Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for the ‘Rav Nissan Dovid Kivak’ Category

The Key to Kedusha

We’ve just landed from the heights of “the ultimate knowledge is not knowing’ of the holy Megila with its astonishing miracle and the beaming kedusha of Mordechai and Esther.  Only yesterday we were flying beyond creation … and then the wine and whiskey faded.  We may have even forgotten that in the beginning of this week we were at such exalted place.

But something profound happened to us on Purim.  We touched a totally pristine truth.  For a few hours, we returned to a sweet innocence and touched the inner core of totally clean emunah.  If it wasn’t that time was passing and errands were beckoning, who in his right mind would want to leave such a holy world and return to the grayness of this everyday life?

We all wish to touch that longing and purity.  No one wants to return to the numbness that envelopes the heart.  No one in his right mind wants to plunge into the indifference and fatigue of the weekday all over again.  On Purim we tasted purity, spirit, and deliverance from the yokes of doubts.  We had a respite from a world of temptations and lusts.  We got a timeout from nagging fantasies.  We don’t want to leave that place.

But where can one find ropes that will keep our hearts and minds tied to the kedusha of Purim?  How can we remain connected to the peak of freedom while we wallow in the mud of incoherence and malice?

When the mind is clean, the holy thoughts can maintain the memory of the holy days and continue the connection even as the days propel us forward.  A spirit of defilement builds an iron curtain that creates fantasies that sever the cord of memory to the kedusha.  This is what brings us to numbness and oblivion.

A secret called “Parah”

During the time of Beis Hamikdash we had a way to extricate ourselves from defilement by using the mysterious ashes of a red heifer.  After being purified the soul shed the dense screen of blindness and apathy and was filled with a new, fresh spirit.  Today, more than at any time in history, we need that ash.  Being that the Torah is eternal, that miracle cure must be found in some fashion today as well.  Undoubtedly, Purim is the key.

In lesson 74 Rebbe Nachman explains that the spiritual road to Pesach emerges out of Purim. מפורים נעשה פרה  – “Purim becomes ‘Parah’ (heifer)”.  Heifer is the quintessential symbol of purification and it begins with Purim.

The Mitzvah of the red heifer is still a totally unfathomable mystery.  Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of men, said: “I thought I have become wise (i.e. I will understand the secret of the red heifer) but it remains far from me.”   Spiritually, this is where the miraculous potency of the ashes of the red heifer lies.  It is to be found where the human intellect, with its multitude of questions and swirling doubts, cannot reach.

When the human mind encounters a question it cannot solve, it gets stuck and becomes clouded up.  This is the main reason for lethargic prayers.  You see, the world is filled with unanswerable questions and riddles.  It is not possible to comprehend the ways of the Divine.  So, sometimes we are filled with a subtle (or not so subtle) suspicion that ‘something isn’t right’ about the way Hashem runs the world.  When such thoughts enter the heart, we feel insulted, wondering: “Hey, why don’t things go my way?”   Everything seems to be going wrong just to spite me!  A heavy distrust creeps into the heart that things are somehow smoother and easier for people who are far from the service of Hashem.

The result is a clogged heart, which makes prayer so very hard.  In lesson 55 Rebbe Nachman talks about the heart being twisted, which blurs emunah and prayer.  A warm prayer can only come from a heart that is straight and simple.  The apex of emunah is the clear knowledge that Hashem is absolutely just.

The cure for the spirit of defilement is the ashes of the red heifer.  Purity can be found only in the lap of the unknowable. When you don’t insist on understanding, you do not fear questions.

Renewed With the World

The days of spring are fast approaching.  A person who seeks Hashem wishes to go to the field and renew himself among the plants and trees with fresh prayer and song.   A prayer invites the soul to renew itself to be set free from the jail of materialism and the madness of the flesh.  The heart calls for Hisbodedus … unfortunately, reality doesn’t always agree…

Renewing prayer suddenly becomes a battle.  Disturbing foreign thoughts squeeze the energy out of you to the point of exhaustion.  Humiliation and pain flood you from within and from the world around you.  Your prayer is crowded with a thousand thoughts of silliness and insanity that drive you clear out of your mind.   This is where you need the ashes of red heifer –  The secret of not asking anything and taking it all in your stride.

If our prayer didn’t go the way we wanted it to, trying to understand why it happened will only make it worse and actually drive us away from our goal.  Soon a suspicion permeates the heart after a failed Hisbodedus that things will not improve in the future either.  This results in a loss of many hours you could have spent praying.  The insistence on understanding can be the source of all defilement.  Demanding an explanation for every failure throws an opaque screen before the light.  The foundation of simplicity is that whatever transpired happened for a reason.  Hashem knows what He is doing – move on.  This is the secret of stability and permanence.

Kedusha is predicated on stability and consistency.  Consistent learning and Hisbodedus schedules are the building blocks of your eventual personal sanctity.  To achieve this consistency you need to dismantle the roadblocks that bar your way – and the greatest one of them all is the insistence on understanding the reason for failures and difficulties.  Stability and consistency in kedusha means adhering to the correct schedule and regimen even if it seems to go ‘all wrong’.  You add one grain of goodness to another and build an edifice of kedusha.

Clear-headed simplicity is the key.

 

 

What Does One do during a Recess?

Recess is not only a waste of time, but a source of distress.  When excitement dwindles, coldness seeps in …

A deep silence descended on the Yeshiva.  A guest Torah luminary has just finished delivering a deep discourse on a difficult sugya.  The young students sent the Rosh Yeshiva their questions ahead of time, fully expecting their every confusion dispelled.  Yet for an hour they have been sitting there, listening, yet were unable to understand the revered guest’s logic.

Following the lecture the students tried looking for the Torah great and asked him to make things more clear, but he was gone.  Disappointed, the students returned to their books.  If the teacher was gone, his words were imprinted in their memory still.  The students sat together in small study groups, pondering and analyzing the words they heard.  Ever so slowly, the words were coming together.  Suddenly the connections the distinguished guest made became clear and before they knew it, the entire issue was illuminated, shining clear as day.  Before the evening the guest scholar returned.  “At my lecture” he said, “I have given you the basic understanding that was enough to answer all your questions.  But you had no way to understand what I said unless you had time to settle the things in your hearts.  I disappeared to give you that space and give you the chance to understand them on your own”.

♦♦♦

We’ve just entered the month of Adar full with zest and enthusiasm. Last week we heard the parsha of Shekalim, the first of the four Parshiot leading to Purim and Pessach.  During Rosh Chodesh we could practically feel the excitement of the oncoming Holidays while reciting the Halel.  If the first days were so electric, surely the days after would be even better… but they weren’t.  Instead they were quiet and, well, nothing.

Inexplicably, sandwiched between Shekalim and Zachor there is a ‘meaningless’ Shabbos set smack in middle.  A Jew may wonder ‘What now?’  What am I to do with an ’empty’ Shabbos in the midst of the most special times of the year?  What’s more, how do you get ready to the high, exalted upcoming holydays?  How do you affect deliverances?

This interlude is rather deflating.  There’s “too much time to think”, as it were.  Into the vacuum doubts can creep, and enthusiasm can wither on the vine.  And that is exactly where Amalek is lying in wait.

“There is one nation”’ Amalek thunders, “Who are quick to get excited and just as quick to get bored and cool off”.  They just woke up from the rustle of the Shekalim and are back asleep once again.

So why, then, is this intermission here, during such a critical time?

To stop and reflect

The answer to “what do we do now?” is “We stop and reflect”.

The break is intended for reflection.  Adar is a month of new beginnings as well as continuity.  It is a month of war against Amalek and his chilling doubts.  This is why a Shabbos that is dedicated to reflection is so important.  We heard Shekalim last week.  Now it is time to stop and take inventory.

When you look closely you notice that Judaism is made of new beginnings.  Surprisingly, one connects to the kedusha with half-baked efforts and not just with perfect accomplishments.  So the only thing left to do is … do.  You grab whatever you can and run with it.

If Amalek wishes to inject us with doubt, then doubt is the last thing we need to deal with now.  When the time comes to doing anything, Amalek comes up with the age-old song of: “Oh, I don’t know what to do”.  Even when it is time to daven Shachris, Amalek still contends that “things aren’t clear” and why should one rush?  After all, there really isn’t anything to do there anyhow.  Amalek also has “questions”: How will you know how to learn?  Or how to Pray? Or how to get ready for Purim or Pesach? Or which Mitzvah takes precedence?  In other words, Amalek concludes, you don’t have a clue how to be a Jew and if there’s anything that needs to be done, it is best pushed off until tomorrow.

The verse warns us about the war against Amalek and his ubiquitous “tomorrow”.  “Go and hold a fight against Amalek tomorrow”.  Do not push off anything until tomorrow because doubts and lack of enthusiasm will enter your heart until then.  Shabbos Shekalim screams: “Don’t let thoughts and doubts hold you up anymore”.  Paralysis is the result of insisting on perfection when happiness is possible only if you are willing to contend with scraps.  Anyone knows to grab good moments – a couple of moments of prayer, a steady shiur, and quickness to utilize an available half an hour for something good.  Amalek wants to rob us of this affluence and our goal is to push off doubts that will paralyze us.

The call of VaYikra is calling out to every Jew to come into the holy of holies and serve Hashem with Torah and Mitzvoth as it is said: “Every day a divine call comes out of the mount Choreb”.

The other way around

The month of Adar is a time of “the other way around”.  This is the month that has turned from lamentations to great joy.  This is the time to conduct a revolution of kedusha.  Breaks are made for continuity and not doubts and coldness.

Breaks and doubts ambush us at every corner, causing hours upon hours of idleness.  “It seems that there is no use to start as there isn’t enough time to finish anything, and nothing is going to change anyhow…”  It is the time to look at things differently.  If there’s no time, then it is time to move ahead and grab whatever we can and fill the temporal with the eternal.  When the people of Israel were called to donate their possessions for the building of the Mishkan they were well before the decree of having to spend forty years in the desert.  As far as they were concerned, they were mere weeks before entering into the land of Israel.  Still, not a single person claimed they should wait for the permanent home of the Shechinah and refrain from building the temporary Mishkan.  This is because they were burning with the holy fire of enthusiasm for the service of Hashem and were quick to grab onto any Mitzvah they could.

The sanctity that appeared upon us in the beginning of the four Parshiod didn’t disappear. The break means to give us some space for reflection.  The time when the light is gone is the best time to reflect on what I got from the light while it was here.  “Dead time” is telling anyone who is willing to hear and search that there is always what to do: it is always possible to do the best for this very minute.

 

 

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.

 

 

Two Sides of the Coin

The defeat was humiliating and the conduct of the army was giving off the scent of stinging shame.  The embarrassment of the head of the army and the king was overwhelming.  The shocked soldiers returned to their land in total disgrace.  The feelings of pride and self-worth of old were replaced with guilt and weakness.

But the upcoming battle demands a far greater power and determination.  Down trodden, the armies will be stepping into unavoidable defeat all over again.  The troops must be inspired with bravery and self-confidence.  People must regain the admiration for their monarch who epitomizes their self-identity and self-worth.  So, to return the élan to his people, the king himself must come down and dwell among his nation in a most unusual and startling manner.  During the following days the royal image of the king could be seen walking the camp, beaming benevolently.  Low foot soldiers got to meet their exalted monarch face to face and be personally acknowledged by him.

This extraordinary gesture returned the spirit to the armies.  Emboldened, they return to battle, united by feelings of shared destiny and unity.

♦♦♦

Smells of a new beginning start to permeate the air; Passover is on the horizon.  The first moment of the new year, a Rosh Hashanah all its own.  Pessach is a beginning, and like any beginning it has a segue leading to it: the four special Shabbossim that precede the ultimate holiday of freedom and liberty.

This week we will read the first parsha of the four, parshas Shekalim.  Next we’ll go through the parshios of Zachor, Para and Chodesh.  These four parshios aren’t mere additions to the weekly portion, they constitute gateways through which every Jew can enter the sanctity of Passover.  They open the way to freedom and success – if you know how to use them.

“These are the commandments of the Mishkan of testimony”.  Rashi explains: “[For it is a] testimony that Hashem forgave the sin of the golden calf.”  The Mishkan is the royal smile, a monarchial declaration of love.  Immediately after we committed the most atrocious sin imaginable, Hashem agrees to be mollified and declares before the entire world that His love for His people has not waned. The proof positive that Hashem has not left His people is that He orders them to build Him a home so He can reside among them.

The Mitzvah of half a shekel invites every Jew to take real part in the divine inspiration of the Jewish people.  Everyone is requested to become a partner in the holy service of Hashem.

Two Sides of the Coin

As we stand on the cusp of new beginning, a thought of the golden calf sneaks in.  Suddenly the heart is divided. On one hand, the intimacy of the Mishkan is inviting us to come forth and become a part of the Divine Presence.  The heart wishes to badly to see the smiling face of the King and receive his absolution.  On the other hand, another thought enters the heart.  Maybe it is time to stop and reckon with the unpardonable sin we just committed.  It’s not as if it didn’t happen.  Maybe it is time to figure out where we are and reconcile with what we have done.  Time to rectify the wrong.  This is how doubt captures the soul on the precipice of new beginnings:  Should it be “Azamra” – or judgment?  Should I rejoice in what I have or be judged on what is still missing?

There are two sides to the coin of the half-shekel.  One side evokes the petition for mercy for a transgression for the ages.  It invites us to forget the bad and see ourselves as part of the Shechina.  It is the King coming down, inviting us and acknowledging even the simplest Jew, encouraging us to become a part of eternity for the small deed of a half a shekel.

But the half shekel also denotes “mishkal” – weigh.  It is a call for the bringing up of the deeds and weighing them precisely.  It is the need to evaluate and judge that which needs to be fixed.  A Jew must judge his ways in relation to the Torah and correct all that needs correction.  Both are needed.

The question, of course, is where to begin.

Azamra – the gate to success

Hischazkus – strengething – and judgment are both crucial, but the first step to success can be accomplished only through the gate opened for us in parshas Shekalim.  Parshas Shekalim proclaims “Azamra”.  Just when the memory of the golden calf is chasing us from behind, we must immediately find a connection to the dwelling place of Hashem.  The Mitzvah of half a shekel calls every Jew to become a part of the Temple of Hashem.  This is not time for judgment and the establishment of self-righteous inquiry panels.  Now the light of the divine presence shines in the world.  It consoles tired souls and lays the groundwork for the new Kingdom.

“Azamra” is a search for the points of goodness in a landscape that seems to be devoid of anything positive.  When there is a need to rectify a failure as great as the sin of the golden calf, the way to begin is half a shekel.  Rejoicing in נקודות טובות  and finding happiness in what there is.

If you make the first steps in through the gateway of Azamra, you will find the doorway to partshas Zachor where the war against Amalek can be fought successfully.  Victory is possible if Azamra prepares the ground first.  The fight against the coldness of Amalek, to dispel the winds of heresy and shake laziness and lethargy off the heart, must start off with the song that is made up of the good points.

And when you enter in through the gates of Azamra and Zachor, you find the spirit of purity of Para and are ready to face Shabbat Hagadol.

You’re marching towards a world of freedom and success.

 

 

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 …

 

 

Can We Dream Of Miracles?

There are times when a popular rebellion that threatens to take down an entire kingdom starts by external forces.  A band of infiltrators settles down and, over time, undermines the stability of the country.  They inject silent venom of mutiny and bitterness that easily sways the people’s emotions.  Their toxic speech wreck a delicate structure of trust and admiration.  At those times, the dispute between the people and the leaders isn’t the real problem at the heart of the nation; rather, it is a foreign affliction, virulent and deadly as cancer, that needs to be removed.  The way to return the trust and rebuild the relationships is to separate the people from the foreign influence and unite them around a kernel of true trust and appreciation of the sublime honor of the kingdom.

♦♦♦

Last week the Torah told us just of such an event.  The people of Israel, the crown of creation, the beloved children of Hashem, pure souls for whom the entire universe and beyond was created – fall, in one instant, from utter perfection to the depth of unimaginable sacrilege.

But the horrendous transgression wasn’t the deed of the Jewish souls.  The devastating breakdown of trust and faith was the deed of Egyptian infiltrators, the “Erev Rav”.

As long as the Jewish nation was secluded, they basked in the closeness to G-d and the sublime privilege of His unparalleled love for them.  The nature of this intimate relationship cannot be described with words.  The people of Israel were immersed in a divine glow that is beyond description of being picked out of billions of identical people and made incomparably unique.  When one feels that way, the legs lift themselves up all on their own and run to serve Hashem.  When the heart is overflowing with love for Hashem, it pulls the entire body with unbreakable ropes of love.  But somebody really didn’t like that special connection.

The Infiltrators’ Rebellion

There are always those who take a very jaundice view of the special relationship Israel has with Hashem.  During the failing of the golden calf, it was the Erev Rav who introduced the bane of rebelliousness into the hearts of the people of Israel.  They killed the very living spirit that pulsates in the Jewish heart, replacing it with doubt and suspicion.  This is the way of Amalek, he who jumped into the fire to put out the flame of Jewish faith.  Like the Erev Rav, Amalek introduced the notion of עם קל, a rearrangement of the letters of its name עמלק, inferring that Israel is ‘just another nation’, nothing special.  A nation like any other.  From there to downfall, the way is short and easy.

The golden calf wrecked the Jewish heart, yes, yet in parshas VaYakhel the Torah tells us how this damage was rectified.

ויקהל משה – “And Moshe has gathered the congregation of Israel”.  The Holy Zohar explains “The congregation of Israel” – excluding the Erev Rav.  This gathering came to rectify the crime of the golden calf by separating the nation of Israel from the Egyptian lecherous plague.  This is the secret.

The sin of the golden calf is the direct result of intermingling; it’s as simple as that.  This is what Amalek and the Erev Rav are after: the dimming of the divine radiance of our Jewish identity.

Erev Rav, Get Out!

The way to disrobe the heavy, soiled garments of heresy is to hold an exclusive gathering that rejects everything that doesn’t belong in the inner Jewish point.  The Erev Rav ‘gave us’ many things; opinions … emotions … doubt … calling them by fancy names to camouflage the fact they are a rancid fruit of foreign spirit.  The results of that ‘enlightenment’ are the feelings of distance and fatigue that led to the sin of the golden calf, as well as the confusions of emunah people experience today.

If we want to renew our connection to Hashem we must first get rid of that which comes from the outside and gather around the points of goodness, good thoughts and the true wisdom of the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Moshe reveals that even though we’ve sinned, Hashem’s affection is still with us, a love of a Father to His children which we will never be able to imagine.  During this gathering Moshe connected himself to every single Jew, from the greatest to the lowliest.  Even the lowest Jew received the astonishing gift of connecting to Moshe.  This is possible because Tzaddikim see the G-dliness in everything, even when it’s deeply concealed in the very dwelling of defilement itself.  When Moshe looks at the smallest Jew he sees only the Jewish point in him.  This is what enables Moshe to connect himself with everyone.

To Gather So We Can Pray

Purim is right ahead of us.  The story of the Megila eerily reflects the present times we live in.  The people of Israel need mercy and pardon like never before.  We are all stuck deep to our necks in the mud of trouble and difficulties.

We watch over millenniums at the marvels of the Megila and wordlessly wonder if ניסים can happen today as well.  Can we dream of miracles?  The answer is that it is not only possible, but essential.  What we need to do now is gather.

Gathering creates unity and unity brings the essential faith to the heart of the nation.  A Jewish heart must be nourished with emunah.  To pray and achieve deliverance, we have to be glowing with the pride of belonging to the Kingdom of Hashem.  When the people of Israel can cast off the filth that became mixed in with the life of emunah and gather around our points of goodness, emunah, and hope, the gates of prayer will be flung wide open.

VaYakhel renews the living remembrance of the love of a merciful Father.  Getting together and expelling the external influences kindle the Jewish fire in our hearts again.  It is what allows us to know that no matter how low we might have sunk; His love is still with us.  At anytime and anyplace we can get together and evoke new compassion upon us all.

All we have to do, is do it.

 

 

Tag Cloud