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The Squeaky Wheel
by Dr. Arnie Gotfryd

In light of this, we can understand the choice of oil as a metaphor for Chassidus. Oil has two distinctive qualities: it does not mix with any other liquid and it can penetrate all matter. The same is true of the teachings of Chabad Chassidism. It reveals the essence of our souls, the highest of our potentials. The Alter Rebbe's contribution enables this potential to influence and affect the functioning of all our powers, and thus be expressed in every aspect of our lives. The Rebbe - On the Essence of Chassidus


They warned me, but I didn't listen. At six months, I pushed off the mandatory oil, lube and filter. After all, the car was behaving so well. At twelve months, I pushed it off again, but six months after that... boom. The universal joint gave out. Until then, I didn't even know what a universal joint was, let alone that my car had one. That repair on my old jalopy would have cost $900, about what I paid for the car in the first place. I decided to scrap it - all for the want of a lube job.

I was defeated by friction, thje physical force that acts when two surfaces rub against each other. Friction slows things down, produces heat, causes wear and tear, and ultimately breakage, as I learned the hard way.

Please don't get me wrong - I've got nothing against friction per se. It keeps cars from skidding off roads, prevents nails from slipping out of walls, and lets us walk without sliding. We really couldn't manage without it. But - unmanaged, friction will wreak havoc on anything with moving parts.

Ever since the invention of the squeaky wheel, the method of choice, for mitigating friction has been grease, or some other lubricant, usually oil. When objects rub against oil instead of each other, they run more smoothly, consume less energy and last much longer, without heating up, or wearing down.

What applies to physical machinery relates to human relationships as well. When people 'rub each other the wrong way' that also produces friction. Instead of friendships carrying on smoothly, they can heat up and wear down, eventually grinding to a halt.

There are a number of gestures that can act as 'social lubricants,' to reduce friction between people. One can offer a friendly greeting, a smile, a listening ear, some food or drink, possibly even a gift. Such "shmearing" has been maintaining families, businesses, communities and societies since time immemorial.

The same principle extends also to the relationship between man and his Maker. True, friction only applies when the two beings are in close contact, and with the Creator, the distance between is essentially infinite. Despite all that, contact there is, and when our mitzvos are intact, the relationship runs smoothly.

Let things slip, however, and our misdeeds create friction between ourselves and Hashem, and things stop working out as planned.

In the Jewish calendar, we are heading into "The Three Weeks," the period from the 17th of Tamuz to the 9th of Av, historically characterized by our misalignment with G-d's will and His apparent misalignment with ours. The results of all that friction run the gamut from the breaking of the Tablets at Sinai and the breaching of Jerusalem's walls to the burning of the Temple.

How do we restore things to proper working order in our relationship with our Creator, without grinding gears, frustrations, failures and flare-ups? The solution in part is to oil the machinery.

Chassidus is compared to oil. It's a level of wisdom, spirituality and G-d consciousness that provides vitality and meaning to every detail of our Jewish lives. It's similar to oil that spreads to all moving parts, permeating and unifying everything. Our actions become buffered from the grind, more gets done, and more smoothly and easily too.

In our day and age, the complexity and rapid pace of modern life requires a level of physical lubrication that our ancestors never needed. For example new nanocoatings, based on the element boron, have been developed that are far harder and smoother than any lubricant previously known to man.

But the ultimate protection from the abrasive bumps and bangs of life won't come from hi-tech laboratories. It will come in the form of an ancient, special olive oil formulation used to anoint kings of the House of David, and Moshiach will be wearing it soon.

And once that happens, all our frictitious problems will vanish, our wheels will squeak no more, and even our joints will remain... universal.



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