Give or get?

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Rebbi Nachman wrote (Tinyana 4) that “the benefit of giving charity is exceedingly great”.

 “התועלת של צדקה גדול מאד מאד”

The Talmud (Taanis 9a) expounds the verse “עַשֵּׂ֣ר תְּעַשֵּׂ֔ר אֵ֖ת כָּל־תְּבוּאַ֣ת זַרְעֶ֑ךָ” (make sure to tithe all your crops) with the homograph עשר בשביל שתתעשר (tithe [your crops] so that you become wealthy). Why would someone become rich from giving charity? Obviously, logic would have you think the exact opposite. If I’m giving away my money, then I’ll have less money. How could it be that by parting with what I have, I will receive more?

The Rebbe doesn’t ask this question, but I believe his lesson answers it. It’s a complex lesson with a number of steps, but I’ll attempt to keep it as simple as possible.

If Hashem were to pour His chessed on us, we would have no need to ever work or labor for our sustenance. But when His chessed is held back, it’s necessary to labor for our survival. Unfortunately, for the great majority of us, this chessed is held back and we need to work for a living. As the Talmud (Berachos 35b) explicitly says, “Many tried to do like Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai [who received this chessed without working] and they were unsuccessful”. But the Divine Will is that we shouldn’t have to work for it. In fact, labor and working is the antithesis of that Will, and corresponds to vexation and judgement.

So what can we do to draw down the chessed? We can give charity. Charity reveals that everything in the world is governed through Divine providence (to understand how this is so, see the lesson in detail). When Divine providence is proclaimed, Fear of Heaven is increased. We hear stories about this phenomenon often, when Israeli soldiers do teshuva after seeing open miracles in the battlefield. That’s because the result of seeing the Hand of God, is fearing Him. Then, when someone has Fear of Heaven, he creates a space to receive the chessed of Hashem. Without Fear of Heaven, which condenses and focuses the flow of chessed, we can’t bear to receive the chessed. It will totally overwhelm and destroy us, just like a superabundance of rain can flood and wipe out an entire city. So Fear of Heaven, indirectly attained through charity, is the essential ingredient to receive the flow of lovingkindness.

Sounds easy, right? Just give some charity and let it pour! Sadly, its not as easy as we might think. The Rebbe quotes the Mechilta (Exodus 19:5) that teaches ‘all beginnings are difficult’. Any time someone wants to start serving Hashem with devotion, it will be hard. “One needs many cries and sighs before he can start”. Charity is even harder because charity is always widening the opening further. Every time one gives charity, it is as if he is starting from scratch. (Remember, as we explained in the last post, real charity means overcoming your natural cruelty. Not giving what’s already easy for you).

So how can we do it, if it’s so hard? Interestingly, the evening before the Rebbe gave this discourse (Shavuot 1809) he held a lengthy conversation with his followers, mentioning a number of salient points from this lesson. One of things he stressed to them was desire. “The main thing is desire (רצון) and longing. We must constantly yearn for Hashem”. Reb Nosson (Hilchos Kaddish) explains this to mean that we must pray for it. We should never stop praying to arouse our compassion over our cruelty, so that we can give charity, attain Fear of Heaven and draw down Hashem’s magnificent lovingkindness.

‘ליקוטי תפילות ח״ב תפילה ד

אָנָּא ה’, עָזְרֵנִי לְהַתְחִיל לִתֵּן צְדָקָה הַרְבֵּה בֶּאֱמֶת כִּרְצוֹנְךָ הַטּוֹב, וּבִזְכוּת מִצְוַת צְדָקָה תַּעַזְרֵנִי וְתִפְתַּח לִי וְתַרְחִיב לִי כָּל הַפְּתָחִים וְהַשְּׁעָרִים דִּקְדֻשָּׁה כִּי אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ אֶת לְבָבִי רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, כַּמָּה קָשֶׁה לִי לְהַתְחִיל שׁוּם הַתְחָלָה בַּעֲבוֹדַת ה’ בֶּאֱמֶת, וְכָל עִנְיַן עֲבוֹדָה וַעֲבוֹדָה שֶׁאֲנִי רוֹצֶה לְהַתְחִיל, קָשֶׁה וְכָבֵד עָלַי מְאד מְאד, עַד אֲשֶׁר “כָּשַׁל כּחַ הַסַּבָּל” וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה חֶבְלֵי לֵדָה, וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה גְּנִיחוֹת וּצְעָקוֹת וְשַׁוְעוֹת וּזְעָקוֹת וּצְוָחוֹת בְּכַמָּה וְכַמָּה מִינֵי קוֹלוֹת שֶׁל אָח וַאֲבוֹי, וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה אֲנָחוֹת מֵעוּמְקָא דְּלִבָּא וְכַמָּה וְכַמָּה כְּפֵילוֹת וְהַטָּיוֹת אָנוּ צְרִיכִין קדֶם שֶׁאָנוּ זוֹכִין לְהַתְחִיל אֵיזֶה הַתְחָלָה בְּאֵיזֶה עֲבוֹדָה וּמִגּדֶל הַכְּבֵדוּת הֶעָצוּם עֲדַיִן לא הִתְחַלְתִּי לְעָבְדְּךָ בֶּאֱמֶת “כְּמוֹ הָרָה תַּקְרִיב לָלֶדֶת, תָּחִיל תִּזְעַק בַּחֲבָלֶיהָ, כֵּן הָיִינוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ ה’ הָרִינוּ חַלְנוּ כְּמוֹ יָלַדְנוּ רוּחַ” וּכְבָר עָבְרוּ עָלַי יָמִים וְשָׁנִים הַרְבֵּה מִשְּׁנוֹתַי הַקְּצוּבִים בְּמִסְפָּר תַּחַת יָדֶךָ, וַעֲדַיִן לא הִתְחַלְתִּי הַתְחָלָה גְמוּרָה בַּעֲבוֹדָתְךָ בֶּאֱמֶת “עָבַר קָצִיר כָּלָה קָיִץ”, וַאֲנִי לא נוֹשָׁעְתִּי אֲבָל עֲדַיִן אֲנִי מְקַוֶּה וּמְצַפֶּה וּמְחַכֶּה וּמְיַחֵל בְּכָל עֵת וּבְכָל שָׁעָה לִישׁוּעָתְךָ הָאֲמִתִּיִּית, כִּי כָּל עוֹד נִשְׁמָתִי בִּי אֲנִי מְקַוֶּה לִישׁוּעָה שְׁלֵמָה בֶּאֱמֶת עַל כֵּן אֶזְעַק וַאֲשַׁוֵּעַ, חֲמל עַל עָנִי כָּמוֹנִי, דַּל וְחָלוּשׁ כּוֹאֵב וְגוֹוֵעַ, “כַּיּוֹלֵדָה אֶפְעֶה, הוֹשִׁיעָה הַמֶּלֶךְ, כִּי קָצַר הַמַּצָּע מֵהִשְׂתָּרֵעַ” רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם אַמֵּץ וְחַזֵּק רִפְיוֹן יָדִי, חַזֵּק יָדַיִם רָפוֹת וּבִרְכַּיִם כּוֹשְׁלוֹת תְּאַמֵּץ, זַכֵּנִי בְרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים שֶׁאַתְחִיל מֵעַתָּה בֶּאֱמֶת הַתְחָלָה גְמוּרָה, שֶׁאַתְחִיל מֵעַתָּה לִכְנס בַּעֲבוֹדָתְךָ מִיּוֹם אֶל יוֹם, וּלְהוֹסִיף בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם קְדֻשָּׁה וְטָהֳרָה וְחָכְמָה וּבִינָה וָדַעַת אֲמִתִּי וְכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם יָאִיר בְּיוֹתֵר בְּתוֹסְפוֹת אוֹר קְדֻשָּׁה מְרֻבָּה מִיּוֹם שֶׁלְּפָנָיו וְתַעַזְרֵנִי לְהַתְחִיל לִתֵּן צְדָקָה הַרְבֵּה בְּכָל עֵת לַעֲנִיִּים הֲגוּנִים, כִּי הַתְחָלַת הַצְּדָקָה קָשָׁה וּכְבֵדָה עָלַי מְאד בְּיוֹתֵר,  וְאֵין אֲנִי יוֹדֵעַ אֵיךְ לִזְכּוֹת לִצְדָקָה כָּרָאוּי, לְגדֶל רִבּוּי הַמְּנִיעוֹת בְּלִי שִׁעוּר שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִי עַל זֶה, כִּי רָחַק מִמֶּנִּי צְדָקָה

 

 

Barely Moving

pennies

Rebbe Nachman tells a story of a certain tzaddik who became so depressed that he couldn’t get out of bed. He tried whatever possible to bring himself joy but everything intensified his depression. Finally, he reminded himself that at least he could be happy that he was created a Jew and it started to work. Because in reality it’s the one thing that we can’t mess up. God made us a Jew and we had nothing to do with it! So he kept meditating on this idea and his joy increased “until he was as happy as Moses was when receiving the tablets”. He started to fly! He was flying millions of miles in higher worlds until it was time to land. When he landed, he realized that although he advanced to unbelievable heights in the other worlds, in this world he only moved a hair’s breadth.

Sometimes we feel impossibly far away from God, and that everything we do just pushes God away more. The Rebbe teaches (תנינא מ״ח) that we need to remember in this low state, that every little movement we make towards God is exceedingly precious to Him. Every ‘insignificant’ movement we make, shoots our soul in the hidden worlds farther than we can ever imagine!

I’m sure we’ve all heard similar words of encouragement before. But let me explain why this lesson is so comforting.

There are two types of people, or better yet there are two types of struggles we all go through. Sometimes we feel so defeated because nothing we do makes a difference at all. And sometimes we feel frustrated that although we do so much and our actions should be ‘changing us’, we end up accomplishing very little.

These negative perceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. We don’t appreciate the small things we do but God does. Many times we look at our ‘results’ and feel disappointment, but let’s remember that we’re not seeing the whole picture. Nothing goes unnoticed and we’ll be surprised how much we’re truly appreciated!

 

Shhhh…

smiley-zipping-mouth

When I was a Junior in high school someone I loved criticized me that I wasn’t a good listener. I decided to seek advice from a wise man who was visiting from Jerusalem. He asked me the following question: Why does the mishna (אבות ג) say that “The gate to wisdom is silence”? I said, “I don’t know”. So he answered, because there’s another mishna (אבות ד): “Who is wise? One who learns from all people”. He didn’t explain, but I knew what he meant. If I want to learn how to listen (and be wise), I need to learn how to be quiet.

Over the years I’ve participated in many classes and meetings. I find it annoying how people love to hear the sound of their own voice, always chiming in on something ‘brilliant‘ that they were thinking of, instead of listening to the previous speaker. If a person doesn’t learn to be quiet, he won’t gain wisdom, because he doesn’t allow other people to teach him.

Rebbe Nachman says two amazing things about silence:

In Torah 234 he teaches that saying over stories of great people purifies the mind of the storyteller and the listener. But it’s not that easy to do. We need to know how to say the story. Most of the time the mind’s refinement comes from what’s not said, leaving the listener to imagine the details on his own and connect to that greatness.

In Torah 64 he teaches that by examining the deepest heresy and silencing the questions in his great mind, the true tzaddik saves other Jews from the clutches of such heresy and brings them closer to God.

It’s usually the ignorant people who are always talking. The greatest of all people measure their words very carefully. Their silence grants them and others wisdom and development.

Why אהלל דבר?

tree-groundedness

Hello reader! I’m excited to welcome you to my blog entitled “אהלל דבר“! I plan on writing about my personal struggles and triumphs in life, in light of Rebbe Nachman from Breslov‘s teachings. My hope is that the reader will relate to these human struggles and be inspired by Rebbe Nachman‘s timeless advice to come closer to his creator.

What about the name אהלל דבר? Well, when I was 17 I visited the saintly Bobover Rebbe zt”l with my step Grandfather, whose parents were Bobover chassidim. I gave the Rebbe the kvittel with my name and my mother’s name, דוד בן רחל. He read it and said in yiddish that my name, דוד בן רחל, is an acronym for the word דבר. He then smiled at me, with his beautiful smile, and blessed me that I should be a דבר גדול בישראל, (“a great thing in Israel”). That blessing always made an impression on me.

In Tehillim (56) King David sings “באלוקים אהלל דבר, בי-הוה אהלל דבר” (Through God’s judgement, I will praise His word [and] through God’s kindness I will praise His word). All the commentaries note the greatness of King David’s ability to praise God consistently, whether in times of suffering or in times of joy. I always connected to this verse because as the Rebbe said, the acronym of my name is the word דבר. So I understand it as a personal message: “Davy, whether times are tough or times are good, you have the capability to praise God’s name”!

That’s what I’d like this blog to be about. I try to be real and somewhat honest with my personal struggles and I recently found in the writings of Rebbe Nachman a means for me to express my feelings and thoughts about the ups and downs of life. Whether there is kindness or, God forbid, judgment there is always a way to connect to the Divine!

It’s my prayer that this blog only sanctifies God’s name and brings the reader closer to Him and to their ultimate purpose of creation. Amen!