Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “A fair amount of philanthropy comes from competition and envy.”

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

Competitiveness exists among animals;

“King of the Hill” is a game that even little kittens know, and it is not the hill that matters, but who is on top.

Even the natural forces themselves—fire and water, heaven and earth—can be depicted as being in envious competition with each other.

From what we know about angels, it seems that even among them there exists some rivalry and jealousy. 

Envy cannot and ought not to be ignored; It can be utilized for good.

Our sages say that all envy is bad, except the envy of scholars, Kinat Soferim. 

This kind of envy can inspire a person to attain a higher level.

The same sort of competitiveness that can be seen in sports, or in the desire to obtain material possessions, can also apply to nonmaterial possessions such as wisdom, knowledge, even saintliness. 

As odd as it may seem, a person’s envy of spiritual superiority, and the desire not just to imitate, but to outdo, can become a creative, growth-inducing power.

Universities, think tanks, and symposia that bring scholars together use this inner mechanism to generate intellectual growth.

A fair amount of philanthropy, too, comes from competition and envy.

Competition of this sort may create a certain amount of greatness.

There is, of course, a touch—sometimes more than a touch—of ego here, but altogether, the outcome is positive. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz :”Oxen and donkeys, wool and linen”

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

Again and again, we return to the paradox that to study Torah and fulfill mitzvot is to involve oneself with mundane and material things: oxen and donkeys, wool and linen, and so on.

Granted that man’s connection and identification with the mundane is indeed complete:

  • a person who gives charity becomes at that moment a tool for the mitzvah of charity;
  • the man who puts on tefillin becomes an implement of the mitzvah of tefillin, which could not have been fulfilled without a physical, human arm;
  • one who studies a page of Talmud dealing with an ox and a donkey can fully grasp and comprehend his subject.               

These things are familiar to him, and he can therefore fully identify with the problems under discussion.

But however complete his grasp, he has grasped material things.

How can we say that this, however profound, is of the essence of the divine wisdom? 

The Alter Rebbe’s answer is that these things, however lowly and material, are indeed the will and wisdom of God.

They are not a reflection of His will but are His will itself, translated into the language of the material.

The Torah itself does not undergo change; rather, it descends by “hidden steps” from level to level, assuming at each level the garments that relate to that plane of reality.

Within these garments, however, is the Torah itself, which is one with God and remains his unadulterated will and wisdom at every level.

One can say that the Torah undergoes a series of translations: a translation into the language of the seraphim, a translation into the language of the angels, a translation into the language of the soul that resides in the physical body–languages that are merely garments for the essence of Torah, which remains unchanged at all levels. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Steinsaltz “A spirit of folly enters a person when he sins”

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

The Rabbis have said, “A person does not sin unless the spirit of folly has entered into him.” 

A “spirit of folly” appears in a variety of forms.

Some are obvious, such as when, immediately after sinning or even in the midst of the sin, a person realizes that what he is doing is foolish, against his better interests, in conflict with his values, and inconsistent with his nature and will-and yet he does it.

By way of illustration, a leading Irish politician of the nineteenth century who was perhaps closer than anyone else to gaining Ireland its independence was forced to abandon the political arena at the peak of his career because he had committed adultery.

Although this man had fought his entire life on behalf of a cause for which he was willing to give his life, he did what he did knowing that he was destroying his career, his political power, and the independence of his motherland-because a spirit of folly entered into him. 

Another spirit of folly enters a person when he sins.

This spirit persuades him that what he is doing is not egregious, not a sin, and that he is not thereby separating himself from God.

As a matter of principle, a Jew will deny that he would disconnect himself from God, and he denies that strenuously.

Even as he takes the steps leading him further and further away from the divine.

And there is a spirit of folly that tells a person that the prohibition that he is violating is not important, it is only symbolic, by mere historical significance, that the main thing is “to be a good Jew in your heart,” and so forth.

There can be an intellectual spirit of folly and a simpler such spirit. All of these create the cloak  that allows a Jew to live with a paradox: being so distant from God, while at the same time being able to sacrifice one’s life in order not to be separated from Him. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

“The principal function of the sefirot is to guide all the worlds”

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
The greatest of our sages have offered many explanations of the word "sefirah."

Some explain that the word comes from sapir, a diamond.

Without a color of its own, it reflects and refracts light or shines with an internal glow.

Others relate it to the word sipur, a narrative. 

The sefirot reveal God to His creatures-"the heavens tell the glory of God" (Psalms 19:2). 

Alternatively, it is because we have permission to speak about the sefirot and the levels below them, but not about the levels that transcend them. 

Some relate the word sefirah to s'far, or boundary, for they lie on the border between the infinite and the finite. 

Others explain the word as being related to mispar, number, for the sefirot are defined by their number–that is, ten sefirot comprise one basic unit, and the sefirot bear a mathematical relationship to each other. 

Other explanations are offered as well. 

All of them enrich the others, although they are not all based on one shared meaning. 

The principal function of the sefirot is to guide all the worlds. 

The sefirot are not the revelation of God's inner reality, like words or symbols that reveal the soul or its ideas, but a means of shaping and guiding existence. 

They are the equivalent of a tool like an axe, which reveals nothing of the character of the person who wields 

This tool serves his will and acts only by the power of its owner. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

March 28 and April 4, 2011

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Young Israel of Great Neck
236 Middle Neck Road
Great Neck, NY 11021

Two Sessions: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s Teachings on Pesach    


“We are unintentionally, but continuously, brainwashed into thinking that the spiritual is not very real”

Sunday, January 10th, 2010


"Our assumption that existence is primarily physical, and that reality is that which is tangible, is not self-evi dent, natural, or inborn.


This sort of thinking (a spiritual phenomenon in itself) is based on cultural maxims that are taught to us.


From a very young age, we are taught that dreams, ideas, and thoughts are not real, and that what we say, think, and dream do not count.


In turn, we transmit to our children—not always in words—the notion that 'reality' is that which can be seen and touched.


Our children get the message continuously, in both subtle and not so subtle ways: 'If it does not exist in matter, it does not matter.'


In our culture, if a small child breaks a cup, we scold him.


If he cuts his finger, we are worried.


But if a child speaks of his dreams and imaginations, we dismiss them as unimportant, and even more—as unreal.


In this way, we are unintentionally, but continuously, brainwashed into thinking that the spiritual is not very real, and therefore we discount it in many ways.


This edu cation has many evolutionary advantages, mostly to cats, cattle, or apes, who have to rely on their senses and not on their thoughts (if they have any).


Whether it is helpful in the long run for human beings is quite doubtful.


When we ignore or discount the intangible, we are misleading our selves.


If spirituality were only pondering about angels, we could ignore it, claiming that angels are of no interest to us.


As things are, we cannot ignore or rid ourselves of the spiritual aspect of our life, so long as we are conscious."


–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Simple Words by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


The ongoing existence of the world is an abnormal state

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The creation of the universe was not a onetime event. From the moment that it came into being, the world is continually created anew at every moment. The ongoing existence of the world is an abnormal state, one that demands a consistent, creative force to keep it in existence. Existence requires the constant power of creation to give it being and to construct it at every moment.