Letters July 2009
Reader: Can you retell Rabbi Chait's quote about man's conforming to reality, or trying to have reality conform to one's wishes.
Mesora: Rabbi Chait taught that a Rasha (evil person) is one who attempts to twist reality (the external world) to conform to his wishes (internal world). Such a person wishes to protect his fantasies, seeking to substantiate them in the real world. He seeks such support, as he in fact senses their fallacy. These desires run and ruin his life, yet they appeal emotionally, like seeking great honor.
Haman, for example, was severely disturbed by Mordechai's lack of recognition for Haman as he walked by. All others bowed to Haman. Haman's honor was threatened by Mordechai's refusal to bow or budge. He therefore attempted to "correct" this this threat to his ego in the real world by exterminating Mordechai's nation. This was Haman's "twisting" or reality to substantiate his thirst for ego. As reality didn't conform to his wish, he attempted to blot out that reality.
A Tzaddik (righteous person) works in the opposite manner: he attempts to conform himself to the world he witnesses. He realizes he is nothing, and does not seek honor, but rather, honors the Creator. He is in line with reality, and enjoys the most splendid life, since he does not seek to distort reality, which is frustratingly useless. Changing his internal view to conform with how the world works, he is in harmony, not in conflict. Haman was constantly in conflict, as the world does not revolve around him, but forces mankind to realize a Creator. The Tzaddik is one who recognizes that food is essential, so he farms the land. The Rasha relies on omens, superstitions and false gods, and goes hungry. Had the Rasha conformed to reality and planted grain, he would not starve to death.
Reader: Who is a Jew? Is this based on genes or one's philosophy/religious practice? I heard that one who converts must have had some Jew in his or her ancestry or that the convert takes on an additional (Jewish) soul.
Mesora: At the end of his 13 Principles, Maimonides says a (born) Jew who abandons even one of these principles, is "outside the nation, denies truth and is a heretic". Similarly, he teaches that one who does not circumcise himself has no portion in the World to Come. (Laws of Circumcision 3:8)
Also true, the Torah says in numerous places, "One Torah for the convert and the born Jew". That means all mankind is equal.
We learn that a Jew is not defined by genes but by the life he or she leads.
Leaving Egypt, the Jews were commanded in circumcision and in slaughtering the Egyptian deity. One fine explanation: this was because to accept Torah at Sinai, one required instinctual perfection – demonstrated by circumcision – and intellectual perfection – demonstrated by killing Egypt's god and declaring God the only force behind reality.
Maimonides quotes the verses that teach the abhorrence of one uncircumcised, and the praise of one who is circumcised. Jeremiah 9:25, "all nations are uncircumcised". Genesis 17:1. "walk before me and be complete". We understand the praise of being "complete", but wherein lies the ridicule of "all nations are uncircumcised"? That verse merely states a fact. I would suggest the following...
Nations being uncircumcised is a fact. No ridicule exists in these words. But there is one more word in that verse: the word "all". Perhaps the lesson is that if "all" other nations act identically in one area, it is a much different case than if only one or a few acted that way. For what causes all people to act, if these people are bereft of Torah? The answer: natural disposition or "emotions".
Without following the intellectual life prescribed by the Torah, a human being has only one other faculty: instincts. The lesson Jeremiah imparts is that when we see all nations acting a certain way, it must be generated from the instincts as they have no Torah for direction. Thus, the ridicule is that all nations are instinctual.
The notion that "one who converts must have had some Jew in his or her ancestry or that the convert takes on an additional (Jewish) soul" is nonsense. God favored Abraham and Ruth – both gentiles – due to their perfection. And God's very words "walk before me and be complete" mean that Abraham's perfection is based on subscribing to certain truths, and enacting them, as God commands. And Maimonides teaches that one who stumbles in even one of the 13 Principles, is a heretic. Being born Jewish play no role.
God does not say perfection is due to an inherited gene or a super-added Jewish soul. These foolish notions are verbalized by insecure and arrogant "Jews".
On a Torah, Internet blog, a debate has been ongoing regarding Moshiach (Messiah). One person is intent on spreading his belief in the dead Rebbe as the Messiah. Many others hold this view. The following is his response to someone I know, who is rational, and tried to educate the messianic, but to no avail:
"You and your Rabbi are of course entitled to your opinion, however I can tell you that personally I do believe in the power of the song of the redemption Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman. I believe that the Rebbe King Messiah explained that 770 in Crown Heights is actually the miniature Beit HaMikdash - Holy Temple until the redemption will come soon God willing, and he also said that the Third Beit HaMikdash will actually descend from Heaven in Crown Heights and then fly together with 770 to its place in Jerusalem. Looking forward to hearing more of your interesting thoughts.
All the best,
Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman
Long live our master, teacher and Rebbe, King Messiah forever!"
As foolish and dangerous notions continue to spread, a response is also continually required.
First of all, Messiah is not decided via a human vote. So this approach is flawed from the get-go. I will quote a few Rabbis who have previously addressed this issue quite adequately.
by, Rabbi Reuven Mann
The Rambam, whose position on Moshiach is considered authoritative by the Rebbe, clearly lays out the basic criteria by which the Moshiach will be known. He will bring the entire Jewish people back to a faithful observance of Torah, according to the written and oral laws, will fight, successfully, the wars of G-d, will build the Holy Temple in it's place and ingather the exiles of Israel. The Rambam makes it clear that if he fails at any point then, no matter how great a tzadik he may be, he is not the Moshiach.
Moshiach: Not from the Dead
by, Rabbi Saul Zucker
The burden of proof is not on those who say that moshiach won't come from the dead — the burden of proof is on those who say he can come from the dead. The reason for that is twofold — moshiach, certainly according to the Rambam, whom Chabad accepts as to the halakhos of moshiach, says that the person will reach a level of nevuah and kingship naturally, then will be revealed to be moshiach. "Naturally" means just that — not from among the dead. Now if one wants to claim that "naturally" includes from the among the dead, the burden of proof is on him. Further, if moshiach can come from among the dead, why would it not be the greatest king we ever had or could have — Moshe Rabbeinu — especially because we know for sure that Moshe will be resurrected, as the gemara states "Az yavdil Moshe..." mi-kan letechiyas hameisim min haTorah.", "From here we learn Resurrection is in the Torah".
Rabbi Zucker further discussed Talmud Sanhedrin 98b, describing who is fit as the Messiah. The Talmud suggests two people: depending on whether the Messiah had already died, or if he was yet to come from the living. Rashi explains the Talmud's statement "if Messiah was from the dead it was Daniel". Rashi says if he "was" (hayah) from the dead, teaching that the Messiah "from the dead" does not mean he "will" be resurrected, but that if he had "come already", then it was Daniel. The Talmud does not say Messiah will yet come as a resurrected person.