My man

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Even though I went to yeshiva growing up, I never learned about the role the tzaddik plays in my life. I enjoyed reading biographies about gedolim and I was taught to respect and admire Torah Scholars, but in contrast to what I’m learning now in the writings of Rebbe Nachman, it seems that I didn’t even scratch the surface. In fact, I would venture to say that it was purposely omitted from our education in fear of deifying another human being.

Breslov explains that there can be many tzaddikim but, in every generation, there is only one tzaddik haemes, the true tzaddik. As the verse says (Mishlei 10), “צדיק יסוד עולם”. This unique tzaddik is literally the foundation of the world. All the flow of the world runs through him (Torah 63). All the other tzaddikim are nurtured via him (Torah 56). Anyone familiar with the ten sefiros knows that all the earlier emanations flow into the world through the attribute of yesod, the aspect of the tzaddik. If this sounds like heresy to you, then you’ll also have a problem explaining the following statements in the talmud from Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai (Sukkah 45b). “I’ve seen that there aren’t that many great people, said Rebbe Shimon. If there are a thousand, then my son and I are one of them. If there are a hundred, then my son and I are one of them. If there are [only] two, then my son and I are the two”. Also on that page Rebbe Shimon claims “I can exempt the entire world from punishment”. These ideas are found repeatedly throughout the Oral Torah, as the Talmud relates in Eruvin 54b, (famously brought in Rashi on Chumash),  Moses learned straight from Hashem, then taught it to Aaron, then to Aaron’s two sons etc. Everything first comes down through the tzaddik emes.

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The Rebbe also brings in Torah 71 and 63 that the tzaddik accepts suffering upon himself for the sake of the people. Sounds Christian you say? Well the Talmud says (Baba Metzia 85a) that during the entire time Rabbi Elazar Ben R’ Shimon accepted suffering upon himself, no Jew died an untimely death. And the entire thirteen years that Judah Hanasi accepted suffering, the land yielded its produce without any rain.

In Torah 70 the Rebbe actually compares the tzaddik to the force of gravity. Just like gravity on earth draws things to the earth’s core, so too – צדיק יסוד עולם – he is literally the core of the earth. The tzaddik possesses a force of attraction by which he draws the entire world to himself, and ultimately closer to Hashem and the Torah.

There’s so many more details and aspects of how the true tzaddik is an integral part of our spiritual and material bounty, but that’s enough for now.

I don’t want to get into why this crucial understanding and relationship has been stripped from our education. But we need this person. So how do we find him? Is there someone alive today with these capabilities? Can a tzaddik who is no longer living be the tzaddik? These are all good questions.

The Rebbe (Torah 2, Torah 55) teaches that we should bind ourselves to the tzaddik in our prayers. Reb Nosson (הל’ העושה שליח לגבות חובו 2:4) added that it’s proper to connect ones self to the tzaddik in every mitzvah he does. This is one way to start. You might want to verbalize it, as follows: “I am hereby binding myself to all the truly righteous people in our generation.” If this sounds too weird for you, the least you could do is pray often to find the tzaddik emes. We need him.

Final thought.

Why? Why did Hashem create the world in this way, where everything comes by way of another greater human being? The truth is that Hashem only created this world for those tzaddikim. The word tzaddik actually means to justify. They justify the creation of the world and, unfortunately, we don’t justify its creation nearly as much. Because the tzaddikim emulate Hashem, they can justify our existence. They see the good in us and in their merit – because we’re in with them, so to speak –  we can exist.

But that’s from Hashem’s side. Why do we need the tzaddik from our side?

Let’s not forget that the Torah calls Hashem (Deuteronomy 4:24) “a consuming fire, a zealous God”. Yet, we are commanded to cling to Him like glue. That’s a dangerous proposition, as Rashi points out (Eikev). So we need to bind ourselves to the tzaddikim. Not just by doing business with them and marrying our children to them but by tying our souls to their souls. That’s the only way we can sustain a relationship with Hashem.

Maybe this is why Rebbe Nachman said that his fire will burn until mashiach comes? Maybe he meant that by his teaching about the tzaddik’s role, the world will become familiar with the critical need to connect to the tzaddik. So when mashiach finally does arrive, במהרה בימינו, we’ll be ready and willing to unify our souls to his holy soul and lift up the world once and for all. אמן!

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No doubt

Lost-Child

“[Hashem says] I am always among you, and [I am] always ready to provide your necessities. But then you ask, ‘Is Hashem in our midst or not’? [I swear] by your life that the dog will come and bite you and you will cry out to Me. [Then] you will know where I am. This can be compared to a man who put his son on his shoulder and set out on the road. Whenever his son saw something, he would say, “Daddy, give me that,” and the father would always give it to him. Then they met a man and the son said to the man, “Do you know where my Daddy is?” The father answered his son, “[After all I’ve done for you] you don’t know where I am?” He threw his son down to the ground and a dog came and bit the son.” (Shemos Rabbah 26:2)

The above Medrash is an analogy of our relationship to Amalek (the dog). But as our Chassidic Masters explain, it’s because of Amalek that the child can’t find his father. Amalek’s bold battle with Israel in the desert wasn’t a punishment for questioning the existence of Divine providence, but rather when a person denies or even questions Divine providence, it’s a sign that he’s been smitten by Amalek, the power to deny God.

This isn’t an old story from the Bible. מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה בַּעֲמָלֵק מִדֹּר דֹּר. Amalek’s war with God is in every generation. It’s happening to you and me right now. Rebbe Nachman says that when we see how we’re crying out and yet the exile keeps dragging on forever, we might  mistakenly feel that all our prayers are meaningless (Torah 2). Reb Nosson writes that this is Amalek’s weapon (Nachalos 4). Amalek wants us to give up hope. The cynicism and mockery of Amalek pervades the world today. All over social media and even in the purest of mouths we find despair and cynicism. Walk into a synagogue and see how Amalek has us in a headlock. The laziness and fatigue in how we pray…וְאַתָּה עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ…is testament to our doubts in a God that hears our prayers. This is how Haman (a descendant of Amalek) slandered the Jews to Achashverosh. He said ‘their God is sleeping’ (Megilla 11b). Just like the deists of today who believe in a power that created the world some billion years ago, but deny any Divine providence.

So how do we save ourselves from this cynicism? How do we fight off despair?

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By seeking out the Tzaddikim and following their advice we can instill in ourselves Emunah in Hashem and wholeheartedly believe in Divine providence. The Rebbe wrote often that we see this idea in the Torah, when Israel fought Amalek. Moses climbed a mountain and when he lifted his hands, Israel would overcome Amalek. The Torah says that ‘[Moses’] hands were faith’ (וַיְהִי יָדָיו אֱמוּנָה). The Targum translates this to mean that his hands were spread in prayer. Moses’ prayer inspired Israel to believe in Hashem, which is the weapon to defeat Amalek. We see this narrative in the Purim story too. Mordechai the Tzaddik and Esther made prayer rallies to defeat Haman. The tzaddikim infuse us with faith in a living, omnipresent, loyal and loving God.

 לעילוי נשמת רבי יחיאל יהושע בן ירחמיאל צבי רבינוביץ זצ״ל, בעל מחבר ספר חלקת יהושע

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Lifeline

Sunny

“The main weapon of Mashiach is prayer.” (Torah 2)

The Zohar teaches that Moshiach’s breath of life is drawn from the openings of the nose. This nose, that the kabbalists refer to, is the nose of Arich Anpin, a Divine persona of the Creator. (The explanation of this emanation is beyond the scope of this article). On a simpler level, via proof-texts, Rebbe Nachman likens prayer to the nose.

How are prayer and the nose similar?

A person’s life depends on the breath he constantly draws from his nostrils, as it says (Genesis 2:7) “Hashem breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”. This isn’t something that happened once to the First Man, but something that is happening continually. Similarly, a person’s life is equally dependent on his constant connection with the Creator through prayer.

Our sages say that the olfactory system of the nose, or the sense of smell, wasn’t affected by the sin of Adam. The Torah says that Eve ‘listened’ to the snake, ‘saw’ the good fruit, ‘touched’ it, and ‘tasted’ it. But there’s no mention of smelling the fruit. In fact, Moshiach’s sense of smell will be so pure that through it, he will be able to distinguish the righteous from the wicked (See commentary on Isaiah 11:3). As we know, the incense was a major part of our service in the Holy Temple too. There’s a certain purity that’s found in the sense of smell. Similarly, there is something equally pure about prayer. Did you ever see your children imitate how you pray? Besides the cute display, there’s a certain pride you feel. I think it’s because you feel like you’ve showed them a basic survival skill. Even more so when we see our children sincerely praying. A real prayer is the most basic expression we have. Crying out from suffering, groaning from pain or shouting for joy is so genuine. It’s not an exterior tool that we learn how to use. It’s accessing our inner soul and connecting to our most natural and purest place. It’s simply our lifeline.

 

 

לעילוי נשמת ר’ משולם זישא בן ר’ אליעזר ליפמאן זי”ע