You don’t get me

unique hands

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.

get me

“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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Open your heart



Our hearts are yearning! We want to be loved and respected. We want to feel good and worthy. We want to contribute and be recognized. But something is missing. There is a void in many of our hearts that seems to gnaw at us. It rears it’s head unannounced and says, “I want more! Is this it? Is this why I’m here?” So many of us know exactly how to deafen that inner voice. Some of us shut off our racing minds by inundating ourselves with television or some other social media. Others scour the fridge for the right ‘comfort food’ to stuff away those emotions. Still too many others numb the emptiness by drinking, gambling or doing drugs.

But the heart aches! It’s thirsting for real connection. It’s pining for relationships with our partners, friends and with the infinite. That longing is very real. We need to stop hiding and address it.

But how do we address it? How do we deal with the trauma of our past? How can we face ourselves and have a future?

Personal prayer! More and more prayer!

King David sings, “That which is elevated, is denigrated by man (Psalms 12:9)”. The Talmud (Rashi to Brachos 6b) says David is referring to prayer, which “stands at the summit of the universe, yet is treated without respect”. Rebbe Nachman says (Tinyana 1) that personal prayer is in exile. In order to redeem prayer from its exile, we need to be wholehearted. We need to access our entire heart by instilling the fear of God in our lives. That awe allows us to sincerely access our hearts, which have been busying us with thousands of facebook posts and hundreds of daydreams, as we stare at our new clothes in the dressing-room mirror. With an open heart we can develop tools of prophecy. In Torah 138 the Rebbe taught that even though there’s ‘officially’ no prophecy left in the world, a clean heart is so in tune with creation, that it’s nearly prophetic. The heart is so deep. Unfortunately many of us are afraid to let it feel. Maybe we had some ugly episodes in the past that have convinced us that our emotions are best kept under lock and key? But how long will this go on? Can we deny it forever? How long will we numb ourselves? It’s time to allow our hearts to feel and heal.

This happens when we really pray! Not how we learned to pray as kids, and not how we see others praying in synagogue, but how only our hearts know how to pray. It’s very uncomfortable at first; almost awkward. Many times it just doesn’t go, but undoubtably it’s the most special expression that we have. It’s us, who we really are. It’s our greatest tool of health. It’s the best remedy for all of our challenges. Not only will we find our true selves but we will be shocked at how amazing we can be.

Try it. In your own words. A few minutes here and there. Every so often a longer session when necessary. Only you know how much you need. Sometimes when you’re taking that second or third helping of dessert, or you’re scrolling down the youtube screen for the next video, maybe you just need to shut your eyes and whisper? Maybe you need to walk outside, take a deep breath and mumble? Only you can know what you need. But I know you need it.



The greatest doctor


In the late 50s, Shlomo Carlebach and Zalmen Shachter became the first two shluchim (messengers) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Shlomo told Rav Gedaliah Fleer the following personal story:

During the summer time, Shlomo said, the Rebbe instructed me to go to the sleep-away camps in upstate NY and play music for the campers. My father was upset about it because he wanted me to sit and learn in yeshiva. The Rebbe told me it’s ok that he’s upset, but I must make sure to get home every shabbos and be with my father, which I did. One Friday afternoon I was talking really deep to one of the young people there when I realized that I missed the last bus to the city. How would I make it home to be with my father for shabbos? So I went out to the highway to try and hitch a ride. Thank God, a little yiddele saw me standing out on the highway and pulled over. I asked him if he was going to NY and he said yes, so I got in. I said, “Brother, you have to drive me home to the West Side to be with my father for Shabbos”. The guy says, “No way! I’ll drive you to NY but I need to be in Brooklyn for Shabbos”. I kept on noodging him and he says to me, “Look, I had a hard week. My wife was in a car accident here in Liberty. She’s in bad shape and I was with her in the hospital all week. I need to get back to Brooklyn, send the babysitter home and get my kids ready for shabbos”. I said to him, “Brother, I’m a shliach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe told me that I need to be home for shabbos. Do you know that the Talmud says, ‘שלוחו של אדם כמותו’, which means that a messenger is like the sender? Since the Rebbe sent me, I’m telling you – as if I’m the Lubavitcher Rebbe – that if you drive me to the West Side to be with my father for shabbos, you’re wife will have a speedy recovery”. Well, he believed me and took me home, and hopefully he got home for shabbos too.              Sunday, I get in to see the Rebbe and I’m telling him about my week playing music and telling stories to the kids. I told him my father is still not happy with me. The Rebbe asked me if I’m coming home every shabbos, like he instructed? So I say, “Oh! Rebbe, I have to tell you. I told this guy that if he drove me home for shabbos, then your prayers would heal his wife who’s in the ICU in Liberty. Here’s her name…”. The Rebbe says to me, “You said what”? I said, “Yes, I told him that I’m your shliach and that if he drives me home, then I promised his wife a full recovery in your name”. The Rebbe started to laugh. I never saw him laugh like this. He got up and was holding on to the table laughing. Then he says to me, “Ok Shlomo, I’ll take care of this one. But never do that again”. Rav Gedaliah asked Shlomo, “Why do you think he laughed so hard”? So Shlomo answered back, “Why do you think he laughed”? Rav Gedaliah answered, “I think he laughed to sweeten the judgements against that lady”. Shlomo agreed, “Yes, I think you’re right”.

In Tinyana 1Rebbe Nachman teaches, based on the Medrash, that all remedies and drugs receive their potency from the stars and constellations that rule over them. Those stars and constellations then receive their strength from the angels above them. Then those angels, in turn, get their power from even higher angels, who rule over them. At every level the angels are ‘borrowing’ power from each other, higher and higher in the celestial realms, until they borrow from the ‘greatest of all lenders’, the one who perfects his prayer. This man or woman who truly prays can heal anyone. As you could imagine, it’s not that easy to reach these lofty heights of prayer. The tzaddik must free himself from three things that undermine his prayer. He can’t disparage other people and he must subdue his gluttonous and promiscuous desires. Thank God, throughout our history, we’ve merited to have these great lenders. Whether it was Moses, Rabbe Chanina Ben Dosa or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, there are always these great leaders who are ready to ‘lend a helping hand’.