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This guy changed my life – today’s his birthday.

When I wrote in the subject line that this man changed my life I wasn’t exaggerating. His name is Rabbi Shalom Ber Schneersohn and he was born on this day in 1860 (and passed in 1920). 

Until I discovered his texts, I can best describe my life as being governed by a horizontal Judaism. I was culturally or socially orthodox. I was part of a historical narrative that was rich in ideas & experiences, my life was lived with the dogma, history and wisdom that existed prior to now. I was fortunate to grow up with an immersive Jewish education which made it simpler to draw inspiration from the horizontal Judaism and coupled with my social network my life defaulted to a ritually infused routine.

Of course having sat and studied Judaism and even received rabbinic ordination meant I had read texts that described a vertical Judaism but I didn’t live it or ‘know’ it. Rabbi Sholom Ber (commonly referred to as the Rebbe Rashab) taught me (through his incredibly methodical and detailed mystical writings) that I am part of a vertical continuum and that while Judaism plays out on a horizontal plain it is a vertical discipline.

But what is vertical/horizontal Judaism?

Horizontal Judaism is a practice based on history and cultural evolution rich in meaning and wisdom, its continuity is dependent on us passing it on to our children. Vertical Judaism is the discovery and revelation of the soul within all at all times. 

Imagine the sun above you, picture it radiating from within itself, shining its light out through space, through the layers of our atmosphere, through the clouds, through a skylight, through a thin curtain stretched across the skylight, through the space between the curtain and you and all the way into your skin and deep into you. Think of the light as a single reality in all of the above mentioned phases at the same time….. 

Space and Time are a series of prisms that exist in a particular order. History/science is us receiving the light that has shone through all the prisms up to this point, it is the story we use to communicate the lights journey. We generally view ourselves as existing on the edge of this spectrum. 

Kabbalah teaches that while we naturally feel a part of the horizontal (and therefor a part of the ‘Light’, as is everything), each moment is actually a vertical flow of ‘light’ that has manifest in a precise space/time. History/knowledge is actually a stringing together a series of moment-to-moment manifestations. Which means we are both a part of the light shining through the prisms (horizontal) and are also the Light manifesting in this moment (vertical). Leaving the sun metaphor, not only are we the manifestation of the light ‘below’, the Light being One means we are also the Light in its non-manifest form!

There are many soul types and cultures in this world each with a somewhat unique way of teaching and discovering these concepts. Kabbalah and Chassidus teaches that Judaism is a set of practices (including study) that empowers people with a Jewish soul to reveal this Infinite Light, within ourselves and everything around us.

The Rebbe Rashab’s writings unpacks the above so we can grasp the above ideas and incorporate them into every moment in life. He helps us live Judaism in the vertical experience, making it more than nostalgia or culture. His teachings have given me (and many others) the processes of Hisbonenus meditation and Kavanah living.

Today, on his birthday I felt compelled to share his existence with you. I encourage you to reach out to Rabbis, Rebbetzins, Chabad houses and Lubavitcher chassidim anywhere in the world and ask them to learn the Rebbe Rashabs teachings with you. 

And if you want to partner with me on making his ideas and Jewish experience more accessible to everyone let me know- I am looking for partners.

Have a wonderful and blessed day, may the Rebbe Rashab’s soul help our souls soar higher.


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