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The Noseless Mirror

And there you shall build an altar to the Lord you G-d, an altar of stones: you shall not lift up an iron tool upon them


Iron was created to shorten the life of man, and the altar was created to lengthen the life of man. It is therefore not fitting that the shortener shall be lifted upon the lengthener.

The Talmud, Midos 3:4

Its [the Torah's] way are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.

Proverbs 3:17

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi once received a silver snuffbox as gift. But the Rebbe did not want to put it to its intended use, and remarked: "There is one part of the body which is not constantly seeking gratification - the nose. Should I train it, too, to be a pleasure-seeker?"

Instead, Rabbi Schneur Zalman found a more lofty use for the gift: he detached the snuffbox's cover and used it as a mirror to help him center the teffilinon his head.

This incident was once related to Rabbi Schneur Zalman's grandson, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch. As the one telling the anecdote described how Rabbi Schneur Zalman "broke off" the cover of the snuffbox, Rabbi Menachem Mendel remarked: "No, no, my grandfather never broke anyone or thing. He merely removed the hinge-pin which connected the upper part to the lower."

Said the Lubavitcher Rebbe shlitah:

The deeper significance of Rabbi Menachem Mendel's clarification is this: Rabbi Schneur Zalman would never have "broken off" the cover. True, his entire life was devoted to sublimating the ordinary and elevating the mundane. But he taught that the way to deal with the material world is not to repress or crush it, but to gently detach the upper from the lower: to extract, by harmonious and peaceful means, its lofty potential from its lowly enmeshments.

The Positive Curse

All these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you (28:15)

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi himself served as 'baal korei' and read the weekly Torah portion in his synagogue. One year, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was away from Li'ozna for the Shabbos that the section of Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26-29) is read. In the Rebbe's absence, another baal koreidid the reading.

Ki Tavocontains the Rebuke, a harsh description of the calamities destined to befall the Jewish people should they forsake the commandments of the Torah. That week, Rabbi DovBer (son and successor of Rabbi Schneur Zalman), a pre-bar-mitzvah child at the time, was so greatly affected by the curses of the Rebuke that he developed a heart ailment. Three weeks later, when Yom Kippur came round, he was still so week that his father was hesitant to allow him to fast.

When the young DovBer was asked, "don't you hear the Rebuke every year?", he replied: "When father reads, one does not hear curses."



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