The greatness of empathy

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The first thing the Torah tells us about Moshe’s personality is “וַיֵּצֵא אֶל אֶחָיו, וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם”, he went out to observe his brothers and he saw their suffering. Rashi explains that he focused on their pain and kept their suffering in his heart. We clearly see Moshe’s great humility from his introduction. In Birchos Hashahar 5 Reb Nosson brings a midrash (Vayikra Rabba Ch. 37) that Hashem said, “because you cared about your brothers’ suffering, you will merit to be taught the laws of vows”.

The obvious question is, what’s the connection between the two things? I understand that it’s a great reward to be taught any law from God, but why is Moshe’s empathy for his people rewarded with being taught the laws of vows? Reb Nosson gives his own answer (ibid).

I was thinking as follows: One of the most interesting type of vows is the Nazir’s vow. A nazir is someone who voluntarily vowed to abstain from all alcohol derived from grapes. (He also can’t cut his hair or become ritually impure). When the Torah introduces this idea it says:

“אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר”

“If a man or woman sets themselves apart by making a nazarite vow” 

The word יַפְלִא, to set himself apart, says the Even Ezra stems from the root פלא (wonder). Meaning that he did a wondrous thing by making a vow. Here the whole world is running after their desires and this person is a marvel, in that he sets himself apart and abstains from his desires. The same is true for many vows. If someone vows to give charity or vows to do a mitzvah, this is truly a wonder; something so rare.

I think that this is why Moshe merited to be taught the laws of vows for his compassion. The same way that it’s a phenomenon for someone to want to abstain from his desires, when the rest of the world is stuck in the mud of bodily desires, so too it’s equally a rarity for someone to care about another person. The same selfishness that entraps people to follow their lusts, hooks them to be narcissistic. The Torah says that יֵצֶר לֵב הָאָדָם רַע מִנְּעֻרָיו, a person’s natural tendency is to be preoccupied with himself. Children only care about themselves and, unfortunately, too many people never grow up. If the first thing the Torah tells us about Moshe was that he was compassionate for others, that means it was an essential value of his. The more selfless you are, the greater you are, because you are more like God himself, who is totally selfless. Sadly, it’s not common enough to see true altruism, just like it’s not that common to witness people abstain from the desires of this world.

May we merit to truly be selfless and dedicated to the service of Hashem and our fellow people.

Whether you know it or not

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“In every Jew there is an aspect of malchut, (rule, authority or influence). Everyone [rules] according to how much they possesses this influence. There [can be] one who rules over his household, another whose rule is even broader and even one who rules over the entire world…This aspect of malchut can be manifest in the revealed or in the hidden”. (Torah 56)

What does Rebbe Nachman mean, that a person’s malchut can be manifest in the revealed or in the hidden? Sometimes we clearly see that a person has overt authority. For example, the president of a country, in many ways, rules over its citizens. But other times, it may seem that a person has no authority over anyone at all, but in the most concealed way he rules over many. In fact, after delivering this lesson, the Rebbe said, “You think the only influence I have is over you. But the truth is that I have power over all the tzaddikim of the generation, only it’s hidden” (Tzaddik #150).

How does a person exercise his malchut? In Torah 49 the Rebbe taught that prayer is the way to lift up one’s malchut. When we pray with full belief in our prayers, we can certainly increase our affect on people and the world at large.

But why does Hashem allow one person to rule over many others? And why does Hashem have this unique relationship with the tzaddik and, in a certain sense, leaves us in the tzaddik’s jurisdiction?

Let’s take a step back. Hashem Himself also maintains this hidden influence over everything. In fact through the prophet Malachi, Hashem said “In every place, offerings are burned and presented to My Name”. This is referring even to idol worship. As Rebbe Nachman elaborates later in the lesson, in the most covert way, Hashem exists even in the greatest sins. There is no space in which Hashem doesn’t exist, but in sin He is greatly concealed. He made it that way, so that we can have free choice. If we were fully aware of His presence, we would be coerced to obey His will. The same is true with the tzaddik. If we were aware of his influence, we would be forced to follow his lessons, thereby losing our free choice. So, because of Hashem’s kindness and desire to reward us, he conceals Himself and allows free choice.

Now back to the original question. Why are we under the tzaddik’s jurisdiction? Can’t we have a direct line to Hashem?

Hashem created such a big world with millions of different organisms in it, ranging from rocks and leaves, to animals and mankind. But who did He create it for? He created it for mankind. But let’s be even more specific. Did he create it for all of mankind? Well, as Rashi tells us, in the first word of the Torah בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית, Hashem created the world for the Jewish people (בשביל ישראל שנקראו ראשית). But He didn’t just give us this world as a present that we don’t earn. בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית also is referring to the Torah (בשביל התורה שנקראת ראשית). He created the world for us to learn the Torah and follow His perfect instructions how to live in the world. Unfortunately, not all of us are living up to this task at every moment. Because of our shortcomings, and our lack of connection to the Torah, there are moments when it seems that Hashem, if you could say this, made the world for nothing. But Hashem is the best CEO. He doesn’t make a business plan and not carry it out. In His amazing kindness, he chooses to deal directly with the most righteous people, who justify the world’s creation at every moment. (For how the world can exist when the tzaddik is not learning Torah, see Tinyana 78). The word tzaddik, of course, means to justify. The tzaddikim justify the world’s creation, as we clearly see with the first person the Torah calls a tzaddik, Noach.

So, it’s because Hashem loves the Jewish people and desires the continuation of the world that He allows us to attach ourselves to the tzaddikim and relate to Him. Because the tzaddikim are so awesomely humble, our relationship to Hashem through them is totally unadulterated. It’s the cleanest pipe possible. In fact, they want nothing more, and they sacrifice everything they have just so that we can connect with Him, which is why He chooses to interact with us through them. If we attach ourselves to the tzaddikim, then we will have a more intentional connection to Hashem. If we don’t, He will interact with us through them without our knowledge.

But don’t forget how we started this article. We all have the capability of lifting up our own malchut and affecting others too. That comes from a real desire to affect the world outside us, peeling away the concealment, believing in our prayers and praying for the good of the world. So let’s get to work…

 

 

Renewal, at its core

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The holy Zohar characterizes Teshuva as “Throwing something back to the place where it was taken”.  Just like if a thief wants to make amends, he must return that which he took to its rightful owner, so too one who sins and desires to repent, must return that which he stole to its original place. Says Rebbe Nachman, our original place is called the emanation of “Chokhmah” (Wisdom). It’s the root of everything, as it says (Psalms 104) “כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ”, Hashem created everything with wisdom.

The truth is that there is an even higher emanation, called Keter, but that emanation is so elevated that it’s unknowable to Humans. Another name for Keter is Ayin, because as far as we humans can comprehend, it’s nothing to us. It’s just too high for our intellect to fathom. That leaves us with Chokhmah as the root of everything, as King Solomon wrote, “הַחָכְמָה תְּחַיֶּה בְעָלֶיהָ”, Chokhmah gives life to all those who possess it.

The Rebbe warns us to be careful from extraneous wisdoms, which impede our ability to connect to our core, Divine wisdom. These unnecessary wisdoms, disturb us from that connection and renewal of Teshuva. This, he says, is the evil of פַּרְעֹה, who disturbs and interrupts the connection of holiness. Likes פַּרְעֹה said, “לָמָּה…תַּפְרִיעוּ אֶת הָעָם”, why are you disturbing the people? The words פַּרְעֹה and תַּפְרִיעוּ have the same root, because the evil in the world that tries to interrupt us from connection (think cell phones😱) is Pharaoh’s evil.

But it’s not enough to merely guard oneself from extraneous intellect. We need to renew our intellect all the time. How do we do that? Says the Rebbe, through sleep a person renews his mind and soul.

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When we sleep, our souls rise and travel to Chokhmah, the core of creation. This is the place where the world is recreating all the time. In order to renew our minds, and serve Hashem with a fresh perspective, we need to renew in the place of Chokhmah too.

The way that the soul travels to Chokhmah is with faith (the emanation of Malchus). Faith only starts at the point where wisdom can no longer comprehend. So when we go to sleep, and our minds are inactive, faith is what elevates our soul to a Divine state of evolving, renewing Wisdom. Even the little ounce of faith one has by going to sleep and relying on the Creator to wake him the next day propels the soul to renew at its core.

Of course, says Reb Nosson, this is why we proclaim the Shema Yisrael before we retire at night. We want to strengthen our faith, so that Malchus can escort our souls to Chokhmah.

Rebbe Nachman brings two other examples of sleep, that rejuvenates our minds/souls, so they can feel renewed again. The first type of sleep is learning the simple, plain meaning of the Torah. The Zohar (III. 244b) calls the study of Mishna and Talmud an aspect of sleep, in comparison to the mysteries of Kabbalah.  This is because Kabbalah explores the deepest insights of the Torah and reveals how Hashem can be found in every aspect of creation. On the surface of the Mishna and Talmud one only see laws, anecdotes and lessons for daily living. So Mishna is an aspect of Malchus (or faith) in comparison to Kabbalah, which corresponds to Chokhmah. One exhibits faith when delving into the intricacies of the law, because it’s not readily apparent how he is understanding the Creator in a deeper way.

The other type of sleep the Rebbe teaches about is doing business honestly, מַשָּׂא וּמַתָּן בֶּאֱמוּנָה.  When we act fairly in business, our minds enter faith and find renewal there. We cannot understand, with our intellect, how we are ultimately benefitting when we give up on profit that could have easily been ours had we not acted honestly. But with faith, we believe that we will get whatever is due us. That act of faith allows the renewal of our minds and souls.

Faith is what drives us to renew, at our core and it’s not only available for the greatest Tzaddikim. By reciting the Shema before we retire, learning the Torah in its plain meaning or acting honestly in our business dealings, we will renew, connecting to the ever-changing world in a deeper, truer way.

 

 

 

Bringing down the light

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“Imagine if I mamish believed that I should walk the streets all day, every day and give out gifts to everyone I see. I could do it, but I would have to stop doing everything else. I’d have to leave my wife and children and just walk around the streets distributing gifts. It’s a very holy thought, but I’ll end up going crazy. So instead I think to myself, “No, I can’t do that, because I have a job and I need to support my family”. So I abandon the gifts distribution idea. Either way is bad…either way is bad. You see, the world doesn’t yet know the secret of light and vessels. Either they have small vessels with not enough light, like the thought of abandoning the gift idea, or they have too much light and no vessels to contain it, like the idea of 24 hour gift distribution. The Baal Shem Tov would bless people that ‘your body should be strong enough for your soul’. Everybody can make their soul shine but what about the body?” (Adapted from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach)

So how do we contain the light? Rebbe Nachman says (Torah 56) that the words of Torah are the greatest vessels to hold the light. In the most infinite, miraculous and immeasurable way, Hashem shined the light we need into those little black letters. A real holy teaching isn’t something that makes you crazy. A real holy teaching makes your light deeper and your vessels stronger. Similarly, the holiness of Jerusalem, says Shlomo, isn’t that there is no light anywhere else. The whole world is full of light. Jerusalem is the perfect vessel to contain this holy light.

It’s rare, but when you witness someone who has the-light-and-the-vessels-thing goin’ on, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. That’s the type of person who’s really bringing down the light.

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Out of this world

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The Arizal taught that before creation, there was only the light of einsof. Hashem wanted to unveil his glory and needed to create humans with which to reveal His greatness. So He constricted His light, so to speak, and created an empty space in which He created all the worlds, synonymous with His attributes. Of course, without the constant connection and life force of the Creator, these worlds cannot exist. Therefore, even though, Hashem created an empty space, there must still be a trace connecting the worlds to Him. That trace is called a קו, a line, or רשימו, the imprint.

In Birkas Hashachar 5, Reb Nosson reveals that the verse Shema Yisraelשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְהֹוָה אֱלהֵינוּ, יְהֹוָה אֶחָד, has 25 letters in it, whereas the verse Baruch Shem בָּרוּךְ, שֵׁם כְּבוד מַלְכוּתו, לְעולָם וָעֶד, has 24 letters in it. I’d like to say that this is symbolic of the above teaching from the Arizal. What is Shema Yisrael? It’s affirming the oneness of God. It’s admission of nothing other than the Creator. That’s an aspect of einsof before the creation; total unity. Baruch Shem is more relevant to us. It talks about Hashem’s glory in the worlds, which is our avoda to reveal. The difference between the 24 letters in Baruch Shem and the 25 letters in Shema Yisrael is, of course, only one. This one represents the trace of einsof in this world that gives it vitality. I think that we express these two phenomenons in prayer often. First in Kaddish. The Kaddish starts off with יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא (His great name should be glorified and sanctified). This is an exclamation of His greatness and oneness, even before creation. Then we praise Him by saying יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא, (His great name should be blessed in all the worlds). Here we’re talking about His greatness after creation, in relation to the worlds. The same is true in the Kedusha prayer. The first proclamation we make is קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ ה’ צְבָאוֹת מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ, this is saying that Hashem is greater than any world can fathom. Then we say בָּרוּךְ כְּבוֹד ה’ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ, this means that Hashem is great from His place, meaning He, so to speak, has a place in the worlds.

What does this mean to us? The fact that we have a connection to einsof is why there can never be reason to despair. This is the source of all Teshuva. We humans, even when we’re dirtied from sin in the lowest of all worlds, are always connected to something out of this world. We might have to hush the Baruch Shem in silence most of the time, but we still must say it. We recognize that the Creator is beyond any comprehension, but we must also admit that we have a direct line to the highest places unimaginable.

What’s so funny?

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At the conclusion of every yoga practice, we get into a pose called shavasana. During this pose, the practitioner lies flat on his back with his arms relaxed to his sides and his legs spread out as wide as the mat. He closes his eyes, breathes and observes his body, scanning it for any muscular tension. If he notices any tension, he will try to release it. Once he has let go of everything, the pose really begins. Although there are numerous benefits to this pose, such as relaxation and rejuvenation, my understanding is that during the practice the body worked very hard, but during shavasana, when the body is neutralized, the mind turns inward to those parts of the body that exerted themselves and gives an awareness to those body parts that didn’t exist before. It can only be understood through experience.

In the story of The Humble KingRebbe Nachman tells of a certain king who heard of another king that signs himself ‘the mighty warrior, man of truth and humble person’. Although the first king had portraits of every other king in the world, he never saw this king with the decorated signature. So he asked his wise advisor to bring him a portrait of this mysterious king, so he could determine if that king was telling the truth in his signature. The wise man traveled to the land of the hidden king and decided that in order to meet this king, and paint a portrait of him, he must first understand the essence of that land. He said, “One can understand the nature of a land by its humor. In order to understand something, one must know the jokes related to it”.

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What does humor and joking have to do with anything here?

As it turns out, the commentaries to this story explain the depths of humor. I’d like to share some of them with you. Firstly, the Talmud says (Eruvin 65b) that one of the four ways to identify a person is by what he laughs about. People will often tell jokes about things they’re too inhibited to discuss openly. So their jokes may tell more about their essence than their serious speech. Furthermore, humor requires a certain objectivity. When a person can laugh at something, it indicates that he’s not too involved in it. As we often see, the butt of the joke is usually very engrossed in what he’s doing, while countering that ‘It’s not funny’!

Humor is all about incongruities. One such incongruity is in the most basic force of creation. On the one hand Hashem gives (חסדים) and on the other hand He holds back (גבורות). Ultimately, of course, even Hashem’s withholding has its roots in His giving. This is the ultimate humor, just like the Zohar (2:163a) compares the Yetzer Hara (Evil urge) to a prostitute that the king hires to seduce his son. The prostitute is working for the king, and really doesn’t want the prince to succumb, so the whole story is really funny. That’s why the Talmud says (Sotah 3a) that a person can’t sin unless a “spirit of foolishness” enters him. Ironically, it’s the jokes and foolishness of the world that give man free will, which enables him to reach higher levels of wisdom.  In a certain sense this entire world, with all of our complexities, is nothing more than a funny game. The Talmud says (Shabbas 30a) that Hashem laughs (Psalms 2:4) with the wicked in this world and with the righteous in the word to come.

“בְּשׁוּב יְהוָה אֶת שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן…אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק פִּינוּ”

“When Hashem brings back the captives of Zion…our mouths will be filled with laughter” (Psalms 126:1-2)

The ultimate place of laughter is the Holy of Holies, as the Talmud relates (Yoma 69b): When the Men of Great Assembly nullified the evil urge for idolatry they saw it emerge from the Holy of Holies. Since everything ultimately comes from one place, the fact that evil appears so different from holiness is amusing.

The Rebbe explained this story with one verse (Isaiah 33:20): “See Zion, the city of our gatherings”. He said that the initial letters of the verse (חֲזֵה צִיּוֹן קִרְיַת מוֹעֲדֵנוּ) spell מְצַחֵק, which means to tell a joke.

A joke can’t be understood logically, but only with a level of consciousness that’s higher than logic. A person laughs at a joke but he doesn’t know why. (Similarly, when a person is lying in shavasana, he might access a level of consciousness and awareness of his body that is higher than logic and understanding). Therefore, it appears that jokes have their origin in Ketter, the most sublime emanation of Godliness that is incomprehensible to man. Zion is a place of our gatherings. This doesn’t only mean that we assemble in Jerusalem thrice yearly. It means that when everything comes together, all of good and evil, truth and lies, body and soul, weak and strong, and even microcosmically in the more trivial exertion of a full-body yoga practice, it comes together in one place. This central place is final and pivotal. This place is where we – physical human beings – can unite with the infinite non-corporeal God of all. This is Zion, the funniest place in the world.

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Royal qualities

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Hashem runs this world and all the higher worlds via the Ten Divine features, (sefiros). The last and final of these features is called Royalty (Malchus).

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As you can see in the above chart, Malchus is the lowest of all the sefiros. This is because Malchus is the ultimate realization of the other sefiros. All the flow that emanates from the higher sefiros are experienced in Malchus.

One might envision Royalty to have a presumptuous character, as portrayed below in Western society, but this depiction couldn’t be further from the truth.

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As discussed in an earlier blog, humility is the key feature of Royalty. In Torah 30 Rebbe Nachman teaches that the higher perceptions of Godliness (שכל עליון) need to be masked in the many filters of, what he calls, lower intellect (שכל תחתון). This lower intellect is an aspect of Malchus, because it’s the experience of the higher intellect. In order to understand this lower intellect, the student has to despise monetary gain (שונא בצע). (It must be pointed out here that in Torah 60 the Rebbe spoke of lofty Torah levels that are unattainable without wealth, so he clearly didn’t recommend not having money, or disposing of ones wealth). So why is hating monetary gain an aspect of Malchus?

The expression שונא בצע is one of the four attributes that Jethro listed when he advised Moses to choose men who will judge the people (Shemos 18:21). The Shadal explains that the root of the word בצע, which is translated as gain, always connotes dividing gain between two or more parties. We also find that breaking bread is called בציעת הפת, so the one who hates gain really hates to divide. This is why it’s a key ingredient of Malchus, because Malchus can’t be at all divided from Hashem. The Zohar says that just like the moon doesn’t have its own light, Malchus has nothing of its own (Zohar I 249a). It’s totally a receiver, without any of its own influence. To fully shine the light of the upper sefiros, the king has to be an empty vessel. If any part of the vessel is full, or divided for that matter, it can’t shine the light of the true king. (In fact, in this lesson the Rebbe teaches that Malchus needs to draw life-force from Or Hapanim, [a very lofty light that shines from Arich Anpin, which is outside the scope of this article]. But we clearly see that Malchus draws its life-force from somewhere else.)

King David embodied the attribute of Royalty. Of course he was a king, but his humility was astonishing. When the Prophet Shmuel shocked David’s family and anointed him to be the next King of Israel, the Midrash teaches that all of his family called out in song “Long live the king, long live the king”! Can you imagine the feeling of validation that David had after he was vilified by his family all his life as an illegitimate child? The verse says (Shmuel I 16:13) that after the anointing, Shmuel got up and went [back to his town] Ramah. What did David do then? The Midrash says that he went back to his sheep, with his stick and backpack! Not only that, but he took out his flute and composed a song (Psalms 131). Here are the words:

:שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּֽעֲל֗וֹת לְדָ֫וִ֥ד, יְהֹוָ֚ה  לֹֽא־גָבַ֣הּ לִ֖בִּי ,וְלֹֽא־רָ֣מוּ עֵינַ֑י וְלֹֽא־הִלַּ֓כְתִּי בִּגְדֹל֖וֹת וּבְנִפְלָא֣וֹת מִמֶּֽנִּי

“A song of ascent by David: Hashem, my heart isn’t haughty and I didn’t lift up my eyes. I also didn’t pursue things that are greater than me”. 

Could you believe the humility? This is the song that he sings to Hashem (who knows the truth) after “the stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone”? But as we all know kingship radiates a certain splendor and the same can be said about someone who is truly humble. It’s a magnificent trait to possess.

One final thought on Malchus. In the last paragraph of the lesson, the Rebbe says something very deep. “From a person’s voice, his measure of Malchus is discernible”. In one of the most amazing moments in Jewish history, as the kingship was passing from Saul to David and Saul was trying to kill David to prevent him from usurping the kingdom, David had a chance to kill Saul but declined to do so, instead cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe. When Saul was at a safe distance, David called out to him and gave him great honor but rebuked him for chasing an innocent person. To show his innocence, David held up the ripped corner of Saul’s robe, proving his good intentions. The verse then says, “When David finished these words, Saul said ‘Is that your voice, David my son’? And Saul lifted up his voice and wept”. The Rebbe teaches that from hearing David’s voice, Saul recognized that David would be King. So he wanted to lift up his own voice and attain that measure of Malchus himself, but the sound that emerged was a sob.

Why is the voice an indicator of someone’s capacity for Malchus? I think it’s the same idea. The blessing we make on the Shofar is “to hear the voice of the Shofar”. We don’t bless the sound of the shofar, but its voice. This is because the sound of the shofar is totally unadulterated. It’s a pure sound straight from the belly of the blower. That’s what a voice is too. Every person’s voice is unique and indicative, on a deeper level, of who he is. Not necessarily his ability to sing on tune, but the essence of his voice. When hearing David’s voice, Saul recognized David’s oneness with Hashem and his humility. Here he was giving rebuke to the King of Israel, but it was in total humility, he had no ego in the moment.

When we yearn for Hashem’s kingship to spread across the world, we are hoping that every creature will know God’s humility. Namely, how He is the most powerful being, yet He makes Himself available to even the lowest creature alive. May we know it speedily in our days. Amen!

 

מִי כַּֽיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ הַמַּגְבִּיהִ֥י לָשָֽׁבֶת, הַמַּשְׁפִּילִ֥י לִרְא֑וֹת בַּשָּׁמַ֥יִם וּבָאָֽרֶץ

“Who is like you Hashem our God, who dwells in the highest places, yet lowers Himself to look to the heavens and the earth.” (Psalms 113:5-6)

 

Come as you are

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I find it so difficult to concentrate in prayer. I think the hardest part about it for me is that when I stop to pray I feel weighed down by either the things I’ve recently been busy with or the things I want to accomplish later. So I struggle to quiet my mind for that short time.

I read recently in Miriam Kosman’s book, “Circle Arrow, Spiral: Exploring Gender in Judaism”, that it’s a male quality to want to do and a female quality to want to be. I must be very manly because all I want to do is produce, perform and execute. I find it much more difficult to develop, nurture and be mindful.

 

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Rebbe Nachman says in Torah 49 that prayer is an aspect of the divine-feature Royalty (מלכות). King David who embodied this divine-feature sang of himself (Psalms 109:4), “and I am [all] prayer”. The divine feature of Royalty is a feminine aspect of God, so based on the above understanding, King David is claiming that he’s satisfied being in the state of prayer. He doesn’t need to go out and shout victory over his opponents. He’s not thinking about the future as he’s praying. He’s not itching to get-on to the next thing. He genuinely feels complete with just praying. This is an attribute of humility, because in order to fully rely on God, we need to hand over the reigns to Him. If we don’t entirely let go of the control, then at least a part of us will need some action other than prayer.

The Rebbe then goes on to teach (in a most amazing way, that’s sadly too complicated for this short article) that Teshuva – Coming back to God – is lifting ourselves back up to this type of Royalty. You see in the beginning of the lesson he speaks about positive thoughts and negative thoughts. The negative thoughts create evil realities and weaken the feature of Royalty. Teshuva is when we elevate the Royalty back to its place. (As the Zohar says, תשובה is the same letters as ‘תשוב ‘ה, which means to return the letter ה back to its place. The letter ה represents Royalty). According to how we’re learning Royalty, as a feminine, nurturing and present space, Teshuva is releasing ourselves from our need to move forward. Obviously many times that means curtailing our immoral passions. But I’m referring to something more profound. Coming back to God means humbling ourselves and realizing that we’ve been so macho-like, trying to perform and accomplish. Of course we mean well and He wants us to try in every way possible to succeed. But ultimately there is nothing happening outside His dominion. When it’s time to come back to God, there’s nothing else to do. There’s no life outside of His life-force. So it’s time to let go and just be, as hard as that is for some of us. We need to put down our phones, quiet our minds and be present in the moment.

This explains the Mishna that says “The first pious ones used to wait an hour before they prayed”. Maimonides says they did this to quiet their mind. Many of us feel we don’t have that extra time and we’re probably right. But there are other techniques to help. Try keeping a finger on the place or try saying the words out loud and melodically. But most importantly, when we step into synagogue – or into our own private space to pray – we need to recognize very clearly that we’ve just set aside time to leave our world and enter God’s world. Let’s take a look at our watch. Give ourselves X minutes and make them count. I want to stress that nobody at all cares if we finish all the words. It’s not a race, so what’s the rush? We anyways committed to being here. So let’s quiet our minds and be active in our prayers. Let’s try hard to make each word meaningful. It’s my prayer that we can all attain this peace of mind and trust in God. This will elevate our own Royalty and His Royalty so we can merit to unite with the true King on the glorious day of His coronation, Rosh Hashana.