Yisro: Jungle or Orchard?

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This week’s class is dedicated in honor of Chof Beis Shevat, the Yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson of righteous memory.

By Rabbi Chaim and Moussia Goldstein and Family.

Before a person converts, he is told, “Being Jewish is difficult.” Afterwards, he is told, “Being Jewish is great!” What’s going on?

Lesson Contents:

A. It’s A Beautiful World

The opening line of the Rebbe’s Yud Shevat maamarim is G-d’s statement, “I have come to My garden.” (Source 1).

What is the meaning of this passage?

The Rebbe explains that from a rationalist perspective, the world seems to be a jungle, where things are getting worse from day to day. The message of the maamar is, “It’s G-d’s garden” — don’t be discouraged by the negativity; search for the positive, and you are sure to find it. 

B. A World of Suffering

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the first convert, Jethro (Source 2-3). The Talmud says that every convert must be warned — Jewish life can be very difficult (Source 4).

The Rebbe asks: If life is so difficult, where exactly is this garden?

The answer can be culled from the life of Maimonides. His “Guide to the Perplexed” states that a person must always be optimistic, but his own life story was one of tragedy, loss and suffering. 

Clearly, there must be a way to combine to two extremes.

C. It’s All About Perspective

The answer is that it’s just a question of your own perspective. When you recognize that you are close to G-d, all suffering becomes irrelevant. If you earn a million dollars, the loss of a penny won’t bother you.

Jewish life has its hardships, but those pale in comparison to the fact that we are G-d’s chosen people.

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