Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for December 24, 2010

The Light of Moshiach

The worst experience anyone can have is betrayal.

Imagine trusting a friend, someone who was always available and always understanding and suddenly finding yourself in horrendous straits and the reason behind the quagmire is this best friend.  Your mind simply refuses to accept such horrible shattering of trust.  How is this possible?  You try to explain it away somehow, but no matter what you do, reality smacks you right in the face: the facts are irrefutable.  His part in it is undeniable.  The pain over the treachery is far worse than physical pain, and no painkiller can dull the edge.

There is, however, something that could change it all instantly; If someone was to reveal to you that while your best friend was indeed behind the deed, there is a secret reason behind what he did:

“You were in tremendous danger – one that is far worse than anything you can possibly face,” that someone tells you:  “And your friend was the only one who realized it.  After wrecking his brain in trying to find an alternative solution, your friend realized that bringing you to the situation you find yourself in was the only way out.  To be effective, you could not be told this before.  So, with tear in his eyes and a heavy heart your friend did what he had to do with a single goal in his mind – your welfare.”

Now this little secret changes everything.  The act of betrayal is revealed to be the most altruistic act of love.  This is real friendship in its truest sense.

Am Yisroel is the most sublime creation this world can contain.  The first steps of the fledgling nation where taken under the guiding hand of divine providence.  Raised in a reality upholstered with miracles, the souls of Israel enjoyed evident Heavenly kindness at every step.  And then, just when the Ya’acov Avinu plants the twelve holy tribes in the world, the gentle souls are suddenly subjected to the most horrible predicament possible.  Suddenly, reality is literally pure torture.

They are imprisoned in the worst possible exile.

But their physical and spiritual anguish are dwarfed before the mere thought that their all-merciful, loving Father in Heaven has cast away his beloved son to a muddy swamp and left him, bleeding half to death, an easy prey to predatory animals.  The thought alone was devastating.

The light of Moshiach

Going out of exile can happen only with the revelation of the light of the true redeemer; a ray of light from the universe of redemption. It is the illumination of the true sense, one that will cast light upon the desolation and dispel all doubts and pain by its very presence.

The Israelites’ primal cry arose from the very depth of their enslavement and opened for them the gates of salvation.   “And they cried – and their call has ascended”.  The mouth can utter such a cry only when there’s faith and understanding in the heart that it is not possible for a Father to totally forsake his child.  Only when one realizes that there must be a reason behind this, that an awesome primal call tear all obstacles and beg Hashem to reveal Himself.

Moshe Rabbeinu is both the past and future redeemer.  He is the one who whispers the secret into ears that were all but shut by exile and hard labor.   Hashem sends His beloved emissary to a wretched nation, instructing him to reveal to them the truth.  Moshe is instructed to tell them that their loving Father has never left them.   That while the terrible situation they find themselves in is, indeed, his handiwork – it was done for their eternal benefit.

‘Though you cannot fathom it now,’ He tells them, ‘There will come a time when you’ll realize just how much compassion was delivered in the various exiles.’

The ten plagues … the impossible exodus in the break of dawn … the deliverance upon the wings of eagles …the Matzohs upon the shoulders that were followed by a Heavenly retribution and the splitting of the Red Sea – all those can happen only after an exile.  Cruel, pagan, enslaving Egypt was vital in creating the fertile ground for most awesome revelation of G-dliness the world has ever seen before or since.  It is the Egyptian pride that brought the people of Israel to see the love their Father has for them.

Exile equals lack of comprehension

Exile isn’t necessarily the enslavement and the pain.  The crux of an exiled existence is the lack of understanding of why I am suffering.

It’s the scorching feeling of betrayal and abandonment and the lurking fear that I have been forgotten and forsaken in a horrible predicament.  This is the true horror of exile.

The light of Moshiach appears wherever and whenever one calls for enlightenment.  It happens when you beg Hashem to show you the points of light within the darkness.  It happens when you beg Him to show you that what you’re going through leads you to your destiny.

Exile is hard.  It leaves in its wake smoldering ruins, the ashen remains of the glory of Israel.  The spiritual exile is something each and every one of us experiences.  Torah, prayer, clear presence of mind, all these are lost during exile.  Many times, between one breathless hustle to the next, an annoying question arises – maybe it’s all for naught?  Maybe I’m suffering for nothing?  And the torturing question of ‘Why’ raises its ugly head.

The light of redemption is revealed by a cry that emanates from the understanding that Hashem never left you.  There is no such thing as ‘suffering for nothing’.  Exile is there to reveal a far deeper love.  Enslavement is the bedrock of salvation.  In every darkness there are points of light.  Indeed, in every hour of distress you can discover anew Hashem’s unconditional love.

It’s all possible once you know the secret.

 

 

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HOWTO: Learning Likutei Moharan

Question:

I want to study the Rebbe’s sefarim, but it seems to me that the topics which they discuss pertain to a much higher spiritual level than my own.

Answer:

The Rebbe teaches in Likutei Moharan I 61 that everything that a person studies he must see to it to find proper and just guidance as to how to conduct oneself. The way to achieve this is through faith and trust in Chachamim, the sages of Torah. When a person doesn’t have proper belief in Chachamim, then he doesn’t have respect for sefarim, and he deems the many sefarim which exist as superfluous and ridicules them.

There are certainly people who don’t have Emunas Chachamim, and scorn the sefarim of the Tzaddikim.  But most of Klal Yisroel believe in Tzaddikim and respect their sefarim. But the Yezter Hara ambushes us from a different angle. He tells us, “Look, the sefarim of the Tzaddikim are too high for you, they are not for your level.” He thereby keeps a person away from ever truly uplifting himself.

We must therefore strengthen ourselves very much in our belief and trust in Chachamim. This doesn’t just mean to believe that a certain individual is a Tzaddik and serves Hashem. To trust the Chachamim means that the whole essence of the revelation of the Tzaddikim in the world is in order to bring ‘all of us’ close to Hashem and His Avodah, from the highest Tzaddik to the lowest Rasha, and everyone in between.

As a person becomes stronger in his Emunas Chachamim, he begins to understand that if the Tzaddik devoted his whole life to teaching us these Torahs, and spoke to us many times and in many different ways about their exaltedness, and how they are meant for every level, then we must certainly dedicate ourselves to setting aside time to study his sefarim, and to search within them for guidance in Avodas Hashem. And if one looks, he will definitely find.

We must keep in mind what the Rebbe said, that every talk which he had with us, a person can use it to become a proper Oved Hashem, if we will want to follow his word and put into practice.

Reb Noson explains further, that by every Torah the main thing is not the study, but the practical application thereof. Pay good attention to each Torah, to understand the practical advice and guidance and inspiration which are derived from them. Even in those few places which seem at first glance to be not understandable, and you don’t see their practical relevance to your level, in reality contains wonderful advice and inspiration for you to come close to Hashem from your situation where you are holding now. If you will put your heart into it to look very well, you will definitely find advice according to your level.

Everything the Rebbe taught was in a very general sense, in a way in which it pertains to every person in the world on every single level. With every Torah of the Rebbe, every person can serve Hashem, from the person standing on a high level to person on the lowest level. Everyone can return to Hashem and find guidance for himself through each Torah, as they include everything within them in a wondrous way. (See Chayei Moharan, Ma’alas Toraso 19, Sichos Haran 131)

Everything depends on Emunas Chachamim – to know that the Tzaddikim are speaking to us. They were not trying to tell us vortim or ideas on the Parsha; they were trying to teach us practical ideas how we can come close to Hashem. We see ourselves that those who have a strong Emunah and studied the sefarim to look for guidance and advice, merited to become true, proper Ovdei Hashem.

We must also apply our Emunas Chachamim in a practical way. Sometimes a person has such strong Emunah in the Torah of the Tzaddik, that he ceases to study the sefarim to search for practical guidance, and instead just looks for the hidden spiritual energy which is found in them, because of his strong belief that the words of the Tzaddik sanctifies and purifies us, or just knowing the ideas which they teach helps. Even though this is all true, the true greatness of the Tzaddikim is that throughout all of their wonderful revelations, they also revealed to us simple practical advice which is fitting for every one of us.

Question:

Are all of the concepts really relevant to everyone?

Answer:

As we said, every idea discussed in the sefarim, are made up of many, many levels. Every person must learn according to his level, and not to go too high. We must always pray that we find the level which pertains to us in the Torahs which we learn. If a person searches with sincerity, he will always find what is related to him.

But it’s important not to skip or “cut out” what seems to you to be irrelevant to you. You must believe very much that every piece really is applicable to you, also.

Question: Even if I understand something which is applicable to me, there are so many other simple things in which I am weak. If only I would strengthen myself in those things first before I enter into the lofty concepts of the Rebbe.

Answer: This is what we have said already, that everything depends on Emunas Chachamim. We must understand that these Torahs are my medicine. We must pray about this itself, ‘Why do I feel so far from what the Tzaddik reveals to be applicable to me, and that my entire salvation depends upon?’

When the Rebbe exhorted us to make prayers out of his Torah, to speak to Hashem and ask Him that we merit applying whatever we have studied, he brought as an example Likutei Moharan I 5. There, he discusses how every person must say that the whole world was created only for him. The Rebbe said that we must simply talk to Hashem about how far we are from this concept.

The Chassidim asked him then, this doesn’t seem to be something which we are missing according to our level. We are too far from this concept to be praying about it.

The Rebbe responded, ‘Listen to what you are saying! I just said that a person has to say that the whole world was created just for him, meaning that every person must do so, and nobody can absolve himself from this.’ (See Intro. To Likutei Teffilos)

The Tzaddikim revealed to us Torah through which we can come close to Hashem. If it still seems to us that it would have been better to first strengthen ourselves in simpler things, on the contrary, through entering into Avodas Hashem according to the guidance of the Tzaddik, we will also become strengthened in the simple things.

Let’s not be like the ill person who comes to the specialist and instead of taking his medication, starts arguing with the doctor how he needs other medications… (See Likutei Moharan I 164)

HOWTO: Practice The Teachings of the Tzaddikim

Question:

How do we take what we learn from the teachings of the Tzaddikim and apply them practically?

Answer:

1] The teachings which are revealed throughout the works of the Tzaddikim are unimaginably great and they contain tremendous depth. This is one of the reasons that a person doesn’t see how he can practically apply what he’s learnt. But the truth is that even though we have to study and try to understand as much as we can, at the same time we need to know how to take out practical advice and guidance from within the entire construct which we are studying, even if we don’t fully understand it.

The structure that our study should take is to continuously reflect what practical ideas come out for me out of what I have just learnt. Sometimes I might find something which I must act upon, to conduct myself in a new way or perform good deeds. Most of the time the advice which will be discovered, will be a new way of looking at life, how to strengthen our faith and not to fall into unhappiness, how to engage in prayer, and what intent to strive for in our studies.

This is in addition to what we spoke about last week concerning learning a lot of material even without proper understanding. Besides studying quickly we also have to keep in mind practical applications.

After you are done learning, try throughout the day to think about what you’ve learned over and over, even if but just a little, as much as you are able to. You should also speak it over with friends. Concentrate on finding the practical application of what’s been learnt. Everyday take another point, and with time you will begin to take notice how the words of the Tzaddik are starting to engrave themselves into your heart. Your thoughts are already different, you have less confusion, less worries about what people are thinking, you want undesirable things less; your thoughts are more upbeat, etc.

2] Afterwards, the best advice to merit practicing what the Tzaddikim teach us is to daven about what you have learned, as the Rebbe told us to ‘make prayers out of Torah’. Prayers such as these bring Hashem enjoyment.

Open your mouth and ask Hashem that you merit achieving whatever it is you’ve learnt about. Then, even if you haven’t yet merited to actually practicing it, it’s as if you have. (see Likutei Halachos, Rosh Chodesh 5)

3] In addition to the actual power which prayer has on high, the more one beseeches and prays about what he has learnt, the more his desire and yearning to constantly search as to how to merit truly practicing what’s been learnt will be increased through the prayer itself. Thus, you will always be able to find the proper path which can be gleaned from the Torah of the Tzaddikim.

4] The combination and connection of Torah and Tefilah elevates a person to another place. The desires in his heart and the thoughts in his mind are elevated through it to only being attached to Hashem. This is the tool through which a person can attach himself to Hashem.

5] Reb Nosson composed the Likutei Tefilos, which are prayers based on the Rebbe’s Torahs. It has in it a real holiness in which a person can always find himself in its words. He writes in the introduction, however, that these Tefilos do not serve as a substitute for personal prayer between a person and the Creator, to merit putting the words of the Tzaddikim into practice.

To mention one more small piece of advice, that when you pray about the Torah which you have learnt, you should still try to find how you have already applied a little of what you are praying for. If not, you can come to despair immediately when you see the distance between you and the words of the Tzaddikim. You should therefore try to find your own connection to that teaching, how you have already applied some of it, and in such a way you will build a connection to their words and continue to search for ways to apply them more and more.

Question:

Isn’t prayer and conversation between a person and Hashem supposed to be concentrated on talking to Him about whatever is bothering him right now? It’s not always possible to find oneself in what has been learnt just now.

Answer:

1] Of course, the main discussion with Hashem must be about what you are going through. But on the contrary, as you are speaking your heart out, bring in a statement or idea from the Tzaddik and see how you can combine them together. Pay attention how the Torah of the Tzaddikim is a living Torah which goes down into the realities of life, in order to save us from whatever it is we need, both material and spiritual. In the words of the Tzaddik we can attain a different way of viewing everything that we experience. Thus, we can truly talk to Hashem at length about everything that is going on.

2] Sometimes it goes the opposite way. Sometimes we have nothing to say by Hisbodedus, and we don’t have the composure to start talking about everything that we’re going through. But through this advice of making prayers out of Torah, we will always have material to pray about. Take any subject that you’ve learnt, even if you don’t feel connected to it, and start talking to Hashem and asking about it. Throughout, you can find inspiration to connect your life to what you’ve learnt, and to speak about the point which your heart is connected to at that time.

3] Every day, a person has so much nonsense, fantasies, confusions and worries, etc. Therefore a person really has to identify every day what’s going on with himself, and to pray about it. When a person gets used to praying and speaking to Hashem about what he has learnt by the Tzaddikim, he will get out of much nonsense by himself. Prayer and talking to Hashem about the Torah of Tzaddikim will itself help a person concentrate on wanting what he has learnt and to think only about it.

Talking to Hashem helps aim a person’s heart and direct it to where it belongs. Such, he will become inspired to search to practically apply the words of the Tzaddik, and to find more practical ideas throughout their Sefarim. He will thus be able to throughout the day, even after Tefilah, to continue thinking and living with what has been learnt. The next time when he sits down to talk to Hashem, the point in his heart will already be the subject on which he has been thinking about the whole day.

4] Taste and see that Hashem is good; it’s not as difficult as it seems. Take a small point from the words of the Tzaddikim, ask Hashem about it, and achieve Hheaven in your lifetime. Your connection to Hashem will be strengthened unrecognizably, and the Torah which you have learnt won’t be abstract ideas anymore. Your prayer will be much deeper.

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