Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for March, 2010

In the Radiant Countenance of the Living King

He walks through the corridors of the palace, his head lowered and his eyes to the ground, as if they were created on condition to never look up. The majority of his days have been spent within the palace walls, entering and exiting the many lavish chambers and halls, places where even the greatest ministers have never set foot. Countless times had he crossed the threshold of the king’s room, sometimes with a broom in his hands, sometimes with a hot drink; sometimes he entered to make the bed and other times to lift the blinds. He had become intimately aquainted with every stone and brick, yet he never dared to feast his eyes upon anything above waist height. The king’s shoes had become a most familiar sight to him, yet his face he had never seen. His hands had touched the royal garments each day, brushing away the dust and removing the creases, yet they had never extended themselves to the hand of the king. The majority of the day was spent in the king’s presence, hearing his voice and almost feeling the warmth of his breath, yet never, never, had he stood before him face to face.

He is a servant, a helper in the royal palace, as was his father, and as were his great grandparents. He never desires anything, just to fulfill his task. The King himself is not at all to be found in the confines of his thoughts, the king exalted and lofty – what are the lowly ones of the kingdom to him?

One day it happened. In the early hours of the morning when his hands were involved in making the royal bed and his thoughts we drawn to the many pains of his aging body, his eyes suddenly heard the voice of the king. The king had to call his name twice before it occurred to him that he was being summoned. “Yes, umm, my master the king…” he said as he stood fearfully at attention, “…what does your highness request?”

“Nothing” answered the king in a gentle tone, “just that you lift you face, I would like to look upon your shining countenance, I would like you to greet me…” ■

Let us examine for a moment the scene of our lives, amidst what it takes place. Indeed, a tefillah and another tefillah and at the end of the day yet another one. In the gap between we could identify tens of brachos (at least a hundred). Acts of chesed and mitzvos between oneself and his fellowman are generally scattered across the majority of the day, together with times of learning and many words of Torah and Emunah. In short, with a quick calculation, we enter into the chamber of The King.  We are busy in his presence in all sorts of ways, at least a few hundred times each day. Now let us ask ourselves honestly: is our general feeling in anyway like that of one who spends the majority of his day in the presence of such an admired and exalted figure?

What is really happening to us? Why is the avodah that is centered around One who permeates all of existence at every moment, not enough to fill all our senses with alertness and vitality? It’s very simple; it seems that we have never met with Him face to face. Yes, we have heard of him. We even speak about him thousands of times each day; this avodah is passed down to us from our ancestors. We all perform our service in somewhat the same way as our parents, brothers, grandparents, and uncles, and when at a certain point we are appointed with a certain task, we accept it calmly and just go with the flow.

We are so well trained and proficient that there’s almost no chance of us making a mistake, except perhaps when there is a serious change like Rosh Chodesh and the like. Often we enter into His chamber with closed eyes, even the bowing at the threshold our knees know how to do on their own. Because, just between us, who does it make a difference to? … its just a minhag.

But one second … it wasn’t always like this. In the beginning we were very connected, we even trembled when we knocked on The King’s door for a routine visit. The one who ‘calmed’ us down was Amalek – it was he who persuaded us to stop the trembling and the excitement. But with that, the simcha and contentment disappeared too.

Rabbeinu explains in Lesson 30 that the Mitzvos which we received from Hashem are meant to function as a lens with which to perceive Him and to generate a real and enduring connection to Him. Since Hashem is infinite and with eyes like our own it is impossible to grasp even the tiniest degree of his awesome existence.  Therefore, because of his mercy and endless love for us, He bestowed upon us a vessel through which we can in fact perceive and connect to Him.

The Mitzvos are Tzimtzumim (constrictions), just as the pupil of the eye contracts, defines and includes within it the vision of what stands before it, enabling a person to observe vast expanses of scenery in one glance. This ability to constrict the vision is called “Chochmah Ta’ta’ah” (lower wisdom), meaning – a low intellect. To define this as much as possible one would say this refers to our practical thought process that navigates us throughout our daily activities. Each person has his thoughts, ideas and calculations but there is also something that activates our senses and arouses us to action. This is what tells us of what we should be afraid and what is fitting to be loved. This intellect, which resides amidst the ‘comings and goings’ of our consciousness, is the vessel into which the perception of Hashem is meant to enter. As long as these perceptions do not penetrate into this part of our intellect, they are nothing more than uninternalized random knowledge and have no affect whatsoever on our real lives.

However, as long as that “Chochmah Ta’ta’ah” is unimpaired and functioning properly, our lives should flourish with ultimate vitality and vigor, at least like one who performs his service in the presence of a king of flesh and blood. The problem begins when Amalek casts this Chochmah (wisdom) down to the lowly aspects of life. Then, what occupy our thoughts are emotional discomfort, negativity and trivial thoughts which shouldn’t cross the threshold of our consciousness at all.

How terribly pained is the soul at the time when the mind falls into this evil negativity, so much so that no-one can bear its cries of distress – this is the way The Rebbe expresses it, nothing less!

Therefore, since we are so severely ill, without respite, we must search for only the greatest of doctors. In a situation such as our own it is impossible to make compromises and accept anything less; we must find the address of the one who truly is able to help.

This doctor is The Tzaddik, who can perform the most complex surgery, to sever and cut free the Chochmah Ta’ta’ah from the sticky klippah (evil force) that Amalek infected it with…

What is required of us as a first treatment is … to simply scream. We must cry out in our pain and call to the king: ‘How long will I be right next to you and yet light-years away. Have mercy, I beg you, look at me, even for a moment, just let me know that you take pleasure in me, I’m not able to work as if it’s all for nothing…!’

A correct outcry, one that comes from humility and strong hope to be heard is like the cries of the Sechinah (divine presence) at chatzos (midnight) – it penetrates the heavens and arouses the absolute mercy and compassion that is hidden within the Heart of The Creator. This mercy showers down like the love of a father overflowing its boundaries, it descends and severs the chains of heaviness and kefirah (heresy), of mockery and disregard that have become entangled and woven into our thoughts.

But this is not the end. Now we must lift our heads and finally look into The King’s shining countenance. This wondrous occurrence happens on each one of the Regalim (three festivals). There is a lengthy explanation of this in the above mentioned lesson for anyone who desires to understand this more, but we must continue…

Now we can understand why the Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Ha’Gadol (The Great Shabbos). Pesach is supposed to turn our lives into something ‘Gadol’. If Amalek desired to shrink us into something miniscule and irrelevant and to depict our Mitzvos and our visits in The King’s home as something without meaning – ‘just an avodah’, Pesach reveals to us that everything we do is simply Gadol, tremendous and infinitely enormous.

This is what happens to us during the night of the Seder. On this night every Jew conducts himself like a Tzaddik with a Seder fitting for one who has attained lofty perceptions. The table is set like that of Kings and the cuisine is far from that of an ordinary night. Every item of food is overloaded with the deepest secrets and meaning. This is the one night when one can find a simple person bursting with holiness just like a great Mekubal (Kabbalist). On the night of the Seder every Jew leans on cushions like a king, gives out Shirayim like a Rebbe, pours wine and says over Torah (the Haggadah) like a Tzaddik.

Did we say ‘like’? No, the night of the Seder is no game, it’s not an ‘as if’. The Seder night is an exposure – a removal of the cover from the dusty faces of our holy lives. On this night we reveal what takes place constantly under the cover of routine and habit, and discover that we are working in the palace of the King. Every movement of ours has meaning, for every motion is performed under the watchful eyes of an awesome and lofty King, in his personal chamber, in the hallways of His palace and in his courtyard.

Let us prepare ourselves to receive the holy days of Pesach, with outcries of hope. Let us scream and request: ‘let me raise my eyes to know my Creator, to stand with him face to face’. And with this Shabbos – a Shabbos that is all greatness, we will leap out of the tiring habitual thought process, to the night of the Seder – a night on which is revealed that our entire lives are arranged in a wondrous seder (order) of the service of the King, and together with all of Klal Yisroel let us merit to illuminate our entire existence with the light of the shining countenance of The King.

Advertisements

What Bracha does one say on Fried Matzah (“Matzah Brai”)?

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

General Laws:

With regards to a piece of bread that has been cooked, the Bracha depends on the size of the piece.  If the size is that of a kazayis or more, it is still considered bread and the Bracha is Hamotzi.

However, if the size is less than a kazayis, it is not considered bread and the Bracha is borei minei mezonos with the after Bracha being al hamichiya.  And this rule applies even if one were to make a keviyas seuda on it.

A.  Cooking pieces together (in water).

i. If each piece is a kazayis or more, the blessing is Hamotzi.

ii. If only one piece is a kazayis and the other pieces less, should one intend to eat all of them, one makes Hamotzi on the large piece, however should one only intend to eat the small pieces, one makes borei minei mezonos.

iii. If all the pieces are less than a kazayis and when cooking them, they stick together as a single entity measuring more that a kazayis, the bracha is still borei minei mezonos.

B.  Frying pieces together in oil.

i. If one deep-fries, it is considered “cooking” as if in water and the bracha follows the laws of B) above.

ii. If one fries in very little oil (only enough to prevent it from burning) it is considered “baked” (in an oven) and the bracha is Hamotzi.

iii. If one fries in an average amount of oil, there is a difference of opinion between the poskim, most holding that it is considered to be “cooked” in water. [Because of the uncertainty], the Mishna Berura holds that it is correct that one should only eat it within the context of a Seuda.

C.  “Matzah Brai” – Broken pieces of Matzah mixed with eggs and fried in oil.

i. If each piece is the size of a kazayis or more, the bracha is Hamotzi and we make Birkas hamazon afterwards.

ii. If the pieces are crushed and less than the size of a kazayis and fried in deep oil, even should they become amassed into a single entity, we make borei minei mezonos and al hamichiya afterwards.

iii. If the pieces are crushed and less than the size of a kazayis respectively, but fried in a in very little oil (only enough to prevent it from burning) one should eat it in the context of a seuda (because of the differences of opinion as to which bracha to say).

iv. If the pieces are crushed and less than the size of a kazayis respectively, and are fried in an average amount of oil, it is preferable to eat it only in the context of the seuda (because of the differences of opinion as to what the bracha to say), however should it be difficult or inopportune to eat it in the context of a seuda, as is often the case with younger children, one should make borei minei mezonos and al hamichiya afterwards.  One should not make a stringency and make hamotzi with birkas hamazon afterward, and would be considered a bracha in vein (levatala) according to most opinions.  (At the very least making borei minei mezonos would retrospectively (bediyeved) cover even regular bread)

Note: All references to the being “in context of a seuda” is when someone is hungry, makes Hamotzi on Matzah and eats the “Matza Brai” which is then covered by the Hamotzi.  In such a case it is enough that one only makes Hamotzi on a kazayis of Matzah.  However, should one only wish to snack on the “Matzah Brai” and therefore makes Hamotzi on a kazayis of Matzah only in order to “cover oneself” in order to get over a potential doubt as to which bracha to make, it is not clear according to the poskim as to whether this approach is in fact correct or not, and therefore, it would be better to make a borei minei mezonos on the “Matzai Brai” alone.

FAQS on Avodas Hashem – Pesach Part I

Question:

What can be done about the fact that I don’t feel any special motivation and longing in preparation for Pesach?

Answer:

There are certainly people whose hearts are aflame with joy and anticipation for the approaching Yom Tov. Wherever they go and whatever they do, they are thinking only about the wonderful delight of Emunah being revealed which will occur then, and from the songs of praise to Hashem which they will sing then, and from the holiness of the Matzos which they are going to be holding in their hands, and of drinking the four cups of wine, and of Chol HaMoed, Sefiras HaOmer, etc.

But don’t be broken and despair when you don’t feel as if an extraordinary day is coming up. Do you want to already taste from the light of Pesach now?! We must wait, because now is the time which is meant for preparations, and preparations are not always through feeling the light. They can be practical measures meant to inspire a longing and desire to come close to Hashem on the upcoming Yom Tov. With Hashem’s help, on the holy day itself you will merit to taste a little.

We will therefore mention a few practical points regarding the preparation:

1] The main preparation is the longing and desire for Pesach. Hence, the more you feel distant and the more you feel detached from Pesach, you should realize that on the contrary, these feelings are for your benefit. This feeling in itself can bring you to longing, for the heart can only honestly cry out to Hashem when in such a state. “Master of the World! I want to be part of the redemption, but where is the holiness of Pesach for me!? Please give me a taste of Matzo, etc. I have nothing…” This in itself is the preparation…

2] Part of the preparation is to get to know the particulars regarding the light of Pesach, such as what needs to be done and what should be had in mind during the Seder. This will make it easier for you to anticipate Pesach and to daven for it.

For this purpose, it would be worth it to study something about Pesach in Likutei Moharan or Likutei Halachos, or Otzar HaYirah. Today there are many anthologies which collect all the major teachings of the Rebbe about Pesach. You don’t necessarily need to study a complete Torah. You can concentrate on any one point, for example to understand what is the Galus of Mitzrayim, what is Chametz, what is the individual Geulah or what is Matzo, and so on. Try to understand it as much as you are capable, and don’t be embarrassed to discuss the ideas with your friends. Keep the idea in your mind and start to think about what the Tzaddikim are trying to tell you through it, and how it is relevant to you. The more you will think about it, the more you will feel enthusiasm for the holiness of the Yom Tov.

Even if you don’t feel inspiration, you will at least know what to pray for and what to request. You can yearn for what you’ve learnt concerning the secrets of Pesach, even if you don’t feel it.

Sometimes, you may not have peace of mind to focus on a specific subject. You can then study many different ideas about Pesach, which can inspire you to understand that in general Pesach has in it many great and hidden things.

3] In addition, remember to learn the Halachos of Pesach, such as those outlined in Mishna Berurah, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and especially in more recent works, to know how to conduct the Yom Tov. Halachos are the vessel in which the light of Pesach is contained. Therefore, when you study these Halachos, arouse within yourself the belief that these Halachos and Mitzvos are in reality great pipelines of divine flow for the holiness of Pesach. Every Halachah and minhag contains the greatest of secrets. Hashem in His great compassion is drawing you close to this holiness through the practical Halachos and customs.

4] Even helping at home, cleaning for Pesach and performing errands is part of the preparation. This that Klal Yisroel toils so much for before Pesach is in itself an expression of how much deep in their hearts they desire to come close to Hashem on Pesach. Sometimes the Yetzer Hara makes an effort in order to make us forget about feeling that longing for Hashem while cleaning for Pesach, and instead, makes sure to cause stress and agitation in the home, in order to make us forget the main purpose of all our work.

Therefore you should be very, very careful to help with joy and liveliness in whatever is needed, and yield to your family with selflessness. You should have faith that whatever you are doing gives great pleasure and pride to Hashem, and don’t forget what you are cleaning for -Pesach! Remind yourself aloud: “I am doing this for Pesach!”

It is also possible to speak to Hashem and express your yearning for Him, while you are working. Adel, the daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, would sometimes stop in middle of sweeping the house, with her broom in her hand, and would say with great yearning, “How can I give delight to Hashem?”

Whenever you clean a place which really needs to be cleaned from Chametz, keep in mind that with this action you are literally destroying the Chametz from your mind and heart, which refers to all the illusions, worries, fights, jealousies, angers, etc.

5] In general you should know that every Mitzvah which you do before Pesach, and all the Torah which you learn, every Kriyas Shema which you recite, and every Tefillah, every respect you give for your parents, and every overcoming a trial, in essence is preparing you for the Yom Tov, even if it’s not directly connected to Pesach.  You should therefore try to grab as much Torah and Mitzvos you can as a preparation.

There is a story told about Reb Noson and Reb Aharon, the Rav of Breslov, who were about to recite Kiddush Levanah, but since the moon wasn’t clear, Reb Aharon chose to wait another day, while Reb Noson didn’t wait. The next night, after Reb Aharon recited Kiddush Levanah by a clear moon, Reb Noson said, “True, he recited Kiddush Levanah properly, however I already merited to daven Maariv today coming after [yesterday’s] Kiddush Levanah.” Because in actuality each Mitzvah helps us to receive the holiness from the following one.

The main point is to arouse your heart whenever you remember to, that Pesach is coming, a Pesach which has never been before, and that “I certainly have a portion in it. I will prepare for it however I am able”. In such a manner, you will truly merit to taste from this year’s  Korban Pesach and Chagigah, in the Beis HaMikdash.

The Letter – Impossible Times & Perseverance in Avodas Hashem

A person must be very stubborn and persistent in his service of Hashem. This idea must be understood well. Every person who wants to enter into Avodas Hashem, even the lowest of the low, must undergo immeasurable amount of ups and downs and all sorts of falls, and sometimes even being thrown down intentionally, away from Avodas Hashem.

Concerning all of this it’s essential to have an inestimable amount of encouragement, as explained above. Often a person must be strong and to hold on with no more than stubbornness. An enormous amount of perseverance is needed. Remember this very well, because there will be many times that you will need to keep this in mind.

Meshivas Nefesh 31, Based on Likutei Moharan II 48

The Letter

This lesson in Likutei Moharan is referred to by Breslover Chassidim as “The Letter”, because the Rebbe conveyed it in first person, like someone writing a letter to his friend. You can see his pleasant words at length inside, which contain the foundations of Hischazkus in simple words, from where we can learn the great importance of accepting upon ourselves the teachings of Hischazkus, as he warns us, “Remember this very well, because there will be many times that you will need to keep this in mind.”

[Since this lesson contains many directives in Hischazkus, in Meshivas Nefesh it is split into several paragraphs, from paragraphs 31 until 38. In this essay we will explain paragraphs 31 and 32.]

We find two approaches throughout the teachings of Hischazkus. There are ideas which give a person the encouragement not to fall into sadness and how to always be happy. And there are others, such as this lesson, which teach us how to continue in our Avodas Hashem and to do what we have to do, even when we fall or when we see that things are not going good.

Impossible Times

Very often people are tested from above by not being allowed to achieve any sense of enlightenment or enthusiasm in Avodas Hashem. It may appear to him as if Hashem is pushing him away and it puts him in low spirits. He may think that maybe he doesn’t have a share in Avodas Hashem in general or even in a specific point of Avodas Hashem. But the reality is that having us fall into these feelings of smallness is the way that we are tested.

A person must always be telling himself, that there are times in which it’s impossible to be on an elevated state of mind. But still, he has to know that in every situation a person is always left with a small point deep inside his heart in which he knows the truth that the main thing is Hashem and we must serve Him. It’s just since he’s seeing that his heart is not drawn after Hashem or since he’s fallen and isn’t successful in getting up, that he therefore gets into the habit during low times of being lazy in Avodas Hashem and following his negative feelings.

Perseverance in Avodas Hashem

This is how the Rebbe seeks to encourage us through this letter. It is specifically in these low times that a person must strengthen himself to pursue that last small point of sense which he still has, in which he still is aware of the truth. He should go after it with tremendous stubbornness, even if at that moment he doesn’t know or understand for what and why he should be davening or learning or protecting himself from sins and trials. During these low times, a person must strengthen himself with stubbornness, just like a child who remains stubborn and unwilling to compromise about something, even after he’s already forgotten why.

The trait of stubbornness, when a person wants to forcefully accomplish exactly what he wants, is generally a negative character trait which is rooted in misplaced pride. But still, when it comes to holiness, stubbornness is a very necessary quality. A person needs to have pride when it comes to spirituality, and to be steadfast and to stand his own, even when he doesn’t have any energy, vitality or spirit.

One must be stubborn in practicing Hisbodedus daily, as the Rebbe taught us that we should make sure to have Hisbodedus even when we have nothing to say or no feelings. Stubbornness is also required concerning studying Torah every day, on which the Rebbe said that anyone who will study a set amount every day no matter what, will certainly leave all his sins, even if he is very far from Hashem. The same thing when it comes to davening, on which the Rebbe taught that we must be stubborn to daven and pray with enthusiasm, or to pray as if we really feel that passion.

This advice of stubbornness which the Rebbe is guiding us with is the greatest encouragement, because a person primarily falls because he feels bad when he sees that he doesn’t feel any passion in his Avodas Hashem. It’s therefore important to know this concept, which is that a person must go through many low days and times. It’s not because Hashem is distancing him, rather He is testing him to see how he will persevere and remain stubborn to do what he has to do no matter what, just not to give up on his holiness.

This is the advice of “Waiting” which is discussed elsewhere, that a person is steadfast not to leave the entrance to Avodas Hashem just because he sees that he’s unable to go in, rather he continues to do whatever he can, and to keep starting over again and again.

You should know that it’s necessary to go through all of these falls and lows and confusion, etc., before entering the gates of Kedushah, and all of the Tzaddikim experienced all of this.

Ibid. 32

The thing which most prevents a person from remaining persistent and steadfast is that he thinks that he is the only one who has to go through these experiences. It therefore seems to him as if he doesn’t have the ability to even start. It is for this reason that the Rebbe teaches us the important idea in the style of a letter, “You should know…”

A person must know very well that all the Tzaddikim experienced all this, and thereby strengthen himself with resoluteness to keep on starting again and again. No matter what’s happening, he continues to wait for the time that it will become easier, but in the meantime he does what he can and what he’s able. The main thing is not to give up, whatever might be, and not to see even a hint in what he’s going through of being pushed away, because he knows that all the Tzaddikim have already gone on this path.

Laws pertaining to Preparing the House for Pesach – Part III

Kashering the Kitchen, its furniture and accessories.

A. The main body of the kitchen area itself needs a thorough cleaning and bedikah since this is the main place where chametz is found throughout the year. With regards to the obligation to perform bedikas chametz on the main floor space, as we have mentioned in previous weeks, one can rely on cleaning alone, but with regards to the corners and crevices/grooves, under the fridge and between the cupboard, one needs to perform a bedikah as well.

B.  Kitchen Cupboards:

One needs to remove all the contents of the shelves and clean them well so that  not even a single crumb will remain.  One also needs to perform a thorough bedikah even though one has used cleaning materials there, due to a fear that some crumbs may fall into a utensil or food.  The main bedikah revolves around the corners and hinges (where for example “soup almonds” or pasta pieces can fall).  NOTE: Even though one has cleaned there, one needs to do a bedikas chametz before one places the Pesach utensils and food there, as afterwards it is not possible to perform a bedikah.  Many are negligent in this point since when they do the bedikah on the night of the 14th, the shelves are already full of Pesach goods and it is difficult at that point to remove everything and thereby perform a thorough bedikah – and what usually happens is one ends up only superficially looking over the shelves and this is not considered a bedikah at all!

Cupboards that one intends to include when selling one’s chametz, do not require cleaning or bedikah.

There are those that line their cupboard shelves with paper/plastic lining or the like, but it seems that if the selves are made of Formica, there is no need to line them at all as this minhag of covering them comes from yesteryear where most shelving was made of solid wood which had many grooves and there was no real way to clean them well.  Conversely today, when one is able to clean such smooth surfaces well, there is no need.  However, if one was not able to clean one’s surfaces appropriately or there are some grooves or cracks etc, there is room to follow this minhag.

C. Kitchen Drawers:

One has to follow the laws described above in regards to the Kitchen cupboards, but one needs to be even more careful with regards to the corners and railings of the drawers. After one has cleaned them well, one needs to perform a bedikah.  If it is during the day, one can take the drawers into the sunlight (E.g. by the window) and perform the bedikah; if at night, with a flashlight.

Also over here, if one has performed the appropriate bedikah and there is no separation between the bottoms and the sides of the drawers, one does not need to line them with paper/plastic lining (or the like).  However, if one still suspects there may be some chametz in the grooves, instead of the lining, it is possible to spray some detergent there or to seal the grooves with tape.

D. Bread Drawers:

The correct minhag is not to use these at all on Pesach.  One who does in fact make use of this space, should seal all the corners and grooves with tape as even after cleaning, it is very likely still to have crumbs of chametz there.  Also the railings in the case of such drawers, would need to be cleaned exceptionally well and then sprayed with detergent afterwards in case any remaining crumbs should fall into the drawers below.

E.  Drying Racks:

According to the main essence of the Halacha, it is enough to clean the drying racks well.  However, in the case of drying racks built into the cupboards, it is likely that they may have absorbed steam from chametz and therefore, when steamed again during Pesach, the racks will exude this chametz to the Pesach utensils.  Therefore, it would appear that one should kasher them with steam.  In practice, one should boil water in an electric urn/kettle and while it is still boiling steam, hold/place the kettle under the drying racks letting the steam of the kettle draw out any chametz that it may have absorbed.

F.  Counter tops:

One needs to clean these surfaces extremely well and carefully because they will be used on Pesach itself.  It would  appear that according to the strict fulfillment of the precept, one should perform a bedikah on them as well.  In practice, most people in Eretz Yisrael do not have real granite (which is normally a mixture) and therefore it is not possible to kasher them.  One is therefore required to cover them.  It is preferable to cover them with a thick enough material that will not tear on Pesach e.g. pvc, or 100 micro foil.  If one uses such material, there is no need to perform Hagalah (pour boiling water over the counter tops) prior to covering it.  If one wants to be scrupulous, one should not place any hot pots on the surface directly, but rather on an intermediary place-holder between the counter and pot.  Note: those who have genuine stone/granite or stainless steel counter tops should ask a halachic authority about the methods of kashering them, due to the complexity involved which we are unable to go into over here.

G. Ceramic Tiles

One should clean these surfaces (backsplash etc) well, since they are susceptible to absorbing steam given off by, or from splashes of chametz.  Should these surfaces come in contact with a Pesach pot etc, the pot could absorb the taste of the chametz.  In practice, hagalah would not help with ceramic since it is porous and therefore one should cover these surfaces with the likes of regular aluminum foil.

G. Faucets

One should clean them well and pour boiling water over them.  The process is as follows:  First, one should open the hot water and let the water flow until the tap itself becomes hot and then pour boiling water over the tap at the same time.  With regards to removable faucets with a hose, since there are parts that do not get very hot when the hot water is turned on, one should pour boiling water on the hose etc as well.

“I shall take you to Me for a people…”

Every child is raised with the phrase ‘don’t let your imagination run wild.’ This perception accompanies us from childhood. Educators, parents and anyone who has some experience with the letdowns of this world take care to imbed in the hearts of all who heed their advice, that one must be cautious not to be swept away by the imagination, lest one be sorely disappointed. As a result of this, we generally prefer a somewhat conservative outlook of what is in store for us, not too much and not too little.

This is the way we relate to daily life, and so too to the Chaggim. The chag of Pesach presents us with a dilemma – aside from the ‘Chag Ha’Matzos’ it has another name too – “Chag Ha’Cheirus” (“The Festival of Freedom”). If we desired to relate to Pesach with a moderate approach, to expect seven days of relaxation and nothing more, Reb Nosson comes along and ruins our plans. Rabbeinu as well, did not relinquish the use of awesomely lofty concepts and expressions. According to the picture painted to us by the sifrei tzaddikim (the works of the Tzaddikim) the world is simply going to change and our lives are approaching a sharp turn for the better.

Why is it that the promises and speeches of a brighter future, for the most part cause us feelings of reluctance and inhibition. We wave a hand of dismissal when our peace is disturbed by the enthusiasm of Reb Nosson as he speaks of an influx of da’as (holy intellect), of G-dly perception and of the kedusha of Chag Ha’Pesach that is soon to shower down upon us. We find ourselves saying “Seriously, let’s be a little more down to earth, let’s not get carried away; Ge’ula (redemption), kedusha, lofty perceptions… where am I in relation to all this”. “You Know what” we eventually compromise, “forget the Ge’ula and all the other exalted stuff, it’s above us, let us just have a peaceful chag … it would be nice if there would be even a prospect of some financial salvation in the near future.’

There is another problem that arises when we begin to hear talk of the Ge’ula, of purification, of fear and love of Hashem and of the receiving of the Torah that is on the horizon. Our hearts begin to sink as we suddenly are struck with awareness of how far we are. The gallus (exile) rises up and declares “hey! Don’t get carried away, you’re still way down in the depths.”

Perhaps now we can begin to understand our forefathers in Mitzrayim, why it was that they were so bothered by the lofty promises of Moshe, why they were unable to accept with simplicity the guarantee of “I will take you out … I will rescue you … I will redeem you… I will take you as a people to me” (Shemos 6;6). Moshe arrives as a direct messenger from Hashem doing wonders and miracles that completely defy nature and requests only one thing: ‘Have faith, agree to be redeemed’. But no, “and they did not listen to Moshe” (6; 9) – they were unable to accept this.

Yes, we are indeed very well acquainted with this. ‘I will take you out, I will rescue you… what? It can’t be. Let’s be logical for a moment, give us even one reason why He would desire to redeem such lowly creatures as ourselves – perhaps the intention is to someone at the other end of Mitzrayim who did not cease praying and calling out to Hashem for a moment, even when he had a mountain of bricks piled on his back – but us, impossible…’

If we are honest we must admit that the Chag of Pesach appears against a background that seems unrealistic and perhaps even quite absurd. Suddenly, a chag from another galaxy appears in our lives and showers down upon us love and kindness. Ears that have become accustomed to the screams of brutal slave-drivers and soldiers are unable to absorb the tune of comfort and condolence and they seem horrifyingly foreign and bizarre. ‘What’s going on here? Someone is calling me ‘My child’? I have a loving father? But I’m just an Egyptian slave, an evildoer and a sinner who is liable to suffering and exile. We are afraid, unable to let go and receive Pesach … it is just seems too good to be true … perhaps it is nothing more than a pleasant fantasy.

This is exactly what troubled our forefathers in Mitzrayim, they couldn’t hear all this, they just were not capable of accepting it. Yet in truth, how did the Ge’ula actually take place? Klal Yisroel were then on the lowest of levels, those prosecuting them in heaven saying: “these (Egyptians) worship idols and so do these (Jewish people)”, were not little children – they were fiery angels who knew exactly that they were saying; they truly did not see any difference between them. In truth, every Jew would have been prepared to put his signature on this statement; they all truly felt like Egyptians. Against a background of pyramids and alters that were clouded in the smoke of the service of idolatry, the Ge’ula truly seemed like nothing more than a hallucination … But it was indeed very real.

Reb Nosson reveals the secret – The first one in the world who made use of the concept of ‘Azamra’ (L.M 282) was Hashem himself in all His glory, for if not, “we and our children and our children’s children would still be slaves…”

In order that we shouldn’t misunderstand, it is important to note that Jews in Mitzrayim were deeply involved in the ways of Mitzrayim. If the process of accessing their status would have been performed in accordance with any commonly accepted principles, not one soul would have left Mitzrayim. When Hashem withdrew the souls of Klal Yisroel from their entanglement in the profanity of Egypt, He delicately picked out only their ‘Nekudos Toivos’ (points of good).

Amidst the darkest wasteland sparkled points of Jewish light, it was these points that indicated the place of the Jewish souls; a point of light that dragged behind it a dark, heavy and coarsely physical body.

Hashem tells us about this Himself – “Then I passed over you and saw you wallowing in your blood…’(Yechezkel 16; 6), Hashem was saying ‘I have found nothing in you, but I have desired to redeem you and therefore I have looked upon you with eyes of kindness and mercy, I have searched for only that which is truly important to Me, that small point of truth, the tiny Jew deep down inside, the pain and the outcries that are almost indiscernible’, and then “…I said to you, ‘In your blood you shall live’”.

If Hashem needed to make us of ‘Azamra’ in order to free us from Mitzrayim, then when we seek to receive Pesach it is absolutely impossible to achieve this without ‘Azamra’. On Pesach a wondrous shir (song) is played throughout the world, a song of miracles and wonders, a melody of closeness and comfort. This song penetrates to the depths of the exile and plays upon the strings of the souls that a have been numbed by a lengthy gallus.  From there it turns heavenward with yearning, ascends the ladder of the spiritual worlds and uplifts the soul to the level of a beloved child. It whispers in the ear:’ you are the child of Hashem, and He loves you with a love that knows no bounds’.

In order to hear the wondrous niggun it is necessary to build and develop it. In general it develops in four stanzas (paralleling the four levels of mochin (intellect) that are drawn down on the night of the Seder, as explained in the teachings of the Arizal). It begins with a very low tone, at times when our souls are wallowing in the dust of katnus (constricted consciousness) when we are surrounded by confusion and small-mindedness.  Then, when we perceive how lowly and crooked our life’s paths are, overloaded with nonsense and vanity, and burning with flames of lowly desires, if we learn the correct approach we can transform this into the first stage of the wondrous niggun.

It is obvious that we must proceed along the path and to continue along the soul’s journey. Yet instead of discerning and highlighting the bad and the emptiness, we must focus ONLY on the good, to find the light that can overcome the darkness. If my path is so crooked yet I persist in trying to move along it and not despair, then I am a person of tremendous mesiras-nefesh (self-sacrifice) and this is marvelously wondrous. If these types of lowly thoughts flood my mind, how incredible is it that I still recognize them and try somewhat to overcome them,  where do I get the strength to continue fighting? An Egyptian certainly wouldn’t be able to do this. There is no doubt that Hashem presents examples like myself to all the heavenly worlds, to show them how special his children are and how it was worthwhile to create the whole world just for them.

Then one ascends to the next stanza, at this stage the soul already begins to experience some relief and in fact begins to radiate: ‘Yes, I am a Jew, I won – I succeeded in strengthening myself and dispelling the evil’. On this level the mind is illuminated and spirit of purity begins to serge throughout the soul.

In the next stanza the main avodah is – bitachon (trust in Hashem). Now we are neither here nor there, one foot in and one foot out. A level of truth begins to sparkle within us, love or fear of Hashem for example. This ignites the mind and warms the heart. Yet then, the thoughts of doubt begin to appear ‘who said this is real’,’ perhaps in another moment it will completely disappear’. In order to play this stanza, we must dive inside and trust completely in Hashem’s infinite goodness and kindness, to believe that I DO have it – I am a Jew and all the good in the world is intended for me – I will certainly succeed in entering inside.

The highest stanza is played upon the most subtle of cords; it is there that the perception that there is no nature at all is revealed, that the entire existence is nothing but one solid piece of Hashem’s splendor. With my every movement I arouse tremendous joy above; Hashem loves me and creates everything anew every second for me. This is the Pesach – a tremendously great perception.

The preparations for Pesach already begin from Purim, yes, it does not only work like this with cleaning. The spiritual avodah of creating Pesach itself is meant to begin with the eradication of Amalek. When the vision of myself seen through the lens of ‘reality’ tries to persuade me by arguing: ‘There is no difference, you are just like an Egyption’ – this is Amalek. His eradication is the defiance of and protest against this kefirah (heresy), ‘I AM a Jew, and Hashem specifically chose me!’

On Rosh Chodesh the main avodah begins, it is called – kibbutz niddachim (the ingathering of the dispersed). We must then begin to do what Hashem did on that night, when He Himself, and not a messenger, went amongst the houses and the courtyards to identify the Nekudos Toivos (good points). This is the avodah that begins on Rosh Chodesh, the avodah of the filling of the moon. It begins the month concealed, and as we proceed to find the good points, its light is slowly increased until it reaches its pinnacle on the night the Seder. We must stubbornly persist to search out the good, the wonders that sparkle inside us, to recognize who it is that Hashem chose to take as a nation for Himself and to agree … Yes, to really agree to be truly redeemed, in the full sense of the word.

You can download the entire parasha sheet here..

Revealing the Honor of Hashem

Sefer Meshivas Nefesh – elucidated

A person sometimes falls from his spiritual level, and the fall and descent can be very immense. There are those who fall into disgraceful, impure situations. They fall into doubts about their faith and terrible, disgraceful, strange thoughts. The forces of Klippah warp and surround their hearts with bewilderment, as they become dizzy and all sorts of confusion overtake them.

Although in such situations it’s impossible to find Hashem, still, even then there is hope, through searching and seeking Hashem and asking, “Ayeh?, Where is the place of His glory?” As much as one sees himself distant from His glory and honor, he should use his distress to continue asking and seeking even more, “Where is the place of His glory?”

The searching, seeking and yearning for Hashem’s honor, and shouting and asking, “Where is the place of His glory?” in itself causes a tremendous ascent, up to the point of Ayeh, which is a very exalted and holy spiritual level.

This is the most important practice in Teshuvah, to constantly search and seek, “Ayeh, Where is the place of His glory?” and through this, all falls can be transformed into great climbs. This is the “going down for the purpose of climbing up” which is discussed in all the holy works.

This is a very deep concept which you should study in the original source and be sure to understand it well.

Based on Likutei Moharan II 12

This teaching, which is known as “Ayeh”, is amongst the principal directives of Hischazkus, together with “Azamra- Nekudos Tovos”, searching for the good points. Reb Nosson in Hilchos Eruvei Techumin 6, explains that these ideas are crucial for anybody who wants to be true and everlasting in his Yiddishkeit.

Revealing the Honor of Hashem

There are times when a person merits honoring Hashem. By studying Torah and performing Mitzvos, feelings for Hashem’s honor awaken with him, and his soul is spirited with love and awe of His Greatness. This is in fact the purpose of creation, as everything which Hashem created is only for His honor, meaning that people should recognize His glory in their hearts.

On the other hand, there are times when a person feels distant from Hashem’s honor. These are times when anguish overcomes him, and he falls into the illusion of feeling that he’s not accomplishing enough that day, or that ‘today is not a day.’

There are also personal needs which people need to take care of, such as eating, sleeping, running a family, as well as fiscal requirements. All of these are called ‘Klippas Nogah’, which refers to all things which are permitted activities, but are a ‘mixture’ of good and not. The holiness of these activities depends upon whether or not a person is thinking of Hashem when performing them. But there is a Klippah which surrounds and bewilders a person’s heart when occupied with these necessities which makes it difficult to think of and recognize Hashem at those times.

Sometimes, the Klippah overcomes a person to the degree that he actually causes a dishonor of Hashem, by falling into impure places of sin, G-d forbid.

The situation in which people find themselves most of the day is more or less one in which it’s hard to discover a possible way to draw close to recognizing Hashem’s honor. Darkness covers the world, and Hashem’s glory remains unrevealed. This klippah is the primary cause for the distance which people feel from Hashem.

Everything Receives its Life-Force from Hashem

The truth is, that a person must be very strong with the fundamental belief that Hashem’s honor is found everywhere in the universe, as ‘the whole world is full of His Glory’. The only thing, is that there are many levels in the revelation of His Glory.

It is imperative to know that in reality, all the klippah and forces of evil also receive their life-force from Hashem. The life-force which they get is actually from the highest levels of His glory and honor, which is called ‘The Hidden Utterance’, and from there is drawn energy for the entire world – including the powers of concealment and evil. The Ariza”l teaches that ‘sheviras keilim’ came about when the supernal light was too great, which teaches us that the life-force from Hashem gives existence even to those ‘broken’ places which are concealing Him, in the aspect of a ‘hidden utterance’.  It is impossible to truly understand how Hashem’s glory is really found in all evil places too, and we are forbidden from trying to comprehend it.

The ‘hidden utterance’ is referred to as ‘Ayeh, where is the place of His Glory’, which is the Sefirah of Kesser, from which infinite divine mercy and compassion comes forth. We don’t see or understand this, and therefore it’s called “Ayeh, Where?” because Hashem’s honor is hidden within it. On Shabbos by Mussaf when we recite the Kedushah of Kesser, we are elevated to this exalted plane, and we then ask, ‘Ayeh, Where is the place of His Glory?” because then the source of divine mercy is revealed – the great light which cleanses sin and brings a person close to Hashem even if he is now in the darkest places.

Searching Ayeh, Where is His Honor?

Thus, the Rebbe reveals to us this wonderful and crucial directive, that when a person sees that he is in a situation in which he has fallen into concealment and cannot discover Hashem’s honor, he should attach himself to this exalted place called Ayeh, which is the light of Kesser which shines every Shabbos morning. He should lift himself up from his feelings of distance and his habit of looking at and measuring his successes. He should know that Hashem’s honor is certainly to be found in these places, and the reality is that if not for Him sustaining them, they wouldn’t even have any existence.

He should cease to follow his own mind and understanding, in which he is accustomed to differentiating between ‘successful days’ and ‘days of failure’. Instead he should be constantly aware that Hashem is everywhere, and all his negative feelings are baseless. Hashem is certainly here, and He is very great. That a person doesn’t feel it is because he’s missed the mark in his ‘nogah’ activities, and he repairs himself through the discomfort which he is now experiencing and his asking “Ayeh – Why is my sin concealing His honor, I don’t want this concealment!” Through this searching he connects himself to the understanding that even in this emptiness and void, wondrous things are taking place, and he learns for the future that in every activity there is a wonderful way how to serve Hashem and come close to Him, by revealing His honor in every place where he’s been sent.

Being strong to continue to want to reveal Hashem’s glory even in those places, in itself rectifies the concealment, and draws upon a person great divine compassion, through which every fall can be transformed into a climb and ascent.

The power of Ayeh is very great, and it is the source of cleansing from sin. Everything depends and is rooted in a person not following his own understanding of the situation, and being ready to yield his own feelings.

The main thing to keep in mind is that in these places and situations it is impossible to see Hashem’s glory revealed, and the only solution is through searching and seeking Ayeh? This in itself will break the confusion he feels in his heart, and the concealment which is fooling him into thinking that Hashem’s honor can’t be found here.

This is amazing guidance through which a person can hold fast in any situation – it may be in days when he’s feeling down, or when he’s busy with nogah activities. No matter what, he can ask and seek, “Ayeh, Where is the place of His honor?” Hashem’s glory is certainly to be found here. He shouldn’t follow his own understanding and feelings which are tricking him. He should instead be aware that there are many levels of Hashem’s revelation, and the highest level is the honor which is hidden in Ayeh, and the way through which to connect with it is through searching and asking Ayeh.  Through this he ascends to exalted levels of holiness.

Tag Cloud