Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for December 31, 2010

The Holy Yeshivah

Meshivas Nefesh 31 – Elucidated

“Bring ruin to the speakers of falsehood. And as for me, in your abundant kindness I will enter your house” (Tehillim 5; 7-8). Our sages taught in the Medrash that “the speakers of falsehood” refers to Doeg, Achitophel and King David’s other opposers, and that with the continuing verse King David was in essence saying: “and I too have done as they did” but nevertheless “In your abundant kindness I will enter your house”. Every person must say the same regarding himself, specifically one who feels the great pain of his sins. He must enliven and strengthen himself greatly with the kindnesses that Hashem has done with him; that he merited to come close to the true Tzaddik and at least does not oppose him, that he has the merit of being included in the holy Yeshiva and holy Beis Medrash of the followers of the true Tzaddik. He should say to himself: “I too have done the same as the opposers, and nevertheless in the great mercy that You have bestowed upon me, ‘I will enter your house’” – this Beis Medrash, which is my hope for eternity.

For the truth is that in every generation there is a Beis Bedrash of students with a true teacher where they involve themselves with true Torah novelties which can bring close to Hashem all the distant souls that are very difficult to grasp and bring close to holiness. There are those who have even fallen to the depths of hell and the lowest pits because of their sins and filthy thoughts, especially sexual lust which is the main aspect of the evil inclination, as the Zohar teaches. There is an evil inclination that is truly vile, disgusting and exceedingly filthy, and whoever it comes in contact with, G-d forbid, has great difficulty escaping from it. It is very detestable and it chases after one who wishes to trap it, attacking him at every moment. This is the “evil encounter” which we pray every day to be saved from.

About this our sages said: “If this vile one encounters you, drag him to the Beis Medrash” (Kiddushin 15a), for this is the main rectification, to draw one’s thoughts into the holy Beis Medrash mentioned above. Through this itself; through reminding oneself that he is included in this group, “if [the evil inclination] is [as hard as] a stone, it will be melted”. For from this Beis Medrash emerges a holy and pure spring that can purify all the exceedingly fallen souls, through the deep and holy advice that flow from it. It can raise them from the depths and return them to Hashem.

Therefore, one who merits being included in this holy Beis Medrash, must strengthen himself tremendously. He must believe and know that every good point and every tiny holy arousal to break away from the evil thoughts and to draw himself to holiness; all that he struggles to the best of his  ability to do some good, even though he has many falls amidst this, even if it has been so thousands of times – nevertheless, not a single good point is ever lost. This is because the true Tzaddik, who is the Rosh Yeshiva, uplifts and gathers everything into the building of holiness and builds wondrous structures with them. He does this specifically by uplifting the aspect of ‘arousal from below’ from the lowliest places, for this is the main rectification of all the worlds which are dependant upon the arousal from below of man, specifically because he possesses free-will. The lower the place is, the more precious and dear is the holy arousal that arise from there; through this the true Tzaddikim build the aspect of the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash in each generation. Eventually, through this, the last and eternal Beis Hamikdash will truly be built.

A man walks through the forest on a chilly winter night, raindrops beat upon the ground and the icy wind blows with cruelty upon his face. He is alone, amidst a seemingly endless muddy and dark swamp.  The only thing in his mind – the yearning for a warm cozy house and a bowl of hot soup to warm his bones….

According to what a person goes through in this world, it is impossible to describe just how much one needs to  strengthen himself in order to learn torah, to pray, and to stand up to all the difficult challenges. The soul screams out for a warm and sheltered house, a place to be refreshed, where it can find help, advice and salvation. Indeed, for this reason Yeshivas are established for the young, to serve as an Ark of Noach by providing protection from the flood of atheism and confusion that wash away all who stand in its path. But what should he whose time has come to leave the Yeshiva do? Who will come to his aid, to save him from all that he will endure in the future? If even in the Yeshiva itself one needs so much heavenly help to serve Hashem truly and to guard ones thoughts, what will be outside the shelter of its walls?

Does such a thing truly exist, a ‘Yeshiva’ that accompanies a person throughout his entire life, that gives him the ability to endure the ups and downs, that provides a feeling of warmth and that offers guidance for every situation.

Indeed it does, Reb Nosson teaches us above. This is the reason why drawing near to the Tzaddik is the foundation of Chassidus. On the one hand they reveal to us how to serve Hashem with truth and pure intention, to merit to love and fear of Hashem and to proceed gradually from level to level in D’veikus with The Creator. On the other hand, they provide us with shelter, warming our hearts in times of difficulty and reminding us that we belong to Hashem and can always bring Him joy. They instill us with the knowledge that through the power of the ‘Rosh Yeshiva’, every drop of good is gathered and raised into holiness.

Guidance is always available; there is not a moment without closeness to Hashem. Sometimes this closeness is achieved through exertion in Torah and tefillah, tasting the sweetness of every word, and sometimes it is through encouraging ourselves and rejoicing in our good points.

About this we should burst forth in praise and say “And I, in Your abundant kindness, will enter Your house” – I, however I may be, even if my actions seem exactly like those who oppose holiness, G-d forbid, nevertheless I have merited “In Your abundant Kindness” to be included in the building of holiness and to have a share in the rectification of the world.


The Answer

Parsha Va’era 5771

Exile is a perplexing question.  It is a suffocating reality which demands an explanation.

The answer was already given thousands of years ago.

The human mind has a favorite pastime which is to ask questions.

There is no shortage of subjects as befuddling mysteries are all around us at all times.  And so, one sits and wonders day and night, forever digging and pondering.  A simpler man has it easier as his mind simply accepts things for what they are.  But a wise man cannot do this.  He must understand everything.  He must know why this is, and how that is, and how will things be tomorrow, and how things would have been IF things were dealt with differently …  Wisdom, as we all know, offers a scant guarantee for either happiness or success.  “The wise are not guaranteed sustenance” says the verse.  Fortunes aren’t made off pondering and philosophizing.  And if this principle applies to material things, how much more so does it apply to Torah and Mitzvos.  This may lead one to think that there’s no place for questions in Judaism, but that, of course, is false.  In fact, the acquisition of Torah wisdom is predicated on incessant questioning.  However, there is a very fine line, a not always very clearly defined boundary, which delineates the borders of legitimate questioning and doubting that will make reliable conclusions impossible to achieve.

Questions beyond their limit drop the ground from under your belief.  Doubts can easily push one out of practical Torah and undermine its stability.

The ancient question

The last week’s Parsha ends with Moshe’s penetrating question of “O L-rd! Why have You harmed this people? Why have You sent me?”  It is a question that is asked out of deep, genuine pain of the true leader in a situation in which nothing can be known with certainty.

The people of Israel are suffering horribly.  The pure souls are on the verge of annihilation.  Moshe is seeing the death throes of the last remnants of the holy Patriarchs. Unless a miracle takes place, the land of Egypt will be the scene of a holocaust that may obliterate the eternal nation of G-d.

And then, when it looks as if Hashem has forsaken His people, He appears to the future leader from the burning bush.  The message of the redemption appeared out of a Heavenly vision and the communication of Hashem emerges in the confines of this world.  It is clear and unambiguous, shattering nature and natural forgetfulness.  But right then and there it is already difficult for Moshe to believe in his ability to carry out the mission.  “I’m not a man of words,” he insists.  “They will not believe me”.  But Hashem commands him to go nevertheless.  Moshe is now equipped with miracles.  The Great Heavenly Father is now expressing His love openly.  He demands the chosen leader to announce to the tyrant that this is “my elder son Israel” and not some forsaken, ‘inconsequential’ people.

Moshe’s mission in the horror chamber of the Egyptian palace is to give a divine message to the awesome idol of nature and demand him to give up a nation of slaves.  It is a mission carried out with total self sacrifice … that ends up looking like a huge, fatal mistake.

The ludicrous demand incensed the Egyptian epitome of human pride.  “You are lax, just lax. Therefore, you say, ‘Let us go, let us sacrifice to the Lord”, Pharaoh scoffs.  From now on the Israelites acquire their own straw to make their daily allotment of bricks.  Enslavement is deepened to a level unknown before.

And then Dosson and Aviram come out standing, voicing a seemingly just complaint; “You have brought us into foul odor in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants”.  You did nothing but damage, they insist.  When Moshe turns to Hashem and asks “Why?” it is a question that brings into focus all the questions on earth.  It is a question that keeps following us from the depths of the first exile, scorching our souls throughout the generations.  It is an eternal question that is asked numberless times by great and small alike.  The answer, however, was already given to the eternal leader of Israel on the spot.

The answer is – no questions…

“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob with [the name] Almighty God, but [with] My name (הויה), I did not become known to them” – not everything is understandable.  The revelation of “Appeared” is entwined with the reality of “I did not become known to them”.  The patriarchs did not achieve a revelation as clear as that of Moshe, yet still they had no questions.  They followed Hashem ‘with their eyes closed’ and complete faith through dozens of trials and tribulations and soul-disturbing mysteries.

One must understand that the very essence of exile is questions and refutations.  The essence of Egyptian exile revolves around חומר ולבנים, mortar and bricks.  The Holy Zohar explains that this refers to the dissemination of Halacha.  Exile, the mother of all suffering, is when there’s no access to the clarity of Torah. All you have is a barrier of questions and refutations that twist the mind and the heart.  Exile is impatience.  The visions of exile give birth to panic-stricken suppositions that stem from the lack of the presence of mind.   The prevailing feeling becomes “I can’t” and “I’ll never be able change”.  It is a feeling of spiritual suffocation.

The answer, which is the ray of hope of redemption, is inherent in the ability not to ask.

Hashem tells the tortured leader that the secret behind exile is infinite.  But alerts him to remember that “I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant.”  He assures Moshe that it will end up with taking Israel to be His nation.

It is impossible to comprehend the depth of the concept of exile.  What we see may be illogical, perplexing and even exceedingly cruel.  But behind it all there is a road that leads to the eternal salvation with a meaning too profound for human comprehension.  No one can decipher the secret reason behind his own existence.  Everything in our lives is miraculous, and everything is happening exactly as it should.  Be it health, livelihood, or serenity – each one of us takes his or her miraculous path, many times shrouded in mystery, exile, enslavement and lack of understanding.  About times like these it is said: “and at that time the wise shall remain silent”.

Rebbe Nosson says in Likutei Halachos (Hand washing and breaking the bread, Halacha 6): “For now, in the end of days, one must remain silent about a great deal of what’s going on in this world and not get himself into the quagmire of questioning and deliberations.  The principle is to remain silent and await Hashem’s salvation. Most times remaining still will fire up one’s heart and enable him to call and cry for Hashem.”

You must realize that there is no intelligence capable of comprehending the staggering effect of a Jewish cry in the upper worlds.  We’ll be able to understand it all only in the world to come.  As for now, we just pray, remain silent, and wait…



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