Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for January, 2011

HOWTO: Awaken the Power and Merit of the Tzaddikim

By Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kletzky


How do we awaken the power and merit of the Tzaddikim to help us?


1] Everything depends on faith in Tzaddikim. The more we believe in their merit and connect ourselves to them through our thoughts and feelings, the more we will truly attach to them and awaken them to bring Divine Mercy upon us. (See Likutei Moharan I 135, II 5)

2] The Zohar teaches that just as during the first exodus from Egypt the sea was split through Moshe’s staff, so too in this final exile the ‘sea of wisdom’ will be split through the ‘staff’, the pen which has written the Torah which the Tzaddikim have taught. The Tzaddikim toiled to arouse Heavenly Compassion upon us, until they were able to fashion ‘garments’ and tools, Torah which bring a person to truly keep Hashem in mind at all times, and through which we are always able, in every situation, to enter into the ways of coming close to Hashem, awakening our hearts and minds, with joy and liveliness. This is discussed a lot throughout Likutei Halachos, especially in Hilchos Rosh Chodesh 6.

A large part of the connection to a Tzaddik is through putting his mind and heart into contemplating what his Rav has taught him, to thereby come to complete Teshuvah and purification from sin. When a talmid doesn’t want to understand what his Rav is saying, the Rebbe in Likutei Moharan II 91 calls it ‘exile of the divine presence’.

3] Although we need the great merit of the Tzaddikim even after their Torah has already been written to properly understand and grasp their message, still, the Tzaddikim are waiting for us to take initiative, to wake up and start working to try to understand their teachings, and to try to think over their Torah. This is how we connect with them, and truly grasp their words.

4] Every time a person studies the Tzaddik’s teachings, even if he doesn’t understand it in its entirety, after studying he should try to take out at least one idea which can give him a new look on Avodas Hashem. It may be in Avodas Hashem in general, or a specific point of Avodah, e.g., how to perform a specific Mitzvah properly. Or it may be a new way of viewing what’s going on in the world or in his own life, or how to understand the worries or wants which are bothering him at this time.

The same way that when we study Halachah the point of our learning is to come out with a practical understanding of what to do in the cases being described, so too in our study of Chassidus, we should be looking to understand how to conduct ourselves in each situation.

5] Throughout the day, try to think about whatever we come across, what is the Tzaddik’s teaching in this situation? How can I keep Hashem in mind here? Through trying to think about the Tzaddik’s teachings according to his level, even just a bit, the power of the Tzaddikim is awakened to bring him in to this Avodah, even if he does not yet deserve enter.

This is the greatest encouragement a person can have, that a person should never worry that at this moment he can’t connect to Hashem. At any moment a person can completely renew himself by reminding himself of Torah from the Tzaddik and thinking about it, thereby arousing the power and merit of the Tzaddikim to help him attach himself to Hashem.

6] An additional point is that when a person lives in such a fashion, he doesn’t have to worry about pride when he comes to any inspiration in Avodas Hashem, because he knows that he didn’t get to it by himself since he himself is full of sin and isn’t deserving of feeling any connection to Hashem. It’s only in merit of the Tzaddikim that he has any enlightenment.

So too when he falls away from those feelings of inspiration, he doesn’t become dejected because he knows that he was anyways undeserving. On the contrary, he can now look forward to starting anew in coming close to Hashem.



FAQ – Ancestral Merit and Connecting to Hashem


Is everyone really holding by connecting to Hashem with dveykus?


A] The entire purpose of the world is only in order that we recognize Hashem and cling to Him. If so, of course no one can say that it’s not for him. It’s self understood that there are many levels involved, but everyone is obligated to start according to his level to think about Hashem, to keep Him in mind and to yearn for Him.

Of course, we need great merit in order to realize this. It’s almost impossible to start thinking holy thoughts about love of Hashem and His awe because of the physicality of a person combined with the additional materialism a person brings upon himself day after day by strengthening his body over his soul.

The Bnei Yisroel stood in just such a situation when they were in danger by the Yam Suf. The Mitzrim were chasing them below, and in heaven the prosecuting angels were claiming that there is no reason to save the Israelites any more than to help the Egyptians, since they are both idol worshippers. On their own, they were almost undeserving of the sea being split for them. Only just before daybreak did the merit of their ancestors awaken upon them and they merited the miracle of Kriyas Yam Suf. Hashem’s G-dliness was then revealed to such an extent that even maidservants who were present saw things that the great prophet Yechezkel did not see.

We see from here the great power of the Tzaddikim, of Moshe and the Patriarchs that were able to bring recognition and realization of Hashem even to the lowest in the nation.

So too, each of us needs a miracle that our minds and hearts should also ‘split’ open in order that we can enter into the ‘sea’ of knowledge – that we should realize Hashem according to our level. In reality, we don’t deserve such a thing.  It’s only in the merit of our closeness to Tzaddikim who toiled their entire lives and even more after they passed on, to find merit in Klal Yisroel and to arouse Hashem’s compassion and mercy upon us that we should also start feeling and realizing Hashem even if we aren’t yet deserving of it.

B] This is the idea behind ‘ancestral merit’, and what Chazal are referring to in so many Midrashim about Zchus Avos and how our existence is only in their merit, and we mention them at the beginning of every prayer.

Zchus Avos isn’t only in order to merit a livelihood or health, etc., even if we need much heavenly compassion for these things also. The Baal Shem Tov didn’t intend just that when he encouraged being close to Tzaddikim. The main compassion which the Tzaddikim have on us is to give us a taste of the spiritual delight of being close to Hashem.




Finding the Notes for a New Song

In the heart of every person plays a song … It is the tune of the soul … Walls of questions conceal it … Is there a way to set it free again?

No one at the capital city could explain the King’s strange command: He had ordered that the army maneuvers be conducted right under his only daughter’s window!  The princess was panic stricken when she awoke in the morning to the sounds of explossions and war.  She bolted from her room screaming “Father! Father! Father!”.  Only when the servants assured her she was safe did she calm down.  Wow!

The reason behind this strange affair was known to just a few.  The King ordered the ordeal as a last ditch effort to heal his only daughter.  The daughter had been ignoring her father for a long time. She never lacked a thing.  She never had to ask for anything and hardly even knew how to utter the word “Father”.  She didn’t have to.  She became so self-absorbed she became completely lonely.  The only thing the King could do to relieve her of her plight was to create this false emergency.  The fear and panic created feelings of gratitude for the deliverance and, thus, healed her.  It gave her back the feeling of confidence and trust in her great Father.

This parable is brought in the medrash to explain the fear and terror that preceded the splitting of the Red Sea.


The Israelites are getting out of Egypt and the omnipotent Creator reveals his limitless love to his cherished children.  He declares before the entire creation that they are His children, His favorite ‘Elder firstborn Israel’.  And low and behold, on the cusp of crossing the mighty boundaries of nature and out of exile, the Great Father totally forsakes His children!  Before them rages the sea…behind them arrows are raining down…and the desert closes in from the sides…there is no escape!  Couldn’t the all-capable ruler of the world continue the miracle train and gotten us through the Red Sea without the fear?  The answer was given with the parable of the medrash.  The fear that preceded the splitting of the sea was a medicine that cured a deep dormant mental illness that held us back from calling out to Hashem. It didn’t let us lift our eyes to Heaven and sing to Him.

“Show me your countenance, let me hear your voice”, beseeches the all-merciful Father.  Let me hear you voice.  Become aware of my providence.  The intimate embrace in the arms of emunah was the main miracle of the entire saga of Geulas Mitzraim.  The fright enabled us to recognize Hashem anew as our past, present, and future Savior. The new ode was born from what seemed to be a colossal dereliction.  There was no other way.

The Ode is the essence of the soul

The song of emunah that was sung on the shore of the Red Sea is humming in the heart of every Jew.  Deep inside plays a magical melody of faith. It is a kind of silent prayer, a silent ode that the soul offers its maker.  It is an innocent incantation of the inner point of the heart and of sweet surrender to the truth.

By most people this song is hidden.  Countless self-denials and concealments hide it from our awareness.  The soul begs us to be embraced by its Father in Heaven, alas, in vain.  A foreign ill-wind of depression envelops it.  And so, instead of praises we are filled with complaints.  In place of longings, frustrated anger bubbles up.  The daughter is jailed inside, unable to find the divine instrument to play her song.

Is there a way to release the song?  Is there a way back home?

The answer is intrinsic to us a Jews.  We’re called ‘עברים’ because of our innate ability to transcend  (להתעלות אל מעבר) all obstacles and doubts.  The ability is derived from the ‘Spirit of the Song of Emunah’ (Likutei Moharan 64).  Melody is the main connector between man and his Creator, it is that powerful.  Melody can connect the heart of a person, no matter where it may be, and give him back his soul and remind him of Hashem.

Melody as Medicine

We’re in the middle the שובבים weeks, a period when the soul is rectified.  During this time the people of Israel toil in the ways of teshuvah in an effort to remove the barriers between themselves and their Father in Heaven.  The goal is to hear the melody of emunah once again.  The aim is to come back into the light of the soul and renew our immediate intimacy with the all-merciful father.

This ‘melody of emunah’ is the most important ingredient in our world.  The melody is the soul that pulses in everything that we do.  Torah, prayer, and the performance of mitzvos are all empty exercises, devoid of vitality and closeness to Hashem without it.  The Tzaddikim are forever busy with healing of the souls of Israel.  The ‘drugs’ they concoct to heal us are called a ‘melody’.  The cure of our soul is hidden in the words of Rebbe Nachman.

If we were to internalize his words, this wondrous melody will be played within us almost by itself.  It is the ‘new melody’ that will sound in the future we are all waiting for.  It will give us the power to withstand all challenges.  It will make it possible for us to realize our blemishes without being repulsed by our shame.  The melody will then enter every holy word we utter.  It will return us to the sweet memory of adhering to a living G-d.  Indeed, when the melody of faith is playing inside the heart, one can hear the violin of King David playing at midnight.  The lips can feel the sweetness of a page of Talmud, Tikkun Haklali and indeed every single blessing we make and prayer we offer.

But the melody isn’t constantly playing the sound of adhesion to Hashem and success.  Sometimes the melody sinks to the depths of fear and oblivion.  At such times, it looks like the melody has disappeared.  But it must be remembered that it is the very nature of the melody to rise and descend.  It cannot go forever upwards.  It cannot keep repeating the same notes over and over again.  If a person does whatever he can – be it a lot or a little – it brings him to the melody.  At times, the merciful Father must bring His daughter to a state of fear.  It the only way to awaken us from states of oblivion and refreshes the spirit from the coma of false wisdoms and theories.

We must bear in mind that the descent, the fear and the terror that surrounds our soul every day are exactly what brings us to this ‘new melody’.  It is a secret one can recognize only by meditating on it as he reviews everything that transpires in his life.  There is no way to renew the soul and restore the melody except trough descent.  The horrible terror that was breathing down the necks of the Israelites as they came out of Egypt is what gave birth to the Ode of the Sea.

If we remember that we were cast into the fear and uncertainty by a loving Father who wants only our benefit and welfare, we will be able to turn every descent into the melody we have been searching for.  Shabbos Shira is the time to renew the melody of the ‘Song of the Future’ – The melody of emunah and pure awe of G-d.






Ascending Yaakov’s Ladder

Based on Meshivas Nefesh #32

When Yaakov Avinu encountered that place, which is the place of the Beis Hamikdash, he merited to fully perceive the concept of the awesomely great value of the slightest ‘arousal from below’ and how specifically through this is drawn down a great illumination from the aspect of ‘arousal from above’. He perceived how the ‘arousal from below’ and the ‘arousal from above’ become united and that this is the aspect of the unifications that are accomplished by way of the Jewish people’s divine service.  It was also revealed to him that the main rectifications and unifications are achieved with completion in the Beis Hamikdash. Then “he awoke from his sleep and said: ‘Indeed! Hashem is in his place and I did not know’”.

With this Yaakov Avinu instituted that it should be fixed in the heart of all the souls for generations to come, until this very day, that even the most exceedingly fallen souls who think that Hashem is not to be found in their place, G-d forbid, and that all the aspects of their ‘arousal from below’ are worthless – they too should know and believe with complete faith that even in their place Hashem is there, as He is in every place in the world. For the truth is that Hashem is in this place too, for “His glory fills the entire world”, it is only that owing to the great concealment one is not aware of this, and this is the aspect of “and I did not know”. However, if one arouses himself with some ‘arousal from below’, he will merit finding Him. This is mainly achieved through the power of the Beis Hamikdash, which is the root-source of all souls and upon it is dependant their rectification as well as that of all the worlds. It is also through the power of the holiness of the true tzaddikim who are involved in every generation in the building of the Beis Hamikdash. It is from there that is drawn upon the entire Jewish people the aspect of arousal to teshuva (repentance).  Nevertheless, some degree of ‘arousal from below’ is also necessary. (Likutey Halachos, Hilchos Mincha 7, paragraphs 84 & 85)

The Egyptian exile – I am worthless.

It is in these weeks of Shovavim that we read the portions of the gallus (exile) and ge’ula (redemption), and as is known, ‘the reading arouses the times’ and the spiritual force of redemption is thus awakened during these weeks. Every Jew desires to be redeemed from his own personal exile and it is certainly fitting to first understand the source of exile itself. The main aspect of exile is that which it seems to a person that his divine service is not valued at all on high. This causes one a lack of arousal to the service of Hashem and he therefore sinks further and further into the darkness of the gallus.

During the time of the Beis Hamikdash it could be clearly seen how the slightest arousal of a person from below ascended and was included in the arousal from above. This unification and connection was revealed and it was clear that every Jew touches the heavens with each mitzvah he performs. Thus, there was an automatic arousal and tremendous enthusiasm to serve Hashem.

However, during the gallus, when Yaakov – the Jewish people, go out to “Charan” – a place of Charon aff (wrath) and harsh judgments, they no longer see the connection they have with all the heavenly worlds. Owing to this there is also no arousal to perform any action of holiness, for why should one do something for no reason, why should he exert himself when he sees nothing come from it. Through this one then falls into a deep spiritual slumber. This is what Yaakov Avinu meant when he said “and I did not know” – he did not understand that his holy arousal was unified with and uplifted to the heavens.

Even though we all know how to babble on about the truth, how a Jew has the power to affect the entire universe with each mitzvah and how every little thing is so precious to Hashem, nevertheless, it is still possible to live from day to day in the darkness of the gallus since it is difficult to truly take this truth to heart.  Each day, thousands of thoughts pass through our minds unnoticed which in essence say: “I am worthless”.  During each prayer and bracha, amidst our torah learning, and with each test of anger or the like, we are plagued with the thought: ‘of what importance is my minute arousal to Hashem?’

This is a person’s main exile, for it prevents him from being aroused to return to Hashem, especially when the concern enters his heart that he might fail again and that his repentance might not be accepted. The gallus and concealment is so great that we refuse to accept words of comfort and encouragement, to understand that every tiny drop is truly precious to Hashem.

A ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching the heavens

However, through Yaakov’s experience, a rectification was made for all future generations, enabling one to awaken from this slumber. For in truth, Yaakov fell into a slumber specifically in the place of the Beis Hamikdash and there, amidst the deep slumber, the wondrous dream was revealed to him – a ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching the heavens. It was there that was revealed to him the secret of the Beis Hamikdash, how the ‘arousal from below’ and arousal from above’ are unified above, how the tiniest arousal from below ascends and does wonders in the heavenly worlds. It was then that he awoke and exclaimed: “Indeed! Hashem is in this place and I did not know”.

Therefore during these weeks of Shovavim, when we are involved in trying to escape the gallus and do teshuva, it is imperative to remember that despite the many holy soul rectifications that are customarily practiced during these times, our first arousal must be in this fundamental concept. We must understand how precious every arousal is. This is pertinent to every person on every level, even he for whom the fasting and uninterrupted hours of learning are difficult.

The main thing is to make many new beginnings and to believe in their value

Even though in the gallus we do not see the interconnection of our arousal with Hashem’s arousal to bring us close to him, we need to know that this itself is the main way to exercise our free-will, to begin anew over and over again. For Hashem’s main pleasure is when a person arouses himself from below, from a place where it seems impossible to be aroused. This is why a person truly falls so many times and begins to wonder what will be with him. He does not understand that essentially what Hashem wants from him is to do teshuva, and that the main teshuva is making fresh beginnings an infinite amount of times together with the belief that every one of his actions ascends and is infinitely precious. All this is achieved through the power what was revealed in Yaakov’s dream – how he awoke and was astonished to see how everyone’s actions are exceedingly valued above, more than we could ever know….

Rav Zusha’s Method of Learning Talmud

In Honor of the Yahartzeit of Rav Meshulam Zusha of Anipoli ztz”l – 2 Shevat

Rav Meshulam Zusha, zt”l, joined the disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, zt”l, together with his famous older brother, Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, zt”l. Although Rav Zusha soon proved that he was a profound thinker, he mainly gained the admiration of his fellow students because of his deep yiras Shomayim. Even in his younger years, he showed an intuitive grasp of the inner meaning of the Torah, sometimes at the expense of the plain meaning of the text. Although this would seem to be a disadvantage, the Rama M’Pano, zt”l, writes that even as far back as the time of the Tanaim and Amoraim certain unusual individuals developed first in yiras Shomayim and deeper learning and only afterward acquired a penetrating analysis on the level of nigleh.

In any event, Rav Zusha tried to learn Gemara with various chavrusos, but his unusual approach drove several potential partners away until he finally managed to integrate his deep understanding of Torah with its more revealed aspects.

During one such attempt, Rav Zusha attempted to arrange a chavrusa with Rav Shmelke of Nickolsburg, zt”l, a great Chassidic figure in his own right. When Rav Shmelke arrived at the appointed time, the two sat down and opened up their Gemaras. Rav Shmelke painstakingly began to expound the peshat of the opening Mishnah of Meseches Yevamos: “Fifteen women exempt their Tzaros and their Tzaros Tzaros from Chalitzah and from Yibum. ‘Exempt their Tzaros’ means that if one of them is married to his brother, then both she and any other co-wife to whom the brother is married is exempt from Chalitzah and Yibum.”

Rav Zusha was overcome with emotion and exclaimed, “Who told you that this is peshat? I think it should be read differently! ‘Fifteen’ alludes to the Divine Name that we call Kah (which is a yud =10 and a hei =5). ‘Women,’ ‘Nashim,’ can be read as the abbreviated conjunction of two words—na Shem—as in Ana Hashem, ‘please, Hashem.’”

Filled with fervor, Rav Zusha was nearly weeping, “Ana Hashem, ‘potros tzaroseihen v’tzaros tzaroseihen ad sof haolam!’ Please, Hashem, release the Jewish people from their suffering and from all of its painful aftereffects for all time in the merit of Your holy Name Kah, with which You created this world and the next!”

Courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov



To Remember and to be Saved

Parshas Bo:

How do you connect to the exodus …what is so important about remembering it … and how does it all connect to what’s happening to us today?

Jewish history is paved with earth-shaking events.  Wars and exiles are entwined with miracles and deliverances.  It will be impossible to count the trials and tribulations that have gone over the eternal nation – but above all the experiences, one event stands out.  It is an episode that we, and the rest of our forefathers’ offspring, are commanded to speak of until the end of time.  We are told to remember it, speak of it, and embellish on its every detail.  In fact, we’re even commanded to relive it as if we were actually there.

“In every generation one must see himself as if he, himself, went out of Egypt”.  The Egyptian exodus was a decisive event in the history of mankind.  During the seminal exodus nature itself was bent, twisted, and just down-right ignored as Hashem smashed the gargantuan walls of the kingdom of defilement.  The exodus of slaves who were transformed into the chosen nation – that is the event every Jew must relive every single day.  And it must be a living, pulsating memory, complete with eating Matzos and Maror, the acquisition of the first born son and other mitzvos.

The mitzvah through which a Jew becomes connected to the exodus on a daily basis is, of course, Teffilin.  The Teffilin scrolls carry the eternal commandment to never forget, and forever actively remind ourselves of, the revelations of Hashem’s total mastery over the mighty nature of this world.  We are to connect our hearts to this remembrance when we put the Teffilin on.  Yet still, it is incredibly difficult for our stony hearts to return to that event in the distant past and relive the experience of salvation anew.

What is especially difficult to understand is what difference that would make in our lives today.  The world seems too different for that exodus to matter while we’re practically drowning in our own current troubles.

There are historians and archeologists who pour over books and evidence, gathering shreds of facts and legend alike.  They can pinpoint important dates with accuracy and seem to be more familiar with the roads of Pharonic Egypt than the welfare of their own families.  Still, they do not visit the past to relive the miraculous redemption.

Once – and forever

Yetziat Mitzraim is forever happening, simmering and bubbling in the very present.  The miracles that took place then have never been equaled.  It was the only time when creation as a whole stood astonished and shocked as it faced a total meltdown of all its preconceived ideas and perception of reality.

For a moment in time all nature’s laws were put on hold or categorically canceled.  The boundaries on substance were proven immaterial.  It is the moment when it became imprinted on the collective memory of mankind that a divine force, G-dly and boundless, oversees every detail in existence and the natural laws apply only – and only as long as He wishes it so.

This was the only time Hashem revealed Himself in such a manner.  And it is to this stunning determining event, that He commanded us to return every single day, in memory and deed.  The mitzvos He gave us as a “Remembrance of the Exodus”, combined with the directive to “See oneself as if he himself came out of Egypt,” brings us back to the time and place where Hashem planted the ability for the spirit to throw off the yokes of matter.

Ancient Egypt still exerts control over the souls of Israel – and has been doing so throughout the ages.  “All the exiles,” says the Medrash, “Are named after Mitzraim (straits) for they all squeeze (metzerim – מצרים) Israel”.  The exodus from Egypt is the lifesaver for the current exile as well.  Understand that miracles aren’t fairytales.  They are a revelation that exposes the inner truth that exists at all times, seen or not.  “As it was during the days you came out of Egypt, I shall show you miracles” – that is the promise that we, the decedents of the Israelites who came out Egypt, hold in our hearts as we travel through the generations.  The remembrance infuses us with life and hope.

Remembrance is connection.  By remembering the exodus at all times, the soul can connect to the innate ability to exit slavery into freedom in whatever it may be that enslaves us today.  This daily remembrance is the duty of every Jew.  It is said, “In every generation every person must see himself as if he, himself came out of Egypt” and Rebbe Nosson explains:

“It isn’t for nothing that Hashem has bestowed such an amazing kindness on us with such astounding miracles, taking us out of Egypt, giving us the Torah and drawing us close to the true Tzaddikim in every generation.  This is a kindness that shall exist for ever because the deeds of Hashem are eternal per definition.  So, too, he does with us momentous miracles by the very fact alone that we can snap up a few mitzvos every day such as Tzitzis, Teffilin and Krias Shma, and prayer.”

Tefillin – the resurrection of remembrance

The main remembrance of the exodus from Mitzraim is, of course, during Passover.  These seven holy days, the Seder, the Matzos, and the rest of the holiday’s mitzvos administer a life-giving elixir to our tired souls.  These remedies are awakened and “re-potentiated”, as it were, every day when we put on the Teffilin.  The eternal faith of “remember the day you came out of Egypt” is branded with fire on the sacred scrolls of the Tefillin.  By simply putting on the phylacteries we draw onto ourselves the holiness of the epic exit from Egypt.  It is that holiness of the ancient redemption that contains all the future redemptions in it.

When we talk of coming out of Egypt and “seeing oneself as if he himself came out of Egypt”, the modern mind tends to become entangled in needless inner debates as to how it should be done.  There is no need for that at all.  The secret of the connection is in simple remembrance.  One must simply remember the redemption and connect his mind to the miraculous deliverance and the fact that this freedom exists forever. Miracles … revelation of heavenly love … transportation on the heavenly wings of eagles … the abolition of nature … and the revelation of providential reality that smashes the boulders of material and terror – they all exist today as well.  When we live the exit from Mitzraim, the material yokes fall off and the shackles of doubt melt.  It is a renewal that inserts us into a world that is complete and total freedom.

We’ve had enough exile and enslavement.  We are spent and exhausted from chasing our daily bread and the confusions of our tormenting lusts.  Whoever redeemed us from Egypt has promised to deliver us again.  He revealed to us that whenever we get back there – just by using our memory – we will exist within the miraculous moment of redemption.  We can awaken the miracles with our Teffilin. All we need to do is renew the meaning and the memory and attach them to that miraculous time to be connected to the emunah that will make us free forever.

FAQ – Studying the Inner Dimension vs Simple Faith


What is the practical way that we can go about the study of the inner dimension, to connect with the G-dliness in everything?


A] The underlying foundation of Chassidus is to look at the wisdom contained in everything, to attach our thoughts to the inner G-dliness which is found in everything in the world:

(1) To look at the inner grace which every Jew has, and at the joy which he gives Hashem. (2) To connect our thoughts to the inner light within all the Mitzvos which we do, within the holidays, and other Mitzvos. (3) To always find a way not to forget Hashem throughout all of our mundane activities, such as eating, earning a livelihood, and other needs, because we know that the whole world is just a covering of false charm which hides the light of Hashem. (4) To strengthen ourselves throughout all types of falls, sadness and worries by realizing that Hashem is with us everywhere.

It’s clear that anyone who wants to increase his awareness in these things, to know more about the inner ways of things, he should study sefarim which discuss the inner dimension and reveal wondrously how the whole world is but at the bottom of the chain stemming from spiritual sources which took on material form.

B] But the Rebbe teaches us that after all of this, the main Yiddishkeit must be with ‘innocence and simplicity’. In truth, our main searching and struggling isn’t in order to acquire more knowledge, but to be close to Hashem. Therefore anyone who bases his Yiddishkeit according to what he knows is standing in great danger for many reasons:

(1) When a person derives fulfillment only from those things which he knows and understands, even if they are true and holy things, still, Hashem’s light is like the sun’s rays which rises and sets. It’s necessarily so, and it’s impossible even for the great Tzaddikim to be in a constant enlightened frame of mind. If a person bases his Yiddishkeit only on knowledge and understanding, what will he do at the times that the light isn’t shining?

(2) Hashem’s light in itself is very great, and it can’t be grasped in a material body. We therefore have to purify and sanctify our bodies and to withstand trials until we begin to grasp a little of the true inner light.

(3) As long as a person isn’t properly purified, even if he becomes inspired from learning sefarim which discuss internal levels and Kabbalah or Chassidus, that feeling generally comes from the beauty of the novel idea which he has discovered, and that he now knows new and wonderful things. This is of course is also very good, that a person’s thoughts should be elevated a little above the vanities of this world. But usually this only happens the first few times that he learns that topic and he first discovers that idea. When he wants to go back and go over it again, it becomes ‘old’ and he loses that first spark which he originally had.

(4) Even if he enjoys this type of study, usually there is an element of ego and pride mixed into it. Not necessarily pride relative to others, but pride within his own self, that he feels that he’s a person who knows something wonderful which is not readily seen. This isn’t yet the true enjoyment which he can have from entering into nullification before Hashem, to realize the truth of Hashem’s presence in his place.

C] Therefore, the main Yiddishkeit and fulfillment has to be Emunah with innocence and simplicity, to keep the simple faith of Hashem and to know that the whole world is full of His glory, even if he doesn’t see or understand this.


If so, why do we have to study the sefarim of Tzaddikim? Isn’t it enough just to go with faith with innocence and simplicity?


A] The passuk says, “The desire of a man’s heart is evil from his youth.” The ‘simple’ thoughts of a person are thoughts of fighting and politics, confusion and doubts, sadness and bitterness, anger and sorrow, and other illnesses.

Therefore, it’s understood that ‘innocence and simplicity’ doesn’t mean to think about whatever comes up in our heads without trying to think.  This is why we have to study the books of Tzaddikim. They teach us what the proper way of thinking about everything is, what is the true light in this world, how should we look properly at every situation, how can we remember Hashem every moment, in good times and otherwise, in every Mitzvah that we do, to know how to connect with Hashem specifically through this Mitzvah, be it Torah or prayer, Teffilin, Shabbos, Pesach, etc. how to remember Hashem when we have to take care of physical material needs, and especially how not to forsake Hashem during down times.

B] This is innocence and simplicity: Not to leave the sensible path. On the contrary, we all have to study and learn as much as we can, and it’s a great Mitzvah to sharpen our mind (Likutei Moharan I 62).  The thing is that in our learning we are not looking for the knowledge itself, but rather in order to cling to Hashem.

Therefore, we learn an idea from the Tzaddikim, and we start to think it over, to believe in its truth as the Tzaddik revealed it. For example, how to remain connected to Hashem while in a low, and how Hashem listens to every prayer, and how every word we study ascends up high, etc. Thus, we liven ourselves up with simplicity while being connected to the awareness, even though we don’t see it with our eyes. The light is very great and we don’t have the vessels to contain them as they are.

C] The Tzaddikim therefore exerted themselves to reveal to us Torah, to clothe Hashem’s light with words of Torah, in order to give people a handle on a way to think properly, with a different teaching and idea all the time, not just with an overall knowledge of Emunah that “His Glory fills the world”.

The tool that we have to use to hold onto the Tzaddik’s teaching is innocence, the simple faith that this is the truth. This is perfection, to connect with light of understanding with simple faith.

D] In addition, we have to know that the holy Tzaddikim put a great potency into their words, that someone who studies them should have the merit to enter a little into grasping the light of understanding even when he doesn’t deserve it by himself. The study itself affects a rectification in the subject being studied. But this is only when a person has the simple faith in Hashem’s light being revealed through their Torah, even when he doesn’t see it.

E] Reb Nosson asks in Hilchos Chezkas Karkaos 5, that we find it written that Yehoshua never left Moshe’s tent. How is that possible? Didn’t he ever have to take care of his own needs? The Torah doesn’t exaggerate.

Reb Nosson explains that Yehoshua was so attached to his Rebbe, that even when he went to take care of his needs he would remember his Rebbe, and thus he was able to be connected to Hashem constantly through the power of simple faith in his Rebbe’s words which revealed to him how to always live with Hashem in every place and situation even when we don’t see anything.

Spirit of the Law – Shabbos Part V

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:12:

“It is a mitzvah to wash one’s hands and face … in hot water every erev Shabbos, and if it is at all possible, one should wash his entire body in hot water..”

Rebbe Nachman writes that we must realize that when we do something which distances us from Hashem, the sin forms a blemish that enclothes our souls like a garment. We all unfortunately have very many such garments, and we remove these garments a little at a time. For this reason we often seem to regress while we travel the path of spiritual development. We misunderstand the truth of our situation if we see temporary regressions as symptoms of outright failure. They only show that we are slowly releasing ourselves from these blemished garments which cover our souls.

At first, our progress was checked because we were held back by these garments. Subsequently, our progress improved and we felt better because we had divested ourselves of the uppermost layer of the soiled spiritual garments. A later regression does not necessarily mean that we did anything to instigate a fall—rather, it is just a sign that the next soiled garment is surfacing and it needs attention.

Rebbe Nachman’s words offer powerful encouragement for us when we feel that we are experiencing a yeridah (descent). The general rule is that we can remove all the soiled garments slowly, over the course of many years, by learning Torah diligently with the intention to connect to Hashem and with the knowledge of the flaws that we want to correct.

Reb Nosson of Breslov writes that when washing on erev Shabbos, one should focus on the fact that he is removing the soiled garment of the soul and replacing it with clean garments in the merit of Shabbos. On Shabbos, the main element of our soiled spiritual garments is nullified by the holiness of the day itself. This is why we don our Shabbos finery after bathing on erev Shabbos. This parallel the clean garments with which our souls are dressed—the extra soul-level or neshamah yeseirah that arrives in honor of the Shabbos.

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:13:

“It is forbidden to share a mikveh or bathing area with one’s father, father-in-law, mother’s husband, or sister’s husband…”

The Gemara teaches this halachah and its rationale is that bathing with one of these people can trigger lewd thoughts. Although there are various reasons suggested for why most are lenient about this law, the consensus is that one must be careful to fulfill it. The general rule is that the sages prohibited any activity which could lead to illicit thoughts when a person is in a low state. The reason for this is simple: better safe than sorry. Since what we do matters so much it is very important to have proper safeguards in place so we will not come to do what we may regret later. Another example of this is the prohibition against yichud.

Rebbe Nachman, zt”l, offers a prescription for avoiding negative thoughts. Since two thoughts cannot exist simultaneously in one’s mind, one has the ability to force a redirect in thinking at any moment in time. The thought process is literally like a horse that can stray from the road. However, as soon as one is aware of it the problem is easily rectified. One simply takes the reins in one’s hands and directs the horse in another direction. The horse has no choice but to go where directed. Similarly, one takes hold of his thoughts and turns them in a different direction. This is explained further in Chayei Moharan. There, Reb Nosson, zt”l, describes what he heard from a fellow student in Rebbe Nachman’s name.
“Thoughts were created fluid. For this reason, one’s mind is always on the move, going from thought to thought. [Note: It takes a lot of training to think of one thing for a long period of time. Rav Pinchas of Koritz, zt”l, said that an average person cannot focus on the same good thought for over a half-hour, even on Shabbos! ] This is like the pendulum in a clock that swings from second to second. Even when one sleeps, one’s thoughts are always moving fluidly. When one slumbers deeply he doesn’t remember what he thought but he was always thinking and his thoughts continued to march along. Just insert a different thought into the flow.”

On this subject, Reb Nosson taught that our thoughts are in our hands to think as we will. This is the main place where our free choice is manifest. If I don’t think about it, I will not do it. Similarly, if all day I am focusing on learning or connecting to Hashem, eventually I will achieve this. The main thing in thinking good thoughts and not bad thoughts is that first bad thought. We must be ever vigilant to redirect the beginnings of what seems to be leading to places we don’t want our thoughts to go. When our trend first seems to be turning to a bad place it is still quite easy to redirect our thoughts to better places.

The main protection against negative thoughts, however, is simplicity and temimus. We must accustom ourselves not to be sophisticated and to refrain from thinking extraneous thoughts. We should not let our thoughts roam and we shouldn’t think “too much.” We must cry out very much to Hashem about this—someone who is accustomed to thinking bad thoughts needs to be careful not to give up at all but to cry out to Hashem each time he falls. He must take hold of his thoughts at all times and return them from the depths of the evil inclination to the purity and simplicity of the true Tzaddik.

Someone asked Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, what he can do to help weed out troubling thoughts. After all, one is not really in control of his thoughts, is he? The Rav told him to return early that night. When the inquirer approached the house he could hear the large family being put to bed. He knocked on the door but no one answered. Assuming that he had not been heard, he knocked again. There was no response. He spent the next ten minutes knocking until he finally left. When he next saw the Rav, he asked about this peculiar occurrence.

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld explained, “I am the baal habayis. If I want you to enter, you enter. If not, you don’t. You are the baal habayis of your head. Leave the negative thoughts outside!”

courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov


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