Doing Good By Not Doing Evil

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (T’hillim 34:15)

Whenever we refrain from sinning by “turning away from evil,” Hashem actually considers it as if we were “doing good.” Our Sages say that the first two mitzvot, “I am Hashem, your G-d,” and “You shall have no other gods before Me” were heard simultaneously as a single utterance. By fulfilling the second, we automatically also fulfill the first. The Tikkunei Zohar (22) states that the first commandment is the root of all positive mitzvot, while the second is the root of all negative ones. Therefore, whether we are actively performing Hashem’s will or simply avoiding transgressing it, we are still coming closer to Hashem.

We read in the Midrash that “Whoever sees an indecent thing but does not indulge his eyes will behold the Sh’khina, the Divine Presence… ‘He shuts his eyes from beholding evil… your eyes will see the King in His beauty’ (Isaiah 33:15, 17)” (Vayikra Rabba 23:1). This is an awesome choice Hashem gives us, in that we can either choose to dirty our souls with momentary pleasures or we can enjoy the light of Hashem’s Presence!

Our Sages tell us that in one sha’ah, moment, we can merit Olam HaBa, the World to Come. The word sha’ah, moment, is the same as the word “to turn toward,” as in, “And to Cain… He did not turn, lo sha’ah” (Genesis 4:5). In a single moment, a single turn of our face away from evil, we can merit eternal blessing. Similarly, every good deed also repairs our spiritual vision, enabling us to behold the beauty of the Sh’khina. Hence, whenever we refrain from sinning, Hashem actually considers it as if we were “doing good!”

Based on In All Your Ways: A Guide to Avodas HaShem, Collected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schechter, Avoiding Evil and Doing Good — One and the Same.

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)


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

Be Holy as Hashem is Holy

The lust of fornication and promiscuity leads to all the filth and evil that is so dominant in our society. The Zohar tells us that the main challenge in the world is to maintain and guard personal holiness. Rebbe Nachman (Rebbe Nachman Discourses, 115) teaches us that as much as people love and chase after money, their lust for fornication is even stronger. R” Natan adds (Likutei Halakhot, Shluchin 3) that a person’s difficulties in life all stem from one’s failure to properly guard one’s personal purity.

Although the lust of fornication has been with us since the very beginning, this generation’s obsession with every possible form of debauchery, plastered freely over every public forum imaginable, and easily available by internet on just about every electronic device, appears to be history’s climax in lust and debauchery.

In spite of the spiritual awakening spreading throughout our people and the world, many have yet to realize that without completely uprooting the lust for fornication and promiscuity, one’s yetzer hara (evil inclination) remains virtually intact. We must understand and internalize that the primary purpose of Torah and mitzvot (commandments, righteous deeds) is to enable us to fulfill Hashem’s will that we become a holy people, as Hashem Himself is Holy (Leviticus 19:2).

Based on The Garden of Purity, by Shalom Arush.

Is Your “Menorah” Pure?

According to the Zohar, the purity of the brain depends on the purity of the “Menorah,” the body’s seven entrances to the brain — mouth, two nostrils, two eyes, and two ears. Everything a person sees, hears, smells, and tastes are stored in the brain and influence the person. The purity of the brain is enhanced when the person hears, sees, and speaks words of Torah and holiness. The opposite is also true…

(Gates of Purity)

Measure for Measure

The Tikkunei Zohar (P’tach Eliyahu, Intro 17): Hashem runs the world according to our actions. When people behave in an upright manner, the world is a place of harmony and living-kindness. Injustice, cruelty, and injustice lead to stern judgments and calamity. (Garden of Emuna)