What’s so funny?

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At the conclusion of every yoga practice, we get into a pose called shavasana. During this pose, the practitioner lies flat on his back with his arms relaxed to his sides and his legs spread out as wide as the mat. He closes his eyes, breathes and observes his body, scanning it for any muscular tension. If he notices any tension, he will try to release it. Once he has let go of everything, the pose really begins. Although there are numerous benefits to this pose, such as relaxation and rejuvenation, my understanding is that during the practice the body worked very hard, but during shavasana, when the body is neutralized, the mind turns inward to those parts of the body that exerted themselves and gives an awareness to those body parts that didn’t exist before. It can only be understood through experience.

In the story of The Humble KingRebbe Nachman tells of a certain king who heard of another king that signs himself ‘the mighty warrior, man of truth and humble person’. Although the first king had portraits of every other king in the world, he never saw this king with the decorated signature. So he asked his wise advisor to bring him a portrait of this mysterious king, so he could determine if that king was telling the truth in his signature. The wise man traveled to the land of the hidden king and decided that in order to meet this king, and paint a portrait of him, he must first understand the essence of that land. He said, “One can understand the nature of a land by its humor. In order to understand something, one must know the jokes related to it”.

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What does humor and joking have to do with anything here?

As it turns out, the commentaries to this story explain the depths of humor. I’d like to share some of them with you. Firstly, the Talmud says (Eruvin 65b) that one of the four ways to identify a person is by what he laughs about. People will often tell jokes about things they’re too inhibited to discuss openly. So their jokes may tell more about their essence than their serious speech. Furthermore, humor requires a certain objectivity. When a person can laugh at something, it indicates that he’s not too involved in it. As we often see, the butt of the joke is usually very engrossed in what he’s doing, while countering that ‘It’s not funny’!

Humor is all about incongruities. One such incongruity is in the most basic force of creation. On the one hand Hashem gives (חסדים) and on the other hand He holds back (גבורות). Ultimately, of course, even Hashem’s withholding has its roots in His giving. This is the ultimate humor, just like the Zohar (2:163a) compares the Yetzer Hara (Evil urge) to a prostitute that the king hires to seduce his son. The prostitute is working for the king, and really doesn’t want the prince to succumb, so the whole story is really funny. That’s why the Talmud says (Sotah 3a) that a person can’t sin unless a “spirit of foolishness” enters him. Ironically, it’s the jokes and foolishness of the world that give man free will, which enables him to reach higher levels of wisdom.  In a certain sense this entire world, with all of our complexities, is nothing more than a funny game. The Talmud says (Shabbas 30a) that Hashem laughs (Psalms 2:4) with the wicked in this world and with the righteous in the word to come.

“בְּשׁוּב יְהוָה אֶת שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן…אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק פִּינוּ”

“When Hashem brings back the captives of Zion…our mouths will be filled with laughter” (Psalms 126:1-2)

The ultimate place of laughter is the Holy of Holies, as the Talmud relates (Yoma 69b): When the Men of Great Assembly nullified the evil urge for idolatry they saw it emerge from the Holy of Holies. Since everything ultimately comes from one place, the fact that evil appears so different from holiness is amusing.

The Rebbe explained this story with one verse (Isaiah 33:20): “See Zion, the city of our gatherings”. He said that the initial letters of the verse (חֲזֵה צִיּוֹן קִרְיַת מוֹעֲדֵנוּ) spell מְצַחֵק, which means to tell a joke.

A joke can’t be understood logically, but only with a level of consciousness that’s higher than logic. A person laughs at a joke but he doesn’t know why. (Similarly, when a person is lying in shavasana, he might access a level of consciousness and awareness of his body that is higher than logic and understanding). Therefore, it appears that jokes have their origin in Ketter, the most sublime emanation of Godliness that is incomprehensible to man. Zion is a place of our gatherings. This doesn’t only mean that we assemble in Jerusalem thrice yearly. It means that when everything comes together, all of good and evil, truth and lies, body and soul, weak and strong, and even microcosmically in the more trivial exertion of a full-body yoga practice, it comes together in one place. This central place is final and pivotal. This place is where we – physical human beings – can unite with the infinite non-corporeal God of all. This is Zion, the funniest place in the world.

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A holy union

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In Rebbe Nachman‘s vernacular there are four synonymous terms: Faith, prayer, miracles and the Land of Israel. Prayer is an action of faith. Prayer is also miraculous because by way of prayer a person can effect the natural order of things. Finally, in fitting fashion with today’s celebrations of Yom Yerushalayim, the quintessence of faith, prayer and miracles is in the Land of Israel, as it says (Psalms 37:3) “Dwell in the land and cultivate faith.”

In Torah 7, the Rebbe takes it further. “The only way to acquire faith is with truth. And the only way to come to truth is by attaching ourselves to tzaddikim and following their advice”.

Then he says that following the advice of tzaddikim is an aspect of a holy marriage, נשואין. (On the other hand, following the advice of the wicked [a.k.a. the media] is like an unholy marriage, or an affair. As Eve said, after eating the fruit, הנחש השיאני, the serpent deceived me. The word השיאני has the same root as the hebrew word for marriage, נשואין).

Why is advice likened to marriage? The Rebbe answers, quoting the Talmud (Berachos 61a), that the kidneys give us advice, as it says (Psalms 16:7) “even at night my kidneys admonish me”. According to the Holy Zohar (III, 235a) the kidneys are reproductive organs and producers of sperm. So just like a marriage is a union made for reproducing, so too receiving someone’s advice, like the kidneys, is similar to receiving his seed.

I’d like to elucidate this idea a bit. But first of all, how weird is it to compare marriage, kidneys and advice to one another?

meThe Torah says that man should “cleave to his wife and become as one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). One of the main ingredients in a good marriage is mutual respect. I feel badly when I hear someone disparage their spouse because not only are they suffering in their relationship, but they’re also missing out on the benefit of personal growth that comes along with a good marriage. נשואין literally means to raise up. When a couple is working together in tandem they lift up one another. So often one spouse is down and, with God’s help, the other is there to help them up. And it’s no coincidence that people marry their exact opposites. It happens that way so each spouse can help build the part of the other that’s lacking. The main function of the kidneys is to process and purify the polluted blood in the body. It’s a filter. The Maharsha (op. cit) says the fact that we have two kidneys alludes to our ability to choose right from wrong; to filter good advice from bad advice.

Marriage is about intimacy. Not just sexually but all facets of the relationship require intimacy. It’s about taking two people and making them one. That amazing unity can only happen with trust, vulnerability and tremendous humility. This is what attaching to a tzaddik is as well (and why it’s of utmost importance who that tzaddik is). It’s letting go of your ego, aborting your sophistication and trusting his advice implicitly. This oneness is likened to the mitzvah of cleaving to Hashem Himself (Kesuvos 111b), because it’s such a passionate union. And just like the holy joining of man and wife, for which the world was ultimately created, this union too shares the common goal of giving birth and producing something new.

Adam and Eve One Flesh

Happy first birthday אהלל דבר!

 

Simply satisfied

 

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Forrest Gump was right. Life is full of surprises. But the surprises aren’t always as conspicuous as they were in the movie. You might wake up in the morning and feel like the life was sucked out of you. For many people a grumpy morning can lead to a few bad days. For some, it might be the onset of depression. Recently I’ve been feeling very grouchy. This slump was building and I just couldn’t kick it. Because I do hisbodedus often, I had enough self-awareness to know that something was bugging me, but I was too engulfed in my own negative thinking and all the introspection wasn’t helping me. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s making me so irritable, but even with all the alone time I couldn’t crack the code. Thankfully I had the wherewithal to pray for help, and then help came in an unexpected way.

A few days ago I thought of re-reading one of Rebbe Nachman’s great stories called The Sophisticate and the Simpleton. I finally picked it up again today. If you havent read this tale yet, I recommend you do. (Click here).  It’s actually one of the Rebbe’s only stories that can also be understood straightforwardly. In short, the story tells of two childhood friends. One of them was very simple, limited in his education and abilities, while his friend, an intellectual and philosopher, was always looking to improve his situation with more education and training. The simpleton never feels he’s lacking and is always joyous, but his counterpart is perpetually miserable from his insatiable desire to increase his status. As it turns out the simpleton (like Forrest Gump) becomes very successful while the sophisticate, once a wealthy and distinguished craftsmen, loses everything in his quest to prove his shrewdness.

In reading about the simpleton’s innocence, I started to let go of my stubbornness to be the best. In thinking of his plainness, I was more forgiving of myself. I started to allow myself the space to be imperfect, easing the constant demands I place upon myself. When I read about the unfortunate sophisticate, I identified with his unrelenting drive to succeed and improve his situation, but I understood the endlessness and emptiness that more worldliness and overthinking brings with it.

I think what struck me the deepest was the following contrast: When the simpleton, a shoemaker by trade, would finish making a shoe, it was usually crooked. But he derived so much enjoyment from it that he would praise his handiwork saying, “My wife, what a beautiful, wonderful shoe this is”. Sometimes she would answer him asking, if it’s really so great, then why do other shoemakers get three coins for a shoe and you only get a coin and a half? He would answer her, “Why should I care about that? That’s his work and this is my work. Why must we speak about others”? From this we see the tremendous self-confidence of the simpleton. He believed in himself. He was totally unconcerned if other people did a better job than him. It’s precisely this belief in himself that keeps him from sophistication. He is satisfied with the way he sees things, regardless of what his colleagues achieve. The sophisticate, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite. After he became an accomplished physician, craftsman and philosopher, he decided to marry. “But he said to himself, ‘If I marry a woman here, who will know what I have accomplished? I must return home. Then they will see…[that] I left as a young lad, and now I have attained such greatness'”. Even though he had become so great, he still needed other people’s approval. In this line the Rebbe exposes the sophisticate’s deep insecurity. We’re left to assume that, to a large extent, his motivation for success was his lack of faith in himself.

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Rebbe Nachman encouraged his followers to serve Hashem with utter simplicity. In Pesach 9, Reb Nosson develops this theme and says that if a person becomes depressed because others are better than him, that isn’t humility but arrogance. He feels that it’s beneath his dignity to serve Hashem when he is so far from Him, while others are so near. Instead, we must emulate our patriarch Abraham, of whom it is written “Abraham was one” (Ezekiel 33). The Rebbe explains this to mean that he acted as if there was no one else in the world. Reb Nosson relates this concept to the counting of the Omer. The verse says, “וספרתם לכם, you must count for yourself”. No one can count for you. The Omer represents the spiritual progress that our people made when going from Egyptian slavery to the revelation at Sinai. Every person needs to make his own count, without paying any attention to his neighbor’s progress.

Nobody likes to admit that they compare themselves to others, because when we think about it, it’s a pretty shallow thing to do. But besides the comparisons we make, we over-complicate everything. We often are our own worst enemies with how we demand nothing less than perfection from ourselves. If nothing else, this type of perfectionism cheats us out of the joy in performing mitzvos. Just like the simpleton had joy from his triangular-looking shoe, we need to know that if Hashem has even some pleasure from our imperfect work, then it’s better than any treasure and worth a life time of devotion.

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[Not] blinded by the light

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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!

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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Hold on or let go?

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At times we might find ourselves in very dark places. We feel miles away from Hashem, like we reached the point of no return. We harbor strong doubts, we feel confused and we can’t believe that we’ve sunk this low.

What can we do in those trying times?

Rebbe Nachman says (Tinyana 12) that some questions are unanswerable. He explains that even the klippos, or the forces of evil which cause this doubt and confusion, only exist because Hashem wills it. Without getting in to the depths of his lesson, he teaches that this darkness gets its life-force from a place that is utterly unknowable to us. We can’t possibly understand it. It’s a locked door;  the apex of hiddenness.

So Reb Nosson (Tchumin 6:8) explains that since the answers are incomprehensible, our only solution is to believe – with the simplest purest faith – that Hashem can even be found in such a dark place. Although we’re accustomed to using our cleverness and guise to find answers, this time it will lead us to greater darkness. The only way to survive these times is with simple faith, by saying, “Master of the World! I believe you’re here. I can’t see you at all and it’s inconceivable to me that you’re here with me. But you must be here. Where are you?”

Why is this so hard to do? Shouldn’t it, in a sense, be easier to simply believe than to constantly contrive sophisticated justifications? What is it about the human psyche that stubbornly attempts to rationalize, expound and hypothesize the cause of everything?

I think it’s just so hard to let go. We don’t want to give up control. We’re afraid what the future will bring, if we’re not ‘calling the shots’. So we refuse to admit that we can’t know the answer. Sometimes this characteristic is very beneficial. It helps us hold on in trying times and not fall into despair. But in harder times, we’re ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ with this futile cleverness. We need to simply let go and admit that we can’t control the outcomes. We need to confess that although we don’t understand how, Hashem is running the show behind the scenes.

The Rebbe says that the small admission of ‘maybe Hashem could be here with me’ is usually the first step to climb out of this misery. Here we were looking for every ‘tool in the book’ to help ourselves and we just kept on falling into deeper water. Then, with a small admission of faith in something other than ourselves, we’re already on our way back up. It’s not as hard as you think. In fact, sometimes it’s hard because you think.

איה

Let go!

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To all familiar with the beauty and sweetness of Torah, no evidence or testament is necessary to validate God’s authenticity. Its vastness and depth is immeasurable. Its lessons and teachings are perfectly righteous and its few truly loyal students tower above all men.

But the Jews who sadly aren’t acquainted with authentic Torah seek proofs of God’s existence and providence. Engulfed by cynicism, no logic seems adequate to believe in an infinite, all-powerful God that can’t be seen.

The truth is, says Rebbe Nachman, that these skeptics are exactly right!

“Essentially, faith is only found where the intellect is suspended and a person can’t comprehend the matter with his mind. It’s there that one requires faith” (Tinyana 8).

The Rebbe is teaching that faith starts where the intellect stops. At a certain point things can’t be proven anymore and no rationale justifies the matter. It’s exactly there that we need to have faith and put our hope in God.

But how do we do it? If we’re stripped of our intellect, our most prized tool, then how can we believe in anything?

Here’s where the Rebbe’s genius blows the mind (pun intended):

“Faith is primarily dependent on our imagination“.

We tend to associate imagination with children, but it’s really our ability to be creative and resourceful. Reb Nosson describes the imaginative faculty as “the most spiritual of all things physical and at the same time the most physical of all things spiritual”. Children use their imagination well because they’re untainted by the cynicism and misery of this world and its opinions. We have to let go of all our derisive sentiment and allow there to be more than we know in this world. Does this surrendering of our intellect require us to do something? Yes it does! But that shouldn’t hold us back, because as the Mishna clearly says, when we refuse to accept Torah, we assume other responsibilities. Yet when we submit to Torah, those responsibilities are eliminated. We need to dream and visualize more. Although the evil one convinces us otherwise, belief in a higher power who loves and cares about every detail in our lives is liberating and revitalizing. Unfortunately the pessimism and sarcasm is so rampant. But it’s extremely unbecoming to people of our stature. We’re a light to the nations. That means we need to bring light where there’s darkness. There’s darkness everywhere. People are stricken with depression, anxiety and despair. It’s very easy to be cynical and sarcastic after all the trauma we’ve been through in our lives. But simple faith and hope is a gift from Heaven. We can dream! We can release ourselves from the bondage of limitation and use our creativity to soar into infinity! Let gooo!

Who’s that?

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Why is it so hard for us to believe in the Tzaddik’s ability to fix our souls?

I think there are a number of reasons:

First, it sounds like Christianity. Secondly, because we’re all so fooled by our shortcomings and barely believe in our own capabilities, it seems nearly impossible to believe that a human being can reach such an elevated plain. Also, why should we need the Tzaddik? Can’t we just have a direct relationship with God? These questions can be reconciled but I think the real issue is deeper.

We don’t want to feel vulnerable. It’s hard enough to accept that God is our master, but at least we don’t have to look Him in the eyes. But to need another person and attach ourselves to them is humiliating. The primary mitzvah to love your friend as yourself requires us to root for our friend’s success and mourn his loss. Unfortunately we’re so far from that. When we see someone succeed our insecurities make us jealous and we might even try to mock their achievements. But it’s so critical to remember that our friends’ success is great for us. We’re one entity! We’re a big family! When one Jew does a mitzvah he brings merit to all of Israel. Our ascent from level to level raises other Jews above us to even higher levels (Torah 25), and similarly we each affect one another and can bring each other back to God. Sure it’s hard to believe that there’s a person out there so devoted to serving God that he utilizes his every breath to enrich the world, while we have a hard time doing the bare minimum. But we don’t doubt that there are a number people who’ve made superhuman achievements physically or financially. The difference is that we see those achievements with our own eyes. There’s no denying that. But it stings to admit that someone is exalted spiritually, when we know deep down that we too can be more uplifted.

Rebbe Nachman teaches to free ourselves from of our cleverness (“זרוק את השכל” Torah 123). We have so many tricks to believe our own stories. But it won’t hurt as much as we think if we just let go and believe that we’re all interconnected and essential to one another.  1 + 1 = 1!

 

Seeing the end

 

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We close our eyes often. Sometimes it’s because we’re scared and sometimes we close them from pain. Whether we’re squinting to see something or whether we’re sleeping, our eyes instinctively close.

Why do we close our eyes?

Rebbe Nachman teaches something very deep in Torah 65. He explains that our vision services our mind. Whatever we see is processed in our brains and becomes our knowledge. Another way of saying “I understand” is saying “I see”.

But sometimes our vision is too limited and we need to ‘see’ past what our minds can understand. In times of suffering, God forbid, we need to attach ourselves to a higher knowledge. When we’re scared of inevitable pain we automatically try to connect to something more infinite than what we know. This is why we close our eyes. We innately know that the only way to bear the agony is by shutting out this world and attaching our minds to the end, where we really believe that it’s all good. In that elevated state of mind there is no pain. This isn’t a place that we can stay too long, but indeed it’s a place we go.

Similarly when we squint to see something, we’re shutting out the peripherals that flood our vision and confuse our mind. And when we sleep our eyes close because our souls are connecting to the infinite (Lessons 54 & 7).

I find this idea to be amazing! Of course the naysayers will poo-poo it, but I see in this teaching one of the few instances where our souls control our bodies.

Maybe this is the reason why we close our eyes when we say Shma Yisroel? Because when we’re declaring Hashem’s oneness we must see past everything. Our worldly perceptions bring us down to a place where we question His oneness often. “Why is this happening to me”? Or “this is terrible”! But when we declare His oneness we’re trying to reach a higher understanding so we close our eyes and soar!

 

Intellect vs. Imagery

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If there’s a mitzvah to judge our fellow favorably (Lev. 19:15), that means it doesn’t come naturally. Our instinctual reaction is to criticize and condemn our peers. But why should it be so hard to see the good in others?

Because we believe what we see! If we don’t use our power of logic and reason, then we naturally believe our imagination, which is triggered by what we see.

Rebbe Nachman urges us in Torah 25 to disengage ourselves from the influence of our illusions and elevate ourselves by using our intellect.

People seemingly do things wrong all the time because we don’t know the whole story. It’s like we snapped a picture of them in the act, but it was completely out of context. It’s only rational to take a step back and admit that we likely don’t know what’s really going on with them. And so too when we interact with others directly and they rub us the wrong way. It’s so much easier to just write them off! But if we understood better why they say the things they say and do the things they do, we’d probably give them the benefit of the doubt. As we know, many times our loved ones make mistakes and we overlook it lovingly because we know how hard they tried or what they’ve been going through. If we were to have that familiarity with other people as well, we could find reasons why they are lovable too.

Every Jew has a magnificent soul! We get fooled too often by all the exterior trappings. But that’s what the surface is, just ‘trappings’. They trap you!

The Rebbe says in אזמרה that we need to investigate thoroughly (לחפש) for the beauty in our peers. We can’t just expect to see their good without a comprehensive examination and detailed scrutiny. It’s a serious undertaking! But we must do it because the benefits are tremendous. Not only will we see more positivity and feel more love, but we’ll actually bring others closer to God and bring Moshiach. Amen!