Clear Vision

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Unfortunately some of our prayers go unanswered. Maybe we’ve come to terms with it and aren’t surprised. But does it have to be that way? Why aren’t all of our prayers accepted?

Rebbe Nachman says in the first lesson of Likutei Moharan that by exerting ourselves in Torah learning, we can have all our prayers answered. How does תורה בכח help our prayers?

The Rebbe says that we need to connect ourselves to the essence of everything, שכל שבכל דבר. Everything in the world, all our interactions, all our feelings and all our obstacles are there for a reason. Through learning Torah with an urgency, we’re able to see past the outer trimmings of life and better understand what’s really going on. In truth, everything in the world has a reason for being. This raison d’être is the חכמה & חיות of the thing, represented by a ח. When we connect ourselves to something, it shines a great light on us, as King Solomon wrote, “Man’s wisdom shines on his face” (Ecclesiastes 8).

Authentic Torah makes a person humble. When he learns about character from the Talmud’s stories, he begins to question his own character. When he learns the laws of interacting with neighbors and friends, he sees how selfish his reasoning is in comparison to the Torah’s reasoning. When he learns about the absolute righteousness of Hashem, he begins to feel unworthy. This humility, represented by a נ, is the tool for seeing the true essence of everything. The reason why we’re usually fooled by everything is due to our ego tripping us up. It constantly distorts our perception and tells us lies about what’s going on with us. Through the Torah we can become truly humble, נ, and understand deeply the depth of everything and everyone, ח.

When we have this essential wisdom, ח, from humility, נ, then we have חן, which is charm. This charm allows our prayers to enter the heart of the one we’re praying to. As we know ourselves, it’s sometimes too hard to say ‘no’ to our kids when they’re so cute.

This חן is what the Hanukka story is all about, as we see the holiday’s name (aka its essence) is spelled with the ח and the נ. The Greeks weren’t against learning Torah per se, they only opposed our spiritual connection to it. They argued that there are many wisdoms and the Torah is merely one of them. But we know that the Torah isn’t simply a wisdom. It’s our lifeline, and with the humility it offers its students, it’s our connection to the Divine. This is the light of Hanukka. It’s the light we shine from connecting through humility to the essence of our existence. As we said in an earlier post, Joseph is intimately related to Hanukka. We always read the story of Joseph around this time of year. Joseph had this charm, this חן. He found favor in the eyes of everyone, from the prison guard, to his master, to Pharaoh. What was it about Joseph that gave him this charm? Everywhere he turned, he connected to the essence. He only saw Hashem in everything. Imagine, at the age of 19, after two years in a prison pit, being pushed in front of Pharaoh, the most powerful king in the world. Pharaoh says to him, I heard you interpret dreams and he answers, “Not I! Hashem will give an answer that will bring Pharaoh peace”. Joseph was locked in to the essence, no matter where he was.

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And this is what we want when we light our puny Hanukka candles. We want to learn the Torah of transformation. We want that wisdom of light. We want our prayers to be answered. We want to be charming! We want to light up the darkness that’s caused by the confusion of our ego. We want to see clearly, that life is really miraculous and Hashem is everywhere. מעוז צור ישועתי!

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More than meets the eye

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Hashem wears the ultimate camouflage and, although He masterfully runs the show behind the scenes, we will never see Him. But I question, is it truly accurate that we don’t see Him? I think we see him all the time, we simply can’t prove it. To me הסתר פנים (God’s hidden face) means that God’s existence cannot be confirmed, but not that he can’t be seen. In fact, we’re inundated daily with stories and anecdotes about Divine intervention. That’s why I think so many people believe in God. Because we really know He’s there, we just can’t prove it.

In the first Torah of Likutei Moharan, Rebbe Nachman charges every Jew to consider the deeper wisdom in everything. He says that every object, interaction or situation in our lives can be understood more profoundly and can bring us closer to God. Granted, on our level we can’t know what the deeper wisdom is of an apple. But as I once heard from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, at minimum we must be open to the belief that there is more Godliness to an apple than we know. “What you see is what you get” is not a Jewish belief.

Rebbe Nachman says we can’t understand what it means that God is beyond time (Tinyana 61), but amazingly he explains why! Our whole concept of time is only because of our limited intellect. For example, when we sleep and are free from our intellectual limitations, we can experience years in the matter of minutes. Only when we wake up – and come back to our (fixed) senses – do we realize that the dream was merely a few minutes.

So if everything in life is full of meaning, how do we access that depth and beauty?

I know for myself that I make at least one mistake. I tend to judge my success in terms of quantity, when in reality it’s all about quality. I notice I connect a lot more when I slowwww dowwwn!! I can relate when I allow myself to be in the moment and experience life. I need to ask myself quite often, “why run through prayer”? I might ‘get credit’ but I sure don’t connect! Isn’t it more important to participate in life than to run through it and fill your quota?

I think this is what the commentaries understood  (רש״י פרשת בחוקותי כ״ו,ג) when they said that all of God’s blessings flow through the toil of Torah. Torah is meant to be chewed before swallowed. The blessings are there to be had and God’s mask is ready to be removed if we but allow ourselves to be mindful in the experience and open to possibilities that we never conceived.