Lift it up!

shabbos

R. Shimon Bar Yochai and his son R. Elazar hid in a cave from the Romans. “A miracle occurred and a carob-tree with a water well were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves and prayed. [After prayers] they disrobed again, so that [their clothes] should not wear out. This is how they lived for twelve years in the cave. Then Elijah [the Prophet] came and stood at the entrance of the cave and called out, “Who will inform the son of Yochai that the emperor is dead and his decree was annulled? So [R. Shimon and his son] emerged. When they saw a man ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed in surprise, ‘Do people [actually] forsake the eternal life and engage in a temporal life?!’ Whatever the [two men] cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up. Thereupon a Heavenly Voice came forth and cried out, ‘Did you emerge to destroy My world: Return to your cave!’  So they returned and lived there [another] twelve months, saying, ‘The punishment of the wicked in hell is [limited to] twelve months.’ A Heavenly Voice came forth [again] and said, ‘Go forth from your cave!’ and they left. Whatever R. Elazar destroyed, R. Shimon healed, wherupon R. Shimon said to R. Elazar, ‘My son! You and I are sufficient for the world.’ On the eve of Shabbos before sunset they saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle and running at twilight. What are these for?’ they asked him. ‘They are in honor of Shabbos,’ he replied.  ‘But one [bundle] should suffice you’? The man answered, One is for ‘Remember [the day of Shabbos]’ (Shemos 20:8) and one for ‘Observe [the day of Shabbos] (Devarim 5:12).’ R. Shimon said to R. Elazar, ‘See how precious the commandments are to Israel?’ And their minds were at ease” (Shabbos 33b).

Food is sustenance for the body and smell is sustenance for the soul, and the rule is that by sustaining the body, the soul’s sustenance gets weaker. Asks Reb Nosson (Hilchos Ma’achlei Akum 2), if eating weakens the soul, how can we ever be allowed to eat? He answers that the Jews uplift and sanctify their eating with purity and holiness. And the source they draw from, the essence of all holy and fixed eating, is Shabbos. On Shabbos, our eating is sustenance for the soul. And even our eating during the week needs to draw from that holy eating. “This is the essence of all of our work, during the six days of the week”. says Reb Nosson. “We’re trying to select the good from the bad”.

The twelves tribes correspond to the twelve months. The past month of Tishrei, which was stacked with Holidays is represented by Ephraim, Joseph’s son, who, as the younger of two sons, was standing on Jacob‘s left for his blessing but prophetically received Jacob’s right hand, because he was destined to be the greater of the two boys.

Jacob_Blessing_Ephraim_and_Manasseh

This month of Cheshvan, which has no holidays, is represented by Menashe. Menashe was the son who would be a master of living in the mundane world and uplifting it. Just as his father, Joseph, was able to remain steadfast and loyal to God as a young man in a foreign land, so too Menashe represents the excellence of raising the sparks of everyday life. This is why there are no holidays in Menashe’s month. It’s just a series of weekdays followed by Shabbos, again and again. Because after the holy month of Tishrei, when we stored away provisions of spirituality for the year, we need to enter Cheshvan, in action mode with an ability to interface with everyday life and find the space to uplift it.

When the brothers first came down to Egypt and didn’t realize that Joseph was the evil minister who was accusing them to be spies, Reuben said to them, in Ancient Hebrew, that this calamity was all happening to them because they sold Joseph. He didn’t suspect that Joseph would be listening in, because there was an interpreter between them. Rashi says that the interpreter was Menashe. This makes perfect sense; that he would be the one to understand all languages and uplift them. Ephraim was studying while Menashe was in the field, uplifting the sparks.

This avodah of Menashe is what Reb Nosson says is “the essence of all of our work, during the six days of the week. We’re trying to select the good from the bad”. We want to bring Shabbos into the week.

I think this is a novel way to understand the selection of the Talmud that I quoted above. R. Shimon and his son were struggling with the balance of Ephraim and Menashe. When they were in the cave, they were in the world of Ephraim, only studying and connecting to the divine, in a cocoon of holiness and miracles. When they exited the cave the first time, they still couldn’t fathom how someone could ‘forsake the eternal life and engage in a temporal life’. But then, when they emerged the second time they saw the old man running with the two bundles of myrtles. Myrtles have a sweet smell, which is the soul’s sustenance. They asked him what the myrtles are for? And he said ‘They are in honor of Shabbos. But what about shabbos? Both aspects. Not just having a holy Shabbos on Shabbos itself, but bringing the Shabbos into the week as well, as he said, ‘One was for ‘Remember the day of Shabbos’. Now the great sages realized that eating food, and sustaining the body, doesn’t necessarily weaken the soul, if one draws Shabbos into the week. So “their minds were at ease”. If our minds’ are connected to the Divine, then even during the routine of the weekday, we can draw down from holiness. That’s the avodah of Menashe and the avodah of this special month. May we merit to uplift the six days of the week with the holiness of Shabbos. Amen!

Still thinking about Uman

D666686E-4388-4FB2-9A1E-DFA4477C9676

They say that everything goes after the beginning (הכל הולך אחר הראש), so even though most people are preoccupied with Yom Kippur thoughts today, my mind is still by the Rebbe.

When I was growing up I found that the more cynical and sarcastic I would be, the more people would like me. I was daring and witty so I ended up getting all the laughs.

For some reason, after my first Rosh Hashana in Uman, the first thing I started working on was minimizing my cynicism. I prayed for help to adjust my personality a bit and find more hope in life and in people.

After this epic Rosh Hashana, I realized that even for the biggest naysayers, cynicism is absolutely absent in Uman. Rebbe Nachman was so hopeful! Belief was so real to him that in his presence, it’s so hard to see things in a negative light.

That light of hope is so healing that we feel so safe to share and be vulnerable in his presence. It’s almost as if everything is ok, no matter what, and we want to test the waters to see if EVEN WE, with all our mess ups, are acceptable and loveable.

Of course, it goes without saying, that this is how Hashem sees us. (The Tzaddikim see with Hashem’s eyes). His eyes only see good. כי מדי דברי בו זכור אזכרנו. Only good, only loving.

Please God we should see ourselves, our loved ones and everyone in this light. End the cynicism and live a life of hope. The real life. The good life.

 

גמר חתימה טובה מאד מאד!

 

Processing Uman Rosh Hashana 2019

carlebach dylan

Shlomo Katz once said over that years back at a certain musical event Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and Bob Dylan were participants of a question and answer forum. The Master of Ceremonies asked Shlomo first, “What would be your dream come true”? Shlomo said “To meet every person in the world”. At that point Dylan piped up, saying “That would be my worst nightmare”.

Why did Shlomo Carlebach want to meet everyone he possibly could? I think it’s because he believed, with his deepest depths, that every single human-being on Earth has a unique aspect of God to reveal that no one else possibly can. Only I can bring out what I’m meant to, and only you can uncover the facet of God that you’re meant to. If that’s the case, then Shlomo wanted to see every face of God that’s out there. After all, we’re meant to attach ourselves to God, (וּלְדָבְקָה בוֹ), so wouldn’t we want to see as many angles of His presence as possible? That would certainly make the connection more relatable and easier.

On the other hand, with all his poetry, coolness and musical pioneering, Bob Dylan was small minded. He saw people as a burden and a nuisance to his chill, so he couldn’t imagine a worse idea than Shlomo’s fairytale dream.

Everyone who’s been to Uman will testify that there’s something totally unique about the Rosh Hashana experience there. Many say the brotherly love is on a level that can’t be matched. But it’s not just a coincidence. Rebbe Nachman told his followers to never stop reviewing Azamra (Torah 282), in which he teaches to search out and hunt for the good points in yourself and in others. The Rebbe himself was the master of this quality. He was always able to see the good. (Is it a wonder that he wanted everyone by him on Rosh Hashana, when we’re all being judged? With his ability to see the good in others, it’s only fair for Hashem to see that same good and judge us favorably). But this skill that the Rebbe developed is absolutely contagious in Uman. For some odd reason, we travel to one of the crummiest places in the world and we’re suddenly able to see the good in one another like never before. No one is ‘better than’ and everyone belongs, no matter what he looks like, where he’s from and what he did in the past. Finally finally, we can see each other with the Rebbe’s holy eyes, the eyes of Hashem Himself. What better day, the first day of the year, could there be to start anew and see ourselves and others as the one-of-a-kind Godly beings that we truly are?

The only way back home

certainty.jpg

Torah 52 is one of the most fundamental lessons in Likutei Moharan about hisbodedus. (Hisbodedus is the practice of setting aside time for improvisational personal prayer in our mother tongue). Rebbe Nachman starts the lesson by dispelling the heretical belief that God was compelled to create the universe. In other words, some believe He had no choice but to create the world. The Rebbe argues that only God Himself is an essential reality, and it was/is His choice whether or not to create and, for that matter, to sustain the world.

Asks the Rebbe, what causes these atheists to make this mistake? Because after Hashem decided to create and bring down the Jewish souls into this world, He is, in a certain sense, forced to continue creating and maintaining the universe for them. But surely it was His choice to create their souls or not. Just after He decided to go ahead with it, he is compelled to preserve the world on their behalf.

Next, the Rebbe teaches the reason why Hashem created the world for these Jewish souls. Very simply, so that they do His will and thereby return to their essence, which is an aspect of Himself, which, again, is the only essential reality. So when we do His will, we unite with Him and also become essential to existence.

But how do we return to our essence, to our root, and align ourselves with Hashem? Says Rebbe Nachman, there is only one way to become one with Hashem in such a real way – By being מבטל ourselves. ביטול literally means to nullify oneself, but I like to think of it as making ourselves transparent. We naturally have desires and habits that are opposed to Hashem’s will. Those negative actions, feelings and thoughts stand in the way of our unity with Him. When we clear out those barriers, then we mirror Hashem’s desires and we align ourselves with His will in the deepest way. The only way to do this, says the Rebbe – the only way to remove all the obstructions that prevent our return to Him – is through hisbodedus.

Rebbe Nachman explains what type of hisbodedus he refers to:

 עַל יְדֵי שֶׁמִּתְבּוֹדֵד, וּמְפָרֵשׁ שִׂיחָתוֹ בֵּינוֹ לְבֵין קוֹנוֹ, עַל יְדֵי זֶה הוּא זוֹכֶה לְבַטֵּל כָּל הַתַּאֲווֹת וְהַמִּדּוֹת רָעוֹת עַד שֶׁזּוֹכֶה לְבַטֵּל כָּל גַּשְׁמִיּוּתוֹ, וּלְהִכָּלֵל בְּשָׁרְשׁוֹ

Hisbodedus can be many things for many people but one key element of this practice is to use the time to systematically align ourselves with the will of Hashem, by praying to Hashem for help in suppressing our negative habits which interfere with our ability to line-up our will with His will. Rebbe Nachman suggests working on one negative attribute at a time, and praying endlessly for help to overcome our limitations. Anyone familiar with the legends told of the Rebbe will know that this practice of praying for help was his essential tool to greatness. In his biographies, Reb Nosson writes how the Rebbe struggled in learning. First in Chumash, then in Mishna, then in Gemara etc. but each time he struggled he wouldn’t cease beseeching Hashem for help to understand and progress. No matter how many times he failed to understand or succeed, he kept on coming back and asking again and again in different ways. Sometimes he felt so rejected that it took a few days for him to pick himself up and start asking again, but he never gave up. He always continued begging for closeness. This is why he said, “anyone can be as great as me”. Because it doesn’t take pedigree or intellectual brilliance to rise to greatness, all it takes is an iron will and an unrelenting desire to be one with God.

In studying this lesson I was bothered by the following question: What prompted Rebbe Nachman to talk about the argument of whether the world is an essential reality in the same lesson where he teaches about hisbodedus through working on aligning ourselves with the will of Hashem?

I think there is a subtle but critical point he’s making by the juxtaposition. It is here in this lesson that the Rebbe is teaching the reason for creation (כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּעֲשׂוּ רְצוֹנוֹ) and the path (הִתְבּוֹדְדוּת) to reach our fullest potential (לְהִכָּלֵל בְּשָׁרְשׁוֹ). He bluntly says that it’s not possible to reach our best in any other way. (In other places he said that he spoke with other great tzaddikim who all agree that every tzaddik who ever lived only reached their exalted levels through this one practice). This is not a good idea for success. This is the only possibility for success in serving Hashem. What’s more is that it’s a certainty for success. If a Jew commits himself to this one practice with as much energy and devotion as he can, he is sure to be successful and have his prayers answered; guaranteed. Why do I say that? Because this is why the Rebbe juxtaposed the two ideas. By consistently practicing hisbodedus with the intent of removing all the obstructions between us and our Creator, we get closer and closer to unifying with Him in the most awesome way. This growth makes us more and more an essential reality, just like Him, and in that hallowed space our will is one with His will. When we want something, we will have it because He wills it too. We become connected at the root to Him and where one goes, the other goes. This is why hisbodedus of ביטול is the most crucial aspect of service and the only path to succeed, because it takes us out of the realm of possibility to the world of certainty.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יְהוָה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתְּרַחֵם עָלַי וְתִהְיֶה בְעֶזְרִי וּתְזַכֵּנִי לְהַרְבּוֹת בְּהִתְבּוֹדְדוּת תָּמִיד עַד שֶׁאֶזְכֶּה עַל יְדֵי הַהִתְבּוֹדְדוּת לְבַטֵּל עַצְמִי לְגַמְרֵי, עַד שֶׁיִּתְבַּטֵל יֵשׁוּתִי לְגַמְרֵי וְאֶהְיֶה נִכְלָל בְּאַחְדוּתְךָ בֶּאֱמֶת

Self reflection

images

Jacob is surrounded by his 12 sons and is about to die. He attempts to reveal to them the exact time of the final redemption and is unable to, because the Divine Spirit leaves him. He assumes it’s their fault, and at least one of them must be attached to unholiness, but they assure him that they are as pure on the inside as he perceived them to be from the outside.

Reb Nosson says (Gezeila 5) at that point Jacob realized his mistake and that one cannot rush matters before their appointed time. It’s then that he began criticizing his oldest three sons, exactly about this matter. Reuben made a mistake, after the death of Rachel, by getting involved in his father’s private affairs. This was also a rushed decision of zealotry that ended up costing Reuben the kingdom and priesthood. Simeon and Levi also acted with haste after the rape of Dina, by raiding the city of Shechem and killing all the males. Jacob admonished his sons to exercise patience; not using aggression and dominance to expedite matters.

I’d like to add a twist here. Jacob makes a futile attempt to reveal the future and when it doesn’t work, he assumes it’s not his fault, but other peoples fault. Reb Nosson says Jacob was wrong. It was Jacob’s mistake trying to rush these matters. Then he criticizes his sons for rushing things. (Reb Nosson doesn’t say the following, but if you allow my puny mind a minute, I’d say that) because Jacob was just presently guilty of rushing things prematurely, that’s exactly what he saw in his sons. The Baal Shem Tov says that we only see faults in others that we ourselves have. Maybe if Jacob didn’t make the error himself, his eternal words to his oldest three sons would have been different?

And what about Judah? Why wasn’t he criticized? Because Judah’s descendant was King David, and, at least in one instance, David exercised the greatest patience imaginable. David longed to build the Temple, but Hashem told him that it wouldn’t be proper for a warrior with blood on his hands to build it. It would only be built by his son Solomon.

This is a powerful everyday lesson. When we’re small-minded, we spread negativity everywhere we look. And it’s because of our own messed-up lenses. But when we feel good, we only see good. Next time we wanna give somebody a piece of our mind, let’s not rush. Let’s stop and notice that we’re probably only sensitive to their imperfections, because we have those same flaws ourselves.

 

Sharing the remedy

image (2)

Here’s a sneak peak at the cover of my new publication. It’s an original English translation of the Tikkun Haklali, according to the commentaries of Tehillim. This work took me 16 months to complete. I called it a narration because it’s not a literal translation. It’s geared to help the modern English reader understand King David’s words in the vernacular we use today. With the help of a very special sponsor, I printed 10,000 copies to give out for free. Below you can see a few of the holy places where we delivered them already.

Arizal - Yaakov Goldmanberditchev 2

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-02 at 11.51.27 PM

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-31 at 1.38.54 PM

But, of course, the essential destination is Uman .

What is the Tikkun Haklali ?

With tremendous personal sacrifice, the great Tzaddik, Rebbe Nachman revealed a precious remedy to his followers and encouraged them to spread it throughout the world. Known as the Tikkun Haklali, these ten specific chapters of Psalms are a complete and comprehensive antidote for every type of sin, although every sin also has its individual remedy.

The Rebbe also made the following promise, with two of his disciples as witnesses:

“When my days are up and I leave this world, I will intercede for anyone who comes to my grave, recites these ten chapters of Psalms, and gives charity on my behalf. No matter how grave his sins are, I will do everything in my power to save him and cleanse him. I will span the length and breadth of creation for him. I’ll grab him by his peyot (side curls) and pull him out of gehinnom.” The Rebbe continued, “I am very positive in everything I say. But about this, I’m more positive than anything else. These ten chapters help very, very much.”

So, off to Uman I go, tomorrow night, for Rosh Hashana to deliver these holy pamphlets to our English speaking friends, so that we can all share in this precious remedy together!

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!

!שנה טובה ומתוקה

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-05 at 7.15.06 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give or get?

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-10 at 1.44.05 PM

Rebbi Nachman wrote (Tinyana 4) that “the benefit of giving charity is exceedingly great”.

 “התועלת של צדקה גדול מאד מאד”

The Talmud (Taanis 9a) expounds the verse “עַשֵּׂ֣ר תְּעַשֵּׂ֔ר אֵ֖ת כָּל־תְּבוּאַ֣ת זַרְעֶ֑ךָ” (make sure to tithe all your crops) with the homograph עשר בשביל שתתעשר (tithe [your crops] so that you become wealthy). Why would someone become rich from giving charity? Obviously, logic would have you think the exact opposite. If I’m giving away my money, then I’ll have less money. How could it be that by parting with what I have, I will receive more?

The Rebbe doesn’t ask this question, but I believe his lesson answers it. It’s a complex lesson with a number of steps, but I’ll attempt to keep it as simple as possible.

If Hashem were to pour His chessed on us, we would have no need to ever work or labor for our sustenance. But when His chessed is held back, it’s necessary to labor for our survival. Unfortunately, for the great majority of us, this chessed is held back and we need to work for a living. As the Talmud (Berachos 35b) explicitly says, “Many tried to do like Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai [who received this chessed without working] and they were unsuccessful”. But the Divine Will is that we shouldn’t have to work for it. In fact, labor and working is the antithesis of that Will, and corresponds to vexation and judgement.

So what can we do to draw down the chessed? We can give charity. Charity reveals that everything in the world is governed through Divine providence (to understand how this is so, see the lesson in detail). When Divine providence is proclaimed, Fear of Heaven is increased. We hear stories about this phenomenon often, when Israeli soldiers do teshuva after seeing open miracles in the battlefield. That’s because the result of seeing the Hand of God, is fearing Him. Then, when someone has Fear of Heaven, he creates a space to receive the chessed of Hashem. Without Fear of Heaven, which condenses and focuses the flow of chessed, we can’t bear to receive the chessed. It will totally overwhelm and destroy us, just like a superabundance of rain can flood and wipe out an entire city. So Fear of Heaven, indirectly attained through charity, is the essential ingredient to receive the flow of lovingkindness.

Sounds easy, right? Just give some charity and let it pour! Sadly, its not as easy as we might think. The Rebbe quotes the Mechilta (Exodus 19:5) that teaches ‘all beginnings are difficult’. Any time someone wants to start serving Hashem with devotion, it will be hard. “One needs many cries and sighs before he can start”. Charity is even harder because charity is always widening the opening further. Every time one gives charity, it is as if he is starting from scratch. (Remember, as we explained in the last post, real charity means overcoming your natural cruelty. Not giving what’s already easy for you).

So how can we do it, if it’s so hard? Interestingly, the evening before the Rebbe gave this discourse (Shavuot 1809) he held a lengthy conversation with his followers, mentioning a number of salient points from this lesson. One of things he stressed to them was desire. “The main thing is desire (רצון) and longing. We must constantly yearn for Hashem”. Reb Nosson (Hilchos Kaddish) explains this to mean that we must pray for it. We should never stop praying to arouse our compassion over our cruelty, so that we can give charity, attain Fear of Heaven and draw down Hashem’s magnificent lovingkindness.

‘ליקוטי תפילות ח״ב תפילה ד

אָנָּא ה’, עָזְרֵנִי לְהַתְחִיל לִתֵּן צְדָקָה הַרְבֵּה בֶּאֱמֶת כִּרְצוֹנְךָ הַטּוֹב, וּבִזְכוּת מִצְוַת צְדָקָה תַּעַזְרֵנִי וְתִפְתַּח לִי וְתַרְחִיב לִי כָּל הַפְּתָחִים וְהַשְּׁעָרִים דִּקְדֻשָּׁה כִּי אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ אֶת לְבָבִי רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, כַּמָּה קָשֶׁה לִי לְהַתְחִיל שׁוּם הַתְחָלָה בַּעֲבוֹדַת ה’ בֶּאֱמֶת, וְכָל עִנְיַן עֲבוֹדָה וַעֲבוֹדָה שֶׁאֲנִי רוֹצֶה לְהַתְחִיל, קָשֶׁה וְכָבֵד עָלַי מְאד מְאד, עַד אֲשֶׁר “כָּשַׁל כּחַ הַסַּבָּל” וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה חֶבְלֵי לֵדָה, וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה גְּנִיחוֹת וּצְעָקוֹת וְשַׁוְעוֹת וּזְעָקוֹת וּצְוָחוֹת בְּכַמָּה וְכַמָּה מִינֵי קוֹלוֹת שֶׁל אָח וַאֲבוֹי, וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה אֲנָחוֹת מֵעוּמְקָא דְּלִבָּא וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה כְּפֵילוֹת וְהַטָּיוֹת אָנוּ צְרִיכִין קדֶם שֶׁאָנוּ זוֹכִין לְהַתְחִיל אֵיזֶה הַתְחָלָה בְּאֵיזֶה עֲבוֹדָה וּמִגּדֶל הַכְּבֵדוּת הֶעָצוּם עֲדַיִן לא הִתְחַלְתִּי לְעָבְדְּךָ בֶּאֱמֶת “כְּמוֹ הָרָה תַּקְרִיב לָלֶדֶת, תָּחִיל תִּזְעַק בַּחֲבָלֶיהָ, כֵּן הָיִינוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ ה’ הָרִינוּ חַלְנוּ כְּמוֹ יָלַדְנוּ רוּחַ” וּכְבָר עָבְרוּ עָלַי יָמִים וְשָׁנִים הַרְבֵּה מִשְּׁנוֹתַי הַקְּצוּבִים בְּמִסְפָּר תַּחַת יָדֶךָ, וַעֲדַיִן לא הִתְחַלְתִּי הַתְחָלָה גְמוּרָה בַּעֲבוֹדָתְךָ בֶּאֱמֶת “עָבַר קָצִיר כָּלָה קָיִץ”, וַאֲנִי לא נוֹשָׁעְתִּי אֲבָל עֲדַיִן אֲנִי מְקַוֶּה וּמְצַפֶּה וּמְחַכֶּה וּמְיַחֵל בְּכָל עֵת וּבְכָל שָׁעָה לִישׁוּעָתְךָ הָאֲמִתִּיִּית, כִּי כָּל עוֹד נִשְׁמָתִי בִּי אֲנִי מְקַוֶּה לִישׁוּעָה שְׁלֵמָה בֶּאֱמֶת עַל כֵּן אֶזְעַק וַאֲשַׁוֵּעַ, חֲמל עַל עָנִי כָּמוֹנִי, דַּל וְחָלוּשׁ כּוֹאֵב וְגוֹוֵעַ, “כַּיּוֹלֵדָה אֶפְעֶה, הוֹשִׁיעָה הַמֶּלֶךְ, כִּי קָצַר הַמַּצָּע מֵהִשְׂתָּרֵעַ” רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם אַמֵּץ וְחַזֵּק רִפְיוֹן יָדִי, חַזֵּק יָדַיִם רָפוֹת וּבִרְכַּיִם כּוֹשְׁלוֹת תְּאַמֵּץ, זַכֵּנִי בְרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים שֶׁאַתְחִיל מֵעַתָּה בֶּאֱמֶת הַתְחָלָה גְמוּרָה, שֶׁאַתְחִיל מֵעַתָּה לִכְנס בַּעֲבוֹדָתְךָ מִיּוֹם אֶל יוֹם, וּלְהוֹסִיף בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם קְדֻשָּׁה וְטָהֳרָה וְחָכְמָה וּבִינָה וָדַעַת אֲמִתִּי וְכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם יָאִיר בְּיוֹתֵר בְּתוֹסְפוֹת אוֹר קְדֻשָּׁה מְרֻבָּה מִיּוֹם שֶׁלְּפָנָיו וְתַעַזְרֵנִי לְהַתְחִיל לִתֵּן צְדָקָה הַרְבֵּה בְּכָל עֵת לַעֲנִיִּים הֲגוּנִים, כִּי הַתְחָלַת הַצְּדָקָה קָשָׁה וּכְבֵדָה עָלַי מְאד בְּיוֹתֵר,  וְאֵין אֲנִי יוֹדֵעַ אֵיךְ לִזְכּוֹת לִצְדָקָה כָּרָאוּי, לְגדֶל רִבּוּי הַמְּנִיעוֹת בְּלִי שִׁעוּר שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִי עַל זֶה, כִּי רָחַק מִמֶּנִּי צְדָקָה

 

 

Barely Moving

pennies

Rebbe Nachman tells a story of a certain tzaddik who became so depressed that he couldn’t get out of bed. He tried whatever possible to bring himself joy but everything intensified his depression. Finally, he reminded himself that at least he could be happy that he was created a Jew and it started to work. Because in reality it’s the one thing that we can’t mess up. God made us a Jew and we had nothing to do with it! So he kept meditating on this idea and his joy increased “until he was as happy as Moses was when receiving the tablets”. He started to fly! He was flying millions of miles in higher worlds until it was time to land. When he landed, he realized that although he advanced to unbelievable heights in the other worlds, in this world he only moved a hair’s breadth.

Sometimes we feel impossibly far away from God, and that everything we do just pushes God away more. The Rebbe teaches (תנינא מ״ח) that we need to remember in this low state, that every little movement we make towards God is exceedingly precious to Him. Every ‘insignificant’ movement we make, shoots our soul in the hidden worlds farther than we can ever imagine!

I’m sure we’ve all heard similar words of encouragement before. But let me explain why this lesson is so comforting.

There are two types of people, or better yet there are two types of struggles we all go through. Sometimes we feel so defeated because nothing we do makes a difference at all. And sometimes we feel frustrated that although we do so much and our actions should be ‘changing us’, we end up accomplishing very little.

These negative perceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. We don’t appreciate the small things we do but God does. Many times we look at our ‘results’ and feel disappointment, but let’s remember that we’re not seeing the whole picture. Nothing goes unnoticed and we’ll be surprised how much we’re truly appreciated!

 

Shhhh…

smiley-zipping-mouth

When I was a Junior in high school someone I loved criticized me that I wasn’t a good listener. I decided to seek advice from a wise man who was visiting from Jerusalem. He asked me the following question: Why does the mishna (אבות ג) say that “The gate to wisdom is silence”? I said, “I don’t know”. So he answered, because there’s another mishna (אבות ד): “Who is wise? One who learns from all people”. He didn’t explain, but I knew what he meant. If I want to learn how to listen (and be wise), I need to learn how to be quiet.

Over the years I’ve participated in many classes and meetings. I find it annoying how people love to hear the sound of their own voice, always chiming in on something ‘brilliant‘ that they were thinking of, instead of listening to the previous speaker. If a person doesn’t learn to be quiet, he won’t gain wisdom, because he doesn’t allow other people to teach him.

Rebbe Nachman says two amazing things about silence:

In Torah 234 he teaches that saying over stories of great people purifies the mind of the storyteller and the listener. But it’s not that easy to do. We need to know how to say the story. Most of the time the mind’s refinement comes from what’s not said, leaving the listener to imagine the details on his own and connect to that greatness.

In Torah 64 he teaches that by examining the deepest heresy and silencing the questions in his great mind, the true tzaddik saves other Jews from the clutches of such heresy and brings them closer to God.

It’s usually the ignorant people who are always talking. The greatest of all people measure their words very carefully. Their silence grants them and others wisdom and development.

Why אהלל דבר?

tree-groundedness

Hello reader! I’m excited to welcome you to my blog entitled “אהלל דבר“! I plan on writing about my personal struggles and triumphs in life, in light of Rebbe Nachman from Breslov‘s teachings. My hope is that the reader will relate to these human struggles and be inspired by Rebbe Nachman‘s timeless advice to come closer to his creator.

What about the name אהלל דבר? Well, when I was 17 I visited the saintly Bobover Rebbe zt”l with my step Grandfather, whose parents were Bobover chassidim. I gave the Rebbe the kvittel with my name and my mother’s name, דוד בן רחל. He read it and said in yiddish that my name, דוד בן רחל, is an acronym for the word דבר. He then smiled at me, with his beautiful smile, and blessed me that I should be a דבר גדול בישראל, (“a great thing in Israel”). That blessing always made an impression on me.

In Tehillim (56) King David sings “באלוקים אהלל דבר, בי-הוה אהלל דבר” (Through God’s judgement, I will praise His word [and] through God’s kindness I will praise His word). All the commentaries note the greatness of King David’s ability to praise God consistently, whether in times of suffering or in times of joy. I always connected to this verse because as the Rebbe said, the acronym of my name is the word דבר. So I understand it as a personal message: “Davy, whether times are tough or times are good, you have the capability to praise God’s name”!

That’s what I’d like this blog to be about. I try to be real and somewhat honest with my personal struggles and I recently found in the writings of Rebbe Nachman a means for me to express my feelings and thoughts about the ups and downs of life. Whether there is kindness or, God forbid, judgment there is always a way to connect to the Divine!

It’s my prayer that this blog only sanctifies God’s name and brings the reader closer to Him and to their ultimate purpose of creation. Amen!