Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for the ‘Avodas Hashem’ Category

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.

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)

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

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