Hasidic Teachings on God’s Presence in Our Lives -Lesson IV

Hasidic Sayings - WHPC - Lesson IV

I. Re-cap and Introduction

II. This Week’s Sayings

A. Rabbi Uri said: “It is written: ‘And Abel brought, also he…’ He brought his own ‘he,’ his own self. Only when a man (person) offers himself, as well, is his offering acceptable.”

Rabbi Moshe, the son of the maggid of Koznitz, said “It is written: ‘Pure olive oil beaten for the light.’ We are to be beaten and bruised, but in order to glow with light.”

1. Let’s review for a moment what we’ve learned about the practice of sacrifice in the Bible and in our lives. What does sacrifice mean? How, in what ways, and for what purposes do we do modern forms of sacrifice in our own time?

2. Rabbi Uri is translating Genesis 4:4 accurately. What does it means that Abel also brought “he,” along with the firstborn of the flock? 

3. How and why do we bring ourselves in the offerings we bring? What difference does it make when we do?

4. There’s an analogy in the second statement between olives and us as to the process of making offerings. Can you explain it? What does this saying teach us about our getting near to God?

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B. Rabbi Baer of Radoshitz once said to his teacher, the rabbi of Lublin: “Show me one general way to the service of God.”

The zaddik replied: “It is impossible to tell people what way they should take. For one way to serve God is through the teachings, another through prayer, another through fasting, and still another through eating. Everyone should carefully observe what his heart draws him to, and then choose this way with all his strength.” 

1. Can you think of a common belief about serving God that causes great anxiety that this saying helps relieve? Do you practice to that common belief? Does it work well? And, if not, why not? 

2. What’s the alternative suggested by this saying? Argue against it, if you like. Have you ever followed this alternative approach? Does it work for you in bringing you closer to God and to a better way of serving God? Why? How?

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C. “You shall not make molten gods for yourselves.” (Exodus 34:17) This means: Do not have an overly rigid image of God. That is, do not make God into an idol.” Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

1. Do you see how the rabbi gets from the Biblical verse to the idea that we’re to avoid having an overly rigid image of God? Explain.

2. List ways in which people make or have an overly rigid image of God? How might each cause people to make God into an idol? What’s the problem with each?

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D. In the very act of praying, the rabbi of Lublin would occasionally take a pinch of snuff. A most diligent worshipper noticed this and said to him: “It is not proper to interrupt the prayer.”

“A great king,” answered the rabbi, “was once walking through his chief city and heard a ragged old street singer singing a song and playing the harp. The music pleased him. He took the man into his palace and heard him day after day. 

Now the minstrel had not wanted to part with his old harp and had to stop and tune it in the middle of playing. Once a courtier snapped at the old man: ‘You really might see to the tuning of your instrument beforehand!’ The harpist answered: ‘In his orchestras and choirs, our king has lots of people better than I. But if they do not satisfy him and he has picked out me and my harp, it is apparently his wish to endure its peculiarities and mine.’”

1. How is God like the king in the story? 

2. Is the rabbi justifying being inattentive or lacking in discipline and respect while in prayer by his occasionally taking a pinch of snuff? 

3. Rather, in telling this story, what is the rabbi saying God wants of us, and is accepting of, in our ways and our practices? 

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Hasidic Teachings on God’s Presence in Our Lives -Lesson IV

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