Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Answers from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Below is a collection of questions presented to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1952 and his fascinating answers to these questions.

With best wishes for a ksiva va’chssima tova, a good and sweet year.

Questions and Answers

Q: What is the meaning of a ‘Brocha’ which the Rebbe Blesses?

A: The giving and receiving of a Brocha can be traced back to the times of our forefathers Abraham, Issac and Jacob, whom G-d had blessed with the power of blessing and who blessed their children on solemn occasions. Since that time it has always been a custom. In the words of my father-in-law the meaning of a Brocha is like rain (Gishmei Brocha). Rain can accomplish its function and be useful only when preceded by the plowing and tilling of the soil, planting the seeds and preparing the soil for growing. However, should rain fall on unplowed and untilled soil, not only won’t it accomplish its function but furthermore it may cause damage. The same applies to a Brocha, the body (actions and desires of the body) must be tilled and plowed (properly executing them according to the Torah). Only then will the Brocha be useful and help the blessed elevate himself to a higher standard.

Q: What is the difference between a Rebbe and A Rabbi?

A: a Rabbi is the one who teaches his pupils when they approach him and will answer shaalos [questions] when brought before him. A Rebbe does not wait for anyone to approach him, he reaches forth among the people and tries to awaken them and inspire them, and tries to find ways and methods to bring them closer to their religion.

Q: What is a Rebbe?

A: A Rebbe is one whose soul embraces so to speak the souls of his Chassidim. In other words, his Chassidim have a particular soul relationship with their Rebbe, receiving through him Divine blessings, material and spiritual. When a Chassid comes to the Rebbe with a problem he tries to find in the Rebbe the part of his soul which is included in the Rebbe’s soul and connect it with his soul and thus be connected with the Rebbe’s soul. It is through this connection that the Chassid receives his material and spiritual life and needs. For example, lets us take the electric bulb which produces light. The bulb itself is incapable of producing light, however there are electrical power plants stationed in some distant part of the city which generate the necessary power to produce the light. There must be a channel through which the power can pass and reach each individual bulb. The bulb itself must contain some device which enables it to receive the power. That is the wire which is connected to the power plant and is also connected to the bulb, when this connection is opened by turning on the switch the bulb receives the power and will function. The same applies to a Rebbe and Chassidim. The Rebbe is the power plant which produces the needed strength and power to fulfill the commandments and obligations and also to convey the necessary material needs. The channel through which the Chassid can receive the strength and material necessities is his soul which is connected to the soul of the Rebbe. The sole duty of a Rebbe is to convey the above mentioned spiritual and material necessities to his Chassidim. Although the Rebbe is also required to fulfill his bodily functions (eating, sleeping etc.) however that is not his purpose or true function. The necessity to fulfill them is solely because his soul is bound with an earthly body which cannot exist without these necessities. An example for this would be when one approaches a Rabbi complaining of a headache and the Rabbi offers him an aspirin as a remedy it is useless to say that this is the function of a Rabbi. The same is with the Rebbe in his bodily functions.

Q: Can everyone become a Rebbe?

A: Being this is a special power presented from above, not everyone is capable of receiving this power and help.

Q: Can everyone elevate himself to the standard of ‘Ruach Hakodesh’

A: Every Jew has the potential for it, but it requires special preparations in learning and mainly by limiting ones desires and temptations. Only then can he rise to that standard. But every Jew, being he is a Jew gives him the potentiality to acquire it.

Q: Is the function of a Rebbe like that of a psychologist? Can the Rebbe take the place of a psychiatrist?

A: If necessary the Rebbe would use psychology to help solve the problem of a Chassid, but that is only a small part of his work. And even then there is a difference between a Rebbe and a Psychiatrist. When a psychiatrist speaks to his patient he regards him as an object of study. Though he is interested in curing his patient and in helping him to adjust to life, his approach is to derive not only a healthy patient but an accumulation of information about the human being for his further study. A Rebbe gives himself over completely to the person. When he is seeking a solution, the Rebbe does not study him but is more emotionally involved with the person who comes to see him.

Q: If the actual fulfillment of the commandment is more important than the knowledge behind it, and therefore one should do and carry out the laws even if he lacks the explanation, we are living a life of blind faith.

A: When a child is hungry and wants to eat immediately, his mother does not explain to him all the processes the food goes through, or how the oven functions, rather she gives him the food immediately so as to stop his hunger and then she can proceed in explaining the methods by which the food is prepared. Or when a doctor prescribes a medicine he doesn’t explain the contents or the way it was prepared. The doctor gives the patient the medicine that is to cure him, although he lacks the knowledge of medicine. Just as one needs food for his physical life, so does one need food for his spiritual life. The spiritual food is the commandments and obligations prescribed in the Torah. One must take the food although he lacks the explanation of them, in order to survive (spiritually). After fulfilling them if he still desires to have the knowledge then can he go about to attain it.

Q: What is the purpose (‘tachlis’) of Life?

A: To bring ‘Lichtikeit’ (in the spiritual meaning) into the world.

Q: What is the ‘Tachlis’ of ‘Lichtikeit’?

A: To find a harmonious life. One can be in complete harmony when he has found the truth.

Q: How does one know that he has reached the ‘Tachlis’?

A: One seeks something when he lacks something. When nothing is lacking he will not seek. If one has ‘Lichtikeit’ he will not be seeking anything then he will know that he reached the ‘Tachlis’.

Q: How can one prove and explain scientifically the need of religion?

A: When we see something, we can say that it happened accidently, or that it happened or was made on purpose. For instance take a book in which you find hundreds of words composing many thoughts and finally an entire book. If you have never seen or heard about a printing press what would you say about the making of the book? That a bottle of ink spilled accidently on paper was the cause of this book or you would say that it was made by someone with a purpose. Undoubtedly, you will say that it was made with a purpose and it did not occur accidently by the spilling of a bottle of ink. Now, take a pencil or any article, the pencil contains billions of atoms which have the same law, would you say that all the atoms happen to function by the same law accidently, or that a higher force created them so, we must say it was created by a higher force. This will surely apply when we look about our surroundings and we find various different articles, an entire world with all its inhabitants. The formation of these beings could not have been by incident, it is only through a higher force that made it possible. We have now asserted that the world is a creation, and that it has a creator, Almighty G-d. Therefore, this compels us to state further that the Creator has a specific purpose in creating this earthly world. Considering the standard of living without any purpose, merely to carry out the bodily and earthly functions, we can’t picture a greater cruelty than that. To place the billions of human beings in this earthly world and torture them by equalizing their desires and to that of animals, would be the greatest cruelty. Thus we would be compelled to state that the Almighty is cruel to the fullest extent, this is impossible too. Therefore, there must be some purpose to the creation, which makes the world a means of elevation to a higher life. This means is the belief in G-D and His commandments, through which one can connect himself to G-D. This is a simple proof that there must be religion and that there must be a Creator.

Q: There being more than one religion, how can one prove that the Jewish religion is the true one?

A: A scientific discovery is accepted only when there is enough evidence or proof that the discovery is true. Ample evidence means, after reaching the result of the experiment one time it is repeated again and again and if the results coincide with that of the first we then establish the truthfulness of the discovery. The same is also true, when 600 people performed an experiment using the same implements and 100 people performed the same experiment on that same basis and the results showed that the 600 people stated a belief on the basis of their experiments, while the 100 disagreed with them on the basis of their experiment you would accept the results of the 600 more readily than that of the 100.

Let us now consider the evidence which is given to confirm the other religions. The Moslems are well known to have had only one witness at the time of its origin. Furthermore, the only witness was only a mentally sick person. The Christians had only six or twelve witnesses to affirm its origin. The Jewish religion at the time of it's origin, meaning at the time of the revelation on Mt. Sinai, had 600,000 Jews to witness this occurrence. Those said witnesses themselves were present at the giving of the Torah and they themselves heard the voice of G-D pronouncing the commandments. The 600,000 witnesses consisted not merely of scholars but were composed of all walks of life, different occupations and professions (scholars, workers, scientist etc.), and all of them confirmed that same fact, the revelations of G-D on Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Torah. On that basis you must conclude that the Jewish religion is a more firmly established fact, and therefore it has the greatest amount of truth.

Q: What proof is there that there were 600,000 witnesses present at the time of the revelation?

A: If we will trace back generation by generation, we will find in each 600,000 people who will confirm the said fact, and they were told by their elders who in turn received the confirmation from their elders. This can be continued until the said generation who actually did witness the fact of revelation. This continuous transformation can be traced without the interruption of a single generation who should lack 600,000 people confirming the truthfulness of the giving of the Torah, and the observance of its commandments. Therefore, the proof is still present being it was never interrupted. And in this world witnesses are the best means of proof. No other religion can trace that far back and furthermore, to have that many witnesses. Adding all this together we must conclude that the real true existing religion is the Jewish religion.

Q: How can we say that the Jews truly believe in G-d when immediately after the receiving of the Torah they made the golden calf?

A: The forming of the golden calf did not signify their disbelief in G-d or contradict the fact of the revelation. It was only a transgression of one of the commandments which state the prohibition of believing in any other power but Almighty G-d.

Q: Does Science contradict Religion?

A: Science cannot contradict religion. Religion is true and science is true, therefore there cannot be any contradiction.

Q: Aren’t there many cases that bring up a contradiction between the two?

A: It is not science but the men of science who may state a fact that will contradict religion. While they are in the midst of understanding the truthfulness of science, their knowledge is too limited and therefore they may come out with a statement that will contradict. But, science itself is true and cannot contradict religion.

Q: Some people would feel that being a good Jew does not necessarily mean adhering to the precepts of Torah. They feel they could be good Jews without fulfilling the ‘Mitzvos’. How could this be explained to them?

A: When a doctor prescribes a medicine and the patient is reluctant and stubborn about taking it, the doctor, if he is honest, would not lead him astray and tell his patient to take something else in its place that would not have the same affect. Instead, he would try to explain the patient the necessity of taking the medicine and relinquish the patient until he has exhausted all means of convincing him. Or, if one is in a coma and it is difficult to revive him a good friend would not give up on his task of trying to awaken him. He would do his utmost to help this individual, even if it means to hurt him for his benefit. If necessary he would give him shock treatments if he knows the patient will revive.

Q: Why do we need ceremonies? Aren’t they a burden upon a person?

A: We have already explained that the Almighty G-D is the perfect goodness. He would not create a thing that would be a burden for the people. It is only the people who consider it a burden. For, we are all limited to a certain degree, our mind and understanding is also limited which makes it impossible for us to grasp certain mitzvos to their fullest extent. Therefore, our intellect has not extended that far to grasp the truthfulness of the commandments and the necessity of performing the prescribed ceremonies. However, being Almighty G-d commanded us to do such, it is surely a privilege and not a burden.

Q: Does a Rebbe use his supreme powers always?

A: As the means, the Rebbe tries to apply the most simple method and only after medical help does not prove successful will the Rebbe use his supreme power.