Friday, June 1, 2018

Where is Olam Hazeh? - Part 4

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 fourth and last 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 concludes his commentary on this lesson by bringing other examples of the principle that what we experience as “Olam Hazeh” is truly an extension of “Olam Habah”—which is actually the “pnimiyus,” or inner dimension of Olam Hazeh.

However, this is not simply a philosophical principle, but an extremely practical one. We should strive to live with the awareness that this world, “Olam Hazeh,” does not exist in its own right, apart from “Olam Habah”; this is an illusion. Rather, we should contemplate that Olam Hazeh is but an “antechamber” to Olam Habah, and thus an extension of Olam Habah. To use another metaphor, it is a “garment” for that higher reality.

Chazal teach us that Olam Habah is where the souls of the tzaddikim experience the “ziv ha-Shekhinah,” the radiance of the Divine Presence.[1] Since Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah are not truly separate realms, we may come to realize, if we are granted this wondrous knowledge, that in all things, at all times, HaShem is present—meaning, right here and now.

By bringing various examples of how this concept is discussed in other contexts, the Tcheriner Rav wishes to show us that this truth lies at the core of Torah and Avodas HaShem.
6) Study what is written at the end of Likutey Moharan II, 78, where it also cites this verse [“It is time to act for HaShem; they have nullified Your Torah” (Psalms 119:126)] in the discussion of how within all worldly things, there is garbed “Hidden Torah”—and this [“Hidden Torah”] is what enabled the world to endure prior to the Giving of the Torah.[2] This is why sometimes the tzaddik must descend into a state of simplicity [like a “prostok,” a Ukrainian-Yiddish word meaning a coarse, unlettered person, ignorant of Torah]; see there. [This lesson] also explains that Olam Hazeh in all of its detailed aspects is bound up with Olam Habah, and that its life-force is derived only from the Torah.[3] Even prior to the Giving of the Torah, its vitality and endurance was derived only through the Torah, albeit in a hidden way.

The Tcheriner Rav is only briefly touching upon a few of this lesson’s main topics, without explaining them at any length. He expects the reader of his commentary to be familiar with them already. What he means in his summary of the lesson is that those who are distant from the Torah and from HaShem would be cut off from the very source of life if not for two factors: 1) the “Hidden Torah” which underlies all of creation entirely; and 2) the true tzaddik who descends into a state of unknowing, like a “prostok,” in order to establish a common bond with those who are truly far from the Torah. When he is like a “prostok” (relative to his lofty level), the true tzaddik can serve as a channel through which those estranged souls may receive life until they spiritually awaken, consciously connect to the Torah, and begin to serve HaShem, thus justifying their existence through their own efforts. It is the task of the true tzaddik to accomplish this universal goal, bringing the Jewish people and ultimately all of humanity to our collective and individual “tikkun” (correction, repair, spiritual healing).

[This reflects what it states in the Mishnah (Berakhos 9:5), cited above]: “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. Meaning: sometimes even the tzaddik must desist from the Torah and become like a simpleton, thus to reveal that within all things in Olam Hazeh, the Hidden Torah is present—and this corresponds to Olam Habah, as we have described.

In the next quote from the Tikuney Zohar, we the have added some of the commentary of Rabbi Daniel Frisch’s Matok mi-Dvash in brackets:

Study the Tikuney Zohar, cited above [Tikkun 31, 71a]: “This World and the Future World correspond to ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ of the Holy Blessed One, about which David states, ‘The heavens are the heavens of G-d [HaVaYaH]...’ (Psalms 115:16). [This corresponds to Z’er Anpin. And David states of the] ‘earth’ [which corresponds to Malkhus], ‘I will go before G-d [HaVaYaH] in the Lands of Life’ (ibid., verse 9). Concerning both aspects, This World and the Future World, [the psalm] uses the Name HaVaYaH. This is what is written, ‘Rejoice, O heavens, and be glad, O earth!’ (ibid., 96:11), [the initial letters of which spell HaVaYaH, which alludes to the unification of Z’er Anpin and Malkhus].”

Thus, the Tikuney Zohar indicates that both aspects share a common root in the Name HaVaYaH. Then it goes on to discuss the undoing of the negative side of the terms “heaven” and “earth”:

“When [will heaven and earth rejoice]? At the time of which the verse states, concerning the ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ of the Primordial Serpent and the Other Side: ‘For the heavens will dissipate like smoke, and the earth will rot away like a garment’” (Isaiah 51:6).

Also see the Introduction to the Tikuney Zohar (2a): “There are three worlds…   This is what is written [of the fulfillment of the Torah], ‘For it is your life and your length of days’ (Deut. 30:20)—‘your life’ in This World, which is the Lower Garden [of Eden, in the spiritual dimension of the World of Asiyah / Action]; ‘and your length of days’ in the Future World, which is the world that is ‘long’ [corresponding to the Supernal Garden of Eden]; ‘on the land that G-d [HaVaYaH], your Lord, gives to you,’ which denotes this lowly world [i.e., the physical dimension of the World of Asiyah / Action that we inhabit].

Thus the “three worlds” discussed in this passage—the Lower Garden, Supernal Garden, and the material world—turn out to be three aspects of one reality.

And study the Zohar Chadash (Acharey Mos, 56b)[4] [which expounds]: “to graze in the gardens—the Supernal Garden of Eden and the Lower Garden of Eden, which correspond to Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah.”
And study Sichos Achar Sippurey Ma’asiyos, 120[5] [where Rebbe Nachman explains that the slightest movement in this world constitutes a great movement in the heavens—just as the smallest change in plotting of a line or shining a beam of light heavenward from earth would change its course greatly in the heavens. This too suggests the implicit unity of both the “lower” and “upper” worlds, corresponding to Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah].

Here end the words of the Rav of Tcherin.


I would like to conclude this posting with a prayer; as Rebbe Nachman taught, we should turn the Torah we study into tefillah (prayer).[6] Reb Noson accomplished this with his Likutey Tefillos (Collected Prayers),[7] based on Likutey Moharan. However, because parts of Reb Noson’s writings were lost during the years of persecution he endured, we no longer have a prayer from him corresponding to Likutey Moharan II, 119. However, just as I finished this translation, b’hashgocha protis, I happened to read the following excerpt from Likutey Tefillos (II, 28), which strikes a chord with the ideas found in the lesson and commentary we have been studying. This seemed “heaven sent,” so I have added it here.

Reb Noson supplicates:

Help us and save us, that we may receive the Shabbos properly, with great joy and gladness, and with wondrous deveykus (cleaving), as is Your beneficent will, until through this, we merit to know and perceive the ultimate goal of the making of heaven and earth also in this world – to know and to perceive You in truth, through everything in the world, as is Your will and the will of those who truly revere You, until we merit to experience the “day that is entirely Shabbos and rest for all eternity.”
Amen, kein yehi ratzon!

[1] Berakhos 17a, in the name of Rav.
[2] Chazal state (Bereishis Rabbah 1:1): “HaShem looked into the Torah and created the universe.” Thus the Primordial Torah is the “blueprint” for creation – and it is also the channel for the divine life that brings everything into existence and causes all created things to endure, as the author will explain.
[3] I.e., the Primordial Torah, which is Chokhmah Ila’ah, as mentioned in the previous note.
[4] In the Munkatch 1911 edition of the Zohar Chadash, this is found in the drush on Shir ha-Shirim 8:13, Vol. I, Acharey Mos, p. 79a.
[5] In the Breslov Research Institute English edition of Rabbi Nachman’s Stories, translated and annotated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, this teaching is part of the story of “The Melancholy Saint” (Additional Stories #16, pp. 447-451).
[6] Likutey Moharan II, 25.
[7] In English translation, see the multi-volume “The Fiftieth Gate,” published by BRI.

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