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Rebbe Nachman explains the difference between Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David

Over Shabbat, I was reading one of Rebbe Nachman’s stories, which I realized is describing the difference between Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David. I’m bringing an abridged version of it below, together with the commentary that goes together with it from Rav Natan, and from Likutey Moharan I:20 [in bold, square brackets]. My own comments will be underlined.

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New Stories: #209 in Tzaddik, by the Breslov Research Institute

 

The beginning of the Summer, 5564 (1804). The Rebbe said: I will tell you what I saw. And you tell your children.

There was someone lying on the ground and around him people were sitting in a circle.

This is Moshiach ben Yosef.

Around this circle was another circle. And around that circle was another circle, and so on – many circles. Then around them were sitting more people in no particular order. The circles contain Moshiach ben Yosef’s followers.

The one who was sitting in the middle – he was leaning on his side – was moving his lips and all those around him were moving their lips after him.

[This refers to teaching / learning Torah – this soul is the source of all Torah explanations.]

After this, I looked and he was not sitting there – the one in the middle, that is. And all those sitting around stopping moving their lips. I asked, “What is this?” They answered me that he had become cold and had expired and he had stopped speaking.

After this, they started to run, and I ran after them. I saw two palaces – very fine, beautiful buildings. Sitting there were two commanders. They all ran to these two commanders and started arguing with them.

[This refers to the concept of machloket and controversy – the opposition which is aroused against the Tzaddikim when the power to draw forth Torah explanations is withdrawn.]

“Why did you deceive us?” They wanted to kill them.

The followers of the original Moshiach ben Yosef are very unhappy that they didn’t actually get Moshiach / geula, in the end. Rebbe Nachman now explains the spiritual reasons for this, by way of a parable.

The commanders fled outside. I saw them, and their nature was very good in my eyes. I ran after them and I saw in the distance a beautiful tent. From there they cried out to the commanders: “Turn back and seek out all the merits you have and take them in your hands and go to the light which is hanging there. There you will accomplish everything you want.”

They turned back and took their merits – i.e. all their mitzvahs – there were bundles of merits there – and they ran to the light. I ran after them and saw a gleaming light suspended in the air. The commanders came and threw their merits to the light.

[They mentioned their merits and good deeds, and tried to get the geula that way.]

From the light, sparks fell into their mouths. Then the NoR, lamp, turned into a NahaR, river, and everybody drank from the river, and creatures were formed inside them. When they started to speak the creatures came out of them and I saw them running and returning. They were neighed men nor any kind of animal – just creatures.

[These creatures are angels, who get their strength from Edom, who has been appointed over all the punishments of the wicked.]

After this they decided to back to their place.

This is referring to Eretz Yisrael / Beit HaMikdash / the state of spiritual purity that existed at the time of the Garden of Eden, and which will exist again in the world-to-come.

But they said: “How can we go back to our place?” Somebody said: “We should sent to the one who stands there holding a sword which reaches from heaven to earth.”

[This is a reference to the angel of Edom, Esav’s angel, aka the Samech Mem himself.]

Edom, i.e. the West / Christianity is what’s stopping the Jews from returning to Israel en masse and rebuilding the Bet HaMikdash, and also has the ‘power’ the Jewish people requires to punish and subdue the wicked.

They said: “Who should we send?” They thought they should send for the creatures, and the creatures went there. I ran after them and I saw him. He was terrifying. His stature reached from the heaven to the earth. In his hand was a sword reaching from heaven to earth. It had many blades.

One of them was sharp – this was for killing. One of them was for poverty, one of them for weakness. There were also many other blades for other punishments.

They started pleading: “All this long time we have been suffering at your hands. Now help us and bring us to our place.” He said: “I cannot help you.” They pleaded: “Give us the blade for death and we’ll kill them.” But he didn’t want to. They asked for a different blade, but he did not want to give them a single blade.

[He didn’t want to help them to subdue the wicked people, because of the mistake they made by trying to ‘force’ the geula via good deeds etc, instead of breaking their hearts, begging and entreating Hashem to bring it.]

They went back.

Either back to ‘normal’ life and forgot about Moshiach / geula, or back to their bad habits before they made teshuva as a result of learning the Moshiach ben Yosef’s Torah teachings.

In the meantime, there was an order to kill the commanders, and they cut off their heads.

[The ‘head’ can refer to daat, internalized spiritual knowledge, as well as the more obvious connotation as the ‘head’ of a particular movement or group.]

Meanwhile, the sequence of event returned to what it had been before – namely that someone was lying in the ground surrounded by circles of people, and so on.

This is now referring to Moshiach ben David, and his followers.

They ran to the commanders – everything happened as described before – except that now I saw that the commanders did not throw their merits to the light. They simply took their merits and went to the light and broke their hearts i.e. did some hitbodedut, which Rebbe Nachman frequently characterizes as spending an hour being broken-hearted before Hashem, while you do a cheshbon hanefesh and acknowledge your faults, flaws and errors.

And they began to beg and make entreaties before the light-  another reference to praying – and sparks fell from the light into their mouths. They entreated more and the light turned into a river, and the creatures were formed etc.

They told me, “These ones will live” – i.e. Moshiach ben David and his followers will actually make it through to geula and the world to come – because the first ones deserved to be killed for throwing their merits to the light and not making entreaties like these latter ones. I didn’t know what this meant.

They said to me: “Go into that room and they will tell you the explanation of this.” I went and there sat an old man. I asked him about the matter. He took his beard in his hand and said to me: “My beard is the explanation of what happened.” I still don’t know,” I said. “Go to that room,” he replied, “and there you will find the explanation.”

I went there and saw a room infinitely long and broad, entirely filled with writings. Wherever I opened I saw the explanation of the story.

[This vision is connected to Lesson 20 in Likutey Moharan Part 1.]

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HERE IS SOME OF WHAT REBBE NACHMAN WRITES IN 1:20:

“When one prays before giving over a [Torah] lecture, one must pray with supplication, begging God for gratis instead of asking for one’s due….

“But Moses [i.e. the redeemer / Moshiach ben Yosef] did not do this. He rather cited his own goodness and righteousness…as one who grabs something forcefully and without consent, for he sought in the power of his good deeds….

“…whoever tries to ‘force the moment’ (literally, ‘pressures time’) – the ‘time’ pressures him, causing one to die before one’s time. [This is why Moshiach ben Yosef died ‘prematurely’, before the job of bringing the geula was completed.] For this reason, one should never pressure oneself for anything, but beg with supplication. If God grants it, good, and if not, not.”

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Next, Rabbenu turns to the subject of attaining the Land of Israel.

“[T]he land of Israel is one of the three things that can only be attained through suffering (Brachot 5a) and the main suffering is the obstacles of the wicked, who slander the land. These wicked must first be subdued with a sword and death, and only then can one enter the Land of Israel.

“However, the power to punish the wicked can only be acquired from the power of Edom, for that is his power, as in: “You will live by your sword” (Genesis 27:40), and he draws sustenance from the astrological sign of Mars. [Which is related to bloodshed and war, and the Jewish month of Nisan – the month of redemption.]”

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Rebbe Nachman now explains that the Angels which can defeat and kill the wicked are formed from the original Torah insights of the Tzaddik / Moshiach ben Yosef / Moshiach ben David.

But, when the Tzaddik’s followers don’t put an emphasis on personal holiness – i.e. guarding the brit, guarding the eyes, modest behavior and dress – these Angels then lack the power to actually destroy the wicked people who are slandering the Land of Israel.

Depending on how ‘weak’ these angels become, in descending order:

They can’t kill them; then they can’t punish and intimidate them; then they can’t rouse the nations of the world against them; then they can’t even silence them from speaking evil in our presence “so that their words do not enter the ears of the masses. And sometimes even this power they lack – all according to the degree of holiness that is lacking.”

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Rabbenu then goes on to explain that the lack of personal holiness amongst the Jews is the main thing empowering the wicked people who are slandering the land, and preventing the Jews from returning to the Land of Israel.

Moshiach ben David succeeds where Moshiach ben Yosef failed, because he prays before he gives over his Torah lessons, and he focuses on increasing personal holiness amongst his followers, not just doing more good deeds and mitzvahs.

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Rebbe Nachman then explains the nine rectifications of the beard, and how they lead to the Land of Israel, as follows:

  • Take the staff – this refers to the Tzaddik’s Torah lectures that he gives over to his followers. This Torah has to be drawn with prayer, not with ‘force’, in order for the rest of the process to work.
  • Gather the people together’ – to subdue the evil elements the community contains.
  • Speak to the rock with supplications’ and prayers – this refers to the need to have yirat shemayim, or Fear of Hashem.
  • ‘In their presence’, to bond with them – the Tzaddik’s soul has to become ‘bound up’ with his followers / the Jewish people.
  • To draw fiery words – actually an allusion to drawing down Divine mercy on the Jewish people.
  • To draw Torah – the Tzaddikim are judged to a hairsbreadth, and if they are blemished in some way, they can no longer draw the Torah required to bring geula.
  • To create angels.
  • To receive power from Edom to subdue the enemies / wicked who are slandering the Land of Israel.
  • To enter the Land of Israel.

If any of these steps are missing, we can’t ‘enter the Land of Israel’ / truly get to the geula shleima.

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Ad Kan.

There is so much more to say about all this, and it seems to me that so much of what we’ve been discussing here on the blog is alluded to in this lesson in quite an awesome way.

(If you want more insights into the very deep concepts being brought in this story, take a look at Day 3 of Rebbe Nachman’s tale of the Seven Beggars. The ‘heart of the world’ also refers to Moshiach ben Yosef and his followers.)

Moshiach ben Yosef failed to bring geula, because the emphasis was on stressing how many mitzvoth and good deeds were going on, as opposed to praying heartbroken prayers that God should bring the geula, as a free gift. Trying to force the issue just led to the Moshiach ben Yosef dying prematurely, leaving his movement without a ‘head’, i.e. a real direction, or daat, internalized spiritual knowledge of what to do next.

Hopefully, Moshiach ben David will have more success.

These things are so awesomely deep, there are so many spiritual rectifications going on. It’s totally beyond us to understand what’s really happening by ourselves, and only our true Torah sources and real rabbis can tell guide us in the right direction.

I wrote this post two weeks before the shooting in the Poway shul in San Diego, but didn’t get a chance to put it up.

Violent anti-semitism is shooting through the roof all over the world at the moment, and the question we have to ask is why?

Sure, we can point fingers at radical Islam, and at fanatical right-wingers, and at all the very many other sources of anti-semitism out there, but when all is said and done, God is the one causing the problem.

If we’re looking at this from the place of emuna, we have to ask why?

Why is God making it more and more uncomfortable for Jews to live in chutz l’aretz? Why is He piling the pressure on Jewish communities all over the world, from NYC to London to Paris to San Diego and back again?

Why is God doing that?

Maybe, we can find some answers in Rebbe Nachman’s Torah:

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As you know, I like to quote authentic Torah sources wherever possible, to support any opinions on this blog, to counteract the growing tide of daas me. Personal opinions certainly have their place, but not when we’re discussing something as important as whether living in Israel is a mitzvah for a Jew, or not.

In line with that, I thought I’d take a look at what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov has to say about Eretz Yisrael, and whaddya know, he has a lot to say on the subject. The following is excerpted from Likutey Etzot, that was translated into English as ‘Advice’ by the Breslov Research Institute:

  • With truth emuna (faith), prayer comes into its own. Prayer is bound up with the concept of bringing about miracles. To attain this level of emuna is only possible in the Land of Israel, for it is there that prayer ascends to the worlds above….
  • If we abuse Eretz Yisrael we go down into exile.
  • Every upward movement we have to make towards holiness can only be accomplished through Eretz Yisrael.
  • It is impossible to come to the Land of Israel without difficulties and suffering. The root of all the difficulties and suffering lies in the slanderous image of Israel, which is put about by the wicked.
  • Through the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, the true guide and leader of our age will be revealed.
  • The mitzvah of the succah is a segulah for coming to Eretz Yisrael.
  • The motive for making the journey to Eretz Yisrael should be purely spiritual: to draw closer to God. A person who goes there with this as his aim will certainly benefit….On the other hand, if a person’s motive has nothing to do with devotion to God and cleansing himself of his evil, then what help will Israel be to him? The land will vomit him out…
  • Through the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, one can attain pure faith.
  • Pray to God, to ask Him to give you the desire and yearning for Eretz Yisrael. Then you will succeed in reaching there.
  • God repays man ‘measure for measure’. Nowhere is the repayment more exacting than in Eretz Yisrael.
  • The holiness of Eretz Yisrael is the epitome of holiness, encompassing all other levels of holiness. It is there that we can free ourselves completely of the materialistic viewpoint which claims that events take place naturally. We can come to know and believe that everything comes about only through the hand of God.
  • Genuine enlightenment and wisdom come only in Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbenu says a great deal more, these are only snippets, but I think you get the idea.

On Shabbat, I had one of those dreams that seemed to be way more than a dream.

(I know I’ve been writing a lot about dreams recently, and I’m sorry about that! A few other people have told me they are also having unusually intense dreams at the moment, too. This one also just seemed like an important one to share, so here we go.)

In the dream, I was walking up to Rebbe Nachman’s tomb, and Rebbe Nachman was there. As soon as I got to the threshold, he told me:

“Go and get your husband and kids, and bring them here quickly.”

He seemed very pressured, somehow, which is unheard of for Rebbe Nachman. If you read Rav Natan’s accounts of him, what he went through, how he reacted to his own challenges, then you’d know that Rabbenu always took things extremely calmly and with maximum emuna.

So I was very surprised he seemed to be in such a rush.

I called my husband and kids over, and then he opened some sort of underground passage, and he told me:

“You have to get everyone underground.”

I assumed he just meant me and my family, so we were trying to get down there when he said to me:

“No. All of Am Yisrael has to get underground.”

So then, I got a bit frustrated (yes, even in a dream with Rebbe Nachman the bad temper still flared up, what can I do) and I said to him:

“What does that even mean?! There isn’t room down here for millions of Jews, and even if there was, how do you want me to get them here?! What does that mean, that I have to ‘get everyone underground’?!”

He told me:

“The ground is the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam.”

And with that I woke up.

And then I did some more talking to God about the dream in hitbodedut, and I got some more insights, namely that I have to make maximum effort over the next couple of months to try and write stuff that will hopefully get more people connected to the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam, because that is the only way people will be protected from whatever is going to happen next.

And I don’t know what that’s going to be any more than you do, but it seems that something is in the offing.

Of course, I’m not hugely thrilled about this job, for a few reasons, including if I actually start spelling out who I think the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam actually is in our generation, it will be waving the proverbial red rag to anyone who happens to have a different opinion.

But I also realized that God gave me the blog for a reason, and much better that I use it for a holy purpose, then I just keep posting up long screeds full of daas me.

So, BH, that’s what I’m going to try and do. I’m not sure exactly how, but a storm is brewing in the world, and we need to take shelter by our tzaddikim, and especially, by the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam. And I will hopefully start writing some more about this concept, so more of us can start to form a better opinion of what that actually is, and who he might be, in our generation.

Over shabbat, I went to look up Lesson 44 in Likutey Moharan to see a bit more about what Rebbe Nachman teaches us about what’s really important in life, and particularly, in frum Jewish life.

It was such a great lesson that I’m bringing the whole thing, here:

Emuna is dependent upon a person’s mouth, as in: “I will declare Your emuna with my mouth” (Psalms 89:2), meaning that by expressing emuna with the mouth, this itself is emuna, and it engenders more emuna.

On account of this, one must be extremely cautious to avoid saying even a word or heresy or skepticism, even if one is not saying them from the heart. That is, even if one has emuna and is not a heretic, but is only quoting some skeptical thought that he has heard from others who are skeptics, and is actually mocking them, nevertheless, we must be very cautious to avoid this too.

This is because such heretical speech is very damaging to emuna, and furthermore, it’s absolutely forbidden, for regarding anything relating to God, it’s forbidden to quip, even in jest.

It’s brought in the holy books and our own works in many places about distancing ourselves as much as possible from even glancing at the works of the philosophers. Even the philosophical works composed by the gedolim of our own people should be avoided, for they are very damaging to emuna.

We have all we need from the emuna that we received from our holy ancestors, and the most important, fundamental and essential rule in the service of God is to be simple and upright, and to serve Him sincerely, without any chachmot, sophistication, or philosophical discussions at all.

And we must also stay far away from the chachmot related to the service of God itself, for all these ‘sophisticated’ ways of the world that people engage in when they first start to serve God a little bit is not ‘wisdom’ at all, but only fantasies, nonsense and great confusion.

This chachmot, sophistication [chumras….] are extremely detrimental to a person’s service of God, especially the obsessive thinking, analyzing and scrutinizing oneself to see if our actions have properly fulfilled our obligations. A human being can’t possibly fulfill his obligation perfectly, and ‘God doesn’t make impossible demands’ (Avoda Zara 3a), and ‘The Torah wasn’t given to the angels’ (Kiddushin 54a).

Regarding those who are so obsessively meticulous and excessively stringent the verse says, ‘You shall live on account of them’ (Leviticus 18:5) and ‘not die on account of them’ (Yoma 85b), for they have no life at all. They are constantly depressed since they feel that they are not fulfilling their obligations with the commandments that they perform.

The commandments don’t vitalize their spirits at all, on account of all their meticulousness and depression. (The Rebbe himself didn’t keep any chumra (religious stringency) at all).

And truthfully, after all the chachmot  – even one who really knows wisdom – after all is said and done, one must cast aside all wisdoms and serve God with utter sincerity and simplicity, without any wisdoms at all.

This is the greatest wisdom of all wisdoms – to not be ‘wise’ at all, for no-one in the world can truly be wise, for, ‘There is no wisdom or understanding before God’ (Proverbs 21:30). So the main things is ‘God seeks the heart’ (Sanhedrin 106b).

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There is a ‘path’ in the world that teaches us that we’re never good enough, can never do enough, can never serve Hashem properly – and as Rebbe Nachman explains here, the reason so many of us fall for this line is because on some level, it’s true!

The ‘luminaries of fire’ excel in pushing this harshly judgmental line in their shiurim and communications – they see the ‘bad’, and the spiritual ‘lack’, and the ‘flaw’ in everyone and everything.

But that’s why the true Tzaddikim came to sweeten this. Rebbe Nachman tells us – you can’t be an angel, and you can’t serve God perfectly – but don’t let that get you down! Don’t get more and more stern, judgmental and machmir, expecting unattainable perfection from yourself and your fellow Jews, because you can’t be perfect!

(Maybe someone should tell the autistics this….)

Rabbenu tells us instead, just do the best you can do with simplicity – every mitzvah you manage to do, celebrate it, and don’t worry too much about accidentally eating gebrochts on Pesach, or that your teenager’s skirt has gone seriously North. Cut everyone – including yourself – some spiritual slack, and serve Hashem happily.

None of us are perfect, but the key is to strive to keep improving, and to not get caught up in chumrot and harsh judgment calls against people (including ourselves…) for not being perfect.

If that chumra is making you feel so darned happy, and fills you up with joy every time you do it, then by all means continue. But if it doesn’t? And it’s adding to a sense of burden and depression? It may well be time to ditch the chumra, and to return to serving Hashem with simplicity and joy.

God wants the heart.

Trying to give it to Him, sincerely, is more than enough work to fill up 120 years, for most of us.

A little while back, when I was talking to God about how One in a Generation, the biography of Rav Eliezer Berland, seemed to have gotten permanently stuck, I got the following insight:

That book can only come out with a lot of shaflut (lowliness) and humility.

Aha! So now I understood the problem: I was still far too full of myself and patting myself on the back for writing the book, and that was the main spiritual issue holding it up. But how to resolve that problem? (Because let’s be clear, working on these bad middot takes years and years and years…)

God gave me another insight:

“Rivka, I am going to send you people to diss you day and night, until the book sees the light of day!”

Great, thanks Hashem!

And you know what? He’s kept His word.

The last month, barely a day has gone past without someone having a go at me either in person, on the phone, via text or online.

One of my kids has been particularly good at dishing out the shaflut in person- her recent PTA meeting was one of the most humbling experiences of the type I’ve had, BH – but she’s by no means the only person drenching me in these ‘dissing diamonds’.

One time, I got chewed out so badly – and so unexpectedly – that I sat on the couch shaking for a full hour after the conversation (which if you follow spiritualselfhelp.org, you’ll know is the body’s natural response to ‘shaking out’ the trauma, so you don’t get PTSD or C-PTSD).

Yes, it was that bad.

There’s also been a flurry of people queuing up to diss my writing, too, and my general lack of editorial professionalism. And then there’s been a few sent along to diss my overall grasp of reality and good judgment.

And that’s on top of all my ongoing, bog standard shaflut that comes from earning zero pence whilst working like a dog; being a really bad housewife; and still being unable to express myself properly in the local makolet (corner shop).

Man, it’s been a veritable dissing extravaganza the last few weeks, with the diamonds literally pouring in through the roof!

And you know what?

It’s working.

Yesterday, on zot Chanuka, I sent the manuscript for Volume 1 of One in a Generation to the designer, and I already know that for this part of the process to get completed in a timely way with minimal issues, I am going to have to continue to be dissed royally for at least the next month.

And that’s even before the book comes out, which let’s be clear, is going to lead to yet another huge ‘diss Rivka’ event on Facebook etc, as the usual suspects gear themselves up for more self-righteous, confused-thinking evil speech.

Yay! I can’t wait.

The upside of all this dissing is that I am definitely seeing a huge number of brachas occurring in a number of areas of my life, just as Rav Berland said would happen.

The downside is that I’m really starting to go off interacting with people, and the thought of retiring to some remote island with no internet connection – or people – is getting more and more appealing.

How to square this circle?

Enter, Rav Ofer Erez, who wrote this great article on his website, last week:

“We have to remember that Yosef was just 18 years old when he was sent to prison. Usually, when something much smaller happens to us – if just two people don’t treat us so nicely we immediately start believing that everyone’s a liar, everyone’s a fraud and there’s no such thing as a good person – i.e. we immediately lose our faith in humanity, and become bitter, angry and harshly judgmental of others….

“For 12 whole years, Yosef worked on this point, that he shouldn’t become angry, bitter and harshly judgmental against other people, inasmuch as everything came from Hashem, and was ultimately for his good.

“…How can a person merit to avoid any trace of harsh judgment and anger? This is called the secret of dancing.

“We need to know that if people are making us angry, or hurting us, then just doing hitbodedut (personal prayer) isn’t going to be enough. We also need to dance during our hitbodedut, and to do at least 8 minutes of dancing.”

Aha!

Just what I needed to know, because while I am still trying to understand the deeper reasons behind why so many people are chewing me out, and while I am still trying to forgive them and to not hold a grudge against them, it’s sooooo hard to do this in practice!

Especially the times when I know I don’t deserve it, and the person is actually just projecting their own issues on to me. (I wish I could tell you that’s always the case, but clearly I often do deserve being dissed, because I’m not always nice, or thoughtful, or considerate of other people.)

So today, I was careful to dance for a full 8 minutes, as recommended by Rav Ofer, and it really did help.

If I’m going to get ‘dissing diamonds’ raining down on my head, let me at least have buns of steel.

Four years’ ago, when I was going through the bleakest, most difficult period of my whole life, I was sitting in Uman, by Rebbe Nachman’s tomb, and pleading for some guidance and help.

I opened up a Likutey Moharan, and I got to the lesson where it was talking about how sometimes, you have to throw yourself into all types of mud and filth in your service of Hashem.

(I don’t remember what number that lesson was, sorry.)

Those words made a huge impact on me, because at that time I was neck-high in trying to clarify a number of very difficult issues in my own life and relationships, and it was very murky, yucky stuff.

A little while back, I was talking to someone about how easy it is to serve God ‘on the up’ – when we’re full of spiritual inspiration, and emuna, and mitzvot, and yearning to be a better Jew. And how difficult it is, conversely, to serve God ‘on the down’, when we’re fully of cynicism, and apathy, and questions, and yearnings to go and see the latest James Bond.

Yet, Rebbe Nachman teaches that we can’t have one without the other.

The up is ‘running’, and the down is ‘returning’, when we have to consolidate, hunker down and regain our strength for our next period of ‘running’.

Often, many of us make the mistake of thinking we can only serve Hashem ‘on the up’ – and that’s when we get into massive problems. Because when we aren’t honest about where we’re really holding, and the spiritual ‘downs’ that we’re really experiencing – every single one of us! – then we get stuck with a Hobson’s choice.

Either, we can continue to pretend, to ourselves and others, that we only ever experience spirituals ‘ups’ in life, or we end up having to leave our devotions, and our striving for spiritual growth and we sink back into materialism and spirituality, because we’re finding it so hard to accept the need to also serve God ‘on the downs’.

If we take the first route, we’ll end up becoming fake caricatures of ourselves, externally very pious looking and spouting all the right ideas, but internally completely disconnected from the reality of who we really are, and what we really need to be working on.

If we take the second route, we stagnate spiritually, and we never really attain inner peace, because we know that we took the short road that’s really the very long road, and that’s not leading us to where we need to be going in life.

So what’s the answer?

Rebbe Nachman explains very clearly:

You have to serve God on the downs with just as much enthusiasm as you serve Him on the ups.

Tachlis, if you have a bad habit of talking (or writing…) lashon hara, for example, then at least use that to serve Hashem. Know that at the level you’re really holding at spiritually, you’re going to be talking badly about someone. So at least, talk badly about the people who are genuinely rashaim (evildoers).

Ditto for talking to members of the opposite sex. If you’re going to act in such an untznius way in the first place – and tachlis you are, because that’s where you’re really holding right now – then at least talk about things like emuna, and serving Hashem.

I know, it all sounds so paradoxical, doesn’t it?

But from my own personal experiences, this seems to be the only way to not got sucked into huge feelings of despair about how imperfectly I’m actually serving God.

To say ‘don’t speak lashon hara EVER!!!!’ is clearly impossible, at least for people like me who are really not holding at that level. So then, I have to turn my ‘down’ towards the service of Hashem, somehow, and find some ‘good’ way of talking badly about other people.

I know, it’s completely head-wrecking isn’t it?

But, it’s also the only way to keep serving Hashem at this point in creation, because wherever you look, whatever you do, you’re going to fall somehow. This person is going to fall into Facebook, that one into feeling jealous over someone else’s nicer house, that one into a big, fat pizza pie – what can we do?

Except, at least make sure that the pizza is glatt kosher and heartily blessed. Or, that if we’re on Facebook we’re at least trying to share some Torah or chizzuk. (I still don’t know how to ‘raise up’ feeling jealous about other people’s nicer houses. Any ideas, wise readers?)

In the meantime, we’re wallowing around down here in the dirt and the muck, and it’s not such a nice feeling. But if we’re doing it for Hashem, somehow – or least, wanting to do it for Hashem – then that changes everything.

Like most of the people reading this, the first time I heard about the Erev Rav in any ‘real’ way was from the autistics.

The more I read the autistics, the more I started suspecting other people of ‘being’ Erev Rav. Initially, it answered so many questions, cleaned up so many problems! I mean, the only reason that a Jew would or could act in such a horrible, disgusting way could only be because they must be Erev Rav….

Like many others, the Erev Rav quickly became a kind of obsession by me. And when I get obsessed with things, I research them as much as I can, and I try to bottom them out as much as possible. So, I threw myself into reading anything I could about the Erev Rav, including a document called ‘The Modern Erev Rav’, which brings together a lot of the sources about the Erev Rav in English.

By the time I’d finished going through that document, I had a very clear understanding of what sorts of things the Erev Rav did, and that the Vilna Gaon, amongst others, was telling me that I should cut them out of my life and avoid them as much as possible.

So over the next few years, that’s what I tried to do. (This was when I wrote that series on the Erev Rav over on www.breslev.co.il.)

As a result, I lost so many friends, stopped speaking to so many close family members, and even started suspecting my husband of being an Erev Rav (! – if you ever met the guy, you’ll understand just how crazy that particular statement is…)

And then, I came to the ultimately disturbing conclusion that I myself must also be an ‘unfixable’ Erev Rav, because I also spoke lashon hara (sometimes…) and made trouble between people (sometimes…) and was obsessed with making a name for myself (sometimes…)

It’s axiomatic that when you follow God’s laws, and really try to give God what He wants, you see brachas and blessings from doing that. Dear reader, all I got from cutting all the supposed ‘Erev Rav’ people out of my life was heaping doses of heartache, misery and suffering.

The more I tried to run away from ‘Erev Rav’ people, as the Vilna Gaon’s students suggested, the more I came to realize that in 2017, we are ALL Erev Rav people.

At the same time as this was going on, I realized that the secular world was also noticing the negative character traits associated with the Erev Rav, particularly the traits of lack of compassion and empathy for others and rigid thinking, and defining them as the basis of personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

According to modern psychiatry, most of these personality disorders, but especially NPD, can’t be fixed. The person with NPD will stay permanently broken, egotistical and nasty. Again, I spent years and years going through all the literature on personality disorders, and measuring it up against my own experiences of difficult people, and it dovetails amazingly with all the ‘Erev Rav’ stuff.

Except, I came to the same problem with that stuff, too: I started to notice that I MYSELF sometimes acted like I had NDP, (especially after I went through the worst year of my life, when I got hit with so many traumatic experiences that my capacity to feel compassion or empathy for anyone else pretty much completely disappeared.)

Which is when the turning point happened, and I realized that TRAUMA is what makes people act like narcissicists, etc, and what makes people act like Erev Rav, etc.

So then, I started researching trauma, and C-PTSD obsessively, and again it was a perfect ‘fit’ for what I was seeing around me and experiencing in myself, and it convinced me once and for all that just as personality disorders CAN be overcome, so can Erev Rav traits.

Then, I started looking for proof from authentic Jewish sources that this was the case, and I hit the jackpot with various teachings from Rav Berland and Rebbe Nachman himself, a lot of which I bring down in the book Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav.

So, here’s where we currently stand:

It’s not a Jewish idea to call someone ‘bad’, anymore than it’s a Jewish idea to call someone ‘Erev Rav’.

Xtians go in for that sort of global, meaningless ‘good and bad’ people rubbish.

By contrast, Jews talk about good and bad DEEDS, good and bad TRAITS, but we don’t give people labels like good and bad, because we understand that is something that only God is qualified to do, at the end of a person’s life, when all their merits and sins are weighed up together in the Heavenly court.

In that sense, the Erev Rav is a completely false paradigm.

Who can claim to be qualified to call someone an ‘Erev Rav’ and to assume that person can never make teshuva and will be permanently consigned to an eternity in Gehinnom?!

People with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ traits aren’t just left-wing politicians or corrupt journalists, you know. If we’re honest, then we’ll admit that each and every one of us know people, are related to people, talk to people EVERY SINGLE DAY that fit at least some of the criteria set out by RASHBI and the Vilna Gaon (amongst others) for the Erev Rav.

We’re not just talking about Shimon Peres here, we’re talking about your ‘Erev Rav’ mum, and your ‘Erev Rav’ kid, and your ‘Erev Rav’ spouse. Do you really want all these people to be permanently consigned to destruction and Gehinnom?

And if the answer is ‘yes’, then there’s an enormous irony here, because only people who have a severe lack of compassion and empathy for other people (which remember, is one of the key traits of the ‘Erev Rav’ as identified by our Sages…) would willingly go around accusing others of being ‘Erev Rav’, with all that entails.

That’s why the authentic Jewish approach is to talk about EREV RAV BEHAVIOUR, and not EREV RAV PEOPLE.

It’s a crucial, massive distinction.

Because people can always stop behaving like Erev Rav, but they can’t stop being Erev Rav.

God is full of kindness and compassion for His creations. Does it really sound realistic to you that this kind, merciful Creator would create a category of person that can never, ever make teshuva, no matter what effort they make to improve, no matter how much suffering they go through? Does that sound ‘right’ to you?

God can do anything!

We saw in the Torah so many times – including in this week’s parshat Korach – that God was going to destroy the Jewish people because of their disgusting behaviour, but didn’t because the Tzaddik of the generation, Moshe Rabbenu, prayed for them.

Which brings me to my last point for today (although I will be returning to this subject again and again, until we all start to really get what I’m going on about here):

If we really want all the horrible ‘Erev Rav’ type traits and behavior that are definitely flowering all over the place in our modern world to really disappear, we need to pray for other people, and also for ourselves.

Again, asking God for help, and really believing in God’s mercy and compassion and willingness to help out, and really building a genuine, personal relationship with God is something that people with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies find very difficult to do.

That’s one of the reason’s why hitbodedut, personal prayer, is the fastest and most effective way of neutralizing a person’s ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies, because it goes to the very heart of the problem, namely that ‘Erev Rav’ people don’t really believe in God in any real way, and certainly don’t believe that He’s compassionate, kind and good.

SO TO SUM UP:

  • Most people with Erev Rav tendencies CAN and WILL eventually make teshuva (as per the teachings of Rav Ofer Erez, Rav Eliezer Berland, and Rebbe Nachman).
  • We have no way of knowing who is going to ultimately going to make teshuva and who isn’t, so we have no right to call anyone a ‘permanently unfixable’ Erev Rav in the meantime.
  • The people who are most wedded to the idea of calling other people ‘Erev Rav’ are, ironically, themselves demonstrating a number of key traits of the Erev Rav, namely a severe lack of empathy and compassion for others, together with pronounced tendencies to speak badly of their fellow Jews, to stoke sinat chinam, and to create trouble, controversy and machloket between the Jewish people.

Often when I’m feeling a little down, I return to the Breslov books and just open them randomly, to see which bit of the book is going to ‘speak’ to me today, and give me some insights and chizzuk.

Usually, I do this with ‘Tzaddik’, but today I randomly opened up the biography of Rav Natan of Breslov, Through Fire and Water, and landed on this:

“For much of that year Reb Noson didn’t see any great fruits from his efforts….On his visits to Uman, he would display seforim in the main shul…While selling his wares, Reb Noson would talk about Rebbe Nachman’s teachings and serving God – without ever looking to see if anyone was listening. Many in the shul mocked him behind his back.”

I had no idea that Reb Noson was also trying (and failing…) to make a living from selling books about emuna…

Naturally, I wasn’t about to leave the ‘message’ there, so I carried on reading, and got to this a little further down the page:

“Reb Noson writes: Every soul that came a little closer helped me see that my words were making an impression. Every little improvement I saw gave me added encouragement, and I remembered how the Rebbe had said that we would have the merit to light up the entire world.”

That’s more like it! I would normally just stop there, but for some reason I turned the page and kept reading, and here’s what came up next:

“Until now, the thought of buying his own home had never entered Reb Noson’s mind…his income was barely enough to cover his expenses. For the first time Reb Noson now began to think about buying his own home. Despite his shortage of funds, he strengthened himself with faith and trust in God….two days before Sukkos, Reb Noson moved into his new house.”

THIS is why I love those books so much – what are the chances of opening up an 800 page volume to the two pages talking about:

  • Feeling demoralized, and that all your efforts – to sell books and spread the word – are failing miserably
  • Seeing that every word communicated, even without knowing who’s really listening to them, IS actually making a difference after all
  • A guy with zero assets and not a lot of income being able to buy his own house within a couple of months

Someone once warned me off from reading too much into these things, but I am a staunch believer in God using every means to give us hints and messages, and the cleaner the ‘pipe’ the message is coming through, the more ‘on point’ it usually is.

Dear reader, things are starting to turn around…

That doesn’t mean all the trials and tribulations are going to finish in one go and we’ll just sit back and wait for the Moshiach street party.

If you’ve spent a lifetime running away from God, and running away from an honest accounting of who you really are, and what you’re really doing in the world (both good and bad) – your trials are only going to get worse, until you make some proper teshuva.

(On that note, the last few days I’ve heard more stories of harsh things happening to ‘difficult’ people than at any other point in my life. The ‘bad’ is starting to be paid out, and it’s frankly pretty scary.)

But for those quiet, thoughtful people who are reading this blog, and trying so hard to give God what He wants in the face of some enormous challenges, things are only going to get better from here on in.

Hang on, people!

I know from the emails I’ve got recently that so many of us have been dragged through our own versions of ‘fire and water’ in our service of Hashem recently. That’s why Rav Natan was writing for YOU, too: it’s going to turn around, and very soon we’re all going to be celebrating one big, huge chanukat habayit at a prime piece of real estate that’s just a little up the road from me…

There is no place where God isn’t – Rebbe Nachman of Breslev

As often happens, when I opened up Likutey Moharan I got to a lesson (number 33) that seemed very appropriate to the whole discussion of finding God even in those places where it appears He isn’t.

Like, in all those conversations we all have with the ‘difficult’ characters in our lives who like to refer to us as ‘parasites’ or ‘leeches’; or all the difficult circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in; or even, just in our mundane interactions with the ‘real’, or materialistic world.

Sometimes, it can be so easy to forget that God really is behind all this stuff.

Here’s a little of what Rabbenu says about the subject:

“…one must know that ‘The world is filled with His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3), and that there is no place where He is not (Tikkuney Zohar #57, 91b) – He fills all worlds and surrounds all worlds (Zohar III 225a)…..

“As our Sages have already revealed to us, in all material phenomena and in all foreign languages one can find Godliness, for without His Godliness, they have no life and no existence at all.

“However, that life-force and Godliness is minimal and in extreme constriction, only enough life-force to sustain that thing and no more. This is because God contacted His Godliness in many and various constrictive ways…until the central point of the material world, which is the realm of the klipot (forces of evil)….

“And this is the meaning of the Yerushalmi verse, “If someone asks you, ‘Where is your God?’ answer him, ‘In the great metropolis of Rome.’….This person who asked…is certainly sunken in the realm of the klipot, for he has separated himself from the Omnipresence…and expressed his belief that God doesn’t exist where he is.

“Thus tell him: “Even where you are, sunken in the realm of klipot, even there you can find His Godliness, for He sustains everything…and from there you can bind yourself to Him and return to Him in complete repentance.

“He is not far from you, only that where you are, there are many concealing garments.”

All of us can come back to God in the blink of an eye, because wherever we find ourselves in the world, including in all the spiritual filth and heresy that unfortunately characterizes so much of modern life, there too, we can find God.

All we have to do is look.

I’ve been getting a few email about what the ‘Breslov’ attitude is in relation to non-Jews, and also whether Breslov believes that the Jewish people should be a ‘light unto the nations’ or not.

Let’s start with the idea that the Jewish people should be a ‘light unto the nations’. This idea is explicitly mentioned in the Book of Isiaiah three times, in the following verses:

49:6 – “It is insufficient that you be a servant for Me [only] to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the ruins of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, so that My salvation may extend to the ends of the earth.:

60:3 – “Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem shines upon you. For, behold, darkness may cover the earth and a thick cloud [may cover] the kingdoms, but upon you Hashem will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine.”

62:1 – “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emanates like a bright light, and her salvation blazes like a torch. Nations will perceive your righteousness and all the kings your honor…”

And then the general idea that the Jewish people should be active in bringing all of mankind back to serve Hashem (and that God actually very much wants that to happen), and that there is a ‘place’ for the righteous non-Jews in the post-Messianic world can be found in the following verses, all from Isiaiah:

45:21 – “There is no other god besides Me; there is no righteous god besides Me and no savior other than Me. Turn to Me be and saved, all ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other.”

56:1 – “I will bring them to My holy mountain, and I will gladden them in My house of prayer; their elevation offerings and their feast offerings will find favor on my Altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

60:9 – “Then the sons of foreigners will build your walls and their kings will serve you.”

61:5 – “Foreigners will stand and tend your flocks and the sons of the stranger will be your plowmen and your vineyard workers. And you will be called ‘priests of Hashem’; ‘ministers of our God’ will be said of you.” [By other people, i.e. the non-Jews].

Over in Pirkei Avot (the Ethics of the Father), Rabbi Akiva tells us in 3:14 that:

“Beloved is man, for he was created in [God’s] image. It shows an even greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in [God’s] image, as it is written, “For in the image of God, He made man” (Genesis 9:6)”

The Tosfot Yom Tov writing on this verse explains that it ‘refers to all of humankind’ – not just the Jewish people, who are referred to more explicitly by Rabbi Akiva as ‘God’s children.’

Now that we’ve established that it’s standard Jewish thought that righteous non-Jews who believe in the One true God of the Jews have a place in the post-Messianic world, and that God does want the Jewish people to play an active role in being a ‘light unto the nations’, let’s take a more specific look at what some Breslev sources say about the issue of dealing with non-Jews.

Let’s start with Rebbe Nachman, who tells us the following (in Tzaddik):

“The Rebbe said that there are seventy nations and all of them are included under Esau and Ishmael: thirty-five under one and thirty-five under the other. In the future, they will be conquered by two Messiahs, Mashiach the son of Joseph and Mashiach the son of David. There is one Tzaddik who is a combination of the two messiahs.”

From this, we can see that the basic idea is the Jewish Moshiach will ‘conquer’ the nations of the world, and presumably bring them back to belief in the one true God of Israel.

Next, let’s go to Likutey Moharan I:244 where Rebbe Moharan gives a warning to those of us who aren’t on a very high spiritual level (i.e. pretty much everyone…), when it comes to dealing with non-Jews:

“Anyone who intermingles with gentiles, that is, who has business dealings with them, must be on very careful guard that this should not harm him. Otherwise, it’s very easy to be caught in their trap and to distance oneself from one’s Jewishness.”

In other words, as soon as money, or ‘business dealings’ with non-Jews come into the picture, Jews need to be very, very careful to not compromise their Jewishness and spiritual integrity because a ‘bribe blinds the eyes of the wise’.

On this note, Rav Shalom Arush once went to speak to a church in South Africa who’d just bought a very large amount of his emuna books. He got on stage in front of 5,000 people and told them in Hebrew: “You are all fornicators and idol worshipers!” That’s a classic example of not letting money and business dealings compromise your Jewishness and spiritual integrity.

The last thing to quote for now, which I think sums up the position and also includes the deeper kabbalistic underpinnings of why a Jewish Moshiach comes for the benefit of the whole of mankind, comes from Rav Berland’s speech to more than 8,000 people at the Winter Stadium, a few years’ back, when he said:

“When Rebbe Nachman was alive, he stated that he stood as guarantor for the whole world – for all of mankind, including the Jews, the non-Jews and everyone else. Because the Tzaddikim told Hashem to go ahead and create all of mankind, while the angels told Him not to bother, because in the end he would only end up failing, and there was only a miniscule chance of him making Teshuva.

“But I say different! I say that there’s only a miniscule chance of him not making Teshuva, and that’s what this gathering is all about – to encourage everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike, to make Teshuva and to return to their Father in heaven!

“God created everyone in His image, and in every person there is a spark of the Divine, in every Jew and in every non-Jew – the spark of God is in everyone, and we are all created in God’s image. And the whole point of this gathering is to spread the light of Hashem, and the light of Rebbe Nachman, to the whole world, to every Jew and to every non-Jew….

“…As soon as the whole world recognizes Hashem’s greatness, we’ll be able to immediately rebuild the third Temple, and to see the revival of the dead.”

The Jewish people is about Tikkun haolam, or the rectification of the whole world, and bringing the whole world back to God, the Jewish way. That means the non-Jews accept the 7 noachide commandments, stop with all their yoshki, muhammed and booda rubbish, and accept that God is running the world (without any help from anyone else) and that the Torah is true, and the Jewish people are God’s representatives.

That pretty much sums up the authentic Jewish approach that you’ll find in Breslov, and also any other Jewish group that has a deep knowledge of our sources, and a strong grasp of what the whole concept of the Moshiach, and Tikkun haolam is really all about.