Four Keys of the Baal Shem Tov

In the beginning of Keser Shem Tov a small section called “Tzavah M’HaBash’t zl’hh” in which the Baal Shem Tov outlines four key precepts for the chassidim.

I. To be simple and perfect in Avodas Hashem (Divine Service). Part of this is learning however much Mussar (Such as Mesilas Yeshorim) is needed daily; seeing to it always that we should cleave to good Middos (character traits) and proper behavior; never leaving a day without performing whatever mitzvos come to our path; looking to perform mitzvos all day, every day. Seeking to perform mitzvos leads to great clarification of the neshomo, leading to its proper illumination. So long as we keep mitzvos properly we won’t know any evil, since Hashem will protect us so long as we look from the beginning of the day until its end to perform whatever mitzvos come our way.

II. To be careful about Krias Sh’ma which is a huge thing, because if we can’t daven without machshovos zoros (foreign/improper thoughts) we can accustom ourselves to saying K’rias Sh’ma without such thoughts. There is a promise that someone who says K’rias Sh’ma properly will not be damaged physically or spiritually, meaning that those forces which lead to distracting thoughts in prayer will be prevented from interfering with us.I

II. To toivel (immerse) in a mikvah whenever possible, especially in needed times. I heard once in the name of the Satmar Ruv zt’l from the earlier tzaddikim that only through immersion in a mikvah can a Yid merit to Chein (grace/beauty). Kabbalah is referred to as Toras HaChein, so clearly immersion in a mikvah on a regular basis is the key to attaining levels in this Torah, and indeed all Torah.

IV. To keep Shabbos according to its halochos in all details. The sign given is “A person shall return until humility,” which through rearranging the letters for Shabbos we come to the word Toshav which is related to Teshuva, which is one way to understand why Chazal say that through keeping Shabbos even someone who does avodah zarah (idol worship) like the generation of Enosh.

Hard Circumstances and Blessings

The other day I made a siyum on Maseches Rosh Hashanah.

At the end of Maseches Rosh Hashana there’s a brief discussion as to who is included as blessed in Birkas Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing) in relation to other halochos. It says there that the Yidden working in the fields are included, whereas those in the shul who are behind the Kohanim are not included. Those who are in the fields are included in the blessing since they were prevented from going by circumstances beyond their control, whereas Yidden in the shul who are behind the Kohanim are not included, since they could simply walk in front of them and receive the blessing the proper way. Rashi as brought by the Likutei Rashi says that the reason those in shul who don’t move in front of the Kohanim aren’t blessed because they show disregard for Birkas Kohanim.

So what can we learn from this? Hashem knows what’s truly in a person’s heart, like it says in Tehillim, and we say on Rosh HaShonoh that He knows all the things that are concealed. Rather than saying that Hashem will withhold brochos from or exact punishment upon a person due to circumstances they can’t control goes against what little we know of Hashem’s nature; that He is merciful and does Chesed. So we see that even for simple Yidden in the field who are unable to come to shul for whatever reason also can get a portion in the brochos.

We can also see the importance of doing hisbodedus from here, especially in Elul when “The King is in the field.” A pushete Yid who goes out and talks to Hashem by himself can receive the same brochos as someone who stands in front of the Kohanim in shul, while someone can go and spend time in shul and not receive any brochos at all. It is most necessary to contemplate our purpose in shul, especially on Rosh Hashana, and to adopt the proper approach to the holy day. Rather than simply going through the motions, we must realize that we are coming before Hashem on the day of judgment with all the Briah (Creation); and even though it is such a huge day we still come home afterwards and make kiddush and a seudas Yom Tov, by night including various “Simonim” the special foods meant to help us have a good year through their symbolic associations and consumption. Just as we show that we are happy with Hashem’s Torah and mitzvos, considering we make a seudah as required, so can Hashem show His gladness (kav’yochol) with us and grant us all the brochos we require for each year.

Defeating the Yetzer Hara and Serving Hashem With Joy

We can learn a wonderful thing about the Yetzer Hara and how to fight it from the Baal Shem as brought in Keser Shem Tov. He says there that the way to defeat the Yetzer Hara is through using its own arguments against it. Seeing that the Yetzer Hara is sent by Hashem to fulfill its own purpose, it very much wants to do its job and get a person to do an aveira (sin), so from this we can learn a little Mussar that we should want to fulfill our holy mission from Hashem which is specifically not to sin and to fulfill mitzvos.

One additional aspect we can learn from this particular lesson of the Baal Shem Tov has to do with the concept of serving Hashem b’simcha (with joy), and being b’simcha even in times when not specifically involved in doing mitzvos. There’s a tefillah based off the idea that we should dedicate each and every action we perform throughout the day, with every thought and word we speak, l’shem yichud Kudsha B’rich Hu U’Shchintei (for the sake of the unification of the Holy One Blessed be He and His Shechinah). Considering this is the essential point of all forms of avodah, every mitzvah, every bit of Torah learned, according to the sifrei Kabbalah, then every action of our day becomes avodas Hashem. From this perspective we can very easily have a day full of simcha, keeping this in mind and genuinely dedicating everything to avodas Hashem.

Erev Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo 5780

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas Ki Savo. This is an incredible parsha as we receive the potential of many wonderful brochos (blessings), and also quite heavy, seeing as we also receive the potential of wretched klolos (curses).

The crux of the whole issue of receiving brochos or klolos sits on one posuk: “תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה’ אל-היך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרב כל.” (Translation: For you did not serve Hashem your God with joy and goodness of heart from all). Rashi explains the last words come out to mean because we didn’t serve Hashem with joy even though we were granted all the good things. Ikar Sifsei Chachomim explains that “mem” and “beis” are part of the same letter grouping, so you can switch them in a form of Drash to learn out what Rashi does (meaning “with all” rather than “from all”). The previous two pesukim (verses) state quite clearly that the curses come to us because we don’t follow Hashem’s Torah, and these will serve as a great wonder and a sign to all Jews forever. We can perhaps say that this is what is meant in Maseches Chagigah when Chazal say that someone who doesn’t experience Hester Ponim (Concealment of Hashem’s face, meaning the troubles of this world) might not actually be Jewish; the same word used for describing the bris milah as a sign, אות, is used to refer to the curses to fall upon Klal Yisroel.

The true reason we received all these curses, and will unfortunately rachmono litzlon, receive them further is due to not serving Hashem with joy and good-heartedness. The essential problem, according to Rabbeinu B’Chayeh is that Klal Yisroel didn’t serve Hashem with simcha; he even states simcha in avodas Hashem is a mitzvah in and of itself! Raboisai, my friends, we’re obviously in a time of many gezeiros koshos and Dinim (harsh decrees and judgements), seeing what’s going on in the world as a whole and in the areas surrounding our communities specifically. In my kuntress, iy’H soon to be released to the public, I wrote about this specific posuk in relation to serving Hashem b’simcha long before any aspect of our current situation. Even though we were prevented from going to shul for months, it’s back to just as it was before what with lackadaisical davening and endless shmoozing. We have to work on serving Hashem with true simcha, davening with kavana.

The way to work on attaining a state of true simcha is to realize there is no sadness before Hashem, like it says in the Hodu we say every day in davening “עז וחדוה במקומו” “Might and joy are in His place.” This is part of why the Nevi’im would have musicians perform some sort of music for them when they would need to enter the state to receive prophecy, since someone who is sad cannot reach Hashem’s “place” so to speak.

The first step to attaining simcha is to realize how much good Hashem does for you all the time, no matter what your station in life or situation, Hashem has done an incredible amount of good for you, from keeping your lungs running to making sure your brain functions at the level to function normally. Even if your situation is worse than that, there’s still what to thank Hashem for. Per example I’m a type 1 diabetic since I was a baby and should have died around four years old, so every day I have what to thank Hashem for.

After this acknowledgement of all Hashem’s goodness for you personally, the next step is to thank Him for it. From here you should contemplate the Shem Havayah (the four lettered unpronounceable name). The more you know of the Sodos of the Shem the more effect this will have, but even knowing practically nothing about it, meditating on the Shem through a basic visualization is incredibly beneficial for purifying the soul. It also leads to bringing His “place” down to you, which will help remove sadness and bring joy instead. Beyond this, devoting time to saying a few chapters Tehillim every day, and learning with the conscious awareness that Hashem and the Torah are united, will lead to joy. From this joy, iy’H we should be freed from all gezeiros koshos and Dinim and merit the coming of Moshiach swiftly.

True Secrets of the Seder HaTefillah

At the end of Shaar HaBrochos in Pri Etz Chaim from the Arizal there’s an apt description of the purpose of each part of davening according to Sod. Following is a paraphrased translation:”From waking up and washing the hands to remove the Ruach Ra (“evil wind,” the spirit of impurity) that falls upon them at night, to say Asher Yotzar and Elokai Neshomo to thank Hashem for kindly returning our neshomo to our bodies, along with the other Birkos HaShachar (Morning Blessings). After this one must sanctify oneself with actions directly related to this world through putting on tallis and tefillin and other relevant things, such as proper clothes for prayer, as there is an idea to have a special garment for tefillah, and gartel (prayer belt). Once this is accomplished, the way for davening must be cleared through the recitation of the Ketores (Incense-Offering), which is known according to Kabbalah to incinerate the Kochos HaTumah (Forces of Impurity) from the paths that prayer travels through. From saying Ketores, we have to recite the sections relevant to the Korban HaTamid brought twice a day, which serves to atone for our sins and clear the paths for our prayers to ascend from interference by those wicked forces created by our personal sins. After these steps are accomplished, then our prayers can ascend to Hashem properly. The verses of Pesukei D’Zimrah (Verses of Praiseful Song) are connected to the Kochos HaDin Shb’kdusha (Forces of Judgement of Holiness) that correspond to the Malachin Nukvin (Feminine Angels) who are the forces of holy judgement, for the Nekeiva (Feminine aspect) is always the root of Din, and this is connected to the realm of Sandal–Fon, wherein the angels organize their praises. All of this is to accomplish the Tikun of the Shechinah, as it is known she “nests” inSandal–Fon. After the Pesukei D’Zimrah, we say Shiras HaYam (Song at the Sea) which is a reference to Yesod, that is the last level of Sheish Kitzv’os (Six Branches) which “nests” in Metat–ron, which is called “Torah Sh’b’ksav” (The Written Torah). From this place begins the Tikun accomplished by way of Torah Sh’b’ksav, and she enters into the world of Malachim HaRachamim (The Angels of Mercy). These are accomplished through the 13 praises in Yishtabach, which correspond to the 13 Middos HaRachamim (Attributes of Mercy). From this the Shechinah travels from Heichal to Heichal.”Rabbeinu Chaim Vital zy’a goes much further and explains more the Tikkunim that are made going through Birkas Krias Shma, Krias Shma, Shmoneh Esreh etc until the end of Shachris. What we can learn from this long description of what happens and all these descriptions of angels and ascent of the Shechinah is how important each individual piece of davening is to the entire structure thereof. The Shechinah is called K’nesses Yisroel (Congregation of Israel) in many places, so we can understand that much of what is described as the ascent of the Shechinah is also the ascent of our own souls in the process of davening. Though many poskim say one should cut out parts of davening in order to say certain parts with the minyan, the mekubalim disagree, and the Baal HaTanya paskens in his Siddur that no part of davening should be skipped. For those who wish to disagree, he has a tshuva in his Shaalos U’Tshuvos that in short states that those who wish to follow the mainline poskim follow them, and those who follow Kabbalistic understandings of Torah should do like the mekubalim. It is also incredibly important to daven with kavanah, as the Rambam paskens that without kavanah one isn’t considered to have davened, and the Ari states in Pri Etz Chaim that prayer without intent leads to the great power of prayers being turned over to the Sitra Achra. Hashem should help us all to daven with kavanah and to accomplish the various different Tikunim that are done through davening; we should merit to see Moshiach soon.

Working on Love

In regards to the concepts of ahavas Hashem and yiras Shomayim there are many different hasogos, different levels of attainment. For those of us just getting started on the path to growth, this can be very difficult, especially ahavas Hashem. It’s easy to find it difficult since our normal concept of love relies on perception or knowledge of a particular person or thing, then desiring some aspect of it or having warm feelings towards the object of love, such as love parents have for their children, spouses between one another, or love between friends. It says in Pirkei Avos that love that rests upon something else, meaning loving someone because they give you chocolate per example, will be nullified. So the concept of love in the first place cannot rely on any benefit or pleasure derived from the object of love, rather it has to be unconditional to be truly called אהבה, love.

The Gematria of אהבה (love) is אחד (one). From this Gematria, we can learn much about the true nature of love. True love is recognizing the unity of all things within Hashem Yisborach, since there is nothing other than Him, like it says אין עוד מלבדו. To sit and contemplate those words, repeating them under the breath, is a powerful meditation technique that helps in that awareness.

The Baal HaTanya writes a wonderful eitzah (advice) for coming to love Hashem in perek 44 of Likutei Amarim. He says there that even as every Yid has a natural love and fear of God, it’s concealed within the neshomoh, requiring help to express this properly. He recommends there that one should accustom oneself to think thoughts relating to Hashem’s awesomeness every day. Even if this feels awkward at first, he teaches us there that eventually it will become natural and we’ll come to feel true awe and fiery love of Hashem through doing this exercise. It is important to love Hashem all the time, it is a mitzvah we mention multiple times per day in K’rias Shma. The Zohar in the Hakdama brings that true ahavas Hashem is not to love the things Hashem gives us, but rather that we should love Him no matter what happens. It says there that sometimes Hashem will give us lots of nice things, make life very easy, then all of a sudden remove all of that in order to test us and test our own assertions in regards to Hashem and our love for Him. The ideal way to handle this is to simply daven, to talk plainly before Hashem like between friends. Once recognizing that Hashem is also expressed through problems, like Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan, then we can transcend the challenge and attain true ahavas Hashem and d’veikus with Hashem to the degree we are able.

Erev Shabbos Parshas Ki Seitzei 5780

A gitten erev Shabbos everyone! This week’s parsha is Parshas Ki Seitzei. There’s a well known chassidishe vort on the opening words of the parsha, “כי תצא למלחמה,” (for when you go out to war) that explains this to refer to the time of eating, because the word for war “Milchomo” has the word “Lechem,” meaning bread, in it. There are many divrei Torah from various rebbes about the importance of sanctifying oneself in the time of eating, since that time is a time of fighting with the Yetzer Hara, and also a great time for accomplishing Tikkunim. The Ateres Tzvi once said “When I was young I asked the Aibishter that I should be able to effect yeshuos (salvations) through my eating. Now I ask that I should be able to effect the same yeshuos I do through eating with my davening!” There are various kavonnos involved in eating, practices such as davening or learning during the meal or snack so as to facilitate the elevation of the holy sparks trapped in the Klippah Nogah of kosher food, and various other ideas. There is a mitzvah brought in the next verse that many find troubling, that is the Eishes Y’fas Toar, that is the attractive woman who a man encounters in war and decides to claim her as his wife. She has to shave her head, let her nails grow out, and allowed to sit for a whole month to mourn her family being killed. The Baal HaTurim explains that the phrase in Hebrew meaning literally “Lunar days” shows that as the moon is considered lacking compared to the sun, so is this captured foreign woman compared to a Bas Yisroel. Rashi’s first p’shat explains that the Torah is only speaking in regards to the Yetzer Hara, so these halochos were practically not implemented with actual women, rather it’s for us to learn how to treat the yetzer and grow disgusted with it. If something looks at first very appealing and like it would be a great benefit to have, though it may not be proper to utilize, we are to visualize it as becoming disgusting, specifically through the growing the fingernails, which Rashi brings in regards to that aspect rather than the shaving of the woman’s head. Long fingernails are highly discouraged according to Kabbalah, since they are considered connected to Klippah since the Cheit Etz HaDaas; so what this means for our purposes in fighting the Yetzer HaRa is to realize the degree of Klippah entwined with whatever our desire is, whether it is permitted or forbidden, and become disgusted with it from there.One could ask, “How does this practically work within the structures of Chassidus as taught by the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Tzadok HaKohen, along with many other rebbes, who didn’t teach hyper-asceticism? Aren’t we supposed to be moderate, קדש עצמך במותר לך, to be sanctified through what’s permitted and using it properly?” The real question comes out to be how to implement the above concepts and still be able to elevate the sparks from this world. In the end, it becomes permissible to marry the Eishes Y’Fas Toar if the man goes through the whole process and still finds her beautiful and worth it in the end. She converts to Judaism and they can live together. While Rashi does say that he’ll come to hate her eventually, since this section is close to that of dealing with the man with two wives, one hated and one beloved wherein the hated wife has the first son who must receive the greater share of inheritance, we can interpret this by accepting the “stumah” between the sections and view them as separate matters.When faced with a desire for something forbidden, we have to view it mamesh like it’s disgusting and evil so we will be certain to avoid it completely. Those things are completely tied with the Klippos HaTameios, the entirely impure husks, as the Baal HaTanya speaks of. Those desires that are permissible are connected with the Klippah Nogah, the Shining Klippah, which the souls of geirim are also connected to. Through realizing that a desire for something other than a mitzvah may not be perfectly good, and holding off from fulfilling that desire until the coarseness of it is realized, the Klippah surrounding that desire can be broken and the sparks elevated. This is hinted to by the fact that the Eishes Y’fas Toar would have to convert to Judaism after going through the month long mourning period in order to get married. Just as Jews are only in Golus so as to bring in geirim from all corners of the world, so are we only in the Golus of physical manifestation in order to elevate all the sparks trapped within the Klippah Nogah through performing mitzvos and enjoying those things permitted to us by the Torah. The Ramchal is very clear that the nature of Gashmiyus (physicality) is darkness and coarseness, and that the only true good is Ruchniyus (spirituality). Our goal through all of this must ultimately be to wipe out Amalek, as this mitzvah is brought at the very end of the parsha to not forget what Amalek did to us and to wipe them out. Though now we do not know who the folk of Amalek are, we do know from our mesorah that Amalek is a spiritual force, a manifestation of the Sitra Achra, that attempts to destroy Klal Yisroel at all times and remove us from Emunah Shleimah, true faith in Hashem. The key to destroying Amalek is through keeping the fire of Torah and Avodas Hashem burning all the time, since Amalek is a cooling force, so we have to fight back with fire. In order to even begin to understand how to sanctify our daily existence and fill it with simcha and the flames of Ahavas Hashem, we have to learn Chassidus. That is the beginning. To grow further and understand how these things work better, and to weaken the power of Amalek, we have to spend time learning Zohar and Tikkunim, as brought by the Tzaddikim of the past several hundred years. It says that the Geulah will ultimately be brought about through the Torah of Rashbi, that being the Zohar. I’d like to encourage everyone to start learning a daf Zohar every day, so as to sweeten the judgments that we are dealing with in this time of preparing for the Geulah. In the merit of learning Zohar and Chassidus, and serving Hashem with joy and love, we should merit to see Eliyahu HaNavi and Moshiach swiftly.

Drawing Down Divine Blessing

At the end of the first chelek of the Zohar, in Parshas VaYechi, daf 250a, Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai speaks on the inyan of Kos Shel Brocho (Cup of Blessing) and bread that is left on the table for Birkas HaMazon.

It says there that Rav Hamnuna Saba would not give the Kos Shel Brocho to anybody else to bentsh, which then begins a wonderful Torah that we can learn much from.This particular use of a cup of wine, being the kos shel brocho, is alluded to in the verse from Tehillim כוס ישועות אשא “The cup of salvations I lift up,” because through this particular kos the blessings and salvations from Above are drawn down to Malchus. The cup is Malchus, and within the cup is wine, which alludes to Five Gevuros. We have to have on the table for Birkas HaMazon both wine that was set aside for this purpose, along with bread that was eaten from during the course of the meal. Klal Yisroel is called a Kos Shel Brocho, and like a Kos Shel Brocho is filled with wine, so is Klal Yisroel filled with the Yayno Shel Torah, the Wine of Torah, which is the wine of Binah. We say the four brochos of Birkas HaMazon over the Kos, which leads to it being a vessel for the “Resicha Kadisha,” Holy Chariot, consisting of North and South, East and West, which serve as allusions to the Sefiros of Gevurah and Chesed, Tiferes and Malchus, respectively. The bread then left on the table changes in spiritual essence from Lechem Oni, the Bread of Poverty, to Lechem Panag, which is fatty tasty bread, due to having Birkas HaMazon recited over the cup of wine. The way this functions is through Malchus becoming connected to the first three of the lower sefiros, Chesed, Gevurah, and Tiferes, which occurs through the facility of the Kos Shel Brocho, which is filled with the Wine of Torah, which is the Wine of Binah; Binah is the Mekor HaBrocho, the Source of Blessing. Through this a person is guaranteed to always have food on their table.

That’s a summation of that section of the Zohar, which translation thereof never really gets the idea across but it can get somewhat close. What we can draw out of this, outside of the supreme importance of always bentshing on a Kos Shel Brocho, is a great Sod in avodas Hashem. When it comes to Torah, we always must run to learn it for ourselves, like Rav Hamnuna Saba taking the Kos Shel Brocho for himself; this refers to making the Torah our own through chiddushim (novel thoughts) and writing kuntresim and seforim, like Rebbe Nachman talks about. While wine in its original state is the embodiment of the Chamisha Gevuros, the Five Gevuros, the wine can be elevated to the state of Yayin Shel Binah, Wine of Binah; this is primarily accomplished through using wine for purposes of mitzvos, such as Kos Shel Brocho, or Kiddush. In order to accomplish salvations and bring abundance of blessing to the world we have to fill ourselves up with Torah, this is the key thing. From here, we can thank Hashem for all the great things he was created in this world, and work on perceiving His omnipresence, like it says מלא כל הארץ כבודו, His honor fills the world. Once we accomplish this, our perception of physicality changes from that of dry and tasteless bread to that of tasty, oily bread, meaning that reality becomes full of delight and pleasure rather than depression and toil. After attaining this degree of perception, even if we have nothing we will have everything we need, since one who attains this realizes that Hashem never lets anyone lack, as everything is given according to their proper needs in accordance with the incomprehensible and wonderful Divine plan.

Erev Shabbos Parshas Shoftim 5780

A gitten erev Shabbos and a git choidesh!

This weeks parsha is Parshas Shoftim.There’s a posuk in this parsha that has various different ways of understanding: “Tamim tihyeh im Hashem Elokecho” “You should be simple with Hashem your God.” Rashi says this means to serve Hashem with simplicity, and not attempt to divine the future, to contrast this posuk to the prohibitions against various forms of divination. Ramban brings the other meaning of “Tam,” which means perfect, from Onkelos “שלים”, meaning “Whole.” Ramban goes a step further than Rashi and states that the mitzvah here is referring to seeking only Hashem’s word. Ramban brings the example of astrology, saying that if one hears something from an astrologer he should simply say “Everything is in Hashem’s hands,” and not to go investigate those things heavily.

To understand what going simply with Hashem and being perfect means, we have to look another instance in the Torah where the word “Tam” is used. The main other place this word is used is in relation to Yaakov Avinu, where he is described as “Ish Tam,” a man who is simple/perfect. Yaakov according to Kabbalah is associated with the Sefira of Tiferes. Tiferes is associated with the concept of Emes, of Truth. So we can say from here that to walk simply with Hashem means to be perfect, which means to serve Him according to our true nature. For someone who knows how to cook, per example, such a person could serve Hashem through making good food for seudas mitzvah or Shabbos; someone who likes to talk can direct that towards talking in Torah and teaching others Yiddishkeit. Ultimately our truest nature is the Yechidah, that incorruptible part of the soul that cleaves always to the Ain Sof. This is the truest purpose for a Yid is to remove the external layers of Atzmus, Self, until reaching that Divine spark and living according to that, meaning to cleave to Hashem at all times and recognize His constant manifestation and control of all Creation.

Torah and Avoiding Sin

It is incredibly important to have regular times for learning Torah. This is one of the key precepts brought in Pirkei Avos. In another section of Pirkei Avos it is said in the name of Raban Gamliel “Beautiful is studying Torah with derech eretz, for laboring in both of them leads to forgetting iniquity. All Torah that is unaccompanied with labor is nullified and leads to sin.” Derech eretz is often understood to mean career, however it also carries connotations such as proper etiquette, and in many places in Shas and Zohar the phrase refers to marital intimacy. We see that in our generation there are many who learn as their primary occupation, aren’t they going against what Chazal say here, as well as the shtikl gemoro in Maseches Brochos that those who followed R’ Shimon’s path – consisting of only learning Torah and not working – failed in this?

The reality is that the argument one could make, saying that many Yidden are going against the words of Chazal, does initially sound quite reasonable. However what we need to understand is that there are different levels of learning and avodas Hashem.

It says in Pirkei Avos that one who accepts the Ohl Malchus Shomayim (Yoke of Heavenly Kingdom) upon themselves becomes free from derech eretz, literally meaning the way of the land. We can understand this through the lens of the Ramban, who says quite clearly that there is no such thing as nature, hence derech eretz is only an illusory concept in the first place. Therefore one who accepts Hashem’s sovereignty upon themselves should be able to perceive on some level the constant miracles that Hashem does always. This level of Kabbolas Ohl Malchus is an aspect of receiving Binah, the Feminine Mind in the Higher worlds, since Malchus is only a reflection of Binah. Binah is also the place of t’shuva, and is in the first three sefiros, hence beyond the influence of time. When a Yid fully accepts Ohl Malchus Shomayim through saying K’rias Shma shel Shachris with complete kavana, in tallis and/or tefillin, that Yid taps into the higher sefiros, which leads to greater perception of Hashem’s wonders. This perception is the higher form of Yiras Hashem, Awe of God, or literally Seeing of Hashem. Though Hashem cannot be literally seen we can observe the beauty of His Creation, which is not separate from Him, as well as notice more events in our daily lives that clearly have the “Divine Hand” guiding them.

At the end of hilchos Shmitah in Mishneh Torah, the Rambam says that every Yid who separates themselves from corporeal concerns and becomes completely invested in Torah and serving Hashem receives all the brochos (blessings) that the Levi’im are blessed with. So now we can ask, is the Rambam, encouraging people to take on the modern Kollel lifestyle, when he himself worked? Ultimately, yes. However following the path of Toras HaChassidus, our every action must be holy and devoted to avodas Hashem. So even when having to work or be involved in the things of this world, so long as we focus on Hashem the whole time to fulfill the mitzvah to cleave to Hashem as explained by Ramban, Rashbam, and other Rishonim, then our actions will be holy.

Ultimately, this is the difference between one who sits and learns all day and doesn’t come to sin, and those who do unfortunately err. P’shat on the Gemoro about R’ Shimon and his path is that his talmidim failed because they weren’t sincere enough; it was easier for them to be sincere following R’ Yishmoel and working part of the time and learning the leftover time. The most important thing is the focus and intent of the learning; learning full time with any intent beyond serving Hashem and studying the Torah is improper and will ultimately lead to failure. We have to ask for lots of help from Hashem that we should be able to learn with proper focus and have our entire focus in serving Him and studying His Torah to be for Him alone. Once this process is begun and one slowly attains this level, then the Torah learned serves to purify the soul and air around you, along with sweetening all the harsh judgments and breaking klippos, like we know from R’ Nachman and many other Admorim.