Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for November 24, 2010

FAQS – Loving our Fellow

Question:

What is so special about strengthening ourselves in our Ahavas Yisroel during the period of Sefiras HaOmer? I anyhow try not to insult others or cause them pain. I want to understand why Ahavas Yisroel is such a fundamental Torah concept on which all Avodas Hashem depends.

Answer:

1] Ahavas Yisroel does not only mean to act ethically by not insulting or hurting anyone. By the other nations we also find rules of proper social behavior.

Ahavas Yisroel is an inner feeling in the heart, on which basic Emunah in Hashem depends. When a person loves Hashem he automatically loves His children, and focuses on the good within them. He believes in every Jew as someone who has a part in crowning Hashem as King in this world with the little bit of good that they do, since it is impossible that somebody has never done some good in his life.

As you accustom yourself to thinking this way about every Jew that you see, i.e., when you arrive at Shul, you take a look at the congregants and say to yourself: ”Here are Hashem’s people … I’m part of this holy nation …” .  And with this, you will start to feel a strong fervor in Avodas Hashem. Your thoughts will be elevated to concentrating more on Hashem’s Glory, and you will realize throughout all your prayers and Torah study that you are a part of the nation which crowns Hashem. You will stop constantly thinking just about yourself, how much you have accomplished, how successful you have been and how the Tefilah went, etc.

This is why in the “L’sheim Yichud” prayer which we recite before performing Mitzvos we say: “… in the name of all of Klal Yisroel” since we are connecting with the Avodas Hashem of all of Klal Yisroel.  This is also why the Ariza”l says that before davening we should accept upon ourselves the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel, and to love every Jew as one loves himself.

2] The Ariza”l also teaches that especially friends who engage in Torah study together must stick together as if they are each limbs of one body. If one member of the group is in pain, the entire group should pray for him.

The Yetzer Hara tries very hard to cause us to forget how essential the gathering of friends together is to Avodas Hashem. It’s important to get together to truly encourage and strengthen each other in Avodas Hashem, and to listen to what the other friends have to say. Not only without any arguing, but they should also have a real desire to join together, as brothers of the same father.

Someone who has not participated in such a gathering can not understand, but the sweetness of Avodas Hashem is most felt between good friends who through their friendliness are able to strengthen and encourage one another, worry for each other, and provide help for one another to the best of their ability. On Shabbos they find time to gather and sing Zemiros together. But when there is no love and in its place there is division, it is impossible to gather new strength and energy in Avodas Hashem, as Chazal say: ‘Either a friend or death.’

We must again emphasize that division isn’t necessarily bickering. It is being unable to sit together and speak pleasantly between friends, which causes a loss of vigor in Avodas Hashem. This is because the nature of a person is to be drawn after the world, and this world is a place which screams out nature, pain and suffering, and a concealment of all things divine and holy etc. But when a person knows that he’s connected with friends that are strengthening themselves together to live a life of Emunah, a life of rejoicing in Hashem, etc., he then has the emotional strength to confront the world. Then, even when he isn’t able to get together with his friends, the awareness that he is part of such a group already gives him the inner strength to deal with all the trials and difficulties.

This is still only what we ourselves are aware of – what we see with our own eyes. But in truth, there’s even more to the matter.  There is a spiritual energy which assists those who serve Hashem together as a group. The Rebbe once remarked to Reb Lipa after he didn’t journey to him for a while: “I wonder how you can throw away such a caring and beloved group. If all this time you haven’t gone in the ways of Hashem properly, you’ve certainly lost out on what you’ve lost. And if you did serve Hashem properly, wouldn’t it have been better if you would have pooled all your devotions together with these beloved friends … others would have been able to achieve successes through your Avodah!”

Don’t wait around and anticipate a group of friends to organize themselves together with you. You don’t need to have an official group which makes up meeting times and resolutions, although of course it would be appropriate to do such a thing. The main thing is that you yourself should take the initiative, and start to believe in your friends – that they are Hashem’s children, and realize that each one certainly has within himself a unique good point which no one else does. You will be able to give everyone an authentic smile, and you won’t be embarrassed to speak with your friends about Avodas Hashem. With time, you will start to feel how your Avodas Hashem is full of life and joy.

Question:

How is it possible to come together with everyone when each person is attached to an outlook and path which is different from mine?

Answer:

Of course, on one hand it’s very important that you remain strong in your own path, and not get confused by all the different outlooks. But still, if your intentions are for the sake of Heaven and to search for Hashem, you will then see that it’s possible to connect with anyone and that you are able to be greatly encouraged by everyone.

This is an important rule when friends are discussing Avodas Hashem together. The conversation must be with the aim to derive inspiration and motivation for Avodas Hashem from each other. The Yetzer Hara tries very hard to steer conversations around all sorts of minor details in Avodas Hashem on which there is debate and different views, or to elucidate different views in Chassidus, etc. Often, arguments spark from such types of conversations, as if the clarification which they are discussing is what will further motivate them in their Avodas Hashem. [It really is necessary to clarify every issue, but for such things it’s better to go to someone who knows and understands the subject well and not to attempt to clarify it through loud discussions between friends.] Reb Nosson’s warning to young people to keep away from arguments, is well known.

The conversation between friends should be in general to talk about Hashem’s Greatness, and His Compassion, and how it’s always possible to renew oneself in Avodas Hashem, and to strengthen oneself in Torah and Tefillah. It’s possible to have such conversations with any Jew if the intention is to truly hear the Word of Hashem. If you would hear that someone is standing in the street praising your father in front of a crowd, you would definitely go and join them to hear, without checking who’s speaking, even if he isn’t saying anything new.

We will end off with the words of Reb Nosson in Hilchos Berchas HaReiyah 5: A person must be bold as a leopard in Avodas Hashem, but he must still not dislike his friends just because they don’t act the same way as him, because perhaps he needs to go in the path which he chose for himself, for perhaps according to the root of his soul, this is the way he has to go.

FAQ – Emunah

Question:

The Rebbe warns us to distance ourselves from philosophical speculation and skepticism. How is this topic relevant to me, if I anyways don’t read this type of material?

Answer:

A)     You should know, that the Rebbe says “People think that Emunah is something small. By me, Emunah is a very great thing.” (Sichos Haran 33).  It should be clear by everyone that the basis of Yiddishkeit is belief in Hashem. Without it, it would be impossible to perform any Mitzvos. But for whatever reason, it has become accepted to thing that every Jew who keeps Mitzvos already has Emunah. If you would ask him if he believes, he would certainly answer in the positive. He would of course be ready to sacrifice himself for Hashem’s name. Because of this, we have almost no motivation to strengthen ourselves in Emunah, unless some type of tragedy occurs. Only then do we try strengthening ourselves in order to endure the difficulties with words of faith. But the general conversation is to strengthen ourselves in performing Mitzvos and Torah study.

This is what the Rebbe meant, that people think Emunah is a small thing. “Emunah is the main thing, and every individual must search within himself and strengthen himself in Emunah.” (Likutei Moharan II 5) Emunah is something that we must constantly be involved in, to awaken it and keep it alive. It can be compared to dough, which starts leavening and souring when left alone.

B)      The Rebbe reveals an awesome thing, “that even thought it appears that the general public is distant from speculation and skepticism, and are not philosophically inclined at all, in reality, everyone is caught up in speculation. Every person has doubts; even children have confusing and doubting thoughts.” (Sichos Haran 32) But people usually don’t identify these thoughts as “skepticism”. Only after some time is their influence recognizable. It’s like a mosquito bite, which isn’t felt at the time of the sting, only afterwards… When a person starts to lose his liveliness in Avodas Hashem, it’s a sign of an itching sting. This is why the measurement of time for leavening of dough is 18 minutes, because the souring of Emunah causes someone to lose his liveliness (Life חי=18)

All this starts with a tiny skeptic which sits in the heart and thinks, “Does Hashem really need me, is He interested in my Mitzvos, does He still love me even after I fall? Why do I have so many difficulties, why was I born into this family, why am I so unsuccessful, is true satisfaction really in holiness?”

The Rebbe gives us a clear indication which proves the existence of hidden questions – that during davening we aren’t full of fervor from the fact that we are speaking to Hashem. “If someone would know in his heart that Hashem’s Glory fills the world, and that He is standing over him during his prayers and listening to his prayers, he would surely pray with great enthusiasm, and would be very exacting with himself to concentrate by every word.” (Likutei Moharan I 62)

Question:

How can we achieve a clear Emunah?

Answer:

A)     Even though we explained that everyone is full of speculation and doubts, still, the way to increase your Emunah is not by looking to see how far you are from it. The proper way is to motivate yourself to remind yourself that you do have Emunah in your heart, which you just need to awaken (see Parpaot Le’Chochma II 5). Through trying to grab a moment and another moment of thinking about Hashem, you will grow your faith, little by little.

You should know that thoughts don’t just pass through our minds. They are real entities which cause great and elevated things to happen up high, as explained throughout all the works of Tzaddikim, and the Rebbe himself discusses it many times. With every thought of Emunah you can be performing many Mitzvos.

B)      The main way to build up a heart with Emunah is through being involved in prayer. Both by praying for Emunah, by crying out to Hashem from the depths of your heart that Hashem should give you faith, and also by accustoming yourself to speak to Hashem in your native language and asking Him for all you needs, and to thank Him for everything good which happens to you. Be adamant about this, even if you still aren’t feeling Emunah. With time, you will get used to seeing that everything is from Hashem, and everything is in His hands and only He can help you. Your entire Yiddishkeit will take on an entirely new form.

C)      When you try going into the Avodah of Emunah, don’t panic when you see that the doubts and confusions continue to come up, perhaps even more than before. The truth is that all of these questions were there before, but you just weren’t conscious of them. They seemed to be just one solid piece of distance from Hashem. When you start to awaken the Emunah, you can start to pay attention to the difficulties in accepting the realities of Emunah. You should know that this is how it goes; sometimes Emunah wins out, sometimes the opposite. This is Hashem’s pride in us; that a Jew continues to try fighting his thoughts, and strives to think only of Hashem.

D)     You should know that when it comes to Emunah, there are many infinite levels upon levels. For that reason it’s necessary to study the books of the Tzaddikim who go in the path of the Baal Shem Tov. Especially Likutei Halachos, which reveals wonderful ways how to feel Hashem’s existence, on many levels and in many ways, by thinking about encouragement and closeness to Hashem.  Sometimes with simple faith without any feeling, sometimes with feeling, sometimes with intellectual inspiration, etc. All things which can all lead to a great desire for Hashem.

Their holy works speak about the fact that Emunah is already in every Jew’s heart, because we are all parts of Hashem’s presence. They thereby reveal ways to cling to Hashem and thinking about Him. These all bring a person into a reality of a life of Emunah, of tasting how Hashem is good.

[This is in contrast to other books of Jewish thought which try to bring a person to Emunah through explanations and intellectual arguments. They usually don’t have the ability to give a person a way how to liven up our hearts with Emunah, only to bring us to an intellectual agreement on Hashem’s existence.]

 

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