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The ancient Greeks believed that the world was never-beginning, and never-ending.

It just always HAD been, and it always WOULD be. This idea was dubbed ‘stasis’, which can be understood as the notion that nothing will ever change, and everything is fixed, unmoving, in place.

By contrast, we Jews believe that the universe sprang into being from nothing, and that it will exist for a finite period of time – 7,000 years – before this world ends, and the ‘world to come’ begins.

The authentic Jewish view of life is dynamic, always changing, and filled with growth opportunities and new possibilities.

That’s why the concept of ‘renewal’ is such a big deal in Jewish thought. At its root, it’s the idea that things can always change, even dramatically so. It’s linked to the idea of ‘teshuva’, which also teaches us that whatever we broke, it can always be fixed with enough sincere repentance and remorse, prayer, effort and patience.

The Greek view of the world and the Jewish view of the world are diametrically opposed. Even today, ‘Greek thinking’ is trying to con everyone into believing that the world is 4.2 billion years old, and that massive, earth-shaking changes only come along every billion years’, or so, so PLEASE EVERYONE, GO BACK TO SLEEP!

By contrast, we Jews know that the world is 5,777 years old (at the time of this writing in 2017), and that so many enormous things have occurred in that time – like, the whole history of mankind – that every day is pregnant full of potentially enormous events and changes.

You can find Greek thinking – that horrible, despairing belief in ‘stasis’ – pretty much everywhere you go in academia these days.

It’s the fundamental idea underpinning all the ‘broken brain’ pseudo-science of modern psychiatry, and all the ‘terminal illness’ scare tactics of modern medicine, and the idea that people are born ‘permanently gay’ or ‘permanently evil’ or ‘permanently messed up’ and nothing they or anyone can do will ever change or fix this situation.

But that’s not what authentic Judaism teaches, and that’s not what believing Jews believe! We know that when God is in the picture, everything can and does change, often in a completely miraculous way, often in the blink of an eye.

Trouble is, there is SO MUCH Greek thinking going on out there, even in the most apparently orthodox Jewish homes.

A little while ago, I was talking to one of the secular Jewish ‘Greeks’ in my life, who was trying to convince me that people can’t change. 70 year old people can’t change, and 40 year old people can’t change, and presumably you just keep going further back along the timescale until you proudly announce that a pre-embryonic fetus in its mother’s womb also can’t change.

Can’t you just feel the despair etched into these words?

I got off the phone with that person, and I have to say that for a few hours afterwards, I had a real job to do trying to fight off their ‘despair vibes’ and their utter apathy about being alive. After I’d done some hitbodedut to try and work the whole, yukky, conversation through, I realized that when people don’t have God in their life in a tangible way, despair and stasis are really the only options left on their table.

Because the soul contains the force for positive change and the power of positive transformation in the world, and when people choose to deny they have a soul, and to deny God’s existence, they cut themselves off from the spiritual strength and ability to change.

So in that sense, they’re right that they can’t change, because none of us can get a grip on our yetzer hara (evil inclination) without God’s help. Our Sages teach us very clearly that without God’s ongoing help, our yetzer haras would destroy us every single day.

We see that happening to the Greeks in the world every single day, as another person gets pulled under by substance abuse, promiscuity and atheism.

But the yetzer hara doesn’t just destroy people’s bodies, it destroys their souls by pumping them full of stasis and despair.

The Greeks were succeeded by their spiritual heirs the Romans. Our Sages teach us that (Jewish) Jerusalem and (Greek) Caesearea are two ends of a see-saw. When one side is up, the other has to be down, and vice-versa. For centuries, Greek thinking has been ascendant in the world. But as each crack in the Greek world-view appears and starts to widen, the tipping point when Jewish thinking will once again blossom in the world is fast approaching.

There is are so many outright heretical ideas flying around all over the internet about the topic of ‘faith in the Sages’ or emunat Tzaddikim, that I thought it would be useful to share some of what Rebbe Nachman writes about the subject in the Abridged Likutey Moharan (translated as ‘Advice’, in the English.)

As you’ll hopefully see from these sources, emunat Tzaddikim is not an option extra in Judaism, or something that only applies to chassidim.

It’s a fundamental tenet of Yiddishkeit, and has a direct impact on a person’s understanding, or daat, and ability to perfect their bad middot and negative character traits.

NOTE: When it’s referring to ‘Sages’ that’s another word for Tzaddikim.

  • When you have faith in the Sages, your mind will be purified and your intellect clear. You will be able to derive a personal lesson for yourself from everything you learn in the Torah and develop the right habits and practices in serving God. You will know how to act in every situation, and you will be able to guide all who come under your influence.

But those who lack faith in the Sages must suffer the torments of the flesh – the ‘superfluities’. Stinking vapors rise up to their brains and distort and confuse all their thoughts. Far from being able to learn the right way to live, all their Torah studies give them the exact opposite of truth.

They never have a clear idea about anything. They are constantly afflicted with doubts and pulled in all directions at once. When a person has no faith in the Sages, his heart becomes as filthy as a privy, all his thinking is warped, and he never knows how he should act in any situation. (Likutey Moharan 61:1)

  • It is not possible to attain perfect faith (emuna) – which is the basis of everything and the summit of holiness – except through being close to the Tzaddikim. It is the Tzaddikim who foster the authentic faith of Israel among the people of their generation.

But the only way to draw close to them is with boldness and determination. There are certain types of people who put up all kinds of obstacles and barriers so as to prevent others from drawing closer to the point of truth. The source of their power is the arrogant self-assertiveness of the forces of the Other Side. (Likutey Moharan 22:4)

  • Only through the Tzaddik of the generation is it possible to attain true awe and love of God. When a person is unable to experience true awe and love, it is because the light of the Tzaddik is hidden from him…

He could be in the same place as the Tzaddik, and even sitting right next to him and still not taste or understand or see the great light which radiates from the Tzaddik, and that could bring him to attain the true and enduring goal.

This is because of his wrongdoing. As a result, his divine intelligence has become clouded over with foolishness and bankrupt ideas. He looks at himself as a sophisticated person who needs to raise various questions and entertain doubts about the Tzaddik.

All these doubt and questions are completely senseless. His wrongdoing has left his mind clouded and dull and the light of the Tzaddik is hidden from him. This is why he does not have genuine awe and love of God. (Likutey Moharan Part 2, 17:1)

  • There are many different kinds of degenerate speech: talking unfairly and untruthfully about other people; telling people what their friends and acquaintances said about them or did to their disadvantage; telling lies; cynicism and sarcasm; flatters; embarrassing people publicly; obscene talk; unnecessary remarks and so on.

Worst of all is when people cast aspersions on the Tzaddikim, and on those who are honest and God-fearing. Talk like this gives wings to the primordial serpent [i.e. the root of all evil in the world]. It flies through the world wreaking havoc.

This ‘serpent’ is the sophistry of the philosophers and other apostles of atheism. Today this has spread throughout the world and is gaining ever-increasing prestige and power. But words of holiness form wings of the domain of the holy. (Likutey Moharan 63)

 

Dear reader, at the moment there seems to be an explosion in heretical statements and heretical ideas being put across by orthodox rabbis, no less, as well as others.

This is all part of the test of birur, or clarification, before Moshiach comes – and it’s going to be very difficult and confusing to navigate it properly!

BH, I’m working on putting together a cut-out-and-keep HERETIC-O-METER, which will list some of the more common heretical statements I’m running into on a regular basis on the internet and elsewhere, to make it easier for everyone to spot what’s going on.

If you have your own favourite ‘heretical statement’ that you’d like me to include, please leave it in the comments section.

Rebbe Nachman told us more than 200 years’ ago that the tests of faith (emuna) in the time preceding the coming of Moshiach would be so great, that: “…many will fall away and be evil.”

But he continued: “Still, I am revealing this for the sake of the few faithful who will remain strong in their belief (emuna).  They will certainly have great conflicts.  But when they see that this has already been predicted, it will give them additional strength and encouragement.” (Sichot HaRan 35)

On another occasion, Rebbe Nachman commented that at the end of days, the whole world would be flooded by such a huge amount of heretical ideas and theories, even rabbis would have ‘heresy dripping out of their pockets.’

Sadly, there are so many things going on today that prove that Rebbe Nachman was not at all exaggerating, so I thought it would be good to do a quick ‘emuna’ refresher today.

The Rambam’s first principle of faith states:

“I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, He creates and manages all of creation, and that He alone did, does and will do everything that is done.”

So to take just one example, this means that all those supernatural fires that occurred across Israel last week were 100% the work of God. That doesn’t mean He didn’t use the odd Arab terrorist here and there, but even the Israel Home Command Front estimated that 95% of the fires were spontaneous combustion, and not arson.

The Artscroll siddur makes the following comments about the Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith.

First, it tells us very clearly: “There is no partnership in Creation.” It’s complete heresy to suggest that something could occur in the world that God ‘has nothing to do with’, as that suggests there is another force operating in the universe other than Hashem.

(As an aside, this is one of the many big problems with Xtianity, and other religions that like to claim that the forces of evil are somehow outside of God’s control. That’s complete heresy – God is doing EVERYTHING in the world, even the seemingly bad things.)

Secondly, the Artscroll siddur tells us:

“God communicates with man. In order for man to carry out his Divinely-ordained mission, he must know what it is. Prophecy is the means by which God communicates His wishes to man.”

Rebbe Nachman warned us that just before Moshiach showed up, there would be a bunch of heretical pseudo-tzaddiks who would be tripping us up and weakening our faith in God and his true Tzaddikim.

Anytime we believe that anything other than God is causing things to happen, that’s a heretical thought, and here’s why that’s such a problem:

In Tractate Roshana 17a the Gemara tells us that:

“The apikorsim (heretics)…descend to Gehinnom and are punished there for all eternity.”

Heresy is a very serious business, as it can literally cost a person all of their World to Come and consign them to a permanent billet in Hell. Not a fun prospect!

What’s helped me navigate all the confusion and heresy sloshing around is Rav Arush’s three rules of emuna. You can find a more detailed discussion of these three rules in his book, The Garden of Emuna.

RAV ARUSH’S THREE RULES OF EMUNA:

RULE 1: EIN OD MILVADO – God did, does and will do every single thing that’s happening in the world, even the seemingly ‘bad’ stuff, and including even the most smallest details of our lives.

RULE 2: EVERYTHING THAT GOD DOES IS GOOD Even when it’s painful and upsetting. Everything that occurs to us, even the most painful things, are ultimately only for our good, and will help us to achieve our spiritual rectification, or Tikkun.

RULE 3: THERE’S A MESSAGE IN EVERYTHING – Everything that happens to us or that impacts us in some way contains a message from God about what we might need to work on, fix, change, accept or rectify. The easiest way to figure these messages out is to talk to God for an hour every day.

The Rambam wrote his 13 Principles of Faith to help us avoid the sort of heretical people and ideas that could do permanent damage to our souls. In our mixed up world, there really are a bunch of ‘orthodox’ rabbis out there who literally have heresy dripping out of their pockets.

Caveat Emptor.