Surprise surprise

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I find it funny how we still get surprised when our prayers get answered, myself included. I often hear people preface a story of how Hashem took care of them (again) by saying, “You’re not going to believe this”. Why wouldn’t we believe it? Isn’t the idea of praying to Hashem what we’re taught our whole lives, again and again? What’s the big surprise that it works? On the other hand, if it’s so inconceivable that real prayer works, then why do many of us spend so much time doing it? Why climb up a tree that we’re sure has no fruit?

The truth is that Rebbe Nachman says (Torah 7) that prayer is miraculous. It supersedes the forces of nature. But Maybe, since we’re by-no-means accustomed to seeing outright miracles, we get a bit surprised when our prayers force Hashem’s hands to perform miracles on our behalf?

I heard a beautiful story the other day from Rabbi David Ashear of livingemunah.com.  There was a boy named Naftali who grew up in a very religious home and started slacking off in yeshiva. Eventually he got kicked out because he was negatively influencing the other kids in his class. His parents became very concerned. A few weeks later he missed the Friday night meal and his parents had no idea where he was. He finally showed up late at night drunk and smelling of cigarettes, with a cellphone in hand, as if it weren’t shabbos. His parents consulted with an expert in the parenting field who advised them that they cannot allow him to violate Torah and Mitzvos in the home. When they relayed those demands to him, Naftali left home and moved in with his new irreligious friends in Tel Aviv. He finally felt free, but after a few months those friends turned on him. They made fun of him and tortured him until he had no choice but to leave. He was wandering the streets depressed. He knew he couldn’t go home either and he decided that he was going to commit suicide. It was evening time and he started walking towards a large tower to jump off of it. On his way up the stairs, he saw a pamphlet on the floor with the words “Mamma Rochel” on the cover. Usually these pamphlets didn’t interest him, but this time he picked it up and started reading it. It was full of stories of salvation that people experienced at Rachel’s Tomb. He started thinking that maybe he should also go to there and pray before he took his own life. He decided to go. When he got there, it was late at night and he was surprised how busy it was there. He saw a group of men praying very fervently and he noticed a sign that nearly made him pass out. It said “Please pray that our son Naftali Yisroel ben Chana Rochel does Teshuva”. That sign was about him. The people there were praying for him to return to Hashem. Then he heard a voice from ladies’ section that he recognized to be his mothers’! She was saying, “Master of the world, please send my Naftali back. I’ll take him back however he is”. He called out to his mother and they reunited. His parents sponsored that group of rabbis to come and pray that night at Rachel’s Tomb so that he would return. Hashem made him find that pamphlet and it worked right away.

Are you surprised? Don’t be!

Keep going

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~ The following is based on a lesson from Rabbi Leibish Hundert.

The Mishna Brura writes, (O”C 125:5): “It says in the Sefer Heichalos (an early Kabbalistic work), ‘[Hashem says to the Heavenly angels], You should be blessed if you go and tell my children what I do when they sanctify My name and say קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ. Go teach them that [when saying it] they should raise their eyes up to the skies and lift up their bodies to Me. Because no pleasure I have in this world compares to the moment that their eyes look into my eyes, and my eyes in theirs. At that moment I grab the image of [their grandfather] Jacob on the Holy Throne, and I hug it and kiss it. Then I remember their merits and hasten their redemption“.

What is קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ? Kadosh means separate, or utterly unique. The commentators say that the idea of repeating it three times symbolizes its eternal continuum. So what we’re saying is that Hashem is totally without equal. But more, is that the recognition that He is beyond our comprehension is considered looking into Hashems’ eyes.

The difference between seeing and hearing is that when you see something you see all of it, but when you hear something it’s sequential. You need to keep on hearing and hearing to capture something. There is one exception. Looking into another’s eyes. When you look into someone’s eyes, it’s forever…

When the Mishna (Shabbos 73b) counts the 39 primary prohibitions of labor on shabbos, it lists planting and then plowing. The Talmud asks, doesn’t one plow before he plants? It answers that the author of the Mishna lived in the Land of Israel. In Israel, since the earth is hard and rock-like, one had to plow, plant and then plow again to cover the seeds. In Israel one has to do a second act of covering the seeds. What this means, allegorically, is that covering up is a profound sense of letting go. You thought you plowed and seeded and you’re done, but then Israel requires you to do it again.  It’s hard in Israel. Israel makes you do things again and again (not just going to the משרד הפנים) and that builds the relationship. קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ – again and again, looking into His eternal eyes!

You know, if you look at the blessings that Isaac gave Jacob and Esau, they both got the same blessing! They both were blessed with rain and dew. The difference is that in Esau’s blessing, he gets it once and he’s set, but Jacob gets his flow and then he has to ask again to get it (Rashi says on the vav of וְיִתֶּן לְךָ, that יתן ויחזור ויתן. That’s the blessing, not the rain and dew, but the relationship. To keep and asking and getting, asking and getting, again and again.

This could be what Rebbe Nachman means in Torah 6 that we need to do Teshuva al Hateshuva, we need to constantly be in a state of longing. The tzaddik never stops searching for Hashem, אַיֵּה מְקוֹם כְּבוֹדוֹ again and again. The more he knows the more he understands that he knows nothing. Hisbodedus every day! Never giving up. Hashem isn’t as interested in one good prayer as he is a series of prayers. Again and again!

!קַוֵּה אֶל יְהוָה חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ וְקַוֵּה אֶל יְהוָה

 

Tadasana

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“Sometimes someone falls into a rut. And this time the rut is really really low, God forbid…And he starts having doubts and negative thoughts. Some of his thoughts even seem bizarre and dizzying. He’s constantly confused. Very confused (בִלְבּוּלִים רַבִּים)! Even though in this dark place it seems absolutely impossible to find Hashem, he still has some hope if he seeks out and looks for Hashem from that place. [How does he do that? How can he find Hashem in such a slump. By] asking ‘אַיֵּה מְקוֹם כְּבוֹדוֹ’, ‘Where are You Hashem’? The farther he feels from Hashem, the more he should express his pain and search for Hashem even more. [‘Where are You now Hashem? Look how far I’ve fallen now, can You possibly be here with me?’]. Through this method of longing and yearning for Hashem, recognizing how far one is from Him, one can actually rise out of this pit with a perfect ascent, because the aspect of אַיֵּה is exceedingly Holy and powerful”. (Meshivas Nefesh 30)

Rebbe Nachman urged his followers to live with this teaching; To constantly review it and to always ask אַיֵּה. In fact, even the greatest tzaddikim never stop asking אַיֵּה. The more they learn and ascend, the more they feel, in a sense, humbled and distant from Hashem. They ask אַיֵּה again and again. ‘Where are You now? I thought I knew where You were but now I realize that I didn’t know anything at all’.

I want to point out something very obvious from this teaching. The Rebbe talks about בִלְבּוּלִים, the uneasy feeling of confusion. It’s not uncommon these days to feel this feeling very strongly. Life moves really fast nowadays and there are so many expectations that we have from ourselves and that others have from us. We can literally walk around feeling drained from an overload of disorder and perplexity.

In Psalms 86, King David says  יַחֵד לְבָבִי לְיִרְאָה שְׁמֶךָ,  ‘Align my heart to be in awe of You’. The heart is the place of our thoughts (Torah 49). This is a cry to Hashem to straighten us out. Sometimes we just want to get to zero! Just put me back together. “Align us”, Hashem. There are so many בִלְבּוּלִים nowadays. We can’t do it without You. Unbend us, help us breathe; Help us think straight at least. יַחֵד לְבָבִי – Turn my many hearts into one heart, your heart!

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Back to the basics

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There is a popular Breslov book called השתפכות הנפש. It’s a collection of teachings from the writings of Rebbe Nachman and Reb Nosson on the topic of prayer, authored by Alter Tepliker, a fourth generation Breslover chassid.

The book starts off with a rather lengthy introduction in which he demonstrates how prayer, specifically hisbodedus (the practice of setting aside time for improvisational personal prayer in our mother tongue) was a foundational practice used by all of our forefathers and ancestry throughout Jewish history.

I found it interesting that, after the introduction, the author starts off the body of the book with the following piece from Tinyana 73:

“Whoever wants to be worthy of תשובה (coming back to Hashem), should recite Psalms frequently, because reciting Psalms is מסוגל (propitious) for returning to Hashem”. 

In that piece Rebbe Nachman teaches how King David prophetically embedded Psalms  to the 49 gates of תשובה, so that all the 12 tribes, whose names total 49 letters, can enter the proper gate to return to Hashem.

But why start with this lesson? If I wanted to teach about hisbodedus, surely I would find a better lesson to begin with and inspire my readers. Namely, the second lesson he quotes, “Hisbodedus is a great virtue and higher than everything”! Why begin with a lesson about the importance of reciting Psalms?

I think there is a very profound, and layered message that the author might be hinting at by using this lesson as a starting point. Many people think that hisbodedus and personal prayer is some immensely inspiring practice. When we go out to the woods or enter another place of seclusion and talk to Hashem we want it to be esoteric and life changing. We’re always seeking inspiration to sweep us off our feet and give us wings to fly. But it doesn’t always happen. Anyone who practices personal prayer consistently will tell you that it doesn’t always flow and you don’t feel significantly different after every session.

To too many people, reciting Psalms is a chore. “I can’t connect”, “I don’t understand what I’m saying”, or “What does saying these old texts really do for me?” I very much relate to Psalms and I think the main reason why most people don’t relate to them is because there’s this bizarre pressure to recite many of them. It’s like we don’t feel that we’ve accomplished anything if we didn’t finish our quota, or a significant amount. We need to reframe and put our utmost attention into the few lines we say. Every word is stuffed with holiness, like an overpacked suitcase. If we don’t understand the words, there are available translations in every language possible. Stop trying to finish Psalms and allow yourself to relate in the most simple way to the deepest and simplest words of prayer ever written. Maybe it’s not the most glorious thing to do, maybe it’s hard to focus on but we must slow it down significantly and get real with it. Tehillim is infused with opportunities for תשובה. King David, in his unfathomable greatness, had every one of us in mind when he drew these words down from Heaven, and his ultimate purpose was to draw us back to Heaven.

Try it again…Slow down…Wake yourself up and come back to Him. He’s waiting for you to call…

 

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…

 

 

The funnel

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:בת קול יוצאת מהר חורב ואומרת”

“כל העולם כולו ניזון בשביל חנינא בני, וחנינא בני דיו בקב חרובין מערב שבת לערב שבת

(ברכות יז)

“A heavenly voice leaves Sinai and says: ‘The whole world is sustained because of my son Chanina, and my son Chanina is sustained the entire week by a small measure of Carobs’”.

The Talmud’s statement is referring to the great tzaddik Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa.

My friend, Yehuda Raice, pointed out that the whole world was getting its nutrition in merit of this great tzaddik, whereas the tzadik himself was exceedingly poor, as we know from other stories about him. Because there are two types of prayer: The first is with the hands up to the sky, begging Hashem for sustenance. This relationship (at least momentarily) ceases when Hashem provides the sustenance.

But the other type of prayer of the true tzaddik, symbolized by the attribute of Yesod, has his hands out, because the flow is coming through him to others. But he himself doesn’t necessarily have a lot. Jacob said to Esau “I have all I need”. He meant that he had all he needed and not more. Esau said “I have much”, meaning much more than he needed, and he was right, because Hashem pays evil people for their deeds, so that the relationship isn’t an ongoing one. But the tzaddik gets only what he needs and has to constantly re-approach Hashem for more. This makes the relationship much deeper and one built on immense trust.

“The adulteress traps the haughty soul (Proverbs 6)”. The arrogant ones get caught in the net of promiscuity. This is why the tzaddik, who embodies the attribute of Yesod, is represented by the reproductive organ. By means of his humility, he avoids promiscuity at all costs. Because the tzaddik is so reliant on Hashem, he has so little ego, and the flow goes right through him to others, as the Baal Shem Tov points out on the words, בשביל חנינא בני the word שביל means a path. The whole world was sustained through the pathway of Rabbi Chanina. The Divine flow comes down through the tzaddikim because they’re ego doesn’t obstruct the flow.

וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים

 

 

A new belief

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The woman in the painting doesn’t see the tree. She needs to turn around.

After 22 years separation from his favorite son, Jacob comes down to Egypt to see his son before he dies and says the following:

“וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל יוֹסֵף, רְאֹה פָנֶיךָ לֹא פִלָּלְתִּי וְהִנֵּה הֶרְאָה אֹתִי אֱלֹהִים גַּם אֶת זַרְעֶךָ”

“Israel [Jacob] says to Joseph, I never expected to see your face [again], and now God has shown me your children too”.

Rashi defines the peculiar word פִלָּלְתִּי.

“לא מלאני לבי לחשב מחשבה, שאראה פניך עוד” 

“My heart never entertained the thought that I’d see your face again”.

I realized today that this word פִלָּלְתִּי has the same root as the word להתפלל, to pray.  This means that prayer fills our hearts with new thoughts and beliefs that previously weren’t possible. When we pray, we’re accessing ideas and beliefs that we never entertained before. This explains why we sometimes feel so refreshed after a real prayer.

Maybe this is what Rebbe Nachman means in the end of Torah 7, when he writes that prayer and faith is beneficial for the memory. Because forgetfulness entails having had something in mind, having it lapse and no longer be part of us. Meaning that forgetfulness is holding on to old thoughts that get lost, but memory is allowing the course of new thoughts [Divine thoughts] to fill your mind.

When we allow ourselves to pray with an open heart and mind and believe differently, we can see many new things. Thoughts that we never entertained can become our new realities.

Cry Baby Cry

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Did you ever notice how much Joseph cries in the story of his descent to Egypt? More than once, when the brothers stood before him, he’s forced to excuse himself and cry from his emotions.  He cries when he sees Benjamin for the first time. After revealing himself, he cries on the shoulders of all of the brothers. Then he cries on Benjamin’s neck. When he sees his father after 22 years, he cries. I once counted (correct me if I’m wrong) that the Torah mentions Joseph’s crying 8 times, (and we all know how connected Joseph is to Chanukah, so it’s no coincidence).

Why does Joseph cry more than any other character in Tanach? There were others who experienced pain and suffering too, but why is he always crying?

If I would have to find Joseph’s one defining quality, I would say it is his clear recognition of Divine Providence. After twelve years in prison, he is whisked out of the dungeon and pushed before Pharaoh, who says to him, “I hear you know how to interpret dreams”. He answers, “It’s not me! The Lord will provide Pharaoh with peace”. This is how he rose to the top of every place he found himself, as Rashi (Genesis 39:3) points out “the name of Heaven was frequently in his mouth”. The most stark example of his oneness with the Divine plan is what he says to brothers right after he reveals himself to them. “But now don’t be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you”. His ability to see Divine Providence is truly amazing!

So why is he alway crying?

In Torah 250 Rebbe Nachman explains the meaning of tears. He says that all the pain and suffering of this world stems from lacking the knowledge of Divine providence. If we truly appreciated that Hashem is running things behind the scenes, we wouldn’t experience any suffering. The problem is that we feel like nature is running it’s course, which causes us great anguish. When somebody cries from pain he’s lacking that understanding of Divine Providence. The tears that come out of his eyes are infused with awareness of Hashem and a clearer vision of His providence. In a certain sense, he loses his own vision and is imbued with God’s vision. This is why after we cry, we feel better. Because crying is transformative. It’s not only an expression of the pain, but it’s also a remedy of that feeling.

I can only imagine those dark years that Joseph was alone in the dungeon. Here is a kid who knew how great he was and believed in his destiny to rule and yet he finds himself all alone, incarcerated in the most corrupt place on earth. I’m sure he shed an innumerable amount of bitter tears to Hashem in that dark place. I bet he cried and cried, but I think that every time he cried he felt somewhat better and he was able to see a little more light at the end of the tunnel.  All of his crying gave him the eyes of God, as the Rebbe says. After all those tears, he became absolutely one with the hand of God. This is why he was crying more than anybody else and this is why every where he went he was successful, because his pain toughened him up so much that when he saw something, he saw it exactly as Hashem saw it. His struggles didn’t drown him. In the end, they aligned him.

Maybe this is another meaning of the verse about Joseph (Psalms 105:19) “אִמְרַ֖ת יְהֹוָ֣ה צְרָפָֽתְהוּ”. “The word of God purified him”. The fact that he always spoke of God, and spoke to God in his pain, purified him.

Believing in reality

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Whenever I tell people that I’m writing a book about Moshiach, Gan Eden and the Resurrection of the dead, I get great feedback. “It’s gonna be a best-seller”, I’m told. “Who wouldn’t want to learn about those concepts, which are rarely, if ever taught”? But in Uman Rosh Hashana this year I was invited to a meal in David Assoulin’s apartment and I was talking to Gedale Fenster about the book. Because of his niche, dealing with the struggles of broken homes and addictions, he thought the idea was less relevant.

“What does that do for me now”? he said.

Here’s why I think Reb Gedale is wrong!

In Torah 7 Rebbe Nachman writes that the essence of galus is a lack of faith. In Rebbe Nachman’s vocabulary, there are four synonymous words:  faith, prayer, miracles and the Land of Israel. They all mean believing in miracles. That’s what faith is, believing that our situation is not written in stone, and miracles can happen. That’s what prayer is all about too. It’s acting on ones belief in miracles. The Land of Israel, says the Rebbe, is the place where miracles happen, but more so it’s the place where this fabric of faith is cultivated.

The Rebbe brings from the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a):

“אין בן דוד בא עד שתכלה פרוטה מן הכיס”

Moshiach won’t come until there’s no money left in our pockets. He learns that the Gemara’s usage of the word פרוטה is alluding to one of the most miraculous angels, the miracle angel appointed over rain, which the Talmud (Taanis 25b) says looks like a calf with split lips, פירטא שפוותיה . The word פירטא has the same root as the word פרוטה. So it means that moshiach won’t come until all those who deny miracles (the פרוטה, the פירטא) will be cut off. These are people who cover up (כיס) all miracles with explanations within nature. Once those non-believers will be removed, the world will be filled with faith and Moshiach can come. So Galus is from a lack of faith, and Geula is a product of having faith.

Every day after Shacharis we recite the thirteen principles of faith, derived from the Rambam. You might have noticed that the last two are fundamentally different from the first eleven. Let me explain: In the first eleven we affirm belief in Hashem’s rulership, His oneness, His inability to be bound by time, the fact the He has no body, that He’s first and last, that He’s the only one which is befitting to pray to, that He knows all our thoughts and that there will be reward and punishment for our deeds. We also affirm our belief in the authenticity of the Torah and the prophets. These are all essential components to a structured belief system. To believe in Hashem’s all powerful invincibility and uniqueness and to believe in the genuineness and purity of the Torah is crucial to our observance. But then we affirm our belief in Moshaich and in the resurrection. Is that really the same type of faith? Can’t you be a good Jew, just by doing all the mitzvos and believing in the Divine transmission of the Torah, and Hashem’s utter uniqueness? Why is it essential to believe in Moshiach and in the resurrection of the dead?

And here’s the kicker, in the principle about Moshiach it says:

    וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיִּתְמַהְמֵהַּ עִם כָּל זֶה אֲחַכֶּה לּוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם שֶׁיָּבוֹא  

What does that have to do with it? Why is that an essential principle of faith? Even if I grant you that believing in Moshiach is a core principle, why is believing that he could come every day essential?

This I believe is the faith that Rebbe Nachman was talking about. Of course it’s critical to believe that Hashem has no body, but do you wanna be a Galus Jew or a Geula Jew? A galus Jew can keep the Mitzvos and believe in Hashem, but he’s a pessimistic person, who’s covering up daily miracles. That person, says the Rebbe, based on the Gemara, will unfortunately be gone before Moshiach comes. But someone who’s waiting every day for Moshiach, is aware of all the miracles around him, praying and believing in a reality that is just behind the door.

That’s the Rebbe’s faith. That’s the faith of Moshiach and that faith is of the utmost relevance today.

 

Going in circles together

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The other day I was praying and I said, “Hashem, help me pray to you. Help me say the words I need to say”. Although I was freestylin’, I realized these are similar to the words from Psalms that we say everyday in the Amida prayer, “אֲדֹנָי שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ” (My Master open my lips, and my mouth will speak your praises).

It got me thinking: Here I am, asking Hashem to help me find the words to pray to Him, so that He could answer my prayers with whatever I’m asking for. So in essence, it would be like Hashem putting words of prayer in my mouth, so that He can hear those words (really His words) and give me what I requested.

One could ask, why? Why do we even need to ask if it’s His words? It’s like He’s asking Himself? But I don’t want to go there now. Not for this article.

Let’s strengthen the question.

In Hishtapchus Hanefesh 93, (a collection of excerpts from the writings of Rebbe Nachman and Reb Nosson), the author asks as follows: How can one ask Hashem to draw him close to the service of God, when the Talmud (Berachos 33b) says that “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for Fear of Heaven”?

The answer, he says, is that the essence of our free choice – namely to fear Heaven – is  choosing to pray (a lot) for help to fear Heaven. The Talmud says (Kiddushin 30b) that “Every day the evil one over-powers us, and if Hashem doesn’t help us, we would fall prey to his evil”. We can’t do it alone. We need Hashem to help us. Yes, we have free choice, but that’s just a choice to ask Him for His help. When we do, He’s fighting the battle.

Take it one step further, when we ask Hashem to put the words in our mouths. Not only are we not fighting the battle, not only are we not praying with our own words to Hashem, but we’re asking Hashem to put the words in our mouth, so He can hear our prayers and fight the battles for us. Instead of feeling small, and asking why does He go through all the hassle, think about the following: Hashem wants our success so much that He is willing to do (almost) anything to bring it about. Yes it’s kind of a circle, going from Him to Himself, but He wants our minimal involvement. So what that we’re not hitting the home-run, and we’re just giving the batter his bat. So what? He wants us to give him His bat. Give it to him. Give him the bat! Let him knock it out of the park. Even the bat boy celebrates the game winner.

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