Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for April, 2011

Preparing for Pesach and Transforming obstacles into Holiness

Question:

I want to prepare for Pesach properly through Torah study and prayer, but instead I find that I need to be busy with cleaning and shopping.

Answer:

Of course, you should try to grab time for Torah study in middle of everything you’re busy with, and to be firm to daven at set times with a Minyan.

But don’t become overwhelmed by all the obstacles that you have to endure. They are there for a purpose, and they are actually the only reason why you’re here in this world.

This can be understood with the analogy of a watch. In a watch, there is a spring which is bent backwards and naturally tries breaking free to jump forward, but is held back by the gears. The gears only allow the spring to be released forward bit by bit at the pace of seconds and minutes. If we would allow the spring the freedom to bounce forward straight away, the watch wouldn’t be able to keep time. Many machines are made in this fashion, by taking two opposing forces and creating a harmony between them.

This is the purpose of man in this world. Naturally, a person’s soul burns for Hashem. But Hashem wants us to declare His Kingship inside this world together with all of its problems and difficulties. Therefore He created an opposing force which separates a person and forcefully severs him from Torah and Tefilah and keeping his mind focused on a connection with Hashem. It’s all in order that a person should live in a reality which prevents him from serving Hashem and hides Hashem from him, and from within this reality to free oneself forward little by little. He thereby pulls the “gears”, the opposing force, with him to come closer to Hashem. Only in this way can we make wonderful Tikkunim above with our Avodas Hashem.

Question:

What should I do when I don’t see myself becoming free at all?

Answer:

Sometimes the force which is keeping us away from holiness is so strong that a person can become overwhelmed. It seems to him as if it’s impossible to serve Hashem in the place where he is. But this is a mistake.

To go back to the analogy of the watch, it would be like a spring which is sometimes pulled back so strongly that it becomes bent and stops bouncing forwards. So too, the numerous obstacles can grab a person and bend him, until he gives in and says, “That’s it, I can’t!”

We have to know that there really aren’t two equal forces which are standing opposite each other. The real stronger force is the natural pull that a person feels towards Hashem. Obstacles are only for the purpose of making a “vessel” and a “machine”. You for sure have the ability to overcome everything.

It’s just like gravity which holds on to everything in the world. When a person throws something he needs to break the hold of gravity which the world naturally has on that object. But that break is only temporary, because after the force of his throw is finished, the object is immediately pulled back down.

We also have to remember that there’s no such thing as “I’m not being allowed to serve Hashem.” The Rebbe stands against this attitude and screams, “There is no such thing as despair!”

Remember who you are. Your soul is really always being pulled above. Whatever you can’t do at this moment is only because of ‘temporary’ obstacles which are getting a hold of you. But you are stronger than them. You can’t be entirely bent and broken. The more you keep this in mind, the more you will strengthen your yearning and longing for Hashem.

You should therefore arouse a yearning for Avodas Hashem even at times when you are unable to actually serve Hashem. As much as you will pull yourself forward, you will merit freeing points of holiness for yourself little by little. Not only will you practically be able to grab many Mitzvos and much good, but even with the yearning itself you elevate the entire world to Hashem.

For example, if you have to go out into the street to take care of things, or you are standing on a ladder cleaning or plastering and you remind yourself that the only thing you want is to be close to the Creator, you have just sanctified the street or the ladder. Places which are usually in the dominion of anxiety and anger or just plain materialism, are pulling with you into holiness, just like the spring in the watch which controls the gears.

Question:

What do I achieve by pulling the obstacles into holiness?

Answer:

You’ve built in your heart a Mishkan, a Sanctuary for Hashem. This is why it’s called a “MiSHKaN”, because it’s “MoSHeKh”, the pull of gravity through which you bring G-dliness into everything which is hiding Hashem from you.

Don’t say that these are concepts which are too high for you. Mishkan is also a “MaSHKoN”, a security with which Hashem promised that He will always be with us even when we sin. This is why Hashem gave us the Mishkan after we fell into the sin of the Egel, the Golden Calf, to remind everyone that Hashem dwells upon each individual. You have the ability to arise and to rectify all situations in your life, if you will just pull yourself forward with a yearning for Hashem.

Everything depends on humility. When a person keeps in mind that he only wants to honor Hashem and doesn’t think about his own personal success, and the more he makes himself like dust, he merits that Hashem says “I will dwell by the downtrodden.” His faith that Hashem dwells with him is strengthened. He starts to understand that everything that he’s going through is a mission and an appointment from the King, that the King Himself has sent him to conquer and annex distant territories into the realm of holiness, to build another Mishkan in the desert, in a place of snakes and scorpions, by being strong to pull himself forward from the forces which are holding him back.

This is what we are praying for when we say, “Let my soul be like dust for everyone.” We should merit being like the ground which has the power of gravity to pull everything towards it.

Question:

How do we attain this ability?

Answer:

As we said, the building of the Mishkan was through Klal Yisroel. Each person brought his own portion. Everyone has his own unique mission through which the Divine Presence dwells in this world, according to his own personal trials.

But even after the Mishkan was ready, they needed Moshe to erect it. The Tzaddik is the foundation of the world. He has reached true humility until he has literally become like dust, having the gravity to pull Hashem into this world and to pull the whole world to Hashem.

The more we become closer to Tzaddikim, study their Sefarim and give charity to the poor, we merit truly being drawn after Hashem and to draw all our surroundings and all our obstacles and concealments into holiness, to bring the Divine Presence to dwell below.

Now is the time. “Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the Rosh Hashanah for kings.” Everyone in Klal Yisroel now receives his appointment for the coming year in order to receive new abilities to draw G-dliness into one’s trials and obstacles.

(Based on Likutei Moharan I 70, Likutei Halachos Yom Tov 5)

 

 

 

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Really, what do they Expect of Us?

It seems that you take one step forward, and the next step there’s an obstacle.  At a certain point you ask yourself, what is going on here?

Heskel didn’t know what to think anymore.  The day before the shift at the plant where he works was called off suddenly.  This week the entire plant was moved to a new location without as much as an explanation.  The day before an electrical blackout stopped production dead on its tracks.  Yes, workers are extremely resourceful, but production is still way down.  When Heskel first got the job he thought it was a dream come true.  Now he thinks of quitting.  According to his math, the plant is about to close.

Surprisingly, the work manager didn’t seem perturbed at all by Heskel’s doomsday calculations.  He revealed to his astonished worker that the plant is no regular factory at all.  It is a plant designed to train special production methods for times of emergency.  High management is looking for adaptability and the aptitude to improvise under pressure.  They don’t really care about production and quotas.  They are look for the ability to cope with adversity, ingenuity and plain old durability under difficulty.

♦♦♦

Who can toil with no aim in sight? Who is mentally strong enough to work with no goal, future, or prospects in sight?  That is exactly the kind of work the Israelites in Egypt were facing.  The architects of Pitom and Ramses had no building aspirations whatsoever.  Their only goal was to enslave the people of Israel, drain their energy, and sap their faith.

At exodus Hashem said “they are my slaves”.  The story of working for nothing is over forever.  Kabolas HaTorah took us into a whole new ‘factory’ – work of the most sublime rhyme and reason of them all.  It is work in the palace of the king, where every single effort in thought, speech, and deed for the sake of the King has an eternal, inestimable value.  Together with shedding slavery, we also received a calendar.  Unfortunately, the Jewish calendar revolves around the moon.

For 210 years we waited for the redemption and we finally got it.  And when we finally got above the laws of nature, suddenly we are chained to the constant trials of ups and downs.  The moon forever increases and decreases every single month, while the sun is both shiny and stable.  Why were we chained to such an unstable cycle upon getting out of Egypt?

Measure of Success

Success depends so much on a right beginning.  Beginnings are usually flushed with great fanfare and enthusiasm.  A new year … a new season … a new job … they all give you a huge jolt of spirit and hope to start and do great work.  The first steps can focus the mental energy on surging ahead.  Spring is a time for renewal.  Creation wears new clothes.  Liberty permeates the air.  A new volition and ambition flows into creation.  We feel a strong pull towards our Father in Heaven and He, onto us in return.

That is the beginning.  What comes after is … well … different.  We all know that consistent time-keeping is a must.  A Jew must keep a stable, consistent schedule of kedusha.  But some parts of one’s life are simply not under your control.  The urge and yearning you feel for Hashem isn’t constant either.  Sometimes you heart is open like a hall and then, many thousands of times your heart is closed as a fist.  Tzaddikim tell it to us straight off.  This is the way it’s going to be – ups and downs all the way – just like the moon.

Is this a wise policy?  Isn’t there a danger that pre-knowledge of the fickle nature of our trek will diminish and cool down our enthusiasm?

Eyes on the Goal

When you start out, you need to know what the goal is.  If it’s a race, you had better come first.  But the service of Hashem isn’t a race and has a very different goal.  This is why the Tzaddikim tell us straight off-the-bat what we’re heading into.

Man is flesh and blood, infused with a spiritual soul.  The body pulls down while the neshoma yearns for the Heavens.  Since the two are destined to coexist, there is a constant struggle going on.  Rebbe Nachman calls the ‘up’ and ‘down’ forces the forces of ‘pulling and enforcing’.  The pulling force draws the Neshomah up while the enforcing power compels the body down.  The balance between the two forces is the engine behind both creation and creativity.  Rebbe Nosson gives a wonderful example of a watch.

Yesteryears watches were mechanical.  The power that drove the watch’s movement was a spring, a long thin piece of metal tightly wound daily.  The tension stored in the spring was gradually released by the watch’s mechanism over a 24 hour time period.  It is the interrelation between the spring’s forward driving force and the intricate mechanism holding it back that releases the power in a tightly controlled fashion.  That consistent release enables a sustained movement of the watch’s hands and the exact keeping of time.  Without the spring, nothing can happen – without the restraining mechanism that energy would have blown off uselessly.

The goal of the service of Hashem is ביטול – self annulment.  That self-annulment is created by what seems like being torn by the conflicts between our built-in up and down tendencies.  The beauty of the soul pulls the soul with yearning, and the body’s dense materialism holds it back.  The combined resulting struggle creates the immense joy of Heaven.  The success isn’t a race, but coping with the constant struggle against the “enforcer” that hold you back.  Some get a delicate “enforcer” that allows them hours for uninterrupted learning and praying.  Others are giving Heaven immeasurable joy from a pit of tar, struggling under burdens that would break a mule’s back.  Success is the ability to sustain the struggle between the two opposing forces.

This is what we are told when the Torah tells us “This is your first month”.  Now, that you have gone through the gates of emunah in the service of Hashem, you are now the slave of the King of all Kings. The initial enthusiasm isn’t the goal, it’s only a tool.  The goal is to forever reignite a new urge that will subdue another instance of necessary hold-backs.

When you enter the month of Nissan and Pesach with this understanding you grasp that Nissan, like Rosh Hashanah, is a time of renewal.  On Tishrei Hashem’s slaves are sitting in synagogues, wrapped with praying shawls – in Nissan they get down on their knees, scrubbing the physical chometz off – but the principle is the same.

Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the Rosh Hashanah of kings.  Rebbe Nahcman reveals that this is the time when new honor and authority is given to new power holders.  During this day, the soul of each and every one of us is renewed.  Our springs, as it were, are wound.  We fortify our souls with new longings and urge to reach the infinite, and overcome the “enforcing” deflation of Pesach cleaning.  This is when we realize that success isn’t in winning the race, but in being willing to carry the load.

 

 

 

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