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 tzadikim 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 or 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'ama, 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.

Blades of grass condense the morning mist into fine droplets of dew, and I have condensed my teacher's wisdom into this tiny book. Not all my teacher's wisdom, not even a measurable portion. Less than a droplet is to a valley of mist. But as the dew is of the mist–for where else could it have come from?–so these words are of my teacher's wisdom.

I tried to live the thoughts in this book, and they resonated in my mind for many years. Some gave strength, others maturity, some carried me through times I could not have otherwise have endured. Eventually, they found a form fit for ink on paper. Then I polished and refined each word many times as best I could.

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 the spirit of the Rebbe in a tiny book.

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. This book is 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.

-Tzvi Freeman, Vancouver, 5761 (2000)