From the Rebbe's remarks at a farbrengen (Chassidic gathering)
on Shabbat, Tevet 10, 5729 (December 28, 1968):
Yesterday, an event took place that had no known precedent
in human history: a manned spacecraft approached the moon,
orbited it several times, photographed both its light
side and its dark side, and returned safely
to earth at the exact time and place that were programmed.
The Baal Shem Tov
taught us that from everything a person sees or hears,
he must derive a lesson in the service of his Creator.
Indeed, this event, and its every aspect and detail, is replete
with instructive insights into our mission in life.
Some twenty-four hours before the conclusion of the space
mission, another event took place: a question was posed at
an Encounter session---a
question that the said space mission can help address.
A participant in the Encounter challenged one
of the speakers: I understand that under Torah law,
if a person eats a bite of non-kosher food, the penalty is
thirty-nine lashes. I think that what a person eats is his
own business. Laws should forbid and penalize actions that
are harmful to others and to society, but should stay out
of a person's private life.
The rabbi conducting the session was quite flustered by the
question. How to explain to a roomful of young people, raised
in free and democratic America, the fact that for an act as
harmless and personal as eating a
bite of food, the Torah instructs that a person be bound,
stretched out, and thirty-nine lashes be administered to his
bare back with a whip? After much hemming and hawing, he came
out with the standard apologetic reply: that in order for
a transgression to be punishable by lashes, it must be committed
in the presence of two witnesses; that these two witnesses
must first warn the transgressor of the criminality of his
deed and of the penalty it carries; that the transgressor
must commit the deed within seconds of the above warning;
thus, due to these and a host of other stipulations, this
penalty was rarely, if ever, actually carried out. It might
therefore be said that the Torah-mandated punishment of lashes
is more an indicator of the severity of the transgression
than an operative penal procedure.
All this is of course true, but it doesn't really answer
the question. Even if the penalty of lashes was administered
but once in hundred years, does the deed warrant such punishment?
And why does the Torah legislate such a gross intrusion into
a person's private life?
But our sages tell us that A person is obligated to
say: The entire world was created for my sake.
 In the words of Maimonides, A person should always see
himself as half meritorious and half guilty, and the entire
would as half meritorious and half guilty, so that when he
transgresses one transgression, he tips the balance for himself,
and for the entire world, to the side of guilt, and causes
it destruction, and when he does a single mitzvah, he tips
the balance for himself, and for the entire world, to the
side of merit, and causes salvation for himself and for the
Ingesting a spiritually toxic bite of food is not a harmless
act, nor it is a personal one: all of creation is deeply affected
by our every thought, word and deed, for the better or, G-d
forbid, for the worse. What greater crime can there be than
for a person to knowingly jeopardize his own well-being, and
that of his family, community and the entire world, because
his taste buds prefer a non-kosher cut of meat over a kosher
This is what is written in the books. The nature of man,
however, is that things are more readily understood and accepted
when he sees a tangible example of it. By Divine Providence,
we have such an example in the space mission concluded yesterday.
Three adult men were told to put aside all personal preferences
and follow a set of guidelines that dictated their every behavior,
including their most intimate habits. They were told exactly
what, how much and when to eat, when and in what position
to sleep, and what shoes to wear. Should any one of them have
challenged this dictatorial regimen, he would
have been reminded that one billion dollars have been invested
in their endeavor. Now, one billion dollars commands a lot
of respect. Never mind that it's not his billion--it's only
Uncle Sam's billion--still, when a person is told that one
billion dollars are at stake, he'll conform to all guidelines
and instructions. Of course, he has no idea how most of these
instructions relate to the success of his mission---that has
been determined by white-haired scientists after many years
of research; but he'll take their word for it, and readily
accept the extensive intrusion into his private affairs.
And what if at stake is not a billion-dollar scientific project,
but the divine purpose in creation?
 Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), founder
of the Chassidic movement
 What follows is but one of several lessons the
Rebbe derived in his talk from the said space flight. For
another of these, see The
 The Lubavitcher community in Crown Heights holds
periodic Encounter With Chabad weekends, in
which Jews of all backgrounds stay with Chassidic families
and attend lectures and workshops on Jewish thought and
 Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a
 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentence, 3:4.