JUST THINKING ABOUT WINTER

By Rabbi Israel Rubin

The very approach of winter gives us the chills. As temperature drops, we protect ourselves by wearing coats, sweaters and scarves to prevent colds.

Insulation and anti-freeze, even warm clothes can only protect our outsides, but Torah warms our insides. Judaism invites us to come in from the cold to warm within "for a Mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light." This inner warmth can only come from a deeper study and appreciation of Judaism. It's an energy that we must generate ourselves. No one can do it for us. You can't just put on long johns or turn up the thermostat.

The primary symptoms of this internal cold are apathy and indifference. If neglected for too long, this cold can develop various complications: Cold Logic, Cold Shoulder and Cold Feet.

People who suffer from cold logic have great difficulty expressing their emotions. Their Jewish experience is limited to intellectual exercises on a strictly theoretical level, remaining cold and detached. It may seem like a cool idea, but a serious blockage keeps it all up in the head, so very little flows down into the heart to invigorate the rest of the body.

Then there is the cold shoulder malaise. Victims show weak signs of life and appear lethargic in their relationships. They give people a cold reception, and have great difficulty,    smiling. Even when they do something good, they seem to feel forced into it. :   The Talmud says: "The act of giving charity itself is not enough, it is the spirit in which it is given."

Cold feet can affect even the nicest people with the best intentions. It strikes suddenly at the last minute, after getting all excited and warmed up to something good. Imagined problems cause paralysis, and a lack of the strength to act positively.

Now here are some suggestions on staying warm. Always be vigorous and active. The actual exercise of Mitzvot provides inertia and creates energy that helps keep us warm.

Another way to keep warm is to share and team up with others. To quote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes: "Two are better than one, for two people keep each other warm, but one person alone-how will he stay warm?" It is much easier to be Jewish along with others as illustrated in this heartwarming story:

Two men were caught in a freezing storm. The weaker one almost froze to death, but his stronger friend kept massaging and rubbing him through the night. The weaker man thanked him for saving his life. "No" answered his friend, "I owe my life to you! I stayed alive by moving and massaging you."

© Rabbi Israel Rubin