Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

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Preparing for Purim – Part I

Question:

What is the proper way to prepare for the upcoming holiday of Purim?

Answer:

Reb Nosson said that when one cries out to Hashem in prayer for thirty days prior to Purim, “Save me from the evil forces of Haman and Amalek,” a person can merit seeing Mordechai and Esther during the reading of the Megillah (some say that he said forty days).  But the point isn’t to keep count of the days of saying “Save me…”. The idea is to motivate oneself to perform the Mitzvah of blotting out Amalek, through understanding that Amalek is a real force which stands over us and tries to destroy us. It’s similar to what Reb Nosson said that he sees Amalek standing over him with a metal stick. As much as we internalize who Amalek is, we will be able to ask Hashem and scream out to Him that we should be saved from him.

To prepare for Purim is by identifying with entire story of the Megillah of Esther and Amalek and reading it into our own daily lives, not to see it just as a story which happened many years ago. This is an important teaching of the Rebbe: to interpret every idea onto ourselves. When reciting Tehillim in which Dovid HaMelech screams out to Hashem to be saved from those who were pursuing him, we are supposed to interpret it onto our own situation with our own Yetzer Hara which is chasing after us. The same thing is by mourning at Tikkun Chatzos about our own personal “Destruction of the Beis HaMikdash”.

On this note the Tzaddikim explain the Mishna, “Whoever reads the Megillah backwards doesn’t fulfill his obligation” to mean that whoever reads the Megillah as if it’s a story that happened once upon a time – backwards – hasn’t fulfilled his obligation. The main thing is to concentrate on the “In those days in this time”, on what’s happening in our times.

Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender used to relate how in Uman they had to stop the Megillah reading several times because of all the noise of the congregation’s crying.

Therefore it’s self-understood that before Purim the main Avodah and the right way to prepare is by indentifying Amalek well, and crying out to Hashem to be saved from his dangerous hands. The more one prays, the more he will be able to feel the holiness of Mordechai and Esther when the Megillah will be read.

It’s therefore also appropriate to study these days the teachings of the Tzaddikim about Purim in order to understand what Amalek is (or at least one point of it), and to gain knowledge of what the holiness of Mordechai and Esther is. Since he knows what he’s asking for he will then be able to cry to Hashem better.

Question:

When I just think about my personal Amalek, I immediately give up from ever conquering it. I wonder if there’s any hope in this long conflict.

Answer:

Amalek can let a person identify with the first half of the story of the Megillah, which tells about Klal Yisroel falling to enjoying Achashverosh’s feast and Haman’s decree. But he then makes us forget about the beginning of the miracle of ‘that night the king’s sleep was disturbed’ – referring to the King of the World. This is the part which tells us about the miracles and our hope. Amalek doesn’t want us to realize how much Hashem ‘disturbs His sleep’ so to speak, in order to bring us closer to Him from wherever we are, until in the end ‘it turns over that the Jews rule over their enemies.’

The same way we have to understand that Amalek is inside our hearts and we have to fight him, we also have to recognize and identify with the miracle of the Megillah. These days, as we enter into the month of Adar, it’s a Mitzvah to increase in happiness, meaning to awaken a new hope within ourselves. A new flow of Divine assistance is coming down now to help us fight Amalek.

This is also the reason for the Fast of Esther. Unlike other fast days which are in commemoration of troubles which befell us, this fast is in memory of the miracle, in order to remember that Hashem listens to all of our prayers.

This is the wicked ability of Amalek, who stands at the top of all malevolent and impure powers: to demonstrate for a person that he is so great that it’s impossible even to begin overpowering him. (Hil’ Birchas HaReiach 5)

Amalek is very tricky. He starts by approaching a person in a way that he shouldn’t realize it – in an unrecognizable manner. But even after a person wakes up to discern who Amalek is and that he must be obliterated, Amalek puts on a new outfit: despair, small mindedness. He throws person into a fear in order that he shouldn’t realize his own strength. He makes a person imagine as if Amalek is something so big that we can’t even start dealing with it. He reminds us of all the years that we have already cried: “save me from Haman and Amalek …” and it still seems as if we haven’t even begun to see any form of salvation.

Even more, not only does he cause a person to give up, he also mixes himself into a person’s psyche in a fashion that it’s difficult to make him out. A person imagines about himself that his whole essence is anger and earthly desires. He doesn’t grasp that this is not him at all but the Amalek which has attached himself to him. A person himself is a part of Klal Yisroel, a Yiddish soul whose source is from the Heavenly Throne, pure and holy and entirely removed from sin.

This is ‘remember what Amalek did for you’, to remember that Amalek has done all of this to you and this isn’t you. Through identifying the enemy, you will awaken within yourself the ability to cry out and the strength to fight him.

The truth be told, is that it is impossible to totally conquer Amalek until Moshiach comes. Then, Hashem’s name will be revealed throughout the universe, and all evil will be null. Amalek is this material world which hides Hashem. It’s therefore understood that we can’t totally erase him, because then the whole universe would be null.

It is important to know that the war with Amalek is fought little by little. The main Mitzvah is to remain persistent in battle, not to put down the weapon and surrender (Hil’ Shabbos 6). This is the Torah’s commandment to remember what Amalek has done to us. The way we erase Amalek is by remembering that Amalek exists and that he only wants that we shouldn’t realize that he exists.

Keep strong ‘to proclaim that all who hope in you will not be shamed, and all who take refuge in you will never be shamed’.

 

 

 

 

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Preparing for Purim – Part II

Question:

Purim is coming up, a day of which the Zohar teaches is holier even than Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is only ‘like’ Purim, Ki-Purim. But I ask myself, how do I fit into this holiness?

Answer:

The Rebbe reveals in Likutei Moharan II 74, “Now, all beginnings are from Purim.” For this reason the holiday of Purim takes up such an important position in the internal Avodah of Breslover Chassidim.  No matter if the whole year has passed in such a way that today we don’t feel any connection with Purim, still, on Purim there’s a special opportunity to catch a glimpse of what’s going on inside the holiness and to enter inside. We have witnessed many people who became close to holiness through seeing the wonderful light which shines by Breslover Chassidim on Purim.

Tzaddikim would say about the Halachah, “Whoever stretches out his hand [for charity on Purim,] is given.”  That on this day Hashem sends down immense spiritual gifts for every individual without looking to see if they deserve it or not.  On Purim, prayer is elevated to the level of “a home” (see Likutei Moharan I 10), to be a perfect prayer through which anything can be accomplished, especially the main, eternal victory which we are all so much hoping for- to merit closeness to Hashem, to attach ourselves with Him.

The Ariza”l revealed that there is no revelation of holiness throughout the year as much as there is on Purim, not on any Shabbos or other holiday. On Purim the highest level of spiritual light, the revelation of the Tzaddik’s great light comes down into our material world.  Certainly, whoever is connected to the Tree of Life, and the whole year awaits and longs to come close to Hashem, will use this awesome day to its fullest. This day is the opening, the beginning.

Question:

I want to understand why we need to fast on Taanis Esther if it’s only in commemoration of the miracle?

Answer:

It is understood from Likutei Halachos as well as other holy books that a great part of Purim’s light depends on Taanis Esther.  Now is the main war with Amalek and Haman.

We have to realize that the battle with Amalek is the beginning of the war with the Yetzer Hara. Amalek is not just another materialistic desire or spiritual trial. Amalek wants to uproot the point of holiness within every Jew’s heart.  He will then be more dead than alive, without any desire to serve Hashem. The way he worked is by throwing us down in the issue of the desire for food by Achashverosh’s feast. Through unholy eating a person’s heart cools off and he loses all of his good desires, as the Rebbe teaches in many places

Therefore, on Taanis Esther, which is a day of battle, there is special divine assistance to be victorious through the following two ways:

First of all, through not eating, and strengthening one’s longing and desire for Hashem, that his entire internal wish is only to be attached to Hashem and do His will, and he doesn’t want to be drawn after food. Through this he can rectify all that he’s blemished through his desire for food, which is the aspect of Achashverosh’s feast (Likutei Halachos Purim 2).

Secondly, through prayer and calling out to Hashem with all your heart.  Taanis Esther was established in order that we remember that Hashem sees and hears every person at his time of pain.  Therefore, now is the time to uproot Amalek which is trying to sow doubt in our hearts as if Hashem isn’t listening to our prayers. We have to wake ourselves up with fresh enthusiasm to set aside time every day to speak to Hashem and to tell Him all the difficulties which we have in Avodas Hashem, to say a lot of Tehillim and Likutei Teffilos, with a strong faith that Hashem is certainly listening to every word and that no Tefillah goes to waste. This is the great joy of Purim which is in the revelation of the fact that Hashem listens to all of our prayers. (Likutei Halachos 4)

Question:

What is the Avodah of the night of Purim?

Answer:

1] Maariv and the reading of the Megillah:

You should know that from the moment that Maariv starts, the awesome and wonderful light of Purim begins to shine in the world. This is a light which can give everyone a taste of the pleasantness of Hashem’s light.  It is therefore appropriate to put extra effort into concentrating during Maariv and to think about the wonderful kindness of Hashem.  You will thereby prepare yourself for the first Mitzvah of Purim – the reading of the Megillah.

The Ariza”l says that Megillah comes from the root of “giluy” – “to reveal”. Meaning that through it there is a revelation of such an understanding that brings awe of Hashem into our hearts with a wonderful perfectness. This light is now shining down below in places where it is not revealed throughout the year. We therefore spread the Megillah out like a letter. This is the miracle of Purim which renews itself every year.

Pay attention to the story of the Megillah as it’s being read. The story has the ability to wake us up from our sleep (Likutei Halachos Purim 1). Try standing by the Megillah as if by Matan Torah, with awe and trepidation (Likutei Halachos Bechor Behema Tehora).

When we read the Megillah, and publicize the miracle which was done through Mordechai and Esther who acted with great wisdom and holiness, we show and shine their ‘faces’ from within the Megillah, and it is as if we see them and look at their faces (Tefillin 6, Otzar HaYirah Purim 5).

2] Chatzos:

If the whole year the time of Chatzos is a special time, of course on Purim it’s even greater. The main Avodas is to wake up properly, to strengthen yourself with faith that Hashem is taking pleasure now with the souls of Klal Yisroel and is sending down limitless spiritual bounty. Try connecting with it through prayer.

Even if it seems as if you are distant from all this, know and remember that now is a time that you can go before the King even improperly, and to put yourself into davening with Mesirus Nefesh: whatever will happen, I will try no matter what.  Strengthen your belief that Hashem loves you no matter what you are, and the King will put out his scepter…

It is therefore advisable to go to sleep early in order to have the strength to get up in middle of the night or at least before dawn, to speak to Hashem.

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