Meditations and everyday wisdom from the teachings of the Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson
Compiled by Tzvi Freeman
Every person is a microcosm of the entire Creation.
When a person brings harmony between his G-dly soul
and material life,
he brings harmony
between the whole of heaven and earth.
G-d is not just big---He is infinite. If He were only big,
then those things that are small would be further from Him
and those things that are big would be closer. But to the
Infinite, big and small are irrelevant terms. He is everywhere
and He is found wherever he wishes to be found.
The Rebbe describes the following as the central teaching of the Baal Shem Tov:
Not only is the movement of a leaf as it falls off a tree,
the quivering of a blade of grass in the wind—each and
every detail of existence—directed, vivified, and brought
into being at every moment from above, but beyond that:
Every nuance is an essential component of a grand and G-
dly scheme, the gestalt of all those vital minutiae.
Meditate on this. And then think: How much more so
the details of my daily life.
For hundreds of years—perhaps since the beginning of
Creation-—a piece of the world has been waiting for your
soul to purify and repair it.
And your soul, from the time it was first emanated and
conceived, waited above to descend to this world and carry
out that mission.
And your footsteps were guided to reach that place. And
you are there now.
When you come to a place that seems outside of G-d's
realm, too coarse for light to enter, and you want to run
away . . .
Know that there is no place outside of G-d, and rejoice
in your task of uncovering Him there.
Fighting evil is a very noble activity when it must be done.
But it is not our mission in life. Our job is to bring in
We take the laws of nature too seriously. We think of the world as though it exists just as its Creator exists.
Therefore we have miracles. A miracle is a state of enlightenment that says, "Our reality is nothing but a glimmer of a Higher Reality. In that Higher Truth, there is no world. There is nothing else but Him."
G-d is not Nature.
But Nature is G-dly
Everywhere in the world, parents play peek-a-boo with their
children. It is a major discovery of life, a cornerstone in
human development; To realize that something is there even
when you cannot see it, that the world is not defined by your
subjective perception, that there is something that absolutely
is—whether you know of it or not.
All our life, all of the world, is G-d playing with us
that same game. He peeks with a miracle and then hides
behind Nature. Eventually, we look behind Nature to find
Talk is powerful.
Speak well of a person, and the inner good
within him, within you, and within all who participate
begins to shine.
When things don't work out, relax. Even if it's all your fault
and you deserve everything you're getting, trust in G-d that
it is all for the good, and stay calm.
When He sees how much you trust in Him, He will
make it for the good.
Do not confuse the pain and struggle of the body with
the joy and purity of the G-dly soul.
You cannot blame yourself, never mind persecute your-
self, for how you feel. But you can rejoice in the battle of
controlling and sublimating those feelings. Every small
victory within yourself is a major triumph over the dark-
ness of this world. Indeed, this is why this darkness was
placed within you, in order that you may transform it into
If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it,
then you have found a piece of the world that G-d has left
for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong and
how abhorrent it is, then it is yourself that needs repair.
People are mirrors for each other.
If you see the faults of another person
and they don't leave you alone,
it is truly your own faults you see.
This is G -d's great kindness to us,
for without this device
we would never be able to determine our true faults.
Everyone has his share of "not good." It's impossible that
a physical being should be void of faults. The point is not
to flee or hide from them. Nor is it to resign yourself to it
all. It is to face up to the fact that they are there, and to sys-
tematically work to chase them away.
This is how that darkness within us finds its way: First
it agrees with everything good we do.
When we choose to meditate, it tells us, "Yes! Meditate!
That way you will become a great sage!"
When we choose to do a good deed, it says, "Yes! You
are so wonderful! Think what others will do in return for this!"
Slowly, slowly, it convinces us that any good we do
requires its approval. And then, you've fallen into its trap.
Do good without reason. Then there are no traps
Mockery is the prime weapon of the dark impulses within Man.
It is the prime obstacle to moving forward and upward—the
thought that perhaps people will say, "Why are you behaving
today differently than you did yesterday? Weren't you good
enough then? Are you really so great today?"
And the most powerful mocker is the one within your
When you start something you know is good and right,
and you hear a voice inside saying, "Hold it! Who do you
think you are to take on such a lofty noble path? Hypocrite!!
Don't you remember what you were involved in just a
moment ago?"—know that what you did a moment ago is
irrelevant. All that matters is what you will do right now.
Any voice that comes to prevent you from progressing
forward—no matter how justified its case may be—any
such voice is a voice of destruction and decay, not on
growth and life.
Fasting and punishing the body is not a path for our gen-
eration. Not only because most of us are too fragile to
weaken our bodies any more. Not only because the faint-
ness of hunger can interfere with your ability to do good
in the world. But principally because now has come the
time to lead a spiritual life with the body rather than
You are the master over the animal within, not the slave.
just because it burns inside like a furnace doesn't mean you
Remember you are not the body. Neither are you the ani-
mal that pounds within the body, demanding its way in
every thing. You are a G-dly soul.
Advice on anger:
Prepare yourself with this meditation, and when you feel
anger overcoming you, run through it in your mind:
Know that all that befalls you comes from a single
Source, that there is nothing outside of that Oneness to be
blamed for any event in the universe.
And although this person who insulted you, or hurt you,
or damaged your property—he is granted free choice and
is held culpable for his decision to do wrong—
That is his problem. That it had to happen to you—that
is between you and the One Above.
Adam was the direct handiwork of G-d. No other human being
could ever be as magnificent. Yet he had only one temptation to
resist and he gave in.
This teaches us that the greatest challenges in life are those that
are closest to your purpose of being. To the point that if you wish
to know your central purpose in life you need only look at where
your greatest challenges are.
Captivity begins by believing that you are small and world is big.
Once you believe that, next you are likely to believe it will step on
you, and you fear it.
And then you come to obey it, then to run after it. And then you are
its slave, thirsting for water for the soul but not even able to remember
where to look for it. To fear the world is to deny the Oneness of its
There is always hope. Even when you mess up, you have
not wrestled control from Him. After all the dust has settled
where you are and how you are is exactly as He had
planned at the outset of creation.
And so, there is always hope.
In truth, there are two possible channels by which to
receive your livelihood, according to the perspective you
take in life:
You could decide to become just another clement of
nature, chasing after your bread in the chaos, running the
race of survival of the fittest.
And the fact is, you may even do well taking this route
in the short run. In the long run, however, your soul is
being denied its nourishment, and your body, too, will
never feel satisfied.
Or you could see your life as an intimate relationship
with the Source of Life Above—as though all your liveli-
hood was no more than manna from heaven, handed to you
personally and lovingly straight from the hand of your G-d
and partner in all you do.
Then your main job is to keep the basket where your
manna will fall sparkling clean, ensuring that no one is
being hurt or misled by your business. To spend the prof-
its you are granted on spreading kindness in the world.
Maybe you'll get rich this way. Maybe you won't. But
you will always be satisfied.
Healing - Ask the advice of a doctor who is a friend. Being a friend
makes a big difference.
Firm confidence in G-d can perform miracles of healing
Nevertheless, you should still follow the instructions of the
Not that it is the doctor or his medicine that heals—it is
the Healer of All Flesh who heals. But the doctor and the
medicine provide a natural channel for the healing to occur, and this is the way G-d prefers His miracles to work through natural means.
Four things advised for healing:
1. Find a good doctor and follow his instructions.
2. Dispel any thoughts about illness. Think only healthy
3. Strengthen your confidence in the Healer of All
Flesh, that He will heal you in whatever way He
4. Increase your study of the inner light of Torah.
The doctor has been licensed from Above to heal, not to
make predictions. Ignore the predictions and think only
A person is happy when he knows something worthwhile belongs to him. A person is very happy when he feels that he is small and yet he owns something very great.
We are all finite owners of the Infinite.
Fighting evil is a very noble activity when it must be done.
But it is not our mission in life. Our job is to bring in
Doing good is not about being nice.
You can do nice things all day long for many people, but it could be all just more service of your own self, food for our own ego.
When you help those who show gratitude, when your lend a hand to those who are on your side, you are still within the realm of your own ego and self.
Help someone you don't want to help. Help him and learn to want to help him - only because this is the right thing to do.
At first it may not feel so rewarding. But you have sprung free.
When you and the path you have chosen get along just great, it's hard to know whether your motives are sincere.
But when you come across a path to do good, and you see this path goes against every sinew of your flesh and every cell in your brain, when you want only to flee and hide from it - do this
Then you shall know your motives are sincere.
They think self-surrender means to say, "I have no mind. I have no heart. I only believe and follow, for I am nothing."
This is not self-surrender, this is denial of the truth. For
it is saying there is a place where G-dliness cannot be-—
namely your mind and your heart.
G-d did not give you a brain that you should abandon
it, or a personality that you should ignore it. These are the
building materials from which you may forge a sanctuary
for Him, to bring Divine Presence into the physical realm.
Self-surrender doesn't mean jumping off a bridge. Self,
surrender means surrendering the self. Putting aside the "1
want," the "I need," the "I think such-and-such." Even the
Self-surrender is the subliminal drive behind all authen-
tically good deeds. But as the world becomes more materi-
alistic and the challenges greater, the self-surrender can no
longer stay so subliminal.
Confidence is best found among the truly humble.
With the world, be firm.... Within, feel how
small you are before the Infinite.
We are all prisoners. But we sit on the keys.
The keys to liberation are clenched tightly in the fists of
our own egos.
People think that to attain truth you have to pulverize boul-
ders, move mountains and turn the world upside-down. It's
not so. Truth is found in the little things.
On the other hand, to move a mountain takes some
dynamite and a few bulldozers. To do one of those little
things can take a lifetime of working on yourself.
You do what you can: Learn and meditate and pray and
improve yourself in the ways you know how—and He will
help that what you do will be with Truth.
There are many truths. There is a truth for every being and
for every particle of the universe—for each one reflects its
Master in a different way.
To seek truth means more than finding your own truth.
It means finding a truth that works for you and for the
other guy, for now and forever, in this place and every-
where, for the body and for the soul, for the sage and for
the young, innocent child.
The higher the truth, the fewer boundaries it knows.
There are two paths you could take: An easier path or a
Knowing that G-d is everything, you may wish to reject
all the world stands for. Since everything is emptiness,
you may deny yourself even basic necessities, living far
and removed from the banalities of mankind, engaging
only in the truths of the spirit, running from the confines
of physical, mundane life.
This is the easier path.
On the other hand, knowing that within each thing
G-d can be found, you may be inspired to refine and
elevate our world, struggling with all its facets to find
their true purpose, grabbing every opportunity to
squeeze out a little more of the world's inherent good-
ness, living a spiritual life by using physical things in an
Both paths are true paths, and great sages have tread
them both. But the second, more difficult one is the one we
will all have the most benefit from, especially today.
A sharp mind will find a truth for itself.
A humble spirit will find a truth higher than itself.
Truth is not the property of intellectuals, but of those who know how to escape their own selves.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that in the heavenly court there is no one who can judge you for what you have done in your life on earth. So this is what they do:
They show you someone's life - all the achievements and all the failures, all the right decisions and all the wrong-doings - and then they ask you, "So what should we do with this somebody?"
And you give your verdict. which they accept. and then they tell you that this somebody was you.
Being now in heaven, you don't recall a thing.
Of course, those who tend to judge others favorably have a decided advantage.
Better get in the habit now.
We are all one. We are all fragments of greater souls, and those souls fragments of even more lofty ones, and so on with those - until we all link back to the one primordial soul: The soul of Adam.
None of us is complete. No one can stand on his or her own. What one is lacking the other fulfills, where one excels, another is wanting.
Only together can we find oneness in our own selves. Only together can we be a fit vessel for the One Above to be revealed.
The souls are all one. Only the bodies divide us. Therefore, one who places the body before the spirit can never experience true love or friendship.
To someone who wrote he was avoiding social activism
because it had been feeding his ego:
"And without the activism there is no ego? Better a
haughty activist than a self-centered do-nothing!"
Never underestimate the power of a simple, pure deed done from the heart.
The world is not changed by men who move mountains, nor by those who lead the revolutions, nor by those whose purse strings tie up the world.
Dictators are deposed, oppression is dissolved, entire nations are transformed by a few precious acts of beauty performed by a handful of unknown soldiers.
In fact it was Maimonides who wrote in his code of law, "Each person must see himself as though the entire world were held in balance and any deed he might do could do would tip the scales."
As soon as you start measuring good deeds to determine which is greater, which takes priority over the other - you have already entered precarious ground.
Your job is to do whatever is sent your way.
There is compassion that feeds the ego and there is compassion that humble it.
Compassion that feeds the ego is a sense of pity for those who stand beneath you.
Compassion that humbles is born of a deeper understanding of the order of things: When you understand that your fellow man is suffering in order that you may be privileged to help him - then you are truly humbled.
Each act of giving uplifts and purifies you a little more.
Keep a small charity box attached tot he wall in a conspicuous place, and place a few coins in it every day. Keep one in your home and one in your office.
Marriage is a microcosm of the soul's descent into the world:
If you are here looking for what you can get out of this world, then the world and all its trappings will only drag you down.
But if you are looking for what you can give, then you, your part of the word, and your soul all are uplifted and filled with light.
So too, when you enter a marriage: Look for what you can give, and reap harmony and love.
You complain that peace in the home is, for you, fraught with obstacles.
All of us today are souls that have been here before. In general, we return on unfinished business. Certainly, we are all responsible for doing all the good we can, and avoiding everything harmful. But that certain unfinished business, that is where the most obstacles shall be.
And those obstacle will be your only clue as to what business you are here to finish.
Nothing is greater than peace. Even when you are 100 percent right, and you know your spouse is 100 percent wrong, you can still give in for the sake of peace.
Every day, take one half-hour to think about your children and where they're headed. Then do all you can about it. The do more.
Give a child kind, nonpredatory stuffed animals to play with, like sheep, deer, giraffe, and such. What the child looks at in those delicate years has a permanent effect.
And earlier still: Life starts in the womb. Sing to the fetus good things and speak to it kind words.
If you tell a child, "Keep this rule because if you don't you will be punished!" the child has two doubts in his mind:
Maybe he won't be caught,
and if he is caught,
maybe the punishment won't outweigh the crime.
The child has to know that there is an eye that sees,
an ear that hears -
that there is a Higher Unseen Being
to which he is answerable.
This is the only way to reduce crime in America.
In the zeal to separate church and state, we have effectively
removed any concept of the supernal or the spiritual from
the classroom. A child grows up today learning about a face
value world centered around his own self. There is no awe.
Rather than teaching fear of a policeman,
we must teach our children awe of a Truth
that stands over them wherever they go,
an Absolute Truth
to which we are all accountable.
Only then can there be peace and justice.
At Mount Sinai, tradition tells, there was no echo.
Torah penetrates and is absorbed by all things, because it is their essence. There is no place where it does not apply, no darkness it does not illuminate, nothing it cannot bring alive. Nothing will bounce it back and say, "Torah is too holy to belong here."
You cannot separate the mystical from the practical. Each thing has both a body and a soul, and they act as one. Neither can contradict the other, and in each the other can be found.
Wonder never ceases for the enlightened mind. At every moment it views with amazement an entire world again renewed out of the void, and asks, "Why is there anything at all?"
The rebel is far closer to wisdom than the complacent child - as an ox is more powerful than a lamb. He only needs a wise person who can show him how to harness his strength and bring much good to the world.
Questions are also part of the truth.
In life, you don't get all the answers at once.
First you must absorb and live with one simple truth.
Then later you must find another truth -
one that may seem to conflict with and negate
all you previously learned.
Then, from that confusion, emerges a higher truth -
the inner light behind all you had learned before.
Meditation is this: Once you have thoroughly learned a concept and organized the ideas in your mind, you then try to visualize it, Once you have visualization, you try to feel the essential life of the thing.
If your mind is completely focused, then the idea will move you until you are no longer the same self and your day is no longer the same day.
Then it has become yours.
When you get up in the morning, let the world wait. Defy it a little. First learn something to inspire you. Take a few moments to meditate upon it.
And then you may plunge ahead into the darkness, full of light with which to illuminate it.
In creating the whole of existence,
G-d made forces that reveal Him
and forces that oppose Him -
He made light and He made darkness.
One who does good brings in more light.
One who fails, feeds the darkness.
But one who fails and then returns transcends that entire scheme. He reaches out directly to the Essential Creator. Beyond darkness and light. And so his darkness becomes light.
A meditation for when things get rough:
The world was brought into being with Goodness. And
the ultimate good for Man is that he should not be shamed,
but feel as a partner in the fulfillment of the Divine Plan.
Free bread is to us bread of shame—such is the nature
That is why nothing good comes without toil. And
according to the toil, can be known the harvest that will be
reaped in the end.
Depression, anxiety, and pessimism damage the channels
of blessing from Above.
The Zohar explains that there is a lower world—our
world—and there is a higher world. Our world is meant to
continuously receive from that higher world, but always
according to our personal state of mind.
If we are glowing with joy and vitality, then that world
shines upon us in its full glory. But if we wallow in depres-
sion and anxiety, then we can only receive the metered
trickle that squeezes through a constricted channel.
That is why King David said, "Serve G-d with joy!"
Because your joy here draws upon you another joy
People are not changed by arguments, or by philosophy. People are changed by doing. Introduce a new habit into your life, and your entire perspective of the world changes.
First do, then learn about what you are already doing.
A container is defined by its contents: A pitcher of water is water. A crate of apples is apples. A house, to, is defined by what is contains.
Fill your house with books of Torah, and your house becomes Torah. Affix charity boxes to its walls, and your house becomes a wellspring of charity. Bring those who need a warm home to your table, and your house become a lamp in the darkness.
Faith and Intellect - If you don't believe, then why does not believing concern you?
I do not accept your assertion that you do not believe. For if you truly had no concept of a Supernal Being Who created the world with purpose, then what is all this outrage of yours against the injustice of life? The substance of the universe is not moral and neither are the plants and animals. Why should it surprise you that whoever is bigger and more powerful swallows his fellow alive.
It is only due to an inner conviction in our hearts, shared by every human being, that there is a Judge, that there is right and there is wrong. And so, when we see a wrong, we demand an explanation: Why is this not the way it is supposed to be?
That itself is belief in G-d.
There is sub-rational faith - faith in dogma.
Then there is super-rational faith - intuitive
knowledge, consciousness of a higher reality,
a glimmer of the infinite within the finite human being.
If your belief system is based upon what makes sense to you, what you find most gratifying and what best accommodates your own self concept - then you will undoubtedly fear intellectual inquiry. At best, your approach will be subjective and bribed.
However, when your faith is based not upon your subjective self, but because this is the reality of your inner soul, a truth to which it is intrinsically bound - then you are not afraid to inquire. There is no apprehension of being proven wrong, only certitude that you shall understand more.
Therefore, only true faith can be truly objective.
Don't imagine that you can escape faith.
Every system of logic, has its axioms. Reason cannot move
one step forward without some assumptions upon which to
Let's say you saw a magnificent machine, with hundreds of thousands of parts, all working in spectacular unison and harmony, far beyond anything the human mind could contrive. And you examined the details of this machine and found that some aspects of its workings puzzled you. Would you complain to the inventor? Or would you pray in awe for understanding"
In general, the universe's wondrous design is obvious. We just have of admit insufficient understanding of certain aspects.
Einstein received acclaim for demonstrating that energy and matter are one. The scientist who demonstrates how all forces are one in a unified theory will receive even greater acclaim. Since we all agree that someone will eventually establish this, why not accept is right tnow, and we'll call it G-d?
Everything was created as a means to know G-d. Every discovery we have ever made was planted here in the six days of creation in order that we utilize it for a G-dly purpose.
A young biologist was working a NASA on a project to find life on Mars. He asked the Rebbe, "Is this okay? Some religions say we shouldn't search. After all, the Bible doesn't say anything about life on mars."
The Rebbe replied, "Professor Green, you should look for life on Mars and if you don't find it there, you should look elsewhere, Because for you to sit here and say that G-d didn't create life elsewhere is to put limits on G -d - and no one can do that."
A student begins as a sponge or as a funnel: Either everything is absorbed, indiscriminately - or everything passes in one ear and out the other. The first job of a teacher, therefore, is to direct the student and tell him, "Focus on this, this is important, Do not focus on this - this is only the background."
No one has ever seen, touched, or measured a particle or a wave of gravity. Furthermore, the very notion of gravity is mystifying: Masses light years apart with nothing between them, affecting each other's movements!
Yet we all accept there must be a cause behind the phenomena we observe, so we call this elusive force "gravity."
So too, there is a cause behind existence. That Cause may be even more elusive, but the reality of its existence is at least as inescapable and empirically evident.
We are not waiting for some great revelation from above to save us from our incompetence as guardians of this world and put everything in order. Rather, we are waiting to see the sun rise over everything we have done, to see the fruits of our labors blossom in an eternal spring.
It will come upon the world as a spring rain upon a plowed and seeded field. Plow and sow now, while there is still time.
...... A person is bred in that land of freedom and comfort,
worshipping it, chasing after it—but inside he is crushed
by the spiritual void. His inner being does not let him alone,
the spark inside that cries, "This is not what I really want!
I don't want this world! I don't want any worlds!
All I want is You alone."
The Seven Instructions of Noah
At the dawn of creation G-d gave the first human being six
rules to follow in order that His world be sustained. Later,
after the Great Flood, he charged Noah with one more. So
it is recounted in the Book of Genesis as interpreted by our
tradition in the Talmud.
For most of Jewish history, circumstance did not permit
our people to promulgate these principles, other than by
indirect means. When the Rebbe began speaking about
publicizing them as a preparation for a new era, he was
reviving an almost lost tradition.
What fascinates me is the breathing room they pro-
vide. They are like the guidelines of a great master of
music or art: firm, reliable, and comprehensive—but
only a base, and upon this base each people and every
person may build.
According to the sages of the Talmud, there are seventy
families with seventy paths within the great Family of Man.
And each individual has his or her path within a path. Yet
there is one universal basis for us all.
Anyone who lives by these rules, acknowledging that
they are what G-d wants of us, is considered by our tradi-
tion to be righteous. That person is a builder with a share
in the world as it is meant to be.
Here are those seven instructions, according to ancient
tradition, with a touch of elaboration:
1. Acknowledge that there is only one G-d who is Infinite
and Supreme above all things. Do not replace that
Supreme Being with finite idols, be it yourself, or other
beings. In this command is included such acts as
prayer, study, and meditation.
2. Respect the Creator. As frustrated and angry as you
may be, do not vent it by cursing your Maker.
3. Do not murder. Each human being, just as Adam
and Eve, comprises an entire world. To save a life is
to save that entire world. To destroy a life is to
destroy an entire world. To help others live is a corol-
lary of this principle.
4. Respect the institution of marriage. Marriage is a
most divine act. The marriage of a man and a woman
is a reflection of the Oneness of G-d and His cre-
ation. Dishonesty in marriage is an assault on that
5. Do not steal. Deal honestly in all your business. By
relying on G-d rather than on our own conniving, we
express our trust in Him as the Provider of Life.
6. Respect G-d's creatures. At the outset of his creation,
Man was the gardener in the Garden of Eden to "take
care of it and protect it." At first, Man was forbidden
to harm any animal. After the Great Flood, he was
permitted to consume meat—but with a warning: Do
not cause unnecessary suffering to any creature.
Maintain justice. Justice is G-d's business, but we are
given the charge to lay down necessary laws and
enforce them whenever we can. When we right the
wrongs of society, we are acting as partners in the act
of sustaining the creation.
"So I have done my part. From this point on, you
do whatever you can."