Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for February 1, 2010

“…With a new song the redeemed ones praised Your name …”

Yankele was an average Kollel man – until the day his rich uncle decided to transform him into a prosperous individual. His uncle wasn’t satisfied with his promises, so a short while after his surprising letter arrived, he too turned up on Yankele’s doorstep. With his sharp mind Yankele soon learned the secrets of the business and in a short time was as familiar with the pathways of commerce as he was with the streets of his own city. Once his uncle was convinced of his business acumen, he broke off his support and gave him full reign over the company. Yankele became a real businessman; he bought, sold, amassed great wealth, and made a good name for himself in the business world.

Then, just at the peak of his momentum, things went haywire. A small miscalculation followed by a critical period until the mistake was found, and a mountain of debt somehow overtook and overshadowed the mountain of success. Yankele understood that he was in a real crisis and, having no other choice, turned to his rich uncle for help.

In his worst nightmares he never would have imagined the reply he received. Overnight his generous uncle had turned into a stranger. But the fear of bankruptcy didn’t give him the luxury to sit and wallow in his shame. He knew that if he didn’t find a solution, his life wouldn’t be worth living. He found himself a corner of a shul and opened up a book of Psalms. After an hour of heartfelt tear-soaked prayer, he returned to his office. His thoughts became clearer and he was able to see a new, broader perspective on the situation. Further analysis of the figures exposed a solution to the problem, and after a short while the business was running steadily again.

But the letter he received soon afterwards seemed to shatter his life in one blow. The bank manager was informing him, in no uncertain terms, of an unacceptable state of affairs. Huge sums that had been discovered to be non-existent had not only swallowed up his entire account, but had even put the bank into a serious predicament. Yankele made his way to the bank, his knees trembling. He could already see himself cut off from everything – his home, his fortune, his position, even from life itself.

On the threshold of the manager’s office Yankele stood rubbing his eyes, he thought he was hallucinating. If his eyes weren’t deceiving him, his rich uncle was sitting there sweet-talking with the manager. “Hello, Reb Yankele,” said the bank manager jubilantly, “please come in.” Yankele was already convinced that he’d lost his mind from the distress, “What on earth’s going on here?!” he muttered to himself. “Sit down, dear nephew,” his uncle said, placing a supportive hand on his shoulder, “Soon you’ll understand everything.”

“I wanted you to learn a few things,” concluded his uncle, after he’d explained all that had happened. “Firstly, I knew that as long as you didn’t put your head right into the murkiest depths of the business, you would never become a businessman. Nothing would have pushed you to find new solutions by yourself, and learn the true meaning of business, like facing bankruptcy. Only through this did you truly use everything you’ve learnt. Secondly, I wanted you to understand that business must be done coldly, dispassionately. You know now that I’m always here in the background, aware of everything that’s going on and ready and willing to help and support you. You know now that you worried in vain. So you should always know – whatever predicament you find yourself in, in business there’s no place for fear. You need simply to focus and concentrate on the situation in front of you; fear just disturbs you from coming to a solution and from taking a step forward with faith and bitachon (trust in Hashem).

The tales of the Exodus from Egypt arouse great excitement. It was the one time in history when the Creator completely removed the casing of the natural world, and revealed that everything is actually constantly run with Providence and miracles. At the Exodus from Egypt Hashem exposed His ‘Great Hand’, and showed His people a face of mercy and love. This reached its peak at the splitting of the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds. Hashem then took hold of all of nature, with all its ‘laws’, and crushed it for His beloved people. He brought together nature and Providence to show everyone who the real Boss is. Until the moment when the walls of water collapsed upon the Egyptian hosts, the idol of nature still called out, “I will chase them and catch them.” Hashem gave him the opportunity to express his strength to the very end, but then the miracle was wrought and ‘nature’ bit the dust.

With all this it’s impossible not to wonder – if Hashem had decided to nullify the laws of nature for the sake of the Jewish people, in order to remove them from the servitude of Egypt, couldn’t He have saved them from the terrible fear that they experienced until the moment the Sea split? Until Israel saw the dead bodies of the Egyptians and their wealth on the sea shore, they weren’t convinced that they’d truly escaped. We can understand that there are times of concealment, when Hashem conceals His Providence and allows fear to rule in the world, in order to test Israel. But at the Exodus from Egypt the conduct was specifically one of open love and mercy. What place was there for such concealment in the middle of such a wondrous and open redemption?

At the Exodus from Egypt great awareness was shined on us, but in the form of light; we were surrounded by the clouds of glory, and the redemption illuminated our minds. But it still wasn’t possible to live the redemption in reality, as part of real life. In order for the Exodus from Egypt to be eternal and to penetrate to the depths of our reality, it was necessary for us to pass through the Yam Suf.

At the splitting of the Yam Suf many things happened. The ‘Sea of Wisdom’ also split. When Israel walked through the sea, the wellsprings of wisdom were split open and became something tangible. The fear and dread that overcame us there on the sea shore, when behind us loomed huge physical forces, and in front of us raged a roaring sea – this fear forced us to turn the awareness and ‘lights’ of the Exodus into ready cash. Only then did the sea of wisdom split and penetrate into the reality of life, because only then did we experience what fear really was, and how even there, right in the midst of that dreadful terror, Hashem was to be found.

We also learned the lesson that no matter what the situation, it’s forbidden to give up, because Hashem is always just behind the curtains, and He is the one directing the show. He has a clear purpose – His interest is that we truly open up our minds, put our heads fully into the Torah that we’ve received and use this knowledge and awareness practically in our lives. This, He knows, we can’t do without first experiencing what fear is, without experiencing being right at the edge of the precipice.

The splitting of the Yam Suf connected the Exodus from Egypt with every situation that we’ll ever encounter in this world. The splitting of the sea was part of receiving of the Torah. We learned then that in order to get by in this world and see everything in the light of faith, we have to put our heads deeply into this subject, the subject of faith. Faith, Emunah, can’t be studied as an interesting intellectual theory, or be something we just give lip service to – faith has to be learnt and lived in the flesh.

Now that we’ve safely passed through the sea, we know that even if life seems to be leading us towards a dead end and we feel that with the next step we’ll be plunged to the depths – there’s nothing to fear, because behind the curtains Hashem is running everything. Today we know that we have to live life with joy and with songs of praise and thanks, because not only will Hashem save us in the end, but He’s also right by our sides, accompanying us in all our darkest moments.

But how was it possible to suddenly receive such awareness, such ‘seichel’, when we we’re so far from true awareness? How was it possible that we should suddenly succeed in thinking deeply about the Torah of Tzaddikim and Emunah?

The Rebbe reveals the secret in Torah 8 (second section). There he explains what the splitting of the Yam Suf really was. He says that both the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Yam Suf were wrought by the ‘Rod of Strength’ of the Tzaddik. To understand what this means, we need to go back a bit and explain that the Egyptian exile was in essence the overpowering of a spirit of impurity and blockage over the Jewish souls. Sin had made it possible for the Egyptians to take hold over the Jewish spirit. The ‘husks’ and evil became empowered and swallowed up the Jewish people, their souls, their sparks of holiness, and everything good. Throughout the years of exile tens of thousands of sparks of holiness became ensnared in the depths of the Egyptian soil, unable to raise themselves up and return to their places.

The redemption was a rectification of sin. Sins had created the concealment, so when they were rectified, the concealment automatically vanished. Someone capable of effecting such a rectification had to be a very great Tzaddik, such as Moshe Rabeinu. Such a Tzaddik can pray a prayer of severe judgments – a prayer that is like a staff (a ‘Rod of Strength’) that the Tzaddik sticks into the throat of the Satan, until he is forced to vomit out all the good that he has swallowed.

When Israel came out from Egypt, Egypt vomited up all the thousands of sparks of holiness and awareness that had been ensnared in its belly. This awareness was then revealed to the Jews by the sea. That is where Israel merited comprehending the waters of awareness, and they then began to hear appropriate rebuke. Because until then, back in Egypt, all their ears heard was inappropriate rebuke – rebuke that aroused a revolting smell in the soul, and weakened it. Now, by the sea, Israel received true awareness, and they learned how to hear rebuke in the correct way. It was then that they burst forth with the incredible song that will be heard in the future, when the whole world is filled with true awareness.

The Egyptian exile is representative of the exile of every individual. Sin destroys and clouds our minds, rendering us incapable of hearing rebuke, and therefore incapable of repenting, of doing teshuva. But the very great Tzaddik has the ‘Rod of Strength’ – a tremendous power of holy brazenness, and he is capable of bringing about forgiveness of sin, and can remove the concealment from our souls. When he does this, he splits the sea, and the souls and good that were trapped in exile start to rise up with a voice of song and praise. The song that’s then heard is rebuke from the one who knows how to rebuke, and a person becomes able to hear this rebuke and move forward in serving Hashem, without getting broken.

This happens essentially at the holy gathering on Rosh Hashanah, and this is the source for the obligation to travel to the Rebbe in Uman. There is where this rectification takes place. There the Rebbe tears off the veil of concealment from the soul, and the good starts to emerge. But something akin to this happens now too on Tu B’Shvat. This is also a Rosh Hashanah; it’s the New Year for the trees. On Tu B’Shvat something akin to the rectification of Rosh Hashanah takes place.

The Tzaddikim write that Tu B’Shvat is the time when the sparks of holiness and reincarnated souls that are going to come to their rectification through a particular tree, enter into that tree. This is the renewal of the trees that takes place, and these sparks immediately begin to be raised up and rectified.

Let’s also become renewed this Tu B’Shvat. Let’s remember that the splitting of the Sea of Reeds removed from us the veil of sin, and now a path of renewal, a path of serving Hashem with joy, praise and thanks has opened up wide before us.

“And I redeemed you …”

The current Torah readings are walking us through our ancient journey from exile to redemption, from slavery to freedom. Baruch Hashem we’re all wise and understanding. We all know what the Tzaddikim have taught us – that the Torah is eternal and is relevant to all people, in all places and at all times; that the stories of the Torah are not just a review of historical events of the distant past – but are lessons that are absolutely relevant to us. This is actually an explicit commandment of the Torah, “In order that you should remember the day of your coming out of Egypt all the days of your life.” The Torah commands us to ‘live’ the exodus from Egypt every single day. So many times a day we come across the words, “a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt,” in our prayers and Mitzvos.

Yet, here stands a Jew with full sincerity and asks, “What can I do? I just don’t relate to this story. It doesn’t do anything for me. I hear the Torah reading every week and every time I try again to find some personal relevance and connection to the story. I’ve tried learning the Medrashim, I’ve studied different commentaries, I’ve even managed to clearly visualize for myself everything that happened back then. This is all well and good, but it hasn’t helped to make any of this really permeate into my life, into my moment-by-moment reality. I can’t say that I’m fulfilling the command to feel “as if he himself came out of Egypt.” I just don’t feel it…”

What is the source of this problem? Why doesn’t the recollection of our redemption bring us to a sense of grandeur? Why aren’t we inspired by it? Why don’t we feel the need to dance and joyfully thank and praise Hashem for our salvation?

If we look deeply, perhaps we’ll discover that it’s our conception of ‘freedom’ and ‘redemption’ that’s the problem. We’ve come to accept meanings for these terms that are far removed from their true meaning. These concepts have become so twisted in our minds that they have no power to arouse us.

We’ve come to understand freedom and redemption in the way in which they find expression in the world. A nation lives in peace and contentment until one day a cruel dictator arises and takes the reign of power for himself. He piles on taxes, deals harshly with the citizens, destroys the state institutions, turns everyone into broken and crushed slaves, and the sun of optimism and positivity that once shone in the populaces’ lives is eclipsed. He rules for many long years. Generations are born, live and die in miserable slavery. Then, one day, some mighty warrior arises, conquers the state, removes the cruel dictator and takes over the reign of power. The slaves see light, the iron shackles are removed from their arms, and overnight they become free men. Understandably the day of the revolution becomes a national holiday; the populace flood the streets, dancing and crying out in joy, caught up in the stupor of freedom. Everything suddenly seems so wondrous and expansive.

But when a generation or two have passed, what’s left of that initial experience of freedom and redemption? No doubt the day of the revolution itself will remain a national holiday, celebrated in every corner of the land, but will the descendants of the original slaves experience even a minute amount of the feelings of freedom that their forefathers experienced? Will that joyous day have much relevance to the lives of the coming generations? Most probably not. And who knows when the next dictator may arise, even worse than the first one, and again turn the country upside down?

This is the way of the world. Today it’s like this, and tomorrow – who knows what will be? Such freedom certainly doesn’t bring much relief or meaning to the present moment.

If this is how we view the Exodus from Egypt it’s no wonder that our recalling of it, despite its many signs and wonders, does nothing for us.

What is True Redemption?

For sure it’s true that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and “The Lord our G-d brought us out from there,” and performed many miracles and wonders for us. And if Hashem hadn’t taken us out of Egypt, then we would, to this very day, be a nation of gypsies; a nation of downtrodden slaves.

But this wasn’t the essential redemption. Freedom from physical servitude and the redemption of the honour of the nation are not the most important points. The principal redemption from Egypt was the redemption of Hashem’s honour, whose name is bound up with our name; and the redemption of the souls from the forces of impurity and concealment that had settled upon them in Egypt. It’s almost impossible for us to understand what the Exodus from Egypt truly was – because true freedom and redemption are concepts we don’t understand. Only in the words of the Tzaddikim do we find the true meaning. For example, our Rebbe teaches us (Torah 7, Second section) that the Egyptian exile was a lack of faith. Egypt had trapped the Jewish souls into the realm of nature, astrological influence, black magic, impurity and a spirit of iniquity. The noble Jewish souls had been enveloped under a thick, unbearable veil of evil and dullness.

When Hashem saved the physical bodies from the physical walls, he more essentially redeemed the souls from their spiritual shackles. The Creator figuratively sent his hand right down the throat of Egypt and removed from its murky depths the people who had almost entirely acclimatized themselves to the coarse and sordid Egyptian way of life. He took these souls and peeled off the garments of slavery that enshrouded them – a shroud of coarse physical earthiness. He tore off the blanket of concealment that had enveloped their minds. He embraced them and proclaimed: “This is My people; these are My beloved children,” – the slaves who had long ago resigned themselves to their downtrodden state and who were so far away from a sense of closeness with Hashem and of serving the King.

All of a sudden it was revealed to them that they were actually the ones closest to the King of Kings. Hashem shined into them the loftiest awareness so that they understood, and could even feel, how in every move, Hashem is there, and how His glory is clothed in each and every act, however seemingly mundane. The bodies which had adapted themselves to harsh physical labour realised that their limbs were chariots for the revelation of Divine glory, that their bodies had become sanctified with great holiness. They suddenly understood that they were beloved children, and that with just one word, one sigh, one cry out, their Father is right there with them, by their side, delighting in their turning to Him to request His help.

The redemption from Egypt was the rebirth of the Jewish soul; the rebirth of awareness and faith. The redemption showed the Jewish nation what the world truly is, and what true perfection is. Israel saw and understood that a Jew has nothing to do with servitude and sorrow, and that the inheritance of Israel is Providence and light; songs and praise all day long.

Midrashim teach us what happened during the Redemption, but if we want to understand the deeper reality of what took place then, and the eternity of the freedom that we gained, we have to study the teachings of the Tzaddikim. This is what the Rebbe wants to give us – an understanding of what redemption really is, and what it means to live our lives with our souls truly free.

To learn this takes time – awareness isn’t acquired in a day. A person has to put his mind and heart into this, and through this expand and develop himself – this takes time and effort.

This is why we start learning the parshiyos that deal with the Redemption from Egypt in the month of Teves. This gives us plenty of time until Pesach to be patient and to attempt to arouse our hearts; time to seek to learn from our Rebbe’s words the light of awareness and the channels of thought that will bring us to see past nature and instead, see only Providence; time to learn how to find comfort and faith even in times of constricted consciousness and confusion.

When we merit starting to build our awareness, we can then approach the days of Pesach as befits them, and be prepared to receive from them the abundance of good and the enlightenment of awareness that they contain.

So long as we don’t merit grasping in our hearts the awareness that the Tzaddikim want to reveal to us; so long as creation looks to us as ‘just nature’ – the Sun and Moon shining as purely physical phenomenon, and the trees blossoming as just actions of nature; so long as sorrow and bitterness take up space in our world – we are still trapped in Egyptian darkness.

The redemption from Egypt was redemption from nature and the recognition that the world is run with constant miracles and wonders. It’s impossible to view the redemption from Egypt as a historical event – it’s eternal. When the mind is truly freed from Egyptian servitude the senses get swept up in serving Hashem, and the world automatically inspires us to be excited, to sing and give praise.

True, we’re not capable of keeping up this level of awareness constantly. Faith and awareness are revealed and expressed to each individual differently. But the fact is we all did come out of Egypt together. The redemption from Egypt is an absolute reality that held true even after tremendous descents like the sin of the Golden Calf. At the redemption from Egypt we went out forever from the state of exile, and received awareness as an everlasting acquisition, even though it may not always shine for us, and even though our faith may not always be so strong that it permeates through to our senses.

What we can now do is forge a bond with the redemption from Egypt through our connection with Tzaddikim. Sins create concealment, to the extent that a person can find himself so far from awareness and faith that he can’t feel the most the remotest sense of redemption. But when we connect to our Rebbe, and seek his teachings, we find an abundance of awareness and a ‘source of fresh waters.’ The Tzaddikim know how to permeate our hearts and minds with the awareness that we truly were redeemed from Egypt; that we are free; that we’re not bound by nature and that with prayer we can achieve everything good – both physically and spiritually. All we need to do is strengthen ourselves with joy, remember the Exodus from Egypt, and sing and praise Hashem for our redemption and freedom.

The way to attain the light of awareness is principally through the fulfilment of the Mitzvos which are ‘in order to remember the Exodus from Egypt,’ but the strength to merit this light of awareness we receive principally through learning the Rebbe’s books and Likutei Halachos. Through this, we can merit to enter into a life of true awareness, and to sing a new song for our redemption and the redemption of our souls.

“… And G-d spoke to Moshe and said to him: ‘I am Hashem …’”

The pains singe him like white hot stokers along the whole length of his sick body, and nothing he does brings him any relief. Whatever position he tries, it is intensely painful; he can’t sit, stand, lie down or move around. He feels that he’s losing his sanity day by day. True, his friends advised him a few times to go to a certain doctor, they gave him a name and address, but he’s not prepared to entertain the idea. He’s not a fool, to run after these new-age healers who sprout up all the time. He’s educated. He’s a deep thinker. He knows it’s not possible, to heal using such a technique, it can’t be.

He even knows someone who was treated by a pupil of this particular doctor and, although the treatment helped in the end, at first it made the pains even worse. And anyway, he knows this man, this lauded doctor; they learned together and sat on the same bench. That he became a doctor? No way, he’s not going to him and that’s that.

But in the end he caved in – the pains were more than he could bear. After the treatment the pains did worsen, but only because he neglected to follow through with the treatment plan; he hadn’t understood the doctor’s instructions properly. When he then studied the concepts in depth, an original and unique way of healing opened up before his eyes. Soon afterwards, he was completely healed.

Today, looking back, he finds it hard to believe. The treatment’s so simple and accessible, and yet so many people miss out on it, just because they ‘have to understand…’

Exile – Questions

Egypt was a swamp of questions – so the Rebbe reveals in Torah 64. This was the essence of the Egyptian exile – a burden of questions, uncertainties and confusion that created an impenetrable barrier before any thoughts of da’as (holy awareness) and Emunah. Egypt smothered the Jewish souls with a heavy blanket of impurity; the exile enwrapped the Jewish mind with sticky unanswerable questions and uncertainties. If only one clear thought of faith would pierce the blanket of questions and penetrate the Jewish people’s minds, the mighty walls of Egypt would crumble and collapse.

Moshe Rabeinu understood the situation, so when Hashem told him to go announce the coming of the redemption, he said, “But they won’t believe me and won’t listen to me,” (Exodus 4:1). He was saying, “How can I go and announce the coming of the redemption, perform wonders and reveal faith, when the people’s minds and hearts are stopped up with questions? Every one of them bears the heavy weight of painful memories; they’re full of questions about the world, about the Creator of the world, about themselves. They can’t understand how the descendants of the holy Forefathers, Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov, could be reduced to such a miserable state. How is it possible to talk to them about redemption? They won’t accept it. They won’t believe me.”

Despite his reservations, Moshe Rabeinu went along. Hashem gave him wonders and signs to perform and taught him how to arouse the people’s hearts from their slumber of disbelief. The Jewish people did believe and their blinded eyes began to open; the announcement of the coming redemption pierced the thick blanket of the exile. And right then, just when their faith was beginning to blossom, they were dealt their heaviest blow yet. When Moshe and Aharon, Hashem’s messengers, went to see Pharaoh, not only did they not make anything better, but on the contrary they fired up Pharaoh’s anger and provided him with a good excuse to be even more cruel to his Israelite slaves.

This was truly beyond their ability to understand or accept, to the point that Moshe himself cried out and queried Hashem about this – “Why have You dealt badly with this People?” (Exodus, 5:22)

Then, just when the wall of questions and quandaries threatened to close down forever the sick Jewish souls, Hashem revealed to Moshe the secret – “I am Hashem.” “All the questions,” explained Hashem, “are aroused from my management of the world with the attribute of judgment, whose root is my name “Elokim,” this is what prevents people from understanding Me in this world. It looks like I decreed the destruction of my own People, G-d forbid. But the truth is that I am “Havaya” (Hashem’s name that denotes mercy), and even that which appears to be harsh and cruel judgment, is in actual fact great loving-kindness and mercy.  For only I know how to unite love and judgment together, and no-one can understand Me. The Jewish nation must past through this harsh exile; only when they pass the tests that only the exile can present them with, and only after bearing the questions, and breaking through the doubts, only in this way will they be able to receive the light of the redemption.”

To bring the Jewish nation out of their exile of questions and uncertainties, it was necessary to perform many wonders and signs, and to smite Egypt with the Ten Plagues. This was the only way Hashem could break down the walls of questions that blocked the path to Redemption. Every plague tore down one more barrier of disbelief and apathy in the Jewish hearts.

To Break the Wall of Questions and Go Free

It’s a wondrous thing when the mind is clear and filled with holy awareness. At such a time a person understands how Hashem truly stands over him and watches over his every step with a merciful eye, and how everything is miracles and wonders. Such awareness raises the soul up and out of all suffering and laziness, and opens the way to Teshuva, repentance.

But in the meantime, while we are still caught up in questions and uncertainties, it’s impossible for this awareness to break through the threshold of our minds. We’re too clever; we’re not willing to open up for a moment, to stand and be stirred by Hashem’s wonders, to warm up our hearts with awareness of Hashem’s Providence. No, we’re not willing to make a break and let go of our questions and uncertainties. How can we just get up in the morning light and forget about everything that has been bothering us? Accept the coming redemption just like that? Egypt still surrounds us on all sides! We’re not willing to be weaned from the exile mentality of disbelief, denial, natural cause and effect and questions. And so our years roll by within the walls of Egypt, it’s gates locked with our questions, which we jealously guard.

But there is another option. Hashem revealed it to Moshe. He told him that the way to redemption is to break down the walls of questions. Exile is the inability to understand, so it’s impossible to escape from it with understanding, because you can’t understand – the questions are shackles, and only when you break them can you start to understand what redemption is. The only thing we have to know, or more precisely, believe, is that the exile, the questions and everything that appears to not make any sense – all this is pure good and is the path to our rectification. There is One who has planned everything for our good and who’s standing, waiting to see us break down and destroy the walls of questions. On the other side of those walls an everlasting redemption of clarity of mind and faith awaits us. The exile is a treatment process, though it’s often not recognised as such; it’s painful, it’s not readily understood, but it definitely heals.

But a person thinks that questions aren’t what are bothering him. He just simply doesn’t understand how it could be that he prayed, and put in so much effort, and despite all this, didn’t succeed. There are many things in his life that he’s also not satisfied with, they aren’t going as he’d like them to.

But questions, who’s thinking about questions? The Rebbe reveals that ruminations about all the things that aren’t as he’d like them to be are what prevents a person from receiving the light of redemption. The Tzaddikim reveal such wondrous awareness, they announce your redemption, but you’re sunk in your questions, and you have to understand. Throw out your questions and jump onto the train to success!

A Jew sits on the Seder night, reads the Hagaddah and tries to fulfill the obligation that we each have to “consider himself as if he personally came out from Egypt.” And a big question comes to his mind – he doesn’t understand, why is he supposed to be so inspired and stirred by the Seder, from relating the miracles and wonders of the Redemption from Egypt? “Hold on a minute,” he asks, “Who was it who took us down to Egypt in the first place? Hashem!” Another thing he doesn’t understand – “So what if there was once a redemption, right now we’re back in Exile!” He’s confused. He knows it’s blasphemous, but what can he do, he really doesn’t understand.

The Exile comes to rectify something, and the way to rectification necessitates passing through a crucible of questions. Only when we gird ourselves not to ask, and just believe, only then do we break through the walls of exile. Only then does the exile achieve its purpose, and only then is it possible to come to true redemption.

The Egyptian exile truly was too much to bear. We didn’t know any of this back then. We were sunk up to our necks in the exile and there was no-one to tell us that all of this was paving the way to our rectification and redemption. But now we’ve seen the redemption from Egypt, and many other redemptions. Now, even if we find ourselves in a new and long drawn out exile, we know that this is the path of rectification. The exile is a necessity, it’s a healing process, a treatment programme, with redemption waiting at the end. For us it’s easier to stay afloat and not get swept up in the questions. It’s easier for us to stay firm in our faith that all is for the good and look forward to the coming redemption.

The Tikkun of Shovevim  – to Throw Out the Questions

We’re in the period of “Shovevim,” (the weeks between the Parshiyos of Shmos through Mishpatim). The Arizal revealed that the entire purpose of the Egyptian exile was to rectify the sin of Adam HaRishon, the first man. In these days of Shovevim the Jewish people busy themselves with repentance – why? Because in this period when we learn about the Egyptian exile many questions are aroused, and our answer to those questions is – Teshuva, we repent. We don’t ask for answers, because we understand that the experience of having the questions and uncertainties is a necessary part of our rectification. We’re not capable of understanding; we’re in exile and this is the way that leads us towards our rectification, in the same way that the Egyptian exile rectified Adam’s sin.

So we just have to repent; this is a time to rectify, and an auspicious one too. The story of the Egyptian exile and redemption teaches us that this is the way that the world comes to its rectification and perfection – there is exile followed by redemption.

Our task is to not to get caught up in the questions, but rather strengthen our faith, and then the redemption will speedily come.

Praying for Ones Needs on Shabbos (Part II)

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A. When a serious incident happens and a person needs to pray for Mercy:

In such situations, the Halacha dictates that a person can prayer for Mercy, even to the degree of “prostrating oneself…“ (Magen Avraham 288:13, Misnah Brurah 26).  In fact the Shulchan Aruch Harav (Baal HaTanya) writes that in such cases a person should prayer for Mercy immediately!

B. Requesting one’s future needs:

There are those that permit requesting one’s future needs on Shabbos, meaning that one should only prayer for ones future needs and NOT for one’s current needs on Shabbos (Questions and Answers, Halachos Katanos part I 62).  However, those that prohibit the above approach, say that on the contrary, praying for one’s future needs on Shabbos is even worse than praying for one’s present needs (Questions and Answers Yaabetz 64).

D. Praying for one’s Spiritual needs:

According to the language of the Mahara”m Mintz (siman 87), the reason that one is permitted to prayer “Elokay Ad Shlo Notzarti …” (At the end of the Shemonah Esrei dealing with one’s spiritual needs) is because it is not considered a request for one’s needs with the exception of asking for Parnasah etc, which could make it appear as if a person is in a state of grief or anguish over his physical needs.

However, showing regret/remorse for one’s sins is good to say every moment each and every day.

Similarly, it is brought down in Questions and Answers of the Baal HaTanya, that it not forbidden to beg for one’s needs again with the exception of Parnasah etc i.e. those things that are bodily/physical needs.  However, the Baal HaTanya also mentions that showing regret for one’s sins is good to say everyday.

In summary then, the difference between these prayers boil down to praying for one’s physical needs which is forbidden and praying for one’s spiritual needs which is permitted.

E. Confessing one’s sins:

According to the  Mahara”m Mintz it would appear as if this is permissible as it is not considered “requesting one’s needs” per say, however, the Mishna Berurah prohibits such confession.

F.  Crying on Shabbos:

Crying out of emotional feeling towards Hashem, is permitted according to all Poskim.  Even though, there are those that prohibit crying “to release the sorrow from one’s heart”, in practice it is permissible (Shulcha Aruch 88:2, Mishna Berurah siman katan 4).

G. Making a “Mishebeirach”:

It is permissible to make a “Mishebeirach” for an ill person who is in a life-threatening situation, and one is allowed to prayer for such an individual in any form or way. For example as formulated in the Siddur: “…lachlimo, v’larapaso …” (“for his recovery and healing ….”)

In the case of a non life-threatening sickness however, most Poskim forbid making a “Mishebeirach” in the way of a formal prayer. Many have the incorrect Minhag of using this formulated “Mishebeirach” prayer specifically for those that do NOT have a life-threatening sickness or, they include the name of such an individual together with the name of those that do have life-threatening illnesses (Heaven Forbid).

Therefore, the correct Minhag would be to recite a special “Mishebeirach” for the non-seriously ill as is found in many Siddurim, which concludes in the way of a “Brocha”:  “V’Bischar zeh, HaKadosh Baruch Hu Yerachem Alav …” (“And with this merit (of giving Tzedakkah, Hashem should have Mercy on Him  …. “) .

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

Praying for Ones Needs on Shabbos (Part I)

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A.   The Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbos 15:3) writes that it is prohibited to appeal to Hashem for one’s needs on Shabbos.  And even though this prohibition it is not mentioned in the Talmud Bavli, and there is no such ruling to be found in the Rambam or Shulchan Aruch, nevertheless, some Rishonim together with the Tur (siman 188) and the Achronim, do in fact bring such a ruling.

The following are a few reasons brought by the Poskim as to why appealing to Hashem for one’s needs on Shabbos is forbidden:

1. That one should not come to cry on Shabbos (Ra”n).

2. That one has to consider Shabbos to be lacking nothing – i.e. nothing is left incomplete on Shabbos (Korban Haeida).

3. That one should not come to speak words of weekday matters (Divrei Chol) on Shabbos (Questions and Answers of the Yaabetz)

Now, even though there is no Biblical or Rabbinical prohibition against making such requests on Shabbos, doing so then would nevertheless be considered a transgression of the rulings of the Chachamim.

So, on the one hand then, it appears by the statement of the Yerushalmi that there is no license to appeal for one’s physical or spiritual needs on Shabbos, yet on the other hand, we find many prayers on Shabbos that do deal specifically with requesting one’s needs. In this form then, the Poskim rule that it is in fact permissible to make requests for one’s needs. And so,

B.  Any established prayers that contain requests for one’s needs, have no issue in regards to the abovementioned prohibition, for example:

1. “…Ro’einu, Tzo’neinu, Parnas’einu …” which is found in Birkas Hamazon dealing specifically with one’s livelihood (Yerushalmi).

2. “…Elokay Netzor …” which is found at the end of the Shemonah Esrei (Ohr Zaruha part 2,88)

3. “…Ha’Rachaman …” which has numerous requests found at the end of Birkas Hamazon.

C.  Prayers established specifically for Shabbos. Some examples are:

1. “…Berich Shemay …” extracted from the Zohar Hakadosh said during the opening of the Ark.

2. “…Ribon Ha’Olamim …” said after “Shalom Aleichem” on Shabbos night has many requests for one’s needs and is too allowed because it is considered an established prayer (Questions & Answers – Torah Lishma & Rav Pe’alim part 2, 46).

3. “…Ye’heh Ra’avah …” in the Shabbos Zmiros  also contains requests for one’s needs.  However, in this particular case, there are those that hold it is NOT permissible to ask for one’s needs over here, while others allow it.

D. All prayers that are NOT in the form of supplications or requests for mercy, but are rather in the form of Brochos are permissible.  Some examples are:

“…Yekum Purkan …” or Mishebeirachs that are made on behalf of the community after the Torah reading.

E.  Prayers for Klal Yisrael as a whole such as:

“…Zochreinu L’Chayim…” or “…mi Chamocha…” on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any  way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

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