The Inner Child

Once there was a child.  A child who was happy, innocent, spontaneous and full of life.  A child for whom the long arm of ‘physical appearances’ had not yet reached him, and his soul was still clean and free from all of thinner childe social norms.

HaRav Israel Asulin

 

Once there was a child.  A child who was happy, innocent, spontaneous and full of life.  A child for whom the long arm of ‘physical appearances’ had not yet reached him, and his soul was still clean and free from all of the social norms and external requirements which program the individual how to live.

He was a special creation with no masks.

He was free from the human demand to show at any given moment a different face, to don a smile when requested or a mature and understanding expression or a serious and important face or a listening and attentive face or a cute face or a learned expression…

He was free from all of these things.  Free from all obligations or dictations to smile or be serious, to spread a smile across his face or to just smile with his eyes, to speak quickly or to leave the words inside…

Once there was a child and he was real, this child.  It’s not a song or a story, this is me and you; this child who walked with spontaneity and satisfaction under the stars above, and he was the same as the way he felt in his heart.  He smiled and laughed when he was happy.  He cried when he wanted to cry, and shed tears when they came to him.  He wanted everything that he felt a desire for, and he was not influenced by all of the demands which stop a person so much from being.

However here, as we all know, a sad change happened in the story.

The child grew up and the masks of life changed their form and color.  Blue masks, clean and pure which only contain a young child and his pure desires, were exchanged for multi-color masks, loud and bold, which flicker upon them many different large and demanding personalities; parents, friends, relatives and teachers.  All types of giant figures pinching your cheek, sometimes with angry expressions, and always expressing different types of “hey” while waving a raised, firm finger; a discouraging and reprimanding “Hey, hey, hey”, or a demanding and lacking patience “Hey!”, or a piercing “Hey!!”, or a “Hey” which is diminishing.

There, like a dwarf at the feet all those giants and their demands, something changes in our child.  New rules take control of his life, pulling him out of the Garden of Eden of innocence.  Rules which say ‘give and take’ or ‘don’t be different or just be like this’… ‘God help you if you’ll escape or forget!!’

The child stares at the changing screens, and slowly internalizes that the game of life is changing and he goes from a life of true fun to a state of emergency of survival in a monstrous situation.

Suddenly they don’t just love him because that is him and he is so sweet; suddenly in order to merit some love he needs to stand up to a heavy list of tasks.  Suddenly they are not amazed at him the way he is, because he’s so special… in contrast, they reprimand him for who he is and require him to change to fit into the molds and he has no clarity if he wants to keep living…

So what if the molds are greater than his strength and abilities? – He should stretch himself and fit into their measurements!  What if the mold is constricting to his spirit and will?  He should constrict himself and choke himself into it…

There’s nothing that can be done, that’s life.  The exterior reality demands of a person to put on a show non-stop.  Somebody needs to always set up a display window which is fitting and proper, even if the ‘inside’ is completely different.

***

Thus each and every one of us became two, the ‘true self’ and the ‘external self’.

The external self took the place of the child, took control of him, distanced him from existing, blocked him from expressing himself, guarding all of his strengths and talents that God forbid he should not be revealed and cause embarrassment…

With every additional harnessing of the external self for the social dictates, the true self was pushed more inside, to more hidden and secretive depths.  In the end he was buried in hidden depths, like a bottle of pure oil which accumulates its light and hides it in the darkness.

The years passed by, we grew up and became teenagers and afterwards adults and then elderly.  However inside, below all of the layers, the child remained.

The child is a child.  Thus, as he is, pure, full of innocence and vitality and desires.  He is sobbing in a small and cruel dungeon, there they pushed him with no mercy.  He is restricted in the darkness.  Dried out, hungry and thirsty.  Crying with no words about the long years of ‘being what I am not’.  Living according to what is considered ‘yes’ in the eyes of others.  Yearning for the moment when he will return to shine his light.  Desiring to return and to be himself.

***

Has it ever happened to you that you melted in front of a pure and charming child who set his eyes upon you?  Immediately you wondered about yourself- what just happened to me?!  You are used to being stiff and distant.  This is not fitting for you, to sigh with warmth at the cheek of some child, and gently caress in wonderment…

What’s happening to you?  Why is your soul coming out all of a sudden?

You soul is revealed from within.

Suddenly, for a moment, the reflection of your inner child is revealed and your spine tingles, burning inside of you the same pure truth of truths.

Like a Jew in captivity who suddenly sees Jewish faces peeking in from the other side of the bars, the will is awakened inside of him to be free.  Just the same way the child inside of you shakes in his dungeon, when suddenly the face of a gentle and pure child appears in front of his small window, reflecting himself like a clear reflection.

Because the child who causes you to melt so much, only comes to awaken inside of you your small child.  Your reality.  The purity of your true good point.  It’s not the child that you see on the outside, the son or the grandson or the nephew or the neighbor; it’s the inner child knocking on the walls of your heart, pleading for life.

And you, the grown up- who serves everyone except for yourself- lift your eyes onwards, to the child outside.  You smile to him and enjoy his sweetness.  You don’t know that inside you have a soft and delicate child, waiting to cry from within you his cry.  To smile from within you his smile.  To pour out from your eyes his tears.  To be silent through you his silence.  To say from your mouth his words.  To do his actions with your hands…

He is good, the true you, and he is a Jew, and clean and pure and sweet and fitting and beautiful and noble and beloved.

Just return to him already.

***

“Seventy names God called the Jewish people… he is called a youth as it says ‘Israel is a youth and His love’.  He is called gentle as it is written ‘I was a son to my father, gentle and singular before my mother.’  He is called a child as it is written ‘a child of delights’.  They are called straight because they walk with a straight heart in the ways of God.  They are called innocent as it says ‘and the wholehearted will remain in it.’” (Midrash Shir Hashirim)

There is no need to look outside, to yearn for what does not exist or what cannot be obtained; everything is inside of you!

All that you need is to understand that you have inside a child and he is the true part of you.  He is actually the most ‘you’.  Even though you tried to deny his existence and to silence his voice, he was always there, screaming in anger about his stolen freedom.  Waiting for you to return to him and redeem him from being ignored and trampled for so many years.  Waiting for you to remove the handcuffs which restrain him and to bring him to freedom.

Just as in the Holy of Holies[1], above the Ark of the Covenant, there were the two faces of the Cherub, faces of children.  So to in the Temple inside of every Jew, in the holiness of every soul and every home, there are the faces of pure cherubs, the faces of children!

When you’ll understand that you have a child like this inside, you will then want to reveal him anew.

The essence of a child is the foundation of hope and renewal.  “Child” means constant rebirth.  Invigorated renewal moment after moment.  Every single moment is new, natural and fresh.  “I will be born” is referring to the future.  “Child” means giving birth in the present.  Always new.  A reality that does not get old, rather it is renewed constantly.

“The child is poor and wise, this alludes to the Tsaddik- who sustains himself with a little bit.  A child, he is in his own eyes as if he is still a child.” (Avodat Yisrael, Pirkei Avot Chapter 4)  “Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Psischa would say, according to the verse ‘Better is a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king’ (Ecclesiates 4:13) – that the main thing is for a person to be new all the time.  Because for this reason the evil inclination is called an ‘old king’- because he makes everything old.  The good inclination is called a poor child- because he is a child and renews every day like something new.  The good inclination is also called poor- as a sign of submission, and from this comes the happiness and renewal.” (Siach Sarfei Kodesh[2], first part, paragraph 186)

Once, when you were small and scared, you gave up on the child.  You thought there was no need for him and you put him into the cellar of rejection and denial.  However, today you understand that in those same cellars you also imprisoned yourself- your curiousness and your renewal, the creativity and the vigor, the humility and the simplicity, the innocence, the trust and the vitality itself.

Today you want to return to your child.  To be friends with yourself, with your spirituality.  Today you agree to receive the child the way he is, with the embarrassing things he does and with the desires that he wants; and if you will be wise to return to the child, then you will finally find in your life the pure joy of life, the happiness of a child.

You are an adult, but live your blessed adult life with the child inside of you.  Live your life, child inside, be who you are.  Go already towards your part of the Torah, whatever that may be, however, it should be yours.  Fulfill the commandents of God according to your natural feeling.  Don’t be embarrassed and shut down.  Don’t be afraid, you’re right.  Don’t be suspicious.  Cry when you feel pain.  Laugh when you are happy.  Experience what you are going through, give it words and say them.  Sing the song that your heart is singing.  A simple song, which never ends, which expresses the sound which wants to say: ‘It is never too late, it is never closed.’  Breathe your precious breath- the candle of Hashem, the soul of a man.

Zechariah the prophet already prophesized about the days of the future redemption (Chapter 8): “Thus said Hashem, Master of Legions: Old men and old women will once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with his staff in his hand because of advanced age; and the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.”  It will come a day like this of deep redemption, a day when elderly men and women sitting in the streets of the holy city of Jerusalem, will also be like young boys and girls playing!  The child in them won’t be thrown and chained in dark basements.  They will live their lives with renewal and vitality, with eternal clinging to their true internal roots.  The child in them stands up and lives.

Be ready.  Exact.  Truthful.  Real.  Be open.  Be a child, like this, simply… strive to get there.

 

[1] The internal chamber in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem

[2] A collection of Breslov teachings and stories

Parashat Chayei Sarah

To Grow from Within the Dirt

There is a light of holiness in the world, and this light is with me and I am with it.  There is a gate to the Garden of Eden, a gate to loving God, a gate to an alive and burning connection with the Tsaddik, to the sweetness of the Torah and mitzvahs, and the pleasantness of Shabbat… and this gate is not in Heaven; this is a gate which opens inside my heart.

plant 3

Harav Israel Asulin

Monday, 20th of MarCheshvan, 5776

BS”D

There is a light of holiness in the world, and this light is with me and I am with it.

There is a gate to the Garden of Eden, a gate to loving God, a gate to an alive and burning connection with the Tsaddik, to the sweetness of the Torah and mitzvahs, and the pleasantness of Shabbat… and this gate is not in Heaven; this is a gate which opens inside my heart.

Until now this sounds really great and even convincing.

However, when a person begins to enter the service of Hashem he is hit with great confusion and pain: Why don’t I feel it?  Where is the holiness I was told about?  And what is the Garden of Eden?  And why do I only see darkness??  Why don’t I feel the pleasantness of the Torah?  Why don’t I have sweetness fulfilling the mitzvahs?  Why is my Shabbat so dull?  Why doesn’t my heart open in prayer?  Why don’t I feel anything?

Who said that we feel and connect and ascend and come closer?  Who invented these things?  Look, I tried, I worked hard learning Torah, I was careful fulfilling the mitzvahs, I honored the Shabbat, I dedicated time to praying from the heart, I gave from my wealth and my strength and I travelled to the Tsaddik[1]… and not only do I not feel anything, I feel disconnected, dense, bored, and like I don’t belong.  Maybe it is all for no reason and incorrect?  Maybe this whole matter is not for me?  It’s dark for me!

Rebbe Nachman teaches us (Likutei Moharan I, Torah 17, second paragraph): “And just as we found regarding Efron[2], that although the Cave of the Patriarchs is the gate to the Garden of Eden from where all the souls ascend and its light is very great, nevertheless for him it was a place of darkness, and therefore he sold it with great happiness to Avraham.”

Yes, Rebbe Nachman teaches us that there is such a thing as a great light which is experienced as complete darkness.  However, the light is the reality and the darkness is only an experience, experiencing ‘Efron’.  Inside every one of us there exists a small and evil ‘Efron’ who overtakes us and makes our experiences dark, and he convinces us that that is the truth.

Who is this Efron?

“Efron is the aspect of the evil which is grasping on to the element of the dirt, which is the aspect of sadness and laziness and heaviness which come from the evil in the element of dirt.” (Likutei Halachot[3] , Laws of Tefilin, 5, paragraph 40)

In the element of dirt there is evil, and it is the inclination towards laziness and sadness, sinking into the dulling of the senses.  When the holiness is found in the hands of ‘Efron” it is covered with the dirt and dust of disconnection, dullness and emptiness.  Then I feel the light as a great darkness and the sweet as bitter.

However the reality is completely different.  Just as in the Cave of the Patriarchs, also inside of me there is a great light shining, the gates of the Garden of Eden are open.  In order to merit this reality, I need to redeem the holiness from its terrible imprisonment by the hands of Efron, to remove from it the layers of dirt and mud and to clean it off.

How do we do this?

Rebbe Natan reveals to us: “Its submission is through the element of dirt from the side of holiness, which is the aspect of Emunah[4].  Through emunah, the aspect of holy dirt, we receive and bring upon ourselves all of the vitality and all of the holiness and we merit the aspect of the power of growth and flourishing, and we blossom in His service.  Therefore, Avraham acquired the Cave of the Patriarchs from Efron specifically.” (ibid)

When I awaken the good that is in the dirt- I can subdue the evil which is in the dirt.  Holy dirt is the foundation of emunah and submission- “and my soul will be like dust to all[5].”

Believing means that I don’t battle the feeling of emptiness and I’m not scared by the light being hidden; I simply believe in the Tsaddikim that tell me that that is not the reality, rather only a test.  I believe that it’s not me who is distant from the holiness, rather it’s ‘Efron’ who is blurring the true picture.

Most importantly, I believe that underneath this blurriness I have a great heart that can contain everything- love and awe of God, exaltation and excitement from any aspect of holiness.

If I want to redeem my holiness from Efron, and if I want to strengthen my faith and the aspect of the holy dirt, then I will merit to reveal that also what seems to me dry and meaningless, foreign and distant, is actually alive and refreshing, necessary and close, beloved, known and shining.  Specifically from the dirt I grow and ascend the mountain of Hashem.

[1] Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

[2] The non-Jew from whom Avraham bought the land in Hebron to bury Sarah

[3] Rebbe Natan’s explanation of the Code of Jewish law, based upon the teachings of Rebbe Nachman

[4] Faith

[5] From the daily prayers

Parashat Vayeira

I’m Tired of Waiting

We speak a lot about personal development; about working on boundaries, about building a connection- with Hashem, with the Tsaddik, with myself and with my spouse, and about the journey to the complete and true good.  We want to get there.  That is the goal of each and every one of us from the place he finds himself and which he is dealing with, to go towards the good and the holiness.

waiting

Harav Israel Asulin

Tuesday, 14th of MarCheshvan, 5776

BS”D

We speak a lot about personal development; about working on boundaries, about building a connection- with Hashem, with the Tsaddik, with myself and with my spouse, and about the journey to the complete and true good.  We want to get there.  That is the goal of each and every one of us from the place he finds himself and which he is dealing with, to go towards the good and the holiness.

Then you come, with all of the willpower and faith, and begin working.  You receive upon yourself a set amount of time of personal prayer and make clear boundaries with food and weaning yourself from addictions, and you connect to the Tsaddik and to a friend… and you expect that things will open for you, that you’ll feel something, that you’ll become a tsaddik, that you’ll lose weight, that the gates of the Garden of Eden will open for you…something.  You give so much in order to find Hashem, what, they won’t give you something in return?

Sometimes we do everything and feel they are leaving us behind the door and not allowing us to enter.  As much as we knock and request politely and with tears and with pleas and desire, the feeling is that everything remains locked with a stubborn and clear sign of “no entry”.  This causes despair.

How much can you continue with personal prayer, for example, to dedicate a significant amount of time from your busy schedule to speak with Hashem, and to find yourself, again and again, feeling dry, empty and distant, as if Hashem cannot be found?  How much can you try your hardest to learn the holy Torah and feel that your brain remains dense and blocked?  How much can you dedicate yourself to stay within the boundaries of healthy eating and see the same annoying digital numbers on the scale, as if you didn’t do anything?  Or invest yourself in coming closer to your spouse, just to run into the same walls…?  How much?

It’s difficult, and therefor people give up and retreat.

However, there is a very simple foundational point, that if we would remember it, it would be much easier for us in this battle.  This fundamental point says that that’s the way it is.  It is impossible to enter into holiness in one instant.  It takes time.  “It is necessary for a person to wait until he merits a full rectification.  It is impossible to enter into the holiness in one moment.” (Abridged Likutei Moharan[1], Torah 6, 4th paragraph)

It’s not that you were supposed to reach the goal and you didn’t get there; that is simply how it works, that it takes time to get there.

When you find yourself behind a closed door and it seems to you that you’ll never reach the expected good and that everything you waited for is in vain, God forbid; what is required of you now is simply to wait- don’t give up.  Don’t let go of the will.  Don’t give in to the temptations which overtake you specifically now with more intensity and attack you from all directions: maybe we’ll look for happiness in a different place and not in the world of holiness?  Maybe we’ll make do with an imaginary good?  Maybe we’ll ease ourselves into the warmth of unnecessary materialism?  Maybe we’ll go back to sleeping an eternal sleep of nothingness?

Don’t concede.  Remain in your place and wait until the door opens for you, and it will open.

In this week’s Torah portion we see how much Avraham waited until Hashem revealed himself to him.  Rebbe Natan writes in Likutei Halachot[2] (Laws of Marriage 4, 19th paragraph): “’While he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day’ (Bereshit, Chapter 18, Verse 1) – the word sitting here is the language of being delayed for a long time, that is to say that he merited God’s revelation by sitting many days by the entrance of the tent, which is the entrance to holiness.”

Avraham our forefather did not despair.  He sat at the entrance to the tent, the entrance to the holiness, expecting for such a long time and nothing happened; not only was he not allowed to enter, even more than that, Hashem removed the sun from its covering, “in the heat of the day” is the aspect of the heating up of the evil inclination, which increases mainly when someone is close to the entrance to holiness.

Despite the time which went by and despite the heat, Avraham our forefather did not give up.  He understood that there is no reason to search for happiness in any other place.  Except for what we have done to come closer to Hashem- nothing will remain.

Just as Rebbe Natan says so beautifully in Likutei Halachot (ibid): “Someone who does not want to fool himself and thinks about his ultimate purpose truthfully, he doesn’t retreat in any way in the world however things might be, he just sits and waits and stays by the entrance many days however long it takes; and even though they don’t allow him to enter into the opening and the heat of the day really burns him, nevertheless he doesn’t let go and he sits and remains by the entrance of the tent of the Tsaddikim, until God will have mercy on him from Heaven.”

It’s important that we know that the time of waiting is not a time that goes by for no reason, as it seems to us.  This time is exactly the time needed in order to build the proper vessels to hold the abundance which is waiting for us.  During this time we build submission and faith.  During this time we clarify our will, free ourselves from holding onto control and receive upon ourselves the yoke of Heaven.

The very fact that we agree to wait changes us.  We give over the leadership to the hands of Heaven, and clean ourselves of arrogance and control.

Just like the expectation for a seed to sprout or for a fruit to become ripe, a person needs to change the impatience to contemplation, agreeing to allow the process of growth and formation to take place.

When we contemplate we merit to see how many salvations we have already received, and how many expansions Hashem, who is good, has already expanded for us.  Through this we receive the strength to continue and wait, until Hashem will gaze down and see from Heaven.

Rebbe Natan writes to his son: “You see with your eyes the truth of the words we have spoken a lot in these times how we just need to wait for Hashem’s salvation.  We see God’s salvation every day and all the time.  Also regarding the building of the synagogue (he is referring to when they built the synagogue in Uman) I see Hashem’s salvation every day, however nevertheless we need to always wait with everything in general and in specific matters, and the main thing is to know that the main salvation is to merit to truly come close to the service of Hashem.  I myself in my modesty have waited a great amount, and our eyes are longing all day to His true salvations.  I have already seen Hashem’s salvation many times, however nevertheless in the matters where I still have not been rescued I’m still waiting, until Hashem will gaze down and see from Heaven.” (The letters of Rebbe Natan, letter 23)

Every moment that we sit, like Avraham our forefather, by the entrance, waiting with acceptance, we are changed.

Every moment that we continue to hope, we don’t despair and we don’t concede, we are purified and we make progress.

In the end Hashem always saves us!

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

[2] Rebbe Natan’s explanation of the Code of Jewish law, based upon the teachings of Rebbe Nachman

Parashat Lech Lecha

A World of Tests

The beginning of the great journey of Avraham is leaving the atmosphere familiar to him, leaving his area of activity, from the same place where his name was already known.  Of course Hashem promised him that he would make his name great, increase his possessions, and even merit him with a son, however despite all of this, many times people forego their journey because of considerations of comfort or because of fear of a loss.

lech lecha

Harav Israel Asulin

Wednesday, 8th of MarCheshvan, 5776

BS”D

The book Shevet Yehudah tells about a family who had been expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition.  They lost all of their possessions and sailed into exile so as not to be forced to give up their religion.  The captain let them off on the shores of Morocco, near the dry desert.  They began walking in order to find a town.  The sun was beating down, their mouths were dry with thirst, and the mother of the family fainted and died.  The husband continued with his two sons, carrying them in his two hands until he collapsed while carrying them.  When he woke up he found that his two sons had died.  He was left alone in the world.  He lifted his eyes to heaven and said from within his sorrow: “Master of the world, the Satan tried everything he could to shake my faith, but nothing will help him: against his will, I am a Jew and I will remain a Jew.”

“Our forefather Avraham was tested with ten trials, and he withstood them all” (Ethics of our Fathers, Chapter 5, 4th Mishna)

Our forefather Avraham went through a process of ten trials.

The purpose of the tests, at their root, is to cause us to deal with them.

Facing the challenge causes us, assuming that we succeed in it, to be uplifted (in truth, even when we don’t succeed, and it seems we are far from the goal, Rebbe Nachman explains that even when it seems that we are being shown distance from above, it is in reality bringing us closer, maybe it is a temporary distancing, however the distance challenges us to try to succeed next time).

The ascent comes from the same place where we bring out the strengths inside of us, the same strengths which we don’t use on a daily basis, and maybe we are not even aware of their existence.  Using these strengths obligates us to overcome the same blocks which prevent us from realizing our vision.  We have a tradition that a person is not tested from heaven with a test which he can’t withstand, because that is the purpose of the test, (test is) from the language of נס- a flag- to uplift the person.

The Ramban[1] comments (Genesis, Chapter 22): “God tested Avraham.  The matter of a test is in my opinion, since the actions of a person are completely in his hands, if he wants to do something he does it, and if not he doesn’t do it.  It is called a test for the one being tested, but the one testing him, blessed be he, wants the person to actualize his potential, to receive reward for a good act and not just reward for a good heart.  You should know that ‘Hashem the righteous one He examines’ (Psalms, Chapter 11, Verse 5), when he knows that a tsaddik[2] will do His will and Hashem wants to raise him up, he will bring upon him a test, and he won’t examine the wicked ones who won’t listen to him.  We find that all of the tests in the Torah are for the good of the one who is tested.”

We’ll mention now some of the tests which Avraham our forefather went through and what we can learn from them.

The first test: “Go for yourself from your land” (Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 1)

The beginning of the great journey of Avraham is leaving the atmosphere familiar to him, leaving his area of activity, from the same place where his name was already known.  Of course Hashem promised him that he would make his name great, increase his possessions, and even merit him with a son, however despite all of this, many times people forego their journey because of considerations of comfort or because of fear of a loss.

At this point Avraham is not required to change his essence, rather to begin acting- leaving his place and going to a different one.  Avraham our forefather is revealed as a person who in order to find the truth in the root of his soul, in order to realize his vision, is willing to go out into the unknown (“to the land that I will show you”- He doesn’t tell him which land).  Avraham gave to all of us, his children, this power to go until the end of the world in order to find our internal essence.

The second test: Descending to Egypt because of the famine- “There was famine in the land” (Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 10)

The second test of Avraham expresses itself in stumbling blocks which distance him from his goal.  It is true that there are many good people who don’t even begin the process and remain in their comfort zone.  However, the beginning is not everything- many times people begin to make a change with faith and a lot of energy, but the moment they reach the first stumbling block, they break and become despaired.

This is the meaning of the descent to Egypt- a narrow place.  After the first feeling of euphoria evaporates and a man begins to face the difficulties of the change he wants to make, he is in danger of losing all his strength, and the doubts could eat up all of the energy that he started the journey with.  Avraham doesn’t despair, he descends to Egypt.

In the end he ascends from Egypt with great wealth- not just physical, but also spiritual strength, with the ability to overcome all of the road blocks on his journey.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato[3] writes (The Path of the Just, Chapter 1) that the main reality of a person in this world is to fulfill the commandments and to serve Hashem and to withstand the test, and the holy Baal Shem Tov[4] said “this world is the world of the test”.

May it be His will not to

[1] One of the great Rabbis and Torah commentators, lived between 1194-1270

[2] Righteous person

[3] A great Rabbi and kabbalist who lived in Italy in the 1700s

[4] The founder of the Chassidic movement

Parashat Noach

My Tsaddik[1]

At the time that the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison labored over inventing the electric light bulb, (incandescent lamp) he ran into a difficult problem.  Despite the best of his efforts he had still not been able to reveal the correct material to use for the conducting wire inside of the bulb.  He tried different types of materials with no success.  The light bulb refused to ignite.

light bulb

Harav Israel Asulin

Monday, 29th of Tishrei, 5776

BS”D

At the time that the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison labored over inventing the electric lightbulb, (incandescent lamp) he ran into a difficult problem.  Despite the best of his efforts he had still not been able to reveal the correct material to use for the conducting wire inside of the bulb.  He tried different types of materials with no success.  The lightbulb refused to ignite.

A different person would have thrown his hands in the air and moved on to a different and more promising invention, but Edison refused to give up.  He went back to the work table, installed a new conducting wire, and tried it over and over.  In the end, after 600 failed attempts (!!!), he succeeded in discovering the correct material, and there was light.  The electric lightbulb was revealed.

After some time a young journalist met him and asked him to reveal the secret of his success: “After so many failures how did you not give up?  What gave you the strength to persevere in your efforts after so many disappointments?”  Edison looked him in the eyes and answered: “The answer is very simple.  I never failed.  Every time I learned a new way how not to light an electric light bulb…”

***

“These are the offspring of Noah- Noah was a righteous man…” (Bereshit[2] Chapter 6, Verse 9)

Who is a tsaddik?

In contrast to the accepted viewpoint, a tsaddik is not someone who’s never failed in anything, fulfills all of the 613 mitzvahs with exalted closeness to God, learns every day, engages in acts of kindness etc., in short a Tsaddik!!  That might be called a chasid[3] in the language of the Sages, but not a tsaddik.  So what is a tsaddik?

“The beginning of coming closer is going farther away, as the Sages said- someone who wants to be a tsaddik here below, they bring upon him judgments from above.” (Likutei Moharan, Torah 74, Part 1)

Rebbe Nachman tells us here and in many additional places that the beginning of coming closer is going farther away.  A person who wants to come closer to Hashem, in the beginning he is shown distance, why?  What is the logic in this intentional distancing?  Seemingly the approach should be the opposite, he is invited to come closer?!

Any person who engages in the work of healing his soul must know that part of internal work is to go through those difficult places, where he doesn’t understand anything and there is difficulty and pain in the soul, what is called “narrow understanding” in Rebbe Nachman’s language.  Without this it is impossible to heal the soul; without going through these places you cannot reveal from within yourself the internal strengths which were hidden inside.  This is the process which allows you to let go of being stuck where you are, and open up to the new internal inspiration which is hidden inside of you.

The failure is unavoidable.  It’s not pleasant to hear, but that is the reality.  Sooner or later we will all fail.  Therefore the question is not if we will fail, rather how we will fail.  One of the most important gifts that a person can give to himself or to his children is to acquire the art of failure, or in other words, learning how to fail in a smart way.  It should be known- sometimes a successful failure is worth more than a success, and the true ‘loser’ is the one who doesn’t know how to fail correctly.

It turns out that the fear of failure is not a new phenomenon.  Its days are like the days of the world.  Already thousands of years ago King Solomon realized that this is one of the main stumbling blocks in the path of someone who strives to have excellent values and spiritual growth.  Let’s see the words that the wisest of all men wrote in the book of Proverbs (Chapter 24, Verse 16):  “For though the righteous one may fall seven times, he will arise, but the wicked ones will stumble through evil.”

Three revolutionary understandings can be found in this short verse.

  1. Firstly, King Solomon enlightens us, also a tsaddik is made to fall. There are those who reason that a tsaddik is a person who comes to the world already perfect and complete, like someone who is born with a silver spoon of continuous spiritual success, and since then the only thing in his world is conquering new spiritual heights one after the other.  It’s enough to look briefly in the mirror to know that we are not like the tsaddik.  We know well declines and falling, disappointments and frustration.  Does this mean that we don’t have any chance to join the club of the tsaddikim?  The answer, says King Solomon, is that also the tsaddik went on the same path.  He was also tried in the same way.  There is still hope, we are in good company.
  1. If the tsaddik also experiences downfalls, what is the key to his special greatness? The answer to this can be found in the difference between the reaction of a wicked person and a righteous person.  The tsaddik falls down and get backs up, the wicked one ‘stumbles in evil’.  The true failure is not in the decline itself, rather in what happens afterwards.  In contrast to many others, when the tsaddik falls down he doesn’t despair, he doesn’t raise up his hands, and he doesn’t wave a white flag.  He arises, shakes off the dust which is stuck to his clothes and continues onward with more strength and determination.  The tsaddik is not afraid to be tested by another failure.  He clings to his goal.  He knows that success is not certain, but he must make the effort.  In his heart he has humility, and he understands that ‘a person will not fulfill the words of the Torah unless he fails in them.’ (Talmud, Gittin, Page 43)
  1. There is also an additional insight, amazing and revolutionary, which is also hidden in this verse. King Solomon reveals to us a little bit of what happens ‘behind the curtains’ in the soul of the tsaddik.  He reveals to us that getting up from the falls is what built the personality of the tsaddik.  If he had not fallen and gotten up- he would not have become a tsaddik.  The essence of his getting up is in the seven times of falling that he went through.  From every stumble he learned lessons.  Every decline taught him which approach is not correct and from what does he need to be wary of in the future.  Every time he started over made him stronger.  Every time he overcame it added a new level to his spiritual standing.  From fall to fall and from each arising his strength grew until he became what he is today.

In closing, it is worthwhile to bring the following letter written by Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner[4].

My beloved friend, peace and blessings!

Your letter has reached me, and your words have touched my heart.

You should know beloved friend that the essence of your letter opposes all of the descriptions which are found in it.  Now I will explain to you the content of this sentence.

We have a bad sickness that when we involve ourselves in the aspects of completeness in our great leaders, we are dealing with the final summary of their greatness.  We tell of the ways of their completeness, while at the same time we skip over the internal struggle which took place in their soul.

Your impression of the great Rabbis seems to be that they came out from under the hand of the Creator with their standing and character complete.  Everyone speaks of, is impressed by and thinks that the purity of tongue of the Chafetz Chaim[5] ztz”l is something incredible, but who knows all of the battles, struggles, failures, falls and declines that the Chafetz Chaim encountered on his path with the Evil Inclination- one example out of thousands.  That’s enough for a wise man such as yourself to learn from this one story the general principle.

The result of this outlook is that when a young man with spirituality, aspirations and energy finds in his life stumbling blocks, downfalls and difficulties, he seems in his own eyes to not be “planted in the house of Hashem.” (Psalms, Chapter 92)  According to the imagination of this youth, to be ‘planted in the house of Hashem’ means to sit peacefully in lush meadows with peaceful waters and enjoy his Good Inclination, just as the tsaddikim enjoy the light of God’s presence while sitting with crowns on their heads in the Garden of Eden.  However, you should know dear friend that the source of your soul is not the tranquility of your Good Inclination, rather specifically the war that the Good Inclination fights.  Your precious and warm letter testifies like a hundred witnesses that surely you are a true warrior in the army of the Good Inclination.

There is an expression- lose a battle, but win the war.  Of course you fail and stand to fail again (you don’t have to worry that this will give an opening to the evil forces), and in several battles you will be robbed.  I promise you, however, that after every lost battle you will come out of the war with a flower bouquet on your head with the fresh kill struggling in between your teeth.

The wisest of all men said “for though the righteous one may fall seven times, he will arise”, and the ignorant ones think that his intention is to say: even though the tsaddik will fall seven times, nevertheless he will get up.  However the wise ones know well that his intention is that the essence of the rise of the tsaddik is the seven times he falls.  “And God saw all that he had made, and behold it was very good.” (Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 31).  ‘Good’ is the good inclination, and ‘very’ is the evil inclination.

My dear friend, I press you to my heart and whisper in your ear, that if your letter told me about the mitzvot and good deeds you have done, I would say that I received from you a good letter.  Now that your letter tells of declines and downfalls and stumbles, I say to you that I’ve received from you a very good letter.  Your spirit is raging towards the aspiration to be great.  Please, don’t paint for yourself a picture in your soul that the greatness of the great Sages is that they and their good inclinations are one and the same.  In contrast, paint for yourself a picture that the greatness of the great Sages is the terrible war they wage with all of the lowliest inclinations.  At the time that you feel inside of you that the evil inclination is raging, you should know that in this you are like the great ones, much more so than when you are in the complete rest that you want for yourself.  Specifically in those places where you find yourself in the greatest falls, there you stand to be a vessel for the glory of Heaven.

I join in your suffering, I’m confident in your victory, and pray for your success.

Yitzchak Hutner

In other words, the failures are not just something bothersome that we need to overcome.  They are the stages which create the ladder of success of the tsaddik.  The failure itself includes in it the seeds of success.

[1] A righteous person

[2] Genesis

[3] A pious person

[4] Former head of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, NY. 1906-1980

[5] A renowned Rabbi and righteous man who lived about 100 years ago in Poland

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

BS”D

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

Parshat Nitzavim

With the Shepherd

Have you heard that the most real thing in the world is that in whatever place you find yourself, in whatever you go through, Hashem is with you.  Close.  Connected.  Loving.  It doesn’t matter how much you are crooked and confused, Hashem is still with you?!

uman rh

Harav Israel Asulin

Wednesday, 25th of Elul, 5775

BS”D

Have you heard that the most real thing in the world is that in whatever place you find yourself, in whatever you go through, Hashem is with you.  Close.  Connected.  Loving.  It doesn’t matter how much you are crooked and confused, Hashem is still with you?!

Do you want this real truth to penetrate inside of you and give you life also in dark times, like the ones where you scratch the darkness with your fingernails, and you feel far and disconnected and guilty and disappointed?

The first verse in this week’s Torah portion says: “You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God…” (Devarim[1], Chapter 29, Verse 9)  “You”, explains Rebbe Natan in Likutei Halachot[2], relates to every Jew, “are standing” this is the aspect of the place where they are standing, and “today” is the aspect of time.  Every Jew, in every place, and in every time is “before Hashem, your God”.  Every Jew, in any place and at any time, can cling to Hashem.

Does this sound unrealistic?  A little bit.

In the synagogue, at the Neilah[3] prayer for example, or when the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah, it is possible to try to cling to Hashem.  There are special people who went through terror attacks or some type of difficult incident, and succeeded in reaching a heavenly illumination and tremendous attachment to the Creator.

However, every Jew, in any place, at any time can reach true attachment, how?

Rebbe Natan says in Likutei Halachot, “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[4], the universal knowledge, who is the aspect of Moses, 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)

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.

The holy of holies.

Thousands of sounds and melodies.

The universal knowledge which includes everything.

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.  Whoever was there understands.

“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.”

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 5775- and the beginning of 5776, 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 also 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] Deuteronomy

[2] Rebbe Natan’s explanation of the Code of Jewish law, based upon the teachings of Rebbe Nachman

[3] The final prayer of Yom Kippur

[4] 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.

Parshat Ki Tavo

Abba, Renew Me

Our most difficult problem in all areas of life; between ourselves, between us and Hashem and between us and our surroundings is feeling old.

Do you recognize this feeling?

fruit basket 1

Harav Israel Asulin

Sunday, 15th of Elul, 5775

BS”D

Our most difficult problem in all areas of life; between ourselves, between us and Hashem and between us and our surroundings is feeling old.

Do you recognize this feeling?

It is like a wrinkled elderly woman in a wheel chair; a tired old lady with a hunchback; a woman with a husky voice from age, like she’s finished.

Every place we go she comes with us.  She forces us to limp according to her pace.  She already knows everything.

‘You want to work on your desire to overeat?  You make me laugh.  Listen to someone who has experience!  I already know you from when you were in the crib.  You know how you would gluttonously eat 180 grams each hour?!  Do you remember yesterday?  You promised that you would stop eating chocolate, and after 20 minutes you broke down and finished a whole bar… and this morning… should I remind you what happened with the quiche?  No, really, you want to work on overeating?  Forget about it, there’s nothing to talk about!  I know what I’m saying to you, I have documentation and a certificate…’

What do we do with this sorceress?  How do we manage against her?

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, opens with the mitzvah of the first fruits:  “It will be when you enter the Land… that you shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground… and you shall put it in a basket… You shall come to whoever will be the Kohen… Then you shall call out and say before Hashem, your God, ‘an Aramean tried to destroy my forefather… And now, behold! I have brought the first fruit of the ground that You have given me’…” (Devarim[1], Chapter 26, Verses 1-10)

The mitzvah of bringing the first fruits is a positive commandment that land owners in the Land of Israel are commanded to fulfill.  They need to bring to the Temple the first fruits which grew on their land, and give them to the Kohen.

In Likutei Halachot[2], Rebbe Natan says that the first fruits are the aspect of renewal and new beginnings:  “The first fruits are the aspect of renewal.  Land owners need to bring their new ripened fruits, which grow anew every year, immediately to the house of God… The main obligation of bringing the first fruits alludes to renewal, that a person needs to renew himself each time and to begin again every time… and this is what is written ‘In the beginning’[3] etc., and the Sages explained that because of the first fruits which are called ‘the first’ the world was created… that the main reason for creating the heavens and the earth was for the beginning, that is to say that a person should start anew every time, as if today is his beginning, because that is the main rectification of the worlds…” (Likutei Halachot Yoreh Deah, Laws of Meat and Milk, 4th law)

This subject of renewal and beginnings is a subject which appears a lot in Breslov teachings.  Rebbe Nachman speaks endlessly about starting from the beginning and that everything comes from how something is begun.  Here Rebbe Natan emphasizes that renewal is not just a recommendation or a psychological tactic to trick the evil inclination; renewal is the purpose of the world.  For the ‘beginning’ the world was created!

Let’s try to understand, what does it mean to renew yourself?

To be renewed is like being born again.  From the moment that I have made teshuva[4], from the moment that I asked forgiveness for the past, and if I sinned against another person- then I appeased the other person; from that moment, I become new and I don’t have any more a connection with the person who sinned or made a mistake or wounded or destroyed.  I don’t know who I was yesterday.  I don’t recognize who I was an hour ago.  I am born now.  Hi, everybody, mazal tov, a Jew has come into the world.

At the outset it’s a bit difficult to understand how this works.  It’s not really true that I was born today; I was born a long time ago, maybe a million years ago.  I’ve caused a lot of damage, I see it in front of my eyes.  I ate like an elephant- you can look at my weight.  It’s not connected to the past, it is now.  I caused pain to my children- you can see it now.  They run away from me.  They’re hurt.  They’re brazen.  I’m the one who did this!  I ignored my wife.  I caused her pain.  You can see how she is annoyed and pained.  The results of my actions are in front of me!  How can I feel as if now I am born and everything begins again?

The answer is faith.  Believe in the words of the Tsaddikim who say that this is the real truth.  Hashem renews the creation every day.  There is such a thing which is called ‘teshuvah’ in the world.  From the moment that you make teshuvah, you are completely made into a new person.  It’s not you who destroyed something, it’s somebody else.  You are new here in the world, and all you need to do is to look forward to what is next.

Try to enter this frame of mind.  You will not believe how much good you will reveal, in yourself and in your surroundings and in the whole world.  So much good and so much progress.

When you are over your weight and see again that the hand on the scale is over the limit, and it is you who because of a lack of boundaries brought yourself to these dimensions, what could give you comfort except for a warm pastry straight to the throat, or a killer day and a half diet which ends at the bakery?  When you stand in front of your child who is hurt because of you, how can you deal with the feeling of self-guilt which eats away at you?  Where can you escape to if not to despair or aggressiveness which comes from self-defense and extreme self-denial?  What will you answer to your wife after you disappointed her for the thousandth time?

However, if you are new and fresh, born today, then you are already not in a posture of self-defense and constriction because of guilt or anger about yourself.  You have become so clean that you have eyes which see the reality and not the past, and which can examine a situation in a focused way and see what your next step is.  What do we have here?  A child who is brazen to his parents.  Come child, let’s see you, what’s your name?  Ah, nice to meet you.  I’m your father.  Do you want to tell me what you’re going through?  Ah, your parents are terrible and threatening?  Oy, what did they do to you?  Really?  They have never loved you?  Oy!  That is so painful!!  Why did they do that to you?  You are such a cute kid… you don’t deserve it!

You see a hurt child, but the one who hurt him, is not you.  The one who hurt him died a long time ago.  Today you are new.  Today you are even the psychologist of the child.  Do you know those psychologists?  They blame the parents for everything.  Now you can also throw everything on to the parents.  It’s the ones from a long time ago.  It’s not you.  They are not blaming you!  You can hear everything about him from yesterday who hurt your child, be angry at him together with the child, understand the child and be with him completely.  You won’t feel guilty.  Today you are something different.

This is not just a figure of speech.  This is the most healing truth and the tremendous depth of the redemption; how every day anew, from amongst everything, in every matter, and from every downfall, you can lift up your eyes to the sky and begin again.

[1] Deuteronomy

[2] Rebbe Natan’s explanation of the Code of Jewish law, based upon the teachings of Rebbe Nachman

[3] The first word of the book of Genesis

[4] repentance

Parashat Ki Tetze

To Return Home Wealthy

Tell me, when was the last time you felt that you are a treasure, that you are a precious Jew and beloved and likeable and pleasant?  When was the last time you felt that you are important, that you are like the only son of a loving and great king who looks at you twenty four hours a day with deep wonderment from all of your movements and is just waiting to hear what’s in your mouth?lost anf found

Harav Israel Asulin

Tuesday, 10th of Elul, 5775

BS”D

Shalom beloved Jew, how are you?  Can we have a face to face discussion for a moment?

Tell me, when was the last time you felt that you are a treasure, that you are a precious Jew and beloved and likeable and pleasant?  When was the last time you felt that you are important, that you are like the only son of a loving and great king who looks at you twenty four hours a day with deep wonderment from all of your movements and is just waiting to hear what’s in your mouth?  When did you feel that you are full of strength and desires and hope and trust and growth and renewal, and that you are surrounded with all of the help that you need in order to realize all of your dreams?

Do you even recognize that feeling, that you are meaningful and great, that the whole world was created for you and that every thing that you go through is precious without measure?  Do you long for this love?  Do you long to feel yourself alive, and light up with desire?  Do you want to return to these treasures which have been lost?

This week’s Torah portion speaks about the matter of returning a lost object: “You shall not see the ox of your brother or his sheep or goat cast off, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely return them to your brother.  If your brother is not near you and you do not know him, then gather it inside your house, and it shall remain with you until your brother inquires after it, and you return it to him.” (Devarim[1], Chapter 22, Verses 1-2)

The Torah has a commandment which is called ‘returning a lost object’- a Jew who finds the lost object of another, whether the owner is a relative or not or whether he knows him or not, he is obligated to take care of the lost object and to return it to its owner.

Rebbe Nachman, in Likutei Moharan[2], and Rebbe Natan in Likutei Halachot[3] on the laws of lost and found objects, relate to these verses and speak about lost items which are not an ox or a lamb, rather they speak about the mitzvah of returning something which was lost which is the deepest thing in the world.

Rebbe Nachman says in Likutei Moharan, Torah 188, “Before a person enters this world they teach him and show him everything he needs to do and obtain in this world.  However, when he enters this world immediately it is all forgotten from him… and forgetting is the aspect of losing something, just as the Sages of blessed memory called a person who forgets ‘one who has lost something’… and a person needs to go back and request what he has lost.”

Every Jew is a treasure.  We were born like a walking diamond exchange.  However, very quickly we find ourselves like paupers- in the good case, and like beggars in the worst case.

Where are all the diamonds?  They got lost.

What do we do in this case?  In truth, nothing.

Imagine that you lost a million dollars.  Are you able to imagine something like this?  A brown envelope stuffed with cash which contains all of your wealth in this world.  You still have not managed to use it to realize your dreams and it gets lost.  Maybe it was thrown by mistake into the garbage or maybe it was stolen by some brazen guy with no heart.

Tell me, what would you do?  Or first of all tell me, what would you not do?

You would not go to a new restaurant that opened near your house.  You would not go to sleep or listen to music or see movies or buy two at the price of one… you would call the whole country to your aid, including the minister of transportation and the minister of trade and even the prime minister.  You lost a million dollars!!  It’s not funny!!  It’s a lot of money and it’s all you have!!  You can’t forego this treasure!  Please save me!!!  A million dollars!!!

Look at us, we’ve lost much more than a million dollars, great treasures, diamonds which have no replacement; we have lost ourselves.  We have lost everything we were born to be.  We have lost faith in ourselves and how much we are worth.  We have lost our will to be ourselves and not somebody else.  We have lost love, happiness, courage, hope and our hearts.

We continue to live as if everything is normal.  We go to work, come home from work.  We eat, buy, cook the tastiest food, hear music, and get annoyed with the neighbors or with our spouse or with our children.  We speak on the phone.  Perhaps we learn Torah and fulfill the mitzvahs.  We go to sleep, wake up in the morning, force a smile and drag ourselves out the door.

How do we not stop everything and scream to the whole world to help us in our search?  How are we so indifferent and disconnected?  We lost a million dollars, and another million, and tens of thousands of more millions!!  There is no replacement copy.  We have to find what we lost- or we will perish!

We lost treasures and we don’t even know it.  We are sleeping a deep sleep of concealment inside of concealment, while our treasures are so far away.

However, actually, even if we will wake up to remove the concealment and realize all we have lost, where will we turn to and how do we search for such an abstract treasure?  Who do we call and what do we say?  ‘Hello, is the lost and found department?  I lost my will which is the color blue with blue hoops that are worth gold, maybe by chance you have it?… I lost my joy with a smile which comes from my heart and reaches the eyes of the person who is opposite me… I lost trust, I lost faith, I lost innocence and hope and closeness… do you hear me there?  I lost love, I don’t know how she looks because it’s been a long time, when I was still small, and maybe by chance she has a name tag?’

That’s it.  It is not as complicated as we imagine.  There is a simple and amazing address!

“His lost item is with the Tsaddik, because the Tsaddik searches for his lost object until he finds it, and after he finds it, he searches and seeks for the lost items of others until he finds them, until he finds all of the lost objects of the world.  Therefore, a person needs to go to the Tsaddik and request and recognize his lost item, and to receive it from him…” (Likutei Moharan, Torah 188)

Rebbe Nachman reveals to us that there is such a thing, returning lost spiritual treasures.  There is a department like this.  There is a Tsaddik like this, a Tsaddik who is the foundation of the world whose main activity is bringing the souls of the Jewish people closer to their father in Heaven.  A Tsaddik who finds for us all of the lost treasures and guards them for us.  “He wants to at every moment return all of them to their owners immediately.  However, as long as they are far from him, he is forced to keep them by him…” (Likutei Halachot, Lost and Found items, 3rd halacha)

All you need is to wake up and realize what you have lost, travel to Rebbe Nachman, to the lost and found department, to ask the Tsaddik to give you instructions to find the treasure and to return home wealthy.

There is such a thing.  Ask someone who knows about it.

[1] Deuteronomy

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

[3] Rebbe Natan’s explanations of Jewish law, based upon the teachings of Rebbe Nachman