There is something which is very important. There is such a thing as arrogance, believing that you can do it. For instance, I know this very strongly from my musical performances. Who is a good performer? Not just someone who has a good voice. Some people have tremendous voices but they can’t perform, because they don’t believe that they can do it. When you stand before an audience, you have to believe that you can perform before them. That is really all there is to it. If you are standing there, and if you believe that you can sing a song, that is it. The vibration is tremendous.
Sometimes someone comes on stage and he doesn’t believe that he can do it, so no one pays any attention to him. There is something in the air.
But sometimes you have to know that you can’t do it, mamash. You have to have this holy shame, and know, “I can’t do it.” Then, at other times, you have to have this holy chutzpah to say, “I can do it. I know I can do it.” The question is, when are you sure that you can do it, and when do you have this holy shame that you can’t do it?
Azut d’kedusha [holy arrogance]
What happens if I want to do something very holy, very strong, and the whole world laughs at me? Everyone thinks I am completely crazy. Then I must have holy chutzpah, azut d’kdusha, holy arrogance. If the whole world says that I am crazy, how come I am not crazy? When I was born, G-d gave me the holy arrogance to do what is right.
Say for instance, I believe I should wear a yarmulke [skullcap]. I walk into a place, and all the people start laughing, “Are you crazy? A yarmulke! You’re old fashioned! You’re stupid!” So I say, “Oh, I’m sorry. Oh, you are really right. We are living in a modern, civilized world. What do I need a yarmulke for?” Rebbe Nachman then asks: What am I doing to myself? It is not that I took off the yarmulke. That is beside the point. When I do something because people told me I should or shouldn’t do it, or that it doesn’t look nice, you know what happens to me? I make a p’gam, a blemish; I destroy my holy arrogance. Have you ever seen someone who licks up to the whole world for two pennies? Why are they so low? Because they destroyed their azut d’kdusha with their own hands.
G-d says, “Look at yourself. What are you? You were My servant before. I gave you enough chutzpah to do right, yet you prefer to listen to people? Okay, be a slave to them. Make up your mind who is your master.”
If you are G-d’s servant, then you are the highest person in the world because you know exactly what is right. If you know what is right, then you don’t listen to anybody – just to what the soul of your soul tells you is right.
If you have azut d’kedusha, this holy arrogance, then you can really love people because you are not their slave.
If you lose your holy arrogance, then I am a slave to every shmendrik [fool]. I hate this shmendrik, because he is my master. I have no dignity, I have no spine anymore. I can’t stand people anymore.
It is very strange. We always think that if we don’t listen to people who tell us to do wrong, that means we will be pushed off to the side, and we want to be in with the crowd. Just look at the crowd – do you think they love each other? They hate each other. It is 100% true, one billion percent true. Rebbe Nachman’s holy words are mamash like gold.
Rebbe Nachman says something else. What about the relationship of people to you? If you have holy chutzpah, then people really love you. People mamash love you. If someone walks in with a yarmulke, and everyone laughs at him, and he still wears it – they can keep on laughing. You know what the person who is laughing really thinks? “Gevalt! I respect him so much.”
But if I wear a yarmulke and people say, “Take it off, this is not the place!” and I take it off, people laughingly say, “Really a strong character, this person! Who would want to be his friend?”
You know how people are? When you listen to them, they spit at you. When you don’t listen to them, they love you. It’s the craziest thing in the world!
When you listen to people, you become their slave, and so you don’t love them. Don’t tell me you listen to people because you love them. Don’t kid yourself. You listen to people because you are not standing on your own two feet. And if you don’t stand on your own two feet, then they treat you like a dog who walks on all fours. But if you are strong enough, and you stand on your own two feet, nothing can bend you. Then the world really loves you.
Rebbe Nachman says it is just heartbreaking if you destroy the holy arrogance that you have, because then you become a slave to people. Rebbe Nachman says this very strongly, he says the question is are you G-d’s servant, or people’s servant? There is no in between.
Everybody is somebody’s servant. Are you G-d’s servant? Then you are the freest person in the world. Because you know exactly what is right. If you know what is right, then you don’t listen to anybody – just to what the soul of your soul tells you is right. The Gemara says the freest person is the one who is G-d’s servant. If you are a man’s servant, you are a slave. If you are G-d’s servant, you are free. Completely free. Really, really free.
Holy arrogance against my own self
What is teshuva? What does it mean to repent? Why basically, did I sin? Because I wasn’t strong enough, right? I didn’t have holy arrogance against my own self! To repent, to do teshuva, to return to G-d, means to correct the holy arrogance within me.
Who is Mashiach? What will Mashiach do? How will he get us out of exile? How will he get us out of slavery? He will reach the utmost level of not being a slave to people, of not listening to anybody, not even to your own self, not to one’s stupid self. He will be mamash a servant of G-d completely. He will have the holy chutzpah to get the whole world out of exile. Why don’t we have the chutzpah to get people out of exile, to get the world out of exile? Sadly enough, we are not on the level, we don’t have the holy arrogance, we really don’t. We listen to ten thousand people. Maybe we listen to ourselves at the wrong moment. We do everything wrong.
The real humble people
Rebbe Nachman says that the people who have this holy arrogance are the most humble people in the world, the real truly humble people. Their arrogance is not because of “I am,” it is because “this is right,” – and this gives them strength. If I am doing something because I think it is right, or because you think it is right, then I am not humble anymore. When I wear a yarmulke, is it because I want to, because I believe in yarmulkes? It is because G-d wants me to wear a yarmulke! I am a Jew. I want the world to know I am a Jew.
I am not drawing my strength from my stupidity nor my genius. It has nothing to do with me. It is just that I know a Jew has to wear a yarmulke, and I am a grandchild of Abraham. This is holy arrogance, to do it just because the thing has to be done.
For instance, I walk on the street and I see someone beating up someone. I walk up, and I knock him off. I am doing it because that is the right thing to do, not because of “I.” It has nothing to do with me. The holy arrogant people have no “I,” they really have no “I.” The non-holy arrogant people also have chutzpah, but it is with such a big “I” that it is so disgusting, it smells so bad that nobody can have anything to do with them.
It’s written clearly in the Torah
Rebbe Nachman says that the real tzadik is someone who says a teaching, and later, when you look in the Torah, you see that every word he said was mamash written openly in the Torah. The question is, why didn’t we see it before? Now that the tzadik said it, we notice that it was written clearly in the Torah all along.
So Rebbe Nachman says, this is mamash a passuk [verse] from the Torah, “You are leading the Jewish people with Your holy chutzpah back to the holy place.” The way King James translates it is “with your strength.” Rebbe Nachman says, it means, “with G-d giving us His holy chutzpah,” which is much deeper.
How will we get back to the Holy Temple? How will we do teshuva? What will Mashiach do to us? He will give us back this holy chutzpah.
A person without holy chutzpah cannot live
Now Rebbe Nachman says something very, very strong. Why is it considered like murder to put someone to shame? He says it is because when you put someone to shame you are killing his holy chutzpah. And a person without holy chutzpah cannot live. You are tearing out his heart. He might still be breathing, but the moment you cut off someone’s wings, you put someone to shame, you take away this holy chutzpah from the person, and you mamash kill him.
Be completely plugged in
Rebbe Nachman says, all Yiddishkeit, all service of G-d, depends on how much holy chutzpah you have within you. He says you must have holy chutzpah against your physical desires, against your spiritual desires, and you must have holy chutzpah even against the holiest dreams you have, and just do exactly what you know G-d wants you to do. You must be completely plugged in.
Rebbe Nachman asks, what is it to talk to a good friend? It is to take the little friend and instill into him the chutzpah, to give him strength to know exactly what is the right thing to do.
What is evil in the world? Imagine a person wants to learn, a person wants to do something holy. Evil doesn’t say that it’s bad. You know how the devil, so to speak, gets to you? The devil puts on himself the face of a friend, and he talks to you, and he tries to take away your holy chutzpah. Evil comes and says, “Listen to me. I’ve known you so long, I know you very well. You be holy? You be a good Jew? You be learned? Whom are you fooling? You won’t be able to do it. I know you.” Evil tells you, “Listen, you have to be realistic, and you have to know the world. And this, and that. Be sensible, see a psychiatrist…” and he gives himself the mask of your greatest friend. So Rebbe Nachman says, beware of devils who look like friends.
Can you imagine? Rebbe Nachman says you must have holy chutzpah even against Tzadikim, even against holy people. It has to be so strong that if you mamash look deep in your soul, and you know what you have to do, there is nothing in the world that can stop you, nobody in the world that can stop you. But you have to be mamash plugged in – you have to do it mamash on G-d’s account.
Chutzpah to get close to G-d
Rebbe Nachman says, not only must you have holy chutzpah against the Tzadikim, you even have to have holy chutzpah against G-d. You have to come to G-d and tell Him, “G-d, I have to be a Jew, I have got to be holy, and I have to be close to You, and You can’t push me away.” You have to tell G-d, “It is true I tried starting anew fifteen thousand times, and I always fell down again, but G-d, I am telling You the truth. I’ll never leave You, so You better let me get close.” I want to get close to G-d, and, so to speak, G-d gives me a little kick, He pushes me off. He wants to see how strong I am. By my coming back to Him, I say, “I don’t care. You can kick me, I will still come back.” It is actually chutzpah against G-d. Real chutzpah. This is because each time you come back, you come back stronger. And even if you fall again, you come back stronger. Rebbe Nachman says, this is so deep that he can’t explain it to you more, but happy is the one who has enough chutzpah to get close to G-d.
This is strong stuff. Oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy.
Then he says that, the truth is, all the holy Tzadikim reached so high, not because they knew more, or because their souls were holier; they got there only because they had this holy chutzpah. The people who didn’t get there did not have this azut d’kdusha.
And, therefore, if someone, sadly enough, comes to you and tells you, “What are you talking about? You want to be a holy Jew? You want to be strong? What do you know? You can’t even read Hebrew! You can’t do this, you can’t do that….” They give you a long account of what you can’t do. Rebbe Nachman says, what do you care? The more someone explains to you how bad you are, that means you need more chutzpah, right? So get it.
Now listen; Rebbe Nachman says the greatest teaching in the world. What is the greatest evil in the world? The greatest evil comes to me and tells me, “Listen to me, I know the truth. You can’t do it. Who are you fooling?” That is the greatest evil in the world. Evil doesn’t tell you that this is bad. Evil just tells you, “Listen, I know you so long, I know you very well. You’ll be holy? You’ll be a good Jew? You’ll become a big lamdan [scholar]? What are you talking about? I know you all these years. Forget it.
So you have to tell your evil, “Cut it out! I am not listening to you even if it is true.” Answer back to your evil, “I am not even listening to G-d if He kicks me. I am not listening to anyone.” G-d is only testing you. G-d wants you to become strong.
Rebbe Nachman says, what was the dream Jacob had, the ladder of Jacob? The ladder is this holy chutzpah. Jacob saw that there is a ladder, and a person can go up to heaven. How do you go from one rung to the other? Just go.
You must have a good nose
But then Rebbe Nachman says, you must be very careful. You must have a good nose [sense] to know what is the arrogance of holiness and what is arrogance of non-holiness. Many people also preach this kind of chutzpah, but it is really for the destruction of the world, for your destruction. So you have to know exactly what is holiness and what is not.
Rebbe Nachman says something very strong. The most important thing is, don’t be a shlemazel. He mamash says here “Don’t be lazy.”
Imagine a person who mamash wants to begin to learn, a person who wants to do something good. So the evil inclination comes and says, “Who are you fooling? I know you. You won’t be able to do it. You are fooling yourself.” What do you do then? You tell your evil, “I have chutzpah even against G-d. Even if G-d would tell me not to come close to Him, I wouldn’t listen. I’m not listening to anybody. I won’t even listen to Tzadikim if they would tell me to give up trying to do good.” Because G-d is only testing you. G-d wants you to become strong. So when you wrestle, then you become stronger. You have to wrestle with G-d, So to speak. When Yaakov Avinu wrestled with the angel, he was really wrestling with G-d. What does it mean? G-d sends you a little evil in your heart in order to make you stronger.
You see, each time you wrestle, your soul muscles get stronger.
Don’t be a shlemazel
How can you know whether your arrogance is holy or not? The only thing I can tell you is that Rebbe Nachman says, “Don’t be a shlemazel.” That means you have to know in your heart whether you are a shlemazel or not. Ultimately it is up to your own nose [sensitivities]. You know very well, deep down.
From the book:
Rebbe Nachman Says…
The Teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
As Taught by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”tl
Buy the book on Amazon.com