Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Posts tagged ‘Exodus’

Really, what do they Expect of Us?

It seems that you take one step forward, and the next step there’s an obstacle.  At a certain point you ask yourself, what is going on here?

Heskel didn’t know what to think anymore.  The day before the shift at the plant where he works was called off suddenly.  This week the entire plant was moved to a new location without as much as an explanation.  The day before an electrical blackout stopped production dead on its tracks.  Yes, workers are extremely resourceful, but production is still way down.  When Heskel first got the job he thought it was a dream come true.  Now he thinks of quitting.  According to his math, the plant is about to close.

Surprisingly, the work manager didn’t seem perturbed at all by Heskel’s doomsday calculations.  He revealed to his astonished worker that the plant is no regular factory at all.  It is a plant designed to train special production methods for times of emergency.  High management is looking for adaptability and the aptitude to improvise under pressure.  They don’t really care about production and quotas.  They are look for the ability to cope with adversity, ingenuity and plain old durability under difficulty.

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Who can toil with no aim in sight? Who is mentally strong enough to work with no goal, future, or prospects in sight?  That is exactly the kind of work the Israelites in Egypt were facing.  The architects of Pitom and Ramses had no building aspirations whatsoever.  Their only goal was to enslave the people of Israel, drain their energy, and sap their faith.

At exodus Hashem said “they are my slaves”.  The story of working for nothing is over forever.  Kabolas HaTorah took us into a whole new ‘factory’ – work of the most sublime rhyme and reason of them all.  It is work in the palace of the king, where every single effort in thought, speech, and deed for the sake of the King has an eternal, inestimable value.  Together with shedding slavery, we also received a calendar.  Unfortunately, the Jewish calendar revolves around the moon.

For 210 years we waited for the redemption and we finally got it.  And when we finally got above the laws of nature, suddenly we are chained to the constant trials of ups and downs.  The moon forever increases and decreases every single month, while the sun is both shiny and stable.  Why were we chained to such an unstable cycle upon getting out of Egypt?

Measure of Success

Success depends so much on a right beginning.  Beginnings are usually flushed with great fanfare and enthusiasm.  A new year … a new season … a new job … they all give you a huge jolt of spirit and hope to start and do great work.  The first steps can focus the mental energy on surging ahead.  Spring is a time for renewal.  Creation wears new clothes.  Liberty permeates the air.  A new volition and ambition flows into creation.  We feel a strong pull towards our Father in Heaven and He, onto us in return.

That is the beginning.  What comes after is … well … different.  We all know that consistent time-keeping is a must.  A Jew must keep a stable, consistent schedule of kedusha.  But some parts of one’s life are simply not under your control.  The urge and yearning you feel for Hashem isn’t constant either.  Sometimes you heart is open like a hall and then, many thousands of times your heart is closed as a fist.  Tzaddikim tell it to us straight off.  This is the way it’s going to be – ups and downs all the way – just like the moon.

Is this a wise policy?  Isn’t there a danger that pre-knowledge of the fickle nature of our trek will diminish and cool down our enthusiasm?

Eyes on the Goal

When you start out, you need to know what the goal is.  If it’s a race, you had better come first.  But the service of Hashem isn’t a race and has a very different goal.  This is why the Tzaddikim tell us straight off-the-bat what we’re heading into.

Man is flesh and blood, infused with a spiritual soul.  The body pulls down while the neshoma yearns for the Heavens.  Since the two are destined to coexist, there is a constant struggle going on.  Rebbe Nachman calls the ‘up’ and ‘down’ forces the forces of ‘pulling and enforcing’.  The pulling force draws the Neshomah up while the enforcing power compels the body down.  The balance between the two forces is the engine behind both creation and creativity.  Rebbe Nosson gives a wonderful example of a watch.

Yesteryears watches were mechanical.  The power that drove the watch’s movement was a spring, a long thin piece of metal tightly wound daily.  The tension stored in the spring was gradually released by the watch’s mechanism over a 24 hour time period.  It is the interrelation between the spring’s forward driving force and the intricate mechanism holding it back that releases the power in a tightly controlled fashion.  That consistent release enables a sustained movement of the watch’s hands and the exact keeping of time.  Without the spring, nothing can happen – without the restraining mechanism that energy would have blown off uselessly.

The goal of the service of Hashem is ביטול – self annulment.  That self-annulment is created by what seems like being torn by the conflicts between our built-in up and down tendencies.  The beauty of the soul pulls the soul with yearning, and the body’s dense materialism holds it back.  The combined resulting struggle creates the immense joy of Heaven.  The success isn’t a race, but coping with the constant struggle against the “enforcer” that hold you back.  Some get a delicate “enforcer” that allows them hours for uninterrupted learning and praying.  Others are giving Heaven immeasurable joy from a pit of tar, struggling under burdens that would break a mule’s back.  Success is the ability to sustain the struggle between the two opposing forces.

This is what we are told when the Torah tells us “This is your first month”.  Now, that you have gone through the gates of emunah in the service of Hashem, you are now the slave of the King of all Kings. The initial enthusiasm isn’t the goal, it’s only a tool.  The goal is to forever reignite a new urge that will subdue another instance of necessary hold-backs.

When you enter the month of Nissan and Pesach with this understanding you grasp that Nissan, like Rosh Hashanah, is a time of renewal.  On Tishrei Hashem’s slaves are sitting in synagogues, wrapped with praying shawls – in Nissan they get down on their knees, scrubbing the physical chometz off – but the principle is the same.

Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the Rosh Hashanah of kings.  Rebbe Nahcman reveals that this is the time when new honor and authority is given to new power holders.  During this day, the soul of each and every one of us is renewed.  Our springs, as it were, are wound.  We fortify our souls with new longings and urge to reach the infinite, and overcome the “enforcing” deflation of Pesach cleaning.  This is when we realize that success isn’t in winning the race, but in being willing to carry the load.

 

 

 

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To Remember and to be Saved

Parshas Bo:

How do you connect to the exodus …what is so important about remembering it … and how does it all connect to what’s happening to us today?

Jewish history is paved with earth-shaking events.  Wars and exiles are entwined with miracles and deliverances.  It will be impossible to count the trials and tribulations that have gone over the eternal nation – but above all the experiences, one event stands out.  It is an episode that we, and the rest of our forefathers’ offspring, are commanded to speak of until the end of time.  We are told to remember it, speak of it, and embellish on its every detail.  In fact, we’re even commanded to relive it as if we were actually there.

“In every generation one must see himself as if he, himself, went out of Egypt”.  The Egyptian exodus was a decisive event in the history of mankind.  During the seminal exodus nature itself was bent, twisted, and just down-right ignored as Hashem smashed the gargantuan walls of the kingdom of defilement.  The exodus of slaves who were transformed into the chosen nation – that is the event every Jew must relive every single day.  And it must be a living, pulsating memory, complete with eating Matzos and Maror, the acquisition of the first born son and other mitzvos.

The mitzvah through which a Jew becomes connected to the exodus on a daily basis is, of course, Teffilin.  The Teffilin scrolls carry the eternal commandment to never forget, and forever actively remind ourselves of, the revelations of Hashem’s total mastery over the mighty nature of this world.  We are to connect our hearts to this remembrance when we put the Teffilin on.  Yet still, it is incredibly difficult for our stony hearts to return to that event in the distant past and relive the experience of salvation anew.

What is especially difficult to understand is what difference that would make in our lives today.  The world seems too different for that exodus to matter while we’re practically drowning in our own current troubles.

There are historians and archeologists who pour over books and evidence, gathering shreds of facts and legend alike.  They can pinpoint important dates with accuracy and seem to be more familiar with the roads of Pharonic Egypt than the welfare of their own families.  Still, they do not visit the past to relive the miraculous redemption.

Once – and forever

Yetziat Mitzraim is forever happening, simmering and bubbling in the very present.  The miracles that took place then have never been equaled.  It was the only time when creation as a whole stood astonished and shocked as it faced a total meltdown of all its preconceived ideas and perception of reality.

For a moment in time all nature’s laws were put on hold or categorically canceled.  The boundaries on substance were proven immaterial.  It is the moment when it became imprinted on the collective memory of mankind that a divine force, G-dly and boundless, oversees every detail in existence and the natural laws apply only – and only as long as He wishes it so.

This was the only time Hashem revealed Himself in such a manner.  And it is to this stunning determining event, that He commanded us to return every single day, in memory and deed.  The mitzvos He gave us as a “Remembrance of the Exodus”, combined with the directive to “See oneself as if he himself came out of Egypt,” brings us back to the time and place where Hashem planted the ability for the spirit to throw off the yokes of matter.

Ancient Egypt still exerts control over the souls of Israel – and has been doing so throughout the ages.  “All the exiles,” says the Medrash, “Are named after Mitzraim (straits) for they all squeeze (metzerim – מצרים) Israel”.  The exodus from Egypt is the lifesaver for the current exile as well.  Understand that miracles aren’t fairytales.  They are a revelation that exposes the inner truth that exists at all times, seen or not.  “As it was during the days you came out of Egypt, I shall show you miracles” – that is the promise that we, the decedents of the Israelites who came out Egypt, hold in our hearts as we travel through the generations.  The remembrance infuses us with life and hope.

Remembrance is connection.  By remembering the exodus at all times, the soul can connect to the innate ability to exit slavery into freedom in whatever it may be that enslaves us today.  This daily remembrance is the duty of every Jew.  It is said, “In every generation every person must see himself as if he, himself came out of Egypt” and Rebbe Nosson explains:

“It isn’t for nothing that Hashem has bestowed such an amazing kindness on us with such astounding miracles, taking us out of Egypt, giving us the Torah and drawing us close to the true Tzaddikim in every generation.  This is a kindness that shall exist for ever because the deeds of Hashem are eternal per definition.  So, too, he does with us momentous miracles by the very fact alone that we can snap up a few mitzvos every day such as Tzitzis, Teffilin and Krias Shma, and prayer.”

Tefillin – the resurrection of remembrance

The main remembrance of the exodus from Mitzraim is, of course, during Passover.  These seven holy days, the Seder, the Matzos, and the rest of the holiday’s mitzvos administer a life-giving elixir to our tired souls.  These remedies are awakened and “re-potentiated”, as it were, every day when we put on the Teffilin.  The eternal faith of “remember the day you came out of Egypt” is branded with fire on the sacred scrolls of the Tefillin.  By simply putting on the phylacteries we draw onto ourselves the holiness of the epic exit from Egypt.  It is that holiness of the ancient redemption that contains all the future redemptions in it.

When we talk of coming out of Egypt and “seeing oneself as if he himself came out of Egypt”, the modern mind tends to become entangled in needless inner debates as to how it should be done.  There is no need for that at all.  The secret of the connection is in simple remembrance.  One must simply remember the redemption and connect his mind to the miraculous deliverance and the fact that this freedom exists forever. Miracles … revelation of heavenly love … transportation on the heavenly wings of eagles … the abolition of nature … and the revelation of providential reality that smashes the boulders of material and terror – they all exist today as well.  When we live the exit from Mitzraim, the material yokes fall off and the shackles of doubt melt.  It is a renewal that inserts us into a world that is complete and total freedom.

We’ve had enough exile and enslavement.  We are spent and exhausted from chasing our daily bread and the confusions of our tormenting lusts.  Whoever redeemed us from Egypt has promised to deliver us again.  He revealed to us that whenever we get back there – just by using our memory – we will exist within the miraculous moment of redemption.  We can awaken the miracles with our Teffilin. All we need to do is renew the meaning and the memory and attach them to that miraculous time to be connected to the emunah that will make us free forever.

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