The Torah of Hashem is Perfect

Rebbe Nachman explains to us (Likutei Moharan I: 74-B:9) the meaning of, “The Torah of Hashem is perfect, meshivat nefesh (restoring the soul)” (T’hillim 19:8). In this psalm, the Torah of Hashem is likened to the sun, since both bring light to the eyes. Another explanation is that the sun at times harms and exacts punishment and at other times it is a “benevolent sun with healing in its wings” (Malakhi 3:20). Similarly, Hashem’s Torah “is [always] perfect, restoring the soul” and protects those who study it.

That “”The Torah of Hashem is perfect,” as Rebbe Nachman notes, alludes to the wisdom of the Torah, which he calls “speech with wisdom.” This is the soul’s life-force, as written in the Zohar (III, 85b), “Worthy are those who know the paths of Torah, who endeavor [to fulfill] it in an upright manner. They plant a tree of life on high, which has the power to heal.”

This is unlike a person who during Torah study stammers out the words and cannot understand their meaning. Such Torah study is less than perfect. Rebbe Nachman refers to this as “speech without wisdom,” which lacks the power to heal the soul’s affliction.

When we attain the wisdom of Torah, our soul is rectified and we elevate it to its root. For the wisdom of Torah is the root of all things, since Hashem created the worlds with the Torah (B’reishit Rabba 1:1). In fact, all the worlds are renewed by means of the wisdom of Torah.

We must strive to understand Hashem’s Torah, each according to one’s level. Since the Torah of Hashem is perfect, by means of understanding the wisdom of Torah, we come to the level of “speech with wisdom.” When we understand the Torah, we then experience “The Torah of Hashem is perfect, meshivat nefesh (restoring the soul).” At this point, the Torah is able to restore our soul, and has the power to heal the soul’s affliction.

Based on Likutei Moharan, Volume IX, BRI (See notes there)

Rectifying our “Vessels”

All aspects of Torah are deep and profound. These is absolutely nothing superficial in the Torah, G-d forbid. Everything contained in the Torah is deep and vast, and to learn any aspect of it correctly, on must study in-depth. While most agree that learning Talmud or Halakah require in-depth study, many consider the avoda (self-work) of correcting our midot (character traits) to require only minimal effort.

Hashem gave us the Torah, and our soul is the the “vessel” for receiving the light of the Torah and its mitzvot. When we learn Torah, the Torah should become a part of us. Before we learn, we say that the Torah is “available in the corner” (Kiddushin 66a). However, once we toil to understand the Torah to the best of our ability, it is call “his Torah” (ibid 32b). In this way, the Torah we toil to learn goes from being “in the corner” to being “Your Torah is inside of me” (T’hillim 40:9).

The Torah and mitzvot are like water, as in, “All who are thirsty come to the water” (Isaiah 55:1). The vessel to receive the Torah is the actual individual who learns and fulfills it. This is why it is important for us to work on ourselves in order to become a pure vessel to hold the light of the Torah we learn, the “water” of Torah. If the vessel is pure and holy, the water of Torah we learn will be pure and holy.

However, if we remain tainted, which is our natural starting point, as in, “the inclination of a person is evil from one’s youth” (Genesis 8:21), the light of the Torah will not shine in us. It is through the avoda (self-work) of improving our midot and behavior that we rectify our own vessel that maintains holiness.

Based on Bilvavi On the Path: The Ramchal’s Introduction and Chapter One, by the author of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh

Two are Better than One

Our goal is to join Torah learning with emuna. Torah knowledge alone can lead a person astray from the path of Hashem, G-d forbid. On the other hand, emuna without Torah knowledge, while not optimal, is still good. However, refinement and perfection come only by means of a strong connection of emuna and Torah knowledge.

Rebbe Nachman teaches us (Likutei Moharan I: 31), that we should each strive to become both a tzaddik (a righteous person) and a Torah scholar. It will be very difficult to be pious, since piety requires familiarity with Halakha (religious law). A Torah scholar alone is also not good, since one can be a scholar and yet possess wicked desires and base character traits. Our goal should be to obtain much knowledge in the laws and wisdom of Torah, and to be a pious individual of unshakable emuna as well.

As King Solomon says, “Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Emuna and Torah knowledge need to be combined. “For if they fall, one can lift the other” (ibid 4:10). When one has both Torah knowledge and emuna, the person is better prepared to withstand a spiritual setback. With only Torah knowledge or emuna, a person is not nearly as strong during challenging times. Hence, we should each strive to combine our Torah knowledge with emuna.

Based on The Garden of Knowledge, by Rabbi Shalom Arush

Joining Torah Knowledge With Emuna

And G-d said: ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. And G-d called the dry land earth, and the gathering together of the waters called He seas; and G-d saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:9-10)

What is the Torah teaching us here by the proximity of water and earth on the third day? Rabbi Natan tells us (Likutei Halakhot, Yorah Deah, Sh’chita, 5) that of the four elements of creation (earth, air, water, and fire), the element of earth corresponds to emuna, as David HaMelech says, “Dwell in the land and replenish yourself with emuna” (T’hillim 37:3). The other elements — fire, air, and water — correspond to the three spheres of the mind (intelligence), chochma (wisdom), bina (understanding), and daat (knowledge).

Yeshiyahu the prophet says, “And the earth will be full of daat (the knowledge) of Hashem, as the waters cover the sea bed” (Isaiah 11:9). Both air and spirit are the same word in Hebrew, ruach, so the prophet links bina with air, when he says, “They of misguided ruach (spirit/soul) shall come to bina (understanding)” (Isaiah 29:224). Fire symbolizes the neshama (human soul), as in, “The neshama (human soul) is the flame of Hashem” (Proverbs 20:27). The Zohar notes that just as fertile earth makes things grow, so does emuna cause good character to grow.

Putting this all together, then, perfection is attained when the earth and water are joined together. Similarly, emuna (faith in Hashem, likened to earth) is strongest when it goes together with daat (knowledge, likened to water). Hence, we should all strive for a level where we can attain emuna together with knowledge of Torah. The more Torah we learn in order to know and get closer to Hashem, the more our emuna grows! Also, the stronger our emuna, the more our intellect is enhanced with holiness, so we can reach even higher levels of Torah knowledge! This is the beauty of joining Torah learning with emuna!

Based on Likutei Halakhot, by Rabbi Natan and The Garden of Knowledge, by Rabbi Shalom Arush (Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody)


Finding the Good Points to Awaken from “Sleep”

“One should strengthen oneself like a lion to rise up in the early morning in the service of one’s Creator, awakening the dawn.” (Beit Yosef)

“I shall place Hashem before me always” is a fundamental principle in Torah.” (Rema)

Chazal teach us that “sleep” is one-sixtieth of death (Berakhot 57b). When we are spiritually “asleep,” when we feel distant from Hashem, believing that our sins and spiritual blemishes have separated us from Him, this is the time for us to search for some good points within. We must ask ourselves “How is it possible that I have never done any good in my life?” Even though the “good points” we find within ourselves still contain some “not so good,” there is at least some good in them. In this manner, we must continue to seek out the good points within us.

By judging ourselves favorably and finding that we still have some good points, we leave the category of sinfulness, enabling us to do t’shuva (repentance). This corresponds to an arousal from “sleep.” Similarly, we must search for the good points in others, arousing them to do t’shuva.

“A little bit more and there is no wicked one…” (Tehillim 37:10). By finding the “little bit more” of good within ourselves and others, “you shall look closely at his place, and he is not there.” This is alluded to in, “I will sing praise to Hashem with my little bit,” (ibid, 146:2). Through finding the “little bit” of good points within ourselves, we are able to sing and praise Hashem.

Based on Likutei Moharan I:282, English Edition, Breslov Research Institute and Likutei Halakhot, Orach Chaim IPart 1, Hilkhot Hashkamat HaBoker 1, English Edition.

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

Uniting Prayer with Torah Learning

Rebbe Nachman teaches (Likutei Moharan I: 22) that the expression of sincere Torah learning is when the light of Torah stimulates the person to pray. When prayer is combined with Torah learning, we can steadily ascend the spiritual ladder, and understand today what we were unable to understand yesterday.

Rebbe Nachman adds (Likutei Moharan I: 25) that when we pray for Hashem’s assistance in fulfilling our Torah learning, we merit not only to understand the Torah we are learning, but Hashem personally directs our path of truth and righteousness. Hashem derives tremendous satisfaction and pleasure when we bring our Torah learning into our prayers.

Prayer builds “vessels” to contain the Divine shefa, bounty. Without prayer, we have no vessel to accept the spiritual light of our Torah learning. Without Torah, we remain ignorant, and cannot observe Hashem’s mitzvot, commandments. Learning alone is also insufficient. We must be able to internalize what we are learning.

Before we learn, we must pray for Hashem to help us in out Torah learning. After our Torah learning, we must pray that Hashem assist us in being able to fulfill what we have learned. This is why we must pray, and learn Torah, and pray some more. 

Based on In Forest Fields: A unique guide to personal prayer, by Shalom Arush