Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for the ‘Meshivas Nefesh’ Category

The Ultimate Defense Attorney

The Tzaddik is called a TaMaR (date tree) as the verse says “a Tzaddik will blossom like a tamar”, for the word Tamar is connected to the word TeMuRa (transforming). This is because the Tzaddik transforms everything for the best and turns all the accusations into merits. This is as the sages taught: “if one has even one defending angel from amidst a thousand [accusing angels]… he emerges meritorious.” The deeper meaning of this is that the defending angel is actually created “from amidst” the thousands accusing ones. For the more accusations there are against a person, the Tzaddik vouches for him even more through showing how despite all the bad he has still managed to find some good point in this person.

The explanation of this is that all the accusing angels against a person are actually the very ones that incited him to sin in the first place, as the sages taught: “he (the Satan) is the inciter and he is the accuser.” Therefore when the accusing angels are exceedingly great in number, G-d forbid, the defending angel arises and uses this fact itself for one’s defense but claiming that since one has so many accusations against him he must have had many challenges and incitements from the evil inclination. If so, on the contrary, it is ever so more wondrous that such a person overcame these great and numerous inciters and managed to grab onto good by doing some mitzvah. This is the aspect of “one defending angel from amidst a thousand” – that specifically by way of the thousand accusing angels does the Tzaddik defend him. The novelty is not that such a person sinned so terribly, since he was greatly incited. On the contrary, it is truly amazing that he strengthened himself to do even the slightest bit of good with such great forces fighting against him. Therefore the Tzaddik who follows this path is called Tamar, for he transforms and converts the accusations into merit.

(Likutey Halachos, Techumin 6, section 15)

A person who is preparing to stand trial searches for the best defending lawyer he can find, someone who is capable of arranging his claims in a fashion that emphasize his merit. The defense attorney does not necessarily have to change the facts, but rather shed light on things from a different angle. This is the main difference between the prosecutor and the defender, from what angle they present the case. The great need to search for someone with ‘a way with words’ who can convince the judge of his client’s righteousness is thus evident.

This is not only true with regards to court cases but also to any area in which a person needs to make a claim or present an argument. The best thing is to find a suitable representative who can present things eloquently and convincingly. This is as Reb Nosson teaches: “for even this aspect of merit itself that he (the Tzaddik) is emphasizing on behalf of a certain person, if he would do so without eloquence he would not be able to arouse mercy for him, for surely this merit is known in the Heavenly court even without him. Rather, the main power of the defender to bring about salvation and arouse mercy is through eloquence – by presenting the merit convincingly, with proper claims and articulacy. (Likutey Halachos, Tefillah 4)

It is certainly then surprising how regarding one’s Divine service, when he feels distant from Hashem, that he isn’t in such a rush to find an attorney who will prove his righteousness. One is simply prepared to give in the moment a thought of distance from Hashem arises in thought. For some reason he is willing to concede to the feeling that he is full of sin and has no hope of returning to holiness.

It is not that one has to seek a deceitful attorney who will deny the bad, G-d forbid, for Hashem’s will is that one acknowledges his sins. Nevertheless these thoughts of rebuke generally distance a person even more form serving Hashem and He certainly does not desire this either. Therefore one must seek a fitting advocate who can defend him in the Heavenly worlds, to arouse mercy on high that his sins should be looked at from a different angle; someone who can find one’s merit in the proper manner and arouse in one’s heart a feeling of renewed closeness to Hashem despite his sins.

With this we can understand Reb Nosson’s words in this teaching where he reveals to us that the Tzaddik is the attorney who is constantly involved in nullifying the harsh accusations against us. For every sin creates prosecuting angels, yet when the Tzaddik sees them he uses this to bring one’s merits to light. For one’s many sins are an indication of how greatly one is surrounded by inciting forces of evil and how one lacks the special help from above that is afforded to the righteous and pious. This only emphasizes the worth and value of such a person’s efforts in renewing himself in the service of Hashem. In this way the many falls can be transformed into a solid defense.

We see from this how greatly we must strengthen ourselves against Amalek who strives to discourage us constantly. We should tell him that on the contrary, if I am as bad as you say then my every good point is all the more valuable. We do however need the Tzaddik who is an aspect of the tamar, for it is he who stands above to truly arouse mercy upon the Jewish people, to transform and change the bad into good and to give one a boost back into holiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

Be Flexible Like a Reed

Meshivas Nefesh #42 – Elucidated

The main way of encouragement is to know the limitations of the human intellect, that in truth we  know nothing at all, as King Shlomo said: “I am a boor of men…” (Mishlei 30,2). We are therefore obligated to nullify and put aside our understanding completely and rather to believe in the words of the true Tzaddikim who teach that there truly is G-dly vitality even in the lowliest places. It is only that it is impossible to find Hashem’s glory there with any form of human comprehension. This is because these places are SEEMINGLY empty of G-dliness, in an aspect of “I will not give My glory to another” (Yeshaya 42,8).  Hence we must search for and seek out in these places: “Where is the place of His glory!” (Mussaf prayer). Through this alone can one arise again in the ultimate spiritual ascent.

The main encouragement and revival of those who are tremendously distant and have fallen to these places, which are an aspect of the “Challal HaPanui” (The mystical concept of The Vacant Space), is through the concept of “Rechicha” (flexibility/suppleness). For in these lowly places no light can be seen, as the light is so extremely subtle that it is cast aside and hidden from all who enter this place; just like a soft object is easily cast aside by anything that impacts it.  So too, the main form of encouragement in these places is also through Rechicha, which is an aspect of “Let go, and know that I am Hashem” (Tehillim 46,11). Regarding this our sages taught: “Let one always be soft as a reed and not hard as a Cedar tree” (Tractate Shabbos 30b). All the winds in the world cannot move a reed from its place, specifically because it is soft and flexible, bending before all that encounters it.  Although it is soft its roots are extremely strong. With this combination no wind can uproot it. A hard tree however, will be uprooted by strong and stormy winds. So it is with the places that are an aspect of the Challal HaPanui, where the winds of the Forces of Evil blow with extreme force.  It is forbidden for one in such a place to involve himself in questions and intellectual investigation, of which the verse says: “Do not harden your hearts” (Tehillim 95,8). For the main source of strength is to be supple like a reed, allowing all the questions, confusion and obstacles from within oneself and from others to brush past like the wind over a reed. One should not take notice of them at all, in an aspect of: “I will be like a man who does not hear” (Tehillim 38,15). For the questions and confusion that come from these places CANNOT be resolved. One must therefore be endlessly strong in his faith, rooted strongly like a reed in water; even though it bends before the winds its roots are ferociously strong. We must likewise cling tightly to the faith that we received from our ancestors and teachers, hearing nothing of the questions and confusion that come from these places. One must not answer them at all, as if one has no answer, to the extent that it seems to them that he has been subdued before them, G-d forbid.

Ironically this is one main source of strength, like the above mentioned reed. For the truth is that if one desires to search for answers in these places he will remain in complete darkness, since the questions that are rooted in these places cannot be answered with human intellect alone. Hence one must be flexible like a reed and adhere tightly to his roots, which practically means be strong in one’s faith and to search for Hashem in an aspect of “Where is the place of His glory!”. Specifically through this will one merit to the ultimate spiritual ascent.

The main rectification of the world itself, which will come about through the two Moshiachs, one a descendent of Yosef and the other of King David, will be through the concept of “Soft as a reed”. This is why Yosef is called “Avreich” (אברך) which is composed of the two words “Av” (Father) and “Rach” (soft). For although he possessed great ‘fatherly’ knowledge, he was also ‘soft as a reed’, knowing which questions cannot be answered. Regarding King David it also says: “I am today Rach…” (Shmuel 2; 3,39). Concerning this topic of “Rechicha” there is much to be said, however, it is impossible to put it in writing.  One who is perceptive and truly desires will understand on his own in what manner he must be soft like a reed and nevertheless extremely strong in his roots, and how this ‘softness’ is his main source of strength eternally. (Likutey Halachos, Eiruvei Techumin 6, section 8)

Stubbornness can be a very valuable trait, for it is imperative to keeping the Torah. One needs ‘holy stubbornness’ to stand before Hashem in prayer, to maintain set times for Torah study each day, to strain one’s mind to remember Hashem and to contemplate the things one has learned in the works of the Tzaddikim.  It is only through stubbornness that one can persevere in his Divine service.

However, on the other hand one must know that stubbornness alone can be detrimental too. If one clings to his stubbornness excessively, he might give up completely if he isn’t successful in achieving things exactly the way he desired. It could also lead him to lose his cool and to get angry in the face of obstacles. He could drive himself crazy and hurt others too, specifically because he lacks the flexibility to adjust, to do what is possible and to keep going. It can clearly be seen how there are times when the stubborn succeed and for others when it is the very reason for their failure.

There is another down side to obstinacy. The stubborn person desires to understand everything immediately and as long as he does not, he refuses to move forward. This is true regarding Torah learning but even more so concerning questions on Hashem. It is in this way that one can be held back for years on the same point of confusion and puzzlement, wasting one’s life away in emptiness – all because of stubbornness.

By Kind David we find completion both in the attribute of stubbornness as well as in that of flexibility.  One must pray extensively to Hashem to receive this wondrous gift, to abandon the negative side of this attribute; the desire to understand things that are not to be understood. There are testing times when one is sent down to difficult places where it is impossible to find Hashem through intellect, only through pure faith alone. If one would just let go of his obstinate desire for the clear revelations he has experienced in the past, he could quickly overcome this hurdle.  The advice is to cast away one’s desire to understand and to return to an all-encompassing understanding that the Tzaddikim reveal – that Hashem is always with us. For if the eye sees and the hand moves, Hashem is certainly with me and if I don’t understand how, who ever said I’m supposed to. Despite the fact that I may be accustomed to perceiving the glory of Hashem in a more revealed fashion, I certainly have a purpose in this place too, to bring about rectifications through strengthening myself even without feeling and doing what I can. The main thing is to let go of the stubbornness, to understand that there are those who must endure downfalls and contend with places of darkness. In this way one can return to a life full of light, avoid going crazy and find some peace of mind.

 

 

IF YOU BELIEVE IT IS POSSIBLE TO CAUSE DAMAGE, BELIEVE IT IS POSSIBLE TO RECTIFY

Meshivas Nefesh #41 – Elucidated

The main thing is emunah, which is an aspect of Shabbos, for as long as one has emunah he will certainly return to Hashem completely. Therefore a person should encourage himself with this itself. The evil inclination and the forces of evil seek to bring about ones downfall through giving him the feeling that he has sinned and done so much damage that he can no longer repent and rectify such terrible sins. Especially since there truly are people who have done tremendous damage, as they themselves know the many great and severe sins they have transgressed over many days and years, G-d forbid.

There are those who began a number of times with teshuva and Divine service but then fell again as they did, each person with his own falls. Through this the Evil inclination implants in them each time the feeling that they are hopeless owing to these great sins. But the truth is that with this itself a person can enliven and encourage himself, for since he still believes that a sin is something terrible through which damage is caused in all the heavenly worlds, this shows that he still has faith. And since one still has faith, there is certainly hope for him, for if one believes that he can cause damage he can certainly rectify too.

For it is well known that the philosophers and apostates do not believe at all that one causes damage in the heavenly worlds though one’s sins. This is what brings them to come up with all sorts of false explanations for the commandments of the Torah. Yet we, the Holy Nation, believe that a sin, G-d forbid, causes tremendous damage in the heavenly words and the evil inclination tries to use this itself to discourage a person, G-d forbid. However, the exact opposite is true, for it is fitting that one encourage himself with the fact that he still has faith.

For the main intention of the Evil Inclination is to discourage a person so greatly, casting him into outright apostasy until he says: “There is no judgment and no judge”, G-d forbid. This is what the sages taught: “Today he (the Evil Inclination) tells a person to do such and such, until he eventually tells him to go and serve idolatry.” As we see in every generation how there are many who come to what they come to, G-d forbid, through their downfalls and the discouragement that the Evil Inclination instills in them.

Therefore a person must be sensible and strengthen himself constantly in any way that he can no matter what happens. One must use the above mentioned knowledge and encourage himself with the very fact that he still believes that tremendous damage is caused by sin. For as long as one has faith there is hope for him and he can certainly rectify everything, for “all your commandments are faith.” The main purpose of the Mitzvos is to come through them to perfect emunah and gain awareness of the Creator of the universe. As long as one still retains a hint of holy emunah there is still hope for him, for there certainly exists guidance and advice that can help even him return to Hashem easily by way of some pleasure that he can give to Hashem from wherever he may be. Through this he will merit to return to Hashem through the power of the true Tzaddikim, to the extent that he can merit to such perfect repentance that, as our sages taught, all his sins will be turned into merits. (Likutey Halachos, Techumin 5, section 35)

In this piece Reb Nosson explains the famous saying of our holy Rebbe: “If you believe that it is possible to cause damage, believe that it is possible to rectify!” These words are not just wise words of encouragement; they contain a deep and most wondrous understanding of the very foundation of Judaism.

When one strives to attain some degree of holiness yet sees how each time he falls and cannot seem to succeed in achieving that which he desires, the natural response to this is deep-felt pain and disappointment. Eventually one begins to get the feeling that he just isn’t cut out for serving Hashem. Some people feel this way completely and others feel this regarding some specific aspect of Divine service like Torah, prayer, sanctity and the like.

Regarding this the Rebbe exclaimed: “If you believe that it is possible to cause damage, believe that it is possible to rectify!” This reveals the awesome power of faith in Hashem. For there are many people in the world who have fallen into atheism and apostasy – they no longer believe in the importance of Mitzvos and what tremendous ramifications they have in Heaven. They thus automatically make light of the commandments. There are also those who have been “cooled off” from Judaism and strive only to emulate the gentiles. They have no understanding of the concept of “Yiddishkeit”, and the ways of the Tzaddikim with their exceeding piety, seems to them to be extraneous and unnecessary. In this way little-by-little, they have lost their understanding of the difference between good and evil.

The Rebbe therefore tells us that as long as one still has faith, meaning that one’s ability to differentiate between good and evil has not been blurred and he still believes that anything that is not done for the glory of Hashem is damaging, he must know with certainty that he can rectify, for he is still innately connected to holiness.

This is the power of the correct appreciation and awareness of emunah. Even if one sees his tremendous distance from holiness and his lack of connection to the service of Hashem, he must nevertheless meticulously guard this awareness of the contrast between good and evil. For as long as one understands that there exists a concept of spiritual destruction, he can certainly rectify everything.

 

 

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 …

 

 

The Power of Perseverance

The majority of a person’s falls in his Divine service are because he sees that he has been aroused to serve Hashem a number of times and yet he fell each time. In truth, the exact opposite is true, for do we not know that even one who sinned his entire life and was never aroused to repentance, if he repents in the end he is forgiven, as our sages of blessed memory taught. How much more so if one was been aroused many times but fell away again each time, there is certainly hope for him and it is certainly easier for him to truly return to Hashem, for “there is no good will that is lost”. (Likutei Halachos, Shabbos 7, section 7)

The Power of Perseverance

It is well known that when one seeks to build a house it is necessary to enter into a long process that requires much patience. Much effort together with many tests and plans are required, before the building even begins as well as during the process itself. Sometimes a wall must be demolished and moved somewhere else and support beams may need to be rearranged, until eventually one merits to see the house in its completion. One who desires to build a home prepares himself for the fact that it might take some time. So it is with learning to play an instrument or studying a trade; one must be prepared for much time to be ‘wasted’ because of unexpected obstacles and mistakes before one can reap the fruits of his labor.

However, for some reason, when it comes to the service of Hashem it is ever so difficult to convince a person that in this area too, things take time and one must prepare himself with much patience; that one will most likely have to spend time building a wall that will later have to be demolished and rebuilt elsewhere – perhaps even a few walls…

People do not want to accept this truth and it is therefore difficult to enter into the service of Hashem, for “The majority of a person’s falls in his Divine service are because he sees that he has been aroused to serve Hashem a number of times and yet he fell each time”. One doesn’t understand that this is the way things are built, that one requires perseverance and a strong desire to begin again and again until one sees some success.

The Many beginnings of Teshuva

It is here that Reb Nosson reveals to us the great magnitude of our mistake, how the evil inclination deceives a person into weakening his resolve because he hasn’t succeeded in constructing a building in one shot. This is so ironic in light of the fact that we all know that even if a person only repents at the end of life he is forgiven. How is it then that one becomes so discouraged when he has not yet succeeded in accomplishing a certain aspect of holiness, for if one single of teshuva can help a person at the end of his life, how much more so can many of teshuvas come to one’s aid. Such a person will certainly receive heavenly assistance and every teshuva helps and gives strength to the next teshuva. It is only that the evil inclination deceives a person and makes it seem as if he cannot succeed. One fails to understand that this is the building process and that he is certainly better off than one who remains ‘fallen’ his entire life and only repents at the very end.

The evil inclination knows that it is regarding this point that he must deceive us, for this is his greatest fear, that one make a new beginning. ‘Many beginnings’ are the main way of weakening the strength of the evil inclination and this is why he focuses so greatly on this point.

This is why we must strengthen ourselves exceedingly in this aspect Divine service – making many new beginnings of ‘repentance’ and starting over many times. The truth is that every repentance completely atones for the past. Even if one falls again, he should not be discouraged, but rather begin again to repent, for he is in the midst of construction and every new beginning brings him closer to finishing the job.

Ascending Yaakov’s Ladder

Based on Meshivas Nefesh #32

When Yaakov Avinu encountered that place, which is the place of the Beis Hamikdash, he merited to fully perceive the concept of the awesomely great value of the slightest ‘arousal from below’ and how specifically through this is drawn down a great illumination from the aspect of ‘arousal from above’. He perceived how the ‘arousal from below’ and the ‘arousal from above’ become united and that this is the aspect of the unifications that are accomplished by way of the Jewish people’s divine service.  It was also revealed to him that the main rectifications and unifications are achieved with completion in the Beis Hamikdash. Then “he awoke from his sleep and said: ‘Indeed! Hashem is in his place and I did not know’”.

With this Yaakov Avinu instituted that it should be fixed in the heart of all the souls for generations to come, until this very day, that even the most exceedingly fallen souls who think that Hashem is not to be found in their place, G-d forbid, and that all the aspects of their ‘arousal from below’ are worthless – they too should know and believe with complete faith that even in their place Hashem is there, as He is in every place in the world. For the truth is that Hashem is in this place too, for “His glory fills the entire world”, it is only that owing to the great concealment one is not aware of this, and this is the aspect of “and I did not know”. However, if one arouses himself with some ‘arousal from below’, he will merit finding Him. This is mainly achieved through the power of the Beis Hamikdash, which is the root-source of all souls and upon it is dependant their rectification as well as that of all the worlds. It is also through the power of the holiness of the true tzaddikim who are involved in every generation in the building of the Beis Hamikdash. It is from there that is drawn upon the entire Jewish people the aspect of arousal to teshuva (repentance).  Nevertheless, some degree of ‘arousal from below’ is also necessary. (Likutey Halachos, Hilchos Mincha 7, paragraphs 84 & 85)

The Egyptian exile – I am worthless.

It is in these weeks of Shovavim that we read the portions of the gallus (exile) and ge’ula (redemption), and as is known, ‘the reading arouses the times’ and the spiritual force of redemption is thus awakened during these weeks. Every Jew desires to be redeemed from his own personal exile and it is certainly fitting to first understand the source of exile itself. The main aspect of exile is that which it seems to a person that his divine service is not valued at all on high. This causes one a lack of arousal to the service of Hashem and he therefore sinks further and further into the darkness of the gallus.

During the time of the Beis Hamikdash it could be clearly seen how the slightest arousal of a person from below ascended and was included in the arousal from above. This unification and connection was revealed and it was clear that every Jew touches the heavens with each mitzvah he performs. Thus, there was an automatic arousal and tremendous enthusiasm to serve Hashem.

However, during the gallus, when Yaakov – the Jewish people, go out to “Charan” – a place of Charon aff (wrath) and harsh judgments, they no longer see the connection they have with all the heavenly worlds. Owing to this there is also no arousal to perform any action of holiness, for why should one do something for no reason, why should he exert himself when he sees nothing come from it. Through this one then falls into a deep spiritual slumber. This is what Yaakov Avinu meant when he said “and I did not know” – he did not understand that his holy arousal was unified with and uplifted to the heavens.

Even though we all know how to babble on about the truth, how a Jew has the power to affect the entire universe with each mitzvah and how every little thing is so precious to Hashem, nevertheless, it is still possible to live from day to day in the darkness of the gallus since it is difficult to truly take this truth to heart.  Each day, thousands of thoughts pass through our minds unnoticed which in essence say: “I am worthless”.  During each prayer and bracha, amidst our torah learning, and with each test of anger or the like, we are plagued with the thought: ‘of what importance is my minute arousal to Hashem?’

This is a person’s main exile, for it prevents him from being aroused to return to Hashem, especially when the concern enters his heart that he might fail again and that his repentance might not be accepted. The gallus and concealment is so great that we refuse to accept words of comfort and encouragement, to understand that every tiny drop is truly precious to Hashem.

A ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching the heavens

However, through Yaakov’s experience, a rectification was made for all future generations, enabling one to awaken from this slumber. For in truth, Yaakov fell into a slumber specifically in the place of the Beis Hamikdash and there, amidst the deep slumber, the wondrous dream was revealed to him – a ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching the heavens. It was there that was revealed to him the secret of the Beis Hamikdash, how the ‘arousal from below’ and arousal from above’ are unified above, how the tiniest arousal from below ascends and does wonders in the heavenly worlds. It was then that he awoke and exclaimed: “Indeed! Hashem is in this place and I did not know”.

Therefore during these weeks of Shovavim, when we are involved in trying to escape the gallus and do teshuva, it is imperative to remember that despite the many holy soul rectifications that are customarily practiced during these times, our first arousal must be in this fundamental concept. We must understand how precious every arousal is. This is pertinent to every person on every level, even he for whom the fasting and uninterrupted hours of learning are difficult.

The main thing is to make many new beginnings and to believe in their value

Even though in the gallus we do not see the interconnection of our arousal with Hashem’s arousal to bring us close to him, we need to know that this itself is the main way to exercise our free-will, to begin anew over and over again. For Hashem’s main pleasure is when a person arouses himself from below, from a place where it seems impossible to be aroused. This is why a person truly falls so many times and begins to wonder what will be with him. He does not understand that essentially what Hashem wants from him is to do teshuva, and that the main teshuva is making fresh beginnings an infinite amount of times together with the belief that every one of his actions ascends and is infinitely precious. All this is achieved through the power what was revealed in Yaakov’s dream – how he awoke and was astonished to see how everyone’s actions are exceedingly valued above, more than we could ever know….

The Holy Yeshivah

Meshivas Nefesh 31 – Elucidated

“Bring ruin to the speakers of falsehood. And as for me, in your abundant kindness I will enter your house” (Tehillim 5; 7-8). Our sages taught in the Medrash that “the speakers of falsehood” refers to Doeg, Achitophel and King David’s other opposers, and that with the continuing verse King David was in essence saying: “and I too have done as they did” but nevertheless “In your abundant kindness I will enter your house”. Every person must say the same regarding himself, specifically one who feels the great pain of his sins. He must enliven and strengthen himself greatly with the kindnesses that Hashem has done with him; that he merited to come close to the true Tzaddik and at least does not oppose him, that he has the merit of being included in the holy Yeshiva and holy Beis Medrash of the followers of the true Tzaddik. He should say to himself: “I too have done the same as the opposers, and nevertheless in the great mercy that You have bestowed upon me, ‘I will enter your house’” – this Beis Medrash, which is my hope for eternity.

For the truth is that in every generation there is a Beis Bedrash of students with a true teacher where they involve themselves with true Torah novelties which can bring close to Hashem all the distant souls that are very difficult to grasp and bring close to holiness. There are those who have even fallen to the depths of hell and the lowest pits because of their sins and filthy thoughts, especially sexual lust which is the main aspect of the evil inclination, as the Zohar teaches. There is an evil inclination that is truly vile, disgusting and exceedingly filthy, and whoever it comes in contact with, G-d forbid, has great difficulty escaping from it. It is very detestable and it chases after one who wishes to trap it, attacking him at every moment. This is the “evil encounter” which we pray every day to be saved from.

About this our sages said: “If this vile one encounters you, drag him to the Beis Medrash” (Kiddushin 15a), for this is the main rectification, to draw one’s thoughts into the holy Beis Medrash mentioned above. Through this itself; through reminding oneself that he is included in this group, “if [the evil inclination] is [as hard as] a stone, it will be melted”. For from this Beis Medrash emerges a holy and pure spring that can purify all the exceedingly fallen souls, through the deep and holy advice that flow from it. It can raise them from the depths and return them to Hashem.

Therefore, one who merits being included in this holy Beis Medrash, must strengthen himself tremendously. He must believe and know that every good point and every tiny holy arousal to break away from the evil thoughts and to draw himself to holiness; all that he struggles to the best of his  ability to do some good, even though he has many falls amidst this, even if it has been so thousands of times – nevertheless, not a single good point is ever lost. This is because the true Tzaddik, who is the Rosh Yeshiva, uplifts and gathers everything into the building of holiness and builds wondrous structures with them. He does this specifically by uplifting the aspect of ‘arousal from below’ from the lowliest places, for this is the main rectification of all the worlds which are dependant upon the arousal from below of man, specifically because he possesses free-will. The lower the place is, the more precious and dear is the holy arousal that arise from there; through this the true Tzaddikim build the aspect of the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash in each generation. Eventually, through this, the last and eternal Beis Hamikdash will truly be built.

A man walks through the forest on a chilly winter night, raindrops beat upon the ground and the icy wind blows with cruelty upon his face. He is alone, amidst a seemingly endless muddy and dark swamp.  The only thing in his mind – the yearning for a warm cozy house and a bowl of hot soup to warm his bones….

According to what a person goes through in this world, it is impossible to describe just how much one needs to  strengthen himself in order to learn torah, to pray, and to stand up to all the difficult challenges. The soul screams out for a warm and sheltered house, a place to be refreshed, where it can find help, advice and salvation. Indeed, for this reason Yeshivas are established for the young, to serve as an Ark of Noach by providing protection from the flood of atheism and confusion that wash away all who stand in its path. But what should he whose time has come to leave the Yeshiva do? Who will come to his aid, to save him from all that he will endure in the future? If even in the Yeshiva itself one needs so much heavenly help to serve Hashem truly and to guard ones thoughts, what will be outside the shelter of its walls?

Does such a thing truly exist, a ‘Yeshiva’ that accompanies a person throughout his entire life, that gives him the ability to endure the ups and downs, that provides a feeling of warmth and that offers guidance for every situation.

Indeed it does, Reb Nosson teaches us above. This is the reason why drawing near to the Tzaddik is the foundation of Chassidus. On the one hand they reveal to us how to serve Hashem with truth and pure intention, to merit to love and fear of Hashem and to proceed gradually from level to level in D’veikus with The Creator. On the other hand, they provide us with shelter, warming our hearts in times of difficulty and reminding us that we belong to Hashem and can always bring Him joy. They instill us with the knowledge that through the power of the ‘Rosh Yeshiva’, every drop of good is gathered and raised into holiness.

Guidance is always available; there is not a moment without closeness to Hashem. Sometimes this closeness is achieved through exertion in Torah and tefillah, tasting the sweetness of every word, and sometimes it is through encouraging ourselves and rejoicing in our good points.

About this we should burst forth in praise and say “And I, in Your abundant kindness, will enter Your house” – I, however I may be, even if my actions seem exactly like those who oppose holiness, G-d forbid, nevertheless I have merited “In Your abundant Kindness” to be included in the building of holiness and to have a share in the rectification of the world.

 

Holy Days of Chanukah – 1

The holy days of Chanukah are drawing nearer and it is fitting to begin preparing ourselves with the teachings of the Tzaddikim that pertain to them. In the coming weeks we will try to explain the general concept of the famous lesson: “The Days of Chanukah” (Likutey Tinyana 2) about which Reb Nosson exclaimed: “We must go with this torah” (Aleh Le’trufah 20). [This Lesson is extremely deep, we have explained only the main points, and anyone who wishes to explore it further is encouraged to study it inside.]

Part 1:

The days of Chanukah are days of thanksgiving, as is written: “they fixed these eight days of Chanukah for praise and thanksgiving”. Days of thanksgiving are an aspect of the delight of the world to come, for this is the main delight of the world to come, to thank and praise His Holy Great name, blessed be He, and to know Him, for the more we know and recognize Him, the closer we are to Him, blessed be He.

The main delight of the world to come, which we so greatly hope for, is that the mind and heart should be ignited with a tremendous illumination of knowledge of Hashem to the extent that we sing in thanks and praise to His great name until we merit through this to be truly close to Him. There is no greater pleasure than this – when the da’as (holy intellect) and dveikus ha’leiv (deep cleaving of the heart to Hashem) are ignited to understand the true meaning of ‘being close to Hashem’.

In this world there are days when the harsh judgments are sweetened, when darkness is dispelled and the wondrous ways of Hashem are revealed. Then a new illumination of the mind is born, similar to that which will be in the future, and we open our mouths in song and praise and merit to taste the awesome sweetness of closeness to Hashem. This is the light that shines forth on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

However, in contrast to this, there are days when a person experiences obstacles, confusion, suffering and emotional pain regarding both the needs of the body and those of the soul; the heart is terribly pressured and one cannot arouse his da’as to enliven himself with the knowledge that he is close to Hashem. This is the time of the main battle, to transform the sorrow and anguish into happiness and joy, to exert oneself greatly to encourage oneself specifically at a time of distress. This applies both in regards to physical distress – to find some aspect of how Hashem helped him even in the suffering that at least it should not be any worse, and both in regards to spiritual distress – to find some good points in oneself despite all the falls. Until one feels the kindness and wonders of Hashem and bursts forth in praise and thanks, thereby opening his heart to know how he is close to Hashem even from the depths of hell and amidst the difficulties.

This is the main topic of the lesson, to reveal that the holy days of Chanukah are the most auspicious time to transform the days of winter and darkness into ‘days’ of thanksgiving, to traverse the days of anguish the same way one would traverse a day in which he attained a fortune of wealth – The days of Chanukah are days of thanksgiving, as is written: “they fixed these eight days of Chanukah for praise and thanksgiving”, for in these days the sages “fixed” the root from which one can draw strength to encourage himself and seek out a way not to be drawn after the distress.

All the sacrifices will be nullified except for the Korban Todah (thanksgiving offering), for nothing will remain in the future besides gratitude and thanksgiving.

The Korban Todah is the only offering which is accompanied by a mincha-offering of chametz (leavened bread). This is because the sparking of the mind with recognition of the greatness of Hashem occurs when thanksgiving is revealed from within a situation of chametz and darkness. This is what will take place in the future and for this reason the Korban Todah will not be nullified. With the power of Chanukah we must strengthen ourselves to draw near to thanksgiving even while we are still in the darkness of exile.

…And the aspect of thanksgiving, which is the delight of the world to come, is an aspect of Halachos (the laws of the Torah), for the laws which we merit to learn, specifically one who merits to formulate novelties in them, are an aspect of the delight of the world to come, an aspect of [what the sages taught]: “anyone who studies halachos every day is guaranteed that he has a place in the world to come.”

Halacha is from the wondrous kindnesses of Hashem, who revealed to us paths and ways in every aspect of life how we can create a vessel to be close to Him from within the darkness. So too, through the study of Halacha, one can draw near to Him.

This is our main avodah (divine service), to believe in general that the fulfillment of every mitzvah makes us close to Hashem. So too in specifics, every mitzvah and halacha has a deeper meaning and a way in which specifically through this mitzvah one can come closer to Hashem, as we see in Likutey Halachos where Reb Nosson reveals the inner divine service contained in the mitzvos.

When a person involves himself in the study and clarification of the laws, whether pertaining to the parameters of what is forbidden and what is permitted, or the study of the practical ways of serving Hashem, how to conduct oneself properly and with good character traits; if this is done with a faith and contemplation of how this halacha is what Hashem desires of him, in order to draw close to Him, through this one can merit to a sparking illumination of holy intellect that he is truly close and near to Hashem – a taste of the thanksgiving that will be in the future. Especially one who merits innovating novelties in Halacha, to uncover the will of Hashem in a new situation that has not yet been clarified in halacha, through this is revealed a new da’as of how to draw near to Hashem through another thing in the world.

The kindness of Hashem is an aspect of Halachos, as the sages taught: “one who prevents his student from apprenticing him is as if he withholds from him Chesed (kindess).”

When a wise man allows a student to be an apprentice to him and to learn from him the exact ways of clarifying the law, through this he bestows kindness upon the student. On a deeper level a great piece of advice can be understood from this – that we need to be “apprentices” by Tzaddikim and to learn from them how to view the halachos as Hashem’s kindness, to fulfill them with joy and to believe that every mitzvah and halacha is what Hashem desires from me now in order to draw close to him. Through this one can merit to transform the days of suffering into days of thanksgiving and kindness.

This is what is said regarding King David: “and Hashem is with him”, upon which the sages expounded: “that the law is in accordance with him”. For regarding King David the verse states “the faithful kindnesses of David” – meaning, he involved himself in Halacha from amidst faith that every Halacha is kindness and that through it “Hashem is with him”. This is how the psalm of “hodu La’Shem Ki Tov (Praise Hashem for He is good)” (Tehillim 107) concludes: “He who is wise will fulfill these [laws] and they will contemplate the kindness of Hashem” – to study the laws together with contemplation of the kindness of Hashem that they contain, that through them it is possible to come close to Hashem from every place.

Holy Days of Chanukah – 2

Summary of Part 1:

Chanukah is the most auspicious time for transforming the days of suffering into days of joy and thanksgiving, to be close to Hashem as it will be in the world to come. This is achieved in two ways: A) through thanking Hashem and finding the aspects of relief that exist within the difficulties, and B) by learning halacha with contemplation that every law is a revelation of Hashem’s will. This enables us to be close to Him through all aspects of the world.

Part 2:

…through this comes giving birth with ease.

The main form of sweetening all the judgments and distress, as is known, is to ‘give birth’ to the holy intellect – to know and perceive Hashem. The way in which this takes place is that the recognition of Hashem’s greatness appears specifically when one emerges from distress, lack of enthusiasm and difficulty. For it is imperative that there be a lack of light in the lowly places in order that through this one can come to a new perception of Hashem when he is saved. However, the Rebbe revealed a segulah for ‘giving birth’ with ease – to say the chapter of Tehillim beginning “Mizmor L’etodah” (Tehillim 100) [unlike the prevalent custom to thank Hashem after the birth], for when a person thanks Hashem and learns Halacha even before the salvation, without falling in his spirit because of the distress, with this he causes the ‘birth’ to take place easily. Then, the knowledge that he is close to Hashem is born even before the physical salvation. This is the secret of the mystical intentions of Chanukah, to shine the light down to the ‘feet’ – to the lowest facets of the soul.

…Halacha too, is an aspect of giving birth…

The revelation of the law into the world takes place much in the same way as the process of giving birth. For the supporters of Torah scholars give away their money, which is an aspect of lack, and through this the halachos are innovated and ‘born’ [See inside the Lesson for a fuller explanation of the connection between Halacha and birth]. Since the halachos are an aspect of Hashem’s kindness, automatically the bounty is returned and their lack is filled. Just like the kindness that is revealed has the power to bestow monetary bounty in return, so too is it able to bestow a revelation of kindness in the form of closeness to Hashem from any place of deficiency.

This also provides us with a simple piece of advice, to support those learning Torah, for through this one merits to the light of kindness contained within the halachos and will thus be able to strengthen himself in every situation. On a deeper level, this relates to the Pidyon (monetary redemption) that is given to the Tzaddik, for the main miracle that is brought about through this is not only the physical salvation, but rather redemption of the holy intellect from exile, that one should be able to always be close to Hashem.

…The nature of the moon is cold, and in the future it will be filled like the light of the sun, an aspect of the filling of deficiency.

Until now we have spoken about the advice of giving thanks in order to take a person out of suffering. However, in truth, this is advice for all times when a person feels a coldness and lack in his service of Hashem. Through strengthening oneself in giving thanks and learning Halacha one can fill the lack of the moon that it should shine like the light of the sun. On a deeper level this is the secret of the unification of Hashem and his Divine Presence, the unification of the aspects of the sun and moon, which is the purpose of all the mitzvos, to become one with Hashem through performing the mitzvos. This is achieved by giving thanks and learning Halacha.

…originally, when the blood floods the heart, this is an aspect of a deficiency in truth, an aspect of “men of blood will hate one who is complete”(Mishlei 29)

When a person is in distress and the blood doesn’t flow properly, then one despises hearing words of truth, that there is surely always a point of good and things aren’t all bad. When one is ‘in the moment’ he desires only a manifest and complete salvation, he is not willing to understand that his main salvation is that he should receive the intellect to know that he is close to Hashem. This is the meaning of the verse: “men of blood will hate one who is complete” – when the blood and troubles take hold one hates the truth.

When one emerges from the distress, then the truth shines forth and brings completion to speech.

The weekdays, with all their obligations and responsibilities, jumble the mind and prevent a person from feeling close to Hashem. This ‘forgetfulness’ is mainly caused by one’s faculty of speech, for speech is that which connects a person with the light of truth, to emerge from distress through giving thanks and learning Halacha. Through this the faculty of speech is perfected in complete holiness and one’s faith can no longer be disturbed.

The faculty of speech is divided into four categories, two of a physical nature and two of a spiritual nature. [This is a very deep concept that contains much mystical depth; we have only explained that which practically emerges from it.]

One type of speech is that which that connects people – like pleasant words with the members of one’s household or with one relatives and friends. This is called ‘speech of charity’. With an abundance of speech in relation to physical needs one can forget Hashem and become ‘cooled off’ from the light of emunah. However, when one remembers the truth, even in the darkness, then these words do not distance him from Hashem and he can constantly remember that he is close to Hashem.

The second type of speech is that of confession, when one speaks words in order to rectify the past, this is known as ‘speech of repentance’, as the verse stated: “take words with you and return to Hashem” [This form of speech is the main rectification for the ‘speech of charity’, to arouse oneself to remember Hashem]. However, if one does not constantly involve himself in connecting to the truth by remembering Hashem’s infinite mercy, then when he sees how immensely far from Hashem he is, he can be drawn further away from Hashem and despair specifically because of this improper repentance. Yet with the light of truth one will remember Hashem’s mercy and believe that the words of repentance have the power to overturn everything from evil to good.

The third type of speech is that which is used for control and forceful commands and is called “the speech of the affluent”. This type of speech is used mostly for giving instructions in order to get things done as one desires. These words often contain a great deal of anger and can be the cause of much anguish which can distance a person from Hashem. Yet with the light of truth one will not be distanced by such words since he will remember that Hashem’s providence is in these words too.

The fourth type of speech is that which is used in serving Hashem through Torah and tefillah and is called “the speech of malchus (kingdom [of holiness])” because the main revelation of Hashem’s Kingship is brought about by words of holiness, as the Zohar teaches malchus is the mouth”. However, these words are only capable of bringing us close to Hashem in as much as we connect to the light of truth that Hashem hears every single word.

When the light of truth shines forth and speech is perfected, then one can be in this world without becoming bewildered and forgetting about the delights of the world to come. He will thus be truly close to Hashem, always.

 

Tag Cloud