The Gemara tells the following story (Ketubot 66b): Rebbe Yochanan ben Zakai was riding on a donkey a short time after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and vanquished Jerusalem. On the outskirts of the city, he saw a young woman gathering grains of undigested barley from amongst the droppings of Arab-owned cattle. As soon as she noticed him, she sprung to her feet, covered her hair and pleaded, "Rebbe, give me something to sustain myself." He asked her who she was. She answered that she was Nakdamon Ben Gurion's daughter, who before the destruction of the Holy Temple, was the richest man in Jerusalem.
Our sages comment on the above episode and say, "How fortunate you are, O Israel! When you do Hashem's will, you are above the angels; no nation can prevail over you. But when you don't do Hashem's will, you are not only subservient to the most contemptible of nations and even below their cattle, but you are even below the droppings of their cattle."
No, there's not much middle ground for a Jew - it's either good or evil. A tzaddik who maintains a standard of impeccable personal holiness is higher than an angel; he gives off the spiritual fragrance of Gan Eden. But a lowlife who breaches every clause of personal holiness - like the one Racheli wrote about yesterday - stinks worse than the dung of an animal.
Rather than dealing with the stench of the dung, I prefer to deal with the fragrance of the holy.
King Solomon in Song of Songs (7:3) describes the Jewish People who fulfill Hashem's will as a "fence of roses". Why a fence of roses? Why the juxtaposition of the beauty and the thorns? What's the praise here?
With Hashem's help, I'll answer all those questions in today's emuna shiur and broadcast.
Don't miss this evening's vital emuna lesson and broadcast, which is also our Emuna News commntary for the week, entitled "A Fence of Roses", which will take place, G-d willing, in the ground-floor main sanctuary of the Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva on 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem at 7PM Israel time (12 noon EDT); the shiur is open to the public - both men and women are invited. You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time. If you are not able to view today's broadcast live, then G-d willing, you'll be able to see the video tape of it later this coming week on Lazer Beams.