Friday, July 26, 2013

Seven Rules of Mindful Eating


A Taste of Authentic Jewish Eating: Eating mindfully doesn’t just involve your brain-based intellect. It involves your heart-based intellect.  Both your brain and your heart, in different ways, correspond to the soul.
In the Jewish tradition, mindful eating means making informed choices not only about what you eat, but also about the way in which you eat–the very act of eating. The mechanics of eating as well as your intention and motivation are important. The choices themselves are based on the Jewish spiritual teachings and not on the “moral code ala mode”.
The *Torah offers teachings on food and diet from the basic:  G-d made every tree that is….good for food, grow out of the soil. (Breishis-Genesis: 2:9); to the detailed: …they are repulsive: the eagle, the whilte-tailed eagle, and the bearded vulture… (Vayikra-Leviticus 11:13); to the intriguing, such as the “food of seige”: Now you, take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel and prepare them as food for yourself (Yechezkel-Ezekiel 4:0); and more.
During the time of the previous twoTemples in Jerusalem, an integral part of the order of service involved the roasting of meat and the ingesting of meat by the Kohanim (priests). Eating was a holy act and is, if done right, still a holy act.
But teachings about food and eating didn’t end with ancient times. Less than 900 years ago, the universally recognized Jewish doctor and scholar, Rambam (Maimonides), wrote that most illnesses are caused by improper eating. He offered detailed advice about diet and lifestyle** that is enjoying a great revival today. Rambam’s advice includes prescriptions such as eating until you are only 3/4 full, eating whole-grain bread (and avoiding cakes, noodles and other flour products), not drinking water while eating, not eating aged salted meats and cheeses, not over-eating sweet things (even fruit).
Because the way in which a person eats is so central to Judaism that it defines who is Jewish and who is not, food and the act of eating were naturally important to the Hassidic mystics who sought to re-imbue the world with holiness by means of passionate Jewish spirituality. One of the greatest examples is Rebbe Nachman of Breslov who said that improper eating causes spiritual problems, what we could call “blockages of the soul”. The Rebbe said it is important to strive to eat without any physical desire whatsoever. Of course this is a pretty high level of spirituality–eating purely for the sake of the soul and the life-giving nutrients in the food. However, it is something we can strive for at our own individual level.
The Hassidim in general were very aware that every act that a person does here on earth has ramifications in the Heavenly realms and that eating was one of the more potent of these acts. Hassidim teach that everytime a proper blessing is said on food, the food is ingested, and the energy created by the food is used by the person for a holy purpose, the holy spiritual sparks embedded in the food are freed from their earthly prison and are able to reunite with their holy source. Hassidim would (and still do), watch their Rebbe’s every action, including and even especially his “mundane” ones like eating, and try to emulate him in the particulars.
There are so many Jewish teachings about eating that I’m not mentioning–an encylopedia’s worth.

The Seven Rules Of Mindful Eating (The Jewish Way)

1)  CHOOSE                                                                                                                                          
Choose foods that are good for you. Avoid unhealthy and/or extreme isms that are not rooted in our original spiritual and moral codes such as  veganism (not to mention epicurianism and gourmandism). (I’ll discuss vegetarianism in a later post). Make the choice to eat foods that will, first and foremost, nourish the soul and body . Note: It is far better to under-eat relatively unhealthy foods than overeat even nutritionally-dense foods.
2)  SIT                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Sit down. Don’t eat while standing or walking. Judaism teaches that a person should be concerned with personal dignity. Not to the point of arrogance, but there should be an awareness that a human being’s essence is something that must be reflected on the outside of a person as well as the inside. Eat at a table. I’ve just about broken the habit of eating at my desk (except in emergencies). A cup of tea, okay. But no food. The reason is, aside from the sheer disgustingness-factor, if you eat while doing something else such as working, you eat mindlessly. You’ll tend to overeat and underchew.
3)  COMMIT                                                                                                                                               
Put enough food on your plate to satisfy your hunger without overloading or underloading your plate. Whatever’s there  is going to be your portion. Seconds and thirds leads to mindless eating and overeating.  Train your eyes to correctly gauge your hunger.
Say a ***blessing over your food or drink. Acknowledge the source of the food and drink you are about to ingest. Jewish or not, thank G-d for creating the food that you are about to it and that He created to sustain you. The Hebrew word for bless is baruch. The word BaRuch is related to the word for well/source, BeR. A blessing acknowledges that the Creator is the source of everything, including the apple pie on your plate. Don’t forget to thank Mom for that apple pie, too.
5)  PACE                                                                                                                                                   
You should eat at a medium-slow pace, putting your fork down into between bites. Aside from the obvious aesthetic drawbacks to using your fork like a backhoe, when you shovel food into your mouth, you tend to bow your head towards your food. Do you worship food? Is food your god? Do you submit to food–does it rule you?
6) CHEW (BREATHE)                                                                                                                           
Ideally, chew each mouthful of food at the very least, 18 times. If you have a digestive disorder such as IBS, Crohns, Celiac Sprue, or other inability to fully utilize the nutrients in food, then chew each mouthful at least 36 times.  Digestion begins in the mouth. Your teeth bite and grind the food breaking it down into smaller particles and the enzymes in saliva activate the digestion process. If you don’t chew, your stomach acids will have to work a lot harder to break down the food and will most likely no succeed. Breathe in between bites. Don’t talk while eating (R.Yosef Caro, Shulchan Aruch).
On a deeper level, proper speech affects/is related to digestion. If you speak ill of others, scream at them, verbally hurt or insult them, use obscenities, or otherwise engage in improper speech, you have used your mouth, tongue and throat, improperly. These organs should be used for making blessings and eating, saying words of kindness and encouragement, and prayer. If we use these organs for negative purposes during speech this will reflect in how we use them or how our body activates them, during eating and digesting. Often people with digestive problems can find relief by becoming more aware and making corrections in their speech.
Those with who are underweight and/or have eating disorders also need to chew and breathe properly, but depending on their individual situation, they might be encouraged to not chew much beyond the minimum amount of times at first, as they will become fuller, faster, and may stop eating too soon.
7)  COMPLETE                                                                                                                                     
In order to complete the process of eating we need to stop and acknowledge G-d, the source of our food, once more. We all know that we are technically full about twenty minutes, give or take, before our brains get the fullness message. But honestly, how many of us act on this information with any regularity? It’s difficult. Eating is one of life’s pleasures. But Judaism takes so seriously the proscription against overeating that even during Shabbos and Yamim Tovim (Holy Days/holidays) overindulging is contraindicated.
Judaism offers fascinating and important recommendations and laws about how much food one should consume at a setting and in what amount of time the food should be consumed, which I hope to write about another time. In order to complete the physio-spiritual cycle that is a meal, one must thank G-d with specific blessings depending on what one ate.
Interestingly enough, though eating only when truly hungry is the rule, there are times where Jewish law says one must eat even when not hungry. This includes the third Shabbos meal and the Afikomen (“Dessert” Matzoh) during the Pesach (Passover) Seder. But even at these times, we are forewarned not to overeat earlier so there will still be some room left!
*Torah here refers to the Hebrew Bible, however Torah also refers to the greater body of traditional Jewish practical and mystical wisdom including the written Hebrew Bible, the oral teachings (the Talmud), the Shulchan Oruch (the Code of Law), the body of work known as the Kabbalah, and numerous other writings and commentaries of the sages throughout our history.
**Rambam’s seminal work is called Mishnah Torah, and he writes concisely but profoundly about health, diet and exercise in the section called Hilchos Deos (an apt translation would be Laws of Personal Growth).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rushing to Get to Infinity: An Open Letter to Myself

Note to Reader: I wrote this piece in the format of a letter to myself because I do not yet profess to have attained to ability to look at life with this perception.  I need to continually strengthen myself to attempt to live in accordance the teaching upon which this letter was gleaned; Likutey Moharan I:65.

Rushing to Get to Infinity: An Open Letter to Myself
by Dov ben Avraham

Let me begin by saying I don’t have any answers for you. With each passing day I realize that I know very little, so I can only give you questions to ponder. Hopefully, if you stop and think about these questions they will begin to help you as they have begun to help me.

Have you ever considered that one of the greatest obstacles to living your life in accordance with your true tachlis is rushing to complete something according to your personal definition of “completion”, and trying to accomplish what you imagine Hashem expects specifically from you?

Waking up each morning, you may envision just how you would like your day to proceed and what the ideal day would look like if you were fully plugged into your true tachlis. You envision spending time in hisbodedus, davening with kavanah, saying brochos with kavanah, and completing your daily learning seder.

Yet, the world seems to be designed to thwart your every effort in this regard:
  • You have a difficult time finding a quiet place or time for hisbodedus;
  • Your son or daughter wants your attention when you are only up to kapitel 77 in Tikkun HaKlali.
  • A pressing family matter prevents you from going to minyan.
  • The door to the mikvah is locked and the sign on the door says that it will be undergoing repairs for the next few days;
  • Someone tries to talk to you in the midst of the Amidah;
  • A co-worker comes over to chat in the midst of your “HaMotzi” or “Asher Yatzar” after you have only said the words, “Baruch Atah Hashem…”;
  • Urgent taskings in the office prevent you from taking an extra few seconds to say a brocha with kavanah before you drink a cup of coffee at your desk;
  • You have to wake up early to travel somewhere (or are away from home) and have only a limited time for learning; certainly not enough to complete an amount that you would consider “acceptable”;
  • Your cannot focus and concentrate on learning the sefer in front of you; it feels like you are doing nothing more than mindlessly reading an instruction manual in Japanese; or
  • Citing the lack of frum relatives on both sides of the family, your wife does not give you permission to go to Uman for Rosh Hashanah because she doesn’t want to be alone with the kids over yom tov.
I am certain that one or all of these things has happened to you at one time or another, just as they have all happened to me. However, I would also imagine that you would like to view these as “exceptions” and not the rule to how the average day should proceed. Each of these occurrences causes you to make a mental detraction in the significance of the day in which you are now living. Each occurrence “proves” to you that you did not meet your mark today and forces you to come up with complicated new strategies to ensure they don’t ever occur again. Yet, it is possible that you failed to ask yourself the simple question,

“Who caused these things to happen?”

There cannot be another force in the universe independent of Hashem controlling only those occurrences which prevent you from serving Him. You may quickly dismiss this as obvious, however if you are honest with yourself, you will acknowledge that this knowledge still remains theoretical to you and has not yet penetrated your heart. You honestly still cannot truly fathom how it can be His will to prevent you from serving Him; you cannot fathom how an obstacle you encounter in your avodas Hashem is ultimately for your good and is in reality a display of His supreme kindness. In order to slowly begin to do so, you must devote a significant amount of time to hisbodedus each day.

In regards to the examples listed above, you may also may have noticed that experiencing them begins to force you to rush through performing mitzvos. They may have caused you to conclude that an interruption invalidates whatever you are occupied with; turning it into a “blemished offering”. So, you begin to speed read through the siddur or Tehillim and perhaps even start skimming through your learning. You may become more concerned with the fact that you have learned your pre-determined quota that day and less concerned that you have actually understood the material, retained it, and attempted to internalize it.

Unfortunately, this may have even caused you to start serving your own service of Hashem instead of Hashem Himself! This means that you can become preoccupied with serving Him in precisely the manner that you want to serve Him, and perhaps not according to how He wants to be served in those “less than ideal” circumstances.

It is never too late to reverse your course if you have already proceeded down this route. One technique to reverse this trend involves doing something very easy, which turns out not to be so easy in practice; taking a few seconds before doing a mitzvah and asking yourself, “Why I am I doing this?”

Before picking up a sefer, a piece of food to eat, or your tallis and tefillin, ask yourself this question. Force yourself to take a few seconds to honestly answer this question; over and over again throughout the day. Address your answer directly to Hashem. Don’t just speak about Him.

At first you may only remember to do this a handful of times during the day. Don’t let this discourage you; continue baby step after baby step. Over time, taking these few seconds will begin to help you from mindlessly going through your day and help you reestablish your connection to the One who gave you another day of life to live.   

Jewcology: Eyes Bigger than Your Stomach?

From the Jewcology website:

Eyes Bigger than Your Stomach?

Eyes bigger than your stomach?  Once that food is on your plate, it’s either going in your mouth or in the trash.  Prevent food waste with these tips:
1. Find out what is available first.  
2. Start with small samples, especially if there are choices you've never tried before. 
3. Take less than you think you're going to eat.  You can always go back to get more.  
4. Teach your children to try a small portion first.  Encourage them to finish what they have before taking more food. 
(Credit: Sarah Rebecca Bedder)
By taking this action you will save approximately 11,614 Food Calories during the course of the year.  Learn more about our assumptions in the Year of Action.

Take this action now on your individualized My Savings page. (You must be logged in to Jewcology to access this page.  Not yet a member?  It's free and easy to join!)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Greatest Consolation

From Likutey Moharan I, 21, sec. 11

In honor of Shabbos “Nachamu,” the Shabbos following Tisha beAv, when we customarily read the Haftorah that begins: Nachamu, nachamu ami … Be consoled, be consoled, My people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1).
In the course of a lengthy teaching concerning the transcendent and immanent levels of wisdom, Rebbe Nachman weaves in the following drush (homiletical interpretation):

“Be consoled, be consoled…”—this denotes the levels of “transcendent” and “transcendent of the transcendent.” For divine knowledge is the consolation for all suffering. And how is it possible to attain this divine knowledge? Through [the conclusion of the verse]:

 “says your God”—this is “saying quietly (amira ba-chashai)” (Zohar II, 25b), which is the characteristic of oil [which flows quietly and is symbolic of wisdom], corresponding to the “seven candles” [of the Menorah. At the beginning of this lesson, Rebbe Nachman uses the seven candles of the Menorah as corresponding to the seven apertures of the head and the purification of the faculties associated with them].

 Reb Noson (abridged) adds: 

The Rebbe explained above that by crying out to God we may give birth to previously hidden spiritual perceptions. And by sanctifying the “seven candles,” we internalize those transcendent mentalities. 

Two things are needed for one to attain holy perceptions. First, one must give birth to them, which requires crying out to God, just as a woman cries out when she gives birth. Afterwards, when the mentalities are born, they still have immanent and transcendent aspects. To internalize the transcendent, one must sanctify the “seven candles,” corresponding to the eyes, ears, nose and mouth and the perfection of the faculties associated with them.  

And this is the explanation of “Be consoled, be consoled…” This higher comprehension is the main consolation, as stated. We attain this through crying out and by sanctifying the “seven candles.” “Says your God” alludes to “speaking quietly,” like the oil which the candles in the Menorah used as fuel. By virtue of these two aspects we may comprehend the various transcendent levels of divine wisdom, the “transcendent” and “transcendent of the transcendent,” which is the main consolation.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Amazing Uman Opportunities 2013

Received from

Dear Friends of Rebbe Nachman,

There is so much wonderful news Baruch HaShem to share with you!  We encourage your comments and questions on any of the efforts underway.

Rosh HaShanah is now only 7 weeks away! In an effort to provide a “home away from home” for our English speaking friends, the Breslov Research Institute is pleased to announce a number of great Uman initiatives.

1.       Uman Kollel @ the Ritz (BRI Headquarters)
Breslov Research Institute (BRI) serves as the conduit to Rebbe Nachman’s original works in contemporary form.  Now we will offer a series of (English) lessons with eight skilled and dynamic teachers in Uman at the “Ritz.”  Below is our schedule of teachers and topics, click here to register for freeThere is limited room. We will also offer a Mincha/Maariv and Shachrit Minyan and have all of our publications available for purchase.

Not coming to Uman and want to participate?  You can support the learning too!  We are looking for sponsors for the around the clock kollel refreshments, as well as the Kiddushim and Shalosh Seudot.  By sponsoring the learning, davening and refreshments (click here) you will bring great merit to yourself or a loved one. We will happily announce that the learning/Kiddush/Shalosh Seduot has been sponsored in your merit and have our BRI board members and teachers recite Tikkun Klali on your behalf!  Share in the spirit of Rabbeinu’s Torah and Uman.

2.       BRI Rosh HaShanah and Shabbat Group Meals & Tent
We will be having a large tent set up for all of our friends and hope to share the Shabbat and Rosh HaShanah Seduot with 165 guests. The food will be catered by the generosity of the main Hachnasat Orchim group in Uman but we will be providing a private warm English speaking atmosphere. Please register right as we must confirm our numbers. The subsidized cost is $90 for adults and $45 for children. We will be following the schedule of the Kloyz. We are pleased to be hosted by Reb Chaim Kramer, as well as many other great teachers. Remember to be prepared to explain how a nice Jewish boy like you, ended up in a place like this! Click here to join us.

3.       Rosh HaShanah Minyan
BRI will once again be hosting a small warm and inspirational Rosh HaShanah Minyan. This comfortable Minyan will feature excellent Chazonim, as well as air conditioning. It will begin at 7:30 AM Rosh HaShanah morning and end a little before the main Kloyz Minyan. The cost is $75 a seat; please register now as room is limited to just 65 people. We will also be having Kriyat HaTorah and Kiddush at the same time as the Kloyz, all are invited to join in.

If you haven’t booked a ticket to Uman yet, there is still time. Please email us if you need any help or have questions about how to get there. If you can’t make it this year, we will once again be offering to take your “Kvital” (note) along with us. You will receive an email when the online service has been made available.
We thank you so much for your words and actions of support.  Please also “like” our Facebook page “The Breslov Research Institute” and “Friends of the Breslov Research Institute” on LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter “Breslov BRI.”  Your connection to updates is very appreciated.

L’Shanah HaBah B’Yerushalayim H’Benuyah - May we celebrate together in Yerushalayim, Amen!

Free Booklet - Elul: Returning to Hashem


We were privileged to contribute to an excellent free booklet about the Breslov  approach to Elul, the month proceeding Rosh HaShanah, where Jews around the world prepare themselves for this day of judgement. This booklet was put together in English with the aim of inspiring us all to a more meaningful and inspiring Elul.

It is now available for free download

Thoughts for Tisha b'Av

Received by email from Rabbi Tanchum Burton of Yerushalayim: 

There are so many outlets for "Tisha b'Av" inspiration at this point in history--in every imaginable format--that I want to convey as basic and simple a message as I can, without the formalities of a parsha sheet. 

A friend of mine was discussing the topic of Tisha b'Av with a group of students at a local Chassidic yeshiva, many of whom are fine young men who enhance the davening tremendously with their attendance at our shul on Shabbos. After a brief introduction about what this day historically and spiritually represents--a destruction of the Temples and of the glorious Jewish civilization of tzaddikim and sages and devoted people--one of the boys remarked, "if it was so great, why was there a destruction?" So incisive. His question cuts through the brush to get to the issue that is facing each and every one of us. 

The answer is, it wasn't so great. In fact, what historians refer to as the "intertestamental" period (which we call the Second Temple Era) was, from the standpoint of interpersonal relations, probably the most tragic in our history, presaging two millennia of dispersion, persecution, alienation, and even genocide for our people. And what is worse, is that the underlying causes of the destruction of the Temple are still present and as potent as they ever were. This did not change with the founding of the State of Israel. I think that many people have or are coming to the conclusion that you can achieve all of the trappings of a modern, thriving country with a government, an army, a robust economy, and a booming hi-tech industry and still not fulfill the hopes of the Jewish people for true Redemption as foretold by our prophets. 

But there are preconditions for Redemption, and they, too, remain unfulfilled. Here begins my message. 

If I cannot recognize that I occupy the same space as other living beings, from the inanimate, to the floral, to the faunal, and most importantly, other human beings; if I cannot understand that those other living beings have needs and feelings, and will either thrive or suffer based on how I interact with them; if I cannot feel love, compassion and empathy, even reverence and respect for all of the members of G-d's creation, there is no way that I can experience Redemption. 

There is no way, because these feelings and Redemption are both revelations of the total unity of G-d Himself; that is why we say, "on that day the L-rd will be one and His Name will be one" (liturgy). G-d is One. 

This is the most important belief we have; we say it three times a day. Ultimately, all of creation is one. And we don't need a Torah to know this. We need our kishkes to be turned on. We need a Torah to tell us not to speak loshon hora. We don't need a Torah to tell us to acknowledge the presence of another human being, to extend him or her our greetings, to smile at another person, to enable them to feel that they matter, and to not harm them, G-d forbid. 

Our sages tell us, derech eretz kadma l'Torah. This has two meanings; either, derech eretz, ("sound interpersonal skills") preceded the Torah chronologically, or they are a prerequisite to fulfilling the Torah. The fact that the world managed to exist civilly for twenty-six generations before the Torah was given is proof of both. But even though these skills are sufficient to sustain a world before Torah, to reach Redemption, they cannot be simply be skills; they must be the fruit of an integrated love, compassion and awareness. 

We are commanded to fulfill the mitzvah of ahavas yisrael, loving one's fellow Jew. That is understood by various different sages in the negative and positive sense: do the right thing, and don't do the wrong thing. You are probably familiar with Rabbi Akiva's famous statement, "this is the overarching principle of the Torah". Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, who is known as the Ba'al HaSulam, equates the fulfillment of this mitzvah with the negation of the desire to receive and its replacement with the desire to give. In his work Matan Torah, he explains that, the Torah was given to facilitate our loving each other. In addition, he states that achieving this goal is the first step towards a larger reality. In the Yerushalmi, Ben Zoma counters Rabbi Akiva, by saying, "I have a more overarching principle: 'this is the book of the generations of man'", i.e. the love of humanity as a whole is, ultimately, the apex of human achievement. 

And what a world that will be. A world free of hatred, racism and prejudice; a world where the most vulnerable are protected and the elderly are cherished; where children are kept safe; a world where G-d's creation (read: environment) will not be inappropriately exploited in any sense. Without question, we must begin this process at "home", but we must also realize that creating our smaller covenantal community is a stepping stone to uniting the world. What am trying to say, is that experiencing the Jewish utopia is only possible through creating a human one. As the verse states, even about so Jewishly proprietary a thing a the Beis HaMikdash, "for My House will be a house of prayer for all nations". 

I can guarantee you that the Messianic world that we pray for, the one that should be cannot come into existence without love, compassion and empathy. These are human experiences that we can have, traits that we can integrate, and goals for us to work for. 

To this end, I am announcing the advent of Ahavath Olam, an association of friends dedicated to planting seeds of consciousness, love, responsibility and empathy in ourselves, our communities and in the world. I envision it as a community, but one without borders, as we are spread out all over the world. We will no longer be pulled into the conflicts of the Jewish world, or of the world in general, but will work for reconciliation and understanding, for the health and safety of our societies, and for the protection of the most vulnerable amongst us. Eventually, we may need the official structures of a non-profit corporation, but for now I invite everyone and anyone who is moved by this idea to join me to imagine together what we can do. 

In the merit of this fast, of our hopes, and of our future actions, my we merit to hear of the coming of the redeemer and participate in the building of the Holy Temple, speedily, in our days, amen.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ahavas Yisrael / Love of the Jewish People

Dovid Sears
Erev Tisha beAv 5773 (2013) 

We are posting this short essay in light of the principle that the Holy Temple was destroyed because of “sinas chinam,” gratuitous hatred – and that the tikkun for such hatred is ahavas chinam, gratuitous love. This is particularly needed this year, when division and strife have spread like a plague throughout Eretz Yisrael. May a renewal of ahavas chinam speedily put an end to all discord among us, and may Tisha beAv at last be transformed to a day of celebration.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov instructed us to follow the custom of the Arizal by stating prior to davenning: Hareini mekabel alai mitzvas asei shel ve-ahavta le-re’akha kamokha - Behold, I accept upon myself the positive commandment to ‘love your fellow Jew as yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18).”[1] Thus, one becomes united with all of Klal Yisrael. He also explained, “Through love and peace, it is possible to speak words of prayer. This is because speech is essentially bound up with peace, as it is written, ‘I shall speak of peace…’ (Psalms 122:8)”—and without peace, he adds, “it is impossible to speak or to pray, even if one is a man of peace.” The prayer service was redacted by the Men of the Great Assembly in the plural because it is a collective enterprise.

This reflects the underlying, essential unity of all Jewish souls—hence our mutual responsibility for one another. As our sages state, “All Israel are guarantors for one another.”[2] Accordingly, Hillel the Elder declared that the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew is tantamount to “the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary.”[3] 

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya, explains:[4] “The basis and root of the entire Torah is to elevate and exalt the soul … unto the Divine Source of all the worlds, and also to bring down the blessed Infinite Light upon the community of Israel … to become ‘One into One.’[5] [But] this is impossible if there is, G-d forbid, disunity among the souls, for the Holy One does not dwell in an imperfect place…’”[6] 

Master kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero describes the souls of Israel as being intrinsically united with one another and with the very Divine Presence.[7] Therefore, he goes on to say, “one should seek the benefit of his fellow [Jew] and view the other’s benefit with a good eye and cherish his honor—for we are one and the same! For this reason too we are commanded to ‘love your fellow Jew as yourself’ (loc. cit.). Thus, it is proper that one desire the well-being of his fellow and never speak ill of him or desire that evil befall him.”[8] This goodwill must extend to all members of the Jewish people, inasmuch as we are all part of one collective whole.

Yet we sometimes find that certain Jews may reject the fundamentals of faith and even oppose the religious values that we deem to be our “life and length of days.” Concerning this sad situation, the author of the Tanya observes, “But as for the person who is not one’s comrade [in fulfilling the Torah and commandments] and who is not close to him, Hillel said, ‘Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the creatures and drawing them near to the Torah.’[9] … One must attract them with strong cords of love—perhaps one will succeed in drawing them near to the Torah and divine service. And if one fails, he will not have forfeited the merit of the mitzvah of neighborly love.”[10]

Disagree, sometimes we must; argue, debate, and if all reason fails, walk away in a huff. But let us do so as brothers and sisters, who ultimately share a common point of origin and a common fate, and not as implacable enemies.

Chassidic tradition tells how the holy Berditchever Rov would welcome into his sukkah all sorts of Jews, including wayward Jews. Someone once asked, “How can you take such individuals into your sukkah?”  

The Berditchever Rov replied, “And what would a low character like me look like sitting in the sukkah of Avraham Avinu? Perhaps if I accept these wayward Jews into my sukkah, I too will be accepted into the sukkah of Avraham Avinu…” 

In the merit of the tzaddikim who felt with all of their hearts and souls the ahavas Yisrael that we all should feel, may we speedily be redeemed. Then all the grief associated with Tisha beAv will be transformed to unending joy.

[1] Likutey Moharan I, 239. Cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital in the name of the Arizal, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Olam ha-Asiyah 1:3:2; Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, ‘Inyan Birkhas ha-Shachar, beginning.
[2] Shevuot 39a.
[3] Shabbos 31a.
[4] Likutey Amarim-Tanya, Chap. 32 (41a).
[5] Zohar II, 135a.
[6] Zohar I, 216b.
[7] This is also one of the foundations of the derekh ha-Baal Shem Tov, as discussed in Toldos Ya’akov Yosef, Kedoshim, et al. Rebbe Nachman mentions this principle, as well; see Likutey Moharan I, 260, where he refers to the souls of Israel as “actual portions of the Shekhinah.
[8] Tomer Devorah, chap. 1, s.v. “le-she’aris nachalaso.”
[9] Avos 1:12.
[10] Loc. cit.

A Knowing Heart

Sichos HaRan 39

Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, “Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom,” Breslov Research Institute, pp. 140-141. 

You should be able to feel another’s troubles in your own heart. This is especially true when many are suffering.

It is possible to clearly realize another’s anguish and still not feel it in your heart.

When an entire community is in distress, you should surely feel their agony in your heart. If you do not feel it, you should strike your head against the wall.

You should strike your head against the walls of your heart.

This is the meaning of the verse (Deuteronomy 4:39), “Know this day and realize it in your heart.” You must bring the realization from your mind to your heart.[1] Understand this well.

We later heard that the Rebbe once said that this is the meaning of the passage (Isaiah 38:2), “And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall.” The face that he turned was his awareness, bringing it inside the walls of his heart.[2] For one’s true face is his mind, which illuminates it from within.[3]

[1] See Sichos HaRan 217.
[2] Yerushalmi Berakhos 4:4 (35a); Sanhedrin 10:2 (51b); Chayay Moharan 17a ($14).
[3] Likutey Moharan I, 30:4. Cf. Ecclesiastes 8:1.

From the website:

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Prayer for Moshiach

By Rabbi Noson Sternhartz
Likkutei Tefillos I, 142
Translated by Dovid Sears

Our G-d and G-d of our fathers: have mercy upon us, and confer merit upon us, and speedily send us our righteous Moshiach. He will fix this broken world, as well as all of the worlds from the highest to the lowest, for they all depend upon this lowest World of Action ('Olam ha-'Asiyah). Have pity on him and on us, and send him speedily and in peace, that he may bring everything to perfection, with the most awesome and wondrous tikkun (spiritual rectification).

Enlighten us with true perception, and open our eyes and hearts to Your Torah. Thus, may we be privileged to understand all the words of the Torah lucidly, according to their truth, so that no question or doubt will remain in our minds concerning any law or path among the laws and paths of the Torah. Rather, may everything be clarified beyond any shadow of a doubt, even those questions and doubts about which the great tzaddikim of former times declared "teiku."1 The Moshiach will straighten out them all, untangle them and make them understandable to us, and rectify the paradigm of "teiku" that includes all of the uncertainties in the world - both those that perplexed the great sages of Israel concerning the laws and paths of the Torah, and those that have perplexed everyone, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small.

So many of us yearn with all of our hearts to return to You! However, the paths of return and the paths of Torah are hidden from us, and our hearts are torn by doubts and deep uncertainties about which course of action to take. This is especially true of me, as I stand before You today. You know all that I have been through, and how many doubts and conflicts have bothered me about so many things. These confusions are greater than ever today, in so many areas of my life and in so many ways. My soul is so disturbed that sometimes it seems more than I can bear.

Master of the Universe, Master of the Universe! Almighty G-d of truth, "great in advice, and mighty in deed!"2 Have compassion on the Jewish people and upon me, and send a wondrous illumination from the World of Rectification ('Olam ha-Tikkun), for which our righteous Moshiach will serve as the spiritual channel. Then "teiku" will be transformed to the most wondrous tikkun,3 and all questions will be resolved and all doubts clarified, even the subtlest "doubts of doubts" - and we will constantly receive perfect, good, and true advice about everything in the world.

In Your compassion, teach us the proper way to mourn and lament over the destruction of the Holy Temple at all times, particularly every night at the exact moment of chatzos,4 and during the three summer weeks known as "between the straits (bein ha-metzarim)." On the Ninth of Av, the bitter day when both Holy Temples were destroyed, may we recite the Book of Lamentations and kinnos (elegies) sincerely, with a broken and humble spirit, and pour out our hearts like water before You. Let us "put our mouths to the dust - perhaps there is hope,"5 and strike our heads against the walls of our hearts,6 due to our suffering and travail, as a nation and as individuals. How many years have passed since the devastation of our holy city and Holy Temple! How has the glory of the "House of Our Life" been removed! The trouble of each day is worse than the day before,7 especially now, when harsh and cruel decrees have been issued against our people, beyond our ability to endure. Our lives hang in the balance; our hearts are filled with dread at the thought of the harsh decrees that those that hate us wish to carry out against us, G-d forbid.8

G-d of mercy, give us the emotional strength to empathize with the plight of the Jewish people, as well as to face our own spiritual dilemma. Give us the courage to break our hearts before You, and pour forth our supplication like water before You in complete sincerity, admitting the greatness of our sins and transgressions, and the stiff-necked behavior that has prolonged our exile and caused all of our grief.9

"Let us raise our hearts to our hands unto G-d in heaven."10 Let us resort to the art of our holy ancestors, and cry and wail bitterly; let us wander the streets and alleys and market places, supplicating the One Above "until He looks down upon us from heaven,"11 until He awakens His mercy upon us, and speedily consoles us, and delivers us from our afflictions and sufferings, collectively and individually.

May G-d enlighten us, even now, with a ray of the light of our righteous Moshiach, thus to mitigate all harsh decrees, and end all of our grief and travail. May He constantly shine upon us the light of truth, and constantly heal us with new and wondrous tikkunim, and answer and elucidate for us all doubts and questions and quandaries. May we constantly receive the right advice, according to the highest truth, so that we will return to You in truth, speedily and with a whole heart, thus to engage in Torah and prayer and the performance of commandments and good deeds, all the days of our lives. Guard us and save us from all sin and transgression, so that we never veer aside from Your will, neither to the right nor the left.12 May Your compassion be aroused on behalf of Your children, and may You speedily bring us our righteous Moshiach, and redeem us completely, with the final and eternal redemption.

Then the paradigm of "teiku" will be transformed to "tikkun" to the ultimate degree of perfection; that is, the letter nun from the word kinnos (elegies) will be transferred to the end of the word teiku, thus to convert "teiku" to "tikkun." All lamentations will cease throughout the world, and be remade into vessels of divine perception.13

O Merciful One, Master of Deliverance, Master of Consolation! We beg You, console us from all of our afflictions, and help us to accomplish our work in this world. Spread forth upon us Your "Tent of Peace"; prepare for us good advice, and save us speedily for the sake of Your Name. Grant us the knowledge of absolute truth. Save us from the many doubts and confusions and uncertainties that interfere with our ability to serve You. Confer upon us perfect and true advice at all times, so that we may return to You in truth, and become the people You want us to be, now and forever, amen selah.


1."Teiku" is the Gemara's acronym for "[Elijah] the Tishbite will answer all difficulties and questions." That is, when Elijah comes to announce the arrival of the Moshiach, he will answer the seemingly irresolvable questions in Torah law that the Talmudic sages could not answer.

2. Jeremiah 32:19.

3. See below, note 13.

4. According to Rabbi Nachman, midnight (chatzos) is always six sixty-minute hours after the appearance of three starts (tzes ha-kokhavim); see Likkutei Moharan I, 149; ibid. II, 67, 101; Sichos ha-Ran 301. For earlier sources, cf. Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 1:4, citing Zohar, Vayakhel; ibid. Orach Chaim 233:1; Machatzis ha-Shekel on Magen Avraham, ad loc.; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha'ar Tikkun Chatzos, 4; Mishnas Chassidim, Masechtas Chatzos, 1:1; Rabbi Noson Hanover, Sha'arei Tzion, Sha'ar 1, citing Eitz Chaim, Drush 6, Drushei ha-Laylah; Siddur ARI Kol Yaakov, 4a; Tzava'as ha-Rivash 16, concerning the Baal Shem Tov; Siddur ARI Rav Shabsai, 5a; Siddur ARI Rav Asher, 9a; similarly, Bekhor Shor, Berakhos, 3a; Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim, no. 199; et al.

5. Lamentation 3:29.

6. See Sichos ha-Ran 39.

7. Reb Noson alludes to the beraisa of Rabbi Pinchas ben Ya'ir (Sota 9:15), which lists this as one of the signs of the dark days that precede the advent of the Moshiach.

8. Historically, Reb Noson seems to have written this prayer during the period in which forced conscription to the Russian army was imposed upon the Jewish community, as well as other edicts to suppress the study and practice of Judaism. However, Reb Noson's words apply equally to the plight of the Jewish people and religion in various parts of the world, as well as our struggles to resist assimilation, even in countries that do not persecute us or suppress our religion.

9. Paraphrase of Exodus 32:9, et al.

10. Lamentations 3:41. Jeremiah's phrase is a euphemism for heartfelt prayer.

11. Paraphrase of Lamentations 3:50.

12. Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 5:29.

13. Rabbi Nachman taught that by reciting kinnos, i.e. by sincerely mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple and our loss of prophecy and divine wisdom, we actually rebuild the Holy Temple and accomplish the restoration of prophecy and divine wisdom. Thus, in his drush, the bent letter nun in the word kinnos, which represents Malkhus / kingship in its fallen state, is raised up and added to the word "teiku," which represents our state of spiritual exile and confusion. The bent nun becomes a straight final nun (in Hebrew, certain letters have different forms when placed at the end of a word, among them the letter nun). This spells the word "tikkun," meaning the rectification of Malkhus and the restoration of all that we have lost.