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Essays

Samplings of the Rebbe's philosophy of Torah and Chassidism

A History of Love
A famous talk by the Rebbe analyzes the lives of Noah, Abraham and Moses as milestones in humanity's journey from an instinctive selfhood to a true concept of "love" for a one's fellow. We also encounter the basis of the Rebbe's groundbreaking approach to "outreach" and how to relate to those who are supposedly spiritually "inferior" to oneself
The Answer to the Mother of All Questions
The Torah devotes one chapter to its account of the creation of the universe, three chapters to its description of the revelation at Mount Sinai, and eleven chapters to the story of the Exodus. In contrast, no less than thirteen chapters are devoted to the making of the Mishkan.
Noise
Does packaging the divine truths of Torah in "marketable" slogans and media violate their integrity? Is there anything positive to be found in the superficiality that characterizes the sound-bite generation?
Growing Old
The Jewish view on aging and retirement
The Rebbe's revolutionary view on aging and "retirement," and -- by extension -- on life, work and productivity.
On the Essence of Choice
"See, I have set before you life and goodness, and death and evil... Life and death I have set before you, blessing and curse... And you shall choose life..." (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). These three sentences represent three dimensions of choice -- compelled choice, random choice, and essential choice
The Torah was first given carved in stone and then transcribed with ink upon a parchment scroll. What is the deeper significance of these two forms of Torah?
Outgoing Woman
The classical interpretation is that Leah and Dinah’s behavior is being condemned as unbecoming the Jewish woman’s virtue of “innerness.” But a careful analysis of the source texts shows the very opposite to be the case . . .
Sin in Four Dimensions
What is sin? The Midrash records a “panel discussion” featuring a philosopher, a prophet, the Torah and G-d.
The Fifty-Sixth Century
How the technological advances of recent times are connected to approach of the Messianic Era
The Speed of Light
What is time? And if we understood what time is—and what are the “windows” of timelessness within our existence—what practical difference would this make in our lives?
The Dollar
We all know what it does, but what does it say?
What Makes a Jew
Sages and mystics explore the primordial "mind" of G-d to ask: Is it the Torah that makes the Jew a Jew, or is it the Jew who makes the Torah a Torah?
A Yeshivah in Egypt?
In his daily life, the Jew must be a Joseph; but his education must be provided by a Judah.
The Third Millennium
Infancy, self-sufficiency and synthesis -- the story of mankind from the Garden of Eden to Noah’s ark to Mount Sinai.
For Real
Why is the belief in Moshiach and the Redemption so central to Judaism? What makes it one of the "thirteen principles" of the Jewish faith upon which its entire edifice rests?
Facing Reality
Sometimes it all seems so hopeless. You can feed a hungry child, yet millions more remain hungry. For every good deed you do, so many evil deeds are committed . . .
The Window
Noah’s dispatch of the dove from the ark: passive and active anticipation.
The Emissaries
What do you do if you have a vision, and are determined to see that vision implemented in the life of every man, woman and child on the face of the earth?
Is Judaism a Theocracy?
The human psyche is home to two contrasting drives: a striving for freedom, and an impulse to submit to authority. Which should be given priority over the other? Or, to otherwise state the question: in what sort of environment would the Torah prefer to see the Jew—as a member of a free society, or as the subject of an authoritarian regime?
A Long Pole
By law, the menorah stood in a chamber into which only kohanim (priests) were permitted entry. But the law also states that an ordinary person may light the menorah. What is the point—and lesson—of this legal paradox?
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
It's probably the oldest question in the history of human thought. It's surely the most disturbing, the most frequently asked and the least satisfactorily answered. Why, oh why, do bad things happen to good people?
A Gathering with the Rebbe
You can't build a lasting building out of half-baked bricks. You can't assemble an accurate timepiece unless each of its gears, springs and balance wheels has first been honed to precision. But people, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, are not bricks
Tom's House and Harry's Car
“The world, and all it contains,” states the Psalmist, “is G‑d’s." It would seem that the Eighth Commandment is superfluous—since in the final analysis, it’s not possible to steal anything.
Love According to the Rebbe
What if someone said to you, "I love you, but I don't like your children"? You'd probably say: "You don't know anything about who and what I am, and you don't know what love is, either!"
Do We Lie to Our Children?
Even if we manage to avoid saying outright untruths, there seems to be something intrinsically dishonest in the process we call “education.”
Want It All
I think I know why the Rebbe liked this story so much. The child's question and the grandfather's explanation express two extremes, whose contrast and synthesis are a hallmark of the Rebbe's approach to life
Incarceration As a Modality of Punishment and Rehabilitation
A Torah Perspective
Under America’s criminal justice system, we have incarcerated more than two million of our fellow citizens in federal, state and county facilities. In contrast, the concept of prison does not appear anywhere in Judaism...
How to Deal with Anger
The Rebbe’s Advice
The Rebbe’s guidance ranges from simple, practical suggestions to more advanced meditations that address the root causes of our anger.
There, Here, and Nowhere
How do we deal with the "Wicked Son"? And who is the elusive "Fifth Son" that's not even mentioned in the Haggadah?
Eclipses: Fate or Freedom?
One can calculate in advance when eclipses will occur. Yet the Talmud appears to say that they happen as a result of human failings. Which is it?
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