Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Where is Olam Hazeh? - Part 3


Painting by Dovid Sears

By Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, Rav of Tcherin, zatzal
Parpara’os le-Chokhmah II, 119
Translated and annotated by Dovid Sears

In memory of Jon Sholle, a”h, who passed away on 3 Sivan 5778 / 2018
May his neshamah have an aliyah.

This is the third installment of our translation of the Tcheriner Rav’s commentary on this excerpt from Likutey Moharan Tinyana, Lesson 119 (end):

Rebbe Nachman declared: “Everyone says that Olam Hazeh (‘This World’) and Olam Habah (‘The World to Come’”) exist. As for Olam Habah—we believe that there is a World to Come. It is possible that there is also an Olam Hazeh as well, in some world somewhere. But here, we see that it is Gehinnom (Hell); for all beings experience great suffering constantly.” Then he said, “There isn’t any Olam Hazeh at all!”

To read the previous installment, click here.

 The Tcheriner Rav continues:

5) With this, we may also understand the connection [between the teaching in the Mishnah (Berakhos 9:5) cited above, that all blessings recited in the Holy Temple were concluded with the phrase “min ha-olam … from the world; however, due to the damage caused by the heretics … this was amended so that the blessing would conclude, “min ha-olam vi-ad ha-olam … from world to world”]—and the next subject addressed in the same Mishnah: [Ezra the Scribe and his Beis Din] decreed that a person should greet his friend with the name of G-d. And Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenuro explains (ad loc.) that we don’t consider this way of honoring man, by pronouncing the Divine Name over him, to be a denigration of G-d’s honor.

[The objection that this manner of greeting is irreverent] would have been legitimate according to the reasoning of those who declare this world, together with all of its inhabitants, to be an end in itself.

That is, according to their understanding, there is a fundamental rift between Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah, and between the creatures and the Creator.

However, this is not so in light of the truth—for as [Rebbe Nachman] explains,[1] within Olam Hazeh are garbed the “feet of holiness” [i.e., lower levels of holiness]. That is, the Infinite One constricts Himself (so to speak), and imbues thought, speech and action within each person, according to the nature of the individual, the place and the time. In this manner, He communicates “hidden messages” (remazim) to everyone concerning how they may serve Him. A person must contemplate these hidden messages deeply in order to understand them. This is called “cleaving in thought to the World to Come in a detailed way,” as mentioned above.

The Tcheriner Rav began this teaching by citing this concept from Lesson 54; see Posting 1, section 1. “Cleaving in thought to the World to Come in a detailed way,” means contemplating the divine messages hidden within the countless details of the world of our ordinary experience.

If so, and on the contrary, when a person encounters his friend and greets him, it is necessary to mention G-d’s Name, thus to make known to him that everything is bound to G-d’s Name; indeed, doing so is a way of honoring G-d. For “all of the earth is full of His Glory” (Isaiah 6:3), as [Rebbe Nachman discusses] in the lesson, “Ki Merachamam Yenahagem” (Likutey Moharan Tinyana, Lesson 7).

[The Mishnah] derives this from Boaz, who said to the harvesters, “May HaShem be with you!” (Ruth 2:4). That is, he made known to those engaged in their work that they too must cleave to the Blessed One—for “He is with you,” and “all of the earth is full of His Glory.”

Thus, the two issues in the Mishnah are intimately connected. The conclusion of blessings recited in the Holy Temple with the words “min ha-olam vi-ad ha-olam … from world to world,” and greeting others by invoking G-d’s Name are both ways of affirming that in a deeper sense, Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah are truly one, and that the ordinary and the sacred are truly one.

6) We can understand this even more clearly from Likutey Moharan I, 65 (“Vayomer Boaz el Rus”) [which discusses the story of Boaz and Ruth from a mystical perspective]. For “harvesting” alludes to the takhlis [i.e., the ultimate goal of life, or in another sense, the ultimate reality].[2] Therefore, Boaz informed the harvesters that while performing the physical work of reaping they should cleave in thought to the takhlis, which is the World to Come.

That is, symbolically, the act of reaping itself indicates that the workers were connected to the takhlis, and Boaz was calling this to their attention. From this, we see that Olam Hazeh is truly connected to Olam Habah, and that this truth can be grasped through proper mental focus on the ultimate reality—which Rebbe Nachman calls “cleaving in thought.”

 [The same lesson teaches] that one must guard the memory,[3] so that one will cleave in thought to the World to Come—and this is accomplished by having a “good eye”; as it is written, “[One with] a good eye shall be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9), as explained in Likutey Moharan I, 54, mentioned above. Therefore, the harvesters replied [to Boaz], “May G-d bless you!”

With this, the Tcheriner Rav suggests that because Boaz had a “good eye” toward the harvesters, in greeting them with G-d’s Name and urging them to cleave in thought to the World to Come, even in the midst of their mundane work, he was blessed in turn. And this “good eye” enhances the memory—which does not mean memory in the ordinary sense, but the “memory of the World to Come” (as we have explained in note 3).

This, too, is what it states in the Book of Judges (6:12): “And [the angel of HaShem appeared and] said to him, “HaShem is with you, mighty man of valor!” This was said regarding Yerubaal / Gideon,[4] who was cutting wheat in the wine press, which is one of the mundane activities of Olam Hazeh.

With this, the Tcheriner Rav draws a parallel between Gideon’s cutting of the wheat and the harvesters’ cutting of the wheat in the story of Ruth, mentioned above. In doing so, both were symbolically demonstrating the unity of Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah.

Therefore, [Gideon replied to the angel], “Please my lord, if HaShem be with us, why then has all this [oppression at the hand of the Midianites] befallen us? (ibid. 6:13). Meaning: if HaShem is with us, why is Israel so lowly in this world, since they are also bound to Olam Habah?

“And [HaShem turned toward him and] said, “Go, with this, your strength, and save Israel…” (ibid. 6:14). For Gideon was small and lowly in his own sight, as described there: “And he said to Him, “Please O Lord, with what shall I save Israel? Behold, my thousand is the poorest in [the tribe of] Menasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s household” (Ibid., 6:15).

Rashi comments: “Behold, my thousand: The thousand of which I am a constituent, under the prince of that thousand, is the lowliest thousand among all the thousands of Menasseh.”

And our rabbis state (Rosh Hashanah 25b) that Scripture equates three people of humble status [namely, Gideon, Samson and Jepthah, to three of the most prestigious leaders, Moses, Aharon, and Samuel; see there].

Thus, Gideon needed to realize that he too was capable of accomplishing sublime unifications in his mundane activities, just as the great tzaddikim did in their own ways. This is the great spiritual challenge that we all must face in this world—and thus connect Olam Hazeh to Olam Habah (or more accurately, realize the intrinsic connection between both “worlds”).

The angel informed him specifically that “HaShem is with you.” This is the paradigm of “the superior below and the inferior above,” as discussed in Likutey Moharan II, 7 (“Ki Merachamam Yehahagem”).

This concept also appears in Sichos ha-RaN, sec. 40, Rebbe Nachman’s teaching about the Dreidel and the Wheel of Transformation. This teaching is mentioned in Posting 2, Section 3 (end). The main point in the present context seems to be that the Divine exists within the mundane, and the mundane exists within the Divine.

Also in [Likutey Moharan Tinyana] Lesson 68, this same expression appears, [when Rebbe Nachman states,] “HaShem is with you, and beside you, and manifestly close to you …”

That is, just as the angel told Gideon that “HaShem is with you,” Rebbe Nachman encourages us with similar words.

The Tcheriner Rav now returns to the Mishnah (Berakhos 9:5) that he has been discussing. To make his remarks more understandable, we have included the text of the Mishnah here in bold. We have interpolated the gist of the commentary of Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenuro in the sections set off with square brackets:

And behold Boaz came from Bethlehem and said unto the reapers, “May HaShem be with you,” and they answered him, “May HaShem bless you” (Ruth 2:4). And [should you object that Boaz acted on his own, and one may not deduce anything from him,] it also states [regarding the angel who spoke to Gideon], “HaShem is with you, mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). [And should you object that you can't deduce this from the angel, who merely repeated God’s command to inform him that the Shekhinah is with him,] it also states, “And do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). [That is, do not belittle Boaz, who followed the custom of the elders; thus he had what to rely upon]; as it also states, “It is time to act for HaShem; they have nullified Your Torah” (Psalms 119:126). Rabbi Noson interprets this to mean that they have nullified Your Torah because it is time to act for HaShem. [Sometimes we must nullify Your Torah, to act for Hashem, as in offering greetings to others, since this is G-d’s will; as it states, “Seek peace and pursue it (Psalms 34:15)].

The Tcheriner Rav continues:

There [in the Mishnah] it states, “Do not disdain your mother when she is old,” as well as “It is a time to act for G-d; they have nullified Your Torah.” Both verses teach the same lesson, as the Gemara explains,[5] and as the commentary of Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenuro (ad loc.) also states.

Thus, we find that Boaz, in mentioning the Divine Name, had what to rely upon. As it states, “It is a time to act for HaShem; they have nullified Your Torah.” That is, according to what is explained in the lesson “Rabbi Shimon opened…” (Likutey Moharan I, 60, sec. 7) on this verse,[6] sometimes the tzaddik must resort to telling stories to awaken people who have fallen away from the “face” of holiness[7] into spiritual sleep. The tzaddik garbs the most profound teachings of the Torah in such stories and ordinary conversations in order to make them more accessible, as is explained there.

From this, we can understand and infer (kal vi-chomer) that also in Olam Hazeh, which is the World of Action (Asiyah), HaShem garbs sublime holiness (kedushah gavoha). And this [holiness] is bound in absolute unity to the World to Come. This is the meaning of “Do not disdain your mother when she is old.[8] For these stories [which the tzaddik tells to wake us up from spiritual sleep] are an aspect of “she is old”—an aspect of the perfections of the Ancient One (“Tikuney Atik,” the Zohar’s term for the Primordial Reality associated with the sefirah of Keser / Crown), as discussed in the above-mentioned lesson, “Rabbi Shimon opened…”

To be continued.


[1] The Tcheriner Rav references Likutey Moharan, I, 54 (“Viyehi Miketz”). This lesson is cited in the first part of the present teaching (see Posting 1).
[2] In Psalm 126 (“Shir ha-ma’alos bi-shuv HaShem”), the Redemption is allegorized as the joyous bringing in of sheaves of wheat from the field at the end of the day. This symbolism may be extended to the attainment of the World to Come.
[3] That is, one must “remember the World to Come,” in the sense that this higher reality is the soul’s place of origin, as well as its spiritual destination.
[4] See Judges 6:32, that Gideon was subsequently called “Yerubaal,” because he destroyed the altar of the pagan deity Baal, and thus challenged Baal to contend (“yirev”) with him.
[5] Berakhos 54a.
[6] That is, Rebbe Nachman begins the lesson with an excerpt from the Zohar (“Ha-Idra Rabba Kadisha,Naso, 127a) on the verse, “It is a time to act for G-d; they have nullified Your Torah.”
[7] There, the “face” of holiness denotes a state of higher spiritual awareness or intellect. Accordingly, the tzaddik must resort to telling stories to awaken others who have lost their higher spiritual awareness. However, those who have lost their perception of all “Seventy Faces” of the Torah can only be awakened through Sippurey Ma’asiyos shel Shanim Kadmoniyos (“Stories of Primordial Times”), which garb the deepest mysteries of the Torah, which lie at the core of reality.
[8] That is, “she,” meaning the Hidden Torah within Olam Hazeh, “is old,” in the sense of being primordial. This is what the Tcheriner Rav means by relating the “wake up” stories told by the tzaddik to “the perfections of the Ancient One.”

Monday, May 14, 2018

Why We Eat Dairy Foods on Shavuos


From Rabbi Moshe Sofer, Derashos Chasam Sofer, Vol. II, “LiShavuos,” 291a

The verse states: “When you bring a new meal-offering to God on your festival of Shavuos (Weeks)...” (Numbers 28:26). The initial letters of the Hebrew words “a meal offering to God” spell the word chalav (milk).

This alludes to the custom of eating dairy foods on the festival of Shavuos mentioned in the Sefer HaRoke’ach. We see that it is beneficial to consume animal foods in order to elevate the holy sparks they possess to the human level. Yet if it would be sufficient to eat butter and milk, without having to slaughter a living creature, this would be far better. Thus did Adam conduct himself before the first sin. Afterwards, the human soul no longer possessed the requisite spiritual power to elevate the holy sparks by consuming dairy foods alone, without slaughtering the animal and spilling its blood—for this act accomplishes the release of the animal’s soul. Otherwise, the holy sparks could not ascend. Although after the first sin, animal slaughter still was deemed to be wrong, it was permitted to Noah after the Flood. However, on the day of the Giving of the Torah, the Israelites regained the spiritual level of Adam before the first sin. Therefore, it was sufficient to consume dairy foods, without slaughtering animals, and the holy sparks were elevated through milk.

“Every day a Heavenly voice goes out from Mount Horeb”



From the Breslov Pirkey Avot (Breslov Research Institute), Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי, בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם בַּת קוֹל יוֹצֵאת מֵהַר חוֹרֵב וּמַכְרֶזֶת וְאוֹמֶרֶת אוֹי לָהֶם לַבְּרִיּוֹת מֵעֶלְבּוֹנָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה נִקְרָא נָזוּף, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר נֶזֶם זָהָב בְּאַף חֲזִיר אִשָּׁה יָפָה וְסָרַת טָעַם.
וְאוֹמֵר וְהַלֻּחֹת מַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹהִים הֵמָּה וְהַמִּכְתָּב מִכְתַּב אֱלֹהִים הוּא חָרוּת עַל הַלֻּחֹת, אַל תִּקְרָא חָרוּת אֶלָּא חֵרוּת, שֶׁאֵין לְךָ בֶּן חוֹרִין אֶלָּא מִי שֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה.
וְכָל מִי שֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה הֲרֵי זֶה מִתְעַלֶּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וּמִמַּתָּנָה נַחֲלִיאֵל וּמִנַּחֲלִיאֵל בָּמוֹת:


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “Every day a Heavenly voice goes out from Mount Horeb proclaiming and saying, ‘Woe to humanity for disdaining the Torah!’ For anyone who does not occupy himself with the Torah is called ‘rebuked,’ as it is written, ‘As a golden ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion’ (Proverbs 1:22).

“And it is written, ‘The Tablets are the work of God, and the writing is the writing of God engraved on the Tablets’ (Exodus 32:16). Do not read charut (‘engraved’), but cherut (‘freedom’), for no one is free except he who engages in Torah study.

 “Anyone who occupies himself with Torah study will be spiritually elevated, as it is written, 'From Matanah to Nachliel, and from Nachliel to Bamot’” (Numbers 21:19).


Digest of Commentaries:

Every day a Heavenly voice goes out from Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb (Har Chorev) is another name for Mount Sinai. When the Jewish nation does not occupy itself with the Torah, Mount Sinai becomes ChaReV (“desolate" or "ruined”). This may explain why the term ChoReV is used here, since this teaching speaks of the neglect of the Torah (Midrash Shmuel).

For anyone who does not occupy himself with the Torah is called "rebuked," as it is written, "As a golden ring in a swine's snout ... .” This applies to a scholar who lacks intellectual discretion and restraint. One who uses the intellect for inferior purposes is compared to a pig that burrows in a dung heap and in filth (Tiferet Yisrael). Why Pirkey Avot cites this verse as a proof-text for such a scholar being called “rebuked” is somewhat unclear; however, the letters of the word NaZuF (“rebuked”) can be found in the Hebrew words of the verse, Nezem Zahav be’aF (“a gold ring in a snout”) (Midrash Shmuel, quoting Rabbi Ephraim).

Do not read charut ("engraved"), but cherut ("‘freedom"), for no one is free” from domination by the evil inclination and the passions of the heart, except he who engages in Torah study which, we learned in the previous teaching (6:1), "distances him from sin and draws him near to virtue … [and] magnifies and elevates him above all things."

Anyone who occupies himself with Torah study will be spiritually elevated, as it is written, "From Matanah  to Nachliel, and from Nachliel to Bamot.” These are names of places to which the Israelites traveled during their wanderings in the desert. Matanah literally means “gift” (as in, "the gift of the Torah"). Nachliel literally means “inheritance of God.” Bamot literally means “heights.” On this verse, the Sages expound, “If one makes himself like the desert upon which everyone treads, he will retain his learning, and the Torah will be given to him as a gift (matanah). ... And since God (El) is his inheritance (nachalah), he will rise to spiritual heights (bamot)” (Eruvin 54a).

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The Heavenly Voice

Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen used to ask, “But who hears this voice? Who is listening for it?”

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“Woe to humanity for disdaining the Torah!”

Rebbe Nachman: It is impossible to guide and correct others properly unless we engage in Torah study. Through the Torah we can help everyone to improve themselves, including those who are very far away — even if we do not know what they need. The Torah study in which we engage enables even those who are extremely distant to hear the call of the Torah, which constantly cries out imploringly, “How long, O fools, shall you love folly?” (Proverbs 1:22). This cry of the Torah will bring everyone back to God (Likutey Etzot, Tokhachah 8).

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No one is free except he who engages in Torah study

Reb Noson: In truth, time does not exist. We can grasp this fact even with our limited perception. Although we may be unable to understand the concept of that which is “beyond time,” we can plainly see that time races and rushes and disappears, nothing stays the same, and every second we move closer toward death.

Therefore we should take pity on ourselves and consider this truth carefully. Then we will not invest any worldly endeavor with the illusion of permanence, or worry from one day to the next at all, as the adage states, “Do not suffer tomorrow’s travail.”[i]

Even the work in which we must engage to earn our livelihood should be done without investing it with permanence. As our Sages state, “Make your Torah study fixed, and your livelihood transitory” (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan 13:2). Do not exchange the world that endures for the world that passes.

Thus Pirkey Avot teaches, “No one is free except he who engages in Torah study.” By doing so, we heighten our powers of perception until we nullify the illusion of time and go out from slavery to freedom (Likutey Halakhot, Milah 4:12, abridged).

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Reb Noson: The Ten Commandments – which represent the entire Torah[ii] – begin with the declaration, “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). This teaches us that the purpose of receiving the Torah was to overcome servitude, which came into the world as a result of the impurity of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:16-19) and the impurity of Ham, father of Canaan, who was cursed to be a “slave of slaves” (ibid., 9:25).

Therefore it was not possible to receive the Torah until after the Exodus from Egypt, the “house of bondage.” [The ancient Egyptians were descendants of Ham.] Then the Children of Israel were privileged to receive the Torah, which epitomizes freedom, as Pirkey Avot states, “Do not read charut (‘engraved’), but cherut (‘freedom’), for no one is free except he who engages in Torah study.”

When the Israelites received the Torah, the impurity of the serpent was removed from them.[iii] Then they were liberated completely from the mentality of Egyptian servitude by virtue of the Torah’s 248 positive commandments, which correspond to the 248 limbs of the body (Zohar I, 170b). As a result of the mitzvah related to it, each limb goes forth from slavery to freedom. That is, the spirit of impurity – which is an aspect of servitude – departs from it and it attains freedom, which is an aspect of the Torah (Likutey Halakhot, Chovel BeChavero 2).

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Spiritual Elevation

Rebbe Nachman: All knowledge of the Torah’s laws – be it the mitzvot that apply to man’s relationship with his fellow man or those that apply to his relationship with God — intrinsically ennobles the soul (The Aleph-Bet Book, Torah Study A:10).




[i] Yebamot 63b, citing Ben Sira. The full adage reads, “Do not suffer tomorrow’s travail, for you never know what the day will bring. By the time tomorrow arrives, you may not be here anymore, and you will have worried over a world that was not yours.”
[ii] Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15; Rashi on Exodus 24:12; Zohar II, 93b; ibid., 85b.
[iii] Shabbat 146a; Zohar II, 188b.

Shavuos


From Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present, compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears (in-progress)

Shavuos Customs
Shavuos was one of the three fixed times of the year when Breslover Chassidim came to the Rebbe. Therefore, in recent years it has become common for many Breslovers travel to Uman to spend Shavuos near the Rebbe's tziyun. (However, there is no requirement to do so; the only time a Breslover Chassid is obligated to travel to Uman is for Rosh Hashanah.)

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However, in Reb Noson’s day, his talmidim used to travel to him for Shavuos. They would try to arrive in time to conclude the counting of sefiras ha-omer together on the night of Erev Shavuos. One such occasion was Shavuos of 1834, when some eighty followers came to Reb Noson in Breslov. They prayed with such fervor that ever since, Breslover Chassidim refer to this as “der groiser Shavuos.
(See Rabbi Chaim Kramer, “Through Fire and Water,” chap. 33, pp. 366-377)

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Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender mentioned that during Reb Noson’s time, when the Breslover Chassidim who had come from far and wide counted the sefirah together on the night before Shavuos, virtually the whole city used to come to witness their fervor. This was an annual event that everyone looked forward to.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)

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In the Tzefas community, most Breslover Chassidim wear a white caftan on Shavuos at night and during Shacharis-Musaf. However, they do not wear this caftan for Minchah.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchok Kenig)

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In Tzefas, the Breslov shul is decorated with greenery, following the common minhag.
(Heard from Rabi Yitzchok Kenig. See RaMaH on Orach Chaim 494:3.)

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The Steipler Gaon mentioned that in the Ukraine it was customary to spread grass and small twigs on the entire floor of the shul.
(Orchos Rabbenu, vol. II, Bnei Brak 1992, p. 99, sec. 7)

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Reb Noson darshans on the minhag of eating dairy foods on Shavuos.
(See Likutey Halakhos, Birkhos ha-Torah 1; Masa U-Matan 4:6; Eruvei Techumin 5:13; Shavu’os 1:4, 2:2; Devarim ha-Yotziyim Min ha-Chai 2:2 and 7; Simanei Behemah ve-Chayah Tehorah 4:40, 46; Mezuzah 2:4)

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In Tzefas, as in most communities, the minhag is to eat milchigs after davenning Shacharis, during the Kiddush. However, the day meal is fleishig.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig. See Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 494:3, with Mishnah Berurah; Likutey MaHaRiCH Vol. III, p. 577.)

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Breslover Chassidim traditionally remain awake all night and recite the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos of the Arizal. In the Tzefas community, the chaburah recites the Tikkun together, and the Chassidim recite Kaddish and dance after concluding each section: Chumash, TaNaKH, Mishnayos, etc.
(See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eytz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag HaShavuos, chap. 1; ; Kitzur SheLaH Masechtas Shavuos: Seder Leyl Shavuos.)

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Reb Noson states that the main parts of Tikkun Leyl Shavuos are TaNaKh and Mishnayos. Although the Arizal omits the Mishnayos, the Shelah ha-Kadosh includes them.
(Likutey Halakhos, Kriyas ha-Torah 6:26)

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Accordingly, Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to recite the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos with the Mishnayos.
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

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In a letter to Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitch, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz writes: “Remaining awake on the night of Shavuos gives life to all of one’s conduct for the entire year, both spiritually and physically. One should rejoice, for this is the 'wedding' of Matan Torah -- and one should rededicate himself to the study of the Rebbe’s teachings, which are a chiddush niflah, a wondrous innovation that comes from the Future World, from [the Torah of] Atika Setimah [the Hidden Ancient One], destined to be revealed in time to come…”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren Rabbi Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 2, p. 14; cf. Reb Noson’s description of the Rebbe’s teachings at the beginning of his Hakdamah to Likutey Moharan.)

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The Terhovitza Maggid, a close talmid of the Rebbe and a prominent Chassidic leader in his own right, and Reb Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl, author Me’or Einayim, always used to take turns visiting each other to celebrate Shavuos. On Shavuos night, they would dance together in ecstasy all night long. When Reb Nochum grew too old and weak to continue, he sent his son Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl to the Terhovitza Maggid for Shavuos, and they, too, danced all night.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 64, p. 201. From this it would seem that the two tzaddikim did not recite the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos.)

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Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz states that on Shavuos in Uman, the Chassidim took turns dancing all through the night. Thus, one group was always reciting the Tikkun and another was always dancing.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 54, p. 190; ibid. Letter 64, p. 201)

*

By contrast, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender recalled that the Breslover Chassidim in Uman recited the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos, as is customary, and then danced for a long time. On one occasion, Reb Borukh Getche’s danced with the members of his chaburah all night until it was time to get ready for Shacharis.
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh V, 303)

*

Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn heard that in Uman, it was primarily the “ovdim” who danced at such length on Shavuos night. Most of the olam simply recited the Tikkun.

*

In the Breslov shul in the Katamon section of Yerushalayim, they used to dance after each of the three or four “kaddeishim” during the course of reading the Tikkun.
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

*

The melody for “Atah Nigleisa” that we sing on Shavuos night came from the Rebbe Reb Borukh’l of Medzhibuzh, who sang it on Shabbos evening to the words of “Eishes Chayil”—while the melody we sing to “Eishes Chayil,” Reb Borukh’l used to sing to “Atah Nigleisa.” However, the Rebbe switched them. 
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

*

Just before alos ha-shachar, it is proper to immerse in the mikveh. Kabbalistically, this mikveh represents the Fiftieth Gate, and is the source of holiness of all immersions in the mikveh throughout the year.
(Likutey Moharan I, 56:7; Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren Rabbi Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 64, p. 201; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag HaShavuos, chap. 1)

*

As mentioned above, Shavuos is one of the five times that the tzibbur davens ki-vasikin.
(Oral Tradition)

*

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender stated that throughout the Ukraine, including in Breslover communities, it was customary to omit the yotzros on the first day of Shavuos, but to recite them on the second day. In Breslov communities in Eretz Yisrael (where there is only one day of Yom Tov), yotzros are recited during chazoras ha-SHa”TZ on Shavuos.
(See Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 463)

*

In America, the Borough Park Breslov congregation does so on both days.

*

Rabbi Nachman greatly praised the medieval poem "Akdamus Milin" and the regal melody with which it is sung. This remains a highlight of the Shavuos davening in Breslover shuls today. Each stanza is sung by both the chazzan and the congregation, not by alternating stanzas, as in many other communities.
(See Sichos ha-Ran 256)

*

Reb Avraham used to sing a melody without words prior to Akdamus, and extend and embellish the stanzas with various melodic phrases as he recited them.
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

*

Reb Noson mentions the minhag followed by most congregations to recite Sefer Rus on the second day Shavuos (in chutz la’aretz).
(See Likkutei Halakhos, Birkhas ha-Shachar 5:18, 52; Kriyas Shema 5:17; Birkhas ha-Peyros 5:22; et al. This custom is mentioned in Machzor Vitry, based on a midrash in Pesikta Zutra (Midrash Rus); see Likutey Maharich III, p. 579.)

*

Reb Gedaliah told Reb Aharon Waxler that one should say “shnei se’irim le-khaper” during the Musaf of Shavuos, as in the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah.
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Waxler. Cf. Siddur Baal ha-Tanya, Musaf shel Shalosh Regalim)

*

Shavuos is the yahrtzeit of the holy Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, and the Rebbe’s great-grandfather. Therefore, it is a custom of Chassidim in general to mention a teaching from the Baal Shem Tov, or at least to mention him on Shavuos.
(According to most mesorahs, the Baal Shem Tov passed away on the first day of Shavuos; see Siddur Arizal of Rabbi Avraham Shimshon of Rashkov, p. 298; Rabbi Yitzchok Eizik Yehudah Yechiel Safrin of Komarno, Heikhal HaBerakhah, “Ki Seitzei,” 129b; Sefer Baal Shem Tov, “Ki Savo,” in Mekor Mayim Chaim, note 12; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch, Likutey Dibburim, Vol. III, p. 1054; Darkei Chaim vi-Shalom-Munkatch, Hil. Yom Tov, 527). 

The Mikveh of the Fiftieth Gate: A Shavuos Teaching



Likutey Moharan I, 56, sec. 7
Translated by Dovid Sears
This is a difficult excerpt from a complex lesson, but well worth studying, especially in preparation for the coming Yom Tov.

The holiday of Shavuos represents an extremely great and exalted level of consciousness, which is supernal loving-kindness and great compassion; for the extent of compassion depends upon the extent of divine perception (da’as). This is because at the Giving of the Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He, appeared as an Elder full of compassion” (Rashi on Exodus 20:2).[1]

“Elder” refers to one who possesses a composed mind (yishuv ha-da’as; see Kinim 3:6; Zohar III, 128b). This determines the extent of compassion, as we have stated. Thus, Shavuos [which commemorates the time when God was revealed as an “Elder full of compassion,”] is characterized by supernal loving-kindness and great compassion.

This is also the paradigm of the mikveh of Shavuos,[2] which is the aspect of the mikveh of the Fiftieth Gate—the highest gate of the Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding,[3] the aspect of supernal loving-kindness and great compassion.

Therefore, the mikveh saves from all troubles, as it is written, “The Hope (Mikveh) of Israel, Who saves her in a time of trouble” (Jeremiah 14:8).[4] For it is supernal loving-kindness, which saves from all troubles. This is why the mikveh purifies from all impurities, as it is written, “And I will sprinkle upon you purifying water, and you will be purified” (Ezekiel 36:25).[5] For “there is no suffering without sin” (Shabbos 55a). Thus, the mikveh, which delivers from all trouble and all suffering, purifies from all forms of impurity and all sin.

This is the paradigm of MaN (Aramaic: manna),[6] which corresponds to the aspect of “exalted consciousness”; because the manna is the aspect of da’as.[7]

This corresponds to “an open statement (ma’amar pasu’ach), extended trustworthiness (ne’eman pashut)” (Shabbos 104a).[8] An “open statement” is the aspect of revealing da’as, for speech is the medium through which da’as is expressed; as it is written, “Da’as and understanding are from His mouth” (Proverbs 2:6).

In Egypt, da’as was in exile, as it is written, “However, I did not make Myself known to them by My Name YHVH (Exodus 6:3); thus, speech was also in exile. This is the aspect of [Moses’s description of himself as] “difficult of speech and difficult of language” (ibid. 4:10).[9] However, when they left Egypt, when da’as went out of exile, speech came forth and “opened up.” This is the meaning of an “open statement”: speech opened up and revealed da’as.

Through the revelation of da’as, the perception of God’s trustworthiness spreads forth and it becomes apparent that He is trustworthy—He promises and He acts. This is the aspect of “extended trustworthiness”: His trustworthiness spreads forth. In Egypt, where da’as was in exile, His trustworthiness did not spread forth, and it was not apparent. Accordingly, Rashi explains the verse: “ ‘However, I did not make Myself known to them by My Name YHVH’—I was not known by My true quality.” Since higher consciousness was not revealed in Egypt, His trustworthiness was not apparent; for loving-kindness depends upon da’as, as we have said.

This is the aspect of ANOKHY (Exodus 20:2),[10] the initial letters of which our Sages interpret to mean “Yehiva Kesiva Ne’emanim Amareha . . . My giving, My writing, Her statements are trustworthy” (Shabbat 105a).[11] [The initial letters of “ANOKHY” corresponds to this phrase.] Through the Giving of the Torah, the “statement” [i.e., holy speech] was opened and da’as was revealed, and through this, God’s trustworthiness spread forth. This is the aspect of “ne’emanim amareha . . . her statements are trustworthy,” corresponding to “extended trustworthiness (ne’eman pashut), an open statement (ma’amar pasu’ach),” discussed above.

This is also the aspect of MaN (manna), which is an acronym of “Ma’amar Ne’eman (a trusted statement),” corresponding to “an open statement (ma’amar pasu’ach), extended trustworthiness (ne’eman pashut).” For the manna embodies the paradigm of great da’as. Therefore, “the Children of Israel ate the manna for forty years” (Exodus 16:35)—because “at the age of forty, one gains understanding (binah, as in the Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding)” (Avos 5:21).

NOTES

1. In the Kabbalah, the term “elder (zaken)” is related to the sefirah of Keser, which transcends all harsh judgments and is the source of the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy. These Thirteen Attributes are symbolized by the beard, which in Hebrew is “zakan.” The word zakan is related to zaken, “elder.”
2. A mikveh is a natural body of water or man-made pool that meets certain halakhic requirements, which enables a person or object to regain a state of ritual purity (taharah). This water is symbolically related to the “river that came forth from Eden,” mentioned at the beginning of Genesis.
3. Our Sages state that the world was created through “Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding,” all but one of which were revealed to Moshe Rabbenu (Nedarim 38a). The Zohar and other kabbalistic works relate these Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding to the fifty times that the Exodus is mentioned in the Torah (see Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Shiur Komah, Hakdamah, Parshah 92). Thus, there is a deep connection between the revelation of the mysteries of creation and the Exodus, which culminated in the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, when the entire nation attained prophecy. According to the Arizal (see Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Shavuos, Drush 1), the mikveh into which it is customary to immerse on Shavuos morning is related to this awesome level of the Fiftieth Gate—which ultimately will be made available to all Israel with the proliferation of da’as in the Messianic Age.
4. The word mikveh also can mean “hope.” Thus, the verse from Jeremiah, which refers to God as the “Hope of Israel,” may be understood homiletically to allude to the mikveh in which one immerses to attain purity.
5. That is, just as God will purify all humanity through water in time to come, when divine knowledge will fill the world, so the mikveh purifies even today.
6. The word “MaN” is spelled “mem-nun.” In context of this lesson, these letters are an acronym for “mikveh nun,” the Mikveh of the Fiftieth Gate.
7. By eating the manna from heaven during their forty years in the desert, the Children of Israel attained higher levels of consciousness. The manna was the ideal food, possessing none of the spiritual or even physical problems associated with ordinary food.
8. The Gemara renders each letter of the Hebrew alphabet interpretively. This cryptic phrase is what it has to say about the letters mem and nun. The Rebbe goes on to elucidate this idea in keeping with his teaching about the exile and redemption of consciousness (da’as).
9. This refers to Moshe’s speech impediment, which was only manifest during the period of Egyptian exile. After the Exodus, the Torah never again mentions this problem. This implies that Moshe stuttered because holy speech in a transpersonal sense was in exile in Egypt. With the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, speech was rectified (Zohar II, 25b).
10. This is the first word of the Ten Commandments, which begin ANOKHY / I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of Egypt…” (ibid.).
11. The letters of the word ANOKHY, when read backward, are an acronym of Yehiva Kesiva Ne’emanim Amareha . . . My giving, My writing, Her statements are trustworthy.” This interpretation suggests that with the word ANOKHY,” God gave His approbation to the words that followed. The emphasis on the trustworthiness of God’s word in this interpretation of the Talmudic Sages lends support to Rebbe Nachman’s lesson.