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"The Jew today has it easier"
Part two of a series of an audience with the Rebbe, of Blessed Memory in the year 1963
Student: What do you say of the present day?
Rebbe: Every era had those who are going away, and the same is true of 1963. But this is only for a certain period, for then a large percent return.
Student: They still believe in everything, in spirit.
Rebbe: You mustn't separate the spirit from actual life. There are also differences in spirit, but not within the practice. Not all pray with the same prayer rite, which is a difference of the spirit. Some pray according to mystical intentions, some according to Chassidic meditations, some according to Hungarian meditation and some pray with no special meditation at all. But the basic prayer rite in the essential parts is the same. Phylacteries had a different interpretation in Alexandrian Egypt and yet the same Phylacteries were put on the left hand and head, then and now.
Student: What is your opinion of the Jews of today, compared to those of long ago?
Rebbe: In my opinion you are very lucky in relation to the Jews of thousands of years ago. When a Jew was asked the reason why his behavior was different from all the people around him, he had no history to persuade people that he was right, for the Jewish people were only years or generations old. But now, after three thousand years of history in many different countries and conditions, 99 percent of these times under non-beneficial conditions, though no trace remains of the people who oppressed them Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks - the Jews survived all their oppressions, including Hitler's.
As previously said, you can't come with a ready-made theory, and you must study history and see where it points. The power to survive oppression is not something accidental, because they have the same history for over 3,000 years. All of recorded human history is only 4-5 thousand years, no longer. And for 3,000 of 5,000 years a single unusual phenomenon has occurred. A people who was always persecuted and a minority always survived its oppressors who were many times bigger. If you study books to see what their behavior was you can answer the question of why we are different, why we seclude ourselves without assimilating.
Student: Are people as religious today or less religious than those long ago?
Rebbe: Probably the same, however, it was much harder to understand then. For 2,000 years ago they could only base themselves upon belief without any facts, and now in the twentieth century we have solid facts to support us as to why we existed with the same behavior all these 3,000 years.
Student: Do you think that the Jewish people will always be a minority?
Rebbe: They probably will in the future also. But this doesn't bother me. If we compare vegetable life to inorganic, the inorganic is more abundant, and vegetable life is more so than animal life and animal life more than humans. Nevertheless, we do not expect humans to be more in number than the animals, vegetables and inorganic matter around them: the important factor is, who directs things: if the human is kind and peaceful, or like an animal, a vegetable or an inorganic thing.
One more point: Many circles today devote too much time to discussions. We live in an era when people need actions and deeds. It is the same as if there is an emergency case, there is no time to discuss all the possibilities and how to counteract them, if necessary. We must take all measures that are possible, from a day or a decade or a year before.
Our era has many emergency
cases and if every one of us has time and ample time, and discusses all
the possibilities and tries to invent, and postpones doing something until
then, it will take many years, and decades, and I don't know if it's right
to do this.
Student: Must we, then, be just men of action?
Rebbe: One should not think, "I want to show my inventive mind." It is more important to find good applications for the treatments used many years ago.
Student: Can a Jew in the army keep the Torah?
Many soldiers in the last war observed all the laws of Kashrus, as it
was their sincere wish. They brought to the Commanding Officer their sincere
wish, and kept it even overseas in trenches. It does not mean that they
always had the same tasty meal as everyone else, but they always had a
healthy menu. They got permission from their officer to observe the laws,
because it would not take away their capability to be strong, healthy
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