Parshat Nitzavim

Parashat Nitzavim

In Breslov a Fire Burns

Spiritual feelings, which we despaired of, come to life again… suddenly I exist.  Suddenly I’m wanted.  Suddenly I’m alive.

Harav Israel Asulin

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Monday, 23rd of Elul, 5776


Rosh Hashanah is getting closer.  In kitchens, mothers are working diligently preparing tasty dishes and separating the pomegranate seeds; synagogues are preparing for the holiday prayers and for receiving the many prayer goers; in pre-schools children are singing about the three books which are opened and how everyone is waiting for the Day of Judgment…

In the field, tens of thousands of sheep, of all types of colors, sizes and categories, catch the signal and hear the call of the shepherd of the souls, and pack their suitcases- and take off.

Uman Rosh Hashanah.

Rebbe Natan teaches: “Before Rosh Hashanah we read the Torah portion ‘You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God…’, to let us know that all the souls of the Jewish people, great and small, need to gather together in love in the lofty holiness, in the aspect of the holy of holies, the foundation stone[1], the universal knowledge, who is the aspect of Moshe, the aspect of the True Tsaddik, everyone needs to travel to him for Rosh Hashanah.” (Likutei Halachot, the laws of deposits and the four types of guards, 5th Halacha)

Much has been said about the great gathering which has no rival.  Many pictures, many descriptions, many explanations.  However mainly, there is new life and renewal, which is above and beyond words.

What does Breslov truly offer?  What is this fire which is growing and bursting into flames, being light and passed from person to person in the open and in hiding, crosses lines and sectors of society, definitions and positions, ages and types of dress, (political) parties and communities, and brings a spark to the eyes and a warm feeling of secret belonging in the heart?  What does every person who comes close to Breslov reveal when his heart opens and he sings the well know prayer of Rebbe Natan, “in Breslov a fire burns, please let it burn in my heart?”

Rebbe Nachman, who testified about himself that he is the ‘healer of souls’, received from Hashem this gift, the ability to awaken us from the deep internal sleep which we’ve fallen into.  Everyone who meets his words experiences this in a different way, however deeply, the same thing happens to all of us: suddenly we realized that we exist.  We’re important.  Good and beloved.  Precious and close to Hashem.  And the world, truly and without exaggerating, needs us.  It needs our tallit and tefilin, our faith, our hope, and ‘the words which come from our heart’.

In one of his stories Rebbe Nachman describes a beggar, who knew how to ‘make voice callas’ from a great distance, also through walls and barriers.  That’s exactly what he does at every moment- he brings a heavenly voice to the complicated and sealed place where find ourselves, which comes out from Mount Sinai every day, and awakens us from the terrible spiritual slumber which we have sunken into.

‘Vitality in learning’, ‘praying with intention’, ‘closeness to Hashem’, ‘taking an accounting of your soul’, ‘returning to Hashem’, words which became worn and empty become relevant again.  Spiritual feelings, which we despaired of, come to life again… suddenly I exist.  Suddenly I’m wanted.  Suddenly I live with faith, that something good will come out of this life, and maybe my time in the world is not actually lost, maybe I even have a chance to truly be a virtuous person.  Maybe I’ll leave the world without missing the goal…

It’s told about the Baal Shem Tov[2] that he once saw a Jew standing by the river, with a box of diamonds in his hands, and because he didn’t understand their value he threw them one after the other into the water while enjoying the splash of the waves…

In one leap the Baal Shem Tov reached him, snatching the precious treasure chest from his hands while calling, “Beloved Jew, what are you doing?  You’re throwing your precious stones into the river?!”

The man immediately awakened, understanding what he was doing and he began to cry.

“Give me the chest”, the Baal Shem Tov said to him, “I’ll guard for you your treasures.”

The students of Rebbe Nachman added to this story the following ending: “After not so many years, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov passed by this place, and he too saw a Jew standing on the edge of the river with a chest of diamonds, and he was throwing them into the river one by one.

In one leap he reaches him, grabs from his hand the chest and calls, “Beloved Jew, what are you doing?  You’re throwing your precious stones into the river?”

The Jew wakes up at once, understands what he did and begins to cry over his lost treasures.

“Don’t worry,” Rebbe Nachman tells him, “I will watch over you,” and he takes the Jew and throws him into the river, “now go gather the diamonds that you threw”…

His messages awaken us to recognize who we are and what our treasures are, and the ‘(soul) corrections’ which each person who comes close to him begins to go through, happen exactly because of this reason- he throws us into the depth and we go through what we go through, while we are looking in the depths after the precious stones which we’ve thrown…

“And by gathering together by the foundation stone, the universal knowledge, we merit each and every one of us to renew his intellect, until he can sweeten all kinds of strict judgments and difficult situations.  From there (from the gathering with the Tsaddik) a sweetening is brought to each and every one in his place and in his time, each person should according to his level, in his place and his home, or on the way wherever he is, according to how he is at that moment, he should know very well that at that moment he can attach himself to Hashem from his place.  From all of the blemishes and confusions and crookedness in the heart that he is going through, each person according to his place and time; everything is sweetened and nullified by the lofty universal knowledge mentioned above.” (ibid)

There is a way to be truly alive.  There is a way to sweetened also the darkness.  You can live here in this world at the end of 5776- and the beginning of 5777, and succeed in smiling from amongst the emotional jungle and the technological terror surrounding us.  You can feel that there is a thick rope which is holding us even in the lowest depths.  These are not handcuffs; it is a life rope filled with hugs!

It’s possible.  There is a way.  There is a shepherd.  There is Uman Rosh Hashanah…

By way of including ourselves in the foundation stone, Rebbe Natan says, a tremendous sweetening is brought upon us!  Everyone should know, according to who he is, where he is, at whatever time- that right now, he is wanted and loved and can cling to Hashem with true attachment.


[1] In our tradition, this is the stone that Jacob rested upon when he had a dream on the Temple Mount; in the First Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was placed upon this stone. Here, Rebbe Natan is referring to Rebbe Nachman.

[2] Founder of the Chassidic movement

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