Torah Portion

Parashat Chayei Sarah

To Grow from Within the Dirt

There is a light of holiness in the world, and this light is with me and I am with it.  There is a gate to the Garden of Eden, a gate to loving God, a gate to an alive and burning connection with the Tsaddik, to the sweetness of the Torah and mitzvahs, and the pleasantness of Shabbat… and this gate is not in Heaven; this is a gate which opens inside my heart.

plant 3

Harav Israel Asulin

Monday, 20th of MarCheshvan, 5776

BS”D

There is a light of holiness in the world, and this light is with me and I am with it.

There is a gate to the Garden of Eden, a gate to loving God, a gate to an alive and burning connection with the Tsaddik, to the sweetness of the Torah and mitzvahs, and the pleasantness of Shabbat… and this gate is not in Heaven; this is a gate which opens inside my heart.

Until now this sounds really great and even convincing.

However, when a person begins to enter the service of Hashem he is hit with great confusion and pain: Why don’t I feel it?  Where is the holiness I was told about?  And what is the Garden of Eden?  And why do I only see darkness??  Why don’t I feel the pleasantness of the Torah?  Why don’t I have sweetness fulfilling the mitzvahs?  Why is my Shabbat so dull?  Why doesn’t my heart open in prayer?  Why don’t I feel anything?

Who said that we feel and connect and ascend and come closer?  Who invented these things?  Look, I tried, I worked hard learning Torah, I was careful fulfilling the mitzvahs, I honored the Shabbat, I dedicated time to praying from the heart, I gave from my wealth and my strength and I travelled to the Tsaddik[1]… and not only do I not feel anything, I feel disconnected, dense, bored, and like I don’t belong.  Maybe it is all for no reason and incorrect?  Maybe this whole matter is not for me?  It’s dark for me!

Rebbe Nachman teaches us (Likutei Moharan I, Torah 17, second paragraph): “And just as we found regarding Efron[2], that although the Cave of the Patriarchs is the gate to the Garden of Eden from where all the souls ascend and its light is very great, nevertheless for him it was a place of darkness, and therefore he sold it with great happiness to Avraham.”

Yes, Rebbe Nachman teaches us that there is such a thing as a great light which is experienced as complete darkness.  However, the light is the reality and the darkness is only an experience, experiencing ‘Efron’.  Inside every one of us there exists a small and evil ‘Efron’ who overtakes us and makes our experiences dark, and he convinces us that that is the truth.

Who is this Efron?

“Efron is the aspect of the evil which is grasping on to the element of the dirt, which is the aspect of sadness and laziness and heaviness which come from the evil in the element of dirt.” (Likutei Halachot[3] , Laws of Tefilin, 5, paragraph 40)

In the element of dirt there is evil, and it is the inclination towards laziness and sadness, sinking into the dulling of the senses.  When the holiness is found in the hands of ‘Efron” it is covered with the dirt and dust of disconnection, dullness and emptiness.  Then I feel the light as a great darkness and the sweet as bitter.

However the reality is completely different.  Just as in the Cave of the Patriarchs, also inside of me there is a great light shining, the gates of the Garden of Eden are open.  In order to merit this reality, I need to redeem the holiness from its terrible imprisonment by the hands of Efron, to remove from it the layers of dirt and mud and to clean it off.

How do we do this?

Rebbe Natan reveals to us: “Its submission is through the element of dirt from the side of holiness, which is the aspect of Emunah[4].  Through emunah, the aspect of holy dirt, we receive and bring upon ourselves all of the vitality and all of the holiness and we merit the aspect of the power of growth and flourishing, and we blossom in His service.  Therefore, Avraham acquired the Cave of the Patriarchs from Efron specifically.” (ibid)

When I awaken the good that is in the dirt- I can subdue the evil which is in the dirt.  Holy dirt is the foundation of emunah and submission- “and my soul will be like dust to all[5].”

Believing means that I don’t battle the feeling of emptiness and I’m not scared by the light being hidden; I simply believe in the Tsaddikim that tell me that that is not the reality, rather only a test.  I believe that it’s not me who is distant from the holiness, rather it’s ‘Efron’ who is blurring the true picture.

Most importantly, I believe that underneath this blurriness I have a great heart that can contain everything- love and awe of God, exaltation and excitement from any aspect of holiness.

If I want to redeem my holiness from Efron, and if I want to strengthen my faith and the aspect of the holy dirt, then I will merit to reveal that also what seems to me dry and meaningless, foreign and distant, is actually alive and refreshing, necessary and close, beloved, known and shining.  Specifically from the dirt I grow and ascend the mountain of Hashem.

[1] Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

[2] The non-Jew from whom Avraham bought the land in Hebron to bury Sarah

[3] Rebbe Natan’s explanation of the Code of Jewish law, based upon the teachings of Rebbe Nachman

[4] Faith

[5] From the daily prayers

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