Believing in Ourselves

Our ultimate future is rooted in Adam’s refusal to fall into despair, and his persistence in starting again. And that’s true for us no less than it was for Adam — we need to believe in ourselves, in our ability to repair the world if we’ll only begin the process.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught:

“If you believe that you can ruin something… believe that you can fix it!”

 Rabbi Baruch Gartner, Living Aligned

Our Personal Redemption

The great lesson we learn from Adam is that although it seemed like it was too late, he did not give up. He did not give in to the natural human tendency to allow guilt and shame to keep him from trying to repair whatever he could.

The roots of redemption lie in refusing to despair, and believing in ourselves and in the possibility of repair.

Rabbi Baruch Gartner, Living Aligned

Three Blemishes — Three Weeks

During these Three Weeks, we are mourning the destruction of the First and Second Temples, over the exile of our people from the Land, and over the empowerment of the evil kingdoms of the world, the epitome of which is the seed of Amalek. This is why there are Three Weeks, for we are mourning over these three points that were blemished on account of our sins — the three mitzvot upon entering the Land of Israel, namely, eradicating the seed of Amalek, appointing a king, and constructing the Temple.

Due to our many sins in the past, for which we have still not fully repented, we have been unable to fully eradicate the seed of Amalek. Now, the filth of Amalek spreads and intensifies every day. We have been unable to reveal the glory of Hashem in the world. Our influence has diminished to the point that we still have no king. Most importantly, the Temple, the crown of our heads, has been destroyed due to our many sins, and due to our failure to fully repent, it has still not been rebuilt.

The main tikkun (rectification) during these Three Weeks corresponds to t’shuva (repentance). We cry and mourn during these Three Weeks over our failure in the past to properly fulfill the three mitzvot Hashem commanded of us when we entered the Land of Israel. We also cry and mourn over the fact that we have still not fully repented for them.

May we, during these Three Weeks, properly and completely repent for our three failures and merit complete rectification, through which we will finally and completely eradicate Amalek, welcome the coming of our true Mashiach, and see the rebuilding of our Temple, speedily in our days! Amen.

Based on Likutei Halakhot, Orach Chaim I, Shabbat 7, by Rabbi Natan of Breslov

The Three Weeks — Rectifying Judgment

The Three Weeks is the most mournful time of the year for us. The closer we get to the Ninth of Av, the more these mourning restrictions intensify. So what is the purpose of our mourning during this time? Our Sages teach us that the purpose if to stir us to t’shuva, repentance.

Rabbi Natan teaches us:

The essence of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple, came about through blemished judgment, as it states, “You who turn judgment to wormwood” (Amos 5:7). Not only did the generation of the Destruction fail to do justice, they damaged [the attribute of] justice, thereby enabling Nevuchadnetzar to gain control over that attribute.

T’shuva, repentance, comes about through justice. When a person practices hitbodedut, person prayer, and scrutinizes one’s deeds, judging oneself and arousing oneself to return to Hashem, one avoids having to be judged … because “When there is judgment below, there is no judgment Above, in Heaven” (Midrash Tanchuma, Mishpatim 5)…

The Destruction [of the Temple] came about through blemished judgment. Therefore, we must now do t’shuva and rectify this by judging ourselves, and fasting and refraining from pleasurable activities, in order to annul the judgment on High…

The most important aspect of mourning is to reflect on one’s own actions, and to understand that they were the cause of the Destruction. As it states, “Any generation in which the Beit HaMikdash is not rebuilt is considered as if they had destroyed it” (Yerushalmi, Yoma, 1:1). We must mourn our own sins and cry over them very much, and do a thorough soul-searching. In this way, we will merit the building of the Beit HaMikdash, for “Whoever mourns over Yerushalayim will also merit to see its rejoicing” (Taanit 30).

Likutei Halakhot, Ko’ach v’Harsha’ah 3:6-9

Each of us, according to our sins, has a share in the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple. However, rather than throwing us into despair, we must realize that we can correct this. As Rebbe Nachman says, “If you believe breaking is possible, believe fixing is possible” (Likutei Moharan II: 112). Each of us, according to how we judge ourselves and merit to correct our deeds, has a share in the future rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, speedily in our days, through the rectification of the misdeeds of each of us!

Based on Likutei Halakhot and Beyond Time, by Erez Moshe Doron, The Three Weeks

The Power of Speech When We Fall

We all need to understand that the power of speech is very great. With speech, we can strengthen ourselves. Even if we have fallen very low, G-d forbid, we can strengthen ourselves to speak words of truth, words of Torah and prayer and the fear of Heaven, and to speak to our Creator as our close friend.

“As I speak about him, I remember him” (Jeremiah 31:19). Speech helps remind us about Hashem. Although it may appear differently, we must believe that even in the low places we fall to, G-d forbid, Hashem is still there with us, as written, “Who dwells with them in the midst of their defilement” (Leviticus 16:16).

Speech is an aspect of “A mother of children” (Tehillim 113:9). Just as a mother always accompanies her children, even to impure places, and never forgets them, so does speech accompany us into impure places, always reminding us of Hashem.

It is specifically through speech, oral confession to Hashem, that we can rectify what we have blemished. As written, “Take words with you” (Hosea 14:3), meaning that we must confess with all our heart “before Hashem.”  Then, we can “return to Hashem,” and all the things we had blemished will be returned to their source. This is the great power of speech, which always accompanies us, even to the filthy places we fall.

Based on Likutei Moharan I: 78.

 

The Past Does Not Exist!

Today, if you head His voice” (Tehillim 95:7). In this life, all a person has is the very day and the very hour one finds oneself in. (Likutei Moharan I: 272)

Each of us must engrave this deeply into our mind and heart, namely, that the past does not exist! We should not think about it at all, and definitely not let it affect our future. Even if we have sinned very much, G-d forbid, we should never think that our past sins have made us so filthy that another sin won’t matter, G-d forbid.

Fulfilling Hashem’s command that we not sin still applies to us! When faced with the temptation to sin, we must restrain ourselves as if we have never sinned even once in our entire life. When the opportunity arises to perform a mitzva, we must fulfill it as if doing mitzvot is completely natural for us.

In reality, our worries over the past are our main obstacle to our avodat (service of) Hashem. As soon as we determine to serve Him, the memory of thousands of our past failings fall upon us, trying to crush us into the ground, G-d forbid. Our past failings have no right to destroy our present. Our present moment is to filled with mitzvot, prayer, and Torah study.

If we truly desire to repair our past, then we must grab this present moment, as well as the future as it comes, and repair what was previously damaged. As Rebbe Nachman says, “If you believe that you can damage, believe that you can repair!” (Likutei Moharan II: 112). When we have the opportunity to do a mitzva in the present, we are not to think about our past sins.

Rebbe Nachman teaches, “When a person breaks the grip of sinful thoughts, he extracts the portion of holiness that had fallen into the darkness because of his sins” (Likutei Moharan I: 27). Through this, not only will we overcome our present desires, but we even elevate and restore those sparks of holiness that had already been lost due to our previous sins.

The Sages write, “Run to perform a mitzva, and flee from a sin, because the reward of a mitzva is a mitzva, and the reward of a sin is a sin” (Pirkei Avot 4:2). A sin has the power to lead to another sin, but if we do t’shuva (repentance) and overcome the evil inclination the second time around, the original holiness that fell and was trapped is restored to its place. By fleeing from sin in the present, we actually regain what was lost in the past! In this way, the past does not exist!

Based on In All Your Ways: A Guide to Avodas HaShemCollected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter, The Past Does Not Exist.

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