not delayed.

 ***

Displayed genius in his interpretations, but they were simultaneously simple and straightforward. In other words, even his simple explanations were brilliant.

 Another hallmark of the Rebbe’s scholarship is that we frequently see his genius in the simplicity of the explanations he gave.

The following is one of many examples:

There are discrepancies in the wording of the Torah concerning the place called Cave of Machpeilah where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs were buried. The classical explanation, cited in the Talmud, was that the cave was a two-tiered cave.

Yet in several places the Torah describes the cave as the “cave of the field of Machpeilah” implying that it was the field that was called Machpeilah not the cave, while in other places it seems that the cave itself was called Machpeilah.

The Rebbe answers by citing a slight anomaly in Rashi’s apparent citation of the aforementioned Talmudic explanation that the cave was a two-tiered cave. Instead of saying it was a two-tiered cave, Rashi writes it was a “house with an upper story.” Why does he use the word house rather than cave? A cave is not a house and a house is not a cave.

However, the Rebbe answers this is precisely what Rashi is revealing to us that the reason that both the cave and the field are referred to as Machpeilah-double was due to the existence of a two storied house in this field in close proximity to the cave. 

This novel interpretation is brilliant for both its ingenuity and for its simplicity. 

This is one of many examples where the Rebbe fused genius with simplicity.

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