Out of this world

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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.

Return to who you are

 

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Growing up I didn’t like the word teshuva (repentance), as it engendered images of selichos and fasting into my mind. It basically meant that I had to promise I won’t have a good time anymore and also regret the times when I did have some fun. Upon exposure to Rebbe Nachman’s understanding of teshuva, or for that matter Rav Kook’s world of teshuva (see here), I understood that my perception of teshuva was exactly the opposite of what teshuva really is.

“Before teshuva, a person can’t really sustain himself. It’s almost as if he doesn’t exist in the world…[But] when a person purifies himself through teshuva, then he is preparing his birth into the world, so that he may exist. That’s why teshuva is an aspect of the Divine name אהי-ה, which means I am ready to be”. (Torah 6)

I always thought that the process of teshuva was trying to become a different person, as the Midrash Tehillim (120) says, through teshuva we become new creatures. But with the Rebbe’s lessons, like the one above, I now understand that becoming a new creature doesn’t mean something new was created. It also doesn’t mean that a new me was created. It means that I finally have a right to exist. I don’t need to become anybody else, in fact I can’t be anybody else. Teshuva introduces me to the world. It cuts away all my fraudulence and highlights who I really am. I can’t speak for anybody else but that sounds attractive to me. I don’t want to be you anymore. I’m tired of being you! When I try to be you, I’m not good at it and I’m left feeling unsettled. The only way that I feel satisfaction and pride is when I’m being myself.

Teshuva brings out who we really are, not who we can be. We are each remarkably distinct and delightfully unique. The world doesn’t need another one of him. The world needs just one of you. Each one of us has something creative to contribute and teshuva is the process that accentuates our exceptional creative features. How fasting and reciting penitential poems uncovers the real us is for another discussion, but seeing teshuva as the process of readying myself to fully exist sounds healthy and exciting, not burdensome and depressing.

 

Secrets and deep secrets

 

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“There is an upper unification, שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה’ אֶחָדand a lower unification, בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. Every Jew should make certain to engender these unifications”. (Torah 11)

How can we make it happen? Says Rebbe Nachman, through our speech we can come back to Hashem in all areas of our life. Coming back to Hashem, Teshuva, is the process of connecting to our own life force.

“For [the words of Torah] give life לְמֹצְאֵיהֶם (to those who find them)” – Proverbs 4. “Read it, ‘למוציאיהם בפה’ (to those who express them verbally)” – Eruvin 54a.

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No situation is too bleak for teshuva, if we can use our speech to enlighten us. But for the words to shine, they must bring out the glory of Hashem. To reveal Hashem’s glory we must embrace humility and minimize our own glory (see also Torah 6).

Later in the lesson, the Rebbe talks about a false humility that is the ultimate degree of conceit. This is when “people act humbly in order to gain honor and prominence. Because they know just how despicable haughtiness is, they act humbly”. But what’s so bad about that? Why is it considered haughty to practice humility from the recognition of how base the ego is? Isn’t it praiseworthy to distance oneself from such an undesirable quality, embracing humility as a valuable characteristic? The truth is that it is indeed admirable to disassociate oneself from arrogance by seeing how awful it is, but that isn’t at all true humility.

Let’s go back to the upper and lower unifications. The upper unification, שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, is believing and knowing clearly that Hashem is the Lord and there is none other. The lower unification, בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם, is comprehending that the ultimate purpose of everything in all the worlds is to serve as the vehicle to reveal Hashem as the one and only. The world only has value when the beings of creation are acting as tools through which the awareness of Hashem as the exclusive one is proclaimed. Consequently, when Hashem benevolently provides man with benefits such as wisdom, power, beauty or wealth, it is only so he should come to understand God’s greatness and his own inconsequentiality. Because, in essence, all wisdom, power, beauty and wealth are manifestations of Hashem clothing Himself in this world. He is the most wise, powerful and beautiful. Recognizing that fact from experiencing ones own virtues is what the lower unification is. It’s appreciating that everything in this world, including oneself, is merely a garment of Hashem and an instrument to bring out His glory. As a result, any virtue that a person does have is only so that he might achieve true humility from it. That is its sole purpose. But if a person prides himself in the special qualities with which Hashem has graced him, then he has completely perverted the intent of this Divine benevolence.

 

How does one attain this humility? By guarding his brit. The Jewish people’s covenant with God is centered on sexual purity. As is easily understood, when we selfishly blemish our brit, we’re attempting to increase our own glory and belittle His glory. It might be that our intentions aren’t so bad, but the result is never-the-less a reality. Joseph, the personification of one who guarded his brit, attained complete humility. I always marvel at how Joseph was released from jail and placed before Pharaoh, who says, “They say you interpret dreams”. He answers, “It is not me, the Lord will bring Pharaoh’s tranquility”. And of course, when someone perpetuates the glory of God to such a degree, he is the garment of that glory, as it says, “Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him (Genesis 42:6)”.

Finally, a bit deeper, the Rebbe teaches that there are two forms of guarding ones brit. They relate to the lower and upper unifications. The lower unification is likened to someone whose relations are during the week. He guards his brit as the Torah requires and thereby reveals the glory of Hashem in his actions, especially in a crucial procreative action such as intimacy. But then, as the Talmud teaches, the Torah scholar only has marital relations on Shabbos. This is likened to the upper unification, the idea being that his intimacy is complete holiness, because there is none other than Hashem.

Ultra Orthodox students gesture as they pray during a reading class at the Kehilot Yaacov Torah School for boys in Ramot

 

 

Manning up

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At least twice in my life I got super-inspired spiritually and strengthened my Avodas Hashem with intense focus. The first time was in my junior year of high school. I attended a modern-orthodox yeshiva and was feeling extremely unfulfilled. By the grace of God things turned around very quickly for me and I found myself in a Beis Medrash yeshiva, where I became enthralled with learning the Talmud day and night. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I went from lax mitzvah observance to strong mitzvah observance in a matter of a few weeks. A second time was more recently. My learning and prayers felt forced and one-dimensional. The void was consuming me. Again, Hashem led me to Uman for Rosh Hashana. After that experience in 2016, I felt totally reborn and passionately re-dedicated myself to my mitzvah observance.

The common denominator of those two stages in my life is that both times the enlightenment surfaced after reeling from a severe lack.

Having sort-of an extreme personality, I often experience acute highs and lows. In fact, some people who know me define me that way. “Davy’s being Davy again. What’s he up to now?”

After coming back from that first Rosh Hashana experience I was so intrigued, and determined to uncover what Breslov is all about. I hit the books full-force and jetted forward from that moment, connecting my mind and soul to the Rebbe’s, for (at least) a year without flinching. It was one of the greatest years of my life. But as Newton said, what goes up must come down. So I eventually came back down. But something about my descent changed. The low wasn’t that low. I also noticed that, while feeling low, I didn’t have a strong desire to shake things up, like I’ve done in the past. I was much more comfortable feeling low than ever before. It didn’t phase me as much, and eventually I got another burst of inspiration that helped me glide forward. This pattern repeated itself.

It’s likely that I’m simply more mature than I was in the past, and not willing to turn my life upside down from a mood slump. But I think it’s more than that. To tell you the truth, I think it’s because I consistently do hisbodedus. I take time every day to talk to Hashem in my own personal words. I like to think of it as manning-up. Every day, no matter what, I come clean, express myself and ask Hashem for help. I always have to show my face and I always talk real. Of course, just like anything else, some sessions are better than others but I’ve never had a day where I didn’t say at least a few real words. Maybe you’re the type of guy who can experience this relationship within the organized daily prayers at synagogue? Unfortunately for me, I can’t relate to Hashem in my own unique way often enough within that structure. (In fact, I find the structured prayers somewhat more fulfilling now that I pray outside of communal prayers, because the pressure of connecting creatively is off. If I can connect that day, then great, but if not, I understand that it’s service, similar to the service in the Temple. There are technicals and obligations I meet – many times happily – in the organized prayer, but it’s a different type of prayer entirely).

Consistent personal prayer is an equalizer. I’m always noticing new benefits to this practice. But one thing that I’m experiencing recently is the equilibrium that it brings. You can’t lose your sense of balance the same way when you have to show your face and explain yourself everyday. It kind of always brings you back to reality.

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Holy tears

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The Talmud tells a story about Rav Ketina, who was passing by the door of a wizard when the earth shook violently. He asked the wizard, “Do you know what causes an earthquake”? The wizard replied, “When the Holy One remembers that His children are suffering among the nations, He sheds two tears into the Great Sea, and His voice is heard from one end of the world to the other (Berachos 59a).

I just came back from Leżajsk where we visited the grave of the great chassidic master, Rav Elimelech from Lizhensk, who’s yahrtzeit is today. It was a very powerful experience to be together with thousands of Jews who make the yearly pilgrimage. There is a tradition passed down from several chassidic masters that whoever visits his grave will certainly be inspired to come back to Hashem before he leaves this world. I felt that feeling of Tshuva when I was there. It was a little scary, but good-scary. I spent a lot of time talking to the tzaddik about my friends and loved ones. I felt so much unique love for many of the people whose names I brought to the Rebbe, smiling as I pictured them in my head. I had a certain clarity when characterizing their situations to the Rebbe, as well as when I discussed my own circumstances. I shed tears and felt waves of truth crashing over me. I don’t easily cry but sometimes the tears were to be expected and sometimes not.

In Torah 250 Rebbe Nachman explains the meaning of tears. He says that all the pain and suffering of this world stems from lacking the knowledge of Divine providence. If we truly appreciated that Hashem is running things behind the scenes, we wouldn’t experience any suffering. The problem is that we feel like nature is running it’s course, which causes us great anguish. When somebody cries from pain he’s lacking that understanding of Divine Providence. The tears that come out of his eyes are infused with awareness of Hashem and a clearer vision of His providence. In a certain sense, he loses his own vision and is imbued with God’s vision. (The Rebbe brings a number of sources for this). This is why after we cry, we feel better. Because crying is transformative. It’s not only an expression of the pain, but it’s also a remedy of that feeling. Not only that, but seeing someone else we love cry can arouse us to cry too. Truth is contagious. Unfortunately we go through much of life wearing an armor of defense, so we can escape the uncomfortability of feeling vulnerable. But it’s important to be real and allow ourselves to be exposed every once in awhile, so our true soul could shine and draw down all the remedies it knows it needs.

 

 

 

לעילוי נשמת הצדיק של הצדיקים רבינו אלימלך בן הרב אליעזר ליפמן זצ״ל

Purim afterthought

 

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You know what’s so unique about Purim? Everyone is misbehaving. Kids are eating tons of junk food. Grown men are prancing around and yelling. In general, the level of tzniyus dramatically declines for some reason. Even in shul there’s much more freedom of expression, with those wild noises during the Megilla reading. And I’m not only talking about the less observant Jews. I think it’s fair to say that the B’nei Torah, those who are very particular about their mitzvah observance and spend time studying the Talmud and its relevant laws, are the ones who get the most wild. It’s commonplace for these guys, who never drink alcohol, to over-drink, destroy property, get wasted, throw up and pass-out.

You might sarcastically say it’s the alcohol that makes Purim different, but I think this behavior change is because it’s a day that we can really get in touch with ourselves. During the year we are too inhibited by our self-image. We’re afraid to admit that we’re not perfect. Everyone goes around dressing the same and following suit. There’s no space for self expression, especially if it implies that you might not be successful. לב יודע מרת נפשו, everyone knows their own shortcomings. But it’s just unacceptable during the year to speak truthfully, to share real feelings and to admit our weaknesses. But on Purim we mostly do what we want to do. Firstly, we’re not coerced to spend too much time in shul. Even the time we do spend in shul is more fun. We don’t have to fast, or partake in mitzvos that most of us don’t understand too well, such as shaking a lulav. Instead, the mitzvos of the day allow for great self expression. Giving mishloach manos engenders a meaningful bond between two people, which brings out authenticity. Especially because we can choose who we want to give it to and what we want to give. The same is true with the gifts we give to the poor.

Giving is Good

Then we have a festive meal together with the people we love. We drink an inordinate amount of wine because as we all know “When wine goes in, the secrets come out” (Sanhedrin 38). What do we do at the meal? Shmooze and shmooze some more, hopefully baring some de-oxygenated soul and maybe a few tears. The point of purim is to be real. People get dressed up in one of two types of costumes: Either they wear something they deeply relate to, but are ashamed to wear (many times for good reason), or they wear something they totally don’t relate with, symbolizing that their outside says nothing about their inside.

The miracle of Purim happened when Esther came clean about who she was. As Reb Nosson says (‘בכור בהמה ד), Esther represent us, the downtrodden weakling Jews who don’t always do everything right. I don’t get why we all walk around wearing costumes all year long? Why are we so afraid to be real about who we are? If we need help, we should get help. If we want to change course, we should. Speak up and get in touch with the real you! Who are we faking but ourselves? A great person once told me, “There’s no point in posing to make people like you; If you get them to believe you, they only like the person you’re pretending to be, not you. And if you be yourself and they don’t like you, then you won’t want to be their friend anyways”. This is why Purim is the only holiday that will never cease, even in Messianic times. Because when Moshiach comes the whole world will be filled with truth, which is exactly what Purim is all about: Learning to be the true you.

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You don’t get me

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Nobody likes to be judged, yet we commonly pass judgement on others. Why do we feel that we’re being unfairly judged? Because it’s impossible for anyone to truly understand our situation. It’s inconceivable that anyone can fully comprehend all the intricacies of our nature and nurture. And every one of our actions and opinions are inspired by the sum total of all these complexities. So it’s futile for anyone to condemn us by simply seeing us do something that seems to them unorthodox.

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“When someone sits down to talk about another person…he is judging his fellow man. One needs to be very careful about this. He should take a good look at himself and see if he is fit to pass judgement on someone else. “For judgement belongs to God”(Deuteronomy 1:17). Only Hashem is fit to judge a person, as it says, ‘Don’t judge anyone until you’ve reached his place’ (Avos 2:4)”. (Tinyana 1)

Later in the lesson Rebbe Nachman explains why it’s fitting for Hashem to judge someone? Because, as the Midrash teaches, He is the place of the world, מקומו של עולם. This means that there is no one and no thing that doesn’t have a place with Him. Only He encompasses all space. Only He knows each person’s true place and situation, (even the origin of the person’s root soul). And so only Hashem can ‘reach his place’ to judge him. Hashem is called ‘the Master of Compassion’, בעל הרחמים, so He can judge us favorably.

We see here something amazing about love and compassion. There is a strong connection between knowing something deeply and loving it. Why is Hashem the Master of Compassion? Because He fully understands our true place. By mere fact that He knows us so well, He has reason to love us. This is so true with us too. Sometimes we find that we’ll meet somebody and they turn us off. But the more we become familiar with them, the more likable they are. The Torah uses the word ‘knowledge’ for intimacy. Everyone has beauty in them and the more we learn about them, the easier it is to love them.

And here the Rebbe provides an extraordinary example of Divine compassion: Hashem specified that Rosh Hashana, the Day of Judgement, should fall out on the New Moon. This is a great kindness of Hashem, because how could we be so presumptuous to ask Hashem for forgiveness? But on the day of the New Moon, Hashem himself, if it could be, asks forgiveness for diminishing the moon. The Talmud teaches (Chullin 60b) that Hashem asks us to bring an offering on His behalf at the beginning of every month to atone for His ordering the moon to diminish herself. Therefore, we’re not embarrassed to ask forgiveness on the Day of Judgement, because He himself also asks forgiveness. The Biur Likutim adds that Hashem, of course, knew that He would regret diminishing the moon. But He did it anyways, to establish for mankind a new and greater way of Teshuva, so even if we intentionally act in ways that we know we’re going to regret, we can still turn to Hashem and plead for forgiveness.

We’re too judgmental of other people. It’s a very serious thing when we belittle people. Hashem, on the other hand, is constantly looking for our good points, so He really despises this type of behavior. Let’s try to take a minute before we dismiss someone. Let’s stop looking so much at the outside and believe there’s more to a person than how he dresses. Just accept it! You don’t know anybody! Anybody!

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Moshiach now!

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The pain is too great! The suffering is too long! Who can say they’re not deteriorating from stress or despair? So many of us need a miracle, whether we’re floundering financially or we have illness close to home. Many marriages have been falling apart and yet too many singles are waiting, for what seems like eternity, to meet their precious soulmate. Then there’s the global threats that constantly linger and flare up. It’s truly heartbreaking. “When, O’ when, will this galus end”?

Listen to Jeremiah the Prophet:

(31:21) “עַד־מָתַי֙ תִּתְחַמָּקִ֔ין הַבַּ֖ת הַשּֽׁוֹבֵבָ֑ה כִּֽי־בָרָ֨א יְהֹוָ֚ה חֲדָשָׁה֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ נְקֵבָ֖ה תְּס֥וֹבֵֽב גָּֽבֶר”

“Come out of hiding, you naughty girl! Hashem created something new on earth. Now the woman will chase the man”.

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Rashi explains that the verse is referring to Teshuva, coming back to Hashem. We’re embarrassed to come back home because of our disgusting ways. So what does Hashem do to aid us in the times before Moshiach? And why now, all of a sudden, should we be willing to come back to him? Because now the woman will pursue the man to marry her, whereas it always used to be the man pursuing the woman.

What does it mean that the woman will chase the man? And how does that enable us to overcome our humiliation and return to Hashem?

In Rosh Chodesh 5, Reb Nosson describes how we often see people feeling stuck in their lives. Even though they wanna make a change, they’re just so brokenhearted that they fall into despair. They try to break out, but then they fall again deeper, with one more bridge burned on the way.  They’re just too embarrassed, and sometimes too angry or depressed, to make a change. They believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that there’s no use in fighting it. This is their life sentence.  This happens with addicts and it also happens when people feel stuck in a marriage or in a bad job. The ‘other side‘ overwhelms them and they slowly give up.

But then ‘Hashem creates something new on earth’. This is the Rebbe’s advice of turning your Torah into prayer. With this prayer, there’s no more shame in the sins that led us astray. Because with this type of prayer, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can be confident in our prayers. Because we’re begging Hashem to pull us out of the lion’s jaws. Imagine, the other day, we went on an anger rampage. The next morning we’re learning some Torah about how anger is like worshipping idols. That makes us feel ashamed. So we crawl up into a hole and discount the power of our prayers. But turning Torah into prayer says, “Hashem! I’m a wild animal! Help me! I’m enraged. I’m so out of control that I’m compared to an idolator. I don’t want to be an idolator. I only want to worship You. Help me escape this place of constriction”! Or what about someone who got fired from another job and he honestly can’t pick his head up anymore? He might hear a line from Rebbe Nachman that “with simple trust in God, one makes himself into a receptacle for Hashem’s bounty of financial security” (Torah 76). That teaching could make him cynical. “Oh Please! I trusted and trusted and nothing happened. There’s no point in me praying anymore. Hashem is just punishing me for something”. But by turning Torah into prayer, he might say, “I don’t know how to trust you! You spank me left and right! It’s been so long since I had a dollar to spend. How can I trust you? How? I’m so far from trusting you! I actually think you must hate me!”

Reb Nosson says these prayers make the soul of Moshiach sprout. These are the highest prayers. We might think they’re so pathetic, because as sinners and non-believers, we feel so pathetic. But it’s not true. Hashem doesn’t expect us to be perfect; far from it. He wants us to call out to him when we’re not perfect. This is what King David started. His Psalms are all about turning Torah into prayer. There are five books of Psalms, just like there are five books of the Torah. The essence of Psalms is David begging Hashem to help him do Teshuva and uphold the Torah sincerely.

Turning Torah into prayer is the woman chasing the man. Before, the woman, hinted to in prayer, is embarrassed to come back to Hashem. The Man, hinted to as the Torah, makes her feel ashamed, like she is unworthy of praying because of her inability to uphold the Torah. But then Hashem creates something new, (the Rebbe said of himself, “there was never a novelty in the world as new as me”), and it’s no longer shameful to pray in our hideous state. Now we take the Torah itself and turn it into prayer. So the woman – the prayer – is the perfection of the Torah. It’s a necessity of Torah. The Torah – the man – now needs the woman, so she isn’t bashful to pursue him.

Please Hashem! We’re so ashamed to knock on your door. We can’t walk in a straight line anymore! Everything is falling apart. Our lives are upside down and we have no confidence left. We don’t believe that you’re bringing Moshiach. We don’t really believe in anything. We do and do, for whatever reasons we do, but we don’t believe that we’re doing anything worthy at all. The only thing we know for sure is that our constant sins are creating more and more barriers between us! We wanna give up already! We’re so ashamed from the holy Torah. It makes us feel unworthy and lowly. It sends shivers down our spines, as our souls weep from isolation. Please, in your endless mercy, create something new in our hearts! Give us the gall to call out to you in the name of the Torah, that we want to keep, deep deep inside. Help us find you in this dark place. Help us find the words to admit how we’re so far from where we want to be, and express our desire to change. We want Moshiach! We want some sense of purpose. Help us overcome our despair. Help us believe in ourselves and in your boundless compassion. It’s taking way too long! Make it end. Make it end!

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Soaring from song

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“You should know that every type of wisdom in the world has a unique song. In fact, it’s from that particular song, where we draw the wisdom…Faith also has a song. The song of faith is the highest of all songs. It’s from that lofty song of pure faith where all the world’s songs are drawn down” (Torah 64).

Last night we sang and danced in the streets of Jerusalem to celebrate the life of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l, on the day of his yahrtzeit.

I can’t describe in words the euphoric feeling of singing and dancing together with all my ‘brothers and sisters’ last night. The energy there was other worldy. I’ve been singing publicly my entire life and from a very young age my mother wisely told me that the power of song will unlock doors for me. Shlomo was a master of song. That’s why he was so deep. His torah and his stories left you yearning. He wouldn’t finish his thoughts. It was more about what he didn’t say. Similarly, music connects us to something way above us. When we sing, we actually draw down that holiness and experience it.

Nothing in this world is higher than song. It inspires prophesy and it’s the back drop of our Holy Temple. “So this is my deepest prayer, in the name of all of us, ושם נשיר, ‘Master of the world, put a new song into our hearts'”. So we can parade together back to the Holy City, “my children, your children ושם נשיר שיר חדש”!

 לעילוי נשמת הרב שלמה בן הרב נפתלי קרליבך ז״ל

I love you Shlomo! Thank you!

It’s all good!

god love

The Talmud tells us that Hashem prays and keeps the mitzvos of the Torah. The following is Hashem’s prayer: “May it be my will that my compassion suppresses my anger, and that my mercy supersedes my other attributes, so that I deal with my children kindly and not exact the full penalty of justice from them” (Berachos 7a).

In my last blog I wrote about how life is a journey where we ascend from level to level. At every stage of this adventure we have new insights and new mysteries, which is encompassed in the idea of נעשה ונשמע. The insights, which are meant to act upon, is embodied in Torah. The mysteries, or the insights we’ve yet to grasp, are embodied in prayer.

Lets go deeper:

deeper

Later on in Torah 22 Rebbe Nachman says that a person can continue ascending levels, higher and higher, by humbling himself. Some tzaddikim he says – and obviously it takes one to know one – ascend via their humility into the highest world of emanation. In that world, which is far beyond our comprehension, the נעשה is actually Hashem’s Torah and the נשמע is Hashem’s prayer. Hashem’s Torah is the judgement of the world. This Torah obligates Him to mete out punishment and fix man’s wrongdoings. But then there’s Hashem’s prayer to deal kindly with his creation. This Godly prayer is beyond any comprehension – it’s totally mysterious. Yet this prayer is exactly the place where the Tzaddikim enter…

It was in the beginning of this lesson where the Rebbe taught that when Hashem wants to exact punishment on the world, He first convenes with the tzaddikim, who can often stop the decree and sweeten the judgement. We also find this idea in the weekly Torah reading where Hashem feels the need to tell Abraham that he intends on destroying the city of Sedom. When the tzaddikim hear of heavenly decrees and pray for mercy, they turn the Torah of Hashem, (the נעשה of the exacting punishment) into the prayer of Hashem, the נשמע of a new understanding. In a sense, when Hashem prays, the tzaddikim can teach Hashem a new insight how to view the situation favorably and stop the decree. This is hinted to by the verse in Isaiah (54:13) “All my children are ‘לימודי ה, (students of Hashem)”. Allegorically, ‘לימודי ה can mean that they teach Hashem.

Such is the power of man’s prayer, who we see throughout the written and oral Torah, can overturn Hashem’s impending decrees. This is why, throughout history, the Jewish people have sought after the tzaddikim, live and dead, to pray on their behalf and overturn the wrath of Heaven. Why did Hashem create the world this way? I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s astoundingly clear to me that Hashem’s love for His creation knows know bounds. Just like we can go from level to level, ascending to places that were previously unknowable to us, so too Hashem, in His righteous humility, in some way, can reach even higher unknowable places where everything is good. No sin is too great and no person is too evil for Hashem’s boundless mercy. How encouraging that there’s always a deeper place where Hashem’s loving compassion can shine!

לעילוי נשמת רחל אמינו ע״ה

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