Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

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Spirit of Purim

By Rabbi Micha Golshevsky shlit”a

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 141, 1: 1

From the onset of Adar one should magnify his joy. (Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha.) If a Jew has an alter-cation with a non-Jew he should take him to court during Adar since it is an auspicious time.
The Ohev Yisrael, zt”l, writes that the word “b’simcha” has the same numeri-cal value as the word “shana,” year.[1] The more b’simcha, joyous, one is dur-ing Adar, the more joy one will experi-ence the entire year!
The Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, states that just as we go into the illumination of Tishrei through Elul, we attain the dveikus, or intimate connection with Hashem, of Nisan through Adar. In Adar, our repentance is born of love and is stronger than the teshuva of Elul which is rooted in fear.

The Divrei Shmuel explains the deeper meaning of the preference to take a gentile to court during this month. On a deeper level, this refers to judging the non-Jew within us which is the aspect of Amalek within. One who has difficul-ty struggling with the negative inside himself (and who doesn’t in our gener-ation?) overcomes this with much greater ease during Adar.
The Chidushei HaRim writes further that Adar is a conjunction of the phrase Aleph-Dar (א – דר=אדר) . Aleph refers to Hashem, sometimes known as Alufo Shel Olam, the lofty One of the uni-verse, and dar literally means dwells.[2] This means that during the month of Adar, due to the boundless joy we ex-perience, it is easier for us to become a
dwelling place for Hashem.

Chazal say, “One who wishes to pre-serve his property should plant an Adar on it,” which could mean either planting a type of tree known as an adar, which is usually understood to be a maple, or to plant the tree during the month of Adar. As it says in Tehilim (93:4,) “Adir bamarom Hashem”—“Hashem is All Powerful on High.” But what does the verse have to do with securing one’s material wealth? The Chashva L’teshuva, zt”l, explains that the needs of every Jew are allocated from heaven. The reason why people lack is because their heavenly allot-ment is being withheld. What should one do to avoid losing out, then? “Plant an adar.” Adar refers to one who is steadfast as a mighty maple in his faith that Hashem is All Powerful!

Once, two friends met and one com-plained to the other that things were very difficult financially. He was literal-ly at the end of his rope and didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
“Well,” responded his friend, “Rebbe Nachman writes that ‘one who is al-ways happy will succeed.’ So I recom-mend that you strive a to feel happy all the time.”
“But that is one of the most difficult things to do! How can I possibly work towards such a lofty goal?” complained the disgruntled man.
“Nu, what won’t people do to make a living?” his friend answered.

[1] Both equal 355. )ב= 2 ש= 033 מ= 03
) ח= 8 ה= 5 & ש= 033 נ= 53 ה= 5
]2[ To this day an apartment in Hebrew

Spirit of the Law: Tu B’Shvat


Almond Trees in Blossom

Almond Trees in Blossom

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter (140 #26) :

“The fifteenth of Shevat is Rosh Hashana for trees…The custom is to eat many different species of fruit on this day.”

I: Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that every human being is always longing for Hashem. A Jew’s longing for connection to Hashem is even more powerful. Usually, this longing gets channeled into other areas. People mistakenly think they yearn for money, honor or physical pleasures such as food. Attaining these never satisfies in a lasting way however, since the source, the inner desire for closeness to Hashem has not been addressed, just stifled.

When the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, was asked why the gemara compares the sinners of Israel to a pomegranate, he responded “A pomegranate has a hard exterior upon which no good is noticeable. It is only if you open it up, and delve into it’s depths that one finds the many, many good seeds in the Rimon.” Even if you peel off the outer shell you see only the white insides. You only find the seeds by breaking through the bad. Similarly, every Jew is a neshama kedosha which is always yearning with a powerful longing for his source. “

On Tu B’Shvat the sap begins to rise in trees. It is partially due to this process that the tree later develops in the spring. This is why it is Rosh Hashannah for trees.

The verse states, “Man is as a tree of the field.”The “sap” of each person is the hidden inner essence of each person, their fiery longing for Hashem. Like the sap of trees, the inner essence of each person is aroused on Tu B’Shevat. Connecting to our inner longing is the prerequisite for all spiritual growth.

This is one reason we eat fruits on this holy day. We acknowledge the correlation between bearing spiritual fruits and arousing our powerful yearning for Hashem. The more we connect to our powerful inner longing for Hashem, the more spiritual fruit we will bear in the coming year. The less we connect, the more this longing will be misdirected towards the material and the less spiritual growth we will yield. It is our choice.

May Hashem help us to grow and thrive, and bear an abundance of spiritual fruit.

II: On the subject of Tu B’Shevat, the Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, shares a very powerful concept: the “new year’s” judgment of Tu B’shvat primarily determines one’s access to novel Torah concepts (chidushei Torah) for the upcoming year.

Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that there are two levels of chidushei Torah. The first is the joy and rapture of bearing and sharing the fruit of one’s Torah learning, bringing down and sharing novel Torah concepts. This is the spiritual root of the sweetness of fruit to the palate. Without this feeling of sweetness, a person has virtually no genuine connection to Torah even if he or she learns assiduously and innovates novel interpretations. The second, lower, level of chidush is accessing a feeling of renewal and connection from every bit of Torah learning, prayer, and avodah even when there is nothing objectively novel about the concepts in which one is immersed. One still feels a powerful joy and connection, and this is the ultimate fruit of Torah study, as we say in the daily blessing: “Hashem, please make Torah learning sweet in my mouth.”

courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov


Spirit of the Law – Shabbos Part V

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:12:

“It is a mitzvah to wash one’s hands and face … in hot water every erev Shabbos, and if it is at all possible, one should wash his entire body in hot water..”

Rebbe Nachman writes that we must realize that when we do something which distances us from Hashem, the sin forms a blemish that enclothes our souls like a garment. We all unfortunately have very many such garments, and we remove these garments a little at a time. For this reason we often seem to regress while we travel the path of spiritual development. We misunderstand the truth of our situation if we see temporary regressions as symptoms of outright failure. They only show that we are slowly releasing ourselves from these blemished garments which cover our souls.

At first, our progress was checked because we were held back by these garments. Subsequently, our progress improved and we felt better because we had divested ourselves of the uppermost layer of the soiled spiritual garments. A later regression does not necessarily mean that we did anything to instigate a fall—rather, it is just a sign that the next soiled garment is surfacing and it needs attention.

Rebbe Nachman’s words offer powerful encouragement for us when we feel that we are experiencing a yeridah (descent). The general rule is that we can remove all the soiled garments slowly, over the course of many years, by learning Torah diligently with the intention to connect to Hashem and with the knowledge of the flaws that we want to correct.

Reb Nosson of Breslov writes that when washing on erev Shabbos, one should focus on the fact that he is removing the soiled garment of the soul and replacing it with clean garments in the merit of Shabbos. On Shabbos, the main element of our soiled spiritual garments is nullified by the holiness of the day itself. This is why we don our Shabbos finery after bathing on erev Shabbos. This parallel the clean garments with which our souls are dressed—the extra soul-level or neshamah yeseirah that arrives in honor of the Shabbos.

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:13:

“It is forbidden to share a mikveh or bathing area with one’s father, father-in-law, mother’s husband, or sister’s husband…”

The Gemara teaches this halachah and its rationale is that bathing with one of these people can trigger lewd thoughts. Although there are various reasons suggested for why most are lenient about this law, the consensus is that one must be careful to fulfill it. The general rule is that the sages prohibited any activity which could lead to illicit thoughts when a person is in a low state. The reason for this is simple: better safe than sorry. Since what we do matters so much it is very important to have proper safeguards in place so we will not come to do what we may regret later. Another example of this is the prohibition against yichud.

Rebbe Nachman, zt”l, offers a prescription for avoiding negative thoughts. Since two thoughts cannot exist simultaneously in one’s mind, one has the ability to force a redirect in thinking at any moment in time. The thought process is literally like a horse that can stray from the road. However, as soon as one is aware of it the problem is easily rectified. One simply takes the reins in one’s hands and directs the horse in another direction. The horse has no choice but to go where directed. Similarly, one takes hold of his thoughts and turns them in a different direction. This is explained further in Chayei Moharan. There, Reb Nosson, zt”l, describes what he heard from a fellow student in Rebbe Nachman’s name.
“Thoughts were created fluid. For this reason, one’s mind is always on the move, going from thought to thought. [Note: It takes a lot of training to think of one thing for a long period of time. Rav Pinchas of Koritz, zt”l, said that an average person cannot focus on the same good thought for over a half-hour, even on Shabbos! ] This is like the pendulum in a clock that swings from second to second. Even when one sleeps, one’s thoughts are always moving fluidly. When one slumbers deeply he doesn’t remember what he thought but he was always thinking and his thoughts continued to march along. Just insert a different thought into the flow.”

On this subject, Reb Nosson taught that our thoughts are in our hands to think as we will. This is the main place where our free choice is manifest. If I don’t think about it, I will not do it. Similarly, if all day I am focusing on learning or connecting to Hashem, eventually I will achieve this. The main thing in thinking good thoughts and not bad thoughts is that first bad thought. We must be ever vigilant to redirect the beginnings of what seems to be leading to places we don’t want our thoughts to go. When our trend first seems to be turning to a bad place it is still quite easy to redirect our thoughts to better places.

The main protection against negative thoughts, however, is simplicity and temimus. We must accustom ourselves not to be sophisticated and to refrain from thinking extraneous thoughts. We should not let our thoughts roam and we shouldn’t think “too much.” We must cry out very much to Hashem about this—someone who is accustomed to thinking bad thoughts needs to be careful not to give up at all but to cry out to Hashem each time he falls. He must take hold of his thoughts at all times and return them from the depths of the evil inclination to the purity and simplicity of the true Tzaddik.

Someone asked Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, what he can do to help weed out troubling thoughts. After all, one is not really in control of his thoughts, is he? The Rav told him to return early that night. When the inquirer approached the house he could hear the large family being put to bed. He knocked on the door but no one answered. Assuming that he had not been heard, he knocked again. There was no response. He spent the next ten minutes knocking until he finally left. When he next saw the Rav, he asked about this peculiar occurrence.

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld explained, “I am the baal habayis. If I want you to enter, you enter. If not, you don’t. You are the baal habayis of your head. Leave the negative thoughts outside!”

courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov

 

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