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Holy Madness

Friday, 30 January, 2015 - 1:00 pm

A man was surprised to see an empty seat at the Super Bowl. He noticed a woman sitting next to the empty seat and made a remark about it to her. She looked at it tearfully and said, "Well, it was my husband's, but he died."

"Oh my!" he said. "I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm surprised that another friend or family member didn't jump at the chance to take the ticket."

"I know," she said. "They all insisted on going to the funeral."

***

We all have our insane moments, hopefully none as crazy as that grieving woman. But, honestly, how many times – a day – do we do something that we know is not good for us? How often do we ignore our mind in favor of our heart’s desires? Doing something that our brain tells us we should not do is crazy. Yet, many of us engage in this type of nonsensical behavior on a regular basis, perhaps daily.

Why do we do it and how do we overcome it?

***

Sixty four years ago today, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson took over the reins of the Chabad movement.  During the farbrengen observing the first yahrzeit of his predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneerson, he delivered his first Chassidic discourse, titled Basi Legani. Every year – for almost 40 years – he would continue to expand upon the theme of this discourse on this date.

One of the ideas that the Rebbe developed is the concept of shtus d’kedusha – translated loosely as ‘crazy holiness.’ A simple application of this idea is the commitment to do something sacred regardless of whether it is perceived – by yourself or others – as rational.  For example, eating kosher food might seem silly to some. One approach to persuade myself or others is to debate the pros and cons. Another entirely different approach is to simply dive into the spiritual deep end.

The difference between caving in to our irrational impulses and ignoring our mind’s comfort zone to do a mitzvah is not whether it’s rational. They are both illogical. It’s about whether it’s Divine. 

We often think of G-d as being the ultimate Source of Knowledge. While that is true, it also falls infinitely short of describing Him. Our minds cannot perceive infinity as hard as we try. We certainly cannot perceive the infinity of G-d. And it blows our mind to think that this infinite G-d is ‘encased’ in this finite world. How can He be infinite and finite at the same time? But He is.

So, really, G-d is way beyond logic the way we know it. (He also happens to choose to exist in logic, which is why we can relate to Him…).

The craziness of compromising our values is beneath logic. It is far from G-d.

The irrationality of committing to Torah is above logic. It taps into a place of holiness that our minds may be incapable of taking us. It may be the closest we can get to G-d.

***

In this week’s parsha Beshalach, the Jews witnessed the splitting of the sea. Their commitment to G-d – at that point – knew no bounds. It would be accentuated at Sinai, when they would experience Divine Revelation.

However, they wandered for forty years before settling down in the Holy Land.

Perhaps, there is a deep message in this sequence.  The events they experienced were on the level of shtus d’kedusha, crazy holiness. They saw G-d eye to eye.

But the mission is not to shed our sense of perception. We are rational beings.

The goal is to take the awareness of infinity and bring it down into our sane minds.

For that initial generation of Jews, it took forty years to bring Heaven down to Earth. They’ve given us the strength and courage to do it every day.

***

When the Rebbe took over as Rebbe, no one imagined that the words he spoke would be so telling of his mission on earth. The Rebbe, took the Jewish world by storm. He grabbed at what was beyond grasp – and put it firmly in our hands.

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