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Publisher’s Foreword

Shabbos Parshas Chaye Sarah
22nd Day of MarCheshvan, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Toldos
29th Day of MarCheshvan, 5745

10th Day of Kislev, 5745

Shalom Aleichem — Aleichem Shalom

Shabbos Parshas Vayishlach
14th Day of Kislev, 5745

19th Day of Kislev, 5745

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21st Day of Kislev, 5745

Yechidus
Eve of 24th of Kislev, 5745

Kollel Tiferes Zekainim Levi Yitzchok
26th Day of Kislev, 5745

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28th Day of Kislev, 5745

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1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Teves, 5745

10th of Teves

Yartzeit of Rambam
20th Day of Teves, 5745

What is a Jew?

Shabbos Parshas Va’eira
26th Day of Teves, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Beshallach
11th Day of Shevat, 5745

Sichos In English
Excerpts of Sichos delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Vol. 24 — MarCheshvan-Shevat, 5745


What is a Jew?

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  Yartzeit of Rambam
20th Day of Teves, 5745
Shabbos Parshas Va’eira
26th Day of Teves, 5745
 

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G-d, the Creator, gave man, His handiwork, a mission in life. Just as the fish must live in the sea, so must the Jew live in accordance with Torah. It cannot be otherwise. Similarly you cannot call a Jew, a gentile, or a gentile, a Jew. The hope for the world is for everyone to serve G-d in his own way.

Just as Maimonides is called Rambam, being the acronym of his name and patronym, he is also known as the “Moreh,” (“Guide”) because his work, the ‘Moreh Nevuchim’ (Guide of the Perplexed), gave guidance, not only to the troubled seekers of his generation, but also for the perplexed of all generations. This guidance is much more necessary in the times of galus (diaspora), when the trials and tribulations of the exile bring about a state of confusion, and it becomes necessary to find the clear path, which will lead out of the confusion. This is the way of Yiddishkeit, as taught by G-d in the Holy Torah.

The purpose of man

It is logical and axiomatic, that the creation of man in the world is-for a goal and purpose — to carry out the mission of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to illuminate the world.

At the close of the six days of creation, the Torah states, “G-d saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good”; as creation stood on the sixth day, its existence was very good. Nevertheless, immediately afterwards the Torah says: “from all His work which G-d created to function (to do),” which the Midrash translates, “to fix.” The perfection of G-d’s world is immanent but hidden, and it is necessary for that “very good” to be “fixed” and revealed in its full potential.

It is the role of every Jew, through his Divine service, to illuminate the world and to bring the perfection, which is hidden in this world, to a state of revelation. Now, can it be that G-d should create man, give him a purpose, and then allow him to stumble in the darkness, not knowing how or in what manner to fulfill his mission?!

The reasoning for this is even stronger. For even a human being, whose mercy is measured and limited, will do everything in his power to make sure that his son will not stray in the darkness, both literally and figuratively. The father illuminates his son’s quarters and also trains him to follow the right path. How much more so, when we speak of the Holy One, Blessed Be He; it would be completely illogical to say that He inhabited His world with people, who are created in the “image of G-d,” and then let them grope in darkness!

Torah illuminates the mission

Reason forces us to say, that when G-d created man and gave him a mission, He also gave him a beacon of light to illuminate his path in life. This “Torah light” shines and directs and teaches the right path for man in life. When a Jew studies Torah he is instructed precisely what to do and what not to do, and there is nothing in the world which Torah fails to deal with, or to advise the Jew how to act on.

Therefore, when a Jew lives his life in accord with the dictates of the “Torah light” he makes every day a Yiddishkeit day. His life becomes recognizably permeated with Yiddishkeit and he trains and educates his children in the Torah way. This is the proper fulfillment of his role and mission — for he has illuminated the world and revealed the “very good” in creation.

It is important that this principle be understood in its true context. Life according to Torah and including the study of Torah is not just the privilege or convenience of every Jew, which he may decide to accept or reject at will. Life with Torah is the very essence and actual life-force of every Jew. Without Torah study his existence is not considered to be alive. The Talmud puts this way:

Why is man compared to fish of the sea? To tell you, Just as fish of the sea, as soon as they come on to dry land die, so also man, as soon as he abandons Torah and mitzvos [incurs destruction].” (Avodah Zarah 3B)

Can a Jew “live” without Torah?

Now, what if a person will argue that he chooses to abandon Torah and mitzvos even if it means self-destruction, G-d forbid? Well, our reaction to this position can be learned from the conduct of society, in the world around us, in similar situations. As our sages said: “Go out and see what people say.”

A man climbs up on a bridge and wants to off and kill himself. In any normal society efforts will be expended to stop this person committing suicide. even the use of force.

Jump all from

But if we think about it, why meddle in someone’s private affair? We live under the rule of a democratic form of government, which is soundly and firmly based on the concept of individual liberty and freedom. Democracy teaches that each person, theoretically, may do whatever he wishes, so long as it does not harm another person, the environment or society. This fellow on the bridge may argue, that as master of his own destiny he has decided to commit suicide. No one has the right to meddle in his personal life; he is doing something which affects his life only, his flesh and blood. He is causing no harm to another individual, society, or to the environment.

Logic demands the choice of life!

Despite this ostensibly logical deduction, normal people will agree that it is somehow not right — and everything must be done to save this individual, and to stop him from committing suicide. The police will direct the traffic away from the area, a team of psychologists and “crisis~’ experts will be deployed to talk to the “would be suicide” in order to dissuade him from his self destruction. Meanwhile some ruse will be used to distract him and other specially trained police officers will sneak up on him and forcibly grab him. He will be lowered down from the bridge and, if necessary, be put under sedation and medical care until he returns to his senses.

During this entire episode no one will express the distorted view that we should convene “parliament” or “city hall” to debate the question of how to react in such a case. Perhaps in the framework of the rules of democracy this person should be left alone, since he claimed that he was only destroying himself?

A person does not live in a vacuum!

The truth of course is, that the repercussions of his actions will affect and harm others: his family, neighbors, the environment, etc.

Now try to see a Jew’s relationship with Torah in the same light. He can’t argue that being in a democracy he may do as he pleases and no one may mix into his personal life — because we are dealing with a question of life and death; when the fish leave the sea they die! Especially when the action of every Jew affects the entire Jewish people, and the whole world.

Why does the Talmud tell us that: “Therefore every single person is obliged to say: ‘The world was created for my sake’?” Will this not make him feel self-important and proud? The Rambam writes that we must negate, absolutely to the extreme, the attributes of pride or vanity. How can a person say that the whole world exists for him?! The answer is that the world really does depend on him and he must realize his responsibility; every act and move he makes affects the whole world. Now if a Jew’s action is not in accord with Torah, not only does he destroy himself but he also adversely affects and harms the world.

Envy of the power of the gentile

In theory this is all sound and clear, but what happens when a Jew who is in exile, as a minority among the gentiles, and sees the power and honor given to the gentiles, is suddenly grasped by a feeling of envy, or lust, in relation to the goyim; he becomes jealous of the honor the goy has, who rules, controls or governs. This Jew cannot even dream of rising to such a position of power! In another vein, a Jew might be jealous that the goy is seemingly permitted to satisfy all his epicurean and hedonistic desires, without any restriction, while he, the Jew, is prohibited from such tempting and tantalizing fare.

“Why am I different from the goy?”

When a Jew is faced with such thoughts he becomes perplexed and confused and he begins to rationalize to himself, “Why am I different from the goy, we are all children of Adam, created in the image of G-d. We are all alike, biologically and physiologically. If the gentile can live an easy and healthy life without Torah, why can’t I be like him, why can’t there be true egalitarianism?” He is genuinely searching for a meaningful explanation. This is an extremely sensitive point; life seems to be unfair! How do we present the answer?

Let us go back for a moment to the parable of the fish. What if the fish would come along with the rationalization, that since all the other creatures can exist quite happily and healthy on dry land, why can’t they, the fish, leave the sea, and live on land also?! Obviously this cannot be, for there are land creatures and sea creatures, and if they are jealous of each other and want to change their habitat they will perish!

Do you now see that the argument of that poor jealous soul is positively destructive?!

The habitat of the Jew is the way of Torah

G-d created certain people whose habitat is the way of Torah, if they depart from their life sustaining environment, out of jealousy, and try to live in an alien habitat, they are cutting off their own life-support. So the Pirkei Avos tells us: “Envy, lust and honor-seeking drive a man from the world,” which means they remove the person from his life supporting world and transpose him to an alien world. True, there too, you find living beings — but the Jew is not adapted to live in that environment, just as fish can live in their environment and cannot live on dry land. There is no pure eRality!

Of course the yetzer hora (evil inclination) tries to convince the person to follow the path of least resistance — to live as he wishes without Torah — but here the choice is not between easy and hard — but between life and death. The Jew cannot live without Torah. Since he was born a Jew, his life-habitat is in Torah and he cannot choose otherwise, any more than the fish can choose to live on dry land.

The gentiles too have a code of conduct

To carry this thought a step further, the gentile nations of the world were also given a clear guide for their conduct, which are the Seven Noachide Laws with all their ramifications, in order that the world should be civilized and not a wild jungle. Thus, they also must conduct themselves according to G-d’s will. It is just that the role of the Jew is different from the role of the non-Jew.

The brain and the heart

An illustration may be drawn from the allocation of functions in the human body. Even though the body is one unit, still there is a division of functions: The brain has its function, the heart its role and the feet have their job, as do all the other organs of the body. The well-being of the individual depends on the proper operation and function of each part. If one muscle or organ should decide to change its role, it will cause illness to the entire body. Take for example the heart and the brain. The heart is filled with blood, the life-force of the body; from the heart the blood is pumped to all the organs. In the brain, on the other hand, if even a small blood vessel should burst and a drop of blood would seep into the brain cells it would cause a life threatening emergency! Why should this be so, if the blood is the life-force of the person? The solution is of course elementary. In order for the blood to bring life to the body it must be found in those organs and arteries which are fashioned for that purpose; if an organ, which is not so endowed, usurps that function, it just will not work, even if that renegade organ happens to be the most important organ of the body, the brain.

Conversely, the brain is the seat of the mind and the intellect, whose role it is to rule and control the body. What if the heart decides to rule the body, i.e. that the person should conduct himself foolishly, without consideration of the consequences, and follow the desires and caprices of his heart? He will destroy himself and his environment, G-d forbid.

Philosophers and economists

This same principle will also apply to governing a city, or state.

There are trained experts in the field of economics and there are people whose field of expertise is philosophy, law and ethics. If their jobs would be switched, and philosophers would run the economy, and economists the morality, neither would get the job done and you would have a complete breakdown of the economic system and moral fiber of that society.

The same rule may also be applied when analyzing the different roles of Jews and non-Jews, keeping in mind that among the Jewish people themselves there are different roles and responsibilities S tPd tO Yisraelim. Levi’im and Kohanim.

Kohanim and Yisraelim

The Kohanim are given the mitzvah to bless the Jewish people with love. If a Yisrael should usurp that privilege and pronounce the blessing, not only would he not effect blessing, but, because he invoked the name of G-d in vain, he would incur the wrath of the Creator and bring the opposite of blessing.

Now, how much more so, does G-d, who makes a distinction between the Jewish People and the nations, not want a change of roles; it will bring destruction to the world.

The Zohar states that G-d made the Jews the “heart of the whole world.” Just as the life of the body depends on the heart, so too, the existence of the world depends on the Jews.

Therefore, just as the heart is sensitive and frail and any slight “murmur” or mishap in the heart places the entire organism in serious danger, so too the Jewish people are fragile and sensitive and the slightest glitch affects them and them and the whole world.

It is now clear and understandable that G-d prescribed a special lifestyle — different from the rest of the world — for the Jewish people, which matches their condition. What is it? To live according to Torah — like the fish which need the sea.

So we really have no choice!

We can choose what we eat, wear, or think, but we cannot change our bodily existence for another and we certainly cannot change our Jewish souls. Having been created thus by the Creator, our essence is immutable, as long as we live on this earth, and we must live within the life sustaining lifestyle of a Jew, according to the Torah!

Who is a Jew?

It now becomes evident, that for someone to say, that a Jew is a gentile or a gentile is a Jew, is ludicrous! G-d made these distinctions and no one can change them. The Torah did provide that if a gentile seeks to convert to Judaism he is told: “What did you see that brought you to convert?” He must be told of all the difficulties of Judaism to stop him from the move! If after this procedure he is still stubborn in his will to convert, then he may be converted according to Halachah.

True, this person was born a gentile, but the Holy One, Blessed Be, He said that when an halachic conversion takes place, He replaces the convert’s soul with a Jewish neshamah (soul). Just as G-d creates all souls, so too, it’s no wonder that He can remove the non-Jewish soul and exchange it for a Jewish soul.

But without an halachic conversion nothing can transform a gentile to a Jew! And conversely, one who is born a Jew or converted to Judaism properly, will remain a Jew forever, even if he desires otherwise. This is what the Talmud means when it says: “Although he has sinned, he is still a Jew,” no matter how objectionable his actions are, he remains a Jew, a son of the Holy One, Blessed be He. True, G-d has given him free will to act as he pleases, but this stems from the hope that he will contemplate on his role and capabilities and realize that the most sensible way is to conduct himself as a Jew, all this being from his own free will. There would be no need for police to forcibly stop him from his self-destruction.

Additionally, if this person actually chooses not to live as he should — still, “Because no one is rejected by Him,” he will return. The question is only if it will be sooner or later, in which case it will be a source of pain for himself, the Jewish nation and the world. (May Hashem protect us.)

This entire discussion may be encapsulated in two clear halachic rulings of the Rambam, our “Guide” for the confused.

  1. A Jew is one born to a Jewish mother or halachicly converted, as enumerated in Laws of Conversion, chapters 13-14.

  2. One who declares his intention to act against Halachah, against the ruling of a Beis Din (Rabbinic court), is forced to act in accordance with the halachic ruling, and it is considered his f ree will

The intrinsic will

The reason: Every Jew’s essential and true desire is to observe Torah. He wants to be a Jew and observe all the mitzvos. What can be done when his evil inclination overpowers him? If he is beaten until the evil inclination is weakened and he says, “I agree,” this is really the revelation of his intrinsic will.

Thus it is only a layer of dust or mud which covers the true essence of the renegade Jew. Clean out the dirt and his true, pure essence is revealed.

The problem is that in the diaspora there are Jews who have developed an inferiority complex and stubbornly try to eliminate the separation between Jews and gentiles, by flattery and deceit. They flatter the gentile and try to act like gentiles, and deceive them by saying that non-halachic conversion is acceptable. They are of course defeating their own purpose — for on the contrary, when a gentile sees that a Jew is proud of his Jewish identity he shows more respect for the Jew.

When the Jew is obsequious and fawning to the non-Jew, and is ready to change his “Jewish nose”

by plastic surgery, when he even considers family ties with the non-Jew, claiming that he is just like the gentile and loves him, it evokes an attitude of disgust in the gentile and he despises the Jew.

This disgust is multiplied, even more so, if the gentile realizes that the Jew has tried to trick him by saying that he is Jewish, when the G-d of Israel unequivocally established that he is not; nothing brings hatred for a Jew in the heart of a goy, more than the fact that he is being LLizbed and fooled by-a Jew! Our generation of the Holocaust has taught us how wrong were those who lived with delusions that there is something to be gained by flattering the gentile world!

So, on the day of the Yahrzeit of the Rambam, the teacher and guide for all the perplexed of all generations, we must remind all who are confused, that the only path of a Jew is the path of Torah and mitzvos.

Intellectual proofs vs. history

You say you need intellectual proofs? In our generation we no longer need “proofs” that our existence depends on Torah and mitzvos. It has been proven over three and a half millennia of Jewish history.

When Moshe first informed the Jews that “timely rains” depended on “following the statutes of G-d” — it demanded strong faith on their part to refrain from their old pagan customs and to adopt the restrictions of the Torah.

But through our long history of so many “movements” and “philosophies,” “beliefs” and “theories,” “redemptions,” “independences” and “diasporas,” it has become all very clear and evident, all quite real — we no longer need blind faith! All we need is honesty. Those who held on to the “golden thread” and lived Jewish lives, they raised children and grandchildren who remained faithful to the Jewish People, Torah and the continuing future generations of Jews. Those who sought other ways, “better ways” than Torah, and tasted the fruit of the alien vineyards, lasted but one or two, at most three, generations, and disappeared. Even though they fooled themselves, they did not fool their descendants. Either they were Lost and absorbed among the gentiles, or they did teshuvah and returned. As the Rambam says of penitents, based on the Talmud: “There is nothing that stands in the way of repentance,” and, “where penitents stand, the completely righteous cannot stand.

Who needs miracles?

Is it still necessary to ask for proofs? For those who argue that when our people saw miracles, the splitting of the sea, and other mind-boggling wonders they believed in G-d and His servant Moshe; if we saw those miracles today we, too, would believe! Look to Jewish history, you don’t need to see miracles.

What happened to the worshipers of the golden calf in the desert, the worshipers of Baal, Ashtara in Eretz Yisrael, the golden calf of Yeravom ben Nevat; what remains of them today?

On the other hand, the Jews who were faithful to the “Eternal One of Israel will not lie nor change His mind” (II Shmuel 15:29), those who were faithful to G-d, His Torah and mitzvos, continue to do so till today!

Practice is the essential thing, and from now on the “pride of Yaakov” should be strengthened in every Jew and although we stand in the darkness of the end of the diaspora, we should stand proud and strong in all aspects connected to Torah and mitzvos. Remember, every Jew is the child of the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Protecting the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael

This staunchness and Jewish pride should also pervade our attitude in protecting the boundaries v Eretz Yisrael. Sa that the areas returned to our control through the revealed miracles of G-d, no one should even think of taking away. For no one has the right, since Eretz Yisrael belongs to the entire Jewish people.

New conquest should be left to Mashiach, except in the case of protecting the lives of Jews, where even Shabbos may be desecrated and weapons may be carried to protect Jews, in Israel or anywhere else. This includes also punishing those who try to hurt us and certainly those who have actually hurt us, even if it becomes necessary to conquer additional areas or enlist more soldiers for this purpose.

Mainly, we must strengthen our tried and true weapons: “Follow My statutes and be careful to keep My commandments,” observance of Torah and mitzvos, through which we will merit true peace in the land.

May G-d grant that very soon the promise will be fulfilled: “And the glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see that the mouth of has G-d spoken,” that all will serve G-d together — but each in its own way.

True peace

Then certainly nations will no longer bear arms against each other, there will be peace in the land and even a “sword of peace” will not pass through the land. Even the United Nations will have no place — for what do they have to do with Eretz Yisrael

Very speedily we will merit the fulfillment of the promise of this week’s Torah portion, the four expressions of redemption: “I will take you away t free you ... liberate you ... will take you ...,” and the fifth expression: “I will bring you to the land ...,” through Mashiach, may he come, and redeem us and lead us, upright, to our Holy Land. “With our youth and our elders ... our sons and daughters,” Jewish unity — with no alien elements at all, bound up with unity of the land and unity of the Torah, when G-dliness is revealed in the lives of all the people, in the land.

Practice is of the essence, and may the blessing be fulfilled in actuality, and completely: The true and complete redemption through Mashiach, with joy and gladness of heart, speedily and truly in our days.


  Yartzeit of Rambam
20th Day of Teves, 5745
Shabbos Parshas Va’eira
26th Day of Teves, 5745
 
  
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