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Technology & Spirituality, Compatible?

When explaining the flood of Noach, the Zohar comments: "And six hundred years into the sixth millennium the gates of wisdom from above and the fountains of wisdom from below will open, and the world will be corrected as a preparation for its elevation in the seventh [millennium.]”

The prediction corresponds to the year 1840. The "gates of wisdom from above" represents the Torah's inner teachings. The "fountains of wisdom from below" refers to science and technology. Indeed we see that in both of those areas there was explosive development around that time. The industrial revolution was followed by amazing leaps in the development of science, medicine and technology. Similarly in Torah development, the teachings of Chassidism had begun to spread and become accessible to multitudes of people via the printed and later the digital word.

All of this, the Zohar explains, serves as a preparation for the "Seventh Millenium" the era of Redemption. We can understand how Torah development serves this cause. But what role does science and technology play to this end?

The Rebbe explains in one of his talks (adapted in English at  www.chabadneworleans.com/112700) that firstly, the era of redemption will be the time when both the physical and spiritual will be equally aware of the Divine truth of existence, as it states in Isaiah, "and the glory of Hashem will be revealed and all of the flesh will perceive that Hashem has spoken." Furthermore, he argues, scientific and technological developments help us gain an appreciation and insight into previously abstract spiritual ideas. He cited the example of the telephone and radio as examples of "an ear that hears" even though it is not present in the room. Atomic science serves as an insight to the idea of Absolute Unity within all of creation rather than disparate elements that are unrelated. Finally, he concludes, when we harness technology in the service of G-d it all comes together.

This is one area where the Rebbe's approach was unique amongst Torah leaders. He did not shy away from utilizing communications developments such as radio, tv and satellite technology for spreading the teachings of Torah. How much more so today when we have the internet and advanced communication capability, where all of the above is even more highlighted and apparent.

I would like to share, on a personal note, how one area of technology is significantly enhancing our family's spirituality. One of the rapidly developing areas of technology involves online educational settings. Chabad is on the cutting edge in this area. My daughter Mushka participates in an online classroom (part-time - as a supplement to the wonderful education she receives at Torah Academy). She has real-time instruction from live teachers as well as visual and audio interaction with the teacher and other students in her class. They utilize a multiple interface approach (typing, speaking, listening etc.) that is all interactive and within a secure online environment. This technology has allowed her to grow in many areas including scholastically and socially. She just finished her first face to face meeting with her teachers and classmates when they got together for a graduation trip (8th graders).

For all of the negatives of the internet (and they are numerous and real), we must recognize that everything in this world exists for the glory of Hashem. We must utilize what is there for its proper purpose. When we do so, ultimately goodness will prevail and the world will be filled with G-dliness and goodness.

I extend heartfelt condolences to the Goldin family of Gulfport upon the passing of the patriarch of the family, Mr. Jack Goldin. He and Mrs. Goldin have much to be proud of in successfully raising generations of Jewish Goldins on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. May his memory be a blessing and inspiration to his family and those that knew him.

Reflection on the Tucson Shooting

The shooting in Tucson two weeks ago has evoked a plethora of reactions from a broad spectrum of our society. I do not intend my comments to be at all associated with any of the politicized takes on this issue (which is why I waited an extra week to share my thoughts).

Obviously, the first and most important reaction must be one of prayer and hope for the full recovery of Congresswoman Giffords and the other wounded, as well sorrow and pain for those whose lives were taken.

As we contemplete the matter further, we wonder what brings about such a horrific mindset on the part of the perpetrator. This same question was asked regarding many previous tragedies that are similar in nature, such as the Columbine massacre, the VA Tech shooting and so forth.

This past Sunday we watched a video of a talk the Rebbe gave in 1975, addressing American political leadership, many of whom had come to congratulate him upon his 25 years of leadership of Chabad. Among the many points he made, the Rebbe spoke of the need for the US to retain the moral fiber upon which it was founded. America was established by men of faith - the Founding Fathers, who stressed the belief in a creator as the source for the rights given to man. He stressed the importance of teaching these principles to our children as part of the educational responsibility we have as a nation. He argued for the constitutionality of G-d in Public Schools as long as it is not a specific mode of worship and religion. The Rebbe's concludes that without this important foundation the entire structure crumbles.

This brought to mind a similar talk the Rebbe gave in 1981 shortly after the assasination attempt on Preseident Ronald Reagan. He spoke about the importance of moral clarity in the US society and educational system. He pointed out that moral ambiguity in schools, who see themselves merely as transmitters of information rather than sharing the responsibility of shaping the child's inner self and moral outlook, can play a role in the degeneration of society to the point where an assasination attempt is possible. He goes on to make some of the same points as in the 1975 address.

If you would like to see the complete 22 minute talk go to www.chabadneworleans.com/695898 . To see a transcript www.chabadneworleans.com/968186 .  

Ethics of Our Fathers talks of the three things that a person must always know, "there is an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all of one's deeds are recorded in a Book." If a person believes that the only thing wrong with committing a crime is getting caught, then society disintigrates. However, if a person is taught from childhood on, that G-d dictates right and wrong, and He sees and hears everything, then there is a better chance that the person will not resort to immoral activities.

In contrast to the above, I would like to congratulate my 11 year old nephew, Mendel Rivkin, upon reaching the halfway point in his study of the entire Mishna. The Mishna is comprised of over 60 volumes (tractates) which are divided into six orders. Mendel is celebrating a Siuym (completion) of the 3rd (of six) Orders of the Mishna. This my friends is the real antidote to Tucson, Columbine, Va Tech, Oklahoma City etc. May his entire family dervice much Nachas from him and may Hashem bless him to continue growing in Torah study and moral development.

We wish Dina & David Voskovsky a Mazel Tov upon the birth of their daughter (nameless until Shabbat). Warm wishes for Hashem's abundant blessings for Nachas, health and prosperity. Special Mazel Tov to the grandparents Shmuel & Susan Markovich.

Best wishes for a renewed start to Ilan & Sarah Fuchs in their new home. May our sages promise of "prosperity following a fire" be realized in your lives very soon. 

Celebrating Sixty Revolutionary Years

In January of 1950 the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, passed away. After escaping war-torn Europe in 1940, he valiantly re-established Chabad in the US despite being wheelchair bound and in ill health. He founded a network of schools and programs to serve American Jewry and began to send his young Chassidim to serve outlying communities. Upon his passing the Chassidim turned to his younger son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to take his place. On the first Yahrtzeit of the Previous Rebbe, Shevat 10, 1951, the Rebbe formally ascended to the leadership of Chabad.

During his inaugural gathering with only several hundred Chassidim present, the Rebbe stated his philosophy regarding the direction in which he would be steering the Chabad movement. He declared that we as Jews must take our inspiration from the conduct of our first father, Avraham. The Torah says that Avraham came to Beersheba and "called there in the name of the L-rd, the Eternal G-d." The Talmud comments, "do not read "he called" but rather "he caused others to call." In other words, Avraham was not content to worship G-d himself, his life's mission was to share this with others as well.

The Rebbe elaborated saying, "from this we learn that one's own "calling the name of Hashem" is incomplete unless one also "causes others to call." He concluded by explaining that this approach would be the final step to put an end to the exile and usher in the era of Redemption.

This became the springboard for the Rebbe's revolution of Chabad Houses and emmissaries around the world. The Rebbe inspired a generation of people by instilling this idea within them - that one's own relationship with Hashem is lacking if they do not do what they can to see that others have a relationship with Hashem as well. This notion that we are at the end of a 3300 year long journey and we are tasked with completing the job, has fired up thousands of Chassidim to dedicate themselves to implementing the Rebbe's vision of a good and G-dly world.  

Tomorrow we mark 60 years since this revolution began. Today there are over 4,000 institutions worldwide serving the cause. Jewish communities in every part of the world have been influenced by the Rebbe's call. Chabad's web network receives millions of clicks each day. Countless individuals have had a positive life transformation as a result.

It is our sincere hope that as we celebrate this monumental milestone, we will finally arrive at the last chapter in the book - the coming of Moshiach and the era of Redemption.  

Locally, we will mark the 10th of Shevat with several events. Chabad Metairie will be having a dinner tonight. Chabad Uptown will be having a Kiddush lunch and farbrengen tomorrow. On Sunday evening at 7 PM we will have a Farbrengen at Chabad uptown during which we will show a video of a Farbrengen with the Rebbe in 1975.

We wish Batya Tavlin a hearty Mazel Tov upon her marriage to Lior Yaish. Special warm wishes to her mother, Mrs. Jane Tavlin. May there be continued joy and happiness.

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