Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for March 19, 2010

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.

Laws pertaining to Preparing the House for Pesach – Part II

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A. Rooms in the House & furniture that need cleaning and Bedikas Chametz:

All rooms of the house that are suspected of having Chametz brought in require cleaning and Bedikas Chametz.. This is because there are times in which a person entered such a room in the middle of his seuda and there is therefore a fear that he may have left some Chametz behind.  This applies even more so when there are children in the house who go from room to room with Chametz.  Bedrooms are an issue in regards to the sick who ate in the bed.  One also needs to perform Bedikas Chametz under the beds it is not uncommon for Chametz to fall there.  This applies even more so to places in which one eats, such as the kitchen, dining-room and living room including the space in-between or under the cupboards if one is able to gain access with his hands.

B.  After cleaning, what are the rules of Bedikas Chametz in these places:

After one has washed the floor with cleaning materials in the open area of the room, there is no need to perform Bedikas Chametz.  With regards to the corners of the room, even though they are halachically considered “holes” or “grooves” requiring Bedikah, since anything remaining would becomes “unfit for a dog to eat” due to the cleaning materials, according to the essential Halacha there is no need to perform Bedikas Chametz there, however, in practice it appears that one should check in there in a superficial manner.

C.  Bathrooms (without toilet) in general require cleaning and Bedikah as it is not uncommon for Chametz to be brought in there during a Seuda, especially on Erev Pesach where one may wash his hands before or after a meal.   Restrooms (containing a toilet) require bedikah when there are children in the house. (Many make the mistake of not performing a bedikas chametz in these places.  So, if one wants to perform bedikas chametz “b’tehara” (“in purity”) without having to do netilas yadayim again, he should leave the restroom till last.

D.  Cupboards outside of the kitchen: The Poskim write that there is a fear that one may have needed something in the middle of a seuda from a cupboard and inadvertently left some Chametz behind.  Therefore, any cupboard that is suspected of having Chametz requires bedikah.  However, if one is used to washing ones hand before opening such cupboards, there would be no need to clean and perform bedikah there.  Furthermore, if access to the higher parts of the cupboards require a chair or ladder, there is no need to clean and perform bedikas Chametz there.  If there are children in the house, any place that they can access would in fact require cleaning and bedikah.  Even more so, cupboards that have children’s toys are certainly considered to be places containing Chametz and would therefore require cleaning and bedikah.

The practical ways to clean and perform bedikas Chametz in cupboards and those places suspected of containing chametz:

  • One should remove all the contents from the shelves and drawers (both fixed and removable) and clean them.
  • One also needs to clean all the surfaces of the cupboard (sides, back bottom etc) and it is preferable to clean these surfaces with cleaning materials as this process will invalidate any remaining chametz there.  Shelves that one is able remove and clean, do not require bedikas chametz.  However, fixed shelving and the bottom of the cupboard do require bedikah in the corners.  Drawers should be removed and cleaned and when performing bedikas chametz, only require superficial checking (unlike the shelves).

E.  Bookshelves: With regards to bookshelves (open or closed) that are in a place where one eats throughout the year, the lower sections are considered to be places almost certain to contain Chametz, even more so in the case of children in the house.  However, the higher less accessible places do not require bedikas chametz.

F.  Clothes: If one’s clothes are laundered, there is no need to clean the pockets to perform bedikas chametz  there since, after laundering, there is unlikely to be any remaining chametz, and any chametz would be deemed invalid by the laundering process.  However, with regards to those clothes that one intends to wear on Pesach, it would seem appropriate to clean their pockets even though they have been laundered in order that no crumbs should inadvertently enter one’s food.  This process of cleaning the pockets after laundering, entails turning them inside-out and dusting them off.

If one was not able to launder his clothes in general before Pesach, one should clean the pockets and hems (as these are considered places suspected of  chametz), and should perform bedikas chametz in the sunlight or under the light of the room on them.  It would be considered a fine bedikah and therefore, one would not need to reform bedikas chametz on the night of the 14th again.

“…Draw me near, we will run after you!”

Amidst the snowy peaks the majestic mountain stood out; no-one had ever seen its full height, because its peak was always enshrouded in a dome of clouds. Its tremendous height caught the imagination of thousands of mountain climbers, and the fact that no-one had yet conquered it, spurred them on even more. Old folk tales spoke of hundreds of climbers buried at its foot; climbers who had found their death in the wide open depths that lay between its sharp cliffs. The few who had returned from it in the middle of their journey told of a treacherous path, smooth rocks and sparse oxygen.

Like others his age who had grown up at the foot of the mountain, he’d heard the folk tales again and again, seen the mountain both in his waking hours and in his dreams and he knew in his heart – “I will beat it.” He began training on the neighbouring mountain ranges; he learnt the terrain, the skills, and became a professional climber – ,then ripened in his heart his resolution – to conquer the mountain and reach its peak.

Everything was well planned – he bought the best and newest equipment, climbing boots, ropes, maps, appropriate clothing, and off he set on his journey. The trek stretched out into many long weeks. At first he was accompanied by green undergrowth and a clearly marked path. After that all he could see was snow and  rock. At times the path disappeared and it was only knowledge of the route passed on to him by seasoned climbers that enabled him to chose his next step. Many times death lay in wait for him on the edge of a cliff, the freezing wind surprising him from behind the rocks, seeking to turn him into a human kite. And then, one morning, the dome of the clouds was pierced and amongst the hazy white fog the peak of the mountain rose up a few hundred metres, breaking the horizon straight up into the sky. New strength flowed through his weary muscles. The last leg of the journey was so difficult as to be almost impossible. The rock of the mountain was absolutely smooth, steep and straight like a wall. But he was resolute – “If I don’t get to the peak, what’s life worth!”

With his two hands on the tip of the rock he lifted himself up, just one more moment and he’d find himself lying on a shelf of stone. “Hurrah!” escaped the cry from within him. He started to feel around with his feet to find a soft piece of earth where he could plant a flag, and then his eyes darkened. A few steps away from him, on a fold-up deck chair, sat a man.

“Who are you?” he choked with a coarse voice. “How… How did you get here?” He started to drag his feet to the edge of the cliff. “What do I have to live for?” he mumbled, a moment before throwing himself into the dome of clouds.

A strong arm grabbed him tightly, “What on earth are you doing? I was brought up here by helicopter to capture the moment the peak was conquered, I’m not a climber.”

◊◊◊

The force of gravity is one of the strongest forces known to man. Its intensity and magnetic force keep gigantic mountains, houses, rocks and billions of people stuck to the earth. No-one can beat it, though many try again and again to escape its clutches, to leap to a sphere beyond its influence. Birds spread their wings and fly high in the sky, they battle it with their wings, but in the end they too bow their heads to its power, and come back down to earth.

From the moment our soul was bound to our physical body, it desires only one thing – to escape, to spread its wings and take off. If the body would loosen just a little its strong hold on the soul, it would vanish in a moment into the spiritual horizon. Everything longs for its source and our souls also long constantly for their source. Holiness, kedushah, like the earth, has a gravitational pull. The Rebbe (Likutei Moharan Torah 70, first section) calls this the (spiritual) ‘force of gravity’.

If holiness is a gravitational pull, then the body is a compelling and opposing force – it compels the soul, against its spiritual nature, to remain constrained within the physical boundaries of matter, time and space. These two forces – the spiritual gravitational pull and the physical compelling force work together in partnership. They appear to be in absolute contradiction, but in fact it is specifically between these two extremes that the creation was made and is sustained.

Reb Nosson explains this with a parable of a wind-up watch. Such a watch works precisely on this principle. Inside it is a strip of metal which is wound around tightly until it cannot be wound any more, creating tension and potential energy. As the strip attempts to return to its natural state, it is forced to turn the wheels of the mechanism, and the watch functions.

This spring in the watch – what a pitiful existence it has. Bent and wrapped tightly around a  wheel, it has only one wish – to stretch out and expand. What sin did it commit that such a decree was made on it, that it must spend its whole life in this painful and unnatural state? It never adjusts to its situation. It puts in so much effort to get back to its original state – to straighten out, and just as its about to achieve this, it’s wound up again, and has to start all over.

Our soul is like this spring. Naturally it is used to the wide open expanses of the spiritual realm. Suddenly it finds itself in such an uncomfortable environment. A world of physical matter and a heavy, cumbersome body. Bent and bound to 248 physical limbs and 365 sinews. There’s no room, everything’s cramped, confined and constricted. The waves of thoughts are hard to bear, the heartstrings tough, hard and relentless, and it doesn’t know itself. “Enough!” it cries out silently, “Give me some room, some space, I’m suffocating!”

At last it succeeds in reviving its bent limbs over a page of Gemorrah, it smells the scent of freedom in its nostrils, it can see itself outside the limits of space and time. But then the body stretches out its arm and puts on the brakes – it’s time for breakfast.

Throughout his life a man attempts to break barriers, to elevate himself, to climb. To find himself beyond all this. But at the very moment that this goal would be achieved – the moment the soul would break through all the barriers of physicality, would also be the moment when the whole story would come to an end.

Why don’t we take mercy on the poor spring, take it out from the cruel clutches of the watch mechanism and let it return to its natural state – a straight and free piece of metal? Why? Because we all know that at that moment it would cease to be a watch. Straight, free pieces of metal can be found anywhere. But the wonderful contraption of a watch exists only when there’s a piece of metal inside it, wound around to the highest tension possible.

Just like the spring, our souls placed down here in this world act as a mechanism that keeps all the worlds spinning on their axes. What creates the force of movement, what causes tens of thousands of angels and firmaments to sing songs every day? A strip of metal – a soul bound and wrapped up in a physical body. The spring inside us, which is sometimes wound to the point that it can’t take any more tension, and that’s stuck between the contradiction of the gravitational pull and the compelling, opposing force – is the pivot upon which Hashem’s wondrous creation spins.

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We’re heading to meet Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day that the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was erected. The word “Mishkan” is an expression of “Moshchaini – draw me,” “Draw me, we will run after you,” (Shir HaShirim 1:4). “The Mishkan,” says the Rebbe, “had the power to draw the Divine Presence to wherever it stood. And all the creations are drawn to this place, because they are all drawn towards their source.”

The force of gravity is concealed deep in the earth, because humility is the source of all creation. This is why the Mishkan could only be built by a Tzaddik who had absolute humility.

In Nissan the spiritual gravitational force is aroused. The soul begins to extract itself from the shackles of its physical exile, to stretch out its limbs and spread its wings. Nissan is the month of yearning, when in the core of the earth the wondrous song of the future is sounded, a song of wonders and miracles. But let’s not forget that we are still in the physical world, within a mechanism of spinning wheels and cogs, amidst time, space and a myriad of physical details. This is the mechanism that we are shackled to, and this we bear, move and push.

This is how we build the Mishkan. If the only force in the Mishkan was the spiritual pull, it couldn’t have existed within the physical realm. The Mishkan was specifically assembled from physical objects, and it had precise spatial measurements and boundaries, and a precise timetable of events, because it was the perfect balance between the spiritual gravitational pull and the opposing physical force.

From where can we draw the strength to live in a balanced way amidst this contradiction? Together with the erection of the Mishkan we have Rosh Chodesh. The Rebbe says that on Rosh Chodesh Nissan everyone receives greatness from the Tzaddik. And what is this greatness? Humility. The Tzaddik, who is the source of humility, places in everyone’s soul a power of humility. Without this humility it would be impossible to distinguish between the spiritual and physical pulls. In this physical world it’s very easy to get confused and mistake one for the other.

Humility is already within us, it’s hereditary for us. But we need someone to arouse it in us. This is done on Rosh Chodesh Nissan by the Tzaddik who’s humbler than all men, who erects the Mishkan. He gives each one his greatness, meaning the ability and strength to utilise the spiritual pull to correctly manage the opposing physical force, and forge a wondrous life, a life of joy, a life of service in the Mishkan.

To be up on top of the mountain takes no great skill or wisdom, the wisdom is in climbing to the top. The mountain isn’t conquered in a helicopter. The mountain is only conquered when you schlep up to its peak a heavy physical body, that could have fallen at any point along the way. Hashem placed us in this world, not so we should escape or avoid the mechanism. We’re wound up like a spring, and we simply can’t adjust to this limited physical existence. And this is good, because woe to us if we stop exerting ourselves. The limits that surround and constrict us are also what give meaning to our yearnings and strivings, because only when there is a soul within a body is the Divine purpose achieved and Divine pleasure aroused.

You can download the entire parasha sheet here: Vayakhel 5770

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