Torah Portion

Vayigash 5780

vayigashOur parsha begins with the powerful encounter between Yehudah and Yosef.  “Then Yehudah approached him and said, ‘If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears and let not your anger flare up at your servant- for you are like Pharaoh.”  (Chapter 44, Verse 18)

Based on Yehudah’s words to Yosef that he is like Pharaoh, Reb Noson reveals to us an important lesson about the power of good thoughts and the battle which is going on in our mind all the time.  Reb Noson says that the evil inclination is called Pharaoh, which in Hebrew can mean the language of revelation, פרוע.  This means that he shows people all of the entrances to impurity and tries to fool them into choosing one of his entrances.  Reb Noson says therefore that the main battleground and our main test with the evil inclination is in our thoughts.  We have a choice.  A person needs to think, says Reb Noson, thoughts about the Torah and about how to serve Hashem.  Thoughts of faith.  However, immediately when a person tries to think in these matters the bad thoughts of the evil inclination stand in his way and want to pull him into impurity.  A person who is trying to serve Hashem and come closer to Hashem will turn his back to these bad thoughts and not consider them at all.  As a result, these openings to impurity will be closed to him.  On the other hand, if someone is drawn after these bad thoughts and temptations, G-d forbid, then the gates of impurity are revealed to him.  This is how a person falls into sin and impurity and distances himself from the path of serving Hashem.  This whole matter, Reb Noson emphasizes, happens in a person’s thoughts.  This is why Yehudah approached and drew near to Yosef the Tsaddik.  This is the aspect of the Jewish people connecting themselves to the true Tsaddik.  In contrast to the bad thoughts which the evil inclination uses in order to tempt a person into sin, the tsaddik has the power to shine the light of truth upon a person and to help them find openings to leave their personal darkness and return to Hashem. (Likutei Halachot, the Laws of Theft, 5th teaching)

The Holy Zohar says that everything will be clarified in our thoughts.  What advice can help us strengthen positive thoughts?  How do we fight the battle?  Rebbe Nachman spoke a lot about the importance of guarding ourselves from bad thoughts and that we always have the power to choose a different thought.  It is impossible for a person to think two thoughts at the same time.  Rebbe Nachman teaches in the book Advice that when a person enters into his mind external thoughts, bad desires or other bad thoughts, he causes spiritual damage to his soul.  Therefore it is a great rectification and the main aspect of teshuva (repentance) when someone strengthens himself to remove from his mind any kind of negative thought.  We don’t need to let our thoughts control us.  The main advice to be saved from negative thoughts is only through a lot of prayer, says Rebbe Nachman. We can pray: ‘Hashem please heal me from bad thoughts’, just like we pray for physical healing.  In addition, he teaches that when bad thoughts attack us, we can replace them with good thoughts- thoughts of faith, Torah, prayer, or even business matters.  This will push away the bad thoughts from our mind, because as we said, it is impossible to have two different thoughts at the same time. (Advice, עצות המבוארות, Thoughts, teachings 2 and 3)

I have been reading the past few months an amazing small booklet that I bought in Uman this year.  It is selected letters from Reb Noson’s books of letters, Healing Leaves.  The letters are filled with incredible faith, hope, determination, advice and love.  Most of them are letters which he wrote to one of his sons, Yitchzak.  One of the things he repeats there many times is to focus on our good thoughts.  We have the power to choose to think thoughts of faith and Torah thoughts, and to leave behind our negative, disempowering thoughts.  Reading a letter each day is helping me to fight the daily battle to find strength, happiness and composure, and to not focus so much on negativity and things which bother me.

We should all merit during this time of year when the winter nights are long and dark to strengthen our good thoughts, our thoughts of truth and faith. Amen!

(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)

2 thoughts on “Vayigash 5780”

  1. Even though your blog was from two weeks ago, how beautiful it is that HKBH led me to to your lesson here, now, when I needed it.

    And boy did I need it.

    My mind has been filled up with (admittedly solipsistic) thoughts about why certain things come to the surface of my consciousness. Not in a new-age, hippie kind of way…just a simple, “Why do certain thoughts come to the surface.”

    And I had remembered Rebbe Nachman’s Torah regarding certain improper thoughts coming especially for the purpose of rectifying the same types of aveiros related to those thoughts in the past.

    But, as I’m sure you know, it gets so so hard sometimes to simply push those thoughts away. I’ve always liked Rebbe Nachman’s explanation that our thoughts are like a horse and when we see it going in the wrong direction, we have to pull on the reigns and guide the horse back to the proper path. Except, sometimes, the horse REALLY doesn’t want to follow, and it feels like nothing will stop it from just bucking and kicking until it gallops away, and tramples all over a field, destroying everything in its path, before you can finally catch up to it and get it back on the way.

    I was feeling this way until I read this post of yours.

    I get so…confused…and I feel like I need something “stronger” and “deeper” than just the “standard” advice, so I go searching and digging, until I’m sitting around trying to decipher a section from Tzava’at Harivash explaining the idea of sublimating bad thoughts and channeling them into good, and I’m getting frustrated and down because this advice seems tailored to a tzaddik and someone on my level, down in the depths, can’t possibly use it, and then, my mind is racing about how far I am from any real teshuvah or tikkun or knowledge of G-d.

    And then I read your post. Something so simple, that you probably figured it goes without saying.

    You wrote, “Reading a letter each day is helping me to fight the daily battle to find strength, happiness and composure, and to not focus so much on negativity and things which bother me.”

    And it stops me. Right there, all my thoughts–everything in my head–they freeze.

    Here is an author whose articles I’ve read on Rav Arush’s website. A real “true” Breslover (as opposed to me–aspiring just to start being a true aspirant to Rebbe Nachman’s way), and he reads Alim LeTerufah to help with his struggles.

    It’s not as if I didn’t know all these things. That every person struggles and suffers and that Rebbe Nachman’s words speak to ALL of us, in our own way, and that even people who seem so much “higher” have their own problems, and simplicity–simple Torah, mitzvot, relating to our friends and our brothers with the same types of issues–is the answer…it’s the cure.

    And I guess…well, let’s just say it just proves the fundamental truth of Rebbe Nachman’s way and his depth of understanding all of us. Because he SAID this is what happens. He knew that even the simplest, clearest understanding (such as it is) of G-d and our place in His Creation, which was so obvious yesterday, will be like a confusing jumble tomorrow. “Tomorrow you will not be able to recapture completely the understanding you had today.”

    Of course!

    So I stopped everything else. I put down all my books and grabbed my copy of Rav Noson’s letters. And I read…and I saw Rav Noson’s struggles and his simple, beautiful advice to his son that he loved so much…grab what you can…focus on your good points…etc…All of the advice that was like “second-nature” to me yesterday, which somehow became something distant from me today. I just had to renew it…relearn it, go back to the beginning and read it again.

    You helped me get there. You lifted me up from where I was caught.

    You embodied Rebbe Nachman’s lesson about speaking with a friend (recognizing that in this world, in this life, we don’t yet “know” one another, although I hope to change that), and shining your good point to lift me up back towards HKBH.

    You saved this day for me.

    I cannot thank you enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you for sharing. That’s really powerful! I was inspired to read your thoughts and insights about this subject of the battle to think good thoughts and focus on the positive. I’m really thankful to Hashem that the words I was inspired to write really helped you. Blessings, stay strong brother! Moshe

      Like

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