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