The Sixties Radical-Azriel

G-d is the only one that can combine divine mercy and severity at the same time. Only G-d can bring fire and ice from the sky at the same time. Only G-d can be merciful and strict at the same time.

“The fifth plague was an epidemic that struck the Egyptians’ livestock. The sixth plague was a skin inflammation that erupted into blisters on the skin of the Egyptians and their cattle. The seventh plague was a rain of hail formed miraculously of ice together with fire.

The hail was very heavy, with flashing lightning in the midst of the hail. Exodus 9:24

Water and fire derive from and express the Divine attributes of mercy and severity, respectively. Thus, the uniqueness of the plague of hail was its blend of ice and fire, Divine mercy and severity. Similarly, although this was a particularly severe plague, as indicated by the harsh warning preceding it, this very warning included merciful instructions how to avert it.

Only G‑d can override nature and combine fire and ice. In the same way, it is only by rising above our natural limitations and connecting ourselves to G‑d that we can be both strict and merciful at the same time – both for our own benefit and for the benefit of others.1Likutei Sichot, vol. 31, pp. 44–45, based on Maskil LeDavid.

The Sixties Radical-Azriel

The broken shards of the first tablets are stored in the ark together with the whole ones.—Talmud Bava Batra 14b.

When you find the Infinite, where will you put it?

In your broken vessel? It will not stay.

In a new whole one? It will not fit.

Let the heart be broken in bitterness for its confines. Let it be whole in the joy of a boundless soul.

This is the secret that the human being holds over the angels: Only the human heart can be broken and whole at once.

The Sixties Radical-Azriel

Two rivers take you home: One flows with bitter tears of remorse, the other with sweet tears of joy.

For most of time, the principal path of travel was the bitter one. Only once soaked in those bitter waters could you rise to embrace your G‑d with joy.

But now we have experienced more than our fill of pain. That which our people suffered in lands across the ocean has purged every stain, bleached every garment of our souls, refined us and lifted us high.

We have cried enough bitter tears. Now is time to return with joy.

Maamar Margalia B’Fuma D’Rabba 5746. Blessing on Erev Yom Kippur 5750.

The Sixties Radical-Azriel

Think about this for a minute. “The most frightening facet of this plague was that the horde of wild animals attacked as a disorderly mixture rather than species by species. This anarchy and the terror it inspired are similar to what happens when the moral boundaries that keep society intact are breached.

There is value in questioning the established morals of secular society, but this can only be done when we are firmly grounded in our commitment to the Divine values of the Torah. Only when we are clear about what values are authentically holy can we properly evaluate each element of secular culture and choose what to co-opt and what to reject.

When we embrace this essential distinction between holy and unholy values, it is easier for us to enhance our connection with G‑d.1 Likutei Sichot, vol. 11, pp. 32–33.

The fourth plague was the sudden attack of a mixed horde of wild animals. G‑d had Moses tell Pharaoh that this horde would not attack the province of Goshen, where the Jews lived.

[G‑d instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh,] “I will make a redemptive distinction between My people and your people.” Exodus 8:19

The Sixties Radical-Azriel

This self of which we are conscious is but a tiny portion of the whole, the tip of a peninsula, a finely focused ray of an infinite source of light.

Upstream lies unimaginable wealth, storehouses of treasures left by many generations. Upstream lies every G‑dly act of our holy mothers and fathers, the strength and courage of every martyr, the unlimited power of G‑d’s breath within us.

When you dance and sing in the joy of a beautiful deed, listen to the music. You will hear your holy mothers and fathers of ages past, dancing and singing along.

The Sixties Radical-Azriel

Evil sucks the life out of everything it touches. It wants to suck the life out of holiness. G-d showed the Egyptians how they became indifferent to the one true G-d by infesting Egypt with lice.

This is one of those object lesson that must apply in my life. I must make sure I am not taking G-d and HIS Torah for granted. I must be on guard to not act indifferently towards the one true G-d.

The plague of blood was followed by the plagues of frogs and lice.

G‑d instructed Moses to say to Aaron, “Raise your staff and strike the dust of the earth, and it will turn into lice.” Exodus 8:12

The louse is a parasite; it lives off animals and people without contributing anything to their lives. It is therefore a metaphor for evil, since evil thrives by sucking the life force out of holiness rather than by its own merits.

Just as a louse can attach itself to a person only if his hygiene is lax, evil can only thrive when we allow our Divine consciousness to lapse, falling either into misdeeds or the apathy toward holiness that leaves us vulnerable to the enticements of materialism.

By infesting the Egyptians with lice, G‑d was showing them what their indifference to Divinity made them into: “parasites.” All their achievements in literature, art, architecture, science, and so on, served only to inflate their egos and enhance their material lives. As such, they were draining vitality from the forces of holiness in the world rather than aiding holiness.1 Or HaTorah, Bereishit, pp. 124b–125a, 444ab.

The Sixties Radical-Azriel

G‑d is always with the oppressed. Even if the oppressor is righteous and the oppressed is wicked, our sages tell us, G‑d is with the oppressed. (Lev. Rabba 27:7)

Visit the prisoners and bring them some happiness. Even if they are guilty; even if, in your eyes, they deserve whatever misery they have. Bring them joy.

And it is not only those in the penitentiary. A hospital, a home for the elderly, even a private residence of a lonely old man—these, too, can be prisons of the soul. Purim 5736:4