Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rabbi Shmuel Moshe Kramer, shlit"a, following the Megillah reading with two grandsons.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Purim

The Rebbe taught: “Rejoicing and dancing on Purim makes us worthy of receiving the Torah anew, in both its revealed and hidden aspects.” He also discusses how clapping the hands and dancing mitigates harsh judgments.
(Likkutei Moharan I, 10:8)

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Purim is one of the five times during the year that Breslover Chassidim are particular to daven together ki-vasikin, following the custom of the Baal Shem Tov.

Breslov Teachings On Purim



From the anthology Oztar HaYirah (Likutei Eitzos HaMeshulosh), Purim.

These selections are, in turn, from Reb Noson’s Likkutei Halakhos.
Translated by Dovid Sears
The Sitra D’Mosa [“Side of Death,” meaning the state of estrangement from God, Who is the source of life] is primarily derived from self-importance. This is the root of the klippah (“husk”)—the spiritual force that seeks to obstruct the light of holiness, associated with Haman and Amalek, the archenemies of the Jewish people. (4)


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The main strategy of the klippah of Amalek is to attack the weak by convincing them that there is no hope, God forbid. [1] However, by finding the good point within yourself, even when you seem to be in a state of spiritual decline, you conquer Amalek. (1)


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Through the simcha (joy) of Purim, it is possible to gain lofty perceptions— to attain "the ultimate knowledge, which is not-knowing." The seemingly opposite paradigms of "knowing" and "not knowing" coalesce and become one. Every trace of evil disappears, for at this exalted level, all is one, and all is good. (9)


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When the holiness of Shabbos enters the world, the klippah of Amalek is subjugated. The Wine of Drunkenness, from which we refrain, is supplanted by the Wine of Joy. When we recite the Kiddush over wine, a spirit of holiness encompasses all the souls and holy sparks that were extricated from the realm of the klippos during the six days of the week, and now, with the advent of Shabbos, they ascend to their place of rest.


Their main path of ascent is through simchah (joy) and the Kiddush that we recite over the wine, which is an aspect of the Wine of Joy. Through this, our "hot blood" is tempered, and we can serve God with a heart inflamed with devotion.


This is why on Purim, which celebrates the extirpation of the seed of Amalek, it is a great mitzvah to drink wine to the point of intoxication. On Purim the wine is an aspect of the Wine of Joy, which destroys the klippah of Amalek; for the main downfall of Amalek is accomplished through simchah. (20)


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The klippah of Amalek, which manifests itself as false wisdoms and heretical philosophies, derives from the Chalal HaPanui—the Vacated Space that precedes all creation.[2] Because of this precedence, it is axiomatic that on all levels of reality, “the klippah precedes the fruit.”


Thus Amalek is called reishis (the "first")— "Amalek was the first of nations" (Numbers 24:20); its power derives from the Vacated Space that precedes creation altogether. Analogously, Esau was born before his twin brother, Jacob, and was considered to be the firstborn son.


However, in truth, the holy transcends everything; God is the primordial reality, and God created the Vacated Space. Therefore, Israel, by power of their simple faith that God transcends and precedes everything, can ascend beyond all the wisdoms and heretical philosophies that come from the Vacated Space. This is why Israel is called the "firstborn," as the verse states, "My child, my firstborn, Israel" (Exodus 4:22), and why Jacob took the right of the firstborn from his brother, Esau, from whom Amalek descends.


This faith destroys the klippah of Haman and Amalek, and reveals the Song of the Future World. [3] (3)


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On Purim a great and wondrous light shines forth that reaches the very depths of this lowly World of Action: the spiritual light of Mordechai and Esther. Just as gazing upon the face of the true tzaddik is spiritually transforming, [4] so is the experience of this lofty light. Through it, we attain humility and nullify our self-importance, which is the klippah of Haman and Amalek.


The reading of the Megillah in particular reflects this, for the light of the holy faces of Mordechai and Esther is hidden within the Megillah, the scroll that they composed. When we read their words in the Megillah, the light of their faces shines upon us, and it is as if we gazed upon them in person. Our higher consciousness becomes charged, as it were; our self-importance falls away, and we attain true humility. This is the eternal life of the World to Come.


Lowliness and the "pride" that derives from the side of holiness become as one, in keeping with the verse, "In the place you find His greatness, there you find His humility." [5] This fusion is the ultimate perfection of humility. Thus, on Purim our sages command us [6] to drink wine "until you do not know the difference between: Arur Haman (Cursed is Haman)," which corresponds to nullifying the ego," and “Baruch Mordechai (Blessed is Mordechai)," which corresponds to holy pride. This leads to true joy, the simchah of Purim. (5)


NOTES


[1] The nation of Amalek attacked the weary and enfeebled Israelites on their journey through the wilderness, sexually abusing and dismembering their captives; see Rashi citing Midrash Tanchumah on Deuteronomy 25:17-19. Amalek is a symbol of human cruelty throughout rabbinic literature, much like the Nazis in the contemporary experience. On a deeper level, the Kabbalists point out that word Amalek bears the same gematria (numerical value) as sofek, meaning "doubt." Thus, the klippah of Amalek is the voice within us all that denies God and the true tzaddikim and simple emunah (faith).


[2] The Sefer Eitz Chaim of the Ari z"l begins with an abstruse account of the mysteries of creation: In the beginning, the Infinite Divine Light was omnipresent. When it arose within His will to create the universe, God constricted the light to the “sides” in all directions, leaving a Vacanted Space (Chalal HaPanui). Into this Vacated Space, God "beamed" a thread of the light that had been constricted; and from this thread of light all things, spiritual and physical, derive their existence. For a practical application of this teaching in divine service, see Likkutei Moharan I, 49.


[3] Likkutei Moharan I, 64.


[4] Likkutei Moharan I, 4.


[5] Megillah 31a.


[6] Megillah 7a. See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 695:2 for the halachic parameters of this law, which are quite lenient in the case of a person who is weak, or otherwise incapable of drinking to the point of intoxication. This obligation does not apply to women.

Insanity



From
Esther: A Breslov Commentary on the Megillah (BRI), Chapter 1, pp. 10-12

He was the ACH ash ve ROSH—(Ach means brother or kinsman; rosh means head or the one in charge)—the brother of the grandiose one (Megillah 11a). He was the Achashverosh who reigned from Hodu (India) to Kush (Ethiopia)—over the entire world (ibid.).


Madness!
But we still don’t see it.
The ultimate insanity!
But we have yet to look.

In fact, we consider it “normal”—the way things are. The idea—the delusion—that one of us is “better” than the other, or the very idea that we can be compared. Can we say that an adult is better than a child, or that one person’s God given talents should be compared to another’s? It’s like comparing two colors or two fruits—is blue better than beige, are plums better than pears?

But in our distance from God, in our feeling apart from Him, we feel an inner vacuum, a loss of true self. So the inner question “Who am I”‘ is answered: “I’m better than he is,” or “I’m not like that.” And we never stop to wonder how out of touch we are if we think and espouse insanity like that.

Now, Haman was a nothing, a real nobody. He had been a village barber and a bathhouse attendant (Megillah 16a). But, over-inflated by ACH ash ve ROSH to grandiose proportions, he tried to allay his feelings of no self.

The “Haman” of the soul comes from the Vacuum—the realm of existence “vacated” by God. So whenever we enter the Vacuum, we feel like nothing and feel compelled to compensate by aggrandizing our selves. And sometimes we fill the inner Vacuum with vicarious pride by “bowing to Haman,” by idolizing the misperceived “betterness” of someone else’s self (Likutey Halakhot, Tefillin 6:23).

So ACH ash ve ROSH’s airs are all permeating. He reigns not only from India to Ethiopia, but from Hodu, the majestic, to Kush, the lowly. [1] Because when we “live” in Hodu we are externally “better”—by virtue of our talents or possessions. And when we “live” in Kush we are externally “lesser”—by virtue of our lack of talent or possessions. Yet, wherever we “live,” we are unequalled—by virtue of simply being our very own selves. And to see one another as “better” or “lesser” is insanity and a negation of our own selves (Likutey Halakhot, Orlah 5:16).

But to let go of this madness and leave the Vacuum, we need a “Mordekhai the Tzaddik” to show us the way. Because Mordekhai the Tzaddik personified greatness, not an external greatness, but a greatness which stemmed from a humble self Since he knew the secret of true humility, he was not compelled to aggrandize himself (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #140). And he shows us how to let God in, leave the Vacuum and find our true selves.

Then we have no need to compare ourselves with others. We are even humbled before our own selves (Likutey Moharan I, 14:5; ibid. 79). Because we then know that our self is not our’s to compare with another’s—it is our essence, our Eternal Spark, our Godly self (ibid. 22:5; see Crossing The Narrow Bridge, Chapter 17).

So on Purim we exchange courses of food with one another to show that we are all equal. To those who have nothing we also give, so that they too should know they are equal.




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[1] The Purim story took place in the Persian Achaemenid Empire. At that time, "Hodu," or India, was an enormous conglomerate and a relatively advanced ancient civilization, while Kush, although wealthy in resources and fiercely nationalistic, was a small vassal state to the south of Egypt.

Purim Mysteries



Rabbi Dovid Sears
Based on a discussion from asimplejew.blogspot.com


Q. While I was reviewing books on the subject of Purim, I ran across this teaching from Likutey Moharan II, 74: “Purim is a preparation for Pesach. Through the mitzvah of Purim we are protected from chometz on Pesach.”

In my own slow-paced learning of Likutey Moharan, I have not yet reached this lesson. I can’t say that I fully comprehend what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov is trying to teach us. I know that joy is the main aspect of Purim and that chometz symbolizes the character trait of arrogance. I don’t yet understand how the joy we experience on Purim helps protect us from arrogance.

A. Like most of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, this lesson is full of mysteries. This reflects Reb Noson’s words in his Introduction to Likutey Moharan, citing the Gemara (Chagigah 13a) that in mystical matters, one must simultaneously reveal and conceal. This is particularly true of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching style. So whatever we say must be understood as speculation only.

1) On a basic level, the Rebbe is expounding on the “coincidence” that in the Jewish calendar, Purim is followed by parshas Parah and then by Pesach, and he finds profound meaning in these connections. Even though the miracle of Purim took place more than one thousand years after the Exodus, the paradigm it represents “paves the way” for Pesach.

Rebbe Nachman states: “Through Purim, we are protected from chometz on Pesach.” Purim represents hidden miracles; Pesach represents open miracles. Purim shows us that what appears to be natural is truly supernatural. It elevates us above nature, above ego, and destroys Amalek, which represents sexual immorality (symbolized by the fact that the Amalekites sexually mutilated their victims) and disbelief (the word “Amalek” = gematria “sofek,” or doubt). Thus, Purim protects us from chometz, which variously represents ego, lust, and the illusion of nature as autonomous—the antithesis of Pesach.

2) Rabbi Borukh Ephraim of Homel, a student of the Tcheriner Rov and author of Be’ibey haNachal on Likutey Moharan, looks at this teaching from another angle. First let’s recap the original lesson in Likutey Moharan:

After Purim, we read parshas Parah, which is a preparation for Pesach. This is customary because when the Beis haMikdash still stood, we were required to eat the Korban Pesach in a state of taharah, purity from tumas mes (ritual defilement that comes from contact with the dead). This is attained through the ashes of the Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer. Today, lacking the Beis haMikdash and the ashes of the Parah Adumah, we cannot do so. However, in a spiritual sense we reenact this process every year beginning on Purim, when we commemorate the “pur” (pey-vav-reish), the lot that was cast concerning the fate of the Jews, after which Purim is named. Then a little later we read parshas Parah. Thus, the “pur” of Purim turns into the aspect of “Parah” (pey-reish, the root letters of “pur,” plus the letter “heh”), the Red Heifer. (Rebbe Nachman takes this connection of “pur” and “parah” from a teaching of the ARI zal in Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Purim 6, which is too complex for us to discuss here.)

The Rebbe finds an allusion to this idea in Shir haShirim: “Sifsosav shoshanim notfos mor ‘oveir … His lips are roses overflowing with myrrh.” “His lips” refer to Pesach, which the ARI interprets as “peh-sach,” a mouth that speaks (Sha’ar haKavannos, Inyan Pesach, Drush 3; Pri Etz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag haMatzos, Chap. 7. In other words, on Pesach we can now speak HaShem’s praises openly, as free men.) “Shoshanah” has the same gematria as “Esther,” thus it hints to the Purim story. And “mor” hints to Mordechai, whom the Gemara homiletically connects with the biblical phrase “mor d’ror,” flowing myrrh (Chullin 139b). The word “d’ror,” which literally means “free,” also alludes to Pesach, the Festival of Freedom.

This Purim-Pesach connection is further borne out by the verse: “Shivas yamim tokhal matzos ka’asher tzivisikha le-mo’ed chodesh ha-aviv ki vo yatzasa mimitzrayim ve-lo yeira’u fana’i reikam . . . Seven days you shall eat matzos as I have commanded you at the season of the month of Aviv [“springtime,” the biblical name for Nisan], for then you came out of Egypt; and you shall not appear before Me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15). The initials of the five words “mi-mitzrayim velo yeira’u fana’i reikam” spell the word “Purim.” For Purim is the way to Pesach. Through it, one can be protected from chometz on Pesach…

Reb Noson, the editor of Likutey Moharan, mentions that at this point, the Rebbe paused and did not finish explaining this idea. Then the Rebbe added another cryptic remark: “At first, all beginnings were from Pesach; thus, all mitzvos are zekher le-yetziyas Mitzrayim, in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. Ve-’achshav, and now…”

He stopped again, and did not finish.

The author of Be’ibey haNachal detects in the Rebbe’s words some amazing hints as to how the derekh of Breslov works today, after the Rebbe’s histalkus (ascent from the body). To sum up the gist of his remarks:

Nachman” is numerically equivalent to “Pesach” (148) – “ve-’achshav,” and now, we can all make a new beginning by going to the Rebbe’s holy burial place on Rosh Hashanah, which is so called because it is the “head” (rosh) and beginning of the year. Pesach is also a new beginning. Thus the lesson states that Purim is named after the “pur,” and subsequently turns into “parah,” which is spelled pey-reish-heh. These letters are the initials of Pesach (pey) and Rosh Hashanah (reish-heh), which together include all spiritual rectifications (tikkunim) (see Likutey Moharan I, 49). This is the aspect of the Parah Adumah, which “purified the impure, and contaminated the pure” (Rashi, Numbers 19:22, end). That is, when one comes to the cemetery, where the dead are buried, one contracts tumah. However, by reciting Tehillim and praying to Hashem from the depths of one’s heart – especially by reciting the ten psalms of the Rebbe’s awesome Tikkun haKlalli – one “purifies the impure.” This is accomplished by teshuvah, and by rectifying the spiritual damage one has caused, through the merit and power of the tzaddik who is buried there. Thus, one may make a new start in serving G-d, which is the aspect of Pesach and the Exodus, leaving one’s state of impurity and receiving the Torah anew. All this is accomplished through the holy grave of the Rebbe, whose name has the same gematria as “Pesach.”

This leads to our personal ge’ulah, our inner exodus from spiritual alienation, which is true slavery, to freedom from the ego and self-serving desires. This freedom is gained through the Torah.

3) Breslov tradition includes still another interpretation of this lesson from a different vantage point. According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender (Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh VI, 233), the Breslover Chassidim of old used to say that the Rebbe gave us a precious piece of spiritual advice by concluding “ve-’achshav / and now…” That is, one can only serve Hashem in the present moment -- for the past is gone, and the future has not yet come, as the Rebbe states (Sichos haRan 288). Therefore, the present moment is all that truly exists.

Purim Teaching From the Izhbitzer


From The Path of the Baal Shem Tov, pp. 112-13

This teaching comes from Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, the Rebbe of Izhbitz (Izbica), from his classic “Mei HaShiloach,” in the section “Likutey HaShas: Megillah,” 12. We have adapted it slightly to make it less cryptic.


Megillas Esther describes the feast of King Achashverosh and the refusal of Queen Vashti to appear before him unclothed. Therefore, the King sought the advice of his royal ministers, who are mentioned by name: “And those close (vi-hakarov) to him: Carshena, Sheisar, Admasa...” (Esther 1:14).


Rabbi Levi said: This entire verse alludes to the sacrificial offerings (korbanos). [Taking the term “royal minister” as an allusion to the ministering angels, R. Levi rendered the names in the verse interpretively, using various word-plays.] “‘Carshena’’—the Ministering Angels declared before the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘Master of the Universe! Did any other nation offer before You yearling lambs (karim bnei shanah) as the Jews have offered before You? “Sheisar—Did any other nation offer before You two turtledoves (shtey torim) as have the Jews? ‘Admasa’—Did any other nation build before You an altar of earth (adamah) as have the Jews?” (Megillah 12b).

The relationship between this Talmudic passage and the incident of Vashti may be derived from a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov. Vashti was asked to appear before the King naked, but did not come. Concerning this, the Baal Shem Tov remarked, “The aspect of nakedness still has not come.”

Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of lzhbitz explained this as follows:
God gave the Jewish people the Torah and mitzvos, which are garments by means of which His Essence may be grasped. In this world it is impossible for a human being to apprehend God’s Essence except by means of garments. Thus, Godliness is concealed within physicality—to the extent that whatever we perceive is through the intermediacy of garments.

In the present state of reality, God pours forth shefa (bounty) by way of the Four Worlds [parallel to the four letters of the Divine Name YHVH], using whichever sefirah is necessary at a given time until the shefa reaches this world. All this is so the influx of shefa is graspable. Also, the nations of the world are able to receive some of this, for they, too, can grasp the outer garment. However, they misuse this shefa when they perform all sorts of abominations.

When the Men of the Great Assembly saw that Achashverosh had commanded Vashti to appear before him naked, they understood that God wanted to confer upon the Jewish People a true revelation without any garment, as will be the case in the Ultimate Future. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, will reveal His light without any garment. However, as long as man is attached to his lower nature, such a revelation can only reinforce his physical passions.

Therefore, at this time the Men of the Great Assembly endeavored to uproot the desire for sexual immorality from the heart of humanity (Yoma 69b). This would have made this direct revelation equally available to those who had struggled against immoral desires and those who had pursued them without restraint. That is why the Ministering Angels protested, “How can the nations of the world be permitted to grasp the aspect of nakedness? Did any other nation offer before You...” For even when the light was concealed from them, the Jewish People exerted themselves with all their strength to bring sacrificial offerings and to serve God in order to come closer to the light. Throughout history, they worked through the barriers of physicality, symbolized by the sacrificial offerings, by striving to live according to the Torah. Thus, it is fitting that in the Ultimate Future God will reveal His light to them completely, without any intermediary.

It is written, “My soul longs and even expires for the courtyards of God; my heart and my flesh will sing unto the Living God” (Psalms 84:3). That is, in the present state of reality, since garments are necessary, “my soul longs and even expires for the courtyards of God,” for the physical Holy Temple and the various forms of Divine Service, which are garments of His light. However, “my heart and my flesh will sing unto the Living God.” My waiting and hoping is for the revelation of light which will take place in the future, without any garments—a ¬revelation of life in its very simplicity. This is suggested by the term “Living God.” But those nations that did not exert themselves in Divine service nor endeavor to draw closer to the Divine light, why should they deserve to share this revelation when, at last, struggle and garments will not exist?[1]

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[1] However, rightous non-Jews will also receive a portion in the World to Come; see Sanhedrin 105b; Yerushalmi Berakhos 9; Bereishis Rabbah 26:2; Zohar, Pekudey; Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 34; Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Melakhim 8:10-1. The Kabbalists frequently cite the teaching from Tanna D’vei Eliyahu 9:1: “I call heaven and earth to witness than anyone—Jew or non-Jew, man or woman, slave or bondmaid—can attain Ruach ha-Kodesh (Divine Inspiration). Everything is in accordance with one’s deeds.”