Wednesday, 31 December 2008

5 Tevet - Didan Notzach - "Victory is Ours"





Where would the world be without books? Ever imagined such a world? Sure, there’s television. We have fantastic audio too. A world of pictures and a world of sound. But imagine a world without books?!

The Jewish people are known as “People of the Book”. The reason for this coinage can be found elsewhere. However it is certainly one which states clearly our mission in the world. The world of a Jew encompasses the world of books. Without reading, one will never come to know what everything is all about.

Imagine a new appliance being sold without a manual of how to work it?! Imagine a salesman selling large pieces of wood (to make a bookshelf!) – without including the instructions on how to put it all together?! We could always experiment! There are indeed holes on the boards, and with a bit of ingenuity, we could eventually start putting the boards together. We also run the risk of finding our shelves back to front, with some shelves where they should be, and others in directions which they should not. To add to this, we could even call ourselves geniuses for having being able to put it all together without even so much as having looked at an instruction booklet!

Imagine the patient visiting a doctor to perform micro brain surgery upon him, only to find that the doctor is illiterate [sic]! How did he become a doctor – we would ask. How could he ever come to understand the workings of the body if not for the hundreds of thousands of pages he had studied over tens of years?!

The Jewish people are indeed people of the book, because without the Book, we are nothing. No better than any craftsman ready to fashion his shelves (or the like) without so much as an idea of how he’ll get it all together! Our book is the Torah. It is not ours exactly. It belongs to the Creator of the world. He built this world (and others) and – due to its extreme complexity (far more complex than the workings of the body, an appliance, or even bookshelves,) He also authored a major work. It encompasses everything from the moment creation began, right up until the moment when everything will be as He so wishes it to.

He is the Book itself. The Jewish people are that same Book. And all three are intertwined. Because of it’s complexity however, it takes a lifetime (and more!) to be able to understand just what it’s all about, and just what we are supposed to do as a result of reading it.


In the 1980’s an event that would take Chabad by storm was about to brew. The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (1880-1950) had left behind an incredibly large library of books, some of which were the original manuscripts written by the Baal Shem Tov himself! The Rebbe had been blessed with 3 daughters, but no sons. One daughter – the elder – had married a man by the name of Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary. Another daughter married a man by the name of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Horenstein. And the middle daughter married the Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Horensteins were killed Al Kiddush Hashem during the holocaust.

As for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, although he was Rebbe, he was “only” the son-in-law of the previous Rebbe. He never had children in the physical sense of the word and therefore there were no grandchildren for the previous Rebbe from him.

Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary did have one son however, Dov Ber (known as Barry Gurary.) Because he was the only grandson, he believed that the inheritance from his grandfather should go to him. There was however one problem. The library of books that belonged to the previous Rebbe had been given over to Chabad and obviously to the possession of the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself.

Events, not necessary to mention here, eventually lead to a situation coming about where Barry Gurary – the previous Rebbe’s only living grandson – took the Rebbe to court, claiming that the library of books was his. He was rightly entitled to it by inheritance, and as such they were his. What he chose to do with them – was naturally his own decision. Should he wish to read them, he could certainly do this… and if he wished to sell them (they are worth millions of dollars to those who know their true material wealth) – he could do this as well.

The Rebbe on the other hand, while not a direct heir in the literal sense of inheritance, had never contemplated such an idea. To him, the books were his. Who better to make use of these books than the Rebbe himself?!

The court case was a fierce battle – weeks where the Rebbe was literally more than concerned and troubled as to what could possibly happen should these books leave his hands. The story can be found in far greater detail on other Internet sites – and it is by far one of the most tense and worrisome stories that have occurred to the Jewish people in general in many, many years.

On the 5 Tevet in 1986, the court ruled in favour of the Rebbe and the books were returned to their rightful place. One of the most convincing arguments came from the Rebbe’s own wife – daughter of the previous Rebbe – who when questioned, replied to the advocate “The Rebbe and the books of the Rebbe are the property of the Chassidim.” In truth she was not just the wife of the Rebbe, supporting him, she was also the daughter of the previous Rebbe (who may well have deserved the books herself) and the sister of the mother of the man who had brought this case to court!

One daughter of the previous Rebbe supported Chabad – and Chassidus. The other, supported her son – the apparent legitimate heir to books owned by his grandfather. It certainly didn’t make for an easy clear cut decision, and anyone thinking over the possibilities and ramifications of the various things that could have happened, could well find themselves at a loss for words.

But the case was more than a nephew fighting his uncle over an inheritance. As the Torah itself teaches, it was about an argument that had originated from on High! Nothing in this world happens only because human beings make it that way. Rather, that that happens in this world is a sign for what is actually happening in the worlds above. When Eisav comes to fight Yaakov, it is not just because two brothers are about to engage in a physical battle. It is about the angel of Eisav laying a claim against the angel of Yaakov on High. When things begin Above, they continue below and are manifest in this world.

The court case of the books was not just about a physical case in this world, it was about accusations levelled at the Jewish people Above! Apparently, as we can imagine things… the angels above were involved in a heated argument!

Do books belong to one just because of an inheritance? Do books belong to one just because one is a grandchild – just because of birth? The angels were at battle! Wings were flapping, tornadoes of wind blowing the air as the angels fought.

But the dust flying above eventually subsided and the verdict was in. Books are holy – especially when they’re really holy! One doesn’t merit them just because of birth and because of wealth (even if one could afford them.) One merits them because one works towards the goals contained inside them.

Being Jewish means (amongst other things) appreciating what a book is – it’s value. The Book – The Torah is the ultimate book, and all books written afterwards about it are included in it’s same category. We have both a written Torah and an oral one. The oral is infinite – because it is G-d Himself. Yet G-d clothes Himself within the written Torah. It is filled with layers upon layers of garments, far too many for the average person to uncover by a simple casual reading. With it comes the real work of learning the oral Torah, because hidden inside it are the keys for opening the written Torah and understanding what it’s about.

The Rebbe’s court case was a message to the Jewish people. Wake up! Even above there are battles each day, judgments being issued – as to whether we are truly deserving to know the will of G-d Himself. We must pay attention and realise that our duty is to read… read… and read even more, to learn what G-d wants from us – and to actively implement it into real life action. To make this world a dwelling place for G-d.

As infinite as the world of holy books is, so too is the infinite obligation we have to learn the beauty, the supernatural (and “natural”) and the radiance of the infinite G-d Himself.

We cannot excuse ourselves as just being Jews because of birth. Deserving to receive everything of G-d’s infinite kindness just because of birth. We have an obligation that we accepted upon ourselves over 3300 years ago. An obligation to learn and explore the instruction manual – every single day – every single moment of every single day – in whatever free time we can find to do so. When we do this, then the books are ours. The Rebbe is always ours, and we can always be Chassidim. But the books… they come to us from our desire to want to read and follow what is actually inside them.



Where are we to begin, and how can we begin to find out what it is that G-d wants from us? There is no greater book to begin learning from than the very book that was given to us thousands of years ago. The written Torah. We must educate ourselves into knowing how the world began, world history, how the Jewish people came about. Could there be anything more interesting?

It’s the stuff Hollywood movies are made of! Imagine opening the authoritative book about creation. Learning about the wonders of the stars. The people who began this world making it what it is today. Where did the Jewish people come from?! What were the politics of those days like?! What did G-d want from us – why?! Just who were the forefathers and the foremothers? The twelve tribes, the 70 Jews who went down to Egypt, and the 600 000 souls who came out?! Who was Moses and what role did he really play? Does it make any difference to me today?!

Who lead the Jewish people after Moses? Who was Joshua? Who were the great Judges of the Jewish people, the prophets and the leaders? Who were the Kings of Israel and were they good? Did they follow the teachings of the Torah or rebel? What can *we* learn from them today?! Did those people have the same desires as we experience today? Were they so different? Who were the leading governments in those days and how did they impose their taxes?

What are the sweetest praises to G-d all about? What did the wisest man – King Solomon have to say about life? What of the supernatural stories clothed in nature? Just what is the unique love affair relationship between G-d and the Jewish people all about? Who was to be the ultimate mother of the righteous redeemer destined to come and take us out of our exile?

The Tanach – filled with 24 books, is the ultimate guide in understanding life – as it is TODAY. Every page is filled with stories and advice about how to live life – not then, but TODAY! Its teachings – to anyone who opens their eyes – is as relevant today as it was then. In fact, if we prepare ourselves, we will see that its teachings have become even more relevant to us. It is a book of life to all those who hold on to it, to those who open their eyes, to those who humble themselves to realise the value of truth, of morality, of goodness and kindness.

Its secrets are never ending. The greatness of the souls and people who lived then represent the roots of the world of today, the roots of goodness and its opposite – corruption. The miracles of then… are the same miracles of today and the exiles of then, the same exile of today.

It is the ultimate guide to life and it is the ultimate guide to understanding the deepest secrets of the Creator. Who can turn aside from it for even a moment?

It is the book of all books, and the root book of any Jewish library.

In coming postings, we will be reviewing various books to help guide each of us into understanding more about the Torah. At the end of each review there will be a link to click on. If you don’t have this book in your library, you can purchase it immediately!

Don’t waste another moment. Open your eyes to the beauty of Torah and appreciate the gift which we have been given. The 5 Tevet is the ultimate day to make a new resolution to thirst for a new book, and to desire to drink of its contents immediately, learning it and putting it into practice!

Ready to begin?

Click here and purchase the Artscroll Tanach immediately! Just two chapters a day (excluding the regular weekly reading and the book of Psalms), and you can finish it in just one year!

For more video footage about the Rebbe and the 5th Tevet see these videos.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails