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I met Amos when he was 97, he was a sharp as a whip and read his whole life… – he had witnessed Hitler coming into Austria – He had escaped with his mother – He’d been part of the Jewish brigade fighting the Nazis – he had been part of the first Jewish army – he lived a full life – he saw history, he told me that he remembered how the silly secular Jews were so happy at the foundation of the state – in their illusions, they thought that the Arabs and them would now get along – what they didn’t seem to realize, what secular people never realize, is, that other people don’t fall into their perception of reality

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Tanya summary from my grandfather in Lessons In Tanya

The title page of the Tanya tells us that the entire work is based upon the verse (Deuteronomy 30:14), “For this thing (the Torah) is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” And the concluding phrase (“that you may do it”) implies that the ultimate purpose of the entire Torah is the fulfillment of the mitzvot in practice.

In order to clarify this, ch. 35 began to explain the purpose of the entire seder hishtalshelut (“chain of descent” of spiritual levels from the highest emanation of the Creator down to our physical world) and of man’s serving G‑d. The purpose of both is to bring a revelation of G‑d’s Presence into this lowly world and to elevate the world spiritually so that it may become a fitting dwelling place for His Presence.

To further explain this, ch. 35 quoted the words of the Yenuka in the Zohar that a Jew should not walk four cubits bareheaded because the Shechinah dwells above his head. This light of the Divine Presence, continues the Zohar, resembles the light of a lamp, where oil and wick are needed for the flame to keep burning. A Jew should therefore be aware, says the Zohar, of the Shechinah above him and keep it supplied with “oil” (good deeds) in order to ensure that the “flame” of the Shechinah keeps its hold on the “wick” (the physical body).

Basing himself upon this analogy of the Zohar, the Alter Rebbe asked (in the same chapter) why the “oil”—fuel—for the light of the Shechinah has to be good deeds. The divine soul is “truly a part of G‑d above” (ch. 2); why is it not sufficient to serve as this “fuel”? He answers that the divine soul, even of a perfect tzaddik, is a conscious entity. This conscious existence of the soul does not become utterly overwhelmed and nullified by G‑d’s Presence in the world to the extent that the soul can become one with G‑d’s Presence. Therefore, the soul cannot serve as fuel for the light of the Shechinah, for the “oil” must become totally converted into light (just as physical fuel is consumed, as it burns, to become converted into light), whereas the soul remains in conscious existence. Only good deeds—mitzvot—can serve as fuel for the light of the Shechinah, for they are G‑d’s will and His wisdom, which are expressions of His essence and thus utterly united with Him. For the soul to become united with G‑d, it must therefore perform mitzvot.

In this union of the soul with G‑d through mitzvot (ch. 35 continues), there are two levels. Through Torah study, the light of the Shechinah is revealed within the soul, together with the soul’s two inner “garments”—thought and speech—which become absorbed into G‑d’s light and united with it in utter oneness. But for the Shechinah to rest upon the physical body and upon the animal soul that animates it, mitzvot must be performed in actual deed, on the physical level—and this can take place only through the medium of the animating (or vital) soul together with the body.

In further chapters, the Alter Rebbe explained how the ultimate purpose of the entire Seder Hishtalshelut is the practical performance of mitzvot, which alone can reveal G‑d’s presence in this physical world. From there, he went on to say that in order to observe the mitzvot properly, with enthusiasm and “soul,” one must have kavanah—devout concentration—animated by the awe and love of G‑d. And in chs. 41-50, the Alter Rebbe proceeded to elaborate on various means of arriving at the different forms and levels of awe and love of G‑d.