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Speaking about how Purim is a preparation for Passover,[1] Rebbe Nachman once said, “At first, all beginnings were from Passover[2] and now….” (and didn’t conclude 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 G-d 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.”[3]

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.[4] G-d 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.[5]

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 G-d. 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[6] 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 G-d 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 G-d, 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 G-d, 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 G-d. Rebbe Nachman refers to this in another lesson[7] through the verse, “Today if you heed My voice”[8] 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 G-d’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.[9] 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.[10] 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….”[11]

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
5. Ibid.
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

THE GREAT SONG OF CREATION

Rebbe Nachman teaches about a flowing wellspring and a river whose waters are drawn from this spring.[1] The spring is considered the mystery of nekuda, a “point,” because it is described as a specific point from which water flows. This is related to the Hebrew letter yud [ י ] whose shape is a single point. In contrast, the river is described as the Hebrew letter vav [ו] whose shape is an element extending from a point, since a river’s waters extend outward.

Furthermore, the wellspring, represented by the point in the shape of a yud, is the light of wisdom, called chochma. The river, represented by the element extending from a point in the shape of a vav, is the light of bina, understanding, that dwells in the heart. Just as the river is filled and blessed when it receives from the waters of the wellspring, so too the understanding of the heart (bina), is perfected when it receives influence from the light of the mind’s wisdom (chochma).

Rebbe Nachman describes three points of wisdom in the mind, which are three wellsprings of chochma. These three points are the source of wisdom from which the river, representing bina and understanding of the heart, is filled and blessed. We were each created in the image of G-d, in that our minds and hearts are channels for wisdom. Therefore, it is our role to constantly strive for perfection by drawing the waters of blessing from these three points of wisdom in the mind into the understanding of the heart. In other words, it is upon each of us to ensure that the mind (chochma) and heart (bina) are connected through these points which bring an abundant influx of understanding into the heart so it will not lack in any way. This is the perfection of the nefesh (soul).

THE THREE POINTS OF WISDOM
The following describes, in sequence, the three points of wellspring/wisdom in the mind:

  1. The point of wisdom in the rav, tzaddik and sage of the generation, who is the primary source of the waters of wisdom, and who is the all-encompassing influence on the generation.
  2. The point of wisdom in the mind of one’s friend, containing whatever wisdom their friend received according to his or her intellectual abilities, from the rav of the generation.
  3. The point of wisdom in the mind of each person, received personally according to his or her own intellectual capacity, from the wisdom of the rav of the generation.

All three points of wisdom require the use of the spoken word in order to draw the waters of the wellspring (mind/chochma) into the river (heart/bina). This is hinted to in the verse, Pi yedaber chochmot v’hagut libi tevunot, “My mouth will speak wisdom and the meditations of my heart understand” (Psalms 49:4).

The use of the spoken word is expressed through each of the three points in the following ways:

  • Everyone requires an authentic teacher, a rav and sage (chacham) from whom they can learn and receive the true wisdom. For example, [after the Exodus from Egypt] the entire Jewish people received their knowledge of G-d from Moses.
  • In addition, you must speak with your friend with yirat shamayim (fear of heaven), so your heart will be awakened from the point of wisdom that your friend possesses more than you.
  • Finally, to complete everything, you must speak to G-d in order to illuminate your own point of wisdom[2] and draw it into the understanding of the heart.[3] This is called hitbodedut (literally “secluding oneself” to commune with G-d).[4]

When you articulate words in your conversation with G-d, your hitbodedut is then built upon a foundation of truth. This is what connects the point of wisdom in your own mind to the understanding of your heart. The result is a lev tamim, an unblemished, straightforward heart,[5] i.e., a feeling heart vs. one that is sealed shut, unable to feel. In this way, the nefesh is perfected.
This all highlights the central requirement of the spoken word during hitbodedut—speech articulated through using the five parts connected to the mouth: teeth, tongue, lips, throat, and palate. This is true to the extent that it is worthwhile to spend an entire hour in hitbodedut, even if you can only manage to utter a few words.

There are additional requirements of hitbodedut involving time and place. This is because there are specific times and places more conducive to attaining the purpose of hitbodedut.[6] However, there are no specific limitations or requirements regarding body position. It is possible to practice hitbodedut in any position, whether sitting, standing, walking, or laying down—any way that is most comfortable. Since the entire purpose of hitbodedut is to exit from a constricted consciousness to a more expanded one, any position that helps to accomplish this objective is fine.

Anyone who alters these conditions of using the spoken word or placing specific limitations on body position in any way whatsoever, strips hitbodedut of the ability to achieve positive results. Instead of attaining a settled mind, improper hitbodedut brings confusion, irritation and anger, G-d forbid, which of course is completely contrary to the intended purpose. Rebbe Nachman refers to this: “Through hitbodedut and passing one’s time idly, one comes to anger.”[7] He writes elsewhere, “Anger comes from improper hitbodedut.”[8]

This is the answer to many who perform hitbodedut regularly, yet complain they remain far from a settled mind. It is obvious that their practice lacks the above conditions, and they are only acting according to their own opinion as to what constitutes proper hitbodedut.

We can now better understand the following words from the prophet Amos:[9]

“Behold, days are coming, says the L-rd G-d, and I will send famine into the land, not a famine of bread and not a thirst for water, but to hear the word of G-d. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and north to east; they will run back and forth seeking the word of G-d, but they will not find.”

On the surface, these words pose a difficulty, since how could it be that “they will not find”? We are witnesses today to the materialization of this prophetic vision and how it engulfs most of the world. An intense hunger and thirst to hear the word of G-d has been awakened among countless people in our times. They wander the face of the earth, from sea to sea, and in every direction to find from whom to learn, and are filled with a tremendous desire for the word of G-d. If this is the case, why don’t they find it?

We are already familiar with the maxim, “If one says, ‘I struggled and I didn’t find,’ don’t believe them.”[10] Nonetheless, how is it possible, after so much wandering and struggle, they are unable to find what they are looking for?

 According to Rebbe Nachman, there are a number of reasons:

  • First of all, most of the world, even among those who struggle in their search for the word of G-d, quickly tire, and quit in the middle. They stop at the first “teacher” who reveals some sort of wonder or supposed “prophecy,” satisfying them enough to remain with this teacher. It doesn’t occur to them to check further to see if they are proper and desirable in the eyes of HaShem, or if they are a type of guide on the level of Moses, who spoke only words of truth and righteousness; someone through whom the Shechina speaks and who is filled only with the awareness of G-d.
  • A second reason one does not find is that the person lacks belief in the idea of the existence of an authentic talmid chacham of the generation, and in addition, has reservations about receiving the inspiration they themselves lack from their friend’s point of wisdom.
  • Lastly, they belittle what they do receive from their teacher and are unwilling to make an effort to actualize the potential of the revelation through pleading to G-d.

HITBODEDUT, MUSIC & SONG
It is essential to establish an incontrovertible fact regarding meditation for those who choose to attach themselves to the One Living G-d. An important aspect of hitbodedut teaches techniques on how to empty the mind of distracting thoughts, even from things which pose no disturbance whatsoever. The purpose of these techniques is to provide the mind with a break from its normal activities, as well as to create a much broader place within the mind capable of receiving spiritual light.

However, it is critical to realize that these techniques to empty the mind are only meant regarding created beings and the creation. There was never an intention to apply these techniques to G-d Himself, Creator and Ruler of all worlds. Since if the mind is emptied even of the thought of G-d, chas v’shalom, the thought process is automatically given over to the domain of desolation, a place of calamity and trouble, where all types of destructive forces dwell and embitter a person’s life. Constant cleaving to the single G-d saves a person from all sin and damage. Therefore, it is dangerous and utterly forbidden to empty one’s thoughts of G-d Himself, even for an instant.

Nothing exists without music and song, since it is the life spirit of everything. The arms of music and song embrace the world and everyone in it every single day.  Each entity in creation expresses its own perfect and unique sound. Its entire being is nothing but a single chord amidst the multitude of chords comprising the all-encompassing song of ultimate perfection−a song built from the myriad of details within all the worlds.

In one of his stories, “The Exchanged Children,” Rebbe Nachman relates that there are chords of wondrous melody hidden within the different roars of wild animals. These chords join together to create a perfect sweet and pleasant song, heard by the noble of heart. The song then ascends on high and is integrated into the greater all-encompassing song of creation.

The great song of creation was composed by G-d two thousand years before the world was formed. Concentrated within it are the 600,000 letters comprising the Torah. Afterwards, He created the worlds and heavenly bodies from the various combinations, crowns, vowel points, and accents of these letters. Together with the Torah itself, it was all given over to Moses on Mount Sinai. From there, it was handed to Joshua, who passed it on to the elders, and from the elders it was transmitted to the Men of the Great Assembly, according to the line of transmission stated in Pirkei Avot. Afterwards, it was passed from generation to generation until today; this is the Torah we have now in our possession.

The Written and Oral Torah, along with the multitude of holy books that explain and renew the Torah for each generation, are part of one entity. All of these works are needed, without exception, for the ultimate perfection of the great song of creation. (It is worth noting that the Written Torah is the “stringed instrument” upon which this song is actually played.)

The Written Torah itself is the concentration of the all-encompassing perfect song, containing many wondrous notes—the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. The countless intricate details of each mitzvah are then revealed through the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah explains the mitzvot, giving them proper context through the thirteen exegetical principles of the Torah, transmitted to us from Moses, who received it directly from G-d.

Every generation possesses faithful expounders of the Torah, occupied solely with generating the necessary chords which compose a perfect song. It is a song of sweet and pleasant notes built from every detail of their commentaries and laws, and integrated as part of the larger song of creation.

We see the ongoing composition and complexity of the all-inclusive great song of creation revealed in the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] and accompanying commentaries. It is also seen in the innovations of science and the wide range of new technology and products in our generation, which benefit humankind and improve the standard of living in the world. Everything attests to the profound intricate magnificence of the great song.

The detailed fulfillment of every mitzvah in the Torah constitutes our divine service. Thus, in a sense, we can call mitzvah observance a form of real “Jewish meditation.” In this context, it is clear that anyone who does a mitzvah or detail thereof, is plucking and strumming correctly on the strings of the instrument. The song then emerges in all of its beauty and is heard throughout the world. Through mitzvah observance, we awaken a living spirit which vitalizes the portion of creation that belongs to us. This dynamic occurs through the will of the Creator to benefit His creation. We can now proceed to discuss prophecy and ruach hakodesh.

PROPHECY & RUACH HAKODESH
The attainment of prophecy and ruach hakodesh can be described as the sublime pleasure of a kiss from the mouth of G-d, that speaks the words of the entire Torah. It can also be described as the delight of attachment to the living G-d. Proper and detailed mitzvah observance prepares a person to attain prophecy and ruach hakodesh. This is because the musical notes that are thereby awakened are connected to the powers of prophecy and ruach hakodesh. The interrelationship between music and prophecy is illustrated by the prophet Elisha. When he wanted to draw upon himself the prophetic spirit, he said, “‘And now bring me a musician.’ And it was that when a musician played, the hand of HaShem came upon him.”[11]

We can now understand the significance of the true leaders of Israel, the mighty ones who safeguard the Torah and its observance. They stand at their holy posts and supervise the vineyard of the House of Israel, aligning the lives of the Jewish people according to the Torah and mitzvot. This prevents any corruption in the movements of the great song, and infuses the spirit of life into the various parts of creation, preparing us to delight in ruach hakodesh and prophecy.

Let us contemplate how to draw the waters of our mind’s wellspring into the river of our hearts to water the trees and surrounding vegetation, so all humanity can enjoy them. We will know how to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot properly, since only through this will the words of our holy prophets be materialized and the world repaired. Every human being will call upon the name of G-d and serve Him in one accord, with the coming of our righteous Mashiach speedily in our days, Amen.

Translated from a talk given in Tsfat.

 

  1. Likutey Moharan 54
  2. Corresponding to pi yedaber chochmot.
  3. Corresponding to v’hagot libi tevunot.
  4. Hitbodedut is considered a form of Jewish mediation.
  5. Known as a “circumcised” heart.
  6. Likutey Moharan 52
  7. Sefer HaMiddot, Hitbodedut 1:2
  8. Sefer HaMiddot, Ka’as 35
  9. Amos 8:11-12
  10. Megilla 6b
  11. II KIngs 3:15