When a person begins to look at himself and sees how far he is from being good, and how he is full of sin, he’s liable to fall as a result. He won’t be able to pray afterwards at all.
He is therefore obligated to search, seek, and find within himself, some good. How is it possible that he never did any Mitzvah in his life, or any good thing? And even if when he starts to look at that good which he found, and he sees that that good itself is in bad shape, not having been done correctly and mixed with selfish motivations, it’s still impossible that there won’t be some small good point, a Nekudah Tovah, somewhere in that little bit of good.
And so he must also continue to look and seek until he finds within himself another good thing. And even if this good is also mixed with a lot of garbage, still, there is some good point in it. And so he must continue to search and seek, until he finds more good points.
Through finding within oneself good points, one stops being judged negatively and begins to be judged favorably. He can then do Teshuvah, revive himself and achieve happiness, whatever his situation may be. He can then pray, sing, and thank Hashem.
Meshivas Nefesh #26, based on Likutei Moharan 282
In this passage we come across one of the foundations of Hischazkus, which Reb Nosson discusses a great deal. Many people have merited beginning life anew in light of this wondrous idea which is referred to as “Azamra”- I will sing, from the verse, “I will sing to my G-d with what I have left.” אזמרה לאלקי בעודי, – To sing to Hashem with the עודי – the little bit within me that is still good.
Many people wonder about why we should search for good points in the good things that we’ve done. Doesn’t the Rebbe provide many ways for a person to encourage himself without concentrating on what he’s done? On the contrary, it would seem better to look beyond actions, and to realize the pride which Hashem takes just from someone being a Jew, or for someone to begin anew and put the past out of his mind, or to focus only on the ultimate purpose, etc. And why must we probe our actions?
Also, shouldn’t we be concerned that by only seeing the good we might come to whitewash evil?
The truth is, however, that in this awesome piece of advice the Rebbe descends to the people entrapped in darkness, to reveal for them a path how ‘there’ (in the darkness) to find points of light.
The reality is that people fall under a powerful delusion, that because of their actions and poor character, they have an inner feeling of remoteness and lack of relationship with Hashem. People get so used to living with this feeling that even when it doesn’t cause them sadness, their souls lay asleep. Proof of this is that they don’t feel any enjoyment from a Mitzvah or Avodah, and they can’t sing to Hashem in their prayer.
“Dwelling of the Shechinah”
We must realize that any such feelings of distance, is of utmost gravity. These feelings cause the Shechinah not to dwell between us. The main dwelling of the Shechinah is in a person’s mind when he illuminates himself with thoughts of the intimacy he has with Hashem. When a person views himself as distant as a result of his deeds and habits which aren’t good, he separates himself from the Shechinah.
It is therefore necessary to descend to seemingly distant places, and to cause the Shechinah to dwell ‘there’, through a person discovering how through his own free will, he has already merited to bring down the Shechinah. He undoubtedly has a Nekudah Tovah which he accomplished one time, and when he reminds himself about it, and revives himself with faith that this Mitzvah is very dear in Hashem’s eyes, he thereby brings the Shechinah down. With this thought he performs the first paragraph in the Shulchan Aruch – to always place Hashem before us.
“To Judge Others Favorably”
From where does a person draw the energy at times of sadness to encourage himself with the little bit of good which he has?
The Rebbe prefaces ‘Azamra’ by teaching us that we must judge ‘others’ favorably. For example, when entering a Shul, look at all the congregants, and try to find in them any positive trait, in a way that you will start realizing how Hashem rests upon this Jew who merits laying Tefillin, and on that Jew who is crowned with a beard and payos, and so on. Eventually, you will start to think, “I’m not different from them and I certainly also have some good through which Hashem rests upon me.”
The story is told that once Reb Nosson asked R’ Meir of Teplik about somebody from Teplik, and he answered him indifferently, as if he’s no one to talk about. Reb Nosson told him, “If you will regard people in such a way, then the entire world could be found blameworthy. Try and look at everyone who lives in your town. Start from the first house, and you’ll for sure find fault in them. Go on from house to house, until you reach your own. Are you the most upright person in the town?”
Reb Meir answered, “I’m also not a good person.”
Reb Nosson then told him, “You’re also not a good person? Who is, then? When you will look at everyone and find some good in them, then you will be able to find good in yourself also.”
“To Separate the Good from the Bad”
Of course, the intention isn’t to judge everyone favorably and thereby “kasher” wrong actions. On the contrary, a person is obligated to be able to differentiate and know the difference between good and evil, and from what sort of behavior to keep away from.
For this, ‘judgment’ is necessary, but the judgment must be ‘favorable’ – meaning, to be careful to allow the Shechinah to continue to dwell here. In other words, we must make a distinction between the good and the bad, but to bring down the Shechinah through knowing that every Jew has a Nekudah Tovah and a Mitzvah which he did with his own free will, including himself.
When a person thinks constantly in such a way, he will awaken from his sleep, from his feelings of distance and lack of relationship with Hashem, and he will then be able to open himself up to sing and thank Hashem.