The Jewish Spirit Journal
A Journal of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality
Vol. 1, No. 1 Dec. 1998

TORAH TEACHINGS

In Honor Of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

For Dog Lovers

Shlomo once complained about a well known and popular English version of the Talmud, saying that it was not a good translation, because to translate you have to interpret, and this version too often gets it wrong, it interprets wrongly! He gave as an example a teaching about domestic animals: This version translates the passage: "All animals have souls -- except for dogs"!

"It doesn't sound right!" said Shlomo. "They translated wrongly! What it really means is this: 'All animals have souls'-- that is, they love you and they don't love you, like a cat or a horse. 'Except for dogs'-- because when a dog loves you, it gives you its soul. So of course dogs don't have souls!"

This is not a "clever interpretation." This is the way a person with an open heart, like Shlomo, reads the pshat, the simple meaning of the Talmud.

Faces and Views

Shlomo used to repeat a teaching that is found in the name of a number of rebbes, the Kotzker Rebbe and the Imrei Emes (the third Gerer Rebbe). It says in the Talmud that just as people have different faces and different noses, so do they have different opinions.

Shlomo used to say: If we don't get angry at people for having different noses than us, why should we be angry at them for having different opinions?

Be Real

Shlomo often used the word "real." Actually, sincerity, "being real," should be given more weight and value in religious discussions than it is. Shlomo used to tell a story in which he quoted a saying of the Kotzker Rebbe, but the teaching is Shlomo's as well as the Kotzker's. The saying is: God only loves what is real.

This is a short saying but it has great power. You should understand that God is not interested in anything superficial or phony. If certain aspects of a particular religious path or scene do not seem real to you, you have to remember that God only loves what is real. Learn to trust your deepest self and not be confused by what others may think. If something seems phony, be certain that it does not interest God. If you see anything religious that is phony, realize that it's not from God.

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Praying Like A Child

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Yehuda, the Rebbe of Mezritch, said,

    "The Gemara (Hagiga 3) asks, 'Why are infants brought to the hakhel, the gathering at the end of every seven years during Sukkot, where Torah is taught? [In other words, they can't understand the reading, so why bring them. The Gemara answers:] To reward those who bring them."

Now we learn in a mishnah (Avot 4:2)," said Rabbi Meir Shlomo Yehuda, "that 'the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah,' and the Rambam [Maimonides] interprets this to mean that doing the mitzvah is its own reward. This explains the rabbis' saying that infants are brought to the gathering 'to reward those who bring them.' The act itself is its own reward for the parents. How? Because of its effect on the way they (the parents) hear and under- stand the Torah reading.

"It is the same in the synagogue. What is the reward for parents bringing their small children to the synagogue? that they will be able to pray with childlike faith and innocence."

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The Deepest Depths

Rabbi Yitzhak'l of Ziditchov said that he never left off studying a subject until he had delved into it so deeply that it was clear to him that he did not understand it fully, for "it is deep, deep; who can fathom it?" (Eccles. 7:24)

* * *

Why It's So Hard To Find One's Soulmate

Rabbi Pinhas Menahem of Piltz said:

    "The Satan opposes every shidduch (marriage) since he knows that from even the least of the least Moshiah may be born."

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