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Wednesday
Sep252019

May it be a year of PNIMIYUS, Pedus, Parnassah

“The theme of the year” is a concept invented by modern society. The idea that a certain year is dedicated to a certain value can be viewed as running contrary to the Torah’s approach in which whatever is important is important always. Yet, everything a Jew observes must teach him a lesson in serving Hashem.

By Levi Liberow

In 5723 (1963), the 150th anniversary of the Alter Rebbe’s histalkus, was declared by the Rebbe as the Shnas HaKen and he initiated special global projects to mark the occasion.

A prominent rabbi and rosh yeshiva expressed his criticism of this initiative in a letter he sent to the Rebbe:

“I heard and read in the newspapers that the Rebbe announced this year as the 150th jubilee of the passing of … the Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya.

“… Certainly, we must remember the teachings, talks and stories of the Alter Rebbe; the phrase “The mention of a righteous man is for a blessing” was said just about this, i.e., that the one who commemorates [the Tzaddik] also merits blessings — but not specifically on the 150th Jubilee.

“I have never heard Chassidim of any of the offshoots of the Baal Shem Tov disciples celebrating jubilees [of any sort], why haven’t [any] Tzaddikim of the past done so? To my poor knowledge, I never heard or saw that [even] any of the Chabad Rebbeim celebrated or marked a jubilee year of the passing of the Ba’al Shem Tov or the Great Maggid or the Ba’al HaTanya; they only observed an annual Yom Hilulah, but never commemorating a specific sum of years. I see this as an imitation of the customs of modern circles originating from the customs of the Gentiles.

“Certainly, his Torah honor has reasons and sources for this that I’m unaware of, and so, I request from his honor if he can inform me of his reasoning to alleviate me of my concerns, since the Rebbe knows me that I do not intend to vex G-d forbid, I just wish to be taught…

The Rebbe responded to his letter by first citing several Torah-sources for the custom, then he added this:

“The most important thing is, is that we see clearly see how the above-mentioned [150th jubilee activities] added to the observance of Torah and mitzvos for many fellow Jews, ken yirbu, and the continuous effect is only increasing.

“[By contrast,] the propaganda by those who are storming against it, instead of having any [positive] effect, [only caused those who took heed to it to] not to gather on that day, and not discuss matters of Yiras Shomayim, etc..

“If we will judge by the facts on the ground — it seems to be clear in which [of these] forms of propaganda the Yetzer Tov is interested and which interests the…”

The Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach took this “modern custom” and turned it into a powerful tool to generate greater Jewish commitment. Starting in the year 5742, התשמב, the Rebbe began applying an acronym to the Hebrew letters marking the year. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from the Rebbe what the theme of the coming decade, (the “pey’s”) is, but until we do, b’karov mamash, we must look back and try to find direction in the Rebbe’s teachings as to what the focus of the coming year and decade should be.

***

Der Rebbe haht altz bavorent” — fortunately for us the Rebbe has addressed everything and even during this period of concealment didn’t abandon us without direction.

Since 5745, the Rebbe began incorporating in his Erev Yom Kippur brachah, delivered after Mincha at 770, an alphabetical “list” of blessings modeled according to a prayer said at the end of the “Seder Avoda” said during mussaf on Yom Kippur with slight variations depending on the year.

For the letter פ, the word used (in all years) is שנת פדות — a year of deliverance and redemption, so there it is — היתהא שנת פדות.

But the idea of a yearly theme is to generate action: What is our active part in שנת פדות, other than waiting for it to happen?

***

There is a Chassidishe vort from Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (cited on p. 9 in the Rebbe’s Haggada), explaining that while Hashem in the Torah calls the Yom Tov “Chag HaMatzos,” Jews have given it a name “Chag HaPesach” — we praise Hashem for what He did for us by “passing over” and saving us, and Hashem praises us for the faith we had in Him by following him into the desert without preparing anything.

In a similar vein, while שנת פדות is what we ask Hashem to do for us, I suggest that we should also introduce a second siman for the year: we must seek out not only what our expectations from Hashem are for this year, but also what is expected from us to make it happen. We are partners in creation, and it can’t be a partnership of “you cook, I eat” …

We don’t need to look far. One of the most important “Moshiach values” is the idea of פנימיות, being thoroughly and totally involved in what we’re doing, one thing at a time.

The true concept of פדות, redemption, is that a person is not bound by anything, not even by the next goal. Today’s fast-paced world makes us slaves to the “next thing,” never allowing us to delve into the first thing and “conquer” it. And so, while we enjoy a freer world than ever with so many Moshiach-processes happening around us, we many a time ironically feel chained to ourselves.

People sometimes think that in this generation it’s not possible to daven with the same concentration as in the past and so on. Just a suggestion on how to do this: try to have only one sefer open in fromt of you when you daven — a siddur. Do one thing at a time, and you’ll be surprised how good you are at davening, learning or whatever it is you’re doing.

They say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

What is the hunter holding “a bird in the hand” who has his eye on the “two on the bush” called? I think he’s a silly slave to those two birds. Judging by the end result, they’ve shrewdly manipulated him into giving up the bird he already has in his hand…

The road to פדות is פנימיות. A person who masters the skill of p’nimiyus becomes a free person. When he moves on to conquer yet another goal, he has fully conquered the first. A free hunter will first patiently deposit the “bird in the hand” into a cage, and calmly proceed to successfully get the “two on the tree” into the same cage… 

Let’s define practical goals for bringing Moshiach, and capture them, one by one.

***

If you root for פרנסה תהא שנת, then living by this principle will enhance your parnassah goals too…

But the truth is that they are all connected. As I was researching for this piece, I came across a bracha from Erev Yom Kippur 5746 where the Rebbe connects פדות with פדה בשלום. While Yud Tes Kislev is still a few months away, the theme of “redeemed in peace” is very much fitting for this year’s theme of שנת פנימיות. In a nutshell, the ma’amar of the Mittler Rebbe which the Rebbe mentions, explains that the redemption “in peace” means that the enemy is not only subdued, but transformed into a friend, effectively achieving what pnimiyus does — conquering your goals, not just rushing through them thereby letting the enemy return to haunt you.

The Rebbe goes on to further connect it with the term יתפרנסון — that this redemption effectively is brought about by the teachings of Chabad Chassidus which brings G-dliness down in a way of parnassah, sustainability.

It’s not enough to catch the bird, you’ve got to eat it! That’s what the term parnsassah means, to be sustained, to take things in, b’pnimiyus!

Reb Mendel Futerfas once related an exchange he had with the Chassid Reb Leizer Tchechesker. Reb Leizer was extremely ill, and the doctors told him that because of this condition he was barely allowed to eat just a slice of dry challah and half a cup of milk a day.

Reb Mendel once asked him: “Reb Leizer, how are you doing?” “Baruch Hashem” he replied, “I only wish that my spiritual condition would be as good as my physical.”

Reb Mendel was taken aback, and Reb Leizer explained:

“Mendele, Mendele, what don’t you understand? True, I have very little gashmiyus, only a slice of dry challah and half a glass of milk a day — but that little bit goes into me and is absorbed, digested and becomes united with me, I literally live from it.

B’ruchniyus, on the other hand, there can be a situation when a lot is studied, but nothing actually penetrates me. It is this that I wish onto myself, that my spirituality should affect me as much as the little bit of physicality does.”

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