Monday, June 25, 2012

Don’t Say “Water, Water!” - Rebbe Nachman on Truth: Likutey Moharan I, 51 - Part III

Photo (c) Dovid Sears

Translation (bold) and Musings (tentative) by Dovid Sears

To read Part II, click here.

We left off with Rebbe Nachman’s statement that through truthfulness, we may draw God’s Providence upon ourselves, and attain the awareness, in the very midst of this apparently dualistic world, that all is one. Now the Rebbe returns to Rabbi Akiva’s warning to those who would venture into the prophetic mysteries (see Part I) and interprets Rabbi Akiva’s words according to the core ideas of this lesson.

This is [the meaning of] what Rabbi Akiva said: When you reach the stones of pure marble, don’t say, “Water! Water!” As it states, “One who speaks falsehood shall not endure before My eyes” (Psalms 101:7) (Chagigah 14b).

“Stones of pure (tahor) marble (shayish)”—this is the aspect of “after the Act”—i.e., after the act of creation—which is “yesh”—“somethingness,” a word-play on “shayish.

In this context, “yesh” might also be rendered as “manifestation.” It is a fundamental belief of Judaism that God created the universe ex nihilo, “something (yesh) from nothing (ayin).” Another meaning of “yesh” is ego, which reflects an inner split—an issue to which this lesson alludes is the discussion of duality and non-duality. Rebbe Nachman discusses overcoming the ego through hisbodedus in Likutey Moharan I, 52, which is the very next lesson. Perhaps Reb Noson juxtaposed the two teachings for this reason.

Then it is appropriate to use the term “tahor” (pure), as we have said.

The next few lines make up one long, complex sentence, so hang on:

If you wish that it should be as before the Act [of creation], when it existed in potential, when “father and son were as one,” as indicated by [the phrase]:

“When you reach the stones (avney)”—this is the aspect of “father (av) and son (ben) as one,” which is the aspect of Before Creation, when it was in potential, when everything was one—

That is, the word avney (stones) may be homiletically understood as a combination of av (father) and ben (son), which the Rebbe previously related to Creator and creation…

Shayish tahor” (“pure marble”) is the aspect of “after the Act,” which is the aspect of manifestation (yeshus) and purification (taharah)—if you wish to bring the “pure marble” (duality) to the “stones” (non-duality)…

“Do not say, ‘Water! Water!’ ” This is falsehood, as explained above. As it states: “One who speaks falsehood shall not endure before My eyes” (Psalms 101:7).

One must overcome the illusion of duality, which masks “True Reality,” which is the Divine Oneness. Then one may be said to “endure before My eyes.”

Through falsehood one deflects God’s Providence from himself, so that he is far from Oneness. However, through truthfulness, God’s Providence rests upon him; through Providence, all is one, as was the case before creation.

That is, through truthfulness one “lives with God,” Who is “One, True, Good, and Holy,” as the Rebbe stated at the beginning of the lesson. 

Therefore, the reward of the World to Come “no eye has seen it—only [that of] God alone’ (Isaiah 64:3; Berakhos 34b). Since everything will be one, there will not be an eye to see—that is, there will not be a subject-object split—only “God alone.”

In the “World to Come,” which is also a way of describing the transcendental plane, Divine Oneness prevails.

In conclusion, Reb Noson adds a paragraph which integrates the key concepts of this lesson:

This is why falsehood damages the eyes. Through falsehood one removes the “eyes” of God and damages the eyes, which are the aspect of Providence, as explained above.

Thus, the removal of Divine Providence, or “God’s eyes,” goes hand-in-hand with damage to the eyes of the person—“both physically and spiritually,” as the Rebbe states in the beginning of this lesson.

For falsehood stems from an estrangement from Oneness; this is where impurity has its grasp—[impurity] which is evil and falsehood. And because of this itself,—i.e., the estrangement from Oneness—by means of falsehood one “damages” Providence and removes God’s watchfulness from himself.

Through Divine Providence, all is one, After Creation is like Before Creation; but through falsehood one “damages” Oneness, since falsehood is distant from Oneness.

That is, the manifestation of Divine Providence and the perception of Oneness are eclipsed.

Thus, one removes Providence through falsehood, and causes a division, God forbid, between After Creation and Before Creation, whence impurity primarily derives. However, through truth, which is the paradigm of “entirely one, entirely good”—as the Rebbe stated earlier (see Part II)—one elicits Divine Providence, and then all is one. For through Providence, After Creation becomes reincorporated in Before Creation.

This is the explanation of “Rabbi Akiva said…” And with this the discourse is integrated well, the beginning with the end, and the end with the beginning, and likewise the middle; understand this well.

The S’fas Emes (Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger), in his droshos on parshas Shoftim, observes that the word “emes (truth)” is made of the first (alef), middle (mem), and last (tav) letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Thus, the very word for truth embodies the principle that truth must be consistent—as Reb Noson suggests here, “the beginning with the end, and the end with the beginning, and likewise the middle.”

With these parting words, Reb Noson points out that like the word “emes,” Rebbe Nachman’s teaching on “emes” is internally consistent. Thus, it intrinsically exemplifies the subject it describes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Book from Breslov Research Institute: Between me & You



From Breslov.org:


We are proud to announce our first ever woman’s publication entitled Between me & You, Heartfelt Prayers for Each Jewish Woman.  Based on Rebbe Noson’s Likutey Tefilot, (translated as the Fiftieth Gate) these short excepts are grouped by the subjects most important to Jewish Woman. This beautifully designed prayer book features the original Hebrew text, with a facing English adaption. Connect with your Creator like never before!

“A book such as this can give you access to your own inner life”
-Tziporah Heller

“As I recite the words of these prayers, I can almost feel a Divine smile”
-Sara Yoheved Rigler

Click Here To Order

Don’t Say “Water, Water!” - Rebbe Nachman on Truth: Likutey Moharan I, 51 - Part II



Translation (bold) and Musings (tentative) by Dovid Sears

To read Part I, click here.

Rebbe Nachman now turns to discuss the process of purification (taharah) and the restoration of the lost unity that prevailed prior to creation—right here in this world. The key to this is eliciting Divine Providence, which is accomplished through truthfulness.

Before creation, when creation existed in potentiality (so to speak), before it came forth into actuality, everything was entirely one (echad), entirely true (emes), entirely good (tov), and entirely holy (kodesh).

In Sichos HaRan 55 Reb Noson quotes the Rebbe as saying that we only call the reward of the World to Come “good” because we have no other way to describe it. However, the word is inadequate, because the World to Come transcends any limited conception. “The most we can say of the Future World is that it is good, but in truth, ‘no eye has seen it—only [that of] God alone’ (Isaiah 64:3, as quoted in Berakhos 34b).” (Reb Noson also alludes to this concept in his discussion of the “Supernal Delight (No’am HaElyon) and the “Supernal Eden” (Eden HaElyon) in Likutey Halakhos, Minchah 6:4.)

In the present lesson, the Rebbe uses all four terms in the nondual sense.

Even the term “tahor” (pure) would be inappropriate to use, since tahor only applies when there is tumah (impurity).

That is, purity and impurity are “two sides of the same coin.”

As it is written, “You will be purified of all your impurity” (Ezekiel 36:25).  However, when all is one, the aspect of “many intrigues,”—i.e., multiplicity— which is the prerequisite of evil and impurity, is not present.

For taharah/purity is the intermediary between the holy and the impure; through it, impurity is rectified, as it is written, “You will be purified of all your impurity” (ibid.).

This is the paradigm of free will (bechirah) which is an intermediary between two [opposite] things. This does not apply before creation, for then all was absolutely one. And in Oneness, there can be no free choice, which is the aspect of taharah/purity. 

Elsewhere, Rebbe Nachman observes, “This world was created only for the sake of free will (bechirah)” (Sichos HaRan 300). The Rebbe also discusses the paradox of free will vs. Divine foreknowledge in Likutey Moharan I, 21.

When the Holy One brought forth creation from potentiality to actuality, the aspect of taharah/purity immediately came into existence. For when He brought forth [creation] from potentiality to actuality, there were two things: the paradigm of the One and that of creation. Then there could be free will, which is the aspect of taharah/purity, which interfaces with Oneness, because it is close to it. 

Taharah is “close” to the Divine Unity because it is an extension of the good which characterizes the primordial reality.

It still hasn’t reached the state of “many intrigues,” which is evil and impurity. However, it contains an impression (reshimu)—that is, a predisposition—and an indication of its coming into existence (hishtalshelus), in that now it is able to devolve—thorough the hierarchy of the spiritual “worlds” down to this lowly “World of Action,” which is the arena for human free will—until it becomes evil and impurity. Thus, it is written in the Zohar (I, 48a, and elsewhere) that the primary “grasp” of impurity is from the “Left Side.”

The term “grasp” (achizah) is used throughout the Zohar and other kabbalistic texts to describe the relationship between the unholy and the holy, the external and the internal, etc.

The “Left Side” is the force of din; it denotes the constriction of the unitary Divine light, severity and harsh judgment. The terminology of “right” and “left” describes the dialectical tension between opposite principles: light and darkness, chesed (loving-kindness) and din, expansion and contraction, giving and receiving, and all such pairs of opposites on all planes.

However, the Left Side is not inherently evil. Indeed, creation couldn’t take place without it. But because it represents the constriction of the Divine light, it is the metaphysical source of the evil and impurity found on the lower levels of creation.

For purity hints to the existence of impurity; it is an indicator of the chain of cause-and-effect that will culminate in impurity. Therefore, it is possible to refine and elevate the impure to a state of purity, since it developed from purity, as in “You will be purified of all your impurity” (loc. cit.).

Because the two opposites share a common point of origin, the positive can elevate and transform the negative to is own essence. This also implicitly tells us that the positive is primary, while the negative is secondary.

Along these lines, I seem to remember reading in the Rebbe’s name that if a person would only take a good look within himself, he would see that evil is not intrinsically part of his nature, but something external. I have not yet succeeded in locating this source, but it seems consistent with the discussion of the Evil Inclination in Likutey Moharan I, 72.

Thus, the main grasp of impurity comes from the aspect of purity, which is the aspect of free will, as mentioned above. And purity is the aspect of the “left,” which is the aspect of Levi, as in “And you shall purify the sons of Levi” (Numbers 8:6). For Levi is the aspect of the “left,” as is known.

The Zohar (III, 176b) relates the Kohanim to the right side, which corresponds to the sefirah of Chokhmah, and the Levites to the left side, which corresponds to the sefirah of Binah. Among other things, Binah is the source of holy melody. Thus, the Levites composed and played music in the Holy Temple, as part of the purification process accomplished by the sacrifices. Also see Likutey Moharan I, 226 and 237.

In a more esoteric sense, Chokhmah is unitary, thus it is represented by the letter yud in the Name YHVH, which is one simple point; Binah is the origin of duality, thus it is represented by the letter heh in the Name YHVH, which has two sections. (See Part I of this essay, in the discussion of silver and gold as aspects of Chokhmah and Binah.)

Therefore, the main grasp of impurity is derived from the aspect of the left, since the left is the aspect of purity; from there impurity derives its grasp.

And all of this—the aspect of the left / purity / free will, from which devolves the impure / evil and opposition / falsehood—all of this is drawn from the paradigm of “After Creation,” when creation came forth from potentiality to actuality. For then, so to speak, there were two paradigms, Oneness and creation, as mentioned above.

Perhaps the Rebbe says “so to speak” because even in the Vacated Space, which divides Before Creation and After Creation, God is hidden; see Likutey Moharan I, 64.

Thus, the main grasp of falsehood, which is impurity, is due to estrangement from Oneness; that is, from the paradigm of After Creation.

Yet through Divine Providence (hashgachah), even after the act with which God brought forth [the universe] from potentiality to actuality—all things remain in a state of unity with Him. [It is just that] evil derives nurture from the “residue” of Divine Providence, from “over the shoulder,” as is known.

That is, God’s guiding hand in creation remains present even in the realm of evil, but in a hidden manner; see Likutey Moharan I, 33. By contrast, the tzaddikim reveal God’s Providence in their lives openly. The Rebbe discusses Divine Providence in at least ten lessons, including Likutey Moharan I, 234 (which discusses the manifestation of Divine Providence in the lives of the tzaddikim).

The Zohar (III, 184a) uses the metaphor of giving something “over the shoulder” to describe how God relates to those whose intentions are evil or impure. One whose intentions are holy receive life and blessing in a manner described as “face to face.”

He is far from Oneness.

At the beginning of this lesson, the Rebbe stated that “falsehood damages the eyes, both physically and spiritually”—physically, in that the blood becomes turbid, causing tears that weaken one’s vision; spiritually, in that falsehood distances a person from God and the open manifestation of Divine Providence. He finds himself stranded in the predicament of disunity.

However, through truthfulness, God’s Providence is manifested upon a person; as it is written, “My eyes are upon the faithful of the earth” (Psalms 101:6). And through falsehood, which is evil, one removes God’s Providence from himself; as it is written, “One who speaks falsehood shall not endure before my eyes” (ibid. 101:7). He derives vitality only from “over the shoulder.”

Thus we see that one who desires—after “somethingness” (yeshus) [came forth from nothingness (yesh me-ayin)] and after the act that brought forth [the universe] from potentiality to actuality—that everything should be absolutely one; that “father and son”—i.e., Creator and creation—should be as one, as previously, when everything existed in potentiality—he should guard himself from falsehood. Through this, God’s Providence will be upon him, and everything will be entirely one.

***

We hope to complete Part III, which will be the conclusion of this teaching, in the near future, with Hashem’s help.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Andy Statman Becomes National Heritage Fellow


The Breslov Center wishes a hearty "mazal tov" to Andy Statman, who is one of our founders and a fellow Uman-traveler. May this well-deserved recognition by the National Endowment of the Arts lead to more brilliant concerts and recordings by a true "mayan ha-misgaber" (fount of creativity), thus to raise the musical consciousness of this and future generations.

From NEA.gov:

2012 NEA National Heritage Fellow - Andy Statman

In the words of the New Yorker, "Andy Statman, clarinet and mandolin virtuoso, is an American visionary." The culmination of decades of creative development, his music expands the boundaries of traditional and improvisational forms.

Born in 1950 into a long line of cantors, composers, and both classical and vaudeville musicians, Statman grew up in Queens, New York. His early musical influences included klezmer records played at family gatherings, Tin Pan Alley and Broadway show tunes, his rabbi in Hebrew school singing Hasidic songs, rock and roll, big band jazz, and classical music. When Statman's older brother started bringing home bluegrass records, Statman took up the guitar and banjo, eventually switching to mandolin under the tutelage of David Grisman.

He was soon performing with local bands at multiple venues and on Sunday afternoons in Washington Square Park. At age 17 -- after hearing Albert Ayler -- Statman began to study saxophone, which he played in free jazz, funk, rock, and Chicago blues bands while expanding his mandolin playing in similar directions. In 1970 he joined the experimental bluegrass group, Country Cooking, followed by a stint with David Bromberg's band, and then another experimental group, Breakfast Special.

Still broadening his horizons, Statman took up the clarinet and studied Greek, Albanian, and Adzerbaijani music. In 1975, he sought out the legendary klezmer clarinetist and NEA National Heritage Fellow Dave Tarras. Statman became Tarras' protégé, for whom the master wrote a number of melodies. Tarras wanted Statman to carry on his legacy, and bequeathed four of his clarinets to the younger virtuoso.

In the late 1970s Statman recorded his first albums; Jewish Klezmer Music, a recording that became a touchstone for the 1970s klezmer revival; and Flatbush Waltz, a mandolin masterpiece of post-bebop jazz improvisations and ethnically inspired original compositions.

As a clarinetist, Statman began to zero in on the sublimely ecstatic, centuries-old Hasidic melodies that lie at the heart of klezmer music -- melodies that were embedded in the religious path he had come to follow. This led to his galvanizing klezmer music with the spiritually oriented jazz of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler and other musics he had explored.

Statman has appeared on more than 100 recordings, including 20 under his own name. He has recorded and/or toured with the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Ricky Skaggs, Béla Fleck, David Grisman, Itzhak Perlman, Vassar Clements, Stéphane Grappelli, Paul Shaffer, and Kenny Werner. A Grammy nominee, Statman has been the subject of dozens of feature articles, from the New York Times to Billboard toRolling Stone. He gives master classes in colleges and music camps, and has authored several music books and instructional DVDs.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Don’t Say “Water, Water!” - Rebbe Nachman on Truth: Likutey Moharan I, 51 - Part I


Photo (c) Sandra L. Grenier

Translation (bold) and Musings (tentative) by Dovid Sears

This is not only a lesson about truth, but one of Rebbe Nachman’s seminal teachings about duality, non-duality, and spiritual purification. (Some others that explore these themes from different vantage points are Lesson 4, particularly section 9; Lesson 33; Lesson 64; Lesson 65; and the story of the Water Castle in the “Tale of the Seven Beggars,” among other sources.)

Rebbe Nachman begins with a citation from the Gemara, which he will interpret according to the core ideas of his lesson:

Rabbi Akiva said: When you reach the stones of pure marble, don’t say, “Water! Water!” As it states, “One who speaks falsehood shall not stand before My eyes” (Psalms 101:7) (Chagigah 14b).

Rabbi Aviva’s warning appears in a section of the Gemara that deals with the prophetic mysteries of the Ma’aseh Merkavah (“Work of the Chariot”), which today we would call the mystical experience. The term “Merkavah” is taken from the vision described in the first chapter of Ezekiel.

Falsehood damages the eyes, both physically and spiritually, as in “roving eyes (mesakros eynayim)” (Isaiah 3:16).

In its original context, this phrase describes how the daughters of Zion would flirt with their eyes. “Mesakros” contains the same Hebrew consonants (shin-kuf-reish) as “sheker,” meaning “falsehood.” Thus, the Rebbe interprets the phrase homiletically as “deceiving eyes.”

For when the eyes are weak, they falsify, in that they do not see an object as it is. For example, something large appears as if it were small and one as if it were two, the opposite of the truth.

Note the two examples the Rebbe gives. The first relates to size (or perhaps value), while the second refers to number. And in the Rebbe’s cosmology, which is that of Chazal and the Kabbalists, the primordial reality is described as incomparably greater in size than whatever derives from it; and unity is primary, while multiplicity is secondary. So distorted vision alludes to estrangement from the Divine essence of all things.

For the eyes become weak from tears. As our Sages state: “The clouds return after the rain” (Ecclesiastes 12:2)—this is the vision, which departs after weeping (Shabbos 151b).

The Sages (loc. cit.) speak of the grief that accompanies old age, as one’s eyes become weak from tears.

And tears come from the excesses of the “black humor” (marah shechorah); the body naturally expels them through the eyes. 

The Rebbe alludes to the science of his day, which was rooted in that of the ancient Greeks (among others) and the theory of the “four humors” or fluids that animate the body—black, white (or clear), red and yellow. The “black humor” is also related to depression. Recent scholarship considers it likely that the Rebbe was familiar with Rabbi Pinchos Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna’s Sefer HaBris, first published in 1797, which attempted to reconcile 18th century science with the Kabbalah. This work was widely admired by Chassidim and non-Chassidim alike. However, the theory of the four humors was commonly accepted by all, even during the Talmudic period.

Many members of the Breslov community take the scientific ideas in Likutey Moharan at face value, while those who are more favorably disposed toward contemporary science read these ideas as metaphor. They are part of the setting the Rebbe creates in which to place the jewel of wisdom he wishes to reveal.

And the “black humor “is derived from the turbidity of the blood—and the turbidity of the blood is the result of falsehood. For one cannot speak deceitfully until his blood has become turbid, and one cannot speak truth until his blood has been purified.

This appears to be a bit of a conundrum. First the Rebbe states that the turbidity or impurity of the blood results from falsehood, and immediately he reverses the order. This is a pattern that recurs in Likutey Moharan. Perhaps it may be understood according to the principle given at the end of Lesson 1, that the Evil Inclination first comes in the guise of a mitzvah; only after succumbing to this spiritual “wolf in sheep’s clothing” can a person be vulnerable to undisguised evil. Similarly in the present lesson, first one must speak falsely with no intention to do so; only then, when his blood has been adversely affected by this untruth, can he yield to outright lying.

For the essence of speech is the nefesh (vital soul), as it is written, “My nefesh went out as he spoke” (Song of Songs 5:6). And the nefesh is identified with the blood, as it is written, “For the blood is the nefesh” (Leviticus 17:11). 

That is, blood is the medium of the life force.

Thus, when one speaks falsehood, he experiences turbidity of the blood, and from this comes the “black humor.” An excess of the black humor tears produces the tears, and this causes the eyes to become dimmed. This is the aspect of “They pluck the saltwort (malu’ach) among the bushes (siyach)” (Job 30:4). “Malu’ach” alludes to tears, which are salt water and which come from sichah (speech, a word-play). This is the paradigm of “Don’t say, ‘Water! Water!’ “ which is a warning about falsehood.

Reb Noson adds in parentheses: “As the quote from the Gemara concludes, “One who speaks falsehood shall not stand before My eyes.”

“Water! Water!”—denotes falsehood, which is the aspect of tears, which are salt water. Because one who drinks water quenches his thirst. However, one who drinks salt water not only fails to quench his thirst but doubles his thirst, until he needs other water to quench his thirst. For this reason falsehood is called “water, water.”

That is, the repetition of the word “water” corresponds to these two levels of thirst—and the number two is related to falsehood, while the number one is related to truth, as the Rebbe will explain.

Hence, [Rabbi Akiva said:] When you reach the stones of pure marble, don’t say, “Water! Water!” As it states, “One who speaks falsehood shall not stand before My eyes.”

The mystical quest is the quest for truth, and as such depends on truthfulness.

The coming into existence of falsehood—which is evil, which is the impure—is due to the estrangement from Oneness. For evil is opposition. For example, whatever stands opposed to a person’s will is deemed evil. However, in Oneness, opposition does not apply; rather, it is entirely good.

That is, good with no opposite term.

This is as our Sages state: “ ‘On that day [i.e., the day of the Final Redemption] God will be One and His Name will be One’ (Zechariah 14:9)—everything will be “the Good, Who does good” (Pesachim 50a).

The Rebbe quotes the same teaching from the Gemara in Lesson 4, where he cites it in full: “And they asked: And is God not One right now? To which the Sages replied: At present, we bless God for the good with [the blessing that concludes] ‘the Good, Who does good,’ while for evil, with [the blessing that concludes] ‘the True Judge.’ But in the future, everything will be ‘the Good Who does good.’ ”

This is because in Oneness, evil has no place. Therefore, in the World to Come the verse will be fulfilled, “The lip of truth [i.e., the speech of truth] shall abide forever” (Proverbs 12:19). For then everything will be entirely one, entirely good.

Thus truth is eternal, while falsehood is transitory.

Now Rebbe Nachman allusively connects truth and falsehood to the state of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their banishment from that idyllic realm.

Truth is one. For example, when they say of a silver vessel that it is silver, this is the truth. However, when they say that it is a golden vessel, this is false. Thus, the truth is one, because the only truth one can say is that it is a silver vessel and nothing else. But falsehood is manifold. For it is possible to say that it is a golden vessel, or a brass vessel, or to use any other term. Thus we see that falsehood is an aspect of “they chased after many intrigues” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

The first part of the verse states, “God made Adam upright, but…” Rashi (ad loc,) comments that when God created Adam he was upright in the spiritual sense. But the shift to the third person singular (“they”) in the verse suggests that when Eve was created, the two began to pursue various intrigues. There is a shift from singularity and uprightness to multiplicity and error, which led to the exile from the Garden of Eden.

Another possible hint to this theme: in the Kabbalah, silver corresponds to the sefirah of Chokhmah / Wisdom, which is the dimension of unity represented by the letter yud in the Divine Name YHVH—a unitary point. Gold corresponds to Binah, which is the plane on which division begins. Binah is represented by the letter heh in the Divine Name YHVH, which has two parts; it is also associated with the vowel-point tzayre, which is indicated by two horizontal dots under the consonant—indicating duality.

Because of this—i.e., the primacy of truth and unity—in the World to Come, evil will be nullifed, opposition will be nullified, and tear will be nullified. As it is written, “They will do no evil and they will not destroy in all of My holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9)—the nullification of evil. And it is written, “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the wildcat with the kid goat…” (ibid. 1:6)—the nullification of opposition. And it is written, “And God will wipe away the tears from all faces” (ibid. 25:8)—this being the nullification of tears, which are an aspect of falsehood, as mentioned above. For then “God will be One, and His Name will be One,” because [God] is absolute good, absolute truth.

The prevailing unity of the future world recapitulates that of the Garden of Eden at the very beginning of creation, before the sin of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—which engendered dualistic thinking and the conflicts that characterize the reality of exile.

 Therefore, impurity (tumah) will be eliminated in the World to Come; as it is written, “And I will remove the spirit of impurity from the earth” (Zechariah 13:2).

Rashi (ad loc.) understands this term to denote the Evil Inclination. This reflects the view of our Sages that in the End of Days, God will “slaughter the Evil Inclination” (Sukkah 52a).

For then everything will be entirely one; as it is written, “Who can render the pure from the impure—not one” (Job 14:4).

That is, the Rebbe interprets this verse to mean: “Whoever would render the pure from the impure exists in the paradigm of ‘not-one’ ”—estranged from unity. Because unity by definition transcends all dualism.

***

We will continue with Parts II and III in the next weeks, with the help of Hashem. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Baal Shem Tov on “Truth”

The Baal Shem Tov's Shul (Original)


“Truth will sprout from the earth” (Tehillim 85:12), When one is like the earth, which allows everyone to walk upon it, the seed of truth can sprout.

The Baal Shem Tov also remarked on this verse, “If someone sees something valuable lying on the ground, he immediately picks it up. Why doesn’t anyone pick up [the truth]? Really, everyone wants to—but no one is willing to stoop so low” (Geulas Yisrael).

*

The Baal Shem Tov once told his disciples: “My children, you only need to be very careful not to lie, and you will surely become good people” (Imrei Pinchos 878).

*

Our master, the Baal Shem Tov, pointed out that the eye fools a person. [Regarding a Heavenly vision], the Gemara states, “I see an upside-down world: the above is below, and the below is above” (Pesachim 50a). The same thing may be seen in this world: the “above” is not truly superior, and the “below” is not truly inferior (Sefer HaMaamarim 5710, cited in Kesser Shem Tov, Hosafos, Masechtas Pesachim, 75).

*

There is a popular saying: “With the truth, a person can go all over the world.” The Baal Shem Tov explained, “That’s because he will get thrown out of one place after another” (Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Bo, 46b, cited in Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Vayeira 10).

*

During the period of opposition to the Baal Shem Tov, a woman once attempted to pick up a rock in order to throw it at him. Due to the stone’s heaviness, she was unable to lift it.

“Master of the World,” she prayed aloud, “May it be accounted before You as if I had thrown it at him.”

The Baal Shem Tov said, “In Heaven, this woman’s sincerity has caused great delight” (Siach Sarfei Kodesh III, 641).

Rav Arush's "Emunah Men"


Received by email from Eric Fuchs

Monday, June 11, 2012

God’s Seal is Truth


By Dovid Sears
I have been reading a wonderful book lately, “The Quest for Authenticity: The Thought of Reb Simchah Bunim” (Urim 2008) by the late Rabbi Michael (Mickey) Rosen. In the second chapter (“The Holy Rebellion,” page 34), he quotes a well-known anthology of teachings from the Polish rebbes called “Siach Sarfei Kodesh” (not to be confused with the Breslov collection that shares the same name), 5:22, no. 8:
“R. Simcha Bunim once asked the Yehudi, ‘The ultimate goal is for a person to know that one is nothing (ayin). But what sort of goal is it to know that one is nothing, when in fact one is indeed nothing!’ And our teacher replied, ‘The seal of God is truth [Shabbos 55a], and if man really knows that he is nothing, then he is attached to the truth, and therefore attached to God whose seal is truth. And that is the ultimate goal: to be attached to the truth.”
 The author adds that other sources indicate that R. Simcha Bunim asked this question of the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin, who was the teacher of both the Yehudi and R. Simchah Bunim. It is the Chozeh who replies: “For via this (knowing that one’s service is nothing) one is attached to the truth.” (Rabbi Rosen cites Hashavah LeTovah 121: “The seal of God is truth, and if a person thinks that he has attained something himself, that is false.”)
Thinking and speaking the truth is essential to connecting to the Divine quality of truth, as we see in many rabbinic works, especially those of the Chassidic masters and the Lithuanian Mussar masters. In this spirit, we plan to create several postings during the next few weeks on the subject of truth from the Baal Shem Tov and from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. May they enable us to arrive at the truth along the path of truth.

Rav Mottel Zilber Shiur - June 19


On Tuesday, June 19/ Evening 30 Sivan, at 8:00 p.m., HaRav Mottel Zilber, Shlita, will give the second part of his Derech HaChasidus Shiur in the upstairs Bais Medrash in Congregation Aish Kodesh.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Announcement from Nachal Novea Tsfat Fund


This Shabbat is the yahrzeit of the Tanna R' Yonatan ben Uziel.  Tradition has it that R' Yonatan ben Uziel promises to all those who are unmarried that prayer at his resting place will help one meet their true soul mate. Donate Now and we will daven for you at his gravesite in Amuka this Erev Shabbat.

Why We Travel to Tzaddikim


Reb Noson of Breslov, Likutey Halakhos, Hil. Shabbos 7:21 (abridged)
Translated by Dovid Sears 

The essential reason we travel to the true tzaddikim is in order to merit to teshuvah—to return to God—whatever our circumstances may be. However, if someone travels or goes to a Rebbe for any self-serving reason, such as to receive from him some sort of prestige or public position, he utterly fails to draw close to the tzaddik; for he is traveling there for his own glory. Rather, the essence of drawing close to the tzaddik is when one’s intention is for God alone—so that the tzaddik may draw him closer to God and bring him back from the spiritual straits into which he has fallen. This is why most [chassidim] travel to spend Shabbos [with the tzaddikim]: because the path of teshuvah primarily depends on the holiness of Shabbos.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kestenbaum & Company: Judaica Auction - June 21



Kestenbaum & Company will conduct an early Summer auction of Fine Judaica on Thursday, June 21st at 3:00 pm at their New York City gallery located at 242 West 30th Street. Viewing will be held from Sunday, June 17th through Wednesday, June 20th. 


Click here to view the catalogue online.

Canfei Nesharim - Holy Use: Relating to Resources Sustainably


Received via e-mail from Canfei Nesharim:


I am pleased to share with you the seventh set of resources – Holy Use: Relating to Resources Sustainably.  I have attached the summary article, longer article and the source sheet.  The video is available at http://youtu.be/TvETd2b4lfo and the podcast is available at 
http://canfeinesharim.podbean.com/2012/06/05/holy-use-relating-to-resources-sustainably/.

These materials are posted as part of Canfei Nesharim’s “Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment,” in partnership with Jewcology.com. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Current Andy Statman Gigs



Received by email from Larry Eagle of The Andy Statman Trio:

Thursday 7 June @ 10 PM
Andy, Jim and Larry at Barbés (376 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215)

Sunday 10 JuneAndy & Jim double bill with our friends
Union Street Preservation Society
at the Rockwood Music Hall (196 Allen St NYC)
music starts at 7
tix available here

Tuesday 12 June @ 8:30
Andy, Jim and Larry with special guest
Jason Rosenblatt on harmonica
(of Montreal's superbe klezmer band Streiml)
53 Charles Street NYC NY

twitter:  @rcanipper

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“Kimoni Mamash—Just Like Me”: The Seven Beggars and the Goal of Life


(c) Moreen Greenberg

By Dovid Sears 

When faced with the blandishments of olam hazeh (or sometimes just the thought of them), Breslover Chassidim typically caution each other with a one-word reminder: “Tachlis!”—meaning “Don’t forget the true goal!”  

As Rabbi Nachman observes (Likutey Moharan I, 268): “If a person doesn’t consider the tachlis, of what purpose is his life?” Life is not a cosmic accident. It has a God-given purpose, which we must not lose sight of.  

What is the nature of this tachlis? In the same lesson from Likutey Moharan, the Rebbe states what may seem to be obvious to any religious Jew: the purpose of life in this world is to serve God. But he also explains that our divine service, although surely its own reward, goes hand in hand with another dimension of the tachlis—at the level of consciousness. This is the da’as, or higher awareness, associated with the “Future World.” As the famous prophecy goes: “The knowledge (de’ah, a construct of da’as) of God will fill the earth like the water that covers the sea” (Isaiah 1:9). The da’as of the Future World will reach all beings on all levels, from the highest to the lowest, like the vastness of the water in the prophet’s metaphor (for more on this subject, see the end of Likutey Moharan I, 21). 

In Likutey Moharan II, 19, the Rebbe brings out another facet of this idea, telling us that this higher awareness is attained by performing the mitzvos and serving God with simplicity and faith, the cardinal virtues of his path. Clearly, the two dimensions of consciousness and action are inextricably connected. He similarly states at the beginning of Likutey Moharan II, 37: “The main purpose is only to labor and procede in the ways of God for the sake of His Name, in order to merit to recognize God and know Him. This is the tachlis—and this is what God desires: that we perceive Him.”  

He adds that this goal must not be approached in a materialistic way, but in keeping with the deepest will of the soul. “One person might labor all of his days and pursue worldly desires in order to fill his belly with them,” he explains,  “while another might strive to attain the World to Come—but this, too, is called ‘filling one’s belly.’ For he wishes to fill his belly and gratify his desire with the World to Come! The only difference is that he is a little wiser than the first . . . However, I don’t choose to emulate either of them. All I want is to ‘gaze upon the pleasantness of God’ (Psalms 27:4).”  

Thus, the Future World is not just a reward for good behavior. It is actually the culmination of our avodah (spiritual effort): the experience of “gazing upon the pleasantness of God.” This may be attained by the meritorious after death, as well as by the tzaddikim even in this world. The Gemara (Berakhos 17a) says as much when it cites the custom of the sages to bless each other with the words: “May you behold your Hereafter (olam habah) in this life!” 

Olam habah is more than a future realm or state of being, but a sublime perception that may be experienced here and now by the tzaddikim and by those who are attached to them. 

One way we can achieve this, the Rebbe tells us, is by conquering our anger with compassion (Likutey Moharan I, 18). In so doing, we transcend our innate selfishness and get in touch with a greater reality—the transpersonal, integrated reality that is vividly perceived by the tzaddikim.  

Another way is by heeding the guidance and advice of the tzaddikim, which not only sets our feet in the right direction, but also establishes a spiritual bond between us and the awesome sages who prescribed such holy advice (Likutey Moharan II, 39). 

Rabbi Nachman talks about the primacy of this relationship with the tzaddikim as it bears upon our reaching the true goal of life in his tale of the “Seven Beggars,” the culmination of the thirteen mystical stories for which the Rebbe is best known. The narrative is too lengthy and complex to retell here, but we can summarize a few of its key features: after a storm wind ravages the world, turning sea to dry land and dry land to sea, two little children, a boy and a girl, escape into a vast forest. There, hungry and thirsty and frightened, they encounter seven wandering beggars, who appear one after the other, and give the lost children bread and water, as well as a blessing. The nature of these blessings is that the children should become like their benefactors in a particular way. For each beggar possesses a physical disability—one is blind, one is deaf, etc.—but the seeming disability masks an awesome holy power. These blessings are assurances that the children will one day acquire the same lofty spiritual levels. Eventually, the homeless boy and girl find their way back to civilization and join a band of wandering hoboes, who adopt them and look after them.  

These beggars represent the great tzaddikim throughout history, who sustained the Jewish people again and again during our long and bitter exile; the lost children represent the male and female aspects of the Jewish people (or maybe the Jewish people, represented as the groom, and the Shekhinah/Divine Presence, represented as the bride). The seven blessings, and subsequently, seven gifts, are that the children should become “just like” their nameless benefactors. This echoes the Rebbe’s declaration, “I can make you tzaddikim kimoni mamash, just like me!” (Chayey Moharan 269). 

On the one hand, this sounds pretty democratic: it means that we can all get there. On the other, it indicates that everything essentially depends on the tzaddik, who confers his attainments upon those who follow his guidance.  Let’s take a closer look at the nature of those blessings and gifts. 

  1. The Blind Beggar

The blessing of the Blind Beggar is: “You should be old like me; that is, you should have a long life, like mine. You think that I’m blind, but actually, I’m not blind at all. It is just that for me, the entire duration of the world’s existence doesn’t amount to even the blink of an eye . . . I am extremely old, but I am extremely young. In fact, I have not yet begun to live—but nevertheless, I am very old.” He goes on to describe a contest with other sages about whose memory is the greatest. The Blind Beggar alone remembers the primal Nothingness (Yiddish: “Ich gedenk gohr-nisht!”) that altogether precedes creation. (He is therefore the “Elder on the Side of Holiness” and the “Elder of Elders”; see Chayey Moharan 123 and 272, citing an expression of the Zohar.) And this sublime realization is his gift to the newlyweds—and to us all, when we reach the hour of “finding” or spiritual discovery, the unification that is comparable to a wedding. (In Likutey Moharan I, 65, the tachlis is related to the paradigm of closed eyes, which can gaze upon the transcendental reality and not be distracted by worldly illusion.) 

  1. The Deaf Beggar

The blessing of the Deaf Beggar is: “You should be like me; that is, you should live a good life, like mine. You think that I’m deaf, but actually, I’m not deaf at all. It is just that the entire world does not amount to anything to me, that I should listen to its deficiencies. All sounds come from deficiencies, since everyone cries out about what he is lacking. Even the world’s joys are due to deficiencies, since one only rejoices when his lack is filled . . . However, I have a good life in which nothing is lacking.” In the story he tells as proof of his claim, he alone is capable of saving a mythical Land of Wealth, once perfect in its delights, but now corrupted by an evil king and his emissaries. The Deaf Beggar guides the populace to purify themselves of the three poisons of profane speech, which had ruined the sense of taste; bribery, which had ruined the sense of sight; and sexual immorality, which had ruined the sense of smell. Purged of these evils, the ill-tended garden in the midst of the land reverts to its former Eden-like state, and the lost gardener, who had been taken for a madman, is discovered and restored to his former position. Implicit in this sub-plot is the idea that the “good life,” which is the spiritual life, may be experienced through our very senses, if only we would purify ourselves of these toxins.   

  1. The Beggar With a Speech Defect

The blessing of the Beggar With a Speech Defect is: “You should be like me. You think that I have a speech defect. I don’t have a speech defect at all. Rather, all the words in the world that do not praise God lack perfection. [Therefore, I seem to have a speech defect, since I cannot speak such imperfect words.] But actually, I don’t have a speech impediment at all. Quite the contrary, I am a wonderful orator and speaker. I can speak in parables and verses that are so wonderful that no created thing in the world doesn’t want to hear me. For the parables and lyrics that I know contain all wisdom.” In the course of the tale he tells to “prove” his claims, the Beggar With A Speech Defect indicates that his parables and verses sustain the entire universe – and they reflect the animating wisdom of all seven days of creation, which were created through the divine speech. (In Likutey Moharan I, 65, the tachlis is also related to the perfection of speech, in the Rebbe’s description of “making echad / unity of the words of prayer” in the course of davenning.)  

  1. The Beggar With a Crooked Neck

The blessing of the Beggar With a Crooked Neck is: “You should be like me. You think I have a crooked neck, but actually, my neck isn’t crooked at all. Quite the contrary, it is very straight. I have a most beautiful neck. However, there are vapors in the world, and I don’t want to exhale and add to these vain vapors. [This is why my neck seems to be crooked: I twisted my neck to avoid exhaling into the atmosphere of the world.] But in fact, I have a most beautiful, wonderful neck, since I have a wonderful voice. There are many sounds in the world that are unrelated to speech. I have such a wonderful neck and voice that I can mimic any of these sounds.” In the extremely obscure tale that the Beggar With a Crooked Neck goes on to relate, this power seems to be the root of all music and prophecy. This is suggested by the symbolism of the two estranged birds that the Beggar With a Crooked Neck reunites, which allude to the two K’ruvim, or winged angelic forms that hovered over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy Temple and, according to Chazal, served as the channel for prophecy. The Rebbe also implies that this power brings about the spiritual unification associated with the Messianic Redemption.   

  1. The Beggar With a Hunchback

The blessing of the Beggar With a Hunchback is: “You should be like me. I am not a hunchback at all. Quite the contrary, I have broad shoulders (Yiddish: breiter pleitzes, which also means the ability bear difficult responsibilities). My shoulders are an example of the ‘little that holds much’ (a concept found in the Midrash).“ Reb Noson later adds: “The hunchback was on the level of the intermediate zone between space and that which is beyond space. He possessed the highest possible concept of the ‘little that holds much,’ at the very end of space, beyond which the term ‘space’ no longer applies . . . Therefore, he could carry his companions from the limitations of space to a dimension that transcends space.” In the tale the Beggar With a Hunchback tells to prove his point, this dimension is symbolized by the wondrous “Tree That Stands Beyond Space,” evocative of the biblical Tree of Life, in the branches of which all beings find repose and peace. (However, to reach this tree one must possess the qualities it represents: its three roots are faith, awe and humility, while its trunk is truth. Thus, this section of the story emphasises the spiritual work of the individual more than the rest.) 

  1. The Beggar Without Hands

The blessing of the Beggar Without Hands is: “[You think there is something wrong with my hands.] Actually, there is nothing wrong with my hands. I have vast power in my hands—but I do not use the power of my hands in this physical world, since I need it for something else.” In the course of the story he tells, this other purpose turns out to be the healing of the Queen’s Daughter—another symbol of the collectivity of souls. This healing is accomplished through the Ten Types of Song, corresponding to the Ten Types of Charity, Ten Types of Pulse (mentioned in the Tikuney Zohar—which seem to be a little different than those used in Chinese medicine), and the beggar’s ten invisible fingers. Then he tells the newlyweds, “And I am giving this power to you as a wedding present.”  

  1. The Beggar Without Feet

The blessing of the Beggar Without Feet remains a mystery. This final section of the story remains untold until the Mashiach—who symbolically is associated with the feet—arrives and reveals it to us, may it be speedily in our days!  

To sum everything up, the gifts of the Seven Beggars are: long life / transcendence of time (eyes); good life / transcendence of need and desire (ears); oratory that contains all wisdom / transcendent speech (mouth); wondrous voice that can produce all sounds / transcendent sound or cosmic music (neck); “the small that contains the great” / transcendence of space (shoulders); miraculous healing power / transcendence of mortality and sadness (hands); and presumably either perfect faith, or kingship, or joy (all of which are aspects of Malkhus / Kingship), corresponding to transcendence of self, or ego (feet). They make up one structure, just as the parts of the human anatomy to which they correspond form one structure. Acquiring these sublime powers through the grace of the tzaddikim enables us to reach the tachlis individually and collectively.

This is supported by a few more descriptions of the ultimate goal in the Rebbe’s teachings. In Likutey Moharan I, 18, the tachlis equals the “primordial thought,” or divine intention that underlies all of creation. This primordial thought is revealed only at end of the process it sets into motion, and is the aspect of “ayin lo ra’asah / no eye has seen it” (another hint to the symbolism of the Blind Beggar in our story). (Compare Likutey Moharan I, 8, citing Berakhot 34b, where this phrase indicates Chokhmah and the non-dualistic level. This is supported by the principle that “He and what He enlivens are one, He and what He causes are one—in the ten sefiros of Atzilus / World of Emanation” [Tikuney Zohar, Introduction, 3b], the realm which corresponds to Chokhmah; see the explanation of this in Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh 20). 

In Likutey Moharan II, 83, the tachlis is related to the paradigm of “Mekomo shel Olam / Place of the World“—the ohr makkif (encompassing light) or “supra-domain” of creation altogether.  

And in Likutey Moharan II, 39, the tachlis is related to Shabbos, the “olam ha-neshamos / world of souls,” and at the experiential level, the lucid perception of God. This may correspond to the “Tree That Stands Beyond Space” in the tale of the Beggar With a Hunchback.  

The qualities that the Seven Beggars confer upon the bride and groom are various expressions of being rooted in the “whole”—the transcendent Divine Unity—and not being stranded in the “part,” the illusion of creation as something autonomous, hopelessly conflicted, separate from God. The preeminent tzaddikim represented by the beggars in the Rebbe’s story are those who have fully attained this wholeness and seen through worldly illusion. Therefore, they are uniquely capable of correcting our confusions and elevating us from the spiritual quagmire, so that we, too, may reach the luminous goal for which we were created.


“Avodas Atzmo—Doing Your Own Work”

In Likutey Moharan, the Rebbe teaches that we must engage in the avodah of Torah study, performance of the mitzvos, prayer (especially hitbodedus) and self-improvement in order to reach the tachlis. However, in the story of the Seven Beggars, the main factor seems to be the tzaddikim who bestow their wondrous gifts upon the newlyweds. Is there a correspondence between what the Rebbe is saying in each body of work, or not?  

Maybe we can read avodas atzmo, personal spiritual work, into two elements of the story. First, the children must attain maturity before their companions escort them to the chuppah and beg leftovers from the royal banquest in order to put together a wedding feast. Maybe this maturation process equals personal avodah, which elevates one from a lower level to a higher level. Second, the bride and groom express their yearning for each beggar to join them before the desired guest miraculously appears. This yearning is a key factor, too. We must make what the Zohar calls an “awakening from below” before we can experience a reciprocal “awakening from above.” The longing for the beggars on the part of the bride and groom indicates hiskashrus le-tzaddikim, creating a spiritual bond, which is up to us, as well. These two factors are the prerequisites for our ability to receive the greatest gifts of the tzaddikim: to become “just like them.”