Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for February, 2012

Just Grab Onto the Rope

Translated and adapted from the lessons of Rabbi Nissan Dovid Kivak shlit”a

An “Ish Yisraeli”, a true Jewish person has to constantly look to find the deeper dimension, the innate wisdom of each thing, it’s “innate wisdom”, and attach himself to this innate wisdom. What does it mean to be a Jew? To go from one level to another, to live like a Jew. We’ve mentioned this already – that a Jew is someone who is continuously progressing, someone who is constantly battling forward. You have a person who climbs up a rickety ladder, but gets scared and comes back down again. An “Ish Yisraeli” is someone who keeps moving forward. He may not always feel that he’s progressing, but he is constantly moving forward. Someone who’s living a life of holiness – he needs this, so that there won’t be any break – that there shouldn’t be anything that holds him up or brings him down, whatever he goes through.

He has to constantly look for the innate wisdom and inner dimension of each thing, and attach himself to the innate wisdom and wisdom inherent in each thing. Then he can progress in life, and the innate wisdom of each thing will shine to him and show him how to come close to Hashem through that thing.

Even if we would talk about this for a hundred years, we wouldn’t finish. In these few words the Rebbe encapsulates the entire Torah of the Baal Shem Tov and all the light of the Zohar. All theeitzahs that the Rebbe himself revealed are all contained in these few words. How can we absorb this and really take it in? Soon the Rebbe himself says that it’s impossible to constantly live with innate wisdom. If that’s the case, why did he tell us that we have to, and that we can’t live without it? Soon the Rebbe will say that the innate wisdom is such a great spiritual light that we aren’t able to grasp hold of it properly. The answer is that what we need to do is firmly implant in everyone’s heart and soul that “This is what I want, this is what I’m yearning for – to know this thing and understand what it means for me.”

What are we living for? Where do we need to get to? The Rebbe reveals a way for us to grasp hold of this, even when we’re very far from it. The Rebbe opens up for us a gateway of Teshuvah. He throws us a rope, that stretches to the furthest reaches of the earth. Wherever you are, just grab hold of this – an “Ish Yisraeli” always has to look for the innate wisdom in each thing, and attach himself to the innate wisdom, this Divinely innate wisdom instilled in that thing. This is the source of truth. When a Jew merits believing in Hashem in his heart – he knows about Hashem – then he lives with holiness, and he starts to look at each thing with a more penetrating eye – he looks for its deeper aspect. Not like a person in the street, a businessman, who looks at everything superficially. The man of the world is always on the lookout for another opportunity to make money. He notices that he’s hungry, and searches for something to satisfy his appetite. He sees other things that he’d like, and he goes after them. He also notices when he’s uncomfortable, when something is paining him. That’s his whole life.

A Jew who has Emunah, on the other hand – he’s a deeper person. It’s easy for him to come to shul, to learn something, to feel inner peace and closeness to Hashem. He can pray. This is the simple thing that the Rebbe is coming to teach us – to raise up the true charm of Israel. With a bit of innate wisdom we can feel the true charm, the charm of being Hashem’s people, the charm of being close to Hashem – of being something eternal.

Every Jew already knows what this is to some extent, but how to do we hold onto it at all times? To look for the deeper dimension – this is something engrained in every soul, to look a bit deeper, to see the Emunah that Hashem created the world, to try and understand what it says in our prayers. But here the story starts – that we can’t do this all day long. How long is a person in shul or in the Beis HaMedrash? Most of our time is spent dealing with other things – it seems that we are bound to fall off this ‘looking for the deeper dimension’?

This is what is written between the lines here – that we have to look for the innate wisdom instilled in every creation and in every event to come close to Hashem. We have to find the way to overcome the problem we have, that whenever we have to be involved in this world, it shouldn’t pull us down. Not just things of this world, but even the problems we face, whether at home or in the street – all the things that aren’t as we’d want them to be. We very much need to find a way to believe that everything is Divine Providence. “Even if I really am so far away right now, still – how can I look for the deeper truth of my situation?” There are also the problems of the serious attractions and physical appetites that pull us, which are the main problem, which we’ll discuss in our next lesson, G-d willing.

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Spirit of Purim

By Rabbi Micha Golshevsky shlit”a

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 141, 1: 1

From the onset of Adar one should magnify his joy. (Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha.) If a Jew has an alter-cation with a non-Jew he should take him to court during Adar since it is an auspicious time.
The Ohev Yisrael, zt”l, writes that the word “b’simcha” has the same numeri-cal value as the word “shana,” year.[1] The more b’simcha, joyous, one is dur-ing Adar, the more joy one will experi-ence the entire year!
The Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, states that just as we go into the illumination of Tishrei through Elul, we attain the dveikus, or intimate connection with Hashem, of Nisan through Adar. In Adar, our repentance is born of love and is stronger than the teshuva of Elul which is rooted in fear.

The Divrei Shmuel explains the deeper meaning of the preference to take a gentile to court during this month. On a deeper level, this refers to judging the non-Jew within us which is the aspect of Amalek within. One who has difficul-ty struggling with the negative inside himself (and who doesn’t in our gener-ation?) overcomes this with much greater ease during Adar.
The Chidushei HaRim writes further that Adar is a conjunction of the phrase Aleph-Dar (א – דר=אדר) . Aleph refers to Hashem, sometimes known as Alufo Shel Olam, the lofty One of the uni-verse, and dar literally means dwells.[2] This means that during the month of Adar, due to the boundless joy we ex-perience, it is easier for us to become a
dwelling place for Hashem.

Chazal say, “One who wishes to pre-serve his property should plant an Adar on it,” which could mean either planting a type of tree known as an adar, which is usually understood to be a maple, or to plant the tree during the month of Adar. As it says in Tehilim (93:4,) “Adir bamarom Hashem”—“Hashem is All Powerful on High.” But what does the verse have to do with securing one’s material wealth? The Chashva L’teshuva, zt”l, explains that the needs of every Jew are allocated from heaven. The reason why people lack is because their heavenly allot-ment is being withheld. What should one do to avoid losing out, then? “Plant an adar.” Adar refers to one who is steadfast as a mighty maple in his faith that Hashem is All Powerful!

Once, two friends met and one com-plained to the other that things were very difficult financially. He was literal-ly at the end of his rope and didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
“Well,” responded his friend, “Rebbe Nachman writes that ‘one who is al-ways happy will succeed.’ So I recom-mend that you strive a to feel happy all the time.”
“But that is one of the most difficult things to do! How can I possibly work towards such a lofty goal?” complained the disgruntled man.
“Nu, what won’t people do to make a living?” his friend answered.

[1] Both equal 355. )ב= 2 ש= 033 מ= 03
) ח= 8 ה= 5 & ש= 033 נ= 53 ה= 5
]2[ To this day an apartment in Hebrew

Worriors of the Heart

Translated from the orginal Hebrew of Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kletzky shlit”a

Question:

Why are there so many difficulties concerning every good thing which I want to accomplish?

Answer:

This is exactly the goal for which you came into this world, to choose the good.  In order that there be freedom of choice, it’s necessary for there also to be a power opposing holiness. On the contrary, each time that a difficulty or obstacle arises in learning, praying, faith or any other Mitzvah, we have to strengthen ourselves exceedingly and tell ourselves, that this is a sign that Hashem does indeed love our Mitzvos very much and He also believes in us – He is therefore sending us this difficulty in order that we have proper free will, and when we do overcome it, we will give Him satisfaction.

An analogy which we can use to understand this concept can be of a soldier, who after performing a heroic act, is recognized by superiors to be a valiant soldier, and he is sent on a even more dangerous mission deep in enemy territory. The soldier becomes angry and says, what do they want from me, I’ve already proven my abilities, why do I deserve such a punishment? His commanders answer him with a warm smile; you don’t understand at all your role in the army. This isn’t a punishment at all, and this isn’t the place to show your heroism. You have to understand that there is a real war going on with enemy forces which need to be annihilated. Therefore, when you first joined the army we started off slowly, and when we saw your successes, we decided to send just you.

Hashem loves us very much, and believes in our abilities, that we are capable. He therefore sends us on battles and missions, sometimes even more difficult ones that the previous ones.

Question:

The analogy isn’t precise, because I’m not a successful soldier, and in many cases the evil wins over me.

Answer:

Indeed the analogy isn’t exact, because in a simple war, we want to see results – conquering enemy territory. It really doesn’t make any difference to the king what the soldiers’ feelings towards him are during the war, and if they really have the king’s honor in mind or not. The main thing is that the soldiers will follow orders, and win the war.

On the other hand, in this holy war, there is an entirely different goal. Hashem wants us to connect with Him with a sincere heart, with longing and desire.  The war in Yiddishkeit between good and evil takes place in a different arena – it’s to be found in the heart.  Is there a desire and longing for Hashem or some type of spiritual obliteration, coolness and tiredness?

It’s therefore untrue to say that we haven’t been successful at war.

Even if we didn’t actually win and conquer, still, Hashem checks our heart, how much have we tried and exerted ourselves to come close to Him, how many internal battles did we have until we were beaten

The main thing which Hashem wants from us, is that we should awaken within ourselves a want and a desire, and this itself is already called ‘victory’.

Question:

If the main thing is the desire, what advice is there to boost the will and the desire?

Answer:

We’re now going back to the original question which you asked, why does everything in holiness have to come together with so many battles. Here you have another explanation. Hashem meets out tremendous kindness with us by causing obstacles and difficulties before everything. If everything would go easy, we would be performing mitzvos and serving Hashem without awakening any longing for Him. He therefore has to set up barriers which bring about an awakening of holy passion and longing. The distance itself causes longing.

This is a tremendous rule throughout the Rebbe’s teachings: Obstacles are there to stir up the enthusiasm. This isn’t just a saying – this is exactly how it is. Anyone who wants to come close to Hashem must pass through many points of distance and falls in every prayer, every Torah-study, every act of charity or kindness which he wants to do.

On the contrary, the more things get in the way, the more the desire is truly awakened. We see ourselves that when a person is hungry, the more time passes and he doesn’t find what to eat, the feelings of hunger just become stronger. Every moment that passes, all of his mental capabilities concentrate fully and sharpen his understanding that the only thing that should be interesting him now is the quest for food.

Question:

It seems to be just the opposite, the more I see that I’m not successful in accomplishing, I become weaker and more dejected. Slowly, I stop wanting and longing for many holy things the same way that I did in the past.

Answer:

Why when we need food don’t we give up when it doesn’t come easy? In material things it is obvious to us that that is what we need, and we have no way to escape to a place where we won’t have to eat. This isn’t the case by spiritual matters, where we inside we think it’s possible to get by without it.

This is Amalek’s tactic. He knows the secret that the more he’ll disturb us, the more he’ll awaken within us a greater desire. So what does he do? He inserts into our ideology thoughts that maybe in reality there is something else besides Avodas Hashem. In general he shows us, “see how people are succeeding in living without fear of Heaven.” When he’s unsuccessful in convincing us in general, he then tries before each individual Mitzvah, deriding and cooling off the importance of the Mitzvah – what the outcome will be if you don’t stand this trial, and so on.

We therefore have to clearly define our soul’s true position, that even if it’s hard to accomplish everything that we have to, we should still keep in mind the truth, that life is about the light of Torah and serving Hashem.

When this point is clearly in focus, then the more the obstacles become stronger, we will perceive the longing itself becoming stronger.

Therefore, it’s very important to sit every day with Hashem and tell Him everything in your heart. Tell Him all of your inner wants and how much you want to come close to Him, and go into detail as much as possible. This action strengthens and sharpens the heart with the understanding that it’s primary food is spirituality, and there is no substitute.  And the more that the heart is reinforced with this aspiration, the more you will be able to see how every obstacle and difficulty in fact  only helps to strengthen one’s desire and longing for Hashem.

Spirit of the Law: Tu B’Shvat


Almond Trees in Blossom

Almond Trees in Blossom

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter (140 #26) :

“The fifteenth of Shevat is Rosh Hashana for trees…The custom is to eat many different species of fruit on this day.”

I: Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that every human being is always longing for Hashem. A Jew’s longing for connection to Hashem is even more powerful. Usually, this longing gets channeled into other areas. People mistakenly think they yearn for money, honor or physical pleasures such as food. Attaining these never satisfies in a lasting way however, since the source, the inner desire for closeness to Hashem has not been addressed, just stifled.

When the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, was asked why the gemara compares the sinners of Israel to a pomegranate, he responded “A pomegranate has a hard exterior upon which no good is noticeable. It is only if you open it up, and delve into it’s depths that one finds the many, many good seeds in the Rimon.” Even if you peel off the outer shell you see only the white insides. You only find the seeds by breaking through the bad. Similarly, every Jew is a neshama kedosha which is always yearning with a powerful longing for his source. “

On Tu B’Shvat the sap begins to rise in trees. It is partially due to this process that the tree later develops in the spring. This is why it is Rosh Hashannah for trees.

The verse states, “Man is as a tree of the field.”The “sap” of each person is the hidden inner essence of each person, their fiery longing for Hashem. Like the sap of trees, the inner essence of each person is aroused on Tu B’Shevat. Connecting to our inner longing is the prerequisite for all spiritual growth.

This is one reason we eat fruits on this holy day. We acknowledge the correlation between bearing spiritual fruits and arousing our powerful yearning for Hashem. The more we connect to our powerful inner longing for Hashem, the more spiritual fruit we will bear in the coming year. The less we connect, the more this longing will be misdirected towards the material and the less spiritual growth we will yield. It is our choice.

May Hashem help us to grow and thrive, and bear an abundance of spiritual fruit.

II: On the subject of Tu B’Shevat, the Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, shares a very powerful concept: the “new year’s” judgment of Tu B’shvat primarily determines one’s access to novel Torah concepts (chidushei Torah) for the upcoming year.

Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that there are two levels of chidushei Torah. The first is the joy and rapture of bearing and sharing the fruit of one’s Torah learning, bringing down and sharing novel Torah concepts. This is the spiritual root of the sweetness of fruit to the palate. Without this feeling of sweetness, a person has virtually no genuine connection to Torah even if he or she learns assiduously and innovates novel interpretations. The second, lower, level of chidush is accessing a feeling of renewal and connection from every bit of Torah learning, prayer, and avodah even when there is nothing objectively novel about the concepts in which one is immersed. One still feels a powerful joy and connection, and this is the ultimate fruit of Torah study, as we say in the daily blessing: “Hashem, please make Torah learning sweet in my mouth.”

courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov


Various Halachos relating to Tu B’Shvat

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A.  Praying for a Mehudar Etrog on Shabbos

In light of the previous weeks’ Halacha series dealing with what one is permitted to prayer for on Shabbos, it is in permissible to prayer for meriting a Mehudar Etrog for the upcoming Sukkos, following that which is written in the Sifrei Hakodesh about Tu B’Shvat being an auspicious time (Mesugal)  for praying for such an Etrog.

B.  The Bracha to be said on Dried/Sugared Etrog

“… Borei Pri Ha’aetz” when eating either the flesh or the rind of the sugared Etrog.  We do not however make a Shehechiyanu on the Etrog for numerous reasons brought by the Poskim.

Note: it is important to realize that there is in fact no specific obligation to make a Shehechiyanu on Tu B’Shvat (and therefore one should not be concerned if they cannot find a new fruit on which to make a Shehechiyanu.)

C. Blessings related to the Fruits before and during the Seudah

One who eats the fruits before the Seudah, needs to make a Bracha Achrona (after blessing) – Birchas Hamazon does not cover his obligation.  If one commences the Seuda and forgets to make a Bracha Achrona, he must make a Bracha Achrona during the Seuda and even if he forgot and made Birkas Hamazon, he is still obligated to make the Bracha Achrona afterwards.

One who eats the fruits during the Seuda, needs to make Bracha Rishona over the fruits then, but should not make a Bracha Achrona, as it will be covered by his Birkas Hamazon.

One who eats the fruits before the Seuda with the intention of eating the same fruit during the Seuda as well, should have in mind when he makes the blessing before the Seuda to cover the fruit during the Seuda as well.  That being the case, he should not make Bracha Rishona for the same fruit during the Seuda and also should not make a Bracha Achrona on the fruit that he ate before the Seuda, as it too will be covered by his Birkas Hamazon.

D.  The order of the Brachos:

One who eats various types of food, should ensure to make the blessing on the most important fruit among them, as is decreed by Chazal.  There are may laws associated with this, so we will mention only those laws relevant to Tu B’Shvat itself.

If one wishes to eat fruit from the 7 species which are in front of him, he should make the blessing on them before any other types of fruit.  However, even within the 7 species themselves, the order of precedence is as follows:

1. Olives, 2. Dates, 3. Grapes, 4. Figs, 5.Pomegranates

One should know that this order of precedence is only related to which fruit to make the blessing on first.  However, once the blessing has been made, there is then no specific order as to which of the remaining 6 fruits one has to eat.  Nor is it a requirement to eat all of the specific fruit on which one has made the blessing – rather, one only need taste a little of that  specific fruit before moving on to the other fruits.

Note: If one wishes to drink wine, its blessing takes order of precedence over the 7 species.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

TU B’SHEVAT- BLOSSOMING ANEW

By Rabbi Avroham Kletzky shlit”a

Question:

What is special about Tu B’Shevat being the New Year for trees, and what relevance does it have for me?

Answer:

Tu B’Shevat is the introduction to Purim.

We are now within forty days before Purim. Now is the time to ask and beg Hashem at every opportunity to save us from our spiritual adversary Haman and Amalek. The days of the month of Shevat are the starting point from where we will gather the strength to erase the memory of Amalek on Purim, and to leave Mitzrayim on Pesach.

When we motivate ourselves to yearn for the joy of Purim, the question is always asked, how can we begin to be happy? Where do we get the strength for that?

This is why we have Tu B’Shevat, which is itself a very novel idea which requires faith in the Tzaddikim – belief in the words of our sages.  Chazal fixed this day as the New Year for trees, which has many Halachic ramifications, such as Ma’asrot and Orlah, etc. This seems puzzling, because it would make more sense to start the year by when the fruit is harvested, just as we do by vegetables, or at least when the fruit has grown at least a third, as we do by grains. But Chazal set the date by the day the fruit takes hold, a time when we see nothing. In colder climates trees are actually wrapped now to protect them. Chazal are teaching us that the New Year for trees is even before we can see anything.

The Tzaddikim reveal even further, that even when we can’t even see the start, still, whoever believes in Chazal knows for certain that he did get off to a good start. Even if the tree looks dead, it’s still totally alive. When we will understand this we will be able to await our salvation, and to proceed towards Purim and Pesach.

Question:

If all Tu B’Shevat is just about a metaphor for a person, as the verse says, “For Man is like a tree in the field”, what is the significance of eating fruit?

Answer:

It’s not just a metaphor comparing a person’s renewal to that of a tree. This is the entire idea behind Tu B’Shevat, to take the fruits of Eretz Yisroel and to taste their sweetness. We taste the sweetness and pleasantness of attaching oneself to Hashem through the fruits of Eretz Yisroel, a sample of what will be revealed in Moshiach’s times, the means of attaching to Hashem through song and praise.

That’s why we have a custom to taste fruits, to recite Berachos aloud, to thank Hashem for the wonderful and diverse tastes which He created. We praise Eretz Yisroel and the G-dliness revealed within it, and which will be revealed with the coming of Moshiach.  This is how we make a new start in always reciting Berachos with concentration and in reciting a hundred Blessings daily, which has the power to save us from spiritual illness and morbidity.

Let’s engrave within ourselves this wonderful path, that even though now we only see the beginning of the fruit, and we are literally holding at the onset of the growth of the sweet fruits, we are still so sure of our ultimate salvation that we are already blessing and thanking Hashem.  Like someone walking through a desert, hungry and thirsty, and crossing upon something to eat like juicy grapes, etc. Can we imagine the excitement he has with each bite? We believe that at least that much will be our excitement with the sweetness of cleaving to Hashem.

This is the proper start and preparation for Purim and to triumph over the dejection which Amalek tries instilling within us.

Practically speaking, we must keep in mind that even if it seems that the world is still and dry, in truth the whole universe is playing a song for Hashem.  Amalek conceals and hides this wonderful and pleasant sound, and even “shows” us that Yiddishkeit and Emunah are difficult and “weighty”.

Shevat is the month in which Moshe Rabeinu began teaching us the Mishne Torah (Devarim), which is the sweet and pleasant reprimand of the Tzaddik in which Emunah obtains the melodic notes which draw our souls closer to Hashem with such sparkling that a person throws away all of his confusion and heaviness, mania and bitterness, and starts to understand that everything that he’s going through is only because he doesn’t have the Torah and the song of the Tzaddik.  All this because Amalek has “swallowed” his mind.

At the beginning of Tishrei, which is Rosh Hashanah, the Tzaddik stands in the way of Amalek’s “swallowing” and causes him to “vomit” out all of the holy sparks which he had already swallowed. This Tikkun is completed on Sukkos, the holiday of ‘gathering”, when all of the holy sparks return and are gathered back into holiness.

But there is still the New Year for trees, when the sparks once again start entering the trees to become part of the pleasant song.  We therefore strengthen ourselves already now, at the beginning of the blossoming, to taste the sweetness of Hashem, to renew our listening to the Tzaddiks’ teachings, to recite blessings with concentration, with song and praise.

(See LKM II 8, Likutei Halachos, Orloh 3)

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