Secret of Escaping Misery of Corporeality

“Coincidentally,” put in quotes due to there only being Hashogocho Protis, I learned the shtiklech aggadata in Eruvin having what to do with wine as well as a very interesting Torah from Rebbe Nachman also discussing this inyan.

The Gemoro in Eruvin teaches us that as wine is given in 70, so is sod. This is a reference to the gematrios. Rebbe Nachman teaches that there are Tzaddikim who can accomplish t’shuva through drinking wine based off of the roshei teivos on the posuk “VaYomer Hashem ‘Solachti kid’vorecho,” (And said Hashem ‘I pardon you according to your word.’). The explanation there is that the hidden allusion to wine through the roshei teivos coming to “kosi” (my cup) and “dishanto vashemen roshi” (you have anointed with oil my head) refers to the aspect of drinking wine that leads to the higher aspects of the mind.

As the word for wine (Yayin) corresponds to the word for secret (Sod), there’s an extra aspect we can learn out from both this Gemoro and Rebbe Nachman. The key to attaining true attainments in the mental realm, as well as t’shuva, is through learning Kabbalah. Without this, it is not entirely possible to attain anything of any worth. It says in that Gemoro that wine is for those who mourn to bring them simcha; any organism alive knows what the pain of existence is, the only remedy to even get through existence is Toras HaSod. Without learning Sod, life is misery and empty. With Sod though, true happiness and elevation from the world of darkness, as the Ramchal refers to gashmiyus, becomes finally possible.

Motzei Shabbos Sh’mos 5781: Accepting the Yoke of Exile

A gitte voch! I heard an interesting vort this Shabbos wherein it was said that we must accept the Ohl Golus (Yoke of Exile) with love and joy, that through this we’ll be released from Golus. This bothered me, since it is essentially improper to accept anything other than the Ohl Malchus Shomayim (Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven) in my understanding of Torah, let alone Golus, particularly that connected to the Golus Mitzrayim, which was the worst in terms of impurity and spiritual destruction.

The main question to ask is when exactly did Hashem decide to redeem the B’Nei Yisroel from Mitzrayim according to the p’shat of the Torah? It wasn’t when they decided Golus was amazing and how much they loved it and rejoiced in Mitzrayim, rather it was when they cried out to Hashem and groaned to Him about their great misery as slaves. Then Hashem remembers the bris he sealed with Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov and sends Moshe to save them.

The Baal HaTanya teaches us in Torah Ohr on this week’s parsha that the avodah of our current Golus is the clarification of halacha. He brings this through tying the various labors involved with the slavery in Mitzrayim to different parts of the learning process. Essentially, before the halacha is understood, the learning is very difficult, but once the halacha comes to clear understanding and resolution of the various machlokes, then this is an aspect of Geulah. We must also consider what we learn from the famous maaseh of the Baal Shem Tov going to the Heichal HaMoshiach and asking when Moshiach will come: when the Toras HaBaal Shem Tov spreads out over the entire world like water from a wellspring, and when everybody can make Yichudim (Spiritual Unifications) and attain the same levels he did.

Considering these various ideas, we can come to a strategy for Geulah Yechidis (Personal Redemption), as well as the Geulah Shleima. Considering the nature of Mitzrayim as the most coarse form of corporeality, and what the Baal HaTanya says about clarifying halacha being part of the Geulah, we can see that coming to understanding of the Torah is imperative in this regard. The key to understanding Torah is to cry out to Hashem and ask Him to help us understand what is meant to be communicated to us. From this perspective, we can then sit and learn every part of Torah to understand what we must do with it practically, meaning more essentially implementation rather than abstraction. Once we come to knowledge and understanding of the Torah, this is part of the Geulah, which is accomplished through getting to know Hashem. The true Geulah is accomplished through knowing Torah, which is knowing Hashem to whatever degree possible, as it says in the Zohar that Hashem and the Torah are one. When everyone understands their “letter” of the Torah, and hence exists in the state of knowing God in the facet they are meant to know and reveal, then the Geulah will be manifest in its completeness.

Erev Shabbos Parshas Sh’mos 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas Sh’mos, and today it is also the yuhrtzait of the Baal HaTanya zy’a of Chabad, the first rebbe. L’kovod (to honor) the yuhrtzait of the Baal HaTanya, the inspiration for this d’var Torah is taken from Sefer Torah Ohr.

In Torah Ohr, the Baal HaTanya teaches us based off of pesukim in Shir HaShirim, along with a bit of d’rash from the Gemoro in Maseches Eruvin (which I just happened to learn last night as part of my seder in Gemoro), what the labors of Mitzrayim were. He says there that the avodah of Golus is the difficult labor of clarification of halacha, which leads us to understanding Penimiyus HaTorah (Internal Part of the Torah), as taught in the Zohar HaKodosh. To summarize what it says there, the Zohar teaches us that the stories of the Torah are the clothing for the body of the Torah, which are the mitzvos and halochos, which is then clothing for the soul of the Torah which is Toras HaSod, the higher secrets contained within the Torah. The Baal HaTanya explains that each labor in Mitzrayim, from making the cement to shlepping the straw and all other aspects of this labor correspond to different aspects of learning Torah; from Mikra (written Torah), to Mishnah, Gemoro, and at last halacha. The entire avodah of Golus is to clarify and understand the final halacha, which is incredibly difficult because in Golus we have so many kashyos and machlokes and many of them cannot even be resolved until Eliyahu HaNavi comes and clarifies it for us.

Kabbalistically speaking, the Baal HaTanya writes, each step of the process of learning corresponds to higher levels of Birurim (separations of Ohr from Klippah). So following the entirety of the Torah there that he teaches us, as we resolve machlokes and shaalos in halacha, we get closer to the Geulah itself.

So now l’maaseh (practically), what can we do with this? What we should take out from this is the aspect that learning and understanding Torah is a piece of Geulah in and of itself. Every hard sugya (subject) in Torah learning that we can resolve and come to an understanding of is mamesh a taste of the Geulah, and hence me’ain Olam HaBa. This is one of the reasons it is best, whenever possible, that one should learn Gemoro on it’s own terms, without translations like Artscroll or even Steinsaltz, because through throwing oneself entirely into the process of learning Gemoro to figure out the halacha and understand the different opinions brings you to the highest pleasure once the answer is reached, and understood. The reason is because this is a higher level of attainment just like the Geulah Shleima itself, and is indeed an aspect of Geulah Yechidis, which should iy’H lead to the Geulah Klalis for the entire world. This should not be taken to discourage anyone who has trouble learning Gemoro, rather it should serve to encourage everyone to work more and more on learning with diligence, and to cleave to Hashem through His Holy Torah.

D’veikus: A Spiritual Level Attainable by All

The inyan of d’veikus is one commonly misunderstood or stam not understood whatsoever, being thought only to be a level for the Tzaddikim to attain to. This however is not true, it was indeed the entire tachlis of the Toras HaBaal Shem Tov that every Yid should attain d’veikus. There is an entire perek on this in the wonderful sefer B’Yam Darkecho by the hailige Breslover mashpia HaAdmo”r R’ Itche Mayer Morgenstern shlit”a wherein he outlines a path towards d’veikus and explains in detail how this is something for every Yid to attain.

In Keser Shem Tov, there are many lessons in the name of the hailige Baal Shem Tov about d’vekus. Iy’H we’ll be able to cover his other Toros on this inyan in due time. In this section however, he describes that there are some who say that d’veikus is saying one word for a very long time due to the great d’veikus he feels from that particular letter. Others say that this is when one does a mitzvah or learns Torah and turns the body into a throne for the nefesh, the nefesh throne to the ruach, ruach for the neshama, and the neshama throne to the Ohr HaShechina (light of the Shechina), from which point he is surrounded in light and rejoices with great trembling in the light of the Shechinah. This is one aspect.

To begin the next section, a shtikl is added from Sefer Ohr Ganuz LaTzaddikim that the Shomayim looks like half a sphere in all areas, and the person sees himself as standing in the center of the middle. He also brings from Sefer Chareidim a very interesting meditation. So he says the Tzaddik looking up to Shomayim is a hint to the higher world created with the letter Yud, from the earth to the Rakia (Firmament) is a distance of 500 years which alludes to the first Heh, the Tzaddik himself who is standing upright upon the earth alludes to the Vov, and the earth itself that he stands upon alludes to the final Heh. This whole process alludes to the awe of Heaven resting upon people, that the light of the Shechinah resting upon people’s heads is accomplished through this process.

The next section goes more into the specifics of how this is done through mitzvas tzitzis and other mitzvos. What is most important though is to focus on this particular meditation that the Baal Shem teaches us. Everybody has an aspect of the Tzaddik within them, this is clear from Rebbe Nachman in his Torah where he discusses friends giving each other advice in areas of avodas Hashem, where the one giving the advice is in the aspect of the Tzaddik. Our job is only to actualize our potential to become Tzaddikim. One of the best ways to do this is to engage in this particular meditation, seeing ourselves as in the middle of the earth looking up to the sky etc and visualizing each of the letters of Hahsem’s name in relation to us. Visualizing the Shemos HaKedoshim on the whole is incredibly important and clarifies the body and soul on all levels when done with regularity. This is one of the key aspects of spiritual growth and accomplishing Tikkunim when approaching Torah from a Kabbalistic perspective. Yes, we must keep poshut, but poshut doesn’t mean to avoid doing the deep parts of avodas Hashem, it just means not to think we’re so incredibly special for doing them.

The Tremendous Power of Oaths

In Zohar Parshas Yisro, the Aseres HaDibros (Ten Commandments) are discussed at length, as that was when the Torah was given at Har Sinai. An interesting statement there is that the entire Torah is included in these specific mitzvos, and one who contemplates them can merit wonderful levels in understanding and general spiritual growth.

The prohibition against taking a false oath on Hashem’s name is discussed. The essential question is, “Why is this such a severe prohibition?” The Zohar explains that this is such a severe prohibition because when Hashem made the world, He created a place deep in the Tehom (Depths) where He put a “shard” that He engraved His Name Havayah on, and every oath made descends to this place and the shard receives it. When a true oath is made, Hashem’s name is exalted through this and His name is “strengthened,” like an engraving on clay or wax that is deepened with a stylus. The opposite is true though, rachmono litzlon, when someone swears falsely, that it is like the Shem is erased and weakened, and the world is brought close to destruction through swearing a false oath; until Hashem calls a specific Malach to go and fix the name upon the shard.

There’s an idea in Chassidus that I heard once, the source escapes me, that when a person makes an oath in Hashem’s name the entire Creation comes forward to assist in the fulfillment of this oath. This is one aspect of the idea in halacha that one who needs to do t’shuva may make such a serious oath in regards to this particular effort, since all Hashem’s Creation will come to help him do this he will then be able to accomplish that which he seeks to do. This is an aspect of what it says much earlier in the Zohar HaKodosh as well, that the Yetzer HaRa can be made a helper to one rather than an enemy. There’s a segulah brought by Rebbe Nachman that making an oath and fulfilling it immediately brings one to oneg Shabbos (enjoyment of Shabbos).

The main thing that ties these all together is the idea of exalting Hashem’s name. It’s brought in various places that through t’shuva Hashem’s name is exalted; much the same as testifying to His creation of the world on Shabbos through delighting in Shabbos exalts His name. It is of the utmost importance that we fulfill any vows we take, and make them when necessary. Though there are many warnings about this, and they are to be certainly taken seriously, sometimes an oath intended to be kept with complete sincerity is just the thing needed to tip the scales of our personal merits to attain true t’shuva and Geulah Yechidis (personal redemption), as well as what we all need to attain the Geulah Shleimah (complete redemption).

Motzei Shabbos VaYechi: Yahrtzeit of the B’Nei Yissoschor

A gitte voch! This previous Shabbos was the yuhrtzait of the hailige B’Nei Yissoschor. In many kehillos it is the minhag not to say Tachanun because of this. B’H, the yuhrtzait fell out on Shabbos this year so there could be no problems brought by those who dislike skipping Tachanun.

Just in short, I saw brought up by the Kalever rebbe shlita of Williamsburg some interesting stories about the B’Nei Yissoschor sometime last year in the gilyon they send out. One that got my attention is how the rebbe davened. If someone walked into the beis midrash of the B’Nei Yissoschor in Dinov to daven Shachris and asked where the rebbe was holding, a chussid there could answer which word he was holding on because the rebbe took such a long time with each word.

It is easy to read such a sort of story and say “Wow, the rebbe, the Tzaddik, performed such a sort of avodah. This means that in order to be truly holy I have to be exactly like this also!” It says in Keser Shem Tov in the name of the Baal Shem though that every person must serve Hashem according to his own nature, to his own level. Not every Tzaddik serves Hashem the same way: some Tzaddikim daven for an incredibly long time; others daven very quickly like the Kotzker zt”l. Rebbe Nachman even teaches in one of his later Torahs that one who has attained the level of Mochin D’Gadlus (broad-mindedness in the Kabbalistic sense) can daven quickly since such a person can daven with real kavana even rapidly. Coming into this week, we should remember and strive to serve Hashem to the best of our capability in the unique way that the Aibishter created us to serve Him.

Erev Shabbos Parshas VaYechi 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas VaYechi, hence the last week we lain from Sefer B’Reishis. In this parsha, Yaakov Avinu blesses his sons with their individual brochos, he is niftar, and the Yidden get established in Mitzrayim with Yosef HaTzaddik taking care of their needs.

One interesting aspect of the parsha is what it says in the Gemoro, “Yaakov Avinu lo meis” (Yaakov didn’t die). What makes this particularly curious is that it says that Yosef HaTzaddik called the doctors and embalmers of Mitzrayim to preserve Yaakov Avinu’s body, which is quite a big problem. P’shat is that it was in order to prevent the Egyptians from deifying him, due to his lack of rot. We know from the Gemoro that the bodies of Tzaddikim and Talmidei Chachomim do not rot due to their great kedusha. So this is a stira (contradiction) though with what it says when the B’Nei Yisroel leave Mitzrayim under Moshe Rabeinu, that Moshe carried the bones of Yosef HaTzaddik to Eretz Yisroel; how could Yosef HaTzaddik have been bones since his body couldn’t have decayed in the first place?

The Ohr HaChaim brings a gevaldige teirutz (wonderful answer) to this kashya (tough question). He brings there this whole idea that the body of a Tzaddik doesn’t rot, not even the food in his guts, because the zuhamas hanachash (venom of the Serpent) was removed only by Kabbalas HaTorah at Har Sinai. Before this, the Tzaddikim, even the Avos, didn’t have this special characteristic in their bodies that they shouldn’t rot.

What we can learn from this is that the Torah HaKedosha is the only thing that gives the body the ability to resist decay. Meaning that through learning Torah and engaging with the mitzvos to connect with Hashem in this particular direct manner we can improve our own physical health and prevent our bodies from rotting while alive. The Torah is called “Chaim,” Life itself. There’s an idea that the Tzaddikim don’t age, that their faces stay unwrinkled even until they are old, meaning 70s+. We can see a source for this concept from the parsha, that since the Tzaddikim are immersed in Torah, they are granted a slice of this aspect in life of preventing the body from rotting since it is vivified with true life.

After the B’Nei Yisroel take their father to Eretz Yisroel in this parsha, and his brothers make t’shuva and reconcile completely with Yosef, it is recounted that Yosef HaTzaddik gave his brothers and their families everything they needed in terms of food and all other things. This is interesting, as al pi Kabbalah, Yosef HaTzaddik corresponds to sefiras Yesod, that is the sefirah which brings the Ohr Ain Sof down to Malchus. What this comes to teach us is an interesting aspect of what occurs through the process of t’shuva and answering of prayers.

In Likutei Moharan, Rebbe Nachman teaches that ultimately the only reason a person doesn’t have what he needs is because of he himself. For our purposes, we’ll just focus on this concept alone, rather than R’ Nachman’s entire explanation there. Ultimately, the only thing that prevents our tefillos from being answered is the klippos and sheidim made through our aveiros; this is why we say Korbanos and Ketores before davening, according to the Arizal in Pri Etz Chaim, this set of passages destroys them and throws them to the side so our tefillos may ascend. Through doing t’shuva, which is the aspect of אתערותא דלתתא (meaning, the arousal from the lower worlds, “awakening of the Feminine aspect”) through which we excite the Shechinah HaKedosha to reach the higher worlds and accomplish אתערותא דלעילא (meaning, arousal from the upper worlds, “awakening of the Masculine aspect), we draw down the brochos and hashpo’os we so desperately need through Z’air Anpin/Tiferes, which is the aspect of Yaakov Avinu who requested that the brothers make peace. That is to say, t’shuva and mechila (forgiveness) are the true keys to receiving all that we need from Hashem in all ways.

New Ideas in Serving Hashem: Potentially Wonderful as well as Possibly Dangerous

There’s a wonderful shtikl of Rebbe Nachman’s Torah in Likutei Moharan, Torah 171. This is in the section known as the “Toras Lashon Chaveirim,” meaning it was said over by those who heard Rebbe Nachman say it, in Breslov mesorah it is specifically referring to R’ Avrohom Peterberger z’l who heard these from R’ Nachman and wrote them down, rather than R’ Noson writing the Torah for R’ Nachman.

It starts by bringing a posuk from Daniel that says “Many of those who are sleeping in the dust of the earth shall awake, those for eternal life, and those to reproaches, to eternal contempt.” Rebbe Nachman explains that this refers to the process through which a person will be awakened due to new understandings in avodas Hashem that were not known until that moment. Through this, those who sleep in the dust of the earth will arise to one side or another, one for good or one for bad. This is explained through the other posuk “Tzadikim walk in them and the erring ones stumble in them,” meaning that the Tzaddik who receives this new understanding and insight in avodas Hashem will implement it and elevate himself and the world around him, whereas someone who engages in sins due to carelessness (Rebbe Nachman explains in a far earlier Torah that the word פשע refers to lack of emunah, so the weak of faith chas v’sholom) brings destruction to the world. The author of this specific Torah says that he heard that those who are on the negative side of this equation will get this new insight specifically to bring shame and spite to the world, and the world increases in lack from his reception of this new avodah.

From this we can understand various different ideas, and incidences we see in life. One way to understand this Torah is to say that sometimes a new insight in avodas Hashem will come to someone and instead of it uplifting them, it turns into something that removes them from life and the Torah, chas v’sholom. Someone can become introduced to the idea of P’rishus, and this will become a brand-new idea in avodas Hashem, and the ways it can be implemented in their own personal life is also a new idea, so they take it too far to the point of self-destruction, chas v’sholom. It is clear from sifrei Chassidus, including Mesilas Yeshorim though it is technically a Mussar sefer, that Hashem doesn’t want us to destroy ourselves; rather that we should grow and come closer to Him. When a new understanding leads a person towards the Tzad HaMoves (side of death), this is when it is in the aspect of negativity and bringing destruction to the world. When it leads to the Tzad HaChaim (side of life), such as when the new understanding elevates a person and makes them b’simcha, and helps a person to grow rather than to fall into the depths, then this is the positive side.

Our goal in receiving and innovating in the areas of avodas Hashem has to be oriented in such a way as we uplift ourselves and others, not casting ourselves or other to Gehenom. To get a new idea in avodas Hashem and then say that anyone who doesn’t do this is going to get punished or go to Gehenom, this is called stumbling severely; to do the opposite and choose to share it with others and increase in your own personal holiness along with that of your fellow Yidden, this is called walking with them, the Torah and new aspects of avodas Hashem. This isn’t a chiddush, we always have be dan l’kaf z’chus (judge to benefit of the doubt), this is in Pirkei Avos, along with many other concepts relating to how a person needs to view oneself and others as brought in Shas and various other places.

Truth of Techeiles Creature: Murex Snail

In the Gemara in Maseches Sanhedrin, daf 91a there’s a very interesting thing we can learn about the sugya of techeiles. As to why P’sil Techeiles, so far as I recall, does not have this in the document with all the proofs for murex techeiles they have on the site, I have no idea.

There Chazal bring several different mosholim (parables), and in one of them a person is told to go to a mountain; on that mountain there is only one Chilazon today, but when it pours rain, there will be loads of Chilazonos. What is a Chilazon? Says Rashi, the Chilazon is a tol’as (invertebrate bug creature, warm/slug/snail) that is used to dye the techeiles color. So what creature comes out when it rains? Anyone who has lived in a place with snails and rain knows that slugs and snails, along with worms, come out in droves in the rain. In the Gemoro in Menachos it describes the Chilazon, this same techeiles dying creature, as being like a fish, meaning sea-dwelling creature in the language of Chazal, dwelling in and around the sea. It’s painfully obvious, considering what we know now, that the murex trunculus is the techeiles snail. At least where I’m from (Pacific NW), you can quite often find sea-snails crawling around on land so long as it’s wet nearby, and it could easily be assumed that the murex is no different in this regard.

That is not to say that those who wear the Radziner/cuttlefish techeiles are wrong in their practice. They have whom to rely on and there are plenty of shittos that say that so long as the dye comes from a sea-creature it is still kosher. For those who have been on the fence though, I hope this helps in your decision making process as to whether to choose to fulfill the mitzva of tzitzis in completion with wearing techeiles made with the truest known Chilazon, the murex trunculus snail.

Trust in Hashem, Not Scientists

In the sefer Chovos HaLevavos there is a section called Shaar HaBitachon, the Gate of Trust, which talks about the greatness of the wonders of Hashem. In the Hakdama to that section, the author gives various examples of things that a person could wrongly put his trust in, and shows the downfalls of these things, such as wealth, other people, etc. Ultimately the only thing we can trust in is Hashem. He even, most likely to the chagrin of many then and in our time, states quite clearly that one should put trust in the Kimoah, also known as Alchemists, now known as Scientists.

It is a common contention that science and Torah cannot mix whatsoever. What I will say is that this is true. Science though is not what it is commonly made out to be by people, which is essentially a religion termed Scientism by many in intellectual circles. There are those who maintain that we should hold like Rambam, and say that every part of Torah that seems to be contradicted by the scientists is obviously simply metaphor and Chazal were just plain wrong about many aspects of the physical world. The problem with this perspective is that it leads to a Judaism free of mystery, which has rachmana litzlan led to many younger people going completely off the path of the Torah. I’ve known many of them from my days in a particular religious educational institution in Seattle that pushed this particular hashkafa. Nearly every single one of my peers from this school have gone off, best case scenario they’ve only decreased in general religiosity without stopping being Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos, which is bad enough.

The proper approach to dealing with science and Torah, in short, is to address science as its own discipline, and Torah as its own as well. The Torah encompasses all reality and should influence how we view scientific discoveries, seeing them as new ways to know and understand Hashem. Science is only meant to describe reality as perceived with our meagre physical senses. Fun fact: there’s a sea bug known as the “mantis shrimp” that has 12-16 eye cones, whereas people only have three on average, meaning that this shrimp can see colors than we can’t even imagine. Let this concept help you understand that science is only meant to help us understand how to exist in, and manipulate, the world we physically live in. Spiritual truth is contained in the Torah, expressed clearly through the works of Kabbalah, and in no way contradicts scientific discoveries. The gemoro in Shabbos says that someone who doesn’t know astrology sins through not gazing upon Hashem’s marvelous wonders; we can easily say that this applies to general knowledge of the natural world, which has greatly expanded in the last century. Ultimately, any questions between how our scientific instruments perceive reality and the underlying truth of reality, will be answered and explained when Moshiach comes and knowledge of Hashem fills the entire world.