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(06_30_22) Parshas Korach

Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel and leilui nishmas Yaakov ben Yehuda Leib zt’l.

 

This is an important principle in serving Hashem. The more you want to serve Hashem, the more the Evil Inclination strives against you. If you realize this, you can fight it with strategy and continually defeat it. With Hashem’s help, you will be worthy of emerging victorious.   —   Sichot HaRan # 10

 

The Evil Inclination is relentless. The moment we are inspired to draw closer to Hashem, the Evil inclination tries to deter us from our plans.

In this lesson, Rebbe Nachman offers an analogy of two men fighting. “As soon as one begins to win, the other fights all the harder. As soon as evil detects that good is beginning to stir in a person, it fights extra hard.”

Anxiety, confusion, depression, hopelessness, etc. are all weapons in the Evil Inclination’s arsenal. It takes great strength to combat these attacks. As our Sages teach us, “Who is mighty? He who subdues his [evil] inclination.” (Avot 4:1)

The Evil Inclination may be strong, but we are stronger. We are referred to as “the Children of Yisrael.” Yaakov received the name Yisrael after wrestling and defeating the Satan, the Evil inclination himself. Each of us have inherited this strength; we are well equipped for the battle.

Too often we fail to grow spiritually because we give up on ourselves; we feel unworthy. We are acutely aware of our faults and shortcomings, and assume that we cannot achieve greatness. But Rebbe Nachman tells us that we must always remember that, as children of Yisrael, we never surrender.

Rebbe Nachman wrote the following song: “You, Jew, wake up, remind yourself. Remind yourself about a strength that you possess. You are so powerful and so strong, and you think you are so weak. You’re just like an elephant who is afraid of a mouse. Why does an elephant fear a mouse? Because he does not know his own strength. If he knew his strength, he would crush that mouse in a moment. You are afraid of the Angel of Death, the Satan, the Evil Inclination, because you don’t know your own strength. If you knew that you are a Jew, with the strength and power of Yaakov our father, you’d fight against this Evil Inclination and be able to defeat him, no matter what stage of battle it is. Rise up, know your strength, and win this battle.”

The Evil Inclination understands how powerful we are, which is why he tries to intimidate us by making us feel inferior. But we cannot let him deceive us; we must remind ourselves of our inherent strength.

We may stumble at times, but when we “fight it with strategy,” we can learn from our mistakes and come back swinging. With persistence, we will win the war.

 

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Know Your Strength

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Menucha – Korach
(06_30_22) Wisdom From The Desert (Part 4)
The Miracles of Nature
Yevamos 114
Yevamos 113
The Cardinal Rule
(06_28_22) This Is Where We Draw The Line
(06_27_22) The Original Dasan and Aviram
Good Things Come To … Those Who Believe
How To Speak So People Will Listen
TTP, Korach: Proper Fighting
Tani Talks Radio, “Tallis: The Embracing Of Hashem’s Connection”
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(06_26_22) Shlach: Finding Your Inner Voice of Confidence
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(06_23_22) A Cluster Of Problems
(06_22_22) Parshas Shlach 5782
Shlach (5782) Know Where You Come From
Shelach – chabura

Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

There are bundles and bundles of sins.

“One sin leads to another sin” (Avot 4:2).

When a person commits one sin, it then causes him to commit related offenses. The later sins are then responsible for still more related wrongs.

Each sin draws along those related to it. All these then follow the first. Unrelated sins are not in that group. This is the concept of bundles and bundles of sin…

Each of these bundles (ChaVelot) of sins results in the creation of a troop of angels who destroy (meChaVLim) and accuse (ibid. 4:11).

These destroyers and accusers cry out, “Give us life! Give us food!” He [the sinner] is the ba’al aveirah (literally, the “owner of sin”).

They cry out to the one who committed the sin, who brought them into existence. He is literally their owner and is responsible for them. He is the one who must provide them with food and sustenance…

The remedy for this is to learn and to observe the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy. You must fulfill these thirteen attributes by displaying mercy and doing good deeds. When you do this, the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes within you stimulates the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy on high, which humble and eliminate the destroyer bred by your sins…   — Sichot HaRan # 89 (abridged)

 

As mentioned previously, Hashem created the world in a manner which operates on a benefactor and beneficiary relationship. This can be seen in all aspects of life.

When we work the field, we are the benefactor, and the land is the beneficiary. When the land produces crop, the roles are reversed.

When an employee performs work, he is the benefactor, and the employer is the beneficiary. And when the employee receives their pay, they become the beneficiary.

The same applies to body and soul; the soul provides vitality for the body, and the body provides sustenance and life for the soul. This connection, this “give and take,” exists in every relationship; between one another as well as between man and Hashem.

Similarly, when mercy is needed from Above, we must first take action below. As the Zohar (I, 77b) teaches, there must be an “arousal from below” in order for there to be an “arousal from on high.”

In this lesson, Rebbe Nachman introduces us to the concept of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. After the sin of the golden calf, Moshe ascended to heaven for forty days and nights to beseech Hashem for mercy on behalf of the Jewish nation. His prayers were answered on the fortieth day, Yom Kippur. Moshe asked Hashem, “Please, show me Your way.” Hashem responded by revealing the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy with which He conducts the world. 

Hashem’s mercy is constant; His kindness does not fluctuate. As the verse states, “Gracious and merciful is Hashem, slow to anger, and great in [bestowing] kindness. Hashem is good to all; His mercies are on all His works.”

We are taught to follow in Hashem’s ways, as the verse states, “Just as He is merciful and gracious, so must you be merciful and gracious.”

Rebbe Nachman teaches that when we emulate Hashem’s ways and are merciful towards others, then Hashem acts merciful towards us; when we forgive others, Hashem forgives us.  

When we encounter difficult personalities, we can turn an apparent burden into an opportunity. Rebbe Nachman teaches that Hashem specifically places us in these situations to benefit us. Forgiveness and tolerance lead to increased mercy and bounty from Above.

Of course, sometimes this is easier said than done. We previously discussed the need to search for the good within everyone, despite their shortcomings. But this becomes increasingly difficult when the other person is causing us harm.

Therefore, it’s important to remember that mercy goes beyond what is fair or just. Mercy is the ability to show compassion and forgiveness even when such kindness is not necessarily deserved.

Lastly, the Bais HaLevi offers an incredible insight that can entirely change our perspective on the matter. He teaches that we tend to think that the universe operates on “cause and effect.” But in truth, it is the exact opposite. It is the effect that brings about the cause.

The Bais HaLevi offers an example of someone who experiences success in business. He teaches that we should not think that it was their occupation that brought about the profit. Rather, Hashem decreed that this person should profit, and therefore, placed him in this position. Hashem desired the “effect,” or the end result, and therefore created the “cause,” or the means to accomplish this outcome.

Similarly, the Brisker Rav said that if someone had a hole in their pocket and as a result money fell out, he should not think that had he repaired and sewn the pocket, this would not have happened. Hashem decreed that he would lose this money, and that it why the hole was created. Had the pocket been intact, Hashem would find some other means to accomplish these results.

(Parenthetically, when we internalize this concept, we can free ourselves from regret. As Reb Pinchas of Koritz explained, with the understanding that Hashem is the cause of everything that happens, we will never regret a responsible decision or action that resulted in a loss. A person never has to wonder, “What if I would have done things differently…”)

This understanding also makes it easier to be tolerant towards others. We typically get upset or angry when we believe that another person caused us harm. But with this in mind, we begin to realize that Hashem is in complete control of all that transpires, including our fate. Regardless of other people’s actions, they are never the “cause,” they are merely the messenger.

(Of course, this does not excuse the other person’s actions, and it does not negate their responsibility. Each person needs to answer for their actions, but that is between them and Hashem. We must do our part to forgive and try to focus on the message Hashem is sending.)

Over the next few posts, we will give a brief description of each of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, including an example from Tanach and how we can apply these concepts.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

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The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy – Introduction
(06_23_22) Wisdom From The Desert (Part 3)
(06_21_22) חיים ומות ביד הלשון
Yevamos 112
Yevamos 111
Yevamos 110
Yevamos 109
Yevamos 108
TTPA S5 6:8
(06_20_22) The White and Blue Tzitzis of Yehoshua and Kalev ben Yefunah
Hashem believes in YOU!

Shelach 5782

Menucha – Shelach
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Behalotcha – chabura

Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

A royal prince once became mad and thought he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit naked under the table, pecking at bones and pieces of bread like a turkey. The royal physicians all gave up hope of ever curing him of his madness, and the king suffered tremendous grief.

A sage then came and said, “I will undertake to cure him.”

The sage undressed and sat naked under the table next to the prince, picking crumbs and bones. “Who are you?” asked the prince. “What are you doing here?”

“And you?” replied the sage. “What are you doing here?”

“I am a turkey,” said the prince.

“I am also a turkey,” answered the sage.

They sat together like this for some time, until they became good friends. One day, the sage signaled the king’s servants to throw him shirts. He said to the prince, “What makes you think that a turkey can’t wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.” With that, the two of them put on shirts.

After a while, he signaled them again, and they threw him a pair of pants. Just as before, he said, “What makes you think that you can’t be a turkey if you wear pants?”

The sage continued in this manner until they were both completely dressed. Then he signaled again, and they were given regular food from the table. Again the sage said, “What makes you think that you will stop being a turkey if you eat good food? You can eat whatever you want and still be turkey!” They both ate the food.

Finally, the sage said, “What makes you think that a turkey must sit under the table? Even a turkey can sit at the table.”

The sage continued in this manner until the prince was completely cured.

—   Sipurey Masiyos, The Turkey Prince

 

In his parable, The Turkey Prince, Rebbe Nachman is speaking to each person on their own level. Today, we will discuss some the lessons learned from this tale.

The story begins by describing a prince who is experiencing a true identity crisis. He believes he is a turkey.

The prince represents us and our pure soul. We are children of Hashem, the King of kings. We are royalty.

However, within each of us, Hashem instilled an evil inclination in the form of negative character traits and desires. Our mission in this world is to combat these “animalistic traits.”

In this story, the turkey represents the temptations we face and any flawed characteristics we may possess.

Rebbe Nachman tells us that the prince began pecking at bones and crumbs. He is teaching us that the sins we crave have no substance, they have no worth. Even the enjoyment we experience is momentary and fleeting.

When Rebbe Nachman says that the prince “became mad,” he is alluding to his teaching where he states, “A person does not commit a transgression unless he is possessed by a spirit of foolishness.”

When a person falls to temptation, it is not a logical decision. Deep in our heart, we understand very well that the few moments of pleasure experienced is nothing compared to the eternal reward we are promised for abiding by the torah and its mitzvos. However, the evil inclination fogs our minds, and we are overcome by temptation.  

After acting like a turkey for long enough, the prince begins to believe he is a turkey. Our Sages teach us, “One sin leads to another sin.” When we begin to fall in one area of our spirituality, the evil inclination tries to make us believe that we are complete failures. The ripple effects are quick and can go unnoticed. Before long, we begin to falter in other areas. Eventually, we completely give up. We start to believe that we are no good; that we are bound for failure.

“And the King suffered tremendous grief.” The King, Hashem, sees our struggles and understands our feelings of distance and hopelessness. This pains Him tremendously.

“The royal physicians all gave up hope…” The evil inclination makes us focus on our shortcomings and convinces us to give up all hope. And as Rebbe Nachman mentions, soon others begin to give up on us as well.

But Hashem has graced us with the true tzadikim, the “sage.” The true tzadik never gives up; not on anyone. The tzadik sees beyond our actions, beyond face value. He sees our true potential, our pure soul. He dedicates his life to raising the fallen; his mission is to return the prince to the king.

Instead of yelling or reprimanding the prince for his actions, the sage sat on the floor alongside the prince. With this Rebbe Nachman teaches us that there is vast difference between intelligence and compassion. When trying to help someone who is struggling, a caring heart has a far greater impact than a wise mind. As the saying goes, people don’t care about what you know until they know that you care.

True leaders have the ability to connect to each individual. They lower themselves according to the other person’s level and needs. As Rabbi Shais Taub said, “One who is truly great, can relate.”

Rebbe Nachman is also teaching us that actions speak louder than words. We are expected to lead by example; rather than telling someone how to act, it would be wiser to show them how to act.

The sage begins by building a relationship with the prince. After establishing this connection, the sage begins to work with the prince, slowly but surely. First, they put on their shirts, and then their pants, etc. Rebbe Nachman is teaching us that the best method for continued and lasting success is to take it a step at a time.

Taking on too much at once, can leave us feeling overwhelmed; it becomes too difficult to maintain and we give up on bettering ourselves. But when we have a systematic approach, working on one character trait or one desire at a time, we can accomplish greatness.

The sage specifically started with the shirt rather than the pants, as the shirt is considered easier to put on. When we start with the low hanging fruit, we can begin our spiritual journey with momentum. Just as we mentioned regarding sins, our Sages also state, “One mitzvah leads to another mitzvah.” Rebbe Nachman is teaching us that a strong beginning is essential for long-term success.

We must also remember that although we may falter in one area of life, that is never reason to give up on other areas of our devotion (e.g. if someone struggles with keeping Kosher, that doesn’t mean they can’t keep Shabbos).

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we learn from this story that nobody is beyond hope; it is never too late.

We all have shortcomings. This does not make us bad; this makes us human. We must be aware of the evil inclination’s tactics. He will try to kick us when we are down. He will try to convince us to completely give up. But we must fight.

This is not a simple task, as Reb Noson teaches, “All the physical war between kings are small wars compared to the war a person has with his own self.” But Reb Noson assures us that as long we stay in the fight and continue to combat these emotions, “then he is considered winning the war.”

With the guidance of the true tzadikim and with heartfelt prayers to Hashem, we will overcome these challenges. The prince will return to his father, the King.

 

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The Turkey Prince
Behaloscha (5782) Lighting To Influence
Yevamos 104
Yevamos 103
Yevamos 102
Yevamos 101
TTPA S5 6:4
(06_16_22) Wisdom From The Desert (Part 2)
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Behaalosecha (5782)

Menucha (Behaalosecha)
(06_14_22) The Effects of the Erev Rav
(06_13_22) The Color of the Maana
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Yevamos 100
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Areinfirinish – The Sweetness of Torah

Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

We’ve previously discussed some of Rebbe Nachman’s stories and parables. Tomorrow night, we hope to quote one of the more well-known parables, “The Turkey Prince.” It is a story filled with incredible insights and encouragement.

When Rebbe Nachman found that his classes we no longer having the desired effect on his students, he began creating and telling his stories. As his closest student, Reb Noson writes, “[Rebbe Nachman] says that people may be asleep all their lives, but through stories told by a true tzaddik, they can be awakened.”

Reb Noson tell us, “The Rebbe disguised high and mighty concepts, and hid them in his stories in wondrous, awesome ways.” Similarly, he writes, “The words [of these stories] stand in the highest places… They contain extraordinary, hidden, deep meanings.”

Each of Rebbe Nachman’s stories contain great depth. And while we may not fully grasp every nuance, still every bit is precious. As Reb Noson writes, “Even if a person gains only a very small amount of understanding, it will be very sweet to his soul.”

Reb Noson further states, “In most cases, even the plain, simple meaning of these stories can strongly motivate a person toward Hashem. All these stories consist of awesome mysteries, but aside from their secret meanings, they have great power to motivate everyone toward Hashem. Be strong.”

Lastly, Reb Noson teaches, “One can derive one’s own interpretations if one wants and thus find great encouragement.” While we hope to provide some of the lessons to be discovered, there is still much to be explored.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

If you’d like to receive these messages via Whatsapp, please message me at 845-641-2648.

As always, comments are more than welcomed!

The Turkey Prince – Introduction
A father, a son, and a donkey
(06_09_22) Giving His Portion
Tani Talks Radio, S1 E6 “Fence This! Why The Boundary?”
(06_08_22) Parshas Naso 5782
Yevamos 98
TTPA S5 6:1
Who Says You Can’t Take It With You?
Highly Connected
5 Weddings in 2 Years
(06_07_22) Women’s Intuition

Hadran – Mekoros 10

Hadran – Mekoros 10
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Hadran – Mekoros (8 & 9)

Hadran – Mekoros (8 & 9)

Hadran – Mekoros (6 & 7)

Hadran – Mekoros (6 & 7)

Hadran – Mekoros (4 & 5)

Hadran – Mekoros (4 & 5)

Hadran – Mekoros 3

Hadran – Mekoros 3

Hadran – Mekoros 2

Hadran – Mekoros 2

Hadran – Mekoros 1

Hadran – Mekoros 1

Gog Magog – Mekoros

Gog U’Magog – Mekoros Handout
Gog U Magog 17
Gog U Magog 16
Gog U Magog 15

Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

You must be very worthy to be able to meditate for a given time each day and regret what you must. Not everyone can have such mental tranquility each day. The days pass and are gone, and one finds that he never once had time to really think. You must therefore make sure to set aside a specific time each day to calmly review your life. Consider what you are doing and ponder whether it is worthy that you devote your life to it.

One who does not meditate cannot have wisdom. He may occasionally be able to concentrate, but not for any length of time. His power of concentration remains weak and cannot be maintained. One who does not meditate also does not realize the foolishness of the world. But one who has a relaxed and penetrating mind can see that it is all meaningless.  —   Lekutey Moharan II, 44

 

We briefly mentioned that through hisbodedus (secluded prayer), we can rid ourselves of all anxieties and fears. In this post, we will try to give a general overview of what Hisbodedus is, when and where it can be done, as well as some of the incredible benefits hisbodedus provides. (There is much to be said regarding each point, but we hope this provides a general overview.)

Hisbodedus simply means having a private conversation with Hashem. It is an opportunity to pour out our heart to Hashem, requesting assistance with all our needs, both material and spiritual. Rebbe Nachman teaches us to be completely open and honest with our emotions.

As Rabbi Chaim Kramer explains, “This practice is the ultimate level in our relationship to G-d. Likewise, hisbodedus is the tool with which to seek out and find our place; in the world at large; in our family; among friends and within the community; and most importantly, within ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to release all our inner feelings – the joys and depressions, the successes and frustrations, that greet us each day. Through hisbodedus, we examine ourselves and re-examine ourselves, correcting the flaws and errors of the past, while seeking the proper path for the future.”

Hisbodedus is a time to speak to Hashem about anything and everything. What you’re going through and the various pressures you face. Your mistakes and regrets, both intentional and unintentional. Your hopes and desires. Your thanks and requests.

Rebbe Nachman refers to hisbodedus as the “highest level of worship.” Setting aside time each day to speak to Hashem about everything on our mind, is the ultimate display of faith. We turn to Hashem, knowing that He is in control of all that transpires.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that when speaking to Hashem in this manner, it is best to speak in our native language, which makes it easier for us to truly connect on a deeper level. Rebbe Nachman says, “It has already been explained how great and powerful is the practice of hisbodedus. It is the path by which we can come close to G-d. Everyone should set aside fixed periods every day and express himself before G-d in his own native language. It is much easier to say what you need to say when you are using your own language. You should set forth whatever is in your heart. Plead with Him to draw you closer. Every individual knows his own personal pain and sorrow and the distance that separates him from G-d. It is impossible to convey the true greatness of this method. It is superior to all others. It is the way of serving G-d, and by following it everyone can attain the ultimate good in this world and in the World to Come.”

The Rambam speaks of hisbodedus in the beginning of his Code on Prayer. He explains that expressing our feelings before Hashem in our native language was originally the main form of prayer. It was only after the men of the Great Assembly that a formal order of prayer was introduced. Rebbe Nachman teaches that although we follow the order of prayers established by them, the “most beneficial” and “most fundamental” form of prayer is hisbodedus. (This is in no way meant to belittle or lessen the power of standard prayers. The men of the Great Assembly received divine inspiration and knew exactly which words to use and the order in which they should be said. Both forms of prayer are necessary.)

Rebbe Nachman teaches that this is also how Dovid HaMelech composed the Book of Psalms. It was through his open and honest conversations with Hashem, where he beseeched Hashem for help and assistance in all areas of life, and thanked Hashem for all that he possessed.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that hisbodedus provides us with a clear and settled mind. It’s very easy to get caught up with our hectic schedules. There are countless thoughts running through our mind, which makes it difficult to reflect and focus on what is truly important. Because of this, we tend to react rather than respond. Hisbodedus provides us with time to concentrate; time to plan and strategize.

Our mission in this world is to draw closer to Hashem, to see Hashem in our daily lives, and to take the seemingly mundane and elevate it back to Hashem. This is accomplished through hisbodedus. Rebbe Nachman teaches that we are granted daas (holy knowledge) through hisbodedus. With peace of mind and increased knowledge, we can focus on what is essential and everlasting.

Hisbodedus is a time for self-introspection. By speak it out, we begin to truly learn about ourselves. In this way, hisbodedus is the ultimate therapy session. As Dovid HaMelech writes regarding Hashem, “He is the Healer of the brokenhearted.”

Also, hisbodedus saves a person from Heavenly judgement. We’ve previously quoted Rebbe Nachman who teaches, “When one judges himself and there is judgement below, then there is no judgement above.” This is based on the Zohar, which states that there is no double jeopardy in Heaven. When we take the time to honestly examine our actions and behaviors, Hashem no longer needs to judge us from Above. As the verse states, “I will acknowledge my sins before Hashem, and You have forgiven my sin and transgression” (Psalms 32:5). Similarly, the Talmud states, “One who sins and is ashamed is forgiven.”

Rebbe Nachman teaches the best time for hisbodedus is at night, when the world is asleep. Then we are free from the daily rush. But in truth, any time is fine. The morning is also effective, as there is a clear difference in a person’s day when they begin with a settled mind, rather than rushing into the day. Regardless of the time of day, the main objective is to do hisbodedus when you can separate from all distractions.

It is best to preform hisbodedus in a place completely secluded from others, without any distractions. Rebbe Nachman teaches that the optimal setting for hisbodedus is outdoors, in a place not travelled by others. He explains that when we pray among the trees and grass, they join in our prayers. While walking through a grassy meadow, Rebbe Nachman told the person accompanying him, “If you could only hear and understand the language of the grasses. Each blade of grass sings its praise and prayers to Hashem.”

The outdoors may not always be practical, perhaps due to weather conditions or safety concerns, etc. When it’s difficult to find an outdoor location, Rebbe Nachman suggests using a private room that can be designated for prayer and torah study.

That said, Rebbe Nachman teaches us that we can seclude ourselves even in the presence of others. He says we can make our own “private room” by lifting our tallis over our face or by looking inside a book as if we are reading. “You can also seclude yourself with G-d in bed under the covers. This was Dovid HaMelech’s custom, as he said, ‘I speak every night on my bed in tears.’”

Similarly, the Baal Shem Tov says, “There are times when you can be so attached to G-d that you can seclude yourself with Him even in a room where there are many people.”

While certain times or locations are more conducive to hisbodedus, we should know that it can be performed by anyone, at any time, in any place.

Hisbodedus requires great effort and determination. There will be times when we simply don’t have the energy. There will also be times when we can’t find the words to say. Rebbe Nachman teaches us that we should not try to force the matter. He says, “Even if you find you are unable to express yourself before G-d, even if you can say no more than a single word, this is still good. Even if you can nothing except ‘Master of the universe,’ it is also good. The mere fact that you make an effort, that you prepare yourself to speak, that you feel a longing to speak – even if you find you can say nothing – all this is precious in G-d’s eyes.” If you are determined and persistent and make yourself speak before G-d, in time G-d will help you and then you will be able to express yourself with words filled with vitality, freshness and grace. Your words will bring blessings down from the heavens and you will attain true and enduring good.”

Rebbe Nachman also teaches that we can make a prayer out of this as well. “You can ask Hashem to have mercy on you and open your mouth so that you should be able to express your thoughts to Him.” As we say before the Amidah prayer, “Hashem, open up my lips so that my mouth may declare Your praise.”

We may not see the fruits of our labor immediately, but with time, we will reap the rewards and will see a drastic change in our life. Rebbe Nachman teaches, “Even if the days and years pass by and you think that all your words and meditation have accomplished nothing, don’t let yourself be thrown off course. The words have left their mark. There is no doubt about it.” Similarly, Reb Noson assures us, “Test it out. Practice hisbodedus for forty days straight. I guarantee you will see results.”

Above all, it’s important to know that Hashem wants to hear from us; He wants us to build a connection with Him. Rebbe Nachman teaches that Hashem gets more pleasure from the devotions of even the lowliest of people, than from all the devotions of the loftiest of angels.

In the Torah we find that Hashem counted the Jewish nation numerous times; at the time of the Exodus, after their punishment for worshipping the golden calf, and again after the inauguration of the Mishkan. The reason for this is because we tend to count that which is precious and important to us. As Rashi explains in is his opening comments on last week’s torah portion, “It is because of Hashem’s great love for them, that He counted them repeatedly.”

The verse states that Bnei Yisrael are considered Hashem’s children. We must call out to Hashem just as a child calls for their father. Hisbodedus is an opportunity to place our troubles in Hashem’s hands. Hashem wants to help us in our times of need, but first we must call out to Him. As the verse states, “Cast your burden upon Hashem and He will support you.” Similarly, Rebbe Nachman teaches that when we experience pain, the Divine Presence cries out with us and will provide the necessary relief.

The verse states, “Hashem is close to all who call upon him – to all who call upon Him sincerely.” When we genuinely open up to Hashem and ask for guidance and mercy, our prayers will be heard, and we will receive support from above.

 

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Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

The joy we experience on the Three Festivals can give us a share in the light of Hashem’s countenance. This brings new life to the soul and mind, through which we can gain a perception of Hashem.   —   Rebbe Nachman’s Advice, Festivals and Seasons # 1

 

On Shavuos, we commemorate the Jewish nation receiving the Torah at Har Sinai. More specifically, this is the day we received the Ten Commandments directly from Hashem.

Shavuos represents the eternal bond between Hashem and our people. It is the day that Hashem chose us as His treasured nation. As the verse in Shir HaShirim states, “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li” (“I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine”).

The reason for the name of Shavuos is that “Shavua” is a week, and this festival is celebrated seven weeks after the bringing of the Omer. However, the Ohr HaChaim adds another reason for this name. “Shevuah” means an oath. At Har Sinai, Hashem and the Jewish nation exchanged oaths, swearing eternal allegiance to each other. As Rabbi Avraham Twerski zt’l explains, “Although we have gone through periods of suffering, we have never separated from Hashem, and Hashem has never abandoned us.”

Similarly, when describing the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai, the verse sates, “And Moshe drew near to the darkness, where Hashem was.” Rabbi Elimelech Biderman explains that this comes to teach us that even when a person feels like they are surrounded by intense darkness, they should remember that Hashem is there with them.

Our Sages teach that the day we received the Torah was considered the wedding day between our nation and Hashem. Shavuos marks our anniversary.

In the Talmud, the festival of Shavuos is referred to as “Atzeres”, which means withholding. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev explains, that whereas the festivals of Pesach and Succos have special mitzvos – such as matzah, succah and the four minim – Shavuos has no unique mitzvah, and is characterized only by our abstaining (or withholding) from work. It is a day that Hashem asks us to skip work and spend quality time with Him. Hashem wants us to use this day to strengthen our bond, and connect to Him on new levels.

From the festival of Shavous we can learn the proper balance of pride and humility. The mountain that Hashem selected for the giving of the Torah is the lowest of the Sinai range, and was chosen to emphasize that Torah can only be acquired by the humble. So why didn’t Hashem give us the Torah in a valley, which would be an even more graphic symbol of humility? The answer is that Hashem wanted to show us that too much humility can be dangerous. This can lead a person to feeling unworthy. Rather, one must retain a sense of pride and worth, while remaining humble.

Similarly, Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa said, “Every person must carry two notes in his pocket. On one should be written, ‘The world was created for me’ and on the other, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ And one must be judicious to read each note in its proper time.”

Shavuos is a time for great joy. As the verse states, “You should rejoice on your festival.” Rebbe Nachman teaches that the more we are attuned, the greater the level of joy we experience on the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuos and Succos). The more we focus on the great miracles Hashem performed for us, the more joy the day will bring.

Rebbe Nachman writes, “The truest joy comes from fulfilling the mitzvos. The more a person forms some estimate of the true greatness of Hashem, the greater the joy he is able to feel with every mitzvah he performs. He begins to realize how privileged he is to perform the will of the Holy One, Who alone is, was, and will be for all eternity. The joy of the mitzvos we perform throughout the year is collected together, as it were, on the Three Festivals. This is what makes up the joy of the festival. All the good points of all the mitzvos performed throughout the year are joined together and concentrated in the festival, and the joy becomes truly palpable… There are no limits to this joy.”

Rebbe Nachman teaches that the festivals are a time that defy nature. Shavuos is a day for salvation, both physically and spiritually. We are taught that when the Torah was given to the Jewish nation, they experienced immense love and mercy. Anyone suffering from an ailment was miraculously healed; the blind could see, the deaf could hear, etc.

Similarly, the month of Sivan is an acronym for “Sof Yesurim V’Techillas Nissim,” the end of suffering and the beginning of miracles.

Rebbe Nachman teaches, “Shavuos is the season of receiving the Torah. It is a time of new vitality. And it is a season that brings healing to the lungs.” Rebbe Nachman explains that the five lobes of the lungs correspond to the five Books of the Torah.

When Rebbe Nachman says that Shavuos brings healing to the lungs, he is referring to the new breath, vitality and spirit we receive on this special day (the Hebrew word for spirit is “ruach”, which also means breath).   

Our breathing is closely tied to our peace of mind. When a person is angry, their breathing becomes heavy. Similarly, when a person is anxious or afraid, they experience shortness of breath. Therefore, when a person’s heart is racing, they are advised to “take a deep breath.” Controlled breathing helps us stay calm and think clearly.

Rebbe Nachman is telling us that Shavous is an opportunity. On Shavuos, we receive new breath, we receive a clear mind. Without any distractions from the outside world, we can focus on what is truly important.

When our minds are free from distractions, we can then receive daas (holy knowledge) from Above. Through expanded consciousness, we can receive clarity. Hashem sends us this daas and clarity when we honor the festivals.

As Rebbe Nachman writes, “The festival days cry out, proclaim and reveal Divine will, which rules over all. There is no such thing as the “inevitability of nature.” Every festival commemorates the awesome signs and miracles that Hashem performed on our behalf – all of them contrary to nature… Through these awesome signs and wonders it was revealed that everything comes about through the will of Hashem alone. There is nothing inevitable about nature at all. You must just take care to direct your ear and heart to the holy message that is thus proclaimed. The more carefully you attend to this message, the greater the joy of the festival you will attain.”

Similarly, Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen (1843-1926) said, “Nature is but a constant miracle.” On Shavuos, we are granted peace of mind and we are capable of seeing the wonders surrounding us.

Rebbe Nachman teaches, “There are many different ways to honor the festivals – with fine food and drink, with beautiful clothes, with pure and holy thoughts, with joy and openheartedness, and so on. Through honoring the festival, you can attain the knowledge of Hashem, and you can draw this knowledge down into the heart, which is the seat of passion and desire.”

Lastly, Shavous is a time to focus on the everlasting love Hashem has for us. As we say in prayers, “With an abundant love have You loved us” and “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who chooses His people Israel with love.”

This applies to each and every one of us. As Rabbi Berel Povarsky said, “There would not have been Maamad Har Sinai if even one yid was missing.” On Shavuos we remember that, to Hashem, we are all considered essential.

Wishing everyone a chag filled with clarity, joy and love!

 

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Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

Faith is dependent on a person’s mouth, as “I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth” (Psalms 89:2). In other words, the mouth speaking about faith is itself faith! It also brings to faith.   —   Lekutey Moharan II, 44

 

We last discussed that through faith and trust, we can overcome life’s challenging moments. As we strengthen our trust, we begin to realize that even the most undesirable circumstances are sent from Hashem and are for our ultimate benefit.

In truth, we make this declaration twice a day when we recite Shema, with the words “Hashem (YHVH) is our G-d (Elokim), Hashem (YHVH) the One and Only.” The tetragrammaton (YHVH) relates to Hashem’s love and kindness, whereas the name “Elokim” (G-d), refers to Hashem’s strict judgement. In these words, we proclaim that no matter what life sends us, we understand that it is all from Hashem; everything stems from Hashem’s mercy.

Similarly, at the conclusion of Yom Kippur prayers, as we stand at the pinnacle of spirituality, we proclaim seven times, “Hashem (YHVH), He is G-d (Elokim).”

But how do we internalize these words? Is such a level of trust truly attainable?

Firstly, it’s important to differentiate between faith and trust. When a person has faith, they believe that Hashem is the Creator of all. When a person has trust, they believe that everything Hashem does is for the best.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that as we strengthen our faith, we build trust. Like a muscle, the more we exercise faith, the stronger it grows.

Similarly, the Ramban compares the relationship between faith and trust to a tree and its fruit, respectively. When a person nourishes the tree, it begins to bear fruit. As we strengthen our faith, our trust grows.

We can build faith by recognizing that everything we have comes from Hashem. The more we see Hashem’s hand in our daily lives, the more we begin to depend and rely on Him for all our needs.

And how do we recognize that Hashem is the Source of all that exists? By offering thanks and gratitude to Hashem for all that we possess. Through this process, we begin to realize how much Hashem provides for us constantly.

In truth, it would be impossible to list out all that Hashem does for us, at any given moment. Hashem creates and sustains everything in this world and beyond, from the human eye with its millions of sensory nerves, to the highest of mountains in all its grandeur, to the vast galaxies and its billions of components.

Similarly, the Ralbag teaches that Hashem is constantly endowing new life into all that exists. Rabbi Shmuel Meir Riachi in his commentary on Tomer Devorah explains, “Everything in this world is made up of atoms. Each atom is made of a nucleus with electrons circling endlessly around it. If the electrons would cease to spin for even one moment, the atoms, and the objects from which they are constructed, would instantly collapse. Clearly, it is Hashem Who constantly directs the atoms on their course and gives them the power to keep spinning. Without His continued involvement, everything would cease to exist.”

The more we acknowledge and thank Hashem for all that He continuously provides, the more our trust and love for Him will grow.

(Parenthetically, gratitude also attracts more blessings from Above. This can be understood on a very practical level; when someone offers heartfelt thanks and gratitude, it’s natural to want to give them more. Similarly, Dovid HaMelech writes, “He who offers thanks, honors Me… I will show him the salvation of G-d.”)

In summary, we can overcome fear and anxiety by building our trust. We build trust by strengthening our faith. And we strengthen our faith by acknowledging and thanking Hashem.

Of course, giving thanks to Hashem is not a new concept. Throughout the Torah, we are instructed to remember the countless times Hashem has saved us and our forefathers. The first words we utter in the morning are Modeh Ani, when we thank Hashem for restoring our souls. And during the day, we thank Hashem constantly (i.e. in the form of prayers, blessings recited before and after eating, etc.).

However, as Rebbe Nachman teaches, there is a difference between knowing something in our mind and bringing that knowledge into our heart… The evil inclination floods our thoughts with many distractions. And when we lack a clear mind, it becomes very difficult to focus on the words we say. Without proper concentration, these words fail to leave a lasting impression on our hearts.

Therefore, Rebbe Nachman urges us to set aside a specific time each day to sincerely speak to Hashem. He teaches us to separate ourselves from all distractions, so we can offer Hashem our undivided attention.

This secluded conversation, known as Hisbodedus, opens many doors that would otherwise remain closed. Rebbe Nachman is known for providing an array of practical advice, but he emphasizes that Hisbodedus is “the best advice.” With Hashem’s help, we will continue our discussion on Hisbodedus next week.

Lastly, Rebbe Nachman teaches that a person must never feel that they are unworthy of Hashem’s grace and kindness. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “No one should say, ‘Who am I to trust in Hashem and rely on His Kindness, seeing that I have done so much that was wrong?’ Rather, one should trust in Hashem’s kindness, for His compassion never ceases and He will sustain him, for ‘G-d is good to all.’ A person may be small in his own eyes, but he should not let this worry him. He should remain firm in his trust no matter who he may be.”

It’s important to note that everybody has their own level of trust. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “There are higher and higher levels of trust, reaching to infinity.” Above all, a person must never be discouraged as they work on their faith and trust. As Rabbi David Sutton explains, “Developing, maintaining and raising our level of trust is a lifelong process, one step at a time.”

 

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Faith and Trust – Part 3
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Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

A man of faith believes in G-d and has a very good life. When trouble strikes, his faith still inspires him. He trusts in G-d and knows that everything is for the best. If he must suffer, he realizes that it will atone for his sins. If this is not necessary, these troubles will ultimately bring him a much greater benefit. No matter what happens, he realizes that G-d ultimately only does good. The man of faith therefore always has a good life, both in this world and the next.   —   Sichot HaRan # 102

 

We previously mentioned that a life with faith and trust, is a life of bliss. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, increased trust equals increased happiness.

That said, we do find very often that some of the most devout people, endure much suffering. What happens when a person has trust in Hashem, yet still experiences struggles and hardships?

In last weeks Torah portion, we received the mitzvah of shemitta, which forbids agricultural work throughout the seventh year. The farmers are required to leave the field untouched for an entire year. Additionally, they must allow anyone to come and help themselves to their field’s produce. The Torah foresees that the farmers will naturally wonder, “What will we eat in the seventh year, if we will not plant or gather our grain?!” Rabbi Efrem Goldberg compares this to somebody who worked hard for six years to build a business, and is then required to leave the business alone, doing absolutely no work for an entire year. Understandably, the farmer will wonder, “What will we eat?!”

Hashem reassures the farmer that in reward for his observance of this challenging mitzvah, Hashem will ensure his sustenance during the coming years. The fields will miraculously produce extra quantities of grain during the sixth year to compensate for the lost produce due to the observance of shemitta.

Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, in Noam Elimelech, asks why the Torah presents this promise in such a roundabout manner – as the response to the farmer’s question of “What will we eat in the seventh year?” Why did Hashem not simply state after presenting the mitzvah of shemitta, that He will provide sufficient produce to sustain them during the shemitta year and beyond?

Rav Yaakov Bender explains that the Torah wants to teach us a critically important lesson: It is okay to express concern. It is okay to ask, “How will we manage?”

We are human beings, and it is perfectly natural, and acceptable, for us to show concern. We must strive to counterbalance our anxiety with faith and trust, but at the same time, nobody should feel ashamed over expressing legitimate worries.

We live in a time referred to by Rebbe Nachman as a “concealment within a concealment.” Hashem’s presence is hidden from us. Because of this concealment, it becomes difficult for us to keep the faith alive during difficult circumstances. (If Hashem’s presence was always manifest, we would never have any questions or doubts.) As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “When the time arrives for Mashiach to come, many people will cry about faith. It will be very difficult to remain firm in faith…” 

But Rebbe Nachman assures us, “In truth, even in all the concealments—even in a concealment within a concealment—Hashem is certainly enclothed there as well.” If we search for Hashem, we will find Him.

Certain basic fears and anxieties are expected. But these moments of uncertainty are opportunities to turn to Hashem. This is the purpose of the uncertainty.

As Rebbe Nachman said, “Hashem saw that there would be people who would cling to our holy faith, suffering greatly because of the confusion and doubts that constantly plague them. He perceived that they would overcome these doubts and remain strong in their beliefs. It was because of this that Hashem brought forth all creation.”

The original feelings of fear and anxiety are natural, but we must ensure that we don’t dwell on these negative thoughts. When the fear and anxiety become excessive, they begin to consume us. The trick is to catch ourselves as quickly as possible, and to be assured that Hashem will take care of us.

Now, it’s important to note that certain things we simply cannot understand logically. Where logic ends, faith begins.

This weeks Torah portion is Bechukosai. A Chok is different than a Mishpat, inasmuch that a Chok is a divine dictate, whereas a Mishpat is a logical law (i.e. we are provided with the reasoning for the Mishpat but not for a Chok). Of course, there is a reason for the Chok, but we aren’t privy to that information.

Whether the mitzvah is a Chok or a Mishpat, we abide by it because we were instructed by Hashem to follow His directive. After receiving the Torah at Har Sinai, the Jewish people answered, “Naaseh V’nishma’ (We will do, and we will hear). We follow first, and ask questions later. If we are fortunate enough, we will come to understand the reasoning behind the commandment.

And this is a lesson in faith. We may not understand the rationale behind all of life’s challenges or seemingly painful experiences, but we must believe that there is a reason, far beyond our comprehension. One day, we will merit to see how everything was for our best (at large and on an individual level).

As the Chasam Sofer teaches, “The ways of Hashem are mysterious in present, but are understood – if we are so privileged – in retrospect.”

The Baal Shem Tov teaches, “We can’t control life, but we can control our attitude.” With the right mindset, we can overcome all of life’s challenges.

When difficult times befall, the Evil Inclination tries to label Hashem as harsh or punitive, G-d forbid. But when a person has trust in Hashem, they understand that even the darkest of times are temporary and are merely preparing us for something great. All experiences stem from Hashem’s love and kindness. These are all blessings in disguise.   

Dovid HaMelech wrote, “Hashem covers the heavens with clouds and prepares the rain for the earth, so that the hills will be green with grass” (Tehillim 147:8). Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, known as the Noda B’Yehudah, teaches, “The cloudy days of life are forecasting a downpour of blessings from above.”

There is still much to be said on this topic. With Hashem’s help, we hope to wrap it up in the following post.

 

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Faith and Trust – Part 2
(05_26_22) Parshas Bechukosai
Bechukosai: Torah is all about hard work
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Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

A person who trusts in Hashem fears nothing.   —   Sefer HaMiddos, Trust # 1

Trust in Hashem brings peace.   —   Sefer HaMiddos, Trust # 2

Faith brings to trust in Hashem.   —   Sefer HaMiddos, Trust # 4

When one trust in Hashem, the Holy One saves him from all anguish.   —   Sefer HaMiddos, Trust # 7

Trust in Hashem saves one from worry.   —   Sefer HaMiddos, Trust # 9

 

We previously discussed some of the harmful effects of fear and anxiety. In this post, we will focus on the power of faith and trust (Emunah and Bitachon).

Many seforim are dedicated to this topic alone, as there is much to be said regarding the incredible ripple effects of trust. We will discuss just a few of the benefits enjoyed when a person lives with confidence in Hashem.  

The first step is to understand that faith and trust have the ability to create change. We tend to fear the unknown; we fear the things that are beyond our control. But in truth, our fate and destiny depend on our level of faith and trust.

The Hebrew word for fate or destiny is Mazal. On a very basic level, when a person is born into this world, Hashem turns to the stars and determines the persons future based on the position of the constellations. However, we are taught that we have the strength to rewrite the future.  

When Hashem assured Avraham that his children would grow to be a great nation, He told Avraham to gaze at the stars. The wording of the verse indicates that Hashem raised Avraham above the stars and instructed him to look downwards. Meaning, Hashem was showing Avraham that we are above fate or mazal. Through faith and trust, we determine our future.

Similarly, the Talmud states, “Yisrael has no mazal.” Even after Hashem has issued a decree, we have the power to appease Him and influence a change.

(This is why we continue to pray for aid and salvation throughout the year even though we are taught that our fate for the year is sealed on Yom Kippur. We know that there is always hope, we know that it is never too late.)

As the Talmud states, “Even if a sharp sword rests upon a person’s neck, he should not prevent himself from praying for mercy.”

We mentioned that excessive fear and anxiety can bring harm that was previously nonexistent. Conversely, faith and trust can spare a person from all danger. As the verse in Mishlei states, “A man’s fear will place a snare, but one who relies on Hashem will be fortified.” Fear creates risk; trust creates protection.

Dovid HaMelech writes, “Hashem is with me, I have no fear; what can man do to me?” The Beis HaLevi understands this to mean that because “I have no fear,” therefore no one can harm me. Trust is our shield and armor.

Similarly, Rabbeinu Bachya compares a person with bitachon to someone standing in a strong fortified tower, where nothing can harm him. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “A person who trusts in Hashem fears nothing.”

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt’l asks how the Jewish people were permitted to enter battle and put their life at risk. He answers, since the people had complete trust in Hashem, they were not in any danger. Indeed, they emerged victorious.

Rabbi David Sutton writes that sometimes we experience fear and anxiety simply because we forget that Hashem is always with us, always protecting us. He compares this to a person wearing a bulletproof vest, walking down a street in a crime-ridden neighborhood. He sees someone approaching and he is frightened. But this fear is only because he forgot about his vest. Rabbi Sutton suggests that when we experience fear or anxiety, we should remind ourselves of our inherent protection, the shield of Hashem.

As the Baal Shem Tov teaches, “Always be happy. Think and believe with perfect faith that the Divine Presence is always near you and is watching over you. You can look toward your Creator, and He looks at you.”

When we remember that Hashem is with us, we can remain calm and collected under all circumstances. As Dovid HaMelech writes, “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Trust provides tranquility. We tend to believe that we know what is best for us. When things don’t go according to plan, we are left feeling upset or sad. But when we truly believe that everything is sent directly from Hashem and that whatever happens is ultimately for our benefit, we remove all worry and concern. By trusting in Hashem, we no longer feel the need to control the outcome; we are able to submit to Hashem’s Will.

In this way, fear and anxiety lead to anger and depression, whereas faith and trust lead to peace and serenity.

Trust also creates the opportunity to receive blessings and good fortune. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “When you trust in Hashem and you look to Him for all your needs, a vessel is formed with which you can receive His blessing. What you need will be sent to you when you require it.”

Similarly, Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin explains that Hashem has many gifts He wishes to bestow upon us (good health, financial success, etc.). However, for us to receive these gifts, we must pray to Hashem sincerely. Hashem therefore places us in an uncertain situation, so we can turn to Him in prayer and strengthen our trust, thereby making us worthy of His gift.

Through faith and trust, we can turn fear into opportunity.

In our next post, we will discuss how we can attain and strengthen our faith and trust. We will also discuss how this shift in mindset can help us overcome the various challenges we face.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

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Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

Come and see the works of G-d: an amazing revelation concerning the mystery of the greatness of the godly sage, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai gave assurances that through him the Torah would not be forgotten from the Jewish people. As our Sages teach (Shabbat 138b): When our Rabbis entered the yeshivah in Yavneh, they said, “The Torah will one day be forgotten by the Jews.” But Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said that it would not be forgotten, as is written (Deuteronomy 31:21), “It will not be forgotten from the mouth of his offspring.” And, as is explained in the Zohar (III, 124b): Because of this work, the Book of the Zohar, [the Jews] will be redeemed from exile.

So now come, see and understand the hidden wonders of our holy Torah. This is why Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai based himself on this verse: “It will not be forgotten from the mouth of his offspring.” For, in truth, this mystery is hinted at and concealed in this very verse. Through the offspring of Yochai, this being Rashby [Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai], the Torah will not be forgotten by the Jews. This is because the final letters of the words in this verse “kI loA tishakhaCh mipiY zar’O” are the same letters as YOChAI…

And know! The mystery of Rabbi Shimon himself is alluded to in another verse. Know that the holy sage Rabbi Shimon corresponds to (Daniel 4:10): “Ir V’kaddish Min Shemaya Nachit (An angel, a holy one, descended from heaven)” – the first letters of which are ShIMON.   —   Lekutey Moharan I, Prologue

 

In lesson 33 of Lekutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman explains that the “inner light” of the Torah refers to Hashem’s presence. Meaning, this light is the Godliness which is found inside the Torah and its middos; the character traits taught by Torah and the specific details of each mitzvah. In the inner light of the Torah, Hashem’s presence can be felt and discovered.

The tzaddikim make it possible for each person to connect to the incredible, inner light of the Torah. This is their task and their mission. The tzaddikim help us escape the cycles of sin, and feelings of lowliness and hopelessness.  

Today is Lag Ba’Omer, the thirty-third day of counting the omer. It is considered one of the most special days on the Jewish calendar. Lag Ba’Omer marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Holy Zohar. This is a day of great celebration, marked with bonfires, music, and dancing.

As a student of Rabbi Akiva, Rebbe Shimon was one of the great sages of the period of the Mishna. The Romans had put a price on his head, and he was forced to hide in a cave for thirteen years, together with his son Rabbi Elazar. They emerged from the cave as the greatest teachers of their time.

But why do we celebrate on the day of Rebbe Shimon’s passing? Would it not be more appropriate to mourn the loss of such a great Tzadik? 

There are certain tzaddikim who are so great that any person can connect to them. They are attached to every soul. They understand each person’s nature and can see what their special purpose is in the world. They are compared the root of the tree, while we are the branches.

One of these exalted tzaddikim was Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai. He revealed the inner, hidden light of the Torah that was concealed since it was first given to Moshe at Har Sinai. On Lag Ba’Omer, we are celebrating the awesome light of the Holy Zohar that was revealed in the world. Reb Shimon’s work, the Zohar HaKadosh, is a powerful revelation of true knowledge and true faith in Hashem. Rebbe Shimon said that through the Zohar, the Jewish people would leave the exile with mercy. The light of the Zohar heals the souls from the suffering of exile and helps us hold on strong until the final redemption.

(It’s no coincidence that as we draw nearer to the end of this exile, there has been tremendous increase in the thirst for Rebbe Shimon’s teachings and Kabbalah in general.)

At the beginning of Rebbe Nachman’s magnum opus, Lekutey Moharan, there is short teaching about the greatness of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai (quoted above). This teaching explains that through the light of Rebbe Shimon, the Torah will never be forgotten from the Jewish people. Through the light of the Zohar, the Jewish people will leave the exile. Therefore, we celebrate today, the day we received this awesome light.

As Reb Noson explains, “This is the celebration of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that we do on Lag B’Omer, the day he passed away, because the main joy is what we merited, that he left us with such a holy treasure, the holy sefer of Zohar, through which we can merit a perception of Godliness… And therefore through this holy sefer of Zohar we will leave the exile, and the prophecy will become a reality: ‘As in the days that you left Egypt, I will show you wondrous miracles’, meaning that just as when Moshe Rabbeinu took us out of the exile in Egypt by revealing Godly perceptions in wonderful new ways, in the same matter now in the final exile, which is much harder and heavier, we will be able to get out of it, through all the hidden secrets of the Torah that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his friends revealed to us, which are essentially tools and vessels for perception of Godliness… Therefore, we make a grand celebration on Lag Ba’Omer which is the day of the passing of Rabbi Shimon, for we merited that he left us such a great treasure, that will remain for generations and generations, through which we’ll be able to perceive Hashem blessed is He.”

Rebbe Nachman draws an inference to Rabbi Shimon from the verse, “Ir V’kaddish Min Shemaya Nachit (An angel, a holy one, descended from heaven).” The commentaries (Rashi, Metzudat David, etc.) point out that the word “Ir”, here translated as “angel,” literally means “awake.” This is because an angel is always awake – always conscious of G-d. The word “V’kaddish” (a holy one) also applies to an angel, whose holiness can never be defiled. Rebbe Nachman taught that being spiritually “awake” is a condition for heightened awareness and holiness. Thus, it was befitting that this verse be used to described Rabbi Shimon; his heightened awareness made him especially sensitive to the suffering of those exiled, just as it gave him the ability to remedy their plight through the revelation of the Hidden Torah.

After Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed these great and powerful secrets, the Arizal added tremendous depth and insight to these teachings. Then the Baal Shem Tov made this mystical and lofty light accessible to all the great Chassidic leaders, teaching them how to apply these concepts to their daily lives. The Baal Shem Tov’s great-grand son, Rebbe Nachman, made these concepts available to all in the form of practical advice.

After revealing this teaching about Rabbi Shimon, Rebbe Nachman concluded: “But now, there is `nachal novea mekor chokhmah (נחל נובע מקור חכמה; a flowing brook, a wellspring of wisdom)’ (Proverbs 18:4), so that even `a holy one descended from heaven’ must also receive from this brook.”

Rebbe Nachman’s reference to this verse is an allusion to himself. After showing how the names of Rabbi Yochai and Rabbi Shimon are alluded to in Scripture, Rebbe Nachman quotes a verse whose first letters spell NaChMaN (נחמן).

In these words, Rebbe Nachman revealed that he came into the world to continue unveiling the light of Rebbe Shimon in a new way. He came to shine the light of the Zohar for our generation and show every person how precious and holy we are. He offers guidance and practical advice that emerges from the teachings of the Zohar and other kabbalistic works. 

Rebbe Nachman, just like his great-grandfather the holy Baal Shem Tov, is revealing the inner light of the Torah to every single person on their level.

As Rebbe Nachman explains, because Rabbi Shimon is alluded to in the verse, “It will not be forgotten…,” he was able to stand up, regardless of the eminence of the Rabbis gathered, and proclaim that the Torah will not be forgotten. What would guarantee this?

While Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai was able to probe the depths of the Torah and its secrets, he also learned not to judge the world negatively from his elevated level. He could see the true potential in every person. He understood that no matter how distant we may be, no matter how corrupt the world around us grows, we will never forget Hashem and the Torah. Rabbi Shimon knew that the Torah and its flame will burn bright for all eternity.

As Rabbi Yossi Katz writes, “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was able to reveal that the essence of Torah is sourced in the unity and bond between Hashem and each person. The greatest Torah secrets teach us that we can always connect and discover the Godliness within every place and every person. This is the essence of the Zohar and the life of Rebbe Shimon.”

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai also understood the love Hashem has for His children. As Rabbi Shimon taught, “See how beloved Israel is to the Holy One, blessed be He, for wherever they went into exile, the Divine Presence (Shechinah) went with them: they were exiled to Egypt, and the Shechinah went with them; they were exiled to Babylon, and again the Shechinah went with them. And when Israel will be redeemed in the future, the Shechinah will be redeemed with them, as it is written, ‘And Gd, your Gd, will return (with) your exile.’ “

Lag Ba’Omer is a day to reignite our flame and passion for Hashem. Just as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed the hidden light to the world, Lag Ba’Omer is a time to find the hidden light that shines within ourselves and others.

 

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Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.

 

Fear leads to mistakes.   —   Sefer HaMidos, Fear # 2

Fear saps a person’s strength.   —   Sefer HaMidos, Fear # 8

Worry and fear clog the heart.   —   Sefer HaMidos, Fear # 31

Trust in G-d and you will be saved from fear.   —   Sefer HaMidos, Fear # 3

And know! A person must cross a very, very narrow bridge. The main rule is: Do not be frightened at all!   —   Likutey Moharan II, 48:2

 

Rebbe Nachman teaches that fear and anxiety can affect a person, both physically and emotionally. The evil inclination understands the crippling effect, and therefore places these ideas and thoughts at the forefront of our mind.

At times, the evil inclination can convince us to fixate on minor worries; he makes the insignificant seem insurmountable.

Rebbe Nachman compares this to a small coin held directly in front of the eye. At first, it can block the view of an entire mountain, but when we take a step back, we see that it is truly minuscule.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that if we only knew our true strength, we would pay no attention to these worrisome thoughts. 

But as we see throughout the Torah, there are times when the fear itself can create a frightening reality.

Before the Jews went out to war, the soldiers were asked if any of them were afraid. If a soldier was indeed fearful, they were instructed to return home. This was not a punishment; this was protecting them from any harm. As the Maharal explains, the fear itself would have led to their downfall on the battlefield.

Similarly, we see that Hashem warned Yirmiyah, “Do not be frightened of them, lest it cause you to be broken before them.” The fear would have caused his defeat.

The verse in Iyov states, “What I feared will come upon me.” The commentators explain that fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that fear and anxiety cloud our vision. We become incapable of thinking calmly and collected. This lack of clarity leads to mistakes.

The Maharal offers a very practical example displaying how fear can weaken us and increase the likelihood of failure. Suppose there is a thick tree branch lying on the floor. Most people would be able to walk across the branch with ease. Now, say that branch was lifted four or five feet off the ground. Less people would successfully cross. Take that branch and raise it forty or fifty feet in the air. Very few people would even dare to attempt such a challenge. Absolutely nothing has physically changed with the branch, but as the level of risk increases, so does the chance of failure. The fear compromises our capabilities. The fear causes us to fall.

As we mentioned, certain fears are natural. And in truth, life is filled with endless reasons for concern. But what really matters, is how we react when faced with these justified stresses and anxieties.

We live in world filled with uncertainties. But there is a reason for that…

Rebbe Nachman teaches that Hashem sends us these worries and concerns as opportunities. It is a chance to sincerely turn to Hashem for help. Hashem’s greatest pleasure comes when those in need rely on Him for relief.

The evil inclination wants us to quiver in fear; he wants the doubts to consume us, leaving us debilitated. But as Rebbe Nachman teaches, we are stronger than him. We can elevate that fear and build a deeper bond and connection to Hashem.

Through faith we can be courageous. And with trust in Hashem, we can conquer all fears.

 

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As always, comments are more than welcomed!

Fear and Anxiety – Part 2
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