Printed from CSTLSeattle.org

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Tetzaveh

 from the desk of rabbi levitin.png

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Meir Wunder is the founder and director of the Center for Torah Libraries. He was interviewed in his home in Jerusalem in February of 2011.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Terumah

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Yeshua Hadad (1936-2017) served as a community rabbi in Milan for over fifty years. He was interviewed in Jerusalem in August of 2012.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parshat Mishpotim

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png 

Dear Friends, 

In memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Shneerson, OBM whose 31st Yahrtzeit was this past Monday, the 22nd of Shevat (Jan. 28th this year), we are enclosing an amazing story with Dr. Alan Newmark. 

Dr. Newmark lives with his family in Bays Water, New York, and maintains a private practice in podiatry in Crown Heights, where he was interviewed January of 2016.

Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

Vegan Vos Redt Ehr? What is he talking about?

It was in the Fall of 1969, a few months after I was married, I had just joined the Main Chabad Kollel in Brooklyn, an advanced Torah institute for young married men, at the famous location of 770 Eastern Parkway.

In the Yeshiva, pre-Kollel, there were two groups of seven advanced, scholarly presenters each. One of the seven from the first group would present a pilpul on Chassidic philosophy on Friday nights. The other group would have a presenter each week with a pilpul on the Talmud, codes, etc , following the conclusion of Shabbos, Saturday nights.

On one Friday night, I stayed longer in Shul, because a young, brilliant, 19 year old student, named Nachman, was going to present that evening and I wanted to hear what he had to say (my young bride of 18 was not very happy when I came home two hours late to make Kiddush for her).

Nachman walked in, sat down at the head of the table. The Shul was packed with people standing on benches. His first words are (more or less), “He is, because he is. He is here, because he inherently is here. We’re here because he willed it that we should be here. We are not inherently here. Our being is here only because of him.”

A young man named Mayer, turns to the whole crowd and loudly says,
“Vegan Vos Redt Ehr?” (What is he talking about?)

He brought down the whole house.

Ten Commandments

This week’s Parsha, Yisro, we relive the giving and the receiving of the Ten Commandments, which encompasses the whole of Torah and Mitzvos. I would like to share with you parts of Chapter 20 of the Holy Tanya, authored by Rebbe Shneur Zalman, the first Rebbe of Chabad.

This is based on the new English interpretation of the Tanya by Chaim Miller:

Now “this thing is known” (Isaiah 12:5), to everybody, that the mitzvah to accept only One G-d and the Biblical prohibition against idolatry which are the first two of the Ten Commandments, “I am G-d, your G-d” and “You shall not have any other gods” (Exodus 20:2-3) are a comprehensive statement which thematically incorporates the whole Torah, since the Commandment “I am G-d”, incorporates all the 248 positive mitzvos, and the Commandment, “You shall not have any other gods” incorporates the 365 prohibitions (Zohar 2, 91a).

(Comments) “All the mitzvos are, in essence, an affirmation of monotheism and the rejection of idolatry, the theme of the first two commandments. The 248 positive commands (“You shall’s”) are an affirmation of One G-d; and the 365 prohibitions (“You shall not’s”) are a repudiation of idolatry.”

And that is why we only heard the first two commandments, “I am G-d, your G-d” and “You shall not have any other gods”, directly from the mouth of G-d, as our Sages, of blessed memory, taught, that G-d said just the first two of the Ten Commandments, and the remainder were transmitted by Moses (Talmud, Makos 24a), because for G-d to say the rest of the commandments was unnecessary, since the first two incorporate the whole Torah.

(Comments) “The fact that G-d spoke just two commandments sent a clear message that Judaism can be summed up in two themes: accept one G-d; and do not accept idolatry. From this it follows that every mitzvah is, at its core, a rejection of idol-worship.”

The Nonduality of G-d

In order to have a clarity in this matter, we first need to mention briefly, the concept and deep ideology of God's nonduality.

In the Midrash, G-d is referred to as “the One and only one” (Deuteronomy Rabah, 2:31), implying that He is the only existence, and in the liturgy it is written, “Everyone believes of Him that He is the only One” -  which implies that He remains now exactly the same as He was before the world was created when He was alone and there was no other entity in the universe, as we say, “You were alone before the world was created; You are alone since the world has been created” - which in the nondual reading means that He literally has not changed and G-d remains the only existence in the universe, even after He created the world, as the verse states, “I, G-d, have not changed” (Malachi 3:6).

Because neither the creation of this world something-from-nothing, nor the creation of all the spiritual worlds, brought about any change in God's nonduality, for just as He was the only singular and exclusive existence before the physical and spiritual worlds were created, so too, He remains the only singular and exclusive existence after He created them.

(Comment) But if the world does exist how can we say that God is the only singular and exclusive existence?

Because, “in His presence everything is considered zero” (Zohar 1:11b) -  literally as if it were “null and void” (see Isaiah 40:17).

(Comment) The world does exist, but in G-d's presence it has no independent identity and existence, since it is perceived as part of his existence.

For the cause by which the upper and lower worlds have come into being, something-from-nothing, and through which they continue to be energized and sustained in existence, so that they don't revert to the “null and void”, as they were previously, is nothing other than “G-d's word… and the breath of His mouth” (Psalms 33:6) which is present in them.

The Analogy For Nonduality

Let’s draw an example from the human psyche.

When you say a word, that single word is utterly insignificant, even in comparison to the lower “garment” of the soul, the general power of speech, which, of the soul’s three garments, thought, speech, and action, is its middle garment - a single word is insignificant compared to the soul’s power of speech since that power of speech can produce a never-ending, infinite stream of words.

(Comment) Of what significance is one word when compared with the power of speech that can produce words endlessly?

All the more so is that one spoken word insignificant in comparison to higher levels of the psyche, such as the soul’s innermost “garment,” thought, from which the spoken words are derived and powered.

(Comment) If one word is insignificant when compared to the power of speech, and certainly it is of no significance compared with the power of thought, which produces all the content that is later spoken.

And it goes without saying that a single spoken word is insignificant in comparison with the soul’s prelinguistic deep core, which consists of the ten powers mentioned above, - cochmah, binah, and da’as, etc. - since it is from these powers of the deep core that the letters constituting the thought are ultimately drawn, and are subsequently expressed in the spoken word.

(Comment) Even in a human being we see that words of speech are utterly insignificant when compared to the higher powers of speech and thought, and certainly to the person himself, in his deep core. Apparently, then, we can say the same (even more so!) of G-d's “speech”, through which the world was created and is sustained in existence, that it is of no significance compared with G-d himself.

(Comment) This adds a further dimension to our nondual understanding of the universe. In the previous section, we argued that the world has no independent existence since it is utterly reliant on G-d for its continuous existence. Here the argument is taking a step further: even the Divine power that creates the world (G-d's “speech”) is of no significance compared to G-d himself!

We’ll stop here.

Where He Was Coming From

In Summary, due to brevity, Nachman’s thought now has a context in the fundamental difference between G-d’s “being” and all other creations’ “being”.

These topics we would discuss for many hours in the Yeshiva and Kollel, deep into the night, and walk out spiritually exhilarated, with a whole new “perception” of the creation around us.

May I suggest that YOU open the Tanya and learn these chapters (21-22) for yourself? 

Have a beautiful Shabbos,
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin |- Parsha Bo

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Herschel Lazaroff is the director of the Center for the Advancement of Creativity and Human Potential based in Monsey, New York, and a promoter of healing techniques based on Torah, Kabbalah and chasidicteachings. He was interviewed in July of 2018.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vaeira

 from the desk of rabbi levitin.png

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Michoel Rubinoff is presently retired from teaching. He spends his time learning in Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo in Jerusalem, where he was interviewed in February of 2017.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shemot

 from the desk of rabbi levitin (1).png

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Shimon Elituv serves as the rabbi of Mevaseret Tzion and of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, which administers forty-two settlements in Shomron, Israel. He was interviewed in his home in Jerusalem in February of 2013.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin


From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayechi

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png 

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Until his retirement in 2012, Mr. Avraham Zigman served for decades as a musical editor and program presenter at Kol Israel. He was interviewed in his Jerusalem home in June of 2011.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayigash

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png

Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Yosef Shandling, a member of the Chabad community of Monsey, New York, retired in February, 2010, from a career in environmental engineering. He was interviewed in July, 2018.

Click here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Mikeitz

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Elchonon Devor worked as a teacher in the Philadelphia public school system, as well as in after-school Jewish studies programs, for over fifty years. He presently resides in Monsey, New York, where he was interviewed in July, 2018.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos and an illuminated Chanukah!

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayeishev

 from the desk of rabbi levitin.png

Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Tzvi Alderoti (1934-2018) served as head of the Migdal HaEmek local council for eighteen years and filled various public positions, including a short stint as member of the Knesset. He was interviewed in October of 2002.

Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayeitzei

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Since 1972, Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff has lived in Houston, Texas, where he serves as the regional director of Chabad of Texas. He was interviewed in December, 2008.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Toldot

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png 

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mrs. Shulamis Bechhoffer (1931-2018) was the daughter of Rabbi Dov Yehudah and Sarah Shochet. She was a teacher who resided in Queens, New York, where she was interviewed in August of 2012.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin


From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Chayei Sarah

from the desk of rabbi levitin.png 

Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Since 1972, Rabbi Naftali Estulin has served as the Rebbe’s emissary to the Russian community of Los Angeles. He presently is the director of the Chabad Russian Immigrant Program and Synagogue, based in West Hollywood. He was interviewed in September, 2011.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

What’s the Lesson?

The summer of 1938, a year before World War II, my grandfather, obm, Zaida Shmuel arrived in Warsaw, Poland. Two years earlier, after spending three years in prison and the Gulog in Siberia-Soviet Union for his involvement in maintaining and organizing the underground Chedorim (religious schools) and other Jewish communal activities, my grandfather, grandmother and all children under twenty were allowed out of Russia.

The previous Lubavicher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, obm, who was residing then in Poland, arranged through his high level government contacts, for a group of imprisoned Polish Communists to be sent off in exchange for my grandparents and part of their family.

My grandparents and family came back to the city of Rakishok, Lithuania, where my grandfather had been the chief Rabbi before the First World War.  After being in Lithuania for two years, the Rebbe requested that my grandfather visit America, as his personal emissary to continue the development of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement on these shores, and to raise charitable funds for the Rebbe’s Holy work in Europe and beyond (especially providing religious and other needs for the Soviet Jews). The plan was for my grandfather to return to Europe after about 6-8 months, but with the fever of War in the air, the Rebbe asked him to stay in America.

Visit in Warsaw

Although, between the wars, Lithuania and Poland did not have formal diplomatic relations (over the issue of Vilna), arrangements were made for my grandfather to be allowed into Poland, on his way to America, to spend Shabbos with the Rebbe, obm. My grandfather had not seen the Rebbe for over 10 years. (The Rebbe left Russia after his imprisonment by the Communists in the Fall of 1927). During these 10 years, the Rebbe suffered a series of strokes and was now wheelchair bound.

My grandfather, who was exceptionally close with the previous Rebbe, was emotional and excited at having the honored opportunity of seeing the Rebbe. The Rebbe’s family prepared my grandfather that upon seeing the Rebbe he should “control” his reactions, seeing the Rebbe’s medical condition. In addition, they asked him to minimize the discussion of the plight of Russian Jewry.

“But a Brief Moment”

My grandfather would share with great emotion the following exchange, in thatYichodus (private audience). As we know, the situation for world Jewry at that time (summer 1938), in Europe, and especially in the Soviet Union and Germany was ominous and dire. So, my grandfather, in an attempt to lift the Rebbe’s spirits, said the following, quoting from the Prophet Isaiah 54:7, “The prophet says when the Messiah will come we will look back on the whole Golus (Exile) as it being but a brief moment that G-d has forsaken us.”

The Rebbe turned in his wheelchair and said the following, “yoh ah rega, ah bittera rega.” (Yes, a brief moment, but a bitter moment).

Advocate for Whom?

“Now the people of Sodom were wicked and sinful to Hashem, exceedingly.” – Genesis 13:13

“Wicked with their bodies, sinful with their property, and to Hashem exceedingly they know their master yet intend to rebel against Him.” – Talmud Sanhedrin 109a

The Sodomites were not much nicer to their own. In fact, the Midrash tells two tales of moral women who dared extend a helping hand to beggars and were put to death:

“Two maidens of Sodom met at the well, where they had both gone to drink and fill up their water jugs. One girl asked her friend, “Why is your face so pale?” Her friend answered, “We have nothing to eat at home, and are dying of starvation.” Her compassionate friend filled her own jug with flour, and exchanged it for her friend’s jug of water. When the Sodomites found out about her act, they burnt her to death.”

It was announced in Sodom, “Whoever will give bread to a poor person will be burnt at the stake.”

These and many other similar hideous acts of cruelty by the Sodomites and their neighbors of Gomorrah had aroused G‑d’s anger.”

The above is only a taste of the immoral, abusive and hateful nature of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Father Abraham

In this week’s Parsha, Vayeira, chapter 15, verse 17 onwards, G‑d informed Abraham of his intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded, in fact “he spoke strongly with G-d” (Rashi) to save the cities for the sake of the righteous who might be living there.

Only when G‑d had promised him that if there were even ten righteous inhabitants in Sodom, He would save the entire city for their sake, did Abraham plead no more.

But Why? They were horrible people! Even Abraham did not impact them as he did with “thousands and myriads” (RamBam) of others.

What’s the lesson for us? Torah, Lesson (Zohar)

Should we have been advocates in stopping the bombing and destruction of German towns because of the few righteous who saved Jews?

Should we be advocates for those who we all agree are immoral, vile, destructive and plainly hateful, because potentially they may have children who are upright and righteous?

What do you think?

To Be Continued.

Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Levitin

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.