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.