Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Sichah From Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender, zatzal

Translation by Rabbi Perets Auerbach

In honor of the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender, zatzal, 22 Tammuz, we are posting a sichah (talk) he once gave, as published in Ish Chasidekha.

Talk 65:

No Good Desire Is Lost - How Much More So a Good Word!

One who is close to a true tsaddik for many days and years and who stands and serves him and hears his words, even though he may hear many talks and stories from which he cannot derive any personal benefit and advice – nevertheless, if he merits, in the course of time, he will understand retroactively how to take out of what he already heard tremendous advice in serving Hashem. Every single word that he heard many years ago will be of great benefit to him, and they will invigorate him.

For afterwards he will merit to understand and say, “This is what my Master hinted to me at that time!” And often wondrous hints and great advice will sprout in his mind from all that he heard previously – if he pays careful attention to the past lessons.

In the home of a certain renowned tsaddik there was a completely simple person, whom we may call a ‘prostok.’ He always stood and served this tsaddik, and he heard many words from him. He did not understand anything or benefit from these words at all. But he had great faith in the tsaddik and his holy words, even though he did not properly grasp them. He still stood and attended the tsaddik in truth.

After many years, the tsaddik passed away. Then this simple person began to remember. Whenever he came to some matter, he recalled the words of the tsaddik and said to himself, “This is something that the tsaddik had in mind and hinted to me at that time, and so many times.” He retroactively grasped the intent of the tsaddik and the allusions that he hinted to him in his words many years ago.

Thus, he understood and became a kosher, God-fearing person. He was very prominent in his city and became a head and leader for all of those good Jews who wanted to fear Hashem – all who were in the city of that tsaddik. They all submitted themselves to him.[1]

Every Word Makes an Impression!

Initially the simple man did not understand what was being said. Only as time passed did he begin to fathom what each word meant.

This also applies to each individual, relative to himself. You may speak words in hisbodedus. You may talk and talk, but not experience any benefit in speaking. Words repeat themselves without any vitality and feeling. Nevertheless, do not desist. Continue to talk. In the end, when you wake up, you will delve and see how each word made an impression.

How is the Heart of Stone Broken?

There is a well-known analogy about water dripping on a stone for many years. It was hard rock, but in the end the water made a hole in it.[2]

To the observer, it appears that the hole was made in one day. Because yesterday it was not, and today it is here. Due to this, one who is not perceptive thinks that this is a sign that the whole thing was made today.

But an intelligent person knows that a hole in a stone is not made in one day or one night. For years water dripped on this stone. And every single day it made some impression on the stone. Although it was a very slight impression that was not at all apparent to the eye, that water made some change in the stone. But when in the end the stone is opened and a hole breaks out in it, one realizes that all of the days that the water dripped on the stone combined. Only together were they successful in penetrating the stone.

The heart of a person is like a stone. It is hard like a rock. It is necessary to lift the heart to the brain and soften it. But one does not feel any movement. He talks and talks and feels nothing. The heart is left a “heart of stone,” despite all of the words that he poured forth day by day. But, as time goes on – if he does not let up, he does not get weary and does not despair, but continues to pour forth speech – it will turn into a “heart of flesh.”[3]

Certainly in one day the heart of hard stone is not transformed into a soft heart of flesh. When it does happen, one who is not smart thinks that it is made through recent words which were said with inspiration. The proof being that yesterday no change had yet happened to him and suddenly today he sees and feels that something happened. He makes it dependent upon his last words.

But it is not so – not at all! In one day a heart of stone does not become a heart of flesh. Rather, all of the words got together – no word was for naught. When the heart is opened this was only because all of the words bubbled and did their job.

Every Bit of Want and Longing Accrues!

This concept does not only apply to words – that there is no word that goes lost, and every single one makes an impression. There is also no desire and ratson that goes for naught. As it says in the holy Zohar, “There is no ratson that is lost.” Even a good desire is not for nothing.

But this needs support. Behold, one may think, I am not actually doing anything. What do I have from merely wanting? But this is not so. Even just a good ratson, some good desire for something holy, endures. No desire is hidden and gone. Rather, it make some impression. In the end, all desires and longings gather and accumulate and accomplish what they have to, when the day comes.[4]

How much more so a word brought out of the mouth. It certainly is not for naught! They gather and act for a person’s good when the time comes.

“I Believe That Hashem Hears Everything!”

But all this requires great faith. Powerful and strong faith, to know clearly that there nothing good is lost. Everything is heard on High. Everything remains forever! All of the great tsaddikim came to their level because of this faith. They believed that each word that one speaks before Hashem – no word at any time and period, whenever it may have been, is lost. No good desire that one had for holiness and spirituality is ever gone. The Rebbe once said, “Even though I have not yet been saved, this is my salvation: that at least Hashem hears my voice when I pray to Him.”

“I Held Him and Let Him Not Go”[5]

This is a great and amazing hischazkus (encouragement). A person should not let up and get tired or despair of seeking. Rather, he should continue to supplicate even if he sees no benefit. He must remain firm in his faith and not give up. He must know surely that not only no word is ever lost, but also no good desire is ever lost. However, to move this heart of stone and elevate it to the brain requires many words. And it certainly does not happen at once. Rather, much time may have to pass until the heart of stone will actually be penetrated. But every single word makes an impression.

Do Not Despair

It could also be that a person not only feels no progress, but on the contrary, he feels more estranged. His heart is cold and frozen. Why continue to speak and try to appease if he doesn’t see improvement, and even instead sees regression. And those same confusions and illusions continue to flood his brain like yesterday and the day before. At times they prevail all the more, and he falls back completely.

The Rebbe writes that it is necessary to add holiness and knowledge for the fallen days. What holiness and knowledge? What did I add today more than yesterday? Who adds today more than yesterday? Even after a year – it is better than last year?

But really, indeed it is so – there is improvement, even if I don’t notice it. In the end, at some time this will apparent to the naked eye, in a revealed, clear, shining manner. The blessed fruit of of his good yearning and words. Then it will be clear and visible that not even one was for naught, chas v’shalom. Rather, he accomplished great things.

The Test of “I Said That I Worked for Nothing”

We find in Chazal about the holy Amora Rabbi Abahu, that when he left this world, they showed him thirteen rivers of pure balsam oil.[6] Upon this huge reward he was astonished and said: “All this for Abahu? And I said that I am working for nothing?!”

There are those who are not shown what they accomplished for a whole lifetime until the end.  Even though there are those who are shown right away, for others this is there entire test: that they never see any change. But one must believe that there is nothing that goes for naught, despite the fact that he doesn’t see any progress until the last day. Even after all of the mitsvos and good deeds and good desires and words of his entire life. This is the test of his lifetime. It is a difficult test that requires mesirus nefesh to withstand.

On the contrary, sometimes the yetser hara sees that a person is sincere and serves Hashem even though he doesn’t feel anything. Then the yetser hara leaves the world aside and turns only to him. He deprives him of any taste and feeling in devotion and confuses his mind, saying that all of his words, desires, and doings are not worth anything. Through this, he is prone to make him fall completely, chas v’shalom.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon a person to know and to carve into his heart that a big part of serving Hashem is standing steadfast and constantly advancing, even if one does not feel any satisfaction, any feeling, or any vigor in his service.

A Shoe of Honey and Sugar

In the Rebbe’s story of “The Chacham and the Tam,” the Clever Son and the Simple Son, the quality of the Tam was that he always remained strong and happy in his portion. He showed signs of extraordinary joy over everything his hands made – even if it wasn’t done properly. Over the crooked shoe of three corners that he made, the Tam exclaimed, “What a sweet shoe, a shoe of honey and sugar!”

How is it possible to say such expressions about a shoe? Especially since the shoe was not made properly?

But this is understood based on what is known, that the three-cornered shoe hints to Tefilah – the three daily prayers. These exaggerated expressions of sweetness and delight were said about Tefilah.

The holy Tam enlivened himself in his prayer. Despite that it was imperfect, he was bubbling with intense delight, pleasure, and sweetness from it. He did not stop loving it until he said that it is “sweet like honey and sugar.”

Through Hischazkus There is Ascent and Uplifting

What do we need to learn from the practice of the Tam?

How is this relevent to us?

This is how one merits to attain all of the good that the holy Tam accomplished. Only so – when there is chizuk and vitality, even if our service is incomplete.

The Rebbe said that he heard from tsaddikim who testified about themselves that they did not reach their level except through hischazkus.

What comes out is that every word and good deed is important and excellent – just that it is necessary to believe this. We must know well that indeed, speech accomplishes wonders above, and there is no word that goes for naught. Even if at first it seems ineffectual, in the end all of the words gather together and accomplish great and precious things. Then a person will merit to see with his very eyes that he did not toil for nothing.

[1] Based on Chayei Moharan 544.
[2] Sichos HaRan 234; cf. Avos deRabbi Nasan 6:2 regarding Rabbi Akiva’s beginnings.
[3] Based on “I will remove form you the heart of stone and give you a lev basar [heart of flesh]” (Yechezkel). The letters of LB BSR/lev basar form BRSLB/Breslov.
[4] See Likutey Moharan II, 48.
[5] Shir HaShirim 3:4.
[6] Bereshit Rabbah 62:1.

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