8 Tevet 5773 / 21 Dec 2012
From the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
By Dr. Daniel David Weil
Our Parsha, Parshat Vayigash, contains some of the most moving and emotional events in the entire Torah. First we have Yehuda’s pleading speech to the Viceroy of Egypt, begging to be imprisoned himself in order to let his young brother Binyamin return home to Yaakov. Next we have the Viceroy revealing that he is really Yosef, their long-lost brother whom they assumed was dead. The brothers’ shocked reaction, and how they tell the news to their incredulous father Yaakov, is truly poignant. Hashem instructs Yaakov to go down to Egypt, where He promises to establish a great nation from his descendants.
Yaakov comes down to Egypt with his 70 family members, and the Torah tells us of the very emotional meeting between Yosef and Yaakov, after an absence of 22 years. The verse (Breishis 46, 29) says, “ Joseph harnessed his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He appeared before him, fell on his neck, and he wept on his neck excessively.” Rashi tells us in the name of our Sages that Yosef wept greatly and continuously. Yakov, however, did not fall upon Yosef’s neck, nor did he kiss him, for Yakov was reciting the Kriat Shema at that moment. Many commentators over the centuries have asked what possible connection is there between father meeting son and reciting Shema Yisrael!?
Rebbe Nachman in Torah 36 teaches us that every Jewish soul is rooted in the 70 souls of the House of Yakov, who came down to Egypt. The 70 souls of the House of Yakov are rooted in the seventy faces of Torah. On the opposite side, facing us with the role of trying to destroy our relationship to Torah and Godliness, are the seventy nations of the world, who are the source of the 70 evil traits. When the Jews are in exile, without the Holy Temple, we are exposed to these 70 evil traits; the essence and worst of them being sexual immorality of all types. Unfortunately, we Jews have often learned from and succumbed to our neighbors’ immoral and damaging values, world outlook and culture.
However, Rebbe Nachman tells us the important principle that before a Jew has any great revelation of Torah or Serving Hashem, our souls are tested and refined in the exile of the seventy nations of the world, by being exposed to their evil attributes. How can we survive?
Rabenu teaches us that the rectification for the lustful thoughts that come to a person is to recite the 2 verses: Shema Yisrael and Boruch Shem Kvod Malchuso, with great concentration. The opening verse of the Shema שמע ישראל השם אלוקינו השם אחד is our affirmation of our faith in God’s Oneness and acceptance of עול מלכות שמים, the responsibility of keeping the Torah and all the Commandments. Together with the 2nd verse, ברוך שם כבוד , מלכותו לעולם ועד we are arousing our awe and fear of Heaven and accepting God’s authority. We are identifying with the Kingdom of Holiness as opposed to the Kingdom of Evil. The Kingdom of Holiness is represented by the Twelve Tribes, the essence of the Jewish People. Rebbe Nachman points out the 2 verses at the beginning of Shema contain 12 words corresponding to the 12 Tribes, and 49 letters, corresponding to the 49 letters in the names of the Tribes. Therefore, a Jew who recites the Shema with great concentration and meaning, includes himself in the Kingdom of Holiness and separates himself from and even conquers the traits of the 70 Nations.
Rav Nosson (Likutei Halachot Hilchot Kriat Shema 4,15) explains
Chanukah and the Ultimate Goal of Life
1 Tevet 5773 / 14 Dec 2012
From the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev
by Dr. Daniel Weil
What is the purpose of Creation? Rebbe Nachman teaches us many times, based on the Zohar, that Hashem created the entire Universe in order for the Jewish People to do God’s will as defined by the holy Torah, and thereby come to know Hashem, to attach ourselves to Him, and to become “one with God.” That is the ultimate purpose of this world. If we successfully avoid the pitfalls of this world, and serve Hashem with the abilities and talents that He gave to us, our souls will merit the ultimate goal of Creation, the “Tachlis”: Enjoying the immeasurable spiritual pleasure of basking in Hashem’s radiant light for Eternity, in the World to Come, Olam Haba.
This mystical concept of a person becoming “one with God” is based on the fact that originally our souls were part of God, before He connected our souls with our bodies and brought us into this world. The attempt to re-unite our souls with the Creator is called “bitul”, ביטול, nullifying ourselves in order to cleave to Hashem, to be absorbed into Hashem’s Oneness.
What does “bitul” entail? What does it mean to nullify oneself?
In Likutei Moharan Torah 65 Rebbe Nachman teaches us that Hashem causes everything that happens to us in this world, and His intention is only for our good, in order to bring us to our “tachlis”, our Ultimate Goal: meriting to come to Olam Haba. The Creator, being the source of all goodness, plans and designs the events of the world and of our own personal lives according to His Divine Wisdom for everyone’s ultimate benefit. However, it is only natural that we look at painful things in our lives as bad for us, because they cause discomfort or distress or suffering. But the truth is that everything that happens is good; even the hurtful events are brought by Hashem either to remind us to repent from our sins, or to cleanse us of our sins, or sometimes to provide a tikun, a rectification of our souls, in order to merit the World to Come. It is written, (in Zecharia 14:9) “ On that day God will be One and His Name will be One”. Our Sages explain this verse as follows: When Mashiach comes and reveals God to the entire world, all the nations of the world will serve only Hashem. Mankind will then understand how everything stems from One Source, even what seems bad, is truly for our ultimate good.
Today, before Mashiach , it is difficult but not impossible to see the good in our suffering. Rebbe Nachman teaches that if one focuses intensely on the Ultimate Purpose of any painful item, on God’s intention, which is without doubt only for good, he will not experience the event as suffering at all. For example, when someone needs an emergency injection to save his life, he won’t feel the pain of the needle, because he is very focused on saving his own life. The reason people experience pain is because they are not focused on the “tachlis”, God’s purpose in guiding the world, rather, they are very focused on the physical details of what is happening to them. The physical world we live in is a huge distraction from seeing the distant ultimate goal of life. How can we become less distracted? It requires an investment of time to practice focusing on Godliness by speaking to Hashem daily, in Hisbodidus, personal prayer. After a short period of daily Hisbodidus, we will find ourselves focusing on the “Tachlis” of life with greater clarity and ease.
Rebbe Nachman teaches us that the key to lessening pain and suffering in this world is “bitul”, nullifying oneself before God, and focusing on the Endless Light of Hashem and on Olam Haba, the World to Come. This requires detaching oneself from the mundane regular happenings of this world, not gazing at the temptations and vanities of this world at all. The “Bitul” can occur in many different forms. It can occur intensely sometimes during prayer, when one is intensely focused on talking to Hashem and is totally oblivious to anyone else in the room; and it can be less intense for a longer period, when one has a day or even a week in which he feels strongly how much Hashem loves us and how everything in our lives is entirely guided by God. One can then see and grasp the light of the Ultimate Purpose, the ”Tachlis”, which is entirely good. One will then hardly feel any suffering, because the main reason we suffer is because we are distant from perceiving the Ultimate Purpose.
Rav Nosson, in Likutei Halachot Netilat Yadayim Shachrit 4 explains that this idea is related to the Chanuka candles. Matisyahu Kohen Gadol and his sons nullified themselves before God, by risking their lives against all odds, for the goal of allowing the Jewish nation to learn Torah and to take control of the Holy Temple from the hands of the Greek- Syrian armies. The enemy wanted to force our People to forget the Torah and give up doing the mitzvos. They partly succeeded with many Jewish Hellenists. The tzaddikim saw that in order to save Am Yisrael they had to focus intensely on the Ultimate Goal and not be distracted by the glamorous Hellenist culture. God helped them to succeed due to their incredible self-sacrifice. The miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days symbolized the continued revelation of the Endless Light of Hashem and the Torah in this world.
It is this power, this tremendous potential of sacrifice for Hashem and focusing on the “Tachlis” which the Chanuka candlelight gives to us each year. In the darkness of the long winter nights, which symbolize the trials and tribulations of our long national exile, and also each person’s personal difficulties and challenges, the holy candlelight comes to tell us that we can survive, and that despite the pain, we have the ability to perceive the sweetness of Hashem’s guiding Hand in our lives. בימים ההם בזמן הזה- In those days and in our own times- the light of the Menorah reminds us to think of the important things in life, to remember that God loves us, and to feel gratitude and joy that Hashem wants us to be close to Him.
Giving Thanks on Chanukah
23 Kislev 5773 / 7 Dec 2012
From the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman
by Dr. Daniel Weil
There is a great difference between the Shabbat candles and the Chanukah candles. The purpose of the Shabbat candles is to use the wonderful shining candle light in order to increase שלום בית , love and harmony in each home, and perform all of our activities while basking in the warm glow of the candles. However, the mitzvah of the Chanukah menorah is not to use the light of the candles but rather to look at them, to absorb the glow and to meditate on the deep holy meaning of the candle light.
Rav Nosson, in Likutei Halachot Shiluach HaKen 5,7, teaches us that we should stand in front of the candles, to stare at the flame and impress upon our hearts the awesomeness of the miracles that Hashem performed for our ancestors and for us at the time of the Maccabean struggle against the Syrian-Greek armies. This helps us remember that in every generation the nations of the world try to destroy the Jewish people and eradicate the message of Torah, and that God, due to his endless love for Am Yisrael, has saved us many, many times with countless large and small miracles.
Rebbe Nachman explains that the light of the candles is coming from a very high spiritual place, and represents the fact that Hashem wants to shower us with his love by bringing down the Torah daily into our lives, by allowing the Torah way of life to survive in a hostile world, full of enemies of Torah and Judaism. It is only through wondrous constant miracles that we can still merit to keep the Torah and perform mitzvot during these thousands of years of exile and darkness. The light of the candles reflects the spiritual light that God is shining into our lives every moment, if we choose to see it and attach ourselves to it. Hashem is constantly supplying us with the strength and even the willpower to want to serve Him, to be close to Him, and the ability to feel the beauty and sweetness of davening, learning Torah, and performing mitzvos. Our most precious gift, of course, is life itself, and the opportunity to earn our Eternal Reward: the endless spiritual pleasure of the World-to-Come.
It is not to be taken for granted that God gives us these presents; we should feel tremendous gratitude to Hashem for choosing each one of us to be His beloved precious child, and for protecting us with His השגחה פרטית , Divine Providence. Our name, יהודים , Yehudim, comes from the word להודות , to give thanks. Expressing gratitude is our very essence. Therefore we start each day with the words ” מודה אני לפניך , I am grateful to You, Hashem.”
Unfortunately, we often do not see or feel that God is giving us any special gifts. People frequently think that Hashem just hands out another day of “life” automatically, like a law of nature, like He gives life daily to the cats and dogs and worms and plants etc… “God doesn’t think about me or care about me; it’s all routine, robotic and pre-planned. ” When someone thinks these thoughts, they cannot possibly feel appreciation or gratefulness to Hashem for giving him life.
However, these thoughts are far from the truth. The truth is that Hashem constantly weaves for each of us every second a detailed tapestry of what happens to us, who we meet, how healthy we are, every detail of our lives, and also all the events that happen to our family and friends. This is due to the immeasurable, unfathomable love that Hashem loves each one of us. As we say daily, אהבת עולם אהבתנו “You love us with an eternal love” that is so deep that Rebbe Nachman says we cannot fully conceive how profound it is. If we could only feel and see the truth about God’s love and concern for each one of us, we would then feel incredibly grateful to Him for all the goodness He gives us. This would bring us to feelings of love and joy.
But even if we can’t feel it, we must have faith in the tzaddikim who have told us this great truth: Hashem loves each of us without limit.
Chanukah was planned by our Sages mainly to be a holiday of giving thanks to the Creator for all the goodness He bestows upon us all the time, as we say in the Al Hanissim prayer
וקבעו שמונת ימי חנוכה אלו להודות ולהלל לשמך הגדול . “ The Sages instituted the 8 days of Chanukah to express appreciation and praise to Your great Name.”
This is the work we should do on Chanuka; to examine our lives and to impress on our minds that along every step of the way Hashem himself was there to support us every minute with miracles, spiritual bounties, concern and love. It takes effort to review our lives and see how God directed us with love through all the winding paths that we took. But if we each take time to reflect daily on the Creator’s Divine Love for us, for me, even little me, we will receive the light of the Chanukah candles as a burning flame to give passion, enthusiasm and joy in our hearts.
Parshat Ki Teitzei פרשת כי תצא
14 Elul 5772 / 1 Sept 2012
From the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman
by Dr. Daniel Weil
Rosh Hashanah is approaching quickly and a sense of seriousness and earnest contemplation can be felt from those people who have real true faith that Hashem will judge each one of us on that important day. Our holy tzaddikim teach us that the month of Elul is the crucial time to start the process of repentance for the coming Day of Judgement, יום הדין.
In fact, the Torah readings of this month can be related to Rosh Hashana and to Tshuva – Repentance. Our Parsha begins with the words :
כי תצא למלחמה על אויבך – When you go out to wage war on your enemies
ונתנו ה’ אלוקיך בידיך- Hashem will give them into your hands
ושבית שביו- and you will take all his spoils of war.
Rebbe Nachman explains it this way: when you wage war on your greatest enemy- your evil inclination, the evil inclination will try to put God in your hands, i.e. make you feel haughty and conceited, and tell you that you’re just great! This will destroy your soul, so don’t fall for his lies, tell him you reject his offers totally.
We must realize that this world presents us with a war, a struggle, all the time. And if we do sin and transgress God’s Will, as presented in the Shulchan Aruch, the Jewish Books of Law, we must repent for these acts, words and even thoughts. How do we repent for our transgressions?
The Rambam tells us this process consists of 3 main activities. The Jew who wishes to make amends and atone for sins must first of all recognize what items in his behavior, beliefs and personality traits are against the Will of Hashem. He must have sincere regret and remorse that he acted in this way. The Torah also requires him to confess out loud to Hashem his faults and sins, and he must commit himself to never repeating those actions. His determination and resolve must be so great, says the Rambam, that God Himself can testify that he will not return to these sins again.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t reach that last, very high level. Not only will God not testify about our ability to refrain from repeating our sins, but we ourselves can often testify right after Yom Kippur that we will probably soon be duplicating our faults over and over again!
Why is it that we cannot eradicate our faults and sins despite going through the tshuva process described so well by our holy Sages? Why do so many of us repeat the same sins we did before, as if we didn’t do any spiritual work on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?
Rebbe Nachman in Likutei Moharan Torah 6 provides us with the answer. And this holy piece of advice will allow us to do tshuva on a high level and eradicate our propensity to repeat our faults.
The answer is: Work on the attribute of ענוה humility, and practice it daily.
The Rebbe explains that the Zohar says that we all have an evil inclination, represented by the blood in the left chamber of our heart, which constantly calls on us to be self-centered; it’s like a factory producing גאוה (gaava), haughtiness and self-admiration. This trait of גאוה constantly pressures us to give in to our desires: it whispers “you need it, you deserve it, you must have it now!” etc. etc.. This is the root of our addictions and the source of many of our shortcomings.
When a person suceeds in diminishing his own honor and self-importance, and raises the honor of Hashem, he can perfect his Tshuva. When he conquers his גאוה , his selfcenteredness, he can start to work on real repentance- Tshuva.
But how can one decrease his own feeling of needing honor? One can practice humility and repentance by remaining quiet and not even getting angry when he is humiliated or being insulted. This is difficult to achieve, but essential. If he can realize that this insult and embarrassment is coming from God, that he deserves it due to his faults, and that this is part of his Tshuva process, then he will merit kavod Elokim- the honor of God. Hashem promises to then vanquish his evil inclination.
When a person fully acknowledges his shortcomings and sins, and has no resentful and bitter feelings when he is embarrassed, then the suffering that he endures weakens the strength of the blood in the left side of his heart. This is a very effective method for achieving both humility and repentance. He is on the proper path to full repentance – a longlasting Tshuva.
What advice can be given to help us start to work on the trait of humility? The Rebbe says that one can obtain high levels of ענוה, humilty mainly by attaching oneself to a tzaddik. One must first accept the greatness of the tzaddikim and find a tzaddik that he feels brings him closer to Hashem. Then he should read his books, follow his advice, and live according to his teachings. It’s also very important to connect with the tzaddik’s students and community. Of course, if possible he should hear his shiurim and speak to him personally.
If a person merits binding his soul with the soul of the tzaddik, he will also merit doing sincere repentance תשובה שלמה and developing true humility.