Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alte Rebbe

Chai Elul Fabrengen notes from Chuna

The Besht and the Alter Rebbe innovated different parts in avodah. The Besht emphasized emunah, lamaila lamata, and that Hashem has to be served. The AR, a neshama hadasha, explained how we can serve G-d. With our own powers. The innovations are both essential to us. The AR's additional piece was as important for us as the entire structure that the Besht innovated. To achieve on our own, is as important as achieving. (Rabbi Paltiel stopped just short of saying it's more important).
It takes real work to bring the general understanding into the specifics. It's easier to see how the whole world is a G-dly creation than to see how the cup is a G-dly creation. The goal of avodah is to see the G-dly presence in the details. As well, the sechel has to see the world the way emunah sees it. Avodah is not just to repeat concepts to 'get it in our heads'. It's to understand with our own minds that this is really true, make it real to us.
The definition of emunah is steadfast. It's often translated as faith, but its more accurately defined as steadfast. "Moshe held up his hands steadfastly" Emunah is a permanent thing, it is with us when we sleep or when we're awake. The Tzemach Tzedek had a chosid who came crying saying he has sfekus (doubts) in emunah. The TZTZ replied, "not such a big deal". "But Rebbe!" the chosid continued, "Emunah!"
"In that case, you don't really have to worry", said the TZTZ. (chuna's thought) In other words, he really didn't have an issue because he was aware of his concern of emunah, and emunah is with us regardless, so having concern of it was enough.
With closed eyes, we still have emunah. We say "Shema Yisroel" with closed eyes. We end with "ehad" and not "yachid". Yachid means there's nothing but G-d, but ehad means the world and everything in it shows G-d. This is harder and for anyone who concentrates on it, it's harder to actualize this second step than to think that there's nothing but G-d. To draw G-d's presence into the world, and see H-m in the world, this is Baruch Shem and it is the point of our avodah.

(Oneg is in everything. It doesn't just mean things are pleasing. It is deeper than that. In fact, to experience oneg is to experience the G-dliness of life itself: the greatest achievement man can ever experience.)

We have problems forgiving. We know the whole davening is predicated on "V'ahavta l'reacha", loving your fellow Jew. We think about the mitzvah of ahavas yisroel. We say KS at night, saying "I forgive", but still, we say, "but not that guy. He has to apologize". We need to let go. We need to let go of how we see the world. Our worldly view, though we see how ridiculous it is, it is still so difficult to let go.
The AR says in Igeres Hakodesh how everything is from above. In Shaar Hayichud he explains how G-d creates the world constantly because like the splitting of the sea being held up by the wind, the creation of something from nothing needs the energy constantly in it to give it a presence. So since everything is being constantly created by G-d, it means that everything must be good and how do I imagine that anything in my life is bad?! I believe G-d is doing it. Obviously, this also requires much intellectual labor.
G-d's creating the world is a constant. There was a retarded man who had managed to get past some of his limitations and became a mathematician. He lacked, though, common sense. Rabbi would talk to him and as soon as the conversation stopped, the man would fall asleep. "you must be tired" Rabbi said. "No, there's just nothing going on" replied the man. The point is, is that there is always something going on. (And in fact, it is the greatest good that is going on.) This has to be understood. In simple terms, the application of emunah is to recognize hasgacha pratis in everything. But it's hard to let go of our orientations and perspectives of what reality is, and should be.

The AR gave some thought to naming his son, the Mittle Rebbe. He wanted to name him after the Maggid's son, R. Avraham Hamalach, but thought it would make him too removed from the world. He eventually named him Dov Ber, after the Maggid himself.
The Mittle Rebbe's son, the AR's grandson, Reb Nachum, was getting married and his chasan kapata had a special stylish collar for the times. The AR saw how this style was beloved by Reb Nachum and he tried to persuade him to cut off this collar. In return, the AR promised many things, culminating in a space next to himself in Gan Eden. Reb Nachum still refused. He spent much time as an adult regretting this decision.
The point is that no matter how small the step away from our worldly values or orientation is, it's a veritable test and thus any success is precious.
In like manner, the first test mentioned in the Chumash for Avraham Avinu was Lech Lecha. This was a test because it required a abandoning of the ideas he attributed to reality. AA saw reality as a certain thing, and G-d demanded AA discard that perception. AA wasn't shown where to go not just to add to the difficulty and increase the reward, but because it would have been impossible for him to see the next step in his journey of reality accurately from where he was standing. The insight would not have been properly absorbed.
This is why we make such a big deal about Nachshon in the splitting of the sea. Seemingly, it was a direct command to the Jews from Moshe that G-d says the sea will not present as an obstacle. So what's the big deal? But it's not just a physical travel. It's the abandonment of Nachshon's sense of reality, and the journeying forward to something he has yet to understand that makes it special.
When we stand in place, like the Amidah, we can advance very far, and see even farther, but it is nothing compared to walking. The difficulty in walking is that you need to remove yourself from where you are planted in order to journey to somewhere else unknown. A couple things about this: Make sure it is methodical, processed through intellect, and you have sure footing in the new place before you lift your second foot. As well though, have in mind when taking the step, that you plan on moving that second foot eventually. Nothing comes easy.
Chai Elul gives life, joy, to the avodahs we have been discussing. This gives us strength to make our emunah penetrate, something difficult (and rewarding) to commit to.
From the intro to Tanya (the AR "wrote to those whom he knows etc."), we see that the AR hand picked the neshamas that were to study his chassidus. He knew then, Rabbi and all of us.

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