Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Today, the 24th of Tevet, is an appropriate date to recall two revolutionary ideas. They come from two spiritual giants with a rich and enduring legacy whose passing is commemorated today.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad chassidic movement, passed away 210 years ago. In the book of "Tanya" he writes the following: "The second soul of a Jew is truly ("mamash" in Hebrew) a part of God above." He explains that we have two souls -- an animal soul and a Godly soul. The second soul, actually, is pure Godliness. Many commentators pause over the word "mamash" (truly or actually). Do we understand that this is truly so, that there exists within us something that is supernal and holy? And do we grant it sufficient space in our lives?
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler passed away 69 years ago. His idea is not about what is going on inside us, but about the outside world and our relationships to other people -- to our spouse, our family, and all those around us. "More than love leads to giving, giving leads to love," he wrote. This is a radical idea since we are accustomed to thinking that how much we give depends on how much we love whereas, in truth, how much we love depends on how much we give. The more we care about and devote ourselves to others, the more our relationships with them become deeper and more meaningful.
May we be privileged to apply these two ideas throughout our lives. In their memory.