Friday, 27 July, 2018 - 12:00 pm

Natan Sharansky was a mathematician and chess prodigy who gave up a privileged position in Russia to become a Jewish activist in 1973 when he became a refusenik. In 1977, he was arrested and served 9 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. As a result of international pressure, he was finally released in 1986. He moved to Israel, where, for a period of time, he was a politician.

He was asked to characterize the difference between himself and other Israeli politicians. He answered, “Unlike many Israeli political leaders, I went to jail before serving as a politician.”

This week’s Torah portion, Vaetchanan, relates Moses’ impassioned speech to his people about their history and destiny. The message and narrative are uniquely inspiring, as he recounted the unique story of the Jewish nation, one whose faith and heritage are not based on one prophet, but on mass revelation to every single Jewish woman, man, and child.

He also spoke of the possibility of Jews being scattered all over the world, among the other nations.

“You will seek G-d from there and you will find Him,” he said. What did he mean by these words?

The first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, explained it to mean that you have to search for what you lost in the place you lost it. “From there” you have to search for G-d. You need to search for truth in the “place you lost it.”

A man from Chelm saw his friend searching under the lantern burning on the street one night. “What are you looking for?” he asked.

“I lost my keys.”

“Where did you lose them?”

“A few blocks from where they fell out of my pocket, and I can’t get into my house.”

“But if they fell a few blocks from here, why are you searching here?”

“Ah, because there it is dark; here, there is light!”

It’s a Chelm story. But we do it all the time: We search for the solution in the wrong places. We like going where it is light; we do not want to search in the places we have to search—in the darkness.

“You have to search from there for your G-d.” You need to go to the source of the infection, not to the comfortable places.

It’s like the story of the two guys, a Jew, and a gentile, in the hospital; both have gout. The doctor came to examine the gentile and began poking around his foot, and the poor man screamed and yelled with pain.

Then came the Jew’s turn. The doctor asked him which foot had gout, and he pointed to his left. The doctor began to touch, poke, and prod and the Jew does not utter a sound.

Both the doctor and the gentile were amazed by this man’s self-control. The doctor exclaimed, “You are an incredibly powerful person; you are a source of inspiration and resilience! I never met someone with so much self-control. This is amazing, superhuman!”

When the doctor left, the gentile turned to his Jewish neighbor and said, “Wow, I am impressed.”

The Jew responded, “Not at all! You think I am a fool? I showed him the healthy foot!”

We sometimes do the same thing. We are happy to examine and fix things in our life that is “unbroken.” We show the doctor the healthy foot. But we need to search over there and go to the broken places. We need to examine the parts in us full of fear, pain, shame, and loneliness. We need to look for the keys to our souls, not by the lantern, but in the darkness.

Dr. Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) was a French biologist, microbiologist, and chemist renowned for his discoveries that saved countless lives.

In addition to his invention of the technique to treat milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, called pasteurization, and in addition to his discovery of disease-causing microbes, Dr. Louis Pasteur made another discovery that has saved many millions of lives around the world, and is undoubtedly one of the most important medical finds in history. This is the discovery of vaccines, which are manufactured through the use of a weakened form of the disease-causing bacteria, and used for immunizations.

Immunization is the process by which an individual's immune system becomes fortified against an agent. How? We inject a controlled form of the disease into the body. The body then produces antibodies that develop the ability to fight it. They also develop the ability to quickly respond to subsequent encounters of this disease because of immunological memory.

Pasteur’s research into immunization and vaccines began with work on rabies. When his success far surpassed his expectations, he applied the same methodology to other diseases. His discoveries still constitute the basis for all immunization research.

It is worth mentioning here—especially for those who oppose vaccination—that homeopathy, a natural method of healing, is based on a similar principle: that “like cures like.” In other words, a disease is cured using a remedy that would cause similar symptoms if taken in larger amounts. This form of alternative medicine is becoming increasingly popular in Western societies.

Fascinatingly, the Hebrew book Mevo She’arim, “An Entry to the Gates,” written during Pasteur’s times, includes a comment by Pasteur’s friend, Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Michael Rabinowitz, who said that the basis for Pasteur’s revolutionary research was the Talmud!

This is what happened:

While living in Paris, Rabbi Dr. Rabinowitz began translating the Talmud into French. When his friend, Louis Pasteur, saw a copy of Seder Mo’ed–the tractates dealing primarily with the Jewish holiday cycle–it roused his curiosity. To his amazement, he read there the following statement in the Mishnah in tractate Yuma:

“If someone is bitten by a mad dog [affected with rabies], he should be fed the lobe of that dog’s liver.”

The doctor was amazed at this healing method, which used part of the infected animal itself. He concluded that the Sages knew that an infected body produces antibodies, which attack an invading infection.

Moreover, it seems that the antibodies, which concentrate in the liver, could actually help heal a person who was bitten by a rabid dog. Dr. Pasteur immediately began a series of experiments that eventually resulted in the saving of millions of lives.

“You will search from there for your G-d and you will find Him.” The search for G-d, for purity, for light, for happiness, for healing, for recovery, for clarity, for wholeness, comes from the very place of the pain and the disease. Reb Zusha said you can learn something from everyone and everything. G-d is everywhere.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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