Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Join us for an exquisite Chinese cuisine at the Fort Garry Hotel with guest entertainer Dave Rosner and you will be automatically entered to win a complimentary spa package at Ten Spa, Winnipeg’s finest luxury health spa, valued at $250. Make it a Kosher Night Out!
To RSVP or for more information, please visit www.ChabadWinnipeg.org or give us a call at 414-5624. RSVP by Sunday, August 16.
Monday, August 31 at 7:00pm
Fort Garry Hotel, 222 Broadway Street
Youth (under 30): $36
Silver Sponsor: $180
Gold Sponsor: $360
A project of the Chabad Jewish Learning Institute, a division of Lubavitch Centre.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Why is Judaism passed down through the mother? I understand in olden times it was easy to know who your mother was and there was no way of proving fatherhood. But these days we have DNA testing, so why can't someone be Jewish even if only their father is Jewish?
Jewishness is not in our DNA. It is in our soul. The reason it is passed through the maternal line is not just because it is easier to identify who your mother is. It is because the soul identity is more directly shaped by the mother than the father.
From a purely physical perspective, a child is more directly connected to their mother. The father's contribution to the production of a child is instantaneous, remote and short-lived. The mother on the other hand gives her very self. The child is conceived inside the mother, develops inside the mother, is sustained and nourished by the mother, and is born from the mother.
This is not to say that a father and child are not intimately attached. Of course they are. But as deep and essential as the bond between father and child may be, the child's actual body was never a part of her father's body. But she was a part of her mother. Every child begins as an extension of their mother's body.
This is a simple fact. It doesn't mean she will be closer to her mother, or more similar to her mother, or follow her mother's ways. We are not discussing the emotional bond between parent and child, but rather the natural physical bond. There is a more direct physical link between mother and child, because a child starts off as a part of her mother.
The body and its workings are a mirror image of the workings of the soul. The physical world is a parallel of the spiritual world. And so, the direct physical link between mother and child is a reflection of a soul link between them. While the father's soul contributes to the identity of the child's soul, it is the mother's soul that actually defines it. If the mother has a Jewish soul, the child does too.
If the mother is not Jewish but the father is, his Jewish soul will not be extended to the child. There may be a spark of Jewishness there, but if it was not gestated in a Jewish mother, the child will have to go through conversion for their Jewishness to be activated.
Other religions are passed down by the father. Jewishness is passed down by the mother, because being Jewish is a spiritual identity, it defines our very being. And our very being we get from our mother, both in body and in soul.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
The cost is $4 for a burger and $3 for a hot dog. Salad and drinks are included. RSVP by Tuesday, August 11. To RSVP, send an email to JLI@ChabadWinnipeg.org or give us a call at 414-5624.
On Sunday, August 16
From 5:30pm - 7:30pm
At 901 Shaftesbury Blvd
Friday, July 31, 2009
Rabbi, I appreciate your invitation to join your classes, but I just don't have time in my life for spirituality right now. My week is packed with work, family commitments, fitness and a little socialising and time to relax. I don't see where I can fit in spiritual activities. I don't want to burn out, do I?
There was once a rabbi teaching a classroom full of students. He started his lesson by saying, "My dear students, today is our last class together before you graduate. For this special occasion I am going to do something different. I am going to teach you the secret of a good cholent."
The students were aghast. Cholent, the traditional Shabbos stew, is a classic of Jewish cooking, but hardly a profound subject for a rabbi to teach his students for their final lesson.
The rabbi took out a crockpot and filled it to the brim with potatoes. He then turned to his students and asked, "Tell me, now that I have filled the pot with potatoes - is the pot full?"
"Yes," his students replied, confused by the simplicity of the question, for there was no way to fit in any more potatoes into the pot.
With a smile the rabbi took out a bag of beans and poured it into the pot, and the beans managed to slip between the spaces among the potatoes. "Ok," said the rabbi, "now is the pot full?" Looking into the pot the students agreed that it was indeed full.
Without missing a beat the rabbi took out a bag of barley and poured it into the pot. The small kernels meandered effortlessly between the cracks and crevices among the potatoes and beans.
"Now it's full," said the students.
"Really?" said the rabbi, taking out his collection of spices. He then began shaking generous amounts of salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder all over the pot. The students watched dumbfounded as the spices easily settled into what had seemed to be a completely full pot.
The rabbi, obviously enjoying himself, asked again, "Is it full yet?"
Without waiting for the answer, the rabbi produced a jug of water and proceeded to pour its contents into the pot. To the amazement of his students, he was able to empty the entire jug of water into the pot without a drop spilling over the sides.
"Alright, " said the rabbi, a look of satisfaction on his face. "Now it really is full, right?" The students all nodded in agreement. "Are you sure?" prodded the rabbi., "Are you absolutely certain that I can't fit anything more into this pot?" Suddenly unsure of themselves, the students looked at each other nervously and said, "Surely you can't put anything else into there!"
With drama and pathos, the rabbi raised a finger in the air, lowered it slowly and flicked a switch on the side of the pot, turning on the heating element lying beneath. "You see," said the rabbi triumphantly, "I just filled the pot with the most important ingredient of all - warmth. Without it, the pot may as well be empty."
The rabbi paused, and looked deeply into the eyes of his stunned students. "My children," he finally addressed them, "you are about to leave my class and go on to live busy lives. In the big world out there you will no longer have the luxury of studying holy texts all day. In time you will be consumed by the pressures of looking after a family and making a living. But always remember this: your material pursuits are just the potatoes and beans of life. Your spirituality, that is the warmth.
"Until the fire is turned on, the pot is full of disparate ingredients. It is the warmth that unites them all into one single stew.
"If you don't maintain a spiritual connection, through praying every day, studying the holy books, and keeping focused on the true meaning of your lives, then you will end up as a cold cholent - very busy, very full, but completely empty. When you have lost touch with your soul, your family life will suffer, your career will be unfulfilling, you won't even be motivated to exercise.
"But if you keep the fire burning in your soul, if you stick to a daily schedule that nourishes the spirit, even if it is only for a few minutes a day, then those few minutes will bring warmth and inspiration to all your other activities. A spiritual connection imbues your entire life with meaning, keeps you anchored and directed, inspired and motivated. It permeates all you do with a sense of purpose, and makes you succeed."
"You may be wondering," continued the rabbi, "how will you have time for all this? How will you be able to juggle the demands of material life along with your spiritual development? You will find the answer by looking at the cholent. Did you notice that though the pot seemed full of potatoes and beans, barley, spices and water, when I added the warmth it did not overflow? Never think that adding spirituality to your schedule will overburden you. On the contrary, it will bring everything else in your life together, because it will remind you why you do all these other things in the first place - you work in order to be able to live a life of meaning, you get married in order to bring the best out in yourself and your spouse, you have children in order to educate them in the ways of goodness, you keep fit in order to have the strength to fulfil your mission. Spirituality is the warmth that does not take up space, it creates more."
With a loving smile the rabbi concluded his farewell with words of wisdom that I think apply equally to you:
"You should never think that you are so busy that you can't afford to concentrate on your soul. The truth is, you can't afford not to. May G-d bless you, that each and every one of you should always be a warm pot of cholent."
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Join us for a traditional Shabbat experience in an atmosphere of warmth, song, inspiration and discussion. No experience necessary.
Shmooze with young Jewish families and feel the magic glow of Shabbat at Chabad. From fresh challah to piping hot chicken soup, our delicious menu is sure to feel your body and soul! Space is limited so please reserve early.
Our next Community Shabbat Dinner will take place on Friday, August 21 at 7:30pm. In September, our Community Shabbat Dinner will be replaced by a Rosh Hashana Dinner - same time, same place.
Third Friday of every month.
901 Shaftesbury Blvd.
7:30pm - 9:30pm
To contact Rabbi Shmuly or Adina call (204) 414-5624 or email JLI@ChabadWinnipeg.org.
Please note: Starting in October we will, G-d willing, begin our Community Shabbat Dinners at 6:30pm.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Director: Mrs. Adina Altein
901 Shaftesbury Boulevard
Friday, July 24, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
I would love to come to shule one Shabbos, but I have a problem. Every time I come I feel so out of place, like I am the odd one out. I think people are staring at me because I don't really fit in. It seems like everyone else is a part of it, and I am an outsider. Is it just me or am I sticking out like a sore thumb?
You certainly are the odd one out. Everybody is.
Take any group of people - a family, a community, a classroom, sports team or an office staff - and there is one thing that every single member of the group has in common. They each think they are the odd one out. The one thing that makes us all the same is that we all think we are different.
One person thinks the shape of their nose makes them stick out. Another is sure that they are smarter than everyone, or everyone is smarter than them. One guy thinks he is the only one with problems in their life, another thinks that he is weird and everyone else is normal.
The truth is, all noses stick out. That's how they were made. We are all smarter in some ways and not in others, we all have life problems and we are all a bit weird. These things do not really make us different. So why do we feel so self-conscious? Why do we all feel like outsiders?
Because there really is something about you that truly makes you stand out from the rest.
You are different from everyone else, because every person has a unique soul. The miracle of creation is that we are all the same human, but we are all completely unique people. So indeed you are the odd one out, but so am I, and so is everyone else. You are the exception, but there is no rule.
The fact that you are the odd one out should not cause you to avoid the community. On the contrary, that's why the community needs you. What makes a group powerful is when each individual contributes his or her own distinctive flavour, when each single being gives their own something to the all. You are different to everyone else alive, and everyone else who ever lived. That doesn't just make you the exception. It makes you exceptional.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Heaven on Earth: Timeless Vessels, Timely Lessons
Friday, July 10, 2009
I just wanted to ask you for some direction regarding fear of G-d. I was brought up with a Christian perception of G-d as an intimidating figure to be scared of. I embraced Judaism as I thought it sees G-d as more loving and forgiving, but I've noticed in Jewish sources references to G-d as being something also to fear. This is conjuring up all the negative feelings toward religion from my childhood. Can you shed some light on fear of G-d?
I think this is a translation issue. The word fear conjures an image of something scary, like a haunted house, or a dark alley, or a parking cop. I understand why you would recoil from a religion that promotes fear. We should not feel about G-d what we feel towards a bogey man.
Indeed there is a concept in Judaism called "Yiras Shamayim", translated as fear of heaven. But fear misses the true meaning of the word. A better word would be respect.
While love must be a primary motivating factor in our life, we also need a healthy dose of respect. The difference between love and respect is that when I love, I am preoccupied with my feelings toward you; when I respect, I am focusing on your presence rather than mine. Love is my desire to approach you. Respect is my deference to your otherness, your right to be who you are.
When you love someone but do not respect them, it ends up being all about you. The other is simply an object of your love, their opinion is not taken seriously, and they are not treated as a real being. Someone who loves their spouse but does not respect them never leaves space for the other to really exist. If you love your parents without respecting them, then you actually don't have parents, just good buddies. A friend whom you don't really respect is no more than a convenient accessory to keep you company when you are in the mood.
Respect means acknowledging someone else as being a valid and important being, to be listened to and honoured. It means looking up to someone and realising that there are things about the other person that we just have to accept, like it or not. Put simply, respect means taking someone else seriously.
So we love G-d, we feel close and intimate with Him, but we also respect that He is G-d, a real being, with expectations and demands. He is our parent whom we love, but He is also a king whom we must obey. It is this awe and respect that prevents us from thinking that G-d is just an extension of our own ego, a being that we can bend and stretch to fit in to our own image of Him.
Respect, not fear. There's no bogey man. Apart from parking cops, there's nothing to be scared of.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Course titles are subject to slight modifications.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
This question is from my daughter (aged 7 years).
"Why would a supposedly good, just, loving G-d allow so much suffering in the world?" (I started answering and realised I was not talking on her level. Can you help?)
You are a bright seven year old. There are many things that you can understand, but your baby brother would not understand. For example, does your baby brother ever get a rash? I'm sure he does. So what happens when a baby has a rash? Mum applies cream to ease it. The poor little baby screams as his tender skin is stung by the ointment. But mum keeps going, ignoring the screams. As hard as it is for her to inflict pain on her baby, she does it, because she knows that it is for his good.
Imagine it would be possible to ask the baby how he feels about the situation. He would probably say, "I am being brutally tortured by the very person who is supposed to love me and care for me the most! My own mother has no mercy. She ignores my cries. Why is this happening?"
And there would be no answer anyone could offer. There is no way in the world we could explain to a baby that no, it is not torture, it is healing. Yes it is painful, but it is only being done in order to prevent pain and make you better. A baby simply can't understand anything beyond the pain he is experiencing.
We are all like that baby. In front of G-d, even the wisest and smartest person is like an infant. We look at the world and we see the suffering and we ask why. And no one can give us a satisfying answer. We can't understand, all we can do is cry from the pain. G-d is moved by our cries, it pains Him to see our pain. He understands us. We don't understand Him.
The gap between our minds and G-d's is even wider than the gap between a baby's mind and an adult's. The baby will one day reach adulthood, and he too will come to understand the ways of his parents. But we will never reach G-d. We cannot begin to understand G-d's ways.
But the baby still loves his mum, even though he doesn't understand her actions. So too we need not understand G-d to love Him. Somehow, all the suffering in the world is a healing, and every painful experience is there to teach and to fix. Why does it have to be this way? G-d knows. We don't.
Mum knows what she's doing. So does G-d.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
What do you say to someone who does not find Judaism to be fulfilling? He says the drudgery of performing religious duties doesn't do it for him. Could it be that some Jews need to find fulfilment elsewhere?
The search for fulfilment is one of the plagues of our generation. Today we seek fulfilment in our careers, await fulfilment in our relationships, and expect fulfilment in our spiritual life. Maybe this is why we are so dissatisfied.
Fulfilment is like your favourite pair of nail clippers. When you look for it, you can't find it. Then, when you are not looking, it appears. When you seek fulfilment, it eludes you. But when you go about the business of life and get on with your job, that's when fulfilment appears.
Fulfilment is the by-product of living a life with meaning. And true meaning can only come from living a life that serves a purpose that is beyond self. It's not about fulfilling yourself. It's about fulfilling your soul's task in this world.
Judaism does not promise to provide a feeling of uninterrupted fulfilment. It does promise to provide clarity of purpose and a well-articulated mission for life. The obligations and duties that Judaism places upon us challenge us to reach beyond self-preoccupation and start to serve our purpose.
If you want to find your nail clippers, stop looking for them, and they'll turn up. If you want to find fulfilment, stop seeking it, and it will come. But only when you forget about fulfilling yourself, and start fulfilling your soul's duty.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
A. The Failure of Leadership
The generation of the flood suffered from a failure of leadership. The leaders who were supposed to serve as role models acted immorally and failed to put an end to corruption by enforcing law and order. Even Noah, described as “righteous,” was unsuccessful at inspiring other to abandon their evil ways.
What leadership qualities might have allowed Noah to have more influence on his generation?The first quality of leadership is an inner strength, the feeling of security and confidence that is a prerequisite to “stepping up to the plate.” The second component, which builds on the first, is a selfless concern for others. Finally, the leader must have a vision worth sharing.
Noah was not able to summon these particular strengths. The text describes Noah as one who “walked with G-d.” He needed G-d’s constant support, for her felt a lack of lack of inner strength. Consequently, he also failed to pray for the generation. Although he did not sin himself, he lacked a broader vision and did little to transform those around him.
Abraham, on the other hand, “walked before G-d.” His solid inner strength enabled him to take charge. Selflessly, he cared for those around him, offering food and respite to tired travelers. He also taught monotheism to the world, envisioning a future free of idol worship.
B. The Ark as a Tool of Transformation
The ark was meant not only as a vehicle of refuge, but also as a means of heightening Noah’s sensibilities. Its shape was square, lacking a front or back that would allow navigation. This indicated that its purpose was to provide protection from the storm, but not to allow leisurely travel or an escape from the flood. The ark included a skylight. This symbolized that Noah was meant to become more receptive to spirituality. The ark was further divided into three levels: human, animal and waste. Noah had to take care of all the levels, signifying the need for him to learn to engage with various dimension of his own life as well as the world around him.
Noah spent twelve months inside the ark, significantly longer than the forty days of rain. This time was meant to transform him and prepare him for reentry into the world. After some time, his refuge began to feel like a prison, and Noah prayed for the time when he would be able to leave. The ark succeeded in teaching Noah that he could not remain unaffected by the fate of his generation.
C. Noah and Abraham: A Comparative Assessment of their Legacies
The Torah describes Noah as “righteous in his generations.” The sages discuss how he might fare in a different time. All agree that had he lived in a generation of good people, their influence would have ensured that he would have been even more righteous. All agree, as well that had he acted in the same way in a more upright generation, his actions would have been totally unacceptable. Yet given the particular challenges of his time, he acted admirably.
Before the flood changed the spiritual fiber of creation, people were either good or bad. Bad people were confined to a downward spiral. Good people were either overwhelmed by their environment (Gan Eden), or they were good because they were born in the shadow of role models. There was little chance that people who had begun to err would be able to reconnect with G-d when left to their own devices.
After the flood, the world was purified and was able to develop its own relationship with G-d. This is mirrored in the legacies of Noah and Abraham. This is the very reason that Abraham excelled as a leader and was able to agitate on others’ behalf. Noah lived at a time where it was possible to reignite the dim sparks of goodness within the sinner. In Noah’s time, however, there was far less potential goodness to retrieve.
Noah was able to survive the flood, but given the constraints of his time, he had no power to transform the generation around him. Abraham, on the other hand, was able to transform calamity into good. As the children of Abraham, each of us has the possibility to likewise deal with the difficult circumstances of our lives by not simply “persevering” in the face of difficulty, but by making those difficulties an opportunity for strength and blessing.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Lifetime Opportunity to Hear World Renowned Jewish Thinker and Lecturer
Live broadcast of an address by Rabbi Israel Meir Lau on Sunday, June 14 2009 at the Chabad Torah Centre, 1825 Grant Ave. from 6:30pm - 8:00pm. Join us for an evening of gathering and connection and unite with hundreds of Jewish communities around the world as Rabbi Lau shares a message of healing and hope for our uncertain world. For more information, call 414.5624 or send us an email.
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau
Rabbi Lau was ordained a rabbi in 1961. He served as chief rabbi in Netanya (1978-1985) and Tel Aviv (1985-1993) and at that time developed his reputation as a popular orator. He was elected as Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi in 1993 and served for 10 years until 2003. In 2005 he was, again, elected Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, his current position. Rabbi Lau is the recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize, the country's highest civilian honor.
Click here to register.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Lesson Five of Biblical Reflections profiled the generation before the flood and touched on its fatal flaw. The leaders of the time lacked morality, whereas Noah lacked the quality of leadership itself. Generations later, Abraham distinguished himself not only for moral uprightness, for remarkable ability to influence others.
What characterizes an effective leader? This lesson will examine the stark differences between Noah and Abraham.
A. The Corruption of Society
Our lesson began with a discussion of the challenge that results from technological sophistication. Advanced societies are prone to arrogance and hubris. However, with appropriate guidance, their advantages can be used to make the world a better place.
The society that preceded the flood, unfortunately, was an example of an advanced society that was exceedingly corrupt, especially in the social realm. They were adept at subverting the justice system, and so there was little hope for remedy. Noah was a lone exception to this sorry state of affairs, and was worthy of surviving the fate of his contemporaries.
B. The Flood
Although G-d could have destroyed the pre-flood society instantaneously, he did so by bringing about 40 days of rain.This was to highlight that in addition to drowning evil, the flood also had a purifying purpose. It served as a womb of sorts, giving birth to a new world.
After the flood, a rainbow adorned the sky, standing as a promise that G-d would never again destroy the world. This is because the flood purified and transformed the very nature of the earth, making an appreciation for G-dliness an integral part of the earth’s independent identity.
The rainbow served as an apt symbol. Rainbows are formed when the sun is able to penetrate clouds and moisture, causing the light to be refracted by the droplets. The sun is a metaphor for G-d, and the clouds for physical creation. Before the flood, the clouds were too thick to allow the sun’s light to penetrate. But when the droplets of moisture in the clouds are able to reflect the light of the sun, it is a sign that the creation has reached a point of refinement that allows an appreciation of the divine to enter.
Next week we will look at how a failure of leadership may have made the flood inevitable. We will examine why the pre-flood world was particularly vulnerable to this lack, and the factors that are critical to effective leadership. I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
This week, we will focus on a wealthy, technologically sophisticated society that was so evil that it had to be washed away. Our class will explore the connection between such advancement, on one hand, and such social corruption on the other. Why are societies destroyed, and how can they be rehabilitated?
We will also take a moment to consider the rainbow, G-d’s promise that he will never destroy the entire world by flood again. What might has caused G-d to make this promise? What has changed? Is the world any different today than it once was? We will compare and contrast the nature of the world before and after the flood.
We will also consider ways of guarding against the evils that are sometimes bred by material excess, a topic especially relevant to these times.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A. Response to Catastrophe
Cain and Abel coped very differently to the tragedy of the expulsion from Eden. Abel became a shepherd. Since sheep graze most of the day, this left him ample time for spiritual pursuits. Cain, however, turned to farming, a far more arduous pursuit. This made him much more vested in the material world.
B. A Philosophy of Gift-Giving
In time, both brothers brought offerings before G-d. Cain’s was rejected, whereas Abel’s was accepted. The gifts diverged in two ways: Cain was the first to bring his offering. However, Abel’s gift was far more generous.
Cain, the materialist, nonetheless recognized that he needed G-d’s assistance in order to succeed in his pursuits. Thus, he sought to “bribe” G-d through bringing such a gift. Yet he found it too difficult to give up the best of what he had.
Abel, on the other hand, felt a strong desire to connect to G-d, but attributed little value to the physical world. Thus it did not initially occur to him to bring such a gift. However, once he saw Cain offering a physical gift, , Abel decided to do the same, and generously gathered the best of what was his as an offering to G-d.
C. Dealing with Rejection
Cain responded to G-d’s rejection of his sacrifice with anger and despair. G-d addressed both emotions. First, G-d explained that there was no need for him to feel angry or blame Abel for his rejection, for Cain was able to control his own fate through his action. Likewise, there was no need for him to despair of ever finding favor in G-d’s eyes, for it within the power of every individual to control the inclination to evil. G-d told Cain that it was up to him to see G-d’s rejection of his sacrifice as constructive criticism, rather than an act of unfair discrimination.
D. The Fatal Argument
Yet G-d’s warning to Cain went unheeded. Cain picked a fight with his brother, and in a fit of range, killed him.
Cain and Abel were different in nature, but had they found a way to bridge their differences, could have made a perfect team, each completing the other. Abel could have provided the spiritual focus while Cain, skilled at laboring, could have provided the material resources for bringing spirituality into the material world. Unfortunately, they chose separate paths, each wanting to be self-sufficient. However, neither world-view was sustainable alone.
E. Justice is Done
Adam was expelled from Eden to return to “the land from which he was taken.” His mission was to fix the earth’s spiritual imperfections. Cain betrayed this mission by abusing the earth instead of elevating it. Adam caused a gap between man and the natural resources of the world. Cain widened the gap by taking the land and turning it into an ally for his crime. As a consequence, Cain couldn’t retrieve adequate sustenance from the earth. He was forced to spend the rest of his life as in itinerant wanderer, constantly searching for sustenance.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
This week, we will see the effects of this traumatic event on Cain and Abel, the “next generation.” Both grew up in the shadow of expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The “quick-fix” of paradise had been lost, and it would now be a long and arduous road to rebuilding the perfect world.
How would Cain and Abel cope with such a formidable task? They had to begin by learning how to interact with one another and with G-d. Their approaches were incompatible, and their conflict had catastrophic results. By examining their story, can we learn to avoid their mistakes? I’m looking forward to seeing you for our fourth lesson at the Chabad Torah Centre.
A. The Downfall and Cover-Up
The forbidden fruit opened the eyes of Adam and Eve to the experience of the external and the physical. As a result, they felt ashamed, a consequence of the soul’s discomfort with the body’s potential to pursue its own desires. To alleviate these unpleasant feelings, Adam and Eve wove “aprons” from fig leaves to cover their nakedness.
But clothing can serve other purposes besides merely covering up what we do not want to reveal. Clothing can also serve to adorn and to beautify. Through their instinctive covering of their bodies, Adam and Eve showed sensitivity to their weakness and a desire to rectify their sin. So G-d crafted form them fitted shirts from fine animal skins as a symbol of their restored worthiness.
Through their error, Adam and Eve set into motion irrevocable changes in the nature of their interaction with the world and with each other. While these changes are often perceived primarily as punishments, they are also the natural consequences of eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
Adam, for example, was forced to start working the land and foraging. Due to the sin, the world became coarser, for good and evil became mixed and intertwined. Although humans were given the task of elevating the G-dly sparks within creation, the sparks within edible vegetation were now harder to reach and purify. If humans would extract food from the land too easily, they would become arrogant and self-indulgent. Therefore, the land now needed to be tilled and cultivated. The challenges in earning a livelihood and bringing for the earth’s produce would induce feelings of humility, thereby making people more sensitive to G-d and more suited for purging the evil that was introduced through the sin.
Eve’s punishment, difficulty in childbirth, was also a consequence of the world’s transformation. Birth marks the marriage between body and soul. Now that body and soul became less synchronized, birth also became a more strenuous and painful process. The relationship between husband and wife complicated. Man and woman previously functioned in union, but after the sin, they lost their natural balance.
The serpent’s curse consisted of being forced to crawl on its belly and eat dust. Since the serpent had attempted to hijack spirituality for its own purposes, it was condemned to live devoid of the need to turn to G-d.
C. G-d’s Perspective
It is a mistake to surmise that the sin set the world off course. Both good and evil are divine creations, and both are imbued with a deeply rooted divine essence. Evil opposes divine will, but only because G-d wills it to do so. Kabbalah gives the analogy of a king who asks a woman to attempt to seduce his son in order to test the strength of son’s character. Just as the woman’s actions are conducted in the service of the king, Satan does his work in order to fulfill G-d’s plan.
Sin contains a hidden goodness that is normally inaccessible, shackled behind unbreakably hard shells of evil. However, a person who sins and repents is able to release these hidden sparks of goodness, for sometimes the sin is itself the impetus to turn away from evil and come close to G-d.
Eve recognized this hidden benefit of evil, though she grossly underestimated the power of evil to swallow goodness in its wake. Women light Shabbat candles as a means of rectifying Eve’s sin, transforming darkness into light.
Next week, we’ll examine the next generation, Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve. Each coped with the expulsion from Eden quite differently, and they found themselves locked in a gruesome battle. We’ll evaluate the two conflicting worldviews and their underlying lessons.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Immediately, they were racked with shame and regret. The power of evil was unlocked in the world. It was clear that the act had not had the desired consequences. Yet what was done could never be undone. Or could it?
Can we ever reclaim innocence? In lesson three, Adam and Eve are given the tools to rediscover the Garden of Eden. We, their children, have inherited this quest. The path has been long and arduous, sometimes elusive, but we are assured that one day, we shall return to an Eden that is all we imagined and more.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Before the sin, Adam and Eve were totally engaged in their activities. They were described as naked, but it didn’t feel shame. For Adam and Eve, intimate relations were part of the natural order, void of selfish desires. The experience was similar to eating for the sole purpose of nutrition. The psychological precursor that allows for the development of evil is a sense of awareness of feelings, emotions, and physical sensations- that we have termed as knowledge.
Kabbalah compares evil to a peel. The peel of a fruit provides a vital service, protecting the fruit from insects and environmental hazards. However, when the fruit is ready to be eaten, the peel must be removed and discarded, for it no longer serves any purpose.
The serpent was the embodiment of evil. Originally its mission was to serve and assist the spiritual dimension of creation, just as a peel exists solely for the fruit. The serpent, however, sought to establish its own independence, an existence separate from its intended mission – thereby hijacking spirituality and exploiting it for its own purposes. The serpent was able to take advantage of a vulnerable aspect of creation – the dual nature of humans who are a synthesis of spiritual and physical – which made humans particularly susceptible to serving as a host to evil.
The seduction began when the serpent asked Eve if G-d had really forbade eating from the trees in the garden. In this non-aggressive way, the serpent attempted to highlight a seeming lack in logic – prohibiting the use of a part of creation. All creation is good and has a purpose; prohibiting its use prevents its purpose from being fulfilled.
Both Adam and Eve embodied a divine consciousness and sought to reveal the inherent spirituality in creation. A key difference between them, however, was that Adam was created through fusing two separate identities, the physical and the spiritual. Eve’s being, on the other hand, was spiritually integrated from the moment of her creation.
Adam thus sensed the physical and spiritual as conflicting realms, and he felt a need to conquer and alter it. But Eve saw no such contradiction and thus did not feel an innate urge to change the world. She sought not to transform, but to develop, bringing the world’s inner perfection to the fore.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Do Jews believe in Hell? I am not planning any trips or anything, but was wondering because I have heard mixed reports about this.....
We do believe in a type of hell. But not the one found in cartoons and joke books. Hell is not a punishment. It is in fact a great kindness that we are sent to hell.
The prophets and mystics of Judaism described a spiritual place called Gehennom. This is usually translated as Hell, but a better translation would be the Supernal Washing Machine. Because that's exactly how it works. Our soul is cleansed in Gehennom in the same way as our clothes are cleansed in a washing machine.
We don't put our socks in the washing machine to punish them. We put them through what seems like a rough and painful procedure, only to make them clean and wearable again. The intense heat of the water loosens the dirt, and the force of being swirled around shakes it off completely. Far from hurting your socks, you are doing them a favour by putting them through this process.
But put yourself in your socks' shoes. If you would be thrown into boiling hot water and flung around for half an hour, you too would start to feel that someone doesn't like you. If only the socks would know that this is all for their good. Only after going through a washing cycle can the socks be worn again.
So too with the soul. Every act we do in our lifetime leaves an imprint on our soul. The good we do brightens and elevates our soul. And every wrongdoing leaves a stain that needs to be cleansed. If at the end of our life we leave this world without fixing the wrongs we have done, our soul is unable to reach its place of rest on high. We must go through a cycle of deep cleansing, our soul is flung around at intense spiritual heat, to rid it of any dirty residue it may have gathered and prepare it for entry into heaven.
This is no punishment. It may be painful, but it is for our good. Our soul can only shine once the stains have been fully removed.
Of course this whole process can be avoided. If we truly regret the wrong we have done, make amends with the people whom we have hurt, we can leave this world with clean socks.