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Thursday, 22 July, 2021 - 9:32 pm

Natan Sharansky was a chess prodigy and a mathematician, who gave up a privileged position in Russia to become a refusenik and Jewish activist in 1973.  By 1979, he was arrested and served 9 years in prison, much of it 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."


It is fascinating in this week’s Torah portion Vaetchanan Moses’ speaking impassioned to his people about their history and destiny. The message and the narrative are uniquely inspiring, the Jewish nation, the only one whose faith and heritage was not based on one prophet, but on mass revelation to every single living Jew, woman, man, and child.

Among his words, he speaks of the possibility of Jews being scattered all over the world, among all nations.

The commentators pick up on one word: “You will seek G-d from there and you will find Him,” What does this mean?

The first Chabad Rebbe Schneur Zalman (1745-1812) explains that you have to search for what you lost in the place you lost it. You need to search for truth in the “place you lost it.”

It is like the famous Chelm story.

A man from Chelm saw his friend, standing one night, searching under the lantern burning on the street. What are you looking for? He asks.

“I lost my keys.” “Where did you lose them?”

“A few blocks from here 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 do not want to search in the places we have to search for—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 gentile, in the hospital; both have gout. The doctor comes to examine the gentile and begins poking around his foot, and the poor gentile is screaming from pain on the top of his lungs.

Then comes the turn of the Jew. The doctor asks him which foot has gout, the Jew points to the left foot. The doctor begins to touch, poke, pull, feel, rub, and the Jew does not utter a sound.

Both the doctor and the gentile are amazed by this man’s self-control. The doctor exclaims: 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 leaves the hospital room, the gentile turns to his Jewish neighbor and says: Wow, I am so impressed.

And the Jew responds: Not at all! Do 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; I need to go into my broken places. I need to examine the parts in me that are full of fear, pain, shame, and loneliness. I need to look for the keys to my soul not under the lantern, but in the darkness.

Wherever you are, that is the place in which you will find G-d. We often make the mistake that we are capable of finding G-d only in particular places, times, and experiences. When I become normal, refined, pure, then I will discover G-d. But no! wherever you are, in your loss and grief, in your confusion and uncertainty, in your anger and shame, in your pain and frustration, —in all these places, you must search for the Divine and you will find him.

Instead of running away from my pain, I must be able to sit with it. And when I stare deeply into it, I will find my G-d there. G-d is everywhere.

 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 of treating milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, a process now called pasteurization; and in addition to his discovery of disease-causing microbes, Dr. Louis Pasteur made another momentous 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 using a weakened form of the disease-causing bacteria, used to immunize patients.

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

Pasteur’s research into immunization and vaccines began with work on the disease rabies. When his success far surpassed his expectations, he applied the same methodology to other diseases.

Until today, including in the Covid vaccine, his discoveries constitute the central 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, the 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.

Now, here is something fascinating. There is a book Mevo She’arim, written during Pasteur’s times, which provides us with an extraordinary comment of Pasteur’s friend – Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Michael Rabinowitz – who claimed that the basis for Pasteur’s revolutionary research was the Talmud itself!

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 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 human 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.

The 18th-century Chassidic master Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli encountered dubious characters during his exhaustive travels through the towns and villages of the Galicia region in Eastern Europe.

Reb Zusha said you can learn something from everyone and everything. For G-d is everywhere. Even from a thief. And not one lesson, but seven lessons.

He once said: I learned seven things from the thief:

1) What he does, he keeps to himself.

2) He is willing to take risks to attain his goal.

3) He does not distinguish between 'major' and 'minor' things but takes equally exacting care of each detail.

4) He invests great effort in what he does.

5) He is swift.

6) He is always optimistic.

7) If at first, he fails, he is back time and again for another try.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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