Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Posts tagged ‘Likutei Halachos’

Preparing for Purim – Part II

Question:

Purim is coming up, a day of which the Zohar teaches is holier even than Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is only ‘like’ Purim, Ki-Purim. But I ask myself, how do I fit into this holiness?

Answer:

The Rebbe reveals in Likutei Moharan II 74, “Now, all beginnings are from Purim.” For this reason the holiday of Purim takes up such an important position in the internal Avodah of Breslover Chassidim.  No matter if the whole year has passed in such a way that today we don’t feel any connection with Purim, still, on Purim there’s a special opportunity to catch a glimpse of what’s going on inside the holiness and to enter inside. We have witnessed many people who became close to holiness through seeing the wonderful light which shines by Breslover Chassidim on Purim.

Tzaddikim would say about the Halachah, “Whoever stretches out his hand [for charity on Purim,] is given.”  That on this day Hashem sends down immense spiritual gifts for every individual without looking to see if they deserve it or not.  On Purim, prayer is elevated to the level of “a home” (see Likutei Moharan I 10), to be a perfect prayer through which anything can be accomplished, especially the main, eternal victory which we are all so much hoping for- to merit closeness to Hashem, to attach ourselves with Him.

The Ariza”l revealed that there is no revelation of holiness throughout the year as much as there is on Purim, not on any Shabbos or other holiday. On Purim the highest level of spiritual light, the revelation of the Tzaddik’s great light comes down into our material world.  Certainly, whoever is connected to the Tree of Life, and the whole year awaits and longs to come close to Hashem, will use this awesome day to its fullest. This day is the opening, the beginning.

Question:

I want to understand why we need to fast on Taanis Esther if it’s only in commemoration of the miracle?

Answer:

It is understood from Likutei Halachos as well as other holy books that a great part of Purim’s light depends on Taanis Esther.  Now is the main war with Amalek and Haman.

We have to realize that the battle with Amalek is the beginning of the war with the Yetzer Hara. Amalek is not just another materialistic desire or spiritual trial. Amalek wants to uproot the point of holiness within every Jew’s heart.  He will then be more dead than alive, without any desire to serve Hashem. The way he worked is by throwing us down in the issue of the desire for food by Achashverosh’s feast. Through unholy eating a person’s heart cools off and he loses all of his good desires, as the Rebbe teaches in many places

Therefore, on Taanis Esther, which is a day of battle, there is special divine assistance to be victorious through the following two ways:

First of all, through not eating, and strengthening one’s longing and desire for Hashem, that his entire internal wish is only to be attached to Hashem and do His will, and he doesn’t want to be drawn after food. Through this he can rectify all that he’s blemished through his desire for food, which is the aspect of Achashverosh’s feast (Likutei Halachos Purim 2).

Secondly, through prayer and calling out to Hashem with all your heart.  Taanis Esther was established in order that we remember that Hashem sees and hears every person at his time of pain.  Therefore, now is the time to uproot Amalek which is trying to sow doubt in our hearts as if Hashem isn’t listening to our prayers. We have to wake ourselves up with fresh enthusiasm to set aside time every day to speak to Hashem and to tell Him all the difficulties which we have in Avodas Hashem, to say a lot of Tehillim and Likutei Teffilos, with a strong faith that Hashem is certainly listening to every word and that no Tefillah goes to waste. This is the great joy of Purim which is in the revelation of the fact that Hashem listens to all of our prayers. (Likutei Halachos 4)

Question:

What is the Avodah of the night of Purim?

Answer:

1] Maariv and the reading of the Megillah:

You should know that from the moment that Maariv starts, the awesome and wonderful light of Purim begins to shine in the world. This is a light which can give everyone a taste of the pleasantness of Hashem’s light.  It is therefore appropriate to put extra effort into concentrating during Maariv and to think about the wonderful kindness of Hashem.  You will thereby prepare yourself for the first Mitzvah of Purim – the reading of the Megillah.

The Ariza”l says that Megillah comes from the root of “giluy” – “to reveal”. Meaning that through it there is a revelation of such an understanding that brings awe of Hashem into our hearts with a wonderful perfectness. This light is now shining down below in places where it is not revealed throughout the year. We therefore spread the Megillah out like a letter. This is the miracle of Purim which renews itself every year.

Pay attention to the story of the Megillah as it’s being read. The story has the ability to wake us up from our sleep (Likutei Halachos Purim 1). Try standing by the Megillah as if by Matan Torah, with awe and trepidation (Likutei Halachos Bechor Behema Tehora).

When we read the Megillah, and publicize the miracle which was done through Mordechai and Esther who acted with great wisdom and holiness, we show and shine their ‘faces’ from within the Megillah, and it is as if we see them and look at their faces (Tefillin 6, Otzar HaYirah Purim 5).

2] Chatzos:

If the whole year the time of Chatzos is a special time, of course on Purim it’s even greater. The main Avodas is to wake up properly, to strengthen yourself with faith that Hashem is taking pleasure now with the souls of Klal Yisroel and is sending down limitless spiritual bounty. Try connecting with it through prayer.

Even if it seems as if you are distant from all this, know and remember that now is a time that you can go before the King even improperly, and to put yourself into davening with Mesirus Nefesh: whatever will happen, I will try no matter what.  Strengthen your belief that Hashem loves you no matter what you are, and the King will put out his scepter…

It is therefore advisable to go to sleep early in order to have the strength to get up in middle of the night or at least before dawn, to speak to Hashem.

The Holy Yeshivah

Meshivas Nefesh 31 – Elucidated

“Bring ruin to the speakers of falsehood. And as for me, in your abundant kindness I will enter your house” (Tehillim 5; 7-8). Our sages taught in the Medrash that “the speakers of falsehood” refers to Doeg, Achitophel and King David’s other opposers, and that with the continuing verse King David was in essence saying: “and I too have done as they did” but nevertheless “In your abundant kindness I will enter your house”. Every person must say the same regarding himself, specifically one who feels the great pain of his sins. He must enliven and strengthen himself greatly with the kindnesses that Hashem has done with him; that he merited to come close to the true Tzaddik and at least does not oppose him, that he has the merit of being included in the holy Yeshiva and holy Beis Medrash of the followers of the true Tzaddik. He should say to himself: “I too have done the same as the opposers, and nevertheless in the great mercy that You have bestowed upon me, ‘I will enter your house’” – this Beis Medrash, which is my hope for eternity.

For the truth is that in every generation there is a Beis Bedrash of students with a true teacher where they involve themselves with true Torah novelties which can bring close to Hashem all the distant souls that are very difficult to grasp and bring close to holiness. There are those who have even fallen to the depths of hell and the lowest pits because of their sins and filthy thoughts, especially sexual lust which is the main aspect of the evil inclination, as the Zohar teaches. There is an evil inclination that is truly vile, disgusting and exceedingly filthy, and whoever it comes in contact with, G-d forbid, has great difficulty escaping from it. It is very detestable and it chases after one who wishes to trap it, attacking him at every moment. This is the “evil encounter” which we pray every day to be saved from.

About this our sages said: “If this vile one encounters you, drag him to the Beis Medrash” (Kiddushin 15a), for this is the main rectification, to draw one’s thoughts into the holy Beis Medrash mentioned above. Through this itself; through reminding oneself that he is included in this group, “if [the evil inclination] is [as hard as] a stone, it will be melted”. For from this Beis Medrash emerges a holy and pure spring that can purify all the exceedingly fallen souls, through the deep and holy advice that flow from it. It can raise them from the depths and return them to Hashem.

Therefore, one who merits being included in this holy Beis Medrash, must strengthen himself tremendously. He must believe and know that every good point and every tiny holy arousal to break away from the evil thoughts and to draw himself to holiness; all that he struggles to the best of his  ability to do some good, even though he has many falls amidst this, even if it has been so thousands of times – nevertheless, not a single good point is ever lost. This is because the true Tzaddik, who is the Rosh Yeshiva, uplifts and gathers everything into the building of holiness and builds wondrous structures with them. He does this specifically by uplifting the aspect of ‘arousal from below’ from the lowliest places, for this is the main rectification of all the worlds which are dependant upon the arousal from below of man, specifically because he possesses free-will. The lower the place is, the more precious and dear is the holy arousal that arise from there; through this the true Tzaddikim build the aspect of the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash in each generation. Eventually, through this, the last and eternal Beis Hamikdash will truly be built.

A man walks through the forest on a chilly winter night, raindrops beat upon the ground and the icy wind blows with cruelty upon his face. He is alone, amidst a seemingly endless muddy and dark swamp.  The only thing in his mind – the yearning for a warm cozy house and a bowl of hot soup to warm his bones….

According to what a person goes through in this world, it is impossible to describe just how much one needs to  strengthen himself in order to learn torah, to pray, and to stand up to all the difficult challenges. The soul screams out for a warm and sheltered house, a place to be refreshed, where it can find help, advice and salvation. Indeed, for this reason Yeshivas are established for the young, to serve as an Ark of Noach by providing protection from the flood of atheism and confusion that wash away all who stand in its path. But what should he whose time has come to leave the Yeshiva do? Who will come to his aid, to save him from all that he will endure in the future? If even in the Yeshiva itself one needs so much heavenly help to serve Hashem truly and to guard ones thoughts, what will be outside the shelter of its walls?

Does such a thing truly exist, a ‘Yeshiva’ that accompanies a person throughout his entire life, that gives him the ability to endure the ups and downs, that provides a feeling of warmth and that offers guidance for every situation.

Indeed it does, Reb Nosson teaches us above. This is the reason why drawing near to the Tzaddik is the foundation of Chassidus. On the one hand they reveal to us how to serve Hashem with truth and pure intention, to merit to love and fear of Hashem and to proceed gradually from level to level in D’veikus with The Creator. On the other hand, they provide us with shelter, warming our hearts in times of difficulty and reminding us that we belong to Hashem and can always bring Him joy. They instill us with the knowledge that through the power of the ‘Rosh Yeshiva’, every drop of good is gathered and raised into holiness.

Guidance is always available; there is not a moment without closeness to Hashem. Sometimes this closeness is achieved through exertion in Torah and tefillah, tasting the sweetness of every word, and sometimes it is through encouraging ourselves and rejoicing in our good points.

About this we should burst forth in praise and say “And I, in Your abundant kindness, will enter Your house” – I, however I may be, even if my actions seem exactly like those who oppose holiness, G-d forbid, nevertheless I have merited “In Your abundant Kindness” to be included in the building of holiness and to have a share in the rectification of the world.

 

HOWTO: Learning Likutei Halachos

Question:

In honor of Reb Noson’s yahrtzeit (10 Teves), I would like to make a new start in studying Likutei Halachos. But what can I do that I can’t get myself to connect with it?

Answer:

Reb Noson once said that his work, Likutei Halachos, is Gan Eden itself.

If Likutei Halachos is “Gan Eden”, then anything said to convince someone to study it would seemingly be unnecessary. Does a person need to be convinced to go into Gan Eden? Anybody who could would just roll up his sleeves and push himself in.

What’s preventing us is that we have many feelings causing us to imagine that it’s not Gan Eden. We feel as If we don’t understand Likutei Halachos, or we are not seeing the benefit of learning it, along with many other feelings which keep us away from studying this holy Sefer. If we see that our overall Torah study is not so strong, all the more so do the difficulties becomes more intense in relation to setting aside time to learn the holy Likutei Halachos. There is a war at stake over here, the battle over our very souls. Our heavenly antagonists are not as concerned with our health and livelihood as much as not letting us bring into our minds and hearts the teachings of Reb Noson, through which we can already taste Gan Eden in our lifetime.

Of course, each of us has certainly seen pieces here and there in Likutei Halachos which seemed simpler to understand, which we found inspiring. But this is not always what we find. Many times we can read several pages and have no idea what he is trying to say. Sometimes we understand the encouragement which he is saying, but we don’t find a way how to truly bring these ideas into our hearts in order to cause a practical change in our lives. Very quickly we can come to the conclusion that perhaps this is not for me.

The solution for all of this is to be diligent in studying Likutei Halachos every day, page after page, until one starts to grasp a little of the light which is hidden in his words.

It is just like in studying Gemara. In the 5th grade we started ‘Elu Metziyos’, and afterwards we went to ‘HaKones’ and to other chapters in Bava Kama. Only when we were older and went to Yeshiva did we go back to ‘Elu Metziyos’, and we then saw in it totally new things which we hadn’t begun to understand in 5th grade. But it’s clear that the understanding which we have when we are in Yeshiva is only as a result of what we started in the 5th grade.

We have to start setting aside time to learn Likutei Halachos. In the beginning we don’t understand, but certainly every few pages we will find some encouragement or inspiration for something. When we will persist to keep on studying, each time we learn we will start understanding more and more. We don’t always feel it immediately, but just like by Gemara, the way to start understanding is to study again and again, until with time we begin to grasp the path.

We just have to break through in the beginning, to get to know the Sefer. That’s why it’s wise to study with a constant fixed schedule. But even if you miss a day or two, start again, again and again, and don’t be worried. The Sefer always belongs to each one of us, and we just have to open it and to study from it.

Another point we should mention is that someone who wants to enter into a deeper understanding of Likutei Halachos should take one Halachah and learn it slowly, without any rush to finish. Learn it piece by piece, and try to attach the ideas together, until you know one Halachah well. You will then begin to see how each word of Likutei Halachos is a diamond, and not a single word is superfluous.

Reb Noson writes in his introduction to Likutei Halachos, “This is something which the youth must know very well, and their teachers and Rabbis are obligated to teach them, that they should not be nervous or scared of a long Dvar Torah. They should put themselves into learning it from the beginning, in order, little by little. They should tie one idea together until they understand it a little, and afterwards they can go further, step by step, from idea to idea, from subject to subject, until they finish a page. They can then continue, in order, from one idea to another, without anxiety or confusion. Thus, they can understand even a very long Drush, even if they are not very intelligent.”

But we should mention a piece of advice for those attempting this, which is that since every Drush in Likutei Halachos is based on a Torah in Likutei Moharan, if possible, it would be worth looking into that Torah. At the same time, it’s not good to get held up if you don’t understand something. This is the reason why many people stop learning Likutei Halachos. You can also understand a lot even if you didn’t first learn the Torah.

Of course, it is recommended that anyone who can should find a study partner, someone who already has a feeling for Likutei Halachos.  If you can’t find someone to learn with, you should at least not be embarrassed to find someone to ask questions and with whom to clarify things.  It is also good to hear lessons and to work out ideas from Likutei Halachos with friends. (Not in the form of arguments and debates, but rather practical ideas how to withstand tests and how to renew our enthusiasm for Avodas Hashem).

With time, you will learn new concepts, and your connection to the Sefer will be strengthened. And you will understand a little what the taste of Gan Eden is and you will begin to grasp that a well of pure water is flowing underneath us, and we just have to take a cup and drink.

There are two paths before us: 1) To break the distance which many people feel from Likutei Halachos by setting time aside to study it, day after day, page after page. Jump into it, and with time you will see how your understanding grows. 2) To take one Halachah and to learn it slowly and with reflection.

It is known that the main way in which Reb Noson became close to the Rebbe was in merit of the Shabbos nights, when after he partook in the Rebbe’s tish he was inspired with great longing for Hashem. We can also have a taste of the Rebbe’s tish through our studying Likutei Halachos, which will awaken within us a yearning for Hashem. We can then tell Hashem of our longing, and to sing to Him and praise Him. Especially with the radiance of the Holy Shabbos which has the power to give us understanding and feeling in what is said in Likutei Halachos, and to spend an hour or two Shabbos night studying this holy Sefer.

The time before dawn is also an opportune time for studying Likutei Halachos – to get up before davening and to learn for half an hour.  The davening afterwards will be entirely different.

Remember – The main way to come close to the Tzaddik is through learning his Torah. Let us be strong to make a fresh start to taste from this Gan Eden.

 

 

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