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KORACH-LEADING THE DIVISION

Friday, 19 June, 2015 - 12:32 pm

FOR KORACH

 

LEADING THE DIVISION

(From a previous Good Shabbos Email)

 

When it comes to special moments, not many can best the experience of candle lighting time on a Friday evening, a few minutes before sunset (or on the eve of a festival). The female members of the household light a candle, while married women kindle a minimum of two candles. Their hands are then passed around the flames three times, and, as though they are gathering the light into themselves, they cover the area of their eyes with their fingers and hands. The light and radiance of the candles have now been taken inwards.

 

As their hands cover their eyes, the women recite the blessing for the Shabbos or festival. Many will utilize this time to reflect and concentrate on prayers for loved ones, friends, and so forth. It is difficult to find moments more spiritual and surreal as these.

 

The day and its holiness are directly radiated into the home once the candles are lit. All of a sudden, a serene atmosphere pervades, hoisted to a transcendent plateau. It is no longer regular and mundane; Shabbos is here.

 

The holy days, however, are not designed to last as the norm. One must contend with a descent as they come to a close. Here, too, a ceremony, called “Havdalah,” or separation, takes place. This ceremony also includes a blessing on a candle. (The candle is only used on a Saturday night, not at the conclusion of a festival.)

 

And here is where it gets quite interesting. People gather together, basking in the warmth of escorting out the holiness of a particular day. Somehow, saying goodbye through a ceremony, together with the light and the other ceremonial accompaniments, creates a warm and uniting atmosphere.

 

There can be, after all, unity in separation.

 

It mostly depends on the purpose and focus of the separation. Separation driven by inharmoniousness and discord is unhealthy and unhappy. Separation motivated by recognition of the strengths and beauty of another, actually creates a deeper sense of unity.

 

Separation and squabble, leading to disaster of the greatest proportion, is a main theme of this week’s Torah portion, “Korach.” This man, Korach, was driven by jealousy and other unpleasant characteristics. He gathered a group of malcontents to challenge the leadership of Moses. With seeming righteous indignation, he thunders: “All the (members of the) congregation are holy, and G-d is with them. So why have you made yourselves elite over G-d’s assembly?” (Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:3.)

 

Korach and his cohorts made it seem as though usurping the leadership of Moses would create a level playing field. In reality, they had no intention of doing this. This was a stunt for them to become leaders and do a “better job.” Moses never engaged in a debate with these separatists, seeking so-called unity. Instead, these people were quite literally swallowed up by the earth, separating them from the community for all time. This group is eternally remembered as the prototypical rabble-rousing quarrelers.

 

The group who claimed to champion the rights of the people, supposedly seeking to eliminate separation, uneven roles, and leadership, is eternally remembered as representing confrontation, belligerence, and disunity.

 

The world was created unevenly. Night and day, hot and cold, up and down possess characteristics superior and inferior. Yet, they all play a pivotal role in making this world what it is. A healthy world is when all parts play their roles to the utmost.

 

People, as well, are not equal. True, every single individual can and should contribute in his or her unique way. Every single person is important and plays a vital role. Yet, some people are designed and destined to be like the feet, which keep the body standing and move the body when necessary, while others are designed and destined to be like the brain, to think, direct and lead. A healthy body is when all its individual and distinct components function and complement one another in unity; as one. Attempting to use the head upon which to stand and feet with which to think, would present disorder, confusion, and bedlam.

 

Respecting the separable components and borders among people brings the deepest harmony.

 

* * *

 

This Shabbos is the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. It is the Twenty-first Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe – the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. This saintly man, of righteous memory, lived his life for the other person. The Rebbe took upon himself the responsibility of bringing awareness and an awakening of Judaism to the Jewish world, and a determined focus of goodness and holiness to the world at large. His vision was to inspire all of mankind to make this world not just a better place, but the perfect place; a place prepared for the Messianic revelation.

 

The above lesson from this week’s Torah portion – taught by the Rebbe in 1957 and 1971 – is so typical: always looking for the good of the individual, while uncompromising in areas of the collective whole.

 

The Rebbe’s passing left a gaping hole in this world. Despite this, the Rebbe’s greatness has continued to blossom even after his physical passing. Through his relentless message and call of resiliency and love, that legacy, that life and that spirit the Rebbe so embodied, continue to live on today and flourish stronger and more powerfully than ever, in unity.

 

May the Rebbe’s lifelong goal, to bring healing to the world, in the form of redemption with the coming of Moshiach, be realized speedily, when all death will be eliminated, and the world will be restored to its proper form, according to the guidance and leadership of G-d Almighty Himself.

 

SUMMARY: Division and demarcation are positive when the goal is to function with a united force.

 

* * *

 

In honor of the Rebbe’s Yahrtzeit, here follows an article written by Rabbi Yaakov Biderman, founder and director of Chabad in Austria.

 

The Rebbe and Viktor Frankl

 

Dr. Viktor Frankl survived three years in Hitler’s concentration camps, losing his family – including his pregnant wife – to the “Final Solution.” Frankl, though, never lost his vision of human dignity. In his best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he utilized his terrible experiences during the Holocaust to back his some of his psychological innovations. Frankl describes how certain inmates in the camps seemed to be able to transcend their surroundings, even giving away their last piece of bread. This proved, he writes, that a human can choose how to respond in any given set of circumstances.

 

Following is the other side of his story of success.

 

I arrived in Vienna – together with my wife, Edla – in 1981, to serve as Chabad emissaries in Austria. We immediately began by arranging programming for adults and youth.

 

We were aware that the famous Dr. Viktor Frankl resided in the city, but we did not have the opportunity to make his acquaintance. He never associated with the Jewish community in Vienna, and he certainly never stepped foot in the Chabad center we established.

 

We were very surprised when, once before the High Holidays, Dr. Frankl responded with a contribution to our annual appeal. He continued this practice every year thereafter. Although I had never met him or spoken to him, his donation always came.

 

We did not understand how and why these contributions suddenly began to appear, until one day in 1995 when it all became clear. It started with a visit I received from a youthful, energetic 85-year-old woman, who introduced herself as Marguerite Chajes.

 

“You may think you are the first emissary of theLubavitcher Rebbeto Vienna,” Marguerite told me, “but that is not entirely the case. You see, I performed an important mission here on theRebbe’s behalf long before you arrived in Austria.”

 

Her mother’s maiden name was Hager. The Hagers were relatives of the Rebbes of the famed Vishnitz Chassidic dynasty. Marguerite, though, became an opera singer; she married and had a daughter.

 

Just a few days before World War II, friends helped her escape, together with her husband and daughter, across the border to Italy, where they made it onto the last boat to the United States. Marguerite and her family settled in Detroit. Unfortunately, the rest of her family remained behind and perished.

 

Years passed. Marguerite’s daughter grew up and married a doctor, who, in 1959, was honored at the dinner of a Chabad institution. In conjunction with that occasion, Marguerite had an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.

 

“While in the Rebbe’s room,” Marguerite said, “I suddenly broke down in tears. I felt that it was fine to cry. He came across like a second father to me. The dam holding back my river of tears gave way.” Marguerite told the Rebbe her entire life story. She also mentioned her yearning to go back and visit her native land. The Rebbe requested that in the event that she would make such a trip, she should come see him again beforehand. Not long thereafter, Marguerite came to the Rebbe prior to her trip.

 

The Rebbe asked her for a favor. The Rebbe wanted her to visit two people in Vienna on his behalf. One of them was Dr. Viktor Frankl, who headed the Vienna Policlinic of Neurology. “Please send Dr. Frankl my regards, and pass the following message to him: that I said he should be strong and continue his work, with complete resolve. No matter what, he should not give up. If he remains strong and committed, he will certainly prevail.”

 

Arranging a meeting with Frankl was no simple task. Arriving at the clinic, she was told that the professor hadn’t shown up in two weeks. With effort, though, Marguerite found Frankl’s home address and made her way there. Marguerite told him that she had regards for him “from Rabbi Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of Brooklyn, New York. Remain strong! Continue your work with complete resolve. Don’t give up. Ultimately you will prevail.”

 

Tears filled the doctor’s eyes, really shocking Marguerite. After composing himself somewhat, he thanked Marguerite, and in the course of the ensuing conversation, he told her that he had been planning to abandon his efforts to fight on behalf of his theory and philosophy, and actually was considering departing Vienna, but now he would reconsider...

 

“So Rabbi Biderman,” Marguerite concluded, “now you understand what I meant when I said that I served as the Rebbe’s emissary to Vienna way before you arrived!”

 

This story fascinated me. What had the Rebbe’s message meant to Viktor Frankl?

 

Dr. Frankl had been a young colleague of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. But his beliefs challenged their teachings. Whereas the dominant view at the time was that people are driven by the need to gratify physical needs, a “will to pleasure,” he saw humankind driven by a “will to meaning,” possessingfree choiceand the capacity for self-transcendence.

 

Frankl had begun to develop these ideas before the War and during his time in the Nazi death camps. Seeing how some prisoners were able to eke out a sense of purpose and maintain a positive outlook even there, he had solidified those ideas. Now he found himself a lone dissenter. All around him were loyal Freudian scholars. He was taunted, and his lectures were shunned. Understandably, Frankl felt dejected at the prospect of his life’s work going to waste. The pressures were so great that he decided to simply give up and move to Australia, to join his sister living there. He was emotionally spent.

 

Marguerite told me that Frankl had been drafting his immigration papers when she brought him the Rebbe’s message. This was a young Chassidic master from overseas he’d never heard of before. Frankl was beyond astonished that a Chassidic Rebbe would care about him or the perpetuation of his philosophy.

 

It was exactly the shot in the arm that Frankl needed. Instead of joining his sister in Australia, he continued his practice as a psychiatrist and went back to his work, full of renewed motivation, vigor, and optimism.

 

Marguerite’s story certainly explained the annual contribution that Frankl would send to support Chabad in Vienna. And hearing the story stirred me to contact Dr. Frankl himself, thinking perhaps he’d have something to add.

 

A few days later, I called Frankl and asked to meet him.

 

But it was difficult for him to meet me in person. This was 1995, and Viktor Frankl was 90 years of age. So we spoke over the phone. “Do you remember Marguerite Chajes?” I asked. Naturally he did; she had become a friend of the family. “Do you remember a regards she gave you from Rabbi Schneerson in Brooklyn?” I asked him. “Of course! Can I ever forget it? The Rabbi came to my aid during a very difficult time in my life. I owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude!”

 

As a result of Marguerite’s mission, the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” was translated into English, and became a bestseller and classic psychiatric text. This propelled Dr Frankl into the international limelight. Frankl became a guest lecturer at universities on five continents, and received honorary doctorates from universities around the world. He also received national and international awards and medals for his pivotal work in psychotherapy. Before his death in 1997, his magnum opus had been translated into dozens of languages and sold millions of copies.

 

Frankl’s brand of therapy inspired thousands of other books, seminars, workshops, new-age and spiritual groups, all based on Frankl’s idea of the human being’s unique ability to make choices and pursue his or her own meaning. From Scott Peck’s “Road Less Traveled” to Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits,” and hundreds of other bestsellers during the last 30 years, all are variations of Viktor Frankl’s margin-bottom: 12pt;">So many millions of people have benefited, and continue to benefit – directly or indirectly – from the Rebbe’s communiqué to Dr. Frankl!

 

I’ve often wondered why the Rebbe took an interest in the success of Viktor Frankl, a secular and intermarried Jew, and sought him out to offer encouragement and support. It would seem that the Rebbe did this not only out of personal concern for Frankl's welfare, but also in order to advance a philosophy which he felt ultimately fosters belief in G‑d, a spiritual margin-bottom: 0pt;">

 

I cannot help but marvel over the Rebbe’s wide reach, broad-mindedness, and remarkable visionary approach.

 

 

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