Parashat Tzav

More Complete with a Broken Heart

People tend to be frightened by tears because they relate the tears only to sadness, but truly tears because of a broken heart go together with happiness.  Pain which we feel without opposing it is life, but sadness is not pain, it is escaping from responsibility to a place of disconnection and separation. 


Rav Yisrael Asulin

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Monday, 11th of Adar II, 5776


When the Torah speaks about the sacrifices, amongst the many technical instructions there is one word which is repeated over and over again, ‘soul’ (nefesh).

“When a person (nefesh) offers…” (Leviticus, 2:1), “A person who eats…” (Leviticus, 7:20), “If a person touches…” (Leviticus, 7:21).  Nefesh…

It is not written ‘when a man offers’, ‘a man who eats’, ‘if a man touches’.  No!  When speaking about the sacrifices the Torah speaks about the soul.


Because truly the whole matter of the sacrifices is not the technical act, it is the soul which is behind the act.  If this was so in the time period of the Temple, all the more so in our time, only our soul remains for us to offer it and with it ourselves.

So how do we offer our souls?  How do we bring them closer to Hashem?

How can we raise up the soul to a holier, loftier and more illuminated place without offering an actual elevation offering[1]?

Rebbe Nachman explains: “’The sacrifices God desires are a broken spirit’ (Psalms, 52:19), it is known that a person needs to bring an elevation offering because of the stirrings of the heart, as it is written ‘As for what enters your minds.’ (Ezekiel, 20:32)  That means that the elevation offering comes from the thoughts of the heart, which is the dwelling place of the spirit.  The aspect of the elevation offering is that a person has a broken spirit inside, and he is embarrassed and thinks to himself ‘how did I fall and I was thrown from the heaven to the earth.’  I was in such a high place, and now, I’ve fallen and turned away from Hashem, and I find myself left behind.  This person needs to have mercy on himself, because there is no mercy which is greater than this.  And this is the aspect of the elevation offering… which is a broken spirit…” (Likutei Moharan I, 108)

So what is the work we need to do in our soul, which takes the place of the elevation offering?

A broken heart.

Seriously?!  Rebbe Nachman encourages people to reach a broken heart?!  Rebbe Nachman, who spoke so much against despair, sadness and depression, he himself encourages people to have a broken heart.  How can this be?!  Is this not a contradiction?

Yes, this is surely two concepts which contradict each other.  We are speaking about two concepts which are completely separate from each other, and the evil inclination, who invests so much to confuse us, joins them together: “A broken heart and sadness are not the same thing whatsoever.  Because a broken heart is found in the heart, but sadness comes from the spleen and it is from the evil inclination and Hashem hates it.  However, a broken heart is beloved before Hashem and very precious in his eyes… therefore a person needs to set aside an hour a day to have a broken heart, that is to say to be alone in personal prayer and break his heart before Hashem, but all the rest of the day he should only be happy.” (Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, 41)

There is something which is called ‘sadness’, and it is negative and comes from the evil inclination and Hashem hates it!  In contrast, there is something which is called a ‘broken heart’ and it is beloved and very precious in Hashem’s eyes.

It’s true, on the outside it might seem to be the same thing.  People see someone crying, what immediately goes through their head?  ‘Why is he sad?’  But who says that he’s even sad, maybe he actually has a broken heart?  It can come with the same tears, the same size, the same color and the same saltiness.  It can sound like the same sighs or with the same variety of screams.  Nevertheless, it is completely different.  Because one Hashem hates, and the other is holy before Hashem.

So, if they are so similar, how can I know if I’m sad or if I have a broken heart?

Rebbe Nachman has a way of identifying: “And this is the sign if he has a broken heart, when he is happy afterwards” (Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, 45), in contrast: “The desire for physical relations and the desire for money come only from sadness and from there all kinds of sorrow come, God forbid.” (Likutei Halachot, the laws of thankfulness, 6th teaching)

A broken heart brings a person to connection, to vitality, and to happiness.  Sadness brings someone to disconnection, to despair and to sin.

If you meet the pain, cry over it, scream because of it, feel it to the deepest depths without fear, and you leave the personal prayer with a feeling of relief and even with a smile, then you are going in the right direction.

However, if you feel despaired and angry, don’t believe in anything, don’t hope for anything, you’re sunken in depression and escape to different types of addictions, then you should know that this is not a broken heart, it is sadness.

When we want to work on ourselves and grow, we must know how to differentiate between the two of them.

People tend to be frightened by tears because they relate the tears only to sadness, but truly tears because of a broken heart go together with happiness.  Pain which we feel without opposing it is life, but sadness is not pain, it is escaping from responsibility to a place of disconnection and separation.  There are those who think that to come to therapy, to engage in personal development work or personal prayer means to sink in sadness in order to awaken mercy and to concentrate on being miserable.

This is not true.

It is permitted to feel pain.  We need to feel pain.  It is even a mitzvah to feel pain.  If you escape from the pain you are not truly living.  However, together with this, we don’t want to be sad.  If you are sad, don’t think that now you are working on personal growth.  Because personal growth work is supposed to come with happiness, with light and with lightning in the eyes.

Nevertheless it is not simple.  How is it possible on the one hand to deal with the pain, to look it in the eyes without escaping, to feel the pain and be broken, and on the other hand not fall into sadness?  They are so close, a broken heart and sadness!  Where is the boundary?  Where is the dividing line between them?  How do we walk in this path?

The answer is faith.  Faith is our signpost.

If you feel pain with faith, faith that everything comes from Divine providence, also the pain that you’ve gone through and also the pain of people close to you.  Also the pain which others caused you to feel and also the pain that you cause others to feel.  Faith that Hashem is here, in the past, present and future.  Faith that everything has meaning.  Faith that everything is good; even if things seem bad, everything is actually good.  Faith that you are good, even if you feel like a villain, you are good!

If you feel pain with faith, you have a broken heart.

In contrast, if you feel pain without faith and you’re sure that you are guilty and bad and not okay, that you have no chance, that the world is collapsing and that everything is chaos, my precious friend, pay attention, if you reached this place, you made a mistake.  Stop.  You are falling into sadness.  Go in reverse.  Put the lights on and return to the boundaries of faith.

In faith.

[1] A type of offering which was completely burned on the altar

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