Parashat Shemini

A Little Bit More

I’m not telling you to deny all the bad that you did, I’m only asking you to search, inside all of the bad, maybe within that there is some good point?  Take a magnifying glass and scan all of your failures today, search well, dig to the depths, maybe amongst all the bad there is a very small good point?


Rav Yisrael Asulin

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Monday, 17th of Adar II, 5776


Rosh Chodesh Nisan.[1]  One of the most exciting moments during the Jewish people’s incredible forty years in the desert, and maybe the most exciting of all.  The Tabernacle has been established and Aharon the Kohen is invited to dedicate the altar and to bring the first sacrifice, a calf, which was the symbol of complete forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf: “He said to Aaron: Take yourself a young bull for a sin-offering… and offer… Moshe said to Aaron: Come near to the Altar… and provide atonement for yourself and for the people… Aaron came near to the Altar, and slaughtered the sin-offering calf… Moshe and Aaron came to the Tent of Meeting, and they went out and they blessed the people- and the glory of Hashem appeared to the entire people!  A fire went forth from before Hashem and consumed upon the Altar… the people saw and sang glad song and fell upon their faces.” (Leviticus, 9:2-24)  Everyone felt such excitement!  Hashem is with us, shining his countenance, forgiving, he wants us and our teshuva[2] and our sacrifices.  This Tabernacle, which we invested so much in, is finally standing, shining with light and bringing us closer and connecting us to the knowledge and the truth…

And today, in the desert of the 21st century, what about us?

Where are the Tabernacle and the sacrifices and appeasement?

What do we need to do in order to build something like the aspect of the Tabernacle?  In order to feel ‘that’s it, I’ve arrived, and now I’m in the Tabernacle and I can bring a sacrifice’?

When Rebbe Natan speaks about the building of the Tabernacle in our days, he speaks about Azamra[3]: “Because the main ability to pray only comes when a person finds in himself good points, which is the aspect of ‘I will make music to my God while I exist’… and this is the aspect of the prayer service where at the beginning we read passages about the sacrifices and incense offering, which are the aspect of clarifications, that means that we find and clarify the good points… and therefore before the prayer we say the passages of the sacrifices and songs of praise, that is to say that we clarify the good points and from this songs and music are made, and afterwards we build from this the Tabernacle, and that is where the main rectification of the prayer is.” (Likutei Halachot, laws of arising in the morning, first teaching)

‘Azamra’, one of the main identification tags of Breslov teachings.

Like a type of code word, like personal prayer (hitbodedut), like happiness (simcha) and clapping hands.

Azamra is one of the main lessons in all of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings:  “Because it is brought in the teachings of the Rebbe of blessed memory (Likutei Moharan, teaching 282, first part), that when a person brings to search for himself and sees that he’s very far from Hashem, and he’s full of many sins and blemishes and it seems to him that he’s far from good, then he needs to search and request and find in himself some good… and even though he sees that also the little bit of good that he did is full of blemishes, because it’s mixed with impurities, nevertheless it’s impossible that there cannot be found there a good point.  A person should continue searching and find in himself some more good.  And even if this good is also mixed with a lot of impurities, nevertheless there is in it a good point.  And he should continue to search and find in himself some more good points.” (ibid)

I look at myself and reveal, to my shame, that I don’t have anything good inside me.  I had a terrible day.  I woke up late.  I prayed without heart.  I ate meals without boundaries and order.  I lied.  I got angry.

In short, I was bad.

Now I sit for a moment of contemplation and I’m simply disgusted by myself.  I’m so far and I don’t have any good inside me.  What a shame!  It’s simply a shame that I don’t really exist here in this world.  People invest in me, help me, bring me closer, believe in me, and want me to be good.  I’m so small and messed up and unsuccessful.  Something small doesn’t go my way or according to my plans, and I already forget everything and turn from a believer to a non-believer, to someone who is taking from the person who so much wants to give, lacking boundaries and lacking knowledge, unlike the person who had wondrous knowledge yesterday.

Phew, I’m really repulsive.

Rebbe Nachman teaches us- you feel terrible, and I understand you, however, what do you think about searching inside yourself for something good?

I’m not telling you to deny all the bad that you did, I’m only asking you to search, inside all of the bad, maybe within that there is some good point?  Take a magnifying glass and scan all of your failures today, search well, dig to the depths, maybe amongst all the bad there is a very small good point?

A point is something small, the smallest.  Without length, without width, without depth.  Nevertheless it exists.  So search my friend.  You woke up late today?  It’s true, it hurts.  God willing that will be the last time that you wake up at such an hour.  However, what about the fact that in the end you did wake up?  What do you say, isn’t that one good point?

Maybe this good point is not exactly complete.  Maybe the fact that in the end you did wake up wasn’t even in order to pray on time, rather in order to answer a phone call.  Nevertheless, search for the microscopic point inside the good point, until you reach the good nucleus.  Here, you know what, if it was only in order to answer the telephone, you could have gone back to sleep in bed, isn’t that true?  You didn’t go back to bed, instead you rushed off to pray!

Here you have a good point!

It’s true that it is small.  Tiny.  Hidden.  It’s true that you want something different, more, bigger, complete, because what is even a point?!

Nevertheless, be courageous and agree to be comforted by this point.  Agree to admit that inside all of the bad there is one good point.  A point of self-sacrifice; you got up from your bed, with all of the great difficulty involved and despite your natural tendency to make up sleep in the morning, and you forgave this pleasure in order to grow and become holier.  Praise to you!

We have a tendency to ignore these small points, because they insult us.  It’s so small, and I wanted something so big, so it’s preferable not to even see it.

However, Rebbe Nachman tells us that if we want to reach greatness, we must value what is small, these tiny good points.  “And by way of this that he judges himself favorably and still finds in himself good points, even though he’s done what he’s done and messed up, by way of this he truly leaves condemnation and enters merit, and through these he can merit to make teshuva.  And this is the aspect of ‘just a little longer and there will be no wicked one; you will contemplate his place and he will not be there’ (Psalms, 37:10) – by way of this little point where he is not wicked ‘you will contemplate his place and he will not be there’.  And through this he can make himself happy, and then he can pray.” (Likutei Halachot, ibid)

Listen well- search for the good point that you have inside of you, find it, contemplate and be happy with it.  Be happy that amongst all of the bad things you find in yourself, there is also a complete point of good!

Value this good point, the little bit of good that you find, and suddenly you won’t find yourself.  That person who was ill tempered, filled with a guilty conscience, backwards, felt like a failure, tired, disappointed in himself, despaired, committed sins, and felt not good and not okay.  That person will disappear.  You’ll search for him, look at the place where he was a moment before, and you won’t find him.  He was there and he’s gone.

How?  Where did he go?

This is the secret.  The secret of ‘just a little longer and there will be no wicked one; you will contemplate his place and he will not be there’, just search for a little bit of good.  One small point of good inside all the bad and automatically you are launched upwards.  You’re already not there.  You are somebody else.  You are in a different place.

You have fulfilled ‘Azamra’.

[1] The first day of the new Jewish month of Nisan

[2] Repentance

[3] From a verse in Psalms which means ‘I will make music’

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