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It's January 1! The day of new gym memberships and other resolutions. Although it isn't the Jewish new year, there certainly are a lot of Judaism-inspired new year's resolutions available to choose from.

One such resolution can be found in the writings of a 17th century French scientist named Blaise Pascal, known for being the creator of 'Pascal's Law'. Pascal was from the city of Clermont, an ancient town, and a historically significant one for Jewish life in Europe (in addition to giving Claremont Rd in Scarsdale its name).

By the turn of the second millennium, the main hub of Jewish life had shifted from the Middle East to Europe - specifically to the realm of the Kingdom of the Franks, which later came to be known as France and Germany. The Frankish ruler Charlemagne, who had had his Kingdom recharacterized as the Holy Roman Empire, welcomed the Jews to his domain.

The peaceful coexistence which the Jews enjoyed with their neighbors would drastically change in the year 1096. It was then that the 'First Crusade' was launched, an excursion which inflicted tremendous harm to the Jewish communities of France and Germany and began a slow but steady exodus of Jews from the area to Eastern Europe. The Jews took their German dialect with them, creating the language we know today simply as 'Yiddish' (which means Jewish).

This first Crusade, responsible for starting the exodus of Jews from Western Europe, was launched from the city of Clermont, Blaise Pascal's birthplace - which brings us back to 'Pascal's Law'.

Pascal's Law states that pressure applied to liquid or gas, at any point, will apply that pressure equally throughout the liquid. A common application of this law can be found in any gas station's hydraulic lift. By applying pressure to a small pipe filled with liquid at one end of the lift, that pressure can be multiplied by many times simply by having a much larger pipe at the other end of the lift - the pressure in the water will be the same per square inch in both pipes. If the larger pipe is fifty times larger than the smaller pipe, it will also multiply the pressure exerted in the smaller pipe by fifty times and can now easily lift a car or truck into the air.

Judaism has its own version of Pascal's Law - a small amount of effort which can produce an output many times more powerful than the input. It's called 'Ahavat Yisrael' - love for one's fellow Jew. 

Chassidic philosophy writes that when one acts with 'Ahavat Yisrael', it puts his or her productivity and impact on the world around them into hyperdrive. Like Pascal's hydraulic lift, bringing 'Ahavat Yisrael' into one's life multiplies the fruits of ones efforts 'by one thousand times', to quote.

As we begin 2021, a year we pray will be filled with blessings and health, among our other new year's resolutions, we can also adopt some of Pascal's message - unconditional love for our fellow Jews. Not only does this not detract from our love and commitment to all of our fellow human beings, it increases it. Love is multiplied, not divided, and one who loves and is committed to their own family is more, not less likely to be loving and kind to all people.

Merci beaucoup, Blaise! 

Rabbi Avrohom