Shlach - Gimmel Tammuz Sermon
Sermon for Shlach/Gimmel Tammuz
— From the Rebbe’s Torah —
Humor to begin with:
I met a utility worker and he told me, “I'm a 5G installation engineer, and people are constantly accusing me with bizarre conspiracy theories, such as how 5G is giving them headaches, or covid. I think they are completely crazy.
“4G must've fried their brains…”
It may seem to some that religion must solely be a matter of faith.
Is using our minds with regard to religion a contradiction to religion?
The answer in short, is no.
Our brains help us connect to things in an internal and deep way — causing us to enjoy it. G-d actually wants us to connect to him in an internal way.
When we understand some of the reasoning behind those mitzvos which G-d wants us to understand, we do the mitzvos with more feeling and passion. We make it our own.
When we understand some of G-d’s greatness, and how he created the world, we feel in awe of G-d, and serve him with greater feeling.
When we use our brains to learn the Torah — G-d’s wisdom, we become united with Him, and gain a deeper connection to Him.
This is good, and it is something which G-d wants. G-d doesn’t want us to serve him out of rite, (unless that’s all we can muster at a given time.)
A young boy was once brought to the third Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menechem Mendel of Lubavitch — the “Tzemach Tzedek” — by his father and grandfather.
When they entered the Rebbe’s chamber for a private audience, the grandfather asked the Rebbe to bless him that he “have a good memory, to remember everything he saw in my home, to remember everything he sees and hears now — to remember everything he sees and hears by the Rebbe and by the Chassidim; and then automatically, he will be a G-d-fearing Jew.”
The boy later said that his grandfather’s wish was fulfilled and he remembered everything he heard from his grandfather, the Rebbe’s and the Chassidim.
However, when his grandfather said, “And automatically he will be a G-d-fearing Jew,” the Rebbe spoke: “It has been more than fifty years that my grandfather — who was the first Chabad Rebbe, the Alter Rebbe — my father-in-law — the second Chabad Rebbe — and myself, are working so that Chassidim be G-d-fearing Jews through work, and not “automatically.”
So, it’s clear, using our brains, and not just doing things by rite, is not a contradiction to religion. On the contrary — it’s a great positive.
But at the same time, we’ve got to remember that brains are also pretty tricky instruments.
It can convince us that we seek truth when really, what we seek is what we want.
We can be convinced that we are using our brains in a completely objective way, when in truth, what we seek is justification for what we desire.
And what if what we want is not what G-d wants… then what?
G-d tells us to open up our brains, but it seems like He may not like the end result…
Using our brains may seem like opening up a pandora's box, and the situation like a catch-twenty-two. Maybe it would be better to just close up after all… (wink, wink.)
The solution is that when we use our brains for religion, we must always remember that we are using our minds because G-d wants us to. We don’t use our brains because we want to enjoy it, (though that’s a natural instinct, which is fine.) Our motive and goal must always be to make G-d happy, and he’s happy when we do our Judaism with feeling and personal connection — that’s why we use our minds about our religiosity.
At the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, G-d revealed himself to millions of Jews. G-d did things then that only He could. At that ceremony, he gave us the Torah. Now, we use our minds to understand it — because that’s what He wants of us.
This idea is very well expressed in our parshah — the parshah of Shlach.
We read how Moses told the spies to spy out the land of Israel, and report what it’s like. This is exactly what they went on to do. They reported that they saw huge giants, huge fruit, great fortresses. And that if so, the land could not be conquered.
Moshe did not like this one bit. He called them rebellious, and gave over G-d’s word that the entire generation would have to remain in the desert, and would not be allowed to enter the land of Israel — for accepting their conclusion.
But what did the spies do wrong?
They were told to spy out the land, and give a report — which is exactly what they did… Why all the rage?
The answer is that the spies were asked to spy out the land and seek out the best way to conquer it. They were not asked to discern whether it could be conquered.
The problem was that they drew their own conclusions. That was something they were not asked to do.
They were told to use their minds in G-d’s service. To figure out the way to carry out G-d’s will that the land of Israel be inhabited by the Jews. G-d wanted them to figure out a way to identify with his will, to make their own plans how to conquer the land — for as we’ve explained, G-d wants us to identify with His will, and thereby be more connected to it.
However, they let themselves take over themselves. They forgot that they were to use their minds in G-d’s service. Instead, they began to look at it from the perspective of “what do I like better?” And to them, they’d rather not fight such giants.
Their problem was that they forgot that they were sent by Moses, the man appointed by G-d to be His representative to the Jews; and not as free agents. This was their undoing.
Talking about independent people:
A girl goes to a psychiatrist and complains, “I don’t want to marry, I am educated, independent and self sufficient. I don’t need a husband but my parents are asking me to marry. What do I do?”
Psychiatrist: “You, undoubtedly will achieve great things in life. But sometimes you will not go in the way you want. Sometimes you will go wrong. Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes your plan won’t work. Sometimes your wishes will not be fulfilled. Then whom will you blame? Will you blame yourself?”
Psychiatrist: “Yes, that’s why you need a husband.”
Just like Moshe in his day. G-d has representatives in every generation. They aren’t G-d, but they are very much connected and in sync with him. (And being that they are so connected, G-d fulfils their prayers at a much greater rate than the average person, and he gives them special “keys” to access blessings for those that connect with them.)
When we connect to them, they help us connect to G-d.
Moshe Rabbeinu said: “I stand between G-d and you to give the word of Hashem over to you.”
The Zohar tells us there is an extension of Moshe in every generation.
You can guess who that is in our times.
When we connect with the Rebbe — the Moshe of the generation — he helps us connect with G-d, brings us G-d’s miracles, and his guidance leads us through the trials of the times.
When we stay connected to him, we know we’re on the right path.
Story about the idea that the Rebbe helps us connect to Hashem.
Dr. Yitzchak Block, a professor of philosophy at the University of Western Ontario, told the following enlightening story:
During the two years I learned in 770, I had a Tanya shiur with some students at Brooklyn College. The Hillel rabbi at Brooklyn College arranged that the Jewish students have a yechidus with the Rebbe. About thirty students came in. A good part of them were students in my Tanya class.
There were a number of interesting questions that they asked. The one that stands out in my memory was when one of them asked the Rebbe, “I know you're the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Tell me, Rabbi Schneerson, do you just stay in this office? What do you actually do here? What is your job description?”
The Rebbe smiled and replied with the following analogy: “Do you see that light switch on the wall? That light switch is connected to electricity by electrical currents from downtown Brooklyn. Before that, it all starts with the big generators at Niagara Falls. The falls turn the wheels that produce electrical currents. The energy then has to be reduced so it doesn't explode as it goes through the system of electrical wires. It is carried by wires all the way to downtown Brooklyn. From downtown Brooklyn, this energy is again weakened and distributed through other wires all over Brooklyn. The energy also goes into the wires that connect to this light switch.
“Now, all this tremendous energy is at your fingertips. All you have to do is flick this light-switch and all of a sudden there's light — as you can see. Without this, the room is dark; you could trip and hurt yourself, G-d forbid.
“G-d gives the Neshama of every Jew a light switch that's connected directly with G-d. All this infinite energy from G-d is toned down so that it should be able to illuminate you — to be of help to you. But if you don't know where the switch is, all that energy is hidden; you have no way of accessing it. My job is to tell every Jew where their switch is.”
So, that’s the way the Rebbe explained his role. A pretty fascinating portrayal indeed.
We connect to the Rebbe, and access his help through being involved in areas the Rebbe campaigned about, and through writing to him.
The verse — we say every day in our prayers — states, “And they believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant” — this is a fundamental virtue of Judaism.
This coming week, on Thursday, will be the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, known as “Gimmel Tammuz.”
As sad as the day is, it is also an opportunity, to remind ourselves about the Rebbe’s role in our lives, and to decide to connect to him on a higher level.
And hopefully, with all the good we will do, we won’t need to mark the day in this way — rather it will be celebrated in the land of Israel, in the Beis Hamikdash, with the coming of Moshiach, now.
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החתן הרה"ת מנחם מענדל
והכלה מרת רחל שיחיו
לרגל נישואיהם בשעטו"מ
ביום י"א סיון תש"פ
יה"ר שיזכו לבנות בית נאמן בישראל
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Written by: Eli Baron, Crown Heights
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