Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Where is Olam Hazeh? - Part 3

Painting by Dovid Sears

By Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, Rav of Tcherin, zatzal
Parpara’os le-Chokhmah II, 119
Translated and annotated by Dovid Sears

In memory of Jon Sholle, a”h, who passed away on 3 Sivan 5778 / 2018
May his neshamah have an aliyah.

This is the third installment of our translation of the Tcheriner Rav’s commentary on this excerpt from Likutey Moharan Tinyana, Lesson 119 (end):

Rebbe Nachman declared: “Everyone says that Olam Hazeh (‘This World’) and Olam Habah (‘The World to Come’”) exist. As for Olam Habah—we believe that there is a World to Come. It is possible that there is also an Olam Hazeh as well, in some world somewhere. But here, we see that it is Gehinnom (Hell); for all beings experience great suffering constantly.” Then he said, “There isn’t any Olam Hazeh at all!”

To read the previous installment, click here.

 The Tcheriner Rav continues:

5) With this, we may also understand the connection [between the teaching in the Mishnah (Berakhos 9:5) cited above, that all blessings recited in the Holy Temple were concluded with the phrase “min ha-olam … from the world; however, due to the damage caused by the heretics … this was amended so that the blessing would conclude, “min ha-olam vi-ad ha-olam … from world to world”]—and the next subject addressed in the same Mishnah: [Ezra the Scribe and his Beis Din] decreed that a person should greet his friend with the name of G-d. And Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenuro explains (ad loc.) that we don’t consider this way of honoring man, by pronouncing the Divine Name over him, to be a denigration of G-d’s honor.

[The objection that this manner of greeting is irreverent] would have been legitimate according to the reasoning of those who declare this world, together with all of its inhabitants, to be an end in itself.

That is, according to their understanding, there is a fundamental rift between Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah, and between the creatures and the Creator.

However, this is not so in light of the truth—for as [Rebbe Nachman] explains,[1] within Olam Hazeh are garbed the “feet of holiness” [i.e., lower levels of holiness]. That is, the Infinite One constricts Himself (so to speak), and imbues thought, speech and action within each person, according to the nature of the individual, the place and the time. In this manner, He communicates “hidden messages” (remazim) to everyone concerning how they may serve Him. A person must contemplate these hidden messages deeply in order to understand them. This is called “cleaving in thought to the World to Come in a detailed way,” as mentioned above.

The Tcheriner Rav began this teaching by citing this concept from Lesson 54; see Posting 1, section 1. “Cleaving in thought to the World to Come in a detailed way,” means contemplating the divine messages hidden within the countless details of the world of our ordinary experience.

If so, and on the contrary, when a person encounters his friend and greets him, it is necessary to mention G-d’s Name, thus to make known to him that everything is bound to G-d’s Name; indeed, doing so is a way of honoring G-d. For “all of the earth is full of His Glory” (Isaiah 6:3), as [Rebbe Nachman discusses] in the lesson, “Ki Merachamam Yenahagem” (Likutey Moharan Tinyana, Lesson 7).

[The Mishnah] derives this from Boaz, who said to the harvesters, “May HaShem be with you!” (Ruth 2:4). That is, he made known to those engaged in their work that they too must cleave to the Blessed One—for “He is with you,” and “all of the earth is full of His Glory.”

Thus, the two issues in the Mishnah are intimately connected. The conclusion of blessings recited in the Holy Temple with the words “min ha-olam vi-ad ha-olam … from world to world,” and greeting others by invoking G-d’s Name are both ways of affirming that in a deeper sense, Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah are truly one, and that the ordinary and the sacred are truly one.

6) We can understand this even more clearly from Likutey Moharan I, 65 (“Vayomer Boaz el Rus”) [which discusses the story of Boaz and Ruth from a mystical perspective]. For “harvesting” alludes to the takhlis [i.e., the ultimate goal of life, or in another sense, the ultimate reality].[2] Therefore, Boaz informed the harvesters that while performing the physical work of reaping they should cleave in thought to the takhlis, which is the World to Come.

That is, symbolically, the act of reaping itself indicates that the workers were connected to the takhlis, and Boaz was calling this to their attention. From this, we see that Olam Hazeh is truly connected to Olam Habah, and that this truth can be grasped through proper mental focus on the ultimate reality—which Rebbe Nachman calls “cleaving in thought.”

 [The same lesson teaches] that one must guard the memory,[3] so that one will cleave in thought to the World to Come—and this is accomplished by having a “good eye”; as it is written, “[One with] a good eye shall be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9), as explained in Likutey Moharan I, 54, mentioned above. Therefore, the harvesters replied [to Boaz], “May G-d bless you!”

With this, the Tcheriner Rav suggests that because Boaz had a “good eye” toward the harvesters, in greeting them with G-d’s Name and urging them to cleave in thought to the World to Come, even in the midst of their mundane work, he was blessed in turn. And this “good eye” enhances the memory—which does not mean memory in the ordinary sense, but the “memory of the World to Come” (as we have explained in note 3).

This, too, is what it states in the Book of Judges (6:12): “And [the angel of HaShem appeared and] said to him, “HaShem is with you, mighty man of valor!” This was said regarding Yerubaal / Gideon,[4] who was cutting wheat in the wine press, which is one of the mundane activities of Olam Hazeh.

With this, the Tcheriner Rav draws a parallel between Gideon’s cutting of the wheat and the harvesters’ cutting of the wheat in the story of Ruth, mentioned above. In doing so, both were symbolically demonstrating the unity of Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah.

Therefore, [Gideon replied to the angel], “Please my lord, if HaShem be with us, why then has all this [oppression at the hand of the Midianites] befallen us? (ibid. 6:13). Meaning: if HaShem is with us, why is Israel so lowly in this world, since they are also bound to Olam Habah?

“And [HaShem turned toward him and] said, “Go, with this, your strength, and save Israel…” (ibid. 6:14). For Gideon was small and lowly in his own sight, as described there: “And he said to Him, “Please O Lord, with what shall I save Israel? Behold, my thousand is the poorest in [the tribe of] Menasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s household” (Ibid., 6:15).

Rashi comments: “Behold, my thousand: The thousand of which I am a constituent, under the prince of that thousand, is the lowliest thousand among all the thousands of Menasseh.”

And our rabbis state (Rosh Hashanah 25b) that Scripture equates three people of humble status [namely, Gideon, Samson and Jepthah, to three of the most prestigious leaders, Moses, Aharon, and Samuel; see there].

Thus, Gideon needed to realize that he too was capable of accomplishing sublime unifications in his mundane activities, just as the great tzaddikim did in their own ways. This is the great spiritual challenge that we all must face in this world—and thus connect Olam Hazeh to Olam Habah (or more accurately, realize the intrinsic connection between both “worlds”).

The angel informed him specifically that “HaShem is with you.” This is the paradigm of “the superior below and the inferior above,” as discussed in Likutey Moharan II, 7 (“Ki Merachamam Yehahagem”).

This concept also appears in Sichos ha-RaN, sec. 40, Rebbe Nachman’s teaching about the Dreidel and the Wheel of Transformation. This teaching is mentioned in Posting 2, Section 3 (end). The main point in the present context seems to be that the Divine exists within the mundane, and the mundane exists within the Divine.

Also in [Likutey Moharan Tinyana] Lesson 68, this same expression appears, [when Rebbe Nachman states,] “HaShem is with you, and beside you, and manifestly close to you …”

That is, just as the angel told Gideon that “HaShem is with you,” Rebbe Nachman encourages us with similar words.

The Tcheriner Rav now returns to the Mishnah (Berakhos 9:5) that he has been discussing. To make his remarks more understandable, we have included the text of the Mishnah here in bold. We have interpolated the gist of the commentary of Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenuro in the sections set off with square brackets:

And behold Boaz came from Bethlehem and said unto the reapers, “May HaShem be with you,” and they answered him, “May HaShem bless you” (Ruth 2:4). And [should you object that Boaz acted on his own, and one may not deduce anything from him,] it also states [regarding the angel who spoke to Gideon], “HaShem is with you, mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). [And should you object that you can't deduce this from the angel, who merely repeated God’s command to inform him that the Shekhinah is with him,] it also states, “And do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). [That is, do not belittle Boaz, who followed the custom of the elders; thus he had what to rely upon]; as it also states, “It is time to act for HaShem; they have nullified Your Torah” (Psalms 119:126). Rabbi Noson interprets this to mean that they have nullified Your Torah because it is time to act for HaShem. [Sometimes we must nullify Your Torah, to act for Hashem, as in offering greetings to others, since this is G-d’s will; as it states, “Seek peace and pursue it (Psalms 34:15)].

The Tcheriner Rav continues:

There [in the Mishnah] it states, “Do not disdain your mother when she is old,” as well as “It is a time to act for G-d; they have nullified Your Torah.” Both verses teach the same lesson, as the Gemara explains,[5] and as the commentary of Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenuro (ad loc.) also states.

Thus, we find that Boaz, in mentioning the Divine Name, had what to rely upon. As it states, “It is a time to act for HaShem; they have nullified Your Torah.” That is, according to what is explained in the lesson “Rabbi Shimon opened…” (Likutey Moharan I, 60, sec. 7) on this verse,[6] sometimes the tzaddik must resort to telling stories to awaken people who have fallen away from the “face” of holiness[7] into spiritual sleep. The tzaddik garbs the most profound teachings of the Torah in such stories and ordinary conversations in order to make them more accessible, as is explained there.

From this, we can understand and infer (kal vi-chomer) that also in Olam Hazeh, which is the World of Action (Asiyah), HaShem garbs sublime holiness (kedushah gavoha). And this [holiness] is bound in absolute unity to the World to Come. This is the meaning of “Do not disdain your mother when she is old.[8] For these stories [which the tzaddik tells to wake us up from spiritual sleep] are an aspect of “she is old”—an aspect of the perfections of the Ancient One (“Tikuney Atik,” the Zohar’s term for the Primordial Reality associated with the sefirah of Keser / Crown), as discussed in the above-mentioned lesson, “Rabbi Shimon opened…”

Continued here.

[1] The Tcheriner Rav references Likutey Moharan, I, 54 (“Viyehi Miketz”). This lesson is cited in the first part of the present teaching (see Posting 1).
[2] In Psalm 126 (“Shir ha-ma’alos bi-shuv HaShem”), the Redemption is allegorized as the joyous bringing in of sheaves of wheat from the field at the end of the day. This symbolism may be extended to the attainment of the World to Come.
[3] That is, one must “remember the World to Come,” in the sense that this higher reality is the soul’s place of origin, as well as its spiritual destination.
[4] See Judges 6:32, that Gideon was subsequently called “Yerubaal,” because he destroyed the altar of the pagan deity Baal, and thus challenged Baal to contend (“yirev”) with him.
[5] Berakhos 54a.
[6] That is, Rebbe Nachman begins the lesson with an excerpt from the Zohar (“Ha-Idra Rabba Kadisha,Naso, 127a) on the verse, “It is a time to act for G-d; they have nullified Your Torah.”
[7] There, the “face” of holiness denotes a state of higher spiritual awareness or intellect. Accordingly, the tzaddik must resort to telling stories to awaken others who have lost their higher spiritual awareness. However, those who have lost their perception of all “Seventy Faces” of the Torah can only be awakened through Sippurey Ma’asiyos shel Shanim Kadmoniyos (“Stories of Primordial Times”), which garb the deepest mysteries of the Torah, which lie at the core of reality.
[8] That is, “she,” meaning the Hidden Torah within Olam Hazeh, “is old,” in the sense of being primordial. This is what the Tcheriner Rav means by relating the “wake up” stories told by the tzaddik to “the perfections of the Ancient One.”

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