SEIZE THE MOMENT
R’ Gedaliah Aharon Kenig
Speaking about how Purim is a preparation for Passover, Rebbe Nachman once said, “At first, all beginnings were from Passover and now….” (and didn’t finish his sentence). At the time, his followers didn’t know exactly what he meant and offered different explanations for this cryptic statement.
In my estimation, it refers to a new way of serving God particularly suited to our generation, without which it would have been impossible to know how to serve Him today. In other words, all beginnings are “from now” davka, since the nature of our generation until the coming of the Messiah is completely different from earlier generations. In the past, the world was tested and refined in a much clearer fashion. Tests involved a clear choice between good and evil where one could identify the good and despise evil. Each generation was challenged with a certain measure of only one attribute (middah) to repair among the many that exist. There were also known and established times during the annual cycle that served as a spiritual basis for new beginnings. Each holiday or special time period during the year offered a more conducive opportunity to make a new beginning for the purpose of entering a higher level of holiness not possible during the rest of the year.
In our generation, however, we face extra-ordinary tests with each passing day. For this reason, any new beginning must be based on the concept of “now.” Each moment is an opportunity for a new beginning—start from now. The instant an awakening to do teshuva is felt, act on it immediately. Snatch whatever good you can in that moment—a good deed, Torah learning or prayer, a mitzvah or something that embellishes a mitzvah. It doesn’t always have to be an actual mitzvah; it can be anything that HaShem desires. Grab any chance to bring enjoyment to HaShem. Through swift action, you can seize a bit of good in every moment and actualize its potential. Whenever we do something that G-d wants, we escape from any exile threatening to overwhelm us in the same moment. It also infuses us with strength and courage in preparation for the final redemption in a global sense as well as on a personal level, as it says, “Draw near to my soul and redeem it.”
This is why it is extremely beneficial to pay attention to the many heaven-sent hints we receive everyday in the form of thoughts, words, and deeds. God constricts His essence from an unlimited realm to a limited one—to the innermost point of the physical world. He prepares the thoughts, words, and deeds of every individual according to the nature of that particular day, person, and place. He sends various allusions garbed in specific thoughts, words, and actions meant to bring that specific person closer to Him.
These kinds of allusions are the essence of how the future final redemption will be experienced. For it is via these divinely tailored allusions that we will come gradually closer to God. Therefore, we should beg for the merit to understand the hints properly in the here and now in order to attain the ability and enlightenment to delve properly and with true yishuv hadaat into every thought, word, and deed that comes to us.
A person always has the present moment—the aspect of “and now…” to which Rebbe Nachman was referring. The power of this moment is an endless reality for the duration of a person’s life and the apparent intention of Rebbe Nachman’s incomplete sentence, “And now…” It also seems to me that he was hinting at the idea that whoever wants to begin drawing closer to God cannot consider anything other than the present moment, paying no attention to either the past or future. In fact, this is a fundamental principle for those who desire to enter into the service of HaShem (avodat HaShem).
Sometimes we are inspired to come closer to God, however when we are reminded of our past or worry about the future, a heaviness or fear comes over us until we again become distanced from God, chas v’shalom. This is why a person needs to be careful to relate only to the moment at hand in their desire to progress spiritually and serve God. Rebbe Nachman refers to this in another lesson through the verse, “Today if you heed My voice” indicating that, except through the present, there is no other way one can succeed in moving beyond what they must and be saved. Worries about the past and future bring confusion and need to be removed from the heart. The heart should instead be consciously connected to God’s direct personal supervision in the present moment until one’s avodat HaShem is established. They will then most certainly enjoy a good long life and peace in their service.
Rebbe Nachman writes elsewhere about the repair of the heart. He explains that the heart can be healed through connecting it to whatever point belongs to a person in any given moment by understanding the heaven-sent hints to do good. This nullifies any shame drawn over the heart from misdeeds, since any time a person transgresses, shame surrounds their heart, as it is written, “This is Jerusalem, I have placed her in the center of the nations with countries surrounding her….”
Rebbe Nachman teaches that Jerusalem represents the heart which is given over to the nations. In other words, she exists amidst all the foreign influences which are not intrinsically hers. It is impossible to exit from this situation except by connecting the heart to whatever point belongs to it in any given moment. As mentioned above, this means you should strive to understand the heavenly allusions sent to you within any given moment, and connect to this point by grabbing the opportunity to do something good. In this way, shame from previous transgressions will be released from the heart and you will come to every good in the world, since when one is freed from the confines of prison, the mind are broadened to receive unlimited goodness throughout their entire life.♦
1. Likutey Moharan Tinyana 74
2. All of the mitzvot connected with Shabbat and the holidays are based on a remembrance of the miraculous Exodus from Egypt which occurred on Passover.
3. Psalms 69:19
4. Likutey Moharan 54
6. A settled mind.
7. Likutey Moharan 272
8. Psalms 95:7
9. Likutey Moharan 34
10. Ibid., Rebbe Nachman also elucidates this process in the context of watching what presents itself in three different expressions of the same point: the point of the tzaddik, the point of your friend, and the point within yourself, and then grabbing the opportunity to do good. (See also, “The Song of Creation” by R’ Gedaliah Aharon Kenig zt”l in Tzaddik Magazine.)
11. Ezekiel 5:5