Believing In Oneself

“The main thing is emuna (faith)” (Likutei Moharan II: 5:1)

Rabbi Natan tells us that working on our emuna, faith in Hashem, is the ultimate goal in life and fundamental to everything we do. “All Your mitzvot are emuna” (T’hillim 119:86). When we unconditionally believe in Hashem, the Torah, and the true tzaddikim, our emuna is complete. As discussed in Serving Hashem In Simplicityemuna exists only where knowledge does not.

Proper emuna includes believing that Hashem is the only true Reality, that He is the ultimate good, and that He governs His creation according to the principle of reward and punishment. Emuna in Torah includes believing that, as the Word of G-d, both the Oral and Written Torah are the manifestation of His Will and His instruction for how we are to draw close to Him. Emuna in true tzaddikim entails believing that these truly righteous individuals are sent by Hashem to guide us in proper understanding and practice of the Torah and greater devotion to Him, as discussed in, We Each Need a True Spiritual Guide.

There is actually a fourth area of emuna, distinct from the others, namely, the emuna a person must have in oneself. This requires believing that we are each precious in Hashem’s eyes, and that we also can know Him and have a direct connection to Him. Also, we must believe that, with Hashem’s help, each of us can succeed in our spiritual journey. All of the lofty spiritual goals mentioned about the true tzaddikim are attainable by us, each at one’s level. Hence, we cannot even start on our spiritual journey without having emuna in ourselves!

Based on notes in Likutei Moharan II, Volume XII, BRI

Self-Sacrifice In Serving Hashem

“Mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice, is something a Jew does every hour of every day… In Midrash HaNe’elam (Zohar I, 124b) we find that [prayer] is the concept of ‘For Your sake we are slain all day long'” (Tehillim  44:23) (Likutei Moharan II: 46:1).

Mesirat nefesh, literally meaning, “soul-sacrifice,” refers to when we sacrifice, usually physically of financially, on behalf of another person, cause, or for the sake of Hashem.

The first example Rebbe Nachman gives in this lesson (LM II: 46) is giving tzedaka, charity. While many people like to say, “Time is money,” the money we earn is actually a part of our soul, for “he gives his soul for it” (Deuteronomy 24:15). To earn money, most of us have to sacrifice our soul through overcoming the struggles and dangers of work. In our time, just leaving our homes to travel to work can be dangerous enough, G-d forbid.

Afterwards, we take part of our money and we give it away for the sake of Hashem. “Should there be a pauper among you … you shall surely open your hand to him …” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). As the Rebbe points out, giving tzedaka is a form of sacrificing one’s soul for Hashem.

Rebbe Nachman next discusses prayer as another form of self-sacrifice. The Rebbe cites the Midrash HaNe’elam‘s teaching that when we recite with concentration the verse from the Shema, “And you shall love Hashem your G-d” — intending to sacrifice our very soul for the sake of Hashem — it is as if we are actually being slain daily for Him, as in, “For Your sake we are slain all day long.”

Mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice, is something everyone experiences in serving Hashem. As discussed here by the Rebbe, simply giving tzedaka, charity, is one way we sacrifice ourselves for Hashem. Another way is through the many obstacles we experience and must overcome before and during our prayers. In the future, bsd, we will take a closer look at some of these obstacles we experience before and during prayer…

Based on Likutei Moharan II, Volume IV, Breslov Research Institute

Serving Hashem In Simplicity

“The ultimate purpose and perfection is nothing other than to serve Hashem in complete simplicity, without any cleverness at all.” (Likutei Moharan II: 19)

Simplicity is one of the basic topics in Rebbe Nachman’s teachings. The Rebbe teaches, “When a person follows his own intellect and cleverness, he can fall into many mistakes and pitfalls, and come to great evil, G-d forbid” (Likutei Moharan II: 12).

The essence of Judaism is to conduct oneself at all times with simplicity, which entails studying Torah and fulfilling it, as described in the Talmud and Shulchan Aruck, without adding or subtracting from the Jewish Law. The Rebbe teaches that “one should see to it that everything that one does is for the sake of heaven … If an act brings glory to G-d, one should do it, and if not, not. Then one will never stumble” (Likutei Moharan II: 12).

Enhancing Hashem’s glory must become the intended goal of all of our actions. If a particular action will enhance G-d’s glory, we should do it; if not, it must be avoided. This is what the Rebbe means when he says that we must “serve Hashem in complete simplicity.”

Although chokhma means “wisdom,” Rebbe Nachman occasionally uses the plural form chokhmot as referring to the misuse of intellect in serving Hashem, of being too clever for one’s own good. If paths of wisdom in serving Hashem involve sophisticated reasoning, they are not true paths to Him.

We must always remember that it is only by serving Hashem in complete simplicity and without any cleverness that we merit, with Hashem’s help, to reach our ultimate purpose and perfection.

Based on Likutei Moharan.

Distancing To Be Brought Near

When a person begins serving Hashem, the way is that they show him rejection. It seems to him that he is being rebuffed from on high and they are preventing him from entering l‘avodat, into the service of, Hashem. In truth, all distancing is nothing but being brought near. (Likutei Moharan I: 48:1)

Rebbe Nachman is encouraging us in our service of Hashem. We need to understand what the Rebbe means by avodat Hashem. To truly serve Hashem means that our praying is no longer a distracted recital of words by rote, and our Torah study is more than simply attending an occasional shiur, lesson. It means completely immersing ourselves into our devotions, focusing more on each mitzva we perform and striving to perceive its deeper meaning in our mind and heart. It also means seeking closeness with Hashem in every aspect of our life. This leads to greater awareness that Hashem is always with us, because “the whole earth is filled with His glory” (Isaiah 6:3), which should lead us to true awe and love for Hashem.

In his above teaching, “they” refers to the spiritual forces Hashem sends as obstacles, which appear to us as rejection. “It is the case … that as soon as a person wants to follow the path of the upright, he is beset by judgments…” (Likutei Moharan I: 87). While this may sound rather disheartening, Rebbe explains that Hashem “hides within the obstacles, and anyone with insight will be able to find Him within the very obstacles” (Likutei Moharan I: 115).

While these obstacles may appear to us as a sign of Hashem’s rejection of us, G-d forbid, reality is that He is always with us, even hiding within the obstacles themselves! The Baal Shem Tov once asked, since everything, including that which to us appears to be “not so good,” is from Hashem, how is it that we experience pain and suffering? He answered that “whenever it become necessary for a person to endure rejection or suffering or the like, Heaven deprives him of his awareness of G-d, and at that moment he feels that suffering!” (Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen, as cited in LM II: 48 [n. 3], BRI)

In the midst of the confusion and darkness, we must believe that these obstacles are simply a test to determine if we are truly committed to serving Hashem. While they may appear as rejection from Hashem, G-d forbid, these obstacles placed by Hashem can increase our desire to serve Him.

The main point is that when we experience obstacles in our service of Hashem, we must remember and believe that all distancing is nothing but being brought near!

Based on Likutei Moharan Volume XIV, Breslov Research Institute.

Hashem’s “Concealment within Concealment”

Unfortunately, many in our generation have committed so many sins that they have fallen into “concealment within concealment.” This “double” concealment can cause the person to fall into despair, G-d forbid, to feel there is no hope for them.

The first concealment is described as, “One who sins and repeats the sin perceives the sin as something permitted” (Yoma 86b). “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). In this case, one is aware that Hashem is concealing Himself, due to the person’s sin. The person is also aware that what appears permissible is actually forbidden. In this single concealment, it is possible through Torah study to arouse oneself and come to know Hashem.

The second level of concealment is when a person continues in their sin and improper path. Hashem becomes concealed from the person in a “concealment within a concealment.” The person is completely oblivious to the fact that Hashem is hidden, and neither knows nor senses the need to search for Him. In fact, all evil things now appear to this person to be completely upright, G-d forbid. This second case is similar to, “I will haster astir (thoroughly hide)” (Deuteronomy 31:18). This is the “concealment within concealment.”

However, in truth, we must believe that even in all the concealments, including the “concealment within concealment,” Hashem is present. It is only that due to our sins, Hashem “hides” His presence from us. At this time, Hashem’s Torah cries out, “How long will you fools go on loving foolishness?” (Zohar III, 57b-58a). Through concerted effort in Torah study, the person begins to hear this voice, rousing the person to do t’shuva (repentance) and return to Hashem.

Based on Likutei Moharan I, 56:3

Accepting the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven

In Torah Study and Prayer, we discussed that one must strive to seek out the inner intelligence, the G-dliness, found in everything. Rebbe Nachman (Likutei Moharan I, 1:2) now adds that “because the light of the inner intelligence is so very great, it is impossible to attain except through … an aspect of Malkut (Kingship). Malkut is the lowest of the Ten Sefirot and indicates limitation and constriction. Because the light of the inner G-dliness is so great, it can only be accepted by undergoing numerous limitations and constrictions, which is an aspect of Malkut.

The sefira of Malkut refers to the Kingdom of Holiness, Malkut d’Kedusha. It is only through Malkut that human beings can perceive anything about Hashem’s Kingdom. Hashem Himself is complete unknowable, reflected in the hidden and most exalted of the sefirot, Keter (Crown). In order for Hashem to be known and comprehended at all in this physical and lowest of worlds, His great light, Ohr Ein Suf, had to undergo a series of limitations and constrictions. These ten constrictions have been anthropomorphized and are referred to as the Ten Sefirot.

As Hashem’s great light descends through the sefirot, each level of descent causes more constriction, leading to further revelation of Him. Only at the lowest level of Malkut is Hashem’s light sufficiently constricted so that His attribute of Sovereignty or Kingship become knowable to us.

In practical terms, it is only to the degree that each of us accepts the “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” Hashem’s Malkut d;Kedusha, that we are then able to climb the ladder of wisdom until we can begin to perceive the inner intelligence, the G-dliness, inside of everything in creation. Next time, bsd, we will attempt to tie together Malkut with emuna

Based on notes in Likutei Moharan I, 1:2, Volume I, by Breslov Research Institute

Torah Study and Prayer

“Ashrei, happy are those whose way is perfect, who walk in the Torah of Hashem” (Tehillim 120:1).

Know! by means of Torah, all the prayers and all the requests that we request and pray are all accepted…”By means of Torah… chein, (grace) and importance are enhanced. For the Torah is called ‘a beloved doe and a graceful gazelle’ (Proverbs 5:29) — she bestows chein upon those who study her (Eruvin 54b). And through this, all prayers and requests are accepted” (Likutei Moharan I:1).

This is Rebbe Nachman’s advice to all of us when we feel our prayers go unanswered. As most of us know, occasionally we can pray and pray to Hashem for something, yet we see no results. This causes us to begin to lose our emuna (faith) in Hashem. As a result, we slacken in our prayers, which in turn makes them even less acceptable to Hashem. Rebbe’s advice to each of us during these difficult times is, “Know! by means of Torah, all the prayers and all the requests … are all accepted.”

Rebbe teaches that everything in life demands deeper study. Each of us “must always focus on the inner intelligence of every matter” (Likutei Moharan I:2), each according to our level. Everything in creation exists to increase our emuna, which brings us closer to Hashem.

We must strive to seek out the inner intelligence, the G-dliness, found in everything. However, when the understanding is lacking, when the G-dliness is obscured, this is when we must initially rely on our emuna in Hashem.

The reason we must try to understand is because the inner G-dliness in everything draws us closer to Hashem, since the purpose of everything in creation is “in order to know Him” (Zohar II, 42a). Attaining the awareness of this inner G-dliness in everything is a multi-step process. We must first focus on the wisdom in the thing. Then, we must bind ourselves to that wisdom, which leads to our enlightenment, enabling us to draw closer to Hashem.

R’ Natan explains in Torat Natan #1 that everything in creation is made up of an external aspect, as well as the inner aspect. Our goal should be to understand all of creation by means of the inner G-dliness. As R’ Natan emphasizes, this is only possible through Torah. Only through Torah study can we free ourselves of the physical desires and attachments that dim our ability to perceive the spiritual.

It is only through Torah study that we can become enlightened and draw down grace. We then merit for Hashem to help us control our physical desires and subdue our bad habits and negative character traits. This, then, allows us to draw closer to Hashem. And this is how Torah study gives us the merit to begin to have all our prayers and all our requests accepted by Hashem…

Based on Likutei Moharan, Volume I, Breslov Research Institute