Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

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Finding the Notes for a New Song

In the heart of every person plays a song … It is the tune of the soul … Walls of questions conceal it … Is there a way to set it free again?

No one at the capital city could explain the King’s strange command: He had ordered that the army maneuvers be conducted right under his only daughter’s window!  The princess was panic stricken when she awoke in the morning to the sounds of explossions and war.  She bolted from her room screaming “Father! Father! Father!”.  Only when the servants assured her she was safe did she calm down.  Wow!

The reason behind this strange affair was known to just a few.  The King ordered the ordeal as a last ditch effort to heal his only daughter.  The daughter had been ignoring her father for a long time. She never lacked a thing.  She never had to ask for anything and hardly even knew how to utter the word “Father”.  She didn’t have to.  She became so self-absorbed she became completely lonely.  The only thing the King could do to relieve her of her plight was to create this false emergency.  The fear and panic created feelings of gratitude for the deliverance and, thus, healed her.  It gave her back the feeling of confidence and trust in her great Father.

This parable is brought in the medrash to explain the fear and terror that preceded the splitting of the Red Sea.

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The Israelites are getting out of Egypt and the omnipotent Creator reveals his limitless love to his cherished children.  He declares before the entire creation that they are His children, His favorite ‘Elder firstborn Israel’.  And low and behold, on the cusp of crossing the mighty boundaries of nature and out of exile, the Great Father totally forsakes His children!  Before them rages the sea…behind them arrows are raining down…and the desert closes in from the sides…there is no escape!  Couldn’t the all-capable ruler of the world continue the miracle train and gotten us through the Red Sea without the fear?  The answer was given with the parable of the medrash.  The fear that preceded the splitting of the sea was a medicine that cured a deep dormant mental illness that held us back from calling out to Hashem. It didn’t let us lift our eyes to Heaven and sing to Him.

“Show me your countenance, let me hear your voice”, beseeches the all-merciful Father.  Let me hear you voice.  Become aware of my providence.  The intimate embrace in the arms of emunah was the main miracle of the entire saga of Geulas Mitzraim.  The fright enabled us to recognize Hashem anew as our past, present, and future Savior. The new ode was born from what seemed to be a colossal dereliction.  There was no other way.

The Ode is the essence of the soul

The song of emunah that was sung on the shore of the Red Sea is humming in the heart of every Jew.  Deep inside plays a magical melody of faith. It is a kind of silent prayer, a silent ode that the soul offers its maker.  It is an innocent incantation of the inner point of the heart and of sweet surrender to the truth.

By most people this song is hidden.  Countless self-denials and concealments hide it from our awareness.  The soul begs us to be embraced by its Father in Heaven, alas, in vain.  A foreign ill-wind of depression envelops it.  And so, instead of praises we are filled with complaints.  In place of longings, frustrated anger bubbles up.  The daughter is jailed inside, unable to find the divine instrument to play her song.

Is there a way to release the song?  Is there a way back home?

The answer is intrinsic to us a Jews.  We’re called ‘עברים’ because of our innate ability to transcend  (להתעלות אל מעבר) all obstacles and doubts.  The ability is derived from the ‘Spirit of the Song of Emunah’ (Likutei Moharan 64).  Melody is the main connector between man and his Creator, it is that powerful.  Melody can connect the heart of a person, no matter where it may be, and give him back his soul and remind him of Hashem.

Melody as Medicine

We’re in the middle the שובבים weeks, a period when the soul is rectified.  During this time the people of Israel toil in the ways of teshuvah in an effort to remove the barriers between themselves and their Father in Heaven.  The goal is to hear the melody of emunah once again.  The aim is to come back into the light of the soul and renew our immediate intimacy with the all-merciful father.

This ‘melody of emunah’ is the most important ingredient in our world.  The melody is the soul that pulses in everything that we do.  Torah, prayer, and the performance of mitzvos are all empty exercises, devoid of vitality and closeness to Hashem without it.  The Tzaddikim are forever busy with healing of the souls of Israel.  The ‘drugs’ they concoct to heal us are called a ‘melody’.  The cure of our soul is hidden in the words of Rebbe Nachman.

If we were to internalize his words, this wondrous melody will be played within us almost by itself.  It is the ‘new melody’ that will sound in the future we are all waiting for.  It will give us the power to withstand all challenges.  It will make it possible for us to realize our blemishes without being repulsed by our shame.  The melody will then enter every holy word we utter.  It will return us to the sweet memory of adhering to a living G-d.  Indeed, when the melody of faith is playing inside the heart, one can hear the violin of King David playing at midnight.  The lips can feel the sweetness of a page of Talmud, Tikkun Haklali and indeed every single blessing we make and prayer we offer.

But the melody isn’t constantly playing the sound of adhesion to Hashem and success.  Sometimes the melody sinks to the depths of fear and oblivion.  At such times, it looks like the melody has disappeared.  But it must be remembered that it is the very nature of the melody to rise and descend.  It cannot go forever upwards.  It cannot keep repeating the same notes over and over again.  If a person does whatever he can – be it a lot or a little – it brings him to the melody.  At times, the merciful Father must bring His daughter to a state of fear.  It the only way to awaken us from states of oblivion and refreshes the spirit from the coma of false wisdoms and theories.

We must bear in mind that the descent, the fear and the terror that surrounds our soul every day are exactly what brings us to this ‘new melody’.  It is a secret one can recognize only by meditating on it as he reviews everything that transpires in his life.  There is no way to renew the soul and restore the melody except trough descent.  The horrible terror that was breathing down the necks of the Israelites as they came out of Egypt is what gave birth to the Ode of the Sea.

If we remember that we were cast into the fear and uncertainty by a loving Father who wants only our benefit and welfare, we will be able to turn every descent into the melody we have been searching for.  Shabbos Shira is the time to renew the melody of the ‘Song of the Future’ – The melody of emunah and pure awe of G-d.

 

 

 

 

 

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“…With a new song the redeemed ones praised Your name …”

Yankele was an average Kollel man – until the day his rich uncle decided to transform him into a prosperous individual. His uncle wasn’t satisfied with his promises, so a short while after his surprising letter arrived, he too turned up on Yankele’s doorstep. With his sharp mind Yankele soon learned the secrets of the business and in a short time was as familiar with the pathways of commerce as he was with the streets of his own city. Once his uncle was convinced of his business acumen, he broke off his support and gave him full reign over the company. Yankele became a real businessman; he bought, sold, amassed great wealth, and made a good name for himself in the business world.

Then, just at the peak of his momentum, things went haywire. A small miscalculation followed by a critical period until the mistake was found, and a mountain of debt somehow overtook and overshadowed the mountain of success. Yankele understood that he was in a real crisis and, having no other choice, turned to his rich uncle for help.

In his worst nightmares he never would have imagined the reply he received. Overnight his generous uncle had turned into a stranger. But the fear of bankruptcy didn’t give him the luxury to sit and wallow in his shame. He knew that if he didn’t find a solution, his life wouldn’t be worth living. He found himself a corner of a shul and opened up a book of Psalms. After an hour of heartfelt tear-soaked prayer, he returned to his office. His thoughts became clearer and he was able to see a new, broader perspective on the situation. Further analysis of the figures exposed a solution to the problem, and after a short while the business was running steadily again.

But the letter he received soon afterwards seemed to shatter his life in one blow. The bank manager was informing him, in no uncertain terms, of an unacceptable state of affairs. Huge sums that had been discovered to be non-existent had not only swallowed up his entire account, but had even put the bank into a serious predicament. Yankele made his way to the bank, his knees trembling. He could already see himself cut off from everything – his home, his fortune, his position, even from life itself.

On the threshold of the manager’s office Yankele stood rubbing his eyes, he thought he was hallucinating. If his eyes weren’t deceiving him, his rich uncle was sitting there sweet-talking with the manager. “Hello, Reb Yankele,” said the bank manager jubilantly, “please come in.” Yankele was already convinced that he’d lost his mind from the distress, “What on earth’s going on here?!” he muttered to himself. “Sit down, dear nephew,” his uncle said, placing a supportive hand on his shoulder, “Soon you’ll understand everything.”

“I wanted you to learn a few things,” concluded his uncle, after he’d explained all that had happened. “Firstly, I knew that as long as you didn’t put your head right into the murkiest depths of the business, you would never become a businessman. Nothing would have pushed you to find new solutions by yourself, and learn the true meaning of business, like facing bankruptcy. Only through this did you truly use everything you’ve learnt. Secondly, I wanted you to understand that business must be done coldly, dispassionately. You know now that I’m always here in the background, aware of everything that’s going on and ready and willing to help and support you. You know now that you worried in vain. So you should always know – whatever predicament you find yourself in, in business there’s no place for fear. You need simply to focus and concentrate on the situation in front of you; fear just disturbs you from coming to a solution and from taking a step forward with faith and bitachon (trust in Hashem).

The tales of the Exodus from Egypt arouse great excitement. It was the one time in history when the Creator completely removed the casing of the natural world, and revealed that everything is actually constantly run with Providence and miracles. At the Exodus from Egypt Hashem exposed His ‘Great Hand’, and showed His people a face of mercy and love. This reached its peak at the splitting of the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds. Hashem then took hold of all of nature, with all its ‘laws’, and crushed it for His beloved people. He brought together nature and Providence to show everyone who the real Boss is. Until the moment when the walls of water collapsed upon the Egyptian hosts, the idol of nature still called out, “I will chase them and catch them.” Hashem gave him the opportunity to express his strength to the very end, but then the miracle was wrought and ‘nature’ bit the dust.

With all this it’s impossible not to wonder – if Hashem had decided to nullify the laws of nature for the sake of the Jewish people, in order to remove them from the servitude of Egypt, couldn’t He have saved them from the terrible fear that they experienced until the moment the Sea split? Until Israel saw the dead bodies of the Egyptians and their wealth on the sea shore, they weren’t convinced that they’d truly escaped. We can understand that there are times of concealment, when Hashem conceals His Providence and allows fear to rule in the world, in order to test Israel. But at the Exodus from Egypt the conduct was specifically one of open love and mercy. What place was there for such concealment in the middle of such a wondrous and open redemption?

At the Exodus from Egypt great awareness was shined on us, but in the form of light; we were surrounded by the clouds of glory, and the redemption illuminated our minds. But it still wasn’t possible to live the redemption in reality, as part of real life. In order for the Exodus from Egypt to be eternal and to penetrate to the depths of our reality, it was necessary for us to pass through the Yam Suf.

At the splitting of the Yam Suf many things happened. The ‘Sea of Wisdom’ also split. When Israel walked through the sea, the wellsprings of wisdom were split open and became something tangible. The fear and dread that overcame us there on the sea shore, when behind us loomed huge physical forces, and in front of us raged a roaring sea – this fear forced us to turn the awareness and ‘lights’ of the Exodus into ready cash. Only then did the sea of wisdom split and penetrate into the reality of life, because only then did we experience what fear really was, and how even there, right in the midst of that dreadful terror, Hashem was to be found.

We also learned the lesson that no matter what the situation, it’s forbidden to give up, because Hashem is always just behind the curtains, and He is the one directing the show. He has a clear purpose – His interest is that we truly open up our minds, put our heads fully into the Torah that we’ve received and use this knowledge and awareness practically in our lives. This, He knows, we can’t do without first experiencing what fear is, without experiencing being right at the edge of the precipice.

The splitting of the Yam Suf connected the Exodus from Egypt with every situation that we’ll ever encounter in this world. The splitting of the sea was part of receiving of the Torah. We learned then that in order to get by in this world and see everything in the light of faith, we have to put our heads deeply into this subject, the subject of faith. Faith, Emunah, can’t be studied as an interesting intellectual theory, or be something we just give lip service to – faith has to be learnt and lived in the flesh.

Now that we’ve safely passed through the sea, we know that even if life seems to be leading us towards a dead end and we feel that with the next step we’ll be plunged to the depths – there’s nothing to fear, because behind the curtains Hashem is running everything. Today we know that we have to live life with joy and with songs of praise and thanks, because not only will Hashem save us in the end, but He’s also right by our sides, accompanying us in all our darkest moments.

But how was it possible to suddenly receive such awareness, such ‘seichel’, when we we’re so far from true awareness? How was it possible that we should suddenly succeed in thinking deeply about the Torah of Tzaddikim and Emunah?

The Rebbe reveals the secret in Torah 8 (second section). There he explains what the splitting of the Yam Suf really was. He says that both the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Yam Suf were wrought by the ‘Rod of Strength’ of the Tzaddik. To understand what this means, we need to go back a bit and explain that the Egyptian exile was in essence the overpowering of a spirit of impurity and blockage over the Jewish souls. Sin had made it possible for the Egyptians to take hold over the Jewish spirit. The ‘husks’ and evil became empowered and swallowed up the Jewish people, their souls, their sparks of holiness, and everything good. Throughout the years of exile tens of thousands of sparks of holiness became ensnared in the depths of the Egyptian soil, unable to raise themselves up and return to their places.

The redemption was a rectification of sin. Sins had created the concealment, so when they were rectified, the concealment automatically vanished. Someone capable of effecting such a rectification had to be a very great Tzaddik, such as Moshe Rabeinu. Such a Tzaddik can pray a prayer of severe judgments – a prayer that is like a staff (a ‘Rod of Strength’) that the Tzaddik sticks into the throat of the Satan, until he is forced to vomit out all the good that he has swallowed.

When Israel came out from Egypt, Egypt vomited up all the thousands of sparks of holiness and awareness that had been ensnared in its belly. This awareness was then revealed to the Jews by the sea. That is where Israel merited comprehending the waters of awareness, and they then began to hear appropriate rebuke. Because until then, back in Egypt, all their ears heard was inappropriate rebuke – rebuke that aroused a revolting smell in the soul, and weakened it. Now, by the sea, Israel received true awareness, and they learned how to hear rebuke in the correct way. It was then that they burst forth with the incredible song that will be heard in the future, when the whole world is filled with true awareness.

The Egyptian exile is representative of the exile of every individual. Sin destroys and clouds our minds, rendering us incapable of hearing rebuke, and therefore incapable of repenting, of doing teshuva. But the very great Tzaddik has the ‘Rod of Strength’ – a tremendous power of holy brazenness, and he is capable of bringing about forgiveness of sin, and can remove the concealment from our souls. When he does this, he splits the sea, and the souls and good that were trapped in exile start to rise up with a voice of song and praise. The song that’s then heard is rebuke from the one who knows how to rebuke, and a person becomes able to hear this rebuke and move forward in serving Hashem, without getting broken.

This happens essentially at the holy gathering on Rosh Hashanah, and this is the source for the obligation to travel to the Rebbe in Uman. There is where this rectification takes place. There the Rebbe tears off the veil of concealment from the soul, and the good starts to emerge. But something akin to this happens now too on Tu B’Shvat. This is also a Rosh Hashanah; it’s the New Year for the trees. On Tu B’Shvat something akin to the rectification of Rosh Hashanah takes place.

The Tzaddikim write that Tu B’Shvat is the time when the sparks of holiness and reincarnated souls that are going to come to their rectification through a particular tree, enter into that tree. This is the renewal of the trees that takes place, and these sparks immediately begin to be raised up and rectified.

Let’s also become renewed this Tu B’Shvat. Let’s remember that the splitting of the Sea of Reeds removed from us the veil of sin, and now a path of renewal, a path of serving Hashem with joy, praise and thanks has opened up wide before us.

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