Akavya ben Mehalalel said: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of sin. Know from where you have come, to where you are heading, and before Whom you will give justification and accounting. From where have you come -- from a putrid drop; to where are you heading -- to a place of dust, worms and maggots; and before Whom will you give justification and accounting -- before the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One, may He be blessed. Ethics of the Fathers, 3:1
Emunah Paths Podcast - Edition 2
Recognizing Hashem's presence in the world what does this mean practically? Pirkei Avos ch 3 reflect on 3 things and you will not come to sin-become sensitive to stnding in front of the king Despair forgitten who we really are -- c/n possibly recover-- no place without Ha shem in the world Tzadikkim planted in each generation Role of soiled garments --falling from self purification--great effort in stripping thenm off Avram Greenbaum Restore my soul Role of expanded consciousness-being awake-internal knowing-emunah- G-d runs even the minutest detail Realizing "who we are" spiritual coma of restricted consciousness Awareness of who's running the world-- not just an intellectual knowing We're brought down to spiritual coma in the world We're involved in the feel of the moment -Gentle reminders all are mesages from the Holy One Blessed Be He We want tio revert o bat qol and Nevi- yet he sends non intrusive messages every day - he's even more vocal when we are not listening. Everything is a message from Ha Shem. Not alone in the world. A guest does not fret over what's being served for dinner-- a guest just receives-- we're just guest.. From where have you come -- from a putrid drop
Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein told of a sad little lizard who bragged that he was a brontosaurus on his mother's side. People who inflate their importance by pointing to an illustrious past often have nothing to be proud of within themselves.
We are all guilty of this, given human beings' natural predisposition toward arrogance. We imagine ourselves as the crowning glory of all the generations that preceded us, occupying our rightful place at the pinnacle of creation. In our arrogance, we convince ourselves that whatever we may desire is, by definition, right and good.
But what if we look back not to our noble forebears but to our biological beginnings? Every one of us can trace his origins back to a few milliliters of seminal fluid and to a single spermatozoon. And what if that particular spermatozoon had been edged out by another in the fertilization of our mother's ovum? Quite simply, we would not exist, and our place in the world would be occupied by another.
Is this the past on which we found our delusions of supremacy and grandeur? Is this the source of the arrogance that convinces us that we can abrogate Divine Law? Consider your origins, says our Mishna, contemplate your own insignificance if not for the Divine Hand that brought you into being, and you will think twice before you act in contravention of the Creator upon whose existence your own existence depends.
to where are you heading -- to a place of dust, worms and maggots
The past is not the only source of human arrogance. The present and the future confirm our suspicion that we stand atop the pyramid of creation. We are superior to all other creatures. We control the fate of the world. We are masters of our own destiny. In our arrogance, we easily rationalize and justify all that we wish to do.
But what is this destiny over which we are the masters? Paupers and kings, nobles and peasants alike end up in the same place, interred beneath the earth, food for worms and maggots. Whatever we hope to accomplish or believe we have accomplished in this world, the passage of time will leave little for us to be remembered by, and the physical bodies that once gave us power upon the earth will testify to how fleeting and how trivial are all things physical.
and before Whom will you give justification and accounting -- before the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One, may He be blessed
If our physical past holds nothing but seeming random evolution from both primordial and biological slime, and if our physical future holds no hope but decay and oblivion, then what does it matter how we live our lives?
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Indeed, life does have meaning and purpose, but only if we look beyond the physical and transcend the limitation of our senses to recognize the intricate Plan of Creation, a plan that placed us here in this temporal existence for the purpose of earning our reward in the World to Come. To earn that reward, however, we must win the eternal battle of the calling of our souls and our conscience against the temptation of our desires and our inclinations.
By remembering the futility of all physical reward, by recognizing the eternal consequences of spiritual transcendence, we can conquer the ego and the impulse that thrive upon the physical so that we will merit the incalculable reward that is the purpose of all Creation. When we come to know that the accounting we give for the way we live our lives will determine our everlasting fate, only then will we be armed to defend ourselves against the seductive callings of our physical existence, an existence that seeks all our attention for the few brief moments of our transit through this world before abandoning us to an eternity of nothingness.
Online version of the English translation of Likutey Etzot, a complete compendium of Rabbi Nachman's practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion based on his lessons in Likutey Moharan as transcribed by his leading student, Rabbi Noson of Breslov
Translated by Avraham Greenbaum
1) Everybody has ideas about the way to live. But as far as the great mass of people are concerned, their ideas are all as bad as each other: they're all worthless. Don't pay any attention to their advice. And all the more so, be sure to ignore any guidance offered by wicked people. They are the enemies of truth and the source of everything corrupt and destructive. All they have to offer is the advice of the primordial serpent, which is the antithesis of the Holy Covenant. Anyone who follows it will be covered in filth. He will become alienated from truth, faith and prayer, and he will be unable to come to the Land of Israel. Have nothing to do with their ideas. Bind yourself to the true Tzaddikim and those who follow their ways. Their guidance is the `seed of truth.' Through it you will be able to observe the Covenant in purity. You will attain goodness, truth, faith and prayer and be worthy of coming to the Land of Israel (7:3).
2) Observing the mitzvah of tzitzit, the fringes, carefully is a protection against the `advice of the serpent.' One who fulfills this mitzvah carefully will be guided only by the Tzaddikim (Ibid.). 3) Someone who lacks faith in the Sages will never know what he should do: he will always be racked with doubts and he will have no idea what course he should follow (61:1).
4) When a person follows the guidance of the Tzaddikim, it sweetens the harsh judgements, and through this he will be helped and freed from his troubles. But if he fails to follow their advice, he may well come to grief, God forbid, and the responsibility will be his alone, as it is written: `The foolishness of a man perverts his way' (Proverbs 19:3). If a person does follow the advice of the Tzaddikim, and later on things do not go well for him, he can be sure that this has been sent to him from above (143).
CRY FROM THE HEART
5) Cry from the heart and you will find true guidance. You must cry out to God from the very depths of your heart. The darkness will crack and deep counsel will be revealed. Through this your faith will be strengthened. In the end you will have perfect faith. Healing will come and great goodness will be brought into the world (II, 5:3).
2 Alien Philosophies and Ideologies
ALIEN PHILOSOPHIES AND IDEOLOGIES:
1) The only true wisdom is the wisdom of the Tzaddikim. It brings them to a lofty perception of God and gives them the power to communicate their perception to those who follow them. Compared with this wisdom, all other ideological systems are utter foolishness. But because of our many sins, it can happen at times that this genuine wisdom falls into the hands of the heathens and the forces of the Sitra Achra, the Other Side. Their new-found wisdom gives them power and dominion, and then the heathens gain the upper hand, God forbid. Who can bear the sound of the great and terrible cry when this wisdom falls into their hands and fools affect to be wise? They try to adapt this genuine wisdom to their own purposes, as if it could be made a part of their own ideologies, as if their own foolishness had anything to do with the knowledge of God. They start claiming that they alone are the wise ones and there is no wisdom greater than their own erroneous speculations, parasitic as they are on the fallen, genuine wisdom. God Himself cries out because of this. Every Jew has a part to play in the task of identifying how this wisdom that has fallen into their hands can be separated from them and elevated in order to return it to its source. The way to achieve this is through acts of charity and kindness under the guidance and inspiration of the Tzaddikim (30:6).
2) Wisdom is the root of all things (Psalms 104:24) One should always guard one's mind against false ideologies. The only way to achieve fulfillment in life is through the pursuit of genuine wisdom, namely the wisdom of Torah, which is concerned with Godliness. Compared with this all other systems of ideology are sheer emptiness, they have nothing to do with wisdom at all (35:1).
3) When a person is born his intelligence is limited. When he begins to use it to think about how to serve God, it starts growing. But if a person fills his mind with alien ideas, the intelligence of his holy soul is diminished in direct proportion to the space taken up by these ideas. This unholy `intelligence' becomes the source of all kinds of negative appetites and character traits (Ibid.).
4) This is why a person has to be so careful to guard his mind and his thoughts and make sure that he never admits alien ideas or ways of looking at things. All our problems and defects and sins come from abusing the sanctity of the mind, God forbid, by admitting alien thoughts and ideologies. To achieve true repentance and to make amends for all one's sins, one must cleanse the mind of all these alien ideas. Wisdom and intelligence actually are the soul. By clearing the mind of alien ideologies the faculty of thought is elevated to its source. This is the essence of returning to God (Ibid.).
5) When the Jewish people adopt the ideas and outlook of the other nations, God forbid, the Tzaddik falls from his level and his perceptions become covered over and obscured (49).
6) Too much intellectual sophistication can be harmful, especially when it takes the form of excessive philosophizing and speculation. The basis of true wisdom is a strong heart and a strong character. The only way to attain them is through good deeds. A person whose intelligence outstrips his practical attainments in the form of good deeds will lack the strength of character to contain his intelligence within the necessary bounds. His intelligence will only make him sin. It can be very dangerous when people with lax moral standards dabble in philosohy. Their intelligence drives them on to even greater transgressions and it harms them, and indeed the entire world, more than all the snakes and scorpions, wild animals and other dangerous things in the world. They use their intelligence to hurl insults and abuse at the heavens and to cast aspersions on the Holy Torah and especially the Sages of the Talmud and the Tzaddikim of blessed memory who followed them. All this is well known. May God in His mercy take pity on the remnant of Israel and guard them from this band of people and their babblings (55:6).
7) Within the bounds God has set for man's intelligence it is a great mitzva, a positive duty, to sharpen the mind and understand as clearly as possible whatever the human mind is capable of grasping. However there are certain questions the answers to which are beyond the capacity of the human mind to understand. Only in time to come will the answers be revealed. (An example is the paradox of free will.) On no account should one delve into these questions. Of those who try, relying on their own intelligence and speculation, it is said: `None that go unto her return' (Proverbs 2:19). It is impossible to solve these questions through reason. We must have pure faith. Even when it comes to the questions which do have an answer, there are times when the paths of the intellect become blocked and one is unsure how to answer the unbeliever speaking in one's heart. The remedy then is to study the codes of Torah law. If one still finds oneself confused and unable to understand the way to answer the questions, one should rely on faith alone even here. The main thing is to have faith (62:2).
8) It is forbidden to delve into philosophical works. There are certain questions which stem from the chalal hapanui, `the empty void,' to which it is impossible to find any answer. In time to come the answers will be revealed. But in this world it is impossible to put these questions to rest merely with thought and ingenuity. Whole philosophical systems have been built up around them. Anyone who delves into them will be sunk in them and lost eternally, as it is written: `None that go unto her return' (Proverbs 2:19). God is not to be found in these philosophies. Through intelligence alone it will never be possible to solve the intellectual tangles they contain. The Jewish people, with its faith in God, is beyond all these philosophies and their complications. Israel believes in God and His Holy Torah without needing philosophical justifications. They have pure faith. The Hebrew word for `beyond' is e-ver, and the Jews are called Ivrim -- Hebrews -- precisely because they are beyond all this speculation. With a faith which transcends philosophy we do not need to speculate about the truth. We know it. We have received it from our fathers, of blessed memory (64:2).
9) Certain of the great Tzaddikim were obliged to go into these philosophies in order to extricate and elevate the souls which have fallen and become sunk in them. You cannot argue that it is permissible for others to enter them on the grounds that many of the great scholars of the past were involved. In their case it was an obligation. And through the great sanctity they possessed, they had the power to release the souls which were trapped. But people who are not on a comparable level of sanctity, and needless to add, the ordinary people of our own age, should never enter these realms and risk being eternally lost (Ibid. 3).
10) The song of the true Tzaddik has the power to draw up the souls that have fallen into this form of atheism, from which there is otherwise no return (Ibid. 5).
11) The materialist philosophers, who claim that everything operates only by virtue of the laws of nature, are a breed of wild animals who have made terrible inroads into our people and caught many of our sons in their clutches. Many Jewish souls are sunk in this like birds caught in a snare. If you love your soul, keep well away from these wild beasts, who would otherwise snatch your soul and consume it. Keep well away from books of speculative science, even those written by our own great Sages. There is no greater evil (Likutey Moharan II, 4:6).
12) Acts of charity and kindness have the power to break the force of the serpent, which is the root of materialistic ideology. And then these wild animals will have no power over you. However at times even after you have crushed them they are soon back again, placing fresh doubts in your mind about whether the world is governed only by the will of God. If this happens you must make fresh efforts at charity and kindness. Charity has the power to subdue the ideology of materialism and reveal that everything is governed only by the will of God (Ibid. 9).
13) Serve God with simplicity and purity, using no sophistication at all. This is the true goal. No one who goes by the name of Jew should ever so much as open a book of philosophy. This is no part of the heritage of Jacob. All speculative philosophy contains the stumbling block of Amalek, which is calculated to make people fall. In one moment they can lose whole worlds. There is no greater evil. Even the books written by Jews discussing speculative philosophy should be left well alone, because they can harm the holy faith which is the root of everything. Thank God we have today many holy books which are filled with sound guidance and the fear of God and which are free of all speculation derived from the so-called `wisdom' of the Greeks. They are firmly founded on the holy words of the Sages of the Talmud and the Midrash. In particular there are the books based upon the teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Explore them, and go through them again and again. You should have nothing to do with books based on the viewpoints of the other nations of the world (19).
14) There are many searching questions about God. But anyone with even a modicum of genuine understanding will see that it is only right and fitting that such questions should exist. For how can we, with our limited human intelligence, understand how God governs the world? Of course there are things which baffle us. The utter greatness and exaltedness of God are only magnified when we find that there are questions we cannot solve. Understand this well (52).
3 Anger ANGER:
1) You must break the force of your anger with love. If you feel yourself becoming angry, make sure you do nothing unkind because of your anger. You must make a special effort to be kind to the very person you are angry with. Sweeten your anger with kindness. When you do this, you will be able to draw benefit from the Tzaddik and then you will be able to understand the true goal of all things. You will taste the delight of the World to Come, and you will see how everything in the world is part of the movement to this ultimate goal. Your perception will be according to the root which you have in the soul of the Tzaddik (18:2).
2) Through breaking the force of anger with love and kindness, the true Tzaddikim receive honor and greatness and the world finds a true leader, one who will have pity for the world and lead it in the right way, bringing each individual to his ultimate goal (Ibid.).
3) Anger and unkindness arise when people's understanding is limited. The deeper their understanding the more their anger disappears, and kindness, love and peace spread. This is why the study of Torah, which deepens the understanding, brings love and peace into the world and banishes anger (56:6).
4) Immersing in the mikveh is also an antidote to anger, because immersing in the mikveh brings understanding (Ibid. 7).
5) When a person gives way to anger, it stirs up the great accuser, Esau, or Edom. The accuser in the upper world is the source of a flurry of accusers and enemies who come down and take charge of this angry man. His anger puts his wisdom to flight, and the image of God disappears from his face. He no longer has the face of a man. This is why he is in the power of his enemies. Because he has the appearance of a beast they are not afraid of him (57:6).
6) The remedy for anger is to fast. In fact, the main value of fasting lies in this. That is why when a person is fasting the Evil One comes against him and creates all kinds of pretexts for making him angry. The Evil One wants to spoil the fast. One has to be very careful to avoid getting angry on a fast day. The whole value of the fast lies in subduing one's anger (Ibid.).
7) Through the holy act of eating on Shabbat, anger is crushed (Ibid.).
8) Anger can make a person lose his money. When a person gets angry he spoils the blessing of wealth which was due to come to him. He causes a stain upon his good name and, indeed, his very soul. But when a person holds his anger back and behaves patiently even in the most trying of circumstances, he attains wealth, a good name and an unblemished soul. All the other souls yearn to be merged with his soul and he can succeed in drawing many souls closer to God. Through this the glory of God is revealed (Ibid.).
9) When a person fights his anger and breaks it, the spirit of Mashiach is drawn into the world. Such a person is accounted as if it was through him that the world and all that is in it was created and brought into being. He will be worthy of rich blessings, and he will attain true prayer, directing himself to God alone without any extraneous motives of gaining people's respect and admiration. He will succeed in carrying out all the mitzvot and other holy acts that he must accomplish (66:3).
10) Through the sanctity of the Land of Israel it is possible to break the force of anger, depression and laziness completely. For this reason one must plead with God to be worthy of coming to the Land of Israel speedily. There a person can attain tranquility in the face of any experiences he may undergo. He will never be angry or upset with anyone, no matter what they may have done (Ibid. 155).
4 Awe and Devotion
AWE AND DEVOTION:
1) You should never fear anything except God. If ever you begin to feel afraid of anything, remember the great fear which is due to God. Throughout the day, fill your entire consciousness with this sense of awe. It will help you to pray with all your strength to utter the words with such force that they are like thunderbolts! Then you will hear the words which are on your lips. This is the way to achieve true joy, and to perform the mitzvoth with a joy derived from the mitzvot themselves. Then you will attain the understanding of how to nullify all harsh decrees even after the decrees have been made, God forbid (5:5).
2) In order to achieve these levels, you must combine your fear of Heaven with love. A person's main strength lies in the love he has for God. Nevertheless fear must come first (Ibid.5).
3) If you wish to savour the taste of the hidden light the secrets of Torah which are destined to be revealed in time to come you should meditate and speak to God. Express everything in your heart before Him. Examine yourself and judge yourself. Weigh up all the different things you are involved with. In this way you will be able to banish your extraneous fears of forces other than God these are called `fallen fear' and you will be able to elevate your fear and experience the true awe of Heaven. When a person neglects to examine and judge himself, he is examined and brought to judgement from on high. God has many ways of executing His judgements. He has the power to clothe them in anything in the world, because all things are His messengers, and he can use whatever means he chooses to execute His judgements. We can actually see this in practice. When something bad happens to a person, the particular cause which precipitates the problem is often apparently quite insignificant. One would never have expected a small thing like this to bring on such a train of consequences illness, suffering and the like. The explanation is that the Divine decree passed against him has been clothed within these mundane circumstances in order to give him his deserts. But when a person examines and judges himself of his own accord the decree above is removed. There is no need for him to be afraid of anything. Worldly objects and events will no longer be used as a veil and a cloak for executing the decree of God. By bringing himself to a reckoning he has removed the judgement above. He is already sufficiently aroused and spiritually awake without needing things of this world to shake him. This is what is meant by elevating fear to its root. He is afraid of nothing except God. Because of this he will be worthy of the hidden light (15).
4) To attain true fear and love of God is only possible with the help of the Tzaddikim of the generation (17:1).
5) Fear of Heaven is the foundation for sanctifying the way one speaks and using the Holy Tongue perfectly (see dibbur). But to reach this level of fear it is necessary to journey to the Tzaddik in order to hear words of truth directly from his lips. It is not enough to study mussar literature works giving guidance about spiritual development. When a person hears a Tzaddik, the actual words of the Tzaddik possess a quality of perfection. They are uttered with true fear of Heaven, and this is the foundation for the fulfillment of the Covenant and achieving moral purity. Even if a person hears what the Tzaddik said from the lips of somebody else who himself heard the Tzaddik say them, it still does not help as much, because the words have descended from their original perfection. In order for the words of the Holy Tongue to possess perfection, they must be heard from the lips of the Tzaddik himself. This is where the treasure-house of the true fear of Heaven is to be found, and this is the foundation for attaining perfection in the Holy Tongue (19:3,9).
6) Having a sense of shame is the basis for attaining the fear of Heaven. One must feel ashamed before God so ashamed that one could not possibly sin. To have a sense of shame is a very high level (22).
7) Be sure that you make your days very long. With each new day and each fresh moment, make sure that the time is longer, fuller and richer with added holiness. So it must be with every day that comes. You must continually extend the days by filling them with more holiness and more purity. This is the secret of a long life. When you start each day, at first the day is very short. The spiritual accomplishments you need to achieve this day weigh heavily upon you. It takes great determination not to be discouraged as you feel the weight of the devotions you have to undertake this day. But be courageous and don't lose heart. Make a start even if at first things seem heavy and strained and difficult. If you are determined enough they will become easier and you will find that you can accomplish what you must in God's service. With every hour that passes see to it that you enrich that hour and lengthen it with extra holiness. Do the same with every new day of your life. Let each day be filled with more holiness than the day before. Then y ou will be blessed with length of days. The root of this skill in living lies in cultivating true fear of Heaven (60:2).
8) Such fear is the foundation of a long life. It can bring you great wealth, the wealth of holiness. And through this wealth it is possible to attain profound understanding. There are certain paths of Torah which possess a degree of profundity which can only be attained with the help of great wealth. This is the reason why so many of the greatest of the Tzaddikim were extraordinarily wealthy, such as Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the compiler of the Mishnah, and Rav Ashi, the compiler of the Talmud. The source of this wealth is in `length of days,' which is attained through awe (Ibid. 3).
9) There are three aspects to fearing God: the fear of Heaven, fear of your teacher, and fear of your father and mother (Ibid.).
10) When a person has true fear of Heaven, he is no longer trapped by the beauty of women. He is free from the attractions of falsehood. He will be saved from poverty and attain wealth (Ibid.)
11) The Tzaddik has the power to arouse men from their sleep through the stories he tells about the years of old. Through this he can cause the barren to give birth, which arouses great awe at the might of God throughout the world. This awe is the instrument for attaining all the spiritual levels we have mentioned (Ibid. 5,6).
12) The key to everything is the way you start. All beginnings are difficult, because you are trying to turn things from one direction to the opposite direction. But once a start has been made, you begin to get used to the direction you are going in and things are no longer so hard. The level of awe and devotion a person attains each day depends on the way he starts. Every day you should go backwards in the sense that you should always try and draw inspiration from the start, which was the hardest thing of all. You must always make a frest start. Each time you come to the Tzaddik, you must likewise make a fresh beginning. It must be as if you had never come to him before, as if this time it is an entirely new experience for you. Because perhaps the first beginning was not as it should have been, and if so all the devotion which followed will not have been as it should have been. Because everything depends on the beginning. Therefore you must marshal all your strength and steel yourself to make a vigorous beginning. Start again every time with new fire and passion for God. Start as if you had never begun at all before. The strength of your new beginning will bring power and vigor into all your devotions. You should always ask yourself if the start was as it should have been. Make the effort to start again, and come to the Tzaddik afresh. Do this every time (62). 13) When a new soul enters a person, he must raise it and rear it with love and awe (67:6).
14) If a person does not consider the purpose of everything, what is the point of his life? (268).
15) One of the basic rules in serving God is to think only of today. Pay no attention to yesterday or tomorrow. This applies to the work you have to do to earn a living and provide your needs. Our sacred literature tells us that we should only be concerned with today. The same applies to serving God. You should only think of today, the present hour. When a person wants to begin serving God it seems like a heavy burden which he will never be able to bear. But if you think that you have only today, it will not be a burden at all. Don't put things off and say, `I'll start tomorrow... tomorrow I will pray with strength and devotion,' etc. Man's world consists of nothing except the day and the hour that he stands in now. Tomorrow is a completely different world. `Today, if you would but listen to His voice!' (Psalms 95:7). Exactly! Today! (272).
16) Every mitzvah which a person does in this world, creates a lamp with which he can explore the treasure house of the King after his passing. This is the ultimate bliss of the World to Come (275).
17) There are two kinds of fear of Heaven. . This levelThere are people who fear God because of His greatness and exaltedness as the Ruler and Master of the Universe of fear adds completeness to God's Name. Secondly there is a lower form of fear which is attained through the fear one has of other, lower things -- a wild animal, a person wielding great power, or the like. Such things can evoke the awareness of God within a person, and this second level of fear is the source of the influx of blessing into the world. To receive the blessings one has to make a vessel. The vessel is formed through the longing and desire which he has to travel to the true Tzaddikim. This creates the shape of the vessel, and the vessel itself is formed when one comes to the Tzaddik in person. The more obstacles a person encounters in his efforts to draw close and the more energy he devotes to breaking them, the greater the vessel he forms (185).
18) Every Jew is created with the ultimate purpose of wielding power over the angels. This is his destiny. But the angels are very jealous of a man who has power over them. He must protect himself and see that he has the strength to remain in this position of power without being cast down through the angels' envy (Ibid. II, 1:1).
19) Materialism, immorality and gluttony distort and corrupt the fear in a person's heart. The remedy is through honoring the three festivals of the year and celebrating them in the proper way. This causes the fear which is latent in the heart to become manifest, and through it one can attain the experience of prophecy. This is the avenue to true prayer and healing. One becomes bound to the very root of the souls of Israel, and here alone there is protection from the envy of the angels (Ibid.).
20) When a person falls into materialism, immorality and greed, God sits and cries out like a lion (Ibid.).
MITZVOT AND GOOD DEEDS ARE CHILDREN LIKE BIRTH PANGS OF A WOMAN
TREMENDOUS EFFORT AT THE BEGINNING TREMENDOUS EFFORT
21) A person's devotions, his mitzvot and good deeds are his `children.' This is especially so of the Tzaddikim. Before a woman gives birth she has to undergo contractions and birth-pangs, and she cries and screams. It is literally the same when you serve God. When you want to carry out a particular devotion or return to God in truth, it inevitably takes a tremendous effort. You have to cry out and groan, bending and jerking in all directions. The hardest thing of all is the start. All beginnings are difficult. This is when you need to cry out and groan the most. Even after the start things do not necessarily come easily, and it takes a lot of effort before you achieve something worthwhile. But don't be discouraged by what you have to endure. According to the effort, so is the reward (4:5).
CHARITY OPENS GATES TO HOLINESS AND AVERTS THE EVIL DECREE
22) Charity helps to open the gates to holiness. This is why it is good to give charity before doing any mitzva or good deed. The charity helps to widen the opening to the holiness which is the goal of this particular devotion, and then it will not be so hard to enter (Ibid.).
CHARITY ATTAINS THE FEAR OF HEAVEN
23) Through giving charity you can attain fear of Heaven, and this will lead to lovingkindness. When you attain this you will be able to serve God without being restricted by the difficulties of earning a living (Ibid.).
24) In times when the elders of the generation fail to achieve perfection, it gives strength to anti-religious ideologies. The task of each individual is to ensure that with every day that passes he gains additional holiness and deeper understanding. Each new day must be filled with more of the radiance of devotion to God. Only when a person achieves this is he worthy of the name `elder.' When a person wastes his days without adding extra holiness, he may grow old but he cannot be termed an `elder.' Instead of enjoying `length of days,' his days are actually short. It is because of this that materialistic ideologies are able to become entrenched in the world. The remedy lies in the giving of charity (Ibid.).
25) God's main joy and pleasure come only from this low world of ours. God has the whole array of angels, serafim, chayot, ofanim and all the higher worlds, all of them serving Him. But when we in this low world of ours magnify and sanctify His Name and carry out His will, this is what gives Him the greatest joy, because He sees the service of this low world rise to the realms above (Ibid. 7). 26) When people study and discuss one of the original Torah concepts of the true Tzaddikim they can become filled with the fear of Heaven (Ibid.13).
27) Your main aim should be to serve God with simplicity, with no ulterior motive. Follow His ways in order to know Him. This is what He wants. A person who serves God in order to earn the World to Come is just hungry: he wants to fill his stomach with the reward. But even so, it is better to serve God for the sake of the reward of the World to Come than it is to chase after this world. At least someone who serves God for the sake of the reward is wiser than one who struggles for this world all his life. This world is transient, but the World to Come is the world of eternal life. But even so, the main aim should be to serve God with no ulterior motive whatsoever (37).
28) What profit is there when people run after the superficialities of materialism and gratification and neglect the task of achieving self-perfection? There are many people who waste away their days struggling to leave a big inheritance for their children. But this is no better than when a person gets himself dirty and then takes more dirt to cover up the dirt. Other people try their best to leave a good name behind them for their children's sake. But this is still not the real purpose of life. The aim of the true Tzaddikim is only to satisfy the will of God (Ibid.).
29) Man always has free will. This applies to everything he may be involved with. In all situations, the Jew always has the option of exercising free choice. As far as the other nations of the world are concerned, there are certain things which restrict their free will and compel them to act in a particular way. With a Jew, however, no matter what he does, be it to travel to a particular place, or whatever, there is always some devotion involved, something which relates to his service of God. Because of this, the Jew has free will in everything (54).
30) The profit a person can have from this world is indescribable. You don't need to spend your own money to make a profit here. God spreads the opportunities before you and you can simply stretch out your hand and take abundant profit. `No eye hath seen it.' (55).
31) You should throw yourself upon God and rely upon Him completely. At the start of every day you should entrust all your actions of that day, and all the actions of your children and other dependents, to God, asking that everything should go as He wishes it (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 2).
32) Fear is the key to achieving spiritual perfection. The basis of fear of Heaven is to be afraid of being punished. Even Tzaddikim need to have this fear. This is what gives us our initial motivation to serve God (Ibid. 5).
33) If you want to serve God, you must keep on making new beginnings. Even in the course of a single day you may have to start all over again several times (Ibid. 51).
34) Whatever you see in this world exists only to create the possibility of free will. The whole world and all that is in it was created only for the sake of free will (Ibid. 300).
35) There are people who serve God for a whole lifetime without being shown what they have achieved. Only in the World to Come will they see what they have achieved (244).
36) The main devotion of the Jew is to get up every night in the winter for the midnight prayer. In the summer, when the nights are short and we do not rise for the midnight prayer except in the Land of Israel, he should be sure to get up with the dawn each morning (Ibid. 301; see Chatzot 3).
THE BELOW TOPICS WILL BE IN PART TWO OF ANOTHER POSTING
11 Controversy and Strife
1) The essence of the holiness which every person must strive for is to observe the Covenant in purity. The way to achieve this is by sanctifying the way you speak. You must speak only words of holiness and keep yourself from any lapse into language which is not holy. Then whatever you say will be in `the Holy Tongue,' and through this you will achieve the holiness of the Covenant (19).
2) You must sanctify your mouth, your nose, your eyes and your ears. You must guard your mouth against words of falsehood and anything else which falls short of holiness. You must develop your fear of Heaven in order to sanctify your nostrils. Your ears will be holy when you believe in the Sages and listen to their words. And you must close your eyes and shut out anything which is not good for you to see. The sanctity you attain will bring you perfect understanding, and you will have wisdom, which is God's blessing, and ruach hakodesh, the holy spirit. Another way of sanctifying your nostrils, is if you are humble and patient and do not burst out in anger if someone insults you (The Hebrew expression for anger is a `burning in the nostrils'). The way to sanctify your ears is to be one who is `faithful in spirit and concealeth a matter' (Proverbs 11:13) he is careful not to reveal a secret which there is no need to reveal (21).
3) One who is prepared to sacrifice himself for the sake of sanctifying God's Name will attain peace, and through this the ability to speak holy words of Torah and prayer and to bind the thoughts in the mind to the words which the mouth is speaking. In order to pray with devotion, have in mind that you are willing to sacrifice yourself entirely in order to sanctify God's Name. To achieve perfect prayer, you must pray with a spirit of total self sacrifice (80).
4) It has been proved many times that even the most worthless of Jews, even the sinners of Israel are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the sanctification of God's Name if someone tries to force them to violate the Torah. Each day you should remind yourself that you would be ready to give your life to sanctify God's Name. This is the essence of Israel's holiness. You will then attain peace and be able to pray with true devotion (Ibid.).
5) When you recite the Shema you should say the words in a spirit of total self-sacrifice for the sake of God's Name. Picture in your mind the four death penalties imposed by the Beth Din stoning, strangulation, burning and the sword. You should imagine every detail so vividly that you can literally feel the pain of dying. Thought has a very great power. By imagining yourself dying you can literally come to feel the pangs of death. But be careful not to dwell on these thoughts for too long, because otherwise your soul could literally leave you, God forbid, causing premature death (195).
6) Self-sacrifice for the sake of God brings unity to the worlds above (260).
7) There are certain Tzaddikim who have a very great name and who are known very widely. Yet people hold them in contempt and talk against them. They suffer mercilessly because of this, but it is something they take on themselves in order to sanctify God's Name, and because of it they can save thousands of Jewish souls from slaughter and death, God forbid (Ibid.).
8) Each person has something in his life which is more of a barrier for him than anything else. This is precisely the barrier he has to break in order to serve God. This is his task in life. It is his own way of sacrificing himself. Someone who is very afraid of dying must be more ready than anyone to give up his life to sanctify God's Name (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 57).
23 Land of Israel
27 Midnight Prayer
1) Immersing in the mikveh is the cure for all troubles. The mikveh has the power to purify us from every kind of sin and impurity. The spiritual power of the mikveh is rooted in the most exalted levels of wisdom and love (56:7).
2) Immersing in a mikveh helps to make it easier to earn a living and receive the flow of blessing. Strife and anger are dissipated and in their place come peace, love, deep wisdom and healing, length of days and the power to arouse men to God (31:2).
3) Immersing in a mikveh is not in the least bit harmful. Any doctor who says it is is no doctor at all. So long as the water is not excessively cold, immersing in a mikveh is actually very beneficial to the body since it opens the sweat glands, as is known by medical experts (Ibid. II, 123).
31 Money and Livelihood
32 Moral Guidance
35 Omer and Shavuot
38 Perception and Revelation of Godliness
39 Pesach -- Passover
41 Pride and Humility
45 Rosh Chodesh -- New Moon
46 Rosh HaShanah -- New Year
53 Thoughts and Fantasies
54 Three Festivals
55 Three Weeks
56 Torah Study
59 Truth and Faith
63 Will and Desire
64 Yom Kippur -- Day of Atonement