Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for the ‘Tetzaveh’ Category

Acquiring Perfection

We started so many times – where are all those beginnings?  Is there any way to assemble the pieces into something whole?

The palace is getting ready for the big day of the coronation.  Kingdom bigwigs come and go as ministers and countless laborers fill the halls with bustle.  Inside, in a private chamber, sits the king and with him is his trusted advisor.  Before them is a detailed design of the royal crown.  The greatest artisans in the world are toiling on the creation of the magnificent symbol of the kingdom’s might and glory. The king is asking his trusted advisor to choose for him the appropriate jewel that will adorn the very top of the crown.  The advisor suggested a rare diamond that can be found only in a far away land.  A special, loyal man is chosen for the difficult quest of fetching the precious stone.   The man himself cannot understand how he’ll ever be able to accomplish the feat.  How can he travel that far, all alone on a road fraught so with dangers, to the place where the stone can be found?  But the king just says, ‘Go to the house of my advisor.  Stay with him at his house.  There you will find what you need for your quest.’

Sure enough, a few days later, after spending time with the monarch’s friend, the loyal man has absorbed the necessary survival skills.  Now the stone is within reach.  Keeping to a few rules, he’ll be able to traverse the great distances, overcome the trials along the way, and bring the crown jewel to the king.

♦♦♦

We started many times (and we intended to start even more times …) but we still came to a screeching halt every single time.  Some new beginnings were truly spectacular, full of zest and enthusiasm … only to fizzle out before we even took the first step.  Those beginnings just dispersed like dust in the wind, lost in space, drowning into a void of depression and lethargy.  Is there a way to turn this dust powder into something whole?  Can we even hope to stick to a new start and reach completion – dare we say perfection?

The answer is in parshat Tetzaveh.  In last week’s parsha we were ordered to bring a donation of half a shekel.  Whatever ‘semi-goodness’ we possessed was warmly received and became a part of the Mishkan, enabling the divine inspiration of the people of Israel.  Now, however, the Mishkan is already standing and in it we are to perform services with ‘temple-class’ sanctity.  From the preparation of the Menorah through the sacrifices, the toil of the Mishkan demands uncompromising perfection.

The Menorah was fed oil that was the best and purest.  After all, if you wish to set the souls and hearts of the people of Israel aflame, you must feed them the purest of fuels.  Mediocre oils are plentiful, but the very best are few and far between.  ‘Perfect deeds’ are Mitzvos that are filled with love and awe.  They are performed with punctiliousness, wholehearted, and inspired excitement.  And above all, they are infused by the purest thought in heart and mind.

This is about as rare as the crown Jewels of England.

The secret of survival

When a Jew sets out to bring the crowning jewel for the King’s crown, parshat Tetzaveh orders him to adhere to the Tzaddik.  The Tzaddik is the only truly loyal friend the King has.  He is the only one who can instruct a Jew how to survive the adventurous trip to the perfect deed.

The problem is that one may lose perfection just because of his very ambition for it.  The tremendous thirst to do something whole, complete with pure mind and heart, can make us despair even before we begin.  Perfection is far, and the only way we can get to it is if we stick together.  Obtaining ‘pure oil’, says the Parsha, can only be acquired through togetherness with Tzaddikim.

Tzaddikim teach us the principle that ‘nothing good ever gets lost’ – no matter how compelling the evidence to the contrary.  The tiny shards of goodness we perform are forever kept in the vaults of Hashem.  Tzaddikim teach us that the reason why we don’t reach perfection is because we lose all our new beginnings along the way.  The Tzaddikim, who are Hashem’s loyal emissaries, are collecting every good deed and every holy thought a Jew has and ‘brings them home’.   Together, all the little pieces make a perfect whole.  This is why the secret to perfection is adhering to those Tzaddikim.

The mistake seekers of Hashem make far too often is that they think that perfection is achieved through perfect steps along the way.  Our righteous guides teach us that perfection is built, just like the Mishkan, with half-deeds and semi-precious points of light.  The secret is for someone to collect all the pieces, put them together, and build perfection out of them all.

Team work

Togetherness has a tremendous power. Imagine a person sitting by himself, studying a certain Torah sugiya.  He is tying one bit of understanding to another, weaving the pieces together into a coherent vista.  The next day he looks at it again and finds, to his horror, that the subject is more confusing than it ever was!  Forgetfulness untied the tenuous links between the pieces of comprehension, turning answers into questions, and reasonable assumptions into perplexing mysteries.   But if two people sit together on the issue, they will easily remind one another of all the forgotten details.  And whatever these two forget, a third person can remind them both!  Togetherness can maintain the missing pieces and put them all together.

The road to pure olive oil cannot be traversed by a single person, traveling on his own.  He has to join the Tzaddikim who collect everyone’s pieces of achievement.  Oil is produced by breaking down the olives.  Perfection is achieved by putting the pieces together following the breaking down process.

We must remember that all deeds, even those who seem lacking, have in them an undeniable point of perfection.  Any Torah study, as imperfect as it may seem, is blemished only here, in this passing, transient world.  Hashem considers it perfect if it is performed with the wish is to serve Hashem with it in mind.  If this is the reason behind the study, His will was already accomplished.

Since perfection is, per definition, impossible, every step towards it is perfection itself.


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“… and it was turned about …”

The seventy years which the exile is supposed to last are coming to their end and everyone is holding their breath, waiting to see – will the promise be fulfilled or not…

After the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, when Klal Yisroel when into exile, they were accompanied by the promise: “After seventy years for Bavel have been completed I will attend to you and I will fulfill my favorable promise, to return you to this place” (Yermiya 29,10). The seventy years that followed almost completely overshadowed the last rays of hope; optimism for the future diminished little by little in frozen hearts when no hint of redemption was apparent amidst the utter darkness. However, all this was only what was visible to the eye. Underneath the surface the ge’ula was constantly taking form. The Tzaddikim of that generation were working very hard, toiling tirelessly in the building of the redemption. On the physical plane not even a single foundation stone was visible but spiritually the building was already in its final stages. The preparation for the ge’ula had reached is climax and the Divine plan had progressed with gigantic leaps.

On the sidelines stood someone watching the entire process; he was a sorcerer, perhaps the greatest sorcerer of all. He was known as ‘Haman’ and he knew what even many Jews did not. He understood that the darkness was only temporary and that afterward, stood to burst forth a tremendous light. This worried him tremendously…

The only chance, he understood, to return the world to the control of nature and to subdue it under the rule of The Kingdom of Evil was ‘the last moment’. At ‘the last moment’ there is always a point of confusion, when the darkness thickens in a final effort to endure. It is then, that it is possible to grab the opportunity and destroy the process.

There was one thing however, that he did not take into account: “There was an Ish Yehudi (Jewish man) in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordechai…”(Ester 2,5).

Sorcery, magicians and forces of evil may sound a little strange and farfetched – but really it is not at all. All this takes place even today, not externally but internally.

Just a few examples …

An avreich sits in front of his gemorah, his fingers scanning the last few lines of Rashi at the bottom of the page. A moment before he proceeds contentedly, his eyes are caught by the sight of the information-filled page he just completed and something begins to stir inside him. Just then a thought shoots through his mind ‘Nu, so what? You got through a daf, soon you’ll say this too is called learning!’

That’s it, one little thought that could hardly be noticed, but the damage that it causes will be very hard to repair. Then, the voices begin to be heard ‘only one daf, barely with Rashi never mind Rishonim, get real, is this learning!’ it’s only a few seconds and our dear avreich is already beginning to wonder if his Birkas HaTorah wasn’t in vain.

Its mid-afternoon and a Jew is sitting in his dining room surrounded by his exited children. This one is tugging, that one is screaming and amidst this all sits our dear friend and thinks ‘ahh, a Jewish home entrusted with precious little gifts, Baruch Hashem.’ Then, out of nowhere, a frightening voice makes an appearance ‘Yes, precious gifts, and YOU – so irresponsible, YOU’RE supposed to educate and guide them, look how they’re behaving, don’t you think they would have turned out a little more refined if they were raised by someone else.’

Who is responsible for these voices? Until now we might have assumed that these were our own thoughts. They are not. These are the forces of evil, nothing more and nothing less – witchcraft.

Every Jew is involved at every moment in the building of the Beis Hamikdash. The ge’ula will be comprised of all that there is in Klal Yisroel; the souls, the yearnings, the thoughts and the actions. Every bit of good adds another brick and builds another layer in the structure of the redemption. Even when on the surface no progress can be seen, underneath the concealment of indifference the world is truly changing.

WE might not see what is happening but there is someone who does, and this sight bothers him tremendously. He knows that if the building will be completed he will cease to exist. He also knows how to recognize the weak points; he revealed that in ‘the last moment’ there is an opportunity to tumble the entire structure. It is then that he aims his weapon, and at just the right moment he shoots his poisoned arrow. Sometimes it is a thought and sometimes even a voice, sometimes the arrow is coated with a poison of discouragement and criticism, and sometimes it is a poison of arrogance and illusion.

It is always at that ‘last moment’ that he appears, the moment before one finds tranquility with his gemorah and just as one almost came to satisfaction and joy. He senses that his prey is about to escape, that in a moment everything will be good, and this he is not prepared to allow. Because of this, a person always finds himself perplexed and frightened, he asks himself ‘how long will this continue, something always seems to go wrong, I never seem to make progress, it seems like this exile will endure eternally.’

Haman always portrays a gloomy and dismal existence. The exile seems to continue without end and if we have maintained any hope the reality always seems to slap us in the face. In the last moment it seems as if we are left alone, face to face with – Haman.

And what is the truth?

The truth is that Klal Yisroel is alive and well, and that after everything our days are filled with good; with Torah and tefillah, with chesed and mitzvos. The truth is that a Jewish home creates much more meaningful things each day than the most productive factory on the planet.  Where in the world do they produce souls upon who’s every limb and vein are dependant entire universes. Where in the world is there a machine that instantaneously creates thousands of angels like those that are created by the simplest Jew with one word of Torah and tefillah. Indeed, what is truly taking place is not what the eye sees, and the Tzaddikim that do see, tell us that world is constantly moving towards its perfection and tikkun (rectification). Every motion in this world moves in the direction of tikkun, the progressions as well as the regressions, the successes as well as the failures, the ups as well as the downs, all these unite to create the ultimate tikkun.

Yet how do we reveal this truth when the whole world seems to be telling a different story? This wonder takes place on Purim – one short day that overthrows our whole perception of the world.

And back to Shushan…

Haman continues with his evil plot, the situation on the surface indicates that the end is near. Then, from amidst the utter bewilderment appears Mordechai. His entire being defies reality and he pulverizes and shatters the entire world that Haman worked so hard to build, until in the end the tables are turned and the Jews of Shushan are brought ecstasy and joy.

What is the secret of Mordechai? How did this turnaround take place?

In the Seforim HaKedoshim it is taught that Mordechai, at the root of his soul, was a tremendous revelation that illuminated the world specifically at the time of intense darkness and concealment of ‘the last moment’ before the ge’ula. Then, at that critical moment, Hashem, in his infinite mercy, drew down the light of Mordechai, and it was he who changed the face of reality. Mordechai walked through the streets of Shushan and screamed ‘You are making a mistake. It seems to you all that Hashem has turned a blind eye and disappeared in the last moment. It seems as if Haman is doing everything he wants but the truth is exactly the opposite, specifically in the last moment the ge’ula will appear.’ This is the illumination that the Tzaddikim of the generations reveal.  They ask of us: ‘do not allow your imagination to depict reality to you, believe us, the reality is full of miracles, even if you don’t see them.’ These things were documented by Mordechai and Ester in a Sefer, the sages called it – the Megillah.

The Megillah tears off the veil and reveals what the true reality is. It tells about Achashveirosh and a kingdom without bounds, about Haman, his rapid escalation to power and his evil plot. The story of the Megillah begins like a horror story moving quickly to destruction and utter annihilation, and the situation deteriorates further with each day. First a terrible spiritual decline, taking part in the feast of the wicked, the holy Ester is taken to the palace of Achashveirosh and in the end comes the decree of complete extermination. What could be worse? Yet when we read further we reveal  that the darkness itself gave birth to the light. What seemed like an end became a new beginning and ge’ula.

This is the reality that Mordechai and Ester wish to teach us. Every person experiences this concealment in some way, whether physically or spiritually. Mordechai reveals the truth; he shines into the world a completely different outlook. If until today you thought that you cannot be happy, at least until things start to go your way, then listen carefully to the words of the Tzaddik and you will learn that there is no such thing as ‘things don’t work out for me,’ for everything that happens to you leads specifically to the best possible place for you, even if a part of the journey is down a steep hill. If you thought that by you things ‘just were not right,’ here is a new perspective, everything is just right by you, in your home, in your learning and in your tefillah.

Our story is like that of the Megillah, it can sometimes seem doomed and hopeless. In truth this is how things look… when Haman gives them his interpretation. But if we open our hearts to accept the words of Mordechai, if we allow his light to envelope our minds, we will learn something new and begin to understand everything differently. We will suddenly reveal that there is no downfall in the world and then even Haman’s very own plan can be a wondrous path to redemption.

“Because now the entire begininig of the ge’ula and the rectification of all the worlds is from Purim” (Likutey Halachos Birkas Harei’ach 4). The redemption is already taking place; we just need to change our outlook. On Purim the turnaround takes place, on this day when Mordechai walks through the streets it is worthwhile to join in and walk together with him. When life is accompanied by the illumination of Mordechai no darkness can overshadow the light of the ge’ula because all that happens to us is part of the process of redemption and salvation, and EVERYTHING will be turned to good.

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