ColumnJune/July 2016

Of the Book



By Daniel Bortz

{Translated from Likkutei Dibburim in Yiddish, a diary of thoughts from Yosef Yitzchak, 6th Rebbe of Lubavitch}


It was the summer of 1896, and father and myself were strolling in the fields of Balivka. The grain was near to ripening, and the wheat and grass swayed gently in the breeze.

            Said father to me: “See Godliness! Every movement of each stalk and grass was included in God’s Primordial Thought of Creation, in His all-embracing vision of history, and is guided by Divine providence toward a Divine purpose.”

            Walking, we entered the forest. Engrossed in what I had heard, excited by the gentleness and seriousness of father’s words, I absentmindedly tore a leaf off a passing tree. Holding it a while in my hands, I continued my thoughtful pacing, occasionally tearing small pieces of the leaf and casting them to the winds.

            “The Holy Arizal,” said father to me, “says that not only is every leaf on a tree a creation invested with Divine life, created for a specific purpose with an intent, but also that within each and every leaf there is a spark of a soul that has descended to earth to find its correction and fulfillment.

            “The Talmud,” father continued, “rules that ‘one is always responsible for his actions, whether awake or asleep.’ The difference between wakefulness and sleep is in the inner faculties, one’s intellect and emotions. The external faculties function equally well in sleep, only the inner faculties are confused. So dreams present us with contradictory truths. A waking person sees the real world, a sleeping one does not. This is the deeper significance of wakefulness and sleep: when one is awake one sees Divinity; when asleep, one does not.

            “Nevertheless, our sages maintain that one is always responsible for his actions, whether awake or asleep. Only this moment we have spoken of Divine providence, and, unthinkingly, you tore off a leaf, played with it in your hands, twisting, squashing and tearing it to pieces, throwing it in all directions.

            “How can one be so callous towards a creation of God? This leaf was created by the Almighty towards a specific purpose and is imbued with a Divine life-force. It has a body and it has its life. In what way is the ‘I’ of this leaf inferior to yours?”


Everything in this universe has a special purpose, and is therefore very valuable. If this is true of a leaf, how much more so the person standing next to us! ‘[Ben Azzai] would say: Do not scorn any man, and do not discount any thing. For there is no man who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.’ {Ethics of our Fathers, 4:3}

Even if we can’t see the real meaning and value behind things, we must try and attune our awareness to find this Divine purpose in all things. This is the function of the daily prayers – including blessings on food and other activities – to remind us to be conscious and aware of everything’s inner value, not taking anything for granted.

Wherever we find ourselves this summer, may we appreciate all of the nature we see, every creature we come in contact with, and elevate our surroundings through conscious appreciation of the Divine in that thing, benefiting everything and everyone we encounter.


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