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
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.
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.
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.