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Author’s Foreword

Author’s Foreword

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Imbuing Purpose in “Randomness”

Learning Something From Everything is a sequel to the book I wrote in 19971 entitled Listening to Life’s Messages.

Listening to Life’s Messages addressed insights into our service of G‑d gleaned from various professions. Learning Something From Everything discusses what we can learn from virtually everything that exists in our world.

We begin in the Sinai desert in the Hebrew year 2448.

As they fled from 210 years of Egyptian bondage, the Jewish nation was confronted by its archenemy Amalek. The Torah states: asher karcha baderech, Amalek “met [the Jews] along the way.” The simple meaning of this phrase refers to Amalek’s physical attack on the Jews as they traveled through the desert. A deeper interpretation is that Amalek “cooled” them off from their excitement of having escaped from Egypt. Amalek sought to “cool off” the Jews’ ardor, passion and commitment to the service of G‑d.

The word karcha (קרך) is related to the word mikreh (מקרה) (meaning, a “chance event,” “occurrence,” or “encounter”).2 We see from the similarities in these words that Amalek’s desire to cool off the Jews’ passion for serving G‑d was connected to their belief that life’s events are simply random (mikreh). Thisis completely antithetical to the Jewish belief in hashgachah pratis (Divine providence), which is that every event, occurrence, or encounter is brought about by G‑d.

In every generation, Amalek continues this “attack” on a Jew’s belief and passion in serving G‑d, seeking to inject doubt in our faith and weaken our commitment to Yiddishkeit. To counter this onslaught, it is crucial for us to find meaning and draw inspiring lessons from everything we see and hear. Chassidism teaches that if one does not search for meaning and see the Divine hand in all of his experiences, it is not merely a weakness in his overall faith, but a sign that Amalek’s infiltration into his life has succeeded.

Examining further, we see that the word mikreh shares three of the four letters of the word makor, “source.” These shared letters refer to the belief that all of creation has a single Divine source or cause. If we add the number “One” (i.e., the oneness of G‑d) to the word מקרה, mikreh (numerically equivalent to 345), the hei of mikreh (with a numerical value of five) becomes a vov (5+1=6). The word’s numerical value then becomes 346, which represents the word מקור, makor, “source.” Therefore, by adding the “One,” i.e., infusing G‑d into our reality, randomness and meaninglessness are transformed into purpose and significance. From this we see clearly how our experiences and encounters are sourced in Heaven: the picture of life is complete, and we realize a perfectly orchestrated world.

It is my hope that by reading the following collection of lessons and insights from life’s daily experiences, you will develop a desire to search for and discover the deeper meaning and implications in all your encounters. Ultimately, you will find the Divine spark within all of creation.

May we merit to recognize, discover, learn and appreciate all that we see, hear, and experience. Indeed, these insights are all part of the greater plan of our intricate lives, carefully designed by our Creator. In so doing, may we be inspired to anticipate the immediate revelation of Mashiach. 3

Rabbi Dovid Shraga Polter

Oak Park, Michigan

Yud Shvat, 5775, תשע"ה

Acknowledgments

I am deeply grateful to Hashem for the merit of working to enable others to enjoy the light and beauty of Chassidus in a practical way. I thank our saintly Rebbeim for giving us Divine Torah insights that help us discover a deeper connection with our Maker.

My humble appreciation goes to the others who have helped me in my work:

Rabbi Michoel Seligson used his remarkable knowledge to find just the right source even at late notice. Rabbi Mendel Kaplan was always able to find a needed insight or reference by means of the world of Torah technology. Rabbi Yosef Gurary lent his expertise to assure I had expressed the proper meaning of a given topic. My dear chaver Dr. Baruch Silverstein helped me write as clearly and expressively as I could. Rabbi Moshe Zaklikowski and Reb Leibel Weiner were consistently interested in my progress and gave me strong encouragement to write and publish. Thanks to my editor Mrs. Rochel Chana Riven for her incredible contribution to a long and tedious task. I also owe deep gratitude to my publisher Rabbi Yonah Avtzon and his committed team for his willingness to embark on yet another joint project, and to Yosef Yitzchok Turner for lending his talent and skills to the beautiful layout and typography of this book. Lastly, I remain wholly indebted to my dear wife Rochel for her continuous support of my writing projects and her many sacrifices toward our family that enabled me to find time to think and write. Together, may we enjoy much nachas and joy in raising our family.

As a united people may we collectively arrive at the moment when we will greet the righteous Mashiach, speedily.

As the world searches for meaning and purpose, it is my hope that this collection will quench our thirst and satisfy our curiosity.

Footnotes
1.
Published by Sichos In English, 1997. For a more complete list of professions and their parallels in the service of G‑d, see the original book, Listening to Life’s Messages, available in six languages.
2.
Sefer HaSichos 5749, Vol. 1, p. 328.

The etymological connection of these two words was already expounded on by Rashi (Devarim 25:18). The Rebbe, however, probed deeper into this connection and applied its teaching to practical life and purpose in one’s Divine service.
3.
See the first paragraph of the Lesson entitled “Chain Mail Marketing Letter.”
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory; adapted by Dovid Shraga Polter.
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