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The Rebbe Speaks to Young Israel Intercollegiate Students

The Rebbe Speaks to Young Israel Intercollegiate Students

1961

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Rabbi Leibowitz, Director of the Intercollegiate Council of Young Israel, introduced the group to the Rebbe (as an orthodox Jewish group of college students). He explained to the Rebbe that the intercollegiates were interested in "Yahadus", and asked what advice the Rebbe could give them in the bringing of "Yahadus" to the campus. At the recommendation of Rabbi Leibowitz, the Rebbe spoke in English.

Rebbe: When I refer to the Al-mighty and His qualities, I am referring to the "hashgocho protis" (divine order) where all is important, nothing lacking and nothing superfluous. In order for a power-house to function properly, it must be constructed perfectly by the engineer. Everything must be of maximum efficiency. As the creation is a perfect entity, it must have come into being by the Al-mighty engineer, G‑d.

Each individual has a special capacity with a particular talent, and it is his privilege and duty to utilize it to its fullest.

Young people have a great amount of energy and the ability to accept challenges more readily than adults; without fear. They are neither as cynical nor as disillusioned as adults. (Reference to adults made in the bad sense of the term, not in the good sense of the term). Youth has a special mission to fulfill, demanding a great amount of Emunah -- faith and bitochon -- trust. It is in the bloom of youth that man's potential for success is the greatest. It is in his younger days that he has no fears of being in the minority, and, thus, the young American Orthodox Jewish collegiate must enter into his mission with 100% inspiration and 100% joy.

In our time Orthodox Jewry, those living strictly by the laws of the Torah, being a minority, are duty-bound to make every effort to build a "Diro" (dwelling place) for G‑d Al-mighty on Earth by bringing all Jews back to the path of the Torah, Toras Chaim -- the living Torah. This is neither an easy task nor a popular one. Speaking about Torah is a popular subject, but speaking about adhering to Torah and Mitzvos is not as popular. The task requires extra chutzpah.

This mission of youth must first be tackled in the individual youth's environment and then will he be ready to serve Yiddishkeit on the campus.

"Charity begins at home." We should live strictly in accordance with Torah. Judaism, unlike many of its contemporaries, is a unique religion. Other religions impose no obligations, Judaism is very demanding. A basic tenet of Judaism is that a Jew is a Jew for every second of his life -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for 120 years. He is not only a Jew when he prays or studies Torah, but also while eating, talking, sleeping -- in every activity of life. He, the Jew, is connected with G‑d in every aspect of his life, B'chol Drochecho Do'ei'hu -- in all your ways shall you know Him.

(After the Rebbe completed his introductory remarks, the group was invited to ask the Rebbe any questions they had on Jewish life and outlook).  

Question: In the days of the first and second Temples, it was relatively simple for all Jews to be observant. Then, when Israel existed as a homeland for Jews, the government rarely conflicted with Halacha. However, today we live in an age of science, and, please G‑d, Israel will soon become a theocracy, with no Sanhedrin. How can so many of the obvious conflicts of Halacha and governmental administration be resolved? It seems that today, living in a much more complex world, the problems are more difficult than yesteryear. Should we not, therefore, wait for the coming of Messiah? The problems of running a state are too many - guarding the land, collecting eggs from hens, milking cows, and other farming problems, and others.

Rebbe: G‑d is Omnipotent in time and space, as is the Torah. Torah today is as it was 3000 years ago, when the Al-mighty G‑d handed it down to the Israelites. Undoubtedly, He foresaw the Machine Age of 1961, yet there are no specific laws relating to the Eretz Yisroel of 1961.

Moreover, the problems of observing Shabbos today in Eretz Yisroel are much simpler than they were in the time of the Beis Hamikdosh. The threat of attack from hostile neighbors is no greater today than in days of old. The Tanach is replete with passages dealing with hostile nations attacking the borders of the Holy Land. Their names have changed, but they are still her enemies. Concerning the problems facing the farmer on Shabbos, it is obvious that machines which have been set in motion before Shabbos can perform many tasks today.

Question: But machines need repair and guidance?

Rebbe: Being an engineer, I have taken a special interest in this topic with concern to Eretz Yisroel. Theoretically machines can run for 26 hours, even days without human intervention. Advanced radar equipment can adequately patrol the border. The guard can sit in his house and sleep peacefully, and if and when an emergency arises, he can be warned by a blinking light or an alarm. The same applies to the farmer who can have his cows milked by machine, or the eggs taken from his hens. In the case of emergency, not only may he violate the Shabbos, but he is expressly commanded to do so.

Question: The Rebbe mentioned that one must be a good Jew, Shomer Torah U'mitzvos, and also spread Judaism. Does the Rebbe mean this in that specific order?

Rebbe: The attempt should be made to practice both at the same time. If one were to wait until he had perfected himself and reached the level of a Tzadik Gamur before going out on his mission, it would be a long wait.

Question: What is a Yiddishe N'shomah?

Rebbe: The N'shomah in man is the spark that gives life to the body and all its functions. It is the power that facilitates the fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos.

I shall give you a further explanation. However, I am not sure that you will understand what I am going to say, for I myself am not at home in this mystical area, and you may be left with many questions. I will give you in short a rather philosophical explanation that is treated at length by the Rambam in his Pairush Hamishnayos.

The spark that gives light to the entire body is part of the essence of G‑d. If not for the N'shomah, the Creator and the created would have nothing in common. However, in the abundant mercies of the Creator, He has given the created the ability to bridge the gap separating the finite and the Infinite Being. The soul is this means of communication between the Creator and created. Between the two, there exists an abyss. The soul is the connecting bridge.

Question: Does the Rebbe recognize the State of Israel?

Rebbe:: I write letters to Eretz Yisroel and also receive letters with their stamps. My followers in Eretz Yisroel help guard its borders, pay taxes, serve in the Israeli army, and spread Chassidus. Is that enough to be considered recognition?

Question: What I mean is, Can the State of Israel be considered the "Haschalat Ha'geula," start of the Redemption?

Rebbe: No. It can definitely not be considered the start of Redemption. The Redemption must always come together with Torah and Mitzvos. In the holiday Musaph prayer, we say "Mipnay Chato'aynu Golinu May'artzainu" -- because of our sins we were driven form our homeland - hence, the term Redemption signifies a diminishment of sins -- the more Redemption, the less sins.

Unfortunately, in the Eretz Yisroel of today, we are not witnessing a lessening of sins. On the contrary, there are many Jews who before 1947 were Torah-observant Jews, and after 1947, to our great sorrow, became non-observers. As regards these Jews, it can only be said that they went from one exile to a second one. Also to our great sorrow, we cannot say that in Eretz Yisroel there is an upgrade in compliance with Torah and Mitzvos; rather there is a definite decline. The State of Israel cannot therefore be referred to as the start of Redemption.

Question: The Rebbe said that each man has a mission on earth, and youth must accept its mission with much vigor. But today as we look around we see youth in a state of confusion, going in so many different ways. What is the path the Orthodox Jew should follow?

Rebbe: You study in college, and in the course of your studies many problems you find are solved by scientific methods. This method can be used in the analysis of Judaism. In the laboratory, when conducting an experiment, the conditions under which it is performed, such as pressure, temperature, etc. are changed in many different ways to note if there exists a common trait in the experiment which will explain the phenomenon. (In other words, the conditions of the experiment are varied to see if there exists a common factor). If one element in common always occurs, or is present after all conditions have been varied, then we can safely conclude that this common element is basic to the phenomenon in the experiment.

It is the same with Judaism. Yiddishkeit can be studied from the point of view of science, using the scientific method. In the experiment, Judaism is the phenomenon, and history is the conditions to be varied. 3000 years of wandering, persecution and Diaspora. What is the common theme found in Judaism that has survived all changes and manipulations of its historical variables? What is the common point basic to Judaism?

We cannot say that it is the language, for during the exile the Jews have spoken may different languages. In Babylon, the Jews spoke Babylonian, in Russia they spoke Yiddish, and in America they speak English. Even Hebrew has changed.

Further, it cannot be the habits, culture, clothing, eating, or social behavior, since in the course of 3000 years all of these have changed. From the point of view of science, none of these are basic in Judaism. Even Eretz Yisroel is not basic, because for so many years the Jews did not have the land and when they did live there they did not govern it themselves, rather the Babylonians, Romans, etc.

If the research is conducted fairly and without bias, the only common factor to be noted is Mitzvos ma'assios (commandments that entail deed). It has been the Mitzvos Ma'assey that are basic to Judaism, for even today we have the same Pesach to eat matzoh, the same Yom Kippur to atone, the same Shabbos to rest.

This conclusion can be reached when the researcher handles his material objectively and continuously searches for truth. To leave Judaism and try something else would be far too risky. If there is a fire in the town, it is imperative that it be extinguished. At such a time, one would not search for new methods with which to put the fire. One would rather use that which has proved to be most successful in the past. The Jewish people have had many fires and have always succeeded in extinguishing them.

Question: All our deeds are controlled by G‑d. We go through life trying to reach a purpose. If we say that the ultimate purpose of the Creation is to serve G‑d, is this not a vain attitude on the part of the Creator? If our purpose is only to give to, and serve G‑d, are we not like robots?

Rebbe: Not all deeds are governed from Above. It is against religion to believe that all is out of man's scope. Man has Bechira Chofshis -- free choice. It would be silly to give man commandments to fulfill and then take away his ability to do them. If all was governed from Above, then we would be like robots, but G‑d has given man the freedom to choose, an ability the robot does not have. Man has the capacity to do Mitzvos with Divine inspiration. The Al-mighty has given man two paths to choose from, "Behold, I give before you this day the life and the good, the death and the bad."

The human race is on a higher level than the animal kingdom. Animals are on a higher level than the vegetable kingdom. In the human kingdom, there are also levels. Spiritual -- one must attempt to ascend from level to level. One must always strive to reach the highest plateau.

As for the question of Mitzvos being deeds without any conceivable purpose, I shall give an analogy. When giving a small child an apple to eat, one must descend to his level of intellect. One does not tell a child to eat because it is good for him, or that it is healthy. Rather you say, "Take a bit for mother, one for father, one for sister and one for brother." When the child grows up and gains understanding, he realizes that he must eat to be healthy.

So it is with G‑d and man. G‑d, in trying to get man to do Mitzvos for his own welfare, comes down to man's intellectual level. He comes to the farmer and tells him, "Keep my commandments, and I will give you rain for your fields." The farmer immediately begins to abide by G‑d's commandments. As he matures intellectually, he begins to realize that the Mitzvos that he is fulfilling are, in reality, for his own benefit and well-being. It is the method by which he rises to higher and higher levels towards perfection, whose essence is the uniting with G‑d Al-mighty. The Al-mighty, however, transcends all limitations, and in order to become united with the unlimited, one must pass his own limitations.

Question: One can therefore understand the purpose of the Jew on earth, but what could be the purpose of the creation of the non-Jew?

Rebbe: The Rambam speaks about this matter at great length in his Pairush Hamishnayos. I will answer as briefly as possible. This world is divided into four kingdoms: human, animal, vegetable, and inorganic. These four kingdoms are, in truth, all one (4 levels -- 4 kingdoms). The purpose of each level of life is to serve the level of life higher than itself. The inorganic serves the vegetable; the vegetable serves the animal; and the animal is eaten by the human being. When the person eats food, he transforms the lower levels of life to become his blood and flesh. For man to have wheat bread there must be a farm with farmers. The farmer plays a part in providing food for the Jew. With this, he fulfils his part in the creation.

End of Question Period

Before you leave, I wish to add a few words to all that has been said here tonight. I want to convey a second point, and that is that each man is given certain possibilities. One must adjust these possibilities to the accomplishment of his mission. The mission of the American collegiate is a great challenge, and requires much courage. All of you have one thing in common: you all attend college and are observant Jews. You should use these possibilities to advance science where it seems to contradict religion. He who says that science contradicts religion is talking rubbish. True science is highly compatible with faith. G‑d is the Creator of science and also the Giver of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The Torah is truth, and science is truth. There can exist no conflict between the two. In fact, the scientific findings of the past few years confirm what is said in the Torah; ideas which scientists a generation ago would not have believed.

The mission of showing that science and religion do not conflict with each other, and that true science can affirm the ruling of Torah, is a mission for college students like yourselves. You are the people who actively participate in the fields of science, and therefore you are better qualified than the layman to voice opinion. When the layman gives an opinion in this area, he is often rebuked. A college student's opinion on the same matter is usually respected. It is the duty of the Orthodox Jewish college student to dispel the myth of incompatibility.

Science itself has not been perfected , but science has a self-corrective mechanism. A new finding today can reverse a belief or decision of past years. Let me illustrate this with the following example.

There are many passages in Tanach, and sayings of our Sages telling us that the sun revolves around the earth. Prior to the 15th Century, these passages were accepted universally. In the 1500's, Copernicus, who incidentally was a monk and, therefore, a believer, explained that the astronomical experiments and findings proved that the above notion was an error. He showed that the sun was the centre of our solar system, and all the planets, including the earth, revolved around it.

Throughout the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries, great libraries of apologetic literature were written, trying to explain the apparent conflict between science and Torah. The explanations that were offered were generally that the P'sukim of the Torah cannot be translated literally. In 1905, the great scientist Einstein, discovered a new theory that has since resolved the dispute. It is imperative to note that Einstein's theory is accepted by all scientists today, whereas Copernicus' theory, even in his day, never received complete support.

A basic truth in Einstein's theory of relativity is that science will never be able to tell the truth between the two systems. The theory explains that the truth can never be proven in science, for everything is relative. The seeming conflict that existed between science and religion for 300 years turned out, in the final analysis, to be non-existent. After 1905 it was again possible to interpret the Scriptures literally.

The above specific illustration can be followed with a question that is often asked, 'How can we hope to establish the Malchus Shadai (Kingdom of G‑d) on this earth with so few observant Jews?' The Jewish race is a minority among all the nations of the world, and Torah-observant Jews are an even smaller minority. It seems impossible that the vast and great majority should turn to the ways and teachings of the minority. Jews are still waiting for the coming of the Messiah, even though they have been a minority throughout history.

Years ago, the country with the larger army and greater manpower was always the victorious one. Today this is no longer so. If one person can invent a super atom-bomb, he would have the power to rule the earth. In the same way, if a person preaches a state of spiritual perfection, he can govern everything, for he has a direct contact with the Creator. He, therefore, has the power to rule. This is an absolute conquest of spirit.

Again, I emphasize the great amount of knowledge to be gained from science and its methods. Science gives a solid basis for a person not to be discouraged. It teaches that if you fail you should try again. Don't let your being a minority stop your progress. If you continue correctly, you must succeed. It is our job to compile all material together.

It is our job is to prepare for the coming of Messiah. For he will be a human and his task of gathering material will be enormous.

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