Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"One must not rest content with 'pious ignorance'"

“Torah-study is not just a way of gaining entrĂ©e to the other mitzvot, but a fundamental mitzvah in its own right, incumbent on every Jew as long as he lives.

One must not rest content with ‘pious ignorance,’ but rather strive for real achievement in the realm of Jewish learning, in all its branches.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Teshuvah, p. 94, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, March 30, 2009

"Simply look around. Evil does exist."

"When people say that they don't believe that Satan exists, perhaps it is because they don't read the papers, don't go online and don't have any friends.

Anyone who simply looks around and listens - to large scale events or private affairs, to the criminal reports or just to everyday events - can see that evil indeed does exist.

Satan, however, does use two forms of camouflage.

When I expect to see Satan with horns and a tail, I won't recognize him when he appears as a well-dressed gentleman.

Evil in people and in events does not appear in a grotesque form.

Our belief that the devil looks different and is easily recognizable -- that is one of his best weapons as he operates in the world.

Satan also disguises himself by creating new norms of behavior.

His vocabulary is filled with words like 'normal behavior', 'wrong education', and sometimes - 'necessity'.

Often, these terms just hide evil that is made commonplace and normal.

In order to exorcise Satan, the key is just to unmask him.

When Satan's masks are removed, we may see evil too much.

It does not mean that we have to join his party; but we have to know that the effort and war against him are necessary."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From the website "On Faith".


Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Life in all its aspects must soehow or other be bound up with holiness"

“A basic idea underlying Jewish life is that there are no special frameworks for holiness.

A man’s relation to God is not set apart on a higher plane, not relegated to some special corner of time and place with all the rest of life taking place somewhere else.

The Jewish attitude is that life in all its aspects, in its totality, must somehow or other be bound up with holiness.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 114, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, March 27, 2009

"No one soul can take the place of another"

“Each individual soul is unique and special, in terms of its essence, its capacity, and what is demanded of it.

No two souls coincide in their actions, their functions, and their paths.

No one soul can take the place of another, and even the greatest of the great cannot fill the special role, the particular place, of another that may be the smallest of the small.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 38, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Every soul is a letter in the Torah"

“It has been said that each of the letters of the Torah has some corresponding soul.

That is to say, every soul is a letter in the Torah and has its own part to play.”
--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 47, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Just as God is not matter, He is not spirit"

“The Infinite is beyond anything that can be grasped in any terms—either positive or negative.

Not only is it impossible to say of the Infinite that He is in any way limited or that He is bad, one cannot even say the opposite, that He is vast or He is good.

Just as He is not matter, He is not spirit.

Nor can He be said to exist in any dimension meaningful to us.

The dilemma posed by this meaning of infinity is more than a consequence of the inadequacy of the mind.

It represents a simply unbridgeable gap, a gap that cannot be crossed by anything definable.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 26, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"The excellence of a quality is determined by its proportion""

“In Hebrew, good attributes are called ‘good measures,’ which suggests that the excellence of a quality is determined by its proportion, not by its being what it is in itself, but by its properly related use in particular circumstances.

Everything that is not in the right measure, that relates out of proportion to a situation, tends to be bad.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 77, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, March 23, 2009

"The Torah is beyond all wisdom"

“The Torah is not merely words of wisdom.

It is beyond all wisdom.

It is God’s wisdom, and the mitzvot are God’s commandments.

The essence of the Torah is that the Creator of the world communicates to man something that man can hear, comprehend, and do and thereby connect with Him.

The essence of the connection is created not by the fact that a certain person studies a lot, prays excessively, or observes the mitzvot with great zeal but by the very fact that one is doing what God wants one to do”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Opening the Tanya, p. 123, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Repentance is not a recipe that one follows"

“The essence of repentance is not a specific action.

It is not a recipe that one follows: so much charity, so many self afflictions, so many fasts.

Essentially, repentance is a feeling of the heart—regret over the past and a resolution for the future.

The greater the depths of a person’s mind and the development of his maturity, the more clearly he can recognize his problems and the more profoundly he can see each flaw.

And then his previous repentance may no longer seem to be enough, for he looks downward to levels of imperfection that his previous repentance had not been able to reach”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Understanding the Tanya by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, March 20, 2009

"A metaphor from the world of botony"

"In spite of the vast range of ways in which a Jew can alienate himself from his past and express himself in foreign cultural forms, he nevertheless retains a metaphysically, almost genetically, imprinted image of his Jewishness.

To use a metaphor from the world of botany: a change of climate, soil, or other physical conditions can induce marked alterations in the form and the functioning of a plant, and even the adoption of characteristics of other species and genera, but the unique paradigm or prototype persists”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, March 19, 2009

"The secret of existence in the universe"

"This world is no longer a true replica or a true projection of the higher worlds.

Only in its original state, that of the Garden of Eden, was it structured as a more or less perfect duplication of the physical world and the spiritual worlds.

Since then all the worlds, and our world in particular have become increasingly distorted, and much of the original essence has changed in various ways.

Only those persons who know the secret of existence in the universe can know the extent to which the duplication between the worlds still exists and can perceive the essential analogy between the physical world and the spiritual worlds.

They can make out the hidden paths in the concrete reality of the world leading to the upper worlds, and they read into whatever is apprehended as real the symbols and models of a higher world taking us step by step upward to the very pinnacle and source of all the levels."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Prayers can range from anger to bliss"

"Some prayers or blessings are just a few words saying, 'Thank you. I just want to say thank you,' and nothing else.

In some prayers, I ask for something.

In others I just complain: 'It’s not just, it’s not fair. You dealt with me wrongly.'

All of these are prayers, and they can range from a feeling of bliss to a feeling of extreme anger."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Command is to Hear: An Interview with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz," in Parabola Magazine.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Three fundamental questions"

"The infinite number of questions asked in every sphere of human culture can be reduced to three general, fundamental questions.

These questions contain many more detailed, more elaborately phrased questions, which can be expressed in complex philosophical forms, or spelled out through professional scientific analysis.

These questions relate to both the simplest objects encountered in everyday life and to complex cultural or scientific systems; to concrete objects and realities that people cannot help but notice, and to creations of the mind, whose actual existence is uncertain.

These three questions may be summarized in very simple words:



What For?

In more abstract language we can say:

What is the question about the essence of things, their definition and identity, and their relationship to other entities.

How is the question of the reason for things: Why do things happen the way they do, what brings about their existence, and what causes various events?

What For is the question of purpose: What is the purpose for which certain things are done, or exist?

One can cast doubts on the philosophical validity of these questions, and there are surely areas in which these questions can be considered meaningless.

Nevertheless, these three questions are undoubtedly fundamental ones which human beings, qua human beings, ask, and try to resolve."

--Rabbi Adin Steinaltz

From "Science, Mathematics, and Religion," a lecture delivered at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Department of Space Sciences, 1988


Monday, March 16, 2009

"Know the God of your father"

"The first verse of 'Shema,' 'Hear (shema) O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One (echad),' contains the main principles of Jewish faith.

To utter it with concentration and intention is to 'accept the yoke of Heaven.'

When this verse is written in Torah scrolls, two of the letters appear large: the 'ayin' of 'shema' and the 'daled' of 'echad.'

Allegorical interpretations of the Torah point out that when these two letters are put together in the order of their appearance, they make up the word "ed" (witness).

This refers to the Israelites’ testimony to God’s kingship, as it says in Isaiah 43:10: 'You are my witnesses, says the Lord.'

And when read in the opposite direction, they make up the word 'da' (know), as it says in Chronicles I 28:9, 'Know the God of your father, and serve Him with a perfect heart.'"

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Portion of Shema" (Deuteronomy 6:4-8) by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, March 15, 2009

"There is nothing else beside Him"

"In the words 'The Lord is One' there are many meanings of the term 'One.'

'One' does not only stand as against dualism (or trinity, or any other kind of plurality of gods).

It also includes God’s one-and-onlyness, in the sense of “there is none else besides Him” - (Deut. 4:35).

Compared with the 'truth of His existence,' no other reality counts."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Portion of "Shema" (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, March 13, 2009

"Man has the potential to reach great heights and to fall to abysmal depths"

"Men and angels belong to separate categories of existence.

Even if we ignore the human body and look only at our apparently more angelic aspect, the soul, the differences are great.

The human soul is a heterogeneous, complex entity composed of distinct elements, whereas an angel is homogeneous, a single essence, and thus ultimately unidimensional.

Furthermore, the human being, by virtue of the multiplicity of facets in his personality, with the implicit capacity for internal contradictions and conflicts, and by virtue of his soul, which contains a spark of the divine, possesses the power of discrimination, in particular between good and evil.

As a consequence, man had the potential to reach great heights, and also to fall to abysmal depths.

Not so the angels, which are always the same.

Whether an angel is ephemeral or eternal, it is static and remains fixed in the coordinates of content and degree in which it was created."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From the essay "Worlds, Angels, and Men" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, March 12, 2009

"The essential aspect of a miracle is its significance"

"I would suggest that the 'supernatural' is whatever cannot be explained by the physical laws of nature as we understand them, whereas a 'miracle' is a meaningful event, regardless of whether it happens within the laws of nature or outside of them.

The essential aspect of a miracle is its significance.

Its naturalness or unnaturalness is only its mechanism, its external manifestation.

To illustrate this in broad theological strokes, we may say that if the Almighty is not concerned with the actual agency of a miracle, then it should not matter to us either.

What matters is not how something happens, but the meaning associated with what happens.

This definition entails a change of conception, since even something that happens naturally can still be meaningful.

One who has been cured of a serious illness, for example, or escapes from a dangerous situation, recites the blessing of haGomel in synagogue, in which he publicly thanks God for having saved him.

This does not mean that recovering from illness or walking away from an accident unscathed is necessarily miraculous in the supernatural sense of the word, but only that it is significant.

And it is its significance that makes it miraculous."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay "The Miracle of Purim" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"God wrote the Book of Esther using a pseudonym"

"In the Jewish prayer book, there are a great number of blessings.

Many of them concern simple, mundane activities, such as opening one’s eyes in the morning, stretching, standing on one’s feet, walking, and so on.

Why must we say them every day?

Because the significance and wondrousness of our ability to do these things tends to get lost.

We rarely recognize them as gifts from God until they are suddenly gone.

It is only when pain prevents us from walking with ease that we recognize and acknowledge God’s role in 'firming our footsteps.'

In fact, we often need to experience the extraordinary in order to reawaken us to the significance of the ordinary.

When something happens that is remarkable and unusual, we are jolted out of our stupor and re-acquire the ability to see the miraculous in the routine and the habitual.

This sudden change enables us to see what routine conceals, so that we can once again perceive what is truly important and what is not.

There are two ways of sensing God’s presence in the world.

One is through thunder and lightning and other extraordinary events; the other is within the world’s natural order.

Nature is God’s alternate signature, so to speak, when He does not want to sign His work with the Ineffable Name.

Thus, we may say that God wrote the Book of Esther using a pseudonym.

God’s name is there even when it is not written.

And, more important, God is there.

Even things that seem rational, clear, and 'natural,' may be miracles.

May our experience of Purim enable us to appreciate all of the miracles in our lives.

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay, "The Miracle of Purim" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The Scroll of Esther is the essence of Jewish life in exile"

"Only a very profound outlook, which on the one hand sees the Jewish future, and on the other, is based on a strong, unshakeable faith, could have caused the Scroll of Esther to be included among the canonized books of the Bible.

For this scroll is the essence of Jewish life in exile, and of the faith that behind all external causes, hides the 'guardian of Israel.'

The Scroll teaches us that the Jewish people must learn to live this sort of life, and that it must expect miracles of this kind:

Not miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, done 'by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm,' but rather hidden within the tortuous, winding ways of history.

And within all this, one must believe that 'relief and deliverance will arise to the Jews,' and that in moments of distress, assimilation and masks will be of no avail, even for those who sit in the king’s own palace.

And that despite everything, there is hope."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay, "Megillat Esther - The Book of the Exile" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, March 9, 2009

"Purim: The Festival of Laughter"

"Purim is different.

Jewish festivals are certainly a time of rejoicing, yet they all contain an element of seriousness.

Surely, it is a commandment to rejoice on Passover, Shavuot and Sukkoth, sometimes even to extremes, but this joy has its definitions and boundaries; on the whole, it is a serious kind of joy.

On Purim, however, even when the festival is strictly observed according to all the rules and regulations -- Megillah reading, Purim gifts, donations to the poor and Purim banquet -- there is an overriding mischievous atmosphere, sometimes even a riotous one.

Of course, its expressions differ from place to place and from one group to another, but Purim always involves an element of jest.

Come to think of it, this light-headedness is somewhat odd.

Although Purim is a day of joy, it was preceded by an extremely difficult and threatening period.

The Jewish people have always faced threats, troubles and battles with those who wanted to defeat them or conquer their land.

Most of these wars, however, were not so different from the kinds of clashes that every nation experiences.

The event that preceded Purim was far more serious: it was not a war but a genocide plan, with the aim of wiping the Jewish people off the face of this earth.

It was the very first manifestation of a phenomenon which today we call anti-Semitism, extreme anti-Semitism.

In this specific case, Haman was overcome and hanged on the tree, and all his assistants were defeated.

Yet history proves that he left behind numerous descendants and disciples.

Anti-Semitism may have started with Haman, but by no means did it end with him.

The descendants of Amalek are still in this world, and they are sprouting and growing anew in many times and places.

It does not seem that they have disappeared yet, not even in our enlightened, cosmopolitan era.

Anti-Semitism has often been explained and even justified over the course of time: the reasons given have been religious, racial, and cultural.

But even if there is an element of truth in these excuses, the very proliferation of explanations points to a more basic problem, one that is not always articulated: the continuous existence of the Jewish people through thousands of years of suffering and distress is miraculous, a mystery which defies logic.

And the same is true of anti-Semitism.

This hatred is as mysterious as it is real, and all the explanations for it are external, and often also temporal and haphazard.

It is possible to defend ourselves against enemies who have a reason for hating us; that defense may sometimes resolve issues and even bring about mutual reconciliation.

Against anti-Semitism -- because of its illogical nature -- there may be means of defense, but there is no way that we know of to uproot it.

Over the past several centuries, Jews have tried different methods to resolve this issue: from total assimilation on the one hand, to the establishment of an independent state on the other.

None of these attempts have solved the problem.

They have changed or shifted the riddle; yet anti-Semitism still remains.

So we have only two possible responses left.

The first is to do the best we can – as we did in the days of Esther and in other generations – to defend ourselves from evil and fight it.

This should be done in any case, in order to gain some respite from the outbursts of hatred.

The second option is to laugh.

We laugh not only about the downfall of anti-Semitic individuals or groups, but also about anti-Semitism’s absurdity, ridiculousness and inner contradictions.

These cannot be confronted with or defeated by counter-arguments, but only with laughter: laughter about them and about us.

This laughter is the reflection of our intrinsic reactions.

When faced with such an insoluble impasse, we can despair, disappear and abase ourselves -- or we can laugh.

Laughter does not mean that there is a solution, for there is none.

Instead, our laughter says – 'I am not a part of this.'

If we manage to laugh, it is because we have succeeded in extricating ourselves from its mess.

Through laughter, we pull ourselves out of history and we become immune to the guilt, the blame game and the anxiety.

Through laughter, we declare that we are free even of our irrational bond with Haman's hatred.

We laugh at Haman, Ahasuerus and all their successors because we are the ones who will endure.

Our enemies will survive only as the punch line of jokes.

The day after Purim, we begin thirty days of preparation for Passover.

As Judaism teaches us, elation must find expression in action.

Our joy that 'He has not assigned our portion as the others, nor made our destiny the same as multitudes,'[1] is expressed both in good spirits and in the serious activities that follow the laughter.

Thus we prepare for Passover.

We clean the Chametz, which also purges whatever is external to us.

We scour and scrub our innermost essence – our destiny assigned by the One who has 'chosen us from among all the nations.'"[2]

[1] From the Aleinu prayer
[2] From the Torah blessings

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

"Purim: The Festival of Laughter," an essay by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, March 8, 2009

"On Purim we abandon the illusion that we control our world"

"When we celebrate Purim, we are celebrating a time in which nothing is revealed.

Some is masked, and some is crazy.

God is speaking to us in a different language, and the only way of understanding this language is by letting go of ourselves and the conceit that we control our lives through rational, well-thought-out plans.

He is telling us that there are things that we will never understand, certainly not when we are completely sane and coherent.

There are things that we may begin to understand only when we lose our self-consciousness.

Purim is the miraculous story that takes place in the apparent absence of God or miracles.

Purim is the holiday that we celebrate by behaving as though we don’t know what we are doing and aren’t even sure about who we are.

On Purim we abandon the illusion that we control, or even understand, our world.

We don’t know quite where we are going or where it will end."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From the essay "Purim: Life is a Masquerade" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, March 6, 2009

"A precious and fragile gift"

"The Sabbath is a very precious and fragile gift, which can only be appreciated if we unwrap it carefully and follow the instructions God provided for experiencing it.

The environment and traditions of the Sabbath may take a nation many years to develop, yet they can be destroyed in a very short time.

This rich and prized vintage must be kept in the right place and at the right temperature.

When it is handled roughly, or mixed with Coke, it becomes worthless."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay titled "The Sabbath" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, March 5, 2009

"We must abandon the Jewish interdenominational quarrels"

"When we speak about the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah), we speak about a mega-event, a major phenomenon that changes everything.

We may not be fully prepared and we don’t know the how, what, or when of this event, but we are talking about major changes.

One of the consequences of this statement is that, if we are expecting things to change in a major way, we will have to make major changes, too.

And one of these changes is that we have to cast away a huge number of petty quarrels and petty issues, insignificant clashes that are not just vicious and unprofitable, but ludicrous.

Next to the truly momentous changes we are anticipating, all of our trivial arguments shrink into trifles; our disputes are comic, not just painful.

I am not speaking about personal quarrels only, but about the whole notion of political trappings that you deal with in this country and that we deal with in Israel, my country.

Many of the things that people fight about are the sheerest, shallowest nonsense, especially if we compare these quarrels to the establishment of an entirely different order.

In that sense, whether Party A of Party B will have a particular right or a particular authority seems ridiculous.

Who will remember all these foolish people who were fighting about such things?

When the tsunami is about the envelop the world, no one will remember if my shop was on the west side of the street or the east side; everything will be moved.

So, the coming of Moshiach means, among other things, the casting away of internal fights.

We must talk to people about what Moshiach means.

We must abandon, for example, the Jewish interdenominational quarrels, many of which are associated with small, short-term calculations and evaluations:

What will be better for my organization, for my little group, for my little thing in the next two, three, or five years?

How will I gain a little bit more support from this rich man or the other rich man?

How can I maneuver in another little way to be written up in one newspaper or another?

Again, compared to the big things, all these are nonsensical."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From a speech delivered by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.March 11, 2002


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Blessings guard us against taking our most basic gifts for granted"

"In Judaism, we offer thanks to the Almighty for each gift, even as we ask (or remonstrate) about what we lack.

We do not modulate our gratitude based on an accounting, on some evaluation of profit and loss, nor does giving thanks necessarily mean that we are satisfied.

The very first blessing we say in the morning, our very first act of the day, expresses thanks that we are alive...even if we are ill.

We make a blessing over the gift of sight…even if our vision is dim.

And we give thanks for having clothes to put on...even if they are threadbare.

These obligatory blessings guard us against taking our most basic gifts for granted.

It feels easier and more natural to give thanks when everything seems to be going well, when we have peace and security, health and bounty.

But when we are in a situation of war and fear, of sickness and poverty, when our inclination is to cry and curse, it is much more difficult — but it is still possible and necessary.

When he was poor and starving, the famous Reb Zushya is said to have thanked God for giving him such a good appetite!

It is no coincidence that Reb Zushya's profound capacity for gratitude was matched by a deep relationship with God."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From the essay "Thankful for Thanksgiving" by Rabbi Adin Steisnaltz


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"The course of life is an uninterrupted journey 'from strength to strength'"

"According to Judaism, the course of life - of real life - is not seen as an ascent towards adulthood, and from then on only descent.

Rather, it is an uninterrupted journey 'from strength to strength.'

Starting out life as an amorphous, inchoate mass, a utensil that has not yet taken shape, man goes on to acquires a more complete form, which he keeps shaping constantly through much study and good deeds, along with a constant perfection of body and soul, by directing them towards the real aim of life.

Seeing life as a whole, all of whose parts are equally important, gives a very different evaluation of life.

Once man builds this ability to live the present, to live life as it is, without picturing imaginary ideals, he can live old age just as happily as the young adult, in the peak of his vigor.

For the inevitable physical changes of old age are usually accompanied with parallel spiritual changes, which give man the possibility not to feel these physical changes - emotionally - at all.

Thus, when one puts aside all those imaginary aspirations that cannot be fulfilled, one can draw and enjoy goodness from every point along the path of life, and live life itself."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay titled "From Childhood to Old Age" by Rabbi Aidn Steinsaltz


Monday, March 2, 2009

"Nothing ever remains totally stable"

"Rabbi Aaron of Karlin – one of the first great Hasidic leaders – once set out to influence R. Haike, a righteous and learned man from Amdur, Lithuania, to cease living in seclusion and join the burgeoning Hasidic movement in order to influence the society around him.

Rabbi Aaron did not deliver a lengthy sermon.

He said a single sentence:

'When one does not get better, one gets worse.'

These few words were enough to shake R. Haike's soul.

Until that moment, he had considered himself a saintly Torah scholar, but this one sentence haunted him.

He started thinking:

'I may be a fine person, but I am not getting any better!'

Finally, he got up and joined the Hassidic movement.

When he returned to Amdur, he deeply influenced his townspeople.

Had I had as much power as Rabbi Aaron, I too would have said just that one sentence.

But since I do not, I shall have to elaborate on it.

This sentence holds true about everything in the world.

Nothing ever remains totally stable.

Some things are relatively stable.

But generally speaking, there is a dialectic, namely, the more alive a thing is, the less stable it is.

Only objects that do not interact with anything else remain stable for relatively long periods.

But whatever does interact with its surroundings cannot remain in its current state.

This is as true for keeping house as it is to running a state, for the life of the individual, for the history of an entire society, and for the world of flora and fauna.

Whenever no additional effort is invested, whenever an attempt is made to keep things in one place, there is decline.

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an article "One Step Forward" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz written in the Ukraine


Sunday, March 1, 2009

"What the Talmud is all about"

"There was a certain tzaddik — a righteous person and leader of a hassidic group — who lived in the city of Bershad, in the Ukraine.

(This city still exists, but no Jews live there today.)

The most important thing in this man’s life and worship of God was truth.

He was loyal to the truth to such an extent that when, for instance, he would enter his home while outside it would be pouring, and someone would ask him:

Is it raining outside?

He would reply:

I don’t know; but a moment before I entered the house, it was.

The very last problem that he encountered in his life was as follows:

A certain Jew was accused of some serious offense, and if he were to be found guilty, he would have had to suffer grave punishment.

The judge said that if this rabbi, who never told a lie in his life, would attest to that person’s innocence, he would release him.

Consequently, the rabbi was torn between two considerations.

On the one hand, how could he say something that was not 100% true?

On the other, how could he be an agent in bringing harm to a person’s life?

He asked God to solve this dilemma for him.

That night, he died.

What would any one of you do when faced with a similar situation?

That is food for thought.

It may not be exactly a Talmudic problem, but this, in a sense, is what the Talmud is all about."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Pursuit of Truth" an lecture by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz delivered at a girls' school in Kiev.