Boast-worthy

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-08 at 12.57.54 AM

Recently I’ve been having trouble sleeping at night (again). Obviously the late-night hours affects my productivity the next day, because I either sleep late or get up feeling sluggish and grouchy. When I sleep late, I wake up with this heavy weight on my shoulders. I feel all this pressure to get everything done with too little time to do it.  When I wake up sluggish, I’m unmotivated and often take a nap, which extends the poor sleeping cycle. It can be a frustrating pattern.

What is it about waking up late that makes me feel pressure? Obviously there are some things that legitimately need to get done, but waking up an hour, or an hour and a half, late typically doesn’t affect those crucial things. I’m still going to pick up the kids from school on a day like that (if there were such a thing #coronatimes), and take care of all the urgent things I need to do. The only difference is the tasks that are somewhat optional. Those tasks I want to do for myself – for my personal growth – whether physical, spiritual or emotional. Those are usually the ones that get pushed off on a day when I’m not making the most of my time. But if those things are just optional, or recreational, then why should they stress me out?

Because I identify my self-worth by my accomplishments.

Sounds crazy? I wonder if I’m the only one? 🙄 It’s certainly good to be productive but if I only love myself because I finished this or I have that to show for myself, then my love is a conditional love, which the Mishna in Avos (5:16) says:

כָּל אַהֲבָה שֶׁהִיא תְלוּיָה בְדָבָר, בָּטֵל דָּבָר, בְּטֵלָה אַהֲבָה

Any love that is conditional is only transient. Because once the condition is no longer in place, there is no reason to love. We have to love ourselves no matter what we accomplish and not over identify with our ability to produce. This isn’t an easy ask, because everyone everywhere judges everyone else by what everyone else does. But so what? No one said this was gonna be easy. If it was easy, don’t you think a smart guy like me would be able to do it?!

The truth is that the tzaddikim see themselves and others in a totally different light. They don’t see themselves as great in their accomplishments. On the contrary, they also feel a longing for more, but their self worth is sourced in one thing only…

Rebbe Nachman tells a story of a certain tzaddik who was overcome with a terrible sense of sadness. Eventually this tzaddik fell so deep into sadness that he found it literally impossible even to move . He wanted to encourage himself and pull himself up, but nothing could make him happy or inspired. No matter what he tried to be happy about, the Evil One found some reason to make him depressed about it. Finally, after trying everything, he tried to make himself happy by dwelling on the fact that Hashem created him as a Jew. This is certainly a reason to feel immeasurable joy, because the vast difference between the holiness of even the simplest Jew and the impurity of the gentiles is beyond all measure. The sad tzaddik started making himself feel happy about this. He started rejoicing and raising himself little by little. With each passing moment he felt greater joy until he reached such a level of joy that he attained the joy that Moses experienced when he ascended to receive the Torah.

The Rebbe’s story is so profound because any happiness from a personal achievement can always be scrutinized and criticized. No matter what the achievement is, there are always shortcomings and deficiencies which can bring sadness. But to be created as a Jew is a gift of Hashem alone. Hashem Himself did it, it’s exclusively the work of God, so there is no lacking in that joy. Regardless of what kind of Jew the person may be, there is certainly an immeasurable difference between himself and the gentiles. So there is always a reason to be happy. This is why the tzaddikim love themselves and others. This is why Hashem loves His people. Not because we finished shas or gave so much charity. No matter how much we learn or pray, it could never be enough to deserve His love.

יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ אֶתְפָּאָר

Hashem says, “Israel, I boast about you”. He takes pride in us. We’re like those children that drive the parents nuts, but then they do one cute little thing and the parents go crazy over them. Why? Because it’s their kid. We’re His children. Thats a deep love. That’s a love that’s unconditional. It’s great to accomplish. But that’s not us. We’re greater than any accomplishment. We’re Yisrael. We’re boast-worthy!

Labor contractions

birth1

“When one finds himself in trouble, God forbid, the heart suffers the most, as it says, (Proverbs 14) “The hearts knows the bitterness of the soul”. The heart understands the predicament and feels it the most. This is why when one finds himself in such a tough spot, all the blood rushes to the heart. Just like when there is trouble in a certain town, God forbid, all of its residents go to the wise man [the heart] of the town to receive advice. So too, when the body senses trouble, all the blood rushes up and floods the heart to receive some advice how to escape the trouble. In those troubling times, the heart is extremely pressured. Because not only does it understand the crisis even better than the rest of the body, but it is also flooded by the blood of the body. So it beats very fast, because it wants to send all the blood back to the body. And when the trouble passes, the blood flows regularly within the body. This is called ta’haluchos hadamim, literally meaning ‘the walking of the blood [back in its orderly flow]’…This is also the process of [an easy] birth. Like the Talmud says, (Sotah 11b), “when a woman crouches to give birth, her thighs get cold”. The blood rises from her thighs and tightens the uterus area. These contractions push the baby out and then the blood goes back to its normal flow”. (Tinyana 2)

My friend Yehuda Raice pointed out the other day how Rebbe Nachman’s amazing lesson is literally happening right now in our times. In this time of lockdown, we’ve lost the blood of our legs. The legs are a physical embodiment of the sefiros Netzach and Hod. The legs are the limbs that bring us out into the world, whether for good, as King David sang (Psalms 119) “I considered my ways and returned my legs to Your Torah”, or for evil, as we say in the Yom Kippur confession that our “legs were running to evil” (ריצת רגליים להרע). We can no longer go out and engage with the world in the way that we were previously able to. We have, so to speak lost our legs. Now, in this time of distress, all the blood is flooding the heart. This means that all of our blood is now active in the upper middos of the nefesh, Chessed Gevurah and Tiferes, which is around our torso, the place where our heart resides. This is the place of inner work, of finding personal peace within oneself, before engaging with the world.

Earlier in the lesson, the Rebbe speaks about appreciation. He says that the feeling of gratitude is the the delight of the World to Come, because the next world is the place where we will know Hashem, as it says, Isaiah (11), “The whole world will know Hashem”.  When you know someone for real, that means you can appreciate them, and through this recognition, gratitude and knowledge, you’re closer to them. This is why the only sacrificial offering that will never cease is the thanksgiving offering, because gratitude is the pleasure of the World to Come. He also says that Halacha (Jewish Law), specifically the application of Halacha to novel situations, (called Chiddushei Halacha), is the delight of the World to Come. Because when someone extends the halacha with a novel interpretation, it creates new knowledge of Hashem, and that is exactly the bedrock of the World to Come. This is why, says the Rebbe, that the thanksgiving offering (the todah offering – תודה) is also called halacha. As we said earlier, when someone gets out of trouble, the blood goes back to its normal flow. This ta’haluchos hadamim has the same root as the word halacha, to walk. When one experiences the relief of escaping trouble, his blood so to speak ‘walks’ again as usual and he brings a thanksgiving offering. The blood of a woman after birth also ‘walks’ again as usual. It is therefore customary to pray for a woman in labor by reciting Psalm 100, Mizmor L’todah, the song of a thanksgiving offering, because we are praying that she give birth and her blood ‘walks’ again as usual. The entire first verse of the psalm reads: מִזְמ֥וֹר לְתוֹדָ֑ה, הָרִֽיעוּ לַֽ֜יהֹוָ֗ה כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ “The song for a thanksgiving offering. Shout out to Hashem,  the entire earth”. The first letters of the words הָרִֽיעוּ לַֽ֜יהֹוָ֗ה כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ, is הלכה (halacha). 

We’re going through a premeditated process now. This was all prepared for us by Hashem. We’re inside. We have no use of our legs at this time. There is a lot of pain out there. But maybe it’s the wonderful pain of labor, which will bring a birth of something new? Maybe new da’as, (knowledge) is coming, which is the pleasure of the World to come. Then, we will finally have a new understanding and we will be forever grateful for this time. Please God. Amen!

רפואה שלימה לחיים מנחם בן לאה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל

Crunch time

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-07 at 1.12.00 AM

Everything has been stripped down. I’ve (hesitantly) left my house only a handful of times since purim. Hashem is literally forcing us to stay home. There’s nothing to do out there anyways. Everything is closed; shutdown. There’s nowhere to go. Shuls are closed. If you’re used to going away for Pesach, you’re not. If you’re used to having extra cleaning help before Pesach, you probably don’t have it. All the kids are home. There are no visitors. Unemployment is growing. Supermarkets are overburdened and extremely delayed. We’re making Pesach in a few days. Pesach without eggs?! We have no idea what this will all look like when it’s all over. People we love are getting sick and dying. The ramifications are scary and unknown. Everything has been stripped down. Everybody is experiencing this. Everybody. 

What are we supposed to be doing now? What does Hashem want from us at this time?

I don’t claim to know why this is happening or what we should be doing. But as I blogger, I just need to share my thoughts. You might have heard similar ideas from others.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה מַה תִּצְעַק אֵלָי, דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִסָּעוּ

When the Israelites had just left Egypt, Pharaoh regretted sending them out. He took the remainder of his army and chased them to the beach of the Red Sea. They were trapped between the water and the Egyptians. Moshe started to daven to Hashem, “Save us, Hashem!!” Hashem said to Him. “Why are you davening to me now? Tell the Israelites to go into the water”.

I was never satisfied with the reasons I heard of why prayer wasn’t fitting at that time. But I recently connected very deeply to the following sentiment.

I know there are many rabbis who are preaching gloom and doom right now; saying how Hashem is angry with us etc. Sorry, that’s not my derech. I see it as just the opposite. I think Hashem is so loving and always looking for ways to bring us back to Him even faster.

As a nation we have reached tremendous heights in Torah and mitzvos. We have had a humongous growth spurt since the Holocaust, where we were almost completely decimated. I’m no historian but maybe there is more Torah and Tefilla than ever before in our history. But you and I both know that we’re lacking something. There’s something superficial about our avodas Hashem. I don’t wanna say what it is, but I don’t need to. We’re just missing heart. Maybe Hashem is saying to us, you prayed enough, you’ve learned enough, NOW DO SOMETHING WITH IT!! (I’m not saying we shouldn’t daven and learn, we must. We absolutely must. But I am saying) that maybe that’s not what it’s primarily about now. Maybe He wants us to use the Torah we know, the Torah we’ve built, with all the printed books and accessible information/shiurim on the internet and transform ourselves. He wants us to make it deeper and more real. What’s triggering us now that we don’t have our typical places to escape to? Which relationship in our families have been ignored, or worse? Everyone knows where they’ve been toeing the line. If we don’t, then that’s a critical place to start. We need to do the inner work. We need to take this package of Torah that we’ve attained and tefillos that we’ve amassed and make breakthroughs. The scenarios these days of where we can improve are endless. The fears, the anxiety and the obstacles now are very real. No one has it easy now. We’re all in the same boat, yet we’re all on our own to work through it. This is mamish bi’ur chometz. This is what it means to rid ourselves of the chometz, to work on the stale inflated parts of ourselves and our personalites that we’ve been ignoring. דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִסָּעוּ. We’ve done enough studying for now. Now we need to transcend. He believes we can do it and so should we. This is the perfect time to elevate and make a real change, to stop being a slave and to be free from our smallness and superficiality. May Hashem bless us to do this inner work and merit open miracles and the times of Moshiach, Amen! Chag Sameach.

 

רפו״ש לחיים מנחם בן לאה, בתוך שאר חולי ישראל

 

Chag Sameach!

 

Feeling lonely?

walking-together1583115-prints

וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְעַט מֵאֱלקִים, וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ

“You have made him (man) slightly less than God himself, and you have crowned him with glory and majesty” (Psalms 8:6)

Rebbe Nachman has a radically novel understanding of this verse.

“It’s known that anything that man is lacking whether physically or spiritually is a lack in the Divine Presence…[The problem is that] when man realizes that the lacking is above and below, he’ll feel great pain and be brought to sadness [and] this will prevent him from serving Hashem with joy. So [the solution is], he must say to himself ‘Who am I that the King should tell me about His lacking? Is there any greater honor than this [that the king should confide His lacking in someone as small as me]?’  From this reframe, he will come to great joy, and be revitalized to serve Hashem”. (Torah 89)

So the Rebbe is saying that the lacking וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ is מֵאֱלקִים, from Hashem. But the fact that He tells us about His lacking, gives us great honor וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר, and that honor makes us crown Him תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ.

Most people know that we’re supposed to emulate Hashem, as it says וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו, “we should walk in His ways” (Devarim 28:9). What’s much lesser known is that Hashem has a desire to be like us too.  It says, וְהִתְהַלַּכְתִּי בְּתוֹכְכֶם, וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים , Hashem says: “I will walk amongst you and I will be your God” (Vayikra 26:12). Rashi says there, “I will stroll with You in the garden of Eden and you won’t tremble before Me. Maybe you’ll say, you won’t at all be in awe of Me? That’s why it says וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים, I will [still] be your God. Meaning, it needed to say “I will be your God”, or you might have actually thought that we would be so similar, that we’d be equal to Hashem.

What does all this mean? What does it mean that Hashem can lack? And what does it mean that Hashem has a desire to be like man?

So first of all, Hashem, the Creator of the Universe, lacks absolutely nothing. He is totally free and endless. That aspect of Hashem is beyond our grasp; no words can describe Him. But Hashem (the infinite) interfaces with this world (which is finite). That’s what we call the Shechina, the Divine Presence. He dresses Himself up in the presence of the Shechina so we can interact with Him.

One more gemara. (Chagiga 16a)

The Mishna says that one may not inquire what was before creation. The Talmud there gives an analogy of a king who built his palace on top of a garbage heap and the king doesn’t want people to discuss what was there before the palace.

What does it mean that before creation was like a heap of garbage?

Hashem is fully invested in this world and ultimately in Human life (see Torah 52). When we ask the question, “what does it mean that You existed before creation? What were You doing before us? What were You before You were relating to us”? He shuts down the question by saying, “all that is like garbage to Me, because you must know that I’m totally devoted to you and this world”. So much so that He, who has no lack, allows His presence to lack, so that we are not alienated and alone in our lacking. The verse before וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְעַט מֵאֱלקִים says מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ, the angels asked God, “Why create a finite feeble man”? There is a certain feeling of inadequacy as a created being that is totally dependent. Hashem, in his unimaginable loving-kindness, allows Himself to also lack to feel what we feel. He’s absolutely devoted to us, He empathizes with our struggle and He wears our pain – literally. He didn’t create us with a chance of reaching greatness but let us hang out to dry when we mess up. He created us and also assumed a similar state of alienation and feebleness, so that He is literally with us.

The Corona Situation

I’ve recently heard respected speakers saying how Hashem is punishing us for this and for that. Everyone’s all of a sudden a prophet. And more people are sadly saying how Hashem is angry at us and He kicked us out of the shuls and study halls, because He doesn’t want our service. This response is a product of a superficial (and Christian adopted) understanding of Hashem and our relationship with Him. When our children misbehave, we might punish them, because we are limited in what we can do. Hashem isn’t limited and He doesn’t punish us. It’s like He dressed Himself up into our shadow. When we ignore Him, we create our own problems that He is with us in. In His perfect brilliance, He always has an exit strategy for us. In a milli-second, at every moment we are just a half a breath away from turning right back to Him. But even in our filth, He allows His Divine presence to experience it too.

We don’t understand what’s happening and we don’t know what’s going to happen. But one thing is crystal clear: No matter what happens to us and no matter what we do, we are not alone. Period.

~ Inspired by and adapted from Reb Leibish Hundert

 

 

 

 

 

Whada ya know

colorful-questions-abstract-painting-linda-woods

רפואה שלימה ליצחק בן יהודות בתוך שאר חולי ישראל

We’re afraid. But what are we afraid of? If we look deep inside ourselves we might find, as did I, that many of us are simply afraid of the unknown. Things are crumbling around us, and we don’t know what tomorrow will look like; certainly not a month or two down the road. That’s a very uncomfortable feeling, because we want to be in control of our lives and in control of our destiny. The truth is, as so many more of us can admit now, we are not at all in control of our destiny. We aren’t in control of anything. And even though we say gam zu l’tovah and baruch Hashem in every second sentence, we’re not really holding there. This is difficult for us. This is scary.

Many people who have experienced breakthroughs in therapy will tell you that the moment they started to heal was when they allowed themselves to face the old pain. Their real baggage wasn’t only the old pain or trauma, but the repeated stubbornness of  covering for it. The fear and anxiety of having that old pain play out again caused them to overcompensate in other ways and disturb their daily life on so many levels. When they got the courage to stand off against their old feelings, even if just to notice them and be compassionate to them, they soon realized that they personally inflated their fears to protect themselves. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought”, they end up saying.

Similarly, those who are looking to grow in their meditative-spiritual experiences many times also encounter difficulty because they want to force the issue. They’re looking to make it happen, when the only way to have the experience is by letting it happen. Once you desire it, you’ve entered the ring. But the only way to fight is by exiting the ring (bittul ha’yeshus) and letting your soul shine on its own.

The truth is, as opposed to the “go getter” mentality that is praised on the streets, and unfortunately has been adopted in our schools too, in all realms of spirituality the only way to excel is to allow yourself to be led. Avraham Avinu’s first spiritual test was to leave his homeland “to the place that I’ll show you”. He didn’t know where he was going. Hashem lovingly recalls the Israelites’ chessed n’urayich (the love of their youth), because they followed Him into the barren desert out of Egypt in pure faith. And what about the study of Talmud? When adults attempt to learn it for the first time they are often frustrated by the Talmud’s way of exploring unnecessary and irrelevant questions. You finally crack the difficulty of the language, the odd references, the back and forth, the sometimes outlandish answers and you realize that all that effort wasn’t even for a final resolution. Because that’s the point:

Life is meant to be unresolved.

Rebbe Nachman said (Tinyana 7) that “תַּכְלִית הַיְדִיעָה אֲשֶׁר לא נֵדַע“, the highest knowledge is not to know at all. This is the aspect of the highest sefira called כֶּתֶר, (a crown [like corona?]). It’s also called Ayin, (nothing), or מָה, (what), because it’s not knowable to us. There are many facets of this idea but, most simply, the only way to grow is to remain humble. Humility is being open to receive; not needing to manipulate everything around us.

Our greatest holiday is Purim, where we are meant to throw away our need to know. In that space, there’s no understanding. Good is the same as evil. No one is as you know them, and that’s ok.

Reb Nosson writes that the higher the tzaddikim reach, the more they realize they don’t know. The Rebbe said, if anyone says they think they know what’s going on, it’s a proof they know nothing at all.

It’s ok not to know. We’re not supposed to know. We should ask, we should try to understand, but ultimately we won’t know. But there’s comfort in that too. Typically, we’re trying to govern everything and it complicates things and gives us anxiety, because we honestly don’t know if we made the right moves.  But when we let go of control, and allow ourselves to be led, without knowing or understanding how it will end up, it’s quite liberating.

It’s clear that we’re being led here. Hashem has taken the driving wheel. So we don’t know the destination, So what? Just try and relax, we’re in good hands.

 

Stripped down

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-18 at 2.34.46 PM

“The reason why the world is far from Hashem…is ONLY because they don’t have yishuv hadaas, [the ability to unite with their “present moment awareness”]. They’re not able to settle down. The main thing is to to try and really calm ourselves down.” (Tinyana 10)

 

You’re gonna think this is weird but the above teaching brings to mind something Rebbe Nachman said about Uman Rosh Hashana. The Rebbe said, “My Rosh Hashana is greater than anything else” and “anyone who merits to be with me for Rosh Hashana should be exceedingly happyרָאוּי לוֹ לִשְׂמחַ מְאד מְאד.  (Chayei Moharan 403)

This means that anyone who went to the Rebbe in Uman for Rosh Hashana should always be happy. Just for that one thing alone, we should bliss-out all year long. Really! So why isn’t that the case? Because we don’t have yishuv hadaas. We’re not living in the moment. We’re upset about our past and we’re afraid about our future but we’re not living in the moment.” The main thing is to really calm our minds”. It’s proving quite hard now with all that’s going on and our obsession with this virus. But we need to quiet our minds and live in the moment. It’s the only way to have dveikus. There’s almost nothing else to do anyways. (And, of course, even if you’ve never been to Uman for Rosh Hashana, I’m sure you have many many mitzvos that can bring you true joy. Why not meditate on that?) We need to build our muscle of yishuv hadaas.

You might ask, why should the present moment bring us joy? Because that’s our natural state. Sadly, we’ve corrupted our minds, so we don’t feel happy unless we peel away the layers, but happiness truly is our default position. For instance, our deepest, most real sound is heard from the shofar. The Rebbe teaches (Chayei Moharan 96) that the first letters of the verse “אָז יִמָּלֵא] שְׂחוֹק פִּינוּ וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה]” (“[Then our mouths were] filled with joy and our tongues with song”) is שׁוֹפָר (Shofar). And probably our deepest most real expression is crying (בכיה). The first letters of the verse בְּשִׁמְךָ יְגִילוּן כָּל הַיּוֹם (We will rejoice in Your name all day long) is בכיה. This tells me that our most authentic expressions are ones of joy. That’s who we are right now, in this moment.  We are happy people. If we can’t access it, it’s only because we don’t have yishuv hadaas, present moment awareness.

May Hashem bless us in these crazy times to settle down, block out the noise and access our truest state, our Divine state, a place of Joy. Amen!

Purim – it’s OUR time to shine

esther

Using the poetic license of Reb Nosson, we can see Esther as an aspect of the Jewish people, Mordechai as the generation’s tzaddik emes and, of course, the king as Hashem, the Holy, and One and Only King.

You might notice in the megilla that there are just a handful of conversations between Esther and the King. What’s more peculiar is that when Esther addresses the King, she always prefaces it with some version of the following statement:

אִם־מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֜ן בְּעֵינֵ֣י הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ וְאִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ֙ ט֔וֹב 

“If I find favor in the king’s eyes, and if it pleases the king”

The Malbim explains this seemingly redundant statement. Esther’s request was made on two conditions: First, that the king should grant her request simply because he desires her, and secondly, that the request itself should also be something that the King desires.

Which condition was first? אִם־מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֜ן בְּעֵינֵ֣י (If I find favor in the king’s eyes). Esther knew that the critical condition was that He would desire her. It must have taken a great deal of pride for Esther to make such a condition. “I want you to give it to me because you love me” can only be said when you feel lovable.

Seems like Esther’s entire struggle is so relatable to the struggles that we all have. “The King hasn’t called my number in quite a long time, and you know what? Who have I become anyways? I’m not living the life I used to live. I’m surrounded by things that distract me from the person I remember myself to be. And now, my people need me, (me?!) to do something on their behalf? Me? I’m the person? Am I really capable of making a change? Am I worthy of coming before the king? Does my avodah mean anything”?     Then the tzaddik sends you a message, “You can do it! You really can. ‘Maybe’ this is why you found yourself here in the first place? It’s yours for the taking, but only when you believe you have what it takes. You need to love yourself, empower yourself, and believe that only you can make this happen”.

Esther did it. She got the message from Mordechai and she really believed in who she was. וַתִּלְבַּ֤שׁ אֶסְתֵּר֙ מַלְכ֔וּת – She dressed differently, that’s symbolic of her new self. And as she took those final few steps in that last dark hallway, Amalek’s doubts engulfed her mind. “I don’t knowww?!” “Am I sure about this?” But then when she was called on, she said “Give it to me because you want me”. I AM LOVABLE. I know it and You know it.

Just like when there are two ends of a drain pipe, there can only be two possibilities of where the pipe can get clogged; either from above or from below. So it is with the shefa of blessing and success that we need from Hashem. Either it’s clogged from above, meaning that we don’t believe enough that He can give it to us. Or it’s clogged from below, meaning that we don’t believe we can receive it, aka we’re not worthy enough/good enough/smart enough/lucky enough to receive it.

This is everything my friends! This is all we need to be successful. We need to always believe the King wants to give it and believe we are lovable enough to get it. And when we do,

וַיְהִי֩ כִרְא֨וֹת הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ אֶת־אֶסְתֵּ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֗ה עֹמֶ֨דֶת֙ בֶּֽחָצֵ֔ר נָֽשְׂאָ֥ה חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינָ֑יו וַיּ֨וֹשֶׁט הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ לְאֶסְתֵּ֗ר אֶת־שַׁרְבִ֤יט הַזָּהָב֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּיָד֔וֹ וַתִּקְרַ֣ב אֶסְתֵּ֔ר וַתִּגַּ֖ע בְּרֹ֥אשׁ הַשַּׁרְבִֽיט

And it was, when the King saw Queen Esther standing in the courtyard, that she won favor in His eyes, and the King extended to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter. 🤩

Four reasons to be happy

WhatsApp Image 2020-02-25 at 10.23.03 PM

Rebbe Nachman said many times that the essential tool in ascending in Avodas Hashem is simcha, real joy. So much of what the rebbe taught was advice how to bring joy into our lives. Now, especially, that we’ve entered the month of Adar, where the Talmud says that we need to increase our joy, we’re all wondering how can we do it.

Reb Nosson (Hilchos Mincha 7:53) seems to have a very systematic approach to it. He says there are four essential ways to bring joy into our lives, no matter what the situation. These four ideas are an aspect of the tetragrammaton, the primary name of Hashem, י-ה-ו-ה.

The essential reason to be joyous, as the Rebbe told over in the story of the sad tzaddik is to remember that we merited to be Jewish. This is the essence of joy. As unpolitically correct as it is, we believe that we merited greatly to land this great fortune. Why is this the essential reason? Because it has absolutely nothing to do with our choice, or anything we earned and achieved. No matter what, that’s who we are, and it’s fitting to dance 1000 years for that reason alone. This is symbolically referenced in the י (yud) of Hashem’s name, as the Talmud says (Menachos 29b), the י refers to the ‘world to come’, the world of the tzaddikim, because the י is the smallest letter and there are few tzaddikim. But all of Israel has an aspect of the tzaddim as it says, (Isaiah 6:21) “And [the people of] your nation are all tzaddikim“. That’s why we’re called Jews, or Yehudim, because we’re are all yuds, or yidden.

The next way to add to our joy is by remembering that we merited to connect to the real tzaddikim. This is represented by the first ה of Hashem’s name, because ה represents bina, which is the mechanism of how we understand Hashem’s greatness. This is the job of the true tzaddikim. They put into our minds words of bina that help us understand how great Hashem is, which increases our desire to have a relationship with Him.

The third reason to be joyous is by recognizing that even we have good points ourselves, as the rebbe stressed in the famous lesson 282. It must be that we’ve done something good in our lives. By searching for even the smallest good points and slowly building on them, we can attain joy. This is represented by the ו in Hashem’s name, because the ו means to add, alluding to the process of adding another good point followed by another good point until we can recognize our essential greatness and return wholeheartedly to Hashem.

Finally, these three reasons can bring us enough joy to do a good thing right now, which is represented by the final ה of Hashem’s name, the letter representing action (malchus) in this world.

The common denominator of these four ways is simply recognizing the truth. The truth is always there. We spend too much of our life unconscious and unaware of the great gifts that we have. Just recognizing what we are, where we come from, what we’ve done and what we can do truly accomplish can bring us the essence of hope and joy. Amen!

 

Reuniting

tzaddik yesod olam

“צַדִּיק יְסוֹד עוֹלָם”

The tzaddik is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10)

There’s an amazing statement in the Zohar (II:38A):

“יֵרָאֶה כָּל זְכוּרְךָ אֶת פְּנֵי הָאָדוֹן יְיָ’. מַאן פְּנֵי הָאָדוֹן יְיָ’? דָּא רִבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאי”

The Torah says “[Three times a year], you must see the face of your master, Hashem”. Asks the Zohar, “What/Who is the face of Hashem? This is Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai“!

What does this mean? Is Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai Hashem, G-d forbid?

In Tinyana 67, Rebbe Nachman explains how the world is created of the four elements, fire, water, earth and wind. Those four elements are the four streams that were split from the river that flowed from Eden to water the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 2). The river itself is that one tzaddik, who’s the beauty and splendor of the world. He’s the eyes of the world. The four elements are also the four parts of the eye [three colors and the pupil]). Through the tzaddik, we’re able to see Hashem. The elements flow into the world through the tzaddik. These elements can lead us astray. Fire is our anger, water is our lust, earth is depression and wind is our pride. By neutralizing his ego, a human being can elevate himself out of this world, above the four elements, and be more aligned with Hashem than with this world. This wonderful tzaddik, like Hashem, is a simple oneness. The Rebbe calls it יְסוֹד הַפָּשׁוּט. By conquering his ego, he has embodied the Divine oneness that precedes these elements.

נִמְצָא כְּשֶׁנִּתְגַּדֵּל שֵׁם הַצַּדִּיק, נִתְגַּדֵּל שְׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרַך וְכָל מַה שֶּׁנִּתְגַּדֵּל יוֹתֵר שֵׁם הַצַּדִּיק, נִתְגַּדֵּל יוֹתֵר שְׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרַך

“When the tzaddik’s name is glorified, Hashem’s name and glory is more magnified in the world”, because when the tzaddik nullifies his ego, all that’s left of him is his Divine image. So when we see the tzaddik, we’re seeing an unadulterated tiny aspect of Hashem. We’re obviously nothing without Hashem, but Hashem wants us to be his feet in this world. We expand his recognition. The more we limit our prides and lusts, the more we make a vessel for His light to shine. It’s a beautiful light. He wants us to have it, but He also needs us to shine it.

~ Based on a shiur of Rabbi Leibish Hundert

 

 

Life sucks

Hard Times

Did I get your attention? That was my intention.

“THE REBBE DECLARED: LOOK! EVERYONE SAYS THERE IS ‘THIS WORLD’ AND ‘THE WORLD TO COME’. NOW WE [CERTAINLY] BELIEVE THERE IS A WORLD TO COME. AND IT’S POSSIBLE THAT AN OLAM HAZEH EXISTS IN SOME UNIVERSE [TOO]. BUT HERE IT LOOKS MORE LIKE HELL, BECAUSE EVERYONE IS FULL OF GREAT SUFFERING – ALWAYS!”

“[HE] ALSO SAID: THERE IS NO OLAM HAZEH AT ALL!”

(Tinyana 119)

I think we’re brought up with a certain misconception about life. Kids are always complaining that “it’s not fair!” They’re right! It’s not. Maybe it’s because we’re taught that Hashem is only good? Well, that’s true. He is perfectly good and everything that happens to us is unquestionably for the best, but life is still replete with suffering. It’s technically all good because there is a Divine plan that we don’t understand. But we don’t experience life as all good. Everyone suffers all the time, says Rebbe Nachman. Everyone. All the time. That’s a fact of life that I don’t need to prove to you, because I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself.

There’s no contradiction to the fact that Hashem is purely good and that we experience great pain. Why do we suppress those thoughts about how hard things are when they surface? Why do we lie to ourselves and to our children that everything is fair and great? I think it’s extremely confusing.

This is why we need to constantly remind ourselves of the rebbe’s crucial advice (Torah 282) of searching for the good in everything. Because even though there is real suffering everywhere we look, there is also tremendous open kindness and goodness. Our job is to train ourselves to focus on the good. Our eyes were given to us to see the good. Our minds were put in our heads to think about the good in ourselves, in others, in the world and in Hashem. It’s true that there’s bad too. You’d have to be a fool not to notice how bad things are everywhere. But we have an important mission: Look for the good. There are bad people, but our job is to see the good in them. We do bad things too, but our job is to see our own good.

I think this is a subtle point. It’s not ‘all good’. It’s good and bad. But we need to over-identify with the good. That’s how we can literally expand the good outward.