Rabbi Simon Jacobson Lectures

Rabbi Simon Jacobson Lecture: MOSCOW 2009 A Miracle in Our Times

Posted on February 6, 2009. Filed under: A Miracle in Our Times, Lecture of Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Lectures by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Lectures of Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Moscow 2009, Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Rabbi Simon Jacobson Lecture, Rabbi Simon Jacobson Lectures, The Truth, Torah, True, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

BS”D

Lectures of:

Rabbi Simon Jacobson

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Lectures of: Rabbi Simon Jacobson

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MOSCOW 2009

A Miracle in Our Times

By Simon Jacobson

February 5, 2009 – Moscow, Russia

Amidst all our current global turmoil, I would like to report to you that I find myself in a city which caused much upheaval in the last century, and despite all odds and predictions is now witness to a living miracle.

I should add that this miracle touches me very personally.

With great anticipation I embarked on my journey to Moscow for this present lecture tour. You see, this city is the birthplace of my father. Indeed, Russia is the country of origin of both my parents, my grandparents and all my immediate ancestors. It is also the birthplace of my mentor, the Rebbe, and all his predecessors. It is the country which gave birth to the Chassidic movement, which has deeply shaped my life with its transformative philosophy and blueprint for contemporary life.

The largest segment of American Jews trace their roots to this country.

The list is long with both the contributions and calamities of this historic country.

With my entire upbringing shaped by Russian influences, I was quite naturally looking very much forward to finally coming to the country that is so embedded in my genes and in my nurturing.

Right off the plane I felt right at home. All the words of my childhood come pouring out. “Spasiba.” “Das vi danya.” Dobre vetcha.” “Panyimayot.” “Tochne.” “Shto.” “Pazhaleste.” “Maladetz.”

Of course, the indispensable “tak.” And some words not for print. Lest you wonder, I feel quite inept with my knowledge of this language. I know just enough to answer “nimnoshka” to the question whether “panyimyot paruski?” and definitely “nyeta gavarit.”

Yes, I feel sense of belonging here. But little did I expect the intensity of my emotional reactions. I am actually now sitting and weeping as I think about the unlikely – unlikely is grossly inadequate; it’s more of a revolutionary – transformation that has taken place within yards from where I presently sit.

For over 70 years, from the time of the Russian Revolution, a war was waged from this city and country against Jewish life. Tragically, the Communists effectively closed down synagogues, schools and all the institutions that allowed Judaism to thrive in this country for centuries. In this city thousands of Jewish Rabbis, leaders, scholars, just fine people, were shot without just cause. It was the city from where Stalin drove terror into the hearts of hundreds of millions and killed tens of millions.

And on a personal note: It was in this city in 1937, in a neighborhood called Malachavkeh, where my grandfather and namesake was arrested by the NKVD, the dreaded Soviet secret police. A few years earlier, in the same city in 1923, my grandfather merited to be one of the ten individuals, who together with the Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak took a vow to the death to do everything in their power to preserve Jewish life in that country. Most of those ten were arrested and shot. My grandfather would end up exiled in Siberia for several years and finally escape the country, physically broken though spiritually stronger (here is a video of my father describing that dark night). Most others were not so fortunate. They were either killed or died from hunger. The remaining Jews were persecuted and not easily allowed to maintain their heritage.

[Moscow was also the city which, in its Russian-style obstinacy, in the shape of bitter cold winter, froze Napoleon and later Hitler in their march forward to conquer this notoriously resilient country].

You would think that after all this there would be no remnant left of Jewish life in Moscow and Russia.

Quite the contrary.

Now I sit in Moscow and watch Jews who lived through all that terror – some of them quite elderly, many others are their children and grandchildren – and in one way or another have maintained their Judaism. Many others are reconnecting to their roots. It’s a complicated story; no one even knows how many actual Jews there are in this country. Many, many parents hid their identities from their children to protect them from the discrimination. So many others have intermarried. But one thing is for sure: The place is saturated with Jewish energy. It feels like being in a burned out building but you still can see the simmering embers that have remained burning – barely. But burning they are, and like the nature of a spark, they are flickering and beginning to burst into flames.

There is much work and hard work that still needs to be done, but what is so awesome is that the cinders have remained alive. After all this time and all the attempts to extinguish them, after two World Wars and all the upheavals in the last century, who would have thought?…

And this survival and revival is no an accident. Behind the scenes there were those in this country and outside of it that were risking their lives – with literal mesiras nefesh – to maintain the pilot flame. I will never forget my father’s description of a personal audience he had with the Rebbe, following his 1971 visit to the Soviet Union. My father delivered hundreds of letters written by Russian Jews to the Rebbe, pouring out their souls, asking for blessings and describing their challenges. Not to arouse suspicion, these letters were addressed, “Dear Father,” “Dear Uncle” and the likes. The Rebbe gently took the letters and began reading them. Within a few minutes the Rebbe was crying. My father, feeling uncomfortable remaining in the room with the Rebbe in such an intimate moment, slowly began backing out of the room. The Rebbe motioned that he remain. He stood there crouched in a corner, watching this rare sight of a holy man sobbing uncontrollably over the plight of his people.

These tears were not that rare. Over the years of his leadership, the Rebbe never ceased speaking out – crying out – for the Jews trapped on the “other side of the iron curtain.” I personally witnessed the unyielding and emphatic cries of the Rebbe, always citing the Talmudic declaration that “even an iron curtain cannot separate them from their Father in heaven.” You could see in the Rebbe’s appeals the profound concern and pain that he consistently carried inside for his brethren – who were also his fellow countrymen and women – living, suffering in the Soviet Union.

This concern was not limited to feelings. Not here is the place and the time to go into the Rebbe and the Previous Rebbe’s superhuman, underground efforts to keep the Jewish flame alive through all those hard years, via a secret network of activities that span back to the 1920’s!

That defiant effort alone – to stand up against the might Soviet empire and not accept defeat – should go down in history as one of the most formidable acts of heroism. But the story doesn’t end there. These herculean efforts yielded their fruit: The flame remained burning, while the Soviet empire crumbled. Fulfilling the prescient words of the Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak to one of his Jewish captors (from the notoriously hated “yevsektzia,” the Jewish wing of Communists): When the captor sneered to the Rebbe “Rebbe, mir velen zehn ver vet oisfiren,” we shall see who will prevail, the Rebbe replied: “ye, mir velen zehn,” yes indeed, we shall see…

And now we see…

To see the renaissance of Jewish life in Moscow – after all that transpired – is quite overwhelming…

What relevance does of all of this have to us today?

On the most obvious level: This is a story of hope. Should anyone reading these lines be in despair, feel hopeless or suffering in any form and fashion – I bring you live and warm regards from a city where hope and faith have prevailed over the harshest of adversaries.

As I was speaking the other day to a group of Russian Jews – I spoke in English simultaneously being translated into Russian – I could see the tears in the eyes of several people in the audience when I thanked them for remaining standing through it all. I could see the emotions well when they heard about the Rebbe reading their letters with tears.

After witnessing this all, no one should ever be able to say that there is no hope…

As so many of us are wondering what will come of our current economic woes, of never-ending volatility in the Middle East, of each of our own personal fears and uncertainties — Moscow 2009 is a powerful reminder that we know very little about the mysteries of life cycles. Yesterday, Moscow was destroying lives, today it is building them. Yesterday, Moscow all but annihilated Jewish life and morale. Today Jewish life is thriving here.

In the center of Moscow an impressive seven-story Jewish Community Center is buzzing with activity. From classrooms, synagogues, two kosher restaurants, community rooms, sports activities, dinner halls, ballrooms, and that’s not even half of it. Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar sits unassuming in his office, overseeing KGB headquarters on one end and an empire of Jewish institutions on the other. I am looking into his eyes to see if he senses the great miracle he is part of.

But awesome moments are never recognized as they happen; only in retrospect.

Moscow today is indeed an awesome sight to behold when placed in context of Moscow in 1937.

And its lessons reverberate. With crisis brewing world over, who knows where and when the next Moscow will emerge.

—— * ——

***

Above portions were copied from Lectures of: Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Of: http://www.MeaningfulLife.com

***


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Lecture by Rabbi Simon Jacobson: “2009: A Prediction”

Posted on January 13, 2009. Filed under: 2009 Prediction, A Prediction for 2009, Lecture of Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Lectures by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Lectures of Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Rabbi Simon Jacobson Lecture, Rabbi Simon Jacobson Lectures, The Truth, Torah, True, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

BS”D

Lectures of:

Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Brought to you by:

Lectures of: Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Of:

http://www.MeaningfulLife.com

This Lecture’s Subject:

2009: A Prediction

2009
What Will the New Year Bring? A Prediction

By Simon Jacobson

2008 was hardly the worst year in history, but it sure feels like it reading the news, blogs, commentaries and analysis of the past year. People are tentative and fearful.

The mood is generally miserable.

The outlook grim.

2008’s economic meltdown – you can check out all the historic statistics on any popular website – is nowhere close to ending. A global recession, considered by many unprecedented, has suddenly erupted, with a domino effect continuing to ripple through the world. Mumbai has shaken us all up. The Middle East is at war again, or should I say, not at war again, but an ongoing battle that never seems to end. What is even more distressing is that Israel, perhaps for the first time in all of history, refuses to acknowledge that war has been declared against it, and to act accordingly and decisively, instead of just reacting to the latest missile attacks, second-guessing itself and moving forward with so much uncertainty.

Read Israel Harel’s article in Haaretz, Israel Blinked First.

What will happen in the coming year? Will the new United States President change things, or will we have just more of the same? How many more foreclosures, bankruptcies, failed companies and financial institutions can we look forward to in 2009? What new revelations and corruptions will emerge? Will our economic systems fail completely or will they rebound? Are we headed toward better times or worse ones?

The questions are many.

Answers few, if any.

Predicting what the new year will bring can seem quite presumptuous, if not outright folly. Yet, I will venture to do so anyway. No, I don’t have a crystal ball. I have something far better.

Read on.

By looking back we can see ahead. The greatest guide for the future is the past. We cannot predict the coming year’s events. But we can learn from those before us who have seen and experienced far worse than we will ever see, and rose above it. What is the secret of the resilience and power of heroic people who endured and thrived despite great suffering?

One of the most remarkable and overlooked stories of history was the transcendent ability of Torah scholars to produce an enormous volume of literature despite the harshest circumstances surrounding them.

Throughout the Early and Middle Ages, with Jewish persecution at its heights, sages like Rashi, Ramban, Rabbeinu Tam, Rashbam, the Tosafists and so many others – literally hundreds of scholars – wrote thousands of pages, containing the most brilliant and eloquent commentary you will ever read. And no where in their writings will you find complaints, bitterness, depression or demoralization. Pogroms, the crusades, persecutions, expulsions, inquisitions were ravaging Europe. But as much as you analyze their words, you will not uncover an iota of the tragic and difficult events taking place around them!

Quite the contrary. Page after page is filled with inspiration, uplifting words, enormous strength and powerful insights.

Usually, you would expect to find some mention or reference in a book to the personal challenges of the author. Often authors bare their souls and their life traumas in their writings. But even when they don’t, with a bit of deconstruction and analysis, we can uncover the author’s personal traumas. Indeed, entire studies today are dedicated to show us how to recognize in an author’s words his abusive father and dysfunctional mother, every grievance against society can be seen in his pages.

When it comes to our Torah sages, you find none of the sort. No fear, no tentativeness, nothing in their writings reflects the most trying challenges of their times! And what is even more amazing is that this is not an isolated case. Literally every scholar and sage, from the time of Moses, through all the ages, left us with a legacy of writings that reflect a higher world, not at all scarred or touched by the horrible events of the world below.

Where did they have the composure, the presence of mind, to focus and produce such clarity? How were they able to not be overcome by doubts and fears for themselves and their families welfare?

Take Joseph in this week’s Torah portion: Despite his travails – sold by his own brothers into slavery, 22 years torn away from his beloved father, orphaned from his mother Rachel – you would think that he would have retained some bitterness. In fact, when Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, instead of fury and revenge, despite his great suffering, Joseph ends up calming his mortified brothers: “Do not feel guilty,” he tells them, “for it is not you who sent me here, but G-d,” in order to save lives!

(See this article).

Simply remarkable.

A powerful lesson for all history.

Where did Joseph find such strength of character, such power, to not allow his circumstances to shape his life, and instead he shaped his circumstances?

Was Joseph – and all the Middle Age sages – out of touch?

Hardly. They were keenly aware and sensitive to the welfare of their own children. Yet, they still were able to rise above the fray.

How?

The answer lies in a powerful expression: “az men iz tzugebunden oiben, falt men nischt unten.” When you are bound above, you don’t fall below.

This is the secret of transcendence: the ability to not be defined by the events around us; the recognition that we are products of our own perceptions, and we write the script of our own destinies.

Worship man-made devices below, and your life will be determined by your attitude. Connect to the sublime above, and you will be able to rise above the immediate events and move forward with fortitude and optimism.

If you feel that mortals – or money – control the forces of your life, then you have delivered your own verdict: You will be subject to these forces, with all their unpredictability.

If however, like Joseph, you recognize that the circumstances of your life are driven by a higher hand, and nothing, absolutely nothing that humans do can control your destiny, then you have freed yourself from the behavior of others, and can ride through the challenges and even discover how they have empowered you to “save lives.”

The very question – “What will be?” “What will happen?” – is our undoing. If you feel that things “happen” to you, or that you “find yourself” in a predicament or situation, then you have relinquished control, and surrendered your destiny to the “things” that you empower.

The secret to success in the new year is to not empower the weak forces that drive fear into our hearts. But to empower your own soul; to recognize that you have within yourself all the necessary strength to fulfill your life’s mission. To realize that things don’t happen to you; you make things happen. You don’t “find yourself” in situations; you place yourself in them.

We cannot control the events to come. But we can certainly control whether and how we will be influenced by them. Good ships are not those that can stop the storms or tame the waves; they are the ones that ride the swells, confident in their own ability to know when to thrust forward and when to slow down.

Not to minimize the challenges of our times, but we can hardly call 2008 the worst year in history. By looking back to far worse years we can learn how to proceed. And how much of our troubles are actually psychological? Imagine, if a critical mass would have a change of attitude, and learn from our predecessors how to “bind” ourselves to that which is “above.”

But for now, before we address the critical mass, let us look at ourselves.

No, we do not know what the new year will bring. But I will make confident prediction: Your attitude will define your year.

No matter what happens this year, whatever up and downs will be coming our way, your destiny will be shaped by your attitudes; you will experience exactly what you allow yourself to experience: You will either be dragged down by the gravitational pull of the earth that you worship, or you will be lifted on the wings of your soul that you believe in.

~~~~~~~~

***

Above portions were copied from Lectures of: Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Of: http://www.MeaningfulLife.com

***

We recommend that you visit them for more info and many many many many other articles on any and all subject you could think of…

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

*** We WANT Moshiach, Now!!! ***

By the way, You, too, can help hasten the coming of Moshiach, by doing ONE more Mitzvah. ***

*** We WANT Moshiach, Now!!! ***

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

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