The Jewish Spirit Journal
A Journal of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality
Vol. 1, No. 2 Feb. 1999


1. To Be Illogical

The Baal Shem Tov taught: "Why did God give us the ability to be illogical? Everything God created is for a purpose; for what purpose is this peculiar capability?" He answered: "God gave us the ability to be illogical to use in justifying the faults of others." Most of us use our irrational and illogical faculties to justify our own behavior, but the holy people use it only to justify others. Sometimes tzaddikim have to entertain very farfetched reasons to justify others' behavior. A famous example, is when Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev saw a Jewish wagon driver wearing tallis and tefillin while greasing the wheels of his wagon (!). The Berditchever exclaimed: "God in heaven, who is like Your people Israel; even when greasing their wagon wheels, they're praying!"

2. Travel

When we want to move or travel physically, we use a vehicle- - a car or a bus. But what do we do when we want to travel spiritually? What vehicle do we use? Songs. (A Lubavitch teaching, heard from Rabbi Simon Jacobson) All music takes us somewhere. Secular music often takes us to the lower parts of our personality; religious music takes us to the higher parts of our self; it puts us in touch with our soul.

3. Seeking Peace

Rashi taught: Peace never comes from an argument. Each person thinks he'll convince the other person, and there will be peace. But peace never happens that way. (Leket Amarim, p. 62)

4. Thou Shalt Not Covet

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, a great Musar teacher of the last generation, whose teachings are gathered in Michtav MaiEliyahu (part of which is translated as Strive for Truth) taught about the commandment: Lo tahmod "Thou shalt not covet." He said that things are given to us because they are needed for our divine service, for the spiritual task we must accomplish. What is given to someone else has no relevance for us; it is no concern of ours, just like eyeglasses made for someone else will not do for you. We should not bother to covet what is given to others.

5. Loving Your Neighbor and Revelation

Rabbi Dessler also taught: The revelation of God, who is Oneness, comes through realizing the unity of existence. Therefore, pride, which causes separation, is the opposite of unity and revelation. Only by unity among people, by loving all people and loving your neighbor, is there the full revelation of Godliness. Because of the unity among the Jews then, a maid at the Red Sea saw greater revelations than were revealed to the prophet Ezekiel.

6. Seeking the Pleasant, Avoiding the Unpleasant

The Rabbis teach: A person should bless God for the bad as well as for the good.-- If that is so, why should we continually strive every minute of our lives -- as most of us do -- to achieve the pleasant and the good, and avoid the unpleasant and the bad?

The Vilna Gaon said:

"Certain traditional Jewish melodies were brought down by Moses from Mount Sinai"

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Copyright 2004-2005, Yitzhak Buxbaum. All rights reserved.