Editor's note: One of the most popular features of our magazine are the daily meditations condensed by Tzvi Freeman from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Mailed daily to thousands of subscribers and accessed by thousands more each day on the front page of Chabad.org Magazine, these daily "Doses of Wisdom" elicit many responses from our readers, sharing their appreciation as well as their thoughts and questions. Tzvi's responses often take these nuclear ideas to the next level of breadth and depth.

In this column, we will occasionally share with you some of this correspondence.

A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Rebbe

-words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman

22 Sivan, 5761 * June 13, 2001

A Real Fool


To live with the Infinite, you must be a fool. A fool who does good with

simple sincerity and disregard for worldly opinion.

Learn from this world we live in: The world is a fool — only that it is a

mindless, stupid fool. You be a fool who reaches beyond the mind.


--- in response to which MINDTREADER wrote:

Would someone please explain this to me? Am I missing something? willing to learn.

-- to which Tzvi replied:

Being a fool means to move off the path of intellect. There are two ways you can move off that path: down or up.

Moving down, or lower than the intellect means to do things you know are stupid, dangerous, reckless, etc.. just because it feels good at the time.

Moving up, beyond the intellect means to do that which you know is right, even when you don't yet completely understand it. Or even when you think you will never understand it—because who says all things can be understood by us mortal beings?

For example, I have been wrapping tefillin on my arm and head for over 30 years. I've studied the meaning of tefillin, from its simple meaning to the esoteric. But I still cannot tell you that I understand why I put them on. Nevertheless, I understand this is the right thing to do. And perhaps one day I will understand. So why should I wait until the time that I will understand, and then regret all the years I didn't put on tefillin? So I do it now.

I don't know whether you are Jewish or not, but for every person there are many good things we can do that we put off and off because they don't yet make sense to us. So, the Rebbe tells us, just do it. (Yes, Nike ripped that one off too.)

That's what the Rebbe means when he says to imitate the world. The world acts like a fool and says, 'Just do it' meaning to do something you know is stupid. We have to go in the opposite direction and 'just do it' when we know of something good to do, even though we don't yet understand why it is good, how it works—and perhaps we never will.

I hope this helps. If it doesn't write me back and I'll try again.

---- Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org

A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Rebbe

-words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman

5 Tammuz, 5761 * June 26, 2001

Discarding the Void


Life is true, every step of it is G‑dly. Only the emptiness is false.

There are things we regret. Things we want to tear out of our 

memory, rip out of our hearts with remorse and agony.

But in the end, the thing we reject never was. From its birth it 

was not a thing, but an absence  — that G‑d was not there. 

Once that void is washed away with tears, there remains only a 

crystal jewel rescued from the deep earth.

AERERE wrote:

Tzvi... if we hold that HaShem [G‑d] is EVERYWHERE every moment - then He is even in a place you've termed an 'absence'. By saying that HaShem was not there, you are now limiting HaShem, literally saying that He is not or cannot be in a place of 'absence' as it were.

This is puzzling with the basic tenets of our beliefs. HaShem was, is, and alway will be - He is everywhere, in every place, at every moment - otherwise that 'place' would cease to be, as it were.

Even the 'absence' must contain HaShem in order for it to exist. Yes, the tears will wash the absence away and as you state, create a diamond as it were - but, that can never and will never negate that the fact that HaShem is there, even in that 'absence' as you phrase it. It's utterly unthinkable and impossible for it to be any other way.

Tzvi's response:

It's true that we believe "there is no place void of Him"--but no believing Jew will say that G‑d can be found (G‑d forbid) in evil. So we are left with a seeming paradox (typical of Jewish belief).

There are always paradoxes in any piece of wisdom, and the same with this piece which is an attempt to summarize an idea in many of the Rebbe's talks.

I generally attempt to provide some resolution to those paradoxes by taking care with my wording. Here too, I wrote:

"From its birth, it was not a thing, but an absence—that G‑d was not there."

This is an allusion to the explanation generally given in Chassidus about evil: That it is a negative creation. It is created by G‑d not wanting it. Therefore, we do not say that G‑d is found within evil—even though He creates all things at every moment. Quite the opposite: What is evil? It is that G‑d is not there.

By way of example, from Halacha [Torah law]: Any place where a person lives needs a mezuzah. But a prison does not need a mezuzah. Why? Don't prisoners live there? No, they don't! The whole idea of a prison is a place where people do not want to be. So, is the prisoner there? No. You can go there and see him not being there.

The difference, however, is obvious: The prison's existence is independent of the prisoner. G‑d's creations, on the other hand, only exist by virtue of His being within them. Therefore, we say that evil is not a 'thing'. It doesn't truly exist. It exists as an artifact of our subjective perspective of the world, from within a limited time frame. See the Ramban on Genesis, where he explains "And Elokim saw all He had made that it was very good". The Targum translates 'very good' as 'uniquely good' or 'good as one'. When all things are seen together as one, Ramban writes, it is all very good. Only as fragments from a subjective view does evil appear.

An analogy: Good music contains much dissonance. I remember my music theory professor playing some awful ugly chords on the piano and asking, "What period was that from?" We all had to agree it must be from the "modern ugly" period. Then he played it in its context — as part of a moving cadence in a Bach fugue or Beethoven sonata. As a fragment, it was truly ugly. But as part of the whole, no dissonance was heard — only the powerful, driving beauty of the song.

The chords and phrases — they all exist. But their ugliness does not really exist. The ugliness is a figment of a poor perspective.

So too, the evil in this world is not a true existence. To attempt to find G‑d there is just as foolish as attempting to find the brilliance of Beethoven by playing the most dissonant harmonies of his late string quartets out of context.

Everything begins in Torah, and this as well has a parallel in halacha: A stream that dries up once in seven years is classified as mayim kozvim = 'false waters' — in other words, its not a stream, and therefore cannot be used for purification.

As I mentioned, these ideas are no more than my elaboration of thoughts expressed in many places in Chassidus, particularly the Rebbe's talks.

Hope this helps,

---- Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org

debbie_shaya also questioned what was written in "Discarding the Void":

I don't agree:

1. G‑d is everywhere - even in the darkest of places

2. The void - the emptiness/unknown is a necessity for all of us, and can help us progress in whichever way we need. The void is not false, it is true.

It should be recognised for what it is, and when we are ready to leave it, we do. It is not something that should always be "washed away"... 

... even in the place that is darkest, that is the void, G‑d is still  there. There must be some minute element of G‑d in that place, however difficult it may be to discover.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Tzvi forwarded his previous reply (reproduced above), and added:

Beautifully put. It seems we are agreeing, but just using different terms.

We have to distinguish between an event or object and the evil associated with it.

Your words are reminiscent of a concept in Kabbalah, explained at length in the book called Tanya. I don't usually go to this length in a response, but I wonder if you have ever learned the following:

Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, the great Ari HaKadosh, explained that everything in the world is nurtured by G‑dliness, each thing contains a Divine spark that vitalizes it and sustains its very existence. Nothing can exist without that spark. Yet, that sustenance does not come to each thing in the same way.

There are those things and events that are nurtured in a direct and open way—they are within the realm of kedusha — holiness. Then there are those in which the G‑dly spark conceals itself. They are compared to fruits within a shell — you need to peel off the shell in order to get to the fruit. For this reason, they are called the realm of the klipot — meaning 'shells'. This second category comprises almost all of our world.

This second realm itself is divided in four parts. There is the highest realm, referred to in the Zohar as 'the shiny shell'. That means it is something like the crust immediately surrounding a nut, which can actually be eaten along with the nut. Similarly, those things in the realm of klipat nogah can be elevated when their spark is redeemed. In this realm lie all those things and events that the Torah permits — all the earth, most fruits and vegetables and all kosher animals.

For example, a cow is slaughtered and kashered according to halacha and eaten with a blessing and with the proper mindfulness — for the sake of serving our Creator with the nourishment and strength we derive from its meat. The divine spark within that animal is now redeemed and shines openly. And the meat itself enters into the realm of kedusha.

On the other hand, if the cow is not correctly slaughtered, or is eaten just to satiate another hungry beast who happens to walk on two legs, it not only does not rise, but rather sinks deeper.

Where does it sink to? To the other three levels of klipot, which cannot be redeemed so easily. This is the realm that covers all those things and deeds that are forbidden by the Torah. All of them are also nurtured by a Divine spark — otherwise they could not exist. But the spark is so deeply hidden that it cannot be redeemed — except through extreme methods. Methods such as a deep, inner teshuvah, or through a test of faith.

For example, let's say a person decides not to eat kosher meat. Instead she goes out and buys the same meat everyone else eats from the supermarket. Then, later, she realizes that this is not the way a Jewish person is meant to eat, and that this meat is not allowing her G‑dly soul to shine within. She feels a deep remorse for what she has done, and resolves from now on to be very careful about what she eats. In fact, she ends up more careful about her eating, and all other mitzvahs, than before her little supermarket episode.

What is driving this woman now to be so inspired in her mitzvahs? Nothing more than the unkosher meat that she ate. So she has redeemed that spark, because she has given divine purpose to that meat.

On the other hand, does that mean her original act of eating the meat was a positive act? Absolutely not. Standing on its own, it was a deed that tore her away from G‑dliness. But at this point in time, **that deed no longer exists**. It now only exists as part of a larger context, that of her teshuvah and climb to a higher rung of connection to the Divine.

This is the example from music that I gave: A chord of music may be ugly when heard on its own. But that ugliness does not exist within the context of the piece when heard as a whole.

In my original piece, this is what I meant by writing: "Once that void is washed away with tears, there remains only a crystal jewel rescued from the deep earth." But the negativity of that deed, the tears have washed that into oblivion.

Similarly, but going even further: Adam and Chava ate a fruit. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating a fruit. Even that fruit. What was wrong was their experience of eating it. That was an experience of disconnection from G‑dliness. The same with any negative deed: The decision of the person to do this thing, and the experience of making that decision, that is wrong and against G‑d's will. But the deed itself is part of G‑d's original plan and where it takes you is where you are supposed to be.

If you want to study this concept further, I can recommend delving into the book called "Tanya". Usually, you can find a class on the subject being given at a local Chabad institution. If not, you could try going through it yourself. I would be happy to try to answer any questions

You can find the text of the Tanya with commentary interspersed online click here, click here for daily audio-lectures , and you can also click here subscribe to a daily portion of Tanya.

Looking forward to your response.

---- Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org