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To be or to be not? That is the question!

Friday, 8 August, 2014 - 4:14 pm

In last week’s blogpost (see below) the idea of spiritual House to House Combat was introduced with a call for Mezuzahs to be placed on the doors of Jewish homes and offices all over town. I would like to give a report on how this program has taken off. Just in the last 12 days Mezuzahs have been placed on two new homes, a new medical office, an apartment, housing a visiting family from Israel near Ochsner, the apartment of a recent newcomer to NOLA and plans have been made for more next week. Let’s keep it rolling New Orleans. It is just one small way that we can help protect our people in Israel.

The Jewish Art Calendar has been submitted for print and will be mailed out at the end of August. If you did not receive a calendar last year or you have moved since last September, please give us your address so we can ensure that you receive your copy for the year 5775.

In this week’s Torah portion the phrase “Ein Od Milvado” appears, and it is repeated in a slightly shortened form “Ein Od.” This literally means “there is none aside from Him.” The phrase is generally understood to be a rejection of idolatry, i.e. there are no other deities aside from Hashem. However, a deeper understanding of the phrase indicates that it is not just declaring there to be no other deities, but rather that there is nothing else at all. In other words nothing exists besides G-d. Philosophy students like to box this into a concept they refer to as “acosmism” – a denial of the reality of the universe.

The trouble is that it is hard to stand in the world and declare it to be non-existent. Doesn’t it hurt it I pinch myself? Furthermore, the Torah of truth, attests to the reality of the world in the very first verse, “In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.” So we have to find a way for the world to exist and not exist at the same time, or for all that exists to be a part of the Divine reality. The philosophers struggle with this concept and they try to frame it by using terms like “panentheism” and “acosmic monism.”

Chassidic doctrine inspired by Lurianic Kabbala deals with this issue at length. More importantly, in typical fashion, it takes this concept out of the realm of academic and finds very practical day to day application of the resolution to this challenge.

If you are wondering why I am sharing this with you… It is because we are about to launch a class studying one of the Chassidic works that deals with this issue. It has been translated into English and is entitled True Existence, a Chassidic essay by the fourth Chabad Rebbe. This class will meet each Wednesday evening at 8 PM at Chabad Uptown. If you would like more information or to join the class, email me at

While you are wondering whether to be or to be not, have a Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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