Monday, August 27, 2012

A Cool Reception

(Painting by Hyman Bloom)
A Cool Reception
By Dovid Sears

In Chayei Moharan, sec. 87, Reb Noson preserves Rebbe Nachman's account of a dream he had after Kiddush on an unspecified Shabbos in 1804. Perhaps the Rebbe dozed off briefly while sitting at the table and had this extraordinary dream.

The Rebbe states:

I saw in a dream that I was in the middle of a city, and it seemed to me in the dream that the city was quite big. A great tzaddik came there who was one of the tzaddikim of old -- one who was assuredly a great tzaddik. Everyone went to him, and I went to him too. Then I saw that they were all passing by him at his side, and they didn't offer him greetings of "shalom." It appeared that they were doing so intentionally. I was amazed that they were so rude as to refrain from greeting him on purpose. 

The reason was that in truth he was a great tzaddik. However, his body had been collected from many places; it was an aspect of "unclean places." But he himself was a great man who had undertaken the task of spiritually perfecting this body. And it is improper to greet another person in unclean places (Tractate Shabbos 10a). Therefore, they didn't offer him "shalom."


There is a Chassidic saying that the "foreign thoughts (machshavos zaros)" of tzaddikim are indeed the thoughts (machshavos) of others (zaros). That is, the impure thoughts of other people enter the minds of the tzaddikim in order to receive a tikkun, particularly when the tzaddik transmute and elevate them to their source above. This concept seems to be related to the Rebbe's dream about the great tzaddik who must spiritually perfect his impure body.

This surely applies to the tzaddikim, who otherwise would be free of such thoughts and feelings. Ordinary folks like most of us have nurtured the Yetzer Hara through having yielded to its promptings in the past.

But if we take a closer look, maybe the Rebbe's dream has a broader message. As the verse states, "Your people are all tzaddikim; they shall inherit the land forever, the shoot of My planting, the work of My hands in which I take pride" (Isaiah 60:21).

"Deep down inside" we are all tzaddikim -- "chelek Hashem amo." Even if unlike the fully-realized tzaddikim we must bear responsibility for the negative thoughts and feelings we must contend with, ultimately "Elokai neshamah shenasata bi tehorah he ... My G-d, the soul that you imbued within me is pure" (Siddur). And it is everyone's task to elevate the physical and not be overwhelmed by it.

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