Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kimcha D'Pischa Tsfat 2015

What is Kimcha D'Pischa

Kimcha D'Pischa is the ancient mitzvah among Jews throughout the world to give charity to the poor before Passover for basic holiday needs.

There are those who give and those who receive. If you can give, please help the needy of Tsfat this Passover.

Annual Passover Drive for 600 families.
Last year $300,000 was distributed to the needy of greater Tsfat.

Each aid basket includes chicken, meat, fish, wine, eggs, grape juice, matzah, fresh produce and dry goods,
and distributed to families who live below the poverty line in Tsfat.

Fulfill an important Passover mitzvah in Tsfat this year!
Click here to donate for Kimcha D'Pischa in the Holy City of Tsfat.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Please Help Rabbi Rosenberg

We received these photos from Rabbi Binyamin Rosenberg, Director of Eizer L'Shabbos in Tsfat. His son Rabbi Shmuel Rosenberg was in this accident, and his car was totaled. B"H he was not injured, nor was anyone else. Which was a miracle.

Reb Shmuel, AKA the "Sofer of Tsfat," is a Mashgiach for the BaDaTZ of Yerushalyim in the Galil, and needs a car to travel to the various places he supervises. If you could contribute to this campaign to raise money for a new car, it would be an extremely high level of tzedakah -- to help a fellow Jew to earn a living, especially the head of a family living in Eretz Yisrael. 

All checks should be made out to Eizer L'Shabbos and marked in the corner "For R. Shmuel Rosenberg" -- so they won't be mixed-up with the current Eizer L'Shabbos Pesach campaign funds. 

Contributions can be made via Eizer's website: http://www.eizerlshabbos.com/

Or mailed to: Eizer L’Shabbos, 5014 Sixteenth Ave. Suite 319, Brooklyn, NY 11204

Thanks for all your help, and may you be gebentched! 

"Bikha Rabbeinu Nagilah”

Sichos ha-Ran 177
Otzar Nachmani 143
Posted in honor of the holy Rebbe, Reb Nachman of Breslov zatzal’s birthday
Rosh Chodesh Nisan
Translated by Dovid Sears

Reb Noson writes in Sichos ha-Ran 177:

[The Rebbe] encouraged a certain person to be happy, and told him that it is fitting to rejoice in the Blessed One. “And even though you do not know of G-d’s greatness [i.e., through direct experience], you may rely upon me—because I know something of G-d’s greatness.” Then he quoted the verse, “For I know that G-d is great…” (Psalms 135:5; also cf. Sichos ha-Ran 1). [The Rebbe added,] “it is also proper that you should rejoice in me, in that you are worthy to have such a teacher.” [Cf. Likutey Moharan I, 30, re. how a teacher must be able to transmute lofty mystical perceptions to lower forms so that his students may grasp something of them.] He encouraged this individual to be happy even in his ordinary activities, and told him, “Surely this is correct. At first, it is necessary to gladden oneself in mundane things as much as possible, and afterward one can come to true simchah (joy).”

Rabbi Nachman Burstein reminisced:

When we used to learn Sichos ha-Ran on Thursday nights at the home of Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender, we came to Sichah 177, which states that the Rebbe once told his followers that they should be happy to have such a teacher. I asked [Reb Levi Yitzchok] if perhaps the song “Bikha Rabbeinu Nagilah (In you, our teacher, we rejoice]” flows forth from this teaching. He replied that he had the same thought, and that presumably in Reb Noson’s day they sang it. [Reb Levi Yitzchok] added that here in Eretz Yisrael, we dance only a little while to this niggun; however, in Uman they would sometimes dance to it for several hours without interruption, with simchah and exaltation (“hisorerus ha-mochin”). It is immeasurable how deeply they felt the preciousness of their bond to the Rebbe, who engages in the tikkun of the souls of his followers and all those connected to him. This should give us reason to rejoice in the Rebbe with endless joy. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Releases - Sifrei Breslov

We are happy to announce a ground-breaking new commentary on Likutey Moharan by the well-known and respected Breslov teacher and author, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Carmel  of Yerushalayim. The first volume in the series has been published and is available through "Everything Breslov."  

Rabbi Yehoshua Gross, author of Tiferes HaNachal on Likutey Moharan, and Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Carmel, author of Mekor Chokhmah on Likutey Moharan, have collaborated on the first volume of another ground-breaking work: a new edition of Likutey Halakhos with extensive source references and an original commentary. The first volume is priced at $17 a copy and is also available through Everything Breslov:

Both works are in Hebrew. 

We encourage every student of Breslov Chassidus to obtain these illuminating works. 

Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)

Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)
From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov the Way It Is”
Customs and Practices, Past and Present
Work-in-progress by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

The Rebbe taught that the days of Nisan are days of teshuvah, like the days of Tishrei.
(Likutey Moharan I, 49)


The Rebbe was born on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, which is the Mishnah designates as the "Rosh Hashanah shel malakhim," the day on which the reign of a Jewish king officially begins. Today many Breslover Chassidim travel to Uman to pray near the Rebbe's tziyun on Rosh Chodesh Nisan because it, too, is a “Rosh Hashanah,” and perhaps to some extent possesses the segulos of Rosh Hashanah.


In a letter to Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitch, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz mentions that Nisan is the head of all months, and is a time of simchah in all the worlds; each day is comparable to a Rosh Chodesh and a Yom Tov; and through this simchah, one can attain tikkun and shemiras ha-bris, as discussed in Likutey Moharan I, 49.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Michtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 26, p. 103)


Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the minhag in the Ukraine was for each person to recite the parshas ha-nasi followed by the “yehi ratzon” after Shacharis, not to read it from the Sefer Torah in public. This was also the Breslover minhag.
(Heard from Rabbi Michel Dorfman. Those who read the nasi privately include the communities of Chernobyl-Skver, Boyan, Karlin-Stolin, Chabad, etc. Reading it from a Sefer Torah was the minhag of Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz, also mentioned in Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch])


However, in recent years it became the minhag in the Tzefas Breslov community to read the nasi from the Sefer Torah. This change was made out of concern that people not forget to do so.


Reb Elazar and a group of talmidim from Tzefas usually go to Uman immediately after Pesach to spend the last days of Nisan at the Rebbe's tziyun. The chaburah spends one day visiting the kivrei tzaddikim in Berditchev, Medzhibuzh, and Breslov. While in Uman, Reb Elazar teaches Sippurey Ma’asiyos and Likutey Moharan every day, and the chaburah recites Tikkun ha-Klalli be-tzibbur.


Reb Gedaliah and his talmidim used to go to Tzefas in order to pray there on Erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar. When asked about this, Reb Gedaliah said that this was the date that Mosdos Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma had purchased its first property in Tzefas.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)

Mekhiras Chometz / Sale of Chometz
Reb Gedaliah stated that the mekhirah is a complete sale, and chas ve-shalom that one should think otherwise. Therefore, one may sell any quantity of chometz gamur.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein)


Reb Gedaliah did not instruct his talmidim to sell their chometz through a Rov who used an arev kablan. Therefore, it seems he was not particular about this.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein. The Baal ha-Tanya advocated the use of an arev kablan, a Jew who acts as the agent of the non-Jew who buys the chametz. )

Shabbos Ha-Gadol
After Minchah, it is customary to recite the Haggadah, beginning with “Avadim hayinu” until “le-khaper al kol avonoseinu.” One does so even if Shabbos ha-Gadol falls on Erev Pesach.
(RaMA, Orach Chaim 430:1; Mishnah Berurah, ad loc.)


The Rebbe darshans on the custom that once prevailed in Eastern Europe to turn over the tables after Shabbos HaGadol.
(Sichos ha-Ran 88)


The tables were commonly made so that the top rested on the legs. Therefore, by turning over the top, one was provided with a new, “chometz-free” surface.
(Heard from Rabbi Leibel Berger)

Erev Pesach
Reb Avraham Sternhartz told Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz that Reb Noson used to say: “As soon as one recites the berakhah for bedikas chometz, it is already a shtick Pesach (i.e., one is already connected to Pesach).”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman, Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)


Reb Avraham described how after the bedikah, Reb Noson would speak words of mussar to his sons: they should strive to remove the chometz from their hearts, etc. This was the only time he spoke mussar at such length the entire year. He did so order to awaken the paradigm of “yom nakam bi-libi . . . the day of retribution is in My heart, and the year of My Redemption has come” (Isaiah 63:4). This mood lasted until the burning of the chometz the following morning, when one must also destroy the chometz from one’s heart. Reb Noson’s allusion to the verse “yom nakam bi-libi” alludes to Likutey Moharan I, 83, which speaks of searching for chometz with the “light of the eyes” (see there), destroying the chometz in one’s heart, and other awesome tikkunim that are bound up with the Redemption and Beis ha-Mikdash.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman’s Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)


Reb Gedaliah had a large family and an extremely small dirah. Yet despite the challenges of operating within such circumstances, he remained calm and patient throughout the Pesach preparations, with tzelilus ha-da’as. 
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig)


Reb Gedaliah showed great zehirus in all mitzvos de-rabbanan. Thus, he would not even drink water before bedikas chometz, even though this is halakhically permissible.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Yaakov Klein)


Reb Gedaliah did not use a feather and wooden spoon during bedikas chometz, but only a candle and a sheet of paper made into a cone to collect the ten pieces of chometz, etc. One year one of his children came back from kindergarten and gave him a wooden spoon for the bedikah. However, he put it aside and did not use it, commenting, “Ich fier zach vie der Tate . . . I conduct myself like my father.”
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)


Reb Gedaliah’s wife would place each of the ten small pieces of chometz on a piece of paper, and put them on the floor. Reb Gedaliah would collect them during the bedikah and put them in the paper cone together with the candle to be burned in the morning.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)


Reb Gedaliah was not extreme in his manner of performing the bedikah. For example, if a drawer were not normally used for chometz, he would just open it and quickly look inside. He told his children to clean out the pockets of their clothes during the day, and he did not inspect them at night.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)


Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to fast all day on Erev Pesach and did not avail himself of the heter to make a siyum or attend one. This also had been the practice of his zeide, the Tcheriner Rov.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn remembered hearing that Reb Avraham had had an older sister who died young, and therefore he was not obligated to fast on Ta’anis Bekhorim; yet he did so anyway. Another possible reason for this stringency, he speculated, was that Reb Avraham wished exempt his bekhor, Reb Noson, during the latter’s childhood, and he simply continued to do so after Reb Noson came of age.


The Rav of Tcherin writes that there is no special inyan in Breslov to bake Erev Pesach matzos, which entails many halakhic risks if conditions are not optimal. "However," he adds, "if one can do so properly and without great difficulty, mah tov u-mah na'im."
(See Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 257. However, Reb Elazar has a copy of an unpublished letter from Reb Noson asking for wheat in order to make Erev Pesach matzos. This was a custom of the Baal Shem Tov still observed in many circles; see Shivchey Baal Shem Tov [Avraham Rubenstein, ed.] 199; Siddur ARI Rav Shabbsai, Seder Erev Pesach, et al.)


Reb Gedaliah did not bake Erev Pesach matzos. Moreover, he was particular not to use them, due to the halakhic problems surrounding them.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig, Rabbi Chaim Man, and Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)


Sometime after chatzos, Reb Gedaliah would recite the letter of Rabbi Shimshon Ostropolier, printed in many editions of the Haggadah. He encouraged his talmidim to do so, as well.
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)


After Minchah, he would read recite the account of the Korban Pesach. This is the common minhag. It is possible that the nusach he followed was that of Rabbi Yaakov Emden’s Siddur. This was one of his favorite seforim, which he often reviewed at different times of the year.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

Practical Advice

Rabbi David Nahem, spiritual leader of Congregation Shaare Ezra, Long Branch, NJ, has been giving a stimulating weekly class at Congregation Yam HaTorah in Flatbush. The focus of the shiur is Rabbi Nachman's advice in avodat Hashem and in dealing with life's many challenges. The synagogue is located at 1573 East 10th St, between Avenues O-P. The shiur begins promptly at 8:15 PMWednesday evenings. 

Rabbi Nahem has long and close relationships with various Breslov mashpiyim, in particular Rabbi Michel Dorman, zal, one of the outstanding leaders of the Breslov Chassidim in the former USSR and later in Jerusalem. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Chicken-and-Egg Question Revisited - Part II

Based on Kitzur Likutey Moharan I, Lesson 27.
Translated, abridged and discussed by Dovid Sears
With help from the Breslov Research Institute English-Hebrew Kitzur Likutey Moharan.

This is the seventh posting in a series on peace.
Part I may be read here.

The previous section of the lesson mentioned the tradition that the laws of Shabbos were given before the Jewish people reached Mount Sinai, when they camped in a place called Marah, which means “bitter.”

Section 7 continues:
It was specifically in Marah that they received the “Shabbos of peace”—since it is the way of peace to be garbed in bitterness, as in [the verse], “Behold, for the sake of peace, I had great bitterness” (Isaiah 38:17). Just as all physical remedies come in the form of bitter medicines, so too peace, which is the cure for all things, as in “ ‘Peace, unto both those who are far and near,’ declares G-d, ‘and I will heal him’ ” (Isaiah 57:19); its way is to garb itself in bitterness.

Although it may be ironic that peace comes garbed in bitterness, this should encourage all those who pursue peace to know that they’re on the right track and to persevere.

[The reason for this is] because all diseases, may G-d spare us, stem from strife. There is a state of conflict between the body’s four basic elements, each one trying to overpower the other, and a person must see to it that they attain peace—which is the cure.

From this we see that both health and peace are primarily a matter of striking a balance between contending forces. As for the four elements, they seem to correspond to the four “humors” (maros), mentioned below in section 8 (see chart).

Similarly, spiritual sickness is a form of strife, in that there is conflict between the soul and the body, as it is written, “There is no peace in my bones because of my sin” (Psalms 38:4). [Here, too,] it is necessary to receive healing remedies through bitterness.

Sometimes, however, the disease is so severe that the patient cannot bear the bitterness of the treatments, so the doctors cease treating the patient and give up on him. In the same way, when a person’s sins—which are the maladies of the soul—greatly overpower him, may G-d save us, then he cannot endure the bitterness of the treatments, and the situation seems almost hopeless, G-d forbid. But G-d is full of mercy. And when He sees in a person that he wants to return to Him, may He be blessed, but lacks the ability to bear the bitterness of his medicines, G-d has mercy upon him and casts all of the person’s sins “over His shoulder,” so to speak, so that the person will not need to endure such acute bitterness in order to be healed. [Rather, he must endure] only as much as he can handle, as it states regarding King Hezekiah, peace be upon him, who praised the Holy One for this in the verse cited above, “Behold, for the sake of peace I had great bitterness … and You, God, have thrown all my sins over Your shoulder” (Isaiah 38:17).

We see from this that the “cause-and-effect” principle that reflects the Divine Attribute of justice is not inexorable, but that the Divine Attribute of mercy may lessen the suffering a person deserves. This is because mercy is the “highest” of the various Divine Attributes, as represented by the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu to invoke in prayer after the sin of the Golden Calf (see, for example, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero’s discussion of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy in his Tomer Devorah, Chapter 1).

From this, each person will understand [the following advice] for himself—whoever wishes to take pity on his life and wants to return to G-d. For it usually happens that when a person makes the few steps to follow the paths of the virtuous and to come closer to G-d, many obstacles and hardships come upon him from all sides, each individual in own situation. Sometimes it may seem to him that it is impossible to bear such bitterness, sufferings and obstacles as these—and there are those who fell because of all this and then went away [from Judaism], may G-d save us.

In  Likutey Moharan II, 73, the Rebbe describes the challenges that a person may encounter on the path of teshuvah, and how one may reach the very heavenly gate of teshuvah only to find it locked. One must never give up, but persist until he succeeds. Similarly, see Likutey Moharan II, 48 (“The Rebbe’s Letter”).

However, one who truly wants [to return] must know and believe that all of the bitterness, suffering and obstacles that assail him come with great kindness. For according to the vast extent of his sins, he may need to endure even greater bitterness in order to be cured, far beyond his capacity to tolerate; [faced with this,] one could lose all hope, G-d forbid. However, G-d has compassion for him and does not send him bitterness and suffering beyond his power of endurance. Whatever bitterness one has, he surely can bear. For G-d does not send anyone bitterness and obstacles that are impossible to endure and overcome, even when according to that person’s deeds he deserves to suffer more.

This follows the principle of our sages, “The Holy One does not come with burdensome demands (bi-tirchos) to His creatures, but only comes [with demands] appropriate to a person’s ability” (Shemos Rabbah 34:1; somewhat similarly, see Avodah Zarah 3a: “The Holy One does not come with despotic demands (bi-trunya) to His creatures”).

Sec. 8:
The shalom that one needs to attain in one’s body involves the “four humors”; one must not overpower the other.

In kabbalistic teachings and in ancient medicine, there are four “humors” (maros) or bodily fluids: black, white, red and yellow. 

Shalom in one’s money means that “one person’s money should not come and devour another’s,” as our sages state (Kesuvos 66b).  And shalom in one’s Torah study means that it is free from troubling questions, which are forms of strife [see Likutey Moharan I, 20]. [When one attains these three types of peace], he will merit to fulfill the verse, “Yaakov came whole and intact (shalem) to the city of Shekhem” (Genesis 33:18). For through peace (shalom) there is an awakening of the paradigm of “to serve Him with a common accord (shekhem echad)” (Zephaniah 3:9, as mentioned in the first section of this lesson).      

Sec. 9
And this paradigm of bringing the entire world “to call upon G-d’s name” can be attained only through tikkun ha-bris (sexual purity). When a person observes that lustful thoughts are entering his mind, and he breaks his lust and removes his attention from them, this is his principle teshuvah, and this is his tikkun for any sexual misdeeds (p’gam ha-bris) that he may have committed in the past—whatever they may have been [see Likutey Moharan I, 26]. This is the paradigm of actual “teshuvas ha-mishkal[i.e., a form of penitence that matches the transgression, as if they were weighed against one another on a pair of scales]. Therefore, a person should not become disheartened if he sees that extremely evil and base thoughts assail him. To the contrary, this is precisely his means of tikkun and his teshuvah.

In Sichos ha-Ran 71, the Rebbe states that teshuvah entails returning to the same situation in which one sinned in the past and not repeating one’s mistake. This corresponds to the Gemara’s teaching in Yuma 86b; also see Mishneh Torah, Hil. Teshuvah 1:2; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Shaarey Kedushah II, Gate 8. The Rebbe also discusses teshuvas ha-mishkal in Sichos ha-Ran 102.

For when these thoughts occur to him and he overcomes them, precisely this brings about his tikkun and his teshuvah. With this, he brings forth “sparks of holiness” that fell through his sexual misdeeds, and then he merits tikkun ha-bris and the refinement of his wisdom and his voice. He merits [inner] peace—and through [peace] it is possible to draw the entire world to the service of G-d.

This concludes the version of the lesson in the Kitzur Likutey Moharan. In the last section of the original lesson, the Rebbe returns to the quote from the Gemara with which he began and interprets it according to the concepts presented in the body of the teaching:

The Wise Men of Athens asked, “A retzitza (chick) that dies in its shell—where does the ruach (spirit of life) leave?” He said to them, “Through where it entered” (Bekhoros 8b).

The Rebbe homiletically interprets retzitza to mean “broken” (ratzutz), as in Isaiah 36:6: “Behold you have depended upon the support of this broken reed … upon which a man will lean, and it will go into his palm and puncture it.” This represents idolatry and the nations that serve idols. The phrase “dies in its shell (Aramaic: bei’usei)” corresponds to prayer (ba’usa—a word-play). That is, instead of directing prayer to other gods, the nations of the world should call upon the name of the Creator of All.

“Where does the ruach exit?” means how can one attain tikkun ha-bris, rectification of sexuality, which is related to the spirit (ruach) of life? “Through where it entered.” That is, by experiencing the same immoral thoughts that led one to stumble in the past and now breaking those desires, instead of succumbing to them. Then one can come to Torah study, prayer, the voice of holy song, and so to peace. Thus, he will be able to bring all nations of the world to serve G-d with a common accord.

In the “Wild West,” a “peace-maker” was the nickname of a gun. By contrast, in the “Wild East” (Eastern Europe), Rebbe Nachman’s “peace-maker” is a tzaddik—one who personifies peace. This tzaddik has brought body and soul into harmony by having attained tikkun ha-bris. One who does so also attains: a “radiant face” and a “face of splendor,” which reflect his cleaving to the Torah and mastery of the Thirteen Principles by which the Torah is interpreted (that is, he has mastered the “ins and outs” of the Torah); a holy voice of song and prayer; and inner peace, which corresponds to the “Shabbos of peace.” Thus, the tzaddik can bring peace to the world in fulfillment of the vision of the prophets that one day all nations will perceive Divinity and serve the Creator in harmony and unity. May it be speedily in our days.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Chicken-and-Egg Question Revisited - Part I

Based on Kitzur Likutey Moharan, Vol. I, Lesson 27.
Translated, abridged and discussed by Dovid Sears
With help from the Breslov Research Institute English-Hebrew Kitzur Likutey Moharan.

This is the sixth posting in a series on peace.

Lately we have heard much in the news about threats of nuclear war from various militant regimes (“cyclotron rattling”), as well as news of murders in public places, police killings, family shoot-outs and other acts of violence here in America. May the holy Rebbe’s teachings about peace bring the spirit of peace and reverence for life into our hearts and into the entire world. 

The Rebbe begins with a humorous Aggadic quote from the Gemara, which is part of the debate between Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi and the Wise Men of Athens:

The Wise Men of Athens asked, “A retzitza (chick) that dies in its shell—where does the ruach (spirit of life) leave?” He said to them, “Through where it entered” (Bekhoros 8b).

As is customary in Likutey Moharan, the Rebbe will return to interpret the opening quote homiletically at the end of his discourse. (G-d willing, we’ll get to it at the end of Part II of this posting.)

Because it includes a bit of interpretation, we have chosen the version of the lesson in Kitzur Likutey Moharan, an abridgement first compiled by Reb Noson that lists the key concepts of each lesson. The standard edition of Kitzur Likutey Moharan also includes additional material from Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, the Rav of Tcherin, who edited and expanded Reb Noson’s original text.

To the degree that peace prevails in the generation, so is it possible to draw the entire world to G-d’s service, “to serve him with a common accord (shekhem echad)” (Zephaniah 3:9). For by virtue of the peace that exists between people, they speak with each other and together they inquire into the ultimate purpose of the entire world and its vanities. They explain the truth to one another: that in the end, nothing will remain of a person except what he prepared for himself after death, in the eternal world. [As our sages state,] “Nothing accompanies him— neither gold, nor silver, or gems, or pearls— except Torah and good deeds alone” (Avos 6:9).

That is, peace creates the climate for honest dialogue. And the main subject of such dialogue should be the purpose of life. We need to see through worldly vanities—the word used is “hevel,” which is evocative of the repeated phrase of Shlomo HaMelekh, “Havel havalim, all is vanity” (Koheles 1:1, et passim). In these few words, the Rebbe implies that each person “explains” to his friend the truth of the impermanence of creation and the illusory nature of worldly blandishments. Each person learns from the experience of the other, and this leads them to a shared perception and a common spiritual goal.

Through this [genuine dialogue], each person will cast away the falsehood of his idolatry of money and bring himself closer to the truth, drawing himself near and turning to the Blessed One and His Torah and divine service. 

The Rebbe singles out the pursuit of wealth as the main distraction from the recognition of truth, the pursuit of knowledge of G-d, prophecy as embodied by the Torah, and the spiritual life. Thus, in Rebbe Nachman’s story, “The Master of Prayer,” the hero’s greatest challenge is saving the people of the Land of Wealth (any nominations for the title from today’s world?) from the error of their idolatry of wealth, and awakening them to the true purpose of life. In the end, the money-worshippers are ashamed of the wealth they had formerly prized above all else, and can’t get rid of it quickly enough.

But when peace does not prevail, and all the more so when there is strife, G-d forbid—then people do not get together with one another, and they do not speak with one another about the purpose of life. And if they do get together at times and converse, one’s words don’t enter the other’s heart, due to the desire to win arguments, strife, hatred and jealousy. For disputation and the desire to win cannot bear the truth, as explained in [Likutey Moharan] Lesson 122. Thus, we find that for most people, the main reason for their estrangement from G-d is strife, which has now become widespread due to our many sins. May G-d have mercy.

From these words, it is clear that it is the ego that underlies strife and is the prime obstacle to peace. This nips in the bud any possibility of heart-to-heart dialogue and the mutual quest for truth. Each one of us is preoccupied with himself or herself all through our lives, and so we are unable to empathize with the other person and see his or her point of view. Then we lack the necessary climate of peace for dialogue and cannot engage in the quest for truth. Our selfish nature is also what drives us to crave riches in order to pursue power and pleasure. Thus, the ego divides us from one another and distances us from G-d.

Summary of sections 2-5:
The Rebbe goes on to explain how one can attain inner peace—which also entails “wholeness” (in Hebrew, the words shalom [peace] and sheleimus [wholeness] are related). Yaakov Avinu personifies these qualities, as suggested by the verse, “And Yaakov came whole and intact (shalem)” (Genesis 33:18)—upon which our sages remark, “His body intact, his money intact and his Torah knowledge intact” (Shabbos 33b).

This prerequisite for this wholeness is sexual purity (tikkun ha-bris), which leads to a “radiant face (he’aras panim),” a “face of splendor (hadras panim).” The “face of splendor” is that of the Torah sage, who can bring forth the hidden depths of the Torah through the Thirteen Principles by which the Torah is interpreted. One who can accomplish this gains a spiritually-refined voice, so that he may pray and sing in holiness. Then, through the sound of his singing alone, without any words, G-d will save him in his time of travail. Through these spiritual accomplishments, he will attain inner peace and the ability to draw the entire world to the service of G-d.

(In the final paragraph of the original lesson, the Rebbe cites Psalms 106:4, “When He heard their song…” and states that when any nation oppresses or threatens the Jewish people, “it is good to sing the anthem of that nation.” Kitzur Likutey Moharan, sec. 5, adds: “By means of song and melody sung for the sake of Heaven, it is possible to arouse G-d’s compassion so that He will see the afflictions we are suffering at the hands of a certain nation, and He will save us from them”—seemingly without our having to engage in war.)

Reb Noson sums up section 6 in Kitzur Likutey Moharan as follows:

Through sexual purity (tikkun ha-bris), as mentioned above, one attains peace. [As our sages state on the verse,] “ ‘The Song of Songs to Shlomo (Song of Songs 1:1)’—to the King to whom peace (shalom) belongs” (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:1). Because of this, right after [the Children of Israel sang] the Song of the Sea, they merited the “Shabbos of peace,” as it is written: “And they came to Marah…” (Exodus 15:21)—and they were commanded to observe Shabbos in Marah (see Sanhedrin 56b).

That is, tikkun ha-bris leads to holy song, a song of redemption and deveykus, which goes hand in hand with peace. Shabbos, too, is associated with peace, and actually is an expression of peace. The association between Shabbos, Marah (a place name that also means “bitter”) and peace will be discussed in section 7 below.

[Indeed, there is a hint to this in the verse,] “And Miriam led them in song, ‘Sing unto G-d…’ (Va-ta’an lahem Miriam shiru la-Shem)” (Exodus 15:21). The initial letters [of the first four words of this verse] spell “shalom”—[meaning] that through song, one attains peace.

[The Rav of Tcherin cross-references Zohar III, Korach, 176b, which mentions that “shalom” is one of Hashem’s names, and discusses the connection between peace and Shabbos.]

Part II of this posting will present the rest of the lesson, which delves further into the nature of peace, physical and spiritual; the need for “bitter medicine”; tikkun ha-bris and its challenges; and the goal of world peace.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Nonviolent Resistance (And Maybe Even Assistance)

Based on Likutey Moharan I, 277
Sections 1 and 2 (beg.) (bold type)
Translated and annotated by Dovid Sears (bold guesswork, regular type)
With the help of the Breslov Research Institute edition of Likutey Moharan (Vol. XI)

This is the fifth posting in a recent series on peace. The previous postings, based on Likutey Moharan I, 14, discussed the cultivation of inner peace and how this fosters universal peace. The present teaching addresses the actual conflict situation.

Nonviolent Resistance (And Maybe Even Assistance)

[The Rebbe begins this lesson:]
 Know! When a person encounters opposition, he should not take a stand against his enemies, saying, “Whatever he does against me, I will do against him.” For this causes that his enemy accomplishes what he seeks—to see happen to him what he wants to see happen to him, G-d forbid.

The Rebbe is intriguingly vague about the nature of what the enemy “wants to see happen to him (lir’os bo)”—or literally, “in him (bo).” He doesn’t mention “defeat” or “victory” or “destruction.” This suggests that there may be a deeper meaning than the enemy simply trying to defeat the person he attacks. What is it that he wants “to see happen to him” or “in him?”

On the contrary, it is proper to judge them according to the scale of merit [in keeping with the Mishnah (Avos 1:6), “Judge everyone according to the scale of merit”] and to do them every favor, in an aspect of “let my soul be like dust to everyone.” [This is part of the prayer of Mar, son of Ravina, cited in the Gemara (Berakhos 17a). It is also part of the daily prayer service, in the paragraph following the Shemoneh Esreh.] [One who does so is] like the ground upon which everyone treads, yet [in return] she gives them all good things: food, drink, gold, silver and precious gems, all of which comes from the dust. Similarly, even though they oppose him and seek his harm, he nevertheless should do [the enemy] every good, like the earth, as mentioned above.

This is analogous to the case of a person who digs under his neighbor’s house. [The Rebbe uses the word “chaver,” which can also mean a comrade, friend, or colleague. This suggests that the conflict is between an “enemy” and a “friend”; the hatred is only “one way.”] If [the person in the house] takes a stand and likewise digs in the direction opposite [that of the aggressor], then certainly the [first] digger will easily accomplish what he seeks.

However, when one person digs and his neighbor remains inside [his house], pouring dirt and making a mound against [the digger], he reverses the other’s plan, and the enemy is unable to accomplish his purpose.

Similarly, one should not take a stand against his enemies by responding to them in kind. This is comparable to digging just like the enemy, which would make it easier for [the enemy] to achieve his goal. However, through the paradigm of dust, as in “let my soul be like dust,” one reverses his enemy’s plan. Then, “he who digs a pit will fall into it” (Proverbs 26:27)—because he falls and remains in the pit that he dug for his neighbor, due to the dirt that was poured on it. For [the aggressor’s] neighbor stands there pouring earth against him by virtue of the aspect of “let my soul be like dust,” as stated above.

On the face of it, this sounds like the victim of aggression is acting kindly as a self-serving strategy, not out of genuine compassion for his benighted enemy, due to the latter’s hidden “good points” (as in Likutey Moharan 282, “Azamra”); or in order to turn the “bad energy” of the conflict situation around to the positive (as in Avos di-Rabbi Noson, cited below). However, I suspect that if we can understand what the Rebbe means by “what the enemy wants to see happen to him” or “in him,” this will give a fresh perspective on the nature of the aggressor’s fall “into his own pit.”

[Section 2 begins:]
And all this is when his opponents are evil people. However, when the opponents are tzaddikim, surely their intention is only for the good; in this way, they elevate and pick him up, and they mitigate [heavenly] judgments against him. [This case] is like a person who is digging under his neighbor and tosses him a nice gift.

That “gift” would be the hamtakas ha-dinim, the “sweetening” of heavenly judgments against the tzaddik who is the object of the seeming antagonism of other tzaddikim. Those dinim may have been incurred by some slight errors or human flaws on the part of that first tzaddik; or because he accepted upon himself the punishment incurred by the sins of those he seeks to elevate and bring closer to Hashem; or because he is about to ascend to a higher level. (There is a kabbalistic principle that before a soul may ascend to a higher level, that soul is judged anew.) In Torah 64 (which we will mention again below), conflict between the tzaddikim is actually for the benefit of creation. Whatever the reason, the intention behind the opposition of one or more tzaddikim to another tzaddik is only for the latter’s benefit. They present him this “gift” of sweetening heaven’s judgements out of the goodness of their hearts.

We find something like this [in the Gemara] concerning tzedakah (charity)—that many Tannaim tossed their tzedakah [into the premises of the needy] in secrecy, so that the receiver would not know [the identity of the benefactor] (Kesuvos 67b). So it is with the dispute of the tzaddikim, which is how they benefit him in a secret and hidden way.  [End of excerpt.]
I’d like to offer a few speculations about the meaning of this teaching. These are just my own thoughts, and there are surely other ways of understanding the Rebbe’s words. I may be entirely mistaken. But the Rebbe encouraged us to plumb the depths of his teachings, even though our understanding would inevitably be imperfect. (As the Rebbe once said, “Interpret my teachings any way you like, but don’t change se’if katan [sub-section] in the Shulchan Arukh!” Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh, Vol. II, 1-131).

From a kabbalistic perspective, the root of all conflict is suggested by the language of the Arizal in his description of creation (Eytz Chaim, beginning; the Rebbe also cites this description in the first paragraph of Torah 64): When Hashem desired to create the universe, He constricted the Infinite Light “to the sides” from a central point, leaving a “Vacated Space” (“Chalal ha-Panui”). This constriction “to the sides” alludes to the eventual emergence of the dualistic nature of creation. “Zeh le-umas zeh asah Elokim … God created one thing opposite another” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Thus, we experience a world of opposites: darkness and light, night and day, hot and cold, active and passive, giving and taking, self and other, good and evil, etc.

When a person encounters opposition, he should not take a stand against his enemies, saying, “Whatever he does against me, I will do against him.” For this causes that his enemy accomplishes what he seeks—to see happen to him what he wants to see happen to him, G-d forbid, G-d forbid.

What does the enemy, which is the Sitra Achara (“Other Side”) wish to see happen? That the other should lose the perception of unity and fall into a mentality of separation and duality, “us against them.”

The Rebbe’s solution is to turn this divisive, oppositional energy around completely—as his example demonstrates. The enemy digs a tunnel under the first person’s house, either to “undermine” the latter’s “shalom bayis (domestic peace),” as in Torah 14; or to disturb his “bayis,” in the sense of his consciousness of Godliness, as in Torah 10. The solution is to fill the “ditch,” i.e., the rift between them, with “dirt”—meaning humility, nullification of ego and gratuitous kindness.

This reminds us of the saying, “Don’t fight fire with fire, fight fire with water!” But that would mix our metaphors. The Rebbe uses the symbol of dust for a specific reason: “let my soul be like dust to everyone,” as mentioned above in the lesson. The dust of the earth has both properties of abject humility and selfless generosity, in that the earth sustains life.

Healing too comes from the lowly element of earth, for the mystery of Divine life is inherent there. (The Rebbe discusses healing at greater length in the same lesson.) By contrast, pride is linked to mortality. Thus, the Gemara depicts Hashem saying of a proud man, “He and I cannot dwell together” (Arakhin 15b; see Otzar ha-Yirah, “Emes va-Tzedek,” in the section “Ga’avah vi-Anavah,” #12). 

With this higher da’as, this sense of Divine unity, of one who doesn’t respond in kind, it is possible to turn the conflict situation around. As the verse declares, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;  if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21).

The Talmudic sages say even more: “Who is the mighty warrior? He who turns his enemy into a friend” (Avos de-Rabbi Nasan #23). The war is “won” by transmuting hostility into its opposite, friendship and unity. 

The Rebbe adds: Then, “he who digs a pit will fall into it” (Proverbs 26:27)—because he falls and remains in the pit that he dug for his neighbor, due to the dirt that was poured on it.

That is, the harmful intention of the aggressor negates itself. All that is left is the abundant dirt of humility and kindness, which the enemy-turned-friend now shares.

However, when the opponents are tzaddikim, surely their intention is only for the good; in this way, they elevate and pick him up, and they mitigate [heavenly] judgments against him.

In Torah 56, the Rebbe discusses makhlokes le-shem Shamayim, “argument for the sake of Heaven.” Outwardly, this may look like conflict, but in reality it is peace; in fact, it is a higher peace than the simple peace of agreement. This is because—paradoxically—it includes opposite polarities of one truth. The classic Talmudic formula for this concept is the machlokes le-shem Shamayim between Shammai and Hillel, who generally represent the Divine middas ha-din (judgment) versus the middas ha-chesed (kindness). Therefore, the Rebbe points out (ibid., sec. 8), the name “Moshe”—who personifies the highest da’as (knowledge)—is an acronym for M”achlokes-SH”ammai-H”illel. That is, the highest knowledge is the unification of opposites.

Like the disputes between Shammai and Hillel, the conflicts between tzaddikim are also not what they may seem to be. The Rebbe states of the opposition of the tzaddikim that “their intention is only for the good.” But underlying this good intention is the principle that their apparent differences are just two sides of one truth—like the constriction (tzimtzum) of the Infinite Light to the “sides” in the Arizal’s description of creation. When viewed from within the Vacated Space, there seem to be “sides.” But if we could view everything from beyond the boundaries of the Vacated Space, we would see that there is only the unitary and absolutely simple Infinite Light which surrounds the Vacated Space. From that perspective, there are no sides. All is one.

So it is with the opposing views of the tzaddikim. Although they may appear to be logically contradictory (“either/or”), both are true—and “truth is one” (Likutey Moharan I, 51; ibid., 251).

After describing the nature of the conflict between tzaddikim, and calling such opposition a “gift” to the apparent victim, the Rebbe using the following example from the Gemara:
We find something like this concerning tzedakah (charity)—that many Tannaim tossed their tzedakah [into the premises of the needy] in secrecy, so that the receiver would not know [the identity of the benefactor] (Kesuvos 67b). So it is with the dispute of the tzaddikim, which is how they benefit him in a secret and hidden way.

What does this add? The enemy in the first type of conflict digs a tunnel, wishing to take away something from his victim. The intention of the tzaddik in the second type of conflict is only to give,which the Rebbe compares to an act of tzedakah. This suggests another spiritual lesson we can learn, beyond how to deal with strife. The two types of opposition represent the “desire to take (koach lekabel)” versus the “desire to give (koach lehashpi’a).” Our core challenge in life is to transform the self-centered “desire to take” into the “desire to give” (as the Baal ha-Sulam stresses throughout his works). For those who succeed in doing so, even what looks like opposition is purely an act of love.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reb Alter Tepliker

Reb Alter Tepliker
Yahrtzeit: 12 Adar

Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Bezhilianski (d. 1919), better known as “Reb Alter Tepliker,” was a respected scholar and leading
Breslover chassid in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Born in Teplik, Ukraine, he was active in the Breslover community in nearby Uman, where he married the sister of Rabbi Abraham b’Reb Nachman Chazan, author of Biur ha-Likkutim. (The latter’s father, Rabbi Nachman Chazan, was the one of the closest disciples of Reb Noson, who was instrumental in publishing the Rebbe and Reb Noson’s writings, and also keeping the Breslov community active during the difficult years after Reb Noson’s passing. He was also the Baal Musaf on Rosh Hashanah in the Breslover Kloyz in Uman.)

Many Breslover chassidim of the next generation, such as Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz and Rabbi Yitzchok Gelbach, were drawn to Breslov Chassidus after discovering Reb Alter Tepliker's Hishtapchus ha-Nefesh (selections from Rebbe Nachman and Reb Noson’s writings on hisbodedus). (The first part of this anthology was translated to English by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan as “Outpouring of the Soul,” published by the Breslov Research Institute.) Another popular anthology compiled bt Reb Alter is Meshivas Nefesh (translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum and published as “Restore My Soul” by the Breslov Research Institute).

Reb Alter was murdered at age 47 in a pogrom, during the Ukrainian struggle for independence in 1919. He was murdered in a synagogue while holding a Sefer Torah. It is widely believed that the historical photo of a chassid reciting Tehillim inside the doorway of the original Ohel over Rebbe Nachman’s grave depicts Reb Alter Tepliker.

His many books include:

  • Hishtapchus HaNefesh (Outpouring of the Soul) — on hitbodedut 
  • Meshivat Nefesh (Restore My Soul) — on inner strength 
  • Ohr Zorei'ach Haggadah (The Breslov Haggadah) — on the Passover Haggadah 
  • Mili de-Avos – on Pirkey Avos 
  • Mei ha-Nachal (“Waters of the Brook”) — chiddushim on Likutey Moharan.