Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Posts tagged ‘Mishivas Nefesh’

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.

 

“Azamra”

When a person begins to look at himself and sees how far he is from being good, and how he is full of sin, he’s liable to fall as a result. He won’t be able to pray afterwards at all.

He is therefore obligated to search, seek, and find within himself, some good. How is it possible that he never did any Mitzvah in his life, or any good thing? And even if when he starts to look at that good which he found, and he sees that that good itself is in bad shape, not having been done correctly and mixed with selfish motivations, it’s still impossible that there won’t be some small good point, a Nekudah Tovah, somewhere in that little bit of good.

And so he must also continue to look and seek until he finds within himself another good thing. And even if this good is also mixed with a lot of garbage, still, there is some good point in it. And so he must continue to search and seek, until he finds more good points.

Through finding within oneself good points, one stops being judged negatively and begins to be judged favorably. He can then do Teshuvah, revive himself and achieve happiness, whatever his situation may be. He can then pray, sing, and thank Hashem.

Meshivas Nefesh #26, based on Likutei Moharan 282

“Azamra”

In this passage we come across one of the foundations of Hischazkus, which Reb Nosson discusses a great deal. Many people have merited beginning life anew in light of this wondrous idea which is referred to as “Azamra”- I will sing, from the verse, “I will sing to my G-d with what I have left.” אזמרה לאלקי בעודי,  – To sing to Hashem with the עודי – the little bit within me that is still good.

Many people wonder about why we should search for good points in the good things that we’ve done. Doesn’t the Rebbe provide many ways for a person to encourage himself without concentrating on what he’s done? On the contrary, it would seem better to look beyond actions, and to realize the pride which Hashem takes just from someone being a Jew, or for someone to begin anew and put the past out of his mind, or to focus only on the ultimate purpose, etc. And why must we probe our actions?

Also, shouldn’t we be concerned that by only seeing the good we might come to whitewash evil?

The truth is, however, that in this awesome piece of advice the Rebbe descends to the people entrapped in darkness, to reveal for them a path how ‘there’ (in the darkness) to find points of light.

The reality is that people fall under a powerful delusion, that because of their actions and poor character, they have an inner feeling of remoteness and lack of relationship with Hashem. People get so used to living with this feeling that even when it doesn’t cause them sadness, their souls lay asleep. Proof of this is that they don’t feel any enjoyment from a Mitzvah or Avodah, and they can’t sing to Hashem in their prayer.

“Dwelling of the Shechinah”

We must realize that any such feelings of distance, is of utmost gravity. These feelings cause the Shechinah not to dwell between us. The main dwelling of the Shechinah is in a person’s mind when he illuminates himself with thoughts of the intimacy he has with Hashem. When a person views himself as distant as a result of his deeds and habits which aren’t good, he separates himself from the Shechinah.

It is therefore necessary to descend to seemingly distant places, and to cause the Shechinah to dwell ‘there’, through a person discovering how through his own free will, he has already merited to bring down the Shechinah. He undoubtedly has a Nekudah Tovah which he accomplished one time, and when he reminds himself about it, and revives himself with faith that this Mitzvah is very dear in Hashem’s eyes, he thereby brings the Shechinah down.  With this thought he performs the first paragraph in the Shulchan Aruch – to always place Hashem before us.

“To Judge Others Favorably”

From where does a person draw the energy at times of sadness to encourage himself with the little bit of good which he has?

The Rebbe prefaces ‘Azamra’ by teaching us that we must judge ‘others’ favorably. For example, when entering a Shul, look at all the congregants, and try to find in them any positive trait, in a way that you will start realizing how Hashem rests upon this Jew who merits laying Tefillin, and on that Jew who is crowned with a beard and payos, and so on. Eventually, you will start to think, “I’m not different from them and I certainly also have some good through which Hashem rests upon me.”

The story is told that once Reb Nosson asked R’ Meir of Teplik about somebody from Teplik, and he answered him indifferently, as if he’s no one to talk about. Reb Nosson told him, “If you will regard people in such a way, then the entire world could be found blameworthy. Try and look at everyone who lives in your town. Start from the first house, and you’ll for sure find fault in them. Go on from house to house, until you reach your own. Are you the most upright person in the town?”

Reb Meir answered, “I’m also not a good person.”

Reb Nosson then told him, “You’re also not a good person? Who is, then? When you will look at everyone and find some good in them, then you will be able to find good in yourself also.”

“To Separate the Good from the Bad”

Of course, the intention isn’t to judge everyone favorably and thereby “kasher” wrong actions. On the contrary, a person is obligated to be able to differentiate and know the difference between good and evil, and from what sort of behavior to keep away from.

For this, ‘judgment’ is necessary, but the judgment must be ‘favorable’ – meaning, to be careful to allow the Shechinah to continue to dwell here. In other words, we must make a distinction between the good and the bad, but to bring down the Shechinah through knowing that every Jew has a Nekudah Tovah and a Mitzvah which he did with his own free will, including himself.

When a person thinks constantly in such a way, he will awaken from his sleep, from his feelings of distance and lack of relationship with Hashem, and he will then be able to open himself up to sing and thank Hashem.

The Battle Itself Strengthens the Heart

“A person’s strength lies in his heart. Somebody with a strong heart is not afraid of anyone or anything. He is capable of accomplishing powerful and awesome things, and winning difficult battles. This is all through his strength and courage, by which he fearlessly runs into heavy battles. The same pertains with regard to serving Hashem. This is a concept which we must understand very well.” Meshivas Nefesh par. 24, based on Likutei Moharan 249

The Battle Itself Strengthens the Heart

A very important idea is revealed in this lecture. The most important factor with which to be successful in battles doesn’t lie in physical strength, but rather in boldness of heart. The most important thing in serving Hashem is that a person should have the strength of heart and a holy courage with which to be victorious in battle against the yetzer, to stand up to the material desires pulling at his heart, and to involve himself in Torah and Avodah.

With this in mind, we can understand why even after studying and hearing the ways of Hischazkus and Hisorerus, spiritual encouragement and inspiration, people remain unable to uplift and encourage themselves. This is an issue which troubles many people in the beginning of their path to find encouragement, and this paragraph supplies the answer: the main encouragement and strength lies in the heart. All the ways of Hischazkus come into realization only when a person strengthens his own heart to be brave and strong in order to listen and be inspired.

But how does a person embolden his heart, and fill himself with battle spirit? The answer is found in light of the Chazal which the Rebbe mentions in the aforementioned lesson in Likutei Moharan. “Who is strong? One who conquers his will.” This means that strength of heart is found by someone who has succeeded in conquering his desire, which in turn gives him the morale and the strength to continue further.

We can thus understand that even when someone hasn’t yet merited waging a successful and winning battle, by starting to fight no matter what, he can still start being a victor from this moment on. Just being involved in the battle and being prepared to fight, in itself renews a person’s strength and gives him the bravery to go on fighting. It becomes a vicious cycle – The victory at war comes about through his bravery, which in itself comes about through being prepared to enter into battle.

It is therefore crucial to strengthen the heart. Because, through giving up the battle, and not being strong in trying to vanquish his yetzer, a person’s morale and his desire to move forward is weakened. A weakness and emotional pain then creeps into his heart, since it is not fighting, that causes the heart to be weakened.

Then, not only is he not winning, but he is also losing all his energy and willpower, until his morale becomes weaker and weaker until he starts feeling that he doesn’t even have the strength to fight. It seems to him that he doesn’t have the ability to start moving even the smallest obstacles. With time, he begins to forget that there’s even a war and that he has something to conquer. Even when he is inspired by a spark of will to fight, he immediately reminds himself that he doesn’t have the strength to do anything. It therefore becomes vital, to find a solution to build up the heart with a new spirit.

The story is told of R’ Yudel, who asked the Rebbe how does one obtain a heart? The Rebbe answered him, “You tell me, by which Tzaddik have you been able to obtain enthusiasm? The main thing is to recite the words of prayer, with your mouth. Keep reciting and the feeling will come by itself.”

The main thing is to start actually fighting no matter what, without hesitation. This fills the heart with a battle spirit. Thus, he will be able to truly enter into battle. The most important thing is strength of heart, and a valiant boldness, with the conviction that he surely has the ability to be victorious.

The Main Strength of Heart we Receive from Tzaddikim

We must know that even someone whose heart is totally weak, to the degree that he can’t do anything because of his lack of courage, can also receive from the Tzaddikim a new and joyous heart. A new spirit can blow within him that he should be able to be victorious and actually achieve what Hashem wants from him.

Although the most important thing is to actually fight the battles in order to strengthen morale, how does one get the strength to start? For this we need to become close to Tzaddikim and to study their teachings, which fill the heart with such potent encouragement with which to see the abilities that every Jew has to win every war, through his extraordinary soul, and how he has already merited grabbing so many good points, and has already been victorious in so many battles.

The more a person gets involved in studying Hischazkus, the more he fortifies his heart not to be weak and cowardly, but to be brave hearted, strong and mighty in his service of Hashem. And so, he will be able to uplift himself and strengthen himself to stand and fight no matter what.

The main thing is to push away any thoughts of lack of strength and ability, to just think how he is certainly capable, and to keep on trying – to not look back on the lack of success, and keep on doing whatever you can. Recite prayers and beg Hashem to come close to Him, even if you don’t feel anything. Try overcoming your trials even without any feeling. From this you will have the strength to be a fitting warrior, brave and valiant in the service of Hashem, with nothing capable of holding you back.

We must remember this in every detail, every day, every prayer, and every trial.  We must request from Hashem that we be properly inspired from these words, because everything is dependent upon understanding the importance of strengthening the heart with morale to keep on fighting. All heroes and all truly successful people achieved what they did without any physical strength at all. Their entire strength was in their heart.

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