Annihilate Your Ego

“The whole earth is filled with His glory” (Isaiah 6: 3)

The main thing is to nullify every one of your personality traits. You must strive to do so until you have totally obliterated your ego, rendering it into absolute nothingness before G-d.

Begin with one trait and annihilate it completely. Then work on your other traits, one at a time, until they are totally nonexistent.

As you annihilate your ego, G-d’s glory will begin to shine through and be revealed.

Reb Noson of Breslov; Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom #136

 

Learning to Wait

Sometimes when people don’t want to suffer a little, they end up suffering a lot!        Siach Sarfey Kodesh I, 6

When you just can’t fall asleep, it’s no use trying to force yourself to sleep. The more you try to force yourself, the more sleep will elude you. The same applies to many other things: it is not good to force yourself too much, because the more you try to force yourself, the stronger the opposing forces will become.

When something can be done today don’t leave it for tomorrow, because the world never stops for a moment. Who knows what obstacles you may face from the outside and from within if you leave it until later? But at times you may see that despite all your efforts and determination you simply cannot achieve what you want. Sometimes you must simply wait. Don’t be discouraged because you are not achieving what you want. Don’t let this push you off course. You must wait a little until the time is ripe.

Greenbaum, Avraham. The Essential Rabbi Nachman (p. 82).

Master of Patience

Know that this life is filled with great trials. Everyone must undergo upsets, falls, sufferings and bouts of bitterness. Everyone must experience constant changes in his mood and disturbances of equilibrium. Every day and every hour, it is possible for a person’s state of mind to shift so radically that the event of an instant can break his spirit and completely discourage him.

No adequate response to such events exists, save that of patience. You must make yourself a master of patience, for the ability to bear all that one goes through is the most precious of traits.

A Soft Answer: Based on the Teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and of His Student Rabbi Nossan of Breslov, by Mohorosh HaKodesh Breslov

Derech Eretz – Proper Conduct

If kings knew of my derech eretz [proper conduct], they would send their sons to study with me. (Rebbe Nachman, Sichot HaRan 19)

One must teach a child proper conduct from his youth. (Sefer Midot: Children 64)

Acting with proper and respectful manners is an important part of Rebbe Nachman’s path. His followers are expected to regard it seriously.

Our courtesy and good manners should be distinct from those of others. While it is possible to somewhat develop these traits without Torah, such as those who practice morality based on common sense and fairness, we are to be distinct, since Hashem commanded us how we should conduct ourselves. While others may choose to behave in an “ethical manner,” we are called to be holy. Therefore, even those mitzvot that are logical and fair are to be observed because Hashem commands them in the Torah. (Rebbe Nachman, Sichot HaRan 116).

Developing good midot and refraining from bad ones are part of the Torah’s path of self-improvement. Our Sages tell us that, “good manners are a prerequisite for Torah” (Vayikra Rabba 9:3). Rabbi Chaim Vital says that the midot are themselves the very source of the Torah (Sha’arei K’dusha 1:2).

A person with good manners guards the purity of one’s soul, and can fulfill the entire Torah in holiness. We must remember that it takes a lot of scrubbing in Gehinom to remove the stains of this world. If we refine ourselves here, we will not need to be cleansed in the World to Come.

Based on In All Your Ways, Collected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schechter, The Importance of Derech Eretz

 

Do Not Desecrate One’s Word

“This is the thing that Hashem has commanded … he shall not desecrate his word, according to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do” (Numbers 30:2-3)

The Abir Yaakov warns us that a person may learn Torah, pray, and fulfill the mitzvot, but if one does not guard oneself in the areas of business dealings or speech, by being honest and acting in good faith, regarding such a person we read, “In vain is the watchman vigilant” (T’hillim 127:1). This person’s Torah is for nothing, G-d forbid.

This is similar to a mincha  (grain offering) to Hashem that must be brought in a pure vessel. Even if only the vessel is impure, they are both rejected.

The vessel through which we offer our words of Torah and prayer to Hashem is the mouth. If our mouth becomes contaminated by improper speech, especially by lies and deceit, then any words of Torah and prayer spoken by the same mouth are contaminated and become an abomination to Hashem, G-d forbid. The mouth and the speech we utter are inseparable. If we guard our mouth in mundane matters, then our words of Torah and prayer are acceptable to Hashem. Otherwise, not.

Based on Pituchei Chotam: Insights on the Weekly Parashah by Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira, The Abir Yaakov, Bamidbar — Devarim, Artscrcoll

To Remember … or Not

The Ramchal opens his work Mesillat Yesharim, his fundamental work about a person’s  avoda (self-work), by telling us that while one will not find many new ideas in his words and are well known by all, they are forgotten by nearly everyone. We need to try to understand how in the matter of self improvement there can be so much forgetfulness. Since this problem is not new to our generation, but has been with us for at least hundreds of years, this is an inherent problem.

A common attitude is that self-work, the development of our soul, is secondary in life. Many of us spend years learning Talmud and halakha day and night, but won’t find time to learn mussar, ethical teachings. Why? Because learning everything else means more to the person than self-improvement. As a result, we forget about this avoda and push it aside.

The Ramchal warns us that if we have not yet reached the level of giving primary importance to avoda (self-work), there is no reason to continue. If we relate to it as something of secondary importance, we can learn a lot, but we will simply forget it, since there is no reason to remember. We remember that which is important to us because we want to remember it.

There are two sources that we have for memory — our brain in our head, and our heart. Things that we are not connected to, that we view as irrelevant to our daily lives, we store in our brain. However, something or someone we are very attached to and is relevant in our lives, is in our heart, and also in our brain. A memory in the heart comes from one’s essence, whereas that of the mind is external to us. In order to remember about our avoda of self-improvement, we must make it part of our essence.

How do we remember the Torah we learn? We can learn short-term in order to pass a test, but we will soon forget it. Some people are gifted with incredible memories, but that doesn’t mean the Torah they learn is in their heart. We must decide to strive to merit that the Torah we learn becomes an inseparable part of us, as in, “Your Torah is within me” (T’hillim 40:9). Why? Because the Torah is in his heart, not just his brain, as King Shlomo says, “My heart saw much wisdom” (Kohellet 1:16).

There is a mitzva for the “Torah to be sharp in your mouth” (Kiddushin 30a), and to remember it. When a person has Torah in one’s heart and not just in the brain, even if, G-d forbid, the person would have some brain injury, the Torah would remain inside the heart. We see this in stroke victims, G-d forbid, who lose much of their brain function, yet remember Hashem and the mitzvot. The Torah is inside of this person, imprinted in the heart, and cannot be taken away.

We must each strive to make the avoda of self-improvement a central part of our life. If we view it as primary, we will make the time to learn it. If it is relevant and important to us, we will have it inside our heart and remember what we learn.

Based on Bilvavi On the Path: The Ramchal’s Introduction and Chapter One

 

 

Guarding the Tongue

The Abir Yaakov tells us that our main function and tikkun (rectification) in the world depends on that which we speak. King Solomon says, “All man’s toil is for his mouth” (Ecclesiastes 6:7). The words of prayer and Torah that we say create worlds above. When we remove ourselves from physicality, we will realize that the most important thing is our lofty words that are spiritual and are our life force.

The power of true speech is unique to humanity. Every holy word we speak rises up to the heavens above and attaches itself to its spiritual root in the upper worlds and rectifies them.

The opposite is also true, G-d forbid. We can destroy spiritual worlds through our speech. Our Sages tell us that lashon hara (disparaging speech) is equal to idolatry, forbidden relations, and bloodshed (Arachin  15b).

King David warns us, “Who is the person who desires life, who loves days of seeing good? Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit” (T’hillim 34:13-14). Unfortunately, most people are not concerned with guarding their tongue. King David is warning us that improper speech prevents a person from cleaving to holiness and creates a barrier between the person and Hashem.

The Abir Yaakov explains that we are being warned by King David, “Who is the person who desires life?” — who wishes to achieve holiness in this world? And, “who loves days of seeing good?” — this refers to the World to Come, where we will find eternal life, goodness, and delight. If a person desires these things, then one must “Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.” The life we seek depends on our ability to guard our words, so that our words will rise above, enabling us to attain holiness.

Based on Pituchei Chotam: Insights on the Weekly Parashah by Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira, The Abir Yaakov, Bamidbar — Devarim, Parashah Mattot, Artscrcoll