We have now begun the 5th and final book of the Torah, Devarim. We also find ourselves in the final week of the three week mourning period before the fast of Tisha B’Av. As I mentioned previously, Rebbe Nachman teaches in the 7th lesson of Likutei Moharan, Part One, that the main expression of exile and the main reason we are still in exile is a lack of faith. When we don’t feel in any given moment that Hashem is with us, that everything we are going through is for our good, and that everything which happens has a purpose and reason, then we are in a state of exile and distant from our faith.
What are some different aspects of the exile? How does the exile express itself in our lives?
Reb Noson teaches that the exile of the Jewish people, the fact that we were exiled from our land and that we were treated in exile as second class citizens and much worse, stems from the aspect of being exchanged. What does this mean? That the true children of the king were exchanged with the children of the maidservant, as Rebbe Nachman describes in his story the Exchanged Children. The Jewish people are the true sons and daughters of Hashem. The main expression of our state of exile is the exile of our soul, which means that our souls are far from G-d and that we don’t feel that we are the children of the King. This state of exile, not truly knowing and living as the children of Hashem, causes all of the sins and physicality and negative desires which people fall into. Truthfully however, the main expression of kingship in this world belongs to the Jewish people, as we saw during the time of King David and King Solomon, and which we will see again with the coming of the Moshiach. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of the Morning Blessings, 3rd teaching, according to Otsar HaYirya)
Reb Noson says in another teaching that the main reason for the exile of the Jewish people in Egypt was due to strife (מחלוקת). Yosef’s brothers argued with him and disagreed with him and eventually he was sold into slavery in Egypt. Afterwards, Ya’akov and his family all needed to descend to Egypt, which is the opposite of the holiness of the land of Israel. So too today in our times, the main aspect of exile stems from arguments and baseless hatred. Strife and hatred distances the Jewish people from the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, which is the aspect of peace and pleasantness. Therefore, concludes Reb Noson, before the final redemption Eliyahu the prophet will come to make peace in the world and amongst the Jewish people, because the redemption and the ingathering of the exiles depends upon peace. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Blessings on Fruits, 4th teaching, according to Otsar HaYirya)
Reb Noson also teaches that the bitterness of the exile is due to sadness and that they influence each other. When the experience of exile gets heavier and heavier, then sadness increases; and when sadness increases, this causes the exile to get worse. If so, how can we find help? Reb Noson answers, that our strength to withstand the exile and our hope to reach the redemption comes from the true tsaddikim. They shine to us hope and faith that the redemption will come. They know how to dust off of us (so to speak) the dust, the sadness which overcomes our hearts, and help our hearts be ignited again to return to Hashem. They help us turn the sadness and depression into joy, and through this the redemption will come. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Giving Thanks, 6th teaching, according to Otsar HaYirya)
These teachings describe different aspects of how a lack of faith expresses itself in our lives and makes us feel distant from Hashem. Not living as the children of the King, not feeling like His beloved children is an aspect of exile. Arguments and hatred stem from jealousy and other negative emotions and are caused by not seeing the other person with the light of faith. So too, sadness overtakes a person when they feel upset at what is happening to them, they don’t see Hashem in their situation and in their lives. Sadness also causes us to feel disconnected from God. Therefore, I think one of the main things we should be longing for this week and on the fast of Tisha B’Av is faith. Longing and praying to feel Hashem’s presence, to feel and to know that He loves us and is truly close to us, even though we are still in a state of exile. Praying to live our lives with more faith, more faith in Hashem and more faith in ourselves.
“May it be favorable before You, Hashem our God, that You have mercy on us and all of the House of Israel your people, to plant Your faith in our hearts, and we will merit to believe in You and in Your true tsaddikim with complete faith; and our faith will be pure and correct without any blemish and without any confusion at all, God forbid; and we will merit in Your great mercy that our faith will be so strong, that it will be as if we see with our eyes Your Godliness and Providence and Your Glory, which fills all of the world…” (Likutei Tefilot, 7th prayer, Part One)
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)