Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Being a proper person — yes or no?

Once, the Alter Rebbe was given a silver tobacco box as a gift. Being a non-smoker, he used the cover of the box as a mirror to straighten his tefillin during prayer. A chossid relating the story said, “The Alter Rebbe broke the silver box and used its cover…”. Upon hearing this, Tzemach Tzedek corrected the Chossid, saying, “My grandfather never broke anything. He must have released the springs of the box, thus freeing its cover.”
First, the terms:

By “proper Jew” I mean somebody fully devoted in his life to service of G-d. There is only G-d, and my purpose in life is to connect to Him, to serve Him, to fulfill the essential reason why He created me and this world.

By “proper person” I mean a proper human being from Greek perspective — as far as intellectual awareness of the world is concerned (not in other… departments). A person fully implementing his potential as a human being. If you don’t like the term, use whatever term want. Use “proper iguana” for all I care.

Now, then. A Jew can ask the following questions in his life:

1. How can I be the proper Jew?
2. How can I be the proper person?
3. Will being the proper Jew help me be the proper person? If so, how?
4. Will being the proper person help me be the proper Jew? If so, how?

The first question is a question of an Orthodox Jew. The second question is a question of a secular Jew from intelligentsia family. The third question is a question of a Modern Orthodox.

The fourth question is a question of a pseudo-chassidic ba’al teshuva with baggage.

Can we utilize our knowledge of the world in our service of G-d? Bediyeved — seemingly so. What about lehatchilo? Can we do ishapcha to the goyishe Universe?

(I don’t mean just atoms and electrons. I mean a lot more. Lib… I can’t believe I am writing this. Liber… OK, deep breath, here goes: Liberalartsandsciences.)

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Thoughts out loud… Yes, I have read Ch. 8 of Tanya. Yes, I probably just can’t let go of the baggage. I don’t need a shrink to tell me that. That doesn’t mean the question is not valid.

(This was probably a sniff-box, used for sniffing tobacco.)

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Thanks to Rationally Pious for making me think about this.

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