Tips for staying warm

Thursday, 18 January, 2018 - 2:19 pm

The last few days in the New Orleans area we have been experiencing numbing cold that has brought the city to a veritable stand-still. We were frozen not just in a barometric sense but also in the colloquial application of the term – numbed into inaction. No work, no school, no driving, no going out and getting things done. We were frozen into a state of nothingness.

This experience can give us an appreciation for why coldness is a good description for a state of disconnect from Hashem and holiness. G-dliness is warmth and light, as the verse states (Deuteronomy 4:24), “for the L-rd your G-d is a consuming fire.” Coldness reflects the notion of apathy and indifference along with a lack of motivation to get anything done.

So how do we stay warm? How do we remain enthusiastic and committed to what Hashem wants of us? I would like to share a few tips for staying warm in the frosty environment.

·         There are two ways to warm oneself against the cold. The first is to wrap oneself in warm clothing. The second is to light a fire or turn on a source of heat. The key difference is that the first method only helps the individual, whereas the second can help others as well. This is true about spiritual frost. We can insulate ourselves against the apathy to G-dliness or we can light a fire that also warms others.

·         In the olden days the home had a furnace in the center room that would provide warmth to the whole house. Obviously the closer a room was to the furnace, the warmer it would be. In order to ensure that the outer rooms of the house would be warm, the furnace in the inner room had to be stoked to a very high temperature. If the furnace would only be warm, then the outer rooms would be cold; but if the furnace was fiery hot, then the outer rooms would at least be warm. The furnace and the inner room represents the period of education and youth. The outer rooms represent the period of adulthood, when our responsibilities distract us from our immersion in Torah and Mitzvot. If the furnace is steaming hot; if our time of youth and education is fiery and steaming, then some of that warmth will be retained in our later years.

·         We must see coldness as an opportunity for transformation to warmth. The Baal Shemtov loved light and brightness. One winter night, the Baal Shemtov’s disciples did not have enough candles to illuminate the Shul. The Baal Shemtov instructed them to go outside and gather a few icicles (eiz-lichtelach) that were hanging from the roof and kindle them instead. They did so and the icicles burned and gave off light. This story conveys the approach of Chassidus to challenges. They are only intended to stir us to find deeper strength within ourselves, allowing us not only to overcome but also to transform.

Please see below for a new program that we are introducing for children later next month called the Jewish Power Hour. In the meantime stay warm in every sense of the word.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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