Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for February 5, 2010

Laws Pertaining to Coveting

Weekly Halacha Series

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

The 10th commandment is: “Do not covet” and even though everyone knows this warning, many are not aware of the practical applications of this prohibition.

In practice there are two prohibitions as it relates to this commandment.  One is “Do not desire” (“lo tisaveh” – Parashas Va’etchanan) and the second is “Do not covet” (“Lo Tachmod”) as is seen in this week’s Parasha which warns about the actual deed of coveting vs. that of desiring.

A. “Do Not Desire:”

According to the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and most of the Poskim, this is the warning against “thoughts of the heart” alone. i.e. everything that is definitively decided in the heart of an individual to pursue another person’s belongings even were it to be in a “permissible” way such as purchasing the item from the individual – this in fact contravenes the prohibition of “Do not desire” and applies even if he had NOT purchased it yet!

However, there are those that say that this applies only if he pursues the belonging with all his effort.  Which would not be the case if his intent is to abandon the pursuit should his friend disagree to sell it to him.

Others hold that only if he actually does something to try and acquire the other’s belonging, would he be contravening this prohibition.

There are a minority of Poskim that hold that even if the person so much as desires the item in his heart and has not premeditatedly planned a way to acquire the belonging, he would be contravening this prohibition.

In all opinions however, it is a worthy trait (midas chassidus) not to desire in any way, even in one’s heart, what belongs to another.

B.  “Do Not Covet”:

This is applicable only when the following two conditions are met:

1) “Begging” and “pushing” another until he sells the item to him.

2) Taking possession of the “begged” item described in 1) above.

Definitions of “Begging”

1) Asking for an item not in a way of “begging”, would not contravene this prohibition.  Therefore, it is permissible to ask an individual if he would be willing to sell him the item he wants, even twice, and this would not considered “begging”.  However three times, would appear to be considered “begging”.  An important person however, knowing that the owner of a particular item would be embarrassed to decline the offer, would not be permitted to ask even once.

2) Therefore, even were one to pay the full price after he “begged” beyond the permissible amount of times described above, according to the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and most Poskim, he would be contravening the prohibition of “Do not covet”.

3) If the owner agreed to sell the item because the buyer gave him much more than the going rate, his would still be contravening the this prohibition.

4) If after “begging” the owner truly agrees to sell the item (as in “I really want to sell the item”), there are those that say that the buyer has not contravened the prohibition of coveting, however,  there are other Poskim that hold to the contrary.

What items are prohibited to Covet?

1) Coveting a specific item that belongs to another person. However, if he desires to have something similar to another, then he would not be contravening the prohibition. Also, there would be no prohibition should he desire such an item in a non-jealous way but rather in a way that he finds such an item desirable/useful.

2) With regards to coveting an item that is readily available.  There are those that say there is no prohibition of coveting.

3) With regards to coveting possessions belonging to partners such as a shared garden, courtyard or roof, one should ask a Posek (Shaalat Chachom).

4) Coveting a Mitzvah item, such as a Sefer Torah, Mezuzah, Shofar, Lulav etc, contravenes the prohibition of coveting.

5) Coveting Torah knowledge or professional skill sets, such as desiring to learn Torah or a particular trade from another, does not contravene the prohibition and one would even be allowed to “beg” the other person to teach him that knowledge/skill.

6) Chesed – “begging” another to do a Chesed is permissible as the one doing the Chesed is performing a mitzvah.

7) Presents -“begging” another to give a present to him contravenes the prohibition of coveting.

8) Renting – “begging” another to rent him his house, for example, is disagreed upon among the Poskim as to whether this would be contravening the prohibition of coveting or not.  In practice one would need to ask a Posek.


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.

The Ways of Encouragement of the Tzaddikim

(Sefer Meshivas Nefesh – elucidated)

There are fallen souls that need to be revived with all types of encouraging words which restore the soul. Words which can revive and restore these fallen souls come about through the sparking of the mind, which is an aspect of Tefillin which is merited to by breaking lustful thoughts.

Meshivas Nefesh 28, based on Likutei Moharan II 5

The Ways of Encouragement of the Tzaddikim

It seems to some people that the guidance and encouragement which the Rebbe teaches are good ideas which can help those who are involved in healing the soul, by providing thought patterns and ways in which a person can be successful, if he will only change the direction of his thoughts to a healthy way of thinking of hope and happiness. It would seem that the success of Hischazkus is through the means of brainwashing oneself with positive ideas and approaches, in order to remove any other thought which throws down morale and weakens the frame of mind.

But in truth, all the ways of Hischazkus which are mentioned in the teachings of Tzaddikim, are a divine flow from the source of Divine Mercy, which are drawn from the roots of the Torah in a wondrous way known only to the Tzaddikim. Therefore, true success in following these paths is dependent on the extent of closeness to them.

The Holiness of Tefillin Produced Specifically from Animal Skin

The refinement of the thought process comes about when a person understands that the same way the holy Tefillin are made out of animal skin, so too a person can achieve holy thoughts expressly through tests of prideful thoughts and lack of refinement in the area of Bris. The main rectification of the mind occurs when one takes his body which has fallen into a situation of “sealed flesh”, a metaphor for having fallen into “fleshiness” and sensuality, and transforms it into a “seal of holiness” –that the mind should spark with holy thoughts, an aspect of the Holiness of Tefillin.

When a person knows this fundamental idea, he doesn’t get confused or fall when he encounters a trial. Instead, he goes and screams out to Hashem from the depths of his heart that He should reveal to him how he can merit Emunah in his situation. Thus, he discovers guidance and paths through which to transform every thought to holy ones of closeness to Hashem.

The ability to enter into this Avodah comes about when one comes close to Tzaddikim which teach the true ways of thinking, of how to transform every trial and every fall into holy thoughts of closeness to Hashem. Every thought which enters the heart has a negative side which we must abhor and distance from ourselves, as well as a holy side. Through cleaving to Tzaddikim, we learn to understand how we can be close to Hashem in every place and situation,

The Sparking of the Mind

When one is involved in serving Hashem in such a fashion, discovering Emunah from within the depths of trials and failures, a person comes to what is referred to as a sparking of the mind.

The mind is like a lit candle, which needs fuel to burn, which is the moisture and oil of the body.  To transform every thought of “sealed flesh” to a holy thought is to elevate the body to become fuel for the mind.

Now, every holy thought about Hashem, and all the knowledge of Hischazkus, to be close to Hashem always, do not remain in the category of just being ideas, but rather they become thoughts of Emunah and closeness to Hashem which have a real life force. His mind is lit up with wondrous sparks from these teachings of the Tzaddikim.

If he merits being diligent in this, he then merits to hold strong in Emunah even at low times, even when the Emunah doesn’t shine properly. The impression left over from the times when the mind sparks continues to shine for him even when his mind “sleeps”. This is an aspect of “a dream through an angel.” Just like by actual sleep, if someone’s mind was clear during the day, then his dreams are pure. So too, when a person works at elevating his mindset throughout his down times, he merits that even when he is in a spiritual “slumber” he will be able to hold strong in Emunah.

Words Which Restore the Soul

When a person toils to remain strong in Emunah, by searching by the Tzaddikim for the true ways of Emunah which have the ability to transform “animal skin” to holy thoughts, he comes up with words of encouragement which have the ability to restore a soul. He can then provide encouragement for friends who have fallen, to uplift them with his words. He can properly convey those words in a way than his friend will be able be uplifted by them and use them to go further and to progress from one level to another in serving Hashem.

A person is successful in having what he has learnt come alive with the ability to enter his friend’s heart when he himself actualizes it in a fashion in which he elevates fallen thoughts into holy thoughts.

Even the person who is hearing the words of encouragement should know this, and understand that even though he himself is right now on a level of “sealed flesh”, he must still take these words of the Tzaddikim which he is hearing and to enter with them into the seal of holiness, however much he can. With this he can rectify his mind and he will become able to withstand difficult situations with his Emunah in Hashem.

[This piece is based on Likutei Moharan II, 5, which is the longest discourse on Likutei Moharan, and the thread which connects the whole lesson is difficult to understand. What we have explained over here can be used as a short introduction to help understand the general idea of the lesson.]

When Yisro Arrived

The splendid carriage made its way with difficulty through the narrow alleyways. When it finally stopped in the centre of the small and neglected town square, the meticulously dressed driver hopped out, looked to and fro and began signaling to the passersby’s in an attempt to convey some message. They looked at him with surprise, shrugged their shoulders and continued on their way. When he could find no-one who spoke his language, he gave up, saddled his horse and went off in the direction from where he had come, leaving the carriage behind him …

The dawn of the following day found the carriage still in its place. The early-rising workers passed by it, raised an eyebrow in confusion and continued to their daily work. Like all new things, soon, the carriage too was no longer taken notice of and only the elders from the old-age home on the other side of the square found any interest in it. For many days they debated its meaning and in the end they came to the unified conclusion that the king himself had sent it – a glorious statue.

Since they had decided that it was a royal carriage they treated it with respect. Whenever the children sought to find an outlet for their boredom amongst its wheels, the elders would waive their canes at them and chase them away with serious rebuke.

One morning a well-off merchant arrived at the gates of the city. The marvelous carriage which stood in the town square caught his eye. He looked with surprise at the royal golden emblem that graced its front, bringing certainty to his suspicion, “a royal carriage, there is no doubt. But what is it doing here in the middle of some forgotten city?” he wondered. When he could find no satisfactory answer from the elders he turned to the town secretary.

“Ahh, I heard something about this strange phenomenon, yes, perhaps when I have some free time I will find a chance to get rid of the piece of junk”, answered the uninterested old secretary as he yawned with sleepiness.

“Wait a second, where did your honor say he was from … from the royal city?” The old man’s eyes suddenly lit up, “perhaps you could do me a favor?” He rummaged through the desk’s drawers and withdrew a scroll as he explained: “an unfortunate mistake … I told the young man who brought it here that it was a mistake but he was quite stubborn and now I’ve been left with this lost article”.

“What is the mistake?” replied the merchant in confusion.

“It is presumably a letter of greetings from the king to the head of a neighboring city” explained the old man.

“Who said it’s a mistake?” persisted the merchant.

“Perhaps you can tell me, can’t you see the royal seal! For whom do you think the king sent this letter? For me???” roared the old man.

“And why not?” asked the merchant again.

“You’re just making fun of an old man” replied the secretary with an expression of insult on his face.

“Let’s see” retorted the merchant as he ripped the seal off the scroll. “See, it IS for you” he declared as he held out the scroll in front of the secretary’s wide open eyes, “it seems that it is even written in your own language.”

The old man’s eyes quickly moved through the hand written lines, as he mumbled in amazement: “The king knows my name! My first name!” He held the scroll with trembling hands, “…the scroll is written to me … hand written by the king … he knows my name…”

In the following lines the king concisely conveyed his message: the development of the kingdom had until now been focused entirely on the royal city and its suburbs. The cities on the outskirts of the kingdom had begun to deteriorate and there was a concern that these areas would become completely detached from the rest of the kingdom. Therefore the yearly budget was going to be dedicated to a new project: ‘The Unification of the Kingdom’. The letter continued: “Since your city is that of the greatest geographical distance it has been decided to dedicate one half of the funds for the project to its development.  At the final stage of the project, it is to become the sister city to the royal city. In the coming months the first of the funds will be delivered, after which the architectural and construction phases will commence, at which stage the funds will be increased as required.” ■

There is no need to penetrate the depths of the parsha to be struck by the difficulty that is apparent from its very opening verse. “Parshas Yisro” – what type of a name is this? Is there any lack of important events in this week’s portion that the Torah could find no other title with which to crown such an important parsha as this. Is there no more fitting introduction to the most important event in the history of the world – the giving of the Torah?

The story of Yisro truly is the introduction for the receiving of the Torah.

We all know that the Torah must be received each day anew. We also know that the Torah is something good. We have heard of, and perhaps have even seen people, who have merited to this. Presumably they look a little different, enriched and happy; it seems as if they have tasted something tangible in the fulfillment of the Mitzvos, they have attained clear Emunah and they find satisfaction and contentment in Kedusha.

The Torah is a very unique and special gift. Presumably it is not for naught that Hashem commanded us to wait for it such a long time.

Fifty days an entire nation waits, counting the days like a child anxiously waiting for a precious gift.

Any sensitive person who reads the Torah understands that something great happened at Mattan Torah. The Jewish people did not only receive an important gift, but the very essence and stature of the Jewish nation was then completely transformed …

Every Jew desires in his heart that he too should approach holiness and receive the Torah. In other words, every Jew yearns for a more real and true connection with Hashem – perhaps he yearns to understand more clearly what the Torah asks of us, perhaps he is searching for more satisfaction and contentment in the fulfillment of the Mitzvos. In whatever way it is, he yearns to receive the Torah.

This week we will read about the receiving of the Torah. On Shavu’os we have the Chag of Mattan Torah and every day we receive the Torah anew.  So what is the problem? Why is it so hard to receive the Torah?

Our problem is that we are trembling with fear. The Torah is extremely holy and awesomely exalted, and I am so very low. It is seemingly suitable for that Torah scholar in the Beis Hamidrash … perhaps I too had some connection to it when I was learning well in Yeshiva … It was seemingly given to the Gedolei Ha’dor, to the great scholars, to Moshe Rabeinu, to the prophets and to the Tzaddikim. To Me? How could it be!’

“I hope to appease the heavenly court with the Daf Ha’Yomi – for people like us that’s surely enough.

And anyway, who thinks about the receiving of the Torah? I’ve got other problems – I’m entangled in debts, suffering from health problems, dealing with my children and my business affairs. Why should I fool myself? My problems are external and mundane things. The Torah is for pure and refined people – for those who have ‘Torah-like problems’, needing encouragement in avodas Hashem and the understanding of deep Talmudic topics. But me? How could I even think of mixing the holy Torah into my lowly problems … what about the honor of the Torah?”

This is why when the Torah declares and announces the receiving of the Torah we remain in our places – they cannot possibly be calling us, they presumably meant someone else.

The Torah knows us – it therefore begins the parsha with the story of Yisro. Look carefully at this story and see how relevant it is to us:

One clear day, an old sorcerer gets up, after spending his best years entrenched in the services of many different religions, trying every form of idolatry and investigating every false god, and decides to make a serious change – to simply be a Jew. He was the father-in-law of Moshe Rabeinu, the leader of the Jewish people, and he sent word of his coming visit. Then, something unbelievable happened; the entire Jewish people began to organize a royal welcoming for him. And if this isn’t enough, the Zohar Hakadosh adds that when Yisro came, Hashem’s name was exalted and raised high throughout the entire universe.

What happened that was so great? Some old sorcerer decided to convert? Good for him, what is the whole fuss about?

Here is hidden a tremendous secret, that the Rebbe reveals in Lesson 10. Know, says the Rebbe, that when Hashem desires to reveal his glory, he need you! Yes, precisely because you are who you are, distanced and tired – it specifically because of this that you are needed. This is because if you, who are so far, find the glory of the king in your lowly place, this is truly a chiddush (novelty). In the royal city everyone knows the king, it’s hard not to. But the king is specifically interested in whether he is being recognized out there, close to the borders. Do they also know there who the king is? And when you come from there and say “now I know…” (Shmos 18,11) – now I understand that the Torah is talking to me.  Now I know that everything is truly Elokus (Godliness) and hashgacha (Divine providence). Then, the entire creation is breath taken – someone is saying something new. And the deeper and further the place from which bursts forth this understanding of yours, the greater is the novelty and praise that comes from it.

Therefore, before the giving of the Torah, we are told about Yisro. The Torah is trying to tell us: “don’t say it wasn’t meant for you or that you’re not holy enough, for I am giving an example of the least holy person in the world, of someone who truly felt like he makes no difference, to see what a storm he created.” Hashem wrote the Torah specifically for you – they are searching for someone just like you to come and receive the Torah.

And so, when we read this week about the receiving of the Torah, let us not leave the gift unopened. For we know that it was really sent to us – it is suitable for all our lacks, and when it was written, they had us in mind…

You can download the entire Parasha sheet from here.

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