Painting by Helen Frankenthaler
From The Tree that Stands Beyond Space, pp. 64-69
Emet VaTzedek: Machshavot V’Hirhurim
From Rebbe Nachman’s Likutey Moharan
Do Not Struggle
Many people experience disturbing thoughts that arise spontaneously, especially when they try to pray. These emotionally charged thoughts may be of a sexual or idolatrous nature. While praying, some people involuntarily conjure up idolatrous images, which causes them great suffering. They may attempt to banish these images by shaking their heads from side to side, to no avail. The more they try to rid themselves of their unwanted imaginings, the more insistently the latter intrude themselves. This is the nature of such thoughts.
The best advice is simply to ignore them. Do not pay attention to them at all. Just focus on the task at hand, whether you are engaged in Torah study or prayer or business matters, and disregard all disturbing thoughts and fantasies. Do not look back to see if they have disappeared. Simply concentrate on whatever you are doing, and eventually they will go away of their own accord.
However, this is only a temporary measure. The main solution is to purify and sanctify the body. Seek the counsel of the true tzaddikim, and they will show you the paths of truth. Then such negative thoughts will depart completely. (8)
If you allow yourself to become depressed about disturbing thoughts and fantasies, this will only make matters worse. Refuse to become upset or afraid, and simply ignore them. Use every strategy you know to make yourself happy, and these thoughts will disappear automatically. (9)
Hold the Reins
You have the power to direct your thoughts wherever you choose, for it is impossible to entertain two thoughts simultaneously. Even if your mind sometimes wanders and strays it is possible to redirect your thoughts to the right path.
The mind is like a horse that turns from the road and begins to follow another road. The driver, who controls the horse with a bridle and reins, forces it back to the right direction. Similarly, as soon as you notice your mind going astray, you may redirect it to the right path. (16)
Measure for Measure
A person cannot prevent negative thoughts from entering his mind in the first place. However, he does have the power to reject them once he becomes aware of them.
This very effort makes amends for previous transgressions. Before you sinned, an evil thought entered your mind, and you succumbed to it. Now the thought returns, and you remove your attention from it and reject it. This is called teshuvat ha-mishkal (measure‑for‑measure repentance).
Therefore, do not feel discouraged if you experience all sorts of temptations and fantasies, even of the worse sort. They are actually providing you with an opportunity to correct your past misdeeds.
Today you have the power to master your thoughts. When you do so, the sparks of holiness that fell because of your previous wrongdoings are released, and you are able to bring about your own tikkun. Your mind and your voice will be purified, and you will find harmony and peace.
Through peace, the entire world can be brought back to God. (2)
By manifesting the paradigm of mah (literally, “what”)—nullification of the ego—you draw Godliness upon yourself. Bind your mind to Godliness constantly. Through this, you will nullify all conflicts, all opposition. Thus, when Moses and Aaron were confronted by their opponents, Moses replied (Exodus 16:7), “What (mah) are we, that you oppose us?” When one eliminates the factor of self‑importance, there is no conflict.
This lesson is implicit within the Hebrew word machashavah (thought). The letters may be rearranged to spell chashov-mah “think of nothing” (or “contemplate nothingness”).
MaH (spelled mem-heh) is also one of God’s holy Names. Draw forth the Divine Name MaH into your thought, so that your consciousness will be imbued with Godliness.
The letter mem equals 40; heh equals 5. The word mah (45) has the same numerical value as the word adam (man). When you make yourself as nothing, then you are a true human being (Likutey Moharan II, 82).