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The Wheel of Life

by Yosef Rubin

  

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"There is a wheel that turns in the world" -- Talmud, Shabbat 151b

In August of 1940 the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch, wrote the following letter to Mr. Harry Hirsh, Chief-Editor of the newspaper Das Yiddeshe Licht (The Jewish Light). The newspaper had gone bankrupt, leaving Mr. Hirsh in a state of depression close to despair.

The Giant Wheel of Vienna

In Vienna in the garden of the city there are many wondrous things. Amongst them there is the “Riesenrad”, the Giant Ferris Wheel, a landmark of the Austrian Capital. Its silhouette rises to the sky and is seen from afar, so the wheel is a special attraction for everybody coming to Vienna. No one can properly claim to have been to Vienna unless he had “ridden on the Riesenrad.” High above the ground on the sides of the wheel, are attached cabins, which have glass walls providing the rider a panoramic view. As the wheel begins to rotate the attached cabins turn too. At its pinnacle height, it offers a magnificent view of the whole city and the landscape beyond. In this manner - as the wheel turns with the cabins going up and down - the Giant Wheel whirls away giving riders a wonderful view of this fine city.

As the wheel turns with the cabins going up and down - the Giant Wheel whirls away giving riders a wonderful view of this fine city
The Wheel of Life

Our Rabbis say, “There is a wheel that turns in the world.” The wheel of life turns, and along go the cabins with their passengers, up and down throughout the experiences of life. The nature of man is such that when he is in on the top of the wheel, he is in good spirits - he is happy and good-hearted. But in truth he is only a fool for feeling so, for his cabin is attached to a wheel that is constantly turning. One whose cabin is on the bottom and is crying about his plight is also a fool, for his cabin is permanently attached to a wheel that is turning. With G-d’s help the good day will come and his cabin too will reach the top.

Upward

The truth is we must strengthen our belief, hope and trust. Together with this we must do all we can as opposed to sitting with folded arms, crying about our past. With the help of G-d, I see your work coming to fruition for the good of the community; strengthening Judaism and spreading Torah with awe of heaven; which I live for - it enlivens my soul.

When one is in the middle of the wheel, it is possible to go up or down, however, when one is on the lowest point of the wheel whichever direction it turns you will ascend
With these words, the Previous Rebbe inspired Mr. Hirsh to continue pursuing his career. A month later he became editor of a prominent Anglo-Yiddish newspaper that bolstered Jewish spirits throughout the Holocaust period. Under the pen name A. Levitt, he used his talents in a more positive venue. With the Rebbe’s encouragement and support, he wrote a book on Genesis1 that inspired many to return to their roots. The book proved the existence of G-d, Divine Providence, and the Torah’s eternal truth.

The Cosmic Wheel

The analogy of the wheel is applicable to our personal lives and also, on a more cosmic level, to all of history. In 1982, the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn elucidated on this theme2 : “…In these days when one sees the redoubled darkness of exile in our times it is clear that we find ourselves in the last days of exile. Since the darkness is at its lowest ebb and it is not possible to get any lower, the time of the Redemption will surely begin now. This is understood from the analogy of a ‘turning wheel.’ When one is in the middle of the wheel, it is possible to go up or down, however, when one is on the lowest point of the wheel whichever direction it turns you will ascend. Since we have hit rock bottom it is now time to go upwards.”

Reprinted with permission from meaningfullife.com.

Footnotes

  • 1. The book was called "The Bible Unauthorized" which the Rebbe reviewed at the behest of the previous Rebbe. The author uses a pen name A.H. Moose. His Hebrew name was Aaron Halevi Hirsch - A is for Aaron, H is for Halevi and Moose is "Hirsh" in Yiddish . The book is described as follows: "A scientific treatise proving - by the account of the creation of the world and of man, and from other parts of the Old Testament, herein for the first time scientifically and correctly translated - that the true Bible is completely unknown to the world at large; and that its praise by devotees and abuse by opponents have both always mirrored the Bible most distortedly" Imprint New York [Rainbow Pub. Co.] 1942.
  • 2. Hisvadus Kodesh, Parshat Ha'azinu, 5743 pp 103, September 25 1982.

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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
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.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Genesis
The first book of the Five Books of Moses. It records the story of Creation and its aftermath, and chronicles the lives of the Patriarchs.
Yiddish
Language closely related to German commonly spoken by European Jews.
Lubavitch
Also known as “Chabad,” Lubavitch is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. “Lubavitch” is the name of the Belarusian city where four of the Chabad Rebbes (leaders) were based. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York, with branches worldwide. 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.
G-d
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.