The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

To Pass Through the Evil- Seemingly

By Ron Webersod

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

In our journey to the depth of good, to the endless point of complete good which is found in the deepest place inside of us, the point which is actually our nucleus, we need to go through all of the masks which hide this point from us.  The only goal of these masks and distractions is to allow us the free choice to choose our good.

It is said that it only happened once that there was religious coercion for the Jewish people, and that was at Mount Sinai.  Why coercion?  When Hashem tore open all of the heavens and revealed that there is nothing except for Him with no doubt or possibility to dispute it, there was no other choice.  It was a nullification of free choice and it was religious coercion.

In parenthesis it needs to be asked: if the Jewish people heard the sounds and saw the lightning at Mount Sinai and experienced the presence of God- how did they sin afterwards?  This is a question which has many answers, but even without studying it in depth- we see that free choice returned.  A moment after it was taken from them at Mount Sinai, it returned, and the Jewish people chose to sin.  In our personal work we need to always remember: even if I’ve reached a good place, I shouldn’t become trapped in complacency, rather I need to go back and check again and again where am I and where am I going.

The Ramchal[1] describes two ways in which Hashem runs the world.  For example, if a person walks in the street and falls into a hole, it seems that only one thing has happened here: he walked and fell into a hole.  However there are two ways to perceive the incident.  One is connected to reward and punishment, where good and evil are opposing each other so to speak.  He sinned, and therefore he was punished by falling into a pit.  The second way is called “Singular Leadership”- the deep understanding that everything which happens, whether or not I define it as bad or good, serves the supreme good.  Maybe falling into the pit saved him from a car which was travelling at a dangerous speed on the road a moment afterwards?

Hashem’s leadership depends on our perspective, how we see things.  We don’t know the hidden intentions, all that we know is what we are able to understand according to our perception.  If a father doesn’t give his son a candy, they boy doesn’t understand why he is not giving it to him, and he assumes it’s connected to his actions.  Abba didn’t give me a piece of chocolate because he’s mad that I broke the cup. However, the reality is that the father is not giving his son a chocolate because he’s concerned for his health.  As we mentioned before, there are two ways that the world is run- reward and punishment (good and bad), and the singular leadership (everything serves the good, everything is one).  In reality, they both exist at the same time.  We are mainly aware of the leadership of good and evil, however in the depth of the matter, the Ramchal explains, also the evil serves the good, and in the end this will be revealed to us.

The perception of evil helps us because it allows us the possibility to choose.  “I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life.” (Devarim, Chapter 30, Verse 19)  Without bad we would not be able to choose good.  However, at the depth of the matter, every time we think that something inside of us is bad this is a mistake.  A holy mistake, which was created just so that we could choose to separate ourselves from it, and to believe in good, choose good and connect to it.

The Sages tells us in the Talmud (Tractate Chullin, 91a) that after Ya’akov brought his family across the Jabbok crossing, he went back in order to gather small earthenware pitchers.  He finds himself alone on the other side of the river and in front of him is a man who struggles with him.  This person, as described in the midrash Bereshit Raba (Chapter 77), is not a man but rather an angel, a spiritual creation, the angel of Esav, Ya’akov’s brother who hates him.  After a difficult struggle which lasted all night, Ya’akov defeated the angel at dawn.  The Midrash tells that afterwards the angel asked Ya’akov to let him go back up to Heaven to sing.  Seemingly it’s a strange request: about what exactly did he want to sing?  Behold he lost the battle.  Why was he so satisfied?  Actually, the role of the angel was to be defeated in the struggle with Ya’akov.  The moment that Ya’akov defeated him, he fulfilled his purpose in the world and now wants to go back to Heaven to sign a song of gratitude to his Creator.

The forces which pull us outside with diverse and strange promises, those which increase evil and difficulty in the world, have a purpose, and that is to show us that it isn’t the truth.  Their purpose is to awaken us from the dream, in order to understand that all of the good is hidden inside us, and externality is just a vessel to serve spirituality (and not the opposite).

The evil inclination is also called “very good” (Bereshit Raba, Chapter 9, Paragraph 9).  Why very good?  Firstly, the midrash explains that the same things which can cause a person to fall to the direction of the evil inclination, they also build the world- the power which is imprinted inside of us which pulls us towards improper physical relationships or amassing wealth and honor is also the power that drives a person on the side of holiness to marry a spouse and build a home.  Furthermore, from an internal aspect it’s possible to understand that if we defeat him (the evil inclination), if we see the lie and choose good, he serves holiness no less than something which is normally good.  It’s understood that we are not trying to tempt or to add tests for ourselves, but if we’ll find the wisdom to connect to our good and not to give in to dejection, to being a victim and to other mistaken internal perspectives, the trials which we go through will strengthen us and bring us closer to our desired goal.

The perspective which we are used to and which we use to hit ourselves, “I’m not good”, is mistaken.  It’s important to understand this, and then to remember it, and forget it, and remember again.

The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, tells of a prince who distanced himself from the palace and from the king.  When he decided to return to the palace, he came close to it and saw that it was surrounded many large walls, and he had no way of breaking through them.  He tried from below, he tried from above, from the inside and from the outside, and he couldn’t enter.  He observed again the impossible maze of walls and thought to himself- it simply can’t be!  It can’t be that my father is distancing me.  It can’t be that all of these walls are actually standing here.  I’m not ready to believe whatsoever that my father doesn’t want me to enter the palace.

The moment that the prince understood that it can’t be that he’s so distant, the moment he had clear recognition that this is the case, the walls disappeared, and he succeeded in returning to the palace.  Through the power of understanding that the hurdles were not real, they dissolved.

So what are we saying- just ignore the concealments?  That’s all?  Yes and no.

Why not?  Because these concealed places are imprinted deep inside me.  I carry them inside.  Therefore, in order to nullify them, in order to “undue the magic”, I need to first of all recognize that I’m imprisoned in the illusion that they create.

We need to see the masks, to observe our negative beliefs, and not try to jump ahead and ignore our inner state.  This should be done quietly and calmly, with a lot of good will.  To agree to dive in and see how much we believe in all this bad, how much we think that it’s real- and only then to come out the other side of the illusion and to recognize the true and eternal good inside of us.

The first stage in the secret of the good point is to see where I believe that I am right now.  What do I feel inside about myself, and what do I feel about other people?  Without judging myself, without trying to justify these thoughts- just simply allow them to float to the surface of your consciousness.

If we mentioned in previous chapters the problem of disconnection, here especially you need to pay attention to it.  The disconnection from what I truly feel prevents me from seeing what’s going on inside myself, like in a room where they disconnected the electrical cord from the light which is supposed to light up the room.  Now it’s impossible to organize the room and sort things and to really see what’s going on there.

In personal development, I meet the place inside which is afraid to meet fear, afraid to feel pain, afraid of “what will I discover inside.”  A place inside which prefers to escape from seeing the distorted outlooks I have, from seeing the dark places which are still there from childhood.  It’s a struggle.  I wish that I could say that I’ve won it.  Sometimes I’m successful in overcoming and sometimes I forget and repress and only reveal what’s happened afterwards.

Nevertheless, during the moments when I am able to give a place to pain, when I’m not afraid to face the fear, frequently amazing things happen.  I remember once, during an hour of personal prayer, I felt a huge wave of anxiety washing over me.  It was during a period when I simply met the place inside myself which was full of anxiety and fears.  An internal voice said to me: “That’s dangerous.  Dangerous to feel so much anxiety.  Maybe you’ll faint?  Maybe you’ll die?!”  I smiled to myself with forgiveness and said to myself: What could happen?  I’ll faint from too much anxiety?  If so- I’m here in the city of Modi’in, there are nice people here, and someone will surely find me and use my phone to call my home number for them to come take me home.  It will be okay.  I agreed to feel the fear at all its strength.  Something inside opened up, a hurdle which seemed to be endless disappeared from my recognition.

I didn’t faint and I didn’t die, instead I was filled with vitality and good desires, I continued praying and I thought about each of my children- what does each one need and how can I help them?  Instead of feeling anxiety I felt good desires and closeness to Hashem, and I broke out in a personal prayer for each of them that they should reach the place which is good for them, and that we as parents should merit to serve as faithful messengers to raise them and educate them.  Like in the story of the Baal Shem Tov: what seemed like the shape of a wall dissolved into a screen of smoke which was just helping me practice my power of choice.

We need to take a deep breath and dive inside, see what we feel, without excuses.  Further on we’ll discuss personal prayer, an incredible space to allow things to come up to the surface, to see them come and go, without judging them.  Without opinions.  Just seeing truthfully what’s happening inside of me.

And even when a person begins to look at himself and sees that he has no good, and he’s full of sins, and the evil inclination wants to knock him down through this into sadness and depression, G-d forbid, nevertheless it’s forbidden for him to fall because of this.” (Likutei Moharan, Part 1, Torah 282)

Many of those who try to be happy skip this stage in the secret of the good point and try to immediately feel good and ignore the bad.  However, Rebbe Nachman doesn’t forego this stage of seeing what’s going on inside, the stage where we examine what we really believe inside.  Indeed he warns: don’t let your spirit fall, don’t believe that it’s your deeper reality.  But he also teaches: don’t ignore the fact that when you look inside, right now at least, this is what’s revealed before your eyes.

Rebbe Natan states: “When a person begins to search for himself and sees that he’s very far from Hashem, and he’s full of sins and blemishes, and it seems to him that he’s far from good…” (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Daily Living, Laws of Arising in the Morning, 1st teaching)

Rebbe Natan is exact in his words: “it seems to him that he’s far from good.”  He doesn’t say that a person is truly far, rather it seems to him that he’s far.  He’s not speaking about facts, rather he’s speaking about imagination.  He also says: “he begins to search for himself and sees that he’s far.”  This man doesn’t ignore, rather he begins to search for himself.  He’s not satisfied with the fact that others told him that he’s good, rather he tries to look inside himself, what do I feel?  Do I really feel that I’m good like they say or maybe deep inside I believe that I’m not good?  Of course, it needs to be mentioned again and again that this belief is false.  The internal feeling that you’re not good is not the truth, however it’s what you currently feel deep inside.  Without seeing this, it will be hard to change it.  In order to heal an infection, you need to let the pus out, disinfect the area and bandage it.  If we skip over stages and bandage the infected wound, the situation in the medium to long term will only get worse.

It’s important to be reminded again: it’s forbidden to fall from this!

Rebbe Nachman says this explicitly in ‘Azamra’: “And even when a person begins to look at himself and he sees that he has no good, and he’s full of sins, and the evil inclination wants to knock him down because of this into sadness and depression, G-d forbid, nevertheless it’s forbidden for him to fall because of this, he just needs to search and find inside himself a little bit of good, because how is it possible that he didn’t do a mitzvah or good deed in his life.”

I need to see the masks, to observe my negative beliefs, and not try to skip ahead.  Rather quietly and calmly, with a lot of good will- to agree to dive in and see how much I believe in all this bad, how much I think that it’s real.

[1] Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, 1707-1746, a prominent Rabbi and Kabbalist from Italy

The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

Between Good and Evil- Between Connected and Disconnected

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By Ron Weber

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Somebody once told me that the difference between good and evil is that evil means disconnected or not properly connected, the same language as rickety, unstable (רעוע), and good is stable and connected in a permanent way.

Good means that what you have inside of you is abundant, because all of the good and happiness is hidden inside you, and on the other hand bad means that your internal connection is inadequate or faulty, and therefore you need to look outside to find what you desire.  This definition can help us a lot in our strive towards eternal good, because it’s related to what we see all around us- the giant advertisements which are only trying to take us outside.  “You are not good enough” the giant billboard whispers to you, “but if you’ll buy this car you’ll be happy and successful.”  “You are not good as you are,” the amazing colored ad winks at you, “buy this outfit, and then everything will change.”

It doesn’t mean that dealing with what is inside us is always pleasant, or that dealing with external characteristics is necessarily bad. The problem begins with turning outside ourselves when it is disconnected from our internal point.

“There’s no way that you’re travelling now to India!”  One of my business partners at the start-up screamed at me.  However it didn’t help him, and in the middle of the craziness I went.  I knew that I needed to, I felt that an internal compass was telling me now that it’s time to travel.  Our CEO understand what was in my heart and even said to me, after several years and several more trips, that he doesn’t know what I’m doing going on all of my spiritual journeys- “but for some reason you return calmer with some sort of internal quiet and all the investors want to invest with us,” so from his perspective it was completely fine.

The trip was to a silent retreat in the Himalayan Mountains, a separation from the fury of regular life and a complete break from interacting with the outside world.  Simple vegetarian food, water, quiet.  Nothing happened there.  At least on the outside.  It wasn’t the first time that I had been at a silent retreat.  I already knew the process, which changes from person to person.  At the beginning it is strange.  The thoughts are racing, what do we do?  It was not an organized retreat of vipassana (a Buddhist technique of meditation), where there is a spiritual calendar.  It was simple silence, a lot of time to be quiet and to be with yourself.  After a certain amount of time the thoughts calm down, and it’s possible to begin to connect to the quiet which is always there, really in the background, beyond the thoughts.  Your attention turns from the outside to the inside, to what is happening deep inside of you.

The moment that the nourishment from the outside is stopped, something sprouts from the inside.  Something grows from inside of you.  A gentle quiet, a presence, which isn’t bothered by a thousand distractions from the outside, a simple connection with yourself.  You begin to hear what’s happening inside.  You weaken the strength of the outside noise because you don’t need it.  You turn your focus inside.  The quiet, abstaining from external interaction and communication, allows you to stop.  And when we stop it’s possible to see how much we are distracted most of the time, how much we always receive nourishment from the outside.  After a day or two of silence, I always understand how much it’s possible to be without media, without societal role playing, without advertisements and endless purchases, without wandering the expanses of the internet.

Do we have to disconnect for several days in order to meet ourselves?  We really don’t.  Indeed there were Tsaddikim who spoke about how a person needs to separate from the world for a day a week or every ten days, but Rebbe Nachman teaches that all you need is a total of an hour a day of personal prayer.  An hour where you turn away from the vanities of the world and meet yourself.  An hour where we leave all of our external activities and give ourselves time, with ourselves and with the Creator of the World.  An hour of prayer, of quiet, of song, of walking in nature and deep thankfulness for everything that we’ve been given and everything we are still yet to discover.

“Grace is false, and beauty vain; a women who fears Hashem, she should be praised.” (Proverbs, Chapter 31, Verse 30)  The Vilna Gaon[1] asks: if grace is false and beauty is vain, why is there even any need for them?  How is it possible that Hashem created amazing things like these in vain?  He explains that the continuation of the verse explains the beginning.  “A women who fears Hashem, she should be praised,” that is to say, when the grace and beauty are connected to her internal point and to the truth, they are uplifted and are connected to their proper place, and then “she should be praised.”

The problem we find then is not with the outside world itself, but rather with the disconnect between the outside world and the internal world.  Walking or running outside away from our internal point to the temptations that the outside world offers, to the superficial glow, is what disconnects us from our own good.

The moment that we are disconnected from ourselves, “evil” seemingly is victorious.  Why?  Because if we are disconnected from our internal treasures, then we don’t feel we have good inside of us, and the outside world attracts us and tempts us to search for good which is outside of us.  If someone wants, for example, to convince me to buy a new food processor, he needs to convince me first of all that my food processor is not good.  The same is true on the spiritual, emotional level.  In order to justify an external search, I first need to be convinced that what I have inside is not good enough.

Good means that what we have inside of us is abundant, because all of the good and happiness are hidden inside us; and on the other hand bad means that our internal connection is inadequate or faulty, and therefore we look for the answers on the outside. 

[1] A brilliant Rabbi and Talmudic scholar who lived in Vilna (Vilnius, Lithuania) 1720-1797

The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

Life in the Rat Race

By Ron Webersod

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Edited by Gershon Weissman

The air around us is poisoned.  Poisoned by competitions, poisoned by aggressiveness, poisoned by the toxin of “Edom[1].”  The Jewish people have gone through several exiles.  The final exile, which we find ourselves in, is called the exile of Edom, as it is written in the book Emek HaMelech[2]: “…and especially in this current exile which is the exile of Edom.”[3]

In the past Edom was identified with the culture of Rome.  Today Edom is identified with Western culture, the culture which is dominant in the world, the culture of achievements.  Who is the figure in scripture who is connected to Edom?  Esav.  “Esav, he is Edom.” (Genesis, 36:1)

What is so bad about Esav?  A contemplation of the stories in the Torah about Yaakov and Esav describes Esav as an incredible child, the educated son of his father, Yitzchak, who behaves in an amazing way and makes his father happy.  It sounds perfect.  And here is exactly the matter with Esav: everything seems perfect, from the outside.

However, the Sages teach us that Esav “is not so innocent”, to say the least.  The Midrashim[4] depict him as a villain, superficial, who tricks his father with made up questions of Jewish law, whose connection between them and keeping the mitzvahs or honoring the basic human ethics doesn’t exist.

Why?  Why is there such a huge gap between the image of Esav in the Torah to how he is depicted in the Midrashim?  There are several possible explanations for this, but this gap, the polarity between what is described in the plain meaning of the text to what we hear in the Midrashim of the Sages is exactly the point of Esav!  If we’ll ignore the Torah verses, we’ll find the image of a murderer, rapist and terrible villain, and if we’ll ignore the Midrashim, we’ll find the image of a good child, who tries to appease his father and do everything that his parents want.  What’s the truth?  I believe that’s exactly what we learn here.  The truth is that he behaves superficially a certain way (as is described in the Torah) but rather his internal truth is completely different (as is described by the Midrashim).

The Kotzker Rebbe topped everyone is his description of this gap: “Esav was not a clumsy farmer, who wears a funny shirt, walks barefoot and shepherds pigs.  Esav had a beard and side locks, he was the leader of a congregation, and taught Torah at the third Shabbat meal.  And nevertheless…”

According to the Midrash, he asked his father questions in Jewish law:  “How do you take tithes from straw?  How do you tithe salt?  (The answer is that you don’t take tithes from them, however it sounds wise and advanced- as if he is exacting in all laws of the Torah from the strictest to the most lenient.)  He is concerned with appearing perfect on the outside, but the Talmud tells us that on the same day that his grandfather, Avraham, passed away, he came upon a young engaged woman, murdered someone and did additional transgressions.  (Baba Batra, 16b)

The gap between the image of Esav in the Torah and what the Sages, the Midrashim, the Kabalistic books, and the Chassidic teachings tell us, is the gap between external, functional behavior lacking heart to a sincere internal connection.  It reminds me of the man whose wife feels that he doesn’t treat her well.  “But I do everything that is necessary!”  He wonders.  “My secretary sends her flowers on her birthday and I speak with her every day for 25 minutes!”

What is the connection between the scriptural Esav to the world in which we live?  There is a concept which is called “place, time, and soul.”  Everything is expressed in a certain place, a specific time of the year, and in the soul of a person.  The expression of Esav in the world is the culture of Edom, Western culture, the culture of aggressiveness and superficial success.  It’s possible to say that Esav is the spiritual father of Western culture.

The Midrash tells us that Esav’s head was buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs[5], and his body- outside of it.  This fact symbolizes an additional layer of disconnect in the form of Esav- a disconnect between his intellectual understanding and his self-control over his body and his deeds.  We learn that it’s not enough have a sharp mind.  If you won’t use this for your own benefit and for the benefit of those around you-one’s intelligence will remain cut off and disconnected from life.

Man in his perfected state subdues the physical body in order to fulfill lofty spiritual goals, which is the opposite of an unperfected man who uses his spiritual strengths in order to satisfy physical pleasures and desires.  It’s possible to see this in every place where gurus, community leaders or people with authority use their power and influence in order to use other people for their benefit.  Esav used his strengths in order to fulfill his desires and satisfy his pleasures.

Rebbe Natan explains: “However, evil Esav’s intention was not for this at all, because he didn’t want to submit to the demands of holiness whatsoever.” (Likutei Halachot, Yoreh Deah, the laws of new grain, 3rd halacha)  Esav behaved outwardly as if he wanted to become holy and he asked his father lofty questions, but in reality he only wanted to deceive and to use his intelligence and spirituality in order to serve his desires.

The Sages say that Esav’s name is from the same Hebrew root as “to be done.”[6]  Esav was born already ready, done.  He doesn’t need to learn anything, he doesn’t need to undergo a process or journey.  He’s already complete.  How difficult is it for us to meet someone who’s perfected, while we are aware of our own lackings.  How hard is it to meet someone who with one wave of the hand succeeds in doing great and impressive things- and you?  Stuck behind.

This is an illusion!  Remember?  Esav represents a type of person who is not genuine, he’s not truly successful like he would want to appear.  In reality he’s miserable, but he covers over his wretchedness with thick layers of make-up, in compensation for his exaggerated superficial behavior in the opposite direction.

He wants so badly to succeed to the point that he takes a leap.  He wants so much “to already be there”- until he behaves exactly that way, as if he’s already “there.”  As if he’s a “Tsaddik.”  And the culture that we are living in, the culture of Edom, Western culture, encourages and strengthens these acts- the competitiveness, the disconnect from our true selves, the feeling that if we’re not perfect- there’s nothing to talk about.

Esav was in complete despair because his parameters were superficial, and in superficiality there will always be a breaking point, a crash, and an awareness that there’s someone who’s better.  According to the Talmud in Tractate Baba Batra, when Esav heard that his grandfather, our patriarch Avraham, died, he said: what is the value of living in this world, if even Avraham the Tsaddik died?  I can kill and do whatever I want, and in any case I’ll die in the end, and furthermore there’s no chance.

This is life in the rat race- chasing after perfection which is impossible to obtain.  It’s an illusion.  “The good life” is an illusion of superficiality, a way of thinking they’re trying to sell us.  The artificial grass of the neighbor’s yard is greener.  How do we get out of the race?

Rebbe Nachman tells a story about two people, one who was a sophisticate and the other was a simpleton, who were good friends in their childhood until they parted ways.  The sophisticate was always bitter and never satisfied, whereas the simpleton was always happy with his lot.  The sophisticate always saw what he was lacking and he was always occupied with the question what those around him would say: is this profession respectable enough?  If he’ll get married in this city, will that impress those in his hometown?  The simpleton, in contrast, was focused on what he was doing, and when his wife asked him why others earn more than him, he answered her simply: “That’s his business and this is mine.”  What I need to do in the world is not connected to anyone else.  I don’t need to compare myself with anyone, and therefore I’m not “losing in the race against Esav”, rather I’m doing what I need to do, concentrating on my point, on my next step.

I remember the moment that I understood I was leaving the high tech world.  Our company was at the height of its growth.  Those were the days of the bubble, the technological start-ups were soaring.  And myself?  I felt worn out.  I found myself at a business conference in Southern California, at an incredible hotel, with a tropical swimming pool with a small island of trees in the middle, an astronomical entrance fee to the conference and all the “who’s who” of the high tech industry were there.  There was a band playing on a boat near the shore with fireworks shooting out from the middle of the boat.  The best minds of the high tech industry met in order to try to close deals, raise funds or make business partnerships.  But I just wanted to escape.  Indeed, in those years before I was connected to Judaism and to Rebbe Nachman, beside my deep involvement in the business world I searched for spiritual and internal meaning.  I felt a lack of harmony between what I was doing in my life in contrast to my desire to do good in the world, to add something with spiritual and inner meaning.  When I chose to establish the internet company it was like a snowball which began to roll: I had no idea where it would end up, but the snowball grew until suddenly I saw that the connection between what I really want in life and the form my life had taken was minimal.

I stood in front of the trees on the artificial island and thought to myself: what am I doing here?!  What’s my connection to everything that’s going on here?  What good will blossom from here, except for some more money for our investors?  I felt despair.  I felt that I’m simply wasting my time.  I wanted to do something good in the world and I found myself locked behind a mask of smiles with investors and in conversations whose goal was to convince business partners of things which I didn’t really believe in.

Suddenly it was clear to me.  I’m not supposed to be here.  I don’t have to be here.  I turned back towards the direction of the meeting and presentation room and on the way I met a Chabad Chassid who we were working with at that time.  He gave me a deep look with his eyes and asked: “So that’s it?  You’re leaving?”  “What?”  I asked him surprised, “How do you know?”  He smiled and that he saw it in my eyes.  The truth is, he said about himself, that after a long internal, spiritual journey he understood that he specifically needs to enter the world of business in order to support his family, but in me he sees that I’m on the way out.  It’s okay, he calmed me, it’s just important that I don’t ruin it for everyone and that I try not to cause a lot of damage in my leaving.

I decided that I’m not going to ruin it for our investors or for my partners- but I knew that I’m surely on the way out, or maybe it’s more correct to say: on the path inside, to a place which is more fitting for me, which I can connect to more and realize my talents; and I left.

This episode taught me again how much of a gap there was between what I was doing on the outside to what I truly felt inside myself.  Between the way of thinking which I was educated upon in Western society, of superficial success, and between the inner feeling of bitterness and emptiness which is impossible to fill even at a fancy cocktail party in Los Angeles.  Since then I encountered again and again this conflict between the external and the internal, in  places where I succeeded in connecting, and in all those places where I fell asleep, forgot and found myself suddenly disconnected from my inner aspirations while acting in a superficial and almost automatic way.

This mistaken way of thinking is impressed upon us so deeply, because we breathed this air since childhood.  It’s the version of our childhood, the way of thinking that is rooted within us, and it’s difficult to change such deeply held understandings.  Difficult, but possible!  Even a great mountain can be broken down, stone by stone.  Firstly, we need to understand what’s happening inside of us, what has taken root inside of us.  I need to understand that this feeling, that I’m not good enough, is connected to the need to compare myself to others and to the expectation of perfection and to the internal marathon to which we are enslaved.

I remember meeting a tailor in India.  I met him on a street whose stones were so hot that they had steam coming from them.  He was quick, very quick, and succeeded in sewing pants at a dizzying rate.  Maybe they were not perfect, but they were surely cheap.  He asked me what I do, and I explained to him that I work in computers.  He looked at me puzzled.  I tried to explain to him: computers, the devices which banks use and… “What does it do?”  He tried to understand.  “It helps make things faster… everything is faster with a computer, you can get more done.”  “Faster than me?”  He asked in wonderment, “they sew more than me?”  “Apparently not,” I admitted.

Esav tries to sell us the perspective that if we don’t have everything- we have nothing, however Rebbe Nachman teaches us the opposite!  If you’ll find a little good inside yourself, if you’ll connect to a bit of good- you’ll see that in the end you’ll have everything.  Because every bit of goodness has hidden inside it the connection to the eternal Good.  If we look at another person, we should do this not in order to compare, rather in order to learn from him a good point.  Not to copy him, not to be in competition with him- rather in order to receive “his point”, to learn from him, to be enriched by his spirituality, and of course, to give to him from our good point, if he so desires.

Despair comes from the attempt to be perfect, to live “the good life”, whereas the truth is step by step, to increase a bit of goodness.  The remedy for the despair of Esav, the attempt to make yourself be as good or as perfect as another person, as it were, is to refrain from making superficial comparisons to others, and only focus on finding within yourself a little bit of good.

Exercise:

The rat race: try to think about three people who are successful in your eyes.  What are their good attributes?  Do you feel a gap between their place and yours?  How would you feel if you understood that “that’s his deed and this is my deed?”  How would your life look if you succeeded in accepting where you are, of course by also receiving their good points, but with no feeling of internal competition or of having missed something?

What I need to do in the world is not connected to anyone else.  I don’t need to compare myself with anyone.

[1] Another name for Esav, the brother of Yaakov

[2]  Written by Rabbi Naftali Hertz Bachrach, lived in Germany in the 1600s

[3] Emek HaMelech, 16th Gate, Chapter 37

[4] Teachings by the Sages which discuss both the stories (Aggadah) and Jewish law in the Bible

[5] In Hebron

[6] עשו עשוי

[1] Another name for Esav, the brother of Yaakov

[2] The valley of the king

[3] Teachings by the Sages which discuss both the stories (Aggadah) and Jewish law in the Bible

[4] In Hebron

[5] עשו עשוי

The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

Disconnection- The Sickness of the Generation

By Ron Webersod

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Edited by Gershon Weissman

One of the things which prevents us from feeling our truth and living it, is not being connected to our feelings.  We live in a generation which is so flooded with external stimulations, overwhelmed with so much emotional pain and collective pain, that we push it away without recognizing it and without contemplation.  The disconnection allows us to function successfully on the outside, more or less.  “No pain- no problems.”  However the answer perhaps needs to be: “I feel- which means I exist.”  If I don’t feel my pain, it doesn’t mean the pain has left me, rather I’ve just pushed it one layer deeper inside myself.

If I don’t want to hear the voices which are screaming inside of me- I won’t succeed in reaching the depth of my soul, where it’s clear to me that I’m good.  If I try to silence something within me, it is still active inside of me.  Therefore, spiritually and emotionally, even though the disconnection might help us function, it prevents us from reaching deeper to our true and good points (which are covered as we said by layers of confusion and negativity).

In my personal journey, it was hard for me to recognize this point and admit to my disconnection and dullness.  It was natural for me.  That’s the way I grew up, that’s how I was educated.  Nobody “did” this in order to hurt me, but that was the message I received over and over again, and I internalized- everything’s okay.  In general everything’s okay.  Don’t stir things up, don’t make problems.  Be a “good kid”, that’s what’s important.  I even succeeded externally, everything seemed good and successful from the outside, but at a certain point the walls I built began to crack.  I remember being at Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite in Uman and I began to feel a lacking- from a distant place inside myself I felt that I don’t have enough of a connection to other people.  It was as if a wall was separating between me and the pain and sorrow of others.  I decided to label this: “I don’t have enough love for other Jews”, I decided and I flew home.

When I returned to Eretz Yisrael[1] I told this to a good friend who worked as an individual and couples’ therapist.  Love of other Jews?  He asked me; so tell me, how are things at home between you and your wife?  The pain and sorrow of your children and wife you’re able to feel?  Everything’s okay, I said.  Everything’s okay.  And then it began to pick at me: everything’s okay?  Is everything really okay?  Like the mosquito who killed Titus, my friend’s question was drilled in my mind.  Maybe it’s not correct, maybe everything is not okay?!

It was hard for me.  Why open up things which seem “okay” as they are?  Why dig in a place where everything seems good?  Nevertheless I gathered strength and asked my wife: tell me, what’s really going on?  Is everything okay with us?  She looked at me with suspicion.  You really want to know?  She asked.  The truth is not so great.  I feel alone.  I feel like you don’t care, that you don’t see me and the kids.  That you’re not interested in us and you’re only involved in your own matters.  It was strange and difficult for me to understand, how could this be?  It’s not that we didn’t have the typical difficulties of any couple, but I felt innocently that everything was okay.

With all of the pain and suspicion I understood that we must go to couples therapy.  When we got to the meeting I understood how serious the situation was and how much I was unaware of it.  Through the framework of the therapy we were able to reveal what we really feel, what we were going through.  My wife admitted that it was hard for her, that she feels that she can’t share her feelings with me, that I don’t listen to her enough.

How could it be that I walked around with a feeling that everything was in general okay?  Disconnection.  Repression.  Not giving a place for my feelings or hers.  This was a mechanism which helped me it seems to survive childhood, but now it’s hindering me from feeling what is truly happening.

I felt that I don’t know what to do with this, like a handicapped person who is blamed by others that he doesn’t run fast enough.  As the therapy progressed, I was able to understand that my wife saw a lot of good in me and wanted true closeness.  She didn’t agree to settle for crumbs.

And this is the secret of ‘Azamra’: in the deepest truth, you are completely good.  On the surface there are a lot of clouds which cover the light of the sun.  Instead of ignoring the problem and remaining in a cloudy day with weak lighting, you need to battle for the good and reach a clear day with clean skies.  When we agree to go through the fog- the light is revealed.  It was always there, but it was hidden.

From this place, where I saw how much I was actually distant, an amazing journey of coming closer together began, where we began to speak about what we were carrying inside and about all the places where it had been comfortable for us to be disconnected and not come closer.  It was a journey of going deeper, of progress, which helped us see the places where we hadn’t moved, hadn’t changed.

I can say personally, that from agreeing to see the difficulty, to admit to my deficiencies and not push them away, I reach deeper every time and come to a deeper meeting with the good and with love and accepting myself, my wife and my children.

We will attempt to touch upon some of the root causes of our disconnection, the reasons for the feeling of coldness and distance which we experience, and the self-pity which doesn’t allow us to correct what truly bothers us and which is possible to repair.

Once I heard a Torah scholar say that in order to know what needs to be fixed you need to know the situation of the generation, what are the specific difficulties which we are dealing with, difficulties which could have existed for many generations, but in our generation, and specifically in this generation, they are stronger than in any other generation.  This makes sense: in order to know what needs to be corrected, you need to know what is out of order, and this needs to be revealed before using the specific medication which Rebbe Nachman prescribed for us.

There are different opinions regarding the source and the reasons for our disconnection.  There is one opinion which reasons that it is connected to collective traumas: the Holocaust, the wars in Israel, anti-Semitism, and persecution.  There are others who say that it is due to psychological causes from childhood, and others explain the problem is due to the shocking superficiality which we are living in as a society and culture at this time.  It’s also possible to blame everything on the decline from generation to generation, however for us it doesn’t really matter.  It’s just important for us to know that we are living in a difficult generation.  A generation which on one hand has an abundance of physical comfort, but on the other hand it has an increasing aspect of disconnection and emotional disability.

It’s understood that the situation was also difficult in earlier generations.  Rebbe Nachman wrote his teachings of advice about 200 years ago, but it seems that from day to day the situation gets more serious.  My mother told me once that when my grandmother’s sister passed away, my grandmother wore black mourner’s clothes for several years.  I had trouble grasping this: my grandmother observed mourning customs for several years?  The mourning was so strong and meaningful in her heart?  It seems that today people leave a funeral and forget about the deceased immediately!

I met someone who went to seek advice from one of the elder Rabbis of the generation.  He told the Rabbi of the emotional pain which he suffered from, and the Rabbi told him that the problem is that in our generation people don’t cry.  Nobody feels.  The Rabbi told him that he knew once a plumber who would burst out crying every time he read Psalms.  People are not happy today, the Rabbi said, because they don’t cry.  The heart is closed.

In our generation, external functionality has become a lofty value and feeling has been pushed to the bottom of the priority list.  A person is measured according to their performance in society- economic status, type of work, car, and external appearance.  A person like this can be a source of jealousy for all those who see him and nobody stops and asks themselves: what’s going on with him truly inside?  With his children?  With his parents?  With his spouse?  With himself?

On one of my business trips to America years ago, I met a young man in Manhattan who was the son of an American media tycoon.  He invited me to ride with him in a fancy limousine for a mutual business outing where we could exchange ideas and see if we could work together.  He told me about his dealings in the media world, and spoke with non-stop excitement about his successes.  I looked at him- a good looking guy, wealthy, successful, it looked like he didn’t have a worry, seemingly the highest aspiration of any person his age.  “Tell me, are you happy?”  I asked him.  He didn’t answer for a moment, however the smile disappeared suddenly from his lips.  He looked straight at me and said sharply: “We don’t ask questions like that here.”

We live in a generation which is focused on the external and the superficial.  A generation in which the intellect is king, and the heart is silent.  In the crazy race for material success, we forgot ourselves.

Rebbe Nachman wants to save our hearts.  To return to us the pulse so that we can go ahead and battle the forces which are trying to put us to sleep, the forces which are trying to separate us from each other and stick a wedge between people, and even separate a person from himself.

We live in a generation which is focused on the external and the superficial.  A generation in which the intellect is king, and the heart is silent.  In the crazy race for material success, we forgot ourselves.

[1] The Land of Israel

The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

The False Faith which claims that we are not good

By Ron Webersod

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Edited by Gershon Weissman

If you’ll ask a man in the street if he thinks he’s good- the automatic answer will usually be: “Of course I’m good.”  A deeper examination inside ourselves will reveal that we have a part of us which believes that we really are not good.

What does it mean “not good”?  This sounds strange and exaggerated.

Do I feel that I’m a good person and only want goodness, or are there places where I have difficult beliefs about myself?  For example, that I’m selfish, or that I don’t care about others; I disappoint other people all the time, I don’t have luck, I don’t have any chance of succeeding, that I’m a failure, that I don’t really have talents, that I’m weak.  If people would know who I truly am and how I feel, they would not want to have a connection with me.  That I’m not.  Simply not…

Most of the time we are not aware of these feelings and thoughts, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist inside of us.

Because even if a person will say that everything’s okay and that he loves himself and feels connected to himself, if he actually believes in the hidden depths of his heart that he’s not good, that he’s disappointing, that he could have been different, etc.- his behavior will reflect his belief.  Our beliefs shape our behavior and how we relate to ourselves and those around us.

A frustrating result of this is that a person who finds in himself places where he feels he lacks value, lacks connection or love- he looks around him at other people and thinks that everything is okay with them, and that only he feels this way.  This only strengthens the negative feeling inside and it’s not true.  His main problem is despair.  We all have challenges we are dealing with.  It’s true, sometimes something which seems to you like a mountain looks like a mouse to someone else, but every one of us has difficulties and wounds which we are carrying with us.

The problem is, as mentioned above, the negative beliefs which control our lives.  There’s a joke which tells of three people- an Israeli intelligence agent, a K.G.B. agent and a C.I.A. agent who competed between themselves who could catch the rabbit in the forest the fastest.  The C.I.A. agent came out with the rabbit after five minutes, the K.G.B. agent after 15 minutes and the Israeli agent didn’t come out of the forest.  The two worried friends entered the forest again in order to search for their Israeli friend.  They found him in a clearing in the forest.  In front of him was a scared, trapped lion and the Israeli agent was screaming at him: Admit that you are a rabbit!  Admit that you are a rabbit!

It sounds like an exaggeration, but that’s what happens when we become convinced at a young age that who we are is not good enough.  That we need to be someone else, something else.  That we need to be a rabbit instead of a lion.  After we’re convinced of the bad and the negative… we try to cover it our whole lives with shining cellophane wrappings and show that everything is okay… and then, even when we tell ourselves that we are in a really good state, that we love and appreciate ourselves, a deeper check will reveal that deep down in our hearts we don’t believe that we are good.

There are several core reasons for this gap, and one of them is rooted in our childhood.  When parents and teachers tell a child that he is a bad child, he internalizes this.  We all know well expressions like “you’re lazy”, “you’re selfish”, and “you’re annoying”.  Sayings like these create in the child a self-perception that he is not good.  It’s understood that the parents intention is to say that the behavior of the child was bad, however as time goes by the child simply absorbs this poisonous idea deep inside himself.  Rigid education leads to this outlook even if they don’t tell the child these words explicitly.

Also lax or too permissive education can cause the child to believe that he is not good: ‘behold if I was good, at least they would care about me.  At least someone would pay attention to me.  It seems that I’m not important, not interesting and not good, and therefore nobody takes interest in me and are not firm with me.’

There are additional reasons for the basic internal faith that we are not good enough, and they are different from person to person.  The basic point shared by all, for most of us, is that sometimes this belief is hidden, and at other times it comes to the surface and overwhelms us.  During the times when this belief is strong- we feel helpless and lack will.

Also the conditions of life can strengthen in a person this false belief that he is not good.  When a person looks at his life in its present state, and it’s not always what he hoped it would be, he feels like a failure.  He feels that he’s not good.  He identifies with the external situation and decides that he’s not good.

“And the main principle which is understood from his words is that a person needs to have faith in himself, that he too is beloved in the eyes of God.  Because according to the greatness of God’s good, he is also great and important in the eyes of God.  And it has already been explained several times that it is not the attribute of humility to think in a small way, God forbid, and we need to plead a lot to God to merit the true paths of humility.”[1]

Exercise:

Do you believe that you are not good?

Search for situations in your life where you believe, or you believed in the past, that you are simply not good.  Something which happened in the past few years or in your memories from an earlier time, times when you simply felt unworthy in general or situations where you felt like a failure.  Sometimes this is connected to guilty feelings which come to the surface and overwhelm you.

What is the source of the feeling that you are not good?

A deeper examination will reveal that many times we are mistaken, and in the depth of our hearts we believe that we are not good.

[1] Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, Paragraph 140

The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

Introduction- Entering into the Difficulty and the Negative Placessod

By Ron Weber

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Edited by Gershon Weissman

If so, Rebbe Nachman reveals to us that we are actually good, and that also when other people do things which seem bad to us- deep inside of them they are actually good.  So everything’s okay…

It sounds simple, no?

Everything is so deceptively simple yet nevertheless, we are surrounded by bad and suffer from it.  We may behave with violence, sometimes even with cruelty.  Even though deep inside everyone is good, behold there is a lot of suffering in the world.

It appears that what we see around us is exactly the opposite of the good point!  The world is running in the opposite direction… even if we understand that the search for good is logical and correct, for some reason it’s difficult for us to achieve it.  We lose sight of this goal, or we disregard the matter by saying “its spiritual nonsense which is not connected to my life.”

A person can ask himself, “If everything is so good and beautiful, why does everything seem bad?”  “And if it’s so natural to find the good- why is it so difficult to see it?”

Wait a moment.  We didn’t say that it’s natural.  This is your internal truth, however it’s not natural.  It’s not automatic.  The automatic nature which is imprinted in us is in reality completely the opposite.  The natural reality pulls us downward, nevertheless we can spread our wings and fly by free choice and by taking responsibility- but not as an automatic process.

Also when I was deep inside the teshuva process, and even when I read and learned Likutei Moharan (Rebbe Nachman’s main book of teachings), I still wasn’t really “connected” to the concepts.  My friends would speak with me about ‘Azamra’, and it seemed to me to be natural and simple.  What’s the problem?  I asked.  To see the good, big deal.  I felt “okay” in general.  It’s true, if people would ask me specifically about certain areas in my life, it seems that I would have admitted that the situation is not perfect, however I didn’t deal with this.  I tried to see the good “in general.”  I didn’t agree to give a place to the pain which was there under the surface, to the feeling of being stuck which accompanied me, which I tried to prevent and escape from in different ways.

Only after years when I began to do personal prayer and meet the difficult feelings inside of me, did I  uncover through my daily personal prayer a wall of frustration, a feeling of lack of progress- I began to understand what they were speaking about.  I understood that without ‘Azamra’, without seeing the little bit of good in everything, I’m lost.  As much as a person deepens their internal search and are willing to face the difficulties- they must have something which gives balance to the process.  They must search deeper to find hope even in a place which seems dark and lacking any chance.

As we go forward we’ll understand and contemplate a very basic point: “God has made the one as well as the other”[1], that means that if there is a possibility to find good in a certain place, the complete opposite possibility exists, like a reflection of the good.  If there is a possibility to reach a great and amazing goodness, there must be also the possibility to choose exactly the opposite.

Rebbe Natan tells of a discussion which he had with Rebbe Nachman: “Once he told me- everything that you see in the world is only for free choice, because the entire world was only created for choice.”[2]

All of the tests which we go through in life, all of the difficulties, all of the ups and downs- they have one purpose, to allow us to choose (how we will respond).  To give us an endless amount of possibilities, where in the end we make the final choices which guide us in our lives to the safe shores of the good, or God forbid, break us over and over again because of a reality which seems to us hard and uncompromising.

The Ramchal[3] wrote in his book “Derech Hashem”: “And nevertheless this needs to be by way of his free choice and will, because if a person was forced by way of his actions to choose completeness, he would not be called really a complete person, because he’s not the master, since he’s forced by someone else to buy it, and the seller is the master of his completeness, and the lofty intention would not exist.”[4]

The Ramchal explains that if we were forced to choose the good, it would not be free choice.  If the possibility of choosing the good was shining so much and so simple, without forces which oppose it- this would not be a real choice.

In order to allow us free choice, we were born with good points and great desires for good, and above this there are bad forces which cause hiddenness, they are our defense mechanisms and imaginations.  Their role, as we’ll see further on, is to give an opposing weight, to allow the possibility as it were to choose the bad.

The negative aspects, the inclination to be dragged into negativity, the source of downfalls, the Creator ‘dressed’ so to speak on top of the nucleus of the good, above the tasty fruit of our truth, like the external peel.

Our natural inclination can be likened to going up the stairs of an escalator which is descending.  If we stand still and stay in our place, we’ll descend instead of ascending; only if we ascend by our choice and by our effort will we succeed in reaching the top.

The Chazon Ish[5] wrote in his book “Faith and Trust” that really all of the bad character traits can be condensed and included in one bad character trait, which is “letting life go on its natural path (out of neglect).”[6]  That means that the natural inclination is to sink, to go downwards, to see the bad and to identify with it (further on we’ll learn how this is connected to our childhood and to the sin of Adam with the Tree of Knowledge).

Therefore, in order to connect to our good, we need to straighten our view and examine inside ourselves all of the negative voices, the beliefs which try to “drag us downwards”, and to pass through them on the journey to our eternal truth.  This truth is the fact that we are good and valuable from the moment of our creation, and all of the bad aspects are only an external covering or things which “stuck” to us throughout our lives, dust which needs to be shaken off from us.

I need to understand that I’m good, I’m the essence of good, and I’m on an incredible journey whose goal is to reveal this inside of me and in those surrounding me- to see the good also in them and to add goodness to their world.

[1] Ecclesiastes, 7:14

[2] The Life of Rebbe Nachman, paragraph 519

[3] Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, of blessed memory, who lived in the 1700s in Italy and then Holland; he’s buried in Tiberias

[4] First Part, Third Chapter- About the Human Race

[5] One of the leading Rabbis in the land of Israel in the 20th century

[6] Chapter 4

The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

In Short

By Ron Webersod

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Edited by Gershon Weissman

One of the most annoying things about books in which the word “secret” appears in the name, is that you’re always waiting for the secret to be revealed, and in the end you feel that you exited from the back door of a maze with empty hands.  They promised to reveal to you something incredible and amazing, but you feel that you haven’t received anything.

In order not to make the same mistake, we’ll start by revealing the secret which Rebbe Nachman revealed to us.  Afterwards we’ll see, slowly, how it connects to us, to our lives.  What are the places where we are blocking ourselves, and how is it possible to actualize these concepts in different areas of our lives.

Note: This chapter, naturally, is written briefly and very concise.  Further on in the book we’ll try to explain the ideas in a much slower and deeper way.

Rebbe Nachman’s secret is very simple:

In everything there is good.  Even in a person who seems completely wicked, and even if it seems to you that he is 99.9% evil and 0.1% good- there is still good there.  There is something.

The small percentage of good that you found in the person- that’s his “true self.”  All of the negative features are just superficial layers which are not true.  They are hiding his true self.

You choose what happens.  You create your reality by way of your choices.  If you’ll choose bad- you’ll increase it; if you’ll choose good- you yourself will increase the degree of goodness.

In other people there is endless good, and so too in yourself.  Even if you feel bad about yourself because of your behavior, you have so much good inside.  The very fact that you choose to see the good inside yourself will increase it, and this will give you the strength to choose to improve.

If you agree to believe that you are good- you can choose goodness.  It seems to you that you are far from the good (but really you are actually inside it).  Even a little bit of good is good! (Further on we’ll learn that too much good all at once can extinguish the light).  As long as we are not connected to the good inside of us, we are in a state of spiritual sleep.

Not only do you do good deeds and want that which is good- you yourself are good.  You have a point of Godliness.  Deep inside yourself you are always connected to the eternal good which is the source which gives life to creation without end, without separation and without any connection to actions.

The reality which we see around us is a dynamic reality, and we have in our hands the possibility of how to interpret it.

The Sages said: “Anyone who disqualifies- he’s disqualifying his own blemish.”  Their intention is to say that when I see the negative aspects of someone else, it’s actually a reflection of my negative aspects, and I’m seeing them in order to correct them inside myself.

If I’ll change the way that I see another person, or the way that I see myself, I’ll be able to begin with rectification.  In the end, both of these aspects will influence each other.  If I’ll begin to look at myself with a good and more forgiving eye, as a result of this I will look this way also at the other person.

In short, the secret of the good point is that in everything in the universe, also in what seems to us to be really bad and negative, there is a good point.  This good point, even if it is almost hidden from the eye, can increase and become stronger and add goodness without the external reality changing whatsoever.  The choice is in our hands.

“Because the Sages, of blessed memory, already revealed to us that in all material objects and in all the languages of the nations of the world, you can find in them Godliness.  Because without Godliness they have no vitality nor existence at all.”[1]

Everything in our world receives its vitality from God.  The Kabbalists explain that everything has a specific character trait of the soul, even a stone.  Something which has no vitality simply can’t exist in the world.  Rebbe Nachman explains how far reaching this matter is: the revelation of God’s light in the world spreads and gives life to everything in creation.  However, there are places which are so lowly that it’s not appropriate for His light to dwell in them- and specifically in them an even higher light dwells!  A light which is beyond creation, a light which comes from the Creator’s endless mercy.

Therefore, everything in the world has its source in holiness.  There are no mistakes in creation.  “Everything God does is for the good.”[2]  We don’t always understand this (and maybe even usually we don’t understand this…) but everything which happens in our world and in our lives is in the end for a good purpose.  Our deepest goal is to connect things in return, while we are still alive, as much as possible to their holy source, and to understand as much as possible the good which is concealed even in what seems to us to be bad and difficult.

Therefore when a Jew finds in himself a good point… this good is completely one with God… because all of the goodness we find in every place is all from Him… that is to say the good point which I find in myself, which is the aspect of Godliness, the aspect of ‘God is good to all’, it supports me and awakens me from my slumber…[3]

Rebbe Natan was Rebbe Nachman’s disciple.  Rebbe Nachman read the writings of his student, supported them and approved of them as if they were his own writings.  Here Rebbe Natan reveals to us another very important point: “The good point which I find in myself, which is the aspect of Godliness, is the aspect of good.”

Rebbe Natan teaches, we have inside of us a Godly soul.  This is our true essence.  Beyond the fact that I can find good in what I’m doing (even if in general I think that I’m a failure), beyond the fact that I’m able to understand that my desires are good (even if I completely “mess up” in my life) – Rebbe Natan says that it doesn’t matter what I think about myself, what I’ve done or where I’ve fallen to- I still have inside of me a Godly, pure soul which will never become tainted.

The Godly soul cannot be spoiled.  It can only become distant from us.  The soul sees what the body is doing (and in the concept of the body it’s possible to include also the lower parts of our soul) and it distances itself.  “Because the soul of every person sees and always understands very lofty concepts, even if the body doesn’t know of them, therefore every person needs to have a lot of compassion on his body, to see to it that he purifies his body, so that his soul can let it know of all the lofty concepts which it sees and obtains.[4]

I remember that when I began to learn the teaching of ‘Azamra’ I didn’t understand why Rebbe Nachman relates all the time to our actions, to the fact that there’s no doubt that we’ve done something good, even if it’s something small- and he sees in this something that points to our goodness.  I didn’t understand why he doesn’t relate to the eternal soul which is inside of us, the endless point which his student, Rebbe Natan, alluded to in Likutei Halachot.  Of course, Rebbe Nachman has a different teaching in the name of “Ayeh” where he reveals that even in the complete darkness, in the place where it’s impossible to find goodness or holiness, there is a lofty, eternal light which shines, a light which comes from the Creator’s endless mercy.  A light which penetrates any darkness and strengthens us even in the most difficult moments.  It is written in the teaching of ‘Ayeh’: “And even in the most impure places or the houses of idolatry, they also need to receive vitality from Him.  However you must know, that they receive this vitality from the aspect of the hidden teaching, which is concealed in the portion of Bereshit.”[5][6]

Slowly, slowly the understanding penetrated into me that Rebbe Nachman wants to connect everything, all of the different parts of our being: the action with the thought, the heart with the intellect and with the body.  Rebbe Nachman wants the lofty goodness to spread in the world and be tangible and felt in all of our experience.

And this is essentially the secret of the good point: the secret is that it seems to you that you’re just adding a little bit of good, but really you are connecting to a deep fabric of good, a fabric of an influence of goodness on all levels, of fixing myself and fixing the world.  You connect to boundless mercy.

In everything in the universe, and even in something which seems to be the most negative, there is a good point.

[1] Likutei Moharan, Torah 33, Part One

[2] Talmud, Tractate Brachot, 60b

[3] Likutei Halachot, The Laws of awakening in the morning, first teaching

[4] Likutei Moharan, Torah 22, Part One

[5] Likutei Moharan, Torah 12, Part Two

[6] The Talmud, in Tractate Rosh Hashana, answers a difficulty with the teaching of the Sages, in the Ethics of the Fathers (5:1), that the world was created by way of ten statements of God.  The Talmud asks, behold it is only written nine times the words “God said”?  The Talmud answers that the first words of the portion, “In the beginning” are also a statement of Hashem, however they are called a hidden or closed statement, because they don’t include the words “God said”.

The Secret of the Good Point

The Secret of the Good Point

sod

Final Word

Ron Weber

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Edited by Gershon Weissman

I want to begin from the end.  But just before the end, a few words: We are good, really good.  I don’t mean to say “successful”- success is the measure that is usually used- rather I’m speaking about our internal essence.  We are good in such a way that we can’t even imagine.  The world which we live in hides this good.  The true good has been forgotten and in today’s reality we sometimes identify with the good, but most of the time we identify more with the bad.  We think that evil is completely real and there’s nothing we can do about it.

About 200 years ago Rebbe Nachman said that inside something that seems to you to be completely bad- there is hidden goodness, and if you’ll deepen your look at this good (point) you’ll find more and more good.  Not just inside you there is a lot of good, but also inside of your neighbor and your friend and your wife and your child and the falafel man, who never gives you your change and wants to give you bazooka gum instead!  Also inside of them there is so much goodness.  Even the annoying driver, who took your parking place on your way to an important meeting and threw his cigarette butt out the window, has a lot of good.  Maybe it’s really hidden, but there is so much good inside.  Rebbe Nachman also revealed that if we’ll pay attention to the good point and nurture it, something great will happen.

I wanted to write a book about this.  I called the book “The Secret of the Good Point”, because even though Rebbe Nachman already revealed this secret and called it ‘Azamra’ (Likutei Moharan, Torah 282), it is still a secret.  It is said that a secret is similar to the taste of something.  If you haven’t tasted it you won’t understand what people are talking about.  Therefore, even though Rebbe Nachman told us the secret of the good point we need to bring this secret into our lives, to live it, to search for it and to strive to make it part of our life.

During the process of writing I revealed that this idea is interesting and complicated and that I would need a lot of time to internalize the ideas I’ve written (inspired by Rebbe Nachman).  I was happy that these ideas would be written and I knew that at least one person would benefit from this book, myself.

One moment- I suspect that you want to know, as I wrote above in the title of this chapter, what was the final word?  What was my intention when I said that I would begin from the end?  Before I answer this question I want to tell how everything began so that you’ll have some more background.

I began writing the book during a time when there was a great amount of tension between different groups of Jews- mainly between extremist secular Jews and extremist hareidi Jews.  The media gave the impression that the positions of each side were reaching a dangerous level of extremism.  While eating a Shabbat meal at our friend’s house we spoke about Rebbe Nachman’s teaching ‘Azamra’, about the secret of the good point and how every person can see the good in himself and in another person.  During the conversation I was reminded of a story that is brought in one of the books about a student of Rebbe Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s disciple.  The student (of Rebbe Natan) sat and listened to Rebbe Natan teach the secret of the good point, and repeated to himself Rebbe Natan’s words.  Rebbe Natan looked at him and said: “You think that you already understand ‘Azamra’?  If we truly understood ‘Azamra’ and we were truly fulfilling it, the whole world would already return to God.  Because in ‘Azamra’ Rebbe Nachman says that if you can see the good of another person you can raise him up from the level of judgment to the level of merit and from there he can return to God.”

What is the meaning of the expression ‘to return to God’?  In addition to the simple meaning- correcting the sins and mistakes that a person makes, clinging to absolute good and the possibility to start anew- on the spiritual and emotional level the meaning of the expression is that a person has free choice.  As long as someone feels that he’s bad and he’s not connected to himself, he feels he has no free choice.  He continues to act automatically, as he’s done in the past, and he finds ways to justify his behavior.

Rebbe Nachman did not direct the message of ‘Azamra’ to religious people or secular people.  He spoke to every person who wants to improve his life, to make them into a good and happy life and to connect truly to the good.  Whether you define yourself as religious or secular, the ability to see the good inside of you and the good of another person- whether that person is your spouse or your children, your colleagues at work or people from another sector, whose lifestyle and beliefs are completely different than yours- this ability can completely change your life.

Rebbe Nachman further teaches that if you can see the good in yourself, you’ll succeed in seeing the good in another person.  If you can see that even inside a person who seems bad there is good- that will help you to accept yourself and find also the good inside yourself.

As a result of our discussion about ‘Azamra’ I thought about the battles between the different sectors of the Jewish people, in the media and on the street, about the hatred, the anger and the pain- and then it hit me.  Is it possible to do something?  Can I myself do something?  What influence could a book have which brings the special light of ‘Azamra’, of the good point, in a way which would be readable for everyone?  Not just to dedicated Breslover Chassidim, but to every person who wants to improve his life and add more good to it.  In truth, I don’t know.  I can only say this: at that moment I decided to write the book to the best of my ability.  For sure I won’t be the one to decide where this book will reach and who it will influence, nevertheless, I can only focus on my efforts; my effort to serve the good and to add goodness in my world and the worlds of those surrounding me.

And that is how it all began, and now fast forward to the end of the story, almost.

In the end, I had almost finished writing the book.  A few final touches remained, and it was onward to the printing press.  That, in any case, is what I thought.  At this point I sent the draft to some friends in order to receive their feedback before we continued forward- to creating the illustrations, editing, setting the page numbers, and sending the book for binding.  A few friends sent encouraging emails, wishes for success, and requested that I tell them when the book reached the shelves.  Others sent their positive feedback.

Then I received a phone call from a close friend.  It turns out that he read the book the night before.  Not all of it, just the first 44 pages.

I heard his serious voice from the other end of the phone line.  “The book is terrible.”

“Terrible?”  I was sure that he was making a joke.

“Really, really bad.”

At that moment I understood that he wasn’t joking.  I breathed deeply.  “Really? Why?”  He began to explain to me what was wrong in his opinion- the examples, the language.  And then he threw the bombshell.

“I don’t find you at all in the book; it’s as if you’re not there.  It’s as if you wrote the book and at the same time you sent text messages to friends.  Where is your heart?!”

I felt that the blood was flowing out of my body.  I breathed deeply several times.  I understood that he was correct.  I understood that the book is truly great, on the intellectual level, but where am I in this story?  I understood that at a certain time in the process- something had been lost.

Panic crept up my back when I thought about having to explain to the book publishers that I need to stop for a moment, to invest more in the writing.  Who knows if I would even succeed in improving the draft?

Where did I find the strength to listen to him?  When he said the following sentence I understood.

“To tell you the truth, it’s simply not appropriate for you.  I know you.  You can do much better.  I would expect from you something completely different.  I know that you can, just jump into it.  Don’t publish the book yet.”

Suddenly I was reminded of a different book I had written a few years ago.  Also then I thought that the book was already good, until a friend came and said ‘that’s not it’, and I didn’t understand what he was talking about!  I tried to argue and explain that I wrote a good book, a book that was compelling and tense (it was a fiction novel).  My friend also thought the book was exciting and interesting.  “If you want to have your book on the bookshelf of every Israeli home, it could be that you’ll succeed”, he said then, “but if you want to enter the hearts of people and not just their bookshelf, you have a lot more work ahead.”  He was also correct.

I heard once that ‘Azamra’ does not mean just to see a bit of good in another person.  If a friend comes to you in dirty clothes, the meaning of ‘Azamra’ is not just to tell him: “Wow!  You have a small piece of your shirt by the shoulder which is not even dirty, wonderful!”  ‘Azamra’ means to tell your beloved friend: “Brother, your clothes are completely dirty and it’s really not appropriate for you.”

Therefore specifically his words, “it’s really not appropriate for you”, showed me that my friend sees the true good inside of me.

‘Azamra’ means understanding that maybe I’ve fallen to forgetfulness, or made a mistake, or feel disconnected and distant- but that is not who I am.  It’s about this point that I want to speak about in this book.  It turned out that I needed to write the whole book in order to understand that I hadn’t even started, and then to begin again.

Therefore I’m beginning again.  If this book has reached your hands- it seems that in the end I succeeded in reaching the end of the journey.

If you can see the good in yourself, you’ll succeed in seeing the good in another person.  If you can see that even inside a person who seems bad there is good- that will help you to accept yourself and find also the good inside yourself.

To read more about the book, “The Secret of the Good Point”, and its author, click here