Sunday, February 4, 2018

"Urzila's Revenge"

Based on Likutey Moharan I, 14 (“Lehamshikh shalom”)
Sections 3 (beginning) and 5 (bold type)
Translated and annotated by Dovid Sears (bold guesswork, regular type)
With help from Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Bar-Lev’s Orach Mishor (Vol. 2) and the Breslov Research Institute edition of Likutey Moharan (Vol. 2)
Le-zekher nishmas: Dov Ber ben Yitzchak Yaakov (Dr. Bernard Sears), a”h (yahrtzeit: 29 Shevat)
Avi mori Leib ben Yitzchak Yaakov (Dr.  Lewis Sears), a”h (yahrtzeit: 30 Shevat, R”CH)

We recently posted a two-part translation of Rabbi Bar-Lev’s summary of this lesson from  Likutey Moharan, along with a few comments of our own. (For the first posting, see here.) Some of the key themes of this lesson are restoring Hashem’s fallen kavod (glory, honor or illumination) to its source, which is yirah (awe); bringing baalei teshuvah (penitents) and geirim (converts) back to Hashem through Torah; the cultivation of inner peace, which the Rebbe calls “peace in one’s bones” (based on a scriptural verse), which leads to universal peace.

The exerpts from the lesson proper that we have presented here address the theme of reaching out to geirim and baalei teshuvah and the tikkun of Hashem’s kavod that this accomplishes. In a future posting, we hope to return to sections 8 and 9, which address inner peace and universal peace, be”H. (The title of this posting is for readers who remember the monster movies of the 1950s.)

“Urzila’s Revenge”
At the beginning of section 3 of this lesson, the Rebbe states:

It is only possible to reach out to geirim and baalei teshuvah through Torah—as it is written, “Your wellsprings shall spread outward” (Proverbs 5:16); one must give drink to those who are “outside” [the realm of kedushah / holiness], to make known to them the path they should walk.

[Rabbi Bar-Lev (Orach Mishor) adds that it is self-understood that such kiruv efforts must be embarked upon with caution. A prospective convert should initially be discouraged, as stated in Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 268, and outreach to non-religious Jews also has its risks; see Likutey Moharan I, 59.]

This is what our sages state, “There is no ‘kavod’ but that of Torah” (Avos 6:3). [That is, the Torah reveals Hashem’s glory to the world. On a deeper level, the Torah is associated with the sefirah of Binah / Understanding, which is the “Supernal Heart” (Pasach Eliyahu). Therefore, when one learns Torah in humility and holiness (see below), he will be privy to the “light” of Binah, divinely-inspired understanding]

This is [the meaning of]: “If you extricate the precious from the vile” (Jeremiah 15:19)—on which our sages observe, “This denotes those who draw others closer to avodas Hashem (divine service)” (Bava Metzia 85a). This is called “extricating the precious,” i.e., kavod, “from the vile (zolel)”—“from the disgrace (zilusa) of exile.” This “exile” is the spiritual exile of estrangement from  Hashem and the great merit of engaging in avodas Hashem.

This is [the meaning of], “Hashem is high above all nations” (Psalms 113:4). That is, when the nations acknowledge and praise Him, then “His kavod is above the heavens” (ibid.)—the divine glory ascends from the darkness [of exile—Mai ha-Nachal].

[However,] it is impossible to come to an awakening of teshuvah—whether the sinners of Israel or converts—other than through the Torah, which shines to them wherever their place may be, as in “your wellsprings shall spread outward...”

With this in mind, we can fast-forward to section 5:

And a person cannot merit Torah other than through humility; as our sages taught on the verse, “From the wilderness to Matanah [a place name, also meaning ‘gift’] (Numbers 21:18)”[“If one allows himself to be tread upon, the Torah is presented to him as a gift,” (Eiruvin 54a). Thus, the prerequisite for Torah is humility.].

He must break his sense of self-importance through four types of humility: a person must belittle himself before those who are greater than himself; before his peers; before those who are on a lesser rung; and sometimes he is “the smallest of the small,” and must humble himself in relation to his own rung, imagining that he is beneath his own rung, in an aspect of “Every person must remain [sh’vu, literally meaning ‘sit’] beneath his place” (Exodus 16:29).

[In the plain sense, this means that one must remain in one’s designated place on Shabbos, i.e., within the techum Shabbos, the travel limitations discussed in Eiruvin 17b. However, in context of the lesson, this means that whatever one’s spiritual “place,” one should “sit” beneath it. According to Rabbi Bar-Lev (Orach Mishor), this means that one must nullify the ego completely. Then one can receive the Torah as a “matanah,” a gratuitous gift.]

Then the Rebbe interprets one of the “wild stories” of the Talmudic sage, Rabbah bar bar Chanah (an early Amora), according to the concepts he has established thus far in the lesson. The story is from Bava Basra 73b, with the commentary of RaSHBaM:

This is what Rabbah bar bar Chanah recounted: I once saw a one-day old urzila (mountain goat) which was like Mount Tabor.
RaSHBaM: “urzila ben yoma”: a one-day old mountain goat that had been born that very day.
“ki-har tavor”: that’s how big it was.
And what is the size of Mount Tabor? Four parsa’os.

[A parsa is a Talmudic measure equivalent to approximately four Roman miles (milin). Since a Roman mile (mil) is 1,000 paces, or an estimated 4851 feet, four Roman miles would be somewhat over three land miles by U.S. standards. (These are inexact equivalences, but they give us a rough idea of what the Gemara is talking about.) Thus, four parsa’os would be around twelve miles. Pretty big baby urzila. The actual Mount Tabor in northern Israel is an estimated 1,900 feet high, and nowhere near twelve miles wide at its base. Therefore, the numbers in Rabbah bar bar Chana’s story would seem to be symbolic (like the stories themselves).]

The length of its outstretched neck was three parsa’os, and the length of its head’s marva’ta (resting place) was a parsa and a half. [That would be nearly five miles.]
RaSHBaM: Bei marva’ta di-reisha: the place where it rested its head while lying on the ground.
It cast a ball of dung that blocked the Jordan River.
RaSHBaM: r’ma kufta: it excreted.
sakhra: the dung blocked the Jordan temporarily, until it gradually dissolved.

The Rebbe explains:
“A one-day old urzila”:  This alludes to the paradigm of kavod, which is in a debased state among the idolatrous nations. [That is, those who are far from holiness ascribe honor and value to unworthy people and activities.] This is “ur-zila”—“ur” alludes to kavod, as it is written, “And the earth was illuminated (he-irah) by His glory” (Ezekiel 43:2). [The verb he-irah is a construct of ohr, which is spelled the same way as ur in “urzila.” The Rebbe previously cited this verse (see sec. 2 in the original lesson) in his discussion of the term kavod and its association with perceptions of Godliness in the Messianic Age.]

And why was it called “one-day old?” Because the kavod will not be revealed until the arrival of our Mashiach. Of him, it is written: [Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked the Mashiach,] “When will the master come?” [Mashiach answered, “Today!” When he failed to arrive, Rabbi Yehoshua asked Elijah the Prophet for an explanation. Elijah responded with the verse], “Today—if you will only listen to His voice!” (Psalms 95:7). [That is, Mashiach can come any day, if only we would return to Hashem. This aggadic teaching is found in Sanhedrin 98a.] And every day the divine glory is ready to go out from it’s disgrace. [A manuscript version of this lesson adds: This is the meaning of “one-day old.”]

[Rabbi Chaim Kramer (BRI Likutey Moharan, Vol. 2, ad loc.) cites the Breslov scholarly journal Mabui ha-Nachal on this lesson, which points out a seeming contradiction: Earlier, the Rebbe stated that everyone can and must elevate the displaced kavod; yet here, it seems that this task is associated with the Messianic Age. The answer given is that each day is elevated and rectified to the degree that one elevates and rectifies the fallen kavod by bringing himself and others closer to Hashem. When at last everyone returns to Hashem, all elements of the divine glory will be elevated, and on that day Mashiach will come.] 

“Which was like Mount Tabor”: [Rabbah bar bar Chanah] saw that the elevation of kavod depends on this—that a person break his pride. According to the degree that one breaks his pride, he elevates the divine glory. For kavod is elevated through the Torah, as mentioned above, and no person merits Torah except through humility, as our sages state [on the phrase from the scriptural verse] “and from the wilderness to Matanah.”

This is “Mount Tabor”: “mount (har)” connotes greatness, as it is written, “You have made me stand like a mighty mountain (har)” (Psalms 30:8). “Tabor” indicates breaking. [That is, “t’bar” is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew “shever,” meaning “break.” Thus, “Har Tabor” alludes to breaking pride.]

“And how big was Mount Tabor? Four parsa’os”: This alludes to the four aspects of humility mentioned above [in sec. 5]. One must diminish himself before the tzaddikim; beinonim [“intermediates,” i.e., ordinary people]; the wicked; and before one’s own spiritual level. That is, one should imagine that he has not yet reached his present level. This is [the meaning of] “Mount Tabor, four miles”—that the breaking of self-importance includes these four aspects.

“The length of its outstretched neck was three parsa’os”: This corresponds to the three things about which people tend to become haughty. And one must be on guard against them, as it is written, “Let not the wise man take pride in his wisdom [nor the mighty man in his strength, nor the rich man in his wealth]” (Jeremiah 9:22). They comprise three aspects: wise, mighty and wealthy. And haughtiness is called “an outstretched neck,” as in “Speak [not] with an haughty neck” (Psalms 75:6).

And the length of its head’s marva’ta (resting place) was a parsa and a half: This alludes to the union that takes place at the beginning of the divine thought [in creation].

[Earlier, in section  4, the Rebbe cited the Gemara’s teaching about the need to “bless the Torah first (techilah),” prior to studying; when Torah scholars fail to do so, they will not be blessed with sons who are Torah scholars (Nedarim 81a). The Rebbe connects “blessing first (techilah)” with the Midrash that “Israel arose first (techilah) in the divine thought” (Bereishis Rabbah 1:5), which he mentioned in section 3. That is, according to the Rebbe, Torah study must be informed by the intention to illuminate the collectivity of souls at their root. Through this, the souls of future converts are created and those of estranged Jews are spiritually awakened. This leads to the tikkun of Hashem’s kavod in the world and the ultimate attainment of world peace.

[Re. “Israel arose first (techilah) in the divine thought,” in the simple sense, this means that although the Jewish people did not exist prior to Jacob and his family, and in actuality, not until the Torah was given at Mount Sinai—the creation of the Jewish people lies at the root of the original divine intention in creation. This is because through their self-sacrifice in fulfilling the Torah and mitzvos, the Jewish people ultimately usher in the day of which Isaiah (11:9) states, “The earth will be full of the knowledge of Hashem, like the water that covers the sea.”]

“Marva’ta (resting place)” is an expression of coupling (zivvug), as it is written, “my going about and my lying down [riv’iy, which is related to mavarta]” (Psalms 139:3). [The Gemara understands this phrase as a reference to marital relations; Nedarim 31a. Here, the Rebbe relates it to spiritual unifications on the transcendant plane.]

A parsa and a half: “Parsa” hints to the drawing down of souls to their sons [from the source of all souls in the divine thought], which is termed a whole parsa; the scintillation with which the souls scintillate and shine to the transgressors of Israel, thus awakening them to return to Hashem and giving birth to the souls of converts, is called “a half.” [This is because the awakening is a secondary reaction initiated by the Torah scholars who recite the blessing “first”; i.e., their intention is to bring about such an illumination of souls and thus to perfect the divine glory.]

Because [geirim and baalei teshuvah] are still extremely far from the realm of holiness, and consequently they might encounter many spiritual obstacles. They require that one make great efforts to remove the “soiled garments” which they had worn; as it is written, “Remove the soiled garments” (Zekhariah 3:4).  [The Rebbe now states that in addition to studying Torah in humility and with the intent of illuminating all souls at their source, one must actively help geirim and baalei teshuvah to overcome the formidable obstacles that impede their spiritual progress.] For these “soiled garments” prevent them from returning to the Holy One, blessed be He. They are barriers, just like a river that bars passage, making it impossible to traverse that river. One must cast off these soiled garments. [Based on Likutey Halakhos, Rabbi Bar-Lev adds that this is accomplished especially by establishing fixed times for Torah study, since the Torah purifies the “soiled garments” of the soul].

[As for why the Rebbe uses two metaphors, “soiled garments” and a “river,” perhaps this is because soiled garments represent obstacles that are close to one’s body; i.e., they are external, but close to the inner person. The kabbalists state that thought, speech and action are the “garments” of the soul; we must purify these three garments. The river, by contrast, represents obstacles that one encounters in the world, through the people and situations one must contend with, in order to rectify past misdeeds and thus to be free of their lingering effects.]  

And this is [the meaning of]:
“It cast a ball of dung that blocked the Jordan River”: By stripping off and casting away the soiled garments from them, all of the obstacles and barriers between them and the realm of the holy are eliminated.

“Obstructed the Jordan River”: Because the Jordan divides between the holiness of the Land of Israel and the Diaspora. And this is why [geirim and baalei teshuvah] are called a “half”—for one still needs to divest them of their soiled garments, in order to remove the barriers, obstacles and partitions separating them from the holy. Howver, those souls that Torah scholars draw doen to their children, as mentioned above—they are called a “whole parsa,” because they don’t have [to overcome] these separating partitions.

And this is [the meaning of] “and you shall honor it (Isaiah 58:13)—with clean garments.” [The Rebbe refers to Shabbos 119a. That is, one honors Shabbos by wearing clean garments. Shabbos is a fundamental expression of the holy, as the verse states, “And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it (viyekadesh oso)” (Genesis 2:3).] “Clean garments,” that is, one casts off the soiled garments. For this is the main glory of Hashem: “If you extricate the precious from the vile”—to enable people to return to Hashem and to draw down the souls of converts.  

And when geirim convert, they come “under the wings of the Shekhinah(Sanhedrin 96b). This is why [the convert] is called a ger tzedek [Zohar, Hakdamah; literally, “righteous convert,” however, as we shall see, the Rebbe connects the term “tzedek” with the Shekhinah]. As the Zohar (Yisro, 93a) explains, “ ‘Clean garments,’ this indicates the ‘corners of a mitzvah’ ” [i.e., the corners of four-cornered garments, which require tzitzis (fringes), are called “kanfey”; this also means “wings, as in “wings of the Shekhinah.”] This alludes to the Shekhinah, which is called “mitzvah,” in an aspect of “all Your mitzvos are tzedek (righteous)” (Psalms 199:172).

[That is, “clean garments” = mitzvah = Shekhinah = tzedek, all of which are related to the “ger tzedek,” who “comes under the wings of the Shekhinah.”]

And this is [the meaning of]:

“And you shall honor it” (Isaiah 58:13). For this is [Hashem’s] main glory: to bring converts under the wings of the Shekhinah. 

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