Speak to the rock


“Let me tell you what I saw and you can tell it to your children:

A man was lying on the ground and people were sitting around him in a circle. Around that circle were many other circles of people. Even beyond those circles were many other people sitting in no particular order.  The man in the middle was moving his lips and all the people around him were moving their lips too. And then I looked and he was gone. And everyone in the circles stopped moving their lips. I asked, ‘what’s going on?’ They answered me that he cooled down and passed away. When he stopped talking, they stopped talking.

Afterwards everybody began to run and I ran after them. I saw two palaces; beautiful structures. In front were sitting two very powerful men and everyone ran over and argued with them saying, ‘why did you trick us?’ The people wanted to kill the men. The men managed to escape. I saw their essence and I was very impressed with them. I ran after them and I saw from afar a beautiful tent. They were calling out from the tent to the two men, ‘Turn around, ask for all your merits and take them. Then go to the candle that’s hanging there. From there you can do everything you need’! So they turned around and took all their merits. There were bundles and bundles of merits. They ran to the candle and I ran after them. I saw a flame burning in midair. These two powerhouses came to the candle and threw their merits at the candle. Sparks fell out of the candle into their mouths and the candle became a river and they drank from the river. The river-water became creatures inside of them and when they started to speak the creatures came out of them. I saw the creatures going back and forth. They weren’t human or animal-like. They were just creatures.

Afterwards the creatures decided to go back to their place. But they said, ‘How could we go back to our place?’ One of them answered, ‘Let’s ask the one who stands there (in our place) with a outstretched sword from heaven to earth’. But they said, ‘Who should we send?’ It was decided to send the creatures. The creatures went there and I ran after them. I saw him standing there instilling fear with a sword that reached from the heavens to the earth. The sword had many sides. One side was designated for death, one was for poverty and one was for weakness. As well, there were many other mouths of the sword with other retribution.

The creatures asked him, ‘It’s been so long that you’re punishing us. Please help us and bring us back to our place’. And he said, ‘I can’t help you’. They implored of him, ‘Give us the blade of death and we’ll kill the powerful men’, but he didn’t agree. They asked for another blade and he refused. So they returned. While they were returning, a decree was passed to kill the two men and their heads were removed.

Then it was exactly as before. Someone was lying on the ground surrounded by circles of people etc. Again they ran to the powerful men, exactly as before. But this time the men didn’t throw their merits at the candle. Instead they took their merits and came to the candle, pouring out their hearts in supplication before it. Sparks fell from the candle into their mouths. They cried out more and the candle became a river, which became creatures. I was told that these two men would live. The earlier men were sentenced to death because they threw their merits at the candle and didn’t appeal to it in prayer.

I didn’t understand what I was seeing. They said to me, ‘Go to so-and-so room and they will explain it to you’. I went there and saw an old man and asked him about it. He took his beard in his hand and said ‘my beard is the explanation of the story’. I said, ‘I still don’t understand’. He said to me, ‘Go to so-and-so room and there you will find the answer’. I went there and I saw an infinitely long and wide room that was completely filled with scrolls. With every scroll that I opened I saw the expression of this story.”

Rebbe Nachman described this awesome vision to his students before he taught them Torah 20 on Rosh Hashana of 1805. He said that the lesson was an explanation of the dream and that, indeed, all his lessons are related to the dream. Every word of the Rebbe’s vision is layered with the holiest of holy meaning. I just want to give a glimpse of how this vision was alluded to in his lesson that amazing Rosh Hashana.

In Torah 20 the Rebbe taught that the downfall of Moses and Aaron was that they didn’t bond themselves in prayer with the people at the time Moses hit the rock. Instead they used their merits to bring forth the water. This is hinted to in the vision by the powerful men who threw their merits at the candle. The lesson stresses that the teacher must strip his ego and pray in allegiance to his students before teaching them Torah. If not, then the Torah he teaches is weak, the soul that explains all of Torah in the world is removed and all teachers are inundated with argument and strife, God forbid.

This dream appears in Chaye Moharan 83. I also was told this dream in Uman this past Rosh Hashana. I was very moved by its other-worldliness and I strongly wanted to understand it and internalize it. Maybe some of us were lucky enough over the past holiday-filled month to have some super-natural spiritual feelings? Those feelings are real. Life isn’t just a day of work, a couple of bathrooms runs and some traffic on the way home! We might not have these shake-ups often but they’re some of the most authentic experiences we have. We aren’t Rebbe Nachman from Breslov, whose every breath was flowing with holiness and meaning, but we have vision too. We have vision too…

לעילוי נשמת רבי לוי יצחק בן שרה סאשא זי״עא



Going up?


I remember, shortly after we moved to Israel, commenting that it seems we need to play a different role in serving God here than outside of Israel. Soon it became clear to me that in NY I was primarily focused on rejecting the negative influences. There’s so much distraction and lure there that the main objective was to keep everything out. Even the daily apparel catalogues mailed to our house were a major disturbance. I felt like I was in a boxing match, in the corner of the ring, with my gloves covering my face in defense. But in Israel, living with our brothers, the task wasn’t to shun the outside anymore. This forced me to look deep inside myself and question what am I really all about? It wasn’t sufficient anymore to play the guardian role – סור מרע. I needed to further develop my productive side – עשה טוב.  After learning Torah 20 I see that I was on to something.

Rebbe Nachman’s love for the Land of Israel was unparalleled. Not only did he risk his life in the late 18th Century and make the courageous pilgrimage to our homeland, but his writings and teachings are brimming with lessons on the Holy Land’s powers and spiritual benefits.

Reb Nosson writes that when the Rebbe said over Torah 20 on Rosh Hashana of 1804, he made the following declaration: “It’s not possible to be a Jew, meaning to go from level to level, without the Land of Israel”. After the lesson Reb Nosson thought that the Rebbe was alluding to some lofty concept, so he asked him, “What are you specifically referring to when you say that the Land of Israel is so great”? The Rebbe answered him chidingly, “I’m referring simply to the Land of Israel, with its’ houses and apartments”.

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So what is it about the streets, stones and buildings of Israel that separates it from everywhere else? I don’t claim to have that answer. But in the same superficial way that we can regard Shabbos as simply Saturday or view a Tzaddik as a plain human being, we can mistakenly see the Holy Land as just the same old dirt and rock. But it’s much more than that.

Israel is potentially perfect for holiness. There are a number of mitzvos that are only a possibility in the Land of Israel, such as the first fruit offering. What this means is that mundane activity has potential for Holiness in this Land more than anywhere else. In fact, on some level, what the 12 spies failed to understand was how we can work the land for sustenance and attain greater spiritual connection than in the desert where God was taking care of all our needs without our efforts. It’s specifically in Israel, amongst our people that we can produce corporeally and become the unique individuals and nation that we’re destined to become. Outside of Israel we can only hold on for dear life and shelter ourselves from the storm of assimilation. But in Israel we’re free to explore who we truly are. Like the Rebbe said, we need the Land of Israel to go ‘from level to level’.