Monday, September 11, 2017

A Few Rosh Hashanah Teachings


We are posting the first few Rosh Hashanah teachings included in the BRI "user's guide" to the annual Breslov kibbutz (gathering) in Uman, "Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashanah." The book may be purchased online here

These translations were gleaned from Rabbi Nachman Goldstein of Tcherin's anthology "Otzar HaYirah."

Building the House of Prayer
Reb Noson explains why we spend so much time engaged in prayer at the beginning of the year, basing his ideas on certain profound kabbalistic concepts. The sefirah of Tiferet (Beauty), corresponds to the partzuf, or interrelated group of sefirot, known as Z’er Anpin (Small Face), and represents the masculine-creative principle; while the sefirah of Malkhut(Kingship) represents the feminine-receptive principle. These two principles also correspond to Adam and Eve. When out of harmony with each other,Z’er Anpin and Malkhut are like Adam and Eve when they were first created as Siamese twins. When Z’er and Malkhut in accord with one another, they are like Adam and Eve after they were separated and subsequently reunited in marriage. The perfection of Malkhut is the goal of creation. Then we will all perceive the Creator “face to face,” and the spirit of love and peace will fill the universe.

All of our efforts during these days, from Rosh Hashanah until Shemini Atzeret, are for the sake of Malkhut (Kingship) – to “build” Malkhut into a complete partzuf (“face,” or structure) and bring about her coupling with Z’er Anpin, as described in the mystical kavannot (intentions) of the ARI. That is, all of our intentions during these days is to “build” the edifice of prayer, to lift her up from her fallen state.

For at present, prayer, which corresponds to King David and Malkhut, has fallen from her proper station. As our Sages state: “K’rum zulut liv’nei adam . . . when vileness (zulut) is exalted by mankind (Psalms 12:9) – these are matters that stand in the heights of the universe, yet people belittle them (mezalzelin, a word-play on zulut). And what is this? Prayer” (Berakhot 6b).

This is the focal point of all our exertions during these days: to elevate prayer, which is the aspect of Malkhut, and build a complete spiritual structure. (52)

Marriage of the Sun and Moon
In this teaching, Reb Noson alludes to Rebbe Nachman’s instruction that we should turn the Torah we have studied into prayers, especially duringhisbodedus (secluded meditation) (Likutey Moharan I, 25). This practice becomes a “min-Rosh Hashanah,” whenever we engage in it during the year.

The sun and moon correspond to Moses and David, which in turn correspond to the sefirot of Tiferet (Beauty) and Malkhut (Kingship), as well as Torah and prayer. Years are counted according to the sun, while months are counted according to the moon. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month, represents the fusion of the sun and moon. That is, they become equivalent to one another, in keeping with the principle that “the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun” (Siddur, Kiddush Levanah; cf. Sanhedrin 42a). This is accomplished by our building the edifice of prayer to completion – through turning the Torah we have learned into prayers, and by praying that our lives be wholly devoted to fulfilling the Torah. (55)

Cutting Off Falsehood
Underlying this teaching is the concept that God is the source of truth (see Shabbat 55a; Likutey Moharan I, 51). By our coronation of the Supreme King of Kings on Rosh Hashanah, we prevent falsehood from insinuating itself into our lives, and thus create a climate of peace. 

On Rosh Hashanah, which is the first of the year, we strive to nullify the paradigm of falsehood at its very source. This is accomplished by our revealing the “head of truth (rosh ha-emet)” which is manifest on Rosh Hashanah. This nullifies all strife; for most conflicts and dissenting opinions are over the truth. Each person asserts his viewpoint and says, “This is the truth!” The reason for all this is that we have not cut off falsehood at its root. Thus, it is possible to fall into grave error afterwards, and exchange falsehood for truth and truth for falsehood; as the verse states, “Woe unto those who say unto evil that it is good…” (Isaiah 5:20). All the conflicts in the world come from this.

Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah and the Ten Days of Penitence when we engage in cutting off falsehood at its root, we nullify all strife, and peace and unity prevail. Everything returns to the state of “Before Creation” [when all existed within the Infinite One]. On that plane, everything is entirely good and entirely one.

This is why we must forgive one another before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – so that abounding peace and unity should extend to the entire Jewish people. (114)

The Shofar of Liberation
This teaching reflects Rebbe Nachman’s tale, “The Seven Beggars”; in particularly, the section that presents the story of the Fourth Day, concerning the Beggar with the Crooked Neck. His deficiency, like those of the other holy beggars, is actually the indicator of his greatest spiritual quality – in this case his breath. The Beggar with the Crooked Neck refuses to exhale and thus add to the impure air of the “This World,” but directs his breath exclusively to the “World to Come.” This denotes not only the life of the hereafter, but the transcendent realm, which may be experienced here and now.

The shofar is an aspect of the World to Come. For it is necessary to twist one’s neck away from the vapors of this lowly world, and to direct all of one’s breath into the shofar, which is an aspect of the World to Come. That is, one must not exhale as much as a single breath into this world. Rather, all of one’s breath must enter the shofar, which is an aspect of the World to Come, so that everything will be bound solely to the ultimate goal and incorporated into the World to Come. In practical terms: the main thing is to separate oneself entirely from the vanities [havalim, which also can mean “breaths”] of this world; rather, all of one’s breaths should be those of Torah and prayer, bound to the World to Come.

This applies especially to Rosh Hashanah, which is the first of the Ten Days of Penitence. For this is the essence of repentance – that through the mitzvah of sounding the shofar we may imbue ourselves with the power of the true tzaddikim. They attained such lofty levels that they could praise themselves for never having breathed a single breath into this world. And in their power, we, too, can succeed in desisting from all mundane breaths and bind all of our breaths to the World to Come, which is the aspect of the shofar. (125)

Uniting the Two Songbirds
In the above-mentioned tale of the Seven Beggars, the Beggar with the Crooked Neck asserts that he has the most wondrous voice, for which claim he has the approbation of the Land of Music. He challenges the sages of this land to mimic the voices of two songbirds, and thus bring them together – but only the Beggar with the Crooked Neck can succeed. These songbirds corresponds to the two winged Keruvim (angels) that hover over the Ark in the Holy Temple, and which are the channel for prophecy. The unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Shekhinah, which Reb Noson mentions below, corresponds to the unification of the sefirot ofTiferet and Malkhut.

The shofar is the aspect of the holy spirit of enlightenment (ruach ha-kodesh), which comes forth from the space between the two Keruvim (i.e., the winged angelic forms that sheltered the Holy Ark). This is the source of all holy sounds; as the verse states, “And he heard the sound… between theKeruvim” (Numbers 7:89). Therefore, by of the sound of the shofar -- [which is the very essence of all sounds] -- we elicit the sound that unites the twoKeruvim.

This is the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Shekhinah, which is the gist of the mystical intentions for sounding the shofar. We must separate the sefirah of Malkhut in order for her to become united with her beloved. This is symbolized by the two Keruvim.

Thus, the shofar is the means by which all exiles are gathered together, this being the aspect of the Final Redemption. It all depends upon the twoKeruvim; for concerning exile the verse states, “Like a bird wandering from its nest, so is a man who wanders from his place” (Proverbs 27:8). However, through the shofar, this rift is healed. (126)

Love Song
In the story of the Beggar with the Crooked Neck, the unification of the two songbirds depends upon knowing how to “throw” the voice of each bird to the other. This leads to their finding one another and reuniting. All this is brought about by the Jewish people through the shofar. For the shofar is composed of all the sounds in the world, those elicited from “above to below” and “below to above.” Through it, we awaken God’s mercies, that He will have pity uponKnesset Yisrael (i.e., the collectivity of Jewish souls); and similarly, we awaken the heart of the Jewish people, so that we will return to God in truth. (127)

Making a New Start
The holy resting-places of the tzaddikim are channels for the “Throne of Glory,” for this is their inheritance. As the verse indicates, “And He endows them with a throne of glory” (I Samuel 2:8). [The souls of Israel are described as being stored up beneath the “Throne of Glory” (Zohar: Midrash Ne’elam, Chayei Sarah 125b).] Therefore, all the “places” that each of us occupies are included in these holy places, and every person can find his “place” at the graves of the tzaddikim and return to God. The light of the Omnipresent One – the “Place of the World,” which includes all places -- radiates there, making it possible for each person to find his spiritual point of origin. From there, one may begin to return to God. This is why we visit the graves of the tzaddikim on the day before Rosh Hashanah. (138)

“Head” of the Year
The beginning point is Rosh Hashanah – and from Rosh Hashanah, new life and healing issues forth to the rest of the year in its entirety. This is why Rosh Hashanah is called “rosh” (“head” or “beginning”). For there are three structures: world, year, and soul [i.e., space, time, and being]. The structure of the soul corresponds to the human form, and imbues it with life. The life-force primarily depends upon the head, which houses the brain, and the brain enlivens the entire body, right down to the toenails. For the brain is the dwelling-place of the soul, which distributes life to the rest of the body, according to the requirements of each organ. Analogously, the awesome and holy day of Rosh Hashanah is called the “head,” because it is the seat of consciousness and vitality for the entire structure of the year. It is the point at which all tikkunim (rectifications) begin, and it transmits life to all days of the year -- just as the head serves this function in the human body, and there is no organ that does not depend upon the brain. Thus, Rosh Hashanah is not only the beginning point of the year, but its animating principle which enlivens the entire structure. (145)

The Secret of Selichot-Night
In Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot Matanah 5:18-20, Reb Noson expounds upon the subject of the “lost crowns” of each Jew, corresponding to the declaration, “We will do, and we will hear [or ‘understand’]” (Exodus 24:7). These crowns represent the transcendent spiritual perceptions that we were granted at Mount Sinai, and which will be restored to us in the Messianic Era.

It is customary to recite Selichot upon the conclusion of Shabbos – as we say, “After the departure of the Day of Rest, we first approach You…” – because we could never approach God to ask for forgiveness, given our many sins, were it not for the power of the holy Shabbat.

On Shabbat, the “crowns” we lost are transferred to the true tzaddik, who is an aspect of Moses. These are the two crowns of spiritual perception every Jew received when we declared: “Na’aseh v’nishma, we shall do and we shall hear” (Exodus 24:7). Due to the sin of the Golden Calf, we lost these crowns and they were given to Moses (Shabbat 88a).

However, the true tzaddik reveals to us the “secret” of God’s love: that God wishes to return these crowns to us as a gratuitous gift. The way this is made known to us is through the Shabbat, which similarly is called a “good gift” (Shabbat 10a). Knowing that in truth we have not been rejected, we will renew our love and yearning for God, thus eliciting further expressions of divine love; which in turn elicits increased love and yearning from our side, etc.

As a result, the most wondrous sublime loving-kindness is transmitted anew from one year to the next, for God’s loving-kindness, being gratuitous, is the essence of the “good gift.” Through this, God’s forgiveness becomes manifest, as the verse indicates, “Please forgive . . . according to the abundance of Your loving-kindness” (Numbers 14:19). (178)

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