Personal Development

Pesach 5780

pesach

Shalom! I’m re-posting some short ideas about the holiday of Pesach which I wrote last year at this time.

Everyone should have a Chag Kasher v’Sameach! We should merit very soon to hear and share good news and to see the final Redemption speedily in our days, amen!

As a follow-up to what I wrote two weeks ago in Parshat Tazria about the attribute of humility, I found in a booklet of Breslov teachings about Pesach a diary entry by Rebbe Noson.  He writes there that being able to combine greatness and submissiveness is the main aspect of complete humility.  When can we obtain this attribute on a higher level?  He says that expanded consciousness and constricted consciousness come together and are included together on the night of the Pesach Seder, which is one of the most special and inspirational nights of the year as we read the haggada together and celebrate Pesach.  This is the main aspect of completion which a person can obtain, true humility.  Meaning that on the one hand a person needs to know their strength, knowing that their soul has tremendous light and strength to overcome and abstain from sins and negative influences; yet on the other hand they are able to be truly humble and know their own meekness compared to the greatness of Hashem.  When Rebbe Nachman said that regarding humility many people are mistaken, he also said during the same discussion that a person needs to know his own strength. (Reb Noson’s diary, 57)

Pesach, and especially the Seder night, has the power to awaken us from our spiritual sleep.  Rebbe Noson teaches that the exile is the aspect of sleep and the redemption is the aspect of awakening from our slumber.  Therefore, the main aspect of the exodus from the Egyptian exile, which is the source of all the types of exile which the Jewish people have experienced, is awakening from our sleep.  What awakens us from our spiritual sleep?  What helps us to seek a true, close connection with Hashem?  Ancient Stories, meaning the stories told by the true tsaddikim which contain within them the deeper, hidden aspects of the Torah.  An example of this is Rebbe Nachman’s stories.  One of the main mitzvahs which we fulfill on the Seder night as we gather with family and friends to celebrate our freedom is telling the story of the exodus and Hashem’s miracles.  The main part of the story which we emphasize is Hashem’s kindnesses as He took us out of the Egyptian slavery.  Reading the haggada and discussing the Exodus has the power to awaken people from their sleep, every person on their level.  This night has the power to awaken us and help us come closer to Hashem, to remember his miracles which are always with us.  This will in turn awaken G-d’s mercy to bring us the final redemption, may it come speedily in our time. (Otsar HaYira on Pesach, 119; Adapted from Likutei Halachot, Laws of Vows, 5th teaching)

Once a student of Reb Noson was complaining to him shortly before Pesach, ‘how am I going to buy everything I need for the holiday?  There are so many expenses and I just can’t afford it!’  Reb Noson replied to him, ‘you’ll have what you need for Pesach, you don’t need to worry, Hashem will provide for you.  What you really need to focus on and be concerned about is how to take the Pesach (referring to the Pesach sacrifice which was brought at the time of the Temple).’  Meaning that we need to focus on bringing the spiritual light of Pesach inside of us, which should be our main concern. (Paraphrased from a story I heard on a Breslov Research Institute video)

We should be blessed this year through our physical and spiritual preparations for the holiday and our celebration of the holiday to true, personal freedom as individuals and as a people.

 

Personal Development

Chanukah 5780

2I wanted to share a short teaching about the power of Chanukah which I connected to this week.  Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l teaches in his book “Lev HaShamayim” on Chanukah (pages 32-34) that this special holiday is about rectifying and purifying our hearts again.  All of the Chassidic Rebbes teach that the name of this month, Kislev, can also be interpreted as כיס-לב, meaning that our hearts need to be a vessel (כיס  is a pocket and לב  is the heart).  What does our heart need to be a vessel for?  For the great light which is beyond words.  This means that on the deepest level, where do I light the Chanukah candles?  Inside my heart.

This might be hard to hear, but Rebbe Nachman says that every sin which we do causes us to hate somebody else.  Why?  Because every sin ruins the holiness of our hearts, and everything depends on the heart.  Not only does it cause us to feel hatred for another person, G-d forbid, it also causes us to hate ourselves.  Every sin causes a person to distance themselves from their own soul and their own heart.

Hashem forgives our sins on Yom Kippur, however the heart itself, when does Hashem rectify it?  When does he remove all of the evil and hatred from the heart?  When do we see again the beauty and light and holiness of another person?  On Chanukah.  Chanukah is the time of Aharon, the High Priest.  His expertise was to bring peace between people.  How do we make peace between people?  By removing the hatred from people’s hearts.  Our special light also begins to shine again on Chanukah, we can again look in the mirror and see our own great light.

Rebbe Nachman spoke a lot about the heart.  He wanted his students and followers to be called specifically Breslov Chasidim.  Breslov sounds similar to the Hebrew words לב בשר, lev basar- a heart of flesh, literally.  One of the goals of his teachings I think you can say is to have a feeling heart, a heart filled with knowledge and faith.  His teachings are filled with incredible knowledge and advice, which he wanted us to bring into our hearts through prayer and by fulfilling his advice.  Rebbe Nachman said in one of his conversations that main aspect of true knowledge of Hashem and the Torah is when knowledge is connected with our hearts.  Even in our hearts we need to know Hashem and have awe of Him.  Our heart can also feel and experience the truth of Hashem’s existence and our faith in Him. (Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, teaching 217)

As I light the Chanukah candles each night and look at their beautiful light in the dark winter night, I pray as much as I can.  I say different prayers that I’ve written for myself over the years.  However, I realize now after learning this teaching by Reb Shlomo that the deepest thing I’m really praying for is to have a pure heart again, to be kind and loving and open to my family and to all those I meet.  King David says in his prayers, “Create a pure heart for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” (Psalms, Chapter 51, Verse 12)  A pure heart, this is what I was praying for by the candles tonight on this night of Chanukah after reading this teaching.  I know that this is how Hashem created me and how I was as a small child.  Many, many times I feel so far from a pure, open heart.  However, Chanukah has the power to shine this special light again, the healing light of faith and love in our hearts.  The light of feeling and seeing Hashem’s love in our lives all throughout the year.  Chanukah reminds us how deeply we want to feel this again.

(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)

Personal Development

The Healing Power of Prayer Today

downloadWhen we have a bit of time to take a step back and contemplate our lives today and the world at large, it’s not hard to see that everything is sped up.  Our lives are busy.  Things move at a dizzying pace.  People want everything to be done as quickly and as easily as possible.  Instant.  A person is consistently bombarded with messages, advertisements, images, clips, etc.  YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook…  It’s hard to find inner peace and composure.  It’s hard to find time to hear our own voice amongst all of the noise from the outside.  Rebbe Nachman calls this power which influences our world today so strongly ‘a stormy wind’, ‘a spirit of impurity’. (Likutei Moharan I, 8th teaching)  We are so used to being fed information and images from the outside.  Today people are expected to multi-task, instead of focusing calmly on one task at a time.  Personally this affects me also.  When I’m working and I get a new message on my phone, I feel like I need to check it right away.  We are always being distracted and drawn to different temptations and diversions.

How can we possibly find the composure and strength to stay connected to ourselves and to Hashem in such an intense reality?  Rebbe Nachman gave us a powerful weapon and remedy which everyone can fulfill- hitbodedut, personal prayer.  Personal prayer is setting aside time each day to breathe calmly, to reflect, to listen to myself, and to try to speak with Hashem in my words, in my own language.  Just being able to calm down, take a breath and have some quiet can be very healing in this day and age.  Personal prayer, says Rebbe Nachman is the main advice in our day and age, and something which anyone can fulfill.  It does not require any special talent or spiritual level, just the will to set aside time each day to connect to ourselves and to Hashem.  We want to hear our own voice, the voice of our soul.

Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan regarding personal prayer: “Hitbodedut is a very great level, greater than any other.  This means that a person should set for himself a time every day to be alone in a room or out in the field, and to speak out his words before Hashem… asking and pleading before Hashem that He should bring him closer to truly serving Him… This practice is a very great level, and it is a very good way and very good advice to come closer to Hashem, because this is a general advice which includes everything…” (Likutei Moharan II, 25th teaching)  Personal prayer is the main advice for coming closer to Hashem, because anything which we are lacking, in any area of our life, we can tell Hashem about it and ask Him to please help us.  Prayer is the answer to any problem or anything which we are lacking in our life.

In the book Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom (Sichot HaRan), Reb Noson says that Rebbe Nachman would give each person special advice that would help them achieve a rectification for whatever they needed to rectify in their lives, according to their unique soul.  However, there were two things which he guided everyone to fulfill, every day of their life- learning halacha (Jewish law), and making time for personal prayer.  Reb Noson quotes later on in the same lesson that Rebbe Nachman said in general, regarding all of the different pieces of advice which he gave people about serving Hashem: “He said in this language: every practice which I advise people to fulfill is a special remedy, a rectification, and is effective for what a person did in the past, as well as for the future, and even after a person passes away from this world.” (Teaching 185)  Rebbe Nachman’s advice to make time for personal prayer is a healing remedy for the mistakes of the past, as well as for our lives today, and even for our future.  Sometimes we feel healing by singing a song, sometimes when we converse with Hashem, or cry or scream or ask Him questions… they are all expressions of deepening our relationship with G-d.

Rebbe Nachman once told a parable about a king who sent his son off to distant places to learn different wisdoms such as science and math, etc.   After some time, the prince returned home as a very wise person.  Once, the king commanded his son to take a very large stone and to lift it up to the roof of the palace.  The prince was unable of course to lift the stone and he was very upset that he was not able to fulfill his father’s will.  The king then told his son, when saw that he was unable to lift the great stone at all, ‘I didn’t intend for you to lift such a great stone in one piece, could you even do that with all of your great knowledge?  Rather my intention was that you should take a strong hammer and hit and break the stone into small pieces, and then you could lift them up to the roof.’  Rebbe Nachman then said to the student he told this parable to: ‘so too, Hashem commanded us to lift our hearts up to G-d in Heaven (Eicha, Chapter 3, Verse 41), and our heart is a heart of stone, a very great and heavy stone.  It’s impossible to lift it up whatsoever.  Only by way of taking a hammer, which is our speech, can we break and smash this heart of stone and lift it up to Hashem.’ (Chayei Moharan, Teaching 441) Our prayers break away slowly the stone, the layers which are covering our good, pure hearts.

In every prayer we recognize Hashem, we express our faith that He loves us and provides for us.  We increase our faith and connection with Hashem when we turn to Him in prayer.  This is the healing which our souls so desperately seek.

(Inspired by a class on personal prayer by Rav Erez Moshe Doron which I heard recently)

The image is courteous of myjewishlearning.com

Personal Development, Torah Portion

Nitzavim- Rosh Hashana 5779

vidui rk

 

During this time of the year, at the end of the month of Elul, we say Selichot, special prayers said before the regular morning prayers, asking Hashem for forgiveness for our transgressions and for mercy.  Part of the Selichot prayers is a confession of our transgressions.  The above ‘confession’ is actually a ‘confession’ of the good deeds which we have also done this year, based upon a teaching by Rav Kook, the Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel before the founding of the State of Israel.  He taught that just as there is great benefit to the soul when we confess our sins, so too when we remember our mitzvot.  This helps us to appreciate them and strengthen our happiness and commitment to the path of serving Hashem.

The following is a rough translation: ‘We loved, we cried, we gave, we spoke beautiful words.  We believed and we tried, we remembered, we hugged, we tasted a sefer (book). We created, we wanted, we fought for justice, we tried to do our best, we turned to see, we did what we were commanded.  We explained, we were correct sometimes, we called out in Your name.  We wanted, we rejoiced, we gave support.’

Blessings to all of our family, friends and readers for a Shana Tovah u’Metukah, 5780!  May you be signed and sealed with only good things in the Book of Life.

Personal Development

You Shall Love- Part Four

boys

By Rav Eyal Israel Sternlieb

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Okay, it’s understandable- to put the emphasis in our life on loving instead of succeeding, to connect to the courtroom of Hashem where I’m loved and I’m just trying to improve myself, instead of having guilty feelings and beating myself up in the courtroom that I invented.

However, in reality, how do we love?  What’s the key?  How should one start?

Love is becoming one with another person, and for this I need to clear a place inside of me, in order to give to someone else the possibility to enter into my heart.

This is the secret of nullification!

Wait a moment… what do you mean to become nullified, in any case I’m already totally nullified and crushed for my family, and I’ve become the official taxi driver of my children, without vacations or sick days.  I’ve become the official shopper for my wife, and this is all in addition to the regular activities of the home, cleaning, changing diapers, cooking for Shabbat, I have nothing else to nullify… if only this would lead to the desired love; however there’s nothing, no love in sight.

Okay, before you stop reading this article in aggravation and go back to washing the floor, let’s try to open ourselves up to a new understanding of what is nullification.

Nullification is a level in the service of Hashem, so it certainly doesn’t mean being erased and crushed.  What is it?

The Mishna[1] says: “Nullify your will before His will.”[2]

The first condition of nullification is that you have a will which you want to nullify.  The situation you described is not nullification but rather appeasement, that is to say that you don’t have any will of your own, rather just an expectation that everyone around you will be satisfied, and this comes from fear that they won’t love or appreciate you.  The subject hiding behind the curtains is you, and therefore you feel small, a victim, and bitter pretty often, because you yourself crush your will…

Love is when there is full, clear, legitimate and respected will in my daily life.

Will in all areas begins with the question which I’m supposed to ask myself everyday- what do I want to eat today, to wear, who do I want to meet, and continuing with what do I want from my spouse and children, and what Torah do I want to learn, what place does my heart desire in the service of Hashem.

And now, when I have will, even when it’s just sprouting, I can choose to direct my will to love Hashem, my spouse and my children, and everyone who is connected to me.

Love appears when I concentrate my will in connecting with the other person, to do good for them and make them happy.

This is “you shall love your fellow as yourself”.  I’ve taken the “as yourself” which is alive inside of me and connected it to “your fellow.”  This is true nullification which brings light and vitality.

One end of the spectrum is when I have no will and I’m just acting out of fear, and the other end of the spectrum is when I’m focusing just on myself and I live in separation.  Nullification is the middle path where I connect my will to the other person.

[1] The main book of teachings of the Sages of the Tannaic period

[2] The Ethics of the Fathers, 2:4

Personal Development

You Shall Love- Part Three

By Rav Eyal Israel Sternlieb%d7%a9%d7%93%d7%92%d7%a9%d7%93%d7%92

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Many times people ask: behold Rebbe Nachman says to look at the good points and focus on them, so how is it that this won’t bring me to complacency, a lack of control and even arrogance?

And how is it possible to make progress and improve without criticism and judgement?  Behold Rebbe Nachman himself says that a person needs to take an accounting of his actions every day.

Like everything in holiness there is a fine and gentle boundary, sometimes almost invisible, between truth and a lie, between the real thing and its fake replacement which is so similar.

Therefore there is a lofty, true court which helps those who are judged in it to grow and be uplifted, and on the other hand there is a lower court which weakens, constricts and brings downward the ones judged there.

Who are these courts and do I have a choice between them?

The lower court was created from the endless times that we felt that our parents or those close to us were not satisfied by us: they got angry at us, criticized us and were disappointed in us.  They expected us to be something very specific, and as long as we weren’t like that and didn’t follow the expectation, the seeds were planted in our heart for feeling that we are not good and not loved.  The work hours of this court are around the clock and wait for us at every opportunity to prove to us how much we are not okay.  The results are, of course, weakness, lack of will, guilty feelings, disappointment, frustration and despair.

In contrast to this court, there is a higher court, which has its foundations in the holy Torah and the exact guidance of Rebbe Nachman.  In this court, to judge ourselves every day doesn’t mean to just to emphasize the feelings that come to us, rather it means to choose to make teshuva[1]; to contemplate our actions, our words, and our feelings and examine which ones are correct and which are not, what is the truth and what is not, in a completely focused way.  And of course, to regret things which were not correct, to confess and receive upon ourselves to change them, and then simply to continue onwards.  Without getting stuck even for a moment on guilty feelings, which come from hidden arrogance, which wonders how could a Tsaddik like myself fall down.

The difference between them is, in other words, that the lower court judges the person himself and brings him to feelings which weakened him and cause him despair, and the higher court says to you: you are essentially good and beloved, so come on, take responsibility for your actions and fix them, so that they won’t cloud your beauty and purity.

[1] Repentance

Personal Development

You Shall Love- Part Two

By Rav Eyal Israel Sternlieb20091022_1722218363_88

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

There are two paths of life to follow in the world, and you will always find yourself on one of these two paths.

On the path of “you shall succeed” or the path of “you shall love.”

On the path of “you shall succeed”, I’m the subject and greed is the way.

So, what’s the problem that I’m the subject?  It is explicitly written “you shall love your fellow as yourself”[1], from here we learn that a person needs to love himself, no?!

The problem is that you are the subject for the goal of taking.

And the source of this greed is in my personal weakness which I don’t take responsibility for.

I feel that I will be loved only if I’ll be successful and good and smart and I’ll do everything which is expected of me; and behold love is oxygen for the soul, so I have to have it, but really I don’t have it because it’s always conditional.  What is the result of this?  Chasing after successes and achievements whose only goal is to fill my personal weakness.

So what’s the problem?  What’s not okay with satisfying my personal weakness?

In order to honestly check if there’s a problem, I need to look inside; do I usually feel relaxed, full of satisfaction, beloved and valued?  Or maybe I’m accompanied by feelings of fear of failure, disappointment, frustration and lacking self-worth?

Difficult feelings express the fact that something is not right inside, and it testifies to the fact that I’m on the path of “you shall succeed”, where my love is conditional upon (each person fill in the missing words)… where my love is being tested every given moment, and even if I’ve ‘succeeded’ for a moment to be okay like they expected from me, then the next moment already contains a new test, another possibility for failure, which causes me to be stressed, afraid and tense.

And even if I’ve strengthened myself that I’m okay, even that I’m essentially good, the internal judge is still working hard and telling me: “Don’t relax so soon!  Everything here is still hanging in the air, your love is not guaranteed whatsoever…”

On the other hand, I have inside of me a child who’s screaming: “I don’t want to be in court, love me as I am, and afterwards we’ll speak about what I need to improve.  I want to be good, but this path weakens me…”

On the path of “you shall love” the other person is the subject, and giving is the way.  On this path my fellow could definitely be also my sweet soul.

To this soul I give love with no condition and with no intermediary.  I admit completely that I need love and that I have a lot of love to give, without being ashamed and hiding behind masks, and then I begin to learn what the other person (including my sweet soul) really needs and I choose to give.

On this path I go on a journey of revealing Hashem’s boundless love for me and for all his creations.  There is a place for difficult feelings, with a tone of mercy and acceptance, and not that of a courtroom.

Wait, but how’s it possible to make progress without a court?  Behold making an accounting is something basic, which a person is supposed to do every day?

The difference between a lofty court and a lower court, between repentance and guilt will be discussed next week…

[1] Leviticus, 19:18

Personal Development

You Shall Love- Part One

you-shall-love

By Rav Eyal Israel Sternlieb

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

“You shall succeed like your friend”, was the title displayed at the top of an advertisement for a certain college.  After a minute of shock and digestion, I began to understand the depth of the distortion.

It’s not just a title, it’s the sickness of an entire generation.

Since we were small children they educated us to achieve, to be successful, and to get high scores.  On tests there are cold numbers and on report cards dry grades, which are seemingly supposed to tell us who we are- amongst the ones who are successful, mediocre or perhaps failures.  Later on we are measured by the amount of pages we’ve learned or the brilliant answers we give, according to the money we’ve made or the degree we receive.  The common denominator is a constant feeling that we are in a test- with an expectation to succeed, or at least, not to mess up.

The feelings which arise as a result of this are fear, disappointment, guilt, such as the phrase “I’m not okay” or “I’m not good enough”, failure, frustration and despair.  As a result of this we don’t feel in a deep way the truth of creation, the truth that “I’m loved unconditionally!”

We have inside of us a lot of conditions in order to ‘merit’ feeling loved: to be pretty or successful, wealthy of full of strength, funny or smart… there’s no such thing as just being loved.

“You shall say to Pharaoh, ‘So said Hashem, My firstborn son is Israel.”[1]  Why did Hashem choose to call us “firstborn son” specifically at the time when we were at the lowest level, complete failures and a consistent cause of disappointment?  Now’s the time for affectionate nicknames?

Yes!  That’s the time!  Hashem taught us a lesson for generations: I love you like a son, with no condition whatsoever!!!

It doesn’t mean that I won’t get angry and punish and be upset if you’ll do silly things and break boundaries, like children who get lost along the way, however the love stands forever: “From the distant past Hashem appeared to me.  And I have loved you with an eternal love, therefore I have extended kindness to you.”[2]  Also at a time of distance and difficulty and failure Hashem loves me and believes in me.

‘And there is love which exists in potential, that is to say the love which existed between the Jewish people and their Father in Heaven before the creation, when the Jewish people were still in his knowledge and mind’[3], this is love which existed before the creation, before the tasks and the exams.  We came here to the world to reveal a simple love with Hashem.

After the prayer “Shema Yisrael”, the legendary verse which our holy forefathers were murdered and slaughtered upon, we were not commanded with “you shall be successful” rather with “and you shall love”, a command to go and reveal the holy love in the world between man and his creator, his spouse, his children and friends.

To be continued next week…

[1] Exodus, 4:22

[2] Jeremiah, 31:2

[3] Likutei Moharan, Torah 33, Part 1

Personal Development

Don’t Run Away

Translated by Moshe Neveloffrun

In the modern era there are endless ways to treat pain. For physical pain many different medicines have been invented. For spiritual pain there are a wide variety of legal and illegal substances that can help someone forget the pain. If these methods don’t find favor in a person’s eyes he can escape to the world of entertainment, where he can imagine anything except for the painful truth. Alternatively, he can absorb himself in physical pleasures where he’ll feel an imagined sense of happiness. Of course, there are other creative ways for a person to escape from his pain. Together with all of the modern technological developments (cars, air conditioning, portable communication, etc.) which ease any small feeling of discomfort, we are not used to, and seemingly not able to deal with pain. The moment we feel pain we want to be rid of it immediately.

However, Rebbe Nachman taught us not to run away from the pain. Feel the pain. In the 8th Torah of Likutei Moharan Rebbe Nachman praises groaning: Groaning is the lengthening of a breath, and it is the aspect of patience, therefore when somebody groans over his difficulty and lengthens his breath (spirit), he brings a spirit of life to his lacking, because the main cause of a deficiency is the removal of the spirit of life, and therefore through groaning someone is able to fulfill what he was lacking.  But from where does someone receive the spirit of life?  Know that the main spirit of life is received from the Tzaddik and the Rav of the generation.”

From these words we see that pain is not something bad that we need to escape from. The pain is a lacking that we need to fulfill. We need to fill the empty space inside with spirit and to enliven what is lacking. This is impossible to do if someone escapes from his pain. We need to feel the pain in order to fill it with life. Rebbe Nachman teaches that this spirit of life is received from the Tzaddik.

How this principle works is explained in one of his stories, the story of a wealthy merchant and a poor person (Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, the tenth story). The story tells of a wealthy merchant who was neighbors with a poor person. The wealthy merchant represents the Tzaddik, who is spiritually wealthy. One day the wife of the merchant and the wife of the poor person went walking with a group of women and the poor man’s wife was kidnapped by an army captain. When the poor man heard what had happened he cried bitterly that he had been left with nothing, since he did not have any children. When the merchant heard his neighbor’s crying he came to his house to ask what had happened, and the poor man told him the story of the kidnapping. The merchant was overcome with mercy for the poor man and set off on a wild journey to find the wife.  In the end he was able to rescue her and bring her home.

Regarding the merchant’s mercy for the poor man, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Bender zt”l taught: “Surely this is how the Tzaddik behaves with his followers. The moment that somebody expresses his pain and cries out over his shortcomings in the service of G-d, the Tzaddik comes to his aid, takes interest in his situation, doesn’t leave him in sorrow, and gives him advice to help him have a salvation. Therefore the only thing that is upon us is to express our bitterness over our sins, cry a lot, and pray to be saved from our sins and shortcomings. And when the merchant (Tzaddik) sees that we truly want to be saved, he is overcome with mercy and does what he can to help us have a salvation.”

We need to open our hearts and express our pain. We need to truly want to be saved and to reach a better place in our lives. In the right time the Tzaddik will send us advice how to be saved from our difficulty, we don’t need to search for solutions ourselves. As Rav Bender said our job is only to reveal our pain, to feel the bitterness of our situation and cry out.

It’s a wonderful thing to travel to the Tzaddik and to tell him our difficulties. However on a normal day, when we’re not by Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite, we have the precious gift that the Rebbe gave to us, an hour of personal prayer. An hour each day without interruptions, without telephone calls, without masks, and without the marathon of life, it’s only you and G-d. You can breathe deeply, sigh, and tell Him everything you’re going through.  Tell G-d your pain and bitterness, and also the good things in your life.  The most important thing is to be real without putting on a show or searching for solutions. After you have told G-d what you are going through, the solutions are in his hands and the hands of his faithful ones, the Tzaddikim.

When you escape from the pain, the pain is truly with you all the time and you always need to find new ways run away from it. However, when somebody faces his pain an hour a day truthfully and simply and believes that good is coming to him, the rest of the day it is possible to fulfill another teaching of Rebbe Nachman- to be happy all the time (Likutei Moharan II, Torah 24).

Personal Development

Who Do You Love? Part Three

By Rav Avraham Greenman%d7%97%d7%a1%d7%93

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

“The Torah is acquired by means of forty eight qualities, which are… being beloved, loving Hashem, loving (His) creatures…”[1]  This means that in order to receive the Torah upon myself, it’s not enough to love, I also need to be loved.

The question is, how can this be required of me?  Is it my choice to be loved?  And what should I do if others don’t love me?  Why is this one of the ways that the Torah is acquired?

In order to answer these questions, we need to remind ourselves again: what is love?

Love is an attribute which comes from the trait of kindness.  Just as this attribute is the infrastructure for the existence of the world- “a world of kindness you shall build”[2], and just as only through this outlook of kindness, where the entire reality of evil is only exterior and an incorrect reflection of reality, the world has existence; so to in my private ‘world’ my existence is possible only through the attribute of kindness, which sees my current reality with a good eye, and believes that there is no negative reality in all of creation.

Only in this way, by way of me accepting my current reality as it is, I can take the next step in teshuva[3] and correcting my actions.  These are the stages, first compassion and afterwards judgement, first comes kindness and then strength.

To say ‘I’m not okay, I didn’t want’ etc., is to destroy my inner world, it’s putting strength before kindness, and that’s destruction, because from here going forward there is nobody who will rectify and repent.  However, to say to myself ‘I’m okay, and it hurts me that I failed’, this is called correcting myself and repenting, my pain about my mistake is the beginning of the healing.

When I find myself not connected, not serious, not behaving properly, if my reaction is: ‘why am I not’, then the immediate result is rejection, distance and lack of will to progress.  The correct reaction is: “Hashem, thank you for showing me what I need to correct, I feel that you love me, tremendous love with no boundary, and you believe in my will to make progress.  Please help me correct this, my will is to do your will, it’s just hard for me…” words like these are from the attribute of kindness, and it’s the basis of all service of Hashem.

Love, way before it comes to me from the outside reality, it shines from me to the outside world.  And if I’m in a state of love, first of all towards myself, in a state of accepting myself with correct compassion and kindness, which brings me afterwards to judgment and strength, then I’m fulfilling this acquisition of “being loved”, because to be loved is first of all to be loved by yourself.

The moment that I’ll be loved by myself, others will already reflect this to me in return.

[1] Ethics of the Fathers, 6:6

[2] Psalms, 89:3

[3] Repentance