If I were hurtling down a rabbit-hole and a genie offered me one wish, I would likely request a tour guide. Now tell me that the past ten months haven’t taken us all on a dizzying Ozian spin.

Look out the window of your space capsule and you’ll find you’ve entered an insanely adversarial universe, one in which the major preoccupation of far too many people is ”Who’s on my side and who’s against me?”

Problem is, the adversarial universe is swiftly heading for cosmic implosion. It’s eating up civilization as we know it before our very eyes.

Tell me there’s a tour guide, some wisdom, some leadership, somewhere, anywhere.

I guess that’s why several people have asked me, “What The adversarial universe is eating up civilization as we know it before our very eyes.would the Rebbe have said about the current mess?”

We’re right on season to ask the question. Seventy years ago at this time of year (11 Shvat, 1951—which falls this year on Saturday night, Jan. 23), the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory, formally took upon himself the leadership of the weary and orphaned refugees that then comprised the core of Chabad-Lubavitch, and although few realized it at that time, leadership of the Jewish people everywhere.

He provided guidance at a time when all seemed lost for many, when an entire world had just been annihilated and a future for believing Jews seemed futile. He built that motley crew into a decisive force for goodness and wisdom in today’s world.

The message? It’s not a rabbit-hole.

It’s not a wild and crazy jungle either, where man eats man and only the most brutish survive.

It’s a delightful garden.

The Garden Paradigm

That’s how this world is described in the Biblical Song of Songs, a divine garden, a wondrous and intimate place of meeting for G‑d and His bride, the human soul. That’s how the ancient Midrash describes this world— as G‑d’s original place of delight. And that is how the Kabbalah describes the core-essence of each creation: Oneg, divine pleasure, is the engine at the nucleus of every cell of this universe.

Yes, the garden is ridden with bugs, weeds, dry wood, and rotting cellulose. It’s not just messy— it’s a horrid disaster. The stewards of the garden (that’s us) have not exactly been diligent in their craft.

But don’t let outward appearances deceive you. The world and all it contains is essentially a good place. A very good place—as G‑d Himself stated Don’t let outward appearances deceive you. The world and all it contains is essentially good, very good.when He created it, “And G‑d saw all that He created, and behold, it was very good.”

Now let’s all get down and dirty to clean up the mess.

May I point out that this is not the language we have come to expect from Orthodox rabbis—or from spiritual guides in general. We’re usually told that this is just a pit-stop—more pit than stop—on the way to heaven. Religion is then presented as some formula for journeying out of here and into there.

But the Rebbe told us this is it. We are here already. This is the world we’ve been given. It’s precious. It’s a delight to its Maker. And we are here to make that discovery.

Describing the world as a divine garden presents a serious paradigm shift. Let’s look at a few of the ways this mindset rearranges the plates upon which our universe rests, and most importantly given current circumstances, how this transforms the way we relate to one another as fellow humans of the garden.​

Choose Your Universe

How do people fall into this “with-me/against-me” attitude?

Perhaps because it’s just such a neat and tidy way of organizing people, determining what narrative I believe and what I reject, along with what my policy is on any matter at hand. It saves all that neuro-transmission power for really useful things—like figuring out how to skewer anybody who is against me.

But no, it’s more sinister than that.

The Rebbe often cited a treatise by his predecessor, Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch, in which he describes this attitude as the root of all causeless hatred and intolerance. It derives, he wrote, not from any reason or sensitivity, Once you understand that both you and the other guy occupy the same divine garden, then you see that he too has a vital role.but from the coarse egotism endemic to our species. And it has always proven itself non-sustainable.

But once you understand that both you and the other guy occupy the same divine garden, the Rebbe explained, then you see that every bush, every rock, and even every human being—yes, even this guy—has a vital role.

If the Designer of the Garden put something somewhere, it’s because it brings Him delight. And that includes your fellow human being.

The Art of Cosmic Gardening

Of course, in a garden, not everything’s purpose is readily apparent. A garden has to be “worked and protected” much more than a home or a field. Every fruit comes with its peel, husk, pit, stem, etc. that requires extraction and disposal before getting to the juicy meat inside.

And so it is with people. In this raw, mixed-up garden-world of ours, there are good people who do rotten things and bad people who do fantastic things, so that dividing the world into good guys and bad guys gets really non-functional.

Better to just say, as the Mishnah says, “Do not despise any man, and do not discriminate against anything, for there is no man that has not his hour, and there is no thing that has not its place.”

I have a bush in my garden that seems a real waste of valuable space. While the other bushes and trees are blossoming and showing off their colorful berries, Wisdom is cosmic superglue, the power by which the good is discerned from the bad, so that each thing finds its part in the cosmic symphony.spreading their elegant branches and cooling us with their leaves, this bush just demands space and lots of my time pruning its branches.

But then, sometime in January, after the wind, hail, and snow have greyed out all the color of the garden, this bush opens wide its sleepy buds, blossoming into thick, textured petals of a deep, cabernet sauvignon red. In that month, it is the prince of the garden.

In some gardens, you will find an awkward, spooky sort of dwarf tree, sparse with leaves and heavily-laden with horribly bitter, thick-pitted berries. You would certainly remove it, did you not know that by laying those berries beneath a press, you could acquire a precious, nourishing oil, for cooking, for salad dressing, for light, warmth, and for healing sun-parched skin.​

Work With Everybody

Here’s one neat instance from exactly 41 years ago, when the Rebbe spoke about “the peaceful transference of government.” The circumstances were certainly different—in many ways, the opposite of all that shakes our world in these times. Nevertheless, some of the lines from that talk could have been spoken yesterday.

Such as the very first words:

In a democracy such as the U.S.A., an orderly transference of government is effected through the electoral process. The choice made by the people in the polling booths decides who will occupy the highest office in the land — the Presidency; thereby ensuring a smooth and peaceful transition from one administration to the next.

Yet a disturbing trend has been evident in past elections.…

Jimmy Carter, the incumbent Democrat president, had just suffered a crushing defeat. What was to become known as the Reagan era had just begun.

In matters of foreign policy, the Rebbe had been highly critical of Carter. A naive observer, listening to the Rebbe’s harsh criticism of Carter’s Middle East policy and particularly his attitude towards Israel could have easily seen Carter almost as the Rebbe’s nemesis.

Yet now the Rebbe continued by admonishing those who were “rubbing salt into the wound” of the defeated president. Yes, we know he made serious errors. But…

There were instances in the past four years, which, but for the endeavors of the President, could easily have led to war. Not only did he thus save millions of Americans from the horrors of such a consequence, but in all probability the rest of the world. And for this, he deserves our thanks and gratitude.

Beyond that, over the past four years, the Rebbe had cultivated a warm relationship with Jimmy Carter, vocally encouraging and supporting his push for the establishment of a federal Department of Education. Until then, education was subsumed within the rubric of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

The mechanisms, machinations, and agenda behind this move and the Rebbe’s part in it are documented on pages 159-166 of Phillip Wexler’s eye-opening book, Social Vision—the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s transformative paradigm for the world. On the 14th of April, 1978, Carter endorsed the Department of Education proposal. Three days later, he signed a proclamation declaring the Rebbe’s birthday “Education Day, USA” for posterity.

But now, as Carter was about to leave office, the Rebbe emphasized that his gratitude for the outgoing president’s good achievements “is in no way to be construed as a retraction” of the sharp criticism he had offered regarding other policy decisions. Disagreement and partnership, criticism and gratitude—the Rebbe was saying—can be held together. Actually, they must be held together.

With what glue? With the superglue of wisdom. As the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, explained, wisdom is the power by which the good is discerned from the bad, so that each thing finds its part in the cosmic symphony.

Whoever you meet, wherever life takes you, toss out the cellulose wrapping and find the juice inside. Everyone and everything has something valuable to offer.

Work with those G‑d has Work with those G‑d has given you to work with. Even if you don’t believe they’re the best for the job.given you to work with. Even if you don’t believe they’re the best for the job.

It’s not a waste of time. It’s saving the world. You’re bringing harmony between its parts, revealing the underlying oneness and beauty of our universe.

It’s part of the hard work, the deep wisdom, and the delightful art of divine gardening.