Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for February 25, 2011

Who is Victorious? …

The war against Amalek, which represents the war against the Evil Inclination, is an extremely long battle. The main way in which Amalek is subdued is through encouragement – that no matter what a person endures during his entire life, he be extremely determined to not allow himself to become discouraged. “And if I make my bed in hell, behold there You are” (Tehillim 139; 8). Even from there, one should call out and scream to Hashem from the depths of one’s heart, as the verse says: “From the belly of Hell I cried out” (Iyov 2;3).This is the main path of teshuva that we work to draw upon ourselves during the awesomely holy days of Rosh Hashanah, The Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur. This is the main victory in the battle that we are fighting during these days.

As long as a person does not despair, and strengthens himself to begin each time anew no matter what, he is already called victorious. This is because it is impossible for a person to defeat the Evil Inclination on his own, as our sages taught: “Without Hashem’s help, he could not overcome him” (Sukkah 52a), and as the verse states: “Hashem does battle with Amalek…” (Shemos 17;16). A person’s obligation is to strengthen himself anew each time and not to allow himself to retreat from this battle in despair no matter what. This is alluded to in the words of the Holy Zohar: “Who is Victorious? He who holds the weapons of battle in his hands” (Tikkun 13).  In this battle we certainly do not yet see who has won, for the war is still greatly prolonged, the exile is strengthening and each person is experiencing his own difficulties. However, as long as we hold our weapons in our hands – and our main weapon is prayer, as we have explained elsewhere (Likutey Moharan, lesson 2) – we are certainly being victorious. For as long as one does not despair and strengthens himself in prayer and screaming out to Hashem, he is called triumphant, for this itself is victory. (Likutey Halachos, Shabbos 7, section 54)

During this time of year when the days of Purim are approaching it is our obligation to adhere to the teaching of our sages: “When [the month] of Adar arrives, we increase our joy”. The simple reason for this added level of joy is that we merited to do battle with Amalek and to fulfill the commandment of: “You must eradicate the memory of Amalek”. Indeed, in these days we escalate in joy, in a manner far supreme to the rest of the year, to the extent that on Purim we express this great joy in an unusual way. All this is in celebration of the wondrous victory against Amalek.

This is seemingly hard to understand, for after all is said and done we are still in exile and the klippah (evil force) of Amalek still assaults us every day in many different forms. Who amongst us can say that we have truly merited eradicating the name of Amalek? How then can we be so quick to rejoice?

The truth is that this itself is the very answer. This is because the war with Amalek is unlike all other battles in which one destroys the enemy and simply celebrates victory. This war is an ongoing battle and as long as the physical world as we know it exists, Amalek remains. Amalek is the existence of the concealment of G-dliness that rests upon the world. It is a brazen and defiant force that attempts to discourage and subdue our uprising against it. Even if we merited defeating him a number of times, he immediately returns to battle in a renewed effort to overcome us. His aim is to cause us constant confusion and to ensure that we remain with many failures – this is the kilppah of Haman Amalek.

His entire ambition is to remove every last drop of holy desire from inside us, to crush us completely. Now we can understand the ‘extreme’ way in which the Torah relates to Amalek, commanding us to remember that we must annihilate him, “Do not forget!”

What this practically means is that  our victory in this battle is gauged by how much desire we still have to continue fighting, to get up after a stumble and to keep yearning to come close to Hashem – This is victory.

This is what the Zohar teaches about the Lulav and Esrog we hold in our hands on Sukkos – it is the symbol of our victory against the Klippah of Eisav that threatened us on Yom Kippur.  “Who is Victorious? He who holds the weapons of battle in his hands” (Tikkun 13). At first glance we would have thought the exact opposite, surely when the battle is over one would resign his weapons and not continue to grasp them? Is the holding of these weapons not the greatest sign that the war is NOT over! However, as we have explained, Amalek’s entire aim is for us to surrender and as long as we clasp the weapons of war in our hands we are truly victorious.

In light of this it is truly fitting that we renew ourselves with ecstatic joy and celebrate Hashem’s wondrous miracles, that we are still fighting, that we want nothing more than closeness to Hashem, and most of all – that He wants nothing more than us …

 

 

How to Awaken from Spiritual Slumber

Question:

One of the main things which the Rebbe advises us is to find the good points within ourselves. Isn’t there a concern that there is a possibility that consequently a person might stop advancing in his Avodas Hashem? Don’t we always have to motivate ourselves and strive to move forward in Avodas Hashem?

Answer:

People are under the impression that the way to wake oneself up from spiritual slumber and sleeping through life is through finding deficiencies in Avodas Hashem within oneself.

However, the Rebbe reveals regarding thoughts of inspiration and motivation to serve Hashem properly which pass through a person’s mind, that if it’s a thought which concentrates on how far he is and his shortcomings, not only won’t it be helpful, but also the thought itself will strengthen his spiritual sleep. Reb Nosson writes, “When a person sees that he’s far from Hashem this is an aspect of sleep.” (Likutei Halachos Hashkamas HaBoker 1:2)

We thus see that if we’re talking about waking up in Avodas Hashem, we must be careful not to think about the bad. Thinking about how distant one is from Hashem is in itself sleeping.

This is not just another nice idea meant to encourage people and to keep them from giving up when they see how far they are. This is the way to wake up from our sleep. The whole purpose of Avodas Hashem is to connect to Hashem and to be close to Him. It’s therefore self-understood that the way to wake up to Avodas Hashem after a fall is by searching and finding in oneself a good point, not in order to prevent oneself from giving up, but rather because in this way he will be able to truly restore his bond with Hashem after the fall. Every Mitzvah makes a sort of rope which attaches a person to Hashem, a rope which is impossible to ever sever and take apart. ‘Mitzvah’ is from the same root as ‘Tzavta’, a connection. Every Mitzvah and good deed that a person does is a G-dly light which dwells on him.

Not only that, but on Hashem’s side the whole renewal of the connection and forgiving of sin is brought about by a person’s search to believe in his good point. Every sin makes the Shechinah depart a little bit. A person therefore has to rebuild his Mishkan, his place for the Shechinah, by intensifying his thoughts to focus on the fact that he is tightly connected to Hashem through the Mitzvah which he has done.

Even though Hashem knows a person’s good, still, a person has to wake himself up to think about the Shechinah, the dwelling of the Divine Presence through the Mitzvos, and to take strength and encouragement from it. This is really how a person arouses Hashem’s Compassion to only focus on our good and to forgive our sins (Likutei Halachos ibid). This is the power which a Jewish thought, thinking about the Shechinah, has. It’s not just an encouraging idea.

This is also the way to conduct Hisbodedus and to speak out one’s heart before Hashem.  We must first find those points which tie us with the Creator, and from there to start pouring out our hearts before Him that we haven’t yet merited to more. (Likutei Moharan I 54)

If so, it is understood what when a person will be strong with the good which he has within himself because of the G-dliness inside him, and he will awaken himself to recognize his connection which already exists  with Hashem, there is no concern that he might fall asleep on his job.

Question:

Isn’t it pride for a person to think about the good which he did?

Answer:

On the contrary, this is the utmost humility. As we have explained, this is not in the same lines as those who are involved with pop-psychology who try picking people up and making them happy by helping them find “unique successes” or specific “uniqueness’s” .

“Nekudos Tovos” means to connect with the “simple” Yiddishkeit which everyone has, like Kashrus, Shabbos, Prayer, Tzitzis and Tefillin, etc., and to believe in their greatness in Hashem’s eyes. We aren’t ignoring our sins. We are waking up our acknowledgment and our thoughts regarding the ropes and strings which tie us to Hashem despite the darkness and evil which envelop us. In so doing we renew our connection to Hashem.

There is no more wonderful connection to Hashem. When a person realizes how far he is and sees his lowliness, and strengthens himself to see how despite all of this he is close to Hashem because of some Mitzvah which he once did, this is true humility which brings one closer to Hashem (see Likutei Halachos Reishis HaGez 4). This is not a false humility which makes someone lazy when he decides that he is not worth anything anyway and what difference would it make if he would run into Avodas Hashem.

In addition, since ‘Nekudos Tovos’ means to search for Hashem’s light which is resting upon him because of the good within him, if so, we have to look for the good points in all of Klal Yisroel and to see how Hashem’s light rests upon them through the good deeds which every Jew has.

When we enter a shul, we can look around and start bringing the Shechinah to rest upon the people there, by thinking about each one individually what good point he has, and to think about how Hashem is with him. At the same time, he can include himself with everyone else, as he realizes that he also has some Mitzvah through which Hashem has rested His light on him.

This is wonderful advice how to find encouragement together with real humility.

When a person is sunk into feelings of distance from Hashem and sadness, it’s very hard to find joy with the good which he has. But if he will go out of himself a little and will begin to think about Hashem’s Shechinah dwelling by other people, he can then bring himself in together with them.

It may be for this reason that the Rebbe began the Torah of “Nekudos Tovos”, known as “Azamra” (Likutei Moharan I 282) with seeing merit by others, before looking for merit by oneself. If a person will conduct himself in such a way, he certainly won’t be able to fall into pride, because everyone else is also as good as he is …

Don’t wonder whether your thoughts about other people make a difference. In truth, through every such thought of finding a “Nekudah Tovah”, whether about another Jew or about oneself, a person brings the Shechinah into this world, awakens Hashem’s great mercy and compassion, and builds a dwelling for Hashem in this lower world.

The thoughts of a Jew have great potency. He must therefore be strong to bring the Shechinah everywhere he goes by accustoming himself to find some good in everyone he sees and to think about it until he will strengthen his Emunah that “Hashem is here and I am walking through the Mishkan of Hashem”.

Thus we can achieve the first paragraph of Shulchan Aruch- the paragraph which most people have given up on – “’I place Hashem before me constantly’ is a great principle in Torah, that a person should place before his eyes…”.  This paragraph is relevant for everyone on whatever level he is on, by thinking about the kindness of Hashem and to see how Hashem dwells upon him in merit of his good and the good of others. (Likutei Halachos Hashkamas HaBoker 1)

 

 

 

Can We Dream Of Miracles?

There are times when a popular rebellion that threatens to take down an entire kingdom starts by external forces.  A band of infiltrators settles down and, over time, undermines the stability of the country.  They inject silent venom of mutiny and bitterness that easily sways the people’s emotions.  Their toxic speech wreck a delicate structure of trust and admiration.  At those times, the dispute between the people and the leaders isn’t the real problem at the heart of the nation; rather, it is a foreign affliction, virulent and deadly as cancer, that needs to be removed.  The way to return the trust and rebuild the relationships is to separate the people from the foreign influence and unite them around a kernel of true trust and appreciation of the sublime honor of the kingdom.

♦♦♦

Last week the Torah told us just of such an event.  The people of Israel, the crown of creation, the beloved children of Hashem, pure souls for whom the entire universe and beyond was created – fall, in one instant, from utter perfection to the depth of unimaginable sacrilege.

But the horrendous transgression wasn’t the deed of the Jewish souls.  The devastating breakdown of trust and faith was the deed of Egyptian infiltrators, the “Erev Rav”.

As long as the Jewish nation was secluded, they basked in the closeness to G-d and the sublime privilege of His unparalleled love for them.  The nature of this intimate relationship cannot be described with words.  The people of Israel were immersed in a divine glow that is beyond description of being picked out of billions of identical people and made incomparably unique.  When one feels that way, the legs lift themselves up all on their own and run to serve Hashem.  When the heart is overflowing with love for Hashem, it pulls the entire body with unbreakable ropes of love.  But somebody really didn’t like that special connection.

The Infiltrators’ Rebellion

There are always those who take a very jaundice view of the special relationship Israel has with Hashem.  During the failing of the golden calf, it was the Erev Rav who introduced the bane of rebelliousness into the hearts of the people of Israel.  They killed the very living spirit that pulsates in the Jewish heart, replacing it with doubt and suspicion.  This is the way of Amalek, he who jumped into the fire to put out the flame of Jewish faith.  Like the Erev Rav, Amalek introduced the notion of עם קל, a rearrangement of the letters of its name עמלק, inferring that Israel is ‘just another nation’, nothing special.  A nation like any other.  From there to downfall, the way is short and easy.

The golden calf wrecked the Jewish heart, yes, yet in parshas VaYakhel the Torah tells us how this damage was rectified.

ויקהל משה – “And Moshe has gathered the congregation of Israel”.  The Holy Zohar explains “The congregation of Israel” – excluding the Erev Rav.  This gathering came to rectify the crime of the golden calf by separating the nation of Israel from the Egyptian lecherous plague.  This is the secret.

The sin of the golden calf is the direct result of intermingling; it’s as simple as that.  This is what Amalek and the Erev Rav are after: the dimming of the divine radiance of our Jewish identity.

Erev Rav, Get Out!

The way to disrobe the heavy, soiled garments of heresy is to hold an exclusive gathering that rejects everything that doesn’t belong in the inner Jewish point.  The Erev Rav ‘gave us’ many things; opinions … emotions … doubt … calling them by fancy names to camouflage the fact they are a rancid fruit of foreign spirit.  The results of that ‘enlightenment’ are the feelings of distance and fatigue that led to the sin of the golden calf, as well as the confusions of emunah people experience today.

If we want to renew our connection to Hashem we must first get rid of that which comes from the outside and gather around the points of goodness, good thoughts and the true wisdom of the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Moshe reveals that even though we’ve sinned, Hashem’s affection is still with us, a love of a Father to His children which we will never be able to imagine.  During this gathering Moshe connected himself to every single Jew, from the greatest to the lowliest.  Even the lowest Jew received the astonishing gift of connecting to Moshe.  This is possible because Tzaddikim see the G-dliness in everything, even when it’s deeply concealed in the very dwelling of defilement itself.  When Moshe looks at the smallest Jew he sees only the Jewish point in him.  This is what enables Moshe to connect himself with everyone.

To Gather So We Can Pray

Purim is right ahead of us.  The story of the Megila eerily reflects the present times we live in.  The people of Israel need mercy and pardon like never before.  We are all stuck deep to our necks in the mud of trouble and difficulties.

We watch over millenniums at the marvels of the Megila and wordlessly wonder if ניסים can happen today as well.  Can we dream of miracles?  The answer is that it is not only possible, but essential.  What we need to do now is gather.

Gathering creates unity and unity brings the essential faith to the heart of the nation.  A Jewish heart must be nourished with emunah.  To pray and achieve deliverance, we have to be glowing with the pride of belonging to the Kingdom of Hashem.  When the people of Israel can cast off the filth that became mixed in with the life of emunah and gather around our points of goodness, emunah, and hope, the gates of prayer will be flung wide open.

VaYakhel renews the living remembrance of the love of a merciful Father.  Getting together and expelling the external influences kindle the Jewish fire in our hearts again.  It is what allows us to know that no matter how low we might have sunk; His love is still with us.  At anytime and anyplace we can get together and evoke new compassion upon us all.

All we have to do, is do it.

 

 

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