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Energy Crisis

Energy Crisis

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It is safe to say that fuel moves the world. The production of energy requires fuel, and without it the world would come to a screeching standstill. Until a viable alternative to the ubiquitous fossil-fuel driven internal combustion engine is mass-marketed, the world economy will be at the mercy of those nations blessed with large reserves of oil.

One of the core teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Chassidism, 1698-1760) is the importance of enhancing one's service of the Almighty by drawing lessons from all that one sees, hears, or experiences. After all, if every detail of Creation is directly controlled by Divine Providence, there must be a reason that G‑d has exposed an individual to a certain phenomenon. This is all the more true regarding events which have global consequences, impacting the lives of billions of people.

Spiritual fuel, too, is indispensable: in its absence, all spiritual life is quelledIn the thirty-fifth chapter of his magnum opus, Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812, founder of the "Chabad" branch of Chassidism) discusses the concept of "spiritual fuel." Spiritual fuel, too, is indispensable: in its absence, all spiritual life is quelled. Rabbi Schneur Zalman quotes a fascinating passage from the Zohar which describes the fuel that powers a Jew's spiritual engine. The Divine light, we are taught, dwells upon every Jew, "and he must know that the light which shines above his head requires oil; for the body of a man is the wick, and the light is kindled above it. And King Solomon cried (Ecclesiastes 9:8), 'Let there be no lack of oil on your head.' For the light on a man's head must have oil, meaning good deeds."

Rabbi Schneur Zalman, in his distinctive analytic style, questions the Zohar's logic. Why cannot the Divine soul, itself "a part of G‑d above," serve as the oil for the human wick? Why should the physical act of a mitzvah be easier to convert into Divine energy than the G‑dly soul itself?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains that the soul is merely "crude oil" in comparison to the "refined oil" produced through the performance of mitzvot. The G‑dly soul is selfish and has its own agenda. Mitzvot, on the other hand, are the most selfless acts a person is capable of doing. For a mitzvah, by definition, is the suppression of one's own desires in favor of fulfilling G‑d's will.

By now you might be wondering about the nature of the soul's selfish agenda. Here it is: "The soul of a person — even if he be a perfect tzaddik, serving G‑d with fear and love of delights — does not, nevertheless, completely dissolve itself out of existence, so as to be truly nullified and absorbed into the light of G‑d... but the person remains an entity apart, one who fears G‑d and loves Him." Simply put, the soul's "agenda" is to connect with G‑d... While that may indeed be an incredibly lofty agenda, nevertheless, any sense of self whatsoever is crude and is not fuel-worthy for G‑d's infinite light!

Now here's the really good news: There is no cartel controlling the supply or distribution of high octane spiritual fuel. This fuel is plentiful and readily available, with mitzvah opportunities awaiting us at every corner and almost every moment of the day.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
Artwork by David Brook. David lives in Sydney, Australia, and has been selling his art since he was in high school. He is currently painting and doing web illustrations.
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Stephen P. Meyer Charleston, W.Va. June 8, 2007

energy crisis Thanks for your enlightening explanation as to how mitzvot acts as a purifyting agent of the devine light...
I didn't understand the role of mitzvots and how the individuakl's soul is is so enhanced by miitzvot.. Reply

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