Sincerity and Uncertainty

There’s a concept in Judaism known as hashgocha protis. I suppose it translates roughly as “Divine providence”, or, as one of my friends beautifully defined it “being in the right place at the right time”. Yesterday, I wrote about doubts. About my own struggles on the journey of Torah observance. About the choices I’d made, and the regrets I had. And today, when I clicked on, I was greeted by the following quote from the Rebbe, adapted by Tzvi Freeman.

No matter how much you distrust your own sincerity or question your motives, there is no trace of doubt that at your core lives a divine soul, pure and sincere.

You provide the actions and the deed—just do what is good.

She needs no more than a pinhole through which to break out and fill those deeds with divine power.

I re-read the first paragraph, slightly awestruck. The words spoke to me, from a place of doubt and uncertainty. As I had presented my dilemma of religious observance and doubt, a number of friends had told me to ignore those who had abandoned me over the issue, reminding me that my actions were governed by my neshomo, even if I didn’t realise it.

And as I read the quote from the Rebbe, I realised it couldn’t have come at a better time. No matter how much doubt I felt as I kept the “difficult” mitzvos and navigated the orthodox community, my soul knew that I was doing the right thing. And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.


Until Moshiach Is Here

I am no stranger to criticism.

In my life, I have encountered countless remarks objecting to my lifestyle, my actions or my words. Some of these have been constructive; others have been purely malicious and hurtful; flung at me in a fit of rage, or repeated to crush my self esteem. But I have persevered and over the past year or so, I have attempted to distill my experience as a baalas teshuva in words, in the articles found on this website, and to share my knowledge with those around me, through divrei Torah, study groups, and chizuk. My intentions have always been pure: I am not motivated by fame or fortune, but instead I want to give back to the world in general, and to share what I have learned.

But recently, I have been subjected to disturbing and cruel comments and letters as a result of my desire to learn, write, and teach.

Online harrassment is nothing new to me. Cyber abuse and stalking have always plagued the time I spend online, and despite my attempt to guarantee privacy for myself and my family, a number of unsavoury characters have slipped “under the radar” and harassed me for days or months until I found the courage to report them. But targeting my website is something new, something I’m not used to, especially when it is done anonymously.

I want to share with you an email I received today. It began with my name- unsettling in itself, as my name is not mentioned anywhere on this website;

Dear (Name)

I just want to let you know I am not the real moshiach. My teacings are fake. Please don’t spread them anymore. You will have to accept that I have been dead for over 23 years now. I am no longer The Rebbe. I will be contacting all my chasidim personally to advise them the same. Please Do not quote me any more. I can’t rest in peace when people keep quoting me.

Peace be with you

Menachem M. Schneerson.

Never in the history of my running this website have I ever claimed that the Rebbe is Moshiach. Nor have I suggested that he was still alive, or will be resurrected. I know that physically, he has passed on, but I also know that his spirit still lives on; through the shluchim and shluchos around the world, through the Torah scholars and rabbonim, and, yes, through me.

When I advocate doing mitzvos and bringing Moshiach, when I teach others, and when I give to charity, I keep the Rebbe’s spirit alive. I am continuing his work, and no amount of disturbing anonymous letters are going to stop me. Whoever this person is, they live near me, and know my identity. And I don’t care. Because I’m telling them that I will continue spreading these teachings, quoting the Rebbe, and passing on my knowledge, until Moshiach is here-

May he come speedily and in our days.

Parshas Shoftim: Justice and Responsibility

This week’s parsha, Shoftim, contains a famous phrase: “Justice, justice you shall pursue”. The repetition of the word “justice” is the subject of much discussion among scholars and commentators, and is thought to emphasise the importance of establishing a just legal system. Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa writes, “Why does the verse repeat itself? Is there a just justice and an unjust justice? Indeed there is. The Torah is telling us to be just also in the pursuit of justice—both the end and the means by which it is obtained must be just”.

Clearly, justice is of the utmost importance in Judaism. In fact, upholding courts of law is one of the Seven Noahide Laws which apply to all mankind, and the Talmud teaches that a righteous judge is a “partner” of G-d.

Also contained in this Parsha is the law of the eglah arufah, in which we are commanded to find a criminal and force him to atone for his crime, even though the murder took place outside the boundaries of the city. The responsibility falls upon the city’s elders, but the Rebbe develops this concept to teach us about individual responsibility.

We read in his teachings, “A person never has the right to say, “This is outside of my element. I have no obligation to deal with this.” If it is something that, by divine providence, one has been made aware of, that means that there is something one can, and must, do to positively influence the end result”. Clearly, the Rebbe believes that everything happens for a reason, and we can combine his viewpoint with the verse about pursuing justice.

These two concepts- that of pursuing justice, and that of dealing with things which fall outside of our comfort zone, or the domain where we are in control- overlap. In the search for justice, we must look past our boundaries, we must look past our routines and defined roles, to ensure that righteousness prevails.

So important is this mitzvah to pursue justice, that we are all responsible for it. In our day to day lives, if there is something we can do to lessen inequality, prevent cruelty or unfairness, or aid the legal system, we must do it. It might not be easy, and it might not seem necessary, but it is, or G-d wouldn’t have made us aware of it

Divine Providence and Responsibility

Everything happens for a reason.

That is one of the lessons found in this week’s Parsha, which contains the law of “eglah arufah”. The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that this law, which deals with the complex situation of a traveler found murdered outside a city, speaks volumes about personal responsibility. His interpretation can be found below, courtesy of;

Our hands did not spill this blood, and our eyes did not see (21:7)

The principle behind the law of eglah arufah is that a person is also responsible for what occurs outside of his domain—outside of the areas where he is fully in control. When a murdered traveler is found out in the field, the elders of the nearest city must go out there and bring the eglah arufah to atone for the crime, although it occurred “outside of their jurisdiction”; for it was nevertheless their responsibility to send the traveler off with adequate provision and protection.

The same applies on the personal level in all areas of life. A person never has the right to say, “This is outside of my element. I have no obligation to deal with this.” If it is something that, by divine providence, one has been made aware of, that means that there is something one can, and must, do to positively influence the end result.

-The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Doing the Right Thing

I read the following Daily Thought, courtesy of, and it spoke to me in an indescribable way;

“No person can know his own inner motives.
He may be kind because kindness brings him pleasure.
He may be wise because wisdom is music to his soul.
He may become a martyr burned in fire because his heart burns with defiance.
How can you know that your motives are sincere? What is the test?
The test will be when doing the right thing cuts against the grain.
Torah Ohr 19b; Likkutei Sichot, vol. 20, pp. 76, 306–307.”

Thank you to for providing not only this, but millions of other sources of inspiration, to me and others across the world.

Transforming Learning

In today’s Hayom Yom we read about the importance of truly connecting to Hashem when we study Torah; “Uknei l’cha chaver (lit. “acquire a friend for yourself”) was changed to read v’kaneh l’cha chaver- “the quill shall be your friend”. This was, in turn, interpreted to refer to the “quill of the heart”, meaning that “whatever one learns one must experience emotionally”.

When I read about this today, I began to think about my own relationship with learning. When I read Sefer HaMitzvos, for example, I sometimes feel disconnected. Reading about the laws of keeping slaves and returning property is all well and good in the context of Biblical times, but the promise of “When Moshiach comes these laws will be relevant again” isn’t always enough to make me really connect with my learning.

B’ezras Hashem, in this day and age, there are a number of resources available to make learning accessible and relevant. There are videos and websites, shiurim and Q&As. There is no shortage of material, but unfortunately, I rarely find myself using it. Reading the Hayom Yom this morning strengthened my resolve to do so, and made me want to suggest that we all have an obligation to enhance our learning until we truly feel our souls connecting to Hashem every time we read words of the Chumash, Tanya, or any other text.

Torah study links the Earth and the Heavens, and we have a duty to do everything in our power to strengthen that bond.

Parshas Va’eschanan: The Missing Echo

In this week’s Parsha, Va’eschanan, Moshe Rabbenu continues his repetition of the Torah. He emphasises the unique importance of the events recorded in the Torah, and describes them as unprecedented, before going on to list the Asares HaDibros- the Ten Commandments- and the verses of the Shema, the Jewish declaration of faith. Amidst all these complex details and narratives, there is one short line found in the Parsha which has been commented on countless times and which, perhaps, holds the key to understanding life as a Jew in the 21st century: “With a great voice which was not again”.

This sentence refers to the Divine voice which recited the Ten Commandments to us, and many have attempted to interpret what exactly it means. Some suggest that it refers to a physical aspect of the voice: its power or the fact it spoke uninterrupted. Others believe that it relates to the unique and special nature of the event, an event which will never again be repeated. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe provides a truly dynamic and relevant explanation for these words.

He teaches us about the symbolism of an echo, and what the lack of echo represents: “An echo is created when a sound meets with a substance which resists it: instead of absorbing its waves, the substance repels them, bouncing them back to the void. But the voice of the Ten Commandments permeated every object in the universe. So any “resistance” we may possibly meet in implementing the Torah is superficial and temporary. Ultimately, the essence of every created being is consistent with, and wholly receptive of, the goodness and perfection that its Creator desires of it.”

The Divine nature of the Torah means that no matter how far away society seems from following Halacha, our very existence is in fact in line with the Ten Commandments and the teachings of G-d. Our minds may temporarily become distracted and we may stray from the precepts of the Torah but our souls still cleave to G-d and are permeated by His essence.

The Torah will always “fit in”. Sometimes, society seems as if it doesn’t, and sometimes societal trends tempt us to stray. But in these times- the footsteps of Moshiach- we need to remember what the Rebbe told us about the echo in this week’s Parsha, or rather the lack of an echo. Nothing can repel the Torah, and nothing can resist the Word of G-d. When we all realise this and implement the Torah’s teachings, we will merit to greet Moshiach (speedily and in our days, iyH!).