Out of this world

lost_in_the_flow_by_art_by_doc-d51matq

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.

Maniac Moshiach move

 

other_side_of_the_rainbow_by_zezethex

In the story of the Burgher and the Pauper, Rebbe Nachman alludes to the series of obstacles the soul of Moshiach undertakes before our redemption. The story tells of a poor man’s wife who was kidnapped by the general of a far-away land. The pauper lamented over her greatly because now not only did he lack any possessions or children, but he didn’t even have a wife. The heart of his wealthy merchant-friend, who was also childless, melted when seeing his poor friend’s bitterness. He then risked his life and saved the wife of the pauper. During the rescue, both the merchant and the pauper’s wife resisted temptation, so they merited to have children. The merchant had a boy and the pauper had the most magnificent girl. The boy suggests the soul of Moshiach and the girl hints to the Shechina, or Hashem’s holy manifestation in this world.  The rest of the story (read here) describes the difficulties Moshiach has before uniting with the Shechina and redeeming the world.

It all starts when the wealthy merchant (known as the burgher) had pity on the pauper and decided to save his wife. Listen how Rebbe Nachman describes the scene: “Then [the burgher] did something reckless (א ווילדע זאך). It was really utter madness. He made an inquiry as to where the general lived, and went there. When he got there, he again did something highly reckless. He marched right into the general’s house. There were guards around but he was behaving so recklessly that he was oblivious to them…When they saw a person approaching them in such a wild manner, the guards were also confused and frightened. Almost in panic, they didn’t challenge him”.

The commentators write that this scene is analogous to Abraham‘s brave rescue of his nephew, Lot, from Sodom. Attacking so many armies with just 318 trained servants (or maybe only his primary servant Eliezer, according to Rashi) was a wild act on the part of Abraham. But through that crazy act, Lot was saved and the soul of Moshiach was born into Moab (and later in Ruth). We also find that the soul of Moshiach was transferred in the rash act of Judah hiring a ‘prostitute’, who was really his daughter-in-law Tamar.

Why is the soul of Moshiach born out of a wild act?

We need Moshiach to save us. Upon his arrival things certainly won’t be the same. There might be wars and we will come back to Israel. Our status will drastically improve amongst the nations. But one thing is for certain: He will make changes. He is our savior. He is the liberator of the Jewish people.

A number of times in the life of a person they realize they’re stuck. It could be in a bad job or a harmful relationship. Most of the time they’re afraid to do anything about it. Fear of change is a tremendous impediment to success. People are more likely to remain stuck in their bad situations than to take a risk for something better. Even when things are dangerously bad, such as domestic abuse, the comfortability of knowing what’s next might seem easier than making a change for the better. But we see from our Patriarch Abraham and from the burgher that sometimes we need to be reckless. Sometimes we need to be brave and change the channel in our lives.

Why do we shake the Lulav in Hallel when we read the verse אנא ה’ הושיעא נא (Please God – Save us!) and not when we read אנא ה’ הצליחה נא (Please God – Make us successful)? Says Rav Hutner zt”l that when you want success, you can find it anywhere. You don’t have to look anywhere else. But when you want to be saved, you need to shake up the situation. You might need to look somewhere totally different to be saved.

Many of us aren’t proactive enough in our lives. We’re looking for jobs that are safe. We pick the schools that will educate our children just like everybody else. We just want to fit in, even at the expense of our potential talents. We might even feel unfulfilled in our lives, but we rather shut off that voice that wants to change than deal with it. We wish we could just be satisfied with less, rather than acknowledge our dormant capabilities.

Don’t let your life pass you by! Don’t be a spectator.

Everyone has their own unique and creative spirit that needs to shine. That’s what will save you. But it’s not easy to access it. You need to be bold, and sometimes seen as crazy, to bring out that special flair. It’s ok to be wild. Joseph had some crazy dreams. He suffered from revealing them, but in the end he supported the whole world because he wasn’t afraid to be who he had to be.

Better safe than sorry does make sense but sometimes we need to unshackle ourselves and be a little bananas!

img_7731-1

[Not] blinded by the light

reaching higher

Every now and then I wonder where I’m going with my Avodas Hashem? I take my job seriously, spending most of my personal time learning, going to synagogue or secluding myself in personal prayer. But sometimes when I learn the hidden parts of the Torah, about pure devotions, the names of God, His features and the sublime character of the righteous, I feel like I’m off the mark. Yes, I go out to the fields and pray, I’m finishing Tractates of the Talmud, I’m staying far away from impurities but where is the missing illumination? Why isn’t the Divine Spirit resting on me? Is it just a question of time? Will another couple hundred trips to the Mikva do it? I wonder…

Perceptions of Godliness can only be grasped through many contractions, צמצומים רבים.

(Torah 30)

The light of God’s awesome wisdom needs many channels and filters so that man can partake and benefit from it. The lower the light descends, the more cloaks and veils it needs, or else it will destroy us. The truth is that the letters of the Torah are powerful diffusers of the Divine light, as the highest possible levels of Divine perception (at least as much as finite man can reach) are buried in those holy letters. You can tell how strong the filters are because, as I mentioned earlier, we can learn Torah just like another book and still not experience spirituality.

Rebbe Nachman says (ibid) that the great Tzaddikim know how to enclothe the most profound wisdom in order for the laymen to understand it. They start with introductions and lower insights which first take the student around the material before they almost slip-in the lofty insights to the mind of their student. He recommends that every person seek out a suitable teacher who can adequately drape the higher intellect to give it over to their student. And contrary to what you might think, the lower a person is, the greater his teacher needs to be. Similar to a sick patient who can only be healed with the best doctor.

In Hilchos Nezikin 4, Reb Nosson writes that even though we don’t understand at all the secrets of the Torah that Rabbe Shimon Bar Yochai revealed in the Zohar Hakadosh, he did a great thing for our souls. Through his self sacrifice and holiness, he dug deep wells and created strong vessels for us. Because of the many filters and channels in which he hid the great light of Divine intellect, we can more easily attain Divine perception now. This is what the great Tzaddikim do for us. They spend their life working on remedies, so that we can benefit from what remains.

So how does this help someone like me who wonders whether they’re making any headway? It helps for a few reasons: Firstly, so much of what we do is only possible because of the revelations that the Tzaddikim left for us. We might not think about it too much, but by reciting the prayer of unification before a mitzvah, לשם יחוד, we are actively fulfilling the main purpose of our mitzvos. This deeper level, which is now an accepted part of our mitzvah, was only made possible by the holy Reishis Chochma, who instituted that little prayer, filtering a bit more of the exalted light. Secondly, although we might not feel like prophets when we pray, the Tzaddikim revealed to us that even the smallest steps in Avodas Hashem have great implications. By believing in the Tzaddikim, drinking their words of encouragement and following their advice, we will be successful. Maybe we will feel more spiritual soon, or more often, but even if God forbid not, we can rest assured that more is going on than we know. The small things that we do with great effort, even though we might not pat ourselves on the back now for doing them, will one day be unwrapped before our holy eyes glowing with the most brilliant light that we could ever have imagined. Please God. Amen!

But now…

key_single

In Tinyana 74 Rebbe Nachman explains how Purim is a preparation for Passover. But the way he ended this lesson was most unusual:

“Initially, all our beginnings were from Passover. This is why all the Mitzvos commemorate our exodus from Egypt, but now…”

The Rebbe didn’t finish the sentence,  but its completion seems obvious from the context. He probably meant to say “but now all the beginnings are from Purim”. But the fact that he didn’t finish the thought clearly indicates that there is some deeper meaning here. That deeper meaning is subject to interpretation. (There is a lot of oral Breslov tradition which points to Rebbe Nachman being a major piece of the world’s redemption from here).

I’d like to take a stab at explaining why all our beginnings are now from Purim. In a book entitled Kochvei Ohr by Rav Avraham Chazan, he describes how our initial redemption from Egypt was done in such haste and without our own efforts (אתערותא דלעילא). This quick exit left us unready for such an intimate relationship with Hashem, which of course led to mistake after mistake on our part and ultimately the destruction of our Holy Temple. On the other hand, the final redemption will have to come from our own efforts (אתערותא דלתתא).

How are we going to facilitate the redemption? Well if Rebbe Nachman indicates that the final redemption starts with Purim, let’s see if we can find our efforts in that story? The story is really a very simple one. The evil Haman, a descendant of Amalek, was an atheist. His poisonous ideas threatened our entire nation with obliteration. Mordechai the Tzaddik stood up to him with the most sincere belief in God, and aroused a great Teshuva movement among the people which led to their deliverance. Our only efforts in the Purim story was our yielding to the will of the Tzaddik, who refused to give up and infused us with belief in our own prayers even though they seemed futile in the face of our annihilation.

Maybe that’s what the Rebbe was alluding to? Atheism has taken over the world. I know the word ‘atheism’ sounds strong. You might think, “Nobody is really an atheist anymore. They just don’t know whether to believe or not”. But that uncertain ideology which is everywhere poisons all of our belief. Those doubts and cynicism ruin our simple faith in Hashem. All that we read and hear from people who don’t consider faith to be primary infiltrates our minds and leaves us bored in synagogue and lackadaisical in our performance of Mitzvos, because deep down we now also doubt whether they make much of a difference. This is Amalek’s battle in our times. It’s not the Germans of WWII or the Neo-Nazis of today. It’s in our minds. It’s our lack of conviction and our weak faith. We need to heed the advice of the tzaddikim and pray with sincerity. We must forget all the pessimism/sarcasm and start believing in our redemption. It’s gonna happen. We were never in as dire a position as we were in Shushan. When the King’s signet ring is removed, there’s no hope for survival. And our sages said that it was Hashem’s signet ring that was removed as well. Everything pointed to our extinction. But prayer brakes all the laws and creates new realities. Even our inconsequential, pathetic prayers make worlds of a difference. The Jews in Persia were just as forgone as we are today. As far as I know most people reading this blog haven’t spent the past 180 days in a mass drunken orgy, as they did. So how could their prayers be that great? But those prayers pierced the Heavens. I myself also doubt whether I can pray effectively or whether Hashem really listens to me, so I know what you’re thinking. But this is exactly what Purim is teaching us. Our prayers are as effective as ever. Not only are they effective, but we can pray those effective prayers. Even us. That’s the great joy of Purim and that’s why everything starts from Purim. Because this time it’s up to us, and purim shows us that even we can do it.

 בזכות רפואה שלימה לאלימלך דוד בן חיה ביילע בתוך שאר חולי ישראל

You’re worth it

mind

Why do we replay old uncomfortable episodes in our heads time and again? Granted, we’re not that happy with how we acted or reacted, but what’s the point in tormenting ourselves? Innate health professionals might say that we’re even coercing ourselves to feel negative by taking our thoughts so seriously, when naturally we could let go of those thoughts and move on.

Listen to the words of Reb Nosson:

When some people learn mussar books, which talk in detail about the bitterness of punishment in Hell, they get very scared. When that happens, ‘the evil one‘ trips them up and makes them fall into a deeper depression until sometimes, God forbid, it could actually lead them to heresy” (בכור בהמה ד’ אות י״ז).

I think that when we obsess about fixing our past, we are living in that narrow-minded world Reb Nosson is describing called ‘fear of punishment’. Our souls know where we came from and where we’re going, so we want to improve. But one of the unhealthy ways of expressing desire to change could be perfectionism, nit-picking and an infatuation with our past mistakes.

This leads us to the following question: Although the Holy Zohar is critical of someone who’s fear of Heaven is only from ‘fear of punishment’, Rebbe Nachman said unequivocally that our main עבודה (service of God) is via ‘fear of punishment’. He said it’s impossible to start without it. Even the Tzaddikim need it, because there are “very very few” who serve Hashem out of love (Sichos Haran 5).

So is fear of punishment a bad thing or a good thing?

Back to Reb Nosson:

In Hashem’s mercy He send us Tzaddikim, who teach us that even the lowest most despicable person has hope, because Hashem’s compassion is very very great. This celestial insight helps us not only avoid the depression associated with fear of punishment, but actually bring us so much joy” (ibid).

What joy is Reb Nosson talking about? Why would I be happy to be punished for my wrongdoings? Because it shows that I count. My actions count. I am significant. Even a person as dirty as me is important to Hashem. Even punishment itself isn’t some imaginary crane lowering me into an erupting volcano. It’s simply the exact actions I did with all the knowledge of it’s repercussions. When the veil is removed from this world and the truth shines, we’ll fully appreciate our actions. If they were good, we will experience their bliss. If they weren’t…

The fact that our actions count is reason enough never to give up hope and never to fall into the clutches of the other side, who wants to bury us when we mess up. Because if you believe that you can mess up, you have to believe that you can fix yourself too.

You are important reminder note

One of those days

charlie-brown-sigh

It’s one of those days. The מוחין דקטנות, small mindedness, is so strong. I couldn’t bring myself to go to shul after carpool, so I went out to the field instead, hoping that I would open up a little.  I could always daven alone later. Thank God it was a healing experience. I sat there a bit in silence and listened to the sounds of nature, instead of my thoughts. After awhile I allowed myself to focus on something that was bothering me and I asked Hashem many times, in many ways, to help me. Then I felt a little grateful and expressed some appreciation. After leaving I felt more ready to daven. I went to my study and I couldn’t bear the weight. I sat there a bit. Finally I started. Sitting wasn’t working. I couldn’t concentrate when standing or pacing either. Eventually I got through it with many ups and downs. Thankfully, I had some very focused moments while others were dreamy. I was pretty ok with it. I can only work with what I have.

Then it was time to learn a bit. The nagging feeling was back again. I don’t want to. What do I want to do? I start to feel like it’s just one of those days when nothing is working for me. It’s a petty day. I can’t get out of my smallness. I just want to space out…check out…

I decided to open up Shivchei Haran, a small book written by Reb Nosson about the greatness of Rebbe Nachman. I remember that in the beginning it talks about the Rebbe’s struggles in serving Hashem. This is what I found:

“He would start every day fresh. Meaning, sometimes when he fell from his [earlier] levels, he wouldn’t give up. He just said, ‘I’ll start now as if I never served Hashem before in my life. I’m just starting now to serve Him for the first time’. So it was every time. He always started over. He was accustomed to starting anew many times a day! (אות ו)

There’s no such thing as ‘one of those days’. Nothing is random. If it’s not working out today, that’s ok. There’s no reason to give up. The falls, the numbness, the laziness, the lack of drive is all part of the plan. Hashem isn’t interested in that perfect image you imagine you ‘could have been’ today. He wants you, in your slumpy fatigued mood, to pick yourself up and do something. Just do something. You could do it. If you can’t do it right now, so relax and try again a little later. Or do something less. But don’t just throw in the towel. The day isn’t over yet. It only started. Today is not just one of those days that you shouldn’t have gotten out of bed. Today is the day where you need to battle through your smallness and forget about what should’ve and could’ve been. In fact, in a funny way, today is really your day.

“היום אם בקולו תשמעון”

 

 

 

Queen Esther 2018

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-13 at 5.21.14 AM

“How does Amalek (Haman) conceal Godliness?  At the very end of the exile, when the redemption is ready to be revealed and we need just a few more prayers to arouse Hashem’s mercy, he reminds the Jew how long it’s been and how many prayers have gone unanswered. This slander weakens the heart of a Jew to believe that his prayers are useless” (Nachalos 4)

This happened in the Purim story too. As the Talmud describes (Megilla 11b) even Daniel miscalculated the seventy years of Jeremiah’s prophecy. We were just about to leave Babylon and return to Israel, but there was doubt and hope seemed lost. Enter our arch-rival: Amalek.

But in the Purim story we learn about Queen Esther. Reb Nosson says that Esther is analogous to the Jewish people, but specifically the many weak people among us.

weak

The name Esther is from the root word hester (הסתר), which means hidden. This is because Hashem seems so hidden from us weaklings, and also because our own inner strength is hidden from us. But Esther never stopped praying. When she was taken into the palace of the wicked Persian King Achashverosh, she cried out “My Lord, my Lord, why did you leave me?” (Psalms 22). She learned this tool from Mordechai the Tzaddik.  Mordechai raised Esther in his home. The tzaddik supports the Jewish people, helping them develop the skills they need to defeat Amalek. “She didnt have a father and mother”, this means, on a deeper level, that she didn’t have the capability to succeed on her own. She needed the Tzaddik to provide for her, as we do too. But even though she was orphaned, with poor chances of success, Mordechai developed her into a sweet smelling myrtle branch, as her other name Hadas (הדס) connotes. (See here for the connection between smell and prayer. The name Mordechai too, the Talmud says, is a reference to one of the fragrances used in the Temple’s Incense [Megilla 10b]).

But really the most amazing quality of Esther was how she didn’t give up. “Whatever Mordechai said, Esther did” (Esther 2,20). The Talmud teaches something astonishing on this verse: “מלמד שהיתה עומדת בחיקו של אחשורוש וטובלת ויושבת בחיקו של מרדכי” (Megilla 13b). Poor Esther was subjected to be intimate with the dirtiest most haughty King in the world, and then she would immerse herself in the Mikveh and have intimacy with Mordechai. Of course even the simplest understanding of this verse shows great inner courage on the part of Queen Esther. But on a deeper level this means that although she fell into the darkest places of depression, where she literally was swallowed up by Amalek and gave up hope, she got up and encouraged herself to go back to the Tzaddik and hear more words of encouragement. She didn’t give up, even after she was involved in the most heinous monstrous behavior.

This is us. We are in the palace of the evil king. We are inundated with the cynicism of Amalek all day long. The hardest thing in the world to believe in is Moshiach. So many of us are numb from the pessimism and sarcasm of the internet and others have fallen prey to the unspeakable. It seems like there’s really no hope. But we need to learn from our precious Queen Esther who had it just as bad, but she never gave up hope. She always got up and went back to the Tzaddik, who told her to keep praying because nothing stands in the way of sincere prayer. She prayed and prayed to what seemed like deaf ears to be free. And then in one minute, ‘ונהפוך הוא’, everything changed. Her prayers were answered, the redemption came and we’ll celebrate it till the end of time. We are Esther! Our hands are also forced by the vulgarity and obnoxiousness of today. But just like our beloved queen, we too can pick ourselves up and believe. We can find encouragement, we can pray and we can be free!

orange

Me?

Jigsaw Pieces Being Joined Showing Teamwork And Togetherness

They say ‘it takes two to tango’. Reb Nosson says this is true in prayer as well. In order for our prayer to reach its potential we need to have faith. Without complete faith, our prayer isn’t a proper receptacle and can’t be filled with the bounty of Hashem’s blessing.

What constitutes complete faith?

In Nachalos 4 Reb Nosson writes that “just as much as we need to believe that Hashem is the creator of everything, who can change nature at will and bestow endless bounty, so too we need to believe in ourselves – that Hashem listens and pays attention to every word that we pray to Him, even the lowest person on earth. Anybody can have his prayer heard if he sincerely prays”.

Even me? He listens to me? I don’t even listen to myself! How many times have I stood before Hashem in prayer without believing that my prayer is being heard?

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-11 at 8.35.53 AM

Reb Nosson emphasizes that this is an integral component of faith. It’s not enough to believe in a great God, we also need to believe in our ability to make a difference. So many people judge themselves by their historical track record and just resign themselves to mediocrity. They assume that because they have been uninspired for ‘such and such’ time, this is how it will always be for them and everything they do is lifeless and pointless. The believers imagine there to be somebody out there who ‘has it together’ and his prayers are the ones that matter. But little ole me? What am I good for?

And it’s not just them. Even the more inspired people might acknowledge that they’re good at some things, maybe learning Torah, but praying is just something they’ll never be good at, and they don’t believe in their prayers.

So it turns out that everyone says in the Amidah prayer “Blessed are you Hashem, who listens to prayer” but everyone thinks it’s somebody else’s prayer that Hashem listens to.

Faith means believing not only in Hashem but in our relationship with Hashem. When Rebbe Nachman cried out on a Friday night in Uman more than 200 years ago “Don’t ever give up”, he was talking about this point. Don’t give up on your relationship with Hashem. No matter how much you’ve ignored Hashem until now, your soul is very much alive. Those who believe in a God that has no relationship with us, don’t believe in the God that we believe in. We have a relationship with a God that wants to hear from us. No sin or time away from home can quiet that thirst He has for connection to us. He’s always waiting for us to call home. Nobody can call for us. Each one of us have a special unique phone number to Him.

We need to rid ourselves of the notion that our relationship with Hashem is a product of our Mitzvah performance. It’s true that messing up makes it more difficult to find Hashem, but he’s no further away. He wants to find you just as much even when you’ve endlessly betrayed Him and no one person is more important in His eyes than you. Everyone has something totally unique and beautiful to bring to the table. But it all starts with אמונה בעצמו, believing in yourself.

Look in the mirror, catch hold of your eyes and say “I count. My prayers count. My life counts”. Then get moving!

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?

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-06 at 9.18.44 AM

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

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-06 at 9.32.20 AM

Self encouragement

2017-11-22 12.29.40

“Greatness isn’t about accomplishing more, but about fully appreciating what you already accomplish.”

–  Davy Dombrowsky

It’s hard to be mindful these days. We have so much on our plate that even when we’re taking care of one job, our minds are already worrying about the next task at hand. For example, when we pray with the congregation, it’s common to space out. When we refocus, we might start thinking about some important things we need to pray for but we’re still not paying attention to the words of the liturgy. Maybe some of us have assumed a large daily regimen of learning, such as the daf yomi or being maavir sedra. I’m sure you might find that too often you’re catching up or keeping pace and you’re not relaxed in the learning process.

The yetzer hara has so many ways of fooling us. One of his successful tools is to make us figuratively ‘look out the window’. Whether we’re comparing ourselves to others or continuously adding to our workload to make ourselves feel worthy, we might be totally ignoring the special things that we’re already busy with. What’s the point in reciting the korbanos liturgy before prayer if it makes us hurry through psukei dzimra?

Rebbe Nachman teaches that we need to focus on our good points. I’d like to say this also means that we should appreciate the things we’re doing while we’re doing them. It’s definitely valuable to want to achieve, but it’s not always beneficial to be yearning for more. Sometimes it’s important to just enjoy the now. Every now and then we need to stop planning, worrying and dreaming and start appreciating the things we currently do.

Too much of what we do is ho-hum and then, in search of inspiration, we add on a new thing. It’s really a bad idea. If we feel like a sinking boat, we need to stuff up the leaks and stop dumping more water on deck. A better idea would be to pray often to Hashem to help us find more meaning and more patience in the services we’re already engaged in.

In Sichos Haran 239 the Rebbe points out a difference between us and Hashem. The nature of a person is that the older his possessions get, the less he likes them. The first time he wore his new shirt, he felt great. But as time goes on, those garments become less and less important to him. Hashem is the opposite. He created the world in sort of a damaged state. In every generation new tzaddikim come and fix the world up more and more until in the end the world is completely fixed at the times of Moshiach. So the older the world gets, the more Hashem appreciates it.

We need to emulate this characteristic of Hashem. It’s important to get chizuk, but we’re spending too much time looking for it on the outside. How many tear-jerking social media videos do we need to watch to feel inspired? Maybe the goal isn’t to learn ‘just one more mishna‘? Maybe sometimes it’s more important to smile after we learn the mishna? Or to remember the mishna again later on that day and feel honored to have learned it?

We need to look inside ourselves and appreciate what we have already become!

look_inside_yourself-zpl2c3-d