Parashat Bereshit

The True Self

However, there are those who don’t know the fundamental point.  They think like the ignorant- that the horse and its rider are one monster, and when you teach them to rein in the animal, they see it as a personal insult, because in their understanding they and the animal are one, and this causes them to rebel…

hosre and rider

Harav Israel Asulin

Wednesday, 24th of Tishrei, 5776


When the Spanish arrived in South America they came with several hundred soldiers in three ships, disconnected from their homeland and with a limited food supply.  Facing them was the great Inca Empire, with a united army ready for battle, thousands of brave fighters defending their land, and with an unlimited amount of food and supplies.  How did the invading army, with a paltry and limited force defeat them?  The invaders brought with them horses and rode them when they went out to battle… the Incas had never seen such a phenomenon, they didn’t know that you could train horses for riding.  When they saw them riding on horses they assumed that it was a type of monster that came from somewhere far away:  a monster with four legs and two heads, one with the neck and head of an animal and behind it human arms and a head holding in its hand a stick which fires- who could stand up against these monsters?  They became weakened and were defeated.

Then, to their dismay, the monster was split in half and it became clear that it was only a human riding on an animal.  However by the time they discovered this it was too late.

What are these words referring to?


In the story of creation, at the end of each day (except for the second day of creation), Hashem testifies about his creation: “And God saw that it was good.” (Bereshit[1] Chapter 1)  Afterwards when Hashem finished creating the world, a general testimony is written about all of the creation, that everything that God created is “very good”, in the language of the verse.  If so, God himself testifies that the creation is good.

However, if creation is good, where is the root of evil?  What is its source?  Where does it begin from?

It is brought in the book Nefesh HaChaim by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin of blessed memory, that even before the sin of the first man[2] evil existed in the world, but it was outside of man; after the sin of the first man evil entered inside of him.  In the beginning evil was not identified with “me”, something found outside of a person is not himself (like the chair which is external to the person, it is not himself).  When the first man sinned the bad entered into him.  The entrance of the evil inside of him is not just a change of place of where the evil is located, rather the deep meaning of this is that in the beginning the evil was like something foreign to man, and after man sin he identified himself as part of the evil.  This is the depth of the sin- that a person identifies the bad as part of himself!

For every sin the mitzvah of teshuvah[3] was given: “And you will return unto Hashem, your God…” (Devarim[4], Chapter 30).  To where does someone need to return?  To the original understanding which proceeded the sin, the original outlook is that the evil is not me, I am only good!

The source of these words is in the depths of the deepest teachings of the Torah (the Kabbalah), and on the other hand they penetrate into Jewish law: ‘One who is present at the time that a soul leaves a person (death), has to rip his shirt.  To what is this likened to? To a Torah scroll being burned’.  The Tosfot[5] explain: ‘This means that the law is speaking even about a person who is not religious!’  Every Jew is like a Torah scroll!

I will sing to my God while I exist (Azamra)

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, may his merit protect us, was the “the source of wisdom is like a flowing stream” (Proverbs, Chapter 18, verse 4) and the wellsprings of his teachings flow constantly.  From amongst all of his teachings Rebbe Natan[6] of blessed memory wrote in his letters: “If we had only heard from him the teaching ‘I will sing to my God while I exist’, that would have been enough, because it has in it enough to revitalize us all the days of our life, and to merit by it to eternal life forever.”  He wrote further: “If we had only come to the world in order to hear the teaching ‘Azamra’, that would be enough!  Praise to God, we don’t need to be ashamed to mention this awesome teaching of Azamra thousands of times a day, because it is our life!”

What is this amazing teaching?

Rebbe Nachman explains in Likutei Moharan[7] (First part, Torah 282) that when a person is very low in his own eyes and sees that he doesn’t have any good and that he is full of sins, the evil inclination wants to knock him down because of this to sadness and depression, God forbid; the advice in this situation is to say to himself: this is all true, but do I not have any good points, it can’t be that I haven’t also done a good deed and a mitzvah.  A person should know that this good point is very important and precious before God.  When a person contemplates this than the verse “and just a little bit more” (Psalms, Chapter 37) will be fulfilled in him; through seeing his good deeds then the continuation of the verse will be fulfilled, “and there will be no wicked one”.

At the end of the teaching it is written in parenthesis: “And Rabbenu z”l (Rebbe Nachman) warned us very much to walk with this teaching, because it is a great and fundamental teaching for whoever wants to come close to Hashem and to not lose his world completely, God forbid.  Because most people who are far from Hashem the main reason for this is because of depression and sadness, because they fall down in their minds when they see in themselves how much they have messed up… and the majority fall completely into despair… therefore a person needs to strengthen himself very much to walk with this teaching, to search for and request in himself good points, and through this he will merit to strengthen himself and truly return to God.”

These words are incredible, but they cause wonderment- what gives me so much strength that I have some good points, I am still filled with a lot of bad?  However, the depth of Rebbe Nachman’s words is that the good is me; that is my soul.  The bad is external and not connected to me.  When a person identifies himself with the good he does not want to be connected to the evil, and that is what it means “and just a little bit more and there will be no wicked one.”


We’ll finish from where we started.

In reality that is how a man is, a man who rides on the animal and guides it.  Contemplation and inner work give a person control over the animal to teach him to ride the correct way, hold the reins and guide the way.  If we know this then we will be yearning to listen.  Who would not want to ride better and reach the destination faster and safer?

However, there are those who don’t know the fundamental point.  They think like the ignorant- that the horse and its rider are one monster, and when you teach them to rein in the animal, they see it as a personal insult, because in their understanding they and the animal are one, and this causes them to rebel…

[1] Genesis

[2] When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge

[3] Repentance

[4] Deuteronomy

[5] The leading Torah scholars in Germany and France in the Medieval Era.

[6] Rebbe Nachman’s main student

[7] The main collection of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings

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