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"This Is for Your Love:" Toward a Consciousness of Oneness

The Last Words I Heard from My Rebbe

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    2467 views
  • February 24, 2022
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  • 23 Adar I 5782

Rabbi YY Jacobson receiving two dollars from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, on Sunday, 26 Adar I, 5752, March 1, 1992. This was the last time the Rebbe would stand and distribute dollars; the following evening the Rebbe suffered a debilitating stroke.

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Class Summary:

Thirty years have passed. I can still in my imagination hear and see the Rebbe sharing these immortal words about the essential oneness of the universe, the essential oneness of each soul with G-d, and the essential oneness we have with each other and with our loved ones. The love lives on.

Dedicated by Meir Feldman in gratitude

I can still recall the moment 30 years ago. It was Sunday, March 1, 1992. The Lubavitcher Rebbe stood for approximately six hours at his center in Brooklyn, distributing dollars, counsel, and blessings to thousands. I was one of many who went to receive a dollar from the Rebbe that Sunday, the last time he would distribute dollars for charity.

It was 5:55 p.m. Right in front of me, a father held his daughter, she seemed to be four or five years old. As the Rebbe gave her a blessing and a dollar to give to charity, the cute little girl looked him in the eyes and said, “Lubavitcher Rebbe, I love you!”

The Rebbe’s secretaries standing nearby were naturally taken aback, but the Rebbe’s face lit up, his heartwarming smile filled the room. I will never forget the moment: The Rebbe, 89 years old, exhausted from standing, listening, and speaking for so many hours, was glowing.

The Rebbe said to her: “Thank you very much.” As the little girl was about to move on, the Rebbe gave her a second dollar and said: “This is for your love.”

Those were the last words I ever heard from my Rebbe.

Twenty-four hours later, while standing in prayer at the resting place of his father-in-law, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (known as the Rebbe Rayatz, 1880-1950), he suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Two years later, he returned his soul to its Maker.

Just one day earlier, on Shabbos, Feb. 29, 1992 (Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 25 Adar I, Parshas Shekalim, 5752, which is identical to the way the calendar is set up this year 5782-2022), the Lubavitcher Rebbe held what would be his last “farbrengen,” public gathering of Torah, song, and inspiration. I had the privilege of attending it and I want to share a few ideas based on what I heard from the Rebbe during what would turn out to be his final public address.

The Portion of the Coins

This Shabbos, Jews the world over read, in addition to the weekly Torah portion, an extra Torah portion, known as Parshas Shekalim, or the "portion of the coins."

This section of the Torah[1] records the mitzvah incumbent upon the people of Israel, to make a yearly contribution of a half-shekel to cover the cost of all communal Temple offerings. A shekel was a specific weight of silver (around 12 grams) that was the standard coinage used by the Jews at the time. The Jewish people were instructed to contribute a half-shekel coin, which was a silver coin weighing about 6 grams, to the Holy Temple.

"This they shall give," declares the Torah, "A half-shekel of the sacred shekel; the shekel is 20 geras. "[2] A gerah was a small coin of silver. Twenty gerah coins made up the weight and value of a single shekel; 10 gerah coins, therefore, were akin to the weight and value of a half-shekel.

The Torah is also extremely particular about the amount of the contribution: "The wealthy shall not increase and the destitute shall not decrease from half a shekel."[3] I do not think there was ever again in Jewish history an appeal made setting a limit to the contributions of the rich!

This mitzvah that was given to the Jewish people while in the Sinai desert applied to all following generations as well. In every generation, every Jew was required to make an annual contribution of half his country's standard coin, to cover the cost of the communal offering brought in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.[4]

Time to Give

Why do we read about this mitzvah during this Shabbos? Because this yearly gift, contributed by Jews from all over the world, was collected during the Hebrew month of Adar so that funds would be ready for the month of Nissan. On the first of Nissan, the Temple treasurers would begin using the newly collected funds to purchase the Temple offerings for the following year. Therefore, this chapter in the Torah was read in synagogues on the Shabbos before the onset of the month of Adar, to remind the Jews that contribution time had arrived.

Although this mitzvah is not applicable today, since we have no Temple, it is still a custom in Jewish communities to read this Torah portion at this time of the year.[5]

In further commemoration of this commandment and before Purim, which falls in Adar, it is customary to contribute half of your country's standard coin to a communal charity. In the U.S., we contribute a silver 50-cent piece, since the dollar coin is our country's standard coinage, just as the shekel was during the time of Moses.[6]

A Celebration of Imperfection?

We can understand the value today of instructing every single Jew, from the richest to the poorest, to contribute an identical sum of money for the Temple offerings, underscoring the shared connection of the entire nation to the Temple service. But why does the Torah insist that the contribution consist of a half-coin, rather than a whole, complete coin? Why would G-d instruct the Jewish people to give a contribution that is incomplete?

What is more, the Torah demands that all elements connected to the Temple service should be as complete and perfect as possible. For example, it was prohibited to bring a blemished animal as an offering to the Temple; a blemished or wounded Kohen (priest) could not serve in the Temple; the vessels used in the Temple for various purposes had to be whole and would always be filled to the top.[7] All of this expressed the notion that one ought to serve G-d with fullness and wholeness.

Yet, for the Jewish people's annual gift to cover the cost of the unblemished offerings throughout the year, they are instructed to present a "half-baked" gift. They are required to give precisely half of the country's standard coin, not the full, complete coin. Only if you presented the half-coin was your contribution welcomed; if you gave a complete shekel your contribution was rejected. This seems quite bizarre, to insist on Jews giving an imperfect gift!

The conclusion seems strange: All the offerings which had to be complete were purchased from these coins which had to be incomplete!

Another point to reflect upon is the Torah's specifying the amount of the shekel as 20 geras. Since the Jewish people were required to give half a shekel, not a whole shekel, why does the Torah specify the sum of a shekel, rather than the sum of a half-shekel, 10 gera?

The Search for Self

The truth is that the Torah desired every Jew to contribute a whole, not a half, shekel. That is why the Torah specifies the amount of a whole shekel (20 geras) and not the sum of a half-shekel (10 geras). The Torah wants every individual to contribute a complete, unflawed shekel.

The question is how do we define the individual contributor? Where do I end and where do you begin? Is man, in his deepest place, an isolated and lonely creature, struggling with a mysterious and complex self in a way that nobody else can understand or appreciate? Or is man, in his most profound space, an integrated spirit, interconnected to others?

Many philosophical and spiritual disciplines eloquently describe the solitariness you experience when you travel deeper into the self. The deeper you go, the lonelier you become.

This is a compelling view—and it, of course, has a deep truth to it. In the words of Hillel in the Ethics of the Fathers, “If I am not for myself, who will be here for me?!” Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik wrote a famous work The Lonely Man of Faith, its main thesis that a life of faith is a life of profound existential loneliness. 

But there is still a deeper truth. "The souls of all our people are essentially one," writes Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), one of the greatest Jewish thinkers and mystics, in his Tanya. "Our bodies may appear distinct; our souls are one."[8] When we cut through the external strata of the human personality and reach into the core, we discover not loneliness, but oneness. Attachment is the basic condition of every soul: Attachment between you and G-d, attachment between you and me, and attachment between us and the entire cosmos.

The underlying fabric of existence is oneness. We are all part of that oneness—each one of us embodying another frequency of the infinite light, manifested and expressed through our unique body, mind, and soul. Of course, many of us suffer from attachment disorder; we feel insecure in our attachments. Our limbic brains go into isolation mode. But when I can embrace my true inner power, I can rediscover that I am not lonely. Like limbs of one body, we are all notes of a single composition.

The founder of the Chassidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) taught that if you feel lonely, you are stuck in the bubble encircling your soul; you haven't touched the sacred space of the soul itself. The moment you experience your soul, you experience oneness.[9]

The Tanya explains[10] that this is the path to experience authentic love. The distinctions between you and I exist only when I am in touch exclusively with my insecure and timid animal consciousness. My inner animal can feel the need to detach. But when I can allow my inner Divine consciousness to flow through my animal consciousness, there is infinite love. The soul loves to love.

When I am living with my external and timid self, I may delude myself into thinking that I am complete. When I am living with my deeper internal space, I recognize that, in truth, I am a "half," cherishing the opportunity to love and share, because you and I are one.

What Is Marriage?

This is essential to the Jewish understanding of marriage.

Marriage, too, can be viewed in two ways. One way is to view marriage as bringing together two distinct individuals who choose to link their lives for mutual benefit and the dream of love. If it works great, and if not, we move on.

As a result, we have created in modern times what researchers call a “culture of divorce.” It is not that people get divorced: Divorce is sometimes necessary and even lifesaving, and it is part of Torah legislation. It is rather that we often do not appreciate what marriage is, and the work necessary to create a powerful marriage.  

One Person, Two Bodies

Judaism views marriage as two halves of one whole reuniting. A Jewish marriage is not a union, but a reunion. G-d initially created woman and man as one entity and then divided them into two. "G-d created man in His image; male and female He created them," says the Torah.[11] The sages explain[12] that G-d created "a single individual with two faces." Then He divided them into two distinct persons, man and woman.

Why? Since G-d desired man and woman to be two distinct people and genders, why did He create them as one and then separate them? Why did He not initially create them as separate people, just as He did with other mammals?

The answer is,[13] because G-d wanted to demonstrate the truth that man and woman are essentially one. Even after they have been separated, they remain two halves of what is essentially a unified organism.

Marriage is not a suspension of one's natural individual self for the sake of uniting with a stranger. Rather, in a good marriage, a woman and man return to their deepest natural state, a unified and integrated being reflecting infinite oneness, each in his and her own unique way. Marriage—when perceived correctly, and when the husband and wife are ready to transcend trauma and begin to truly trust—allows a woman and man to discover their full and complete unified self, a self that is comprised of masculine and feminine energy.

Conflict Resolution

That is so important for conflict resolution. It is not about the husband or the wife winning the argument. It is about discovering the ability for both of them to experience oneness.

You don't come into the doctor's office with a hand infection and say, "Just amputate my hand and life will go on." Amputation is not an "option," only a tragic necessity in extreme circumstances when life is at stake. Similarly, with divorce, while in some instances it is the right thing to do, we ought never to treat it lightly, and consider it as part of our initial plans.

Who Are You?

Now we can understand the nature of the strange mitzvah instructing the Jewish people to contribute only a half-shekel.

The Torah wants each of us to contribute a whole shekel. But if I were instructed to contribute a complete shekel on my own, that might rob me of my deepest truth: that I am attached to you.

The Torah is attempting to teach us the secret of attachment. Together we are one, because we are really one. For the real me to contribute a complete shekel, I must contribute a half-shekel, allowing my other half to contribute the second half. When you and I contribute each a half-shekel, each of us has, indeed, contributed a complete shekel.[14]

You and I are one.

30 Years Later

Thirty years have passed. In my imagination, I can still hear and see the Rebbe sharing these immortal words about the oneness of the universe, the oneness of each soul with G-d, and the essential oneness we have with each other and with our loved ones. It is the consciousness of oneness, the Rebbe said, we are all craving for.

The love lives on.[15]

________________ 

[1] Exodus chapter 30 11:16.

[2] Ibid. 30:13.

[3] Ibid. 30:14.

[4] See Rambam Hilchos Shekalim.
There is an interesting argument among the Halachic authorities if males between the ages of 13 and 20 were obliged, in future generations, to contribute the half coin. Rambam (ibid. chapter 1) and Ramban (in his commentary to the beginning of Parshas Ki Sisa) hold that the obligation begins from bar-mitzvah age. However, Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 105) and Bartenura (Mishnah Shekalim 1:3) are of the opinion that the obligation begins at the age of 20. Cf. Minchas Chinuch ibid.

[5] Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim section 685 and commentators there.

[6] Rama to Schulchan Aruch Orach Chaim section 694.

[7] See Talmud Zevachim 81a.

[8] Tanya chapter 32.

[9] See Kuntres Ahavas Yisroel (Kehos, 1977); Sefer Haerkim Chabad under entry of Ahavas Yisroel. This serves as one of the most fundamental themes in the entire Chassidic literature.

[10] Tanya chapter 32.

[11] Genesis 1:27.

[12] Midrash Rabbah Bereishis 8:1.

[13] Or Hatorah Shmos vol. 6 Parshas Ki Sisa p. 1910; p. 1848.

[14] Women were not obligated to give this half-shekel; their contribution was a matter of personal choice (See Minchas Chinuch ibid). The spiritual reason for this may be that as explained in various sources most women instinctively feel that they are a "half." Thus, most women naturally cherish and value the magic of a relationship. Many a man, in contrast, must toil hard to learn and discover the truth that on his own, he is merely a half-entity, and that he will find his true self only when he becomes selfless. It was this notion that the mitzvah of the half-coin was attempting to inculcate within the heart of the male Jews.

[15] This essay is based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbas Vayakhel, Parshas Shekalim, 25 Adar 1, 5752, February 29, 1992.  It was his last public address. The section about marriage is based on a discourse by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek, published in Or HaTorah Ki Sisa p. 1910.

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    D’licia -2 years ago

    I felt that !! That is all, thank you 🙏🏼

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    Bryna -2 years ago

    Dear Rabbi Jacobson 

    Your words and memories are a pipline of incredible truth and wisdom. For many of us who were not fortunate , or maybe destined, to have lived in Realm of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and other Chassidic masters....your words and explanations are more than Oxygen to be able to endure the darkness and misery of craziness of our situation.  You give an infusion of Sanity and Courage  to endure our path  complicated as it is. B,"H

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Essay Shekalim/Ki Sisa

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • February 24, 2022
  • |
  • 23 Adar I 5782
  • |
  • 2467 views
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Dedicated by Meir Feldman in gratitude

Class Summary:

Thirty years have passed. I can still in my imagination hear and see the Rebbe sharing these immortal words about the essential oneness of the universe, the essential oneness of each soul with G-d, and the essential oneness we have with each other and with our loved ones. The love lives on.

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