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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

Yom Kippur Message From The Rebbe OBM RL

Gmar Chasima Tova - 5778
A Yom Kippur Message from The Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM 

Reverse Biology 

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In Your abounding compassion, You have given us this fast day of Yom Kippur… 
A day on which it was forbidden to eat, forbidden to drink….

From the Mussaf prayer for Yom Kippur

In the World to Come, there is neither eating nor drinking…

Talmud, Berachot 17a

Man consists of a body and a soul – a physical envelope of flesh, blood, sinew and bone, inhabited and vitalized by a spiritual force described by the Chassidic master as “literally apart from G-d above.”

Common wisdom has it that spirit is loftier than matter, and the soul holier (i.e., closer to the Divine) than the body. This conception seems to be borne out by the fact that Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year – the day on which we achieve the height of intimacy with G-d – is ordained by the Torah as a fast day, a day on which we seemingly abandon the body and its needs to devote ourselves exclusively to the spiritual activities of repentance and prayer.

In truth, however, a fast day brings about a deeper, rather than more distant, relationship with the body. When a person eats, he is nourished by the food and drink he ingests. On a fast day, vitality comes from the body itself, from energy stored in its cells. In other words, on less holy days, it is an outside force (the energy in one’s food and drink) that keeps body and soul together; on Yom Kippur, the union of body and soul derives from the body itself.

Yom Kippur thus offers a taste of the culminant state of creation known as the “World to Come.” The Talmud tells us that “in the World to Come, there is neither eating nor drinking” – a statement that is sometimes understood to imply that in its ultimate and most perfect state, creation is wholly spiritual, devoid of bodies and all things physical. Kabbalistic and Chassidic teaching, however, describe the World to Come as a world in which the physical dimension of existence is not abrogated, but is preserved and elevated. The fact that there is “neither eating or drinking” in the World to Come is not due to an absence of bodies and physical life, but to the fact that in this future world, “the soul will be nourished by the body” itself, and the symbiosis of matter and spirit that is man will not require any outside sources of nutrition to sustain it.

Two Vehicles

The physical and the spiritual are both creations of G-d. Both were brought into being by Him out of utter nothingness, and each bears the imprint of its Creator in the particular qualities that define it.

The spiritual, with its intangibility and its transcendence of time and space, reflects the infinity and sublimity of G-d. The spiritual is also naturally submissive, readily acknowledging its subservience to a higher truth. It is these qualities that make the spiritual “holy” and a vehicle of relationship with G-d.

The physical, on the other hand, is tactual, egocentric and immanent – qualities that brand it “mundane” rather than holy, that mark it as an obfuscation, rather than a revelation, of the divine truth that “there is none else besides Him” – that G-d is the sole source and end of all existence.

Ultimately, however, everything comes from G-d; every feature of His every creation has its source in Him and serves to reveal His truth. So on a deeper level, the very qualities that make the physical “unholy” are the qualities that make it the most sacred and g-dly of G-d’s creations. For what is the “I am” of the physical if not an echo of the unequivocal being of G-d? What is the tactility of the physical if not an intimation of the absoluteness of His reality? What is the “selfishness” of the physical if not an offshoot, however remote, of the exclusivity of the Divine expressed in the axiom “There is none else besides Him”?

Today, the physical world shows us only its most superficial face, in which the divine characteristics stamped in it are concealed, rather than a revelation, of G-dliness. Today, when the physical object conveys to us “I am,” it bespeaks not the reality of G-d but an independent, self-sufficient existence that challenges, rather than reiterates, the divine truth. But in the World to Come, the product of the labor of a hundred generations to sanctify the material world toward a G-dly end, the true face of the physical will come to light.

In the World to Come, the physical will be no less a vehicle of divinity than the spiritual. In fact, in many respects, it will surpass the spiritual as a conveyor of the G-dliness. For a while the spiritual expresses various divine characteristics – G-d’s infinity, transcendence, etc. – the physical expresses the being of G-d.

Today, the body must look to the soul as its moral guide, as its source of awareness and appreciation of all things divine. But in the World to Come, “the soul will be nourished by the body.” The physical body will be a source of divine awareness and identification that is loftier than the soul’s own spiritual vision.

Yom Kippur is a taste of this future world of reverse biology. It is thus a day on which we are “sustained by hunger,” deriving our sustenance from the body itself. On this holiest of days, the body becomes a source of life and nurture rather than its recipient.

Based on an address by the Rebbe, Erev Yom Kippur 5750 (1989)


In memory of Shmuel ben Nisan O.B.M.- Samuel Stroum - 
Yartzeit March 9, 2001/14 Adar 5761 


May We All Have An Easy And Meaningful Fast

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Nitzavim-Vayelech

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Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this week's article entitled, "FROM THE KITCHEN TO THE MISHNAH" published in Here's My Story for Parsha Nitzavim-Vayeilech.

Mrs. Alice Zlotnick is a professional artist presently living in Jerusalem, Israel. She was interviewed in her home in December of 2006.

To read the article, please click this link:  http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/245.-Nitzavim-Vayeilech-5777.pdf

Be well. 

Have a good Shabbos. 

Warmly,

Rabbi S.B. Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parsha Ki Tavo

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Dear Friend,
I am pleased to share this week's article entitled, "THE REBBE ASKED FOR A FAVOR" published in Here's My Story for Parsha Ki Tavo. To read the article, please click http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/244.-Ki-Savo-57771.pdf

Be well. 
Have a good Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | “The Sun, the Moon…and Millions in Awe”

“The Sun, the Moon…and Millions in Awe”
{Excerpts from Wall Street Journal Aug 22, 2017} 

“Up and down the street, all through the eclipse, people spontaneously came together – Shop workers and neighborhood mothers, kids and bank employees, shoppers and tourists. They’d gather in groups and look up together. Usually one or two people would have the special glasses, and they’d be passed around. Everyone would put them on and look up and say “Wow!” or “Incredible!” and then laugh and hand the glasses on.
 
There was something about it (eclipse) that left me by the end quite moved. Witnessing spontaneous human graciousness and joy is stirring. And we were seeing something majestic, an assertion of nature and nature’s G-d, together. It was tenderly communal. And it was this: Everyone was normal. These were the regular Americans being nice to one another and to whoever walked by. They were all ages, conditions, races, sizes. They were generous and kindly. No one kept their pleasure to themselves.”
 

“For two minutes, all eyes were on the sky”
{Title quoted from Seattle Times, Tuesday, August 22, 2017}
 
It was 8:45 AM the day of the eclipse; I was walking into a local QFC grocery store. It was quite empty (I guess people were out finding the perfect place to view the eclipse). A couple walked up to me and I engaged them in conversation about the coming eclipse. I asked them, “So what is the bottom line?” They looked at me awkwardly, not fully understanding what I meant. I asked them how this was going to help the homeless in our community. Jane looked at me and quietly responded, “It’s not.”
 

Tropical Storm Harvey
“America to the Rescue”
{Quoted from the New York Times, August 30, 2017}
 
Americans’ response to disasters has always been extraordinary. When our neighbors are in need, we are the first to respond and do so in truly admirable ways. Watching the people in their private boats pull up to rescue fellow citizens – irrespective of race, color, religion, or political affiliation – during a flood, gives us hope and brings out the common denominator that we are all made in G-d’s image.  The challenge then, for us is how to sustain this level of commitment to each other. As the writer Danny Heitman writes in his article After a Hurricane, the Cameras Move on and the World Forgets:  “The tragedy of Harvey has reminded me that compassion for catastrophic suffering shouldn’t be a momentary impulse, but a commitment of months, maybe years.”
 
This brings to mind some important questions: How does one maintain focused, consistent efforts to truly make a difference? How are we able to sit in reflection about important events and what those events, be they eclipses or hurricanes, mean? How do we internalize these events to then make a positive and lasting impact on ourselves and then to our fellow man? How do we stay engaged with our internal and external worlds?
 

A Biblical Perspective: The Splitting of the Red Sea
{The following are quotes from Parshas Beshalach 13/17/18}
 
“It happened when Paraoh sent the people that G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, because it was near, for G-d said, ‘Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war, and they will return to Egypt.’ And G-d took the people around toward the way of the Wilderness to the Sea of Reeds.”
 
Parshas Beshalach continues: “Egypt pursued them and overtook them, encamped by the sea – all the horses and chariots of Paraoh, and his horsemen and army […] Pharaoh brought himself close; the Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold! – Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; the Children of Israel cried out to Hashem.
 
Hashem said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey! And you – lift up your staff and stretch out your arm over the sea and split it; and the Children of Israel shall come into the midst of the sea on dry land.
 
The children of Israel came within the sea on dry land; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.
 
Then Moses and the Children of Israel sang this song to Hashem [and among the verses of this song is the following]: G-d’s strength and power to eradicate has been a salvation for me. This is my G-d and I will beautify Him; the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.”
 
From Rashi: “This is my G-d. He revealed Himself to them in His glory, and they would point to Him with a finger. Even a mere slave-woman saw at the sea that which the prophets did not see.”
 

Revelation at Sinai
{The following are quotes from Parshas Yisro 19/1-3}
 
“In the third month from the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, on this day, they arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai. They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.” Rashi puts it: “And Israel encamped there, as one man, with one heart – but all the other encampments were with complaints and argumentation.”
 
So again, the question is: how do we maintain these lofty feelings of G-dly awareness, by witnessing miraculous events and retaining those powerful moments of awe or the feelings of love, unity and responsibility to others during a natural disaster?

The Month of Elul
 
We are now in the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year. Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and stocktaking – a time to review one’s deeds and spiritual progress over the past year, and prepare for the upcoming “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
 
Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, is a time of paradox – a time of what might be termed, “spiritual workdays.”
 
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains the paradox of Elul with the following metaphor: The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.
 
However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.
 
The month of Elul, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman, is when the king is in the field.
The opportunity of Elul – where self-reflection and preparation for the New Year is an imperative – enables us to go deep into our spiritual DNA and in a focused, sustained manner, deal with our limitations and resolve to do better.
 
Appreciating in a very personal way, all that the good G-d provides us, launches us into a new reality – it offers the opportunity for real change. This can help us to maintain a sustained awareness of all the phenomena that we live through – whether an eclipse or G-d forbid, a hurricane – to bring out the best in us in our connection to G-d and sustained feelings of compassion and caring for our fellow human beings.
 
From our Holy Rebbe (obm), Ha Yom-Yom, Menachem Av 29: “There must be avoda (service) by one’s own efforts. Superior heights are attained when one is taken by the hand and led; it is more precious though, when it is by one’s own strength.”
 
Have a beautiful Shabbos. May Almighty G-d bless and provide for all the needs of our fellow citizens in Houston and beyond.
 
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin
 
{Quotes from Peggy Noonan were included in the first two paragraphs of this article.}

 

 

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