Thursday, February 26, 2015

Q&A on Spiritual Progress

An Aspiring Breslover asks:

In everything we do in life, we want to see that we are making advances; especially something to which we are devoting an hour of every day. How can we measure our progress in the spiritual endeavor of hisbodedus? 

Is it misguided to approach hisbodedus with the expectation of seeing noticeable results after routinely practicing it for a considerable amount of time?

Rabbi Dovid Sears (another aspiring Breslover) answers:

The Rebbe discusses this feeling you describe—that sometimes it may seem to us that we're making no progress. (See Reb Alter Tepliker’s anthology “Meshivas Nefesh” for a number of such teachings. The first part of the sefer was translated as “Restore My Soul” by BRI many years ago.) This is only natural. But it’s mistaken.

In Sichos ha-Ran #234, the Rebbe uses the metaphor of water dripping on a stone for the speech of hisbodedus; eventually the words will make an impression in our "heart of stone." We just need to persist and be patient with ourselves. Hisbodedus actually changes a person’s heart in many ways, and these changes are not easily discernable from one day to the next. We don't notice them until one day we suddenly realize that we’re different than we used to be in this respect or that.

Another example he gives is that of the “100 Year Tree” (see Likutey Moharan Tinyana, 48). This tree doesn’t flower for a century—and then one day, it explodes into bloom! So it may be with a person’s spiritual growth.

Elsewhere, the Rebbe tells us how we may destroy the yetzer hara on one level, only to encounter it again on the next level. So it seems like the same old yetzer hara; it looks like we are not making progress, when in fact we are. It’s just that we’re still “works in progress” (Torah 25). Only when we succeed in actually nullifying the ego that lies at the core of our spiritual problems and negative tendencies will we experience the goal of hisbodedus: what in Torah 52 the Rebbe calls the "Imperative Existent"—the “chiyyuv ha-metziyus,” by which I think he means meaning the Divine essence of reality.

Another benefit of hisbodedus is that it purifies and makes us ready for the unexpected moment when Hashem gives us a new hasagah, a spiritual "breakthrough." This is the idea behind purifying the "seven branches of the Menorah" described in Torah 21—meaning our sensory faculties, corresponding to the seven apertures of the head, and their related middos, or character traits. By purifying those middos, we become fit to receive the higher da’as, which the Rebbe describes as a flash of insight that comes all at once. At that moment, our very being seems to light up like the Menorah in the Beis ha-Mikdash. 

However, there may be an even more fundamental issue that's relevant to this discussion: the difference between the mentality of "making progress" in the linear sense, and that of pure being.

These are two completely different states of mind. One is the "process" mentality, while the other is the experience of the "goal" itself. That experience is out of the framework of linearity altogether. It exist in the vividness of the present moment.

Reb Noson tells us how difficult his early years were, as he searched for a teacher and struggled to progress on the derekh Hashem, the spiritual path. He had a recurring nightmare about climbing a ladder and falling down to the ground. One time, he climbed very high—and suffered a terrible, painful fall. Then a young man appeared at the top of the ladder who called down to him: "Keep climbing, but hang on!" A little later, he met the Rebbe and immediately recognized his face from that dream. 

One way to interpret that dream would be that "hanging on" alludes to hischazkus, which means encouraging oneself by focusing on one's good points (as in Torah 282), or one’s potential to correct all the damage one may have caused (as in Torah 112); "climbing" denotes hisorerus, which means yearning for a higher level and striving to attain that goal. As we say in davening: "Kavei el Hashem (yearn); chazak ve-ametz libekha (take heart)..." We need to engage in both kinds of avodah.

But maybe "hanging on" alludes to a deeper kind of hischazkus. As we say (or sing) on Rosh Hashanah, "Ashrei adam az lo bakh ... fortunate is a person who takes strength in You [Hashem]"—wherever one may be, regardless of the “ladder.”

As the Rebbe points out in Torah 33 (based on the Tikkuney Zohar), there is no place devoid of G-dliness—“les asar panui minei.” Hashem is the “place of the world” (Bereishis Rabbah 68); so we are always "there," no matter what we may have done wrong, or no matter how seemingly terrible our circumstances may be. (Likutey Moharan Tinyana, 7; ibid. 56).

So in a sense, we have already "arrived" at the goal. All we need to do is open our eyes and realize that Hashem is present here and now, all around us and within us at the same time. Thus, true “progress” is no progress at all. It just is what it is—a pliyah, a total wonder!

The Baal Shem Tov describes this experience in a number of teachings that were preserved by his disciples. For example:

  • It is not necessary to “place” yourself in G-dliness, but only to realize that everything exists within the Divine light (Ohr HaGanuz la-Tzaddikim, Vayeira).

  • One must realize that essentially he too is G-dliness—then, when one considers that the “self” is really nothing, G-dliness will rest upon him [i.e., become manifest] (ibid., Mattos).

  • “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad.” When one recites the word “echad (one),” he should contemplate that Hashem is all that truly exists, for “the entire earth is full of His glory.” One must realize that he is nothing—for the essence of a person is his soul, and the soul is a “portion of G-d above.” Therefore, nothing truly exists but G-d (Likkutim Yekarim 161).

  • “I, I (anokhi, anokhi) am the one who consoles you” (Isaiah 51:12). When one realizes that the true “I” is G-d, and nothing exists apart from Him, then [the remainder of the verse is fulfilled]: “I am the One who consoles you” (Tshu’os Chein, Tzav).

Monday, February 23, 2015

"Pray for Peace"

Based on Likutey Moharan I, 14 (“Lehamshikh shalom”)
Sections 8 and 9 (bold type)
Translated and annotated by Dovid Sears (bold guesswork, regular type)
With the help of Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Bar-Lev’s Orach Mishor (Vol. 2) and the Breslov Research Institute edition of Likutey Moharan (Vol. 2).
(“Pray for Peace” was the cancellation mark used by the U.S. Postal Service during World War II and for many years thereafter. Maybe they should have kept it up.)

Le-zekher nishmas: imi morasi Gittel bas Aida (yahrtzeit: 5 Adar)
Also for the refu’ah sheleimah of Nechamah Brochah bas Basya, a mother of ten who at the time of my writing this posting is scheduled to undergo surgery to remove a mass on her spine, Hashem yerachem. She and her husband, a kollel scholar, and their children are Americans living in Jerusalem.

This is the fourth part of a series based on Torah 14. (A two-part summary appears here and here). This posting presents section 8 of the lesson in its entirety. Here, the Rebbe’s focus is on the role of prayer in accomplishing inner peace (“peace in one’s bones”) and universal peace—which means not only world peace in the usual sense, but peace that extends through all levels of creation, physical and spiritual, and their reabsorption in the unity of the Eyn Sof. For many of us, this teaching puts prayer in a very different light, and implicitly tells us about the lofty spiritual effects of the daily communal prayer services.

“Pray for Peace”

And when one restores the kavod [of Hashem] to its source, which is yirah (awe), the defects of yirah are made whole—and then one merits to attain peace.

Orach Mishor: For one feels the kavod of Hashem in his heart, to the point that he experiences yiras ha-romemus [awe and wonder before the Infinite One].

There are two types of peace: “peace in one’s bones,” because first a person must see to it that he is at peace within himself. For sometimes there is no peace; as it is written, “There is no peace in my bones [hence the Rebbe’s use of this phrase to indicate inner peace] because I have sinned” (Psalms 38:4).

The Rebbe does not tell us that inner peace is achieved by simply accepting oneself, or even by finding the good points within oneself, as he recommends in Likutey Moharan I, 282 (“Azamra”). Rather, the inner split caused by sin must be corrected. This is brought about through yirah, as he goes on to explain.

However, through yirah one attains “peace in one’s bones.” As the Zohar (II, 79a) states, “In the place where there is awe, there is wholeness.” And as it is written, “There is no lack for those who fear Him” (Psalms 34:10).

Orach Mishor: “Wholeness” [shelemta in the Zohar’s Aramaic, which is sheleimus in Hebrew] is an aspect of shalom (peace); for the word sheleimus is related to shalom. This is particularly so of the body and soul; only when there is peace between them does a person become whole [i.e., undivided].

When one has “peace in his bones,” he is able to pray. For prayer is primarily attained through yirah, in an aspect of “A God-fearing woman is praised [tis’halal, a reflexive form of tehilah]” (Proverbs 31:30).

Orach Mishor: When a person stands up to pray with yirah, as if he were standing before the king, he is assisted from above; they confer upon him a spiritual arousal and deveykus ila’ah [“sublime cleaving,” which is the experience of merging with the Divine]. This is called “tehilah” (praise), as in the verse, “A woman [i.e., prayer] who fears Hashem [i.e., one who prays with yirah] is praised (tis’halal, i.e., turns into tehilah)—that prayer is perfected and becomes “tehilah,” a prayer of deveykus.

And it is written regarding a korban: “Whatever is defective, you shall not offer” (Leviticus 21:18). And where there is no defect—that is, “in the place where there is awe”—one can draw close [yikrav, as in korban] to perform a “complete service” (avodah tamah).

Thus, it is written of Chanah (I Samuel 1:13), “And Chanah spoke unto her heart”—that is, through yirah, she attained prayer [which is the “service of the heart.”]. For the essence of yirah is in the heart.

The Gemara states that many of the laws of prayer are derived from the way Chanah prayed; see Berakhos 31a-b. Thus, her prayer is a paradigm for all prayer.

And through prayer, one brings about shalom ha-klali, universal peace—that is, the perfection (sheleimus) of the “worlds” [i.e., the “four worlds” or levels of reality described by the kabbalists]. This is why prayer is called a “korban” [the Gemara in Berakhos 26b explains that the daily prayers correspond to the daily sacrifices]: because it brings the worlds closer (kiruv) to their perfection.

Orach Mishor: That is, each lower “world” ascends and becomes incorporated into the “world” above itself—like the body that attains peace with the soul—until all of the worlds become absorbed into their Divine Source, thus attaining perfection.

Thus, we see that according to Rebbe Nachman, peace ultimately depends on all things “reconnecting” with the Eyn Sof, the Infinite One. And this is accomplished by the spiritual work of each individual—through elevating the fallen Divine glory (kavod); regaining the lost sense of awe (yiras ha-romemus); and with this sense of awe, engaging in the “service of the heart” that is prayer with deveykus, mystical cleaving. Thus, body and soul attain harmony, which is called “peace in one’s bones.” The body’s desires are sublimated to the will of the neshamah.

This leads to universal peace (shalom ha-klali), which extends, level after level, in a sort of ripple effect, throughout all the worlds. Therefore, prayer is compared to a korban: for it brings everything closer to the Divine Source of all, and thus to perfection. All division and strife is mitigated, and peace reigns. In light of this, we can also understand the teaching of Chazal (Shabbos 10b) that “shalom” is one of Hashem’s holy names.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

R. Ephraim Kenig in NY this Monday night

The Carlebach Shul

Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma

We are honored to announce a special class Monday night, Feb. 23rd (Adar 4), to be given by Rabbi Ephraim Kenig, shlit"a, of the Breslev community of Tsfat.


Preparing for the Seventh of Adar:
Yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeunu

8:00 PM 

Men and women are invited (separate seating).

Rabbi Kenig will speak in Hebrew, and Rabbi Yaacov Klein will translate to English. 

Maariv after the class.

Rabbi Kenig will be available to speak with people privately before the class and after Maariv (see below).


The Carlebach Shul
305 West 79th StManhattan 

Those who wish to speak privately with the Rabbi may do so at the shul between 7:00-8:00, or following Maariv. 

To make an appointment, please call Rabbi Yaakov Klein: 917-856-5664

We thank the Mara d'Asra, Rabbi Naftali Citron, shlit"a, for kindly hosting this guest lecture, and David Schweke of Exciting Judaism for arranging and promoting it. 

RAV EPHRAIM KENIG is a son of Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, zatzal, one of the foremost leaders of the Breslev Chassidim of the previous generation and founder of the Breslov community in Tsfat. Reb Ephraim is well known as the Baal Musaf for the first day of Rosh HaShanah in Uman, and he serves as Rosh Yeshiva and CEO of all Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma educational institutions and learning programs. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Urzila's Revenge"

Based on Likutey Moharan I, 14 (“Lehamshikh shalom”)
Sections 3 (beginning) and 5 (bold type)
Translated and annotated by Dovid Sears (bold guesswork, regular type)
With help from Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Bar-Lev’s Orach Mishor (Vol. 2) and the Breslov Research Institute edition of Likutey Moharan (Vol. 2)
Le-zekher nishmas: Dov Ber ben Yitzchak Yaakov (Dr. Bernard Sears), a”h (yahrtzeit: 29 Shevat)
Avi mori Leib ben Yitzchak Yaakov (Dr.  Lewis Sears), a”h (yahrtzeit: 30 Shevat, R”CH)

We recently posted a two-part translation of Rabbi Bar-Lev’s summary of this lesson from  Likutey Moharan, along with a few comments of our own. (For the first posting, see here.) Some of the key themes of this lesson are restoring Hashem’s fallen kavod (glory, honor or illumination) to its source, which is yirah (awe); bringing baalei teshuvah (penitents) and geirim (converts) back to Hashem through Torah; the cultivation of inner peace, which the Rebbe calls “peace in one’s bones” (based on a scriptural verse), which leads to universal peace.

The exerpts from the lesson proper that we have presented here address the theme of reaching out to geirim and baalei teshuvah and the tikkun of Hashem’s kavod that this accomplishes. In a future posting, we hope to return to sections 8 and 9, which address inner peace and universal peace, be”H. (The title of this posting is for readers who remember the monster movies of the 1950s.)

“Urzila’s Revenge”
At the beginning of section 3 of this lesson, the Rebbe states:

It is only possible to reach out to geirim and baalei teshuvah through Torah—as it is written, “Your wellsprings shall spread outward” (Proverbs 5:16); one must give drink to those who are “outside” [the realm of kedushah / holiness], to make known to them the path they should walk.

[Rabbi Bar-Lev (Orach Mishor) adds that it is self-understood that such kiruv efforts must be embarked upon with caution. A prospective convert should initially be discouraged, as stated in Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 268, and outreach to non-religious Jews also has its risks; see Likutey Moharan I, 59.]

This is what our sages state, “There is no ‘kavod’ but that of Torah” (Avos 6:3). [That is, the Torah reveals Hashem’s glory to the world. On a deeper level, the Torah is associated with the sefirah of Binah / Understanding, which is the “Supernal Heart” (Pasach Eliyahu). Therefore, when one learns Torah in humility and holiness (see below), he will be privy to the “light” of Binah, divinely-inspired understanding]

This is [the meaning of]: “If you extricate the precious from the vile” (Jeremiah 15:19)—on which our sages observe, “This denotes those who draw others closer to avodas Hashem (divine service)” (Bava Metzia 85a). This is called “extricating the precious,” i.e., kavod, “from the vile (zolel)”—“from the disgrace (zilusa) of exile.” This “exile” is the spiritual exile of estrangement from  Hashem and the great merit of engaging in avodas Hashem.

This is [the meaning of], “Hashem is high above all nations” (Psalms 113:4). That is, when the nations acknowledge and praise Him, then “His kavod is above the heavens” (ibid.)—the divine glory ascends from the darkness [of exile—Mai ha-Nachal].

[However,] it is impossible to come to an awakening of teshuvah—whether the sinners of Israel or converts—other than through the Torah, which shines to them wherever their place may be, as in “your wellsprings shall spread outward...”

With this in mind, we can fast-forward to section 5:

And a person cannot merit Torah other than through humility; as our sages taught on the verse, “From the wilderness to Matanah [a place name, also meaning ‘gift’] (Numbers 21:18)”[“If one allows himself to be tread upon, the Torah is presented to him as a gift,” (Eiruvin 54a). Thus, the prerequisite for Torah is humility.].

He must break his sense of self-importance through four types of humility: a person must belittle himself before those who are greater than himself; before his peers; before those who are on a lesser rung; and sometimes he is “the smallest of the small,” and must humble himself in relation to his own rung, imagining that he is beneath his own rung, in an aspect of “Every person must remain [sh’vu, literally meaning ‘sit’] beneath his place” (Exodus 16:29).

[In the plain sense, this means that one must remain in one’s designated place on Shabbos, i.e., within the techum Shabbos, the travel limitations discussed in Eiruvin 17b. However, in context of the lesson, this means that whatever one’s spiritual “place,” one should “sit” beneath it. According to Rabbi Bar-Lev (Orach Mishor), this means that one must nullify the ego completely. Then one can receive the Torah as a “matanah,” a gratuitous gift.]

Then the Rebbe interprets one of the “wild stories” of the Talmudic sage, Rabbah bar bar Chanah (an early Amora), according to the concepts he has established thus far in the lesson. The story is from Bava Basra 73b, with the commentary of RaSHBaM:

This is what Rabbah bar bar Chanah recounted: I once saw a one-day old urzila (mountain goat) which was like Mount Tabor.
RaSHBaM: “urzila ben yoma”: a one-day old mountain goat that had been born that very day.
“ki-har tavor”: that’s how big it was.
And what is the size of Mount Tabor? Four parsa’os.

[A parsa is a Talmudic measure equivalent to approximately four Roman miles (milin). Since a Roman mile (mil) is 1,000 paces, or an estimated 4851 feet, four Roman miles would be somewhat over three land miles by U.S. standards. (These are inexact equivalences, but they give us a rough idea of what the Gemara is talking about.) Thus, four parsa’os would be around twelve miles. Pretty big baby urzila. The actual Mount Tabor in northern Israel is an estimated 1,900 feet high, and nowhere near twelve miles wide at its base. Therefore, the numbers in Rabbah bar bar Chana’s story would seem to be symbolic (like the stories themselves).]

The length of its outstretched neck was three parsa’os, and the length of its head’s marva’ta (resting place) was a parsa and a half. [That would be nearly five miles.]
RaSHBaM: Bei marva’ta di-reisha: the place where it rested its head while lying on the ground.
It cast a ball of dung that blocked the Jordan River.
RaSHBaM: r’ma kufta: it excreted.
sakhra: the dung blocked the Jordan temporarily, until it gradually dissolved.

The Rebbe explains:
“A one-day old urzila”:  This alludes to the paradigm of kavod, which is in a debased state among the idolatrous nations. [That is, those who are far from holiness ascribe honor and value to unworthy people and activities.] This is “ur-zila”—“ur” alludes to kavod, as it is written, “And the earth was illuminated (he-irah) by His glory” (Ezekiel 43:2). [The verb he-irah is a construct of ohr, which is spelled the same way as ur in “urzila.” The Rebbe previously cited this verse (see sec. 2 in the original lesson) in his discussion of the term kavod and its association with perceptions of Godliness in the Messianic Age.]

And why was it called “one-day old?” Because the kavod will not be revealed until the arrival of our Mashiach. Of him, it is written: [Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked the Mashiach,] “When will the master come?” [Mashiach answered, “Today!” When he failed to arrive, Rabbi Yehoshua asked Elijah the Prophet for an explanation. Elijah responded with the verse], “Today—if you will only listen to His voice!” (Psalms 95:7). [That is, Mashiach can come any day, if only we would return to Hashem. This aggadic teaching is found in Sanhedrin 98a.] And every day the divine glory is ready to go out from it’s disgrace. [A manuscript version of this lesson adds: This is the meaning of “one-day old.”]

[Rabbi Chaim Kramer (BRI Likutey Moharan, Vol. 2, ad loc.) cites the Breslov scholarly journal Mabui ha-Nachal on this lesson, which points out a seeming contradiction: Earlier, the Rebbe stated that everyone can and must elevate the displaced kavod; yet here, it seems that this task is associated with the Messianic Age. The answer given is that each day is elevated and rectified to the degree that one elevates and rectifies the fallen kavod by bringing himself and others closer to Hashem. When at last everyone returns to Hashem, all elements of the divine glory will be elevated, and on that day Mashiach will come.] 

“Which was like Mount Tabor”: [Rabbah bar bar Chanah] saw that the elevation of kavod depends on this—that a person break his pride. According to the degree that one breaks his pride, he elevates the divine glory. For kavod is elevated through the Torah, as mentioned above, and no person merits Torah except through humility, as our sages state [on the phrase from the scriptural verse] “and from the wilderness to Matanah.”

This is “Mount Tabor”: “mount (har)” connotes greatness, as it is written, “You have made me stand like a mighty mountain (har)” (Psalms 30:8). “Tabor” indicates breaking. [That is, “t’bar” is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew “shever,” meaning “break.” Thus, “Har Tabor” alludes to breaking pride.]

“And how big was Mount Tabor? Four parsa’os”: This alludes to the four aspects of humility mentioned above [in sec. 5]. One must diminish himself before the tzaddikim; beinonim [“intermediates,” i.e., ordinary people]; the wicked; and before one’s own spiritual level. That is, one should imagine that he has not yet reached his present level. This is [the meaning of] “Mount Tabor, four miles”—that the breaking of self-importance includes these four aspects.

“The length of its outstretched neck was three parsa’os”: This corresponds to the three things about which people tend to become haughty. And one must be on guard against them, as it is written, “Let not the wise man take pride in his wisdom [nor the mighty man in his strength, nor the rich man in his wealth]” (Jeremiah 9:22). They comprise three aspects: wise, mighty and wealthy. And haughtiness is called “an outstretched neck,” as in “Speak [not] with an haughty neck” (Psalms 75:6).

And the length of its head’s marva’ta (resting place) was a parsa and a half: This alludes to the union that takes place at the beginning of the divine thought [in creation].

[Earlier, in section  4, the Rebbe cited the Gemara’s teaching about the need to “bless the Torah first (techilah),” prior to studying; when Torah scholars fail to do so, they will not be blessed with sons who are Torah scholars (Nedarim 81a). The Rebbe connects “blessing first (techilah)” with the Midrash that “Israel arose first (techilah) in the divine thought” (Bereishis Rabbah 1:5), which he mentioned in section 3. That is, according to the Rebbe, Torah study must be informed by the intention to illuminate the collectivity of souls at their root. Through this, the souls of future converts are created and those of estranged Jews are spiritually awakened. This leads to the tikkun of Hashem’s kavod in the world and the ultimate attainment of world peace.

[Re. “Israel arose first (techilah) in the divine thought,” in the simple sense, this means that although the Jewish people did not exist prior to Jacob and his family, and in actuality, not until the Torah was given at Mount Sinai—the creation of the Jewish people lies at the root of the original divine intention in creation. This is because through their self-sacrifice in fulfilling the Torah and mitzvos, the Jewish people ultimately usher in the day of which Isaiah (11:9) states, “The earth will be full of the knowledge of Hashem, like the water that covers the sea.”]

“Marva’ta (resting place)” is an expression of coupling (zivvug), as it is written, “my going about and my lying down [riv’iy, which is related to mavarta]” (Psalms 139:3). [The Gemara understands this phrase as a reference to marital relations; Nedarim 31a. Here, the Rebbe relates it to spiritual unifications on the transcendant plane.]

A parsa and a half: “Parsa” hints to the drawing down of souls to their sons [from the source of all souls in the divine thought], which is termed a whole parsa; the scintillation with which the souls scintillate and shine to the transgressors of Israel, thus awakening them to return to Hashem and giving birth to the souls of converts, is called “a half.” [This is because the awakening is a secondary reaction initiated by the Torah scholars who recite the blessing “first”; i.e., their intention is to bring about such an illumination of souls and thus to perfect the divine glory.]

Because [geirim and baalei teshuvah] are still extremely far from the realm of holiness, and consequently they might encounter many spiritual obstacles. They require that one make great efforts to remove the “soiled garments” which they had worn; as it is written, “Remove the soiled garments” (Zekhariah 3:4).  [The Rebbe now states that in addition to studying Torah in humility and with the intent of illuminating all souls at their source, one must actively help geirim and baalei teshuvah to overcome the formidable obstacles that impede their spiritual progress.] For these “soiled garments” prevent them from returning to the Holy One, blessed be He. They are barriers, just like a river that bars passage, making it impossible to traverse that river. One must cast off these soiled garments. [Based on Likutey Halakhos, Rabbi Bar-Lev adds that this is accomplished especially by establishing fixed times for Torah study, since the Torah purifies the “soiled garments” of the soul].

[As for why the Rebbe uses two metaphors, “soiled garments” and a “river,” perhaps this is because soiled garments represent obstacles that are close to one’s body; i.e., they are external, but close to the inner person. The kabbalists state that thought, speech and action are the “garments” of the soul; we must purify these three garments. The river, by contrast, represents obstacles that one encounters in the world, through the people and situations one must contend with, in order to rectify past misdeeds and thus to be free of their lingering effects.]  

And this is [the meaning of]:
“It cast a ball of dung that blocked the Jordan River”: By stripping off and casting away the soiled garments from them, all of the obstacles and barriers between them and the realm of the holy are eliminated.

“Obstructed the Jordan River”: Because the Jordan divides between the holiness of the Land of Israel and the Diaspora. And this is why [geirim and baalei teshuvah] are called a “half”—for one still needs to divest them of their soiled garments, in order to remove the barriers, obstacles and partitions separating them from the holy. Howver, those souls that Torah scholars draw doen to their children, as mentioned above—they are called a “whole parsa,” because they don’t have [to overcome] these separating partitions.

And this is [the meaning of] “and you shall honor it (Isaiah 58:13)—with clean garments.” [The Rebbe refers to Shabbos 119a. That is, one honors Shabbos by wearing clean garments. Shabbos is a fundamental expression of the holy, as the verse states, “And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it (viyekadesh oso)” (Genesis 2:3).] “Clean garments,” that is, one casts off the soiled garments. For this is the main glory of Hashem: “If you extricate the precious from the vile”—to enable people to return to Hashem and to draw down the souls of converts.  

And when geirim convert, they come “under the wings of the Shekhinah(Sanhedrin 96b). This is why [the convert] is called a ger tzedek [Zohar, Hakdamah; literally, “righteous convert,” however, as we shall see, the Rebbe connects the term “tzedek” with the Shekhinah]. As the Zohar (Yisro, 93a) explains, “ ‘Clean garments,’ this indicates the ‘corners of a mitzvah’ ” [i.e., the corners of four-cornered garments, which require tzitzis (fringes), are called “kanfey”; this also means “wings, as in “wings of the Shekhinah.”] This alludes to the Shekhinah, which is called “mitzvah,” in an aspect of “all Your mitzvos are tzedek (righteous)” (Psalms 199:172).

[That is, “clean garments” = mitzvah = Shekhinah = tzedek, all of which are related to the “ger tzedek,” who “comes under the wings of the Shekhinah.”]

And this is [the meaning of]:

“And you shall honor it” (Isaiah 58:13). For this is [Hashem’s] main glory: to bring converts under the wings of the Shekhinah. 

Trip to Kivrei Tzaddikim

We recently received this notice from Rabbi Motta Frank, shlit"a. 

חבר וידיד הי"ו

לקראת שבת פרשת זכור - שבת פרשת תצוה ט' אדר ה'תשע"ה 28/2/15
הנני מתכונן לשבות בעזרת השם יתברך
ליד אור  שבעת הימים - רבנו הבעש"ט זי"ע במז'יבוז

וביום חמישי שלפניו - ז' אדר - יומא דהילולא רבא של משה רעיא מהימנא זי"ע
נשתטח בתפלה באומן
ליד קברו של רבנו הקדוש מוהר"ן מברסלב זי"ע

כל מי מהחברים שרוצה להצטרף לשבת מז'יבוז'
יזדרז בבקשה
להירשם ולברר את כל הפרטים 

אצל 'אהלי צדיקים' - ישראל מאיר גבאי

או ישירות עם הבן שלי
שמואל פראנק - המשמש בקודש שם במז'יבוז'


We look forward to celebrating, with the help of Hashem, 
Shabbos parshas Zakhor (Tetzaveh, 9 Adar 5775 / Feb. 28, '15) 
near the holy grave site of the "light of the seven days of creation," 
our master the Baal Shem Tov, zy"a, 
in Medzhibozh.

The preceding Thursday is 7 Adar,
the yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, the "raya mehemna," zy"a. 
We look forward to praying on this auspicious day 
at the holy grave site of our master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, zy"a, 
in Uman.

Whoever would like to join us in Medzibuzh for Shabbos Zakhor 
should please QUICKLY contact Rav Yisrael Meir Gabbai of Oheley Tzaddikim to make reservations and receive more details:

OR contact Reb Motta's son Reb Shmuel, who is organizing things for the group in Medzhibuzh:


Reb Motta will be there too, iy"H.

With the help of Hashem, this should be a joyous and inspiring trip for all!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

“To Elicit Peace,” Part 2

Based on Likutey Moharan I, 14 (“Lehamshikh shalom”)
SUMMARY of main points of the lesson, as presented in the commentary “Orach Mishor,” vol. 2 (end of lesson)
By Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Bar-Lev
Translated and annotated by Dovid Sears
Le-zekher nishmas: Dov Ber ben Yitzchak Yaakov, a”h (yahrtzeit: 29 Shevat)
Avi mori Leib ben Yitzchak Yaakov, a”h (yahrtzeit: 30 Shevat, R”CH)

The first part of this posting may be read here.

Text of Orach Mishor in bold, with explanatory remarks in brackets [DS].

7.      By accomplishing the tikkun of yirah / awe, one merits to attain “shalom bayis” (“peace in the home”) in one’s “bones”—i.e., one’s body and soul will achieve harmony and peace.

For there are those who engage in lashon hara (evil speech) and fomenting strife, who go about speaking words of slander and defamation, thus creating conflict between a person and his friends and between a man and his wife.

[Perhaps the Rebbe stresses the harm caused by lashon hara specifically because it is through holy speech—in particular, “sheleimus ha-tefillah,” the perfection of prayer—that universal peace is brought about; see below. Speech has great power, whether to unite or to divide.]

Also in a spiritual sense, the Evil Urge arises, along with its “side,” [i.e., what the Zohar calls the “Sitra Achara,” or Other Side] and they try to beguile a person to follow after them. This creates tremendous conflict between the body and soul, to the point that “there is no peace in my bones because of my sin” (Psalms 38:3). [Hence, the Rebbe’s use of the term “peace in one’s bones” in this lesson for inner peace, or peace between body and soul.] However, through the tikkun of yirah / awe, all strife is nullified, and peace is made, both physically and spiritually. [The experience of yirah / awe is so intense that it puts everything in a different context; conflict exists on the lower level, but not when Godliness is intuitively perceived—through yiras ha-romemus.] That is, the body nullifies its will and desires entirely before the will of the soul, to such a degree that it does not want to engage in any worldly endeavor except for the sake of the soul.

[The Rebbe (sec. 9) relates this to the Talmudic story of Rabbah Bar Bar Chanah and the merchant who showed him “the place where earth and heaven kiss” (Bava Basra 74a). “Heaven” denotes the soul, while “earth” denotes the body. Through yirah / awe, these two seemingly opposite tendencies come to a state of harmony and peace.]

Even during prayer, one should not seek after the body’s needs, but the needs of the soul. Although the explicit prayer texts [in the siddur] concern the body’s needs, such as [the supplications in the Shemoneh Esreh] “heal us,” “bless us [concerning agriculture],” and other physical necessities, one’s intent should not be for the body as an end in itself, but rather the sustenance of one’s soul and its healing. For when one rectifies the spiritual aspect, automatically the physical will also be rectified; Hashem will confer upon one all that he needs, amply and abundantly. However, one’s intent should be only for the sake of his soul.  

And as for what we sometimes see, that there are tzaddikim who surely rectified everything completely in the spiritual sense, yet they lack material abundance—this is only due to their previous incarnations, as mentioned in the holy Zohar and in the Gemara [according to the mystical understanding of the kabbalists]; the “mazal[“destiny”; in this context, meaning the past spiritual debt] of their souls reincarnates, so that they lack material abundance. However, when one is privy to this peace, such that the body becomes incorporated into the soul, accordingly, the body too can “taste” and experience the light of the soul, and one will be filled with her light.

The category of “peace in one’s bones” also means that one will attain health of body and soul. For what primarily underlies sickness, God forbid, is the aspect of conflict—i.e., the four elements [in kabbalistic and medieval medicine: aish (fire), ruach (wind), mayim (water) and afar (earth); see Likutuey Moharan I, 4; ibid. II, 67] clash with one another and do not interact harmoniously; while healing comes through the aspect of peace. As a result of all this, a person becomes whole. 

8.      Through being worthy of “peace in one’s bones,” one merits to attain prayer. For when a person becomes whole, without any defect or blemish, he is fit to approach the King and to cleave [i.e., to experience deveykus, a profound spiritual bonding] to the Blessed One at the time of prayer. This is the essence of prayer [and not petitional prayer].

9.      Through the perfection of prayer, there is elicited “universal peace” (shalom ha-klalli) throughout all of the worlds—all worlds will be drawn near to the Blessed One [i.e., the “four worlds” that encompass creation on all levels will be brought into a state of unity and harmony with the Creator, and all diversity with the Divine Unity]. They will become incorporated within one another, the lower world into the world above it, until all worlds ascend to their source, where they will be absorbed into the Divine Oneness.  This is the “universal peace” that will prevail throughout the universe in the ultimate future: all worlds will be incorporated into God.

10.  Therefore, one must accustom himself to pray for everything one lacks, whether livelihood or children or healing, etc. For all of these matters, the main advice is to pray to Hashem, and to rely upon Hashem alone. One should believe that Hashem is good and helps in everything, and He is available at all times and to every person. As it is written, “Who is like unto Hashem, our God, whenever we all upon Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7).

We should not pursue various mundane strategies, most of which in any case do not help. And as for the small minority that do help, one doesn’t know which of them is efficacious, or where to find them. However, by believing in God and praying to Him, the Blessed One will send one deliverance and healing, even through other things, which are always available. In this manner, one will come to universal peace.

[For a previous posting that presents this section of the present teaching at greater length, click here.]

11.  Through universal peace, conflict will be utterly nullified, and all divergent views of humanity will attain equanimity and complete unity—until even business transactions will be rendered obsolete. Thus, in the future, business will cease from the world, as it is written, “The Canaanite (which also can mean ‘merchant’) will no longer be…” (Zechariah 14:21). For business depends on the discrepancy between the desire of the buyer and that of the seller; one wishes to buy, and one wishes to sell. If their desires were the same, no transaction could take place.

[The Rebbe does not merely allude to the haggling that typically goes on in business, by which the buyer wishes to pay less and the seller wishes to charge more. Rather, he addresses the fundamental mentalities of the divergent desires to buy or sell. These desires are based on a mentality of need, rather than of fulfillment. Thus, they reflect a deficiency of equanimity and peace. We may not be able to imagine a world such as the Rebbe describes, but ultimately that’s what characterizes the future world.]

12.  Through the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candle, the light of Hashem’s kavod shines, and Hashem’s kavod is elevated and increased in the world. [This] awakens those who are distant to return to God, and to merit to attain yirah / awe and “shalom bayis” in one’s bones; to prayer [in the fullest sense of deveykus]; and the nullification of lashon hara and strife. Then universal peace is elicited throughout all of the worlds.

[The Rebbe sees Chanukah as a glimpse of the future, and indeed, of the “delight of the World to Come” (as he discusses in Likutey Moharan II, 2, “Yemei Chanukah”). Accordingly, we shows how all of the key ideas in this lesson about the attainment of ultimate peace and unity are encoded in the observances of Chanukah; see section 13 in the original teaching at greater length.]

To review this teaching, which is Rebbe Nachman’s “peace plan”:

The Rebbe’s “roadmap” proceeds from inner to outer, from the spiritual condition of the individual to that of the world—and thence to all of the “worlds.”

At the most practical level, the lesson stresses: Torah study in a spirit of humility and holiness; binding oneself (hiskashrus) to the tzaddikim; religious awe and the perfection of prayer; and the cultivation of compassion and peace.

Just as Likutey Moharan I, 1, begins by describing how the chein (grace) of holiness is “fallen” and out of place, this lesson begins with the need to rectify Hashem’s fallen kavod / honor. Kavod must be elevated to its “source,” which is yirah / awe. “That is, one merits to feel Hashem’s glory with a whole heart, until one comes to experience religious awe (yiras ha-romemus).”

This is brought about by the return of geirim / converts and baalei teshuvah / non-religious Jews who return to Jewish practice—a kiruv effort in which everyone should engage, in one way or another.

The return of geirim and baalei teshuvah comes about only through the Torah. “Every person, and a talmid chakhom in particular, must engage in Torah study with great sanctity—to the point that one’s Torah study illuminates the spiritual root of the souls of all Israel.” Through this, both baalei teshuvah and geirim will be awakened to return to Hashem, “even if one has never set eyes on them, and they are miles away from him.”

Such Torah study requires both profound humility and hiskashrus le-tzaddikim, binding oneself to the tzaddikim who have attained yiras ha-romemus, the highest awe.

The tikkun of yirah / awe enables one to attain the perfection of prayer, which is deveykus / cleaving to Hashem and reliance upon Hashem (bitachon). “One should believe that Hashem is good and helps in everything, and He is available at all times and to every person.” This leads to inner peace.

Inner peace requires the harmony of body and soul. This requires the subjugation of ego-driven desires of the body to the will (ratzon) of the soul. Attaining inner peace also accomplishes the healing of body and soul.

Inner peace leads to “universal peace”: peace among all creatures in this world, and throughout all “four worlds” described by the kabbalists, which ascend level after level into the Divine Unity, which the Source—and Essence—of all.

“Thus there will be peace and completeness throughout all the worlds, such that predatory animals, which are by nature angry and cruel, will also be perfected and show compassion toward one another. As it is written, ‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall recline with the goat … they shall neither harm nor destroy…’ ” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

Amen, ken yehi ratzon!


If anyone would like to inquire about sponsorship of the remaining unpublished volumes of Rabbi Bar-Lev’s commentary on Likutey Moharan, they may write to the author, c/o Rechov Ezra 4, Bnei Brak, E. Israel, or phone: (972) 03-579-0876

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Bar-Lev is the son of Rabbi Simcha Bar-Lev, a prominent Breslov teacher and disciple of Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig, zatzal. Reb Yitzchak Meir’s uncle is Rabbi Yechiel Bar-Lev, author of Yedid Nefesh series on the Zohar, various kabbalistic works, and Talmud Yerushalmi.