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Deck the Souls with...

Thursday, 8 December, 2016 - 1:22 pm

In 1901 the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch, authored a letter to his Chasidim describing the 19th of Kislev as the Rosh Hashanah of Chasidus, the day on which the light and vitality of our souls were given to us by G-d. (The 19th of Kislev is the anniversary of Chabad’s founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s liberation from Czarist prison in 1798. That event was a turning point in propelling the revolutionary impact that Chasidism would have on Jewish life.)

Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, the leading sage of Lithuanian Jewry at the time, was shown the letter by an individual who attempted to use it to poke fun at Chasidim. He argued, “The Talmud states that there are four Rosh Hashanahs and the Lubavitcher Rebbe is adding a fifth.” Rabbi Chaim Ozer replied, “They are increasing while we are diminishing.”

What does it mean when a day is declared to be “Rosh Hashanah?” Chasidus explains, that on Rosh Hashanah a new stream of Divine Energy comes to world in relation to the pertinent area of existence covered by that Rosh Hashanah (trees on Tu B’shvat etc.). A Rosh Hashanah for Chasidus means that the new stream of Divine Energy comes in relation to the Neshamah. Hence the description “the day on which the light and vitality of our souls were given to us.”

The purpose of Chasidus is to infuse Torah, Mitzvos and G-dly living with a vibrancy that enriches the entire experience. Light and vitality are both forces that do not add anything quantitatively to an equation, but significantly enhance the quality. A corpse possesses all of the same limbs and organs as those of a live person, but with the addition of life (vitality) the limbs and organs can function and accomplish. Similarly a dark space has all the qualities that an illuminated space possesses. However in the dark those qualities cannot be utilized since they cannot be accessed. With the infusion of light, that which is already in place can be harnessed in a productive manner.

Now this Rosh Hashanah infused with light and vitality is coming in 11 days. How do we optimally capitalize on these special gifts? To help us do so, we are having an evening of inspiration entitled Living with Faith. Our speaker, Rabbi Mendel Rubin, is a creative thinker and popular teacher to people on a quest for meaningful Jewish fulfillment. He is a classmate of mine, whom I remember as an inspiring person even as a teenager. Please join us on Sunday, December 18 at 6:30 PM at the Btesh Family Chabad House for a farbrengen, a gathering in which our hearts and souls come together to communicate with one another.

I look forward to greeting you with a joyous “Happy New Year.” Now this is a New Year worth celebrating. The one a few weeks later, on the other hand...

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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