Under the Tallis

Shalom Aleichem!

Check out our new video feature about the Bike Sukkah:  vimeo.com/78225352. Kudos to Prof. Gerry Solomon for shooting the footage, and to my brother Aaron for editing it. It’s only 1.5 minutes long, and I think you’ll like it!

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The great Chassidic leaders, Rabbis Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Schneur Zalman of Liadi were not only dear friends, they were also related through marriage: their grandchildren were married. The Hebrew word for such a relationship is mechutanim — I am not aware of an English equivalent.

During the wedding celebration, Rabbi Schneur Zalman turned to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. “L’chaim!” he said, drinking a sip of schnapps. “May the Almighty G-d bless us all, materially and spiritually!”

“Really?” came the incredulous response from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. “Material blessings before spiritual?!”

“Yes,” replied Rabbi Schneur Zalman. “In fact, we have a precedent for this in the words of our Partriarch Jacob [appearing in this week’s Torah portion of Vayeitzei]: ‘If He will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear… then the Lord will be my G-d’ — Jacob places the material before the spiritual.”

Not completely satisfied with this response, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak said, “But can we compare the material life of Jacob with our own?”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman responded, “And can we compare our own spiritual life to Jacob’s?”

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Last week I participated in the International Conference of Shluchim. The emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe — over 4000 strong — got together for a few days of workshops, study and inspiration.

One of the workshops I attended was a Q&A session with Rabbi Manis Friedman, a Shliach in Minnesota. Rabbi Friedman is known for his skill at elucidating profound concepts.

In the course of this session, Rabbi Friedman said, “What we used to accomplish ‘under the tallis,’ we accomplish now by working with other people.”

What he meant, is that we used to effect inner, personal change while ‘under the tallis,’ i.e., during prayer. Prayer was a time for working on oneself. It still is, but I think that what Rabbi Friedman was getting at is that a great way to effect real inner change today, is by working with other people.

“When someone kicks you out of their office,” Rabbi Friedman continues, “that’s when ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ really begins.”

Working with others is not only a way to change yourself, but also to change the entire world for the good!

Shabbat Shalom,