Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Mazal tov. Chabad was born today. The founder of the famous Chasidic movement, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was born today 270 years ago. The approach that he developed has had enormous influence on us until today. It seems to me that in our present situation, this approach is especially relevant. Here are several principles from chapter 32 of Tanya, Rav Shneur Zalman’s seminal work:
• “Therefore, all Jews are called real brothers by virtue of the source of their souls in the One God; only the bodies are separated.” In the root of our souls, we are brothers and sisters. Outwardly, we seem different and separate, but we share the same nucleus, a common denominator that unites us all.
• “For the basis and root of the entire Torah are to raise and exalt the soul high above the body.” Our whole story is really about the struggle between the soul and the body, between the spiritual and the material, between the right thing to do and our ego or self-interest. All along our lifetime’s journey, our challenge is to make the soul lead the body, and not the opposite.
• And what do we do upon encountering those who seem terribly mistaken and harmful, even wicked, whom the Torah enjoins us to hate and yet also to love? “Hatred, because of the wickedness in them; and love on account of the aspect of the hidden good in them, which is the divine spark in them, which animates their divine soul.” We need to hate the wickedness, but to remember that there is always a spark of goodness inside and therefore to love everyone.
The Chasidic revolution is not yet complete, but adhering to its prinicples can help us greatly during the present crisis.