Tazria: Lamplighters

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Who was responsible for streetlights in the olden days? What is the ultimate Jewish nail treatment? And how does it relate to being a Chassid?

Lesson Contents:

A. What is a Chassid?

The Previous Rebbe retold an exchange between the Rebbe Rashab and a chassid: “What is a chassid,” the chassid asked. “A chassid is a lamplighter,” the Rebbe answered. “He lights lamps even in the desert and even in the midst of the sea.”

Every soul is like a candle, the Rebbe explains. It’s our job to kindle every flame.

B. Who is a Lamplighter?

What makes a person into a lamplighter? What does it entail?

It entails self-sacrifice. The Talmud teaches (Source 1) that someone who burns his fingernails is considered a chassid, because doing so benefits others while harms oneself. That is true sacrifice, and that is a chassid — someone who relinquishes his own self-improvement for the sake of helping others progress.

C. For Whom to Sacrifice?

But some people are difficult to ‘kindle.’ Some are too ignorant, and some are too antagonistic. Are we responsible for them as well?

The answer is, yes. That is the metaphor of the sea and the desert. An ignorant person must be embraced, and he will come to appreciate Judaism. The antagonistic person will come around when he witnesses true self-sacrifice. No person can be left behind.

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