Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rav Dror - December 19

(Click on image to enlarge)

Bringing Down the Light


Excerpt from "Bringing Down the Light":
Rabbi Ephraim ben Naftoli

Tefilot HaBoker:
Prayers of the Dawn, Tefilah 4

No matter to what depths we have fallen, the tzaddikim can rescue us by "shining" down the light of Divine perception to heal our souls.


Help us, O Lord our God, help us to receive the holiness of the days of Chanukah in sanctity and purity, and with true joy. Grant us the privilege of lighting the Chanukah candles every night, as You have commanded us through our holy rabbis of blessed memory—to begin by lighting one candle on the first night, and to add another candle on each succeeding night, until the eight days of Chanukah are complete. For You have already made known to us through our holy sages that through the holiness of the Chanukah candles, we imbue our minds with perceptions of Godliness. The
tzimtzumim (constrictions) of the Infinite Light which they represent produce the spiritual illumination transmitted by all holy lights and candles. This is the paradigm of “eliciting abundant holiness and igniting flames and radiant lights.”

Shine upon us the light of the holy anointing oil, enlightening us with perceptions of Godliness in a miraculous and wondrous way. Thus may we illuminate and kindle the holy candles which contain all spiritual unifications and transmissions of Divine consciousness, so that their light will reach even people like us who occupy the nethermost rung, which corresponds to “below ten handbreadths.”


Through the tikkunim of the miracle of Chanukah, may we too experience this light through the power of the preeminent tzaddikim who transmit perceptions of the supernal light to us, even in our lowly condition. They heal us from sicknesses of the soul which threaten to overwhelm us, to the point that “our souls abhor all food, and we have reached the gates of death.” For we know in our hearts how fiercely these sicknesses attack us, and how every day our souls grow weaker, due to the multitude of our sins. However, in Your great mercy, You ennoble us with the holiness of this awesome mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles. Through this mitzvah, the true tzaddikim transmit the radiance of Divine perception even to such spiritual invalids as us, and they bring down this lofty light into the darkness that pervades our bodies because of our evil deeds. These tzaddikim “shine” to us, so that we might take to heart their holy words; they enliven us with their words, and in so doing, transmit the holy light of the Chanukah candles to the depths of darkness.


May we firmly believe that without a doubt, we can go forth from darkness to light with this mitzvah, in the merit of the true tzaddikim who illuminate the earth and all who dwell upon it! Fulfill in us the verses: “Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not fear evil, for You are with Me.” “Though I sit in darkness, God is a light unto me.”

Instill compassion into the hearts of the true tzaddikim toward the entire Jewish people and toward me, so that they will mercifully draw all of us closer. May they lower themselves to our level, shine their lights upon us, and reveal flashes of Divine perception, even to people like us, and may they succeed in healing our souls. May they fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick by attending our ailing souls every day! Thus they will give us,new life and revive us with spiritual delicacies, until we finally return to You in perfect teshuvah when we accept and follow all their holy advice, which is a powerful remedy for our souls.

Illuminate our souls with the wondrous radiance of Divine perception in the aspect of Chanukah! Revitalize our wisdom in holiness, and grant us life from the Light of the Face as a result of our rejoicing in the mitzvot. Gather together the mitzvot that we perform on the Three Pilgrim Festivals and in their merit, may we participate in the rededication of the Holy Temple, which is the channel for the illumination of the Light of the Face!

“The Light of Your Face, O Master, lift up to us.” “May God favor us and bless us; may He cause His Face to shine among us, selah.” “Shine Your Face upon Your servant; save me in Your kindness,” so that through the lighting of the Chanukah candles I will be privileged to draw the Light of the Face from the Holy Temple in order to enliven the sefirah of Malkhut, and thereby receive perceptions of Godliness.

“Let Your Face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your ordinances.” “And every created thing shall know that You created it, and every formed thing shall understand that You formed it; and everything that possesses the breath of life in its nostrils shall declare: The Lord, God of Israel is King, and His dominion extends over all!”


In Your mercy, grant us the opportunity to give tzedakah, especially during the days of Chanukah, so that through us Your Face will shine. And by virtue of the tzedakah that we give to the poor when they come to our homes, may we receive the Light of the Face of the Living King.


In the merit of this tzedakah, may we draw closer to the true tzaddikim who reveal Your light by making the necessary tzimtzumim and vessels to illuminate even our souls, which are so far from holiness that by right we should be treated as outcasts. Nevertheless, with great self sacrifice, they labor all their days out of compassion for us and for all Israel — even those who are most distant—in order to bring us closer to God. They reveal new and wondrous tzimtzumim by which it is possible to reach anyone who wishes to enter the realm of holiness.


Have mercy on us and allow us to come close to tzaddikim like them. In Your mercy, put an end to the dispute, which was produced by our sins, surrounding those tzaddikim who strive to reach out to us. For this is why there is such great opposition to them, even from other great tzaddikim: The Divine attribute of judgment garbs itself in these opposing tzaddikirn because of their fierce holiness, which prevents them from being able to tolerate the world, due to our transgressions and unworthy deeds.


Although the truth is with them, You have already made known to us that in Your beneficence, You do not desire to reject us, God forbid. On the contrary, You always wish to judge us favorably, despite the foulness of our sins. You always wish to show compassion toward us, even to the “worst of the worst.” Therefore You create ways of fixing our damage, and garb the lights of holiness in such wondrous garments and constrictions that these lights can shine to us as well.


Thus the tzaddikim. continue to transmit the Divine light to lower levels, in increasing degrees of holiness, more and more every day, and they continue to elevate all fallen souls, imbuing them with perceptions of Godliness through holy tzimtzumim, until finally they will heal all afflicted souls in the world. Therefore have mercy on us and abolish all strife surrounding these true tzaddikim, and allow us to draw close to them. Let them remove all the shame and disgrace that has befallen us due to our sins, bring us back in complete teshuvah, and draw us close to You in truth!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Mysterious Guest

Painting by Francisco de Goya

The Mysterious Guest
Chayey Moharan, Sippurim Chadashim (“New Stories”) 85
Translation and Commentary by Dovid Sears

On the first day of Chanukah 5569/1808, in the evening after lighting the first candle. Rabbi Nachman told this story:

A visitor came into a house and asked the head of the house, “From where do you obtain a living?”

"I don’t have a steady livelihood at home,” his host replied. “However, the world provides me with what I need to live.”

The guest asked him, “What do you study?”

The host answered him.

They continued conversing, until soon they were engaged in a true heart to heart discussion. 

The host began to feel an intense longing and yearning to reach a certain level of holiness. “I will teach you,” said the guest.

The host was surprised. He began to wonder, “Maybe this isn’t a human being at all!” However, he looked again, and saw that the guest was talking to him like a human being.

Immediately afterward he had a strong sense of faith, and he resolved to believe in him. He started calling him “my teacher,” and said to him, “First of all, I would like to ask you to teach me how to conduct myself with due respect toward you. Not, I scarcely need add, that I could actually detract from your true honor, God forbid; but even so, it is hard for human beings to be as meticulous as they should be in these matters. That is why I would like you to teach me how to behave with due respect.”

“For the moment, I don’t have the time,” he replied. “Another time I will come and teach you this. Right now I must go away from here.”

“I also need to learn from you about this,” said the host. “How far must I go when I accompany you on your way, as a host is obligated to do when his guests depart?”[I]

“Until just beyond the entrance,” he replied.

The host began to think to himself, “How can I go out with him? Right now I am with him among other people. But if I go out with him alone—who knows who he is?” He questioned him and then told him, “I’m afraid to go out with you.”

“If I can learn with you like this,” the visitor retorted, “then now, too, if I wanted to do something to you, who would stop me?”

The host went with him beyond the entrance. All of a sudden, the visitor seized him and began to fly with him!

It was cold for the host, so the other took a garment and gave it to him. “Take this garment,” he said, “and it will be good for you. You will have food and drink and everything will be good, and you will live in your house.” And he flew with him.

In the midst of this, the host gazed, and suddenly he was in his house. He couldn’t believe his own eyes that he was in his house; but he looked, and there he was, speaking with people, and eating and drinking in a normal manner. Then he looked back, and lo and behold, he was flying, as before. Then he looked back and he was in his house. This went on for a long time.

After awhile, he flew down to a valley between two mountains. There, he found a book which contained various combinations of letters: alef, zayin, chet, which is dalet, etc. Vessels were depicted in this book, and inside the vessels were letters. Moreover, inside the vessels were the letters of the vessels, by which one could create such vessels. He felt an intense desire to study this book. 

In the midst of this, he gazed, and lo and behold, he was in his house. Then he gazed, and there he was, in the valley.

He made up his mind to climb the mountain; perhaps he would find an inhabited place there. When he came to the mountain, he saw a golden tree with golden branches standing there. Hanging from the branches were vessels like those depicted in the book, and within those vessels were other vessels by which one could create such vessels. He wanted to take some of the vessels away from there, but he was unable to do so, for they were inextricably entangled in the branches.

In the midst of this, he gazed - and lo and behold, he was in his house. This was most amazing to him. How was this possible? How could he be both here and there at the same time? He wanted to discuss this with other human beings, but how could one speak about such an astounding phenomenon to other people, something that they surely would not believe?

In the midst of this, he looked out the window and saw the same guest. He started begging him to come to him. However, the guest replied, “I don’t have time, because I am on my way to you!”

“This itself is a wonder in my eyes!” he cried. “Look, I am right here—what do you mean, that you are on your way to me?”

The guest explained, “The moment you decided to come with me, to accompany me beyond the doorway, I took the neshamah (higher soul) from you and gave you a garment from the Lower Garden of Eden.[II] The nefesh (vital spirit) and ru’ach (lower soul) remain with you. Therefore, whenever you attach your thoughts to that place, you are there, and you draw an illumination from that place to yourself. And when you return here—you are here!”

I do not know which world he is from, but this much is certain: it is a world of good.

So far, it is not over, it is not finished.

Commentary

Before we start skating on thin ice, it must be said that there are no classical commentaries on this story in the Breslov literature. Therefore, all of our remarks are speculative. No doubt, the story lends itself to many other lines of interpretation, as well.

Guest and Host/Ohr Makif and Ohr Pnimi

The “mysterious guest” has at least two levels of meaning: most obviously, he represents the tzaddik. He also represents the ohr makif, or “encompassing light,” which in general alludes to the sefirah of Binah.[III] This is the level of perception or being that is perpetually beyond one’s grasp - for as soon as it is internalized, another ohr makif takes its place.[IV] Thus, Binah is in a constant state of flux.

The Baal Shem Tov relates Binah to orei’ach, the Hebrew word for guest.[V} Orei’ach (spelled alef-vav-resh-chet) can be divided into ohr-chet, meaning “light of eight.” This alludes to the eighth sefirah in ascending order, which is Binah. Whenever one shows hospitality, this creates a channel for internalizing the light of Binah:

The Baal Shem Tov, taught: When a guest arrives, he brings his host Torah insights - for the Torah insights the host receives from Above correspond to the nature of his guests.[VI]

The guest is a vehicle for the ohr makif. However, every level of perception is an ohr makif in relation to the level below it, which is called ohr pnimi, the “inner” or “manifest light.” The ohr pnimi corresponds to the host.

Sixteenth century kabbalist Rabbi Chaim Vital explains that the light of the Chanukah lamp represents Binah, the transcendent level, as it illuminates Z’er Anpin, or “Small Face,” the structure comprising the six lower sefirot that animate the natural order.[VII] In less technical language, a ray of the limitless “shines” into the finite. Rebbe Nachman’s allegory of the guest and the head of the house alludes to this kabbalistic model, as well.

“From where do you obtain a living?”

The guest inquires as to the host’s source of livelihood. This is because the tzaddik is the parnes, provider of sustenance. Thus the guest, who represents the tzaddik, is entitled to ask his host this question.

Only two biblical figures are explicitly called “tzaddik”: Noah and Joseph. The Midrash explains that both deserved this title because they provided others with food.[VIII] In Noah’s case, he fed the entire world in his ark until the floodwaters subsided; in Joseph’s case, he provided grain to all Egypt and surrounding lands. Similarly, the Talmudic tzaddik Rabbi Chanina confered his great spiritual merit upon the world so that all creatures might receive sustenance, even those deemed completely unworthy.[IX]

Rebbe Nachman deals with this concept of the tzaddik as provider in many teachings, especially Likutey Moharan II, 7 (“For a Compassionate One Shall Lead Them”). There he states that the world receives livelihood by virtue of the tzaddik, albeit through the fusion of two levels inherent within him. The higher is represented by the tzaddik’s “son”; the lower is represented by the tzaddik’s “disciple.” However, these terms are mean to be taken more symbolically than literally. The perception of the son is expressed by the Ministering Angels who ask: “Where is the place of His glory?”—indicating the transcendent level, the aspect of “not knowing,” the ohr makif/encompassing light. The perception of the disciple is related to the antithetical declaration, “His glory fills the world” - indicating the immanent level, “knowledge of God,” the ohr pnimi/inner light.

In truth, these two perceptions are one, and each completes the other. Those in the category of the “son,” who have attained the higher level (“Where is the place of His glory?”), must be protected from total self-nullification in God’s transcendent aspect. They are like holy moths that would readily self-destruct in their desire to reach the light. The knowledge that “His glory fills the world” grounds them, creating the possibility of a perception of God. Thus, they may experience the mystic’s awe before the infinite mystery of the Divine.

Those in the category of the “disciple,” who occupy the lower level (“His glory fills the world”), are protected from total self-nullification in God’s immanence. They are like people who immerse in the mikveh (ritual bath) and stay under the water too long. These “disciples,” too, must experience awe of God, because the trace of wonderment they are granted—the admixture of “Where is the place of His glory?”—creates the existential distance needed for their perception. Otherwise, everything becomes “white on white,” lacking all contrast.

Thus, process and spiritual growth are made possible through this fusion of the perceptions of God’s transcendence and immanence; and livelihood is drawn forth to the world from the tzaddik who has grasped the secret of this dualism, and as such, serves as the channel for God’s will to continually create and sustain the world. This is the concept of “tzaddik yesod olam . . . the tzaddik is the foundation of the universe” (Proverbs 10:25).

“The world provides me with what I need to live”

Because the ohr pnimi derives its life force from the ohr makif, the host actually receives his livelihood from the guest. However, the host remains unaware of this. All he knows is that somehow his needs are fulfilled. Thus, he replies, “I don’t have a steady livelihood at home, but the world provides me with what I need to live.”

This answer suggests that either the host lacks initiative, or he fails to appreciate the true source of his sustenance, or both. In Likutey Moharan II, 7, the lesson cited above, Rebbe Nachman says that to be a provider, one must have a certain malkhut, a certain authority (although he seems to use the term in more than one sense), adding “one can’t be a shlimazal”—an incompetant person, or a “loser.” If so, what is our host? What is he telling us about himself with his vague reply? At this point in his life, at least, he seems to be a passive sort of fellow. 

This alludes to the paradigm of how the world was sustained prior to the Giving of the Torah. Rebbe Nachman states in Likutey Moharan II, 78, that before the Torah was given, humanity was involved only in derech eretz, mundane pursuits. From this, the Midrash infers, “Derekh eretz (which can also mean simple human decency) preceded the Torah.”[X] Since the Torah is the source of life—as it is written, “For they [i.e., the commandments] are your life and the length of your days” (Deuteronomy 30:20)— from whence did the world derive its sustenance? The answer: from God’s gratuitous kindness.

The Talmud states that the twenty-six generations prior to the Giving of the Torah correspond to the twenty-six repetitions of the refrain “for His kindness is everlasting” in Psalm 136.[XI] However, the Torah certainly existed prior to its revelation; indeed, the Midrash tells us that all things came into being through the Torah, which preceded creation.[XII] The Torah was merely hidden. And where was it hidden? In the Ten Creative Statements recounted in the first chapter of Genesis, with which God continually animates the universe.[XIII] Thus, our host says that he is sustained “by the world,” that is, by the Torah that is hidden in the world, although he does not yet perceive it.

In this lesson, Rebbe Nachman also identifies the tzaddik as the channel for sustenance. He is the holy “prustok” (peasant or simpleton) who at times must desist from studying or fulfilling the commandments of the Torah in order to engage in worldly activities. At such times he receives vitality from what the Midrash calls the “Treasury of Unearned Gifts,” the gratuitous kindness with which God sustained the world prior to the Giving of the Torah.[xiv] Then he, in turn, can confer this gratuitous kindness upon the true simpletons—the rest of us in our present unenlightened state, enabling us to survive until we, too, become worthy of receiving life directly from the holiness of the Torah.

Perhaps the guest in our Chanukah story is the holy prustok, and the host represents the spiritually benighted masses that unwittingly receive life and sustenance through him. This is what gives the guest the “right” to inquire as to his host’s means of livelihood. The guest wants him to realize that he is being sustained by the tzaddik who is privy to God’s Treasury of Unearned Gifts.

“What do you study?”
Torah study, too, is the guest’s business, inasmuch as it reflects the influence of Binah/Understanding. The first letter of the Written Torah is the bet of Bereshit (“In the Beginning”); the last letter is the lamed of Yisrael (“Israel”). Together, they spell lev (heart), which the Zohar designates as the seat of Binah/Understanding.[xv]

A heart-to-heart discussion
It is said: “Words that come from the heart, enter the heart.”[xvi] Because the guest/tzaddik personifies the heart, he can reach the heart of the other. He channels the ohr makif into the heart of the host, who reciprocates by expressing his longing for greater levels of illumination. This is one of the main benefits of our attachment to tzaddikim.

Rebbe Nachman once observed, “I have three types of followers: those who come for my shirayim (leftovers);[xvii] those who come to hear my Torah teachings; and those who are ‘baked’ in my heart.”[xviii] Of course, every aspiring follower wants to be in the last category. But how can this be accomplished? Say the Breslover Chasidim, “When the Rebbe is ‘baked’ in our hearts!” This is implied by the “heart-to-heart discussion” in our story.

The host began to feel an intense longing and yearning to reach a certain level of holiness

This arousal is due to influence of the guest, who has put the host in touch with the deepest will of the heart: longing and yearning for the holy.

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[i] Sota 46b. Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Zuta 16:43 states that a disciple who escorts his Torah teacher receives divine blessing. The same text adds (16:46) that when one escorts a traveler embarking on a journey, the traveler will be protected from harm.
[ii] The Zohar (I, 138a) describes the Garden of Eden as having a higher level for the neshamah, which is the seat of thought, and a lower level for the ru’ach, the seat of the emotions.
[iii] See Rabbi Avraham ben Nachman, Kokhvei Ohr, Chokhmah u-Binah, who associates Rebbe Nachman’s teachings with the sefirah of Binah.
[iv] Likutey Moharan II, 7:6.
[v] Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Vayeira, 4, citing Toldot Yitzchak, Likutey ha-Shas.
[vi] Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudylkov, Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Vayeira.
[vii] Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chanukah, 4. The three “upper” sefirot are Chokhmah / Wisdom, Binah / Understanding, and Da’at / Knowledge, corresponding to three aspects of the mind. The six “lower” sefirot are: Chesed/Kindness; Gevurah/Strength; Tiferet/Beauty or Harmony; Netzach/Eternity or Victory; Hod/Splendor; and Yesod/Foundation; corresponding to the two arms, torso, genitals, and two legs. The seventh and last sefirah is Malkhut / Kingship, which is a partzuf unto itself, corresponding to the feminine archetype. 
[viii] Tanchuma, Noach, 5.
[ix] Ta’anit 24b; cf. Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz, Avodat Yisrael, Likkutim, Ta’anit.
[x] Leviticus Rabbah, 9:3.
[xi] Pesachim 118a.
[xii] Genesis Rabbah 1:2, 8:2; Zohar I, 134a, II, 161a‑b.
[xiii] This idea echoes a fundamental Chasidic teaching. On the verse, “Forever, O God, Your word stands in the heavens” (Psalms 119:89), the Baal Shem Tov explains that “Your word” alludes to the Ten Creative Statements that bring the universe and all it contains into existence. If the “letters” of these divine statements were to depart for even a moment, everything would revert to nothingness; see Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Sefer ha-Tanya, Sha’ar ha-Yichud vi-ha-Emunah, chap. 1; Rabbi Chaim of Chernowitz, Be’er Mayim Chaim, Bereshit, s.v. bereshit bara, 7.
[xiv] Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:1; Tanchuma, Va’eschanan, 3; cf. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Ohr Yakar, Vayelekh, 1:15 (p. 27), who relates the “Treasury of Unearned Gifts” to the sefirah of Keter.
[xv] Tikkuney Zohar, Hakdamah, “Patach Eliyahu.”
[xvi] A rabbinic maxim quoted by Rabbi Moshe Ibn Ezra, Shirat Yisrael, p. 156.
[xvii] Based on earlier rabbinic precedents, it is customary for a Chasidic Rebbe to distribute to his followers portions of the foods from which he has partaken. These leftovers are known as “shirayim.” This communal eating creates a spiritual bond among the participants, causing the holiness of the tzaddik to extend to all, bringing healing and blessing; see Rabbis Mordechai Scharf and Yisrael Menachem Mendel Brecher, Yesod Olam, 11:5-7, citing various sources.
[xviii] Oral tradition cited by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh, vol. II, 1-102.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Death of a Salesman



Likutey Moharan I, 14, sec. 12

Translated and with (tentative) commentary by Dovid Sears
Dedicated to my Yiddishist-socialist maternal grand-father, Isadore (“Zeke”) Silverman, Yitzchok ben Chaim, a”h—who nevertheless told me my first “Chassidisheh ma’asehs” about the Rebbe Reb Boruch’l and his legendary badchan, Herschel Ostropolier.

In the first part of Lesson 14, Rebbe Nachman connects prayer with universal peace, and “shalom bayis” (peace in the home) with inner peace. Then in section 12, he relates these issues to the festival of Chanukah, which we look forward to celebrating soon.

And this corresponds to the mitzvah of the Chanukah candle. The mitzvah is [ideally] fulfilled by lighting near the doorway of one’s house [Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 671:5). Because the lighting of the candle is an aspect of the illumination of [God’s] glory, as in “The earth was illuminated by His glory” (Ezekiel 43:2).

Lesson 14 begins with the concept that in order to draw peace into the world it is necessary to elevate God’s glory (kavod), which is associated with the sefirah of Malkhus, to its “source,” which is yirah—fear and awe of God’s majesty. Rav Nachman of Tcherin, in his commentary Parpara’os le-Chokhmah on Likutey Moharan, explains that Yirah is related to the “gevuros” (forces of constriction) that originate in the sefirah of Binah (Understanding). Binah is also described as the paradigm of the “ohr makif,” or “encompassing light.” This too is the light of the Chanukah candles. (See Rabbi Chaim Vital in the name of the Arizal, on the kavannot related to reciting the berakhah over the Chanukah candle: Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chanukah, chap. 4, s.v. u-tekhaven le-shem kadosh “nachal.”)

The Rebbe finds an allusion to this connection between glory and fear in the verse: “To fear the Glorious Name” (Deuteronomy 28:58). That is, when glory is elevated from its fallen state—i.e., we no longer honor and glorify unworthy people and undeserving endeavors—and becomes reunited with holy fear and awe, then it is as it should be. (Compare this idea to that of elevating the fallen “chein,” or grace, in Torah 1.)

Contemporary Breslov scholar Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Bar-Lev, in his Orach Mishor on Likutey Moharan, Vol. 2, on this lesson (sec. 1), explains the elevation of glory to yirah to mean: “One deepens the sense of God’s glory in his heart until he comes to ‘yiras ha-romemus’ (the higher degree of yirah) — one’s heart is filled with intense awe due to God’s tremendous exaltedness.”

Note: Fear and awe have different connotations than the Hebrew word “yirah,” which is the awe produced by experiencing God’s majesty and mystery, as described above. Therefore, for the rest of this essay we have left “yirah” untranslated.

The Rebbe goes on to explain that this elevation of glory to its source, yirah, is only possible through what our Sages call “Toras Chesed,” the “Torah of kindness”—when one studies in order to teach others (Sukkah 49b). This enables God’s fallen glory to ascend to its proper station.

And this is the essence of God’s glory: when those who were distant from God draw near. The Rebbe cites the Zohar (II, 69a): “When other nations come and recognize the Blessed Holy One, then God’s Name ascends and is glorified above and below…”

Yisro, Moshe Rabbeinu’s father-in-law, is the example the Zohar gives. Formerly High Priest of On and a royal minister in Pharaoh’s court, Yisro had served every form of avodah zarah and then rejected them all in order to serve the One God of Israel. When he did so, retroactively all of those erroneous beliefs were corrected. In the Zohar’s words, “The Blessed One’s Name was glorified from every side” (ibid.). “Every side” means through the entire array of the sefiros (which the Kabbalah associates with the various directions, hence the term “sides”).

The Arizal observes that there is a deep connection between Moshe Rabbeinu and Yisro, indicated by the fact that the Giving of the Torah takes place in the weekly Torah reading associated with Yisro. (They also had a connection from previous gilgulim.) The conversion of Yisro represents the transformation of “darkness to light,” and is an integral part of Moshe’s task of disseminating the knowledge of God.

Therefore, the mitzvah is to light it near the doorway of one’s house. “This is the Supernal Entrance,” which is the aspect of yirah—an expression of the Zohar, which variously asserts that yirah is the gate to wisdom, faith, and all forms of spiritual ascent (see Zohar I, 7b, 11a-b; Zohar Chadash, Ki Sisa, 75b [bottom]); that is, one returns the glory to its source, which is yirah, as stated above.

Glory is compared to light (as in Ezekiel 43:2, above), and the “Supernal Entrance,” which is yirah, is compared to the doorway of one’s home. Thus, the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candle or candles is a manifestation of this spiritual paradigm.

And when does this glory ascend? When we bring people to return to God, and [thus] make baaley teshuvah (penitents) and geirim (converts). For this is His main glory, as stated above—in section 2 of this lesson.

This is why the time for lighting the Chanukah candle, which is the illumination of glory, is “from the time the stars appear until the foot ceases from the market-place” (Orach Chaim 672:1).

We have translated the Shulchan Arukh’s figure of speech literally, since it will figure in Rebbe Nachman’s teaching soon. It means the time when everyone has gone home. (This used to be when it became fully dark outside, but now that we have electric lights everywhere, “the foot ceases from the market-place” a lot later—especially here in New York City, where it never seems to take the night off.) Our Sages designated this time-frame for the mitzvah in order to publicize the miracle of Chanukah, when the lights of the Menorah in the Holy Temple burned for eight days with only enough oil for one. (The number eight hints to Binah, which is the eighth sefirah in ascending order.)

“From the time the stars appear”—this alludes to “Those who bring the many to righteousness [will shine] like the stars” (Daniel 12:3). That is, they bring the many to righteousness and make baaley teshuvah and converts.

The Gemara (Bava Basra 8b) interprets this verse as variously descriptive of a judge who adjudicates according to the truth; a charity-collector who thereby facilitates the giving of tzedakah; and a teacher of children, who are thus enabled to grow up to be devout Jews. The Rebbe extends this principle to those who help others return to God.

For through this, God’s glory shines forth and returns to its source, which is yirah. As a result, one attains peace, and strife is eliminated.

And this is the meaning of “until the foot ceases from the market-place.” (The market-place is one of the haunts of the “External Forces”—i.e., the powers of evil, as stated by Rabbi Chaim Vital in the name of the Arizal (Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chanukah, chap. 4, s.v. vi-da ki anu madlikin osah im shekiyas ha-chamah [end]). “Regel,” the “foot,” indicates “the whisperer who separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

Rebbe Nachman quotes this verse in section 9 of the present lesson, in a complicated drush that links the compartments (kinim) in Noah’s Ark with the bird-offerings (kinim) that purify the leper, who because has spoken lashon hara (evil speech) is “the whisperer who separates close friends”; but he is redeemed and purified by the bird-offering, which equals Noah’s Ark (teyvah), which equals the word (teyvah) of prayer. And prayer puts an end to strife and brings universal peace, which is why the Shemoneh Esreh prayer ends with the blessing for peace.  

[This denotes] those who engage in slander and strife, who go around—“meraglim,” a construct of “regel”—and speak defamatory words and slander, and who foment dispute and strife between a man and his friend and between husband and wife; as in the phrase “who does not slander—“ragal,” which has the same consonants as “regel”—with his mouth” (Psalms 15:2).

This is why it is necessary to light the Chanukah candle near the entrance—that is, to cause the glory to shine and to restore it to its source in yirah, until one attains peace and negates and puts an end to the “whisperer who separates close friends.” This is [suggested by] “until the foot ceases from the market-place”: until those who speak slander and gossip, which was ragal—a play on the words “habitual” and “foot,” which share the same consonants—on their tongues, are eradicated, and peace is increased in the world.   

And through peace, we attain prayer, by means of which we attain universal peace—peace in all the worlds.

That is, the Four Worlds of Atzilus/Emanation, Beriah/Creation, Yetzirah/Formation and Asiyah/Action. Harmony is restored on all levels.

Then, when they [i.e., “all the worlds”] attain universal peace, all business activity (masa u-matan) will be eliminated from the world. This is because all business activity in the world comes from an absence of peace; because it is impossible for the will of the seller and buyer to be the same, since one wants to sell and the other wants to buy. And if their desires were the same, no business transaction would be possible.

The Rebbe could have mentioned the desire of the seller to charge more than the buyer would like to pay (and vice-versa). But this would have only underscored the tension between the seller and buyer and the possibility of exploitation. Instead he goes straight to the discrepancy between the basic desires to sell and to buy, even if when there is no haggling over the price.

One wonders: If true peace depends on the elimination of even the opposite and complimentary desires to sell and to buy, how would people living in such an ideal world receive their sustenance? The answer is that sustenance would have to come directly from Hashem—as it did for the Generation of the Wilderness under the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu. Or Adam and Chavah in the Garden of Eden. Or the future Messianic World. (And perhaps this is the “holy spark” that animates the socialist dream of a more equitable world.)

Thus it is that all business activity and trade proceeds only from conflict, in that there is no peace between the [two opposite] desires. This is [implicit in] “There was discord between the shepherds of Avram’s flocks and the shepherds of Lot’s flocks; and the Canaanite was then in the land” (Genesis 13:7).

Rebbe Nachman is making a homiletical connection between the mention of conflict and that of the Canaanites—which he reads as “merchants.”

“Canaan”—this is the paradigm of the merchant, as Rashi explains on the verse “As for Canaan, deceitful scales are in his hand” (Hosea 12:8). That is, due to the aspect of discord and strife, as in “There was discord…”—in consequence “the Canaanite was then in the land”; there are merchants and business activity in the world.

However, in the future [i.e., the Messianic Age], there will be wondrous peace in the world, as in “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid goat…” (Isaiah 11:6, 9). Then business activity will cease, as it is written, “And the Canaanite will be no more” (Zechariah 14:21).

This is also the aspect of “until the foot ceases from the market-place”; that is, it is a mitzvah to light the Chanukah candle until the there is no activity in the market-place. This is the aspect of peace, which is brought about by the restoration of glory, as stated above, to the point that business activity is eliminated. This is indicated by “until the foot ceases from the market-place”—not a foot shall remain in the market-place because due to peace, all business activity will cease.

That is, the light of Chanukah, which goes hand in hand with the perfection of glory and all-encompassing peace, will shine until there is no strife. Then “the hustle to make a buck” and all the stress and exploitation and often dishonesty that goes along with it will cease, and we will receive our sustenance directly from God. May we behold this light of universal peace as we gaze at the Chanukah lights.   

Monday, December 11, 2017

Eizer L'Shabbos Chanukah Campaign



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BRI Uman Experience for Women

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BRI Women


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It is with tremendous delight that I announce the newest member of the Breslov Research Institute family of projects, BRI Women. We invite you to experience the enriching, life-changing wisdom of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and everything it has to offer. In particular, the Rebbe helps us strengthen all our relationships–with Hashem, with each other, and with ourselves.

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Prayer Before Lighting the Menorah




Master of the Universe! Help us in Your great mercy to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles in its proper time, in a perfect manner, in a spirit of holiness and purity, and with intense concentration. May we be privileged to perform these tikkunim, which we have mentioned before You, through the mitzvah of the Chanukah candles; and may our fulfillment of this mitzvah be considered in Your sight as if we had done so according to all of its details, fine points, and kavannot (intentions), as well as the complete structure of 613 mitzvot that depend upon it. 

May the light of the holiness of our mitzvot shine before You, throughout all the worlds! By performing this mitzvah may we perfect all of the worlds entirely, as well as through our performance of all the mitzvot, scriptural and rabbinic.

Let us perform them all in love and awe and with great joy, to the highest degree of perfection, until we succeed in eliciting peace from You and transmitting it to all of the worlds, in fulfillment of the verse, “God will give strength to His people, God will bless His people with peace.”[1]

May the One Who makes peace in His heights mercifully confer peace upon us and upon all Israel, amen! [2]
(LT I, 14)






[1] Psalms 29:11.
[2] Liturgy, Kaddish.