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In Likutey Moharan 1: 74, Rebbe Nachman gives a whole discourse about Hoshana Rabba and Simchat Torah, most of which is extremely obscure and hard to understand.

But these are the parts I picked out as speaking to me, at least, going into our next few days of chag:

“Hoshana Rabbah corresponds to unintelligent speech, for it corresponds to the willow branch leaf, which resembles the lips…So, Hoshana Rabbah which represents judgment, the aspect of the Fear of Isaac, is drawn from immature consciousness (mochin dekatnut, literally ‘small mindedness’, which is why its speech is still without intelligence (da’at).

“However, Simchat Torah corresponds to intelligent speech, which is the life-force of the soul, as stated in the Zohar, “Fortunate are those who know the paths of the Torah and toil in it in an upright way. They plant Above a tree of life of all healing.

“This corresponds to Jacob, the aspect of wisdom, of mature consciousness, which is the healing of the soul, as in, “A charitable sun with healing in its wings.” For the sun corresponds to Jacob, who corresponds to wisdom, to intelligent speech, which is an aspect of the Torah, of Simchat Torah, which corresponds to the tree of healing.”

Feel free to come up with your own ideas of what Rabbenu is trying to put across here, as Rebbe Nachman himself firmly encouraged his followers to develop novel ideas and interpretations from his teachings, as long as they stayed firmly within the bounds of Torah law.

But here’s what I think Rabbenu is teaching us about this time of Hoshana Rabba / Simchat Torah:

In a nutshell – that we need to work on our communication with the people we love, to ensure that we’re speaking openly and honestly and from a place that will ultimately result in a ‘healing of the soul’.

When the soul is happy, the emotions are balanced, and the body and physical health is also usually the best it can be.

And vice-versa.

So many of us today find it so hard to speak honestly and gently, especially to our spouses and children.

Especially to the people we most love in the world. So many of us are scared to be ‘the real us’, or to feel our real feelings, and certainly to express them in an open way.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons we take the willow branches on Hoshana Rabba and smack them into the floor a few times, because we’re trying to dislodge all the superficial, plastic ‘small minded’ speech that keeps us so far away from really connecting to our loved ones.

Today is the day for breaking down the spiritual and mental barriers that are preventing us from speaking openly about the things that really matter, and from telling out spouses and kids (and others…) how much we really love and care for them.

And then tomorrow, once we’ve freed our soul and our facility of speech from the klipot that are encasing them, we can really celebrate the giving of the Torah with full-on, deeply-felt, sincere joy and simcha.

In this generation of i-Phones and emails, so many of us are hiding behind Facebook posts and Instagram because it’s easier to feel superficially ‘connected’ like that, than to really risk a genuine soul-connection.

But today’s the day that can all change!

So take your willow branches, and smash them into the floor.

And then go tell your significant others how much you really love them, and how much they really mean to you.

The last couple of months, it’s been striking me that more and more of us are being challenged to finally cross that ‘very narrow bridge’ that each of us has in our own lives, which is somehow separating us from God.

For one person, their ‘bridge’ might be the realization that they’ve been an absolutely awful, deranged, abusive spouse. For another person, the ‘bridge’ might be the sudden understanding that they’ve been wasting years – decades! – running after their business, or their job, or their big house in the pursuit of the chimera called ‘financial security’ which was meant to take away all their anxiety and finally make them feel good.

Yet another person has to cross the bridge that shows them that they’ve effectively turned into the parent they despised as a child, while someone else will have to cross a ‘bridge’ of extreme loneliness, or extreme despair, or extreme anger to find God and emuna and true solace on the other side.

But here’s one thing I’ve learned about crossing the very narrow bridge: no-one else can do it for you.

A spouse, a parent, a friend, even a rabbi or a Rebbe, they can stand on the side and shout encouragement, they can even tie ropes to you and try to drag you over, but when it all comes down to it, there is only one person who can actually cross that bridge: you.

This has a lot of profound implications, at least for me, when it comes to trying to figure out how to help people cross their narrow bridges. As time goes on, I’m seeing more and more that really the only help I can give them is encouragement to turn to Hashem with all of their problems.

Sure, I can spend hours having lengthy conversations about how cruel and unfair and mad the world is, or how ‘horrible’ everyone else is, or how ‘x’ is really the solution to the problem (‘x’ being anything other than complete emuna in Hashem) – but ultimately, I’ve discovered that all those words don’t actually help so much.

The same goes for trying to throw money or tangible help at someone else’s ‘big issue’. Anything I can do easily, that’s not going to drag me into madness and upset in my own life, I’m willing to do 100%. But in the past I used to think that I could somehow ‘fix’ other people’s issues, if I only threw enough understanding, cash or effort at the problem.

Now I know better.

Now, I know that each of us is being challenged to the cracking point by Hashem, and that no-one else can take our problems away until and unless we make teshuva and wholeheartedly return to God.

That’s the whole point of why all the craziness is going on, and having other people step in to try to soften the blow or deflect the difficulty is actually not helping the suffering person very much at all, at this stage of the game, external appearances notwithstanding.

Tachlis, each of us has a very narrow, scary bridge to cross, to get to Hashem and Moshiach and the geula.

On one side, is all our arrogance, belief in our own abilities, ‘security blankets’ and imaginary ideas about how the world really works, and how much we’re in control.

On the other, is Hashem and emuna and the geula.

And no-one else can cross that bridge for us.

When the Prophet Ezekiel was shown all the dry, dead bones in the valley, and God asks him:

‘Son of man, can these dried out, completely lifeless bits of dead people come back to life again?’

Ezekiel tells God –

‘You’re the only One Who can decide that stuff, Hashem!’

So, I’ve been pondering techiyat hameitim, or the revival of the dead, and I’ve come to realize – it’s us.

You and me. And all the other people walking around technically alive, on the outside, but dried out and dead on the inside.

People are so stuck in their phones, and their emails, and their internet because they’re looking for a connection. But the connection we all really need that’s going to revive us, and bring our souls and hearts back to life, can’t be found online.

That vision that Ezekiel had, it happened in Silicon Valley.

The Prophet was shown a picture of all these soul-dead, despairing people wasting their lives commenting on Facebook posts and obsessively checking Arutz 7 every two minutes for the ‘latest’ updates about stuff that mostly is completely irrelevant, and then God asked him:

‘Ezekiel, can all of these people step out of their technological prisons, and re-connect to themselves, and their souls, and other people again? Can they have real conversations about real stuff with real people, without having a panic attack and running away? Can they invite guests for Shabbat again? Can they tell their mum, their wife, their kid that they really love them? Can they stop hiding behind email and text and develop bona fide relationships with real flesh-and-blood people again?”

And Ezekiel took a long, hard look at all those internally dead people in Silicon Valley, and he shrugged his shoulders and said:

‘I have no idea if that’s possible, at this stage, Hashem! Everyone is so used to hiding behind their gadgets these days, reconnecting to themselves, and You, and other people would require an open miracle.’

What does God say after that?

He tells Ezekiel to speak to the ‘bones’, and they start to come together – but they’re still internally dead and all dried out. So then God Himself tells the ‘ruach’ to come from all four directions of the world, and to revive these people.

Do you know what ‘ruach’ is, really?

It’s the second soul level that’s directly connected to our emotions. And that’s the bit that’s completely dessicated, dead and AWOL in 2017. People are scared to feel what they really feel. To say what they really think. To try to connect to the people they really want to connect to. To love the people they really care for.

To be themselves.

And that’s the bit that the rabbis and the prophets can’t do for us, even though they can weld us back together as a people, as a nation, as Jews. The ruach, the emotion, that bit’s going to come directly from Hashem.

And straight after these ‘dead bones’ get their emotions back, we get achdut, unity and connection, and then Ezekiel’s stunning vision of peace:

“I will make them into ONE nation in the land…and ONE king will be a king for them…there will be ONE shepherd for all of them…I will be a God to them and they will be a people to Me. Then the nations will know that I am Hashem, Who sanctifies Israel.”

Ah, connection.

That’s what we’re all really yearning for, isn’t it? And not just the wi-fi version.