Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for January 7, 2011

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

 

 

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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

Question:

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

Answer:

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.

Question:

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?

Answer:

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.

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