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The Fuel Crisis

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Mitzvot » What are they? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


It is safe to say that fuel moves the world. Since the production of energy requires fuel, without it the world would come to a screeching standstill. Until a viable internal combustion engine which uses an alternative fuel is mass-marketed, the world economy will be at the mercy of those nations blessed with large reserves of oil.

The holy Baal Shem Tov, the 18th Century mystic who permanently changed the Jewish landscape by introduced the teachings of Chassidut to a nation hungry for spirituality and meaning, taught the importance of enhancing one's service of the A-mighty by drawing lessons from all that one sees, hears, or experiences. After all, if every minute detail of Creation is directly controlled by Divine Providence, there must be a significant reason why G-d allowed an individual to be exposed to a certain phenomenon. This is all the more true regarding events which have global consequences, impacting the lives of billions of people.

In the thirty-fifth chapter of his magnum opus, Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the "Alter Rebbe" and founder of Chabad Chassidut, discusses the concept of spiritual fuel. Spiritual fuel, too, is indispensable: in its absence, all spiritual life is quelled. He quotes a fascinating passage from the Zohar which describes the fuel that powers a Jew's spiritual engine. The Divine Light, we are taught, dwells upon the head of every Jew, "and he must know that the Light which shines above his head needs oil; for the body of  man is the wick, and the Light is kindled above it. And King Solomon cried, 1 'Let there be no lack of oil above your head.' For the Light on a man's head must have oil, meaning good deeds."

The G-dly soul is selfish and has its own agenda. Mitzvahs, on the other hand, are the most selfless acts
Rabbi Schneur Zalman, in his distinctive analytic style, questions the Zohar's logic. Why can not the Divine Soul of every Jew, itself a part of G-d Above, serve as the oil for the human wick? Can the physical act of a Mitzvah possibly be easier to convert into Divine Energy than the G-dly soul?!

The Alter Rebbe explains that the soul is merely "crude oil" in comparison to the refined pristine oil produced through the performance of mitzvahs. The G-dly soul is selfish and has its own agenda. Mitzvahs, on the other hand, are the most selfless acts a person is capable of doing. For a mitzvah, by definition, is the suppression of one's own desires in favor of fulfilling G-d's will.

By now you might be wondering about the nature of the soul's selfish agenda. Here it is: "The soul of a person -- even if he be a perfect Tzaddik, serving G-d with fear and love of delights -- does not, nevertheless, completely dissolve itself out of existence, so as to be truly nullified and absorbed into the Light of G-d... but the person remains an entity apart, one who fears   G-d and loves Him." Simply put, the soul's agenda is to connect with G-d... While that may indeed be an incredibly lofty agenda, nevertheless, any sense of self whatsoever is crude and in no way fuel-worthy for G-d's infinite Light!

Now here's the really good news: There is no cartel controlling the supply or distribution of high octane spiritual fuel. Fuel is cheap and plentiful, with mitzvah opportunities looming at every corner and almost every moment of the day.


  • 1. Eccl. 9:8.


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Chassidism » Chassidic Perspective

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzaddikim). A saint, or righteous person.
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
The teachings of the Chassidic masters. Chassidut takes mystical concepts such as G-d, the soul, and Torah, and makes them understandable, applicable and practical.
Foundation text of Chabad chassidism. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, and first published in 1796. Considered to be the "Bible" of Chassidism.
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
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.