Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Posts tagged ‘Para’

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Tag Cloud