Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Wide Ripple Effects of Honesty

Painting by Helen Frankenthaler

The Wide Ripple Effects of Honesty 
Likutey Moharan I, 93
Translation and (Tentative) Commentary by Dovid Sears

This posting was inspired a conversation in Uman with my wonderful photographer-friend Abba Richman of Jerusalem. His wife is well-known as a gifted and insightful teacher of Likutey Moharan and other Breslov works to women. May they both have a good and sweet year, with good health, simchah and nachas. It is also a response to some of the bad news we have heard in recent weeks concerning dishonesty in business in our community. This is not only contrary to the “law of the land,” but contrary to Jewish law and Jewish mysticism. May we all take the following teaching from Rebbe Nachman to heart, and thereby not only avoid chillul Hashem, disgracing G-d’s Name, but bring ahavas Hashem, love of G-d, into the world. “Ki Ha-Shem meshutaf bi-shemeinu”—“God’s Name is bound up with our names” (Rashi on Bamidbar 26:5).

Rebbe Nachman begins:

Whoever conducts his business affairs faithfully thereby fulfills the positive mitzvah of “you shall love [God]” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

We have translated “masa u-matan be-emunah” literally, as “conducting one’s business faithfully.” But this expression really means honesty on all of one’s financial doings, regardless of how one earns a livelihood. Even a person who doesn’t have a job but receives financial assistance from another source must be honest in all monetary matters.

The RamBaM counts the love of God as one of the 613 Scriptural commandments in Sefer HaMitzvos, Positive Commandment 3. In his view, this may be accomplished through contemplation. However, as the Rebbe goes on to state, there are other ways, as well.

This is the root of all the positive commandments, as it is written in the “Tikkunim(Tikkuney Zohar, Tikkun 21, 52a)  on the verse “And prepare for me a tasty meal, such as I love” (Genesis 27:4)—“mi-pikudin de-asei,” from the positive commandments.

The Tikkuney Zohar reads Isaac’s statement as if it had been said by G-d. “Such as I love” denotes the positive mitzvos, while whatever G-d does not love but desires that we repudiate is associated with the negative mitzvos. The latter are associated with yirah, holy fear. Although they are fewer in number (248 as opposed to 365), the positive mitzvos occupy a higher level in that they implicitly bear within themselves the hidden purpose of creation as a whole—the “tasty meal.”

Being the root of the positive mitzvos, love of God is thus the main point of our entire avodah, our divine service.

And how does one fulfill the mitzvah “you shall love [God]”? As the Gemara states on the verse “you shall love”—“you should see to it that the Name of Heaven becomes beloved through you. How so? When a person reads [the Written Torah] and studies [the Oral Torah] and serves Torah sages; and he deals with others in a pleasant manner; and he does business faithfully—what do people say? ‘Fortunate is the one who taught him Torah’ ” (Yoma 86a).

Thus, Heaven’s Name becomes beloved through him, and he fulfills the mitzvah of “you shall love,” which is the root of all the mitzvos.

According to Chazal, love of God is expressed by causing others to love God. This seems to imply that it is not enough to love God subjectively; love of God is only worthy of the name when it overflows and becomes manifest in one’s outer behavior, thereby causing others, as well, to love God. This seems consistent with the world-affirming, “no man is an island” ethic of classical Judaism.

Note, too, that the Rebbe singles out the last good practice in the series, that of conducting one’s business affairs faithfully. From this it would seem that this is not only the last item in the list, but the culmination of all that precedes it.

In adddition, by conducting one’s business affairs faithfully one comes to the level that is beyond time.

This denotes what the kabbalists call mochin de-gadlus, “expanded consciousness,” where the mind is irradiated by Divinity.

As the Gemara (ibid.) concludes: “And the verse states of him, ‘Israel, in you I take pride’ (Isaiah 49:3).

That is, one who behaves in the manner described by the Gemara is a source of pride to God and is worthy of the name “Israel.”

“Israel” exists in thought, as in the exposition of our Sages, of blessed memory: “Israel arose in thought.” (Bereishis Rabbah 1:5) And thought transcends time.

The Midrash asserts that God’s first thought in creation was Israel—that the Jewish people should come into existence, in order to serve Him through performing the mitzvos. And as Rebbe Nachman has stated, the essence of this service is love of God, which is thus the consummation of the entire work of creation

The Zohar also teaches: “Israel arose in thought … [Israel] was the first in ‘Thought,’ namely Chokhmah Ila’ah (Supernal Wisdom)” (Tikkuney Zohar, Tikkun 69, 100a). This implies that the souls of Israel collectively are not a “creation,” but an emanation and extention of Divinity. “Israel arose first in Thought / God’s Mind.” And as we declare every day, “Hashem Echad,” God is One. Thus, in its essence the soul remains eternally bound up with God in absolute unity.

What is more, by conducting one’s business affairs faithfully one is enabled to pray with a clear mind; for prayer is also beyond time, since it is “something that stands in the heights of the universe” (Berakhos 6b).

Elsewhere, the Rebbe describes a “clear mind” (sekhel tzach) as characterized by the ability to remain mentally focussed and lucid without making any special effort; one is already “there.” See Likutey Moharan I, 76.

Thus, since one has attained love, one attains expanded consciousness and is able to pray with a clear mind.

By relating the “clear mind” of prayer to the level that is “beyond time,” the Rebbe informs us that this is an example of expanded consciousness, where the mind is irradiated by Divinity.

This short lesson succinctly drives home the message that our ordinary activities and the most exalted states of consciousness are interdependent, and there should be no true “split” in our lives between the sacred and the profane, the mystical and the mundane. In fact, the seemingly lowest things actually serve as gates and accessories to the highest—those matters that “stand in the heights of the universe.”


In this vein, there is another short teaching at the end of the first chelek of Likutey Moharan, Torah 286, which makes this connection in another context: studying halakhah. I hope we will be able to present this with a bit of explanation in the near future, with God’s help.

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