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In the Trenches

by Rabbi Eliezer Gurkow


Library » History » Chassidism | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The Pawn

What is your favorite piece on the chess board? The queen, horse, castle and bishop are all important, but the pawn has one capacity that the others don't, growth. The pawn is not at all versatile, it crawls forward one step at a time, yet when it reaches the other side, it can be transformed into anything the player chooses. It can even become a queen.

There are angels and humans. Angels are holier and loftier than humans. They are passionate about G-d, ecstatic in worship and thrilled to bask in the divine presence. Their melodies reverberate through the skies and their prayers make the hosts of heaven tremble. Yet they are forever chained to their original state. They cannot upgrade to a higher level. They cannot improve. They cannot grow. 

G-d's Sanctuary

G-d promised Moses, "Make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell in it." This promise does not apply only to sanctuaries of mortar, brick, silver and gold, but also to sanctuaries of heart and soul. G-d promised to dwell in the hearts of those, who transform their lives into sanctuaries for him.1

Some Jews live exalted, spiritually-holy lives. They are altruistic, honest and devout. Great scholars of Torah and absolutely committed to Mitzvot; they are rapturous with love for G-d. Such Jews certainly turn their lives into sanctuaries for G-d.

The queen, horse, castle and bishop are all important, but the pawn has one capacity that the others don't, growth
What of the rest of us? What about you and me? We struggle every day against our selfish inclinations. We are beset by jealousies and rage, phobias and fears, weaknesses and pride. Every day we struggle to overcome our human vicissitudes. At times we succeed ,at times we don't. Can we also become sanctuaries for G-d? Can our existence also be termed holy?

G-d's answer is, yes. G-d's Temple was built one brick at a time. His sanctuary within our hearts is built one struggle at a time. Unlike the officers on the chess board we cannot take mighty leaps or undertake fancy maneuvers. Much like the pawn, we crawl forward one step at a time, but with each step we draw closer to the ideal. With each step we are transformed into miniature sanctuaries for G-d.

Every time we overcome our base natures and do something for G-d we add a brick to his sanctuary. Every struggle is holy. Notwithstanding tomorrow's struggle, today's triumph is an eternal brick in G-d's magnificent sanctuary.

The Infantry

The great scholars and pious Jews are the primary constructors of G-d's sanctuary. How important are the efforts of ordinary Jews? The answer is, vital. 

Consider a military analogy. An army must have many weapons at its disposal. Tanks, planes, artillery and guns are all important, but they are not enough. To conquer the enemy you need foot soldiers.

The general, who plans the overall strategy makes a crucial contribution to the war effort. The admiral, who oversees the navy makes a similar contribution. Fighters and bombers destroy large swaths of the enemy's infrastructure. Long range guns and artillery leave large gaps in the enemy's lines. An army cannot progress without these formidable tools.

But these tools are not enough. To win the war, foot soldiers must be placed on the battle field. The infantry fights in the trenches. They subdue one enemy at a time. They conquer one inch of territory at a time. Bombers and tanks wreak more havoc, but the infantry wins the war.


  • 1. Exodus 25:8.


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Chassidism » Chassidic Concepts

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Plural form of Mitzvah. Commandments of G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.