This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Spirit and Matter
Our lives tend to be divided between spirit and matter, the sacred and the everyday.
The dichotomy between spirit and matter, or Heaven and Earth, is also expressed at the beginning of this week's Torah reading, Haazinu, which takes the form of a long poem. Moses is the leader of the Jewish people, filled with love for them, yet also seeing with pain the long and tortuous history they would experience. He warns them about the mistakes they might make in their relationship with G-d. Speaking dramatically to the Jewish people, Moses begins by addressing Heaven and Earth. Rashi tells us that he was calling them as witnesses to his words of warning which follow.
Accessing the Hidden Love
In 1796, a new book on Jewish philosophy was printed and ready for distribution. It was written by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad branch of Chassidism, and in his humility he titled it Likutei Amarim, "a compilation of sayings." Many simply called it "the Tanya" (the first word of the opus). The Tanya quickly gained immense popularity. The first edition published 15,000 copies. The next year a second printing, with 5,000 copies, and a year later a third printing with 20,000 copies came off the printing press. To date the Tanya has seen thousands of printings and ever-increasing popularity.
It stands out very prominently in this week's Torah reading: fifty-five consecutive verses of nightmarish misery and torture, all destined to befall the Jewish people when they will be exiled from their land because of their sins. Many of the curses are so appalling that they are difficult to read. Indeed, the Baal Koreh (public reader of the Torah in the synagogue) is expected to read these verses quickly and in a quieter voice than usual. Astoundingly, these maledictions are included in Moses' parting words to the nation he loved so much, whom he lovingly shepherded for forty difficult years.