Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues
* The Sheer Spirit of Israel
THE SHEER SPIRIT OF ISRAEL
The Torah is bonded with the spirit of Israel.
The sheer spirit of Israel is filled with everything: the light of God, the testimony of life, and the source of souls.
When the Torah grows strong, when its knowledge grows broad, when its light shines, when its feelings grow deep in the midst of every soul, then the divine light spreads in the world, grows beautiful and rises.
Then the entire world rises with the elevation of those
individuals of elevated spirit.
LINKS IN A CHAIN
After the sin of the spies, the Jews remained in their encampment in Kadesh for the next thirty-eight years. According to one opinion, that deserted spot was within the boundaries of the land of Israel.
A nation was brought out of exile, given the Torah and told that their purpose was to enter the land of Israel. But then, because of their sin, they were told that almost all of them would die in the desert, and were forced to remain on the very site of their sin, just against the border of the land of Israel, perhaps technically within the land itself.
What could their role now be? What was the point of all the talents given to these people, their abilities and potential? These men could serve God, be good Jews, raise their children to enter the land of Israel, and know that--as the midrash states-- although they would die, their wives would enter the holy land. They were the links in a chain, but their own potential might never be fulfilled.
Perhaps this is one aspect of the tragedy of the generation that died in the wilderness. They were freed from bondage and given the Torah. But because they could not enter the land of Israel, their lives were liable to remain merely transitional, with no forum in which their own self-expressive service of God could find its consummation.
This was also the punishment of Moshe and Aharon. Yet the Chumash describes Moshe as repeatedly transforming this circumstance by his ceaseless regard for the Jews, the very people whose misbehavior triggered the anger that kept him from entering the land.
That selflessness is learned from God Himself--Who (as described in Daas Tevunos) did not create human beings in accordance with His ability, but rather restricted His abilities in order to create an environment most suitable for those whom He wished to bring into the world.
DARK ALLEYS SHINE
Once we learn much hidden Torah, whatever we understand and learn from the revealed Torah shines with a precious light. Then the hidden Torah, with its special quality, appears in all those topics that the revealed Torah discusses.
This is found in the Jerusalem Talmud: since its authors were pious, their Torah was "blessed." In contrast, the words of the Babylonian Talmud are merely "kept." It seems that the Jerusalem Talmud deals with more elevated, pious people. Because of them, the Torah grows and becomes glorious. This is due to the appearance of attainments of holiness, starting from a small beginning and developing into great and powerful rivers. These people attain the light of Torah by prayer and deep study, as well as before and after learning. [Such people] constitute the body of Torah and the soul of Torah.
In this regard, there is a difference between the air of the land of Israel (where the holy spirit can flow upon the content of Jewish law) and elsewhere (where the holy spirit can spread openly only in aggadah, whereas Jewish law is judged by human intellect).
"'In the dark places, You have placed me' (Eichah 3:6)--this is the Babylonian Talmud" (Sanhedrin 24a). But from the midst of darkness, great light will sprout: "The nation that walks in darkness has seen a great light, those who dwell in a land of the shadow of death--light has shone upon them" (Is. 9:1). ["These are masters of the Talmud, who have seen great light, for the Holy One, blessed be He, illumines their eyes with what is forbidden and allowed, what is ritually unclean and clean" (Midrash Tanchuma Noach).]
In this way, these people bring down to the lowly avenues of life the illumination of God's supernal Presence. In this way, they cause multitudinous dark alleys to shine. This aids numbers of those who are distant come, approach and connect to the supernal light of the glow of Torah in its might, the Torah of the land of Israel: "'The gold of that land is good' (Bereishis 2:12)--there is no Torah like the Torah of the land of Israel, and no wisdom like the wisdom of the land of Israel" (Bereishis Rabbah 16).
Oros Hatorah 13:1
TEACHINGS OF THE YOUNG RABBI NACHMAN
Rabbi Nachman's life, impact and creativity must be divided into two areas: (a) before his journey to the land of Israel, and (b) after his journey to the land of Israel. Not the development of his youthful years as he gained physical and spiritual maturity, not the development of a redemption-seeking man of the forest, a leader of Hasidim, and a famous leader in Poland and Reisen--it was not these developments that radically transformed the entire inner life of Rabbi Nachman, but his journey to the land of Israel and everything connected to that journey.
Therefore, before we proceed to write of what his students have called by the exalted title, "the journeys of the sea," a journey that transformed Rabbi Nachman into a herald of the messiah, we must consider Rabbi Nachman's thought processes before he decided to make this lengthy and in many ways terrible trip. We will then see that the kernels of the mighty and tree of emanation that we see in Likutei Moharan and Rabbi Nachman's stories existed already in the pre-land of Israel Rabbi Nachman. We will then see every soul-experience that drove Rabbi Nachman to his mission: why he had to leave everything and everyone, travel to distant regions and seek in a complete vacuum his concealed point; and most of all, what the land of Israel actually constituted for this greatest dreamer of redemption amongst the first Hasidic rebbes.
Rabbi Nachman's two major works, Likutei Moharan and his collection of stories, give no description of his pre-land of Israel teachings and ideas. All the teachings in Likutei Moharan--besides two or three--were taught after he returned from the land of Israel. And his stories were told in the last years of his earthly life. However, there does exist one work of Rabbi Nachman that gives us an idea of the young, not entirely crystallized, super-earthly dreamer and seeker. This is Rabbi Nachman's Sefer Hamidos. Rabbi Nachman gave this book to his students in the later years of his life. However, the greater part of the book was written in his youth, before he journeyed to the land of Israel.
Sefer Hamidos is known as well as the Alphabet Book, for it is written in the form of aphorisms arranged alphabetically by topic.
Actually, this work consists of two alphabetical lists. The first list consists for the most part of notes that Rabbi Nachman took when in his youth he learned Tanach, Talmud and halachah, midrash, musar, kabbalah, and so forth. He used to derive from a Talmud discussion, or from a large, extensive aggadah, or from a long ethical discourse, or from a deep, strongly-developed topic of kabbalah a short, striking and sharp formula, which would serve him as a road guide. When, after some time, Rabbi Nachman had collected a great number of such epigrams, he arranged them in alphabetical order. And this was the basis of the first alphabetical list in Sefer Hamidos.
The second alphabetical list, which is printed in smaller letters (in order to differentiate it from the first list) was based by Rabbi Nachman not on Tanach, Talmud, Midrash, and so forth, but on concepts that were (in the words of his student, Rabbi Nosson), "higher than human intellect and hidden from every eye." They only allude to some verse or statement of the Sages.
From this second alphabetical list, we can therefore deduce nothing about Rabbi Nachman's youthful teachings and ideas. But from the first list, we can draw forth a great deal that will enable us to correctly identify Rabbi Nachman's spiritual countenance in his youthful years.
Let us learn what he has to say, for example, about truth: "If you wish to cling to God in such a way that you will be able to travel in your thoughts from palace to palace, seeing the palaces in your mind's eye, you must guard against letting a false word out of your mouth even by mistake" (Truth).
"From the breath of the liar comes the evil inclination. When the messiah arrives, there will be no falsehood; and as a result, there will be no evil inclination" (ibid.).
"One can tell if a person loves falsehood from his servants. Sometimes, his servants sin because he is a liar. And sometimes if the servants are dishonest, he comes to falsehood" (ibid.).
"It is better to die than to live and be considered a liar" (ibid.).
"Falsehood comes as a result of fearing people" (ibid.). "A person who has no trust in God speaks lies. And by speaking lies, he cannot truly trust God" (ibid.).
Or take, for example, love:v "When there is no love amongst people, they come to speak slander. Through slander, they come to mockery, and through mockery to falsehood" (Love).
"Whoever prays for the Jewish people with complete devotion is loved by all" (ibid.).
"When you encourage someone to serve God, he will love you" (ibid.).v And here are examples of thoughts on other traits: "It is better not to learn Torah than to shame a Jew" (Shame).
"If you are shamed, it is so that you will repent even for those small sins that you trample with your heel" (ibid.).
"When you hear someone tell a lie, do not jump up to shame him, but make him understand with a hint that he is incorrect" (ibid.).
"The messiah will only come after there is no more pride" (Pride).
"When a person is proud, his heart and eyes are closed so tightly that they can no longer see the wonders of God that bring one to awe" (ibid.).
In the following statement regarding the pride of some rabbis, we see a sharpness and extremism characteristic of Rabbi Nachman:
"One may shame rabbis who join the rabbinate to feed their pride. It is right to embarrass them and treat them lightly. One should not stand before them, nor call them 'rebbe.' The tallis that such a rabbi wears is like the saddle on a donkey" (Shame).
And more about pride:
"A person is given frightening dreams in order to expel deeply-entrenched pride that he himself doesn't even recognize" (Pride).
"When you commit a sin unintentionally, it is a sign that you are proud. With this sin, you are shown that you are not yet righteous" (ibid.).
"A poor, humble person--even one who does not give charity-- is superior to a proud rich man--even if he does give charity" (Pride).
from Reb Nachman Breslover
TWO TREES WERE GROWING SIDE BY SIDE
Two trees were growing side by side,
All translations and original material. Copyright 1998