Thursday, March 13, 2003

Seventy-three years ago, a female golden hamster was removed from her home to become the mother of a great nation. Every golden hamster in America can claim her as their mother--from the pets that get their aerobic workouts on metal wheels (early precursor to the treadmill) to those studied in laboratories by devoted scientist disciplies.
One such disciplie arrived at Brown from Cornell yesterday to talk about how this nation of hamsters define each other's identities. A key to the hamster identity is their smells. Each golden hamster emits a mosaic of odors from different glands of their body. No single one of the odors distinguishes them-- no mosaic distinguishes itself by a single tile--but a wide array of them. Some of these odors are used to mark territories, but the reasons they mark territories are not well understood--golden hamsters have become a domesticated nation, and few have been studied in the wild. Apparently one German scientist has set off for the Syrian desert on this mission, but between Beirut and the desert, no one else have been bold enough to brave such a laboratory environment. We do know that golden hamsters can distinguish well between the odor mosaic identities of their kin, and even of adopted kin which they grew up with. They tend to be less able to discriminate between strangers. But if they have fought with a stranger and lost, they will make a rapid retreat. I know a few people by scent, but I doubt if I could find them with nose to the ground.
"What's your name?"
"do you know what that means?"
"lion, yes?"
"yes, lion. do you know that your name has the hebrew letters aleph and reish in it? Light is in your name. Oori. My light. Well that 's not exactly your name, but it is in there."
Chabad identities are wrapped up in names. Chabad itself, is an acronym for "Chochma, beena, daat"--understanding, wisdom, knowledge. It is a sect of Chasidism--which roughly could be translated as rightousness. Chabad's rebbe is called the "lubuvitcher rebbe"--the rabbi of the city of love.
I read a letter about Jewish Mysticism by the Lubuvitcher rebbe Schneerson Z''L last night at a class on Chasidic meditation. He talked about transcending the dichotomy of body and soul--the nigleh and nistar, the revealed and the hidden. To give supremacy to the hidden, the soul, and through that supremacy unify it with the body. With one Torah, one G-d, one people on earch, he writes, there can be no dichotomy.
Chabad cares about names.