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My mother, G‑d bless her, told me there are men and women that come to this world, but stay above it. My mother's mother told stories of the tzaddikim of Baghdad, where she was born.

If your mother never told you these things, let me tell it to you now: A world without holy men and women is a house without windows. A tightly plastered cistern of a universe that offers no escape.

Of course, you could always paint pictures on the walls. Perhaps even illuminate them from behind. Or use mirrors, even a battery of television screens. You would imagine you see beyond while staring at your renditions of what is within.

And so we need our precious mothers and other pure souls of simple faith to tell us, "Don't be a fool. There are windows, and you can tell them easily from paintings on the wall."

Your mother may have told you this as well, as mine did: That the most important quality of a window is how there is nothing there. It shelters you, as a mother bird shelters her infants from the great blue sky for which they are not yet prepared. But it provides of itself only that which you need. If it screams out, "Here I am! I am a window! I am teaching you about the great outside!" it is a painting on the wall. A painting is a statement that someone felt a need to make. A window is no more than a passage of light.


There are windows and there are windows. Windows to the north, to the south. To the future, to the past. A window could be a lens, finely shaped without distortion, to magnify the details before you. Another window projects your vision to the details of the distant hills. Yet together, the many windows present a single, consistent view. One may show you the rain that bounces off its surface while the other filters the rays of the sun. One looks out over a magnificent precipice, while another to the truth of your own backyard. But together, it is all one view. Because all the windows share a single truth. The truth of what is there.

So too, all the holy men and women, they are all one. They receive from one another, passing down a holy fire that has never extinguished since they received it from Abraham and Sarah, and they from Noah and Na'amah, and they from Adam and Chava. From them we know what is beyond and where we are going, where we stand and what we must do to move ahead. Without them we might as well be those blind creatures who are born and die beneath the earth and never see the light of day. With the guidance of those holy souls, we look outside and know our journey, an amazing odyssey through a vast, fantastic cosmos.


I knew there must still be windows to our universe, that not all the shutters had been sealed. I found many paintings, perhaps a few apertures in the wall, but when I found a window I sat before it and soaked in its light, its warmth, its panorama. Its stunning revelation of what is. What is beyond and what is within--for the tiny capsule that held me had transformed as well.

Let me tell you about the Rebbe's words: They are not poems for the lips. They are not pretty ideas for intellectual games. They are not necessarily nice, nor particularly palatable. They are answers. They are meant to drive people into life with all they've got, squeezing out every moment and facing every challenge. To show purpose in each thing.

They are answers because they are for someone who has a question. Someone who experiences life and comes up against brick walls, things that seem futile and pointless. They are meant to open windows, to shine light on each of those things and reveal its meaning.

Answers are never easy, they come to those who make room for them.


Eventually everybody asks, What now after the Rebbe has passed on?

First of all, you must know--even though it doesnt answer our question--that the Rebbe is still here with us. Just as a parent who leaves this world is still with his or her children--but much, much more so. Just as any tzaddik, for whom death is no more than a passing from the confines of the body to a freedom to work within this world without such limitations. But even more so.

For a tzaddik as transcendent as the Rebbe, none of the events of this world, not even death, effect any real change. His life is truth, and truth is constant. He guides those who are bound to him as he guided them before, and continues to channel light and blessing into our world and for those in need, as he always has. The only change is for us, that our flesh eyes looking out of a coarse world, cannot see a tzaddik before them. And that is our question: How can we be expected to carry on with our window shades down?

The question is really a larger one: Where are all the tzaddikim when we need them most? Once upon a time, people lived a simple life and had clear direction from their teachers and parents. They believed with simple faith that wonders and miracles could happen, and that G‑d could speak with Man. What need did they have for tzaddikim? Now, with our disillusion, confusion and apathy, now we need someone transcendent to show us that G‑d is still possible. Yet now we are more alone than ever.

The answer is that each one of us must find our window now. The tzaddik within. The place where the tzaddik and the student are no longer two beings.

That is the whole purpose. For all of time and all of creation was directed to this point: a point when the people no longer look above for G‑dliness to pour down from the heavens but search for that G‑dliness within themselves, within the people of the earth who belong to the earth. When heaven has reached earth and speaks from within it. From within each one of us.

The tzaddik has shown us where to look. Now he hides so we may discover.

Soak in the wisdom of the Rebbe, not as words, not as ideas, but in attempt to feel the tzaddik within them. Find a place where the teacher and student merge.

Once enough of us have done this, it will be time for the blind to be pulled from over our eyes, for all the walls to be dissolved and we will see the world for what it truly is. We will know wisdom once again from the Rebbe's mouth--until there will no longer be a teacher and a student. We will have arrived.

May that be sooner than we can imagine.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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. To view or purchase David’s art, please visit davidasherbrook.com.
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Elisheva sarasota, FL January 25, 2010

thank you for the In-Sight! Rabbi Freeman,
Every lecture you have given is mystical and beautiful. I have used them for our Rosh Hodesh meditations, prayers and discussion. You are inspiring. Thank you! Reply

Syed Shahid Ali Karachi, Pakistan January 25, 2010

Thanks for great insight! Dear Rabbi Freeman, thanks for sharing such a wonderful and great insight. Sharing wisdom on window is a great insight. Light to us all!

With best wishes and warm regards. Reply

Silvana Origlia Vienna, AT January 25, 2010

THE REAL SAINTS OF MOTHERS My mother of blessed memory, Lotte bat Yosef, too had told me wonderful, true and concrete stories about holy or wonderful persons: her father, her uncle... , , heroes of ma childhood and of later. Although they were considered to represent perfectly those marvellous creature called "a Mensch" and not "above".
My mother in law of blessed memory, Slate bat Yosef, too taught about the - difficult to reach - marvellous "Mensch" who had been her father Yosef.
Thank you for your wonderful article regareding mothers. Reply

ruth housman Newton, MA January 25, 2010

the dancer from the dance This beautiful commentary on windows reminds me deeply of Yeats: Among School Children.

May the day come when we cannot know the dancer from the dance. The depth of this, the beauty of this piece, is that we are all deeply gifted with the spark, the i, that is the candle, and we are sparked by each other, by words of beauty, of wisdom, of compassion, to keep our candles burning, within. It is holy fire. Moses, the burning bush.

The movement from without to within, is profound. To master the art of loving, to truly be long to G-d, is to be in longing, to be in truth, to be in wisdom, and to be, in a vibrancy of such love, the candle itself. Reply

Carmen January 25, 2010

A window... We can look everyday through the same window but still see a brand new detail every new day,or every new period.A detail never seen before.

This new captured detail we bring inside us, turning it itself into an internal window through which we explore a whole universe of internal experiences...That done,we spring out from this internal journey and become ourselves a window to others .

And meanwhile ,we come back to that same first window , to our former gazing, to suddenly discover another new detail and then come back again to that internal journey through that internal window to afterwards become a window for others and other’s for us ..Eternally... Reply

Brenda Fishkin Nanuet, NY February 9, 2008

thank you I wish to thank you for your words. For, they are a window for me to learn the wisdom that my parents had, but, were unable to pass down to me. Now, the words are my mother and father and those before them. And, for this I am so grateful.
I must add that I enjoy your new format and the inclusion of so much periferal learning. The more the better. It is better every day. Reply

julie s. December 23, 2007

wow. at first i was reading and reminded of what my mother always says, that her mother told her: "If your windows are clean, your house is clean." I greatly enjoyed the thoughts on windows verses paintings.
then, of course, rabbi tzvi freeman is *always* multi-dimensional in writings, and the spill over into the Rebbe and what we are to do now, was as the other comment said--hit to the core!
my computer is right by a window. i sit here a good majority of the time. i want to keep these thoughts and remember to not only look out, but to similarly look in, because that, which i look to outside, can also look inside to see me within. i must follow suit with the dynamic.
thank you!! Reply

ferry June 18, 2007

What a fantastic article.

It hit the very core of my being Reply

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